Political Correctness Watch 
The creeping dictatorship of the Left..

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

HOME (Index page)



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

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

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

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

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

Consider two "jokes" below:

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

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

Pretty offensive, right? So consider this one:

Q. "Why are evangelical Christians like the Taliban?

A. They are both religious fundamentalists"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email John Ray






















Of Interest 3

There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here

Cautionary blogs about big Australian organizations:

St. George bank
Bank of Qld.
Queensland Police

Mirror for this blog

Mirror for "Dissecting Leftism"
Alt archives
Longer Academic Papers
Johnray links
Academic home page
Academic Backup Page
General Backup
General Backup 2

Selected reading



Rightism defined
Leftist Churches
Leftist Racism
Fascism is Leftist
Hitler a socialist
What are Leftists
Psychology of Left
Status Quo?
Leftism is authoritarian
James on Leftism
Irbe on Leftism
Beltt on Leftism

Van Hiel
Pyszczynski et al.

(My frequent reads are starred)

10 o'clock scholar
11 Day Empire
50th Star
Aaron rants
Abercrombie Chick
About Politics
Across Atlantic
Albion's Seedling*
Also Canadian
Always Right
American Indian Movement
American Mind
American Outlook
American Thinker
American Realpolitik
Anal Philosopher*
Anthropology & Econ
Baby Troll
Bad Eagle
Beautiful Atrocities
Belmont Club*
Betsy's Page
Between Coasts
Bill Keezer
Bill Quick
Bits blog
Bleeding Brain
Blissful Knowledge
Blogs against Hillary
Blood & Guts
Bob McCarty
Booker Rising
Brian Leiter scrutinized
Brothers Judd*
Brussels Journal
Camp Katrina
Campus Newspaper Confab
Canadian Comment
Candle in dark
Chez Joel
Chomsky demolished
Civilian Gun Self defense
Classical Values
Clayton Cramer*
Climate audit
Climate science
Colby Cosh
Cold Fury
The Commons
Common-sense & Wonder*
Conservative Eyes
Conservative Grapevine
Conservative Oasis
Conservative Philosopher
Conservative Pleasure
Conservative Voice
Conservatives Anonymous
Country Store
Critical Mass
Culture Battles
Daly Thoughts
Damian Penny
Dancing Dogs
Dean's World
Deinonychus antirrhopus
Dhimmi Watch
Dick List
Dick McDonald*
Discover the networks
Dodge Blog
Drink This
Dr Helen
Dr Sanity
Ed Driscoll
Eddy Rants
Electric Venom
Elephants in Academia
Enter Stage Right
Eugene Undergound
Evangelical Ecologist
Everything I Know
Fighting in the Shade
Fourth Rail
Free Patriot
Free Rain
Free Speech
Frizzen Sparks
Galvin Opinion
Gates of Vienna
Gay and Right
Gay Patriot
Gene Expression*
Ghost of Flea
Global warming & Climate
GM's Corner
One Good Turn
Gold Dog
GOP & The City
Grumpy Old Sod
Gust of Hot Air
Hall of Record
Happy Carpenter
Hatemongers Quart.
Heretical Ideas
R. Hide MP
Hitler's Leftism
Hoosier Review
Hugh Hewitt
Hummers & Cigarettes
Illumination Inc
Infinitely Prolonged
Intellectual Conservative
Interested Participant
Jackson's Junction
Jihad Watch
Jim Kalb
Junk Food science
Junk Science
Just One Minute
Keeping it Simple
Kim Du Toit
Knowledge is Power
Ladybird Deed
La Shawn
Let it bleed
Liberal Wrong
Liberty Cadre
Little Green footballs
Logical Meme
Lost Tooth Soc
Lone Wacko
Lubos Motl
R. Mandel
Margaret Thatcher Foundation
Market Center
Mark Nicodemo
Maverick Philosopher
Medicine World
Miami Review
Michelle Malkin
Midwest by DC
Moderate Voice
More Sense than Money
Moved Truth
Mr Minority
Mrs Blessed
Museum of Left Lunacy
My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
National Center
National Security
Neo Con Blogger
Neo Neo-Con
Never Yet Melted
New Media Journal
News Buckit
New Sisyphus
New Victorian
New Zeal Pundit
No Credentials
Norm Quantum Weatherby
Northeastern Intelligence Network
Not PC
OC Register blog
On the Right Side
Pajama Editors
Panic Watch
Parable Man
Patriot Watch
PC Stupidity
Pedestrian Infidel
Petrified Truth
Poli Pundit
Political Psychology
Political Theory Review
Pragmatic Libertarian
Prof Bainbridge
Proportional Belief
Publius Pundit
Random Observations
Rand Simberg
Random Jottings
Raving Atheist
Reagan Baby
Red State
Redwood Dragon
Regions of Mind
Rhymes with Right
Right Faith
Right Nation
Right Reason
Right Spin
Rightwing Troll
Right Thinking
Right Wing news
Ron Hebron
Sayet Right
SCSU Scholars*
Sean Lafreniere
Sharp Blades
Sharp Knife
Should Know
Silflay Hraka
Silent Running
Sine Qua Non
Smallest Minority
Spelled Sideways
Squander 2
Stephen Frank
Steve Sailer
Stop and Think
Stop the ACLU
Stuart Buck
Talk Climate Change
Talking Head
Tim Worstall
Townhall C-log
Truth Laid Bear
Two-Four Net
Unca Dave
Urban Conservative
Vdare blog
Verbum Ipsum
Viking Pundit
Vodka Pundit
Voices in Head
Watt's up with that
Western Standard
Bill Whittle
What If
Whym Rhymer
Winds of Change
World of Reason
Write Wing Warrior
You Big Mouth
Zero Intelligence

Education Blogs

Early Childhood Education
Education Wonks
Homeschool Blogger
Joanne Jacobs*
Marc Miyake*
No 2 Pencil
Weary Teacher

Economics Blogs

Adam Smith
Arnold Kling
Chicago Boyz
Cafe Hayek
Environmental Economics
Environmental Economics & Sust. Devel.
Innocents Abroad
Jane Galt
S. Karlson
D. Luskin
Marginal Revolution
Mises Inst.
Robert Musil
Truck & Barter

Australian Blogs

Aussie Political Report
Tim Blair
A E Brain
Brookes news
The Bunyip
Currency lad
Daily Constitutional
Emotional Rex
Evil Pundit
Fortress Australia
Kev Gillett
Hissink File
L. Hissink's Crazy World
Little Tin Soldier
M4 Monologues
M Jennings
Mangled Thoughts
Media Dragon
Oz Conservative
Rational Thoughts
Tao of Defiance
Voice of Pacific
Wog Blog
The Yobbo
Bastards Inc
Paul & Carl
It's A Matter of Opinion
Cyclone's Sketchblog
Niner Charlie
The Dog Blog
Welcome to the Asylum
Chris Berg


Anglo Austrian
Blithering Bunny
BNP and Me
Britain & America
British Interest
Burning our Money
Campaign Against Political Correctness
Campaign for English Parliament
Conservative Comment
Cynical Libertarian
Daily Ablution
England Project
EU Serf
Norm Geras
House of Dumb
Liberty Cadre
Limbic Nutrition
Majority Rights*
Melanie Phillips
NHS Doctor
Oliver Kamm
Mike Power
Right to be Free
Sean Gabb
Natalie Solent
Sterling Times
Walking the Streets
Wayne Smallman
Rich Webster
Englishman's Castle


Freedom & Whisky
Highland Warrior
A Place to Stand


Brit Nats in Wales


Conservative Dubliner
Tangled Web
Hot Air Forum


Ice & Fire
Great Auk


Israel Pundit
Not A Fish
Steven Plaut
Think Israel

The Portuguese connection

A Razao das Coisas
Avaliando o mundo
Blogoesfera Internacional
Boticario de Provincia
De Direita
Nadando contra a mare
O Intermitente
O Reacionario
O Blog do Alex
Portugal Liberal
Super Flumina
Ser Portugues
Tempestade Cerebral
Valete Fratres

Other Europe

Daily Bork
Davids Medienkritik
European Family Health
No Pasaran
Le Guerre Civili
Tommy Funebo


Almost Supernatural
Ethiopian Pundit

Best of Web
Business Review Weekly
Business Week
Centcom (Iraq)
Courier Mail
Dilby News
Dinkum Oz
Free Republic
Front Page
Human events
International Business Times
National Review
Sydney Morning Harold
Telegraph (London)
Thunderer (London)

Site Feed

Site Meter


03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

British council disregards objections to gypsy camp from 3,000 residents -- as 'they are racist'

When residents were asked to provide feedback on council plans to build traveller camps on their doorstep they dutifully responded. More than 3,000 homeowners filled in forms outlining their views, many raising concerns over a possible increase in noise, traffic, rubbish and a detrimental effect on property prices. However, such objections were not appreciated by Mid-Bedfordshire District Council, which partially or fully rejected nearly nine in ten of the replies for including comments 'of a racist nature'.

Weeks after asking for residents' views earlier this year, the council posted an article on its website entitled 'Racist Comments Not Welcome'. It claimed the council's 'duty of community leadership' meant it had to crack down on the use of racial stereotypes, and revealed that while 400 responses would be considered, 3,100 were in some way racist and would be rejected. The council even sent letters to objectors telling them their views had been deemed offensive and would not be taken account of.

Retired company secretary Lucy Clarke from Stotfold - one of the six small towns and villages mooted as sites for the 25 traveller families - was astounded to receive her letter. Mrs Clarke, a grandmother of three, said: 'As far as I am aware I objected to the camp for entirely reasonable grounds. And yet I then get this letter from the council. 'They even accused me of incitement to racial hatred. It's ridiculous - like putting me on a par with Abu Hamza.' She added: 'I am not racist, but I am concerned about what one of these camps could do to our town.'

Even the local town council could not avoid falling foul of the censors. Brian Collier, chairman of Stotfold council said: 'We wrote a detailed response in which we summarised locals' concerns. 'There is another gipsy site not far from here that has a well-known crime problem. 'As part of our response we echoed people's worries that the same may happen here. 'We were totally shocked when we then received a letter from the district council saying that was racist. There are lots of people here who have had the same treatment.'

The district council's attitude has been criticised by local campaigners, politicians and civil liberties groups. Tory communities spokesman Eric Pickles said yesterday: 'I hope that they write a letter of apology to everyone they have accused of being racist. Otherwise, people simply aren't going to feel able to object to these camps without the fear of being branded racist.'

When contacted by the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Mid-Bedfordshire council admitted that it had been 'somewhat overzealous'. He said: 'We were worried that many of the letters contained racist slurs and objectionable comments that we felt could not be published under current race relations legislation. 'We had no intention of offending those who took the time to respond to the consultation and certainly were not trying to label residents as racist. 'Only a small proportion (around 5 per cent) of the comments were actually discounted in their entirety. The remainder were taken into consideration, either in whole or in part.'


British children banned from carrying candles in church - it may be safer, but isn't life supposed to be fun?

You may be sick of health and safety stories, but I am going to tell you a new one anyway. And this one is particularly monstrous. There is a very pretty disused estate church in Northamptonshire where an annual carol service is held on Christmas Eve, attended by some 250 people. Everybody holds aloft a candle, which makes a lovely sight. This year, however, this little event was blighted by a decree from the church commissioners that no child under the age of 15 could be allowed to hold a lighted candle: the safety risk was deemed unacceptable. As if that wasn't enough, the service then started with the reading of formal instructions about exits in the event of fire, a completely potty notion in a tiny old church with only one door.

And here's another story just as farcical. A few months ago, an engineer called at our house to correct a telephone line fault. He eventually announced that he must go away and return another day because the job would require a long ladder. I told him he could use our ladder. Sorry, he said, he would need another man to hold it while he climbed. I volunteered. 'Sorry,' he said again. 'You're not trained.'

Trained? To hold a ladder? This is madness, but a madness which all of us experience almost every day. It is sometimes claimed, not least by that iniquitous Stalinist body the Health & Safety Executive, that stories such as these are invented or exaggerated. They are not. Such things are happening all around us. Visiting the Army in Afghanistan in October, I was dismayed to hear that even on the battlefield, the spectre of health and safety rears its head, adding severely to the burden of commanders trying to conduct an exceptionally rough campaign.

The Oxfordshire coroner who conducts most of the inquests into British soldiers killed in action, and often delivers fierce criticisms of the Ministry of Defence in his judgments, thinks that he speaks and acts in the interests of our soldiers and their families. In reality, however, he often makes pronouncements that reflect his own ignorance of the realities of war. And in so doing, he makes the task of fighting the Taliban that much harder.

Let me give you an example. Weighed down with body armour, helmet, pack and rifle, it is hard to run for any distance in the intense Afghan heat - especially when under fire. Earlier this year, commanding officers discussed whether, in special circumstances, men might be allowed to discard their body armour for short periods to enable them to move faster against a lightly-clad and nimble enemy. The final verdict was that this was unacceptable. They decided that if a soldier should be killed when not wearing full protective gear, the Oxfordshire coroner would have a field day. He would almost certainly denounce the irresponsibility of officers who had failed in their duty of care.

It is hard to fight battles under such constraints. Air Marshal Lord Tedder, Eisenhower's deputy in World War II, said wisely: 'War is organised confusion.' And he was right. British officers care passionately about the welfare and survival of their men. The pain of losing a comrade is very great. It is harsh to superimpose upon this the prospect of being denounced in a coroner's court by a civilian who has never heard a shot fired in anger. And it is absurd to apply to the circumstances of the battlefield the same sort of criteria that are applied to a factory accident.

But wars aside, we must keep exposing and denouncing such follies as a ban on children carrying candles at a carol service. If we allow them to pass unremarked, the excesses of health and safety will go on and on, each day squeezing some new little moment of pleasure out of our existences. What is at stake is common sense. We must be allowed to live our lives without constant interruptions from an officialdom obsessed with the belief that every detail of the domestic round needs regulation.

Much of the trouble lies with the courts. If, for example, my telephone engineer falls off his ladder, he will almost certainly sue his employer and anybody else in sight. If regulations are found to have been breached, if there is the smallest hint that anybody in a position of responsibility was negligent, massive compensation will be awarded. Judges often seem willing to strike bold attitudes, for instance in sticking up for the rights of Muslim extremists to preach jihad, who then escape deportation, and receive generous cheques from social services into the bargain. Yet those same judges, together with tribunals which adjudicate in many compensation cases, lack the courage to fight for common sense.

Many claims deserve to be kicked straight into the long grass. But the view prevails that cash paid out by public bodies or insurance companies is not real money. It can be distributed with reckless abandon to victims of misfortunes, often in amounts larger than they could have earned in a lifetime of labour. Thus fear of litigation causes public bodies and private companies alike to impose ever sillier and more draconian restrictions on people's daily behaviour. They are terrified of being held responsible if somebody trips over a paving stone on their patch.

We, the British, often claim to take pride in our warrior heritage. Yet we are making ourselves ever more timid and cowardly. Many of us in our teens did Outward Bound courses - I myself once ran one at school. They were tremendously popular with the young because they fed our enthusiasm for adventure. I tremble to imagine what today's Outward Bound courses are like.

After a fatal canoeing accident at a school in the John Major era, new legislation was introduced. And such activities are now hedged by thick entanglements of rules designed to strip out any of the risk which we so loved. One day when, as a newspaper editor, I met the Prime Minister, I suggested that the new law was too restrictive. He responded: 'Can you imagine what everybody would have said if there had been another Outward Bound accident and we had done nothing?'

For once, I sympathised with Major. The blame culture was not invented by governments, but they feel compelled to respond to its reality. I suppose it is a sign of retarded adolescence, that even at my advanced age I still love taking risks, a joy enhanced by the feeling that I am striking back at the Health & Safety Executive. I relish ladders and chainsaws, working on the roof, and bicycling without one of those hideous helmets.

When my children were younger, I hope that I was not an irresponsible parent. But I encouraged them to climb trees, bungee jump - and carry candles at carol services. Life is supposed to be fun. In any sensible society, learning to accept responsibility for our own actions, and sometimes for painful consequences, is an essential part of growing up. Unless we fight every new manifestation of the health and safety brigade's excesses, we may become a fractionally safer society - but we shall also evolve into an unbearably dull one.


The welfare system is a monster that is slowly destroying Britain...

The year that lies ahead threatens to be one of the most grim in all British history. Hundreds of thousands of us look certain to lose our jobs, most through absolutely no fault of our own. According to some estimates, that figure may even reach a million. For some of us, the prospect is grimmer still. We will not be able to keep up our mortgage payments, and so lose our homes, as well.

This series of disasters, however, is likely to befall only those who have made the mistake of working in the private sector. Those employed in Britain's bloated public sector are pretty well immune from the effects of the economic downturn. The same applies to that section of the population-an estimated 4.8 million people-who are already dependent on out-of-work benefits.

Some of these, of course, live in genuine poverty and deserve all the help they get. But others enjoy a surprising level of affluence. As the Daily Mail revealed yesterday, an amazing 140,000 households collect more from the benefit system than they would if they earned the national average wage. Each of these families receives state handouts worth 20,000 pounds a year, or even more. However, they are not taxed on this income, meaning that their real take-home pay is worth the equivalent of someone bringing home the national average salary of 25,100 before tax-and in some cases it is considerably higher even than that.

This is obscene. Nobody-apart from a handful of deranged free-marketeers who yearn for a return to the brutality of the Victorian era-is opposed to state benefits. Our modern welfare state, drawn up by William Beveridge during World War II, is the mark of a truly civilised society. Its purpose is to ensure that Britain should never return to the horrifying levels of poverty and suffering that were part of ordinary life during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Indeed, we have rarely needed Beveridge's system of social protection as much as we do today, facing as we do the greatest economic catastrophe for three- quarters of a century.

However, it has been clear for some time that something has gone desperately wrong with William Beveridge's system. During the years immediately following World War II it admirably performed the task it was supposed to do-and gave temporary protection to those workers who, through no fault of their own, were made unemployed. Instead of being forced into the workhouse, as might have happened in the 1930s, they were allowed to maintain their human dignity. But, slowly, the system was distorted.

Partly, this was the fault of politicians. National insurance payments, for example, were soon debased so that it ceased to be a pool of money set aside for a rainy day, and instead became just another form of income tax. And, inevitably, idle and feckless workers started to take full advantage of the benefits system. Rather than use it as a system of social insurance, they started to regard it as a well-paid alternative to going out to work.

A good example is the British system of disability benefit. This was set up from the most noble and splendid of motives-so that people who were unable to work for health reasons should not suffer financially because of their disability. Unfortunately, the work-shy soon spotted that disability benefit was also the perfect excuse for idleness, while being paid for staying at home-and often doing a little extra on the black market. Today, an astonishing 2.7 million men and women are claiming incapacity benefit-equivalent to one in 15 people of working age in Britain. Many of these disability claims are obviously fake.

Indeed, David Freud, the former banker who advises the Government on welfare issues, reckons that approximately two-thirds of those claiming incapacity benefit are capable of going out to work. Freud estimates that a staggering number-he reckons about 185,000-work illegally while on benefit. Tragically, no government has ever tried to make them go out to work legally. Some ministers have actually preferred to collude with a system which effectively defrauds the public. The reason is utterly shameful-people who are claiming incapacity benefit do not register as unemployed. They therefore keep the jobless figures down, enabling governments to boast about their economic success.

Another scam is housing benefit. Once again, no decent person would ever complain about the idea behind housing benefit-namely to keep people who cannot fend for themselves off the streets. Yet, once again, the system has been milked by the feckless and greedy, often with the collaboration of incompetent or corrupt local councils-consider the recent case in West London where an immigrant family lives in a large townhouse worth approximately 2,000 pounds in rent a week.

Last week a report by the Institute Of Fiscal Studies concluded (unsurprisingly) that the over-generous benefits system has created a baby boom. It estimated that an extra 45,000 children a year have been born to young mothers since the 'unprecedented rise' in child benefits, free housing and family tax credits made it 'economically attractive' to have more and more babies.

This complex situation of benefits has created a situation which was the exact opposite of what Beveridge intended. He aimed to create a system which would enable men and woman to get by while they looked for another job. But the modern British benefits system is now so complex, so incompetently administered, so corrupt and, in some cases, so generous that it is actually a disincentive to people going out to look for work. The rewards for staying idle are so great that, perversely, men and women on benefits can be better off staying at home.

A recent study showed that around 60,000 poorly paid workers offered the choice of working more hours would effectively be taxed by an extra 90 per cent on the extra income. In other words, the welfare system Britain has devised today rewards idleness and punishes hard work. The effects of this are already being felt. It is scarcely 60 years since the end of World War II, and yet there are already housing estates where practically no one goes to work. The only source of income is the State, and there are generations of families none of whom have ever had experience of the workplace.

This is not merely immensely damaging to the British economy. It is also desperately unfair. Those people who have always worked hard and paid their taxes find themselves being heavily penalised for their efforts-while those who cheat and skive get rewarded. In the long term, this is a very dangerous situation. It brings the British system of social insurance-one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century-into disrepute. Ordinary, decent, hardworking people will start to ask whether they can support a system which so blatantly rewards the workshy and the idle.

Eleven years ago, when Labour first came to power, Tony Blair claimed that only Labour could reform the welfare system-and he promised to do so. But he never had the guts. He and his Chancellor Gordon Brown preferred to keep the blatant sham of disability benefit because it so conveniently hid the true level of unemployment. It is a tragic wasted opportunity. It would have been fairly easy to prune the bloated welfare state when jobs were plentiful over the past decade-but next to impossible now that that the job losses mount.

Writing more than 2,000 years ago, a Roman politician made the following observation: 'The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.' These words were uttered by Cicero in 55BC. Today they are every bit as apposite.


Ahmadinejad Christmas message on Britain's Channel 4

The Left are always banging on about the importance of sensitivity and making people feel "comfortable" but display precious little of any of that themselves

Channel 4 has long revelled in its puerile desire to shock but now it has plumbed new depths of indecency, perpetrating an act of sickening and gratuitous -offen-siveness. On the most -significant day in the Christian calendar it broadcast a so-called "alternative Christmas message" by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an -Islamic fundamentalist whose regime is notorious for oppression, cruelty and anti-Semitism.

C4 has displayed utter contempt for the values of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation, treating a precious moment in our religious heritage as an opportunity for the usual anti-Western, Marxist point-scoring which passes for thinking in Left-wing circles. In the context of issuing a Christmas broadcast it is hard to imagine a less appropriate figure than President -Ahmadinejad, whose vicious theo-cracy has never shown the slightest inclination towards peace and goodwill.

To hear him last night preaching about justice and the need to fight tyranny was nauseating in the extreme. His government has promoted a brutal form of militant Islam, persecuted women, hounded Christians, and sponsored terrorism. - Despite presiding over mass poverty it has sought to build its own deadly nuclear arsenal, creating permanent tension in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad, himself drenched in the crudest form of anti-Semitism, has called for Israel to be "wiped off the face of the earth" and questioned whether the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews ever took place.

Others accused of Holocaust denial, such as historian David Irving, end up in prison. Ahmadinejad is given a prime-time Christmas Day slot on C4.

The station has an -unedifying track record of deliberately stirring up rows, particularly through the psychological freak show known as Big Brother. It has also frequently used Christmas Day as a chance to parade its disdain for the traditional -values of our culture. Two years ago the Christmas message came from a Muslim woman trumpeting her right to wear the full veil. But the -Ahmadinejad broadcast is a desperate new low. The -channel has moved from mere controversy into a sneering, treacherous rejection of all that decent Britons hold dear at this time of year.

Only in the warped mindset of an ultra-trendy, oh-so--progressive TV executive would it be deemed suitable to allow one of world's most dangerous and fanatical leaders to spout his deceitful nonsense about peace. What do C4 have lined up for next Christmas? Robert Mugabe on compassion? Kim Jong Il of North Korea on -freedom and democracy? One can imagine the excited conversations which must have taken place within C4's management before the decision was made to invite the Iranian President. "What can we do for a real outrage this year? -Ahmadinejad?

The Holocaust denier, talking on the day of -Jesus's birth? Brilliant. That'll really make a stir." The -station's executives are like a bunch of adolescent, Left-wing students, titillated by the justifiable -anger they provoke, revelling in their self-created image as -daring iconoclasts who -challenge the establishment. The absurdity of their stance is that they are an integral part of the establishment. After all, C4 is a public corporation, owned by the Government. But instead of receiving a genuine public service we have these continual displays of immature rebellion by over-paid attention seekers who think there is something original about their predictable anti-British dogma.

In 1940 George Orwell wrote of the classic Left-wing intellectuals who felt "that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution." He -described these anti-patriots as occupying "a sort of island of dissident thought". Tragically, they are no longer dissidents but are running C4.

What is equally repulsive is their epic hypocrisy. They delight in undermining Christianity and Judaism but then display a fawning reverence for Islam. They would not dream of -allowing a Muslim holy day to be hijacked by a message from a Christian fundamentalist. The same appalling double standards are just as clear in the utterings of Ahmadinejad. While lecturing us about spiritual faith, he would not tolerate for a moment an address from an Israeli rabbi about Iran's -duties to the world.

Moreover, he had the nerve to claim that if Jesus were alive today he would be campaigning against supposed Western imperialism. Yet no one in Britain can utter a squeak about Prophet -Mohammed without the threat of riots, mayhem and jihads.

It is grotesque to be hectored about peace by the world's most outspoken political advocate of a violent creed that has brought such terrible carnage over the past decade. "Love thy neighbour," the central message of the Christian gospel, is an idea -entirely alien to Islamic hardliners bent on the global -triumph of their dogma. There is an alarming parallel between the Nazis of the Thirties and today's Islamist zealots.

Morbidly anti-Semitic, stuck in a mentality of grievance, wallowing in manufactured victimhood, obsessed with submission to dictatorial authority, wailing about the iniquities of American-led capitalism, consumed by superstition and brutish -ritual, Nazism was as much a menace as Islamism is today. Like Ahmadinejad, Adolf Hitler ranted about his desire for peace but warned this could never be achieved until the "Jewish problem" was resolved.

For C4 to broadcast a message of "peace" from Ahmadinejad is the modern equivalent of the Thirties BBC giving a Christmas Day slot to Hitler. The morality of broadcasting in Britain has been sinking rapidly in recent years, as reflected in the scandal over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. But it has never before reached such levels of soullessness as C4 did last night.



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

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

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


Comment (1) | Trackback

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A woman on every fire engine ... the latest demand from the British PC brigade

Fire chiefs will have to put at least one woman on each fire engine to meet diversity guidelines. New targets say that at least 15 per cent of those in operational roles should be female. That means they will fill one of the five or six places for crew on each engine. Officials at the Local Government Association, which is pressing the quotas on fire authorities, said that an increased number of women firemen is necessary 'to meet the needs of local people'.

But critics warn that they are placing their targets above the need for fitness and strength. Susie Squire, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'Introducing this sort of quota to the fire service is a big mistake. If ever there was a job that should be awarded on merit and physical fitness, it is that of a firefighter. 'It is ludicrous that political correctness is being put above the ability to save lives.' She added: 'This quota system will not only cost taxpayers money by introducing additional and unnecessary administration, but could risk the safety of all of us in the long run.'

At present fewer than one in ten firemen are women even in the brigades with the highest proportion of females in operational jobs. Those with the least women employ proportions of around 3 per cent. In an attempt to address this, local councillors who are appointed to serve on the fire authorities will be asked to sign up to the 'diversity charter'. One of the pledges they are expected to make is to 'work to achieve recruitment targets of at least 15 per cent for women in operational roles'. They are also asked to work towards minority ethnic representation at the same level as that in the working age population of the area. At present just over 3 per cent of firemen are from ethnic minority groups.

Anthony Duggan, head of fire services at the Local Government Association, said: 'The fire service needs to be representative of the area it serves. It is important that the fire service attracts more women and ethnic minorities so that it can work more effectively in partnership with local authorities and other organisations to meet the needs of local people.' Mr Duggan called for a 'culture change' and said that asking authority members to sign the diversity charter 'will show that those who are making the strategic decisions are serious about getting a greater mix of people working in the service'.


Morally corrupt: Britain's bishops deplore Labour's scandalous rule

There is no denying the reality of what the Bishops describe

Leading Church of England bishops have accused the British Government of being "morally corrupt" and delivered a damning verdict on Labour's rule. Five of the church's most senior figures said the Government presided over a country suffering family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing financial divide. The bishops of Durham, Winchester, Manchester, Carlisle and Hulme said government ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society, introducing policies that exacerbated inequality and hardship. Labour had sacrificed principled politics and long-term solutions to win votes, they argued, describing the Government as tired and its policies as scandalous.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader, David Cameron, accused the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, of leading the country to the brink of bankruptcy, saying the "debt crisis", which he blamed solely on the Government, would serve as Mr Brown's political epitaph.

Although speaking independently in a series of newspaper interviews, the bishops' common criticisms reflect the deepening rift between the Government and the church on social and moral issues. Relations have become increasingly fractious following condemnation of Mr Brown's spending plans by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and a report accusing the Government of marginalising the church.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Tom Wright, said ministers had not done enough to help the poor. "When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished."


The state of nature is not a state of pacifism


Reveries about human perfection do not exist solely in the enthusiastic systems confected by Karl Marx, or in the REM sleep of Hugo Ch vez, or through the utopian certainties of millenarians. There has been a persistent belief through countless societies that life is better, much better, somewhere else. In some yet-unfound reality there is an expression of our best natures -- our loving, peaceful, lyrically fair human core.

Anthropologists have been at the center of this quest, its practitioners sailing off to find that elusive core of perfection everywhere else corrupted by civilization. In the 1920s, Margaret Mead found it in Samoa, where the people, she said, enjoyed untroubled lives. Adolescents in particular were not bothered by the sexual hang-ups that plague our repressive society. Decades later an Australian researcher, Derek Freeman, retraced her work and successfully challenged its validity. Still, Mead's work and that of others reinforced the notion that our way of life was artificial, inauthentic, just plain wrong.

Enter primatology, which provided yet more questions about essential hominid nature -- and from which species we could, perhaps, derive guidance about our inner core. First studied in the wild were the baboons, which turned out to have harsh power politics and sexual inequity. Then Jane Goodall brought back heartwarming film of African chimps who were loving, loyal, fine mothers, with none of the militarism of the big bad baboons. But her subjects were well fed, and didn't need to scratch for a living in their traditional way. Later it became clear that chimps in fact formed hunting posses. They tore baby baboons they captured limb from limb, and seemed to enjoy it.

Where to look now for that perfect, pacifistic and egalitarian core? Franz de Waal, a talented and genial primatologist, observed the behavior of bonobos at Emory University's primate lab in the 1980s. These chimpanzees, he found, engaged in a dramatic amount of sexual activity both genital and oral, heterosexual and homosexual -- and when conflicts threatened to arise a bout of sex settled the score and life went on. Bonobos made love, not war. No hunting, killing, male dominance, or threats to the sunny paradise of a species so closely related to us. His research attracted enormous attention outside anthropology. Why not? How can this lifestyle not be attractive to those of us struggling on a committee, in a marriage, and seeking lubricious resolution?

Alas, Mr. de Waal also hadn't studied his species in the wild. And, with a disappointing shock in some quarters, for the past five years bonobos have been studied in their natural habitat in a national park in the Congo. There, along with colleagues, Gottfried Hohman of the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has seen groups of bonobos engage in clearly willful and challenging hunts. Indeed, female bonobos took full part in the some 10 organized hunts which have been observed thus far. Another paradise lost.

Reveries about hidden human perfection centered in primate life have been sharply curtailed by what we've learned about the Malibu ape -- when it seeks its own food, doesn't live in an easy-hook-up dormitory, and may confront severe challenges in life. Bonobo, we hardly know you.


Modern Feminism's Matriarch Unmasked

This is an article from 1999 but what it relates still seems little known

Betty Friedan's 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, is often credited with launching the modern feminist movement in America. Claiming that too many women lived unfulfilling lives trapped as housewives, Friedan called for women to seek opportunities outside the home. One reader humorously wrote to Friedan, "To arms, sisters! You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners." Her book eventually sold millions of copies and is currently required reading in hundreds of college courses worldwide. Friedan would later play a leading role in founding the National Organization for Women and other groups promoting "women's liberation" and feminism.

Central to the appeal of The Feminine Mystique was the idea that the author was writing from experience. American women purchased the book in droves because the author presented herself as just an average housewife. But as Smith College Professor Daniel Horowitz demonstrates in Betty Friedan and the Making of `The Feminine Mystique,' the self-image Friedan painted was far different from her real life's history.

If the home was a "comfortable concentration camp," as Friedan claimed in The Feminine Mystique, this is not something she knew from experience. In the years following her marriage, she worked full-time as a journalist for communist-controlled labor publications and later worked out of her home as a freelance writer. Living in a lavish mansion, she was freed from housework by the services of a full-time maid. Her husband earned a large salary and supported Friedan and the children. The parents of her children's playmates even ejected Friedan from their car pooling arrangement when they learned that Friedan sent their children to school in a taxi rather than driving them herself. The locked-up, middle-class homemaker that Friedan styled herself to be was an embroidered tale.

As far back as her student days at Smith College, the future feminist leader traveled in a world inhabited by those on the fringes of the Left. Guest lecturers, professors, required readings, and fellow students on the Northhampton, Massachusetts campus all pushed her in the direction of a near full acceptance of the Soviet line. While Friedan was at Smith, "people committed to liberal and left-wing positions dominated campus-wide public discussions," notes Horowitz with approval. "Smith hosted a steady stream of progressive speakers," the author recognizes, a group that included Soviet propagandists Corliss Lamont and Anna Louise Strong. Horowitz credits such an atmosphere with informing the ideology of Friedan, who for more than a decade served the cause of international Marxism in various capacities.

While pursuing a post-graduate degree at Berkeley, Friedan dated David Bohm, a Communist working under Oppenheimer on the atomic bomb project. Her social world included many Party members and her writings reflected a line directed from Moscow. Friedan's FBI file-labeled "a document of problematic reliability but nonetheless one that has to be reckoned with" by Horowitz-claims that she sought to formally join the Communist Party while at Berkeley. "In 1944 an informant told the FBI that [Friedan] went to a party office in the East Bay area, announced that she was already a member of the [Young Communist League], and sought entrance to the party itself, as well as a job writing for its paper, The People's World." Friedan was refused entry, and was reportedly told that she could serve the Soviet cause better from outside of the official party.

In 1943, Friedan began nine years of work as a journalist in the labor movement. The publications she wrote for-the Federated Press and the UE News-were ostensibly "union" publications, but in reality were Communist fronts. "In the 1940s," Horowitz notes, "according to historian Ronald Schatz, the UE was `the largest Communist-led institution of any kind in the United States.' In his authoritative book on the CIO, the historian Robert Zieger states that UE was `the only effectively led large pro-Soviet affiliate' of the CIO in the postwar years." Friedan even wrote articles for the Daily Worker, New Masses, and Jewish Life: A Progressive Monthly, a publication that served as an apologist for Stalin's anti-Semitism.

Horowitz claims that the fear of "McCarthyism" (a word that curiously graces the book's pages on more than 100 occasions) continues to prevent Friedan from telling the truth about her activities during the 1940s and `50s. But there is another possibility as to why she chooses to hide her years within the Communist orbit that the author fails to explore. Perhaps Friedan lied about the time she spent within the Red fold because she recognizes that she led a shameful life promoting an ideology that claimed millions of lives. Just as a former enthusiast for Nazism might likely attempt to shield his past views in pursuit of public approval, those who cheered on Mao, Stalin, and their countless minor league impersonators might likely attempt to hide their past in order to gain mainstream acceptance.

"Once Friedan became famous," Horowitz complains, "journalists, authors of standard reference works, and historians simply repeated the narrative of her life offered in The Feminine Mystique and elsewhere." Because those writing about Friedan so often sympathized with her views, they didn't bother to investigate her past and instead relied on her word. The author himself questioned whether it was appropriate to make public the inconvenient information he discovered. Horowitz claims that we live in "a world where Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, and the Christian Coalition [are] powerful, if not consistently ascendant. So I worried that I might be revealing elements of Friedan's past that conservatives could use to discredit not only Friedan but the entire women's movement."

Unfortunately, Betty Friedan and the `Making of the Feminist Mystique' raises more questions than it answers. As she has done throughout her life, Friedan continues to spin a tale about her history that has little to do with reality. She denied the author permission to quote from her unpublished work and implied legal action if he did so. She refused requests for interviews. Her complete papers are hidden from the public at Radcliffe College, kept under lock and key until decades into the new century. Horowitz has recently come under attack as a tool of the Right, despite the fact that he clearly celebrates and embraces Friedan's radical history. His argument is not so much with her Marxist past as it is with her hiding it.

If Friedan is the mother of modern feminism, the movement she gave birth to has inherited many of her traits. Whether it's the myth of domestic violence hitting its annual peak on Super Bowl Sunday or the discredited statistic of tens of thousands of women dying each year from anorexia (its actually around 100), one need not look far for examples of feminists putting forward lies to further their cause. When two Georgetown students published a booklet that included a debunking of the feminist mantra of one in four college age women being raped, angry feminists responded by stating "if one woman is not raped by publishing false statistics, then that justifies it." Betty Friedan has been exposed as a fraud. Feminism deserves such a matriarch.



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

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

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


Comment (1) | Trackback

Monday, December 29, 2008

Home for retired British missionaries loses grant - because it won't ask residents if they are lesbians

Apparently, respecting the privacy of elderly ladies is not included in socialist "caring"

A care home where elderly Christian residents refused to answer ‘intrusive’ questions about their sexuality is at the centre of a bitter legal battle after its council grant was axed. Brighton & Hove Council told the home to ask pensioners four times a year about their sexual orientation under its ‘fair access and diversity’ policies, which stem from New Labour equality laws. Council chiefs also accused the charity that runs the home of ‘institutional discrimination’, before cutting a 13,000 pound grant towards warden services.

Pilgrim Homes, which operates ten schemes for elderly Christians across the UK, says it has never breached the law and is now suing the council, accusing it of religious discrimination. Andrew Jessop, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘The council has taken overzealousness to the extreme. People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn’t be treated in this way.’

Tensions began last year when the council imposed stricter criteria on organisations it supported to ‘comply’ with the Equality Act 2006 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. It circulated a questionnaire to the Pilgrim Home in Egremont Place, Brighton, which houses 39 single Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a minister. Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said he was told by the council the home had to ask residents if they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual or ‘unsure’, even if they objected. Many of the elderly rebelled, however, and the home wrote to the council saying residents did not want to participate. Mr Wainwright said: ‘There was a strong feeling among people in the home that the questions were inappropriate and intrusive. They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions.’

But Brighton & Hove Council complained about the home’s ‘negative response’ and argued that because the home had a Christian ethos, gay people might be deterred from applying. It cited the ‘resistance’ to using images of elderly gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the home’s leaflets, saying this meant gays and lesbians ‘would not feel comfortable’ applying for a place. The council then announced it was axeing the grant because there had been ‘limited progress’ in making the home accessible to the homosexual community.

Mr Wainwright said the charity was open to anyone with orthodox beliefs. He said: ‘We have every reason to believe that we have given places to gay Christians, and no questions were ever asked. The council hasn’t demonstrated any discrimination on our part. We believe it is Brighton Council that is institutionally discriminatory.’

MPs last night backed the charity, which fears other councils that provide it with grants totalling more than 100,000, could follow Brighton’s lead. Ann Widdecombe, former Tory Home Office Minister, said: ‘The equality law does not oblige anyone to ask intrusive questions. This sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud.’ David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful that the council has tried to get 90-year-olds, from a generation that wasn’t obsessed with sex, to put intimate information on to one of its forms.’

But Brighton & Hove Council said: ‘We have never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so. ‘The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.’


British dogs must not chase sticks

And balls are suspect too. The British safety mania never lets up

Fetch, doggy – but not before listening to some vital safety information. One of Britain’s most eminent vets has warned that dogs suffer as many injuries chasing and catching sticks as they do on Britain’s roads. Owners are being advised that to protect their pets from accidental stabbing or choking, they should never throw sticks. Instead they should use rubber throwing toys or a suitably sized ball.

Dan Brockman, professor of small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College, has catalogued dozens of serious injuries and infections, almost all the result of animals being stabbed as they rushed after a sharp stick. “When I see people throwing sticks for their dogs in the park I just get so frustrated,” said Brockman. “I want to go and tell them to stop.” His new study, co-authored with Zoe Halfacree, a fellow small-animal expert at the college, will detail some of the injuries suffered by pets when a game of fetch goes wrong. They include:

— Dogs left paralysed after being stabbed in the back of the throat by a stick that then enters the spinal cord.

— Animals left with serious internal injuries when a spinning stick jams between the foreleg and chest as they try to catch it on the move.

— Dogs who suffer a slow death as infection spreads from tiny fragments of wood left lodged in a wound.

His advice will surprise many of the nation’s 7m dog owners. Even the Kennel Club includes pictures of dogs carrying sticks on its website. Many veterinary practices say they have become familiar with the risks because of the number of dogs they treat.

Brockman said that for owners there is another problem with throwing sticks for dogs – the huge cost of treating injuries. “I have seen injuries that have cost up to 5,000 pounds in treatment fees – but where the dog has still died in the end,” he said. Brockman added that people who get their pets to chase after balls may also be behaving irresponsibly. “You must make sure the size of ball is right for the dog,” said Brockman. “I have had to operate on dogs that have swallowed tennis balls too.”


Dismantling Diversity Dogma

Half a century ago, America was embroiled in a legal and moral struggle to end government-sanctioned racial discrimination. Under a system known as Jim Crow, our government treated citizens differently based on race. Today, America still treats citizens differently based on race under a policy euphemistically known as "affirmative action."

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order directing the federal government to take "affirmative action" to ensure that no person was denied employment based on skin color, but this policy evolved into racial bean-counting. "It was a young president's unambiguous directive that race be removed rather than added as a factor in government employment," writes Larry Purdy, author of "Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity": Searching for the Color-Blind Ideal". "Yet today, nearly 50 years after President Kennedy issued his order, affirmative action has been politically redefined by those who practice raw racial politics, a group which in 2003 included five justices sitting on our nation's highest court. The policies spawned in the name of affirmative action now mock the phrase's original meaning."

Purdy, who served as trial counsel for plaintiffs Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz in race preference cases that reached the Supreme Court, offers a rebuttal to The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, a pro-race preferences book written by former Ivy League presidents William Bowen and Derek Bok. Purdy also critiques Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, which was influenced by the book.

Bowen and Bok studied 28 highly selective schools to test their hypothesis that race made a difference in the admissions decisions for black graduates who went on to successful post-graduate and professional careers. However, as Purdy points out, nowhere do Bowen and Bok offer proof that all 28 schools actually considered race in their admissions decisions, much less the degree to which "race mattered" in admissions, if at all. In Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity," Purdy not only contends that Bowen's and Bok's data are insufficient to support that preferences are a net benefit to society, but goes further to argue that preferences, however well intended, are a net detriment to the very students they were designed to help.

Purdy highlights flaws in The Shape of the River. For example, Bowen and Bok claim that 700 "retrospectively rejected" black students went on to become doctors and lawyers in extraordinary numbers. But for the race preferences given to these "retrospectively rejected" students, they claim, none would have been admitted to their elite schools. Yet, nowhere do Bowen and Bok prove that any of the black graduates who eventually became successful doctors or lawyers were among those black matriculants for whom race made a difference in their respective admission. Indeed, the so-called 700 "retrospectively rejected" students were not real students at all. They were simply a statistical projection.

Although Bowen and Bok refused to release the study's underlying data for independent review, even without it Purdy managed to calculate and conclude that their findings were implausible. For example, again with regard to the 700 "retrospectively rejected" black matriculants: "[T]he authors' data suggest that those black matriculants with the highest entering qualifications obtained postgraduate and professional degrees at a rate significantly lower than those black matriculants who entered college with the lowest academic qualifications. This is a conclusion which defies all logic." Purdy lays bare Bowen's and Bok's deceptions, analyzes the consequences of race preferences, and debunks the so-called educational benefits of diversity.

Isolated acts of discrimination cannot and should not be used to label an entire country racist. Colorblind principles, particularly colorblind government policy, provide the best way to eradicate racism. "Getting Under the Skin of "Diversity," is a robust and informative guidebook for reaching that goal.


Bigotry of the Left

We have a long way to go to overcoming bigotry - liberal bigotry, that is

It should not be lost on any observer that, as this election drew nearer, many liberals began discarding the term "progressives" and reverted back to calling themselves "liberals." We give liberals credit of sorts for re-acknowledging their long-ago discredited brand name. Big government is big government. You can't change stripes on a skunk, as the old saying goes. Big-Government Republicans learned that the hard way. Republicans destroyed their brand by calling themselves Ronald Reagan conservatives, but governing more like Democrats.

The truer nature of liberalism was on display this last election, after years when liberals chose to cloak their views with more moderate-to-conservative speak. Liberals continued to campaign more to the right of their true agenda, but when caught off-guard, liberals were heard speaking of their spread-the-wealth socialism, their desire to bankrupt industries, and their genuine contempt for rural Americans, especially those of faith.

Many liberal bloggers, less guarded about their agenda, demonstrated the bigotry of liberalism. In this election, we witnessed the nasty bigotry of sexist liberal feminists, directed personally at Sarah Palin and indirectly at working conservative Christian mothers, with extra objection to mothers who don't abort children with special needs. That probably came as no surprise to conservative African-Americans, such as Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele and Ward Connerly, who have been subjected to the vitriol of liberal bigotry. A 1993 article titled "Black Conservatives" by one liberal says, "For most African Americans the notion of a Black conservative is an oxymoron." She writes that both conservative policies and conservatives themselves are racist. This, sadly, is the bigoted worldview of too many liberals: You are defined by your race or ethnicity and aren't allowed to think for yourself.

Liberalism's underlying premise is the superiority of government power over individual freedom. The worst regimes in history - communist, Nazi, fascist - were the combination of bigotry with government power. No such regime comes to power without using deceptive promises that government will take care of people better than freedom will. Their leaders manipulate people to support them often by accusing their opponents of the same form of treachery they seek to impose.

The worst liberal politicians employ deception both to gain votes and to intimidate critics. Race-baiting is a favorite bigoted tactic of many liberals. For example, when Barney Frank was confronted about his support for Fannie Mae contributing to the financial market meltdown, he resorted to calling those who questioned his positions "racist." How desperate and pitiful. But worse, it was the policy of bigotry in the first place that forced banks to make bad loans to uncreditworthy people.

Conservatives were called racist for opposing immigration policies pushed by the Bush administration, other Big-Government Republicans and Democrats. The wrong immigration policy, under which people here unlawfully would receive benefits at taxpayer expense, would also allow them to steal jobs from low-income Americans, and would be a slap in the face to immigrants who came to America legally through a long and sometimes expensive process.

Conservatism is a threat to liberalism because bigotry is counterproductive to conservatives, but is a cornerstone of liberalism. Economic conservatism values the productivity, work, intelligence, integrity, motivation and other virtues of the individual. Religious conservatism is based in the fundamental premise that we are all born of equal value in the eyes of God. Liberals who evade the merits of policy arguments by resorting to calling white conservatives "racists" or African-American conservatives "Uncle Toms" don't merely demonstrate their own ignorance, they cheapen the cause against real racism.

America is a center-right country not because of any particular ethnicity but because we are a unique assimilation of individuals from different walks of life, cultures and perspectives. Our greatness does not depend on any one group succeeding or holding anyone back, but precisely is due to allowing individuals to rise above the circumstances into which they were born. Americans still by and large understand our country is the land of opportunity, not the land of guarantees. America has far more Joe the Plumbers than Peggy the Moochers.

As with most things in life, those who struggle to obtain something often understand better the value of those things than those who have been given them. Perhaps that is why conservative African-American thinkers and leaders - Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, J.C. Watts, Star Parker, Armstrong Williams, Herman Cain, Jay Parker, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., Alan Keyes, Larry Elder, etc., are among the most articulate proponents of free markets, faith and other tenets of conservatism. They were proud of their country long before Barack Obama was elected president. We're sure they understand that liberal bigotry remains a great barrier to overcome so all individuals have a greater opportunity to achieve their hopes, dreams, desires, ambitions and aspirations, no matter how simple or how grand.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The British Labor Party government loves its criminals

Almost 2,200 foreign prisoners have been released from jail early with up to 168 pounds each of taxpayers' cash to compensate them for the loss of bed and board. The criminals were released back on to the streets despite a promise by Gordon Brown that they would all be deported. The total cost of funding the handouts for the foreign inmates could be as much as 370,000 pounds.

The revelations will overshadow today's announcement by the Home Office that it removed a record 5,000 foreign criminals last year. Ministers said they were fulfilling a commitment by the Prime Minister, made in July 2007, to take tougher action in the wake of the foreign prisoners scandal. Those removed last year included 50 killers and attempted killers, more than 200 sex offenders and more than 1,500 drug offenders. But the Tories pointed out that Mr Brown had said all overseas criminals would be removed when he declared: 'If you commit a crime you will be deported. You play by the rules or you face the consequences.'

Research by the Tories discovered that not only did 2,196 foreign criminals escape removal, but they were allowed to leave jail 18 days before their sentence reached even the halfway point to ease overcrowding. To compensate them for the loss of accommodation and food they would have received in prison during this 18-day period, they were given up to 7 pounds a day from public funds, up to a maximum of 168.24 each.

In a dossier released last night, the Tories revealed that an estimated 3,000 foreign criminals were released without being deported last year, including those who were set free 18 days early. And the total number of foreign inmates has actually increased by 1,000 since the foreign prisoner fiasco, which led to the sacking of Charles Clarke as Home Secretary in 2006. The scandal prompted a review of deportation procedures after 1,000 inmates were mistakenly released without being even considered for removal. But despite a series of measures being put in place to speed up removals - including the introduction of 3,000 pound bribes for those who go home voluntarily - there are currently 11,168 overseas inmates, an increase of 11 per cent since 2006. The Government is also holding 543 foreign prisoners under immigration powers, because they finished their sentences before measures could be taken to deport them. With each place costing around 40,000 a year, this 'bed blocking' is costing the taxpayer œ22million per year, according to the Tories.

Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert said: 'The Government want to create the impression that they're successfully deporting foreign national criminals, but the truth is that for every three prisoners they remove, two more are released on to the streets. 'Far from paying the price as Gordon Brown promised, foreign national offenders are being rewarded by serving less than half of their jail sentence and with taxpayers' cash in their back pockets.'

Many of them cannot be deported because of a combination of EU law and the Human Rights Act. The End of Custody Licence scheme was introduced in June 2007 primarily for British inmates, to free space in the chronically overcrowded prison system. But foreign nationals - who now have three jails dedicated exclusively to their detention - have been unexpected beneficiaries.


British police uninterested in car theft

But say anything critical about homosexuality and they will be there like a shot

When Keith Harding found his son's stolen car, he thought he had done all the hard work for the police. He phoned and told them it was parked outside a nearby block of flats, and waited for action. But to his astonishment officers said all they could do was send someone to pick up the car at a cost of 125 pounds. They said they did not have the resources to investigate the case.

Mr Harding, 51, a construction manager, said: `When they told me they couldn't do anything but charge me to tow the car away, I just couldn't believe it. `The officer apologised because he was embarrassed and I was furious. The culprits were probably inside that block of flats and they were going to get away with it.'

The case follows the Daily Mail's revelation earlier this week that officers are routinely failing to investigate crimes reported by the public. Nearly four in every ten offences are `screened out' by officers who claim they have little chance of catching the culprit.

The BMW was stolen on November 21 from the Harding family's home in Rayleigh, Essex, by thieves who broke into the house and took the keys and other items, including a purse belonging to Mr Harding's wife's. The purse was found by a member of the public only ten minutes' drive away, so Mr Harding decided to play detective. He drove around nearby roads until he spotted his son's car in a private car park for a block of flats. Mr Harding immediately called the police, who took an hour to arrive. The officer then called CID to see if a detective was available to investigate how the car ended up parked in the block of flats. But after another hour, CID rang back to say that `no resources' were available.

Mr Harding then drove the car home after a friend dropped off a spare key, rather than pay the 125 pound tow fee. Forensic tests were carried out on the car the next day. Mr Harding said: `We were still scared that the thieves would come back for the car because they had the keys and knew our address, so I had to park it at a friend's house. `I think the police are just worried about statistics and making sure they are seen rather than actually solving crimes.'

A spokesman for Essex Police said the officer's advice on retrieving Mr Harding's car was `usual' and forces across the country charge 125 for this service. He added: `Investigations continue, including the review of other intelligence available to police.'


Europe's Choice for Christmas: Pink Trees or None at All

Be prepared for a homosexual parody of Christmas when you take a stroll through Amsterdam these days. The Dutch city, the self-declared "gay capital of the world," is holding its first "Pink Christmas Festival." From 18 until 28 December there is a ten-day "Christmas Festival" for homosexuals, including a "gay X-mas open-air market", gay nativity scenes - featuring Baby Jesus with either two Josephs or two Marys - several gay gatherings, a "pink ice skating rink" (for travestites), and streets lined with pink Christmas trees.

The organizers, who also organize the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade each August, say they want to "increase the range of options for homosexual men and women during Christmas week when there is not much to do." They intend to turn the event into an annual Pink Christmas Festival and expect that in the long run Pink Christmas will become even more popular than the August Gay Pride Parade, a floating Parade on barges and boats through the famous Amsterdam canals.

The Dutch Calvinist merchants, who built the canals in the 17th century to provide easy access to their warehouses, could never have imagined that their spoilt, affluent offspring would turn the city, which they made into the commercial hub and the capitalist center of the world, into the world's showpiece of depravity. Today's Amsterdammers hold nothing sacred of what their ancestors cared for, except money.

Pink Christmas, the organizers say, is also an attempt to "reclaim Amsterdam for gays" and to counter the rising intolerance in the city. Over the past years, assaults on homosexuals have occurred with increasing frequency. Though the parades, parties and festivals continue, homosexual couples who venture into the streets risk being beaten up or thrown into one of the canals.

While the homosexuals make a parody of Christmas, mocking the Christians with an open show of blasphemy during the holy season, it is not the Christians whom the homosexuals fear. Those who pretend that "religious people" are intolerant will find few examples among the remaining followers of Christ in Holland. The attacks on homosexuals are perpetrated by Muslim youths. The growing presence of Islam in the Dutch capital, which is already almost 20 per cent Muslim, has made life in the city less gay than it used to be.

Europe's Christians, however, would be na‹ve to expect that the Muslims will have greater respect for Christmas nativity scenes. Radical Islamists want to ban them altogether. In an interview earlier this year Belgium's Cardinal Godfried Danneels said that Christians may thank Muslims for the growing respect for God in present-day Europe, but the liberal Cardinal does not seem to understand that the God of Islam is not the God of Christianity.

In Antwerp, in Danneels' own Belgium, the city authorities have decreed that public shools, even during the Christmas season, have to avoid all references to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The authorities do not want to upset the schools' large population of Muslim kids. "Christmas should be a neutral event, not focused on one particular religion, but on enjoying food and drink together with friends and family," the city officials wrote in a letter to the schools.

Even Christmas trees have been banned in Antwerp's public schools. Last year a Muslim civil servant and trade union representative demanded that the city show "its commitment to complete neutrality by banning Christmas trees and Easter eggs" from public buildings and spaces. Christmas carols are not allowed as background music, let alone to be sung, during Antwerp's traditional open-air Christmas market. Like Amsterdam, Antwerp still tolerates the word "Christmas," though. In Oxford, England, the city council has decided to ban the C-word and replace it with the term "Winter Light Festival." This is done in order "to include all religious denominations."

Meanwhile, Oxford University Press has removed other words associated with Christianity and British history from Britain's leading dictionary for children, the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Words like "bishop," "chapel," "abbey," "saint," "monarch" and "empire" have been axed. The publisher claims the changes are made to "reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society."

What multifaith means was experienced by the non-Muslim children of a junior school in Nottingham which cancelled the traditional Christmas nativity play because it got in the way of the Muslim children celebrating the Islamic Eid festivities.

In Sarajevo, Bosnia, Christmas has been abolished in all the city's kindergarten institutions. In order not to offend Muslims, even Christmas trees have been banned from the kindergarten premises. 43 percent of Bosnians are Muslims.

In Cologne, Germany, the windows of the Galeria Kaufhof department store no longer display traditional Christmas scenes. Instead, passers-by can marvel at Islamic scenes of mosques with minarets, desert abodes and puppets dressed like Arabs, including veiled women. Over 30% of Cologne's inhabitants are Muslims.

In Europe, the war against Christmas is being waged on all fronts, with the institution under attack from two sides: from secularist fundamentalists, who turn it into a mockery with two Josephs (or two Marys) amidst pink Christmas trees, and from Muslim fundamentalists who tolerate no nativity scenes and no Christmas trees at all. It is time for all men of good will to raise their banners and fight: for the family and the right of child to live and to be raised - like Jesus - by a father and a mother, instead of two fathers or two mothers; for green Christmas trees; for words and concepts like Christmas, bishop, chapel, abbey, monarch and empire; in short, for God, sanity and tradition.


Big erosion of individual liberties in Australia -- in the name of "human rights"!

St Vincent de Paul Society ordered to pay $27,500 to president sacked for not being Catholic. If religious people cannot choose to associate with people of the same religion, what other associations might be forced upon us?

The St Vincent de Paul Society of Queensland has been ordered to pay $27,500 to a voluntary president it sacked because she was not Catholic. The landmark decision in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has massive implications for the welfare organisation. State president John Campbell said the organisation was disappointed at the decision and had sought legal advice over whether it should appeal or try to have legislation amended, The Courier-Mail reports.

The $27,500 has been awarded to Kingston woman Linda Walsh for "offence, hurt, embarrassment and intimidation" following the society's decision to stand her down as president of the Migrant and Refugees Logan Centre. According to documents tendered to the tribunal, Ms Walsh's work for the centre was her reason "to get up in the morning". After volunteering for the society in 1997, she first became a president of a St Vincent "conference" - or group of people who respond to calls for assistance in the community, according to the charity's website - in March 2003. By the end of the year, she was working unpaid seven days a week.

But trouble started in January 2004 when objections to her not being Catholic were raised. Ms Walsh said she was asked when she first joined the society whether she was Catholic and there were no objections to her being Christian only. She also was accepted as a conference president in 2003 despite not being Catholic. But, in 2004, the society gave Ms Walsh three options - become a Catholic, resign her position and stay only as a member, or leave the society.

Eventually, Ms Walsh took her case to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. Ms Walsh told The Courier-Mail she felt betrayed by the society to which she had devoted her life. "They put me through the wringer and back," she said. "It hurt, it really hurt." [Does it hurt to take $27,500 out of the mouths of the needy too?]

In its tribunal documents, the society argued its primary function was to "inculcate the Catholic faith in its members" and the charity aspect was secondary for presidents, which meant they needed to be Catholic.

The tribunal found the society did not prove its case and awarded compensation to Ms Walsh as well as court costs. Mr Campbell said that although Ms Walsh did volunteer work, she also was a member and they believed they should have the rights to choose their members, just as a bowling club did. He said the rule that all presidents should be Catholic was "understood", even if it hadn't been written prior to Ms Walsh's membership. He declined to comment further.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The gods of liberalism

Modern-day liberals - or "progressives" as they more discreetly prefer - labor under an awkward misconception; namely, that there is anything remotely "progressive" about the fundamental canons of their blind, secular-humanist faith. In fact, today's liberalism is largely a sanitized retread of an antiquated mythology - one that significantly predates the only truly progressive movement: biblical Christianity.

While visiting the Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Va., a few weeks back, I heard a troubling, albeit thought-provoking, sermon. Pastor John Mabray addressed the ancient Canaanite practice of Baal worship and, though he didn't reveal it by name, connected the dots to its present-day progeny: liberalism. Baal, the half-bull, half-man god of fertility, was the focal point of pagan idolatry in Semitic Israel until God revealed His monotheistic nature to Judaism's forebears.

In his sermon, Pastor Mabray illustrated that, although they've now assumed a more contemporary flair, the fundamentals of Baal worship remain alive and well today. The principal pillars of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual) and pantheism (reverence of creation over the Creator).

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants - men and women alike - would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of "mother earth."

The natural consequences of such behavior - pregnancy and childbirth - and the associated financial burdens of "unplanned parenthood" were easily offset. One could either choose to engage in homosexual conduct or - with child sacrifice available on demand - could simply take part in another fertility ceremony to "terminate" the unwanted child.

Modern liberalism deviates little from its ancient predecessor. While its macabre rituals have been sanitized with flowery and euphemistic terms of art, its core tenets and practices remain eerily similar. The worship of "fertility" has been replaced with worship of "reproductive freedom" or "choice." Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so slightly, to become child sacrifice by way of abortion. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed - yet wholeheartedly embraced - by the cults of radical feminism, militant "gay rights" and "comprehensive sex education." And, the pantheistic worship of "mother earth" has been substituted - in name only - for radical environmentalism.

But it's not just self-styled "progressives" or secular humanists who have adopted the fundamental pillars of Baalism. In these postmodern times, we've also been graced, regrettably, by the advent of counter-biblical "emergent Christianity" or "quasi-Christianity," as I prefer to call it. This is merely liberalism all dolled up and gratuitously stamped "Christian." It's a way for left-wing ideologues to have their "religion" cake and eat it too. Under the guise of "social justice," its adherents often support - or at least rationalize - the same pro-homosexual, pro-abortion and radical environmental policies pushed by the modern-day Baal worshiper.

Though the "Christian left" represent what is arguably a negligible minority within larger Christianity, the liberal media have, nonetheless, embraced their cause and seized upon their popularity among elites as evidence that the so-called "Christian right" (read: biblical Christianity) is losing influence - that Christianity is, somehow, "catching up with the times."

Because emergent Christianity fails the authenticity test whenever subjected to even the most perfunctory biblical scrutiny, I suspect it will eventually go - for the most part - the way of the pet rock or the Macarena. But this does not absolve leaders within the evangelical community from a duty to call leaders of this counter-biblical revolution on their heresy. It's not a matter of right versus left; it's a matter of right versus wrong - of biblical versus non-biblical.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned pillars of postmodern Baalism - abortion, sexual relativism and radical environmentalism - will almost certainly make rapid headway over the next four to eight years, with or without help from the Christian left. The gods of liberalism have a new high priest in Barack Obama, and enjoy many devout followers in the Democratic-controlled Congress, liberal media and halls of academia.

Both Obama's social agenda and that of the 111th Congress are rife with unfettered pro-abortion, freedom-chilling, pro-homosexual and power-grabbing environmentalist objectives. The same kind of "hope, action and change," I suppose, that was swallowed up by the Baalist Canaanites of old. So, today's liberalism is really just a very old book with a shiny new cover. A philosophy rooted in ancient pagan traditions, of which there is naught to be proud. There's "nothing new under the sun," indeed.


Primary and Secondary Racism

Ann Coulter was right when she said the essence of being a liberal is having one set of rules for oneself and an entirely different set of rules for other people. Similarly, it could be asserted that the essence of liberal arts education is developing one set of theories that apply only to other people. Few better examples can be found than in the case of labeling theory, which derives from the pseudo-science of sociology.

Frank Tannenbaum had a number of valid points when, in the 1930s, he established some basic premises of labeling theory. He argued that, as a juvenile, everyone engages in some form of delinquent behavior. And he correctly pointed out that not everyone who engages in delinquency is caught and, therefore, labeled "delinquent." Tannenbaum was also correct in saying that parents, teachers, and peers sometimes over-react to juveniles caught in an act of delinquency. He was again on firm ground in asserting that these occasional over-reactions could actually produce more delinquency.

Surely, those who are labeled delinquent are less likely to be invited to associate with those who haven't. And ostracism from conformists can lead to delinquent associations where the strengthening of deviant tendencies can occur.

Writing just a few years after Tannenbaum, Edwin Lemert did a lot to shape labeling theory into its present form. It is a form popular with progressives everywhere. Lemert argued that people can engage in delinquency for any number of biological, sociological, or psychological reasons. Delinquency produced by any of these broad (categories of) factors is called "primary deviance." But Lemert's real contribution to various progressive causes (and socialist policies) flows from his explanation of a form of delinquency known as "secondary deviance."

Lemert believed that if an individual was caught in an act of primary deviance, he was likely to be placed under greater subsequent scrutiny by parents, teachers, and various agents of social control. This, of course, meant the child was more likely to be caught engaging in delinquency again. Adopting Lemert's premises, it is easy to understand how a vicious cycle could develop.

At some point, of course, the child might internalize the notion that he is a "deviant," a "delinquent," or just generally "bad." This could lead to higher rates of delinquency. When it does, according to Lemert, "secondary deviance" has occurred. Many of us have come to dub this process, perhaps somewhat simplistically, as the "self-fulfilling prophecy."

Notions such as "secondary deviance" and "self-fulfilling prophecy" have done much to undermine the integrity of public education in this country. If you learned to read in first grade in the 1970s, you remember the "yellowbirds," "redbirds," and "bluebirds" reading groups. Labeling theorists thought it would be better to call a child a "yellowbird" than to call him "slow."

(Author's Note: I was a "yellowbird" in first grade and we all knew we were slow. We just contented ourselves with beating up the "bluebirds" during recess. Fortunately, due to the kindness of my favorite teacher Elsie Stephenson, I eventually became a "redbird.").

Regrettably, all of this emphasis on self-esteem and negative labeling has resulted in many schools doing away with letter grades altogether. And when the kids play games at recess they are often forbidden from keeping score. They don't want anyone to suffer the emotional trauma that results from being labeled a "loser" - even if for a day.

Liberal progressives have spent years taking a theory from sociology and applying it increasingly to the field of education. These progressives have shown a clear interest in the question of whether negative labels (e.g., "criminal," "dumb") are more frequently applied to blacks and other historically victimized groups.

But, curiously, one area of research remains unexplored: What impact does labeling someone a "racist" have on his self-image - and his propensity for future acts of racism? Frank Tannenbaum, if he were alive today, might argue that everyone engages in some form of racist behavior. And he might point out that not everyone who engages in racism is caught and labeled "racist." Tannenbaum might also say that parents, teachers, and peers sometimes over-react to juveniles caught in an act of racial insensitivity. He would be on firm ground in asserting that these occasional over-reactions could actually produce more racial insensitivity.

We all know that liberals often manufacture cases of racism in order to keep liberalism alive. But we need more research in the pseudo-science of sociology in order to determine how reckless accusations of racism are actually creating more real racism in America. The research can be used to test whether liberals really believe in labeling theory and whether they are willing to apply it to their own conduct. If liberals really do believe in labeling theory, they should reconsider their own careless accusations of racism. If not, they should fess up, assign grades, and let children keep score during recess.


Wacky accusation from small-time Australian Leftists: Conservatives are "postmodern"

It's not easy being a conservative. Most of the time your colleagues and peers regard your views as embarrassingly old-fashioned. The culturati and the academy love to poke fun at you. And, when you're at a dinner party, there is no more sure-fire way to upset the bonhomie than to express sympathy for a conservative position on any subject matter.

Then, just as conservatism seemed destined to remain decidedly unfashionable, Deakin academics Geoff Boucher and Matthew Sharpe publish their provocatively titled The Times Will Suit Them: Postmodern Conservatism in Australia. Apparently, during the past decade or so, conservative ideas have not only been very much in fashion, they took a decidedly postmodern turn. The vanguard of this latest postmodern conspiracy is neither Jacques Derrida nor Michel Foucault; the culprits, this time, are John Howard and the entire editorial board of Quadrant.

The crux of Boucher and Sharpe's argument is that conservatism morphed into a form of relativism. Under the former prime minister, they claim, universalistic normative principles such as international human rights gave way to nationalistic assertion and cultural particularism. Values were appealed to "not because they are just but just because they are ours". The Howard version of conservatism also cemented in the Australian psyche a "scepticism towards the modern idea that people can make the world" better through "planned political action". In Howard's Australia, everybody was feeling so relaxed and comfortable that commitments to grand projects such as social justice and equality seemed a thing of the past.

Boucher and Sharpe's perverse use of the postmodern label raises an interesting question: What is conservatism and how do conservatives approach the kinds of issues postmodernists have been raising? The first thing to note is that unlike those other two isms of the modern age, liberalism and socialism, conservatism, on the whole, has been defined by its lack of a utopian vision. Keenly attuned to unintended consequences, and the persistence of human frailties, conservatives traditionally have preferred evolution to revolution, custom and habit to fads and fashions, pragmatic approaches and common sense to theoretical speculations and abstract generalisations. Because of the peculiarly change-oriented character of modernity and modernisation, conservatives often have felt the need to remind their fellow citizens of the value of the permanent, that the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented willy-nilly. In these and other respects, conservatives embody a certain postmodern modesty about what philosophy or theory can achieve, although their preference would be for empirical and pragmatic solutions to life's dilemmas. Along with David Hume, they also believe that having a sense of humour is a good antidote to hubris.

Where conservatives differ markedly from postmodernists is in the latter's embrace of romanticism. Postmodernism regards all critical reflection as "ironic play" and suffers from a tendency to see the world in aesthetic terms. In this respect, postmodernism has more in common with aesthetic modernism than it likes to admit. Art becomes a model for all of reality and anybody but a philistine judges art according to nonaesthetic criteria; hence, the outrage of the chattering classes regarding the public's disquiet with the depiction of children in Bill Henson's photographs. For the postmodern culturati, only a complete prude or ignoramus would see these images aspornography.

Here conservatism and postmodernism clearly diverge. Although conservatism has produced its own share of bohemians and aesthetes, conservatives are suspicious of rhetoric that puts the world views of an artistic and intellectual class above those of the much scorned middle-classes. However, it is the conservative approach to questions of art and culture that has been most open to misrepresentation in postmodern times. The conservative position that has received most publicity during the past decade is the one that has challenged literature departments embracing film and popular culture. The dominant image has been one of conservative critics railing against the postmodern tendency to equate Shakespeare with The Simpsons. No such thing as a postmodern conservative on this score.

The problem, though, is that the rhetoric surrounding the so-called culture wars has become the only measure of the conservative position on cultural matters. Conservatives are supposedly cranky, crusty, intolerant types who look down their noses at the culture of the masses. But this is a more accurate description of a circa-1950 left-wing intellectual writing for a journal such as Meanjin or Partisan Review than it is necessarily of a contemporary conservative intellectual.

Another conservative response to the postmodern question has been to admit that indeed postmodernism represents something new or at least something quite challenging for society and culture. In fact, conservative sociologists such as Daniel Bell, Christopher Lasch, Philip Rieff and John Carroll have led the way in demonstrating the kinds of predicaments that postmodern culture represents for individual identity and community wellbeing.

I would argue that these conservative theorists not only beat their leftist counterparts in diagnosing some of these changes; they also understood the unintended consequences of increased affluence, the triumph of a bohemian ethic and the loss of meaning in the sphere of culture much better than more fashionable strains of social and cultural theory.

After all is said and done, the quintessential characteristic of the conservative is that they have a deep need to confront and understand their times. As conservative American columnist David Brooks notes in his book Bobos in Paradise, the past few years have seen the emergence of "blue jean conservatives". He celebrates them as new kinds of conservative who "treasure religion so long as it is conducted in a spirit of moderation rather than zeal", who "appreciate good manners and cherish little customs and traditions" and who "reject grand rationalistic planning" and feel that the world is "far too complicated to be altered effectively by some person's scheme to shape reality". Sound postmodern? Perhaps the authors of The Times Will Suit Them went looking in the wrong places for their postmodern conservatives.


Australian social workers as arrogant and uncaring as British ones

Children taken from parents with no evidence of risk

A judge says it was a "gross abuse of power" for child welfare staff to forcibly remove two babies from their parents' care when there was no evidence they were at risk of harm. Ordering that the children be returned to their parents immediately, Supreme Court Justice George Palmer said the New South Wales Department of Community Services officers' actions had "gravely imperilled" the children's best interests. "My principal concern is that young children who have been well cared for by their parents have been removed from their care for some three months and, if the DOCS officers have their way, will be kept out of their parents' care for another three months, for no good reason," Justice Palmer said.

Although the parents were recreational cannabis users, the judge said there was no evidence that it posed a direct risk of harm to their children - a 15-month-old girl and a month-old boy. He said there was no evidence the children, who were given the pseudonyms Georgia and Luke, were neglected or physically or emotionally abused. Given that the parents were not mentally ill and had no relevant criminal history, he questioned why their children were forcibly removed and why DOCS was pursuing a care plan that would keep them in custody until May. He said there had been "a serious abuse by certain DOCS officers of the department's power to take children into custody".

The court heard that DOCS sought to meet the parents on September 12 but did not respond to their attempts to reschedule. When the couple failed to show up, three officers came to their house. The mother denied her children were at risk but the officers returned with two police officers and removed the children. The parents, who cannot be identified, applied to the Supreme Court to have their children returned, a move opposed by DOCS.

Officers' attitude showed "an intransigent refusal to acknowledge a mistake, regardless of the consequences to the children", Justice Palmer said. A psychologist who assessed the children and their parents noted: "Both parents are well able to provide for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their infant children."

Justice Palmer last week ordered that Georgia and Luke be immediately returned to their parents. DOCS declined to comment on the case, saying it would carefully examine the judgment and consider whether to appeal.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Friday, December 26, 2008

Damages win for British couple falsely suspected of abusing their children

A couple whose three children spent two years in care because social workers wrongly believed that they were at risk of abuse have been awarded a "six-figure" sum in compensation. Tim and Gina Williams's son and two daughters were taken from them and placed with separate foster families. The couple, from Newport, South Wales, received an undisclosed sum yesterday in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff and were given a full written apology from Newport City Council.

The court was told that there had never been any evidence that the children, now aged 14, 11 and 9, had been abused. As a result of the social workers' actions, the Williams missed their children's birthdays, Christmases and their first days in new schools. A judge completely exonerated them at the High Court in October 2006 and the children were returned to them.

The couple, who waived their right to anonymity, began a compensation claim against Newport City Council and Royal Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust soon after. Robin Tolson, QC, for the couple, said: "This settlement brings closure, at least of a kind, for Tim and Gina Williams and their children. The effect of what happened will continue to be felt for a long time but at least this now marks the end of four years spent fighting for their children and their rights before the court." Mr Williams, 39, and two of his children sat at the back of the court during the brief hearing.

In August 2004 Mr Williams called the police after finding his youngest daughter naked from the waist down with an 11-year-old friend. The girl was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up and the doctor who carried out the examination claimed to have found evidence of longstanding abuse but by an adult, not an 11-year-old.

Mr Williams and his wife were told that they were under suspicion and the children were taken into care. A second doctor confirmed the evidence of abuse and the couple were restricted to supervised weekly visits to their children. There were exonerated after a US expert in child abuse examined the evidence and disputed the claims by the British doctors, who subsequently accepted that they had been mistaken. The council conceded that the children should never have been taken from their parents on the basis of the evidence.

Giving his judgment, Judge Crispin Masterman said that the children's names were never put on the child protection register and it was simply decided to remove them from the family home. He said that the criticisms were coupled with an acknowledgment that all professionals involved were acting for the good of the children. "It is undoubtedly true that social services departments have in recent years operated with inadequate resources and under immense stress and run the risk of attracting equal criticism whether they remove a child or whether they do not."

A Newport council representative said: "A settlement has now been reached which will support the children's future. The wellbeing of the children has remained paramount throughout this case. While the local authority has offered sincere apologies to the family, our priority was always the safety of the children. The court concluded that the council acted in good faith given the strength of the medical evidence presented. "The council, together with other members of Newport safeguarding children board, has embraced the recommendations of the multi-agency review." Under the terms of the settlement, the family are banned from talking about it.


British social workers ignore REAL abuse victims

Picking on harmless middle class families is so much easier and much more Marxist

Jake Pierce was beaten almost daily as a child. His parents left him naked outside for hours at a time and attacked him with cutlery, favoured by his mother for scratching his eyes. He was not allowed to mix with other children and was warned that, if he told people of the abuse, he "would be killed". Mr Pierce's testimony in his case against Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council included details of how, when only six months old, he was admitted to hospital for "failure to thrive". Although a doctor advised that he should go into foster care, he was sent home after only a short stint.

Burns to his buttocks and feet were detected when an aunt took him to hospital when he was aged 3, but again the warnings were not heeded. Mr Pierce's evidence, given last year at the High Court, culminated with his decision to run away from home at the age of 14, the night that his father pushed him against the wall and held a knife to his throat. He spent months on the streets before being tracked down and taken into care.

Mr Pierce was awarded 25,000 pounds over the failings of social workers and this month saw off the council's challenge in the Court of Appeal. His victory will have profound implications for dozens of local authorities across the country that now face a welter of compensation claims. Mr Pierce's test case was backed with legal aid from the Legal Services Commission as part of its policy of pursuing cases that will clarify the developing area of law on negligence.

David Keegan, director of high-cost cases at the commission, said that the ruling would have "great implications not only for Mr Pierce but for many others who have suffered as a result of their local authority's negligent failure to exercise their child-protection duties". He said that the commission had funded this, and would fund similar cases, as a development of its policy stemming back to a House of Lords ruling in 2004, which established that local authorities had a common-law duty to children in their care.

A further important development came in January this year, in the so-called Lotto rapist case, when law lords swept away the current bar on historic claims for sexual assault. Until then, child abuse victims could not bring a claim more than six years after reaching 18. This month's decision in Mr Pierce's case establishes the liability of councils if they fail to act and take children away from abusive parents.

Chris Gore, the commission's senior case manager, said that theoretically the potential number of cases was "vast" and every set of care proceedings where there was delay "could give rise to one of these claims". But there would be a filter because the commission had to prioritise: it would back cases that would be "economically viable and legally strong enough". He added: "We are interested in test cases like that of Mr Pierce which sharpen focus on the law."

He said that in a significant proportion of the 200 to 300 cases, a local authority's failings resulted in years of delay rather than the immediate seeking of a court order or other steps. As a result, children will have suffered anything from neglect to verbal or physical abuse.

Many cases may now settle in the wake of the Court of Appeal ruling, with likely compensation in the region of 50,000 to 100,000 pounds for serious abuse where there was a clear breach of duty by the council concerned. But many will be much lower - nearer to 15,000.

A second test case, which has been brought against a local authority over abuse, is being backed by the commission in the Court of Appeal. Judgment is due next month. This involves an adult disabled couple, known only as X and Y, who have won - subject to the appeal - 100,000 in damages. The High Court ruled in May that councils have a duty to protect vulnerable adults, as well as vulnerable children, and found their local authority negligent. The couple, who were living in unsuitable council housing with their two young children, suffered prolonged harassment culminating in a weekend of sexual abuse, assault and imprisonment in their own home.


How feminism has destroyed male/female relationships

And silicone boobs are not going to fix it

Now, men and women have probably been a mystery to one another since the time human beings were in trees; one reason people developed so many rules around courtship was that they needed some way to bridge the Great Sexual Divide. By the early twentieth century, things had evolved so that in the United States, at any rate, a man knew the following: he was supposed to call for a date; he was supposed to pick up his date; he was supposed to take his date out, say, to a dance, a movie, or an ice-cream joint; if the date went well, he was supposed to call for another one; and at some point, if the relationship seemed charged enough-or if the woman got pregnant-he was supposed to ask her to marry him. Sure, these rules could end in a midlife crisis and an unhealthy fondness for gin, but their advantage was that anyone with an emotional IQ over 70 could follow them.

Today, though, there is no standard scenario for meeting and mating, or even relating. For one thing, men face a situation-and I'm not exaggerating here-new to human history. Never before have men wooed women who are, at least theoretically, their equals-socially, professionally, and sexually.

By the time men reach their twenties, they have years of experience with women as equal competitors in school, on soccer fields, and even in bed. Small wonder if they initially assume that the women they meet are after the same things they are: financial independence, career success, toned triceps, and sex.

But then, when an SYM walks into a bar and sees an attractive woman, it turns out to be nothing like that. The woman may be hoping for a hookup, but she may also be looking for a husband, a co-parent, a sperm donor, a relationship, a threesome, or a temporary place to live. She may want one thing in November and another by Christmas. "I've gone through phases in my life where I bounce between serial monogamy, Very Serious Relationships and extremely casual sex," writes Megan Carpentier on Jezebel, a popular website for young women. "I've slept next to guys on the first date, had sex on the first date, allowed no more than a cheek kiss, dispensed with the date-concept altogether after kissing the guy on the way to his car, fucked a couple of close friends and, more rarely, slept with a guy I didn't care if I ever saw again." Okay, wonders the ordinary guy with only middling psychic powers, which is it tonight?

In fact, young men face a bewildering multiplicity of female expectations and desire. Some women are comfortable asking, "What's your name again?" when they look across the pillow in the morning. But plenty of others are looking for Mr. Darcy. In her interviews with 100 unmarried, college-educated young men and women, Jillian Straus, author of Unhooked Generation, discovered that a lot of women had "personal scripts"-explicit ideas about how a guy should act, such as walking his date home or helping her on with her coat. Straus describes a 26-year-old journalist named Lisa fixed up for a date with a 29-year-old social worker. When he arrives at her door, she's delighted to see that he's as good-looking as advertised. But when they walk to his car, he makes his first mistake: he fails to open the car door for her. Mistake Number Two comes a moment later: "So, what would you like to do?" he asks. "Her idea of a date is that the man plans the evening and takes the woman out," Straus explains. But how was the hapless social worker supposed to know that? In fact, Doesn't-Open-the-Car-Door Guy might well have been chewed out by a female colleague for reaching for the office door the previous week.

The cultural muddle is at its greatest when the dinner check arrives. The question of who grabs it is a subject of endless discussion on the hundreds of Internet dating sites. The general consensus among women is that a guy should pay on a first date: they see it as a way for him to demonstrate interest. Many men agree, but others find the presumption confusing. Aren't the sexes equal? In fact, at this stage in their lives, women may well be in a better position to pick up the tab: according to a 2005 study by Queens College demographer Andrew Beveridge, college-educated women working full-time are earning more than their male counterparts in a number of cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis.

Sure, girls can-and do-ask guys out for dinner and pick up the check without missing a beat. But that doesn't clarify matters, men complain. Women can take a Chinese-menu approach to gender roles. They can be all "Let me pay for the movie tickets" on Friday night and "A single rose? That's it?" on Valentine's Day. This isn't equality, say the male-contents; it's a ratification of female privilege and, worse, caprice. "Women seemingly have decided that they want it all (and deserve it, too)," Kevin from Ann Arbor writes. "They want to compete equally, and have the privileges of their mother's generation. They want the executive position, AND the ability to stay home with children and come back into the workplace at or beyond the position at which they left. They want the bad boy and the metrosexual."

This attraction to bad boys is by far guys' biggest complaint about contemporary women. Young men grew up hearing from their mothers, their teachers, and Oprah that women wanted sensitive, kind, thoughtful, intelligent men who were in touch with their feminine sides, who shared their feelings, who enjoyed watching Ally McBeal rather than Beavis and Butt-Head. Yeah, right, sneer a lot of veterans of the scene. Women don't want Ashley Wilkes; they're hot for Rhett Butler, for macho men with tight abs and an emotional range to match. One popular dating guru, David DeAngelo, ranks "Being Too Much of a Nice Guy" as Number One on his list of the "Ten Most Dangerous Mistakes Men Make with Women." At a website with the evocative name RelationShit.com ("Brutally honest dating advice for the cynical, bitter, and jaded" and sociological cousin of DatingIsHell.net), the most highly trafficked pages are those dedicated to the question of why women don't like good guys. A website (and book) called Hot Chicks with Douchebags rubs it in by offering pictures of jerks-we know by their ripped jeans, five o'clock shadow, gelled hair, and bling-standing next to adoring, bikini-clad blondes.

According to a "Recovering Nice Guy" writing on Craigslist, the female preference for jerks and "assholes," as they're also widely known, lies behind women's age-old lament, "What happened to all the nice guys?" His answer: "You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy." Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably "came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he'd have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be."

Adding to the bitterness of many SYMs is the feeling that the entire culture is a you-go-girl cheering section. When our guy was a boy, the media prattled on about "girl power," parents took their daughters to work, and a mysterious plague seemed to have killed off boys, at least white ones, from school textbooks. To this day, male-bashing is the lingua franca of situation comedies and advertising: take the dimwitted television dads from Homer Simpson to Ray Romano to Tim Allen, or the guy who starts a cooking fire to be put out by his multitasking wife, who is already ordering takeout. Further, it's hard to overstate the distrust of young men who witnessed divorce up close and personal as they were growing up. Not only have they become understandably wary of till-death-do-us-part promises; they frequently suspect that women are highway robbers out to relieve men of their earnings, children, and deepest affections.

As the disenchanted SYM sees it, then, resistance to settling down is a rational response to a dating environment designed and ruled by women with only their own interests in mind. "Men see all of this, and wonder if it's really worth risking all in the name of `romance' and `growing up,' " a correspondent who calls himself Wytchfinde explains. "After all, if women can be hedonistic and change the rules in midstream when it suits them, why shouldn't men? Why should men be responsible when women refuse to look into the mirror at their own lack of accountability?"

So, men like Wytchfinde conclude: No more Mister Nice Guy! They will dump all those lessons from their over-feminized childhood and adolescence. They will join what the Boston Globe has called the "Menaissance." And they will buy titles like The Alphabet of Manliness (K is for Knockers, Q is for Quickies), The Retrosexual Manual, Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, and actor Jim Belushi's recent Real Men Don't Apologize.

By far the most important philosopher of the Menaissance is Charles Darwin. The theory that human sexual preferences evolved from the time that hominids successfully reproduced in the primeval African grasslands can explain the mystery of women's preference for macho-or alpha-males. At the same time, evolutionary theory gives the former wuss permission to pursue massive amounts of sex with an endless assortment of women. Finally, the emphasis that Darwinism places on natural selection encourages him to adapt to the brutal current sexual ecosystem. Culture, in both its feminist and Emily Post forms, hasn't won him any favor with women, so he will embrace Nature in all its rude harshness.

For one illustration of dating a la Darwin, consider what's known as the Seduction Community. The Community is a loose network of dating coaches, gurus, and their followers whose philosophical origins lie variously in Darwin, Norman Vincent Peale, and hyperlogical geekdom. Women want alpha males, the Seduction Community agrees; with some effort at self-improvement, any man can learn the game-Game, as it is reverently known-that will turn him into a Pick Up Artist (PUA). A highly skilled PUA can get any woman, even an HB10 (Hot Babe who is a perfect 10; Game has more acronyms and rankings than the Department of Defense does). It's impossible to know just how many wannabe PUAs there are out there, but judging from the multitude of websites like AlphaSeduction, Fast Seduction 101, Grow Your Game, SeductionTutor, and The Seduction Chronicles, as well as chat rooms, conferences, ads for seduction gurus, boot camps not just in the United States but all over Europe and parts of Asia, and books, including Neil Strauss's 2005 best-selling The Game, their numbers are considerable.

Game is best understood as an SYM attempt to bring order to contemporary dating confusion. "Things don't make sense anymore, that's why we need pickup," one commenter on Fast Seduction 101 explains. It teaches the ordinary nice guy-in Gamespeak, the Average Frustrated Chump (AFC)-how to reinvent himself to survive in a ruthless dating environment. That means desensitizing the AFC to rejection and, alas, building up his jerk quotient. Teachers encourage clients to project confidence and sexual energy, what is called, depending on the guru, "cocky funny" or "amused mastery." In The Aquarian, a New York-based music magazine, Kevin Purcell describes his experience at a Game workshop: "One of our first tasks was to walk around the hotel silent, repeating in our heads `I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks about me.' This mentality, it was assumed, would help lower the wall of anxiety and make us less prone to the pain of rejection. Like soldiers responding to a drill sergeant, when asked `What are you?' we were instructed to loudly proclaim, `A fucking ten!' "

Sealing the deal for Darwinists is their quarry's biological clock. The main reason that young educated adults are increasingly marrying in their late twenties and thirties is that women are pursuing education and careers, but ironically, the delay works to men's advantage. Once they get past their awkward late teens and early twenties, men begin to lose their metaphorical baby fat. They're making more money, the pool of available women has grown, and they have more confidence. "I could get a woman now, but when I'm 30 or 35 I could do better," Bryson, an otherwise nice-guy 24-year-old from D.C., tells me.

Darwinist dating may explain the litany of stories you hear from women about the troglodytes in their midst. "We can be slovenly from the start," one interview subject told Amy Cohen in her dating column for the New York Observer, "because we can get laid anytime we want." Remember those women who want a guy who will open the car door for them? They may be lucky if they find one willing to add "please" to "Pass the ketchup." Women complain that instead of calling to ask them out, or even make plans for a date, men simply text, "Heading downtown. Where r u?" as they walk to the subway. That may be deliberate. "There is no longer any reason to answer the phone when a woman calls you or return her call when she leaves you a message," insists one dating pro at World of Seduction. "What should you do? Text message, of course." Text messages, he argues, deflect unnecessary personal involvement and keep women on edge. Game goes even further, actually encouraging men to "neg" their "target" women-that is, to undermine their confidence subtly by ignoring or mildly insulting them. The hotter the woman, the more essential it is to neg her.....

It would be easy enough to write off the dating Darwinists as simple renegades against female empowerment. Easy, but misleading. Menaissance men think that women's equality has brought real benefits, though they might not agree with women about what those benefits are. "We can have sex with as many women as we want and not have to worry about making any of them pregnant," one of my more upbeat respondents, an SYM named Curtis, writes. "Men are having more freedom and fun than ever before in all of history as a result of this, because if there's one thing every single man can agree upon, it's that having sex with as many women as possible is a great thing." Seduction artists even say they prefer savvy women who understand Game as a male version of cleavage-revealing tops. Attracting the opposite sex is, well, a game-an intricate and thrilling game.

More here

Teenage thief who stole $50,000 of lead from a British cathedral is ordered to repay only $2

A teenage thief who stole 25,000 pounds worth of lead from a cathedral has been ordered to pay back just one pound. Mark Knight, 19, spent hours ripping lead from the roof of St Nicholas Church, part of Rochester Cathedral, built in 604AD. He took it to a scrap metal dealer and, unaware of how much the metal was worth, accepted just 90 for it. Knight, who is unemployed, was jailed for two years earlier this year after admitting burglary, theft, criminal damage and 28 other offences. But on December 19, he appeared before Maidstone Crown Court for a confiscation hearing.

The court heard how Knight sold the lead to Medway Metals in his hometown of Strood, with 'no questions asked'. Trevor Wright, defending, said his client was homeless and had never received any money from the state. Judge James O'Mahony said that the court was obliged to put a figure on the confiscation, before settling on the sum of 1 pound. Mr Wright said that Knight would struggle to even pay back this amount, as he had no money to his name at all. He told the court: 'This man has never had a job - he was thrown out of his home when he was 16 and has never received any benefits. He doesn't even have 1 pound.'

A church worker, who did not want to be named, said: 'The simple fact is that it will cost us a fortune to replace the lead and for this thief to be told to pay back just 1 pound is an insult to everyone.' He added: 'We all know that he will never be able to pay back the full amount, but the message this sends out is not the right one.'

A spokesman for Medway Metals confirmed it had 'paid a sum of money' to Knight. He said: 'All we are legally obliged to ask when someone approaches us with scrap is their name, address and vehicle registration number, if they have one. We don't ask them where they got it.' They should be charged with stealing stolen goods



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Be very afraid, but not of Santa

IN Santa's grotto at a top London department store, Santa in his big white friendly beard sits on a bench and there is a large X marked on the bench a safe distance away where the child is firmly directed to sit, allowing a wide corridor of clear and unsullied air between the child and the potential kiddie-fiddler from the North Pole, with his red cheeks, strange reindeer and unaccountable affection for children. Santa is not allowed to touch the child. The child is not allowed to touch Santa. Happy Christmas, war is over. This is where we are now.

My three-year-old daughter was taken to see a different Santa recently, a more rural Santa, who had set up base on some farm complex, which at other times of the year sold organic produce. When my daughter stumbled, clambering on to the sleigh, Santa reached out and grabbed hold of her: an instinctive reaction, something we all might do. You don't want to see a child fall, do you? But it was the look on Santa's face when he realised what he'd done that chilled to the marrow: a look, according to my wife, of pure, blind panic and fright. "I'm really, really, sorry for touching her," he mumbled. "I didn't mean to. I thought she might fall." This is where we are now.

A couple of years back, in Cairns, another Santa was sacked from his grotto in a department store for having said "Ho, ho, ho" to the children waiting before him. According to the store, he should have said "Ha, ha, ha" but he was a Bad Santa. "Ho, ho, ho" might be perceived as being derogatory to women, it was strongly argued. A ho is African-American vernacular for a prostitute, or at least a woman of loose morals, so you can't say it any more. Ha, ha, ha. This is where we are now.

The Santa Claus in a department store in Louisville, Kentucky, was sacked because the children kept pointing out that he had extremely large breasts. This is because he was a she, a formidable woman called Marta Brown. But the breasts were not what the kids expected on Santa Claus, not when viewed in tandem with the traditional beard and stuff, so they took the piss. Brown was consequently sacked by the department store; but here's the good news: she is suing the firm for $US67,000 ($98,000) through the state commission on human rights, for injured feelings and sexual discrimination. This is where we are now.

In my lovely old home town of Guisborough, in Cleveland, they used to have Santa on a sleigh riding through the part-cobbled old market high street, dispensing sweets to the kids. Not any more. The insurance monkeys and the health and safety monkeys got together and decided that it would cost about US$30,000 in future to safeguard and insure such an event. So of course it was stopped. This is where we are, etc.

A Santa Claus working at Selfridges department store in London was sacked this year for having invited an elderly woman to sit on his lap. I do not know what the elderly woman was doing in the queue for the grotto but, of course, it is her right to queue up to meet Santa and get a present, just as it is your right and my right, the right of all people of whatever creed, colour, class or age. But you shouldn't have to put up with an outrage such as being invited to sit on Santa's lap, so Santa was sacked. A statement from Selfridges read: "We do not promote or proactively seek lap-sitting." Read that quote again and try to imagine the sort of person who wrote it: "Promote or proactively seek lap-sitting."

In the north of England a boy was not allowed to attend his school's Christmas party because his parents had insisted, ever since he joined the school, that he should not be required to attend lessons in religious education. The school presumably thought they were being scrupulous in abiding by the parents' wishes but apparently not. The boy's mum, Dawn Riddell, was incandescent at the cruelty inflicted on her poor son. Christmas parties, she said, "have got absolutely nothing to do with Jesus". I think that's one of my favourite quotes of this year or any year. And that's where we are now, too.

Those Santa-based examples above, drawn from the liberal, developed, democratic world, do not contain absolutely everything that annoys people about how we are now, but they cover a fair few bases. Utter stupidity and ignorance, an irrational and institutionalised fear of pedophiles, an institutionalised but perfectly rational fear of litigation, vexatious litigation, the triumph of health and safety legislation over everything (allied to a fear of vexatious litigation), the notion of equal rights taken to absurd conclusions, the ability of an individual to become enraged when an imagined right has been infracted, corporate and local council obeisance to a politically correct agenda with which no sane person would concur, and so on.

I don't know why the Left is quite so defensive about this stuff, only that it feels it has to be, to its public detriment. There is no ideological left-wing reason why we should assume that all men over the age of 30 are potential pedophiles, for example, unless it is a hangover from the old feminist notion that all men over the age of 30 (or indeed younger) are potential rapists. The problem, of course, is that while the Right has won most of the foreign policy and economic arguments these past 25 years, the Left has absolute hegemony in social services, council departments (regardless of which party they are run by) and the education system, so if the Left worries about this stuff, we all feel the consequences.

But it is our fear of pedophilia, or fear of litigation provoked by the intimation of pedophilia (which is, when it comes down to it, much the same thing), that is the most corrosive and damaging. One of the most telling and important political contributions of 2008 came from an old semi-reformed radical Marxist, Frank Furedi, now a professor of sociology, who delivered an attack on the strange and ambivalent manner in which we view children these days. "We cannot organise the world around the default position that we are all pedophiles," Furedi lamented in a magazine interview. He talked, too, about the other side of the coin, the control children seem to have over parents these days. Furedi called it "reverse socialisation", the kids being told to tell their parents to eat healthier food, or recycle their rubbish properly, or not to smoke in the home. And much of it can be dragged back to what Furedi called the pre-political authority of parents disciplining, or failing to discipline, their kids. They do not have an idea any more of right or wrong, he suggested.

Well, indeed; but whose fault is that? Place it alongside all the stuff I mentioned above and it would seem to be the logical consequence of an agenda driven by the liberal middle-class Left over the past 30 years, in which the common denominator is the yearning for an artificial world that is entirely risk-free. Certainly there must be no risk to life or limb, even if that risk is vanishingly small. No risk, either, that anyone could possibly be offended by anything, no matter how barking mad you would have to be to take offence. No risk that anyone's sensibilities (religious or otherwise) might be offended, no matter how thin their skins may have become over the years. It is an aspiration towards a pretend world, a confection every bit as make-believe as Santa's grotto. Still, have a good Christmas now. And remember: it's got absolutely nothing to do with Jesus.


False rape accuser who wasted 7,000 police hours and cost British taxpayers $600,000 is finally jailed

This doesn't happen, of course. Ask any feminist

A 'dangerous fantasist' who wasted 316,000 pounds of public money by falsely claiming to have been raped, kidnapped and blackmailed was jailed for four years yesterday. Police spent 7,000 hours investigating bizarre allegations made over six months in 2006 by Michaela Britton, a court heard. She tied herself up and slashed herself with a blade to make her stories seem more credible and arranged for her car to be shot at. Her 'whopping lies' included claiming she was being blackmailed for 10,000 pounds over a pornographic video stolen from her home which was made with an ex-boyfriend said to be a Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist officer.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that police wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds investigating her complaints. Britton, a senior loss adjuster, also claimed her line manager at Churchill Insurance in Romford put a gun to her head after she spurned his advances. Eventually, detectives became suspicious of Britton and began tracking her movements by installing CCTV outside her partner, Mick Murray's, house in Chelmsford, Essex, where she often visited.

The 40-year-old mother of one, from Chelmsford, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Judge David Turner told her at Chelmsford Crown Court: 'You are a dangerous fantasist. 'Your conduct has been pathological and profoundly and protractedly wasteful of police resources.'

It is alleged that throughout the allegations, Britton had the help of a former partner, Paul Hendle. Ramiz Gursoy, prosecuting, said she was motivated by financial gain after falsely putting in an insurance claim for about 40,000 pounds following a burglary. The court heard how Britton had a previous conviction from 1990 for obtaining property by deception when 61 offences were taken into account.


British Police banned from climbing a 3ft ladder without training

Police officers have been forced to attend a health and safety seminar to learn how to climb a ladder. The officers had been installing roadside electronic speed indicators for months, using a 3ft ladder, without injury or incident. But when health and safety officials learnt of the scheme they ordered the special training. Officers were then banned from moving the signs between locations until they had completed the course. Around 45 officers and more than 80 civilian volunteers have now had the training, organised by the police, Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Fire and Rescue.

Last night MPs reacted with disbelief, saying the scheme was a waste of taxpayer money and police time. Ben Wallace MP, for Lancaster and Wyre, said: 'It's another example of the tail wagging the dog, of bureaucracy gone mad. It beggars belief that bureaucracy stands in the way of common sense, even when it concerns our police force.' A senior police officer said: 'It is a preposterous waste of police time and taxpayers' money and it is time the health and safety Gestapo had their wings clipped so that people can go about their jobs using their own common sense.'

As part of the seminar, police officers and civilian workers were warned they must wear high-visibility jackets and leggings and cone off the area when installing signs in bad weather just in case pedestrians bump into their ladder. The signs, which are erected as part of a road safety initiative, flash a smiley face if the driver is within the speed limit, and a sad one if they are breaking it.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: 'It would appear that, although working at less than one metre above ground level, staff should have been on a ladder training course. 'It is fair to say that risks associated with deployment of a Spid (speed indicator) sign have not changed, but the risks associated with working at height were not fully appreciated initially.' Lancashire police said proper training courses had also been introduced because some of the signs had not been mounted correctly and could not detect all oncoming traffic. Local authorities say the course does not cost anything, apart from staff time. Nine seminars have been held so far.


Pope denounces 'gender theory'

Sad that it needs the Holy Father to tell us that men and women are different

Pope Benedict XVI has denounced gender theory, warning that it blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race. When the Roman Catholic Church defends God's Creation, "it does not only defend the earth, water and the air ... but (it) also protects man from his own destruction'', the Pope said in his end-of-year speech to the Vatican hierarchy today.

Gender theory, which originated in the United States, explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender and how people perceive their biological identity. The Catholic Church has repeatedly spoken out against gender theory, which gay and transgender advocacy groups promote as a key to understanding and tolerance.

"If tropical forests deserve our protection, humankind ... deserves it no less,'' the 81-year-old pontiff said, calling for "an ecology of the human being''. It is not "outmoded metaphysics'' to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman'', he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

British government leaflets advise on the dangers of baubles and the terror of tinsel

Whatever you do this Christmas, don't let the children into the kitchen while you are cooking the turkey. Always finish your drink to avoid a youngster having a taste and ending up with alcohol poisoning. And, of course, never hang baubles on the tree. They might break and give someone a nasty cut.

These 'tips', from a list of gratuitous health and safety advice issued yesterday, came not from a misguided town hall jobsworth, but with the authority of Children's Secretary Ed Balls. Mr Balls's officials have printed 150,000 leaflets designed to look like advent calendars, to be distributed through shopping malls and children's centres 'to help make the festive season safe'. The leaflets from the Department for Children, Schools and Families warn of common accidents that can happen at Christmas.

They alert families to the dangers of tinsel. A thousand people each year, the leaflets declare, are 'hurt by trimmings or when decorating their homes'. Another 1,000 people a year have to go to hospital after accidents with Christmas trees, according to the publication. Among the risks families are told to bear in mind are tipsy guests 'crashing to the floor when they miss their seat at the dinner table'.

Parents may stab themselves with scissors should they try to use them as screwdrivers when building children's toys, the leaflets advise. They may cut themselves with knives used to prize open presents quickly. Children could be hurt if they fall off rocking horses or ride their new bikes into walls. Cooks may spill hot fat over themselves or get 'nasty cuts when chopping piles of vegetables'.

Children's minister Delyth Morgan said the leaflet would remind parents of safeguards-around the home so they can 'make sure Christmas is a time for fun and laughter but not tears'. The advice leaflet, titled 'Tis the Season to be Careful, ran into trouble with critics who pointed out that Mr Balls's department is in charge of the 'safeguarding children' system that failed to prevent the death of Baby P.

Tory junior Children's spokesman Tim Loughton said: 'This is yet more evidence that the DCSF really stands for the Department that Can't Stop Fiddling. 'It is ironic that a Government Department which has become accident prone for messing up test results, pouring millions into databases that don't work and failing to protect our most vulnerable children is now spending thousands on producing leaflets to state the blindingly obvious.'

The leaflet, published as part of Mr Balls' Children's Plan which pledges to keep every child safe from harm, has 11 tips for parents.


The Demise of Dating

The paradigm has shifted. Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay. (For those over 30 years old: hooking up is a casual sexual encounter with no expectation of future emotional commitment. Think of it as a one-night stand with someone you know.)

According to a report released this spring by Child Trends, a Washington research group, there are now more high school seniors saying that they never date than seniors who say that they date frequently. Apparently, it's all about the hookup. When I first heard about hooking up years ago, I figured that it was a fad that would soon fizzle. I was wrong. It seems to be becoming the norm.

I should point out that just because more young people seem to be hooking up instead of dating doesn't mean that they're having more sex (they've been having less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or having sex with strangers (they're more likely to hook up with a friend, according to a 2006 paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research).

To help me understand this phenomenon, I called Kathleen Bogle, a professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia who has studied hooking up among college students and is the author of the 2008 book, "Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus."

It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.

I asked her to explain the pros and cons of this strange culture. According to her, the pros are that hooking up emphasizes group friendships over the one-pair model of dating, and, therefore, removes the negative stigma from those who can't get a date. As she put it, "It used to be that if you couldn't get a date, you were a loser." Now, she said, you just hang out with your friends and hope that something happens.

The cons center on the issues of gender inequity. Girls get tired of hooking up because they want it to lead to a relationship (the guys don't), and, as they get older, they start to realize that it's not a good way to find a spouse. Also, there's an increased likelihood of sexual assaults because hooking up is often fueled by alcohol.

That's not good. So why is there an increase in hooking up? According to Professor Bogle, it's: the collapse of advanced planning, lopsided gender ratios on campus, delaying marriage, relaxing values and sheer momentum. It used to be that "you were trained your whole life to date," said Ms. Bogle. "Now we've lost that ability - the ability to just ask someone out and get to know them." Now that's sad.


EU Leadership's Shocking Intolerance at Dissent from Leftist Agenda

An "EU assault" is what Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph has called the December 5th meeting between Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and members of the Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament. Booker said the meeting was a "bizarre confrontation" that confirms that the EU is a "one-party state."

Klaus is set to assume a six-month presidency of the European Union beginning next month, succeeding Nicholas Sarkozy of France. So far, however, the Czech Republic is the only EU country not to have taken a position on the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual "marriage" Lisbon Treaty, and it is among the countries cited by the EU as "discriminatory" against homosexuals. Klaus' presidency, therefore, is of concern to the leftist EU-elites who have used the Union as a tool to push their socially liberal agenda on member states.

According to English translations of the meeting transcript released by the Czech government, Greens/EFA co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit opened the meeting by attacking Klaus' skepticism on man-made global warming: "It will be a tough Presidency. The Czech Republic will have to deal with the work directive and climate package. . My view is based on scientific views and majority approval of the EP and I know you disagree with me. You can believe what you want, I don't believe, I know that global warming is a reality."

He then assaulted the Czech President's views on the Lisbon Treaty: "Lisbon Treaty - I don't care about your opinions on it. I want to know what you are going to do if the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approve it. Will you respect the will of the representatives of the people? You will have to sign it." Cohn-Bendit also interrogated Klaus about his associations with an Irish leader who campaigned for a "No" vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum. "I want you to explain to me what is the level of your friendship with Mr. Ganley from Ireland," said the German leader. He ordered, "You are not supposed to meet him in your function."

As Klaus protested, "I have never experienced anything like this before," Cohn-Bendit replied, "Because you have not experienced me." Continuing, Cohn-Bendit demanded that Klaus explain his attitude "toward the anti-discrimination law," regarding homosexuals. And Brian Crowley, the Irish leader of the UEN Party, who was also present at the meeting, insisted that, despite the resounding "No" vote by the Irish in the recent referendum, the Irish in fact "wish for the Lisbon Treaty."

Klaus responded to the attack with strong words, suggesting that the behavior of the delegates proved that it is a "post-democracy which rules the EU." "Thank you for this experience which I gained from this meeting. I did not think anything like this is possible and have not experienced anything like this for the past 19 years," he said. "You mentioned the European values," Klaus continued. "The most important value is freedom and democracy. The citizens of the EU member states are concerned about freedom and democracy, above all. But democracy and freedom are losing ground in the EU today."

He also took Crowley to task for claiming that the Irish people want the Lisbon Treaty, when they only recently rejected it in a firm "No" vote. "If Mr. Crowley speaks of an insult to the Irish people," he said, "then I must say that the biggest insult to the Irish people is not to accept the result of the Irish referendum. In Ireland I met somebody who represents a majority in his country. You, Mr. Crowley, represent a view which is in minority in Ireland. That is a tangible result of the referendum."

Crowley rebuked the Czech President, "You will not tell me what the Irish think. As an Irishman, I know it best." To which Klaus responded, "I do not speculate about what the Irish think. I state the only measurable data which were proved by the referendum."

Klaus has been a vociferous opponent of the Lisbon Treaty in recent weeks. On November 25, 2008, Xinhua reported that Klaus told the Czech Constitutional Court that, "The Lisbon Treaty, if passed, will change the Czech Republic's international position and may reduce its sovereignty." According to the Prague Daily Monitor: "Klaus still does not want to say how he will behave if the Czech parliament ratifies the Lisbon treaty. However, Klaus has made it clear that he will do everything to delay his signatures as much as possible, as has done another opponent of the treaty, Polish President Lech Kaczynski."

Critics of the Lisbon Treaty have said that it is merely a cosmetically altered version of the former EU Constitution that was rejected by France and the Netherlands, and that it would hand over an enormous amount of power to the EU, fatally undermining the sovereignty of its member states. The EU has also been strongly criticized for not accepting the Irish vote and attempting to strong-arm the Irish into holding a second referendum, this time to get the "right" answer. Recently it was revealed that Ireland appears to have agreed to such a second referendum.

Reacting to the diplomatic "assault" at Prague Castle, Christopher Booker of The London Telegraph warns of a "one party state," the signs of which are causing "shock across formerly Communist eastern Europe." "This bizarre confrontation," wrote Booker, "confirms the inability of the Euro-elite to accept that anyone holds different views from their own, on Lisbon, global warming or anything else. As we see from the way our own political parties are run, when it comes to `Europe,' the system has no place for opposition. Everything must be decided by `consensus,' directed from the top. There is only one approved `party line.'"


Welfare booms under Britain's Labour government

The number of people who have been on benefits for more than five years has increased nearly 30% under Labour. Official statistics show that since 1999 the number of long-term claimants has grown from 1.84m to 2.34m, a 27% rise, despite a fall in the overall number of those claiming from 5.4m to 5.1m. The increase has taken place despite Labour's pledge when it came to power in 1997 to make cutting benefit dependency a priority. Tony Blair, the former prime minister, said: "We want to encourage work, not dependency."

Benefit dependency is highest in former industrial areas. Easington, in Co Durham, has the highest number on long-term benefits relative to population; other hot spots include Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales.

Ministers are also increasingly alarmed by fraud. Earlier this year David Freud, a pensions expert and government adviser, published a report which said that fewer than one in three of the 2.7m people on incapacity benefit was entitled to claim 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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

British police think bad jokes are more dangerous than assaults and robbery

Bad news for comedians; the police are now vetting jokes. Anyone who tells a joke which isn't on the police's list of acceptable jokes faces the threat of arrest. No Joke. Shop keeper Bob Singh runs 2 shops in Port Talbot. He regularly suffers crime, shopliftings & assaults, the normal stuff shopkeepers have to put up with. He reckons the average delay between reporting a crime & the Old Bill turning up is between 24 and 48 hours. (That's not bad, in my force I'd say that was pretty prompt, lots of our victims have to wait a week or more)

Mr Singh has hit on a great way to get the police on his doorstep much quicker though; he simply puts a few jokes on his Christmas Special Offers flyer & officers turned up in a big van quicker than he could shout "I think it's a racist incident".

Bob has put jokes on his festive flyers for the last 10 years. He gets the jokes off the internet. He did the same this year and was warned that some of his jokes might be offensive. Presumably someone complained, either that or the SO25 Anti Joke Squad had a lucky break. He has been told to withdraw the leaflet by police officers. As a result he put up a sign in his shops saying: "We would like to apologise to anyone who may have been offended by the contents of our xmas leaflet. In future we will be more politically correct. Sorry"

Examples of the now banned jokes were:
What's the difference between a Welsh woman and a Welsh goddess? - An eight pack of Stella from Bob's

Why is it dangerous to let a bloke's mind wander? - It's too little to be out on its own

What is the technical name for three days of horrendous weather followed by bright sunshine? A Welsh bank holiday

What's the difference between a woman with PMT and a Pitbull? Lipstick.

How do you measure a blonde's intelligence? Stick a tyre gauge in her ear!

What do you call a sheep with no legs? A Cloud!

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino? El-if-i-no!

What do you call a deer with no eyes? I have No-I-Dear.

What do you do if your wife staggers? Shoot her again.
South Wales Police said one officer, along with a support officer and a trainee support officer had attended. "The content of the promotional material which has been distributed has been brought to our attention as being potentially inflammatory and offensive," said the force. "The distributor has been appropriately advised and instructed to withdraw the leaflets from circulation."

Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies, a patron of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: `I just think it's absolutely mindless that police are wasting time on this kind of stuff when there are so many violent offences being carried out in the country. `The police officer would have been better off telling the person who complained to develop a better sense of humour rather than going to call on a shopkeeper. `The jokes may not be very good, but that's a long way from being a criminal offence.'

Mr Singh said, "I couldn't believe my ears. I thought they were joking - but they were deadly serious. This proves the world has gone completely crazy. Why are the police getting involved in something like this?" Bob, I couldn't agree more.



A store boss whose joke- filled festive advertising leaflet led to a visit from the police has had the last laugh on whoever shopped him. Not only is Bob Singh's Landmark store in Port Talbot even busier than usual for Christmas but the leaflets themselves are almost becoming collector's items. Last week the Post reported on Mr Singh's unusual run-in with the law after he decided to give customers something to smile about by sprinkling jokes on his Christmas promotions leaflets.

Although he admitted one or two might be near the knuckle, he insisted the majority were inoffensive. But a mystery shopper thought otherwise and drew the matter to the attention of the police, claiming some of the gags were potentially offensive and inflammatory. Officers called to give advice to Mr Singh following which he withdrew the leaflets from circulation and put an apology in the window of the Water Street store in Aberavon. He also opened a special book which customers could sign to declare they were not offended by the jokes.

Since the Post ran the story, Mr Singh's tale has hit the national headlines in Britain and abroad. He admitted: "The publicity has definitely helped. "Trade was already doing well anyway. We did a massive price cut campaign for Christmas, but it's fair to say all this publicity has helped us somewhat more."

And it seems the problem leaflets are almost as much in demand as the bargains they are advertising. "We've had people travel here to ask if they can have one of the leaflets," said Mr Singh. "We have explained there have been issues with them, and that certain people said they were not happy. "But, with the proviso they sign the book to state they are in favour of the leaflets, we have been able to let them have a copy. "I don't know if they are collector's items but there is definitely quite a bit of interest in them."

Aberavon councillor Tony Taylor said Mr Singh had done the right thing by withdrawing the leaflets from general circulation. "He's a popular and respected businessman. I think he probably did make a mistake, realised that and made amends. "What is inoffensive to some people is offensive to others. This leaflet could have gone into old people's homes or been picked up children, so you do have to be careful." [Old people can't take a joke?? That sounds offensive to old people to me!]


Saudi court rejects divorce plea from EIGHT-year-old girl married to 58-year-old man

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty. The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom. Lawyer Abdullar Jtili said:"The judge has dismissed the plea, filed by the mother, because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty." "She doesn't know yet that she has been married," Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named said that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18. The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of $10,000, as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said. The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

Mr Jtili said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the supreme court in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts. Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common. In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28.


British cop behind arrest of politician issues grovelling apology for attack on Conservatives

The head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command was forced to issue a grovelling apology tonight after accusing the Tories of corruption. Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick had sensationally suggested David Cameron was trying to undermine his investigation into Damian Green. Mr Quick was the senior officer who ordered the controversial operation to arrest the Tory frontbench MP last month.

His attack on the Tory leadership came after it emerged that Mr Quick's wife operates a luxury wedding car hire business from their home, raising questions about a possible security risk. The revelations in The Mail on Sunday prompted an extraordinary outburst from Mr Quick, who recently failed to make the final shortlist to succeed Sir Ian Blair as Metropolitan Police Commissioner. He said: 'The Tory machinery and their Press friends are mobilised against this investigation in a wholly corrupt way, and I feel very disappointed in the country I am living in.' He added: 'I think it is a very spiteful act, possibly to intimidate me away from investigating Mr Green, and I feel it has put my family at risk.'

His suggestion the Tories were responsible for the revelation of his wife Judith's business interests caused amazement at Westminster. It is unusual to have a senior police officer issue such politically charged accusations. A party spokesman called on Mr Quick to retract the claims. He said: 'The Conservative Party played no part whatsoever in the publication of this story. Assistant Commissioner Quick's claims of corruption and intimidation are absurd and wholly untrue. 'As the officer leading the inquiry into the arrest of Damian Green, Assistant Commissioner Quick should display objective professionalism and not make baseless, political attacks.'

Minutes later Mr Quick issued a statement from Scotland Yard. He said: 'I regret and wish to retract my comment regarding corruption. 'The comment was made as I was in the act of having to move my family out of our home to a place of safety following the article in the Mail on Sunday.'

Detectives have asked the Crown Prosecution Service whether the inquiry into Mr Green should continue. Lawyers at the CPS are considering a highly critical report into the MP's arrest to decide whether it would be in the public interest to investigate further or bring charges. The move was interpreted in legal circles last night as a potential exit strategy for the Met.


Anti-Semitism floods Internet after Madoff scandal: campaigners

A 3,000 year old hatred continues

Anti-Jewish commentary is flooding the Internet in the wake of Bernard Madoff's arrest on charges of masterminding one of the biggest Wall Street frauds in history, campaigners said Friday. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said there had been "an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on mainstream and extremist Web sites." Madoff, 70, is Jewish and a prominent member of the powerful US Jewish community. He is alleged to have defrauded investors, including a number of Jewish-related charities, of some 50 billion dollars.

"Site users have posted comments ranging from deeply offensive stereotypical statements about Jews and money -- with some suggesting that only Jews could perpetrate a fraud on such a scale -- to conspiracy theories about Jews stealing money to benefit Israel," the ADL said in a statement.

"Jews are always a convenient scapegoat in times of crisis, but the Madoff scandal and the fact that so many of the defrauded investors are Jewish has created a perfect storm for the anti-Semites," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director. "Nowadays, the first place Jew-haters will go is to the Internet, where they can give voice to their hateful ideas without fear of repercussions."



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Monday, December 22, 2008

Human rights fear delayed trial of British killer

And how many other such cases are there?

The prosecution of Rachel Nickell's killer was delayed by almost two years because of human rights concerns about obtaining a sample of his DNA, a senior government official said yesterday. Prosecutors were concerned that Robert Napper's lawyers might claim a violation of his human rights if his DNA were taken without his proper consent while he was a mental patient, according to the legal official. In 2006 Lord Goldsmith, then attorney-general, was informed of the debate about Napper's rights. Lawyers finally concluded that a DNA sample could lawfully be taken. The official said: "Human rights was one of the arguments that stopped them getting his DNA. The Crown Prosecution Service and the police decided they had to resolve it because it could have been a technicality that could have collapsed the trial."

At the Old Bailey last week Napper admitted killing Nickell, a part-time model, on Wimbledon Common in 1992. He was returned to Broadmoor where he was already serving an indefinite sentence for the horrific killing of Samantha Bissett, 27, and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine in 1993. The Metropolitan police admitted both women and the child might still be alive were it not for a series of failings by detectives. The Met issued an unprecedented apology to the families of all three victims.

Police initially ignored the trail to Napper, focusing instead on Colin Stagg, who was acquitted in 1994. It was to be 10 years before a break-though in forensic techniques meant scientists were able to isolate a tiny fragment of DNA taken from Nickell's body. Within weeks scientists had established that it matched a sample from Napper which had been taken in the 1990s and held on the DNA database.

Napper has been linked to a total of 109 sex offences and 86 possible victims. He is also likely to be quizzed by police about the killings of at least three other women: Claire Tiltman, who was stabbed 40 times in Greenhithe, Kent, in 1993; Penny Bell, 43, who was knifed 50 times in Greenford, west London, in 1991; and Jean Bradley, 47, who was stabbed in Acton, west London.


Outgoing Bush Administration Enacts Conscience Protection for Pro-Life Health Care Workers - Can Refuse to Participate in Abortion

The right of federally funded health care providers to decline to participate in services to which they object, such as abortion, is affirmed by a final regulation that has been issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is on display today at the Federal Register. Of note, the timing of the issuance places the day it is to take effect on January 20th - the same day pro-abortion President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated.

Over the past three decades, Congress enacted several statutes to safeguard the freedom of health care providers to practice according to their conscience. The new regulation will increase awareness of, and compliance with, these laws. "Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience." Specifically, the final rule:

- Clarifies that non-discrimination protections apply to institutional health care providers as well as to individual employees working for recipients of certain funds from HHS

- Requires recipients of certain HHS funds to certify their compliance with laws protecting provider conscience rights; and

- Designates the HHS Office for Civil Rights as the entity to receive complaints of discrimination addressed by the existing statutes and the regulation.

HHS officials are charged with working with any state or local government or entity that may be in violation of existing statutes and the regulation to encourage voluntary steps to bring that government or entity into compliance with the law. If, despite the Department's efforts, compliance is not achieved, HHS officials will consider all legal options, including termination of funding and the return of funds paid out in violation of the nondiscrimination provisions.

In the preamble to the final regulation, the Department also encourages providers to engage their patients early on in "full, open, and honest conversations" to disclose what services they do and do not provide. While it would strengthen provider conscience rights, the regulation would in no way restrict health care providers from performing any legal service or procedure. If a procedure is legal, a patient will still have the ability to access that service from a medical professional or institution that offers it. For example, the regulation does not affect the ability of medical institutions to perform abortion.

"Many health care providers routinely face pressure to change their medical practice - often in direct opposition to their personal convictions," said HHS Assistant Secretary of Health, Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D. "During my practice as an OB-GYN, I witnessed this first-hand. Health care providers shouldn't have to check their consciences at the hospital door. Fortunately, Congress enacted several laws to that end, but too many are unaware these protections exist."

Federal protection of provider conscience rights dates back to the 1970s, when Congress enacted the Church Amendments. The Amendments protect health care providers and other individuals from discrimination by recipients of HHS funds on the basis, among other things, of their refusal, due to religious belief or moral conviction, to perform or participate in any lawful health service or research activity.

In 1996, Congress prohibited federal, state or local governments from discriminating against individual and institutional health care providers (including participants in medical training programs) who refused to, among other things, receive training in abortions; require or provide such training; perform abortions; or provide referrals for, or make arrangements for, such training or abortions.

Provider conscience protections were expanded again as part of the Department's fiscal year 2005 appropriations act. In that law, and in subsequent years' appropriations acts, Congress prohibited the provision of HHS funds to any state or local government or federal agency or program that discriminates against institutional or individual health care entities on the basis that the entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion. The rule went on display today at the Federal Register


Christianity And The Values That Hold America Together

If you just found a large sum of money and could easily walk away with it, what would you do? This immigrant bagboy found $10,000. He turned it in. Why? Here's what he said, "I teach a Sunday school with 10-year-old kids and I always tell them to do the right thing."

75 year-old Billie Watts can top him. She found $100,000 and gave it back,
A Murfreesboro woman chose not to follow the old saying "Finders keepers, losers weepers" when she discovered nearly $100,000 in a bag at the Cracker Barrel on Church Street in Murfreesboro last week. But it wasn't that the thought didn't cross her mind. "Satan will tempt you. I have been having real bad teeth problems," said Billie Watts, 75. "I thought 'I'll get my teeth fixed.'" But she ultimately decided to return the money she found hanging in a bag in the women's restroom to its rightful owner, whom she described as an elderly woman named Judith who had stopped in town on her way to relocate to Florida.

....Besides, Billie Watts said she was motivated to be honest. "There is a hereafter. Some tend to forget that," she said. "God takes care of us anyway."

The Watts are both 75 years old and have been married 58 years. They have four daughters, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. It's not that they couldn't have used some of the money. Malcolm has battled cancer, had open heart surgery and they both have diabetes. The couple relies on their Social Security checks. Malcolm served in the Navy for eight years. Formerly a manager at Giant Foods and employed in the printing industry, he receives medical care from the Veterans Administration.
Note the similarities there; both of these people found large sums of money, were quite naturally tempted, but both of them gave up the money because of their Christian values.

Christians are endlessly maligned by the media, by Hollywood, and by the Left -- but, one of the biggest reasons America has been a success is because of the fundamental decency of the people, which is largely a function of the Judeo-Christian values that this nation has been steeped in since its founding.

Granted, you don't have to be a Christian to be a decent person, but even the decent and moral atheists and agnostics in this country are, for the most part at least, decent and moral because they accept many Judeo-Christian values even if they don't accept God.

Given all the scorn that is heaped on Christians in the political and cultural arena, it should be remembered that much of what makes this such a great country to live in is a direct result of this being a Christian nation with a Judeo-Christian tradition.


Muslim group's Ibrahim Hooper: Special "Rights" for Muslims?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution and CBS46.com recently carried stories about a Muslim woman who had been refused entry to a courtroom due to her refusal to remove the scarf covering her head. From the articles, we learn that Valentine was stopped before going through the metal detector and informed by the bailiff that she would not be permitted into the courtroom unless she removed her head covering.

After informing the bailiff that wearing the head covering was "her right", Valentine (Miedah):
Miedah says when she tried to leave, the bailiff's stopped her. She admits she argued, then pulled away when a bailiff grabbed her arm. She said she was handcuffed and brought before Judge Keith Rollins.
It didn't help that Valentine used profane language during the confrontation. Valentine refuses to comply with the orders of a judge and pulls away from the bailiff after arguing, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) rushes in to defend what is apparently a case of very rude behavior in a courthouse over the insistence of a "right" not in existence in current law. Judge Rollins imposed a ten-day sentence for contempt which was later reduced to six hours. Attempts to gather more information from the Douglasville, Georgia Police Department were unsuccessful.

CAIR Spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, had this to say: "When somebody is denied access to our judicial system based on religiously mandated attire, then what does that say? No Muslim woman can have access to a courtroom in Douglasville, Georgia?. "A judge does have the right to set decorum in a courtroom, but you can't use those standards to violate someone's legal rights."

Hooper mentions "legal rights", but just what does this mean? A Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a headscarf in the courtroom, but a non-Muslim woman is banned from wearing a head covering? If so, would Muslim women have to carry a special government ID to prove they are Muslim?

What about the "rights" of non-Muslim women to wear a headscarf in a courtroom? How would this square with the Constitution which is crystal clear on the point that all people are equal before the law? Is there a "special" Constitution for Muslims, or not?

There are many religious beliefs that do not fit in with current courthouse security regulations; for instance, Sikh men carry small daggers as part of their religious beliefs; should they be permitted to carry these weapons into the courthouse? If not, why not?

From what we know, Judge Rollins does not permit anyone, Muslim or not, to wear a head covering of any kind in his court. Therefore, no discrimination has taken place.

Hooper has filed a complaint with the US Attorney Generals Office regarding this incident. Good for him. This issue needs to be resolved once and for all. Is the Judge in control of the courtroom, or CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood front group created for Hamas?



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Phobias" and prejudice are very different

Below is a generally good article from Nicholas Haslam, an Australian psychologist. To stay enrolled among the saints, he has to condemn racial prejudice as mentally abnormal, when it has in fact been near universal throughout human history, but we must forgive him that polite fiction

DON'T like gays? Hate foreigners? Loathe Muslims? You may be suffering from a mental disorder. People who express these attitudes often find themselves diagnosed with homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia. Just as arachnophobes tremble at the sight of spiders and agoraphobes avoid open spaces, sufferers of these conditions irrationally fear members of sexual, ethnic and religious minorities and keep a suspicious distance from them.

The language of fear and phobia permeates public discourse on social attitudes. Opposition to gay marriage is ascribed to homophobia, hostility towards African refugees to xenophobia and criticism of Muslims to Islamophobia. None of these phobias are recognised by psychiatrists. Should they be? Here are five good reasons, backed by psychological research, why they should not.

* Phobias and prejudices afflict different kinds of people.

IF homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia are indeed phobias, they are highly unusual examples. Phobias are irrational and excessive fears that afflict some people at higher rates than others. They are more common among women than men and occur most frequently among people whose personality is high in neuroticism, one of the five main personality factors. Such people tend to be emotionally volatile, tense, anxious and vulnerable. Prejudice towards gays, foreigners and Muslims is a different story.

Anti-gay attitudes are invariably higher among men than women. Men also express more negative views of immigrants and asylum-seekers and greater hostility to Muslims. People with prejudiced attitudes do not tend to have neurotic personalities but are low on two quite different personality factors: agreeableness and openness.

Prejudice flourishes among people who are cold, callous, inflexible, closed-minded and conventional, not among those who are anxious and fear-prone. Prejudices also vary dramatically between social groups in a way that true phobias do not. They are more common in rural than urban areas, in outer than inner suburbs and among less rather than more educated people. Unlike phobias, they vary by political orientation, religious affiliation and national origin. They are, in short, closely tied to particular social locations. Prejudices are collectively shared and organised phenomena, not individual pathologies.

* Fear is not the dominant emotion in prejudice.

EVEN if we accept that reactionary attitudes are not strictly phobias, it may still be argued that fear is at their root. However, the emotional signature of prejudice is much more frequently anger, contempt or disgust. These emotions differ from fear in a variety of ways, most obviously in that they provoke confrontation and attack rather than avoidance. Perhaps less obviously, they all have a moral component; we experience these emotions when we judge people to have violated rules of fairness, rightness or purity.

Fear reflects a perception of danger, not transgression. Prejudice towards gays, immigrants, asylum-seekers and Muslims is coloured by complex moral emotions, not simple fears. Of course, fear and perceptions of threat may play a part in prejudice. Fear of terrorism contributes to anti-Muslim sentiment, and people who are averse to gays and immigrants are often anxious towards them. Even here, however, the anxiety is not phobic. Prejudiced people often do not fear members of other groups so much as experience awkwardness at the prospect of interacting with them. The disliked group is not seen as intrinsically dangerous but poses a challenge to easeful interaction. To see prejudice as fear is to flatten its emotional landscape and to overlook the multitude of ways in which humans can be averse to one another.

* Prejudice has more to do with beliefs and values than emotions.

THE emotions that accompany prejudice are complex moral sentiments and complex moral evaluations produce them. People tend to see the targets of their prejudice as posing a symbolic threat to cherished values. Antagonism to asylum-seekers, for example, is strongly linked to the perception that they are illegitimate, illegal, opportunistic and "un-Australian". Antipathy to gays is linked to perceived violations of religious values and sexual norms. Indeed, people's values and beliefs are among the strongest predictors of their levels of prejudice. For example, prejudice is associated with a belief in traditional authority, an ideological preference for social hierarchy, acommitment to blood-and-soil nationalism and a conviction that the disliked group is different in its essential nature or world view. In short, prejudice is wrapped up in socialised thinking at least as much as in raw feeling.

* Attributing other people's attitudes to fear is condescending.

WHEN we ascribe an attitude that we disagree with to its holder's fear, we imply that we are braver than they are. Doing so confuses being unenlightened with being cowardly and it flatters our fortitude. Attributing attitudes to primal fears also exemplifies the well-established psychological phenomenon that people tend to reserve complex emotions for members of their own group. Members of other groups are granted only the simpler emotions that humans share with lower animals. By implication, they are seen as more primitive or childlike than we.

For these reasons, seeing other people's attitudes as phobias is counterproductive. People accused of homophobia, Islamophobia and so on can readily deny the accusation, first because they experience their aversion as rooted in moral principle rather than fear; and, second, because they bristle at the accuser's condescension. In this position it is no surprise that people feel belittled or derided as attitudinal barbarians. The backlash that results among people who hold prejudiced attitudes, anger at the perceived arrogance and vanity of the so-called elites, helps to account for the durability of those attitudes.

* One prejudice should not be enlisted to combat another.

DESCRIBING someone's aversion to a group as a phobia is an attempt to insult the person. Their attitudes are nothing but the symptoms of a pathology. Homophobia, Islamophobia and so on would have no pejorative force if suffering from a mental disorder was not seen as shameful and demeaning. To diagnose people with these phobias is to recruit the stigma of mental illness to diminish them.

In this respect, the supposed phobias continue an ignoble tradition of misuse of psychiatric language. Schizophrenic, misunderstood as split personality, is still used to refer to any apparent contradiction, or even mature ambivalence, in a person's thoughts, feelings or actions. Hysterical continues to be used to sneer at female emotionality. Homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic should be seen in the same light, as ways of brushing aside opinions we dislike by invalidating the people who hold them.

It could be argued that none of this matters. Perhaps calling attitudes phobias is meant as harmless metaphor, not as literal diagnosis. But words have consequences, and the consequences of pathologising social attitudes include moral arrogance, invalidation and backlash. These disorders close the door on dialogue. Let's cure our language of them.


I quit, says British magistrate fed up with seeing criminals walk free after a quarter of their sentences

A senior magistrate has resigned in protest at Government policies that impose soft punishments and undermine the courts. Dr Dick Soper says criminals are walking free from prison after serving just a quarter of the sentences he and his colleagues impose. Others are being handed fixed fines or police cautions - taking justice out of the hands of the courts and away from public scrutiny.

Dr Soper, 64, a GP, has served 26 years on the bench at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He used his final session yesterday to deliver an angry broadside, saying: 'Although I could serve for another five years I no longer feel my time is being usefully spent in court. 'I feel that this long-standing system which has served the public well for centuries has, in recent years, been more and more interfered with by politicians.'

He told how he recently jailed an offender for six months but saw him walking about the town just six weeks later. Dr Soper said: 'My greatest frustration and that of my colleagues is the very early release of prisoners.' He said virtually all offenders are released automatically halfway through their sentences, while emergency measures to tackle prison overcrowding means many have another 18 days knocked off their sentences. Yet the judges and magistrates who heard their cases have no say over their early release.

Dr Soper said magistrates considered 'very hard' how to punish criminals, and added: 'It is frustrating when that careful thought seems to be undermined. It has certainly reduced my confidence in the system.' He also complained that sentencing guidelines appear to be increasingly influenced by Whitehall. Dr Soper said: 'The heavy hand of the executive seems to run through them and you get the feeling that greater central control is being exerted over this previously independent organisation.'

Community service and unpaid work have been trumpeted by ministers as punishments to help ease jail overcrowding, but Dr Soper said his own research locally showed only 60-65 per cent of offenders bothered to turn up. Police were increasingly preferring to deal with offenders through cautions and on-the-spot fines rather than charging them and sending them to court, he said - undermining the principle of public and media scrutiny of justice. Dr Soper said: 'It is not just minor cases they deal with - theft and violence are included and this court recently had a violent offender who had previously been cautioned by the police for causing grievous bodily harm.'

In his years as a JP, Dr Soper said, the number of courts in West Suffolk had dropped from six to three - and will soon be cut to just one. 'The idea of local justice, one of the strengths of the system, is disappearing fast,' he said. 'Now I hear that the courts budget is to be cut further, so what next?'

Tory spokesman Nick Herbert said: 'Labour's appalling mismanagement of our jails has seen sentences shortened and violent prisoners released early. 'It is no wonder both public and professional confidence in the criminal justice system is being undermined.' The Daily Mail revealed recently how some magistrates' courts are cancelling sessions because the massive rise in the use of onthespot fines means thousands of cases now never reach court.


The politically corrupted British police force bungle basic police work

The restraint and dignity shown by the parents of Rachel Nickell, as they thanked all those who had supported their long quest for justice, was as moving as it was surprising, given the circumstances. Yes, Robert Napper, the man who murdered their darling daughter, has now been forced to admit his guilt. But for 16 years, their grief has been compounded by one of the most incompetent police investigations in living memory.

Sadly, such bungling has become an all-too familiar theme in recent weeks. Whether it's the Stockwell shooting, the death of Baby P or the hideous case of the father who raped his own daughters, police incompetence has never been far from the headlines.

Of course, there are thousands of magnificent, dedicated policemen and women out there who work in dangerous situations and are still driven by an overriding sense of civic duty. But a generation of political correctness, government-enforced targets and police chiefs toadying to New Labour has led to a collapse in morale. Even good officers have lost the will for old-fashioned policing and instead take the soft option of pushing paper around their desks. Lacking strong leadership and blighted by a target-obsessed culture, bobbies have become more interested in chasing statistics than criminals. And that can have devastating consequences.

The mistakes made in the Rachel Nickell case were down to sheer sloppiness. As one insider put it: 'No one at the Yard was interested in the theory that Napper had killed Rachel.' As far as they were concerned, they'd already got their man. Colin Stagg had been put away. Job done. Another crime 'solved'. Another box ticked.

That error enabled Napper to continue his depraved crime spree, just as other casual oversights meant that police failed to follow up the tip-offs that might have saved Baby P and the girls who were being raped by their father.

The police are supposed to be at the centre of our communities - figures we can respect and rely on. But only when they are taken out of their offices, out of their PC comfort zones, and put back into the heart of our broken societies will we once again have a police force we can be proud of.

The only request from Rachel's parents was that, now her killer was behind bars, the media should stop using film footage of Rachel, as it was unbearably painful for them to watch. The BBC's response was to illustrate the news package right after that statement with a home video of Rachel frolicking in the park. Is no one listening?


"Mama Government" Treats Americans Like Small Children

"I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it." -- A question from Denton Walthall AKA "The ponytail guy" at a 1992 presidential debate
In America, we come from pioneer stock. Our ancestors explored, conquered, and civilized a continent one wagon train and settlement at a time. They crossed hundreds of miles of hostile territory, risked starvation, murder by Indians, and dying alone in the wilderness to try to carve out a decent living for their families. That same ferociously independent spirit was what inspired our ancestors to throw off Britian's shackles and forge America into the greatest economic and military power the world has ever seen.

These accomplishments were because of the decency, work ethic, and self-reliance of the American people, not because of the greatness of our leadership in Washington, D.C. The Founding Fathers understood that, which was why they considered government to be a necessary evil that was to be hemmed in, contained, and bound at every opportunity.

The idea that the American people are "symbolically the children of the future president" would have not only appalled the Founding Fathers, it would have insulted them. It should insult us, too. We now live in a country where the government educates us, gives us food stamps and school lunch programs when we're hungry, gives us money when we lose our jobs, frets constantly about differences in free market salaries, orders home loans to be given to people who can't afford them, bails out failing companies, and provides for our retirement.

Are those all bad things? No. Should we immediately roll all those policies back? No. But, what we should do is recognize that it is extremely unhealthy for the country to have the government doing so many things that people used to do for themselves -- for the same reason it's unhealthy to have thirty-year old men still living with their parents.

With adults, we recognize that it's a good idea for people to cut the apron strings, leave the nest, and live their own lives, but no American can get away from the all-smothering love of "mother government." She's going to hover over you, dictating everything from where you go to school, to how much of your own money she's going to let you keep, to your retirement planning. If you have the temerity to complain about any of this and ask to be left alone, you're told "Mama knows best" and accused of being selfish, foolish, or unrealistic to think you could do a better job of planning your own life than "Mama."

Meanwhile, the list of things "Mama" wants to control seem to be rapidly and endlessly expanding, even down to the minutiae. The government wants to choose whether you watch analog or digital TV. They're levying special taxes on downloaded music, movie tickets, soda, and massages. They're even demanding that you get rid of the incandescent lightbulbs in your house, apparently because that's too big of a decision for you to make on your own. They're even thinking about deciding whom you get to listen to on the radio via the Fairness Doctrine, putting a GPS tracker in your car so they can tax you for driving at the "wrong" time of day, and actually controlling the thermostat in your house.

It doesn't matter whether we put Democrats, like Bill "The era of big government is over" Clinton, in office or Republicans, like George "When somebody hurts, government has got to move" Bush, into office -- the players, the party, and the rhetoric may change, but the overweening mothering masquerading as government continues to worsen. We have got to find a way to change that trend or eventually even the descendants of pioneers, revolutionaries, and explorers will become a nation of unambitious, overtaxed loafers living in Mama Government's basement.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The profit motive is the way out of poverty

Comment from Australia

Kevin Rudd will be delighted if Australians spend their handouts from his Santa Claus economic stimulus package on Christmas presents, or just about anything else, rather than saving the money. But when it comes to handing out cash, the intention of the giver and the response of the recipients frequently diverge. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of foreign aid. Since Christmas is a time when appeals for aid donations often seek to exploit the spirit of the season, it also seems an appropriate time to update a long-running debate.

Quite a while ago, trade and development economist Peter Bauer (1915-2002) of the London School of Economics famously remarked that aid was a transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. Has this changed? Here is a quote from a recent book by two men from the present generation of US development economists: "Private charities and countries' foreign aid agencies have spent billions annually for decades now, hoping to wipe out poverty. We've seen round after round of debt relief since the 1970s. But despite all this, the average Kenyan is still no richer today than in 1963. Will things really be any different this time around?"

This time around refers to the wave of aid-for-Africa concerts and political grandstanding on aid in forums such as the Group of Eight by prominent entertainers and politicians, including Angelina Jolie, Bono, former British prime minister Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown, all practitioners of what British author Patrick West calls "conspicuous compassion" in his book of that title.

The two economists are Raymond Fisman from Columbia Business School and Edward Miguel from the University of California, Berkeley. Their book, published in October by Princeton University Press, has an unusual title: Economic Gangsters.

According to Fisman and Miguel, the answer to their question hinges critically on one's view of the role that corruption and violence play in the impoverishment of nations. Hence the title. If corruption and violence are the symptoms of poverty, then the solution is to step up rich-country foreign aid until poverty is eliminated, and corruption and violence will disappear. But if corruption and violence are endemic, no amount of foreign aid will lift a country such as Zimbabwe or Kenya out of poverty. The money will simply enrich kleptocratic elites and entrench corruption and violence.

The leading protagonists in the aid debate are two high-profile US economists, Jeffrey Sachs (who was recently in Australia) and William Easterly. Sachs has long been an adviser on economic development (not always successfully) to governments across the world.

Sachs is a believer in poverty traps and he is not afraid of making a bold call on a policy to end poverty: more rich-country money, and lots of it. Given enough aid money, together with a grand development plan, its implementation overseen by the UN, poverty can be abolished by 2025. Easterly agrees with Sachs on the need to tackle poverty, but not with his "big push" solution. Nor is he impressed by the corporate philanthropy, or creative capitalism, approach of Microsoft's Bill Gates.

Of Sachs's approach, Easterly says it is strikingly similar to the ideas that inspired foreign aid in the 1950s and '60s, which influenced the bureaucratic approach to economic development that has been followed since. After five decades and trillions of aid dollars, the most aid-intensive regions, notably much of Africa, are still poverty stricken, suggesting the big push approach is unlikely to be a great success.

As for the poverty trap, an idea that dates from the same era, Easterly argues it has been refuted by the successful escape from poverty of many societies without much aid as a percentage of their total income, China and India, which had African-style poverty levels as recently as the '80s, being cases in point. "Fortunately for the world's poor and for all the rest of us, there are much more dynamic forces in the world than UN bureaucrats and their academic advocates," he said earlier this year.

The world poverty rate has declined by half over the past 30 years, and it has had little to do with foreign aid. Chief among these dynamic forces, in Easterly's view, is capitalism. Criticising Gates's attack on capitalism and his call in The Wall Street Journal in February for much more corporate philanthropy, Easterly commented that philanthropy had proved awfully weak compared with the profit motive. He said profit-motivated capitalism had done wonders for poor workers, with the globalisation of capitalism from 1950 to the present increasing annual average income in the world to $7000 from $2000. Contrary to popular belief, poor countries' incomes grew at about the same rate as those of the rich ones, leading to the greatest mass exit from poverty in world history.

With the world plunging into recession as a result of the excesses of financial market capitalism, this no doubt sounds a bit thin these days. But on a longer view, Easterly is right to argue that the parts of the world that are still poor are suffering from too little capitalism. Direct foreign investment in Africa today, although rising, still amounts to only 1 per cent of global flows because the environment for private business in Africa is still hostile, despite some African industry and country success stories.

Easterly is not opposed to foreign aid for poor countries; on the contrary, he thinks, like Sachs, that the remaining levels of world poverty are a disgrace. But his approach rejects the grand plan and the deployment of the legions and billions of the foreign aid establishment. Instead, he prefers a multitude of smaller programs that can be much more easily monitored and audited to see what works, and systems that give more economic and political freedoms to individuals to find their own solutions to poverty.

Easterly has history on his side. Even in China, which remains a communist state, rapid economic growth followed the freeing up of its economic life and greater political freedom relative to its earlier totalitarianism, not the nostrums of the foreign aid establishment. But no escape from poverty is possible while corruption and violence rule and, as the example of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and other Africa nations powerfully demonstrates, the world is a long way from finding a solution.


St. Jude, Don't Make it Bad

St. Jude's, the local gay church in Wilmington, NC, is one of those churches that makes me glad I'm not a "liberal" Christian. Some years ago, they ran an advertisement that read "Whatever you believe, we embrace you." When I saw that "whatever you believe" ad, I was tempted to go to St. Jude's one Sunday and tell them I thought the Holocaust was a good idea and that I liked cooking cats in a microwave oven. I just wanted to see whether they actually bought into moral relativism - a philosophy so vacuous that only college professors deem it useful.

Today, St. Jude's seems to have softened its stance on wide-open "whatever you believe" moral relativism. Their website now actually lists several "core values," which I assume means something like "absolute truths." Here's what the website says specifically: "St. Jude's is committed to expanding our Core Values into the community. We are: Christ-Centered - Holy Spirit Led, (We are) God's Love in Action, (We) Celebrate LGBTQ & Straight individuals and families."

It's a good thing the St. Jude gay church talks about certain "truths" or "core values" because that is what St. Jude himself talked about in verse three of his one-chapter epistle in the New Testament: "Dearly loved friends, I had been planning to write you some thoughts about the salvation God has given us, but now I find I must write of something else instead, urging you to stoutly defend the truth which God gave, once for all, to his people to keep without change through the years." In other words, St. Jude was concerned that people were going to come along and start to change things that were clearly prohibited by the Bible. Maybe even celebrate them. And for those who think the New Testament preaches only forgiveness - in contrast to the Old Testament emphasis on punishment - take a look at the very next verse of St. Jude's epistle:

"I say this because some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you, saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God's punishment. The fate of such people was written long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

I doubt all of the people at St. Jude's heavily gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered church have read verse seven of Jude's epistle, which is quoted here in the Living Bible translation: "And don't forget the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, all full of lust of every kind including lust of men for other men. Those cities were destroyed by fire and continue to be a warning to us that there is a hell in which sinners are punished."

So this is interesting. By actually celebrating homosexuality - as opposed to say, ignoring it - the St. Jude congregation is actually driving congregants towards damnation. An argument could be made for classifying this church as a hate group. But, of course, the real St. Jude doesn't think we should reach out to gays with anything like hate speech. In verse twenty-three he urges that we approach them with both kindness and caution:

"Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren't pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners."

One of my readers recently told me - in an argument about post-marital sex - that it was OK for him to be in favor and for me to be opposed. His reasoning was that he is a "liberal Christian" and I am a conservative Christian. Of course, what my reader really meant was that being a liberal Christian means having one set of rules for himself and another set of rules for everyone else. Maybe it's time for liberal Christians to get their own set of epistles. Maybe they should get their own set of Saints as well.


What Democrat Scandal?

In October 2006, the national media projected Rep. Mark Foley's online sex chats with House pages into a disaster that would swallow the Grand Old Party whole. CBS, for example, proclaimed it the "congressional equivalent of Katrina." In 2008, when federal investigators found Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to put Barack Obama's Senate seat on the auction block, these same "news" gatherers found a storm, to be sure, but a storm they suggested would in short order be "pushed out to sea."

With the governor caught on tape unloading obscenity after obscenity about how he expected to reap a financial bonanza for handing out his gubernatorial perks, this story was so undeniably big, even the Obamaphile press couldn't ignore it. So instead these reporters tried to downplay its impact on the President-elect and the Democrats.

First, as with other Democratic scandals (Spitzer, Jefferson, McGreevey, etc.), anchors and editors again purposely dropped the "D" out of the equation, laboring not to tell viewers or readers that the offenders were Democrats. In a Republican scandal, the offending politician is usually described as a Republican in the very first sentence, and deservedly so. In a Democrat scandal, the party identification of the perpetrator can arrive in paragraph eight. Or not at all.

Then, reporters declared that a Blagojevich resignation or impeachment could arrive any day, and suggested the story could soon be finished. (When Republicans are in the crosshairs, reporters announce "this story isn't going away any time soon.") Reporters insisted the Blagojevich story might end soon with the governor's removal, even before Team Obama fully explained its contacts with the governor's office on the Senate-seat matter. They wanted Blagojevich removed from the Democratic elite before he infected the party's anti-corruption claims like an Ebola virus.

Third, they labored mightily to separate Team Obama from the Blagojevich camp. Take CBS, and reporter Chip Reid, who cited local CBS reporter Mike Flannery as an expert, and never mind if local bloggers call him "Chicago's version of Chris Matthews." Flannery insisted one could only call Obama and Blagojevich the "most distant allies," and Reid insisted Flannery told him "Obama has often gone out of his way to avoid any close association with the ethically challenged governor. But that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together." Reid read a line from RNC chairman Mike Duncan, then insisted, "Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell."

Reid's report cracking open this supposed chasm didn't include uncomfortable facts that Obama's supporters would rather not see circulated. Obama not only supported Blagojevich for governor in 2002, when he was still a state senator, he took credit for advising him to victory. He went on television saying electing his friend "Hot Rod" was a priority. He endorsed him for re-election in 2006 -- at the beginning of 2005.

Reid also dragged in a right-leaning Chicago Tribune columnist to make a case for Obama's distance: "John Kass says Mr. Obama has worked hard to position himself above the machine culture of Chicago politics." He quoted Kass saying: "I don't think he gets tainted by what happened today." But here's what Kass proclaimed in a column a few days later: "The national media outlets were desperate to portray him as someone about to transcend our politics. But in Chicago he was just a smooth guy on the way up, looking the other way." ?The Blagojevich Senate-for-sale scandal demonstrates how feverishly the media continue to portray Obama not as a Chicago machine manipulator, but as the black inheritor of the Abraham Lincoln legacy. Obama's been energetically linked to Lincoln far more than to any Chicago politician who's currently living and serving in office. Obama chose for himself a political career in the grubby precincts of the south side of Chicago, not some log cabin outside Springfield, but reporters seem more interested in building a grand and historic legend of a "new kind of politics," not a real-life politician's colossal ambitions to be president before he turned 50.

Anyone in politics knows it would be extremely normal, acceptable and even necessary for the governor and the [resident-elect (or their aides) to have a chat about who would fill this Senate seat. But the media have invested so much TV time and barrels of ink in putting the most idealistic sheen they can on Obama's New Politics that to find him anywhere within miles of corruption is too much for them to bear.


Madoff Exploited his fellow Jews

Networks of trust are vulnerable. No law can change that

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, "Was it a Jew?" My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about "affinity fraud." The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.

The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your aunt -- it just doesn't feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work.

The level of affinity and of trust may be especially high among Jews. The Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitic laws and practices around the world made reliance on other Jews, and care for them, a survival instinct. As a result, Jews are often an easy target both for fund-raising appeals and fraud. But affinity plays a role in many groups, making members more trusting of appeals within the group.

On one level, the number of these affinity frauds is testament to the strength of communities in America. Alexis de Tocqueville -- the one Frenchman generally admired by Americans for his good sense and understanding of our nation -- observed that we are a nation of different organizations and clubs, of civic groups and church groups, a web of social and ethnic and religious communities. We define ourselves as American, but also as Jews and Catholics, Mormons and Baptists, as Cuban and Italian, Irish and Japanese, as Rotarians and Masons, Democrats and Republicans.

Predictably, the Madoff story has prompted speculation about potential new regulations that might be imposed to head off future problems. Politicians and pundits have called for the adoption of new rules for securities markets in general and hedge funds in particular, even though Mr. Madoff didn't run a hedge fund and there is no shortage of existing securities rules that were violated by his reported conduct. (Keeping two sets of books suggests his own recognition of that.)

The SEC's failure to pursue complaints about Mr. Madoff over the past decade wasn't the result of inadequate regulations but of disbelief that someone so well entrenched in the industry -- a former Nasdaq chairman and SEC adviser -- was capable of committing such a callous crime.

Although regulatory initiatives routinely are taken off the shelf and offered up as the solution to a newsworthy problem, the conduct Mr. Madoff is accused of was illegal long before Charles Ponzi made pyramid schemes synonymous with his name. With so many aspects of our financial system under scrutiny today, and so many people in the government who regulate and write the rules for that system set to change, it hardly makes sense to go looking for ways to prevent new Madoff-like schemes.

So far as news reports can be trusted, Mr. Madoff appears to be a special case, someone whose whole career made fraud on this scale possible. His contacts and connections, his religion and affiliations, his public and private positions, all worked to make his funds look legitimate and exclusive. And he knew how to play his prospects, when to turn potential clients down, when to give something extra.

In retrospect, the current Madoff story is about someone who was as perfectly suited to swindling as Horowitz was to playing piano. The violation of trust at the heart of that story -- of trust by those with the greatest reason to trust -- cries out for sympathy. It illustrates the limits of law, not the need for more of 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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Friday, December 19, 2008

Passenger sues airline for making him so drunk he beat up his wife

A passenger is suing an airline, claiming he was served so much alcohol it led him to beat up his wife. Yoichi Shimamoto says United Airlines was negligent for allowing him to continue drinking to the point of inebriation during a flight from Osaka, Japan to San Francisco. Shimamoto claims it was the multiple glasses of Burgundy, served at 20 minute intervals, which led him to strike his wife Ayisha, while the couple were walking through customs in December 2006. In a lawsuit filed at the US District Court in Tampa, Florida, he claims the wine left him so drunk that "he could not manage himself".

Law experts claim the case will hinge on whether the on-flight drinks service can be classed as a bar and therefore subject to the same legal liabilities as terrestrial drinking establishments. Bars in the US are legally responsible for harm caused by intoxicated customers. James Speta, professor at Northwestern University Law School, said: "United's first defence will be there's no tort action like this in international airspace."

Although Shimamoto was charged and sentenced to 18 months' probation, the couple claim United Airlines was ultimately responsible for the violent outburst. The Japanese businessman was prevented from returning to his home country while his case was ongoing at the San Mateo County courts in northern California. Shimamoto wants United to pick up the $100,000 tab for Yoichi Shimamoto's bail, and defence costs.

Jean Medina, of United said: "We believe that a lawsuit that suggests that we are somehow responsible for the consequences of a passenger's physical assault on his own wife is without any merit whatsoever."


New Study Find Children Who Live with Biological Parents and go to Church Fare Best Developmentally

It may be that people who marry and go to church are healthier and better adjusted to start with than those who do not -- and they pass that advantage onto their children genetically -- but it seems more likely that marriage and churchgoing of themselves were beneficial

A new study from the Mapping America project, co-released by more than 30 state family policy councils, has fund that children have fewer problems at school and home when they live with both biological parents and frequently attend religious services.

Dr. Nicholas Zill, the founding president of Child Trends, and Dr. Philip Fletcher, a research psychologist at Westat, co-authored the new study, which analyzes data from the National Survey of Children's Health.

Among their remarkable findings: children in this group are five times less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to have behavior problems at home and school, and are more likely to be cooperative and understanding of others' feelings. Parents of these children report less stress, healthier parent-child relationships, and fewer concerns about their children's achievement. These differences hold up even after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity.


British Christmas concert cancelled over fears audience member might 'fall over in the dark'

A night-time Christmas concert in a rural church has been scrapped in case one of the congregation fell in the dark and sued. The 16-strong Collegium Vocale choir has spent weeks practising Handel's Messiah for the festive performance at tiny St Stephen Church. But organisers have cancelled the event claiming the quaint countryside church could be 'dangerous' on a winter's night.

Although the 100-year-old building has electric lighting they feared that in the event of a power cut a member of the audience could come a cropper in the darkness. Choirmaster Ian Davis carried out a risk assessment of the venue and also found there was an unlit tree-lined avenue leading up to it which also presented a concern. Mr Davis, 43, feared his voluntary choir could have faced legal action due to the 'absurd' health and safety laws and so decided to pull the concert.

He said: 'The law states that a dark church is dangerous if it does not have relevant health and safety procedures in place. 'The church is only small and is right in the middle of the countryside so could, according to the law, lead to slipping and tripping in the dark. 'If there was to be an incident and the lights went out, someone could fall over and hurt themselves. The walk up to the building is in darkness at night and the law states that we need lighting outside in case there are potholes and rocks.

'I understand why the law is in place but it does highlight the absurdity of how far it has gone - I am sure we are not alone. Clearly for an amateur performance you can't take the risk of it coming back on us or the vicar if someone does injure themselves. 'Luckily I had been to do a risk assessment before we started selling the tickets so nobody has been left out of pocket by it.'

St Stephen Church is located in the grounds of the Kingston Lacy Estate near Wimborne, Dorset. The historic building was constructed in 1906 at the top of a long tree-lined avenue and can seat up to 120 people. The vicar, Reverend Dr Alistair Stewart-Sykes, has liability insurance in the event of an accident but the policy does not cover paid-for events, like the concert. In order to be protected, either Rev Stewart-Sykes or Mr Davis would have to take out another costly policy or install emergency lighting inside and out.

Mr Davis said: 'The church itself does have electric lighting but it does not have emergency lighting which is also required. 'There is no way we can provide the funding to put things like emergency lighting in place so we have had to cancel the performance. 'Following a consultation with the vicar we together decided that it was just not worth it.' Mr Davis said his choir, which has performed in Westminster Abbey and Chichester Cathedral in the past, was now planning an Easter and summer concert at the church.

Rev Dr Stewart-Sykes said: 'We regret having to cancel the concert but we must be mindful of the requirements needed to conform with the law. 'I have liability insurance for services but we believe it only covers volunteers so may not apply to a paying concert. Rather than take a risk, we have regretfully decided that the best option is to cancel. 'I do however intend to explore other options with regards to insurance so we can present a full programme of concerts and performances in the future.'


At last: Britain's evil secret courts opened up

The secrecy of the family courts - in which nearly 95,000 cases are heard in private each year - is to end under reforms announced yesterday that will allow the media access to all levels of the system. The move could mean that social workers and expert witnesses who fail children, and now enjoy the protection of anonymity, will in future be named publicly when criticised by judges. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that from April the media would be permitted access to all family cases in all courts - from celebrity divorces to hearings over domestic violence or children being removed from families. "A really important veil is being lifted on what happens in these courts," he said.

Crucially, media reporting of the cases will be subject to tight restrictions to protect the welfare and privacy of the children and families involved. The people involved in such cases will also be able to apply to a judge to have the media excluded. Mr Straw indicated that judges were not expected to grant such requests often and, when they did, the cases would be closely monitored. "If it is not working, we will actively consider changes or primary legislation."

The moves follow a campaign by The Times, begun this year, to reform the family justice system and open up the courts amid accusations that they are operating under a "conspiracy of silence".

Mr Straw said yesterday: "My view is that public confidence depends crucially on the system being as open as possible - so the case for restrictions has to be a very strong one." As for the anonymity given to professionals such as social workers and expert witnesses, he indicated that his view, although the change is not finalised, was that this should be removed. Professional experts such as structural engineers whose competence is questioned - perhaps because someone has been injured - have no anonymity protection. "I see no reason why other professionals should be immune from public examination unless there are overwhelming arguments in an individual case," Mr Straw said.

He said that the long-awaited measures, which have been more than two years in consultation and revision, struck a balance between openness and the need to protect the privacy of children and vulnerable adults. Ministers would also consider how adoption proceedings could be opened up. The change is partly in response to pressure from the media and fathers' groups to open the family courts so that justice can be seen to be done.

Britain's most senior family judge, Sir Mark Potter, the President of the Family Division of the High Court, welcomed the announcement but said that judicial discretion to exclude the media should be used where necessary. "I have for some time made clear the support of the senior judiciary for media access to the family courts in the interests of transparency and public confidence in the family justice system," he said. But he criticised Mr Straw's proposal to review the question of whether privacy should remain the rule for adoption proceedings. He said that the judiciary was united in opposing that.

The Family Justice Council, a forum of lawyers and other users of the family courts, condemned the change and said that it was "disappointed to learn that the Government is planning to allow the media into family courts as of right. In doing so, they have disregarded the views of children, young people and the organisations which protect, support and represent them." At present the media is allowed access only to the Court of Appeal and magistrates' family proceedings courts.

In the dark

- A couple whose baby daughter was placed in foster care this year were refused information by the authorities on the ground of confidentiality. Tim Yeo, the couple's MP in Suffolk South, said that his efforts to help the couple had been thwarted by a system that "prevents natural justice"

- Matthew, a professional in his fifties, was fighting a custody case for several months before he became aware of damaging allegations against him on his court file. A supporter of his former partner had written to the judge, making spurious claims, including one that said Matthew was not to be trusted with his children. Matthew only became aware of the allegations when he requested other correspondence from his file

- A month before Curtis, 17, was born, his sister was placed in foster care and then adopted, after social services expressed concern about a bruise on the child. He was only reunited recently with his sister after she tracked down her family. He found that social services had also tried to place him in foster care despite no evidence against his mother


Below is another example of the horrors that Left-trained British social workers inflict on innocent families

They put the Christmas decorations up a couple of days ago but no one in the Smith family feels much like celebrating. Despite the tinsel over their sons' photographs, there are no excited children racing around the flat. Instead, Patrick, 6, and Donald, 2 - not their real names - will spend the holiday in foster care.

It started two years ago with a nosebleed. Robert Smith wiped his stepson Patrick's nose and took him to school. A teacher spotted some dried blood, and asked Patrick what had happened. "Robert," he said, and made a wiping motion. She went to social services, who called the police. That afternoon Mr Smith was arrested for assault and had to move out of the flat. "We thought, it will all get sorted and go away. We knew we'd done nothing wrong," he said. A criminal court threw out the charges after the prosecution admitted that it had no evidence. But social services would not let Mr Smith move back home. Stacks of legal paper under the Christmas tree chronicle the Smiths' struggle in the family courts, where the case is still being heard.

Because reporters have been unable to cover such proceedings, their story would have remained untold had Mr Smith's parents not read about The Times's campaign and contacted the paper. Even so, The Times is unable to report details of the case against them.

For several months, Mr Smith could see Donald only twice a week under supervision. Social services did provide some help, and last spring the Smiths were reunited in an assessment centre. They thought everything was going well. But after eight weeks the children were taken into foster care because the parents showed "inconsistent emotional warmth". The Smiths now see their sons for three supervised hour-long visits a week. The worst days are the ones in between. "You want to press fast forward on the world for the day," Mr Smith said.

His parents have submitted a complaint about the way that social services have handled the proceedings. They also welcome greater transparency in the system: "If we were all allowed to put this in the paper from day one, social services could look more closely at what was going on in each case."

For their family, time is running out. A preadoption hearing will take place in the spring. A tea towel pinned up on the kitchen wall spells out an encouraging "Don't Quit". The Smiths find it increasingly hard, however. "Life has been on hold for the last two years. The tape is paused," Mr Smith said. They hope that Mr Straw's proposals will wind it on enough for them: "This is a step in the right direction, certainly. But everything starts slow. It always has to."



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God or science? A belief in one weakens positive feelings for the other

I am an atheist but I think that there is better evidence for the existence of God than there is for the existence of global warming or the life-prologing power of eating vegetables so I think I would mess up the experiment below. It may be generally true that there is some opposition between science and religion but there are plenty of scientists with religious beliefs and, particularly among conservatives, plenty of unbelievers who respect both science and religion. I myself have more respect for Christianity than I do for climate science, food science or psychological science. I blog on the first two and I spent 20 years in the thick of the latter

A person's unconscious attitudes toward science and God may be fundamentally opposed, researchers report, depending on how religion and science are used to answer "ultimate" questions such as how the universe began or the origin of life. What's more, those views can be manipulated, the researchers found. After using science or God to explain such important questions, most people display a preference for one and a neutral or even negative attitude toward the other. This effect appears to be independent of a person's religious background or views, says University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston, who led the research.

The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Preston and her colleague, Nicholas Epley, of the University of Chicago, wanted to explore how information about science influences a belief in God, and how religious teaching can also cause people to doubt certain scientific theories. "As far as I know, no one has looked experimentally at an opposition between belief in science and religion," Preston said. "It seemed to me that both science and religion as systems were very good at explaining a lot, accounting for a lot of the information that we have in our environment," she said. "But if they are both ultimate explanations, at some point they have to conflict with each another because they can't possibly both explain everything."

The researchers conducted two experiments designed to manipulate how well science or God can be used as explanations. In the first, 129 volunteers read short summaries of the Big Bang theory and the "Primordial Soup Hypothesis," a scientific theory of the origin of life. Half then read a statement that said that the theories were strong and supported by the data. The other half read that the theories "raised more questions than they answered."

In the second experiment, which involved 27 undergraduate students, half of the study subjects had to "list six things that you think God can explain." The others were asked to "list six things that you think can explain or influence God." All the subjects were then required to quickly categorize various words as positive or negative on a computer.

"What they didn't realize was that they were being subliminally primed immediately before each word," Preston said. "So right before the word 'awful' came up on the screen, for example, there was a 15-millisecond flash of either 'God' or 'science' or a control word." A 15-millisecond visual cue is too brief to register in the conscious mind, but the brief word flash did have an effect. Those who had read statements emphasizing the explanatory power of science prior to the test were able to categorize positive words appearing just after the word, "science," more quickly than those who had read statements critical of the scientific theories.

Those who were asked to use God as an ultimate explanation for various phenomena displayed a more positive association with God and a much more negative association with science than those directed to list other things that can explain God, the researchers found. Similarly, those who read the statement suggesting that the scientific theories were weak were extremely slow to identify negative words that appeared after they were primed with the word "God," Preston said. "It was like they didn't want to say no to God," she said.

"What is really intriguing is that the larger effect happens on the opposite belief," she said. "When God isn't being used to explain much, people have a positive attitude toward science. But when God is being used to account for many events - especially the things that they list, which are life, the universe, free will, these big questions - then somehow science loses its value." "On the other hand, people may have a generally positive view of science until it fails to explain the important questions. Then belief in God may be boosted to fill in the gap," she said.

The most obvious implication of the research is that "to be compatible, science and religion need to stick to their own territories, their own explanatory space," Preston said. "However, religion and science have never been able to do that, so to me this suggests that the debate is going to go on. It's never going to be settled."


Blind man's guide dog barred from restaurant in Britain for offending Muslims

A blind man has been turned away from a fashionable Indian restaurant because his guide dog offended Muslim staff

Alun Elder-Brown, a recruitment executive, said he was left feeling "like a piece of dirt" after being barred from bringing the animal into Kirthon Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on religious grounds. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said the decision was illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act and Mr Elder-Brown, 51, is now considering suing the establishment in The Pantiles. It follows a series of successful prosecutions of Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry guide dogs in their cars because they considered them unclean on religious grounds.

Mr Elder-Brown was taking his girlfriend out to celebrate her birthday with her five year-old daughter last week when he was told he would have to leave his dog, Finn, tied up outside. He showed a card issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers certifying he and his dog were allowed into any premises but an argument ensued and the owners threatened to call the police if he did not leave. "It was humiliating and degrading, especially as there were a lot of people around me," he said. "I was made to feel like a piece of dirt. They told me I couldn't come in because it was against their religious beliefs to have a dog in the restaurant. "They then said I could leave Finn tied up outside. I stayed calm but when they threatened to call police I left." He added: "It was horrible. It put a dampener on the whole celebration."

Under the Disability Discrimination Act it is illegal to refuse to serve a disabled person of give them a diminished level of service because of their disability. Chris Dyson of Guide Dogs for the Blind said: "We are extremely concerned and disappointed that Alun was refused access to this restaurant. "We very much hope that this restaurant will reconsider its decision and get in touch with the charity so that we can give them a better understanding of their requirements under the law and explain the important role that the guide dog plays for Alun."

The restaurant's owner, Amenur Abdussamad, was not immediately available for comment. But Shamin Ahmed, a partner in the restaurant, said that he had written to Guide Dogs for the Blind to apologise for the incident. He said that although the owners of the venue are Muslim, he insisted religion was not a factor in the decision to refuse Mr Elder-Brown. "We were worried about the hygiene, that is what happened, it was a mistake," he said. "I have had a letter from Guide Dogs for the Blind, I have sent a reply apologising about that.... we found out afterwards that guide dogs are allowed, I didn't know that."


Again: Britain's politicized police useless at normal law enforcement

Killing of Good Samaritan 'could have been avoided' after police blunder

A teenager who kicked a Good Samaritan to death had carried out a similar brutal street attack two months earlier but police failed to deal with the initial crime properly, a court has heard. Joseph Thomas, 18, was convicted of killing Nick Baty, 48, in a shopping centre car park by kicking and stamping on him in an unprovoked attack. Print worker Mr Baty, a trained first-aider, had stepped in to help a boy who had collapsed after drinking but was then attacked by Thomas. The father-of-one went into a coma after the attack in January and died a month later when his life support machine was turned off.

Two months before killing Mr Baty, Thomas had attacked Mark Bridgeman, 20, near the same car park in Brackla, Bridgend, Wales. Mr Bridgeman was left with fractures to both sides of his jaw and had to have three metal plates and 12 screws inserted. But two police officers, a sergeant and a Pc, failed to investigate properly. The attack on Mr Bridgeman was not even recorded by the Pc until March, two months after the fatal assault on Mr Baty. The conduct of the police officers was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and both have been given official warnings.

Thomas, of Brackla, was cleared of murdering Mr Baty but convicted of manslaughter at Cardiff Crown Court. He was sentenced to eight years for manslaughter and another two years for the earlier assault. Prosecutor Roger Thomas QC said: "This was a vicious attack. Mr Baty was only concerned about the welfare of the teenager unconscious on the floor. "Mr Baty moved towards the unconscious teenager when, suddenly and without warning, Thomas ran at him from behind shouting `Leave him alone'. "He grabbed him by the shoulder and threw him to ground. Mr Baty's head struck the ground with a thud but Thomas didn't leave him, he attacked him as he lay defenceless on the ground." The court heard Thomas left Mr Baty lying in a pool of blood and bragged to a friend about what he had done.

His friend called 999 and police found Mr Baty lying next to the unconscious teenager he had tried to help. The court heard that, in the earlier attack, Mr Bridgeman had simply been "in the wrong place at the wrong time". Mr Thomas said: "Mr Bridgeman was the victim of an unprovoked, unnecessary and quite vicious attack by Thomas. He was repeatedly punched and kicked to the face and hit while still on the ground. "Unfortunately, the police investigation did not proceed in the manner it should have."

John Charles Rees QC, defending, said: "It may be the offence of manslaughter may not have been committed if Thomas had been arrested when he should have been for the first attack." Judge John Curran said: "This offence was committed for no better reason than you were drunk. "The first matter was not properly investigated by the police for reasons I find inexplicable. This has caused grief and devastation to the victim of a violent crime."

Mr Baty's father John Baty, 80, said: "His absence has deeply affected us. The feeling of grief is immense."

IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "The public expect the police to take proper action when reporting crimes and especially when it is in connection with a serious assault. "The officer and his supervising sergeant have been both been issued with written warnings for their failures." [Big deal!] The South Wales Police professional standards department found "no positive enquiries were actioned or completed by the two officers".


Australia: A HUGE double standard over paedophilia

Only the common herd can be paedophiles, apparently

Spot the difference. One man takes photographs of children aged from two to 12, paddling clothed in a pond at Darling Harbour. The other man takes pictures of a 12-year-old, posed with breasts bared. The first man is Jason Donald Cotter, a homeless bartender who on Monday was ordered to stand trial in Sydney next year for child pornography. The second is Bill Henson, who, far from being charged, was this year defended by the leaders of our arts caste as one of our greatest artists.

Yes, you spotted it. The crucial difference wasn't that Cotter took photographs without the parents' permission. He isn't charged with failing to get consent, but with having a pornographic image of a child. Just to be precise, Inspector Brenton Lee said the only images Cotter had were those of the children at Darling Harbour: "That's the evidence, taking pictures of children in partial undress." That, the police allege, is child porn. But a picture taken of a child stripped and flaunted is not - and it seems the difference is that Henson is an artist. So insisted 54 leaders of the arts industry - all among the 1000 of our "best and brightest" chosen for Kevin Rudd's ideas summit - in a petition they signed in Henson's defence, when police checked his latest exhibition.

Henson was cleared, of course. You see, in our curious world some of those with the greatest power to set an example and make our culture are excused the moral standards set for even a homeless barman.

Consider an even more startling example - the defence of the pedophilia of artist Donald Friend. Documentary maker Kerry Negara has just shot A Loving Friend, a film of the artist's life, and discovered Friend had spent much time in Bali, where he had sex with boys as young as nine. But it wasn't just the pedophilia that disturbed her, or Friend's claims in his diaries that the boys had seduced him. As she said: "I've been speaking to some of our most influential people in the world of art in Australia, who deny that he caused any harm. So basically what they're trying to say is that Donald was a nice pedophile . . ."

True. Here's the National Library's Paul Hetherington, who edited three volumes of Friend's diaries, when asked on the ABC about Friend's pedophilia: "I don't know that we can go today into the complexity of the relationships between Friend and the young men . . ."

Here, from Negara's film, is Barry Pearce, head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW: "I don't think there's a hard line dividing the black from the white on the subject of pedophilia. There's a penumbra . . . and I think that Donald was definitely on the light side of penumbra . . . I would be shocked if anyone brought that term (pedophile) to Donald."

Here's Lou Klepac, former deputy director at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a Friend biographer: "I don't consider Donald's sexual interests to be highly immoral . . . Donald's like was to be homosexual and he liked young men." So I'd advise any other homeless sod caught with dodgy pictures, or worse, to now plead: "I'm an artist, your honour." If he's lucky, he'll get off with a grant.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

British Prison Bans Crucifix From New Chapel to Avoid Offending Muslim Inmates

A British prison has decided not to include a crucifix in the decor of its new chapel for fear of offending Muslim inmates.

The `multi-faith space' at HMP Lewes is divided in two sections, according to the Daily Mail. One half-features heated footbaths for Muslim worshipers; the other side, dedicated to Christian prayer, features a removable altar and a plain wooden cross - also removable.

Plans to include the traditional Christian crucifix were erased from the chapel's blueprints on the advice of a Muslim imam, the Daily Mail reported. "We see this as a vastly improved facility and very much welcome the fact that the prison has an imam." Amanda Hamblin, chair of the prison's Independent Monitoring Board told the Mail."

A source from the prison disagreed, reportedly telling the Mail, "It's just the normal PC brigade poking its nose in when it isn't needed."



SHARIA law will "inevitably" become part of the legal system and work should begin now to incorporate it into British law, a leading barrister said last night. Stephen Hockman, QC, former chairman of the Bar Council, spoke at a meeting organised by the website Islam4UK, where another speaker was Anjem Choudary, former head of banned fanatical group al-Muhajiroun.

Sharia law has become associated with executions, stonings and hands being cut off. But Mr Hockman told the Daily Express: "Given our substantial Muslim population, it is vital that we look at ways to integrate Muslim culture into our traditions. "Otherwise we will find that there is a significant section of our society which is increasingly alienated, with very dangerous results. "There should perhaps be a standing committee comprising Parliamentarians, lawyers and religious leaders to consider how this could be achieved and what legal changes might be framed."

The meeting was held at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall. Mr Hockman added of Sharia law: "The position of women is one area where the emphasis is, to say the least, rather different. "I am also sometimes confronted by those who point out that there are elements within the Muslim community who pose a threat to our very security. "My answer is not to dispute them but to suggest that it is for those of us forming part of the majority community to take active steps to address such problems."


Mumbai and the 'Peace Camp'

They are ignoring the Jewish victims

The Mumbai massacre offers yet another reminder that many Israeli and American Jewish "peaceniks," despite all their moralistic and idealistic blather, have hearts of stone. All too many self-described `progressive' Jews seem to have a fanatical hatred for their fellow Jews in the Land of Israel, simply because they happen to reside on the wrong side of an arbitrary political dividing line. In practice, these people give propaganda aid and comfort to the extreme-right-wing, fascist-Islamist terrorists, who are violently opposed to all genuinely progressive and humane values. Even now they are ignoring the Jewish victims of radical Islamist mass murderers in Mumbai.

Friends of Israel should learn that the so-called `peace camp' are really wolves in sheep's clothing. They work constantly to undermine the security of Israel, America's only true ally in the Middle East.

Peace Now is a vociferous voice among those advocating the forcible expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homes inside the historic Jewish heartland. Their response is emblematic of the Jewish `peace camp.' They manufacture counterfeit moral credentials and exploit their origins in order to influence US foreign policy against Israel.

Peacenow.org was notably slow to even mention the Mumbai massacre. Even its meager acknowledgment of it was placed in the seventh position from the top, well below their primary news items, which were mainly focused on attacking Jews whom they denigrate with their hostile term "settlers". Their web site showed one lit candle with an associated article that began with the following two quotes:

1) "APN (i.e., Americans for Peace Now) sends condolences to the people of India, and to the families of Israeli, American and other nationals who were murdered by terrorists in Mumbai." This single sentence was the entire response of peacenow.org to the atrocity.

2) "Former senior Mossad analyst Yossie Alper offers a commentary on the lessons that Israel can learn from the Mumbai attacks." In this article, Alper talks mostly logistics, population comparisons, coast lines, politics, history, security, etc., without naming a single victim.

The single sentence response of peacenow.org appeared well after other outlets had provided in-depth coverage of the facts, the implications and the human face of the story. Peacenow.org offered only the single word "condolences" for all the victims, as if their reservoir of compassion had been totally depleted and they were slow to even offer that crumb of sympathy. It seems as if something inside these people gags at any genuine show of compassion for Jewish victims.

Peacenow.org found plenty of words to attack and dehumanize Jews, though. In extensive articles, which preceded their scant mention of Mumbai, they denigrated Jewish men, women and children with terms like "illegal settlers", "Hebron squatters" and "settler violence". This is the same political tactic long used by Nazi, Communist and Islamist propagandists to first deny the humanity of their intended victims in preparation for their persecution. The Israeli Left also employed this tactic in first dehumanizing the Jewish residents of Gaza leading up to their brutal expulsion.

Peacenow.org decided that the following information, which was carried by both Jewish and non-Jewish media throughout the world, was not worth mentioning on their site.

None of the readily available names or photos of the Jewish victims was posted or even mentioned by peacenow.org. This organization's board of directors includes many with Jewish surnames and even a few rabbis. But authentic Jews always recognize the humanity of the dead by at least remembering their names. It is typical of the 'peaceniks,' however, to erase from memory and from history those whom they target or just don't care about. This amounts to a sort of execution by silence. Peacenow.org chose the anti-Judaic path of erasing even the memory of the dead victims.

There was no mention that Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were horribly tortured prior to being executed. No mention of the extreme heroism of the Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel, who risked her life to save two-year-old Moshe, who, according to reports, also showed signs of being beaten. No mention of any others who were slaughtered because they were Jewish.

There was no mention of the name Chabad and their humanitarian outreach to all Jews, and to Gentiles as well, lest Chabad receive any recognition for their good deeds. The Israeli and diaspora Jewish 'peace camp' also evinces an irrational hostility to Jews of strong religious faith as well as to religious Christians, whom they often unfairly accuse of being "racists" and "opposed to peace." It makes no sense at all from a "progressive" point of view to denigrate peaceful Jews and Christians engaged in humanitarian and charitable work, while winking at the cruelty of the radical Islamist militants.

No mention that the terrorists were Muslims who had specifically targeted Chabad House to kill Jews who were not "settlers" living in the so-called "occupied territories". They prefer to ignore the reality that Muslim terrorists regard all Jews as targets, no matter where they live or what they believe.

Other web sites responded with appeals for funds to assist the orphans from at least two families and to rebuild the damaged Chabad House in Mumbai. Peace Now is always collecting funds for their political activities, but they offered no charity for Jews in need. The Jewish term for charity is tzedaka, but that word is missing from the vocabulary of the 'peace camp.'

There was not one word of personal sadness or remorse for the loss of the Jewish kedoshim (saintly people) of Mumbai from a single member of the leadership of peacenow.org. Israel treats captured terrorists far better than peacenow.org has treated the memory of these Jewish victims.


Anglicans give Christmas a multicultural makeover

The Church of England has backed plans to turn Christmas into a more multicultural event

It may have become traditional for angels, three wise men and the baby Jesus to play a starring role in the festive season. But now Hindu snowmen, a Chinese dragon and a Jewish temple are also to be included in an attempt to make the celebrations more inclusive of Britain's diverse communities. Westminster Abbey will unveil life-size snowmen that Anglican clergy hope will help to improve relations and dialogue between other faiths. Dressed in turbans, with bindi dots on their foreheads, they are intended to demonstrate that Christmas should not be exclusively for Christians.

The Rev Jane Hedges, a canon at the abbey, said that it was important to encourage people from other faiths to join in the celebrations. "We've done this as it creates a good opportunity for Christians to meet and hear about the stories of people of other faiths," she said. "Christmas is an opportunity for everyone to stop and think and is a great opportunity for the different faiths to talk to one another. "Wherever you're coming from there should be something to celebrate at Christmas."

She pointed out that for Muslims they can appreciate the story of Christ's birth because it is included in the Koran, adding that the Hindu snowmen were not an attempt to dumb down. "Strictly speaking, the message of Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but it has a much broader message of peace and goodwill."

Meanwhile in the diocese of Liverpool, a nativity is being staged that features a Chinese dragon and lantern procession. It has been backed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who is taking part in the event via a big screen. The nativity, which is being performed in Scouse, marks the end of Liverpool's year as the capital of culture. Annie Spiers, who co-ordinated the event, said that the nativity aimed to give "a fresh slant" to a familiar story.

However, some traditionalists warned that making Christmas multicultural and multi-faith threatened to undermine the Christian message. Alison Ruoff, a General Synod member, said: "Christmas is a time for everyone, but the Church needs to be confident in its message, which is that Christ came to save people of all faiths and none." She added: "Why are they putting such a ridiculous spin on Christmas? It's a nonsense and makes me really quite cross."

The Rev Rod Thomas, chair of Reform - a leading evangelical group, also expressed concern. "People want Christians to celebrate Christmas without compromise," he said. "It's only by doing this that people of other faiths respect what we stand for, not by attempting to introduce something that is sub-Christian. "This all seems very bizarre."



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Utter nonsense: After 130 years of fundraising, British Salvationists told to stop rattling collecting tins because it might 'offend other religions'

For 130 years they have been part of Christmas, filling the air in towns across the land with music and carols. But one thing is missing from the repertoire of Salvation Army bands this year - the percussion of rattling tins. Members have been forbidden to shake their charity tins - even if it's done in time to the music - in case it harasses or intimidates people. One said she had been told it might also offend other religions. Guidelines for branches organising public collections say tinholders should simply keep the tin still.

It means that when the brass bands start up they can rock and roll all they want - but if they shake and rattle, it could put them in conflict with the law. Councils and police can enforce the no-rattle rule and have powers to prosecute or ban offenders. The restriction was branded 'bonkers' yesterday both by donors and longserving Salvation Army volunteers. One collector told the Daily Mail: 'I've been doing this for more than 40 years and I fail to see how rattling a tin could cause offence. If I was shaking a tambourine I could do it all day - if I shake my tin, I could end up in court.'

The 'Silent Night' rattle ban manifested itself at the weekend in Uxbridge, West London, when musicians from two local branches performed outside a shopping mall. (They were outside because traders complained last year they were too loud to play inside). Tony Keywood, shopping with his wife Sheila, was among a crowd enjoying the carols and stepped forward to make a donation. 'I jokingly told them off for not shaking their tins,' said Mr Keywood, 78, a retired telecoms executive. 'They said they weren't allowed to do that in case it caused offence to other religions. They said they'd been told rattling a tin was considered to be intimidating. 'I don't know who makes up these rules but I suspect it will have something to do with human rights. I do feel Britain has lost its way on things like this.'

Laws on public collections are long-established, but until the recent proliferation of so-called 'charity muggers' were not widely utilised. Fundraisers have to be licensed, usually by the local authority, police or landowner. Councils and police can decide whom to license and how the rules are enforced. The Salvation Army relies heavily on public generosity and believes street collections help to foster good relations.

Guidance now, however, is that members should not shake their tins. A Salvation Army source said: 'We don't have a formal policy of "You Shall Not Rattle" but we always act within the law. 'Some authorities specifically ask us not to shake our tins. It is seen as harassment, or making people feel uncomfortable. I don't think it's to do with other religions. But it can make people feel we're putting them under pressure to give.' A spokesman added: 'We want people to donate from the best of motives, so we advise collectors to avoid rattling their tins or asking people directly for money when stood on the high street.'


Pope Benedict XVI under-fire for 'negative' statements

Pope Benedict XVI has come under fire from a leading Vatican watcher as "The Pope who says No" following a series of "negative" Vatican statements on homosexuality, the disabled and bio-ethics. On Friday the Vatican made its most authoritative statement on bio-ethics for twenty years, condemning artificial fertilization, human cloning, "designer babies" and embryonic stem-cell research. The document, "Dignitas Personae" (Dignity of the Person) was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the Pope headed as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election as pontiff. The document also condemned the "morning-after pill" and the drug RU-486, which blocks the action of hormones needed to keep a fertilized egg implanted in the uterus. It said such drugs, as well as the IUD (intrauterine device), fell "within the sin of abortion" and were "gravely immoral".

Marco Politi, the veteran Vatican correspondent of La Repubblica, said this was "yet another papal no" after Vatican opposition to UN declarations on the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the rights of the disabled, on the grounds that they could be seen a sanctioning gay marriage and abortion. "It is one veto after another" Mr Politi wrote. "Not to this, no to that. No, no, no". He said the Vatican was clearly aware that under Pope Benedict it was acquiring a reputation for "banning everything", since it had issued a "pre-emptive statement" noting that "on a superfical first reading" the document on bio-ethics "might give the impression of being a collection of prohibitions". "But that is precisely the public perception", Mr Politi said.

Mr Politi, the author with Carl Bernstein of "His Holiness", a study of Pope John Paul II and the fall of Communism, said the Vatican risked appearing to put the stress on a rigid observance of doctrine ahead of human dilemmas, suffering and distress. Mr Politi said the German-born Pope Benedict, elected after the death of John Paul II in April 2005, had sought to confound his reputation as a doctrinal hardliner by devoting his first encyclical to the topic of love and compassion. He was capable of a "surprising capacity for involvement and great tenderness" when visiting parishes. The message he sought to convey was that "Christianity is joy".

This was not the impression he gave to the world, however. Instead he had opposed reforms such as a long discussed revision of doctrine allowing divorced Catholics to take Holy Communion, and had also failed to carry out his promise to dedicate himself to inter faith dialogue and the "full and visible unity" of all Christians. Instead he had gone out of his way to stress the obstacles in the way of ecumenism, and had recently declared that inter-religious dialogue "in the strict sense of the word" between Christians, Jews and Muslims was "not possible". He had a "minimalist vision" of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The only "reforms" carried out in the past three years, Mr Politi said, were the revival of the Latin mass and the provision of new and "more miliaristic" uniforms for the Vatican gendarmerie. It was not question of Catholic doctrine, which remained the same under Pope Benedict as it had under John Paul II. The problem was rather Benedict's "insufficient capacity for speaking to the world" in the way John Paul had done. Whereas John Paul had skilfully used the media, going out of his way to talk to Vatican journalists on papal trips, Pope Benedict "keeps his distance", responding only to a limited number of questions submitted in advance, Mr Politi said. When encountering reporters while on holiday, "the first words to pass his lips are "Thank you, no questions". Attendances at papal audiences had fallen from over four million in the first year of Benedict's pontificate to below three million.

Giovanni Miccoli, the religious historian, said Pope Benedict's pontificate so far had been "rich in declarations but poor in facts". Mario Morcellini, Professor of Communications at Rome University, said Pope Benedict has rightly not sought to imitate his predecsssor. "But he seems to have difficulty in coming out of his shell and entering into contact with the masses", Professor Morcellini said, adding that it was "not clear if this was intentional".


`Forced marriage' doctor, Humayra Abedin, freed by Bangladesh court

Under the glare of international publicity

An NHS doctor who was held captive by her family in Bangladesh for four months while they plotted a forced marriage is expected to return to Britain in the next few days after a court ruling in Dhaka. Humayra Abedin, 33, who is training to become a GP at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London, was allegedly beaten, drugged and held against her will after being duped into flying to Bangladesh on August 3 when family members claimed that her mother was seriously ill.

Dr Abedin has a Hindu boyfriend in London, which angered her Muslim family, according to reports. They were preparing to marry her to a Muslim stranger, it is claimed. A friend of Dr Abedin, who had lived with her in East Ham, sounded the alarm after receiving a text on August 11. "Please help me. My life is in danger. They have locked me in house. My job is at stake. They are making my life hell," the message said.

Yesterday, Judge Syed Mahmod Hossain ordered Dr Abedin's parents to return her passport, driver's licence and credit card. "It perplexes me as to why the parents kept her confined and interfered with her personal life. I am shocked," he said. Dr Abedin told Sky News last night: "I'm relieved that I'm free, I'm happy. I just want to say thank you to all those who supported and helped me. I'm fine and I'm feeling happy. I don't have any bad feelings towards them. They are my parents so I don't have any bad feelings." Dr Abedin's father cried out on hearing the verdict and had to be assisted as he left the courtroom. He said that he and his wife had done nothing wrong. "She has not been held captive. These allegations are all false," he said.

Dr Abedin's lawyer, Sara Hossain, said: "Our courts have shown that we can guarantee the liberty of our citizens. This is quite a precedent."

The doctor's boyfriend, a 44-year-old Bangladeshi software engineer, had alleged that Dr Abedin's Muslim parents had bound and gagged her, held her captive in a house in Dhaka, and pleaded with her to marry a Muslim. He said that death threats had been issued against his family in Bangladesh. "They told her they'd prefer her to die than return to London," he said.

A Metropolitan Police investigation began in June after allegations that the doctor's mother and uncle tried to hold her captive in London. Last week, the High Court issued an injunction under the new Forced Marriage Act, demanding that Dr Abedin be allowed to return to Britain. Though the Act is not enforceable in Bangladesh it was hoped that it would place pressure on the Bangladeshi authorities.

Dr Abedin trained in Bangladesh before coming to Britain in 2002, when she studied for a master's degree in public health at Leeds University. She was to start in a GP surgery in August. In the first nine months of this year, the Government's Forced Marriage Unit was contacted by 1,308 callers sounding the alert over suspected cases.


Leftist tyranny on the World Wide Web

The champions of mandatory filtering are not Australia's Christian Right but its PC, feministic, leftish elite

Guess who really kickstarted the current push for mandatory ISP-level filtering here in Australia ? No, it wasn't the Christian right; it was Clive Hamilton and the supposedly left-of-centre Australia Institute. The Australia Institute is a think tank established by Hamilton in 1994 to lobby for increased government regulation over market forces. It `participate(s) forcefully in public debates', with the express aim of developing policy initiatives which `reassert the place of ethics' by prioritising `justice, equity and sustainability' over economic efficiency.

Hamilton himself could well be described as `the King of Australian whinge lit', or perhaps `Hairshirt Hamilton'. He feels miserable in the modern world and wants to spread the message. In recent years, he has produced a string of books, with titles such as Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough, Growth Fetish, and Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change. They are all variants on the theme that modern consumer society has turned us into helpless hedonists, duped by the market into indulging our basest desires (and stupidly destroying the planet as we do so). Remarkably, he is regarded here as a leading leftist intellectual.

Hamilton and the Australia Institute began their campaign for internet censorship back in 2003, with a deliberately targeted media splash, based on some rather spurious research supposedly documenting the evil effects of porn on Australian youth (for more detail see here). This is all written up on the Electronic Frontiers Australia website (see here and here), but has remained largely unmentioned by the major `left' blogs in Australia, which have tended to oppose the censorship scheme anaemically, at best.

Back in 2003, Hamilton did manage to get the attention of the conservative Coalition government led by the then Liberal Party prime minister, John Howard. Senator Richard Alston, then minister for communication, information technology and the arts, promised to look into Hamilton's ideas for online censorship. Religious `family oriented' groups then took the opportunity to raise their voices, making extensive use of the Australia Institute's material in their lobbying on the issue. However, in 2004, the idea of ISP-level filtering was rejected by the Howard government, which argued: `Given the limited benefits of an ISP-level filtering system, the costs of a mandated requirement to filter do not appear justified.'

While Howard remained PM, the only action taken was the establishment of the Net Alert website which provided advice about net safety and free downloadable filters, for those who wanted them. Shortly before the 2007 election, the Liberal Party did try to pander to the Christian Right by offering to establish ISP-level filtering, but only for those who wanted it (that is, it was a non-mandatory filtering proposal). That was as far as it went under Howard. However, with the election of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Kevin Rudd as prime minister last November, the Hamilton/Australia Institute campaign found itself with a far more sympathetic government.

The ALP under Rudd is in fact far more moralistic and authoritarian than the Liberals ever were. In his election campaign, Rudd quite consciously targeted `market fundamentalism' on the basis that it undermines traditional family values. He publicly (and opportunistically) embraced some of the communitarian ideas of David McKnight (author of Beyond Right and Left) in his speeches to the intelligentsia, noting in his November 2006 lecture at the Centre for Independent Studies (at which he was introduced by McKnight), that `market fundamentalism has split the political right down the middle along the traditional fault lines of conservatives versus liberals, and. this in turn provides Labor with fresh political and policy opportunities for the future'.

Hamilton, like McKnight, is a communitarian who believes that capitalism creates a level of wealth, freedom and choice which corrupts us. In a number of his books, he has hijacked part of the earlier (and far more interesting) analysis developed by Daniel Bell in his 1976 book The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, arguing that economic growth engenders a consumerist mentality which destroys `normal' human relationships, creates the desire for instant gratification, manipulates us in ways over which we have no control, and so on. We would be happier, and morally better, if we were poorer, and forced to live more simply and locally.

Hamilton's crusade against pornography is driven both by standard political correctness (it `objectifies women', `subverts healthy sexual relationships', `incites male violence'), and by a more generally puritanical attitude toward sex. He riles against the `pornographication' of everyday life, and chastises `the libertarian left' for continuing `to invest so much in the freedoms won in the Sixties'. He says:
`The ideas of the libertarian left have become a reactionary force, for they have substituted an uncritical defence of the freedoms won in an earlier era for a real politics of social change.

`Like young people everywhere I thought we were freeing ourselves from the shackles of oppressive convention and sexual hang-ups. We thought we were creating a new society and we knew our opponents were being defeated. The conservative establishment lost cause after cause and could no longer sustain the institution of social convention: Victorian morality, women's oppression, the unbearable constraints of social convention. But while the battle against social conservatism was being fought and won, the real enemy was getting on with business and savouring the new commercial opportunities that the radical were opening up.

`In the 1950s, middle-class respectability may have been oppressive, but it carried with it a certain deference. Women are the subject of far more sexual objectification now than they were in the 1950s, although men have become more adept at concealing it. And even the need to conceal has been discarded by the crass exploitation of "girl power". Why should a young man pretend that he doesn't lust after the young woman who has just burned him off at the traffic lights, when nubile popstars thrust their groins at the camera and declare "more power to us"?'
The research conducted by the Australia Institute and Hamilton and his colleague Dr Michael Flood concludes that internet porn is a social evil associated with increased levels of misogyny among young Australian males. There's a critical account of it on the EFA website, so I won't go into it here, except to say that it's not too hard to pick apart.

Regardless of any research claims, there is no empirical evidence that Australian men have deteriorated in their attitude towards women. In fact, the social trend seems to be in the other direction.

With regard to pornography, Hamilton casts his net quite wide. He uses the bogeyman of child porn to provoke moral outrage (despite the fact that child porn is already illegal and, since it is hidden, no-one sees it `accidentally'), and then hitches a ride on this to condemn almost all other porn. Michael Flood has even mooted the idea of an `ethical porn', which depicts people engaged in `normal loving sexual behaviour'. The availability of material which shows men ejaculating on women's faces, double penetration, male-female anal sex, bondage or simulated rape scenes is seen as just obviously socially dangerous. `Normal' sex, as defined by Hamilton and his supporters, should be. well, I don't know quite what, but certainly very politically correct and restrained. It seems that the liberal censors would like the government to find a way of censoring sexual fantasies, and imposing the `correct line' on sex.

The whole area of human sexuality is such a complex mix of primitive urges, emotional needs and our higher-level needs for connection on a mental level that at present we don't have the tools to tease it apart. That includes Hamilton. No amount of political correctness can substitute for genuine understanding.

In any case, we already have laws about real-life non-consensual, violent sex. It's outrageous that people like Hamilton would like the state to regulate material that allows people to explore the fantasies which turn them on.

Of course, there is plenty of porn that is distasteful, boring, superficial and (to me) very off-putting. But I don't have to look at it, and if our young people come across it, either accidentally or as part of their natural curiosity, I don't think we need to worry that it will create a dangerous epidemic of `unhealthy' sexual appetites.

Hamilton really ought to be taken apart for his role in attempting to impose his own morality on everyone else. His role in this discussion of widespread mandatory filtering in Australia has been far more significant than that of the Christian Right.

While he is correct when he says that market capitalism has a shallowness which leaves us with an `emptiness' and a desire for deeper, more meaningful lives, his moralistic call for people to accept lower living standards and his (very serious) attempt to have the state step in to regulate various atavistic desires are simply reactionary. The yearning `for something more' is exactly the impulse which will one day lead people to want to step up, take responsibility and run things themselves. I'm convinced that they won't decide that they want to be poorer and have less freedom.



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

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

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


Comments | Trackback

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Preference for truth versus a preference for racial discrimination

The noblest-sounding justification for racial preferences--that they lift up their beneficiaries--may soon be exposed as fraudulent. A group of law professors and economists examining the effect of law school admissions preferences on students' bar-exam passage rates is suing the State Bar of California to obtain data for their study. The proposed research could deal a death blow to the quota regime by proving that affirmative action actually damages a student's chances of becoming a lawyer. Predictably, the race industry has mobilized to crush the project.

Lead researcher Richard Sander has already earned the enmity of much of the law professoriate for his pioneering work on affirmative action in law schools. Almost all black students are admitted to law school with drastically lower college and LSAT grades than those of white and Asian students. After their first year of legal education, 51 percent of blacks are in the bottom tenth of their class; two-thirds are in the bottom fifth. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on their first try. Sander has drawn two conclusions from these data, first published in 2004: first, that blacks' low qualifications entering law school predict their lagging performance in school and on the bar exam; second, that there would be more black lawyers if schools stopped extending preferences to black students--because these students would learn more in schools that matched their capabilities.

An advance guard of preference advocates furiously tried to discredit Sander's "mismatch" hypothesis, without drawing much blood. But Sander himself admitted that the national data that he used for his 2004 study were imperfect; thus his effort to obtain the records of the California bar, which has the most extensive set of law student information in the country. It can link individual students' college GPAs, LSAT scores, law school grades, and bar scores going back to 1973. Researchers would be able to compare, with an extraordinary degree of precision, the bar-passage rates of students admitted into elite schools via affirmative action with the rates of those with similar qualifications who attended less elite schools. When Sander and his colleagues approached the bar's leaders and statisticians in 2005 about collaborating on a study, they got an enthusiastic response.

Then a platoon of law school deans paid the bar a little visit. Suddenly, the bar changed its tune. It threw up obstacle after obstacle, claiming that the study was an "anti-affirmative-action" ploy and would violate student privacy.

Both objections were ludicrous. Sander's research team included skeptics of his mismatch theory as well as affirmative-action supporters, all of whom just happened to believe that any theory should be subjected to rigorous empirical testing. Sander has invited his many other critics to get involved in the study as well. His project had the backing of leading social scientists. As for privacy, only the bar's chief researcher--who has conducted many analyses of student performance in the past without incurring any objections--would have access to students' actual records. The research would make the data anonymous so that tracing any individual's records would be impossible for anyone else.

Nevertheless, the legal establishment's assault on Sander's project continued. A group of activist law professors argued that the study would lend undue importance to the bar exam. (Law students will undoubtedly be relieved to learn of the exam's insignificance.) A UCLA law professor launched an e-mail campaign to minority lawyers in California, portraying the research as a frightening invasion of their privacy. After a hearing process that failed to give Sander's team any opportunity to respond to the critics' charges, the bar's board of governors voted in November 2007 to reject the research proposal. Sander is now suing the bar, which is a government body, under California's public-information laws.

The racial preference regime has thrived in deliberate secrecy and duplicity, but it is gradually losing its cover. Against all expectations, Sander recently convinced the University of California that it had a legal obligation to share its records on undergraduate students' incoming qualifications and subsequent performance. Though this data set is more generalized than what Sander seeks from the bar, it will likely buttress his mismatch theory and expose lingering preferences at the university, in violation of a 1996 voter initiative outlawing them. The lawsuit against the bar remains pending, but Sander expects to start releasing results from the UC study this fall. They promise to be explosive.


BOOK REVIEW of The Age of Openness: China Before Mao By Frank Dikotter. Review by Rowan Callick

Communist account misleading

We have been duped. The evidence is starting to pile up and this incisive, extended essay provides a good introduction to revisionist research that shows how. The Age of Openness is a thrillingly contrarian and accessible read. History is, of course, written by the victors, so naturally the modern story of the world's biggest country was primarily spun by Mao Zedong and his party's propaganda department, which not only retains its centrality in China's power structure but has enjoyed a renaissance this Olympic year.

In 1949, the communists militarily defeated their Nationalist rivals, who had assumed the republican mantle first worn, along with his prototype of what Westerners call the Mao suit, by the founder of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. What is extraordinary is that Mao's story was swallowed more or less whole by the rest of the world, which continues to believe that he and his party rescued the nation from sickness, corruption and collapse. Squeamish Westerners concede that the communists' medicine might have been a little robust, but mostly they affirm that it was essential treatment at the time, freeing peasants from feudal landlords, saving the country from starvation, introducing modern industrialisation and stabilising and unifying a nation torn apart by supposed warlords.

Frank Dikotter is a 47-year-old Dutchman who is professor of the modern history of China at the school of Oriental and African studies, University of London, and professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong. His new book convincingly exposes the founding myth of China's communist dynasty as a bundle of half or quarter-truths.

China's kai fang, the period of openness and reform inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping 30 years ago this month, is not so new. It is a long-overdue attempt to recapture something of the modern, cosmopolitan spirit manifest in much of the country from the 1920s to the '40s. It also raises the intriguing hypothetical question: What if the Nationalists had won the civil war? They likely would have done so had it not been for the Japanese invasion. Their leader Chiang Kai-shek was a flawed figure, inept in many areas, yet when he died Mao wept bitterly, saying that they were the last two true nationalists, the only figures who really understood the burden of trying to steer China.

It is likely that under the Nationalists-republicans the mass starvation of about 30million people during the Great Leap Forward would have been avoided, that a modern, open economy -- already present in embryo -- would have developed sooner and that China would have integrated swiftly into the international community, though probably not wholeheartedly on the Western side in the Cold War.

Dikotter argues that China's modern history has been written from the templates of revolution and of centralisation. Contrary trends in the republican era following the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911 -- globalisation and local sovereignty, or devolution -- were called "pandering to foreign exploiters" and anarchy or"warlordism".

"Because so much of the history of the 20thcentury seemed to have been about revolution, students tended to look for the 'causes', 'roots', 'stages' and 'origins' of communism, a grid through which a unitary understanding of modern China could be created," Dikotter writes.

We have a historiography, he says, "rich on 'exploitation', counterbalanced only recently by work on charity; it is abundant on 'communism', even if work on democracy has steadily been growing; there are gangsters, warlords and prostitutes in abundance, and only gradually are we gaining new insights on polyglot diplomats, returned migrants and businesswomen ... The notion of 'warlordism' has also been used to obfuscate federalist ideas" which remain essentially forbidden, isolating China as the only large non-federal nation. Hu Shi, a critic of nationalist ideology, said that disorder did not come from warlords but from attempts to unify the country by force from above.

Local administrators were becoming more successful in implementing central policies even if the central republican government was itself weak. Today's national boundaries are roughly those secured through three centuries of ambitious Qing military campaigns. Insisting on the need for a "strong state" to secure them, Dikotter writes, is like doing the same for the Austro-Hungarian empire in Europe, "conniving in the confusion between nation and empire which lies at the heart of geopolitics on the region referred to as China".

In 1912, 40 million Chinese voted at a national election, and in 1947 a fully democratic constitution was adopted. Many villages and towns held direct elections at this time. Vast numbers of associations and organisations, from chambers of commerce to beggar unions, were established that were truly independent from the government. There are none today.

The battles for power, regional and national, were intense and prolonged, almost from the time that the last emperor, Pu Yi, was forced to abdicate. But military forces remained modest in size in republican China, comprising in 1933 less than 2 per cent of males aged between 15 and 44, and with less than 1 per cent of rural households receiving income from military service. Military spending reached 4 per cent of economic output by the '30s, twice Australia's present ratio. Wars between 1917 and 1930 killed 400,000: terrible, but only about 1 per cent of the casualties of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.

More than 1000 newspapers were published. "Even with censorship, the opportunities for political expression outside of the ruling party far exceeded anything even remotely possible under emperor or Mao," Dikotter writes.

There were sustained efforts at legal reform despite many abuses, though today's courts remain arms of the party. There were 350,000 officially registered foreigners living in China in 1919, many of whom had made it their home. There are fewer than that today and only a handful of foreigners have been permitted to become citizens of the People's Republic.

The foreign settlements deployed local taxes and foreign investment to build massive urban infrastructures that set the development pace, including in education and women's roles, and helped China integrate with the broader international community.

In the decades to 1937, about 10 per cent of China's gross domestic product was traded, accelerated by the treaty ports. Technological transfers were boosted by the openness of Chinese society. Agricultural production grew twice as fast as population in central and coastal China from 1890 to 1930.

Chinese students outnumbered all other foreigners at US universities by 1930. Bilingual Chinese judges sat at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In 1948, Zhang Pengjun helped draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Dikotter writes: "Religious expression was also allowed to thrive in a climate of relative tolerance, while culture bloomed in the absence of a monopoly on power and knowledge."

Concluding this exciting, mind-spinning account of a world so different from what most people both inside and outside China have imagined, he says: "The era between empire andcommunism is routinely portrayed as a catastrophic interlude (but) the extent and depthof engagement with the rest of the world was such that we can see closure under Mao instead as the exception."

The communist party has turned back to openness to secure its legitimacy through economic growth. That shift will inspire big celebrations in China this month. But they should be accompanied by a rueful and apologetic backward glance at what was lost when the civil war was won.


Update: A comment from China Hand below

Yes indeed - the time to revise China's history, as standardized by the communist party has arrived. Chinese historians are chaffing at the bit to get it done in China itself and insiders seem to be dribbling out stuff to Chinese free to write in the West in order to try and spur on the process. E.g. Recent books on Zhou Enlai and the Long March appear to have had inside sources.

Interesting the figures on war losses at 400,000 - The CCP version shares it was 20m combining the two civil wars and the 'war of resistance against Japan', just as it was in the Taiping uprising in 1851.

Seems like a book I need to read. Many of the points I have belabored to my students - e.g. pointing out that while they point to racism in the US, there is no known foreigner alive who has gained Chinese citizenship (some of them were given it posthumously). This of course China shares with many Asian countries e.g. Japan.

Of course the straw man here is the apologist - decades of excellent scholarly research debunking communism and its myths are pushed aside and the apologists -who had little credibility throughout the Cold War - are made to look like the mainstream so that Dikotter can look like the contrarian he never was being a major, well paid cold war warrior.

Are EU deaf or what?

Four times, European voters have said `No' to European Union documents: in Ireland on 7 June 2001 (Nice Treaty); in France and Holland on 29 May and 1 June 2005 (European Constitution); and most recently in Ireland on 12 June 2008 (Lisbon Treaty). And all four times, European leaders responded by effectively saying: `No doesn't really mean no.'

For most people, a vote is a question asked, and an answer received. Yet European and national politicians treated the `No' votes not as answers, but as obstacles to be negotiated around. They deployed a variety of creative phrasing and reasoning to indicate why these votes did not really count, and how they could be avoided.

This week, on 11-12 December, EU leaders will meet to find what they call a `solution' to the `Irish problem' - that is, Irish voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in a democratic vote in June. It looks likely that the Irish will be asked to vote again. To mark the occasion, the Manifesto Club has published the EU Phrasebook: 27 Ways to Say No Doesn't Really Mean No - exposing all the different ways in which EU leaders have sought to avoid or neutralise `No' votes - which we will launch at a meeting in Brussels tonight.

After each `No' vote, political leaders said that people had not really rejected the treaty in question. `No in France and Holland does not mean no to the European Constitution', said the European Green Party after France and Holland. well, voted `No' to the European Constitution. `I want to make it absolutely clear that, in my view, the "No" vote should not be interpreted as a vote against enlargement', said Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern after the Irish people rejected the Nice Treaty (which enabled enlargement) in a democratic referendum in 2001.

In every case, the rejection of the treaty only hardened leaders' conviction that the treaty was necessary, and that they had been right to propose it and push it through. The problem was not the failure of their treaty, but of the electorate, which was apparently not sophisticated and grown-up enough to appreciate this elevated piece of political craftsmanship.

People had simply not understood what was at stake. The treaty in question had been too weighty and complicated for an electorate more accustomed to voting in the finals of The X Factor. `Many Europeans don't understand how we are building Europe', said French president Nicolas Sarkozy after the Irish `No' to the Lisbon treaty this year. A `triumph of ignorance' was Lord Neil Kinnock's response to the French and Dutch votes against the European Constitution in 2005.

Over the course of the four `No' votes in recent years, European leaders became more assured about brushing the votes aside like an irritating fly. They became more visibly irritated with what they described as a `block' to the `policymaking process', or an `obstacle to the timetable'. The unflattering terms used to describe the electorate became less and less guarded - which culminated, after the Irish vote this year, in two separate Brussels officials describing the Irish people as outright `bastards'.

Over time, European leaders became more resolved not to expose treaties like this to the unpredictable and sullying world of public debate. `I believe that [referendums] are especially inappropriate when trying to deal with the intricacies of creating a treaty. Although a referendum might be appropriate for Pop Idol it is unsuitable for explaining a treaty', said Chris Bryant MP in November 2003. After the Irish vote, Belgian MEP Jean-Luc Dehaene said: `Once again it has been shown that the formula of a referendum is not the right way to approve European treaties.'

At times, EU leaders have issued gloves-off threats to ensure they get their desired `Yes' vote, as with German MEP Elmar Brok's dark mention of `consequences for Ireland' if there were another `No'. The transcript of the meeting between the presidents of the European Parliament and Czech president V clav Klaus shows the EU officials behaving like a band of heavies, `paying him a visit' to warn him off associating with the Irish `No' campaign. They fell short of threatening his family, but in all other respects it was pure Mafia tactics.

At other times, EU leaders have adopted the tone of an understanding primary school teacher, trying to be tolerant of her pupils' mistakes. Vice-president of the EU Commission, Margot Wallstr”m, favours this approach. She has said she is determined to `analyse' the vote and discover voters' concerns, to find out where they had gone so wrong. And then they would have a second try: Are you sure you want to say no? Why don't you try again?

Whether in Mafioso or primary school mode, what is universally lacking is any respect for the electorate - any sense that votes mean something and should count. Any sense that, at base, leaders are answerable to the electorate, and not the other way around.

We published the phrasebook as an attempt to expose this insidious political logic. Looked at in black-and-white print, what is clear is political leaders' complete incomprehension of the basic principles of democracy; the fact that an elitist self-justification has become absolute second nature to the operations of European politics, and they cannot see events other than in the terms of this elitism. Perhaps the phrasebook will just pre-empt the phrases they will use in their meeting this week. Or perhaps it will embarrass some EU officials into the inkling that these `No' votes were really answers, and not just obstacles.


Class hatred at Britain's Stansted Airport

Posh Plane Stupid insists that it is not picking on poor people. So why is it so madly obsessed with cheap flights?

The contrast between the protesters at Stansted Airport and the people who were delayed by their protest could not have been more stark. On one side there were the well-to-do moaners of Plane Stupid, a campaign group that counts the grandson of a peer, the granddaughter of a baronet, and numerous privately educated young people amongst its most visible cadre. On the other side, the `cheap flyers' hoping to fly abroad from an airport that specialises in no-frills flights, and which has been labelled by snooty observers as Britain's `chief chav airport' because its main airlines include Ryanair and easyJet (1). On one side, eco-elitists; on the other, everyday holidaymakers.

The protest - which forced Stansted to close for five hours and delayed more than 50 flights - provided a striking snapshot of the snobbish, masses-attacking streak in environmentalism. Plane Stupid and other anti-flying groups insist that they're not only concerned with `poor people' who take `cheap flights'; in response to an article I wrote in 2007, Joss Garman, the founder of Plane Stupid, said `cheap flights haven't made it easier for poorer people to travel for the first time; they've just made it easier for the wealthy to travel more often'. So, he said, laying into cheap flights is actually a way of laying into `the privileged' (2). Yet no amount of fact-twisting can disguise the fact that, again and again, the eco-worthies of the anti-flying lobby are drawn towards attacking and delaying those flights taken by the lowest-income communities; by `cheap people'. Why?

It is no accident that the Plane Stupid protesters chose Stansted for their biggest demo yet. They said their aim was to `draw attention to CO2 emissions from the aviation industry'. Yet Stansted, being the smallest of London's major airports, does not emit nearly as much CO2 as a Heathrow or a Gatwick. In Heathrow there are 481,476 aircraft movements a year, and 68million passengers. Gatwick has 266,550 aircraft movements a year, and 35million passengers. Stansted comes a low third, with 208,462 aircraft movements a year and 24million passengers (the New Labour government has now given the go-ahead for the expansion of passenger numbers at Stansted). Even Manchester Airport, far away from the Big Three airports in London, has more annual aircraft movements than Stansted: 222,703 (3).

The Plane Stupid protesters targeted Stansted not because it is particularly polluting, but because it is the home of that apparently most reckless and pointless and destructive form of flying: the no-frills variety. Stansted is, as one website puts it, the `hub for Europe's low-cost carriers' (4). Ryanair, the bete noire of anti-flying groups, flies to 109 destinations from Stansted; easyJet flies to 23. It is not surprising that Ryanair, which is described by Plane Stupid as `Lying-Air', its Irish bosses mocked by the well-to-do, well-educated anti-flying activists for not attending university and being `clearly very stupid' (5), suffered most as a result of yesterday's protest: it had to cancel 52 flights. And because it is the least frilliest airline of all, its stranded passengers were not offered hotel or meal vouchers; they squeezed themselves into uncomfortable chairs and tried to get some shut-eye as their better-educated peers on the runway kept Stansted in shutdown.

Indeed, Stansted is a gleaming symbol of the opening up of flight to lower-income communities. Stansted has been used as a commercial airport since 1966, but its business has grown exponentially over the past 10 years as a direct result of the rise and rise of low-cost airlines. As one government report says, `Stansted has grown very rapidly in recent years, particularly in the leisure market'. In 1998, Stansted was handling seven million passengers a year; in 2003, that rose to 19million passengers; today it handles 24million passengers. This `rapid expansion of passenger numbers' has come `on the back of the boom in low cost air travel' (6). If the growth of Heathrow and Gatwick in the 1960s and 70s spoke to the expansion of air travel for the middle classes, then the growth of Stansted since the 1990s is a result of the expansion of air travel even to the lower middle classes, working-class families, young single people, and others. This is the main reason why Stansted, more than any other British airport, riles the anti-flying lobby: because it symbolises the expansion of flight to nearly all members of British society.

Largely in response to spiked's critique of their eco-misanthropy, and of their seemingly unshakeable focus on `cheap flights', the anti-flying lobby argues that targeting Stansted and Ryanair is not about targeting `poorer people'. `The average income of people using Stansted Airport is 47,000 pounds per year - and it's supposed to be a budget airport!' scoffs Plane Stupid. In an article attacking me for being a Gap jacket-wearing Marxist (the Gap? Oh please.), Joss Garman added a few extra thousand quid to this estimate, arguing that `the Civil Aviation Authority's own data shows that the average person flying in or out of Stansted, a budget airport, earns in excess of 50k' (7).

These bandied-about figures are highly disingenuous. The CAA did not find that the `average person' who uses Stansted earns 50,000 a year - it found that the average household income of people who use Stansted as leisure passengers is 47,000 a year. This includes the earnings of everyone living in a single household before it is taxed and squeezed by various other outgoings. This hardly makes them wealthy, and certainly not part of `the privileged'. They could not, for example, afford to send their children to schools such as Westminster (26,000 a year), as attended by leading Plane Stupid activist Tamsin Omond, or Godolphin and Latymer (15,000 a year), as attended by Plane Stupid's spokesperson on yesterday's demo, Lily Kember. [Two posh protesters in the pic below. Kember on the right]

In their rush to mock the supposedly `privileged' people who take cheap flights from Stansted, Plane Stupid neglects to point out that, according to the CAA's figures, the average household income of 47,000 at Stansted is the lowest for London's major airports. At London City airport, the average household income of leisure passengers is 78,000 a year; at Heathrow it is 58,000; at Gatwick it is 54,000; and at Luton it is 48,000 (9). So, no, those who take cheap flights from Stansted are not `poor' (what the aloof, ivory-tower activists of Plane Stupid fail to realise is that most working-class families, while far less well-off than the public-school crowd, are not `poor' in absolute terms; they frequently earn fairly decent wages, would never define themselves as `poverty-stricken', and like to spend their disposable income on enjoyable things); however, in terms of average household income, Stansted is the `poorest' of London's major airports. However much Plane Stupid tries to comfort itself with the delusion that it is attacking `the privileged', in truth it continually targets the least wealthy of Britain's flyers.

Again and again, almost despite themselves, despite their defensiveness about coming across as wealthy snobs - the real privileged - attacking those chavs and slags who fly abroad on the cheap, Plane Stupid and its supporters return to the `scandal' of cheap flights. They cannot help themselves. It really is cheap flights that they find most foul and offensive. Before yesterday's closure of Britain's `chief chav airport', Plane Stupid forced the HQ of easyJet in London to shut down, on the basis that `binge-flying' - a phrase that sounds deliciously like `binge-drinking', that other famous pastime of `cheap people' - is `choking the planet to death' (10).

Plane Stupid has also spent thousands of pounds taking out a newspaper ad attacking Ryanair; it was a spoof advert with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary saying: `Let's beat the climate to death. Book Ryanair today to ensure a real climate disaster.' (11) The dripping snobbery of Plane Stupid's campaign comes through in its attacks on the kind of uncultured oiks who take Ryanair and easyJet flights from Stansted: `There's been an enormous growth in binge-flying with the proliferation of stag and hen nights to Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly there for 99p and get loaded for a tenner.' (12)

When you consider that aviation contributes only five per cent to Britain's total carbon emissions, and that a tiny proportion of that five per cent is caused by Ryanair, easyJet or Stansted itself, it becomes clear that there is something seriously skewed about Plane Stupid's focus on cheap flights. This is not about reining in CO2 per se; it's about reining in the slovenly, destructive behaviour of the lower orders. The shutting down of Stansted and the relentless attacks on Ryanair and easyJet are driven by the most pernicious snobbery, by a view of `cheap flyers' as ultimately destructive, noxious, wanton and foul. These posh activisits, descended from baronets, lords, inventors and aristocrats (13), are keeping up a long tradition in which `mass tourism' has attracted the `class-contempt of killjoys who conceived themselves superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and spirit' (14). What we saw at Stansted yesterday was not remotely radical or edgy - it was unabashed, undiluted, unattractive class hatred.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The BBC hates Christmas -- as usual

As a much-loved fairytale, a sumptuous new version of Hansel and Gretel might seem like perfect family viewing for Christmas Day. But a new staging of the Brothers Grimm classic, featuring children's corpses hanging in an abattoir-like larder, has proved so terrifying that the Royal Opera House recommends it is not suitable for children under the age of eight. Which has left critics questioning why the BBC has chosen to screen the production at 3pm on Christmas Day - a prime-time family viewing slot.

Media watchdogs and the children's charity Kidscape have called on BBC2 to pull the controversial opera from its Christmas schedule over fears it could traumatise children. The two-hour fairytale features lust-crazed parents, a knife-wielding wicked witch who hangs children in her larder before baking them in a giant oven and a final scene of cannibalism in which children feast on her flesh. It has been marketed by the Royal Opera House as 'perfect family fare for everyone at holiday time'.

But opera critics have called it 'profoundly unpleasant' and said children in the audience on opening night were 'genuinely terrified'. Officials have now conceded the staging is unsuitable for younger children. But a BBC2 spokeswoman insisted it would still be screened on Christmas Day, but said there would be a parental warning about the opera's content.

Michele Elliott, founder of the children's charity Kidscape, said: 'Children could be really scared or even traumatised by watching this. Parents should write to the BBC to ask them not to show it.' John Beyer, of Mediawatch UK, said: 'What on earth are they thinking of? It beggars belief that they could contemplate showing that sort of barbarity on Christmas Day of all days.'

Like many Brothers Grimm fairytales, the story of Hansel and Gretel has an undeniably dark tone. Two children born to a poor woodcutter are abandoned in a forest and are captured by a witch who intends eat Hansel. She locks Hansel in a cage and forces Gretel to become her servant, but the children eventually outwit her and trap her in her own oven before escaping back to their father.

A Royal Opera House spokeman said: 'We haven't banned young children from coming to see it, but we felt eight might be an appropriate age to suggest. Children today grow up watching Doctor Who, they have seen far worse. I don't think there would be many kids having nightmares.' A BBC spokeswoman said the screening of the opera will be presented by newsreader Katie Derham, who will also give a warning about the production's content. She said: 'There are scary elements in the story which are reflected in the Royal Opera House's production, but these are given a comic and pantomime-like treatment.'


The importance of family

From almost the first moment of recorded history, one set of relationships has been at the heart of the human experience and the basis of civilisation itself: a mother and father who depend on each other; the children who rely on them both; a supportive network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Without the loyalties and obligations of the committed family, our ancestors would certainly have struggled to survive in a dangerous and frightening world. How else but with the help of kin could they have coped with the critical moments in life: birth, sickness, old age, the need to educate and train their young? Without such help from the very beginning, it may be asked whether humankind would ever have developed the capacity to build an advanced civilisation.

This week a report from Unicef, the UN's child welfare agency, warned that working mothers take a massive risk when they put their offspring into low quality childcare. Experts at the world body said such toddlers could suffer psychological harm and fare poorly later at school. Aggressive behaviour learned by children at some nurseries might contribute later to classroom disruption.

The study for is the first major international report to warn of the dangers of the drive, pushed again by the Government this week, to get mothers back to work early. But the family has a significance that goes way beyond the practicalities of day-to-day existence. From the very beginning, it has also given a special meaning to our human notions of past, present and future. Human beings could have regarded themselves as isolated individuals whose meaningless lives were snuffed out and forgotten after a brief span. Instead - a hugely important factor in driving social development - we have always tended to see ourselves as part of a great chain of existence, binding us to our forebears and to generations yet unborn. 'To forget your ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root,' says the old Chinese proverb. That undoubtedly reflects one of our deepest human instincts.

In Britain, G. K. Chesterton summed it up strikingly more than 100 years ago when he described the family as 'this frail cord, flung from the forgotten hills of yesterday to the invisible mountains of tomorrow'. To modern ears, those words may sound somewhat romantic, or even a trifle overblown. But back in 1900, his view would have been shared by the overwhelming majority of MPs, lawyers, academics and the wider public. Until very recently, in fact, the importance of the family was taken for granted, not only as the basis of society, but as the foundation of our human identity.

Today? In western societies - and especially in the English-speaking world - we think we know better. Forget the wisdom of the ages. Forget our deep-rooted instincts. Forget precepts that have governed every society in every era of history. The importance of the 'traditional' family is being challenged as never before. The idea has taken root that human families can be constructed in any way people want. The message is that biology counts for nothing. Biological mothers don't matter to their children. Biological fathers don't matter either. All that matters is what adults want - and children must adapt to it, whether they like it or not.

The sheer speed of what is happening is quite astonishing. In less than 50 years, the old values have been stood on their head. Today, legislators don't hesitate to plunge into 'reforms' that tear up the rights, duties and obligations that have underpinned the family for millennia. They rush into new ' postmodernist' concepts of family, partnering and parenthood. Indeed, they are even attempting to banish the word 'marriage' from the statute books.

Everywhere in the West, the liberal consensus is on the march. In Britain, for example, a Labour Government has discouraged the use of the 'm' word in official documents, while in the U.S., the American Law Institute recommends that marriage should be ' deprivileged' and not be given a status above any other relationship.

Yet on any rational analysis, this reckless embrace of a brave new world is simply perverse, since there is no doubt whatever that the traditional family, underpinned by marriage, is the best way of bringing up secure, happy children and maintaining social stability. You don't have to be a religious believer or a Victorian moralist to take this view. The evidence speaks for itself (despite the strenuous efforts of the liberal establishment to ignore it). Fact: one in two unmarried couples splits up before their first child is five years old. The figure for married couples is just one in 12.

Fact: children from broken homes are 75 per cent more likely than their classmates to fail at school, 70 per cent more likely to be involved with drugs and 50 per cent more likely to have alcohol problems. They are also more likely to run away from home, find themselves in the care system and end up in jail.

At the very least, those bleak statistics should give us pause. The truth is that some of the most intractable problems facing Britain today - from our tragically high rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases to petty crime, gang membership and welfare dependency - have their roots in family breakdown.

That's not to say that all families are perfect. Sometimes, sadly, it can be for the best that a child is removed from its parents. Sometimes, it is for the best when couples separate. And it is certainly true that many, many children are brought up wonderfully in lone-parent households. All credit to the mothers - and sometimes fathers - who manage to do so. But that doesn't invalidate the general principle. By ignoring the real benefits that marriage brings to children and wider society, our legislators are making a profound error of judgment - perhaps the most serious mistake of the past half-century.

So how have we come to this? As I outline in my new book, there are a whole range of complex reasons - not least the hatred of the family that some shallow-thinking but influential intellectuals feel. They continue to promote the message that traditional family structures have no place in a world of gender equality.

Our elected representatives have played their part, too, by demoting marriage as an institution, weakening its contractual aspects and promoting the dogma that 'family' is just a legal and social convention. Take the shabby way successive governments have treated marriage in this country, even though they know perfectly well that it is one of the great foundations of society.

It was a Tory Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, who dismissed the married couples' tax allowance as 'an anomaly'. And it was former Home Secretary Jack Straw who proclaimed: 'This Government will not preach about marriage.'

The result? In Britain today it just doesn't pay to get married. Our tax and benefits system is so arranged that if lower-income couples who are living together get married, they will significantly increase their tax payments and lower their benefits. Perhaps it's no wonder that this country has a higher percentage of lone-parent families than any other country in Europe, apart from Sweden. The system is designed to create family instability. And the costs, both social and financial, are huge.

How to explain this bizarre discouragement of an institution so important to the happiness, stability and financial health of the country? Politicians are terrified of being thought 'judgmental' about the way citizens live. And they obviously take the defeatist view that nothing can be done to improve matters anyway. Isn't it curious, then, that those same politicians feel no compunction at all about bossing us around to tell us to stop smoking, cut down our drinking and eat five portions of fruit and veg a day?

The same aversion to moralising applies increasingly to the laws on marriage and divorce. Not only are we witnessing ever easier divorce - whatever the children may need or want - and same-sex marriages, but there is also growing pressure to remove the words 'father' and 'mother' from birth certificates and replace them by 'Progenitor A' and 'Progenitor B' (as is already happening in Spain).

Whatever the motivation behind such trends, the ' traditional' family structure is being badly eroded. All this reminds me of the grim ideas floated in ancient Athens 2,500 years ago. In the vision sketched out in Plato's Republic - a philosophical treatise on the most fundamental principles of the conduct of human society - mating would be random. Children would be raised by the state. Neither mothers nor fathers could claim their biological offspring as their own. Nor could they raise their children. In Plato's bleak prescription, men and women would join together briefly, then separate. Fathers had children by many mothers. Mothers bore children by different men. A disturbing scenario indeed.

But isn't Plato's view now triumphant? In a few brief decades, the western world has so altered the traditional concept of the family that it's possible to recognise the basic elements of the Platonic blueprint. Ideas which once seemed just a speculative nightmare now appear to be an emerging reality.

And yet the family in its traditional form is crucial to us all - not simply because it underpins social stability or because it connects us to the past and the future, but because it's also a bulwark of freedom itself. Why? Because the invisible bonds it creates between its members generate loyalties and affections capable of resisting any tyranny. That's what, in the end, makes the family not just a conserving institution, but also the engine of liberty and progress.

Yes, the family can sometimes fail. When it does, the consequences can be appalling. But at its best, it provides an anchor for individuals who would otherwise have no inspiration or support in an uncertain world.

For these reasons we should think long and hard about where we are being taken by some of the fashionable dogmas of our day: the belief that divorce or separation doesn't hurt; that what adults do can't seriously harm their children; that cohabiting is at least as good as marrying; that genetic relationships don't matter; and that 'family' can mean whatever we want it to mean. All of these dogmas are false. All are deeply damaging. Every day we can see the consequences in broken families and broken lives. In allowing matters to come to this, the liberal establishment has made arguably the most profound mistake of the past half-century. Dare we allow it to continue?


Pope Against Population Control: "Population Is Proving To Be An Asset, Not A Factor That Contributes To Poverty"

The Holy Father is a resolute source of "incorrectness" in the modern world. He decries "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty"

In his message for World Day of Peace, released yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI stated the long unrecognized truth that increased population has proved an asset rather than a detriment in terms of development. "Poverty is often considered a consequence of demographic change," he said.

"For this reason, there are international campaigns afoot to reduce birth-rates, sometimes using methods that respect neither the dignity of the woman, nor the right of parents to choose responsibly how many children to have; graver still, these methods often fail to respect even the right to life," he continued. "The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings."

For decades the pro-life movement internationally has pointed out that birth control and "reproductive health" are often pushed in the name of economic prosperity, but that instead they actually repress societies by reducing their population, therefore compromising the ability to utilize resources and achieve self-sufficiency.

The fact that world powers knowingly use population-control ideology in foreign policy to suppress potential competitors rather than help them is remarkably substantiated by an executive-level government document entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), published in 1974 and declassified in 1989. The Memorandum, written by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, admitted that competition would rise when developing nations had sufficient populations to fully utilize resources. To address the problem, the report spelled out a plan to bring about "a two-child family on the average" throughout the world "by about the year 2000."

In accord with such U.S. foreign policy, the world's foremost financial institutions have also faithfully pursued population control in poor countries, and thinly veil their demographic assault - fueled principally by abortion - with well-known euphemisms. In a 1992 operations evaluation, the World Bank wrote a report indicating that economic growth could be used to seduce a society into accepting demographic suppression: "If the Bank wants to work in countries that do not accept population control as the rationale, it must base its population program on a broader and more flexible set of principles. This could start from a recognition that the overall objective is promotion of sustainable development in living standards ."

In his recent remarks, Benedict noted that such a rationale does not withstand the burden of evidence: "In 1981, around 40% of the world's population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as a half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth," he said. "This goes to show that resources to solve the problem of poverty do exist, even in the face of an increasing population.

"Nor must it be forgotten that, since the end of the Second World War, the world's population has grown by four billion, largely because of certain countries that have recently emerged on the international scene as new economic powers, and have experienced rapid development specifically because of the large number of their inhabitants. Moreover, among the most developed nations, those with higher birth-rates enjoy better opportunities for development. "In other words, population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty," the Pope affirmed.

Benedict's reasoning is similar to that of his predecessor John Paul II, who in Evangelium Vitae addressed foreign policies that make use of the population control ideology. He strongly condemned the impetus to suppress weaker countries through such tactics, and compared such governments to the Egyptian Pharaoh who attempted to keep the Hebrews in slavery by ordering every male newborn killed, saying "not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way."

"They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person's inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive programme of birth control," he wrote.


Democrat corruption

There are so many things to love about the Rod Blagojevich scandal it's hard to know where to begin. Wait. That's not right. There are so many bleeping things to love about this bleeping-bleep Blagojevich scandal it's hard to know where to begin.

For starters, the folks at the Chicago Tribune are Christmas Pony Happy because Blago tried to strong-arm Trib ownership to fire members of the editorial board. Instead, Trib editors will get to have a big tailgate party outside Blago's cell window. Newspaper people love that sort of thing.

For the more historically minded, it's a time for nostalgia. The past comes alive as Chicago's grand tradition of corruption is sustained for another generation. As the Chicago Tribune once wrote, "corruption has been as much a part of the landscape as corn, soybeans and skyscrapers." According to the Chicago Sun-Times, as of 2006, when Blago's predecessor, George Ryan, was sent to prison for racketeering, 79 elected officials had been convicted of corruption in the past 30 years. Among the perps: 27 aldermen, 19 judges, 15 state legislators, three governors, two congressmen, one mayor, two turtledoves and a partridge in a stolen pear tree. Especially in this holiday season, it's so very important to keep traditions alive for the kids. In a sense, Blago did it for the children.

For partisans, there's the schadenfreude that comes with watching the Democrats -- self-proclaimed anti-corruption zealots in recent years -- explain why Blagojevich shouldn't be lumped in with Congressmen Charlie Rangel (cut himself sweetheart deals), William Jefferson ($90,000 in his freezer) and Tim Mahoney (tried to bribe an aide he was sleeping with not to sue him; and you thought romance was dead) as part of a new Democratic "culture of corruption" storyline.

There's the enormous I-should-have-had-a-V8! moment as the mainstream press collectively thwacks itself in the forehead, realizing it blew it again. The New York Times -- which, according to Wall Street analysts, is weeks from holding editorial board meetings in a refrigerator box -- created the journalistic equivalent of CSI-Wasilla to study every follicle and fiber in Sarah Palin's background, all the while treating Obama's Chicago like one of those fairy-tale lands depicted in posters that adorn little girls' bedroom walls. See there, Suzie? That's a Pegasus. That's a pink unicorn. And that's a beautiful sunflower giving birth to a fully grown Barack Obama, the greatest president ever and the only man in history to be able to pick up manure from the clean end.

Obviously the list doesn't end there. Blago's hair not only appears bulletproof but seems to confirm reports that he is the human model for Playmobil action figures. And you can't leave out the supporting cast. Mrs. Blago curses like the inmate working the cafeteria at a women's prison who replies with an f-bomb to anyone objecting to a leaden ladle-thwack of unidentifiable green mush on their lunch tray.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., himself the son of a shakedown artist, is alleged to have offered (through a minion) a half-million bucks for Barack Obama's vacant senate seat. Jackson replaced former Rep. Mel Reynolds, who went to jail for getting jiggy with a 16-year-old campaign staffer and stayed in jail because of various fraud convictions. Reynolds, in turn, was the "reformer" who had replaced Rep. Gus Savage, the thug-congressman who groped a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire while on a "fact-finding" trip. Savage held off Reynolds' attempts to replace him for several years by claiming Reynolds was financed by "racist Jews."

Man, what isn't there to love about Chicago politics? It would be premature, not to mention un-festive, to discard any of these delicious immoral morsels from this cornucopia of corrupt crapulence. Fortunately, there's no need to single out just one fragrance from this miasma of malfeasance or one dish from this smorgasbord of smut.

But, there is a nice moral to the story here. For the last several years, we've heard a lot about "new politics." We are going to start fresh and put aside the old politics and the old ways. So far, it looks like Obama did nothing wrong, and I hope that remains the case. But it's worth remembering that there really isn't any such thing as a "new politics." Politics is eternal because human nature is unchanging. Even Barack Obama, hero-saint light-worker Jedi Knight Messiah that he is, came from a political culture that would not be unrecognizable to Caligula.

Hopefully, Obama will take away from this the humility that comes with realizing we are all -- even The One -- built from the crooked timber of humanity. Hence the genius of the Founders who built a government that took our imperfection into account. As James Madison said, If men were bleeping angels ...



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Saturday, December 13, 2008

British school choir forced to pull out of Christmas concert as carols were 'too religious'

A school choir was forced to withdraw from a Christmas event because organisers branded its carols 'too religious'. Around 60 children aged between seven and 11 had spent six weeks practising favourites including Once In Royal David's City and Silent Night for the Corringham Winter Festival. But they were let down at the last minute when their headteacher was informed their programme did not 'dovetail' with the festival's theme. The event ended up going ahead last week with non-religious music and displays from an Irish school of dancing and performing arts students.

The snub was widely criticised by furious parents and religious leaders who accused the organisers of pandering to the politically correct brigade. Nicola Hales, 36, whose nine-year-old daughter Rhiannon goes to Arthur Bugler County Junior School in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, said: 'They must have been practising for about six weeks. 'All the programmes had gone out with the school's name on it but we got a newsletter home saying sorry for the confusion. I heard it was because the songs were too religious. 'It's ridiculous that you can't sing religious songs. It's Christmas - when can you sing them?'

Another parent, who delined to be named, said: 'The school was advised by the organisers that the carols they had chosen were not suitable because they were deemed to have a religious theme. The kids were really disappointed. 'I can't see how the Christmas carols they were going to sing would have been offensive to anyone.'

The Prayer Book Society, said 'winter festivals' were threatening traditional Christmas celebrations. Chairman Prudence Dailey added: 'These politically correct winter festivals seek to make Christmas part of a 'multi-faith' mix and hark back to pagan winter solstice observance. 'They see Christmas as merely a local seasonal event and miss its central religious significance at the heart of national identity. 'Perhaps organisers would benefit from reading the Book of Common Prayer and discovering what winter festivities are in fact about.'

Father David Rollins, of St John the Evangelist Church in Corringham, added: 'It's rather disappointing. Christmas is a major Christian event.' The school's headteacher, Sue Morris, said pupils had taken part in 'a great deal of rehearsal' before they were informed the songs 'would not have dovetailed into the event's theme'. 'There was no time to reorganise the choir's planned programme and we thought it best we did not take part,' she added.

The non-religious event was planned by Corringham Town Festival Partnership, even though the area is in Thurrock, where 75 per cent of the population described themselves as Christian in the 2001 census. The next biggest religious group was Muslims, who make up one per cent of the population, followed by Sikhs, who account for barely half of one per cent of residents. A spokesman for Thurrock Islamic Education and Cultural Association said: 'I don't think any Muslims would be offended by carols.'

There has been growing concern in recent years at the burgeoning politically correct attitude to Christmas because of concerns that people of other faiths will be offended or feel excluded. Councils have started celebrating winter festivals or wintervals, businesses are banning staff from putting up Christmas decorations and there is a thriving industry for cards with non-religious themes.

Last year the Bishop of St David's in Pembrokeshire, the Rt Rev Carl Cooper, warned political correctness was destroying the meaning of Christmas. 'Teachers and other public servants have become paralysed with fear and political correctness. They need to regain confidence in our culture and traditions,' he said.

The chairman of the Corringham Town Festival Partnership yesterday made the bizarre claim carols had been dumped because the winter festival was meant to be 'upbeat'. 'It was nothing to do with being politically correct or anti-Christian, it was a Christian celebration,' he said.


Children suffer as mothers forced to return to work

Young children in Britain could be suffering because their mothers are forced to return to work too soon, according to Unicef

The United Nations Children's Fund also says that today's babies and toddlers are the first generation in history to spend much of their early childhoods in formal child care rather than being looked after at home. A Unicef report claims the majority of British babies spend most of the day in nurseries or with childminders, despite a growing body of research showing that under-threes benefit emotionally and behaviourally if they are looked after at home.

The study, by Unicef's Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, raises concerns about the development of children who go into formal care outside their homes so early. Part of this change is down to greater equality and opportunities for women, Unicef says. But the study also says the fact that two-thirds of women in developed countries now work is a "cause for concern", as it reflects the fact that most families need two incomes to make ends meet.

In addition, it quotes scientific research that has found a lack of contact with parents can lead to children becoming depressed and withdrawn, perform less well at school and develop behavioural problems. "The younger the child and the longer the hours spend in child care, the greater the risk," it warns. The study says that in the UK, a "majority" of babies less than 12 months old spend most of the working day in child care. It recommends that babies should be looked after by their parents for the first year of their lives, and that Governments should ensure 12 months of paid parental leave is available at 50 per cent of salary.

But the report says that maternity leave provision in the UK is "inadequate" and less generous than in many other countries including Slovenia and Iceland. Currently new mothers in Britain get 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, receiving 90 per cent of their average pay for the first six weeks and a fixed sum of œ117.18 a week for the other 33. Fathers are only entitled to two weeks' paternity leave at a maximum of 117.18 pounds a week. Government plans to give millions of parents greater rights to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate childcare arrangements last week triggered a backlash from business groups. Some companies fear that more red tape will make it harder for them to survive the recession. Overall, England is only meeting half of a set of 10 UN "benchmarks" for the care and education of young children, and is lagging behind many other developed countries.

In addition to failing to provide a full year of parental leave at 50 per cent of salary, England does not spend 1 per cent of GDP on early childhood services; has high child poverty levels; does not have near-universal health services for children; and allows more than 15 pre-school children to be looked after by one member of staff.

David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK, said: "The report is clear that expenditure in England on pre-school education has quadrupled in the last 10 years. "However, despite the Government's undoubted commitment, the UK still has three million children living in poverty and higher rates of infant death and low birth weight than many comparable countries. "High quality child care is not yet available to all, and parental leave provisions remain inadequate. "This Government has taken great strides in advancing child wellbeing since our 2007 report, but much more still needs to be done. "These changes will require investment, but there is none better than investing in the prospects of our youngest children."

Unicef rates parental leave in the UK as less generous than in 14 other countries, with the list headed by Norway where the mother and father can divide 44 weeks' leave at full pay between them.


Forcing Britain to sober up

The proposed ban on pub `happy hours' is a metaphor for the government's miserabilist disgust with fun.

The economic downturn, and the UK government's tax-juggling efforts to resolve the crisis, has led some to proclaim that `macro' politics and economic management are back. Surely the financial turmoil means that the government will be too preoccupied to meddle in our day-to-day lives via hectoring advice and heinous bans? Surely politicians will now be forced to concentrate on bigger issues than what parents put in their kids' lunch boxes or how many units of alcohol Brits drink on a Saturday night? Dream on. It's business as usual for New Labour.

This week, the government will announce a new set of bans and regulations that will do nothing to stimulate the free market but will help to stifle a free society. Once again, the government's determination to demonise alcohol and drinkers is at the top of the agenda. As the `season to be jolly' approaches, the government's response is to crank up the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge even higher this year. Even though cash is tight for many people, politicians have decided to add to our fiscal woes by banning `happy hours' in pubs - those rather misnamed sessions where punters can drown their sorrows at a discount, usually for a couple of hours or more. From this week, pub landlords and club owners will no longer be allowed to sell alcohol at reduced prices at any time. So pubs and clubs can no longer attract punters with promotional offers, such as two-for-one or half-price drinks.

This policy comes after the UK chancellor of the exchequer, Alastair Darling, recently announced tax and spending changes to provide a boost to the ailing economy. While UK sales tax - value added tax (VAT) - would be cut from 17.5 to 15 per cent for a period of 13 months starting on 1 December, Darling said he would raise duty on alcohol further, in order to keep it at the same price despite the drop in VAT. This blow for the pub industry follows the nine per cent increase in beer duty announced in the last Budget in March with a promise of rises at two per cent above inflation for the next four years. The proposed ban on `happy hours' is yet another device to keep the price of alcohol artificially high with the hope of curbing `anti-social behaviour'.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the licensing minister, told the Commons Culture Select Committee last week: `If it [happy hour] is a promotion causing people to get drunk and causing problems then it is right that we should act.' (1) If Sutcliffe is worried about disorderly conduct, such as punch-ups at pub closing time, then there already exist enough laws to deal with such aggravations. It seems the government's real concern is that people choose to go to pubs with the full intention of getting drunk. For the government, unhealthily preoccupied with its citizens' personal conduct, such outrageous behaviour simply won't do.

Under the proposed codes, brewers will be forced to print warnings on drink labels and pubs will have to display the number of units of alcohol in each type of drink served, just in case pub patrons are too dim to realise that whisky is pretty strong compared with beer. The new rules would be enforced by local government trading standards officers and the police, who will have the power to place conditions on the issue of licences and to remove licences where premises breach the code.

On top of all this reprehensible pettiness, the government is considering forcing brewers to reduce alcohol content in drink, while suggesting that tax on alcohol should be linked to the strength of alcohol content. Furthermore, the government is seeking to reduce the drink-drive limit to zero for drivers who are under 21 years of age - if a blood or breath test shows any alcohol in their bodies, that will be an offence.

Officialdom always likes to justify such restrictive measures in the only way petty officials know how - through soulless and dry statistics. Apparently alcohol `misuse' costs the National Health Service more than 2.7billion a year, while the economy suffers a 25billion blow every year through lost working days.

Well, here are some other figures that the government conveniently ignores: major brewers in the UK saw their profits slump by 78 per cent between 2004 and 2006, suggesting we're not quite a nation of public lager guzzlers. Thirty-six pubs close every week, on average, due to the smoking ban and the relentless hikes on the price of alcohol. The Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) estimates that such closures have cost 44,000 jobs over the past five years, and 43,000 are projected to be lost over the next five. There have been 37 major brewery closures, accounting for 25 per cent of all brewery employees. This year alone, 13 pub operators, operating 960 pubs, have gone into administration (3).

No doubt the economic downturn has affected pub sales of food and drink, but it is the government's war on alcohol that is ultimately to blame for destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. For the government, it seems, forcing landowners and brewery employees into penury is a price worth paying if it gets citizens to behave in a sanitised and soberly manner on Saturday nights. After all, the new measures that will be introduced this week will only further increase pub closures and redundancies. So much for trying to kickstart the economy.

Indeed, all of this proves that far from New Labour returning to old-style social democracy and economic management, its obsession with micro-managing our lives continues at an alarming pace. Although some of these new measures, such as the drink-driving ban for under-21s, won't have a direct impact on most drinkers, they do help soften up public opinion for more wide-ranging bans and controls in the future. The government admitted over the weekend that some of its proposals, such as stopping cigarettes from being displayed in newsagents or vending machines, won't have any impact on public health and these initiatives have now been dropped at the last minute.

Nevertheless, the sheer relentlessness of these measures and proposals helps legitimise the notion that it is perfectly acceptable for government to restrict public space and personal freedom. That assumption is also based on the poisonous and corrosive notion that British citizens are inherently problematic, especially when we've had a few drinks. It is this genuine fear and barely concealed disgust for us that propels New Labour to carry on restricting our autonomy at every opportunity.

That fear and loathing is itself a product of New Labour's peculiar development in British politics, as a self-referencing clique of managers and technocrats with no genuine roots or connections in wider society. As such, their isolation from ordinary people has generated a succession of Labour ministers who are, at best, embarrassingly unworldly about adult life or absolutely petrified of the city they live and work in. One minister, Caroline Flint, said she `couldn't believe that people actually go out to get drunk'; Harriet Harman couldn't face touring the London district of Peckham - an area she has represented in parliament for 26 years - without wearing a stab-proof vest. This would be funny if New Labour's jittery nerves didn't have such destructive consequences on our freedoms and our lifestyles.

Anyone hoping for a return to `macro politics' and the end of New Labour petty meddling will be sorely disappointed. Although the government realises that Britain's economy is in a dire state, it still thinks most of us are sinking even lower in our personal lives. Having uncorked the sour whine of micro-management, it seems this government hasn't tired of pouring out strong regulation measures just yet.


A New York rebellion against libel imperialism

Brendan O'Neill meets the writers and publishers who have launched a war of independence from England's `notorious, repulsive' libel laws.

Rachel Ehrenfeld doesn't look like a fugitive. Petite, demure, and clad in the black skirt and blouse that is the uniform of New York's working women, she sits on a leather swivel chair in her twenty-fourth-floor apartment on the Upper West Side. Her living-room window offers a picture-postcard view of New York City in all its towering, light-flickering glory. She serves chai tea and a plate of oatmeal cookies. She asks how I am coping with the cold weather. You'd never think that this woman is effectively on the run from the English legal system.

`I cannot go to England. It's too risky. I once visited Holloway Prison when I was researching correctional facilities, and I do not want to visit it as an inmate.' She takes a sip of tea. Her crime? In 2004, she wrote a book called Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, in which she made allegations about a Saudi billionaire. The Saudi sued her, not in New York - where she lives and works and where her book was published - but in London, on the basis that 23 copies of Funding Evil were sold to residents of the UK via an online bookseller, and thus it was `published' in Britain, too (1).

Ehrenfeld refused to show up for the court case, and even refused to recognise the London High Court's jurisdiction over her (uppity New York broad that she is), and therefore lost by default. The judge ordered her and her publishers to stump up 30,000 pounds plus costs to the Saudi. Yet while Ehrenfeld might have a twenty-fourth floor apartment in the Upper West Side, she is still a mere writer and researcher by profession (`I don't have a private bank or oil fields, or any friends with a private bank or oil fields', she says), of whom the unworldly, wig-wearing lords of the English legal system might as well have demanded 30million as much as 30,000.

Now, she is legitimately concerned that if she goes to Britain she will be `seized', or at least treated as `persona non grata, the libel defendant who refused to grovel'. She is no ordinary fugitive, then. She is a `free speech fugitive', a victim of what she describes as England's `libel imperialism' and its `reach across the Atlantic'. Yet she is not accepting the ruling against her lying down. Instead she has spearheaded an American rebellion against English libel law - a war of independence, if you like, from English illiberalism and reaction - which has won the support of writers, publishers and senators, and which might soon get the nod from future-president of America Barack Obama himself. The end result could well be the completion of the American Revolution launched 230 years ago: full freedom from the yoke of British tyranny.

Ehrenfeld, born in Israel, has been writing about terrorism for 20 years. She is an expert on the cash trails behind terror groups, as her cluttered apartment attests: everywhere I look, book spines bearing the words `JIHAD' and `MONEY' and `EVIL' and `OSAMA' stare back at me. She has been a consultant to both the US Department of Defense's Threat Reduction Agency and the CIA.

After 9/11, which she witnessed from this apartment in midtown Manhattan, Ehrenfeld wrote the book that would land her in boiling water: Funding Evil. She says her experience - sued in London for something she said in New York - shows the dangers of `libel tourism'. Judy Platt of the prestigious Association of American Publishers, which is backing to the hilt Ehrenfeld's resistance of England's libel laws, tells me that `libel tourism' involves `wealthy individuals' using `plaintiff-friendly foreign libel laws in an attempt to silence US-based writers'. And it isn't only Saudis. In 2005, Roman Polanski, the Polish film director who lives in France, and who is literally a fugitive from the US after allegedly committing statutory rape in 1977, sued an American publication, Vanity Fair, in London. And won. In 2006, Britney Spears, the all-American celebrity, sued National Enquirer, the all-American tabloid, in Belfast (2).

It isn't hard to see the attraction of England's (and Ireland's) libel laws to plaintiffs who want to challenge or upbraid or punish American publications that have dented their reputations: our libel laws are far more claimant-friendly, stringent and severe than America's. Under English libel law, the claimant doesn't have to prove that the allegedly defamatory statement was false, only that it was potentially damaging to his or her reputation; under American law, claimants do have to prove falsity. In America, following the ruling in New York Times v Sullivan in 1964, there is a `public figure defence', which makes it difficult indeed for people in the public eye to sue for libel. In order to succeed, claimants would have to show not only that the allegations were false but that they were made maliciously or with reckless disregard for truth. In England, in an undiluted bastardisation of natural justice, the claimant doesn't have to prove very much at all; instead the burden of proof falls on the defendant to prove his own innocence.

Where England's libel laws are weighted in favour of the claimant and his almost sacred reputation, American laws of defamation err on the side of defending writers' and publishers' First Amendment right to free speech. So when English libel courts issue a ruling on a book or an article written by an American and published in America - when an English judge labels American-uttered words as outrageous, scandalous, Beyond Acceptable Debate - they do far more than cause an outbreak of headaches among the writers and publishers being sued; they also implicitly interfere in America's internal affairs, undermining from afar the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

English rulings, routinely enforced by American courts on behalf of English courts, subject Americans to a kind of colonial censorship, gagging by foreign lords. Even when English rulings are not directly enforced, simply their existence can have a `chilling effect' on open debate in the US. `Such judgements can - and do - chill the kind of reporting that US laws are designed to encourage and protect', says Judy Platt. Ehrenfeld knows two American authors who have had contracted books cancelled because publishers feared there would be libel cases in London (A Town Called Sue). `Just the prospect of expensive lawsuits and international humiliation can kill the kind of investigation we need [and] the investigative spirit itself', she says.

Not for much longer. Thanks to Ehrenfeld, New York has become the first city in America to reject fully England's `repugnant' libel rulings.

After the London High Court judgement against her in 2005, Ehrenfeld, with the support of a veritable army of the great and the good of NYC - the Authors Guild, Forbes Inc, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Amazon - launched a counterclaim in a New York court. The memorandum filed by Ehrenfeld's lawyers said that writers should be free `to ferret out and publish the facts without fear of expensive lawsuits and huge judgments in foreign countries whose defamation laws and commitment to freedom of expression and public discourse are "repugnant" and antithetical and "contrary" to our fundamental public policy'. The use of the word `repugnant' comes from an earlier rebellion against English libel law. In 1997, the US Maryland State Appeals Court had been asked to enforce an English libel ruling against an American citizen. But in this instance the court refused, arguing that `the principles of English libel law fail to measure up to the basic human rights standards and are repugnant to public policy and the constitutional ideal of free speech'.

After months and months of legal wrangling, Ehrenfeld's counterclaim led to the introduction of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act by the New York state legislature in April this year. The Act is an enormous, historic kick in the teeth to English libel. Firstly, it forbids New York courts from enforcing a foreign libel judgement `unless the country where it was decided grants the same or better protection as US standards for freedom of speech'. And second, it `expands an individual's ability to have a court declare a foreign libel judgement invalid in New York' (3). This effectively means English libel rulings can no longer be enforced against anything said or written by a New Yorker or published in New York. NYC has made itself a no-go zone for English libel rulings; it has freed itself from the whack of the former colonial power's hammer.

`New Yorkers must be able to speak out on issues of public concern without living in fear that they will be sued outside the United States, under legal standards inconsistent with our First Amendment rights', said New York governor David A Paterson as he signed on the dotted line on what has become known as `Rachel's Law', after Ehrenfeld (4). Illinois has followed NYC's lead and passed its own Rachel's Law. More recently, a `Rachel-inspired' federal law - the Libel Tourism Bill - was passed in the House of Representatives in September. There is also a Free Speech Protection Bill being debated in the Senate, which would bar all US courts from enforcing libel rulings that are `antithetical' to the First Amendment. One of the great ironies of the recent outbreak of British gushing about `our' new, liberal, European-style president-elect Barack Obama is that one of Obama's first acts might be to sign in a new law that will label English libel rulings as `repugnant to our Nation's fundamental constitutional values, in particular its strong protection of the right to freedom of speech' (5). Obama may have to teach us backward Brits a lesson about what it means to be liberal.

It is fitting that New York should have led this American uprising against English libel. New York is, in Ehrenfeld's words, `the capital of American publishing'. It is a city that rattles and shakes with conversation and debate, from its numerous daily newspapers to its world-famous magazines (New York and New Yorker); from the garish, head-spinning advertising in Times Square to the 9/11 Truthers I saw loitering around the World Trade Center memorial site trying to engage passers-by in debates about `disappearing aeroplanes' and the density of steel. A cab driver taking me through Brooklyn pointed to a sign that said `Non-horn zone - $350 fine' and said: `Can you believe that shit?' Earlier this year, when some states discussed banning youth from letting their pants sag too low, NY-based lawyers and activists for the American Civil Liberties Union defended sagging pants on the basis that they are a form of expression. A city that publishes thousands of books a year and sells newspapers on every street corner, where restrictions on horn-honking (the most basic form of communication) are seen as an affront to individual liberty and where even showing your Calvin Kleins to the world can become a free speech issue, is no place for England's severe, repugnant and punishing libel laws.

The American rebellion against English libel law has been barely discussed in Britain. Perhaps it's just too embarrassing for us. Yet sitting in the flat where this all began, where Ehrenfeld's refusal to kowtow to English libel law and her decision to fight back were born, it is hard not to feel part of an historic moment. `I was determined not to have my rights undermined', says Ehrenfeld. `The American ideal of free speech and liberty emerged from the fight against British oppression more than 200 years ago. Now we find ourselves fighting against them again.'



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Friday, December 12, 2008

Unattractive egos

Pride is the first of the deadly sins, and it sometimes seems to be the first prerequisite of a career in public life. No surprise there: It takes a certain degree of hubris to think yourself qualified to govern others -- and not just to think it privately, but to spend great quantities of money, time, and energy proclaiming it publicly to anyone who will listen. To remain modest and unpretentious while urging voters to elevate you to high office and entrust you with power is a challenge not many elected officials meet. It's a rare politician who is motivated enough to climb the greasy pole, deflecting the ambitions of rivals, without succumbing to the temptations of ego.

A few words of appreciation, then, for Mario M. Cuomo, who served three terms as New York's governor and was for a while one of the nation's most prominent Democrats, but seems to have come through the experience without suffering a permanent case of swelled head.

The New York Times reports that Cuomo has declined all requests to sit for an official portrait, making him the only New York governor whose likeness is missing from the Hall of Governors in the state capitol at Albany. For 14 years he has refused to pose for an official painting, apparently on the grounds that he finds the whole thing an exercise in vanity. "I went to electric razors so I would not have to look at myself in the morning," Cuomo told the Times.

As a politician, New York's 52nd governor was hardly devoid of self-esteem, but "he intensely disliked personal attention, especially any gathering focused on him," a former aide recalled. Cuomo himself says that the glorification of ex-governors unfairly slights all the men and women who made their accomplishments possible. "Why do a portrait?" he asked. "My view of the governorship is, yes, I was the governor, but whatever good things were done in my 12 years as governor were done by an army of us. The idea of saying, 'Boy, he was terrific, he led us out of the Depression' -- it's not like that."

Some might be tempted to dismiss Cuomo's refusal to have his portrait painted as false modesty, which, unlike the real thing, is just another form of pride. ("Don't be so humble," Golda Meir used to say, "you're not that great.") But Cuomo's reluctance to have himself glorified for the ages in oil and canvas compares favorably with the self-adulation of his successor, George Pataki, who's just thrilled with his portrait. A few months ago, reports the Times, Pataki "gathered friends and supporters at Manhattan's '21' Club for a private showing of the portrait. And he had already asked the artist, Andrew Lattimore, for revisions to his first version."

Why are so many public figures so hungry for the trappings of grandeur? Barack Obama has yet to take office, but he has already set the modern record for political narcissism. Imagine what his homespun hero, Abraham Lincoln, would have made of Obama's presidential campaign, with its faux-Greek columns, triumphal foreign tour, and quasi-presidential seal with the Latin motto. Or of Obama's post-election practice of speaking from behind a lectern adorned with the Great Seal of the United States and an official-looking sign that reads "Office of the President Elect" -- an office that doesn't actually exist under the Constitution.

To be sure, it isn't only politicians who could do with a little more modesty and a little less self-regard. The Boston Globe reported last month that the eminent Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky cancelled an engagement to conduct four concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra because he felt "insulted" and "slighted" by the BSO's actions. "I suffered . . . a moral insult," he fumed. And what had the orchestra done to outrage Rozhdestvensky? It had printed posters promoting his concerts that featured the name of the soloist in larger letters than that of the conductor. Rozhdestvensky is 77, which just goes to show that age guarantees neither maturity nor humility.

In the age of Facebook and "American Idol," it may seem axiomatic that ego is good and self-esteem equals health. But self-idolatry, like all idolatry, corrupts. Whatever else may be said of Cuomo, he knows better than to worship himself. Such humility is out of style these days, but it's a virtue more of us could stand to work on.


Kids need nonsense

Comment from Britain on British humour and entertainment -- reflections on the recent death of much-loved TV animator Oliver Postgate

Before my brothers had children of their own, one of them would be co-opted as Duty Uncle on Christmas Day, so that we could get lunch ready while he amused the children. Our son was 4 when he pronounced, one Christmas morning after an exhilaratingly failed session with a balloon-rocket: "I like Uncle Mike the best because he is the most silly uncle".

There was a profound truth in that, although for the sake of family harmony I should stress that Mike has always had hot competition in that area, and that when not in the company of under-fives all three brothers are sober citizens. But the fact is that all children have a strong urge towards nonsense, silliness, absurdity. And for all our desire to offer them educational or reassuring stories, they will always have an eye for goonery and an ear for silly rhymes.

I thought of this yesterday morning as the nation mourned Oliver Postgate, creator of such benign absurdities as Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss, Noggin the Nog and The Clangers.

Grown-ups like to present children with stories about being brave and sensible, or loaded with facts about the wide world. There is a place for this, whether in the old world of Arthur Mee's Encyclopaedia and The Railway Children or the modern equivalents of educational DVDs and books about children in tower blocks coming to terms with divorce and knife gangs.

But they need nonsense too. We all do. As soon as a baby can focus, it longs for jokes. Silly jokes. You can make a two-month- old grin and giggle by putting a wastepaper basket over your head and taking it off again: I demonstrated this once to a scornful academic who had been claiming that babies could not perceive incongruity because their range of experience was too short. His baby thought differently.

As a child grows it learns plenty of serious stuff - like language and how to use the potty - and immediately subverts it with daft rhymes, shouting "smelly jelly fatty belly". Any character calling himself Noggin the Nog or Bagpuss is halfway there already; and silly noises are gratefully received, so Postgate's Clangers with their mad slide-whistling were ideal. This does not indicate shallowness of understanding - the same child who learns keenly about steam engines and pistons can be charmed by Ivor the Engine's ambition to sing in a choir.

Nonsense, at its best, takes us into the realm of the impossible, and when your world is circumscribed by your size and strength and by living under authority (we can all feel that way, even as adults), nonsense is a blessed relief. It is an adventure, a romance, an escape. The horrors of the plague can become a ring o'roses, the fear of Napoleon a game (taught to my children by an old Suffolk lady) of Chasing Bony Party.

So prosy old Postman Pat is all very well, and so is the tediously responsible Thomas the Tank Engine (Fat Controller's pet that he is, always saving the day). But there are moments when you need something sillier. You need Oliver Postgate's Clangers eating some blue string pudding and green soup. Or a verse or two of Jabberwocky, a dose of Edward Lear, or Bill and Ben saying nothing more taxing than "flubalub". Or the Christopher Isherwood poem that starts: "The common cormorant or shag/ lays eggs inside a paper bag..."

And the more serious-minded and curriculum-conscious the adults around you, the more you need nonsense. It is particularly galling when they cheat by trying to sneak lessons into everything: I had high hopes of the Teletubbies, rolling around in coloured fat-suits and squeaking "eh-oh!" at each other on green mounds. But just as this psychedelic landscape became engagingly mad, one of them would stare at its telly-belly and give birth to an educational little film about canals, or baking a cake. Pshaw!

There is a long and lovely tradition of nonsense literature in English, and we would do well to remember and respect it rather than grey everything down into social realism, Barbie-fied celebrity or factual automatism. Dulling rationalism threatens at all levels: even James Bond has lost his edge of fantastico-technical nonsense (gondolas on wheels! cars with fish fins!) and turned, with the arrival of Daniel Craig, into a dour, sub-le Carre chronicle of tediously wicked villains and an angsty 007 who never cracks a smile.

The nonsense tradition must go on: it embraces everything from Anglo-Saxon riddles to T.S. Eliot's Jellicle cats dancing under a Jellicle moon, to The Goon Show and the various heirs of Monty Python. It is always best marked by a certain amorality, as in Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter, in which the neat little oysters are eventually eaten.

Even the most kindly child likes that: in the realm of nonsense there is little morality. Perhaps that is why it provides such needful, happy release to those who worry a lot about right and wrong - such as dutiful children or, indeed, our own Prince of Wales. Why else, do you think, does the heir to the throne - who literally worries for England - find such lifelong joy in the adventures of Bluebottle, Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty in The Goon Show? Why else, indeed, did those troubled men Sellers and Milligan invent it all in the first place? Not to push back the boundaries of art but to create a parallel universe where nothing is wrong and everything is daft. And why, one might equally ask, was John Cleese only ever funny in the days before he went to see a series of shrinks, worked out all his issues and lost the gift of nonsense?

You can divide nonsense into two streams, though. There is full-on nonsense, detached from reality and floating free, far above us on pink-and-magenta-striped clouds, up there in the sky with Lucy and her diamonds. And then there is what I would call anti-sense. Lewis Carroll is the best example of the latter: he was a logician and his world is a looking-glass with everything backwards and therefore absurd, but mostly with clear references to reality: the Duchess's baby may well be a pig, but she is a recognisable, satirised character; Alice herself is grounded, always able to say "You're nothing but a pack of playing-cards!" or help the dormouse out of the teapot. Many of his best-loved poems are satires on the improving literature of the day - How Doth the Little Crocodile is a straight adaptation of an Isaac Watts verse. Yet sometimes Carroll can fly beyond the tugging threads of leftover 18th-century Oxford rationalism that still held him captive: The Hunting of the Snark is the most powerfully surreal and therefore beautiful of his works, the Snark itself a "Boojum", which is to say, nothing. And the crew's behaviour is satisfyingly mad:
They roused him with muffins, they roused him with ice
They roused him with mustard-and-cress;
They roused him with jam and judicious advice,
They set him conundrums to guess...
Here he moves closer to Lear, though nobody before or since has matched Lear's gentle, romantic blurred vision. I have met at least one teacher who won't use his verse on the ground that it is wrong to let children think there is any such thing as a Pobble, or that there is any help in Aunt Jobiska's remedy of "lavender water tinged with pink". I excoriate that teacher and all her dreary works! Nonsense it all may be, but I learnt much of what I know - really know - about life and love from Lear's poems: yearningly romantic, a Platonic ideal of a world where Owl and Pussycat may sink their natural differences, fall in love to the sound of a small guitar and buy a pig's nose-ring for a shilling. Every enterprise of my life has been fortified by the spirit of the Jumblies, who quixotically defied sense and prudence to follow their dream:
They went to sea in a sieve, they did;
In a sieve they went to sea;
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a sieve they went to sea!
They faced storms with pink blotting paper and a coppery gong, and knew themselves to be wise:
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong...
O Timballo! How happy we are
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar!
Well, as Lear himself says with that melancholy inseparable from true romanticism, far and few are the lands where the Jumblies live. But when their message crackles through to us via Postgate or Carroll, Eliot or Milligan, we should rejoice. Recession is coming. Sail in a sieve, take plenty of honey, rely on your Aunt Jobiska and listen for the distant singing of Ivor the Engine in the heavenly choir. A little insanity keeps you sane.


More British welfare reform: Benefits to be paid only to those who show they are looking hard for work

Unemployed people will have to prove that they are taking practical steps to return to work in return for state benefits, under changes to the welfare state to be announced by ministers today. The only exceptions will be carers, parents of very young children and anyone who is severely disabled. All other claimants will have to show that they are preparing for work with activities ranging from updating a CV or finding out about childcare through to full-time training or work experience.

The conditions for claiming benefits will be set out in a statement to MPs and a White Paper by James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary. Most controversially, the paper will suggest that single parents with young children, possibly from the age of 1, should start work-related activities. They are currently not expected to attend work-focused interviews until their eldest child is 12, although this will be reduced to 7 next year.

Incapacity benefit and income support will be scrapped. Only the most seriously ill and disabled will be able to claim a new employment support allowance. Everyone else will be moved to jobseeker's allowance, with conditions attached requiring work- related activity. The plans mean that the controversial recommendations made by David Freud, Tony Blair's welfare reform adviser, will be implemented in full.

Gordon Brown initially rejected Mr Freud's findings when he became Prime Minister, but had second thoughts and now wants them to be enforced. Writing in The Times today, Mr Freud seeks to defend his proposals against criticism that they amount to a dismantling of the welfare state. He says that the roots lie in the Beveridge postwar settlement.
"The central proposition in the White Paper is that virtually everyone will be expected to set entering the world of work as their goal, including many of the people who have languished on incapacity benefit for years," he says. "Substantial support for individuals in achieving this objective is being developed, and should be ready in time for the next economic upswing. Beveridge would have approved - he wrote, `Most men who have once gained the habit of work would rather work ... than be idle ... But getting work ... may involve a change of habits, doing something that is unfamiliar or leaving one's friends or making a painful effort of some kind'."
Mr Freud said that it was also important to make the changes now, despite the economic downturn.


Problems with Bills of Rights

By Helen Irving (Helen Irving is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, Australia)

Australia may be closer to getting a bill of rights. The Federal Government looks likely to begin a nationwide consultation process this week, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations. Proposals for an Australian bill of rights are nothing new. On and off for decades there have been attempts to incorporate rights into the constitution or in comprehensive legislation, often following lengthy inquiries and detailed reports. None has succeeded. Is anything new this time round?

As proponents like to remind us, all other comparable countries, including Britain, New Zealand and Canada, have adopted a bill or charter of rights. Two Australian jurisdictions, the ACT and Victoria, have recently joined them. Now the pressure is on for Australia to fall in line.

If it is to be so, the issue must be how to make a bill compatible with Australian democracy. Australia's constitutional democracy is built on representative government and the separation of powers. In principle, the legislature makes the laws and the courts enforce them. A bill of rights changes this. Unelected courts gain the power to frustrate elected governments if they hold a law to be in breach of rights.

This may sound fine, even desirable. But many rights are in fact political. They rest on controversial propositions, matters open to reasonable disagreement, issues that should properly be debated in the public arena. We hear, for example, of the "right to die with dignity". This is not a natural right, or a settled matter. It is deeply, and essentially, contentious.

Another example: the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities includes a provision giving a person of "a particular cultural . background" the "right, in community with other persons of that background, to enjoy his or her culture". To determine whether a person has a "particular" background, and whether its enjoyment has been denied, requires detailed knowledge of cultural practices and expectations, both in "particular" and mainstream cultures. These are sociological and historical issues, not questions for the courts.

The socio-economic rights that are favoured by many have major resource implications. Good health, education and housing are all worthy goals, but they are costly. To turn these into legal rights is to deprive governments of the power to make decisions about available resources, budget priorities and future plans.

But not all rights are political. Legal process rights - the rights that surround the arrest, charge, trial and detention of persons suspected of having committed an offence - belong properly to the judicial arm of government. They concern the judicial process. They are essential protections against arbitrary power, elements of the rule of law on which our constitutional democracy also rests.

Questions about legislative encroachment on these rights are appropriately answered in the courts. If the claims made by proponents of a bill were confined to legal process rights, then agreement might be secured among those who are otherwise sceptical.

Leading advocates now accept that a proposed constitutional bill of rights is unlikely to survive a referendum. They propose, instead, a statutory bill, passed by parliament and open to repeal or amendment. The powers of the courts, they also suggest, should be limited to making declarations of incompatibility between laws and rights, and not extend to striking down such laws. This is the model followed in the ACT and Victoria, and it is said to respect the separation of powers, allowing the parliament to decide what to do with "incompatible" laws.

These are many merits in such proposals. But there are concerns, too. Although a statutory bill is repealable in principle, the experience in other countries is that such bills quickly become "constitutionalised". The rights they include become fixed, and difficult to adjust to changing circumstances. Paradoxically, the very attempt to protect parliament by empowering the courts to make "declarations" may itself prove unconstitutional. The commonwealth constitution prevents the High Court from giving advisory opinions. The court may only rule on actual legal disputes. This hurdle may prove fatal. It will require close attention by the government.

If Australia is on the path to a bill of rights, let's have a genuine consultation process. Let us ask ourselves which rights are best protected by the courts, and why we believe Australia to be deficient compared to other countries. Let us also consider how advocates and opponents might find common ground. Given the long history of failure, this may be the decisive question.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Britain: More police funding but FEWER frontline officers to deal with street crime

The Leftist infatuation with bureaucracy again

The number of police available to deal with crime on the streets is falling, a high-powered academic report revealed yesterday. It said the ranks of fully-trained police constables have been thinned out in favour of more community support officers, middle management and civilian back-up staff. The findings challenge the longstanding Labour claim that police numbers have been greatly increased and that crime has fallen partly as a result. Researchers said Government crime policy was 'mired in contradiction'.

The report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London said details of police numbers show 'the way in which the Home Office has relied on the recruitment of less qualified and lower paid auxiliary staff to boost the visible policing presence'. And it revealed that the number of police constables dropped by nearly 1,500 - more than 1 per cent - between 2006 and 2007. The past five years has seen the number of superintendents increase by 16 per cent and the ranks of chief inspectors swell by almost 20 per cent. Over the same period the amount of taxpayers' money used to fund police forces has risen 20 per cent.

The report's findings are borne out by Home Office figures on police numbers published earlier this year. These show that the number of constables peaked at 109,037 in 2005, dropping by nearly 2,000 to 107,048 in March this year. In the same timescale the number of community support officers leapt from 6,201 to 15,883.

The figures drew an alarmed reaction from opposition politicians. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'This undermines all Labour's rhetoric about record police numbers. The fact is that because of Labour's target culture our police spend just 14 per cent of their time where the public want them,which is on the streets.'

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman David Howarth said: 'The report rightly points out how incoherent policy from a Government obsessed with looking tough has left staff at the sharp end of the criminal justice system confused and overworked.'

But the Home Office insisted that spending on additional staff has meant fully-qualified officers can spend more time combating crime. A spokesman said: 'Time spent by officers on frontline duties has increased each year since 2003 - equivalent to 5,340 more police officers. Additional police staff are freeing officers to return to the front line.'


British minister demands 'radical' reform on training of social workers in the wake of Baby P tragedy

Now THIS is long overdue

The training of social workers and their working methods needs a root-and-branch overhaul, Children's Secretary Ed Balls said yesterday. He called for more on-the-job training and less theory for students, who get their qualifications to become social workers largely in university classrooms. And he said he had commissioned a `taskforce' to shake up training schemes and to examine `how professional social workers are deploying their time'.

The pressure for sweeping reform of social work follows the Baby P and Shannon Matthews cases, in which two social work departments boasting high official ratings failed to prevent the most serious abuse of children in families under their supervision. In the Baby P case social workers from Haringey, London, were said to have spent much of their time form-filling while failing to notice the child's mother was living with a vicious boyfriend and lodger. The baby died despite 60 contacts between his mother and social workers, police and health staff.

A report - promised to be independent - is being drawn up on the actions of Kirklees, Yorkshire, social workers in the Matthews case. There are suspicions that the kidnapped girl's family was removed from the child protection register to help achieve Government targets.

Mr Balls told BBC One's Politics Show: 'This needs to be a very radical review. It needs to ask some very hard questions. In my view the training of social workers is too theoretical. 'There isn't enough on-the-job training, there isn't enough challenge and supervision through the early years. We need our schools and social workers to work more closely together, we need to boost leadership.' He added: 'There's lots to be done. And of course I wish that it could have happened earlier but in the end, in the Baby P case I don't think it would in the end have changed it, because that was a particular and harrowing tragedy.'

Mr Balls said that the standing of the teaching profession has been transformed over the past 10 years and the same must now be done for social work. A 'taskforce' to examine training and practice is to be set up, headed by Moira Gibb, who is currently the chief executive of Camden council. Miss Gibb, a former social services director, is one of the great and good of social work, who has headed the social services directors' association and been appointed by the Government as a member of the UK Statistics Authority. Proposals it will examine include rules to ensure that children's services directors have experience in social work.

Children's services departments replaced the old town hall social services departments after the scandal that followed the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in Haringey in 2000. They brought together education officials in charge of schools and colleges and social workers dealing with children and their families. Haringey children's services director Sharon Shoesmith - now shifted from her job on the orders of Mr Balls - was a former education chief with no experience as a social worker.

Miss Gibb's review will also why 'social workers prioritise their time in the way they do' and 'what actions by professional social workers make the most difference to vulnerable children and adults'. There will also be a new requirement for social work training to include a year's practical work. At present students qualify to become social workers through a three-year degree course - or a two-year course for graduates in other subjects - which is heavily theoretical. One typical university course calls for students to learn to 'manage change and deliver required outcomes' and tests their 'knowledge of social work theory and how it can be applied in practice'.


Are we too afraid of touch?

Our aversion to innocent physical contact has gone a touch too far

Look around you, there are notices everywhere: "Be careful: keep your eye on your possessions", "Swim at your own risk - no lifeguard on duty". We are told by government to be alert to the risk of terrorists. And we are watched by CCTV wherever we go. But all this advice to be watchful makes us fearful. It makes us shrink into ourselves. We become unkind, unconcerned for others, and our children become terrified of the outside world.

These days, you have to have a Criminal Records Bureau check before you volunteer to work with anyone described as vulnerable - children, anyone over 65, and a whole lot of others besides. That makes many young men, especially, nervous about volunteering at all, and others deeply irritated that they are being asked for a CRB check to work, say, in hospital radio.

If a young man has a criminal record, but now wants to help others who are younger still - just getting into trouble with the police and at risk of worse - he has to be incredibly determined not to be put off by the marathon of bureaucracy.

Hospital staff are often told not to put an arm round patients to comfort them lest it be viewed as assault. So it tends to be the porters and care assistants who give a bit of comfort, while the nurses only touch the patients when they have to carry out some kind of intervention. Many people, especially older people, don't want too many interventions. What they want is human contact, a bit of tender loving care.

We are all so terrified of child sexual abuse that we have outlawed taking photographs of children at nursery school without parental consent. And adults are terrified that their motives will be suspected if they talk to a child or, even worse, hug one. So, a few years ago, when Clive Peachy, a bricklayer, saw two-year-old Abigail Rae walking down the road after she had escaped from her nursery school in Warwickshire, he did not stop and help her because he thought people would think he was trying to abduct her. The result? She drowned in a pond.

Young male volunteers in primary schools describe feeling like pariahs, viewed with suspicion by many staff - when all they are doing is trying to help. And children want comfort if they fall over in the playground, yet teachers have been told never to touch the children in their care. So you get 12-year-olds with broken legs crying for their mothers, with staff unable to give them a hug, and five-year-olds putting sunscreen on each other because the teachers have been instructed not to touch them. The mess that ensues, and the visits to hospital because cream gets in their eyes, would be funny were it not so ridiculous. Equally absurd are the letters informing parents that children should not bring home-made birthday cakes into school in case of food poisoning - a position that results in children being less likely to share.

So what is all this about? First, there is a real fear of being sued, far greater than the actual numbers of cases would warrant. Second, there is a fear of what others might think. We have begun to internalise the messages that people might think we are abusers when we are not. Third, we are fearful of our children being injured, being killed, being abducted. Yet, in terms of ordinary accidents happening to children, the numbers have gone down dramatically rather than up over the last 30 years.

Nevertheless, our children are frightened to go outside because, as the think-tank Demos and the Green Alliance demonstrated a few years ago, they fear the outside world. They think the streets are full of terrorists, murderers and child-abductors. Worse, they think they know what they look like. They are white, male, middle-aged, wear horrible clothes and have a funny look in their eyes.

But children would not feel like this if adults did not encourage them. It is adult fear, stoked by government and insurers, by risk assessors and hospital and school managers. If we aren't careful, the next generation will consist entirely of wimps. They will go off on adventure holidays abroad, but they will not walk down the street or get on the Tube alone for fear of attackers. The net result will be not only a lack of life skills, but overwhelming fear: of predators, of accidents, of life itself.

Meanwhile, the sexual predators will carry on just as before - largely in the family - because no system of checks will root them out completely. And we will have created a whole generation of unhappy people. We need to be sensible, not risk-averse; we need to look out to see where we can help others. And, sometimes, we may even need to touch them.


Australia: 'Gutless' Turkish Muslims must pay $50,000 for bashing

Three men who bashed an off-duty policeman in an attack described as "gutless" by a judge have been ordered to pay their victim $50,000 in compensation. Senior Constable Simon Busuttil was punched, kicked and had his head stomped on after a car accident at Coolaroo in Melbourne in July 2005. He was set upon by the trio when he got out of his car to exchange details with the other driver. Snr Const Busuttil suffered a broken nose, extensive facial injuries, a torn liver and a fractured finger in the attack.

Three men, Vural Vuralhan, Ersoy Vural and Kemal Ciloglou, were jailed in August last year over the incident. In awarding him compensation, Victorian County Court Judge John Smallwood said Snr Const Busuttil had suffered a savage beating which caused him to develop post traumatic stress disorder. A medical examination found he had 18 separate injuries of bruising or abrasions and he required surgery. Judge Smallwood said Snr Const Busuttil suffered muscular pain and ongoing psychological problems, including depressive symptoms, sleep difficulties, feelings of shame and outbursts of anger following the attack.

The court heard that before the attack, Snr Const Busuttil suffered mild anxiety that was being treated with anti-depressants. After the attack he'd had suicidal thoughts.

In sentencing the three men in August last year, Judge Smallwood described the attack as gutless. "In the middle of the night these three men overpowered another man and over a prolonged period beat him with fists and boots while he is defenceless," he said at the time. "The conduct can only be described as gutless."

Vuralhan, of Meadow Heights, was jailed for 18 months with a minimum of nine after pleading guilty to one count of intentionally causing serious injury. Vural, of Coolaroo, was jailed for 12 months with a minimum of six after pleading guilty to one count of recklessly causing serious injury. Ciloglou, of Meadow Heights, pleaded guilty to recklessly causing serious injury and was jailed for three months. He also received a two-year community based order, which included 100 hours of unpaid community work. The men were given two months to pay the compensation.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Child Molester Left Behind

Alan Colmes has changed a lot since the election of Barack Obama. To be specific, he's gotten a lot dumber - so much so that I'm thinking about boycotting the "Hannity and the Other Guy" show that features him at 9 p.m. EST on Fox. Does anyone know if Keith Olberman has a show in that time slot? Colmes, whom I've always admired and respected (really), gave a disappointing interview to a couple of young women who work for an organization I admire called Students for Life America, or SFLA. By calling them a "radical anti-choice organization," Colmes was arrogant and disrespectful to the young ladies, one of whom is only a teenager.

Colmes, like other so-called liberals, doesn't understand that the pro-life position is not "anti-choice." By opposing one choice (the choice to abort) pro-lifers are supporting the over one-million choices the fetus is likely to make if it can escape the scalpel and suction tube - a symbol as sacred to the feminist as the hammer and sickle is to the communist.

Colmes rude mischaracterization of SFLA was bad. His effort to draw moral equivalence between a) one act of dishonesty by the pro-life organization towards Planned Parenthood and, b) a pattern of dishonesty by the latter organization was worse. That pattern of dishonesty regarding a willingness to report cases of statutory rape is one that fairly lands Planned Parenthood in the category of "radical anti-choice organizations."

A student intern, who works for SFLA did, in fact, lie to a staffer at Planned Parenthood when she claimed to be a 15-year old seeking RU-486, the co-called morning after abortion pill. She also lied when she said that she had sex the night before with her mother's live-in boyfriend whom she said was "30-something" years old. In response to the SFLA sting, which was recorded on video camera, the staffer did express a concern over the fact that this sexual encounter was statutory rape. This was before agreeing to sell her birth control to help facilitate more rape.

The staffer was right to characterize the encounter as rape. In North Carolina, if one is under 16, one has been statutorily raped if her sex partner is at least four years older. The idea behind the law is simple: Children are not able to offer "consent" to sex with those much older. Beyond a certain age difference, it is safe to assume the presence of coercion and, therefore, to call it rape.

It may well be the case that Planned Parenthood staffers do not want to report statutory rape because they think a fifteen-year old is fully capable of consenting to sex. After all, the organization's fight against any form of parental notification hints that they think the age of consent should be lower. But North Carolina does require Planned Parenthood to report cases of statutory rape, which it classifies as rape in the first-degree with a potential of life without parole. Though they said they did report the SFLA sting case, public records indicate Planned Parenthood did not. And that is more than a lie. It is an alliance with the child molester and against truly consensual sex, which is also called "choice."

Alan Colmes idiotically accused the women of SFLA of conspiring to file a false report of rape. That is just silly. A report is something you file with the police. SFLA fabricated the story to Planned Parenthood precisely because they knew no report would be filed. A woman's act of falsely accusing a specific man of rape is certainly illegal. It may be a simple case of defamation or it may amount to malicious prosecution. But consistently not filing reports of known cases of statutory rape is also illegal. And Planned Parenthood knowingly lies about these illegal breaches of duty. Those are the lies Alan Colmes should care more about. He may have a teenaged daughter some day.

The saddest part of the SFLA sting is not that it distracted Planned Parenthood from doing its job as Alan Colmes suggested. After all, no one criticized the American troops for distracting the Nazis with false intelligence reports during World War II. Distracting people who are committing genocide is probably a good thing in the final analysis.

The sad thing is that SFLA is doing the job the police and FBI really should be doing. I know Alan Colmes would agree that it is the job of both local and federal agents to run stings on local offices of nationwide networks when there is credible evidence that they are engaging in complicity with statutory rape. If they fail the sting, the organization should have its federal funding withdrawn. And, certainly, those running the rape stings cannot be held to the Colmesian requirement of revealing their true identity.


Human rights: British government to get tough and reform 'villains charter'

Jack Straw plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act amidst concerns that it has become a charter for criminals. The Justice Secretary wants to reflect complaints that the act protects rights but says nothing about responsibilities. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he says he is 'frustrated' by the way the legislation he introduced ten years ago has sometimes been interpreted by the courts. He blames 'nervous' judges for refusing to deport extremists and terrorist suspects despite assurances by ministers that their removal is in the national interest. A decade after it was passed at the height of New Labour's enthusiasm for constitutional reform, this is the first explicit acknowledgment of the Human Rights Act's flaws by its chief architect.

In a move which will alarm the civil liberties lobby, Mr Straw reveals that he is studying whether the act can be tightened and has taken legal advice. 'In due course I could envisage that there could be additions made to to work in the issues of responsibilities,' he says. The Justice Secretary sympathises with those who complain that the act has become used by prisoners to avoid punishment or by Islamic extremists to avoid deportation. He tells the Mail that he wants to ' rebalance' the rights set out in the Human Rights Act by adding explicit 'responsibilities', specifically to obey the law and to be loyal to the country. He is also looking at ways of promoting social rights such as access to health care, as well as social responsibilities such staying healthy or the education of children.

He said: 'I fully understand that Mail readers have concerns about the Human Rights Act. There is a sense that it's a villains charter or that it stops terrorists being deported or criminals being properly given publicity. I am greatly frustrated by this, not by the concerns, but by some very few judgments that have thrown up these problems.'

His offer to overhaul the act could form a cornerstone of the next Labour manifesto, making rights and responsibilities a battleground issue at the general election. It will be seen as a calculated attempt to outflank the Tories, who have promised to scrap the act altogether and replace it with their own British Bill of Rights.

Critics of the Human Rights Act say it has been exploited by unscrupulous lawyers to promote a culture of compensation, and to defend those who promote their rights at the expense of others. They complain that it has had a sweeping effect on the legal system by giving protection to spurious compensation claims, demands for privileged treatment and outright abuses. In recent times, it has been cited by travellers [gypsies] and squatters as a defence against the threat of expulsion. There are also concerns that it has put the rights of prisoners and criminals ahead of those of their victims. Last month Home Secretary Jacqui Smith admitted the act has made it difficult to remove terror suspects from the country. Mr Straw echoes her concern, but argues that even without the act it would be difficult to deport them.

In a separate development, he reveals that he has told his officials to fight workplace compensation claims at the Ministry of Justice, prisons, the probation service and any other sections under his control rather than settle out of court. And he urges the private sector to do the same to discourage what he dismisses as 'unscrupulous ambulance chasers'. He has been highly critical of so-called 'no win no fee' agreements, in which lawyers go unpaid but charge heavy costs if they win an action.

The arrangements were introduced a decade ago to make access to justice cheaper for claimants, but the growth of rogue firms which encourage clients to file inappropriate claims, in particular for personal injury, prompted Mr Straw to set up a Government review of charges. He accuses some lawyers of imposing costs which are 'nothing short of scandalous'.

A long-delayed Green Paper is likely in January, which will set out Mr Straw's ambitions for what responsibilities could be set out in a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, or added to the Human Rights Act. As the act is part of a law passed by Parliament, UK legislators have a perfect right to amend it - although any such move is likely to be subject to furious legal protests.


Australia: Extraordinary new laws in the State of Victoria encourage discrimination against white males

DISCRIMINATION against dominant white males will soon be encouraged in a bid to boost the status of women, the disabled and cultural and religious minorities. Such positive discrimination -- treating people differently in order to obtain equality for marginalised groups - is set to be legalised under planned changes to the Equal Opportunity Act foreshadowed last week by state Attorney-General Rob Hulls. The laws are also expected to protect the rights of people with criminal records to get a job, as long as their past misdeeds are irrelevant to work being sought.

Equal Opportunity Commission CEO Dr Helen Szoke said males had "been the big success story in business and goods and services". "Clearly, they will have their position changed because they will be competing in a different way with these people who have been traditionally marginalised," she said. "Let's open it up so everyone can have a fair go." [She doesn't want a fair go. She wants a privileged go]

Victoria's peak business body expressed concern yesterday about the need for the proposed laws, and questioned if they would undermine the right of companies to make legitimate business decisions. At present, individuals or bodies wanting to single out any race or gender for special treatment must gain an exemption from VCAT. Companies and public bodies accused of discrimination can only be held to account after a complaint has been made. But the proposed changes go much further, allowing the commission to inquire into discrimination, seize documents and search and enter premises after attempts to bring about change have failed.

Businesses and individuals would be required to change their ways even if a complaint had not been received. Action could be taken where an unlawful act was "likely to occur", not just in cases where discrimination has taken place. The commission would also have real teeth to enforce its rulings via VCAT and, as a last resort, in the courts. The changes, shown in a Department of Justice report by former public advocate Julian Gardner, would also:

EDUCATE people so they know their rights.

GIVE more protection to people with disabilities, requiring companies and public entities to reasonably accommodate their needs.

GRANT the homeless and people who act as volunteers better protection from discrimination.

Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace general manager David Gregory said business supported the objectives of equal opportunity legislation. "But I am concerned and curious about whether these changes mean the commission can second-guess the legitimate business decisions of individual businesses," he said.

The first raft of changes to the Equal Opportunity Act were introduced into Parliament last week.

Source. Andrew Bolt sums it up.

Politically correct Woolworths

Australia's Woolworths is very different from the now defunct U.S. Woolworths and the nearly defunct British Woolworths. It is in fact one of the world's most successful retailers, with a huge share of its national market. No matter where you go in Australia, Woolworths is most often the nearest supermarket. It is in some ways Australia's version of Wal-Mart. So they obviously have a management culture that repeatedly produces good decisions. And, as a result, I have a substantial investment in their shares.

I have noticed in recent times, however, that they have begun to abuse their market power. They only stock what they want you to buy rather than what you want to buy. And one aspect of that is politically correct stocking.

I went in there this morning with the aim of buying Christian-themed Christmas cards. Although I am an atheist, I think that a major Christian occasion should be recognized as such. But when I looked at the cards on offer, they were all Santas, reindeer, Holly etc. Nothing Christian at all. So I didn't buy.

Just outside the Buranda Woolworths however there is a small Indian shop which, in the best Indian tradition, crams an amazing variety of goods into its small space. So I popped in there to see if they sold Christmas cards. They did. And some of the cards on offer were Christian-themed! So I bought them. How odd that I had to go to a Hindu to buy Christian cards! A final irony, however, was where the cards were produced -- in Muslim Indonesia. What a crazy world!

As I set out at some length on Nov. 6th., another instance of Woolworths' abuse of their market power is their messianic zeal for twisty light bulbs. At that time, they did sell a few incandescent globes if you looked hard enough but their lighting display was dominated by every conceivable type of twisty.

It has now got worse. They no longer sell the old 60c incandescent globes at all. There still are incandescent globes there but they are advertised as "dimmable" and cost around $3. Which is total nonsense of course. People have been using the old 60c globes with dimmers for decades.

I am beginning to think that I should lodge a complaint under the Trade Practices Act alleging an abuse of market power. Since the Trade Practices commissioner is probably politically correct too, however, I may not bother.


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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

British cop forced to quit after 15 years over views on homosexuality, says the service has a 'bias against faith'

The Christian policeman sacked after a row over gay rights has told how his dismissal after 15 years in the force has `devastated' his family. As The Mail on Sunday revealed in the summer, Graham Cogman objected to being `bombarded' at work by emails and posters promoting events such as Gay History Month. He responded to the `politically correct' campaign by sending emails to colleagues quoting Biblical texts suggesting that homosexual sex was sinful. But he faced accusations of homophobia and a series of disciplinary hearings, culminating 12 days ago in his sacking by Norfolk Police for misconduct.

The twice-commended officer said yesterday: `I am totally devastated. It was a job I loved. This is destroying me and my family.' He admitted he had `stupidly' breached a ban by using the internal communications system to post a link to an American Christian organisation, but said the force's decision to sack him was `harsh and disproportionate'. Mr Cogman, 50, accused the police service of becoming so sensitive to the rights of gays that Christians could no longer safely express their views.

Speaking at his home in Sea Palling, Norfolk, which he shares with his wife Elaine, 46, and his two children, Mr Cogman said: `In the service in general there is a feeling of fear. There is a definite bias against faith - any faith - if it takes a critical view of homosexual sex. `The easy option for me would have been to keep quiet but when there is such prejudice towards one point of view, how can that be right? That doesn't sound like equality and diversity to me. `I don't have any worries with what people do in their private lives - if they are gay, that's fine. I haven't gone after anyone maliciously.'

Mr Cogman, backed by the Police Federation, is appealing against his sacking and is planning to take his force to an employment tribunal next year, funded by the Christian Legal Centre. He said he had received a huge amount of support both from within and outside the force. Last week the Rev Martin Young, vicar of St Andrew's church in Norwich, wrote an open letter to Norfolk Police protesting that it had `manifestly failed to uphold PC Cogman's right to express his Christian faith'. The vicar added: `His views are not extreme or unusual. They are consistent with the published understanding of the Church of England, of which he is a member.' Mr Cogman said he had no problems with colleagues until gay liaison officers circulated an email to officers in early 2005 encouraging staff to wear a pink ribbon on their uniforms during Gay History Month.

He emailed colleagues suggesting they might want to read biblical texts suggesting homosexual sex was sinful. As a result, he was ordered to stop using the internal messaging system for failing to show `tolerance and respect' for fellow officers. The following year, when officers were encouraged to wear rainbow ribbons during Gay History Month, Mr Cogman said it was `inappropriate, thoughtless and insensitive' as the rainbow symbolised God's faithfulness. He was accused of unlawfully using the internal messaging system and victimising another gay liaison officer by saying: `Love the sinner, hate the deed.' He was docked 13 days' pay.

In April this year, he was questioned again after circulating a link to a helpline for people struggling with their sexuality on a website headed by the controversial American preacher Pat Robertson. At the misconduct hearing, overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a panel found that Mr Cogman had ignored an order banning him from using the police computer system and had failed to treat a colleague with politeness and respect.

Mr Cogman said: `I felt physically sick when I heard the ruling. If I hadn't posted that link I would still have a job. That was my downfall, my stupidity, however you want to put it. But my intention was to help.' He claimed a small group of pro-gay officers had been determined to oust him. `They have their own agenda and now they have my scalp.'

Norfolk Police said: `The issue is not about Mr Cogman's beliefs but about his behaviour. He ignored repeated warnings about his behaviour and was dismissed for failing to obey a lawful order and required to resign for failing to show politeness and tolerance to colleagues.' [If he had quoted the Koran rather than the Bible, those who criticized him would be in the gun]


Is It A "War On Christmas?" Or Is It A New, Acceptable Bigotry?

Has the “war on Christmas” returned? Some would say that, yes, to the extent that there ever was a “war” against the language and symbolism of Christmas, it most certainly has returned this holiday season, and it’s worse now than it has been in previous years. But unfortunately, I think something even more troubling is emerging in our country- - an assault on the freedom of conscience, if you will - - and all Americans should be alarmed by this.

To be sure, this Christmas season has brought about some interesting incidents of religious expression , and not-so-religious expression, in the public square. For example, in the Washington, DC area, the American Humanist Association launched an ad campaign last month, purchasing billboard signage at Metro Rail stops, and on Metro buses, that read “Why believe in a god? Just be good, for goodness’ sake…” Many D.C-area residents have taken offense to this. And yes, the message is intended to be ‘in your face.” And no, it‘s not an accident that this message has emerged during the Christmas season.

I, however, find the atheists’ message to be amusing and thought provoking, for at least a couple of reasons. For one, there is no religious tradition (not even Judaism or Christianity) that suggests that it is morally wrong for a person to “be good for goodness’ sake.” Secondly, if God does not exist, then who is to say what is “good?” Determining what is “good” without first believing in an all-good God, quickly becomes a very subjective enterprise, and both religious and non-religious Americans should consider this.

And for these reasons (and others), the atheists’ billboard campaign has made for some engaging discussion on my radio talk show at Washington, DC’s 630 WMAL. Additionally, the atheists’ billboard campaign has spawned a counter-campaign from a Catholic non-profit group in Bethesda, MD. Soon we‘ll have billboards around town that read “Why believe? I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake - - God.” As I see it, both Christians and atheists are exercising their rights to free speech in this situation , and that’s just fine with me.

What is not just fine with me, however, are the disgusting events that have emerged over last month’s passage of several statewide ballot initiatives regarding the re-definition of marriage (especially the passage of Proposition 8 in California). The outcome of these elections has given rise to a whole new level of bigotry among the cultural and political left, and the leaders of the left need to account for it.

Let’s first understand that the government sanctioning of homosexual marriage is an unpopular idea most everywhere in the U.S. - - even in states where liberal Democratic political sensibilities reign supreme. So it was no surprise that, while a majority of Californians voted to elect Barack Obama President, they also voted for Proposition 8 - - that is, they voted to amend their state’s constitution so as to define “marriage” as a relationship between one man and one woman. And “majority” is an important part of the story. A majority of Black Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8. A majority of Hispanic Californians voted in favor of it. And a majority of Asian Californians, and, yes, a majority of California’s Democrats, voted in favor of it.

Yet, the left has singled-out a religious group - - the Mormons, to be specific - - for ridicule and harassment. After weeks of shouting and picketing in front of Mormon temples around the state, the California Fair Political Practices Commission has now launched a “probe” into “non-monetary” contributions that the Mormon church may or may not have made towards the passage of proposition 8.

The message here, is clear: Americans of faith, especially those Americans for whom their faith leads to a conservative worldview, simply should not have a say in America’s public policy.

The messages of Christmas and Hanukah can survive just fine, even with secular, irreligious messages placed along side them. But attempting to belittle and damage and ultimately silence a minority group - - which is what is happening to Mormons in California right now - - is a different matter altogether. Americans who care about their freedom to think, and to believe, and to assemble, and to vote as they see fit, should stand in opposition to these attacks. The left is targeting Mormons today - - but tomorrow it could be you or me.


Welfare mothers to be forced to work

Britain trying to catch up with the USA

ALMOST all benefit claimants will be forced either to look for a job or prepare for work if they want to continue to receive state handouts, under a shake-up of the welfare state. Single mothers of children as young as one and people registered unfit for work will be compelled to go on training courses and work experience or risk cuts to their benefits. In an interview with The Sunday Times, James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, said: "Virtually everyone will be doing something in return for their benefits."

The welfare reform white paper, to be published this week, is set to provoke anger from rebel Labour MPs and campaign groups who believe such measures are unfair in a period of rising unemployment.

The conviction of Karen Matthews for kidnapping her daughter Shannon has shown the perverse consequences of the welfare system. Matthews, who had seven children, had never worked and was existing on 400 pounds a week in benefits.

The government will also announce plans to:

- Reform housing benefit to ensure the jobless can no longer live in large houses courtesy of the taxpayer.

- Allow companies to bid for contracts to place the long-term unemployed in work.

- Introduce a medical testing regime for people on incapacity benefit.

- Impose US-style "work-fare" schemes forcing those who refuse to take jobs to work in return for benefits.

At the core of the reforms is the proposal to divide benefit claimants into three groups. The first group is made up of unemployed people on jobseeker's allowance. From 2010, single mothers whose youngest child is aged seven or over will be moved from income support to the allowance. Lone parents now remain on income support until their children reach 16.

The second group will include about 400,000 single parents whose youngest child is aged between one and six, and more than 2m people claiming incapacity benefit. These claimants will face job centre interviews before being forced to undertake training courses or unpaid work placements.

A third group, including seriously disabled people and mothers of young babies, will continue to receive "unconditional" benefits.

There is expected to be legislation next year detailing the powers to be given to benefits advisers to compel claimants to attend official interviews. Those who fail to turn up could have their benefits cut. Under one proposal being considered, a first offence would result in a claimant losing 12 pounds, rising to 24 for a second offence. Repeat offenders could forfeit all their benefits for four weeks and would have only essential bills paid. The basic rate of income support and jobseeker's allowance is 60.50 a week.

Purnell said his scheme was "not about stigmatising anybody". He said sanctions would be a last resort and the thrust of the reforms was to provide "personalised advice". Purnell sought to reassure parents of young children that they would be given assistance finding childcare. "The conditionality would be very different for a one-year-old compared to a six-year-old," he said. The new approach would make women like Matthews work rather than rely on welfare, he said.

Terry Rooney, the Labour chairman of the work and pensions select committee, warned that Purnell's plan would prompt a backbench rebellion when it was debated in the Commons. "This will lead to a bureaucratic nightmare with tens of thousands of people being called in for interview and then being sent home again," he said. "The key question on lone parents is whether childcare is available. In most cases, it is not."

The Conservatives expressed doubts about the clampdown on lone parents. Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "I don't think these measures will actually work. Britain urgently needs real welfare reform to end the entitlement culture."


British parents who block estranged spouses from seeing children face community punishment

Parents who prevent their estranged spouses from seeing their children will have to carry out community service. Only a small step towards justice but better than nothing

Under new laws that come into effect next week, divorced or separated mothers and fathers will be hit with tough punishments for breaking contact orders handed down by family courts. They can be sentenced to up to 100 hours of unpaid work in the community for breaking the orders, with the penalty doubling to 200 hours and a fine if they fail to abide by the punishment. In addition, parents can be forced to attend therapy sessions and parenting lessons in the terms of the contact orders.

The new rules come into effect from Monday in provisions of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 that aim to strengthen the power of the authorities to deal with parents who block contact. They are being welcomed by some legal experts as a way of ensuring that parents who separate are able to keep in touch with their children.

Barbara Reeves, a partner in the family department of leading law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: "Any measures that support parental contact following the separation of a child's parents are to be supported. "These latest measures allow courts far greater powers to facilitate contact by imposing conditions to contact orders which will compel parents to attend family therapy, parenting classes and the like. "Also, where one parent frustrates contact, the court now has a practical enforcement power in that it some circumstances the recalcitrant parent can be compelled to take unpaid work. "It remains to be seen however, just how far the courts will take advantage of these new powers and move us towards the ideal situation whereby children are brought up always knowing both parents and honouring agreements or orders that facilitate contact."

But others claim the new sanctions will criminalise mothers and fathers unnecessarily, and point out that single parents will struggle to find the time to attend courses as well as meeting the costs, which could reach 2,500 pounds.

Chris Goulden, of the family law group Resolution, said: "The principles behind these new powers are laudable but they are unlikely to bring about any meaningful improvement unless the new services are up and running, properly funded and readily available for the courts to refer families to. "At the present moment there is a disturbing lack of clarity as to what activities will be available, where, when and who will pay for them."



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

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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Monday, December 08, 2008

The couple who wrongly lost three children to social services launch historic court fight to win them back

Britain's Leftist social workers are utter animals. They only pursue decent people -- and on the flimsiest of grounds in that case

A couple who had their three oldest children taken away by social services after false claims of abuse went to court last week in a bid to make legal history by reversing their adoption. A lawyer acting for Mark and Nicky Webster made an impassioned plea to three appeal court judges to right the unimaginable wrong that robbed them of the children - all under nine - who can be known only as A, B and C.

And the Websters, who now have another son, Brandon, and a fifth child on the way, are hopeful of success after judge Lord Justice Wilson remarked on the brevity of the original hearing that ruled they should be put up for adoption. He told the Appeal Court: `One thing that strikes one about that judgment is not only that it is very short but that there is very little context.'

The children were taken away in 2003 after B suffered leg fractures that doctors wrongly deemed were due to abuse. The Mail on Sunday has championed the plight of Nicky, 28, and Mark, 35, from Cromer, Norfolk, since it first came to light. And speaking outside court, Nicky explained: `We want to clear our names properly and we want the children to know the truth. They need to know that their mummy and daddy did not hurt them, that they loved them and cared for them.'

The Websters first hit the headlines when Nicky fled to Ireland before Brandon was born in 2006 so Norfolk social services could not take him away. The couple fought a long battle to prove they had not harmed their children and last year experts agreed B's leg injuries were not due to physical abuse but a disorder that stopped him eating anything other than soya milk. At that stage, a judge concluded Brandon, now two, was not `at risk'.

But winning back the older children, now eight, seven and five, will be much harder, as reversing an adoption means rewriting the law. Nicky said: `It's taken us years to get this far and this isn't the end. But we have to fight. We've been told adoption is irreversible and that however wrong it was there's nothing we can do about it so to just give up. But would you do that if they were your children? When would you decide, "Well, we've tried for long enough now. We'll just stop"?' The two eldest children, A and B, were adopted into one family while the youngest, C, went to another.

Nicky said: `I gave birth to those children and we were a family for longer than they have been with their adoptive families. So it's hard to sit and listen to lawyers argue that we can't fight to have our children back because it would be unsettling. When it comes down to it the only feelings I'm interested in considering are my children's. `We still "feel" the children. Brandon looks so like his brothers, it can really catch you off-guard. I know I'm expecting a girl this time and I'm excited but I'm scared. Will she look just like my first little girl?'

Astonishingly, last week Norfolk County Council's lawyer Kate Thirwall QC argued the Websters have no right to contest the adoption as the children are no longer theirs. `Adoption orders possess a peculiar finality,' she said. `The child becomes to all purposes the child of the adoptive parents as if he were their natural child.'

But Mark and Nicky's QC, Ian Peddie, said: `It is hard to understand how the parents cope with this injustice but the children also stand to suffer if they do not know the truth of what caused them to be taken from their parents. It is assumed that the older children are aware of their Webster heritage. Child A was five years 11 months, Child B almost four and Child C two years five months when the adoption was finalised. They have sibling contact three times a year. Child A had spent more time with her natural parents than the adoptive parents and may well have memory of her time with them. `We are well aware that adoptive orders are meant to be permanent and final. But we assert that this is a fundamental miscarriage of justice and denial of natural justice and in that case this court will interfere with an adoption order. `We are conscious of the floodgates argument but this case is quite exceptional.'

Judgment was reserved until January. In the meantime, the Websters are still unable to work with children. Nicky said: `We're still on the abusers register. Mark wants to be a taxi driver but he's not allowed to drive a child unaccompanied. A friend asked me to help at a music class for pre-school children. But I'm not allowed.'


How the Government plans to record intimate information on every child in Britain

When police raided Tory MP Damian Green's home, they `sheepishly' asked whether children were present before ransacking it. His wife assumed they were being polite. But, under sinister new guidelines, officers must assess all children they encounter - including while `searching premises' - for a police database called MERLIN. This, in turn, feeds into a giant new Whitehall database on Britain's children, Contact Point, which goes live nationally in January. The Tories have vowed to scrap it, arguing that it threatens family privacy and children's safety. But civil liberties campaigners say we must resist it now, before it is too late.

Since April 1, hundreds of thousands of State employees, from police to teachers, youth and nursery workers, social workers and sports coaches, have been entitled to interrogate children aged up to 19, using the `Common Assessment Framework' (CAF), a creepy, eight-page, 60-section questionnaire. CAF includes eyewateringly intimate questions about children's sexual behaviour, their family's structure, culture and religion, their views on `discrimination', their friends, secret fears, feelings and family income, plus `any serious difficulties in their parents' relationship'.

How has such a terrifying intrusion into private life crept, almost unnoticed, under the radar? The answer is New Labour has cleverly packaged CAF as an aid to `child protection' and delivering better services as part of its Every Child Matters project (ECM). The 224million pound programme has been beset by delays, incomprehensible acronyms and New Labour gobbledegook. But let us not be deceived - it is about control, not care, and spying, not safety.

ECM claims that nearly half of Britain's 11million children have `additional needs', so must continuously be assessed for the giant database at the Government's Department for Schools and Families. CAF questionnaires will be kept until they are 19, or for 75 years if they have been in care, and can be accessed electronically by hundreds of thousands of staff in other agencies.

Contact Point will also store information from databases kept by the NHS, GPs, schools, the Child Benefit Agency and the National Pupil Register. The potential for sensitive material about our children falling into malevolent hands is enormous.

Incredibly, parental consent is not often required for this intrusion into children's lives. Youngsters from the age of 12 are deemed mature enough to agree to being CAF-ed - whatever their parents' objections. But campaigners stress that families should teach their children to say No: submitting to CAF is, currently at least, voluntary. The Government claims that the database will identify children at risk of poverty, abuse or future criminality. But since when did filling in endless forms release funds for frontline services, rather than divert them?

By bizarre coincidence - or not - this assault on treasured British notions of privacy and propriety was devised by the woman responsible for Britain's most notorious social-work scandal. ECM was launched in September 2003 by Margaret Hodge, Tony Blair's shocking choice as Britain's first Children's Minister. Her main `qualification' was being his pal and running Islington Council when its 12 children's homes were awash with paedophiles and sympathisers of the `Left-wing' Paedophile Information Exchange. This campaigned for sex to be legalised with children from the age of four.

One can only wonder how many Pervy Petes within childcare today will relish being actively invited to ask children about their sexual behaviour (CAF seemingly views this as normal), the `sleeping arrangements' at home and how they feel about `changes to their body'.

I have been exposing child-abuse scandals for nearly 20 years and believe that this new Stalinist bureaucracy will not save a single child. Many of the paedophiles I exposed in Hodge's homes `groomed' children for eventual abuse through precisely such questions. Hodge claimed that constant State monitoring of children was justified by the Victoria Climbie scandal. Yet adequate powers to protect genuinely endangered children already exist. Why, then, did the appalling mothers of Shannon Matthews and Baby P retain their children? The problem was not lack of paperwork but too many stupid, politically correct people reading it and failing to act.

CAF will not mean that the State now swoops on the demonic families in flea-infested homes with rottweilers and broken-backed babies. No, just as with the Government's fearless war on pensioner recycling `louts', they will instead target and terrorise ordinary, decent families. Why? One reason is simply to control people. Many of today's New Labour MPs are ex-Marxists and radical feminists who still believe that the family poses the greatest potential opposition to the strong State.

The Government's decreed desirable `outcomes' for children are so frighteningly broad that many decent parents could find themselves labelled failures or abusers. Everyone involved with children - including volunteers, and police on raids - is now expected to use the Government's `Pre-Assessment Checklist', to see if they are achieving these five `outcomes' - being healthy, staying safe, enjoying life, making a `positive contribution' and achieving `economic well-being'.

Even parents working desperately hard to feed their children and keep them safe could be classified as failing them. The questionnaire asks if children's parents are `over-protective', and whether work leaves them `too tired to pay attention to your needs'. CAF practitioners are also taught specifically to ask if parents `promote a healthy lifestyle' and oppose `bullying and discrimination'.

An increasingly rigid State already rejects potentially loving foster and adoptive carers who smoke or have politically `incorrect' views because they are Christian. How long until natural parents are also found guilty of thought crime? Might Damian Green have been considered guilty of encouraging discrimination, through challenging the Government on immigration?

The worst thing is that Every Child Matters has made real protection work harder - the highly effective Child Protection Register was abolished in April and social workers are now drowning in paperwork about entirely innocent families. A suppressed University of York study found it took them a day to enter data electronically on just one child.

Terri Dowty, director of Action on Rights for Children, says: `People should fill in CAF questionnaires only if they have a real, defined need - for example, a disabled child and they need equipment - and then answer only strictly relevant questions. Otherwise, parents should teach their children that if they are asked at school to fill in these forms to say that they want first to go home and discuss it.'

Dowty fears that the new State questionnaire is `designed to teach children to accept being interrogated and classified from the earliest age, by anyone and everyone. It is truly frightening'. No one, supposedly, can be forced to fill in a CAF. But practitioners are advised to report the family to the local safeguarding children team `if a common assessment is refused and you are concerned'. They may also store the CAF centrally even when permission is refused.

Campaigners are considering challenging CAF in the European Court of Human Rights, which has thrown out Britain's attempts to store innocent citizens' DNA. But they desperately need benefactors and lawyers prepared to fund test cases and support innocent families under pressure.

Tragically, Britain, the cradle of parliamentary democracy, is becoming notorious worldwide for snooping on its citizens. Professor Nigel Parton, NSPCC Professor of Childhood Studies at Huddersfield University, warned a recent international conference in Finland that the Every Child Matters agenda means what we are witnessing is the emergence of the `preventive-surveillance state', with `major implications for the civil liberties and human rights of the citizen, particularly for children and parents'.

Once, people who warned of a growing police state seemed paranoid. The Damian Green raid was a wake-up call. Let us now protect our children, our and our country's future, with all our might.


Australia: False accusations ban father

Men are presumed guilty until proven innocent and even being proven innocent does not help much

"STEVE" has been barred from seeing his daughter for seven years. He has never harmed his only child or her mother. He has never threatened them and a court has accepted he is of good character. But last week, after a tortuous 10-year journey through four courts, more than 20 hearings, 12 psychologists and six lawyers, he was told he could not see his daughter until she came of age.

Steve, whose real name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, has gone through more than 20 intrusive psychological examinations, while daughter "Molly" has endured seven. He says he has spent more than $100,000 in 10 years.

His wife twice raised sexual-abuse allegations, proven false after months of investigation. But the court accepted she would "shut down" emotionally if Steve was allowed to see his daughter and that her distress would affect her parenting skills. It was deemed in Molly's best interests that she not see her father until she turned 18.

Now Steve, a successful small businessman from Melbourne's southern suburbs, faces being alienated from his daughter forever. "It just rips your heart out. If you can't forge a relationship with your child in their formative years, there's a real risk that you never have a good relationship," he said yesterday. "There was no violence, threats, abuse, harassment or intimidation. "I was shocked when (the judge) announced that the order would apply to both my ex-wife and our daughter and would last for 10 years. "I was able to persuade her that this would criminalise me if my daughter tried to contact me when she grew up. "But I bucked the system and paid the price. If you argue with the court's finding, they label you as unco-operative."

Steve said while everyone wanted women and children protected from violence, intervention orders should not be used as weapons in custody battles. "These orders are being used to persecute men and children by litigants who know courts will always err on the side of caution and remove fathers without there being any violence at all," he said. Steve said he feared his daughter had been scarred by the court's insistence on psychological examinations.

This year he approached his ex-wife's new partner to see if there was any chance of mediation that would allow him to see Molly. His wife instantly launched legal action alleging he breached an intervention order that prevented him approaching her or Molly. "The court decided that my - very polite - conversation with my ex's partner represented harassment. It's just unbelievable," Steve said.


Australia: Rights bill 'would take power from people'

A bill of rights would give too much authority to unelected judges and strip power from Parliament, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has warned. Federal Cabinet on Monday agreed to a national consultation process on what the bill should contain, which will start next week, Fairfax has reported. The bill, likely to be based on those in Victoria, Queensland and Britain, would outline a set of rights and require Parliament to ensure legislation complies with the rights.

Mr Turnbull said he had concerns about a bill of rights, saying they were often vaguely worded, offered a number of interpretations and would give courts too much power. "The problem with generally-worded guarantees of human rights in constitutional documents is that they give extraordinary legislative power to the courts,'' Mr Turnbull told Macquarie Radio today. "Judges are not elected. The good thing about politicians is that if you don't like what they are doing you can boot them out, and they are accountable. "The real question when you talk about a bill of rights is how much authority do you want to give to judiciary to make laws, versus the Parliament.''

Mr Turnbull was sceptical about the timing of the announcement, saying Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may be trying to distract people from more pressing concerns. "Kevin may come from Queensland, but his political style is very much Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees,'' he said. "It's all about politics of mass distraction. They make an announcement, get a headline, then never follow up.''



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Sunday, December 07, 2008

British police forbidden to store DNA profiles of innocent people

In theory, I see nothing wrong with DNA particulars being kept on file but given the appalling and endemic incompetence of British officialdom in handling sensitive information, I agree with that Tom Uttley writes below:

Those who have the stamina to wade through my weekly ramblings and rants will have gathered that I have no time at all for the European Court of Human Rights. As one of a dwindling band of believers in democracy, the least worst system of government yet devised by man, I'm appalled that so many of our laws are made by unelected foreign judges, so alien to our way of life that many of us have difficulty even pronouncing their names. For all I know, Bostjan Zupancic, Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, Zdravka Kalaydjieva and their fellow judges may be frightfully good chaps (or chapesses - don't ask me which). But I don't see what earthly business it is of these Slovenians, Macedonians and Bulgarians to lay down the rules under which you and I should lead our lives.

If we want absolute, unchangeable laws - applicable to every human being everywhere, without regard to their wishes, national traditions or changing circumstances - then let God lay them down, say I, and leave it to us to decide whether or not we obey Him. For the rest, I like to feel I have some sort of say in the way I'm governed - even if that means having to submit to a shower of incompetent control-freaks like New Labour (though, come to think of it, I can't remember anyone asking me if I wanted to be governed by a party led by Gordon Brown).

With my passionately felt objections to the ECHR, therefore, I find myself in a bit of a quandary when the court comes up with a judgment as magnificently just and sensible as yesterday's ruling that the British police must stop keeping DNA samples taken from people who have done nothing wrong. Should I stick to my democratic principles and say that these unaccountable foreign busybodies have no right to interfere in the law of the UK? Or should I smother them in hugs and kisses (well, perhaps not the Polish judge, who has the off-putting name of Lech Garlicki) and congratulate them on stepping in to right a grievous wrong?

On second thoughts, why not both? With apologies to Voltaire, let me turn his famous quote on its head and declare: I challenge to the death their right to say it - but, my goodness, I agree with what they say.

As an Englishman, born and raised in the land that kept the torch of freedom burning through two World Wars, I'm filled with shame at the thought that we have to take lessons in liberty from Germans, Italians, Estonians and Azerbaijanis. But, alas, those lessons have become necessary, after more than a decade of rule by a British Government intent on establishing state control over every minute detail of our lives, from what we eat and drink to how we choose to bring up our young.

We can see it everywhere, from the forest of CCTV cameras sprouting in every High Street (we have more per head than anywhere else in the world) to the monstrous plan to set up a database, recording the upbringing of all 12 million children in England and Wales - including information about their daily intake of fruit and vegetables and judgments about whether or not their parents provide 'positive role models'.

Nowhere is this creeping erosion of our liberties more insidious than in the police practice - now so roundly condemned by the ECHR as a breach of human rights - of collecting and keeping DNA samples from those who have never been convicted of a criminal offence. According to the latest estimates, the genetic profiles of between 850,000 and a million innocents are now being held on the 4.5 million-strong database, which is already one of the biggest on the planet. They include not only people who have been acquitted of crimes, but those who have never been charged or even suspected of wrongdoing - among them, witnesses and victims of offences.

Most chillingly of all, the profiles of more than 150,000 children are held on the database, to be kept there for the rest of their lives if the police and the Government get their way (as yet they may). Indeed, one of the two Britons on whose cases the ECHR ruled yesterday was only 12 years old when his DNA sample was taken, after he was arrested and charged with attempted robbery in January 2001. Five months later, he was acquitted - but the South Yorkshire police refused to remove his details from the database, saying they would be retained 'to aid criminal investigation'.

Now, I know that a great many readers will see nothing wrong with keeping the DNA profiles of children or anyone else on a police database. The more of us whose records are kept, they will say, the safer this country will be. Indeed, I've lost count of the number of letters I've received, telling me: 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.' I completely understand that point of view. But it was very neatly answered, I thought, by a letter in one of this week's papers, saying: 'I fear having to prove I have nothing to hide.'

There are other things I fear, too, about keeping the profiles of innocents on the database. For one, nothing could be easier for a criminal than planting a sample of somebody else's DNA at the scene of his crime. Indeed, only yesterday lunchtime I was handed a prize specimen of a stranger's DNA, in the form of a long, black human hair in my soup. Its owner will have a lot of uncomfortable explaining to do if I choose to leave it at the scene of my next robbery.

Then there's the disturbing question of what the Government might do with such a database if Britain were ever to fall into the hands of a totalitarian regime. After all, our DNA is crammed with information about our race, our state of health and God knows what else. There are some things about all of us that it's just safer for the Government not to know. I mean, just think what use Hitler or Stalin would have made of a database like this.

For all these reasons - not to mention the astronomical cost of every computer project undertaken by this Government and the near-certainty that somebody will leave the entire database on a train - I rejoice at yesterday's ECHR ruling.

Mind you, I don't suppose much will come of it. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has already announced that she's 'disappointed' with the ruling, adding: 'The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgment.' Leave aside that the job of sifting through 4.5million profiles to weed out and erase those of the innocent will almost certainly be beyond the ability of police or Whitehall

If I know the ways of this Government, Miss Smith will seize upon the judges' 'particular concern' that the innocent on the database may be 'stigmatised' by being treated in the same way as convicted offenders. Then she will tell us that the way to avoid stigmatising anyone is to put the whole lot of us on the police database and treat us all like convicts. After all, that is almost exactly what the Government did after the judges' ruling that it was wrong for Britain to have a law allowing us to keep foreign citizens under house arrest. Very well, replied the Government, we'll introduce a law allowing Britons to be kept under house arrest, too. So much for human rights.

Ah, well, the great thing about British democracy is that once every four or five years, we have the chance to get rid of the likes of Miss Smith and Mr Brown. It may seem churlish to say this, on the day after they struck their blow for liberty, but I only wish we could say the same about the judges of the ECHR.


New target for Britain's anti-terror spies: Village paperboys - for not having the correct paperwork

They creep around in the dark spreading misery, rumour and secrets from inside Westminster. Even so, paperboys and girls are hardly likely to pose a threat to national security. One local council, however, thought it necessary to use swingeing anti-terror laws against them.

Cambridgeshire County Council used the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on eight paperboys thought to be working without permits. It sent undercover council officers to lurk outside a Spar in the village of Melbourn and take notes on the movements of the boys. The evidence was used in a criminal prosecution of the shop's owners for employing five of the boys without the correct documentation.

Cambridgeshire's approach is just the latest example of local authorities using the RIPA for minor misdemeanours. Such activities have been likened to those of the Stasi, the East German secret police. A Cambridgeshire bylaw states that all paperboys must have a work permit issued by the council and signed by the child's employer, headteacher and parents. Working children must also be over 13 and cannot start work until after 7am.

This week Cambridge Magistrates' Court was told that Dips Solanki, 42, and his wife Rashmi, 38, had failed to get the correct work permits for five paperboys. Prosecutor Simon Reeve told the court that the couple ignored letters and visits from a child employment officer. He said that although eight applications for work permits had been sent to the children's school, only three were signed. He produced the surveillance to prove the boys had been working. The Solankis were found guilty of failing to comply with the bylaw and now have a criminal record. They were given a six-month conditional discharge.

All the boys concerned were between 13 and 16. Other than not having the correct paperwork, they were working legally. Yesterday, the couple insisted that there had simply been a paperwork mix-up. They denied that they had been warned by council officials - and said the authority was using a 'hammer to crack a nut'. Mrs Solanki said: 'They should only do such things for a serious crime. We're innocent people trying to make an honest living. It's ridiculous and was a complete waste of everyone's time.'

Andrew Lansley, Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, agreed, saying: 'These powers should only be used for the scope they were intended, which is to tackle serious crime and terrorism.' But a Cambridgeshire Council spokesman said: 'Delivering heavy bags early in the morning is potentially very hazardous. 'We do not want to wait until someone has an accident before we start to uphold the law properly.'

The Act was introduced in 2000. As well as allowing spying in the interests of national security, it also allows state agencies such as councils, NHS trusts and the fire service to act secretly in the interests of 'protecting public health'. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was supposed to grant only the police and security services the power to spy on emails and phone calls. But it was extended to town halls, which have been taking advantage on a daily basis. In the last financial year, 154 local authorities made 1,707 requests for communications data under RIPA. They include Poole Council in Dorset, which spied on a family because it wrongly suspected the parents of abusing rules on school catchment areas. Councils in Derby, Bolton, Gateshead and Hartlepool used covert techniques to deal with dog fouling, while Bolton spied on suspected litter louts.


Tennessee city says no to Santa display

He and neighbor Kevin Norris four years ago figured out how a 25-year-old plastic Christmas decoration could hover above the street between their two large brick homes. They attached a quarter-inch-thick steel cable line across Garrison Cove in northeast Murfreesboro and secured each end to the rooftop rafters of their homes. The men added Christmas lighting to Santa's sleigh and a red bulb on the nose of the lead reindeer.

City officials for the second straight year, however, have told Holton and Norris the display violates an ordinance against suspending things such as banners, streamers and signs. The decoration was already up last year when the neighbors were warned about it, but Murfreesboro City Council decided to allow it through Dec. 29, 2007, if all safety measures were met. The neighbors had to install electrical safety equipment and sign an agreement protecting the city from liability in case of an accident.

City Attorney Susan Emery McGannon explained the council's position to Holton and his wife, Rae Lynn, and Norris and his wife, Ashley, in a Dec. 14, 2007, letter: "Moreover, please do not assume that permission will be given for this or a similar display at any time in the future; approval of the Council in advance is required and may not be given again."

Before putting up Santa and his reindeer for this Christmas, Holton said he asked city administrators up front, only to be reminded about the ordinance. "I just think they're being Scrooges," said Holton, who's planning to ask the council for permission once again.

The decoration, according to the city attorney, violates Section 28-15 of the City Code that's been in place since 1940: "It shall be unlawful for any person to place, or cause to be placed, any sign, banner or streamer of any kind whatsoever in, across or above any public square, street or other public thoroughfare in the City without the prior expressed consent of the City Council."

The issue first emerged a year ago, Holton said, when Murfreesboro Planning Director Joseph Aydelott told Holton the display may be a violation during a community meeting about a proposed development being built next to Garrison Cove. Messages were left for Aydelott and McGannon Tuesday, but they were not available for comment.

Holton and Norris, who both work in the health-care sales industry, question how the ordinance can apply to a Santa decoration when it's not a banner, sign or streamer. "I think we should be able to put it up," said Norris, noting that on numerous times he's seen a flag displayed from a rope hanging over East Main Street between a house on one side and a tree on the other. "The city is setting a double standard."

The Santa and sleigh originally came from Holton's mother-in-law, Stella Boudreaux, and it used to sit on top of her roof in Louisiana during the Christmas holidays. "This is a Cajun Santa," Holton quipped. The idea for Santa to fly over Garrison Cove initially took Holton and Norris two days to complete four years ago, and it involved buying an expensive 40-foot ladder. Since then, it's taken about two hours to put up the decoration.

Many neighbors hope to see it return. "It's a huge conversation piece in the neighborhood," Jim Childers said. "The kids look for it, and the people look for it. It's done very nicely."

Holton and Norris both feel confident their display is safe when it's up. "If this thing came down, it's pulling the roof down," Holton said. "It's not coming down."


Britain has become a 'lonelier' place over the past 30 years, where even your neighbour's a stranger

Loss of traditional standards and rules has much to answer for

Britain is an increasingly lonely country where even our neighbours are strangers, research suggests. The breakdown of family ties and more people moving around the country for jobs have contributed to a society without roots or ties. Researchers say that the fragmentation of the UK started in the late 1960s, but has accelerated over the past decade. They believe that even the least cohesive communities of the early 1970s had stronger ties than any community now. Divorce, immigration and large transitory student populations have also played a role in weakening neighbourhood bonds, the report found. There is also greater movement for retirement, or for better schools and lifestyles.

The report, prepared for the BBC by researchers at Sheffield University, picked out districts where the fewest people have roots and most share 'a feeling of not belonging'. These include Holyrood in Edinburgh, Headingley in Leeds, Hyde Park in London, and the university district of Cardiff.

The index is based on the national census of 2001 and the Office for National Statistics' population estimates for 2006. Stoke-on-Trent, which scored 22.4 on the index, is among the towns where locals are most likely to stay put - and to which few outsiders are attracted.

The Changing UK report showed that where people live increasingly depends on how well off or how old they are. But it rejected the idea of a racial divide, saying that Britain 'is less segregated by race and ethnicity that in was in 1991'.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another failure by Britain's arrogant Leftist social workers

Shannon Matthews was kidnapped after social workers dropped her from the child protection register because they decided that she was no longer at risk of harm. Social services became involved with her six years ago because of fears about her welfare. In late 2003, they ruled that no further involvement was necessary. Shannon was removed from the at-risk register even though social workers knew of reports that the Matthews children were being left alone at night, were not attending school and that there were problems with violence, alcohol and drug abuse in the home.

For at least 20 months before she disappeared in February, Shannon was being secretly doped with at least five different drugs, including sedatives, painkillers and antidepressants. Her mother, Karen Matthews, and her accomplice, Michael Donovan, were found guilty yesterday of a "dishonest and wicked" plot that led to Shannon, 9, being abducted and held captive for 24 days. Jointly convicted of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice, they were warned by the judge to expect "a substantial custodial sentence".

Social services, which had compiled a huge file on Matthews and her children before the kidnapping, obtained an emergency court injunction on Wednesday that prevents The Times from disclosing the full details of its involvement with Shannon. Kirklees council, in West Yorkshire, also ordered staff at every school in the district not to discuss Shannon's case, which follows this week's damning report into Haringey social services and the Baby P tragedy.

According to a source close to the family, Shannon's former head teacher went "absolutely ballistic" during one meeting at which the care authority claimed to have received little information about the girl from the school. She was able to show that social workers had been warned of teachers' concerns "on a number of occasions".

A former neighbour, Claire Wilson, 32, said that she used to hear Shannon "crying through the wall" and reported the family to social services on at least three occasions in 2002. "Imagine living with a neighbour from hell and then double it," she said. "I once rolled the dirt off Shannon's feet. The mud was like glue, really stuck on. We had beetles and mice in our home which were coming from their house. "I think social services should be shot. I used to tell them time and again and all they would say was, `We'll look into it'."

Toxicology tests would later establish that Shannon was being fed a range of drugs before she was kidnapped. They included temazepam, a hypnotic drug with sleep-inducing effects, two powerful painkillers and an antidepressant. She was often seen to be drowsy and disorientated and was sometimes sent to bed hungry. Her teachers also raised concerns over low standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

The BBC Panorama programme claimed last night that Shannon was removed from the at-risk register despite a report warning that Matthews would require "constant monitoring and support throughout the lives of her children". The report, commissioned by social services, is said to have concluded that Matthews seemed unable "to place the children's needs above her own".

Before the kidnapping, Shannon and her three siblings were living at a council house in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, with Mathews, 33, and her boyfriend, Craig Meehan, 22, who was later convicted of possessing child pornography. Alison O'Sullivan, Kirklees's director for children and young people, confirmed yesterday that the authority was now "responsible for the protection of the children of Karen Matthews". She said: "Those children are subject to High Court proceedings where, among other very important issues concerning the children, the actions and plans of this local authority, past, present and proposed, will be scrutinised carefully."

Silence descended on Court 12 at Leeds Crown Court yesterday as the jury foreman stood to deliver the unanimous guilty verdicts. Matthews and Donovan, 40, showed no emotion. They will be sentenced at a later date.

Shannon was found in March in the base of a divan bed after police forced entry to Donovan's flat, a mile from her home. She had been drugged and tethered to a strap tied to an attic roof beam for parts of her imprisonment. Her disappearance led to one of the biggest search operations in the history of British policing. It cost 3.2 million pounds and involved more than 300 officers, who searched 1,800 homes. Donovan later admitted taking and holding Shannon but claimed to have been acting under duress after being threatened by Matthews.

In court she sobbed repeatedly, claiming that she played no role in the kidnapping and had not known who was holding Shannon. The jury was told, however, that she had "lied and lied and lied again". In reality, she hoped to earn the 50,000 pound reward offered for her daughter's safe return. Donovan was supposed to "find" Shannon and take her to a police station.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan, who led the search, said the experience had been harrowing for all involved in the investigation. "The vast majority of staff and officers were parents or grandparents themselves," he said. "On the day she was found alive, everyone was in tears. I've never seen an incident room like it. It was a very emotional time."


It's Time to Speak Out Against The 'Mormon Boycott'

Supporters of gay marriage have reacted with anger at the passage of California Proposition 8, which amended the California state constitution to provide that only marriages that fit the traditional definition (one man, one woman) will be recognized. The resulting protest movement has devolved into anti-Mormon bigotry which has been met with silence by liberal civil rights groups. The anti-Mormon fervor has become so nasty, and is growing at such a pace, that it is time to speak out against the "Mormon boycott."

The use of boycotts in support of gay marriage, including by some law professors, preceded the passage of Prop. 8. These boycotts, which aim at suppressing political speech, are distinct from the boycotts of the black civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The civil rights boycotts sought not to suppress speech, but to provide access to goods and services by targeting those people withholding the goods and services.

Regardless of whether one supports the use of boycotts in the Prop. 8 context, the targeting of Mormons is gross hypocrisy considering that other groups, such as Blacks and Latinos, likely were the decisive electoral factor. A persuasive argument can be made that Mormons have been singled out because they are a relatively small group with political power mostly in one state. The irony of singling out a religious group which has itself been the victim of discrimination appears lost on anti-Prop. 8 boycott groups.

The anti-Prop. 8 boycott efforts have not been limited to Mormons, but Mormons have been the primary focus of public vitriol and at the center of the boycott movement. The evidence is mounting daily that the "Mormon boycott" efforts of pro-gay marriage groups have gone too far, and have devolved into anti-Mormon hate speech.

While the web is filled with hate speech by fringe elements directed at many groups, the anti-Mormon efforts are openly embraced and promoted by a wide range of anti-Prop. 8 groups. Anti-Mormon hate speech no longer is on the fringe, it is at the heart of the post-election anti-Prop. 8 campaign. The examples are too numerous to list completely. This sampling reflects the breadth and increasing scope of post-election anti-Mormon activities:
The creation of a boycott list of Mormon-owned hotels. The creator of the list states as follows: "I personally won't do business with any Marriott hotels, as they are owned by Mormons. I'm done with this shit. They just use the money against us."

Additional calls for a boycott of all Mormons: "While much ado is being made about the overwhelming support of prop 8 by black voters in California, there is little ado being made about getting even with the Mormons...."

A boycott of the entire state of Utah because of the high percentage of Mormons, and other efforts targeting Mormons as "hate's banker, and we need to make sure that their moral bankruptcy becomes a fiscal one as well."

Protests at Mormon churches around the country, including New York City, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.

Postings on Daily Kos and elsewhere calling for boycott of Mormon owned businesses: "Businesses owned by Mormons, who tithe to the Church, should also be boycotted. Large amounts of Church income comes from tithings. Vote with your wallets! Every dollar less that you give to a tithed Mormon is a dollar less that can be tithed and spent on anti-gay activity."

Postings on YouTube of blatantly anti-Mormon videos calling on people to "Boycott the Utah Hate State and the Mormons."

The creation of high profile websites devoted to portraying Mormons as having betrayed the U.S. by taking control of the Boy Scouts and other devices: "The Mormon people have been able to flourish because of this country's generous spirit. But now, history has reversed, and it is the Mormons who have become the oppressor."

The production of an anti-Mormon musical by the creators of South Park, which is expected to start rehearsals soon.

Calls not to tip Mormon waiters: "Now do not tip, hire, or do any business with a Mormon. 10% of their income goes to the church that worked tirelessly to take the civil rights away from people. They are a Nazi organization who only what their point of view followed. I asked my waiter if he were a Mormon, when he said he was I did not tip him, telling him, I was sorry but I can not support bigotry."

Suggestions that Mormon businesses that do not wish to be harassed should post signs in their windows against Prop. 8: "Any business, Mormon or otherwise, can take the simple step of posting a sign on the premises urging the repeal of Prop 8, or make a public statement against it."

Calls to fire a Mormon employed by the American Jewish Congress because he supported Prop. 8.

The forced resignation of the Mormon director of the Los Angeles Film Festival for support of Prop. 8.

The investigation by the State of California of the Mormon Church's tax exempt status, even though religious organizations routinely support or oppose political causes without losing their exempt status.

A hotel in New Mexico luring visitors away from Utah by using a web address that incorporates the words "mormon-boycott-utah."

A call to boycott businesses, including Macy's and Nordstrom, which plan to open stores at a shopping mall owned by the Mormon church: "The Mormon Church came after our rights, and if we don't stop them, they will be back again and again."

A call to boycott businesses which have Mormons in senior positions: "Universely [sic], we need to avoid putting any more money into the Church's coffers by boycotting all companies where a Mormon church member holds an officer's position or a large majority interest."

Efforts to create and distribute lists of businesses "either owned by the Church, owned by Mormons, having a Mormon in a high executive position, or generally benefiting Mormons," including on Facebook and elsewhere.

The boycott of Mormon business has been likened to a war: "There is a war cry being sounded in gay communities all across America - Boycott Mormon owned businesses. This is a war cry that should be heeded."
The singling out of Mormons, and the hateful nature of the boycott, is not coincidental. Prop. 8 is being used as an excuse to vent pent-up anger at the Mormon Church, and the traditional lifestyle of Mormons. With each passing day, it seems that the web is filled with more and more hate speech directed at Mormons. As others have noted, the attacks on Mormons would not be tolerated if directed at other religious or ethnic groups.

What is most disturbing is that there has been complete silence from groups that normally defend religious freedom. The Anti-Defamation League has not stepped forward to defend Mormons against the current boycotts, even though the ADL has spoken out against anti-Mormon hate crimes in the past.

The silence of the ADL and other Jewish groups is unconscionable. Economic boycotts of Jewish businesses in Germany starting in 1933 were a precursor to the Holocaust. Boycotts aimed at Israeli goods and academics have been condemned as veiled anti-semitism by ... the ADL.

In the end, the supporters of gay marriage who engage in anti-Mormon hate speech will realize that they have damaged their own cause. Lashing out at others and engaging in religious bigotry does not constitute an argument in favor of gay marriage. Regardless of one's position on gay marriage, it is time to speak out against the "Mormon boycott." There simply is no one else who will, if we don't


Religion not so foolish

By Jeff Jacoby

At the age of 12, David Wolpe lost his religious faith. Shaken by a film on the aftermath of the Nazi atrocities, he concluded there could be no God in a world that harbored such evil. His efforts to understand a godless universe led him, in time, to Bertrand Russell's biting essays against religion, which he keenly read and reread. That is what he was doing one day at the Jewish summer camp he attended as a teen, when one of the staff rabbis strolled by and asked what he was reading. To Wolpe's defiant answer -- "Bertrand Russell" -- the rabbi made a surprising reply: "Good." Startled, Wolpe asked what he meant.

"David, how old are you?" the rabbi asked in return. "Seventeen." "Well, I'd rather have you grow out of him than grow into him."

Grow out of him he did, and one result of that growth is Why Faith Matters, a wonderfully tender and engaging new book in which Wolpe -- for the past 21 years a rabbi himself -- makes the case that religion is an indispensable force for goodness and meaning in the world.

It is interesting to experience, in the same week, both Wolpe's book and Religulous, Bill Maher's cinematic assault on organized religion. Maher, a caustic comedian and TV host, also turned his back on religion in his teens. "I hated church; it scared me," he says near the start of Religulous. He also says, somewhat inconsistently, that he found religion "boring" and that it "wasn't relevant" to his life.

Like Wolpe's book, Maher's movie raises questions about faith; unlike Wolpe, Maher isn't interested in answers. Religulous is a profane, condescending, and often funny rant against religion -- Christianity especially, but also Judaism, Mormonism, and Islam. Maher's mocking documentary promotes the idea that only oddballs, cranks, and nincompoops can take religion seriously. That's a fairly easy case to make if you focus, as Maher's interviews mostly do, on oddballs, cranks, and nincompoops: the Puerto Rican cult leader who claims to be the Antichrist, the pothead in Amsterdam with his marijuana "ministry," the misfit rabbi who embraces Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the young-earth creationist who teaches that human beings and dinosaurs co-existed.

It's also easy to portray faith as a goofy fairy tale if you spend your time deriding tales of ancient miracles -- a burning bush! A virgin birth! A prophet swallowed by a fish! -- but never pause to acknowledge the far-fetched improbabilities inherent in atheism.

Maher characterizes religion as "fantasy and nonsense." Yet atheism is no guarantee of enlightened rationality. In a study released this past September, researchers at Baylor University found that adherence to "traditional . . . religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead, and astrology." By contrast, those who reject traditional religion -- "self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious" -- are "far more likely" to believe in superstition and the occult. Or other nonsense: Maher, for example, claims that aspirin is lethal, doubts that the Salk vaccine eradicated polio, and has praised the horse that threw Christopher Reeve.

So it is unsurprising that Maher sees only the foolishness and evil that religious people, like all people, are capable of, and misses entirely the extraordinary good that religion engenders. As Wolpe notes, numerous researchers have found that "religious people are happier, more charitable, have more stable families, and contribute more to their communities." They are less likely to suffer depression or commit suicide, to use drugs or be involved with crime, to drink to excess, or to smoke.

The Los Angeles Times reported last year on research showing that people without faith were less likely to help a poor or homeless person than religious believers. While both were equally likely to describe themselves as "good citizens," their charitable practices were strikingly different. Americans of no faith donated an annual average of $200 to charity; active-faith adults typically contributed $1,500. Even when church-based giving was subtracted from the mix, religious Americans donated twice as much to charity as the nonreligious.

It is no coincidence that so many hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, and aid organizations have been started and sustained by religious groups. "We are creatures designed to flourish -- to heal and to help -- when we believe," Wolpe writes. Religion makes the world better, notwithstanding all the ways in which it has been perverted. A world without God and faith would be hellish and lonely. Perhaps it is also no coincidence that Why Faith Matters ends with the word "love," while the final word in Maher's film is "die."



By Jeff Jacoby

Bill Maher is a secularist who derides not only religion, which he calls "a neurological disorder," but the good deeds of religious people. There is nothing moral about doing the right thing, he contends in his new movie, Religulous, if you think God will punish you for doing the wrong thing. Early in the film, Maher visits a North Carolina truck-stop chapel so he can scoff at the drivers and pastor who worship there. "If you're being good just to save your" butt, he tells one of them, "that's not a good reason."

The argument has been framed more thoughtfully. In the last of his Letters to a Young Lawyer, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz puts it this way: "It is easy to understand why a person who believes in a God who rewards and punishes would want to try to conform his or her conduct to God's commandments. A cost-benefit analysis should persuade any believer that the eternal costs of hell outweigh any earthly benefit to be derived by incurring the wrath of an omniscient and omnipotent God." Consequently, says Dershowitz, "doing something because God has said to do it does not make a person moral: It merely tells us that person is a prudential believer, akin to the person who obeys the command of an all-powerful secular king."

So what does make a person moral? Answers Dershowitz: Doing a "good act . . . simply because it was deemed by the actor to be good." To be truly moral, he suggests, one should act as if there is no God, no punishment, no reward. "You should be a person of good character because it is right to be such a person."

To someone who denies the existence of God or the legitimacy of religious authority, this is an understandably appealing argument: Not only don't we need God to be good, it's better -- it's moral -- to be good without God. But the argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, most religious people don't go through life subjecting their every move to a calculus of divine justice. The belief that there is ultimate reward and punishment in an unknowable afterlife does not convey immunity from the temptations, fears, and desires of this life. If it did, the behavior of religious people would always be exemplary -- which, alas, it isn't. It is one thing to believe that God eventually rewards good and punishes evil. It is something very different -- something much more difficult -- to act in accordance with that belief.

Moreover, many Christians believe that salvation is won through faith alone -- that their good works, however commendable, will not get them to heaven, and their sins will not keep them out. And even for those who believe that behavior in this world does determine reward in the next, there is always atonement -- the ability to earn God's forgiveness through repentance.

What is it, then, that accounts for the good deeds of believers? If dreams of heaven and fears of hell don't motivate them, what does? "I have known religious people all my life," writes Rabbi David Wolpe in Why Faith Matters, his new book on the joys and gifts of religion. Some have been unpleasant or selfish, but "most . . . engage in innumerable activities of kindness, charity, and selflessness. They set up soup kitchens, create networks of volunteers to visit the sick, contribute money and skills to help the poor, and pray for others in need. Few of them do it because they fear death. Far stronger is the impulse to responsibility, to living a sacred life, a life of service."

This is what so many secularists fail to understand about religion: Its greatest power to change lives comes not from promises and threats, but from closeness and love. The deepest purpose of religion is to inculcate decency in human beings -- to encourage behavior that is ethical and compassionate not because God will reward it, but because God wants it. That is a calling as contemporary as this morning, and as ancient as the ages. "What does God require of thee," the prophet Micah urged long ago, "but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

At its best, religion elevates men and women, prompting them to do good out of an ennobling sense of obligation -- and with the joy that comes from acting in harmony with God's transcendent design.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Friday, December 05, 2008

British school cancels Christmas play because it interferes with Muslim festival of Eid

A primary school infuriated parents after cancelling the traditional Christmas nativity play to make way for the Muslim festival of Eid. Parents at the Nottingham school were told that the planned performance had to be pulled because some of the pupils wanted to celebrate Eid at home with their families. In a letter, sent by the staff at Greenwood Junior School, mothers and fathers were told: 'It is with much regret that we have had to cancel this year's Christmas performances. 'This is due to the Eid celebrations that take place next week and its effect on our performers.'

However, following a barrage of complaints, a second letter was issued saying the show had 'not been cancelled outright' but has been postponed until the New Year. The follow-up letter, sent by headteacher Amber Latif and chair of governors Yvonne Wright, apologised for the 'misunderstanding' caused by the first correspondence. It read: 'We are a very inclusive school and fully respect the cultures and religions of all the children. 'We are upset to know that some of our parents/carers have been offended by the letter. 'The Christmas performance has not been cancelled outright but has been postponed until the New Year.'

Mum Janette Lynch, whose seven-year-old son Keanu attends the school, said she was angered that the performance had been moved until after Christmas. She said: 'The head has a whole year to plan for Eid and so she should be able to plan for both religious festivals. 'I have never heard of this at a school. It is the first year my son has been there and a lot of the mums like me were really looking forward to seeing the children in the nativity. 'I think it's wrong it has been moved to after Christmas.'

The school has also sent out a timetable of events to mark Eid ul-Adha, or 'greater Eid', which is the second of the two Eid festivals. It lasts for two or three days and starts on Monday or Tuesday next week. Muslim children will be off school for the religious holiday. Sajad Hussain, 35, of who has two children at the school said: 'My children will be off for the two days next week to see their family. 'It's not that complicated; they could have one event on one day and another on another day, they should have both celebrations at the school. 'If you do not have both it becomes a racist thing and that's why you have to be careful if an issue is made out of it it could become nasty.'

Yesterday, a statement issued by the school said: 'We would like to apologise for any confusion caused as a result of [the original] letter we sent out and would like to reassure parents and the community that Christmas has not been cancelled at Greenwood Junior School. 'As a multi-faith school, like many schools in Nottingham City, we represent a wide variety of faiths and due respect is given to each one appropriately. 'For very practical reasons we have taken the difficult decision to re-arrange some significant events on the school calendar to ensure maximum pupil and staff attendance.' The next two weeks are brimming with festivities for both Eid and Christmas that the children are really looking forward to.


Counsellor sacked for refusing to give sex advice to gay couples because it was 'against his Christian beliefs'

A Christian relationship counsellor was sacked because he refused to give sex therapy sessions to gay couples, a tribunal heard today. Gary McFarlane, 47, had given advice to straight couples but felt his religious beliefs prevented him from offering advice on sexual intimacy with same sex partners. He was sacked by the national counselling service Relate for breaching its equal opportunities policy. The father-of-two says his religious beliefs were not taken into account and is claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination at an Employment Tribunal in Bristol.

Mr McFarlane, of Bristol, had been a counsellor with Relate for three years when he undertook a diploma to become in psychosexual therapy, which involved dealing with intimate problems. But he says that promoting same sex physical relationships goes against his strong religious beliefs.

Yesterday his boss Michael Bennett, manager of Avon Relate, said he was dismissed because sexual advice might crop up in his everyday dealings with gay and lesbian couples. He told the tribunal: 'Sexual issues can come up in relationship counselling. 'You can have a situation where a counsellor can be talking to a couple and it might emerge that one has homosexual or bi-sexual feelings and have a despite to engage in a sexual relationship with the same gender to them. 'It is also true that heterosexual couples can also be involved in sex techniques that can mimic those of homosexuals.'

Mr McFarlane - a trained solicitor who specialises in resolving legal disputes through mediation and sits on a committee which advises the Law Society - joined Relate in 2003. He is also a part-time tutor on relationships at Trinity Theological College in Bristol and regularly attends both Church of England and Pentecostal services in Bristol. While training as a counsellor he had qualms about dealing with gay couples but claims he overcame them during discussions with his supervisor - and even offered support to a lesbian couple, the hearing was told.

But in September 2006 he trained as a psychosexual therapist, which involved dealing with people's intimate sexual problems. He assumed his supervisors would take into account his strong Christian beliefs and that he would not be asked to do anything that would encourage gay sex and that he would not be assigned to work with a gay couple, it was said. But some colleagues had difficulties with his stance and a letter was being circulated which claimed he was homophobic and there was pressure to dismiss him on these grounds.

Mr McFarlane's lawyer Paul Diamond said: 'There was a campaign raised against Mr McFarlane in Relate Avon calling for his dismissal. 'This campaign was organised against Mr McFarlane because of his religious beliefs.'

But Mr Bennett claims the pair held two 'constructive meetings' on October 10 and November 19 to see if they could resolve the situation. He said: 'I asked would he comply with our equal opportunities policy and he said that in PST that would put him under greater stress. 'I offered support to see if there was a practical way around it. 'Mr McFarlane said there was no practical way around it and during the meeting he said he did not feel he could work with same sex couples on sexual issues and that would continue to be the case.'

But Mr Diamond claimed Mr McFarlane's views were 'evolving' and that all he really wanted was for his supervisor to offer guidance and support. However, Mr Bennett denied this and told the tribunal: 'His views were quite fixed in both meetings. 'At the end of the October one I told him to go away and have a think about his stance because it was a very important decision. 'He had weeks to think this through and at the end of the November meeting he was absolutely clear that without a shadow of doubt he would not work with same sex couples on sexual issues on religious grounds.'

Fellow counsellors complained about Mr McFarlane's stance and claimed his views were homophobic, which led to his suspension in January 2008. He was summoned to a disciplinary hearing the following month and sacked on March 18 this year. His appeal was dismissed.

Relate, originally called the National Marriage Guidance Council, was founded in 1938. By 1998 it was counselling couples in a much wider range of relationships and changed its name to Relate. It now operates from nearly 600 locations nationwide and the Avon branch employs around 40 part and full time counsellors.

The hearing is due to last two days. Mr McFarlane is due to give evidence at its conclusion tomorrow. But he has previously been quoted as saying: 'If I was a Muslim this would not happen, they would find a way to make the system work. 'But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights. This could force other Christians out of counselling.'


Feminist myth meets reality

It confirms what we knew, but the reminder still stings. Women don't often really like one another.

On Tuesday, the results of a 20-year study of hundreds of families found that two-thirds of women believed friction with their mother-in-law or daughter-in-law had caused them long-term unhappiness and stress. The study, by Cambridge University psychologist Terri Apter, found the disharmony was due to the perception that each was undermining or criticising the other. She said the mutual prickliness was often less to do with actual attitudes and more to do with perceptions of female norms.

That's right: she found cooking, cleaning and the care of children are standard battlegrounds between women bound by marital links. Sadly, I think the barbs are being fired far more widely than just between women who both love the same man. They are being shot everywhere, with women often gleeful about straining the bow. Women in positions of power in the workplace are criticised for being too manly, too coquettish, too pretty, too brutally honest. Women in social situations are criticised for being too much a wallflower, or garish. According to women, wives are mostly either of the surrendered (of author Laura Doyle's book), alpha or a trophy ilk. It's madness.

Much as the fight for equality for women has been won in many ways, the deeper undercurrents of relationships and communications have not changed for generations: much as they share a situation, a gender and a desire for harmony and mutual growth, women nobble their gender by criticising each other. The difference between our generation and the one that went before is that we stay with our default programming, but also have taken on tasks that were formerly the bastion of men.

Young women might step outside the traditional zone, drink more, party more and feel the zing of writing their own stories. But as we age, I have noticed we seem to slip back to the familiar ground of traditional gender roles. We take on the meal-planning without thought of consultation, and attend to the day-to-day childcaring without a thought. We sit in the passenger seat of the car and are the ones who remember to take the salad, and bring the emptied bowl home again, when we are asked over to our friends' homes for lunch. But we also clean the gutters, discipline the kids and pay the bills.

All the while, other women are watching and chipping away. Talk of the profound joy found in performing tasks that are traditionally done by the female gender, and feel the sting of the feminists' barbs. Talk of the joy found in tasks and duties performed traditionally by men and the condemnation is that you have denied your womanhood.

Why do women judge others so harshly? I have taken on a few renovation tasks around my home in recent months. I have tiled and painted a few rooms, oiled a deck and done some serious gardening. I do these things because I want to and really enjoy the planning and the process. The reaction to my paint-spattered hands, blackened nails and dusty hair has been mixed -- and most of the disbelieving or negative responses have been from other women. Why would I want to do it? Could I not afford to get a tradesman? That I want to take these jobs on, and really enjoy them, seems an unlikely story to my critics.

Why, when women give lip services to other women's freedom to make decisions about their own bodies, career choices, relationships and parenting status, do they then snipe and criticise those decisions once made?

Maybe we tear down those women we perceive to be successful to feel better about ourselves. The results of a New York University study released early this year found that women characterised women they perceived as successful as unlikeable, aggressive and hostile. The study found that women adopted this attitude to block their own feelings of incompetence.

The study found that giving positive feedback to women about their potential to succeed lessened their negative reactions to successful women and did not lower the self-ratings of confidence in those who had formerly sniped.

The title of this report by social psychologists Elizabeth Parks-Stamm and Madeline Heilman says it all - Motivated to Penalise: Women's Strategic Rejection of Successful Women. So much for the sisterhood.


Pirates and the Politically Correct

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

The Royal Navy may have been warned not to detain Somali pirates in case their human rights are violated, but Britain has cracked down firmly on pirates in other areas, such as children's parties. If real pirates are to be unmolested at sea, and domestic violent crime has increased hugely in the last few years, still the Nanny State has never been Nannier. After all, two-thirds of the new jobs created in Britain since Labour came to power have been in the public sector, and they have to do something productive and useful for their salaries.

This is, after all, the society where an actor playing the brave Lord Nelson had to wear a life jacket over his glittering uniform when crossing the placid waters of the Thames near the Tower of London by boat.

When a crude replica of a pirate ship was erected in memory of the late Princess Diana at a children's playground in Kensington Gardens, commemorating Peter Pan's duels with the wicked Captain Hook, officialdom decreed that it should be purged of violent imagery such as cannon, walking the plank, and skull-and-crossbones flag.

Children's books featuring the exploits of the naughty 11-year-old schoolboy William Brown, who delighted in playing pirates, have been attacked as creating bad role models.

Recently the skull-and-crossbones flag has also been banned from being flown in the gardens of suburban houses hosting pirate parties on the grounds that it is unneighborly.

Local authority officials told the parents of 6-year-old Morgan Smith (not thought to be any relation to either the notorious Bloody Morgan, who sacked Porto Bello, or Aaron Smith, tried for piracy at the Old Bailey in 1823 but acquitted) that they must apply for planning permission to fly the flag, at a cost to them of about $150. It was reported that an assessment of the 5'x4' flag's impact on the surrounding area would be undertaken before a decision was made as to whether the flag would be allowed for the party or not. The young would-be picaroon's father was quoted as saying: "When the lady from the council came to see me she said the Jolly Roger was of concern. She took some pictures and said that we would have to take it down from now on. I've put in a planning application but I shouldn't have to go to all this trouble."

Similar trouble befell fireman and ex-soldier David Waterman (not known to be related to "Bully" Waterman, opium-runner and most dreaded of the Western Ocean Packet Skippers), of Ashstead, Surrey, when he flew a skull and cross-bones flag for his four-year-old daughter's pirate's party. A neighbor complained and it was reported Waterman was facing court proceedings from the local council, whose spokesman said: "We are duty-bound to investigate complaints and enforce government regulations." Another neighbor then also hoisted a Jolly Roger as a gesture of solidarity with the Brethren of the Coast, but struck it after receiving a shot across the bows in the form of a warning letter from officialdom.

That old sea-dog Sir John Hawkins has also felt the wrath of the guardians of political correctness. One of the innumerable government-funded multiculturalism enforcers, the Plymouth Council for Racial Equality, attacked a proposal that a pub near Hawkins's birthplace in Plymouth be named after him, although in this case it was not because he cut out the occasional Spanish treasure ship but because he was a slave-trader.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Somalia the Royal Navy has reportedly received instructions from the Foreign Office not to detain pirates in case their human rights are breached. If sent back to Somalia they could, under Islamic law, face beheading for murder or having a hand chopped off for theft. (In Britain the death penalty for piracy on the high seas was only abolished in 1998.)

Captains of British warships patrolling off Somalia and other pirate-infested waters have also been warned that there is a risk captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain. Presumably they would be a charge on the State because they would not even be able to make new careers for themselves there at children's parties, or at least not without planning permission.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hate-filled and dishonest Leftist film about Australia accepted uncritically as truth elsewhere

Baz Luhrmann's first big mistake was to get so full of himself that he called his movie "Australia". Worse, he then added titles to the beginning and end of his $180 million spectacular to tell viewers his take on our history was historically accurate. And so a movie that is a huge grab-bag of cliches - a collation of gaudy images pecked from deserted movie sets by an insatiable bowerbird - isn't just bad storytelling. It's also an exercise in bad faith - a movie allegedly about Australia, defining Australia, that's shot by a man who actually doesn't understand the country, and doesn't like it, either.

And that lazy contempt is precisely what American critics, for instance, have picked up on. What's more, fooled by Luhrmann into thinking they really are seeing Australia as we are, they've assumed as true that we're as heart-rotten as he shows. Hear it from the New York Observer: "Wow, who knew Australia was so racist?" Or from Cleveland's Plain Dealer: "Luhrmann . . . examines the rampant racism of his then-segregated country . . ." Or from Variety: "(T)o a significant extent, the film is also a mea culpa, in a vast popular-entertainment format, for the cruel racial policies once imposed by the Australian government . . ." Or from Entertainment Weekly: "Australia incorporates real history into its fiction. For decades, mixed-race children were forcibly taken from their families and trained in church- and government-sanctioned schools to become servants in white households . . ."

If Luhrmann had simply stuck to making the camp songless musical fantasy that parts of this film clearly are - a kind of Priscilla-Queen-Of-The-Desert-Goes-Droving mock epic - he might have given us the next great Australian film we've prayed for. But discipline is precisely what he lacks most. He's filmed instead parts of several movies-united stylistically only by his manic urge to grab the shiniest cliches and polish them to a cheap brilliance.

Australia starts with a story of a cliched young English aristocrat, played by Nicole Kidman, who flies to the Northern Territory on the eve of World War II to rescue the cattle station left by her dead husband. She finds she can save her Faraway Downs only if she droves her herd to Darwin with a ragtag bunch of helpers to break an evil cattle king's monopoly on supplying meat to the army. It's a nice, if familiar, premise which offers lots of scope for comic turns by Hugh Jackman as the cliched rough-nut Drover who falls for the English rose; Jack Thompson as the cliched educated drunk who smashes his last bottle of booze to come good; Bryan Brown as the cliched villain complete with six-gun; Yuen Wah as the cliched jabbering Chinese cook driving the chuck wagon; and David Ngoombujarra as the cliched black Tonto to Jackman's Lone Ranger. And, naturally, all the Aborigines are nice, and some are even magic.

Indeed, nothing at all is too cliched for Luhrmann - whether it's the old cattle-stampede-towards-a-cliff, or the embarrassingly awkward death scene poor Thompson must perform of the trampled alkie, a hero at last, blood trickling from his mouth as he tries to stammer his last, broken words.

Some cliches are too shiny for Luhrmann to use once, so Jackman emerges not just from swirls of dust, but from swirls of smoke and mist, too. The cliche of the English stuffed blouse is just as irresistible, so Kidman not only says "shoo" to cows she's trying to herd, but "my condolences" to a grieving Aboriginal boy. We even see dusty drovers spilling out of their Darwin pub to dance for joy at seeing rain. As drovers do. Ahem, Baz. I grew up in Darwin, which is in fact a tropical city. If we'd danced every time it rained in the wet season, we'd never sit down.

All this could yet have been pulled together into a highly stylised comedy-drama, not just exploiting cliches but positively romping in them. But there's a big snag: when the heroes' great drove to Darwin finally ends amid cheering crowds and blaring orchestra, the film is still not even half-way through its nearly three hours. And it's around this point that Luhrmann and his three co-writers must have looked at each other and said, "Oops, what do we do next?" Good question - and for the next hour and a half, it's clear they never really agreed on an answer.

Drama or comedy? Do we kill off Drover? Do we have him making happy families with his English love? Should we leave in the bit where Kidman's character is reported dead, for reasons we've forgotten? Or shall we just make it up as we go along? Which they did. The soundtrack is one giveaway of this confusion, veering wildly from Bach to Rolf Harris and his wobble board; from sturdy stockman singing Waltzing Matilda (as they also do) to sobbing violins suddenly announcing it's crying time. Indeed, it's reported that Luhrmann even changed the ending in the editing suite at the last minute, which surprises me. I wouldn't have thought it possible he had one even worse.

But one thing Luhrmann did decide was to pack away that Priscilla-style camp that had made some of the first half bearable and to switch to serious-or as serious as he could without putting a fold in Kidman's forehead. The film now becomes not just a drama somehow involving the 1942 bombing of Darwin by Japan, but a roar against the racism it had only mumbled against before. But, typically, the racism Luhrmann attacks is a racism of cliches, and is illustrated with yet more cliches, each more fact-free than the last.

So Drover complains, for instance, that he lost his first wife to TB because hospitals didn't treat Aborigines-when in fact Darwin hospital did treat them, even if three small nurse-run private bush hospitals had not. Missions also treated Aborigines, and one pregnant nurse, a Mrs Taylor, even died of illness while working with tribes in Groote Eylandt in 1934. But Luhrmann shows no such sympathetic officials. Instead, almost every white character from the NT administrator's wife down, other than our two heroes, is portrayed as a racist.

A recurring injustice Luhrmann keeps harping on is that "boongs" were banned from pubs. In one of Jackman's most emotional scenes, Drover finally forces a bartender to give his Aboriginal friend a drink - his biggest victory against racism. Nowhere is it acknowledged - as anyone can read in the reports then of the Northern Territory administrator - that serving Aborigines was forbidden because the booze and opium were devastating a people only just learning to deal with white society and Asian traders.

Luhrmann, in particular, should know this ban was driven not by racism but deep concern for Aboriginal welfare. After all, Australia stars the great Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, whose career and marriage have almost been ruined by his own drinking. And alcohol is now once again banned in many Aboriginal communities in the NT, and not because we're racist.

These two great flaws of Australia - the cliched images and Luhrmann's cliched history - combine to produce what is undoubtedly the movie's most malevolent scene. Most of the second half of Australia centres on Nullah, a part-Aboriginal boy that Kidman's character "adopts" but who is stolen from her by corrupt police acting under a "stolen generations" law that a mission official smugly explains is used to breed out Aborigines. (So why steal Nullah from a white parent? It's one more bit of the plot that makes no sense, like having soldiers pulling out of bombed Darwin, a city they must actually defend.)

And here's that scene: as Nullah, played by the magnetic and beautiful Brandon Walters, is marched down Darwin's docks with other "stolen" boys to be shipped to the Garden Point home on Melville Island, a sneering white boy holding a kangaroo (yes!) abuses him: "Creamy, didn't your mother want you?" A racist white kid holding a kangaroo in a film called Australia-could there be anything more us? To add to the white crime against Nullah, the Japanese army is sweeping towards Australia and he and the other "stolen" boys are being sent to an island that one character notes "will be the first place the Japs hit". White women and children are being evacuated from Darwin in the background, but here the Aboriginal boys are being sent to their deaths. To grind in his point, Luhrmann has the Japanese bombing not just the children's home at Melville Island (which they didn't) but invading it.

Our shame is complete. This is the racist Australia that reviewers overseas-and even here-have accepted as not just a movie, but the shameful truth of our past. But now note a few historical truths that Luhrmann overwrites to tell his story of white infamy.

First, a Federal Court test case found no evidence children in the NT were ever stolen just because they were black, and no one has yet identified 10 anywhere who were stolen because they were Aboriginal and not because they needed help. Indeed, Colin Macleod, a NT patrol officer and later Victorian magistrate, wrote in his memoirs that the children sent to Garden Point were half-castes who'd often been rejected by full-bloods, and needed protection from "real danger and abject misery". For instance, he wrote, "Brother Pye of the Catholic mission at Garden Point once saw a six-year-old part-coloured boy speared by a full-blooded Aboriginal, almost as a joke, just because the boy was a `yella-fella' . . . "Half-caste kids would now and again turn up at missions with spear marks and signs of horrific beatings. "Babies were occasionally abandoned and young children left to fend for themselves."

Father John Leary, who also served at Garden Point, said in 2000 of the children he'd helped: "Some few of them, I believe, were `stolen', most were there for some good reason, some sent by parents or parent for education . . ." It's this "white" education, incidentally, that Luhrmann shows Nullah wisely rejecting, returning instead with Gulpilil to his tribe. How did he ever learn English? Thank heavens Brandon Walters, who plays him, didn't do the same, or Luhrmann wouldn't have his star.

But what of Luhrmann's story that Aboriginal children were knowingly sent into danger at Melville Island? Luhrmann needed only to ask some of the Aborigines at the Darwin premiere of his own film to learn that children were not sent to the island as the Japanese drew near, but sent from it. He could have asked, for instance, Ilene Neville, who told AAP she was seven when she was evacuated from Garden Point and brought to Darwin, where she witnessed the bombing.

Magdalen McNamara, an Our Lady of the Sacred Heart nun famous in the NT, recalls picking up 30 Garden Point girls on the day after the bombing of Darwin who'd already been evacuated to Pine Creek, far to the south. She brought them to South Australia, where they spent the war, while other Aboriginal children from the Top End were sent to safety as far away as Sydney, where they went to local state schools.

This is the real history of Australia - there's racism, yes, but more commonly there are people struggling, however imperfectly, to do their best, some bringing care and protection to Aborigines at great personal sacrifice. That's the real Australia, and how sad that Luhrmann has sold the world his Australia instead - a ghastly cliche of the demons we never were.


Man arrested for lighting Guy Fawkes Night bonfire on village green under law dating from 1880s

All part of the attack on decent people while criminals roam free

Bonfire Night on the village green at Elwick went off in the traditional blaze of glory. But Guy Fawkes wasn't the only sacrifice Two days later, organiser Brett Duxfield was arrested, held at a police station for ten hours and charged with arson, for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. He was taken from his home at 8am and had his DNA and fingerprints taken after police received a complaint that a 130-year-old bylaw banning fires on the green had been broken. Mr Duxfield appeared before Hartlepool magistrates and was granted bail after the case was adjourned.

Last night the 39-year- old lorry driver said: 'This is a nightmare. I never thought this would happen. 'If you cannot have a village bonfire on a village green on November 5 - a tradition hundreds of years old - what is the world coming to? 'It's ridiculous and it means we have turned into a police state. It wasn't even me that lit the bonfire.'

The bylaw has usually been quietly ignored, but this year the parish council threatened to enforce it. Despite this, villagers went ahead. Although the source of the complaint about the fire is unclear, many presume it came from the council. Mr Duxfield's arrest has led to a huge row between villagers and the council. A public meeting was held at the primary school and two councillors have resigned

One villager, Hilary Thompson, said: 'I'm appalled that Elwick Parish Council condones the arrest of a member of our community.' Jack Harrison, chairman of the council, said they had sought legal advice and stood by their decision.

Guy Fawkes night had long been a feature at Elwick until 1994, when the ancient ban was last enforced because of rowdy behaviour. Although the ban was never lifted officially, the celebrations returned four years ago and have passed off without incident, with families flocking to the green to watch the festivities. Organisers even replace the charred turf.

Mr Duxfield, who lives in nearby Hartlepool, moved from Elwick three years ago but still visits the village to meet friends. He said that on Bonfire Night, 14 uniformed police officers had turned up wearing protective clothing. He said he gave his name as a point of contact and was told that officers were only there as a matter of safety. 'Two days later, three police officers turned up at my home at 8am and I was arrested,' he said. 'I was interviewed until about 11.45am and then I was thrown in the cells until 6.15pm.

'The inspector kept opening the hatch and asking if I would accept a caution. I told him there was no way I would do that as I had done nothing wrong. 'I will definitely be making a civil case against the police force.'

Inspector Tony Green, of Cleveland Police, said: 'We are duty bound to follow a complaint through. 'Evidence was put before the Crown Prosecution Service and they decided there was a case to answer.'


Those so-righteous British social workers exposed

'Devastating' failure behind Baby P's death

The death of a toddler known as Baby P at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and a lodger after months of torture was the result of the "devastating" failure of social services, the British Government has admitted. The Secretary for Children's Services, Ed Balls, said a review of the management failures that led to the little boy being killed despite being seen 60 times by healthcare professionals was a "damning verdict" on the system. "Overall, the inspectors' findings are, I have to say, devastating. Their report sets out detailed recommendations, all of which must now be accepted in full.

"Having studied their report I've decided to take immediate action. My first priority is to put in place a new leadership and management team in Haringey children's services to ensure that vulnerable children in the borough are properly protected."

Haringey Council, the authority responsible for the case, is now to undergo a restructure and the senior management team have been removed, including the 100,000 pounds a year social worker that "oversaw" the case. Sharon Shoesmith, the director of children's services in Haringey, has been bitterly criticised for refusing to apologise for her organisation's litany of failures to protect the little boy.

Baby P died in August 2007 aged just 17 months after suffering horrific beatings. His mother, her boyfriend and the couple's lodger have been convicted of "causing or allowing" his death and are to be sentenced next year.

Mr Balls, who gave the briefing at the London Foreign Press Assocation, said that one of the most damning findings of the review was that Haringey Coucnil had failed to implement recommendations made after the death of another child, Victoria Climbie, who was murdered by her guardians in 2000 aged eight.

The report has now also sparked the resignation of two other councillors. As head of children's services, Mrs Shoesmith was said to be earning 100,000 a year and there has been much press speculation as to whether she would walk away with some kind of pay-off. Asked to comment, Mr Balls said: "... I have to say that I think most people will look at this report, look at the clear evidence of management failure and say that this kind of failure should not be rewarded with compensations or pay-offs. "I must say I would be astonished if elected members in Haringey chose to do that."

Mr Balls said he had been "shocked" by the Baby P case despite understanding that social workers, police and other officials who dealt with children's safety often worked in "challenging circumstances". But he added: "They must also be accountable for the decisions and when things go badly wrong people want to know why and what can be done about it."

He ruled out a public inquiry into Haringey children's services "for now", saying the immediate priority was making management changes to safeguard vulnerable children in the borough.

"The report from (the inspectors) is a damning verdict on the current management and safeguarding in Haringey. In their summary judgment the inspectors say, and I quote, 'There are a number of serious concerns in relation to safeguarding of children and young people in Haringey. The contribution of local services to improving outcomes for children and young people at risk or requiring safeguarding is inadequate and needs urgent action'."


Frank Jew-hatred in Egypt

"But we are Semites ourselves!" That is what an urbane Egyptian journalist will likely reply to the charge that the Egyptian media is rife with anti-Semitism. But there are few places where Jews are blamed for so many of the world's ills, from carcinogenic pesticides to the war in Iraq. More distressing is that much of the pointing is being done by Egypt's self-described liberals -- the pro-democratic and anti-Islamist crowd on which the country's hopes for a more tolerant future supposedly rest.

The most recent episode began on Oct. 2, when the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release reporting "Surge in Anti-Semitic Messages on Online Finance Sites." An Egyptian journalist read about it in the Israeli daily "Maariv," and here is how the new, "liberal" Egyptian weekly Al-Youm As-Sabi headlined its report the next day: "Jews are the principal suspect in the financial crisis." The article ran alongside a photo of stock market readouts, captioned "why are cries against Jews growing louder in the U.S.?"

This was not the only instance in which Egypt's "liberal" intelligentsia found ways to blame Jews for the financial crisis. On Oct. 11, Abbas at-Tarabili, the editor in chief of the Al-Wafd daily -- the house organ of Egypt's leading "liberal" political party of the same name -- wrote a column purporting to show that Jews were merely manipulating the stock market as they had the price of gold in the late 1970s.

"The Jews played a filthy game," he wrote. "It is true that the Western countries -- the United States on top -- have a lot to lose, but all pours into the pockets of Jewish businessmen who control the stock markets of the world."

Two weeks later, Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt's largest independent newspaper and widely regarded as the country's only serious tribune for liberalism, ran a column baldly titled "The Jewish Conspiracy." The columnist, Khairi Ramadan, who also co-hosts one of the country's most successful talk shows, asked his readers not to ignore what is being said on the Internet "about a Jewish conspiracy in the end of Bush's term, in preparation for controlling the next president."

"The available information," wrote Mr. Ramadan, shows that "the Jews withdrew 400 billion dollars from Lehman Brothers a couple of weeks before it collapsed," adding that the collapse of the brokerage house was of a piece with the events of September 11, "when thousands of Jews did not go to the WTC."

These examples are especially notable because they have nothing to do with Israel or Zionism. They expose the falsehood -- popular with prominent scholars like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of last year's best-selling book "The Israel Lobby" -- that hatred of Jews is not one of the great motivating factors in the Arab world's overall objections to Israel.

But these examples also raise a serious question about what passes for liberalism in the Arab world. Why bother listening to these voices on matters of economics -- much less politics, democracy or human rights -- if they also propagate hateful conspiracy theories?

There's another question: Over the past eight years, the United States has invested huge resources in attempting to bring democracy to the Middle East. But it's not clear whether that project will succeed as long as America's natural allies in the region remain themselves so profoundly irrational and illiberal.

What can be done? Here's a modest suggestion. The Egyptian state and the country's newspapers go out of their way to make a leper of any author who expresses even remote sympathy with Israel. Perhaps Western institutions could adopt a similar practice, refusing to invite to their various functions any editors who allow their pages to become Jew-hatred platforms. The cold shoulder alone might get these lunch-eaters to change their tune.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A "Dangerous" Santa hat???

Britain gets battier by the day. Senile decay?

When Santa got stuck up a chimney, there was no fire service on hand to give him help. But when a student threw a Santa hat onto a roof at Cambridge University, three fire trucks turned up to remove it over health and safety fears. Students fastened the red hat to the spire of the famous Gate of Humility at Gonville and Caius College as an end of term joke.

But college authorities failed to see the funny side and phoned the fire brigade to remove the hat from the top of the 60ft building in case it fell on someone's head. A team of more than 10 firemen and three fire engines then spent more than an hour using a hydraulic platform to get the hat down. 'When we saw three fire engines turn up we thought they must be there to tackle a really big fire,' said a local shopkeeper. 'We couldn't believe it when we discovered they were all there just to rescue a Santa hat. 'They used the hydraulic platform to reach it and took a long time. Quite a crowd gathered to watch.'

An unnamed student, who saw the incident, added: 'I watched it all and found it hilarious. 'They even had to cordon off the road, which caused a tailback of cars.' A Santa hat has also been spotted on The Octagon of nearby Clare Chapel, although this one has not yet been removed. The culprit currently remains a mystery, but it is thought to be a student playing a practical joke. It is also not known how anyone managed to scale the buildings, particularly the spire of Humility, which is thought to be impossible to climb.

One suggestion is that the person used the famous book The Night Climbers of Cambridge, originally published in 1937, which offers a guide onto the roofs of the city's ancient buildings. 'In my experience the spire of Humility can not be climbed, although if there's a similar hat at Clare's it suggests someone has scaled the buildings,' said a student, who does not want to be named. 'A likely possibility is that someone has accessed the spire from inside the college.'

According to Cambridge University's Varsity newspaper, the Senior Tutor for Gonville and Caius College said the prank was 'disturbing' because of the danger it posed to passers-by and said anyone found taking part would face serious disciplinary measures. Gonville and Caius was founded in 1348 and now has nearly 100 fellows and more than 700 students. Famous alumni include Alastair Campbell, Jimmy Carr and Ken Clarke, while Professor Stephen Hawking is a current fellow of the College.

Physician John Caius was responsible for the building of the College's three gates, which symbolise the path of academic life. Students enter the Gate of Humility when they matriculate, then pass through the Gate of Virtue and finally go through the Gate of Honour on graduation.


Geert Wilders: 'Our Culture Is Better'

By his own description, Geert Wilders is not a typical Dutch politician. "We are a country of consensus," he tells me on a recent Saturday morning at his midtown Manhattan hotel. "I hate consensus. I like confrontation. I am not a consensus politician. . . . This is something that is really very un-Dutch."

Yet the 45-year-old Mr. Wilders says he is the most famous politician in the Netherlands: "Everybody knows me. . . . There is no other politician -- not even the prime minister -- who is as well-known. . . . People hate me, or they love me. There's nothing in between. There is no gray area." To his admirers, Mr. Wilders is a champion of Western values on a continent that has lost confidence in them. To his detractors, he is an anti-Islamic provocateur. Both sides have a point.

In March, Mr. Wilders released a short film called "Fitna," a harsh treatment of Islam that begins by interspersing inflammatory Quran passages with newspaper and TV clips depicting threats and acts of violent jihad. The second half of the film, titled "The Netherlands Under the Spell of Islam," warns that Holland's growing Muslim population -- which more than doubled between 1990 and 2004, to 944,000, some 5.8% of the populace -- poses a threat to the country's traditional liberal values. Under the heading, "The Netherlands in the future?!" it shows brutal images from Muslim countries: men being hanged for homosexuality, a beheaded woman, another woman apparently undergoing genital mutilation.

Making such a film, Mr. Wilders knew, was a dangerous act. In November 2004, Theo van Gogh was assassinated on an Amsterdam street in retaliation for directing a film called "Submission" about Islam's treatment of women. The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, left a letter on van Gogh's body threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the film's writer and narrator.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia, had renounced Islam and been elected to the Dutch Parliament, where she was an ally of Mr. Wilders. Both belonged to the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, known by the Dutch acronym VVD. Both took a hard line on what they saw as an overly accommodationist policy toward the Netherlands' Muslim minority. They argued that radical imams "should be stripped of their nationality," that their mosques should be closed, and that "we should be strong in defending the rights of women," Mr. Wilders tells me.

This made them dissenters within the VVD. "We got into trouble every week," Mr. Wilders recalls. "We were like children going to their parents if they did something wrong, because every week they hassled us. . . . We really didn't care what anybody said. If the factional leadership said, 'Well, you cannot go to this TV program,' for us it was an incentive to go, not not to go. So we were a little bit of two mavericks, rebels if you like."

Mr. Wilders finally quit the party over its support for opening negotiations to admit Turkey into the European Union. That was in September 2004. "Two months later, Theo van Gogh was killed, and the whole world changed," says Mr. Wilders. He and Ms. Hirsi Ali both went into hiding; he still travels with bodyguards. After a VVD rival threatened to strip Ms. Hirsi Ali's citizenship over misstatements on her 1992 asylum application, she left Parliament and took a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Mr. Wilders stayed on and formed the Party for Freedom, or PVV. In 2006 it became Parliament's fifth-largest party, with nine seats in the 150-member lower chamber.

Having his own party liberates Mr. Wilders to speak his mind. As he sees it, the West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. "We believe that -- 'we' means the political elite -- that all cultures are equal," he says. "I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You're not a xenophobe, you're not a racist, you're not a crazy guy if you say, 'My culture is better than yours.' A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better."

He acknowledges that "the majority of Muslims in Europe and America are not terrorists or violent people." But he says "it really doesn't matter that much, because if you don't define your own culture as the best, dominant one, and you allow through immigration people from those countries to come in, at the end of the day you will lose your own identity and your own culture, and your society will change. And our freedom will change -- all the freedoms we have will change."

The murder of van Gogh lends credence to this warning, as does the Muhammad cartoon controversy of 2005 in Denmark. As for "Fitna," it has not occasioned a violent response, but its foes have made efforts to suppress it. A Dutch Muslim organization went to court seeking to enjoin its release on the ground that, in Mr. Wilders's words, "it's not in the interest of Dutch security." The plaintiffs also charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and inciting hatred. Mr. Wilders thought the argument frivolous, but decided to pre-empt it: "The day before the verdict, I broadcasted ['Fitna'] . . . not because I was not confident in the outcome, but I thought: I'm not taking any chance, I'm doing it. And it was legal, because there was not a verdict yet." The judge held that the national-security claim was moot and ruled in Mr. Wilders's favor on the issues of blasphemy and incitement.

Dutch television stations had balked at broadcasting the film, and satellite companies refused to carry it even for a fee. So Mr. Wilders released it online. The British video site LiveLeak.com soon pulled the film, citing "threats to our staff of a very serious nature," but put it back online a few days later. ("Fitna" is still available on LiveLeak, as well as on other sites such as YouTube and Google Video.)

An organization called The Netherlands Shows Its Colors filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Wilders for "inciting hatred." In June, Dutch prosecutors declined to pursue the charge, saying in a statement: "That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable." The group is appealing the prosecutors' decision.

In July, a Jordanian prosecutor, acting on a complaint from a pressure group there, charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and other crimes. The Netherlands has no extradition treaty with Jordan, but Mr. Wilders worries -- and the head of the group that filed the complaint has boasted -- that the indictment could restrict his ability to travel. Mr. Wilders says he does not visit a foreign country without receiving an assurance that he will not be arrested and extradited.

"The principle is not me -- it's not about Geert Wilders," he says. "If you look at the press and the rest of the political elite in the Netherlands, nobody cares. Nobody gives a damn. This is the worst thing, maybe. . . . A nondemocratic country cannot use the international or domestic legal system to silence you. . . . If this starts, we can get rid of all parliaments, and we should close down every newspaper, and we should shut up and all pray to Mecca five times a day."

It is difficult to fault Mr. Wilders's impassioned defense of free speech. And although the efforts to silence him via legal harassment have proved far from successful, he rightly points out that they could have a chilling effect, deterring others from speaking out.

Mr. Wilders's views on Islam, though, are problematic. Since 9/11, American political leaders have struggled with the question of how to describe the ideology of the enemy without making enemies of the world's billion or so Muslims. The various terms they have tried -- "Islamic extremism," "Islamism," "Islamofascism" -- have fallen short of both clarity and melioration. Melioration is not Mr. Wilders's highest priority, and to him the truth couldn't be clearer: The problem is Islam itself. "I see Islam more as an ideology than as a religion," he explains.

His own view of Islam is a fundamentalist one: "According to the Quran, there are no moderate Muslims. It's not Geert Wilders who's saying that, it's the Quran . . . saying that. It's many imams in the world who decide that. It's the people themselves who speak about it and talk about the terrible things -- the genital mutilation, the honor killings. This is all not Geert Wilders, but those imams themselves who say this is the best way of Islam."

Yet he insists that his antagonism toward Islam reflects no antipathy toward Muslims: "I make a distinction between the ideology . . . and the people. . . . There are people who call themselves Muslims and don't subscribe to the full part of the Quran. And those people, of course, we should invest [in], we should talk to." He says he would end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands but work to assimilate those already there.

His idea of how to do so, however, seems unlikely to win many converts: "You have to give up this stupid, fascist book" -- the Quran. "This is what you have to do. You have to give up that book."

Mr. Wilders is right to call for a vigilant defense of liberal principles. A society has a right, indeed a duty, to require that religious minorities comply with secular rules of civilized behavior. But to demand that they renounce their religious identity and holy books is itself an affront to liberal principles.



Yes, Brinks commercials are racist. Why are they racist you ask? Because according to Brinks, minorities don't break into homes or have their homes broken into. Everyone who's had their homes broken into in those commercials are white, and everyone who breaks into them are white too. One of those little anecdotal things that make you think "hey, he's right." Maybe to Brinks minorities don't break into homes or have their homes broken into, but being someone who's lived in Gary, IN for nearly half of his life I can tell you that yes it does happen. Our home was broken into. Next door neighbor had their home broken into. Two homes across the street were broken into. Being that my family were the only white ones on the street, it's safe to assume minorities broke into and had their homes broken into. Trust me, it happens.

The commercials are so bad too. They make sure to let everyone know that the person that is breaking into the home is white. One of the commercials, this guy broke into this home where the mother thought the daughter was trying to get in. He busts in the door and just stands there. What many do not know is if you have the captions on, even though he doesn't say anything verbally the caption says "hey, I'm white and I just broke into your home." Then he hears the alarm going off. I didn't know this, but apparently to crooks that alarm puts the fear into them like someone getting caught in the lights at a POW camp while trying to escape in WWII.

In another commercial, one guy stops and ties his shoe while looking and nodding at the man leaving his driveway in broad daylight. Once the coast is clear, he puts on his hood (a little too late for that, dontcha think?), and then looks menacingly at ..................... NOBODY! He snarls, huffs and puffs and looks ticked off, but no one is around to see that he is one bad apple with a worm in it that has a chip on his shoulder. Then he kicks down the front door, again this is in broad daylight. Once that alarm goes off he runs for the hills like the woman pulled out a shotgun. If seeing the man of the home and making sure he had a good look at his face, and busts down the frontdoor in the brightness of daylight isn't going to scare him away, I don't think an alarm going "beep beep beep" will. Call me crazy.

The absolute worse though is when there is a man at home and someone breaks into their home. Those are the worst because the man is always an uberwimp to the 99th power. The one where the couple is in bed inside their new home and they hear a noise. He goes to check it out and the door is broken open. He runs back to the room and slid headfirst ala Rickey Henderson under the bed only leaving a shivering sheet in his wake. Okay, he didn't really do that but he might as well have. They always make sure the man is some white wuss scared out of his wits and wouldn't even dare telling someone to stop raping his wife, so that way the man looks incapable of defending a home, but a noise box can. Every guy home in those commercials is a bonafide pantywaist. I think I heard one man say "here, take my wife. Just don't hurt me, Mr. White Homerobber."

Here's another question. Brinks calls you up right when those alarms go off. What if the robber answers the phone? "Oh yeah, everything is just fine here. I just tripped the alarm. Stupid me. I am blonde you know." All the while having a knife in his hand and motioning the woman to keep quiet. "Sure you don't want me to send someone over?" "NO! uh I mean no, that won't be necessary. Everything is fine here."

I realize that because of racial sensitivities and PC gone mad that if they had just one minority break into a home that they would never hear the end of it. How about a minority having their home broken into? Is that too much to ask? And please quit making the men look like Judy Garland in a dark forest looking for lions, tigers, and bears. I haven't seen a fear in the eyes like that since I saw Jon Voight on his knees in "Deliverance". If someone breaks into my home, it will be them that will need an alarm. Maybe they will have one of those Life Alert neck alarms. "Help, this insane guy is beating my a$$! I broke into his home but he's gone totally crazy. Why did it have to be this home? Oh damn! He's got a machete! There goes my leg! Oh nooooo!"


Islamic College protest in Queensland, Australia

PROTESTERS swarmed on the Gold Coast City Council headquarters in Queensland to vent their anger over a planned Muslim school yesterday as rock anthems blared from loudspeakers. Almost 200 residents turned out for the demonstration, draped in Australian flags and shouting pro-Aussie slogans while Australian rock classics such as Land Down Under and Great Southern Land boomed across the parkland.

The Australian International Islamic College, planned for Carrara, has raised the ire of residents who fear it will lead to the local Muslim population withdrawing from the rest of the community.

A rally last week attracted about 400 people, while people turned out yesterday carrying placards bearing slogans such as "no Muslim school, hell no" and "integration, not segregation". Residents' spokesman Tony Doherty said Muslim schools did not encourage multiculturalism. "It's segregation, not integration," he said. 'They're not trying to integrate into the rest of society. "Since we have started protesting against this our churches have been covered in hate-filled graffiti."

He denied it was hypocritical to oppose Muslim and not Christian schools. "Catholics aren't a different culture," he said. "They are the same as us."

Some residents say they are opposed to the school more because of parking issues rather than religious grounds. Mayor Ron Clarke has publicly said he would support the school as long as it satisfies the council's planning criteria. The council will not make any decision on the future of the school until next year. If approved, the school is unlikely to open until at least the middle of next 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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comment (1) | Trackback

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An historic attack on liberty and democracy -- in Britain!

The Damian Green affair has damaged both the police and government. It threatens 700 years of parliamentary tradition

The arrest of Damian Green last Thursday, his subsequent detention and interrogation, together with the police search of his home and his office in the Palace of Westminster, constitute the most serious breach of the privilege of Parliament in modern times. At least eight senior figures in the British Establishment were involved; they either initiated the action, agreed to it, conducted it, or allowed it to continue. Not one of them seems to have understood how serious a "high crime or misdemeanour" they were conspiring to commit.

The police may have thought that they were legitimately investigating a crime; in fact, they were committing one, a much more serious crime than the one they imagined they were investigating. Contempt of the House of Commons can only be defined by the House of Commons itself, but there is little doubt that this was it. All the evidence of history is that Parliament has to protect itself against outside pressure of all kinds, and particularly against coercion by the executive power.

In 1523, Sir Thomas More, as Speaker, had to resist the pressure of Henry VIII's Minister, Cardinal Wolsey; in 1642, Speaker Lenthall frustrated Charles I's attempt to arrest the five Members. The House of Commons needs the protection of privilege to do its job. The liberty of Members is the liberty of the people.

In the present case, had the police waited for 24 hours, they would have learnt of the acquittal of a journalist on the very charge they were investigating. Sally Murrer and her police source, Detective Sergeant Mark Kearney, were both acquitted under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right of every citizen to receive and impart information without interference by public authority.

It is not clear what legal advice was taken by the police before they decided to arrest Damian Green. Plainly it was inadequate. The leader of the House, Harriet Harman, has said that they did not consult the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General; they certainly did not consult her.

Who played the role of Cardinal Wolsey, and had the arrogance to invade the rights of Parliament? If Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, is to be believed - and her testimony is not entirely convincing - two senior civil servants ordered the police investigation - the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, and the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir David Normington. These civil servants have many questions to answer. What legal advice did they take? When did they consult their own ministers, which would be the Prime Minister in the case of Sir Gus O'Donnell? What steps did they take to supervise so sensitive a police inquiry?

Did they know the police were going to arrest a Member of Parliament? Did they consider whether that might be a contempt of the House of Commons? Did they consider whether a search of Mr Green's office in Parliament would be another contempt? I doubt whether, as Jacqui Smith suggests, these civil servants acted entirely on their own; I think it more likely that they had already discussed the alleged leaks with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary before they asked the police to intervene.

The higher responsibility belongs to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. We do not yet know exactly when Gordon Brown or Jacqui Smith knew that the actual arrest had taken place. It seems that Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London, was told before the event; he made a very proper protest. The Speaker and the Leader of the opposition were also informed before the arrest happened. It is quite hard to believe the two ministers were not told at the same time.

What was Gordon Brown supposed to say if he had not been informed but David Cameron or Speaker Martin decided to telephone him and ask him to call off this illegal event? Could Sir Gus O'Donnell have waited to tell Gordon Brown until after the event, when so many other people knew before the event? The story being told does not really hang together.

In any case, Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith admit that they knew what had happened shortly after the arrest itself. At that time the contempt of Parliament was being continued and extended. Searches were being made, files and laptops were being removed. This essential contempt of Parliament could still have been mitigated by a telephone call from the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary.

The Speaker, Michael Martin, and the Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, failed to prevent the police invasion of the Palace of Westminster and may even have approved it. This breaks 700 years of parliamentary tradition. Both of them had the authority to keep the police out of Mr Green's office.

There were two senior policemen who must share part of the blame; it is no excuse that they were obeying orders. The junior of the two, Bob Quick, is an expert on terrorism. He will have to answer for the detailed handling of the operation. The senior was Sir Paul Stephenson, who was widely expected to succeed Sir Ian Blair as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; that would not now be appropriate or even tolerable.

The damage is strewn all around. Democracy is damaged; the House of Commons is damaged; British liberty is under attack. The police are damaged. The actual operation was a spectacular public disaster; many people now think we are living in a police state. The Government has been damaged. They must now realise how angry the public are. The Labour party has been weakened; this has been a horrifying mixture of ignorance, incompetence and shame.

Of course, Jacqui Smith should resign like other Labour home secretaries. She has been responsible for a major political disaster. I do not expect that Gordon Brown will resign, unless it proves that he did indeed have prior knowledge. Yet he bears the ultimate responsibility. The House of Commons remains the centre of our democracy. The freedom of Britain cannot survive if the centre does not hold.


The British Gestapo knew that they would not get a conviction but still went ahead with their raid on a Member of Parliament

It was clearly just an exercise to intimidate whistleblowers and those who listen to them

The most puzzling thing about the decision to arrest Damian Green is why anyone in the Metropolitan Police thought the inquiry would lead to a successful prosecution. The bitter end to the cash-for-peerages inquiry is still fresh in the force's memory. Then, Scotland Yard was arresting senior Labour Party people in dawn raids on suspicion of committing much more serious offences and enduring a barrage of political criticism for its actions. But the Yard was pretty confident of its case and ploughed on stubbornly only, in its view, to be let down when the Crown Prosecution Service refused to press charges.

The Green affair is nothing like as serious as alleged cash- for-peerages. And worse, even as the Met was planning the arrest, the offence it was relying on was being systematically demolished in the courts.

On Tuesday last week a judge at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court threw out a case against Sally Murrer, a journalist charged with aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office - the same charge that the Met wants to pursue against Mr Green. The Murrer case turned on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression. The court ruled, as courts across Europe have ruled, that leaks to journalists are not criminal unless they involve matters of national security or impair the investigation of serious crime. The evidence against her - gained by planting bugging devices and raiding her home and her office (sound familiar?) - was ruled to have been obtained unlawfully.

It is not hard to imagine how a reasonably competent lawyer, citing the Murrer case, could put the case against Mr Green through the shredder. What is troubling, however, is that the Met knew about the Murrer case and its significance because it had advised Thames Valley officers on how to proceed with the investigation.

Also in the loop was the CPS, which decided on Friday to drop charges against Murrer and the policeman who leaked the stories to her. The Home Office, which began the leak inquiry that netted Mr Green, also knew about Murrer. In the light of all that recent experience, one is left wondering why anyone in their right mind thought that it was sensible to arrest Mr Green.


The Quivering Upper Lip

The British character: from self-restraint to self-indulgence. The article below by Theodore Dalrymple is rather long but I am putting most of it up because I too am staggered and appalled by what has been lost in Britain. The recent survey finding that Britons are now the most sexually promiscuous people in the world could be added to what is mentioned below

When my mother arrived in England as a refugee from Nazi Germany, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, she found the people admirable, though not without the defects that corresponded to their virtues. By the time she died, two-thirds of a century later, she found them rude, dishonest, and charmless. They did not seem to her, moreover, to have any virtues to compensate for their unpleasant qualities. I occasionally asked her to think of some, but she couldn't; and neither, frankly, could I.

It wasn't simply that she had been robbed twice during her last five years, having never been the victim of a crime before-experiences that, at so advanced an age, would surely change anyone's opinion of one's fellow citizens. Few things are more despicable, after all, or more indicative of moral nihilism, than a willingness to prey upon the old and frail. No, even before she was robbed she had noticed that a transvaluation of all values seemed to have taken place in her adopted land. The human qualities that people valued and inculcated when she arrived had become mocked, despised, and repudiated by the time she died. The past really was a foreign country; and they did do things differently there.

What, exactly, were the qualities that my mother had so admired? Above all, there was the people's manner. The British seemed to her self-contained, self-controlled, law-abiding yet tolerant of others no matter how eccentric, and with a deeply ironic view of life that encouraged them to laugh at themselves and to appreciate their own unimportance in the scheme of things. If Horace Walpole was right-that the world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel-the English were the most thoughtful people in the world. They were polite and considerate, not pushy or boastful; the self-confident took care not to humiliate the shy or timid; and even the most accomplished was aware that his achievements were a drop in the ocean of possibility, and might have been much greater if he had tried harder or been more talented.

Those characteristics had undoubted drawbacks. They could lead to complacency and philistinism, for if the world was a comedy, nothing was serious. They could easily slide into arrogance: the rest of the world can teach us nothing. The literary archetype of such arrogance was Mr. Podsnap in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, a man convinced that all that was British was best, and who "had even acquired a peculiar flourish of his right arm in often clearing the world of its most difficult problems, by sweeping them behind him." Still, taken all in all, my mother found the British culture of the day possessed of a deep and seductive, if subtle and by no means transparent or obvious, charm.

My mother was not alone. Andre Maurois, the great French Anglophile, for example, wrote a classic text about British character, Les silences du Colonel Bramble. Maurois was a translator and liaison officer between the French and British armies during World War I and lived closely for many months with British officers and their men. Les silences was the fruit of his observations. Maurois found the British combination of social self-confidence and existential modesty attractive. It was then a common French opinion that the British were less intelligent than the French; and in the book, Maurois' fictional alter ego, Aurelle, discusses the matter with one of the British officers. " `Don't you yourself find, said Major Parker, that intelligence is valued by you at more than its worth? We are like the young Persians of whom Herodotus speaks, and who, until the age of twenty, learnt only three things: how to ride, archery and not to lie.' "

Aurelle spots the paradox: "You despise the academic," he replies, "and you quote Herodotus. Even better, I caught you the other day in flagrante, reading Xenophon. . . . Very few French, I assure you . . ."

Parker quickly disavows any intellectual virtue in his choice of citations or reading matter. "That's very different," he says. "The Greeks and Romans interest us, not as an object of enquiry, but as our ancestors and as sportsmen. I like Xenophon-he is the perfect example of a British gentleman."

Forty years later, in 1959, another French writer, Tony Mayer, in his short book La vie anglaise, noticed the reluctance of the English to draw attention to their accomplishments, to blow their own trumpets: "Conversation still plays an important role in England. They speak a lot, but in general they say nothing. As it is bad form to mention personal or professional matters which could lead to discussion, they prefer to speak in generalities." The Franco-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco brilliantly parodied this tendency in his La cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano), in which a respectable English couple has a long conversation at a dinner party. At the end, after many pages of utter banalities, they realize that they are actually married, and have been for a long time.

Appearances in Britain could deceive. The British, after all, despised intellectuals, but were long at the forefront of intellectual inquiry; they were philistines, yet created a way of life in the countryside as graceful as any that has ever existed; they had a state religion, but came to find religious enthusiasm bad form. Mayer comments:
Even in the most ordinary places and circumstances, an accident happens. You hit by chance upon a subject that you have long studied; you go as far as allowing your interest in it to show. And suddenly you realize that your interlocutor-so reserved, so polite-not only knows a hundred times more about this subject than you, but about an infinite number of other subjects as well.
This attractive modesty mixed also with a mild perfidy (this is la perfide Albion we are talking of, after all): irony, understatement, and double meaning were everywhere, waiting to trap the unwary foreigner. The British lived as if they had taken to heart the lines of America's greatest poet (who, not coincidentally, lived her whole life in New England):
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant. Success in Circuit lies . . .
The habit of indirection in speech, combined with probity of action, gave English life its savor and its interest. Mayer provided a brief interpretive key for the unwary:
I may be wrong-I am absolutely sure. I don't know much about-I am a specialist in. No trouble at all-What a burden! We must keep in touch-Good-bye forever. Must you go?-At last! Not too bad-Absolutely wonderful.
The orderliness and restraint of political life in Britain also struck my refugee mother. The British leaders were not giants among men but-much more important for someone fleeing Nazi Germany-they were not brutes, either. They were civilized men; the nearest they came to the exercise of arbitrary power was a sense of noblesse oblige, and the human breast is capable of far worse sentiments. Politics was, to them and the voters, only part of life, and by no means the most important.

Maurois' Dr. O'Grady describes to Aurelle what he calls "the safety-valve of parliament": "From now on, elected champions have our riots and coups d'etat for us in the chamber, which leaves the rest of the nation the leisure to play cricket." Major Parker takes up the theme, also addressing Aurelle: "What good has it done you French to change government eight times in a century? The riot for you has become a national institution. In England it would be impossible to make a revolution. If people gathered near Westminster shouting slogans, a policeman would tell them to go away and they would go."

Many remarked upon the gentleness of British behavior in public. Homicidal violence and street robberies were vanishingly rare. But it wasn't only in the absence of crime that the gentleness made itself felt. British pastimes were peaceful and reflective: gardening and the keeping of pigeons, for example. Vast sporting crowds would gather in such good order that sporting events resembled church meetings, as both George Orwell and anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer (writing in 1955) noted.

Newsreels of the time reinforce the point. The faces of people in sports crowds did not contort in hatred, snarling and screaming, but were peaceful and good-humored, if a little pinched and obviously impoverished. The crowds were almost self-regulating; as late as the early sixties, the British read with incredulity reports that, on the Continent, wire barriers, police baton charges, and tear gas were often necessary to control crowds. Incidents of crowd misbehavior in Britain were so unusual that when one did happen, it caused a sensation.

The English must have been the only people in the world for whom a typical response to someone who accidentally stepped on one's toes was to apologize oneself. British behavior when ill or injured was stoic. Aurelle recounts in Les silences du Colonel Bramble seeing an officer he knew on a stretcher, obviously near death from a terrible abdominal injury. The officer says to him: "Please say good-bye to the colonel for me and ask him to write home that I didn't suffer too much. I hope this is not too much trouble for you. Thanks very much indeed." Tony Mayer, too, says of the English that when they were ill they usually apologized: "I'm sorry to bother you, Doctor."

No culture changes sud-denly, and the elderly often retained the attitudes of their youth. I remember working for a short time in a general practice in a small country town where an old man called me to his house. I found him very weak from chronic blood loss, unable to rise from his bed, and asked him why he had not called me earlier. "I didn't like to disturb you, Doctor," he said. "I know you are a very busy man."

From a rational point of view, this was absurd. What could I possibly need to do that was more important than attending to such an ill man? But I found his self-effacement deeply moving. It was not the product of a lack of self-esteem, that psychological notion used to justify rampant egotism; nor was it the result of having been downtrodden by a tyrannical government that accorded no worth to its citizens. It was instead an existential, almost religious, modesty, an awareness that he was far from being all-important.

I experienced other instances of this modesty. I used to pass the time of day with the husband of an elderly patient of mine who would accompany her to the hospital. One day, I found him so jaundiced that he was almost orange. At his age, it was overwhelmingly likely to mean one thing: inoperable cancer. He was dying. He knew it and I knew it; he knew that I knew it. I asked him how he was. "Not very well," he said. "I'm very sorry to hear that," I replied. "Well," he said quietly, and with a slight smile, "we shall just have to do the best we can, won't we?" Two weeks later, he was dead.

I often remember the nobility of this quite ordinary man's conduct and words. He wanted an appropriate, but only an appropriate, degree of commiseration from me; in his view, which was that of his generation and culture, it was a moral requirement that emotion and sentiment should be expressed proportionately, and not in an exaggerated or self-absorbed way. My acquaintance with him was slight; therefore my regret, while genuine, should be slight. (Oddly enough, my regret has grown over the years, with the memory.) Further, he considered it important that he should not embarrass me with any displays of emotion that might discomfit me. A man has to think of others, even when he is dying.

My wife, also a doctor, worked solely among the old, and found them, as I did, considerate even when suffering, as well as humorous and lacking in self-importance. Her patients were largely working-class-a refutation of the idea, commonly expressed, that the cultural ideal that I have described characterized only the upper echelons of society.

Gradually, but overwhelmingly, the culture and character of British restraint have changed into the exact opposite. Extravagance of gesture, vehemence of expression, vainglorious boastfulness, self-exposure, and absence of inhibition are what we tend to admire now-and the old modesty is scorned. It is as if the population became convinced of Blake's fatuous dictum that it is better to strangle a baby in the cradle than to let a desire remain unacted upon.

Certainly, many Britons under the age of 30 or even 40 now embrace a kind of sub-psychotherapeutic theory that desires, if not unleashed, will fester within and eventually manifest themselves in dangerous ways. To control oneself for the sake of the social order, let alone for dignity or decorum (a word that would either mean nothing to the British these days, or provoke peals of laughter), is thus both personally and socially harmful.

I have spoken with young British people who regularly drink themselves into oblivion, passing first through a prolonged phase of public nuisance. To a man (and woman), they believe that by doing so, they are getting rid of inhibitions that might otherwise do them psychological and even physical harm. The same belief seems universal among those who spend hours at soccer games screaming abuse and making threatening gestures (whose meaning many would put into practice, were those events not policed in military fashion).

Lack of self-control is just as character-forming as self-control: but it forms a different, and much worse and shallower, character. Further, once self-control becomes neither second nature nor a desired goal, but rather a vice to avoid at all costs, there is no plumbing the depths to which people will sink. The little town where I now live when in England transforms by night. By day, it is delightful; I live in a Queen Anne house that abuts a charming Elizabethan cottage near church grounds that look as if they materialized from an Anthony Trollope novel. By night, however, the average age of the person on the street drops from 60 to 20, with few older people venturing out. Charm and delight vanish. Not long ago, the neighborhood awoke to the sound of a young man nearly kicked to death by other young men, all of whom had spilled forth from a pub at 2 am. The driver of a local car service, who does only prearranged pickups, tells me that it is now normal (in the statistical sense) for young women to emerge from the bars and try to entice him to drive them home by baring their breasts, even pushing them against his windows if for some reason he has to stop in town.

I laughed when hearing this, but in essence it is not funny. The driver was talking not about an isolated transgressor of customs but about a whole manner of cultural comportment. By no means coincidentally, the young British find themselves hated, feared, and despised throughout Europe, wherever they gather to have what they call "a good time." They turn entire Greek, Spanish, and Turkish resorts into B-movie Sodoms and Gomorrahs. They cover sidewalks with vomit, rape one another, and indulge in casual drunken violence. In one Greek resort, 12 young British women were arrested recently after indulging in "an outdoor oral sex competition." ....


'Killjoy' British council bosses blasted for threatening children's pantomime with police raids

With violent street crime out of control, this is a total loss of perspective

The amateur players in a village Christmas panto had no difficulty identifying the villains of this year's show - and they aren't even in the script. For 17 years, the ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls of Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, have staged a show in the village hall - starring themselves. Now killjoy council bosses have threatened them with a police raid on the first night of their Christmas `run' - because their show contravenes health and safety laws. City licensing officials at crisis-hit Aberdeen City Council apparently spotted an advert in a local paper for Aladdin and ordered the city's lawyers to write to the organisers telling them to cancel. Council lawyers wrote to the hall committee saying they were required to notify police when it appeared unlicensed activities were taking place.

A breakthrough was finally reached late today after emergency talks between the organisers and council officials. The council confirmed authorities were content for the show to go ahead if the fire and rescue services found no problems during a hall inspection on Monday. Defiant villagers had earlier vowed the show would go on - and were warned that police could close down the Aladdin production when it opens next week for a five-night run.

The council had claimed the show did not have a `proper licence' under rules laid down in 1968. Peterculter Theatre Club has a public entertainment licence for the show - but not a theatre licence. Organiser Susan Chappell-Smith said: `We've discovered that a public entertainment licence means you can stage fetes, circus acts and variety shows - but not stage plays. `The law has apparently been in place since 1968 - so why are we only being told about it now after 17 years of putting on pantos? `We can't understand why the council is being so heavy-handed. `The last thing we want to do is break the law, but we had no idea we were doing anything wrong and it's too late to stop the show.'

The Christmas panto is a village tradition which features the local residents. Rehearsals began three months ago and a `small fortune' has been spent on costumes and a band for the five performances. Council solicitors had told the amateurs the show could ahead if they applied for a theatre licence but that could take more than three weeks. Miss Chappell-Smith said: `We've spent so much money it would be disastrous if we had to cancel. We could go bankrupt. 'It would also be heartbreaking for the cast, who have put in so much time and effort.

The theatre group renamed the panto as a `Christmas entertainment show based around the theme of Aladdin', to try to circumvent the rules. Miss Chappell-Smith added: `The whole thing is ridiculous. We have an incredible health and safety record when you consider we've been running pantos for 17 years without incident. `I find it hard to accept this is in the council's best interests.'

The female lead in the show is 14-year-old schoolgirl Lauren McPhail, who has spent months preparing for her role as Too-Shy in the pantomime. Her father Steve, a business consultant, has also played a part in the production, helping to build and paint sets. He said: 'It's very disappointing that it's come to this. The pantomime is very important to Lauren and she's determined to go ahead with it. 'I don't know why the council have reacted in this way after everyone's worked so hard. They need to come up with a solution because they've caused the problem.'

A spokesman for the Council said it had a duty to report licensing breaches to the police. He added: `We have no discretion in this matter. There is a minimum 14-day notice period for application for a theatre licence, which is laid down by statute and cannot be waived. `The legislation is in place to ensure the safety of people attending public buildings. In respect of a theatre licence, this includes checks on technical issues such as moving parts on stage, lighting safety curtains etc. `All of these have the potential to go wrong with serious implications for public safety.'

Grampian Police said it was not aware of the situation until this morning, after which it began discussions with the council. Superintendent Adrian Watson said it was "not the intention of Grampian Police to spoil the enjoyment of those taking part". The council was criticised by John Midgely, of the Campaign against Political Correctness, who said: `This is all down to over-the-top and over-zealous council killjoys. `I don't think it's a matter of importance to get the police to shut down something which brings joy.'

Every panto needs a 'baddie' and, in this case, it is Kate Dean, the leader of Aberdeen City Council, who finds herself cast in the role of the person we all love to hate. Councillor Dean has presided over the authority's disastrous financial record and that should be her priority, according to Peterculter councillor Alan Milne. He said: `There are much more pressing things for the council to be worrying about at the moment. It needs to be sorting out its finances rather than closing down pantos.'


Australia: Man faces child porn charges over phone photos

The insane photography phobia marches on: How are pictures of children playing outdors in a perfectly normal way "pornography"?

A man caught taking mobile phone photographs of young children paddling in water at Sydney's Darling Harbour faces child pornography charges. Police were called to the popular tourist spot when onlookers saw the man pointing his mobile phone at a group of 15 young children, aged two to 12 years old, yesterday afternoon.

The 40-year-old, of no fixed abode, was arrested by police, who later found a number of photographs and videos of young children on his phone. He has been charged with possessing child pornography, and was refused bail to appear in Central Local Court today.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback

Monday, December 01, 2008

Police state Britain: MPs want protection after arrest of Tory for telling truths Labour didn't want you to know

MPs demanded protection from a 'police state' last night after the heavy-handed arrest of a Tory frontbencher shocked Westminster. Extraordinary details of four simultaneous raids on immigration spokesman Damian Green's homes and offices raised urgent questions about the independence of Parliament. The Oxford-educated father of two girls, who denies any wrongdoing, was fingerprinted and required to give a DNA sample before being released on bail after nine hours.

Police seized his mobile phone, his BlackBerry, bank statements, computers containing confidential details of constituents, and were only prevented from carrying off legal documents by his wife, a barrister. Officers even leafed through the couple's love letters.

The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Last night, the row between police and Parliament was turning into a political crisis for Gordon Brown, who faced accusations of standing by while the rights of MPs were being trampled. Ministers struggled to dispel suspicions that they knew in advance about the plan to arrest Mr Green, amid MPs' fears that the case marked another step towards the politicisation of the police.

The Tories issued a series of questions about the role of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said there were huge question marks over the claim that Mr Brown and Miss Smith had not been informed the arrest was about to take place. He said: 'It would be an astounding breakdown in the system of governance, and the linchpin doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, if Ministers were not, at the bare minimum, kept informed.'

MPs also demanded assurances from Speaker Michael Martin that he would defend their interests after it emerged that he authorised an unprecedented police search of Mr Green's office on Commons property. One called on Mr Martin to quit.

Publicly, the Prime Minister said only that his chief objective was to uphold the independence of the police. But his supporters accused the Tories of 'playing politics' with a routine police matter, and even suggested the Yard had undisclosed reasons to seize Mr Green. Thursday's raids, involving some 20 officers, were carried out on Mr Green's homes in west London and Kent, and his Commons and constituency offices. The MP was detained in Kent on suspicion of 'conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office' and taken to London by Yard detectives ten days after a Home Office official was arrested on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents.

Police are investigating Mr Green's role in four leaks to the media over the past year - two of them to the Mail - that embarrassed the Home Office. The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer. The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted. Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.

Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance. Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation. In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron. He also notified Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary, who claimed he deliberately did not tell Home Secretary Jacqui Smith until after the arrest. The news was relayed to Mr Brown about an hour later.

By last night, Mr Green's ordeal had provoked outrage across the political spectrum, with all parties rallying to his defence. Tory MPs threatened to disrupt Wednesday's Queen's Speech debate. Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said the arrest of an MP amounted to a contempt of Parliament. 'Once the police can interfere with Parliament, we are into the police state,' he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: 'This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.' Tory MPs contrasted the case with that of leaks of sensitive information to BBC business editor Robert Peston. They raised suspicions that a 'mole' inside Downing Street or the Treasury had passed Mr Peston a string of market-moving banking 'scoops'.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed to Mr Brown's reputation for obtaining Government leaks when he was an Opposition MP. 'If this approach had been in place when Gordon Brown was in opposition, he'd have spent half his time under arrest,' he said. Miss Smith denied that ministers had been involved in any way in the arrest of Mr Green.


British Gestapo in trouble over attempt to prosecute outspoken politician

The British police are now so politicized that they have lost all respect for free speech and individual liberty. Their latest action is a blatant threat to whistleblowers. Note that this is not their first attempt to "get" whistleblowers. Their last attempt has just been thrown out of court as a breach of a right to free speech

SCOTLAND YARD was in turmoil last night after senior police officials criticised its new boss and admitted its handling of the arrest of a Tory MP had been "catastrophic". David Blunkett, the former home secretary, called on the cabinet to review the procedures that led to the police raids on Damian Green's home and Commons office.

As the political storm grew, MPs and civil liberties groups questioned the role of Sir Paul Stephenson, who took temporary charge of the Metropolitan police when Sir Ian Blair left office last week. Stephenson was regarded as the favourite to succeed Blair, but one senior police officer described him yesterday as "easy meat". A senior official on the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met's watchdog, said his oversight of the police inquiry into the leak of sensitive Whitehall documents to Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, raised important questions about his judgment and cast doubt over his prospects.

The official said Stephenson should have told Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary [i.e. a bureaucrat] who called in police, that leaks of nonclassified information were not a matter for a police inquiry. Normington will chair the panel that will interview and vet applicants for the job of Met commissioner. The deadline for applications is tomorrow. The police official said: "Why didn't the Met just [tell the Home Office] to use discipline and misconduct rules instead of agreeing to a criminal inquiry? What this all hinges on is judgment and proportionality. Sir Paul has got a huge problem with this. "This is a big problem for the Met. They have managed to get every main political party and everyone in the media against them. For the Met it's catastrophic. I think this could damage Sir Paul's prospects."


Be careful not to offend homosexuals, Catholic priests in Britain warned

Does that mean that they must not read from Romans chapter 1? Maybe it is really queer priests that they don't want to offend. There is said to be a lot of homosexuality at the Vatican

Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using 'heterosexist' language in their churches in case they offend gay worshippers. They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this 'in language and conversation'. 'Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful - a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,' say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people. Priests are also encouraged to put up posters advertising 'support services' for homosexuals, a move bound to infuriate many Catholics who believe gay sexual activity to be sinful.

The advice was welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as a 'positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families'. He said: 'Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the past homophobia of some Catholic pronouncements on homosexuality.' However, he said the 'laudable change of tone' was undermined by the 'homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism' and by Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to gay marriage.

The advice was criticised by Lynette Burrows, a Catholic commentator, as 'pitiful'. She said it was ridiculous that Church leaders appeared to be ' grovelling' to a secular agenda. 'It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment - the concentration on things that don't matter and missing the things that do,' she said. 'What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church. 'This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that.'


Media Bias in Australia

The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics

The taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) occupies a position in Australia similar to that enjoyed by the BBC in the United Kingdom. The ABC runs two free-to-air national television channels, four national radio networks, nine metropolitan radio stations in major cities, 51 radio stations across rural and regional Australia and a range of Internet and subscription services. No Australian commercial network approaches the ABC in terms of reach and, arguably, influence. It is well-funded, amply staffed and under more or less constant criticism for projecting a left-wing take on just about every aspect of Australian life that it touches.

Grahame Morris, a chief of staff to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard, once described the national broadcaster as, "our enemies talking to our friends." The recently retired presenter of ABC TV's national gardening show was a former member of the Communist Party. The ABC, you see, takes no chances. Even when you were invited to tiptoe through the tulips, the ABC provided an ideologically reliable guide.

Obviously, the political and cultural disposition of the national broadcaster, as it sucks up taxpayer dollars, is an important and legitimate area of public debate. The left does not see it that way. Conservative criticism of the national broadcaster's political and cultural perspectives is usually brushed off by the ABC and its friends as an attack on the "independence" of its journalists, producers and managers.

But an obligation to provide balance and diversity of opinion is enshrined in the ABC's charter; and the corporation's editorial policies and style guide set out rules for news and current affairs journalists in an attempt to ensure that the obligation is met.

The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics. Consider this comment in the lead up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election from Red Symons, the presenter of one of its prime time radio programs:
"774 ABC Melbourne is, of course, supporting Senator John Kerry in his endeavor to become President of the United States. We can't take sides in Australia, but I've had it from management we can take sides elsewhere in the world. We want Kerry to win."
The Australian chapter of Democrats Abroad would have been chuffed to know that.

There are broadcasting codes that can be used to try to hold the ABC accountable to its charter. The process is far from satisfactory because, in the first instance, the ABC itself is the arbiter of complaints made about it. So between 2005 and 2008 the Howard Government attempted to use the Senate Estimates Committee process to take the problem of political bias straight to the corporation's managing director.

Over the three-year period, the Government tabled more than 1,000 examples of ABC journalists violating the organization's editorial guidelines and style guide?its rule books for providing fair and balanced reporting. The examples were extracted from a very small part of the network's output?the program transcripts that the ABC makes available online?and thus represented only a very small percentage of the total network programming. Unquestionably, a complete analysis of ABC output would have yielded thousands more.

A particularly egregious example of ABC mischief had occurred in February 2003 when Prime Minister Howard visited then Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the lead up to the war with Iraq. In a meeting with Mr. Howard, the president of the world's largest Muslim nation gave an undertaking that her Government would explain to the Indonesian public that a war on Iraq would not be regarded as a war on Islam.

However, ABC News, broadcast across Australia and beamed into Asia, that evening reported, "Well, there's support for Iraq tonight from the world's largest Muslim nation. Indonesia claims a war on Iraq would be a war on Islam." The ABC was forced to run a correction the next day, but the damage to the national interest had been done.

The Howard Government's efforts to modify the behavior of the ABC resulted in a number of smoke-and-mirrors efforts to address the issue of bias in its current affairs broadcasting. However, one year ago, the 11-year-old centre-right Liberal-National coalition of John Howard was defeated in a federal election by the centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by Kevin Rudd.

On election night, the ABC's TV anchor and network icon Kerry O'Brien, on air live from the national tally room, declared that there had been a big swing "to the ABC" in Bennelong, the electorate of Prime Minister John Howard. The gaffe, if O'Brien's comment had, indeed, been unintended, provided an eloquent metaphor for the symbiotic relationship between the ABC and the ALP. Maxine McKew, the ALP candidate who went on to win Bennelong from the prime minister, had been a 30-year veteran journalist and presenter at the ABC. She left the network at the end of 2006, laughing off suggestions that she intended to stand as a Labor candidate in the federal election.

Two months out of the ABC, McKew joined the office of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd; and one month after that she announced her intention to contest Bennelong for the ALP.

Kerry O'Brien, the election night anchor, presents a 30-minute national current affairs program four nights a week on ABC TV. In the 1970s, O'Brien himself was on the staff of a Labor Party leader. On Sunday mornings, ABC TV presents "Insiders," a national review of the week in politics anchored by Barrie Cassidy. In the 1980s, Cassidy served as press secretary to Labor Party Prime Minister Bob Hawke. ABC Radio National has Phillip Adams, another former member of the Communist Party, covering politics and current affairs for about seven hours a week. One of his regular guests is Bruce Shapiro, contributing editor to The Nation.

The gratitude of one Labor prime minister for the election-time efforts of the ABC is recorded in the Cabinet diary of a former minister: "The ABC deserves a decent go because it has done well by the ALP in the last two elections," Labor's Paul Keating said in 1992.

The Rudd Labor Government has promised to restore a staff member to the ABC board of directors, a position that was abolished by the Howard Government. It has also said it will depoliticize the ABC board; which really means it will stack it with its own ideological allies and friends. The ABC, after almost 12 years of confrontation with a conservative foe, once again has in Canberra a government that many of its foot-soldiers are happy to believe in.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Comments | Trackback


The Real Politically Incorrect Net Ring

This net ring exposes political correctness for the fraud that it is and advocates universal values of individual freedom, free speech, and equal rights for all.


[Prev Site] [Stats] [Random] [Next 5 Sites] [List Sites] [Next Site]

This page is powered by Blogger.