Political Correctness Watch 
The creeping dictatorship of the Left..

THIS may be the ultimate example of Political Correctness -- from the Unhinged Kingdom  

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Sarah Palin is undoubtedly the most politically incorrect person in American public life so she will be celebrated on this blog

Gender is a property of words, not of people. Using it otherwise is just another politically correct distortion -- though not as pernicious as calling racial discrimination "Affirmative action"

Postmodernism is fundamentally frivolous. Postmodernists routinely condemn racism and intolerance as wrong but then say that there is no such thing as right and wrong. They are clearly not being serious. Either they do not really believe in moral nihilism or they believe that racism cannot be condemned!

Postmodernism is in fact just a tantrum. Post-Soviet reality in particular suits Leftists so badly that their response is to deny that reality exists. That they can be so dishonest, however, simply shows how psychopathic they are.

Juergen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

Consider two "jokes" below:

Q. "Why are Leftists always standing up for blacks and homosexuals?

A. Because for all three groups their only God is their penis"

Pretty offensive, right? So consider this one:

Q. "Why are evangelical Christians like the Taliban?

A. They are both religious fundamentalists"

The latter "joke" is not a joke at all, of course. It is a comparison routinely touted by Leftists. Both "jokes" are greatly offensive and unfair to the parties targeted but one gets a pass without question while the other would bring great wrath on the head of anyone uttering it. Why? Because political correctness is in fact just Leftist bigotry. Bigotry is unfairly favouring one or more groups of people over others -- usually justified as "truth".

One of my more amusing memories is from the time when the Soviet Union still existed and I was teaching sociology in a major Australian university. On one memorable occasion, we had a representative of the Soviet Womens' organization visit us -- a stout and heavily made-up lady of mature years. When she was ushered into our conference room, she was greeted with something like adulation by the local Marxists. In question time after her talk, however, someone asked her how homosexuals were treated in the USSR. She replied: "We don't have any. That was before the revolution". The consternation and confusion that produced among my Leftist colleagues was hilarious to behold and still lives vividly in my memory. The more things change, the more they remain the same, however. In Sept. 2007 President Ahmadinejad told Columbia university that there are no homosexuals in Iran.

It is widely agreed (with mainly Lesbians dissenting) that boys need their fathers. What needs much wider recognition is that girls need their fathers too. The relationship between a "Daddy's girl" and her father is perhaps the most beautiful human relationship there is. It can help give the girl concerned inner strength for the rest of her life.

The love of bureaucracy is very Leftist and hence "correct". Who said this? "Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything". It was V.I. Lenin

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

Germaine Greer is a stupid old Harpy who is notable only for the depth and extent of her hatreds

The PERMALINKS to this site have been a bit messed up by new blogger. The permalink they give has the last part of the link duplicated so the whole link defaults to the top of the page. To fix the link, go the the URL and delete the second hatch mark and everything after it.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stay thin, obey your man: advice in anti-feminist bestseller

A SELF-HELP guide that tells women to stay thin and follow their man's orders if they want to keep him has become an unlikely bestseller. The book, titled The Re-education Of The Female, also says women should wear sexy clothes while doing the cooking and cleaning. Despite first-time author Dante Moore's chauvinist opinions, copies have been flying off the shelves in America.

One piece of advice reads: "Men never really ask for anything. They command. And believe me, what you won't do, 10 broads around the corner will." Advising women to stay slim to attract men, Moore also writes: "When you go to the grocery store to shop, do you pick out the nastiest-looking, most rotten, smelliest fruit or meat you can find? "Oh you don't? Why not? It's the same with men when they see in New York baby elephant-sized, out-of-shape women."

Moore, a 33-year-old computer engineer, has never married but has an 11-year-old son from a previous relationship and has had a girlfriend for two years. However, he says he has never found true love. He insists he wants to help women and wrote the book to show where they go wrong in relationships.


Russia and the New Axis of Evil

With Russian tanks now presiding over the dismemberment of the Republic of Georgia, can a lame-duck Bush administration -- weary from its long drubbing by critics over Iraq and eyeing the exit door -- rise to the challenge Russia has chosen to pose to the Free World?

To understand the nature of this challenge, consider that the distance between Baghdad and Tbilisi is barely 578 miles, less than the distance between New York City and Chicago. Iraq and Georgia, both of which have democratic governments, are sandwiched between Iran and Russia, two of the most authoritarian governments in the world. Russia has been collaborating with Iran to strengthen the latter's nuclear program and its military. It is also steadily arming Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Russia's invasion of Georgia came exactly one month after Iran test-fired its Shahab III intermediate ballistic missile in order to intimidate neighbors like Israel and Iraq, and two weeks after Mr. Chavez traveled to Moscow to formalize a "Strategic Alliance" with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Meanwhile, Iran's proxies remain the principal threat to peace in Iraq -- while on the other side of the world, evidence mounts of Mr. Ch vez's links to the terrorist group FARC, which threatens neighboring Colombia.

Coincidence? Iraq, Georgia and Colombia are battlegrounds in a new kind of international conflict that will define our geopolitical future. This conflict pits the U.S. and the West against an emerging axis of oil-rich dictatorships who are working together to push back against the liberalizing trends of globalization. One of their prime objectives is toppling or undermining neighboring, pro-Western democracies.

The term "axis" has been overused in recent years, and in misleading contexts. But Russia, Iran and Venezuela are acting very much as Japan, Italy and Germany did in the 1930s, when each took advantage of each other's aggressive moves to extend their own regional power at the expense of liberal democracy -- and, as a result, propelling the world to the brink of war.

The chessboard of traditional competitive geopolitics is back with a vengeance. Russia is the principal source for Iran's nuclear weapons program as well as the principal obstacle to international sanctions. Between them, Mr. Putin and Tehran's mullahs clearly aim to control access to every major source of fossil energy from the western end of the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. The third player in this new axis, Venezuela's President Ch vez, hopes for an oil and natural gas monopoly over the natural resources of neighbors like pro-Ch vez satellites Bolivia and Ecuador.

All three dictatorships are flush with cash thanks to rising oil prices; all three are bent on regional domination. All three openly celebrate a model of government that is authoritarian and monolithic in opposition to Western pluralism, market-oriented economies and representative democracy. All three run economies built on mafia-style crony capitalism. All three denounce U.S. "imperialism," and evidently hope that the 2008 election will help to bolster their geopolitical plans.

And all three see themselves as natural allies. Since 2004, Mr. Ch vez has steadily strengthened his strategic and economic ties to Tehran. Last year he joined with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to push OPEC to cut production and boost oil prices. In addition to his Allianz Estrategica with Mr. Putin, Mr. Ch vez was the one international leader who publicly praised Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Finally, all three members of this axis see the emergence of pro-American, Western-oriented governments on their borders as mortal threats and are determined to hit back. In Russia's case, this means direct military force against Georgia. Iran has used its terrorist proxies to sow chaos in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Mr. Chavez wages a proxy war against Colombia through the terrorists of FARC.

What can the U.S. and a new president do? Despite Russia's nuclear arsenal, none of these states poses a military threat comparable to the Cold War Soviet Union, or even the Axis powers in the 1930s. For all their bluff and bluster, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have a relatively tenuous position in the world; for all their oil wealth their economies remain weak and unstable.

A broad strategy of targeted economic sanctions and multilateral diplomacy, backed by U.S. military power -- together with a determined effort to push down oil prices by expanding supply and strengthening the dollar -- can introduce a note of sober realism to the strategy of this new axis, and force them to realize how limited and vulnerable their source of money and power really is.

However, the most important strategy right now is to secure democracy's vital new flanks -- Iraq, Georgia and Colombia. By shoring up and strengthening, rather than abandoning all three governments, the U.S. will send a clear signal that liberty, not tyranny, is the wave of the globalizing future.


The Down with Israel Syndrome

Each year, in preparation for Israel's birthday, American newspaper editors feel an urge to invite Arab writers to tell us why Israel should not exist. Typical this year were the Los Angeles Times (Opinion, May 12 "Forget the two-state solution", by Saree Makdisi) and the Christian Science Monitor (Ghada Karmi "A One-state Solution for Palestinians and Israelis", May 30, 2008), where the elimination of Israel were advanced under the usual euphemism of a "one-state solution."

I presume this exercise gives editors some satisfaction, of the kind one would get in inviting officials of the Flat Earth Society to tell us why the earth should not be round, and do so precisely on Earth Day, lest the wisdom would escape anyone's attention.

Undoubtedly, the banalization of absurdity has its kicks. It is sporty, admirably "out-of-the-box-ish" and, if only it did not involve a dangerous experiment with the lives of millions of human beings, could be considered mighty cute.

But this practice is adult matter, and the result is a depressing Kafkaesque choreography, in which Israel is put on trial for its very existence, while less radical commentators, if they are invited, deal with Israel's future, difficulties and achievements, but leave the accusations unanswered.

There is some wisdom to ignoring insults and unfounded accusations. By answering one tacitly bestows credence, however minimal, upon the arguments that put you on the accused bench -- the last bench that a birthday celebration deserves.

So, perhaps it is wise to write chapter and verse about Israel's achievements (as Bill Kristol did May 12, and Tom Friedman did June 8) and let the "colonial" and "apartheid" accusations hang there, unanswered, as living testimonies of the Orwellian mentality of the accusers? I am not totally convinced.

I am concerned about the possibility that a non-negligible percentage of American readers, especially the novice and the hasty, would interpret the publication of opinion articles calling for the dismantling of Israel as evidence that the arguments and conclusions presented are deemed worthy of consideration in the eyes of editors whose judgment the public has entrusted to protect us from Flat-Earth type deformities.

This concern becomes especially acute when news reporters too begin touting the "one-state" slogans, with unmistaken sympathy, under the cover of "World News." (e.g., Richard Boudreaux and Ashraf Khalil "For some Palestinians, one state with Israel is better than none," LA Times, World News, May 8 )

I am concerned because evil plans begin with evil images. Once the mind is jolted to envision deviant imagery it automatically consructs a belief structure that supports its feasibility and desirability. The first phase of Hitler's strategy was to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Jews -- the rest is history.

Today we are witnessing a concerted effort by enemies of co-existence to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Israel - the rest, they hope, will become history. The American press seems to fall for it.

In fairness to the editors of some newspapers, articles calling forthe elimination of Israel are often balanced by articles discussingthe prospects for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. But, ironically, this "balance" is precisely where the imbalance cries out loudest, for it gives equal moral weight to a provocation that every Jew in Israel considers a genocidal death threat, most Jews view as an assault on their identity as people and most Palestinians view as an incentive to undermine or forestall peace negotiations.

Balance has its norms, logic and responsibilities, mirrored and shaped by sound editorial judgment. We do not rush to "balance" each celebration of Martin Luther King Day with articles by white supremacists, and we do not "balance" a hate speech with a lecture on breathing technique; a hate speech is balanced with a lecture on the evils of hate.

A true, albeit grotesque, moral balance would be demonstrated only if for every "down with Israel" writer the newspaper were to invite a "down with Palestinian statehood" writer.

But editors seem to have strange takes on morality; for some, questioning the legitimacy of Israel's existence is a mark of impartiality, while questioning the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations is a moral taboo. Decency should somehow inform these editors that both "down with" calls are morally reprehensible and insulting to readers' intelligence, hence, both should be purged from civil discourse and marginalized into the good company of white supremacy and Flat-Earth rhetoric.

But until decency reigns, we can be sure to see them again at Israel's birthdays, the predators of peace, paraded by the press, demanding their annual prey: once more to envision, just envision, a world without Israel.

Ironically, Arab commentaries published around Yom Haatzmaut can actually be of some service to Israel, for they provide a faithful mirror of the prevailing sentiments in the elite ranks of Palestinian society and thus gauge how ready this society is to accepting a peace agreement, whatever its shape, as permanent.

This year, the LA Times (May 11), The Nation (May 26) the New York Times (May 18) the Washington Post (May 12) the Christian Science Monitor (May 30) and others lured an impressive group of Arab intellectuals into unveiling their worldview to American readers.

Highly educated, mostly secular, champions of modernity and masters of communication, these authors are keenly attuned to grass roots sentiments and, enticed by the limelight, revealed the naked landscape of the Palestinian mindset.

Sadly, what they revealed in 2008 is not what Mahmoud Abbas and public opinion polsters would like us to believe. They revealed what we feared all along but were afraid to admit: the notion of a two-state solution never began to penetrate the surface of Palestinian consciousness.

In vain would one search these articles for a shred of an idea that morally justifies a two-state solution, or that acknowledges some historical ties of Jews to the land, or that makes an intellectual investment contrary to the Greater Palestine agenda. One by one, the articles depict Israel as a temporary outpost of Western imperialism, a entity to oppose not to neighbor.

This does not mean that the two-state solution is dead - after all, it is the only proposal worthy of the word "solution" - but it means that the current efforts to reach a peaceful settlement should begin to address one key obstacle: the ideological landscape as revealed to us by our Arab brethren on Yom Haatzmaut.


Britain: A conservative approach to poverty

Last week, George Osborne made a speech about fairness in which he castigated the Government for its failure to deal with poverty. A Tory Shadow Chancellor attacking Labour's record on poverty: that really is a raid into enemy territory. In the long run, however, it could leave the Tories open to a counter-attack.

In the short run, Mr Osborne did not rely on rhetoric. His arguments were reinforced by statistics that gave them added bite. Although the Shadow Chancellor was happy to concede that many Labour MPs were sincere in their abhorrence of poverty, any Labour supporter who reads the speech will wince at the dissection of Labour's inability to realise its ideals.

But Mr Osborne was not merely trying to add to Labour's miseries: hardly necessary these days. His speech had a serious purpose. He was outlining a new Tory theory of poverty and the state. He insisted that this Government was not failing because it did not care enough and had not spent enough. It was failing because its strategy was fundamentally misguided.

The author of that strategy was Gordon Brown. His insistence that "only the state can guarantee fairness" has both underpinned and undermined Labour's approach to social policy. By stifling initiative and imposing central direction, not least through the target culture, it had ensured that much of the extra money devoted to health and education was wasted.

This helps to explain why only 176 pupils who received free school meals gained three As at A level this year and why half of all children in care leave school without a single GCSE. There is a direct relationship between that last statistic and social misery. Many of those uneducated victims of care will be busy acquiring diplomas in mugging, burglary, prostitution and drug-taking.

Instead of Gordon Brown's great clunking state, the Tories want to empower churches, charities and social action co-operatives to help the needy. They also propose a radical change in the supply of education, ending the Government's monopoly over state schooling. To improve opportunity for the poorest, argues Mr Osborne, society and the state must work together.

A dramatic programme for social reform, this is the basis of David Cameron's approach to government. Shortly after he became Tory leader, he met Nicolas Sarkozy, who told him how much he admired the Tories' economic reforms of the 1980s. Mr Cameron hopes that in the 2030s, a French president will be telling a Tory leader how much he admires the social reforms of the 2010s.

The Tory party always has two great tasks: to defend the integrity of the nation and to solve the pressing questions of the day. Apart from the economy, two intractable and related problems have now forced themselves onto the agenda: how to redeem the underclass and how to ensure that the public services serve the public. Mr Cameron will not duck either challenge.

Well and good, but enthusiasm will not be enough. Contemporary British poverty is not just an economic phenomenon. It arises from cultural demoralisation. In the EU, Britain has the highest proportion of children living in households where no adult works. Though many hereditary peers have been banished from the House of Lords, hereditary unemployment is flourishing in the inner cities.

London is one of the mightiest engines of wealth creation in the whole of history. There is no reason why any able-bodied youngster who looks willing and trustworthy should not find a job. Yet a short Tube journey from the Bank of England, there are housing estates where no one thinks in terms of finding work.

David Cameron is determined that this will change. Yet even if he succeeds, it will take years, and the middle classes will not be idle. As the economy recovers, opportunities will increase. The middle classes will take them. Economic innovation will create new, well paid jobs. Middle-class children will rush to fill them.

That should not dismay sensible Tories. As the middle classes grow richer, they create the wealth to fund social programmes. In order to clear up Gordon Brown's toxic economic legacy, the Cameron government will depend on the efforts and tax contributions of the middle classes, and those efforts will be forthcoming only if they are adequately rewarded.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain: "If I Am President, Advancing the Cause of Life Will Not Be Above My Pay Grade"

In a radio address Saturday, Senator McCain took Barack Obama to task over his unwillingness to defend the life of children born alive after abortion attempts. Key quotes from the address follow:
The week began with a debate of sorts between Senator Obama and me at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In case you missed it, the discussion yielded the line of the week, and maybe even of the campaign, when Pastor Rick Warren asked my opponent a very serious question. He wanted to know at what point, in my opponent's view, does a baby have human rights? Senator Obama thought about it for a moment, and came back with the reply that the question was, quote, "above my pay grade."

Here was a candidate for the presidency of the United States, asked for his position on one of the central moral and legal questions of our time, and this was the best he could offer: It's above his pay grade. He went on to assure his interviewer that there is a, quote, "moral and ethical element to this issue." Americans expect more of their leaders.

Listening to my opponent at Saddleback, you would never know that this is a politician who long since left behind any middle ground on the abortion issue. He is against parental notification laws, and against restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortions. In the Illinois Senate, a bipartisan majority passed legislation to prevent the horrific practice of partial-birth abortion. Senator Obama opposed that bill, voting against it in committee and voting "present" on the Senate floor.

In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for babies who survive abortions - living, breathing babies whom Senator Obama described as, quote, "previable." This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Illinois had a version of the same law, and Barack Obama voted against it.

At Saddleback, he assured a reporter that he'd have voted "yes" on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Even though the language of both the state and federal bills was identical, Senator Obama said people were, quote, "lying" about his record. When that record was later produced, he dropped the subject but didn't withdraw the slander. And now even Senator Obama's campaign has conceded that his claims and accusations were false.

I can assure you that if I am president, advancing the cause of life will not be above my pay grade.


Lights Out on Liberty

By Mark Steyn

On August 3, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stood at the window of his office in the summer dusk and observed, "The lamps are going out all over Europe." Today, the lights are going out on liberty all over the Western world, but in a more subtle and profound way.

Much of the West is far too comfortable with state regulation of speech and expression, which puts freedom itself at risk. Let me cite some examples: The response of the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security to the crisis over the Danish cartoons that sparked Muslim violence was to propose that newspapers exercise "prudence" on certain controversial subjects involving religions beginning with the letter "I." At the end of her life, the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci-after writing of the contradiction between Islam and the Western tradition of liberty-was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland, and most other European jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely offensive, but criminal. In France, author Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist groups" who believed the opinions of a fictional character in one of his novels were likewise criminal.

In Canada, the official complaint about my own so-called "flagrant Islamophobia"-filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress-attributes to me the following "assertions":
America will be an Islamic Republic by 2040. There will be a break for Muslim prayers during the Super Bowl. There will be a religious police enforcing Islamic norms. The USS Ronald Reagan will be renamed after Osama bin Laden. Females will not be allowed to be cheerleaders. Popular American radio and TV hosts will be replaced by Imams.
In fact, I didn't "assert" any of these things. They are plot twists I cited in my review of Robert Ferrigno's novel, Prayers for the Assassin. It's customary in reviewing novels to cite aspects of the plot. For example, a review of Moby Dick will usually mention the whale. These days, apparently, the Canadian Islamic Congress and the government's human rights investigators (who have taken up the case) believe that describing the plot of a novel should be illegal.

You may recall that Margaret Atwood, some years back, wrote a novel about her own dystopian theocratic fantasy, in which America was a Christian tyranny named the Republic of Gilead. What's to stop a Christian group from dragging a doting reviewer of Margaret Atwood's book in front of a Canadian human rights court? As it happens, Christian groups tend not to do that, which is just as well, because otherwise there wouldn't be a lot to write about.

These are small parts of a very big picture. After the London Tube bombings and the French riots a few years back, commentators lined up behind the idea that Western Muslims are insufficiently assimilated. But in their mastery of legalisms and the language of victimology, they're superbly assimilated. Since these are the principal means of discourse in multicultural societies, they've mastered all they need to know. Every day of the week, somewhere in the West, a Muslim lobbying group is engaging in an action similar to what I'm facing in Canada. Meanwhile, in London, masked men marched through the streets with signs reading "Behead the Enemies of Islam" and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust, all while being protected by a phalanx of London policemen.

Thus we see that today's multicultural societies tolerate the explicitly intolerant and avowedly unicultural, while refusing to tolerate anyone pointing out that intolerance. It's been that way for 20 years now, ever since Valentine's Day 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie, a British subject, and shortly thereafter large numbers of British Muslims marched through English cities openly calling for Rushdie to be killed. A reader in Bradford wrote to me recalling asking a West Yorkshire policeman on the street that day why the various "Muslim community leaders" weren't being arrested for incitement to murder. The officer said they'd been told to "play it cool." The calls for blood got more raucous. My correspondent asked his question again. The policeman told him to "Push off" (he expressed the sentiment rather more Anglo-Saxonly, but let that pass) "or I'll arrest you." Mr. Rushdie was infuriated when the then Archbishop of Canterbury lapsed into root-cause mode. "I well understand the devout Muslims' reaction, wounded by what they hold most dear and would themselves die for," said His Grace. Rushdie replied tersely: "There is only one person around here who is in any danger of dying."

And that's the way it's gone ever since. For all the talk about rampant "Islamophobia," it's usually only the other party who is "in any danger of dying."

War on the Homefront

I wrote my book America Alone because I wanted to reframe how we thought about the War on Terror-an insufficient and evasive designation that has long since outlasted whatever usefulness it may once have had. It remains true that we are good at military campaigns, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our tanks and ships are better, and our bombs and soldiers are smarter. But these are not ultimately the most important battlefronts. We do indeed face what the strategists call asymmetric warfare, but it is not in the Sunni triangle or the Hindu Kush. We face it right here in the Western world.

Norman Podhoretz, among others, has argued that we are engaged in a second Cold War. But it might be truer to call it a Cold Civil War, by which I mean a war within the West, a war waged in our major cities. We now have Muslim "honor killings," for instance, not just in tribal Pakistan and Yemen, but in Germany and the Netherlands, in Toronto and Dallas. And even if there were no battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if no one was flying planes into tall buildings in New York City or blowing up trains, buses, and nightclubs in Madrid, London, and Bali, we would still be in danger of losing this war without a shot being fired.

The British government recently announced that it would be issuing Sharia-compliant Islamic bonds-that is, bonds compliant with Islamic law and practice as prescribed in the Koran. This is another reason to be in favor of small government: The bigger government gets, the more it must look for funding in some pretty unusual places-in this case wealthy Saudis. As The Mail on Sunday put it, this innovation marks "one of the most significant economic advances of Sharia law in the non-Muslim world."

At about the same time, The Times of London reported that "Knorbert the piglet has been dropped as the mascot of Fortis Bank, after it decided to stop giving piggy banks to children for fear of offending Muslims." Now, I'm no Islamic scholar, but Mohammed expressed no view regarding Knorbert the piglet. There's not a single sura about it. The Koran, an otherwise exhaustive text, is silent on the matter of anthropomorphic porcine representation.

I started keeping a file on pig controversies a couple of years ago, and you would be surprised at how routine they have become. Recently, for instance, a local government council prohibited its workers from having knickknacks on their desks representing Winnie the Pooh's sidekick Piglet. As Pastor Martin Niemoller might have said, "First they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character, and if I was, I'd be more of an Eeyore. Then they came for the Three Little Pigs and Babe, and by the time I realized the Western world had turned into a 24/7 Looney Tunes, it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to stammer, `Th-th-th-that's all folks!', and bring the nightmare to an end."

What all these stories have in common is excessive deference to-and in fact fear of-Islam. If the story of the Three Little Pigs is forbidden when Muslims still comprise less than ten percent of Europe's population, what else will be on the black list when they comprise 20 percent? In small but telling ways, non-Muslim communities are being persuaded that a kind of uber-Islamic law now applies to all. And if you don't remember the Three Little Pigs, by the way, one builds a house of straw, another of sticks, and both get blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Western Civilization is a mighty house of bricks, but you don't need a Big Bad Wolf when the pig is so eager to demolish the house himself.

I would argue that these incremental concessions to Islam are ultimately a bigger threat than terrorism. What matters is not what the lads in the Afghan cave-the "extremists"-believe, but what the non-extremists believe, what people who are for the most part law-abiding taxpayers of functioning democracies believe. For example, a recent poll found that 36 percent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 believe that those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. That's not 36 percent of young Muslims in Waziristan or Yemen or Sudan, but 36 percent of young Muslims in the United Kingdom. Forty percent of British Muslims would like to live under Sharia-in Britain. Twenty percent have sympathy for the July 7 Tube bombers. And, given that Islam is the principal source of population growth in every city down the spine of England from Manchester to Sheffield to Birmingham to London, and in every major Western European city, these statistics are not without significance for the future.

Because I discussed these facts in print, my publisher is now being sued before three Canadian human rights commissions. The plaintiff in my case is Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a man who announced on Canadian TV that he approves of the murder of all Israeli civilians over the age of 18. He is thus an objective supporter of terrorism. I don't begrudge him the right to his opinions, but I wish he felt the same about mine. Far from that, posing as a leader of the "anti-hate" movement in Canada, he is using the squeamishness of a politically correct society to squash freedom.

As the famous saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. What the Canadian Islamic Congress and similar groups in the West are trying to do is criminalize vigilance. They want to use the legal system to circumscribe debate on one of the great questions of the age: the relationship between Islam and the West and the increasing Islamization of much of the Western world, in what the United Nations itself calls the fastest population transformation in history.

Slippery Slope

Our democratic governments today preside over multicultural societies that have less and less glue holding them together. They've grown comfortable with the idea of the state as the mediator between interest groups. And confronted by growing and restive Muslim populations, they're increasingly at ease with the idea of regulating freedom in the interests of social harmony.

It's a different situation in America, which has the First Amendment and a social consensus that increasingly does not exist in Europe. Europe's consensus seems to be that Danish cartoonists should be able to draw what they like, but not if it sparks Islamic violence. It is certainly odd that the requirement of self-restraint should only apply to one party.

Last month, in a characteristically clotted speech followed by a rather more careless BBC interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it was dangerous to have one law for everyone and that the introduction of Sharia to the United Kingdom was "inevitable." Within days of His Grace's remarks, the British and Ontario governments both confirmed that thousands of polygamous men in their jurisdictions are receiving welfare payments for each of their wives. Kipling wrote that East is East and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet. But when the twain do meet, you often wind up with the worst of both worlds. Say what you like about a polygamist in Waziristan or Somalia, but he has to do it on his own dime. To collect a welfare check for each spouse, he has to move to London or Toronto. Government-subsidized polygamy is an innovation of the Western world.

If you need another reason to be opposed to socialized health care, one reason is because it fosters the insouciant attitude to basic hygiene procedures that has led to the rise of deadly "superbugs." I see British Muslim nurses in public hospitals riddled with C. difficile are refusing to comply with hygiene procedures on the grounds that scrubbing requires them to bare their arms, which is un-Islamic. Which is a thought to ponder just before you go under the anaesthetic. I mentioned to some of Hillsdale's students in class that gay-bashing is on the rise in the most famously "tolerant" cities in Europe. As Der Spiegel reported, "With the number of homophobic attacks rising in the Dutch metropolis, Amsterdam officials are commissioning a study to determine why Moroccan men are targeting the city's gays."

Gee, whiz. That's a toughie. Wonder what the reason could be. But don't worry, the brain trust at the University of Amsterdam is on top of things: "Half of the crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin and researchers believe they felt stigmatized by society and responded by attacking people they felt were lower on the social ladder. Another working theory is that the attackers may be struggling with their own sexual identity."

Bingo! Telling young Moroccan men they're closeted homosexuals seems certain to lessen tensions in the city! While you're at it, a lot of those Turks seem a bit light in their loafers, don't you think?

Our Suicidal Urge

So don't worry, nothing's happening. Just a few gay Muslims frustrated at the lack of gay Muslim nightclubs. Sharia in Britain? Taxpayer-subsidized polygamy in Toronto? Yawn. Nothing to see here. True, if you'd suggested such things on September 10, 2001, most Britons and Canadians would have said you were nuts. But a few years on and it doesn't seem such a big deal, nor will the next concession, or the one after that.

The assumption that you can hop on the Sharia Express and just ride a couple of stops is one almighty leap of faith. More to the point, who are you relying on to "hold the line"? Influential figures like the Archbishop of Canterbury? The politically correct bureaucrats at Canada's Human Rights Commissions? The geniuses who run Harvard, and who've just introduced gender-segregated swimming and gym sessions at the behest of Harvard's Islamic Society? (Would they have done that for Amish or Mennonite students?) The Western world is not run by fellows noted for their line-holding: Look at what they're conceding now and then try to figure out what they'll be conceding in five years' time. The idea that the West's multicultural establishment can hold the line would be more plausible if it was clear they had any idea where the line is, or even gave any indication of believing in one.

My book, supposedly Islamaphobic, isn't even really about Islam. The single most important line in it is the profound observation, by historian Arnold Toynbee, that "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder." One manifestation of that suicidal urge is illiberal notions harnessed in the cause of liberalism. In calling for the introduction of Sharia, the Archbishop of Canterbury joins a long list of Western appeasers, including a Dutch cabinet minister who said if the country were to vote to introduce Islamic law that would be fine by him, and the Swedish cabinet minister who said we should be nice to Muslims now so that Muslims will be nice to us when they're in the majority.

Ultimately, our crisis is not about Islam. It's not about fire-breathing Imams or polygamists whooping it up on welfare. It's not about them. It's about us. And by us I mean the culture that shaped the modern world, and established the global networks, legal systems, and trading relationships on which the planet depends. To reprise Sir Edward Grey, the lamps are going out all over the world, and an awful lot of the map will look an awful lot darker by the time many Americans realize the scale of this struggle.


Iraqi Billionaire Threatens Reporters Investigating Rezko Affair

U.S. media outlets are historically strong defenders of press freedoms. But there has been near-total silence about the UK-based legal threats to public discussion of the Rezko affair. Why aren't the American media investigating the role of British billionaire businessman Nadhmi Auchi in supplying loans to Barack Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko? Some point to media bias, but there is another factor. Working for Auchi, who was born in Iraq, attorneys from London law firm Carter-Ruck have for several months been flooding American and British newspapers and websites with letters demanding removal of material they deem "defamatory" to their client.

In its June 28 edition, British satirical magazine Private Eye explains: "Until Carter-Ruck and Partners and England's stifling libel laws got to work, the few American journalists not caught up in Obama-mania were turning to the archives of the British press to answer an intriguing question: who is Nadhmi Auchi?"

What is so "stifling" about English libel law? In the U.K., as Carter-Ruck explains on its own website, "A libel claimant does not have to prove that the words are false or to prove that he has in fact suffered any loss. Damage is presumed."

The Obama campaign recently issued a non-denial denial in response to claims that Obama met with Auchi?contained in Jerome Corsi's bestseller, The Obama Nation. They cited only two references. One is, "Mr. Auchi's lawyer" who told the February 27, 2008 London Evening Standard, "As far as he can remember he has had no direct contact with Mr. Obama." Another is, "A lawyer for Auchi, Alasdair Pepper" who says, according to the April 16, 2008 Washington Post, "Auchi Had `No Recollection' Of Meeting Obama or Michelle." Alasdair Pepper is the attorney whose name appears on the Carter-Ruck demand letters.

The Secret Loan

A secret $3.5 million loan from an Auchi company to key early-money Barack Obama fundraiser Antoin Rezko was exposed while Rezko was awaiting trial on fraud and money-laundering charges earlier this year. Rezko's bail was revoked and police showed up banging on the doors of his Wilmette Chicago mansion to drag him off to jail early in the morning of January 28th. Auchi's loan to Rezko had come on May 23, 2005 but had not been disclosed to the Court as required in his bail agreement. Three weeks later, on June 15, 2005, Rezko's wife assisted the Obamas in the purchase of their South Chicago mansion by purchasing a next-door undeveloped lot being sold with the house.

According to the Times of London, "Mr. Rezko's lawyer said his client had `longstanding indebtedness' to Mr. Auchi's General Mediterranean Holding (GMH). By June 2007 he owed it $27.9 million. Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, M. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as $3.5 million transferred in April 2007. That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be `forgiven' in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development."

Rezko's relationship with Barack Obama goes back to at least 1990, when Obama's law firm did work relating to thousands of now-decaying Rezko apartment units in South Chicago. Rezko was a key early-money fundraiser in Obama's state Senate campaigns and his failed run at the U.S. Congress.

According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi first met Mr. Rezko after the 2003 Iraq war and they have a business relationship." At the time Auchi was facing the possibility of extradition to France. The Times of London explains: "Mr Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined o1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe. He, in a statement from his media lawyers, claims he is appealing against the sentence."

In 2003, Nick Cohen of the UK Guardian wrote: "Allow me to introduce you to Nadhmi Auchi. He was charged in the 1950s with being an accomplice of Saddam Hussein, when the future tyrant was acquiring his taste for blood. He was investigated in the 1980s for his part in alleged bribes to the fabulously corrupt leaders of post-war Italy. In the 1990s, the Belgium Ambassador to Luxembourg claimed that Auchi's bank held money Saddam and Colonel Gadaffi had stolen from their luckless peoples. In 2002, officers from the Serious Fraud Squad raided the offices of one of Auchi's drug companies as part of an investigation of what is alleged to be the biggest swindle ever of the (British National Health Service). With allegations, albeit unproven, like these hanging over him, wouldn't you think that British MPs would have the sense to stay away?"

But after threats from Carter-Ruck, Cohen's "defamatory" article became one of six Guardian and Observer articles scrubbed from the Internet this April. Blogger "A Jacksonian" received a similar demand on or before June 24. His article is still up. It details much of the information contained in the six deleted Guardian/Observer articles.

Auchi in 1967 began an Iraq Oil Ministry career eventually rising to be Director of Planning and Development under the Baathist dictatorship. He formed GMH in 1979 and then left Iraq. A key source of weapons procurement for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, GMH became the largest single private shareholder of Banque Nationale du Paris (BNP) which later merged with Paribas to form BNP-Paribas. BNP and BNP-Paribas, at Saddam Hussein's insistence, handled all Oil-for-Food transactions until 2001 when the incoming administration of George W. Bush demanded change.

Investigative journalist Bill Gertz explains: "A 2004 Pentagon report obtained by The Washington Times identified Auchi as a global arms dealer and Iraqi billionaire `who, behind the facade of legitimate business, served as Saddam Hussein's principle (sic) international financial manipulator and bag man.'

"The report to the Pentagon inspector general stated that . `significant and credible evidence has been developed that Nadhmi Auchi has engaged in unlawful activities working closely with Iraqi intelligence operatives to, Bribe foreign governments and individuals prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom to turn opinion against the American-led mission to remove Saddam Hussein.'"

The web scrubbing did not stop with the six Guardian/Observer articles. New Statesman writer Martin Bright reports that Auchi lawyers "have written to ask us to remove the names of the articles concerned." Removed, the six titles are now available for reading only in difficult-to-find independent web archives.....

U.S. media outlets are historically strong defenders of press freedoms. But there has been near-total silence about the UK-based legal threats to public discussion of the Rezko affair. While Auchi's interference may explain part of the media's lack of interest, the attitude of the New York Times and New York Review of Books goes a long way towards explaining the rest.

If elected President, Obama will be required to swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Will Senator Obama now join in co-sponsoring S-2977, the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, and call upon his fellow Democrats to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote? If not will Obama explain why the Free Speech Protection Act is not necessary to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?"

Will reporters covering the campaign ask Obama whether, if elected, he would approve a request for U.S. residency from Auchi? Are the media now cooperating in their own silencing? The attitude of the New York Times does not bode well.

More here

Australia's centre/Leftists are pretty conservative on welfare

HOW very un-Laborlike, said one Labor MP in response to the Rudd Government's proposal to introduce legislation this week that would tie welfare payments to the responsibility of parents to ensure their children attend school. Not all Labor MPs are on side, it seems. The Rudd Government is about to discover that tough love is a tough policy. Nay-sayers wedded to the failed idea that compassion comes in the form of unconditional welfare will be out in force to kill off Labor's embrace of mutual responsibility.

Where, one must ask, have these Labor MPs been? Welfare reform that matches rights with responsibilities was endorsed long ago by the Centre-Left in the US under Democratic president Bill Clinton and in Britain under Labour prime minister Tony Blair. They proved that linking rights to responsibilities was not some nasty conservative agenda to punish those most in need. It is an idea that crosses the political divide for the simple reason that it works, whereas past policies of passive welfare have failed.

So credit where it's due. Kevin Rudd is right to point out that an education revolution depends on children attending school. Education Minister Julia Gillard says there could be up to 20,000 Australian children who are not at school, with Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggesting that at least 2000 children are not enrolled at school within the Northern Territory.

Though it's a case of Labor-come-lately for some in the ALP, the Rudd Government's plan to tackle the problem of truancy by setting up trials in six NT communities and in Western Australia before a national roll-out deserves unequivocal praise.

For too long, welfare has been seen as an unfettered right, without any attendant responsibilities. The rights-based culture that emerged in the 1960s and `70s failed, in particular, an entire generation of indigenous people. Many of them are lost. Uneducated and untrained, relegated to the dysfunctional fringes, they will never have a chance of entering mainstream society. Now, the children of that generation risk being lost too unless policies encourage parents to accept responsibility for their children. Accordingly, Labor's belated acknowledgment of past policy failures is to be applauded.

But let's also pay tribute to those who got us to the point where a Labor government in Australia is ready to instil responsibilities into the welfare equation. Howard haters, shut your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. Here it is. By tackling the old orthodoxy of no-responsibility welfare, John Howard fundamentally realigned our thinking on this issue.

Sure, we watched welfare reform unfold in the US and Britain. But in Australia the Rudd Government is proposing to link welfare to parental responsibility after a decade of conservative rule that did the hard yards on welfare reform.

Encouraged by The Australian, which provided an early and continuing platform for genuine debate about these critical issues, what was once the accepted left-wing orthodoxy has been challenged and found wanting by a more questioning mindset. Not so long ago, if you raised questions about welfare you would be labelled as mean-spirited. If you raised those questions about welfare in relation to indigenous people, you were mean-spirited and racist. Back then, orthodox thinking was framed around the virtues of Aboriginal welfarism, apologies, treaties and separatism.

By tackling that PC-infected entrenched orthodoxy, the Howard government legacy is one that has paved the way for Labor's present policy. Under Howard, the first steps to address indigenous disadvantage were premised on practical reconciliation: on outcomes, not politics. Symbolism was eschewed as demonstrably counterproductive to solving disadvantage and passive welfare uncovered as poison. When critics shouted about racism, Howard did not flinch. His government challenged mindless policies such as the Community Development Employment Program, which allowed able-bodied indigenous people to work for a few hours a week in return for full welfare.

As a reminder of that fundamental shift, it's worth remembering that Noel Pearson once derided the Howard government as "racist scum" and said Howard was "totally useless to the nation". That was before Pearson's epiphany that greater individual responsibility, not indigenous victimhood, was the way to address disadvantage and dysfunction within indigenous communities.

Today, indigenous leaders such as Pearson and former ALP federal president Warren Mundine are daily pushing the frontiers for more sensible indigenous policies that promote education, training and work as the solution to Aboriginal dysfunction. They recognise that welfare reform must escape the shackles of left-right labels. After all, as The Australian said last Friday in an editorial, Ben Chifley's vision of a Labor light on the hill did not involve "putting an extra sixpence in somebody's pocket". Chifley's 1949 call was about empowering people.

Rudd is on that path. His proposal for a 13-week suspension of welfare as a last resort for parents who do not ensure their children attend school is premised on the state providing the right signals to encourage parents to do the right thing by their children. As Gillard said, a child who misses large slabs of schooling is set up for failure for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, so many on the Left remain cemented to past policies predicated on the role of the state rather than the power of individuals. Critics immediately labelled Rudd's plan as a "blunt instrument". They prefer to point the finger of blame at anyone except parents. Blame the system. Blame the schools, they say. Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert described Labor's policy as "crazy thinking in the 21st century from a government that's supposed to be committed to social inclusion".

Yet genuine social inclusion must mean encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives. Those who view individual responsibility with suspicion necessarily view human potential with equal suspicion. Their paternalism is based on an inherently defeatist view of human ability and aspiration. It entrenches social exclusion and human misery, and ensures the only outcome of their paternalism is the continued existence of their own handout-premised industries.

The importance of the Rudd Government finally confronting the unprogressive consequences of the so-called progressive mindset cannot be underestimated. The Howard government was always going to be attacked by so-called progressives as launching a right-wing ideological crusade in its efforts to encourage greater personal responsibility.

The Rudd Labor Government can, depending on the strength of its conviction, bring many of these critics to a quiet halt by following Howard and showing courageous leadership aimed at moving the national conversation on disadvantage in more sensible directions.

The fear is that this will be some will-o'-the-wisp Labor policy that flickers with hope but can never be realised, either because Labor is not serious about the policy or because it falls victim to old Labor types still wedded to the past.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Friday, August 29, 2008

"Dangerous" board game seized by moronic British police

A War On Terror board game designed in Cambridge has been seized by police who claim the balaclava in the set could be used in a criminal act. The satirical board game was confiscated along with knives, chisels and bolt cutters, from climate protesters during a series of raids near Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last week.

The game's creators, Andrew Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, web designers from Cambridge, have expressed total shock at the inclusion of their toy among "criminal" items. Andrew, 32, said: "I saw pictures of the board game in papers and was absolutely baffled. "Surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

War on Terror, similar to games like Risk, revolves around creating empires that compete and wage war. But there is a twist - players can poke fun at the rhetoric of world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair. The game was born from the frustration of its creators as they sat watching the news in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each player starts as an empire filled with good intentions and a determination to liberate the world from terrorists and from each other.

Then the reality of world politics kicks and terrorist states emerge. Andrew said: "The terrorists can win and quite often do and it's global anarchy. It sums up the randomness of geo-politics pretty well."

In their cardboard version of realpolitik George Bush's "Axis of Evil" is reduced to a spinner in the middle of the board, which determines which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.

Kent police said they had confiscated the game because the balaclava "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act".

Andrew fumed: "It's absurd. A beard can conceal someone's identity. Are the police going to start banning beards?"

All High Street retailers declined to stock the controversial game. But more than 12,000 copies have been sold online or through independent stockists.


England's surveillance state at work

Dreary old England is suffering mightily under the weight of the authoritarian government of the Labour Party. Labour has been working assiduously to impose a total surveillance state trampling on traditional British freedoms. First, here is a video of the local police randomly stopping people and demanding to search them. As they make clear, if you do not "consent" to being searched you will be arrested. Of course, once they arrest you they can search you. In other words, in England, the police may search anyone they wish, anytime they wish without any probable cause.

One British "subject" has filmed this sort of police state mentality. It is hard to understand some aspects of the video as the sound is not totally up to par. Please note that these these officers are not only searching the man's belongings but frisking him, going through his pockets, looking in his wallet, and flipping through the books he reads. Notice the lie they tell. They argue that they are looking for anything that can be used by terrorists. But they start going through his credit cards and looking through his wallet. And then, when they find nothing wrong, they send in his details to check up on the man.

Basically the cops end up arguing that anything a "terrorists" could use can be inspected by them at any time they wish. Of course the terrorists can use anything. Also watch as people walk by and look over at this poor man being searched. You know that many of them are wondering what this man did that was illegal to be apprehended by the police.

The last time I was in the UK I saw a thug harassing an older woman inside the local McDonalds. I complained to the staff who did nothing. I went outside and told the police. The thug walked out and I pointed him out. The police REFUSED to do anything saying they didn't want to "embarrass" him in "front of his mates". Apparently guilty people shouldn't be embarrassed but innocent people deserve to be frisked, searched and checked out on some central data base. Sieg heil! The one thing I will say is that, as disgusting as this is, in the U.S. merely asking the police the questions this man asked would have gotten him beaten, perhaps tasered and possibly shot.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that the local councils are using the antiterrorism surveillance systems to spy on "couples' sleeping arrangements." Taxes are based, not only on the value of property, but also on the number of people living there. So councils "undertake `surveillance' of cars registered to addresses `to substantiate the allegation of living together.'" Documents from one council show they are checking to see if couples are living "as husband and wife."

In Thurrock single residents are required to sign a document giving blanket permission to local bureaucrats "to enter their home as part of an inspection" to determine if they really are single or in a couple. If they have a partner their tax rate increases by one-third. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said:
Day by day under Labour, the country is sleepwalking into a surveillance state, where spying on citizens has become the norm. Laws which were originally intended to tackle the most serious crimes and safeguard the public are now being deployed routinely and without hesitation.

Councils will naturally wish to ensure that council tax discounts and benefits are not wrongly claimed. But I am concerned that innocent citizens will be spied on through heavy-handed and disproportionate use by town hall snoopers. There are far less intrusive and more cost-effective ways of vetting council tax, such as through data matching, rather than paying town hall officials to camp out overnight outside people's homes.

The fact such snooping is already over-used by local authorities bodes ill for the planned powers for town halls to access communications data. There are insufficient checks and balances to prevent people's sex lives being habitually monitored by state bureaucrats, purely because they claim a council tax discount for living alone.
Bureaucrats with the Local Government Association have a unique stand on the matter. They say "Pretending to live alone to defraud the taxpayer is not a victimless crime." This goes on the assumption that your wealth belongs to the government and they let you keep some of it. If you keep more of your own income then the government has to take more of other people's income. So it is your fault that they are confiscating more wealth from other people. Thus keeping your own money is a crime against others.

Already it has been shown that government powers initially created to "stop terrorism" have been used by councils to arrest people whose dog took a shit in the wrong place or who dumped trash in the wrong location.

But one government official, with the title of Interception of Communications Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, complained that the local councils were not using their spying powers enough. He suggested that more councils spy on people to fight crimes "such as skipping work and filing fraudulent overtime claims." The Telegraph reports: "Councils across the country were criticised last month as it emerged that they used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act up to 10,000 times a year to investigate such petty offences as dog fouling and under-age smoking."

And while the Conservative Party is, this now, whining about the surveillance state, only days ago they were demanding that police powers be expanded to do more surveillance. Then another Tory spokesman said: "It is not right that we charge our police with combating crime and disorder and then tie their hands behind their backs.... the police should be given both the resources and the freedom to use those resources to do their job." In that incident the Tories said that restraints to protect citizens from spying were "red tape" and promised to make it easier to spy, including putting in wire taps, without any court permission required.


Character is Relevant!

This country has gone through some deep changes about this issue: is a politician's sex life "private" in the sense that it is irrelevant to what we should think about the things he or she does or will do as a "public" official?

During the agony of the Clinton sex scandals I tried to interest a class I was teaching on moral character in writing a term paper on this issue, and they were struck dumb -- literally -- by the suggestion that there is a discussable issue here. When I prodded them with a few questions, I was told that the idea that a politician's sexual behavior is relevant to our moral or political judgments about them as politicians is a myth invented by cynical Republicans, who are pursuing their own political ends. In other words, as a philosophical issue, it is utterly beneath contempt. Well, then, I said, what do you think of the Mother of All Character Issues: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. If these allegations are true, do they give us some reason to chisel him off Mount Rushmore? Or not? What do you think? Anybody? Anybody?

No one wrote on that issue. I concluded that the students' view was probably the standard one among Democrats at the time, including those who constitute almost 90% of my esteemed colleagues at the university. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and I can only gain insight into how such people think in the same way that an anthropologist finds out about the beliefs of distant tribes: by observing the behavior of others. Introspection is less than no help at all. Today, using the same methods, I conclude that things have changed. During the flap about Edwards, it became obvious that many of his supporters (or former supporters) it were genuinely disappointed by his behavior. Today, his political status seems to be somewhere in the category of damaged goods.

What do I think about this issue, other than that it really is an issue?I have actually written on theoretical issues that bear on this question but every time it pops up I find myself thinking about -- not some theory or argument but -- a comment someone made to me while we were watching a movie.

He was a Russian scientist, here to do research, and we were watching the original airing of a made-for-cable biopic about Stalin, in the early years of the Clinton agonies. During a scene in which Stalin (Robert Duval) was treating his wife, Nadezhda, in a particularly beastly way (she later committed suicide), my companion became very upset and said something like: "This is what drives be crazy. How can people say that the way Clinton treats women has nothing to do with what we should think of him as a politician? What Stalin was doing to his wife, he later did to the whole country! The same thing!"

A similar point is made about Hitler's relationship with Geli Raubal in a fairly good novel by Ron Hansen. I hope it is obvious that I am not comparing Clinton and Edwards to Hitler and Stalin -- the issue here is the (in some broad sense) logical one of whether the "private" realm of a person's life is a separate compartment from the "public" one, with no inferences (not even probablistic ones) allowed from one to the other.

To accept the compartmentalization idea is very close to denying that there is such a thing as moral character at all. The idea of character is the idea that there is a certain kind of connection between one's acts: that people act from traits, like courage and cowardice. If you do a brave thing, that is evidence that you have the trait of courage and are a courageous person. Not conclusive evidence, because acting out of character is possible. Compartmentalization is also possible. A person can be a hero in the face of physical dangers and a coward about moral ones. I don't deny for a minute that this sort of looseness and independence between the parts of one's life is possible. But the compartmentalization idea implies that such things are not merely possible but necessary.

In effect, the compartmentalization idea says that, necessarily, there two Stalins: the one who abused Nadezhda, and the one who abused Russia. It is simply a coincidence that they were both abusive. But why only two? Applied consistently, the idea would disintegrate the person into an infinitude of homunculi, with no connection between them. That, of course, is not how things are.


Social Security Increases Poverty

One of the most common arguments supporting Social Security is that it reduces poverty among the elderly. Last week, Barack Obama stated that, "Social Security has lifted millions of seniors and their families out of poverty. Without it, nearly 50 percent of seniors would live below the poverty line." This is almost certainly untrue.

Social Security affects poverty among the elderly in two offsetting ways. While it reduces poverty by providing income to retired persons, it discourages private saving during the working years-ultimately decreasing the private assets people bring to their retirement. The net effect of this is increased poverty among the retired population.

To understand this conclusion, it is important to compare the rate of return on taxes paid that is generated by Social Security to the rate of return people could receive on their private saving. For those retiring in 2008, the average implicit real (inflation-adjusted) rate of return on Social Security taxes paid was slightly below 3 percent-and it is scheduled to decline to under 2 percent in the next forty years. In contrast, if people retiring in 2008 had invested the taxes they paid into Social Security in a balanced portfolio (60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds), they would have received a return of 5.5 percent.

The difference between a 5.5 percent return and a 3.0 percent return may not sound like much, but in annual returns compounded over a lifetime, this difference has a huge influence on the income available during retirement. In fact, the annual retirement income provided by a 5.5 percent return is double than that provided by the 3.0 percent return of Social Security. Even more compelling, an investment in the stock market averages a 7 percent real return, which would mean an annual income of three times what Social Security provides. In short, it is likely that we would have fewer poor among the elderly had they been free to invest their taxes in private assets. Once Social Security's rate of return drops to below 2 percent, it will only continue to aggravate poverty in the future.

While this simple comparison is compelling, it overlooks the huge hidden costs of this system. By reducing the incentive for workers to save privately for their own retirement, we reduce the economy's saving and investment in productive assets. This means the economy grows more slowly as a result of Social Security and people end up with lower incomes even before they pay their taxes. When this cost is taken into account, the real return from Social Security to those retiring today is actually negative!

And things are only going to get worse. Although Obama assures us, "the underlying [Social Security] system is sound," economists have emphasized for years that this is not the case. Today, government expenditures on Social Security and its companion retirement program, Medicare, are 7.3 percent of GDP. However, the Boards of Trustees of Social Security and Medicare tell us that figure will rise to 15.2 percent by 2040 if we don't change the rules for determining benefits.

Ultimately that means we will have to more than double tax rates to pay the benefits Congress has unwisely legislated. Or we will have to cut benefits in half, or some combination. Raising taxes would be disastrous-imagine a 35 percent payroll tax rate (compared to the present 15.3 percent) and higher income tax rates as well. And since Medicare is partially funded by the federal income tax, its rates would have to rise as well.

Neither option is attractive, but cutting benefits is clearly preferable since people would then depend more on private saving. Most economists favor gradually raising the retirement age as the least painful way of cutting benefits. But the longer we wait, the harder it is to implement this option and the more likely we will be forced to accept substantially higher taxes.

The elderly poor, as well as the rest of us, are ill served by politicians who systematically downplay the huge costs of Social Security and delay confronting what is indeed a true crisis



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy

As a dues-paying member of Hillary Clinton's Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, it came as a revelation of sorts to learn about the parallel universe in which a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy exists. Within it, liberals do endless battle with one another for control of the Democrat Party.

Ron Arnold's book, 'Freezing in the Dark: Money, Power, Politics and The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy', is not light reading. This heavily researched and documented narrative reveals all the major players of the liberal universe and how these renamed 'progressives' interact through networks of wealthy foundations, advocacy groups, think tanks, and leftist media.

'Freezing' will particularly please policy wonks, but it is also a brilliant romp through the jungle of leftist politics. If you have the stamina to get into and through it, you will understand what drives the Left. To get you started, I will quote Winston Churchill who defined Socialism as 'a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.'

As I reached the end of 'Freezing', I had a random thought about the 2008 election and its outcome. Simply put, Democrats who have been driven insane by the very existence of George W. Bush cannot run against him. In the funhouse of modern politics, the Republican they must defeat is more like them than not. John McCain is Democrat Light. One of his best pals is Joe Lieberman who ran as the vice president nominee with John Kerry!

Emerging swiftly from the text is the way the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act transformed how politics was to be funded. Little wonder that Sen. Obama abandoned his pledge to work within the constraints of federal campaign funding in favor of raising gobs of money from the Internet and the traditional supporters of anything and anyone labeled liberal, progressive. Never mind that the Communist Party USA also supports Obama. It must surely just be a coincidence.

McCain-Feingold banned 'soft money' donations, the large and unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations to political parties. This 'reform' required Democrats to create a networking restructure with the many satellite groups competing to use the party to get the only reform they ever wanted, the trashing of the U.S. Constitution.

It's useful to remember that the Constitution exists to limit the power of the federal government and, via the Bill of Rights, those of the States to the extent that individual liberties are protected. This is why the liberalism discredited by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s has returned as a Halloween mask labeled 'progressive.'

Progressives, however, come in many colors of red. There are, as Arnold notes, social, labor, anti-globalization, anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, environmental, post-national who like Sen. Obama see themselves as citizens of the world, and campaign finance reform progressives who think that the current electoral system is a threat to democracy, mostly one suspects because it keeps defeating progressives.

As Arnold reveals, one can hardly call liberals or progressives a movement. 'It was more like a mental hospital without doctors or nurses.' They don't have a cohesive culture, have no coherent ideology, but are 'just quarrelsome factions with loads of issues.'

What they all seemed to have, however, was gobs and gobs of money from leftist foundations and millionaires who wanted to change the world by supporting one or more of the myriad of issues they embrace as their penance for being successful, thanks to capitalism.

The ultimate symbol of this is the billionaire George Soros. As Arnold points out, 'The Soros mishmash of leftist causes at home ranged from financing the anti-gun lobby to abolishing capital punishment; from anti-Israel activism to promoting abortion rights; from feminism, population control, and gay liberation to anti-corporate campaigns, radical theories of education, and replacing national sovereignty with global institutions.'

Compare this with conservative values that include 'hard work, duty and obligation, self-reliance, high levels of national pride, pro-life values, rejection of homosexuality, belief in the importance of religion and God in one's life, and that children should learn respect and obedience.'

Essential to the compact that the American government makes with citizens is the understanding that if you work hard and stay out of trouble with the law, it will leave you alone!

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy believes that your life must be guided from birth to death by the government, its prohibitions, and its demands, a society in which everything not mandated by law is prohibited. To achieve this, progressives come at voters from all directions, conjuring up hoaxes like global warming, promises of often imaginary 'clean' energy, the demand to end 'urban sprawl', the 'right' of same-sex couples to marry, support for the United Nations, and endless charges of racism, among other charades to gain control of the federal government and its judiciary system in order to implement a top-down control of your life.

'Freezing in the Dark' is a roadmap to understand why we are assailed daily with the insanity of liberalism, an utterly failed system that depends on coercion while seeking to devalue the central principles of our constitutional system, from private property to individual merit and, yes, the promotion of wealth as a good thing.


Our Vanishing Right of Dissent

As long as America has existed there has been political dissent. From clashes over entry into the Revolutionary War to early battles regarding Federalism and taxes to the Lincoln-Douglas debates to conflicts about entering two World Wars to modern skirmishes on abortion rights and 'separation of church and state,' there has always been political disagreement in our great nation.

The freedom to voice our opinions has been one of the defining principles of America; it separates us from a host of world nations where the ideas of freedom of speech and religious freedom are completely foreign.

However, I have grown concerned about an emerging strategy in our culture that aims to silence or punish those who hold opinions that counter those who have a little power.

We have seen this in the case of the Boy Scouts of America, which legally won the right, as a private organization, to define membership prerequisites. However, some cities and municipalities that oppose the Boy Scouts' ban on homosexual and atheist leaders have barred the Scouts from utilizing public property-solely because of their membership requirements. Words like 'discrimination' and 'intolerance' are carelessly attached to the Scouts even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the organization may-as all private organizations may-legally define membership qualifications.

This collectivist mindset that penalizes groups (or individuals) who embrace a mindset that counters the so-called 'mainstream' contradicts all that we know to be true about our nation.

This week, I learned that the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), a consortium of law schools, under pressure from liberal activists, has decided to punish a California hotel owner who supports the state marriage protection amendment (Proposition 8).

The AALS's 2009 annual meeting will be held at Doug Manchester's San Diego-based Manchester Grand Hyatt, but the organization says it will hold all AALS events at another hotel, in effect establishing a boycott against the hotel with which it signed a contract to hold the event.

Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law and founder of Liberty Counsel, says this circuitous boycott indicates how the AALS does not respect the rule of law and more specifically demonstrates how the organization will seek to punish a businessman who deviates from the organization's stance on same-sex marriage.

'This type of action is not what law is about,' Mr. Staver said. 'People are using law, separate from transcendent principles and morality, as a coercive force to pound home their liberal ideology and their agenda.'

As Mr. Staver told OneNewsNow.com that actions like the AALS boycott highlight the burning need for the Liberty University School of Law to turn out lawyers and policy makers who hold true to the evident biblical foundations of America's legal system.

'[W]e at Liberty University School of Law are intent on training a new generation of lawyers and judges, policymakers, and world leaders in the rule of law from a Christian perspective,' he told OneNewsNow.com . 'Certainly the time has come to train a new generation-not the way these secularists want to train them, but to train them in a proper foundation of the rule of law.'

It's tragic to see this one-view mindset taking hold in our culture because it contradicts the basis of our founding principles. It is a throwback to the old 'sand box' principle of our youth.

While the dissenting spirit of our Forefathers is in our blood, we are beginning to more resemble Beijing than Biloxi. And that should trouble us all.


Binge-drinking mother jailed after crying rape against devout Muslim taxi driver

A binge-drinking mother has been jailed after falsely accusing an innocent taxi driver of raping her. Joanne Rye, who kept up the lie for 20 months, was told by a judge her behaviour was despicable and was handed an eight-month prison sentence. [The bitch should have got what he would have got]

The mother-of-one caused great shame and disgrace to devout Muslim Sherekhan Kali and his family after claiming that he dragged her down an alleyway and assaulted her. Maidstone Crown Court heard Rye, then 18, was known as a troublemaker and had been banned from using the All Night Car Hire in Dartford, Kent where Mr Kali worked. The court also heard the week before she made the rape allegation, she had used racially insulting language to Mr Kali.

Valeria Swift, prosecuting, said Rye was very drunk and was taken to hospital claiming she had suffered an asthma attack on the night of October 21, 2006. Ms Rye became aggressive and police were called and it was then she made the rape claim, giving a detailed account of the attack. She claimed she was waiting for taxi in Dartford when she was grabbed and a pellet gun was fired into her kneecap. She said her attacker then dragged her into an alley and raped her. But she said there would not be any DNA because he had used a condom. She also told how she had recognised Mr Kali because he had taken her in his taxi a week before.

The part-time cabbie was arrested at his home and taken to the police station where intimate samples, DNA and fingerprints were taken. His boss Nicholas Morris confirmed that Ms Rye had been banned from using the firm's cabs because of racist abuse to drivers. Miss Swift revealed a check of the satellite navigation system in Mr Kali's cab showed he had been nowhere near the area where Rye said she was attacked. CCTV footage of her drunken behaviour on the night she said she had been raped also proved it could not have happened in the way described. The prosecutor said the only motivation for the false allegation was the incident a week earlier when the fare was disputed.

Rye continued to maintain she had been raped up to the first day of her trial in June, accused of perverting the course of justice. Miss Swift said of Mr Kali: 'This case has had a very profound effect on him indeed.' Sarah Morris, defending, said Rye, now 20, would go out and get drunk, smoke cannabis and behave in an anti-social manner. But she had since settled down with a boyfriend and had a child, now aged five months. 'The prospect of a custodial sentence is frightening for her,' said Miss Morris. 'She has put herself in the position where her child will be without the mother. 'Of course, many people would say well, tough, that is your doing. You have brought this on yourself and must face the consequences. 'What she did was thoroughly reprehensible. But it has not been every case where a woman who has cried rape has gone into custody.'

Miss Morris said Rye, who worked in catering for the elderly, knew her boyfriend was not equipped to deal with a young baby. Her mother would have to give up her job to care for the child. But jailing Rye for a 'modest' eight months, Judge Crawford Lindsay, QC, said he had no doubt the matter was so serious there had to be an immediate prison sentence. 'I consider this to be a despicable offence,' he said. 'You made an allegation that this entirely innocent taxi driver had raped you. 'It was fully investigated with the consequences that police time and doctors' time was wasted in the investigation.'

It was not until the first day of her trial in June this year that she 'faced the inevitable' and owned up. 'This is a case where the victim is a strict Muslim, who regularly attends to his beliefs and prays regularly,' said Judge Lindsay. 'At the police station, intimate samples were taken. Having another female touch a part of his body is forbidden. It would bring shame on his family. As a consequence, he left this country for a period.' When he returned to work, Mr Kali was frightened of having women in his cab and would go home. 'So we have a man of blameless character who is subjected to your dishonesty and trumped up allegation,' said the judge.

'It is clear when you are in drink, you are loud-mouthed. You have a young child but that is a matter which does not in my judgment prevent a penalty for an allegation that is easily made and had a serious effect on the victim. 'He suffered the suggestion there is no smoke without fire.'


Regulating water

Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are granted jurisdiction over the "navigable waters" of the United States. If a boat can float on it, it's theirs to regulate. Over the years, the definition of "navigable waters" overflowed its banks, expanding to include virtually anywhere with detectable levels of H2O.

"What began as a reasonable attempt to control water pollution in our nation's interstate rivers, lakes, and streams," says Peyton Knight at the National Center for Public Policy Research, "spiraled into unreasonable federal regulation of isolated wetlands, ponds, dry lakebeds, intermittent streams and drainage ditches." As time went on, landowners were required to obtain permits for everything from draining a field for plowing to building a dock to filling in a low wet spot.

In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a muddled opinion in Rapanos v. United States that reined in some of the more exotic interpretations of "navigable waters." Now Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have introduced the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would replace the phrase "navigable waters" with "waters of the United States," by which they mean "all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing."

If the bill passes, it will create new regulatory barriers for fishermen, boaters, hunters, and even some conservationists, who may find that their favorite hobbies no longer pass muster. The act leaves it up to the courts to decide if "waters of the United States" also includes your kitchen sink.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another "artistic" attempt to offend decent people

Childish attention-seeking behaviour

London Olympic organisers are at the centre of an extraordinary row after an image of Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderer, was included in a montage of images of British achievements designed to promote the upcoming Games.

The clip, a portrait of Hindley made out of children's hand prints by the artist Marcus Harvey, was screened as the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcomed British medal winners at a party to celebrate the capital taking over from Beijing as the official Olympic host city. It was immediately condemned by the Mayor and Gordon Brown.

While the two men each delivered a short speech to around 500 guests, a video screen behind them showed a series of quintessentially British images. Party-goers at the event at London House, a trendy outdoor temporary nightclub in down town Beijing used during the Games by athletes and officials to unwind, were stunned when the portrait of Hindley appeared on the screen.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said that the montage had been compiled by Visit London, an agency responsible for attracting tourists to the capital which had been commissioned by the Mayor's office to carry out the work, and was meant as a showcase of all things British. He added: "The Mayor knew nothing about this. He is appalled."

Visit London said that the portrait was among a number of images of British art used in the short promotional film, which had been used before and received no complaints. A spokesman added that the inclusion of the controversial work showed that there was no "censorship" in the UK but promised to withdraw it immediately. "This is a general three minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey at the Tate very fleetingly appears," said the spokesman. "The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade. There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect."

The series of clips ran through the day at London House, and the image is said to have appeared on the screen as Mr Brown was making his speech, to the fury of watching Downing Street aides.

Downing Street said the image was "in extremely poor taste" and should not have been used to promote London. A No 10 source added: "It is a total disgrace that this proud night for Britain has been sullied by this grotesque prank. "Whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately."

Many officials and athletes' relatives had gathered at London House from late afternoon to watch the closing ceremony on the large screens, but apparently did not notice the image of Hindley in the series of clips, which were allowed to run into the evening as they were joined by those who had participated in the ceremony. As well as gold medal winners including Chris Hoy, the party was attended by previous British Olympic athletes such as Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper, along with David Beckham, the former England football captain, and the singer Leona Lewis, who had both featured in the Olympic closing ceremony. Guests were treated to a barbecue and free champagne bar, with dancing until late into the night.

Myra Hindley died of cancer in prison in 2002, while Ian Brady, her partner in the deaths of at least four children, remains in jail.

The portrait of Hindley caused uproar when it was first shown to the public at the Sensation exhibition, a showcase of Young British Artists held at the Royal Academy of Art between September and December in 1997. The 11ft by 9ft painting of the Moors Murderer, based on her infamous police mugshot, was particularly chilling because the artist, Marcus Harvey, created it using hundreds of stencil outlines of children's hands.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims, asked for the 1995 portrait to be excluded from the exhibition to protect her feelings. She picketed the first day of the show along with supporters to protest against the work, which was part of a collection owned by Charles Saatchi. Even Hindley sent a letter from jail suggesting her portrait be removed from the exhibition because it had "a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim." But despite the protests the painting remained in place, prompting more drastic action. Windows at Burlington House, the Academy's home, were smashed and two demonstrators hurled ink and eggs at it


British Submission

Foot baths for Muslim students at Michigan universities? Muslim cabbies in the Twin Cities who refuse to carry seeing-eye dogs? The FBI and other government agencies taking sensitivity training from radical Muslim organizations? You think we’ve lost the plot over here? Take a look at British submission to Islamofascist demands and threats, as that once great nation succumbs to creeping dhimmitude.

It has reached the point that in mid-April, the British Foreign Office instructed the Royal Navy not to return pirates to jurisdictions sporting sharia law (such as Somalia) for fear that their human rights will be violated. They have even been discouraged from capturing pirates, because the freebooters might ask to be granted asylum in Britain, a request with which the UK might have to comply under international and European Union human rights law.

This for a Navy that almost singlehandedly defeated piracy in the early 19th century, and a nation that retained the death penalty for this scourge of the high seas until the late 20th century. Welcome to Britain today.

Another recent outrage involves special handling of a traffic violation. Seems that a Muslim driver was stopped by police while speeding between two homes in the north of England. When he appeared in court, he explained his high speed – over twice the speed limit – was necessary to accommodate his two wives. His explanation was accepted, and he was allowed to keep his license.

That comes fast – very fast – on the heels of a decision by the British government to grant full spousal benefits to multiple wives. It won’t affect more than an estimated 1,000 individuals. And it mercifully won’t affect the indigenous Christian, Hindu or Jewish population, as traditional bigamy laws apply. Britons may rest easy, as it will only cover multiple wives married in a jurisdiction that practices Sharia law, such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

These are not isolated instances; there are a myriad more: Swimming periods at pools restricted to Muslims only; the establishment of a BBC Arabic language station staffed by Arab broadcasters and managers with track records of being anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western; the refusal of female Muslim medical students to wash their arms as that practice might reveal the forbidden flesh between wrist and elbow; an attempt by a national union of university lecturers to call for a boycott of Israeli academics; and, a local Council ban on pig-themed toys, porcelain figures and calendars on workers’ desks because it might offend Muslims.

No comment from the Home Office or No. 10 Downing Street. No comment from the government, because it has been their policy to appease Britain’s large Muslim population in response to menacing behavior up to and including the bomb outrages of July 7, 2005.

It’s no coincidence that Muslims constitute a substantial portion of the Labour Party’s electoral support in London and in much of its heartland in northern England. In the expected close election for Parliament that will be held by mid-2010, an increasing Muslim population may be the difference between victory and defeat for the Labourites.

But Labour’s bien pensant hardly needs convincing. Like most on the left today, they fancy themselves champions of the underdog and the oppressed, and sympathy for Islam, and Arab and Muslim causes fits neatly into their intellectual program. Along with America and Israel-bashing, it goes to the very heart of how liberals view themselves and, more important, how they wish to be viewed by others. It supplies them with the appearance of a self-abnegation that is supposed to relieve their Western, middle-class guilt with a cleansing humility but is nothing but moral exhibitionism; and, as always, involves other people’s money, other people’s freedom, and other people’s comfort – never or very rarely their own.

A classic of political correctness run amok, wonderful as a burlesque if it weren’t slowly undermining Britain’s way of life and its will to oppose extreme Islamism.

Worse is that acceding to this nonsense gives Islamofascists confidence that they are on the winning side of history. That if they just shout a little louder and push a little harder, they may expect more of the same that becomes increasingly normative until it convinces the longer-settled among the UK’s population that they have no power to stop, let alone reverse, the process.

One might have become inured to the gutless behavior of France or Italy, but many in the U.S. are still under the impression that, like other countries in the Anglosphere, the British remain clear-eyed, realistic and most importantly resolute about the threats with which the West is confronted. But they aren’t; and while these cultural changes are in the realm of the comical right now, they are beginning to affect British public policy, domestic as well as foreign.

Why is this important to us? Because the ZaNuLabour Party’s tendency to pacifism and appeasement, and its devotion to political correctness, victim ideology, cultural relativism and liberal guilt is shared by our own Democrats. Look for more of it in Britain, and don’t be surprised when it arrives full force here in America.


Blaming affluence for crime? That's a bit rich

David Lammy's `explanation' for the teenage stabbings in London is a pointed attack on aspiration and prosperity.

The stabbing of Nilanthan Murddi in Croydon last weekend brought the number of teenagers who have met a violent death in London this year to 23. This spate of attacks seems to bring out the pop sociologist in MPs and newspaper columnists. Rather than interpreting such grim incidents as rare, isolated crimes, there's a tendency to imagine an all-encompassing social influence on which to hang a catch-all explanation.

David Lammy, described by some as the nearest British equivalent to Barack Obama, and by everyone else as a New Labour hack, has put forward his own theory - and it's a pretty trite one. Writing in the current issue of British political weekly the New Statesman, Lammy, the parliamentary under-secretary for innovation, universities and skills, believes he has identified the root `causes' of teen-on-teen male violence: the influence of consumerism and affluence, and the lack of identifiable `role models' for young men.

Now, whenever I hear the phrase `lack of role models', I'm tempted to reach for an illegal firearm myself. It's one of those banal, daytime TV platitudes that suggests young people are simply passive automatons waiting for the correct `on-message' individual to point them in the right direction. In education circles, this sort of thinking is everywhere. There's a genuine belief that, say, if black boys were taught by black, male teachers (the much-fabled `role models'), they would make better progress at school. Lammy expands on this simplistic and wrong-headed notion to suggest that if only there were more male teachers in primary schools, then boys would grow up to `identify' with more `acceptable' ideas of masculinity. And apparently, this would lead to less anti-social behaviour on the streets of London. Fantastic!

But teenage boys aren't likely to behave or perform better if their teacher wears trousers or has the same skin colour. Teenagers of all stripes will seek to be oppositional to any teacher in order to undermine them and attempt to exert control in the classroom. This is partly because teenagers crave autonomy and independence and will thus instinctively see how far they can push against `the line'. What a teacher looks like isn't remotely a determining factor on pupil behaviour or academic performance.

Of course, it's essential that adults do play a role in socialising teenagers into adulthood. But that process isn't based on ticking gender or ethnic group boxes, but on the ideas and knowledge of adults and how they articulate them. If there's an identifiable problem today, it is that society lacks a confident set of ideas and a recognisable adult framework through which teenagers can be socialised. Lammy is on to something when he says some teens are prone to outbursts of emotionalism and infantilism today, but he is less forthcoming in identifying his own political party's role in contributing to the current culture of blubbering emotionalism as well as infantilising teenagers.

Incredibly, even though she was UK prime minister before many of today's teenagers were born, Lammy insists that Margaret Thatcher is somehow to blame for anti-social behaviour. What he implies is that Thatcher's supposed blueprint for a 'consumer society' has turned today's generation into selfish, amoral monsters. Traditionally, the left always cited grinding poverty as a contributing influence on anti-social behaviour; now the likes of Lammy are insisting that affluence and materialism are leading youngsters astray.

Lammy quotes an allegedly popular saying amongst today's youth - `get rich or die trying' (itself the title of the debut album of American rapper 50 Cent) as proof that they are morally bankrupt. But since when was it advisable to take youthful bravado at face value? And is simply saying such a thing really the same as being an underworld crime lord? It is conveniently forgotten how most young rap fans see through the absurdity of hip-hop's pantomime excesses. At a further education college in Hackney where I once taught, the `rapper' most of the kids were obsessed with wasn't Tupac Shakur, but Fur Q - Chris Morris' spoof gangsta rapper in satirical TV comedy The Day Today.

Rather disgracefully, it seems Lammy is using the bogus cover of bling-bling rap to demonise consumption and the everyday, normal desire for prosperity. In this way, Lammy is following psychologist Oliver James' cranky idea that material aspiration is a pathological problem in need of therapeutic correction. And to this end, Lammy is proposing tighter regulation on the types of advertisements, films and videos that young people might watch and be influenced by. He also implies that the state should be barging its way even further into the family home and supervising how parents raise their children.

To pathologise healthy consumption is one thing, but Lammy wants to go one step further and criminalise it as well. His crass implication is that affluent societies such as Britain, and our attendant `culture of consumerism', lead inexorably to violent attacks and even murder by our young. Thus, endless consumption somehow creates selfish and feckless individuals who don't appreciate the value of human life. This is tantamount to blackmailing poorer sections in society to keep their heads down and `make do' with hardship, lest material aspiration sends their errant offspring on a random killing spree.

Sociologists such as Stanley Cohen also made the connections between the cultural influence of `the American dream' and how some people in US society achieved that goal through organised crime. But for Cohen and others, that was not a justification for slamming material aspiration, but rather showed how `conventional' routes to success are closed off to certain sections in society.

Lammy's argument also doesn't add up on closer inspection of the murders involving teenagers in London. On the whole, the incidents reported did not feature street robberies that have gone horrifically wrong. More often than not, they involved petty arguments amongst groups of youths that spilled over into fights and fatal stabbings. As dreadful and shocking as these incidents are, street fights and casual violence amongst young people are hardly a new phenomenon. As Mick Hume has argued, the amplification of street crime into a generalised threat means that more teenagers are more likely to carry knives than before - and with sometimes tragic consequences (see Knife crime panic reaches crisis point).

The logic of Lammy's anti-consumption, anti-prosperity argument doesn't add up in another way, too: if rich societies automatically raise feckless and amoral thugs, then how come the number of murdered teenagers is far higher in poorer countries like Brazil or Mexico? Surely the lack of affluence and consumption in those country's shanty towns should mean they are harmonious and trouble-free places, at least in Lammy's worldview? The fact that the teen murder rate in those areas runs into the thousands, rather than double figures, suggests that it is still miserable poverty that has a destructive impact on young people's lives. This doesn't simply translate as poverty forcing people to rob others; but it shows how poverty fuels listless boredom as well as generating a fatalistic and even nihilistic outlook on life in general.

Far from materialism leading to a breakdown in morals, as Lammy disingenuously argues, material prosperity enables people to develop morally as well as intellectually. It provides the very basis through which individuals can begin to live like humans and not act like animals. Instead, Lammy attempts to turn reality on its head and blackmails the poor into accepting their miserable lot in the process. To put this forward as a proposal for combating random and rare violent crime, well, Lammy's a bit rich for even trying.


Against all booze bans

There have always been different social rules for drinking in public: sometimes it's okay, at other times it is definitely not. In some places, sipping beer in the street is considered acceptable and sociable; in other places, it marks you out as a disrespectful low-life.

Over the past few years, though, cracking open a can in the street became not just rude, but illegal. For the first time in Britain, police gained powers to confiscate your bottle of lager or wine, or to ask you to tip it down the drain, and to arrest you if you refused to comply. The state became the arbiter on a question of social etiquette that had previously been decided by individuals and communities themselves.

The new London mayor Boris Johnson's ban on Tube drinking is an infamous case, but the illiberal regulation of public drinking now stretches the world over. Booze bans have cast a shadow over both the Fourth of July celebrations on San Diego beach and the Christmas celebrations on Australia's Bondi beach - these traditionally jolly festive occasions now continue only under the cloud of prohibition.

The land of Hogmanay has fared no better. Drink was banned from many Scottish town centres and beaches this summer, after the Scottish Executive pressured councils to pass booze-banning bylaws covering particular areas. These draconian laws are now pasted on lampposts throughout Scotland: one bans people from carrying around an empty drinks carton, while another prohibits carrying a drinks container `when it could be reasonably assumed they would want to drink it in a "designated public place"' (1).

Areas of towns and cities in the Czech Republic are designated no-drinking; New Zealand has gone so far as to ban driving through `no-drink zones' if you have booze in the boot of your car (police officers say they have the right to stop and search, though if you are caught red-handed you have the option of tipping it down the drain, which is very generous of them) (2).

It was in opposition to this trend that the Manifesto Club - the organisation I head - launched the Campaign Against the Booze Bans. We set up a campaign Facebook group, where more than a thousand people from all over the world have registered their objection to booze bans. In a week's time, on Bank Holiday Monday, we will launch a report on the rise of booze bans at our Provocation Picnic in Hyde Park, London.

The right to drink in public may not be considered a classic civil liberties issue, such as the right to free speech or the right to protest - but it is just as important now. In many ways, the regulation of public drinking is a litmus test for the state of public freedoms. With the erosion of the right to drink, we see how public space is being organised more around the whims of police officers, and less around the desires and morals of free citizens.

In the UK over the past few years, there has been a creeping growth of drinking-control legislation. Where communities once set the rules on when and where one could crack open a can, police officers and councillors now write those rules from scratch.

Booze bans first started in the late 1980s, when some councils - such as Coventry - passed bylaws against public drinking. But these laws were sporadically enforced, and police officers had no powers of arrest. In 1997, the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act gave police powers to confiscate alcohol and containers from under-18s. This law was extended from minors to adults in 2001: the Criminal Justice and Police Act introduced Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs), which allowed officers to confiscate drink from adults, and gave powers of arrest if the person refused to surrender their can or bottle.

At first, DPPOs grew only gradually, but from 2004 they started to take off rapidly with a rush of applications from councils and police forces for the right to confiscate booze from local residents. There are now 613 Designated Public Place Orders in England and Wales, covering parks, stations and beaches the length and breadth of the country (3). Every new drinking control zone seems to create more, as councils emulate each other's regulations, and zones are extended bit by bit throughout towns and cities.

Meanwhile, government legislation has tightened. The 2003 Licensing Act allowed `sealed' as well as open alcohol containers to be confiscated; it also allowed for an emergency blanket ban on alcohol (police recently showed off this power when they threatened to shut down all pubs and off licenses in Torbay in July 2008, after the idea of a beach party was floated on Facebook) (4).

These new regulations don't reflect a switch in public morals, but a switch in the ideology of the state. The control of public drinking is really the result of officials' concerns about social order, their fear of uninhibited groups of people. They look at unregulated groups relaxing and drinking in public and imagine a threat to law, civilisation, and much else besides.

We start to see the return of a very nineteenth-century idea: that crime is the result of unruly and uninhibited crowds. Police have implicated public boozing in crimes ranging from murder to domestic violence to robbery. Inspector Colin Mowat from Aberdeenshire said that bans on public drinking could help stop `under-age drinking, drink-driving, domestic abuse and street disorder' (5); after the 2007 murder of Cheshire man Gary Newlove by a gang of drunk youths, the leading police officer called for a blanket ban on public drinking (6). The role of the police is exposed for all to see: not just to identify and prosecute for criminal offences, but also to control and manage groups of people.

Booze control laws are produced entirely from above, and as such they are erratically enforced. There are few guidelines for how the police should use their drinking-confiscation powers, so they tend to use them as they please. During the Merseyside Police's Operation Beach Safe, officers decided to confiscate booze at the beach entrance in June 2008. Richard Clarke, acting sergeant of Operation Beach Safe, welcomed visitors with the words `If you're coming to the beach to drink don't bother, go and drink in your gardens or somewhere else', and his officers posed for trophy photos with their confiscated cans of Fosters (7).

Police also take alcohol away from people they think of as troublesome types - younger people, football supporters, or alcoholics - and, unlike with an arrest for a crime, they have no obligation to justify their actions. If you contest an officer's request to tip your Carling down a drain, you are committing an offence and could be arrested and fined up to $1,000. There is no luxury of a defence lawyer.

One post on our Facebook wall discusses the uneven-handed way in which drinking controls are applied in Brighton: `Here. the booze ban, extends to basically the homeless. Community Support Officers [CSOs] do not take drink off you on the beach and ignore you basically if you look well-to-do. One homeless man I met the other day says he had his unopened can of cider in his pocket taken from him by CSOs because they "thought" he was "about to" or had "reason to believe" he would drink it in a public place. He was on his way to drink it at his hostel!' (8)

This shows how the police are playing fast and loose with these powers. At the Manifesto Club, we call for these drinking laws to be challenged and rolled back, and for police powers to be kept on a very tight leash. This is not so much a campaign for public drinking, as a campaign for the public to set the rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Basically, for Community Support Officers to butt out of communities.

If you are free on Bank Holiday in London, join us for a drink and picnic in the park. It may not always be the done thing to crack open a can in public, but it should never be illegal.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The elderly don't necessarily need tax breaks

I have a number of requests for president-in-waiting Barack Obama, but one in particular: Could you please stop pandering to old people? That's right, "old people." One of the very few good things about reaching this advanced point on the pathway of life is that I don't have to use euphemisms for my own demographic.

I can't criticize minorities - that would be racist, because I'm white. I can't criticize women - that would be sexist and misogynistic, because I'm male. I can't criticize those who have made other "lifestyle" or "preference" or "identity" choices - that would be intolerant and hateful because I'm part of that hopelessly vanilla category now called "straight."

But, I am part of the aging boomer generation that may not be quite old enough to start collecting from the Social Security lockbox, but old enough to qualify for "active adult" housing - you know, the kind that communities love because it doesn't bring in any loud parties or expensive-to-educate kids. So, I don't have to say "senior citizen." I don't even have to say "elderly." I can just say "old."

And I have some news for The Chosen One. Old people don't deserve an income tax break just because they're old. But that has not stopped Obama from promising us that when he is president, any old people making less than $50,000 a year won't have to pay any more federal income tax. This, of course, is based on the usual caricature of old people. They're all on fixed incomes, living in tiny one-room shacks, reading (if they can see) by candlelight, faced with the agonizing choice: If they spend their pittance for the month on food, there will be nothing left for heat or medicine. They all - every last one of them - worked hard. They all played by the rules. They must be granted (drum roll, please) dignity, in their declining years.

One of the biggest knocks on The One We've Been Waiting For is that he lacks foreign policy experience. I'm starting to think he needs some basic training in economics and demographics as well. Yes, there are poor elders - some of them may indeed not have enough to cover the heating bill and their medications. But anybody who is that poor, no matter what his or her age, already doesn't pay any income tax and is probably getting tens of thousands of dollars a year in public assistance.

The reality is that old people, as a demographic group, are better off financially than any other age group - and it is not just those who have retired with fat pensions or millions in investments. It's true of those at the middle- and even lower-income levels. It makes sense. When your bills decrease, it doesn't matter so much if your income decreases. The vast majority of old people don't have a mortgage to pay anymore. Their kids are grown up and gone, which means their food bills, car insurance bills and college bills have dropped dramatically or disappeared. I know - it's happened to me, and it's like getting a raise without getting a raise.

In short, the most agonizing decision most old people have to make is about which fast-food joint offering senior citizen discounts they're going to for breakfast. Or, which bingo game they want to attend in the evening.

Even some liberal economists know that raw income rarely tells the whole story. Somebody can be making less than $50,000 a year, but have substantial assets that are producing $45,000 a year in interest. Somebody retired can be on an alleged "fixed" Social Security income, but be living in a house worth $750,000 or more.

The most maddening thing about this and other handouts that politicians like Obama are constantly offering is that they know somebody has to pay for it, and it won't be them. In other words, this has nothing to do with caring about old people - if they did, they'd dig into their own pockets. Their implication is that this will all be paid by multibillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and multimillionaires like John and Teresa Kerry and Deval Patrick - plus all the money we'll save by ending the war in Iraq and not needing a Defense Department because the whole world will love us.

Sure, some of it will be paid by rich people. But it will also be paid by people making maybe $65,000 with kids on their way to college, with a mortgage still to pay and no Medicare for health coverage. People, in other words, much more in need of a tax break than elders.

Don't tell me this is a knock on old people. Society shows them respect in multiple ways. But they don't need to be patronized. Old does not automatically mean poor. These days, it is more likely to mean rich. Anybody who aspires to be president ought to know that.


Society's challenge: to build character

The first headmaster of Stowe school, J F Roxburgh, declared his goal to be turning out young men who would be "acceptable at a dance and invaluable in a shipwreck".

A mixture of courtesy and courage used to be essential to the idea of a British citizen's character. Brits were the sort of people who knew both how to survive a blitz and queue politely. Similarly, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement, aimed to induce in his young charges "some of the spirit of self-negation, self-discipline, sense of humour, responsibility, helpfulness to others, loyalty and patriotism which go to make `character' ". He described his movement as nothing less than a "character factory".

But in the postwar shift towards a less constrained and judgmental society - "character talk", in Stefan Collini's phrase - dropped out of public discourse, except when considering someone's suitability for high office. The idea of good character came to sound old-fashioned and patronising. "The reason we find the concept of character difficult is because of class conflict in British society," says Matthew Taylor, former head of strategy for Tony Blair. "There was a sense that good character was handed down from a patrician class to the great unwashed." Thinkers and politicians across the political spectrum are trying to revive "character talk".

Taylor is pushing the idea of "pro-social behaviour" recognising, he says, that changes in personal behaviour are essential to successful policy in everything from climate change to obesity. David Cameron last month called for politicians to tackle issues of "public morality". Against the backdrop of the impoverished east end of Glasgow, he insisted politicians had to drop "moral neutrality". He criticised the political classes for "a refusal to make judgments about what is good and bad behaviour, right and wrong". Some people on the left are also starting to argue that character might matter as much as resources in improving life chances. Bestselling books such as Lynne Truss's Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life speak to a generalised anxiety about the breakdown of positive social norms of behaviour.

But it is important to keep this in perspective. Most of the time, most people are perfectly pleasant. British society as a whole is not "broken" in any meaningful sense. Of course, it is notoriously hard for politicians to get traction in the area of behaviour. They often fall into the trap described by the philosopher Jon Elster of "willing what cannot be willed". And Cameron is certainly taking some risks with his incursions into morality.

By insisting that individuals should take a share of responsibility for their obesity or poverty, he is thinking his way towards an integration of his ideas on responsibility, morality and "broken Britain" that may lead him towards a consideration of character formation. Conservatism and character seem natural political bedfellows, given traditional right-wing concerns with social order and reducing state dependency. What is more surprising is the number of people on the centre-left who can also see the point of a new focus on character.

For them, the concern is less with general social interaction - although they worry about that, too - than with the character of a small, influen-tial and expensive group that Blair once labelled the "deeply excluded". Since character is an unfashionable concept, it is important to be clear what it means in this public policy context.

The three key ingredients of a good character are: a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one's own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification. Progressives are realising that, thus defined, character is intimately linked to The specific concerns of progressives can be divided into three themes: the link between character attributes and life chances; the life chances "penalty" being paid by the children who do not develop a good character; and the growing demand for good character in the labour market.

Recent claims about social mobility in Britain grinding to a halt are exaggerated, but it does seem that the likelihood of a person being upwardly mobile is increasingly influenced by personal qualities such as confidence and self-control. Julia Margo, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, has assembled an impressive body of evidence linking character to life chances. Her work, which draws on that by Leon Feinstein at the Institute of Education, shows that measured levels of "application" - defined as dedication and a capacity for concentration - at the age of 10 have a bigger impact on earnings by the age of 30 than ability in maths.

Avner Offer, professor of economic history at Oxford, likewise describes how "commitment devices" can help individuals to manage their own desires. In his book The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950, Offer provides a vignette of a familiar self-control challenge. "A young student ponders whether to spend the evening revising at her desk or to go out with friends.

How much to sacrifice tonight for a remote future? When to stop having fun, but also when to stop being serious? Conventions, expectations and institutions have built up gradually over decades and centuries to form a stock of equipment available to deal with her problem . . . sources and strategies of self-control, both cognitive and social, take time to develop." Offer argues that "personal capacity for commitment" is inculcated in institutions such as the family along what Margo calls "paths to socialisation".

Character is made, not born. Offer argues that consumer capitalism, by providing a constant flow of novelty, undermines these sources and strategies. It is harder for us to stick to our commitments in a society bombarded with advertising temptations and saturated with the idea of individual consumer choice. This seems implausible: after all, as Margo's work shows, plenty of people do end up with good character traits - and, if anything, it is the more affluent who do so. Nonetheless, Offer is surely right to argue that the "stock of equipment" that makes up character is of vital importance in the construction of a successful life. The second concern is that children who fail to develop positive character traits are less likely to succeed - and these children come overwhelmingly from low-income homes.

The political right used to argue that poverty is caused by weakness of character; the left is now realising it may be the other way around. "Over time, poverty has become more associated with differences in character development," Margo told me. "So while in the past a poor deprived child would have about the same chance of developing a good character as a more affluent one, our research suggests that children who were born into deprivation in the 1970s as opposed to the late 1950s were much less likely to develop good character than more affluent groups." The family is the main "character factory" - and Margo's work shows that some families are much more effective manufacturers than others.

We need a better understanding of what is going on in these failing families. Some evolutionary biologists point to genetic inheritance and it is clear that some character traits are inherited. Traditional left- wing analyses, on the other hand, highlight material deprivation. But the weight of evidence is that good parents provide good insulation against inherited negative traits - and that being a good parent has little to do with having a good income.

Stephen Scott, professor of child health and behaviour at King's College London, has conducted a range of studies showing how the behaviour of parents influences the life trajectories of their children, even when genetic predispositions are taken into account. "There's an interaction between your genetic predisposition and the way you turn out according to the way you're raised," says Scott. "When it comes to being antisocial, aggressive, stealing and lying, the interaction is a big one. If you have poor self-control and a rather twitchy, irritable temperament and you're brought up in a harsh way, it's bad news. For that group, the rate of criminality aged 17 is about 40%. But if you have that twitchy character and you're brought up in a reasonably calm, soothing way, you will do well."

If low-income parents are doing less well on this front - as it seems they are - the question of how poverty interacts with parenting becomes important. Scott is emphatic here. "Financial poverty is a factor, but not a central one," he says. "I am fond of saying: poverty of what? And actually it seems to be poverty of the parent-child experience . . . that leads to poor child outcomes rather than poverty of a material kind." Consistent parental love and discipline is the motor of the character production line and not all children are lucky enough to receive it.

A poor start in life, in terms of character development, reduces educational performance, which obviously lessens labour market opportunities. But - the third concern - lack of good character has a more direct influence on job opportunities too. In Aesthetic Labour and the Policy-Making Agenda: Time for a Reappraisal of Skills, Chris Warhurst and his colleagues at Strathclyde University show that an increasing number of employers are following the advice of Rocco Forte, who when asked the secret of providing great service in hotels, replied: "Hire nice people."

As the economy shifts towards service jobs, the person increasingly becomes part of the product. This means that "soft skills" such as social confidence, patience and kindness grow in importance. Ironically it is often the children of the middle classes who make the best servants. In Glasgow, studied in detail by Warhurst and his colleagues, 80% of jobs are in the service sector, but the people living in nearby places such as Easterhouse aren't getting them. "The danger is that many people in deprived areas are being denied work because of a lack of cultural capital," says Warhurst. "In Glasgow, 50% of jobs are now filled by commuters from the middle-class suburbs."

What helps to form good character? Margo says there are key ingredients that make for success: "It is regular time with the same adult over an extended period, so you respect them and learn from them. Which is why things like the Scout movement are so effective, because you're progressing, you're ageing through the institution. And there tends to be a very good staying-on rate for the adult workers, so you have a lot of interaction with the same adult over a long period of time."

Baden-Powell and all of us involved in the Scout movement - I've recently "come out" as a Scout leader - would agree. Character is an old idea with contemporary relevance. A considerable number of pressing social problems - obesity, welfare reform, pensions, public disorder, educational failure, social immobility - are all, in part, questions of character. It is a treacherous political terrain but one in which governments are increasingly entangled. Anyone who is interested in creating a successful liberal society is interested in character, too, whether they admit it or not. Good societies need good people.


Paedophile Imperialism

The British government is exploiting the odious Gary Glitter to smash freedom of movement and hector governments in the Third World.

The reckoning is still to come. Having been freed after serving 27 months in a Vietnamese prison for committing obscene acts with two girls then aged 11 and 12, 64-year-old Paul Gadd, otherwise known as `pop-star paedo' Gary Glitter, was due to arrive in the UK this morning. Unfortunately for a media and political elite eager for an easy crusade, Gadd's heart has been fluttering. As I write he remains holed up in Bangkok, refusing to travel, citing ill-health and a possible heart attack.

Yet that hasn't stopped the British political elite and sections of the media clamouring for new laws and restrictions to keep the likes of Glitter under their watchful eye. If his case `proves' anything, it is that the paedophile panic, so passionately indulged by our leaders, is a threat to the sanity of society and to civil liberties, too.

Since being found guilty in Britain in 1999 on 54 counts of possessing indecent images of children, Gadd's stardom has leant itself easily to infamy. After serving his four-month sentence in a British jail, he unsurprisingly left the country. Yet from Spain to Cuba to Cambodia, wherever he went the press followed. Over the past nine years, Gadd has become nothing less than the poster-boy for the paedophile panic; he has been transformed from a convicted sex offender into the strange-looking, pot-bellied symbol of the global paedophile threat that stalks all of our children.

Given the hysteria his return is likely to provoke, his heart-attack ruse in Bangkok is perhaps understandable. Others argue that his reluctance to board the flight has a malicious intent behind it: his real plan, we are told, is to abscond and continue his vile ways across the globe. To think otherwise of this no doubt horrid individual is difficult. From the stencilled arch of the eyebrows, once an innocent Glam-rock style statement, to the strange tufty beard and shaved head, he now looks every inch the demon.

And courtesy of the media's 10-year obsession with his every move, his is also the face that can launch a thousand illiberal measures. The campaign to paint him as a one-man threat to the world's children has been so comprehensive that the British government can threaten to introduce severe new international measures on the back of his sordid sex life. Consider the government's revised Foreign Travel Orders (FTOs), which will potentially ban convicted sex offenders from travelling abroad.

UK home secretary Jacqui Smith felt moved enough by Gadd's return to make what amounts to a policy statement: `We need to control him, and he will be once he returns to this country. It would certainly be my view that with the sort of record that he's got, he shouldn't be travelling anywhere in the world.' (1) Or as the newspaper columnist Deborah Orr put it, this is an opportunity not to be missed: `Glitter's case is a perfect opportunity for Britain to start practising what it has recently been preaching.' (2)

What has Britain been `preaching'? The possibility of banning convicted sex offenders from travelling abroad was originally part of the New Labour government's 2003 Sex Offences Bill. This meant that police, providing they could gather evidence that a particular individual with sex offence convictions intended to travel abroad with the intention of committing further offences, could apply for six-month travel prohibitions. Yet as a recent report by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) informs us, only two FTOs were applied for between 2003 and 2006.

ECPAT's Christine Beddoe argues: `At the moment the Foreign Travel Orders that we have in place are not being used very much; the police say they're a bit unwieldy, there's too much administration.' (3) And one way to make it easier to use them - as both ECPAT and the Home Office have proposed - is to remove the need to prove intent to commit offences overseas. In short, the fact that someone has been convicted in the past of a sex offence ought to be evidence enough to prevent him from travelling abroad.

The ability to ride roughshod over such quaint notions as rehabilitation and `doing one's time' - the idea that once someone has been released from prison he is free and equal again - rests on the presumed exceptionality of the paedophile. The motto of contemporary society is: `Once a child abuser, always a child abuser.' These are not deemed criminals, but slaves to uncontrollable passions, individuals forever in thrall to a sexual demiurge. And on the back of keeping these monsters on a leash, the authorities have been rewriting important aspects of the criminal justice system and seeking to undermine free movement.

One doesn't have to be a friend of the paedophiles or a supporter of the odious Glitter to be concerned by these latest moves. It is worth bearing in mind that there are currently 29,000 individuals on Britain's Sex Offenders' Register, and their crimes range wildly from a thirtysomething teacher having an inappropriate fling with a 15-year-old student to far more serious sex offences. Under the current rules, police must suspect a considerable risk of reoffending overseas before imposing a Foreign Travel Order. Yet if the FTOs were to be freed from the need to prove intent, any one of these 29,000 people could be effectively jailed within Britain's borders on the whim of the authorities, despite being ostensibly `free citizens' who have served their sentences.

Some will say, `So what, they're only paedophiles' - even though the vast majority are not paedophiles. But that is to miss the point. Smith's proposals represent an assault on important ideas of justice and on the culture of liberty itself. The argument that we must monitor, put on a register and restrict the movement of everyone who has committed a certain kind of offence undermines the idea that convicts must be allowed to re-enter society upon serving their time. And if the government creates for itself the power to impose FTOs on one-time offenders whom it does not like, who will be next? Football fans can already have their passports confiscated if it's suspected they will get up to no good overseas. What about the tens of thousands of young Britons who travel to Pakistan every year? Best keep them at home too. Increasing the power of the state to determine who can and cannot leave the country takes us into Soviet-style politics.

Just as the pursuit of nightmarish paedophiles gives shameless politicians a chance to fight the `good fight' domestically, so the campaign against so-called sex tourism represents its transfer to the international sphere. Indeed, be it terrorism, or now child abuse, the politics of fear is one export that Western governments have a monopoly in producing.

So alongside travel bans on convicted offenders, ECPAT is also keen for the authorities to enforce measures to monitor unconvicted British nationals abroad, lest they be tempted to indulge in some sex criminality. It is encouraging closer cooperation between anti-abuse non-governmental organisations and the UK government, and is calling for the presence of British police in certain sex tourist hotspots (Australia already posts police forces in some Far East countries). Think of it as Child Abuse Colonialism. As ECPAT puts it, if sex tourism is to be tackled, the British government needs to `reverse the ideology that if abuse happens overseas then we should simply let the governments "over there" deal with it' (4).

Underpinning such an assumption is that other countries, in particular Thailand and Vietnam, are incapable of maintaining their own rule of law. Whether it's due to their being too `corrupt' or simply a result of their poverty, as an ECPAT report argues, apparently Britain needs to intervene at some level to help clean up the paedophile problem in these unwieldy nations.

This is dangerous stuff. Activists and officials seem keen to use the politics of fear to meddle in other, apparently untrustworthy states. Internationalised, the paedophile panic paints other countries as cesspits of abuse and slavery, and it permits the massive simplification of genuine problems of child exploitation. The ECPAT report notes the case of a British national called `Martin' who bought a 12-year-old girl for $800 in 1991, yet it does not interrogate the level of economic underdevelopment that underpins such an exchange between a wealthy Westerner and an impoverished Easterner. This is not to diminish the moral abhorrence of Martin's act; rather it is to refuse to reduce it to morality alone. Under the newly globalised paedophile panic, complex social and economic problems are simply reduced to a good versus evil battle, where it's the British authorities versus the paedophile, the British state versus untrustworthy legal systems `over there'.

As the media's eyes focus on Gary Glitter and what he will do next, those of us concerned about justice, freedom and social sanity might do better to keep an eye on the Glitter-obsessed Home Office.


Australia: Girls, 14, 'rolling condoms on to plastic penises'

EXPLICIT sex-education lessons in WA schools are upsetting Muslims and Catholics. Prominent WA Muslim imam Abdul Jalil Ahmad called the lessons, where girls as young as 14 are rolling condoms on to plastic penises, "pornography in the classroom''. Peter Rosengren, editor of the Catholic Church's The Record newspaper, said such lessons were indicative of society's over-sexualisation of children.

A female Year-10 student from Rossmoyne Senior High School sparked the controversy after coming home distressed, following her participation in a class, as part of the Australian Medical Association's Dr Yes program. The 15-year-old's father, Axel Cremer, was furious his permission had not been sought. "It's outrageous,'' Mr Cremer said of the program, that is taught by medical students to about 10,000 children each year at about 150 public and private schools statewide. "My concern is the ethical standards and moral values of an education system that believes it has the right, without my permission, to get my daughter to put condoms on plastic penises.''

Rossmoyne principal Leila Bothams wrote to Mr Cremer, saying the school would have contacted him, but she had been unaware the program was being run for Year 10s.

Mr Cremer, who is a Muslim and whose daughter is also Muslim asked how many other parents statewide had not been consulted. He said the issue was not religious, but was about moral values. His other non-Muslim daughter was also outraged. Mr Cremer acknowledged students needed to know about sexually transmittable diseases and unwanted pregnancies, but said there were other ways to teach this.

Imam Ahmad said the lessons were "completely evil'' and should be banned by the Government. "That's pornography in the classroom,'' he said. Secular philosophy about sex education was problematic because it only focused on preventing pregnancy and disease, when it should also involve morality.

Mr Rosengren said as a husband and a father he also believed there should be consultation with parents. Issues within sex education -- relationships, intimacy, trust, fidelity and gender -- were the most important aspects of people's lives.

Education Department deputy director-general Margery Evans said the content of the program was consistent with the department's health and physical education syllabus and there were no plans to change it. It was "regrettable'' offence had been caused. But the ``isolated incident'' should be seen in context of thousands of students who had benefited from the program over its 10-year operation. AMA federal president Rosanna Capolingua said demonstrations were necessary because condom failure was often due to a lack of understanding about how they were used



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Anger as British veterans' parade cancelled while gay pride march goes ahead

About 3,000 former and current servicemen and women who served in wars ranging from World War Two to Afghanistan proudly marched through Doncaster town centre last August on the town's inaugural Veterans' Day. But this year the local Royal British Legion branch claims it has been shunned by the council, and told the event could not be staged because of a "lack of amenities." Yet Doncaster staged its first gay pride parade last Sunday, and a few weeks before hosted a civic parade in which dignitaries, community workers and the public took part.

Ken Wood, 46, a Coldstream Guards gunner who served in the Gulf War and is the district secretary of the Royal British Legion said: "All the Doncaster branches of the Legion are disgusted that there will not be a Veterans' Day parade. "The council do not seem to care about the achievements of servicemen and women. "I am not homophobic but the council supported both Doncaster Pride and the Mayor's civic parade."

The veterans assumed they would be allowed to hold a parade this month but were astonished to discover they had little civic support. Mr Wood said: "One of our Legion members spoke to an official at the civic offices who told him we couldn't have a parade this year because the council did not have the amenities. "I rang the official and she effectively told me the police couldn't afford the staff to block off the roads. It's crazy, I went on the parade last year and only saw two community bobbies stopping the traffic. "It's hardly down to finance or manpower is it? I asked her to put what she told me over the phone in writing so I could read it out to my members but I'm still awaiting a reply. "I wrote to say I was sorely disappointed that we were not being allowed to parade in our own town. We just wanted to parade our standards and colours."

Doncaster Council initially said that the police would only provide officers for Remembrance Sunday, the St George's Day parade and the civic parade. But now the council and the police have issued a joint statement saying they had not received an official request to stage the Veterans' Day parade.

Local war veterans were so upset they boycotted the civic parade in protest at the council's handling of the situation. Diane Dernie, the mother of Doncaster paratrooper Ben Parkinson whose compensation fight following his horrific injuries in Afghanistan made national headlines, said: "It is a terrible shame. We've seen in the past that people in general have been very supportive of the Armed Forces. "Ben would have been very keen to take part. He is Army through and through."

Veterans' Day was introduced by the Government on June 27 in 2006 to celebrate the contribution of ex-servicemen and women but events can be held throughout the year. Doncaster Council said: "It is not a matter of finance or the council not wanting to do it. "The police look into the number of parades being held and give the go-ahead on a case-by-case basis. We are quite happy to hold the Veterans' parade provided the police are happy." Acting Chief Insp Andy Kent of South Yorkshire Police added: "Each request is assessed on an individual basis. We have not received a request this year about the Veterans' Day parade."


Class War?

Michael Kinsley opposes "class war," which he thinks would result from substituting affirmative action based on class for affirmative action based on race. Although he recognizes that "racial affirmative action is ... a raw sore on our body politic," he does not explain why he believes class-based affirmative action would lead to "blood in the streets resentments" but race-based affirmative action leads only to "a raw sore," presumably treatable with sufficient applications of liberal rhetorical balm.

Kinsley regards class-based affirmative action as a "terrible idea," and he makes some good points.
.... People with better qualifications would still lose jobs and university slots to people with worse qualifications, and their resentment probably wouldn't be mollified by the fact that the beneficiaries of this policy might be white. Moreover, it would put America in the business of labeling people and rewarding them according to a criterion--social class--which would be a nightmare possibly even worse than race.

Although most African Americans are actually of mixed blood, defining who is black for purposes of affirmative action has not been very difficult. (Grotesque sometimes, but not difficult.) Defining concepts like "working class" or "rural poor" and then assigning individuals to their appropriate class would be far more challenging. And deciding exactly what degree of reverse discrimination each allegedly deprived social class is entitled to would be even worse. Today's affirmative-action battles, and the deep resentments they stir up (reasonably or otherwise), are nothing compared with the blood in the streets and the bitterness in the hearts of Americans denied a promotion after some tribunal ruled that they were upper middle class when the guy next door (who has a pool in his backyard, for crying out loud) got a precious "lower middle" classification and a handsome raise to go with it.
Kinsley errs, however, as do so many defenders of our current racial spoils system, by identifying one criticism of race preferences - that they violate the merit principle - as the only one.
Opponents and supporters of affirmative action all carry a picture in their heads of how things should work. In this picture, everyone in the world is lined up, from No. 1 to No. 7 billion, in order of their qualifications for a job, admission to a university or whatever. The job goes to the first person in line who wants it. Opponents of affirmative action say it's unfair to let anyone jump ahead because of his or her race. Supporters say, Unfair? Are you kidding? Affirmative action just gives people the same places in line they would have had if there had been equal opportunity.

This picture is wrong in many ways. What makes someone good in a job depends on a variety of factors that are hard to define or measure. They can't be used to line people up on the basis of a variable called "qualifications." Furthermore, race, or at least a diversity of racial backgrounds, often is a qualification. Finally, the benefits of affirmative action sometimes go to people who have already had equal opportunity and more.
But what Kinsley calls "the principal complaint people have about affirmative action: that it violates the principle of merit" is not, in my view, often expressed here, the principal complaint at all, nor is it the most fundamental one.

The most fundamental reason it is "unfair" to reward someone (and thus punish someone else) because of race is not that doing so violates the "principle of merit." It is that it violates a principle much more deep-seated in American history and in the American system of values, that each individual has a fundamental right to be treated "without regard to race, creed, or color."

Merit is nice. Sometimes it's very important. But sacrificing it for something else (often a different kind of merit, as when academic standards are lowered for athletes) does not violate what Gunnar Myrdal called "The American Creed." As the eminent social scientist James Q. Wilson once wrote (quoted here):
we did not fight the Civil War to make sure the University of Mississippi would admit good quarterbacks, we fought it to make certain it would admit blacks. To say that racial and athletic classifications are similar or that one can reason from the latter to the former is foolish. No court has ever held, or is likely to hold, that being able to throw a football 60 yards (or to have a father who gave the school a million dollars) places you in a class whose rights are protected by the barrier of strict scrutiny. Of course, one could argue for making both race and athleticism the same, by getting the Court to say that race is no longer a suspect classification. But that would mean reversing 40 years of desegregation. ["Symposium: Is Affirmative Action on the Way Out? Should It Be?" COMMENTARY, March 1998]
Kinsley to the contrary, race should not be "a qualification" for anything, except (the only example that I think is "tailored" narrowly enough) for selecting police officers to go undercover in a racial or ethnic gang.

Source (See the original for links)

Without Judicial Merit

Several readers sounded off yesterday on our August 14 editorial on the American Bar Association's new proposal on judicial selection. We especially liked the rejoinders from ABA President Thomas Wells and Bert Brandenburg of Justice at Stake, claiming that their idea for lawyer-led commissions is nothing but high-minded, nonpartisan, good government that is already working beautifully in many states.

Those two aren't lawyers for nothing. For a reality check, we'd direct readers to Missouri and Florida, where judicial selection commissions have recently teed up nominees designed to force Republican Governors to choose the commissions' own favored picks. These states show how "merit selection" really works.

In Missouri, the nominees to fill the seat of conservative Justice Stephen Limbaugh were announced on Thursday, with the commission presenting Governor Matt Blunt with three undesirable candidates: left-leaning Appeals Court Judge Lisa White Hardwick, former trial lawyer and Appeals Court Judge Ronald Holliger (who was nominated by the commission last time) and Atchison County Associate Circuit Judge Zel Fischer, a conservative who the Governor already rejected for a lower court vacancy. The game is rigged to favor Judge Hardwick, a favorite of Missouri Chief Justice (and commission member) Laura Denvir Stith.

Though the Missouri Plan is supposed to keep politics out of the process, it has instead transferred power from voters to state bar associations and legal groups that control the judicial commission. The result is a system that's contentious and opaque -- and has tipped the state courts steadily to the left. The commission presented Governor Blunt with a similarly rigged panel last year. At the time, he briefly considered rejecting the whole slate to send a message, but ultimately backed off and appointed one of the commission's choices. Now that he's not running for re-election, the coast is clear for him to take a principled stand.

Mr. Blunt has said he's committed to filling the open seat with a judge "who will faithfully interpret our constitution and not legislate from the bench." That's a request the commission could easily have met with such highly qualified options as former U.S. Attorney Stephen Easton or well-respected lawyer Brenda Talent. Instead, the commission opted for a game of chicken with the Governor. By nominating Zel Fischer as the conservative option, it dares Mr. Blunt to either select the less-qualified conservative judge, elevate Ms. Hardwick, or send the whole slate back, which means the commission then gets to make the pick.

A similar political game is playing out in Florida, where the judicial selection commission has presented Governor Charlie Crist with a slate of five nominees to replace departing Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero. Amid pressure to appoint a Hispanic jurist, the commission nominated Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jorge LaBarga, a darling of the criminal defense bar, and lawyer Edward Guedes as the Hispanics on the panel. The top conservative option, highly qualified former Congressman Charles Canady, would force Governor Crist to risk offending Hispanic voters by choosing a non-Hispanic nominee. Notably missing was a conservative Hispanic like Frank Jimenez, general counsel of the Navy.

Governors Crist and Blunt now have opportunities to take a stand against a process that has allowed bar associations to manipulate the selection of judges. Mr. Crist could select Mr. Canady and request more diverse panels in the future. Mr. Blunt can reject the whole slate, which would jumpstart a debate on reforming the system and bringing deliberations over judges out of the backrooms.

Merit selection states have already proven you can't get politics out of the court system. The real issue is who does the choosing -- voters through elections or their elected representatives, or lawyers working to help their own.


More Muslim attacks on Christians

This time in "moderate" Indonesia

Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wielding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. The incident comes amid growing concern that Indonesia's tradition of religious tolerance is under threat from Islamic hard-liners.

In talks since the attack, the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut its 20-year-old campus in east Jakarta, accepting an offer this week to move to a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital. "Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?" asked the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, chairman of the 1,400-student school.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament, is struggling to balance deep Islamic traditions and a secular constitution. With elections coming next April, the government seems unwilling to defend religious minorities, lest it be portrayed as anti-Islamic in what is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The July 25 attack, which injured 18 students, was the culmination of years of simmering tensions between the school and residents of the Kampung Pulo neighborhood. Senny Manave, a spokesman for the Christian school, said complaints were received from neighbors about prayers and the singing of hymns, which they considered disturbing evangelical activity. Several neighbors refused to comment, saying they feared that could further strain relations. A prominent banner, signed by scores of people, has been hung over an entrance to the neighborhood. "We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved," it says.

The assault began around midnight, when students woke to the crash of stones falling on their dormitory roof as a voice over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque cried "Allah Akbar," or "God is great" in Arabic. The unidentified speaker urged residents to rise up against their "unwanted neighbors," said Sairin, the head of campus security, who goes by a single name. The attack followed a claim that a student had broken into a resident's house, but police dismissed the charge.

Uneasy relations date to 2003, when neighbors began to protest the school's presence. Last year, residents set fire to shelters for construction workers to try to stop the campus from expanding deeper into the neighborhood. Some also questioned the legality of the school's permit. Christian lawmaker Karol Daniel Kadang accused property speculators of provoking last month's incident to clear the land for more profitable use, after the school refused to sell out. He also blamed the government for failing to build interfaith relations, which he and others believe are beginning to fray. "People are still tolerant, but there is a growing suspicion among Muslims of others," said Prof. Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century.

He added that the police have failed to prevent both attacks on minorities and the forced closure of Christian churches and nontraditional mosques by mobs incited by radical Muslims. "The state has some responsibility for this growing intolerance, namely by not upholding the law," he said.

A mob stormed a church service last Sunday in another east Jakarta neighborhood, forcing dozens of Christian worshippers to flee, said Jakarta Police Chief Col. Carlo Tewu. No arrests have been made.

Since being driven from campus, nearly 600 female students have been sleeping under suspended tarps at a nearby scout camp, where they had to dig trenches to keep water out during downpours. Classes are held with megaphones in the sweltering summer heat, under trees or the tarps. A similar number of male students live in a guesthouse. The remainder have returned to their families. Food, water and school supplies are donated by church groups and community charities. "We feel like refugees in our own country," said Dessy Nope, 19, a second-year student majoring in education. "How can you study here? I only followed 20 percent of my last lesson. It's difficult to concentrate."

Christians have not been the only targets for Muslim hard-liners, who this year set fire to mosques of a Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, that they consider heretical. In June, the government ordered members of the sect to return to mainstream Islam, sparking concern among activists who fear the state is interfering in matters of faith and caving in to the demands of radicals. "We're living in a country where there are many religions, but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups," said Manave, the school spokesman. "The government cannot protect minorities."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Sunday, August 24, 2008

A "Homophobic" gene?

The article below is undoubtedly satirical but it is satire with more truth in it than the author perhaps realizes. Feelings of revulsion towards homosexuality ARE normal, by any criterion of normality you care to name. And his basic point that tolerance is deserved on both sides of the fence is long overdue

As a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, I believe that any sexual activity other than that between a man and his wife is illicit. This includes adultery, premarital sex and, of course, homosexuality. But I've also been doing what my parents always taught me to do: listen to those who disagree with me. And I think I've discovered something rather shocking: opposition to homosexuality must itself be genetic.

For as long as I can remember, homosexuals have been explaining why gay people have no choice about their orientation. And it finally dawned on me that their arguments explain why being anti-gay is also not a choice but an innate predisposition beyond our power to restrain. This led me to embrace my convictions and stop trying in vain to repress who I am. Since millions suffer from this same condition, I'm hopeful that my epiphany will help others accept themselves and their convictions, too. Here are insights that helped me, in no particular order.

Insight 1: You cannot control whom you love

Although there are different kinds of love, some of which involve choice and some of which do not, this realization about passion led me to a very liberating conclusion. If we can't control whom we love, that's because we can't control our strong passions. But passions can be both for and against. And, just as gay love is a passion which is impossible to control, I now know that my passionate anti-gayness must also be impossible to control. I might wish I could change, but it's hopeless. My judgmental tendency draws me as irresistibly as their same-sex affection.

Insight 2: People shouldn't have to restrain acting on their innate desires

I used to think that restraint was the key differentiator between animals and men. But then it was explained to me that sexual urges are such a deep element of real human nature that it's wrong to suppress them. This led me to realize that moral urges are an equally deep aspect of human identity, and it must be unhealthy to try to suppress them, too. Just as someone may feel a deep desire to have same-gender sex, I often suffer the seemingly irresistible urge to espouse my views on sexual ethics. In fact, my desire to express my beliefs is so deeply human that even the First Amendment to our Constitution explicitly protects it. So it must be truly unhealthy to try repressing something as innate as opposition to homosexuality.

Insight 3: If one identical is twin gay, both are gay 50 percent of the time

Although my instinctive reaction to this statistic is to note that-even among genetically identical people-when one is gay, still fully half of the siblings manage to not be gay, I eventually figured out what this meant for people like me. While research has yet to confirm my suspicions, the likelihood of identical twins sharing a strong disposition to oppose homosexuality is probably even higher than 50 percent. Given the fact that one or both parents may be carriers of the traditional morality gene, it seems perfectly natural that children in some families might all express a strong disposition to denounce gay behavior. And if I inherited this from my parents, well, who can blame me for that?

Insight 4: No one would choose to be gay

After all, who would choose to suffer discrimination, fear, alienation and family discord? I used to worry that this argument would prevent disapproving of any behavior at all, since it seems to entail the unusual conclusion that the more despised something is the less anyone can be blamed for it. But then I realized that I have been ridiculed, called intolerant and fired from an academic post for my beliefs on this subject. In fact, I've often thought how much easier my life in this culture would be if only I could lay down the burden of believing in traditional morals and embrace homosexuality. Since no rational person in the United States in 2008 would choose to be anti-gay if he didn't have to be, it must not be a choice.

Insight 5: Being gay isn't a choice anyone ever actually makes

The realization that no one (straight or gay) ever consciously flips a switch to set their sexual preference led me to the recognition that I never chose to be anti-gay. It's not like I went to bed one night thinking supportive thoughts about gayness and then woke up the next morning committed to opposing it. It's more accurate to say that one day I just sort of realized, almost to my horror, that I thought gay behavior was wrong. I felt like I had been suppressing my innate moral voice because of social pressure before finally coming to terms with it. On top of my parents both being pro-gay and having lots of gay friends, I had actually taken a seminar on gay theory from Richard Mohr, one of the county's most prominent gay philosophers. I would gladly have been homo-endorsant if I could have been. But all to no avail. And I clearly can't un-choose what I had never chosen in the first place.


I know this column might frustrate some people who will resist seeing how their arguments, if true, have helped me embrace my own unfashionable alternative beliefstyle. But that's okay. I don't blame people who criticize me. Thanks to their insights, I've also come to realize that their homophobophobia probably isn't a choice either.


Censorship online: who needs evidence?

A new UK parliamentary report says the internet must be regulated to protect children - even though there's no proof they are being harmed.

The internet is made up of hardcore pornography, videos of fighting, bullying, rape and websites that glorify extreme diets, selfharm, and suicide. Or at least that's the impression you could easily be left with after reading an alarm-ridden report just published by a UK parliamentary committee. And that means further support for the idea of controls on what we can and cannot view, all in the name of protecting children.

Harmful Content on the Internet and in Video Games , a report by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee was published last Thursday. The committee's report draws on an earlier report for the UK government authored by popular clinical psychologist, TV pundit and presenter Dr Tanya Byron, published in March. The Byron Report concluded that `[C]hildren and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe'.

In what amounts to a child-centred approach to understanding the impact of technology on children, Byron recommended setting up yet another regulatory body, called the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The government has already agreed to do this before the end of the year. The council's remit will be to work with internet service providers (ISPs) and industry to place the interests of children at the forefront of how the games industry and myriad website publishers must rate, monitor and, in some cases, censor their content.

The consensus is that parents can no longer be trusted to deal with the various hurdles that our risk-averse society has created. In the absence of parental skills, bodies like the new council will help alert parents to the potential dangers when children happen to stray online without any supervision.

News of all this has caused some protest, but only amongst those who produce games and websites. The booming computer games industry argues that it has already put in place all the necessary checks and balances to regulate games. They insist their own standard, Pan European Games Information (PEGI), is good enough for the job.

On this, Bryon's report fudged the issue. She thought a combination of PEGI and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings would do the job, arguing that both the BBFC and PEGI could put their stickers on the front and on the back respectively on each games' packaging. The select committee's recommendation, on the other hand, is to extend the remit of the BBFC to include computer games.

But regulating the games industry is just one part of the select committee's focus. They also warn that children regularly stray online unsupervised, especially to websites like YouTube and other various social networking websites. What particularly worries the committee is that these websites are full of content uploaded by all kinds of people about any subject of their choosing. And in the case of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, they worry that children are inadvertently putting themselves at risk by posting information about themselves online.

In consequence, fingers are being pointed at website owners including Google (which owns YouTube) because the committee argues that they are not doing enough to protect children from a mass of inappropriate content. The committee believes big service providers like YouTube should be more proactive in reviewing material, more efficient in removing it if it is unsuitable, and better at flagging it up with a label where necessary.

The problem with websites, and the internet in general, is that they are very hard to regulate. Websites like YouTube thrive on massive amounts of content that is constantly being uploaded by thousands of people every day. Google have said that to try to regulate all of this content (some estimate as much as 10 hours worth is uploaded every minute) makes the task of censorship nearly impossible.

As a result, the debate around the select committee report has narrowly focused on who should be regulating who, whilst completely ignoring the major assumption behind this discussion: that the internet is causing children harm. Indeed, no-one seems to be challenging the misconstrued evidence about why children and their parents need help in dealing with the internet's content.

In fact, self-regulation and censorship is already happening. The government-endorsed Internet Watch Foundation, set up in 1996, aims to ensure that all ISPs and mobile operators remove any offensive or illegal content that they might inadvertently host.

The Byron Report and the new select committee report raise the bar of internet regulation. But the central claim that the internet causes children harm is not backed up with any serious evidence. Likewise, the focus on the internet's `dark side' is also unfounded. The obsession with protecting children is opportunist and a convenient means to deflect criticism of the proposed regulation of content; critics are simply told that we must err on the side of caution. The available research offers no conclusive proof either way that the internet is doing irreparable harm to children. As the select committee admits, there is `still no clear evidence of a causal link between activity or behaviour portrayed on-screen and subsequent behaviour by the person who viewed it'.

There is nothing new about using the vulnerable to justify restrictions on what can be viewed, particularly those who are regarded as lacking the maturity or capacity to understand what is being shown (which has always included children and those with special needs, but would once have included women, too). What is new about the select committee report is that it uses the language of risk so as to by-pass the need for evidence of harm or offence; this `you can never be too sure' outlook will always trump the ambiguity of the research to date. The cause of protecting children conveniently makes sense when it is, as the committee says, `based on the probability of risk'. As the committee declares, `incontrovertible evidence of harm is not necessarily required in order to justify a restriction of access to certain types of content in any medium'.

Not only is the new report blase about the lack of evidence to support its conclusion that this new media content can be harmful; the committee cannot even define what is meant by `harmful content': `The definition of what is "harmful" is not hard and fast: for one 10-year-old, a scene will seem very real and disturbing, whereas another will be able apparently to dismiss it or treat it as fantasy.'

But while there is little evidence being presented on how and why the internet is a threat to children, once the spectre of children being at risk is raised, everyone closes ranks. Yet again, the internet provides the perfect prism through which to discuss the culpability of adults as being unfit or ill-equipped to bring up children.

We should be extremely suspicious whenever politicians, campaigners and `experts' play the children card. Almost any kind of restriction can be justified if the young are supposedly at risk. Amidst all this panic, we need to draw the opposite conclusions to the select committee report and demonstrate why the internet should be left alone. While the internet still remains relatively uncensored and unregulated, it causes us to act like adults in how we deal with it, and in how we supervise others, including our children. However, if this latest set of proposals gets through, it will mean allowing the authorities to decide paternalistically what we can watch or play. In the name of protecting children, we will all be treated as children.


The Right to Earn a Living is Under Attack

In Louisiana it is illegal to sell and arrange flowers without permission from the government. Aspiring florists must pass a subjective licensing exam that is graded by existing florists, who have a direct incentive to keep new competitors from entering the market. Thus the failure rate is higher than that of the Louisiana bar, which results in hundreds of well-qualified would-be entrepreneurs being denied the ability to work in their chosen profession. No one can honestly believe that Louisiana's flower cartel is necessary to protect consumers from renegade flower sellers. Rather, it is a classic case of protecting favored groups at the expense of consumers and entry-level entrepreneurs.

Such is the state of economic liberty in America today. Across the nation, the basic right to earn an honest living is under attack. Legislators and bureaucrats are teaming up with entrenched special interests to create needless obstacles to countless entrepreneurs' pursuit of the American Dream. In the past few decades there has been a nationwide explosion of protectionist regulations -- while there were about 80 occupations with such barriers to entry in 1981, today there are over 1,000.

An Institute for Justice (IJ) case that last week attracted international media attention vividly illustrates the uncontrolled growth of occupational licensing and the outrageous lengths that a cartel will go to protect all facets of its business from the most harmless of trades.

Mercedes Clemens was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines and criminal prosecution unless she stopped . . . massaging horses. In Maryland two powerful groups decided to monopolize the growing field of animal massage by requiring all practitioners to spend four years in veterinary school -- where massage is not even taught.

Suggesting that only people with veterinary degrees are capable of massaging animals is like suggesting that only people with medical degrees are capable of massaging humans. Preventing Clemens -- who is a licensed human-massage therapist and certified in equine massage -- from working in her chosen trade has absolutely nothing to do with consumer or animal safety and everything to do with the financial interests of the veterinary cartel.

In 2004 the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in Powers v. Harris, "[W]hile baseball may be the national pastime of the citizenry, dishing out special economic benefits to certain in-state industries remains the favored pastime of state and local governments." And for decades, following the instructions of the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state courts have stood by while legislators engage in this "favored pastime" at the expense of consumers and entrepreneurs.

In the absence of meaningful judicial supervision, politicians have gone to almost any imaginable length to protect special interests. When a powerful lobby demands protection from competitors, governments have been all too willing to invent -- and courts all too willing to accept -- patently ludicrous excuses for shutting down entrepreneurs. A court upheld Louisiana's florist-licensing scheme, for example, because requiring florists to take a test, which would be graded largely on the subjective beauty of their floral arrangements, might help protect the public from "infected dirt."

The true victims of this new "favored pastime" are people like Clemens and countless other Americans, honest individuals whose lives have been turned upside down solely to protect the politically powerful. Such examples are seemingly endless.

In Texas all computer-repair technicians must now become private investigators. "If you're investigating or analyzing data, then you should need a little more credentials than someone who just repairs computers," the legislative sponsor said. The PI license requires a criminal-justice degree -- or a three-year apprenticeship under a licensed private investigator. If a consumer knowingly takes his computer to get repaired by an unlicensed specialist, he faces thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail. This law no doubt benefits special interests, but those benefits come directly at the expense of ordinary repair technicians and their customers.

A new law in Philadelphia will make it a crime in the coming weeks to talk about the Liberty Bell for money without the government's permission. Unlicensed tour guides will be subject to hundreds of dollars in fines for talking about the place where the Declaration of Independence was written.

Perhaps the most well-organized cartelization effort underway in the United States today is in the interior-design industry. A powerful faction of insiders has already put thousands of its competitors, mainly middle-aged and elderly women, out of work. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) represents less than 3 percent of all designers, but its members have designated themselves as spokespeople for the entire industry. In over 30 years of lobbying, ASID has never presented a single shred of evidence to support its extraordinary claim that literally "every decision an interior designer makes affects life safety and quality of life." ASID has been relentless in teaming up with legislatures coast to coast in its strategy for total cartelization. IJ has documented these efforts in a study titled "Designing Cartels."

Such laws exist today for one reason: Our nation's judicial system fails to protect the right to earn a living. Courts have decided that this fundamental right -- economic liberty -- is simply not as important as other rights, and less-important rights are thus not subject to meaningful judicial scrutiny and rarely are afforded protection under the law. If the government can simply dream up a conceivable reason for violating economic liberties, even if that reason is based on no facts, the regulations are generally upheld. Amazingly, courts will even help by inventing their own hypothetical rationales for economic protectionism. This system does not just stack the deck -- it gives the politically powerful a hand full of jokers.

Thankfully, entrepreneurs are fighting back. Taxicab drivers, African hair-braiders, sign-hangers, waste haulers, casket sellers, and others have battled the odds (with help from IJ) to strike down occupational-licensing schemes. Mercedes Clemens's lawsuit has already caused one of the licensing boards to backpedal. The Philadelphia tour guides, now represented by IJ, have a hearing in federal court on October 6. In Texas computer-repair technicians and interior designers are standing up for their constitutional rights.

F.A. Hayek famously wrote that "the great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law." That is precisely what the fight for economic liberty is all about.


NATO, Georgia and Russia

by Tibor R. Machan

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times writes that he is against expanding NATO. While he condemns the Russian government for its muscle flexing vis-…-vis the Republic of Georgia, he considers Georgia's desire to join NATO unwise. As he recounts his and some of his allies reasoning at the time when the USSR collapsed, "It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe. Wasn't that why we fought the cold war - to give young Russians the same chance at freedom and integration with the West as young Czechs, Georgians and Poles? Wasn't consolidating a democratic Russia more important than bringing the Czech Navy into NATO?"

No doubt, the desire expressed by Mr. Friedman, the famous author of The World is Flat, a very reasonable defense of globalization, is understandable and were it not for Russia's bad history and habit of expansionism, reasonable. But, alas, as with so many millions of people across the globe, the governmental habit keeps reasserting itself and with Russia this habit includes bullying its neighbors.

Having been in Georgia twice over the last two years and having lived under the Soviet regime in Hungary in the early and mid-fifties, I was interested in Friedman's column about Russia v. Georgia today. I, too, believe, as Friedman does, that it would be valuable to tame Russia and that perhaps expanding NATO is an obstacle toward that end.

I do not believe, however, that Friedman gives sufficient weight to how justly frightened most people near the Russians are of the Russian government and many Russian people. I believe it's too optimistic to expect Russia to change its proclivity of wanting to be in charge of its neighbors, especially as regards their international alliances. The Russian habit of expansion via conquest and intimidation has not abated, I am afraid. This, I believe, explains why so many of those surrounding nations look at something like NATO for protection. Are the Russians justified in regarding this a threat? Not if they think about history. But perhaps that is just the problem, they do not.

The pacifist impulse is not a strong one within the current Russian leadership which is mostly made up of but barely reformed ex-Soviets. Unless Russian leaders become less bent on physically ruling the region and firmly, credibly commit to co-existence with their vulnerable neighbors, the NATO option simply cannot be discounted. Some kind of security measure will have to be available to these countries and arguably any will irk the Russians. And Mr. Friedman, who is an educated individual concerning geo-political matters, ought to know this and provide his commentary on the recent Russian v. Georgian conflict in that light. In short, what advice does he have for leaders of countries like the Republic of Georgia given the evident aggressiveness of Russia? As it is, his exhortations in support of less concern with Russia's tendency to bully a country its neighbors sound more like wishful thinking than sound advice.

It isn't that Russia cannot change--the Russian people are not all adherents to the previous policy of expansionism and even those who have been can rethink matters. Many, for example, want to trade with the rest of the world rather than pick fights. But unlike after World War II, when much of the aggressive leadership of the Third Reich had been incapacitated, after the fall of the Soviet Union the people who were loyal to some more or less virulent version of Stalinism remained free to influence Russia's domestic and foreign affairs and are still vying for power. These people continue to hope to recover the sort of political and military prominence in the region that the Soviets believe was their historic birthright.

So it is going to be necessary, at least for a while, to not only be reasonable with the Russians but also back up reasonableness with sufficient muscle. Whether NATO is the answer or something else, I am not sure. All I am sure about is that the leadership of the Republic of Georgia has good reason to want to gain protection against Russia's current government.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

What not to wear... drink, eat or say

Alongside the election and the credit crunch, the endless policing of personal behaviour should be a Big Story in America.

In the Michigan city of Flint, police chief David Dicks has outlawed wearing pants too low down - a practice that has colloquially come to be known as `sagging'. Dicks has ordered his officers to arrest anyone wearing trousers that sag below the butt, self-righteously declaring that fines and jail time are justified for this `immoral self-expression'.

Flint is a city that has severe social and economic problems; it features heavily in Michael Moore's films, including Roger and Me and Fahrenheit 9/11. Yet the police chief seems to be suggesting that tackling crime is best done in a What Not to Wear series of Stalinesque mandates.

Dicks is not alone. Lawmakers in Atlanta last year attempted to implement a similar ban, while two cities in Louisiana, Delcambre and Opelousas, have similar laws providing for fines up to $500 and up to six months in jail (no one has yet been charged under the laws). Atlanta city councilman, CT Martin, told NBC's Today programme: `I'm a firm believer in the First Amendment. it's not about putting anyone in jail. It's about trying to get some educational discussion about the future for young people.'

Arresting people for showing their underwear may seem like the quirky obsession of some small-town American bureaucrats. But the very fact that it is deemed possible for a public official to put this line of argument forward demonstrates how far we have come already in accepting legislation in areas where officials once feared to tread. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging Dicks on his `sagging' ban, but there are plenty of other examples of this moralistic interference in our lives to reveal a wider trend.

Nobody does it better than Mike Bloomberg. New York's `mayor of morality' has banned trans-fats in the city's restaurants, attempted to introduce a toll on drivers entering Manhattan and aimed his sights at strip clubs. Now, Bloomberg is joining forces with Microsoft magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates to launch a $500million campaign to persuade smokers in Asia, Africa and the rest of the globe to stop their nasty habit.

The presidential candidates, of course, won't be left behind. Not wanting to be eclipsed by Barack Obama's European pop-style tour, Republican nominee John McCain held a meeting with cycling superstar Lance Armstrong in Ohio where he also promised he would push to help smokers quit. Never mind the much more important but difficult debate about what it would take to provide a truly comprehensive universal healthcare system; instead, we are offered advice on how to behave.

What we say is also increasingly controlled. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has created a list of colleges where `speech codes' are enforced. The FIRE list includes the University of Connecticut, which has outlawed `inconsiderate jokes', `stereotyping' and even `inappropriately directed laughter', while West Virginia University has instructed incoming students and staff that they must `use language that is not gender specific.... Instead of referring to anyone's romantic partner as "girlfriend" or "boyfriend", use positive generic terms such as "friend", "lover", or "partner".'

Strikingly, many of the people who see themselves as being politically `liberal' and progressive often form the vanguard of the assault on our private choices and public freedoms these days. Thus, a recent New York Times editorial mocked David Gantt, the New York Democratic assemblyman from Rochester, for opposing an increase in CCTV cameras on New York City roads. The editorial lambasted him and mocked his reasoning for being opposed to the increase - that cameras in public places are `too big brother'. The editorial argued that after Gantt was finally forced to allow 100 such cameras, there were still 11,900 intersections without cameras. Presumably, the bastions of liberalism at the NYT will not be satisfied until New York is like London, where CCTV cameras are almost ubiquitous.

Much has been at written on spiked about censorious speech bans and pernicious behaviour codes. Increasingly, there is a climate in which lines are being drawn around acceptable pursuits and consumption - that are somehow `ethically minded' - and other conduct, which is considered unacceptable. Often, what underpins this new regulation is a snobbish, class bias.

It is about time that the new elitist behaviour police were exposed for what they are: small-minded meddlers who seek to get into our hearts and minds by way of dubious fairytales of `good versus evil' lifestyle choices. No longer capable of motivating a discussion and appeal to the Good Life, they crouch behind a depressing outlook that seeks to divide society into the `deserving' or `undeserving'. In the nineteenth century, such moral distinctions were made between the well-off and the poor; today, it is all about behaviour.

We would do well to expose these self-appointed lifestyle guardians. The real nub of political debate today is around these issues, while the debates around the presidential election and the economic downturn have been vacuous and empty of content. If we are going to have a debate about public health, crime and its causes, education or the environment, then we should engage with these issues honestly. In order to do so today, we must expose fully how these issues have become hijacked by the new high priests of austere living.


U.S. doctors allowed to refuse to provide abortions

The Bush administration Thursday proposed stronger job protections for doctors and other health-care workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said that health-care professionals should not face retaliation from employers or from medical societies because they object to abortion. "Freedom of conscience is not to be surrendered upon issuance of a medical degree," said Mr. Leavitt. "This nation was built on a foundation of free speech. The first principle of free speech is protected conscience."

The proposed rule, which applies to institutions receiving government money, would require as many as 584,000 employers ranging from major hospitals to doctors' offices and nursing homes to certify in writing that they are complying with several federal laws that protect the conscience rights of health-care workers. Violations could lead to a loss of government funding and legal action to recoup federal money already paid.

Abortion rights supporters served notice that they intend to challenge the new rule. "Women's ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. The group, which had complained that earlier drafts of the regulation contained vague language that might block access to birth control, said it still has concerns about the latest version.

"Planned Parenthood continues to be concerned that the Bush administration's proposed regulation poses a serious threat to women's health care by limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate health information and services," Ms. Richards added.

But Mr. Leavitt said the regulation was intended to protect practitioners who have moral objections to abortion and sterilization, and would not interfere with patients' ability to get birth control or any legal medical procedure. "Nothing in the new regulation in any way changes a patient's right to any legal procedure," he said, noting that a patient could go to another provider. "This regulation is not about contraception," Mr. Leavitt added. "It's about abortion and conscience. It is very closely focused on abortion and physician's conscience."

The 36-page rule seeks to set up a system for enforcing conscience protections in three separate federal laws, the earliest of which dates to the 1970s. In some cases, the laws aim to protect both providers who refuse to take part in abortions and those who do. The regulation is written to apply to a broad swath of the health care work force, not doctors alone. Accordingly, an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments used in a particular procedure would be covered. Also covered would be volunteers and trainees.

The underlying laws deal mainly with abortion and sterilization, but both the laws and the language of the rule seem to recognize that objections on conscience grounds could involve other types of services. "This regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution from being compelled to participate in, or from being punished for refusal to participate in, a service that, for example, violates their conscience," the rule said. The regulation would take effect after a 30-day comment period.


Starbucks and the socialism of fools

Commentators' glee at the closure of 700 coffee shops, and the loss of more than 12,000 jobs, exposes the inhumanity of anti-globalisation.

When is the loss of 12,600 jobs a cause for celebration? When those 12,600 workers are mere Starbucks baristas, young men and women in green aprons who use annoying words like `venti' and `wet' (what drink isn't wet?) while serving overpriced coffee to harried young professionals. Who cares if these workers - many of whom work at Starbucks to finance their studies - are stripped of their livelihoods and forced to peruse the ads in soulless Job Centres? Serves them right for getting a job with the Evil Corporate Coffee Empire in the first place.

At least, that is the implicit message of much of the whooping and cheering that has greeted Starbucks' economic turmoil. Since the Seattle-based coffee-serving corporation announced that it was closing 600 stores in the US and 61 in Australia - with the disgraceful cutting of up to 12,000 jobs in America and 685 Down Under - commentators have been quaffing some no doubt ethically sourced champagne to celebrate. At last, the corporation - which, as one British journalist wrote yesterday, has `earned VIP status at the top table of brands that anti-globalisation activists love to hate' - is closing outlets rather than opening new ones.

And what of the workers who will lose their jobs, including the 685 people in Australia who were given just days to hang up their green aprons and fuck off? Screw them. In fact, suggested one writer at the end of last week, send them to `re-education camps', North Korea-style, because the skills they learned at cynical Starbucks `won't be transferable'. Behold the new socialism of fools, so obsessed by eyesore logos and sameyness on street corners, and so determined to preserve small, family-based, conservative businesses over `corporate behemoths', that it thinks thousands of job losses are a small price to pay if it means being able to walk one's labradoodle from Hampstead High Street to Hampstead Heath without having to see or smell a Starbucks.

Since it started spreading around the world in the 1990s, Starbucks has been the bete noire of posh boys with dreadlocks (who smashed them up during anti-globalisation protests in 1999 and 2000) and organic-patronising, barefoot commentators (who have championed `Keep Starbucks Away!' campaigns). So it isn't surprising that Starbucks' economic slowdown has been hailed as one of the positive side effects of the credit crunch/possible recession. In late March this year, Starbucks had 16,226 stores worldwide, including 11,434 in America. On 1 July, it announced that it was closing 600 stores in the US; on 29 July, it pulled the plug on 61 out of 84 stores in Australia. Some Australian workers were given a week's notice and a measly two weeks' severance pay.

But what is bad news for coffee-shop workers is brilliant news for well-to-do writers for whom Starbucks' once-unstoppable spread summed up everything that is Rotten about Greedy Capitalism. The 12,000-plus workers without jobs don't even get a mention in one British commentator's overexcited dance on the grave of Starbucks' shut-down stores: `Bad news for Starbucks shareholders, great news for those of us who resent the ubiquitous coffee chain's omnipresence in our towns and cities.' (1) Indeed, she thinks it would be a good thing if Starbucks' `US and Oz slump gets a grip here [in Britain]' (2).

In Australia, a self-confessed `horrible coffee snob' said he is sorry that 685 Starbucks employees will lose their jobs as 61 of Australia's 84 Starbucks outlets are shut down - but he still feels `pure joy': `My only regret is that the company hasn't decided to close all 84.' (3) In the US, the online magazine The Huffington Post, edited by the rich and perfectly coiffured liberal commentator Arianna Huffington, asked its readers what they thought of the campaigns launched by some Americans to save their Starbucks stores. One said: `Americans are so stupid, brainwashed and misguided. How can people possibly want to help out a multinational firm that saps away wealth from their local economies? Oh yeah, I forgot - the media told them to.' (4)

This glee at the closure of Starbucks stores shows just how shallow - even inhumane - is the new kneejerk anti-capitalism that has emerged over the past 10 years. As far as I'm concerned, Starbucks' casual closure of more than 600 stores and its slashing of 12,000 jobs is the worst thing the corporation has ever done. In an effort to protect its profits in a time of economic difficulty, it has chucked thousands of workers - from the migrant workers who serve the coffee to office workers in its Seattle HQ - on to the scrapheap. It has sacrificed the wages or livelihoods of thousands of people on the altar of Preserving the Profits for a few. It is capitalism at its most ruthless.

Yet for commentators of an anti-globalist or `anti-capitalist' bent, Starbucks' cutting back is the best thing the coffee corporation has ever done, eliciting `pure joy' in those who despise Starbucks' `omnipresence in our towns and cities' (5). That is because the new `anti-capitalists' have always been obsessed by the artifice of capitalism rather than being concerned with the exploitative relations that underpin it. They despise the logos, brands, `corporate talk', global spread, cynical sales techniques and invasive adverts of big corporations, while caring little about the exploitation of workers.

In short, they hate that which is potentially positive about the capitalist system - its globalising tendencies and creation of new needs and desires - while turning a blind eye to the most dehumanising and destructive aspects of capitalism: its treatment of men and women as the disposable providers of labour and its tendency to lurch from one crisis to another.

Indeed, it was the very visibility of Starbucks that meant it became public enemy no.1 of the new `anti-capitalism'. Starbucks is minuscule compared with capitalist monoliths like Wal-Mart, BP, Microsoft and others. Yet because it seemed to be everywhere (one Guardian writer bizarrely calculated that his pillow in his bedroom is within five minutes of 158 Starbucks outlets, presumably meaning he could not sleep peacefully at night), it became a symbol of rampant, runaway, globe-trotting capitalism (6).

For many, a new Starbucks store was a super-physical, super-visible shiny new capitalist entity that apparently put small shops out of business and made my high street look like everyone else's! Not fair! That was the extent of the `anti-capitalist' critique of Starbucks. And as for their `anti-capitalist' protest against Starbucks, it amounted to the smashing up of coffee shops by posh kids wielding bars and bollards, possibly angry that Starbucks' coffee isn't a patch on the green tea their au pairs made for them. It was driven not by solidarity with Starbucks workers but by a small-minded, narcissistic desire to keep ugly American brands off our lovely, little, local streets, in order to protect people from US-imported obesity (`Starbucks likes to supersize everything, not quite such a commercial formula for more health-conscious, waistline-watching times', says one commentator) and from `American corporate language, [spoken] with a phoney Italian accent' (7). Such is the localist fury of the anti-Starbucks activist that he even welcomes the loss of thousands of jobs if it means he will no longer have - horror of horrors - a green Starbucks logo within five minutes of his bedroom pillow.

The anti-Starbucks frenzy shows that the new anti-capitalism is a million miles from yesterday's socialism. The two things that Starbucks-bashers hate most about Starbucks are a) its global spread and b) its continual creation of new coffees, cappuccinos, frappuccinos, macchiatos and different-flavoured drizzles, and its omnipresent advertising convincing us that we should want or possibly need these weird new concoctions (8). These are the two things - probably the only two things - that Marxists of old might have quite admired about Starbucks.

Karl Marx himself had a soft spot for the internationalising tendencies of the capitalist system, arguing that, `to the chagrin of reactionists', capitalism dislodges local and national industries and turns production into a global phenomenon. If you will forgive his and Engels' inappropriate and un-PC nineteenth-century language, he argued: `The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation.' (9) Of course, coffee shops are not the drivers of the kind of dynamic international capitalism Marx was writing about. But it is striking that anti-Starbucks `reactionists' hate the globalism of Starbucks in particular, and campaign to protect `local industries' - like those old British cafes, perhaps, which frequently served yucky tea and paid their staff a couple of quid an hour (cash in hand) - from the uniform universality of the Starbucks brand.

Marx also quite admired the consumer society, believing it to be a `civilising moment' of capital. In the Grundrisse, he wrote: `In spite of all his "pious" speeches, [the capitalist] searches for means to spur [the workers] on to consumption, to give his wares new charms, to inspire them with new needs by constant chatter, etc. It is precisely this side of the relation of capital and labour which is an essential civilising moment.' (10) Of course it's true, as one commentator says, that no one really needs a `decaff, tall, low-fat, extra-whip, crŠme-de-menthe mocha with chai spice muffin' (11). But it is notable that what a bearded communist described as `civilising' 150 years ago - the attachment of new charms to old wares - is now written off by Starbucks-bashers as somehow dangerous and corrupting.

Over 100 years ago, the German socialist August Bebel exposed the hollowness of one-sided criticisms of the market. Back then, some so-called radicals singled out the Jews as `predatory' capitalists who were destroying society; Bebel labelled their arguments the `socialism of fools' (12). Today, the `predatory capitalists' are not Jews (contemporary anti-globalists are no anti-Semites), but rather coffee shops like Starbucks or fast-food chains like McDonald's - and the foolish socialists criticise only their logos, products, encouragement of obesity and general not-very-niceness rather than their role in maintaining inequality in the capitalist system more broadly. Starbucks has inhumanely and unceremoniously sacked thousands of people - and the `radical' critics have cheered it on and asked it to send more staff to the dole queue or `re-education camps'.

A socialism that is even more reactionary than capitalism is not one I want anything to do with.


Who's afraid of corporate shills?

A new book on scary shills whitewashes the intellectual failures of the left, and shirks the task of putting forward a political alternative

A couple of generations ago, the Western political establishment worried about Communist propaganda seducing the masses and subverting democracy. Today, in the absence of a significant threat to capitalism, it is anti-capitalists who are more likely to talk about the menace of propaganda emanating from corporations and subtly entrenching their power to the detriment of democracy.

"Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy: Corporate PR and the Assault on Democracy" is a collection of essays on the pernicious influence of corporate spin and lobbying, edited by William Dinan and David Miller. They are also authors of A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became the Cutting Edge of Corporate Power. Their books neatly embody a significant and ultimately conservative strain running through contemporary left-wing thought. Talking up the alleged ascendancy of `neoliberalism' is a common but unconvincing way of spinning the collapse of the left at the end of the last century, and the consequently diminished significance of ideology across the political spectrum. Similarly, their preoccupation with corporate propaganda and spin conveniently obscures the left's failure to develop an engaging critique that can mobilise a substantial movement in today's political circumstances. There is no shame in that failure, but blaming it on Svengali-like corporate mind control doesn't help.

In their introduction to Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy, Dinan and Miller suggest the success of recent films like The Constant Gardener, Syriana and Thank You For Smoking, all of which feature villainous corporate lobbyists, is `a welcome sign that the ideas in this book are penetrating the mainstream'. In fact, despite being an archetype of big business itself, Hollywood has always shown a certain disdain for capitalism and its functionaries. And there is little in Dinan and Miller's book that would shock anyone who reads and watches mainstream media, and is familiar with scares about genetically modified food, stories about the machinations of Big Tobacco and Big Oil companies, and the general idea that PR types are pretty sleazy. The question perhaps is whether a book like this can go beyond popular cynicism about big business, and at least point the way towards an analysis of the relationship between capitalism and how it is represented, endorsed and critiqued.

Rather than analysis, though, most of the chapters comprise seemingly endless lists of the names of PR firms, lobbyists and their clients, and especially the manifold interconnections and associations between them. The prevailing attitude is one of exposure rather than critique, as if simply joining the dots to connect the various players constitutes a searing indictment of contemporary capitalism. In fact, these passages are often reminiscent of the boring bit in Book 1 of Paradise Lost, where Milton catalogues the demons holed up in Hell with Satan, and we wonder when the action is going to kick in.

Eveline Lubbers' more entertaining chapter, `Fighting Dirty Wars: Spying for the Arms Trade', introduces us to the truly demonic Evelyn Le Chˆne, a private intelligence agent who spied on anti-arms trade campaigners on behalf of British Aerospace. Certainly this is pretty sordid stuff, and will quite rightly have embarrassed BAe when it was first revealed in The Sunday Times (a paper owned by arch-capitalist Rupert Murdoch, we might note with a shrug), but it's not at all clear that this kind of skullduggery is even to the advantage of the firms involved - apparently BAe often ignored Le Chˆne's advice - let alone that this, along with more conventional lobbying, is what damages democracy, a constant refrain in the book.

No doubt there is a crisis of democracy in the West today. The public is disengaged from politics, and the political class lacks legitimacy. But the attempt to blame this on the malfeasance of corporations and their cronies is never convincing. In their own chapter on PR, Dinan and Miller even credit the neoliberals with having conducted a `counter-revolution' through the Thatcher and Reagan administrations in the 1980s. Counter-revolution? Aren't we missing a step? The peculiar implication that Britain and the US were enjoying a revolution of some kind in the 1970s is a logical consequence of the authors' demonisation of the right and unwillingness to consider the failure of the left. Revolutions apparently are just what happen when the right isn't having counter-revolutions. Political agency - and the very need to make arguments and conduct campaigns - is attributed exclusively to the bad guys. Dinan and Miller write:

`It is crucial to recognise that the neoliberal victory was not put in place by abstract forces but had to be won by argument and action and that it proceeded by means of vastly increased investment in the machinery of information management. This helps explain the emergence and global spread of the public relations industry. In the United Kingdom, the PR industry expanded rapidly in the 1980s, facilitating the process of privatisation and buoyed up by its rich pickings and consequences.'

The rise of PR in the 1980s is an interesting and important phenomenon, but it can't be isolated from the wider historical context. Can we think of anything else that happened in Britain in the 1980s? Thatcher's thoroughgoing campaign against the trades unions, perhaps? The crushing defeat of the miners' strike? The left didn't just lose the argument; they lost an historic struggle. The collapse of the Soviet Union then added to the sense that there is no alternative to capitalism. It is perverse to present the rise of PR as the decisive factor in this period, and profoundly unhelpful. Ulrich Mueller's chapter on the spinning of pro-market reforms in Germany is similarly oblivious to the fact that the right was pushing at an open door because the left didn't have a credible alternative. Blaming dastardly PR men is a terrible cop-out.

Arguably, this is the continuation of a long-standing weakness of the left: its complacency. Many left-wingers believed the working class would always rally to their cause simply by virtue of being the working class: all they had to do was keep printing the placards with the same old slogans. Far more significant than the rise of PR or the allure of neoliberalism, then, was the left's neglect of the importance of ideas as an integral part of political struggle. In that sense, the focus in these books on the battle of ideas is welcome, but unfortunately their authors' interest is overwhelmingly in the mechanics of how ideas are communicated, rather than their content.

In a chapter on think tanks, and in particular Demos (an early influence on New Labour) and others sharing the same London offices, William Clark explicitly refutes any suggestion that he is trading in conspiracy theories. It would indeed be lazy to label any of the contributors to the book with that tag: as Clark notes, little if any of what he and the other contributors discuss is even secret. Yet perhaps Clark protests too much? Many of today's left-wing writers and activists who are obsessed with corporate PR do use some of the tactics of conspiracy theorists. They tie various groups and individuals together in a way that is reminiscent of what one academic describes as the `spider-web fallacy': the tendency for conspiracy theorists to link even tenuously associated people into a larger `web of purpose' (1). And in their concern with who is funding PR operations, they echo conspiracy theorists who imagine that dark forces control everything from behind the scenes. They may not be anything like the mad 9/11 Truthers, but anti-corporate writers and activists very often interpret opportunism and everyday one-upmanship amongst the capitalist class as something super well-organised and sinister.

William Clark argues that `a nexus of interests and organisations' centres around Demos, and that they are mixed up in various ways with the same right-wing networks that promoted Thatcherism. The problem is that this is a very roundabout way of approaching a critique of New Labour's Third Way politics. If Clark didn't see a problem with it before discovering these connections, does he actually have substantive objections now? Why does the provenance of ideas matter so much if they can be refuted in their own terms?

In fact, as the name suggests, the Third Way was meant to fill a vacuum left by the demise of the left and the post-Thatcher exhaustion of the right, a crucial factor missed by Clark. Why would ascendant and all-conquering neoliberals feel the need to work with Demos, a think tank established by former members of the Communist Party of Great Britain? The rise of think tanks is indeed an important development, reflecting the diminished importance of political parties of left and right as vehicles for ideas, and the increasing reliance on the rhetoric of `expertise' and `research' rather than the interests and desires of the public.

Dinan and Miller note in their own chapter: `The focus on public opinion has - if anything - grown comparatively less in the recent past, as the ability of ordinary people to make a difference in politics has declined.' They also include interesting chapters by Aeron Davis and Olivier Hoedeman on `elite-to-elite spin' - which has nothing to do with influencing public opinion - with reference to the London Stock Exchange and the Brussels `Lobbycracy' respectively. This is a crucial observation, but the fact that `corporate power' is premised on the emptying out of politics and the public sphere suggests that simple exposure of how lobbyists operate won't solve the problem. What's needed instead is a serious and critical public engagement with ideas.

The `follow the money' line of argument actually contributes to the diminishment of public debate. Dismissing political opponents' ideas on the basis of `guilt by association' means adopting a less critical approach than if one actually sets out to argue against them. So why not give everyone the benefit of the doubt and engage in open debate? Dinan and Miller argue that there is an important distinction between engaging in democratic debate and `subverting' it in clients' interests. No doubt there is a difference between arguments made in good faith and those based on deception, but it is naive to imagine there is a rigid distinction between `interested' and `disinterested' positions. Politics is all about interests, after all. Identifying that a speaker is arguing in the interests of Big Oil, for example, is not a counter-argument, though it might raise questions worth pursuing.

The preoccupation with who is making a case rather than what they are arguing reveals a complacent belief that politics is about goodies and baddies, and also assumes the public will credulously imbibe corporate spin unless it is unmasked. In fact, people don't respond homogenously to messages in the media, but interpret what they read and hear depending on their own experience, and the influence of those around them - that's why some ideas are more influential than others among particular groups of people. This raises the question of whom the authors of Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy are addressing. Dinan and Miller say in their conclusion that the book and related websites like Sourcewatch and Spinwatch are meant as means of `popularising the truth about corporate spin and corporate power', but one wonders how popular the mentality of such websites can ever be.

The problem is that `the truth about corporate spin and corporate power' is understandably met by most people with a cynical shrug rather than political engagement. Telling people they're dupes is hardly inspiring, and the posture of `exposing corporate lies' quickly gets boring. Dinan and Miller mention in passing the desirability of `direct representation of popular interests', and they're quite right that this is what's needed to bring democracy to life. But it can't be achieved by simply exposing or even removing the negative influence of corporate spin. What's needed is a positive assertion of those putative popular interests. Moreover, the character of any new popular politics cannot be taken for granted, and it is particularly unlikely to resemble the imaginary, pre-neoliberal `revolution' fondly if hazily evoked in Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy.

By whitewashing the failure of the left in the twentieth century, and obscuring the need for a thorough reinvention of politics, the book propagates a delusion far more misleading than anything put out by corporate shills.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Friday, August 22, 2008

The absurdities of Leftist racial discrimination in California

Caltrans, the California state transportation agency, remains addicted to quotas, even after the passage of Prop. 209 a number of years ago should have forced it to go cold turkey.

The agency tried to do without quotas for a couple of years but went into a deep funk when a "disparity study" purported to reveal "underrepresentation" of, for example, certain subsets of Asian American contractors (actually, it found only an "inference of disparity," but that was enough for government work), and it consequently asked the U.S. Dept. of Transportation for permission to resume its quota habit.

I discussed this request about a year ago, here. An excerpt:
With respect to this request, AsianWeek ("The Voice of Asian America") predictably declares "CalTrans Needs More APA Contractors." Let us pass up the almost (but not quite) irresistible urge to ask "Why?" and move on. (For those of you not completely conversant with the jargon of "diversity," "APA" means Asian-Pacific Americans.) But a closer look, which AsianWeek happily provides, reveals that Caltrans doesn't need just any APA contractors. Indeed, it already has too many of some and not enough (for whom?) of others. Referring to the "diversity index" of underrepresentation in a Caltrans study, AsianWeek noted:
Hispanic-owned firms showed great improvement. Some APA firms, those owned by South Asian Americans, were actually overrepresented.

The study used a disparity index, where a score of 100 constitutes parity. Indian- and Pakistani-owned contractors rated 124. Latino firms rated 81. An index below 80 is considered "substantial disparity."

Even among those groups underrepresented, the range was huge. African Americans were the most disadvantaged, scoring only 15. Chinese- and Filipino-owned firms fared little better with a score of 31.
Presumably a close look at other categories would reveal similar "disparities" within groups - too many Mexicans, not enough Guatemalans; too many Carribean blacks; etc. In short, as AsianWeek astutely observed, simply
[i]nstituting an across-the-board policy to hire more minority contractors would not be an improvement, particularly if the same minority contractors ended up being hired over and over, simply to fill artificial quotas.
Alas, AsianWeek did not inform us how to distinguish "artificial quotas" from genuine, legitimate quotas.
Now Caltrans is at it again, seeking what it euphemistically calls a "goal" of 13.5% of Caltrans work being awarded to DBEs (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises). It proposes to meet this "goal," in "equal proportions of 6.75 percent, through race-neutral/conscious measures." In other words, half of its "goal" will be met using colorblind, non-discriminatory means and the other half will be met by awarding contracts on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex.

Caltrans bases it request to be excused from complying with the California constitution, in part, on its fear of losing federal funds if it is not allowed to revert to its quota habit, although, as the Pacific Legal Foundation has pointed out in a devastating critique, there is no basis for this fear. But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Caltrans actually believes its funding is at risk if it does not award 13.5% of its business to DBEs, and that half of that "goal" must be met by race-based contracting.

If that is the case, or the belief, could someone explain to me the difference between these "goals" and a quota? If there is no difference, could someone then point me to the criticism of the Caltrans proposal from all those politicians who loudly proclaim their undying opposition to quotas?

Finally, one other interesting aspect of Caltrans' request for permission to discriminate. As stated in its report cited above, Caltrans announced that
For FFY 2009, Caltrans will limit race-conscious measures to African American, Asian Pacific American, Women, and Native American-owned firms.
This must rank as one of the few government programs designed to discriminate in favor of Asians but not Hispanics (although I suppose female Hispanics might qualify). Have the Hispanic "civil rights" groups noticed this exclusion?


The Idiocy of Energy Independence

by John Stossel

It's amazing how ideas with no merit become popular merely because they sound good. Most every politician and pundit says "energy independence" is a great idea. Presidents have promised it for 35 years. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were self-sufficient, protected from high prices, supply disruptions and political machinations?

The hitch is that even if the United States were energy independent, it would be protected from none of those things. To think otherwise is to misunderstand basic economics and the global marketplace.

To be for "energy independence" is to be against trade. But trade makes us as safe. Crop destruction from this summer's floods in the Midwest should remind us of the folly of depending only on ourselves. Achieving "energy independence" would expose us to unnecessary risks -- such as storms that knock out oil refineries or droughts that create corn -- and ethanol -- shortages.

Trade also saves us money. "We import energy for a reason," says the Cato Institute's energy expert, Jerry Taylor, "It's cheaper than producing it here at home. A governmental war on energy imports will, by definition, raise energy prices".

Anyway, a "domestic energy only" policy (call it "Drain America First"?) is a fantasy. America's demand for oil is too great for us to supply ourselves. Electricity we could provide. Not with windmills and solar panels -- they are not yet close to providing enough -- but coal and nuclear power could produce America's electricity.

But cars need oil. We don't have nearly enough. That doesn't keep the presidential candidates from preying on the public's economic ignorance. "I have set before the American people an energy plan, the Lexington Project -- named for the town where Americans asserted their independence once before," John McCain said. "This nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025".

Barack Obama, promising to "set America on path to energy independence," is upset that we send millions to other countries. "They get our money because we need their oil". His concern that "they get our money" is echoed in commercials funded by Republican businessman T. Boone Pickens, who wants government subsidies for alternative energy. He tries to scare us by saying, "$700 billion are leaving this country to foreign nations every year -- the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind."

Don't Obama and Pickens realize that we get something useful for that money? It's not a "transfer"; it's a win-win transaction, like all voluntary trade. Who cares if the sellers live in a foreign country? When two parties trade, each is better off -- or the exchange would never have been made. We want the oil more than the money. They want the money more than the oil. They need us as much as we need them.

And Obama is wrong when he implies that America imports most of its oil from the Mideast. Most of it comes from Canada and Mexico.

McCain and Obama talk constantly about how much they will "invest" -- with money taken from the taxpayers, of course -- to achieve energy independence. "[W]e can provide loan guarantees and venture capital to those with the best plans to develop and sell biofuels on a commercial market," Obama said.

What makes Obama think he's qualified to pick the "best plans"? It's the robust competition of the free market that reveals what's best. Obama's program would preempt the only good method we have for learning which form of energy is best.

Has he learned nothing from the conceits of his predecessors? Jimmy Carter, saying that achieving energy independence was the "moral equivalent of war," called for "the most massive peacetime commitment of funds ... to develop America's own alternative". Then he wasted billions of our tax dollars on the utterly failed "synfuel" program.

McCain promises a $300-million prize to whoever develops a battery for an electric car. But the free market already provides plenty of incentive to invent a better battery. As George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux writes, "Anyone who develops such a device will earn profits dwarfing $300 million simply by selling it on the market. There's absolutely no need for any such taxpayer-funded prize".

Central energy planning and government-funded prizes are economic idiocy.


Court Rules Boy Must Pay Child Support to His Rapist

I've previously discussed cases where boys who have been statutorily raped by older women are forced to pay child support to their rapists. Here's a new one, from Ohio. From Boy's parents sue to get his baby from mom, 21 (Columbus Dispatch, 8/16/08):
LANCASTER, Ohio --- A Pickerington couple and their son are fighting for custody of a baby born to a Lancaster woman charged with having unlawful sex with the boy, who was 15 at the time of conception. A paternity test shows that the teen is the father of the baby born April 7 to Jane C. Crane, who was 19 when she became pregnant. Now, a judge has ordered him to pay $50 a month in child support and set visitation at seven hours a week.

Crane, meanwhile, faces criminal charges. A Fairfield County grand jury indicted her last month on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a fourth-degree felony. Conviction carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender for 25 years. Crane is living with the baby and her family in Lancaster.

The boy's parents say they can provide a better upbringing for the baby than Crane can. Her household includes her stepfather, David L. Jacobs, who was convicted of domestic violence last year for hitting, choking and pointing a gun at Crane's 17-year-old sister and was placed on two years' probation, court records show. "We don't want to have our granddaughter abused by these people," the boy's father said. "We are trying to do the right thing. "The child support was the icing on the cake. I couldn't believe that our son has to pay child support to his abuser."
Note also that the boy is allowed only seven hours a week of "visitation" with his son. He's really getting an early education on the joys of the family law system.

As an aside, I don't believe a 19-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old should be statutory rape. However, legally in this case it is statutory rape--just as it would be if it were a 35-year-old with a 15-year-old--so demanding that the victim pay child support should be out of the question.


An 'anti-natal' society tells parents not to have big families

Society unfairly pressurises parents into having small families, according to a new report. The study for the think tank Civitas claims that the middle-classes are made to feel guilty about the impact on the environment and the damage to their careers if they have large numbers of babies. Everything from house prices to car tax makes it far more expensive for them to raise more than two children, it says.

The report says that this "anti-natal" prejudice against large families is misplaced, however, and that young people who have lots of brothers and sisters grow up happier and better-adjusted than only children.

Colin Brazier, a father-of-five who wrote the report, concluded: "Few television advertisements show a family with more than two children. Many feature just one. "The only child - once pitiable - is now fashionable. "A growing canon of work exists to justify the decision to restrict family size in the interests of the environment or career. "Respectable authors sidestep a substantial body of evidence to argue that only children suffer no material disadvantage by dint of their solitary status."

Mr Brazier, a presenter on Sky News, claims in his article in this month's Civitas Review that many British parents would like to have more than one or two children but that they cannot afford to do so. He says that the property market acts as a "contraceptive" because developers now build smaller homes, and that having more than three bedrooms adds two-thirds to the price of a house in some areas.

The report points out that parents who send their children to fee-paying schools suffer as there are only "modest discounts" for having multiple siblings on the roll. Meanwhile state schools no longer guarantee that all children from the same family will get a place, forcing parents to make several visits on the school-run each day.

Large families suffer financially on holiday as "family tickets" invariably admit two adults and two children, Mr Brazier said, while some councils insist that parents take no more than two children into swimming pools.

The study claims environmental concerns are now increasingly being cited as reasons to charge large families more for services, with people carriers facing higher road tax and "pay-as-you-throw" bin charges likely to penalise households with more children for throwing away more rubbish.

Despite this, Mr Brazier insists there are great benefits to children, their parents and society as a whole from large families. He cites academic studies that have shown children from larger families get into fewer fights at school and make more friends, because they are used to negotiation and team-playing, and are less likely to develop allergies.

He suggests having older siblings creates a "trickle-down" effect of knowledge to younger children in middle-class homes, and claims that in some broken families, deprived children only learn valuable social skills from their brothers and sisters.

The report claims parents are less likely to be over-protective or pushy if they have lots of children, while young people themselves benefit from having older siblings to play with and look after them.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

California Top Court: Doctors must offer elective services to homosexuals

This is a blatant disregard of the 1st Amendment. SCOTUS would likely knock it down

California's highest court on Monday barred doctors from invoking their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment to gays and lesbians, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession. The ruling was unanimous and a succinct 18 pages, a contrast to the state Supreme Court's 4-3 schism in May legalizing gay marriage.

Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the ruling that two Christian fertility doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian have neither a free speech right nor a religious exemption from the state's law, which "imposes on business establishments certain antidiscrimination obligations."

In the lawsuit that led to the ruling, Guadalupe Benitez, 36, of Oceanside said that the doctors treated her with fertility drugs and instructed her how to inseminate herself at home but told her their beliefs prevented them from inseminating her. One of the doctors referred her to another fertility specialist without moral objections and Benitez has since given birth to three children.

Nevertheless, Benitez in 2001 sued the Vista-based North Coast Women's Care Medical Group. She and her lawyers successfully argued that a state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation applies to doctors. The law was originally designed to prevent hotels, restaurants and other public services from refusing to serve patrons because of their race. The Legislature has since expanded it to cover characteristics such as age and sexual orientation.

"It was an awful thing to go through," Benitez said. "It was very painful - the fact that you have someone telling you they will not help you because of who you are, that they will deny your right to be a mother and have a family." Benitez has given birth to three children through artificial insemination - Gabriel, 6, and twin daughters, Sophia and Shane, who turn 3 this weekend. She is raising them in Oceanside with her longtime partner, Joanne Clark.

Jennifer Pizer, Benitez's attorney, said the ruling was "a victory for public health" and that she expected it to have nationwide influence. "It was clear and emphatic that discrimination has no place in doctors' offices," Pizer said.

Robert Tyler, one of the lawyers representing the clinic, said the ruling advanced the Supreme Court's "radical agenda" and would help the campaign supporting November's Proposition 8, which seeks to once again ban gay marriage in California. "The Supreme Court's desire to promote the homosexual lifestyle at the risk of infringing upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is what the public needs to learn about," said Tyler, who leads the nonprofit Advocates for Faith and Freedom in Murrieta, Calif. "This case will have a direct impact and cause people and look very favorably at Proposition 8."

The Supreme Court did order a trial court to consider whether the Christian doctors were allowed to refuse inseminating Benitez because she was unmarried. The Legislature in 2006 amended the law to bar discrimination based on marital status, but it's unclear whether the doctors could legally withhold treatment in 2000.

The case drew numerous friends of the court briefs from a wide variety of religious organizations, medical groups and gay civil rights organizations. The American Civil Rights Union supported the Christian doctors, siding with the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and anti-abortion groups.

The California Medical Association reversed its early support of the Christian doctors after receiving a barrage of criticism from the gay rights community, joining health care provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan to oppose the Christian doctors. The American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the National Health Law Program and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association filed papers backing Benitez.


Racial preferences on satellite radio

Among the conditions extracted by regulators before approving the Sirius XM satellite radio merger earlier this month was the company's promise to set aside a share of channels for minority programmers. Now we're finding out what these racial preferences mean in practice.

In a commitment letter last month, Sirius XM informed the Federal Communications Commission that while it agreed to reserve the channels, the company doesn't want to choose the actual programmers. No doubt Sirius XM realizes that this is one giant political headache, and that it's unlikely to be the final arbiter in any case. There will almost certainly be more applicants than available channels, and programmers who aren't chosen will inevitably turn to the courts and the FCC to complain. The government may as well pick the minority programmers directly.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is prepared to do just that. According to a report in Communications Daily, an electronic newsletter that covers the telecom industry, the FCC is developing procedures to determine what constitutes a "minority" programmer and which minorities are worthy of special treatment. These racial preferences and quotas are blatantly unconstitutional, and may not themselves survive judicial review. But Mr. Martin gets around that legal nicety by claiming the concessions are "voluntary."

We look forward to seeing who the FCC deems to be "minority" enough to qualify. Meanwhile, this spectacle of a Bush appointee playing racial landlord is one to keep in mind when Mr. Martin begins his oft-mentioned run for elected political office.


Coca-Cola celebrates Ramadan

Company observes Muslim holiday with star, crescent design on cans. No doubt we can expect cans with Christian imagery at Christmas time this year, then?

Coca-Cola plans to celebrate Ramadan this year by decorating cans with a crescent moon and star - a widely recognized Islamic symbol. The moon and star can be found on at least 11 flags of Muslim countries, and now it will be featured on packaging in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia and other Islamic countries during the Sept. 1-30 Muslim holiday, blogger Bob McCartney reported.

Coca-Cola has hired a company named ATTIK to handle packaging, Brand Republic reports. Its Christmas cans are usually decorated with secular-themed images of Santa Claus, but McCartney asked the company whether it planned to introduce Christian symbols as well. "When I learned the symbol of the Islamic faith will appear on Coca-Cola packaging during Ramadan 2008, I found myself wondering whether or not the Atlanta-based soft drink maker will soon include the Christian cross and Jewish star of David in future holiday packaging designs targeting people of those faiths," he wrote.

In 2006, Coca-Cola released a statement about its recognition of Ramadan. "In a globalizing world, Ramadan presents an opportunity to showcase the true values of Islam and what it stands for," it said. "Because no other brand is as inclusive as and no other company is as diverse as Coca-Cola, we have a unique opportunity to play a valued role as an international bridge-builder and facilitator of dialogue during Ramadan."

The company's statement also revealed its policy of supporting Muslim employees in their faith. "In addition to the focus on Ramadan and Eid, the Coca-Cola system has also implemented policies and programs to meet the needs of Muslim employees, such as providing halal food in cafeterias and organizing special prayer rooms at company facilities," it said. "Several bottlers have also funded employee pilgrimage initiatives." Coca-Cola has not responded to WND's request for comment.


Childhood's End

By Theodore Dalrymple

Britain is the worst country in the Western world in which to be a child, according to a recent UNICEF report. Ordinarily, I would not set much store by such a report; but in this case, I think it must be right--not because I know so much about childhood in all the other 20 countries examined but because the childhood that many British parents give to their offspring is so awful that it is hard to conceive of worse, at least on a mass scale. The two poles of contemporary British child rearing are neglect and overindulgence.

Consider one British parent, Fiona MacKeown, who in November 2007 went on a six-month vacation to Goa, India, with her boyfriend and eight of her nine children by five different fathers, none of whom ever contributed financially for long to the children's upkeep. (The child left behind--her eldest, at 19--was a drug addict.) She received $50,000 in welfare benefits a year, and doubtless decided--quite rationally, under the circumstances--that the money would go further, and that life would thus be more agreeable, in Goa than in her native Devon.

Reaching Goa, MacKeown soon decided to travel with seven of her children to Kerala, leaving behind one of them, 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, to live with a tour guide ten years her elder, whom the mother had known for only a short time. Scarlett reportedly claimed to have had sex with this man only because she needed a roof over her head. According to a witness, she was constantly on drugs; and one night, she went to a bar where she drank a lot and took several different illicit drugs, including LSD, cocaine, and pot. She was seen leaving the bar late, almost certainly intoxicated.

The next morning, her body turned up on a beach. At first, the local police maintained that she had drowned while high, but further examination proved that someone had raped and then forcibly drowned her. So far, three people have been arrested in the investigation, which is continuing.

About a month later, Scarlett's mother, interviewed by the liberal Sunday newspaper the Observer, expressed surprise at the level of public vituperation aimed at her and her lifestyle in the aftermath of the murder. She agreed that she and her children lived on welfare, but "not by conscious choice," and she couldn't see anything wrong with her actions in India apart from a certain naivety in trusting the man in whose care she had left her daughter. Scarlett was always an independent girl, and if she, the mother, could turn the clock back, she would behave exactly the same way again.

It is not surprising that someone in Fiona MacKeown's position would deny negligence; to acknowledge it would be too painful. But--and this is what is truly disturbing--when the newspaper asked four supposed child-rearing experts for their opinions, only one saw anything wrong with the mother's behavior, and even she offered only muted criticism. It was always difficult to know how much independence to grant an adolescent, the expert said; but in her view, the mother had granted too much too quickly to Scarlett.

Even that seemed excessively harsh to the Observer's Barbara Ellen. We should not criticize the mother's way of life, she wrote, since it had nothing to do with her daughter's death: "Scarlett died for the simple fact that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, as well as being blitzed with drugs, late at night, in a foreign country." On this view, being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people is a raw fact of nature, not the result of human agency, decision, education, or taste. It could happen to anybody, and it just happened to happen to Scarlett. As for drugs, they emerge from the ether and blitz people completely at random. It all seems very unfair. A columnist for the left-wing Guardian took a similarly exculpatory line:
Anyone taking even a fleeting glance at recent news will have picked up a crucial message: women with children by more than one partner are apparently hussies, who deserve everything they get. The opprobrium . . . served up to Fiona MacKeown, mother of murdered 15-year-old, Scarlett Keeling . . . has been hideous to behold. The spitting criticism is particularly interesting when you compare it to attitudes to men in the public eye. Rod Stewart (seven children by five women), Jack Nicholson (five children by four women), and Mick Jagger (seven children by four women) are painted as great, swinging studs. Anyone else smell a vile double standard?
No one criticizes Rod Stewart, Jack Nicholson, or Mick Jagger for how they behave; therefore, apparently, there was nothing wrong with how Fiona MacKeown behaved.

It is worth remembering that the Observer and the Guardian are not the publications of a lunatic fringe but the preferred newspapers of the British intelligentsia, of those who work in the educational and social services, and of broadcasting elites (the BBC advertises vacancies almost exclusively in the Guardian). Not every person who reads these newspapers agrees with everything written in them--and both, commendably, offer a little space to writers whose worldview differs from their own--but the general moral tone must be one with which most readers agree. In other words, it is likely that a large part of the educated elite sees nothing wrong, or at least affects to see nothing wrong, with MacKeown's conduct.

This nonjudgmentalism surely helps explain why British youth are among the Western world's leaders in such indicators of social pathology as teenage pregnancy, violence, criminality, underage drinking, and consumption of illicit drugs. Britain has the third-highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the industrialized world, according to the UNICEF report (only the United States and New Zealand are higher)--a startling case recently made headlines of 16-, 14-, and 12-year-old sisters, all of whom gave birth within a year of one another. British children have the earliest and highest consumption of cocaine of any young people in Europe, are ten times more likely to sniff solvents than are Greek children, and are six to seven times more likely to smoke pot than are Swedish children. Almost a third of British young people aged 11, 13, and 15 say they have been drunk at least twice.

What explains the nonjudgmental attitude among elites? The reluctance to criticize Fiona MacKeown might be an expression of sympathy for someone in the throes of grief: however foolishly (or worse) she behaved, she certainly did not deserve the murder of her daughter. Furthermore, the Guardian and Observer journalists might argue, we do not know enough about the details of her life to criticize her fairly. Perhaps she is a good mother in most respects; perhaps her children, apart from the drug addict and the murdered Scarlett, are happy, and will lead lives of fulfillment and achievement. After all, no style of upbringing guarantees success or, for that matter, failure; and therefore we should suspend judgment about her.

I suspect, however, that the main consideration inhibiting elite criticism of MacKeown is that passing judgment would call into question the shibboleths of liberal social policy for the last 50 or 60 years--beliefs that give their proponents a strong sense of moral superiority. It would be to entertain the heretical thought that family structure might matter after all, along with such qualities as self-restraint and self-respect; and that welfare dependency is unjust to those who pay for it and disastrous for those who wind up trapped in it.

One day after Scarlett Keeling's murder, a nine-year-old girl, Shannon Matthews, went missing from her home in Dewsbury, in northern England. Twenty-four days later, after an extensive police search, she was found alive, locked in a drawer under a bed in her stepfather's uncle's house. Police soon arrested the stepfather, 22-year-old Craig Meehan, for possession of 140 pornographic pictures of children, and charged the uncle, Michael Donovan, with kidnapping. Shannon's mother, Karen Matthews, 32, was also arrested, for child cruelty, neglect, and obstructing the police by lying during the search for her daughter.

Karen Matthews, who received welfare payments of $40,000 a year, had borne seven children to five different men. She called two of her children with the same father "the twins," thus transferring the meaning of "twin" from the relatively unusual biological occurrence of double birth to what she clearly thought the equally unusual social circumstance of full siblinghood. Three of her children lived with their fathers, and four lived with her and Meehan, whom Shannon reportedly regarded as her father. Shannon's true father--one Leon Rose, who has since "moved on" to live with another "partner"--apparently was happy to find himself usurped by the young Meehan; but Karen Matthews's brother reported that Shannon often spoke of Meehan's violence to her and of her deep unhappiness at home.

The reasons for Shannon's abduction have not yet emerged, but again the Guardian managed to distract the reader's attention from less than optimal family arrangements. Instead, it ran an upbeat story on the housing project where the Matthews family lived; that way, the obvious could be ignored rather than denied. The Sun, a tabloid newspaper whose readership is virtually entirely working-class, had described the project as "like Beirut--only worse." But the Guardian, whose readership is largely middle-class and employed in the public sector, drew attention to the improvements that had taken place in the project, thanks to the local council's having spent $8 million on it over the last three years--supplying traffic bollards shaped like penguins, for example. Before the improvements, one resident said, "We'd houses burgled, sheds burned, caravans blown up." Now, only one house in 90 is robbed per year; and, thanks to the penguins, joy-riding by youths ! in stolen cars is presumably much reduced. The implication is clear: with more public spending of this kind everywhere in the country, administered by Guardian readers and their peers, everything will be all right. It won't matter in the slightest if children either have no fathers, or different fathers every few years.

One might dismiss the stories of Scarlett Keeling and Shannon Matthews as the kind of horrific things that can take place in any society from time to time. But I think that they are the tip of an iceberg. As the liberal newspapers' response shows, the problem with British childhood is by no means confined to the underclass. Our society has lost the most elementary common sense about what children need.

More than four out of ten British children are born out of wedlock; the unions of which they are the issue are notoriously unstable. Even marriage has lost much of its meaning. In a post-religious society, it is no longer a sacrament. The government has ensured that marriage brings no fiscal advantages and, indeed, for those at the lower end of the social scale, that it has only disadvantages. Easy divorce means that a quarter of all marriages break up within a decade.

The results of this social dysfunction are grim for children. Eighty percent of British children have televisions in their bedrooms, more than have their biological fathers at home. Fifty-eight percent of British children eat their evening meal in front of the television (a British child spends more than five hours per day watching a screen); 36 percent never eat any meals together with other family members; and 34 percent of households do not even own dining tables. In the prison where I once worked, I discovered that many inmates had never eaten at a table together with someone else.

Let me speculate briefly on the implications of these startling facts. They mean that children never learn, from a sense of social obligation, to eat when not hungry, or not to eat when they are. Appetite is all they need consult in deciding whether to eat--a purely egotistical outlook. Hence anything that interferes with the satisfaction of appetite will seem oppressive. They do not learn such elementary social practices as sharing or letting others go first. Since mealtimes are usually when families get to converse, the children do not learn the art of conversation, either; listening to what others say becomes a challenge. There is a time and place for everything: if I feel like it, the time is now, and the place is here.

If children are not taught self-control, they do not learn it. Violence against teachers is increasing: injuries suffered by teachers at the hands of pupils rose 20 percent between 2000 and 2006, and in one survey, which may or may not be representative, 53 percent of teachers had objects thrown at them, 26 percent had been attacked with furniture or equipment, 2 percent had been threatened with a knife, and 1 percent with a gun. Nearly 40 percent of teachers have taken time off to recover from violent incidents at students' hands. About a quarter of British teachers have been assaulted by their students over the last year.

The British, never fond of children, have lost all knowledge or intuition about how to raise them; as a consequence, they now fear them, perhaps the most terrible augury possible for a society. The signs of this fear are unmistakable on the faces of the elderly in public places. An involuntary look of distaste, even barely controlled terror, crosses their faces if a group of young teens approaches; then they try to look as if they are not really there, hoping to avoid trouble. And the children themselves are afraid. The police say that many children as young as eight are carrying knives for protection. Violent attacks by the young between ten and 17, usually on other children, have risen by 35 percent in the last four years.

The police, assuming that badly behaved children will become future criminals, have established probably the largest database of DNA profiles in the world: 1.1 million samples from children aged ten to 18, taken over the last decade, and at an accelerating rate (some law enforcement officials have advocated that every child should have a DNA profile on record). Since the criminal-justice system reacts to the commission of serious crimes hardly at all, however, British youth do not object to the gathering of the samples: they know that they largely act with impunity, profiles or no profiles.

The British may have always inclined toward harshness or neglect (or both) in dealing with children; but never before have they combined such attitudes with an undiscriminating material indulgence. My patients would sometimes ask me how it was that their children had turned out so bad when they had done everything for them. When I asked them what they meant by "everything," it invariably meant the latest televisions in their bedrooms or the latest fashionable footwear--to which modern British youth attaches far more importance than Imelda Marcos ever did.

Needless to say, the British state's response to the situation that it has in part created is simultaneously authoritarian and counterproductive. The government pretends, for example, that the problem of child welfare is one of raw poverty. Britain does have the highest rate of child poverty, bar the United States, in the West, as defined (as it usually is) by the percentage of children living in households with an income of less than 50 percent of the median. (Whether this is a sensible definition of poverty is a subject rarely broached.) But after many years of various redistributive measures and billions spent to reduce it, child poverty is, if anything, more widespread.

The British government thus pursues social welfare policies that encourage the creation of households like the Matthews', and then seeks, via yet more welfare spending, to reduce the harm done to children in them. But was the Matthews household poor, in any but an artificial sense? At the time of Shannon's current stepfather's arrest, the household income was $72,000; it lived free of rent and local taxes, and it boasted three computers and a large plasma-screen television. Would another $5,000 or $10,000 or $20,000 have made any difference?

A system of perverse incentives in a culture of undiscriminating materialism, where the main freedom is freedom from legal, financial, ethical, or social consequences, makes childhood in Britain a torment both for many of those who live it and those who observe it. Yet the British government will do anything but address the problem, or that part of the problem that is its duty to address: the state-encouraged breakdown of the family. If one were a Marxist, one might see in this refusal the self-interest of the state-employee class: social problems, after all, are their raison d'etre.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A festival of grovelling to terrorists

If works of art are withdrawn because of fear of reprisal, we lose the chance for open debate

Have you heard about the first novel by a young American woman that has become the "new Satanic Verses", sparking terrorist attacks on the publishers and riots by Islamic militants that make the protests against Salman Rushdie's book look like an English tea party?

No, you probably won't have, since there is no book for anybody to riot about. The US publishers Random House pulled The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, due out today, on the ground that it "might be offensive to some in the Muslim community" and "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment". An executive told the author that they had stopped her racy historical novel about Aisha, young wife of the Prophet Muhammad, out of "fear of a possible terrorist threat from extremist Muslims" and concern for "the safety and security of the Random House building and employees".

There had been no acts of violence or terrorism, nor even threats or protests. All that happened was that one non-Muslim associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, who was sent a proof copy, apparently cautioned that the book would be seen as "a declaration of war... explosive stuff... a national security issue" and more offensive than The Satanic Verses. There swiftly followed a riot of retreating publishers, and the book was blown out before anybody had the chance to set light to it for the cameras.

It looks like another example of a quiet wave of self-censorship and cultural cowardice sweeping Western art circles. Two years ago, when the Deutsche opera in Berlin scrapped a production of Mozart's Idomeneo for fear that it might offend some Muslims, I described it as "pre-emptive grovelling". This now appears to be the modus operandi of the transatlantic arts elites.

It has just been reported that the BBC has dropped a big-budget docu-drama, The London Bombers. A team of journalists had spent months researching it in Beeston, Leeds, home of some of the 7/7 terrorists, and a top writer was preparing the final draft, when it was scrapped. The journalists were reportedly told by BBC executives that it was Islamophobic and offensive.

Last year, the New Culture Forum published a survey of similar cases, from the BBC hospital soap Casualty changing Muslim terrorists into animal rights activists, to the Barbican cutting out scenes from Tamburlaine the Great and the "cutting-edge" Royal Court Theatre cancelling an adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, both for fear that they might offend some Muslims.

The threat to freedom here does not come from a few Islamic radicals, but from the invertebrate liberals of the cultural establishment who have so lost faith in themselves that they will surrender their freedoms before anybody starts a fight. The mere suggestion of causing offence to some mob of imagined stereotypes is enough to have them scurrying for a bomb shelter, their creative imaginations blowing up small protests into the threat of a big culture war. Of course, such pre-emptive grovelling only encourages any zealot with a blog to demand even more censorship.

Who needs book burners if "offensive" books are not allowed to be published in the first place? Why bother to protest against provocative plays if the theatres will turn the lights off for you beforehand? There is no need even for a polite exchange on Points of View if the controversial programmes never get made.

The quality or lack of it in the self-censored works is not the issue here. That associate professor from Texas condemned the novel about Muhammad's wife as "soft porn". But so what if it was? Free expression should mean freedom for what others see as filth, too. If there are artists childishly causing offence for its own sake, feel free to ignore them, but not to gag them.

Pre-emptive grovelling, encouraged from the top down by our illiberal authorities, is bad for the arts and for society. The arts can only flourish in a climate of cultural anarchy rather than compulsion and conformity. The attempt to limit what can be said must have a chilling effect, encouraging other writers and artists to pull in their horns.

Such self-censorship is also dangerous for those who don't much care about high culture. There is indeed a lesson from the Satanic Verses controversy, but not the one often cited. The dominant response to that clash of cultures was to try to bury it beneath worthy multicultural claptrap about celebrating difference. After more than 15 years of such attempts to suppress honest debate, the tensions festering beneath the surface exploded on the London transport system. As one female Muslim writer critical of the decision not to publish The Jewel of Medina says: "The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world."

As an old libertarian of the Left, who has long upheld the Right to Be Offensive, what makes me most angry today is to see fearful self-censorship and pre-emptive grovelling in the name of liberal values. That really is something worth intellectually rioting about


Humans Are Not 98% Genetically Identical to Chimpanzees

I have been researching the purported genetic near-identity between humans and chimps - asserted as the "scientific" basis for the Great Ape Project - and found (unsurprisingly) that the entire advocacy line that "humans and chimps share 98% of our genes" is plain false. This gets a little complicated, so stick with me.

First, the 98% figure is probably overstated. An article in Science puts the actual figure at 94%. (Jon Cohen, "Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%, June 29, 2007). But even these figures are only measuring about 2% of our total genetic makeup - that is, those genes that code for proteins, the building blocks of our physical bodies and functions.

The vast majority of our DNA, known as "non-coding DNA" - sometimes called "junk DNA" because it was once thought not to have function - is very different in humans from most non-coding genes found in chimps and other apes. However, recent research has found that, contrary to previous belief, this repetitive DNA isn't "junk" after all, but has distinct purposes.

Research continues as to the exact nature and functions of non-coding genes, but given the wide differences between human and ape non-coding DNA, even if the purported 98% genetic similarity to coding DNA is true, it is actually only 98% of a much smaller percentage of our total genetic makeup, perhaps as low as 98% of 2%! Proponents of the Great Ape Project might reply in defense that the coding genes are the ones that really count, but that is not scientifically supported anymore. And even if true, as we have discussed previously here at SHS, the 2-6% difference constitutes tens of millions of biological differences.

So this is the bottom line: Creating a human/chimp moral equivalency is not scientifically justified based on a close biological relationship between us that is actually quite vast. Rather, as one scientist quoted in the Science article referenced above put it about this issue: "I don't think there is any way to calculate a number [percentage of similarity]. In the end, it's a political and social and cultural thing about how we see our differences." Exactly. This is about politics and ideology, pure and simple.


A weird view of Australia from hate-filled Leftists

Gerard Henderson writing from Sydney, Australia. Similar observations could be made in the USA and UK

To obtain a glimpse of two different views of Australia start at Circular Quay where the First Fleet came ashore in January 1788. The crowd is invariably busy on weekdays and relaxed at the weekend. It's usually a fun place to be and, right now, the newspapers on sale there toast the successes of the young Australian men and women at the Beijing Olympics. However, not very far away, alternative views prevail.

The 16th Biennale of Sydney is under way. A major venue is the Museum of Contemporary Art. The artwork on the MCA proclaims such messages as "200 Years Of White Lies". This suggests that the history of European settlement in Australia is based on wilful calumny. It also indicates that left-wing alienation is alive and well and on show in contemporary Australia. The biennale is funded by grants from the Australian and overseas participating governments - in addition to corporate support. All the governments backing this festival of contemporary art are democracies. The theme is "Revolution - Forms That Turn".

Step inside the MCA and there, hanging from the ceiling, is an artwork titled A civilizacao occidental e crista (Western Christian Civilisation) by the Argentinian Leon Ferrari - depicting a crucified Christ attached to a US F-107 fighter aircraft. This is presented as a critique of Western civilisation. But what about the double standard involved? It is impossible to imagine the MCA would show an artwork which showed the prophet Muhammad attached to, say, an Iranian missile.

Move to level three and there is a collection of fine photographs by Yevgeniy Fiks of various places where members of the Communist Party of Australia have worked and met in Sydney since the early 1920s. This work essentially praises the party and such communist operatives as Eric Aarons and Rupert Lockwood. There is no mention of the fact that, up to the 1960s, CPA functionaries were allied to Lenin, Stalin and their heirs in Moscow and were committed to overthrowing Western democracies and replacing them with communist totalitarian regimes.

One photo at the MCA depicts a CPA building which was raided by police in 1940. Reference is made to the fact that the Communist Party was banned in the early years of World War II. But no reason is given, perhaps to prevent embarrassment. So let's state the facts. The party was banned circa 1940 because it supported the (then) pact between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union and, consequently, opposed the Allied war effort. The CPA only began to support the war effort in mid 1941 when Germany unilaterally broke the Nazi-Soviet pact and invaded the Soviet Union.

Not far from the MCA, the British-born Nigel Jamieson's play Gallipoli is showing at the Sydney Theatre. This is yet another version of the familiar left-wing interpretation of World War I. The theme is set early in the first act. It is 1914 and Imperial Germany's leader Kaiser Wilhelm wants to invade Belgium. Jamieson's solution? Let him. And France? Well, according to the playwright, that seems OK, too. As long as the Allies, including Australia, do not go to war to support Belgium and France. Or to oppose Germany and its Ottoman Empire ally.

Last month Jamieson told the journalist Elissa Blake that his straw-bale bush house is "pretty much carbon neutral" and contains a compost toilet. How about that? In any event, there were emissions aplenty in Gallipoli, as the playwright-director sought to re-create the conditions of the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. Technically, the play is a great success. But its message is the familiar they-all-died-in-vain line. Sure, the Dardanelles campaign was a military debacle. But it was devised with the best of intentions - namely, to help reduce the killing on the Western Front.

The only real hero of Gallipoli is the Turkish military commander Ataturk. Jamieson maintains that in 1915 Australia decided "to invade a Muslim country who posed no threat to us". He attempts, unsuccessfully, to draw comparisons with Australia's involvement in the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq nine decades later. Even to the extent of (gratuitously) showing a photo of a military funeral for one of the Australian fallen from a recent conflict. Jamieson seems unaware that Australia joined others in invading the Ottoman Empire in 1915 because it was an ally of Imperial Germany. That's all. Moreover, he does not seem to know that very few, if any, German historians today would support his interpretation as to why World War I began.

The prevailing criticism of the West and Western democracies - on show at the MCA and in Gallipoli - is also evident in the initial response in the media to the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Quite a few journalists, particularly on the ABC, were quick to blame the Western ally Georgia and/or the United States. For example, on Radio National's Late Night Live its presenter Phillip Adams and his left-wing regular guest Bruce Shapiro pointed the finger at the US for Russia's evident aggression in the Caucasus. It's as simple as that, apparently.

The contrast between the views of the alienated intelligentsia and the majority of Australians are seldom more evident than at times of international events. Witness the hyperbolic claim by Germaine Greer in her essay On Rage that "Australians are now becoming aware of the dire plight of their island continent, and the utter bleakness of its future". Witness Barrie Kosky's bizarre assertion on the 7.30 Report that "the absolute soul" of democratic Austria can be located in the basement where Josef Fritzl allegedly imprisoned and raped his daughter. And rejoice that most Australians following the Games are oblivious to such alienated nonsense.


Australia: The germy one's rant is racist, says Aboriginal academic

Grievance is all the germy one is good at

Marcia Langton has delivered a stinging rebuke to Germaine Greer, describing her views as outdated and simplistic and condemning the feminist for a "cleverly disguised" racist attack on Aboriginal people.

Writing in The Australian today, Professor Langton dismisses Greer's claims that Aboriginal men suffer a rage they "can't get over" and urges the expat academic and author to read more history. "Taken as a whole, her arguments are racist," says Professor Langton, the chair of Australian indigenous studies at Melbourne University. "They are also just plain wrong."

Greer says in her provocative essay published this month, On Rage, that the loss of land, women, language and culture over 200 years has caused a rage among indigenous men that is at the core of problems in Aboriginal communities. She also asserts that indigenous women who supported last year's intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities will be seen as colluding "with the enemy".

But Professor Langton - herself a target of Greer's criticism - says most Aboriginal women who have fallen victim to the "anarchy and violence" endemic in some communities have welcomed the intervention. "What the children who have been victims of violence and abuse will make of all of this in the future, we cannot know," she writes. "But they will surely wonder why a feminist of such fame as Greer has come to the defence of those who destroyed their innocence and damaged their sense of self."

Professor Langton accuses Greer and her publisher of "attention-seeking" behaviour, distracting from genuine efforts to ensure a dignified future for indigenous children. This goal does not interest Greer in the least, she says. Professor Langton also backs the views of Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson and Perth-based indigenous human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, who say perpetrators of violence should take responsibility for their actions. "We are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide," Professor Langton writes.

"Dr Greer's panoply of protest slogans deployed as social theory was dismissed long ago by the research and policy community as incapable of explaining the present day levels of huge disparities in life expectancy, morbidity and mortality rates and other socio-economic indicators. "While the 'burden of history' is acknowledged in much of this work, the everyday suffering in communities at risk is caused by a multiplicity of factors ... all more complicated than Dr Greer would have us understand."

Greer's essay has been criticised by the first Aborigine elected to the NSW parliament, Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney, who asked how the British-based academic was qualified to make her assumptions. "I think it's quite presumptuous to say that you know what is happening in the minds of Aboriginal men," Ms Burney told The Australian.

Greer was in no mood to discuss her claims when approached by The Australian at the launch of the essay in Sydney last week. But she told the ABC's Lateline program that the rage she identified among Aboriginal men could lead to the "annihilation of black communities". "All I'm saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won't get anywhere," she said. "We won't actually stop the violence. We may even cause it to escalate."

At the launch of the essay, former NSW premier Bob Carr endorsed Greer's work as "one of the most powerful pamphlets ever written in Australia". He added: "I had hoped there would be some hope at the end of Germaine Greer's essay."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crooked mainstream psychologists

Gross dishonesty about the results of psychological research is common among academic psychologists -- as I have shown repeatedly (e.g. here and here) -- so we should not really be surprised to find that the Chair of the APA Abortion Report Task Force persistently and deliberately violates APA ethics rules. She refuses to release abortion data collected under federal grant. Her refusal really speaks for itself (it tells us that her data does not support her conclusions) but informed commentary is below

The credibility of a new report on the mental health effects of abortion from the American Psychological Association is tarnished by the fact that the lead author, Dr. Brenda Major, has violated the APA's own data sharing rules by consistently refusing to allow her own data on abortion and mental health effects to be reanalyzed by other researchers.

Major, a proponent of abortion rights, has even evaded a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to deliver copies of data she collected under a federal grant. Because her study of emotional reactions two years after an abortion was federally funded, the data she collected is actually federal property. But in Major's response to 2004 HHS request for a copy of the data, Major excused herself from delivering the data writing, "It would be very difficult to pull this information together." [She can't have done any rigorous analysis in that case]

However, a researcher familiar with Major's work, David Reardon of the Elliot Institute, has seen portions of Major's unpublished findings. Reardon, who has published over a dozen studies on abortion and mental health, believes Major is withholding the data to prevent her findings supporting a link between abortion and subsequent health problems from coming to light.

"Brenda's last published study using this data set was released in 2000, after she moved to her present facility in 1995," said Reardon. "Immediately after that publication one of my colleagues requested a breakdown of details which had only been superficially summarized in one her tables. One of her grad students replied on her behalf with the additional summary statistics we had requested within 48 hours. So it clearly wasn't at all difficult for her team to access the data. Plus, with modern electronic data bases and multiple backup procedures in place at universities like hers, it is nearly impossible to lose such data."

According to Reardon, Major has not responded to any further requests regarding the data since early in 2000. "I know of a number of experts in the field who have requested the data, even within the last six months. But she simply doesn't respond to their calls, emails, or letters," said Reardon.

"This is very troubling on two counts. First, the APA's own ethics rule, 8.14, requires research psychologists to share their data for verification of findings. Secondly, she is the chair of the APA Abortion Task Force which is, at least in theory, supposed to bring full and clear light to this issue. But how can we trust the objectivity of a report prepared by a task force composed exclusively of pro-choice psychologists, especially when the chair and lead author has a history of withholding data and findings which may undermine her ideological preferences?"

According to Reardon the additional details from Major's study released in 2000 actually revealed that a significant number of women interviewed by Major did attribute negative reactions to their abortions, but those findings have never been published.

"There is no doubt that she has selectively reported her findings," said Reardon. "We have seen in the unpublished tables details about specific negative reactions which were obscured in her published report by combining them with three to eight other reactions to create watered down, composite scores.

"In my view, it is irresponsible not to report the significant findings associated with individual symptoms. For example, she found that a number of women reported that they tried to cope with negative feelings about their abortions by drinking more or taking drugs. But she has never not fully shared the details on these reactions in any of her published studies, and by refusing to share her data for reanalysis by others, she has prevented anyone else from reporting these findings either."

Reardon believes that the newly released APA Abortion Task Force report is also flawed by a pattern of wording and reporting which tends to obscure rather than clarify what researchers have found about the mental health effects associated with abortion. The primary conclusion of the report, as highlighted in the APA news release, is that "There is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women."

According to Reardon, this nuanced statement is intended to convey a message that abortion has no mental health risks, but those familiar with the literature will see that it actually admits that there is compelling evidence that there are negative effects for:

- women who have multiple abortions, which accounts for about half of all abortions;

- women who abort a wanted pregnancy because of coercion or pressure to abort from third parties, which may account for about 20-60% of all abortions;

- minors who have abortions; and

- women with preexisting mental health problems in which case abortion may not "in and of itself" be the sole cause of mental health problems, but may instead trigger or aggravate preexisting problems.

"Even the modifier that there is 'no credible evidence' of mental health risks in the ideal case of a low risk abortion patient is an admission that there is indeed some evidence that a single abortion can pose a risk to the mental health of a emotionally stable, adult woman," said Reardon. "In fact, the report itself identifies a whole host of studies providing such evidence, but it mutes a clear presentation of the findings of these studies by focusing on the limitations of each study's methodology, which all studies have, in order to justify ignoring their clear implications."

While Reardon agrees that the body of the report includes admissions that abortion does negatively impact some women, he is deeply concerned that the summary introduction and conclusion and press releases all fail to emphasize five key points which are clear in the literature and even explicitly or implicitly stated within the 91-page Task Force report. The five points he believes should be made, without room for controversy are:

1. Some women suffer emotional harm from abortion.

2. Some women feel pressured into unwanted abortions.

3. There are well established risk factors identifying the women most likely to suffer negative psychological factors to abortion, including being pressured into an abortion, and that it is incumbent on therapists treating women considering an abortion, and abortion clinics, to screen for these risk factors and to give appropriate counseling in light of any identified risk factors.

4. A nationally funded longitudinal prospective study (such as recommended by Koop in 1989) of psychological factors related to reproductive health (including abortion) is long overdue and should be undertaken as soon as possible.

5. Therapists should be alert to unresolved issues associated with a past abortion and should sensitively give women the opportunity to discuss such issues and should provide appropriate care or referrals whenever such issues are raised.

"By failing to call on therapists to be alert and sensitive to the negative emotional experiences women attribute to their abortions, the Task Force has allowed ideology to trump sensitivity," says Reardon. "Instead, they are ignoring the reality of how and why abortions take place and are instead focused on drawing conclusions regarding the safety of abortion for an emotionally stable, pro-choice, adult woman who is freely choosing a wanted abortion without any moral qualms. But that doesn't reflect the reality of most abortion situations."

"The fact is that coerced abortions are more common than wanted abortions. Studies show that over 60% of American women are having abortions, often against their moral beliefs, because they feel pressured into it by third parties. These women need therapist and family members to be open to and responsive to their pain, not dismissive of it as an anomaly. Sadly, this is an ideological report that simply ignores the concerns and needs of those women for whom abortion has been a heartache rather than a triumph."

See APA's "Ethical Principles Of Psychologists And Code Of Conduct" regarding Sharing Research Data for Verification here


Brothers in hate

Here are two brother countries, united like a single fist," said socialist Hugo Chavez during a visit to Tehran last November, celebrating his alliance with Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Che Guevara's son Camilo, who also visited Tehran last year, declared that his father would have "supported the country in its current struggle against the United States." They followed in the footsteps of Fidel Castro, who in a 2001 visit told his hosts that "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." For his part, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez ("Carlos the Jackal") wrote in his book L'islam revolutionnaire ("Revolutionary Islam") that "only a coalition of Marxists and Islamists can destroy the United States."

It's not just Latin American leftists who see potential in Islamism. Ken Livingstone, the Trotskyite former mayor of London, literally hugged prominent Islamist thinker Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general, visited Ayatollah Khomeini and offered his support. Noam Chomsky, the MIT professor, visited Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and endorsed Hezbollah's keeping its arms. Ella Vogelaar, the Dutch minister for housing, neighborhoods, and integration, is so sympathetic to Islamism that one critic, the Iranian-born professor Afshin Ellian, has called her "the minister of Islamization."

Dennis Kucinich, during his first presidential campaign in 2004, quoted the Koran and roused a Muslim audience to chant "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") and he even announced, "I keep a copy of the Koran in my office." Spark, youth paper of Britain's Socialist Labour party, praised Asif Mohammed Hanif, the British suicide bomber who attacked a Tel Aviv bar, as a "hero of the revolutionary youth" who had carried out his mission "in the spirit of internationalism." Workers World, an American Communist newspaper, ran an obituary lauding Hezbollah's master terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh.

Some leftists go farther. Several - Carlos the Jackal, Roger Garaudy, Jacques VergŠs, Yvonne Ridley, and H. Rap Brown - have actually converted to Islam. Others respond with exhilaration to the violence and brutality of Islamism. German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen termed 9/11 "the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos," while the late American novelist Norman Mailer called its perpetrators "brilliant."

And none of this is new. During the Cold War, Islamists favored the Soviet Union over the United States. As Ayatollah Khomeini put it in 1964, "America is worse than Britain, Britain is worse than America and the Soviet Union is worse than both of them. Each one is worse than the other, each one is more abominable than the other. But today we are concerned with this malicious entity which is America." In 1986, I wrote that "the U.S.S.R. receives but a small fraction of the hatred and venom directed at the United States."

Leftists reciprocated. In 1978-79, the French philosopher Michel Foucault expressed great enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution. Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson explain:
Throughout his life, Michel Foucault's concept of authenticity meant looking at situations where people lived dangerously and flirted with death, the site where creativity originated. In the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille, Foucault had embraced the artist who pushed the limits of rationality and he wrote with great passion in defense of irrationalities that broke new boundaries. In 1978, Foucault found such transgressive powers in the revolutionary figure of Ayatollah Khomeini and the millions who risked death as they followed him in the course of the Revolution. He knew that such "limit" experiences could lead to new forms of creativity and he passionately threw in his support.
Another French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, portrayed Islamists as slaves rebelling against a repressive order. In 1978, Foucault called Ayatollah Khomeini a "saint" and a year later, Jimmy Carter's ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, called him"some kind of saint."

This good will may appear surprising, given the two movements' profound differences. Communists are atheists and leftists secular; Islamists execute atheists and enforce religious law. The Left exalts workers; Islamism privileges Muslims. One dreams of a worker's paradise, the other of a caliphate. Socialists want socialism; Islamists accept the free market. Marxism implies gender equality; Islamism oppresses women. Leftists despise slavery; some Islamists endorse it. As journalist Bret Stephens notes, the Left has devoted "the past four decades championing the very freedoms that Islam most opposes: sexual and reproductive freedoms, gay rights, freedom from religion, pornography and various forms of artistic transgression, pacifism and so on."

These disagreements seem to dwarf the few similarities that Oskar Lafontaine, former chairman of Germany's Social Democratic party, managed to find: "Islam depends on community, which places it in opposition to extreme individualism, which threatens to fail in the West. [In addition,] the devout Muslim is required to share his wealth with others. The leftist also wants to see the strong help the weak."

Why, then, the formation of what David Horowitz calls the Left-Islamist "unholy alliance"? For four main reasons.

First, as British politician George Galloway explains, "the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies," namely Western civilization in general and the United States, Great Britain, and Israel in particular, plus Jews, believing Christians, and international capitalists. In Iran, according to Tehran political analyst Saeed Leylaz, "the government practically permitted the left to operate since five years ago so that they would confront religious liberals."

Listen to their interchangeable words: Harold Pinter describes America as "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics" and Osama bin Laden calls the country "unjust, criminal and tyrannical." Noam Chomsky terms America a "leading terrorist state" and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a Pakistani political leader, deems it "the biggest terrorist state." These commonalities suffice to convince the two sides to set aside their many differences in favor of cooperation.

Second, the two sides share some political goals. A mammoth 2003 joint demonstration in London to oppose war against Saddam Hussein symbolically forged their alliance. Both sides want coalition forces to lose in Iraq, the War on Terror to be closed down, anti-Americanism to spread, and the elimination of Israel. They agree on mass immigration to and multiculturalism in the West. They cooperate on these goals at meetings such as the annual Cairo Anti-War Conference, which brings leftists and Islamists together to forge "an international alliance against imperialism and Zionism."

Third, Islamism has historic and philosophic ties to Marxism-Leninism. Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Islamist thinker, accepted the Marxist notion of stages of history, only adding an Islamic postscript to them; he predicted that an eternal Islamic era would come after the collapse of capitalism and Communism. Ali Shariati, the key intellectual behind the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, translated Franz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Jean-Paul Sartre into Persian. More broadly, the Iranian analyst Azar Nafisi observes that Islamism "takes its language, goals, and aspirations as much from the crassest forms of Marxism as it does from religion. Its leaders are as influenced by Lenin, Sartre, Stalin, and Fanon as they are by the Prophet."

Moving from theory to reality, Marxists see in Islamists a strange fulfillment of their prophesies. Marx forecast that business profits would collapse in industrial countries, prompting the bosses to squeeze workers; the proletariat would become impoverished, rebel, and establish a socialist order. But, instead, the proletariat of industrial countries became ever more affluent, and its revolutionary potential withered. For a century and a half, author Lee Harris notes, Marxists waited in vain for the crisis in capitalism. Then came the Islamists, starting with the Iranian Revolution and following with 9/11 and other assaults on the West. Finally, the Third World had begun its revolt against the West, fulfilling Marxist predictions-even if under the wrong banner and with faulty goals. Olivier Besancenot, a French leftist, sees Islamists as "the new slaves" of capitalism and asks if it is not natural that "they should unite with the working class to destroy the capitalist system." At a time when the Communist movement is in "decay," note analyst Lorenzo Vidino and journalist Andrea Morigi, Italy's "New Red Brigades" actually acknowledge the "leading role of the reactionary clerics."

Fourth, power: Islamists and leftists can achieve more together than they can separately. In Great Britain, they jointly formed the Stop the War Coalition, whose steering committee includes representation from such organizations as the Communist party of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain. Britain's Respect Party amalgamates radical international socialism with Islamist ideology. The two sides joined forces for the March 2008 European Parliament elections to offer common lists of candidates in France and Britain, disguised under party names that revealed little.

Islamists benefit, in particular, from the access, legitimacy, skills, and firepower the Left provides them. Cherie Booth, wife of then-prime minister Tony Blair, argued a case at the appellate-court level to help a girl, Shabina Begum, wear the jilbab, an Islamic garment, to a British school. Lynne Stewart, a leftist lawyer, broke U.S. law and went to jail to help Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, foment revolution in Egypt. Volkert van der Graaf, an animal-rights fanatic, killed Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn to stop him from turning Muslims into "scapegoats." Vanessa Redgrave funded half of a œ50,000 bail surety so that Jamil el-Banna, a Guant namo suspect accused of recruiting jihadis to fight in Afghanistan and Indonesia, could walk out of a British jail; Redgrave described her helping el-Banna as "a profound honour," despite his being wanted in Spain on terrorism-related charges and suspected of links to al-Qaeda. On a larger scale, the Indian Communist party did Tehran's dirty work by delaying for four months the Indian-based launching of TecSar, an Israeli spy satellite. And leftists founded the International Solidarity Movement to prevent Israeli security forces from protecting the country against Hamas and other Palestinian terrorism.

Writing in London's Spectator, Douglas Davis calls the coalition "a godsend to both sides. The Left, a once-dwindling band of communists, Trotskyites, Maoists and Castroists, had been clinging to the dregs of a clapped-out cause; the Islamists could deliver numbers and passion, but they needed a vehicle to give them purchase on the political terrain. A tactical alliance became an operational imperative." More simply, a British leftist concurs: "The practical benefits of working together are enough to compensate for the differences."

The burgeoning alliance of Western leftists and Islamists ranks as one of today's most disturbing political developments, one that impedes the West's efforts to protect itself. When Stalin and Hitler made their infamous pact in 1939, the Red-Brown alliance posed a mortal danger to the West and, indeed, to civilization itself. Less dramatically but no less certainly, the coalition today poses the same threat. As seven decades ago, this one must be exposed, rejected, resisted, and defeated.


From food to sex: defend spontaneity

Whether we're drinking or fornicating, why are we always being told to `stop, think, proceed with caution'?

It was only an innocent desire for a snack. I nipped into a supermarket for a pint of milk and a little `treat' - a multi-pack of Twix biscuits. However, it seems you can't even enjoy a chocolate bar these days without a health warning. On the front of the pack was a helpful suggestion: `Be Treatwise.' Apparently, I should get to know my GDAs, and each bar in the pack I had just bought contains `6%' of my kcal GDA. A quick examination of the back of the pack revealed that kcals are in fact what we normally call `calories' and `GDA' means Guideline Daily Amount.

`Treatwise' may have been around for years, but I had never noticed it before. Is it necessary? I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to work out that if I have a biscuit with my cup of tea, I'm not likely to experience any negative consequences. In fact, having just engaged in this activity for research purposes, I can confirm it is actually jolly nice. But if I scoff an entire pack of these chocolate, toffee and biscuit fingers - all 1,107 calories' worth - I'm likely to start putting on weight. More importantly, I hope such gluttonous behaviour would make me want to vomit.

`Be Treatwise' is supported by Britain's big confectionery producers, including Mars and Cadbury. It is essentially the industry telling you to eat sweets responsibly. And chocolate makers are not alone in suggesting that you stop before you indulge. `Drinkaware' is funded by Britain's big brewers and distillers; its website encourages readers to `Respect Alcohol, Respect Yourself'. Drinkaware supports the government's `Know Your Limits' campaign and reminds us that drinking any more than our recommended number of `units' per day - three for men, two for women - could be dangerous.

I have a certain amount of sympathy for the companies behind these ventures. After all, nobody's forcing us to use their products. We keep buying them because we like them. Yet because of today's overblown panics about obesity and binge drinking - and because the producers must be seen to be doing the responsible thing - we are constantly reminded that there's a potential downside to consumption. Even if it's absolutely bleedin' obvious. Take this example from the website of single-malt whisky, Glen Grant:

`Enjoy your evening. Drinking should be a pleasurable activity, and certainly after the first drink you may experience a warm, mellow feeling. Your inhibitions may also be lowered which could make for a relaxed experience. However, as you would expect, the more alcohol you consume the less alert and the less inhibited you are likely to become. Your judgement will become impaired as will your coordination.'

Then things really take a turn for the worse: `It doesn't take a genius to realise that this could cause problems. If you continue drinking after this point, you could experience mood swings and possibly put yourself in compromising or dangerous situations. People who have drunk too much are unattractive and can be off-putting, miles away from the sophistication and relaxation that they could be enjoying.'

Some may argue that one of the main aims of having a few drinks is to end up in a compromising situation [LOL!], with our inhibitions relaxed; but maybe the makers of Glen Grant don't get out enough.

So the message is: sugary sweets will make you fat if you eat enough of them; alcoholic drinks will get you drunk if you imbibe a lot, and nobody likes a drunk. And if you chronically eat or drink to excess, it can cause health problems. Like the nice people at Glen Grant point out, this kind of thing `doesn't take a genius'.

There's something slightly dishonest about this trend. The manufacturers put these statements on their products, but must actually hope that we buy them anyway. And we carefully peruse various items on the supermarket shelf before consuming them anyway, while feeling a little guilty thanks to the `wise' and `aware' information. It all becomes a rather pointless ritual.

It is also irrational. Big corporations have effectively been placed in a situation where they must ask us not to buy their products. A similar situation applies to energy companies: they seem to spend more and more time telling us how we can save money and the planet by using less of their product. One energy company in the UK is even encouraging children to become `climate cops' and inform on their parents if they waste electricity (see Children, Forward to the Glorious Green Future!, by Lee Jones).

Such a screwed-up arrangement suits governments, though. Out of touch, and feeling like society is out of control, the political class knows that moralising our behaviour is one of the few ways in which it can exercise some influence. Hence, there is a relentless desire to make us stop and think about everything we do.

Spontaneity, in this view, is the road to ruin. So we are told to be `treatwise' and `drinkaware', and reminded to leave nothing on standby because it wastes power. This is also why governments think condoms are superior to the Pill - because you have to think in advance that you would like to have sex, and then fiddle about in the dark to get it on before you can get it on. As the new Department of Health posters instruct us: `Think B4 sex.' No danger of spontaneity there.

It's like a Green Cross Code for life in general: stop, think, proceed with caution. It is the essence of Puritanism - hectoring from on high disguised as an invitation to self-restraint.


Australia: Animal activists want moratorium on kangaroo shoot

Kangaroos being "wiped out"??? What bulldust! You can see them hopping about the streets of some Brisbane suburbs early in the morning. And Brisbane is a big city. There are millions of kangaroos in country areas. And they do well in zoos too. You can walk among them lying lazily about in Brisbane's main zoo (Lone Pine). Children feed them there. The famous picture below is generally titled "Not now kid"

ANIMAL rights activists want the Federal Government to impose a moratorium on kangaroo shooting, saying they are might be wiped out in some areas. Australian Society for Kangaroos co-ordinator Nikki Sutterby said yesterday that 73 million kangaroos had been killed by the kangaroo industry since 1980. Most had been turned into pet food and sports shoes.

She alleged a further 14 million pouch joeys had been bashed to death or decapitated and seven million at-foot joeys had been orphaned and left to die a slow death from stress, starvation and exposure. "This, combined with years of intense drought, floods and bush fires, has seen red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, eastern grey kangaroos, wallaroos and euros plummet to densities of less than five per square kilometre or quasi extinct across most of Queensland, NSW and South Australia," Ms Sutterby said. "These species are now at risk of extinction in these states if the commercial industry is allowed to continue."

Ms Sutterby said an investigation of data, including the Murray Darling Report on kangaroo densities, showed that 'roo numbers were under pressure. Further interpretation of state government data from NSW, Queensland and SA showed kangaroo densities were less than two per square kilometre across more than half the states. "We have grave fears for the future existence of kangaroos and the fact that these state governments have already set commercial kill quotas at 12 to 20 per cent of the population for the next four years," she wrote to Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett rejected the suggestion of a moratorium or that the species were in danger of extinction, saying quotas were adjusted annually depending on scientific advice. "Populations will fluctuate naturally," he said. "That's why the states survey regularly and quotas are adjusted according to sustainable harvests."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Monday, August 18, 2008

More British "Health & Safety" nonsense

Card-playing oldsters landed with $500 bill

The 14 whist players - aged between 70 and 90 - met every Friday for almost 10 years in a communal room at a sheltered housing complex in Norfolk. But officials at Neville Court, in Heacham, told the group they must pay liability insurance for all those who did not live at the complex before they could meet again. Tom Coulstock, from Hunstanton, said the cheapest insurance the group could find was $500 a year, which would have to be paid in addition to the $3 a head entrance fee. Just six of the players are residents and as none of the group can afford to pay the charge, the card-lovers have been forced to disband and re-locate elsewhere.

Freebridge Community Housing (FCH), which runs Neville Court which comprises 20 flats, said the insurance was "common practice". But player Bill Corbett, who lives nearby, said: "Perhaps they think that pensioners will attack one another with the playing cards? The situation is so stupid its laughable. "Freebridge claim the insurance is a matter of course but you can't tell me every group meeting needs public liability insurance. They are just trying to cover their own backs. We should not have to pay for that."

Mr Corbett, 86, said the game took up five tables in a corner of the communal room and insisted there had never been any trouble in the club's eight year history. He said the six residents who live at the home find it hard to travel outside the premises. "They don't understand why they can't have their friends over to play cards," he said. "It's health and safety gone mad and it is short-sighted of Freebridge."

Mr Coulstock said: "It's a farce. If they offer room hire they should have the insurance cover in place for the service they offer. "We won't be using the room in the future. We'll find somewhere that already has the insurance in place." Another player, who did not wish to be named, added: "It's disgusting that Freebridge is more concerned about making sure no-one could ever sue them than ensuring their residents have a good quality of living. "How on earth is someone going to injure themselves whilst playing cards?"

The card players were told they had been banned from the premises after their game on August 1. Tony Hall, chief executive of FCH, said it was standard procedure to ensure members of the public using their facilities were insured. "Freebridge Community Housing actively promotes the use of its community rooms as the social interaction of its elderly residents and people from the local community is a positive contribution to their lives," he said. [By banning them? Bare-faced British hypocrisy again]

"It is general practice that any room hire includes a requirement for insurance. "This can be covered by the group, club insurance or could form part of the hire cost. Freebridge charges a nominal hire charge but then require individuals to organise their own insurance. "The requirement has been in place for many years, but as Freebridge has recently updated the hire agreement it is checking that groups have their own insurance in place. "I am surprised Mr Corbett has been quoted $500 for insurance and Freebridge will make enquiries with our own insurance company to see if alternative quotes are more competitive."

FCH owns and manages around 7,000 properties for rent in the King's Lynn and West Norfolk area. [It is a QANGO -- a hived-off local government body]


Rape compensation disgrace in Britain

The latest revelation about Britain's rape policies is cause for indignation, tempered by a small sigh of relief. The news that there existed a practice of cutting compensation to rape victims who had been drinking alcohol before the attack provides the indignation; the fact that it has been disputed and rowed back, the relief.

According to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, 14 rape victims - accounting for around one percent of rape-related applications - were told that they would be paid less compensation because of the involvement of alcohol.

Compensation reflects a desire to mitigate for the harm suffered by an innocent victim. The idea that this can be parcelled up and chipped away at because a woman had a few glasses of Pinot Grigio before being brutally attacked is abhorrent. As Helen, a rape victim whose compensation was cut by a quarter, puts it: "Which 25 per cent did they think I was responsible for?"

It may well be common sense that drinking excessively makes women more vulnerable to being raped, and that it clouds the issue of consent. But the fact that a woman can choose to take responsibility for minimising her risk of being raped is in no way comparable with saying that she is responsible should the worst come to pass.

For someone to be convicted of rape, a jury will have decided that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the victim did not give consent, and that the defendant was aware that consent was not given. This is no straightforward task, helping to explain the woeful statistic that less than six percent of reported rapes currently result in a conviction.

For the few who battle through their ordeal to achieve justice, the last thing they deserve is belittlement at the hands of the CICA. For their sake, it's just as well this ignominious policy has been repealed.


British security laws are eroding human rights, says UN

This UN body is generally anti-Western but there is nonetheless much truth in what they say below

A report from the UN's committee on human rights hit out at Britain's terror and libel laws and use of the Offical Secrets Act. The UN said provisions under the Terrorism Act 2006 covering encouragement of terrorism are too "broad and vague" which could infringe on freedom of expression. Under the new law people convicted of encouragement of terrorism face up to seven years in jail even if they did not intend to incite violence

"In particular, a person can commit the offence even when he or she did not intend members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged by his or her statement to commit acts of terrorism, but where his or her statement was understood by some members of the public as encouragement to commit such acts," concluded the committee.

The body also said tough libel laws should be reformed to end "libel tourism" - where people come to the UK to sue over articles they would not be able to pursue in their own countries.

And it said the use of the Official Secrets Act was gagging civil servants from bringing issues of genuine public interest to wider attention even when national security was not at risk.

The criticisms came as part of the committee's analysis into human rights in the UK. But the body welcomed the government's abolition of common-law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales and the adoption of the civil partnership act recognising unions between gay and lesbian couples.



Arab media around the Middle East this week reacted hysterically after learning that a Jewish professor at Haifa University is using verses from the Koran to teach Arab Muslim psychology students how to treat their future Muslim patients.

Professor Ofer Grosbard developed the Quranet course using specially chosen verses from the Muslim holy book to help students reinforce in their patients concepts like respect, responsibility, honesty, dignity and kindness.

Grosbard realized the need for the special course after one of his Muslim students complained that traditional Western psychology would be ineffective on Muslim patients who hold tightly to superstitious beliefs.

Despite the fact that the Quranet course was developed together with 15 Muslim students and was reviewed by three Islamic clerical figures, Muslim authorities around the Middle East denounced the project because it was overseen by a Jew.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr. Abdullah Al Mutlaq of the Senior Ulema Board in Saudi Arabia insisted that all Jews hate Islam, and that Prof. Grosbard's efforts to emphasize the Koran's few lessons in human dignity and kindness would give Muslims the wrong impression of their religion.

Dr. Manae Abdel-Halim Mahmoud, professor of Koranic sciences at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, told an Egyptian newspaper that the Israeli project "aims to tarnish the image of Islam by giving wrong interpretation of the noble Koran."

Palestinian Authority officials also blasted the project, stating that the current prevalent interpretation of Islam that has led to so much regional death and destruction is the correct interpretation, and that Prof. Grosbard's kinder, gentler selection of Koranic verses is misleading.


Interesting that Prof. Grosbard has only a small beard. "Grosbard" means "big beard". I suspect that his Lithuanian ancestors were more religious than he is


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Disgusting British bureaucrats again

Have some nausea tablets on hand when you read their totally dishonest final comment below. The hypocrisy is unbelievable

They are calling it the Battle of Birks Road. An indignant group of neighbours stood like David against the Goliath of local authority instransigence: council refusemen and their waste lorry. A dispute over the binmen's refusal to collect a backlog of rubbish developed into a tense, one-hour stand-off in the quiet cul-de-sac. Children and parents formed a human chain to prevent the lorry leaving. One resident parked his car across the road to block its departure. Tempers boiled. Police were called and eventually order was restored when the binmen backed down. The lorry duly collected all the rubbish bags and was waved on its way.

Residents of Birks Road, in Huddersfield, had become frustrated by Kirklees Council's failure to remove extra bags of rubbish which had built up after refuse collectors staged a two-day strike last month. After the stoppage, collections resumed but although the householders' bins were emptied as normal, the accumulated extra bags were left to rot at the side of the road. Residents say they contacted the council and were promised that a "rapid response" vehicle would be sent to collect the bags. Two weeks later, they were still lying on the road.

Patience finally snapped on Wednesday when the binmen arrived, several hours late, and again refused to clear away the excess rubbish. Neighbours offered to load the bags into the lorry themselves, but were told that was against the regulations.

Mark Copley, an electrician, finally snapped and made the first move by climbing into his car and trapping the dustcart inside the cul-de-sac. Mr Copley, 30, said he told the three refuse men: "I'm not having this. Move my rubbish and I'll move my car." His neighbour, Rebecca Jones, 32, said that as the blockade continued the council agreed to send a second vehicle to pick up the excess rubbish. When it arrived, "a guy in a shirt and tie appeared and said that to teach us a lesson they were not going to empty the bins in the street". It was then that a human chain, including children, was formed around the lorry.

"Finally, one of the men said they would clear the rubbish if we moved, so we did and they kept to their word. "We pay $288 a month in council tax. For them to strike when they feel like it and then not to collect our rubbish was just not on."

A council spokesman said: "The collection crews always do their best to collect everyone's waste," he said. "This minor incident was quickly resolved, in line with what we would expect of our collection crews."


Some Leftism is clearly an inherited mental defect

A daughter of the US progressive Left, Joan Hinton helped to build the first atomic bomb, ran off to Red China, was later smeared as a spy, thrived in Mao Zedong's vicious Cultural Revolution, and today loathes what she mocks as "capitalism with Chinese characteristics".

But one aspect of Ms Hinton's eventful life astonishes most people she meets more than anything else: "A Maoist? Still?" queried one worldly Japanese reporter, as wide-eyed as if she'd found a trilobite in her salad. "Oh yes," Ms Hinton, 87, confirmed this week in Tokyo. "It would have been terrific if Mao had lived. Of course I was 100 per cent behind everything that happened in the Cultural Revolution -- it was a terrific experience."

She began to say there weren't many Maoists left in China, then corrected herself with the dry staccato laugh that punctuates almost every sentence. "Ha-ha-ha. There are! They're all over the countryside in China, you go to the peasants' houses and they all have pictures of Mao. It's very interesting -- they do, he's very much alive."

The Chinese Communist Party now attributes to Mao principal responsibility for the "grave Left error" of the Cultural Revolution and the preceding Great Leap Forward, which the party acknowledges cost 14 million lives. Ms Hinton and her husband, Erwin Engst, lived through those times but she refuses to acknowledge that history. "He was a terrific person and he liberated all the people -- he was not a monster at all."

But defending Mao is not what brought Ms Hinton to Japan for the first time since her particular slow boat to China ported briefly at Yokohama in 1948. Last week she visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, places she first learned of as a young physicist, sitting in a Los Alamos theatrette in mid-August 1945. She remembers everyone staring in silence at film of the colossal atomic bomb sites until a strained voice broke the silence: "That is the flesh and blood of the Japanese people."

A month earlier, she had sneaked past army jeep patrols to a rise in the Alamogordo Desert 35km from the Trinity test site, where at dawn she watched in awe as the first atomic mushroom cloud roiled towards the stratosphere, vaporising clouds in its path and catching the first beams of sunrise. "It was beautiful, beautiful," she says.

Ms Hinton's road was already well sign-posted. Her brother, the Marxist agricultural scientist William H. Hinton, had been in China for most of the time since 1947, working on land reform and meeting Mao and Zhou Enlai. William's Yale room-mate, Engst, another radical agriculturalist, went to China in 1946. Ms Hinton married Engst in 1949 in remote northern Shaanxi province, heartland of revolutionary Maoism, and worked there on agricultural technology for more than a decade.

Back home in 1953-54, at the height of the McCarthyite persecution of Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ms Hinton briefly became "the blonde traitoress", though no real evidence emerged then or since that she had spied for the Reds or given information to their A-bomb projects. She kept her US passport. "I spent the rest of my life working on the mechanisation of agriculture in China, so I could work not on bombs that were going to hurt people but on things that would help people," she said.

Ms Hinton's part in the Cultural Revolution might not have been so benign, however. Wang Rongfen, then a Beijing student, was jailed for a decade for writing a letter of protest to Mao at the outset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Ms Hinton responded angrily to a 2003 documentary on the Cultural Revolution, Morning Sun, by William's daughter and Joan's niece, Carma Hinton.

Ms Wang alleged Carma's mother, Bertha Sneck, Joan Hinton and Erwin Engst signed a wallposter denouncing the "cow demons and snake spirits" of the Bureau of Foreign Experts, and demanded, in effect, that expatriates be allowed, or forced, to join the violent demonstrations and denunciations in the capital.

A 2001 magazine article describes Engst happily recalling those days of "raising hell" and Ms Hinton "even more enthusiastic: 'The capitalist roaders -- wham!' she laughs, pounding her palm with her fist".

These days, Joan Hinton lives quietly and works at the model dairy farm on the outskirts of Beijing where she and Engst settled. He died in 2003. Her mind is still sharp but her hearing and concentration are fading. When she travels abroad to speak, she needs Bill Engst, the second of her three children, to help by relaying questions and prompting her memory. Today's China is not the society Ms Hinton struggled to realise under Maoism. But it's the only country she cares to live in.

"You have to have a sense of humour, and a sense of history and a sense of struggle," she says. "Otherwise, how can you live?"


Polygamy recognized in the Netherlands

Will the Mormon fundamentalists who have recently been persecuted in Texas on the basis of a hoax phone call now emigrate to Nederland?

Two Dutch cities have instructed their marriage registrars to recognize polygamous marriages of immigrants that have taken place in countries where having more than one wife is permitted, such as Morocco. Although polygamy is technically banned in the Netherlands, the marriages of Muslims who have several wives are now recognized by Dutch authorities in the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, reports the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Until now, registrars in the major cities had been recording the irregular marriages of immigrants, but the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), where all marriages are registered nationally, has been removing these bigamous or polygamous marriages from its files, on the assumption that administrative errors had occurred, reports NIS News. The city councils of Amsterdam and Rotterdam have informed the CBS that the marriage records are not a mistake.

CBS researcher Jan Latten told NRC Handelsblad that the CBS would study whether or not to recognize the bigamous and polygamous marriages. "We will now investigate whether this can be regarded as a trend that was previously not recognised. If this is the case, it is our task to report this." "At present, it is not included in our statistics," Latten pointed out. "In the same way, we delete marriages involving fourteen-year-olds. A man with two wives just cannot exist by law."

Rotterdam city council spokesman T. Verhoeven said that bigamous and polygamous marriages are registered regularly, though government employees must inform the Public Prosecutors' Office (OM) if there is any suspicion of marriages of convenience or exploitation of women. "They are simply acknowledged. It is important for us to check that the documents are authentic and that the husband does not have Dutch nationality. Otherwise the construction is illegal," Verhoeven explained.

The Netherlands has for years pushed the boundary of what constitutes marriage, beginning with the decision to legalize homosexual "marriage" in 2001 - the first country in the world to do so.

In 2005 the Netherlands entered heretofore uncharted territory when a Dutch man and two women were given a license for their three-way civil union. In September, 2005 LifeSiteNews.com reported on the "co-habitation contract" entered into by the threesome. The man claimed that the arrangement was justified because there is no jealousy. "There is no jealousy because both women are bisexual. If they had been both hetero, it would be more difficult." The arrangement was given government sanction after it was confirmed before a notary who duly registered it as a legal civil union.


When "tolerance" kills

Distaste for homosexuality is normal and almost certainly hardwired so flaunting it is unwise

The family of a gay teenager who was fatally shot in class blames the school district for allowing their son to wear makeup and feminine clothing to school - factors the family claims led to the death. The parents and brother of 15-year-old Larry King of Oxnard filed a personal injury claim against the Hueneme school district seeking unspecified damages for not enforcing the dress code, The Ventura County Star reported.

King, an eighth-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School, was shot in February. Classmate Brandon McInerney pleaded not guilty to the shooting last week. He was charged as an adult and also faces a charge of a committing a hate crime.

The family's claim, filed last week in Ventura County Superior Court, said administrators and teachers failed to enforce the school's dress code when King wore feminine clothing and makeup to school. His parents, Dawn and Gregory King, said faculty members knew their son had "unique vulnerabilities" and was subject to abuse because of his sexual orientation.

King was a ward of the court and living at a shelter for abused, neglected and emotionally troubled children at the time of the shooting. A call for comment to district Superintendent Jerry Dannenberg was not immediately returned. State law requires individuals to file a claim before proceeding with a lawsuit against a public agency.

Source. More details here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Paperwork more important than saving a life?

Only in Britain: Coastguards face reprimand for using "uninspected" boat to rescue girl

A volunteer coastguard crew face disciplinary action after going to the rescue of a teenage swimmer in a boat that had recently been repaired and was awaiting a seaworthiness inspection.

The four crewmen were on duty at Hope Cove in South Devon when the 15-year-old girl was swept out to sea by a powerful rip tide. They braved heavy surf to launch their 17ft rigid inflatable. The girl was rescued by a diver and the coastguard crew brought her ashore. But within hours their boat had been confiscated and the station officer and his crew had been threatened with disciplinary action.

The boat had been out of service since June and the 11-strong crew, fed up with waiting for it to be repaired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), spent $4,000 of their own money on the work. But the repairs had yet to be approved and the boat - which has rescued more than 120 people since 2000 - was languishing in the boathouse at the pretty fishing village awaiting a further inspection.

Ian Pedrick, 49, the station officer, radioed for permission to launch the boat because the girl was already 150 yards out to sea but the crew lost radio contact with coastguard headquarters at Brixham and went ahead with the rescue.

Within three hours the boat was towed away by a senior MCA officer and is now locked in a garage at their office five miles away in Kingsbridge. Mr Pedrick, who runs the Hope and Anchor pub near the beach, said that he had been ordered by the MCA not to comment on the incident. Dave Clark, aged 54, a recently retired coastguard, said: "Everyone in the village is very angry. They feel the crew are being punished for trying to save a life. "The boat at Hope Cove is vital because it takes 25 minutes for the lifeboat to get from Salcombe and a swimmer could easily drown. When the MCA withdrew the boat in June they said it would be for six weeks but the crew wanted it back as soon as possible so they paid for the repairs themselves.

"They were then told it had to stay off service until it was surveyed and that would have taken it out for the whole of the summer season. Anyone would have done the same thing when they saw the girl in trouble."

A spokesman for the MCA said: "The health and safety of the boat crews and those who they may render assistance to is of paramount importance." He added: "Search-and-rescue effectiveness will not be compromised by the suspension of the general purpose boat. These general purpose boats are additional facilities and are not generally used as part of the first response to an incident. "We have identified serious breaches of health and safety procedures and they are currently being investigated. The boat has been stood down for a further eight weeks while we investigate the possibility of repair or replacement." [I'd like to shoot that c*nt!]


An idiotic prescription for US foreign policy

It is easy - as Ted Galen Carpenter illustrates in Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America - to criticize US foreign policy. It is indeed a mess of incoherent and ill defined goals, expressing the confused thinking of the State Department bureaucracy and its associated foreign policy establishment.

Carpenter's criticism is part of a growing debate in the US among several schools advocating different approaches to foreign policy. As Carpenter, who is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, rightly claims, present policies lead the US to try to "dictate outcomes everywhere and on every issue," a mission impossible even for a great power. US foreign policy gets enmeshed in relatively marginal conflicts as in Serbia or Somalia. It focuses far too many energies and resources on a putative Middle East peace process - on what strategically is really a neighborhood brawl - while neglecting crucial challenges, such as the uncertain future of the Saudi regime and its vast oil resources, or the devastating impact a nuclear Iran will have on the availability and the price of oil, namely on Europe's and America's economic and political future.

Carpenter's solution, however, is not the reordering of priorities to better focus on such prime strategic threats, but the application of a simpleminded libertarian, isolationist foreign policy. He recommends that the US withdraw from crucial areas of conflict and cut its strength rather than use it more effectively. Dangerously, he ignores or belittles serious threats to America and to the world like the spread of a triumphalist Islamic fundamentalism, especially by Iran, and the effective use it makes of oil and terrorism as strategic weapons against the West. Carpenter also overlooks the challenge posed by Russian and Chinese collusion with US enemies, notably Iran, and other such major threats.

'TERRORISM IS a tactic," Carpenter avers, "not an identifiable adversarial threat." Considering the adroit strategic use Iran - a definitely "identifiable adversarial threat" - makes of its terrorist proxies, instigating threats and attacks that have jacked up the price of oil and helped it reap huge profits that it uses for nuclear armament and ever more dangerous terrorism, Carpenter's semantic evasions seem ludicrous.

He is apparently so blinded by his ideological blinkers that he even tries to make light of the consequences of the use by terrorists of a dirty bomb. Since al-Qaida "has no realistic hope of obtaining thousands of nukes..." he argues, "the scope of destruction [of one such dirty bomb], while terrible, would still not begin to rival the horrors of last century's bloodletting..." This pathetic bid to minimize the danger of terrorist dirty bomb attacks on US cities by creating a one to 10 scale of horrors and claiming that since such an attack could not match the horrors of World War II it should not be taken seriously is typical of his attempt to shoehorn reality into his shallow analyses and then draw from them "alternative" foreign policy directives. Carpenter repeatedly draws questionable policy conclusions from analogies between vastly different events, occurring in entirely different circumstances.

ALTHOUGH THIS book is published by the economically oriented Cato Institute, it does not even consider the huge economic consequences that Iranian control of oil flow and price (which a nuclear Iran could impose) will generate. Nor does it consider the devastating economic consequences - beside the tremendous loss of life - a mega terrorist attack on US cities might cause. Carpenter may be correct that terrorists might not be able to get "hundreds" of dirty bombs. But might they not be able to acquire four or five, or succeed in spreading a smallpox epidemic or in setting off toxic gases?

Would Carpenter still insist then that radical Islamic terrorism is "minor league"? Would he still claim that if not for neoconservative "panic mongers" (the real enemies of peace in his book because they, and their support for Israel, are responsible for "provoking" Islamic rage), Islamic Jihad would be no more than a "nuisance," similar to the anarchists of yore? Would he still argue that while the Islamic threat may be "a little more potent" than that, it is nevertheless a "manageable" one? Manageable? With possibly hundreds of thousands of casualties and immense destruction?

Generally, Carpenter indulges in ad hominem attacks on his adversaries. Instead of facing neoconservative arguments, he tries to discredit them by calling them "shrill," "hysterical," "inflated," etc., not exactly a technique conducive to serious discussion.

Carpenter's shallowness becomes even more evident when his principle foreign policy prescription is examined: "Encourage multiple centers of power," he admonishes, which ostensibly will provide the world with "security buffers" and protect it.

Carpenter does not spell out who will do the "encouraging" and "protecting," nor how. Should it be US diplomacy or the UN, institutions which have demonstrated their efficacy in stopping the slaughter in Darfur or in imposing sanctions on Saddam Hussein or on the Iranians?

Carpenter writes that "ideally" such centers should be "stable and democratic." This rules out China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It leaves one "pole" besides US - Europe.

But as the prolonged agony around the formation and role of NATO and the growing power of Islam within Europe indicate, Europe can hardly be counted upon to defend itself, let alone provide an effective "security zone." Moreover, in the past, "mulitpolarity," Carpenter's panacea, resulted not in "balance" or security and peace but in two bloody world wars and perpetual strife between multipolar entities. Smart power? One wonders.


Stupid EU rules lead to huge waste of fish

A UK fishing boat has been caught on film dumping tons of unwanted fish into the sea. A Norwegian coastguard vessel took video footage of a Shetland boat discarding about 80 per cent of its catch. Under EU rules the trawler Prolific had no choice to but to get rid of the fish because they were the wrong type. The film of the discard at a time of diminishing fish stocks and food shortages has caused outrage in Norway which is not an EU member.

Norway bans the dumping of fish in its own waters but the Prolific - which caught the fish legally in Norwegian waters - waited until it reached British waters in the North Sea before dropping an estimated five tons of fish overboard. In the film a steady stream of fish mostly saithe - a relative of the cod - can be seen being pumped out of the hold and hands are also seen emptying boxes of fish over the side.

Norwegian Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Helga Pedersen slammed the incident and said she will now demand that all foreign vessels fishing in Norwegian waters must land all fish caught at whatever port the boat docks in. She described discard as one of the most serious threats to sustainable management and added: "Discard is a terrible practice. In addition to the moral aspects of this sheer waste of food, discards lead to unrecorded catches, which lead to incorrect fisheries statistics, which again disrupt the basis for scientific assessments of stocks and scientific advice on management."

Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Willie MacKenzie said: "The best scientific advice is that we shouldn't be fishing for cod at all because stocks have been so depleted in the North Sea and yet here we have tons of fish being dumped overboard. "Discard is happening all the time but normally it takes place at sea where nobody can see what is happening. This incident has to be multiplied many, many times to get an idea of the scale of the waste. "The fishermen would say it happens because quotas are too small and they have to throw fish back but you would have to be insane to agree with that argument."

The incident on August 2 has also led to angry exchanges on websites with one Norwegian claiming: "It is morally wrong and its just p***ing in your own bed. This has been illegal in Norway since the eighties and the boat would have been arrested had it done it in the Norwegian sector. It is just calculated environmental criminality. The whole thing is very provocative, disappointing and shocking."

But Hansen Black, chief executive of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, said the Prolific had been caught between a rock and a hard place. "The system forces fishermen to go to a place they are unfamiliar with to seek the fish they have quotas for. Unfortunately in this case they landed a quantity of saithe which they didn't have a quota for. "If they had dumped it there and then they would have been breaking Norwegian laws and if they had landed it back in the UK they would have been fined. "They did the only think they could do which was to steam 100 miles away - wasting time and fuel - to an area where they hoped to find the type of fish they are entitled to catch and where they could legally dump the saithe. "This is a horrible indictment of the system fishermen have to operate under. These are young men under massive pressures trying to make a living. No fisherman wants to dump fish - his job is to find fish for people to eat - not to see it thrown over the side."

A Defra spokesperson said: "Throwing dead fish back into the sea is a waste that nobody wants to see, but there is no easy answer. "UK fishermen have shown that they are committed to finding new ways of protecting vulnerable stocks, and the European Union has backed a UK action plan designed to reduce the amount of discards. "The UK is keen to ensure more effective and sustainable fisheries by reducing by-catch and discards, and the Government is working closely with fishermen to achieve that."

Mark Anderson, skipper of the Prolific's sister boat, Copious, returned to Shetland after five weeks at sea, and said he had not yet seen the film footage. He said the vast majority of the fish that was dumped by the Prolific was not cod, as reported in the national media, but low value coley or saithe. He said it was not too small to land but had it been brought ashore part of their fishing quota would have been lost. Mr Anderson condemned the European quota rules which force fishing boats to dump vast quantities of fish by only giving permission to land small quantities. "This is all about quota management. They give us so little that we have to do crazy things just to make a living. Two years ago when we came with the Copious the quotas were better, but what they have done is whittled it away," he said.


Australia: "Health" Nazis kill valuable horse

More "safety" insanity. Becoming as bad as Britain

A $200,000 racehorse which survived the deadly Hendra virus has been put down this morning after being declared a health hazard. Officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries sedated the prized thoroughbred, called Tamworth, before administering a lethal injection just after 10am. The gelding's owners were not present when vets put down Tamworth at the Redlands Veterinary Clinic. The two-year-old gelding was put down despite surviving the deadly Hendra virus that claimed four other horses at Redlands Veterinary Clinic. The horse's body now will be taken to a secret location, understood to be at Gatton, to undergo tests so scientists can find out more about Hendra virus. [Wouldn't a LIVE horse provide more information?]

Biosecurity Queensland chief veterinary officer Ron Glanville insists there was no other option but to put down the horse. But owner Warren Small remains unconvinced that his horse is a threat and is even willing to quarantine himself with Tamworth so the horse can assist with research into the mystery virus. "If they haven't got anyone with enough guts, I'm prepared to risk myself to do it," he said. "Hendra virus is going to come back again and again and again because it comes from bats, and there's millions of bats and they're a protected species. We need to know a lot more about it." Mr Small has no access to compensation under existing workplace, health and safety legislation.

The Hendra Virus Expert Committee - chaired by the department's principal veterinary officer, Simon Bewg - on July 15 recommended the state's first horse to survive the virus be kept alive and monitored for 12 months. Meeting minutes obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal the committee found the decision a low-risk option that would also produce the best scientific outcomes.

Dr Glanville said a national body known as the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases overruled the recommendation. "It was overturned on the basis not enough is known about the virus to be sure the horse will not pose a threat to human health. Quite simply it's just not worth the risk," Dr Glanville said.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday backed the decision to destroy the racehorse, which is the only one of five horses at the clinic to be infected with the virus and survive. "This is being done as part of a national agreement about protecting the entire equine industry from outbreaks of this kind," Ms Bligh said. "There is a very serious concern that this horse could have a relapse of this disease."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Friday, August 15, 2008


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Husband-Killer Mary Winkler Gets Her Kids Back

"Winkler walked away a free woman last year after serving a farcically brief "sentence" for her crimes ..."

Tennessee mother Mary Winkler--who shot her husband Matthew in the back and then refused to aid him or call 911 as he slowly bled to death for 20 minutes--has just received custody of her three daughters, barely over two years since the homicide. Winkler walked away a free woman last year after serving a farcically brief "sentence" for her crimes. Her claims that her husband abused her were largely uncorroborated during the trial. According to testimony from Matthew Winkler's oldest daughter, Patricia, the dead father--who as he lay dying looked at his wife and asked, "Why?"--was a good man and did not abuse her mother.

Mary Winkler has been in a custody battle with Matthew Winkler's parents, who have been raising their three granddaughters since the murder. Dan and Diane Winkler sought to terminate Mary Winkler's parental rights and adopt the girls, a position Fathers & Families has supported. Domestic violence advocacy groups have been silent about this case.

Mary Winkler was granted supervised visits with her daughters last year. Now, sadly, she has gained back custody of the three girls, which is clearly not in the girls' best interests. Last year Dan Winkler said, "These young ladies have not expressed any desire to be with their mother or her family," but he and wife Diane have now ceded custody, knowing that continuing their legal battle to protect the girls would in the end be unsuccessful. A judge has approved the custody transfer.

"That a woman can kill her husband in cold blood and still gain custody of their children underscores the bias and prejudice divorced fathers face in the family courts," according to Dr. Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Executive Director of Fathers & Families.

Dr. Holstein said, "The courts have failed Winkler's daughters by placing them in the care of a mother who has shown no remorse for the cold-blooded murder of their father. Domestic violence groups have also failed these girls by their silence in this case, giving the appearance that they oppose domestic violence only when it is perpetrated by men."

Dr. Holstein lays out the case against child custody for Winkler in his co-authored column No child custody for husband-killer Mary Winkler (World Net Daily, 9/14/07).


Woman arrested for lying to police about rape

Feminists say it never happens

Police arrested a Pocono Pines woman after they say she admitted lying to investigators when she accused her ex-boyfriend of assault and rape. Elissa Easterling, 27, is accused of lying to Pocono Mountain Regional Police by falsely accusing a man of beating and raping her. After originally telling police and court officials that she was assaulted on two occasions and raped once by her ex-boyfriend, she later said she "has problems" and that she had not had any contact with the man in months.

During the course of a month-long investigation after she told police she had been assaulted, police corroborated the man's alibi and determined that Easterling had fabricated her reports. She also testified in order to get a protective order against the man, under oath at Monroe County Court, that she had been raped. The protective order was granted.

When police confronted her with the evidence that she was lying, police say she admitted to making up the assaults. Easterling said the man did not harm her in any way. She was taken to Monroe County Correctional Facility where she will be charged with perjury and making false reports.


Nature or nurture -- Are you who your brain chemistry says you are?

The Leftist "blank slate" theory takes another hit

Researchers using positron emission tomography (PET) have validated a long-held theory that individual personality traits-particularly reward dependency-are connected to brain chemistry, a finding that has implications for better understanding and treating substance abuse and other addictive behaviors.

In a study to identify biochemical correlates of personality traits in healthy humans, researchers focused their investigation for the first time on the role of the brain's opioidergic (or endorphine) system-specifically, the connection between an individual's level of reward expectancy and the brain's ability to transmit naturally occurring opiates. The study included 23 males with no history of substance abuse who were administered Fluoro-ethyl-diprenorphine-a radiolabeled chemical that binds readily to the brain's naturally occurring opiate system- and then underwent a PET scan.

The scans were compared to the results of each participant's Cloninger temperament and character inventory, a questionnaire that assesses human personality based on four dimensions: novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence and persistence. The comparison revealed that the binding to opiate receptors in the ventral striatum-an area of the brain known to be a central part of the reward system-correlated narrowly to the individual degree of reward dependence. The participants who skewed toward a high need to feel rewarded by approval were also those with the highest uptake of opiates, or endorphins, in the reward system.

"Our main finding was that reward dependence is the only personality dimension correlated with opiate receptor binding, and that positive correlation was restricted to the ventral striatum, which is considered the key area of the human reward system and of the development of addictive behavior," said Peter Bartenstein, M.D., professor of nuclear medicine, Ludwig Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany. "This correlation means that people with high reward dependence have a high concentration of opiate receptors available in that area, while people with low dependence have fewer opiate receptors."

According to the researchers, the biological purpose of the human reward system is to initiate behavior essential for the maintenance of the individual-for example, food intake-or the species-for example, reproduction. Therefore, food or sexual stimuli lead to an opioid-modulated dopamine release in core structures of the reward system and subsequently induce the sensation of craving. Modern addiction research maintains that genetic or acquired abuses of the reward system are the central basis for the development of addictive behavior. This latest finding suggests that individuals suffering from a relative endorphine deficit in their reward system show increased reward dependence and are probably more at risk for developing addictions.

"This is a novel finding and will provide a deeper understanding of the functional relation between human personality, neurobiology and addictive behavior," said Mathias Schreckenberger, M.D., professor of nuclear medicine, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany. "Understanding the central role of neurotransmission processes in certain brain structures for the expression of psychologically defined constructs such as personality will make a great difference in the future of medicine."

The researchers foresee PET becoming the preferred imaging method for individualized therapy in a range of disorders caused by addictive behaviour-such as drug abuse or pathological gambling-because it is the only method able to show specific local changes in different neurotransmitter systems (opiate, dopamine and serotonine) involved in addiction. These changes are different in different people and different types of addiction.

The researchers further suggest that PET could be used to predict a favorable response to treatment with drugs that block agents such as morphine, heroin or alcohol from binding to opiate receptors and may one day aid in determining treatment of other psychiatric diseases, such as personality disorders. PET may also play a central role in the development and preclinical evaluation of new anti-craving drugs since it enables researchers to investigate noninvasively the in vivo pharmacological effects of these drugs on the reward system.

The group's next study will delve deeper into the description of the neurochemistry of human personality and expand study sample sizes, according to Gerhard Gr_nder, M.D., professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy, Aachen University, Aachen, Germany. "One of the more interesting aspects of this study," he added, "is that it shows that PET technology is capable of detecting subtle biochemical differences in the brain in healthy persons, which may ultimately be responsible for what we consider the individual personality. This has far-reaching implications-not only for choosing the best individual treatments, but also in discussions of an individual's free will."


Your genes even tell where your ancestors came from

Tracing your ancestry via DNA is becoming a popular pastime, thanks to a growing number of consumer tests available over the Internet. At least two-dozen companies sell tests ranging in price from $100 to $900, and public interest is thriving. Most of these tests, however, paint a very rough picture of an individual's ancestral origins: they're limited to the direct maternal or paternal line. But that is beginning to change.

New technologies are allowing scientists to search for markers across the genome that can more precisely predict ancestry. Much of that data is being poured into public databases, supplying much more accurate and detailed information to genetic-testing companies and new consumer tests.

The basics of genetic ancestry testing are this: scientists search for genetic markers that appear more frequently in one population than in another. By combining the information gleaned from a number of markers--anywhere from tens to thousands--researchers can estimate the percentage of an individual's ancestry from different parent populations.

Most genetic ancestry testing to date has focused on genetic markers in the mitochondria, which everyone inherits from their mothers, and on the Y chromosome, which males inherit from their fathers. Commercial tests using these markers have sparked harsh criticism from the genomics community, which contends that the public doesn't adequately understand the limited view of an individual's origins that the tests provide.

Now, both the scope and resolution of genomic ancestry studies are growing dramatically, thanks to specially designed microchips that allow scientists to quickly scan hundreds of thousands of spots on an individual's genome. That means that researchers can gather genetic information from more people in more places, generating better ancestry markers. In addition, the ability to find markers across the entire genome, rather than just within mitochondrial or Y-chromosome DNA, generates a more complete picture of one's ancestry.

One recent effort has focused on distinguishing subsets of the European population, a challenge because, as a historically young population group, Europe has a comparatively low level of genetic variability. (Africa, on the other hand, has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world combined.) "We can easily determine the difference between northern and southern [European] populations and a number of different groups within either," says Michael Seldin, a geneticist at the University of California, Davis. "However, in some cases, it's difficult. There are lots of Italian individuals we can't separate from Greeks, and Northern Italians we can't separate from the Spanish."

In a study published last year, Mark Shriver and his team at Pennsylvania State University analyzed 10,000 genetic markers in nearly 300 people of Armenian, Jewish, Greek, Spanish, Basque, French, Italian, German, English, Irish, Polish, and Finnish descent. They found that genetic profiles differed from north to south and east to west. "Genetic displays seem to fit with geographic features of a map," says Shriver, who is also a consultant for DNAprint, a genetic-testing company in Sarasota, FL. For example, the Iberian Peninsula, isolated from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees, seems to harbor a distinct genetic profile.And areas in the middle of Europe have a profile somewhere between that of the north and the south.

Two companies have already condensed those findings into commercial tests: DNAprint and 23andMe, a personal-genomics startup based in Mountain View, CA. DNAprint's European service uses a subset of 1,349 genetic variations from the original 10,000 to classify an individual's ancestry according to five groups: southeastern European, Iberian, Basque, continental European, and northeastern European. 23andMe, which offers ancestry analysis as part of a broader genetic screening service, estimates users' genetic similarity to 14 different populations around the world, including northern and southern Europeans.

Consumer ancestry testing, however, remains far from exact. All genetic ancestry tests are probabilistic: while individual markers might be more likely to appear in certain populations, that is not always the case, meaning that not everyone who carries that variation has ancestors in that group.

And the profile that a particular service spits out depends on the database used to calculate it. DNAprint offers a $240 global ancestry test, AncestryByDNA 2.5, that analyzes 176 markers derived mainly from studies of four groups: Native Americans, East Asians, West Africans, and Europeans. Because those groups have contributed most heavily to the current U.S. population, the test works best for people in the States.

It may generate false results for people in other parts of the world. For example, some Europeans who took the test were deemed to have Native American ancestry. "That's ludicrous," says Mark Stoneking, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany. "It's most likely picking up central Asian ancestry, because there is no central Asian ancestry in the databases."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Motoring writer Jeremy Clarkson on British envy

Recently, I wrote in another part of the paper about the difficulties of trying to work while staying for the summer at your bolthole in the country. There are too many distractions, the view is too consuming, the children too needy and the constant longing for a beer too overwhelming.

Well, soon all the problems will be erased because a government think tank has looked carefully at the question of second homes and has announced that the rich bastards who have them should be forced to rent them out to underachieving, fat people. Hmmm. I wonder. Did it deliver its findings to Gordon Brown at No 10, or to his second home in Buckinghamshire? And how does it think such a scheme could possibly work?

Many people, for instance, claim they live in Monaco for tax reasons. Whereas in fact, all they do is buy a small flat and employ an estate agent to pop in every morning to make a few phone calls. The bills are then used as proof that they were there. Second-home owners would adopt similar tactics here. Or they'd say their country cottage is their primary residence and that their apartment in London is a pied-a-terre. Then, the local council would have to prove otherwise by going through everyone's knicker drawer and employing men with binoculars and coffee breath to follow us about. I fear the government think tank hasn't considered any of this because it was so consumed with bitterness, hatred and envy for people with money. It is not alone.

Just the other day, I read a report that said musicals in London's West End are bucking the trend with higher than ever audiences. This, you might think if you were a normal, well balanced soul, is a good thing. But sadly the red top reporter was not. He was just bothered that bigger audiences meant Andrew Lloyd Webber would have even more money. And that made him incandescent with fury. Why? It's not like Andrew Lloyd Webber spends his evenings being carried around council estates in Slough in a sedan chair, waving his jewels out of the window. He just gets on with his life in a way that has no effect whatsoever on the way you live yours or I live mine.

It's like being kept awake at night with a burning sense of envy about Cliff Richard's youthful good looks. What should we do? Take a Black & Decker sander to his cheekbones? Why? Because disfiguring Cliff's face won't make any difference to your own. I don't yearn for many aspects of the American way but they do seem to have this dreadful bitterness under control. When they see a man pass by in a limousine, they say: "One day, I'll have one of those." When we see a man pass by in a limo, we say: "One day, I'll have him out of that."

All this past week, I've been driving around in a Rolls-Royce coupe and it's been a genuinely alarming insight into the bitterness of Britain's obese and stupid underclass. Because when you drive this enormous monster past a bus queue, you realise that hate is not an emotion. It's something you can touch, and see and smell. Just yesterday, a man in a beaten-up van deliberately straddled two lanes to make sure I could not get past. It would have made no difference at all to his life if I'd done so, but there was no way in hell he was going to let a Roller by. I find that shoulder-saggingly depressing.

More here

Misery merchants

Janet Albrechtsen writes from Australia:

It's called the happiness industry. But one gets the feeling that the aim is to make you feel unhappy. Very unhappy. After all, without unhappiness, there would be no need for a happiness industry and doyens of the trade such as Clive Hamilton would be out of a job. The author of books such as Affluenza and The Growth Fetish is touring Australia, sprinkling a little misery wherever he goes to promote his new book, The Freedom Paradox. Last week his publishers approached this newspaper to see if The Australian would like to interview Hamilton about his new book. The editor of The Weekend Australian wrote back, suggesting I interview Hamilton. No thanks, came the answer. Hamilton was adamant that it would need to be someone else, probably anyone else except me.

He said: "She may have an agenda." He's right. I do have an agenda to probe Hamilton's argument that we are so unhappy with our wealth that a new political and moral order is required to save us.

You don't need to interview Hamilton to do that, of course. His books have a repetitive theme, bemoaning the empty consumerism of modern society where people are depicted as drones, buying larger houses "filled with furnishings, appliances, carpets and curtains", a big car in the driveway and a "super barbecue" on the lawn as a symbol of our vacuous lives. "Is this what civilisation in Australia has come to?" he asks. Rhetorically, of course.

For happiness gurus, economic growth is bad: the higher wages delivered by a surging economy apparently make us unhappy. Now it's true that surveys of national wellbeing reveal that, past a certain point, more money does not equate with greater happiness. It seems that people adapt to their wealth, often taking for granted their new, more affluent lifestyles. But here's an idea. Try taking away higher wages and bigger houses from people. Perhaps then you will find unhappiness.

In any case, Hamilton's "woe is you" message is not supported by the evidence. Drawing on the Gallup World Poll and other surveys, research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers earlier this year found that countries with the greatest economic growth recorded the highest levels of life satisfaction. In other words, it's no fun living in Tanzania.

Hamilton, however, is intent on telling people they don't know what's good for them. "We do not know what is in our interests," he proclaims like a new secular priest. We who aspire to bigger houses, a barbecue that can "roast, smoke, bake and grill" and other nice stuff are the victims of what he calls the "new form of coercion". We are settling for a "life of consumer conformity", unable to make free choices, buying possessions under the evil influence of corporations and spivvy advertisers. "It is probably more accurate to say that the modern consumer goes to the market a needy mass of confused and neurotic urges looking for a salve," he writes in his latest lament.

The answer set out in The Freedom Paradox is neither new nor accurate. It is to impose a far more conformist model on people, where we reject the market and material possessions and search out what Hamilton regards as the path to spiritual happiness. His latest treatise reads like a long-winded version of John Lennon's song Imagine:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

The predictable solution from happiness experts such as Hamilton is to forge a new, exhilarating philosophy that says a certain class of elites - in his case, of the book-writing kind - know better than you what will deliver you true happiness. In this modern utopia, Clive - the Great Leader - decrees that we down-shift to life in utilitarian-style communes, where working hours are limited, stiff tax laws ensure no one earns much more than others, where advertising is largely banned to avoid weak people being drawn into consumer hell, with plenty of free time to navel-gaze about what he calls the noumenon, living close to one's nature. "Only by turning our backs on the market ... can we give expression to our true preferences," he concludes. That may be Clive's true preference, but where does he get off imagining that it is mine? Or yours?

At the heart of the happiness philosophy is a disdain for, and distrust of, people. Old-fashioned paternalism lies at the core of Hamilton's obsession with the "hedonic treadmill". He fails to imagine that people can simultaneously enjoy material possessions and pursue ambitious careers - living what he derides as "the pleasant life" - while also pursuing loving and caring relationships that give our lives meaning. For Hamilton, "the meaningful life" is impossible without rejecting pleasure and pursuing his new politics based on "a need for a redistribution of outcomes".

Pare back the academic prose and it's clear that Hamilton is merely repackaging a distinctly old-style communism into new age, 21st-century language. You get the impression Hamilton would be happier if we were all living somewhere north of the 38th parallel. [i.e. in North Korea].

That Hamilton is deeply unhappy living in Australia should come as no great surprise. Research confirms that those on the Left side of politics are far less happy than those who have conservative political beliefs. And I'm willing to wager my electronic multi-spark, six-burner barbecue on this: the further left one travels, the more unhappiness you find.

The happiness gap between conservatives and progressives, which has been around for decades, was researched most recently in June this year by Jaime Napier and John Jost from New York University. Adjusting for income, marital status and other demographic variables, they found that "right-wingers report greater happiness and satisfaction than left-wingers around the world" because those with a conservative belief in the power of a meritocracy and the ability of men and women to succeed in life treat inequality as inevitable rather than evil.

By contrast, Hamilton - the poster boy of unhappy left-wingers - is a walking, talking, book-writing explanation of why those on the Left are less happy. They have little faith in the ability of individuals to rise above their circumstances. For them, meritocracy is not the goal. The holy grail is equality of outcomes. Hence the existence of inequality is viewed as an inherent evil and a cause of deep dissatisfaction with society.

But, heck, you don't need research to conclude that, for so long as we live in a prosperous free market economy that allows individuals to decide and pursue for themselves what makes them happy, Hamilton will be unhappy. That is his right. If only he'd stick to his own personal journey for salvation and stop assuming the rest of us are just like him.



Liberals either do not have children or they do not have as many children as conservatives do. Instead liberals have dogs, cats and disposable income to spend on themselves. Children require personal sacrifice-which is entirely unappealing to those who are not religiously motivated. These same self-indulgent liberals realize that without children their ideology will die--so they seek to spread their nihilistic dogma to other people's children via the public school system and the popular media. What follows is an excerpt of a new book by Peter Schweizer called Makers and Takers which fleshes out the ugly truth.
"[G]o to the streets of a liberal enclave like San Francisco, Seattle or Vermont. There will be plenty of expensive boutiques, antique dealers, health spas, sushi bars and upscale coffee shops. But you won't see very many children. The reason is not that right-wingers have dumped buckets of birth control pills into the San Francisco municipal water supply. The simple fact is that many on the liberal left today just don't want to have children.

"A 2004 U.S. survey showed that a typical sample of 100 unrelated adults who called themselves liberal will have 147 children. That contrasts with the typical conservative, who is likely to have 208 children per 100 unrelated adults. That's 41% more.

"The liberal Northeastern states - Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York - have the lowest fertility rates in the country. They also have the lowest percentage of population under the age of five. In progressive San Francisco, there are more dogs than children. Joel Kotkin points out that Seattle (my hometown) has roughly the same population as it did in the 1960s, but barely half as many children. Indeed, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. Dogs, of course, offer companionship without the burdens and responsibilities of children.

Some might conclude that this is a result of the high cost of living in desirable cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco. But in these childless meccas, we also see some of the highest per capita expenditures on luxury goods, spas and personal therapies. It's not a lack of money; it's a lack of interest. The General Social Survey found that 69% of those who called themselves "very conservative" said it was important to them to have children. Only 38% of corresponding liberals agreed. An online survey (admittedly not scientific) taken by the left-wing Web site dailykos.com asked readers if they had children and how many. The most popular answers: "No children," "Not going to have any," and "Don't want any."

Meanwhile, the highest fertility rate in the country is found in the most conservative state, Utah, followed by Arizona, Alaska and Texas, otherwise known as "red states," according to the latest National Center for Health Statistics survey. States with the lowest fertility rates are Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, all "blue states." Over half of the women of childbearing age - 15 to 44 - are childless in liberal bastions such as the District of Columbia, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Many on the left proudly proclaim themselves to be "child-free." (They angrily reject the term child-less because it implies that they are missing out on something.) Partly, this is a result of liberal pessimism about the future. Concerned about overpopulation, dwindling environmental resources, global warming, etc., some liberals don't want to have children because they see them as an environmental hazard. Billionaire Ted Turner reflected this attitude when he thoughtfully announced his regret at having five children. "If I was doing it over again, I wouldn't have had that many, but I can't shoot them now and they're here." No doubt, this sort of sentiment makes for charming conversation around the Turner dinner table.

Far more common is the modern liberal notion that children are a burden, something that will get in the way of one's self-fulfillment. As any parent knows, raising children is hard work. It requires emotional commitment, selfless acts, large quantities of time and scads of money. Many liberals just don't want the inconvenience. When asked by the World Values Survey whether parents should sacrifice their own well-being for those of their children, those on the left were nearly twice as likely to say "no" (28% to 15%) when compared to conservatives.

"This birth gap presents a quandary for politically active liberals. Not wanting to be inconvenienced with raising their own children, they still want to see their ideas perpetuated. Professor Darren Sherkat of Southern Illinois University worries that because conservatives "who have lots of children" are not being matched by those on the political left who "may well not have kids," these demographic trends will push the country in a more conservative direction. (Data indicates that 80% of children end up adopting the political attitudes of their parents.) To counterbalance this trend, he argues for increasing immigration and expanding the black population. He also hopes that childless liberals will "be able to reproduce themselves in strangers," by taking on jobs as teachers, writers and other people of influence. The idea is to let conservatives raise their children, while liberals influence them through the schools and universities.

Another lefty concurs: "I'd say that the author of a popular book has far more aggregate influence than do one set of parents. So if the book is very popular and captures the imaginations of kids, presto, you've done a lot to insure that the ideas that are important to you live long after you pass on . If it's the ideas that matter then I suppose that there are ways that folks like you can propagate the ideas without having your own kids be your lab rats."

And here is further living proof --if you need it:

In Sweden children's books are becoming an ideological battleground.


Canadian Human Rights Investigation against Catholic Magazine Resumes

Canada's human rights industry has resumed its investigation of Catholic Insight magazine, published by Father Alphonse de Valk. The Canadian Human Rights Commission had announced on July 4 that it was dropping its 16-month investigation against the publication for alleged 'hate'. However, homosexual activist Rob Wells, the complainant in the case, was given 30 days to request a judicial review of the case.

According to a federal court docket, Wells requested the judicial review on July 31. Canadian blogger 'Blazing Cat Fur' broke the story Thursday evening, linking to the court docket here: http://cas-ncr-nter03.cas-satj.gc.ca/IndexingQueries/infp_RE..."http://cas-ncr-nter03.cas-satj.gc.ca/IndexingQueries/infp_RE... . The docket lists the complainant as "Robert Dale Wells" and mentions that he is suing from Edmonton Alberta.

Fr. de Valk was informed of the application for judicial review Friday morning by reporter Pete Vere, author of an upcoming book on the Human Rights Commission and its attack on freedoms of religion and speech. "I'm very disappointed if I have to go through this again," he told Vere. Fr. de Valk further told LifeSiteNews.com that he sees the move as "another attempt to drain us of funds" noting "he's already cost us over $20,000."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Plastic flowers banned from British cemetery for posing a 'health and safety risk'

Only in Britain. Watch out for that dangerous plastic flower!

Grieving families have been told not to put plastic flowers in a garden of remembrance because they pose a health and safety risk. Council officials have banned plastic memorials in case they get caught in mowers. Workmen removed several displays from a cemetery in Keynsham, near Bristol, and moved them to the chapel of rest for collection by loved ones.

Retired school teacher Graham Lees, 60, regularly visits the Garden of Remembrance in Keynsham Cemetery, near Bristol, to pay his respects to his late father Ernest. He said Keynsham Town Council's plan had been 'very upsetting' for his entire family and is now demanding the decision is overturned. 'In the 42 years since I started visiting my father's final resting place I have always seen artificial flowers placed on graves throughout the cemetery, so to say it is unsafe now is total rubbish,' he said.

'Their sudden removal was very upsetting for my mother, who is in her 80s and has placed flowers, both real and artificial, in memorial vases continuously since my father died in 1966 and my stepfather in 1996. 'My mother hates the idea of leaving an empty vase as it seems the loved one is forgotten and the thought of the dead flowers left, smelling of putrid water, is very upsetting. 'The council really needs to rethink this decision as it is upsetting for all concerned.'

Mr Lees added that many elderly people were being forced to buy artificial flowers as they were looking at ways to save cash during the effects of the credit crunch. 'Most artificial flowers are left because financially the elderly can't afford to continually buy real ones, and since the bus stop outside the cemetery has been removed it makes it even harder for them to visit frequently,' he said. 'Many of the artificial flowers that people place are very new, life-like and obviously bought at some expense,' he added. 'They could be no way called unsightly.'

The ban applies only to the cemetery's Garden of Remembrance where ashes and memorial plaques are placed - not to the main graveyard where the plots provide enough room for flowers so they do not get in the way of mowers. The council says it has always had a ban on plastic flowers in the garden but had not enforced it fully until staff complained that cutting the grass was becoming difficult. Warning signs went up in June and the plastic floral displays were removed last month.

A spokeswoman said: 'It became more of a problem over time with more people leaving more and more mementoes, which makes it difficult for staff to carry out maintenance. 'We also have heath-and-safety reasons to consider: if the flowers get caught up in the lawnmower the bits of plastic flying around could be very dangerous.' In June Croydon Council banned plastic flowers from an elderly accommodation block because they were also deemed to be a health-and-safety risk.



No one knows just how many Muslim girls and women are murdered each year in the name of family "honor," since their deaths frequently go unreported and unpunished. The cases that do come to light are ghastly. "Women and young girls are set ablaze, strangled, shot at, clubbed, stabbed, tortured, axed, or stoned to death," a United Nations report noted in 2004. "Their bodies are found mutilated with their throat slit, or they are chopped into pieces and thrown in a ditch."

The report singled out as especially horrifying the honor killing in Pakistan of "a 16-year-old girl who was reportedly electrocuted to death after being drugged with sleeping pills and being tied to a wooden bed with iron chains." Her offense: marrying a boy from the wrong community. Countless others have lost their lives for refusing an arranged marriage, wearing Western-style clothing, having a boyfriend, or even being raped.

Recently, the Saudi human rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaidar wrote a scathing essay characterizing honor killings as a scourge peculiar to the "Greater Middle East," with its entrenched culture of misogyny and male supremacy. Her article, which appeared on the Arab reformist website AAfaq.org, was prompted by the lynching of 17-year-old Du'a al-Aswad, a Kurdish girl stoned to death by a mob of Iraqi men. (The essay has been translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which also provides a link to a gruesome cellphone video of the lynching.) "From Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran, the Middle East, and all the way to Morocco," Huwaidar wrote, "this entire part of the world [is full of] defeated and dejected men, whose only way to gain some sort of victory is by beating their women to death."

Sadly, evidence is not hard to come by. In the last few months, there have been news reports of a Jordanian man murdering his daughter "to cleanse the family's honor" after she kept leaving home without permission; another Jordanian, 22 years old, who gave the same reason -- "family honor" -- for killing his pregnant sister; a Saudi woman beaten and shot by her father after he discovered her having an online correspondence with a man on Facebook; and two Arab brothers in Israel, who strangled their sister after learning that she was involved in a romantic relationship.

But while honor killings may be more prevalent in the Middle East, no longer are they unknown in the West. In the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro last month, a Pakistani immigrant allegedly strangled his 25-year-old daughter with a bungee cord because she was determined to end her arranged marriage and had gotten involved with a new man. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sandeela Kanwal's father, Chaudhry Rashid, "told police he is Muslim and that extramarital affairs and divorce are against his religion [and] that's why he killed her." In court last week, a detective quoted Rashid: "God will protect me. God is watching me. I strangled my daughter."

In upstate New York a few weeks earlier, Waheed Allah Mohammad, an immigrant from Afghanistan, was charged with attempted murder after repeatedly stabbing his 19-year-old sister. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Mohammad was "infuriated because his younger sister was going to clubs, wearing immodest clothing, and planning to leave her family for a new life in New York City" -- she was a "bad Muslim girl," he told sheriff's investigators.

On New Year's Day in Irving, Texas, the bullet-riddled bodies of the Said sisters -- Sarah, 17, and Amina, 18 -- were found in an abandoned taxi. Police issued an arrest warrant for their father, an Egyptian immigrant named Yaser Abdel Said, who had reportedly threatened to kill them upon learning that they had boyfriends. According to the Dallas Morning News, Yaser Said was given to "gun-waving rants about how Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters."

While many authorities say that Islamic religious tradition does not sanction honor killing, it has long been accepted in many Muslim societies all the same. Perpetrators are typically punished lightly, if at all. In 2003, Jordan's parliament overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to impose harsher penalties for honor killings; Islamists objected on the grounds that more severe punishment would violate religious traditions and damage Jordanian society. "There must be violence against women," proclaimed the headline on a column in the Yemen Times earlier this year. The beating of wives and sisters, the columnist argued, is sometimes necessary "to preserve the morals and principles with which Islam has honored us."

It is appalling that such lethally barbaric attitudes could persist anywhere at this late date -- and all the more alarming, now that the shame of honor killing has made its way here.


Fair-trade coffee: not worth a hill of beans

It's a noble cause, but it's a bad deal for coffee growers

Fair-trade coffee is everywhere. Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts - even Wal-Mart - proudly feature beans they bought at a higher, "fair" price that pays growers a living wage. You get good coffee. Farmers get out of poverty. Corporations get goodwill. Everyone wins, right? Actually, fair trade is a bad deal. The intention is noble enough, but the impact on human lives is tragic. Instead of lifting exploited farmers out of debt and poverty, fair trade tends to diminish their prospects and hurt overall economic development. [Funnily enough]

The problem with fair trade is the problem with just about every so-called progressive economic policy: it ignores the laws of supply and demand. Say you live in Colombia. You know demand for Colombian coffee is high. Should you become a coffee farmer? You might, if other coffee farmers were making a profit. If they weren't, you'd conclude there are too many farmers already and pursue a more promising line of work. That's one critical function of prices and profits: They steer all of us - from the poorest farmer to the richest CEO - to pursue the most productive use of our energy. And that's what makes fair-trade coffee so misguided.

If there were just 10 small coffee growers worldwide, the price per pound of beans would be astronomical, and many people would rush to become coffee farmers. The current market price is "low" by comparison because there are already so many growers competing. By paying more than the market price for coffee - the authentically fair price - fair traders send a signal to people in developing countries to join an already overcrowded field. In doing so, they artificially lure them away from pursuing better-paying jobs that would enrich the diversity of a developing country's economy. A caffeinated price means more growers, more land destruction, more dependency on a single cash crop. It's a subsidy that undercuts the very sustainability fair traders want to promote. Yet fair traders evidently believe that growers who cannot make a profit at the market price ought to be helped to stay in business anyway.

Advising struggling coffee farmers simply to abandon their trade and find another way to make a living may seem flippant and heartless. Yet continuing to operate a money-losing business in the absence of a scheme that could reverse its fortunes merely makes one's financial predicament worse. People who persist in a money-losing occupation are free to do so - but they're not entitled to be supported in that obstinacy by the rest of society. In a free society and a free market, all capable adults must pull their own weight. Why should coffee growers be exempt?

That doesn't mean we lack sympathy for the real hardships that growers would face if they abandon the one occupation they know well for the uncertain promise that they can do better elsewhere. But what's more compassionate? Using your funds and energy to help them learn a new, more viable trade - or using it to support fair trade, thus postponing the harsh day of reckoning?

Fair traders want to see all coffee become fair-trade coffee, to ensure that all growers enjoy the benefits of a higher price. It's a hopeless cause, because it violates the laws of economics. As price rises, demand drops. So if fair traders succeeded in achieving a universally higher price of coffee, consumers would drink less of the beverage and the current glut of coffee farmers would be exacerbated. The belief that any group with power - government officials, economic experts, or social activists - can establish a price that's "fairer" or "more just" than the actual market price is a fallacy that bedeviled communism for decades and it's bedeviling the fair-trade movement today.

The good news? There are some genuinely promising alternatives to fair trade that support development. One way is to persuade consumers to purchase "shade-grown" coffee. Such farming is far friendlier to the environment. And consumers who buy shade-grown coffee at a higher price than that of coffee grown on a monocultural plantation are not attempting to supplant the market process with their own, arbitrary judgments about what various goods "ought" to cost, but are acting through that process to express their preference for a healthier, more vital environment.

We should remain keenly aware there is no "silver bullet" with which to slay the beast named Third World Poverty. Today, coffee growers must contend with abundant competitors, market distortions from government subsidies and other favoritism, and the legacy of colonialism and theft. That situation is certainly deplorable.

But consumer action isn't a promising way to rectify those inequities. How can a coffee shopper be expected to keep track of just which producers are getting just what advantages due to government policies, and correctly calculate just what price he should pay to offset the effects of those state-granted privileges? The only sensible approach is to fight against the unfair policies directly, while letting the free market steer peasants to the most productive opportunities.

If those who seek a fairer society come to recognize that moving toward genuinely free markets will advance, and not hinder, their goals, then their efforts will achieve much better results, to the benefit of everyone.


Anti-life 'Peace and Justice' Catholics Are Anything but Catholic

In the summer of 1993, a young woman on my staff came back from lunch one afternoon screaming mad. I had just started as president of the Catholic League and wanted to know what her problem was. It so happened that over lunch (in the New York Archdiocese's cafeteria) she was berated by a young man for her pro-life views. He worked for a social-justice organization.

It is no secret that the "peace and justice" crowd is soft on abortion. Sr. Helen Prejean and others like her can get quite worked up about the rights of serial murderers on death row, but they never seem to be quite as excited about the rights of innocent unborn babies. That's because too many of them see abortion as merely unfortunate: They positively do not believe it is "intrinsically evil."

On July 25, Catholics for Choice paid for an ad in Italy's largest newspaper - the money was laundered via the Ford Foundation and other anti-Catholic establishment institutions - denouncing the Catholic Church for its teaching on contraception. One of Pax Christi's chapters signed the ad, and so did a chapter of Voice of the Faithful. Dignity and the Women's Ordination Conference were also signatories.

None of these groups was founded to protest the Church's teaching on contraception. Pax Christi professes an interest in peace; VOTF was established to address the sexual abuse scandal; Dignity is a gay-rights group; Women's Ordination Conference wants women priests. But all are integral to the social-justice wing of the Catholic Church, and all reject the Church's teachings on sexuality (not just artificial birth control). To top it off, they have no problem signing an ad sponsored by an organization that was twice condemned by the bishops' conference for being a fraud.

How can groups that are nominally Catholic join with a group that is the most notoriously anti-Catholic organization in the nation? The answer is obvious: They are ideologically compatible. They would argue, however, that their commitment to helping the poor and promoting peace makes them more Catholic than most pro-life groups. But what does their commitment entail?

Social-justice Catholics love to tout organizations like Bread for the World. But the fact is that this group does nothing but lobby for welfare programs - it has never given any poor person a job, never helped them to get a job, and never once put food on the table for them. But it is good at lobbying, and what it lobbies for is more handouts.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the most comprehensive welfare reform bill in American history. It is now acknowledged, even by the New York Times, that it did more to break the back of dependency than any other piece of legislation. And who worked hard against it? The social-justice crowd.

Peace through strength is the most efficacious way to avoid war. Self-reliance and hard work is the best way to help the able-bodied poor to become upwardly mobile. Laws protecting the unborn are the most reliable means of stopping abortion. This is something those in the pro-life wing of the Catholic Church already know, and it is something they can pursue without ever being bankrolled by anti-Catholic front groups.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More of the unending tyranny of petty bureaucracy in Britain

Lawyer wins thirty month battle against his borough council over the right to own a second garbage bin. In Australia, you just have to ask for one and pay a bit extra. I have had two for years

The policy of councils across Britain of limiting households to one wheelie bin each may have to change after an official complaint by a solicitor exasperated at having to make regular trips to his local rubbish tip. The local government ombudsman has ruled in favour of Roger Houlker, who has fought a 2« year battle against Congleton borough council to be given a second bin for his six-bedroom Cheshire home. The ombudsman, Anne Seex, found the council guilty of "maladministration with injustice" for failing to collect all his waste and ordered it to review its policy. She also said she had "reservations" about the authority's refusal to collect additional bags of waste left beside wheelie bins.

While waiting for his bin to be emptied, Houlker had to deal with vermin ripping open black bags used to hold extra waste in his garden and he made regular 12-mile trips to take them to a dump because dustmen would only take waste from his one 240-litre bin. Congleton council insisted the bin should have been enough for him, his wife Julie and their three children. [How nice to have bureaucrats deciding what you need!]

The ruling could lead to a flood of appeals against councils with similar one-bin-per-house rules. Houlker, who lives in the village of Swettenham, first complained to the council in February 2006. He said he was doing all he could to recycle and claimed the council had a legal duty to pick up the extra waste. In December 2007 Houlker complained to the ombudsman that he was being forced to take waste to the tip in his car.

In addition to telling the council to review its policy, Seex has said Houlker should be given $500 for his "time, trouble and costs" in taking his own bin bags to the tip. A spokesman for the environment department said: "As quoted in the ombudsman's report, it is hard to see how the authority can justify refusing to collect waste from a second bin especially where the resident is offering to pay for the additional receptacle." Congleton council confirmed it was reviewing its policies.


A hero of the French Left is revealed as the nasty thug he really was

Once a giant in the pantheon of French presidents, Francois Mitterrand is suffering a public battering that is destroying his carefully constructed domestic and international image as France's last truly great leader. From alleged links to genocide in Rwanda to arms deals in Angola, apologies for Soviet repression, shady financial deals, illegal phone-tapping and assorted corruption affairs, the ghost of the man who died in 1996 after 14 years at the Elysee Palace is suddenly once again omnipresent. The return to prominence spells difficulties for the posthumous reputation of a president who was until recently deemed by 60 per cent of voters to have had a "positive record".

Mitterrand returned to front-page news with a damning report released by Rwanda claiming the president and his government, including ministers, advisers, diplomats and soldiers, were directly implicated and complicit in the 1994 genocide. The report published last week was based on a two-year inquiry that drew on more than 600 witnesses including victims and those involved in the massacres. The Rwandan presidential commission of inquiry found France under Mitterrand deliberately armed, aided and trained the majority Hutus who went on to murder 800,000 Tutsis. It is even claimed French soldiers were directly involved in some of the massacres, during the UN-backed humanitarian "Operation Turquoise".

The accusations have been curtly denied by the Quai d'Orsay, the headquarters of French diplomacy. However, foreign policy analysts in Paris said France must answer the claims, which build on comprehensive reports already published by groups such as the French NGO Survie. Blanket media coverage of the report revealed that, thanks to Mitterrand's much-discredited African policies, he and his soldiers were clearly on the side of the genocidal killers rather than the victims in Rwanda. And although French troops were on the ground during the genocide, and France knew what was about to happen, they did not stop the killings.

In a shift away from their usual reverence for the late president, former media fans of Mitterrand at Le Monde and the left-wing newspaper Liberation demanded answers. Liberation said France's role under Mitterrand in the genocide was "not clear" and Le Monde declared France had a "duty to tell the truth" about Rwanda's genocide.

Before the massing of evidence over his role in the Rwandan bloodbath, Mitterrand's legacy was already heavily tainted. Throughout his political career he deliberately concealed his ties to the Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime before he turned towards the resistance in World War II. In 2005 his former spy chief revealed Mitterrand had personally ordered the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior.

Yet the enigmatic giant of the French Left is still revered by many on the Left in France. Despite his lies and secrecy he has until now been remembered as more "presidential" than his successors Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. This is changing with frequent commentary and criticism of Mitterrand's disturbing legacy as a constant defender of repressive regimes. As the world mourned the passing of Alexander Solzhenitsyn last week, the French press recalled Mitterrand's contemptuous dismissal of The Gulag Archipelago's damning testimony of the Soviet prison system.

When the book was published in France in 1974, Mitterrand was all too mindful of the alliance between the Socialist Party and the then-powerful French Communist Party, still a defender of the Soviet system. Instead of re-examining the Left's support for a discredited ideology he tried to look on the "bright side" of Solzhenitsyn's indictment of Soviet totalitarianism. "I am persuaded that what is most important is not what Solzhenitsyn says but that he could say it," Mitterrand said. Le Monde writer Yves Mamou was scathing towards Mitterrand and his contemptuous dismissal of the author's work. "(Mitterrand's assertion) was extravagant when one considers that the manuscript of Solzhenitsyn passed to the West by clandestine routes and that because of its content the author was risking his life or his liberty."

Elsewhere Mitterrand was remembered for his lionisation of Mao in the 1960s as a "humanist". An unrepentant Mitterrand in 1989 even resisted the fall of the Berlin Wall and the imminent reunification of Germany, preferring the stability of the Soviet-backed Eastern bloc to a post-communist world.

Mitterrand's reputation is also under fire as a series of scandals dating back to his presidency feature in prominent court cases. "Angolagate", a shameful affair involving corruption and support for dubious African regimes by Mitterrand's coterie, is also about to rear its head again. The arms dealing imbroglio involving Mitterrand's disgraced son, former diplomatic aide Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, will be the most high-profile court case when France returns from summer holidays.


New push for censorship in Australia

"Privacy" is a great smokescreen for protecting crooks. Publicity is almost the only weapon against many abuses by government and others

Australia's top news organisations are readying for a showdown if the Australian Law Reform Commission recommends tough new privacy laws today, as expected. The commission's report could have significant ramifications for news reporting, especially on the lives of well-known people. Justin Quill, a media and litigation lawyer and director of law firm Kelly Hazell, said a privacy law would most affect magazines that specialised in reporting celebrity news, followed by shows such as A Current Affair and Today Tonight and then other news services.

Gilbert + Tobin partner Peter Leonard expected the immediate effect of a privacy law would be "more cautious reporting around the personal life of celebrities". For example, he said much of the reporting of former AFL footballer Wayne Carey might be disallowed if a privacy law existed. "It could have a significant chilling effect on the reporting of the private lives of celebrities," Mr Leonard said.

In its newsletter last week, Gilbert + Tobin said the ALRC's report was expected to recommend "the most significant changes to the Privacy Act in the 20 years of its existence". "There is a strong expectation that Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner will commit the Government to act on the ALRC's recommendations, and that he will introduce relevant legislative amendments in the foreseeable future," it said.

The Right to Know Coalition, which represents Australia's top media groups, including News Limited, publisher of The Australian, on freedom of speech issues -- is against a privacy law. "Protection of privacy needs to be balanced against the public interest in allowing the free flow of information and upholding freedom of speech," a spokesperson said. "It has not been demonstrated that existing privacy protections fail to achieve this balance."

The Right to Know Coalition argued a statutory right to privacy would restrain the media's ability to keep the public informed. "The ALRC has failed to demonstrate a breach of privacy by the media is not already dealt with by existing laws, such as defamation and surveillance laws or self-regulation by the media," it said. "The law would be irrelevant to ordinary citizens in whom the media has no interest. It would be open to abuse by irresponsible claimants who would clog our already over-burdened courts. "Such a law would simply allow rich people to employ lawyers in a bid to avoid scrutiny of their wrongdoing."

Fairfax Media general counsel Gail Hambly said the evidence in Europe, where a privacy law existed, was that it was only used by high-profile people. "It allows the rich, powerful and celebrities to manipulate their images in the way they want them manipulated, rather than having some transparency," she said. Ms Hambly said she was recently at a conference on the issue in Britain where an attendee made a sound suggestion. "They said privacy laws would be OK on the whole if anyone with a PR agent was exempt from taking an action," she said.

Mr Leonard believed there could be some advantage to introducing a privacy law. "I think it may be a sensible development for the media as it would mean the defamation laws don't get stretched to be used as a substitute for proper protection against invasion of privacy." He said if there was a new privacy law it needed to feature restraints such as acknowledging legitimate public interest.


Balancing competing rights requires trade-offs

COMMENT from law Professor James Allan

How would you balance the rather vague, amorphous notions of a "right to respect for one's private life" and a "right to freedom of expression"? Both these concepts are nebulous enough, and they sound emotively attractive enough, that they finesse disagreement. Put differently, everyone would say that he or she is in favour of both rights. "Yep, I like the idea of a right to privacy and yep, I like the idea of a right to freedom of expression."

Of course, any ideas articulated in those sort of indeterminate terms will only finesse disagreement for as long as they remain moral abstractions. As soon as you ask more specific questions -- where should we draw the line when it comes to campaign finance rules or hate speech provisions -- all the feel-good agreement evaporates. You have smart, reasonable, nice people disagreeing. You have lots and lots of moral "dissensus".

The same goes for any right that is phrased as an indeterminate moral abstraction, which is to say all the rights in any bill of rights. But there's a different problem that sometimes gets overlooked. You see, any list of moral abstractions-cum-rights will give rise to real life situations where those rights conflict with each other. One right can be relied on to point one way and a different right to point the other way. Take the following scenario. (And who can resist making use of it?) Start with the president of the body that oversees Formula One car racing, one Max Mosley.

Make him someone who enjoys sado-masochistic orgies with hookers, lots of hookers, five to be precise. Let there be some question of whether the bondage clothes worn by the women looked like Nazi uniforms. Throw in one of the big British tabloids. And just to round it off, let that president be the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the politician and baronet who founded the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Now what if one of the five hookers had been paid by the tabloid secretly to video this bondage session? And the tabloid then published it, along with a very racy headline I'll leave you to imagine.

Of course the above scenario has recently played out in fact in London. And the man at the centre of the bondage video (at least one supposes he was at the centre, though with six people involved, who knows?) decided to sue the tabloid. The regular law of defamation wouldn't work because Max Mosley admitted that the main parts of the story about his long-time involvement in these sort of S&M sex sessions were true. And truth is a defence to defamation proceedings. So instead he decides to sue by relying on the new statutory bill of rights, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into English law.

The case boils down at its simplest to how to balance two of the articles. Article 8 grandly guarantees the "right to respect for one's private life". Article 10 protects the "right to freedom of expression". Neither right is meant to be absolute. Reasonable limits apply, though of course talk of "reasonable limits" is itself just another vague, amorphous notion that masks disagreement. What counts as a reasonable limit and when is itself a massively contentious issue about which people disagree.

Anyway, I'm betting that readers will split pretty evenly on this. A lot of you will think this is just bedroom conduct (OK, a bedroom decorated as a dungeon conduct) that really isn't anyone's business save Mosley's and the five hookers. It's not as though the tabloids aren't a pretty distasteful lot themselves. And we know they're out to sell, sell, sell those papers. And talk of their acting in the public interest can reek of hypocrisy, let's be honest.

On the other hand, I'm betting there are also lots of free speech types out there who think this is in the public interest. The stuff caught on film was true. People are clearly interested because they buy millions of papers to read it. And if we start restricting the reporting of this sort of case, what about when Jeffrey Archer does roughly (sorry, no pun intended) the same sort of thing and lies? Or what about when newspapers want to reveal the goings-on of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards? Doesn't a privacy law start to look like it has the potential to squash stuff that suits an awful lot of people in important positions (jobwise I mean)?

Well, the judge sided with the right to privacy crowd and awarded Mosley $120,000, plus his legal costs (which may be another million or so pounds). That's a pretty hefty disincentive to publish in future.

I, personally, would have preferred it if the free speech side of the argument had prevailed. I'm a wannabe American [Prof. Allan is a peripatetic Canadian] in my attachment to wide open, vigorous free speech. I think good consequences for society follow from forcing people to have thick skins. And (as the Mark Steyn saga in Canada shows) a lot of well-intentioned limits on free speech collapse into elites telling the rest of us what we can and cannot say. If we're going to err, I'd err every time on the side of letting you say what you feel like and leaving it to others to rebut you.

Worse than that, though, far worse, is how this came to pass in Britain. Did they have a big debate about where to strike the balance between privacy and free speech concerns? Did they have select committee hearings around the country, or the kind of informed second-reading debate that preceded the liberalisation of abortion laws in Britain? Nope and nope.

In fact there isn't any privacy law in Britain. Or rather, the law that exists flows from the top English courts interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights. It flows from a bunch of unelected judges telling us how they, the judges, happen to think society ought to balance these two rights. The issue was never addressed by Westminster. It's yet another example of the far-reaching -- and if you like to make these decisions yourself as a voter, then the negative -- effects of a bill of rights.

When proponents of bills of rights are trying to sell these things they only ever deal in vague, feel-good generalities. They never tell you that you're signing over these sort of "how to balance privacy against free speech" decisions, and a myriad others, to the judges. And why is that remotely attractive? As Max Mosley might say, "Beats me". [Very good, James, very good]



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

British "safety" nonsense never stops

Organ grinder and his toy monkey 'banned'

An organ grinder and his monkey were banned from the streets on health and safety grounds. Paddy Cooke, 64, from Matlock in Derbyshire, and his stuffed toy Simon cannot perform until they complete a risk assessment. Ripley Town Council in Derbyshire decided to cancel the act who were due to perform in the town centre during the summer holidays. The decision was made by licensing bosses at Amber Valley Borough Council. It comes after a Punch and Judy show and a dance act were also shelved in the past three weeks.

Paddy, of Crich, near Matlock, Derbys, wears Victorian costume as he walks around playing his organ, a copy of an instrument used more than 150 years ago. The former fireman has been grinding organs for 15 years. He said: 'It's not as if I have a live monkey which might jump at people. Mine is a battery-operated interactive toy and the best I have ever had. He says things like "I want a banana" and even once offered to tell me the sum of pi squared. 'Simon is sometimes quiet and sometimes chatty. He's very realistic but is no danger to anyone. 'I suppose someone might trip over a paving slab when listening to the music and blame me but I have been doing this for years without a problem.'

Paddy, whose two sons are also organ grinders, was hired as part of the summer entertainment provided by the town council and has $20m public liability insurance cover. He is also a member of the actors' union, Equity. But before his act hit the streets the authority received orders from Amber Valley Borough Council which demanded to see a general risk assessment before letting street acts go ahead. It wanted to study a list of hazards and know how they could be made safe, and even how many people might watch the shows.

Ripley Mayor Lynn Joyes said: 'The risks are very low and how do performers know how big an audience they'll get? 'That depends on the weather. If it's raining you might get five, but if the weather is nice, there'll be 105.' Labour group leader Geoff Carlile said: 'This is typical of bureaucracy gone mad. This was sprung on us at the last minute and left us in a difficult situation.' The council was told the ruling also applies to dance groups, clowns and brass bands, including the Salvation Army. Steve Freeborn, who represents Butterley ward, said: 'What is the risk - it's absolutely potty.'

But last night the borough council defended its decision. Simon Gladwin, head of landscape services, said: 'We always require that anyone organising a public event or entertainment on land managed by the borough council completes a risk assessment. 'In cases such as this, where performers are unable to supply a personal risk assessment of their activities, it is the responsibility of the organiser to provide the risk assessment. 'These are not required for every performer. We simply require an assessment that takes into account the different activities taking place in each location,' he said.

The town council's summer entertainments programme has now been suspended until further notice. It is hoped that a risk assessment can be completed within the next seven days then sent to the borough council for approval.


Feminism fading?

Cambridge University study suggests growing numbers of people are concerned about working mums' impact on family life

Support for gender equality in Britain and the US appears to have peaked and could now be going into decline, research at Cambridge University has revealed. The study, by Professor Jacqueline Scott from the University's Department of Sociology, found evidence of "mounting concern" that women who play a full and equal role in the workforce do so at the expense of family life. Although there are no signs of a full-scale gender-role backlash, there does appear to be growing sympathy for the old-fashioned view that a woman's place is in the home, rather than in the office.

The study appears in a new book, Women And Employment; Changing Lives And New Challenges, which Professor Scott also edited. "The notion that there has been a steady increase in favour of women taking an equal role in the workplace and away from their traditional role in the home is clearly a myth," she said. "Instead, there is clear evidence that women's changing role is viewed as having costs both for the woman and the family. "It is conceivable that opinions are shifting as the shine of the 'super-mum' syndrome wears off, and the idea of women juggling high-powered careers while also baking cookies and reading bedtime stories is increasingly seen to be unrealisable by ordinary mortals."

The survey compared the results of social attitude surveys from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s - using recent data from the International Social Survey Programme as well as older polls. Professor Scott focused on the results from Britain, the United States and - because the earlier surveys pre-dated the fall of the Berlin Wall - the former Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

In each survey, samples of between 1,000 and 5,000 people were asked to say whether they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements. Statements such as "A husband's job is to earn income; a wife's to take care of the children," were designed to test their overall views on gender equality. Others, such as "Family life suffers if a woman works full time," examined whether they considered maternal employment as harmful to children or families.

The study shows that while British attitudes are more egalitarian than in the 1980s, there are signs that support for gender equality may have hit a high point some time during the 1990s. When it comes to the clash between work and family life, doubts about whether a woman should be doing both are starting to creep in. In the 1990s, for example, more than 50% of women and 51% of men said they believed that family life would not suffer if a woman went to work. Since then, the figure has fallen - to 46% of women and 42% of men. Fewer people (54.9% of women and 54.1% of men) now take the view that a job is the best way for a woman to be independent than in 1991.

The results are even more extreme in the United States, where the percentage of people arguing that family life does not suffer if a woman works has plummeted, from 51% in 1994 to 38% in 2002. About the same number of West Germans (37%) agree; but the number there has risen, having been just 24% in the mid-1990s.

Professor Scott argues that each country is at a different stage in a cycle of sympathy for gender equality. In West Germany, where up until the 1990s a large majority of people still believed that men should be the family breadwinners while women stayed at home, acceptance for the notion of working mums is now increasing.

In Britain and the US, however, where support for equal opportunities for both sexes is much longer-standing, some people are now starting to have second thoughts. In most cases, this appears to revolve around concerns that the welfare of children and of the family are being compromised the more women spend their time at work and find themselves lumbered with the double burden of employment and family care.

The report adds that there should now be further investigation into whether the attitude shift is occurring because caring for the family is seen as predominantly women's work, or because people feel there is no practical alternative to a woman fulfilling the role. "A change in attitude is not the same thing as a change in behaviour, but attitudes do matter," Professor Scott added. "Women - particularly mothers - can experience considerable strain when attitudes reinforce the notion that employment and family interests conflict. "If we are to make progress in devising policies that encourage equal working opportunities for women, we need to know more about what gender roles people view as practical, as possible and as fair."


Don't you want somebody to love?

Jane Gross's NYT blog describes the fears of those who are Single, Childless and `Downright Terrified'. They have made plans for geriatric care, stored up their retirement funds and readied their insurance. The future holds no great material terrors. If that's all you want.
Having witnessed the "new old age'' from a front-row seat, I'm haunted by the knowledge that there is no one who will care about me in the deepest and most loving sense of the word at the end of my life. No one who will advocate for me, not simply for adequate care but for the small and arguably inessential things that can make life worth living even in compromised health.
The "new old age" may have had its beginnings in the "new youth", a period no longer defined as the interregnum between childhood and adulthood but a condition to be preserved forever. Whether the phenomenon of a solitary and childless old age is in some respects a choice that logically arose from a dread of developing attachments is a question for cultural historians. The 1960 movie The Magnificent Seven provides an interesting prequel to Easy Rider. The famous dialogue between the character played by Charles Bronson and a Mexican boy examines the tradeoffs between being born to be wild and taking your place in the human family.
Boy: Our fathers are cowards.

Gunman: Don't ever say that again about your fathers. They are not cowards! You think I am brave because I carry a gun? Your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility. For you, your brothers, your sisters and your mothers. This responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. lt bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. Nobody says they have to do it. They do it because they love you and they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule, with no guarantee what will become of it - this is bravery. That's why I never even started anything like that. That's why I never will.
And never is a long time.


Quebec Mayor Vows to Continue City Hall Prayer Despite Legal Threats

The mayor of the Quebec city of Saguenay, Jean Tremblay, says those seeking to take him to court for praying before City Hall meetings are not acting democratically. Despite criticisms, including a Human Rights Commission (HRC) ruling and further possible legal action, Tremblay has expressed his intention to hold fast to his religious convictions, reaffirming that he will continue to pray before monthly City Hall meetings. He has said he will defend his position in court if called upon. "My religion has always been more important than my career. I go to Mass every day. I have no intention of betraying my faith, I'd be too ashamed to show up 'on the other side' in front of side in front of God," said Tremblay, as reported by Cyberpresse.

On May 15, Tremblay was ordered by the Human Rights Commission to stop praying before the meetings after citizen Christian Joncas filed a complaint. "I don't know why we would stop. Prayers are what we have that's most precious. To subject ourselves to the whim of some people, very few of them, just two ... is to kneel down rapidly, and we don't have the intention to stop," was his May response after learning of the HRC's order. Alain Simoneau has since filed a second complaint on behalf of the Mouvement laic quebecois, which may involve a $100,000 lawsuit.

Tremblay says he has been praying for the two men. "I pray for Mr. Simoneau, to reflect a little on what he is doing. I also pray for Christian Joncas, and I'm convinced that it has helped. "In a democratic system, it is the majority that imposes its law. I am in politics and a politician, who rules his case in the elections. I will not fold for one individual," explained Tremblay, after confirming he would stop reciting a prayer before meetings if that was the will of the majority he represented.

When asked about potential court costs, which would come out of taxpayer's money, the Mayor alluded to other costs that are incurred for the sake of justice. "To ensure the triumph of justice, we pay a fortune. We are building a brand new prison at Roberval, new Courthouse across Quebec. Why religion is less important, why should we be shocked? So far, this issue did not cost a penny to the municipality. I have always defended alone," said Tremblay.

Tremblay compared any possible court issued punishment regarding his religious convictions to something one would see in a communist country. "You could see it in China or Russia, not here. It is currently exceeding the limits with that case," he said.

Mayor Tremblay is an outspoken defender of Quebec's traditional Catholic Christian heritage. In 2007, he denounced the landslide of secularism that has overwhelmed Quebec since the 1960s and told a government commission that Quebec must revive moral values and needs to retain its Catholic heritage.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why I'm not a good Samaritan

Britain today: Dangerous

Well, what would you have done? Linda Buchanan, 58, was verbally abused by two louts after she had asked them not to smoke on a crowded railway platform. They did the same the next day. On the third day, these big brave men shoved her off the platform and on to the rail tracks. It was only then that other commuters intervened.

I like to think I would have stepped in the first time. But, realistically, I can't be sure. Only the other day on a Tube, I saw two young men swigging wine from a bottle. Boris Johnson has outlawed consumption of alcohol anywhere on the Underground network. But the trouble is that he has not provided the resources to police the ban. I decided to say nothing, unlike a gentleman further down the carriage. He was braver than me and told them to pack it in.

You can imagine the result. "What the ---- are you going to do about it?" One then lit a cigarette. The passenger, wisely in my view, backed off. It was after 10pm; there were no staff in sight; there were no other passengers. We both got off at the next station to a chorus of abuse.

Both these incidents happened in a week when the 22nd teenager was murdered in London. Ryan Bravo, 18, was in a supermarket when he became caught up in a street gang feud. Another lad in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And so I have changed my pattern of behaviour. Would I walk late at night in certain areas? Never. Catch a night bus? Never. The last time I did, I dozed off and woke to the sound of four men kicking the hell out of an American tourist in the seat behind me. They stole his wallet. The driver connived in the crime by opening the door to let the gang off the bus. He didn't want any trouble, either.

A few years ago in east London, where I used to live, I was attacked by two hoodies. I fought back as best I could by wielding my briefcase at them. To my amazement, one hoodie went down. I grappled with the other, all the time shouting for help. A passerby who heard the commotion stopped at the gates of the park, but kept his distance until the boys had run away. He told me he felt guilty for not intervening. When I got home, I discovered the reason for my strength was not my regular work-outs, but a forgotten bottle of champagne in the bottom of my bag.

Would I do the same again? Never. I'd hand over my wallet today, because I would be scared the hoodies would have knives. In one of his most thoughtful speeches, David Cameron said: "There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth any more about what is good and bad, right and wrong." He's right. But I think there are many more people like me who fear that we have lost the courage to do the right thing.


TV Treats Marital Sex as Burdensome, Adultery as Positive

The Parents Television Council released a new study, "Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television", which revealed that broadcast networks depict sex in the context of marriage as either non-existent or burdensome, while showing positive depictions of extra-marital or adulterous sexual relationships with alarming frequency. Across the broadcast networks, the new PTC report found that verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3 to 1, and scenes depicting or implying sex between non-married partners outnumbered similar scenes between married couples by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1.

"These study results suggest that many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner. Even more troubling than the marginalization of marriage and glorification of non-marital sex on television is TV's recent obsession with outr‚ sexual expression. Children and teens are now exposed to a host of sexual behaviors that less than a generation ago would have been considered off-limits for broadcast television," said PTC President Tim Winter.

According to the PTC study, some of the once-taboo-for-TV sexual behaviors that are now found on prime time television include threesomes, partner swapping, pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, and sex with prostitutes, in addition to depictions of strippers, references to masturbation, pornography, sex toys, and kinky or fetishistic behaviors. "Behaviors that were once seen as fringe, immoral, or socially destructive have been given the stamp of approval by the television industry. And recent studies show that children are influenced by those messages. Throughout much of the history of broadcast television, the networks adhered to a voluntary code of conduct which stipulated that respect should be maintained for the sanctity of marriage and the value of the home. Our report finds that not only are the boundaries no longer respected - they have been obliterated," Winter continued.

The PTC examined all scripted prime time entertainment programs on the major broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW) during four weeks at the beginning of the 2007-2008 television season (September 23-October 22, 2007) for a total of 207.5 programming hours. Television broadcasts of movies, news, sports programs, reality and game shows were not included in this analysis. My Network TV did not air programming that matched this study's criteria within the study period.

The study found, amongst other things, that references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex 2 to 1. Although the networks shied away from talking about sex in the context of marriage, they did not shy away from discussions of masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, manual stimulation, sex toys, bondage or kinky or fetishistic sex - there were 74 such references during the study period.

The Family Hour - the time slot with the largest audience of young viewers - contained the highest frequency of references to non-married sex. Family Hour references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in marriage by a ratio of 3.9 to 1. During the 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm hours, the references to non-marital versus marital sex averaged 2.5 to 1. Visual references to voyeurism (a third party present, watching or taping while sex takes place), transvestites/transsexuals, threesomes, kinky sex, bondage, sado-masochism, and prostitution outnumbered visual references to sex in marriage by a ratio of 2.7 to 1.

Content descriptors, which are intended to alert parents to inappropriate content and work in conjunction with the V-Chip to block such content that parents may find unsuitable for their children, were often lacking or inadequate. For example, on ABC, 38% of programs airing during the Family Hour that contained sexual content did not receive the "S" descriptor and during the 9:00 pm hour, 71% of programs containing sexual dialogue did not carry a "D" descriptor. Every network had problems with the consistent application of "S" and/or "D" descriptors during every time slot.

Of all the networks, ABC had the most references to marital sex, but many of the references were negative. References to non-marital sex, by contrast, were almost universally positive or neutral. In 46 hours of programming, NBC contained only one reference to marital sex, but 11 references to non-marital sex and one reference to adultery were made. References to incest, pedophilia, partner swapping, prostitution, threesomes, transsexuals/transvestites, bestiality, and necrophilia combined outnumbered references to sex in marriage on NBC by a ratio of 27 to 1. On NBC, there were as many depictions of adults having sex with minors as there were scenes implying or depicting sex between married partners.

Michael Medved, Nationally Syndicated Talk Radio Host and PTC Advisory Board Member, remarked, "For many years, parents have worried about television's glamorization of destructive sexual behavior. This important new report suggests another cause for concern: the de-glamorization of marriage. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel satisfied and fulfilled by their marriages. The notion that sex outside of marriage is inherently more exciting, more important, more worthy as the subject of story-telling, is a toxic message for parents and children alike."

Mr. Winter continued, "Broadcasters, knowing television's ability to influence behavior, must exercise greater responsibility when handling sexual situations during primetime hours - opting for less graphic visual content, and favoring storylines that don't celebrate promiscuity, glamorize criminality, or denigrate monogamy. "The American people need to hold the networks and their local broadcast affiliates accountable for pushing questionable content into their homes over the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves. In addition, advertisers need to reconsider their role as underwriters of such material, and whether they want to continue associating their brand names and hard-earned corporate images with salacious sexual content. While the Supreme Court awaits its next legal review of indecency on television, now is the time for families to raise their collective voice against the tide of graphic sexual content invading their homes."


'Saving' borrowers from payday loans

Right about now, Arizonans are receiving mailings urging them to vote "yes" on Prop. 16, the Payday Loan Reform Act (PDF). All ballot propositions are sponsored by somebody, and this one is backed by Arizonans for Financial Reform, a group the Arizona Republic reports "has received nearly $2 million in contributions from payday lenders." It's a payday-loan industry group backing a "reform" bill that would impose regulations on the industry and -- oh yeah -- incidentally repeal a state measure that would essentially abolish the industry in 2010.

So that has critics screaming that Arizonans for Financial Reform is an astroturf group defending its evil, exploitative, industry through the appearance of a reform measure -- which it is, except for the "evil, exploitative" part.

If you don't know, a payday loan is a short-term loan people take out, borrowing against their next paycheck at a fee that works out to a very high rate of interest. Not surprisingly, it's the sort of loan people with limited financial alternatives take out -- stereotypically (though not always accurately), the working poor. That makes lenders open to vilification for preying on the needy.

Except that nobody makes people take these loans; they choose to do so, and for a reason. In fact, as Reason magazine reported six years ago, there has always been a market for short-term loans for people who see value in giving up a little money in a few weeks for cash right now.
Today's thriving industry of payday lending looks a lot like the "salary lenders," later renamed "salary buyers," that thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "In current dollars, they would buy $650 worth of salary by writing a check for $500," says Lendol Calder, a professor of history at Augustana College and author of the 1999 book Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit.

These days, if a person wants to borrow $200 on the first of the month, he'll write a check for $234 dated the 15th. When the 15th rolls around, either he pays off the loan in cash or the lender cashes the check. If he can't afford to pay off the entire amount, the lender will roll over the loan for an additional fee.

One hundred years ago, the leading critic of "salary loan lending" called such people "sharks, leeches and remorseless extortioners." Today's consumer advocates call payday lenders "predatory" and "legal loan sharks."
Are borrowers right to seek these loans? Well, you either leave the choice to them, or you substitute the judgment of legislators, do-gooders and government officials who have no idea of the specific needs of the people patronizing payday lenders.

It's not as if the alternatives are so much more reasonable. Bank overdraft fees are now drawing the wrath of the same folks (PDF) who vilify payday lenders. And Tom Lehman, a professor of economics at Indiana Wesleyan University, says bounced-check fees can actually be significantly higher than the fees charged by payday lenders.

Not surprisingly, given that people have long sought out payday lenders and their predecessors, "protecting" people from short-term loans can have serious consequences. In research (PDF) done for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Donald P. Morgan and Michael R. Strain found:
Compared with households in states where payday lending is permitted, households in Georgia have bounced more checks, complained more to the Federal Trade Commission about lenders and debt collectors, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection at a higher rate. North Carolina households have fared about the same. This negative correlation-reduced payday credit supply, increased credit problems-contradicts the debt trap critique of payday lending, but is consistent with the hypothesis that payday credit is preferable to substitutes such as the bounced-check "protection" sold by credit unions and banks or loans from pawnshops.
Is your blood pressure rising? Are you thinking that, perhaps, all short-term loans are nothing more than legalized loan-sharking that should be abolished for the good of would-be borrowers, whether or not those borrowers appreciate the gesture?

Then let me point out that the logical, final alternative to legalized loan-sharking is illegal loan-sharking, with all that implies. If you think a triple-digit rate of interest is harsh, consider that real loan sharks are known for inflicting broken bones and occasional fatalities on deadbeats.

Franchised payday lenders, no matter how much you hate them, don't do that.

So, it's our choice. We can either leave people free to borrow money at rates of interest that make us shudder, or, to give ourselves warm-and-fuzzy feelings, we can outlaw the practice, hurt some people financially, and drive others to borrow money at rates of interest that make us shudder -- from criminals.


Leave the United States if You Can

But where to go? Australia maybe but Australia tends to be too relaxed for Americans. Though Andorra sounds good, particularly if you speak Catalan

It is time -- arguably, it is past time -- for you to get your family and your wealth safely outside the borders of the United States. America has become a police state that is moving quickly toward total surveillance and, in typical American fashion, the resulting society will almost certainly be the "the best and the biggest" tyranny in the world.

Make plans right now while opportunities still exist to secure your wealth outside of the authorities' rapacious reach because that door of opportunity may be slammed in your face in the near future. It is not merely that government at all levels is starving for the cash that's dried up from property taxes and, so, will steal and confiscate like a drunken highwayman. Many factors point to rise of the Total State, which will grind up your freedom, your future and the lives of those who resist.

I read about 12 news sources a day, from far-left to the Religious Right; month by month, there is a dramatic increase in reports of police brutality, government surveillance, crack-downs, the control of daily life down to the minutia of which oils you may cook french fries... And there seems to be precious little opposition to the arrival of totalitarianism. Perhaps the flood of oppression is too overwhelming and has caused a general paralysis; at times, that is my reaction. But, mostly, I think people are either focused on financial survival or they actually applaud the Total State.

Even those who believe they believe in freedom are among the applauders because they buy the justifications being offered for the annihilation of civil liberties. For example, consider just one of the incredible and successful assaults on the due process and liberties of us all; in the name of defending women and children, the campaign against sex offenders has created a class of "untouchables" in class-free America -- people whom the government tells where to live, how to make a living, which sites they can e-visit, etc., etc. In the name of noble goals, the government has erased the idea of serving out a time in jail (which used to be called "paying your debt to society") and, instead, established the idea of indefinite sentences and 'forever' punishments.But the establishment of this caste system is just one aspect of the wild plunge into tyranny.

What should worry you the most is that everything has occurred before the economic collapse of the United States, which I believe will happen in the near future. (The timing depends somewhat on when "too many" foreign-held dollars are dumped back into America.) I expect a severe depression to unfold over the next few years. And nothing, nothing, nothing encourages the growth of State as much as people who are frightened and hungry/homeless. An entire population can turn to a leader much as children turn toward a parent...and for the same reason: to feel safe.

If an economic depression is added to the convergence of the police state with a total surveillance society, then I honestly don't know what will happen. But I do know that you don't want to be there to find out. Don't be fooled by those who say "but America has too strong a tradition of freedom for this to happen." Pre-Nazi Germans thought their culture was too sophisticated and fine to allow the triumph of barbarism. Leave.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Saturday, August 09, 2008

The ABA Goes Over to the Dark Side

The domestic violence industry is one of the most corrupt and unaccountable enterprises in modern-day America. Every year it sucks over $1 billion from the federal treasury and ships the money to a variety of radical feminist organizations dedicated to revamping the family unit. Thanks to the generosity of the Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence programs encourage women to file false allegations, strip fit fathers of their natural right to parent, and doom kids to live in a single-parent household -- with VAWA picking up the legal tab.

Of course many men decide to fight the wrongful accusations to restore their good name and protect their children -- and end up paying their lawyers a princely sum in the process. A few years ago the American Bar Association decided it was time to cash in on this grand social experiment, so it set up the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence. Before long the CODV was setting out to revamp American family law to comport with its global feminist-socialist vision. For example this week the Commission's website features this startling claim: "International human rights legal principles may be used persuasively in domestic violence cases in U.S. state courts."

That statement gives you an idea of how far the ABA has moved away from its well-cultivated image of black-cloaked probity and stern-faced reason. The Commission then decided to develop a series of publications to elucidate on its family-reform agenda. One of these reports, "Ten Myths about Custody and Domestic Violence," purports to tell the truth about 10 common falsehoods.

But then a group called RADAR - Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting -- got wind of the ABA report and decided to do a little fact-checking. That's when the ABA's glass-house began to disintegrate into a million tiny pieces. First, RADAR found most of the so-called myths aren't really myths. Turns out they are strawmen erected by the ABA Commission to provide the framework for a series of claims that are ostensibly backed up scientific research. And when RADAR examined the actual research, these "studies" were found to be little more than a series of opinion pieces put out by other groups with the same ideological axe to grind as the ABA. Or the studies were advocacy research disguised as objective science. All told, of the 19 claims found in the "Ten Myths" report, only 2 of them are truthful. All the rest are misleading, unsupported, or simply false.

It's bad enough for the ABA to traffic in a series of pusillanimous lies. But to then claim your lies are actually debunking someone else's lies - that's a propaganda technique of the highest order. This ruse would have put to shame Mr. Joseph Goebbels, the National Socialist minister of truth who famously proclaimed, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Now the story gets interesting. In May RADAR sent a letter to the ABA president, William Neukom, politely pointing out the errors and asking the ABA to remove the offending report. RADAR requested the courtesy of a reply. But no answer was forthcoming.

That means the problem is not some rogue outfit within the ABA that suddenly began to spout neo-Marxist slogans. The fact is, the president of the American Bar Association is a knowing accomplice to this massacre of the truth. Frankly, I'm disturbed by this willful violation of the public trust. Normally I don't ask my readers to take action. But in the name of protecting the truth, I'm going to make an exception. After all, the American Bar Association is expected to be more than a well-heeled special interest group, and the truth is not a commodity to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. So please email Mr. Neukom at abapresident@abanet.org . Or if you want to give the ABA an earful, call their Media Relations department at 1-312-988-6171. You can make the message short and sweet. Tell Mr. Neukom to stop the lies.


"Affirmative action" closes medical facility

In what might be considered by some an ironic twist, a push to get more minorities to donate bone marrow is forcing the closure of the last bone marrow donor program in the Treasure Valley. St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute'sBone Marrow Donor Program will close by the end of the summer, with potential local donors likely managed by the Inland Northwest Blood Center in Spokane.

St. Luke's says it cannot meet new requirements enacted by the National Marrow Donor Program to encourage more minority donors because the lack of minorities in the region meant the program couldn't meet the requirement to recruit at least 1,000 minority donors a year or the additional requirement to have a full-time recruiter in addition to a coordinator. "We understand the need to recruit more minority donors, but closing the St. Luke's program is not an option we would have preferred," Allen said in a news release.

The national program instituted the new requirements to help address what they say is an increasing shortage of minority donors. Because tissue types are inherited, patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. Bone marrow transplants are often the best or only hope for patients suffering from leukemia, lymphoma or other life-threatening diseases. Since St. Luke's started its program in 1991, the hospital says there have been 120 positive donor matches for patients in need of a bone marrow transplant.


Israeli pre-emption better than Islamist cure

By Spengler

Militant Islam, or what US President George W Bush once called "Islamo-fascism", may look back on the last months of the Bush administration as its moment in the sun. Iran's nuclear program soon may cross the point of no return; Pakistan's ruling coalition may have become the instrument of Muslim revanchism against India; and Turkey may return to Islamist rule in a "silent revolution" that will dismantle the secular institutions that have prevailed for three generations. In the first two cases, the US State Department played Dr Frankenstein to the creation of an Islamist monster, and I believe Turkey will become a third.

America's presidential elections may be the proximate cause of Western enervation, as Washington strives for calm and credibility prior to the November poll. America is stuck to the Iraqi tar baby, and becomes more entrapped the more it struggles. Iran's leverage inside Iraq, as I have warned for years, gives the Islamic republic room to bargain for its broader objectives.

But the West's enfeeblement has deeper sources, in the same sort of squeamishness that paralyzed European diplomacy in the years prior to World War I and World War II.

There simply are too many adherents of militant Islam to deal with the matter conveniently. Any solution today will be messy; a confrontation postponed for another half dozen years might cost eight figures' worth of lives.

The nations of Western and Central Asia are not pieces on a diplomatic chessboard, but living organisms with a dual character. They have one foot in the secular world, and another in a lost past for which political Islam stokes a deadly nostalgia. Iran represents the hope of the Shi'ite underclass of the Middle East, from Lebanon to Pakistan, while the Turkish Islamists embody the frustration of the Anatolian villages against the metropolis. Pakistan, Washington's closest ally in the "war on terror", now lends evident support to Islamist terrorists in India and Afghanistan.

The critical mass of three Islamist states - Iran, Turkey and Pakistan - threatens to create a regional upheaval that can be contained only by wars of attrition. The outlook is grim, not least because the US State Department is repeating in Turkey the errors that helped bring Islamist governments to power in Iran and Pakistan. Two weeks ago (Turkey in the throes of Islamic revolution?) I accused the world press of ignoring an Islamist coup in progress in Turkey. There is more to say on this score, but America's whipsaw over Iran is even more alarming.

Something has gone dreadfully wrong in Washington when the clearest reports on Iranian-American relations come from Iran's official news service IRNA. In advance of the November election, the Bush administration wants quiet in Iraq and quiescence in the oil market, and Tehran can help with both. That is why "talks on Iran's nuclear program in Geneva indicated a shift of the US policy toward Iran in line with the [James] Baker-[Lee] Hamilton recommendations [of 2006]," as IRNA reported on July 31, quoting Iran's parliament leader, Hamidreza Haji-Babaei.

The Iranian leader added that the US "has found out that Iran is a country which cannot be ignored and the presence of US Under Secretary William Burns in the Geneva talks on July 19 approves such a finding".

With all due respect to the US's military chief in Iraq and now also Central Command head, General David Petraeus, diminished violence in Iraq is not due entirely to the skill of American arms. Without Iranian forbearance, the troop "surge" would not seem as effective. Iran has leashed its proxies in Iraq, for example Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr. In return, the US has taken a less confrontational approach to Iran's nuclear ambitions, including, as IRNA noted, high-level participation in direct talks with Iran for the first time in a generation.

As I wrote in October 2005 (A Syriajevo in the making?), "the probable outcome is that Washington will refrain from military action to forestall Iranian nuclear arms developments, while Tehran will refrain from disrupting Washington's Potemkin Village in Iraq. In this exchange, Iran gives up nothing of importance, for the rage of the Iraqi Shi'ites will only wax over time. Tehran retains the option to stir things up in Iraq whenever it chooses to do so. Its capacity to do so will increase with time as Iraq grows less stable."

Watching the Potomac, the Iranians can only conclude that their supporters in Washington, notably Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have crushed hardliners such as Vice President Dick Cheney. "Direct dialogue" with Iran and Syria, that is, accepting Iran as a regional player, was the leading recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton "Iraq Study Group" report. As IRNA points out, dispatching a senior State Department official to be insulted by Iran denoted a turning-point victory for the friends of Tehran.

In another triumph for Iran, the government of Lebanon reportedly will legalize the Hezbollah militia and guarantee its right to "liberate or recover occupied lands", that is, to attack Israel. Two years after a United Nations resolution requiring the disarming of Hezbollah ended a regional war, Iran's military presence in Lebanon will obtain official status, without a harrumph from the US State Department.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan visited Tehran last week to hail Iran as "an important country in the region and the world". His discussion partner, majlis (parliament) President Ali Larijani, was quoted by IRNA as stating, "Iran wants an independent, stable and tranquil Iraq in its neighborhood." Washington, as I reported two weeks ago, hopes that Turkish influence in Iraq will help stabilize the country.

M K Bhadrakhumar, formerly India's ambassador to Turkey, wrote on this site on August 1, "We may never quite know the extent to which any role Washington would have played in ensuring that the government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not unseated by Turkey's constitutional court in the trial regarding the alleged Islamist agenda of the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP). The US is far too experienced in the logarithm of power play in Ankara ... what is clear is that Washington is visibly relieved that the AKP government continues to rule in Ankara and Erdogan remains in harness."( A triumph for Turkey - and its allies)

If anything, that is an understatement. Neither the US government nor the mainstream press has expressed concern about the Erdogan government's arrest of 86 secular leaders for an alleged plot to overthrow the government and kill political leaders, on the strength of a 2,455 page indictment with a pronounced tone of pulp fiction. Among other allegations, Turkish prosecutors claim that the 1993 assassination of the secularist journalist Ugur Mumcu was the work of a six-man Israeli hit team that entered from sea and hid at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The indictment includes extensive transcripts from wiretaps on secularist figures, none of which contains decisive proof of a plot, but which combine to demonstrate that the new Islamist power in Ankara hears and sees everything.

What matters to Washington at the moment is Turkey's ability to create the appearance of progress in Middle Eastern diplomacy. Bhadrakumar reported arranged contacts between US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who both visited Ankara on July 17. Turkey's well-publicized attempt to mediate between Israel and Syria seems to have dissipated, but the Israeli website Debka reports that Ankara now wants to attempt to mediate between Israel and the Palestinian organization Hamas.

Turkey and Iran both have regional spheres of influence, which conflict more than they overlap. Iran is subsidizing Shi'ite revanchism from Pakistan through Iraq and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon. Turkey's Islamists have been infiltrating Turkish-language Central Asia from Azerbaijan to so-called "East Turkistan", that is, western China, for decades. Their Islamist governments rest on the militant cadre who carry the caliph's banner rather than a field-marshal's baton in their knapsacks. For the moment, Iran's backing for Iraq's Shi'ites provides a counterweight to the ambitions of Iraq's Kurds for an independent state, and the two Islamist governments are aligned. That will not last.

Pakistan's evident support for the Taliban as well as for irredentist bombers in India appears to be the future of the region, now raised to the third power. Overshadowing the apparent success of the Iraqi "surge" (thanks in large measure to Iranian help) is the alliance of Pakistan's intelligence services with elements of the Taliban.

In November 2007, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, a secularist and an admirer of the Turkish model, attempted to impose a state of emergency. The US State Department pulled the rug out from under its erstwhile ally, warning on November 3, "The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that Pakistani President Musharraf has taken extra-constitutional actions and has imposed a state of emergency. A state of emergency would be a sharp setback for Pakistani democracy and takes Pakistan off the path toward civilian rule." Now the US has accused the duly-elected government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of providing covert support to its enemies, a charge that the Pakistanis qualified as "rubbish".

India is persuaded that Pakistan supported last month's bombing of its embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul as well as terror bombs in Gujurat and Bangalore in India.

The Middle East bears strong comparison to Europe in the years before World War I. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, its capacity will jump to deploy surrogates such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Mahdi Army and whatever Shi'ite militias it has in place in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. We are not in 1914, but in 1905, when the First Morocco Crisis of 1905 gave Germany a pretext it did not seize to make short work of France while the Russians were busy with an insurrection. Germany's chief of staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, tried in vain to persuade the temporizing Kaiser Wilhelm II to attack France when Germany had the upper hand. Had it done so, Europe would have had a six-week war on the scale of 1870 rather than four years of unrelieved slaughter and the disintegration of its civilization. The kaiser waited until the outcome of war could only be the ruin of the contending parties. Pre-emption would have been the humanitarian solution.

Israel is the only player in the region with the perspicacity and power to stop the slide towards regional war. The Jewish state may not have the capacity to eradicate Iran's nuclear development program, but it almost certainly has the means to set it back for a number of years. The forthcoming resignation of feckless Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert opens all options for good and ill. If Israel can find a von Schlieffen, it still might be able to interrupt the slide towards political Islam in the region. If Israel fails to act, the near-certain outcome will be regional war on a scale dwarfing the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

As in 1967, the Jewish state will be on its own, with reluctant support, if any at all, from its American ally. Forty years ago, Israel had military leaders willing to act with decisiveness. It is far from clear whether it has the same will today.


Stalinism Was Just as Bad as Nazism

By MART LAAR (A former prime minister of Estonia)

Last week Russia furiously attacked President Bush for his proclamation on Captive Nations Week (July 20-July 26), which was established to raise awareness of countries living under communist and other oppressive regimes. Mr. Bush said that, "In the 20th century, the evils of Soviet communism and Nazi fascism were defeated and freedom spread around the world as new democracies emerged."

The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that treating Nazi fascism and Soviet communism as "a single evil" was an insult that "hurt the hearts" of World War II veterans in Russia and in allied countries, including the United States. "While condemning the abuse of power and unjustified severity of the Soviet regime's internal policies, we nevertheless can neither treat indifferently attempts to equate Communism and Nazism nor agree that they were inspired by the same ideas and aims," the ministry said in a statement.

Actually, the Bush statement is correct: There is really no big difference between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. When World War II began in September 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies; indeed Stalin and Hitler launched the war together. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty of Aug. 23 was a nonaggression pact between Germany and Russia; but a secret protocol in the treaty also opened the way for the division of Europe by carving Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania into spheres of influence. Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1 from the north, south and west; Stalin invaded Poland from the east on Sept. 17.

And this was only the beginning. The second campaign of the war was Soviet aggression against Finland in November 1939; only the third campaign, against Denmark and Norway (in April) was a pure German operation. The fourth campaign, the invasion of France in May 1940, was accompanied by Stalin's annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In this period, Stalin was a most devoted ally of Hitler. Without Soviet oil and grain, Hitler would probably not have survived the first year of the war. Stalin even ordered European communists not to help their governments fight against Hitler.

In occupied countries, Poland for example, the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet NKVD worked hand in hand. Germany's secret police killed people in its zone of occupation according to racial criteria. In its zone, the Soviet secret police killed according to social or political criteria. The Nazi SS handed over Ukrainian nationalists to the Soviets; in return the NKVD handed over escaped German communists to the Gestapo.

Only when the two totalitarian leaders could not agree how to divide the world did war between them come. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941; the resulting anti-Nazi coalition helped the West survive and come out of the war with half of Europe rescued from totalitarianism. But for the rest of Europe under communist control, World War II ended only in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet empire.

In his marvelous book, "No Simple Victory," British historian Norman Davies asks us to remember that "the war in Europe was dominated by two evil monsters, not by one. Each of the monsters consumed the best people in its territory before embarking on a fight to the death for supremacy. The third force in the struggle -- the Western Powers -- was all but eliminated in the opening stage, and took much of the war to reassert its influence."

This statement in no way insults the millions of people who fought against the Nazis. The victims of the crimes of Stalin and Hitler included the people of the Soviet Union. Soviet losses in World War II were very high, according to some estimates, including by Mr. Davies, 27 million soldiers and civilians. But these losses not only include those killed by the German invasion; they also include people killed by communist repressions and deportations, as well as the killings by the Soviets of their own soldiers. Mr. Davies thinks that the number of Soviet soldiers killed by the NKVD could exceed the total number of battle deaths of the British and U.S. armies.

So why, in some quarters, are the crimes of communism not yet condemned? There are still many people who say that, whilst the crimes of Nazism were proven and condemned in the Nuremberg Trials, the crimes of communism still need investigation. Others hesitate to condemn communism because, knowing that Hitler saw in Bolshevism its main opponent, they fear to share a common position with the Nazis. This is not a logical position. If we find two gangsters fighting each other and one of them kills another, this does not make the first gangster less of a criminal.

Communist terror was in the same league of infamy as the crimes of the Third Reich. It actually lasted longer, killing significantly more people than the Nazis did. This does not make Nazis better than communists. They were both fighting against freedom and human dignity, and must be condemned in the same way as evils of the 20th century.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Friday, August 08, 2008

Neglect the kids ... it will stop them getting bored

Modern parents over-organise children's playtime. Just let them get on with it, urges our writer

Just days into the long holiday and the summer soundtrack isn't so much the sleepy drone of busy bees as the whine of listless children. The thrills of liberty and long lie-ins have worn thin, everyone else seems to have fled the country to enjoy holidays abroad and the "I'm bored..." mantra is driving parents to breaking point.

The reaction of many well-meaning adults is to swiftly organise weeks of activity aimed at keeping every minute of every hour so crammed with events that their offspring's ennui will be eased before it gets a chance to set in. But should we bother? Isn't it time we recognised the benefits of boredom and gave children the chance to use their own initiative and learn how to entertain themselves?

Guilt simply comes with the territory for most parents, especially as so many people now work full-time and perform amazing juggling acts to ferry their children around, with timetables crammed not just with education but also with huge amounts of extracurricular activities. Holidays too are now packed with sports/art/drama camps, every minute timetabled.

Paddy O'Donnell, professor of social psychology at the University of Glasgow, has been studying the long-term effects of structured play and the way it has impacted at university level over the past ten to 15 years. "Children have a natural inclination to play and explore and until they reach around the age of 3 this is directed by the parents, hopefully helping them to deepen their curiosity and learn to use language to explore the world. "Once they reach 3 they are interested in social play, which becomes a major feature of their activities. Boredom shouldn't last long if children are in the right environment where they're dragged off either by curiosity or the desire to socialise. It continues only if there's no one to play with or the environment's too restrictive."

The age of 5 or 6 has always been a crucial stage at which youngsters naturally tend to stop spending so much time with their parents and seek the company of their peers. Children like playing with their own age group and find siblings less interesting, though they'll make do with them when there's no alternative, such as during family holidays.

Adults who feel morally obliged to spend every waking hour entertaining their children and doing everything "as a family" might want to take stock at this point, especially as O'Donnell also points out that "parents should not be pals. Their role is as a parent, not as a friend, and children need to make their own friends."

According to O'Donnell, the shift in play over the past couple of decades is reflected in the attitudes of today's students. "Schools, clubs and other activities are now very much leader-related," he says. "Unstructured play is becoming rarer with no moving as a pack or just getting on with activities - children always expect and want to relate individually to whomever is in charge and we now have 18, 19, 20-year-olds who can only function effectively like that. Students are far less confident than they were 15 years ago, far less likely to make a decision by themselves and with little aspiration to get things moving without someone else being in charge and directing them."

What are parents so scared of when it comes to leaving their children to get on with it? Desiring nothing more than freedom to do nothing is incomprehensible to modern parents, who steadfastly believe that structuring supervised activities is the best they can do for their ofspring. Escape and creativity are vital for development, but supervision now tempers a vast amount of activity.

Dr Richard Ralley, a senior psychology lecturer at Edge Hill College in Lancashire, is now quantifying a research project he carried out with 300 participants to assess the wider implications and benefits of boredom: "People often report that when they are bored they do nothing. Seen this way, boredom is useful - we conserve energy, but do not find this pleasant, so are ready to engage with the next useful activity that comes along. "The brain sucks up a fifth of our energy and our children are the most heavily assessed in Europe. Some genuine downtime seems due."

One of the hardest parts of parenting is letting children develop independence to learn to think for themselves, but if sent off cheerfully to try something different few children will demur. However, add a nervous or weepy parent, over-the-top exhortations to take care and a terrifying list of what can go wrong - and failure seems the most likely outcome. We would all like our children to grow into well-rounded and capable human beings in the safety of our own living rooms, but it doesn't work like that.

Ralley says that parents should leave their children to feel fed-up, rather than keeping them constantly occupied, as boredom could also allow children to get sufficient rest. "One of the features that has arisen in people's reports so far is a loneliness that comes with boredom, as well as the inadequacy of grasping on to any kind of activity to relieve it. I'm starting to believe that being bored is a signal to stop doing other things and to re-engage socially. I've always suggested that social activity is best: a family beach trip, playing football, having a picnic." Once you've embraced the idea of benign neglect having a valid position in parenting, you're still left with the problem of actually finding the places where children can entertain themselves safely. Aim for physical activity, especially as that will ensure real sleep at the end of the day and remove the time constraints, irrespective of whether you're at a beach, country park or in a forest. Give children basic safety instructions, make sure they know where to find you and then tell them that you'll see them when they're hungry or bored with messing around.

The real test then will actually be for the parents, as very few of us can sit peacefully for two or three hours and not leap fretfully towards every sound, or lack of sound. Build up the time if you lack confidence in yourself or your children, watch over them unseen if you really cannot bear to let them out of your sight and then let them get on with it - the Lord of the Flies-style confrontations excepted.

Letting kids run screaming into the wind on an empty beach, leaving them to get filthy building a den in the woods, or just spending a whole day slouching in their pyjamas without one parental exhortation to get dressed, might be hard for parents who are used to driving their children everywhere - in every sense. But when it comes to journeying into their own imagination, children are best left to travel solo.


Enlightened spirit of inquiry under threat

SITTING on a stage at the Sydney Opera House on Monday evening, her hair swept up, a cream scarf wrapped around her shoulders, a beautiful young black woman tells the audience she is often accused of being a puppet of white middle-aged men. With a twinkle in her eye, Somalian-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali flashes a wry smile as she looks down the table at the four older white men who have been brought together by the Centre for Independent Studies to discuss why the ideas of the Enlightenment need a 21st-century revival. Puppet? Not a chance.

Anyone who knows Hirsi Ali's story knows she is no one's pawn. As a girl she suffered genital mutilation; then, as a young woman, escaped an arranged marriage, incurring the wrath of Islam by rejecting her faith. Last time she was in Sydney, huge crowds listened to her journey, where she crossed back and forth between the superstitions, tribal taboos and conspiracy theories of her people to the world of inquiry and measured, rational discourse in the West. It was evident to her that one system was better than the other. People are equal but ideas and values are not. The crowds have come again on another wintry Sydney night. But this time Hirsi Ali is more interested in our story. She says we in the West, who have inherited the values of the Enlightenment, have developed contempt for values that drive progress and freedom.

There is no doubt the West is suffering from a dangerous moral disorientation. It is not clear that we value the very idea of the West any more. Enlightenment values such as genuine inquiry and reason, which ought to flow like blood delivering a vibrant pulse to the Western project, have been dislodged by the noxious intruders of unreason and fear. If talk about the Enlightenment sounds like some quaint historical curiosity debated by poseurs in the ethereal world of academe, think again. The determination to quash inquiry and reason infiltrates just about every aspect of our lives.

Hirsi Ali knows something about this. Shadowed by a security detail, she lives with death threats because she has chosen to debate Islam. Sweet-sounding words such as multiculturalism and tolerance are used to repress open debate. She has no problem with people who worship the prophet Mohammed. "But I want to be able to say that Mohammed had some reprehensible qualities without being thrown in jail, without being demonised," she says. This must be allowed in a society committed to Enlightenment values of inquiry and reason because people progress by using reason to challenge ideas.

Panel member Frank Furedi also knows something about our pusillanimous surrender of Enlightenment values. Debate is closed down by claiming that words, ideas and arguments cause offence to people, sometimes censored by the strong arm of the state or, more often, regulated by informal gatekeepers and our own timidity. Furedi, a professor of sociology from Britain and a prolific author of books about modern culture, was advised by a publisher recently that the term mentally ill was inappropriate. Instead, he should say "mental health service user". He was warned against the word civilisation because it presupposes that there are uncivilised people. His young son was told recently not to use the word retard because it had offensive connotations. His son knew that, which is why he used the term. "But words are now viewed as psychological weapons," Furedi said.

And it is the modern world's notion of human beings that explains why we have become so fearful of words. The conception of freedom that fuelled the Enlightenment was based on a radical view of humans as autonomous, resilient beings with the capacity to exercise their power in a rational, reasoned manner. Rational, reasoned human beings deserved the widest freedoms.

This very positive rendition of human beings has been replaced in the 21st century with a notion that people are weak (the buzzword is vulnerable) or destructive. Hence, freedoms that underpinned the Enlightenment period have been curtailed. Furedi notes that the phrase "human impact" would have been celebrated during the Enlightenment. Today, it is a negative term because humans are viewed as destructive; so destructive, we obsess about our carbon footprint to the point where, he says, "the best thing people can do is stay at home and never get out of bed". A modern world has lost confidence in what it means to be human and therefore lost confidence in basic values of freedom, such as free speech.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the embrace of global warming, where anyone who questions the orthodoxy is labelled a denier, a heretic who should not be heard. Genuine inquiry is not encouraged; it is jettisoned. Arthur Herman, another panel member, predicts that in five years there will be a spate of books and articles wondering how politicians, the media and the people were all so comprehensively conned by global warming alarmism.

But Herman, a historian, is not surprised. History tells us there will always be fanatics who peddle invisible fears and doomsday scenarios and, equally, there will always be people drawn to a priestly class - think Al Gore - who claim to know the answers. And so springs up a modern-day theology given over to supplications and modern sacrifices such as banning the innocuous plastic bag.

The debate over global warming stopped being a scientific debate long ago, Herman says. Scientific consensus, not dispassionate inquiry, is the name of the game. And governments and politicians have long since stopped bothering with the evolving science. Here again, Herman says, we need to revive the Enlightenment values of scepticism, inquiry and reason. He quotes pre-eminent English scientist and experimentalist Michael Faraday, who said that one should hold theories in one's fingertips so that the least breeze of fact might blow them away.

Yet, in so many areas, inquiry and reason have been abandoned, drowned out by group-think orthodoxies. I see the lack of inquiry in a Year 8 geography curriculum that tells students that globalisation is a bogyman to be feared. It is in the mindset of many indigenous leaders still wedded to policies that produced 30 years of dysfunction. As Hirsi Ali told the audience on Monday evening, we ought to be confident enough about the values of the Enlightenment to defend them and use them. After all, we sharpen our minds and bring clarity to ideas through open, reasoned debate.

A man in the audience asks her how she responds to accusations by some of her critics that she is an Enlightenment fundamentalist. "I think it's cute," she says with a laugh. "It's just so absurd to put the two words together. The Enlightenment is all about asking questions." Her departing advice is that we confront, through robust debate, those who would threaten our most cherished values, whether the threat comes from our own complacency, or the malevolent anti-Westernism of moral relativists or the Islamic fanatics.


Much wealth has been destroyed by foolish Congressional policies and nothing will bring it back soon

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm got in trouble when he said Americans are mired not in an economic contraction, but a "mental recession." He soon had to step down as co-chairman of John McCain's campaign for committing the ultimate political sin: telling the truth about a misperception that happens to be very popular. In politics, after all, it doesn't matter who's right-it only matters who has the most votes.

Americans feel as though the economy is in a recession and want the government to do something about it. In reality, it is expanding. In the second quarter, it grew at a respectable inflation-adjusted rate of 1.9 percent, double the pace of the first quarter. Unemployment was up, but it's still a pretty mild 5.7 percent.

The recession cures being bandied about by the presidential candidates and others miss the real source of our current pain and what can be done about it-which is not much. "There's a great misunderstanding of what's happened," says economist Allan Meltzer. The main trouble, in his view, is not that Americans are suffering from weak or negative economic growth. It's that they have suffered a loss of wealth, a very different ailment.

Meltzer, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains that the loss stems from two major factors. The first is high oil prices, which are the equivalent of a huge tax increase. The second is the housing bust, which has vaporized more than a trillion dollars worth of assets.

What does all this mean? Our standard of living has declined. Or to put it bluntly, as Meltzer does, "We're poorer than we were, and it's unpleasant, but it's a fact." We can no longer afford all the things we used to, because so much of our income is now going to pay for gasoline. In the past, we might have cashed in our rising home equity to keep consuming at the same rate as before, but you can't do that when your home equity is shrinking. Plus, we are under pressure to save more, since we can't count on real estate profits to finance a comfortable retirement.

When the economy contracts, the government may use sound monetary and fiscal policy to help revive growth. But when wealth goes up in smoke, the government can't necessarily bring it back. If it tries, the effect is likely to resemble what happens when you give a recovering alcoholic a drink: deceptively pleasant at first, but ultimately calamitous.

In the 1970s, the Federal Reserve reacted to soaring oil prices by creating more money and spreading it around. When you have more money, it doesn't hurt so much to fill your tank. But when everyone suddenly finds themselves with more money, the consequence is inflation. In the 1970s, instead of seeing just the price of gas climb, we saw the price of everything climb.

Today's Fed faces the same temptation. It could ease today's discomfort by rapidly expanding the money supply, and some experts (including Meltzer) think it has already made that mistake. This course is particularly tempting because it could also keep home prices from falling further.

But the remedy is illusory. Homes are not worth what they used to be, and for the Fed to attempt to disguise the fact would create even more uncertainty in a turbulent market. That, in turn, would merely postpone the day when prices hit the inevitable bottom.

When you have a loss of wealth, the best way to cope is to accept it and adapt to a lower standard of living, sooner rather than later. Sending out rebates, eliminating gas taxes, bailing out homeowners and accelerating monetary growth, among the proposed remedies, do exactly the opposite. They spare us the obligation of dealing with reality by making us feel richer so we can keep on as we were before.

But they don't change the stark fact that we are poorer now and will remain that way for some time. And they ultimately backfire by wasting money, igniting inflation or both.

In the long run, we will adapt to the new realities, the economic impact will moderate, and the pain will fade. Till then, our least destructive option is to do something no politician would dare suggest: Suck it up.


China's One-Child Disaster

By Wendy McElroy

Let's grant for the moment and for the sake of argument that the world is overpopulated. Can social engineering cure the "problem"? Social engineering occurs when a centralized power tries to manipulate or override people's preferences to make them behave according to an artificial social blueprint. It is the opposite of allowing a culture to evolve naturally according to the preferences of individuals, which are often based on economic factors, such as what they can afford. Social engineering imposes rules, sometimes by dangling carrots, sometimes by wielding sticks.

In pursuing conflicting population policies, China has mixed carrots and sticks for over half a century now. In a 1949 speech titled "The Bankruptcy of the Idealist Concept of History," the then-leader of Communist China, Mao Zedong, declared, "It is a very good thing that China has a big population. Even if China's population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production. The absurd argument of bourgeois Western economists like Malthus that increases in food cannot keep up with increases in population was not only refuted long ago by Marxists, but has also been completely exploded by the realities in the Soviet Union and the liberated areas of China after the revolution." ....

During the 1950s and '60s, Chinese women were encouraged to reproduce and given awards for doing so. Advocates of population control were sometimes imprisoned although family planning became more acceptable as the '60s evolved. Thus China experienced a massive increase in population. As a result, by the 1970s family planning had displaced the admonition to reproduce, but the policy was not coercively enforced except on the authority and discretion of local officials.

In 1979, three years after Mao's death, the new leader of China, Deng Xiaoping, announced the "one-child policy." Vice Premier Chen Muhua described the policy as one "of encouragement and punishment for maternity, with encouragement as the main feature. . . . Parents having one child will be encouraged, and strict measures will be enforced to control the birth of two or more babies. Everything should be done to insure that the natural population growth rate in China falls to zero by 2000." The policy was enforced nationwide in 1981 and has remained the law of the land since, although significant changes have occurred. What hasn't changed, however, is that China regulates and controls the procreation of its citizens more strictly and universally than any nation except, perhaps, communist Romania under Ceausescu.

From its outset, the one-child policy has been criticized for violating the basic human right to reproduce and for the brutal manner in which it was implemented. Moreover, it has been called a form of "genocide against minorities," especially against the Uyghur peoples in the Eastern Turkistan regions, who are politically unpopular because they seek an independent homeland.

More pragmatic criticisms of the policy revolve around its unintended negative consequences. One of the consequences was well expressed by Richard Jackson, a demographer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Jackson explained, "You have the prospect of 400 million Chinese elders, age 60 and over, by 2040, 80 percent of whom, do not have any formal retirement pension, either public or private, most of whom won't have access to government-financed health care. They're depending on the extended family, but the government told them not to have children, or not to have more than one-or, in some cases, two."

In short, each "only child" might become solely responsible for two aging parents and as many as four grandparents; known as the "4-2-1" problem, it is a responsibility that many or most of the "one-child" generation may be unable to meet.

The most publicized negative consequence, however, is the severe skewing of the population toward males. The Chinese are known for having a high preference for sons. This preference has resulted in a high rate of female infanticide (and, later, sex-selective abortions) to remove first-born daughters and, so, to clear the legal path to have a son. According to China's official news agency, 119 boys are now born for every 100 girls; the ratio in natural circumstances is 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls. By 2020 China may contain 30 to 40 million restless bachelors-known in China as "bare branches"-and worried observers predict everything from a steep increase in rape to wars aimed at securing brides.

In recognition of the problem, China adopted a significant change to the one-child policy in the mid-1980s. In the rural areas, where survival often requires hard labor and males are thus especially valued, China allowed a second child if the first born was either female or disabled. This evolved into what some now claim is a de facto two-child policy for the countryside. Nevertheless, the sex skewing seems to continue relatively unabated.

The gender imbalance in China is what the social theorist F. A. Hayek called an "unintended consequence." Every act has unforeseen and unintended results that may determine its impact far more than the act's intended goal.

Hayek saw at least two practical problems with social engineering, both of which involve such unintended consequences. The first problem speaks to the nature of a healthy society. If left to the ingenuity and preferences of individual members, society tends over time to naturally evolve answers to the problems confronting it. For example, if there is a shortage of food, families tend to limit themselves to a supportable number. But when government begins to dictate choices, it prevents individuals from adapting and evolving solutions. Society loses the resilience it requires to solve problems.

The second practical difficulty with social engineering was "the knowledge problem." In accepting the 1974 Nobel Prize for economics, Hayek explained, "The recognition of the insuperable limits to his [the bureaucrat's] knowledge ought [to guard] the student of society . . . against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society-a striving, which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals."

A centralized bureaucracy cannot control the outcomes of choices made by hundreds of millions of people, nor can it know all the results of its policies. All a bureaucracy can do is impose policies. The more important the area of life being controlled is-such as reproduction-the more draconian the imposition must be to render even minimal compliance. The longer social control is imposed and the more policies are introduced, the greater the number of unintended consequences, such as the skewing of the gender ratio.

As noted, the proposed remedy for sex skewing in China is the introduction of yet another social-engineering policy, exemplified by the Care For Girls (CFG) program. The administration of CFG in East China's Anhui province is probably typical. There, CFG was initiated in 2000 and includes lecturing the populace against sex bias, offering loans to families with daughters, training women to become wage earners, and checking girls for signs of abuse. The unintended consequences of the relatively new CFG program are not yet apparent. The ultimate folly, however, is that the stated goal may require nothing more than leaving the situation alone. Simply by becoming scarce, girls have become more highly valued and, with a new appreciation of their importance to society, the role of women in China seems poised for redefinition. The Chinese government could best help by simply getting out of the way. This is not likely to happen. The Chinese government continues to insist that it must control reproduction because the nation's resources, especially its food and water, cannot sustain a large increase in the population.

Although the claim is not self-evidently true, it is rarely questioned because it conforms to the widely held and politically popular belief that the planet is overpopulated. Over the past decade polls have indicated that most Americans blame over-population for contributing to or causing an impressive range of social ills from pollution to illiteracy, from poverty to famine.

Overpopulation theory is often dated back to Thomas Malthus and his work An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) in which he argued that resources grow linearly while population grows exponentially. Unless human reproduction was controlled, he believed, the population would be too large for the earth's resources to support. Ironically, Malthus predicted that a tipping point and famine would occur in the mid-nineteenth century; this prediction came on the cusp of the world's experiencing a vast expansion in the food supply due to the Industrial Revolution and advances in agriculture. Since Malthus, many overpopulation zealots have made equally false predictions about the exhaustion of the planet. For example, Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb (1968), wrote, "The population of the U.S. will shrink from 250 million to about 22.5 million before 1999 because of famine and global warming."

Current fears of overpopulation may be equally groundless. One of the difficulties in judging the matter, however, is that no one seems to have a good definition of what is the "proper" population; that is, how many people can the earth support without calamities like mass starvation? Even a good guess at an answer would require information that is difficult or impossible to secure. For example, it would be necessary to calculate what percentage of massive human tragedies, such as famine, are due to entirely artificial and imposed factors like war. The current shortage of rice in Asia, for example, is not due to natural factors but to a constellation of artificial ones such as the diversion of food crops like corn into the production of ethanol. This diversion has driven up the global price of the crops that serve as alternatives, such as rice. Whatever percentage of hunger is due to artificial factors should not be blamed on limitations of the earth.

Moreover, recent developments in agriculture, like the previous Green Revolution in the twentieth century, may dramatically increase food resources. For example, recently developed biotech crops both increase productivity and reduce the need for insecticides.

Thus the one-child policy has not only been disastrous both in terms of human rights and practical consequences for generations to come; it is far from clear that its rationale is even valid. In 1999, analyst Stephen Moore, formerly of the Cato Institute, wrote in "Defusing the Population Bomb": "[W]e are nowhere near running out of room on the planet. If every one of the 6 billion of us resided in Texas, there would be room enough for every family of four to have a house and an 1/8th of acre of land-and the rest of the globe would be vacant. . . . The dreaded population bomb that emerged as a worldwide obsession in the 1960s and 1970s has been all but defused. The birthrate in developing countries has plummeted from just more than six children per couple in 1950 to just more than 3 per couple today. The major explanation for smaller family sizes, even in China, has been economic growth, not condom distributions or coercive birth control measures."

Moore commented on China specifically in another article, "Don't Fund UNFPA Population Control" (2000), "To this day no one knows precisely how many babies and women have died at the hands of the population control fanatics in China. What we do know is that this program will go down in history as one of the greatest abuses of human rights in the 20th century." Moore concluded, "[T]he cause of world hunger and environmental disasters in the world today is not too many people. It is too much statism."

More here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Anger as 350 British police officers taken off the job for sex-swap awareness classes

Police officers in an area with a high crime rate are being taken off the beat for an awareness course on sex changes. The half-day training class is meant to help them deal with a colleague who is beginning a new life as a woman. The ruling, which applies to 344 police and 166 civilian staff, has been deemed 'political correctness gone mad' by senior officers.

It was announced in a letter from Humberside Police's former Chief Superintendent Kevin Sharp to all staff within the force's A division. This covers Grimsby and the surrounding area in North-East Lincolnshire - a region which last year had 41.5 crimes per 1,000 residents, compared with a national average of 28. In his letter, Mr Sharp informed staff that the sex-change officer, a 42-year-old married PC now called Lauren, had been suffering from gender identity dysphoria. This left him feeling like a woman trapped in a man's body.

Mr Sharp wrote: 'As from today, Lauren starts her new life and over the next few weeks you will receive awareness training during which you will be able to read a personal letter from Lauren. 'I trust you will have the same determination as I have to help Lauren return to work with as little fear and trepidation as is possible. . . but feel much happier than she has ever done before.' He called upon them to treat her as they would a close family member.

The diversity training, which will cost thousands of pounds, is designed to ensure there is no discrimination against Lauren - which could leave the force open to an expensive compensation claim.

Since sending the letter last month, Mr Sharp has retired from the force to become chief executive of Humberside Police Authority. But he said he would nevertheless 'retain ownership of the initial phase of Lauren's transition'. On the eve of his retirement after seven years as divisional commander, Mr Sharp, 48, admitted that his force still had a lot to do. 'But we are in really good shape to take that to the next step, which is about making our most difficult communities and neighbourhoods a safer place to be,' he said.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday, but one unnamed senior officer from the division said the plan was 'a scandal'. 'This is yet another example of the lunatics running the asylum and it has offended me and many of my colleagues,' he said. 'It's time spent away from duty at the public's expense. The police environment has gone mad. We give time to this while the amount of training given to police officers on law has dwindled.'

Humberside Police declined to comment yesterday. The complex implications relating to transsexual employees were demonstrated in 2006 by the case of Linda Grant. She won more than $40,000 in the European Court of Human Rights because her pension was not awarded until she reached 65, even though she had had a sex change. In 2004, Humberside Police was criticised by the Bichard Inquiry into the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman for deleting sex claims against Ian Huntley which might have prevented his getting a job at their school.


Hollywood director takes on the Left

David Zucker, the director who brought us 'Airplane!' and 'The Naked Gun,' turns his sights on anti-Americanism

Zucker's latest movie, An American Carol, is unlike anything that has ever come out of Hollywood. It is a frontal attack on the excesses of the American left from several prominent members of a growing class of Hollywood conservatives. Until now, conservatives in Hollywood have always been too few and too worried about a backlash to do anything serious to challenge the left-wing status quo.

David Zucker believes we are in a "new McCarthy era." Time magazine film writer Richard Corliss recently joked that conservative films are "almost illegal in Hollywood." Tom O'Malley, president of Vivendi Entertainment, though, dismisses claims that Hollywood is hostile to conservative ideas and suggests that conservatives simply haven't been as interested in making movies. "How come there aren't more socialists on Wall Street?"

But Zucker's film, together with a spike in attendance at events put on by "The Friends of Abe" (Lincoln, not Vigoda)--a group of right-leaning Hollywood types that has been meeting regularly for the past four years--is once again reviving hope that conservatives will have a battalion in this exceedingly influential battleground of the broader culture war.

Zucker has always been interested in politics. He was raised in Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, in a household where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was viewed as either a hero or a dangerous conservative. He was elected president of his senior class at the University of Wisconsin, and, when he addressed his classmates at commencement in the spring of 1970, his speech was serious--a friend describes it as "solemn" and political.

Among other things, Zucker condemned the Kent State shootings and lamented the mistreatment of America's blacks. Two years later, he appeared on stage with lefty leading man Warren Beatty and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. Zucker says at the time he was "very liberal." (His brother Jerry remains an unreconstructed liberal and recently optioned a sympathetic movie about the life and times of serial fabulist Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame.)

David Zucker got his start in entertainment right after school. In 1971, he teamed up with his brother and two friends to create an irreverent revue called Kentucky Fried Theater. They drew large crowds to caf,s and small theaters in Madison and soon outgrew the college town. They went to Hollywood to chase the dream, and, surprise, the show worked in Southern California, too.

They caught the attention of some of Hollywood's boldfaced names--the show would serve as one of Lorne Michaels's inspirations for Saturday Night Live--and in 1977 they released their first film, The Kentucky Fried Movie. It was the first of many classics: Airplane!, Top Secret!, The Naked Gun, BASEketball. Actually, BASEketball sucked, but by the time it was released in 1998, Zucker had put together enough of a streak that he was widely regarded as a comedic genius. Matt Stone, who together with Trey Parker created South Park, starred in BASEketball. He described Zucker's influence this way: "I used to sit at home with my friends in high school and watch Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane! and vomit from laughing."

Although these films had some political jokes, the movies themselves did not carry overt political messages. Naked Gun 2 came closest with a vaguely pro-environment theme. (It opens with George H.W. Bush meeting with the heads of America's coal, oil, and nuclear industries: the representatives of the Society for More Coal Energy [pronounced SMOKE]; the Society of Petroleum Industry Leaders [SPIL]; and the Key Atomic Benefits Office of Mankind [KABOOM].) Zucker, who owns a Toyota Prius and derives a third of the energy for his house from photovoltaic cells, is still an environmentalist.

In 1984, one of Zucker's college friends, Rich Markey, suggested he listen to a local Los Angeles talk radio show, "Religion on the Line," hosted by Dennis Prager. Zucker took the advice and soon struck up a friendship with Prager, whose conservative views appealed to Zucker as common sense. Although his politics were evolving, Zucker remained supportive of California Democrats, giving $2,400 to Senator Barbara Boxer in the mid-1990s. He contributed another $600 to an outfit called the "Hollywood Women's Political Committee" which, with members like Jane Fonda, Bonnie Raitt, and Barbra Streisand, probably wasn't calling for low taxes and abstinence education.

Zucker was still nominally a Democrat when George W. Bush was elected in 2000. "Then 9/11 happened, and I couldn't take it anymore," he says. "The response to 9/11--the right was saying this is pure evil we're facing and the left was saying how are we at fault for this? I think I'd just had enough. And I said 'I quit.'"

He decided to write a letter to Boxer, sharing his disgust and telling her not to expect any more of his money. Having never done this before, he asked a friend with the Republican Jewish Committee for help. This friend recommended Zucker contact Myrna Sokoloff, a former paid staffer for Boxer, who had recently completed a similar ideological journey.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Sokoloff had worked for several stars of the Democratic party's left wing. She served on the campaign staff of Mark Green, a close associate of Ralph Nader, when he ran for Senate in New York against Al D'Amato. She worked for Jerry Brown's 1992 presidential campaign and in 1998 was a fundraiser for Barbara Boxer's reelection effort.

Sokoloff had begun to sour on the Democratic party and the left generally during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. "As a feminist, I was outraged," she recalls. "If he had been a Republican president we would have demanded his resignation and marched on the White House." When she made this point to her Democratic friends, she says, they told her to keep quiet. Although she didn't vote for George W. Bush in 2000, Sokoloff says she was glad that he won. Less than a year later, she understood why. "When 9/11 happened, I knew Democrats wouldn't be strong enough to fight this war."

Sokoloff and Zucker never did write the letter to Boxer, but their partnership would prove much more fruitful. As the 2004 presidential election approached, Sokoloff and Zucker looked for a way to influence the debate. Their first effort was an ad mocking John Kerry for his flip-flops that the conservative Club for Growth paid to put on the air. In 2006, Sokoloff and Zucker followed that with a series of uproarious short spots mocking, in turn, the Iraq Study Group, Madeleine Albright and pro-appeasement foreign policy, and pro-tax congressional Democrats.

The Iraq Study Group ad was the most memorable. It opens with news footage of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain celebrating the signing of the Munich Agreement. A newspaper stand boasting "Peace with Honour" flashes across the screen: Neville Chamberlain: "This morning, I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler. Here is the paper, which bears his name upon it, as well as mine."

The spot cuts to footage of German bombers over Warsaw. "Well," intones a narrator, "that negotiation went well. Fifty million dead worldwide. Nicely done, Mr. Chamberlain." ...

Zucker says that the idea to do a feature film grew out of those ads, and several of the actors in the spots, including Turkish actor Serdar Kalsin, who plays Ahmadinejad, have speaking roles in the film.

If An American Carol grew out of Zucker's work on these commercials, the narrative device dates back to 1843. An American Carol is based loosely--very loosely--on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

"Why be original?" Zucker asks. "I've done that. It doesn't work, like BASEketball"--as he says this, he rolls his eyes and moves his right hand across his body to indicate a car going off a cliff.

The holiday in An American Carol is not Christmas and the antagonist is not Ebenezer Scrooge. Instead, the film follows the exploits of a slovenly, anti-American filmmaker named Michael Malone, who has joined with a left-wing activist group (Moovealong.org) to ban the Fourth of July. Along the way, Malone is visited by the ghosts of three American heroes--George Washington, George S. Patton, and John F. Kennedy--who try to convince him he's got it all wrong.

When terrorists from Afghanistan realize that they need to recruit more operatives to make up for the ever-diminishing supply of suicide bombers, they begin a search for just the right person to help produce a new propaganda video. "This will not be hard to find in Hollywood," says one. "They all hate America." When they settle on Malone, who is in need of work after his last film (Die You American Pigs) bombed at the box office, he unwittingly helps them with their plans to launch another attack on American soil.

The entire film is an extended rebuttal to the vacuous antiwar slogan that "War Is Not the Answer." Zucker's response, in effect: "It Depends on the Question."

Much more here

U.S. Plant Drops Labor Day For Muslim Holiday

Some workers at a local plant will no longer to be able to take their Labor Day holiday because of religious reasons.

Workers at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Shelbyville will no longer have a paid day off on Labor Day but will instead be granted the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. According to a news release from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a new five-year contract at the plant included the change to accommodate Muslim workers at the plant Tyson's director of media relations Gary Mickelson said the contract includes eight paid holidays -- the same number as the old contract.

Eid al-Fitr -- which falls on Oct. 1 this year -- marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Union leaders said implementing the holiday was important for the nearly 700 Muslims, many of them Somalis, who work at the plant that employs a total of 1,200 people.

Nineteen-year plant veteran William Pentecost doesn't agree with the decision. "I don't think it's right. I really don't think it's right," he said.

Tyson company spokeswoman Libby Lawson said by phone that, "This isn't a religious accommodation, this is a contractual agreement. The majority asked for it."

The change didn't bother some workers. "I think it's fine. I don't have any problem with it. There's a whole bunch of them here, so they've got to do something for them," said worker John Smith. "It shouldn't happen. I mean, I think, we're in America, you're in America, I think that they should go with our holidays," Pentecost said.

Channel 4's Cynthia Williams could not reach any of the plant's Muslim workers, because Channel 4 News' crew was not permitted on the property.

Former employee and Shelbyville resident Anthony Proctor said he thinks what's happening is wrong. He said he helped build a special Muslim prayer room that's located inside the plant and that no other Tyson facility has been that accommodating for any other religion. "If we want to go pray, we don't have one for Christians," he said.

Tyson is headquartered in Arkansas. Lawson said they consider religious accommodations on a case-by-case basis. She said that so far, no one has asked for any other type of religious prayer room. No one at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union's regional office answered phone calls placed by Williams on Friday.

A representative in New York said that no one there knew specifics about the new contract with the workers, but a person in research told Williams that holidays aren't usually replaced and are more likely to be added on. The decision will only apply to workers at the plant who are union members. All other employees at the plant will still have their normal Labor Day holiday.


Australia: Antique merry-go-round banned by insane "safety" bureaucracy

Banned from Brisbane's "Ekka" (Annual rural show) even though it has been proven safe for 100 years

The dead hand of bureaucracy has killed off an Ekka institution. The Grand Carousel, an antique merry-go-round that has thrilled thousands of youngsters for more than half a century, has been barred from this year's Ekka over fears children might be crushed under the hooves of its timber horses. Even though it is considered safe in other states, the objections of a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspector have led to the Grand Carousel's 57-year link with the show being severed.

With the 133rd Ekka under way tomorrow, other safety inspectors were yesterday absorbed in the potentially hair-raising task of testing thrill rides such as the Sky Walker and Insanity. But controversy surrounded a far more pedestrian ride.

John Short, whose father Lesley first brought the Grand Carousel to the Ekka in 1951, has been forced to leave his "flagship" operating on the banks of Melbourne's Yarra, where it enjoys the approval of Victorian WorkSafe inspectors. It is understood the Queensland inspector's concerns were triggered last year when he observed a primary school-aged child who appeared "unsteady" in the saddle. He concluded a child who fell off could be crushed under the rising and falling horse or roll off the carousel platform and hit their heads.

Brian Bradley, an engineer who carries out inspections for amusement ride operators, said the inspector had "concocted a potential hazard". "Bear in mind there's an operator in the centre of the ride who watches it going around, there's an attendant on the side of the ride, who is able to jump on as it's moving without any problem," he said. "You've also got the parents to hold their two or three-year-olds on a horse, riding for nothing, just for safety precautions. (Nothing) has ever happened in the 100 years the ride's been operating but because this particular inspector had a bright idea that it could happen and made an issue of it, the ride won't work in Queensland again."

The inspector warned the RNA in February that Mr Short would be issued with a prohibition notice on the ride unless he carried out substantial alterations, including a new barrier. Mr Short described the request as "ridiculous". "He wanted me to redesign the whole thing and I'm not willing to do that to a 120-year-old machine," he said. Mr Short turned instead to a modern alternative, the Space Carousel. "It hasn't got the charm or nostalgia of the Grand Carousel, but nothing does," he said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


Comments | Trackback

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Animal rights" terror in California

Animal "rights" activists appear to have firebombed the home of a molecular biologist in Santa Cruz. California. The terrorists are trying to force a halt to scientific research that involves death and discomfort for animals. Mary Anne Ostrom of the San Jose Mercury-News reports:
a well-known molecular biologist and his family, including two small children, were forced to escape a smoke-filled house using a second-story ladder after a firebomb was intentionally set, Santa Cruz police said. One family member sustained injuries requiring brief hospitalization, and police are calling the firebombing, which occurred shortly before 6 a.m., a case of attempted homicide.

About the same time, a car belonging to a researcher parked at an on-campus home was also firebombed, destroying the vehicle.

The violence occurred four days after a customer at Caffe Pergolesi, a downtown Santa Cruz coffeehouse, found fliers listing the names, home addresses, home phone numbers and photos of 13 UC-Santa Cruz science researchers and professors. Police believe unidentified animal rights activists created the fliers, which were made to appear as "wanted posters." They warned "Animal abusers everywhere beware; we know where you live; we know where you work; we will never back down until you end your abuse."
These thugs are trying to intimidate with deadly force those with whom they disagree. They are as much terrorists as al Qaeda, and deserve to be hunted down and punished just as ruthlessly.

The researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz will no doubt bear the scars of this potentially deadly assault for the rest of his life, as will his family.

I await the loud condemnation of animal protection groups like PETA, and from the left wing community in Santa Cruz. But I am not holding my breath. A new dark age beckons.


The racism of Marxism

Marxism is probably the most racist ideology to ever rear it's ugly head on the Earth. Although its adherents claims to be anti racists, their ideology is the epitome of racism. Consider it's founder Karl Marx. Marx was an evil white supremacist and anti Semite. Although such people would balk at that notion, claiming Marx was a Jew and go so far as to say the whole reason of his ideology to destroy the white race! The truth is that although Marx came from a Jewish background, he would be right at home with Hitler, David Duke and Richard Butler. Matter of fact, Hitler's National Socialists and the KKK base their ideology on none other than Karl Marx. Nazism is nothing more than an acronym for National SOCIALIST WORKERS Party. That's right. The white supremacists, Christian Identity, skinheads and Nation of Islam are real life socialists. In fact visit their hate sites and see for yourself. International Answer, Code Pink are sanitized versions of what a real socialist is.

Karl Marx did not go to any lengths to conceal his hatred towards non white races. In a letter to a competitor of his he wrote, "... it is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a nigger. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also nigger like." Engels was also a racist writing in 1887 concerning Marx's son in law, "Being in his quality as a nigger, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district." He was the Representative of a district that had a zoo.

On Mexicans, Marx and Engels "Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it?" They even write, "In America, we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will be placed under the tutelage of the United States." Can you believe that!? We have Hispanic Marxists and their supporters in Southern California right now demanding secession, under the red banner and it's none other than Marx and Engels praising the conquest of former territory! Of course it wasn't theirs to begin with. More about that at a later time.

Racism as practiced by Marxism would eventually make it's ugly debut in the USSR under Josef Stalin. During the purges of the 1930's Some of Stalin's biggest targets other than poor peasant landowners called Kulaks, were ethnic minorities living in Russia such as Jews, Moslems, Mongolians and others. Those that survived found themselves impoverished and enslaved, some were sent away to Siberia. Take a look at pictures of the Kremlin during the Soviet hay days and see if you can find women and minorities in the Politburo. In China, racism was practiced against different races living in the nation. In addition to persecuting Tibetans, Christians and Falun Gong there is racism against blacks visiting and residing in the nation. the state tolerates and even promotes racism. And let's not forget about Germany, the most socialist and racist country that ever existed when Hitler and his National Socialist thugs ran things.

One of the reasons that racism is allowed to become prevalent in communist countries is because of a lack of diverse opinions and free speech that can counteract racism. In nations such as Socialist Germany, the USSR and China, the media, publishing, education were controlled by the government. Whenever this occurs or if these institutions are held in a few hands, then racism stands a good chance. Furthermore government steps in and suppresses liberty, critical thinking and free thought which ultimately gives racism the upper hand. In Europe where they have hate speech laws, it is illegal to speak out against minority religions such as Islam that preach hatred and antisemitism. Meanwhile outlaw groups can still publish and propagate their vicious and racist speech no matter what the law says. Europe does not enjoy the civil rights that we Americans enjoy.

Under a democratic and capitalist society, racism can still exist but does not enjoy many of the advantages it does under despotic systems of government such as Marxism. According to black economist Thomas Sewell wrote that under a free market economy, employers who are serious about running business are concerned about one color, green. Under the profit motive employers want employees that are skilled able and efficient. An employer who hires a lazy uneducated white man over a black man who is educated and experienced will regret it later on. That employee then moves on to one employer who will seize that opportunity and gain greater profit over the other. 9 times out of 10, the system works. When it doesn't, government steps in to prevent discrimination. As for hate speech, the propagation of media outlets and educational material made possible by the first amendment debases and refutes racism without costing liberty.


The Spoiled Children of Capitalism

In large measure our wealth isn't the product of capitalism, it is capitalism

By Jonah Goldberg

It's an old story. Loving parents provide a generous environment for their offspring. Kids are given not only ample food, clothing and shelter, but the emotional necessities as well: encouragement, discipline, self-reliance, the ability to work with others and on their own. And yet, in due course, the kids rebel. Some even say their parents never loved them, that they were unfair, indifferent, cruel. Often, such protests are sparked by parents' refusal to be even more generous. I want a car, demands the child. Work for it, insist the parents. Why do you hate me? asks the ingrate.

Of course, being an old story doesn't make it a universal one. But the dynamic is universally understood.

We've all witnessed the tendency to take a boon for granted. Being accustomed to a provision naturally leads the human heart to consider that provision an entitlement. Hence the not-infrequent lawsuits from prison inmates cruelly denied their rights to cable TV or apple brown betty for desert.

And so it goes, I think, with capitalism generally.

Capitalism is the greatest system ever created for alleviating general human misery, and yet it breeds ingratitude.

People ask, "Why is there poverty in the world?" It's a silly question. Poverty is the default human condition. It is the factory preset of this mortal coil. As individuals and as a species, we are born naked and penniless, bereft of skills or possessions. Likewise, in his civilizational infancy man was poor, in every sense. He lived in ignorance, filth, hunger, and pain, and he died very young, either by violence or disease.

The interesting question isn't "Why is there poverty?" It's "Why is there wealth?" Or: "Why is there prosperity here but not there?"

At the end of the day, the first answer is capitalism, rightly understood. That is to say: free markets, private property, the spirit of entrepreneurialism and the conviction that the fruits of your labors are your own.

For generations, many thought prosperity was material stuff: factories and forests, gold mines and gross tons of concrete poured. But we now know that these things are merely the fringe benefits of wealth. Stalin built his factories, Mao paved over the peasants. But all that truly prospered was misery and alienation.

A recent World Bank study found that a nation's wealth resides in its "intangible capital" - its laws, institutions, skills, smarts and cultural assumptions. "Natural capital" (minerals, croplands, etc.) and "produced capital" (factories, roads, and so on) account for less than a quarter of the planet's wealth. In America, intangible capital - the stuff in our heads, our hearts, and our books - accounts for 82 percent of our wealth.

Any number of countries in Africa are vastly richer in baubles and soil than Switzerland. But they are poor because they are impoverished in what they value.

In large measure our wealth isn't the product of capitalism, it is capitalism.

And yet we hate it. Leaving religion out of it, no idea has given more to humanity. The average working-class person today is richer, in real terms, than the average prince or potentate of 300 years ago. His food is better, his life longer, his health better, his menu of entertainments vastly more diverse, his toilette infinitely more civilized. And yet we constantly hear how cruel capitalism is while this collectivism or that is more loving because, unlike capitalism, collectivism is about the group, not the individual.

These complaints grow loudest at times like this: when the loom of capitalism momentarily stutters in spinning its gold. Suddenly, the people ask: What have you done for me lately? Politicians croon about how we need to give in to Causes Larger than Ourselves and peck about like hungry chickens for a New Way to replace dying capitalism.

This is the patient leaping to embrace the disease and reject the cure. Recessions are fewer and weaker thanks in part to trade, yet whenever recessions appear on the horizon, politicians dive into their protectionist bunkers. Not surprising that this week we saw the demise of the Doha round of trade negotiations, and this campaign season we've heard the thunder of anti-trade rhetoric move ever closer.

This is the irony of capitalism. It is not zero-sum, but it feels like it is. Capitalism coordinates humanity toward peaceful, productive cooperation, but it feels alienating. Collectivism does the opposite, at least when dreamed up on paper. The communes and collectives imploded in inefficiency, drowned in blood. The kibbutz lives on only as a tourist attraction, a baseball fantasy camp for nostalgic socialists. Meanwhile, billions have ridden capitalism out of poverty.

And yet the children of capitalism still whine.


Cotton wool kids

Children are being denied adventurous play because their parents are nervous about exposing them to risk, a new survey suggests. The UK-wide poll, commissioned by Play England, found half of 7-12 year olds have been stopped from climbing trees. It also showed 21% of those surveyed had been banned from playing conkers, and 17% were not allowed to play chase.

The ICM poll interviewed 1,030 children and young people aged 7-16, and 1,031 adults during July 2007. Play England, which says it promotes free play opportunities, insists that parents "constantly wrapping children in cotton wool" can harm the children's development.

The poll found showed 51% of children aged 7-12 were not allowed to climb a tree without adult supervision, with 49% stopped from climbing trees altogether because it was considered too dangerous.

According to the research, 70% of adults had their biggest childhood adventures outdoors among trees, rivers and woods, compared with only 29% of children today. It found children's experiences of adventure are confined to designated areas such as playgrounds (56%), their homes (48%) or theme parks (44%).

Adrian Voce, director of Play England, which is part of the charity National Children's Bureau, said playing was "an essential part of growing up". "Adventurous play both challenges and excites children and helps instil critical life skills," he said. "Constantly wrapping children in cotton wool can leave them ill equipped to deal with stressful or challenging situations they might encounter later in life. "Children both need and want to push their boundaries in order to explore their limits and develop their abilities."

The survey was carried out to mark Playday, the annual celebration of children's right to play, which is co-ordinated by Play England.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The British Left loves criminals and hates ordinary people

Families who overfill rubbish bins are to face bigger fines than those imposed on drunks or shoplifters, the government has told local authorities. New guidance instructs councils to impose fixed penalties of "not less than $150" and up to $220 in what the opposition has attacked as a "new stealth tax". The offences for which householders can be fined include leaving ajar the lid of a wheelie bin, putting out a bin the evening before collection or leaving the bin in the wrong place.

Although the government has previously claimed that it leaves local councils to decide on the level of fines, the Fly-capture Enforcement manual, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stipulates that fixed penalties for offencesinvolving "waste receptacles" must range from $150 to $220. It suggests a standard fixed penalty of $200, adding that "if a notice is not paid, it is essential it is followed up". The penalties are higher than the o80 on-the-spot fines levied by police for offences ranging from being drunk and disorderly to shoplifting.

Local councils have been sharply criticised for taking harsh measures against trivial misdemeanours. Earlier this year, Gareth Corkhill, a Cardiff bus driver, was given a criminal conviction after being taken to court when he refused to hand over a $220 on-the-spot fine by council inspectors who found the lid of his wheelie bin open by 4in.

Eric Pickles MP, the shadow local government secretary, said Labour was creating "an army of municipal bin bullies hitting law-abiding families with massive fines while professional criminals get the soft touch". He added: "It is clear Whitehall bureaucrats are instructing town halls to target householders with fines for minor breaches. "Yet with the slow death of weekly collections and shrinking bins, it is increasingly hard for families to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. It is fundamentally unfair that householders are now getting hammered with larger fines than shoplifters get for stealing."

The environment department, headed by Hilary Benn, said on-the-spot fines were "intended to be an alternative to prosecution". A spokesman said: "Local authorities wanted flexible fines that they can relate to the severity and frequency of the offence and offender. Ultimately the fines are there to act as a deterrent." According to Phil Woolas, the environment minister, local councils face extra costs of $6.4 billion over the next five years to fund recycling measures, which would equate to a $300 council tax increase.


Centralized power is socially destructive

A friend recently arrived at his French country house to find the windows smashed and the television stolen. He accepted this as another sign of the crime-ridden society familiar back home. He did, however, mention it to the mayor at the fair held in the local village every Saturday. The mayor was shocked. The following day a young man arrived at the house, crestfallen, and said that his parents would repair the windows and restore the property. He was sorry. No police were involved.

That story is inconceivable in Britain. But it offers a backdrop to last week's diatribe against modern society by the chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, at the Lambeth Conference, when he was the latest cleric to call down hellfire on modern society. Sacks was in characteristic rabbinical default mode. Declaring that "within my soul are the tears of my ancestors", he lamented to the 650 bishops that "almost all Britain's social problems are caused by a loss of religion". They include disintegration, depression, stress, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse. With the addition of collapsing marriages, families and communities, "people feel vulnerable and alone"....

All this is grist to the mill of religious fundamentalism - that is, religion not as a source of private consolation but as an active participant in drawing up and forcing norms on society. If society is going to the dogs, say the priests, then it must be because they and their message are neglected. This cry is as old as that of Savonarola in Florence, of the mystics and millenarians to whom every misfortune, plague, war and famine was the result of a failure to pay due obeisance to mother church.

This brings us back to the rabbi and my French friend. In such classics of French history as Montaillou, the story of a medieval Cathar village, or Graham Robb's superb new work, The Discovery of France, the role of the communal authority, initially that of the church, is near absolute. It laid down the law and was the source of guidance and leadership. Robb's thesis is that until the 18th century "there was no such thing as France, nor even French provinces". There was certainly no universal language. There were families, clans, tribes, dialects, communes, mayors, continuing in many inaccessible places even until the first world war.

These communities did not regard themselves as French, or even Breton or ProvenØal. They identified only with their village or town, much as did medieval English communities. People's lives were ordained by those they knew, respected and, later, elected. Toa large extent that is still true in France today and in other European countries where such decentralisation persists. There is nothing old-fashioned about localism.

The current, peculiarly British, view is that "society" is in a state of disintegration when seen from above, largely as a result of government statistics. This view projects onto the home front the same apocalyptic gloom of the American neoconservative: that we face a cosmic threat from Muslim fanaticism. Thus even the chief rabbi equates what Al-Qaeda threatens abroad with what drunken louts threaten at home.

This is naive. Just sometimes Alexander Pope might be right, that apparent discord is "harmony, not understood". Where the rabbi is right is in implying the danger of having no institutions of social control in Britain's "atrophying" communities. The story of the French mayor and the broken windows could be repeated in Italy, Germany, Spain or most of America, but not in Britain. In Britain the centre and the centre alone demands, accepts and is held accountable for social responsibility.

The reason is not an absence of spirituality or religion but the stripping out from British communities of the human institutions which have guarded them from social atomism. They no longer have a potent mayor, a figure of authority, a framework for involving village or civic elders, merchants, teachers, parents and social workers.

The French mayor in my story clearly enjoyed status and authority by virtue of his election and his delegated power. He had tax money at his disposal. He controlled planning permissions and the barter that implied. His ear was to the ground. He was present at the fair. He could lean on the relevant parents.

In Britain, in such an incident, someone would have called the police and nothing would have happened. Had the miscreant ever been caught, probably after multiple offences, he would have experienced no restorative justice as in France. He would have come before the police, then a magistrate and, if he persisted, would have gone to prison and been destroyed for life. That is the British way. It is unnecessary, expensive and unproductive. But show me a politician who believes that the French way is better.


Where have all the real men gone?

Top American columnist Kathleen Parker is causing a furore with her new book "Save the Males", in which she argues that feminism has neutered men and deprived them of their noble, protective role in society. Excerpt below:

I know. Saving the males is an unlikely vocation for a 21st-century woman. Most men don't know they need saving; most women consider the idea absurd. When I tell my women friends that I want to save the males, they look at me as if noticing for the first time that I am insane. Then they say something like: "Are you out of your mind? This is still a male-dominated world. It's women who need saving. Screw the men!"

Actually, that's a direct quote. The reality is that men already have been screwed - and not in the way they prefer. For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life's ills. Males as a group - not random men - are bad by virtue of their DNA.

While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics or saints, men have quietly retreated into their caves, the better to muffle emotions that fluctuate between hilarity (are these bitches crazy or what?) and rage (yes, they are and they've got our kids).

In the process of fashioning a more female-friendly world, we have created a culture that is hostile towards males, contemptuous of masculinity and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible, especially when something goes bump in the night.

In popular culture, rare is the man portrayed as wise, strong and noble. In film and music, men are variously portrayed as dolts, bullies, brutes, deadbeats, rapists, sexual predators and wife-beaters. Even otherwise easy-going family men in sitcoms are invariably cast as, at best, bumbling, dim-witted fools. One would assume from most depictions that the smart, decent man who cares about his family and pats the neighbour's dog is the exception rather than the rule.

I am frankly an unlikely champion of males and that most hackneyed cliche of our times - "traditional family values". Or rather, I'm an expert on family in the same way that the captain of the Titanic was an expert on maritime navigation.

Looking back affectionately, I like to think of home as our own little Baghdad. The bunker-buster was my mother's death when she was 31 and I was three, whereupon my father became a serial husband, launching into the holy state of matrimony four more times throughout my childhood and early adulthood. We were dysfunctional before dysfunctional was cool. Going against trends of the day, I was mostly an only child raised by a single father through all but one of my teen years, with mother figures in various cameo roles. I got a close-up glimpse of how the sexes trouble and fail each other and in the process developed great empathy for both, but especially for men. Although my father could be difficult - I wasn't blinded by his considerable charms - I also could see his struggle and the sorrows he suffered, especially after mother No 2 left with his youngest daughter, my little sister.

From this broad, experiential education in the ways of men and women, I reached a helpful conclusion that seems to have escaped notice by some of my fellow sisters: men are human beings, too.

Lest anyone infer that my defence of men is driven by antipathy towards women, let me take a moment to point out that I liked and/or loved all my mothers. In fact, I'm still close to all my father's wives except the last, who is just a few years older than me and who is apparently afraid that if we make eye contact, I'll want the silver. (I do.)

My further education in matters male transpired in the course of raising three boys, my own and two stepsons. As a result of my total immersion in male-dom, I've been cursed with guy vision - and it's not looking so good out there. At the same time that men have been ridiculed, the importance of fatherhood has been diminished, along with other traditionally male roles of father, protector and provider, which are increasingly viewed as regressive manifestations of an outmoded patriarchy.

The exemplar of the modern male is the hairless, metrosexualised man and decorator boys who turn heterosexual slobs into perfumed ponies. All of which is fine as long as we can dwell happily in the Kingdom of Starbucks, munching our biscotti and debating whether nature or nurture determines gender identity. But in the dangerous world in which we really live, it might be nice to have a few guys around who aren't trying to juggle pedicures and highlights.

Men have been domesticated to within an inch of their lives, attending Lamaze classes, counting contractions, bottling expressed breast milk for midnight feedings - I expect men to start lactating before I finish this sentence - yet they are treated most unfairly in the areas of reproduction and parenting.

Legally, women hold the cards. If a woman gets pregnant, she can abort - even without her husband's consent. If she chooses to have the child, she gets a baby and the man gets an invoice. Unarguably, a man should support his offspring, but by that same logic shouldn't he have a say in whether his child is born or aborted?

Granted, many men are all too grateful for women to handle the collateral damage of poorly planned romantic interludes, but that doesn't negate the fact that many men are hurt by the presumption that their vote is irrelevant in childbearing decisions.

NOTHING quite says "Men need not apply" like a phial of mail-order sperm and a turkey-baster. In the high-tech nursery of sperm donation and self-insemination - and in the absence of shame attached to unwed motherhood - babies can now be custom-ordered without the muss and fuss of human intimacy.

It's not fashionable to question women's decisions, especially when it comes to childbearing, but the shame attached to unwed motherhood did serve a useful purpose once upon a time. While we have happily retired the word "bastard" and the attendant emotional pain for mother and child, acceptance of childbearing outside marriage represents not just a huge shift in attitudes but, potentially, a restructuring of the future human family.

By elevating single motherhood from an unfortunate consequence of poor planning to a sophisticated act of self-fulfilment, we have helped to fashion a world in which fathers are not just scarce but in which men are also superfluous.

Lots of women can, do and always will raise children without fathers, whether out of necessity, tragedy or other circumstance. But that fact can't logically be construed to mean that children don't need a father. The fact that some children manage with just one parent is no more an endorsement of single parenthood than driving with a flat tyre is an argument for three-wheeled cars.

For most of recorded history, human society has regarded the family, consisting of a child's biological mother and father, to be the best arrangement for the child's wellbeing and the loss of a parent to be the single greatest threat to that wellbeing. There's bound to be a reason for this beyond the need for man to drag his woman around by her chignon.

Sperm-donor children are a relatively new addition to the human community and they bring new stories to the campfire. I interviewed several adults who are the products of sperm donation. Some were born to married but infertile couples. Others were born to single mothers. Some reported well-adjusted childhoods; some reported conflicting feelings of love and loss. Overall, a common thread emerged that should put to rest any notion that fathers are not needed: even the happiest donor children expressed a profound need to know who their father is, to know that other part of themselves.

Tom Ellis, a mathematics doctoral student at Cambridge University, learnt at 21 that he and his brother were both donor-conceived. Their parents told them on the advice of a family therapist as their marriage unravelled. At first Tom did not react, but months later he hit a wall of emotional devastation. He says he became numb, anxious and scared. He began a search for his biological father, a search that has become a crusade for identity common among sperm-donor children. "It's absolutely necessary that I find out who he is to have a normal existence as a human being. That's not negotiable in any way," Tom said. "It would be nice if he wanted to meet me, but that would be something I want rather than something needed."

Tom is convinced that the need to know one's biological father is profound and that it is also every child's right. What is clear from conversations with donor-conceived children is that a father is neither an abstract idea nor is he interchangeable with a mother. As Tom put it: "There's a mystery about oneself." Knowing one's father is apparently crucial to that mystery.

Something that's hard for many women to admit or understand is that after about the age of seven, boys prefer the company of men. A woman could know the secret code to Aladdin's cave and it would be less interesting to a boy than a man talking about dirt. That is because a woman is perceived as just another mother, while a man is Man. From their mothers, boys basically want to hear variations on two phrases: "I love you" and "Do you want those fried or scrambled?" I learnt this in no uncertain terms when I was a Cub Scout leader, which mysteriously seems to have prompted my son's decision to abandon Scouting for ever.

My co-Akela (Cub Scout for wolf leader) was Dr Judy Sullivan - friend, fellow mother and clinical psychologist. Imagine the boys' excitement when they learnt who would be leading them in guy pursuits: a reporter and a shrink - two intense, overachieving, helicopter mothers of only boys. Shouldn't there be a law against this? We had our boys' best interests at heart, of course, and did our utmost to be good den mothers. But seven-year-old boys are not interested in making lanterns from coffee tins. They want to shoot bows and arrows, preferably at one another, chop wood with stone-hewn axes and sink canoes, preferably while in them.

At the end of a school day, during which they have been steeped in oestrogen by women teachers and told how many "bad choices" they've made, boys are ready to make some really bad choices. They do not want to sit quietly and listen to yet more women speak soothingly of important things. Here's how one memorable meeting began. "Boys, thank you for taking your seats and being quiet while we explain our women's history month project," said Akela Sullivan in her calmest psychotherapist voice. The response to Akela Sullivan's entreaty sounded something like the Zulu nation psyching up for the Brits.

I tried a different, somewhat more masculine approach: "Boys, get in here, sit down and shut up. Now!" And lo, they did get in there. And they did sit. And they did shut up. One boy stargazed into my face and stage-whispered: "I wish you were my mother."

Akela Sullivan and I put our heads together, epiphanised in unison and decided that we would recruit transients from the homeless shelter if necessary to give these boys what they wanted and needed - men. As luck would have it, a Cub Scout's father was semi-retired or between jobs or something - we didn't ask - and could attend the meetings. He didn't have to do a thing. He just had to be there and respire testosterone vapours into the atmosphere.

His presence shifted the tectonic plates and changed the angle of the Earth on its axis. Our boys were at his command, ready to disarm landmines, to sink enemy ships - or even to sit quietly for the sake of the unit if he of the gravelly voice and sandpaper face wished it so. I suspect they would have found coffee tins brilliantly useful as lanterns if he had suggested as much.

But, of course, boys don't stay Cub Scouts for long. We've managed over the past 20 years or so to create a new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up. By indulging every appetite instead of recognising the importance of self-control and commitment, we've ratified the id. Our society's young men encounter little resistance against continuing to celebrate juvenile pursuits, losing themselves in video games and mindless, "guy-oriented" TV fare - and casual sex.

The casual sex culture prevalent on university campuses - and even in schools - has produced fresh vocabulary to accommodate new ways of relating: "friends with benefits" and "booty call". FWB I get, but "booty call"? I had to ask a young friend, who explained: "Oh, that's when a guy calls you up and just needs you to come over and have sex with him and then go home." Why, I asked, would a girl do such a thing? Why would she service a man for nothing - no relationship, no affection, no emotional intimacy? She pointed out that, well, they are friends. With benefits! But no obligations! Cool. When I persisted in demanding an answer to "why", she finally shrugged and said: "I have no idea. It's dumb." Guys also have no idea why a girl would do that, but they're not complaining - even if they're not enjoying themselves that much, either.

Miriam Grossman, a university psychiatrist, wrote Unprotected, a book about the consequences of casual sex among students. She has treated thousands of young men and women suffering a range of physical and emotional problems related to sex, which she blames on sex education of recent years that treats sex as though it were divorced from emotional attachment and as if men and women were the same. Grossman asserts that there are a lot more victims of the hookup (casual sex) culture than of date rape. Casual sex, besides being emotionally unrewarding, can become physically boring. Once sex is stripped of meaning, it becomes merely a mechanical exercise. Since the hookup generation is also the porn generation, many have taken their performance cues from porn flicks that are anything but sensual or caring.

Boys today are marinating in pornography and they'll soon be having casual sex with our daughters. According to a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research issued in 2005, 12% of British males aged 13-18 avail themselves of "adult-only" websites; and American research findings are similar. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher, given the amount of porn spam that finds its way into electronic mailboxes. If the rising generation of young men have trouble viewing the opposite sex as anything but an object for sexual gratification, we can't pretend not to understand why.

The biggest problem for both sexes - beyond the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease - is that casual sex is essentially an adversarial enterprise that pits men and women against each other. Some young women, now fully as sexually aggressive as men, have taken "liberation" to another level by acting as badly as the worst guy. Carol Platt Liebau, the author of Prude, another book on the havoc that pervasive sex has on young people, says that when girls begin behaving more coarsely so, too, do boys. "And now, because so many young girls have been told that it's `empowering' to pursue boys aggressively, there's no longer any need for boys to `woo' girls - or even to commit to a date," she told me. "The girls are available [in every sense of the word] and the boys know it."

Men, meanwhile, have feelings. Although they're uncomfortable sorting through them - and generally won't if no one insists - I've listened to enough of them to know that our hypersexualised world has left many feeling limp and vacant. Our cultural assumption that men only want sex has been as damaging to them as to the women they target. Here is how a recent graduate summed it up to me: "Hooking up is great, but at some point you get tired of everything meaning nothing."

Ultimately, what our oversexualised, pornified culture reveals is that we think very little of our male family members. Undergirding the culture that feminism has helped to craft is a presumption that men are without honour and integrity. What we offer men is cheap, dirty, sleazy, manipulative sensation. What we expect from them is boorish, simian behaviour that ratifies the antimale sentiment that runs through the culture. Surely our boys - and our girls - deserve better.

As long as men feel marginalised by the women whose favours and approval they seek; as long as they are alienated from their children and treated as criminals by family courts; as long as they are disrespected by a culture that no longer values masculinity tied to honour; and as long as boys are bereft of strong fathers and our young men and women wage sexual war, then we risk cultural suicide.

In the coming years we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities. We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men - and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes. Unprogressive though it sounds, the world in which we live requires no less.

Saving the males - engaging their nobility and recognising their unique strengths - will ultimately benefit women and children, too. Fewer will live in poverty; fewer boys will fail in schools and wind up in jail; fewer girls will get pregnant or suffer emotional damage from too early sex with uncaring boys. Fewer young men and women will suffer loneliness and loss because they've grown up in a climate of sexual hostility that casts the opposite sex as either villain or victim.

Then again, maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe males don't need saving and women are never happier or more liberated than when dancing with a stripper pole. Maybe women should man the barricades and men should warm the milk. Maybe men are not necessary and women can manage just fine without them. Maybe human nature has been nurtured into submission and males and females are completely interchangeable. But I don't think so. When women say, "No, honey, you stay in bed. I'll go see what that noise is" - I'll reconsider.


Australia: Queensland police say they're unable to fight gangs

Too busy doing paperwork. Sounds like the British disease is catching

POLICE say they are losing the fight against youth violence but the Government refuses to acknowledge the existence of organised teen gangs. The Courier-Mail has documented up to a dozen named gangs on the Gold Coast alone. They are tightly knit groups identified by colours and tattoos, with some linked to criminal adult gangs. Other parts of Brisbane have their own versions of American gangs the Bloods and the Crips, or have gangs named after their suburbs or ethnic groups.

Two police officers admitted to The Courier-Mail the "grubs have control of the streets" because of understaffing. "Most police divisions struggle to put two cars on the road each shift and those crews can have up to 30 jobs backed up on their call sign when they start duty," one two-decade veteran said. Another officer said he was "trapped in the station doing paperwork". "I would love to be on the road for any entire shift to catch crooks," he said.

Online readers of The Courier-Mail claimed Police Minister Judy Spence, who has said there is no evidence of organised youth gangs, was out of touch. "What planet is she on?" wrote one reader. "Her only answer to every issue is to pretend it's not happening," another reader said. More incidents of youth and gang violence were revealed by residents, including attacks on vehicles by dozens of youths in Clontarf and Deception Bay.

Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson said the Government had no real plan for dealing with youth violence and was in denial about gangs. "We need more police presence where young people are active," he said. "These youth gangs should be home in bed. Police have got to have the power to get them home where they belong." He also doubted claims there were no statistics on youth gang violence. "They have the statistics but they don't want them released because they are embarrassing," he said.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said there were no easy answers to tackling the problem of youth violence and gangs. She said the Government had set up a youth violence taskforce and it would continue to consider ways to target the problem. "I'm concerned by advice from the Police Commissioner that what we're starting to see in relation to youth violence is firstly younger teenagers involved, secondly more girls involved in this sort of activity and thirdly a higher likelihood that some sort of weapon, particularly knives, being involved," she said. "These are difficult issues for our police, they involve responsibility from our schools, from parents and from the community and a law enforcement response."

MEANWHILE, on Surfers Paradise beach, two girls cooling their aching feet in the surf after a night of clubbing are bashed and robbed by an all-girl teenage gang. At Elanora and Main Beach, homes are trashed by youths from the Palmy Army, South Side Soldiers and Keebra Crew teen gangs. In the Currumbin Valley, a man's ears are cut off, allegedly by Lone Wolf bikie gang members who have graduated from, or have links to, notorious Tweed Coast youth gang, the Coomicub.

Coast gangs once were comprised of relatively innocent bodgies, widgies or surfies. But like other urban areas of Australia, the Gold Coast has seen an upsurge in gang activity in recent years. In the border towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, the Coomicub has become notorious for violence after a string of incidents in and around southern Gold Coast nightspots over the past two years. The gang took its name from a local rap band. Many members bear a distinctive 'C' tattoo and wear shirts and jumpers featuring the word Coomicub emblazoned in gothic writing. Last year some members of the gang were arrested over fights in Coolangatta and Palm Beach and a wild clash with the Palmy Army at the Palm Beach surf club. Police believe many senior Coomicub members have graduated to become Lone Wolf bikies.

Members of a group of about a dozen children and teens who savagely attacked off-duty police officer Rawson Armitage and his girlfriend Michelle Dodge at Coolangatta late last year were believed to have gang links. Gold Coast police said the problem lay with the parents of gang members, many of whom they claimed were "druggies and deadbeats themselves".



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Monday, August 04, 2008

When atheism is "Islamophobic"

LOL. I find this rather amusing: A sort of clash of correctnesses. I do rather wonder why Richard Dawkins finds religion so threatening. Much good science has been done by religious people -- going back at least as far as Isaac Newton. Isaac was actually rather a whizz at Bible interpretation

In addition to overseeing our understanding of science, Dawkins is also the best-known atheist in the country, a man who considers the worship of Christ to be about as relevant as dancing around a totem pole or deifying the Giant Spaghetti Monster. His fans will know all about this from his books, notably The God Delusion – a bestseller that picks apart the inconsistencies in religion with scalpel-like logic.

Dawkins is about to chew up religion again now, in a television series about his hero, Charles Darwin, which holds up to ridicule those who refuse to accept the theory of evolution. Astounding though it may seem, 150 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, there are many people who don’t believe its findings, he says.

Some of these are evangelicals in far-off countries who think that God created everything in six days and that rainy days began with Noah’s Flood. Others, however, are a bit closer to home. British secondary-school science teachers, for example.

“Science is being threatened in our class-rooms,” says Dawkins, citing examples such as the schools funded by the evangelical car dealer Peter Vardy and the private Blue Coat school in Liverpool that employs a creationist science teacher called Nick Cowan. When Dawkins himself met Cowan, he was confidently assured that the Earth is only 6,000 years old (rather than 4.5 billion). Cowan also apparently solved the chicken-and-egg conundrum by explaining: “God created the chicken, and the chicken laid the egg.” “Nick Cowan is a scandal,” fumes Dawkins. “To have him teaching science at a respectable school is about equivalent to having a flat-Earther teaching geography.”

More seriously, Dawkins believes that many science teachers who do believe in evolution are selling our children short by kowtowing to political correctness. At the moment, he points out, Darwinian evolution is taught in British schools at key stages 3 and 4, but under the national curriculum, alternative theories such as “intelligent design” (part of the creationist credo) “could be discussed in schools . . . in the context of being one of a range of views on evolution”, according to a government education minister.

“It’s fine to teach children about scientific controversies,” Dawkins says. “What is not fine is to say, ‘There are these two theories. One is called evolution, the other is called Genesis.’ If you are going to say that, then you should talk about the Nigerian tribe who believe the world was created from the excrement of ants.”

Cowardice is at the root of the problem, he feels. When it comes to presenting the truth of science against the “mythology” of religion, science teachers duck the issue for fear of reprimand. And not only from evangelical Christians. In his view, devout Muslims are a large part of the problem.

“Islam is importing creationism into this country,” he says. “Most devout Muslims are creationists – so when you go to schools, there are a large number of children of Islamic parents who trot out what they have been taught.”

In his TV series, Dawkins faces a class of 15-year-olds at Park High secondary school in London. A few of the pupils readily tell him they don’t believe in evolution because it runs counter to their religious beliefs. It’s only after he bundles them into a coach and shows them fossils at the seaside that one or two admit there might be something in this evolution gig after all.

“I was shocked by how some put up barriers to understanding,” says Dawkins. “I showed them the evidence, and they just said, ‘This is what it says in my holy book.’ And so I asked, ‘If your holy book says one thing, but the evidence says something else, you then go with your holy book?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And they said, ‘It’s the way we’ve been brought up’.”

Even worse, from his point of view, their science teachers are extremely unwilling to oppose anything that smacks of a faith-held belief. And the same applies to their head teachers and the government – even when a belief is contradicted by scientific truth. This infuriates Dawkins.

“Teachers are bending over backwards to ‘respect’ home prejudices that children have been brought up with,” he says . “The government could do more, but it doesn’t want to because it is fanatical about multi-culturalism and the need to ‘respect’ the different ‘traditions’ from which these children come. The government – particularly under Tony Blair – thinks it is wonderful to have children brought up with their traditional religions. I call it brainwashing.”

Dawkins shakes his head with dismay. His large, light Oxford house is filled with books, of which his most precious is a first edition of On the Origin of Species, an imprint that ran to only 1,250 copies and sold out immediately. The book has never been out of print since.

Clearly, the weedy way in which the momentous findings of Darwin’s masterpiece are being taught in some schools pains him. “I would like to see evolution taught a lot earlier. There should be no problem teaching it to eight-year-olds.” What if parents don’t want their children included in the lesson? “For parents to deprive their children of an educational opportunity because of a traditional bigotry is unfair on the child.”

And science teachers, people who should be Darwin’s flag-wavers, are simply looking the other way. “It seems as though teachers are terribly frightened of being thought racist,” says Dawkins. “It’s almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because [if you do] you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.”


Women: Equal Access Does Not Guarantee Equal Outcome

This year's election postmortem (like those in the past) will be haunted by a shrill complaint: "Not enough women were elected!" The accusation should be ignored because there is no proper ratio of female versus male office holders. Whoever receives the largest vote total in a free election is the proper winner regardless of gender, race or religion.

But the gender card will be played. The argument will run: women constitute 50 percent of the population; if women were truly equal, 50 percent of elected officials would be women; the percentage is far lower; therefore, women are not equal. This argument is false and reflects the changing definition of "equality" within feminism.

Equality used to refer to opportunity: women wanted their persons and property fully protected under the law and to have the same access as men to public institutions, such as universities and the courts. Women's call to vote grew so loud that "woman's rights" and "suffrage" briefly became synonyms. In 1920, ratification of the 19th Amendment assured the vote to American women. And, yet, few women were elected to political office.

Sixties feminists faced a problem. Most legal barriers to women had been swept away. Yet "imbalances," such as the low ratio of female politicians, persisted and were viewed as proof that women were still oppressed. In their view, a true equality of opportunity would have rendered an equality of results. The call for equality became a cry for women to have equal access to all aspects of society. This new view of equality broke with the old one in two important ways. First, the traditional distinction between "public" and "private" was erased. Equality of access no longer referred to public institutions but to privately-owned ones as well. Second, the law was asked to accord privileges to women in order to compensate them for past wrongs and to establish a "level playing field." For example, affirmative action regulated whom a business owner could hire.

Today, almost two generations have been raised on this level playing field and have voted their conscience. Yet far fewer women than men are office holders.

One explanation is that '60s feminists were flatly wrong. Equal opportunity in life usually renders unequal results because outcomes depend on many factors other than the equality of either opportunity or access. For example, outcomes depend on the preferences of those involved, preferences that differ widely not only from group to group but also from individual to individual.

Consider how few female firefighters exist. This is not because women are barred from the profession. Indeed, fire departments actively recruit women to comply with affirmative action. The lack of female firefighters may be due to nothing more than the well-documented tendency of women to choose less dangerous, less physically demanding jobs that allow time for their families. In all likelihood, the imbalance has nothing to do with inequality.

Something similar may be at work regarding women office holders. If a majority of women do not choose a political career, if most women voters do not cast ballots for their own sex, this is a fascinating social pattern. But it doesn't necessarily say anything about women's equality: it only reveals women's preferences.

Nevertheless, politically correct feminists will proclaim that the election returns reflect the oppression of women. The definition of equality has changed once more to mean "equality of outcome," not of opportunity or access.

It is always instructive to read United Nations documents. The new term being used there is "substantive equality." The International Women's Rights Action Watch is an organization with "special consultative status with the U.N.," that works to "facilitate the monitoring and implementation" of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). IWRAW speaks of CEDAW's demand that states "ensure an equality of results between women and men." To do so, CEDAW realizes that states need to treat women and men "differently." Women's needs must be "specially recognised and catered for [sic] in the context of employment, education, financial services, politics and all other spheres of life." In short, pervasive laws will benefit women and disadvantage men in order to achieve an equality of results.

Election results will probably be included, if only indirectly. For example, in Kosovo, the U.N. mandated a gender quota. Every third candidate in the 2001 election had to be a woman. Close to a third of the offices went to women. The elections were still called "free" because no one tried to rig the vote count, only the nominations. But, as the notoriously corrupt 19th century politician, Boss Tweed once declared, "I don't care who does the electing just so long as I do the nominating."

Dr. Mark Cooray has well expressed the difference between various concepts of equality within feminism. "Equality of opportunity provides in a sense that all start the race of life at the same time. Equality of outcome attempts to ensure that everyone finishes at the same time." Cooray considers "equality of opportunity and freedom" to be "two facets of the same basic concept." Equality of results, however, "is the goal of radical socialism."

As long as women are as free as men to run for office and to vote as they choose, then whatever number of women are elected is the right number for an equality based on freedom.


This is a nudge in the wrong direction

It doesn't matter whether it tries to guide us or force us, government doesn't know best

A few hippies aside, everyone agrees that paternalism is a good thing when practised by parents. Children do not know what is good for them. Left to their own devices they would make many bad decisions. Caring parents will threaten, bribe, cajole, trick or otherwise manipulate their foolish offspring into doing the right things. When practised by governments, however, paternalism is more controversial. The idea that adults do not know what is best for them, and that the government should manipulate them into doing the right thing, strikes libertarians as outrageous.

Yet most politicians find the idea irresistible. The present Government aims to make us change our behaviour in all sorts of ways that libertarians would think none of its business. Among other things, they want to make us smoke less, drink less, eat less, take fewer drugs, exercise more, save more and spend more time with our families. So do David Cameron's new Conservatives. Treating adults like children is an idea that needs some justification, especially when it is espoused by a political party that until recently claimed to champion the individual against the State.

So you can imagine the delight with which these nannies have received Nudge, a book by the Chicago University professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein that claims to provide a new justification for paternalism and new ways of manipulating people that are compatible with libertarianism. The justification for paternalism is that, like children, adults are too foolish to know what is best for them. This may not strike you as a new idea. Most of us think that other people are fools. What's new, however, is scientific support for this common presumption.

Over the past few decades, "behavioural economists" have been studying how actual human decision making deviates from the perfectly rational ideal assumed in classical economics. Their sad, if unsurprising, conclusion is that we are systematically irrational. We are apathetic, favouring options that require no action or that preserve the status quo. We are herd followers, doing things that are bad for us simply because others do them. We are hopeless at statistics, buying insurance and lottery tickets even when the odds make them a bad deal. And these are only a few of many irrational biases. It is no wonder that we do all those things that the Government and Mr Cameron wish we would not.

But behavioural economics does not only show that we need external guidance. It also shows how we can be guided. Our irrationality can be exploited to nudge us in the right directions. For example, we can be made to save more if joining a pension plan is the default option when we get a new job - that is, if our employers structure our choices so that we must actively opt out of the plan rather than actively opt in. The right "decision architecture", as Thaler and Sustein call it, can use our apathy to benefit us.

Or we can be made to file our tax returns on time if the Government publishes statistics about how many of our fellow citizens have already filed theirs. Our herd mentality can be turned to serve our own good.

But here is a simple question. If the Government knows what's best for us, why only nudge us in that direction? Why not give us a mighty shove - as the Australian Government has - by making saving compulsory? Sustein and Thaler reply that nudging is consistent with libertarianism, but shoving is not. And they are libertarians. They advocate what they call "libertarian paternalism".

Alas, this is as incoherent as its name suggests. Libertarianism is motivated by the idea that a government cannot know what is best for individuals. That is why it is likely to harm us when it attempts to influence our behaviour. Those who favour governmental nudging must think the "central nudger" knows what is good for us. But then they have no reason to be libertarians.

Nor does behavioural economics justify paternalism, because it does not show that the Government knows better than we do what is good for us. The advantage that individuals have over central nudgers in deciding what we should do was never our perfect rationality. It is our superior knowledge of our own preferences and circumstances.

Take a simple example. Should you save more, as our would-be nudgers suggest? The answer depends on your present and likely future incomes, on how much you can expect to inherit, on how long you are likely to live and on your preferences regarding consumption now versus consumption in the future. The Government may know that you are foolish. But it cannot possibly have better information than you on all these matters.

Knowing that someone is irrational does not tell you what they should do, nor that they are at present doing the wrong things. Our would-be nudgers are like doctors who think that they can prescribe the right medicine simply because they know you are a hypochondriac.


New Leftist Australian government "Even-handed" about Israel

A few months ago, when I was back in Israel, one of Tony Blair's advisers approached me. Blair, the former British prime minister, is now a special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the so-called quartet of the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union. "Did you know," the adviser asked me, "that your Government has increased aid to the Palestinian Authority? This was seen as a big deal by the quartet - something John Howard would not have done and a sign, perhaps, of a different approach by Kevin Rudd on Israel."

A week before Christmas the parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan announced Australia had indeed doubled its 2008 aid package to the Palestinian territories to $45 million. A senior Australian diplomatic source told me the increase "succinctly reflected a subtle repositioning and a new approach" in the Middle East.

Earlier this year Downer's replacement, Stephen Smith, gave an interview in Washington in which he said Australia was committed to an "even-handed" approach on Middle East policy. Smith told Tony Walker of The Australian Financial Review Labor would adhere to a long-standing policy acknowledging Israel's right to exist and the rights of a Palestinian nation state. "That's an even-handed approach which Labor has had as its policy for a long period of time. It's a two-nation solution. That's even-handed," Smith said.

Walker, a veteran Middle East watcher, observed that Smith's position "contrasts with the previous government, which tilted Australia's Middle East policy towards Israel and made little pretence of adhering to an 'even-handed' approach". Perhaps he was right. On February 8, Michael Burd, in a letter to the Australian Jewish News, wrote: "It wasn't so long ago Jewish Labor supporters were arguing there was no difference between Liberal and Labor policy towards Israel, and Jews who attended private dinners with Kevin Rudd in Toorak and other private homes were led to believe Labor would continue to support Israel. "This letter writer will be watching for the next Arab/Muslim-backed UN anti-Israel resolution to see if Rudd stands by his commitment to the Jewish community."

Around this time Rudd seemed to allay some fears when he introduced a motion into Federal Parliament honouring the state of Israel, which turned 60 this year. One of his MPs, Julia Irwin - a long-time critic of Israel's conduct - boycotted the motion.

Australia, meanwhile, is watching Israel closely as its Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, prepares to stand down amid myriad corruption allegations. Despite his domestic problems, Olmert has done much to advance the peace process. Australia also watches carefully as Middle East tensions rise over Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons capable of striking the heart of the Jewish state. Senior figures in the Rudd Government will not, based on intelligence briefings, privately rule out a pre-emptive, unilateral strike against Iran by Israel.

There is no doubt that, while the Australia-Israel relationship remains close, there is significant new uncertainty about it. Rudd, who has yet to visit Israel as Prime Minister, does little by accident.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mothers, Don't Take Your Kids to an Abuse Shelter

Abuse shelters are the domestic violence industry's Holy of Holies. Their ministrations are shrouded in mystery, the High Priestesses unnamed, their locations often kept secret. There abused women can become purified of the patriarchal demon and begin life anew. Of course if you're an abused man, don't bother to ask for help. They're likely to claim you are harassing them and call the police. And abuse shelters don't seem to be very interested in helping the youngsters, either.

Although abuse shelters claim to serve the children of abused women, what passes for child care may be a gum-chewing, tattoo-adorned teenager clocking her community service hours. Or a former drug-user working off her parole plea-bargain. Or there may be no care at all.

Several years ago Renee Heikamp was arrested and charged with criminal negligence following the death of her son Jordan. The five-week-old baby wasted away to skin and bones as the two resided at the Catholic Children's Aid Society in Toronto.

At the Brewster (Ariz.) Center Domestic Violence Services, a 26-year-old resident had sex with a 12-year-old boy in the playground tunnel slide while his mother was away. The predator was hauled off to the Pima County jail and charged with sexual misconduct with a minor.

Shelter residents often complain their children are exposed to far more abuse in the shelter than they had seen outside of it. There they witness taunting, profanity-laden threats, and even physical assaults. Sometimes children find themselves the target of such abuse. One former resident wrote, "Children, especially teens, become the emotional 'whipping boys' of other residents, and if they speak up, they risk getting the family thrown out."

At one shelter a resident was arrested for a bizarre birthday present for a 13-year-old boy at the facility. The woman cornered the boy and proceeded to spank him 13 times - with her clenched fist.

Most shameful of all - most abuse shelters refuse to help adolescent children who are male. After all, we can't let those proto-patriarchs find out what really goes on behind closed doors. Erin Pizzey, founder of the first shelter, believes her movement has been hijacked. She charges abuse shelters now "fund the feminist movements so they exclude young boys because they are the potential enemy."

In Florida, the situation has lurched out of control. Last October, 16-month-old Myliak Dale was playing in the parking lot of the SafeSpace shelter in Stuart, Fla., when a woman started to back her car out. Apparently no one was watching. The toddler's life was snuffed out in minutes. Then 10 days later, 26-year-old Milaus Almore was fatally stabbed by another SafeSpace resident, Marilyn Hooks. Almore was eight weeks pregnant.

On May 6, 2007, a Suwannee County sheriff spotted a cluster of teenagers behind a minivan drinking alcohol. The van was registered in the name of the Another Way shelter in Lake City. One of the minors was a pregnant teenager residing at the facility. As we know, drinking during pregnancy is harmful to an unborn infant. The driver's eyes were severely bloodshot. She was given a sobriety test and failed. The police cited 34-year-old Wendy Pittman for giving alcohol to minors. Turns out, Ms. Pittman was the director of the Another Way shelter.

Pittman was given the boot and replaced by Shanna Travis. Ms. Travis is a nurse who repeatedly tested positive for opiates, failed her rehab, and whose license has been revoked by the Florida Board of Nursing: Things were destined to get worse under Travis' leadership. On June 5, 2008, a four-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a nine-year-old female at the shelter while the two were left unattended. According to the police report, the nine-year-old "took down her underwear and pants down and inserted her finger into her vagina." The incident took place around 9:30 on Saturday evening. But the assault wasn't reported to the police until noon the following day.

So why were the two girls left together unattended? Why the 15-hour delay in reporting the incident? And who had the nutty idea of hiring a former druggie to run an abuse shelter? To get answers to these questions, last week I telephoned Tiffany Carr, director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at 1-850-425-2749. Despite repeated attempts, Ms. Carr never returned my call. Apparently it's best to give such incidents the hush-hush.


Why it's best to marry in your twenties

The trend is to get hitched later in life, but Andrew G. Marshall argues that the earlier you take the plunge, the greater your chances of a long, happy partnership

Over the past 35 years we have been waiting longer and playing the field more before settling down. According to the Office for National Statistics, men are getting married for the first time seven years later and women six years later. This means that the average man is aged 32 when he asks "Will you marry me?" and the average woman is 29 when she says "Yes".

But is this trend towards the thirtysomething marriage making us happier and more satisfied? And when it comes to the fortysomething crunch - the most common age for divorce - who is most vulnerable: those who took the plunge early at twentysomething or the ones who waited until thirtysomething?

When couples seek my help as a marital therapist, I start by asking for the history of their relationship. People who married in their twenties often report tough times at the beginning: living with in-laws, financial problems or moving around the country as one partner climbed the career ladder. Most couples overcome these problems, but sometimes there are unfortunate knock-on effects; for example, from hurried and unsatisfactory love-making because they felt inhibited about being overheard. Also, couples who marry relatively early can grow apart, especially when one partner has been successful at work, travelled, met new people and grown in confidence while the other has been home-based.

However, the greatest threat to the twentysomething marriage is reaching 40 and wondering if the grass could be greener elsewhere. This is particularly dangerous when someone who married his or her first love starts fantasising about what he or she has missed. The temptation to have an affair can be overwhelming and very damaging. By contrast, the thirtysomething marriage seems to sidestep these problems. At this age people are more established in careers and can start a relationship on a firm financial footing. They have a clearer idea of who they are and what they need from a relationship. When these couples reach their forties, they are less likely to be nostalgic or curious about the single life.

Yet, when faced with fortysomething couples in crisis, I always feel more optimistic about the outcome for those who married in their twenties than those who married in their thirties. Why should this be? If you marry later, you are more likely to bring old baggage into your relationship. In some cases, I help couples to unravel the influence of someone from maybe two or three relationships back. For example, to someone who once had a suspicious partner - forever quizzing them about their movements - an innocent inquiry such as: "What time will you be back?" can sound aggressive.

A more insidious problem of marrying later is higher expectations. This is because one of the best ways of recovering from a failed relationship and starting to look again is to tell yourself: "I deserve better", or "Next time I'll meet Mr or Miss Right". There is nothing wrong with this strategy. But unfortunately, if the next relationship does not deliver, the bitterness becomes that bit greater and the desire for perfection that bit stronger. On many occasions, the body language of these clients seems to be saying: "I've not survived all that single crap to be treated like this." Worse still, these resentments tend to be unspoken and unexpressed, and become hardened into a barrier.

The final issue about getting married at thirtysomething, particularly your late thirties, is the need to start a family almost immediately. Many couples have no time to get to know each other properly or put down solid roots together. If a relationship has been built on long weekend lie-ins and brunches, the demands of small children can be a shock. This sense of isolation is worse if the grandparents are correspondingly older, too, and not fit enough to help.

By contrast, the couple who married at twentysomething have a longer shared history of both good times and bad times. So when faced with a crisis in their forties, they can look back and feel a sense of pride about past problems overcome. Their body language is often more dogged, suggesting: "We're not going to let this defeat us."

Having started their relationship with lower expectations, they are markedly more tolerant of each other's failings and more prepared to compromise. Most important of all, they have watched the other change and have knocked the rough edges off each other. Meanwhile, the couple who married in their thirties, when they felt fully formed, are less flexible and more likely to have a "take it or leave it" approach to their partner.

What about people who met in their twenties or thirties but did not get married until much later, or have still not tied the knot? What counts, ultimately, is making a deep and abiding commitment; this could be a joint mortgage, starting a business or having children. However, getting married does change a relationship, even if a couple have been living together for years. It creates a formal bond between two families and sends a strong message to friends, employers and the world that this is an important and valued relationship.

Although the ultimate deciding factor for the success of a relationship is the character, determination and generosity of each partner (and that is not determined by age), my advice is always to seize the day and commit. There is nothing sadder than hearing a client talk about a past partner who, with benefit of hindsight, was ideal but who he or she let slip away because "we were too young". I used to think they were talking about a relationship from their teens, but time after time my clients were referring to their mid-twenties and regret not settling down while they could.

Although we want to believe that we will go on for ever, life has a natural rhythm and cycle. Economic and social pressures might be pushing us towards not settling until later, but the truth is that it is always easier to follow the seasons.


Australia: 'No deal' on offer in case of black killer

One law for blacks and whites! How refreshing!

Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers has drawn a line under a legal convention allowing Aborigines accused of murder in the Northern Territory to be treated differently to white counterparts by refusing to cut a deal with an indigenous man who beat his wife to death in an Alice Springs town camp. Most Territory Aboriginal defendants are offered the chance to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and rarely face trial for murder.

But Dr Rogers -- whose revelations in 2006 of shocking levels of child sexual abuse in NT communities led to the federal intervention -- refused to be party to such a deal after hearing how Ronald Djana whipped his wife with a hose, belted her with a stick, pounded her head with a rock, stomped on her abdomen and stabbed her in the vagina.

The case also broke new ground with the decision by 21 Aboriginal witnesses to testify against Djana, 32, who had five previous counts of assaulting his wife, Janie Norman, and three restraining-order breaches. Members of the jury wept openly after hearing how Norman -- the 32-year-old mother of Djana's four children -- was killed in May.

Djana's conviction for murder and sexual assault without consent means under Territory law that he will serve a minimum of 25 years in jail, but in pleadings to judge Dean Mildren on Thursday, Dr Rogers asked for a longer sentence, given Djana's history of abusing Norman. If successful, it would be the longest sentence handed down to an Aboriginal man in the NT and would ensure that Djana was treated no differently to white man Bradley John Murdoch, sentenced to 28 years in 2006 for the murder of British tourist Peter Falconio and the accompanying assault of Joanne Lees.

The defence argued that Djana had either not caused all Norman's injuries or did not form the intent to kill her because he was drunk. But Dr Rogers told the jury: "Janie Norman may have lived a lifestyle very different to yours. You may not approve of her lifestyle but she is entitled to the same protection of the law as any other person. "Just because she lived in an Alice Springs town camp, surrounded by alcohol abuse, and lived a chaotic lifestyle, does not mean that her violent death is just another statistic."

Jane Lloyd, chairwoman of the NT Domestic and Family Violence Advisory Council, said she was not celebrating what would be a long sentence for Djana, but said it was right that he was treated as a murderer. "In the past, juries have been somewhat indifferent to violence by Aboriginal men against Aboriginal women," she said. "That did not seem to be the case here. I had the sense that overall ... some kind of value was placed on her life."

The most recent available NT statistics show that in the 10 years between 1996 and 2006, 109 Aborigines were convicted of manslaughter or a dangerous act causing death, and only 12 were convicted of murder. There was a greater will to charge white people for murder in that same period, with 26 convicted of manslaughter or a dangerous act and 13 convicted of murder.

The view has often been that Aboriginal men lead such despairing lives that they ought to be cut some slack when it comes to charges. Dr Rogers's prosecution office in Alice Springs is increasingly demanding that in cases where intent can be clearly shown, Aboriginal killers be charged with murder.

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council co-ordinator Vicki Gillick welcomed the decision of indigenous people to give evidence. "It is often the case that Aboriginal witnesses can be reluctant to be involved. But it's a credit when they do, and it's a credit to the prosecutors that they were able to get them to come forward," she said. Djana will be sentenced on August 25.


Official rubbish snoopers in Britain

Bins belonging to celebrities, judges and London mayor Boris Johnson were searched by council-hired snoops. In all, 53 streets in Islington, North London, were secretly targeted by 'bin spies' in an operation which has angered residents. Last night, the Liberal Democrat-run council added fuel to the fire by stating: 'No permission was sought from residents as none is required.' It insisted it had not been snooping but simply 'investigating' the types of rubbish thrown away to see if more could be recycled.

Comedy actress Su Pollard lives in one of the streets involved. Miss Pollard, who starred in Hide-Hi! and You Rang, M'Lord?, said: 'I am quite incensed. It smacks of Big Brother. 'One feels like a suspect in some way. 'There is nothing in my bins that would incriminate me in any way - it's mostly yoghurt pots - but I am terribly uneasy about it. 'It will make you think twice before leaving rubbish out.'

Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson, who lived in the area at the time of the searches, said: 'That is terrible. How dare they? 'I recycle but there may have been private things I was throwing away. It is really intrusive. Is nothing sacred?' Mr Johnson declined to comment.

Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, last night said serious security issues could be involved. 'High Court judges and High Court appeal judges live in those streets,' she said. 'I am sure they are careful but a sheet of paper can easily go amiss, and council officers could have seen them. 'My concerns are who authorised this and what they do with the stuff. They should have told people what they were going to do.'

The spying was uncovered after a Freedom of Information request to Islington asking whether it had undertaken any kind of survey of bins during the last five years. The answer was that it had - between August 1 and 12 2005 and between November 8 and 19 2004. In total, 1,000 households had their rubbish inspected secretly. The council said: 'The operatives involved were waste professionals acting under a strict code of conduct which included the possibility of finding items of a personal nature such as confidential paperwork.'

Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Foxsmith said: 'This is not about snooping into households' bins or invading privacy. It was an investigation into rubbish to see what is being sent to landfill and how much more could be recycled. 'Rubbish is not looked at individually or records taken - confidentiality is taken very seriously.'



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sidewalk abortion activists save lives and give great joy

Commentary by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. I have great respect for the good father's views even though, as an atheist, I do not share them entirely. I am slightly surprised by his predestinarian views, however. I did not think that Calvinism had any part in Roman doctrine. What he reports brings tears of joy to my eyes, however. Those who save the lives of babies do the holiest work imaginable, in my view

"God chose us in Christ, before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight" (See Ephesians 1:5). On Saturday, July 12, I had the joy of baptizing three babies, chosen by God from all eternity to live. A cause of particular joy and celebration was that two of these babies were rescued from abortion. Their mothers had gone to an abortion mill in Allentown, PA, but sidewalk counselors intervened and helped them to find the strength to say "No" to abortion and "Yes" to life.

The Church was filled with pro-life advocates, including the sidewalk counselors who intervened, and all were immersed in the joy of the victory of life. Once this ceremony was scheduled, I announced it nationally, not only so that as many people as possible could come, but also so that the whole pro-life movement could be encouraged by this celebration of victory.

Yadira, one of the mothers who turned away from abortion had already gone into the facility. But a few moments later she found the strength to come out, because she looked at an image on a brochure that one of the sidewalk counselors gave her. That image showed an aborted child. It revealed the reality of what abortion does to a baby, and Yadira knew she could not do that to her baby.

And so her baby Shaelyn, along with baby Brandon, also rescued from abortion, were blessed, anointed, and bathed in the waters that make an end of sin and a beginning of eternal life. These babies, once marked for abortion and inscribed in a scroll of death, now have their names inscribed in the Book of Life.

During the ceremony, I preached about how the Church and the pro-life movement say to these mothers and fathers, "I am with you." We come to their side, rescuing them from despair and giving them the strength to do what is right. We help them to see through the lies of the devil. In fact, in the baptism ceremony, everyone renews the vows of their own baptism. The question resounded through the Church: "Do you reject Satan?" "I do!" the response thundered back. "And all his works?" "I do!" "And all his empty promises?" "I do!" Jesus taught that the works of the devil are lies and murder. Abortion continues because of the lie, the empty promise, that freedom can be found by killing a baby.

We renounced this lie together, and we baptized the babies together. There is no such thing as a private baptism. The Church's ritual calls for baptism to be celebrated as a communal event. The whole Church welcomes the lives that God has chosen from all eternity. His choice is more important than ours, and comes before ours. We choose life because God has already chosen to entrust us to the care of each other. On July 12, we joyfully affirmed God's choice for Shaelyn and Brandon.


"Blame everybody but the guilty party" loses for once in Britain

A couple ordered to $2 million damages to a boy who suffered brain damage on a bouncy castle have won their appeal in a 'victory for common sense'. Timothy and Catherine Perry were held responsible for the accident in which 13-year-old Sam Harris was kicked in the head by an older teenager. But yesterday the country's top judge overturned a High Court ruling in May that the couple had not paid close enough attention to the children's party.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice May and Lord Justice Wilson at the Court of Appeal, overruled Mr Justice Steel's decision by declaring that it was a 'freak and tragic accident'.

Legal experts hailed the decision a victory for those supervising bouncy castles who had been left open to compensation claims by parents over even minor accidents.

The accident happened at a tenth birthday party the Perrys were holding for their triplets in a playing field in Strood, near Rochester, Kent, in September 2005. Sam Harris, then aged 11, asked Mrs Perry if he and another boy, Sammy Pring, 15, could have a go. The Perrys had also hired a bungee run and while Mrs Perry had her back turned, Sammy accidentally kicked Sam in the head when performing a somersault. Sam suffered a 'very serious and traumatic brain injury', and now needs round-the-clock care. His parents, Janet and David Harris, who are separated, sued the Perrys.

The High Court ruled that Mr and Mrs Perry should pay an immediate $200,000 to the Harris family and were liable to pay up to as much as $2 million more in damages. But yesterday the High Court ruling was overturned. Sam will not receive any compensation and his parents are expected to take their case to the House of Lords.

Neil Addison, a barrister specialising in civil law, said: 'This appeal simply marks common sense. 'It is a tragic accident and one obviously feels sorry for the boy and his parents but I am not at all surprised at the outcome.'

During the appeal hearing, Lord Phillips said Mrs Perry was under no obligation to keep the bouncy castle under continuous observation, and it was not 'foreseeable' that it posed a 'significant risk of harm'. He added that Mrs Perry had acted 'reasonably' in believing she could supervise the castle and the bungee run at the same time.


Turning the tables on the Inquisitors

Catholic barrister and legal author Neil Addison offers a personal view on the case of Christian registrar, Lillian Ladelle. Addison argues that Ladelle's victory provides welcome recognition for the right of religious people to refuse to carry out work which contradicts their beliefs. And the widespread condemnation of the court victory shows up the intolerance of today's liberal crusaders

In June, Christian registrar Lillian Ladelle won a case for religious discrimination against her employers, Islington Council in London, after she was `discriminated, bullied and harrassed' for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples. To judge from the howls of anguish following the judgement, one might think that the Inquisition was already setting up stakes outside St Paul's, with the Archbishop of Canterbury issuing fatwas from Number 10.

`Secularism in peril!', declared the National Secular Society (NSS) (1) after its president, Terry Sanderson, wrote in a Guardian comment piece that `This is a catastrophic judgment, not just for gay people but for the wider community'. It might seem easy just to dismiss this comment as just one, rather predictable, reaction by a particularly anti-religious organisation. But, significantly, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) decided that the NSS statement should be the only information about the Ladelle case to be put on the its website (it has now been removed).

Since the CEHR has a statutory responsibility to oppose all forms of discrimination, one might have expected it to have applauded, rather than criticised, a victory for a victim of religious discrimination. But the reaction of the CEHR and other `liberal' commentators to the Ladelle case has shown up the nasty, intolerant underside of the modern diversity and equality establishment, and its double standards concerning the interrelationship of Christianity, law and society. In addition, the reactions demonstrate an increasing inability to understand the concept of conscientious moral objection.

If you take the trouble to read the tribunal judgement in the Ladelle case (2), it will become clear that Ladelle was not trying to avoid her work responsibilities, nor was she abusive or insulting to any gay colleagues or members of the public. She had moral, religious objections to performing civil partnership ceremonies because she saw that as an endorsement of homosexual conduct - something she disagreed with. So, when a civil partnership came up, she asked other staff members, who were happy to perform them, to step in. This did not cause any administrative problems for her employers, Islington Council. It did not delay or cause problems for a single civil partnership and no complaints about Lillian were received from any gay member of the public.

But two employees at Islington, who described themselves as `members of the gay community', complained about Ladelle. In consequence, Lillian was bullied by her manager and details of her personal situation and a `confidential' management letter about her was revealed to the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Forum. What her complainants ultimately objected to was not what Lillian did or how she acted, but what she thought and what she believed. She could not be allowed to continue her work in peace, she had to be challenged and her views had to be changed because, in the mind of the heresy hunters of the modern diversity industry, she was guilty of `thought crime'.

Ladelle's case was brought under the 2003 Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) regulations (3), which were brought in at the same time as the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) regulations (4). In paragraph 50 of its judgement, the employment tribunal notes that there is a complex interrelationship between these two sets of regulations and the two principles of non-discrimination they represent: `This is a case where there is a direct conflict between the legislative protection afforded to religion and belief and the legislative protection afforded to sexual orientation. One set of rights cannot overrule the other set of rights.'

In all areas of discrimination law, there is the question of `reasonable accommodation' so that, for example, Sikh employees are not required to take off their turbans in order to conform to the uniform worn by everyone else. However, during the tribunal hearing, Ladelle's manager said: `I don't believe we should be accommodating people's religious beliefs in the registry service.'

The tribunal had to reject that point of view just as they would have to reject the point of view of any manager who didn't believe it was necessary to accommodate someone's sexual orientation, disability, sex, race or age. If it had been impracticable for Islington to accommodate Lillian, or if it would have made the working of the registry service impossible or unreasonably difficult, then Ladelle would not have won her case. But the evidence was that Ladelle's unwillingness to conduct civil partnerships caused no such problems. Her manager was not prepared to accommodate her religious beliefs because the manager did not agree with them.

Rod Liddle criticised Ladelle in The Sunday Times and described Christians as a `vanishingly small section of the British population' (5). Even if assuming, for the sake of the argument, his remark is true, surely the whole purpose of discrimination law is to protect minorities? In any event, the number of civil partnerships in 2007 - 8,728 - is also `vanishingly small' compared to the number of marriages - 275,140 (7).

Part of the hysterical overreaction to the Ladelle case arises from a profound theological illiteracy in modern society and a refusal to recognise that there is a distinction between discriminating against someone because of their actions and being morally complicit in those actions. For example, Ben Summerskill, the national director of the gay rights campaign, Stonewall, suggested on BBC News that because of the Ladelle case, Christian firefighters might refuse to rescue gay people trapped in a burning building. In a recent BMA general meeting it was suggested that Muslim doctors might refuse to treat alcoholics. In neither of these hypothetical situations would a Christian or Muslim have any theological, or legal, basis for refusing their services because in neither case would they be morally complicit in the actions of the people they were assisting.

If a gay couple is trapped in a fire, then a firefighter who saves them is passing no moral judgement on them or their sexual activities nor is he morally complicit in them. However, a registrar who `marries' them is morally complicit. Similarly, a Muslim doctor who treats an alcoholic is not morally complicit in their alcohol drinking, but a Muslim shop assistant who sells alcohol is. This failure to recognise the concept of moral complicity lies at the heart of the problem that the Roman Catholic adoption agencies face since being required to abide by the Sexual Orientation Regulations. If an adoption agency places a child for adoption with a gay couple then it is, in effect, giving moral approval to that relationship and is thereby morally complicit in it. There is no explicit scope for conscientious objection and the giving of a child for adoption is treated on the same legal basis as the selling of a beef burger.

Several commentators on the Ladelle case have suggested that, because Lillian was engaged in a secular employment, her religious views should have no relevance. I have some sympathy with that view. However, if we are to have a division between secular and sacred then that division cannot just be one way. If religious belief should stay out of secular employment and services, then surely discrimination law should similarly stay out of religion services and employment, but that is not the way the law works. In 2007, the Bishop of Hereford was taken to an employment tribunal over his decision that the diocese should not employ a gay youth worker (8). The Christian views on sexual morality were not regarded as relevant by the tribunal.

By extending anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation and religious belief, the law has, in effect, entered the area of personal conscience to an extent not seen in this country since the repeal of the Anti-Catholic Test Acts in 1829. Today, the descendents of Torquemada and the Inquisition no longer work for the Church - they have instead become diversity officers mercilessly enforcing the new orthodoxy and relentlessly hounding those, like Lillian Ladelle, who are the heretics of the new age.


India Learns from Uganda: New AIDS Strategy Rejects Failed UN Approach - Will Focus on Abstinence, Fidelity

The decision accords with Indian traditions but, coming from the world's second most populated nation, it could have far-reaching effect

One of the only national programs ever to effectively combat HIV/AIDS was the Ugandan ABC program, which focused on abstinence and being faithful to one partner. Now the Indian national AIDS committee is adopting this same approach in their effort to curb HIV/AIDS rates. A spokesperson for India's National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) told the media yesterday that sex-education taught to students will focus on abstinence and fidelity, not condoms and 'safer sex.'

This announcement came after a meeting involving officials from NCERT and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), who, under the guidance of director-general Sujatha Rao, have advocated fighting AIDS with values, not condoms. "There will be no mention of condom or safe sex in the revised module on life-skill education program. But we will be focusing on the aspirations of the youngsters and will also talk about being faithful to one's partner and abstinence. There should be no hypocrisy on the subject," said Rao, as reported by the Indian press. "The youngsters need to get the right information. The children are growing in an unsafe environment," she added.

Originally a module was created to introduce sex-education into Indian schools to fight the spread of AIDS that promoted condoms and 'safer sex' techniques. The module, however, which included a flipchart with graphic illustrations of the human anatomy, was met with a nationwide uproar that led to seven states and many educationalists rejecting it. The module was formulated under the direction of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which is known for dumping condoms into developing nations as a means of fighting AIDS, despite hard data that shows no country has ever significantly reduced their AIDS rate using this method.

Before the new module receives final revisions, which are slated for October, secretaries of state, NGOs, as well as teachers and parents will be given a chance to review its contents and provide feedback.

The Indian decision, rejecting the usual intense pressures to adopt failed UN and other international agency strategies, could have major international repercussions on AIDS programs in other nations. Eventually expected to surpass China as the most populated nation in the world and with an economy that is also rapidly becoming one of the world's largest, India's international influence on AIDS and many other issues is becoming substantial.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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Friday, August 01, 2008

Opponents of gay marriage say they'll sue over changed wording in California's Proposition 8

After a tweak by the state attorney general's office, the initiative now seeks to 'eliminate the right' of same-sex couples to marry, wording that the measure's proponents say could prejudice voters. Supporters of Proposition 8, the proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, said they would file suit today to block a change made by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to the language of the measure's ballot title and summary. Petitions circulated to qualify the initiative for the ballot said the measure would amend the state Constitution "to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

In a move made public last week and applauded by same-sex marriage proponents, the attorney general's office changed the language to say that Proposition 8 seeks to "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry." Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Protect Marriage coalition, called the new language "inherently argumentative" and said it could "prejudice voters against the initiative."

Proponents of the measure said they want voters to see ballot language similar to what was on the petitions that began circulating last fall. "This is a complete about-face from the ballot title that was assigned" when the measure was being circulated for signatures, Kerns said.

On the other side, Steve Smith, campaign manager for No on Proposition 8, applauded the language change. "What Proposition 8 would do is eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, which is exactly what the attorney general put in the title of the measure," he said. "It will be very difficult for them to win the case." Political analysts on both sides suggest that the language change will make passage of the initiative more difficult, noting that voters might be more reluctant to pass a measure that makes clear it is taking away existing rights.

The dust-up reflects the fierce battle being waged over the question of same-sex marriage in California, the most closely-watched social issue that will appear on the November ballot. And it has raised suspicion in some circles that Brown, a possible candidate for governor in 2010, was influenced by politics. "He is delivering something . . . that is very important to the gay community, and that is a title and summary that is more likely to lead you to vote 'No,' " said political analyst Tony Quinn. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who became a hero to the gay and lesbian community in 2004 when he officiated same-sex marriages that were later invalidated by the state, is also exploring a run for governor. Quinn added that language changes that substantive are "highly unusual."

Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the attorney general, denied that there was any political motivation for the move. Instead, he said, the change was necessary because of the dramatic turn of events that have taken place since the petitions were circulated: namely that the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and thousands of gay couples have since wed. "The title and summary accurately reflect the measure," Lacy said. He noted that language in titles and summaries often changes between the time a measure is circulated for signatures and when it appears on the ballot.

In another change, the revised language predicts a loss to state and local governments of tens of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues over the next few years if the measure passes. But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said that in the long run there would "likely be little fiscal impact."


The German parallel with Islam

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.


Math Is Harder for Girls -- despite the lying New York Times

By Heather Mac Donald

The New York Times is determined to show that women are discriminated against in the sciences; too bad the facts say otherwise. A new study has "found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests," claims a July 25 article by Tamar Lewin -- thus, the underrepresentation of women on science faculties must result from bias. Actually, the study, summarized in the July 25 issue of Science, shows something quite different: while boys' and girls' average scores are similar, boys outnumber girls among students in both the highest and the lowest score ranges. Either the Times is deliberately concealing the results of the study or its reporter cannot understand the most basic science reporting.

Lewin begins her piece with the mandatory mocking reference to former Harvard president Lawrence Summers' suicidal speculations about why women are underrepresented on science and math faculties. She also manages to squeeze in a classic feminist trope for how our sexist society destroys girls' innate abilities, invoking the infamous "talking Barbie doll [who] proclaimed that `math class is tough.'" Lewin implies that the new study blows Summers' wide-ranging speculations on gender and math out of the water; all that holds women back from equal representation in MIT's theoretical physics labs, it seems, is Mattel and other patriarchal marketers of gender myths.

On the contrary, Science's analysis of math test scores only confirms the hypothesis that cost Summers his Harvard post: that boys are found more often than girls at the outer reaches of the bell curve of abstract reasoning ability. If you're hoping to land a job in Harvard's math department, you'd better not show up with average math scores; in fact, you'd better present scores at the absolute top of the range. And as studies have shown for decades, there are many more boys than girls in that empyrean realm. Unless science and math faculties start practicing the most grotesque and counterproductive gender discrimination, a skew in the sex of their professors will be inevitable, given the distribution of top-level cognitive skills. Likewise, boys will be and are overrepresented among math dunces-though the feminists never complain about the male math failure rate.

Lewin claims that the "researchers looked at the average of the test scores of all students, the performance of the most gifted children and the ability to solve complex math problems. They found, in every category, that girls did as well as boys." This statement is simply wrong. Among white 11th-graders, there were twice as many boys as girls above the 99th percentile-that is, at the very top of the curve. (Asians, however, showed a very slight skew toward females above the 99th percentile, while there were too few Hispanics and blacks scoring above even the 95th percentile to compute their gender ratios.)

The Science researchers themselves try to downplay the significance of the two-to-one ratio for whites-the vast majority of students-on the grounds that it should produce a 67 percent to 33 percent disparity in male-to-female representation in math-dependent fields. Yet Ph.D. programs for engineering, they say, contain only about 15 percent women. Therefore, the authors conclude, "gender differences in math performance, even among high scorers, are insufficient to explain lopsided gender patterns in participation in some [science and math] fields."

This reasoning is flawed, however, because the tests used in their study are pathetically easy compared with what would be required of engineering or other rigorous math-based Ph.D.s. The researchers got their data from math tests devised by individual states to fulfill their annual testing obligations under the federal No Child Left Behind act. NCLB has produced a mad rush to the bottom, as many states crafted easier and easier reading and math tests to show their federal overseers how well their schools are doing. The Science researchers analyzed the difficulty of those tests and found that virtually none required remotely complicated problem-solving abilities.

That a gender difference at the highest percentiles shows up on tests pitched to such an elementary level of knowledge and skill suggests that on truly challenging tests, the gender difference at the top end of the distribution will be even greater. Indeed, between five and ten times as many boys as girls have been found to receive near-perfect scores on the math SATs among mathematically gifted adolescents, for example. Far from raising the presumption of gender bias among schools and colleges, the Science study strengthens a competing hypothesis: that the main drivers of success in scientific fields are aptitude and knowledge, in conjunction with personal choices about career and family that feminists refuse to acknowledge.

The same reality-denying feminists are itching to subject college science and math departments to gender quotas. They have already persuaded Congress to require university scientists to perform Title IX compliance reviews -- a nightmare of bean-counting paperwork-covering everything from faculty composition to lab space. Misleading reporting like Lewin's will only strengthen the movement to select cancer researchers and atomic engineers on the basis of their sex, not their abilities.

The Wall Street Journal, it should be noted, had no difficulty grasping the two main findings of the Science study: that "girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests," as Keith J. Winstein reported on July 25, but that "boys more often excelled or failed." That the New York Times, in an article over twice as long as the Journal's, couldn't manage to squeeze in a reference to the fact that boys outperformed girls at the top end of the curve should put its readers on notice: trust nothing you read here.


UN to Britain: Stop Being Islamophobic

These are the guys who constantly condemn Israel but who have yet to utter a single condemnation of the vast human rights abuses in Muslim countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia

Extending its campaign to squelch discussion of Islam and lobby member countries to roll back their citizens' speech rights, the United Nations has asked that Great Britain do more to challenge negative views about Muslims:
The nine-member human rights committee composed of legal experts said it was concerned "negative public attitudes towards Muslim members of society" continued to be allowed in Britain. It recommended the government "should take energetic measures to eliminate this phenomenon and ensure that authors of such acts of discrimination on the basis of religion are adequately deterred and sanctioned."
Concrete "acts of discrimination" are one thing; "negative public attitudes" are an entirely different matter. Is it the role of governments to allow or disallow certain beliefs to inhabit the minds of people? And who gets to decide what constitutes "negative public attitudes"?

Moreover, Britain already has bent over backwards for its Muslim population. The term "war on terror" - often criticized by anti-Islamist researchers as imprecise - was scrapped by the Foreign Office in 2006 due to concerns that it might anger Muslims. Earlier this year, ministers waded further into the swamp of political correctness by stipulating that Islamic terrorism should be referred to as "anti-Islamic activity." The nation has also done much to accommodate Islamic law in both welfare and finance. Furthermore, two leading public figures - Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips - have endorsed the adoption of Shari'a for adjudicating marital and financial disputes.

The committee's demand that Britain police the thoughts and words of its people is consistent with recent speech-suppression efforts undertaken by the Islamist-dominated UN Human Rights Council. In March, the body passed a resolution that condemns "attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence, and human rights violations," while declaring that "freedom of expression . may therefore be subject to certain restrictions . necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others." In June, the HRC severely constrained discussion of Islam during debates at the council, after Muslim members objected to a presentation on female genital mutilation, stoning, and child marriage.

"It is regrettable that there are false translations and interpretations of the freedom of expression," delegates from Saudi Arabia stated in March. What's truly regrettable is that the UN gives Islamists a platform from which to promote the curtailment of Western liberties.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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The Real Politically Incorrect Net Ring

This net ring exposes political correctness for the fraud that it is and advocates universal values of individual freedom, free speech, and equal rights for all.


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