The creeping dictatorship of the Left... 

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

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


31 December, 2011

And The Guardian says this like it's a bad thing

What worries me is that The Guardian seems to think this is a bad thing:
Britain's "benign, tax efficient" property laws have encouraged super-rich foreigners to buy up more than £4bn of luxury property in London this year. A string of property experts said the world's super-wealthy were flooding to London to buy £40m homes "without giving it a second thought". In total foreign buyers bought up £4.3bn of prime central London property this year, compared with £2.1bn in 2010, according to research by Savills, the estate agent.

You can tell it's a bad thing by the scare quotes around benign, tax efficient. It gets worse too:
London property was also viewed as a "safe haven" in times of strife in the Middle East and former Soviet Union countries, according to Barnes.

Buyers also favour London because of the excessive paperwork and legal technicalities of buying expensive properties in New York and much of Europe.

Just such horrors, eh? We've managed to create a system whereby those who have the wealth to go absolutely anywhere at all voluntarily decide to come to us? In fact, they decide to purchase, for very large sums of money, our exports?

For that's what such purchases are, exports. They are goods that are no longer going to be enjoyed, consumed, by native Brits and in return native Brits have been given piles of money with which they can buy whatever of the world's joys and riches they care to consume. In this respect flogging Johnny Foreigner a flat in London is no different from shipping him a car from Birmingham, a pork pie from Melton Mowbray or a loan syndication from Shoreditch. It's an export and isn't The Guardian the paper that continually bemoans our failures at exporting?

And the last line of the quote does amuse greatly. The po-faced disdain at the idea that deregulation, not having reams of paperwork, might be a good idea and encourage people to do things.


Convicts in Britain who are spared jail go on to attack 50 people every day

Thousands serving community sentences commit violent and sexual crimes

Fifty people a day suffer a violent or sexual attack by a convict spared jail in the ‘soft’ justice system. Victims include young children assaulted by paedophiles, figures released by the Government show.

They reveal that every year more than 18,000 convicts given a community punishment commit a sexual or violent crime within 12 months of being sentenced. Had they been sent to jail, the offences – which could range from rape to common assault – need never have taken place.

The revelation, in response to a Parliamentary question by Tory MP Priti Patel, will cast further doubt on the effectiveness of community sentences, which Justice Secretary Ken Clarke wants the courts to use more. It came as separate figures showed that more than 43,000 criminals given community sentences broke them in the year to July 2011. A total of 43,521 had to be tracked down and sentenced again.

Miss Patel said: ‘This will do nothing to reassure the public, and in particular the victims of criminals who have been spared jail. The Government can’t stand by and watch.’

A scathing report by the Policy Exchange think-tank found that instead of being supervised while they do hard work on their community sentences, burglars and robbers were working in charity shops or making costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival. Some convicts were working with animals on farms or serving lunch at old people’s clubs. Others were found filling envelopes or sorting jewellery.

Within a year of completing such schemes, criminals had committed a further 250,000 offences in total.

Mr Clarke, who needs to reduce the record prison population, wants the courts to use community sentences in greater numbers. To persuade magistrates to opt for the punishment rather than jail, he is promising that convicts given a community sentence will be made to work for a minimum 28 hours, including ‘hard manual labour’.

The figures supplied to Miss Patel on sex attacks and violence show that in 2009, the latest period for which statistics are available, there were 18,133 attacks, including 172 sex attacks on children, by convicts who had been given community sentences in the previous 12 months.

They are the latest evidence of ‘soft justice’ to emerge in recent weeks. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that tens of thousands of habitual criminals escaped jail last year despite having more than 15 previous convictions. Overall, serial offenders accounted for more than a third of the 294,000 cases ending in convictions in the adult courts last year.

Yet barely a third of those with more than 15 previous convictions were jailed. Of the 103,175 cases involving serial offenders, just over 36,000 resulted in immediate custody. In 4,579 cases, offenders were released with a police caution despite their lengthy records. Almost 11,000 cases that reached court ended in a conditional discharge, with another 16,000 offenders being let off with a fine. Just over 20,000 cases ended in community sentences, while another 8,000 resulted in suspended jail sentences.

The figures also reveal that the police issued more than 100,000 cautions to adult offenders last year, more than half of them to individuals who already had a police record.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Reoffending is falling and the overwhelming majority of people sentenced to community orders, or handed out-of-court disposals, do not commit further offences. If they do they face a potential prison sentence.

‘Despite this, we believe that levels of reoffending in this country are too high, which is why we’re determined to break the cycle and address the root causes of this behaviour.’


Capitalist ghetto is a pathway to tolerance

In the market for 500 knock-off Tag Heuer watches? A container-load of inexpensive African style clothes? A leather-bound Koran or a Bangladeshi curry? Head to Chungking Mansions, just up the road from the ritzy Peninsula Hotel on Hong Kong's famous Nathan Road.

Shunned by Hong Kongers and unnoticed by most tourists, Chungking Mansions is a meeting place for developing world traders, a clearing house of cheap Chinese goods, and an African and South Asian outpost in the heart of Kowloon.

The building's true importance lies not in its cosmopolitanism but in its thriving economy. Hong Kong's uniquely laissez-faire attitude - the city is rated by US think-tank The Heritage Foundation as the freest economy in the world - makes Chungking Mansions' brand of low-end globalisation possible.

Such globalisation looks shabby alongside the glitzy shrines to global capitalism across the harbour in Causeway Bay. But for consumers in the developing world, the influence of Chungking Mansions is profound.

Gordon Mathews, the author of the new book Ghetto at the Centre of the World, and a Chungking Mansions devotee, might just be the first ever anthropologist to use the term "neoliberal" approvingly.

African and South Asian traders - well off in their own countries but poor by Western standards - come to Chungking Mansions to take advantage of Hong Kong's lax immigration laws and porous borders, dreaming of the riches they can make taking cheap Chinese goods to sell in their impoverished and economically backward home towns. Fortunes are made and lost in the long hallways and hidden stalls of Chungking Mansions, where guesthouse rooms go for as little as $US13 a night and competition between the wholesalers on the lower floors is fierce.

Mathews estimates that 20 per cent of the mobile phones currently used in Africa were sold in Chungking Mansions. Large traders use the building to make contacts on the mainland, shipping containers of phones, clothing, watches and even cars directly from factories in Guangzhou to Nairobi or Lahore. Smaller traders carry a few hundred mobile phones in their luggage, hoping to make enough profit to cover their airfare and fund their next trip back to Hong Kong.

Immigration officials turn the other cheek when traders repeatedly cross the border on tourist visas. Police largely allow illegal workers to man Chungking Mansions' restaurants, guesthouses and phone stalls, intervening only when there is a complaint or a violent crime. Copy goods (such as "Sory-Erichssen" mobile phone handsets) are bought and sold; authorities only intervene if there is deception by the seller.

Like elsewhere in Hong Kong, business is the top priority.

The attitude of the Hong Kong government stands in stark contrast to the corrupt and statist administrations that traders must negotiate in their home countries. Many of the small-business people who pass through Chungking Mansions operate on the fringes of legality, not because they deal in illicit substances or are inherently criminal, but because local restrictions mean they must smuggle Chinese goods across their borders contravening import bans, or pay off crooked customs officials.

This, Mathews says, is the coal face of the protectionism versus free trade debate: where some new regulation can make the difference between a small trader being able to feed his family or go out of business.

Goods are usually of inferior quality or shoddy imitations of Western brands. But for the poor end-consumers in African villages, they are often the only conduit to the globalised world. A young Kenyan woman may never be able to afford a Nokia phone, but she can use her "Nokla" to communicate with her family, pay her bills, and perhaps start her own small trading business. This, says Mathews, "is the ultimate significance of these traders: they bring at least a facsimile of global goodness to the world's poorest continent".

Ghetto at the Centre of the World focuses not just on the traders but also on the guesthouse owners, illegal (or semi-legal) workers, asylum seekers, restaurateurs and tourists who congregate and often live in Chungking Mansions. Here, in a place where business matters above all else, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, Ethiopians and Somalis peacefully coexist in a way they never could at home.


Losing the War of Ideas due to Incompetence

By Isi Leibler, writing from Jerusalem. Leibler is a former prominent member of the Melbourne Jewish community

In the war of ideas, we operate under huge handicaps. Our adversaries attract sympathy as underdogs, yet carry enormous economic and political clout and effectively control international institutions like the UN. In addition, they have hijacked NGOs purportedly promoting human rights, yet are at the forefront of racist campaigns to demonize and delegitimize us. It is disgraceful that many western journalists collaborate with them.

Australia has consistently maintained a staunch bipartisan friendship with the Jewish State since its creation. Under the current Labor government headed by Julia Gillard, it remains, like the United States and Canada, one of the few countries where Israel still gets a fair hearing.

On November 26, John Lyons, the accredited Jerusalem reporter for The Australian, the leading national daily, wrote a 3000 word feature lambasting alleged inhumane Israeli treatment of Palestinian children.

Although The Australian has a consistent record of being fair and open-minded in relation to Israel, this was a classic compendium of anti-Israeli vilification, reminiscent of the wildest distortions and fabrications contained in the Goldstone report.

The sources attributed were the usual Israeli demonizers – B’Tselem, Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, and in particular, the organization Defense for Children International (DCI) represented by Australian lawyer, Gerald Horton. Lyons also interviewed a spokesman for ‘Breaking the Silence’, the discredited group which paved the way and actively collaborated with the Goldstone Committee, providing ‘evidence’ which, after investigation, proved to be largely unsubstantiated and was even significantly repudiated by Goldstone himself.

Lyons, who the IDF provided with unfettered access to closed courts, portrayed youngsters in shackles and weeping mothers observing swift justice by ‘brutal’ Israeli military authorities. He described IDF courts as a “Guantanamo Bay for kids”.

He quoted at length from DCI’s Horton, who referred to “385 sworn affidavits” alleging the worst imaginable atrocities, including beatings, torture, intimidating children with savage dogs, electric shock treatment, and every conceivable horror. He even referred to an “interrogator from Gush Etzion” who specialized in threatening children with rape.

If only a tiny proportion of these allegations contained a kernel of truth, we would have good reason to be concerned. But as in previous horror stories, I have every confidence that the evidence is based on testimony which will once again prove to be overwhelmingly false. We need only refer to the Mohammed el Dura fraud, the Jenin “massacre”, the Goldstone allegations of “deliberate” targeting of civilians in Gaza and other charges leveled against us, that months later, were shown to have been outright lies.

Not surprisingly, the marathon feature by Lyons created a considerable stir in Australia.

Australian Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists promptly requested the Israeli embassy to respond with information for rebuttals from the Army, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister’s office. Direct representations were also made to Jerusalem. For weeks, they were told that the authorities were reviewing the matter but no reply was forthcoming. One unofficial response idiotically suggested that the best approach to such a hostile article was to ignore it and it would blow over.

On December 17, the failure to respond resulted in a second article by Lyons, regurgitating what he had written previously, informing readers that Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was deeply concerned over the report and had instructed Australia’s diplomatic representatives to initiate a formal inquiry with the Israeli authorities. It is common knowledge that Rudd is personally keen to distance Australia from Israel in order to curry Arab votes for Australia’s candidature for a UN Security Council seat. But he would not have had credible grounds for initiating such an inquiry had the Israeli authorities provided a meaningful response.

Only following the Australian decision to investigate the matter, did the IDF spokesperson belatedly issue a bland legal statement, outlining the reasons why in this context, the custody of minors did not violate international law.

It may be difficult for those living in Western countries to comprehend the concept of jailing children for throwing stones. However, stone throwing has emerged as a staple component of terrorism and to some extent a wretched form of identity for Palestinian youth.

It should also be appreciated that stones are hurled equally at innocent Israeli civilians as well as soldiers, and in addition to maiming and scarring, have proven to be lethal. Only recently, Asher Palmer and his one year old son died after a stone smashed the windshield of his car.

Yet despite this, the reality is that as a deterrent, only a tiny proportion of stone throwers are being prosecuted. Otherwise, the Israeli jails would be overflowing with them.

The issue is additionally complicated because children in Israel are not tried under the same laws as apply to territories over the green line which, not having been annexed to Israel, operate under Jordanian and British mandatory laws.

Any Israeli official with a modicum of political sensitivity should have stressed that child terrorism represents one of the most reprehensible aspects of the Palestinian culture of death and criminality.

From kindergarten, Palestinian children are brainwashed into becoming martyrs by killing Jews in order to fulfill their Islamic obligation to expunge Jewish sovereignty from the region. Aside from continuously being employed as human shields, they are frequently exploited as suicide bombers.

The monstrous massacre of the Fogel family in March, which included the beheading of an infant, was perpetrated by a Palestinian family group which included a minor.

But what is both incomprehensible and disgraceful is that until now, the IDF response has still failed to repudiate the real source of concern – the outrageous lies and defamations concerning the torture of minors.

The response to the libels contained in Lyons article should have pointed out that many of the NGOs demonizing Israel are the same ones which provided “testimonies” about Israeli atrocities and war crimes to the Goldstone Committee which were subsequently demonstrated to be fabrications.

They should also have asked why Lyons did not query the failure of the defamers to raise these accusations in the appropriate Israeli tribunals such as the Supreme Court which even has a controversial record amongst Israelis for intervening in IDF related matters.

What is wrong with the IDF, Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Department? Do they really believe that they can ignore such vile accusations in the mainstream media of a friendly country? Their deafening silence even led to an editorial in the local Jewish weekly, the Australian Jewish News, foolishly asking whether “God forbid”, the “country we cherish” enabled “the torture of children”.

If this is how our senior military and government offices deal with such issues, it is high time to demand accountability.

It is the Prime Minister’s Office office which carries the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that such matters are efficiently handled. Binyamin Netanyahu, more than most politicians, has a genuine grasp of the crucial importance of the war of ideas. If his office is not fulfilling its obligations in this area, he must, as a matter of urgency, personally intervene to guarantee that government information offices are staffed by personnel who are sufficiently competent to confront such issues in a skilled and professional manner.



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

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

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


30 December, 2011

Girl Scouts Book Refers Readers to Liberal Group Media Matters to Clear Up ‘Media Misinformation’

In 2010, the Girl Scouts of the USA published a book called “MEdia.” The publication, designed for girls in grades six through eight, is a guide that apparently offers insight into how young people should process and understand the media messages surrounding them.

Considering the pervasive nature of popular media, this seems like a viable tool. However, there’s a problem — the book refers young readers to Media Matters for America as one of the primary sources for debunking lies and deceit.

On the surface, “MEdia” seems like it’s an excellent resource (and in some ways maybe it is) that encourages self-reflection and skepticism — two very understandable and useful tenets. But on page 25 of the book, a very curious recommendation is given.

Under the headline, “Consider the Source,” text encourages girls to go to the George Soros-funded Media Matters for America web site to clear up any media misinformation they might encounter. It reads:
The Internet is a breeding ground for “urban legends,” which are false stories told as if true. Next time you receive a txt or e-mail about something that seems unbelievable, confirm it before you spread it.

The fact-checking site snopes.com investigates everything from urban legends to “news” articles and posts its findings. Media Matters for America (http://mediamatters.org/) gets the word out about media misinformation.

Considering Media Matters’ far-left attachments and its less-than-objective views, one wonders why the book’s authors, Wendy Thomas Russell and Sarah Goodman, would include this as the sole source for getting “the word out about media misinformation.”


One in three on jobless benefits has got a criminal record: £2bn cost of handouts to underclass is revealed for the first time

One in three people claiming unemployment benefit is a convicted criminal, figures show. Taxpayers are funding around £2billion a year in out-of-work payments to nearly 1.3million people with criminal records, including £1.2billion to those on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The rest of the money is paid to offenders who claim income support as lone parents or receive Incapacity Benefit and its replacement, Employment Support Allowance.

The figures lay bare the degree to which an ‘underclass’ that drifts in and out of criminal activity is using state handouts to bolster its income, while often continuing a life of crime.

It is the first time a Government has ever bothered to work out how many benefit claimants have a conviction. The Department for Work and Pensions compared welfare rolls with information on convictions held by the Ministry of Justice and payments information from HM Revenue & Customs.

Officials found that of the 1.2million total claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance open on December 1, 2010 in England and Wales, 33 per cent were made by offenders.

In total 26 per cent of the 4.9million people claiming some sort of out-of-work benefit were offenders who had received at least one caution or conviction between 2000 and 2010. Of those, 5 per cent of the total claims were made by offenders who had been released from prison over the past ten years.

That means 1.3million offenders were claiming out-of-work benefits, including 245,000 who had served a custodial sentence.

Experts and MPs expressed amazement that the figures were so high and called on the Government to tackle the criminal underclass and help those who genuinely want to turn away from crime into the workplace.

Tory MP Philip Davies questioned whether the benefit payments are legitimate. ‘Given that so many of these people are criminals, it makes you wonder how many are actually seeking work and available to work,’ he said.

‘It appears that the taxpayer is paying twice. We are being attacked on the one hand as victims of crime and on the other we seem to be paying for them to go out and commit more crimes.’

Examples include Harry Singer, an unemployed man who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance while he conned £90,000 out of an NHS trust.
Singer, 54, claimed he helped 2,000 smokers kick the habit in six months in his role as a ‘stop smoking adviser’ in West London. He was paid £45 by Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust each time he submitted a form signed by a supposed smoker saying they had received six sessions of counselling, then quit smoking.

But a court heard he had tricked people into signing up. Many had not given up smoking, had quit years ago or had never smoked at all. Singer, of Earl's Court, south-west London, was jailed for 18 months in 2008.

In a further sign of the way a life on benefits can go hand in hand with a life of crime, the researchers found that 51 per cent of offenders sentenced or cautioned in England and Wales in the year ending November 2010 had claimed one of the main out-of-work benefits at some point in the month before they were sentenced.

One in four offenders claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance at some point in the month before sentence.

Two years after being released from prison in 2008, 47 per cent of offenders were on out-of-work benefits and three out of four offenders made a new claim to an out-of-work benefit at some point between 2008 and 2010.

On average, offenders leaving prison in 2008 spent 12 of the next 24 months on out-of-work handouts – meaning the taxpayer was funding them half the time.

Gavin Poole, executive director of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said there was a need for a complete overhaul of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to end the spiral of criminality and benefits claims. He said: ‘There is an element in our society, who are engaged in criminal activity, who simply don’t want to work. There are others who are denied access to work because of something they have done in their past.

‘It goes to show that this country is picking up the cost of crime in several ways. There are the benefits bills and the cost of getting people back to work.’

Employment minister Chris Grayling said that he will bring forward plans next month to target offenders for special treatment. He said the figures ‘underline why we have said that Britain needs a rehabilitation revolution, and particularly to help former offenders into sustained employment. ‘We are committed to delivering much better back-to-work support for ex-offenders, and will be giving more details of our plans shortly.’

Almost 3,000 crime suspects – including alleged sex offenders, robbers, burglars and drug dealers – escaped justice last year because of blunders by officials. Figures show that 2,883 cases brought by the Crown Prosecution Service were abandoned either because the CPS did not get the case ready in time, files had not been received from police, or police officers due to give evidence did not turn up at court.

The CPS said discontinued cases represented less than 0.3 per cent of the one million cases it handles every year.


Single-parent Britain: One in five children lives with just mum or dad - more than in most of Europe

A higher proportion of children are being brought up in one-parent families in Britain than in any other major European country. One in five live with a single mother of father – a far higher ratio than in France, Germany or Scandinavian countries.

And while the number of married families in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, stable cohabiting relationships are also less common here than in other countries.

The figures, produced by the EU’s statistical arm, come at a time of increased efforts to downplay the importance of marriage by politicians and campaigners who oppose tax breaks for married couples.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared that ‘strong relationships between parents are important’ but the state should not use the tax system to favour a particular family set-up.

The figures from Luxembourg-based Eurostat suggest that strong relationships outside marriage are uncommon in Britain but that the decline of marriage has meant life with a single parent for millions of youngsters. These children are more likely than others to suffer poor health, do badly a school, and go on to less successful adult lives.

According to the breakdown, 20.8 per cent of children in the UK were living in single parent families in 2008.

In just three countries were children more likely to live with one parent: Estonia and Latvia in Eastern Europe, and Ireland, where the number was 23.2 per cent. It is believed the surge in Ireland is a result of generous benefits to single parent families and high immigration.

The proportion of children in single-parent families in the UK is roughly 50 per cent higher than in France and 35 per cent higher than in Germany.

The breakdown also makes it possible to check the share of children of single-parent families against those who live with married or cohabiting parents.

Around two thirds in this country are living with married parents, the analysis shows.

Apart from the small Eastern states of Estonia and Latvia, only France and Sweden have a smaller percentage of children in married families. But in both, children are much more likely to have cohabiting parents in a stable relationship.

Critics of cohabitation maintain that most such relationships are short-lived and many end by leaving behind single-parent families.

Those who want the Government to support married couples said yesterday that the figures proved the impact of tax breaks and the benefit system.

Researcher and author Patricia Morgan said: ‘You can look at these figures and see immediately which countries help couples through tax and benefits.

‘In France, people get help if they draw up legal family contracts. In Germany, Holland and Italy, married people get tax relief and tax relief for children. Even in Sweden, where they do nothing for married couples, they do not help single parents, and they expect them to work. ‘By contrast, our system encourages transient shack-ups. Even cohabiting couples get no help at all.’

Jill Kirby, an author on family development, warned: ‘Unless our Government acts to implement pro-marriage policies, the gap with the rest of Europe will continue to widen.’

Despite David Cameron’s pledge to introduce tax breaks for married couples, several Whitehall organisations are supporting cohabitation.

The Office for National Statistics is downgrading its publication of figures on marriage to give equal prominence to cohabiting families. And the Law Commission, the Government’s law reform adviser, is calling for legislation to help cohabitees settle inheritances and take out insurance policies.


The rise of pernicious laws that criminalise law-abiding Britons

By Simon Heffer

Yesterday, more than 300 hunts met all over the country, six years after foxhunting was supposedly banned by Parliament.

Two Government ministers, including Jim Paice, the man now responsible for administering the ban, marked the occasion by saying the law is unworkable.

Hunts still chase foxes. When they catch them, the quarry is killed either by a bird of prey or by a huntsman with a firearm, who shoots it. Both means are entirely legal. If the intention of the Act was to prevent these vermin from being killed, it has failed.

Yet it remains on the statute book, and is one of several measures that criminalise people who are no threat to society. It reflects one of the most poisonous attitudes of the modern state, that it is considerably easier to prosecute and punish harmless people than it is to pursue serious criminals.

It has, for example, also been reported this week that last year more than 400 families are thought to have misrepresented or lied about their addresses in order to get their children into a decent, or half-decent, state school.

This is technically a criminal offence, and people have been prosecuted for it: people who did not seek personal gain, but simply sought to do the best for their children in a society where the state disgracefully does not provide good schools in many parts of the country.

It is quite right for the state to prosecute motorists who drive at 40mph in 30mph limits on housing estates where children might be playing, and near schools, but it even more zealously prosecutes those who drive past speed cameras in 70mph zones in open country at 80mph and are doing no harm at all.

This is a two-pronged problem. It is partly the fault of the civil servants who draw up laws, and who (unlike in previous generations) are insufficiently well-educated, and apolitical, to ensure their measures have no unintended consequences.

But it is also the fault of the police who implement the law without discretion or, often, much good sense, when they would be better employed directing their firepower at those who justly deserve it, and against whom society cries out to be protected.

A fine example of this was in Kent a few years ago, where two young policemen pulled over an 82-year-old man for driving slowly in the small hours of Christmas morning.

They thought he was driving slowly because he had been drinking. He was, in fact, returning from Midnight Mass, and driving slowly because he was in a narrow residential road with cars parked on both sides. And he was 82. When he remonstrated with the policemen who pulled him over, and pushed one of them in his exasperation, they arrested him for assault.

Their Chief Constable, who might have hoped his officers were out preventing serious crimes, of course supported them to the hilt. That, I fear, is the sort of country we live in.

The hunting ban is perhaps the most fatuous, and most glaring, example of the passing of a law that is not only largely unenforceable, but also intensely partisan and which criminalises perfectly harmless people. There are many problems with this law, so I must be content with listing just the most obvious.

First, there was the misunderstanding, by largely urban campaigners and the gormless MPs whom they influenced, about what the fox is really like. He is vermin. He is a vicious predator.

He does not just eat poultry and wildfowl and attack domestic pets such as rabbits and cats. He has even been known to go into houses and observe babies’ cots, with a view to working out where his next meal is coming from.

Much of the rural economy is damaged by the existence of the fox, which is why farmers are so glad to see him controlled. It is why the hunt was always welcomed — as it still is — over many estates, because it drove foxes elsewhere and killed many of them.

It is also why foxes are now shot and poisoned in large numbers, because the population is not controlled as it once was by hunting.

One gamekeeper I know told me that far more foxes were being killed on his estate now than before the law was passed, because he no longer left them for the hunt — and foxes, unchecked, do severe commercial damage to estates that run shooting syndicates, by eating pheasant and partridge eggs and chicks.

Second, much of the drive against hunting was rooted in the notion that it was an exclusive pursuit of the wealthy upper classes. It amused Labour activists to have a parliament controlled by their party pass a law to make the lives of their class enemy a misery.

In fact, hardly any hunts these days are the province of what the Left would caricature as braying toffs. Most people who hunt are middle-class. Most hunt followers are working-class, and it is hunt servants who have often been subject to police investigations when bodies such as the RSPCA have managed to manufacture a case against a hunt.

But prejudice helped this naked piece of class legislation reach the statute book. Under the Act — which came into force in 2005, ate up more than 700 hours of Parliamentary time and was seen as a weak sop by Tony Blair to keep his urban backbenchers on side to do his bidding over the Iraq War — it is now illegal to hunt a fox ‘intentionally’.

As things stand, all hunts now follow the trail of a man-made scent put on a rag and laid down by a rider who leaves the meet 20 minutes before the hounds. But if the hounds should meet a fox and eventually corner it, then it may be killed legally by a bird of prey or a huntsman with a firearm.

Sometimes the dogs do accidentally kill a fox that would be shot anyway: the RSPCA, which in recent years has become a Leftist front organisation, then urges prosecution of the huntsman or Master of Foxhounds responsible, purely to prove its utterly pointless point.

This has brought about the new battle, involving anti-hunting groups undertaking surveillance to make sure the hunts are acting within the law. It has also brought about the devouring of hundreds of hours of already stretched rural police time, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to bring cases to court, very few of which have been successful.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, for all Hunting Act prosecutions since the 2005 ban, of 181 convictions only six relate directly to hunting with hounds.

How much longer can this sort of thing go on? The Government has said it will make time for the hunting ban to be debated in Parliament, and the sooner it does, the better. The present system is a nonsense, a waste of police time, and it threatens the liberty and livelihoods of tens of thousands of rural dwellers, as well as helping the fox head for extinction in the countryside as it becomes ever more ruthlessly controlled.

We have lived through an era when the urge to criminalise and restrict has constituted a serious and unwarranted assault on our civil liberties. A supposedly liberal Government should not tolerate laws that make criminals of the law-abiding — and the hunting ban should be the first to go.



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

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

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


29 December, 2011

The idea of a memorial for the St Paul’s protest plumbs new depths – even for the C of E, says James Delingpole.

Maybe they could commission it from Tracey Emin, this “memorial tent” they’re thinking of putting on permanent display inside St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the Occupy protesters. Or, if that sounds too obvious, maybe they could get Jake and Dinos Chapman to do a diorama of 10,000 bankers having their arms and legs ripped off in ironic homage to Goya’s Disasters of War. Or how about a gigantic, jewel-encrusted dog-on-a-rope from Damian Hirst? Or an installation by Chris Offili of dirty needles, condoms and unsold copies of the Socialist Worker sitting on a pile of elephant poo?

Whatever they decide on, this much is clear: something must be done to honour the defiance, tenacity and heroic soap-shunning of the protesters who’ve spent the past few weeks camped outside St Paul’s. We learn this from no less an authority than the Bishop of London himself, speaking on Christmas Day as he presented some of the protesters with a big box of chocolates: “The canons have been very imaginative and consulting with the protesters about how to leave a legacy of the protests. We are looking for ways of honouring what has been said when the camp moves on.”

Thus Dr Richard Chartres, third most senior clergyman in the Church of England (after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York), doing a bravura impression of Peter Simple’s barmily progressive Bishop of Bevindon, Dr Spacely-Trellis. The only giveaway is that Chartres forgot to slip in the phrase “in a very real sense”. Otherwise, the impression would have been note perfect.

What’s particularly depressing about this episode is that Chartres is supposedly one of the Church’s more traditional senior clerics. If this is the line the Church’s reactionary old school is taking, imagine what insanities its more progressive elements are yearning to impose on us. Presumably they won’t really feel that justice has been done until St Paul’s has been razed to the ground and replaced by a permanent Anti-Capitalist Peace Camp.

As Time magazine claimed, 2011 may have been the Year of the Protester. But it was also the Year When The Church Of England Lost The Plot Completely. All the signs were there in October when, instead of seeking immediately to evict the rabble that had forced St Paul’s to close for longer than it did even during the Blitz, the Church instead decided to cosy up to the protesters and “feel their pain” – and thus prolong the occupation. But even by the modern C of E’s dismally inept standards, the Bishop of London’s yuletide surrender-monkey offering really does plumb stygian new depths of abject inanity.

Does the Bishop of London seriously imagine that Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece will be enhanced or edified by erecting a permanent memorial to a motiveless bully mob of Leftist agitators? Has it not occurred to him how oddly this might sit in a church which houses the tombs of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, men whose service to the nation consisted of rather more than snarling slogans for three months? Is he not aware that St Paul’s purpose is not merely to act as a political playground for the smelly, activist few, but as a historical monument to be enjoyed by the many?

Probably Dr Chartres is aware of all these things, for he is not stupid. Also – as I noted when he presided over my daughter’s confirmation last year – he is capable of addressing the numinous with deep conviction and authority. But, unfortunately, he happens to be part of an organisation that has long since lost its original raison d’être. Today’s vibrant, forward-looking, ecumenical Church of England has much more to do with diversity outreach, climate change, grievance nurturing and banker bashing than it does with religious worship.

It’s this lack of genuine religious conviction, I’m sure, which explains why the C of E has got itself into such a muddle over the occupation of St Paul’s (and the occupation of Bristol Cathedral where the protesters are replacing tents with wooden structures so that they can stay all winter).

Had it stopped to consider for a moment, the Church could have found plenty of Biblical authority not to endorse the Occupy protest movement. It could, for example, have pointed out that though Jesus drove the money-lenders out of the Temple, this was because of his objection to the commercialisation of the house of God rather than because of a principled rejection of all forms of capitalism.

And true though it may be that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus had none of that inverted snobbery you find in the Occupy movement or the C of E. As the tales of Jairus and his daughter, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the Centurion’s servant all indicate, Jesus was just as comfortable doing outreach work among the rich and powerful as he was among the poor and needy. But to understand all this would involve a certain familiarity with the New Testament. And I’m not sure that the C of E bothers overmuch with that old-fashioned stuff these days.


Archbishop of Canterbury blasted for comparing rioters and bankers as politicians urge him to focus on religion

A minister hit out at the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday for comparing City bankers to the rioters who tore apart Britain’s cities over the summer. Coalition trade and investment minister Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, who is also an ordained minister in the Church of England, said bankers had changed their attitudes since the crash of 2008.

His comments come as a growing chorus of leading politicians urge the Archbishop to concentrate on spiritual matters and leave the politics to them.

Dr Rowan Williams raised eyebrows on Sunday by saying the rioters were no worse than the bankers and that ‘bonds of trust’ had broken throughout society.

In his Christmas sermon, he said: ‘Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.’

But the Government hit back yesterday, with Lord Green saying: ‘I think a lot has changed since 2008 actually, and I think there has been a lot of soul-searching in the financial services industry, quite rightly too. ‘There are clearly a lot of current challenges but at the level we are talking about has there been an attitudinal change? Yes, I think there has.’

Lord Green, a former chairman of HSBC, said the Government would need to remain ‘watchful’ to stop ‘backsliding’ by the City. But he said it was wrong to single out the financial services industry for criticism.

He said: ‘It is important not to treat banking like some special mysterious art, banking is a business and all businesses face this question – what is your contribution to human welfare and to the common good.’

Lord Green’s case was bolstered yesterday by figures from the independent Centre for Economics and Business Research, which showed the City bonus pool has been cut by 40 per cent since the crisis of 2008. During the last Labour parliament the pool averaged £9billion. Under the Coalition, the average for the last two years has been £5.5billion. The average bonus paid has gone from £9,053 to £5,465.

Lord Green’s intervention pitches the Coalition into a fresh conflict with the Church of England. It comes just days after Prime Minister David Cameron launched a veiled attack on Dr Williams’s forays into politics.

In a highly personal speech on religion, he called on the Archbishop to lead a revival of Bible values in Britain rather than focus on politics. He said he was content for Dr Williams to make political statements, but warned him he should not be surprised if the politicians hit back.

The Archbishop has repeatedly spoken out about the Coalition’s austerity programme, accusing the Government of peddling ‘radical policies for which no one voted’ –– despite polls showing the public supports the cuts.


The BBC’s Sorry Journalism

Tibor R. Machan

The BBC recently published the following in a report about the Republican primary contest in Iowa: “Correspondents say a Ron Paul victory in Iowa would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party as many of his views are seen as too libertarian and isolationist. Mr. Paul would order a $1 trillion (£641bn) spending cut, eliminating a number of government agencies, including the Department of Education. He also proposes returning the dollar to a gold standard and cutting all foreign aid, including to Israel….”

“At a recent campaign stop in Iowa a breast cancer survivor began crying after he told her insurance companies should not have to cover those who are already sick, Reuters news agency reports….”

This passage is worth some attention if only because those of us who have sympathies toward Representative Paul’s libertarian politics should not duck out when opponents target him for criticism, be it fair or not. Let me start with the last bit, the treatment of a crying breast cancer survivor as a kind of “gotcha” device versus Paul. (And incidentally, who are those correspondents who say that Paul’s “victory would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party”? Let’s have some names her, some attributions, by BBC!)

Now we all have hopes and wishes that people will be helpful to and supportive of us, especially when we suffer from maladies or hazardous conditions we had no role in bringing about. Casualties of acts of nature do often deserve our sympathy and even help, unless they have been negligent in taking precautionary measures, such as saving up for health insurance. Even in cases when one has been negligent, often others overlook this and tend to be considerate beyond the call of duty, as it were.

Representative Paul and other libertarians are often first in line with offering private support to such people. The citizens of the US are often first in lending a hand to those who have been hit with natural disasters, like a tsunami or earthquake, and the essence of generosity is precisely that, offering private support and aid to those in need.

What Paul and libertarians in general object to is the coerced support given to those in need by governments are expropriate resources from the citizenry, take a sizable chunk of it for administrative expenses, and distribute the funds according to the lights of the politicians and bureaucrats. This kind of forcible distribution of others’ money is what libertarians are against as a matter of principle and Ron Paul is no exception. This does not at all make him or libertarians callous, heartless, cruel or anything of the kind, however much many claim this about them, ones to whom it seems to come very naturally to confiscate other people’s resources and do with it as they think they should. (I explain this in some detail in my book, Generosity, Virtue in Civil Society [1998].)

As to the cuts supported by Ron Paul, I would urge those who are going to give the matter some thought to consider, once again, that these cuts are an effort to eliminate or at least reduce the forcible taking by some people of the resources that belong to others and to which they have no right whatever. All charitable, helpful acts must be voluntary otherwise they have no moral merit whatsoever. Yes, there are some spurious arguments claiming that out good behavior may, indeed must, be imposed upon us by wiser and more virtuous people than we are but it is just a ruse. No one can make other people moral except by example!

This also applied to foreign aid, be it to Israel or Mongolia. People abroad aren’t entitled to the property of Americans or anyone else who has not voluntarily given it to them. Israel is no exception!

Unfortunately this line of thinking is rarely if every presented to readers in an accurate way so they could consider it without bias. Instead journalists have a dogmatic commitment to the coercion involved in government support for the needy, failing to even mention that kind of thinking summarized above and making it appear that those who do share it are monsters.

Lost of people also mistakenly identify the coercive taking of people resources with Robin Hoodism but in fact Robin Hood took back from the tax takers what they forcibly took for the those whom they victimized. The proper approach to seeing people in need is to mount a serious, voluntary effort to secure support for them, starting with one’s own, not to advocate taking from them what belongs to them and what only they have the rightful authority to give away.

Now in a messy world it is very difficult to be principled and trying to be usually brings on the charge of being an ideologue, a blind adherent to simplistic ideas. But in fact it shows integrity, nothing less! And it is time that politicians show some of it because without integrity the game is up anyway–trust, honesty, responsibility and all such virtue go out the window, never mind simple, honest generosity.


Political correctness defied: Danish hotel to keep illegal women-only floor

A Copenhagen hotel will continue reserving a whole floor for women, despite a recent ruling that doing so is discriminatory and illegal, the hotel director said last week..

Last May, the Bella Sky Hotel in central Copenhagen opened a floor dubbed the Bella Donna with 20 specially decorated rooms for women, and no men allowed.

"The only man who can access this floor will be a fireman in the case of fire," hotel chief Anders Dueland said.

"The rooms are scented and there are flowers. The bathrooms have spacious showers, lots of mirrors and large hair-dryers," he said, adding that the concept so far had been a huge success.

But on November 11, the Danish Gender Equality Board found in favour of a man who had filed a complaint against the hotel, ruling that the initiative was illegal.

Since men are not allowed access to all the rooms, you would have to "presume that there is a difference in treatment based on sex" at the hotel, the board said in its ruling.

Susanne Fischer, an attorney with the board, said that the Bella Sky Hotel would not face "financial sanctions at the moment, because the board does not have the authority to sanction."

Nonetheless, the hotel has been ordered to lift the ban on male access to the Bella Donna floor, and if it fails to do so, the plaintiff could take the case to civil court and demand damages, Fischer said.

"We decide for ourselves who gets to stay at our hotel," Dueland insisted. "We have 814 other rooms, and there are 20 reserved for women. That means there are 794 rooms for everyone," he said.

"In Denmark, there are running races reserved for women, there are bicycle races reserved for women, there are pools where the changing rooms are just for women or just for men. There are toilets just for women," he said, adding: "Is that discrimination? I just don't understand the (board) ruling."



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

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

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


28 December, 2011

British government to end compensation for criminals injured in prison

Convicted criminals will be banned from claiming compensation for their injuries under plans to be unveiled next month. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke will announce plans to ensure the money goes to victims of crime rather than criminals.

Every year criminals claim around £5million from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It has given rise to controversial claims in which burglars have demanded money for injuries sustained when escaping the scene of the crime.

Thousands is also paid out every year to criminals who sustain injuries in prison as a result of feuds and drug-fuelled violence.

Soham murderer Ian Huntley is trying to claim £15,000 from CICA as a result of injuries sustained in prison from having his throat slit – in addition to a much higher sum in civil damages.

In total, 340 inmates made successful claims for injuries resulting in payouts and costs of £3.1million last year. More than 3,000 prisoners made claims. Official figures show that three prisoners got payouts of more than £100,000 while one inmate received £500,000. Another £2million was claimed by convicted criminals who are not jailed.

Most of the payouts for jailbirds are for injuries caused by trips, falls or slips as well as accidents while playing sport.

Ministers decided to step in because the Criminal Injuries Fund is chronically short of cash. Almost 50,000 victims of violent crime have been kept waiting for compensation worth in excess of £600million because the compensation authority has run out of funds. They include the children of murder victims and others who need the money to cover medical bills and compensate them for their disabilities and lost wages. Some are owed up to £500,000 after being left crippled by vicious thugs.

When the changes are introduced, inmates will still be able to sue prison authorities for damages or negligence if they are attacked. But they will no longer be allowed to claim money from the compensation authority.

A senior source close to Mr Clarke told the Mail: ‘It is ridiculous that we are continuing to spend so much money on the injuries sustained by convicted criminals when so many victims of crime are still waiting for funds.

‘There is around £5million a year paid out to convicted criminals and we intend to bring that to an end. That will allow us to save around £20million during the lifetime of this Parliament.’

The plans will also help cut the legal aid budget, which is being trimmed under coalition austerity measures. Hundreds of criminals use legal aid each year to claim compensation for their injuries. The legal aid bill for convicts has doubled in two years to £21million – although that sum also covers those demanding release from jail and softer punishments.

The crackdown on compensation payments was originally due to be unveiled in December, but senior government sources say it will now come in January.

Government sources described the current system as ‘a shambles’ and said they inherited a compensation authority from Labour which was overspending by £50million a year.

The plans will be published as part of a review of the organisation, which was previously criticised for huge delays in paying the victims of the July 7 terror attacks in 2005.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It is an outrage and a scandal that so much taxpayers’ money is being wasted on compensating criminals, who most people would think lost the right to make these claims.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘CICA receives a budget at the beginning of the year. As the scheme is demand-led the amounts due to victims in any one year can exceed the available budget for any year.’


Britain 'will defy meddling Europe over votes for prisoners'

Ministers are preparing to defy Europe over its insistence that Britain gives prisoners the right to vote. The Foreign Office has drawn up a blueprint to reform the European Court of Human Rights, aiming to win back power for national governments.

Britain has garnered Switzerland’s support in its campaign for changes to ‘address growing public and political concern’ – and is looking for further allies. If ministers cannot get enough support, they would consider simply ignoring the ruling on enfranchising all prison inmates.

The Government’s stance could inflame tensions within the Coalition, as the Euro-friendly Lib Dems are likely to have concerns. But the move has been welcomed by Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.

Dominic Raab, a member of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights, said: ‘There is a growing consensus that Strasbourg’s meddling has gone too far and that Parliament should stand up for our democratic prerogatives.’

He added: ‘It is welcome to see the UK using its chairmanship of the Council of Europe to build international consensus on Strasbourg reform. ‘It is vital to ensure both that the ECHR does not collapse under the weight of its backlog, and the judges focus on serious human rights abuses, rather than tinkering with finer points of law in mature democracies like Britain.’

The UK will hold the chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe until May, and hopes it will be able to use its position to push through reforms. It has formed an alliance with Switzerland, where voters recently backed proposals by their government to deport foreign criminals.

A joint memo from the Foreign Office and Switzerland said the European Convention on Human Rights was in danger of falling into disrepute because of the huge backlog of 160,000 cases and the meddling of the court’s Strasbourg-based judges.

The document, published in the Sunday Times, warns: ‘Urgent action is needed to avoid further damage to the reputation and effectiveness of the convention system.’ It says the court must ‘address growing public and political concern’ about the way it functions and the extent to which it interferes with issues ‘that do not need to be dealt with at the European level’.

It says European judges should stop considering ‘hopeless cases’ thrown out by national courts. ‘The circumstances in which the European Court of Human Rights should need to reconsider the case and substitute its own view for that of the national court should be relatively limited.’

It also calls on the judges to adopt a broader ‘hands-off’ approach, saying: ‘There is no reason why this approach should be limited to asylum and immigration matters.’

The blueprint has now been submitted to an inter-governmental committee of the Council of Europe.

In February, MPs voted to continue to deny prisoners the right to vote – in defiance of the ECHR.

Last night a Ministry of Justice source said: ‘We are holding a summit in the spring during our chair of the Council of Europe to push forward this agenda.

‘The UK wants the court to focus on fundamental values and leave to the member states issues that have already been properly considered by national parliaments and courts, like prisoner voting.’


Soviet Union’s Fatal Flaw Is being Repeated in the USA

Even today, almost exactly 20 years after it happened, Westerners asked to explain the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union tend to serve up theories that flatter preconceived ideological biases. Old-school leftists contend the Soviets simply perverted the noble ideals of socialism. More modernist progressives cluck their tongues at the Soviet Union’s parasitic, cynical, ruling class that enriched itself at the common person’s expense. Dedicated market capitalists point to communism having made entrepreneurship a crime. Civil libertarians make much of the Soviet government’s denial of freedom. And so on.

All these theories can contribute something to the debate, but none of them really tells the full story of the Soviet Union’s collapse. While it can’t explain everything, one theory that flatters neither Left nor Right seems to offer the best way of thinking about the Soviet collapse: The biggest reason the communist empire fell was centralization.

More than anything else, the Soviet Union of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era strove for central control. Gosplan in Moscow made the major decisions, and nearly every field of human endeavor was organized for the administrative convenience of these central planners. A single corporation owned every airplane, from jumbo jets to crop dusters. One massive plant manufactured almost every civilian automobile. A government ministry even told restaurants what recipes to use.

In the decade before its collapse, the Soviet Union had the world’s largest bank, the biggest newspaper, and the largest hotel. And it didn’t stop there. Despite paying lip service to the preservation of local customs (peasant dance festivals were big), Moscow tried to make everyone in the vast multinational empire learn Russian and adhere to the same Marxist,/materialist worldview.

Convenient as it was for those in charge, this absolute insistence on central control proved disastrously inefficient. While planners with slide-rules and hulking mainframe computers might determine, in theory, that one big auto plant would have lower production costs than a variety of small ones, even a small slip-up (say, a shortage of screws) could put the massive plant down for the count.

Even worse than its obvious inefficiencies, rigid centralization squelched human creativity: Good ideas were worth nothing unless one had the political connections to make them happen. Going off to start a business, write a play, or solve a social problem was forbidden. Under the thumb of aging technocrats who liked military parades and classical music, the nation stagnated, declined, and collapsed.

This state of affairs carries some pretty obvious lessons for those who want to further solidify Washington, DC’s role as the chief arbiter of all things in the national economy: Centralization of economic authority is not only inefficient but, by reducing the number of people in authority, actually tends to increase the likelihood of the genuine catastrophic failures they seek to avoid.

There’s also plenty to take heed of regarding government promotion of business: Bigness does not equate with virtue. Mega-retailers, farmers, trade associations, and corporate tycoons aren’t intrinsically any more--or less--virtuous than urban small businesses, union workers, or single mothers living in public housing. And ideologues on both sides of the political spectrum need to remember that efforts to enforce ideological conformity are inconsistent with the diversity that characterizes a free society.

No single theory, of course, can fully explain why the Soviet Union collapsed so suddenly, but a look at its deeply centralized nature surely explains a great deal--and sends an important warning.


Australia: Foster couple's adoption bid on hold over claims dad hit boy with wooden spoon

The child of a feral couple almost certainly needs a whack at times

A COUPLE has been stopped from adopting two children because of claims they smacked them and once hit one of them with a wooden spoon. The 11-year-old boy and his eight-year-old sister considered the couple who had fostered them for four years to be their parents and called them Mum and Dad, Acting Justice William Windeyer told the NSW Supreme Court.

The children's birth father was in jail on sex offences and their mother, who has another three children, all in care, acknowledged she could not look after them.

The judge said the foster parents were devoted to the children and were "very suitable" to adopt them. However, Justice Windeyer said he was not satisfied there was no risk to the children and he had to take into account the possibility the boy had been hit with a wooden spoon.

The judge postponed a decision on adoption until the end of next year and said, if it was established there was smacking and the use of a wooden spoon, then the children could be removed from the couple.

The judge said the boy had behavioural, physical and mental problems. During an interview with a clinical psychologist the boy said his foster dad hit him with a wooden spoon and it "hurt".

The man denied hitting the boy with a spoon but said he had once banged a wooden spoon on the kitchen bench to get the boy's attention when he was waving a knife around.

The man admitted twice smacking the boy "gently" - once when the boy had a "massive meltdown" and grabbed him by the testicles and a second time when the boy hit him in the ribs.

The judge said he had some sympathy for the man. "It seems impossible where someone is in danger of injury to go for a walk to calm down. After all, the three actions did get a result and no one was harmed," the judge said.



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

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

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


27 December, 2011

The Queen reminds us of the power of family

The Queen's Speech focuses on the families that support us in times of crisis. A reflection on her Christmas Day message

When Her Majesty the Queen chose to focus her Christmas message on the importance of family, she was unaware that her own closest relation would be taken from her side. As it was, there was a special poignancy – for those watching on television – to the images of husband and wife on screen, given that Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have been separated by illness at this least appropriate time of year.

Studying that broadcast, it would be hard to think of a better illustration of how dedicated a servant the Duke remains to his wife and Sovereign, even in his 90th year. Elsewhere on these pages, Philip Eade sets out the many ways in which he has strengthened and supported Her Majesty over the years, greatly to the benefit of his adopted nation. As the Duke recovers from his operation, both he and his wife will be able to draw similar strength from the family around them, this year enlarged with the marriage of two of their grandchildren. Indeed, it was appropriate that this was the very theme of Her Majesty’s Christmas message: the way that family, and the support of those we love, enables us to cope with times of hardship, and how such trials often draw out “the most and best” of the human spirit.

Her Majesty was not just talking about our immediate families, however. As she reminded us, “family” can define more than simply those related to us by blood. She cited the example of the Commonwealth that she has done so much to hold together – “a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”. Similarly, her definition of hardship was a broad one, encompassing not just the natural disasters that struck Queensland in Australia and Christchurch in New Zealand, but also being separated from loved ones serving overseas, or the more mundane pressures of austerity.

It is, of course, a cliché of the festive season to talk about the importance of family and community, and of being supported by those we love. But it is a cliché for a reason. Our families, our friends, our communities – and yes, our faith – are what sustain us in difficult times, and make life about more than simply the accumulation of wealth (or, in times such as these, the protection of what wealth we have).

This was a theme taken up in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon, too. Next year is the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the temptation will be to concentrate above all on the ways in which it has shaped our language. Yet as Dr Rowan Williams argued, the book also matters because it is of common prayer, offering a shared experience and shared devotion. Our society, the Archbishop suggested, all too often lacks such anchors: as a result, “bonds have been broken [and] trust abused and lost”, making space for the misbehaviour both of “mindless” urban rioters and irresponsible fiscal speculators.

In difficult times, with the future all too uncertain, it can be tempting to harden our hearts as we tighten our wallets. Yet if we lose our connection to those around us, we become – as Dr Williams put it – merely “atoms spinning apart in the dark”. And as the Queen reminded us yesterday, “finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas”. Jesus himself, she pointed out, was born into a world “full of fear”.

Over the next 12 months, Britain will witness a series of truly grand occasions. Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee promises to be a marvellous celebration of a monarch who has served her people with dignity and dedication for so long. The Olympics will bring the world to London and many other parts of Britain. Yet of equal importance to such national spectacles are the humbler moments of familial or communal pleasure. Just as the Duke of Edinburgh will be aided in his recovery by having his family around him, so are the rest of us supported by those we care for. If we can hold on to that sentiment, it might make the new year happier for us all.


Hunting ban? Tally-ho!

This is the seventh Boxing Day since the ban took effect, the sport has never been more popular

Hunting ban? What hunting ban? Today, more than a quarter of a million people are expected to turn out at some 300 hunts, on what is traditionally the biggest day of the hunting calendar. Even though this is the seventh Boxing Day since the ban took effect, the sport has never been more popular.

For supporters of hunting, this presents a difficulty. Ever since the Labour government pushed the ban on to the Statute Book, using the Parliament Act to overcome the objections of the House of Lords, there has been a campaign to reverse the decision. The Coalition Agreement promised a free vote in Parliament, though the addition of the words “when time allows” was a convenient get-out clause.

The Hunting Act is a bad law, not least because it is almost impossible to uphold. Last year, 36 individuals were convicted under its provisions; yet only one of those individuals was associated with a registered hunt. Yet, while bad laws should generally be repealed, the House of Commons – as we report today – would be unlikely to do so, even if ministers were inclined to hold a vote. In any case, any legislation to overturn the ban would reignite a fractious debate, at a time when Parliament has serious economic matters to consider.

What we see at work today, therefore, is a classic piece of British pragmatism. The Act is wrong, does not work and should be scrapped. But an uneasy compromise has been achieved that allows many thousands of people to carry on hunting. The time will come when a sensible Parliament will reverse one of the most illiberal and pernicious laws of recent times. Until that day arrives, tally-ho!


The Anglican priest who thought Stalin was a saint

BOOK REVIEW: Charles Moore reviews 'The Red Dean' by John Butler (Scala)

As Canterbury Cathedral this week marks the anniversary of the death of its most famous “turbulent priest”, Thomas Becket, it is a good moment to study the life of its second-most famous one. Hewlett Johnson became the Dean of Canterbury in 1931, when he was already getting on for 60, and clung on to the post, despite numerous attempts to get him out, until 1964.

Over those 33 years, Johnson devoted the bulk of his astonishing energy to proving that Soviet Communism, especially as practised by Stalin, was heaven on earth: “While we’re waiting for God, Russia is doing it.” In his bestseller The Socialist Sixth of the World, which was published not long after Stalin’s most extensive programme of mass murder, he wrote: “Nothing strikes the visitor to the Soviet Union more forcibly than the complete absence of fear.”

No Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride. He supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. In the face of all evidence, he praised the Soviets for their toleration of religion, excitedly reporting, after a private audience with Stalin, that the great man favoured freedom of conscience. He always refused to condemn Stalin. Neither would he condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

His methods, too, were sometimes unscrupulous. He repeatedly accepted free trips from VOKS, the Soviet cultural front organisation which suborned Western writers and intellectuals, never questioning its itineraries or facts. When he wrote his books, he copied out the economic statistics that VOKS sent him, without inquiry or even comprehension. The uncritical tribute he published on Stalin’s death was in large part plagiarised, without acknowledgment, from an existing piece of Soviet propaganda. The British intelligence services may well have been right to consider him an “agent of influence”.

Johnson did well from his views. In 1951, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize, for which he received £10,000 (roughly £230,000 in today’s money). The sales of his books were made enormous by the print runs which Stalin decreed for them. His stupendous vanity was gratified by meeting the dictators (including Mao, Fidel Castro and Rakosi in Hungary). He became a world celebrity, and regarded his main book as “dynamite, the most powerful war weapon, that starts factories working”.

He was also, arguably, a hypocrite. Although certainly not personally luxurious (he liked nothing better than rolling in the snow in the Deanery garden rather than wallowing in a hot bath), he was pretty rich and employed several servants. He came from a prosperous Northern industrial family (Johnson’s Wireworks) and his first wife was richer still. When she died, she left him Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture, silver, jewellery, fine carpets, Chinese and Japanese sculptures, a Broadwood grand, tapestries, paintings, glassware etc. By 1952, he owned 11 houses and garages, and plenty of shares, including some in Lonrho.

In 1937, when the pupils at the King’s School were making too much noise for his taste, he grabbed some of the school’s land for his garden to keep them at a distance. Criticised by the Archdeacon, he told him sharply that he should not be “worrying over small matters when so great things were at stake in the world”. He was off to the Soviet Union, he said, because “I ought to use all my spare time for bigger things” – without surrendering his horticultural conquest.

During the war, it distressed Johnson that the servants were getting uppity. He was angry when his handyman got a bigger boiled egg for breakfast than he. Writing to his second wife – who, in wartime exile in Wales, was having trouble with her maid – he advised her: “Let her see that you are a lady and if she cannot rise to the privilege of comradeship then the older relationship of mistress and maid must continue… It is moral training. Russia has had to do this.”

What makes this book so interesting, however, is that the author wants us to see the good in Johnson. While never concealing or excusing his politics, John Butler draws on personal archives never before seen to paint an attractive picture of the private man – vigorous (his second wife was 32 when he married her at the age of 64), affectionate to his children (he first became a father when he was 66), brave in staying in Canterbury all through the war. He was popular with the people, though not the Chapter, of Canterbury. With his domed pate, long white hair, tall, imposing figure and old-fashioned decanal gaiters, he was a “character”. He worked relentlessly and preached often and well. In an odd way, he kept alight the beacon of the Anglican world at a time of great trial.

I am glad that Mr Butler has approached his task in this way, because it makes the book much fresher than a work of character assassination. But its effect is to point up how extraordinary it was that a free country like ours could excuse people who defended mass murderers so long as they were from the Left. If Johnson had spoken of Hitler as he did of Stalin, no one would have received him in polite society.

For his unusual views, Johnson suffered nothing worse than a few cross letters from the Archbishop and semi-successful attempts to dislodge him from various Canterbury positions (“Ominously, the governors began to plot Johnson’s removal as Chairman of the Governing Body”). By contrast, the victims of the man he worshipped died in their tens of millions. His speeches and writings helped legitimise this. Johnson was told by Raul Castro (who, replacing brother Fidel, rules Cuba to this day) that people believed his pro-Communist writing because he was a priest. That is a terrible thought.


State Department 'Panders' to Islamists on Free Speech

The Obama administration is drawing fire for yielding what critics see as a huge propaganda victory to Islamist regimes seeking to curb American speech deemed "offensive" to Muslims.

The State Department hosted a three-day, closed-door meeting last week with representatives of the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on measures to fight religious "intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization."

In her closing remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton portrayed the conference as a sign that Washington and the OIC are working together to protect religious freedom around the world.

"We have to get past the idea that we can suppress religious minorities, that we can restrict speech, that we are smart enough that we can substitute our judgment for God's and determine who is or is not blaspheming," Clinton said. "I think if we do our work right, in years to come, people will look back and say this was a great step forward on behalf of both (sic) freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and our common humanity."

But according to the Hudson institute's Nina Shea (who attended portions of the conference as an observer), the event was actually a step backward for religious liberty. The meeting seemed to be an exercise in "moral equivalency and pandering to Sunni tyrants in the Middle East," she said.

"The general theme seemed to be that the U.S. has problems just like Saudi Arabia with religious tolerance," she added. "There was a total absence of perspective on all counts."

Pointing to familiar events such the Muhammad cartoon violence, Quran burnings and Muslim objections to the film "Fitna," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu argued that his organization regarded bigotry as a primarily Western phenomenon. He wrote that "no one has the right to insult another person for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice," and that "freedom of expression has to be exercised with responsibility."

Zamir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative of the OIC before the U.N. Human Rights Council was more emphatic. He claimed that Resolution 16/18, which expressed concern about "negative profiling" and religious "stereotyping," was driven by Western discrimination against Muslims. Akram also questioned whether Muslims engaged in discrimination, and said Muslims would not compromise on permitting "anything against the Quran, anything against the Prophet."

Given these comments – and Saudi educational materials that encourage the spread of Islam through jihad and demonize Jews, Christians and polytheists – Shea believes U.S. officials are "naïve" to think there will be reciprocity from the OIC when it comes to combating discrimination.

Despite Saudi Arabia's abysmal record of persecuting non-Muslims, the Kingdom received a note of dubious praise from the United Nations General Assembly, which on Monday passed a resolution condemning religious intolerance. According to Shea, the UNGA resolution – passed by consensus with U.S. support – singled out for praise a single program: A Saudi-built "religious dialogue" center in Vienna, Austria.

Given Saudi Arabia's relentless persecution of non-Muslims, the praise is "Orwellian," Shea told the IPT. "They don't dare establish such a program on their own territory."

OIC member states spearheading the anti-blasphemy campaign include Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – all of which jail or execute "blasphemers." In nations like Egypt and Iraq, Christians are attacked and their churches torched while Muslim-dominated governments are unwilling or unable to protect them.

"In these countries, you have 'cleansing' tolerated by the authorities," Shea noted. "Religious cleansing [of Christians] is underway right now in Egypt and Iraq. It's been completed in Saudi Arabia. Jews have been cleansed from the Sunni Muslim world."

By any measure, Muslims and other religious minorities in the United States face no dangers comparable to religious minorities in the Muslim Arab world. Indeed, like the Bush administration preceding it, the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to court American Muslims and portray their situation in a very favorable light.

Clinton's Dec. 14 remarks included a rebuke to Islamists who seek to silence people of other faiths. "But is our religion so weak that statements of disapproval will cause us to lose our faiths?" Clinton asked. She added that there is nothing wrong with "hav[ing] good debates with others."

But Shea emphasizes that the behavior of OIC participants like Saudi Arabia gives no indication that they are interested in dialogue with minorities in their countries. She said that at the conference, participants largely ignored the vast differences between the United States and OIC member nations in protecting religious minorities.

One legal official (State Department confidentiality rules barred observers from identifying him or his country) gave a "one-sided depiction of American bigotry against religious minorities, including Muslims" in his opening keynote address, Shea said, telling representatives of some of the world's most repressive regimes that America can learn from them about protecting religious tolerance.

But the official never bothered to explain that, when compared with other countries, America has an extraordinary record of "upholding individual freedoms of speech and religion," Shea told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The tolerance of the American people is misrepresented by omission."

Pointing to mounting reports of atrocities and intimidation against Middle East Christians and mass slaughter by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, Shea didn't mince words in characterizing the attitudes of the American conference participants toward their OIC counterparts.

"It's the equivalent of saying to Hitler: 'Well, you have a real problem with the way you treat minorities and we have a problem with limiting the rights of Aryans here.'"



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

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

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


26 December, 2011

Study Shows U.S. Mosques Are Repositories of Muslim Brotherhood Literature and Preachers

Perspectives on Terrorism, recently released a comprehensive study on violence-advocating texts in American mosques titled Sharia Adherence Mosque Survey: Correlations between Sharia Adherence and Violent Dogma in U.S. Mosques.

The Shariah Adherence Mosque Survey found that 80% of U.S. mosques provide their worshippers with jihad-style literature promoting the use of violence against non-believers and that the imams in those mosques expressly promote that literature.

The study also found that when a mosque imam or its worshippers were “sharia-adherent,” as measured by certain behaviors in conformity with Islamic law, the mosque was more likely to provide this violent literature and the imam was more likely to promote it.
Perspectives on Terrorism is a scholarly, peer-reviewed international journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI), a global initiative that seeks to support the international community of terrorism researchers and scholars through the facilitation of collaborative projects and cooperative initiatives. TRI was established in 2007 by scholars from several disciplines in order to provide the global research community with a common tool than can empower them and extend the impact of each participant's research activitie

The research originally was published in the summer 2011 edition of Middle East Quarterly (MEQ) under the title Shari'a and Violence in American Mosques. The Middle East Quarterly is an academic, peer-reviewed journal which specializes on Middle East regional issues. Due to the ground-breaking nature of the study, which brings a rigorous empirical methodology to the question of home-grown jihadists, MEQ granted permission to Perspectives on Terrorism to publish a more extensive analysis of the study’s conception, methodology, and results. The new publication includes additional material, charts and graphs.

The abstract for the study summarizes the research findings:

A random survey of 100 representative mosques in the U.S. was conducted to measure the correlation between Sharia adherence and dogma calling for violence against non-believers.

Of the 100 mosques surveyed,

51% had texts on site rated as severely advocating violence;

30% had texts rated as moderately advocating violence;

19% had no violent texts at all.

Mosques that presented as Sharia adherent were more likely to feature violence-positive texts on site than were their non-Sharia-adherent counterparts.

The leadership at Sharia-adherent mosques was more likely to recommend that a worshipper study violence-positive texts than leadership at non-Sharia-adherent mosques.

In 84.5% of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts.

58% of the mosques invited guest imams known to promote violent jihad.

The leadership of mosques that featured violence-positive literature was more likely to invite guest imams who were known to promote violent jihad than was the leadership of mosques that did not feature violence-positive literature on mosque premises.
The study’s authors, Professor Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University in Israel and David Yerushalmi, who serves as general counsel to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., have both published widely on terrorism, Islamic law and its underlying doctrines of jihad and violence against unbelievers.


Washington Retreats on Speech Codes

The OIC (previously called the Organization of the Islamic Conference) has pushed for a universal blasphemy law for more than a decade. Since the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands and the 2006 riots protesting cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammad, the group has pressured Western European nations to implement speech codes punishing criticism of Islam.

In March, the Obama administration thwarted the OIC's attempt to win United Nations Human Rights Council passage of a resolution calling for criminal penalties for the "defamation of religions." The following month, Washington engineered Council passage of Resolution 16/18, a nonbinding measure which did not censor speech.

The victory didn't last long. In July, Secretary of State Clinton revived the issue when she co-chaired an OIC session in Istanbul dealing with "religious intolerance." Clinton called on countries to "counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue and public debate," while emphasizing that speech restrictions were unacceptable. She invited conference attendees to a follow-up meeting to continue the dialogue.

OIC officials seized on Clinton's offer by stepping up their campaign for blasphemy laws and speech codes.

Based on conversations with U.S. officials, Shea believes that many of them fail to grasp what the OIC represents. They lack essential information about apostasy and blasphemy laws and have "very little knowledge of the illiberal nature of the OIC," she said. "There's a sense of political correctness that prohibits probing of that organization and what it stands for."

Although the United States is unlikely to emulate Western European countries in enacting speech codes, "what we see is self-censorship" by agencies like the State and Homeland Security departments which are barred from discussing issues such as Salafism and jihad. Moreover, "in the media, academia and the entertainment world, we see self-censorship on behalf of Islam. Certain issues are off the table."

Shea believes that this "politically correct" approach to Islamism has disturbing implications for U.S. national security. In the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who massacred 13 of his fellow servicemen at Fort Hood in 2009, co-workers emphasized that they were deeply troubled by his jihadist ravings regarded him as a radical Muslim "but didn't report it for fear of being labeled "Islamophobes,'" she noted.

Similarly, a Senate committee issued a report documenting a culture of timidity at the Pentagon on the subject of Islam. Shea said the Fort Hood massacre is a "perfect example" of the danger posed by the U.S. government's failure to address the danger Islamism poses to our liberties.


Weasel words offer a speedy shortcut up the corporate ladder

Want to know a secret? The vast bulk of our business leaders are not particularly bright. That's not to say they are stupid. Far from it, in fact. Most are driven, highly-motivated and have an innate ability to spot an opportunity or to motivate others to do the work for them.

The fact remains, however, that in most cases they are no smarter than you or me.

This may provide some comfort to students who have just finished school or graduated from university with a less than impressive record.

The simple truth is that academic achievement only occasionally translates into success in the business world. While a great result won't hold you back, a stellar academic record doesn't necessarily guarantee you will vanquish your competitors in the quest to climb the greasy pole.

It's a phenomenon that is on display across every segment of the business world. Academics with doctorates under their belt can often be seen toiling away for a reasonable salary in a company led by someone with no tertiary qualifications at all, who is raking in the big bucks. How does this happen?

It is usually the case that those who secure the top spots are those who speak the lingo, who can strike a rapport with those in power.

This doesn't require a university degree, although most universities, cash-strapped as they are these days, have latched onto the idea that teaching business wannabes how to communicate with each other can be lucrative business in itself. They spend years doing it and charge a fortune.

And so we have seen the birth of the MBA, the master's of business administration, a qualification often dispensed to those who never even studied at undergraduate level. But that's another story.

If our bosses can't be bothered getting a degree, then why not subvert the process altogether? With summer coming on, why spend the festive season with your head stuck in the books when you can loll about on the couch, drink beer and watch the cricket?

Given 2012 is likely to be even tougher than the year that has just passed, we've decided to offer a quick guide to mastering the art of saying absolutely nothing but sounding hugely impressive, which could land you the job of your life without having to waste years and thousands of dollars.

The trick to getting away with this strategy is to understand that humans are social animals. We like to congregate. We crave assurance. And we love to form groups and to identify with those groups.

As long as you know the code, the keywords, you will be immediately embraced by the gang and absorbed into the rarefied world of commerce - a world in which the dilettante reigns supreme.

Like all languages, it is constantly evolving. Take the term "going forward". This was the single most important phrase in the language up until about a year ago. Completely superfluous to any sentence, it added absolutely no meaning. And yet it was a phrase so pregnant with meaning. For it screamed out: "I am one of yours. I belong."

Under no circumstances should you ever use this phrase again. A subtle change has been mandated, so as to weed out the pretenders. From now on, we are "moving forward", a slightly warmer, more inclusive term than its predecessor.

Regardless of this subtle shift, it is a term that should be used frequently - not in every sentence but in at least every third sentence.

The key to sounding like you know what you are talking about is verbosity. That involves using as many useless terms as possible and spinning out a two-sentence explanation to at least 20 minutes. This is no easy task.

But liberal use of the word "leverage" always comes in handy.

Technically it refers to debt, which in these straightened times is a no-no. But don't let that hold you back. The word can mean anything you want it to. For instance, expressing a desire to "leverage the firm's core competencies" is bound to get the juices flowing from those you are trying to impress. Again, the beautiful thing is that it means absolutely nothing, so no one can ever hold you to account for not delivering.

The original book on management theory clearly was penned by an unemployed oil executive. A decade ago, every business was described as a "platform" connected by "pipelines" and you had no chance of employment if you neglected to mention them.

Those terms are still in use but to a far lesser extent and it would be wise to mention them only sparingly. These days, you should merely have a "multi-platform strategy" and "business in the pipeline".

When it comes to industry, you need to be in the space. Perhaps it has something to do with the pick-up in the energy game and the downturn at NASA. But these days, you have to be in the "retail space", "the supply-chain space" or any other space you care to mention.

The reason for this is that management skills should never be limited by industry. Running a steelworks, or a condom manufacturer? It's all the same thing. It is just a different space.

Never talk "about" anything. You talk "to" an issue, or "provide colour" on an event. And, of course, if you really want to impress your credentials as a savvy manager during tough times, at being able to slash costs, you should be sure to mention your ability at picking "low-hanging fruit".

For advanced players, if you really want to lay your credentials down, nothing beats a good acronym.

This is rather more difficult to master, as it usually involves highly technical terms that your inquisitors won't be on top of, and hence they may ask for an explanation.

If you grab a stockbroking analyst report - any of them on any day - you can familiarise yourself with the basics.

Talk about EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and compare it to the PCP (previous corresponding period) on FYE (full-year earnings). If you want to get really daring, you throw in the WACC (weighted average cost of capital). But beware, a startled chairman may ask you exactly what that is.

Your correspondent has never progressed beyond BOGOF (buy one, get one free) at the EOFYS (end of financial year sale), so I won't even pretend to explain WACC.

Always remember, however, that if you need to negotiate your way out a tricky situation during a job interview, just start jawboning on about "risks", or "moves to the upside", or "moves to the downside". This sounds so much classier than a simple rise or fall.

By this stage, you should have the interview panel in the palm of your hand. That key to the executive dunny is within your grasp. The "ducks are in a row" and you've delivered some valuable "face time".

This could well be a "win-win" situation.


Californian anti-serf dudes, get real

An Oakland start-up has received millions from Google to reduce our ‘slavery footprint’. Is this wise?

I have 31 slaves working for me. This morning, after making my bed, sticking my clothes in the washing machine and doing the dishes, I didn’t quite feel like a slave-driver. But then I found out that several dozen people are toiling away, against their will, to keep my wardrobe full, my fridge well-stocked and my apartment warm. I’ve never met these people because most of them live in far-flung places, like China, Peru and South Africa. Some of them are also right here, in the United States, but they are working in the ‘shadow economy’.

I know all this now because I took a survey created by the Californian organisation Slavery Footprint. Its web-based slavery footprint calculator also informed me that I can cut back on serfs by, for instance, shopping less and giving up hair conditioner.

Essentially, the calculator takes into account the content of your home, your consumption habits and family size, and it lets you estimate how many people’s labour go into sustaining your everyday life and pleasures. It tells you where those people live and how your slavery stock measures up to those of your Facebook friends.

Now, Slavery Footprint will be able to develop even more ‘awareness-raising’ tools. Because, together with non-profits Polaris Project and International Justice Mission, it has received a $9.8million joint grant from Google to inform people about modern-day slavery and how to abolish it. Google is also giving away a further $1.7million to other anti-slavery organisations.

But the ‘awareness’ bit really needs those scare quotes. Because no matter how complex the algorithm that underlies the slavery-footprint calculator, its premise is so simplistic that it can only end up causing perplexity. The presumption is that most of us aren’t aware that we rely on slaves to maintain our relatively privileged lifestyles, and that we will be shocked to find out how many individual forced labourers have been involved in manufacturing the stuff that fills our homes.

Is this really true? Are we each indirectly responsible for making poor people work against their will? And does the answer to ending exploitation lie in buying more ‘ethical’ stuff?

Slavery Footprint estimates that there are 27million modern-day slaves worldwide. The United Kingdom may have passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, and Abraham Lincoln may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but slavery, says this organisation, is not a thing of the nineteenth century. Instead, slaves can be found up and down the supply chain: they are in mines, digging for the raw material that ends up in your iPhone; they are in fields, picking the cotton that your t-shirt is made of; and they are in factories, packaging the food you eat.

In other words, millions of people are exploited and robbed of their freedom in order to make stuff for those of us who are free and who use that stuff. ‘That smartphone, that t-shirt, computer, cup of coffee… That’s stuff we buy, and that’s stuff that comes from slaves’, says Slavery Footprint.

Of course, complexity has to give way for the sake of producing a slick app with a big shock factor, and most people who use the slavery-footprint calculator will, presumably, understand that the results shouldn’t be interpreted literally. It’s really a gimmick designed to provoke a reaction. For instance, by simply adding contact lenses to my virtual medicine cabinet my slave-count went up from 31 to 36. I’m willing to wager that there really can be no basis for arguing that five people would be literally enslaved in order to relieve me from myopia.

So, sure, let’s give some leeway for ‘artistic license’. Even so, it should be noted that the reductive design of Slavery Footprint’s calculator actually only reflects the crudeness of the organisation’s overall message.

The division of the global population into people who produce stuff against their will, people who produce stuff willingly and people who use stuff is nothing short of nonsensical. Of course, in this late stage of capitalism a vast majority of us - even very poor people - have become used to not having to dedicate our days to simply surviving. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the cars we drive - all of it is made accessible through other peoples’ labour. But Slavery Footprint draws an all-too-neat division between producers and consumers. After all, those people down the mines wear protective clothing (hopefully) made by people working in factories. During their lunch breaks, factory workers eat food produced by farmers, who read newspapers written by journalists, who commute to work in trains operated by train drivers, who may download apps created by anti-slavery activists who claim that smartphone usage contributes to slavery, and so on.

So, what of forced labour, then? Slavery Footprint defines a forced labourer or slave as ‘Anyone who is forced to work without pay, being economically exploited, and is unable to walk away’. But the definition of forced labour does not just pertain to people who have been forced to work and are held against their will. Instead, forced labour ‘may also result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or cultural acceptance of the practice’.

The problem with this working definition, as in most activism against so-called modern-day slavery, is that it negates any notion of free will and choice among the generally poor people who are being defined as exploited. For instance, a woman from a family of subsistence farmers in rural Africa may prefer to seek her luck in a big, Western city rather than accept a life of drudge at home. She will likely find few overly attractive options open to her on the labour market in that Western city, and the employer she ends up working for can probably get away with paying her a lower wage than he or she would for a legal resident. Does that make our fictional African woman a slave? Would she be better off at home on her farm than in the Western workplace? Will it help her if Western consumers refuse to buy the stuff she makes at work?

Following the logic of Slavery Footprint’s definition and outlook, the answer to those questions would be yes. From a different perspective, the African woman has chosen not to live in poverty on her farm and has decided instead to make a probably difficult journey to the other side of the world in the hope of earning money, supporting her family, learning new skills, seeing the world, or whatever.

In other words, capitalist society is certainly prone to exploitation, but it also opens up a world of possibilities. Of course, nobody should be kidnapped, held against their will or physically abused at work. But Slavery Footprint’s definition of forced labour goes way beyond such extreme situations to cover any kind of work that doesn’t look seemly from the perspective of an Oakland-based hipster.

Essentially, the Slavery Footprint initiative is coloured by a very Californian view of the world: that the ideal Western life involves starting our days with a serving of flax-seed muesli produced on an organic farm, washing it down with a cup of fairtrade coffee before making our way to a local farmer’s market in a Toyota Prius or, even better, a fixed-gear bike, and perhaps squeezing in a yoga workout session during our lunch break from our jobs as start-up entrepreneurs.

Okay, this is a pretty crude caricature. But it is no more crude than the worldview peddled by self-described modern-day slavery abolitionists.



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

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

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


25 December, 2011

Merry Christmas! Well, sort of

America’s un-Christmassy cards show a national inability to share each other's rituals and beliefs with confidence

To understand America’s troubled soul, look to its greeting cards.

I have just spent many, many hours doing this as part of an increasingly Quixotic annual struggle to send out Christmas cards. It’s ain’t what it used to be.

In the first place, it is no longer enough merely to buy a few boxes of cards and send them out. Authenticity demands cards with photographs, sometimes more than one, printed with a personalised holiday greeting. The development of photo cards has made this easier than ever. It is now possible to order one day and to pick up the next. Even the envelopes can be pre-addressed and stamped with custom postage stamps featuring photos of children or pets. The card-makers have the technical part down to a science - easy peasy. The problem comes when it is time to choose the card itself.

Once upon a time there were two sorts of Christmas cards: the secular ones and the religious ones. They were very easy to tell apart. The secular cards had Santa, reindeer, holly, elves, etc. Inside they said ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’. The religious ones had pictures of mangers, angels, stars and/or Mary and the baby Jesus. Like the secular cards, they said ‘Merry Christmas’ and often something unmistakably biblical, like ‘Joy to the World, the Lord is come’.

Not so today. There are at least four categories or genres of cards. Religious cards are much as they were. Secular Christmas cards, however, have splintered into ‘holiday’ cards, Christmas cards, vaguely wintery cards and the sly new outlier for wimps and disorganised people, the New Year’s card.

I should say from the outset that Christmas card awkwardness is nothing new. Americans have been struggling with the imagery for years now. Sure, there are still Santas and reindeer, but every year they dominate a little less. Cards, wrapping papers and decorations are decidedly less Christmassy and more wintery. Snowmen! Snowflakes! Polar bears! Penguins! They’re sort of Christmassy, but not really. Like androgynous pop stars, they swing either way.

Take penguin attire. A quick perusal of penguin cards reveals the usual mix of tuxedos, bow-ties and jaunty knitted caps familiar to students of penguin couture. The colours, however, often seem deliberately chosen not to refer to Christmas overtly. The penguin may, for instance, wear a red-and-white scarf, but there will be no green unless worn by a second penguin who is not standing too close to the first one. There is red, there is green but there isn’t much in the way of red and green. More often, these are just two colours among many, casually included in a crowd of blues, yellows and oranges. Nope, nothing Christmassy here! A similar sensibility is at work in snowmen illustrations and polar bears in hats.

Photo cards present a slightly different challenge. Because the photo is the main illustration, the question is not so much one of imagery but text and colour. The result is probably the most bizarre manifestation of Yuletide defensiveness to date: Christmas deconstructed.

Greetings-card writers have literally fractured Christmas carols to produce a new genre of card featuring fragments of lyrics like ‘Holly Jolly!’ or ‘Fa la la la la!’ They are the greetings-card equivalent of a Freemason handshake, referring to a shared reference that dare not speak its name. Of course, copywriters and advertisers have referred to the lyrics of Christmas songs before - ‘tis the season after all - but the sheer volume of these sorts of cards shows that it is probably more than a mere trope.

Some most definitely refer to Christmas, albeit in an off-handed way. It’s a veritable Name That Tune from lyrical fragments like ‘Holly Jolly!’ ‘Merry and Bright!’, ‘Ring-a-ling, Hear them Ring’, ‘You’d better not cry, you’d better not pout’ (the latter cleverly rearranged from ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ to constitute ‘fair use’) and, from the same song, the enigmatic ‘I’m Telling You Why’.

Then there are the snippets from songs we associate with Christmas and sing at Christmas but aren’t technically about Christmas: songs about snow and cold weather and sleigh rides that we could listen to at any point during the winter (but don’t). These include: ‘Let it Snow!’, ‘Laughing All the Way’, ‘Oh What Fun!’ and the much-too-long, ‘And I Think to Myself, What a Wonderful World’.

Finally there are the merry wishes: ‘Merry Merry!’,‘Merry, Merry, Merry!’, ‘Merry Everything!’, ‘The Merriest!’, ‘Merry Wishes!’, ‘Warm wishes!’, ‘Toasty Wishes!’ and ‘Winter Wishes!’

This deconstruction of Christmas is not about official bans on wishing Merry Christmas or renaming the ‘Christmas break’ as ‘Winter break’. It is about a deeper mistrust with our collective ability to tolerate other people’s beliefs and for them to tolerate ours. ‘Live and let live’ has been transformed into ‘live quietly and, whatever you do, don’t be seen to be too enthusiastic’.

The irony of these increasingly coy references to Christmas is that the vast majority of Americans do celebrate it. Americans exchange more than a billion Christmas cards each year and yet somehow this mass, largely secular holiday has been transformed in our collective imaginations into a particular religious and cultural event that should not carry more social weight than a holiday, say, Diwali, that is observed by comparatively few people.

At some level, this is an ambivalence about America itself, since the widespread celebration of a secular Christmas is largely an American innovation. Everything from Santa Claus - the way he looks, the colours he wears, the reindeer, the sleigh - through to the songs we sing and the movies we watch are American cultural creations. But more worryingly, it seems to show a disenchantment with the ideals of Christmas itself. Perhaps the whole premise of the holiday mocks us. It represents an aspiration for universalism that seems so out of reach that we are embarrassed we ever tried.

Fortunately, there does still seem to be a point when the holiday simply becomes about the experience of spending time with other people. There comes a point when there is nothing left to do but give a collective shrug and take time out for fun, fancy and impracticality. If the big ideas of Christmas - peace on earth and goodwill to all men - won’t fit on a card, they persist in the actuality of smiles exchanged with friends and strangers, in a lightness of heart, a wave and the words ‘Merry Christmas!’


The marriage gap presents a real cost

If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.

The latest numbers, from the Pew Research Center, are startling and disturbing. In 1960, nearly three-fourths of those 18 and older were married. By 2010, that number had plummeted to a bare majority, 51 percent. Four in 10 births were to unmarried women.

In 1960, the most- and least-educated adults were equally likely to be married. Now, nearly two-thirds of college graduates are married, compared with less than half of those with a high school diploma or less. Those with less education are less likely to ever marry and more likely to divorce if they do.

“Family structure is a new dividing line in American society,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told me.

As marriage increasingly becomes a phenomenon of the better-off and better-educated, the incomes of two-earner married couples diverge more and more from those of struggling single adults. There is a chicken-and-egg conundrum at work here: Did lack of financial stability contribute to the decision not to marry, or did the decision not to marry contribute to financial instability? Either way, the phenomenon is self-reinforcing.

Of even more concern is the generational impact of this increased inequality. Being raised in a stable, two-parent household is a strong determinant of educational achievement. In turn, educational achievement is a strong — and growing stronger — determinant of lifetime income. As a result, the marriage gap becomes a grimly self-perpetuating process.

Rhapsodizing about the benefits of marriage may have a conservative air — promoting marriage among welfare recipients was a big deal during the George W. Bush administration — but you don’t have to be a conservative to bemoan these statistics.

It’s not only that those at higher education levels are far more likely to marry — they’re far more likely to marry each other. “Men used to marry their secretaries,” Sawhill observed. “Now they marry the woman they met in med school.”

As a result, Sawhill said, “These two-earner couples at the top are just making out like bandits and these single parents at the bottom have miserable lives. If the single parents were married, their life wouldn’t be so miserable. And at the top, if these high-earning professionals weren’t getting together and forming little collaboratives, they’d be worse off.”

About those collaboratives: More people are cohabiting these days, but as an economic matter, this doesn’t solve the problem.

An earlier Pew study found that the typical college-educated cohabiter enjoyed a slightly higher household income than a college-educated married person, which only makes sense. For the college-educated cohabiter, living together tends to be a step toward marriage and children, at which point household income may drop as one spouse works less.

But for those who aren’t college-educated, cohabitation is more an alternative to the marriage track than a precursor of it. They are more far more likely than college-educated cohabiters to have children — and they enjoy significantly lower median household incomes than comparably educated married couples.

Not only that, cohabitation is not the equivalent of marriage in terms of family stability. Demographers Sheela Kennedy and Larry Bumpass found that, by age 12, about two-thirds of children born to cohabiting parents will see them split up, compared with a quarter of children born to parents who are married.

Nor does the marriage gap seem destined to lessen. Pew found that 27 percent of those with college degrees say they consider marriage “obsolete.” But 45 percent of those with a high school diploma or less took that view.

A different arm of Pew, its Economic Mobility Project, found that among children who started in the bottom third of income, only one-fourth of those with divorced parents moved up to the middle or top third as adults. By comparison, half of children with continuously married parents — and, somewhat surprisingly, 42 percent of those born to unmarried mothers — moved up the income ladder as adults.

Is marriage a magic-bullet solution to the broader problem of income inequality and lack of economic mobility? No, but fewer marriages will mean more inequality. Neither development is healthy.


How BBC wrongly predicted bad news for British economy (and then relegated the story when the figures were actually good)

Two hours before Britain’s economic figures were released yesterday, the BBC enthusiastically predicted that growth would be ‘even worse than we thought’.

The potential economic slowdown was discussed at length in grave tones for three and a half minutes on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme.

The issue was considered important enough to be placed third on the programme’s news bulletins at 7.30am and 8am.

Unfortunately, their pessimistic predictions were wrong. Instead of growth being worse than forecast, it was better.

But rather than injecting a more optimistic tone into their analysis, they simply relegated the story to being an also-ran.

Indeed it dropped off some later bulletins altogether. The World at One on Radio 4 did not include it in its headlines, neither did BBC1’s 1pm news.

Earlier on the Today programme, the normally scrupulously impartial John Humphrys introduced the economy story with a dose of doom.

He said: ‘We know the economy is slowing down, which is another way of saying the nation won’t be getting much richer, if at all. But today the latest revised growth figures will be published and everyone seems to think they will show it’s even worse than we thought.’

While questioning economics editor Stephanie Flanders, Humphrys asked if it would mean ‘most people are actually worse off than they were’.

Flanders replied: ‘So far there is a surprising degree of resignation in the face of austerity and the fact that pay packets at the top are going up.’

Humphrys then suggested that ‘people are getting fed up’ with austerity measures. Less than two hours later the ONS released figures saying that the UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent between July and September – faster than previous estimates of 0.5 per cent.

The issue was discussed for a minute on the World at One, with presenter Shaun Ley introducing the story by saying the economy had expanded slightly more than had been thought. However, he concluded: ‘The prospects for the New Year are far from encouraging.’

On the BBC1 News at One, where the issue did not make the headlines, presenter Sophie Raworth did at least introduce the story as ‘a bit of good news’. On the BBC website, the economic figures from the ONS languished at eighth on their news schedule.

By 5pm, the story had finally been given a more prominent spot, when it was fourth on the news schedule on Radio 4’s PM programme.

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: ‘This is what we have come to expect from the BBC. They leap on anything damaging to the Government, but when there is anything positive they want to bury it.’

Last night the BBC responded: ‘It’s nonsense to suggest we did not cover the fact that the figure was revised up from the original calculation. The Radio 4 13.00 and 18.00 bulletins, the News at One, News at Six and News at Ten all clearly stated in their introductions that the 3rd quarter figure for GDP growth was higher than originally calculated.’


The Australian Labor party's freedom from information office

Never accuse the government of lacking a sense of humour. It was brilliant! Here was its new agency, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. An official-looking website claimed this supposed "OAIC" was part of the Attorney-General's Department.

It was committed to "open public sector information", according to the mission statement. On and on it went about the integrity and importance of free, public, and open information in government.

"We will champion open government, provide advice and assistance to the public, promote better information management by government … we will have a comprehensive range of functions, including investigating complaints". Vigorous stuff, but was it too vigorous to be true?

Government-held information is a national resource, this OAIC said

Just the place to go for some information, we thought. We had discovered public information had been disappearing from government databases. Something had to be done. The Australian Information Commissioner here we come!

"No comment," the commissioner said, via email.

But hang on! Large files of public information had been quietly purged by the corporate regulator, and the central bank and Treasury. National resources buried, by three separate departments. We have a pattern. Here is the proof.

"No comment," the email from the communications operative said on behalf of the commissioner.

It was at that moment that the penny dropped. This was not just another bureaucratic enclave whose sole raison d'etre was self-preservation. It was actually a gag, and a damn fine gag too, an information gag.

"Care for some information about information? Yes sir, you've come to the right place, no doubt about that! Just wait there for two weeks, sit tight, we'll get right back to you!" It was Pythonesque - the Ministry for Silly Pranks, the Bureau for Wasting People's Time.

The name of the Australian Information Commissioner, they say, is Professor John McMillan. It sounds lifelike. Indeed the name is attached to long and windy statements in the annual report about strong commitment to open government, engagement with government agencies and so forth.

But was he real? Dare we try to speak with this mysterious professor himself? Again, we emailed a question to this elusive figure via a communications officer:

"In the spirit of freedom of Australian information and keeping the public properly informed in the press are you prepared to actually speak with me on the telephone?"

Alas! Our petitions were met, once again, with a good old fobbing-off.

"Thanks for your email. John often speaks directly to journalists but he is very pressed for time this afternoon as he is leaving for the airport at 4. He asked me to let you know that there is nothing more that he can add on this particular issue without a proper investigation."

Was it that the professor, if he really existed, had yet to embrace the mobile phone revolution? Or perhaps he was off on a trip, one of those nice overseas trips; a fact-finding mission from Canberra to Cancun say; finding facts about information at the annual international conference for information commissioners in order to commission a steering committee report on a white paper to evaluate the opportunities for a comprehensive range of functions with which to address the challenges of promoting more efficient information management.

The question is serious. It is about information vanishing from public databases: public information about banks using government guarantees, information about government agencies providing special favours to liquidators.

McMillan proffered his "no comment" to the question of exemption orders being purged from the public database of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The documents were relief orders given to liquidators, providing special exemptions from their having to file public accounts. Lots of them.

They disappeared about the time the regulator was to come under scrutiny by a Senate inquiry into liquidators. The Senate report was damning. Nothing was ever done by ASIC to restore the information to the public database. And as yet there is zero accountability from the OAIC or any other agency.

To the second issue: large swathes of public information had been purged from the Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury websites, without explanation, relating to sovereign guarantees for wholesale bank funding.

When questioned, the RBA conceded it took down the information because a bank, or the banks, had requested it. The OAIC did not even respond to the issue by acknowledging it with a "no comment".

"The OAIC looks forward to an energetic year promoting information rights, information policy and the strategic management of personal and public sector information," Professor John McMillan, Australian Information Commissioner, said in this year's annual report.



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

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

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


24 December, 2011

Secular theocracy

The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny

We live in an increasingly secularized world of massive and pervasive nation states in which traditional religion, especially Christianity, is ruled unwelcome and even a real danger on the basis of a purported history of intolerance and “religious violence.” This is found in most all “public” domains, including the institutions of education, business, government, welfare, transportation, parks and recreation, science, art, foreign affairs, economics, entertainment, and the media. A secularized public square policed by government is viewed as providing a neutral, rational, free, and safe domain that keeps the “irrational” forces of religion from creating conflict and darkness. And we are told that real progress requires expanding this domain by pushing religion ever backward into remote corners of society where it has little or no influence. In short, modern America has become a secular theocracy with a civic religion of national politics (nationalism) occupying the public realm in which government has replaced God.

For the renowned Christian scholar and writer C.S. Lewis, such a view was fatally flawed morally, intellectually, and spiritually, producing the twentieth-century rise of the total state, total war, and mega-genocides. For Lewis, Christianity provided the one true and coherent worldview that applied to all human aspirations and endeavors: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)[1]

In his book, The Discarded Image, Lewis revealed that for Medieval Christians, there was no sacred/secular divide and that this unified, theopolitical worldview of hope, joy, liberty, justice, and purpose from the loving grace of God enabled them to discover the objective, natural-law principles of ethics, science, and theology, producing immense human flourishing. [2] Lewis described the natural law as a cohesive and interconnected objective standard of right behavior:
This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all values are rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) “ideologies,” all consist of fragments from the Tao itself. Arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. (The Abolition of Man)[3]

And in his recent book, The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark has further shown “How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and the Success of the West.”[4] Similarly and prior to the rise of the secular nation-state in America, Alexis de Tocqueville documented in his 1835 volume, Democracy in America, the remarkable flexibility, vitality and cohesion of Christian-rooted liberty in American society with business enterprises, churches and aid societies, covenants and other private institutions and communities.[5]

In his book, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict, William Cavanaugh similarly notes that for Augustine and the ancient world, religion was not a distinct realm separate from the secular. The origin of the term “religion” (religio) came from Ancient Rome (re-ligare, to rebind or relink) as a serious obligation for a person in the natural law (“religio for me”) not only at a shrine, but also in civic oaths and family rituals that most westerners would today consider secular. In the Middle Ages, Aquinas further viewed religio not as a set of private beliefs but instead a devotion toward moral excellence in all spheres.[6]

However in the Renaissance, religion became viewed as a “private” impulse, distinct from “secular” politics, economics, and science.[7] This “modern” view of religion began the decline of the church as the public, communal practice of the virtue of religio. And by the Enlightenment, John Locke had distinguished between the “outward force” of civil officials and the “inward persuasion” of religion. He believed that civil harmony required a strict division between the state, whose interests are “public,” and the church, whose interests are “private,” thereby clearing the public square for the purely secular. For Locke, the church is a “voluntary society of men,” but obedience to the state is mandatory.[8]

The subsequent rise of the modern state in claiming a monopoly on violence, lawmaking, and public allegiance within a given territory depended upon either absorbing the church into the state or relegating the church to a private realm. As Cavanaugh notes:
Key to this move is the contention that the church’s business is religion. Religion must appear, therefore, not as what the church is left with once it has been stripped of earthly relevance, but as the timeless and essential human endeavor to which the church’s pursuits should always have been confined…. In the wake of the Reformation, princes and kings tended to claim authority over the church in their realms, as in Luther’s Germany and Henry VIII’s England…. The new conception of religion helped to facilitate the shift to state dominance over the church by distinguishing inward religion from the bodily disciplines of the state.[9]

For Enlightenment figures like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who dismissed natural law, “civic religion” as in democratic regimes “is a new creation that confers sacred status on democratic institutions and symbols.”[10] And in their influential writings, Edward Gibbon and Voltaire claimed that the wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were “the last gasp of medieval barbarism and fanaticism before the darkness was dispelled.”[11] Gibbon and Voltaire believed that after the Reformation divided Christendom along religious grounds, Protestants and Catholics began killing each other for more than a century, demonstrating the inherent danger of “public” religion. The alleged solution was the modern state, in which religious loyalties were upended and the state secured a monopoly of violence. Henceforth, religious fanaticism would be tamed, uniting all in loyalty to the secular state. However, this is an unfounded “myth of religious violence.” The link between state building and war has been well documented, as the historian Charles Tilly noted, “War made the state, and the state made war.”[12] In the actual period of European state building, the most serious cause of violence and the central factor in the growth of the state was the attempt to collect taxes from an unwilling populace with local elites resisting the state-building efforts of kings and emperors. The point is that the rise of the modern state was in no way the solution to the violence of religion. On the contrary, the absorption of church into state that began well before the Reformation was crucial to the rise of the state and the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Nevertheless, Voltaire distinguished between “state religion” and “theological religion” of which “A state religion can never cause any turmoil. This is not true of theological religion; it is the source of all the follies and turmoils imaginable; it is the mother of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind.”[13] What Rousseau proposed instead was to supplement the purely “private” religion of man with a civil or political religion intended to bind the citizen to the state: “As for that man who, having committed himself publicly to the state’s articles of faith, acts on any occasion as if he does not believe them, let his punishment be death. He has committed the greatest of all crimes: he has lied in the presence of the laws.”[14]

As a result, the Enlightenment set in motion what has become today’s secular theocracy that is authoritarian and hypocritical for not just its denial of moral condemnation of secular violence, but its exaltation of such violence as highly praiseworthy.

SOURCE. (See the original for references)

When Did Atheists Become Persnickety, Litigious Anti-Christmas Whiners?

Doug Giles

The atheists I grew up with in Texas were a tad bit pluckier than today’s lardy hagfish atheists who file lawsuits every winter when they see a child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Yep, the anti-theists I used to hang out with in the Lone Star state were rugged individualists who were so busy milking this existence that they didn’t have time to bleat like a stuck sheep because a plastic baby Jesus statue endangered their delicate beliefs.

My other non-believing buddies who weren’t the robust Hemingway types were usually heady stoners who were into physics, Pink Floyd and Frisbee and were completely comfortable around people of faith versus today’s reflexively irate, touchy atheists who pop a blood vein in their forehead if they accidentally hear “Silent Night” playing at Macy’s.

For God’s sake atheists, übermensch up why don’t you?

Case in point: This past week Fox Business Channel’s Eric Bolling had Dan Barker, spokesman for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, on his show “Follow the Money” to discuss the group’s anti-Christian tantrums. I wonder if FFRF has ever waddled over to neighboring Hamtramck, Michigan and demanded that the city cease using its PA system for Islamic public calls to prayer? I doubt it.

Anyway, this Wisconsin-based Christophobic group was pouting about a nativity scene in Texas and was demanding that it be taken down because Jesus was an “insult to human nature” because He taught that “men were sinners” and would one day be held accountable for their sins if they didn’t repent and would be sent to a slow roast in Dante’s House of Pain.

Dan and his ilk represent the “we will sue you” nuevo atheists who go after our nation’s Christian holidays and symbolism—but not Islam’s—because it bashes their ideas. Waah. Frickety. Waah.

Yep, according to the 21st century metrosexual atheist motif, anything that offends them should now be banned. That makes me scratch my head because I thought the atheists were the tough-minded ones who could stare death in the face and mock God and His dictates, but now a silicone statue of Yeshua in diapers puts them in a tailspin. Hello, sweetie.

FYI to the spindly atheists: You’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to scrub culture of its Christian influence because we have rubber stamped this planet via the arts and human expression for many, many moons. Have you ever heard of Bach, van Eyck, Vermeer, Handel, Mendelssohn, Haydn and a writer named Billy Shakespeare? What about the artists of the early Italian Renaissance or the tens of thousands of other artists, writers and composers throughout history who were either die-hard believers or at least worked within the framework of a Christian worldview? Are you going to take a belt sander to their works because they remind you of Hey-Soos?

You know who did atheism right? The late Christopher Hitchens. He didn’t whine or sue schools for singing “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.” What did he do? He vigorously argued his point of view, engaged the brethren without being a shrill priss and left it to the audience to decide what path they were going to take, and I dig that kind of robust character. That said, as you can tell, I have no respect for atheists who want to ban Christian symbolism because they don’t happen to buy it.

Merry Christmas.


Financial benefits of equality laws are imaginary, says British think-tank

New equality laws have no economic benefit and only a questionable effect on discrimination, a report claims. The study published by the think-tank Civitas says that the supposed economic benefits of recent human rights legislation are “imaginary” and that even their symbolic value is “debatable”.

It claims that rather than saving the country £65million a year, as Government estimates suggest, the Equality Act 2010 will actually cost at least £10m annually while tying small businesses in red tape. The claims come after another study by the think-tank suggested that up to £1billion a year is spent on “mindless” data collection as companies are forced to comply with equalities legislation.

That report found that equality laws have created a cottage industry of bureaucrats who monitor but don’t actually reduce race or gender bias.

Ministers have also been criticised by a backbench Tory MP, Dominic Raab, for implementing costly and bureaucratic elements of Labour’s flagship Equality Act rather than scrapping them after taking office.

The law, which gained Royal Assent just before the election, aimed to improve fairness by banning discrimination against “protected groups” such as ethnic minorities, women, disabled people and homosexuals. It streamlined existing legislation and aimed to improve equal opportunities in the workplace.

The impact assessment published by the Government Equalities Office suggested the law would cost up to £283m to implement in its first year, but the costs would soon be recouped. It was claimed that society would benefit by as much as £62m a year from greater equality.

But in a new Civitas paper called Assessing the Damage, Nigel Williams, a statistician, claims that the costs of implementing the law are far higher while the savings are “largely imaginary”. He said that the official figures are based on the assumption that people will give up some of their prosperity in return for greater equality: “The value is ideological, nothing more.”

It also assumes that combating discrimination does not “harm growth” by dissuading small businesses from recruiting because of the “weight of regulations” and the “threat of an employment tribunal”.

A further £9m in annual savings is expected from the simplification of existing laws, but Mr Williams says this could be bettered by the mere “removal of the offending regulations”.

Meanwhile the prediction of another £4m annual benefit is based on the assumption that changes to the equal pay regime will lead to fewer employment tribunals. But Mr Williams claims the new law may lead to more legal claims against employers and will require even the smallest of firms to digest 800 pages of guidance.

He concludes: “Even if the changes are introduced with extraordinary efficiency by all concerned and the budgeted £200 million proves ample, the annual consequences of this legislation will serve not to pay back the costs, but to add to them. “The ideological benefits of the Equality Act are debatable at best. The financial benefits simply do not exist.”

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Equality Act replaced nine different laws and allowed us to scrap more than a hundred burdensome regulations. We are protecting individuals from unfair treatment without creating unnecessary red tape and simplifying the system to make it fairer for employers and employees. "We do not accept the Civitas assessment.”


At last, British couples to be freed from 'slow and unnecessarily bureaucratic' system that blocks adoption

The red tape used by social workers to prevent couples from adopting children will finally be swept away by common sense reforms, ministers said today. They condemned the current system as ‘slow and unnecessarily bureaucratic’ and for leaving thousands of children abandoned in state care.

Would-be parents have frequently been prevented from adopting children because they were the wrong race, overweight, or because in the past they had smoked. Couples who have looked to adopt have complained they were insulted and abused during the assessment process.

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton announced the overhaul which will see a panel of experts devise a new system for choosing adoptive parents. He said: ‘Children are waiting too long because we are losing many potentially suitable adoptive parents to a system which doesn’t welcome them and often turns them away at the door.’ He added: ‘The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective.’

The reform pledge follows months of deepening anger among Tory ministers at the failure of social workers to put their own house in order, despite overwhelming evidence that a high proportion of children in care have been wrongly denied the chance of a better life with a new family.

In September official figures showed that the number of adoptions of children from care had fallen so low that only 60 babies were found new families in the course of a year. In October, David Cameron ordered a name and shame campaign against councils where social workers delay or derail adoptions.

There have never been any published figures on the numbers of couples turned away for spurious reasons or because of the apartheid-style rules social workers use to decide which families are racially fit to adopt.

But this week adoption agencies reported a surge in applications after a BBC Panorama programme told the stories of six children desperate to find new homes.

In the 1970s around 20,000 children a year, many born to single mothers, were adopted by new families. Numbers plunged in the 1980s alongside improved benefits and free housing for young single mothers, and the development of an anti-adoption mentality among social workers.

Social work chiefs decided that they ‘no longer want to see babies farmed out to middle class mothers’.

Race rules were taken up which said a child could not go to a new family unless they were a close ethnic match. But little independent evidence supports the contention that people cannot bring up a child from a different racial background.

In September this year a devastating set of figures showed numbers of children in care had passed 65,000. Those growing up in state care – children’s homes or temporary foster care – suffer a high risk of leaving school without qualifications and going on to lives of joblessness and crime.

But over a 12-month period to March this year only 3,050 children were adopted from the care system, 5 per cent down on 2010 and 8 per cent down since 2007.

The new panel of experts will include representatives of organisations which have been deeply involved in sustaining the old, discredited process. However it will work under the guidance of Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, who has been among the strongest critics of the social worker bias against adoption.

Mr Narey said: ‘The more I have visited local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies over the last few months, the more exercised I have become about a parental assessment process which is not fit for purpose. 'It meanders along, it is failing to keep pace with the number of children cleared for adoption, and it drives many outstanding couples to adopt from abroad.’

The panel will consider a recruitment process which will not see couples coming forward being ‘lost to the system’. It will be asked to speed bureaucracy and stop ‘over-prescription regarding information collected about prospective adopters’.



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

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

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


23 December, 2011

British stores 'ashamed' to sell religious cards... but obscene ones litter the High Street

I couldn't find any Christian cards in the Australian supermarket that I go to either. But I got some from a nearby small Indian shop where the owner reads the Bhagavad Gita!

Supermarkets have become ‘ashamed’ of selling Christmas cards with religious themes, Christian leaders said yesterday. They claimed a creeping ‘multicultural indoctrination’ had led to an aversion to Christianity, and that shops were worried about stocking cards that might offend other faiths.

The rebuke to Britain’s big four supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – came as a snapshot poll by the Daily Mail revealed the tiny number of religious cards on sale.

Christmas cards emblazoned with obscenities are on sale across Britain’s High Streets. One card showing a quintessential 50s family inside a wreath reads ‘Merry Christmas W*****’, while another depicts a pair of carol singers with the words ‘Merry F****** Christmas.’ A third says: ‘Merry Christmas You F****** F*****.’

In total, dozens of the explicit cards are on sale in branches of Scribbler. Each costs around £2.50.

Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘You don’t have to be a prude to see this is inappropriate at what is, after all, a special time for families.’

Christian Concern’s Andrea Williams added: ‘Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus, a message of hope and peace for all people. It is a great shame if Scribbler use it to promote obscenities.’

In the branch of the store in London’s Kensington High Street, the filth-ridden cards are part of a large display containing other family-orientated festive greetings.

One shows Santa saying: ‘Shh! Nobody knows I’m gay’ while another shows him with a cigarette in hand and the words: ‘F*** off! I’m smoking.’

A third shows a cheery-looking Father Christmas with the phrase ‘YOU ain’t getting s***!’

But Scribbler’s managing director John Procter described the cards as having a ‘schoolboy’ sense of humour. ‘It’s our company policy not to use expletives or such words in a gratuitous way. If we think it makes a joke then we will use one,’ he said. ‘We do group all of these rather rude cards together and keep them at eye level so children can’t see them.

‘I understand why some people might find them offensive. But they really are our best sellers and in reality we get very few complaints.’

Of 6,576 cards sold individually, just 36 – 0.5 per cent – featured scenes such as Jesus in a manger or angels.

Multi-packs fared little better, with only 5 per cent of 1,337 on sale at the stores visited containing at least one card that reflected the season’s Christian message.

One store, a Tesco in Manchester, didn’t have a single religious card on sale. Many others had just one or two.

The worst offender overall was Asda, which had just four Christian cards out of 2,638 sold individually across all the stores visited – 0.15 per cent. It also had the lowest proportion among multi-packs, with 13 out of 427, or 3 per cent.

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: ‘I can’t believe this is being led by consumer demand. 'I believe there is anti-Christian prejudice in the buying departments involved.

‘There’s too much of this multicultural indoctrination and too much of an idea that if they put out Christian cards they will alienate or discriminate against or offend other faiths.

‘There’s a kind of militant atheism and nasty secularism at work in this country which is completely opposed to Christianity.’

Dr Don Horrocks, of the Evangelical Alliance, said supermarkets were ‘helping to kill off the Christian theme at Christmas’.

‘There appears to be an aversion in society to Christianity being public,’ he said. ‘Supermarkets appear to be ashamed to put cards on shelves because there is a perception it is dodgy.

'Half a per cent of cards with religious themes when 70 per cent of people describe themselves as Christian shows this is totally out of kilter with the country.’

The Bishop of Colchester, the Right Reverend Christopher Morgan, said Christmas church services were among the most popular of the year. He added: ‘It is disappointing that so few of our Christmas cards now portray symbols and scenes at the heart of the Christmas story.’

The comments follow the Pope’s criticism of ‘aggressive secularism’ in Britain during his visit last year.

And last week Prime Minister David Cameron called on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to speak up for Christianity.

The Mail visited stores owned by the four biggest supermarket chains in seven areas – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Colchester and Witham, London, Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

An Asda spokesman said: ‘We sell a variety of cards that meet the demand of our customers.’

Tesco said: ‘Our religious Christmas card range has increased for the second year running.’

Sainsbury’s also said that what appeared on shelves was based on customer demand, adding: ‘It is wrong to suggest we are ignoring religious themes at Christmas.’

And Morrisons said its range of religious cards included a multi-pack aimed at children that included the Nativity scene.


Another triumph for multiculturalism in Britain

Afghan rapists aged just 16 caught on camera 'elated' after horrific sex attack on woman, 20. Another example of Muslim respect for women in action

Two teenagers subjected a woman to a terrifying rape ordeal after stalking her and abducting her as she left a nightclub. Jailat Khan and Shahzada Khan, both just 16, were caught after they were captured on CCTV celebrating their sickening attack in Leeds city centre.

The victim, in her early 20s, was on the phone to her boyfriend asking him to get her a taxi at around 2am when she was dragged into a doorway. He could hear her screams for 30 seconds before the line went dead. She was then raped.

The pair have now been jailed for the shocking attack. A court heard the pair, both Afghans, were prowling the streets on June 12 this year looking for an easy target when they came across their victim.

The defendants spotted the woman and followed her after she left the HiFi club in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and one spoke to her when she stopped at a bus stop while the other was looking around assessing the area. The pair then struck from either side bundling her into a fire exit doorway.

Jason Pitter, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court she was pushed to the ground and when she screamed Shahzada put his hand over her mouth. She could hear Jailat laughing and tried to struggle but was overpowered. Jailat raped her while his accomplice held her down.

Mr Pitter said: 'While on the mobile phone to her boyfriend, he had the misfortune of hearing the attack begin. 'He heard her become distressed then say ‘Get off, get off, what are you doing’. He heard her scream for 30 seconds before her line went dead.'

The defendants ran off when they were disturbed but Shahzada was then captured on CCTV making a playful bowling motion. The prosecutor said they appeared 'elated' after the attack. 'Those actions do not portray the grave nature of their conduct moments before,' said Mr Pitter.

Two men heard the victim’s distress and went to her assistance. She was hysterical and pleaded with them not to leave her alone saying 'Why has this happened to me? Why have they done this to me?' When the police arrived they found her sitting in the doorway hugging her knees, shaking, crying and muttering.

Jailat Khan, of Beeston, Leeds, was ordered to be detained for five years and Shahzada Khan, of Leeds, was ordered to be detained for four years after both admitted kidnap and rape.

Sentencing the pair on Tuesday, Judge Christopher Batty said they had targeted a vulnerable woman alone in the city centre and the effect on her was 'immeasurable'. 'Not a day passes without her suffering flashbacks and nightmares. She has not been out since these events, her confidence has gone and she is currently taking anti-depressant medication.'

The judge, who lifted a ban on their identities because of the severity of the attack, said: 'I have been to that alleyway and it is a very cold, miserable, frightening place and I can’t even begin to imagine how the complainant felt. It is a very dark and lonely spot.' He told them had they been adults the sentence would have been longer but he had taken into account their plea sparing the victim a trial and their age.

The Khans were identified following an appeal. Jailat Khan’s DNA was found on the woman and while in custody, he was found to have a 'worrying attitude to women' and threatened to rape a member of staff.

After the case Det Supt Paul Taylor said: 'This was an extremely shocking incident and is thankfully something which I have never seen before in my many years as a detective.

'After stalking lone women until they were able to find a victim, they then celebrated their crimes in full view of CCTV cameras. This proved to be their undoing.'


Really, Macy’s? Men in women’s fitting rooms?

For some reason Macy’s is going out of its way two weeks before Christmas to alienate an enormous bloc of potential shoppers.

Perhaps you were unaware of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s LGBT-friendly dressing room policy. At Macy’s, a man who is dressed as a woman is permitted to use the women’s fitting rooms. I’m sure Macy’s women shoppers don’t mind. Right, women?

It gets worse. Apparently, in San Antonio, Texas, a Macy’s employee was recently fired from her job for not permitting a young man in drag to enter the women’s dressing room.
A young woman was fired from the Macy’s San Antonio Rivercenter department store for refusing to violate her religious beliefs by permitting a young man dressed as a woman from entering the women’s dressing room. Natalie Johnson claims she saw the young man walk out of the women’s fitting room and politely told him that he could not go back in because it was for women only. The cross-dressing young man claimed that he is a “female.” Johnson said that he was wearing make-up and girl’s clothing, but clearly he was a male. The cross-dresser was accompanied by five other individuals. The group argued with expletives that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion, and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality. The group then demanded to speak with a manager.

When Johnson was confronted by her employer, she explained that she could not allow a male to change in a female’s fitting room. Johnson’s boss referred her to Macy’s LGBT policy which allows “transgender” people to change in any dressing room they want. However, Johnson pointed out that the same policy also protects against religious discrimination and, in this case, it protects her right to her beliefs that were being violated. The manager demanded that she comply with the LGBT policies or lose her job. Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job.

Now, I can’t imagine why Macy’s found it necessary to fire this young woman, especially at the height of the Christmas shopping season. Presumably with the boss standing right there, Johnson’s cooperation or permission wasn’t needed to allow the “female” shopper access to the women’s fitting rooms. I’m also not clear from the report why Natalie felt that allowing the cross-dresser into the women’s fitting rooms would constitute a “lie” on her part. Perhaps her job involved keeping track of the number of male and female shoppers in the fitting rooms at any given time.

What does seem to be clear is that Macy’s and its affiliate Bloomingdale’s would apparently rather cater to the antisocial demands of a tiny percentage of the population than make the vast majority of its customers comfortable. I can’t imagine that many women would appreciate bumping into a man in drag in the corridor of the women’s dressing rooms. Assuming he’s even in drag—after all, women can wear pretty much anything men can wear. What’s to stop a guy in jeans and a T-shirt from barging into the women’s dressing rooms, declaring himself a woman?

The Liberty Council, which is representing Natalie, argues, “Right now, any kind of sexual predator could put on lipstick and have full access to any of the women’s fitting rooms and the girls of all ages who may be present.” That’s a real possibility. A question: At Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s corporate headquarters, are the women’s restrooms open to male employees? If not, why not?


Dangerous "Marie Stopes" abortion facility in Melbourne, Australia

Women may end up killing themselves instead of their babies. A warning to all?

A 42-YEAR-OLD woman died days after attending a controversial abortion clinic in Croydon last week. Authorities have confirmed that the woman was taken to the Box Hill Hospital where she died on Sunday, after earlier having "a procedure at a private Croydon clinic".

A spokeswoman for the Coroners Court of Victoria said yesterday that the "unexpected" death of the woman, from Sunshine, would be investigated.

It is the fourth investigation involving the clinic in six years.

Anaesthetist James Latham Peters allegedly infected more than 50 women with hepatitis C at the same clinic in 2008 and 2009. Peters, who was bailed on a $200,000 surety, will return to court in May for the remainder of the committal hearing.

The surgery's owner, Dr Mark Schulberg, was in 2009 found guilty of unprofessional conduct for failing to gain legal consent to perform a late-term abortion on an intellectually disabled woman.

And earlier this year it was revealed that a 40-year-old woman was left fighting for her life in the Box Hill Hospital after Dr Schulberg performed a late-term abortion surgery on her.

Health Department officers yesterday visited the abortion clinic, which also gives advice on sterilisation and contraception devices, after being made aware of the death. "There was no indication from the visit that it was operating outside its requirements," a department spokesman said.

The department also notified the medical practitioners' watchdog, the Medical Board of Australia, of the death.

Last year police began investigating the surgery, formally known as Croydon Day Surgery and now the Maroondah surgery of Marie Stopes International Australia, after claims patients had been infected with hepatitis C.

Peters, 62, was suspended by the practitioners' board and was this year charged by police with conduct endangering life, recklessly causing injury and negligently causing serious injury. He is facing 162 charges of infecting women patients he treated for pregnancy terminations at the surgery between 2008 and 2009.

Dr Schulberg, who was on holiday, was not available for comment yesterday. He is still being investigated by the practitioners' board after 40-year-old mother Pheap Sem was rushed to hospital in August in a critical condition after a late-term abortion.

In 2008 he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the board for failing to gain legal consent for the 25-week abortion of an intellectually disabled woman raped by her father. A year later he was found guilty of inappropriately prescribing painkillers.

Marie Stopes International chief executive Maria Deveson Crabbe said yesterday the organisation was helping in the probe into the Sunshine woman's death.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm the death of a female patient, who attended our associate registered day procedure centre in Maroondah on Wednesday, December 14, passed away at Box Hill Hospital on Sunday, December 18," Ms Deveson Crabbe said. "Due to patient confidentiality it is not possible to go into any details about the patient or the service they received."

A spokeswoman for the Medical Board of Australia confirmed it had received notification about the death.



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

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

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


22 December, 2011

God save us from the crazy religious privileges in British jails that cost the taxpayer millions

As the sun rises tomorrow, 400 inmates in British prisons will be celebrating a day off — some of them with a sip of wine and a ceremony involving Tarot cards and rune stones.

For December 22 is the winter solstice, one of eight pagan festivals that prisons must now recognise. Pagan prisoners are allowed to choose two out of eight festivals on which to take a day off from the work they would normally do in jail, which might be cooking, cleaning and so on.

If this sounds pretty outrageous, the fact is that prisons are expected to provide a means of worship for dozens of religions, many of them obscure.

Kitchens are expected to cater for the dietary practices of particular faiths, and prison officers are expected to observe hundreds of sacred festivals, excusing prisoners from work duties — as they will do with the pagans today.

You may not be surprised to discover that all this madness is a result of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

The great irony, of course, is that law-abiding citizens who are not in prison seem to be offered scant protection from this law when it comes to respecting their own rights. For example, there was the case of a Christian couple who were successfully sued after refusing to allow a gay couple to share a bed at their B&B establishment, or the case of another Christian couple, from Derby, who were forbidden from fostering children because they refused to drop their belief that homosexual acts are wrong.

Yet inside jail, the right of inmates to freely practise their faith has been taken to extraordinary lengths.

Recently, Broadmoor Hospital — which houses some of Britain’s most notorious criminals, including Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe — was reported to be recruiting wicca (white witchcraft) and Rastafarian representatives to join its chaplaincy team following an official audit of patients’ religious needs.

Broadmoor, like all the nation’s jails, doesn’t have any choice since the right to have access to religious representatives is laid out in a 154-page Prison Service manual, which states: ‘Chaplains and ministers of recognised religions must be available to prisoners.

‘When a minister of a particular faith is not available to a prison, advice must be sought from the Prison Service Chaplaincy, the Religion Section of the Prisoner Administration Group, or from the Religious Consultative Service for the particular faith.’

In other words, if you are one of the 412 pagans behind bars, or one of the 81 Seventh Day Adventists or 58 Christian Scientists (not to mention those wiccans and Rastafarians), you can demand that the Prison Service provide you with a religious instructor — at public expense.

Just how much it costs taxpayers to provide chaplaincy services for the dozens of different religions is something that the Ministry of Justice seems rather reluctant to disclose.

In 2006, it refused to answer a parliamentary question from an MP who wanted to know the cost. In reply, it said: ‘The total cost of providing prison chaplaincy services is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.’

Two years ago, following a Freedom of Information request, the ministry disclosed that directly employed chaplains cost the service £10.3 million a year. That, however, does not include any representatives from minority religions brought in to satisfy the spiritual demands of individual prisoners. They are paid on a freelance basis.

Besides providing chaplains at public expense, prison officers are expected to go to huge lengths to observe prisoners’ religious sensibilities. That’s why they must grant prisoners a day off from prison work on religious festivals — including tomorrow’s solstice.

They must also respect all periods of fasting and the desire to conduct other ceremonies necessary to fulfill inmates’ spiritual needs.

But it may not even be enough for prison officers just to learn the dates of official festivals.

In May, a Muslim prisoner called Imran Bashir won a High Court case against Rye Hill Prison, in Warwickshire, after he was punished for failing to co-operate with officers demanding he give a urine sample for drug-testing. The court ruled that Bashir’s human rights had been infringed by being expected to give a urine sample while he was fasting.

Yet it wasn’t Ramadan or any other Islamic festival at the time he was asked for the sample. Apparently, Bashir had decided to embark on a three-day personal fast.

This case makes one wonder how on earth prison officers are expected to enforce a drugs ban in jail when, the moment a prisoner suspects he might be tested, he could decide to go on a fast for as long as any possible drug he has taken has time to pass through his body. The truth is satisfying prisoners’ demands is almost as hard as running a five-star hotel of fussy guests.

Muslim prisoners must be allowed to shower before Friday prayers. Sikh chaplains are allowed to enter jail and meet convicted murderers while carrying a kirplan, a ceremonial sword up to six inches in length — though prisoners and other staff have to make do with a small representation of the kirplan inset in a comb.

Vegan prisoners, meanwhile, must not be exposed to any toiletry ‘containing any animal-derived ingredients’ or those tested on animals.

The prison manual goes on to state that ‘vegans usually choose not to engage in any sport, hobby or trade that directly or indirectly causes stress, distress, suffering or death to any creature’.

It is just a shame that anyone responsible for offences of violence didn’t keep to these rules before they ended up in prison.

Meanwhile, under the Prison Service guidelines, Hindus must be allowed to keep prayer beads, a small statue of Krishna or other gods, incense and a bell; Muslims must be allowed musk (non- alcohol perfume in small plastic bottle), an alarm clock and mat for prayer and, if they are Shia, a piece of clay to use as a head-rest.

Pagans must be allowed ‘incense, jewellery, a hoodless robe, a flexible twig or wand, rune stones, a private altar in their cells and Tarot cards’ — the latter on condition they do not use them for telling fortunes.

Inevitably, the Prison Service guidelines have generated some spurious court cases.

Some weeks ago, convicted murderer James Dowsett was allowed to make a publicly funded legal challenge against Highpoint Prison, Suffolk, claiming religious and sexual discrimination after being ‘forced’ to be searched by female prison officers.

He argued that though he was an atheist, the fact Muslim prisoners had the right not to be searched by a female member of staff meant that he, too, should have the same rights. He claimed that the searches made him feel ‘embarrassed and uncomfortable’, and that his human rights had been breached.

The Ministry of Justice’s barrister pointed out that there was a serious question to the credibility of the killer’s evidence given it had taken 18 years for him to raise the matter.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Dowsett won the first stage of his legal campaign and will be granted a full hearing.

It is Britain’s all-pervasive culture of political correctness that allows this lunacy, and means that prisons are in danger of becoming ungovernable. In this crazy world, convicted criminals are given ‘human rights’ which, by dint of the crimes that sent them to prison in the first place, they have almost certainly denied to their victims.


Toddler beaten to death by violent stepfather a month after police and social services hand him BACK to abusive parents

Typical of British social workers. They only take children away from harmless middle class familiies, often on mere speculation

A toddler was beaten to death a month after he returned home to the parents whose abuse led to him being in hospital. Two-year-old Joshua Jones, from Runcorn, Cheshire, died on November 6, 2007. His mother’s boyfriend, Wayne Davenport, was jailed for six years in 2009 after he was convicted of manslaughter.

Davenport’s trial heard that he spent months punishing the toddler and unleashing a horrific catalogue of abuse on the boy.

Joshua’s mother, Nichola Bowman, was convicted of causing or allowing her son’s death and was given a suspended sentence.

Following a five-day inquest at Warrington Town Hall, the coroner for Cheshire, Nicholas Rheinberg, today recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

He said Joshua's death 'probably would have been avoided' if Warrington and District General Hospital, Cheshire Police and Halton Borough Council had preventerd him from returning to an 'unsafe environment'. He said: 'Joshua’s death probably would have been avoided if the three agencies concerned with his safety had taken steps which did not involve returning him to an unsafe environment.'

The inquest heard that Joshua was taken to Warrington General Hospital on October 26 2007 by his mother and grandmother, Michelle Littlemore, with a broken arm and a 'constellation of other injuries', including bruises to his back and penis. But, despite the injuries 'ringing alarm bells' with numerous doctors, social workers and police officers, after six nights in hospital Joshua was allowed back into his mother’s care.

Bowman, who had come up with three different stories to explain Joshua’s injuries, lied to social workers about her new boyfriend Davenport - saying that he was not living with them, the inquest was told. The inquest heard that both Dr Rachel Webb, consultant paediatrician at Warrington Hospital, and social worker Vikki Irons took the mother at her word and full checks on Davenport were not carried out.

Mr Rheinberg was critical of the quality of information that was brought to the two 'strategy meetings' held by the three agencies regarding Joshua’s safety. He said a 'proper investigation' would have informed the meetings that Joshua’s injuries were 'non-accidental' and that alternative care arrangements 'were necessary in the interests of Joshua’s safety'.

The coroner said he accepted that lessons had been learned, particularly at Cheshire Police, but said he would be writing to Halton Borough Council and the director of nursing at Warrington Hospital regarding specific issues. [Big deal!]

After the inquest, Audrey Williamson, independent chairwoman of Halton Safeguarding Children Board, said: 'We are going to study very carefully what the coroner has said. 'At the time we did an in-depth review and looked in detail at the individual agencies and what agencies did collectively in their work with Joshua. 'We learned some lessons and the coroner has heard that.

'If there is more to learn I would like to assure you that we will take those lessons on board, we will implement them and make sure they will continue to be implemented.'

Bowman did not attend today’s hearing but her mother, Michelle Littlemore, said after the inquest that her daughter had 'taken responsibility' for what happened 'on her own shoulders' and said she hoped the agencies involved would do the same. She said it was 'good' that the 'errors' that were made in relation to Joshua’s care were uncovered but said 'they shouldn’t have happened at all'. 'If the agencies had done their jobs correctly and acted accordingly I think Joshua would still be here.

'Changes have been made but there has been no official apology to Joshua and his family for the way the agencies have let him down.'

Miss Littlemore also said that she as a grandmother 'should have noticed' what was happening.

Mr Rheinberg highlighted a number of specific failings in relation to the joint safeguarding inquiry carried out by the three agencies after Joshua was brought to hospital on October 26.

These included expert evidence not being sought, the agencies 'did not sufficiently communicate' with each other and with members of their own organisations and 'Critical information' within the medical notes was not checked, analysed or disseminated.

Other failings included photographs of Joshua's injuries not being taken to strategy meetings, police officers did not log or communicate information important to the investigation and social workers did not log information of significance reported by family members.

Last week the inquest heard that both Dr Rachel Webb and social worker Vikki Irons took the mother at her word and full checks on Davenport were not carried out.

Under cross-examination from Leslie Thomas, counsel for the inquest, Miss Irons said they should have carried out further checks. Mr Thomas said: 'There was a record against Wayne Davenport in respect of a previous assault. 'This is on the system. It is even more important to check him, isn't it? He is the new partner?'

Miss Irons said: 'Yes.' She then said they followed the medical advice of Dr Webb who had written a report which seemed to accept some of the explanations given by Bowman to account for her son's injuries.

Cross-examining Dr Webb, Mr Rheinberg said that, on reflection, 'was it not surprising' that Davenport was not one of the 'priorities' in terms of investigation? The doctor replied: 'He was never at the top of the list because of the timings we were being told about the injuries.'

Following the cross-examination about one of the strategy meetings in which key information was not conveyed by all three agencies, Mr Rheinberg said: 'It looks as though you are, figuratively, walking away whistling from this meeting.'

Davenport's trial heard that on the evening of November 6 Joshua's mother went out for a drink, leaving her son alone with Davenport, who was smoking cannabis. Bowman knew Joshua was scared of Davenport and that the O2 worker regularly abused him. Yet she did nothing about it - she even lied to authorities investigating her son's treatment, the trial was told.

That night Davenport - who has a history of violence - flew into a rage when the youngster woke up and deliberately beat him. Joshua was taken to hospital where he died from a swollen brain.


The Power of the Pen - Abused

The unceasing drumbeat of Israel-bashing on the pages of the New York Times is not exactly a secret. But in mid-December, the limit on the NYT’s image of promoting “objective journalism” was reached. When it comes to Israel, it means a page in which Israel’s friends are unwelcome while its critics and enemies enjoy a year-round open season on the Jewish state.

As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary: “In the not-so-distant past, writers like A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire would balance the views of the editorial column and the paper’s left-wing columnists, but now there is no one on staff ready to do so”.

As a result, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer wrote a letter to the New York Times explaining why Prime Minister Netanyahu “respectfully declined” to write an op-ed piece for the newspaper explaining Israel’s positions. Dermer e-mailed response was as follows:
Dear Sasha,

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:“It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole. Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby" rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel. Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.

Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza fundamentally changed his position. According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply. It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions. In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer. We wouldn't want to be seen as "Bibiwashing" the op-ed page of the New York Times.


Ron Dermer
Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

The latter comment on “Bibiwashing” refers to a piece called “Israel and Pinkwashing” from November. In that piece, a City University of New York humanities professor lambasted Israel for, as Dermer wrote, “having the temerity to champion its record on gay rights.” It was that piece, he wrote, that “set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.”

Today, it would not be an exaggeration to state that the editorial policy of the New York Times towards the Jewish state is virtually indistinguishable from the blatant anti-Israeli hostility promoted by the Guardian or the BBC.

It was with the election of Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the NYT editors embarked on a determined effort to undermine and demonize the Israeli government whilst invariably providing the Palestinians with a free pass. Through its numerous unbalanced editorials, the newspaper continuously “put the greater onus” for the failure of peace negotiations on Netanyahu “who is using any excuse to thwart peace efforts” and “refuses to make any serious compromises for peace.”

It would appear that the Palestinians rejection of any talks with Israel unless and until Israel agrees to all their existential demands; that their endless breaches of the terms of the Oslo Accords; that their absolute refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; that their continuous efforts to incite terrorism through their educational system, mosques and media in the name of “martyrdom”, and the vast discrepancies between their statements made in Arabic to the Arab media and those they make in English to the Western media mean absolutely nothing to the Times editors.

And its columnists (specifically Tom Friedman, Roger Cohen and Nicholas Kristof) have done likewise by leading the charge in castigating Israel and unabashedly praising the Arab Spring.

In a recent column, Kristof described a home-made dinner he had with a group of Moslem Brotherhood activists and approvingly quoted them claiming that their support of the Brotherhood was strong “for the same reason the Germans support Christian Democrats or Southerners favor conservative Christians”. He also suggested that “conservative Moslems insist that the Muslim Brotherhood is non-discriminatory, the perfect home for pious Christians - and a terrific partner for the West” and concluded that - “Our fears often reflect our own mental hobgoblins”. We heard this same line thirty years ago just before the Islamists seized power in Iran under Khomeini.

Kristof obviously has never met or spoken with Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, the organization’s most powerful religious leader - an avowed anti-Semite who supports the murder of Jews. Qaradawi expressed his desire to see a "conquered" Jerusalem in a January 24, 2011 fatwa in which he negated Jewish attachment to Jerusalem, and stated that it is the duty of Muslims to "defend" Jerusalem with "their lives, their money and all they possess, or else they will be subject to Allah's punishment."

This fatwa is part of Qaradawi's long record of inciting hatred and violence against Jews and Israel. During a sermon that aired on the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera TV on January 28, 2009, Qaradawi told his audience, "I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus I will seal my life with martyrdom." In another sermon on January 9, 2009, Qaradawi lashed out at Jews, including calling on God to "kill them, down to the very last one."

He has also refused to dialogue with Jews by declining to participate in the 8th annual conference organized by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue because of the participation of Jews, and he continues to endorse Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. In his latest major work, Fiqh (Jurisprudence) of Jihad (2009), Qaradawi chastises those Muslims who do not observe jihad as an obligatory duty, including participation in "physical jihad" if capable.


Speech restrictions in Australia

When you see the North Koreans’ bizarre public grief for their oppressive leader you are watching the extreme end of state control. Whether real, imagined or exaggerated, the locals’ grief must be exhibited for the cameras lest the consequences be grave.

In Australia, this kind of media control is unthinkable. Or so you would think. But I reckon what the authorities seem to be trying to impose here is not cheerleading, not toeing the party line, but rather a kind of compulsory ambivalence.

(I have been to Pyongyang and would love to share some thoughts but there is plenty of that around at the moment, and media regulation in Australia is an increasingly worrying issue.)

Take the case of Adelaide ABC radio hosts Matthew Abraham and David Bevan; found to have lacked impartiality in their interview with [Leftist politician] Kevin Foley. Here is the audio, and for context it starts just after the first question which is “Kevin Foley, do you think a growing number of South Australians and perhaps even your own colleagues are tired of the Kevin Foley soap opera?

Now I know these blokes well enough, and have crossed swords with them on an issue or two. Do they fit neatly into the ABC’s all-too-prevalent “progressive” world view? Not really. But that’s not the point. They are skilled broadcasters and diligent journalists. They are generally well briefed and intelligent, and pursue their quarry with some alacrity when required.

This ruling against them is another example of the over-regulation of the Australian media. Matt and Dave, as they are known, would have interviewed Mr Foley dozens of times over a range of issues. Many exchanges would have been robust, and the one in question was particularly so, because it traversed into personal matters. Mr Foley’s social life and some unfortunate incidents had become significant stories. So the issue of him allegedly being assaulted in a wine bar was legitimate news. Because he had been the treasurer and deputy premier, and was still a senior minister, this was a matter of public interest. The ABC broadcasters were right to pursue the issue. Their questioning was very aggressive. I happened to listen to the interview online from Sydney, wincing and feeling some sympathy for Mr Foley – someone I consider a mate.

We could have a lively debate about the merits of the interview, how it was conducted, Mr Foley’s responses, and whether he should even have agreed to do it. But that is not the point. The point is why a federal government body should, subject to two complaints, rule on the alleged lack of impartiality of the interviewers. That it should find that Matt and Dave both “prejudged” the issue before the interview is quite extraordinary given ACMA never spoke to them about it. That ACMA could get inside the head of one radio interviewer is amazing. But two at once, is simply astonishing. And it found they both had made the same pre-judgement. Matt and Dave are close friends but ACMA has turned them into Siamese twins.

Mr Foley thought the interview was potentially defamatory and he has always had the option of pursuing legal action. Matt and Dave are answerable to their employers at the ABC, who were satisfied that they had done the right thing. More importantly, they are answerable to their audience, who no doubt told them what they thought, and won’t keep listening if they think the hosts are unreasonable.

In a year when Andrew Bolt was taken to court under racial vilification laws for causing offence, Stephen Conroy launched a media inquiry because he thinks the “hate media” are out to get the government, Alan Jones was admonished for not broadcasting all sides of an environmental issue, and the convergence review is suggesting all media might need to be subjected to ACMA-style content regulation, it is time to be afraid, very afraid.

Think about how much information you can get through your phone now. Think about how many television stations you have access to at home. Think about the hansard, transcripts, video links and news sites you can access over the internet. Our choice in media has never been wider. Whatever facts we want, we can get them instantly. Whatever opinions we wish to sample, we just press a few buttons. Yet the nanny state legislators are everywhere, trying to turn every journalist, broadcaster and commentator into some sort of blancmange of information.

No, they will never have us all out on the street cheering or weeping for the Dear Leader. But these regulators, and their political and academic supporters, would love to turn us all into a series of Max Headrooms, spouting a pre-ordained mix of politically correct and legislatively sound information. Matt and Dave, and Kevin and the audience, are all mature enough to work this one out for themselves.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


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

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

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


21 December, 2011

Amsterdam: an end to the red light district?

It may not spell the immediate demise of the louche British stag weekend in Amsterdam, but the Dutch capital has decided to crack down on the brothels and cannabis shops of its infamous red light district.

A ten-year scheme, known as Project 1012 for the city postcode containing the red light district, kicked off in 2008 with the aim of making substantial cuts to the number of window brothels and drugs shops. But it's only now that the city is beginning to see some tangible results.

200 of a total of 480 window brothels are slated to go. The city has managed to close down half of these; a zoning and compulsory purchase plan will be drawn up to tackle the next 100. Of the 76 cannabis shops in the area (usually known as "coffeeshops"), 26 will close their doors.

There is a feeling in Amsterdam that the City Council is finally determined to get to grips with a burgeoning sex, drugs and money laundering industry in the red light district increasingly controlled by eastern European mafias, particularly from Bulgaria and the Ukraine.

With the encouragement of the authorities, in recent months reputable entrepreneurs have started to invest in the area. Warmoesstraat, traditionally a sleazy district, now boasts a deli, florist and baker.

Meanwhile, ordinary Amsterdammers have been shocked by an upsurge in cases of human trafficking of girls for the sex industry. There is a strong sense in the city the exploitative reality of the red light district has little to do with traditional Dutch tolerance.

"There had been warning signs starting in the 1990s that organised crime was basically using the area as its living room," says Lodewijk Asscher, deputy mayor of Amsterdam and the head of Project 1012.

"Amsterdam has always been a free and tolerant city, but we want to place more emphasis on museums and culture. We want to attract more families and encourage visitors to spend an extra night here."

The vast majority of tourists spend no more than two nights in the city. Many stag parties – known locally as "vertical" tourists – contribute little to the city's formal economy.

In the very heart of medieval Amsterdam, the red light district also feels like a missed opportunity. Its canals, particularly the parallel Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Achterburgwal, are flanked by some beautiful seventeenth-century townhouses. And in spite of the sex and drugs industry, they have not suffered from rampant commercialism to the same degree as nearby Damrak which – with its amusement arcades, fast food joints and exchange booths – presents a poor first impression to a visitor stepping off a train at Centraal Station.

A good example of change in the red light district is the square around the thirteenth-century Oude Kerk, the city's oldest church, which was the venue for The International Organ Festival that finished in September.

The Oude Kerk is ringed by brothel windows and a cannabis shop and, since April, a new and surprising arrival: the 106-cover Anna restaurant (www.restaurantanna.nl/en), which serves dishes such as truffle risotto and sautéed monkfish in a sleek, minimalist setting.

Its owner, local entrepreneur and former DJ Michiel Kleiss says that he likes the "edge" of the red light district but feels the area "could do with a better mix".

"Gentrifying the red light district is not the intention," says Kleiss. "But things have got out of hand. The British should be welcome here in the neighbourhood to have a drink, but stag parties are not only tacky and sometimes overwhelming, they are also a waste of a great medieval city."


Driving and Flying with Portable Electronic Devices

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nationwide ban on the use of portable electronic devices while driving.
NTSB members say the action is necessary to combat a growing threat posed by distracted drivers.

While distracted driving has been a problem "since the Model T," in the words of NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman, authorities say it has become ubiquitous with the explosion in the number of portable smart phones.

Meanwhile, portable electronic devices are being put into airplane cockpits to help eliminate paper.
The FAA and American Airlines announced earlier this week that AA will be the first major airline to switch to a paperless cockpit. If you have a bumpy flight next time you fly AA, it might be because your pilot is playing Angry Birds (and using the same flight arc as the bird).

iPads in cockpits is growing quite popular among pilots and airlines.

Presumably, the cockpit crews will continuously use their portable electronic devices even as flight attendants instruct passengers to turn them off and put them away.

It seems the feds are sending mixed signals regarding portable electronic devices.


Hillary Clinton's "Gay Rights" Speech And American Hypocrisy

On December 6th, in a speech in Geneva marking international human rights day, Secretary of State Clinton called for all nations to embrace the goals of LGBT activism, declaring that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” and that, “It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.”

Unfortunately, her speech, which was hailed by gay activists worldwide, was an exercise in hypocrisy, not to mention an insult to several billion people worldwide.

She rightly stated that, “It is [a] violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.” But this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Mrs. Clinton had the audacity to compare religious or cultural objections to homosexual practice to “the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation,” as if the religious and moral objection to men having sex with men is somehow equivalent to the Muslim practice of honor killings or the Hindu practice of burning widows.

“In each of these cases,” she said, “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.” And she said this in our name, as Americans.

.She stated that “opinions [on homosexuality] are still evolving”, just as opinions evolved over time with slavery, and “what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.”

In other words, if you have an issue with the lewd sexual displays at your city’s gay pride parade, or if you’re not comfortable with a man who dresses as a woman using the ladies bathroom, or if you don’t want to see a kid raised by two lesbians and thereby deprived of having a father, or if you believe that God made men to be with women, then you are the moral equivalent of a slave trader or a slave owner.

All this (and more) came from the lips of our Secretary of State at the same time that President Obama issued a memorandum instructing government officials to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons” around the world. (The president’s memorandum is far-reaching and should be read carefully.)

There was an immediate reaction from African leaders, and the Christian Science Monitor noted that, “The enshrinement of equal rights for homosexuals into US foreign policy activities has drawn quick ire from African nations, with one senior figure saying the notion is ‘abhorrent’ across the continent.”

As expressed by Uganda’s John Nagenda, a senior adviser to the president, “I don’t like her tone, at all. . . I’m amazed she’s not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa.”

Of course, Mrs. Clinton stated that America still had a way to go on the issue of “gay rights,” but it is sheer arrogance to claim that the religious and moral views of several billion human beings must change. Based on what criteria?

By all means we should champion the equal protection of all human beings, regardless of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. But that is only a small part of our government’s agenda. The greater goal is the complete normalization and even celebration of everything LGBT, with the corollary removal of all opposition, be it in word or deed.

The truth be told, the modern gay rights movement is a fruit of the radical counterculture of the 1960’s, and it is grounded not in the civil rights movement (despite persistent claims to the contrary) but in the sexual revolution, a revolution for which we are still paying the price.

And this leads to a larger question: Who appointed America as the moral leader of the world? Not only are we the world leader in exporting pornography (by a landslide), but as Bill Bennett noted, at the end of the 20th century, America had:

* The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world

* The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world

* The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (by a wide margin)

* The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (also by a wide margin)

* The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world

And we are lecturing the world about morality? We are telling whole nations that their religious, cultural, and moral objections to homosexual practice are no different than the endorsement of widow burning in India or the approval of a Muslim father killing his daughter because he didn’t like the boy she was dating? Seriously?

While our country certainly has been a force for worldwide good in many ways, when it comes to sexual morality we should be hanging our heads in shame, not lecturing others.

Mrs. Clinton’s speech was a source of national embarrassment, not pride.


Purge on Britain's 'elf and safety' Scrooges ruining the spirit of Christmas with false edicts

A purge has been launched by Ministers on the health and safety Scrooges who ruin the spirit of Christmas. They released a list of false ‘Christmas elf and safety’ edicts wrongly used to ban children’s snowball fights and brand Santa’s sleigh as dangerous.

The move was accompanied by a renewed pledge to scrap all pointless safety ‘do’s and don’ts’ and make it easier for unnecessary rulings to be overturned.

Chris Grayling, the Coalition Minister in charge of the red-tape purge, said: ‘Christmas is a time for celebration and fun. ‘We’re determined to stamp out the health and safety kill-joys who try to bring the spirit of Scrooge to Christmas events.’

The ten-point list of ‘ridiculous’ Christmas safety bans, compiled by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), included:

* Children banned by teachers from having snowball fights in case injured pupils seek compensation;

* Homeowners and businessmen being sued for clearing the snow outside their properties by passers-by who had slipped over;

* Carol singers being classed as a health and safety risk;

* Panto performers ordered not to throw sweets into the audience for fear of injuring them;

* Santa’s sleigh outlawed for posing a traffic risk – a Father Christmas was banned from riding his sleigh through Alnwick, Northumberland, after council officials said their insurance would not cover it.

The HSE said it was wrong to use health and safety rules to ban people from putting coins in traditional Christmas puddings.

Mr Grayling, the Work and Pensions Minister, said that in the New Year he would set up a ‘challenge panel’ to help businesses overturn needless rules. He added: ‘We are putting common sense back at the heart of health and safety. ‘Our reforms will root out needless bureaucracy and ensure the health and safety system is fit for purpose.’



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

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

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


20 December, 2011

‘The state ceased to exist’: Damning verdict on lazy British police during summer riots

Rioting spread across Britain during the summer because police ‘lost control of the streets’, a devastating report by MPs says today. The home affairs select committee accuses police of failing to appreciate the ‘magnitude’ of the task they faced.

The committee’s chairman, Keith Vaz, said that some parts of the country ‘the state effectively ceased to exist - sometimes for hours at a time.’ He adds: ‘This is an utterly unacceptable situation and should never occur again.’

Groups on the Left have attempted to find other explanations for the riots, which broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, following the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan. They then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Salford – leaving five people dead.

A joint report by the Guardian and London School of Economics claimed that deep-seated anger and frustration towards the police was a significant factor behind the riots, with officers’ incivility a major concern. Political, social and economic grievances contributed to the unrest, the report said.

But the MPs lay the blame squarely at the police’s door. In terms of motives, the MPs say there is no ‘clear element of protest or clear political objectives’.

They said the perception that police had lost control of the streets was the most important reason why the violence and looting spread. Mr Vaz said: ‘Individual police officers acted with great bravery, and we commend them for their actions.

‘However, in London and other areas, in contrast with the effectiveness of police responses in some towns and cities, there was a failure of police tactics. ‘This situation might have been avoided had police appreciated the magnitude of the task.’

The committee’s report found the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and especially in London, was flawed. Forces were not quick enough in flooding the streets with officers, there was no system to give businesses in areas affected by the riots early and consistent advice on what to do.

The report says: ‘What ultimately worked in quelling the disorder was increasing the number of police officers on the street. ‘If numbers could have been increased more rapidly, it is possible that some of the disturbances could have been avoided.

‘We regret that this did not happen and, with the benefit of hindsight, we regard the operation to police the disorder in many towns and cities, and particularly in London, as flawed.’ In the future, a ‘strong police presence should also have a deterrent effect on those opportunists considering joining in the disorder’, the report said. It added: ‘The single most important reason why the disorder spread was the perception, relayed by television as well as new social media, that in some areas the police had lost control of the streets.’

The committee’s report said the specific causes behind the riots were still unknown. The MPs say: ‘It has been clear from the start that the death of Mark Duggan acted as a trigger. It is also clear that there was a great deal of ‘copycat’ activity. But the clarity ends there. ‘Even in Tottenham, it is not clear that the circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan were the only influences at play. ‘In other locations, the link to the original trigger is even more tenuous and provides no explanation for what went on.

‘Unlike some events in the past, including the riots in the 1980s, there does not seem to be any clear narrative, nor a clear element of protest or clear political objectives.

‘There may also have been some engagement by gangs, but in general this seems to have been opportunistic rather than organised and, on this occasion, appears not to have been a significant cause of the rioting and looting.

‘Many people seem to have been drawn into criminal activity almost on the basis of joining in a big party and without any sense of the seriousness of the acts they were undertaking.’

The MPs call for the Government to speed up the process of reimbursing people for damages and to review whether the £15 victim’s surcharge should be increased for future riots.

Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May said most rioters were hardened criminals driven by a desire for ‘instant gratification’.


Persecuting the innocent is what the British police do best

Teenagers who found girl, 5, sleeping in abandoned stolen car are arrested THEMSELVES when they call police

Two teenagers who spotted a five-year-old girl sleeping in a stolen car have told how they were arrested for 'doing the right thing' when they called police.

Tyler Thompson and Connor Roderick were held in custody for four hours and had their DNA and fingerprints taken. Their clothes were also kept by police following the incident in St Helen Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham.

Now Tyler,16, and 18-year-old Connor plan to submit a complaint to the authorities about their treatment.

The teenagers were on their way to a shop to buy milk at about 10.15pm nine days ago when they found the abandoned red Skoda Fabia with its engine running. It had been stolen from outside the Royal Chef Chinese takeaway in nearby Manor Road.

The driver had left his keys in the ignition while he went in to place an order and three youths were spotted driving the car away shortly after 10pm.

The friends recognised the car and while Connor ran to find the owner, Tyler spotted the young girl on the back seat and guarded the vehicle.

Connor then brought the police and the girl's father to the car where officers arrested them.

'We couldn't believe what was happening,' said Tyler. 'We hadn't done anything wrong. We thought we were doing the right thing but the police just didn't believe us. We were gutted. 'If we had left that car, I never would have been able to forgive myself if something had happened to that girl.' Both were held until 3am when they were released without charge.

Tyler, who has taken part in police projects as a member of Bishop Auckland Theatre Hooligans drama group, added: 'We were kept in a cell for doing something good. We felt like criminals.'

The best friends, who have never been in trouble with the police, said they would now think twice before doing a good turn for fear of getting into trouble.

'We have had strangers coming up in the street asking us why we did it,' said Connor. 'Everyone in the village has been talking about it. It has been horrible.'

A Durham Police spokesman said: 'Police arrested a man and a youth at the scene as they matched a description given to police. They were later released without charge. 'The suspects were dealt with as quickly as procedures allow while ensuring that the matter was thoroughly investigated. 'Two other youths have been arrested in connection with this incident and bailed pending further inquiries.' [No hint of an apology for their woefully bad judgment]


Elderly British woman penalized for thrift

There's clearly some rules that need changing here

A frugal spinster who saved more than £20,000 out of her benefits has been left penniless because she did not tell officials about her nest egg. Pauline Ford, aged 58, lived in a rusty mobile home, never went out, smoked or drank, and only spent the bare minimum she needed to feed herself and her 15-year-old dog.

She wanted to build up her savings for her old age but fell foul of the law by failing to declare her assets when she applied for means tested benefits.

Ford's miserly lifestyle meant she saved around £2,000 a year and grew so large they affected her eligibility for council tax and housing benefits.

There would have been no problem if she had spent all the money but now she has been forced to repay more than she saved and has been left with no savings at all.

Ford, of Valley Walk, Plymouth, had admitted three counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for four months, suspended for two years by Recorder Mr Jeremy Wright at Plymouth Crown Court. He made no order for costs or compensation after hearing she now has no savings left after repaying £28,000.

Miss Jo Martin, prosecuting, said until 2005, Ford received incapacity benefit and disabled living allowance, neither of which were means-tested and council tax benefits, which were.

By 2005 her savings had grown to £15,000 which meant she should have declared them when she continued claiming the housing and council tax benefits. In 2008, she applied for income support, which is also means-tested, without revealing she had just invested £21,000 in a Nationwide fixed bond.

Plymouth City Council carried out a 'Midas' check which revealed her savings, and in 2010, Miss Ford was interviewed by the council and Department of Work and Pensions investigators.

She admitted she had hoarded the money and should have told the authorities about it. Miss Martin said the total overpayment of £28,205.76 had all since been repaid, and Ford was now back living on benefits. She said that claimants were entitled to hold savings of £3,000 to £16,000, but received lower benefits on a sliding scale.


Mother whom arrogant Scottish social workers branded 'too dumb' to have children gives birth to second baby

Eugenics is supposed to have died with Hitler but not in Scotland apparently. But Hitler was a socialist and Scots in Scotland are instinctive socialists so I guess it figures

Two years ago she was written off by social workers as 'too dumb' to marry, let alone become a mother. But last night Kerry McDougall - who fled the UK to stop social workers taking her first son into care - was celebrating the birth of her second child in Waterford, Ireland.

The 19-year-old, along with husband Mark, 28, son Ben and new baby boy Lochlan are now looking forward to a family Christmas together.

Mrs McDougall, who has mild learning difficulties, said: 'Having another baby is a dream come true. Lochlan is beautiful and Ben adores him. 'We both feel so lucky to have two gorgeous little boys.'

The birth of Lochlan marks the end of a two-year battle to stay together as a family. Mrs McDougall was a baby when her parents handed her over to her grandmother and her care was overseen by social services. When she met Mark, she moved in with him and when she became pregnant they decided to marry.

But their nightmare began when in an unprecedented step social workers in their home town of Dunfermline, Fife, dramatically halted their church wedding - claiming she was not intelligent enough to understand the vows.

Mr McDougall, an artist, said: 'Everything was booked - the dress, the reception, food and flowers but we had to cancel the lot and call off all the guests. It was devastating.' Worse was to come when social workers said they believed Kerry wasn't bright enough to be a mother and warned their baby could be taken into care at birth.

In the middle of the night, the couple fled to southern Ireland, where they hoped social workers would be more sympathetic to their plight. They were put up by friends and in January 2010, she gave birth to 7lb 3oz Ben. But Irish authorities had discovered through her medical records that social workers had concerns over Kerry.

Three days after Ben was born and she was breastfeeding him on the maternity ward, social services confronted them - and took Ben into foster care. After a nine-month investigation the couple - who were allowed to visit Ben in foster care - finally brought him home for good.

They then married after discovering the legal wedding ban did not apply in Ireland. Some of the 30 guests were officials involved in their case.

On Mother's Day this year, Mrs McDougall discovered she was pregnant again and 5lb 3oz Lochlan was born four weeks ago. Mark said: 'Our family are still in the UK and although they visit regularly, we do miss just being able to pop in to see them.

'As far as we are aware, the situation hasn't changed with them and if we went back, ultimately the risk remains that both our sons could be taken into care.'

His wife added: 'With a lively toddler - who talks constantly - and a new baby, life is busy. But I love being a mum and couldn't be happier.'



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

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

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


19 December, 2011

Reserve soldier fired from job at British bank

A Territorial Army soldier who fought in Afghanistan was sacked from his job at Barclays Bank because managers saw his service as a 'betrayal'. Lance Corporal Edward Leveratt spent six months as an infantry soldier in Helmand province, going out on regular patrol and coming under fire from the Taliban.

Yet at the end of his tour of duty he was told he could not return to his civilian job at Barclays headquarters, where he managed a team of security guards and worked as a personal bodyguard to Bob Diamond, the chief executive.

An employment tribunal found that at a key meeting in May 2008 when L/Cpl Leveratt's future was discussed, Neil Woods, a security manager employed by Barclays, "explained very forcefully that Barclays had fully funded the Claimant's close protection course on the understanding that the Claimant would not be leaving to serve overseas.

"When this apparently happened shortly after it was seen as a betrayal of the agreement. ... Mr Woods was adamant in saying that the Claimant would not be allowed back."

Employers are required in law to accept reservists back into their old positions. In January 2009, Barclays gave a new reason for its refusal, saying that L/Cpl Leveratt had been identified as a "disruptive influence".

The tribunal heard that Mitie Security, the firm which was contracted to run Barclays' security and which employed L/Cpl Leveratt, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the bank to accept his return.

Nevertheless, it found that L/Cpl Leveratt had been unfairly dismissed by Mitie in March 2009, and awarded him £8,737 in compensation. He had been offered a different position by Mitie, on similar terms and conditions, but turned it down.

L/Cpl Leveratt said he felt as though he had been "stabbed in the back". He added: "I didn't expect to spend six months in Afghanistan only to then spend two years fighting for my employment rights. "I really wondered what the value was in serving to then be treated like that."

He said he also felt let down by the Ministry of Defence, after it failed to persuade his employers to take him back, then told him that he would have to fund his legal battle himself.

The tribunal judgment criticised the reasons given by Barclays for not allowing L/Cpl Leveratt back, describing them as "to say the least vague in the extreme". It ruled that Mitie did not do "everything that [it] reasonably [could] to avoid or mitigate the injustice brought about by the stance" of Barclays."

The MoD and Mitie were unable to comment on the tribunal verdict. A spokeswoman for Barclays said the bank "would not comment on a case in which we were not directly involved".

L/Cpl lost a separate claim that he was a victim of discrimination, which could have attracted a higher payout, because the law on discrimination only protects specified groups – including ethnic minorities and homosexuals, but not members of the armed forces.

L/Cpl Leveratt joined the TA in 2000. He began working at Barclays in 2005 under a different contractor, OCS Security, and rose to the rank of control room manager, earning £35,000 a year.

In June 2007 he was mobilised and spent five months training in the UK, along with three of his colleagues at Barclays. The bank organised a reception for all four men, to "wish them well on their deployment".

L/Cpl Leveratt left for Afghanistan in October 2007 and spent an "extremely challenging" six months with 52 Brigade in Helmand province as an infantry solider, mainly stationed at forward operating bases. He came under fire from the Taliban several times and served in an Incident Response Team, responsible for recovering casualties from the battlefield.

He then returned to the UK in May 2008 to find that another company, Mitie Security, had taken over the Barclays HQ security contract. It was then that Mr Wood told Mitie "very forcefully" that L/Cpl Leveratt would not be permitted to return to his old job, the tribunal heard. When officials at Mitie wrote to Barclays to ask why L/Cpl Leveratt could not return the bank stated, in January 2009, that the soldier had been identified as a "disruptive influence".

L/Cpl Leveratt was then offered another position by Mitie, on similar terms and conditions, which he turned down. He was dismissed in March 2009. His tribunal victory arises from a judgment made in September but not reported until now.

He said the verdict came as a "relief" and added: "It vindicated my opinion when people around me told me I was wasting my time. It felt like I had made a stand."

The tribunal judgment criticised the reasons given by Barclays for not allowing L/Cpl Leveratt back, describing them as "to say the least vague in the extreme".

It ruled that Mitie did not do "everything that [it] reasonably [could] to avoid or mitigate the injustice brought about by the stance" of Barclays.

Mitie argued that even if it had tried harder to return L/Cpl Leveratt to his job at Barclays, the attempt would still have been unsuccessful. But the tribunal panel disagreed, ruling that: "We feel that if, in May 2008, Mitie had said to a company of the standing of Barclays that they were dealing with the return of a reservist who had statutory rights to ask for reinstatement, that was a matter which needed to be – and would have been – considered very seriously by Barclays."

L/Cpl Leveratt said: "Barclays were given the opportunity to investigate and recognise that a member of their staff had taken a bad decision. They responded with a letter saying 'Not our problem – it's down to Mitie'."

L/Cpl Leveratt, who now works as a sales manager for a defence technology company in the Middle East, added: "Employers need to be aware that when they let a reservist go he's going to come back, and he has every right to come back – and they should not think that they can bully their way out of it."

Stephen Simpson, an employment law expert at XpertHR, a human resources website, said the case highlighted how employers need to be aware of their legal obligations to reservists.

He said: "Companies need to be aware that members of the reserve forces who have been mobilised generally have the right to be reinstated in their former job within six months of demobilisation on terms and conditions no less favourable to them than if they'd not had the enforced absence.

"If it is not reasonably practicable to reinstate a reservist in his or her former job, he or she must be re-engaged in the most favourable occupation and on the most favourable terms and conditions that are reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. "The award of over £8,000 in this case shows how seriously employment tribunals are prepared to take these obligations."


British Liberal leader lampoons PM's support for marriage as a 1950s throwback

Nick Clegg last night opened up a damaging new rift with David Cameron by ridiculing the Prime Minister’s support for marriage as a throwback to the Fifties. In a direct challenge to Mr Cameron’s views, the Deputy Prime Minister describes tax breaks for married couples as outdated nonsense and takes a swipe at the image of the traditional nuclear family.

‘We should not take a particular version of the family institution, such as the Fifties model of suit-wearing, bread-winning dad and aproned, home-making mother, and try to preserve it in aspic,’ the Liberal Democrat leader will say in a speech tomorrow.

The comments amount to a direct assault on the beliefs of the Prime Minister and many leading Tories. Barely six months ago, Mr Cameron issued an impassioned statement of his belief in marriage by saying: ‘I am pro-commitment, I back marriage and I think it’s a wonderfully precious institution.’

Mr Clegg’s outspoken remarks – which will be seen as a desperate attempt to shore up the party’s crumbling grassroots support – cap the Coalition’s rockiest period since it was formed 18 months ago.

Relations between the Government allies have fallen to their lowest ebb after last week’s bitter public row over Europe when the fervently pro-European Mr Clegg disowned Mr Cameron’s decision to veto a new EU treaty. He said he was bitterly disappointed by it.

Yesterday, Mr Clegg kept up the attack by accusing Eurosceptics of stoking up ‘xenophobia and chauvinism’. In his comments on the family, to be made in a speech to Left-wing think-tank Demos, Mr Clegg will stress his implacable opposition to Mr Cameron’s plans to give tax breaks to married couples. ‘We can all agree that strong relationships between parents are important but not agree that the State should use the tax system to encourage a particular family form,’ Mr Clegg is expected to say.

Last night, Tory MPs condemned the Lib Dem leader for his attack on marriage. Priti Patel, MP for Witham, Essex, claimed that Mr Clegg’s ‘liberal ideal of partnerships’ had ‘led to the moral breakdown in society’.

Ms Patel, 39, who is married with a three-year-old son, added: ‘We should be supporting the traditional concept of marriage and family. I would urge the Prime Minister to call Mr Clegg’s bluff and press on with introducing tax help for married couples.’
Is the honeymoon over? Mr Clegg's latest remarks cap a tough few weeks of public disputes within the Coalition

Mr Clegg – married with three children, but in charge of a party whose members traditionally take a more relaxed view of the institution – will compare the Lib Dem notion of an ‘open society’ with Mr Cameron’s much-trumpeted Big Society of greater community involvement and devolving power.

His provocative comments come as Lib Dem MPs are still recovering from Mr Clegg’s abrupt U-turn last weekend over Mr Cameron’s veto, which the Deputy PM initially supported before suddenly changing his mind. He warned Britain would look like a ‘pygmy’ if it left the EU.

Sources say the volte-face came about after party grandees, including Lord Ashdown and Baroness Williams, urged him to show some ‘steel’ in his dealings with the Prime Minister.

One senior Lib Dem MP said: ‘We were all on the same page, happy with Nick’s initially conciliatory response, but then there was this barrage of behind-the-scenes Europhilia from people such as Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown. They got to him. ‘Most MPs think it was entirely stupid to have one position and then stage a U-turn.’

Last night, Mr Clegg’s aides denied he had been persuaded by Lord Ashdown to harden his views on the EU negotiations, saying: ‘Nick made his own mind up.’

Aides to Mr Cameron declined to comment on the Deputy Prime Minister’s latest attack.


Australia: When the courts are as guilty as the criminal

The courts have enabled this woman to keep attacking the elderly. They are her accomplices

ONE of Queensland's most notorious thieves has again escaped a penalty for a vile crime. Kim Scully received another tongue-lashing from a magistrate this week but in the end received a conviction and no further penalty for using her baby son's pram to steal the purse of a 63-year-old woman.

Scully has walked free of custodial sentence so often that one magistrate admitted he stopped counting. She is in jail today not because of the crime involving the baby's pram. Instead she is in custody for violating the parole she received after being convicted in June of other thefts.

Police have constantly vented frustration. Those feelings were best summed up by one senior police officer, who, after learning Scully was back before the courts, said: "She (Scully) could get away with murder."

Scully's 18-year criminal career has followed a pattern - most of her victims are older, frail and easily scared. Since her life of crime kicked off in 1993, Scully, who has had drug issues, has preyed upon up to 50 people aged in their early-60s to mid-90s. Almost all of her victims were out shopping when she went after them.

When the 41-year-old mother-of-four stood in a Brisbane court yesterday, it was as a person who has spent more time there than almost any other petty criminal. On some occasions Scully has stolen within hours of walking away from court.

Magistrate John Costello on Thursday said Scully had been given, and failed, more chances at probation than anyone he had ever seen. "I ... almost gave up counting (the number of) probation orders (and actually) gave up counting at 2010," he said. "It's a worry. (Scully) has a routine for picking her victims and they are elderly females."

Mr Costello said Scully's claims, during almost every court appearance, that she had learnt her lesson and was keen to rehabilitate were contradicted by her "five pages" of criminal history.

In March 2005, Sandgate magistrate Pam Dowse told Scully her behaviour made her "sick to the stomach". Ms Dowse made the comments while giving Scully two years' probation for stealing purses from three elderly women.

In June, District Court Judge Deborah Richards told Scully: "I'm not convinced you're really committed to your rehabilitation. "You've have had plenty of chances at probation ... and if you offend while you're on parole they (prison authorities) will ... (send you) straight to jail."

Judge Richards' comments came while sentencing Scully to two years' jail for stealing from four victims aged 75 to 84 in June and July last year, but she was immediately released on parole.

Scully's lack of respect for the courts and chances she has been given have been demonstrated by her pattern of reoffending within hours of leaving court - sometimes while still dressed in the same outfit in which she appeared before the judge or magistrate.

Last year The Courier-Mail revealed a heavily pregnant Scully had travelled to a Redcliffe supermarket and stolen from a 79-year-old woman less than three hours after Judge Michael Noud gave her yet another "one last chance". Judge Noud had told her: "I think you should be given another opportunity on probation to rehabilitate yourself."

On June 3 this year, Judge Richards showed her similar mercy by jailing her, but ordering her immediate release on parole. Less than a week later Scully allegedly struck again and was subsequently charged with a "dozen" offences and ordered to stand trial on eight separate occasions.

However, Legal Aid solicitor Kathryn Volk, for Scully, this week said police had dropped charges against Scully on all but one of those matters.


Local nanny state rules driving Australians mad

ANIMAL owners, charities and even the Scouts have become the target of wacky council bylaws and ratepayers have had enough.

Peacock owner Tiffany Ashman, 44, was outraged to find new laws proposed by the Yarra Ranges Council would force her to buy a permit for each of her four prized birds.

Ms Ashman, of Woori Yallock, hit out at the council for increasing the red tape for everyday citizens. "Frankly it is none of their business what birds I own," Ms Ashman said. "I live on rural land and I've never had a complaint from anyone. "How far are they going to take this, do I have to get a permit for everything I do?"

The 77-page document released by Yarra Ranges proposing new laws next year also cracks down on charities and community groups, like the Scouts, who will need permits to sell raffle tickets and hold cake stalls.

The latest move follows hundreds of controversial decisions made by Victorian councils in the past five years. Casey Council almost banned kites from parks last year, but the law was later scaled back to restrict battery-operated aeroplanes.

The Bass Coast shire shocked families last year when it almost passed a bylaw forcing parents to buy a $100 permit for children to camp in their own backyards.

Yarra Ranges planning, building and health director Andrew Paxton said the draft was a talking point and residents were invited to give feedback.



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

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

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


18 December, 2011

British PM chides Church of England leader for not defending Christianity

Rather a disgrace to the Archbishop. But most of the Anglican episcopacy in Britain don't even seem to believe in God so some such rebuke was long overdue. They are just dressup queens who go along with any thinking that is fashionable

David Cameron last night called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a return to the ‘moral code’ of the Bible. In a highly personal speech about faith, the Prime Minister accused Dr Rowan Williams of failing to speak ‘to the whole nation’ when he criticised Government austerity policies and expressed sympathy with the summer rioters.

Mr Cameron declared Britain ‘a Christian country’ and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so. He warned that a failure to ‘stand up and defend’ the values and morals taught by the Bible helped spark the riots and fuelled terrorism.

At Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, where Dr Williams used to teach, Mr Cameron said the time has come for public figures to teach ‘right from wrong’, and questioned whether the Church of England has done enough to defend those values in the face of the ‘moral neutrality’ that pervades modern life.

And taking aim at the Archbishop, Mr Cameron tackled head-on his public criticisms of the Government over the last 12 months.

The speech was a bold Christmas gamble by Mr Cameron. In making a speech about religion, he did something that Tony Blair always longed to do but was talked out of by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who flatly told him: ‘We don’t do God.’

The clash between the Government and Church is at its most acute since former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie clashed with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

The Prime Minister appeared emboldened by his opinion poll bounce since his decision to wield the veto during the Eurozone crisis summit in Brussels last week.

Admitting that he had ‘entered the lion’s den’ by addressing an audience of churchmen, Mr Cameron said: ‘I certainly don’t object to the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing his views on politics. ‘But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he shouldn’t be surprised when I respond.

‘I believe the Church of England has a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our communities. But to do so it must keep on the agenda that speaks to the whole country.’

At an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, he said: ‘We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so. 'The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

‘Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear, moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it any more. ‘Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.

‘Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength.’

Mr Cameron’s demands for a ‘moral code’ were directed at human rights apologists and Left-wing politicians who recoil from promoting Britain’s Christian heritage.

But they also covered the hand-wringing pronouncements of many senior churchmen, who refuse to condemn lawbreaking by rioters and show unwillingness to take on militant Islam for fear of offending Muslims.

The PM said an ‘almost fearful, passive tolerance of religious extremism’ had let Islamic extremism grow unchallenged and called for the promotion of ‘Christian values’ saying it was ‘profoundly wrong’ to believe that promoting Christianity would ‘do down other faiths’.


Another failure of multicultural brainwashing

People will always like their own group better and those who try to stamp that out simply discredit their entire message

Austrians are shocked by a new survey which shows that one in ten young people think Adolf Hitler was not all bad and that he did some 'good things'. Many are also anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner despite years of multi-cultural teaching in schools.

The country's Kurier newspaper called the findings by the Youth Culture Research Institute 'frightening' - particularly as it is coupled with the general mistrust and dislike of non-Austrians.

Austria has struggled with its relationship to Nazis in general and Hitler in particular ever since 1945. The country was taken over by Hitler - himself an Austrian by birth - in 1938.

Welcomed by euphoric crowds at the time, post-war Austrian retreated to a psychological comfort zone whereby they classified themselves as the 'first victims' of the regime.

The new survey asked youngsters aged between 16 and 19 what they thought of the dictator. Pollsters were astonished when 11.2 per cent of them said that Hitler 'did many good things for the people'. And one in four of them believe there are 'too many Turks' in Austria, the predominant immigrant group.

'Young, open, tolerant? The ideal of an open, socially minded younger generation remains, as a current study shows, an illusion,' said Austria's Standard newspaper. 'Youth are openly hostile to foreigners and are anti-Semitic to an amazingly large degree.'

Perhaps more sinisterly, in a statement that harks directly back to the Nazis, 18.2 per cent of them declared that 'Jews have now, like before, too much influence over the world economy'.

It was feeding on prejudice like this in the socially depressed atmosphere of the 1920s and 30s that allowed the Nazis to demonise Jews, isolate them and finally exterminate them on a massive scale.

The Youth And Zeitgeist study was carried out among 400 young people in the capital Vienna - the city where Hitler lived as a down-and-out in the days before WWI and where his hatred of Jews flourished.

Those who carried out the survey said that the most extremist views were expressed by the less educated - but they said that even well-educated youngsters harboured extremist viewpoints but expressed them in more 'subtle' ways.

In total, 40.5 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that 'for many immigrants, the Austrians are viewed as a lesser people'. This, again, is a viewpoint straight from the textbook of the original Nazis.

They expressed great fears for future job prospects and felt that Turkish immigrants were rivals to them for work, said study author Beate Grossegger. 'Political education has failed,' she said while Bernhard Heinzlmaier, chairman of the institute, said xenophobia had 'arrived' among the well-educated young people of the middle classes.

'They do not express themselves politically incorrectly in public but they are coolly amoral entrepreneurs for whom others are not fellow human beings but competitors.'


British toddlers banned from making their own gestures as they sing Twinkle Twinkle 'in case it offends deaf people'

Generations of children have grown up singing along and performing actions to the nursery rhyme favourite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. But one toddler group has been told not to make the twinkling ‘star’ sign with their hands for fear it could offend the deaf.

Parents were told that the sign – which resembles a diamond shape when made with forefingers and thumbs – is used in official sign language to represent female genitalia.

The decision was made after staff attended a sign language course and were made aware that the one they were using had potential to cause offence. However there are currently no deaf children or parents who attend the Sure Start toddler group, in Acomb, North Yorkshire.

Yesterday mothers criticised the ‘politically correct’ decision. One said: ‘These are innocent little children just making a sign to show a star. No one would give it a second thought.’

Another added: ‘It is good that kids are aware of other people’s methods of communication but has anyone actually asked a deaf person if they take offence to it?’

John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said the teachers needed to ‘grow up’. He added: ‘This is a ridiculous example of political correctness where adults are trying to put their views into the minds of children who would not have known there was anything wrong with what they are doing.’

Jill Hodges, assistant director of education, children and young people’s services at the City of York Council, which runs the group, insisted it was ‘a sensible decision taken to prevent deaf children or deaf parents being offended’.

She said it was made after staff at the Sure Start group returned from a course on children’s sign language, Makaton, at which they were told the ‘star’ gesture they had been using was similar to the sign used for female genitalia in British Sign Language.

As a consequence, Mrs Hodges said, staff realised the issue was sensitive and decided to ask parents to start using the Makaton symbol for a twinkling star – the opening and closing of a fist – instead. ‘Parents have not been banned from using the other sign and City of York Council does not have a policy over this matter,’ she added.

The sign for female genitalia is an inverted diamond held in front of the crotch. During the rhyme, children hold their hands high in an upright diamond. Signing experts said those who use Makaton or British Sign Language would not misinterpret the meaning because it depended on context.

Lynn Delfosse, of the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: ‘The signs alone can have more than one meaning, as with any language, and need to be contextualised in terms of grammar and of the situation in which they are used.’


Exposed: the snobbery and intolerance of the EU elite

Frank Furedi

The chattering classes’ hysterical reaction to David Cameron’s veto of a revised Lisbon Treaty reveals the dark heart of pro-EU sentiment

As I drive along listening to the BBC Radio 4 show, The World At One, I am left in no doubt as to this programme’s deep hostility to prime minister David Cameron’s decision to veto changes to the EU Lisbon Treaty.

When the presenter, the usually sensible Martha Kearney, asks Andrus Ansip, the prime minister of Estonia, if he thinks there is increasing anger in the EU over Cameron’s actions, I realise that something very weird is going on. Why ask the leader of a small Baltic state how he feels about the prime minister of Britain? Since when have the emotions of foreign political leaders been a serious topic of concern for a programme titled The World At One?

Kearney does not simply pose the question to Ansip; she prefaces it with comments about how other EU leaders are very angry at Cameron. Nevertheless, her attempt to incite her interviewee to reinforce the BBC consensus on the state of European emotionalism doesn’t quite succeed. ‘I am not angry’, replies Ansip. Possibly he is too ‘old Europe’ and too old school to be conversant in the values of today’s communications clerisy, which cleaves to the doctrine of emotional correctness. Ansip disagrees with Cameron but he does not suffer from the emotional incontinence demanded of him by the BBC.

At first sight, it is difficult to understand the intense level of anger and outrage directed at Cameron by opinion formers and cultural entrepreneurs. Since when have the EU and the Lisbon Treaty acquired such a sacred status among the clerisy? The EU is many things, but it has never been a much-loved institution. So why is it that, all of a sudden, scepticism towards this institution is treated as the moral equivalent of Chamberlain’s act of treachery in Munich in 1938?

It is one thing to accuse Cameron of committing a diplomatic faux pas or the Foreign Office of ineptitude. But the criticisms currently being made of Cameron verge on the hysterical. When I listen to the hyperbole about what will apparently be the consequences of his destructive behaviour, it almost sounds as if he has committed an act of political betrayal in order to appease a handful of incorrigible reactionary Eurosceptics.

Why this over-the-top reaction to what could turn out to be a relatively minor case of diplomatic miscommunication?

Outwardly, the anger of the cosmopolitan clerisy is directed at Cameron’s alleged appeasement of Tory Eurosceptics. The term Eurosceptic has a special meaning for the adherents to cosmopolitan policymaking. In their view, Euroscepticism is associated with values they abhor: upholding national sovereignty, Britishness and a traditional way of life. The moralistic devaluation of these values was vividly communicated by the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who this week characterised Tory Eurosceptics as the ‘pinstriped effluence of an ex-imperial nation’. He seeks to dehumanise these people by arguing that this ‘specimen’s ascendancy’ was reflected in Cameron’s behaviour during the treaty negotiations. Cohen’s moral devaluation of Eurosceptics, his dismissal of them from the ranks of humanity, is captured in his description of them as a ‘bunch of insular snobs who seem to have a hard time restraining their inner fascist’.

The intemperate language suggests that the venomous anger directed at Eurosceptics cannot simply be driven by the clerisy’s love affair with the European ideal. Rather, what is at issue here is the clerisy’s preference for the technocracy-dominated and cosmopolitan-influenced institutions of Brussels. From their standpoint, the main virtue of the EU is that its leaders and administrators speak the same language as the UK clerisy. They read from the same emotional and cultural script, which they believe to be superior to the script and values associated with national sovereignty. That is why it isn’t surprising that a BBC journalist can casually ask the Estonian prime minister to have a go at her own national leader. The UK-based communications clerisy has a greater affinity with the outlook of EU technocrats and political administrators than it does with the outlook of its own people.

Of course, Cameron may be isolated in the corridors of power in Brussels - but the clerisy is more than a little out of touch with popular sentiments in Britain. Indeed, their visceral castigation of Eurosceptics is actually a roundabout way of morally condemning what the old oligarchy used to call ‘the little people’. The main sin of Euroscepticism is that it has the potential for mobilising popular sentiment. And certainly, the anger of the cosmopolitan elite does not resonate with people getting on with their lives in Birmingham, Newcastle or Leeds. Those who want to expose the heinous Eurosceptic plot to undermine the EU should remember that opinion polls demonstrate that the majority of the UK electorate does not like the EU, and when the Mail on Sunday carried out a poll asking ‘was Cameron right to use the veto?’, 62 per cent of respondents said ‘yes’.

In Britain, even at the best of times the EU has rarely been conceptualised as anything more than a pragmatic convenience. Historically, significant sections of both the left and the right have been critical of the bureaucratic ethos of this institution. Even those of us who love Europe, its history and its culture, and who strongly value the coming together of European peoples, have never had much affection for the institutions of the EU.

One final point: the cosmopolitan values of the clerisy have no progressive content. They contain no real universalist aspirations but rather reflect the sectional outlook of a cultural oligarchy that revels in drawing distinctions between itself and the great unwashed. The clerisy’s alternative to national sovereignty is not some other form of democratic decision-making; on the contrary, it fervently advocates insulated decision-making. The pro-EU elite continually tries to establish institutions that insulate decision-makers from citizens, and it prefers the rule of technocrats and experts over elected representatives.

Scepticism towards the EU is a legitimate, democratically informed standpoint. Scepticism towards Europe is not, of course. Some of my German friends are more than a little astonished to have discovered that a small number of English towns have decided to cancel twinning arrangements with local authorities on the continent. Yes, some of these arrangements were administratively orchestrated and did not genuinely bring together the peoples of Europe. But on balance, we need to be reaching out to our fellow citizens across the continent, to show that Europe is not an artificially constructed institution but is its people!



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

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

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


17 December, 2011

Atheists Plan ‘Slightly Blasphemous’ Nativity Response to Combat the ‘War on the Constitution’‏

The Freedom From Religion Foundation went near-nuclear when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker started referring to the annual “holiday” spruce as a “Christmas” tree. If that minor action is what led the group’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, to call Walker “…a Teabagger governor wearing religion on his sleeves,” one wonders just how venomous her language will get now that a nativity scene has been placed in the state capitol. Now, the group is planning to respond with its own “slightly blasphemous” version of the nativity.

Christmas, a holiday that has many secular elements, but one that is rooted in the Christian faith, often comes along with a fair share of debate surrounding the separation of church and state. Now, for the first time in recent memory, WISC-TV is reporting that an undoubtedly Christian depiction has been placed in the state’s Madison capitol. The capitol has, in the past, hosted menorahs and other religious displays, but the presence of the nativity scene is raising some eyebrows.

Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action, the conservative organization responsible for the nativity, has come out defending the exhibition. ”We think it’s a very tasteful presentation,” she said. It is, of course, important to note that while it was the governor who began using the word “Christmas” to describe the tree in the rotunda, the new nativity scene was put together by a private group.

Of course, Gaylor doesn’t agree with the display’s presence. ”We just don’t think a nativity scene belongs in the Wisconsin State Capitol,” she says. “It’s the seat of state government and everybody should feel welcome there.” [Why would a nativity display make anyone feel unwelcome? It's just a display of statuary. It doesn't do anything.]

In commenting on the nativity display, Gaylor said, ”There’s no war on Christmas, there’s a war on the Constitution during the entire month of December.”

In an effort to show further opposition to the nativity, Gaylor’s group is planning what she calls a “slightly lasphemous… irreverent tweak on the nativity scene.” The FFRF is currently seeking a permit for the display.

Appling, though, doesn‘t see why there’s a controversy. She contends that everyone is already welcome to showcase their views in the capitol and she points out that there is another display next to hers with a message she disagrees with (there is a sign from the FFRF that proclaims that God doesn’t exist).

But in the spirit of inclusiveness she says, “…they have as much right to be there as we do. I think it’s time for all of us to realize there’s a lot of room for different voices.”

During “Interfaith Awareness Week” various groups showcase their religious traditions around the capitol’s rotunda. This, WISC-TV reports, is how Appling’s group received permission to display the nativity until the end of December.

Gaylor hasn’t provided more information on her planned display, but she is hoping to have it up soon.


Obama and religion

On two major issues cited by Perry, Obama has broken with precedent to curtail religious freedom in a way that should alarm staunch secularists (like myself) as well as the devout.

The first instance arose after passage of his health care overhaul, when the Department of Health and Human Services ordered that all insurance plans cover contraceptives and sterilization for women, with no co-payment. The mandate means many Americans would have to be complicit in something their faith forbids.

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pointed out, "Before the mandate, insurers were free to issue plans covering contraception and sterilization (or not); employers were free to sponsor, and usually subsidize, plans with this coverage (or not); and employees were free to choose this coverage and pay for it through their premiums (or not)." That is no longer true.

The administration provides an exemption for religious employers -- while defining the term so tightly that religious hospitals, social service agencies and colleges wouldn't qualify.

The president of the University of Notre Dame is a priest. But under Obama Care, he is obligated to furnish his employees and students with birth control options that are anathema to the Catholic Church -- or else drop health insurance coverage altogether.

Even states that mandate contraceptive coverage allow companies to avoid it by self-insuring. They also grant broad exemptions to those with faith-based conflicts. The federal employee health insurance program permits carriers with religious scruples to offer policies without contraceptive coverage.

But so far, the administration is not nearly so reasonable (though it is considering limited changes). Under its policy, the free exercise of religion ends where health insurance coverage begins.

Even more extreme is its position on a dispute involving an evangelical Lutheran church and school in Michigan. The school had dismissed a teacher who taught both religious and non-religious classes, and she went to court alleging illegal discrimination.

Federal courts have generally barred such lawsuits, leery of getting tangled up in church doctrine and discipline. But an appeals court ruled in favor of the teacher, and Obama's Justice Department took her side.

Not only that, it said churches and their schools should be treated no differently from other employers. Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean the Catholic Church could be forced to admit women to the priesthood.

When the case was argued before the Supreme Court, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia marveled at the administration's claim: "There, black on white in the text of the Constitution, are special protections for religion. And you say it makes no difference?" Exclaimed liberal Justice Elena Kagan, whom Obama appointed, "I too find that amazing."

In this case, as with the health care mandate, the president evidently thinks that when the imperatives of faith thwart his vision of social policy, faith will have to get out of the way.

Is Obama the enemy of religion? Not quite. But when it comes to religious freedom, he's not a reliable friend.


Australia: Another triumph of multiculturalism

Three would-be terrorists jailed for plotting Sydney army base attack

THREE would-be terrorists who plotted an armed attack on a Sydney army base remained defiant after they were jailed for 13 years today.

Justice Betty King told Wissam Fattal, 35, of Melbourne, Saney Edow Aweys, 28, of Carlton, and Nayef El Sayed, 27, of Glenroy they planned a horrific and evil attack on the Australian community. Justice King said it was troubling that none of the three had renounced their extreme Islamic views and they would remain a threat to the community even after they are released.

"None of you, not one, has recanted from any extremist view you held," said the judge. "The protection of the community remains a very significant factor."

In her Supreme Court sentence, Justice King said the planned attack on the Holsworthy army base would have resulted in the deaths of a number of innocent people.

Fattal, who has caused trouble consistently in court, had to be removed before the sentence commenced after he started shouting about "Jews, Palestine and Afghanistan". He was dragged out by security officers. At the end of the sentence El Sayed shouted "God is with us" as a woman wept hysterically in the public benches.

Justice King set maximum terms of 18 years. Almost a year after they were convicted, Fattal, Aweys and El Sayed faced justice.

Family members, friends and supporters of the trio packed the public benches and balcony of Supreme Court number three. As the men were led into court they laughed, waved and gestured to the supporters, looking completely unconcerned.

Their trial heard that Operation Martyrdom was planned to create mayhem at Sydney's lightly guarded Holsworthy army base, with the men using high-powered weapons to gun down as many army personnel as possible.

The Supreme Court jury, which convicted the trio but found two other men not guilty, deliberated for more than 45 hours after a marathon trial that lasted 12 weeks.

The jury heard the home-grown terror plot was designed to bring a fatwa down on Australia and it had its genesis in the seething anger among a small group of Muslim men, some of them refugees, over their belief Islam was under attack from the West. In secretly recorded conversations, the plotters, all of whom attended inner city mosques, talked of their contempt for Australians and their plans to take out "five, six, eight or 10" soldiers. Fattal was recorded saying:"If I find a way to kill the army, I'm gonna do it."

The men were found guilty of conspiring with each other and people unknown between February 1 and August 4, 2009 to do acts in preparation for, or planning a terrorist act or acts.

They were believed to be connected with the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab, and it was alleged the group tried to obtain a fatwa, or religious decree, justifying the attack.

The jury viewed CCTV footage of Fattal taking a train to the Holsworthy base and walking along a perimeter fence and towards the blockhouse at the front gate. Fattal later told his co-conspirators: "The work is easy".


Speech cannot be free in a net of regulation

Comment from Australia

STUART Littlemore, QC - commanding, eloquent and, in the words of one senior journalist to me, overweeningly arrogant - took his seat at the independent media inquiry.

"The previous woman is wrong," he opened, referring to an AAP representative. "She mistakes error for defamation." It had taken just seconds for his pugnacity to assert itself.

In Littlemore's testimony could be found a snapshot of the cultural fault-line defining the inquiry. Crudely, it divides journalists and media proprietors from those who conceived and administer the inquiry - the federal government and judges and lawyers. (Inquiry head Ray Finkelstein's deputy, Matthew Ricketson, is, however, a former journalist and current journalism academic.)

It's a fault-line defined by rival professional instincts - free speech and self-regulation on one side, and reform and regulation on the other.

Jonathan Holmes, host of the ABC's Media Watch, put it to me this way: "Ray Finkelstein is contrary to the basic instincts of those appearing. I think the media are basically anti-regulatory, and the judiciary are regulatory by nature." Holmes added that it would be "primeval", for instance, to begin issuing "media licences".

Littlemore's opening line about mistaking error for defamation struck at the heart of most journalists' testimonies: that common and criminal law, combined with a cultural sense of propriety and market competition, is sufficient regulation and provides those mistreated by malicious or inaccurate stories with vindication or compensation.

"The brutal reality," Littlemore said, "is that if a case is settled, lawyers get less money. The reality is, lawyers keep cases going too long … Plaintiffs can't afford to sue, mostly."

It's a difficult point to ignore: if we argue that the law provides for those injured by journalistic excess, we must also accept that there are serious hurdles to accessing said justice.

The competing professional reflexes of the media and the judiciary are not the only fault-line of these proceedings. A deep lack of trust is, also.

I spoke to Margaret Simons, media writer for Crikey, author of Journalism at the Crossroads and a witness at the Sydney hearings; Errol Simper, the 33-year veteran media writer at The Australian; and Jonathan Holmes - and none was in any doubt as to the motivations of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in establishing the inquiry. "It's clearly politically motivated," Simons said. The rest felt the same. "Who is Ray Finkelstein?" Simper asked. "Why was he appointed? Is he mates with Conroy?"

Contradictions abound. The media inquiry hasn't piqued passions here in the way the Leveson inquiry has in Britain, and for good reason: the industrialised corruption and sordid nexus of police, politicians and press men in Britain hasn't been replicated here.

"Not yet," some say, as a way of arguing for press regulation, while others argue that it's absurd and offensive to pre-emptively compare our press with Britain's. This is just one of many irreconcilable tensions.

Avaaz, an activist organisation that claims 250,000 Australian members, gave testimony at the Sydney hearings. I expected Jacobin zealotry, but listened instead to a young, polite and well-spoken young man. Still, I gritted my teeth as I listened to his anaemic mantra: "We need more diversity."

It was put to him that the internet provided an increasing spectrum of independent news and opinion sites, but this was dismissed. "We don't think it's enough." He didn't have any suggestions, really, about how to compel this into existence.

I would have also put it to our young man that the media mogul is a phenomenon in decline, and that if he feels not enough Australians are reading "intelligent" sources, I would remind him that it is not the job of government to corral people to "approved" news sources or to legislate for people's intelligence or political interest.

It's also true to say that a concentration of ownership does not equal a concentration of opinion. There are more thoughtful arguments, though, for press regulation.

Only yesterday did a friend say to me that you don't hear engineers boast that if their industry wasn't up to scratch - if a lack of professional standards meant that any building you occupied could collapse - that society, like their shoddy workmanship, would fall apart.

They don't say this - and it might be ridiculous if they did - but it is undeniably true. The same applies to doctors and nurses and so many other professions.

"Journalism," Stuart Littlemore said, "is not a profession. There's no accountability whatever. It may be a craft, but it is not a profession. I feel very strongly about this. There are no enforceable professional standards."

He's right. But does it matter? The media is arguably no more important than doctors or nurses or pilots for a safe and stable society, and, however noble the defence of free speech by journalists, it is an arrogance and a sense of exceptionalism that promotes it above all other principles. It's an axiom, too, that free speech must be accompanied by responsibilities.

But free speech is a principle different to, say, engineering integrity, in that it's a principle best served by an absence of regulation. This seems to me to be a reasonable philosophical basis for media exceptionalism.

The thoughtful Jay Rosen, in a recent piece for The Drum, detailed a troubling culture in News Ltd - and one that's been echoed to me by former News journos - but if you read Rosen's piece through, he could not come up with any regulatory solution, just the suggestion of more external and internal criticism. Fine.

And here's the rub: to state that you find Today Tonight or The Australian or 2GB repugnant is not clever or useful, however deep your conviction. If there are problems, then the road to regulation is a difficult one, delicately balancing freedom of speech with protections of the individual. This requires a sobriety and a humility that have been sorely lacking.



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

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

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


16 December, 2011

Another degraded branch of the Church of England

As well as mocking the Christmas message, they also are pro-Palestinian and pro-homosexual, unsurprisingly

St. Matthews-in-the-City Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, may be spreading a fair share of holiday drama this season with its controversial Christmas billboard. The church, which has a history of posting provocative signs during the holiday season, has put up a billboard that shows Mary holding a positive pregnancy test (yes, that Mary).

According to 3News, the church hopes that the billboard will “avoid the sentimental [and] trite” and that it will spark thought and lead to conversation. What’s so odd about this reasoning is the fact that Christmas is all about tradition. The holiday, regardless of how people choose to celebrate it, is a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ, the central figure of the Christian faith.

The new billboard is devoid of any text, and it was purposefully made that way. “We hope to do so with an image and no words. We invite you to wonder what your caption might be,” explains Glynn Cardy, a pastor (“vicar”) at the church. Cardy says that the house of worship wanted people to focus on what it’s like to be a real mother with a real child (it’s not entirely clear how a positive pregnancy test conveys this message — perhaps the look of surprise on Mary’s face?).

The church’s 2009 billboard was arguably more offensive, as it featured an image of Mary and Joseph in bed together. The caption under it read, “Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow.”
The most recent billboard was placed outside of the church this week and will remain there until Christmas Day.


Black British watchdog head attacks 'bonkers' use of Human Rights Act

Trevor Phillips, the head of Britain’s equality watchdog, has attacked the “thoroughly bonkers” misuse of the Human Rights Act - and warned that it must not become the “exclusive property of minorities”.

Mr Phillips, who supports the Act, claims that it has “fallen into disrepute” – blaming “grandstanding lawyers” as well as politicians.

The chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for the application of the law to be refocused to protect victims rather than criminals.

In a newspaper article, he said the Act had “come to mean the defence of the rights of unpopular minorities – of criminals, terror suspects and illegal immigrants – at the expense of everybody else”.

Mr Phillips said the legislation when used properly could be the “last line of defence” for elderly and vulnerable people who are “at the mercy of people who mistreat or neglect them”.

But he blamed lawyers for using it in other situations as a “combat weapon” in court and also said parliament had set the “pattern of misunderstanding and trivialisation”.

He described one example of how secularists wanted to use the Act to prosecute town councillors for saying prayers before meetings as “nonsense on stilts”.

In the article for the Sunday Times, Mr Phillips wrote: “Almost every morning I am confronted with examples of how the Human Rights Act is being used which any reasonable person would describe as thoroughly bonkers.

“Prison service vans that travel 90 miles to take a prisoner 90 yards; paedophiles free to leer at children in the very parks where they have committed horrific crimes.

“Human rights are not worthy of the name if they do not protect the people we don’t like as well as those we do. “But they must not become the exclusive property of minorities. In a good society, human rights should be about balance and fairness for everyone.”

It comes after earlier this year Mr Phillips’s own organisation came under fire for promoting a culture of “false and petty” complaints about injustice.

A report in August by think tank Civitas claimed the EHRC wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money a year on “slighting” British society, contributed “very little” to creating a fairer society, and ought to be abolished.


When Will Discrimination Against Christians be Banned?

On Dec. 6, the White House released a memorandum instructing the heads of U.S. executive departments and agencies abroad to join in the “struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons” around the world.

In the memorandum, President Barack Obama expressed his concern over a broad swatch of matters in this arena, from “laws that criminalize LGBT status” to “beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.” At the same time, the president also said, “Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.”

With all due respect to the president, perhaps this is an all-too-obvious attempt to garner votes from a group that wasn’t that impressed with his performance until he successfully imposed homosexual behavior on the military earlier this year. Yet while he’s doing his best to appeal to that group, Christians around the world continue to be persecuted—to be hunted like animals, then tortured and killed when captured—yet we are still awaiting a serious White House memorandum on their behalf.

Perhaps Christ’s famous words, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” are applicable here, for it seems that the president, who long ago abandoned a defense of our nation’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings, is basically abandoning Christians altogether.

The most obvious and recent example is that there is no word of sorrow offered up for the Coptic Christians who have been beaten and shot in Egypt.

Nor is there any noticeable attempt to pressure India into overturning the anti-Christian legislation it has in place—legislation that makes it illegal to convert from Hinduism to Christianity. It is a fact that Hindu fundamentalists emboldened by this legislation have actually begun to bully and aggressively pursue Christians in their country.

Why isn’t the plight of Christians around the world today worthy of a White House memorandum, Mr. President?


New York Rabbi: A Tim Tebow Win Will Cause Christians to Burn Mosques, Bash Gays

By Warner Todd Huston

**UPDATED** Hammerman removes paragraph from story

In the category of bigotry and hatred spares no religion, we find such hatred hiding behind religion in one "Rabbi" Joshua Hammerman of New York City. Hammerman has indulged his inner Father-Coughlin-in-reverse by proclaiming that if Tim Tebow wins the Super Bowl, why, Christians will go on a rampage that will result in the burning of mosques and the bashing of gays. Now, are you ready for some football?

Hammerman disgorged his absurd claims at his New York Jewish Week blog posted on December 12 titled, "My Tim Tebow Problem." It is instead Hammerman’s civility problem. Tim Tebow has nothing to do with this neer do well's extreme hatred of Christians.

Calling Tebow the "poster boy of the Christian right," Hammerman is disgusted by the fact that the footballer -- oh the horrors -- "thanks Jesus after every game." It all makes the "rabbi" expound upon his "fear" about "what will happen if the hulky Denver Bronco quarterback wins the Super Bowl."

And what will happen you might ask? Let's let this so-called rabbi take it from here:

If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants. While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.

Rabbi Coughlin is serious, here. He really thinks that Christians will riot in the street because Tim Tebow is part of a Superbowl winning team. Yeah, because there is such a long contemporary history of Christians taking to the streets and rioting because they are jubilant over football.

He goes on to hyperbolically wonder if "legions of Southern Baptist missionaries" will "hit the college campuses the very next day, spreading this new gospel of Tim?" And he laments that already there is a “Jews for Tebow” Facebook page. This nut will even hate fellow Jews just for admiring the inoffensive Tebow.

But it shouldn't surprise that this anti-Christian bigot might come to these conclusions. The key to this is in how he mischaracterizes Tebow's belief in his God and in himself. Hammerman claims that Tebow is, "absolutely confident that God is on his side." I can see why he might be worried that Tim Tebow might be a new, destructive sort of charismatic leader if he thinks that.

But this is not what Tebow has ever said or even intimated. Tebow has said that God has guided his career but he has not placed himself as equal to God's interests. Only a supremely arrogant man would think God has taken sides with him as opposed to simply being there for him. The arrogance to assume God reveres the man and his goals enough to "side" with him is not what Tebow has displayed. Tebow simply has never exhibited this kind of arrogance. In fact, just the opposite. Hammerman is just wrong in his characterization of Tebow’s Christian character.

This yutz winds up his anti-Christian screed claiming that he doesn't fear Christians -- a claim hard to square with the other ten paragraphs of his piece so chock full of loathing, mistrust, and hatred. Instead he claims he "fears people of certainty."

This is probably the most ignorant part of Rabbi Hammerman's muddled thinking. It isn't "certainty" that causes the problem, rabbi. It is what people do with that certainty that causes the problem. Thomas Aquinas was probably one of the most certain Christians in history yet he is responsible for some of the most loving and peaceful explications of Christian belief in human history. No one is rioting after football games because of Thomas Aquinas!

In this, though, Hammerman proves that he employs a prosaic modernist’s lack of critical thinking. He displays the sort of empty, nihilistic, modernist's blather that assumes that there can be no right or wrong, that everything is relative and anyone who believes in something with anything approaching certainty, then they must be dangerous, unstable, and prone to violence.

But, the problem with this sort of modernist's "thinking" is that it is logically untenable. Hammerman is sure "certainty" is dangerous… yet he is certain that this is a fact! By his empty thinking, then, he is just as dangerous as those rampaging Christians that infests his fevered imagination because, well, he's certain of something, isn't he?

He is hoisted on his own petard with his lack of critical thinking. But his is a perfect example of why most universities and modern liberalism is both dumbing down our nation and growing hatred everywhere its baneful influence appears.

I don’t fear Tim Tebow winning the Super Bowl. I do fear morally deficient cretins like this rabbi infesting in others his rabid hatred of others.


Since my criticism of Hammerman's Tebow anti-Christian screed, he's gone into his post and edited out the paragraph I reported here. Hammerman did not note on the story that he edited the piece to remove offensive material. So, down the memory hole goes the truth once again.

I have a screen shot of the original, though. CLICK HERE to see it.



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

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

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


15 December, 2011

Cambridge University dons get advice on the intricacies of the handshake

Cambridge University is so desperate to avoid upsetting foreign students that it has cautioned its academics against automatically shaking their hands in case it causes offence.

The world renowned institution has sent out a directive to its admission tutors explaining that some people are culturally sensitive to the traditional style of greeting. They advise that "suitable body language conveys welcome just as well".

The missive sent out by the university's Cambridge University Admissions Office has caused anger and consternation among the dons who say it is treating them like "social misfits". "It seems to be totally bonkers," said a don who wished to remain anonymous.

"We are not social misfits. We know when to shake someone's hand and when not too. All this seems to be stupid and pointless and could make interviews even more awkward."

The advice is given on an "online training course to interviewers" in addition to the Undergraduate Admissions Handbook 2011-12. Academics were sent an alert advising them to read the instructions.

Under the headline: "Welcoming the Applicant" the instructions add: "There is a certain amount of cultural sensitivity relating to handshakes. Suitable body language conveys welcome just as well." No further advice is given but the press office yesterday said that the instructions applied to Muslim women and certain people with disabilities.

"It is not banning handshakes, it is just saying that best practice in some cases such as Muslim women who do not want to shake hands and certain people with disabilities," said a spokesman. "Dons should read the situation properly and bear in mind that not all people will want to shake hands."

The instructions seems to relate to the growing multicultural nature of admissions to British universities. Some 280,760 international students were admitted to universities last year – more than double the number a decade ago.

But the instructions still felt patronising and overly politically correct to a number of academics. "This is ridiculous," one said. "It would be obvious if someone objected to handshakes and we would know what to do. We don't need instructions."

Another academic said: "The more you police these things and try to transcend normal instinctive forms of interaction, the more terrifying they get all around."

Sally Hunt, the University College Union general secretary, said: "While I am sure this advice is well-intentioned, academics are grown-ups and are intelligent enough to know when to shake a person's hand or not. "What matters is that potential students from all backgrounds are made to feel welcome and given an equal opportunity to show their potential."

Expert advice on cultural relations suggests that most people around the world have no objection to the handshake although they may prefer other types of greet.

Some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam, may object to being touched by a member of the opposite sex. Other cultures may object to shaking hands if one of the people involved has a cold or other contagious disease.

One adviser suggests that if there is any doubt then a smile may be the best alternative. No one, anywhere, ever takes offence with that friendly act, he adds.


Cutting British dole for those who fail to take up jobs 'goes against human rights'

Plans to cut the dole for people who refuse to look for work could be contrary to their human rights, MPs warned last night.

Ministers want to impose a condition that those who are able to look for or prepare for work should be required to do so as a condition of receiving benefit – and those who do not should face a financial sanction.

But the parliamentary Human Rights Joint Committee has decided that to do so could put the human rights of the ‘unemployable’ at risk.

They also said that taking away jobseekers’ allowance from these people could plunge some families into destitution – something which would amount to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

The committee also criticised Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to impose a welfare cap of £26,000 a year, to ensure that families on benefits do not receive more than the average worker.

And they said taking sickness benefit away from people after an assessment could also have a ‘discriminatory impact’.

It means the committee believes Mr Duncan Smith’s new provisions could potentially be challenged in the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

Discussing the threat to cut the dole of the workshy, the report said: ‘We believe there is a risk that the conditionality and sanction provisions in the Bill might in some circumstances lead to destitution, such as would amount to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, if the individual concerned was genuinely incapable of work.’

However, it added: ‘We do not consider that making benefits conditional on compliance with work-related requirements is in breach of the prohibition on servitude and forced labour in Article 4 of the ECHR.’

On plans to reassess people on incapacity benefit, it added: ‘We are concerned that some of the proposals… may be implemented in a way which could lead to a discriminatory impact and which does not demonstrate a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the legitimate aim that is sought to be realised.’

The report also criticised the housing benefit cap, saying it was wrong for the government to set the level of the cap with reference to the average income of all households. Instead, the reference should be the average income of households with children.

It added: ‘We are also particularly concerned about the possible disparate impact on some disabled people and we recommend allowing some additional discretion to exempt disabled people facing exceptional hardship from the benefit cap and from the provisions concerning under-occupation of social housing.’

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘This Bill has been open to an unprecedented level of examination from stakeholders, members of the public to politicians, which we believe will help ensure these reforms give us a welfare system fit for the 21st century.

‘The changes to the welfare system will protect those who need the most help, with more support, whilst encouraging others to take responsibility for their own lives and the lives of their families.’


The BBC gets something right

Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, has been forced to go to bat for Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson after the television host jokingly suggested striking public sector workers should be shot in front of their own families. Yep. That sounds like Clarkson to us.

According to the UK's Guardian and Telegraph dailies, members of the UK Parliament then began calling for the government-owned BBC to oust Jezza, with Labor Party member Jim Sheridan asking whether or not Clarkson was a luxury the BBC couldn't afford. Around 32,000 people sent complaints to the network about the host's disparaging remarks, but Thompson countered, suggesting that Clarkson is one of the UK's chief cultural exports at the moment.

The BBC executive also said far more people would be upset to see the gregarious host disappear from Top Gear than had complained about his flippant remarks.

This is just the latest episode in a long line of Clarkson's skirmishes with various nationalities, religions and organizations, but it doesn't look like the British personality is going anywhere any time soon.


A Norwegian Christmas — Not!

Some parents of children at a Norwegian primary school were undisturbed by the scrubbing of traditional Christmas content from these year’s school celebration — which has been renamed “Winter Marking”. But others were upset that their children were forced to take off their traditional red caps and miss the customary visit by Santa Claus.

Our Norwegian correspondent PN has translated an article about the controversy from VG.no.
Fifth-graders at Øren school in Drammen were invited to a Christmas celebration to end the school term, but ended up with “Winter Marking” and were not allowed to wear red caps [nisselue, traditional/national red cap symbolic of Norway—translator].

Thursday last week the fifth graders at Øren primary school were invited to Christmas celebration [Tradition, Santa Clauses come and hand out small packets of candy, oranges etc.; children walk around the tree, and sing songs — translator].

Several of the children had dressed up with red caps and Christmas dresses. This did not go down well.

“The pupils were informed by the teacher that they were not to wear red caps. My daughter and several other children decided not to listen to that order and came wearing a red cap. She was then told to remove the cap as she had to consider all those with a different culture and faith,” says Vibeke Alm Thoen to VG Nett.

Winter Marking

After everyone arrived and the teachers had welcomed them, they clearly stated that from now on it would no longer be called a Christmas celebration, but should be named Winter Marking.

Several of the children had dressed up with both caps and red freckles, and were of course greatly disappointed when they were told there would be no Christmas carols sung.

“I think this whole thing is strange and the message came as a surprise to most parents. It’s surreal that they sang Trond Viggo Torgersen’s “Tenke sjæl” [song title: Think for yourself — translator]. There is nothing religious behind Santa Claus; the school should know that,” says Alm Thoen. To VG Nett she says that she has had children at the school for fourteen years, but has never experienced anything similar.

“I think its straight up nasty that the kids are told to take off their caps. This doesn’t belong anywhere,” says Alm Thoen.



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

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

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


14 December, 2011

Patriotism is good for your morale

Feeling proud to be British makes you feel good about life in general, according to scientists. They found that the kind of pride that makes people happiest is when they feel they ‘belong’ to a country, regardless of ethnicity.

Researchers studied interviews of 41,000 residents of 31 European nations and found civic pride was most linked to a general feeling of well being.

This is often because those who felt a country’s laws, traditions and institutions made them feel they belonged often had a better quality of life overall.

The study was conducted jointly by political scientists and sociologists at Washington’s American University and Belgium’s Catholic University. They found the links between national pride and happiness were high across Europe.

But they were highest where a person felt the country in which they lived contributed to their overall lifestyle rather than their own ethnic background.

National pride - where a person declares, for instance, that they are proud to be a German, or a Brit or a Spaniard - led to an increase in overall happiness. But the increases were greater among those who expressed a civic pride - defined as a respect for the way their country is run which defines their everyday lives.

Matthew Wright, of American University and Tim Reeskens of Catholic University, said it was more than pure flag waving patriotism that made people happy.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, said: ‘Civic nationalism is more inclusive, requiring respect for a country’s institutions and laws for belonging. ‘Unlike ethnic nationalism, that view is open to minorities or immigrants, at least in principle.’ It added: ‘More national pride correlated with greater personal well-being.

‘But the civic nationalists were on the whole happier, and even the proudest ethnic nationalists’ well-being barely surpassed that of people with the lowest level of civic pride.’

Matthew Wright said: ‘You have to look at how people define their pride.’


References are now 'not worth the paper they are written on' because of Britain's data protection laws

Job references are ‘not worth the paper they are written on’ because of controversial data protection laws, a peer said yesterday. Baroness Deech said the rules meant those writing references for university and job applicants are too scared to be honest because candidates can find out what was said about them.

The Data Protection Act gives people the right to ask to see all the written information that is held about them, including a reference from a school, university or former employer.

Lady Deech, who gained extensive experience of looking at references during her time as a law tutor at Oxford University, said: ‘Before the Data Protection Act, we got references from schools.

‘They might say: “Young So and So may be very shy and quiet, but we assure you she is very bright, give her a chance. 'Her mother is an alcoholic. Her father left her. But we know she will deliver.'

‘It actually helped you give under-privileged people a chance. Or from a public school, they would write: “Young Camilla will give a polished performance, but we have had to work very hard with her.”’

But Lady Deech said in an interview that the Act, which came into force in 1984 but was revised in 1998, has put an end to such honesty. Lady Deech, a crossbencher who sits on the Lords Communications Committee, added: ‘They won’t say that now. All references just say: “Young So and So will get three As. She has been a good student.”

‘[This is] because they know the parents can see it. They are not worth the paper they are written on, and I think that’s really wrong. It has destroyed the ability to choose.’

Lady Deech said that if she were made Prime Minister for a morning, she would put abolishing the Act at the top of her ‘to do’ list.

But a spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office, which promotes data privacy for individuals, dismissed Lady Deech’s comment as ‘a misconception’.

He said: ‘The Act gives individuals the right to access information that is held about them. 'This can help people in many areas of their lives – from ensuring information is accurate on their credit file to seeing their medical records, or seeing what a prospective employer has been told about them if they are refused a job.

‘To suggest that this right prevents employers providing honest references is a misconception. ‘All it means is that employers who write references should be able to justify their comments.

‘If there are specific problems with an employee it would be reasonable to expect that the employee would already have been made aware of these.’

Dr Jill Miller, an adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, urged those giving references to be totally truthful, as long as they can substantiate their comments. She said: ‘What is important when writing a reference is that all data given should be based on fact or capable of independent verification. ‘As a guide, references should be fair, accurate and not give a misleading overall impression of the employee.’

It comes at a time when the hunt for a job is a nightmare for young people, who are competing for work as unemployment hits a 17-year high. More than one in five people between the age of 16 and 24 is unemployed, smashing the one million landmark for the first time, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the careers website Graduate Fog.co.uk, said: ‘Youth unemployment is no longer a problem – it is now a full-blown crisis.’

Even before the crisis, there was evidence of job candidates lying on their CVs in a desperate bid to get a job. One winner of the BBC show The Apprentice, Lee McQueen, came under fire for pretending to go to university for two years. In fact, he had attended Thames Valley University for four months.

One of the most famous CV cheats was Alison Ryan who was hired to a £125,000 prestigious job as director of communications at Manchester United. She boasted that it was ‘a dream come true’ but a Daily Mail investigation revealed that she had lied about her past. Fans quickly nicknamed her ‘Alison Wonderland.’


Rebel, Rebel: Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow is a devout evangelical Christian, who is not shy about praying on the football field. He's also very good at football

By Doug Giles

I wonder if the Tebow critics would be as mouthy about his faith if Tim’s name was Achmed and the god he praised after a TD was Allah. I doubt it. Why do I hesitate? Well, it’s principally because Christophobic toads are afraid to turn the verbal guns they use to berate Christians on Muslims, that’s why. Plus, they’d probably go to jail or get fired for “hate speech,” but good Lord, you can certainly rag on Christians, now can’t ‘cha?

Yes, my children, Christians are fair game because the brethren won’t retaliate with an underwear bomb when you rip on them, and ridiculing them won’t get one censored. The harpy head lice know it and thus proceed with their daft quips about Tim’s faith displays. Macho, macho men.

Hey, Tebow critics: Why don’t you lambaste someone else with your unread blog? Y’know, like the air-humping narcissistic players who make parents cover their kids’ eyes every time they make a decent play, huh? Or would doing so be to condemn thyself, soul stroker?

Let me see if I get this straight: A sex worshipping, multi-tattooed thug with three illegit kids from three different women scores a touchdown and then proceeds to simulate a sex act in the end zone—in front of our children and the millions watching by television—and that’s okay? Why sure it is. Who are we to judge? Matter of fact, let’s give that future inmate a Nike ad and bump his contract up a few mil because he brings spice (and crabs) to the game. Ah … sweet progress.

On the other hand, in this evil-is-good and good-is-evil highway to hell culture, Tim Tebow, a model citizen, points toward heaven or bows a Rodin-style knee to Yahweh, and boom … he’s the bad guy. Well, if that’s the way it is in this culture of corruption then I’m supporting the rebel, Tim Tebow. He’s a rebel with a cause. The others are ridiculous without a clue.

Oh, by the way, I thought bullying was banned in this nicey-nice milieu that the progressives have created. Did I miss a class where it is cool to mock the crap out of anyone who wears their faith in Jesus Christ on their sleeve? I must have because these jealous wannabes are going medieval on the Broncos’ QB.

As I sit back and watch the Tebow haters moan online and on air about TT’s commitment to the Five Solas of the Reformation, I’m trying to get what’s left of my mind around Tebow’s crimes against humanity. So far here’s what I have come up with:

1. Tim believes in Jesus Christ. As do, I believe, um, millions upon millions of other folks. Let me check. Yes, I’m right. Google says there are a bunch of Christians out there.

2. Tim’s a virgin. You can’t be a virgin anymore in our day, right? Yes, not being a whore in the 21st century is a sin to many like Charlie Sheen. Let me ask the ladies this question: Would you be cool with marrying a handsome, multi-millionaire star quarterback who you know doesn’t have some STD eating his junk? I thought so.

3. Tim is public with his praise to God … as were Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, the Apostle Paul and America’s founders.

4. The Broncos miraculously keep on winning.

In summary, Tim is guilty of gratitude to God for all that He has given him, purity when it comes to sex and winning football games. Wow, what a loser.

Oh, one more thing: This goes out to the obnoxious atheists who are spewing smack about Tebow’s devotion to God. Say you’re wrong in your assessment of whether there is a God or not, and oops, it turns out He does exist. I’m a guessin’ that you might be messin’ your pants one day when you have to go toe-to-toe with the One whose faithful followers you’ve been mocking for the last few years.

Go Broncos!


U.S. Post Office in Maryland Kicks Out Christmas Carolers

Considering that the U.S. Postal Service is losing money hand over fist, you would think that they had better things to do. It's certainly an uncommercial orientation. The "We are the government" attitude certainly gives a large hint about why they are not covering their costs

Did the United States Postal Service ban Christmas carolers from singing indoors? Apparently a branch in Silver Spring, Maryland, recently went so far as to “kick” carolers out. The office’s manager interrupted the singers in mid-tune and told them that they weren’t allowed to perform on government property.

While some would dismiss this story as a tall tale or a concocted attempt at legitimizing the War on Christmas, a spokesperson for the USPS confirmed that the incident did, indeed, happen after three carolers entered the building and began to carol. According to the spokesperson, the carolers had “beautiful voices,” but they were not permitted to sing in the lobby. In an interview with Fox News & Commentary, the spokesperson said:
“Public assembly and public address, except when conducted or sponsored by the Postal Service, are prohibited in lobbies and other interior areas open to the public. We have rules and regulations governing conduct on postal property. The only reason you should be inside is for postal business.”

But the carolers were confused, as they claim that they’ve been performing at the shopping center that houses the post office for years. In fact, they say they’ve even performed inside of the post office before without incident. When they tried to explain this to postal employees, they failed and were asked to leave.

JP Duffy, an employee of the Family Research Council, was in line with his wife and daughter at the time of the incident. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers. “He told them that they had to leave immediately because they were violating the post office’s policy against solicitation. He told them they couldn’t do this on government property. He said: ‘You can’t go into Congress and sing and you can’t do it here either.’”

Duffy went on to say that the customers booed the postal worker who kicked the carolers out. He also stated his belief that this is another example of religion being taken out of the public square.

“This postal manager has clearly received the memo which has led him to stamp out Christmas caroling,” Duffy said. ”But I have my own memo to all the Christmas carolers out there. Let’s not surrender to the secularist version of Christmas future.”



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

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

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


13 December, 2011

'Whining women surgeons who complain about their sexist industry are just making excuses,' says top British female consultant

A top female surgeon has rejected claims the profession is sexist, saying women surgeons who claim it is should stop whining and that many are using the allegation to hide they fact they are not good enough.

Helen Fernandes, who chairs the Women in Surgery group at the Royal College of Surgeons, dismissed claims that sexism was the cause for only eight per cent of consultant surgeons being female.

The number is even lower in neurosurgery, which is Ms Fernandes' area of specialism. Ms Fernandes works as a consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

In an interview with The Times, she said: 'I don't think true sexism or harassment along those lines really exists. In my opinion, a lot of girls who say that they've experienced sexism are, generally speaking, not up to the mark surgically. 'Sexism' almost becomes an excuse.'

One of the reasons put forward for the low number of female surgeons is the unpredictable nature of shifts, which could interfere with domestic issues. Ms Fernandes, who has three children, told young women wanting to build a career in medicine to stop moaning about having kids and to invest in home help.

'Don't whine for hours about childcare issues or the fact that you're a mother. Domesticity is a dirge.'

Ms Fernandes has hired the equivalent of one and half full-time employees to help her run her daily life. 'That's very difficult in your training years, because costs are so high. But you've got to take a long-term view.' She said her childcare and domestic bills now only take up 10 per cent of her salary, but that the figure was as high as 80 per cent previously.


Ministers won't back cross-ban Christians: Ex-archbishop condemns 'illiberal' assault on faith

The [British] Government was slammed last night for refusing to support a group of Christians fighting for their rights in the European courts. Four individuals who have been disciplined at work or lost their jobs after refusing to remove crosses or to conform to gay rights laws are attempting to overturn the decisions of British courts and tribunal.

They had hoped for support from Ministers after a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron on their behalf.

But the Government told the European Court of Human Rights that it backed the British judges and does not accept that the Christians have suffered discrimination.

To the dismay of Lord Carey, the Government even said that wearing a cross or a crucifix was not a ‘generally recognised’ Christian practice – even though Church leaders say it is a hugely significant symbol. ‘Such is the result of a liberal establishment that has become deeply illiberal.’

In landmark hearings, the court in Strasbourg is to consider the cases of Shirley Chaplin, a Devon nurse banned from working on the wards after she failed to hide a cross she had worn since the age of 16, and Nadia Eweida, a check-in clerk for British Airways who was told to remove her small crucifix at work.

The European judges will also examine the cases of Relate counsellor Gary MacFarlane, who was sacked after suggesting he would refuse to provide sexual therapy to gay couples, and registrar Lilian Ladele, who was disciplined by Islington council in North London after refusing to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies.

Their cases are among a series in which Christians have clashed with their employers over the equality legislation introduced by the last Government, prompting widespread dismay from Church leaders.

A cross-party group of MPs, led by Tory Gary Streeter, is now holding an inquiry into the issue of religious discrimination.

Even the Government’s own watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has told the European Court that the British courts have failed to protect the rights of some believers.

Christian lawyers say the rights of the four to express their beliefs at work should be protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, which allows individuals to ‘manifest’ their faith in public.

But the Government, in 40 pages of legal arguments drawn up by the Foreign Office, said they were not protected because neither wearing a cross nor following their conscience at work was a core requirement of their faith. Echoing British court or tribunal judgments, the Government said wearing a cross was not ‘a practice of a religion in a generally recognised form’.

It said that even if the European Court did decide that Ms Eweida and Mrs Chaplin could wear crosses, employers could overrule this because of health and safety rules banning jewellery at work. It also denied that the rights of Ms Lidele and Mr MacFarlane had been breached, arguing that they could have resigned rather than stay in jobs where they had to carry out tasks that were against their beliefs.

The Government added: ‘The UK is entitled to conclude ..... that other than in limited prescribed circumstances, religious belief does not justify discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation.’

But the Christian Legal Centre, backed by Lord Carey and former Anglican Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, says the visible wearing of the cross or crucifix is ‘clearly an aspect’ of the practice of the Christian religion. The centre’s head Andrea Williams said: ‘Sharing faith in the public square goes to the centre, the heart, of a Christian’s life and belief – it’s who they are.

The Government’s interpretation is not backed by the overwhelming majority of people who want to live in a country where people are free to disagree.’


Muslim Cleric Allegedly Bans Women From Touching Bananas & Cucumbers…Because They’re Too Sexual

An Islamic cleric in Europe has reportedly ruled women should be forbidden from touching — or even being near — bananas and cucumbers because their oblong shapes can make women think of sex.

Egyptian news site Bikya Masr:

The unnamed sheikh, who was featured in an article on el-Senousa news, was quoted saying that if women wish to eat these food items, a third party, preferably a male related to them such as their father or husband, should cut the items into small pieces and serve.

He said that these fruits and vegetables “resemble the male penis” and hence could arouse women or “make them think of sex.”

He also added carrots and zucchini to the list of forbidden foods for women.

According to Bikya Masr, the sheik was asked how to “control” women when they are out grocery shopping, and whether even holding the fruits and vegetables at the store would be bad. The cleric said the matter is between them and God.

Another question dealt with what to do if women in the family actually like to eat the forbidden foods: The sheik said they should be cut up in a hidden place where women cannot see them.

The cleric’s opinion prompted a wave of online mockery, the news site reported, with hundreds of comments denouncing him. One commenter reportedly said such religious “leaders” give Islam “a bad name,“ while another said the sheik is ”retarded” and must quit his post immediately. Still others accused him of simply trying to make headlines.

The report comes just days after Saudi Arabian academics claimed there would be no more virgins if women in the country were allowed to drive.


Australia: Muslim extremist shoots cop but still walks free

Police and prosecutors complain of a trend of inexplicable leniency in sentencing, and a recent survey by Victoria's Sentencing Advisory Council found the public also thinks judges are out of touch and too soft on violent crime.

This indicates a crisis of public confidence in our judiciary.

Take, for example, a recent case in the NSW District Court in which Justice Leonie Flannery acquitted a terror suspect who shot a police officer while being arrested.

The man, who was under ASIO surveillance, was carrying two loaded guns, had acquired chemicals in preparation for a terrorist act, and had possession of jihadi extremist material and 11 mobile phones he had purchased on eBay. But Judge Flannery claimed an environment of anti-Muslim feeling, which engendered in the Muslim community a high sense of paranoia, had made the man panic when police came to arrest him near a western Sydney mosque in 2005.

"He was concerned for his safety, and (in) the climate of anti-Muslim feeling in the community at the time, he believed that he might be harmed by the police."

She concluded the suspect had not intended to shoot the policeman and therefore found him not guilty.



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

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

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


12 December, 2011

Shall Every Knee Bow?

Billy Graham put the point below vividly. He said that there is a "God shaped hole" in people. I think there is. I was very religious in my teens and still find religion moving even though I am the most utter atheist intellectually. And I did send my son to a church school

It seems to me that we evolved to be religious as a way of coping with life at a time when life was nasty, brutish and short -- JR

By Rich Kozlovich

There was an article that I came across today that states, “Many atheist scientists take their kids to church”! The article went on to say that; “about one in five atheist scientists with children involve their families with religious institutions even if they do not agree with the teachings, according to a study done by Rice University and the University at Buffalo.” The article pointed out that “The findings surrounding atheists shouldn't be too surprising, since the Pew Forum Religious Survey taken back in 2008 that showed 21 percent of self-described atheists responded that they believe in God.”

Does everyone really find this to be extraordinary? Anthropologists have noted that in every culture in the world, and in all of human history, religion has played an important role in people’s lives. There was one prominent atheist, Antony Flew who claimed at the end of his life that he was now a believer. Why? Is it true ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’? Of course the explanation was the he had lost his mind. Even Albert Einstein, who was not a religious person in any sense and absolutely rejected the idea of a personal God, rejected the idea of atheism.

For the believers among my readers the explanation is simple; we are designed to believe. For the unbelievers among my readers the explanation is simple also. There is no other logical explanation!

Believing takes on many forms. For some it has to do with a higher power. For others it can take on the worship of oneself and for others it can take on the worship of some philosophy or other; but we all seem to have the desire to look to some higher explanation for existence and human existence in particular. But one thing seems clear; ‘believing’ is inherent to our genetic code. Otherwise how can anyone explain why so many have believed so much over so long a time of human history in so many different cultures? Of course, the problem for the unbelievers among my readers with this explanation is that they would then have to explain how that genetic code was designed in that manner…or designed at all for that matter…. if there is no higher power.

I do find it fascinating how some can believe that Intelligent Design is “a pig that won’t fly”! The design is so complicated that it defies explanation how infinitely small mutations over millions or billions of years could bring us to what we are now. Whether one disagrees or agrees with evolution, I question how anyone can say that there is no designer. Some feel that an intelligent designer used evolution. Some feel evolution is a mistake constantly making more mistakes and changing everything all the time all by accident. I wonder how anyone can explain how this can happen by accident and develop successful organisms since "geneticists estimate that 99 out of 100 mutations are harmful, and about 20 out of the 99 are lethal."

I also have to wonder how any organism could “know” which mutations were beneficial over a million years or so since the complexity of the design would require some kind of organizational planning. Take a woman’s monthly cycle. It is amazingly complex! The right amount of chemicals, hormones and enzymes would have to come into play in exactly the right sequence of time in order to finish the cycle. However, if a woman becomes pregnant during the cycle another whole set of chemical conditions would come into play. How could any organism "know" how to plan for two diametrically opposing end results? Remembering that there are untold species in the world that have cycles unique to themselves. That means that this would have to be done an incalculable number of times in an incalculable number of organisms. We are to believe that this happens through a series of positive accidents that would overcome all of these deadly accidents! Isn't that a form of belief, i.e. faith? It does seem to defy logic...or science as it were!

How would an organism know what chemicals to develop over millions of years? How did the organism know that hormones and enzymes were needed and how did the organism know how to organize them? How did the organism know which chemicals would work harmoniously together and how did the organism know what the conclusion would be afterward without some sort of plan?

Which brings me back to the beginning! If life started in the ocean in some chemical rich soup, through some accidental electrical discharge, how did that cell, or group of cells replicate themselves? Evolutionally thought would require millions of years of mutations before the next step to propagation would come into being. If that is so; how did they replicate? Wouldn’t the presumption be that these cells already had an amazingly complex chemical make-up that would create an end result? If so; doesn’t that imply planning and design? Doesn’t planning and design require intelligence?

I find it interesting that many of the people I respect, communicate with and read regularly are atheists. Funny thing is that I find I enjoy their commentaries. They have a keen understanding science and are only interested in the truth and are willing to follow it wherever it leads. Why is it that so many really bright and courageous people are unwilling to believe?

I can understand anyone’s reason for not subscribing to any religious group. The sanguinary history of the world’s religions has not done much to inspire confidence over human history. So I can understand someone being un-religious, and I can understand why someone would believe that there may be a higher power that doesn’t interfere in the lives of humanity. I can understand why people might not be sure and proclaim to be agnostic…although I consider that to be pragmatic atheism. What I can’t understand is how anyone cannot believe that there must be a planner behind this phenomenally complex reality we call....existence!


Never, in the history of Britain, has the fact that Belgium is 30 miles away mattered less

I think Britain should leave the EU and join NAFTA instead. I am sure they would find Americans and Canadians a whole heap easier to deal with. A similar language and legal system is a heck of a good start. And airfares between London and New York are very reasonable these days. Lots of Brits shop in NYC anyway -- JR

At last a British Prime Minister has done it. Finally, a leader has been prepared to put the national interest first and say 'no'. The taboo has been broken. David Cameron's refusal to sign us up to any new European treaty could have profound consequences.

It leaves the rest of Euroland free to forge ahead on fiscal fusion – a common tax policy, single economic policy, and ultimately a single government. As early as March, most of the new Euroland's laws will be made in Brussels and economic rules in Frankfurt.

But Britain need no longer be part of it. Instead of Britain leaving the European Union, this week's events raise the intriguing possibility that the rest of Europe might quit instead – leaving us bound together by a trade arrangement, and not much else.

'But we'll be isolated!' howl the Europhiles. Predictably, the BBC has spent the past couple of days grimly warning that Britain is now heading for the sidelines.

The same clownish commentators who a decade ago told us that we were 'little Englanders' for not wanting to join the euro have taken to the airwaves to say much the same again. There is, insist the advocates for everything European, a danger that we will be shut out, cast adrift in a hostile, friendless world.

Listening to such claims, I wonder how the Europhiles imagine that this country ever rose to global prominence in the first place? It was precisely when our leaders started to say 'no' to entanglement in endless European imbroglios that this small island off the north-west coast of Europe became a global economic and commercial powerhouse. Far from being fearful of detaching ourselves from Europe, doing so might allow us to resume the role we successfully played for centuries.

Almost 500 years ago, Henry VIII was even more intransigent in his European negotiations than David Cameron. He did not just take on the leader of France, and the then grand continental elites. He repudiated the entire idea of Papal supremacy. The breach that followed was not simply a matter of theology – or of his trouble with wives. It helped set us apart from Europe and many of Europe's titanic power struggles in the years that followed.

In the 17th Century, Stuart monarchs tried to align themselves – and the rest of us – to Europe again. We got drawn back into continental power politics – even bailing out several of the king's continental cronies.

Perhaps, like the Europhile elite who today insist we bail out the eurozone, the Stuarts felt more in common with the princely rulers of Europe than their own people who they left to pick up the tab. When Charles I lost his head, he was executed by those suspicious not only of the king and his Europhile courtiers.

Cromwell and the Parliamentarians – like the great mass of British voters today – were instinctively distrustful of continental entanglements. They felt they had more in common with East Anglian settlers living in the New World than with the French or the Dutch in the Old.

By the mid 17th Century, we were well on our way to being more than merely European. We planted colonies across the world: America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. When the wealth created by trade with these colonies sparked the industrial revolution, we found many of our greatest markets in India, China and south America – not just in Europe. Far from being 'little Englanders', by the end of the 19th Century we were trading with the whole planet.

When Europhiles claim that it is Britain's historic role to join the eurozone, they have presumably never heard of its precursor, the Napoleonic Continental System?

Like the eurozone, the Continental System was a single market, protected by high tariff walls designed to keep out cheaper imports. Like the eurozone, it was doomed to fail precisely because the longer its members remained part of it, the longer they were cut off from global trade and prosperity being created elsewhere on the planet.

The single European currency is just the latest in a long line of attempts by European elites to arrange the affairs of the Continent by grand design – from Napoleon's France to Kaiser Bill's Germany and beyond.

What is remarkable is not that David Cameron should find himself reverting to the traditional British detachment. Rather it is that it should have taken Britain's political leaders so long to have reached this position 40 years after we made the historic mistake of joining the Common Market.

When Britain joined what became the European Union in the early Seventies, it accounted for 36 per cent of global GDP. It has been downhill ever since. By 2020, what we joined will account for 15 per cent.

Far from being a member of the world's most dynamic trade bloc, we have shackled ourselves to a corpse. While the euro club has been in decline, the world on which we turned our back has prospered.

In the past decade alone, China's economy has expanded by more than 140 per cent, India's and Brazil's by more than 70. The fastest rising economic indices in Europe, meanwhile, are likely to be those for debt and inflation.

Advocates of closer British integration into Europe often like to point out that we still do more trade with Belgium, than with China, India and Brazil combined.

That is precisely the problem. Outside the moribund West, the world is witnessing an explosion of wealth creation. Indeed, the economic take-off in China, India, Mexico, Brazil and east Asia today is perhaps without any precedent in human history. We could be part of it if we would only detach ourselves from sclerotic Euroland.

Far from taking a step into the dark, we would be rejoining old friends. Britain could once again take her rightful place as part of the global Anglosphere – that sprawling collection of English-speaking countries, with which we already have much in common; Australia, Singapore, India, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States.

Britain has a long history of independence from Europe. Indeed, we have been at our happiest and most successful as a people when we have stood apart from a continent of grand power politics and grand designs, and instead joined in with the whole world.

If, in the age of steam trains and sail boats, we were able to forge such close links with millions of people around the planet, think of the possibilities in the age of the internet.

Never has geographic proximity been less important when determining economic success. Thanks to broadband and Skype, competition and markets located half a world away is a mouse click away. The fact the Belgian coastline is a mere 30 miles away has never seemed so unimportant.

I leave the last word to a Frenchman. When General de Gaulle vetoed Britain's application to join the European project, he declared that it was because when forced to choose between Europe and the open ocean, Britain always chose the open seas. He was right – and perhaps he understood our history better than we do ourselves.


How Europhile BBC turned triumph over Britain's veto into disaster

The BBC was accused of reporting Britain’s veto of the eurozone rescue plan as a national catastrophe rather than a tough decision David Cameron was forced to make.

Conservative MPs said the broadcaster’s ‘biased’ coverage began on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme and continued throughout the day on radio and television.

Presenters used solemn tones to inform listeners about Britain becoming isolated following David Cameron’s refusal to sign a new treaty.

In some cases, it was several minutes into news bulletins before the BBC got round to reporting Mr Cameron’s explanation of why he had resisted pressure to hand over more powers to Brussels.

On Radio 4’s 6am news bulletin, Justin Webb announced gravely: ‘Leaders of 23 EU countries are to draft a new fiscal pact to help stabilise their currency WITHOUT the involvement of Britain.’ He added: ‘President Sarkozy accused David Cameron of making a deal between all 27 countries impossible.’

It was a full two minutes into the broadcast before listeners heard Mr Cameron’s remarks explaining why he was forced into exercising Britain’s veto.

Mr Cameron’s refusal to give in to Germany and France’s demands was the lead story on most of the BBC’s outlets yesterday.
Concerned: BBC Business Editor Robert Peston gave 'grave' warnings about the eurozone veto today

Tory MP Peter Bone complained: ‘The BBC seemed to be using language that suggested it was a disaster. It was being pro-EU and anti-British, and it was in marked contrast to how other major news organisations reported it.

‘In fact, it was a triumph for Britain and a triumph for the Prime Minister. When it comes to Europe, the BBC is institutionally biased.’

Downing Street declined to comment, but insiders said Mr Cameron’s aides were resigned to him coming under attack from ‘pro-EU media outlets’ including parts of the BBC.

On Today, Business Editor Robert Peston informed listeners they should be ‘concerned’. He warned gravely: ‘For Britain, frankly, that is massively important because, if the eurozone goes down, the impact on the British economy will be hideous.

'It would inevitably tip us back into a very severe recession. So we should be concerned that this deal to save the world doesn’t seem to have materialised.’

On the BBC TV One O’Clock News, presenter Sophie Raworth began with: ‘David Cameron has dramatically refused to sign a new treaty designed to resolve the eurozone debt crisis’ – even though critics pointed out that the proposed treaty had merely sought to stabilise, rather than to resolve, the crisis.

Viewers then had to wait until almost 1.03pm to hear Mr Cameron’s remarks on the story.

Last year, BBC Director General Mark Thompson accepted the corporation had previously been guilty of a ‘massive’ left-wing bias. He also confessed that the BBC’s coverage of Europe had been ‘weak and rather nervous’.

A BBC spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister’s comments on the developments in Europe have been a central part of our coverage throughout the day. 'The coverage has reflected the story as it has unfolded and featured a wide range of voices.'


Atheist Group wants to inject negativity into a joyous season

A national atheist foundation plans to seek permission to hoist its own banner to join secular and religious Christmas displays on an East Texas courthouse square. The display surrounding the Henderson County Courthouse in Athens includes a traditional Nativity scene, as well as multiple Santa Clauses, elves, wreathes, garland, trumpeters, dwarfs, snowmen, reindeer and Christmas trees, the Athens Daily Review reported.

"We've got an array of decorations and feel that we are in compliance with federal law," County Judge Richard Sanders told the newspaper. "We're not pushing any religious down anybody's throat. These are holiday decorations we enjoy."

However, county officials received a letter Monday from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argued the seasonal display on courthouse grounds amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of the Christian faith.

Foundation attorney Stephanie Schmitt says that since the county allows the nonprofit group Keep Athens Beautiful to erect the displays on the town square, they amount to a "public forum." Schmitt told the newspaper the group would ask to put up its own display.

Schmitt said the foundation had received 20 to 25 complaints this holiday season of religious displays it regards as illegal. In Elmwood City, Pa., the foundation has proposed hoisting a banner that reads: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Meanwhile, Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt said his office received a report Thursday that someone had defaced some of the figures in the display, but the markings were later removed.



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

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

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


11 December, 2011

More Leftist hate of Christians

National news networks have a penchant — or, at the least, a tendency — for mischaracterizing the words, motivations and actions of people of faith. Over the past few months, representatives for Pastor John Hagee, the leader of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, have been increasingly concerned and frustrated over MSNBC‘s Lawrence O’Donnell’s negative commentary (and his purported refusal to address his matter on-air insinuations).

Apparently, O’Donnell has taken to the airwaves and used what Ari Morgenstern, a spokesman for Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, calls “old and long-debunked stories concerning some of Pastor Hagee’s past comments.” These comments, the rep says, were put out in an effort to make Hagee look like an anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic bigot.

So, what are these inciting words, you ask? The Weekly Standard has done some reporting on some of the controversy surrounding O‘Donnell’s past words about Hagee:
“Because Rick Perry has invited Hagee to his prayer event, the idiotic governor of Texas now owns that Hagee quote,” O’Donnell said in reference to a sermon Hagee delivered more than a decade ago in which he explored the connection between the evils of the Holocaust and the notion that God is loving and omnipotent. “Rick Perry owns the idea that Hitler’s killing 6 million Jews was God’s idea,” O’Donnell continued.

The implication of O’Donnell’s words was clear: Hagee is an anti-Semite, a Jew hater—and Perry is guilty by association.

But the words that O’Donnell was referencing had already been contended with years before. Hagee, having purportedly never intended to hurt the Jewish community, had already clarified what he meant during the sermon in question. In fact, in response to an apology letter in 2008, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman wrote the following to Hagee:
We are grateful that you have devoted your life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the State of Israel. We wholeheartedly support your efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism, including its historic antecedents in the Christian community. We especially appreciate your extraordinary efforts to rally so many in the Christian community to stand with Israel.

The Standard went on to speak with Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who insisted that Hagee is anything but an anti-Semite. “He loves the Jewish state and the Jewish people. From what I learned during those meetings [with Hagee], he is not an anti-Semite,” Wiesel told the outlet. “I have not heard him [say anything anti-Semitic]. Nobody has ever told me that.”

Below, watch comments from O‘Donnell’s August 5 show, during which he slams Hagee’s alleged views on Catholics (he, again, uses Hagee to say that Perry isn’t a viable presidential candidate). O’Donnell also goes on to call the pastor a “mega-church lunatic and hater“ and a ”vicious bigot”:

But the Catholic League didn’t agree with this assessment either. The following was written on the group’s web site recently:
Without being asked by either Perry or Hagee, Donohue addressed the media saying, “Let me set the record straight one more time: whatever issues I had with Pastor John Hagee were fully resolved once I received his May 12, 2008 letter expressing his ‘deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.’ Three days later, thanks to the intervention of Deal Hudson, Hagee came to my office seeking reconciliation. He succeeded.”

Christians understand the meaning of forgiveness. What we despise are attempts to keep people from reconciling. Moreover, Catholics get especially exercised when those who have never shown one iota of interest in condemning anti-Catholicism all of a sudden begin denouncing it.

But O‘Donnell’s words didn’t just focus upon Hagee, Morgenstern says. In addition to slamming the pastor, the MSNBC host also went on to showcase some fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to non-denominational Christianity. This faith system, which relies upon Christian scriptures and is not generally regulated by a higher denominational structure, is typically referred to as “Bible-based.”

In making his comments (below), O’Donnell insulted millions of Americans without even realizing it — likely a result of his own failed understanding of how non-denominational Christianity works. He said:
“John Hagee is actually not a member of any religion. He has a church which would be better labeled a theater where he performs and his web site calls his performance art group ‘a non-denominational evangelical church.’ Religiously that means absolutely nothing. That means any fool like Hagee can get up on the stage in his theater and say any foolish thing, because there is no religious doctrine to be observed in Hagee’s theater…”

Hagee’s team obviously took offense to these words. “John Hagee is pastor to nearly 20,000 people in his church, and a spiritual leader for many thousands if not millions more around the globe,” Morgenstern explained. “Mr. O’Donnell’s attack on Pastor Hagee was simply beyond the pale.”

So, following these comments, Morgenstern reached out to NBC News Standards and Practices to ask for an apology. While Hagee’s team has sought an apology, they have been greeted by relative silence. Instead of addressing his comments, O’Donnell has offered his show up as a platform for Hagee to come on and discuss his distaste for what was said on the air.

Below, see part of the letter that Morgenstern sent to the network, explaining why he and Hagee refuse to go on O‘Donnell’s show:
…the last remaining point of contention associated with the August 5 the segment concerns O’Donnell’s comments denigrating Hagee’s faith. Specifically O’Donnell called Hagee a “fake” preacher. He asserted that “John Hagee is actually not a member of any religion.” And in reference to Hagee being the leader of a non-denominational Evangelical church, O’Donnell stated “religiously, that means absolutely nothing.
Accepting O’Donnell’s invitation would indicate that his disparagement of Hagee’s faith is worthy of debate. It is not. O’Donnell’s comments were repugnant and offensive. There are millions of non-denominational Evangelical Christians in America and around the world, and O’Donnell denigrated their faith because he does not like their politics. We will not dignify such bigotry with an appearance on the program.

In late October, “The Last Word” blog admitted that Hagee had made up with both Catholics and Jews, but the show’s staff wrote, “Not everyone represented in those communities, however, have forgotten his words and forgiven him.” The piece concluded with an open invitation to the faith leader: “The invitation to discuss religion with Pastor Hagee remains an open one.”

When the Blaze reached out to a representative for “The Last Word,” the talking points present in the blog were repeated. “Lawrence has addressed this on his show. Pastor Hagee has an open invite to appear on ‘The Last Word,’” Lauren Skowronski wrote.

We responded, again asking for clarification on O‘Donnell’s controversial words about non-denominational evangelicals. After all, regardless of what was said about Hagee, the blanket statements O’Donnell made about non-denominational Christians were eyebrow-raising. We have not yet received a response.

A few weeks ago, Morgenstern’s attempts to settle the matter with the network came to a standstill, as MSNBC reportedly refused to issue an apology or further clarification. Commenting on the silence he’s received from the network, Morgenstern said that anti-Christian views are seemingly the last acceptable form of bigotry.

“I can’t speak to their mindset, but I hope MSNBC recognizes that their silence on this matter speaks volumes about their organization,” he said. “Honestly I can’t imagine why anyone, let alone a pundit associated with a national news network, would choose to attack the faith of millions of people.”


When the Three R's Stand For "Rescinding the Rights of the Religious"

This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to let stand a lower court ruling permitting the city of New York to block churches from meeting for worship services in empty public schools on weekends is profoundly troubling. Not just in its implications for religious freedom, but for what it says about what we are teaching the children who meet in those schools during the week.

Because the lower court ruling (from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit) stands in square opposition to the rulings of other federal appeals courts around the country on similar cases, its decision effectively creates two constitutions – one for congregations in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, another for the rest of the country. How much equal access your church may have to public buildings depends entirely on the state in which you live.

More troubling, though, is that the Second Circuit’s decision ignores the presumption – built into the DNA of our nation – that religious freedom needs to be protected. That DNA is now the subject of substantial “genetic engineering” in America’s current legal and popular culture, and this case – Bronx Household of Faith v. the Board of Education of the City of New York – is an excellent example.

For nearly 40 years, Jack Roberts and Robert Hall, co-pastors of Bronx Household of Faith, have been an intimate part of their inner-city neighborhood, six subway stops north of Yankee Stadium. They’ve watched the ethnic and cultural tides come and go – as Jews made way for the Irish, the Irish for the Italians, the Italians for African-Americans and Hispanics. Between them, their families have raised 18 children in century-old frame houses, sharing one mostly concrete backyard and the daily joys and challenges of bringing Christ to an area that cab drivers and even police would prefer not to drive through.

Across those nearly four decades, they’ve earned and re-earned the respect of their ever- changing neighbors – so much so that, in the early 1990s, local officials approached Hall and Roberts about launching some community after-school programs for children in the increasingly volatile neighborhood. The co-pastors offered a combination of Bible stories and recreation, and both school officials and parents gave the okay.

Not long afterward, the pastors approached school administrators, asking permission for their growing home church to meet in the school auditorium on Sundays while they saved and worked to build a meeting place of their own. Local principals readily agreed, with one caveat: Department of Education regulations opened school facilities to all cultural and civic events and activities “pertaining to the welfare of the community” – except worship services.

The pastors, though, felt a church should be honest about being a church. They identified their purpose for meeting as “worship,” turned in an application, and got a fast, firm “no” back from the city. That was the beginning of a reluctant lawsuit aimed not at collecting money, but at establishing the right of religious groups to enjoy the same access to public facilities that other organizations are so freely given.

Currently, nearly 60 churches and synagogues are meeting in New York City public schools … in many cases, not because they want to, but because space and/or funds are not yet available for them to meet elsewhere. Many, like Bronx Household of Faith, have already made a tangible, visible impact on their neighborhoods – ministering love and compassion to children, refugees, shut-ins, the poor and homeless. In not a few of those neighborhoods, diminishing crime statistics give evidence of the good influence these congregations exert on their surroundings.

And yet: the Department of Education is adamant that the churches must go. Even though the congregations, just like thousands of other community groups, meet on weekends, when classes aren’t in session, city officials seem to live in mortal dread of what inferences young minds might draw from the knowledge that some of these people actually sing hymns and pray in their school cafeteria. In the words of Jordan Lorence, the Alliance Defense Fund attorney who has defended Bronx Household of Faith for more than 16 years, “It’s like faith is some kind of asbestos that will somehow poison the students.”

What children are more likely to perceive – especially those who attend these in-school services with their own families – is the very confusing message that this faith that sustains so many folks and brings them together to do good things is something that, for some reason, our schools and our government want people to avoid. And that these weekend visitors – old and young, families and singles, a mixture of races and dress styles and accents – are to be treated by different rules than other people in the neighborhood.

If the children’s curiosity is sufficiently aroused, they may discover that these ostracized people believe in a God who urges His own to treat others unselfishly, with kindness and generosity, humility and forgiveness. They may even recognize these “church-goers” as people who still cherish freedom enough to stand for it, against powerful forces, in the face of decades of frustrating legal setbacks.

If they grasp these things, they will understand more than many, many of those who have passed before them through our government-run schools, and who – like too many of those who control public education today – still have so much to learn.


Even Europe's human rights commissioner backs freedom of the Press in Britain

Europe's human rights chief is to call for greater protection of press freedom after warning that the phone-hacking scandal should not be used as as 'excuse' for imposing tighter controls on newspapers.

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, is expected to warn of the 'dangers' of statutory press regulation in a report to be launched tomorrow.

The Commissioner's anticipated robust defence of the media will bolster calls to curtail the power of 'media oligarchies' such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

The lengthy document, which addresses the balance between freedom of speech and human rights, comprises analysis from a panel of media experts.

'Together these contributions give an indication that there is a need for stronger protection of media freedom and freedom of expression in Europe today,' Mr Hammarberg is expected to say.

The report, Human Rights And A Changing Media Landscape, highlights the 'critical role' played by journalists who subject those in power to scrutiny.

Warning against statutory regulation - a possibility brought to the fore by the phone-hacking scandal and the ensuing criticism of the media’s embattled Press Complaints Commission - it states: 'There are dangers in this.

'Public outrage is legitimate when the ethics of journalism are abandoned in pursuit of money and political influence, and when the Press exercises power without responsibility, but it is no basis for curtailing media freedom.

'Certainly, there is something to be said for curtailing the power of media oligarchies - of which News Corporation is a prime example - but that needs to be done in the name of pluralism, freedom and respect for privacy.

'The Murdoch case, disgraceful though it is, should not be used as an excuse to impose heavy media regulation which would inhibit the capacity of investigative journalism.'

Mr Hammarberg’s report - which offers an overview of the media across Europe - highlights a decline in the scrutiny of power, particularly at local and regional level, amid editorial cuts in a struggling industry.

And it suggests reporting standards have been 'sacrificed' in the pursuit of commercial objectives. 'Today journalism is in the midst of crisis,' it states.

'The traditional media, particularly newspapers, suffer not just from the effects of the global economic crisis but also the impact of structural and market changes which have reduced the profitability of media enterprises.

'In response to these changing fortunes, severe cuts have been imposed in editorial departments that have weakened the quality of journalism.'

While the study underlines the media’s 'enormously important role' in the protection of human rights, it also calls into question British laws which have resulted in so-called libel tourism - where individuals pursue a claim in a jurisdiction where they are more likely to win damages.

'This sort of action shows how weak legislative protection of journalists, such as that in the United Kingdom, can have the effect of silencing legitimate journalism and investigative reporting,' the report concludes.

Agnes Callamard, executive director at Article 19, a group which campaigns for freedom of expression, said: 'This report could not have come at a more timely moment.

'The media in Europe and around the world is facing technological, political, and economic challenges that are threatening freedom of expression and freedom of the Press.

'The United Kingdom, currently chairing the Council of Europe, must heed the recommendations outlined in the Commissioner’s report.'


The rise and rise of intolerant tolerance in Scotland

A few weeks ago, I watched a debate at the Scottish Parliament about the Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill, a proposal that could result in people who sing offensive ‘sectarian’ songs being imprisoned for up to five years. No matter the differences expressed between those for and against the Bill, there was one thing that they all had in common, an idea repeated ad nauseum by everyone who spoke and summed up by one member: ‘Everybody in this parliament is against any form of bigotry.’

As speaker after speaker got up to repeat this scripted line, it became increasingly clear that this was not a political idea or belief, but a mantra, a chant. It allowed those opposed to the Bill to show their respects, doff their cap at the altar of anti-racism and anti-sectarianism - assured of the murmured concurring of their opponents - and then make their points.

Looked at in this way, saying ‘I am against racism and sectarianism in all its forms’ is little more than a form of etiquette, something that has been learned rather than lived, a line that is repeated rather than one that has come out of debates and arguments. As John Stuart Mill observed, the strength of an idea comes less from its own intrinsic worth than through engagement, contestation and a battle with opposing ideas. If an idea is simply accepted, but never fought for, it loses its strength and significance.

Anti-sectarianism - the idea that no one should be mistreated or discriminated against because they are Protestant or Catholic - has become an essential etiquette that must be observed before any engagement in public life in Scotland. Nothing could make that clearer than the fact that two ‘ultra’ sections of fans from Rangers Football Club - one of the teams at the centre of the whole debate about sectarianism - have also recently declared their opposition to sectarianism. If genuine bigotry were to exist anywhere in Scotland, I suspect that the first place most people would look for it would be among the hardcore fans of Glasgow’s ‘Old Firm’ football clubs: the largely Protestant team, Rangers and the mostly Catholic club, Celtic. Yet, having denounced their treatment by the police, the two groups of Rangers fans declared that ‘The Union Bears and The Blue Order would like to make it clear we are against sectarianism and racism in all forms’.

This discussion has been generated, not by the rise of sectarianism, but rather by a rise in anti-sectarianism
The war on intolerance took off in 2002. The first minister at the time, Labour’s Jack McConnell, first discussed sectarianism as ‘Scotland’s shame’. From then on, ‘tolerance’ - and thus intolerance of sectarianism - became a significant framework, a watchword for Scotland’s new political elite struggling to create a sense of Scottishness after the creation of a separate Scottish Parliament in 1999.

As Michael Rosie notes in The Myth of Sectarianism, ‘Contemporary debate over perceived religious conflict is prompted by the “rebirth of Scotland”. With constitutional change and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the Scots are confronted by questions of identity: Who are we? Where are we going? Where have we been?’.

Before 1997, there were almost no articles mentioning ‘sectarianism’ with reference to the ‘Old Firm’ in the Glasgow Herald, the biggest Scottish broadsheet. In 1997, this began to change, with 20 such articles published. The number rose to 50 in 2002 when Jack McConnell started talking about ‘Scotland’s shame’. The initial increase in 1997 related less to a rise in sectarianism than to a rise in anti-sectarianism and initiatives to ‘deal with this problem’.

In 2011, following the election of the current SNP government, anti-sectarian campaigning once again became big news with 85 articles about sectarianism and the Old Firm so far this year. Despite the plethora of laws already in existence to deal with sectarianism in football, the current first minister, Alex Salmond, has revived the discussion about the apparent problem of sectarian hatred and violence in Scottish society.

There were a couple of one-off events last year that triggered the talk about the need to wipe out sectarian hatred, including the bizarre sending of ‘threatening’ mail bombs to a number of high-profile Catholics. However, no increase in street violence was mentioned, no evidence of increased arrests at games was cited, nor were any statistics used to show any increased sectarian conflicts in society. Despite this total lack of evidence about a growing sectarian problem in Scottish football, the Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill was proposed with the aim of clamping down on the apparent intolerance and bigoted sectarianism of Old Firm football fans.

In fact, the extent of the problem of sectarianism is strongly contested. SNP politicians justifying the Bill have tended to use statistics illustrating that the public thinks sectarianism is wrong. In other words, the justification for the Bill derives from opinion polls not crime statistics. It is not sectarianism, but anti-sectarianism that has risen exponentially.

Since 1997 expressions of the Good – the tolerant – have grown in Scotland. The Church of Scotland, for example, argued back then that there was ‘no time for intolerance’ within the church, and that the church must ‘tackle Orange Order bigotry’. This was soon followed by the Catholic Church explaining that ‘We’re all for tolerance’.

An anti-sectarian industry began to grow at this time, with grants being awarded to beat bigotry. Discussions started in 2001 between Celtic and Rangers about their possible involvement in the new ministerial group to tackle sectarianism. The campaign Sense over Sectarianism was launched; the public-sector trade union Unison came out in opposition to sectarianism; even former James Bond star Sean Connery came forward to oppose bigotry. Football club-based campaigns like Bhoys Against Bigotry were set up and the National Union of Students in Scotland created their own anti-sectarianism campaign. By 2006, an Action Plan on Sectarianism was set up by the Scottish government, with the aim of creating a tolerant and ‘truly multicultural and multi-faith Scotland’. Teaching tolerance, with reference to sectarianism, has consequently become part and parcel of children’s education in Scotland.

Professor John Flint has described this period as having the ‘most intensive and sustained focus on governing sectarianism in the post-Second World War period’. He is right. At one level, this is understood with reference to the regulation of a certain type of person in society, the working-class football fan. However, this massive rise in anti-sectarianism appears to have a certain significance in and of itself, and with reference to the new political elites in Scotland.

Some very useful work carried out by Steve Bruce, Michael Rosie and others has blown holes in the idea that Scotland is or, to some extent, ever was a sectarian country. However, these ‘facts’ have had no impact upon the politicisation and problematisation of sectarianism because anti-sectarianism has nothing to do with the actual problem of sectarianism. Tather, anti-sectarianism is Scotland’s flag of tolerance, our own brand of anti-racism.

Despite the declining significance of sectarianism at a religious or even political level, especially with the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the stereotypical wee bigot can be dragged out time and time again, kicked into touch and booed at like a pantomime villain. In this way, anti-sectarianism has become the badge of honour for each newly elected Scottish government.

However, not too long ago, the idea of tolerance meant something very different: it meant you tolerated other people’s ideas, beliefs and words. Children were taught that sticks and stones did not break their bones and individuals were expected to recognise the difference between words and actions. Words and their free use were considered important in a free society; name-calling might make children cry, but adults would teach them to deal with this and to grow up.

This freedom, and the necessity to tolerate views you did not like, was, as spiked contributor Frank Furedi has observed in On Tolerance, based on an expectation of judgement. We judge ideas and beliefs, we disagree with them or even hate them, yet in a free society we tolerate them. As John Stuart Mill argued, this was important not only for freedom in the abstract but for ideas in society to have a vitality – to be challenged constantly by different and even offensive ideas.

Jaboby’s insight about the political elite is telling: ‘With few ideas on how a future should be shaped, they embrace all ideas.’
The new intolerant tolerance jars with those accustomed to heated banter. Talking to old football fans at Ibrox, they simply don’t understand the problem. Why on Earth would shouting stuff at a football game become a big deal or a political problem? ‘Water off a duck’s back’, they say, shrug their shoulders and look puzzled.

But today, being offended is the in thing. More than that, it is the morally correct pose to take. Being outraged or shocked at ‘sectarian hate’ and other ‘offensive’ behaviour is de rigueur because it expresses your own nature as a modern, tolerant person. This modern version of tolerance is not about individual freedom or about encouraging the free expression of words or beliefs. As such it is not about making judgements. It is much more conservative and fragile than that; in many ways, it is the opposite of Mill’s notion of tolerance.

As Furedi argues, tolerance now has come to mean being non-judgemental; it means we should not challenge or question or offend different ‘cultures’ in any way. To judge is now to be hurtful and we must offer respect unthinkingly towards ‘difference’ and ‘diversity’. Being tolerant is not about being free, it is simply the done thing. As such, the state and politicians in Scotland can stretch their hands across myriad imaginary barricades and give affirmation to a variety of groups in society. ‘We respect you’, they say, ‘and will not accept intolerant behaviour in any form’.

This is where the anti-sectarianism mantra comes in: judgment is replaced by a formulaic unthinking respect of difference that is lifeless and not part of a culture of free contesting ideas and beliefs. The result is that ‘I am opposed to racism and sectarianism in all its forms’ becomes a platitude that is not based on argument, debate or engagement with contesting ideas in society. Rather, it is a correct form of behaviour adopted so as not to hurt or offend anyone.

In this respect, today’s tolerance closes down debate because of the perceived danger of offending different groups. More than this, the high moral ground given to tolerance means that intolerance becomes understood to be the cause of serious conflicts in society. In this context, ‘sectarian’ football name-calling becomes a profound issue and problem to address. This explains why the seamless link between singing offensive songs and actual acts of violence made by politicians seems to make sense. Intolerance is understood to be an act of violence in and of itself.

The idea of being able to ignore offensive comments or songs as ‘water off a duck’s back’ is no longer the appropriate moral standpoint. Showing your outrage at intolerance and showing that you are offended becomes a ‘good’. To be thin-skinned, to complain to the police, to be shocked and outraged become part and parcel of the correct form of behaviour.


The new moralising form of tolerance has become a central framework around which the new Scottish elite and its institutions have organised themselves. As such, nobody has an interest in denying the problem of sectarianism; indeed, the opposite is the case. Even the Protestant Kirk is happy to exaggerate the problem and to apologise for anything it did in the past that was sectarian, thus cleansing itself and entering the tolerant fold of the new elite. To be a ‘right-thinking person’ in a modern Scotland you don’t need to think, but you must be tolerant.

As the American social thinker Russell Jacoby observed in his book The End of Utopia, tolerance and multiculturalism in the US became based on the idea that ‘the more you support it, the more virtuous you are’. Stripped of any utopian vision, progress is reformulated around the ‘celebration of diversity’.

Regarding the new Scottish elites embrace of tolerance, Jaboby’s insight about the political elite is telling: ‘With few ideas on how a future should be shaped, they embrace all ideas.’ Furedi’s On Tolerance likewise notes that, at a time when overt nationalist sentiments are less acceptable, tolerance becomes the opt-out clause. As he argues, this is an approach ‘of political pragmatism’ for a society that finds it difficulty to inspire the public, develop a sense of commonality or to give meaning to national unity.

Today’s bizarre concern about football fans singing songs and waving flags, the ridiculous talk about religious hate crime, and the impassioned language of offence have nothing to do with sectarianism and everything to do with the elites’ and the middle classes’ moral crutch of tolerance. The irony in Scotland is that there are no real differences in the lives of Catholics and Protestants - and any differences that do exist are dying out fast. ‘Sectarianism’ is kept alive not by the ‘hate-filled bigots’ at football grounds, but by the new tolerant elites desperate to hold onto an issue that gives them a momentary sense of common goodness and moral purpose.



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

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

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


10 December, 2011

The day I realised I'm not a lonely outsider in my own country

By Tom Utley

Do you ever feel, in your gloomier moments, that you don’t really belong in modern Britain? Are there times when you worry that your attitudes and instincts have fallen far behind the times, leaving you out of kilter with the great mass of your fellow countrymen? I’ve felt like that at least ten times a week.

I’ve felt it as I’ve driven through a ravishing part of the countryside, when suddenly a vast, menacing wind-farm has loomed over the brow of the next hill. There’s one dominating the skyline above Stirling Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned, which fair breaks my heart.

Was this desecration of one of the noblest views in these democratic islands really a response to the will of the people? So the authorities would have us believe.

I’ve felt it when I’ve heard MPs of every party, even some of the richest, boasting that they always use the NHS and would never dream of going private. Would their constituents honestly think the worse of them if they took out private health insurance instead of adding to the strains on the NHS?

Clearly, this is what most politicians calculate. But, if so, what a blow to my once firmly-held belief in the fundamental common sense and good nature of the British people.

This same feeling of being the odd man out struck me again yesterday, when Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour was droning on in the background with a report on an architecture prize for a new school in South London.

Some woman was telling us what a great shame it was that the Coalition had cut back Ed Balls’s school building programme, claiming that education standards would suffer because it was impossible for children to learn properly in temporary buildings.

There were stacks of statistics and other evidence to prove it, she said, without actually quoting any.

I thought this a highly questionable theory (although the BBC presented it more as a point of information), believing that good teachers mattered far more to a child’s education than modern buildings.

Perhaps I was the only one shouting at the radio that the more money this Government could save, the better for everyone — and that cancelling fancy new construction projects was as good a place as any to start.

But now, joy of joys, I discover that I’m not nearly such an eccentric stranger in my own land and times as I was beginning to fear. On the contrary, my views about almost every subject under the sun are slap, bang in the mainstream of popular opinion. And far from slipping out of fashion, they’re becoming more generally accepted with every passing year. Reader, I belong!

I’m indebted for this revelation to the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, the Government’s massive annual focus-group, whose findings for 2010 are published this week.

This wonderfully cheering document has fully restored my faith in my fellow countrymen’s deep-down intelligence and common sense, and their refusal to be bamboozled by cant.

The picture it paints of the real Britain is about as far removed as it’s possible to imagine from the fantasy version accepted by every mainstream political party and promoted tirelessly by the BBC and the Left-wing media.

Take climate change. For David Cameron, it was an article of faith from the start that the Conservatives’ chances of election would be greatly improved if they adopted the radical policies espoused by the environmentalist lobby. In his view, this was an essential part of his party’s make-over, vital to his popular appeal.

Hence the windmill on his roof and his jetting off to a Norwegian glacier to be photographed hugging a husky. Hence, too, the slogan that gave him so much pride and pleasure: ‘Vote blue, go green.’

Labour and the Lib-Dems were the same, fiercely competing with each other to be seen as greener-than-thou, in the apparent belief that this would play a treat with the electorate.

Turn to the BSA, however, and you’ll see what the voters were really thinking during election year. It shows that while the political parties were turning ever greener, the people they were fighting to represent were growing increasingly sceptical of the claims of the man-made climate change lobby.

In the year 2000, only 24 per cent believed environmental threats were being exaggerated. Just ten years on, the figure is up to 37 per cent. Yes, we sceptics are still in the minority, but the wind is blowing our way.

Incidentally, the non-metaphorical wind was blowing so hard yesterday that wind turbines all over Scotland and the North had to be switched off.

Truly, the more we see alternative energy working in practice (or, rather, not working), the more fatuous and wasteful it seems. Doesn’t this go at least a little way towards explaining the public’s growing disenchantment?

Where green taxes are concerned, the shift in public opinion is just as pronounced. A decade ago, 31 per cent backed them to combat climate change. Last year, that minority had shrunk to a mere 22 per cent. Yet this doesn’t seem to stop my old schoolmate, that prize ass Chris Huhne, from piling them on. But then when have the Lib Dems, wrapped up in their self-righteous certainties, ever cared a hoot about what the rest of us may think?

It’s the same story with health policy. Over the years, I’ve heard it said a million times that the British people are unshakeably attached to current funding model of the NHS. So often, indeed, that I myself had almost come to believe that most of the public had a visceral horror of the idea of turning to anyone but the state for their medical needs.

Mr Cameron clearly thought much the same, when he made it a central plank of his election manifesto that the Tories would ring-fence spending on the NHS and fight to their last breath to defend it from the taint of privatisation.

But look at the survey findings. Only 24 per cent say that paying for private healthcare is wrong — down from 38 per cent in 1999. This is a huge drop in just a decade, representing a revolutionary shift from faith in the power of the state to self-reliance.

That shift is even more marked in the numbers who believe taxes should rise to pay for health and education. As recently as 2002, 63 per cent said they should. By last year, the figure had more than halved to 31 per cent.

Many put this down to the recession. But can’t it equally be attributed to the experience of the boom years, when Labour poured untold billions of our money into hospitals and schools, to almost negligible effect? Indeed, when it comes to education, the popular perception — as opposed to the fantasy peddled by the fiddled exam grades — is that standards have fallen, not risen.

On social problems, too, the BSA shows attitudes wildly at variance with the official line plugged so remorselessly by the political Establishment.

Apparently, most of us don’t believe that ‘society is to blame’ for child poverty. A whacking 75 per cent put it down to parents’ drug and alcohol problems, with more than half also blaming family breakdown — and a remarkable 63 per cent attributing it to parents’ unwillingness to work.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent think unemployment benefits are too high — up from just 35 per cent in 1983. Yet only last week, George Osborne surrendered to the Lib Dems’ demand that Jobseekers’ Allowance should increase by 5.2 per cent — more than five times as much as a front-line soldiers’ pay.

As he studies this portrait of the real Britain, shouldn’t Mr Cameron reflect that if only he’d presented a truly conservative manifesto to the country, he might have won an overall majority?

Mind you, there’s one BSA finding that doesn’t surprise me in the least: in 1997, 73 per cent of Britons aged 18-35 turned out to vote in the general election. Last year, the figure was down to 47 per cent. But then who can blame those who didn’t bother, when there’s not a single party in the land that speaks for the real Britain?


Brits want the State to stay out of their lives

The faltering economy is making millions of Britons more self- reliant, a study claims today. The survey of social attitudes has found we are becoming more conservative and see government as a less important factor in our lives. Fewer of us want the state to intervene to redistribute wealth to help reduce the inequality gap between rich and poor.

And support for increased taxes to pay for health, education and tackling climate change has slumped, according to the annual British Social Attitudes report.

At the same time, the public has become more willing to accept people educating their children privately and paying for private health insurance.

In another sign that the country has taken a shift to the right, there has been a hardening of attitudes towards the unemployed. More voters believe benefits are too generous and discourage people from going to work; while an increasing number blame child poverty on lazy parents rather than a failure in society.

Penny Young, of the National Centre for Social Research, which carried out the study, said: ‘In a time of economic austerity and social unrest, the big question coming out of this year’s report is whether we are really in it together, or just in it for ourselves?

‘An emerging sense of self-reliance may take the Government some way toward its vision of a more responsible society, but an emphasis on individualism, not Big Society collectivism, may present as much of a challenge as it does an opportunity.’

The 2010 poll of 3,297 people, details of which were released yesterday, found that while 75 per cent agree the income gap between rich and poor is too large, only around a third believe government should redistribute more to solve the problem.

More than half (54 per cent) believe jobseekers’ allowance is too high – up from 35 per cent in 1983.

And while people see child poverty as an issue that government must tackle, 63 per cent believe that parents who ‘don’t want to work’ are a reason why some children live in poverty. Others blame family breakdown or drug and alcohol abuse – rather than the state.

After hitting a peak of 63 per cent just nine years ago, support for tax increases to spend more on public services such as health and education has dropped to 31 per cent.

Britons are increasingly at ease with the idea of higher earners buying private healthcare. While 38 per cent thought this was ‘wrong’ in 1999, the figure has dropped to 24 per cent. There was a similar trend for private education.

Despite acknowledgement of housing shortages, 45 per cent oppose new development in their area. Opposition is highest where shortages are acute, such as the 58 per cent in outer London.

The survey also shows that since 2000, the number prepared to pay higher green taxes has slumped from 31 to 22 per cent.


Australians want harsher penalties from courts

Similar gap between the people and the system to that seen in the British survey above

VICTORIANS have called for the courts to dish out sentences for serious crimes two to three times longer than they do now. The State Government's controversial sentencing survey found a wide gap between the demands of the public and the legal profession.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the findings had steeled the Government's hardline approach on tougher sentences.

Many of the 18,000 respondents called for the toughest penalties for murder, drug trafficking and arson causing death. They want judges to consider the impact on victims, and premeditation by the offender, as reasons for heavier punishment.

The heavier penalties demanded are already on the books, which means harsher punishment remains in the hands of the courts.

But the survey results will now be considered by the State Government as it shapes new minimum "baseline" sentences for serious crimes. The survey also found:

* OPPOSITION to parole for those convicted of murder and manslaughter.

* RESPONDENTS who said they were lawyers were generally more likely to call for sentence discounts, while police were the least likely.

* A LACK of criminal record, co-operation with police and a guilty plea were reasons to impose a lighter sentence.

Mr Clark said he was pleased with the response. "While public commentary about sentencing issues is often dominated by experts and interest groups, this survey provided all Victorians with an opportunity to have their say," Mr Clark said. "These results add to the Government's determination to introduce the sentencing reforms we have committed to."

Victorian Bar chairman Melanie Sloss, SC, said the survey should be treated with caution. She said the Sentencing Advisory Council was better placed to inform the Government. "They have already undertaken and made available some very good and reliable scientific research and analysis that is better suited for this purpose."

Law Institute of Victoria president Caroline Counsel said she was not surprised by the call for harsher sentences. "That's in accordance with what we thought people would say," she said. The survey questions did not allow respondents to consider the subtleties of cases that judges took into account when forming a sentence, she said.

Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said his criticisms of sentencing had been vindicated. "It sends a clear message to the judges: you've got it wrong," Mr McNamara said. "I think the public has done a great job. A lot of people (who took part) weren't victims of crime, and they've got it right."

Most respondents said the penalty for murder should be life imprisonment, already the current maximum. During the five years to 2010, 133 people were sentenced for murder, and 11 were given life terms, according to Sentencing Advisory Council statistics. For the rest, the median principal sentence was 20 years, with a non-parole period of 15 years and three months.

Asked about commercial drug trafficking, most called for a sentence between 21 and 25 years, compared with an existing median principal sentence of 6.5 years. For culpable driving, most wanted 16 to 20 years, but the existing median is 5.5.


British children's playground stripped bare by safety fanatics

The most serious accident any parent can remember at the Allergate playground is the odd grazed knee. Yet the swings, roundabout, see-saw and slide have all been taken away after falling foul of Eurocrats in Brussels and their over-zealous safety regulations.

Parents have described the decision as 'health and safety gone mad'. Sarah Loach said: 'People are always talking about kids getting more exercise and then the council takes the play equipment away.'

Ruth Pierce said: 'My son keeps asking when the slide is coming back. We used to come down here quite regularly. Now I have to drive my boys to another park.'

Ruth Chambers said: 'The playground's been used for ten to 15 years plus. It seems crazy that they have suddenly decided it is not suitable.'

The operation to remove all the equipment began two weeks ago after an annual safety audit by Durham County Council ruled it constituted a safety risk. It was deemed to have contravened the European Union safety standard EN 1176 which governs playground equipment. This weighty document lays down complex rules for everything from the maximum speed of a roundabout to the approved angle of a slide.

Nigel Dodds, the council's sport and leisure manager, said the equipment was removed because it was unsuitable for upgrading. He said most of it was manufactured before 1998, when European safety standards replaced British measures. The council has not ruled out installing new equipment at Allergate, but Mr Dodds said that would depend on the outcome of a countywide play strategy, which is still being drawn up.

David Yearley, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: 'Generally speaking, it is important to recognise that compliance with the standards is not mandatory. 'In cases where equipment does not comply, it is crucial that you assess the risks to users. The equipment might then be made acceptable for use with just a few minor modifications.'

A report by the National Playing Fields Association in 2005 said attempts to eliminate all risks from play areas were making them boring. It added that councils which fear being sued in the event of an accident sometimes interpret safety guidelines, which are only advisory, too harshly.


Court: NYC Can Ban Churches From School Buildings

The Supreme Court has rejected an evangelical church’s plea to overturn New York City’s ban on renting public schools for religious worship services. That means the city now has a green light to begin evicting congregations who pay rent to use public school buildings for church services.

“The Department was quite properly concerned about having any school in this diverse city identified with one particular religious belief or practice,” said Jane Gordon, senior counsel for the New York City Law Dept. “”The Court of Appeals correctly upheld the Department of Education’s policy not to allow the City’s public schools to be used as houses of worship. This case has been litigated for 16 years, and we’re gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear it. We view this as a victory for the City’s school children and their families.”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy.

The court case involved the Bronx Household of Faith – a church that paid weekly rent to hold worship services at a public school since 2002. The church, along with five dozen other congregations, was allowed to continue worshipping at public schools pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

It’s a sad day for religious liberty,” said Jordan Lorence, the church’s attorney and senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “Churches and religious other groups should be allowed to meet in public buildings on the same terms as other community groups and they’re being denied that in New York City.”

Churches will have to vacate public schools on Feb. 12, 2012.

“What’s odd about this is that of the top 50 school districts in the nation, New York City is the only school district that has a policy banning worship services,” he told Fox News & Commentary. “It does not show respect for religious liberty.”

The immediate impact means dozens of Christian churches will have to find a new place to hold services. “A lot of churches are going to be homeless,” said George Russ, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Baptist Association. He said about seven of the 220 Southern Baptist churches in the city will be impacted by the decision.

Russ said churches will be scrambling to rent hotel space, banquet halls and movie theatres. “It’s going to be a lot more money,” he said.

“The odd thing is these guys have blessed the schools they’ve been in,” Russ said. “They all have good relationships with the schools they’ve been in. They’ve purchased furniture for the teacher’s lounge they’ve given video equipment to the schools. They’ve done so many thank-you kinds of projects.”

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that allowing churches to use schools resulted in an “unintended bias in favor of Christian religions” – since most Christian churches worship on Sunday.

“Jews and Muslims generally cannot use school facilities for their services because the facilities are often unavailable on the days that their religions principally prescribe for services,” Judge Pierre Leval declared. “At least one request(ed) to hold Jewish services (in a school building used for Christian services on Sundays) was denied because the building was unavailable on Saturdays. This contributes to a perception of public schools as Christian churches, but not synagogues or mosques.”

Judge Leval also took issue with the evangelical church’s membership. “Bronx Household acknowledges that it excludes persons not baptized, as well as persons who have been excommunicated or who advocate the Islamic religion, from full participation in its services.” Leval wrote.

But it all boiled down to a key point, the judges decided. “In the end, we think the board could have reasonably concluded that what the public would see, were the Board not to exclude religious worship services, is public schools, which serve on Sundays as state-sponsored Christian churches,” Leval wrote.



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

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

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


9 December, 2011

Useless British police again

Bullied to his grave by gang of feral yobs: Coroner's verdict on heart victim tormented for decades

A vulnerable man of 64 who collapsed and died after three decades of harassment by yobs was unlawfully killed, a coroner ruled yesterday. David Askew, who had learning difficulties, had a fatal heart attack after confronting some of the local youths who had subjected him to years of mockery and vandalism.

No one has ever been prosecuted over his death, but yesterday coroner John Pollard said he had no doubt Mr Askew had been unlawfully killed. He said the case showed how 'feral youths can bring misery to a decent and vulnerable family'.

Mr Pollard also criticised 'staggering inertia and complacency' at the local council.

Mr Askew had been bullied by three generations of youths on an estate in the Hattersley area of Greater Manchester. He was pestered for money and cigarettes and on one occasion the yobs kicked in the family's front door. Mocked as Dopey Dave, he had eggs and stones thrown at him when he went out. Windows of the family home were smashed.

During one two-month period he went to the offices of Tameside Council every day to complain while his mother called police 88 times. The inquest heard the council's neighbourhood manager Mark Tunstall, who was in charge of community safety, was 'out of his depth' and never visited the family, even though his office was just 400 yards away.

Neighbourhood police visited regularly, the inquest heard, but senior officers felt Mr Askew was 'part of the problem' for giving the youths cigarettes in the hope they would leave.

Mr Askew died in March last year after confronting youths outside the house over an overturned wheelie bin and over tampering with his mother Rose's mobility scooter

In September last year Kial Cottingham, 19, who lived just doors away, pleaded guilty to harassing Mr Askew and was locked up for 16 months. Prosecutors said there was no evidence to charge him with manslaughter. He apologised to the family when he gave evidence to the inquest.

At Trafford Coroners Court yesterday Mr Pollard recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. He cited the evidence of a pathologist who told the inquest that while it could not be scientifically proven that the stress of harassment on the night Mr Askew died led directly to his death, the circumstances of the case 'strongly suggest' it had.

After the hearing David's mother Rose, now 90, said: 'I am still angry about what happened but there is no use hating people.'

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester Police said: 'We have learned our lessons and made significant improvements to the way we deal with these crimes.'
David's mother, now aged 90, said that she is still angry about the attack, but added that the family have now been made to feel very welcome in the community

David's mother, now aged 90, said that she is still angry about the attack, but added that the family have now been made to feel very welcome in the community

Earlier this year an Independent Police Complaints Commission report highlighted 'systemic failures' by the force to link the calls made by the family and treat the abuse as a hate crime.

It also found CCTV cameras installed to catch the culprits were next-to-useless because the picture quality was too poor to recognise their faces.

Tameside Council admitted that 'all agencies' needed to work more closely to ensure that the vulnerable were better protected.


But arresting the innocent is fun

Mother arrested trying to throw gatecrashers out of her own HOME endures 20-month court battle to clear her name

A woman who was arrested when she tried to get rid of gatecrashers from her daughter's birthday party has finally been cleared of wrongdoing after nearly two years.

Mother-of-two Penny Heffernan was charged with obstructing an officer and using threatening and abusive words or behaviour after neighbours called the police during the party.

But she claimed that police were 'using a sledgehammer to crack a nut', and said that she was wrongfully arrested at a time when no one was being 'unruly'.

The 56-year-old company boss was initially found guilty by magistrates, but has now had the verdict overturned after appealing to the Crown Court.

She has accused police of a ‘complete overreaction’ and is now pursuing a complaint against two officers after the 20-month fight to clear her name.

Her daughter, Sarah, had invited between 30 and 40 teenage guests to her 16th birthday party at the five-bedroom house in Norden, Greater Mancester, with her parents’ permission in March 2009. But she rang her mother, who owns a property management company in Manchester, for help after men walked in from the street.

Mrs Heffernan arrived home with her husband Brian after a meal with friends and was outside her house looking for the gatecrashers when police arrived.

She said she remonstrated with an officer who she claimed was being heavy-handed with one of the children.

Mrs Heffernan said: 'I arrived at home to see quite a lot of people, but it wasn’t horrendous. My daughter and her friends had already got rid of all the gatecrashers. Then this police officer arrived - it was like he was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. 'He was acting in a very aggressive way. The children were not being unruly and parents were arriving to collect their children.

'I said to the officer that I was going to walk back to the house and asked if he wanted to join me to clean up. I was then arrested and frog-marched to a van.'

Mrs Heffernan, who owns Penny Ashton Sales, Lettings and Property Management, denied police claims that she was drunk, and said she had two small glasses of wine.

She spent a night in the cells at Chadderton Police Station and refused to accept a police caution the following morning, so was bailed then charged and appeared before Rochdale magistrates court in July last year.

Her solicitors wrote letters to the Crown Prosecution Service before the case to ask police not to destroy CCTV footage recorded from the police custody suite, which would act as evidence for the defence. But when the case was heard, the footage had already been destroyed. Mrs Heffernan was found guilty and conditionally discharged for 12 months.

She appealed and the case was thrown out at Bolton Crown Court. Mrs Heffernan said: 'I should never had been charged, but accepting a caution is accepting guilt. It has been 20 months of hell.'

Police confirmed that the force’s professional standards branch has received a complaint against both the arresting officer and a custody sergeant, which is currently under investigation. A CPS spokesman said: 'Our handling of the correspondence from the defence in this case fell below the standards we expect and action has been taken to ensure this does not happen again.' [Ho, ho!]


Thoughts on Emma West

How to Argue with the Ruling Class

by Sean Gabb

One of the ways in which a ruling class keeps control is its insistence on rules of debate that place opposition at a regular disadvantage. I cannot think of any time or place where opposition voices have been listened to on fully equal terms. In modern England, however, the ruling class and its various clients and useful idiots are particularly rigid in their shepherding of debate. This is so not only because England is an increasingly totalitarian place, but also because the main legitimation ideologies are all obviously false and cannot be exposed to open criticism. Therefore, while speech mostly remains free in the legal sense, it will only be listened to when expressed in terms that privilege the ruling class.

And this brings me to what I really want to discuss – which is the demand for argument by supplication. Last week, Emma West was filmed swearing at a tram filled with black people. She was immediately punished by having her life destroyed. For those who, for whatever reason, have not heard about her, this brief statement of mine gives the main story:
Emma West is a white working class woman who got into an argument with some black people in a South London Tram. You can see the video here:

Miss West has now been arrested for her opinions and locked away, and her children have been taken away by the social services.

Of course, if she had been wearing a headscarf and screeching about the "kuffar" who were killing her brothers and sisters in Iraq/Afghanistan, the authorities would have looked the other way.

For a woman to have her children taken away because she expressed opinions disliked by the ruling class means we have come as close as doesn't matter to a totalitarian police state. I note that this has happened under a "Conservative" Government. Where are all those "Tory" MPs who like to preen themselves on how libertarian they are? Don't ask.

My view is that every single politician and official involved in this arrest of a dissident and legalised kidnapping of her children should be punished after the collapse of the present regime – not only sacked and deprived of pension rights (because they all will be in the disestablishment of the ruling class), but also made jointly and severally liable for compensating Miss West and her children for whatever they may have suffered.

I have quoted this in full not only because it gives the main facts of the case, but also because it brought a response that I was hoping to provoke someone into making. It came last Friday:

While the punishment meted out to this racist idiot is indeed unacceptable what is remarkable is that you should spring to her defence without disassociating yourself clearly from the contemptible views she espouses. More remarkable still is that you propose that every politician and official involved should be punished, deprived of their pension rights and held liable for compensating Miss West

Scratch a "free market anti-statist" and you will invariably find a statist lurking within

For non-market anti-statist socialism

Xxxxx Yyy

Now, the writer of this is not a member of the ruling class. He may or may not be one of its clients. But he certainly comes into the category of useful idiot. Leave aside his assumption that a society can hold together by any other means than voluntary association or compulsion by the State – what interests me is his outrage that I did not join to my defence of Miss West’s rights a denunciation of what she said. Increasingly, you are only allowed to defend those persecuted by the ruling class by abasing yourself before the ruling class. Somewhere in what I said, I should have added a variant on the following:
I bow to no one in my utter revulsion of what this evil young guttersnipe said. Being myself a transgendered black lesbian, I have had more than my share of hate-filled bigotry. And I celebrate the immense patience shown by those poor abused people. That no one was driven to violence against West is proof of how strong our diverse and multicultural society has become. All this being said, it is only out of an old-fashioned, and therefore possibly misguided, liberalism that I beg for her not to suffer the full consequences of her totally abhorrent crime against humanity.

Well, I knew that I was expected to come out with this kind of dirt-kissing exercise, and I refused to comply. I refused, because it is inhuman to spit on someone who has already been brought down. I refused because a defence of someone’s rights is often compromised by adverse comment on what he has done. The paraphrase on Voltaire – “I disagree with what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it” – is all very well when arguing with someone on the other side of a dinner table. My own view, when someone is lying on the ground, is to skip the disagreement.

This has always been my practice. In 1991, I wrote the first and one of the best defences of the “Spanner 15”– that is, of the homosexual men who were tried and punished for consensual acts in private: one of them was convicted of “aiding and abetting an assault on himself!” Not once in any of the essays I wrote or the speeches I made did I insist that I was not myself a leather-worshipping sado-masochistic homosexual, or that I would not like someone to drive a four inch nail through my penis. I got some very funny looks for this omission. But I refused then to distance myself from powerless and ruined victims of injustice – and I refuse now.

I also refuse because what is demanded of me is an endorsement of a legitimising ideology. Here – and for the sake of clarity alone – I will explain what I think of Miss West’s actions. She was vulgar in her speech and uncharitable in her sentiments. But I do not for a moment think that, except for her and people like her, what has been made of my country would be a vibrant love feast without end. While modern commerce and modern technology almost cry out for some mixing of peoples, state-sponsored mass-immigration has been made an excuse to destroy the internal cohesion of my people and to free my rulers from practical accountability. That a quarter of this country’s population may now be strangers, who have been encouraged neither to adopt nor even to respect our ways, is a problem to which I can think of no satisfactory answer. But I refuse, when speaking out against their growing intolerance of disagreement, to bow my head to the people who rule this country. They are not good people led astray by bad ideas. They do not occupy any moral high ground. Until such time as they grow more tyrannical than they have yet become, I will avoid arguing with them on their terms. What they have done to us is evil in itself, and, because it is highly unstable, it will almost certainly lead to greater evils. The least bad outcome will be a swift collapse of the regime they have created, and their punishment with some regard given to due process. And they deserve no less. They are in a position to know exactly what they are doing. If they have chosen not to make the obvious connections of cause and effect, their ignorance is culpable.

Because, more than is usually the case, it is founded on lies and violence, the present regime must eventually collapse. I have no inclination to join some future equivalent of storming the Bastille. Something I can do, though, is to look these people in the face, and refuse to observe their rules of debate. The purpose of these rules is to restrain a debate that would otherwise turn dangerous. No revolution has ever succeeded except after there had been a withdrawal of consent. Let this be withdrawn, and the secret of all power is laid bare – that we are many and they are few. There is little else I will do. But, however small it may be in the overall scheme of things, this much I have done already.


Destroying Childhood to Save Children

Society is deeply schizophrenic about children. On the one hand, there is the Sandusky response. Jerry Sandusky is the former Penn State football coach accused of serial child molestation. Even before a trial, states are scrambling to pass new laws to require universities and athletic associations to report any suspicion of child abuse. In this response, children are defenseless and desperately need their innocence protected by diligent adults.

On the other hand, there is the public-school response. A mere sampling of news stories from last week:

A 9-year-old is suspended for sexual harassment because he told another student that a teacher is “cute.”
A high school student is handcuffed for wearing a hoodie that did not match school colors.
a 13-year-old student is arrested for allegedly burping during class.
a 7-year-old is investigated for sexual harassment for hitting a boy in the groin who was allegedly choking him.
In this response, children are dangerous brutes and adults should treat them as emerging criminals.

Both approaches harm children.

Children as Emerging Criminals

Childhood is a disorderly period, rife with energy and curiosity. Teenagers correctly question the rules of their lives and stretch themselves in a stumble toward adulthood.

These are periods of natural human evolution, but they are cast as criminal or pathologized as “unhealthy.” When viewed as criminal, harmless behavior such as developing a crush on a “cute” teacher is punished as harassment. Public schools confront healthy children and teenagers with “zero tolerance” policies that were designed to rein in drug dealers but are now being applied to dress codes and burping. And so a dress-code violation that used to merit detention now results instead in handcuffs.

Those who criminalize children offer a tremendously negative view of what it is to be young. They depict children as savages and their interrelationships as so hazardous as to need adult correction at every turn; this only encourages children to view each other with suspicion. But children are not savages; they are human beings with rights. How they mature is intimately connected to the inspiration and compassion received from the adults on whom they depend.

No one wants violent bullying to be ignored, but the solution should not be more extreme than the problem. And in the absence of violence, there are far worse things than allowing children to work matters out without applying a guidebook of regulations that rival the military.

Children as Vulnerable Victims

Protecting children by criminalizing adults is no less harmful. Anyone who truly abuses a child deserves contempt and criminal charges. But the fact that child abuse exists must not be used as an a prior indictment of adults, especially of men, as potential child molestors. And yet this indictment has been embedded into society by practices such as airlines’ refusal to seat a child by a nonrelative male or by laws that can be interpreted to require a show of affection to be reported as suspected abuse.

This approach damages children who are taught to view any and all strangers with fear; in turn, adults are taught to avoid contact with children, even if they seem to be in distress. This endangers children. For every predator on the street, there are thousands of decent people who would normally come to the aid of a child in danger or distress. Laws that punish “unsolicited or casual contact” are unlikely to deter child rapists, but they will dissuade good samaritans.

My epiphany came several years ago with one news story. In 2002 a toddler wandered from her nursery school in the early morning and later turned up dead. A bricklayer named Clive Peachey drove past her on the street in his truck. At the inquest he stated, “I kept thinking I should go back. The reason I didn’t was because I thought people might think I was trying to abduct her.” Instead, he assured himself that the parents must be “driving around” and would find her. A few minutes later the little girl fell into an algae-covered pond and died. The man was devastated by the consequences of his inaction but had he stopped, his actions might well have been misinterpreted and resulted in an ordeal that could wreck his livelihood and the welfare of his own children.

Laws that mandate the reporting of any suspicious contact with children will result in a dramatic increase in false or malicious accounts that harm innocent people. They will also make adults withdraw from all contact with children.

Overwhelmingly, the retreating adults will be good human beings who would otherwise enrich children’s lives.

Ironically, the decency of ordinary people is what child-abuse legislators rely on. They depend on the outrage average people feel toward the willful harming of a child. And yet the laws passed in the wake of this outrage will serve to isolate children from decent people.


Aboriginal beliefs threaten $30 billion gas bonanza in Australia

It's the business of the State to empower and reinforce a particular set of religious beliefs? This would violate the separation of church and State in America

A PROPOSED $30 billion gas hub at James Price Point on Western Australia's Kimberley coast would disturb sites used for secret Aboriginal "men's business", lawyers say.

Documents seen by the Herald show a song cycle, a path sacred to the Goolarabooloo and other people of the Dampier Peninsula, which runs through the James Price Point site, 60 kilometres north of Broome. Woodside plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal there to process gas from its Browse field. Late last month Chalk and Fitzgerald, lawyers for a traditional custodian, Joseph Roe, wrote to Woodside and its joint venture partners in the Browse development - Chevron, Shell, BHP and BP - requesting that site clearing works be suspended as they may be in breach of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Andrew Chalk of Chalk and Fitzgerald expects shortly to commence legal proceedings to require the WA Registrar of Aboriginal Sites to include the song cycle on the sites register, as was determined in 1991.

Mr Chalk said the registrar had "not explained why the song cycle was not listed in accordance with the standard procedures nor why the office has not taken the usual approach to protecting the site that was notified in July this year, which is to treat it as a site until investigations are carried out to determine otherwise".

The Premier, Colin Barnett, has described James Price Point as an "unremarkable beach" but in 1989 a report by the WA Department of Aboriginal Sites identified James Price Point, also known as Walmadany, as an area of "major" heritage significance, the highest category, with archaeological integrity and dense material over extensive areas including hearths and bone remains.

In 1991 the WA Mining Warden rejected an application for a mining exploration licence by Terrex Resources, based on objections from the Goolarabooloo Aboriginal Corporation and recommendations of an all-male subgroup of the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee, established under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Warden John Howard then heard evidence from official anthropologist Nicholas Green, who had been commissioned to document the song cycle, that the song cycle was of "critical" significance to the Aboriginal people of the West Kimberley because it was part of the initiation of young men into Aboriginal law.

"The essence of that law has been placed in the ground," said Mr Green. "Not only at the name places but at all points between those name places."

Mr Green said he had personal knowledge of the song cycle having "attended a ceremony a number of years ago and witnessed for myself the actual songs". He had recorded a lot of information on audio tapes, which had been transcribed, but the evidence was not provided to the court because of its "extreme, sacred nature".

Woodside said yesterday it had obtained all necessary regulatory approvals and consents required to conduct land clearing and geotechnical studies at James Price Point.

"Woodside engaged senior traditional owners to complete detailed anthropological and archaeological surveys and received the appropriate cultural directions in order to conduct our work within this area," the company said. "We have taken this approach to ensure that our work program does not interfere with any potential heritage sites. Traditional owners are providing ongoing assistance to our contractors by monitoring our approved site activities."

But Mr Chalk said Woodside's "approach to the song cycle was one of recklessness, given its significance and of which they have been on notice for many years. It is arguably also illegal."

Mr Roe's challenge recalls the Hindmarsh Island controversy in South Australia in the mid-1990s, which led to a royal commission into allegations that Aboriginal opponents of a proposed bridge to the island had fabricated claims that the project would interfere with "secret women's business".

On Tuesday Chief Justice Wayne Martin in the WA Supreme Court will hand down judgment on a separate challenge by Mr Roe's brother Phillip, and Jabbir Jabbir man Neil McKenzie, to the validity of the WA government's notice of compulsory acquisition of the site at James Price Point.

The threat of compulsory acquisition was used by Mr Barnett, who supports the gas hub, to pressure traditional owners to surrender their native title rights over the James Price Point site and accept a $1.5 billion deal, championed by the Kimberley Land Council, allowing the Woodside project to go ahead.



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

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

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


8 December, 2011

Army Allows Bearded Rabbi to Serve as Chaplain After Yearlong Legal Battle‏

I am not even sure that a beard ban makes sense for frontline troops. The British navy has always allowed beards. Do men in the field stop fighting the Taliban to have a shave?

And a chaplain will normally be back at base somewhere. So in the absence of any operational reason, it was a blockheaded move to deny this guy his First Amendment rights from the beginning.

He is doing no harm to anyone or costing anyone anything by being bearded.

My biggest surprise is that there are Jews in the U.S. armed forces. I would have thought that Jews of a military bent would be lending their assistance to Israel

A historic event is about to unfold this coming Friday, as a bearded rabbi will be sworn into the U.S. Army as a Chaplain, First Lieutenant.

The U.S. Armed Forces has always held a strict policy regarding the uniform and personal appearance of those serving, forbidding beards to be worn by servicemen except in certain operational instances. Now, however, Orthodox Rabbi Menachem M. Stern will be the first bearded chaplain in 30 years to serve in the U.S. military since Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, who continues to serve with distinction in the Army Reserve as a chaplain in the rank of colonel. According to Haaretz:
Stern has wanted to be an army chaplain since August 2008, but said the U.S. Army initially refused to accept him unless he shaved his beard in accordance with official military codes for dress and appearance. In keeping with Jewish teachings regarding preserving a man’s facial hair, the Chabad-Lubavich rabbi refused to comply.

“A soldier, whether they’re Jewish or not, will see someone who is serious and standing by his faith without compromise,” said Stern. “They’ll respect that person and come to trust him.”

Haaretz goes on to explain the long road, including legal action, Rabbi Stern took to be able to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and still maintain his customary beard:
In 2009, Stern received preliminary approval for a reserve commission, but was told his swearing-in would be delayed as a result of unresolved issues regarding his facial hair.

He sought the assistance of U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand and Joseph Lieberman, as well as that of the Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavich organization that assists Jewish military personnel, Jewish inmates and their families. But despite their efforts, they were not able to secure Stern an exemption.

Failing that, Stern filed a federal lawsuit last December, accusing the army of violating his Constitutional rights to religious freedom and equal protection under the law.

In the end the Army settled with Rabbi Stern out of court, agreeing to grant him a waiver for his beard.

The Aleph Institute, based in Florida, is reportedly recognized by the Department of Defense as a military chaplain Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agency, giving it authority to vet and recruit rabbis for the military chaplaincy.

According to Rabbi Stern, there is currently a shortage of rabbis serving in the Armed Forces due to the military’s policy on beards. Proud of his breakthrough, he hopes other Orthodox rabbis will follow in his footsteps and be granted a place in the military chaplaincy without having to compromise their religious customs and priciples.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

One law for whites and much more lenient laws for minorities in Britain

In defiance of what the law actually says, judges repeatedly find minorities incapable of racism

Someone holding governmental authority badly needs to tell the British public why there appears to be one rule for them, and one rule for us, when it comes to racially aggravated crime and murder.

Rhea Page is a case in point. Kicked unconscious by a girl gang of drunken Somali Muslims, screaming ‘kill the white slag’: one would have thought this would be labelled a racist incident. Ms Page stated: ‘I honestly think they attacked me just because I was white. I can’t think of any other reason.’

But no, in the eyes of the perverse British judiciary this is not a racial incident, of course. Even worse: Judge Robert Brown allowed them to walk free because he accepted that as Muslims they were unused to drinking… Judge Brown also thought the women may have felt they were the victims of unreasonable force from Ms Page’s partner Lewis Moore, 23, who tried to defend her from the attack.

In the wake of the terrible Stephen Lawrence murder, the Macpherson Report defined a racial incident very clearly: “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” Is it not a little odd that such a straightforward statement, eagerly embraced by the British police, is open to question only when the victim is white? Ms Page clearly believes this was a racial incident, so why don’t the police or the judiciary?

And this is not a solitary case. Only last week 19-year-old Danny O’Shea had his throat slashed by a gang of black youths outside his mother’s front door in Newham, east London. The police are not treating this as racist murder. Why not?

In 2009, Christopher Folkes died from severe head injuries after he was brutally attacked by three “Asian” males in Queen’s Park, Blackburn. This was not treated as a racist murder. Why not?

In 2004 Christopher Yates was beaten to death by a gang of Muslim males in Barking, east London. One of the attackers, Sajid Zulfiqar, boasted: “We have killed the white man. That will teach an Englishman to interfere in Paki business.” The Crown Prosecution Service makes it perfectly clear that this was a racially aggravated murder, but again the racial element was overlooked. Why?

Perhaps the most savage murder was that of Mary-Ann Leneghan in 2005. Tortured, gang raped and stabbed to death by a gang made up of Muslims and blacks, this yet again was not a racist incident. The eagerness with which the British police pounce upon white racial transgressors is matched only by their reluctance to label non-white perpetrators as racists.

This simply has to stop. It is bad enough that we are to become a minority in our own land within the next fifty years, but to become an ethnic minority whilst being subjected to grossly unequal state-sponsored racial prejudice is both shocking and horrifying.

Police chiefs often describe the tensions in multicultural areas as “nerve jangling.” Hardly surprising, really. The anger is steadily growing amongst the native Britons, caused partly by the obviously unfair discrimination from which they suffer simply because they are white. If the government and police continue to stoke this anger by their appalling racist attitude toward the indigenous whites, then they must accept and understand that they will be held accountable for the unavoidable multicultural violence of the future.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Macy’s Allegedly Fires Employee for Refusing Cross-Dressing Male Access to Women’s Fitting Room

According to a recent post by Liberty Counsel, a former department store employee was allegedly terminated from her job at a San Antonio Macy’s after refusing to allow a cross-dressing male to change in the women’s fitting room.

While Macy’s does have an LGBT-friendly policy that allows transgender customers to use either the men‘s or women’s fitting rooms as the individual deems most appropriate, the former employee, Natalie Johnson, argued that Macy’s also has a policy in place that protects her religious rights — and that those rights would have been violated had she been forced to admit that the cross-dresser was a female.

Liberty Counsel explains in further detail:
Natalie Johnson claims she saw the young man walk out of the women’s fitting room and politely told him that he could not go back in because it was for women only. The cross-dressing young man claimed that he is a “female.” Johnson said that he was wearing make-up and girl’s clothing, but clearly he was a male. The cross-dresser was accompanied by five other individuals. The group argued with expletives that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion, and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality. The group then demanded to speak with a manager.

When Johnson was confronted by her employer, she explained that she could not allow a male to change in a female’s fitting room. Johnson’s boss referred her to Macy’s LGBT policy which allows “transgender” people to change in any dressing room they want. However, Johnson pointed out that the same policy also protects against religious discrimination and, in this case, it protects her right to her beliefs that were being violated. The manager demanded that she comply with the LGBT policies or lose her job. Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job.

Perhaps a way around the problem would have been for Johnson to ask a coworker to fill in for her in this instance. Another employee could have taken over her fitting room duties for the duration of time that the transgender or cross-dressing customer was present. By doing so, Johnson would not have been placed in a position where she felt her beliefs were being compromised, while still upholding the company’s policy as it concerns transgender customers.

On the other hand, Macy’s is operating two distinct policies — one regarding religious rights, the other regarding gay and lesbian rights — that will often prove incompatible with one another. The company faces serious challenges ahead as it runs the risk of creating both disgruntled employees and customers alike, leaving the department store chain open to public relations issues and worse still, potential legal action.


UPDATE: An email received:

I represented Bonwit Teller's in the mid 60's, an upscale department store in the style of Bloomingdales. Its Chicago General Manager, a man named Jack Kelly, told me the following: one afternoon an upset associate called to say there was a man who wanted to try on one of the dresses being offered for sale, to which he vigorously responded with a firm “No,” as the dresses were for women. The associate further explained it was a $3000.00 dollar designer dress the customer was going to buy if it fit him, to which Kelly replied, “Hold on, I'll be down to fit the S.O.B. myself!” (The sale was completed by Kelly.)

Same Sex "Marriage" and the Australian Constitution

Below are some excerpts from a long article which quotes extensive legal precedents for arguing that the meaning of marriage in Australia is constitutionally fixed and therefore homosexual "marriage" would be unconstitutional

Section 51(xxi) of the Australian Constitution gives the Federal Government jurisdiction over marriage. Unlike the situation in the U.S., in Australia there cannot be as many marriage laws as there are states. State and Federal Governments can choose to give married and unmarried couples the same rights and services in any area under their respective jurisdictions, but only the Federal Government can tell us who are married. But this does not mean that it can take control of any grouping by calling it "marriage".

As Justice Brennan put it, in the case of Fisher v Fisher (1986):
[C]onstitutional interpretation of the marriage power would be an exercise of hopeless circularity if the Parliament could itself define the nature and incidents of marriage by laws enacted in purported pursuance of the power. ... [T]hose words do not empower the Parliament to legislate upon the customary incidents of marriage so as to affect the nature of the marriage relationship.

Marriage had a specific meaning under the common law at the date of the Constitution - and it goes back not simply to 1362, but as far as human memory runs.

And what is that meaning? I shall merely cite the relevant case law prior to 1900.....

Two years later, the matter arose again, this time in the case of a marriage contracted in Japan. Again, Justice Hannen ruled, in Brinkley v A-G (1890) 15 P. D. 76 at 79:

A marriage which is not that of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, though it may pass by the name of marriage, is not the status which the English law contemplates when dealing with the subject of marriage.

His Honour then went on to determine that, since Japanese marriages do indeed follow this pattern, they are automatically valid under the common law. He also pointed out that, although it is often called "Christian marriage" as a shorthand phrase, Christianity need have nothing to do with it.....

What else needs to be added? If polygamous and potentially polygamous unions, which have a long and venerable history, and have been practised by a majority of the world's population, are not recognised by the common law, or section 51(xxi), what chance same sex unions, which have never been treated as marriages except in a few small societies in aberrant times?

Not only that, but the parliamentarians know it - or should know it. In 2002 they sought legal opinion on the subject. The conclusion was that, although there was not complete unanimity in the High Court, the majority opinions suggest that such a law would have a very hard time passing muster. Furthermore, there would be many people who would have standing to contest it: a state government, an heir or next of kin sidelined by such a "marriage", a public servant who objects to registering it, or a celebrant who may be forced to celebrate it.

The social deformers are pretending that marriage is the product of the law, and is merely whatever grouping of people the law wants to consecrate. But it isn't. As Sir William Scott pointed out as far back as 1795, it is the fundamental basis of society, which pre-dates the law (and probably the human race), which the law recognises and regulates for the benefit of society, but which it does not create.

That is why I have consistently put "marriage" in quotation marks when referring to same sex unions. It is all a game of "let's pretend". But, as Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have said: "How many legs has a dog? Only four. Calling the tail a fifth leg doesn't make it one."


Australian hate speech law not well reasoned

By James Allan, Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

I AM delighted to live in a country in which someone is perfectly free to voice his opinion on why Australia's racial vilification or hate speech laws, used to take Andrew Bolt to court, and indeed to force his employer to print a judge-authored pseudo apology, are jolly good laws.

Of course, the author of this defence of these hate speech laws enacted by a former Labor government, Ron Merkel, is hardly a disinterested or impartial observer. He was the main lawyer for the plaintiffs who used these hate speech laws successfully to sue Bolt. He is the lawyer who, in running that case, made reference to eugenics, Nazis, anti-Semitism and more.

Yet Merkel is an honourable man. Still, consider what he said in that opinion piece of his (The Australian, November 21). First off, Merkel claimed that the problem was that Bolt got his facts wrong. That, asserted Merkel, is why he lost.

The judge in the Bolt case, Mordecai Bromberg, had a slightly different take on things, however. In paragraph 461 he said: "It is important that nothing in the orders I make should suggest that it is unlawful (under these hate speech laws) for a publication to deal with racial identification including challenging the genuineness of the identification of a group of people. I have not found Mr Bolt and HWT to have contravened s18C simply because the newspaper articles dealt with subject matter of that kind. I have found a contravention because of the manner in which that subject matter was dealt with."

Put differently, the judge didn't like Bolt's tone. So Merkel's talk of this all being solely about getting the facts wrong should be made of sterner stuff. (And I leave aside here Justice Bromberg's bizarre decision to assess the "reasonably likely to offend" test in these hate speech laws by reference to some objective member of the group claiming victimhood, not by reference to a reasonable member of the community at large -- a game winner for Merkel's side right off the bat.)

Merkel, who writes not to praise Bolt, though possibly to bury him, goes on to characterise what is at stake as a "freedom to vilify". But that's plain bizarre for anyone such as me who cares strongly about free speech and ensuring as much scope as possible for people in a vibrant democracy to speak their minds.

My point is that one honourable man's vilification, someone such as Merkel, is another honourable person's fair and reasonable comment, someone such as Bolt. So the Merkel characterisation stacks the cards in his favour right off the bat. We are talking about the need for free speech here, not some subsection of it that Merkel (no doubt because of the hate speech laws) gets to denominate in advance as vilification.

Put differently, it's a tad circular to say "we need this legislation because we don't want the sort of vilification that is only counted as vilification because of that same legislation".

Merkel goes on to equate these hate speech laws with defamation laws and the limits on speech such defamation laws impose. Now Merkel says that, and certainly he is an honourable man. But one can't help noticing that, as the lawyer for these plaintiffs, Merkel chose not to sue in defamation, and try for the sometimes significant monetary damages a victory in that realm can bring.

Instead he went after Bolt using only these hate speech laws, ones where the remedy was an Orwellian judge-drafted pseudo apology and the banning of publishing the "offending" pieces. Was that because Merkel wanted to avoid the jury that usually comes with a defamation case? Was it because he reckoned he couldn't win a defamation case (my view)?

Certainly on this score and in his choice of how to pursue Bolt, our honourable Merkel did not seem ambitious.

Then we get to Merkel's nod in the direction of the judicially created implied freedom of political communication. Now, though I am a very big free-speech proponent and like the general outcomes of these cases,

I think they are simply awful judicial decisions as far as honest interpretation of our Constitution goes.

So the fact these cases now build in an abridging inquiry, or reasonable limits test as Merkel alludes to, is neither here nor there. In a strong democracy the people, the voters, do not rely on seven unelected judges to fix their awful legislation. They vote for people who will repeal it using the democratic process.

Next, Merkel asserts that those, such as me, who want these hate speech laws repealed are inconsistent because they don't support free speech when it comes to Holocaust deniers. But as it happens, though in the Canadian context, I have said precisely that -- that using hate speech laws against moronic Holocaust deniers is counter-productive. Get these views into the daylight and show how idiotic they are. And I know that Brendan O'Neill, another Bolt defender, has said the same. Perhaps Merkel could get his facts correct?

The countries where Holocaust denial is most alive, as it happens, are in the Arab world where free speech is most curtailed.

Oh, and last, Merkel points to other countries that also have hate speech laws. Of course, that is no justification for a bad law. But anyway, what Merkel omits to mention is that Canada, a country one assumes he would be happy to compare us with, is now looking as though it will repeal its notorious s13 hate speech law equivalent.

Now, I speak not to disprove what Merkel spoke. As a keen proponent of much scope for all of us to speak our minds, I'm all in favour of hearing a defence of our egregious hate speech laws that is self-serving (coming from one who was the lawyer who used them successfully); that mischaracterises them (it's about a judge's view of tone, not just facts); that gets the facts wrong itself (about what's happening overseas, about the supposed inconsistency of Bolt defenders); and that wants it both ways (by pretending this is like defamation when that legal option was shunned by the writer as the plaintiffs' lawyer).

As I said, I'm always in favour of reading the self-serving, mischaracterising, factually wrong, two-faced defence of our hate speech laws. Alas, I'm not sure that sort of opinion piece will bring all that many new converts to the Merkel point of view.



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

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

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


7 December, 2011


Three posts below -- from Australia, the USA and Canada

Australia's Woolworths and the way we were

In response to my post earlier today about the apparent anti-Christian bigotry at Woolworths. I received the following email from a retired American:

Your item on the absence of Christian Christmas cards hits hard, as I am retired from the original F W Woolworth Co started by Frank Woolworth in 1879. The Australian Woolworths has no affiliation with the USA company, nor its British subsidiary; its founders slipped the trademark registry in while the USA operators slept at the switch.

My dismay is occasioned by the fact Frank Woolworth made his stores the Christmas headquarters in the USA, importing blown glass ornaments from Germany before WW II, and placing a strong emphasis on the Christian part of the Holiday, both in merchandise and in advertising itself as the Christmas HQ's.

Among its featured window items were creches, as well as box upon box of greeting cards commemorating Christ's birth. Woolworth USA was the first major retailer, if not company, to institute a Christmas bonus for its employees, as well as annual vacations.

Coincidentally, just yesterday I had just spent the better part of an hour trying to convey to my granddaughter the way those older variety stores operated during Christmas during the 50's -- selling cases of icicles, for example, that were strewn over millions of trees bearing ornaments sold by it, which glittering garlands were fashioned from that modern bug a boo, lead.

Merry Christmas from the USA!

(On the lead scare, read the latter part of the article here -- JR)

Mockery of Christmas

County Displays Crucified Santa on Courthouse Lawn‏. Would they mock a Muslim holy day?

A Christmas display outside the courthouse in Leesburg, VA featuring Santa Claus crucified on a cross was torn down by an angry resident in spite of arguments by elected leaders that the display was Constitutionally-protected free speech.

“I am shocked that the county would allow such a thing as a crucified Santa on the courthouse lawn,” Elizabeth McGuirk, a mother of three told Leesburg Today. She it would “seriously disturb my children.”

“Disgusting, outrageous and absurd,” Supervisor-elect Ken Reid told MyFoxDC.com. “This fellow crossed the line. I’m worried about kids seeing this at the parade Saturday.

The display was erected by Jeff Heflin, whose application was submitted and approved by the Loudon County Board of Supervisors.

“The county would not dismantle it, the county gave it permission for it to be there,” Supervisor Steven Miller told the local newspaper. “We had the same thing happen a year ago when Ed Myers put up some vulgar parody lyrics of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Well those came down within an hour and that’s vigilantes.”

The Loudon Times reported that Heflin described his display as “art work of Santa on a cross to depict society’s materialistic obsessions and addictions and how it is killing the peace, love, joy and kindness that is supposed to be prevalent during the holiday season.”

“It was meant to show the over-commercialization of Christmas,” said Jonathan Weintraub, of the NOVA Atheists. “I agree. It is over commercialized. People should keep their hands off the display, all the displays.”

The display was torn down by an unidentified local resident, according to the Loudon County Sheriff’s Dept. So far, no one has been arrested.

Gisela Bresler wrote a letter to the county leaders condemning the exhibit, calling it a mockery that dishonors the Christian religion.

“As I was coming to the Courthouse this morning, I was confronted by one of the most repulsive and disgusting displays of the misuse or our free speech that I have ever had the misfortune to witness,” Bresler wrote in a letter published in the Loudon Times. “In front of the Old Courthouse building there is a display of a cross with a Santa suit draped over it and the Santa has a skull for a face.”

“Perhaps the person or organization that displayed this monstrosity wants to make a point that Christmas is dead, or that Christ is dead,” the letter continued. “The point is that free speech is a two-way street. It is fine for whoever decided to display this obnoxious thing to have it displayed, but it is also correct for those who are insulted by it to speak against it. I am, therefore condemning this and I am repulsed by the fact of it.”


Canada: Town of Mount Royal latest to refrain from religious decorations

‘Tis the season for holiday decorations – and holiday controversies. A group of Muslims living in TMR asked town officials if Islamic symbols could be added to the holiday display at city hall. Instead, town officials decided to remove everything except a Christmas tree.

The decision, intended to keep from offending anyone, is not sitting well with some residents. "I think it's dreadful," said one TMR resident. "I was born in the town. I remember that since I was little. I don't think they should remove that at all."

Mayor Philippe Roy said the move was in response to a request from a local Muslim group who wanted Islamic symbols displayed at City Hall as well.

Instead of adding the religious symbols, Roy said council decided to take a different tack and remove their nativity scene and menorah. "We talked about it and we felt it wasn't the best place to do a religious display... at city hall," he said.

Council gave its menorah away to a local synagogue and its nativity scene to a local church.

The move meant TMR missed an opportunity to display its inclusive attitude, said Samer Majzoub from the Canadian Muslim Forum.

"It is very shocking that they go that far to the opposite side to remove everything, instead of dealing with the issue positively," said Majzoub.

Roy said the decision is final, and that all religions are welcome in the Town of Mount Royal, but religious symbols will stay out of City Hall.

It's not the first case of religious sensitivity irking Quebecers this season. On Friday, Service Canada [a federal welfare agency] admitted it made a mistake by banning all Christmas decorations from its location at Complexe Guy Favreau. They reversed the decision and will hang Christmas decorations at the federal outlet.



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

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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or 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.



I went into Woolworths to buy Christmas cards yesterday. I am not fanatical about it as I am an atheist but I like to buy Christian-themed cards out of respect for the Christian basis of the holiday. But although Woolworths had a big range of cards I could find none with Christian themes. Pretty poor for Australia's biggest retailer!

So I went to the Indian shop next door where I occasionally see the owner reading a nicely-bound copy of the Bhagavad Gita in Hindi. Sure enough he had packs of cards with Christian themes. So he got my business.

A sad day when it takes a Hindu to show what tolerance is like! Why on earth would Woolworths be so bigoted against Christianity? Who is going to be offended by them including a few cards with Christian themes in their range?

Australia is not a religious country but there are still a lot of committed Christians about so they would find the Woolworths offering unsatisfactory and would go to (say) a newsagent to buy their cards. So bigotry is also bad business, as it usually is.

Now the elf n' safety monsters attack Britain's Christmas

Thompson Dawson was at Buckingham Palace last week to receive an MBE from the Queen for services to charity. It was a proud moment for the 82-year-old businessman, who has been bringing joy to children for the past four decades while raising money for leukaemia research.

After his wife Marie died from cancer in 1972, Mr Dawson became involved in a charity she helped set up which would arrange Santa Claus visits to children in the Greater Belfast area.

Up to 30 volunteers would give their time every December to dress up as Father Christmas and delight youngsters with a surprise visit to their homes. In exchange, their parents would make a small donation to the charity.

For almost 40 years, Mr Dawson has run the operation with military precision. He is too modest to say how much money he has raised, but it must add up to tens of thousands of pounds, if not more.

This enchanting scheme covered a wide area from Lisburn to Carrickfergus and reached across the sectarian divide, even at the height of the Troubles.

I heard about Mr Dawson from his nephew Colin, who wrote to me after an item in this column concerning instructions which had gone out to parents who volunteer to play Santa in schools that under no circumstances must they allow children to sit on their knee.

Although Mr Dawson has been honoured by the Queen for his achievements, there will be no more home visits from Santa for the children of Belfast.

The scheme has had to be abandoned under the burden of bureaucratic interference. In the past couple of years, vetting of volunteers has become more intrusive and onerous.

Despite the fact that the parents invited the Santas into their homes and were present throughout, every single volunteer is considered a potential paedophile unless he can prove otherwise.

Mr Dawson decided that because of the amount of time and paperwork involved he could no longer continue. When I spoke to him yesterday, he didn’t want to make a fuss but is clearly bitterly disappointed.

His pride at receiving his MBE is tinged with sadness that a scheme which brought innocent pleasure to children and raised thousands for leukaemia research has had to be abandoned.

Mr Dawson hopes to keep the charity going through setting up a Christmas grotto in a local shopping centre, where parents can bring their children. But home visits from Santa, the unique feature of his beloved project in memory of his late wife, are gone for ever — another victim of the hysterical paedophobia of the child protection industry.

As his nephew Colin put it to me: ‘I fully understand the need to protect our children but it saddens and angers me in equal measure that fear has removed the joy and spontaneity of many worthwhile causes and activities that were once taken for granted.’ Amen to that.

Under the guise of ‘protection’, the State delves ever-deeper into our private lives. For instance, Harry Foster writes from Middlesbrough to tell me about his wife’s attempts to give something back to society.

Jackie Foster is a grandmother in her 70s who volunteered to help children read at a local school. Nothing unusual in that. My wife used to do the same when our kids were young.

But the forms she was expected to fill in were both extensive and intrusive — everything from her mother’s maiden name to what qualifications she left school with. They even demanded her marriage and birth certificates. Eventually, when a woman from the council came round to interrogate her, Jackie politely withdrew.

She also applied for a part-time job making tea and coffee in a charity shop run by a local hospice. As well as the usual background checks, they wanted to know what medication she was taking.

As a retired postal worker, who left the Royal Mail after 22 years with an exemplary reference, Jackie was understandably insulted. What damn business was it of anyone if she was taking prescription medicine? She was only going to make tea, for heaven’s sake.

But we’ve been here before. Even women who volunteer to arrange the flowers in churches are subject to criminal records checks, just in case they plan to molest the choirboys.

When it comes to child ‘protection’ we are all considered guilty unless we can prove ourselves innocent in advance.

In the most outrageous example, a supply teacher in Newcastle has been sacked after giving a lift home to a 17-year-old boy who had lost his bus fare.

Martin Davis, who has been teaching for 23 years, was working at Tyne Metropolitan College helping pupils with dyslexia prepare for the world of work.

Last month, the boy approached him and said he had no money for his bus fare home.

‘I said that because he lived on my route home I would give him a lift,’ said Mr Davis, who has two children.

‘A week later one of the office staff at the college pulled me to one side, having heard about me giving the boy a lift, and said it was a stupid thing to do because I was opening myself to all sorts of allegations. I said I was sorry and she just told me not to do it again, and that seemed to be the end of the matter.’

Next thing he knew he was accused of gross misconduct by the agency which employed him, suspended without pay and told there was ‘no way back’.

No wonder thousands of adults who would otherwise willingly volunteer to give up their time to work as sports coaches and youth club leaders are not prepared to put themselves through an impertinent, forensic vetting process to prove they’re not a kiddie fiddler.

There really is something depressingly sick in a system consumed by paranoia, which sees a sinister motive in every act of human kindness and Christian charity — and regards every adult who wants to work with children as a potential paedo waiting to pounce.

Of course, the authorities insist that all this is necessary to protect children and any personal information gleaned will be kept confidential. Right. If you believe that, you probably still believe in Santa Claus.


Santa a 'Red-faced symbol of over-indulgence' according to British magazine

Now Father Christmas has been banished from the nation's newsstands - so as not to upset cash-strapped families who can't afford presents this year. Radio Times have dropped the iconic figure from the front cover of their Christmas edition, for the first time in nearly a decade.

The TV listings bible said it wanted to reflect the nation’s current mood by banishing Santa, a 'symbol of the boom years'.

Instead the Radio Times has opted for a 'festive flowing illustration' of a Christmas tree, which it feels better reflects the tough economic climate by 'harking back to simpler times'.

'This is going to be a difficult Christmas for many people and we have tried a cover that’s nostalgic and makes people feel warm,' said the magazine’s editor, Ben Preston.

'For many years Santa has been a cheery fixture of our legendary Christmas double-issue... but somehow that didn’t feel right this year. 'At a time when so many people are hunkering down with friends and family and turning their backs on extravagant gift-giving, we wanted something different.'

This year’s front cover has been illustrated by artist Kate Forrester, whose other work includes commissions for John Lewis, Tiffany and Penguin Books. According to Mr Preston, the red and green cover is 'nostalgic and beautiful, to lift the spirits in troubled times'.

It won’t be the first time Santa has been ditched as the cover star during times of austerity. Following the infamous Black Wednesday in 1992 he was replaced with a snowman. And he also disappeared from the Christmas cover when the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s.

But the magazine’s sensitive approach hasn’t stopped bosses from increasing the price of the Christmas edition by 4.2 per cent. This year’s edition goes on sale from Wednesday and costs £2.50, up from the £2.40 charged last year.


Australia: Parents who spank kids 'only human'

A PARENTING guide author has reignited the smacking debate by defending parents who snap and hit their children as "only human".

Anne-Marie Taplin, author of Being Mummy and website parentingexpress.com, said some parents fell into the gap between "what should happen and what actually happens". "Children can be very good at pushing parents' buttons and sometimes you can just feel a surge of rage and lose control," Ms Taplin said.

While acknowledging current advice that smacking was unacceptable, the mother of two said it was not fair for others to judge parents who hit their children.

"I would never advocate hitting a child but I think we need to acknowledge that parents are only human and be very careful about how we judge the people who are doing one of the world's most challenging jobs," she said.

Australian laws allow corporal punishment of children as long as it is "reasonable" in the circumstances, but Victorian coroner John Olle earlier this year pleaded with parents to "never hit a child". Mr Olle was inquiring into the death of a girl, aged two.



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

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

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


6 December, 2011

Ban Germany's NPD? Neo-Nazi revelations spark debate

Like Hitler's Nazis, the NPD (National Democratic Party) is both socialist and Green so it is amusing to see a German government that is also socialist and Green trying to ban it. The difference is that the NPD preaches national pride, which is regarded as very dubious in Germany. Pride in their country is very common among Americans, however, so demonizing the NPD purely on those grounds is pretty silly -- JR

The mural is 2 meters (6.6 feet) high, several meters long, and looks as if it came straight from a 1935 German schoolbook: a young family in farmer’s clothes, the mother cradling a baby, the father putting his arm protectively around his older son’s shoulders. Next to the painting in old German font, it reads: “Village community Jamel: Free – social – national.”

Jamel is what neo-Nazis in Germany call a “nationally liberated zone,” a no-go area for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and overt left-wingers. It is one of the places where the National Democratic Party (NPD), Germany’s legal far-right party, has won the battle for hearts and minds – and probably did not have to fight very hard. In some villages and towns of this region, the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the NPD easily reached 20 percent in regional elections earlier this year.

“The authorities have given up on Jamel,” says Horst Krumpen, chairman of the Network for Democracy, Tolerance, and Humanity, a campaign group in the nearby town of Wismar. “We don’t have problems with right-wing violence here – there hardly is any. Our problem is the widespread support for the NPD in the region and the impotence of the state.”

For years, places like Jamel were more or less ignored by the German authorities. In a speech this summer, Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich called right-wing extremism a phenomenon on the decline, and stressed the threat of Islamic terrorism. But the shocking revelations a month ago about a terrorist cell of neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is alleged to have killed as many as 10 ethnic-minority citizens as well as a policewoman and carried out several bombings and bank robberies over the past decade, have put such enclaves back in the focus, along with a debate about whether the NPD, which gives a legal voice to extreme right-wing sentiment, should be banned.

Jamel is a tiny village of only a dozen houses, close to the Baltic coast in northeast Germany. It is surrounded by idyllic landscapes, but there are metal shutters on most windows, attack dogs behind fences, a shooting range outside a collapsed barn with a playground in front of it. Everywhere you look there are manifestations of the inhabitants’ world: a tall cross with the words “Better dead than a slave” on it, flags with Germanic runes and symbols, and signposts pointing to various places in Russia and Poland which used to belong to Germany before World War II. A placard reminds people: “NPD – we keep our promises.”

The NPD, which is represented in the regional parliaments of two German states but has never played any role at the federal level, has tried for some time to shed its extremist image. “People can come to their party offices and get help filling out welfare application forms,” says Mr. Krumpen. NPD members are running youth clubs and local soccer teams, and sitting on local councils. Just last month, the party elected a new leader, Holger Apfel, who is regarded as less radical than his predecessor.

In a poll last week, 74 percent of Germans were in favor of banning the NPD. “A ban would destabilize the right-wing scene, throw it back for decades,” says Bernd Wagner. The ex-policeman is Germany’s foremost authority on right-wing extremism. He runs “Exit,” an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the scene and reintegrate in society. “We need to act,” says Mr. Wagner. “The official statistics show a decline in the number of right-wing extremists. But we at Exit see a core of neo-Nazis that is better organized and more radical than before.”

But the German government needs to show a concrete and direct link between the NPD and the terrorists of the NSU. Otherwise it risks a repeat of the embarrassment of 2003, when an attempt to ban the NPD failed, because Germany’s constitutional court rejected the case. Back then, the NPD was so heavily infiltrated with informers of the domestic intelligence service that the court decided most of the evidence brought against the far-right party would be inadmissible.

The arrest of a former NPD official who is accused of actively supporting the NSU last week could make the case for a ban and push the informer problem into the background, politicians hope. “If we can produce a watertight link between NPD and terrorists, we have an important argument on our side,” the Interior minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, told a German newspaper. Bavaria’s Interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the support for a ban was growing on a daily basis.

Not everybody agrees, though. Hartfrid Wolff is an MP for the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. He sits on the Parliamentary Oversight Committee that controls Germany’s intelligence services. “The failure of the domestic intelligence agency to stop this terrorist gang was a disaster,” he says. “But we should not in a knee-jerk reaction try to ban a party that has a considerable electorate. It would be much better to dry up its voter base, win over its supporters.”

Mr. Krumpen has a more practical approach. “If we ban the NPD, we don’t get rid of a single right-winger,” he says. “What we lose is a target whose structure and weaknesses we know well enough to fight. Ban it, and the neo-Nazis just go underground.”


IQ Blackout: Why Did Studying Intelligence Become Taboo?

Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. An IQ blackout descended.

Scholars used to avidly study human intelligence. They measured cranial capacity. They administered IQ tests. They sought to define what intelligence was and who had more or less of it and why.

These days, not so much. Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. Its legitimacy as a field of study, as a measurable quality -- on par with height, eyesight and hand-and-eye coordination -- and as a concept came under fire. Talk of "brainpower" and "smarts" ebbed as scholars proposed "multiple intelligences" -- such as musical, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal -- rather than whatever had hitherto been called IQ. An IQ blackout has descended. When researchers talk about IQ at all, the big question is whether it's inherited, and if so, how much. IQ now faces fierce competition from SQ and EQ, social and emotional intelligence, two burgeoning theories.

Why are our minds and their capabilities among the most taboo topics in 21st-century academia?

"I believe there are a number of factors involved," says Dennis Garlick, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at UCLA and the author of Intelligence and the Brain: Solving the Mystery of Why People Differ in IQ and How a Child Can Be a Genius (Aesop, 2010). "Certainly a major factor is the race issue. Arguing that the races differ in IQ has tainted the whole field, and many researchers and commentators would prefer to just avoid the area for fear of being labeled racists."

Much of that taint and fear dates back to the work of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, whose writings in the 1960s linking differences in cognitive ability with differences in race sparked protests on the Berkeley campus and outrage in the scientific community that echoes to this day.

"The most important fact about intelligence is that we can measure it," Jensen wrote in his most famous work, "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?" published in the Harvard Educational Review in 1969. "IQ is known to predict scholastic performance better than any other single measurable attribute of the child," Jensen wrote.

Asserting that intelligence is "heritable" -- that it's mainly in our genes -- he then warned against making racial generalizations: against, in a sense, being racist.

"Whenever we select a person for some special educational purpose ... we are selecting an individual, and we are selecting him and dealing with him for reasons of his individuality. ... Since, as far as we know, the full range of human talents is represented in all the major races of man and in all socioeconomic levels, it is unjust to allow the mere fact of an individual's racial or social background to affect the treatment accorded to him."

Jensen then went on to advocate diversity, although not quite in the same way we do today. "Schools and society must provide a range and diversity of educational methods, programs, and goals," Jensen demanded: In other words, diversify the curricula, not necessarily the faculty or student body.

"Jensen is still greatly respected by many traditional intelligence researchers," Garlick says. "By 'traditional intelligence researchers,' I mean researchers who still value IQ and continue to do studies that evaluate the effectiveness of IQ in predicting outcomes, or studies that examine possible mechanisms that may cause differences in IQ. However, due to the unpopularity of Jensen’s findings, this group of researchers is now very small.

"The major move in response to Jensen’s findings hasn’t been rigorous and compelling research to try and disprove his hypotheses and findings. Rather, it has led to an exodus of researchers away from the area, and a drying up of grant funding and research positions for researchers interested in IQ."

Jensen's work was a flashpoint dividing the study of human intelligence into two periods: BJ and AJ, you might say.

"The post-Jensen period has not been filled with good research aimed at disproving and discounting Jensen’s hypotheses," Garlick laments, "but rather with treating not just Jensen but the field of IQ in general as persona non grata. What this means for people who are low in intelligence is very much up to debate."

IQ is un-PC, Garlick adds, because "studying IQ is highlighting differences between people. Identifying differences between people in a characteristic where one end of the spectrum is associated with many more negative outcomes can result in hurtful information."

"While IQ tests are not a perfect measure of intelligence -- and a perfect measure does not exist -- performance on an IQ test can provide important insight into a person’s relative ability to understand concepts that play a role in successful performance in both educational and work domains," Garlick says.

"The major problem with ignoring differences in intelligence is that this does not resolve the underlying issue. For instance, low IQ can be reflected in poor performance at school. To address this, the criteria for 'successful' performance at school can be lowered. Children will then get higher grades. But simply telling children that they are doing well in their schoolwork when they have not mastered the underlying concepts will not help them later on when they are expected to apply their school learning to other situations.

"I find it ironical that so much research is devoted to disorders like autism that only affect less than 1 percent of the population, but little research is devoted to understanding differences in IQ. ... If the deficits of autism can be improved through research, why not IQ?"


'Tis the season for Christmas phobia

Atheists must be the most fragile peaches in the basket. They're always getting bruised by the slightest exposure to public displays that remind them of Christmas, God, the Ten Commandments -- or worst of all, Jesus.

Just as pathetic are the atheist enablers who are complicit in doing away with any reminders of America's Christian heritage, even secular symbols. For example, the Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston, South Carolina, recently decided that a visit by Santa Claus might upset nonbelievers. Perhaps they feared that it could lead to heart attacks, an Inquisition or perhaps even inspire local militant imams to issue a fatwa (death threat). You can never be sure what kind of chaos a visit by Santa could unleash.

After the public rebelled, the center said that Santa can squeeze down the center's chimney, but we'll have none of that overtly religious stuff such as crèches, angels, Christmas greetings -- anything that brings joy to the world.

On Nov. 18, the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel sent a letter [PDF] reminding Center Director Andrew S. Kraft, M.D., about how freedom of religion works in America under the Constitution and how his actions constitute viewpoint discrimination. Let's hope Dr. Kraft will grow a big heart like the Grinch did in Whoville.

The secular virus has been spreading for years in public and private zones. Shopping malls, which would go broke without Christmas, try their best to attract Christmas shoppers without mentioning Christmas. Hence, we get generic "happy holidays" and color schemes with blue and silver snowflakes cold enough to freeze the socks off Grandfather Frost. He's the former Soviet Union's made-up patron saint who took over giving gifts to children after the commissars bumped off St. Nicholas. It's rumored (just starting it now) that the Christmas-phobic ACLU tacks up portraits of Grandfather Frost in back offices to inspire them during that darned holiday season that Dare Not Tell Its Name.

Driving the whole mess is the growing fear Not to Offend. The war on Christmas, part of the ongoing trend to eradicate anything Christian in the public square, is also driven by a profound misreading of the First Amendment, which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

To the ACLU and other pro-atheist groups, that means the government must be hostile to any public expressions of belief that offend atheists. That makes atheism the de facto official religion, something the Founders went out of their way to prevent.

Genuine conflicts do arise, and the courts have found ways to keep religiously themed items legal on public property -- as long as they fulfill a secular purpose. In 1984, the Supreme Court in Lynch v. Donnelly ruled that the presence of a crèche amid other seasonal displays -- a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, and a "Seasons Greetings" banner -- erected by the city of Pawtuckett, Rhode Island, was not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

The secular purpose? Government was acknowledging the cultural significance of a traditional holiday celebrated by the vast majority of Americans. In what became the "reindeer test," the Court said that religious elements are okay if secular elements are present. So if you dust off a Bambi, put a red nose on it and place it next to the baby Jesus, all is right with the world. Previous generations didn't need this kind of "cover," but we're in a different place now.

The court also noted that, "The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any."

In early November, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving roadside cross memorials to fallen Utah state troopers. The American Civil Rights Union filed an amicus brief arguing for a new constitutional standard. The "Coercion Test" would evaluate whether a policy, practice, or action involves coercion in regard to religion. The framers meant to prohibit coercion, but they did not intend to prohibit voluntary, public, religious speech, or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve coercion. This test might have helped the state-supported cancer center folks see that barring Santa was a silly idea.

In Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU (1989), the Court clarified the holiday standard by forbidding stand-alone nativities but not Christmas trees or menorahs. So the National Christmas Tree is safe -- for now. Wonder if the Ban Christmas crowd knows that a decorated fir is not really a Christmas tree unless crowned with a star or an angel? Hillary Clinton's National Tree had a purple, sparkling planet atop it one year. Make of that what you will.

Please don't tell the ACLU about the stars and angels, though. Grim-faced volunteers will be fanning out with ladders to grab them and fling them into the nearest dumpster to save us from the Reason for the Season.

Last year, atheists in Loudoun County, Virginia, upped the price of having a crèche at the county courthouse by erecting signs with diatribes against Christianity and belief in God. When you see this stuff, keep in mind that the devil can't create anything. He can only pervert what is good. And he's especially adept at enlisting atheists for his schemes, because, as Psalms 14 and 53 say, "the fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

Fortunately, since we're all prone to foolishness of one kind or another, that same God loves us anyway and gave us the ultimate gift, which is why we celebrate Christmas.


Australian Labor Party faces pulpit-led backlash on homosexual marriage

LABOR'S approval of gay marriage has sparked a pulpit-led revolt and accusations that Julia Gillard has breached an election promise to protect the Marriage Act.

Factional warlords engineered a political fix at the ALP national conference to save the Prime Minister's credibility, with the party backing her motion to give Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue, but the decision to amend the platform to include same-sex marriage has set off a firestorm.

Interfaith religious leaders yesterday warned that Labor faced the loss of seats - which would turf it out of power - echoing warnings from the Australian Christian Lobby that the marginal electorates of Corangamite and Deakin in Victoria, Greenway and Reid in western Sydney, and Brisbane's Moreton were in danger.

Speaking from Rome, the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, said Labor's move was "a temporary win for the political class".

"Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been. Any Australia-wide political party which repudiates this does not want to govern, and rejects both tradition and the working class," Cardinal Pell said.

Anglican Church Primate Phillip Aspinall said his church had discussed the issue of gay marriage at its general synod and consistently supported marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, based on scripture.

And Isse Musse, imam of the Virgin Mary Mosque in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee, and the spiritual leader of Melbourne's Horn of Africa Muslim community, urged federal MPs to "look at the next 100 years and consider where families would be as they make this decision". "This is going to have some bearing on how people vote when elections come," he said.

"If a person is a true Muslim - and these days there are bogus Muslims, as there are bogus Christians as well - and understands Islam, then a conscience vote would lead him or her to vote against same-sex marriage."

On Saturday, Labor's national conference in Sydney amended the party's platform to recognise gay marriage, putting itself at odds with Ms Gillard, who insists that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, said: "Jewish tradition dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman." He added: "However, the progressive and conservative movements in Australia have endorsed officiating at same-sex commitment ceremonies."

The Grand Mufti of Australia, His Eminence Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, told The Australian he was "deeply disappointed with the result of this vote". "We see in this a serious incursion on the nature of families as created by God and as known by humanity. I believe that this will reduce the support for the Labor Party," he said.

"Australian society prides itself in, and highly respects, its value system. What has occurred with this vote threatens the family unit and the natural order of matrimony, being a natural union between a male and a female."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that political extremists and Christians could rally to defeat the Labor reform and bolster right-wing political causes.

Ms Bligh, who faces an election next year, has vowed to fight for the reform and expressed her desire that federal parliament legalise same-sex marriage before the next federal election, due in 2013. "Is it possible that we will see some of the large Christian churches mobilise in this election?" Ms Bligh said. "Yes. But I don't think this will be the only issue that motivates them."

The president of the Islamic Friendship Society, Keysar Trad, noted that at the NSW election in March the NSW Council of Imams had urged its followers vote against any candidate who supported gay marriage, and predicted that such a direct instruction would be forthcoming at the next federal election.

Such a move would create the prospect of forcing individual Labor candidates to state their position on the question. "This is an issue which will deliver a lot of people towards the Liberals and Nationals and some of the minor parties," Mr Trad said.

If the predictions prove correct, it could greatly increase the chances of Labor losing those seats in western Sydney that survived the Liberal onslaught at the last federal election.

With ethnic voters from a variety of faiths often the strongest adherents to organised religion, any electoral impact of Labor's change in platform could be most pronounced in seats such as Reid, held by Labor's John Murphy by a margin of 2.5 per cent. The seat has a proportion of overseas-born residents of nearly 40 per cent.

Deborah O'Neill, who represents the marginal seat of Robertson, told the conference she thought the community support for gay marriage was "overstated". "Perhaps time will change and broader community views on the Marriage Act will change. But at this time, I believe it is an issue that continues to divide us."

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce warned that the government was sending a loud message to blue-collar voters that it had been completely captured by the left-wing causes of the Greens and activist group GetUp! and had lost sight of the concerns of mainstream voters.

Labor backbencher Stephen Jones said he would move a private member's bill early next year to amend the Marriage Act in competition with the Greens.

ACL managing director Jim Wallace yesterday insisted that Ms Gillard had promised before last year's election that under her leadership the Marriage Act would continue to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "Labor's granting of a conscience vote on this issue does not change the statement this policy change makes on its values as a party, and the degree to which we can trust its election promises," Mr Wallace said.

He said there was now a clear differentiation between the Coalition and the ALP on marriage and that his organisation would continue to back Labor MPs who stuck to their promise and rejected change.

Saturday's debate on same-sex marriage was a torrid affair, with about 3000 pro-reform activists marching on the conference. Speakers opposing the change jeered from the floor as they warned that the issue put Labor out of step with the mainstream.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association national secretary Joe de Bruyn told delegates that Labor had "a fighting chance" to win the next election, but "If the platform is changed, then rather than win seats in Queensland, as we need to do, we may very well lose more seats. In suburban Sydney or Melbourne, again, we are likely to lose more seats."

Tony Abbott accused Labor of "navel gazing". But despite previously indicating that the Coalition would not change its united position of opposing same-sex marriage, the Opposition Leader refused to give a clear answer. "There's a sense in which every vote in the Liberal Party is a conscience vote because we don't expel people for exercising their judgment, unlike the Labor Party," Mr Abbott said.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek called on Mr Abbott to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote on the issue, noting that Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent had recently made clear he favoured gay marriage.

It is clear that some Coalition MPs support marriage equality, including former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, whose Sydney seat of Wentworth is home to a large gay community.

Mr Turnbull was unavailable yesterday, but in a recent email to a constituent he made clear that he believed the Liberal Party should have a conscience vote.



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

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

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


5 December, 2011

Live Nativity Scene Displayed at Supreme Court

Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men poured out of the Rev. Rob Schenck's Capitol Hill office and headed down the streets of Washington D.C., Wednesday accompanied by a camel and tiny donkey, carolers, and a harpist. The entourage were all headed for the same destination -- the Supreme Court building.

"The Constitution protects our right to do this. We like to send the message: If we can do this in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, you can certainly do it in your community," said Schenck, president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, a Christian outreach to elected and appointed officials in the nation's capital.

Several years ago, Schenck and his colleague Rev. Pat Mahoney were bemoaning the fact that so many governments and legal groups were taking action against Christians and displays of Christianity.

"We are seeing, tragically, hostility toward open public expressions of faith," Mahoney told CBN News. "When I was younger, all across America, virtually every City Hall, every state capitol, had a Nativity scene, had a manger scene."

They decided to be pro-active, by getting permits to do these processionals and Nativity scenes in prominent places across America, and by asking Christians to do it wherever they live.

"We're going right in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, right in front of the U.S. Capitol. We've been granted a permit, thereby giving everyone in America the knowledge," Mahoney explained.

"They can't say it's unconstitutional, or a court can't say you're not allowed to do it, when we've been given permission to do it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court," he said.

Schenck said it's also important for elected and appointed officials to see such displays of faith and be reminded.

"This is a right. This is really the supreme right of every American citizen," he said. "And they need to protect that right."


Why can't lefties be honest about the First Amendment?

There may be an issue on which leftist advocates like former labor secretary Robert Reich are more blatantly dishonest, but I’ve yet to find it. Consider Reich’s recent Huffington Post piece – “The First Amendment upside down: Why we must occupy democracy.”

Reich is among the more succinct propagandists on the left, so it can sometimes be difficult to ferret out exactly what he’s advocating. So, folks who simply skim this Huffpo piece can easily get the idea that evil corporations are suffocating democracy under billions of dollars of campaign and lobbying money.

This is happening, Reich claims, because “the Supreme Court says money is speech and corporations are people. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year ended all limits on political spending. Millions of dollars are being funneled to politicians without a trace.”

That paragraph is so disingenuous that it is difficult to know where to begin. For starters, the Court said money spent to fund political advocacy is protected advocacy, which is not the same thing as Reich’s simplistic “money is speech.”

Second, the Court said corporations are persons deserving of due process and equal protection of the law, which, again, aren't the same as Reich’s misrepresentation.

I am reminded by Reich’s words here of Mark Twain’s aphorism that “lightning” and “lightning bug” sound quite similar but carry profoundly different meanings.

Third, Reich’s assertion that the Court “ended all limits on political spending” is false on its face. There are in fact 21 limits on individual, party and PAC donations currently enforced by the FEC.

Finally, and most important, leftists like Reich have been apoplectic since the Citizens United decision, which among much else, affirmed the First Amendment rights of individual Americans associating with each other in corporations (and unions, a fact that Reich conveniently forgets to acknowledge).

Leftists like Reich – and President Obama, with his demagogic attack on the high court as the justices sat in the congressional chamber listening to his 2010 state of the union address – endlessly repeat the falsehood that Citizens United created a new corporate right.

In fact, the Supreme Court has held nearly two dozen times since FDR was in the White House that corporations are associated persons who have constitutional rights. In 1978, for example, the Court said in First National Bank of Boston v Bellotti that it found in the context of ballot measures “no support for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a corporation.”

Campaign finance regulations have diluted it somewhat, but the Court's core holding has remained for decades that corporations are persons with the constitutional protections of due process and equal standing before the law.

Ken Klukowski, who covers the Supreme Court for The Washington Examiner’s commentary pages, suggests three cases in particular are worth reading on this issue, including First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 784 (1978), Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc. v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6 (1970), and Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, 244 (1936).

To which, I would add the 2003 McConnell v FEC decision, especially the Scalia and Thomas dissents, and, of course, Citizens United in 2010.

The Grosjean decision makes for especially interesting reading because it struck down a Louisiana tax on the state’s five largest newspapers that accepted paid advertising.

Justice George Sutherland – one of the Four Horsemen on the bench who opposed the New Deal – noted in the Court’s decision that English monarchs and parliaments for several centuries prior to the American Revolution had used similar taxes on newspapers and other publications to suppress opinion critical of the government. The First Amendment represented an explicit rejection of such official methods of suppression.

Sutherland said the Louisiana law “is bad because, in the light of its history and of its present setting, it is seen to be a deliberate and calculated device in the guise of a tax to limit the circulation of information to which the public is entitled in virtue of the constitutional guaranties. A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves.”

Just as taxes were often were used in Britain to suppress certain opinions, laws and regulations can be used in America today to restrict speech, which is precisely what leftists like Reich have in mind.

All limits on the amount an individual may give to political candidates, parties or causes represent abridgements on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. (Requiring disclosure of all such expenditures is no limit at all, except upon those who prefer anonymity. This is an issue on which I am as yet conflicted).

Thus, Justice Scalia was right in his 2003 dissent in FEC v McConnell when he reminded us that the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 is “a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government. ... We are governed by Congress, and this legislation prohibits the criticism of Members of Congress by those entities most capable of giving such criticism loud voice: national political parties and corporations, both of the commercial and not-for-profit sort."

Worse, the acceptance of government-imposed conditions on such political speech makes it just that much easier to rationalize the imposition of official limits in other contexts, such as the news media.

As Justice Thomas argued in his 2003 dissent to McConnell v FEC, “although today’s opinion does not expressly strip the press of First Amendment protection, there is no principle of law or logic that would prevent the application of the Court’s reasoning in that setting. The press now operates at the whim of Congress.”

Indeed, it is only a short distance between advocating limits on political speech in order to avoid “the appearance of corruption” - or, as Cass Sustein, Obama's regulatory czar, argues, to correct or prevent "conspiracy theories" in the general populace - and endorsing such limits on newspaper editorials, opinion columns, or Talk Radio commentaries because they, too, allegedly create such an appearance.

Judging by the actions of President Obama’s appointees at the Federal Communications Commission regarding "net neutrality" and at the Federal Trade Commission for “reinventing journalism,” that distance is probably even shorter than most friends of either the news media or the First Amendment realize.


PayPal returns frozen funds to pro-family activist following internet protest

The PayPal corporation has returned funds it froze mid-September in pro-life and pro-family activist Julio Severo’s account following a campaign by militant homosexuals to cut Severo off from the company’s service.

Following several weeks of unfavorable articles on PayPal’s actions in LifeSiteNews and other media outlets, as well as a petition drive that gathered more than 10,000 electronic signatures and offers of legal help from multiple groups defending the rights of Christians, PayPal informed Severo that it would make an “exception” and release the funds.

The company had previously claimed that it would hold the money in the account, which constituted most of needed Severo’s funds, for up to nine months before returning it to him.

PayPal shut down Severo’s account and froze his funds after the organization was petitioned by the homosexualist organization All Out to eliminate ten organizations or individuals from its service, for opposing the homosexual political agenda.

Julio Severo and others were accused of peddling “hate,” although Severo makes it clear that he has no animosity towards homosexuals and wants them to be rescued from the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle. In addition to translating and writing for LifeSiteNews, Severo publishes a blog in Portuguese that is one of Brazil’s best-read, and is followed by politicians and other influential individuals in the country. Severo also has blogs in English and Spanish.

In response to the gay activist complaints, PayPal launched an investigation of the targetted groups. It sought to cut off any that could not prove that they were a legally-constituted charity capable of receiving donations, despite the fact that PayPal permits individuals to receive money without reference to membership in any group.

Also targeted by the campaign have been such groups as Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP), a Catholic group that defends the rights and dignity of Christians and opposes sodomy, and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which seeks to inform the public about the facts about the “gay” lifestyle. So far, none of these have been cut off by PayPal.

Although LifeSiteNews sent the petition list to a number of PayPal addresses and informed the company of the signatures, no response was ever received.


Long may Jeremy shoot his mouth off

Humourless whiners who complain about Jeremy Clarkson should be taken out and shot. There, I’ve said it too. I’m going down with Jeremy. I’m happy to. I love his brand of humour and I will defend to the death (by shooting) my right to enjoy it.

Those people who deliberately try to take offence by interpreting his jokes literally and who seek to silence him in the name of the ‘rights’ of the people he lampoons are interfering with my right to laugh at life.

I really do fear that if we give in to these sanctimonious idiots we will all end up automatons who dare not speak for fear of being accused of something Orwellian sounding like ‘hate crime’ or ‘verbal assault’.

Mr Clarkson’s comments on the BBC’s One Show about public sector workers may have been bad taste, but there was still no law against bad taste in this country the last time I checked, although admittedly it feels like that day may be coming closer.

He said, and I quote: 'I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. How dare they go on strike when they’ve got these gilt-edged pensions while the rest of us have to work for a living.'

Here’s the thing: he said it in a funny voice. It was A Joke involving something called ‘exaggeration’.

Often, when constructing A Joke, one exaggerates until an absurd or bizarre concept is created - in this case the idea of shooting striking teachers in public, which, in reality, one would never do. Get it? Oh dear. Maybe they still don’t understand.

Right, let’s try another one. Later Mr Clarkson added: 'I do sometimes use the train to come to London but it always stops in Reading. It's always because somebody has jumped in front of it and somebody has burst.' 'You just think, why have we stopped because we've hit somebody? What's the point of stopping? It won't make them better.'

That is called black humour. Black humour used to be very popular before we all climbed so far up inside our own preciousness that we couldn’t laugh at the dark side of life any more.

But this is a perilous way to go. A joke about people throwing themselves in front of trains is not only darkly funny, it has a very important purpose too. Ask any psychologist and they will tell you that human beings need to laugh at sad or disturbing things in order to process them.

As such, the best comedy often comes from the saddest circumstances. From dark, comes light. Sometimes the jokes work, sometimes they don’t particularly. But we still have to try. We have a proud tradition of this sort of thing, and we should defend it. As the comedian nailed to the cross once said: 'Always look on the bright side of life.'



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

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

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


4 December, 2011

Jeremy Clarkson ignites the hypocrisy of the Left

It's OK for Leftists to make jokes in poor taste but not OK for others

Jeremy Clarkson has apologised for saying that strikers should be taken out and shot in front of their families. I suppose that was the right thing to do. To be honest, it’s a bit hard for me to judge because public-sector whingeing makes my own trigger finger itch. But the “in front of their families” bit was gratuitous even by Clarkson’s standards.

I like to think, though, that even if I were a Lefty I’d be able to tell the difference between saloon-bar rhetoric, in which being taken out and shot is the punishment for everything from paedophilia to leaving your wheelie bin on the pavement, and a really nasty joke.

Such as, for example, making fun of the physical appearance of disabled children.

That’s what the comedian Jimmy Carr did. “Why are they called Sunshine Variety coaches when all the kids on them look the f——same?” he asked in his most recent live show. Geddit? Children with Down’s syndrome have similar features. Not much “variety” there, eh? They’re all the same! Boom-boom!

Some friends of mine have children with Down’s syndrome. It’s a tremendously difficult disability, but the quality of love between the parents and child often seems especially intense, as if to help them meet the challenge. In my opinion, anyone who exploits this condition for a stand-up cackle is, if you’ll forgive a descent into Carr-speak, a f—––– sicko.

Jimmy Carr apologised. Sort of. But not before he’d defended his joke. “It was the 238th gig of the tour and nobody has complained so far,” he said – untruthfully. A mother of a child with Down’s syndrome complained about the joke a year ago. She begged him to remove it from his stage show. Carr didn’t even reply to her letter.

Still, I can believe that he told that joke hundreds of times without anyone in his right-on audience complaining. These aren’t people who would guffaw at the sight of a Sunshine coach. But they don’t mind Jimmy Carr crossing that line because gags about the disabled are “edgy” if made by comedians with radical political views.

This isn’t the only example. Ricky Gervais likes to throw around the word “mong”, short for “mongol”. What is it about Down’s syndrome that tickles the funny bone of Lefty comics? I suppose they’re so afraid of sounding racist, sexist etc that there aren’t many minorities left. And the kids don’t answer back.

All political tendencies exhibit double standards but the Left gets away with murder. This week saw the publication of an excellent article in Commentary magazine in which Jonathan Foreman tried to explain to a US readership why the Independent isn’t sacking its columnist Johann Hari, whom we now know is a plagiarist, fantasist and slanderous liar. Foreman’s conclusion was spot on. Hari escaped sacking because he told the right kind of lies, ones that amused liberal opinion-formers.

Twitter, needless to say, heartily embraces the double standards of the Left. It went bananas over Clarkson. Misery princess and New Statesman hack Laurie Penny declared: “I am ashamed to have a passport the same colour as the crypto-fascist propagandist Jeremy Clarkson. Whose salary, btw, is publically [sic] funded.”

Strangely, I have been unable to find a tweet from Laurie condemning Carr, with whom she appeared on the “edgy” but sanctimonious Channel 4 programme 10 O’Clock Live. But she did remind us that November 20 was Transgender Day of Remembrance. Must put that in the diary for next year. Do you think Jimmy or Ricky have some jokes up their sleeves about transsexuals? I doubt it, somehow. Wrong sort of minority.


March of the PC brigade: Atheists in court battle to ban Britain's town hall prayers

An atheist campaign to ban the historic practice of saying prayers at council meetings yesterday found its way to the High Court.

Former councillor Clive Bone, backed by an anti-religious campaign group, claims the tradition breaches his human right to freedom of belief. Mr Bone said he was ‘disadvantaged and embarrassed’ when Christian prayers were said in the council chamber.

Backed by the National Secular Society, Mr Bone wants prayers to be ruled out of the formal agenda of any local authority meetings.

His case reached the High Court yesterday at the culmination of a three-year campaign. Success could open the way for a drive to force Parliament to abandon saying prayers as part of Commons and Lords business.

The NSS has based its legal challenge on the claim that Mr Bone, as an atheist, should not be subjected to religious ritual, and that to do so breaks his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

However it was revealed yesterday that he is no longer a councillor in Bideford in Devon. Town clerk Heather Blackburn confirmed: ‘Mr Bone did not stand for re-election in May 2011.’

The Society said yesterday: ‘The NSS is taking Bideford Town Council to court after receiving a complaint from one of its councillors, Clive Bone, that he was disadvantaged and embarrassed as a non-believer by the saying of prayers as part of council business.

‘He has either to sit through them or leave the room without leave of the Mayor. The Council even rejected a suggested compromise period of silence.’

Its lawyer David Wolfe, told Mr Justice Ouseley in the High Court: ‘The claimants challenge the town council’s practice of holding religious prayers. ‘We say the conduct of holding prayers within the formal part of the meeting is an unlawful practice.’

Bideford council has voted to keep its prayers. Similar decisions have been taken by other town councils in Devon when the argument has been raised over the past three years.

The council’s legal defence is being aided by another pressure group, the Christian Institute. Mike Judge, of the Institute, said: ‘The Council have debated this several times. They’ve debated it, they’ve sought advice, they’ve held special meetings and they’ve voted on it.

‘And the majority of them said, actually we would like to continue with this practice. It cannot be unlawful for the Council to say prayers if it has democratically chosen to do so.’

Ministers yesterday indicated support for the council. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he could not comment on the issues before the High Court, but added: ‘This Government recognises and respects the role that faith communities play in our society.

‘Prayers are an important part of the religious and cultural fabric of the British nation. While the decision on whether to hold prayers is a matter for local councils, we believe they should have the freedom to do so.’

Mr Bone, a management consultant, is in his 60s and describes himself as ‘semi-retired’. He is a regular contributor of letters to newspapers on subjects ranging from engineering to the forthcoming remake of the Dambusters film.


U.S. Military to Rescind Policy Banning Bibles at Hospital

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said they are rescinding a policy that prohibits family members of wounded military troops from bringing Bibles or any religious reading materials to their loved ones.

The decision to rescind the ban on Bibles came exactly one day after a Republican lawmaker denounced the policy on the House floor and called on President Obama to publicly renounce the military policy.

“The President of the United States should address this and should excoriate the people who brought about this policy and the individual who brought it about should be dismissed from the United States Military,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told Fox News & Commentary.

King spoke from the House floor Thursday blasting a policy memorandum from the commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center written by Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan. The September 14th memo covers guidelines for “wounded, ill, and injured partners in care.”

“No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit,” the policy states.

“That means you can’t bring in a Bible and read from it when you visit your son or your daughter, perhaps – or your wife or husband,” King said. “It means a priest that might be coming in to visit someone on their death bed couldn’t bring in the Eucharist, couldn’t offer Last Rites. This is the most outrageous affront.”

A spokesperson for the medical center told Fox News late Friday that the policy will be rewritten and its intent will be made “crystal clear.”

“The instructions about the Bibles and reading material have been rescinded,” said Sandy Dean, a public affairs officer for Walter Reed. “It will be written to articulate our initial intention which was to respect religious and cultural practices of our patients.” Dean said the instruction was “in no way meant to prohibit family members from providing religious items to their loved ones at all.”

If that’s the case, why is the policy being rescinded? “We don’t want there to be any misinterpretation of what we’re trying to say,” she told Fox News. “We appreciate Congressman King bringing this to our attention. We don’t want our instructions to be ambiguous.” We appreciate him bringing it to our attention.

Rep. King said the military has some explaining to do. “I don’t think there’s any excuse for it and there’s no talking it away,” King told Fox News. “The very existence of this, whether it’s enforced or not, tells you what kind of a mindset is there.”

“The idea that these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that have fought to defend our Constitution, and that includes our First Amendment rights to religious liberty –would be denied that religious liberty when they are lying in a hospital bed recovering from wounds incurred while defending that liberty is the most bitter and offensive type of an irony that I can think of,” he said.

The policy has brought strong condemnation from religious and conservative advocacy groups. “It flies in the face of not only the Bill of Rights, but 200 years of federal law,” said Ken Klukwoski, of the Family Research Council. “This current administration is showing unprecedented hostility towards those practicing the Christian faith.”

“But beyond that,” he told Fox News, “We’ve also seen a militantly secular attitude of trying to sterilize the Defense Department of all references to faith.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, echoed Rep. King’s demand that whoever is responsible for the memo be fired. “It cannot be allowed to stand,” Land told Fox News. “It must be rescinded and the people responsible for perpetrating it should be fired.”

Land said the policy “shows the ugly face of the pseudo-tolerance of secularism.” “They claim to be tolerant but this is as intolerant as you can be – to not allow wounded soldiers to have religious artifacts,” Land said.

King said Americans must “take a very strong stand.” “Christians are generally nice people and for that reason they can victimize the Christians in this country,” he said. “There was a reason that Christ gave us the demonstration of righteous anger when he threw the money changers out of the temple. It gives us some license to throw these kinds of people out of the military.”

King said he’s been alarmed at a trend he’s seen to scrub Christianity from the military – most recently the decision to remove a cross from an Army chapel in northern Afghanistan because it violated Army regulations.

He placed the blame on the Obama Administration. “This is Orwellian,” he said. “Who would have believed even two or five years ago that the Executive branch of government led by our Commander in Chief Barack Obama would produce some kind of document that would prohibit family members coming into our military hospitals

Klukwoski said he’s noticed a similar trend in what he called “anti-faith measures.” “We are seeing a shocking level of hostility towards religious faith but beyond that – we’ve also seen a militantly secular attitude of trying to sterilize the defense department of all references to faith and references,” he said.


Criminalizing Your Internet Profile?

The New American (15/11) states,
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

There are two ways to interpret the DOJ's push to criminalize a breach of online “terms of service.”

The Civil-Libertarian Interpretation

The civil-libertarian interpretation is that the DOJ finds the use of fake names and information on the Internet to be a barrier to collecting the personal data it desires for monitoring peaceful behavior. But passing legislation to outlaw “bad” data would be a lengthy, problematic process, during which civil-liberties and privacy advocates would howl. Thus, the DOJ is attempting to sidestep the process by interpreting existing laws in a new way.

It wants to use the CFAA to enforce the online contracts that go into effect whenever a user registers and clicks the “I Agree” button. Specifically, the DOJ wants to apply a general-purpose prohibition against any computer-based act that “exceeds authorized access.”

Thus, in addressing Congress, the DOJ's deputy computer-crime chief stated that this CFAA provision should be interpreted broadly enough to permit “prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider.”

In the name of national security, the DOJ seeks to criminalize a tort violation that is usually viewed as trivial. Indeed, as Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School, stated “All of these sites, Facebook and Twitter included, have terms of service, which are written extraordinarily broadly. No one ever reads what those terms are. I'm a law professor. I just click yes.”

If someone is found to be in violation of an online contract by, for example, using a fake name on Facebook, then the current “penalty” is to have his account closed and, perhaps, his ISP blocked from the site.

If the DOJ is successful, however, that offense could be prosecuted as a crime. Lying about your age or other personal characteristics on sites such as Match.com could be similarly criminalized.

Kerr continues,
If you … read what those terms of service are, they'll include things like all the information you give has to be accurate. You have to be a certain age, if you've given any information about things that you like, where you live. If any of that is inaccurate, you are technically in violation of the terms of service of the site. But if that is a criminally enforceable rule, then suddenly pretty much everybody who uses computers is a criminal. And it's incredibly easy for the Justice Department to step in.

In short, the DOJ is seeking a vast, unprecedented power to regulate and criminalize the flow of information over the Internet. The DOJ is unlikely to use this new power against the lovelorn who shave 10 years off their ages, but that power would be available to be used against anyone at the DOJ’s own discretion.

The DOJ’s Interpretation

DOJ justifications range from fighting terrorism to combating the specter of inside trading. The most common justification, however, is one seemingly designed to capture public sympathy. The DOJ says it wants to be sure it can successfully prosecute the next Lori Drew.

In 2006, a thirteen-year-old named Megan Taylor Meier committed suicide in reaction to cyber-bullying by Lori Drew, the mother of one of Megan's schoolmates. Drew faked an identity on MySpace in order to conduct her cruel campaign.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which functions under the DOJ, investigated for a year before allowing the case to go public to the media. The case created a national sensation. In Missouri, where Megan had lived, it turned out that Drew could not be prosecuted because she had broken no existing law. (In response, the state's harassment law was later expanded, so that it became a crime for adults over 21 to use a phone or electronic device to cause emotional distress to children under 18.)

Propelled by cries of “Justice for Megan!,” prosecutors then charged Drew in California (where the headquarters of MySpace is located) with three felony counts of violating the CFAA and one felony count of conspiracy to violate. In order to make the charges better fit the CFAA, which was designed to prevent hacking, the prosecutors argued that Drew's violation of the service contract was akin to hacking into MySpace's computers for criminal purposes.

In 2008, a California jury convicted Drew of three lesser, misdemeanor charges. The convictions were reversed on appeal. U.S. District Judge George Wu stated that allowing the convictions to stand “basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime … and therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract.”

He further stated that the government's interpretation of the CFAA would give prosecutors the ability to criminally convict anyone who violated online “terms of service.” This, Wu argued, “would convert a multitude of otherwise innocent Internet users into misdemeanant criminals.”


The DOJ is asking Congress for sweeping new powers that have the potential to impact most people in America. On November 18, a DOJ representative provided the Internet civil-liberties guru Declan McCullagh of CNET with a transcript from a Congressional hearing. The purpose was to assure McCullagh and his readers that “the DOJ is in no way interested in bringing cases against the people who lie about their age on a dating site or anything of the sort.”

And yet, a Left-Right coalition that includes the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and FreedomWorks warns of just that. In a letter sent to the Senate, the coalition stated, “If a person assumes a fictitious identity at a party, there is no federal crime. Yet if they assume that same identity on a social network that prohibits pseudonyms, there may … be a CFAA violation. This is a gross misuse of the law.” (PDF)

Understandably, people are reluctant to grant government widespread and vague powers over their daily lives. And the criminalization of any tort is a power best denied.

Even if the DOJ's reassurances to Congress and the public are sincere, the agency is prone to mission creep, and muscles tend to be flexed. Indeed, the DOJ's attempt to radically expand the interpretation of the CFAA beyond its original intent is a testament to mission creep.

Of the two interpretations, it is better for freedom to be safe than sorry.



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

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

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


3 December, 2011

The unintended consequences of racial preferences

George F. Will below points out some ways in which "affirmative" racism hurts blacks. He might have added as another instance the way it devalues all black credentials -- as Justice Clarence Thomas has pointed out. It's got to the point where many blacks prefer to see a white doctor rather than a black one. They know that the black doctor may be incompetent. It's a pity Michael Jackson was not as wise as that. His black doctor killed him

The Supreme Court faces a discomfiting decision. If it chooses, as it should, to hear a case concerning racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas, the court will confront evidence of its complicity in harming the supposed beneficiaries of preferences the court has enabled and encouraged.

In the 1978 Bakke case concerning preferences in a medical school’s admissions, Justice Lewis Powell, the swing vote on a fractured court, wrote that institutions of higher education have a First Amendment right — academic freedom — to use race as one “plus” factor when shaping student bodies to achieve viewpoint diversity. Thus began the “educational benefits” exception to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

But benefits to whom? For 33 years, the court has been entangled in a thicket of preferences that are not remedial and hence not temporary. Preferences as recompense for past discrimination must eventually become implausible, but the diversity rationale for preferences never expires.

Liberals would never stoop to stereotyping, but they say minorities necessarily make distinctive — stereotypical? — contributions to viewpoint diversity, conferring benefits on campus culture forever. And minorities admitted to elite universities and professional schools supposedly serve the compelling goal of enlarging the minority component of the middle class and professions.

But what if many of the minorities used in this process are injured by it? Abundant research says they are, as two amicus curiae briefs demonstrate in urging the court to take the Texas case.

In 2003, when the court ruled on two cases arising from University of Michigan undergraduate and law school racial-preference policies, the court contributed more confusion than clarity. It struck down the undergraduate policies as too mechanistic in emphasizing race but upheld the law school’s pursuit of educational benefits from a “critical mass” of certain approved minorities.

The details of the Texas policies are less important than what social science says about the likely consequences of such policies. A brief submitted by UCLA law professor Richard Sander and legal analyst Stuart Taylor argues that voluminous research refutes the legal premise for such racial classifications: They benefit relatively powerless minorities.

“Academic mismatch” causes many students who are admitted under a substantial preference based on race, but who possess weaker academic skills, to fall behind. The consequences include especially high attrition rates from the sciences, and self-segregation in less-demanding classes, thereby reducing classroom diversity. Blacks are significantly more integrated across the University of California system than they were before the state eliminated racial preferences in 1996, thereby discouraging enrollment of underprepared minorities in the more elite institutions.

Sander and Taylor report: “Research suggests a similar pattern nationally; scholars have found that the use of large racial preferences by elite colleges has the effect of reducing diversity at second-tier schools.” Another study showed that even if eliminating racial preferences in law schools would mean 21 percent fewer black matriculants, there would still be no reduction in the number of blacks who graduate and pass the bar exam.

A second brief, submitted by three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow and Todd Gaziano), argues that racial preferences in law school admissions mean fewer black lawyers than there would be without preferences that bring law students into elite academic settings where their credentials put them in the bottom of their classes. A similar dynamic is reducing the number of minority scientists and engineers than there would be under race-neutral admissions policies.

There are fewer minorities entering high-prestige careers than there would be if preferences were not placing many talented minority students in inappropriate, and discouraging, academic situations: “Many would be honor students elsewhere. But they are subtly being made to feel as if they are less talented than they really are.” This is particularly so regarding science and engineering, which are, as Heriot, Kirsanow and Gaziano say, “ruthlessly cumulative”: Students who struggle in entry-level classes will find their difficulties cascading as the academic ascent becomes steeper. Hence the high attrition rates.

The court should use the Texas case to acknowledge the intersection of constitutional law and social science regarding racial preferences, and to revisit the crumbling legal rationale for them.

Until it does, diversity bureaucracies on campuses will continue to use minority students as mere means to other people’s ends, injuring minorities by treating them as ingredients that supposedly enrich the academic experience of others.

In six devastating words, the Heriot-Kirsanow-Gaziano brief distills the case against the “diversity” rationale for racial preferences: “Minority students are not public utilities.”


Nudging us to death

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge, arguing for something they called libertarian paternalism, the idea that government rather than forcing us to do the right thing might “nudge” us in the right direction via program design or tax incentives.

My biggest problem with nudging people via the power of the state is that the process would likely be corrupted via special interests. Why should we assume that the state will nudge us toward the good? Wouldn’t there be a tendency toward corruption? Nudging people toward what cronies want seems just as bad as forcing people to do what cronies want.

Another problem with nudging is that we don’t always agree on what is good. But surely nudging students toward fruit and away from ice cream is a good thing, isn’t it? From Good Lifestyle:
Researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, conducting a study on behalf of the New York Department of Health, discovered that the key to getting schoolchildren to eat healthier school lunches isn’t price. It’s positioning and presentation.

By moving fruit from dingy silver pans in poorly lit areas to baskets illuminated by better lighting, the team prompted students to go on a fruit-buying frenzy, raising the sales of the healthy items by more than 50 percent. Other phenomenon that these food psychologists have noticed is that students who pay for their lunches with debit cards (rather than cash) tend to prefer junk food. The Lab director Brian Wansink believes that by only allowing students to pay for certain items with cards (excluding cookies, ice cream, chips, etc.), schools may be able to push students toward eating better.

These so-called “nudges” are part of a field called behavioral economics, which involves getting people to act in their best interest by playing on certain known behaviors and tendencies they exhibit.

Having people in power act in my best interest is a little creepy even in a case like this. But the bigger problem is knowing my best interest. For years, the government has systematically pushed the idea that fat is bad and carbs are good. But what if they have it wrong, as Gary Taubes and others suggest they have. What if fat is good and carbs are bad? What if the government has been nudging people toward obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Oops! Maybe it would be better to allow more competition in ideas and less nudging. I’ll nudge myself, thank you very much.


Sweden’s Anti-Semites go right to the top

Police in Sweden's third-largest city, Malmö, are reporting a significant uptick in the number of reported anti-Semitic hate-crimes this year.

During just the first six months of 2011, Malmö police registered 21 anti-Semitic crimes, more than the total number (20) of such crimes reported in the city during all of 2010. According to police officials interviewed by the public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, the actual number of anti-Semitic incidents is far higher.

Recent statistics from Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) revealed that nationwide in 2010, there were 161 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The data comes as the Swedish government on September 20 set aside 4 million kroner ($600,000) to help boost security around the country's synagogues, after accusations that Sweden has not done enough to protect its Jewish population.

The allocation will go to "increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority," according to Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. He said the one-time appropriation in the 2012 budget funding is primarily meant to pay for an increased police presence, but that the money could also be used to purchase security cameras if Jewish groups express the need for such equipment.

Sweden has been accused of complacency about the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2010, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to avoid traveling to southern Sweden after a series of anti-Semitic incidents there.

"We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes," the center said in a statement.

The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Sweden is mainly being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the country, thanks to some of the most liberal immigration laws in Europe: as well as to leftwing politicians who never miss an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.

Muslims are now estimated to comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö's total population of around 300,000; much of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years is being attributed to shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.

During a two week period in July 2011, for example, the only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community was attacked three times. The synagogue, which has previously been set on fire and the target of bomb threats, now has guards stationed around it, and bullet-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

Jewish cemeteries in Sweden also have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as "Hitler, Hitler" and "Dirty Jew."

Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services altogether out of fear for their safety.

Hatred for Jews is also being stirred up by Sweden's leftwing political establishment and its pathological obsession with Israel. The demonization of the Jewish state by Swedish politicians is so frequent and often so fierce that it regularly crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.

Consider Ilmar Reepalu, the leftwing mayor of Malmö. Reepalu, who has turned a blind eye to the growing problem of anti-Semitism in Malmö during the more than 15 years he has been mayor, says that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israeli policies in the Middle East.

In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism. In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: "I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israeli] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals."

Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in Skåne in southern Sweden due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.

Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: "I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals."

The disdain for Israel is not limited to local politicians in Malmö; it goes right up to the top of Swedish politics.

In September 2011, for instance, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a well-known Pro-Palestinian activist, unilaterally recognized the Palestinian representative in Stockholm as ambassador. Bildt said the upgrade of the Palestinian representation follows "great advances made in the development of the Palestinian state."

In December 2009, while Sweden held the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, Bildt called for the creation of a "State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital." Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise "the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza."

In November 2011, Swedish Foreign Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson disclosed that Swedish taxpayer money had been used to fund a "one-sided" report on the conflict in the Middle East entitled "Colonialism and Apartheid: Israel's Occupation of Palestine."

The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS) received 700,000 kronor ($100,000) to produce a report on the Middle East conflict. The money was paid out by Forum Syd, a democracy and rights organization hired by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to provide the agency with information on the issue.

In August 2009, Sweden's top-selling newspaper, Aftonbladet, published an anti-Semitic blood libel by alleging that Israeli soldiers routinely murdered Palestinian children and harvested their bodily organs for sale on the international black market.

The Swedish government responded with indifference: When the country's ambassador to Israel put up a note on the embassy's website distancing Sweden from the article, her enraged superiors in Stockholm ordered her to take it down.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who leads the Jewish community in Malmö, blames the political leaders in Sweden for the rise in anti-Semitism in the country. He recently gave an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter(in English here) in which he describes Jewish life in contemporary Sweden.

Speaking to Svenska Dagbladet, Integration Minister Ullenhag said: "Jews are one of our national minorities, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that people can go to synagogue and engage in Jewish activities and feel they have the security they believe they need. That is a fundamental human right."

But in "progressive" Malmö, the future looks so bleak that around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel -- and more are preparing to go.


Pay for what is yours

In Britain and Australia, welfare rules now encourage and cajole single mums on benefits to find part-time work once their children start school. Absentee fathers are required to pay child support to help with the costs of raising their children.

But one section of the population is still allowed to evade the financial responsibilities of parenting –men on benefits who father children but have no means of paying for them.

The Daily Telegraph recently named Jamie Cumming, a 34-year-old unemployed man from Dundee, Scotland, as Britain’s ‘most feckless father.’ Cumming has fathered 15 children with 12 different women in 16 years. Two more of his babies are on the way. One of the mothers is Australian.

Nothing can be done to force him to take responsibility for the children he has sired. Nor can he be prevented from fathering even more in the future, if he can find women stupid enough to sleep with him. Most of his female partners have been young, and like him, few of them appear to work. Presumably he meets them in the dole queue when he goes to sign on.

How does Cumming support all these women and his children? He doesn’t, nor is he expected to. Being unemployed, the most he is required to give the mothers of his children under Britain’s benefits rules is £7 per week. That’s £7 in total, not £7 per child.

So who picks up the bill for all these ‘families’ he keeps creating? Not Cumming, nor the women he impregnates.

No, total strangers are paying to raise Cumming’s brood – people who (unlike Cumming and his partners) go to work, earn wages, pay their own way, support their own families, and are then required by law to support his multiple ‘families’ too. Such is the morality of the modern welfare state.

Obviously Cumming is an extreme case. But I estimate there are between one-quarter and one-third of a million absent fathers in Britain living on welfare and contributing almost nothing to the costs of raising their children.

Such men should be required to work full-time, no matter what kind of job it is, so they can start paying for their children’s upkeep. If that doesn’t cover the bills, their relatives – parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunties and step-parents – should contribute (why should strangers be expected to pay for a child’s upbringing before its relatives?). And if that fails, these deadbeat dads of the welfare system should be locked up for the criminal offence of child neglect – for if failing to organise financial provision for the upkeep of your children doesn’t constitute neglect, I don’t know what does.



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

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

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


2 December, 2011

A Response to Oregon's Governor on Capital Punishment

Dennis Prager

The governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, announced last week that he would not allow any more executions in his state during his time in office.

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, gave five reasons for his decision. My response follows each one.

1. "I refuse to be part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer."

This has become one of the most frequently offered reasons for objecting to capital punishment -- that because the system is not equitable, no murderer should be put to death.

This is a reason that is devoid of reason. If a system is not equitable, you don't end the system, you try to end what is not equitable. This is classic left-wing thinking -- destroy what is good if it is imperfect. Documentary-maker Michael Moore was recently on CNN with Anderson Cooper and provided a perfect example of this way of thinking.

Moore: "2011 capitalism is an evil system set up to benefit the few at the expense of the many."

Cooper: "So, what system do you want?"

Moore: "Well, there's no system right now that exists. We're going to create that system."

The utopian streak that is an essential part of the left-wing mind is puerile and destructive: "If it isn't perfect, eliminate it."

2. "I do not believe that those executions (the two that the governor allowed) made us safer."

We all acknowledge that two executions do not make us safer (though they do make it safer for prison guards and for other inmates). Who ever said two executions would make us safer? Overwhelmingly, the reason people give for supporting the death penalty is justice. It is indescribably unjust to allow everyone who deliberately takes a human life to keep his own.

But if you want to talk safety, then yes, we who support the death penalty are certain that, applied with any consistency, it is a deterrent. The late sociologist Ernest van den Haag had an interesting thought experiment. Suppose that murders committed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays carried a death sentence, while those committed on the other days were punishable by a prison sentence. On which days do you suppose more murders would be committed?

The notion that parking tickets deter illegal parking but that death does not deter murder is truly irrational. It shows what happens when people put ideology over common sense.

3. "Certainly I don't believe (the executions of murderers) made us more noble as a society."

Why is it noble to keep all murderers alive? Was Israel less noble for executing Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust? When two men enter the home of a family of four; rape the wife and two young daughters; beat all four nearly to death, leaving them in the agony of crushed bones and skulls; and then tie them up and burn the three females to death, why is it "noble" to keep the men who did that alive?

4. Oregon has an "unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice."

Opponents of the death penalty make it virtually impossible to execute murderers. They then lament how long and laborious the effort is to execute a murderer.

5. "... And I simply cannot participate in something I believe morally wrong."

Opponents of the death penalty simply assert the death penalty is immoral. That is their prerogative. But "morally wrong" in this context means nothing more than "I don't like it." Indeed, as reported in the The New York Times, "Asked with whom (Kitzhaber) had consulted, he said, 'Mostly myself.'"

Kitzhaber's moratorium delays the execution of a murderer who had raped and brutally beaten to death a woman named Mary Archer. Needless to say, the family and friends of Mary Archer disagree with the governor's action.

"We are just plain devastated," said the man who had been Mary Archer's husband. "This is such a miscarriage of justice."

Indeed it is. And worse. Societies that allow all murderers to live have lost some of their hunger for justice and certainly lost their hatred of evil. They also cheapen the crime of murder. Punishment is society's way of communicating how serious it views a crime, and there is all the difference in the world between the death penalty and life (not to mention less time) in prison.

When all murderers are allowed to live, the evil exult while the victims weep. Why is that noble?


The British private sector can no longer afford to indulge state workers who, for too long, have got away with murder

Few more unpalatable tasks face a minister than having to tell the electorate there is no Santa Claus. It is almost indispensable to the political art that Governments should be able to offer voters the prospect that even if they are briefly feeling the pinch, good times are round the corner.

Yesterday, however, George Osborne promised the British people pain today, tomorrow and the day after. In his autumn statement — which sounded more like a crisis budget — the Chancellor acknowledged that we face historic economic difficulties from which there can be no early escape.

More ‘quantitative easing’ (the printing of more money) means that the money already in circulation will become worth less; savers and pensioners face years of wretched returns on their investments; pay increases, if any, will make Scrooge look kindly.

If we are to become once more a solvent society, we shall need to become a less ‘compassionate’ one, and to hell with the victimhood lobby.

Osborne yesterday displayed grim determination, saying: ‘We are going to see Britain through the debt storm.’ He asserted that he will do whatever it takes to demonstrate that ‘this country has the will to live within its means’.

But he is a prisoner of forces, most of which are beyond his control. For example, no responsible politician or pundit can predict where the euro horror story will end.

The truth is that most of the world has been living beyond its means for decades.

If the eurozone collapses, almost every economy will reel before the shock. Even if it survives its current crisis, prolonged austerity will still be essential to stabilise its members’ finances. Serious social unrest, and thus more economic disruption, is highly likely.

Even beyond these immediate problems, we face a further fundamental one — our lagging competitiveness in the face of Asia. The Chancellor recognised this, saying: ‘The entire European continent is pricing itself out of the world economy.’

We have created a social model for ourselves that is no longer affordable, when workers on the far side of the world produce goods for a fraction of the Western price. The only remedies are to improve our own workers’ education and skills, promote innovation and cut costs.

Osborne recognises all these challenges. He aimed a well-judged thrust at the green fanatics (some of them Coalition ministers), whose excesses are drastically increasing manufacturers’ energy costs. ‘We aren’t going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills,’ he said.

But solutions to our troubles will take years to implement — even if Osborne and David Cameron can reconcile the public to the necessary sacrifices.

The unions’ state of denial is illustrated by today’s strikes, which their leaders claim as the start of a long campaign to protect their privileges. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, supposedly sensible and educated men and women, will be on the streets clamouring for preservation of inflated earnings and insupportable pension rights.

They seem oblivious of what is happening in the outside world, where economies are tottering. They aspire to become merely the last survivors standing in the rubble, an idiotic as well as shockingly selfish ambition.

Osborne and Cameron need to raise their game in the battle of words, the struggle to promote public understanding. They must keep reciting critical facts.

Even if the Office for Budget Responsibility is correct in predicting 710,000 public sector jobs will disappear in the years ahead, this is only the same number of posts invented by Gordon Brown during his spending rampage.

Of course, Britain should value its nurses, teachers, policemen and infrastructure workers, but a host of unnecessary jobs must go.

The Government faces a long struggle to persuade the British people to accept that, in future, most of us will have somewhat less than we have had in the past. The Age of Abundance is over.

How can we expect our lifestyles to be unaffected when the world price of oil has risen 40 per cent in the past year, and when international prices of commodities and especially foodstuffs are soaring?

Newly prosperous Chinese want to eat more meat, so British supermarkets must compete with Chinese ones for lamb, beef and pork.

Natural resources are becoming scarcer — water prominent among them — and thus more expensive. No British government can cushion its citizens from such realities.


Muhammad Hates Diversity

This week, in Oakland, Calif., America saw yet another stellar example of the glories of diversity. At a taping of a rap music video in that fair city, eight people, including a one-year-old child, were shot. When a classical music video goes wrong, somebody busts a string. When a rap music video goes wrong, somebody busts a cap.

Such observations, however, are now taboo. We're not supposed to suggest that the rap culture is any different from the classical music culture or that one is better than another. As white guy John Kerry put it, "I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important ... it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life."

You see, we recognize the value of diversity. And what's more, we think everyone else does, too. Hence the left's certainty that the election of President Barack Obama would win over the Muslim world -- his very ascendance would show the rest of the world that we find their cultures charming, praiseworthy and delightfully fascinating. "It's November 2008," wrote formerly-sane Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic. "A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man -- Barack Hussein Obama -- is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm."

There's only one problem: The Muslim world isn't hung up on skin color the way we are. Which isn't to say they're not racist -- they're busily snatching up black children for use as slaves or murdering them in Sudan, even as the BBC blithely claims, in the name of diversity, that "While Islamic law does allow slavery under certain conditions, it's almost inconceivable that those conditions could ever occur in today's world, and so slavery is effectively illegal in modern Islam." In point of fact, Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East lead the world in human trafficking.

The Muslim world just doesn't believe that skin color is all that important. Obama may be half-black, but he's still all-Western, according to them. It doesn't matter whether you're black, white or green -- if you're not a devotee of Muhammad, you don't matter. While the West tries to turn its civilization into cultural variety hour, Islam tries to turn Muslim lands into a cultural monolith. The same West that justifies the rap culture thinks that every Muslim terrorist bombing is an expression of economic angst or social alienation. Muslims recognize that terrorist bombings are expressions of a completely different worldview.

In other words, Muslims aren't stupid. They won't be wooed by a West headed by a man rich in melanin any more than a West headed by a Caucasian dude who enjoys the artistic stylings of Bjork would. When President Obama offers Iran an open hand, they slap it away, even though his hand is a different color than President Bush's was.

And the left is stumped. Obama's entire foreign policy was predicated on the notion that by existing, he would bridge all gaps and bury all hatchets. Instead, the Muslim world burns his picture even as he tells them he respects their radicalism. It turns out that diversity is a one-way street for the devotees of global Islam.

What of the West? We have been enervated by our confident feeling that if we could all just respect each other's cultures -- no matter how perverse -- we could beat missiles into plowshares. And if we could show the rest of the world just how much we respect other cultures by electing an emissary of foreign cultures, they would have to love us. We've turned into the world's Sally Field: "You like us! You really like us!" To which the Muslim world says, "No. We really don't."

But, like an obsessive, abused ex-girlfriend, we keep coming back for more. We beg for the beating. We plead for it. We are Keira Knightley's character in "A Dangerous Method" -- the beating excites us. For with every beating, we feel the open hand we seek. "At least they're reaching out to us ... with bombs! If we could only understand this unique form of communication, we'd finally be able to come to some sort of agreement!"

The Muslim world understands that it has us by the ideological throat. They will continue to preach the value of diversity from their outposts in the West, while wiping away any semblance of it across their own lands. And we will buy into it. This is how the West dies: not by being defeated in all-out civilizational battle, but by walking into the hail of bullets, arms outstretched.


An Australian State Parliament passes same-sex civil unions bill

I would have thought that sticking your dick up some other guy's behind was an uncivil union

QUEENSLAND MPs have voted in favour of legalising same-sex civil unions during an historic night in Parliament. After almost four hours of debate Andrew Fraser's private member's bill was passed by a vote of 47 to 40

The bill, introduced by Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser, enables same-sex couples to register their union with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The bill will grant same-sex couples the right to enter in to legally recognised civil unions. It prompted a strong reaction from gay rights, religious and family groups.

Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote, but the Liberal National Party indicated it would vote en bloc against the bill.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Fraser said it was 21 years to the day that Labor decriminalised homosexual activities in Queensland. And now he said, Labor could make history again to progress the rights of homosexuals.

"This bill merely but not meekly seeks to formally recognise relationships which have existed in Queensland for centuries," he told Parliament.

"It provides them with the opportunity to celebrate their commitment and their love for one another in a ceremony in front of friends and family, perhaps this is its most important feature."

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said Mr Fraser only introduced the bill to shore up the left vote and was rushing it through parliament before the election, due early next year.

He said the bill was only introduced on October 25 and there has not been enough time for community consultation.

"He (Mr Fraser) did it to stich up a Green preference deal," Mr Bleijie told Parliament. "This bill is nothing more than a stunt."

Mr Bleijie said more than 54 per cent of the final number of submissions to a legislative committee that examined the bill were received 17 days after the cut-off date. "That goes to the heart of the lack of consultation," he said. "We do not believe the people of Queensland have had the appropriate opportunities to raise their concerns."

He also said the bill was not a priority for Queenslanders, who are more concerned about cost of living pressures. "Civil partnerships is not on a priority list in the minds of Queenslanders," he said....

More here


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

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

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


1 December, 2011

'Parliament, not Leveson, should set British Press rules': Leading judge questions role of inquiry

One of the country's most senior judges last night questioned the role of the Leveson inquiry into the future of the Press.

Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger said that the job of setting up rules to regulate the Press should be done by Parliament and not by a judicial inquiry.

Lord Neuberger also threw a question mark over the right of MPs on the Commons Culture Committee, which is investigating phone hacking, to decide on whether individuals have been guilty of criminal activities.

His remarks, in a speech on the need for properly drawn up laws, amount to the first public doubts over Lord Leveson's inquiry from colleagues in the judiciary.

Lord Neuberger, who as Master of the Rolls is England's leading civil law judge, conducted an inquiry earlier this year into the development of privacy law.

He said yesterday that 'all hell broke loose' over phone hacking after the 'particularly revolting incident' in which News of the World journalists are said to have hacked into the phone of murder victim Millie Dowler, an act that encouraged her parents to believe she was still alive.

'It was right and proper that the Government then acted firmly and promptly,' he said.

'It was sensible to deal with the question of the appropriate long-term response in a considered way, by referring the issues for consideration, rather than leaping in with legislation or regulation, as happened with MPs' expenses.'

But he added: 'We do nonetheless seem to have ended up in a somewhat paradoxical situation.

'The issue of what sort of rules should be in place in the future to regulate the Press and its relations with politicians is being dealt with by a judge with assessors, whereas the question whether certain individuals were in some way privy to the hacking is being investigated by the House of Commons, through a committee.

'It might be thought that issues of future policy were for the legislature, whereas the question whether an individual was in some way privy to a crime was for the courts.'

The Master of the Rolls continued: 'Unusual circumstances result in unusual consequences, but at least we do not have the threat of knee-jerk legislation, as we did when it came to parliamentary expenses.'


‘Sometimes a police state is a good thing’

The Twitterati’s unhinged hounding of ‘racist tram lady’ confirms how intolerant the tweeting herd can be

‘Ok so this women’s been arrest[ed]. I guess my video was a success. This has caused quite a bit of hype.’

So tweeted Kelly Hollingsworth, who used her mobile phone to record a now infamous video of a woman in her thirties, with a toddler on her lap, shouting racist abuse at fellow passengers on a packed tram in Croydon, London. Hollingsworth posted the video on YouTube on Sunday and, within 24 hours, it had notched up over 100,000 views. Before long, a Twitter hashtag #MyTramExperience (based on the title of the video) was trending all over the UK. Dozens of people tweeted the video to the British Transport Police (BTP) and assisted them with their hunt for the mysterious woman. Within hours of the tweeting frenzy, the BTP announced that they had arrested a 34-year-old ‘on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence’; she has now been charged and the YouTube video has been viewed almost 2.2million times.

Welcome to a twenty-first-century Twitch Hunt. That term, coined in 2009 by spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, sums up this Orwellian modern phenomenon, where a mob of illiberal liberals on Twitter work with the authorities to silence those who dare to utter words that offend their sensibilities. This was the case with Daily Mail writer Jan Moir following her comments about the late Boyzone star Stephen Gately, and it happened again with celebrity controversialist, Kenneth Tong, who wrote pro-anorexia tweets. The horrible racist comments made by ‘tram lady’ - police have charged a woman called Emma West in relation to the incident - are, of course, of a different order to what Moir and Tong did and said, yet this woman has similarly experienced the wrath of the Twittermob.

No one would argue that tram lady’s comments were excusable. She was rightly condemned and challenged by her fellow travellers. Indeed, in many ways the video of this incident offered an excellent example of how these kinds of tense situations can be resolved informally. Disproving the Twitterati’s claim that the tram incident shows that racism is still rife today, in fact many of the passengers – both black and white – challenged the foul-mouthed shouter.

That wasn’t enough for the Twittermob, however, who wanted a piece of the action. They instantly expressed their moral fury, passing judgement without pausing for thought. Almost immediately upon seeing the video, people were tweeting it to the cops and naming the potential culprit and the place where she apparently works. Even Labour Party leader Ed Miliband joined in, asking followers to help ‘identify the woman shouting racist abuse on a tram in London’. Following the arrest of a suspect, tweeters showered the transport police with praise. ‘Sometimes a police state can be used for the powers of good. Well done, @btp_uk!’, said one tweet. ‘That’s social media at work for you, an arrest in the afternoon of the video hitting the TT in Twitter!’, said another.

Other tweeters called on the police to ‘lock her up and throw away the key’ and ‘save her child’. Literally hundreds of people, with no indication that they were joking, tweeted that the woman should be sterilised, deported, punched, kicked and shot. Some suggested she should be shot between the eyes, others that she should be shot in her ovaries. Other Twitterers expressed a preference for hanging her or said she should be ‘put down’ like a dog. Fittingly for Twitch Hunters, there were also demands that she be drowned or burnt at the stake.

Rising above all this unhinged online fury, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the kind of racism exhibited by racist tram lady is remarkably rare in twenty-first-century Britain. Far from being representative of the Daily Mail outlook or of ‘Broken Britain’, as many tweeters claimed, the reason the video is shocking is because such openly racist speech is, thankfully, a very odd thing these days. As one person tweeted, ‘Wowww hard to believe people like her still exist in Britain today’.

According to rumours in the Croydon area, the woman in question was ‘going through a breakdown’ when the footage was filmed. She certainly appears unwell, or at least drunk, in the video. But that won’t stop the Twittermob from letting rip; they never let anything as insignificant as facts or context get in the way of their mass screech for the hanging, drawing and quartering of a witch. At a time when moral certainties are few and far between, the useful thing about Twitch Hunts is that they provide people with a moment of extreme moralistic clarity, where they can gang together and demonstrate their ‘liberal’ credentials by tweeting: ‘I HATE HER.’

For all the sound and the fury generated by this video, this remains simply an isolated case of a possibly unstable woman shouting out obnoxious comments. One Twitterer tweeted at Kelly Hollingsworth, the woman who recorded the video, ‘If I was on that tram with that racist woman, I’d have thrown her off the tram while in motion, then fostered her child’. Hollingsworth responded: ‘LOL we all could see she weren’t worth it.’ If only the rest of Twitter had adopted that kind of response.

Rather than showing that ‘racism in Britain is as rife as ever’, as one person tweeted, the #MyTramExperience Twitch Hunt actually reveals the rise of a different backward trend: the tendency for herds of intolerant Twitterers to act like coppers’ narks, to make a massive deal out of their own shallow moralistic indignation, and to be utterly contemptuous of the idea that the public is more than capable of dealing with isolated incidents of racist abuse when they arise. The hounding of this woman was not a great act of anti-racist activism – it was the virtual equivalent of children chasing the local crazy lady through the streets and shouting ‘Nutter!’ or ‘Cow!’.


Banned straight players settle with gay softball group

A gay softball organization has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to three players who were disqualified from its 2008 Gay Softball World Series because of their perceived heterosexuality.

And as part of the settlement announced Monday, their team will be awarded the second-place trophy it was denied at the time.

The men — Stephen Apilado, Laron Charles and John Russ — filed the federal lawsuit against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance last year, claiming they had been discriminated against because they were bisexual, not gay.

They had played for years on a San Francisco-based team called D2. Rumors had persisted that the team was stacked with straight ringers, and when they made it all the way to the finals of the 2008 tournament in the Seattle area, others filed a protest, accusing D2 of exceeding the limit of two heterosexual players per team.

Tournament officials convened a protest committee and brought in five D2 members for questioning. In a conference room filled with about 25 people, many of them strangers, the players were asked questions about their sexuality and private lives. The protest committee then voted on whether the men were gay.

Two were determined to be gay, but the committee found Apilado, Charles and Russ to be straight. The organization said that at the time, the men never identified themselves as bisexual, were evasive or refused to answer questions about their sexuality. Minutes of the hearing say that Charles claimed to be gay but acknowledged being married to a woman, and Apilado initially said he was both gay and straight but then acknowledged being more attracted to women.

The men said they weren't given the option of stating outright that they were bisexual, even though the organization considered bisexual players to be gay for roster purposes. They and their team were disqualified. One observer at the hearing commented, "This is not a bisexual World Series. This is a gay World Series."

NAGAA said the settlement came after the organization won a series of motions limiting what claims the players could present at trial.

The players initially asked the court to throw out the roster limit on straight players as discriminatory. But U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled that the organization had a constitutional right to limit the number of straight players as a means of promoting their message that openly gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals can thrive in competitive sports.

The judge said the case could proceed to trial because questions remained about the way the softball association applied its rule, including whether the questions asked at the hearing were unnecessarily intrusive. The trial was set for next month.

"We have been vindicated by the judge's First Amendment rulings," said Roy Melani, NAGAAA's commissioner. "This lawsuit threatened not only the purpose of our organization, but also its future. We fought hard to protect ourselves and our core identity and I am relieved this issue is finally behind us."

Since the lawsuit was filed, NAGAAA has added language to its rules clarifying that bisexual and transgender players are fully welcomed participants in its events. As part of the settlement, the organization said disqualifying D2 was not consistent with its goal of welcoming bisexual players.

"NAGAAA regrets the impacts the 2008 protest hearing had on plaintiffs and their team," the settlement reads.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented the men, welcomed the changes but said they should go even further. The group still wants NAGAAA to delete its roster limits on straight players, on the grounds that it encompasses gay players who are in the closet or who choose not to put a label on their sexuality.

Charles said he's looking forward to playing more softball.

"It means a lot to me that NAGAAA is going to recognize our second place finish in 2008," Charles said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to play ball with my friends, teammates and community in NAGAAA's tournaments."


European culture of entitlement is mercifully absent Down Under

Gerard Henderson

I am currently in Jerusalem, wondering whether I will be able to make it to London later this week. There is a public-sector strike scheduled for Britain tomorrow, which is expected to close schools and hospitals and there is talk of up to 12-hour delays in getting through immigration at Heathrow.

Britain certainly does not have the worst-performing economy in Europe. However, it is likely that there will be another recession in Britain next year - due primarily to the failure of the nations of continental Europe to resolve the problems caused by the euro zone crisis. Right now, Margaret Thatcher's decision not to take Britain into the European single currency in the 1980s looks better by the day.

At a time of economic downturn and rising unemployment, the public-sector unions have taken a decision to strike for better retirement benefits for their members, who already enjoy relatively secure employment.

Many private-sector workers, whose taxes finance public-sector employees, can only dream of the pension entitlements about which the public-sector unions are demonstrating. The culture of entitlement, which has had a devastating effect on the economies of many European nations, remains a fact in Britain.

Writing earlier this month in the London Telegraph about the crisis in Europe, Kevin Rudd [former Australian PM] asked: "How did Europe get into such a difficult situation?" The Foreign Minister's answer was direct and accurate. Namely "for years now, some European governments have been spending more than they earned and running up unsustainable levels of debt". He argued that "this has been manageable in the past because banks were willing to lend to governments and economic growth had been strong enough to keep the interest bill paid". However, the global financial crisis changed all that.

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of social democracy. For example, in Britain today the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Ed Balls, advocate greater spending and borrowing as the way of resolving current economic difficulties. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, with the support of coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, advocates long-running cuts to government spending and a clampdown on schemes and benefits as an entry to lifelong welfare.

It seems that [former Australian PM] Rudd's position on economics has changed dramatically in recent times. When prime minister in February 2009, he wrote a widely quoted article in The Monthly titled "The Global Financial Crisis". Here Rudd maintained that the economic crisis "is the culmination of a 30-year domination of economic policy by a free-market ideology that has been variously called neo-liberalism, economic liberalism, economic fundamentalism, Thatcherism or the Washington Consensus".

Rudd went on to proclaim "the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed" and to advocate for social democracy. He wrote that "Labor, in the international tradition of social democracy, consistently argues for a central role for government in the regulation of markets and the provision of public goods".

Well, you can't have it both ways. In early 2009, Rudd argued the essential cause of the economic crisis was neo-liberalism, which is sometimes referred to as economic rationalism and is associated with expenditure restraint and debt reduction. In late 2011, Rudd argues that the essential cause of the economic crisis is deficit spending, funded by debt.

Australian politicians and senior bureaucrats cop a lot of criticism. Yet, a brief time in western Europe or the US serves as a reminder of how well Australia has been governed over the past three decades.

In the final years of Malcolm Fraser's government, John Howard commenced the first tentative step towards financial deregulation. The cause of economic reform was embraced by the Hawke and Keating governments between 1983 and 1996 and followed by Howard and Costello until 2007. When the global financial crisis arrived in 2008, the Australian economy was in good shape and Australia was not afflicted by overspending, funded by debt.

During his years as prime minister between December 1949 and January 1966, Robert Menzies was no economic reformer. But in the early 1950s, Menzies and his Coalition colleagues made a conscious decision not to take Australia down the road of from-cradle-to-grave social welfare.

Consequently, Australia never adopted the ethos of entitlement which still affects western Europe and parts of North America. It is this concept which has bankrupted so many governments and which explains the public-sector strikes scheduled for this week in Britain.



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

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

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


Examining political correctness around the world and its stifling of liberty and sense. Chronicling a slowly developing dictatorship

BIO for John Ray

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

I record on this blog many examples of negligent, inefficient and reprehensible behaviour on the part of British police. After 13 years of Labour party rule they have become highly politicized, with values that reflect the demands made on them by the political Left rather than than what the community expects of them. They have become lazy and cowardly and avoid dealing with real crime wherever possible -- preferring instead to harass normal decent people for minor infractions -- particularly offences against political correctness. They are an excellent example of the destruction that can be brought about by Leftist meddling.

I also record on this blog much social worker evil -- particularly British social worker evil. The evil is neither negligent nor random. It follows exactly the pattern you would expect from the Marxist-oriented indoctrination they get in social work school -- where the middle class is seen as the enemy and the underclass is seen as virtuous. So social workers are lightning fast to take chidren away from normal decent parents on the basis of of minor or imaginary infractions while turning a blind eye to gross child abuse by the underclass

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

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

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

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

The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amedment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.

Consider two "jokes" below:

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

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

Pretty offensive, right? So consider this one:

Q. "Why are evangelical Christians like the Taliban?

A. They are both religious fundamentalists"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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