The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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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.


31 August, 2010

Mideast Sirens

Henry Kissinger once wrote that "when enough bureaucratic prestige has been invested in a policy it is easier to see it fail than to abandon it." So it is with the Obama Administration's latest efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The prospects for success are bleak, but everyone still wants to give it that old State Department try.

The hopeful news, to the extent some exists, is that both sides will engage in "direct" talks after nearly two years of "proximity" sparring. The U.S. will host and presumably midwife the early September talks in which the two sides will have to confront their major differences face to face. Optimists suggest that this could be another 1979 moment, when Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat both took an unlikely leap against their own histories and signed an Israeli-Egyptian peace.

The fundamentals today argue against such a joint leap. Israel is less secure now than it was then, especially with the rise of Iran as a menacing regional power. Tehran has supplied its proxy, Hezbollah, with 45,000 rockets aimed at Israel from across the border in Lebanon—despite Condoleezza Rice's assurances that the U.N. would stop the rocket supply after the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war.

Iran also arms Hamas, which now controls Gaza and is sworn to Israel's destruction. Syria is as much part of Iran's orbit as it was two years ago, despite much U.S. pleading and high-profile visits to Damascus by John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

These realities understandably make Israel determined to keep a military presence on the West Bank border with Jordan as part of any new Palestinian statehood—to prevent the West Bank from becoming another Lebanon or Gaza. Israel also wants a long phase-in of any withdrawal from the West Bank, again as a way of building confidence in long-term security.

This will all be difficult for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to accept. Even if he does, Hamas will denounce any peace treaty and use violence to sabotage it. Hamas abruptly ceased its reconciliation talks with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, merely because the PA agreed to participate in the September direct talks with Israel.

Mr. Abbas also wants a Palestinian exile "right of return" to Israel that no Israeli government can accept, lest it guarantee a majority Palestinian future on its soil. Then there's the dispute over dividing Jerusalem, the Israeli capital that Israelis also won't cede to the PA to the extent Mr. Abbas is seeking.

The U.S. will no doubt try to squeeze both sides to compromise, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has the kind of hawkish credibility that might let him sell concessions to the Israeli public. But he also leads a balky left-right coalition that could break apart if he concedes too much.

Rather than squeeze peace from these stones, the U.S. might make more progress with both Israel and Mr. Abbas if it stopped Iran's march toward becoming a nuclear power. Israelis and Arabs saw on the weekend that Iran began loading fuel into its (ostensibly civilian) nuclear reactor at Bushehr, with the help of Russian fuel rods and no objection from the U.S. Russia says it will control the rods and return them to Russia, but any rods that disappear could be turned into weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran's march to nuclear status is the security threat that dominates the region because it would instantly transform every nation's strategic calculations. Israel is less likely to cede more territory for promises of peace if it knows that Hamas and Hezbollah are suddenly backed by an Iranian bomb. A diminished Iran with a shuttered or damaged nuclear program wouldn't guarantee that Israel and the Palestinians could agree to a peace, but it would improve the chances.

The White House and U.N. officials argue that, whatever the long odds, there is no harm in trying. But sometimes there is harm in trying and failing. Mr. Obama is putting his own prestige on the line, and that supply is not unlimited. A loud failure might weaken Mr. Abbas's political position among the Palestinians, while inflaming anti-Israel sentiment in Europe, Turkey and elsewhere. We certainly hope for the best, but the White House and Pentagon should prepare for the consequences of failure.


Let the private sector fund stem-cell research

by Jeff Jacoby

JAMES THOMSON, an embryologist at the University of Wisconsin, cultivated the first embryonic stem cell lines in 1998. By then the prohibition on using federal funds for scientific research in which human embryos are destroyed was already on the books: President Bill Clinton had signed it into law nearly three years earlier. So how did Thomson secure a government grant to finance his landmark achievement?

He didn't. No government grant was necessary. His work was funded by the Geron Corporation, a California biotechnology company that develops treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, and degenerative diseases. Thomson was scrupulous about obeying the congressional ban, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. The Washington Post reported that he did his research "in a room in which not a single piece of equipment, not even an electrical extension cord, had been bought with federal funds."

Scientists and the government subsequently found a way around the Dickey-Wicker Amendment -- they interpreted it as applying only to the destruction of human embryos required to extract stem cells, not to the research conducted afterward. So while the National Institutes of Health could not fund the actual cultivation of embryonic stem-cell lines, it could funnel taxpayer dollars to scientists experimenting with those lines. Last year, NIH provided $143 million for embryonic stem-cell research; so far this year, nearly 200 grants worth a total of $136 million have been approved.

But last week a federal judge in Washington pronounced that before/after distinction meaningless. Dickey-Wicker "unambiguously" prohibits the use of federal funds for (ITAL) all (UNITAL) research in which a human embryo is destroyed, Judge Royce Lamberth ruled, "not just the 'piece of research' in which the embryo is destroyed." His injunction temporarily blocking the Obama administration from expanding NIH funding of embryonic stem-cell research has thrown the field into turmoil. Some 85 grant applications in the NIH pipeline have been stopped in their tracks.

Naturally, the ruling was heatedly condemned by supporters of embryonic stem-cell experimentation -- The New York Times spoke for many in labeling it "a serious blow to medical research." On the other hand, activists who oppose the harvesting of human embryos on moral grounds were pleased. Operation Rescue applauded Lamberth for a "ruling that will protect innocent human beings in the very earliest stages of development from death and exploitation through unethical experimentation."

To my mind, there is no moral obstacle to using surplus fertility-clinic embryos that would otherwise be discarded for potentially life-saving medical research. Nor do I regard a microscopic cluster of cells as a human person entitled to full legal protection. Nevertheless, Lamberth's ruling makes this a good moment to ask a threshold question: Why should the federal government be funding controversial medical research in the first place?

As Thomson's original discovery proved, after all, pathbreaking accomplishments in stem-cell science are possible even when the government isn't footing the bill. That was no anomaly. If the feds didn't fund the search for embryonic stem-cell therapies, the private sector would.

As it is, a host of private funders are already pouring money into stem-cell research. Just last month, Geron, the company that underwrote Thomson's work in 1998, announced plans to conduct the world's first human clinical trial of a therapy derived from embryonic stem cells, a treatment for damaged spinal cords. And Geron is only one of many companies -- Aastrom Biosciences, Stemcells, Inc., and Osiris Therapeutics are among the others -- using private dollars to fund cutting-edge stem-cell research.

For-profit corporations and their shareholders aren't the only source of private-sector stem-cell funding. The Washington Post reported in 2006 on the private philanthropy that was building new stem-cell labs on campuses nationwide. "Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad gave $25 million to the University of Southern California for a stem cell institute, sound-technology pioneer Ray Dolby gave $16 million to the University of California at San Francisco, and local donors are contributing to a $75 million expansion at the University of California at Davis. . . . Early this year, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg quietly donated $100 million to Johns Hopkins University, largely for stem cell research."

Add to them the Starr Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and all the other private charities that have made stem-cell research a priority -- and those that would do so if the federal government declined to support research that so many taxpayers find problematic.

Douglas Melton, the co-director of Harvard's Stem Cell Institute, told the Boston Globe last week that private support is "the only durable and consistent source" of funding for embryonic stem-cell research. He's right. Medical research would not wither away if the government took a back seat to the private sector. In this as in so many other areas, perhaps the time has come to re-think Washington's role.


How Many Attended The Glenn Beck Rally?

The question on the minds of millions of Americans this morning: How many people attended Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' rally yesterday in our nations' capitol?

The answer to this question has ramifications far beyond mere crowd size. It is one of the few concrete indicators of the popularity and viability of the Tea Party and their message of traditional values, less government and a return to our Founders' vision of America.

The New York Times described the crowd merely as "enormous and impassioned." ABC was more specific, estimating the attendance at Beck's Restoring Honor Rally in the "hundreds of thousands." AP chimed in at "tens of thousands."

Whether the attendance was 300,000 or one million, (you decide) the huge crowd gathered to hear conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and other notables, offered a compelling contrast to another rally being held across town held by Al Sharpton.

An estimated 3,000, most of whom were African-Americans, attended a rally/march hosted by Al Sharpton to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Sharpton railed against the Tea Party as he informed the crowd that MLK's dream "has not been achieved."

The fact that America has elected a black president didn't seem to faze Sharpton as he trotted out his familiar message of black oppression. Sharpton's solution? Support Obama's latest money grab, appealingly entitled a "jobs bill.' Yawn.

Jesse Jackson, who arbitrarily claimed the sole right to speak for Dr. Martin Luther King, was aghast that Glenn Beck dared to infringe on his territory. Jackson told CNN that Beck was mimicking King and "humiliating the tradition."

NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous followed up, castigating the message of the Glenn Beck rally across town. "For a year and a half, we've been subjected to small hearts and small minds on our small screens," he said, referring to conservative ideas.

Meanwhile, Martin Luther King's niece, Dr. Alveda King, offered a different message at the Glenn Beck rally. A message of hope and an appeal to honor.

The message of the Restoring Honor rally was more religious than political, with many speakers openly professing their Christian faith, including Beck. Obama's name wasn't mentioned once in the 200 minutes of speeches. And the Mall was left spic and span.

Sharpton's "Reclaim the Dream" rally offered a telling contrast. Both in terms of size and in terms of the message. This contrast is good news for America. A portent that the much abused race card may, finally, be losing its potency. An indication that millions of Americans value character, honor and God over racial politics.

The times, they are a changin'. For years, race hustlers have tried to keep the race card alive. After all, white guilt has proved very lucrative for Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the segment of the black population that seek to divide Americans by race.

What does it say about Sharpton's message when one contrasts the 3,000 attendees to the hundreds of thousands of people across town at the Beck rally who were focused on honor as opposed to the color of one's skin?

This is good news, America. Good news that may signal a death knell for racial and grievance politics and, hopefully, a return to basic American values that are shared by all Americans, regardless of their color.

Who knows, maybe one day soon Al Sharpton may have to go out and get a real job. And maybe one day soon, our elected officials will recognize that America is still a Christian nation. Hope springs eternal.


Australia: Churches get opt-out from same-sex adoption bill in NSW

Sounds like it will get blocked in the upper house anyway. Fred Nile should see to that. It's a big contrast with bigoted Britain where church agencies have been driven out of adoption services

THE independent state MP Clover Moore has moved to shore up support for her same-sex adoption bill by giving church adoption agencies the right to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Ms Moore wrote to MPs on Friday announcing she would amend the bill and reintroduce it to Parliament on Thursday. She told the Herald she was amending the bill "in line with requests" from church adoption agencies to help ensure its passage through Parliament.

"Some members of Parliament have told me that they will not support reform without an exemption for church-based adoption agencies," she said. "While the amendments do not reflect my strong belief that there should be no exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act, the bill is so important to the security of families headed by same-sex couples that I cannot risk possible defeat."

The convener of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Kellie McDonald, said the group had argued against the amendment, but was taking a pragmatic approach. "We're obviously not in support of religious exemptions," she said. "However, if the amendment means the bill gets passed, we are in support of this happening. If it means that it will persuade some of the more conservative MPs to support the bill and it gets support, that's a good outcome."

However, news of the amendment has not changed the view of church leaders. A letter co-authored by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, arrived on MPs' desks yesterday urging them to vote down the bill.

It follows a similar letter to MPs earlier this month from one of the state's leading adoption agencies, Anglicare, which has said the original proposal would force it to cease offering adoption services.

The chief executive of Anglicare Sydney, Peter Kell, said yesterday that the amendment did not change the agency's opposition to the principle of the bill, but he was pleased it would allow Anglicare to continue adoption services if it becomes law.

The NSW Council of Churches will hold a protest meeting in the NSW Parliament House theatrette today in opposition to the bill.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, have agreed to allow their MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

However, the Christian Democratic MLC, the Reverend Fred Nile, said the proposed amendment would not alter his view. "I'm pleased that [Ms Moore] is amending it," Mr Nile said. "But it doesn't change our opposition in principle to the objects of the bill. I believe every child has a right to a mother and a father".

The amendment brings Ms Moore's bill into line with the recommendations of a Legislative Council committee into the issue last year.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


30 August, 2010

German banker in trouble for telling the truth

Saying that Jews are genetically related is antisemitic?? How absurd can you get? It's a central Zionist claim that modern Jews are descended from the ancient Israelites and genetic studies confirm that there is an unusual degree of genetic relatedness among Jews -- and that the genes concerned are of middle Eastern origins!

And what he says about Muslims is little more than a summary of the news

German government leaders have condemned a central bank executive for making anti-Semitic remarks before the publication of his book today that takes a critical look at Turk and Arab immigrants.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Bundesbank would have to examine whether board member Thilo Sarrazin could remain in his post after making "completely unacceptable comments that show contempt for groups within our society".

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said Mr Sarrazin was out of line for his comments about Jews, remarks that were also criticised by Jewish leaders in the country responsible for the Holocaust.

"All Jews share a particular gene, Basques share a certain gene that sets them apart," Mr Sarrazin told Welt am Sonntag newspaper ahead of the release of his book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself).

Mr Sarrazin, a Bundesbank board member, denied he was stirring racism. He has faced heavy criticism for making disparaging comments about Muslim immigrants. Mr Sarrazin has repeatedly created uproar for criticising Turks and Arabs in Germany.

"There's no room in the political debate for remarks that whip up racism or anti-Semitism," Mr Westerwelle said.

"There are limits to every provocation and Bundesbank board member Sarrazin has clearly gone out of bounds with this mistaken and inappropriate comment," Mr Guttenberg added.

Stephan Kramer and Michel Friedman, leaders in Germany's Jewish community, also criticised Mr Sarrazin, 65, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and former finance minister in the city-state of Berlin. "Someone who tries to define Jews by a genetic make-up is consumed by a racist mania," Mr Kramer said. "How long can an institution like the Bundesbank tolerate this?"

"Enough already!" Mr Friedman wrote in Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "No more tolerance for this intolerance. It's okay to provoke thought but enough of this baiting and defamation. We don't need any hate preachers, especially in the Bundesbank."

Ms Merkel, in an interview with ARD, pointed out the Bundesbank was independent but said the central bank would deal with it. "I'm certain there will be discussions in the Bundesbank about it," she said. "It's not only about monetary issues. The Bundesbank is also a national treasure, in and outside Germany."

Almost 3 million people of Turkish origin and an estimated 280,000 of Arab extraction live in Germany.

Leaders in Mr Sarrazin's SPD have called for him to quit the party and resign from the Bundesbank.

Mr Sarrazin's comments have also embarrassed Bundesbank President Axel Weber, who some German leaders have backed to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank next year.

The Bundesbank has tried to distance itself from his remarks, saying they are his personal opinions and not linked to his role at the bank. The central bank requires evidence of "serious misconduct" to bring about Mr Sarrazin's dismissal.

The central bank last year stripped Mr Sarrazin of some of his duties. If the central bank's board voted to remove Mr Sarrazin, the move would then need the approval of the president.

In the book, Mr Sarrazin argues that Muslims undermine German society, marry "imported brides" and have a bad attitude. He said young Muslim men were aggressive due to sexual frustration.

"Sadly, the huge potential for aggression in this group is obvious. The Arab boys can't get at their Arab girls," he said. "In the end, they use the German girls from the underclass who are easier to get, and then they hold them in contempt because they're so readily available."


Muhammad cartoons to return in new book

THE Danish editor who published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that caused outrage across the Muslim world said today that he will soon republish the drawings in a new book.

The book - written by Jyllands-Posten cultural editor Flemming Rose and titled The Tyranny of Silence - will be published on September 30, five years to the day since the cartoons first appeared in the newspaper.

The publication of the cartoons provoked angry, and in some cases deadly, global protests by Islamic extremists.

In an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken, Rose said he was not trying to be provocative, stressing that he simply wanted to "tell the story of the 12 drawings and put them into a context of (other) pictures considered offensive."

"I am sure that a lot of people don't know what I think of these drawings. My concerted wish is to explain myself. I have nothing but words to do so, but once people have read the book ... maybe they will be able to see the broader context. Words should be answered with words. That's all we have in a democracy, and if we give that up, we will be locked in a tyranny of silence," he said.

Rose, who received numerous death threats after first publishing the cartoons, said he wanted to launch "a broad European debate ... about how we should live in the 21st century. The cartoon crisis shows what we can expect in the 21st century."

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew the most controversial drawing - featuring the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse - will also publish a new book in the coming months containing his cartoon, Politiken reported.

Earlier this month, Jyllands-Posten said it erected a barbed-wire fence around its offices for protection from terrorist attacks.


Ninth Circuit Upholds Religious Liberty in World Vision Case

Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an important religious liberty decision that protects the right of faith-based social service organizations to protect their religious identity and mission.

The case involves World Vision, a nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization focused on the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision was sued for religious discrimination by two employees it fired after learning that they did not agree with World Vision’s doctrinal beliefs.

As a general rule, federal nondiscrimination law demands that private employers ignore religion in making employment decisions. But the same law includes an accommodation for “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society.” The question in Spencer v. World Vision was whether World Vision fit this definition and therefore qualified for the accommodation.

Two of three judges agreed that World Vision, even though it is not a traditional house of worship, is entitled to the institutional religious liberty accommodation. Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote the opinion for the court.

This ruling comes at a time in the life of this nation when faith-based organizations face increasing burdens. Illustrations include D.C. lawmakers’ refusal earlier this year to protect the right of D.C. Catholic Charities to uphold its religious identity and character while providing social services in the District. Because it refused to compromise its religious belief that marriage is the union of a husband and a wife, Catholic Charities was forced to stop offering adoption services and providing spousal benefits to its employees.

Similarly, earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that state universities can deny equal recognition to a Christian student group that refuses to accept members and leaders who disagree with the religious beliefs of the group. Under this ruling a Christian student group could be denied recognition “if it does not allow an atheist student to lead its Bible studies.”

Not surprisingly, many of the threats to religious liberty and right of association discussed in these and other sources stem from nondiscrimination dictates that seek to control the conduct of private citizens and private organizations.

Protecting the religious freedom of faith-based organizations and other civil society groups is an important part of building an American where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish. They meet important needs and shape people’s identity, and the existence of such organizations also serves as a check on government overreach. As Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow Ryan Messmore has argued, the role, power, and influence of government grows when the role, power, and influence exercised by religious communities shrinks. The ability of groups like World Vision to make employment decisions based on their deepest convictions is important for sustaining freedom and a robust civil society.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in the World Vision case will likely be proposed for further appellate review. For now, however, it stands as an important victory for institutional religious liberty.


Muslims and the Mainstream Media Equals Madness

Cliff May

Wow! The Washington Post has identified “rabble-rousing outsiders!” I don’t think I’ve heard language like that since southern segregationists complained about young civil rights activists descending on Mississippi. So who are these interlopers stirring up the unwashed masses? No need to guess: It’s anyone who dares criticize plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. According to Jason Horowitz, the author of a story on the front page of the Post’s Style section, New Yorkers take a “dim view” of them.

Mr. Horowitz informs us that the planned Islamic center has become “the prime target of national conservatives who, after years of disparaging New York as a hotbed of liberal activity, are defending New York against a mosque that will rise two city blocks from Ground Zero.” The hypocrisy! Have they no shame?

Mr. Horowitz was no doubt so busy reporting this big story that he missed the bulletins about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean – no nasty national conservatives they! -- also opposing the Ground Zero Islamic project.

However, Mr. Horowitz did score an interview with Ali Mohammed who sells “falafel over rice” in the besieged neighborhood and who has “reached his saturation point.” Opponents of the project, he says, “got nothing to do with New York and they don’t care about New York. They are trying to create propaganda.”

Yes, of course, this is a New York thing. Foreigners wouldn’t understand. The terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers had a bone to pick with the Big Apple. That explains why Mr. Horowitz doesn’t ask Mr. Mohammed who he thinks attacked us on 9/11/01, their ideology and goals. Indeed, there is not a single sentence in his article relating to such matters.

Besides, New York City’s “entire political establishment” thinks the Islamic center is a dandy idea. And when a political establishment speaks, who has the right to question them? Certainly not politicians and reporters and bloggers from outside the five boroughs! The noive of some people!

Mr. Horowitz also interviews Oz Sultan, a spokesman for the project, who sings from the same hymnal: “The people behind this [Islamic center] are New Yorkers. These are local yokels.”

How does that square with Mr. Sultan’s refusal to rule out the possibility that funds for this $100 million project may be raised in Saudi Arabia and Iran? Inquiring minds may want to know; Mr. Horowitz does not even ask.

Instead, he makes clear whom he does not view as local yokels or even real New Yorkers: “the city’s tabloids” whose reporters and editors “know they have a good thing going” – in stark contrast to Mr. Horowitz and the prestige media which cover stories like this strictly from a sense of civic obligation.

If this piece were exceptional, it would be unfair of me to give it such a tongue lashing. But, as I’ve argued before, it’s part of a pattern, a trend -- one that, despite criticism, continues to strengthen. A companion piece in the Post exclaims that the Islamic center will contain “a Sept. 11 memorial (!)” but never bothers to question what that memorial might say about the 9/11 attacks. Will they be described as an atrocity or merely a tragedy? Who will the memorial say was responsible and on behalf of what belief system were they acting?

Similarly, a Washington Post interview with Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the key organizer of project, is headlined: “When Will Muslims Be Accepted?” Ms. Khan tells the veteran journalist Sally Quinn: “The Republicans are really going after us."

Quinn responds by asking Daisy Kahn point blank: nothing -- nothing about the project’s funding, nothing about the Imam’s past statements regarding 9/11 (American policies were an “accessory”), Osama bin Laden (“made in America”), Hamas (the Imam would prefer not to characterize the group), terrorism (“complex”) – nothing. It’s as though Daisy Kahn has purchased an advertisement.

Another interview with Ms. Khan, this one by Tamer El-Ghobashy in the Wall Street Journal, also consisted of one soft ball question after another. For example:

How did you react to the Anti-Defamation League registering their opposition to the location of the center?

What are the features of the planned center that people may not have heard about?

What element of the fallout from this proposed center concerns you most?

A New York Times piece on the controversy similarly avoids all and any uncomfortable questions. Its reading of recent history: “On top of the fear and confusion in New York about Islam after 9/11, a movement had begun to spring up against Muslims seeking a larger role in American public life.” What movement would that be? Who leads it? Where do they meet? Shouldn’t the Times – the Times! – include some attempt to substantiate the announcement of the birth of such a terrible “movement”?

Last week, I was a guest on “To the Point,” a radio show broadcast on public stations around the country and moderated by Warren Olney whom I consider both professional and fair. But, to my chagrin, he asked not a single question about Imam Rauf’s beliefs and when I tried to quote the cleric he cut me off saying that was a distraction from the real issue. Which is what? Warren later told me he thinks it’s “America’s tradition of religious freedom.” But I – and most critics of this project – have never argued that Imam Rauf doesn’t have a First Amendment right to build a mosque anywhere he owns property. I’ve argued that he should not be above scrutiny.

To some, that makes me an Islamophobe and, according to Time magazine, I have plenty of company. A cover story titled “Is America Islamophobic?” asserts that “many opponents” of the Islamic center “are motivated by deep-seated Islamophobia.” Not a shred of evidence is offered, though Time does cite a poll that finds 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers.

Goodness, why would anyone think that? Could it have something to do with the fact that there have close to 16,000 terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11/01? Just last month, Time had on its cover the photograph of an 18-year-old Afghan girl whose nose and ears were sliced off by members of the Taliban because she had violated Islamic religious law as they interpret it by “running away from her husband’s house.” The word “Taliban” means “the students.” Students of what? Engineering? Dentistry? No. Of Islam.

Let’s say it one more time loudly for the media moguls in the cheap seats: Most Muslims are not terrorists. But in the 21st century, most of those slaughtering women and children in the name of religion are Muslims. This is a movement. This is a reality. And it is a problem. It ought to be seen by Muslims as very much their problem – a pathology within their community, within the “Muslim world,” within the ummah.

Instead, the richest and most powerful Islamic organizations – often financed by oil money from the Middle East -- incessantly play the victim card. Daisy Khan tells ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that in America, it’s “beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims."

Time encourages this grievance mentality (or tactic) by asserting that “to be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country's most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery.”

No, they don’t. What they conflate with terrorism and savagery are al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Shabaab, Abu Sayyef, Fatah Al-Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood and dozens of other groups that justify their terrorism and savagery based on their interpretation of Islamic doctrine.

Many of the country’s religious and political leaders would like to hear more of their Muslim neighbors say plainly: “Not in my name! Not in the name of my religion!” They are distressed when they learn – not through the mainstream media – that Imam Rauf has said instead: "The United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda."

He said that some time ago when he was still answering questions from the media. In recent weeks, as a national controversy has swirled around the biggest project in which he has ever been involved, he has been “unavailable.” Time does not criticize him for stonewalling as they would criticize any non-Muslim who declined comment for a cover story. Instead, Time excuses him, saying he seems to have been “stunned into paralysis” by the unfairness of it all.

Is this moral posturing or cowardice or self-delusion or the byproduct of the multi-culti ideological mush that so much of media have been both eating and dishing out? Whatever the cause, they really have gone mad. Small wonder that the rabble is becoming roused -- with our without the help of those pesky outsiders.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


29 August, 2010

Evil British bureaucrats again

They love using their little bit of power to hurt people: Army hero who lost a leg in Afghanistan denied a disabled parking permit by council bosses 'because he might get better'

A hero soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan has been denied a disabled parking badge three times by council bosses.

Lance Corporal Johno Lee has clocked up £800 in fines for parking in disabled bays in his home town of Newark, Nottinghamshire, on days when he uses a wheelchair or feels unable to walk very far.

When he first applied to Nottinghamshire County Council for a blue badge, he was advised he was young and 'may get better'.
Wounded veteran Johno Lee has racked up over £800 in parking fines because council officials refuse to grant him a disabled persons parking permit

Wounded veteran Johno Lee has racked up over £800 in parking fines because council officials refuse to grant him a disabled persons parking permit

His right leg was amputated below the knee after he was caught up in an explosion in Helmand Province in 2008 and was catapulted into a minefield.

He said yesterday: 'I replied that they possibly did not quite understand the situation and that I thought it unlikely my leg would grow back.

'Sometimes the leg swells so badly I can't even get the prosthetic leg on. I then have to park in disabled bays otherwise I can't get into town, but then I get a ticket. 'If I live for another 60 years, am I expected to continue to have to struggle for all of that time?'

Lance Corporal Lee's applications are being supported by the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's' Association.

In a statement, the Council's Service Director Mr Paul McKay said: 'We are looking into the matter and have arranged for a member of staff to meet Mr Lee to review the situation. We will urgently assess whether he meets the criteria for a disabled parking badge as laid down by the Department of Transport.'

Mr Lee, a charity worker for the Armed Forces, added: 'A lot of people are coming home from Afghanistan severely wounded and are deserving of recognition rather than to be disrespected by the bureaucrats.'

When he was blown up, his heart stopped twice, once on the helicopter taking him to Camp Bastion and once on the operating table, but he was revived each time.


NYT condones stoning -- but only by Muslims

Anyway my issue here is hypocrisy and my candidate for the hypocrite of the week is The New York Times, which in last Sunday’s Week in Review section ran an essay titled “Crime (Sex) and Punishment (Stoning).” Maybe I am overly suspicious but this piece struck me as bending over backwards not to be too harsh on those societies in which stoning people–especially women–for sex crimes is acceptable. But what makes me suspicious?

Well, consider just a few remarks from the piece. “Much of the outrage these [stoning] cases generated–apart from the sheer anachronism of stoning in the 21st century–seems to stem from the gulf between sexual attitudes in the West and parts of the Islamic world, where radical movements have turned to draconian punishments, and a vision of restoring a long-lost past, in their search for religious authenticity.” “Stoning is not practiced only among Muslims, nor did it begin with Islam.” “Stoning is a legal punishment in only a handful of Muslim countries–in addition to Iran, they include Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria, but it is very rarely put to use.” “But Islamic law requires very strict conditions for a stoning sentence….” “Some scholars even argue that the stoning penalty is meant more as a symbolic warning against misbehavior….” and “In any case, societies evolve….”

As I see it these bits tell a story of temptation, the temptation of reckless multiculturalism, of cultural and legal relativism. OK, but so what? Well, I was thinking as I was reading these sentences in the Old Gray Lady how would it go over if this is how some writer discussed, say, slavery, ethnic prejudice or the subjugation of women in the West? I doubt it would fly so well.

This bending over backwards so as to be understanding toward cultures in which stoning human beings is regarded as a proper form of punishment–right now in the 21st century–seems to me to show an ideological bias on the part of the editors of The Times. And that bias is that whenever flaws in American history, law, social practices, and such are being discussed, there is no mercy; Americans are held to far higher standards than are those in Muslim cultures, for example.

Not only is this objectionable because it is unjust toward America but also because it is insulting toward Muslims. Somehow the latter do not qualify to be judged by the standards of humanity applicable to Americans and Westerners, it appears. Are they not human enough for that? Is there something inferior about Muslims so when they act in brutal, barbaric ways what is important to mention is that societies evolve? Should this kind of tolerance be accepted vis-a-vis Muslims but not antebellum Southerners who felt, often most sincerely, that slavery was OK? What about all the male chauvinists who thought of women as too emotional for scientific and other kind of work? Are we to think of them all as simply part of “societies [that] evolve”?

I am not about to venture to try to solve the problem of cultural diversity concerning some important human practices and institutions but I thought it worth calling attention to the anti-Western, anti-American bias at The Times.


Leftist intellectuals fawn over slimy Islamist Tariq Ramadan

When Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding in 1989 after a fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western intellectuals rallied to his defence. Yet when Hirsi Ali was forced into hiding in 2004 after her friend and artistic collaborator, film director Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamist who pinned to the dead man's chest a death threat to Hirsi Ali, support for her was qualified with condescension.

By contrast, Ramadan -- the Swiss-born philosopher and self-proclaimed apologist for his grandfather Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement that spawned Hamas -- is treated with deference and hailed as a moderate Muslim and bridge-builder.

As Berman notes, when Buruma wrote about Ramadan in The New York Times in February 2007, he concluded the philosopher offered "a reasoned but traditionalist" approach to Islam and that his values were "as universal as those of the European Enlightenment".

Yet, as Hitchens notes, "It's hardly possible to read of a media appearance with Tariq Ramadan that does not describe him as arrestingly handsome and charismatic. No disrespect, of course, but I'd be the first to agree that it can't be his writing that draws the crowd."

It is this conundrum -- why Ramadan is lauded and Hirsi Ali looked down on -- that Berman seeks to explain in his book. And why when scores of intellectuals have been forced into hiding there seem to be so few with the courage to express outrage or solidarity. It is this moral cowardice that gives the title to Berman's book The Flight of the Intellectuals.

Berman admits he is intrigued by Ramadan. "I had heard about him as a good guy, a reforming moderate in the world of Islamic thinkers," he says. "But when I read what he wrote I was struck by the difference between what I read about him and what I read by him."

When Ramadan wrote his doctoral thesis about al-Banna, it was rejected at the University of Geneva as a "partisan apologia" and was eventually accepted only because a Swiss socialist campaigned to have a second committee consider it.

Yet Berman uses historical sources to reveal a much more sinister portrait of al-Banna than the one that appears on the pages of Ramadan's books. Using archival records that have been published only in the past year, he shows how al-Banna funded the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, "Adolf Hitler's most prolix and prominent champion in the Arab world".

Al-Husseini drew from Nazism and the Koran to create Islamic fascism, which he broadcast ad nauseam over the radio on the Voice of Free Arabism. And these poisonous texts found their way into the writings of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Berman says he sees Ramadan as a Shakespearean figure. He charms Western intellectuals and yet "his grandfather and his father, his family contacts, his intellectual tradition is precisely the milieu that bears the principal responsibility for generating the modern theory of religious suicide-terror".


Australians still support the monarchy

To the dismay of Australia's arrogant Leftist intelligentsia. Not mentioned anywhere below is the result of Australia's consitutional referendum on the subject in 1999. In defiance of all the talking heads, 55% voted for the Monarchy. Even many people of non-British origin voted for it. In my home State of Queensland nearly two thirds voted for the Monarchy: An aptly named State (actually named after Queen Victoria)

Public support for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low with more Australians in favour of retaining the monarchy for now.

A Sun-Herald/Nielsen poll conducted two weeks before the federal election showed that - when asked straight out if Australia should become a republic - 48 per cent of the 1400 respondents were opposed to constitutional change (a rise of 8 per cent since 2008) while 44 per cent said we should change (a drop of 8 per cent since 2008). But when asked which of the following statements best described their view:

- 31 per cent said Australia should never become a republic.

- 29 per cent said Australia should become a republic as soon as possible.

- 34 per cent said Australia should become a republic only after Queen Elizabeth II's reign ends.

Backing for a republic is at its lowest since 1994 - five years before Australia had a referendum on the topic.

Nielsen pollster John Stirton said yesterday that, despite the slump, there was a sense of inevitability Australia would one day become a republic with a large number backing Prime Minister Julia Gillard's stance that the issue should be closely considered after a change of monarchy.

"These results suggest Australians will be more likely to support a republic when Queen Elizabeth II is no longer on the throne," he said.

Our top politicians are divided over the republic issue. During the election campaign Ms Gillard echoed the sentiments of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who said a republic was not a first-term priority and would only be considered after a monarch change. Ms Gillard said a Labor government would work towards an agreement on the type of republic model - a sticking point in the 1999 defeat of the referendum.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott - an open monarchist along with his mentor and former leader John Howard - said Australians had shown little desire for change. He would not seek to put the republic question to a vote under a Coalition government.

"The Australian people have demonstrated themselves to be remarkably attached to institutions that work," he said. "I think that our existing constitutional arrangements have worked well in the past. I see no reason whatsoever why they can't continue to work well in the future.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


28 August, 2010

Too white to adopt: Racist British officials tell banker and his wife they can't give a home to a black or Asian child

Cradling her daughter on her knee, Francesca Polini is every inch the loving, caring mother. She and her banker husband have good incomes, a spacious home and a close network of family and friends. But their hopes of parenthood were ini­tially dashed when town hall bureaucrats said they were ‘too white’ to adopt a child.

Their rejection meant a child in care was denied the chance of a happy, com­fortable home and a stable future. And it casts a spotlight on a politically correct adoption system which routinely blocks white couples from giving a home to a child in need.

Mrs Polini, 40, and her husband Rick offered to adopt a black or Asian child, who wait longer for adoption because of a national shortage of ethnic minority couples looking to adopt. But the couple claim officials in Ealing, West London, told them there was a cap on white parents adopting black or Asian children.

Officially, the council denies such a cap exists, but the case echoes those of other white, middle-class couples who have been barred from adopting for the same reason. Mrs Polini said: ‘The woman didn’t even meet us, she just told us on the phone, “I’m afraid you are too white for us to permit you to adopt one of our children”.

‘There was no assessment, it was based purely on our skin colour, and that shouldn’t be what quali­fies you to adopt. None of this is about the child’s best interests and frankly it’s immoral.’

Faced with their local authori­ty’s refusal to consider them as adoptive parents, the couple had to search abroad for a child to adopt. Ironically, the same council which had refused their applica­tion to adopt a British child was happy to charge more than £4,000 to vet them for interna­tional adoption.

After overcoming a series of bureaucratic hurdles, they eventu­ally won permission to adopt a girl in Mexico. Gaia, now two, was granted British citizenship last year, and her parents hope to adopt a second child from Mexico.

Currently there are more than 80,000 children and teenagers in care in Britain, and white children are more likely to be adopted than those from ethnic minorities.

Charities including Barnardo’s have called for a radical review of the adoption system, and Mrs Polini is campaigning for an end to ‘caps’ on inter-racial adoption. The former director of communi­cations at Greenpeace has set up an organisation, Adoption with Humanity, and has written a book about her experiences.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has apolo­gised to the family for ‘unaccepta­ble and inappropriate’ delays in the handling of their case and has said councils should not bar white cou­ples from adopting black or Asian children.

In a letter to the couple, Ed Balls, then Children’s Secretary, said: ‘We are clear that it is unacceptable for a child to be denied the opportu­nity to grow up in a loving, perma­nent family solely on the grounds that the child and the prospective adopters do not share the same racial or cultural background.

‘These are issues that local authorities should take into account, but they should not act as a “bar” in the way that seems to have happened in your case.’ An Ealing Council spokesman denied it discriminated against white cou­ples, saying: ‘We do not have a pol­icy of same-ethnicity adoption.

‘While an ethnic and cultural match is considered important, it is the overall needs of the child that are given priority, and all potential adopters are considered. ‘Since 2006 we have permanently placed 17 children with families of different ethnic backgrounds, which is 19 per cent of the children placed.’


Political correctness affects your tax liability??

Obama's America

Z STREET, a pro-Israel non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit in federal court today charging that the IRS violated the organization’s First Amendment rights. The suit was filed after Z STREET was told by an IRS official that its application for tax-exempt status has been delayed because an IRS policy requires consideration of whether a group’s views on Israel differ from those of the current Administration.

“Not only is it patently un-American but it is also a clear violation of the First Amendment for a government agency to penalize an organization because of its political position on Israel or anything else,” said Z STREET president Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a former First Amendment lawyer. “This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver’s license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands.”

Z STREET filed for tax-exempt status in January of this year and, despite having met all of the requirements for grant of this status, the application has been stalled. An IRS agent told Z STREET’s lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires more intense scrutiny of organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration.

Z STREET is a Zionist organization that proudly supports Israel’s right to refuse to negotiate with, make concessions to, or appease terrorists. Z STREET’s positions on Israel and, in particular, on the Middle East “peace process” differ significantly from those espoused by the Obama administration.

If Z STREET had tax-exempt status, its donors would be able to deduct contributions from their taxable income. The IRS's refusal to grant tax-exempt status to Z STREET has inhibited the organization‘s fundraising efforts, and therefore impeded its ability to speak and to educate the public regarding the issues that are the focus and purpose of Z STREET.


The Real Radio Hatemongers

Last week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced on CNN that she was hanging up her headphones at the end of the year. If she could not exercise her freedom of speech, she said, she was not interested in the job.

Watchdogs on the left had pounced on a conversation she had with a black woman in which she proclaimed something that everyone with cable TV knows is true. The N-word is acceptable vernacular for black comedians on HBO, but it's not something you can ever, ever say if you're not black.

While making this point, Dr. Laura purposely said the N-word repeatedly during this proclamation, and that was all the left needed to start contacting sponsors, suggesting they shouldn't want their products associated with this viciously racist talk show. It didn't matter that even liberal editorialists in The Washington Post declared that there was nothing at all racist in what the doctor said.

The left had found their to chance to silence her, and they pounced. All they needed to do was distort the context completely, and they did so masterfully.

The hypocrites. Leftists say outrageous things on the radio routinely, things they truly mean, too, and those remarks never see the light of day on ABC, CBS and NBC. Talking about the N-word is wrong but wishing death on political enemies is OK when the rhetorical bombs are dropped on conservatives. The Media Research Center has a new report chronicling who the real radio hatemongers are.

Start with Ed Schultz, perpetually out of control on MSNBC. On June 16, 2009, Joe Scarborough asked Schultz if he felt Dick Cheney hoped Americans would die in a terrorist attack so it would benefit Republicans. "Absolutely, absolutely," said Schultz. "I think Dick Cheney is all about seeing this country go conservative on a hard-right wing, and I think he'll do anything to get it there."

On the radio Aug. 11, 2009, Schultz spewed: "Sometimes I think they want Obama to get shot. I do. I think that there are conservative broadcasters in this country who would love to see Obama taken out." This might be what they call projection coming from Schultz, since he begged for Cheney to die. "Lord, take him to the promised land," he proclaimed on May 11, 2009.

Or take Montel Williams, the former TV talk-show host who had a brief tenure on Air America radio before it imploded. On July 21, 2009, he explained what conservatives had planned for uninsured Americans: "When they show up at the emergency room, just shoot 'em! Kill them! ... Do we have enough body bags? I don't know."

Reporters scream in protest over anyone calling Obama a socialist but they don't find anything scandalous in vicious lies like these.

Randi Rhodes aired a February 2008 radio skit where she bizarrely imagined the Mitt Romney campaign saying they would go on a shooting rampage and commit mass suicide if John McCain won the GOP nomination. She had one Republican claim: "As a true Republican, I'm prepared to poison my own children if John McCain is the nominee."

Left-wing radio hosts even blame their conservative counterparts for 9/11. I'm not kidding. Mike Malloy shouted at his opponents on Jan. 19, 2010: "Do you not understand that the people you hold up as heroes bombed your goddamn country? Do you not understand that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are as complicit of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack as any one of the dumb-ass 15 who came from Saudi Arabia?"

Has any conservative ever said anything remotely similar to this?

He also claimed on April 19, 2010 that Beck and Limbaugh rejoiced over the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995: "This is what Beck and Limbaugh and the rest of these right-wing freaks want to see happen again. And again. And again. Endlessly."

Perhaps Malloy is granted an exception because he sounds clinically insane. He has claimed Rep. Michele Bachmann "would have gladly rounded up the Jews in Germany and shipped them off to death camps." He has claimed Cheney "must have feasted on a Jewish baby, or a Muslim baby." He has claimed that the mild-mannered Fred Barnes "is beyond crazy. I'm sure he eats children's arms or legs for afternoon snacks."

Then consider this: Malloy was a news writer for CNN for years. Schultz was awarded a platform on MSNBC for his hatred. Those supposed guardians of civility in our liberal media are not bowing their heads in embarrassment. They are nodding their heads in agreement.


Australia: Helmet liberty upheld

In 46 years of bike riding, Sue Abbott has never worn a helmet. So when the highway patrol pulled her over in country Scone and fined her for a no-helmet offence, she decided to fight. The 50-year old mother of four has never been in trouble with the law, has never fallen from her bike, and thought it ridiculous she could not ride at 15km/h on a dedicated cycleway with an uncovered head.

A police video of the incident last year records the sergeant surmising "it's a hair thing", a view shared by many people when they first meet her. But Ms Abbott says it's nothing to do with her exuberant hair. Her objections are based on her belief that wearing a helmet increases the risk of brain damage - and that forcing her to wear one is a breach of her civil liberties.

When she tried that argument in the Scone local court, the magistrate would have none of it. He fined her $50 plus costs. But when she appealed and laid out her view in the District Court in March, she went a long way to persuading the judge that, 19 years after the laws came into force, there is still no clear evidence of their benefit.

Ms Abbott argued that if she fell from her bike while wearing a helmet she would be at greater risk of brain damage from "diffuse external injury" (see box), an injury similar to shaken baby syndrome, than if she fell on her bare head.

It may seem ridiculous to suggest helmets could do anything other than improve one's chances in an accident and reduce the number of brain injuries, but there is a serious debate under way on the subject in international medical and transport safety journals - and Judge Roy Ellis happily admitted his own doubts about the laws.

"Having read all the material, I think I would fall down on your side of the ledger," the judge told Ms Abbott after she had spelt out her case against the laws that exist in few countries other than Australia and New Zealand. "I frankly don't think there is anything advantageous and there may well be a disadvantage in situations to have a helmet - and it seems to me that it's one of those areas where it ought to be a matter of choice."

He found Ms Abbott had "an honestly held and not unreasonable belief as to the danger associated with the use of a helmet by cyclists", and quashed her conviction, although he still found her offence proven.

Now Scone police ignore Ms Abbott as she cycles to town, although one yelled at her "you're not in Paris now" - a remark which prompted her to send police a photograph of herself bareheaded on a bike on the Champs-Elysees marked "Greetings from Paris".

Ms Abbott's success in court delighted Bill Curnow of the Cyclists Rights Action Group. In several peer-reviewed publications he has argued there has been no reduction in brain injury levels due to helmet laws.

Why force cyclists to wear helmets when politicians ignored a 1998 report from the Federal Office of Road Safety that showed brain injury rates among motorists would be cut by up to 25 per cent, even where airbags were fitted, if drivers wore bicycle helmets, he said.

Associate Professor Chris Rissel and his colleague Dr Alexander Voukelatos of the University of Sydney's school of public health fuelled debate on the issue with a recent paper saying we would be better off without the laws.

But Professor Frank McDermott, who led the original campaign for them, said repealing them would be guaranteed to increase head injury rates and Dr Rissel's paper was flawed. "It'll be as backward a step as it would be to tell motorists they don't have to wear seatbelts," he said on ABC radio.

Ms Abbott said that was a ridiculous comparison. "I should be entitled to make this call about whether I can wear a helmet. "You can still smoke, we are eating and drinking ourselves into early graves, but you can't ride a bicycle without a helmet," she 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


27 August, 2010

Muhammad cartoons to return in new book

THE Danish editor who published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that caused outrage across the Muslim world said today that he will soon republish the drawings in a new book.

The book - written by Jyllands-Posten cultural editor Flemming Rose and titled The Tyranny of Silence - will be published on September 30, five years to the day since the cartoons first appeared in the newspaper.

The publication of the cartoons provoked angry, and in some cases deadly, global protests by Islamic extremists.

In an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken, Rose said he was not trying to be provocative, stressing that he simply wanted to "tell the story of the 12 drawings and put them into a context of (other) pictures considered offensive."

"I am sure that a lot of people don't know what I think of these drawings. My concerted wish is to explain myself. I have nothing but words to do so, but once people have read the book ... maybe they will be able to see the broader context. Words should be answered with words. That's all we have in a democracy, and if we give that up, we will be locked in a tyranny of silence," he said.

Rose, who received numerous death threats after first publishing the cartoons, said he wanted to launch "a broad European debate ... about how we should live in the 21st century. The cartoon crisis shows what we can expect in the 21st century."

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew the most controversial drawing - featuring the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse - will also publish a new book in the coming months containing his cartoon, Politiken reported.

Earlier this month, Jyllands-Posten said it erected a barbed-wire fence around its offices for protection from terrorist attacks.


China not in denial about IQ

Chinese outsourcer seeks U.S. workers with IQ of 125 and up

A Chinese IT outsourcing company that has started hiring new U.S. computer science graduates to work in Shanghai requires prospective job candidates to demonstrate an IQ of 125 or above on a test it administers to sort out job applicants.

In doing so, Bleum Inc. is following a hiring practice it applies to college recruits in China. But a new Chinese college graduate must score an IQ of 140 on the company's test. An IQ test is the first screen for any U.S. or Chinese applicant.

The lower IQ threshold for new U.S. graduates reflects the fact that the pool of U.S. talent available to the company is smaller than the pool of Chinese talent, Bleum said.

In China, Bleum receives thousands of applications weekly, said CEO Eric Rongley. Rongley is a U.S. citizen who founded Bleum in 2001; his career prior to that included stints working in offshore development in India and later in China.

The company employs about 1,000 and hires about 1% or less of the people who apply for jobs there. "It is much harder to get into Bleum than it is to Harvard," Rongly said.

Shanghai-based Bleum has been recruiting new computer engineering graduates in the Atlanta, Chicago and Denver areas. If a student meets the minimum requirement on an IQ test, he then take a skills test, similar to the hiring process Bleum follows in China.

Bleum has already hired its first U.S. recruits -- a group of five people who left for Shanghai this month, said Rongley. They will work in China for year and then return to the U.S. to work.

Many employers do measure intelligence to cull candidates from pools of applicants, but they typically call the exams aptitude tests, said Dennis Garlick, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of an upcoming book called Intelligence and the Brain.

An IQ of 140 is extremely high, representing about the top 1% of the population, said Garlick. But he said that even though some studies have shown a correlation between IQ and job performance, IQ is a "crude assessment tool" when it comes to sorting out job applicants. [It depends on the work. IQ is highly relevant to computer programming -- JR]

IQ tests tend be inaccurate at the upper end of the scale as the questions become more complex and it becomes "debatable what is a correct answer," he said. [True. They can put people into the top 2% accurately enough but discriminating WITHIN that 2% is unreliable. But putting people SOMEWHERE within the top 2% is still very valuable information -- JR]

IQ is also an indirect measure of job performance; a high IQ doesn't necessarily mean a worker will achieve a certain level in job performance, "because an IQ test measures abstract reasoning in a general context, and on-the-job performance requires abstract reasoning in a specific context," said Garlick.

But for a person who does score high on an IQ test, "you can reasonably say that the person is likely to be able to understand typical abstract concepts as they are applied in business, understand instructions, follow them, and then generalize them in a new situation," said Garlick.

Mark Finocchario, national director for recruiting at the Eliassen Group, said that his IT staffing and recruiting firm in Wakefield, Mass., administers technical skill tests, but not IQ tests, for some clients. The importance of the skill tests varies depending on the client. Most clients view the skill tests as academic and rely mostly his firm's assessment of a candidate's experience. "Experience is huge," he said.


Lifting the embargo would entrench Cuba's rulers

by Jeff Jacoby

IS IT TIME to unplug the restrictions on trade and travel between the United States and Cuba? The prospect seems to tempt more people than ever, but it's a temptation to be resisted.

The New York Times reported last week that the Obama administration intends to expand opportunities for Americans to visit Cuba, loosening the rules under which academic, religious, and cultural groups are allowed to travel there. The new regulations are seen as a signal of presidential support for legislation sponsored by US Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota that would repeal the travel limitations altogether.

The chorus calling for an end to the travel strictures and an increase in trade with Cuba is considerable. Peterson notes that his bill is backed by a coalition of more than 140 organizations, "including Human Rights Watch, the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the American Farm Bureau Federation." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has "always been a supporter of lifting the travel ban to Cuba." The Brookings Institute recommends "vastly" expanding US-Cuba travel and other "people-to-people contacts," calling them "a strategic tool to advance US policy objectives."

In an editorial, The Los Angeles Times backs the Peterson legislation not, it says, because the Castro regime deserves it, but because "engagement is more productive than confrontation." The Boston Globe goes further, repeating its call for ending the US embargo -- which it calls a "mindless" and "stultifying" relic of the Cold War -- once and for all.

Especially compelling is a recent letter to members of Congress supporting the legislation that was signed by 74 Cuban dissidents, among them the noted blogger Yoani Sánchez; Miriam Leiva, a co-founder of the opposition group Ladies in White; and Guillermo Farinas, who ended a 140-day hunger strike in July when the Castro regime agreed to free 52 prisoners of conscience.

"We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government," the letter said, "while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen our civil society."

But other Cuban dissidents take a very different view, and 494 of them signed a separate letter opposing any change in US policy that would reduce pressure on the regime.

"The tragedy of Cuba does not reside in the right to travel of a people who are already free, such as the American people," they wrote. "The main problem resides in the absence of liberty for Cubans. . . . At a moment such as this, to be benevolent with the dictatorship would mean solidarity with the oppressors of the Cuban nation." The signers of this letter included Ariel Sigler, a pro-democracy activist who spent seven years behind bars before being exiled from Cuba last month, and Reina Luis Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after fasting for 82 days to protest the abuse of prisoners in Cuban jails.

Clearly, there are men and women of good will and moral authority on both sides of the Cuban embargo debate. And clearly the end of the cruel Castro reign, now going on 52 years, is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But will that day really be brought closer if Washington abandons the embargo and allows American tourists, exports, and cash to pour into Cuba?

The argument might be more plausible if Cuba were a Caribbean North Korea, cut off from contact with the world. It isn't. Ordinary Cubans may live with poverty and repression, but the government has turned the island into a major tourist attraction, complete with deluxe hotels and beach resorts. Some 2.4 million tourists visited Cuba last year, more than 800,000 of them Canadians. For that matter, tens of thousands of Americans make it to Cuba each year, despite the restrictions. Yet for all that exposure to foreign citizens, money, and ideas, the power of the Castro brothers is undiminished.

By the same token, if international commerce had the power to undo the regime, wouldn't it have been undone by now? The US embargo, after all, doesn't stop Cuba from trading with any other country in the world. Indeed, even with the "embargo," the United States is one of Cuba's top five trading partners.

The transformative power of free trade is not to be denied, but trade with Cuba isn't free. There is no Cuban parallel to the economic openness and flourishing private sector that has transformed China. Jerry Haar, a dean of business administration at Florida International University, observes in the Latin Business Chronicle that one unavoidable fact of life faces exporters to Cuba: "The entire distribution chain is in the hands of the Cuban military and intelligence services." Foreign investors are compelled to deal with the state and its subsidiaries, since they control the "hotels, foreign trade operations, equipment sales, and factories."

As long as the Castros maintain their stranglehold on the Cuban economy, enriching that economy enriches -- and entrenches -- them. The travel ban and embargo have not ended Cuba's misery, but lifting them unilaterally will only make that misery worse. Rewarding the dictators who keep Cubans in chains is not the way to set them free.


Victoria’s Jewish community leaders slam the bias at Australia's most Leftist major newspaper

Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly observed that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel. Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel position, Searle and Lamm consider that The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There is no particular reporting or opinion piece that has prompted our criticism at this time. Frankly, our community has simply just had enough of The Age’s lack of balance”, Searle noted. ”Despite our best efforts to present Israel’s case, there have been too many instances of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s ugly smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, Searle continued.

“An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from The UK’s The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. The Age’s version made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). Such changes make a world of difference.”

“We make this statement with regret”, Lamm continued. “However we have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums. While he is adept at making the right noises about The Age’s impartiality, his follow through leaves a great deal to be desired. We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself. Quite simply The Age is not a friend of our community.”

A recent matter of concern was the reportage of Israel’s response to a flotilla of so-called peace activists that broached Israel’s territorial waters in an attempt to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza. The ZCV and JCCV addressed strong letters of complaint to Mr Ramadge which were ignored. Searle’s subsequent phone call to Ramadge was not returned.

As Searle concluded in his letter, “The JCCV has had ongoing communication with you for a number of years on The Age’s bias. Predictably you have consistently stated that The Age is even-handed and that your door is always open to the Jewish community. I will remind you that these were your exact words when you addressed an audience at the Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre on 5 October 2009. You soberly assured audience members that The Age was interested in their concerns and that you would always be responsive to them. In this regard, I will also remind you that you took certain such concerns away with you.

To this day, you have not responded, despite our follow-up request that you do so. And indeed, I am still awaiting your reply to my telephone call to you of 4 June 2010. Your attitude bespeaks scant respect for the Jewish community.

I am not requesting your response to this letter – because frankly your assurances are no longer seen as credible by our community – other than a clear policy change to even-handedness as evidenced in The Age’s future content. Until this is forthcoming I have no doubt that those of your readers who value Israel receiving a fair go will dwindle even further.”

Both Searle and Lamm concluded that the JCCV and ZCV will continue to monitor The Age and take any steps they consider appropriate.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


26 August, 2010

Six white police officers to sue Britain's Metropolitan Police for racial discrimination

Six white policemen are suing their force for racial discrimination after being cleared of an alleged racially aggravated assault. The officers, all members of Scotland Yard’s Territorial Support Group, have launched employment tribunal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police.

They claim they were subjected to racial discrimination following the incident in June 2007 that led to their arrest and trial.

PC Mark Jones, was among the six officers who spotted a group of youths allegedly mouthing obscenities at them as they were on patrol in central London. When they came to a stop, three teenagers were allegedly taken into the van one by one and subjected to taunts.

PC Amechi Onwugbonu, the van driver, who is black, gave evidence against PC Jones during the trial. He said the officer swore at and kicked one teenager and walked over another youth as he lay handcuffed on the floor of the vehicle. He claimed a third teenager was sworn at, punched, kneed and slapped in the face.

But PC Jones denied acting in an unprofessional manner. PC Onwugbonu later admitted that he and PC Jones were ‘not best buddies’.

The case came down to one officer’s word against another’s and the jury took five hours to clear PC Jones of two charges of racially aggravated common assault. His colleagues who were accused of covering it up were found not guilty of misfeasance in public office.

PC Jones and the other officers, Sergeant William Wilson, PC Steven White, PC Giles Kitchener, PC Simon Prout and PC Neil Brown, have all launched tribunal proceedings against the Met. The employment tribunal proceedings were filed in mid-July and no date has yet been set for a hearing.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: ‘I can confirm that PC Mark Jones and others have submitted an employment tribunal claim citing racial discrimination.’

In a separate case, PC Jones is one of four officers accused of attacking terrorist suspect Babar Ahmad during a raid at his home in Tooting, South London, in 2003. The officer, who is on restricted duties, is accused of assault causing actual bodily harm and will appear before magistrates in Westminster on September 22. He will be joined in the dock by PCs Nigel Cowley, 32, and Roderick James-Bowen, 39, and Detective Constable John Donohue, 36.

The TSG came under scrutiny last month when the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute PC Simon Harwood who was filmed striking newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson during last year’s G20 protests moments before he collapsed and later died.

Another TSG sergeant, Delroy Smellie, was previously cleared of assaulting a protester during a vigil for Tomlinson that took place the day after his death.

The Met has previously paid out to a white officer who claimed he had suffered racial discrimination. Detective Chief Superintendent Barry Norman led the investigation into a senior officer, Ali Dizaei, for alleged corruption when Dizaei was acquitted of criminal charges. Dizaei was convicted and jailed this year for a separate offence.

Mr Norman’s supporters claimed he was ‘hung out to dry’. He said his career suffered as a result of the £2.2milllion inquiry and he was subsequently awarded £40,000.


The U.S. Government's New Right to Track Your Every Move With GPS

The 9th circus again

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway - and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre - and scary - rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants - with no need for a search warrant. (See a TIME photoessay on Cannabis Culture.)

It is a dangerous decision - one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle's underside.

After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA's actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)

In fact, the government violated Pineda-Moreno's privacy rights in two different ways. For starters, the invasion of his driveway was wrong. The courts have long held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the "curtilage," a fancy legal term for the area around the home. The government's intrusion on property just a few feet away was clearly in this zone of privacy.

The judges veered into offensiveness when they explained why Pineda-Moreno's driveway was not private. It was open to strangers, they said, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month's decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people's. The court's ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night.

Judge Kozinski is a leading conservative, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, but in his dissent he came across as a raging liberal. "There's been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there's one kind of diversity that doesn't exist," he wrote. "No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter." The judges in the majority, he charged, were guilty of "cultural elitism."

The court went on to make a second terrible decision about privacy: that once a GPS device has been planted, the government is free to use it to track people without getting a warrant. There is a major battle under way in the federal and state courts over this issue, and the stakes are high. After all, if government agents can track people with secretly planted GPS devices virtually anytime they want, without having to go to a court for a warrant, we are one step closer to a classic police state - with technology taking on the role of the KGB or the East German Stasi.

Fortunately, other courts are coming to a different conclusion from the Ninth Circuit's - including the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That court ruled, also this month, that tracking for an extended period of time with GPS is an invasion of privacy that requires a warrant. The issue is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

In these highly partisan times, GPS monitoring is a subject that has both conservatives and liberals worried. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's pro-privacy ruling was unanimous - decided by judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."


More Muslim brutality

Doctors in Sri Lanka have found 23 nails in the body of a tortured housemaid who returned to Colombo from Riyadh, Sri Lankan Embassy sources told Arab News on Tuesday.

“We have received this complaint from the Foreign Ministry in Colombo, who said the maid has been allegedly tortured by her sponsor,” a senior diplomat from the Sri Lankan mission in Riyadh told Arab News. “We are looking for the sponsor. We were able to track down the Saudi recruitment agent in Riyadh and we will summon the sponsor to discuss this issue,” the official said.

Doctors at the Kamburipitya Base Hospital in the Matara district, 140 km from Colombo, said the nails had been hammered into the maid’s body. Dr. Kamal Weeratunge, who was treating the maid, claimed the nails had been heated up before they punctured her skin.

On Sri Lankan television channel Newsfirst Sirasa, the maid showed the marks where the nails had gone through. The maid, identified as 50-year-old Ariyawathie, said that there were too many people to serve in the house where she worked.

“I had to work continuously since I had to do the chores of all the occupants and when I wanted to take rest due to tiredness, they inserted the nail in my body as a punishment,” she said.

“I had to work from dawn to dusk. I hardly slept. They beat me and threatened to kill me and hide my body.” She added that she arranged her travel documents to return home on her own expense. “They were really devils with no mercy at all,” she said.


Fathers 'stereotyped' by Australian Child Support Agency

THE government watchdog responsible for overseeing child support payments has been unfairly focusing on parents who do not pay enough while ignoring those who are getting too much, the Commonwealth Ombudsman says.

In a report that might not be well received by some single mothers, the acting Ombudsman, Ron Brent, found that the Child Support Agency had at times been unduly influenced by stereotypes about fathers not meeting their obligations. He found that, as a result of this and other factors, the agency had "not been even-handed" in its role as an investigator.

Those required to make payments - usually fathers - were made the subject of rigorous investigations including their property holdings, tax minimisation arrangements and involvement in complex corporate structures.

The review found that on some occasions these investigations were intrusive and insensitive - assuming that fathers deliberately rather than accidentally mis-represented their ability to pay child support.

In a number of cases the financial records of a father's new partner were demanded without sufficient explanation as to why they were needed and what they would be used for.

At the same time there were "very few investigations" into those who received payments - usually mothers - to see whether they were getting too much.

"The CSA needs to change its case selection procedures, to be more even-handed in its approach to the two parties," Mr Brent said. "It is also important that investigations are carried out with sensitivity and without implying that all investigated parents are trying to avoid child support obligations. "I do not think that fathers have been victimised, but I can understand why they might have that impression."

While greater balance was needed, Mr Brent said it was right that more attention be paid to fathers because they were more likely to have complex financial arrangements where errors were more common.

He also said that up until recently, government policy had in fact encouraged the agency to focus on fathers rather than mothers.

Elspeth McInnes, a policy adviser to the National Council for Single Mothers and Their Children, said she did not believe the Child Support Agency applied a gender filter to its investigations. "I think the filter is the law," Dr McInnes 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


25 August, 2010

Muslims need to be tolerant too

by Christopher Hitchens

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the arguments against the construction of the Cordoba Initiative center in lower Manhattan were so stupid and demagogic as to be beneath notice.

From the beginning, though, I pointed out that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was no great bargain and that his Cordoba Initiative was full of euphemisms about Islamic jihad and Islamic theocracy. I mentioned his sinister belief that the United States was partially responsible for the assault on the World Trade Center and his refusal to take a position on the racist Hamas dictatorship in Gaza. The more one reads through his statements, the more alarming it gets. For example, here is Rauf's editorial on the upheaval that followed the brutal hijacking of the Iranian elections in 2009. Regarding President Obama, he advised that:

"He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law."

Coyly untranslated here (perhaps for "outreach" purposes), Vilayet-i-faquih is the special term promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to describe the idea that all of Iranian society is under the permanent stewardship (sometimes rendered as guardianship) of the mullahs. Under this dispensation, "the will of the people" is a meaningless expression, because "the people" are the wards and children of the clergy. It is the justification for a clerical supreme leader, whose rule is impervious to elections and who can pick and choose the candidates and, if it comes to that, the results. It is extremely controversial within Shiite Islam. (Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, for example, does not endorse it.) As for those numerous Iranians who are not Shiites, it reminds them yet again that they are not considered to be real citizens of the Islamic Republic.

I do not find myself reassured by the fact that Imam Rauf publicly endorses the most extreme and repressive version of Muslim theocracy. The letterhead of the statement, incidentally, describes him as the Cordoba Initiative's "Founder and Visionary." Why does that not delight me, either?

Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism.

We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …

As for the gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it's easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals. This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be "phobic." A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.

From my window, I can see the beautiful minaret of the Washington, D.C., mosque on Massachusetts Avenue. It is situated at the heart of the capital city's diplomatic quarter, and it is where President Bush went immediately after 9/11 to make his gesture toward the "religion of peace." A short while ago, the wife of a new ambassador told me that she had been taking her dog for a walk when a bearded man accosted her and brusquely warned her not to take the animal so close to the sacred precincts. Muslim cabdrivers in other American cities have already refused to take passengers with "unclean" canines.

Another feature of my local mosque that I don't entirely like is the display of flags outside, purportedly showing all those nations that are already Muslim. Some of these flags are of countries like Malaysia, where Islam barely has a majority, or of Turkey, which still has a secular constitution.

At the United Nations, the voting bloc of the Organization of the Islamic Conference nations is already proposing a resolution that would circumscribe any criticism of religion in general and of Islam in particular. So, before he is used by our State Department on any more goodwill missions overseas, I would like to see Imam Rauf asked a few searching questions about his support for clerical dictatorship in, just for now, Iran.

Let us by all means make the "Ground Zero" debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well.


Ways in which women outperform men

In an economy that is increasingly service based, the greater docility and social skills of women often give them an edge. They are good at being pleasant and good at doing what they are told. What is not mentioned below is that they are less creative and less likely to take the risks that are essential to innovation. Also omitted is any discussion of the IQ distribution. High IQ people run most things in our society and there are far more men than women in the top IQ ranges. And men don't get "hormonal", either.

What does clearly emerge from the rather overwrought collection of tales below, however, is that "affirmative action" for women should have died long ago

Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed. Cultural and economic changes always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historical preference for male children, worldwide.

Over several centuries, South Korea, for instance, constructed one of the most rigid patriarchal societies in the world. Many wives who failed to produce male heirs were abused and treated as domestic servants; some families prayed to spirits to kill off girl children. Then, in the 1970s and ’80s, the government embraced an industrial revolution and encouraged women to enter the labor force. Women moved to the city and went to college. They advanced rapidly, from industrial jobs to clerical jobs to professional work. The traditional order began to crumble soon after.

In 1990, the country’s laws were revised so that women could keep custody of their children after a divorce and inherit property. In 2005, the court ruled that women could register children under their own names. As recently as 1985, about half of all women in a national survey said they “must have a son.” That percentage fell slowly until 1991 and then plummeted to just over 15 percent by 2003. Male preference in South Korea “is over,” says Monica Das Gupta, a demographer and Asia expert at the World Bank. “It happened so fast. It’s hard to believe it, but it is.” The same shift is now beginning in other rapidly industrializing countries such as India and China.

Up to a point, the reasons behind this shift are obvious. As thinking and communicating have come to eclipse physical strength and stamina as the keys to economic success, those societies that take advantage of the talents of all their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest. And because geopolitics and global culture are, ultimately, Darwinian, other societies either follow suit or end up marginalized.

In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success. Aid agencies have started to recognize this relationship and have pushed to institute political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes. In some war-torn states, women are stepping in as a sort of maternal rescue team. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, portrayed her country as a sick child in need of her care during her campaign five years ago. Postgenocide Rwanda elected to heal itself by becoming the first country with a majority of women in parliament.

In feminist circles, these social, political, and economic changes are always cast as a slow, arduous form of catch-up in a continuing struggle for female equality. But in the U.S., the world’s most advanced economy, something much more remarkable seems to be happening. American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind’s eye.

What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order.

But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?

Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you. It can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. Some of these jobs will come back, but the overall pattern of dislocation is neither temporary nor random. The recession merely revealed—and accelerated—a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least 30 years, and in some respects even longer.

Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions.

Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.

Yes, the U.S. still has a wage gap, one that can be convincingly explained—at least in part—by discrimination. Yes, women still do most of the child care. And yes, the upper reaches of society are still dominated by men. But given the power of the forces pushing at the economy, this setup feels like the last gasp of a dying age rather than the permanent establishment. Dozens of college women I interviewed for this story assumed that they very well might be the ones working while their husbands stayed at home, either looking for work or minding the children. Guys, one senior remarked to me, “are the new ball and chain.” It may be happening slowly and unevenly, but it’s unmistakably happening: in the long view, the modern economy is becoming a place where women hold the cards.

In his final book, The Bachelors’ Ball, published in 2007, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes the changing gender dynamics of Béarn, the region in southwestern France where he grew up. The eldest sons once held the privileges of patrimonial loyalty and filial inheritance in Béarn. But over the decades, changing economic forces turned those privileges into curses. Although the land no longer produced the impressive income it once had, the men felt obligated to tend it. Meanwhile, modern women shunned farm life, lured away by jobs and adventure in the city. They occasionally returned for the traditional balls, but the men who awaited them had lost their prestige and become unmarriageable. This is the image that keeps recurring to me, one that Bourdieu describes in his book: at the bachelors’ ball, the men, self-conscious about their diminished status, stand stiffly, their hands by their sides, as the women twirl away.

The role reversal that’s under way between American men and women shows up most obviously and painfully in the working class. In recent years, male support groups have sprung up throughout the Rust Belt and in other places where the postindustrial economy has turned traditional family roles upside down. Some groups help men cope with unemployment, and others help them reconnect with their alienated families. Mustafaa El-Scari, a teacher and social worker, leads some of these groups in Kansas City. El-Scari has studied the sociology of men and boys set adrift, and he considers it his special gift to get them to open up and reflect on their new condition. The day I visited one of his classes, earlier this year, he was facing a particularly resistant crowd.

None of the 30 or so men sitting in a classroom at a downtown Kansas City school have come for voluntary adult enrichment. Having failed to pay their child support, they were given the choice by a judge to go to jail or attend a weekly class on fathering, which to them seemed the better deal. This week’s lesson, from a workbook called Quenching the Father Thirst, was supposed to involve writing a letter to a hypothetical estranged 14-year-old daughter named Crystal, whose father left her when she was a baby. But El-Scari has his own idea about how to get through to this barely awake, skeptical crew, and letters to Crystal have nothing to do with it.

Like them, he explains, he grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical “white picket fence”—one man, one woman, and a bunch of happy kids. “Well, that check bounced a long time ago,” he says. “Let’s see,” he continues, reading from a worksheet. What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral, emotional, social, and physical. “But you ain’t none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain’t even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she’ll call 911. How does that make you feel? You’re supposed to be the authority, and she says, ‘Get out of the house, bitch.’ She’s calling you ‘bitch’!”

The men are black and white, their ages ranging from about 20 to 40. A couple look like they might have spent a night or two on the streets, but the rest look like they work, or used to. Now they have put down their sodas, and El-Scari has their attention, so he gets a little more philosophical. “Who’s doing what?” he asks them. “What is our role? Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It’s toxic, and poisonous, and it’s setting us up for failure.” He writes on the board: $85,000. “This is her salary.” Then: $12,000. “This is your salary. Who’s the damn man? Who’s the man now?” A murmur rises. “That’s right. She’s the man.”

Judging by the men I spoke with afterward, El-Scari seemed to have pegged his audience perfectly. Darren Henderson was making $33 an hour laying sheet metal, until the real-estate crisis hit and he lost his job. Then he lost his duplex—“there’s my little piece of the American dream”—then his car. And then he fell behind on his child-support payments. “They make it like I’m just sitting around,” he said, “but I’m not.” As proof of his efforts, he took out a new commercial driver’s permit and a bartending license, and then threw them down on the ground like jokers, for all the use they’d been. His daughter’s mother had a $50,000-a-year job and was getting her master’s degree in social work. He’d just signed up for food stamps, which is just about the only social-welfare program a man can easily access. Recently she’d seen him waiting at the bus stop. “Looked me in the eye,” he recalled, “and just drove on by.”

The men in that room, almost without exception, were casualties of the end of the manufacturing era. Most of them had continued to work with their hands even as demand for manual labor was declining. Since 2000, manufacturing has lost almost 6 million jobs, more than a third of its total workforce, and has taken in few young workers. The housing bubble masked this new reality for a while, creating work in construction and related industries. Many of the men I spoke with had worked as electricians or builders; one had been a successful real-estate agent. Now those jobs are gone too. Henderson spent his days shuttling between unemployment offices and job interviews, wondering what his daughter might be doing at any given moment. In 1950, roughly one in 20 men of prime working age, like Henderson, was not working; today that ratio is about one in five, the highest ever recorded.

Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer. Women have everything else—nursing, home health assistance, child care, food preparation. Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, “replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.” None is especially high-paying. But the steady accumulation of these jobs adds up to an economy that, for the working class, has become more amenable to women than to men.

The list of growing jobs is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes and habits. Theoretically, there is no reason men should not be qualified. But they have proved remarkably unable to adapt. Over the course of the past century, feminism has pushed women to do things once considered against their nature—first enter the workforce as singles, then continue to work while married, then work even with small children at home. Many professions that started out as the province of men are now filled mostly with women—secretary and teacher come to mind. Yet I’m not aware of any that have gone the opposite way. Nursing schools have tried hard to recruit men in the past few years, with minimal success. Teaching schools, eager to recruit male role models, are having a similarly hard time. The range of acceptable masculine roles has changed comparatively little, and has perhaps even narrowed as men have shied away from some careers women have entered. As Jessica Grose wrote in Slate, men seem “fixed in cultural aspic.” And with each passing day, they lag further behind.

As we recover from the Great Recession, some traditionally male jobs will return—men are almost always harder-hit than women in economic downturns because construction and manufacturing are more cyclical than service industries—but that won’t change the long-term trend. When we look back on this period, argues Jamie Ladge, a business professor at Northeastern University, we will see it as a “turning point for women in the workforce.”

The economic and cultural power shift from men to women would be hugely significant even if it never extended beyond working-class America. But women are also starting to dominate middle management, and a surprising number of professional careers as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising fast.

A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts [Not so at the top of the range]. It also requires communication skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge. Perhaps most important—for better or worse—it increasingly requires formal education credentials, which women are more prone to acquire, particularly early in adulthood. Just about the only professions in which women still make up a relatively small minority of newly minted workers are engineering and those calling on a hard-science background, and even in those areas, women have made strong gains since the 1970s.

Office work has been steadily adapting to women—and in turn being reshaped by them—for 30 years or more. Joel Garreau picks up on this phenomenon in his 1991 book, Edge City, which explores the rise of suburbs that are home to giant swaths of office space along with the usual houses and malls. Companies began moving out of the city in search not only of lower rent but also of the “best educated, most conscientious, most stable workers.” They found their brightest prospects among “underemployed females living in middle-class communities on the fringe of the old urban areas.” As Garreau chronicles the rise of suburban office parks, he places special emphasis on 1978, the peak year for women entering the workforce.

When brawn was off the list of job requirements, women often measured up better than men. They were smart, dutiful, and, as long as employers could make the jobs more convenient for them, more reliable. The 1999 movie Office Space was maybe the first to capture how alien and dispiriting the office park can be for men. Disgusted by their jobs and their boss, Peter and his two friends embezzle money and start sleeping through their alarm clocks. At the movie’s end, a male co-worker burns down the office park, and Peter abandons desk work for a job in construction.

Near the top of the jobs pyramid, of course, the upward march of women stalls. Prominent female CEOs, past and present, are so rare that they count as minor celebrities, and most of us can tick off their names just from occasionally reading the business pages: Meg Whitman at eBay, Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard, Anne Mulcahy and Ursula Burns at Xerox, Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo; the accomplishment is considered so extraordinary that Whitman and Fiorina are using it as the basis for political campaigns. Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the number has never risen much above that.


East German dreams

Excerpt from a BOOK REVIEW of "The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker", by Mary Fulbrook

In the past decade, a number of middle-class radical acquaintances of mine have made a sort of pilgrimage to Cuba, to check out the country before it finally opens up to the likes of McDonald’s, Starbucks and Toyota. For some, Cuba has become an anti-consumerist paradise, even if actually living there is far from heavenly. It is surprising that former anti-Stalinists, with a long background in Trotskyist organisations, would slobber enthusiastically about Cuba’s welfare and healthcare system. So much for ‘neither Washington nor Moscow’.

Recently, there has been a similarly warm reappraisal of another Stalinist outpost: the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The GDR was made up of the portion of eastern Germany handed over to the Soviet Union in the postwar carve-up and existed from 1946 until 1990, when it was reunited with West Germany. The German term Ostalgie describes the feelings of ex-GDR citizens who miss aspects of life in the Stalinist state. Many Ossies (easterners) have started to complain about the overly negative press their former homeland tends to get. It is this ‘balanced reappraisal’, of putting former GDR citizens ‘at the centre of their history’, that provides the research foundation for Mary Fulbrook’s The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker. Fulbrook, a British academic, was intrigued to find that more and more GDR citizens were openly discussing ‘fond memories’ about what appeared to be little more than an open prison (though with worse rations).

The term ‘People’s State’ seems bitterly ironic given the wholly artificial creation of the GDR in postwar Germany. German citizens had no say in the division of their country between the Allies and the Soviet Union. For those living in the eastern sector, this imposed settlement had more brutalising and damaging consequences than those fortunate enough to remain on the western side of the border. Once this deeply peculiar and artificial state had stabilised, and the deprivations of the immediate postwar period had subsided, Fulbrook argues, there was active participation in the GDR from ordinary East German citizens. And it is the contemporary absence of this ‘widespread sense of community and collective responsibility’ that partly informs the fad for Ostalgie in Germany today.

Even by the standards of Stalinist repression, GDR citizens were under greater scrutiny and surveillance than anywhere else in the Eastern Bloc. The GDR secret police, the Stasi, had some three million of the country’s citizens under surveillance (the country’s population was about 16 million in 1990). This was mostly down to the fact that the use of force was the only way to get the country working.

This surveillance society was also informed by the distrust the political elites had towards their citizens: the potential ‘class enemies’, the ‘secret supporters of Hitler’, over whom they were now ruling. The bitterness old German leftists had towards fascist activists explains why some GDR citizens were also willing to spy and inform on those ‘suspected’ of being against socialism.

Unfortunately for the SED, the Federal Democratic Republic (FDR) in West Germany was far better at getting good-quality food and consumer goods into the shops. Exhortations to anti-fascism wore thin when decent clothes, cars and groceries were in short supply in the East, which was particularly embarrassing when the GDR’s stated goal was the material betterment of all. As such, the GDR’s limited ability to compete with the FDR’s higher productivity was a persistent problem for the ruling bureaucracy. After East German workers downed tools and staged a serious uprising in 1953, attempts to improve the quality and variety of consumer goods - rather than the previous obsession with heavy industry - became the main direction of the GDR. Elsewhere, the bureaucracy attempted to compensate for the absence of consumer goods – for example, citizens had to wait 15 years for the privilege of owning a Trabant car - by providing a wide range of cultural activities, crèche facilities for young families and a commitment to gender equality.

Fulbrook finds that many Ossies speak warmly about the recreational facilities, the engaging cultural activities and the cheap holidays available in the GDR. And this is a recurring theme throughout The People’s State: that GDR citizens were able to lead ‘perfectly ordinary lives’ of work, leisure and raising a family. Although Fulbrook doesn’t in any way gloss over the grotesque inadequacies of the GDR, celebrating the fact that adults could get on with the job of procreation and recreation is setting the bar quite low as to what qualifies as a successful society. Surely a communist society should aim to facilitate extraordinary lives, of greater leisure time and experimentalism, of weekend trips to the moon and fantastic new discoveries? Cheap camping holidays in the Baltic are a poor substitute.

The other problem with Fulbrook’s ‘perfectly ordinary lives’ standpoint is that measuring social progress becomes a rather subjective process. For Fulbrook, the fact that young families in the 1960s and early 1970s could find contentment and happiness within the GDR’s ‘socialist new towns’ and collective recreational activities is proof that this warped state had something going for it.

Fulbrook is genuine and sincere in her aim to be scrupulously academic and unbiased in The People’s State, but she does appear to be influenced by the irksome ‘happiness’ agenda, and its corollary of growth scepticism. Rather than exploring in detail why the GDR failed to stimulate economic growth, Fulbrook is keen to show how the recreational aspects of GDR life provided more than adequate compensation for the lack of fresh bananas and quality jeans. So when citizens were helping to construct new socialist towns, the sense of collective spirit generated by the project appears to Fulbrook to be more important than the quality of materials being used.

Still, at least Fulbrook doesn’t buy into the Western left’s prejudices about the ‘marvels’ of the Eastern Bloc’s healthcare system. Far from the GDR excelling at caring for the sick and elderly, Fulbook found a healthcare system that was even worse than in Western European countries. Medicines and machines were in short supply; problems of staff shortages meant hospitals and care homes were in a state of disrepair; and the quality of services was meagre, too.

Far from being the apex of a socialist paradise, the health system in the GDR was just like other aspects of the command economy: inefficient, wasteful and incapable of using labour productively. In fact, the SED’s priority of producing consumer goods, at least to offset any further revolt by its citizens, meant that many problems in the GDR’s health services were overlooked.

At the start of The People’s State, Fulbrook is careful to highlight the problem of nostalgia when conducting social research. She notes that the passing of time can lead individuals to put a positive gloss on rather downbeat times; rose-tinted memories are hardly a reliable starting point for a research hypothesis. Nevertheless, it does seem that a substantial number of former GDR citizens haven’t found paradise in the unified Federal Republic of Germany. In one recent piece of sociological research, a former GDR citizen said they felt like ‘an immigrant in their own country’. Ironically enough, divisions between Ossies and Wessies are greater now than they were when Germany was physically divided.

This feeling of anomie and rootlessness expressed by Ossies, however, has less to do with the ‘marvels’ of the old GDR and more to do with how the West has changed. What’s striking about ex-GDR citizens’ complaints of ‘not being part of society anymore’ is how such sentiments have been expressed by workers in the West, too. Certainly in Britain, a country that has gone further in distancing itself from its past traditions and solidarities than many other places, many workers also feel like they don’t ‘fit in’ with the norms of New Britain. They, too, feel ‘unwelcome’ by an ever-more remote and disdainful political elite.

Although living standards have never been higher in Europe, there has also never been a weaker sense of what it means to be a citizen of Germany, Britain, France, Holland, etc. The problem of anomie expressed by former GDR citizens is actually one that is acutely felt by many citizens across Europe, particularly among older generations who were used to being ‘part of society’ and were encouraged to act as citizens in a meaningful way.

Ironically, the most distasteful aspects of the old GDR – lack of freedom and rights, extensive state surveillance, the ‘suspicion’ that the masses are fascists-in-waiting – are all now found in the West, including Britain.

The People’s State is a fascinating, compelling, thoroughly researched book on what life was like in the former German Democratic Republic. It’s also a relief to read something about Germany that isn’t just about the Third Reich and, in the pre-history of the GDR, it’s a pointer to new generations that the most economically advanced country in Europe was once home to the most politicised and organised working class (not for nothing does Frankfurt still have a ‘Karl Marx Avenue’ and ‘Rosa Luxemburg Street’).

As with all history books, the themes and observations are informed by contemporary ideas as much as events from the past. At times, Fulbrook appears influenced by today’s anti-materialism and the importance of ‘psychological wellbeing’ and is thus far kinder to the old GDR than she needs to be. Nevertheless, by raising the question as to why so many Ossies are yearning for the past, she prompts a broader question as to why many ordinary people in the West actually feel the same.


The incorrectness of Enid Blyton again

Top-down tinkering with Enid Blyton’s books implies children can’t cope with difficult and offensive words. But they can.

This month, Hodder, the publishers of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, is relaunching all 21 books with sensitive text revisions and new covers in order to appeal to a new generation of readers. The owner of the Blyton brand and intellectual property, Chorion, believes that getting rid of the outdated language will mean that annual sales figures, currently at around half a million copies, will soar.

According to Hodder’s publishing director Anne McNeill, changing words like ‘luncheon’ to ‘lunch’ or ‘trying’ to ‘annoying’ will allow children to engage with the books without the barrier of strange, old-fashioned words. Yet where does one draw a line? What about Dickens or Shakespeare? As the Guardian’s Lucy Mangan pointed out, it was precisely when she came across strange words as a child that she was forced to pause, reflect and - after further enquiry - move on with a renewed understanding and wider vocabulary. McNeill hasn’t been fazed by the criticisms, however. Texts are continually being updated and revised in order to win new audiences, she has argued, and the older unrevised versions of Blyton would still be available.

Messing about with Blyton’s books is nothing new. Her work has been censored and bowdlerised many times before – and previously liberals have often been the loudest supporters of such tinkering.

In fact, the censoring of Blyton began as early as the 1930s with the decision of BBC producers and executives to keep her off the airwaves. The reason was simple: her work was deemed second-rate. While in the process of relaxing the ban in 1954, Jean Sutcliffe, head of the BBC’s schools broadcasting department, expressed the widely held disdain: ‘No writer of real merit could possibly go on believing that this mediocre material is of the highest quality and turn it out in such incredible quantities. Her capacity to do so amounts to genius and it is here that she has beaten everyone to a standstill. Anyone else would have died of boredom long ago.’

During the 1950s, the BBC was not alone in its Blyton ban; several libraries refused to stock the author’s work because it lacked literary merit. The literary world and the chattering classes recoiled from Blyton’s prewar moral certainty and turned their noses up at a middle-class teacher who was raised above a shop in London’s East Dulwich and churned out popular children’s books like whipping cream from a spray can.

By the 1960s and 1970s, Blyton’s work remained the object of censorship, but the literary dismissal of Blyton’s books had been replaced by concerns that it was ‘sexist’ and ‘classist’. As the British Library put it, ‘publishers began demanding that Blyton change her characters to fit the multicultural society that Britain boasted. Libraries removed her work from their shelves for her “political incorrectness” and alleged racism, classism and sexism. Some critics believed that her work was harmful to young readers.’ By the 1980s, her work had returned to library shelves, but it had not done so unaltered. For example, the Golliwogs’ names in her Golliwogs series were changed to Wiggie, Waggie and Wollie.

All of which seems a world away from my own memories of reading Blyton. Each Christmas or birthday, I would look forward to immersing myself in one of her novels, from The Enchanted Wood to The Five Findouters. It was not just Blyton who enthalled me as a child; Swallows and Amazons, Biggles, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew also had a hold over me. But the authors of these books were never vilified to the extent that Blyton has been.

Yet Blyton’s books were easy to read and fun. They were full of adventure involving intrepid children doing things without adult help. I pretended to believe in fairies, learnt to be a good sport at school, never to be a sneak and modelled myself on the Famous Five’s celebrated tomboy, George. ‘I’m George. I hate being a girl, I won’t be. I hate doing the things that girls do.’ The language was enchanting, too. I relished picnics with tomatoes and tinned sardines, strawberry ices and lashings of ginger beer. I remember first coming across the word ‘burn’, as in little stream or brook, in The Children of Kidillen when two English evacuee children visit their Scottish cousins for the first time.

What Blyton’s critics are unable to grasp is that children are much more resilient, imaginative and inventive than they think. Living under Apartheid in South Africa in the 1960s, the racism in Blyton’s work that caused such a stir in England and Australia and the US made no impression on me. In The Children of Kidillen, for instance, there is a dog called ‘Nigger’ but what I remember thinking about was how words like ‘burn’, ‘heather’ and ‘tam o’ shanter’ were as unfamiliar and strangely exciting to me as they were to the fictional English cousins visiting Scotland.

In Hodder’s view, Blyton’s words put children off because they do not relate to their own lives. Yet when have such words ever been immediately recognisable to young minds? In fact, it was the very strangeness of the words which was always so stimulating. What underpins the decision to revise and update Blyton is not the fact that children find the unusual words too difficult; it’s that educationalists and other experts underestimate not just children’s capacity to learn but also adults’ capacity to educate them. As a result, the difficult words, the unusual vocabulary, must be made familiar. An opportunity to learn is wasted. Such is the tyranny of relevance.

In 2008, best-selling author and former children’s laureate Anne Fine suggested that Blyton’s books – their themes and, yes, their words – were of their time. Moreover, the fact that Blyton was voted ‘Britain’s best-loved author’ in 2008 attests not to our infantilism but to something children enjoy in her novels: ‘When she was voted the nation’s favourite it was not a reflection of arrested development: we don’t carry on reading her forever. It simply represents a shared national memory of happy, uncomplicated reading, a collective appreciation of adventurous children.’

A year later, at the event ‘Compelling Novels, Vulnerable Children’, Fine bemoaned the bleak realism of today’s children’s literature, replete with care homes and divorced parents: ‘I can’t see how we roll back from this without returning to the sort of fiction that is no longer credible – books with a Blyton-ish view of things.’*

A Blyton-ish view of the world would do no harm. In fact, the go-getting, crime-solving, adventure-seeking children portrayed in Blyton’s books – and so admired by millions of her readers, past and present - could cope with a lot more than a few strange words.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


24 August, 2010

Muslim extremists cow other Muslims

The real battle for religious freedom lurks beneath the Ground Zero mosque controversy. It is sadly ironic that our public debate presents the mosque proponents as the partisans of liberty: That includes everyone from imam Feisal Rauf, the project’s sharia-touting sponsor, to President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, and the rest of the Islamist-smitten Left, to the GOP’s own anti-anti-terrorist wing. Yet, wittingly or not, when they champion this mosque and its sponsors, it is the agenda of an alien and authoritarian Islam that they champion — an Islam against which many American Muslims chafe.

When it comes to liberty, no one in this society has been given a wider berth than the Islamists, the purveyors of this authoritarian Islam, which is the mainstream Islam of the Middle East. Their vise grip on the American Muslim community has been cinched for two decades by the government, the media, and the academy. For our post-American ruling class, “Islamic outreach” means prostituting themselves for Saudi largesse; it means putting the “moderate” label on the Muslim Brotherhood — the Saudi-backed saboteurs whose American operatives boldly promise to “eliminate and destroy Western Civilization from within.”

The victims of this lethal charade include American Muslims. They, too, crave religious liberty and Western enlightenment. Our elites abandon them to the sharia-mongers. That freedom destroyers have been allowed to pose as freedom defenders ought to tell mosque opponents something: We have done a poor job of explaining the stakes.

In 1993, I headed up a prosecution team that was preparing to try the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven other jihadists for conducting a terrorist war against the United States. The case revealed this country’s Muslim divide.

On one side were patriotic American Muslims, without whom successful prosecution would have been impossible. Not only did they infiltrate the terror cells, they helped us shape the resulting evidence into a compelling narrative. On the other side were the Muslim Brotherhood’s satellites. These included outfits like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), which was formed in 1994 by the Brotherhood’s Hamas-support wing, with seed money from an Islamic “charity” — the Holy Land Foundation — later shut down for financing foreign terrorist organizations. These Brotherhood satellites purport to speak for American Muslims. In fact, they speak for anti-American Muslims, most of whom are outside the United States. They demagogued the case as a phobic criminalization of Islam itself, just as they have libeled America since 9/11 as being “at war with Islam.”

Translating evidence into English turned out to be a Herculean challenge during our trial preparation. Most of our evidence was in Arabic, because almost all of our defendants had immigrated here from Egypt and Sudan, hotbeds of anti-American Islam. The resulting mounds of documents, wiretap recordings, and inflammatory sermons overstretched the Justice Department’s thin Arabic-language capacity. To ease the strain, we tried to retain some civilians as private contractors. A number of local Muslims expressed interest, but in the end they turned us down.


Mind you, they wanted to help. They were as offended as anyone by what the terrorists had done. These folks were Americans. They were the kind of Muslims you’re never exposed to, given the media’s preference for jihad apologists who, when not applauding him, claim Osama bin Laden was “made in the U.S.A.” But the would-be translators wanted ironclad assurance that their assistance to the prosecution would be kept confidential. It was an assurance I was not in a position to give, so they politely declined.

Here’s the most depressing part: It wasn’t really a matter of safety. There was surely some element of that — it goes with the territory in terrorism cases. But these people were mostly worried that they and their families would be ostracized in their communities as traitors to Islam.

In Muslim communities, I learned, many people — especially American Muslims — were supportive of our investigations. Of course they didn’t like the light of suspicion being shined on Muslims, not any more than Italian Americans liked the attention our mafia cases thrust on their communities. Yet they tuned out the CAIR chorus, just as most sensible people tune out the grievance industry. They reserved most of their resentment for the malevolent, anti-American actors in their midst. They understood that public safety is the government’s highest obligation. As long as they could do it quietly, they were willing to help.

But doing it quietly was imperative. Most American Muslims are not instinctively different from other Americans. But American Muslim communities are peculiar. In many of them, the leadership of the mosques and Islamic centers is foreign (or at least foreign-influenced). This leadership tends to be anti-Western and arrogant, claiming an Islamic authenticity Americans are said to lack. Many American Muslims are intimidated into silence. They are cowed by the specter of being condemned as too American. In Islam, there is no more grievous offense than causing disunity through infidelity. It is no small thing when community leaders frame a Muslim as insufficiently loyal to the ummah, the notional Islamic nation.

More here

BOOK REVIEW: Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto"

Excerpts from a review by Daniel Mandel

Levin falls squarely in the traditionalist camp, eschewing the profligate spending of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and disdaining calls for renovation in the interests of electability. He sees Republicans spending and governing like liberals as a recipe for ideological bankruptcy and irrelevance, not competitiveness. Levin seeks to convince his fellow conservatives (and Americans of all stripes) that the only way to regain their lost power is through a return to those principles that animated America’s Founders and the Framers of its Constitution: liberty, free markets, religion, tradition, and authority.

Yet above all, argues Levin, the conservative believes in the “harmony of interests” and the “rules of cooperation that have developed through generations of human experience.” The interaction of these rules and interests occurs in civil society. There, the individual is free to discover his own potential and to pursue his own interests—while nonetheless tempered by a moral order founded in faith, and while guided by the exercise of reason. In such a situation, insists Levin, both the individual and his social order thrive. To Levin, then, the conservative must take as his overarching goal civil society’s preservation and improvement.

If the conservative has always placed the individual and his rights at the center of his political vision, in the modern liberal version, that place is reserved for the state. Indeed, maintains Levin, today’s liberal views the individual’s imperfections and personal pursuits as obstacles to Utopia, or to a state defined by egalitarian principles. While conservatives also recognize equality as a vital liberty, contends Levin, the modern liberal has adapted and prioritized it with the goal of producing uniform economic and social outcomes—in other words, of creating “a culture of conformity and dependency” under the guise of “compassion.” He castigates both modern liberals and reformist conservatives alike who would swell governmental power toward this end

Of course, Levin maintains, conservatives are also compassionate; they also wish to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the sick. The crucial difference between them and their liberal counterparts, however, is how to go about doing so. Conservatives see reform as the proper vehicle of change, one that transforms by improvement; liberals advocate for innovation, or transformation by substitution. As a result, says Levin, the modern liberal often elaborates new rights, which on closer inspection require still further state intervention, often to the detriment of existing rights.

Levin calls such liberals “Statists,” accusing them of advocating for the concentration of ever more power in government as a foil to the individual’s imperfections and personal pursuits. Unlike the classical liberal, who was a staunch opponent of authority, today’s liberal Statists, argues Levin, seek a more centralized, powerful government specifically for the purpose of imposing their own policy preferences.

This, he concludes, is not liberty, but a form of despotism. “For the Statist, liberty is not a blessing but the enemy,” he writes. “It is not possible to achieve Utopia if individuals are free to go their own way.… The Statist’s Utopia can take many forms, and has throughout human history, including monarchism, feudalism, militarism, fascism, communism, national socialism, and economic socialism. They are all of the same species—tyranny.”

Conservatives, Levin therefore insists, must not heedlessly support the status quo, as they are so often accused of doing. After all, today’s status quo “may well be a condition created by the statist and destructive of the civil society—such as 1960s cultural degradations.”

In Levin’s accounting, the liberal Statist’s pursuit of uniform economic and social outcomes has been afforded by an essentially Gramscian takeover of institutions such as government bureaucracy, media, the film industry, and the universities. By means of a relentless attack on so-called bourgeois values; the derision of the concept of American exceptionalism; the promotion of multiculturalism; and the determined insertion of a class-driven resentment into the national discourse, the liberal Statist pursues his agenda.

Nowhere, according to Levin, has the liberal-Statist agenda wreaked more havoc than in the economy, a discussion to which he devotes a good part of his book. Good conservative that he is, Levin is a firm believer in the dynamism and transformative energy of the free market. He thus derides the majority of liberal Statists who, while not being actual Marxists, nonetheless remain beholden to an essentially socialist conception of society, one in which the free market is the paradigmatic Root of All Evil.

Starting with the Great Depression, Levin observes that “the Statists successfully launched a counterrevolution that radically and fundamentally altered the nature of American society.” Indeed, to Levin, the significance of the resulting New Deal is not in any one program, but in its sweeping break from America’s founding principles and constitutional limitations. Through an array of federal projects, entitlements, taxes, and regulations, President Roosevelt and Congress brazenly overstepped the Constitution’s bounds....

Yet, Levin reminds us, the middle class—which stands to gain the most from the free market—is no ancien regime minority that can be overwhelmed by force. The economic strategy of Statists has been therefore been roughly that of Saul Alinsky, the radical Chicago community organizer whose writings influenced President Obama: to make the middle class the proper arena of activist work, and to persuade enough of its members to relinquish their liberties and throw in their lot with statism—camouflaged as affirmative, non-threatening, prophylactic change.

Levin is correct to recognize that this approach makes the conservatives’ advocacy for free-market principles a hard sell. We humans, after all, all too easily become accustomed to booms, and tend to regard luxuries as entitlements, while conversely regarding busts and their concomitant privations as illicit violations of the natural order.

Insulated from the norms of scarcity that have been the historical lot of most societies, the modern democratic citizen is particularly vulnerable to statist nostrums on the subject of economic inequality. Yet, Levin points out, Statists have no answer to the fact that the free market is the only system to have procured a sustained (though not linear) rise in general prosperity.

The author of a critique of judicial activism, Men in Black (2006), Levin is particularly passionate when discussing statism’s disregard for natural law—a body of law, in other words, believed to be binding upon human society apart from (or in conjunction with) laws established by human authority.

He criticizes as well statism’s antipathy toward religion, which, he claims, they seek increasingly to cordon off from public life. Here Levin reminds that the “wall of separation” between Church and State that is today widely thought to warrant the exclusion of religion from public life is of comparatively recent vintage: It is the result of the 1947 Everson decision, by which Justice Hugo Black, a former Klansman, decided that state subsidies for transportation to and from New Jersey schools—including parochial ones—amounted to an indirect aid to religion.

In this, Levin argues, Black merely succeeded in importing his anti-Catholic animus into American jurisprudence. For in truth, shows Levin, the Founding Fathers did not believe that natural law could be dissociated from divine Providence, or religion from the public square: to do so would simply lead to arbitrary constructs of morality. Moreover, he points out, a renunciation of religious liberty could easily lead to a kind of tyranny all its own: “American courts sit today as supreme secular councils, which, like Islam’s supreme religious councils, dictate all manner of approved behavior respecting religion.”


Sociologist Debunks Myths on U.S. Christianity

Christianity isn't on the brink of extinction, divorce rates of Christians aren't equal to that of non-Christians and churches are not losing young people – at least not to the extent that some fear.

That isn't to say there aren't any problems in the church. But Bradley R. E. Wright wants all the facts to be laid out before any judgment calls are made. In his newly released book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ... and Other Lies You've Been Told, Wright reveals that many of the commonly cited statistics regarding the state of U.S. Christianity or the behaviors of Christians are incomplete and inaccurate.

A lot of the data – especially the kind that get media coverage – are negatively slanted and paint a bleak picture of Christians and the church. Wright is concerned that the onslaught of inaccurate bad news could distract from what really is bad news and could demotivate Christians from being active Christ followers and from inviting others to join.

Wright, 47, is associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. He formerly studied crime and homelessness but switched his focus to American Christianity after receiving tenure. "I wanted to work more merging my faith and my profession," he said in an interview with The Christian Post.

Raised in the Catholic Church, he became a born-again Christian in high school and is now part of an evangelical community.

His journey of discovering the real state of U.S. Christianity began when he had doubts about the popularly cited divorce statistic. "We're all familiar with the idea that Christians have divorce rates as high, if not higher, than non-Christians," he explained in the interview. "I heard that for years but as I thought about it, it just didn't make sense." He and his wife had received so much support from pastors, small group members, and the church as a whole that he could not understand how that couldn't make a difference on marriages.

After analyzing five different sets of data, he found that Christians actually have lower divorce rates. His analysis can be found on his blog, brewright.com. "[People] found that gratifying to sort of bust that myth as it were," he commented.

In his book, he presents data from the General Social Survey, which he describes as "the Cadillac of national studies" that has collected data since 1972. The divorce rate among the religiously unaffiliated is 50 percent while that of mainline Protestants, evangelicals and Catholics is 41 percent, 46 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The statistics are more positive when it comes to active churchgoers. Only 38 percent of evangelicals who attend church weekly have been divorced, compared to 60 percent of evangelicals who never attend.

Extinction? Perhaps the most unhelpful perception Christians have about Christianity is that it's on the brink of extinction or that in a decade or two "we'll all be huddled in basements or something," Wright said.

"That's a problem because basically if we’re in the Titanic and we've already hit an iceberg, why would we want to invite anyone to join us? Why would we want to devote ourselves to it?" he posed. "Basically, if you have a sinking ship, you don’t invite people to it, you jump off and get away. And so I would say it’s perhaps the most harmful myth that Christians believe about ourselves.

Mainline Protestantism has indeed decreased dramatically from over 30 percent of the population in 1970 to less than 15 percent and the number of Americans not affiliated with a religion has doubled within that same time frame. But the percentage of evangelical Christians has grown to 25 percent and Catholics and black Protestants have remained stable in their representation.

The United States "is still very much a country of Christians" with three out of four Americans affiliating themselves with Christianity, Wright wrote.

Even among the unaffiliated, it turns out many of them are religious. Though they rarely attend religious services, more than half (56 percent) of them believe in God and another 22 percent believe in a higher power. Fifty-five percent believe that the Bible is either the literal or inspired Word of God and 49 percent pray daily or weekly. Overall, over 90 percent of Americans have believed and continue to believe in some form of God.

Young people leaving? The exodus of young people from the church has been a major concern. Popular speakers, including apologist Josh McDowell, have frequently stated that some two-thirds of the younger generation was leaving the Christian faith and that unless something was done now Christianity wouldn't survive another decade. The popularly cited statistic is that only four percent of young Americans will be Bible-believing Christians as adults.

Wright found that the four percent figure came from an informal survey a seminary professor did 10 years ago. He interviewed 211 young people in three states. "In terms of quality, this statistic is about as valid as someone putting a survey question on their Facebook page and then having their friends and acquaintances answer it," Wright wrote in his book. "There's nothing wrong with doing it, it's just not very trustworthy."

Yet Christian speakers and youth leaders have organized conferences and developed resources around such statistics. "My sense is that they're using these statistics with the best intentions, that their goal is to try to save the church from what they perceive to be a terrible problem and imminent disaster," Wright noted. "The expression I use is 'scary statistics are useful,' that it helps us to create audiences and create a need for our message."

Wright went further to compare today's generation of young people to previous generations. He pointed out that since the 1970s, between 20 and 25 percent of young people have been affiliated with evangelical Christianity. Currently, 22 percent of young adults affiliate with evangelical churches, down from 25 percent in the 1990s, but up from 21 percent in the 1970s.

Though the percentage of young people who are religiously unaffiliated increased to 25 percent over the past couple of decades, the increase in the unaffiliated is seen across all age groups. In fact, the percentage of the religiously unaffiliated almost tripled among people in their thirties to sixties.

Today's evangelical youth were also found to be more committed and more active than young Christians of previous generations. In the 1970s, only about one-third of young evangelicals viewed themselves as "strong evangelicals" compared to 50 percent today. About half prayed daily in the 1980s but over two-thirds do so today. Church attendance also increased from about 35 percent in the 1970s and 1980s to over 40 percent now among young evangelicals.

Also, young people who leave organized religion often rejoin when they grow older and start families of their own, Wright noted. Citing the General Social Survey, the sociologist revealed that with previous generations – those born in the 1910s up until the 1980s – evangelical involvement increased with age. Only 19 percent of those born in the 1930s and 1940s identified as evangelicals when they were in their twenties. By the time they were in their seventies, 30 percent were evangelicals.

Though he can't make any predictions, Wright says he doesn't see evidence in the data "of a cataclysmic loss of young people."

Things are going well.

When Wright set out to analyze data for a more accurate look at Christianity, he was expecting at least half of the data – on church growth, beliefs, participation, morals, how Christians treat others and how others view Christians – to be negative. But surprisingly, much of it was positive. "I think it’s more accurate to have a more positive perception of Christians. In many ways, things are going well," he said.

But Wright doesn't want to ignore the bad news. Even though the divorce rate among evangelicals is lower than reported, it has still doubled over the last three to four decades. Sexual promiscuity and porn viewing may be lowest among regular evangelical church attenders compared to other groups, but still many are struggling. And though evangelical Christians score high when it comes to selfless caring for others and accepting others even when others do things they think are wrong, their attitudes toward minorities and gays are dismaying, Wright said.

Wright has gained a much more positive outlook on U.S. Christianity after finishing his book, but he acknowledged that there are things Christians need to work on. "But that’s part of the value of data is that it tells us where the real problems are," he said. "If we think everything’s a problem, then in a sense nothing’s a problem because it almost becomes white noise."


British police are at the beck and call of animal rights activists

Norris Atthey is a retired military policeman who for some years has been trying to defend one of the last pockets of red squirrels left in England , around Morpeth in Northumberland (see his website, Morpeth Red Squirrels). He does so by destroying the grey squirrels which across most of the country have seen off their red cousins, not least by infecting them with a fatal disease, squirrel pox. There used to be a bounty on them and it is still an offence to release them into the wild, since they are officially vermin. After trapping them, Mr Atthey has quite legally shot hundreds with an air pistol, very much more humane than hitting them over the head in a sack, as Natural England and other wildlife bodies prefer.

Mr Atthey was outraged when a Burton window cleaner was recently given a criminal record and lost £1,547 in costs after being prosecuted by the RSPCA for drowning a grey squirrel. He publicly challenged the charity by announcing that he had drowned one too. The ever-zealous RSPCA rose to the bait, knocking on his door to demand an interview. He responded that he had no more to say, beyond his published statement. Next morning, the RSPCA official returned, summoning two policemen to arrest Mr Atthey for “causing unnecessary suffering to an animal”. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station at Bedlington, some miles away, where he was held for nine hours in the cells. Eventually he was interrogated for an hour by an RSPCA official, with a policeman standing mutely by, before being released.

Why was Mr Atthey arrested on the orders of the RSPCA? Why was he handcuffed, and imprisoned for nine hours? When I put this to Northumbria police, they replied that “the RSPCA is leading this investigation” and that “the arrested man remained with police until suitable arrangements were in place for an interview to take place”.

This provokes much wider questions, also raised by other cases reported in this column, such as that of Alan Brough, who was held by Carlisle police for six hours while the RSPCA took away his 90 fell ponies, and who immediately went and hanged himself. [There was no evidence that the ponies were abused or were suffering in any way]

The RSPCA, that once-admirable charity, now often seems to pursue animal-lovers through the courts simply to win the publicity that keeps its £115 million a year in donations rolling in. And why do the police now regard themselves as the charity’s enforcement wing? What an admission from Northumbria police that they seek to justify holding a 66-year old man of impeccable character for nine hours by saying “the RSPCA is leading this investigation”. When did Parliament empower RSPCA officials (all ordinary members of the public) to order our police around like this?



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


23 August, 2010

Greece might once again defeat tyranny -- by bringing down Brussels

By Panayotis Theodoracopulos

As everyone knows, Greece became a member of the eurozone on the back of a lie. The colonels’ regime had collapsed, Greek politicians were nervous, and that pseudo-French aristocrat Giscard promised entry to a country that is more Middle Eastern than European, but with olive oil. Entry meant no more tanks surrounding Parliament at midnight—rather a pity, actually, because they kept some semblance of law and order. So from 1980 onward, the Greeks began to spend other people’s money, the chief spender being the present premier’s father, known to us Greeks as Ali Babandreou.

Thirty years later the Greeks have managed to bring the European Union to the brink of collapse—again, not necessarily a bad thing, but looked upon by bureaucrooks in Brussels as the greatest disaster to befall Europe since the Black Plague. Recently, a rather dumb and pompous Euro MP remonstrated with me for expressing delight at the prospect. Pigs that feed in the trough would, wouldn’t they?

The Greeks, however inadvertently, might bring down the whole shebang. That is the good news. The bad is that the rich-as-hell Germans and the garlic-smelling French are fighting as never before to keep the pseudodemocratic union going. The reason is simple: The Greeks are in hock to German and French banks to the tune of one trillion euros. The global elites who believe in Brussels and seek to reduce nations to “ethno-cultural enclaves in a new world order run by these same bloodless bureaucrats,” as Pat Buchanan rightly put it, are as undemocratic as they come. In fact, they make the Greek colonels look like Thomas Jefferson by comparison. Countries that rejected certain E.U. treaties, such as Ireland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, and even France, were told in no uncertain terms that they would have to vote again, and again if necessary, until the will of Brussels was met. If that’s democracy, I’m Monica Lewinsky.

In my recent peregrinations around Europe it was obvious that the euro was never purely an economic construct. It was a political one. It was to ensure total control for the bureaucrats uniting 500 million people speaking 30 different languages under little ole Brussels. Well, they got close to pulling it off, the tiny tinpot dictators, but then the Hellenes screwed up.

If the Greeks had any brains, of course, which they don’t (they are like people on welfare in Britain—too well off to get off), they would quit the European Union, default, restore the drachma, and watch every manufacturer in Europe and America rush to establish factories in Athens and its environs. Billions in tourism alone would enrich Greek coffers. But as I said, they are too weak and too dumb to do it. Like a mistress who has gotten used to her monthly stipend and is too lazy to go out and find new blood, the Greeks will now tighten their belts, blame Germany and America, and go to the beach until mid-September, when things will really get hot.

The great oracle of Delphi was typically ambivalent when I asked her whether the European Union would survive. She gave me three choices: The first was that the rich countries will prop up the poor ones by continuing to bail them out until . . . That’s when her voice trailed away. The second was that the euro might be abandoned, and the rich northern countries who avoid the beach will set up their own currency. The third was that the PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Greece—will get their act together through reforms and pay back their debt. The oracle laughed out loud as she pronounced this third choice, but by now she was quite stoned.

So there you have it, dear readers. A few farsighted men got together in Rome more than 50 years ago and decided to turn Europe into a free-trade zone in order to avoid war in the future. It was a good idea, but like many good ideas the principle of peaceful trade and cooperation was hijacked by fat, faceless men who believed they could achieve power not at the barrel of a gun but through stealth, lies, and doublespeak. They flooded Europe with African and Muslim immigrants who refused to integrate, sold out Christianity to Allah, and rejected any loyalty to the land and people whence they came. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and I, for one, am delighted.

But I am not getting my hopes up yet. The faceless ones are vicious and sly. They have the bankers, the press, and most of the politicians on their side. The pro-E.U. propaganda has drowned out the few responsible traditionalists who believe in individual freedom and their nations. My only hope is my fellow Greeks. Perhaps I will lead a midnight coup myself—but when was the last time a yacht sailed into Piraeus and Athens surrendered?


British Airways changes 'discriminatory' seating policy for men

But it took a court case to budge them

British Airways has changed its seating policy after a businessman complained of being treated like a "child molester" when sitting next to a boy he did not know. The airline has confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph it has altered its procedures to protect unaccompanied minors – the aviation industry term for children flying without a parent or guardian.

It follows the case of Mirko Fischer, a hedge fund manager who was told to move seats by cabin crew under an internal rule that prevented adult males sitting next to unaccompanied children.

Mr Fischer ended up sitting next to the boy on the BA flight from London to Luxembourg when he switched seats with his pregnant wife, so she could be by the window.

The 35-year-old told staff he believed the airline's policy broke the Sex Discrimination Act and later said he felt he had been treated as a potential "child molester". He later won a compensation order at Slough County Court, in which BA admitted sex discrimination in his case and agreed to pay him costs of £2,161 and £750 in damages.

BA, which carried out a review of its policy following the case, now says "seating of unaccompanied minors is managed in a safe but non discriminatory manner".

Mr Fischer, who lives in Luxembourg, said he was "absolutely delighted" by the policy change. He has donated his compensation money to Kidscape and Orphans in the Wild, two child protection charities.

Tom Otley, editor of Business Traveller magazine, also welcomed the ruling, but added: "The end of discrimination is good news but most business travellers usually want to sit as far away as possible from unaccompanied children so this is unlikely to have a big impact on where people sit on-board."

Airlines are free to set their own seating policies regarding unaccompanied minors. Virgin Atlantic said it did not have a similar policy and easyJet said passengers were free to sit where they liked.

A spokesman for BA said: "We carry tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors every year and take great pride in the service that we provide to them and their parents. "We have offered this service on all flights for many years for children aged between five and 11 years old, who are travelling alone.

"Given that some of these flights last up to 13 hours and are overnight, we take the responsibility of caring for these children, whose safety and security has been entrusted to us, extremely seriously. "There is a specific seating department that has a range of guidelines to ensure that we place in an appropriate seat. "On some services, this will be in a specially created Unaccompanied Minors zone within a short distance of the cabin crew in the galley.

"We have recently changed our internal advice to our seating and airport teams to ensure that the seating of unaccompanied minors is managed in a safe but non discriminatory manner."


Muslim dress at issue in Disneyland

A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a restaurant in Disneyland has filed a discrimination complaint against the world-renowned California theme park, saying officials at the park violated the law when they told her she could not appear in front of customers while wearing a religious head scarf.

Imane Boudlal, 26, of Anaheim, Calif., has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming Disneyland violated her rights when it ordered her either to remove her hijab or agree to work where customers couldn't see her at Storyteller's Café at the resort's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Boudlal, a Moroccan immigrant who wore the traditional head scarf in observance of Ramadan, said she went home on Sunday after being told of her options, and she was given the same choice when she returned to work on Monday and Tuesday.

Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said the park "continues to
work" with Boudlal to find a compromise that allows her to wear the head scarf within company guidelines.

"Disney is an entertainment company -- our theme parks and resorts are the stage and our costumed cast members are part of the show," Brown said in a statement to FoxNews.com on Friday. "All cast members in costumed roles, regardless of their diverse beliefs, are expected to comply with our dress codes. When cast members, regardless of their religion, request exceptions to our policies for religious reasons, we work hard to make reasonable accommodations. These have included modifications to costumes where appropriate, placement in different roles when needed, and consideration in scheduling for religious services and holy days."

Brown's statement continued, "Examples of costume modifications include accommodating religious head wear with hats, substituting skirts for pants and lengthening skirt hems to cover ankles. We have also provided many cast members with roles that do not require them to wear a costume."

Boudlal was unavailable for comment Friday.

Ameena Qazi, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who is consulting with Boudlal, said she has worked at the restaurant for more than two years, but only realized she could wear her hijab to work after studying for her U.S. citizenship exam in June.

Two months after asking supervisors if she could wear the hijab at work, Qazi said Boudlal was told she could, provided it was designed by Disneyland's costume department to comply with the park's look.

Boudlal was then fitted for a Disney-supplied head scarf, but was not given a date when the garment would be finished. In the interim, Qazi said, she was told she couldn't wear her own hijab.

"After these two months and this complicated process, she decided to come forward," Qazi said. "She really wanted to be able to wear it on Ramadan."

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said he found Boudlal's allegations particularly ironic given Disneyland's popular "It's a Small World" attraction, which features themes of unity and global peace. He cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination by employers on the basis race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

"I don't think merely wearing a head scarf [at the restaurant] could in any way produce an undue hardship for Disney," Hooper told FoxNews.com. "The request that she hide herself in the back, away from the view of customers, I think is an unreasonable accommodation and one that nobody would accept."

Hooper likened the "particularly disturbing" allegations to that of hotel officials telling minorities that they cannot work the front desk because of complaints from guests.

"It's not a reasonable thing to do," Hooper said, adding that Boudlal has offered to wear her hijab in a Disney theme or

Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman with Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents Boudlal, said union officials support the woman and dismissed allegations by a Disney official that the union is distorting the facts in the case to distract from key issues in an ongoing contract battle for hotel workers. "There's absolutely no correlation," Shelton said.


Sleazy Songs of Summer

Ever wonder what those teenagers are listening to while wearing those iPod earphones? Maybe you'd rather not know. You will be horrified.

The Culture and Media Institute recently reviewed the top pop songs from May through July. To say that hedonism is in the air is an understatement. Of the 22 songs on the charts, a whopping 64 percent made at least one reference to sex, drugs or alcohol, or contained profanity. All 22 songs had music videos, and 68 percent of them featured sexualized dancing, alcohol, violence, or partying scenes.

The "anthem" of the summer seems to be the song "California Gurls" by Katy Perry, the ex-Christian singer who kick-started her career with the hit "I Kissed a Girl (And I Liked It)" in 2008. She's so "mainstream" this year that she hosted the Teen Choice Awards on Fox.

Her "Gurls" song is catchy and raunchy, starting with the boast that she and her girlfriends are so hot "we'll melt your Popsicle." That phrase is hot slang. Please imagine 7-year-old girls learning and reciting the lyrics to these songs -- because they do. Perry sings about "Sex on the beach / We don't mind sand in our stilettos / We freak in my Jeep" to Snoop Dogg, who also raps on the song. Snoop calls out the men to "kiss her, touch her, squeeze her buns." The boys hang out to "all that ass hangin' out," watching the girls in "bikinis, tankinis, martinis, no weenies."

Shakespeare he is not. Romantic sonnets are not in season. Getting sex quickly seems to be the only aim.

The hottest new star is named Ke$ha, and her song with pop band 3OH!3 (No, I don't understand it either) is called "My First Kiss." It sounds innocent, but innocence isn't allowed. The lyrics include a request for sex: "Lips like licorice, tongue like candy / Excuse me, Miss, but can I get you out of your panties?" Another song, "In My Head," is sung by Jason Derulo and features the lyrics "Instead of talking, let me demonstrate / Yeah / Get down to business, let's skip foreplay."

Would you like more song sheets for the kiddies?

Rihanna is another princess of pop. Her song challenges a boy to make a move: "Come here, rude boy, boy / Can you get it up? / Come here, rude boy, boy / Is you big enough?" She also promises to "give it to you harder" and "turn your body out." The video matches the theme, with Rihanna holding one breast, putting her finger in her mouth and constantly rotating her hips as she asks her beau to "take it, take it, take it." Is this woman a singer or a stripper?

Just one version of this song's video has 90 million plays on YouTube -- just in case you'd think no one really pays attention to these things.

Rihanna also sings in "Rude Boy" that she likes the way "you pull my hair." The most controversial song of the summer is her duet with the rapper Eminem called "Love the Way You Lie." In between Eminem's rapping, Rihanna repeatedly sings, "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / But that's all right because I like the way it hurts / Just gonna stand there and hear me cry / But that's all right because I love the way you lie."

There is no shame in this industry. Consider that Rihanna was physically abused by fellow pop star Chris Brown. So she milked the attack to pump up her star power. But what message do young people take from this? The Chicago Sun-Times reported the video (starring actors Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox) shows "an ugly cycle of domestic abuse --- graphically loving, fighting, drinking, shoplifting and ultimately burning down the house."

Burning down the house? That's because Eminem raps, "I just want her back / I know I'm a liar / If she ever tries to f---ing leave again / I'ma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire."

Like most rappers making no attempt at anger management, Eminem loads his songs with profanity and dares the radio programmers to try and bleep them all out. On his first new single "Not Afraid," Eminem used six F-bombs and three S-words in four minutes. That includes an "F-you for Christmas," an "F the world" and an "F the universe." That doesn't include the bonus usages of countless other vulgarities.

It's clear that the major "music" companies, desperate to ring up sales as their market collapses due to technological change, are refusing to exercise any restraint of any kind on these "artists" they sell. It travels way beyond hipster rebellion into a dark, loveless, violent underworld.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


22 August, 2010

“Separation of Church and State” Not What Founders Intended; Chilling Effect on Religious Liberty

This Sunday, August 22, Coral Ridge Hour television broadcast looks at the push to purge God from public life — a campaign inaugurated by the U.S. Supreme Court when it announced in 1947 that the “wall between church and state…. must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

But, according to experts on the program, that view was not what America’s Founders intended and it has had a chilling effect on religious liberty.

What the Constitution actually says is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”

Constitutional attorney Ken Klukowski of the American Civil Rights Union explains: “The purpose of the establishment clause in the First Amendment was to prevent the national government from taking one specific Christian denomination and making it the official religion,” said Klukowski.

The “separation of church and state” is a phrase derived from an 1802 letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists. In the letter, Jefferson assured the group that the federal government would not interfere with its religious activities.

The so-called “separation of church and state” as the term is used today often translates into separating God and state — a far cry from what the Founders originally intended.

“I am concerned that as America begins to separate everything that’s spiritual from our government, that what we’re doing is not separating church and state, we’re separating God from government,” said Dr. Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary. When the government shoves God out of its affairs, “we lose God’s wisdom, we lose God’s blessing.”

The results can also be dangerous in other ways. “If anyone wants a religion-free government, he should think about what’s happened in all the countries in the world that have tried it,” said theologian Dr. Cal Beisner. “Every country that has embraced intentionally atheistic government has become a butcherous tyranny.”

The program reviews one recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of many that have greatly restricted religious freedom, especially for Christians, under the mantle of the “separation of church and state.” The Supreme Court ruled in June, for example, that the University of California Law School at Hastings could deny official recognition to a Christian Legal Society student group because it reserves its leadership to those who affirm the authority of the Bible as God’s Word.

“The university was able to, in essence, kick off a Christian group, CLS, to refuse them all the access that other student groups had, because of the group’s statement regarding biblical standards of morality and sexuality,” Klukowski said.

“Our Founders never intended the kind of strict separation of church and state we have today. That effectively has given us state-sanctioned atheism by way of activist judges who’ve ruled with their own agendas in mind,” said Dr. Jerry Newcombe, host of The Coral Ridge Hour television program

The above is a press release from Coral Ridge Ministries dated August 19. CONTACT: Andrew Scott, (954) 334-5332, a.scott@crministries.org. Video here

Black Leftist finally opens his eyes to vast black dysfunction

And it's no good blaming "whitey". Systematic privileging of blacks has long been entrenched in America. The following story by NYT writer Bob Herbert was headed "Too Long Ignored", an apt heading and a good message to Leftists, with their constant pretense that blacks are just like whites, only browner

Parental neglect, racial discrimination and an orgy of self-destructive behavior have left an extraordinary portion of the black male population in an ever-deepening pit of social and economic degradation.

The Schott Foundation for Public Education tells us in a new report that the on-time high school graduation rate for black males in 2008 was an abysmal 47 percent, and even worse in several major urban areas — for example, 28 percent in New York City.

The astronomical jobless rates for black men in inner-city neighborhoods are both mind-boggling and heartbreaking. There are many areas where virtually no one has a legitimate job.

More than 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. And I’ve been hearing more and more lately from community leaders in poor areas that moms are absent for one reason or another and the children are being raised by a grandparent or some other relative — or they end up in foster care.

That the black community has not been mobilized en masse to turn this crisis around is a screaming shame. Black men, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, have nearly a one-third chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lives. By the time they hit their mid-30s, a solid majority of black men without a high school diploma have spent time in prison.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men, with the murderous wounds in most cases inflicted by other young black men.

This is a cancer that has been allowed to metastasize for decades. Not only is it not being treated, most people don’t even want to talk about it. In virtually every facet of life in the United States, black people — and especially black boys and men — are coming up short. White families are typically five times as wealthy as black families. More than a third of all black children are growing up in poverty. In Ohio, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, the percentage is more than half.

There are myriad reasons for this awful state of affairs. As with so many other problems in American society, a lack of gainful employment has been a huge contributor to the problems faced by blacks. Chronic unemployment is hardly a plus-factor for marriage and family stability. And the absence of strong family units with mature parental guidance is at the very root of the chaotic environment that so many black youngsters grow up in.

The abominable incarceration rates among blacks are the result of two overwhelming factors: the persistence of criminal behavior by a significant percentage of the black population, and a criminal justice system that in many respects is racially discriminatory and out of control. Both of these factors need to be engaged head-on, and both will require a staggeringly heavy lift.

Education in the broadest sense is the key to stopping this socioeconomic slide that is taking such a horrific toll in the black community. People have to understand what is happening to them before they can really do much about it. Young blacks who have taken a wrong road, or are at risk of taking a wrong road, have to be shown a feasible legitimate alternative.

The aspect of this crisis that is probably the most important and simultaneously the most difficult to recognize is that the heroic efforts needed to alleviate it will not come from the government or the wider American society. This is a job that will require a campaign on the scale of the civil rights movement, and it will have to be initiated by the black community.

Whether this is fair or not is irrelevant. There is very little sentiment in the wider population for tackling the extensive problems faced by poor and poorly educated black Americans. What is needed is a dramatic mobilization of the black community to demand justice on a wide front — think employment, education and the criminal justice system — while establishing a new set of norms, higher standards, for struggling blacks to live by.

For many, this is a fight for survival. And it is an awesomely difficult fight. But the alternative is to continue the terrible devastation that has befallen so many families and communities: the premature and often violent deaths, the inadequate preparation for an increasingly competitive workplace, the widespread failure to exercise one’s intellectual capacity, the insecurity that becomes ingrained from being so long at the bottom of the heap.

Terrible injustices have been visited on black people in the United States, but there is never a good reason to collaborate in one’s own destruction. Blacks in America have a long and proud history of overcoming hardship and injustice. It’s time to do it again.


The tragic genetic consequences of Muslim cousin marriage

A huge health problem but nobody campaigns against it. They campaign against "junk food" instead -- which is NOT a demonstrated health problem

Sitting in the family living room, I watched tensely as my mother and her older brother signed furiously at each other. Although almost completely without sound, their row was high-octane, even vicious.

Three of my uncles were born deaf but they knew how to make themselves heard. Eventually, my uncle caved in and fondly put his arm around his sister.

My mum has always had a special place in her family because she was the first girl to live beyond childhood. Five of her sisters died as babies or toddlers. It was not until many years later that anyone worked out why so many children died and three boys were born deaf. Today there is no doubt among us that this tragedy occurred because my grandparents were first cousins.

My grandmother’s heart was broken from losing so many daughters at such a young age. As a parent, I can’t imagine what she went through.

My family is not unique. In the UK more than 50 per cent of British Pakistanis marry their cousins – in Bradford that figure is 75 per cent – and across the country the practice is on the rise and also common among East African, Middle-Eastern and Bangladeshi communities.

Back when my grandparents were having children, the med­ical facts were not established. But today in Britain alone there are more than 70 scientific studies on the subject. We know the children of first cousins are ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders which can include infant mortality, deafness and blindness.

We know British Pakistanis constitute 1.5 per cent of the population, yet a third of all children born in this country with rare recessive genetic diseases come from this community.

Despite overwhelming evidence, in the time I spent filming Dispatches: When Cousins Marry, I felt as if I was breaking a taboo rather than addressing a reality. Pakistanis have been marrying cousins for generations.

In South Asia the custom keeps family networks close and ensures assets remain in the family. In Britain, the aim can be to strengthen bonds with the subcontinent as cousins from abroad marry British partners.

Some told us they face extreme pressure to marry in this way. One young woman, ‘Zara’, said when she was 16 she was emotionally blackmailed by her husband’s family in Pakistan who threatened suicide over loss of honour should she refuse to marry her cousin.

She relented and lives in a deeply unhappy marriage. But others told me of the great benefits of first cousin marriage – love, support and understanding. To them, questioning it is an attack on the community or, worse, Islam.

At a Pakistani centre in Sheffield, one man said: ‘The community feels targeted, whether that be forced marriages or first-cousin marriages. The community is battening down its hatches, not wanting to engage.’

As a British Pakistani, I am aware of the religious, cultural and racial sensitivities around this issue and understand why people would be on the defensive when questioned about it. At times I was torn between explaining the health risks while privately understanding the community’s sense of being demonised.

But I have also grown up in a family that has suffered the medical implications and strongly believe that people should have the choice to make an informed decision.

Throughout I had to remind myself that this is a health story – nothing more. It is not about religion or cultural identity. It is about avoidable suffering such at that experienced by Saeeda and Jalil Akhtar, whom I met in Bradford.

They are first cousins and have six children, three with the genetic disease mucolipidosis type IV. This stops the body getting rid of waste properly and affects brain functions controlling vision and movement.

Mohsin, their second eldest, is 17 and blind. He wanders aimless and helpless, often crying in frustration. His sisters Hina, 13, and Zainab, 11, have the same condition. They live in almost complete darkness.

Saeeda is worn down from years of round-the-clock care. She spoon-feeds them, dresses them and fears for them. Neither she nor her husband can quite accept that their familial link is the cause of this pain.

This is a major public health issue that has huge implications for other services. The cost to the NHS is many millions of pounds. On average, a children’s hospital will see 20 to 30 recessive gene disorders a decade, but one hospital in Bradford has seen 165, while British Pakistani children are three times more likely to have learning difficulties, with care costing about £75,000 a year per child.

However during this investigation we found no efforts to introduce any national awareness-raising campaign. Why? We approached 16 MPs with a significant number of British Pakistani constituents for interview – every one declined. We asked 30 MPs with a high population of British Pakistanis in their seats to give their views in a short survey. Only one, who wanted to remain anonymous, responded, saying anyone who tried to talk about it risked being attacked politically.

A lone voice was Ann Cryer, former Labour MP for Keighley, near Bradford, who said ‘fear of being accused of racism or demonisation’ prevented politicians speaking up.

It is not just British Pakistani families who suffer. Wayne and Sonia Gibbs are white and first cousins once removed. They had no idea this could lead to problems. Their daughter Nicole had juvenile osteopetrosis, a genetic disease that causes the bones to thicken and crush the body’s organs. Nicole died aged two. The couple now know both carry the recessive genes that caused Nicole’s illness. They wanted more children – but had genetic counselling first. They have two healthy boys today.

I have travelled nationwide, meeting doctors and families whose lives are full of pain. To me the solution is simple: Ring the alarm bells loud and clear.

In Birmingham, one GP practice has taken radical action. The doctors have campaigned heavily to stop cousin marriages. They have introduced genetic screening and testing for patients, starting at 16, and now claim that very few cousin marriages take place there.

My mother tells me that, long before I was born, her siblings and their cousins decided their tragedy would never recur.

The conclusion some will draw is that cousin marriages should be banned. I disagree. But people must be able to make informed choices about the risks involved and options available, be they genetic screening, counselling or carrier-testing. At least there should be leaflets in doctors’ sur­geries and school campaigns.

Meeting the families in the programme upset me greatly. Every day for them was an uphill struggle, mostly because their children needed so much help and this put enormous stress on their family lives.

Yet this was avoidable. If this were any other health issue, politicians would have been out in force. But they are silent and as a result children continue to be born with terrible, prevent­able disabilities that are devastating their lives and those of their loved ones.


Beware of the cobbles: British parishoners told path at 1,300 year-old medieval abbey is too dangerous to walk on

For 1,300 years worshippers and visitors have trodden the cobbled path to the medieval abbey. Few, it appears will now be following them after the route fell foul of the modern obsession with health and safety.

Councillors fear that someone could trip on the uneven surface at Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, and sue them for compensation. So they are applying for permission to spend £30,000 building a modern path on grass alongside it.

But their plans for the abbey dating back to 705AD have provoked anger and warnings that the character of the building will be damaged. Town councillor Katherine Pike said: 'If we go on being so risk-averse, we will not have a cobble, hill or step left. 'Those are the kinds of things people come to places like Sherborne to see.'

The cobbled path leads from the Sherborne Museum past the entrance of the abbey. But Mike Keatinge, head of the abbey's fabric committee, insisted that a new smooth path was needed to prevent trips and falls. 'We have had a steady trickle of accidents, people tripping on the cobbles,' he said. 'We know of one lady who had a particularly bad fall.'

He admitted there could be objections on historical grounds but claimed that the pathway was not as old as many believed. 'We conducted archaeological surveys and I'm convinced it is not medieval,' Mr Keatinge told councillors at a meeting last week.
A modern path, costing £30,000 is proposed to run alongside the cobbles to reduce the chance of anyone falling and injuring themselves

A modern path, costing £30,000 is proposed to run alongside the cobbles to reduce the chance of anyone falling and injuring themselves

Sherborne Mayor Jane Smith added: 'It is uncomfortable to use even if you're an able-bodied person. These things don't get better - only worse. 'There is a public liability factor to take into account if someone has an accident.' Councillors voted six to four to press on with the measure.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


21 August, 2010

Nazism is not dead among British Leftists

Hitlerian forced eugenics not dead in England! The council involved is not named but Midlands councils are commonly Labour Party controlled

A judge has criticised a council for trying to have contraception forced upon a woman with a low IQ, warning that the move had “shades of social engineering”. Mr Justice Bodey said it would not be “acceptable” for police to take the married woman from her home before doctors sedated her and imposed birth control on her, against her will. He said the local authority’s plan, to stop the 29 year-old having more children, “would raise profound questions about state intervention in private and family life”.

However the judge agreed that she lacked the mental capacity to make important decisions about her medical treatment, paving the way for the council to make a further request for force to be used.

It is the latest in a series of rulings published by the Court of Protection, which until recently always kept its judgements secret, that highlight the power that town halls and judges have over people with learning difficulties or dementia.

Earlier this year a High Court judge sitting in the Court ruled that a woman suffering from cancer, who has a phobia of hospitals and needles, should be forced against her wishes to undergo life-saving treatment.

The Court, which was given the power to decide on personal welfare cases under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, can also order the withdrawal of life-support from patients as well as making them have abortions or undergo “innovative treatment”.

In the latest case, a council in the Midlands initially wanted to force contraception on a married woman who has an IQ of 53. None of those involved can be named. She has already had two babies, both of whom were taken away from her at birth by social services and put up for adoption over fears she would not be able to look after them.

The woman, known in the judgement as Mrs A, is now married to a man with an IQ of 65, and attends college as well as taking part in voluntary work.

A year ago social workers feared that she was suffering violence at the hands of her husband, and also that he had forced her to stop taking contraception because he wanted a baby, so the council began Court of Protection proceedings to “protect her interests”.

Solicitors, doctors and psychiatrists interviewed Mrs A in order to find out whether she understood the choices she had regarding birth control, and their implications.

The council argued that she was unable to understand the consequences of not using contraception such as the Pill or a coil, or to envisage what is involved in raising a child. But the Official Solicitor, representing the woman, argued that such a wide approach would mean many first-time mothers would appear to lack capacity.

The judge agreed that deciding whether a woman “understood enough about the practical realities of parenthood” would veer into a “paternalistic approach”.

On the narrower medical issue, he agreed that Mrs A lacked the capacity to decide whether to have contraceptive treatment. The judge said her decision to stop taking birth control was “not the product of her own free will” because of the “coercive pressure” placed upon her by her husband.

However he said that the council’s application was no longer for “force and restraint” to be used “so that contraception could be urgently administered”.

The judge said Mrs A’s social worker admitted “there would need to be police involvement” and it would be a “horrendous prospect” for her to be “physically removed from the family home and taken to have contraception under restraint and anaesthesia”.

He declined to make an order as to her best interests, leaving it for the council to assess the couple’s parenting abilities if she did become pregnant and then take “appropriate” steps. The council said it “reserves the right” to argue that force should be authorised in the future.

But the judge said: “It is obvious on the facts of this case, that any step towards long-term court imposed contraception by way of physical coercion, with its affinity to enforced sterilisation and shades of social engineering, would raise profound questions about state intervention in private and family life. Whilst the issue of the use of force has not been argued out at this hearing I cannot, on these facts, presently see how it could be acceptable.”

David Hewitt, a specialist in mental health law at Weightmans, said: “It seems from the judgment that, at least at the outset, the council thought it might need to have the police enforce an order that the woman take her contraceptive medication. That seems quite striking, yet because of the route the judge chose to take, it's still in prospect.”


Nothing will budge Muslim hatred

FIVE YEARS AGO THIS WEEK, the Gaza Strip was forcibly purged of its Jews. In the largest non-combat operation in the history of the Israeli Defense Forces, 50,000 troops were deployed to expel some 9,000 residents and destroy the 21 pioneering communities in which some of them had lived for nearly four decades. (Four communities in northern Samaria on the West Bank were also evacuated.)

The name given to this expulsion by Israel's government, then headed by Ariel Sharon, was "disengagement." The name implied, and a majority of Israelis appeared to believe, that by totally withdrawing from Gaza they would no longer be trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with Gaza's hostile and sometimes violent Arabs.

"What will we have gained by destroying thriving communities, dividing Israeli society, and embittering some of our most idealistic citizens?" one thoughtful Israeli commentator, Yossi Klein Halevi, wrote at the time in The Jerusalem Post. "The most obvious . . . gain is what we will lose: We will be freeing ourselves from more than a million Palestinians."

Many Israelis -- and many supporters of Israel internationally -- bought this argument, persuaded, perhaps, by the Sharon government's sweeping vision of the blessings that would flow from so radical an act of ethnic self-cleansing. "It will be good for us and will be good for the Palestinians," forecast then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was to succeed Sharon a few months later. "It will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East." Olmert prayed that with disengagement, "a new morning of great hope will emerge in our part of the world," and that Israelis and Palestinians together would make the Middle East "what it was destined to be from the outset, a paradise for all the world."

Had any of this actually come to pass, the trauma and destruction of the Gaza expulsion might have been justifiable. In fact, disengagement was a staggering failure, a disaster in every respect. It was seen by most Palestinians not as a courageous act of goodwill and an invitation to peace, but as a retreat under fire, much like the Israeli flight from southern Lebanon five years earlier. It led therefore not to less terrorism but to more, as Palestinian militants vastly expanded their arsenal of rockets, guns, and explosives, and launched thousands of attacks over the border into Israel.

Far from encouraging Palestinian moderation, disengagement energized Gaza's most extreme and hateful irredentists. Five months after the Jewish residents left, Hamas swept to victory in the Palestinian Authority elections; a year later, it seized total control in Gaza, routing Fatah in a savage civil war.

The fruit of disengagement was not the "new morning of great hope" that Sharon and Olmert -- and their countless enablers in the West -- envisioned. Instead, it was an erosion of respect for Israeli strength and deterrence. It was the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and the three-week Israel-Hamas war that began at the end of 2008. It was the entrenchment of Iran, via Hamas and Hezbollah, on Israel's northern and southern borders. It was the burning of Gaza's synagogues and the trashing of its famous greenhouses. It was the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, who has been a hostage in Gaza for more than four of the five years since Israel abandoned the territory to its enemies. It was the further blackening of Israel's international reputation. It was the immiseration of Gaza's Palestinians under a fundamentalist Hamas dictatorship.

Most Israelis who supported disengagement now express regret. But too many of them remain in the grip of the "peace process" delusion -- the Oslo chimera that peace with the Palestinians is achievable through diplomacy, concessions, and transfers of land. It isn't, and Israel and its friends must start saying so. Rather than endlessly professing its willingness to negotiate and its appetite for a "two-state solution," Israel should tell the truth: Peace will never be possible with "partners" that refuse to accept the permanent legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East.

Disengagement was an abomination for a lot of reasons, but for one above all: It began from the premise that any future Palestinian state must be wiped clean of Jews. Did Israel really need to learn the hard way that peace will never lie down that road?


The U.S. judiciary's Culturally Sanctioned Allergy to Christianity Flourishes

Does anyone find it ironic that the very people who protest so loudly over supposed affronts to Islamic religious expression are often so hostile to the slightest Christian religious expressions -- even incidental expressions?

The left is going bonkers over opposition to the ground zero mosque in the name of religious freedom, but the left's assault on Christian liberties proceeds unabated. One very recent example is the ruling by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that memorial crosses erected and displayed along Utah public roads to honor fallen state highway troopers must be removed as unconstitutional.

In case you are wondering how highway crosses could remotely be considered to have violated any constitutional provision, the court tells us: "We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion."

So here we go again. Our politically correct-intoxicated culture is so allergic to expressions and symbols of Christianity that our courts leap to absurd conclusions to cordon off the chief allergen: Christianity.

To fully appreciate the outrageousness of the court's decision, you must understand that the memorial crosses were placed along Utah public roads by a private -- not public -- organization, the Utah Highway Patrol Association, which also maintains the crosses.

The egregious constitutional infraction here is not that the government put up the signs, which it didn't, but that the memorials were placed along public roads. Thus, "reasonable" passing motorists -- as opposed, I guess, to those afflicted with anti-Christian road rage -- might well assume that the government is endorsing the Christian religion. Horror of horrors. My gosh, what would the largely Christian Founders think?

Since the court is invoking the reasonable-man standard, let me just challenge its fundamental assertion right off the bat. I don't think it's a reasonable inference at all that the government is making a religious statement by permitting the placement of these memorials along the public highway. On the other hand, I think the government would be (and is) making a statement against Christianity by denying this group access because of its paranoia about going into Christian-spawned anaphylactic shock.

Let's go through the constitutional analysis briefly again. The First Amendment includes two religion clauses: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (the establishment clause), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (the free exercise clause)." These so-called church-state separation cases usually involve the establishment clause, which has been so expanded by the courts over the years as to be nearly unrecognizable in some cases.

According to many courts, the state doesn't have to establish a national church to run afoul of the establishment clause. It only has to be deemed to have endorsed (or even slightly favored) a particular religion -- as you can see from the court's language above. This is absurd, but it's nevertheless the position many courts are purporting to edict.

Our judiciary has become so obsessed with preventing any hint of a nod toward Christianity (it doesn't exhibit similar concerns about favoritism toward other religions or faith-based secular themes) that it has thwarted the driving purpose of the establishment clause.

You see, the ultimate purpose of the establishment clause, just as it was with the free exercise clause, was to promote religious liberty. The Framers knew that if there were a national church, there would be substantially less religious liberty. But under the ludicrously expansive interpretations of this clause, the courts are diminishing religious liberty in the name of protecting it.

If, for example, a high-school administration forbids a valedictorian from referring to her faith in Christ during her valedictory address under the convoluted reasoning that a single student's voluntarily expressing her faith somehow constitutes an endorsement by the school administration -- and thus the state -- it is prohibiting her freedom of religious expression and her free exercise rights. But given the dominance of secular forces in our culture, such concerns don't even occur to the courts.

It would be ridiculous enough for a court to hold that a permissive display on a public road of a cross erected and maintained by a private group with the express purpose of proselytizing constituted an impermissible state endorsement of the Christian religion. But it's insultingly offensive for this court to hold that such a permissive display of a cross whose primary purpose is to honor the fallen -- not to endorse Christianity -- is unconstitutional.

And don't tell me the court is erring on the side of caution here. No, its ruling is affirmatively hurting people and violating their real rights in the name of rights that don't exist, and it's shameful and unacceptable.


Child care’s debtors prison

And women wonder why men won't "commit"!

How many real “Deadbeat Dads” are there? Is it the same number of those divorced fathers who have been put into a debtor’s prison that has been created in order to supposedly catch the deadbeats?

Let’s say for example that you are a fellow who is divorced and you paid your child care. But you lost your job during the Great Recession and you have fallen behind on your payments. Does that make you a deadbeat? And let’s also say for example that your ex-wife works at a decent job where she doesn’t need the extra income to take care of the kids. Should she be able to get a bonus off the sweat of your brow? Or better yet, let’s say she gets remarried to a fellow who has a decent job as well. Do they need to squeeze more money out of the “deadbeat” when they don’t need it?

The changes in the economy have created more and more situations like the aforementioned—and more and more such divorced fathers who are anchored in debt because of either job loss, prison time (where you can be put if you don’t make your payments), or the fact that pay scale for unskilled labor has been dramatically shrunk over the years by immigration and globalization.

Even if the fellow does work, his wages are often garnished to the point where he can barely make ends meet on his own part. Or states can do nasty tricks like suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment, which also continues the cycle. And if the fellow remarried to a woman with children, there’s a family that’s going to have a hard time making it, given all the previous debt on top of what families typically owe for homes, cars and credit cards.

The stereotype of the impoverished single mother and the divorced dad driving around town in a sports car with the new girlfriend who doesn’t see his kids is still a powerful one, enough to basically keep the debtor’s prison of the child care system in place without anyone challenging it.

But the question of fairness, justice and the fact that there are and will eventually be lots of males in this predicament, makes this situation a sleeper political issue. It’s there waiting to be picked up by an enterprising politician who could ride a reform wave a long, long way.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


20 August, 2010

Bloody-minded British bank

It matches my experience of British banks. Brits of all sorts seem to LOVE bureaucracy and the tiny bits of the power it gives them over other people -- power that they regularly use to hurt and frustrate. It's why the word "jobsworth" is unique to Britain. It refers to a person who engages in just such petty behaviour.

I contrasted British and American banks long ago (See here under the heading BUSINESS) and clearly nothing has changed

They call themselves the helpful bank. But bosses made a mockery of their advertising slogan by their treatment of a woman with terminal cancer.

Dorothy Southernwood, 61, had flown to Germany for life-prolonging treatment - after first making sure she had enough cash in her account to meet the £27,000 bill. Once abroad however the retired dinner lady found that NatWest refused to transfer the money to the clinic treating her.

Five days of phone calls and pleas could not persuade the bank to relax their security procedures and let her have the money. Even though Mrs Southernwood and her husband Victor, 65, have banked with NatWest for 30 years their branch manager refused to use her discretionary powers to allow the wire transfer. Instead she insisted the couple post written authorisation from Germany.

The bank backed down last night only after being contacted by the Daily Mail.

Mr Southernwood, a mechanic from Huddersfield, and his wife's daughter Sarah Gash, 38, also travelled to the St George Clinic in Bad Aibling, near Munich, and have spent much of their time there pleading with the bank.

Louise Morgan, 40, the eldest of Mrs Southernwood's three daughters, said the incident had reduced her mother to tears. 'I can't believe NatWest were being so unsympathetic when they have banked with them for so long,' she said. 'People shouldn't believe the adverts on TV, they are not the friendly face of banking. It's disgraceful what they have done. 'I can't believe in this day and age a problem like this can't be quickly resolved with the press of a button.'

Mr Southernwood managed to keep the German hospital authorities happy by taking out 860 pounds from cash machines until NatWest stopped his card.

His wife discovered she had cancer following tests in the spring. Further scans showed the disease had spread and Mrs Southernwood was told the condition was terminal and she had only months to live. The German clinic uses heat treatment in an attempt to destroy cancer cells. Patients also follow a strict diet and receive oxygen and magnetic therapy. The treatment is supposed to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

A NatWest spokesman said: 'We sincerely apologise for any stress and inconvenience caused to Mr and Mrs Southernwood. 'We have now arranged for the funds to be transferred electronically to them and will be reimbursing them for out of pocket expenses they have incurred.'


Last Catholic adoption agency faces closure after Charity Commission ruling

The last remaining Roman Catholic adoption agency to resist Labour’s equality laws is facing closure, after the charity watchdog ruled that it could not avoid considering same-sex couples as potential parents.

Catholic Care had been given hope earlier this year that it could get around the controversial anti-discrimination rules that forced other agencies either to close down or sever their links with the church.

In March a High Court judge had ordered that the Charity Commission consider whether to allow the agency's request to continue refusing to consider same-sex parents, thanks to a loophole intended to protect homosexual charities.

Catholic Care had argued that a clause of Labour’s Sexual Orientation Regulations, inserted to ensure gay organisations could not be sued for discrimination, entitled it to change its "charitable objects".

But in a judgement published on Thursday, the quango has ruled that it will still not allow Catholic Care to restrict its services to heterosexuals only.

The Charity Commission agreed that organisations can sometimes bend the rules and it conceded that Catholic Care, whose adoption agency is part of a wider social care organisation run by the Diocese of Leeds, offered a “valuable, high-quality service”.

But it ruled that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is a “serious matter” because it “departs from the principle of treating people equally”, and that religious views cannot justify such bias because adoption is a public matter.

The watchdog added that it believed same-sex couples can be “successful” adoptive parents and that even if Catholic Care closes down, the children it would have helped would be placed with new families through “other channels”.

Andrew Hind, the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: “This has been a complex and sensitive decision which the Commission has reached carefully, following the principles set out by the High Court, case law and on the basis of the evidence before us. Clearly the interests of children are paramount.

“In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances. We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate.”

The ruling means that Catholic Care is likely to have to close its adoption service, as if it decided instead to consider same-sex couples as parents it would be going against Catholic teaching on the importance of children having a mother and father. This would mean the agency, which can trace its origins back to an orphanage set up in Leeds in 1863, would lose church funding.

Since Labour’s homosexual rights law came into effect in January 2009, all the other 11 Catholic adoption agencies in England have either had to close down or sever their ties with the church hierarchy. Catholic Care was the last to hold out as it launched its legal bid.

The charity, which only found out the judgement was coming on Wednesday, has not yet decided whether to close its adoption service. But it said that it planned to set up an “adoption support service” instead, for those who have already been adopted or become adoptive parents with its help.

A spokesman for Catholic Care said: “The Charity is very disappointed with the outcome. Catholic Care will now consider whether there is any other way in which the Charity can continue to support families seeking to adopt children in need.

“In any event, Catholic Care will seek to register as an adoption support agency offering a service to those who were adopted in the past and are now seeking information about their background, and also to support adoptive parents already approved by Catholic Care.”


Under feminist influence, Leftists deplore attractiveness in women

Conservatives are more normal

A local Minnesota Republican Party operative yesterday waded into one of the signature political issues of our time: "Who's hotter — Republican women or Democratic women?"

The Senate District 56 GOP Party posted a Web video yesterday laying out its position on the hotness question. It leads with images of prominent Republicans such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, and Michele Bachmann; the soundtrack, naturally, is the Tom Jones chestnut, "She's a Lady."

Then, there's an abrupt switch to the other side of the aisle. The theme is subtly conveyed with the strains of the Baha Men hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Photos of Michelle Obama, Janet Reno, Rosie O'Donnell and Hillary Clinton flash on the screen.

The video quickly made its viral way through the blogosphere, and provoked strong reaction from state politicos and others. State Democratic chairman Brian Melendez called the video "sexist and offensive."

"The day when a woman was judged by her looks rather than her competence and intelligence should have passed three generations ago," Melendez said in a statement Tuesday. "But apparently Republican leaders in the year 2010 still think of that bygone era as the good old days, and want to bring it back." Melendez called for the video's removal and an apology from branch GOP chairman Joe Salmon.

Local Republican state House candidate Andrea Kieffer also requested that the video be removed, Paul Schmelzer reports for the Minnesota Independent. Kieffer called the video a "juvenile attempt at 'marketing.' "

"This is not something I would condone, and I am sending a request that the webmaster take it down immediately," she wrote in communication with the Independent.

As of Wednesday morning, the party had removed the video from its website.

Still, Salmon took a parting shot at what he seems to view as the humorless enforcers of political correctness. "It [is] really unfortunate to relearn that the other side is severely lacking a sense of humor," Salmon tweeted Tuesday.

Calls and emails to Salmon and the site's webmaster were not immediately returned Wednesday morning. But webmaster Randy Brown told the Minnesota Independent yesterday that the video was mainly intended to inject levity in the election season. "[I]ts only intention was to bring a smile to a few peoples' faces, and possibly irritate a few others. Is it fair? Does that matter? It wasn't intended to be fair. It was intended to be funny," Brown said.

Even though the offending video has been removed from the District 56 website, it of course lives on in YouTube — with the clear disclaimer that it's meant to provoke a strong reaction, and plainly succeeds. Because of its content, YouTube also requests that users register and confirm they are over the age of 18 prior to viewing. With all that in mind, the link to the video is here.


Australia: 'Muslim witness must remove burqa' - says judge

A PERTH judge has ordered that a Muslim woman must remove a full burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case. Judge Shauna Deane today ruled that the witness must remove her niqab, or burqa face covering, when she gives evidence to the jury.

The judge said she did not consider it appropriate that the witness give evidence with her face covered. However she stressed she was not making a decision which was making a legal precedent, it was simply her ruling in these circumstances.

Earlier a defence lawyer had argued that the Muslim woman should remove her burqa to give evidence in the fraud trial, just as she would have to appear without the covering in an Islamic court.

But District Court Judge Shauna Deane rejected the argument as not relevant, as the matter is not being heard in an Islamic court.

The judge heard lawyers' submissions on whether a 36-year-old Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a full burqa, also called a niqab, while giving evidence in a fraud trial.

The woman, an Islamic studies teacher, is due to give evidence for the prosecution in the fraud trial of a Muslim college director, Anwar Sayed.

In court, defence lawyer Mark Trowell, QC, said the woman's wish to wear the burqa was a "preference she has". "It's not an essential part of the Islamic faith. If she was in an Islamic court she would be required to remove it," he said. Judge Deane replied: "This isn't an Islamic court."

Defence lawyers raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman's facial expressions if they could not see her face.

Prosecutor Mark Ritter, SC, told the court the woman wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burqa and that could affect her evidence. "It goes beyond stress . . . it would have a negative impact," Mr Ritter said. He said the woman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, had worn the burqa since the age of 17 and went without it only before her family and male blood relatives.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


19 August, 2010

British marriage registrars branded bigots for avoiding gay weddings by 'swapping shifts on religious grounds'

A sensible compromise branded as illegal

Two registrars are under investigation after being accused of juggling rotas to avoid conducting civil partnership ceremonies. The pair allegedly claimed they could not preside over the civil partnerships because it went against their religious beliefs.

Instead of simply refusing to carry out the ceremonies, the two, who work at Lambeth Register Office, in South London, are understood to have informally swapped shifts. This is said to have been exposed when a registrar giving a talk at a Lambeth Council ‘diversity training’ seminar used it as an illustration. Sources claim the registrar used the shift-swapping tactic as an illustration of good practice.

A gay member of staff was horrified that staff were swapping shifts as a way to ‘get around the law’. She complained to the council’s chief executive, Derrick Anderson, and an inquiry was launched.

Liberal Democrat councillor Brian Palmer, who himself had a civil partnership at Lambeth on the first day new laws came into force in 2005, then took up the matter. He wrote a letter asking council leader Steve Reed if he was aware that registrars were ‘apparently circumventing Lambeth’s publicly stated equalities standards and the law by refusing to conduct civil partnerships’.

‘He will know that such actions will be grossly offensive to many members of the borough’s large LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community including myself,’ Mr Palmer wrote. Branding the ‘avoidance of duty’ as ‘wholly unacceptable as well as illegal’, Mr Palmer went on: ‘What steps is he taking to ensure that all members of the community using Lambeth Registrar Services are treated with respect and equally under the law?’

Labour leader Mr Reed replied: ‘This council does not tolerate bigotry for any reason.’ He said he had asked the chief executive to ensure all members of staff were aware of their ‘ contractual obligation to provide services equally to all residents who are entitled to use them and to ensure all managers are making this happen’.

Lambeth Council confirmed an investigation had been launched. But a spokesman said nobody had been suspended. He added: ‘Lambeth Council is fully committed and supportive of civil partnerships. 'The Registrars’ service has never declined to administer a civil partnership enquiry, booking, taking of a notice or indeed delivering a ceremony or registration. ‘We are very clear that no one has, or ever will in the future, be turned down for a civil partnership for any reason other than that we cannot accommodate the date or time they request.’

The Civil Partnership Act, which allowed homosexuals to establish partnerships with all the legal rights of married couples, came into force in 2005.

Last year the Appeal Court ruled that a woman registrar in Islington, North London, who refused to perform the ceremonies because they were against her Christian beliefs broke the law. Judges said the right to express a strong Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals.


British privacy law proposed to stop rise in gagging orders by judges

Britain could get its first ever privacy law to stop judges creating one by stealth through the courts, a justice minister said. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Lord McNally suggested that the right to privacy could be enshrined in law after a number of celebrities were awarded so-called “super-injunctions” to gag the press.

But campaigners for freedom of speech will fear that any new privacy law could frustrate investigations by journalists that are clearly in the public interest, such as The Daily Telegraph’s inquiry last year into MPs’ expenses.

Lord McNally, a Liberal Democrat minister in the Ministry of Justice, was speaking after a spate of gagging orders on the press — which have been criticised in some cases for protecting the wealthy — were ordered by the courts.

Injunctions and super-injunctions — so called because even their existence cannot be reported — have been used by sportsmen such as golfers Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods, and John Terry, the former England football captain, to protect their privacy.

Last Friday, a leading Premier League footballer won a High Court injunction to prevent the publication of claims about his private life.

Lord McNally said: “There has been a general consensus that a new piece of legislation that clarifies, consolidates and removes some of the more dangerous aspects of the way case law has grown up is something that is desirable.”

The Coalition last month announced a consultation on a new defamation bill, claiming that the courts were restricting freedom of expression. The Bill would cover the growth in “no win, no fee” libel cases and build on an existing private members’ bill on libel law reform that was presented to the House of Lords in May by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Lib Dem peer.

However, Lord McNally suggested in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that the new legislation would go further, in effect creating a privacy law. He conceded that there were concerns that a privacy law had been created through successive rulings by judges. Some, such as Mr Justice Eady, have been heavily criticised.

Lord McNally said: “There was a danger that we were getting towards having privacy law by judicial decision. If we are going to have a privacy law it should be openly debated and freely decided by Parliament.”

The number of injunctions, in which a court orders a newspaper not to publish a story, has risen since the 1998 Human Rights Act. Lord McNally said that the newer “super-injunction” was “something that has caused concern and is something that will be dealt with”.

The Master of the Rolls, the most senior civil court judge in England and Wales, has set up a committee to examine the use of super-injunctions and other injunctions which impact on press freedom.

Lord McNally said super-injunctions were “something that has grown up by stealth, rather than by considered desire of Parliament and therefore they will be in the sights when they look at the reform of the law”. The new legislation would be a “consolidation” and “clarification” of the case law that will “hopefully remove some of the more onerous aspects of the way that case law has grown up”.

The Government could set up a joint committee of both Houses to take evidence in public “which would get us the balance that is needed”, he said. Hearings could take place next year, and proposals form the basis of a new Bill in the Queen’s Speech next autumn. The legislation could be on the statute books by 2012, he said.

Any new Bill would build on the work of Lord Lester, whose private members bill suggested that libel claimants will have to demonstrate “substantial harm” to their reputations if they want to sue successfully in the courts.

Lord McNally said a privacy law would not go as far as in France, where the media is heavily restricted. “For us, the collected wisdom is that our law as it stands is slightly out of kilter, has encouraged a certain amount of libel tourism and does need an overhaul,” he said.


The Ground Zero mosque controversy shows that America manages its hatreds better than others

Shikha Dalmia below rightly notes American tolerance but saying that Americans "hate" Muslims is too big a stretch. "Dislike" would be defensible, though. Americans have good reason to dislike many of the things that Muslims do -- murdering innocent Americans, for instance

Sarah Palin has not only revealed herself to be linguistically challenged in "refudiating" the proposed "mosque" near Ground Zero, but also emotionally overwrought. "It stabs hearts," she tweeted to her fellow mosque-bashers. But Palin notwithstanding, the way this country has comported itself during this controversy represents a damn fine moment for humanity. As a naturalized American, let me just say that if every country handled its hatreds as well as this one, this world wouldn't be a half-bad place to live in.

It is painfully obvious that opposition to the Cordoba House, as this structure would be called, is motivated less by a desire to protect the memory of 9/11 victims and more by a knee-jerk suspicion of Muslims. If it were not, mosque-bashers wouldn't have so much difficulty processing some basic but crucial facts about the structure. The "mosque," for instance, is not really a mosque but an Islamic community center--complete with a swimming pool, auditorium, bookstores and restaurants—along the lines of the many YMCAs or Jewish community centers around the country.

It will house a place of worship, but it won't blare muezzin calls summoning Muslims to pray five times a day, suggesting that it has a fairly relaxed attitude toward Quranic strictures. Nor will it be a Muslim-only place where members of other faiths are unwelcome; rather it will be open to anyone willing to pay its dues. Best (or worst) of all, it won't be "on" Ground Zero, but two blocks and a bend away at a spot not visible to World Trade Center visitors.

None of this is preventing some opponents from bizarrely suggesting that the center represents a surreptitious attempt to glorify Islamic victory on American soil. But a victory statement communicated through esoteric means negates itself because such means signal weakness, not strength. What's more, it is one odd victory statement when its alleged authors are not claiming any moral high ground for their putative side. To the contrary, the couple, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, who are spearheading the center, have "refudiated" the 9/11 attacks in particular and Islamic terrorism in general.

They have qualms about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that plenty of nonterrorist Americans would share. And they are Sufis, the moderate and mystical sect of Islam that is known for its refined music and art, not its militancy. In fact, by all auguries, they are modern and liberated Muslims who seem rather embarrassed by the hot-headed jihadis who speak for their religion. Their whole project was conceived in order to highlight the more benign, moderate side of Islam and build bridges with other faiths. Newsweek Editor Fareed Zakaria is absolutely right when he notes that, "if there is ever going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed mosque."

It is possible that the center is really an elaborate ruse for some sinister anti-American agenda—just as it is possible that America's next president could be a Manchurian candidate installed by the Chinese. But to suspect such an agenda in the face of massive evidence to the contrary testifies to just how deep-seated the suspicion against Muslims is in this country.

But this is precisely why it is all the more remarkable that this resentment hasn't boiled over into active persecution—something that would hardly be possible any place else in the world. To be sure, this controversy has triggered a backlash against other proposed mosques in the country, with opponents holding protest rallies with dogs in tow to taunt Muslims who regard dogs as napaak, or impure. And Republicans in some races have turned this controversy into something of a rallying cry to energize their base.

But that's about the worst of it.

On the other hand, to this country's enormous credit, New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously rejected demands that it subvert local zoning ordinances allowing houses of worship in the area "as a right" to scuttle the project. (Mosque opponents had wanted the commission to declare the existing Burlington Coat Factory on the site a landmark so that nothing else could be built there.)

The losers have appealed the decision, although they know they have virtually no chance of prevailing. Yet so far they have resorted not to violence but persuasion to convince the couple to go elsewhere. Even Palin's silly tweets are infused with a sweet civility, asking Muslims to reconsider as a gesture of goodwill toward their fellow Americans.

Her request might be wrong-headed, but can anyone think of another country where a major national figure would resort to gentle cajoling to win over members of a vilified minority? Certainly not in continental Europe, which is busy enacting burqa bans for no other reason except that the majority wants to bend a minority to its norms. And it would never happen in India, my native country, where Hindu lynch mobs, aided and abetted by the ruling Congress Party, orchestrated a mini pogrom of Sikhs following the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard.

It is out of question that a Sikh gurudwara could ever be erected next to Gandhi's residence, where she was assassinated, against the will of the majority Hindu population. And Indian Muslims have yet not been allowed to rebuild the mosque that Hindus led a national march to tear down with their bare hands in 1991—not even as recompense for the bloodletting they visited upon Muslims following the mosque razing.

The point is not to pick on any country. The point is that it is not easy, even for liberal democracies, to rein in the tyranny of the majority. That in America no majority can forcibly evict the imam and his family against his will is not nothing. Nor is the fact that if anyone tried to, they would have to contend with the full force of the law, in contrast to India where the perpetrators of the Sikh and Muslim massacres have still not been brought to justice. No people anywhere has yet found a way to rationally examine its hatreds before venting them. But at least America's commitment to property rights and religious liberties runs deep enough that it can contain that hatred.

America, in short, represents not just how far humanity has yet to travel on the road to complete civility, but how far humanity has already traveled. For now, if the rest of the world just caught up with America, it would be a huge leap forward for the cause of toleration.


Saudi comedy shows role reversal for men and women: provokes anger among male population

A role reversal comedy shown on Saudi television in which a woman marries four husbands has hit the very nerve it satirised - male pride and double standards.

The comedy was an episode in Saudi Arabia’s most celebrated satirical series, Tash Ma Tash or No Big Deal, a take-off of social prejudices shown annually during the holy month of Ramadan.

The central character takes four husbands, explaining herself using the conventional arguments Saudi men use to exercise their legal and religious privilege of marrying four times.

When she remarries for the first time she complains that her existing husband has stopped caring about his looks after five years, and is preoccupied with work.

The next marriage is for a dare with friends, and the fourth marriage, to a Syrian, she explains by saying that she is now bored with Saudi men.

Then she decides she wants to marry for a fifth time, making the four husbands draw lots to see who will be divorced and plunging them into a morass of jealousy.

Conservative imams, currently on the defensive as King Abdullah attempts to modernise some social attitudes in the country, have been predictably hostile, while men on internet bulletin boards have attacked the series as promoting prostitution.

“What this does is hurt us,” said one imam, Sheikh Saad Al-Buraik. “In the name of comedy, they make fun of our religion and beliefs.” There are regular calls to ban Tash Ma Tash, but it is said to be one of King Abdullah’s favourite programmes. Last week, an episode also provoked controversy, portraying two men who visit the brother of their dead mother, a foreign-born Arab, only to discover he is a Christian priest.

The shock lies in discovering that despite his religion, they come to respect him for his honesty and generosity.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


18 August, 2010

British justice on the side of the crooks again

Ex soldier subjected to 'intolerable' abuse by teenage thugs threatened with jail after confronting tormentors with a knife

Plagued for years by a gang of teenage thugs, former soldier John Cawley was at the very end of his tether. He had endured a catalogue of misery during which youths abused him in the street, broke his fence and hit his brickwork with hammers. They had damaged stone posts on his driveway, dangled from trees in his back garden and repeatedly kicked footballs at his walls and windows.

Over a five year period the father-of-two reported the gang of tearaways to the police around a dozen times but his nightmare had continued unabated.

But when he eventually snapped and confronted the gang in the street he was the one who was hauled before the courts and threatened with jail.

The judge even commiserated with him and demanded to know why more wasn’t being done to crack down on the yobs. Judge Andrew Woolman told him: ‘I’d like to know what somebody is going to do about this situation. ‘I have no doubt that for many years you were subjected to provocation of all types and forms from a large body of youths outside. ‘I appreciate your sense of injustice that nothing is being done by others about making the situation in your street tolerable.’

It later emerged the ringleader, Matthew O’Brien, 14, had been repeatedly in trouble with police but had been taken on a day out to meet football stars from Blackburn Rovers in an attempt to stop his unruly behaviour. However he continued to offend and was eventually handed an ASBO after officers admitted their leniency had backfired.

Preston Crown Court heard Cawley, 54, a warehouse worker, had been plagued by the gang of yobs since 2005. After they repeatedly kicked a football against his home he ran out into the street with a knife and shouted: ‘If I get hold of you I’ll kill you.’ He admitted he had been wrong to confront the gang with a weapon but said he had been pushed to the limit.

The father-of-two from Blackburn, Lancs said: ‘I know I was wrong to have the knife and I will serve my punishment but I think the system is a farce when you think of the way these children have been treated with kid gloves.

‘I just lost my temper after becoming sick and tired with all the abuse I was getting. I’ve never been in trouble with the police before and have served my country yet I am threatened with jail.’ He said: ‘These young yobbos deliberately try and get a reaction by antagonising us and then claiming innocence. They know the law can’t touch them. As far as I’m concerned the law is a complete waste of time.’

One neighbour, who also suffered at the hands of the gang, said: ‘What John did was wrong but I’m sure most people won’t blame him especially if they learned one of the yobs had been treated to a meeting with his football idols.’

O’Brien’s history emerged earlier this month when he was given an ASBO for smashed a football ball into the face of a pensioner.

A spokesman for Lancashire police said: ‘There have been 12 incidents reported by Cawley to police since the start of 2005.

‘Seven of the incidents have been reported this year, five of which relate to antisocial behaviour, one for damage to Mr Cawley’s house and the final incident is the offence for which he has been convicted.

‘A number of crime prevention measures have been offered to Mr Cawley which he has declined. Police carry out frequent patrols in the Highcroft area and a special operation codenamed Trojan also runs regularly on the estate to target antisocial behaviour, although we have received few complaints from other residents.

‘Several days ago we secured an ASBO against 14-year-old Matthew O’Brien who was behind much of the antisocial behaviour suffered by Cawley and in fact these incidents have helped to secure the order.’

Cawley was ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid community work after admitting possessing a knife in a public place.

O’Brien was given a two-year ASBO banning him from certain areas, forbidding him from acting in an anti-social manner and playing football in the road. He is also under a curfew from 8pm to 6am each day.


Why are men colluding in their own humiliation?

Movies and TV portray men as dolts, says a British mother concerned for her son

Boys are being out-performed by girls academically, socially and at work. They have worse GCSE results and fewer of them go on to higher education. Male graduates are 50 per cent more likely to be unemployed than girls.

Partly, this is the result of the feminisation of education —- 85 per cent of ­primary school teachers are women, while in GCSEs a high proportion of marks come from continual assessment, which suits girls, whereas boys tend to perform better in do-or-die exams.

And it is partly the result of all those centuries of male hegemony, which has left them complacent and ill-equipped to deal with competition from women.

There are other factors, of course. The loss of our manufacturing base means there are far fewer employment opportunities for the non-academic male.

Many working-class boys are deprived not only of jobs but also of fathers — or indeed any positive male role models in their community at all.

But in recent years a worrying additional ingredient has been added to this depressing vista: the increasingly common ­cultural message that men are dolts.

From Outnumbered (long-suffering husband whose children run rings round him, none more so than his daughter) to the immensely popular My Family, where Zoe Wanamaker’s spiky character, Susan, effortlessly manipulates her hapless husband Ben (who only became a dentist because he failed to get the grades to be a doctor), men are portrayed as idiots saved only by the wit and wisdom of women.

Even George Clooney, one of Hollywood’s sexiest and most bankable male actors, has fallen victim. That Saturday night DVD we watched was Up In The Air, which sees Clooney first dismissed as an ageing has-been by his young female colleague and then ultimately betrayed by the sexy, beguiling woman he decides he might finally want to settle down with.

I can understand women of my generation and the one following it taking part in this cultural assassination of men: we grew up, after all, being positively encouraged to fight our corner in what was still a vicious sex war.

But what I don’t understand is the way men themselves are colluding in what has now become a dangerous and damaging trend. Up In The Air was written and directed by men. The same is true for Outnumbered and the vast majority of episodes of My Family.

I can’t help but wonder where this will end and what sort of men our son and his peers will become.

The world has changed, and we must all change with it. Women will not return to subservience any more than men can return to a time when physical prowess cemented their dominance.

So equality would seem to me to be a pretty good way forward. Equality of opportunity, I mean, as well as equality of the sexes.

It’s time to call a truce, or we will all be casualties of the gender wars.


Muslim football team practices 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. during Ramadan

Rather amusing, on the whole

A Michigan high school football team is holding preseason practices in the middle of the night to help its Muslim players practice both faith and football.

The predominantly Muslim squad from Dearborn says the nocturnal regimen is a way for players to eat and drink while observing the holy month of daytime fasting known as Ramadan that started last week.

The August heat also played a factor in Fordson High coach Fouad Zaban's proposal to reverse the clock for a week of two-a-day practices.

Cutting practice wasn't an option at football-crazy Fordson, which is coming off a one-loss season and has won four state titles and three runner-up seasons since it was established in 1928. But nobody wanted to lessen the significance of Ramadan in the Detroit suburb widely known as the capital of Arab-America.

The moonlight practice is tailored for Adnan Restum and fellow Muslim teammates. Illuminated by the night lights on the football field, Restum recently joined a scrum of teammates at the end-zone water fountain, taking a break from a grueling preseason football workout to guzzle a drink.

In just a few hours, he wouldn't be able to take a sip. But the 17-year-old defensive tackle could rehydrate guilt-free during the 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. practice, and succumb to tempting boxes full of granola bars and chocolate milk, too.

"It feels really great," said Restum, who has been fasting since he was about 10. "If we're doing it during the day, we wouldn't have water and it would be really hot and everything."

Zaban proposed the late practices after realizing the rotating Ramadan would fall squarely during the start of a two-a-day practice schedule that launches football season.

Zaban, 40, a Muslim and former Fordson player, knows the high stakes. When Ramadan falls during football season, the players practice during daylight hours. But with August's heat and doubled practice schedule, concerns grew about players' health, particularly the high risk of heat stroke. "We know how hot it's been this summer -- it's not safe," Zaban said.

Working it out meant getting the approval of school and district administrators and the blessings of players, parents and police. Then, there were the residents in the surrounding neighborhood, who would hear more noise and see the illuminated field. So he sent letters explaining the decision.

Zaban is unaware of such schedule switches elsewhere, though other teams at the school and in the district have moved practices earlier or later in the day. It's been more than three decades since Ramadan last fell during football preseason and Fordson's Muslim population was far smaller then -- and, he notes, there were no field lights.

Zaban said the goal has been to let players break the fast at sundown and go to the mosque, and get players out in time for a meal and morning prayer before sunrise. The field is near bustling bakeries, cafes and restaurants catering to late-night customers.

But first, there are drills. "Keep running! Heads up!" Zaban yelled while leading a passing drill. And, when a receiver flubbed a one-handed catch, the coach barked, "Hey, two hands!" The result was 20 push-ups.

Zaban said whether players fast is a personal choice and never an issue raised by him or his staff. Still, he says, it shouldn't be an excuse for poor performance for the roughly 95 percent who do.

He ended the session before 4 a.m. with a message to the huddled, padded masses to "drink lots of water," "get a good meal in," and "man up."

Defensive tackle William Powell, one of the team's few non-Muslims, initially thought the coach was "out of his mind," but he's come around. In fact, he's even fasted. "I'm around 'em, so I've tried a couple times but it's hard," the 17-year-old said.

For Rami Fakih, a wide receiver and defensive back, the nocturnal regimen has taken some adjustment but for different reasons. The brother of recently crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih said he had to think twice before hitting the fountain. "Oh yeah," he said. "Then I remembered, you know. I looked up. There's no sun. I can drink. I can eat." With that, he walked off the field and into the darkness with plans to grab a quick bite with friends at a local bakery.


The menace of men who hate women

By David Aaronovitch, writing from Britain

IMAGINE for a moment that terrorist violence was, as some insist, linked to real grievances. Think what the women of the world might do to some of the men.

Let's say the Iranian authorities, who insist they will not be "swayed by the hue and cry in the West", do hang or stone Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for alleged adultery and murder. Would any Iranian diplomat be safe from the avenging female army?

Or the husband of Aisha, and the Taliban judge who ordered him to cut off his young wife's nose and ears after she dared to run away from her spouse's violence. What might the women's mujaheddin do to them? Set fire to their beards and cut off slowly the attributes they imagined conferred on them the right to mutilate another human being?

And the executioners of the nameless woman of Badghis. Or say Mullah Daoud, the Taliban big cheese who was one of three judges who declared that a widow who had become pregnant must be an adultress, and should be flogged in public until nearly dead and then shot in the head. "We gave this decision so that in future no one should have these illegal affairs," the mullah said, although no man has been punished.

The "Revolutionary Women's Command", unable to locate the mullah, would simply target any male in any country with a Pashtun name. "You must learn to suffer as we have suffered," a video made by a woman in a burka would say.

The cases are real, the fantasies of revenge are not. In some ways I wish they were. If only you could take these bearded, yelling, violent woman-haters and subject them to the same treatment they hand out. But it would be wrong, counter-productive, and there are so many of them.

Twenty years ago, political philosopher Amartya Sen raised the relatively undiscussed question of the missing women. In any population, he pointed out, you might expect slightly more women than men because of life expectancy. But in some parts of the world this wasn't the case. In China, there were 107 men to every 100 women. In India it was 108, and in Pakistan 111.

For whatever reason, this meant something like 100 million women were simply missing. So where had they gone?

Probably they were killed at birth, died avoidably in childbirth or were denied the same rights as males to medical care.

In a recent book on women in the developing world, Half the Sky, American writers Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write about how girls in India between the ages of one and five were 50 per cent more likely to die than their brothers. "More girls have been killed in the past 50 years precisely because they were girls than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century," they say.

Kristof estimates there are annually about 6000 "honour killings" (ie murders of women wanting minimal rights) worldwide. And as many as three million girls and women have been coerced - as opposed to recruited - into the Third World sex trade.

Weirdly, when Sen or Kristof and WuDunn or Time magazine point this out, the reaction of some in the West is to accuse them of a colonialist mentality.

One female Cambridge academic said last week - from the very belly of women's free speech and free agency - that the "affluent West" had "little to offer Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah-imitators". And a British critic of Half the Sky demanded: "Why are we so wonderful? Our society is still just as sexist, albeit in more subtle ways, than the burka-enforcing Taliban. Working on a farm and producing your own food is a far more viable and healthy option than slaving in a sweat or sex shop."

The dead woman of Badghis is in no position to argue that perhaps the West might have offered equality before the law, a fair trial, an absence of overwhelming judicial male violence, and life. She may have gone to her death with that "stoic docility" noted by Kristof and WuDunn. She is unlikely to have had any education, and may have regarded her death as in some way inevitable and necessary. No one seems to have asked for her views, or to have been interested in them.

And why should we be? We have our own battles to fight. We ought perhaps to lament the way the world is, the way its different cultures are, and then move on. It isn't as if we don't have plenty of stuff left over from our own misogynist past. Take that residual squeak of what the Iranians call the "golden penis" - the entitlement of the boy to a greater share - emitted every time girls do better at school. Up goes the whine that there is "feminisation" of education that disadvantages boys, who can only succeed when coursework is not assessed. What utter rubbish!

Here's why it matters so much. Even if we felt no moral imperative to help (and many do), we have every practical motive. We simply aren't cut off from the fate of the world's women. A small example surfaced last week after the shooting of the British couple in Pakistan.

We reported the cases of a number of young British women on the run from forced marriages and male "honour" violence in this country. As the Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood explained, when young Asian women have the chance and the education, they certainly want to exercise their own choice.

But far more than that, the oppression of women holds back social and economic development in societies that practise legal misogyny, making them poorer and more violent.

Birth rates are higher and poverty worse in the world's anti-women cultures, where girls are usually uneducated.

And where there are more young men than young women, as a result of polygamy and early death, I bet there is also more violence, more psychosexual dysfunction, more substitution of the bomb for the girlfriend. And we all get it in the neck.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


17 August, 2010

When kids were free

Things that the decay of morality has taken from us. Who can you trust in a society where "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? I myself remember a free-range childhood similar to the one described below -- JR

When I was a kid long, long ago, before time began, or anyone had thought of why time ought to begin, or what it might be good for, I lived in rural King George County, Virginia. The county bordered on the Potomac River and was mostly woods. Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground, on which my family lived, sloped down to Machodoc Creek, perhaps three-quarters of a mile wide.

Things were looser then. When I wanted to go shooting, I put my rifle, a nice .22 Marlin with a ten-power Weaver, on my shoulder and walked out the main gate. At the country store outside the gate I’d buy a couple of boxes of long rifles, no questions asked, and away my co-conspirator Rusty and I went to some field or swamp to murder beer cans.

Today if a kid of fifteen tried it, six squad cars and a SWAT team (in all likelihood literally) would show up with sirens yowling, the kid’s parents would be jailed, the store closed and its proprietors imprisoned, and the kid subjected to compulsory psychiatric examination. Times change.

In King George if a buddy and I wanted to go swimming, we might go to the boat dock, which was for public use, and jump in. We did this by day or night. Almost never were there other people around, certainly no lifeguard. Or we might take my canoe, bought with paper-route money, and paddle out into the nighttime water and glory in being young and free and jumping overboard to swim. No one thought anything of it. It was what kids did.

Today, unsupervised swimming is everywhere forbidden. Worse, swimming at night, hundreds of yards from shore. In a canoe without floation devices approved by the Coast Guard. No supervising adult? No proof of having taken a governmentally approved course in how to paddle a canoe? Impossible in these over-protected, vindictively mommified times.

We saw no need of floatation devices because we were flotation devices. We could swim, easily, fluently, because we had been doing it forever. I don’t think I knew anyone who couldn’t have swum the width of Machodoc. Nobody supervised us. Nobody thought we needed supervision. And we didn’t.

If we wanted to fish, an urge frequently upon us, we just got our poles and did. We caught mostly cat, perch, and bream and the occasional wildly combative eel. Adults had nothing to do with it. We didn’t need fishing permits. Nor did we need help.

What I didn’t notice then, but remember now, is that we didn’t look nervously about to see whether our elders might disapprove. We knew they wouldn’t. We were fishing. So what?

The whole world worked that way—unsupervised, unwatched, left alone. In winter the Cooling Pond on base froze deep, and way after dark fifty of us would sail across slick new ice on skates, unsupervised. Adults skated, but they were skaters, not Mommy. And if you wanted to stay late till you were the only one on the (huge) pond, sailing fast, ice hissing under blades, not tired because you are sixteen and don’t know what the word means—you did. No supervision.

The boys had cars. The county being mostly empty, we spent endless nights driving, driving, to Fredericksburg to get Might Mos at Hojos, or just putting miles behind us on winding roads through the woods, alone, with friends, with our girls.

What I remember is how free we were. Solzhenitsyn once told of stopping on some desert highway, getting out of his car, and marveling that no one knew where he was, or cared. That’s how it was in King George. You parked with your girlfriend for endless hours on some blind pull-off into the woods. No one asked where you had been or what you were doing or, more likely not doing. Parents didn’t care because they didn’t need to care.

In retrospect, it felt unregulated. And was. In today’s world of over-policing by militarized hostile cops, of metal-detectors and police in schools and compulsory anger-management classes and enforced ingestion of Ritalin or Prozac, King George sounds, well, dangerous. I mean, how can you let kids run around as they like, with…with….guns, (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) and beer, and unregistered canoes without supervision by a caring adult, and…?

The answer of course is that we supervised ourselves. Within limits, anyway. I do remember lying on the roof of my father’s station wagon and looking up at the brake pedal because I hadn’t taken that unbanked downhill S-turn on Indian Town Road quite as well as I had planned.

But, being Southern kids, we boys knew how to handle guns, and the girls knew how to handle us, and though the country boys were physically tough from doing real work (consult a history book), we were not crazy in the head, as the phrase was. To the extent that adolescents are willing to be, I guess we were happy. We just didn’t know it.

The wretechedness we see today—the kid who shoots ten classmates to death, the alleged students strung out on crystal meth, the suicides, the frequent pregnancies—just didn’t happen. Why? Because (I strongly suspect) we were left the hell alone. The boys were allowed to be boys and the girls, girls. We grew like weeds, as our natures directed, and so did not have anorexia or bulimia or the sullen smoldering anger that comes of being a guy kid forced to be a girl or androgyne or flower.

I cannot speak well for the girls, except to say that they were sane, good-natured, and splendid. I do know that the boys needed, as plants need sunlight, to take canoes up unknown creeks, to swim and bike and compete—without a caring adult. In fall we used to play hours of pick-up basketball at the base gym —unsupervised. The brighter of us read voraciously. Some took up ham radio or read physiology texts. But we needed physical exertion, adventure, and freedom.

We had them. The consequence? Our heads were screwed on right. We probably even thought that the world looked to be a good place for a while. Although the entire high school had easy access to fire arms, nobody ever shot anyone. The idea would have seemed lunatic. In rare fights, boys might punch each other in the nose. Pick up a tire iron? Kick the other guy in the head? Not a chance.

The foregoing will enrage the whole sodden bolus of therapists, psychological beard-scratchers, counselors, feminists, fruit-juice drinkers, and congenitally insecure promoters of sun block. But it worked.


Appeal Court halts California homosexual marriages pending appeal

That's pretty good coming from the 9th circus. It tends to show how flimsy was the reasoning of the lower court judge

SAME-sex weddings in California are on hold indefinitely after a federal appeals court blocked the unions today while it considers the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.

The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, trumps a lower court judge's order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday (AEST).

Chief US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker decided last week to allow gay marriages to go forward after ruling that the ban, known as Proposition 8, violated equal protection and due process rights of gays and lesbians guaranteed under the US Constitution.

The Proposition 8 legal team quickly appealed Judge Walker's ruling in a case that many believe will end up before the Supreme Court.


Those pesky genes again

Time machine notwithstanding, report card comments may be the best way to preview who your child will be as an adult.

So suggests compelling new research that shows teachers' evaluations of youngsters' personalities 40 years ago still hold true today, with the now middle-aged subjects behaving in ways highly consistent with their childhood assessments. The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

"It really speaks to the remarkable stability of personality," says study co-author Christopher Nave, a doctoral candidate at the University of California Riverside. "What people see in you as a child really does translate to behaviours that others can see throughout the majority of your life."

Between 1959 and 1967, some 2,400 elementary school students of different ages and ethnicities were recruited for a research project in which their personalities were assessed by teachers.

Decades later, many of those same people returned for a videotaped followup. Of this group, 144 were randomly selected for Nave's study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging through a grant to the Oregon Research Institute.

In comparing teachers' original observations with the present-day evaluations, researchers discovered that the vast majority of participants hadn't changed in terms of core personality.

"There seems to be some wiggle room," says Nave. "But, in general, our conclusion is that we're recognizably the same person across time and across contexts."

For example, study participants rated as having low adaptability as kids were observed as adults to have awkward interpersonal styles, say negative things about themselves and seek more advice. Those with high adaptability as children were found as adults to be cheerful, possess strong social skills and enjoy novel situations.

People prone to self-minimizing tendencies in childhood grew into adults that sought out reassurance, expressed insecurity, belittled themselves and indulged in self-pity. And those youths that were highly talkative were observed in adulthood to be fluent speakers, have a high degree of intelligence and lots of ambition.

Personality researcher David P. Schmitt says the findings are "quite impressive" because of the decades-long gap between evaluations, as well as the link between teacher ratings and those of trained modern-day observers.

He hastens to add, however, that the age at which personality is "set" appears to vary according to how the term is defined. "If we're talking about highly biological traits, such as sensation-seeking versus shy, then personality is largely heritable and is 'set' at an earlier age," says Schmitt, a professor of psychology at Bradley University in Illinois.

"If we're talking about romantic attachment styles, personality is changeable at a later age, as we have lots of new opportunities to experience secure and growth-oriented relationships with new partners."

Psychologist Delroy Paulhus, a professor at the University of British Columbia, says it's also important to remember that even if certain personality attributes remain constant, their implications can still change with environment and age. "A trait that puts you in reform school as a child," observes Paulhus, "could make you the star of the theatre as an adult." [Possible but unlikely]


A truly British absurdity: Police told not to pursue stolen motorbikes... because thieves weren't wearing helmets and might get hurt

As a gang of raiders roared off on three high-powered motorbikes they had just stolen, they were spotted by police. But the officers were told not to chase the thieves, because a pursuit would put the criminals’ health and safety at risk. They were not wearing crash helmets and might have fallen off and hurt themselves.

Yesterday the decision to let the robbers escape was greeted with incredulity, and critics asked why the welfare of criminals was more important than catching them.

The balaclava-clad trio smashed into a showroom in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, late last Thursday night and stole three motorcycles worth a total of £20,000.

Officers who saw them escaping radioed their inspector but were told that because the thieves were not wearing crash helmets or protective clothing it would be unsafe to pursue them. They are still at large, although one of the bikes has been recovered.

Tony Crawford, who runs the Manchester Motorbike Store which was targeted, said: ‘It’s bizarre that a criminal’s health and safety is more important than catching them.

‘It’s not the police I blame, it’s the politicians who’ve put these ridiculous rules in place. ‘They’re effectively telling criminals that as long as they make their getaway on a motorbike and don’t wear a helmet, the police won’t be allowed to chase them.’

He was backed by Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who said: ‘I am astonished that the welfare of criminals in the act of breaking the law should be put before the public’s expectation that they should be apprehended. ‘I expect most police officers would be deeply frustrated not to be allowed to pursue criminals because of health andsafety issues.’

Chris Burrows, chairman of the Greater Manchester branch of the Police Federation, agreed that officers found such situations ‘incredibly frustrating’ but said they had to comply with guidelines.

Superintendent Steve Nibloe, of Greater Manchester Police, confirmed the officers were following ‘a nationwide policy which gives clear guidance that motorbikes should not be pursued because of the higher risk of injury to the rider’. He added: ‘The officers were asked not to pursue the suspects as they were not wearing the correct safety equipment and were not wearing helmets, so it is clear to me the correct decision was taken.’

Police have been criticised over the number of deaths during high-speed pursuits, and new guidelines drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers are aimed at balancing the potential risk against the gravity of the crime.

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Peter Fahy said that in the case of the motorbike thefts, his officers had probably been right not to give chase. He said: ‘What are the chances of us catching a high-powered motorbike? Pretty low. ‘What is the risk to the offender? The risk is that he is probably going to get killed. It is about balance.’

But he added: ‘My main frustration is that people seem to want it both ways. ‘We get criticised hugely about deaths in police pursuits – was it worth somebody losing their life? – but then in a case like this we are being criticised that we did make a judgment that putting somebody’s life at risk wasn’t worth it.’



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


16 August, 2010

Liberalism and the Jihad

"Phony orthodoxy is permitted to protect and succor Jihadists but not their critics"

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the German newspaper editor Josef Joffe contributes an intriguing if somewhat ungainly little essay; its subject is the mosque in Hamburg where Mohamed Atta and other September 11th conspirators plotted their treachery. German authorities recently shut it down. One of its jihadist preachers was finally tried and imprisoned. “This is where Imam Muhammad al-Fazazi used to preach venom and murder throughout the 1990s, opining that ‘Christians and Jews should have their throats cut.’ In 2003, a Spanish court gave this pious cleric 30 years for planning attacks on Jewish institutions in Morocco.”

Mosques have become controversial in the West. To elite liberals, this is cause for dismay and anger, and evidence of the derangement of the Western mind. More sympathetic consideration would disclose that certain striking events — for instance one in Lower Manhattan on a fine September morning — may possibly have left an impression on Western observers.

Mr. Joffe continues:
Meanwhile, a naturalized German from Syria, Mamoun Darkanzanli, had taken the pulpit [at the Hamburg mosque]. Investigators call Darkanzanli the “elder statesman of jihad” and have a fat file on him. They think that he is bin Laden’s man in Germany, and that he also helped the Madrid train bombers of 2004. When Spain asked for his extradition, the German Constitutional Court said “nein.” That would violate his rights as a German citizen.

Darkanzanli continues to live in Hamburg — unmolested and on welfare. And he knows his rights, wrapping himself in the constitution while preaching that Allah will kill the infidels. He isn’t inciting violence, just spreading God’s word. This is a problem that stumps counterterrorism officials around the Western world.

Why this should be such a stumper is something of an enigma. Mr. Joffe makes little effort to unlock it. On the contrary, he simply presupposes that current orthodoxy on Free Speech stands invincible.
Fanaticism itself is no crime, nor is discoursing on Allah’s will. As in the U.S., a hateful ideology is no ticket to prison. Authoritarians have no qualms about equating ideology and intention. But Western liberal democracy obeys due process and the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” Words, as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote for the Supreme Court in 1919, have to “create a clear and present danger” to be criminal. In that respect, the Germans may have become more American than the Americans.

But of course it is illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust; in numerous Western nations speech codes on sensitive matters, when contravened, can indeed result in a “ticket to prison”; in the UK Christian preachers have been prosecuted for denouncing homosexuality; Canada’s most famous commentator narrowly escaped legal sanction at the hands of that country’s Human Rights Commission — precisely for his criticism of Islam.

Thoughtful observers like Mr. Joffe would do well to take cognizance of such incidents. In totality they would seem to lay to waste the common presupposition on Free Speech orthodoxy. The truth is that for our liberals Tolerance is a one-way street. Far from invincible, Free Speech is abandoned for the pretense it is the moment a stronger force intrudes on it. And stronger forces are plentiful in our politics: genuine Free Speech men, ready to make good on Voltaire’s famous dictum, are few and far between.

What is more alarming is that in some cases this phony orthodoxy is permitted to protect and succor Jihadists but not their critics. Darkanzanli can lounge in the plenty of the European welfare state and counsel his followers to bring doom and slaughter to the infidels, while Mark Steyn must mount a lengthy and costly defense against charges of hate speech.

More alarming still is the deeper disorder of the liberal mind, which can maintain its self-righteousness in the teeth of all this manifest blunder and incoherence. Proud liberals have spent several weeks now preening their indignation at the very thought that Americans would oppose the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York. The Mayor of New York feels at liberty to conjecture, without a shred of evidence, that a man who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square was a disgruntled opponent of the new health care bill; and then, some time later, to read us all a series of scolding lectures on tolerance when he discovers firm opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. The imposture is transparent. The Mayor does not scruple to impute malice and treason to his countrymen with both his ignorant speculations and his lectures on tolerance.

Our age is not noted for its historical imagination. The sheer antiquity of the Jihad is lost on most of our contemporaries. Some suppose it began in the wastes of Afghanistan in the 1980s, armed by Reagan and the neocons; others would prefer to imagine that it grew out of the early 20th century totalitarian systems; still others conceive that it was borne out of Israeli perfidy and oppression.

In truth the Jihad is older than almost anything around. It outlasted empires Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Spanish and more. When King Alfred was fighting the Danes it was carving up the enervated Byzantine provinces of the Near East. After its initial surge across from Arabia to Spain — in which it extinguished almost without a trace the Latin civilization of North Africa — petered out, it was successively reinvigorated by the conversion of Asiatic tribes, culminating in the Ottoman Turks and their fearsome empire. Only during the Crusading Age was a sustained counterattack mounted; and nothing is more embarrassing to liberals than the Crusades.

So we do well to recall that the Jihad is very old. There is little reason for confidence that its current material weakness will endure. It excels at harnessing the resources of the conquered and subjugated. Its creed will always appeal to the resentful and discontented, to criminals, radicals and brigands. For centuries the ranks of its Mediterranean pirates were reinforced by Greek and Italian renegades. It is strong in our prisons today.

The Jihad has outlived archaic despotism, feudalism, monarchy, republicanism and nationalism; and it is not too much to speculate that it will live through the eclipse liberal democracy as well.


British cities pay for prostitutes for the disabled

Taxpayers' money is being spent on prostitutes, lap dancing clubs and exotic holidays under schemes designed to give more independence to the disabled. One local authority is using its budget to pay for the services of a prostitute in Amsterdam, while others have said visits to lap dancing clubs are permissible under new policies which transfer funds directly to those who receive care from social services.

Holidays abroad, subscriptions for internet dating and driving lessons have all been funded by the taxpayer under a national initiative introduced by the last Government.

The £520 million scheme promised to give elderly people and those with disabilities more control over the care they received, by passing on cash so individuals could choose the services they needed, such as home help, or mobility aids.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can disclose that exotic holidays, internet dating subscriptions and adventure breaks, as well as visits to sex workers and lap dancing clubs have been permitted under the system.

One local authority has agreed a care plan including payment for a 21-year-old with learning disabilities to have sex with a prostitute in Amsterdam next month. His social worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said social services were there to identify and meet the needs of their clients – which, in the case of an angry and frustrated young man, meant paying for sex.

Another care worker said staff at her council had been told that trips to lap dancing clubs could be funded, if it could be argued that it would help the "mental and physical well being" of their client.

In response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, four local authorities describe themselves as "condoning" the payment of sex workers by disabled clients, using money transferred from their budgets. Other councils said they took no moral judgement about the use of funds, but said care money could be spent on anything, as long as it was not illegal.

Paying for sex is not against the law but soliciting sexual services, kerb crawling and paying for sex with women who have been coerced into prostitution is.

In Greater Manchester and Norfolk, councils say payments to social care clients can be used to pay for internet dating subscriptions.

In the course of 12 months, one man with mental health problems from Norwich received a holiday in Tunisia, a subscription to an internet dating site, driving lessons, and expensive art materials. Department of Health documents describe how the man received the funding on top of his state benefits, after suffering from psychiatric problems when his wife asked for a divorce. In the report on his case, the man says he needed "some time out, some rest and a change of scenery" after suffering marital problems and says the break in Tunisia with a friend was cheaper than a week in institutional care.

Trafford council, in Greater Manchester, says its budgets cannot be spent on anything illegal, or anything that would bring the council into disrepute. It suggests personal budgets could be used for holidays, adventure breaks, subscriptions to dating agencies, horse riding or to buy a pet.

The FOI survey, by The Outsiders and TLC Trusts – two groups which campaign for the sexual rights of people with disabilities – found most local authorities said they did not "condone" transfer of their funds to pay for sex. But of 121 councils who responded, 97 per cent said they had no policy on the topic, allowing discretion for social workers and junior managers about how to manage such requests.

Several councils contacted by this newspaper said they did not know if they had ever funded visits by disabled people to sex workers. Stockton-on-Tees borough council said it did not think it had funded sex workers for clients. A spokesman said people "in receipt of our care can do whatever they wish, though we would not condone or be involved in anything illegal".

A spokeswoman for Knowsley council said requests for funding to access sexual services would be "looked at on a case by case nature".

Doncaster council said that so far it had not funded any requests for sexual services, but said future decisions would depends on the needs of the individual.

Norfolk county council said it did not believe it had funded any visits to sex workers, but Di Croot, assistant team manager for learning disabilities in North Norfolk said such requests would be looked on "favourably" with staff encouraged to be "as free thinking as possible" about how to ensure all the needs of clients were met. Zoe Grace Cozens, who wrote the council's policy on learning disability and sexuality, said the authority also had a duty of care to ensure that those with learning disabilities were not being exploited financially, if they paid for prostitutes from their own money. "That could mean care workers phoning to check what rate sex workers were charging," she added.

Belinda Schwer, a legal consultant who advises councils, said many local authorities agreed support plans for clients which did not specify how funds would be used, once they passed out of their hands. "From what I have seen, at least one quarter of local authorities are doing support plans which only state what outcome should be achieved – not which services are being employed."

In the case of someone given funds to go to a sex worker, such documents might set out an intended emotional outcome, rather than the means by which it was achieved, she suggested. "If you have got a happy and calm person who was previously frustrated and angry, that might achieve a good outcome, but the case law says councils should be setting out which services are being used," she said.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance, said most people with disabilities did not want or expect the state to pay for sexual services. He said: "When people go to councils for help, they are looking for essential services to maintain some level of dignified existence – help to dress and wash. Given that councils have been drawing the most basic support from those who need it, I do not think this is the biggest concern of people with disabilities."

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, said the desire for sexual relations was a matter of human rights, meaning cases involving payments should be carefully examined on a "case by case" basis.

Matthew Elliot, chief executive of The Taxpayers’ Alliance said it was “deeply worrying” that public money had been spent on the services of prostitutes, lapdancing clubs and to pay for holidays. He said: “Many taxpayers will be appalled and offended that money intended for social care has been used in this way. What's more, it’s deeply worrying that this scheme has been so vulnerable to these abuses. It’s essential that where public funds are involved, there are the sort of checks and balances in place that prevent money being wasted in this way”.


Barnardo’s, butt out of the law

The British children’s charity wants to ‘fast track’ court cases that could result in the removal of a child from its family. No way

This week, the British children’s campaigning group Barnardo’s published data relating to care proceedings in England and Wales. It strongly criticised the delays experienced by families who are subject of proceedings under section 31 of the Children Act 1980.

Under these proceedings, parental responsibility for a child can pass to a local authority where that local authority has demonstrated that the child is ‘suffering or likely to suffer significant harm’ and that the harm is ‘attributable to the care being given to the child’ or ‘the child being beyond parental control’. Barnardo’s said the fact that these proceedings can take as long as 62 weeks to get through the County Courts was ‘damaging vulnerable children’. The time spent awaiting a ruling in care proceedings places children in a ‘desperate limbo’ and leaves them ‘very possibly at risk’. The ‘evident lack of credence given to social workers’ today is one of the causes of ‘significant delays’, said Barnardo’s, before suggesting that a time limit of 30 weeks be placed on all cases, with a ‘fast-track’ system for cases involving children who are under 18 months old.

Of course, if a long period of time is spent making a decision about the care of a child, that could be extremely unsettling for the child involved. But still, we should think carefully about what Barnardo’s is advocating. A fixed limit on the amount of time a court has to dispose of a case would be extremely unusual for England and Wales. With limited exceptions in the criminal courts, there are no statutory time limits to force the conclusion of cases. Courts have the discretion to allot an appropriate amount of time in consideration of the complexity of the facts in an individual case. This discretion is particularly important in relation to care proceedings, where determinations can vary hugely from the straightforward to the enormously complex.

The language employed by Barnardo’s suggests that it thinks the decisions taken during care proceedings are simple. Its campaign materials flippantly use terms like ‘abusive households’, with children straightforwardly categorised as ‘at risk’ and ‘not at risk’. With such a black-and-white, abstract worldview, where everything is defined almost in terms of good and evil, it’s no wonder Barnardo’s thinks the amount of time spent on care proceedings should be capped and everything should be sped up to ‘save children’.

Yet anyone familiar with the law in this area will know that there are many intricacies involved. The courts have frequently disagreed on how to apply various provisions in the Children Act and have developed reams of case law attempting to formulate applicable definitions. The job of the practitioners in this area of law is to apply these concepts to the breadth of circumstances being weighed up in court. It is often a painstaking process. And considering that the proceedings can result in the state removing a child from its family – a very serious move – it is only right that it is a painstaking process. We should feel reassured that it often takes a long time to make these life-changing decisions.

Of course it is true that there are many unnecessary delays in the family courts. Concerns about such delays are not new. In 2006, the UK Department of Constitutional Affairs published its Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales. It identified a number of factors causing unnecessary delay in hearings relating to the Children Act, including: the poor quality of legal representation; poorly prepared applications; the scarcity of judicial resources. But none of these issues would be solved by enforcing a Barnardo’s-style time limit; instead we need greater investment in the UK’s sclerotic civil legal aid system, which currently fails to provide legal protection for the poorest in society from some of the state’s most draconian powers. Fixing legal aid, however, is not something Barnardo’s is very interested in; it only wants to rush cases through the courts.

This is because Barnardo’s is not really concerned with the ins and outs of various complex cases, but rather with pushing its own interventionist agenda. In the aftermath of the horrific Edlington assault case, in which two young boys were jailed following a prolonged assault on a nine-year-old boy, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, Martin Narey, criticised social services in Britain for ‘trying to fix families that are completely broken’. He went on to say that ‘if you take a baby young and get them quickly into a permanent adoptive home, then we know that is where we have success’.

In May 2010, Barnardo’s assistant director for policy, Enver Solomon, said at a conference on service provision for vulnerable children that social services had ‘failed to crack neglect’ due to their ‘reluctance to make proactive decisions to remove children living in chronically neglectful circumstances’. It seems that, for Barnardo’s, taking children away from families should be a priority, and care proceedings are simply a question of how quickly a child can be removed.

This is why the administration of the law should not be influenced by the prejudices of individual charities. The law should not bend its rules to suit campaigners’ simplistic classification of legal problems in black-and-white moralistic terms. The issues dealt with by the family courts are frequently complex and carry the most serious consequences for those on the receiving end of the state’s powers. As such, the courts should be free to determine the amount of time required for the proper consideration of each matter on a case-by-case basis. Barnardo’s may like to think that the decisions made in care proceedings are simply a case of deciding who is and who is not ‘at risk’ – thankfully, adhering to due process is never that simple.


No man is an island

Relationships Improve Your Odds of Survival by 50 Percent, Research Finds

A new Brigham Young University study adds our social relationships to the "short list" of factors that predict a person's odds of living or dying.

In the journal PLoS Medicine, BYU professors Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith report that social connections -- friends, family, neighbors or colleagues -- improve our odds of survival by 50 percent. Here is how low social interaction compares to more well-known risk factors:

* Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
* Equivalent to being an alcoholic
* More harmful than not exercising
* Twice as harmful as obesity

"The idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognized by health organizations and the public," write the PLoS Medicine editors in a summary of the BYU study and why it was done.

The researchers analyzed data from 148 previously published longitudinal studies that measured frequency of human interaction and tracked health outcomes for a period of seven and a half years on average. Because information on relationship quality was unavailable, the 50 percent increased odds of survival may underestimate the benefit of healthy relationships.

"The data simply show whether they were integrated in a social network," Holt-Lunstad said. "That means the effects of negative relationships are lumped in there with the positive ones. They are all averaged together."

Holt-Lunstad said there are many pathways through which friends and family influence health for the better, ranging from a calming touch to finding meaning in life.

"When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks," Holt-Lunstad said.

In examining the data, Smith took a careful look at whether the results were driven primarily by people helping each other prolong their golden years. "This effect is not isolated to older adults," Smith said. "Relationships provide a level of protection across all ages."

Smith said that modern conveniences and technology can lead some people to think that social networks aren't necessary. "We take relationships for granted as humans -- we're like fish that don't notice the water," Smith said. "That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health."



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


15 August, 2010

Was the Catholic church to blame for Nazism?

The article excerpted below says so but is greatly unbalanced. It is certainly true that ALL Christian churches propagated antisemitism for a long time. Luther's diatribe against the Jews is well-known. But by the 19th century, that had waned to a low rumble in most of the world and one of the most furious antisemites of the 19th century was in fact KARL MARX! Antisemitism has always been strong in France but both the French revolutionaries in the late 1700s and Napoleon in the early 1800s gave some emancipation to the Jews -- and Prussia legally emancipated the Jews in 1812. And Britain, of course, had a Jewish Prime Minister for much of the late 19th century. So while the Catholic church certainly had a role in setting up antisemitism, it was a Europe-wide but generally low-key attitude by the 20th century. Even the British Prime Minister who declared war on Hitler (Neville Chamberlain -- Yes: it WAS Neville Chamberlain) was an antisemite of sorts. And FDR had no time for the Jews either.

When it comes to the relationship between Hitler and the church, however, what we read below is very selective. For a start, he totally overlooks the persecution of Catholic clergy by Hitler and has obviously never read "Mit brennender Sorge", the prewar Papal encyclical that was actually written in German (encyclicals are normally written in Latin) to reach the widest possible German audience. It was deeply critical of the Nazis and infuriated Hitler.

And the way Pius XII quietly rescued threatened Jews on a large scale also seems to be unknown to the writer

Gabriel Wilensky’s first book, “Six Million Crucifixions: How Christian Teachings About the Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust” traces the history of the Christian church (and specifically the Vatican) to plausible causes of the Holocaust.

“The silence of the church is deafening,” Wilensky says. “[The clergy] hid information from the public. Pope Pius XII held the interest of the Church first, and the Church never saw fit to publicly denounce the Holocaust, never called Nazis murderers and never mentioned that the Jews were victims. This pattern of silence began long before.” [That is a complete lie. Pacelli (Later Pius XII) wrote "Mit Brennender Sorge"]

Wilensky says the silence of the Church was not as bad as its support for the Nazi party. He says the clergy had many chances to prevent the events that eventually led to the holocaust.

“The Church materially helped the Nazis from the 1930s on, providing them with baptismal records — needed in Germany because Jews there dressed and spoke like everyone else — which showed who was a Christian, and by exclusion who was not,” Wilensky says.

Wilensky, who was born in Uruguay, came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago to work in the computer software industry, but he says the Holocaust has always fascinated him.

The final product tells the story of the Church and its relationship with the Jews chronologically from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion to the end of World War II, with legal analysis of crimes committed by clergy before, during and after the Holocaust. The final section details recommendations for the future.

“Anti-Semitism has a way of morphing itself into many different forms,” Wilensky says. “The religious, racial form [of anti-Semitism] in the 19th century has grown into the new anti-Semitism, which is political and manifests itself as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.

Many people in academia and in Europe in particular express their anti- Jewish feelings in the form of anti-Israel feelings, but they don’t understand why they are so inclined to protest everything that Israel does. People have suppressed the anti-Semitism for so many years and have found a way to express it in a way that is politically correct. I hope my book will raise awareness to this problem and show that something very wrong was done, and that it’s manifesting itself now in other ways.”

Wilensky explains that he does not intend to argue that all Christians hate Jews, or that all Christians during the Holocaust went along with Church teachings in silence. “There were many thousands of Christian individuals who helped the Jews, including those who risked their lives to save the Jews…by hiding them or providing shelter in some way, or helping in any way they could,” he says.

Wilensky notes the best example of Christians acting as righteous gentiles was the reaction of the Danish Lutheran Church during World War II. The church created a campaign to defend Jews, writing sermons and reading them from every pulpit in every church in the country. “They taught [church goers] that killing Jews was wrong and they needed to do everything in their power to help,” Wilensky says. The king of Denmark even made all citizens wear a yellow star so Nazis couldn’t identify which people were the Jews.

“There was a general mobilization of the country instigated by the Church,” Wilensky says. “The end result was that many Jews were transported to neutral Sweden, and a very large percentage of Denmark’s Jews survived the war.”

Through his research, Wilensky has found that all genocides include certain components, which other factions of the Church helped to facilitate through their negative teachings about Jews.

“[In genocide] there needs to be a prejudice or a preconceived idea about the victims that is widespread and that everybody shares,” Wilensky says. “There also has to be a participation or a promotion of genocide from the government. Without approval by the government, genocide does not really happen, so at the very least these two things need to be present. In the case of the Holocaust, the hatred had been there for almost two millennia, but [the Nazis] only needed to light the match.”


Fined £150 million for failing to fly the EU flag: Now British firms are told how to fight back

Getting Brits to have a "European" consciousness is a bit of a laugh and trying to enforce it by law is even more so. It may be apocryphal but the British weather report "Fog in the Channel. Europe isolated" still summarizes a lot about British attitudes to Europe

Business chiefs have issued advice to companies and public bodies on how to escape heavy penalties for failing to display European Union flags after British organisations were fined an astonishing £150 million for not giving the EU enough publicity.

Companies receiving European grants must display its logo on their buildings, posters and websites or face being forced to pay back some of the funding. Now Yorkshire Forward, a regional development agency, has produced an 18-page booklet that advises organisations how to escape the punitive penalties.

The pamphlet details 'approved' versions of the EU flag, instructions on its colour and dimensions, and the precise wording that must accompany the logo. The rules also require building and infrastructure projects to display billboards and plaques praising the EU for providing funds.

Each poster or plaque must set aside '25 per cent of the total area' for EU propaganda. They must also include the words: 'Investing in your future.' The Yorkshire Forward booklet also reveals the organisations to have fallen foul of the petty regulations.

Among the projects hit was a £3.5 million refurbishment of Whitley Bay Playhouse in North Tyneside. Some £60,000 of the EU's £626,500 contribution had to be repaid because of 'a number of failings'. Not meeting rules on publicity cost the scheme £16,450 of the total.

The YMCA in Peterborough had to repay £1,325 of a grant to help promote parenting skills, volunteering and sports among young people, again because it fell foul of the strict rules on publicity. Organisers had not displayed the EU flag at YMCA premises or used it in publicity material.

Last month, it emerged that Brussels bureaucrats had ordered the British Government to collect an astonishing £150 million from organisations and companies because of failures to prominently display the EU flag on premises that were receiving funding.

Critics are particularly appalled as Britain is a £6.4 billion net contributor to the EU budget. Last night, Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: 'It is unfair that local firms, community groups and councils are being punished by EU officials for the most minor breaches of complicated and over-bureaucratic EU rules.

This is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. 'Disadvantaged and needy groups should not lose out because of failing to follow excessive EU propaganda demands to the letter. 'The end result is British taxpayers' money being wasted on bloated design guidelines, form-filling and millions of pounds of red tape.'

A number of other British regional development agencies, which help Whitehall to distribute EU grants, have issued their own guide books to prevent further disqualifications of grants.

Six pages of the Yorkshire guide are devoted to showing how the EU's circle of stars flag should appear on letterheads, Press releases and publicity. The guidelines for commemorative plaques state they 'should be placed where they can be seen by the public and should not be hidden away in obscure locations'. It adds: 'Reception areas are ideal, as areas by entrances. Plaques should be sized so that they are easily readable.'

And in a stark warning to any recipients of EU funding, it states: 'Project managers are reminded that failure to implement the publicity regulations or implementing them incorrectly could lead to expenditure being declared ineligible, leading to loss of grant on which the project is depending.'

The European Commission was unavailable for comment last night.


Labour Party eminence set to join the Tory war on dole cheats in Britain

Former Labour Cabinet Minister David Blunkett is poised to give the Coalition a major boost by helping it tackle poverty, benefits abuse and the pensions crisis.

Mr Blunkett is in talks about taking up a post with the think-tank set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith which pioneered many of the measures used in the Government’s welfare state shake-up.

Known for his no-nonsense views on scroungers, hooligans and the feckless unemployed, Mr Blunkett is considering working for Mr Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice.

Mr Blunkett is the latest in a number of leading Labour figures to forge links with the Conservatives. Former Welfare Minister Frank Field has been recruited as a ‘Poverty Tsar’ and former Defence Secretary John Hutton is to lead a Government review of pensions.

Although the CSJ is independent, it was set up by Mr Duncan Smith, who now acts as its patron, and its reports have considerable influence in Whitehall.

A CSJ source said: ‘The organisation has been having discussions with Mr Blunkett. We believe he is genuinely interested in helping us to find lasting solutions to deep-seated issues concerning employment and welfare. He is a radical free thinker and can combine it with a wealth of practical experience.

‘Iain Duncan Smith has considerable respect for his views. We are keen to work with people from every part of the political spectrum to tackle the fundamental problems facing Britain.’

Like fellow Labour Right-wingers Mr Field and Mr Hutton, Mr Blunkett had frequent clashes with Gordon Brown over state benefits and other issues. While his socially conservative views upset Mr Brown, they won him many Tory admirers.

As Work and Pensions Secretary under Mr Blair, Mr Blunkett was denounced by Left-wing MPs after claiming that going to work ‘will overcome depression and stress a lot more than people sitting at home watching daytime television’.

He added: ‘The welfare state of the 21st Century will not simply be a safety net but an enabler – a ladder out of poverty. It must embody the mutual acceptance of self-responsibility and the acceptance of responsibility for the well-being of others. Today’s welfare state has more sticking plaster than Boots the chemist.’

They are sentiments shared by many Tory MPs, though not all would have Mr Blunkett’s courage to express them publicly.

Mr Blunkett shares the view of many Blairites that Labour’s failure to get to grips with the culture of welfare dependency was one of its key failings.

As Home Secretary, he took a hard line on immigration and once dismissed civil liberties as ‘airy fairy’. He opposed sex education in primary schools and laws that critics said allowed the promotion of homosexuality in the classroom.

In 2005, Mr Blair wanted to give Mr Blunkett special responsibility for dealing with anti-social behaviour by young thugs but the move was blocked by John Prescott.

Mr Blunkett told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I have been talking with the Centre for Social Justice.’ He declined to give further details.


"Alternative families"

Bill O'Reilly's attention had been on Barack Obama and other national political figures for a stretch - until Jennifer Aniston opened her mouth. Her comments regarding modern motherhood didn't score well in the "no spin zone."

During a recent "The O'Reilly Factor" segment, the Fox News star hosted a "culture war" debate addressing Aniston's recent comments about women and motherhood, relating to her new artificial-insemination comedy with Jason Bateman, "The Switch."

During a press conference about it, Aniston explained: "The point of the movie is, what is it that defines family? It isn't necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot," she said. "Love is love and family is what is around you and who is in your immediate sphere. That is what I love about this movie. It is saying it is not the traditional sort of stereotype of what we have been taught as a society of what family is.

"Times," she continued, "have changed, and that is also what is amazing is that we do have so many options these days, as opposed to our parents' days when you can't have children because you have waited too long. ... Women are realizing it more and more knowing that they don't have to settle with a man just to have that child."

O'Reilly pushed back against that message. "She's throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that 'hey, you don't need a guy, you don't need a dad,'" he said. "That's destructive to our society."

The entertainment blogs immediately seized on O'Reilly's comments, caricaturing his criticism as ridiculous.

It is, of course, a fact that there are alternatives that exist today for women -- especially women of means -- to have children in ways that their grandmothers and even mothers didn't have. But it doesn't follow that we should necessarily embrace these alternatives.

Aniston is right to say that "there are children that don't have homes that have a home and can be loved. And that's extremely important." There are, absolutely, occasions where a child needs love, doesn't have it, and someone is able to provide it in an unconventional way. These exceptions, however, are not reasons to toss out everything we know to be true about moms and dads and the need for them as a single unit. And this, also, isn't what we're talking about in we-women-can-have-babies-however-we-like comedies.

This column is not a review of "The Switch." I haven't seen it but expect to, despite Aniston's opinions. It's put together by some of the same people behind "Juno," which was a messy story about responsibility and redemption. That's art. Too often, though, what passes as art today is just an affirmation of mistakes. Instead of inspiring, it seeks to issue an official, collective "it's OK" about decisions we used to have some healthy sense of shame about. A Hollywood imprimatur only plays a role in covering up what's not OK.

Another movie this summer, "The Kids Are All Right," lets this slip show. The movie is about a lesbian couple, their two kids and the sperm donor who gets a phone call from an 18-year-old in need of a father. The kids, in other words, are not all right.

My Daddy's Name Is Donor, a recent study from the Commission on Parenthood's Future, found that children born after a sperm-bank commercial exchange suffer more feelings of loss, confusion and isolation compared to kids raised in a household with a mom and a dad. And "to fill the paternal hole in their soul," they often turn to drugs and alcohol, or get in trouble with the law, as W. Bradford Wilcox from the commission, explains. Further: "the offspring of maverick moms are 177 percent more likely to have a problem with substance abuse and are 146 percent more likely to report having had a run-in with the law, compared with offspring of two biological parents."

Are 12-year-old girls going to run out to get artificially inseminated because Jennifer Aniston points to it as a perfectly mainstream option for a modern woman? Of course not. But might a look at a movie trailer just be another cultural influence telling her that Chelsea Clinton getting married is just a throwback to an old custom we used to have?

As my colleague Richard Brookhiser wrote in response to the Quayle speech: "Culture affects behavior. Dan Quayle isn't the only person who believes this. Every feminist who applauded 'Thelma and Louise,' every parent who wonders about the effects of cop-show violence on his kids, every aging rock critic who credits Elvis with jolting America out of the sexless somnolence of the '50s thinks culture changes hearts and minds. The question is: In what direction?"

This was the question Bill O'Reilly was asking. This is the question Dan Quayle was asking.

Back in the infamous speech, Quayle said: "It's time to talk again about family, hard work, integrity and personal responsibility. We cannot be embarrassed out of our belief that two parents, married to each other, are better in most cases for children than one. That honest work is better than hand-outs -- or crime. That we are our brothers' keepers. That it's worth making an effort, even when 'the rewards aren't immediate."

That moment has not passed. The traditional family is not a "stereotype," but a foundation of civilization. And it is not too late to remind 12-year-old girls of who they can be. And that they can even want it.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


14 August, 2010

Scrutinizing Islam is taboo for intellectuals

And it's sheer bigotry: To feed their hatred of their own society, "They reflexively regard those from the Third World as virtuous and those from the West as steeped in blame, shame and guilt"

Cliff May

The controversy over plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan has taken an odd twist. On one side are those making arguments in opposition to the project, along with those who merely have questions they would like answered so they can decide for themselves whether this project will honor the victims of 9/11 – or mock them. On the other side are those who support the project wholeheartedly and who respond to both arguments and questions by saying: Shut up.

Most prominent among the second group is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It would be one thing if Hizzoner were saying: “I hear your concerns and I have questions, too, but municipal laws and the First Amendment permit this project to go forward.” But he is not saying that. He is saying instead that those with misgivings about the 13-story Islamic center that is to rise near where the Twin Towers collapsed “ought to be ashamed of themselves. … It is a shame that we even have to talk about this."

Last week on CNN, I debated the issue with Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. As soon as we were off the air he called me – at a high decibel level -- a “bigot.” I suggested it might be more persuasive were he to frame an argument for me to consider. Echoing Bloomberg, he replied that I should be “ashamed of myself.”

To Peter’s credit, he later apologized for “losing his cool.” But when I sent him some thoughts on the controversy by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer, he emailed back that I should “please stop” because he was “appalled.”

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol describes such responses as stemming from the “self-deluding pieties and self-destructive dogmas that are held onto, at once smugly and desperately, by today’s liberal elites.” Ironically, it is a liberal intellectual historian, Paul Berman, who has thought hardest about this phenomenon. In his latest book, “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” he ponders why so many academics and journalists refuse to grapple seriously or honestly with Islam and Islamism.

By the way: Moderate Muslim intellectuals have not put their critical faculties on hold. I asked Akbar Ahmed, a professor at American University and the author, most recently, of "Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam,” his perspective on the controversy. “Muslim leaders need to understand,” he said, “that 9/11 remains an open wound for Americans. And it is wrong to rub salt into an open wound.”

Both by disposition and training, journalists and intellectuals are supposed to be inquisitive. Yet Beinart -- who continues to write for prestige publications – and Bloomberg -- whose name adorns a great journalistic institution -- have made it clear that they do not want to know whether the $100 million needed for the “Muslim facility” (that’s the term that Oz Sultan, a consultant to the project, used when describing it to me) will come from individuals who also support terrorism and the ideologies that drive terrorism.

This week, Newsweek editor and CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria returned an award given to him five years ago by the Anti-Defamation League in protest of the ADL’s opposition to the project. Zakaria called the ADL’s decision “bizarre” and a form of “bigotry.” I’ll wager that Zarkaria has spent not one hour investigating those behind this project, their finances and their motives. I know: It’s so retro of me to expect elite reporters to report.

Or even to read much. It’s hardly a secret that some mosques in America, Europe and the Middle East are centers of extremism. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has chronicled, the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center and mosque in Falls Church, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., has provided a pulpit for several radical imams, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda terrorist now hiding out in Yemen. Among those Awlaki is said to have inspired: Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas, Fort Hood massacre suspect Nidal Hassan and at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Terrorists who would go on to take part in the 9/11 attacks also made their base at the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles. As Nina Shea noted, “the mosque’s imam, Fahad al Thumairy, a former Saudi diplomat, was finally expelled by the U.S. in 2003 for suspected terror connections.”

The Al Farouq mosque in Brooklyn is where Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheik, delivered sermons. Andy McCarthy eventually sent him to prison in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

And just this week, as my colleague Ben Weinthal reported, German authorities banned the Masjid Taiba mosque of Hamburg. It had been a launching pad for the 9/11 terror attacks and “had long served as a hotbed for training jihadists and stoking anti-Western ideology.”

Why wouldn’t Zakaria – before slapping the ADL in the face – at least invite the key organizers of the Ground Zero project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, on his TV show and ask them about all this? Why it is that hardly anyone in the mainstream media has yet to ask them any uncomfortable questions?

In his Newsweek column, Zakaria asserts that Rauf “is a moderate Muslim clergyman. He has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical — but it’s stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day.”

Among Rauf’s Huffingtonian statements: that American policy was “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 and that Osama bin Laden was “made in America.”

Rauf will not say whether he views Hamas – which intentionally slaughters civilians, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, and advocates the extermination of both Israelis and Jews – as a terrorist organization.

He explains his reticence by saying that “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” No, actually, it’s quite simple: Whatever your grievances, you do not express them by murdering other people’s children. Not accepting that proposition does not make you a terrorist. But it disqualifies you as an anti-terrorist and identifies you as an anti-anti-terrorist.

A thought experiment: I am grieved by Saudi policies, for example Saudi religious discrimination, oppression of women and persecution of homosexuals. If I were to express these grievances by blowing up a Saudi kindergarten, do you think Imam Feisal would say (1) the Saudi Royal family must share responsibility for the carnage, and (2) whether or not I had committed an act of terrorism is a “very complex question”?

Rauf also has ties to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), organizations created by the Muslim Brotherhood and named by the U.S. Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case.

A note on the Muslim Brotherhood: It is not a college fraternity. Its founder, Hasan al-Banna, famously said: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." In 1991, the Muslim Brotherhood’s American leadership prepared an internal memorandum describing its mission as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

For Zakaria, Beinart, Bloomberg and so many other members of the intellectual elite, it’s as though such information were either too trivial to bother with, or so personal that no gentleman would mention it in polite company.

Of course, that can’t be the real explanation. So what is? Paul Berman concludes that multiculturalism and moral relativism, doctrines devoutly embraced by the intellectual classes, render “everything the equal of everything else.” As a consequence, some very smart people have “lost the ability to make the most elementary distinctions.” Except one: They reflexively regard those from the Third World as virtuous and those from the West as steeped in blame, shame and guilt.

So if Imam Feisal says he’s a moderate, he must be a moderate. Why read his books or inquire into what he preaches in his mosque or with whom he associates on his frequent trips to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other exotic locales? Would we ask such questions of a Baptist minister building a church near Ground Zero?

That the terrorists responsible for the atrocities of 9/11 – and more than 1,500 other acts of terrorism since – proudly proclaim that they act in the name of Islam is irrelevant! Anyone who says that Rauf’s project is “confrontational” or “in bad taste” or disrespectful of non-Muslims – to borrow a few descriptions from Raheel Raza, board member of the Muslim Canadian Congress – is intolerant and a bigot and an Islamophobe! Shame on her! She is appalling! End of discussion.


Study links religion with happy marriage

Says black couples more likely to pray together in home

African-American couples are more likely than members of other groups to share core religious beliefs and pray together in the home — factors that have been linked to greater happiness in marriages and relationships, according to a study released Tuesday.

In what was described as the first major look at relationship quality and religion across racial and ethnic lines, researchers reported a significant link overall between relationship satisfaction and religious factors for whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans.

The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

True to the old aphorism, couples that pray together stay together, said study coauthor W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, based at University of Virginia, and “African-American couples are more likely to have a shared spiritual identity as a couple.’’

The study found that 40 percent of blacks in marriages and live-in relationships attended religious services regularly and had a partner who did the same, compared with 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 29 percent of Hispanics.

White couples, in general, reported greater relationship satisfaction than other groups, presumably because of income and education differences, the study said. But the racial gap lessens when religious similarities come into the mix.

“What this study suggests is that religion is one of the key factors narrowing the racial divide in relationship quality in the United States,’’ Wilcox said.

The strongest difference-maker for couples was spiritual activities such as praying or reading the Bible. “Praying together as a couple is something that is very intimate for people who are religious,’’ Wilcox said. “It adds another level of closeness to a relationship.’’

The findings bear out what the Rev. James Terrell, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, D.C., has observed among his parishioners. “People seem to do better when they think there is a spiritual aspect to their marriage,’’ Terrell said. That includes services and praying, but also “seeking the Lord in terms of resolving problems and differences,’’ he said. “Without a doubt, it helps to keep a marriage together.’’

Still, the study showed religion did not have positive effects for all. When one partner attends services regularly and the other one does not, relationship satisfaction is lower. Two nonreligious partners are more content, the study found.

“When couples do things together — whether it’s bird-watching, playing tennis, or attending church — they tend to do better,’’ Wilcox said. “When they don’t share these activities — particularly when they are important — couples are more likely to suffer.’’

The results are based on a new analysis of a 2006 nationwide survey of 1,387 adults aged 18 to 59. Nearly 90 percent were married, and the remainder were cohabiting.


Convicts as a Protected Class?

Federal Agency Thinks Background Checks Can Discriminate Against Blacks, Hispanics

Attorneys at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission believe new technology that makes it easier for employers to check the criminal and credit histories of applicants is also makes it harder for blacks and Hispanics to find jobs. Members of the Project 21 black leadership network fault this position, noting that it unjustly interferes with the ability of employers to build a trusted and coherent workforce.

"Background and credit checks are legitimate hiring and recruitment tools," said Project 21 member Horace Cooper, a former visiting assistant professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law. "There is no federal law making a refusal to hire convicted felons a crime, and felon status is not a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Especially in the midst of a recession, suits like these -- which charge racial discrimination -- falsely serve to only make hiring decisions unnecessarily harder and lessen the impact of real allegations of racism."

Adrienne Hudson filed a lawsuit against First Transit after she was fired from a bus driver position with the company. She alleges her firing was due to her prior conviction for welfare fraud, and that First Transit discriminates against blacks and Hispanics when it does background checks because these minority groups have higher rates of arrest and convictions than whites. First Transit representatives would not comment.

The AP reports the EEOC believes background checks can have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics, and quotes EEOC assistant legal counsel Carol Miaskoff saying "the problem is snowballing because of the technology" that is making it easier to do such checks.

Last fall, the EEOC filed a class-action lawsuit against the Freeman Companies event-planning company that claimed the company's background checks discriminated against blacks, Hispanics and men.

"Once again, the liberal legal theory of 'disparate impact' is trotted out. This time, it is by the bean-counters at EEOC. They are now arguing that if an employer conducts background checks on employees they are, in effect, discriminating against black and Latino applicants. But shouldn't employers have the right to set standards for those they seek to employ and reject those who have criminal records?" said Project 21 member Joe Hicks, host of "The Hicks File" at PJTV.com

"Americans strongly believe in the concept of redemption, but there must be consequences for illegal behavior. To claim otherwise suggests that employers should ignore employment standards and simply hire people based on some ideological concept of 'social justice.'

The notion that criminal background checks disadvantage blacks and Latinos is based in the reality that blacks are 38 percent of the prison population but only 12 percent of the general population. This shouldn't be used as an argument for eliminating employment standards, but a reason to understand and combat the dysfunction and violent criminality that's an all-too-real part of poor black urban life."


Bean-Counters and Baloney

Thomas Sowell

The bean-counters have struck again-- this time in the sports pages. Two New York Times sport writers have discovered that baseball coaches from minority groups are found more often coaching at first base than at third base. Moreover, third-base coaches become managers more often than first-base coaches.

This may seem to be just another passing piece of silliness. But it is part of a more general bean-counting mentality that turns statistical differences into grievances. The time is long overdue to throw this race card out of the deck and start seeing it for the gross fallacy that it is.

At the heart of such statistics is the implicit assumption that different races, sexes and other subdivisions of the human species would be proportionately represented in institutions, occupations and income brackets if there was not something strange or sinister going on.

Although this notion has been repeated by all sorts of people, from local loudmouths on the street to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States, there is not one speck of evidence behind it and a mountain of evidence against it.

Ask the bean-counters where in this wide world have different groups been proportionally represented. They can't tell you. In other words, something that nobody can demonstrate is taken as a norm, and any deviation from that norm is somebody's fault!

Anyone who has watched football over the years has probably seen at least a hundred black players score touchdowns-- and not one black player kick the extra point. Is this because of some twisted racist who doesn't mind black players scoring touchdowns but hates to see them kicking the extra points?

At our leading engineering schools-- M.I.T., CalTech, etc.-- whites are under-represented and Asians over-represented. Is this anti-white racism or pro-Asian racism? Or are different groups just different?

As for baseball, I have long noticed that there are more blacks playing centerfield than third-base. Since the same people hire centerfielders and third-basemen, it is hard to argue that racism explains the difference.

No one says it is racism that explains why blacks are over-represented and whites under-represented in basketball. Bean-counters only make a fuss when there is a disparity that fits their vision or their agenda.

Years ago, a study was made of the ethnic make-up of military forces in countries around the world. Nowhere was the ethnic make-up of the military the same as the ethnic make-up of the population, or even close to the same.

Nearly half the pilots in the Malaysia's air force were from the Chinese minority, rather than the Malay majority. In Nigeria, most of the officers were from the southern tribes and most of the enlisted men were from the northern tribes. Similar disparities have been common among various groups in many places.

In countries around the world, all sorts of groups differ from each other in all sorts of ways, from rates of alcoholism to infant mortality, education and virtually everything that can be measured, as well as in some things that cannot be quantified. If black and white Americans were the same, they would be the only two groups on this planet who are the same.

One of the things that got us started on heavy-handed government regulation of the housing market were statistics showing that blacks were turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites. The bean-counters in the media went ballistic. It had to be racism, to hear them tell it.

What they didn't tell you was that whites were turned down more often than Asians. What they also didn't tell you was that black-owned banks also turned down blacks more often than whites. Nor did they tell you that credit scores differed from group to group. Instead, the media, the politicians and the regulators grabbed some statistics and ran with them.

The bean-counters are everywhere, pushing the idea that differences show injustices committed by society. As long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it-- and the polarization they create will sell this country down the river.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


13 August, 2010

90% of women 'sexually harassed in the workplace' (or is it 1%?)

The "study" below is a bit of a laugh. As we read on in the article, we find that harassment "included offensive remarks about being female, their appearance, body or sexual activities" So "harassment" is very broadly defined.

We also read that the survey covered only "the US military and the legal profession". That is hardly a representative sample.

And as a very experienced survey researcher, I can tell you that the response rate to the survey would have been very low. Quite probably it was only or mainly disgruntled women who replied to it. The findings are in short entirely consistent with an actual overall rate of harassment that affected (say) 1% of all women -- not 90%. It's junk science. Or to put it in an academic way: Parameter estimation is the least promising application of survey research

Nine in ten women have suffered some form of sexual discrimination in the workplace, a study has found.

A vast majority of women workers have experienced ‘gender harassment’, which includes offensive sexist remarks or being told that they could not do their job properly due to their sex.

This more common, low-level sexist behaviour was just as damaging and distressing as overt advances, experts suggest.
Distress: A vast majority of women workers have experienced 'gender harassment', which includes offensive sexist remarks or being told that they could not do their job properly due to their sex

Distress: A vast majority of women workers have experienced 'gender harassment', which includes offensive sexist remarks or being told that they could not do their job properly due to their sex

The researchers at the University of Michigan found that 10 per cent of the women surveyed had experienced the most severe form of harassment, in which they were promised promotion or better treatment if they were ‘sexually cooperative’.

The study questioned women in two male-dominated environments – the US military and the legal profession. It found that although few were subjected to actual advances, such as being groped, 90 per cent had been subjected to gender harassment.

This included offensive remarks about being female, their appearance, body or sexual activities. The researchers argued that this ‘leads to negative personal and professional outcomes and as such is a serious form of sex discrimination’.

Gender harassment ‘creates a hostile environment that disadvantages women’, they said. Often dismissed as a misguided attempt to draw women into romantic relationships, such behaviour actually rejects women and drives them out of jobs, they said.

The findings, in Springer’s journal of Law and Human Behaviour, concluded that harassment victims fared poorly at work. They were far more likely to develop health problems that affected their performance.


Police Hid “Mid-Eastern” Description of killer

Serial Killer Who Targeted US Blacks is Palestinian Arab Illegal Alien, NOT an Israeli Jew

By Debbie Schlussel

For several weeks, police have been quietly searching for a serial killer who stabbed poor Black victims in Flint, Michigan, then fled to Leesburg, Virginia, where his sister lives. Many family members of the victims were angry that the police did not disclose the White identity of the murderer, saying it was racist. But, now, it’s very clear why they hid his identity and true visual description: Elias Abuelazam is a Palestinian Arab illegal alien who was here on an expired passport.
“He was a dark Middle Eastern guy and the description was of a White guy,” said [DS: his neighbor] Carrie Strang, who woke up this morning to find police cars and news vans outside.

Wow, we’ve really regressed a long way when we endanger people’s lives to give a politically-correct, whitewashed description of a Palestinian serial killer.

Abuelazam, who killed five people and attacked 20 others in three states, engaged in apparent marriage fraud, marrying a woman from Texas (and never adjusting his immigration status), then divorcing her.

Police stopped Abuelazam, who was trying to board a flight to escape to Israel. Unfortunately, while Abuelazam’s name isn’t being publicized, that he is “from Israel” is. It’s funny: they hate Israel, but whenever Palestinians are in trouble, suddenly they are “from Israel.” He may have been born in Israel and even have an Israeli passport, but he and his ilk identify as and with Palestinians. The guy is NOT Israeli, contrary to MSNBC’s disgusting headline: "Israeli held in investigation of serial stabbings"

He’s Palestinian Arab who was born in Israel. Get that straight.

Abuelazam specifically targeted Blacks and stabbed them to death. Disgustingly, some of the Detroit media, including “newscaster” Trudi Daniels of Detroit’s WRIF-FM, are making excuses for the guy, with Daniels saying that he probably did this because “maybe a Black guy raped his wife” or someone Black robbed him or committed some other crime against him, she surmised. Daniels is an uber-liberal . . . and, now, clearly a racist.

It is well known that Palestinians, Arabs, and the Arab and Muslim worlds are racist. As I’ve noted before, they call Blacks, “abed” or “abeed”–singular and plural for slave, in Arabic.

Abuelazam was employed at a Flint-area convenience store, the Kingwater Market, owned by fellow Arab, Abdullah Farah. How interesting that it didn’t bother them that he was here illegally. Yes, they are accessories to his illegal alien presence in America, but nothing will happen to them. Because we just don’t have the guts, do we?

We don’t have the guts to protect our borders or to do a damned thing to those who help keep it porous and indefensible.

Nor do we do a damned thing about police who won’t correctly identify a Middle-Eastern Arab serial killer on the loose because, post-9/11, we must bow down to the Arab street at all cost. Nauseating to the Nth.


People who can't take a joke - that IS offensive: Modern-day society is lacking humour

Most people reading this will, at some point, have had the misfortune to meet one of those piggyfaced people who, at a certain point in the conversation, says: 'Excuse me, but I find that offensive.'

Often it's someone who isn't actually offended themselves. They are claimed offence for an absent third party. Unfortunately, this horrible behavioural tic is extending its reach. It is realising its power and getting organised.

You often hear the phrase 'Why does no one ever say "X" in the media?' or 'Why do you never hear "Y"?' The simple answer is that - to an extent barely realised outside the business - what can be written and broadcast in our media today is no longer decided just by editors and commissioners, but by a labyrinthine bureaucracy open to wild abuse by anyone who can claim to have had their feelings hurt.

If you don't like something you hear, you can claim to have suffered an offence - instead of just turning it off. Minority interest pressure groups encourage it, and you can be directed to things that you weren't offended by first time round via Twitter and Facebook. Best of all, you can threaten to use the law.

Let me give an example. But first, let me cover myself by issuing a disclaimer - what follows is a joke: 'A man walked into a Dublin bar and saw a friend sitting with an empty glass.

"Paddy, can I get you another?" he asked. Paddy replied, "Now, what would I be wanting with another empty glass?" '

Let me be absolutely clear; it is not a good joke. I am not saying it is. But in any sane society there would be only two possible reactions. You could laugh or, (more likely) like me, you will have emitted a small groan.

But, of course, this is no longer a sane society and so a third option presents itself - which is that you call up the police and report that a crime has been committed. Not a crime against humour. But a crime. Full stop.

Happily, the above joke is not my own. Any correspondence should be sent to Councillor Ken Bamber who sits on the local council in the Medway towns, Kent. Cllr Bamber told the above joke during a council event.

Unfortunately, another individual present was one Brian Kelly, a Unison representative. Mr Kelly promptly stated that he had been born in Ireland and had Irish lineage and as such found the joke offensive.

A complaint was launched. A lengthy legal process ensued, at the end of which Mr Kelly was awarded many thousands of pounds in compensation, paid to him by the Council and Cllr Bamber. You and I, of course, paid for the cost of proceedings.

Now, when I read about this earlier this year I had a few thoughts of my own and wrote a piece about this madness. Among other things, I reflected on the paltry pay given to our Armed Forces as compared to the munificent shell-out to Mr Kelly.

I said that there is something wrong with a society in which our soldiers in Afghanistan get paid just over 1,000 pounds a month for facing incoming fire from the Taliban, while Mr Kelly is paid many times that for the risk of facing an incoming joke in Kent.

Anyhow, I signed off in the spirit of 'they can't take us all' by saying that readers should send in their own Irish jokes to defeat this compensation-culture menace. At which point, I unwittingly walked straight on to the crime scene myself.

I, too, had committed a hate crime. Worse, I had incited others to do the same. I had become a one-man walking crimewave. Before I knew it, I was in what one journalist described as 'a minor international incident'.

The phone began to ring with predominantly Irish journalists wanting comment. Editorials were written on the case of the Scottish-sounding man who had incited jokes against the Irish. As the case dragged on, I started to wonder whether I could leave the house without committing a hate crime.

Apparently, I didn't have to. The Irish embassy issued a statement and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs proclaimed that it was precisely because of articles like mine that hate-speech laws existed.

And, of course, utterly inevitably, some self-appointed harpy who claimed to be an Irish 'community leader' reported me to the Press Complaints Commission and police.

Hate crimes complaints, I learned, are like hydras: attempt to chop up one and you find yourself facing two.

I know I'm not the only journalist to have gone through this process. More and more special-interest groups are demanding acquiescence or silence in relation to their agendas.

And, as a result, there are certain subjects that you are simply better off not writing about. Anything to do with race, religion or sexuality you're better off out of. Of course, the principle that no one should be able to claim or receive compensation for hearing a joke they do not like was lost in much of the Irish hullabaloo.

But I was struck by something in the conversations I kept having with people. Generally, my interviewers and correspondents recognised that there are real crimes - rapes, murders and so on - which might better suit police attention.

But there was also a presumption, and the younger the interviewer the more prevalent it was, that there must be - had to be - something in place in society that stopped people having to face the risk of having their feelings insulted. Particularly if it had something to do with ethnic heritage, religion or sexuality.

My own reaction to this is fairly robust. Being offended, and learning to deal with it, is part of being a grown-up in a grown-up society. I get offended every time I walk down the street. I'm offended by very fat people, I'm offended by flashy people.

I'm offended by Channel 4 News. Most of all, I'm offended by super-sensitive people who think that they're the only ones in the world with feelings. Yet I don't try to get any of these banned because I know that it's not the state's job to punish people just because they annoy me.

An increasing number of us appear to think differently. I suppose we should have seen this coming. After all, if the Government is meant to provide everything else in life, why shouldn't it be expected to police your feelings as well? It is a logical endpoint of the welfare state.

But it seems to me that humour, like good manners, can be learned only by acquaintance with well-mannered or good-humoured people.

If you do something rude or illmannered - including telling an inappropriate joke - people around you, who you wish to be respected by, should let you know you have made a gaffe. The smallest of silences, a cough or an awkward shuffle of feet, will do.

A society in which authority decides what you can hear and say will not only be a society lacking in humour, it will be one lacking in humanity.


The Great Repeal Bill

By Wendy McElroy, writing about British politics for an American audience

Legal and political trends in the United Kingdom often parallel or precede ones within the United States. For example, the politically correct crusades against smoking and child obesity raged in Britain prior to jumping the Atlantic.

A particularly interesting trend is currently unfolding in the UK and, for once, its spread might bring welcomed change. The new coalition government is pushing what it calls a Freedom or Great Repeal Bill. In the Queen’s Speech of May 2010 — a speech written by the government but read by the monarch at Parliament’s opening session — Queen Elizabeth stated, “Legislation will be brought forward to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws.”

The new coalition government has pledged to “roll back the State, reducing the weight of government imposition on citizens that has increased in recent years through legislation and centralised programmes.” In short, the government intends to start reversing some aspects of the nanny state.

The Labour Party had been in power since 1997, first under Tony Blair and then under Gordon Brown. Many factors caused Labour to lose support, including a devastated economy and an unpopular war in Iraq. Another factor was the huge growth of government under Labour which was accompanied by a flood of nanny state legislation that caused grassroots grumbling. A sampling of the regulations imposed indicates the depth and breadth of government’s petty intrusion into the daily life of a Brit:

# The heat of bathwater: it is a criminal offense to sell a bath or bath taps that supplies water hotter than 48 degrees.

# Shopping on Sunday: trading laws restrict how long a business may be open on Sunday.

# Sale of goldfish to children: it is to sell a goldfish to anyone under 14-years-old, with harsh penalties being imposed.illegal.

# Music license: pubs need a license to have live music, even that played on a guitar by a local musician

# Marriage venue laws: In England and Wales, you must marry at a Register Office or a state-approved marriage venue.

# Anti-home DYI laws: for example, it is illegal to do your own minor electrical work, like adding a socket in your own home.

# Garbage recycling laws: trash bins have been implanted with 2.6 million microchips to ensure recycling compliance and collect huge fines

Some of the intrusions have not been so petty. This is especially true of the ones justified in the name of anti-terrorism. For example, a decryption law requires a citizen to give up encryption keys under threat of a jail sentence for refusing. “Control orders” allow the police to de facto arrest people on “suspicion” (sometimes they are indefinitely confined to their homes) without having to declare any charges or provide other due process.

The caveats:

The coalition government is most definitely not pro-freedom at its root.

The Queen’s Speech of May 2010 reiterated the government’s strong anti-immigration policy and promised “to tackle alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour.” Britain already has one of the most restrictive policies on alcohol in the Western world. “Anti-social behaviour” is currently handled through Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, which are civil orders against people who engage in a wide range of activities including noise pollution, busking, loitering, or littering.

Thus, even though the coalition should be applauded for being adamant about scrapping the UK’s compulsory national identity card and national ID registry, they are not doing so on libertarian grounds. Brendan O’Neill of the alternate news site Spiked describes such actions as “less a rallying cry for a new, more liberated way of organising society than a snake-like shedding of jobs that they no longer feel capable of executing.”

In all probability, the coalition is pandering to public backlash against the petty intrusion of a Nanny State, all the while being cognizant of the fact that it cannot afford to implement all the legislation its predecessors had passed. Nevertheless, a pandering that increases privacy rights and civil liberties would be a welcomed change.

More here

Another dangerous censorship tool coming up

A clandestine international treaty is currently being negotiated among parties including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, Singapore, and Morocco. It can justly be called the greatest threat of our time to the advancement of human civilization. Considering the magnitude of the other abuses of power pervading the world today, this might seem an exaggeration, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) contravenes every principle of civilized society, both in its content and in the nature of the proceedings leading to its creation.

It threatens to undo the accomplishments of the great Internet revolution and to thrust humankind back to a time when individuals had no public voice and no countervailing power against politically privileged mercantilist institutions. ACTA tramples on essential rights that have achieved even mainstream recognition: innocence until one is proven guilty, due process, personal privacy, and fair use of published content. Moreover, because of its designation as a trade agreement, ACTA could be imposed on the people of the United States by the president, without even a vote of Congress....

Here, I will only summarize the most salient abuses arising from this treaty, but I encourage readers to learn as much as they can about this truly totalitarian agreement. My other objective here is to demonstrate the enormous danger that ACTA poses: it threatens to thrust human civilization back into the pre-electronic Dark Ages.

ACTA's provisions would amplify the already-onerous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Prior to DMCA, copyright infringement was a civil offense; if the holder of "intellectual property rights" to a work found himself inconvenienced by its unauthorized distribution, he could sue the "infringer" in court. The DMCA criminalized copyright infringement and has rendered thousands of innocent creators' work subject to notorious and frivolous takedown notices, but it retained important protections for individual consumers and Internet service providers (ISPs). For instance, the DMCA's "safe harbor" provisions absolved ISPs from liability for any copyright infringement on the part of their customers. ACTA would eliminate this protection and require ISPs to become an enforcement arm of the treaty, under threat that the ISPs themselves would be fined or shut down if they did not comply.

Under the current copyright regime, a holder of "intellectual property rights" is at least formally required to gather evidence of any infringement and submit a grievance. With ACTA, this requirement would be eliminated, and the holder of "intellectual property rights" would not even need to complain in order for governments to persecute the alleged infringer.

The sheer absurdity of this approach does not take long to recognize. Indeed, many copyright holders today — from superstar musicians to part-time online content creators — deliberately look the other way when others reproduce their work without prior permission; they hope to benefit from the resulting exposure.

Under ACTA, governments would be able to crack down on the fans of these creators, against those creators' own wishes! Even if one accepts the validity of intellectual-property rights (which I do not), who would be the rights holder here — individual creators, or governments and the large, politically privileged trade associations that are pushing this treaty?

Under ACTA, the very suspicion or allegation of having downloaded or even accessed copyrighted material online would render one's computer open to search without a warrant. Fines and other penalties would apply to refusing permission for a search, while anyone consenting to a search would almost certainly be found guilty of some "infringement" or another. Under ACTA, even viewing a website containing material that infringes a copyright — without the viewer being aware of said infringement's existence — would be considered aiding and abetting the infringement.

Moreover, ACTA would render individuals liable to searches and penalties even for the suspicion of possessing materials that might have been obtained via distribution channels that are similar to distribution channels for obtaining unauthorized copies. So, if you ever downloaded a free mp3 file from an artist who shares all of his work for free online, you would not be safe. And this is not too far off from what the proponents of ACTA desire. Remember that, with the force of US law on its side, the RIAA does not allow even nonmember artists to offer their own works for free on certain channels — such as Internet radio. This organization — the epitome of mercantilism and protectionism for politically connected large studios — would enjoy nothing more than the death of free, legitimate sharing of content online.

Just as important to remember is that people who never infringe on anyone's copyright are just as likely to suffer from ACTA, particularly if they have anything intelligent and controversial to say online. If there is anything that the history of DMCA notice abuses teaches us, it is that sophisticated expressions of ideas are never safe from malicious and contrived allegations of copyright infringement.

Thousands of creators on YouTube, whose works contained no copyrighted materials, have for years been served DMCA takedown notices by fanatics who intensely disagreed with their ideas. YouTube's mindless automatic response system to DMCA notices resulted in these creators' accounts being suspended and sometimes deleted altogether, even when their accusers clearly violated the law by bringing forth frivolous charges. Under ACTA, the same frivolous accusations can result in much more than the deletion of a video account; governments will assume the role of enforcers, and — judging by precedents such as the war on drugs and "airport security" — you can be certain that they will not be nearly as scrupulous or respectful of individual rights as YouTube.

Much 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


12 August, 2010

Children not encouraged in modern societies

A recipe for general decline

Our society does not -- despite rhetoric to the contrary -- put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children. Down that path lies economic decline.

Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services. With older populations, they resist change. For a country to stabilize its population -- discounting immigration -- women must have an average of about two children. That's a "fertility rate" of two. Many countries with struggling economies are well below that. Japan's fertility rate is 1.2. Italy's is 1.3, as is Spain's. These countries are having about one child for every two adults.

The U.S. fertility rate isn't yet close to these dismal levels. In 2007, it was at the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Hispanics were at 3.0, and other groups clustered near replacement: 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites, 2.1 for non-Hispanic blacks and 2.0 for Asian Americans. (Not all the news is good. About 40 percent of births are to unmarried mothers; many children are entering poor or unstable homes.)

While having a child is a deeply personal decision, it's also shaped by culture, religion, economics and government policy. "No one has a good answer" as to why fertility varies among countries, says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. Eroding religious belief in Europe may partly explain lowered birth rates. In Japan, young women may be rebelling against their mothers' isolated lives of child-rearing. General optimism and pessimism count. Hopefulness fueled America's baby boom. After the Soviet Union's collapse, says Cherlin, "anxiety for the future" depressed birth rates in Russia and Eastern Europe.

In poor societies, people have children to improve their economic well-being by increasing the number of family workers and providing support for parents in their old age. In wealthy societies, the logic often reverses. Government now supports the elderly, diminishing the need for children. By some studies, the safety nets for retirees have reduced fertility rates by 0.5 children in the United States and almost 1.0 in Western Europe, reports economist Robert Stein in the journal National Affairs. Similarly, some couples don't have children because they don't want to sacrifice their lifestyles to the time and expense of a family.

We need to avoid Western Europe's mix of high taxes, low birth rates and feeble economic growth. Young Americans already face a bleak labor market that cannot instill confidence about having children. Piling on higher taxes won't help. "If higher taxes make it more expensive to raise children," says demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, "people will think more about having another child." That seems common sense, despite the multiple influences on becoming parents.


Breastfeeding British mother told 'put them away or get off' the bus

A BUS company has been scolded after one its driver allegedly told a breastfeeding mother to them "put them away or get off". Lauren McKenna, 22, was forced to walk more than kilometre home with her six-week-old baby D'Marion after the incident on a bus service in Manchester, northern England, The Daily Mail reported.

"I started to feed D'Marion and like normal I lifted up my jumper, pulled my t-shirt down and put a blanket over his head so nobody could see anything," she said. "I noticed the driver kept looking in his mirror at me and turning around and when we got to [local stop] Ancoats he stopped and said, 'Are you breastfeeding?'

"When I said yes he said, 'You can't do that on here.' He said you can either 'put them away', which didn't make sense because he couldn't see anything, or 'get off the bus'. I was fuming so I got off the bus."

Ms McKenna later called the bus firm, Stagecoach, to complain, but a female operator told her: "You shouldn't be doing it should you."

When contacted by the Mail, a spokesman for Stagecoach said: "We fully support mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies. "We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are carrying out a thorough investigation into this case, including a review of CCTV evidence from our buses."

In March this year, new mother Amy Wootten sparked outrage by claiming she was thrown off a bus in southwestern England while breastfeeding her daughter, following a passenger complaint about her "indecent exposure." However, after reviewing CCTV footage, the bus operator said it could find no evidence of the incident and accused her of making the story up.


A senior citizen lies down to stop "travellers" invading a park. Guess whom the police move in on?

A pensioner who tried to stop travellers trespassing on a park in a conservation area was ordered to move by police - only for around 30 caravans [trailers] to then colonise the site.

At one point the 70-year-old man was on the ground with his face almost touching the wheels of a truck towing a caravan which had stopped with its bumper over his head.

The drama unfolded when seven caravans moved on to the historic site in the shadow of a 13th century church under cover of darkness after removing part of a wooden fence rail at its boundary.

The pensioner lay down across the missing section as five more caravans arrived at the site yards from his home.

The man, who didn't want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said: 'The police arrived and told me to move. I asked them for their inspector's name and they refused. 'Meanwhile, the travellers were threatening to come back and "sort me out" but the police did not act on that. I was so disgusted I went home.'

The caravans moved a short distance away while police guarded Yardley Old Park in Yardley, Birmingham. But after 30 minutes officers left, allowing the mainly Irish travellers access to the beauty spot which is bordered by the medieval Old Grammar School and Grade I listed St Edburgha's Church, which dates back some 800 years.

Tim Moon, 28, whose family home overlooks the 30-acre park, said police seemed 'more interested in keeping the traffic moving' than stopping more travellers from getting in. He said: 'We heard a commotion and I saw this man lying across the pavement where the travellers had removed the fencing. Travellers were standing over him and gesturing for him to move. One man tried to drag him away by the feet. 'The caravans were blocking the road and traffic was backed up in both directions - the police seemed to just want to get the cars moving again.'

The first travellers arrived on Thursday night. Since the second convoy was confronted by the pensioner on Sunday, more caravans have arrived on a daily basis.

Suzanne Lyons, 56, whose home overlooks the park, said: 'We needed help from the police but whilst there was a lot of finger wagging going on, there hasn't been much action.'

Yesterday the travellers could be seen reclining on patio furniture in the sunshine. Bags of rubbish were piled up by an oak tree but there was no evidence that the trespassers had begun moving earth or laying hardcore.

One traveller said they were from three distinct groups who had been staying locally at other illegal sites. They said they planned to leave by tomorrow, when an eviction notice served on them by Tory-run Birmingham City Council runs out. Bailiffs can remove them if they remain beyond 6pm tomorrow.

Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Eustace said the council had asked police to immediately remove the travellers as soon as it became aware of the problem last Friday, using powers to tackle trespassers, but officers had refused because in most instances it is considered a civil, rather than criminal offence.

Superintendent Mick Gillick from West Midlands Police said officers advised the pensioner to move 'for his own safety'. He added: 'The police have no powers to enforce civil law, but are supporting the landlords ( Birmingham City Council). 'No criminal offences have been reported to the police.

'Local officers are listening to residents and other stakeholders to ensure their concerns are recorded and investigated where necessary.'

He said around six caravans had entered the park from a second entrance before the pensioner's protest. But residents said all caravans entered from the spot the man was attempting to guard.


White couple face discrimination probe after 'refusing to sell Chicago home to black family'

Not much left of private property rights in America

A white couple are facing a discrimination probe after they allegedly refused to sell their house to a black family because of their race. Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia are said to have taken their home off the market even though the £1.1million offer from George Willborn and wife Peytyn was the highest they had received.

When an investigation began they claimed they changed their mind and wanted to keep their children in their current schools. But their estate agent Jeffrey Lowe blew their cover when he told officials that Mr Sabbia had expressed a preference not to sell his home to an African-American, it is said.

Two months after the row erupted the house in Chicago was quietly relisted by Mr Lowe, with all its furniture, for £1.1million.

The Willborns have now made a complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Sabbias and Mr Lowe face federal discrimination charges. The matter will now be heard by an administrative judge although it could end up in the higher jurisdiction of a U.S. District Court. If the court finds that discrimination had taken place then damages could be awarded to the Willborns.

The issue of injunctive relief may also come up to deter further discrimination and fines up to £10,000 and legal costs. Should the case end up in the federal court, punitive damages may also be imposed as well.

'It's unacceptable,' said radio show host Mr Willborn. 'People who do this and companies who allow it should be held accountable.'

The Sabbia's 8,000sq ft house was listed for £1.3million but was dropped to £1.1million when it failed to sell. The offer from the Willborns was the highest in the two years it had been on the market.

John Trasviña, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity said: 'Racial fairness is important at all income levels. 'Civil rights enforcement must be the effective shield against housing discrimination that in this case wealth was not.'

SOURCE (See the original for links)


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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


11 August, 2010

Broken families undermine the self-confidence of the children

The study below was of girls only but is unusually strong in that it is a twin study, which means that genetic and environmental infuences can be separated out. We can therefore conclude that a degree of reduced confidence is not of genetic origin but an effect of childhood circumstances

Family violence, physical abuse or parents divorcing can play a role in keeping a girl from becoming an entrepreneur later in life. That’s according to new research led by Zhen Zhang, assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. The research shows that without positive intervention negative experiences in adolescence might help discourage a girl from owning a business as an adult.

“Childhood trauma might impede girls’ natural genetic inclination to become entrepreneurs,” Zhang said. “But environmental factors such as peer support, mentor programs, positive internships, and other activities where kids learn about financial independence and being a business owner can help mediate that. In the end, if girls get enough social and environmental support, their chances of becoming entrepreneurs can remain the same.”

Zhang is presenting his latest study at the prestigious annual meeting of the Academy of Management next week in Montreal. He completed the research with colleagues from Michigan State University and the National University of Singapore. They surveyed about 1,400 female pairs of fraternal and identical twins, asking them various questions about their childhoods and work history to help find out whether genetic influences on entrepreneurship are fixed or whether they can be weakened or strengthened by social environment. Statistical analyses showed parental divorce, family violence and physical abuse all significantly weaken the genetic influences on girls becoming entrepreneurs.

“Even though DNA is fixed, it needs human behavior to manifest itself,” Zhang said. “It’s the same thing for someone genetically inclined to be a scientist or an artist - they still need to be nurtured through social and environmental factors. Girls who have a supportive environment during adolescence will be more likely to reach their full genetic potential as entrepreneurs, while those affected by negative, stressful events can have their natural genetic disposition weakened.”

Zhang did earlier research on genetics and entrepreneurship published in the academic journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes last year. It explains that genetic influence has no bearing on whether boys become entrepreneurs, but many social factors, including family influence, do prompt men to own businesses. For girls, genetic factors play a role in determining personality traits such as extroversion and emotional stability, and those traits can help sway whether girls become entrepreneurs. However, this new research adds the wrinkle that childhood trauma can still impede that genetic influence on girls.

Zhang hopes policymakers will use his research to focus on programs that will help shore up the social and environmental factors encouraging teens to become entrepreneurs.

“We want to make society better,” Zhang said. “We want to be clear that genes don’t determine everything, so we can provide training programs and other opportunities to help open up kids’ eyes to the possibility of working for themselves.”


Evil British social workers again

Couple who had son removed by social workers cleared of neglect

A couple who had their son taken away by social workers who accused them of starving him have been cleared. Lisa and Paul Hessey have spent 12 months in a battle for Zak, two, who was taken into care for four months last year when doctors raised concerns over his “failure to thrive”.

The couple, of Bolsover, near Chesterfield, who are expecting their sixth child, suspected that he was autistic but said they were ignored. Experts have now confirmed Zak’s eating problems were caused by the disorder and the case has been dropped.

Mrs Hessey, 28, and her 48-year-old husband became worried last May over the fussy eating of Zak, then 18 months. Their GP referred him to Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Doctors said he showed “autistic tendencies” and health workers would be in touch.

Last June Zak became very ill. Hospital doctors suggested a dairy-free diet. When this did not work, the couple said, doctors asked that he undergo a two-week assessment. Social workers then told the couple Zak was being taken into care as doctors were worried they were not feeding him.

Derbyshire County Council refused to hand Zak back to them until November 17 last year. It continued to battle over Zak but has now withdrawn a court application, effectively clearing the couple, who are planning to sue.

Mr Hessey said: “We have been through hell for no reason at all.” Derbyshire County Council said workers acted in “the best interests of the child”.


Episcopal church weirdness

There is a fair chance that it will end up as a totally homosexual church. Bible-believing Anglicans are steadily breaking away

The Who is Mr. BH page has a paragraph that has garnered some questions over the years. That paragraph reads:
My current spiritual state was probably impacted in some way by my stint as a potential ordinand of the Episcopal Church in 1998. During that two year Ordination Exploration Program, I learned quite a bit about myself, but even more about progressive Christianity. Needless to say, I was, to my chagrin at the time, found not worthy to continue toward ordination in the Episcopal Church. Seems I was a bit " too rigid theologically" as some were quick to point out. I think however that my downfall began when I inadequately expressed how I felt about my penis. Yes, my penis. It seemed that the ECUSA was very concerned as to whether I could talk freely about my member during the psychological phase of the program. I was literally speechless about it at the time, given that I had never really considered giving much thought to the notion before.

Some have wondered if I was kidding when I wrote it. And no, I wasn't. It actually happened. For brevity's sake, I'm leaving lots out so bear with me.

The Ordination Exploration Program was intense, with lots of oversight (as you can imagine), and as noted, took two full years to complete.

It began, from an organized perspective, in my local church where a committee met to decide whether I'd make a decent candidate. Once properly vetted, I advanced to the Diocesan level, where the program began in earnest.

The initial hurdle was a series of psychological tests. I had to trek up to Richmond for the day to take them. It took hours to complete the battery. Once I learned that I had passed that satisfactorily (weeks went by before I knew), I moved on to the next level.

I, and my fellow potential ordinands, met with a Diocesan discernment board made up of clergy, laity and mental health professionals. The cluster of candidates included a handful of men, a number of women and an out of the closet homosexual.

We met regularly over a number of months as I recall and it was during one of these meetings when the penis question was asked. I had to follow the homosexual who went first and who gave a lengthy and most descriptive answer, one that communicated openly and excitedly how fantastic he thought his penis was. You'd have thought he was talking about a puppy. In fact, he had named it. I kid you not. And no, I don't recall the name though Binky seems to ring a bell. Dinky Binky or some such rot. He went on and on and in fact had to be cut short as he had exceeded the time limit imposed. And then it was my turn.

It didn't take me nearly as long.

I questioned the relevance of the topic and received blank stares. I remember mentioning something to the effect that I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. That when I did, it was for biological reasons. That unlike the feller before me, I didn't have a name for it I cared to share with anybody ('Johnson' had come to mind but I thought it wise at the time to keep that to myself). I think it took me all of 27 seconds. There was a long pause as Board members jotted down notes. The silence was deafening. Clearly the expectation was that I would more readily speak. I deliberately chose not to. Those who followed me were more verbose though not quite as chatty as Dinky Binky's owner. And then it was over. A most uncomfortable session coming to a most desirable end.

I went on to start and complete an internship at a nearby church, a time I enjoyed immensely but a time where it became clearer that my fitting in with the Episcopal Church was going to be problematic.

At the end of the 2 year program (in early 2000), the Diocesan board, with the Bishop and my own priest present, communicated to my wife and I in person that I would not be moving to the next step in the process, citing a need for me to "continue my own discernment process". At the time, it was a tough blow but today, 10 years later, I'm convinced that God was guiding the process and in fact had saved me, my loved ones and the Episcopal Church from even more heartache.

Today, as regular readers know, the missus and I are willing participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in a local Catholic parish. We're being exposed to the core of Catholic teaching and are to this point enjoying it a lot.

As of this writing, my penis has not been on the agenda. I don't expect that to change moving forward.


Weird British prosecutors again

A British drunk cost taxpayers thousands of pounds when he opened a beer in the street.

The London Evening Standard reported that Stephen Geddes, 42, was banned from possessing alcohol in public after a series of drunken incidents at Turnham Green, in western London. However, in June he was caught near his home with a can of Heineken beer.

He was sentenced to an 18-month behaviour order, ordered to undergo alcohol treatment, and told to do 40 hours of community work. But his case was still sent to the Old Bailey court - normally used to try the most serious criminal cases - for sentencing over a breach to an earlier suspended sentence.

The decision to send the case to court surprised the judge, Recorder William Clegg. "The only thing he's done is to open a can of beer. It is rather a brave order to make for an alcoholic. It's not exactly stealing the crown jewels," he said. "Who would have thought a can of beer would have cost so much public money?"

The judge said it would be "unjust" to impose any further sentence on Geddes because he was still subject to the community order. He added, "I do not propose to implement the suspended sentence. Indeed you have made good progress. I am pleased to see you seem to be getting on top of the problems that you had."



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


10 August, 2010

The UK maternity units in which only 1 in 10 mothers is of white British origin

Is England's future English? Perhaps not

Just one in ten babies is born to a white British mother in some parts of the country, figures reveal.

The statistics - based on NHS monitoring of the ethnicity and nationality of patients - show a sharp contrast in the backgrounds of new mothers in urban and rural areas.

While white British mothers accounted for just 9.4 per cent of all births in one London health trust, the figure was 97.4 per cent of all births in Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.

The birth statistics reflect how mothers described themselves, not the ethnicity of the fathers or the babies.

Across all of England's 150 NHS Trusts there were 652,638 deliveries last year, around six out of ten of them to women who called themselves white British.

But in some trusts serving rural areas more than 95 per cent of mothers fell into that category. These included Northern Devon with 97.4 per cent, Co Durham and Darlington with 97.1, and Northumbria with 96 per cent.

At the other end of the spectrum, in North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, which covers Harrow, just 9.4 per cent of mothers were white British. Another inner city trust - Sandwell and West Birmingham - had 16.5 per cent. And a little over one in four new mothers were white Britons at Guy's and St Thomas' hospital in central London.

The proportion of mothers of white British origin at Bradford Teaching Hospitals trust was 34 per cent. Even some NHS trusts in the home counties reported fewer than six in ten deliveries were to white British mothers. In West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which covers St Albans, just 57 per cent of women giving birth were white British.

Across England 62 per cent of all births last year involved a white British mother.

The largest other single ethnic groups were 'other white' - including Eastern Europeans - which made up 7 per cent of births, black (5 per cent), Pakistani (4 per cent) and Indian (3 per cent).

Of the rest of the mothers 8 per cent described their ethnicity as 'other' (including mixed-race women) and the remainder were listed as 'not known'.

Backbench Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: 'I think we have to face reality and that is if you continue to have mass immigration it's going to have a very significant impact on the demography of our country - and it's going to have a significant impact perhaps on the sort of country that we are.'

Last month it emerged that Britain's population growth is outpacing every other country in Europe. Immigration and rising birth rates driven in part by the children of new arrivals - the so- called 'immigrant baby boom' - meant the UK gained more people than anywhere else in the continent.

Ministers have proposed forcing non EU migrants to buy their own private health care for non-emergency treatment on the NHS.

David Cameron has pledged to reduce the level of net migration - the number of people arriving minus the number leaving - from the hundreds to the tens of thousands. The Prime Minister has proposed putting a limit on the number of immigrants from outside the EU given work permits for the UK.


British welfare lunacy: 100,000 households on benefits higher than the average wage

Britain's benefits bonanza has been laid bare as it emerged 100,000 households rake in more than the average wage in welfare every year. They collect £30,899 before tax, while many workers can only aspire to an average wage of £23,422. Meanwhile 50,000 of those households are entitled to more than £500 a week - which adds up to more than £26,000 a year.

Inmates are also using legal aid to fight disciplinary cases after they flout the rules in jail - by fighting other inmates, disobeying instructions or being caught with drugs or mobile phones.

While the cost of legal aid has been spiralling, the number of extra days added to a convict's sentence has been falling - suggesting they are mounting a better defence.

In 2007, the number of punishments where additional days were added to a sentence was 13,460. By 2009 it was down to 11,550.

This compares with a legal aid bill of £12.49million in 2007, rising to £21.61million last year - or almost £2,500 every hour, according to figures slipped out before MPs left for the summer recess.

Officials at the Department for Work and Pensions highlighted the figures after the coalition pledged an overhaul of the welfare system to make work pay.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: 'Yet again we see more evidence for why reform is so desperately needed.

'When thousands of people are earning more on benefits than hard working families struggling to get by there must be something wrong and I'm shocked that this was allowed to happen.'

He insisted the Government's paper published last week - 21st Century Welfare - would start changing the current system, which 'punishes those who do the right thing by going out to work'.

Mr Grayling added: 'We will make work pay so that the system is fair - fair for those who need a hand up and fair for the taxpayer who pays for it.'

The shocking scale of welfare dependency built up under Labour has seen almost 700,000 families pocketing more than £15,000 a year in benefits and nearly two million children living in households where not a single person works, the highest level in Europe.

At least 12million working-age households receive benefits each week, including tax credits and Child Benefit, at a cost of around £85billion per year.

Punitive marginal tax rates often mean people are better off staying on welfare than finding part-time work, as they can lose up to 96p in the pound for any additional income.

The Government has promised to reverse this, although the last Budget showed there would be an increase in the number caught out by the marginal tax rate.

David Cameron has said it is not sustainable to keep spending 14 per cent of national income on funding benefits.

Matthew Sinclair, research director at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Hardworking taxpayers will be shocked to learn that tens of thousands of claimants are getting more than the average annual wage in benefits.

'This is yet more confirmation that our disastrous welfare system is leaving too many people in a situation where there isn't any real financial incentive to work.

'We need to make drastic changes to save taxpayers' money and ensure that it is worthwhile for people to take the opportunities that will be created as the economy recovers from the recession.

'Most taxpayers are sick of seeing tens of billions of pounds of their money wasted every year on a welfare system that is trapping people in dependency.'

Housing benefit has also soared by 40 per cent to more than £14billion in the last decade.

To combat this Mr Cameron has pledged to clamp down on funding luxury houses in exclusive areas for families on welfare, with a cap of £400 a week for a four-bedroom house.

Critics argue this will force families on welfare out of their homes. But ministers claim those on benefits should not get special rights to live in expensive areas which many working households could not afford.


Revealed: The quarter of a million British homes where no one's ever had a job

There are more than a quarter of a million homes in Britain where no one has ever had a job, according to shocking new Government figures.

They were unearthed as part of David Cameron’s campaign to find new ways of preventing the workshy living off benefits indefinitely, in some cases with a higher income than people with jobs.

The Prime Minister has ordered an investigation into the numbers of long-term out-of-work and claims that the benefits system makes it more profitable for some people to stay unemployed.

Experts say that children brought up in homes where neither the father nor the mother has had a job are far more likely to go straight from school to the dole queue and stay there.

Of the 264,000 homes where no one has ever had a job, most are made up of lone parents and single people, though a substantial number include two adults.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: ‘We have to tackle this problem now and make sure no one is ever left behind again.

These households make up some of the five million people who have just been cast aside on benefits with no meaningful attempt made to help them.

‘The Work Programme we are bringing forward will give all those who are out of work and need a job the right support at the right time to make sure they can access vacancies.’

There are about five million people on key out-of-work benefits, almost four times as many as those claiming the main dole – jobseeker’s allowance.

Ministers claim the root of the problem has more to do with the flawed welfare state than a lack of jobs. There were an estimated 486,000 unfilled posts in June, 10,000 up on March.

A Government source said: ‘Ministers are working on a new programme which will provide a single, unified approach to getting people back into work.’

In addition to the 1.4 million who claim the jobseeker’s allowance, 2.6 million get incapacity benefit or other employment benefits, 675,000 lone parents get income support and 600,000 claim other out-of-work benefits.

In total, 100,000 homes get more than the average wage in welfare.


Australia: A Christian candidate with old-fashioned values

Much too old-fashioned for some -- but she has a chance of getting the last Queensland Senate seat to be allocated. Such seats in the Australian system often go to minor parties

She believes a prime minister in a de facto relationship isn't role-model material, says the burqa stops women from showing who they really are and has likened gay marriage to child abuse and she's running for the Australian Senate.

At 49, Mitchelton grandmother Wendy Francis is in the race of her life. The top Senate candidate for Family First in Queensland found her views in the eye of a social media storm yesterday after she was forced to delete a Twitter post quickly dubbed offensive.

It read: "Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse".

In an interview with The Courier-Mail yesterday, Ms Francis said she hadn't meant offence and was just desperate to preserve both "Australian values" and the Australian "way of life".

The former administration manager said a vote for the Greens was a vote for a "dangerous" and "radical" party and that political correctness was out of control.

Ms Francis moved quickly to deny she was homophobic, instead arguing she was looking out for children. "If we're doing this social experiment, can we really expect there won't be emotional suffering?" she asked.

Ms Francis also said the leaders of major political parties were "too scared" of offending Muslims. She said she believed there was a minority influence that "would want to make Australia a Muslim country". "I have Muslim friends ... but we're not a Muslim country and we don't want to become a Muslim country, so let's talk about it so we're aware of any potential and what we can do about it," she said.

Ms Francis said she wasn't against people "working within their own traditions", but noted that the burqa stopped women from showing who they were. "This is not an Australian value," she said.

The Senate candidate also took aim at Prime Minister Julia Gillard, questioning whether she was the best role model for the nation. "Everyone is entitled to be in a de facto relationship ... but people are also entitled to do other things that I don't think are a good role model," she said.

"It is perfectly OK to get drunk, but I don't think the Prime Minister would because it wouldn't be a good example."

Ms Francis believed it was a tight race between herself and the Greens candidate for the Senate, Larissa Waters. Family First is running a candidate in every seat and three candidates for the Senate in Queensland.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


9 August, 2010

Italy's top court rejects homosexual marriage

ITALY'S Constitutional Court today rejected legal recognition of gay marriage, saying arguments in its favor were either "unfounded" or "inadmissible".

Courts in Venice and Trento in the northeast sought the court's opinion after gay rights groups questioned whether not allowing same-sex marriage was a violation of human rights enshrined in the constitution.

They also argued that the ban may flout European and international obligations, and that the constitution does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.

The Italian Forum of Family Associations hailed the ruling, saying the court had "chosen in favour of the good of society".

But a group advocating gay marriage vowed to continue the struggle, "carrying it forward, both in the courts and in society, until the full equality of homosexuals is recognized in civil marriage law".

The Constitutional Court will issue a detailed opinion in the coming days.


No justice for British children?

Family court system could implode, warns its top judge

The family courts system is in "grave danger of imploding", Sir Nicholas Wall, the judge in charge of it, has warned. In a letter dated July 29, Sir Nicholas, president of the Family Division of the High Court, suggested legal aid cuts could mean that parents fighting to keep their children have to represent themselves in court.

He says he has been "inundated with expressions of serious concern" from judges about the cuts, which will almost halve the number of family law firms doing legal aid.

The letter, obtained by Community Care magazine, is his second stark warning of the crisis in children's justice. Last November, in a professional conference unreported at the time, he gave one of the most outspoken speeches ever made by a judge.

"Neither I, nor any of my colleagues, has any wish to engage in politics," he said. But "the time has now come when the judicial reluctance to go public … must come to an end."

Sir Nicholas warned that the system was in a "parlous state", in danger of collapse, and it was "the children who will suffer most". It was funded by people "who know nothing about it, and have never practised it … Neither the court itself, nor the out of court facilities, are serving disadvantaged children as they should."

It was, he said, "welfare, or farewell".

The judge's interventions are signs of unprecedented anger across the child protection world. Some parents say their children are being seized without cause by overzealous councils. The professionals say the error, more often, is leaving them with abusive parents – as, of course, with Baby P. Both groups may, in fact, be right.

Since the Baby Peter tragedy, the number of children subject to care proceedings has shot up by two hundred a month, a rise of more than 40 per cent.

Eight thousand children were taken into care last year alone. Yet, disturbingly, the number of infants not in care who died of neglect or abuse has also risen – suggesting that in some cases, the wrong children are being removed from their families, and the wrong children being allowed to stay.

In theory, there are many safeguards. No child can be taken from their parents without a court order, and later a full hearing. At the system's heart lies a person called a guardian – an independent expert, with a social work background, quite separate from the local council and family. The guardian's job is to get to know the child, investigate their circumstances, stand up for them in court and protect them against abuse of power by social services, or their parents.

"You look critically at what the local authority is doing, and you look critically at what the parents are doing," says Alison Paddle, a guardian since 1991, who is also spokesman for their professional body, Nagalro. "You give the child a voice."

Ms Paddle says that in her experience – she has done about 120 cases – it is rare for a council's concerns about a family to be completely baseless. "You often ask yourself why they haven't acted before. But unfortunately there's also quite a number of situations where the local authority haven't covered everything they should do to keep the child out of care. There may be relatives, for instance, who can offer something very positive but haven't been asked."

Another guardian fought off a local council which seized children for adoption after their parents left them home alone, caring for a disabled sibling. "The local authority overreacted," the guardian said. "They also lied to the court about the experience of the foster-carer, possibly placing a very disabled baby at risk by placing him with a very inexperienced carer."

The decision was overturned. Guardians can also get children placed in care where they think the social services have been too lenient.

In many places, however, the guardian system has effectively collapsed. At least 1,000 children going through care proceedings are now represented only by a constantly-changing stream of "duty guardians", people who often never meet the children they are supposed to be championing, let alone visit their homes, and base all their judgments on the local authority's paperwork.

Thousands of children never get a guardian at all, or have to wait weeks for one – by which time all the key decisions about their future may well have been taken, irreversibly.

The courts have no real investigatory capacity and tend to take the word of the experts. In some cases, say guardians, the course of a child's whole life is effectively decided in one brief phone call.

"Duty guardians or no guardians at all were happening in every single case I handled for several months," says Barbara Hopkin, a prominent family lawyer. "It's a rubber-stamping exercise. I was told by some [duty guardians] that they were not allowed to talk to the parents."

A family court judge, Graham Cliffe, said that the guardian service in his area, York, had "deteriorated at an alarming rate" and "reached crisis level – make no mistake about it, vulnerable children are being sold short."

Cafcass, the government quango which runs the service, blames the problems on the post-Baby P care rush, as social workers play it safe. That, perhaps, is reason to scrutinise applications more thoroughly, not less. And Cafcass's critics say the real problem is that it is a classic New Labour bureaucratic monster.

"In terms of funding, Cafcass has done quite well," says Paul Bishop, vice chairman of NAPO, its staff union. "But only fifty per cent of people in Cafcass are actually doing the job and the other fifty per cent are monitoring them and filling out forms."

Before Cafcass was created, in 2000, children's guardians were lightly managed – and in most parts of the country, every child got a guardian within 24 hours. In the new era, when some children never get a guardian at all, staff say they have to fill out five forms for every action they take, swallowing a third of their working week.

Anthony Douglas, Cafcass's chief executive, insists that talk of a meltdown is "alarmist". "We've absorbed 30 per cent more work in a year," he says.

Yet the legal aid cuts are a double whammy. "All the parties in a case have to use different firms, but after October, there will only be one family law firm doing legal aid in the whole of Devon,' says Hopkin. 'It's a complete disaster'.

In April, the county's child protection department was criticised by a judge as "more like Stalin's Russia ... than the West of England".

Sir Nicholas's leaked letter says that across the country, many of the new solicitors given legal aid contracts have no experience in family law, and may "not know fully what they are doing". And these cuts are quite separate from new, further, reductions to legal aid being planned by the Coalition government.

It is fair to say that almost everyone involved with the children's courts – the professionals, the parents and the children themselves – has never been unhappier. The real problem is not, perhaps, that social workers are evil, or that all parents are liars. The problem is that in cases needing very fine judgments, a dysfunctional system is making it harder to get those judgments right.


Sexual statism

The decline of the male economy — and of fatherhood — arises less from the empowerment of women than from the government’s usurpation of the family

In “The End of Men,” the cover story of the July/August Atlantic, Hanna Rosin describes “how women are taking control of everything.” Suggesting that “the economics of the new era are better suited to women,” Rosin believes the fair sex are winning the struggle for the survival of the fittest. In what is apparently cause for celebration, she writes, “three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men” in the ongoing Great Recession. “The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance.” She contends that the economic crisis “merely revealed—and accelerated—a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least 30 years.”

The Atlantic used the same issue to ask, “Are Fathers Necessary?” Pamela Paul cites a widely publicized study purporting to prove that fathers are harmful in rearing children and that lesbians do it better. The study is politics camouflaged as social science—its authors acknowledge that the parenting virtues they extol are defined “in part in the service of an egalitarian ideology.” Their message echoes Rosin’s: within the home, as in the national economy, men are unreliable at best and pathological at worst. The Atlantic assures us that the decline of men is the product of impersonal forces against which we are powerless to respond, even if we wished to—which apparently we do not.

Rosin, whose essay is #1 on the magazine’s “Biggest Ideas of the Year” list, certainly identifies an important trend. But the phenomenon she describes is the result not of inexorable social forces but of conscious political decisions. The end of men is the consequence of the most profound trend in public life today: the sexualization of politics and the politicization of sex.

The emergence of sexual politics has elicited strikingly little critical treatment. Yet it represents the most radical change in the nature of government in modern times. The economic effects are only symptoms. More far-reaching are the vast shifts in political power at every level. Feminist ideology pervades every item on the public agenda: not just “women’s issues” like abortion but everything from gun control (think of the “Million Mom March”) and DWI laws (Mother Against Drunk Driving) to foreign policy (Code Pink). “Women have the most to gain and the most to lose in the climate crisis,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed during the Copenhagen conference. “The impacts are not gender-neutral… . Women feel the consequences first.” Not an issue in public life has not been “gendered.”

The transformation of society wrought by sexual politics is most readily apparent where Rosin begins her article: with what she calls the “matriarchy” of the inner cities. Government policies produced this matriarchy: the men who are “increasingly absent from the home,” as Rosin writes, have been removed by welfare agencies and courts. The women are “making all the decisions” in inner-city households because the men have been forced out and government has usurped the role of father and husband, providing protection and income directly to the women and children. This produces in urban America not a “working class,” as Rosin terms it, but a class of government dependents whose living arrangements have been engineered by state officials.

As single motherhood spreads from the lower to the middle classes—among whom it is growing fastest—so does Rosin’s matriarchy. In the suburbs as in the cities, it is promoted by government machinery originally justified as helping the poor: child-care services, care for the elderly, public education, and publicly controlled healthcare.

Rosin insightfully observes that “the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.” This is an economic bubble about which G.K. Chesterton long ago warned. “The whole really rests on a plutocratic illusion of an infinite supply of servants,” he wrote, “Ultimately, we are arguing that a woman should not be a mother to her own baby, but a nursemaid to somebody else’s baby. But it will not work, even on paper. We cannot all live by taking in each other’s washing, especially in the form of pinafores.”

Like the recently burst bubbles in banking and housing, this one is a creation of state regulation. It reveals the trajectory of the new sexual politics: not toward eliminating gender roles—which the welfare state has not done and can never do—but toward politicizing and bureaucratizing feminine ones.

While elite feminists did assume previously male occupations, many more women have entered the workforce in professionalized versions of traditional homemaker roles. This has transformed childrearing and other domestic tasks from private family matters into public, communal, and taxable activities, necessarily expanding the size and power of the state and leading to the creation of vast bureaucracies to oversee public education and social services.

These are precisely the professions now being expanded by the Obama administration’s massive stimulus expenditures. The effect is to amplify the intrusion of the state into the home—indeed, the displacement of the home by the state. For as feminists point out, the feminine functions were traditionally private. Professionalizing feminine roles has therefore meant institutionalizing in government bureaucracies responsibilities that were once characteristic of private life. The politicization of children and the usurpation of parental rights under the guise of child protection are the clearest manifestations of this.

Fathers have been marginalized, and their lives are ever more directly administered by the state. They are not simply “absent,” as Rosin writes—they are increasingly likely to be under the control of the judicial and penal systems. Rosin’s article provides a telling example of a particularly state-feminist form of punishment now meted out to men: therapy.
None of the 30 or so men sitting in a classroom at a downtown Kansas City school have come for voluntary adult enrichment. Having failed to pay their child support, they were given the choice by a judge to go to jail or attend a weekly class on fathering…. This week’s lesson…involve[d] writing a letter to a hypothetical estranged 14-year-old daughter named Crystal, whose father left her…

What is clear from Rosin’s account is that the therapy, like the penal system, has been designed less to punish the alleged crime than to psychologically recondition men. The class leader
grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical “white picket fence.” “Well, that check bounced a long time ago,” he says. … He continues, reading from a worksheet. What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral, emotional, social, and physical. “But you ain’t none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain’t even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she’ll call 911. … You’re supposed to be the authority, and she says, ‘Get out of the house, bitch.’ She’s calling you ‘bitch’!” … “What is our role? Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed.” … He writes on the board: $85,000. “This is her salary.” Then: $12,000. “This is your salary. … Who’s the man now?” A murmur rises. “That’s right. She’s the man.”

This is not law enforcement. It is government indoctrination.

Rosin neglects to mention that none of the men in Kansas City has been convicted of any crime. They have not run afoul of police, prosecutors, and juries through the normal criminal-justice process. Instead, they are subject to welfare officials who exercise quasi-police and quasi-prosecutorial powers. They are brought—in what is sometimes described as an “expedited judicial process”—before a judge (or a black-robed lawyer known as a “judge-surrogate”) who may spend a few seconds glancing at some documents before entering orders to evict them from their homes, separate them from their children, confiscate their earnings, and sentence them to re-education or incarceration, all without the benefit of due process.

Attorney Jed Abraham calls this system of bureaucratic adjudication “Orwellian”: “To [enforce] child support, the government commands … a veritable gulag,” he writes in From Courtship to Courtroom. Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University agrees: “The advocates of ever-more-aggressive measures for collecting child support … have moved us a dangerous step closer to a police state.”

Preventing crime and aggression is evidently not what state-feminist ideology is all about: at its heart is economic redistribution and political power. Near the end of her article Rosin notes, quite approvingly, that “violence committed by middle-aged women [has] skyrocketed.” This is taken as a sign that “the more women dominate, the more they behave, fittingly, like the dominant sex.” Rosin references an ultraviolent Lady Gaga video that “rewrites Thelma and Louise as a story not about elusive female empowerment but about sheer, ruthless power. … She and her girlfriend kill a bad boyfriend and random others in a homicidal spree and then escape in their yellow pickup truck, Gaga bragging, ‘We did it, Honey B.’”

Rosin and her allies are more subtle—and most importantly, they have coercive state power at their disposal—but the bragging sounds remarkably similar.


Australia: Christian candidate bullied for her Christian stance on homosexuality

An Australian Senate candidate was under fire Monday for comparing the allowing of gay marriage to "legalizing child abuse," a Sydney newspaper reported. Wendy Francis, who is attempting to win a seat in Queensland for the conservative Family First party, made her views known in a Twitter message Sunday which has since been deleted.

"Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimizing gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse," the message read. "Australia would never recover from legalizing gay marriage. Those who advocate this are not thinking of the dramatic consequences," it continued.

Francis has previously expressed similar views in media releases, Australian media blog Crikey reported.

A media release on her website, which has also since been deleted, read: "Homosexuals who are pushing for this don't care about children; they care only about their selfish desires. "Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse and legitimizing gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse," it continued.

The Australian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby called the comments "offensive."

"Comments which characterize same-sex families as promoting emotional abuse towards children is deeply, deeply frustrating and offensive," the group's policy and development coordinator Senphorun Raj said.

"In Australia there over 4,380 children living in same-sex families, and to have children in those families be stigmatized by such comments, stigmatizing their same-sex parents, disenfranchises those children and effectively promotes attitudes of homophobia that will continue to marginalize and ostracize children and parents living in same-sex families."

Thousands of Twitter users responded to Francis' comments, some calling them "baseless and astounding."

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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


8 August, 2010

Leftist bigotry again: British Ex-vicar banned from being a foster parent after refusing to let gay couples visit his home

Given the low quality of some foster parenting, any reasonable person would welcome an ex-Vicar into the pool

A former vicar and his wife have been barred from becoming foster parents after saying they did not want gay couples who are considering adopting to meet them in their own home.

John and Colette Yallop told the local council that, if approved as foster parents, they would be ready to help same-sex couples adopt children and would be happy for a gay person to visit on their own.

But they said they would rather meet such couples at a children’s centre than in their family home to avoid awkward questions from their own young son and daughter.

However, Lancashire County Council said it could not make exceptions to its equality and diversity policies.

Mr Yallop, 62, said: ‘We are not homophobic and have worked alongside gay people, but we believe inviting gay couples into our home for the handover process might be detrimental to our family life and our young children. ‘We don’t want to have to explain to our five-year-old daughter or seven-year-old son why a youngster we’ve been caring for has two mummies or daddies.

‘We accept council policies on equality and diversity. Even if we disagree with the rights of gay couples to adopt because it goes against our Christian beliefs, it doesn’t make us bad foster parents. ‘I suspect we’re not alone in believing children thrive where there is a mummy and a daddy, rather than two parents of the same sex. Nevertheless, this is a personal belief that doesn’t affect our ability to care for and love a foster child.’

Mrs Yallop, 43, said they told a social worker assessing them that they would happily have a single gay person or one partner of a gay couple as prospective parents in their home, or hand over a foster child at a centre. ‘This was something our social worker suggested we put in writing to the council. Then she said our application was being refused because of our views. We were shocked and upset.’

The couple, who have been married for nine years, said they had been told in an initial assessment they would be ideal. But the council’s Fostering Recruitment and Assessment Team wrote to the Yallops last month to say their assessment was to end because of the couple’s views about their ‘ability to work with particular groups of people (in particular gay and lesbian people)’.

The letter said the request to meet gay couples outside home would ‘greatly affect the child’s experience of the introduction to adopters or carers and would potentially affect the success of their placement’....

County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: ‘We must operate within relevant legislation and the council’s equality and diversity policy, which both rule out discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

'People who wish to foster must be open to working alongside all approved adopters to give the transition the best chance of success.’

But Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting the couple, said: ‘The Yallops have a loving family home to offer vulnerable children. It is not the homosexual community being discriminated against but the Christian community.’

The couple are expected to appeal against the council’s decision.


British police with Gestapo mentality again

Police officers 'smashed elderly driver's window and dragged him out of car' after he was stopped for not wearing seatbelt

For the apprehension of a disabled pensioner, it seemed a little excessive. A police officer jumped on the bonnet of retired businessman Robert Whatley’s car and kicked the windscreen while another hit the window with his baton 15 times until it smashed.

They then dragged the 70-year-old, who has a heart condition and recently recovered from a stroke, from his £60,000 Range Rover.

Mr Whatley, who lives in Usk, Monmouthshire, said: ‘I couldn’t believe what was happening. ‘The police went completely over the top – you would have thought I had robbed a bank. I was terrified when they started smashing in the window and trying to kick in the windscreen. ‘It’s something you might expect in America but not in the quiet of the British countryside.’

The officers have been suspended while the Independent Police Complaints Commission carries out an investigation.

A court heard yesterday that Mr Whatley, right, was originally pulled over in a country lane in Monmouthshire by traffic police who tried to issue him with a fine for not wearing a seat belt. But when an officer went round to the passenger side, the car lurched forward and he was knocked over.

Mr Whatley told Caerphilly magistrates court, South Wales, that he then drove off because he thought the matter had been dealt with, felt ‘frail and vulnerable’ and was worried he would suffer another stroke.

The police followed him for 17 minutes, during which time he did not break the speed limit. Mr Whatley said he thought the blue lights and siren of the police car meant the officers were giving him an escort home.

He finally pulled over when he was confronted by a police ‘stinger’ device to puncture his tyres on the road into Usk.

The subsequent scene of the police officers attacking his vehicle was filmed on the patrol car video and shown to the court. Mr Whatley was found guilty of not wearing a seatbelt, failing to stop for a police officer and having tinted car windows which did not conform to legal requirements but cleared of failing to stop after an accident. He also admitted having a registration plate which did not adhere to regulations. He was fined £235 with £300 costs.

Gwent Police confirmed yesterday that two officers had been removed from operational duty following Mr Whatley’s complaint to the IPCC.

Deputy Chief Constable Carmel Napier said: ‘We expect the highest professional standards of police officers and we can assure Mr Whatley and the public that this matter will be thoroughly investigated.’

SOURCE (Video at link)

Idle parenting means happy children

Cancel all clubs, ditch the after-school activities and leave those kids alone, urges Tom Hodgkinson

An unhealthy dose of the work ethic is threatening to wreck childhood. Under a tyrannical work-obsessed government, years that should be devoted to play and joyful learning are being stifled by targets and tests. Leisure time is being invaded by the commercial and escapist virtual worlds of the computer.

Pushy parents don't help by making childhood a stress-filled time of striving and competing.

Our children's days are crammed full with activities: ballet, judo, tennis, piano, sport, art projects. At home they are entertained by giant screens and computers. In between, they are strapped into cars and made to listen to educational tapes. Ambitious mothers force hours of homework on bewildered 10-year-olds, hanging the abstract fear of "future employers" over their heads.

Then they buy them a Nintendo Wii, the absurd, costly gadget that's supposed to bring some element of physicality to computer games. It's only a matter of time before children have their own BlackBerrys.

I think of the New Yorker cartoon of two kids in a playground, each staring at a personal organiser and one saying: "I can fit you in for unscheduled play next Thursday at four." All these activities impose a huge burden of cost and time on the already harried parent. They leave no room for simply mucking about. They have the other unwelcome side effect of making the children incapable of looking after themselves. When they are stimulated by outside agencies, whether that be course leader, computer or television, they lose the ability to create their own games. They forget how to play.

I recall when our eldest child, a victim of chronic over-stimulation by his anxious parents, screamed "I need some entertainment!" during a bored moment. A chilling comment, particularly from a five-year-old. What now? What next? These are the questions our hyper-stimulated kids will ask. What has happened to their own imagination?

There is a way out of this over-zealous parenting trap, a simple solution that will make your life easier and cheaper. It will make your kids' lives more enjoyable and also will help to produce happy, self-sufficient children, who can create their own lives without depending on a Mummy substitute. I call it idle parenting and our mantra is: "Leave them alone."

The welcome discovery that a lazy parent is a good parent took root when I read the following passage from a DH Lawrence essay, Education of the People, published in 1918: "How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning."

To the busy modern parent, this idea seems counter-intuitive. Aren't we always told to do more, not less? All parents have a nagging sense that somehow we are doing it all wrong and that more work needs to be done. But the problem is that we put too much work into parenting, not too little. By interfering a lot, we are not letting children grow up and learn themselves. The child who has been overprotected will not know how to look after himself. We are too much in children's faces. We need to retreat. Let them live.

Welcome to the school of inactive parenting. It's a win-win situation: less work for you and better for the child, both in terms of enjoying everyday life and also for self-reliance and independence. I am not advocating slobbish neglect. (Maybe I went too far with my idle parenting when I dozed off on the sofa in front of the woodburning stove, while "doing the childcare", as the ugly modern phrase has it, to be woken by the screams of a toddler who had placed his hands squarely on the hot metal and burned his fingertips.) Clearly we don't let our children jump out of windows or go about with unchanged nappies. There is carefree and there is careless, and there is a difference.

But to create a household free of care would be a wonderful thing. It has become obvious to me, watching our three children grow up, that the more they have been ignored, the better. The eldest had a surfeit of anxious parental supervision and is still the trickiest and most needy (although we're working on it). The second had a little less attention and she is more self-sufficient. The third was born on the bathroom floor and has had to get on with his own life. And he is perhaps the best of all three at playing. Certainly he is the most comical.

The great thing about children is that they like being busy. Since parents like being lazy, it makes sense for the children to do the work. This idea was partly explored in the 19th century, when children as young as five were sent into the factories. The fact that meddlesome liberals have since introduced child labour laws does not need to prevent the idle parents exploiting their own offspring.

One morning, not so long ago, V and I refused to get up. I imagine we were hung over. At about nine o'clock, the bedroom door swung open and in walked Arthur, then six, with two cups of tea. A lot can be achieved by lying in bed. Simply by doing nothing, you can train children to do useful things. During the last holiday, we found we were lying in bed till 10 or 11. By abandoning our kids, they had taught themselves how to get up, make themselves breakfast and play.

Paradoxically, the idle parent is a responsible parent because at the heart of idle parenting is a respect for the child, a trust in another human being. It is the irresponsible parent who hands the child over to various authorities for its education and care, whether that is childminders, schools, CBeebies or the virtual world of Habbo Hotel. Or it is the parent who tries to impose his own vision on the children and does not simply let them be.

Another great advantage of being idle is that it avoids causing resentment in the parent. There is nothing so corrosive or pestilent as resentment stewing in the breast. Imagine making all those sacrifices, putting yourself out for your children, going without, and then they go junkie on you. No, there is no room for martyrs in the world of the idle parent. Our happiness comes first. And that is the right way round. As a cab driver said to me the other day: "My kids are happy because we're happy." Do not suffer. Enjoy your life.

The idle parent is a stay-at-home parent. Not for us costly leisure pursuits at the weekend. We reject the cheap thrills of expensive padded plastic fun palaces, zoos and days out in general. We find fun in our own backyards. We make aeroplanes out of cereal packets and it's amazing how many catching and tickling games you can play with your kids while sitting on the sofa.

The idle parent is a thrifty parent. We don't work too hard and therefore we can't expect to be rolling in cash. With thrift comes creativity. "Waste is unpoetic, thrift is creative," as GK Chesterton wrote. With no money, you start to discover your own inner resources. You make things and draw. Put a pile of A4 paper on the kitchen table, along with a stapler, scissors, crayons and glue, and you'll be amazed at what your children come up with. Forget digital gewgaws. Go analogue. It's more fun and a lot cheaper. Put a bird feeder outside the kitchen window. Fun does not need to be expensive.

We don't care about status and career advancement and how we are perceived by others. We are free of all of that rubbish. We simply want to enjoy our lives and to give our children a happy childhood. What greater gift could there be from a parent? If our children tell their friends in later life that they enjoyed their childhood, I would count that as a great achievement. Better to have a happy childhood than a high-achieving one that brings a big psychiatrist's bill in adult life.

Idle parents are sociable. We recognise the importance of friends. They lighten the burden. A myth of modern society is the idea that "you're on your own in this world". Instead of talking to friends and neighbours, anxious people seek advice in books, websites and internet forums. We resist asking for help or admitting weakness. Be weak! Give up! You can't do everything. Lower your standards. Get friends to help you. Organise little nurseries at your house where parents can chat and kids can play while you ignore them.

I love DH Lawrence's idea of childcare. He says babies should "be given to stupid fat old women who can't be bothered with them… leave the children alone. Pitch them out into the streets or the playgrounds, and take no notice of them." Do not view them as raw material to be moulded into an obedient slave for the workplace of the future. Let them play. And yes, get your friends around. Life is so much easier when the work is shared. Friends bring laughter and joy. There's no sadder sight than the lone parent, pushing her child around the gloomy municipal park, trying to tell herself that she is having a good time.

My idea of childcare is a large field. At one side is a marquee serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other side, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don't bother them and they don't bother me. I give them as much freedom as possible.

But the life of an idle parent is not so easy. Children do not always adapt to the anti-consumerist model that the natural parent promotes. They want stuff. Children get in your face. They make a terrible mess. They scream and whine. And the mother and father seem to disagree on pretty much everything, from paint colours to mealtime manners, as a matter of marital policy.

There are more worries. Is it mean to deny a child an iPod Nano for his birthday and instead give him a ball of string and The Dangerous Book for Boys? Should I really put a broadband connection in the tree house? Should I work even harder so that they can go skiing and wear expensive trainers? Would I be less grumpy if I drank less alcohol?

Sometimes we doubt our own gospel. So over the coming weeks, I hope to outline an enjoyable parenting philosophy in Weekend, while acknowledging that it isn't always easy.

I will confess my many parenting errors. I am a disaster-prone, chaotic layabout and so should warn you not to listen to my advice. Certainly my friends say the idea of me advising other parents on childcare is absurd.

With that caveat in mind, let us go forth, throw away the rule books, forget what other people think and enjoy family life and all its joys and woes.


The British Empire was good for India

By Sean Gabb

As a libertarian who looks at it from the English point of view, I can see nothing good in our conquest of India. It raised our taxes above what they would otherwise have been. It raised up wealthy special interest groups that were not particularly liberal. It involved us in otherwise unnecessary – even unimaginable – overseas entanglements. Had I been alive and writing in the nineteenth century, I would have been on the extreme radical wing of the Liberal Party, arguing for an immediate departure from India.

But this is the case only when I look at things from the English point of view. When I look at them from the Indian point of view, they appear wholly different. By liberal English standards, India was barbarous or, at best, semi-barbarous. It was a jolly enough place to live for those with money and power – and I can understand why many of its early English rulers went native. But for everyone else – that is, about ninety nine point nine something of the people of India – it was a hellish place. It was a place of rigid caste boundaries, of destructively rapacious landlords and tax collectors, of extreme and arbitrary injustice, of suttee and thuggee, of forced castration and forced prostitution, of outright slavery.

Until the death of Aurangzebe in 1707, India was at least reasonably united and reasonably at peace. After 1707, however, it fell into a growing chaos – a chaos that impacted most on those at the bottom – that was only terminated by the rise of the East India Company.

India never knew the really lunatic parasitism shown in Mel Gibson’s film Apocalypto. But it was, before the English conquest, similar in many respects to our own ancient world. These similarities, though, extended only to the evils of antiquity. India had no equivalent of those arts and sciences that redeem the ancients and that have made the study of their civilisation so enduringly profitable. When, in the 1830s, he looked at what sort of popular education the East India Company should encourage, Macaulay saw no alternative to an entirely English curriculum. He was advised that the vernacular languages were, as they then stood, deficient as vehicles of instruction. He was willing to accept that the classical languages of Arabic and Sanscrit might be respectable in themselves, but had nothing but contempt for the “wisdom” their literatures offered to the Indian mind. This “wisdom” was made up of

“medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography made of seas of treacle and seas of butter. ”

It would be far better, he said, to let the Indians learn English and become as English in their thinking and outlook as their circumstances allowed. And, so far as circumstances allowed, it was English and English ways that, during the century that followed, were given to the Indians. They were given English science and administration. They were given a rational and human penal code based on English principles. They got due process of law and trial by jury and freedom of religion and the press. Slavery and sacrificial murder were put down.

That all this was given at gunpoint is no valid objection. Let us, for the sake of argument, accept that all states are evil. It does not follow that all states are equally evil. It may not be to the benefit of one nation to conquer another. But it will be to the benefit of one nation to be conquered by another when the state directing that conquest is more liberal. The English State was more liberal than any Indian alternative, and so the result of conquest was beneficial to all those classes of Indians outside the ruling elites. The main use of English power in India was to stop the Indians from being quite so beastly to each other as they would have been left to their own ways. The whining of some modern Indians about “colonialism” and “oppression” tries but cannot obscure this fact.

Nor is it valid to cry up the examples of real brutality by the English in India – for example, the blowing apart of Sepoys after suppression of the Mutiny. Though it is never right, it is the nature of the strong to tyrannise over the weak. There is nothing unusual about English brutality. It is regrettable, but common to all powerful nations. What is notable about English rule of India is its settled benevolence. And I suspect this is what so outrages the modern Hindu nationalist. If we had behaved in India as the Belgians had in the Congo, he might actually think better of us today. Atrocities are more easily forgiven than benevolence from a position of overwhelming physical and moral superiority.

Let me pass now to some of the specific objections to my case that I feel are in need of separate answers. The first is the emphasis that one of my Indian critics placed on the Bengal famine of 1943 – as if this was somehow an indictment on English rule. It might be an indictment if there had never before been Indian famines. But to claim this would be manifest nonsense. Famine has haunted India since time out of mind. The reason we know so little of it before English rule is that the native chroniclers of India were always more interested in reporting court intrigues than the condition of the people. But take this by Fernand Braudel:

“The cataclysms were often irremediable, such as the terrible and almost general famine in India in 1630-1. A Dutch merchant left an appalling description of it: ‘People wandered hither and thither,’ he wrote, ‘helpless, having abandoned their towns or villages. Their condition could be recognised immediately: sunken eyes, wan faces, lips flecked with foam, lower jaw projecting, bones protruding through skin, stomach hanging like an empty sack, some of them howling with hunger, begging alms.’

The customary drama ensued: wives and children abandoned, children sold by parents, who either abandoned them or sold themselves in order to survive, collective suicides…. Then came the stage when the starving split open the stomachs of the dead or dying to ‘eat their entrails’. ‘Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people died,’ the merchant continued, ‘to the point where the country was entirely covered with corpses which stayed unburied, and such a stink arose that the air was filled with it and pestilential.’” [Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800, Harper & Row, New York, 1975, p.41]

The problem with India under English rule was that every improvement in circumstances was attended by an increase in numbers among the lowest classes. Because these Indians would consider no limits to their own fecundity, they faced the same Malthusian checks in 1943 as in 1630. Those Indians who blame England for this are as pitiable as the Irish who blame England for the blight that killed so many of their potatoes in 1845.

Second, there is the claim by Kevin Carson – made on the Libertarian Alliance discussion forum – that European colonial rule damaged native civil society, and made it inevitable that these countries, once independent, should fall under kleptocratic rule. He says:

“I’m afraid I agree with Burke rather than the “liberal” imperialists. One might have said similar things of England ca. 1214 or so. But the constitutional framework of liberal democratic Britain was gradually built, over centuries, from that crooked timber. I think Third World countries are overrun with kleptocracies is, in part, because their civil societies were so nearly liquidated by “progressive” foreign powers, leaving a vacuum when those powers withdrew.

Gandhi’s movement was as much a reformist movement against the most barbarous aspects of authoritarian Hinduism, including the caste system and the burning of widows, as it was against British rule. The contest for power in post-independence Indian national politics, conducted by people like Nehru, detracted from what was most valuable in Gandhi’s thought: the promotion of a decentralized, federal, village-based anarchism.”

Now, I do have the greatest respect for Mr Carson. Nevertheless, I am not at all persuaded by this claim. Outside Europe, and those parts of the world settled from Europe, there has never been anything worth calling civil society. This is true of those places that were only lightly colonised – Ethiopia, for example – or that early threw out their colonial masters – that is, Haiti. India may not be so stark an instance as China – where no room for stable association has ever existed between the family and the State. But I do not see, when I survey what little we know of Indian history before the English conquest, any of those associations that, in Europe, repeatedly checked, and even partly humanised, the rule of the parasitic classes. The only difference between pre-colonial and post-colonial governments, in India and in the much less fortunate Africa, is that the latter have modern technology to assist their oppressions – but also the often fading impression of English ways to limit their oppressions.

To say that, but for western conquest, most of Asia and Africa today would have strong and vibrant civil societies, in which individuals were protected by mutual guarantees from misgovernment and the misfortunes of life, is a romantic fiction. More realistically, the only time in their histories that most parts of Asia and Africa were not governed tyrannically was when they were governed despotically from Europe.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


7 August, 2010

Brain Study Shows That Thinking About God Reduces Distress -- But Only for Believers

Inzlicht discovers the power of faith! He generally seems to dislike what his research shows but he seems fairly resigned to it this time. He manages another one of his absurd inferences at the end, though

Thinking about God may make you less upset about making errors, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers measured brain waves for a particular kind of distress-response while participants made mistakes on a test. Those who had been prepared with religious thoughts had a less prominent response to mistakes than those who hadn't.

"Eighty-five percent of the world has some sort of religious beliefs," says Michael Inzlicht, who cowrote the study with Alexa Tullett, both at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "I think it behooves us as psychologists to study why people have these beliefs; exploring what functions, if any, they may serve."

With two experiments, the researchers showed that when people think about religion and God, their brains respond differently -- in a way that lets them take setbacks in stride and react with less distress to anxiety-provoking mistakes. Participants either wrote about religion or did a scrambled word task that included religion and God-related words. Then the researchers recorded their brain activity as they completed a computerized task -- one that was chosen because it has a high rate of errors. The results showed that when people were primed to think about religion and God, either consciously or unconsciously, brain activity decreases in areas consistent with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), an area associated with a number of things, including regulating bodily states of arousal and serving an alerting function when things are going wrong, including when we make mistakes.

Interestingly, atheists reacted differently; when they were unconsciously primed with God-related ideas, their ACC increased its activity. The researchers suggest that for religious people, thinking about God may provide a way of ordering the world and explaining apparently random events and thus reduce their feelings of distress. In contrast, for atheists, thoughts of God may contradict the meaning systems they embrace and thus cause them more distress.

"Thinking about religion makes you calm under fire. It makes you less distressed when you've made an error," says Inzlicht. "We think this can help us understand some of the really interesting findings about people who are religious. Although not unequivocal, there is some evidence that religious people live longer and they tend to be happier and healthier." Atheists shouldn't despair, though. "We think this can occur with any meaning system that provides structure and helps people understand their world." Maybe atheists would do better if they were primed to think about their own beliefs, he says.


Sarkozy’s crackdown on Gypsies begins

Not before time. Gypsies can be an incredible nuisance to the rest of the community

French police forcibly moved more than 100 gipsies from an illegal squatter camp as the authorities launched a campaign ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy to clear up encampments. Officers moved in before dawn to seal off the squatter camp, where the local authorities had installed water standpipes and chemical lavatories near the central city of Saint Etienne. The operation took several hours.

The French president announced tough new security measures last month that included plans to dismantle 300 unauthorised camps in three months.

In addition to the destruction of camps, a squad of tax inspectors has been set up to target hidden wealth in the community. Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister, has raised suspicions over the owners of “caravans pulled by certain powerful cars”.

Shortly after launching his measures aimed at gipsies, Mr Sarkozy announced plans to target members of other minority groups, promising to strip French nationality from certain categories of foreign-born criminals.

Opinion polls this week showed that 79 per cent of voters approved of measures to dismantle the camps. Similar majorities backed other aspects of his law and order policy.

Mr Sarkozy has pledged that those foreign gipsies who had committed crimes would be deported to their countries of origin - mainly Romania.

There are estimated to be 15,000 gipsies and Roma of Eastern European origin in France. Some live in authorised encampments, but many are in squatter camps or abandoned buildings.

Last month, a group of gipsies rioted after one of their number was shot dead by police during a car chase in Saint-Aignan, central France.

Mr Sarkozy is likely to bolster his standing in the opinion polls by taking a tough stance on minorities. The Socialist opposition party has been cautious about opposing the measures.


Anti-military bigotry in Britain

A soldier who had just arrived home from Afghanistan was refused service at a supermarket and told they didn't serve people in Army uniform. Sapper Anthony Walls called into a branch of the Co-op for some beers after a gruelling 34-hour journey from Kandahar.

The 27-year-old, of 21 Engineer Regiment, said it was his 'first hour back in the real world' after dodging Taliban bullets for four-and-a-half months helping build 'the most dangerous road in Afghanistan'. But when he arrived at the till he says he was met with a blank stare from the cashier who refused to serve him and called for her manager.

The manager told Mr Walls he 'couldn't do anything about it' and refused to serve him while he was in uniform. The soldier - who was on his way to his three-year-old nephew Jack's birthday party - walked out of the shop in New Addington, Croydon, in a daze. 'I was deeply hurt,' he said yesterday. 'All I was thinking about was getting home to Jack in time to wish him a happy birthday.

'It was great to be home after a difficult journey and I just thought I'd grab a couple of beers - a luxury I hadn't had in a while. 'But when I came to pay the cashier refused to serve me and rang her bell. A male supervisor came along and the cashier explained she was refusing to serve me because I was in uniform.

'He looked at me and said "I can't do anything about it". I put the beer down and walked out. I was shocked.'

Mr Walls, who joined up when he was 17, said it was 'tough' in Afghanistan and that he had witnessed the death of one of his best friends, Sapper Daryn Roy, who died at the age of 28 in an IED explosion in May. He added: 'Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is the support and love from home.

'I appreciate the Co-op cashier may have had her own opinions about the war, but we are just doing a job and laying our lives down for this country. A little respect and appreciation would be nice.'

Mr Walls's sister Claire Lloyd, 33, said she was 'disgusted' at her brother's treatment at the Co-op store on July 17.

The mother of four added: 'I am so proud of Anthony. He works hard and willingly puts his life on the line every day. 'Anthony and his colleagues are the unsung heroes of this country. They deserve the respect and civility extended to anyone else in a uniform.'

A spokesman at the Co-op's headquarters in Manchester said the incident had been a 'genuine mistake on the part of our two members of staff' and apologised for how Mr Walls, who flew back out to Afghanistan this week, was treated.

The spokesman added: 'This had nothing to do with anyone being against the war in Afghanistan. It's a simple case of a misunderstanding of company policy.

'Years ago we had a policy which meant we wouldn't serve police officers in uniform, but that is no longer the case. The cashier thought she was doing the right thing.' [Believe that if you like]


Sydney Anglicans oppose homosexual adoption

It may seem surprising to see a display of spine from any diocese in communion with the Church of England but this is the Sydney diocese, where Anglican priests can still wholeheartedly assent to the traditional 39 "Articles of Religion" of the CofE. And I don't think it is much of a guess to say that they all would have read Leviticus 20:13 and Romans chapter 1

THE MAIN adoption agency for infants in Sydney, Anglicare, has written to state MPs urging them to vote against a bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt when it is debated in Parliament later this month.

The chief executive of Anglicare, Peter Kell, cites a child's need for both a mother and father among the 11 reasons why same-sex couples should not be given the same rights as heterosexual couples under adoption law.

"Men and women complement each other in their parenting roles as a result of their inherent physical, psychological and emotional attributes. Adoptive children should not be denied this opportunity," Mr Kell said.

The Independent MP Clover Moore said her amendments to the Adoption Act would overcome the "double standards" that allow gay and lesbian individuals to adopt, but not homosexual couples. Same-sex couples are also used as foster carers by the Department of Community Services.

Ms Moore said in the vast majority of cases, same-sex adoptions will involve step-parenting situations and "known" adoptions, where the child already has a relationship with the parent, such as a foster carer.

However, Mr Kell denied there was a double standard in same-sex couples being permitted to foster but not adopt, arguing "a cautious approach is required where the decision is irreversible".

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says the Adoption Act is the last piece of state legislation that directly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children.

Last year, a Legislative Council committee recommended by a narrow margin that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt.

However, the committee also said faith-based adoption agencies should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation, so long as they refer any same-sex couples who seek their services to another adoption agency.

Two of the three government-accredited adoption agencies in NSW, Anglicare and CatholicCare, have threatened to stop providing adoption services if they were forced to facilitate adoption by homosexual couples.

The 2006 census shows there about 1500 children living in same-sex families in NSW.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


6 August, 2010

Insane Britain: Despite 688 crimes, this burglar got another chance, and re-offended

A teenager who burgled almost 700 properties during a £1million crime spree because he enjoyed the 'buzz' of stealing was finally jailed yesterday. Bradley Wernham, 19, was caught trying to break into a house just three months after a judge had spared him prison to give him a 'second chance'.

The case is embarrassing for Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who controversially wants to see more emphasis on rehabilitation so fewer criminals can be jailed.

Yesterday, jailing Wernham for five years, Judge Christopher Ball, QC, insisted he had originally been right to 'gamble' by enrolling the thief on a taxpayer-funded rehabilitation scheme that provided him with a rent-free flat and job training.

Astonishingly, police yesterday hailed the 'innovative' approach taken with Wernham as a 'success' and said they would continue to use it.

Critics, including the teenager's victims and an MP, reacted with disbelief that Wernham had been allowed to strike again, describing the decision not to jail him first time round as 'ridiculous'.

Engineer Tim Marsland, 39, who had his £2,500 Kawasaki ZX6R motorcycle and equipment stolen by Wernham, said: If you don't get locked up for 700 burglaries what do you have to do? It was totally ridiculous - it was a joke that he got let off. 'It's a better result now. He is where he belongs. I know he won't serve anything like five years but maybe a bit of time in prison will sort him out a bit.'

Wernham gave some indication of the level of his readiness to reform with a bragging message posted on his Facebook page last night. The badly spelt message - sent six hours after he was jailed - read: 'Be out in 18 months or before.. Yeeh is guna ride this s**t'.'

Wernham was branded one of Britain's most prolific thieves when he admitted 17 burglaries and thefts and asked for 645 others to be taken into account when he first appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex in October 2009. He already had convictions for 26 other offences, bringing the total to 688 crimes.

The teenager, who lived with his mother and two brothers in Harlow, Essex, started his life of crime aged ten, targeting hundreds of homes as well as pubs, garages, shops, schools, and even a church. Frequently he would break into properties to obtain car keys and then make off with the vehicle.

He stole property worth an estimated £1.1million during his oneman crimewave, including an £85,000 Mercedes, a £50,000 Porsche Cayman and a £30,000 Land Rover Discovery.

He was arrested in March 2009 after he broke into a Beefeater restaurant and stole money from a fruit machine, hours after snatching two Kawasaki motorbikes worth £4,000 from a nearby garage. But to avoid jail he struck a deal with police and probation officers that they would give him education, training and support so that he could end his criminal lifestyle.

As part of the process, he toured around Harlow pointing out the 645 properties that he had broken into early in his criminal career. As a result, Judge Ball let him walk free from court last October, and Wernham was relocated to Chelmsford, where he moved into a rent-free flat with a girlfriend.

He was also ordered to do 150 hours of community service and obey a six-month overnight curfew order from 11pm to 6am. But just two months later, in December, Wernham was caught driving without insurance. He was not charged, but on January 5 this year he was caught as he broke into a home which had a BMW parked on the drive.

Officers were nearby as they had Wernham under surveillance, having noticed a sharp rise in the number of burglaries since he had moved to Chelmsford. Wernham pleaded guilty to attempted burglary, but claimed he did it only because he was 'so stressed' by police following him.

This time Judge Ball dismissed his claims as 'palpable nonsense' and jailed him. He told Wernham, who smirked as he was sentenced: 'You cast yourself as a victim and you're not. 'Until you are a man, or man enough to appreciate that fact, there will be little hope in you changing your conduct.'

He called Wernham a 'prolific and successful burglar to which no shop, office, garden shed, garage, school or even house is safe', adding: 'Committing offences gives you a buzz, gives you an adrenaline rush, and you were pitting your wits against the police.'

But Judge Ball also launched an impassioned defence of the scheme which aims to give repeat offenders the chance to 'break the cycle of offending' without going to jail. He said overcrowded jails had made it much tougher for prison staff to run rehabilitation programmes, adding: 'There are more ways of making life safer for the public than just locking people up.

Admitting that the scheme had 'not been successful in the sense that Mr Wernham has chosen to reoffend' he insisted: 'The opportunity must never be taken away just because one case has failed.'

Outside court, Superintendent Glenn Maleary of Essex Police pledged to push on with the scheme, which the constabulary was trialling with Wernham after its use by Hertfordshire Police. He said: 'I view the overall scheme, and the innovative approach that was taken in relation to Bradley Wernham, to still be a success.'

But Conservative MP for Chelmsford Simon Burns said he was ' disappointed but not surprised' that Wernham had reoffended after a 'ludicrously light sentence'.


The British police state

The criminals are safe. It is ordinary decent citizens who get harassed

Years ago, if someone had said Britain was becoming a police state, with all manner of officials intruding on our privacy, interfering with our lives and making unwarranted demands upon us, all with Parliament's full approval, I'd have thought it a grotesque exaggeration.

Now I'm not so sure. Last week my partner and I were travelling to France through London's City Airport.

Having cleared security, two uniformed men from the Border Agency blocked our way. 'Where are you travelling?' one of them asked. 'Nice,' I replied. 'For how long?' they asked.

'Two or three days.'

'What is the purpose of your visit?' 'Business and pleasure.' My good mood was rapidly evaporating. 'What's this all about?' I asked. 'Are you carrying more than £1,000 in cash?' he inquired.

'As it happens, I'm not,' I replied, 'But what if I was? Is that now a crime?' 'Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 we have the power to ask you to prove where that money came from,' he solemnly intoned.

Now, of course, when some people read this, they will think: 'So what?' Well, I don't. This is wrong on all counts. First of all this kind of approach is a needle-in-a-haystack operation, unlikely to uncover serious offences.

The Mr Bigs of money laundering will be laughing if this is the best resistance our authorities can offer against their illegal activity. The only thing this crude Border Agency initiative will achieve is inconvenience to a lot of innocent travellers.

Right now, many thousands of holidaymakers are embarking on their annual summer break in droves. Many of them are leaving the country with currency worth at least £1,000 on them. And why shouldn't they? To confuse them with money launderers is insulting and no substitute for the careful police intelligence that might bring serious criminals to book.

Even if the principle of checking random tourists was valid - which it isn't - £1,000 sets the bar way too low. This is just a work creation scheme for uniformed jobsworths.

But then pointing the finger of suspicion at ordinary, decent people and giving officials another opportunity to interfere in our lives, is becoming commonplace in today's Britain.

My brush with the Border Agency may seem trivial. But in the context of the ever-increasing abuse of the laws which are meant to prevent crime and terrorism, it provides a disturbing insight into so much that is wrong in Britain's criminal justice system today.

Too many laws are being subverted by the police and other bodies just so that they can throw their weight around. Indeed, there are hardly any areas of our lives which are now free from the prying of the state machine.

Legions of town hall bureaucrats have been spying on people to see what they put in their dustbins and whether they put them out at the right time. More than half our town halls admitted to spying on families suspected of 'dustbin crimes' in 2008. The authorities installed secret CCTV cameras sometimes concealed in tin cans, on lamp posts or in compliant neighbours' homes.

Such abuses of power are now endemic: last week, the Borough of Poole Council was condemned by the courts for spying on a middle-class family 21 times to check if they actually lived in the right catchment area for their children's school.

The police, needless to say, are the worst offenders, routinely abusing powers under the Terrorism Act to bring back the old 'sus' laws. This is the informal name for the laws which gave the police the right to stop and search whoever they liked, whenever they liked - without any valid reason - just because of suspicion.

The Archbishop of York revealed this week that he has been stopped and searched by police eight times under the Terrorism Act 2000. Is it because the uniformed officers really suspect John Sentamu is Al Qaeda's Yorkshire boss? Or is it because he's black? I know what I think.

The new home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced the suspension of stop and search powers because of the tidal wave of criticism about their abuse. And she is right, not least because of the damage that arbitrary stop and search powers do to good community relations.

Thirty years ago, there were race riots in Brixton and elsewhere and one of the root causes was the black community's resentment of oppressive policing - particularly the huge numbers of black people stopped and searched without cause.

I'm proud that one of my first acts as an MP was to sit on the committee that abolished the 'sus' laws and then, as home Office Minister, to replace them, in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, by establishing the power to stop and search only if there was reasonable cause.

Labour's Terrorism Act of ten years ago has proved yet again that police can't be trusted with such powers, and Theresa May should take them away permanently.

Not that being white is any guarantee of freedom from harassment. Countless law-abiding citizens have been stopped by police for taking pictures and had their cameras confiscated, for nothing more than photographing prominent buildings and tourist attractions. Yet again, a law passed by our Parliament of poodles to stop terrorists scouting potential targets has been abused in the most absurd way.

I have had my boat boarded on the Thames by a police officer who chose to ask a number of questions about where it was registered and other mundane details. Initially I was perfectly willing to answer the officer's questions, but as he droned on and on I told him I'd had more than enough. He then flourished a form saying that actually I was being stopped under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

I asked him if he had any idea how insulting it was to a former home Office Minister for the police to so blatantly abuse their powers. He looked puzzled. Such a thought had plainly never occurred to him.

My old mate Alan West - a former First Sea Lord - dines out on the story of having his car stopped and searched to prevent terrorism when at the time he was actually the serving Security Minister. It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

At least I know where I stand with the law: what about people not versed in the law who are genuinely cowed by the police when they are taking a picture of Nelson's Column or minding their own business on a river?

I am old enough to have been the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. I travelled there and I saw for myself the routine prying in people's lives and liberties that propped up Communist states.

Now is the time for us to protest, if we do not want to find ourselves living under that same crushing yoke. A new government - and belatedly, the courts - is at last waking up to the threat to our liberties posed by a myriad of laws and regulations which are being wilfully misused by the authorities to destroy our rights and freedoms.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. History shows that those who won't fight for freedom lose it. So if you are stopped at the airport by some Border Agency jobsworth and asked about your euros, tell him you think it is a disgrace he should be doing this. Because, actually, it is.


Democrat judge rules that Muslim custom trumps American law

A New Jersey family court judge's decision not to grant a restraining order to a woman who was sexually abused by her Moroccan husband and forced repeatedly to have sex with him is sounding the alarm for advocates of laws designed to ban Shariah in America.

Judge Joseph Charles [A former NJ Democrat senator], in denying the restraining order to the woman after her divorce, ruled that her ex-husband felt he had behaved according to his Muslim beliefs -- and that he did not have "criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault" his wife.

According to the court record, the man's wife -- a Moroccan woman who had recently immigrated to the U.S. at the time of the attacks -- alleged:

"Defendant forced plaintiff to have sex with him while she cried. Plaintiff testified that defendant always told her "this is according to our religion. You are my wife, I c[an] do anything to you. The woman, she should submit and do anything I ask her to do."

In considering the woman's plea for a restraining order after the couple divorced, Charles ruled in June 2009 that a preponderance of the evidence showed the defendant had harassed and assaulted her, but "The court believes that [defendant] was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited."

Charles' ruling was overturned last month by New Jersey's Appellate Court, which ruled that the husband's religious beliefs were irrelevant and that the judge, in taking them into consideration, "was mistaken."

The woman's lawyer, Jennifer Donnelly of New Jersey Legal Services, told FoxNews.com that Charles' ruling should add to the case for a proposed Oklahoma law, which will be on the ballot in November, which would ban judges from considering "international law or Shariah Law" in their rulings.

"Those who don't want the bill to pass say, 'there's really no need for it because why would a judge walk down that road of religion?'" Donnelly said. "Clearly here, this judge did walk down that road. He may not have said 'Shariah law.' But I think it's indicative that, in trying to be respectful of religion, judges venture into a very slippery slope."

Donnelly said she was surprised when Charles refused to issue a restraining order, adding that the only tipoffs that it might happen were questions he put to the husband's imam when he testified in the case.

The Appeals Court ruling notes, "The imam testified regarding Islamic law as it relates to sexual behavior. The imam confirmed that a wife must comply with her husband's sexual demands, because the husband is prohibited from obtaining sexual satisfaction elsewhere. "However, a husband was forbidden to approach his wife 'like any animal.' ... he acknowledged that New Jersey law considered coerced sex between married people to be rape."

Charles, a former New Jersey state senator, declined to comment on his ruling. The husband, who represented himself in court, remains unnamed, as does his ex-wife.

While the judge in the case did not specifically mention Islamic or Shariah law, Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.com, said he might as well have. "This is a ruling that is strictly in line with Islamic law, which does indeed declare that a wife may not refuse her husband sex under virtually any circumstances," Spencer said. "The only legal framework that would not consider marital rape to be sexual assault is Shariah."

But Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council for American Islamic Relations, said claims about Shariah law in the U.S. play into irrational fears about Muslims. "It fits into the whole extremist Muslim-basher theme that Muslims are somehow trying to replace the Constitution with Islamic law," he said. "That is absolute fantasy, and hateful. Islamic beliefs don't permit rape of any kind," he said, speaking of the New Jersey case.

Asked whether the imam's testimony contradicted that, Hooper replied, "It's just clear that a Muslim husband shouldn't do anything of this sort to his wife. It's just common sense. You don't need a religious figure to tell you that's wrong."

First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA, said, "The Shariah law debate is a total distraction," and he noted that in the U.S., two people may sign a contract and give an Islamic court the power to determine if the contract is breached. In a 2003 case, for instance, a Texas district court ruled that the private "Texas Islamic Court" should decide the amount a husband owed his wife in a divorce proceeding -- because when they got married, they had signed a contract specifying that was what they wanted.

But assault is illegal, regardless of any contract, Volokh said, and the Appellate Court in New Jersey ruled correctly. "The claimed religious practice of non-consensual sex involved in this case is so heinous that almost everybody thinks that you shouldn't have the right to do that, no matter what your religious beliefs are."

The husband in the case has been indicted on criminal charges and is expected to face trial in the fall.

Donnelly said that, as far as she knew, her client had not had trouble with her ex-husband since they divorced. She added that she hoped the Appeals Court ruling for her client would set a precedent. "This ruling will really help people coming behind her," she said.


Australian police must not co-operate with countries that have the death penalty?

This is another example of chronically confused Leftist thinking. Indonesia has the death penalty and on other occasions the Federal Australian Left has been falling over itself to increase co-operation between Australian and Indonesia!

Indonesia is a nation of over 200 million Muslims and is virtually on Australia's Northern doorstep so any sane Australian Federal government would be doing its utmost to preserve good relations with them. What is reported below can only alienate the Indonesians. One can only hope that the instruction concerned will be rapidly withdrawn

THE Australian Federal Police has been told to consider the impact its investigations have on Australian citizens when working with countries that apply the death penalty.

Yesterday's instruction was contained in an official ministerial direction by Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor and was an apparent reference to the AFP's role in the Bali Nine drug case, in which nine young Australians attempted to smuggle heroin into Australia from Bali.

Arrested as they were leaving Indonesia, three of the group - Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush - were subsequently sentenced to death, The Australian reports.

Their fate provoked savage criticism of the AFP, which co-operated with Indonesian authorities to bust the 2005 conspiracy.

The direction, which updates a set of instructions issued in August 2008, sets the AFP's law enforcement priorities and outlines the strategic framework in which the Government expects the AFP to operate.

It instructs the AFP to "take account of the Government's long-standing opposition to the application of the death penalty in performing its international liaison functions". It is the first time such an instruction has been included in the ministerial directions.

But former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock described the new instructions as "very problematic".

Mr Ruddock, who was Australia's attorney-general at the time of the Bali Nine case, said the instruction would apply to a range of crime types, such as terrorism. "That's really saying that in relation to potential terrorist events the AFP cannot provide information to the Indonesians," Mr Ruddock 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


5 August, 2010

A "constitutional right" to homosexual "marriage"?

Someone must have ripped a page out of my copy of the Constitution because I can find nothing like such a right there. In fact there is no mention of homosexuality at all that I can see

SAME sex couples in California have a right to be married, according to a ruling issued today in federal court in San Francisco that overturns a ban on gay marriage in the state.

US District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker determined, after lengthy deliberation, that a California ballot initiative banning same sex marriage violates the US Constitution because it denies equal rights to gays and lesbians.

The voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8, outlawed same sex marriage in California five months after the state Supreme Court made them legal. It passed in November of 2008 with 52 per cent of the vote.

Judge Walker presided over a two-and-a-half week trial in January on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued the ban is not constitutional because it creates two classes of people: One that can get married and another that cannot.

Judge Walker was withering in his criticism of Proposition 8. "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license," he wrote in his judgement. "The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose."

Lawyers for the backers of Proposition 8 made the case that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is vital to public interest because it promotes procreation, which is fundamental to the survival of the human race.

The Mormon Church has expressed "regret" at the judge's ruling. In 2008 the church urged it's followers to donate time and money in support of proposition 8.

Judge Walker’s ruling by no means ends the legal debate over Proposition 8. Today's decision is expected to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and possibly to the Supreme Court.


Anti-Semites and double standards

by Jeff Jacoby

LATE IN JULY, a Hollywood honcho uncorks a blast of anti-Semitic bile, the sort of malignant stereotype about Jews one might expect from David Duke or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Is that newsworthy? It certainly was in 2006, when Mel Gibson, arrested in Malibu for drunken driving, demanded to know whether the arresting deputy was Jewish, and then launched into an anti-Semitic rant: "F-----g Jews," he raged. "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

What happened next was a Category 4 media hurricane. Within a week, according to the Nexis news database, the number of articles mentioning "Mel Gibson" and "Jews" had soared to 1,077. The New York Times reported the incident in a Page 1 story on July 30, and followed it up with much longer stories on Aug. 1 and 2. The coverage in the Los Angeles Times was even more extensive, with three front-page stories and another half-dozen inside. Numerous other papers gave heavy play to Gibson's tirade and its aftermath, including the Houston Chronicle, the New York Post, and USA Today. The network and cable news shows were all over the story, broadcasting scores of segments about it in that first week.

Pervading much of the media's coverage and commentary was a tone of unforgiving revulsion. "Let's not cut Mel Gibson even the tiniest bit of slack," began Eugene Robinson's op-ed column in The Washington Post. Talent agent Ari Emanuel's call for Gibson to be blacklisted was widely noted: "People in the entertainment business, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him," Emanuel wrote in an open letter on the Huffington Post.

On "The View," Barbara Walters announced that she wouldn't see any more of Gibson's movies, while Slate explained "How To Boycott Mel Gibson." CNN's Brooke Anderson, the co-host of "Showbiz Tonight," described "a sudden explosion of outrage with some of the most influential people in Hollywood now saying they will never work with Mel Gibson again." As if to confirm the point, ABC cancelled a Holocaust-themed mini-series it had been developing with Gibson. To repeat: All this occurred within seven days of Gibson's arrest on July 28.

But when, almost exactly four years later, another Hollywood bigfoot uttered an anti-Semitic rant, the reaction couldn't have been more different. In a July 25 interview with the Sunday Times of London, filmmaker Oliver Stone complained that "Jewish domination of the media" focuses too much attention on the Holocaust, and prevents Americans from understanding Hitler (and Stalin) "in context" -- a wrong he intends to right in a documentary he is making for Showtime. Stone described these media-controlling Jews as "the most powerful lobby in Washington" -- "hard workers" who "stay on top of every comment," and are responsible for the fact that "Israel has f---ed up United States foreign policy for years."

Like Gibson blaming Jews for the planet's wars, Stone's lament about Jewish control of the media is classic anti-Semitism, straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Henry Ford's The International Jew. Unlike Gibson, however, Stone gave vent to his bigotry while perfectly sober. Yet far from triggering a media storm, Stone's anti-Semitic conspiracy-mongering barely stirred a breeze.

Seven days after his words first appeared, Nexis had logged fewer than 150 items mentioning Stone's toxic rhetoric. On ABC, CBS, and NBC, the news shows completely ignored the story. The New York Times restricted its coverage to two short items in its "Arts, Briefly" section -- and few other papers ran even that much.

Media mogul Haim Saban urged Showtime to cancel Stone's documentary, and posted a brief Huffington Post message calling on Hollywood to give Stone "a vigorous shove into the land of forced retirement." But few if any media voices seconded Saban's call -- not a word from Slate, for example -- and some went out of their way to pooh-pooh it: Los Angeles Times blogger Patrick Goldstein pronounced the idea "not so different" from "the infamous 1950s Hollywood blacklist."

Gibson and Stone are both guilty of indulging in rank anti-Semitism (for which both promptly "apologized"), but only Gibson was buried under a newsroom avalanche of outrage and disgust. What explains that glaring difference? Surely the media don't think Jew-baiting is intolerable only when it comes from a right-wing Christian like Gibson. Surely they wouldn't overlook Stone's noxious rant just because he is a pluperfect left-wing activist.

Surely that can't be the explanation for so disgraceful a double standard. Can it?


The Talibanisation of British childhood by hardline parents

Last November, on the steps of Tate Britain, I witnessed a scene that troubles me still. A furious Asian father was shaking his young son and tearing up the picture his child had drawn.

The boy kicked and cried. Recognising my face from TV appearances I had made as a commentator on current affairs, the father came across to say 'hello'.

So I asked him what his child had done that had made him so angry. He explained that according to his Islamic mentors, drawing pictures of people was forbidden. I was flabbergasted. After all, this was in the middle of Britain's multi-cultural capital - a modern metropolis, not some dusty backstreet in Kabul. What harm can there be in a picture?

So I asked the man if he owned a camera. 'Yes,' he replied. 'And a video camera.' So why, I asked, was it acceptable for him to take pictures, but not for his child to draw a stick figure?

'The madrasa teacher told me children are not allowed to,' he said, referring to the places of religious instruction for Muslim children, which are the equivalent of Sunday schools for Christians. 'I am not an educated man, so I must listen to them.'

You might think this encounter was a case of an ill-educated parent misinterpreting the teachings of his elders. Alas, in the past year I have come to realise his attitude towards his child is far from unique.

Such fundamentalist beliefs about parenthood are not uncommon. In private, teachers, lecturers, community, youth and social workers have told me many more such stories of the suppression of simple childhood pleasures in the name of Islam.

An investigation by the BBC revealed one London school where more than 20 Muslim pupils had been removed from music lessons because their parents felt such teaching to be anti-Islamic. Another one- off? No, the Muslim Council of Britain confirmed that music lessons are likely to be 'unacceptable' to 10 per cent of Muslims.

What should be a simple pleasure is instead seen by thousands of families as a symbol of moral decadence.

In my role as chair of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD), which campaigns against fanaticism, many inner-city teachers have told me they feel paralysed by extreme demands.

Brainwashed Muslim parents ask school librarians not to lend their children storybooks. (Jacqueline Wilson, the former Children's Laureate, is targeted for 'leading children astray' with her stories that deal with contemporary social issues, such as single motherhood.)

Some Muslim children have been kept away from school visits to temples, churches and art galleries. Teddy bears and pets are also branded un-Islamic.

How about the daughter of a relative of mine, who was having a birthday-party and invited all the girls in her class. The Muslim pupils organised a boycott because she had invited 'unbelievers'.

In one secondary school, a talented Muslim pupil was cast in the leading role in the George Bernard Shaw play Caesar And Cleopatra. Her parents didn't seem to object, and all was going well until the dress rehearsal, when she turned up at school with bruises on her face, crying and refusing to go on stage. The local imam had summoned her family and warned them that acting in plays was 'worse than whoredom'.

The father, an engineer, refused to be cowed, but the mother, scared of what people would say, beat her daughter and threatened to take her out of school (which she duly did).

In my role as chair of the BMSD, I am advising young people in such hard situations. Take 13-year-old Femida, who lives in a refuge with her Jordanian mother, a wedding singer. Her father, a convert to Islam, had become more and more authoritarian. Mother and daughter fled after he took a hammer to the CD player and TV set, and tried to throttle his wife. 'He was screaming that he wanted to kill my voice so I could be a good Muslim,' says Femida.

I am also helping Sana, a beautiful, 20-year-old Somali woman. Her family was happy once. Her father, a teacher, believed in female emancipation. They had books, radios and threw parties. 'I dress modestly, but I could buy nice clothes, wear earrings, dance,' she says.

Five years ago, her father died and her brother became head of the family. At university, he had joined a radical Islamic society and Sana and her mother had to submit to his fanatical interpretation of Islam. Sana has since had a breakdown.

I have met Muslim lawyers and academics who have turned to Taliban-style beliefs. These men propagate Wahhabism - the joyless and backward Saudi belief system followed by Al Qaeda and espoused by hate preachers such as omar Bakri and his successor Anjem Choudary.

In 2003, Bakri told a journalist that their brand of Islam would get to increasing numbers of young minds and hearts. It has - and to their parents, too.

The rapid spread of rigid, diehard Islam is deeply worrying. Yet those in power, focused on terrorist cells, seem oblivious to this other peril.

For many of us Muslims, this creeping Talibanisation of childhood is unendurable. On September 10, 2001, in a newspaper column, I condemned the brutal Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, where girls and women, shrouded in full burkas, were beaten and denied health and education.

Joy was banished, as it was in China during the Cultural revolution. Unless stopped, I wrote, the Taliban would extend their reach beyond Afghanistan. The very next day, Taliban-backed Al Qaeda operatives hijacked planes and brought down the Twin Towers.

Make no mistake, Taliban devotees are in our schools, playgrounds, homes, mosques, political parties, public service, private firms and universities.

Free-thinking Muslims have lacked courage to oppose what is going on, while politicians do nothing for cynical reasons - best, they think, not to antagonise possible voters.

Meanwhile, the liberal position is to let people be and do what they wish within the law. Liberals tolerate the intolerable because they don't have to live with the consequences. Yet the problem is in part caused by liberal values.

Appalled by our excessively consumerist and permissive societies (as are many non- Muslims), Muslim families are trying to find ways to protect their children...

And then there is the connection with Muslim homelands, all of which are getting more Talibanised, Pakistan most of all. The result is utterly corrosive, in particular for women and children who are paying the social price for fundamentalism. Invaluable educational activities and ordinary pleasures are considered haram - sinful - by fathers and husbands.

Vulnerable as they are, children and young people cannot be expected to resist the rules and new order to protect their futures.

If this was happening in any other nation, we would be condemning it loudly. Yet here, curtailed and deficient education endured by many Muslim children is seen as a religious entitlement, which, if opposed, apparently confirms Islamophobia.

Tolerant Muslims who fear and loathe the propagators of Bin Laden's Islam can see where this will lead. Young British Muslims - too many of whom are way behind in educational achievements and at the bottom of the job market - will be affected unless we can find a way of stopping the ideologues...

Why are we fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and indulging Taliban values here? Even if it offends liberal principles, the powerful must find a way of stopping Islamicists from promulgating their distorted creed. If they don't, the future is bleak for Muslims and the country. Many of us British Muslims care deeply about both.


It's children who pay for the 'having it all' lie

By Fay Weldon

Emma Thompson is right. A woman can't have it all. There has never been a time when she could. If she tries, something suffers - whether it be her job, her children or her husband.

An exceptional woman of today - young, beautiful, healthy, energetic, talented and a logistical genius - can get pretty near it. But most of us just don't have all these advantages. We aren't Superwomen, after all: we are just women. We get tired trying to do it all. So forget having it all.

'All' is a wonderful vision. Contented children, rewarding career, adoring partner, proud parents, fun friends, an active sex life and, at night, the sweet sleep of a clear conscience. Who wouldn't want all that?

But do you know anyone who has it? I don't. I rather thought perhaps Emma Thompson did - mother, film star, scriptwriter and wife as she is. But apparently not. Obviously well able to afford to, she now tells us she's fleeing back into the home.

If just one element in today's equation for a perfect life goes wrong - we get made redundant, the child care leaves (possibly with one's husband), friends drift off, Botox goes wrong - then all the balls in the great juggle that is a working mother's life fall to the ground.

And while we go on scrabbling for the perfect life, unable to abandon the vision, it's the children who suffer in a world that two generations of feminists have created.

Fifty years ago, it was the women who had a bad time. We were exploited, unable to earn or contribute to society; domestic slaves dependent for their living on the goodwill of men, too often trapped in distressing relationships. Meanwhile, the men and the children flourished.

These days the men still flourish, and the women do, too. Now it is the children who suffer. Children see more of their teachers and their peers than they do of their families. Mothers continue to love their children to distraction, but how much do the children of today love their mothers?

It is hard-wired into mothers to bond with their babies. But the child's bond with the mother is a more fragile link, short-lived at the best of times, the child destined as it is to grow up and leave home.

Envisage the scene. Today's mother comes back from work, exhausted but (one hopes) making an effort. The table is laid, the meal microwaving. But the child of 12 would rather slope off to its room, the computer and the TV than sit down to a family meal.

It may well be, too, that he or she will have a genetic connection with only one adult at the table. More children now live in households with step-parents than in the old fashioned Mum and Dad variety.

Today's child is fearful of divorce. Ask what it wants most in all the world and it says: 'Mum and Dad to stay together.' Mum and Dad, selfish in their own desires, don't listen.

So did we feminists get it wrong, back in the Seventies, when we fought for our liberation? When we suggested that only male oppression stopped us from 'having it all'; that we could work, we could earn, we could love, we could have equal dignity.

Well, we fought a noble battle and we got a lot of it right. Just not all. Women are happier than they used to be. We are not as sexually neurotic as we were; we don't worship men unthinkingly, and we can earn and spend our own money.

We aren't disgraced if we don't marry, and we don't have nervous little squeaky voices when we speak in public. You may not believe it, but that's how it was. We don't have to put up with the indignity of being second-class citizens - and that is a great achievement.

But we never paid any attention to what to do with the children. We certainly never imagined handing them over to other lesser-paid women to bring up, making them strangers to us, their mothers. Yet, that, sadly, is what has happened. We fought against the definition of women as 'people who have children'. And now the birth rate falls and falls.

We resented the assumption that we weren't so much 'people' as mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and widows. We didn't want to be seen as existing only in relationship to a man.

In refusing this definition, we inadvertently bred a race of young men who 'won't commit' to women. Why wouldn't they be frightened? Today's young women are so confident in their power, their effectiveness, as they seek to cultivate the aggression which once belonged to the young male. There seems almost to have been a gender switch, so that the young men shrink and protect their feelings, while the girls are highly predatory.

I am not suggesting for one minute that women go back into the home. How could we? Who would support us if we did? No, there is no retreat possible. Leaving out the fact that staying at home and looking after children is deadly boring for the majority of women, one male wage today is not enough to support a family.

The trouble is that feminism sang to capitalism's tune. If the women of the West went out to work, and both sexes worked equally punishing hours, male wages could, in real terms, be halved as the workforce was doubled.

So the male wage that once kept a family, mysteriously no longer can. This, too, is something that we did not foresee. I only hope the next generation will do better. Do I feel apologetic? Yes, I do.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


4 August, 2010

Black racism again

Will MLK's "dream" ever be realized?

AN Australian woman has made American magazine history - and sparked a storm of protest - by becoming the first white fashion director of iconic black lifestyle publication Essence.

The hiring of Elliana Placas in the role - after a 40-year history of having an African American as fashion director - has been met with a vicious reaction from both readers and industry identities.

Essence, dubbed the ultimate fashion and lifestyle magazine for black women, has been slammed for the decision, with the magazine's former fashion editor, Michaela Angela Davis, launching an attack against Ms Placas' hiring.

"It is with a heavy, heavy, heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director," Ms Davis wrote. "This hurts, literally, spiritually. If there were balance in the industry, if we didn't have a history of being ignored and disrespected, if more mainstream fashion media included people of colour before the ONE magazine dedicated to black women 'diversified', it would feel different."

Ms Davis' comments resulted in fierce debate online and news organisations across the US have picked up the story.

Ms Placas' resume is impressive since moving to the US from Australia, working on a mix of mass-selling American publications including 0: The Oprah Magazine, Us Weekly, New York, More and Life & Style.

Essence editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray defended the hiring of the Australian, telling the New York Post she understood "this issue has struck an emotional chord with our audience" but explained Ms Placas was hired after working on the magazine on a freelance basis for six months. Ms Burt-Murray said Ms Placas showed "creativity", "vision" and "enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand" while the reader response to her work had been positive.

But several African-American commentators accused the magazine of robbing a black woman of a rare job in fashion media by hiring Ms Placas. "The fashion industry at large is a very hard place to be if you have a black or a brown face," Style consultant Najwa Moses said. "Essence is the one place we think, 'Oh, if I keep moving up in my career, I might make it there'."


IL: Prayer outside clinic gets disorderly conduct charge

A Chicago man says he's fighting charges of disorderly conduct for simply standing on a public sidewalk and praying.

Joseph Holland, a 25-year-old graduate student at Northwestern University, says he was standing still praying the rosary outside a Planned Parenthood facility in downtown Chicago July 3 when police arrested him for violating the city's new "Bubble Zone" ordinance.

The law, passed in October, states that a person cannot approach within 8 feet of another person without consent "for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling" within 50 feet from any health care facility.

It also says a person cannot "by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction" intentionally interfere with any person entering or leaving any health care facility.

But Holland says he didn't approach or interfere with anyone.

"I was just standing by the building praying the rosary and one of the Planned Parenthood volunteers came up to me and started yelling at me that I needed to move 8 feet away, but the thing is I didn't actually approach anyone; I was just standing by the building and the building doesn't actually have a bubble," Holland told FoxNews.com.

Holland said he never responded to that volunteer or said a word to any Planned Parenthood staffers or anyone entering the building, but he still got arrested.

"I tried to talk to the officer first and explain that the building doesn't have an 8-foot bubble and that I didn't talk to anyone," Holland said. "I said, 'I'm praying, I'm praying to God, not talking to people' and basically he said me praying was a type of approaching people and violated the bubble zone ordinance."

Chicago police spokesman Roderick Drew told FoxNews.com that, according to the report, Holland "stood within an inch of the victim, prayed out loud at a high volume for over 10 minutes" but ultimately got arrested for blocking the entrance.

"The offender refused two requests to move, and continued to block customer access to the establishment after being asked to clear the entrance by the person in charge of the facility," he said.

Holland's attorney, Peter Breen, says since it was the volunteer who approached Holland and not the other way around, Holland couldn't have violated the ordinance no matter how close to him she stood.

In response to the allegations that Holland was blocking the entrance, Breen says, they're "absolutely false."

"If he was actually blocking the entrance to the clinic, then that would be a federal felony, that would not be something the Chicago police would be placing in an ordinance violation," Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society told FoxNews.com. "…This arrest was about one thing: trying to scare pro-life people away from Planned Parenthood."

Breen, who also is representing a man who was arrested for allegedly violating the ordinance outside the same facility a few days later, says the fact that any arrests were made for alleged bubble zone violations is itself cause for concern.

"This ordinance doesn't have a jail penalty, so normally for an ordinance like that the Chicago police would show up, if they believe a violation had occurred they would write you a ticket, and you would show up a month or two later at an administrative hearing," Breen said. "It would be like getting a ticket for having a beer on the subway."

"In these cases cops are actually taking these men, taking them into custody, booking them – that's an arrest that goes on their record -- keeping them for five hours, then finally releasing them," he added. "So there are a couple of facets to this and our alarm bells really went off when we saw this treatment."

Drew confirmed that Holland was arrested, photographed and kept in jail until he posted bond roughly four hours later.

But Planned Parenthood says it's a good thing that the law is being enforced with a heavy hand.

"Our patients have the right to safely access the reproductive health care services they need to stay healthy," Planned Parenthood spokesperson Lara Philipps told FoxNews.com. "…The bubble zone ordinance is critical to ensuring that those giving and seeking health care can safely enter and leave medical facilities without harassment and intimidation. We hope the law is robustly enforced."

As for whether or not Holland actually was in violation of the ordinance, Phillips said, "We leave it to the court to determine the facts of the case."

Holland says that will hopefully happen Tuesday.

"We had our first court date last Tuesday on the 27th and our next court date is this coming Tuesday and it looks like we're going to have a jury trial -- for a $500 max fine for violating a city ordinance that I clearly didn't violate," he said. "Seems like a big waste of taxpayer money to me, but if that's what we have to do to show that people are being targeted for violating a city ordinance that they're not actually violating, then I guess that's what we have to do."

SOURCE. Video here

Half of British men steer clear of helping children in trouble for fear of being branded paedophiles

Children have actually drowned because of such fears

Nearly half of men would be too scared to help a child in need because they fear being branded a paedophile, a survey has found. Forty-four per cent would be wary of coming to the aid of youngsters in their neighbourhood in case they were suspected of attempting to abduct them. And almost a third of both men and women would be reluctant to help because they fear the child would be abusive.

Such fears are behind a weakening of community spirit that has left children increasingly isolated, and more likely to stay indoors, according to the findings.

The children's charity Play England, which commissioned the survey, warned that youngsters were missing out on opportunities to play outside their homes. Children typically have just six friends within walking distance of where they live - down from 14 a generation ago - the ICM survey of 2,000 adults and children found. As well as having fewer friends close by, nearly half of youngsters are not allowed to play outside unless supervised by an adult. And while 90 per cent of adults played regularly in the street as children, 30 per cent of today's youngsters aged seven to 14 never get the chance.

Play England said youngsters grow up happier and healthier if they are able to play safely outside. But 21st century children tend to be cooped up indoors amid a lack of neighbourly concern, misplaced safety fears and, in some cases, poor traffic management.

'Children are experiencing a very different childhood to previous generations, with freedom curtailed, and safety concerns exacerbated,' the report said.

Some parents were worried their neighbours would 'judge' them if they left their children to play in the street unsupervised. Others felt their children might 'annoy' neighbours, for example by playing ball games or using chalk to draw on the pavement. However, these activities were considered acceptable a generation ago, according to the research.

Meanwhile, 38 per cent of parents with under-fives thought it was 'common' for children to be abducted by strangers while playing outside.

There was also evidence that adult worries were being picked up by children, with 17 per cent concerned about being followed or taken by strangers - a danger ranked above all others.

Adrian Voce, director of Play England, said: 'More than half the parents we spoke to told us they only felt confident for their children to play outside if other children were playing out too. 'The danger is that these anxieties are perpetuating a cycle of children being denied important opportunities to enjoy their childhood and develop healthy, active lifestyles.

'This is storing up huge problems for the future.'

The survey was released ahead of tomorrow's Playday 2010, which aims to get thousands of children across the country out to play through a series of locally-organised events.


None Dare Call It... What?

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich may be the most notable public figure in some time to state the obvious: radical Islam is a clear and present danger to America.

In a speech last week at The American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Gingrich said, "this is not a war on terrorism ... this is a struggle with radical Islamists." The problem, he said, is that too many leaders are "sleepwalking" and won't face the threat.

Ask yourself: if you wanted to infiltrate a country, wouldn't a grand strategy be to rapidly build mosques from Ground Zero in New York, to Temecula, Calif., and establish beachheads so fanatics could plan and advance their strategies under the cover of religious freedom and that great American virtue known as "tolerance," which is being used against us?

The best people to consult on such matters are those with the life experiences and knowledge to credibly comment on the subject. After all, we can't expect those who wish to destroy us to tell the truth, can we? Except that they do tell it by their words and deeds throughout much of the world. The problem isn't that they're not telling. The problem is that too many are imprisoned in denial.

One such expert is Yoram Ettinger a former Israeli diplomat and current commentator. In a posting on the website ynetnews.com in which he comments on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and the West's feckless response through meaningless sanctions and empty rhetoric, Ettinger writes: "Western policy-makers grow increasingly reconciled to co-existence with a nuclear Iran. They assume that, notwithstanding the radical rhetoric, the Iranian leadership is pragmatic, cognizant of its limitations, unwilling to expose its people to devastating Western retaliation and considering nuclear capabilities as a tool of deterrence -- and not as an offensive weapon -- against the U.S., NATO and Israel.

"However, a nuclear Iran would constitute a clear and present danger to global security and peace, which must not be tolerated. In order to avert such peril, it is incumbent to disengage from illusions and engage with realism."

Realism is a quality clearly lacking in much of the rhetoric from this and previous administrations.

Ettinger continues: "Unlike Western leaders, the Iranian revolutionary leadership is driven by ideological and religious conviction, bolstered by ancient imperialist ethos:

"1. Jihad is the permanent state of relations between Moslems and non-Moslems, while peace and ceasefire accords are tenuous.

2. The Shihada commits every Shiite to kill and be killed, in order to advance Shiite Moslem strategy

3.The strategic goal of Shiite Islam -- which replaced illegitimate Judaism and Christianity -- is to convert humanity to Islam."

That seems pretty straightforward. Is there anyone who can credibly doubt these stated goals? If not, why are we pretending radical Islamists don't mean it when they repeatedly prove they do?

Some of the zeal directed toward illegal aliens crossing our southern border might better be focused on securing America from radical Islamists. Instead, they build their mosques with minimal opposition from the squishy politicians and elites who could stand against them if they had any backbone. And so those radical Islamists who would dominate America move forward with plans to subjugate us all to their religion and way of life. If the Nazis or Soviets had been this good at infiltration and neutralizing criticism, we, not they, would be on "the ash heap of history."

If at that critical moment in our history, Paul Revere had not devised the plan to light signal lanterns in the belfry of Old North Church for fear of being called an "Anglophobe," Queen Elizabeth's picture might be on our money today.

Radical Islamists are here. Who else besides Newt Gingrich and too few others will sound the call? Who else has the power to do something while they still can?



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


3 August, 2010

Muslim Britain

Four men were convicted today of murdering an innocent couple by firebombing the wrong house in a botched 'honour' killing.

Abdullah Mohamed, 41, and his wife Ayesha, 39, were at home in bed when petrol was poured through the letterbox of their home in Blackburn, Lancashire, and set on fire. But the gang recruited to carry out the attack were supposed to target the house of a man 20 doors away who was having a secret affair with another man's married sister.

Mr Mohammed was killed in the blaze in October last year and his wife died a week later from her injuries. Two of their three children, a girl aged 14 and a boy aged nine, were also trapped in the house but survived.

The arson attack had been arranged by London Underground systems operator Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, after he discovered his married sister was having an affair. Ibrahim had asked his best friend Habib Iqbal and two other men, Mohammed Miah and Sadek Miah (no relation), to drive up from London overnight to carry out the attack on the home of her lover.

Ibrahim, 21, of Shelley Avenue, London, Habid Iqbal, 25, of Strone Road, London, and Mohammed Miah, 19, of Pelley Road, London, and Sadek Miah, 23, of Byng Street, Isle of Dogs, London, all denied murder, but Sadek Miah pleaded guilty to manslaughter. It took a jury just 90 minutes today to convict all four defendants of murder following a six-week trial at Preston Crown Court. They are due to be sentenced tomorrow.

The court had heard that Hisamuddin Ibrahim had arranged the attack after discovering that his sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with Mohammad 'Mo' Ibrahim who is no relation. She was married to a cousin from India, while her sister was married to her husband's brother.

The lovers met in April 2009 and when rumours circulated about the affair, Ibrahim was summoned to a meeting and forced to 'swear on the Koran' he had not been having an affair with Hafija. But she told police that her husband had found out about the affair a month before the fire and had assaulted her. Hafija reported the assault to police and said she was fearful for Mo's safety.

Mr Brian Cummings QC, prosecuting, said during the trial: 'Hisamuddin Ibrahim,on behalf of his family, wanted to kill Mohammed or Mo Ibrahim, to punish him for damaging the family's honour for having an affair with his married sister Hafija Gorji.'

During the trial the jury were shown grainy CCTV images of a VW golf near to the home just prior to the fire being started and going round the block three times before parking up.

The three killers were then seen walking in the direction of the Abdullah home, and then running back to the car before fleeing the scene with the lights off. Inquiries revealed the vehicle was registered to the mother of one of the arsonists in London and had been driven up to Blackburn the previous evening.

Following the killings, Lancashire Constabulary launched one of the biggest murder inquiries ever undertaken by the force, which saw 590 statements taken, 1,486 lines of enquiry followed and seized 1,684 exhibits and had over 100 police officers and staff working on the case.

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from Lancashire CPS, said after the trial: 'The deaths of Mr and Mrs Mohammed have had a devastating impact not only on their family, but also on the community where they lived. Mr and Mrs Mohammed were complete strangers to the men who have today been convicted of their murder and their three children have been orphaned in a terrible case of mistaken identity. 'All four of these defendants bear equal guilt for the murders. It was a planned and callous attack.'

Speaking after the case, Ashraf Mohammed, the 19-year-old son of Abdullah and Ayesha Mohammed, paid tribute to his parents. 'No words can truly do justice to how amazing my parents were. They were really the most loving, kind and selfless people you could ever meet.

'My father touched the hearts of many around the world. He was an inspiration to everyone around him and an invaluable asset to the community. He was very passionate about charity and devoted his life to helping the unfortunate and disadvantaged.

'My mother was also a very friendly and caring lady who had a heart of gold. She was extremely kind and gentle and was always seen with a smile on her face. 'There isn't a day that goes by in which our family does not remember my parents and their loss has left an empty place in our hearts that can never be filled.'


National insecurity

Betraying American ideals without even knowing it

There’s a country that earlier generations might not recognize in which the national government’s criminal investigative agency can execute its own warrants without court approval; present them to private companies and demand information about people who are not necessarily suspected of criminal wrongdoing; and — if that were not enough — forbid those companies from telling anyone — not even the target of the investigation.

The country I have in mind is not a Latin American banana republic or a Middle Eastern dictatorship. It’s the United States of America.

The warrant-like orders requiring no judge’s signature are called national security letters. In the last nine years the FBI, Defense Department, and CIA have issued well over a hundred thousand national security letters. The FBI has exceeded even the broad powers granted by Congress, and that overreach continued for years after it came to the attention of bureau lawyers. Earlier this year the inspector general of the Justice Department documented the FBI’s frequent violations of the law. (See it here in pdf form.) If the government is now operating within the law, that is no reason for complacency: The law itself is an abuse.

Not Far Enough

Nevertheless, it doesn’t go far enough for President Obama, who campaigned against Bush administration civil-liberties violations like warrantless wiretapping. Obama wants Congress to expand the scope of national security letters even more. It’s another case of a Progressive political figure one-upping the conservatives at “national security” measures once he gets his hands on power.

Unfortunately, these things get little public attention — do most people even know that national security letters exist? I can’t help asking: Shouldn’t we be concerned about this? I’d have expected people who claim to revere the Constitution to be rather upset by a law that authorizes federal intelligence and investigative agencies, on their own initiative, to demand private records without a court-issued warrant and in the absence of specific criminal activity — while keeping the target in the dark so he can’t challenge the demand before a judge.

What happened to the separation of powers and the First and Fourth Amendments? We’re talking about some venerable and hard-won protections in Anglo-American law, protections that have now been blithely nullified. (Watch for the September issue of The Freeman, with Joseph Stromberg’s examination of the history and present condition of the Fourth Amendment.)

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration says it wants to clarify existing law so that national security letters can unambiguously include among the information demanded: “the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail, the times and dates e-mail was sent and received, and possibly a user’s browser history.”

Browser history? Could a browser history be used to build a criminal case against someone? “Electronic communication transactional records,” the undefined phrase that Obama wants added to the law, would not include the content of communications – or so say administration lawyers. After all that’s been going on of late, why should anyone believe that?

The legal clarification is said to be necessary because some Internet service providers refuse to turn over such information on grounds that doing so would violate the law, although most reportedly do.

Why not just get a warrant? A national security letter, an administration official said, “allows us to intercede in plots earlier than we would if our hands were tied and we were unable to get this data in a way that was quick and efficient.”

This is a boilerplate rationalization – complete with the tied-hands trope — for unchecked executive power. It was the same excuse used to justify warrantless eavesdropping even though the FISA court expedites the obtaining of warrants. (This is not to say the FISA court is an adequate safeguard of civil liberties. It has functioned more like a rubberstamp than a real independent court.) If the powers that be had liberty among their priorities, they’d find a way to have a real court issue warrants quickly.

National security letters did not begin with the 9/11 attacks and the Patriot Act. They originated in 1978 but were used infrequently and were limited to suspected foreign agents directly under investigation. Institutions served with a letter could not be forced to comply.

In the 1980s and ’90s the power was broadened: Targets no longer had to be foreign agents under investigation; the information sought merely had to be declared “relevant” to a terrorist investigation or intelligence operation. No “probable cause” is necessary. Compliance became compulsory.

The 2001 Patriot Act expanded the power even more. (Some of the issues, such as the gag order, are being litigated thanks to the ACLU. Apparently there has been no final resolution.) As noted, that virtual blank check wasn’t enough for the FBI. For example, it often sought information unrelated to any existing investigation, and informal “sneak peaks” and “exigent letters” were used to get around the loose law when the FBI found it inconvenient.

Isn’t this the sort of thing that sparked that revolt against the British Empire?

One has to be concerned with how much the American people are willing to put up with nowadays. National security letters are not the only problem. Congress passed, a president signed, and the Supreme Court upheld a law forbidding Americans to give vaguely defined “material support” to government-designated foreign terrorist organizations, even if that support is nothing more than conducting a seminar on nonviolent conflict resolution for a group that directs none of its activities at Americans. (Ominously, Solicitor General and soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan argued the case for the Obama administration. Chief Justice John Roberts chided her for refusing to acknowledge that the law infringes freedom of speech, which was otherwise okay with him.)

Moreover, last week the Washington Post documented the rise of “Top Secret America,” or what I’ve dubbed the “obscene feeding frenzy at the public trough” — namely the unbelievable expansion of the government’s costly and hopelessly complicated global surveillance apparatus. It may not make us safer — in fact it may be reading our emails — but it’s making a lot of people and contractors richer.

Are we so afraid that we are eager to trash irreversibly what’s left of our civil liberties? Is that what we have reduced ourselves to? Have we no sense of the ideals we have betrayed?


Free police to do their job, says British chief

Police forces will accept cuts in numbers if front-line officers are freed from bureaucracy to “get on with the job”, a senior officer said yesterday. Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, admitted that police had been burdened by years of centrally imposed policies. He welcomed indications from Theresa May, the Home Secretary, that she was ready to reverse Labour innovations such as anti-social behaviour orders and 24-hour drinking.

“Over the years, we have constrained policing and put so much policy into place,” he said. “We need to free up that system and let the officer just get on with the job.”

Sir Hugh, who has previously warned that current police numbers were “unsustainable” given economic constraints, also warned against assuming all officers should be on the beat at all times.

Officers classed as working at their desks included murder squads and units tackling terrorism and organised crime. “We have to recognise that some officers may have to go,” Sir Hugh added, “but people in offices solve very dangerous and serious crime and bring very dangerous people to justice.”

Sir Hugh also so said that the extension of Sarah’s law across the country offers “real hope” of keeping children safer.

The scheme, introduced in response to the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted sex offender 10 years ago, allows parents to check if someone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal record for abuse. Sir Hugh said it would be “a welcome part of the armoury” used by police to protect children.


Let juries hear ALL the evidence? Preposterous!

At least in one Australian State the absurd British legal tradition of hiding background information from juries is being questioned

JURIES would be allowed to hear the past convictions of some accused criminals under a groundbreaking [South Australian] State Government proposal. Attorney-General John Rau will today begin seeking the opinions of the judiciary and the criminal legal profession over an election promise to amend the 1921 Evidence Act.

He said the draft Bill would allow juries to hear similar fact evidence, propensity evidence and evidence of uncharged acts "in appropriate cases".

But members of the legal profession have questioned the need for change. Critics say the proposal could undermine the basis of the legal system - the presumption of innocence at trial - and unfairly influence a jury. Mr Rau said the existing Evidence Law was confusing.

He said the Government's proposed changes would better guide judges on when it would be appropriate for a jury to hear about an accused person's criminal past. "Serious criminals, particularly those who have a history of violence, or are child-sex offenders or internet predators, should have to account to a court for their past actions and behaviour, particularly when there is a clear pattern of offending relevant to that case," Mr Rau said.

Currently, juries only hear evidence of prior similar offences when a judge rules its value significantly outweighs the risk of any prejudice to the accused.

Mr Rau said the change would provide clarity about when that information should be put before the court. "It is clear that there are some limited occasions when I believe it is right that past offending and behaviour of a defendant should be heard by a jury, because that behaviour is so clearly relevant to the case which is being tried," Mr Rau said. He said the change could lead to more guilty pleas and help reduce the backlog of cases piling up before the District Court.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Rofe said that, in his experience, existing evidence laws were adequate. "With competent judges and counsel the law works," Mr Rofe said. Allowing juries to hear evidence of earlier crimes would "skew the whole process", he said. "You should be able to get a conviction based on the evidence of the alleged incident and why the person was charged in the first place without resorting to past history."

Civil libertarian George Mancini questioned the need for any amendment to the Act. "It may not reflect any great need or community concern or demand for change," Mr Mancini said. "The Government has to be seen to be doing something."

He said SA's laws were in line with the rest of the nation and it was only in "extremely rare" circumstances that an accused person's criminal past was put before a jury.

Law Society president Richard Mellows said he would be apprehensive about changes which would remove an accused person's presumption of innocence at trial. "We want everyone who has committed a crime to be brought to justice, but we want to make sure everyone gets a fair trial," he said. "It's important a case is decided not on someone's record, but on the evidence in relation to the alleged crime before the court."

Criminal defence lawyer Craig Caldicott said the proposed changes were "fraught with danger". "Even with the best will in the world, jurors might have undue regard for a prior conviction and decide a person's guilt or innocence on something that might have happened in the past," Mr Caldicott said. "It could lead to wrongful convictions." [No problem that the present system leads to wrongful exonerations?]

A spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said the Liberal Party would support a proposal clarifying the laws, if properly examined. "There needs to be close examination of how that would be done and of the nature and crimes it would apply to," she 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


2 August, 2010

Family victory over British Stasi

The "Stasi" was the former Communist East German Secret Service, notorious for spying on its own citizens

Town hall snoopers are dealt a blow today by a landmark ruling in favour of parents who were spied on 21 times using anti-terror laws to check they lived in a school catchment area. A tribunal will rule that Poole Borough Council was acting illegally when it put Jenny Paton, Tim Joyce and their three daughters under covert surveillance for three weeks.

Officials had claimed it was necessary to use the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to find out if the family had lied about their address to win a school place for their youngest child. They wrongly suspected the family of cheating and tailed them round the clock, filling out detailed surveillance forms and describing their car as a 'target vehicle'.

But the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which heard a complaint from the family last year, has concluded the council's operation was an improper, unnecessary and unlawful use of the powers.

Campaigners hailed the ruling as a landmark victory that would curb the worst abuses by so-called 'town hall Stasi' who train hidden cameras and even undercover agents on the law-abiding public.

And it comes after Home Secretary Theresa May said there would be a dramatic reduction in the use of the RIPA powers, with councils having to obtain a warrant from magistrates before starting any investigations.

The Daily Mail has made a string of revelations about abuses of the powers including spying on those suspected of putting their bins out on the wrong day, dropping litter and making unwanted donations to charity shops.

Labour introduced guidelines to try and stop councils and other public bodies abusing the RIPA powers to investigate trivial offences. But critics say officials are still able to use the laws to spy on families suspected of, for example, bin crimes and are demanding tougher safeguards.

Miss Paton, 41, an environmentalist, last night hailed the ruling as a 'huge victory against the Big Brother state'. 'Local authorities should not have any form of surveillance powers at all - it is inappropriate,' she added.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for the civil rights group Liberty, said: 'Intrusive surveillance is vital to fighting terrorism and serious crime but weak legal protections and petty abuses of power bring it into disrepute.

'Former ministers claimed that the innocent had nothing to fear but the sinister treatment of Jenny and her kids proves that these powers need to be far more tightly restricted and supervised.'

Miss Paton and Mr Joyce found they had been under surveillance only when they were called to a meeting with council officials to discuss their school application. The family has declined to fight for compensation over their ordeal.

Defending Poole council last year, John Nash, the then director of children's services, said: 'We believe we act responsibly, in the best interests of people who live in Poole, using these powers.'


Can 'Eurabia' Be Far Behind?

The battle over whether to admit Turkey into the European Union seems eternal, at least among the EU's rulers. Among the peoples of Europe, when granted the rare chance to go to the ballot box -- increasingly window-dressing as far as the EU's soft totalitarians are concerned -- there is little argument. In fact, there is bona fide consensus: NO to Turkey becoming a part of Europe. Why? Because, culturally and historically, it is not.

Tell that to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who just visited Ankara to present himself as Europe's leading booster for Turkish EU membership (a move the United States has meddlesomely supported), pandering so low a prayer rug could give him cover.

Dubbing himself Turkey's "strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy," Cameron gave a speech that also attacked "those who willfully misunderstand Islam" and who "see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists."

Of course, such a description likely irked Cameron's host, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has repeatedly criticized those who make the distinction between "moderate" and "extremist" Islam. "These descriptions are very ugly," Erdogan said in 2007. "It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that's it." Further, Erdogan in 2009 specifically rejected descriptions of Turkey as being an example of "moderate Islam." Enlarging on a theme, Erdogan in 2008 told Turks living in Europe that assimilation is "a crime against humanity."

But Cameron aimed to please. And no doubt he did, especially with his stunning denunciation of Israel for its blockade of Gaza, a defensive measure that Israel devised after Hamas terrorists were elected to govern Israel-ceded Gaza in 2005 and -- no surprise to any student of jihad -- decided to continue their charter-commanded war on Israel, raining down nearly 10,000 rockets onto Israeli civilians. Dubbing Gaza a "prison camp," Cameron also attacked Israel for the May shipboard battle to defend its blockage that pitted Israeli commandos, lightly armed with paintball guns and emergency sidearms, against trained fighters with ties to the Turkish government, specifically to Erdogan's ruling AKP party.

Little wonder that before the day was over -- at some point after Britain hired itself out, as Cameron put it, for the job of "paving the road from Ankara to Brussels" -- Erdogan had hailed a "golden age" of Turkish-British relations.

Of course, giving EU membership to Turkey would be a political move with more than political consequences. Demographically alone, it would accelerate those finishing touches on the Islamization of Europe as Turkey's tens of millions of Muslims entered a largely post-Christian, secular European society, bringing a weighty Islamic influence on European law. Could the total transformation to "Eurabia" be far behind?

This is the salient question that is never asked. Instead, the debate is deceptively framed as a civil rights issue, as though the EU were a pointlessly exclusive Neanderthal society, or supposedly obsolete men's club.

"We know what it's like to be shut out of a club," Cameron said, referring to Charles de Gaulle's efforts to block British entry into the European organization. "Europe can either decide to become a global actor or it can fence itself off as a Christian club," Erdogan has said.

Never mind the EU's deliberate omission of "God" or "Christianity" in its 439-page constitution. And never mind Turkey's having "fenced itself off" into the most exclusive "club" of all: the supremacist Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Turkey is also a signatory to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, a distinctly Islamic version of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is informed by Sharia (Islamic law) rather than what the West recognizes as universal human rights. The Cairo Declaration declares that the Muslim community's role is to "guide" humanity, a point that isn't "clubby" but is downright imperialist.

But there is another implication to the debate: that Western identity is merely an atavistic expression of petty insularity. Free will, free conscience -- the evolution of individual liberty -- is the fruit of Judeo-Christian civilization, one that Islamic doctrine is unable to produce.

Tragically, it is also one that Westerners are throwing away.


Turkey does not belong in the EU

Those who think of Turkey as a relaxed holiday destination, or as a Westernised Nato member more or less 'on our side' need to revise their view. And that very much includes our Prime Minister, David Cameron, who last week joined in the fashionable chorus urging Turkish membership of the European Union. Mr Cameron plainly hasn't been properly briefed.

Leave aside the fact that such a step would allow millions of Turks to live and work in Britain, and give us - as EU members - a common border with Syria and Iraq. Mr Cameron really ought to realise that the new Islamist Turkey he so ignorantly praises is much more interested in making friends with Iran than it is in joining the EU. And it is becoming less free and less democratic by the day.

I would say there is a strong chance that we will soon lose Turkey to the Islamic world, much as we lost Iran to the ayatollahs 30 years ago. And there is not much we can do about it - least of all the daft scheme to include this nation in the EU.

Panic-mongering? Well, perhaps. But I would rather monger a bit of panic now than ignore what I saw.

I will come in a moment to the bizarre alleged plot against the Turkish state, which has swept dozens of government opponents into prison in dawn raids.

But first let us take a stroll round the Istanbul district of Fatih. It is noon, and the rival calls to prayer of two mosques are wavering in the baking, humid air.

Not far away is a gigantic Palestinian flag draped over the side of a building. Nearly opposite, a group of pale, intense men in turbans loiter on a street corner whispering into their mobile phones. Where am I? The flag suggests Gaza. The whispering men bring to mind Peshawar or some other Taliban zone.

Or am I in Saudi Arabia? For round the corner comes a phalanx of veiled women, under the vigilant eyes of a bossy man in a prayer cap. There are several grades of these women. First there are the wholly shrouded, their downcast eyes glimpsed through a slot, imprisoned in shapelessness. Most disturbing for me - because I have been to Iran - are those in chadors exactly like those commanded by the ayatollahs in Tehran. There is something particularly harsh about the inverted triangle through which their pale and sombre faces peer.

With them come the women they call 'Tight-heads' - 'Sikmabash' in Turkish. These are a new feature of Istanbul since I was last here a few years ago, in evidence all over this enormous city.

They are mostly young and often attractive. But they have swathed their heads tightly in voluminous, brightly coloured scarves. Their lower limbs are covered by long dresses or trousers, and over this, in the oppressive heat, they wear thin raincoats. Such outfits are available in a successful chain of shops called Tekbir, which means 'God is great'.

Covering up the female sex is big business here now. The owner of an independent Islamic clothes shop complains to me that trade isn't as good as it used to be because he now faces so much competition. He notes that more and more of his clients are young women, rather than conservative rural grandmas.

The Tight-heads are startlingly similar to their Iranian sisters a few hundred miles to the east, who wear a near-identical uniform. Like them, they look as if they are making a point. But there is one crucial difference. The point they are making is the opposite one. The Iranian women mock the headscarf as they wear it, pushed as far back as possible on the head, revealing as much bleached-blonde, teased hair as the piety police will allow.

Their message is: 'The law can make me wear this, but it cannot make me look as if I want to.' The young Turks, by contrast, are saying: 'This is how I want to look, even if the law says I cannot.' For the scarf is banned by law in many universities and in government offices, and they view this ban as a challenge they must defy.

There is no simpler way of making the point that, while Iran is a secular country with a Muslim government, Turkey is a Muslim country with a secular government.

Or so it was. Now Turkey is in the midst of a revolution. In a fashionable waterfront cafe looking across the Bosphorus towards Asia, I spotted two young women sharing milkshakes - one veiled, the other displaying her curly hair and attired in barely-there T-shirt and jeans. I asked them if they didn't find each other's garb awkward. No, they didn't. The swathed one explained that she had decided, from religious devotion, to wear a scarf aged 15. Now 19, she had to go to university in North Cyprus, because most mainland universities banned the veil.

Her companion said she thought it quite possible that, in a few years, she too would be covered from head to toe. My guess is that she will be - the growing numbers of covered women across the Middle East place pressure on others to do the same.

But these are just symptoms. A deeper change is under way. Deliberately unremarked by Western commentators for some years, Turkey has a fiercely Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Even now, Barack Obama, like George W. Bush before him, still bleats about how Turkey should be allowed to join the EU. And establishment commentators, encouraged by liberal Turkish intellectuals, absurdly continue to insist that Erdogan is in some way 'moderate'.

How odd. Back in the Nineties, this supposed moderate was railing that: 'The Muslim world is waiting for Turkey to rise up. We will rise up! With Allah's permission, the rebellion will start.' Erdogan was even imprisoned for quoting a fervent Islamist poem that declared: 'The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...'

Now he is Prime Minister, he has not stopped thinking this. He simply knows better than to blurt it out.

Much more HERE

Even grotesque fantasies should not be criminalised

If it goes beyond fantasies, action is then fair enough but other than that fantasies are just fantasies and harm no-one. People should not be judged for what they MIGHT do in someone's opinion. That's a VERY slippery slope

In May 2009, Iowa resident Christopher Handley, a collector of comic books, pled guilty to federal charges of importing and possessing obscene cartoon drawings of children; he faced a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, for a crime involving neither actual children nor actual child porn.

A few weeks later, a Tennessee prosecutor charged Michael Wayne Campbell with aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, for photo-shopping the faces of three girls on to the nude bodies of three adult women. How might this constitute a crime (outside of Iran)? The prosecutor explained: ‘When you have the face of a small child affixed to a nude body of a mature woman, it’s going to be the state’s position that this is for sexual gratification and that this is simulated sexual activity.’

It is also a crime – a federal crime – to share your sexual fantasies about children in private communications with other adults. The US Fourth Circuit court of appeals declined to review the conviction of Dwight Whorley for sharing fantasies about sexually abusing children in purely textual email exchanges between consenting adults. Like Christopher Handley, Whorley was also convicted of receiving obscene Japanese cartoon drawings of children. Be careful what you imagine.

Dwight Whorley is a decidedly unappealing defendant: a convicted sex offender, he had received sexually explicit photographs of actual as well as imaginary children. But while his record and his traffic in actual child porn makes him undeserving of much sympathy, it also made the government’s troubling case against his fantasy life unnecessary: his actual child-porn offences were sufficient to convict and imprison him. Nor does the perverseness of Whorley’s imaginings justify their prosecution. Our right to fantasise ought not be contingent on the moral content of our characters or fantasies; and if Whorley can be imprisoned for email discussions of repellent sexual fantasies, then so can you.

At least one federal judge was deeply troubled by that case. Dissenting from the Fourth Circuit’s refusal to rehear Whorley’s appeal, Judge Gregory encouraged him to seek Supreme Court review. ‘The (court’s) obscenity jurisprudence has never come close to stripping adults of First Amendment protections for their purely private fantasies, and the implications of our sanctioning this governmental intrusion into individual freedom of thought are incredibly worrisome’, Gregory wrote.

Equally worrisome is the likelihood that the Supreme Court would not accept this case for review, much less rule in Whorley’s favour, even though the prosecution of people for sexual fantasies, or thought crimes – speech involving no illicit conduct and no conspiracies, solicitations, or attempts to engage in illicit conduct – was considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as recently as 2002. In Free Speech Coalition v Ashcroft, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the Child Pornography Prevention Act bans on producing or possessing non-obscene, virtual (including computer-generated) child porn. Invalidating these provisions did not require a subtle or arcane legal analysis; it required only a basic understanding of First Amendment freedoms.

The US government may not criminalise speech based on claims about its indirect potential harm, as the Supreme Court stressed: ‘The mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it.’ (And, in this case, even the tendency of virtual porn to encourage child abuse was unproven.) ‘The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought’, Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority.

That was then. In 2008 Justice Kennedy joined the majority in a 7-2 decision that effectively overruled the defence of free speech he had offered a mere four years earlier. In Williams v US, the Court upheld the PROTECT Act, which includes a ban on pretending to traffic in sexually explicit images of actual children or obscene virtual child porn. Really. (PROTECT is an acronym for the shamelessly entitled Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Act of 2003, which was enacted in response to the Court’s decision in Free Speech Coalition v Ashcroft.)

In other words, having held that Congress could not criminalise production or possession of all virtual child porn, the Court held that it could criminalise soliciting or advertising virtual child porn in the mistaken belief or with intent to persuade others to believe that it’s the real thing. (The PROTECT Act also criminalises obscene virtual child porn.) The soon-to-be-missed Justice Souter pointed out the obvious, in a dissent joined only by Justice Ginsburg: allowing prosecutions for pandering or soliciting non-obscene, virtual images dramatically undermines First Amendment protections that the Court extended to them only a few years ago.

Dwight Whorley’s conviction was based, in part, on the PROTECT Act (he was the first person convicted under it); his conviction for sending ‘obscene’ emails to other adults rested on an older obscenity statute, but it might easily be justified by the same impulse to prohibit virtual child porn that underlies the PROTECT Act and imprisons people for pretending to pander child porn or actually collecting obscene cartoons. It doesn’t take a great leap of law to criminalise discussion of a cartoon – the depiction of a desire or an idea – once you’ve criminalised possession of it.

Outside the respective subcultures of free-speech advocates, comic-book collectors, and paedophiles, not many people will mourn the loss of a right to imagine or discuss abusing children. But the rationales for censorship developed in these cases can always be extended, by carving out additional exceptions to the First Amendment. In fact, they could conceivably be extended next year, when the Supreme Court decides whether, like child porn, depictions of cruelty to animals should be denied constitutional protection. In the autumn, the Court will consider the case of Robert J Stevens, convicted and sentenced to 37 months under a federal law criminalising the production, sale, or possession of material depicting animal cruelty; Stevens’ crime was selling videos of pit bulls on the attack.

His conviction was reversed by the Third Circuit court of appeals, which declined to create a new category of unprotected speech. The federal ban on animal cruelty depictions was based in part on assumptions about their indirect harm, the Third Circuit observed; the government claimed an ‘interest in discouraging individuals from becoming desensitised to animal violence generally, because that may serve to deter future anti-social behaviour toward human beings.’ If the Supreme Court rules that Congress may criminalise speech in the mere hope of deterring ‘future anti-social behaviour’, what speech may Congress not restrict? It’s hard (and may eventually be illegal) to imagine.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


1 August, 2010

An affirmative action disaster in Australia

There was no way Christine Nixon was the most qualified for Victoria's top police job. And it eventually showed. When there was a desperate need for a firm co-ordinating hand she didn't have a clue. Had she been a real leader she could have pulled all the other slack b*stards into gear. But there was basically no-one minding the shop -- so people died, many probably needlessly. When it comes to jobs, people should be judged on their competence -- not on what they've got between their legs

FORMER police commissioner Christine Nixon apologised unreservedly yesterday for her bungled performance on Black Saturday after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission lambasted her "hands-off approach".

The commission's final report delivered a damning appraisal of Ms Nixon's willingness to claim responsibility as chief commissioner and co-ordinator of the State Emergency Response Plan on February 7 last year. It described her leadership as "inadequate".

The report was highly critical of Ms Nixon's decision to leave the Emergency Co-ordination Centre at 6pm, return home and go out to dinner with friends rather than stay and lead an offensive against the fiercest fires to strike the state.

"It is not satisfactory that at this time - when she was aware of the potential for disaster and, in fact, while the magnitude of the disaster was becoming apparent with confirmation of fatalities - Ms Nixon was absent," it said. "On a day when conditions were predicted, and then proved, to be worse than Ash Wednesday, something more was required."

The report said Ms Nixon's approach to emergency co-ordination and the manner in which she acted "left much to be desired". It also expressed "dismay" at her approach in giving evidence before the royal commission, describing parts of her testimony as "inaccurate and incomplete", but found that she "did not intentionally mislead it".

Ms Nixon yesterday accepted the findings and was sorry and sympathetic to fire victims still trying to piece their lives back together. "The commission says on that day I should have stayed and I agree," she said. "They say that I should have been more active on that day and I agree."

Ms Nixon said she felt responsibility for what happened on the day. "I think back, was there something I could have done differently that may have saved people and I don't think there was but I've certainly learnt a lot from it," she said.

Asked if she would act differently if she had her time over she said: "I think all of us would do everything differently."

Ms Nixon was not the only leader to receive scathing criticism from the report. It found former CFA chief Russell Rees and DSE chief fire officer Ewan Waller relegated responsibility and did not do enough to warn communities about the firestorm heading their way.

The report said Mr Rees and Mr Waller were not fully across details of the deadly fires, did not personally map or monitor them and failed to seize responsibility.

Alarmingly, the report revealed Mr Rees did not speak to the incident controller of any of the major fires. "He therefore remained operationally removed from the fires and, as a result, was not in a position to appreciate the deficiencies in the staffing and expertise of some incident management teams," it said.

"Mr Rees did not review the warnings being issued for the Kilmore East fire despite the fire's obviously disastrous potential. "He did not review any predictive maps for any of the fires and would therefore not have been in a position - even had he reviewed the warnings being issued - to assess whether it was appropriate to warn the communities in the predicted fire path."

The report found "a disturbing tendency among senior fire agency personnel - including the chief officers - to consistently allocate responsibility further down the chain of command".

"Although the chief officer of the CFA and the chief fire officer of the DSE were undoubtedly in command of the resources in their respective agencies, neither was directly controlling the response to any of the fires," it said.

The report concluded that Mr Rees and Mr Waller should have done more to issue warnings, support incident management teams and institute statewide planning. "To the extent that they relied on their subordinates to perform these tasks, this reliance was ineffective," it said.

CFA chief Mick Bourke refused to comment directly about the criticism levelled at Mr Rees or reveal where he was yesterday, but said the report would be a "catalyst for change".

The commission found Police Minister Bob Cameron "acted properly" before and during the fires, but said he should have raised the option of declaring a state of disaster with Premier John Brumby.

Though she admitted to a lack of leadership on Black Saturday, Ms Nixon hoped her poor performance on that day would not overshadow her previous eights years as chief commissioner. "I hope that the community, when they do get a chance to read this in more detail, takes note of what the commission has had to say," she said.

"They certainly suggest that I should have done things differently and that's certainly part of it, but I think you have to judge a person's behaviour in the context of all of the things they have ever done as a leader."


Secular attempt to dictate religion in Australia

Creationism is a historic Christian doctrine so Christian parents have every right to have their kids taught about it. If they don't want to have their kids taught about it, nobody is telling them that they have to. It's not "hijacking" anything to teach the doctrines of your faith.

Kids have all the rest of their school time to hear the evolutionist side of the story so what is so bad about a different view being given at least some exposure? Where is the "tolerance" and respect for "diversity" among those who oppose it?

I am an atheist but I sent my son to a Catholic school precisely because I wanted him to hear the other side of the story. He seems to have emerged unharmed from the experience and in fact enjoyed his religion lessons at the time. So it is possible to practice tolerance as well as preach it -- JR

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there's fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking religious instruction classes despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

About 80 per cent of children at state primary schools attend one half-hour instruction a week, open to any interested lay person to conduct. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.

Education Queensland is aware that Creationism is being taught by some religious instructors, but said parents could opt out.

Australian Secular Lobby president Hugh Wilson said children were ostracised and discriminated against if they were pulled out of the class. In many cases, the RI lay people were not supervised by teachers. {So...?]

Kings Christian Church youth worker Dustin Bell said he taught "about creation" in Sunshine Coast schools. Set Free Christian Church's Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors "because of all the fire and brimstone stuff". Mr Ryan said Education Queensland had deemed RI a must-have, though teachers would prefer to spend the time on curriculum.

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland. He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion. [Since when?]

Education Queensland assistant director-general Patrea Walton said Creationism was part of some faiths, and therefore was part of some teaching.

New research shows three in 10 Australians believe dinosaurs and man did exist at the same time. The survey, by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, shows a "worrying" lack of basic scientific principles.

"The results underscore the need for students to be exposed to science and mathematics through a well resourced education system, rather than learning about science through Jurassic Park," FASTS president Dr Cathy Foley said.

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said. "'My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'wouldn't they all be inbred'? "But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library. [That is punishment?? I didn't realize that books are such a bad thing]


Israel president claims English are 'anti-semitic'

I am no fan of Peres but there is a lot of evidence that he is right about this. The BBC is just about all the evidence you need but also see here and here and here and here and here

Israel's president has accused the English of being anti-semitic and claimed that MPs pander to Muslim voters. Shimon Peres said England was "deeply pro-Arab ... and anti-Israeli", adding: "They always worked against us." He added: "There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary."

His remarks, made in an interview on a Jewish website, provoked anger from senior MPs and Jewish leaders who said the 87-year-old president had "got it wrong". But other groups backed the former Israeli prime minister and said the number of anti-semitic incidents had risen dramatically in the UK in recent years.

The controversy follows the furore last week over David Cameron's remark that Gaza was a "prison camp", as he urged Israel to allow aid and people to move freely in and out of the Palestinian territory.

Mr Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is three years into his seven-year term as president and was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen in 2008, said that England's attitude towards Jews was Israel's "next big problem". "There are several million Muslim voters, and for many members of parliament, that's the difference between getting elected and not getting elected," he said.

"And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment. "They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 UN partition resolution ... They maintained an arms embargo against us in the 1950s ... They always worked against us. They think the Arabs are the underdogs."

By contrast, relations with Germany, France and Italy were "pretty good", he added.

He made the comments in an interview with the historian Professor Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev published last week in Tablet, a Jewish news website.

The wide-ranging interview covered Mr Peres' role as one of Israel's longest-serving political leaders – an MP for 48 years, twice prime minister, and holder of other ministerial posts over the decades. He is firmly on the Israeli Left. He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 jointly with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his part as foreign minister in the peace talks which produced the landmark Oslo Accords.

But following his comments, James Clappison, the Conservative MP for Hertsmere and vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: "Mr Peres has got this wrong. "There are pro- and anti-Israel views in all European countries. Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries."

The MP added that he could "understand the frustration" that people in Israel felt with "certain elements of the British broadcast media" which present an unbalanced view of Israel. He said: "I can understand Mr Peres' concerns, but I don't recognise what he is saying about England."

Yet in Israel, Mr Peres is far from alone in holding such views, which have gained a wider following, particularly on the Right, since the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over accusations that Mossad sent agents using British passports to assassinate a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Aryeh Eldad, a right-wing member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, accused Britain of working against Israeli interests for decades – ever since it "betrayed" its promises to build a Jewish homeland when it governed Palestine under a League of Nations mandate. "Both governments from the right and the left prefer Arab interests over Israeli interests," said Mr Eldad, whose father Israel was a leading figure in the Stern Gang, the most radical of the Jewish terror groups that fought British mandatory rule.

"The other layer is an ongoing, subtle form of anti-semitism. It is not as overt as it was in Germany, it is a quiet, polite form."

Some leading Jewish commentators in Britain disagreed. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, minister of Maidenhead synagogue and a writer and broadcaster, said: "I am surprised at Peres. It is a sweeping statement that is far too one-sided. "Britain has supported both Israel and Arab causes at different periods over the last 50 years. There are elements of anti-semitism but it is not endemic to British society. "The tolerance and pluralism here make Britain one of the best countries in the world in which to live."

Mr Peres found support, however, from other pro-Israeli groups. Jacob Vince, the director of Christian Friends of Israel, said there was anti-semitism in the UK although many people had a positive view of Israel but were unwilling to express it publicly.

Mr Vince said it was "difficult to see how many MPs would not be influenced by the number of Muslim voters in their constituencies". The Government was not treating Arabs as the underdogs but rather was trying to appease them, he said. "The question is how well they understand those with whom they are seeking conciliation."

Mr Peres is "measured and moderate," he added. He said: "His comments have serious connotations and I am sure would not be said lightly."

One Israeli politician expressed disbelief that the doveish Mr Peres had launched such a broadside against the British. Benny Begin, a cabinet minister whose father Menachem was prime minister and before that leader of Irgun, the group that killed 91 people in an attack on Jerusalem's King David Hotel in 1946, said: "Peres? I simply can't believe he said that."

The latest figures show that the number of anti-semitic incidents in Britain is rising, according to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity set up in 1984 to monitor such incidents. The situation in Britain had worsened "significantly" in the past decade, a spokesman said.

In 2009 there were 924 anti-semitic incidents, the highest figure since CST began keeping records in 1984, and 55 per cent higher than the previous record in 2006. The figures include reports, accepted only when backed by evidence, of physical assaults, verbal abuse and racist graffiti. The monthly figure has soared from 10-20 incidents in the 1990s to 40-50 now.

Last year nearly half of the 924 anti-semitic race attacks recorded by the CST showed a political motivation, with 66 per cent of those including some reference to Israel and the Middle East.

A 2009 report by the US-based Anti-Defamation League found one in five Britons admitted Israel influences their opinion of British Jews, and the majority of those said that they felt "worse" about Jews than they used to. It found, however, that Britain was less anti-semitic than other European countries.


Nicolas Sarkozy threatens some foreign-born criminals with loss of citizenship

Quite a limited threat but long overdue

PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to strip the French nationality from foreign-born criminals who use violence against police or public officials.

Struggling in the opinion polls after his Government was implicated in a financial scandal and in the wake of a spate of violent unrest, Mr Sarkozy announced a headline-grabbing package of security measures.

Top of the list, in a week when Mr Sarkozy had already threatened to expel foreign Roma who commit crimes back to Eastern Europe, was a vow to tighten nationality rules for other non-French-born criminals. "Nationality should be stripped from anyone of foreign origin who deliberately endangers the life of a police officer, a soldier or a gendarme or anyone else holding public authority," he said.

Speaking in the eastern city of Grenoble, scene in recent weeks of clashes between police and armed rioters, Mr Sarkozy said that foreign minors who commit crimes would henceforth find it harder to get citizenship on coming of age.

And he promised to review the welfare payments made to non-documented immigrants living in France, in a speech made amid renewed accusations that Sarkozy has swerved to the right to distract from his political woes.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Examining political correctness around the world and its stifling of liberty and sense. Chronicling a slowly developing dictatorship

BIO for John Ray

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

I record on this blog many examples of negligent, inefficient and reprehensible behaviour on the part of British police. After 13 years of Labour party rule they have become highly politicized, with values that reflect the demands made on them by the political Left rather than than what the community expects of them. They have become lazy and cowardly and avoid dealing with real crime wherever possible -- preferring instead to harass normal decent people for minor infractions -- particularly offences against political correctness. They are an excellent example of the destruction that can be brought about by Leftist meddling.

I also record on this blog much social worker evil -- particularly British social worker evil. The evil is neither negligent nor random. It follows exactly the pattern you would expect from the Marxist-oriented indoctrination they get in social work school -- where the middle class is seen as the enemy and the underclass is seen as virtuous. So social workers are lightning fast to take chidren away from normal decent parents on the basis of of minor or imaginary infractions while turning a blind eye to gross child abuse by the underclass

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."

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amedment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

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