Political Correctness Watch 
The creeping dictatorship of the Left..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider two "jokes" below:

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

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

Pretty offensive, right? So consider this one:

Q. "Why are evangelical Christians like the Taliban?

A. They are both religious fundamentalists"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Robber caught by bikers

If this had happened in batty Britain, the police would have arrested the bikers for "assaulting" the robber. Don't believe it? See here

A BIKER who crash-tackled an armed man to the ground after he tried to hold up a club in Sydney says the bandit "picked the wrong night" for a robbery. The Southern Cross Cruiser Club was holding a meeting at a club in Regents Park, in Sydney's west, when two men armed with machetes stormed in and approached staff at the bar.

The group of about 50 motorcycle enthusiasts was in another room when they were alerted to the alleged robbery. "I was in the middle of giving my meeting and someone ran in and said, 'The place is being robbed'," club president Jester said on ABC radio. He said while one alleged offender jumped over a balcony and ran into a nearby park, the other man tried to escape through a roller door at the front of the club. "So we ran around the roller door out the front and as this guy opened the roller door, we crash tackled him in the doorway," Jester said.

The man managed to escape after being knocked to the ground and tried to climb a fence out of the property, Jester said. "He fell on my arm so I let him go and he got up, so we chased him to the fence," he said. "We caught him at the fence and crash-tackled him and hog-tied him to the ground and waited for the police to get there." Jester said the man had picked the wrong night for the alleged robbery. "If they'd only looked, right when they walked in the main door, they would have seen 40 or 50 of us sitting there. "Obviously they couldn't see out of the balaclavas, because they didn't even look. I don't think he did his homework very well."

Jester praised the efforts of Auburn police, who he said were at the scene in a matter of minutes. The officers later located the other alleged robber in a nearby street. One of the men sustained minor injuries and was under police guard in Westmead Hospital this morning. The other man was being questioned by police.


Unabashed Prejudice at The Times

Tibor R. Machan

These matters tend to show up without much fanfare but that's exactly what makes them interesting and significant. When Eleanor Randolph of The New York Times wrote the following lines [Sunday, 2/24/08], I am sure she was being quite unselfconscious. It was simple common sense to her to say, as she wrote about the program "Law & Order"--which she and I both seem to have watched from its inception--that these shows "elevate Sam Waterston to his ethical pedestal, even though he appears elsewhere pitching investments."

Notice that as a fictional make-believe Assistant District Attorney--and now the DA himself--Waterston's ethics are deemed impeccable. But as an actually pitchman for investment services provided by TD Waterhouse he is besmirched. "Even though" this is what he does both for part of his living and in service to millions who are seeking to place their money with a trusted outfit that will help them put it away for a rainy day!

Why? What is morally, ethically not to applaud about Sam Waterston because he is making these pitches? What on earth is morally objectionable about advertising the services of TD Waterhouse or of any other legitimate enterprise?

Perhaps Ms. Randolph is upset with investment firms because they try to make people well off here in this world and she wants, like so many philosophers and theologians throughout human history, direct our attention to our spiritual selves and to the possibility of everlasting salvation earned through various measures of earthly asceticism. Nah, I don't think so.

Or perhaps she is just expressing a prevalent, unexamined prejudice in our culture in which, despite the concern about economic downturns, about poverty, about unemployment, the intelligentsia is scornful toward people in business. Kind of like the aristocracy had been about the nouveau riche because they dirtied their hands with productive work!

It is interesting that someone so closely linked to the liberal establishment in America would have no self awareness about her rank, irrational disdain for those who work in the financial community. This blindness, manifest here only as a casual throwaway line, has a serious impact on the health of the nation's economy. For example, it fosters an atmosphere of disdain toward millions of young people who are considering entering the business professions. They are bombarded with the prejudice against their choice of career in TV programs, newspaper columns, movies, pulp fiction, popular music, and elsewhere and no righteous indignation is expressed by the mainstream moralizers in the country when it happens.

Apart from a few voices way outside the mainstream, politicians and others have no compunction about bashing business, denigrating people's efforts to prosper, to make a profit in the market place, no. Attempting to thrive economically, while considered imperative for the country as a whole, is treated as a sin or some kind of lowly drive when exhibited by individuals.

Nevertheless, of course, most people, when they act on the basis of their personal common sense, show that prudence about their money is a decent, praiseworthy thing. They know well and good that seeking out good financial advice and acting on it are a wise course for them to take. They often stress such prudence as they raise their children. They frown upon recklessness in the market place by friends and neighbors.

Yet, somehow, they do not protest when pundits like Ms. Randolph and many, many others deride commerce and business. When a politician aligns himself or herself with those in the business world, if only to free up avenues for trade, he or she is derided for siding with "big business." Never mind that it is such trade, carried out by those in the world of business that creates the jobs that keeps people off the unemployment lines, that makes it possible for them to provide for their needs and wants and dreams!

Isn't it time that this kind of schizophrenia is abandoned, that the prejudice, the unjust discrimination against commerce and business is cast aside as nearly as insidious as racism and sexism?


The religion of peace in Australia again

GANGS of Middle Eastern youths have threatened to bash staff in popular city and suburban nightclubs. Adelaide hoteliers say the notorious "Middle East Boys" - or MEB - have said they'd find staff members' homes to exact a violent revenge after being refused entry to bars and pubs. One hotelier, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, said gangs were barred from most Adelaide pubs but members occasionally slipped into late-night clubs undetected. He says gangs are infiltrating bars and clubs to sell drugs to young patrons. "We had one of them say: `We'll find out where you live and come around and get you' after he was chucked out," the hotelier said. "They were coming in pretty regularly for a while there but we have a strict policy now; we just don't let them in."

Chief Inspector Scott Duval, Officer in Charge of the Licensing Enforcement Branch, said he would "encourage any licensee who is experiencing problems with any patron/s to contact police". "A licensee currently has the power to bar persons from their licensed premises under Section 125 of the Liquor Licensing Act for periods of up to three months, six months or indefinitely," he said. "A person barred for over one month may apply to the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner for a review. Maximum penalty for breaching a barring order is a $1250 fine. "Amendments to the Liquor Licensing Act have been drafted which will give police the power to bar persons from licensed premises, however this power is not currently available to police."

MEB, linked by an ethnic background, is one of three groups of young men who are "of interest" to police, along with RTS (Rule the Streets) and TR (Team Revolution). All have associations with bikie gangs. The hotelier said gangs targeted the nightclubs most popular with young people because they were most likely to buy amphetamines and cannabis. Problems of gang intimidation peaked several months ago but strong crowd controls and stricter entry standards were making an impact. Hotelies have the power to ban, or bar, patrons for unruly behaviour but police urge them to also report threats of violence from anybody who might be associated with a gang.

Hotel security vision can be used to identify troublemakers. Police say they will advise hoteliers on their legislative rights and how to stop troublemakers entering hotels. MEB members had been involved in pub fights and a group describing themselves as "Persian" took part in a brawl involving dozens of young Caucasian men at Glenelg last new year's eve. Persia is the former official name of Iran.


Australia: Spanking children is not assault, say police

New Zealand take note

South Australian police accept parents using "minor force" to discipline their child, Police Minister Paul Holloway has told State Parliament. The Minister said SA Police did not have a "specific official policy" regarding smacking of children by parents, but accepted the community standard. Mr Holloway, in a written response to a question in State Parliament, said officers would only act if they believed the "application of force was more serious than an act of minor discipline, he said, and could then charge them with aggravated assault. "Police would take action against a parent in those circumstances where they believe that the force applied was or is excessive," he said. "SAPOL accept the community standard that on occasion some parents apply minor force to their child as an act of discipline," he said.

But Family First MP Dennis Hood yesterday said SA Police needed to develop an official policy to establish a consistent approach to the issue. Mr Hood said he was trying to protect the rights of parents to discipline their children by smacking in a bill introduced into Parliament late last year, which was not supported by the Government. Under his bill, parents would be protected under law from being charged if they smacked their children with an open hand on the bottom, hand or back of legs.

"I haven't pushed the legislation to a vote because the Government has said it won't support it and so it would be unsuccessful," Mr Hood said. "If somebody gives their child a whack on the bottom or the hands or legs they shouldn't be facing potential court action over that - as happened in other states and there are reports of it having happened here in South Australia as well." "Clearly there are inconsistencies with the way this issue is handled. I am not endorsing the beating of children or any form of child abuse whatsoever."

Mr Holloway said police don't keep records of parents charged with smacking their children because if action was taken, the parent would be charged with aggravated assault. Mr Hood said smacking children is illegal in New Zealand. Last week a retired Victorian family court judge called called on state governments to follow New Zealand's move to abolish the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" for parents who hit their children.

Officers have the power to remove children from dangerous situations if they believe the child was in serious danger and they had to protect the child from harm, Mr Holloway said.



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

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

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


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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Terrorism is OK -- but only if Leftists say so

I'm less concerned about Obama's association with Ayers and Dohrn than some political chatterers seem to be. I've never doubted that Obama shared some of the leftist views of people more radical than he (a touch pink? You don't say!) And I don't really fear that he's a closet bomb-thrower; there's simply no evidence that Barack Obama wants to implement his political views by force -- at least, not by force beyond that permitted by the "legitimate" political system.

But I am intrigued by the rather friendly treatment that Ayers and Dohrn receive in contrast to terrorists who adhere to different flavors of violent authoritarianism.

And I do mean authoritarianism. While press coverage tends to emphasize Ayers' and Dohrn's anti-war activism (and to refer to the bombers as "radicals" rather than "terrorists"), their ideology encompasses rather more than skepticism about the long-gone bloodbath in Vietnam. They're hostile to the market system, fond of socialism and openly solicitous of repressive political leaders who share their goals. On his blog (they're very modern radicals), Ayers writes of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela:
Despite being under constant attack from within and from abroad, the Bolivarian revolution has made astonishing strides in a brief period: from the Mission Simoncito to the Mission Robinson to the Mission Ribas to the Mission Sucre, to the Bolivarian schools and the UBV, Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failings of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome. Venezuela is a beacon to the world in its accomplishment of eliminating illiteracy in record time, and engaging virtually the entire population in the ongoing project of education.
Chavez has engaged "virtually the entire population" by requiring even private schools to adopt his regime's politicized curriculum, under threat of nationalization. That's the sort of political ideology that "radical" professors Ayers and Dohrn find attractive, and which drove their (still fondly remembered) bombing campaign.

Compare the treatment of this pair to, say Eric Rudolph. Rudolph is another political terrorist who also spent years as a fugitive, apparently assisted, like Ayers and Dohrn, by sympathizers. Driven by hatred of gays and lesbians and opposition to abortion, Rudolph planted bombs that killed two people and injured over 100. In his 2005 statement, Rudolph said:
Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern. ...

There is no more legitimate reason to my knowledge, for renouncing allegiance to and if necessary using force to drag this monstrosity of a government down to the dust where it belongs. ...

Along with abortion, another assault upon the integrity of American society is the concerted effort to legitimize the practice of homosexuality. ...

[W]hen the attempt is made to drag this practice out of the closet and into the public square in an "in your face" attempt to force society to accept and recognize this behavior as being just as legitimate and normal as the natural man/woman relationship, every effort should be made, including force if necessary, to halt this effort.
Like the former Weathermen, Rudolph remains unrepentant. Referring to his bombing of an abortion clinic, he wrote, "I have no regrets or remorse for my actions that day in January, and consider what happened morally justified."

Unlike Ayers and Dohrn, however, Rudolph is serving hard time in prison -- multiple consecutive life terms without parole. Ayers never served time and Dohrn spent less than a year in prison for refusing to testify about a Weather Underground heist in which a guard and two police officers were killed. And there's never been any question about Rudolph's status: press accounts regularly (and accurately, I would say) refer to him as a "terrorist," denying him the nudge-and-wink "radical" status afforded to the lefty bombers.

While it's unlikely that we'll ever get the chance to see whether any American universities are eager to award Rudolph with a tenured teaching job, it's safe to say that the authoritarian right-wing bomber is treated rather more roughly by the press and the intellectual establishment than are the authoritarian left-wing bombers. Ayers and Dohrn are widely presented as otherwise-respectable activists who went a tad too far, while Rudolph is generally described as the unpleasant product of hate, intolerance and the dark underbelly of rural American society. The association of a presidential hopeful with Ayers and Dohrn may excite scattered raised eyebrows -- and talk that the issue is an overblown bit of "Obama backlash"-- among the all-of 26 news stories on the matter that a Google search turns up as of February 24. But it's hard to believe that McCain's campaign would enjoy the same nonchalant treatment if it turned out that he'd broken bread with Rudolph at a pro-life fundraiser.

The difference is likely one of culture and familiarity. Journalists, academics and intellectuals run into even the most radical leftists often enough that the likes of Ayers and Dohrn might seem excessive without coming across as unsympathetic. That sort of familiarity can result in the occasional howler, such as the misty-eyed 1990 New York Times story on a failing retirement home populated by "political idealists" -- aging communists with a lingering nostalgia for Lenin. It's hard to believe the Grey Lady would have run a similar piece about octogenarian German-American bundists pining for Adolph. But I'm certain that aging reds strike many journalists as quaint, while old brownshirts just come across as pathetic -- despite the comparable body counts of the two totalitarian ideologies.

So the minor kerfuffle over Obama's association with Ayers and Dohrn says less about the candidate -- who did nothing most of his peers would find unacceptable -- than it does about the thinking of a certain part of the American political and intellectual establishment. Violence to achieve political change may be a no-no, but it's a minor transgression in the service of a sympathetic kind of politics, and a reprehensible crime when implemented for the wrong ideas. And the fact that the sympathetic kind of politics is as repressive as the wrong kind? Well, that says something too.


British police useless at real policing

Persecuting ordinary decent people is all that they are good at

The man convicted yesterday of murdering two women and trying to kill a third was left free to continue his campaign of violence against women because of basic investigative errors by police. Levi Bellfield was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering Marsha McDonnell, 19, and Amelie Delagrange, 22, and attempting to murder Kate Sheedy. He was then identified as the prime suspect for the unsolved murder of the schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

A Scotland Yard task force has been set up to investigate Bellfield's possible connection to a series of 20 murders, attempted murders and other attacks dating back 25 years. Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton said that Bellfield was a dangerous man and that women would be safer now that he was behind bars. He stalked his victims, all young and blonde, as they waited for - or stepped off - buses late at night. Police said that they expected more victims of Bellfield, 39, a wheelclamper, to come forward after his picture was published widely for the first time.

As officers promised to uncover the full extent of Bellfield's crimes, it became clear that vital clues were missed that could have led to his arrest two years before he was eventually detained. Four officers from the Metropolitan Police have been reprimanded for serious errors in the inquiry into the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy in Isleworth in May 2004, three months before Miss Delagrange's death. Bellafield had attacked Miss Sheedy, now 21, with his car, knocking her down then driving over her twice. The Independent Police Complaints Commission found that officers had looked at the wrong day's CCTV footage, thereby failing to spot Bellfield's car stalking Miss Sheedy.

The Times has learnt that the written warning given to one officer was considered so serious that it was handed down by a Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard.

Police in Surrey investigating Milly Dowler's death failed to follow up on house-to-house inquries that could have led them to Bellfield in 2002 - before the murders of Miss McDonnell in 2003 and Miss Delagrange in 2004. They called 11 times at the house of Emma Mills, Bellfield's girlfriend, but after being told that she had moved they did not trace her new address. Miss Mills was by then living with Bellfield in West Drayton, West London. She has since been able to tell police that she owned a red Daewoo car of the kind seen on CCTV near Walton station on the day that Milly went missing. The car was reported stolen four days later. It has also emerged that a man in a similar car attempted to abduct a girl in the area the day before Milly disappeared.

A previous girlfriend of Bellfield's had a daughter who was a schoolfriend of Milly. The schoolgirl had been to her classmate's for tea and was thought to have met Bellfield. Miss Mills is also understood to have told detectives that, on the night of Milly's disappearance, Bellfield got out of bed at 4am and told her that he was going "to take care of the dog" at her flat in Walton. Detectives think this might have been when Bellfield went to dispose of Milly's body. Her remains were found in September 2002 in woods at Yateley Heath, Hampshire, an area known to Bellfield, who attended car auctions nearby.

Surrey police have issued a fresh appeal for information about the Daewoo car and are offering a œ50,000 reward for evidence leading to the conviction of Milly's murderer. Bob and Sally Dowler, Milly's parents, appealed for new witnesses to come forward. They said: "Milly was a loved and loving daughter and sister. She had every right to expect a happy, rich life ahead of her. As parents, how could we imagine anything else? We are pleading for anyone who knows anything to have the courage to speak up."

Surrey police sources emphasised that nothing had emerged in 2002 to make Bellfield a suspect. At the time he had nine previous convictions and there was intelligence to suggest that he made silent phone calls to women. "He was way off the radar, it was not until he was picked up in connection with the Amelie Delagrange murder that he began to be a possible suspect," said one source.

Bellfield was caught eventually by a combination of painstaking detective work and a bizarre stroke of luck. A police telephone hotline set up after the murder of Miss Delagrange received 129 calls from women who suspected that men they knew might be the killer. One woman said that Bellfield, who had violently attacked her during their relationship, was capable of killing women. At the same time officers were studying CCTV pictures from the streets around Twickenham Green on the night of the young French woman's murder. They appeared to show that she was followed by a white Ford Courier van but were too blurred to yield the vehicle's numberplate or driver. A smudge on the roof and two aluminium rear plates were the only things to mark it out from 26,000 similar vehicles in Britain.

The search for the van produced information about a wheelclamper who had bought a similar van for cash a few months earlier. The man had left his mobile phone number with the vehicle's previous owner. Then came the stroke of luck. When the phone number was punched into the police intelligence system, it matched with the number of a man who had called the antiterrorist hotline months earlier to report suspicions about his neighbour. The man was Levi Bellfield - the same name given by the woman caller. Surveillance revealed that his white van had similar markings to the one caught on CCTV.

His phone had also rung moments before Miss Delagrange was attacked. Bellfield, whose awareness of forensic science meant that he normally had his phone off before attacking his victims, immediately switched it off. But both the call and the act of switching the phone off left traces on the network that placed Bellfield at the murder scene. When police raided his home to arrest him in November 2004 they found him cowering in the loft.

The jury was unable to reach verdicts in connection with two other attacks, on Anna-Maria Rennie, then 17, in Whitton, South West London, in October 2001, and Irma Dragoshi, then 33, in December 2003. There was no evidence that any of his victims had been sexually assaulted.


The Netherlands Fouls Its Own Nest

Post below lifted from Gates of Vienna. See the original for links

It is so disgusting that I do not trust myself to comment very much. The Netherlands seemed to be programmed now to kill off its own as soon as possible, while it demonstrates a truly perverted sense of justice. This story is the perfect example:
[A] woman who drove over and killed a Moroccan thief in Amsterdam three years ago has been living in secret locations since, for fear of retaliation. At the order of the judge, the woman has however been tracked down and taken to court. The woman is being tried for causing the death of Ali El Bejatti. On 17 January 2005, this Moroccan youth opened her car door and snatched her handbag. The woman reversed against the boy, who was on a scooter. He was crushed against a tree, broke his neck and died.

The woman has been in hiding for three years, according to her lawyer Cees Korvinus. She is so afraid of reprisals that she moved from hiding-place to hiding-place, De Telegraaf quoted the lawyer as saying yesterday. The police advised her to go into hiding after the incident, according to the newspaper.

Korvinus entered a request yesterday for the judges to be replaced. This was in reaction to their decision that the session will be public. The court administrators rejected Korvinus' request. Korvinus wanted the case to be heard behind closed doors because the woman fears that a public hearing will increase the danger she claims she is in. The judge did permit the woman to hide her face yesterday with a scarf so that she could not be recognised.

The Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) announced yesterday it was demanding a jail sentence of 30 months for the woman. The OM is charging her with manslaughter because she deliberately took the risk of seriously injuring El Bejatti.
That was not their original take on the accident. Three years ago, they considered her the victim:
The woman has stated that the collision was an accident. The Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) initially concluded this as well, but later decided to prosecute her after all.
This is Whim Theory as it applies to the law in the Netherlands.

Originally, the trial began without the woman present, but the judge "had her tracked her down to a secret address." Nor will he allow her to put a scarf on her face to protect her identity. He wants the bull's eye target as large and recognizable as possible.

Her lawyer describes her as "dead scared" that appearing in court will cause a fatwah to be issued against her - which will, of course, make it open season on the woman for the devout. Meanwhile her psychiatrist reports that she lives "in a state of constant fear of death." Well, duh.

The person who robbed her and died for his efforts had previously been in court that day on charges of armed robbery. The OM demanded a two-year jail sentence for El Bejatti, but the judge must have disagreed because he was free that very evening to meet his death in another attempted heist.

The solution to the problem is quite easy: this woman just needs to get over her fear of death. Problem solved. And if there is a hell, may this vengeful judge rot there.

British Gas broke into our house, say couple who owed them nothing

An Englishman's home is a long way from being his castle these days

When David Houghton returned home from a holiday, he was horrified to find the lock on his front door had been picked. But it wasn't thieves who had broken into his home. It was British Gas. The energy giant had taken the drastic - and perfectly legal - step in a row over an unpaid bill, even though it later emerged that Mr Houghton did not owe the company a penny.

The 34-year-old's nightmare began in July 2005, when he bought a two-bedroom flat in Willesden Green, North London, with his girlfriend Abby Simpson. He immediately decided to ditch the property's contract with British Gas for a better deal with rivals EDF. But the British Gas computer system wrongly continued to bill the couple. Mr Houghton dealt with numerous threats of legal action and visits from the bailiffs, before a personal apology from the energy giant's managing director, Phil Bentley, convinced him that his troubles were over.

But when the couple went on a long weekend to New York in June last year, they returned home to a nasty surprise. While they were away, British Gas had swapped their meter for a pay-as-you-go version. To do so, an engineer and locksmith had sneaked into the flat by picking the locks on the front door and an internal door. They then left a note informing the couple what they had done. British Gas switches customers to pay-as-you go meters if they consistently fail to pay their bills.

Investigators have since worked out that it was the occupants of the next-door flat who owed the money to British Gas. The company has now apologised, blaming the bungle on incorrect records at the National Grid and problems with the address at Royal Mail. It has also given Mr Houghton and Miss Simpson 200 pounds.

However, the watchdog Energywatch last night demanded that the gas supplier fully compensate the couple. Mr Houghton said: "I am totally disgusted and bewildered by their behaviour. "I spoke to manager after manager at their call centres and each time was promised the problem had been sorted out." Between 2005 and the break-in two years later, the bill demands rose from 90 to 900 pounds. Mr Houghton said: "We sent them letters in response but then the bailiffs came round trying to get access."

A spokesman for the company claimed last night that the Gas Act allows workers to break into a customer's home to change the meter, providing he or she has been warned in advance. However, Mr Houghton claims he was never notified. He added: "It felt so intrusive that they had been in our flat and could have gone into every room if they'd wanted to.

"I called the police, who said they weren't interested because nothing had been taken." Graham Kerr, a spokesman for Energywatch, said: "Mr Houghton and his partner have had appalling treatment from British Gas. "Having your home broken into is a traumatic experience and that blow isn't softened by the perpetrator being a household name that just happened to make a mistake."

A British Gas spokesman said: 'Our managing director, Phil Bentley, has spoken to Mr Houghton and apologised. "We've since corrected our records, changed the meter back and Mr Houghton has been given 200 pounds in compensation."



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

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

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


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

British Muslims criticise food company after it is revealed that some crisp varieties contain alcohol

Furious Muslims have heavily criticised Walkers crisps after it emerged that certain varieties of the manufacturer's products contain trace elements of alcohol. Some crisp types use minute amounts of alcohol as a chemical agent to extract certain flavours.

The report in Asian newspaper Eastern Eye, highlights concerns raised by shopkeeper Besharat Rehman, who owns a halal supermarket in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Mr Rehman told the paper: "A customer informed us that Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli and Doritos Chilli Heat Wave are not on Walkers' alcohol-free list. Our suppliers were unaware of this. "Even if it is a trace amount of alcohol, Walkers should make it clear on the packaging so that the customer can make an informed choice. "I feel frustrated and angry. I have let my customers down simply because such a big company like Walkers is not sensitive to Muslim needs. "Many of them were my daughter's favourite crisps. As soon as I found out about the alcohol in them, I called home to ask my wife to throw out all the packets."

Shuja Shafi, who chairs the food standards committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that he intended to investigate. "Certainly we would find it very offensive to have eaten food with alcohol." Masood Khawaja, of the Halal Food Authority, said that this was not the first time the issue had been raised with Walkers. "They should have looked into the matter and solved it instead of hiding behind labelling regulations. It does not matter what percentage of alcohol is involved. "Besides Muslims, there are a lot of teetotal people who would not like to consume alcohol in any form. As far as possible we try and lobby for halal symbols on popular products like Kellogg's cereals. "But we have always told Muslims to check the contents list even if a product is marked suitable for vegetarians. But to not mention it on the packaging is unfair."

However, a spokesperson for Walkers said that trace amounts of alcohol in crisps or bread are believed to be permissible for Muslims. "We do not add alcohol to our products. However, ethyl alcohol may be present in trace amounts in a very small number of our flavours. "It is used as a carrying agent for flavourings, and is found in many common food and drink products. "Foods like bread can also contain the same or higher trace amounts due to fermentation. "We are aware of the concerns from some Muslim consumers about the appropriateness of specific ingredients. We take the concerns of our consumers extremely seriously. "In previous assessments by Muslim scholars, foods and drinks that contain trace amounts of ethyl alcohol have been confirmed as permissible for Muslim consumption because of both the fact that the ingredient does not bear its original qualities and does not change the taste, colour or smell of the product, and its very low level."


Some `homeless' have a home

Post below lifted from Don Surber. See the original for links

Massachusetts give the homeless apartments, only to find them sleeping on the streets. When he is not giving speeches that Barack Obama can later lift, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is giving away taxpayer money on stupid stuff. The Boston Globe reported Patrick wants to spend $10 million on apartments for the homeless, moving them out of shelters. The selling point is this will reduce spending on other social services for the homeless.

A pilot program has mixed results. Burton Tainter, 61, for years slept on a grate behind the Boston Public Library. The pilot program gave him an apartment. He felt lonely and bored. The Globe reported that soon, Tainter was "resuming his old life of living on park benches in Boston." Hmm. Maybe that was his home.

"The hardest part is living alone - especially when struggling to stay sober," he said.

This tale symbolizes modern liberals. People are not individuals but rather some member of a demographic group to be stereotyped and pandered to. Instead of blowing $10 million on a bureaucratic dream, why not scoop them off the street and put them in rehab - then make them find work later.

Or better yet, why not live and let live? I know, I'm just another heartless Republican.

Fair To Whom?

Post below lifted from Blue Crab. See the original for links

The Daily Mail hits at the "Fair Trade"certification in Britain again this morning. This time, they are reporting on the release of a study by the Adam Smith Institute that slams the entire fair trade movement as worthless marketing or something that is actually harmful to the most vulnerable people on Earth.
Last year, British consumers spent more than 300million pounds on Fairtrade products. But the report Unfair Trade claims that the organisation's "positive image appears to rely more on public relations than research". It adds:

Fairtrade helps only a very small number of farmers while leaving the majority worse off.

It favours producers in better-off nations such as Mexico, rather than poor African countries.

It holds back economic development, paying inefficient cooperative farms and discouraging diversification and mechanisation.

Supermarket chains profit more from the higher price of Fairtrade goods than farmers.

Only a fifth of produce grown on Fairtrade-approved farms is actually purchased at its guaranteed fair price.

Tom Clougherty, policy director of the Adam Smith Institute, says: "At best, fair trade is a marketing device that does the poor little good. "At worst, it may inadvertently be harming some of the planet's most vulnerable people."

Most damning of all, the report claims that Fairtrade is hurting the poorest group of all in the production process of its goods - the casual labourers hired by farmers to pick the bananas, coffee and cotton.
The UK executive director of Fairtrade whines that the report is beating them up for trying. (It's all about the good intentions, don't you see?).

Actually, the study, as reported in the story, isn't beating them up for trying. It is beating them up for what they are doing wrong. Is making sure that farmers get a fair shake a laudable effort? Well, maybe, although that is a subject that is debatable. But forcing collectivism is the surest way to ensure that they all get treated equally badly. The "fair trade" activists insist on only dealing with collectives. Winston Churchill's famous quotation applies here: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." The report indicates that the "fair traders" are very good indeed at making everyone miserable.

This Bishop is no Pawn

Most readers will remember the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, who has been notably outspoken on the topic of Islam and the Islamization of Britain - especially when one compares him with the Archdhimmi of Canterbury.

Dr. Nazir-Ali's most famous and controversial statements concerned urban neighborhoods of the UK which have become virtual "no-go areas" to non-Muslims. The bishop has taken a lot of flak from the chattering classes, especially those within the Anglican hierarchy. According to today's Telegraph, however, he's not backing off from his assertions:

Bishop of Rochester reasserts `no-go' claim

In his first interview since his controversial comments, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali vows not to be forced into silence

Michael Nazir-AliThe Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, who received death threats for airing his views on Islamic issues, has vowed that he will continue to speak out.

His claim that Islamic extremism has turned some parts of Britain into "no-go" areas for non-Muslims led to fierce rows between political and religious leaders over the impact of multiculturalism on this country.

Those comments were followed soon after by the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that the adoption of aspects of sharia law in Britain was "unavoidable".

The bishops' views in The Sunday Telegraph sparked a storm of criticism and raised questions over the role of the Church in society but, most seriously for Dr Nazir-Ali, led to threats that he and his family would be harmed.

Yet, in his first interview since the sinister calls were made to his home, the Bishop of Rochester remains steadfastly defiant. He will not be silenced. "I believe people should not be prevented from speaking out," he says. "The issue had to be raised. There are times when Christian leaders have to speak out."


Threats were made warning that he would not "live long" and would be "sorted out" if he continued to criticise Islam.

Dr. Nazir-Ali originally fled from Pakistan to escape death threats from Muslims, so the irony of his current circumstances is not lost on him:
However, it's not the first time that his life has been endangered.

Shortly after being made a bishop in Pakistan - at 35 he was the youngest in the Anglican Church - he was forced to flee to Britain to seek refuge from Muslims who wanted to kill him.

He says that he never expected to suffer the same treatment in Britain and expresses concerns over recent social developments.

He continues to speak out, and is more concerned about the civilizational crisis within the West than he is with Islam itself:

"The real danger to Britain today is the spiritual and moral vacuum that has occurred for the last 40 or 50 years. When you have such a vacuum something will fill it.

"If people are not given a fresh way of understanding what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a Christian-based society then something else may well take the place of all that we're used to and that could be Islam."

Dr. Nazir-Ali is daring to give voice to sentiments that many thousands of his fellow Britons hold, but which are denied utterance by the rubrics of political correctness:

Just over a year ago Abu Izzadeen, an Islamic radical, heckled John Reid, the former home secretary, as he tried to deliver a speech on targeting potential extremists. "How dare you come to a Muslim area," Izzadeen screamed.

There was widespread dismay at the outburst, but nobody had dared to try to suggest that these views were entrenched across the country until the bishop spoke last month.

In warning of attempts to impose an Islamic character on certain areas, for example by amplifying the call to prayer from mosques, he seems to have tapped into the fears of a large section of society.

Many Christians - not least some of the leaders of the major Protestant denominations - seem to think that Christian morality always requires the faithful to submit without resistance to any form of violence. Dr. Nazir-Ali, however, believes the time has come for Christians to stand up for what they know is right.

To many, he has become a champion of traditional Christianity and its importance to Britain at the same time as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been attacked for suggesting the adoption of aspects of sharia law is "unavoidable" in this country.

While the archbishop received widespread support from within the Church, Dr Nazir-Ali found himself isolated from his colleagues.

"I don't court popularity. If I say something it's because I think it's important enough to say it. What I said was based on evidence, and that has been strengthened as a result of overwhelming correspondence."

The moral cowardice that his been so evident of late within the Anglican Church is not lost on him, although he is circumspect about addressing it directly:

He wishes the Church would be more vocal on issues of multiculturalism and sharia law, but refuses to criticise his colleagues, although it is clear he is baffled by their silence.

"I can't guess why they haven't talked on the issue. I'm not responsible for other people's consciences." Is it due to cowardice? "You'd have to ask them."

Above all he is opposed to the adoption of any form of sharia for Muslims in the UK:

"People of every faith should be free within the law to follow what their spiritual leaders direct them to, but that's very different from saying their structures should replace that of the English legal system because there would be huge conflicts." In particular, he points to polygamy, women's rights and freedom of belief as areas in sharia law that would undermine equality.

There is a danger that the archbishop's remarks could become a reality unless Britain quickly regains a sense of its Christian heritage.

"Do the British people really want to lose that rooting in the Christian faith that has given them everything they cherish - art, literature, architecture, institutions, the monarchy, their value system, their laws?"

As a Pakistani-born immigrant who has suffered racist abuse - he was called a "Paki papist" by Anglican clergy - he has gained an army of admirers who appear grateful to have someone brave enough to address controversial topics. He has vowed the latest threats will not change how he and his family live.

"The recovery of Christian discourse in the public life of this nation is so important. It's that discourse that will allow us in a genuine way to be hospitable to those who come here from different cultures and religions."

It's ironic that a bishop of Pakistani and Muslim background should be the most visible defender of Christianity and British tradition.

Maybe it's easier for someone coming in from the outside to see what we've got that's worth saving.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doctors and teachers to act as 'informers' to target violent offenders BEFORE they strike

Under controversial new British plans. Judged guilty while still innocent, in other words. Given the appalling abuses of the existing secretive child welfare system this would be a descent into utter darkness. The Leftist British government obviously has a conception of civil liberties not too different from Joseph Stalin's

Doctors, teachers and social workers will be told to act as informers to identify potential violent offenders for monitoring by the police and other agencies. Ministers hope that by spotting binge-drinkers, drug addicts and young gang members early before they commit serious crimes they can be placed on a national database and steered away from offending behaviour. The plans have been dubbed the Minority Report powers, a reference to the 2002 Tom Cruise movie in which a futuristic "precrime" police unit uses psychics to arrest and imprison criminals just before they carry out attacks.

But civil liberty campaigners and union bosses warned that such intrusive measures by the Home Office would destroy the relationship of trust between GPs and their patients or social workers and clients. They would also put professionals at risk of reprisals if they are seen as police informers. Opposition MPs said recent fiascos involving huge quantities of personal data lost or leaked by the Government raised grave doubts over plans for sharing and swapping private data.

The scheme, outlined in the Government's latest Tackling Violence Action Plan, will mean redrafting the NHS's strict privacy protection rules to encourage health staff to share patients' confidential data as part of "public interest disclosures". The document sets out plans for identifying individuals who may not have committed any offences but are judged to be "at risk of involvement in violence". Tell-tale signs of those 'whose behaviour may be identified as risky' include drug addicts or alcoholics, mental health patients and youngsters who join gangs or who have been the victims of violence either in the home or on the street.

Ministers want GPs, social workers, mental health agencies, housing officials and school or college staff to provide tip-offs so that multi-agency Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, including local police, can act. The only existing systems are for monitoring convicted criminals through probation staff, so new organisations will have to be set up to watch those thought to be at risk of committing violence.

Once an individual is assessed as a high-risk potential offender, they would be placed on local and national databases and subjected to regular reviews. The Home Office claims such measures will save lives. Ministers have cited examples such as Michael Stone, convicted of murdering Lin and Megan Russell, or Soham murderer Ian Huntley. They repeatedly came to the notice of medics or police, but lack of data- sharing meant threatening patterns were missed. The Home Office said examples of "interventions" for potential criminals included regular visits from social services staff, providing mentors to young people, forcing them to attend weapons awareness classes or more after-school activities to keep them off the streets.

Union officials voiced grave concerns and accused ministers of failing to consult professionals or to address concerns they had already raised. A spokesman for Unison, the public services union, said: "These plans threaten to build a barrier of suspicion between the public and those who deliver their services."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "This is another ill-thought through measure, no doubt based on flawed databases and unreliable statistical analysis." Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "Home Office edicts are unlikely to help skilled health professionals make delicate judgments on behalf of their patients. The danger is of vulnerable victims treating their own injuries for fear of being reported to the police."


Antichrist Canadian Bishops put homosexuality way ahead of the Bible

They are are threatening forcible action in an attempt to ram their Satanic doctrines down the throats of Anglicans who follow Bible teachings. Their conception of ethics would certainly not be recognized by the teacher of Nazareth

In the face of growing defection by traditionally minded Christian Anglican congregations, the Anglican bishop of British Columbia has told clergy and lay leaders that parishes attempting to seek oversight from other jurisdictions will face penalties, including loss of clerical licenses and properties. The bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada are overwhelmingly in support of homosexual activity and the "blessing" of same-sex relationships and ministers; however, bishops and laity who continue to adhere to the Christian doctrines on sexuality are seeking a way to remain within the Anglican Communion.

The Rt. Rev. James Cowan wrote that such attempts by parishioners would be "schismatic" and a betrayal of a "fiduciary trust" to the diocese and would result in the "immediate termination of license or removal from office." Clergy "acquiescing in" or "actively promoting" the withdrawal of parishes would be dismissed from office without "notice or severance," he wrote.

The problem, however, is growing, as more parishes in the Anglican Church of Canada seek oversight from sections of the Worldwide Anglican Communion that have retained their adherence to Christian doctrine on scriptural authority, homosexuality and the meaning of marriage. In the last week, a total of seven parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada have voted to seek jurisdiction elsewhere.

Parishioners of St. Alban the Martyr in Ottawa voted this weekend to sever their associations with the Anglican Church of Canada and seek oversight from Bishop Don Harvey, who is overseeing the traditional Canadian churches in their realignment with Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.

Parishioners at Vancouver's St. John's Shaughnessy, the largest Anglican congregation in Canada, voted last Wednesday to sever ties with the Archbishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, over his support for same-sex blessings. This was followed by a decision to follow suit by parishioners at St. Matthew's Anglican parish in Abbotsford, BC, St. Mary of the Incarnation in Metchosin on Vancouver Island, St. Chad's parish in Toronto, St. Hilda's, in Oakville and St. George's, in Campbellville, Ontario, bringing the total to seven by the end of Sunday.

Rev. Peter Elliott, spokesman for the Diocese of New Westminster told the Ottawa Citizen that there is broad acceptance of homosexuality in the Anglican Church in BC because homosexuality is "morally neutral". But Rev. Andrew Hewlett of St. Mary of the Incarnation, said that homosexuality is only a symptom of the larger problem. "The real issue underlying it is how we view the authority of the scriptures - and our concern about the [ACC's] changing of theology, which is putting it outside of the official teaching of the global Anglican community."

St. Mary's rector, Rev. Sharon Hayton, and Rev. Hewlett, were informed on Friday that disciplinary action was being commenced against them. Bishop Cowan wrote that Hayton and Hewlett were "inhibited" from their clerical offices. "[Y]ou may not function as an ordained priest, and may not act as. priest of the parish of St. Mary of the Incarnation, Metchosin." He forbade them from discussing the situation with parishioners and from entering the parish premises.

Rev. Simon Chin of St. Matthias & St. Luke Church in Vancouver told the National Post he expects his parish will also vote to separate on February 24. "For the last six years we have been calling for help [from the ACC], but they've not done anything," he said. "Our people in our church are the ones pushing all of this because they feel we don't have a home here."

The letter from Bishop Cowan was followed by another from the Anglican Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who wrote Friday, "Individuals who choose to leave the church over contentious issues cannot take property or other assets with them." "My hope is that no parish will take action that would compel parish or diocesan leaders to resolve property disputes in the civil courts," Hiltz continued.

But a spokesman for St. John's parish in Shaughnessy, a neighbourhood of Vancouver where real estate values are among the highest in the country, told media that the parish is willing to fight for their church, saying its building was independently incorporated and built with local members' funds.

The parish has collected $1 million in legal funding. "We would defend the building. We would continue our services. I suppose if we couldn't get into the building, we would hold our services out on the grass or something like that," spokeswoman Lesley Bentley told the National Post.

In 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia voted to permit the blessing of same-sex unions by parishes requesting authorization to do so. Since then the bishop of that diocese, Michael Ingham, has issued several warnings to his clergy attempting to force compliance, and has ordered the locks changed on buildings with "dissenting" parishioners.


We don't need to define Britishness

British national identity is becoming more and more like the weather: everybody talks about it but nobody can do anything about it. And come to think of it, it is especially like British weather: so tepid most of the time that it is difficult to describe.

This is not necessarily a problem: having a sense of your own country's character as a vague, largely invisible thing which hums away quietly in the background. Until, of course, the woolly, taken-for-granted conception is challenged by an internal threat which makes use of precisely that amorphous lack of definition to create malignant - potentially lethal - social divisions

And that is where we find ourselves. Last week's report from the Royal United Service Institute went so far as to say that Britain's lack of clear conviction over the value of its identity and political culture had left it a "soft target" for terrorism - which is not the same thing as being soft on terrorism, as some sections of the media concluded. The British security services are among the few national agencies not lacking a clear set of objectives. They are not soft on terrorism.

The real argument of the RUSI study was that Britain was leaving itself open to the recruitment of Islamist terrorists by its failure to instil a confident, graspable sense of what this nation believes and stands for, and of what exactly it means to belong here. In fact, the defence experts said - as have so many others that by now the statement has become almost platitudinous - that the philosophy of multiculturalism and the diversity which it has consciously encouraged have helped to fragment society.

So officially, everybody is pedalling furiously away from multiculturalism. Not only government ministers and opposition leaders but even figures such as Trevor Phillips of the Equality and Human Rights Commission have proclaimed the need to dismantle it. But somehow all of this opprobrium does not filter down to the classroom or to public sector agencies (such as the BBC, local government bureaucracies and the NHS), which are still explicitly committed to "diversity programmes" that positively encourage the continuing separateness of ethnic communities.

It would be easy to see this as simply an accident, a kind of absent-minded philosophy creep in which the original good intentions just got out of hand, as things so often do when they are administered by bureaucrats. So deeply entrenched - and so embedded in the employment practices of the public sector - was the idea of "tolerating differences" that nobody noticed for the longest time that it had slipped over into "encouraging differences".

If that were the case, this would be a relatively easy problem to solve: a few stern ministerial guidelines and departmental directives ("URGENT: the word 'diversity' to be replaced by 'unity' in all official policy pronouncements") could, over a period of a year or two, turn the situation round. But everybody recognises that it is not that simple. Which is to say that everybody knows that we have a far more profound dilemma: Britain does not have a unified, coherent, identifiable self-image, either as a people or as a political entity, which it can offer to incomers as an inspiration and a ready-made value system.

There is a reason why all the attempts to define Britishness seem to end in fatuity: not only because they dribble off into nebulous virtues such as tolerance and decency, which should be common to all civilised people, but because the British opinion-forming classes tend to find the whole concept of national identity either sinister or risible. And it is perfectly plausible to see this as a virtue: a strong, cohesive sense of national loyalty certainly can transmogrify into blood-and-soil nationalism of a horrifying kind, and the ironic distance which the British maintain from even their most important historical institutions has the unmistakeable ring of grown-up wit.

Even in my more sentimental American-expatriate moments, I can see why, to most British eyes, flag-waving US patriotism seems childlike and naive. In many respects, the American model is peculiarly unhelpful, even though it is the one to which Gordon Brown and now Jack Straw cleave as they desperately seek a way out of the crisis that their own party's policies have created. Mr Straw hinted only last week that perhaps the written constitution idea was the way out of our mess since it seemed to be so successful in the US at implanting what he called an "enviable notion of civic duty". Indeed it does. But that is there, and we are here.

Americans are unlike almost all other peoples of the world in that they all either are themselves, or are descended from, people who went to the country as an act of will (apart from those who were taken there against their will whose descendants, unsurprisingly, have had more difficulty in assimilating than almost all later migrant groups). This makes them ideal subjects for the great 18th-century Enlightenment experiment: a newly invented country with a carefully devised written constitution and a self-conscious assumption of an identity that was defined in deliberate rebellion against an old aristocratic order.

To settle in the US is, in effect, to sign the "social contract" that the founding fathers envisaged: accept the rules and the principles on which this country is established and you can belong here. That's the deal that is spelt out very clearly to every prospective citizen and, for the most part, it works. Older nations that chose to redefine themselves by overthrowing their history - such as France, where the revolution turned into the Terror - have had less happy results.

Britain is particularly ill-suited to adopting the apparatus of a revolutionary republic. You know what a Brown-Straw (not to say Cameron) written constitution would look like, don't you? A list of bland aspirations with a presumptuous and irritating "Bill of Rights" attached.

Britain's historical identity has been produced by accretion, subtle accommodation and fudge: to define it is impossible because it has had no consistent conscious intent. Which is fine, because we don't need to define ourselves, we just need to stop hating ourselves. [Or having self-hatred preached at us]

What is at the heart of the aggressive form of "multiculturalism", as most ordinary people suspect, is not tolerance but self-loathing: the deprecation of our own culture and history that elevates almost anybody else's values above our own. It is not the indoctrination of some mystical sense of Britishness that is required but a restoration of the quiet pride and conviction that used to enable Britons to maintain the highest standards of civil behaviour in the world.


Australia: Muslim versus anti-Muslim youth gangs

Another triumph of multiculturalism

A TEEN bashed with a tomahawk is fighting for his life as youths warn of a Cronulla-type gang explosion in Melbourne. Sunshine Hospital was forced to call police and shut its emergency department as about 100 youths descended, angered by the brutal attack on their friend. In another unprecedented escalation of gang violence, a molotov cocktail was hurled on a suburban train last week. More attacks were pledged as part of a bitter conflict between two of Melbourne's biggest gangs that has seen 10 youth stabbings.

Police are demanding measures to stem the growing scourge of youth gang activity. They want a Youth Crime Taskforce established, new anti-assembly powers to break up loitering crowds of teens and portable knife scanners. Shopping centres and rail operators are also changing their operations to cope with the rising gang challenge.

Four men have been charged with attempted murder and serious assault over the attack on the 17-year-old on Friday. The teenager and four friends were "pulverised" in the St Albans attack. Their assailants - one 16 - allegedly used a tomahawk, baseball bats and hockey sticks in the violence, destroying their car and putting the five in hospital. One of the teens caught in the attack said the violent onslaught had been triggered by them being on someone else's turf. The teen, who would not give his name, had facial bruising and injured ribs and described the attack as ruthless and against innocent victims. As well as being territorial, he said the attack was carried out for fun.

Police, social workers and even gang members said gang violence was flaring across Melbourne's suburbs. The Police Association - representing 11,000 officers - said the youth gang crisis demanded a regional taskforce on youth crime and anti-assembly powers. "They're under-18 and they're coming in from the outer suburbs and causing mayhem in the city and the inner suburbs," assistant secretary Bruce McKenzie said. "This is happening. And we do know it's of considerable concern to our members." The association is expected to lobby Premier John Brumby for anti-assembly powers to break up big groups of teens and expressed a desire for British-style portable walk-through metal scanners.

In an escalating stoush between two of the city's biggest gangs, an Arab coalition from Melbourne's north was seething over a rap song released by enemy gang South-East Boys, threatening "another Cronulla". The song, Lullaby, derides the Dandenong gang's Arab enemies as "p*****s" and threatens a local Cronulla-style race clash.

Gang members said the rivalry between the north and south gangs had already led to 10 stabbings. "Give it tomorrow, give it a year. We will hit back 10 times harder," said Ronni, leader of northern gang ASAD or Arabian Soldiers Arab Defenders. Gang members are aged 17 to 26 and brawl with machetes, bottles, poles, knuckle-dusters and knives. The North-West Boys, who have a distinct double-fist handshake, are made up of gangs including ASAD, which has spread from Newport, and The Clan.

The North-West Boys said their opposing gang, based around Dandenong, was a mix of white "Aussie bogans", Sudanese, Afghans, Italians and Greeks. "We were hunting them for almost seven hours," The Clan leader Hash said. "If the South-East want war, then so be it." The gangs have sophisticated fight strategies and youths are attacked if they stray into another gang's side of the city. "Something in the future is going to happen to them," Ronni said. Hash said they tried to isolate their activities so members of the public would not get hurt.



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

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

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


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Monday, February 25, 2008

Insane British police again: Fathers arrested for stopping fight

Two fathers have condemned the criminal justice system after they were arrested and thrown into a police cell for trying to prevent a fight involving a gang of youths. Christopher Dale, 38, and Arthur Parkes, 29, decided to intervene when they heard that a group of boys planned to catch and beat up another youth. They made a citizen's arrest of the two ring leaders, aged 12 and 14, and held them while Mr Dale's wife called the police

But when officers arrived it was the men who were handcuffed and led away after the boys accused them of assault. What followed was a nine month "nightmare" in which the men faced losing everything as the Crime Prosecution Service refused to drop the case. Their ordeal only ended in court when a magistrate finally decided there was no case to answer, "It has been an absolute nightmare," said Mr Dale yesterday, an engineer who fits fire alarms and a trained pilot.

"They arrested us, threw us in the back of a police car and then into a cell - our dignity stripped just outside my house. "We are constantly told not to turn a blind eye but when you do what you think is your duty you get arrested. "We are very, very angry about our treatment. I thought I was doing the right thing by stopping a gang of youths attacking another lad. "If it happened again I would have to think very seriously about whether I would step in. I feel let down by the very people who are supposed to be protecting us."

Mr Parkes, 29, who works for energy firm E.ON, added: "We have been unjustly treated by the police and the CPS. I have always had respect for the police but since this I have no faith in the police and the judicial system."

The men, from Preston, Lancashire, both of good character who had complained to police about youths terrorising their neighbourhood, were cleared by district judge Peter Ward, who said the case was "not in the public interest". The pair were accused of assaulting the boys, then aged 14 and 12, at around 9pm on May 5 last year.

Preston Magistrates heard during the two-day trial from prosecution witnesses, including four boys who gave varying accounts of how the "victims", who cannot be named for legal reasons, were attacked on a driveway. The court heard how the two men stepped in after a group of boys went looking to "batter" another teenager who was accused of bullying.

Their lawyer Paolo Passerini successfully urged the judge at Preston Magistrates' Court to halt proceedings, arguing there was "no case to answer" as there were inconsistencies with the evidence. CPS district crown prosecutor Peter McNaught said: "We considered this case very carefully. However, in all the circumstances, we consider that it was in the public interest to bring this case."


A chilling example of Britain's secret State where a mother and child are forced into hiding

Last autumn a small English congregation was rocked by the news that two of its parishioners had fled abroad. A 56-year-old man had helped his pregnant wife to flee from social workers, who had already taken her son into care and were threatening to seize their baby.

Most people had no idea why. For the process that led this couple to such a desperate act was entirely secret. The local authority had warned the mother not to talk to her friends or even her MP. The judge who heard the arguments from social services sat in secret. The open-minded social workers who had initially been assigned to sort out a custody battle between the woman and her previous husband were replaced by others who seemed determined to build a guilty case against her. That is how the secret State operates. A monumental injustice has been perpetrated in this quiet corner of England; our laws are being used to try to cover it up.

I will call this couple Hugh and Sarah. Neither they nor their families have ever been in trouble with the law, as far as I know. Sarah's only fault seems to have been to suffer through a violent and volatile first marriage, which produced a son. When the marriage ended, the boy was taken into temporary foster care for a few months - as a by-product of the marriage breakdown and against her will - while she "sorted her life out" and found them a new home. But even as she cleared every hurdle set by the court, social workers dreamt up new ones. The months dragged by. A psychologist said the boy was suffering terribly in care and was desperate to come home. Sarah's mother and sister, both respected professionals with good incomes, apparently offered to foster or adopt him. The local authority did not even deign to reply.

For a long time, Sarah and her family seem to have played along. At every new hearing they thought that common sense would prevail. But it didn't. The court appeared to blame her for not ending her marriage more quickly, which had put strain on the boy, while social workers seemed to insist that she now build a good relationship with the man she had left. Eventually, she came to believe that the local authority intended to have her son adopted. She also seems to have feared that they would take away her new baby, Hugh's baby, when it was born. One night in September they fled the country with the little boy. When Hugh returned a few days later, to keep his business going and his staff in jobs, he was arrested.

Many people would think this man a hero. Instead, he received a far longer sentence - 16 months for abduction - than many muggers. This kind of sentence might be justified, perhaps, to set an example to others. But the irony of this exemplary sentence is that no one was ever supposed to know the details. (I am treading a legal tightrope writing about it at all.) How could a secret sentence for a secret crime deter anyone?

Sarah's baby has now been born, in hiding. I am told that the language from social services has become hysterical. But if the State was genuinely concerned for these two children, it would have put "wanted" pictures up in every newspaper in Europe. It won't do that, of course, because to name the woman and her children would be to tear a hole in the fabric of the secret State, a hole we could all see through. I would be able to tell you her side of the story, the child's side of the story. I would be able to tell you every vindictive twist of this saga. And the local authority knows perfectly well how it would look. So silence is maintained.

And very effective it is too. The impotence is the worst thing. The way that perfectly decent individuals are gagged and unable to defend themselves undermines a fundamental principle of British law. I have a court order on my desk that threatens all the main actors in this case with dire consequences if they talk about it to anyone.

Can that really be the way we run justice in a country that was the fount of the rule of law? At the heart of this story is a little boy who was wrenched from the mother he loves, bundled around in foster care and never told why, when she appears to have been perfectly capable of looking after him. When she had relatives who were perfectly capable of doing so. In the meantime, he was becoming more and more troubled and unhappy. To find safety and love, that little boy has had to leave England.

What does that say about our country? The public funds the judges, the courts, the social workers. It deserves to know what they do. That does not mean vilifying all social workers, or defending every parent. But it does mean ending the presumption of guilt that infects so many family court hearings. It does mean asking why certain local authorities seem unable to let go of children whose parents have resolved their difficulties. It does mean knowing how social workers could have got away with failing to return this particular boy, after his mother had met all the criteria set by a judge at the beginning. It is simply unacceptable that social services have put themselves above the law.

We need these people to be named, and to hear in their words what happened. We need to open up the family courts. We need to tear down the wall of secrecy that has forced a decent woman to live as a fugitive, to save her little boy from a life with strangers, used like a pawn in a game of vengeance. Even if the local authority were to drop its case, it is hard to see how Sarah could ever trust them enough to return. At home, for their God-fearing congregation, the question is simple: what justice can ever be done behind closed doors? And in whose name?


Australia: Must not tell the truth about blacks

BRISBANE magistrate Walter Ehrich has been criticised for claiming Aborigines do not follow court-imposed orders. Magistrate Walter Ehrich told a Brisbane Magistrates Court hearing last weekend: "Aborigines don't report." He was referring to bail conditions requiring defendants to report to police. "It is very dangerous to put them on reporting conditions because you can set them up to fail," Magistrate Walter Ehrich later told The Sunday Mail.

Mr Ehrich made the comment when asked by prosecutor Sgt Kerrilee Lovaszy to impose a weekly reporting condition on an Aboriginal man about to be bailed. The comment was made on February 16, just days after the Federal Government's apology to the Stolen Generations. A reporting condition requires a defendant on bail to report regularly to a police station. Lewis Desmond Saunders, 39, was charged with assaulting police, obstructing police and a public nuisance offence on February 15 at Stafford, in Brisbane's north. Mr Ehrich released Saunders on bail, without any reporting conditions, to reappear in court on May 6. There was no discussion with Saunders' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service lawyer about his ability to report to police. Mr Ehrich told the lawyer: "You'll look after him."

Aboriginal community spokesman Sam Watson said the magistrate's comment about Aborigines was "appalling" and indigenous academic Prof Boni Robertson said it was "crazy" as well as "inappropriate". "To a hear a magistrate make such a comment from the bench is appalling. It's condemning an entire race of people," Mr Watson said. Prof Robertson said there were no cultural or community factors substantiating the claim that Aborigines did not report. "It's a very generalised assessment of us being irresponsible about meeting obligations," she said.

But Mr Ehrich defended his statement saying "it's not inappropriate at all". "You don't want to set people up to fail," he said. "At no stage was there any intent to make any derogatory remarks about any particular group of people."

Queensland's Chief Magistrate, Judge Marshall Irwin, said indigenous offenders were not habitually given lesser bail conditions than others. "It is certainly not a situation that depends on the defendant's race," Judge Irwin said.


Australia: Too many dickless Tracys

Another example of the stupid old politically correct pretense that a woman can do anything a man can do. A female cop facing a violent male in a punchup just puts others at risk as they try to rescue her

Former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby has questioned Victoria Police's policies of seeking equal numbers of men and women in the force and of bringing in older recruits. Mr Ashby said older and female recruits were unlikely to remain in the force as long as traditionally recruited young males and were often unwilling or unable to fill important operational roles. He suggested a better gender balance of 60% male and 40% female might be "more realistic".

Mr Ashby, who faces possible charges of perjury and misconduct in public office following an Office of Public Integrity inquiry, said the gender balance and age policies could lead to a drain of officers within seven to 10 years. He also said the current gender quota was preventing good male candidates from becoming policemen. "On pure quotas it's a fact that men are trying to join Victoria Police in far greater numbers than women, but women are joining in far greater numbers because of the quota."

Earlier this week Mr Ashby revealed that operational police numbers had been secretly cut back in a number of areas since Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon took office. There are 28% fewer transit police on public transport; 13% fewer traffic police; and the force response unit, which provides back-up to operational police, had been halved.

The age and gender policies were issues that "need to be thought out very carefully", said Mr Ashby. "It's a fact that we don't keep women, as a general rule and aged recruits, obviously, as long. And that could mean a serious further downstream problem in staffing." "That's not a discriminatory statement; it means we need to look at the demographics and age profile in a way that plans for delivery of police services seven to 10 years hence. It causes long-term planning risks." He said people who joined the force at a later age were often reluctant to do a range of duties such as regular night shifts. "That is also an issue for young mums because they don't want to be away from their kids. We're already seeing those stresses come into the organisation where we're unable to attract women to some areas. "It's difficult to attract women to some of the specialist traffic areas, such as booze buses because seven shifts out of nine are late, after 6pm, for obvious reasons. It's also very difficult to attract women to specialist taskforces because of the periods of time they have to be away."

Mr Ashby said he was not saying the force did not have to do more to make the environment easier for women or for special interest groups. "But should it therefore follow that quotas of 40% would be more realistic?"

A spokeswoman for Ms Nixon said the ratio of women within Victoria Police was currently low compared with other states. "We are working hard to change that. The fact is that everyone who comes into the force does so on the basis of merit." She said the current attrition rate within the force was only 2% a year. "So the perception of people leaving the force in droves is just not right."



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

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

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


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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why I'm withdrawing my human rights complaint against Ezra Levant

By SYED SOHARWARDY (Syed Soharwardy is founder of the Calgary-based Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, and founder of Muslims Against Terrorism)

Recognize my name? Lately, Ezra Levant of the now-defunct Western Standard has been doing his best to demonize me in interviews and blogs. Mr. Levant probably had never heard of me until I filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against his decision to reprint the Danish cartoons that sparked a wave of violent and destructive protests across Europe and the Muslim world in 2005.

The reprinting of the cartoons wasn't about free speech. The originals are readily available on the Internet for any who wish to see them. The reprinting seem aimed more at forcing people who are deeply unhappy about the cartoons, and who would not seek them out, to be faced with them again. This is hurtful to many in the Muslim community, and can create ill-will between Muslims and non-Muslims. (Interestingly, other Canadian magazines and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, came to the same conclusion.) I therefore filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. I worried that pointless re-publication of the Danish cartoons could alienate the young people of my community, when in fact I would prefer to see them move into the mainstream of Canadian society.

Having no previous experience with any human rights commission, I was unaware of the ongoing debate about whether such commissions should have narrower or broader mandates, or of the doubts many Canadians have about whether such commissions are the right venue in which to argue questions about hate speech.

Subsequent discussions with several Muslim leaders, and more particularly with some of my Christian and Jewish friends, have led me to conclude that my complaint was beyond what I now believe should be the mandate of such a commission. I now am of the view that this matter should have been handled in the court of public opinion. Consequently, I am withdrawing my complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Mr. Levant's right to publish the offensive and hateful drawings. I believe his decision was irresponsible and was intended to cause strife, but I now appreciate that it may not fall outside the limits of free speech.

Perhaps our elected leaders should, indeed, legislate a narrower role for human rights commissions, but the campaign by Mr. Levant and others to have such commissions abolished is going too far. These commissions play an important role in protecting the most vulnerable in our society by countering discrimination in important areas such as housing, employment, and government services.

In his writings, Mr. Levant has characterized me as many things. Let me set the record straight. When I left Pakistan long ago, several Western countries offered to accept me and my wife as immigrants. We chose Canada as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family, irrespective of skin colour. We still believe that. We are proud Canadians, and share Canadian values, as do our two accomplished teenagers. I hold two masters degrees in engineering, one American the other Canadian. My work has included university teaching and management of major IT projects. Outside of work, I volunteer my time trying to develop greater understanding and better relationships between Muslims and people of other faiths, particularly Christians and Jews. I enjoy excellent relationships with numerous Jewish leaders: In my mosque in Calgary we have studied Jewish festivals, and invite Jewish experts to speak to us.

So if anyone is looking for anti-Semitism, you won't find it in my mosque. The history of anti-Semitism in Alberta is non-trivial, and it didn't come from newcomers like me, who abhor it. In fact, I'm pretty mainstream and heavily into interfaith dialogue.

Which leads me to an offer to Ezra Levant: We clearly disagree about the cartoons; but I'm willing to sit down with you and discuss it. And if you really believe the central issue is that human rights commissions have over-broad mandates, then that is an issue on which we may now be able to converge.


It's a great shame that immense publicity is needed to get free speech respected in Canada

EU threat to British lives

European judges could strip the profiles of more than half a million people from the national DNA database on privacy grounds — undermining its growing value to police as an investigative tool.

As two sex killers caught by the database were jailed for life yesterday and a senior detective joined calls for a universal register, the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case that could mean 560,000 DNA samples being destroyed. Two people charged with offences but never convicted will ask the court next week to remove their records from the database. If they succeed, 13 per cent of the 4.3 million profiles collected since 1995 would have to be destroyed.

The category of DNA profiles facing destruction has yielded vital clues in criminal cases. Official figures seen by The Times indicate that the DNA of 8,500 people never previously charged or convicted has been matched with DNA taken from crime scenes. The cases have involved about 14,000 offences including 114 murders, 55 attempted murders and 116 rapes. Europe will rule on the legality of the database as demands grow for the entire British population to be sampled after its crucial role in catching Steve Wright, the Suffolk Strangler, and Mark Dixie, the killer of Sally Anne Bowman.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy, who led the investigation into Miss Bowman’s murder, said that a universal database would have caught Dixie within 24 hours of the killing. Instead he remained at large for nine months until police took a DNA swab from him after a pub fight. Dixie, 35, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey only hours after Wright, 49, was given a whole-life sentence for the murders of five Ipswich prostitutes. Wright had been arrested after a DNA sample from one of his victim’s bodies matched the profile loaded on the database after his arrest for a minor theft.

Mr Cundy said: “I am all for a national DNA register, with all the appropriate safeguards. If there had been one at the time of Sally Anne’s murder we would have known who it was that day. It could have protected everybody else out there. For nine months between Sally Anne’s murder and the arrest one of our biggest fears and was that this man could attack again. A national DNA register could solve that.”

Richard Ottaway, Miss Bowman’s local Tory MP, said: “A universal DNA database is necessary to solve these crimes.” The Home Office has published proposals for extending the existing database by taking samples from people detained for minor, or non-recordable offences, such as not wearing a seatbelt. Ministers are understood to be awaiting the outcome of the European court case before deciding whether to proceed with the expansion plans.

Human rights lawyers will argue in Strasbourg that a juvenile acquitted of attempted robbery and Michael Marper, who faced charges of harassment that were later dropped, should have their profiles removed from the database. South Yorkshire police, which arrested both, has refused to destroy their records. Peter Mahy, their solicitor, said: “This is the most important case on the human rights implication of retaining biometric data.” He said his clients were concerned about the uses to which the samples might be put and the lack of independent oversight of the national database.


Crowbarring their way into the family home

The UK government's campaign to colonise family life is nearly complete: it is now telling parents to remove video games from their children's bedrooms.

In Britain, as part of an effort to prevent children from playing games that are `unsuitable' for their age, a legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games. This will make it illegal for shops to sell classified video games to a child below the recommended age (1). The Brown government's clampdown on violent video games has ugly echoes of the `video nasties' panic unleashed by the Conservative government in the 1980s.

Back then, the authorities' belief that if children watched slasher-gore horror flicks they would turn into crazed psychopaths was routinely ridiculed by opponents of the Conservative government. That was because the notion that watching violent material somehow damages people has always been one of the flimsiest panics around. Indeed, even as New Labour tries to rehash the old monkey-see/monkey-do censorious attitude in relation to violent video games, it is forced to admit that there isn't much hard evidence to suggest that children will grow up to be more violent if they watch Driller Killer or play Manhunt 2.

Unfortunately, however, in today's ultra-suspicious climate, these old arguments about violent material turning out violent young people are more likely to get a hearing, because individual and increasingly parental autonomy is held in even lower esteem than I Spit On Your Grave.

The driving factor behind this return of the creakiest and hoariest of moral panics is not so much violent video games, but rather concern about the remaining free space between parents and children. Ostensibly, the government's proposals to restrict youthful access to violent games are targeted at retailers, who will face a fine if they sell bloody games to underage kids - yet more fundamentally, it is being used as a way for the authorities to crowbar their way into the family home. Government ministers are `advising' parents (that is, piling the pressure on them) to keep computers and games consoles out of children's bedrooms and instead allow children only to play such games in the living room. So determined is the government to colonise every aspect of parenting and family relations that it is now peering even into children's bedrooms, and tut-tutting about what it sees there.

In this sense, outlawing violent video games is a transparent cover for eventually outlawing the existence of truly free personal spaces inside the family home. Given that this government frequently shifts from `offering advice' to threatening coercive action against those who refuse to follow it, these latest moves to kick consoles out of kids' bedrooms are clearly more frightening than any computer game.

The implication of New Labour's hectoring advice on games consoles is that stupid parents do not know what is best for their children. Instead, the authorities themselves must dictate what is appropriate for young people, and even what their bedrooms should look like and contain. Indeed, New Labour has made the social control of children and teenagers a central plank of its Respect policies and its `politics of behaviour' because it recognises that this is a device for controlling and monitoring parents - that is, the adults in British society.

Last week, home secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled proposals for new `parenting contracts', which would be served on mums and dads whose underage children are caught drinking. The contracts would ban parents from allowing their children to visit certain areas or places at stipulated times, and would hold them responsible for preventing their children from consuming alcohol. If parents breach these contracts, they could find themselves before the courts and can be fined o1,000.

It is true that teenagers frequently seek out the thrills of illicit cigarettes and booze - that is a reflection of their impatience and aspiration to enter the adult world sooner rather than later. It is simply not possible or, more importantly, desirable for parents to keep a constant tab on what their teenage children get up to. Enacting `parent contracts' against people whose children drink is to punish parents for things that are, and shall always be, largely beyond their control.

Yet the message of the anti-teen drinking contracts is clear: parents are inadequate slobs who need to be instructed in parenting skills by the powers-that-be. Jacqui Smith says of parents: `The idea that you can hand your kids a six-pack of lager and tell them to disappear off for the evening - with no thought to the consequences - is frankly baffling to me.' (2) But there is no evidence that huge numbers of parents are forcing their offspring to guzzle beer every evening. Rather, Smith's comments about parents (which, notably, caused far less controversy than her comment about walking alone through London) are underpinned by New Labour's unsubstantiated and pretty vile prejudice that everyday parents are bestial and depraved and thus should not have the final say on how they bring up their children.

At school, too, children are increasingly being socialised to believe that their parents are dupes and dopes who shouldn't really be trusted. Consider the furore over the content of children's packed lunches. As part of New Labour's crusade against fatty, sugary food and fizzy drinks, some schools now rifle through children's lunchboxes, confiscate contraband items, and write letters of complaint to unthinking parents. This implicitly breaks a quite sacred bond between parent and child: a mum or dad lovingly packs their child's lunchbox, only to have it ruled unhealthy by a teacher or other school official. This sends the message to children that the authorities know better than your mother how to bring you up.

As someone at the coalface of schooling at the moment, I can see the emergence of a new generation that looks up to the authorities for constant guidance and permission on basic matters. The one group of people teenagers certainly won't be seeking approval from is their parents. Instead, parents are increasingly seen, in cultural, political and media debates, as individuals who are failing to provide the correct healthy and moral guidelines for the next generation in open-prison Britain.

There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that children who play violent video games will grow up to be violent psychopaths. Nor is there hard evidence that parents hand out six-packs of Carling and tell their kids to `get on with it'. However, these stories are themselves evidence of an increasingly demented and nasty mindset amongst government officials, who seem to view most parents as low-life scum in need of short, sharp fines or worse. It is an outrage for officials to barge their way so brazenly into the parental home and order that parents pack away their kids' computers. Who the hell do they think they are? It's time, surely, that we zapped New Labour's encroachment on parental autonomy before they take their draconian measures to the next level.


Australia: A black Leftist sees the reality of black problems

And Australia's blinkered center-Left Prime Minister thinks bigger government is the answer

THE Rudd Government must stare down the indigenous service provider industry that profits from entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage or risk dooming the federal intervention into Northern Territory communities, former Labor president Warren Mundine has warned. Mr Mundine urged his party to "have courage" in challenging the "old guard" whose political power base lay within remote Aboriginal communities and who opposed aspects of the intervention. He warned that a welfare industry had built up around Aboriginal people that could derail Kevin Rudd's pledge to "close the gap" between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy rates.

"What we have created in Australia is an indigenous industry that lives off people's poverty and misery," Mr Mundine said. "It's destroyed incentives. There's a whole culture that developed over a period of time of dependency." He said some Labor powerbrokers in remote Australia, such as Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon, had been key players in the land rights political movement and were pushing for the party to return to the "status quo" prior to the intervention. "There's no doubt there's a split in the party about what needs to be done," Mr Mundine said. "And we have people whoare harping back to keeping the status quo prior to the intervention."

His comments came as Reconciliation Australia director Fred Chaney labelled remote Australia a "failed state" with little electoral clout that had been abandoned by federal, state and territory governments. "Government have essentially stepped outside and left these communities to their own devices," Mr Chaney said. "This intervention has had to make it up as it goes along. There is a serious gap in governance of the governments themselves." ....

The Northern Territory Government this week introduced legislation to reform disparate local government authorities into a series of "super-shires", but the reforms that were crafted by Australia's father of reconciliation, Pat Dodson, were watered down at the last minute when the Government exempted the Top End shire, dominated by white pastoralists, from the super-shire structure. The exemption prompted the resignation of NT local government minister Elliot McAdam.

Visiting the northwest NSW town of Walgett yesterday, the Prime Minister said the Government had begun formulating a plan to attack duplication and infighting among Aboriginal service providers and government agencies by creating local boards for remote indigenous communities that would be responsible for ground-level service delivery.

Speaking on his first visit to an outback indigenous community as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd said he was considering bringing together service providers and local, state and federal government agencies to co-ordinate indigenous service delivery on a community-by-community basis. "Maybe it's time for us to look at much more of a whole-of-local-community focus whereby you have around the one table not just all the representatives of organisations and groups but the various levels of government," he said.

But Mr Mundine said the "indigenous industry" would prove difficult to reform. "There's a whole culture that's developed over a period of time of dependence," he said. "I have never seen a place in the world where they've got more governance of people. "We've got to get bureaucrats out of the way. Let's stop spending money on bureaucrats and get money on to the ground."

Mr Mundine's comments come after former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough told a dinner for Quadrant magazine in Sydney last week that political correctness hampered many of the people working within the indigenous sector who wanted to bring about change...

Mr Rudd said that governance was one of two key messages from his five-hour visit to Walgett. The other was creating a flexible approach to housing that would allow private ownership in one community and communal title in another. With a majority of indigenous residents, Walgett is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state. Mr Rudd toured two Aboriginal reserves and was taken to task by Ann Dennis about the level of duplication and lack of communication by service providers. She said funding was not the problem. "It's the co-ordination and planning, not the money coming in," she said. [That would be right. That's typical bureaucracy]

Mr Rudd said he was committed to ending a one-size-fits-all approach. "It may be that in the 300 to 400 remote indigenous communities in Australia that we'll end up with lots of different housing models from full private ownership, through to leasehold through to community ownership," he said. He asked Ms Dennis if they wanted private ownership of homes, and she said the community did.



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

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

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


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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dutch bank kowtows to Muslims over piggy bank

Fortis Bank will no longer give children a piggy-bank if they open an account. The company apparently is afraid of offending Muslims. Fortis clients that open a EuroKids account for their children are given a present of a piggy-bank called Knorbert. But the bank is stopping this because "Knorbert does not meet the requirements that the multicultural society imposes on us," yesterday's De Telegraaf quoted a spokesman as saying.

Pigs are considered unclean animals by Jews and Muslims. An Internet campaign in which Knorbert played a leading role has also been halted by Fortis. According to a spokeswoman, there have been "a number of reactions to the pig" and a new present is being worked on that is "fun for children of any persuasion whatever." As an interim solution, the bank is currently offering a children's encyclopaedia.

Later yesterday, Fortis tried to quash the suggestion that it was influenced by Islam. "The real story is a bit more balanced. "The Knorbert product has reached the end of its life-cycle," was spokeswoman Marianne Honkoop's attempt.


Parents defeat Sharia imposition in England

Parent power has prompted an Oxford primary school to rethink a plan to serve only halal meat. Rose Hill Primary School used halal meat, which is slaughtered under Muslim religious law, in several dishes last year and in all meat dishes for a month-long trial last month. It was the first school in the county to ask school meals provider Food with Thought to provide a purely halal menu.

The school has now decided to offer youngsters a choice of normal meat, a halal option or a vegetarian dish, and will use a wristband system to make sure pupils get the correct meal.

Lyndsy Johnson, 35, of Radford Close, said: "We're glad now that we have got the three options. That is how it should have been to start off with. "It was a very big issue. Everyone was talking about it on the estate. We have definitely got parent power."

Parents only found out about the menu change on the last day of winter term - after halal meat had begun to be served. Some parents were opposed to their children eating halal food, because they felt the animals were slaughtered in a cruel way. They said they should have been consulted about the changes. Within days parents raised a petition with 220 signatures, calling for three choices for school meals - meat, halal meat and vegetarian - and met headteacher Sue Mortimer and school governors to discuss their concerns.

On February 8, Mrs Mortimer sent home a letter which read: "Whilst the trial was on I continued to have discussions with Food with Thought and am now able to confirm the school could have three choices at lunchtime." The new menus will begin on Monday with children at the school in The Oval choosing meals at morning registration. They will be given coloured wristbands to show dinner ladies their choice for the day, with a red wristband for meat, blue for halal meat and green for vegetarian.

Mrs Mortimer had told parents the school introduced halal meat as part of its inclusion policy. She said because halal meat was not forbidden by any religion or culture it would allow every pupil to choose a meat dish for lunch. She refused to comment on the new system when approached by the Oxford Mail. A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said the school had bought new equipment to ensure halal meat and non-halal meat was kept separate during preparation.

Dr Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, said: "This is the best solution to improving community relations."


Populism of the Privileged

Democratic gloom-and-doom offers little change and less hope

By Victor Davis Hanson

The rhetoric of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton about the sad state of America is reminiscent of the suspect populism of John Edwards, the millionaire lawyer who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential race.

Barack Obama may have gone to exclusive private schools. He and his wife may both be lawyers who between them have earned four expensive Ivy League degrees. They may make about a million dollars a year, live in an expensive home, and send their kids to prep school. But they are still apparently firsthand witnesses to how the American dream has gone sour. Two other Ivy League lawyers, Hillary and Bill, are multimillionaires who have found America to be a land of riches beyond most people's imaginations. But Hillary also talks of the tragic lost dream of America.

In these gloom-and-doom narratives by the well off, we less fortunate Americans are doing almost everything right, but still are not living as well as we deserve to be. And the common culprit is a government that is not doing enough good for us, and corporations that do too much bad to us.

In the new pessimistic indictment, the home-mortgage meltdown has not occurred because too many speculative buyers were hoping to flip houses for quick profits. It had nothing to do with misguided attempts of government and lending institutions to put first-time buyers in homes through zero-down payments, interest-only loans, and subprime but adjustable mortgage rates - as part of liberal efforts to increase home-ownership rates.

And there apparently are few Americans who unwisely borrowed against their homes a second and third time to remodel or purchase big-ticket consumer items - on the belief that their equity would always be rising faster than their debts. Nor are we to look at this downturn as part of a historical boom-and-bust cycle in the housing industry - the present low prices and non-performing loans the natural counter-response to the overpriced real estate of the last five years.

Likewise, we're told that students are failing to graduate from college because there are too few government-guaranteed student loans. We don't hear that thousands enter public universities without basic reading and mathematical skills - or that their college problems might be due in part to their own misplaced priorities in high school, and in part to an educational system that is mostly therapeutic, offering fluffy courses and self-esteem training rather than rigorous math, science, literature, and history classes. Nor is there ever mention of teachers' unions, the system of tenure, or a vapid, politically correct curriculum, as explanations for why our students are not competitive in the global marketplace.

We also hear that oil prices are sky high and our own automobile industry is failing due to windfall profits and corporate greed, but there's no discussion of the fact that oil-rich autocracies like Russia, Venezuela, and the Gulf monarchies have obtained a stranglehold on the global petroleum supply.

For Hillary and Barack, our automobile manufacturing crisis is not the result of uniquely lavish union health and retirement packages for American autoworkers. The government is somehow mostly to blame for Detroit's meltdown and the energy crisis, not Americans' own tastes in the 1990s for large gas-guzzlers and big homes, and their concurrent opposition to nuclear power plants, oil drilling off the coasts and in Alaska, and conservation of resources.

Wal-Mart, free trade, and our debt to China also come in for blame. Neither Obama nor Clinton suggests that the middle classes of America have more purchasing power and have accumulated more consumer goods than any people in history. In reality, our acquisitiveness is a result not of corporate greed, but of our fondness for shopping at discounted warehouse mega-stores, whose goods are the result of hard work of hundreds of millions of low-paid Chinese. They not only toil long hours to make our cheap televisions and stereos, but their government lends us the money at low interest - through massive buying of U.S. government bonds - to buy their stuff in the first place.

To the extent that we have any social and legal problems from unchecked illegal immigration, it has nothing to do with the cynicism and corruption of the Mexican government that deliberately exports, exploits, and profits off its own people. The problem is not the fondness for low-paid, off-the-books illegal labor among the upper-middle classes, nor the disdain for the law of illegal immigrants themselves, who crowd to the front of the immigration line. Instead, America's xenophobia, blame-casting, and insensitive government have made it needlessly rough on 11 million arrivals who otherwise did us a favor by coming.

As Sens. Obama and Clinton try to outdo each other in blaming government for our lack of individual responsibility and promising solutions by raising taxes to give us more government, they offer little change and less hope.


Britain: Disgraceful treatment of elderly ex-soldier

Warrant officer is a very distinguished military rank -- indicating that the man was a first class soldier in the service of his country

Now let's look at the lot of the pensioners [social security dependants], highlighted by the imprisoning of 76-year-old, ex Warrant Officer, Richard Fitzmaurice.

Mr Fitzmaurice was shackled and humiliated by a British court (they are no longer fit to be called courts of justice). Eight hours in a holding cell, an hour and a half handcuffed to a guard in a security van and a lengthy wait in a police station custody unit for a prison space. When a jail cell comes free, Mr Fitzmaurice, who has four children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, will be stripped, searched and locked up with criminals for company. Then at the end of a long traumatic day, finally, at 9.30 in the evening, this 76-year-old veteran , was allowed one phone call to his family. He told his son: "I'm okay. Don't worry about me."

His crime: non-payment of council tax. For that heinous offence, Mr Fitzmaurice, who has seen the bill on his Band D property soar hugely over the years, could spend the next 34 days behind bars. The sum owed - 1,359 pounds - may not seem much to our MPs whose noses sink ever deeper into the trough, but it represents 16 per cent of Mr Fitzmaurice's 8,406 Army pension. Read that again! Mr Fitzmaurice's 8,406 Army pension! Now note that in 1998-1999, the cost of Band D council tax in Heacham was 699. By 2007-2008 this had risen to 1,359 - an increase of 94 per cent.

Faced with demands to pay ever increasing Council Tax on a meagre fixed income meant that he and his wife were being forced to choose: Reduce their spending on food and heating, or pay their council tax in full. Mr Fitzmaurice chose to put the needs of his frail wife of 55 years before the demands of his Councillors.

And who can blame him, for, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, who brought the case brought against him have been indulging in a little trough feeding themselves. Last year his borough councillors voted themselves a 35 per cent increase in allowances - 50 per cent more than an independent panel had recommended. The total extra cost to taxpayers was more than 91,000 pounds!!!

This council, like too many others has also routinely wasted so much of the money they extract from the people! In 2003, the council was criticised for spending 50,000 on a beach-cleaning tractor and mechanical rake that proved a waste of time. The previous year, two spa pools in North Lynn built for the disabled at a cost of 30,000 were closed without being used because the construction was found to be sub-standard. And let's not even look at the gold plated pensions and other perks that all council officials now enjoy - at our expense!

Yesterday a cold hearted spokesman for King's Lynn Borough Council said: "Mr Fitzmaurice does not qualify for council tax benefit, so although he can afford to pay he is choosing not to. "He has chosen to pursue the matter in this manner, rather than settle his liability and raise his concerns through legitimate methods. The decision to impose a custodial sentence, and the length of that sentence, rests with the magistrates."

Before he went into court, Mr Fitzmaurice said he was standing up for older people on fixed incomes but faced with steeply rising living costs. "Where is the money supposed to come from?" he asked. "We are on some of the lowest pensions in Europe yet Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. We are being disregarded and shoved on the back burner because it's convenient for the Government. "People are actually sacrificing food so that they can have the heating on. Pensioners are being betrayed by the Government, yet they are the people who put this country where it is today."

And whilst pensioners choose whether to freeze to death or starve to death, our elected MPs will be dining on steak and drinking champagne in Westminster today.

So there you have the connection! It's the link between the haves and the have nots. It's the link between the modern day Marie Antoinette's and the starving peasants! If you don't feel a burning anger at the base wrongness of that and despise those greedy men and women put into Parliament to serve us, but who only think of themselves, then you should do!


See also here. The gentleman has now been freed after some kind soul paid his bill


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

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

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


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Friday, February 22, 2008

Those poor misunderstood violent Muslims

The fifth US-Islamic World Forum concluded here yesterday on a positive note with the delegates expressing their determination to take the dialogue to wider areas and try to narrow down differences. "There was a general feeling that ignorance and paranoia are keeping the two sides divided [That's a fact. Ignorance and paranoia are rife in the Muslim world] . Mutual respect has emerged as the key word for fostering better relations and understanding," said Carlos Pascual, Vice-President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at Brookings, the US, while giving the concluding remarks at the conference yesterday.

Use of words was one the major issues raised in the discussions. "There was an agreement among the participants not to use terms like Islamic terrorism. Terrorism is unIslamic and Muslims are among the victims of terrorism," said Pascual. He said it was proposed to use "violent extremism" while referring to terrorism.

Most participants expressed concern over the growing military budget in the US and called for a shift in focus [Maybe it would shift the focus if Muslims stop bombing and threatening people] . They felt the need to develop partnerships instead of unilateralism, and end conflicts that widen the chasm between the US and the Islamic world. The delegates urged to pursue the two-state formula to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and called for a viable political solution to the Iraqi crisis.

Democracy was another hotly debated issue in the conference [What would Muslims know about THAT??] . The discussions focused on the forms of democracy, ownership of democracy, dialectics between faith and state and tolerance and choice. The need to provide more space for non-state organizations in the Islamic world was underlined, said Pascual.

The alleged human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay raised concern among the delegates, with many of them calling for closing down this detention camp. [How about closing down the Iranian nuclear program?]


Chronic Warrior Syndrome

One of the things I've come to love about writing for the Internet is the new friends I make whose perception sometimes make me smack my forehead in wonder that in all my years some insight they easily offer up had so completely eluded me until now. One such is a jarhead, and believe me, as an old paratrooper, I use that term with respect and brotherly affection. Old Leatherneck, Troy Watson, introduced me to the concept of Chronic Marine Syndrome, which as best I can determine is the inspiration of retired Marine Corps Brigadier General, Mike Mulqueen.

Reading the list of symptoms associated with Chronic Marine Syndrome, I realized quickly that the New York Times and other mainstream media organizations have been right all along that those who serve their country, and especially those who have actually fought in their country's service have most likely developed a syndrome which, considering the moral fiber of the mainstream media and the nation of sheep they seek to form and lead, could accurately be categorized by them as pathological.

Pardon me Marines in general, and General Mulqueen, specifically, but I think CMS extends beyond the Corps and infects past, present, and surely the future ranks of all American military services. Consider, if you will, but a few of the symptoms General Mulqueen has defined as markers of this unique infliction, as well as some others I have added:
First and foremost, having confidence in who they are

Possessing pride in oneself, one's organization and the country they serve

Being knowledgeable of and comfortable with the terms honor, courage and commitment

Determined to see the mission, regardless of temporary setbacks, accomplished

Often either respected or despised by others, due to their unique abilities and talents

Internally and essentially immune to organizational political correctness

Able to meet you with a firm handshake and look you in the eye

When not a warrior, a first responder, cop, fireman, nurse, doctor, EMT, etc.

If he/she says "Hang on, I'm coming for you," you can bet your life, they're coming for you

Shares the tremendous pride and the undying respect of his or her family

Shares the tremendous pride and the undying respect of his or her buddies, military and civilian

Shares rations, water and candy bars with the unfortunate children of war

Shares, unfortunately, the gratitude of only some of us in this nation he or she protects

Yes, I'm beginning to see where the media can make a sensational case that these people, these soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen that we send out in harm's way to defend us, somehow possess a demonstrable set of symptoms that clearly differentiate them from far too many in America today, especially these selfsame parasites in the mainstream media who greedily suck at the nation's wounds and feast on the world's offal. Since these symptoms seem to apply solely to a unique minority of volunteers who place selflessness above all other virtues, a condition of some rarity in this age of "me first," I can now understand how those staunch, courageous patriots at the New York Times and their fellow travelers at the broadcast networks see our returning warriors as unwell in some way.

Yep, I simply can question their judgment no longer; our troops returning from the Mideast wars are indeed afflicted and it's time to give that affliction a catchy name like the one the media loves for my generation of warriors: PTSD. However, considering the group of symptoms described above, I think we should call this current problem, CWS: Chronic Warrior Syndrome. Long may our young warriors be afflicted.


`Counterknowledge': when fiction masquerades as fact

From 9/11 to homeopathy, `counterknowledge' thrives thanks to a mad mixture of postmodern political correctness and capitalist greed

For anyone who still believes in the methodology of the Enlightenment, sitting around the table at a twenty-first century dinner party can be intellectual torture.

Your fellow guests tuck hungrily into a menu of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, junk history and (above all) quack medicine. Yet they will also have the nerve to insist that they reject the `medieval superstition' of religion.

We are facing an epidemic of gullibility caused by what I describe in my new book as `counterknowledge' - fiction masquerading as fact. The chief medium of dodgy empirical claims is, unsurprisingly, the internet, which enables people to construct do-it-yourself conspiracy theories and turn them into cyberspace cosmologies within the space of 24 hours.

There is no point pretending that we can (or should) police the internet. What we must do, however, is relentlessly attack trusted institutions that are allowing the pollution of the public domain by counterknowledge.

The real villains of my book are not the snake oil merchants themselves: they are the governments, universities, medical professionals, major publishing houses and newspapers that circulate patently false empirical claims. Let me give you some examples.

Constable Robinson publishes a book called 9/11 Revealed, by Ian Henshall and Rowland Morgan, that recycles every brain-dead `alternative explanation' for the terrorist attacks, including the Pentagon being hit by a missile and the Twin Towers being demolished by pre-rigged explosives. I bought my copy in WH Smith at Paddington Station in London.

Six British universities offer degree courses in homeopathy, a form of 200-year-old quackery whose claims are so risible that the press was mocking them even in the early nineteenth century. The Prince of Wales regularly abuses his constitutional position to lobby on behalf of this witchcraft. Boots the Chemist sells shedloads of homeopathic `medicine' every day.

Patrick Holford, Britain's leading `nutritionist', claims that Vitamin C is proving more effective than AZT against HIV in laboratory tests. He holds no degree higher than a 1970s BSc in psychology, but has been made a visiting professor at the University of Teesside.

British and American universities regularly teach `Afrocentric history', built around a series of claims - for example, that the Greeks stole their philosophy from the Egyptians - which are designed to raise the self-esteem of black students. These claims are fantasies. But then all claims are fantasies, according to the dreary postmodernists who hold sway in the cultural studies faculties of these universities.

How have respected institutions allowed themselves to be drawn into pushing counterknowledge? The answer lies in a mixture of postmodern political correctness and capitalist greed - and the two mix very well together.

I am a capitalist and a conservative. But I also believe in a public domain in which facts must be demonstrated to be true. Many of my allies in this battle are Marxists who believe the same thing. The crucial conflicts of the future may not be between ideologies, but between fact and fantasy. The enemy consists of `9/11 Truthers', Afrocentric historians, homeopaths and `scientific creationists'. An ill-assorted bunch, certainly - but, unfortunately, their stuff sells.


Twisted British law again

Courageous Indian defended himself against an habitual criminal -- How awful!

A shopkeeper could be charged with murder after an armed robber who tried to steal the day's takings was stabbed with his own knife during a struggle. Tony Singh, 34, described as a hard-working family man who often works 13-hour days, was ambushed as he shut his shop on Sunday evening by Liam Kilroe, 25, a career criminal who was armed with a knife.

Mr Singh fought back and, after a fierce hand-to-hand struggle, Kilroe was seen by witnesses to stagger away clutching the knife to his chest. Kilroe was taken to hospital, where he died, and Mr Singh was detained by police. He is now waiting to discover whether he will be charged, and is on police bail until February 29 pending further inquiries.

Lancashire police confirmed that papers had been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether Mr Singh should be charged with one of three offences: murder, manslaughter or assault.

Mr Singh, who suffered injuries to his neck and back during the struggle and had to be treated in hospital, insisted yesterday that he had acted in self-defence. The shopkeeper, who runs the Lifestyle Express general store in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, said: "I feel lucky to be alive. All I was doing was trying to stop myself getting hurt. The guy could have killed me. "I have got some injuries to my face and I am pretty shaken up but, thankfully, I am OK and able to return to work. It could have been so much worse. If one of the wounds had gone one inch either way, then it could have been fatal for me."

Kilroe, of Billinge, near St Helens, who had convictions stretching back nine years, was in breach of bail conditions at the time of his death. He had failed to appear in court to answer charges that he carried out armed robberies at a shop and post office with an imitation firearm. In one raid a postmaster was hit over the head with a handgun but the robbers fled empty-handed. In a second robbery, at a general shop in Croston, Leyland, they forced a woman behind the counter to open the till at gunpoint and hand over 8,000 pounds. Kilroe's trial was scheduled to go ahead in his absence earlier this week at Preston Crown Court until Judge Christopher Cornwall was told that the accused had died.

Mr Singh had just shut his store at 9.40pm on Sunday and was about to drive home when Kilroe struck. He smashed the driver's side window of Mr Singh's Ford Focus with the butt of his knife and reached in to demand the takings. The shopkeeper resisted. At the end of the struggle Kilroe was seen to stagger away from the scene with the knife in his chest then stumble to the ground. A number of people witnessed the confrontation and have given statements to police. Mr Singh's customers and fellow shopkeepers offered their support yesterday. One said: "Tony is a much-loved shopkeeper who has worked hard all his life."

Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell, of Lancashire police, who is leading the investigation, said: "Police and an ambulance attended the scene and found the driver and passenger windows of the Focus smashed. Liam Kilroe was dead by the car and another man was in the car with stabbing injuries to his head and back. "There had clearly been a struggle between the two men and we have recovered a knife which I believe to be Liam Kilroe's. We have had a number of consistent accounts from eye witnesses to the incident and further inquiries will be made."

A spokesman for Lancashire police said that the Crown Prosecution Service had asked them not to divulge details of the struggle because they would form the basis of their decision whether or not to prosecute Mr Singh. He said: "A file will shortly be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to make a decision on finalising the case. Depending on their decision there will either be a charge or no further criminal action and the incident will be passed to the coroner."



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

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

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


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Arab Slums Much Worse than PalArab "Refugee" Camps

A couple of weeks ago the Washington Post published an article (no longer available; excerpted here from AP) that showed that both Gazans and Egyptians were surprised that Gaza was in comparatively better shape than Egypt was:
A little travel has gone a long way toward changing perceptions in Gaza. After excursions to Egypt across a border breached by Hamas militants, some Palestinians pepper their local Arabic dialect with Egyptian expressions while others say they are shocked by the poverty there.

Jihad Jaradeh, 24, a Gazan whose family owns a furniture shop, reached the Egyptian town of El Arish, some 25 miles from the border. Although shop owners doubled and tripled prices, Jaradeh paid up, saying he even gave extra “because they looked so poor.”

Many Gazans who visited Egypt remarked on the discrepancy between their more glamorous image of urban Egypt - derived mostly from movies - and the run-down border region of unpaved streets and small houses they encountered.

A trickle of Egyptians also made it into Gaza. Mohammed, an Egyptian truck driver who rented his truck to Palestinians to ferry goods into Gaza, pointed to cars crowding a nearby street and said: “I thought conditions here would be harder than this. I thought people would be starving.”
This theme has been reinforced by former Reuters reporter Mona Eltahawy, hardly a fan of Israel. From Indian Muslims:
I must confess that when Hamas militants blasted holes into Egypt’s border to end an Israeli blockade on Gaza, my first thought was how lucky those Gazans were. Landlocked and living on less than $2 a day-their plight rarely elicits envy, I know. But there are Egyptian slums that swim in more sewage and are submerged in even greater poverty. In those slums, chronic diseases go unchecked and uncured, and children grow up next to the dead in tombs turned into makeshift-housing.Yet nobody rushes to blast holes into the imaginary border of poverty that suffocates those slums, nor are they sporting t-shirts urging us to sympathise. Why?

Because Israel cannot be blamed.

For decades, successive dictators in the Arab world have sacrificed their respective national concerns on the altar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling us it must be resolved before any kind of progress can be made, whether it’s stopping terrorism, embracing democracy or ending poverty. Unsurprisingly, despite peace with Israel for the past 29 years, Egypt still suffers with the same problems.

As a Jerusalem-based Reuters correspondent in 1998, I visited several Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and was astonished to see living conditions better than in the slums of Cairo, my hometown. (Frustration and not mean-spiritedness compels me to make that comparison.)

Despite its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian regime discourages its citizens from visiting Israel or the Palestinian areas, so few can even make the comparison.

Arab media, particularly the state-owned kind, are equally discouraged from focusing on national issues - such as the desperate state of our slums - and instead devote most newsprint and airtime to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iraq.

The latter never got much attention when Saddam Hussein was filling mass graves with Shi’ites and Kurds, but catapulted to the top of the news bulletins when the Arab world’s other bete noire - the United States - invaded Iraq in 2003.

Recently the baton of Palestine passed into the firm and dangerous grip of Islamists. Years of corrupt Fatah leadership handed Hamas a 2006 electoral victory, which unfortunately paved the way for civil war between the rival factions, shattering illusions that Palestinian leaders cared more for their people than their jostle for power.

The masked gunmen of Hamas - who lob rockets into Israel with little regard for the consequences for their own people - are now the heroes of the day for bombing the Egyptian border. Egypt, to the west and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction to the east are seen as Israel’s surrogate jailers of Gaza, and the more Israel tightens its grip, the more that scenario is magnified.

Some Egyptians struggled to square their fears over seeing armed Islamists bomb their country’s borders with their desire to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The popular social networking site Facebook became home to some heated arguments in groups titled “Save Gaza for Humans Not Hamas” and “Get the Palestinians Away from Arish-We Want Our Borders Back.”

A young Egyptian woman told me she considered Hamas’ action at the Egyptian border an ‘invasion’: “They did blow up the border. Putting women and children first does not make it ok,” she said. “They attacked the Egyptian forces. They acted like thugs. It was a political move, and they had no respect for Egypt. That’s why I want them out really.”
It is still the rare Arab voice that points out the obvious - Palestinian Arabs in “refugee” camps have been given decades of free food, shelter and education, not to mention attention, that Arab countries do not provide for their own citizens.

Most Palestinian Arabs left the area for much more lucrative jobs in the Gulf and would have happily settled elsewhere had the Arab countries allowed them to become repatriated as refugees rather than purposefully keeping them stateless.

The ones that stayed in these “camps” for generations are the lazy ones who feel that free medical care, housing and food are their right long after their status of “refugees” is long gone by any sane definition. And this mindset that Palestinian Arabs deserve this exalted status at the expense of all poor Arabs has penetrated Arab society to keep a self-perpetuating problem alive for purely political reasons.


Child abuse by a California government

Government rips an autistic boy from his home because it prefers a different treatment than the one offered by the parents

What kind of society rips a 17-year-old autistic boy from his loving home and places him in a state-run mental institution, where he is given heavy doses of drugs, kept physically restrained, kept away from his family, deprived of books and other mental stimulation and is left alone to rot? Certainly not a free or humane one.

Yet that's exactly what has happened to Nate Tseglin, after a teacher called Child Protective Services, the county agency charged with protecting children from many forms of abuse and given power to remove children from their family homes in certain circumstances. The teacher reported seeing self-inflicted scratches on Nate's body and complained about the doctor-approved arm restraints his parents used to keep Nate from hurting himself. Nate remains in Fairview Developmental Center (formerly Fairview State Hospital) in Costa Mesa, labeled a danger to himself and others, while his parents fight a lonely battle to bring their son back home.

Isn't there anyone out there who can help them?

After the complaint, social workers intervened and decided that the judgment of a psychologist who examined Nate's records but never even met the boy trumped a lifetime of treatment and experiences by his parents, Ilya and Riva Tseglin. Without prior notice, "the San Diego Health and Human Services agency social worker, with the aid of law enforcement, forcibly removed a struggling and terrified autistic boy . from his home, while his mother and father, who are Russian Jewish immigrants, and Nate's younger brother stood by helplessly," according to the complaint the parents, who have since moved to Irvine to be near Nate, filed with the court.

The forced removal came after the Tseglins came to loggerheads with the government over Nate's proper treatment. The parents are opposed to the use of psychotropic drugs and argue that Nate has had strong negative reactions to them. They point to success they've had with an alternative, holistic approach that focuses on diet and psychiatric counseling. The government disagreed, so it took the boy away from home and initially placed him in a group home - where he had the same negative reaction to the drugs that his parents predicted would happen.

Of course, once social workers are involved in a family, they are reluctant to relinquish their power - something I've found in every Child Protective Services case I've written about. And even though the court determined "the evidence is clear that the parents have always stood by and tried to help their son," the court sided with the government. That's another common theme from these closed family-court proceedings - the social workers' words are taken as gospel, and the parents are treated like enemies and given little chance to defend themselves.

The details are complicated and discouraging. But, essentially, the parents were cut out of any decision-making regarding their son. They were given only short visits with him. After he ran away from the group home, the government transferred Nate to a mental hospital. The Tseglins say the drugs the hospital gave Nate caused him to have a "grand mal" seizure, and his health has continued to deteriorate while he languishes in a government mental facility. When they visited him over the summer, they found his face swollen. He faded in and out of consciousness and was suffering from convulsions. They believe he has been beaten and are worried about sexual abuse, given that he is housed with the criminally insane.

The Tseglins claim Child Protective Services has told them they have the "wrong set of beliefs" and even threatened to force them to undergo court-ordered psychological evaluation. The agency at one point suspended the parents' visitations as a way "to assist them in coming to grips regarding their son." The Tseglins, as former citizens of the Soviet Union, have good reason to be fearful of the authorities. But they tell me that they experienced nothing of this sort in the former communist nation. If their descriptions are correct, then the Soviets weren't the only ones who know how to create a totalitarian bureaucracy.

The family's legal argument is persuasive: "Riva and her husband have cared for Nate, in their home, for his entire life, until he was dragged kicking and screaming away from his parents. . The court found that it was very impressive that the parents 'were able to maintain Nate in the home for the better part of a decade when he was having some severe behavioral difficulties.' . The court found further that when the parents put Nate on a 'more holistic approach' and ignored the professional opinions, that 'for a period of time, Nate responded very well to that.' Even though Nate subsequently deteriorated, the court found that he fared no differently using the more traditional medical approach.' .

"In short, this case turns on value judgments, such as whether it is preferable for Nate to be maintained in his own home, subject to occasional physical restraint, surrounded by the love and devotion of his parents and brother, or whether Nate should be placed in a locked facility, subject to occasional physical restraint and constant chemical restraint, surrounded by strangers and a burden to the California taxpayer. . The real issue in this case is that the agency and some medical personnel believe their opinions regarding Nate's treatment are better than the parents' choices, and have sought the judicial intervention to override the parents' decisions regarding their son."

In a free society, individuals and families get to make those judgments and decisions. As the Tseglins argue, "Riva has a right to raise her child, Nate, free from government interference, as long as he is not at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect or exploitation."

Sure, the state can and does intervene when parents are accused of abusing or neglecting their children. There are many problems and injustices even in those cases, but at least it's understandable when the government intervenes to protect a potentially threatened child. But in this case, the state is simply saying that it knows best, that no matter how diligently a boy's parents have worked to provide the best-possible care for him, that officials get the final say. And the government's choice of mandatory incarceration seems harsh and cruel, which shouldn't surprise anyone, given the basic nature of government. At last check, autism is not a crime. It's time to free Nate Tseglin and return him to the love and care of his parents.


How do we deal with the control freaks?

Writing for Freedom Communications newspapers, philosopher Tibor Machan says that candidates and proposals that maximize individual choice and restrict government mandates consistently lose at the polls because Americans just aren't all that interested in being free.
The very plain fact is that too many voters don't want to be free. Over and over again they reject candidates who champion free markets, civil liberties, global free trade and similar ideas and institutions.

Instead, they favor protectionism, government regulation, meddling in people's personal lives and habits and restricting freedom so as to achieve the mirage of perfect safety - be this about over-the-counter drugs, the threat of terrorism or environmental concerns.

They want to restrict other people's liberty and rip them off for various benefits. It's a mad dash to raid the treasury at others' expense and to control people's lives so as to serve various precautionary goals.

Sadly, that's now the character of the bulk of the American citizenry. They are not being mislead by the media or pundits or politicians. No. They want to get a free ride wherever they see a chance, never mind that this simply is impossible for them all to achieve.
I think that Machan is essentially correct, though I'll differ from him so far as to say that most people think they want freedom. Just about everybody has a complaint to share about laws, taxes, or regulations that rub them the wrong way. They'll tell you over a beer or in a business meeting how much they'd love to have the government off their backs on one issue or another.

But most people don't want to extend the same courtesy to others. They don't see freedom as something that you have to extend to everybody or else lose; instead, they see it as an a la carte menu from which they can select. So the guy who wants the building code inspector to stop harassing him is also eager to lock up pot smokers and raise taxes to fund Social Security. The woman who thinks gays and lesbians should be free to marry also wants private establishments forbidden to permit their patrons to smoke and wants to force taxpayers to pick up the tab for her healthcare. And the nice folks down the street who resent being told what color to paint their house also think that any organization that criticizes politicians should have to register with the government and file financial disclosure forms.

And, if it really comes down to it, they're more opposed to leaving you free to decide on your pet issues than they're dedicated to gaining breathing room on their pet issues. So, advocates for liberty all, Americans fuel a political culture that tends toward ever-more control every year because putting the screws to the next guy is more important to them than being left alone themselves.

Machan says that he is "not a pessimist in the long run," but he really doesn't explain his grounds for a cheery outlook and I'll be damned if I can see them myself. True, there have been large constituencies for liberty in the past. The most ideological period in this country's history was probably around the time of the revolution. Eighteenth-century Americans actually sat around debating political philosophy in bars and then went out, muskets in hand, to create a generally pro-liberty political system. They were far from consistent -- many had slaves at home and wives who were damned near chattel themselves. But that's as close as we've ever been to a national consensus that leaving people alone is better than bossing them around.

People are much less consistently ideological now, and few are willing to entertain the tradeoffs required to maintain truly free society. To be left alone to engage in the activities that matter to you, you have to be willing to leave your neighbors similar space, even if their businesses and pastimes offend you; if you don't allow for that live-and-let-live compromise, you create no precedent for a government of limited power and scope. By and large, most modern Americans are unwilling to make that concession, so the state grows larger and more intrusive every year, unbound by any consensus that there are things that it just should not do.

Maybe we'll spawn another generation of sort-of libertarians some day, but I don't see that in the offing. Increasingly centralized schooling has produced not just poorly educated Americans (a bad enough offense), but graduates who share overly much in the way of views and values. Taught about the glories of government control, and unlikely to meet many people raised with values very different from their own, there's little reason for them to say, you go your way and I'll go mine.

But I do think that there will always be a constituency for liberty, and the question is: How do we live life in a country that's likely to diverge from our political ideals a little bit more with every passing year? How do we survive as a political minority in a hostile culture?

There's probably not just one right answer. I tend to favor a somewhat in-your-face and subversive approach. We need to keep the ideas of liberty in the public forum so that, even if widely rejected, they don't become completely unthinkable to the wider culture. A population that's consistently reminded of the case for drug legalization, for example, will produce more converts to the cause -- and occasional victories -- than one for whom such a proposal is so alien as to be unthinkable.

We can also carve out small victories through jury nullification, naming and shaming abusive officials and making the enforcement of intrusive laws difficult, expensive and dangerous. I guess that's a policy of political guerrilla warfare -- less about winning than about keeping the enemy from total victory.

Other people may prefer a more academic approach -- researching problems with authoritarian policies and making intellectual arguments that keep the ideas of liberty alive and respectable. That's a long-term approach that looks to small changes in policy now and bigger effects in a friendlier future.

And some people will prefer to drop out or build parallel systems and cultures. They'll ignore bad laws, bypass the authorities and work with like-minded people, the better to enjoy just a little more freedom in the here-and now. I don't think any of these approaches are mutually exclusive, so which approach(es) you take depend on your preferences and temperament. But I think we're all going to have to choose one approach or another. Freedom in this country looks like it's in for a long and bumpy ride.


Political correctness backfires in Australia

The recent "apology" to blacks (for their alleged past mistreatment) from Australia's new center-Left Federal government has become an excuse for mob violence by blacks

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generation has sparked a spate of racial violence in Darwin. Five people had to be admitted to hospital after one brawl. The Caucasian men were attacked by a group of 10 Aboriginal men, who demanded that their victims "say sorry".

A 28-year-old Territory woman watched helplessly as her friend was king-hit and kicked to the ground outside a Darwin 24-hour eatery on Sunday morning. She said three men ran at them from across the road, when they looked at the group yelling at two women. "They just started king-hitting him. They got him on the ground and then two others came over and started kicking him," she said. "They kept screaming that we were not sorry at all - 'Say sorry to us'. You just couldn't stop them."

The woman said three more men grabbed another Caucasian man and punched him in the middle of Smith St. "That's when I called the police. He managed to roll into the gutter but they kept on kicking him," she said. They and her friend ran to the Mitchell St police station, where they met up with other victims of the racial attack.

"The police officer said since the sorry apology on Wednesday, it had been completely out of control."

The woman said there were four other victims of racial violence in the emergency room at Royal Darwin Hospital. Her friend had fractured ribs and bad bruising. Others had head injuries and bruises. "I don't know why they did it," she said. "They're just making it worse for everyone. It was gutless. It doesn't have to be this way."

Another big brawl occurred at Fairway Waters in Palmerston on Saturday night. Police said witnesses and victims of the "series" of assaults on Sunday were being questioned. Senior Sergeant Steve Martin warned that "thugs" and "troublemakers" had no place in Darwin. "Police take a zero tolerance approach to violence and antisocial behaviour and any assaults of this nature will be thoroughly investigated," he said. Constable Michael Lunney, officer-in-charge of the investigation, said he was confident police would find the men responsible for the attacks.



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

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

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


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How 15 students who are representative of no known group perceive others: A neural basis for prejudice?

Banaji has been hawking her wares at this stall for some time (See here for a critique of her earlier work) but she seems to have got progressively sillier from an already silly start. Despite all the puffery below, all that the research concerned shows is that we respond differently to people who are like us and people who are not like us. Did we need research to tell us that?

And it may not even prove that much. The authors purported to classify some of the 15 students that they tested as conservatives. Conservatives? How conservative? All that we know about them is that they were university students from the Boston area. I suspect that it was "More Leftist" versus "Less Leftist" students who were studied.

I also note that Banaji again relied on the demonstrably invalid IAT test in her research. Amusingly, she herself has shown that it is invalid. See my earlier critique linked above. It is symptomatic of the decline of American education under Leftist influence that such guff is coming out of Harvard

The source of many of the world's woes might be tracked to a specific brain area responsible for identifying people that are not of our ilk. If so, a study on the neural bases of prejudice and its modulation, by Jason Mitchell and Mahzarin R. Banaji, of Harvard University, and C Neil Macrae, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, published in Neuron in May 2006, could be as important to the burgeoning field of social cognitive neuroscience as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech was to the American civil rights movement.

How does the brain differentiate those who are similar to us from those who are different? Does it analyze differences in skin color, language, religion, height, eye color, foot size? Does it discriminate cat versus dog lovers, Pepsi versus Coke drinkers, Shiite versus Sunni, Crips versus Bloods?

In a way, the brain does all this and more by simply distinguishing those who don't meet various definitions of who we are. Specifically, a forebrain area called the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) appears to predict the behavior of members of outgroups by employing prejudices about their presumed background -- assumptions we make, in other words, based on what groups their various traits and contexts seem to put them in or out of. In this sense, outsiders, or those in outgroups, include humans of dissimilar cultural or ethnic identities or any other perceived stereotyped dissimilarity from your own self-identified groups, as well as non-human agents such as cartoons and animals and even inanimate moving objects. We distinguish otherness by all sorts of indicators, from the seemingly obviously, like sex or race, to the more obviously cultural, such as whether a person is wearing, say, a Yankees cap, a Dodgers cap, or a tee-shirt that says Baseball Sucks.

The focus of the paper under review here focuses less on the cues than on the brain areas that respond to them. The authors detailed the function of a particularly important brain area while studying the neural correlates of "mentalizing." Mentalizing is the ability to predict how other people will behave in a given situation. It combines the powers of theory of mind (our ideas about what other people know and do not know) with the presumptions that we hold about people with dissimilar backgrounds. Some researchers believe that mentalizing is a function of the brain's mirror neuron system, allowing us to predict the behavior of others by simulating how other people may feel in a given situation.

The experimenters used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of Harvard and other Boston-area students while showing them pictures of other college-age people whom the researchers randomly described as either liberal northeastern students or conservative Midwest fundamentalist Christian students. The categories were a ruse. The pictures were actually downloaded from an online dating website and randomly assigned to the two groups (which were an invention of the researchers), with each group holding similar racial and gender mixes. The experimental participants, however, thought each person pictured really was from one group or the other because the experimenters contrived demographic information about each photo; this information was randomly reassigned to different pictures with each new experimental subject. The participants, then, were confronted with pictures of people who had randomly generated but coherent cultural and political identities already attached to them.

The participants themselves, meanwhile, had answered a questionnaire about their social and political attitudes, which the scientists used to classify them as liberal or conservative. How would these self-described liberals or conservatives react to the pictures of the (supposedly) liberal and conservative strangers?

Prior research had suggested that the medial prefrontal cortex, or mPFC, an area stretching up and forward from roughly beneath the temple, was known to be involved in mentalizing. The researchers hoped to distinguish whether two important parts of the medial PFC, the ventral mPFC (toward the front of the mPFC) and the dorsal mPFC (further toward the top of the head), might be reacting differently. The brain imaging results indeed indeed showed a dissociation between these two regions. Heightened activity in the ventral mPFC was associated with mentalization of self-similar people, whereas dorsal mPFC activity was associated with mentalization of self-dissimilar people. But when the participant pondered the subject in situations where an outsider was believed to behave in the same way as the participant would, activity in dorsal and ventral mPFC was equivalent. For instance, virtually all college students enjoy going home for Thanksgiving, irrespective of background, so a conservative student would recognize that even a liberal probably loves Thanksgiving, and his brain would set aside their differences when it came to that situation.

The study adds valuable perspective to our understanding brain dynamics associated with stereotyping and prejudice. It shows, for instance, that the recognition of a common interest or trait in an "outsider" has the potential, at a brain-based level, to make that outsider seem less foreign and threatening. Prejudice may in part arise (and be easily aggravated) when people assume that members of an outgroup do not have corresponding mental states, due to their different backgrounds. Without a self-referential basis to mentalize individuals from an outgroup in a specific circumstance -- without the opportunity, in other words, to recognize the things they have in common -- perceivers may rely heavily on stereotypes to predict the mental states of outgroup members.

The experimenters certainly saw it that way. They concluded that "that a critical strategy for reducing prejudice may be to breach arbitrary boundaries based on social group membership by focusing instead on the shared similarity between oneself and outgroup members." This is not new advice. Yet it is heartening to see that it is firmly grounded in distinct patterns of neural activity. There may be a brain basis for reacting with prejudices for those that seem different. But there's also a brain basis for overriding those differences and seeing outsiders as more like us.


Reference: Dissociable Medial Prefrontal Contributions to Judgments of Similar and Dissimilar Others. Neuron, 2006, Volume 50, Issue 4, Pages 655-663 by J. Mitchell, C. Macrae, M. Banaji

Unintended but foreseen effects of Civil Rights Protection

Post below lifted from Discriminations.

Mickey Kaus, in linking to this post below (thanks, Mickey!), asks:
If a Hispanic who has performed as poorly and prominently as Patti Solis Doyle can't be fired without her employer getting grief from Hispanic leaders, isn't that a pretty big disincentive to hiring a Hispanic in the first place? Message: Stick to white males - if they screw up, you can sack them and nobody will whine.
Actually, that disincentive and that "message" have long been recognized as one of the costs of civil rights enforcement.

A classic example is the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which made it easier for disappointed job seekers to file "disparate impact" claims based on statistical evidence and increased the money-damage awards to plaintiffs.

In this excellent 2003 article, Stuart Taylor Jr. discusses a study by a Stanford economist and a Northwestern management professor, among other evidence, indicating that the 1991 law made "employers in traditionally white-male industries marginally less likely to hire minorities and women."
How could the risk of high damage awards for discriminating against minorities and women make employers more hesitant to hire them? Because employers know that far more lawsuits are brought, and far greater damages are awarded, for claims of discrimination in firing than in hiring. So the risk of being sued for turning down a minority or female applicant is dwarfed by the risk of being sued later for firing the same applicant after giving him or her a try.

"The increases in potential damage awards," write Oyer and Schaefer, "coupled with a decades-long trend toward firing-based, and away from hiring-based, employment-discrimination litigation, means the main impact of the act was to increase the costs to employers of dismissing protected workers.... Because [an employer] feels firing-based costs only if it decides to hire, the costs act as an implicit tax on such hiring. Firing-based protections may therefore lead employers to hire fewer protected workers, not more."
Nor, Taylor continues, were these results unanticipated.
.... In a Stanford Law Review article half a year before Congress passed the legislation, Stanford Law School professor John J. Donohue III and co-author Peter Siegelman documented a major shift in the nature of job-discrimination lawsuits-as well as a spectacular increase in their number-since 1970: "While most cases formerly attacked discrimination in hiring, today the vast majority of all litigation suits challenge discrimination in discharge." And although the 1964 Civil Rights Act was extremely valuable in breaking down the flagrant discrimination in hiring then practiced by many employers, the authors wrote, the "dramatic shift to firing cases has greatly increased the likelihood that Title VII will create a drag on the hiring of protected workers rather than the positive inducement it originally provided."
Note that Taylor did not recommend (and, for what it's worth, neither do I) that Congress eliminate damages for discriminatory firing, "[e]ven if the costs of such lawsuits to minorities and women, not to mention employers, have come to exceed their benefits...."

Racial discrimination is wrong, but that doesn't mean we should refuse to see the costs of eliminating it. And it is always useful to be reminded that efforts to do good, especially when the power of the state is enlisted in the cause, often do both more and less than the good intended.

Criminalising acts of kindness

The routine vetting of everyone who works with kids will sow suspicion and discourage volunteering. So why aren't volunteering groups worked up about it?

UK government legislation requiring background checks on anyone who works with young people - including volunteers - could have a devastating impact on important areas of social life for children while placing a cloud of suspicion over adults. Yet one of the main bodies that promotes volunteering has published a rather mealy-mouthed report that offers no proper criticism of the ominous vetting culture.

The report by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering, Manifesto for Change, almost criticises the expansion of criminal records checks for all adults working with children. But it doesn't quite, and so is left in a bind. The report shows the extent to which this kind of background check - `vetting' - is now an unquestioned, untouchable practice. It also shows how the volunteering sector is in denial about the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which comes into force this autumn. This Act will make vetting compulsory for all adults working with children - including those who are providing their services for free as volunteers. That means everybody from mothers helping out at playgroups to fathers teaching a local football team will be checked. The Act will mean that 9.5million adults - one third of the adult working population - will be subject to ongoing criminal checks (see The case against vetting, by Josie Appleton).

The Commission is quite rightly not merely concerned with the technicality of volunteering - who can do it, when, how easy it is - but also with the ethos necessary for volunteering. The Commission's vision is `a society in which we will be united by our common concern for the wellbeing of others; a society in which we enrich our own lives by enriching the lives of others through the giving of time'; and it emphasises that this `depends as much on the way we all feel about ourselves and others as about technical questions'.

Yet the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check for all adults working with children turns people away from one another. The CRB check turns the suspicion of others into a basic assumption for the organisation of our relationships with one another. It means that the first question asked about people putting themselves forward for volunteering is: `Have they been checked out?' The spontaneous offering of help, freely given and received, simply cannot happen if that relationship is channelled through some unwieldy government bureaucracy. Genuine volunteering cannot happen if we need state clearance before our offer of help is accepted.

The Commission's report takes up the technicalities of vetting. It notes that mass criminal records checking is in many respects irrational; that CRB checks have `degenerated into caricatures of risk aversion', and are `disproportionate in relation to any actual risks'. But in the end, all the Commission can say is that vetting should be made more efficient: `We are absolutely in favour of safe practice and protection for volunteers and those receiving services, but it cannot be right that good people are deterred by avoidably slow and inflexible procedures'. These weasel words - `safe practice and protection' - embody the whole nasty assumption behind vetting: the assumption that an unvetted adult spending time with a child is an `unsafe practice'.

Who knows what Baroness Julia Neuberger, the chair of the Commission, really thinks. A rabbi and Liberal Democrat peer, and author of The Moral State We're In, she has a deep grasp of how morality has changed, and must remember the time before 2003 when vetting was not an everyday thing, when people turned up on a say-so to help out at a football match and society did not fall apart as a result. She must know that it is possible to organise adult-child relationships differently to today.

And yet the Commission was established by Volunteering England, which has from the beginning supported the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Volunteering organisations are, almost to the letter, behind the compulsory expansion of vetting of their members. The discussion of vetting has become almost taboo in volunteering circles - you can criticise the way mass vetting is done, but not the principle that it is necessary.

These volunteering organisations are burying their heads in the sand about the implications of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Come autumn 2008, if a man helps out at the local football team and is not checked, he will be called a criminal and will be in line for a 5,000 pound fine. The government is cheerfully holding sessions to talk to `stakeholders' about what the Act will mean. But have they really thought about how this law will play on the ground? How many children's football teams/nurseries/cricket clubs are there that rely on local volunteers? Have officials really thought about what it means to make `helping out' into a crime?

This is an issue that cannot be fudged. If you support volunteering and the principle that we should give freely to help others, then you must be against the vetting law. This is no time for sitting on the fence. More people within the volunteering community need to start questioning the new vetting law, before it has the chance to erode the already-fragile community relationships that exist in the UK today.


Tying us up with even more red tape

Many hailed the UK government's new risk advisory committee as a challenge to the `cotton wool culture'. It is nothing of the sort

Last month, the British government appointed a Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC). This move is part of UK prime minister Gordon Brown's enthralling programme designed to ensure that `policymaking benefited from a fuller and more rounded consideration of public risk'. He specifically wants this rounded consideration to be applied `even when facing pressures to react to events' (1). What does this really mean?

Currently, it seems that every new risk that is identified, no matter how minor, has to be responded to with some new moralising campaign or draconian measure to restrict our liberties further. Even when civil liberties are not directly affected, excessive safety regulation can make normal parts of everyday life - like the humble school trip - impractical. And when government is not directly involved, companies still feel obliged to warn us about dangers that should be self-evident to any sensible person - like those coffee cups that tell us the `contents may be hot'.

Has Gordon Brown suddenly decided that we, the great British public, have the intelligence and wherewithal to be trusted to manage our own lives? Apparently he `is so concerned that the cotton-wool culture is denying people the freedom to enjoy themselves that he has asked the watchdog to report to him personally'

Media reaction was rightly somewhat sceptical that Brown might have been fortified suddenly by the spirit of Edmund Hillary reincarnated, ready to lead us into clear, clean air free from the stifling laws, regulations and red tape generated by 10 years of New Labour. As Roland White wrote in The Times (London): `Can the real problem be solved by a committee? No, because the real problem lies at the heart of modern politics: dividing the balance of responsibility between the individual and the state.' (3) If Brown had really had a change of heart, he would have appointed Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson as head of his new committee to scrap unwanted safety legislation and not Rick Hawthornthwaite, geologist and private equity fund manager. After all, the financial markets have hardly covered themselves in glory when it comes to risk-taking of late.

These criticisms, however, are in danger of missing the real problem with the RRAC. It is not actually designed to liberate us from a nannying state but to find more effective ways of influencing our behaviour. It is also part of an ever-growing abdication of responsibility on the part of our political leaders. And at its heart is a real contempt for the abilities and opinions of the British public.

The RRAC came out of a report by the Better Regulation Commission (BRC) called Public Risk: the Next Frontier for Better Regulation (4). The aim of that report was to create a `more engaged and trusting relationship with the public around issues that have a significant day-to-day impact on lives and attitudes'. The authors admit that `public trust is on the wane'. To counter this they recommend a `move away from an approach based on trying to control people to an approach that seeks more to influence behaviours'. Rick Hawthornthwaite criticises government policy for `collapses in the face of a confrontational parliamentary system, the media and short-term career pressures'. He advocates `a more mature dialogue with the public on what really needs to be done whenever "something must be done". offering a more responsible alternative to whatever the clamour of the crisis may be demanding'.

You don't have to read deep to get this argument: government policy should bypass parliament and the media and go straight to the people. Not to ask us what we think - Labour is not in the business of letting us have referenda, after all - but to influence our behaviour towards pre-determined objectives. So, we can expect patronising consultations and citizen juries rather than the clamour and confrontation of real democratic debate. We can look forward to `the deployment of a high-calibre team to act as a "network catalyst" for high-quality, evidence-based dialogues in which all key stakeholders, internal and external, revisit issues and explore how better outcomes can be achieved'. Thank God no one has been out on the streets demanding that - it would never have fit on the placard.

A key part of the RRAC's approach will be to work `with external stakeholders to help foster a more considered approach to public risk and policy making'. This is to state baldly that unelected committees can deliver more consideration than our elected representatives. Brown's appointment of the council is nothing more than an abdication of responsibility for making policy; such authority has been gifted on our behalf to `external stakeholders' who will draw up `simplification plans' from forums convened as `action learning sets'.

As spiked has consistently observed, we live in a period where politicians, bereft of any big ideas and frustrated at their resulting inability to move people, are desperate for any means of gaining some legitimacy and getting their policies effected. This latest move is to ask risk managers and professional facilitators to do it for them.

Just as revealing as the aims and methods of the RRAC are its first targets. What are the top risks facing us that the council is going to tackle? It won't be the threat of economic recession, the dumbing-down of education or the state of the National Health Service - it will be food and superbug scares, animal disease outbreaks, under-pensioned citizens and obesity.

The approach to obesity, for example, is not to tell us that it might be healthier for us to relax a little about what we eat, that the health scares may have gone too far, that we should be sure to trust ourselves more than the continuously contradictory science. Instead, the decision has already been made that obesity is a real issue. The only risk here is that we might not change our behaviour to suit. The role of the RRAC is to mitigate that risk. As `independent, external voices', the committee can focus support around `clearly articulated objectives', `increasing public understanding of the issues. and establishing the right context for successful implementation'. This is a spin machine. Is it a coincidence that Brown set up the RRAC just a few weeks after appointing Stephen Carter - spin supremo - to head up `political strategy, communications and research and his policy unit'? (5)

This behavioural approach seems to have informed the latest initiatives on obesity, like compulsory cookery classes and even paying people to lose weight. We can expect more of the same in other areas as the work of the RRAC starts to influence more and more of government policy.

The political elite seems increasingly and even bizarrely out of touch with what we think, with how we actually live our lives. At its root is a deep contempt for people: if they really thought there was too much regulation, they would scrap it and let us manage risk in our own lives. Life, if one is to live it, involves risks and choices, trade-offs and gambles. Instead we get the RRAC. As one social commentator said: `It is a symptom of the overweight state that administrators at the top come to rate intellectual debates about risk management higher than the gut instincts of the brave people at the bottom.' (6)

These initiatives are nothing to do with making us any less risk-averse, with trying to reawaken a spirit of adventure. Rather this is about politicians trying to sell us policy that they are too scared to front themselves. Another risk management quango can only entrench the contemporary role of government as anti-democratic technocrats.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greater powers for official British `snoopers'

More than a dozen Bills going through Parliament extend the powers of state inspectors to enter people's homes, the Government has admitted. Despite a pledge by Gordon Brown last October that he would limit powers and introduce a liberty test, he has extended the right to enter property in planning, crime, environmental, education and health legislation.

A parliamentary answer obtained by the Conservatives shows that nine Bills and one draft Bill contain new powers of entry, with three others entrenching existing powers. "The fact that Gordon Brown is entrenching and extending powers of state bureaucrats to enter people's homes makes a mockery of his so-called review into powers of entry," Eric Pickles, the Shadow Communities Secretary, said.

The Counter-terrorism Bill and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, for example, allow entrance to properties to enforce social disorder and antiterrorist laws. The Education and Skills Bill allows the State to inspect private schools and the Climate Change Bill allows officials to enter homes to enforce black bin charges and to monitor carbon-trading schemes.

Mr Pickles, who said that there was a need for measures to tackle crime and terrorism, added: "Yet this uncontrolled extension contradicts Gordon Brown's empty promises on liberty and is another worrying sign of the surveillance state." A survey of state powers to enter people's homes by the Centre for Policy Studies last April highlighted a significant expansion of entry powers under Labour. The spokesman from the Home Office said that all the Bills would be included in the review of powers of entry. The spokesman added that it was inevitable that some new powers had to be included in the Bills to ensure the laws were enforceable.


Homosexual Leader Calls AIDS 'a Gay Disease'

In a startling admission, the head of a major homosexual activist group said HIV/AIDS is a "gay disease." The comments were made last Friday at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's (NGLTF) national conference in Detroit by Executive Director Matt Foreman. "Folks, with 70 percent of the people in this country living with HIV being gay or bi (sexual), we cannot deny that HIV is a gay disease," Foreman told his audience. "We have to own that and face up to that."

Conservative organizations that work on the HIV/AIDS issue say they are shocked. "Foreman's comments are a dramatic departure from the long-standing strategic and rhetorical orthodoxy of the homosexual 'rights' movement, which in the past has heatedly objected to any such characterization by critics of its political agenda," said Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America, called the admission "refreshing." For decades, he said, homosexual activists have excoriated anyone who even implied that HIV/AIDS was a disease largely affecting homosexuals. Even the late homosexual journalist Randy Shilts was attacked in the early '80s - when AIDS was first recognized - for referring to the condition as GRID, or "gay-related immune deficiency." "Because of their war on semantics and being in such denial and not focusing on the reality of the dangers of their behaviors, many people have contracted the disease," Barber told Cybercast News Service. "Who knows how many lives could have been saved had homosexual activists been honest about the dangers of the lifestyle they choose to engage in," he added.

Indeed, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force lambasted the Bush administration in 2003 for nominating Jerry Thacker to the President's Council on HIV/AIDS. Thacker was forced to withdraw from the nomination, because he supposedly called AIDS "the gay plague."

Thacker, who said he never referred to AIDS as "a gay plague," told Cybercast News Service that he was the target of a politically motivated smear campaign by homosexual activists. "We've said for a long time now that HIV in this country is a behavioral disease, that you don't have to get it, that if you do engage in risky activities you run the risk of getting it, and that it really has little to do with your sexual preferences," Thacker said. In fact, HIV is an equal-opportunity disease, he added. "If by saying that the disease is primarily 'a gay disease,' this is an admission that their sexual practices are more likely to get the disease from one person to another. Then homosexuals are owning up to something that we've known for a long time," Thacker said.

Ironically, the heterosexual Thacker acquired HIV/AIDS from his wife, who had a blood transfusion in 1984, before the blood supply was safeguarded. Thacker, his wife, and his daughter have HIV/AIDS.

The NGLTF's admission, meanwhile, has rocked the homosexual activist community. One homosexual activist, Todd Heywood, told the Lansing State Journal the story was likely to gain traction in coming days and weeks. "When leaders of the right-wing claim HIV/AIDS (is) a gay disease, we all balk at that claim," Heywood said. "But what happens when a national gay leader says it?" Foreman has since clarified that he wasn't saying that AIDS is a gay disease worldwide, but it is in the United States.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 70 percent of all cases of HIV occur among men who have sex with other men (MSMs), people who are bisexual, or those who inject illegal drugs with infected needles.

Conservatives like Barber, meanwhile, are calling on other homosexual groups to publicly acknowledge the truth and for groups like the National Education Association to stop promoting the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.


Philly's War on the Boy Scouts

As Michael Nutter was sworn in as the city's 98th mayor last month, he called for a new wave of public service to clean up drug-infested neighborhoods. If he is serious about renewing volunteerism, he'll start by putting an end to the city's campaign against the Boy Scouts. On May 31, the Cradle of Liberty Council, the local Boy Scout chapter, will be evicted from its headquarters on 22nd and Winter Streets -- a space it has occupied since 1928.

The eviction isn't for a breach of contract. It comes at the behest of the City Council, which voted 16 to one last year to kick the boy scouts out unless they reverse the national Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays serving in the ranks or as scoutmasters or start paying "market rent" -- about $200,000 a year. Local chapters can't reverse national scouting policies. So it's a matter of paying up or moving out.

Throughout the city, there are about 56,000 Boy Scouts who spend countless hours cleaning parks, running food drives, and organizing meals for the needy. And, of course, helping young boys, many without strong male figures in their lives, develop skills that will serve them well in life.

"You think we'd be embraced by city officials," Scoutmaster J.R. Brockman told me recently. He's a human-relations consultant and father of twin 14-year-olds who volunteers to lead a troop of about 20 scouts and a dozen Cub Scouts out of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in west Philadelphia. On Fridays he can be found with his scouts at the church as the boys eat pizza and play Xbox. "It's an activity that keeps them off the streets and lets them spend time with their friends," he says.

But it's not all fun and games. Mostly Mr. Brockman focuses on steering kids clear of drugs and violence, which leads many of the city's youth to a stint in jail. "[T]he kids who have stayed in the program," he told me, "have stayed out of trouble." On weekends, his scouts go for hikes or campouts at local parks. In town, they renovate sections of the city's Fairmount Park, run food drives, and feed the homeless.

Irving Anglin, 16, is leading a renovation project in Fairmount Park. His aim is to become an Eagle Scout, an honor only a handful of scouts ever achieve. He joined the scouts as a first grader and admits he did so reluctantly. Today, however, he can't imagine life without scouting: "You get to know your limits and your strengths. You get to do different things, like swimming and sports that you otherwise wouldn't get a chance to do."

Mr. Brockman says that all of his scouting activities are made possible because he receives administrative support and help with recruitment from the of the Cradle of Liberty headquarters. Take away the scout building and Mr. Brockman loses the professional staff he relies on. As it is, he can't field all the calls he receives from single mothers looking to place their sons in his troop. "I'm a volunteer with limited resources," Mr. Brockman told me. "I just can't do it all. And without the headquarters here, that will make my job even more difficult."

For the past 80 years, the scouts have leased their corner lot off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a nominal fee. And they have made the site their own by building a three-story 8,928-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style headquarters with private funds. Scouting badges, ranks and emblems are etched in the limestone along the roofline. The scouting motto -- "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country . . . " -- is carved above the main entrance. In 1937 the scouts added the life-size iconic statue of "The Boy Scout" that greets visitors. And each year they spend about $60,000 on maintenance. In 1994, they spent $2.6 million on renovations. Charles D. Hart, who was then president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, wrote of the building in March 1930: "It will show the public that we are here and here to stay and that we are recognized as being an important factor in the city's and nation's life."

But the city's attitude toward the scouts changed in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, could exclude homosexual scouts and troop leaders. Following the ruling, local governments and organizations across the country took aim at the scouts.

The Philadelphia chapter lost annual six-figure donations from the United Way and the Pew Charitable Trusts, according to Mark Chilutti, vice chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council. Today there are fewer than two dozen staff members serving the chapter, down from nearly four dozen. With dwindling resources the chapter is watching its membership dwindle as well. Membership in the council, which covers the city and parts of two neighboring counties, peaked at 95,000 in 2001. Today it stands at 65,000, with most of those in the city itself. In 2003, the Cradle of Liberty tried to appease the city by adopting its own nondiscrimination policy, but was overruled by the national organization. That same year, Cradle of Liberty also revoked the membership of an 18-year-old scout who publicly announced that he was gay, leading to last year's City Council vote.

Mr. Brockman believes that if the focus is on the kids and what scouting offers in terms of leadership development and other skills, a solution can be found. Here's one suggestion: Sell the scouts their building. Ask for fair market value minus a generous allowance for improvements the scouts have made to the property and the resources they have devoted to its upkeep and to the city. The scouts could raise money for the purchase without touching resources needed for programs for the boys. If the goal is a safer city with an engaged citizenry, Mr. Nutter could find a way to keep the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia.


Fuzzy feelings won't save anyone

A Leftist who sees that simplistic Leftist theories make Australia's Aboriginal problems worse:

I HAVE to confess that, unlike most other commentators, I watched last week's "Sorry" address by the PM with mingled emotions. Even as I felt my heart lift and swell - as it sought, dutifully, to do - a pinprick of doubt and fear crept up my spine. So much virtuous emotion has already been poured into a limitless vessel of ineffectual sympathy for Aboriginal Australia. So many people have allowed themselves to believe that emotional bonding can cause the wounds of the past to heal. And yet so much of this emotion has been, in effect, seed spilled upon barren ground.

Unlike the motley band of conservative dissenters, my anxiety isn't really to do with history. The official version of the history of the Stolen Generations is doubtless a partial and imperfect one. It's not clear that most Aboriginal children were actually taken from their families on explicitly racialist grounds, even though those arguments were certainly broadcast in the policy debates of the day. On the whole, Aboriginal families suffered disproportionately because they were disproportionately poor, disproportionately vulnerable, and disproportionately troubled. As they still are today.

Yet there are moments in the public history of all nations when the "official" version of historical events, for all its piety, takes on a role that is more as well as less than historical, and when its faults become excusable. In reality, we don't apologise for history, so much as for the tracks that history has left in the troubles of the present. As well as, on occasion, for the injustices of the present, dressed up for convenience's sake in historical garb. So, no, my mingled emotions weren't caused by history, or even that much-abused term truth.

Paradoxically, they were generated by the sheer emotional power of the occasion. As any student of the history of Christianity knows, conscience, guilt, atonement and forgiveness can be double-edged emotional swords. The person who gives also receives. Bestowing an apology on another can cause us a perverse kind of pleasure: the pleasure of feeling better about ourselves as apologisers.

Perhaps that's why so many of the people whose hearts were raised to the skies in sorrow managed at the same time to be so mean-spirited towards the hapless but basically well-intentioned Brendan Nelson. They were distancing themselves from the other Australians out there, those less virtuous than themselves. So seductive was the call of the moment that otherwise hard-nosed journalists (such as The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien) seemed determined to adopt an aura not unlike that of Mother Teresa.

Now it's true that many commentators, as well as the PM himself, have striven almost ostentatiously to avoid any impression of losing hold of their faculties. So we've heard a great deal about the apology being the easy part, and how the hard part of the job is yet to begin. And Kevin Rudd has announced some decidedly bold benchmarks for attacking indigenous mortality rates, school attendance figures and housing availability.

And yet these gestures, I confess, serve only to stoke my anxiety. To be blunt, I worry whether a PM who seems increasingly to be cast as the deliverer of Aboriginal Australia will muster the strength of character to be hated (vociferously hated, perhaps) by many Australians - white and black alike - for making the kinds of unpopular decisions that are surely required.

Benchmarks are hardly a novelty in Aboriginal policy. Similarly stern aims to close the gap between the two nations have been invoked by every PM since Robert Menzies. Yet too often they have become ritual words, uttered without any tangible effect. No bread has turned into flesh; no wine has become blood. Indeed, so far as can be told from the publicly available figures, on some key indicators the gap has probably widened. To be frank, while I would dearly love to believe in them, I have no idea right now how the PM intends to turn his benchmarks into working reality. You can build as many new public houses as you like, but if they're built in communities with no jobs and no futures, they will simply be abandoned or neglected.

Surely it would be better if Aboriginal Australia were allowed to develop the life-savings to buy their own houses in places they might actually choose to live if they had a choice. And to take care of those houses, as other Australians do. But this is a strategy for a generation, not just the next five years.

Aboriginal literacy levels are a national scandal. Yet raising school attendance rates will have limited effect if the children concerned have no viable and stable home lives, free from violence and abuse. And this in turn means creating new communities, in some cases possibly far away from the old ones.

When public-housing and welfare-based communities composed primarily of white Australians become toxic and dysfunctional, policymakers seem to have nerve enough to bulldoze them and relocate their members elsewhere, to better places, on the whole. These are often unpopular decisions, especially among academics, who like to lament the loss of "old-style communities", in that romantic but perverse academic fashion. But they get made.

To put the matter crudely, policymakers have to put their duty of care towards Aboriginal citizens above their desire to be loved. In this respect there's no more dangerous emotion for a new PM than that inner glow that tells you you're the father of the nation. The danger is that in a generation's time we'll have a new apology to make. Put briefly, it might read something like this:

* It was we who kept Aboriginal people in chaotic communities without livelihoods, services or decent sanitation, in the belief that in this manner their culture might be preserved as an instructive reproach to our own

* It was we who persuaded ourselves that while we need decently paid jobs, financial assets and life security as part of our human and social rights, Aboriginal people were happier and more in touch with their true nature without those things

* It was we who went on long camping tours of the Top End, where we almost began to imagine ourselves as Aboriginal. Except that when we came back from these sentimental journeys we talked always of land, mysticism and the simple joys of community, and never of hygiene, employment opportunities or child safety.

* It was we who, having operatically distanced ourselves from the hard-hearted policies of another generation, let our soft-heartedness turn once again into pure, unadulterated funk.



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

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

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


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Political correctness about privacy obstructs search for killer

The search for the killer who hacked and stabbed an Upper East Side psychologist to death could move to the courtroom, with a judge deciding if the New York Police Department should be allowed access to potentially critical medical records. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly Raymond Kelly said Friday such a move might help detectives determine if any patients of Kathryn Faughey or her colleague, Dr. Kent Shinbach, played a role in the brutal Tuesday night attack that killed Faughey and badly wounded Shinbach. But DA spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said prosecutors have been working with police and detectives and have already obtained a significant amount of medical and patient information.

Kelly wouldn't say what effect the delayed access is having on solving the sensational killing, but he did say that privacy laws present an obstacle for investigators. "There is a conflict, certainly not the first time, where the issue of privacy comes up against concerns and requirements as seen by law enforcement," Kelly said.

Obtaining such an order could prove tricky -- and there's no telling if any patients might move to have their records protected. But Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, thinks it could happen fairly quickly. "She was killed in her office," O'Donnell said. "There's little question that there's a strong possibility one of her patients is responsible."

Faughey, 56, was attacked with a meat cleaver and a knife by a man who had first asked to see Shinbach, 70. A revised timeline laid out by Kelly Friday suggests that the killer may have been talking to Faughey in her office for more than 15 minutes before attacking her. The well-respected therapist was mourned Friday at Charles Peter Nagel Funeral Home on the Upper East Side. Up to 100 people streamed into the funeral home.

On Thursday, NYPD detectives in Coplay, Pa., questioned William Kunsman, 42, an acoustic musician and recently fired UPS driver who met Faughey and her husband at guitar camp six years ago. Police focused on him after checking Faughey's e-mails. A number of them discussed his need for help to obtain medication for his bipolar condition... Kelly wouldn't discuss Kunsman at length, but sources said he has not been ruled out as a potential suspect.


It's the individual that makes the difference, not government handouts

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles-ton, S.C. But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year. To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company. Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty. He tells his story in "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream." The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve. On a recent trip to the Boston, he spoke about his experience:

Becoming a mover and living in a homeless shelter - that hadn't been part of your life before. How much did your lifestyle actually change?

Shepard: It changed dramatically. There were simple luxuries that I didn't afford myself. I had to make sacrifices to achieve the goals that I set out. One of those was eating out. I didn't have a cellphone. Especially in this day and age, that was a dramatic change for me.... I was getting by on chicken and Rice-A-Roni dinner and was happy. That's what I learned ... we lived [simply], but still we were happy.

But surely your background - you're privileged; you have an education and a family - made it much easier for you to achieve.

I didn't use my college education, credit history, or contacts [while in South Carolina]. But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don't think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you're not spending frivolously, but you're instead putting your money in the bank? Do you need a college education? I don't think so. To be honest with you, I think I was disadvantaged, because my thinking was inside of a box. I have the way that I lived [in North Carolina] - and to enter into this totally new world and acclimate to a different lifestyle, that was the challenge for me.

Still, there was that safety net. Were you ever tempted to tap your past work, education, or family networks?

I was never tempted. I had a credit card in my back pocket in case of an emergency. The rule was if I used the credit card then, "The project's over, I'm going home."

So what did you tell people when they asked what you were doing?

That was the only touchy part of my story. I had this great back story on how I was escaping my druggy mom and going to live with my alcoholic dad. Things just fell apart, and there I was at the homeless shelter. I really embellished this fabricated story and told it to anyone who would listen. The interesting thing is that nobody really cared.... It wasn't so much as where we were coming from, it was where we were going.

Would your project have changed if you'd had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn't that have made it much harder?

The question isn't whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it's the attitude that I take in: "I've got child care. I've got a probation officer. I've got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?" One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, "Dude, your life is completely changed." And he said, "Yeah, you're right, but I'm getting the heck out of here." Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don't need "Scratch Beginnings" to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing.... Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum. To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] 'Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?' Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals..... You can use your talents. That's why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn't a "rags-to-riches million-dollar" story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter ...that anyone can do that.


Free Speech and Radical Islam


At a lunch last year celebrating his 25th anniversary with Jyllands-Posten, Kurt Westergaard told an anecdote. During World War II Pablo Picasso met a German officer in southern France, and they got into a conversation. When the German officer figured out whom he was talking to he said: "Oh, you are the one who created Guernica?" referring to the famous painting of the German bombing of a Basque town by that name in 1937. Picasso paused for a second, and replied, "No, it wasn't me, it was you."

For the past three months Mr. Westergaard and his wife have been on the run. Mr. Westergaard did the most famous of the 12 Muhammad cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 -- the one depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban. The cartoon was a satirical comment on the fact that some Muslims are committing terrorist acts in the name of Islam and the prophet. Tragically, Mr. Westergaard's fate has proven the point of his cartoon: In the early hours of Tuesday morning Danish police arrested three men who allegedly had been plotting to kill him.

In the past few days 17 Danish newspapers have published Mr. Westergaard's cartoon, which is as truthful as Picasso's painting. My colleagues at Jyllands-Posten and I understand that the cartoon may be offensive to some people, but sometimes the truth can be very offensive. As George Orwell put it in the suppressed preface to "Animal Farm": "If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Sadly, the plot to kill Mr. Westergaard is not an isolated story, but part of a broader trend that risks undermining free speech in Europe and around the world. Consider the following recent events: In Oslo a gallery has censored three small watercolor paintings, showing the head of the prophet Muhammad on a dog's body, by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been under police protection since the fall of 2007. In Holland the municipal museum in The Hague recently refused to show photos by the Iranian-born artist Sooreh Hera of gay men wearing the masks of the prophet Muhammad and his son Ali; Ms. Hera has received several death threats and is in hiding. In Belarus an editor has been sentenced to three years in a forced labor camp after republishing some of Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad cartoons. In Egypt bloggers are in jail after having "insulted Islam." In Afghanistan the 23-year-old Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death because he distributed "blasphemous" material about the mistreatment of women in Islam. And in India the Bengal writer Taslima Nasreen is in a safe house after having been threatened by people who don't like her books.

Every one of the above cases speaks to the same problem: a global battle for the right to free speech. The cases are different, and you can't compare the legal systems in Egypt and Norway, but the justifications for censorship and self-censorship are similar in different parts of the world: Religious feelings and taboos need to be treated with a kind of sensibility and respect that other feelings and ideas cannot command.

This position boils down to a simple rule: If you respect my taboo, I'll respect yours. That was the rule of the game during the Cold War until people like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov and other dissenting voices behind the Iron Curtain insisted on another rule: It is not cultures, religions or political systems that enjoy rights. Human beings enjoy rights, and certain principles like the ones embedded in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights are universal.

Unfortunately, misplaced sensitivity is being used by tyrants and fanatics to justify murder and silence criticism. Right now the Organization of Islamic Countries is conducting a successful campaign at the United Nations to rewrite international human-rights standards to curtail the right to free speech. Last year the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against "defamation of religion," calling on governments around the world to clamp down on cartoonists, writers, journalists, artists and dissidents who dare to speak up.

In the West there is a lack of clarity on these issues. People suggest that Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen and Kurt Westergaard bear a certain amount of responsibility for their fate. They don't understand that by doing so they tacitly endorse attacks on dissenting voices in parts of the world where no one can protect them.

We need a global movement to fight blasphemy and other insult laws, and the European Union should lead the way by removing them. Europe should make it clear that democracies will protect their citizens if they say something that triggers threats and intimidation.


Would you "Adam and Eve" it?

Comment on the censorship obsession of the modern age by Prof. Stott below. See the original for links

The London Underground has just banned a stunning poster for the Royal Academy of Art's forthcoming exhibition of the works of the great German (Northern Renaissance) painter and engraver, Lucas Cranach der Aeltere (c.1472-1553) [`500-year-old painting banned from Underground for being "too racy"', The London Paper, February 13]. Why?

"... the painting in question, of Venus wearing nothing but two necklaces, a gauze slip and a jewelled headdress, has been deemed too sexual and likely to cause offence by Tube advertising bosses. She has fallen foul of guidelines set out by CBS Outdoor - the firm who vet London Underground's advertising. The rules state that ads should not `depict men, women or children in a sexual manner, or display nude or semi-nude figures in an overtly sexual context'."
Oh my goodness! One just loses the will to live! I have never heard such twaddle. And this comes at a time when the Government has just decreed that school children must engage in the arts for at least 5 hours each week.

The wonderful work in question is Venus (1532), oil and tempera on red beechwood (37.7 x 24.5 x 0.5 cm), from the Staedel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Please, please put two fingers up to the stupid, stupid Underground, and view this masterpiece here on the RA's web site. And why not visit the Exhibition yourself [it runs from March 8 - June 8, in the Sackler Wing of the Gallery]? Then buy a big poster of Venus, and travel around the Underground unfurling it for all to see.

I am sick, sick to death of people banning things because someone somewhere might be offended. It really is time to grow up. PC-ness from `global warming' to banning fine art will be the death of our culture. I really can't "Adam and Eve" that we are letting these things happen to us.

*N.B. For non-Brits: "Adam and Eve" is Cockney rhyming-slang for "to believe". I have no doubt that this too will be banned very soon, as a problem for non-English-speaking visitors to East London.



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

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

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


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

HEARTBURN: BBC is "racist"

[Black] Comedian Lenny Henry has attacked the lack of ethnic diversity in Britain's broadcasting industry. "When I started, I was surrounded by a predominantly white workforce, and 32 years later, not a lot has changed," he told the Royal Television Society. In his own field of television comedy, he added, ethnic minorities were "pitifully underserved".

Last year, BBC executives waived their annual bonuses for failing to meet their full diversity targets. Henry criticised the so-called "golden age" of television, citing such shows as Till Death Us Do Part and Mind Your Language. "TV producers of the '60s and '70s missed a great opportunity," he said in London on Thursday. "Rather than reflect the reality of multi-ethnic Britain, they chose a more xenophobic route - emphasising points of difference instead of similarities."

In a seven-point plan, he encouraged programme-makers to "be bold" in setting targets and appointing ethnic minority staff. "I'm not talking about cleaners, security guys, scene shifters or anyone wearing a uniform," he added. "I'm talking about decision makers, producers, directors [and] commissioners." However, he said advances had been made in children's television and praised the BBC for its "fantastic" range of presenters.

Last year, Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern accused the BBC of being "one of the most racist institutions in England".


Berkeley council becomes home to intolerance

I have no doubt that the members of the Berkeley City Council have acted with conviction and sincerity in their actions relating to the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center the past two weeks. I have met many of the members of the council, and honestly believe they are good, honorable people. But that doesn't change the fact that many on this council are, to steal a line from John McCain, agents of intolerance. It was a term coined to describe members of the far right-wing in this country who espouse a moral superiority over all who see the world differently, but the Berkeley City Council has proved sadly during the Marine furor that the phrase applies equally well to the far left.

First, it's important to understand what the council did and didn't do early Wednesday morning. It retracted the incendiary statement it made Jan. 29 calling the Marines "unwelcome and uninvited intruders" in the city. Instead, it acknowledged the obvious -- that the Marines have a right to operate a recruiting center in Berkeley and people have a right to "protest or support that presence." It also reiterated that it opposes "the recruitment of our young people into this war."

But while the council retreated on the symbolic aspect of its actions from Jan. 29 (it never was in a position to make the Marines leave), it ignored the practical -- giving a free parking space and noise permit once a week to the protest group Code Pink to harass people at the station; and encouraging people in the city to impede the Marines' recruiting mission. Therein lies the intolerance and sense of moral superiority.

To illustrate, let's take a hypothetical scenario involving an equally controversial issue in a very different city far, far away. Let's assume for a moment there is a small, conservative city called Perkeley somewhere in Alabama. Say there's an abortion clinic in this city. The members of the Perkeley City Council all believe abortion is tantamount to murder and that Roe v. Wade represents an assault on the most defenseless among us. The City Council passes a resolution calling this abortion clinic and the people who work there "unwanted and uninvited" intruders and gives a free parking space and noise permit to a protest group called Code Black to harass people trying to enter that clinic.

After a national outcry, the Perkeley City Council changes the language of its motion to acknowledge that the abortion clinic has a right to operate in the city. But it reiterates that it "opposes the murder of unborn children in this city" and continues to encourage residents to impede the activities of that clinic. Code Black gets to keep its special parking place and noise permit. I wonder what would be the reaction of the Berkeley City Council members who are trying to drive the recruiting station out of town upon learning of these events? More to the point, what would they do if Code Black came to Berkeley and tried to shut down an abortion clinic here? If they would grant the anti-abortion activists the same encouragement and preferential free-speech treatment they have given Code Pink, I would take back what I said about them being agents of intolerance. But we all know what their reaction would be to Code Black, don't we?

Some will argue that these council members are elected to represent the will of the people of Berkeley and pursue actions that further that will. Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that the people of Berkeley agree with their position on the recruiting center, something I find highly doubtful given the level of outrage expressed over the past two weeks by many residents.

The council's job is to enact policy decisions that reflect the values of its constituents; not to afford special rights and privileges to groups that share those values at the expense of organizations that have a legal right to conduct business in the city. What if a Republican-controlled Congress had granted special parking and noise privileges to demonstrators who supported the Bush administration's Iraq policy in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion? Would liberals have supported such action based on the argument that these Republicans represented the will of the people who elected them?

For most of the 20th century, cities in the South were dominated by people who believed African-Americans were an inferior race. Were the city councils in those cities justified in taking actions designed to segregate and discriminate against African-Americans? What if the City Council in Perkeley, Ala., had given a special parking space and noise permit to those who wanted to demonstrate in front of a civil rights office?

So what conclusion can we come to regarding the events of the past two weeks? That the Berkeley City Council is home to the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the left? It's unfortunate but true. These council members may be able to look in the mirror today and tell themselves that they did the right thing, that they made an important statement about this war and took action to bring it to an end. They will say they followed their conscience. And that will all be true. Along with the fact that, in their own way, they have become the same agents of intolerance that they deplore on the right.


Horror in France: Sarko Wants to Remember the Holocaust

Post below lifted from Jammie Wearer. See the original for links

Not only does he want to honor French victims of the Holocaust, he has the temerity to suggest France remember their Christian faith. Why, is this man crazy or something?
President Nicolas Sarkozy has triggered a row over religion by saying faith has a place in the public sphere and schoolchildren should study the 11,000 French Jewish child victims of the Holocaust. Sarkozy has angered secularists with repeated praise for faith and references to France's Christian roots, and he told a French Jewish organization that the violence and wars of the 20th century were due to an "absence of God".
Why do these lefties get so angry when someone expresses their faith. Perhaps they ought to attend anger management classes and seek to find the root cause for their anger.
Ten-year-old pupils "should know the name and life story of a child who died in the Holocaust", he told the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) on Wednesday.

He attracted criticism on Thursday from two camps -- secularists keen to keep religion out of public discourse and those worried that pupils could be traumatized by studying the Holocaust through child victims with whom they could identify. "The president should not turn into a kind of preacher, as he is doing now," said left-wing Senator Jean-Luc Melenchon. Centrist deputy Francois Bayrou predicted "a clash between France's values and those of Nicolas Sarkozy".
What values are those? Capitulation? Collaboration? Laziness? Whining?

Multiculturalism is making Britain 'a soft touch for terrorists'

Britain has become a soft touch for terrorists, leading defence experts warn today. The world-renowned Royal United Services Institute has delivered an unprecedented attack on the Government's security policy. It warns that a failure to "lay down the line" to immigrant populations is undermining the fight against domestic extremism. It condemns the country's "fragmented" national identity and obsession with multiculturalism. And it accuses ministers of a "piecemeal and erratic response" to urgent threats to the nation and of starving the armed forces of cash to the point of "chronic disrepair".

The security think tank, which has unrivalled contact with senior political and military figures, urges ministers to abandon "flabby and bogus strategic thinking" and to make the defence of the realm the "first duty of Government". The bleak assessment comes as top security officials warn that planned job cuts could undermine the UK's intelligence performance. The Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), which analyses information with GCHQ, MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, is facing the loss of 121 posts. DIS staff are central to the intelligence community and provide expertise on the development of weapons systems and arms proliferation, as well as support to UK operations overseas. John Morrison, the former Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence, claims such losses - amounting to a staff cut of more than 20 per cent - would be "ludicrous" and seriously compromise large areas of its work.

The study also follows two blows this week to Labour's anti-terror strategy. Appeal judges have given an Algerian pilot the go-ahead to claim compensation which could run into millions for being wrongly accused of training the September 11 hijackers. And five young Muslim men had their convictions for terrorist offences quashed by the Appeal Court.

Laws making it a crime to possess extremist jihadi propaganda and literature could now have to be re-written and dozens more prosecutions could collapse after senior judges ruled that police and prosecutors must prove to juries that terror suspects not only possessed potentially dangerous material but were intent on using it in an attack.

In Wednesday's ruling the Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips stated that unless there was clear evidence of "terrorist intent", merely possessing or sharing extremist material did not amount to a crime. The law was designed to help police catch so-called "clean-skins" - would-be terrorists who have yet to carry out an atrocity but are in the early stages of planning one. But the effect of the ruling is that the police will struggle to build a watertight case against suspects based on such early planning or research for an attack, and will instead be forced to wait until plans are far more advanced - increasing the risk of a successful atrocity.

The Appeal Court ruling was the latest instance of counter-terrorist laws being defeated or watered down by senior judges, but RUSI's damning report raises fundamental questions over the Government's ability to protect Britain from the gravest threats. The work of a panel of senior military commanders, diplomats, politicians and academics, it contrasts the erosion of national confidence with the "implacability" of Islamist terrorists.

The study calls for a radical shake-up of government to take away oversight of security and defence from "the arena of short-term party politics" - in the same way that interest rates are now set independently of politicians. "The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity," it states. By contrast those who refuse to integrate into British society have a "firm self-image".

"This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in misplaced deference to "multiculturalism" failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism. "We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."

The authors suggest the world is living through a "time of remission" between the September 11 attacks six years ago and a yet-worse future atrocity which will deliver "an even greater psychological blow". The British people are "uncertain" about wars abroad, fearful over security at home and doubtful over the "muddling" of responsibility for protecting them between Westminster and Brussels. "Repeated assertions by ministers that all is well, that the matter is well in hand and can be safely left to them to manage in-house, no longer carry conviction," the report warns.

Against this backdrop a serious decline in the armed forces has left Britain "open to ambush", with the military engulfed in an "atmosphere of chronic disrepair". The RUSI study echoes concerns raised by five former heads of the armed forces who spoke out against military underfunding in the House of Lords last year. It likens the lack of adequate spending on defence over the past ten years to "a breach made by the defenders themselves in the walls of their own city".

The report particularly condemns the savage cuts to the Royal Navy in recent years, accusing politicians of suffering from "sea blindness". The Navy has seen its fleet of warships and submarines as well as its manpower drastically reduced in recent years, and is struggling to maintain training in the face of crippling budget pressures. Britain now has a "bare-bones defence and security establishment", according to the report's authors, yet we lack the knowledge of future threats which would justify such a risk.

New threats are emerging besides Islamist terrorism - "ferocious" Russian nationalism, climate change and competition for resources - while international bodies which Britain relies on such as the United Nations, Nato and the EU are "weakening".

The report urges a return to "traditional alliances with the English-speaking world" - particularly the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada - adding: "Foul-weather friends are to be preferred to fair- weather friends; and the British people know precisely which are which."

It calls for oversight of security and defence to be handed to two new committees - one joint Lords and Commons group, chaired by a senior opposition MP, tasked with identifying gaps in security, and another within the Cabinet to coordinate activity across the whole of Government.

Tory security spokesman Baroness Neville-Jones said: "This report sends a powerful message to Government that leadership is badly lacking at a time of significant threat to our country. Conservatives agree that multiculturalism has been a disaster for national cohesion and has increased our vulnerability to the terrorist threat."

With the Government's long-awaited National Security Strategy due to be published within days, the damning attack by such respected experts will add to the intense scrutiny of policies on terrorism and defence. The Ministry of Defence rejected RUSI's warnings of military decline, saying: "The UK's Armed Forces have the ability to meet the broad range of tasks they may be required to undertake, often at short notice. "They have a battle-winning capability that is second to none. The broad range of capability gives us insurance against the inherent uncertainty of the future."



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

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

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


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

An attempt by a British Muslim to wriggle out of what the Koran says

Followed by a mocking comment from a reader:

Some words are so loaded with emotion and historic content that it becomes almost impossible to use them in an objective way for initiating a debate or public discussion. These words trigger off gut reactions that not only drown sensible discussion but subsume all other voices. "Sharia", what is known as Islamic law, is such a word. In many western minds, it conjures up images of brutality and women's oppression. In certain Muslim quarters, it throws up visions of a Divine utopia. The two images clash and result is a great deal of heat but no enlightenment.

This is what I think happened with Archbishop of Canterbury's lecture, Civil and Religious Law in England: a religious perspective. Rowan Williams was trying to raise the important issue of religious conscience in a secular state and exploring how it can play a positive role in public space. I think the Archbishop made a basic mistake by focussing on sharia, with all its multiple internal and external problems - he could have illustrated his notion of "interactive pluralism" quite easily with other examples.

By using sharia as the basis of his lecture, he allowed the demons of western perception of Islam out of the bottle and ended up being thoroughly demonised himself. My own reading is that the import of Archbishop's lecture lies elsewhere: with the debate within the Anglican church about gay clergy, female bishops, and the issues of human fertilisation and embryology. He used sharia as a distraction and thus failed to promote a proper public debate on issues that rally mattered to him and his church. As such, the reaction to the Archbishop's comments have little to do with what he said. They have largely been, with few exceptions, about attacking Muslims, creating a full-scale Islamophobic moral panic: just look at the headlines.

I will have something to say about the relationship between sharia and the Qur'an in a future blog. But here I would like to point out that the Qur'an itself often produces similar reactions in certain individuals and communities. Just as sharia conjures up ready-made images, so the Qur'an produces automatic gut reactions. This is not surprising as the Qur'an, like any text, is not totally self-explanatory and any understanding of the text and its meaning depends on the intellectual, religious and cultural horizon of the reader.

A number of correspondents have rebuked me for not expressing doubts constantly, for not throwing scorn at certain verses, for not berating some of the teachings of the Qur'an. In other words, I have not conjured up their favourite stereotypes, caricatures and latent images of the Qur'an. Peitha, for example, excuses me of not having any doubts about what I am reading - this despite endless discussion about doubt on this blog. Apparently, I am not "a genuine individual tussling with the real problems of the Koran". A "genuine individual", I suspect, will be one who satisfies all the prejudices of such critics. Sorry to disappoint you Peitha but I am not in the business of flaming your prejudices. But I am in the business of explaining - primarily to myself, what the Qur'an could and should mean to Muslims today. I do not have perpetual doubt - if I did it will lead to total paralysis.

But I am in the business of finding new ways to read the Qur'an. And Richard Kimber provides us with one new way: intertextuality. Intertexuality has its origins in literary and critical theory, and hermeneutics, and Kimber uses it skilfully to tease out additional meaning of 2:21-29. I, of course, brought out what I thought was significance; Kimber adds an additional layer. I could describes Kimber's explanation of how the Qur'an combines "defensiveness and defiance" and moves "seamlessly from denouncing nit-picking critics to the more serious offence of those who break God's covenant" as a discovery and a step forward in my spiritual journey. So there!

There is a problem with intertextuality that I think we need to be aware of: In critical theory, the text is regarded as a complete whole, a pure text to be viewed as itself, as Jacques Derrida tells us. Historical context, which is crucial in the interpretations of the Qur'an, thus becomes irrelevant. Now, Kimber, as is evident from his explanation of 2:21-29, does not take this course - but I do think we ought to be aware of the danger. However, the point that as a dense literary text - with different linguistic levels containing pure information as well as literary language - the Qur'an should be analysed with the tools of literary studies (hermeneutics, literary criticism, semantics, linguistics and linguistic science) is well made; and my thanks to Richard for that. In the end, all interpretations of the Qur'an are individual, relative, and time bound. They are limited by shortcomings of the reader. Mine included.


Comment on the above:

There can be few Muslims who dispute that (1) the Qur'an is the word of Allah; (2) Allah is all-knowing and all-powerful.

Given that Allah is all-knowing and all-powerful, we would expect him not to have any communication handicap. The one book that is the flawless word of Allah should be the most easily understood of all books.

And yet just about all "moderate Muslims" such as Ziauddin Sardar seemingly would have us believe that this all-knowing all-powerful Allah does indeed have a communication handicap. That to the extent that huge numbers of people have grossly misunderstood his clearly peaceful message and incorrectly engaged in wanton violent jihad as a result. And that only by some extraordinary interpretative process can I and others see in the Qur'an the tolerant peaceful message that Allah is telling us.

Please, Allah, given that you are so all-knowing and all-powerful, why don't you cut out the complex problematic process of Messenger and ancient Arabic and and just tell us all directly in our own languages??? Or could it be that all this scholarship(??) about interpretation is no more than the mother of all whitewashes???

And could it be that the Qu'ran was in reality the words of a very human author, the military leader whose military activities are repeatedly mentioned therein. That's very much what it looks like to me and many others. The Qur'an is unmistakeably nothing other than the authentic words of that famous man, with Allah nowhere on the scene. You couldn't fake it if you tried.

The West's Long Tradition of Exalting Non-Western Cultures

Sometimes to understand one's own era you have to immerse yourself in another. I pick up my copy of Paul Edmonds' Peacocks and Pagodas as an example. This - though you've probably never heard of it - seems the best-regarded book ever written on the people and society of Burma. You may know it as Myanmar. What could be more esoteric, and yet profoundly revealing, about much broader issues?

My copy is a first edition from 1924 and in its long life and travels it once belonged to T.N. Jayavelu, Antiquarian Bookseller of Choolai, Madras, India. But now it resides on a low rickety table in Tel Aviv, at the top of the pile of books I am reading. My text for today's sermon comes from the first three pages only. We are nowadays used to the notion - or at least used to having it pounded into us - that Westerners were historically racist and imperialist, only recently having become enlightened in the age of "political correctness."

And, to paraphrase the Rudyard Kipling poem (and well-known song) about the road to Mandalay, it suddenly dawns on you like thunder that the contemporary conventional wisdom about how people in the West thought about the rest of the world just isn't true.

In fact, precisely because most of the West has long been characterized by freedom of speech, democracy, and Enlightenment values, there has always been debate about any shortcomings of our own societies or countries, along with a willingness to recognize the values of others. For example, anti-slavery views were powerful in the pre-1861 north (even more proportionally so in England, which fought against slavery elsewhere), while there was tremendous sympathy for those now called Native Americans. One is welcome to cheer on the "good guys" of past history but not to pretend that American or Western history is a succession of bad guys.

Indeed, there has always been a strong strain in Western civilization - certainly stronger than anywhere else - which wanted to understand and did appreciate other cultures. Thus, Edmonds, writing at the height of the British Empire, states at the outset: The Englishman believes that wealth is better than happiness, or at least synonymous with it. The [Burmese] knows that happiness is better than wealth.

His starting point, then, is that the Burmese are superior. If the European claims that the Burmese are "lazy and shiftless," Edmonds responds that their "reasonable thriftlessness" is a virtue because they give charity, build religious buildings, or pay for festivals. "In consequence there is in Burma no such growing gulf between rich and poor, with all its resultant misery and discontent, as there is in England and America."

Nowadays, when no remark is safe from being distorted, a silly (probably academic) critic would see this as patronizing the Burmese. Yet there is a long Western tradition - Jean-Jacques Rousseau was just one of many belonging to it; Rudyard Kipling, too - of viewing other civilizations as superior to the West. Or, at least, the West could learn some valuable lessons from them. This easily ascertainable fact has been buried in the age of Edward Said, who has persuaded people that everything is on the other side.

But there is also a problem in Edmonds' analysis. For if people do not put a high priority on achieving wealth (with the well-known negative fallout from that world view), they are unlikely to achieve higher living standards, better technology, and other things that also produce a lot of blessings. Accepting the validity and indigenous nature of non-Western societies also means understanding that their lack of wealth and progress are due to those very characteristics and not to the ravages of Western imperialism. Which brings us to page three, where Edmonds writes, after noting the rise of a Burmese nationalist movement:

Whether the Burmese are capable of governing the country themselves with a parliament chosen by popular vote is a very doubtful question. Educated Burmese with whom I have talked say that they can. The English residents, almost to a man, say that they cannot.

Nowadays, one would instantly characterize this as a bigoted imperialistic statement. Yet to examine Burma over the last half-century would bear out the fact that the English residents were right. Even if there is no theoretical justification for their belief, in practice that is precisely what happened. Of course, George Orwell, in his book on Burma, showed the British could be beastly there, though the fact that most of the nationalist movement in World War Two became agents of Japanese imperialism - which treated their people worse - doesn't make them any better. But, again, this was a long time ago.

Thus, there are few countries where Western intervention or even involvement has been less pronounced than in Burma during the last half-century. Consequently, it should be very hard - though no doubt there are many willing to try among believers in the rather silly ideology that dominates so much of Western intellectual life and too much of academic discourse - to pin this one on the West. The local dictatorship is pretty corrupt, at times brutal, and has wacky economic theories along with a system that seems - like many Third World counterparts - based on Western leftist and communist doctrines.

More than twenty years ago, when I wrote an analysis of Third World dictatorships in terms of their internal evolution - Modern Dictators - a reviewer disallowed all my points (naturally without explaining them to the readership) by explaining that all the dictatorships were due to the West, so why bother analyzing them?

Even if Western influence is responsible for the specific person in power, of course, the reason for the system as a whole should be quite another matter. People, with some exceptions, are largely responsible for the course of their own histories; local political cultures are mainly the source for their own governmental systems.

At the same time, while the West may suffer from ignorance, its thinking and acting sectors certainly spend a lot of time trying to do better. What Edmonds says on page three of his book is the refrain of thousands of university classes, books, lectures, and documentaries. Indeed, if this huge volume of empathetic and explanatory work had any effect, its complaint could hardly be true:

The average Englishman or American is slow to realize that an outlook different from his own is even possible; to bring him to see life through Oriental eyes, though ever so dimply, is an achievement which fully justifies a certain amount of exaggeration.

Certainly, two hundred years of effort at trying to raise this average must have had some effect, given the fact that much of Western academia, journalism, and literature have been engaged in a continuous effort in that direction for a heck of a long time.

Provincialism and arrogance can be found in every country, society, and civilization. One might merely note the U.S. senator of a half-century ago who voiced the hope that China might rise up and up to reach the heights of his native Kansas City. Of course, in saying this, the very narrow-minded, jingoistic politician was also expressing the rather non-racist belief that the Chinese were equal human beings and capable of achieving anything.

Western civilization isn't so bad. It keeps trying to understand others and give them a fair shake, which is more than can be said for many of the others.


Sharia in Malaysia

I wonder whether the Archbishop of Canterbury has heard of Lina Joy? Since Rowan Williams made his extraordinary intervention I have been in correspondence with Malaysians with direct experience of living under a parallel system of state and Sharia.

There have been numerous disputes concerning the correct courts to be used in different cases. One of the most famous controversies concerns Lina Joy. Actually that's only her name now, her Christian name. Her birth name is Azlina Jailani, and she was born a Muslim. In 1981 Lina Joy became a Christian and she is trying to have herself declared as such on her identity card, her MyKad. One reason is that she wishes to marry her Christian boyfriend and it is illegal for her to do this while she remains classified as a Muslim. However her attempts to have her conversion recognised have failed. The civil courts, and finally the highest court - the Federal court - have ruled that she can't decide on her religion for herself. She has to to be given approval by the Islamic courts. Which, of course, is not forthcoming. As the decision was announced last May, outside the federal courts a crowd chanted Allahu Akhbar.

This is not the only type of case, by any means, where the joint jurisdiction poses fundamental problems of human rights. Another type concerns what is known as body snatching. The conversion of non-Muslims near death without the knowledge of their families has caused fierce rows. One reason, according to my correspondents, is that conversion changes the destination of any inheritance with Islamic courts deciding and inherited assets flowing only to Muslim relatives or the community.

Divorce battles raise similar questions. Conversion by the father in the run-up to a divorce gives him crucial advantages - he gets custody, turns the children into Muslims and prevents his wife using the civil courts. Running a dual court system produces extraordinary practical difficulties and the opportunity for human rights abuses. Just ask the campaigners in Malaysia.



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

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

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


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Friday, February 15, 2008

This is what a supposedly Christian archbishop has encouraged

Gina Khan knows the horrors of polygamy. Her mother was married off at 15 and only when her father took his new bride to the other side of Pakistan did Gina's mother discover that he already had another wife and five children. Later he married a third woman, but when Gina's parents came to Britain, her mother made him divorce the third wife: "She knew that there was a law in this country that protected her. He never did it again."

Gina's mother was traumatised, though, and would burst into tears at the recollection. But the family brush with polygamy doesn't stop there. Gina's sister suffered the same fate and ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. And Gina, when happily married to a Pakistani man, had to endure him being forced by his family to take a second wife: his 16-year-old cousin. With reluctance, she divorced him.

I interviewed Gina for The Times a year ago, and she was determined to highlight the plight of Muslim women living in an utterly male-dominated community. She has had to endure persecution, including a brick through her window and threatening phone calls. But she won't give up. "We are in the 21st century; we're not in the 7th century." Yet, even though polygamy is illegal here, the Government still pays extra benefits to men with more than one wife, as long as the marriage was conducted in a country where polygamy is allowed. When John Hutton was Work and Pensions Secretary, he demanded a review: the conclusion, last December, was that it should remain.

Why, when ministers claim to be trying to empower Muslim women, do they support a barbaric tradition that is against women's interests and against the law? The DWP tries to play down the number of people able to claim such benefits, but its guidance still talks about "valid polygamous marriages". How can a polygamous marriage be valid in any circumstances here? This is just one example of Muslim women being denied the same rights as other women, in the name of respecting different faiths. The exaggerated attempt to embrace "diversity", exemplified by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is disastrous not just for social cohesion, but for many members of the Muslim community too, most of them female.

It is one thing to respect Muslims' need for halal butchery or for Sharia-compliant mortgages: these are genuine religious differences that harm nobody. But polygamy, forced marriages and (dis)honour violence are practices more cultural than religious. They are rooted in the culture of South Asian communities, often deeply rural, and have no place in modern Britain. They do not deserve respect or even toleration.

Yet still there are schools that refuse to put up posters giving warning of the dangers of forced marriages, according to a recent report by the Centre for Social Cohesion. Shazia Qayum, team leader at Karma Nirvana, a refuge in Derby, claims: "We approached schools to get posters up that let children know that there was help available. This was just before the holidays, which is the most critical time, because this is when girls get taken off to Pakistan or Bangladesh to be married. Unfortunately, none of the schools would let us put them up because they said it would offend the parents."

And still there is often collusion within the Asian community to prevent women running away from forced marriages. Taxi drivers taking battered women to refuges will sometimes report their whereabouts to their abusive husbands. John Paton, manager of the Lancashire Family Mediation Service, says: "It's extremely difficult for an Asian woman to go to a community worker or an agency where she knows that there are potentially people there who will report back to her family what she has said."

There have even been complaints about local councillors intimidating Asian women's groups. As the chair of a women's project, who wants to remain anonymous for her own safety, explains: "We have a lot of pressure from the local councillors in Bradford; they are the bad ones, because they abuse their power by trying to get details on who is staying with us and what they are doing. They give us a hard time, until we have to complain to the police and they back off. They are dominant males who are trying to bully us." Unfortunately, Britain's Asian community is full of dominant males, and unless we work actively to resist them, Asian women will continue to be bullied. Giving them the "choice" of using Sharia, when such a choice is likely to be forced on them by their husbands, fathers or brothers, is no help at all.

You don't just have to be concerned about women's safety to be alarmed. According to Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service's lead on such matters: "If you had a map of the UK showing the location of Islamist groups - or terrorist cells - and you had another map showing the incidence of honour-based violence and you overlaid them, you would find that they were a mirror; they would be almost identical. It could be that this is simply because this is where South Asians live or it could suggest there is a strong link between these two attitudes." So we should all be concerned that life in Britain can be miserable for South Asian women. They are at least three times more likely to kill themselves than white women of the same age. We should not be encouraging them to use Sharia courts run exclusively by men, even for civil matters. Nor should we be worried about offending cultural sensitivities by standing up for their rights. We should be telling their menfolk that the traditions of rural Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are unacceptable enough over there. They are completely intolerable in this free country.


A good pre-nup can now stop predatory divorce claims in Britain

Husbands one, two and three have already netted her 18 million pounds but Susan Crossley's efforts to secure a slice of her fourth husband's œ45 million fortune hit the buffers last night. On the eve of a keenly awaited court hearing, Mrs Crossley, 50, abandoned her claim on the fortune of her estranged husband, the property developer Stuart Crossley, 62. She had signed a prenuptial contract originally, saying that she would not claim a penny if the marriage, which only lasted 14 months, broke up. Hours before today's High Court hearing at which Mrs Crossley intended to pursue her claim, her lawyers announced that she had dropped it and will walk away with nothing. The decision is a boost to the status of prenuptial agreements, which lawyers had predicted would be certain to be upheld by the courts in her case.

Last night her solicitor, Mark Harper, of the London law firm Withers, said: "Mrs Crossley has abandoned her claims." Privately Mrs Crossley has accepted that she stood no chance after a Court of Appeal ruling before Christmas in which judges made clear their view that the prenuptial agreement was valid. Mrs Crossley, whose previous husbands were Kevin Nicholson, heir to the Kwik Save fortune; Peter Lilley, adopted son of Thomas Lilley, chief of Lilley and Skinner shoes; and the racing magnate Robert Sangster, had tried to argue that she was entitled to half the share of Mr Crossley's wealth because, she claimed, he had not disclosed every aspect of his assets.

She maintained that the prenuptial agreement was invalid because he failed to tell her about "tens of millions" he had in offshore accounts. But in a ground-breaking ruling in December, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed her challenge to a judge's ruling that the "prenup" should first be evaluated before looking at any further claim she might have. Mrs Crossley had argued that this denied her access to the courts.

Her lawyers had described the streamlined one-day hearing to look first at the "prenup" as a "knockout blow" because it meant that her claim for a share of her husband's wealth would probably be thrown out. Lord Justice Thorpe, who made the decision with Lords Justices Keene and Wall, said that judges had a duty to shorten the trial process where "very rich people are demanding full scale trials" and were straining the courts' overstretched capacity. At the time Mr Harper said that the ruling was "a significant step forward for prenuptial agreements" and Mr Crossley said: "This is a fair decision. I am upset that our marriage failed. Sadly, my wife is a career divorcee." Alex Carruthers, a family lawyer with the London firm Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said that in future judges would be likely to be "more forthright in upholding prenuptial contracts, if the circumstances are right".

Mr Crossley had met his future wife in the summer of 2005 and they were married in early 2006. He had four children, Mrs Crossley had three, one by each of her previous marriages. By March 2007 the Crossleys had separated and in August she filed for divorce.

Lord Justice Thorpe, giving judgment in December, said that before they married they employed "highly experienced lawyers" to write their "pre-nup", which allowed them to walk away after a divorce with what they had taken into the marriage. "This seems to me to be an entirely appropriate step for the parties to take."


Horrors: Alleged 'Islamophobia' on the Rise in Holland

Post below lifted from Jammie Wearer. See the original for links

More garbage from purported human rights watchdogs, courtesy of the terror lovers at the Associated Press.
Islamophobia has increased dramatically in the Netherlands following recent terrorist attacks in Europe, a human rights watchdog warned Tuesday, with Muslims the subject of stereotyping, stigmatization and frequent racist violence.
We have ourselves a bit of a dichotomy here, folks. So we have recent terror attacks by a certain unnamed group, but it causes stereotyping of Muslims.

Hmm. Maybe the fact it was Muslims terrorists perpetrating the terrorists acts has a direct correlation to the alleged stereotyping?

Seems pretty clear to me.
In a harshly worded report, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said even Dutch politicians have resorted to derogatory remarks about Muslims in recent years, and that racist discourse has remained "as a rule" unchallenged by mainstream political parties.

The report comes as the Netherlands is embroiled in a debate on what some Dutch politicians call an "Islamization" of the country, which has traditionally welcomed immigrants but put little pressure on them to embrace Western values.

Some in the Netherlands say the country's multiculturalism and tolerance have provided a breeding ground for Islamic radicalism. Fears of such radicalism crystallized after the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh for his movie "Submission," a fictional study of abused Muslim women with scenes of near-naked women with Quranic texts engraved on their flesh.
Seems quite rational to me for the Dutch to have a fear of such radicalism when one of their own is murdered in the streets for expressing his beliefs.

Talk about living in denial.

Read the rest

The "religion of peace" in Australia

'Terror plot to kill 1000'

The leader of an alleged home-grown Muslim terrorist group talked of an attack that would kill 1000 people, a Melbourne terror trial heard today. Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47, said that in order to make the Government withdraw Australian troops from Iraq a large-scale operation was needed.

Prosecutor Richard Maidment SC said that Mr Benbrika, in conversation with another member of the terror group, said an attack was needed that "would make the Government sit up and take notice". "They were intending something big," Mr Maidment told the jury in his opening statement. "To cause maximum damage. To cause the death of a thousand.... by use of a bomb."

The group of Melbourne men bent on violent Jihad planned terrorist attacks on football games or train stations to maximise deaths, the jury was told. And the director and leader of the alleged terrorist group in Melbourne gave them permission to kill women, children and the elderly, the court heard.

The prosecutor said that according to Mr Benbrika Australia was a country at war and used the term 'Kuffur' to describe infidels who did not believe in violent Jihad. Mr Maidment said that Mr Benbrika believed that it was permissable in pursuit of violent Jihad to kill and steal from the Kuffur. "Their blood and money is fair game," Mr Maidment said.

In his opening of the Crown case against 12 men accused of a number of terrorist offences, Mr Maidment said the group was prepared to launch an attack overseas but Australia was the preferred target. He told the jury much of the evidence they would hear was contained in recordings of intercepted telephone conversations and from hidden listening devices.

From these conversations it was clear, he said, that the accused became concerned that their conduct was being monitored by authorities. They used a number of conversational, security and anti-surveillance tactics to try and conceal their activities. Mr Benbrika used at least 10 different mobile phones and eight of those were registered in false names and addresses. Another accused, Aimen Joud, 23, had 13 different mobile phones , 12 of them in false names and registered at false addresses.

Mr Maidment said Mr Benbrika's concerns that their activities were being monitored by ASIO and police played "a not insignificant role" in slowing the group's activities and may have stopped them carrying out a terrorist attack. The prosecutor said that although Mr Benbrika was the leader others in the group were not "shrinking violets". They would argue and make their points of view quite clear to Mr Benbrika. "They should feel comfortable about the killing of innocent citizens," prosecutor Richard Maidment SC, told the Supreme Court.

He said that the group's leader, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who was also known as Sheik Abu Bakr, used the term Kuffar to describe infidels who did not believe in Allah or subscribe to violent Jihad. According to Mr Benbrika the term 'Jihad' had only one meaning in the Koran and that was fighting the Kuffar. Mr Maidment said that in a secretly taped conversation another accused, Abdullah Merhi, asked Mr Benbrika if killing their intended victims would be pleasing to Allah. Mr Benbrika replied:"You are pleasing the Almighty".

On trial are 12 Muslim men, accused of a number of terrorist offences including fostering or preparing an attack involving the use of explosives or weapons.... The prosecutor said in one secretly recorded conversation between Mr Benbrika and another accused, Abdullah Merhi, Mr Benbrika said they were planning something big. In the conversation, Mr Benbrika says they are not talking about "one or two or three" deaths. Mr Merhi says "like Spain?". Mr Maidment said it was the the Crown case that Mr Merhi was referring to the terrorist attacks in Spain in 2004 where 191 people were killed and 2000 were injured.

Mr Maidment said Mr Benbrika was also heard in a conversation saying Osama bin Laden was a "great man" and praising al-Qaida. The prosecutor warned the jury that Islam was not on trial and Mr Benbrika's views did not reflect the true views of Muslims or of any other religious group. An undercover operative attempted to infiltrate the group, Mr Maidment said in his opening of the Crown case, and had a meeting with Mr Benbrika where ammonium nitrate was discussed. The operative suggested that 250kg of ammonium nitrate could blow up a large building and Mr Benbrika asked the operative if he could get hold of 500kg for him.

Mr Maidment told the jury videos, CD's and other material found in the homes of some of the accused gave a strong clue about the "glue" that held the group together. It was pro-violent Jihad and murder, praised the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and provided "a revealing window into the kind of matters that interested the accused", he said.

On trial before Justice Bernard Bongiorno are: Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47, of Dallas, Shane Kent, 31, Meadow Heights, Majed Raad, 23, Coburg, Abdullah Merhi, 22, Fawkner, Aimen Joud, 23, Hoppers Crossing, Ahmed Raad, 24, Fawkner, Fadl Sayadi, 28, Coburg, Ezzit Raad, 26, Preston, Hany Taha, 33, Hadfield, Shoue Hammoud, 28, Hadfield, Bassam Raad, 26, Brunswick and Amer Haddara, 28, Yarraville. The charges include intentionally being members of a terrorist organisation involved in the fostering or preparation of a terrorist act.

More here


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

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

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


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Britain: "Whites need not apply"

Rarely a day goes by without a whopping piece of hypocrisy on the part of the British Labour Party, for much of their political life is one big act of hypocrisy. Thus this weekend we have them facing both ways at once on matters of race.

On the one hand they have joined in the general chorus of denunciation of Archbishop Booby's suggestion that Sharia Law be afforded status and recognition, and thereby approbation, within the law of England and Wales. On this the Labour Party have got it right.

At almost the same moment, however, Labour's deputy leader Harriett Harman is found to be supportive of the notion that the law be changed to enable `all-black' shortlists to be drawn up for the selection of candidates for election to Parliament by individual constituencies. As the report says:

White candidates should be barred from standing for Parliament in up to eight constituencies in order to get more black and Asian MPs elected, says a controversial report commissioned by Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman.

Just savour those words: `white candidates should be barred.' It has taken us a thousand years or so to arrive at a state of constitutional affairs whereby any man or woman might seek to stand for Parliament regardless of sex, race, colour, religious creed, political philosophy or sexual orientation and for the party of one's personal taste. Now, if Labour's obnoxious plan were to succeed, our people would be legally excluded from standing for Parliament in the constituency of their choice for the party of their choice simply because of the white colour of their skin.

Such is Labour extremism that it is prepared to contemplate the introduction of a measure that is flagrantly in breach of the right not to be discriminated against "on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status", which phraseology I have lifted intact from Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Sharia in Britain already

Sharia law is operating in secret in many British towns and cities, the Daily Express can reveal. Muslim communities are being ruled with a rod of iron in clear defiance of the British legal system. Panels of Islamic scholars sit in mosques, converted living rooms and even a former pub to issue fatwas, or rulings. The revelation that they have decided thousands of cases over the last 25 years comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury provoked condemnation by calling for an "accommodation" with the Islamic legal code.

Dr Rowan Williams said parts of civil law could be dealt with under the sharia system - but some communities have already gone much further. The Daily Express has uncovered a catalogue of evidence that sharia courts are acting independently of British law. Aydarus Yusuf revealed last year that a stabbing case had been decided by an unofficial "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

The 29-year-old youth worker, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths had been arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim's family told the police it would be better settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail. A hearing was allegedly held and elders ordered the suspects to compensate the victim. An Islamic sharia council at Leyton in east London also revealed that it had dealt with nearly 7,000 divorces since it had opened in 1982, while sharia courts in the capital have settled many hundreds of financial disputes.

Details of the spread of sharia law emerged as controversy continued to rage over Dr Williams's comments, with condemnation from Downing Street, the Conservatives and other leading Church of England clerics. Thousands of Daily Express readers posted comments on our website www.express.co.uk and 95 per cent of callers to our phone vote line said sharia law should be banned.

Along with the Islamic council in Leyton, there are at least two other sharia courts in London. There are also courts in many areas of the country with high Muslim populations. The Islamic sharia council lists members in Birmingham, Bradford, Halifax, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Cardiff, Peterborough and Rotherham. As revealed by the Daily Express last year, there is also a sharia court in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, less than a mile from the former home of suicide bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan. One Muslim man who has faced that court's wrath because of his homosexuality said: "Campaigners claim sharia courts in Britain just sit on civil matters, but the reality is very different and Muslims are ordered to live by these laws, not British law."

Most sharia courts concentrate on divorce cases - although such judgments are not recognised in British law - as well as financial and neighbourhood disputes. Other areas where sharia courts have been consulted voluntarily are inheritance disputes, boundary wrangles and religious guidance. Suhaib Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic sharia council in Leyton, said he and his colleagues dealt with more than 200 cases a year. "From the beginning, people have wanted our services. More and more come back to us. Each month we deal with 20 cases," said the sheikh, who has presided over sharia courts in Britain for more than 25 years.

Although their rulings have no basis in law, participants agree to abide by them voluntarily and may settle their disputes without referral to the British legal authorities. On its website, the Islamic sharia council warns that the divorces it grants can not invalidate a union under British civil law and advises that a separate civil divorce should be obtained. Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, said there is an "alternative parallel unofficial legal system" now operating. "Sharia courts now operate in most larger cities, with different sectarian and ethnic groups operating their own courts that cater to their specific needs according to their traditions," he said.

A room containing a long table and 16 chairs inside Birmingham's central mosque acts as a sharia court presided over by five elders. They regularly pass judgment on a host of disputes. All are fully versed in sharia law but the hundreds of books on Islamic science and theology on the shelves around them serve as back-up. The sharia council is the formal body of Islamic legal opinion and jurisdiction for local Muslims. It is also a point of advice for Muslims in the city seeking a religious or theological perspective on general issues.


What Muslim leaders say

A BOOK REVIEW of "Schmoozing with Terrorists" by Aaron Klein. Reviewed by Lori Lowenthal Marcus

The people who kill Jews and other westerners for a living would seem to be a bit hard for nice Jewish boy to sit down and chat with about why they do what they do. But in Schmoozing with Terrorists, Aaron Klein -- Jerusalem bureau chief for World Net Daily -- shares the wide-ranging conversations he has had with many of the top Arab Palestinian terrorist leaders in Israel about exactly that topic.

Klein's conversations covered the gamut from why Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades endorse the use of homicide bombing in light of the Koranic ban on suicide; to the way in which the terrorist leaders nakedly reject documented archeological and historical connections between Jews and Israel; to the ongoing persecution of Christians by Muslims in Bethlehem, Gaza and other cities.

Klein's style is conversational and personal: he never hides his own perspective or the fact that he is an Orthodox Jew (albeit the brawny, deeply-tanned twenty-something year old pictured on the book jacket inside cover does not fit the typical stereotype in this country). And yet those whom he interviews, although occasionally bridling at some of Klein's questions, are perfectly comfortable meeting with him and articulating their views and goals.

The Arab Palestinian leaders with whom Klein spoke are very candid about their dreams not only to wipe out Israel, but to establish a worldwide caliphate. Their plans for American society should awaken anyone who thinks the Arab terrorists are only Israel's problem. And it should also smack awake all the moral relativists who equate Israel's security measures with hegemonic brutality.

A deputy commander of Fatah's al Aqsa Martyrs Bridade, Nasser Abu Azziz, explained to Klein that when sharia law is imposed in Western countries, "these sick people [homosexuals] will be treated in a very tough way," explaining that the Islamic leadership will "prevent social and physical diseases like homosexuality." All the terrorists whom Klein interviewed agreed that homosexuality would not be tolerated in the US once Islam rules.

And homosexuality is not all they condemn. The failure of western women to conform to Islamic standards of dress will reap harsh responses including, if necessary, torture. Sheik Hamad, a Hamas cleric, said those women who refuse to cover themselves in conformity with Islamic values would be punished either by imprisonment, whipping or stoning. And we aren't just talking about Madonna's bustiers: under the standard described by Klein's interviewees, even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- who does in fact wear a robe -- would be a target for stoning. She's omitted the head covering.

Given the opportunity to explain the source of Arab Palestinian terrorism, Klein's subjects contradict standard lore. Klein was told by Abu Ayman, the commander of Islamic Jihad in Jenin, that Muslims are strictly forbidden from becoming suicide bombers if they are motivated by anything -- including desperate poverty or revenge for Israeli wrongdoing to this individual -- other than love of Allah. When Klein pointed out to a young man in training to become a "martyr" CNN's claim that suicide bombing was motivated by poverty and despair, Abu Ahmed was visibly affronted and called it "Israeli propaganda."

The most bizarre and brazen interview Klein describes is with Sheikh Taysir Tamimi, the chief Palestinian Justice and one of the most important clerics in the Middle East. Tamimi lectured Klein that "there is no Jewish historic connection whatsoever to the Temple Mount or Jerusalem," and that the "Jews came to the [Temple area] in 1967 and not before."

Tamimi responded to Klein's recitation of archeological findings and historical connections: "These archeological things you cite are lies." Tamimi simply erases Judaism's connection to the Holy Land by ignoring irrefutable and concrete evidence of inconvenient facts. Such distortions are particularly troubling because Tamimi is an enormously influential Imam whose view of history is eagerly imbibed by his followers. Echoing Tamimi is Nasser Abu Aziz whose rhetoric, while perhaps inelegant, was crystal clear: "We are fed up with this crap nonsense of the Temple Mount."

Klein's interviews show that Palestinian leaders have also, and repeatedly, perpetrated a vile hoax on their acolytes. The myth of the seventy-two virgins in paradise who await each martyr is a theme echoed and believed by those who extol and consider suicide bombing an option. Klein's subjects do not explain how the appetite for virgins fits with the love of Allah as an incentive for becoming a suicide bomber.

When asked about the source for the promise of the seventy-two virgins, Ala Senakhreh, West Bank chief of Fatah's Martyrs Brigade, insisted such a promise was made in the Koran. When pressed about where exactly that promise could be located, neither Senakhreh nor any of his dozen henchmen clerics present could find such a passage. After much anxious searching, the Sheik became increasing hostile and Klein quickly left. He had apparently discovered the point at which the terrorists' hospitality collided with their refusal to be questioned closely about their ideological weapons.

I worry that this enlightening and highly readable book may not reach as many readers as it should because its name and title undercut its serious subject. The word "schmoozing" is known by and appeals to a rather limited audience. The cover picture shows a large grenade seated on a leather armchair. Perhaps the picture is easy shorthand for what he did, but there is something lighthearted about it that undercuts the gravity of Klein's book. Nonetheless, and in addition to the glimpses Klein provides, at least two overarching questions are raised by this book.

First, Aaron Klein, a product of Philadelphia suburban Jewish religious schools, moved to Israel and within a few years was able to gain audiences -- as an identified Jew and a journalist -- with the most senior Arab Palestinian terrorists, who spoke to him frankly about their plans and their views. This forces us to ask: where is the rest of the press corps? If these murder merchants happily speak at length about their desire to murder and torture those who don't fit their religious profiles, why are the rest of the hundreds of journalists who call Israel their beat unable to obtain the same information? Do they prefer to stick with the standard mendacious narrative, either because they believe it or because they are too afraid to approach the terrorist leadership? Neither answer says anything favorable about the press corps.

Second, why are all those on the political left, those who identify themselves as advocates for minorities, so convinced that Israel is the villain and the Arab Palestinians are the victim? Anyone who claims to favor women's rights, gay rights, ideological tolerance, freedom of the press, of speech, of association, of religion, in fact, nearly all of the icons of the political left, should logically support the Israeli narrative. Instead, most of those in this country who fit the profile of the left support the Arab Palestinian narrative. Yet Klein's interviewees freely articulate their categorical rejection of the ideas these groups hold dear. And when these people categorically reject an idea, we're not talking polite disagreement over cocktails: we're talking beheading in the town square, as Klein's interviewees state in plain English. Yet these groups -- QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terror) is my own personal favorite -- continue to support terrorists who would happily slaughter their western advocates if they attained the power they seek.

While Klein's book doesn't answer these questions, it provides the necessary proof that willful ignorance and cowardice play a strong role in the current widespread distribution of sympathy for the Arab Palestinian narrative.



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

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

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


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Comments by Concordia University's Prof. David Pariser, in opening remarks at the University of Ottawa's screening of the film

This well-constructed piece of anti-Israel propaganda ought not to offend any partisan of the Israeli cause. For three reasons: In the first place because the very existence of this film is proof that Israel is a vibrant democracy with nothing to hide.

Secondly, because, if, after some two years of shooting-with many hundreds of hours of film to choose from-the most damning footage that the editors could come up with is a few minutes showing a young Israeli mouthing off.then there is little enough to get excited about. (Think about the fact that whereas this bigoted young man is speaking only for himself, the charters of both Hamas and the PA, calling for Israel's destruction, are explicitly antisemitic.)

Thirdly, one should be all in favor of this sort of documentary/muck-raking cinematography because it sets a standard for openness and self-reflection that ought to be practiced by both sides of the conflict. Indeed, where are the Palestinian documentary films that show the explosive-vest suicide factories and the Qassam rocket factories that fuel the "armed resistance"? (And which the checkpoints effectively interdict.)

Where is the intrepid Palestinian film-maker who has the moral courage to document the ugly facts of indoctrination in Palestinian kindergartens, where infants are trained to aspire to glorious death as shaheeds [martyrs]? Until such documentary films are made by Palestinians, it is evident that the Israelis are the ones with a moral conscience, however sometimes misplaced.

But above all, the film not only omits to mention the hundreds of deaths due to suicide terrorism, but also that the Palestinians have only their own intransigent governmental policies and the continued use of terrorism to thank for their indignities.


Putnam findings confirmed in Australia

"Diversity" destroys social cohesion and community spirit

Migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to be volunteers than Australian-born people or migrants from English-speaking nations, a new study shows. Ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have lower levels of volunteering - even among their Australian-born residents.

The study, by Ernest Healy, senior research fellow at the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, challenges the notion that ethnic diversity leads to a stronger, more cohesive society. "When you create societies from mixed backgrounds it may not lead to overt violence . but to something scarier, a withdrawal from the civic sphere," Dr Healy said, "a feeling of less connectedness."

Using levels of volunteering as an indicator of social cohesion, the study shows that suburbs with a high degree of ethnic diversity have markedly lower rates of volunteering than more homogenous localities. The study, based on 2006 census data for Melbourne, shows migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to be volunteers than Australian-born or people from English-speaking countries, even when their income and age are similar. Length of residence in Australia makes little difference, and nor does citizenship, but English proficiency has a small impact. About 18 per cent of Australian-born middle-income earners aged 25-64 were volunteers, for example, but only 13 per cent of those from non-English speaking countries. But in ethnically diverse areas, both the Australian-born residents and the migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to volunteer than their counterparts in the more homogenous neighbourhoods.

Dr Healy said the results were likely to be similar for Sydney. He said it would be wrong to conclude migrants from non-English speaking countries were unfriendly and uncaring and less altruistic than Australian-born people. It was likely their altruism was directed to friends, families and neighbours, not through organised civic, sporting, and welfare organisations. However, altruism directed through formal groups represented a "commitment to the broader social good".

The findings appear to support research by Robert Putnam, of Harvard University, that ethnic diversity can hasten a withdrawal from "collective life". Dr Healy said the assumption multiculturalism would automatically lead to strong cohesive communities without government assistance may have been naive. [Idiotic, in fact]


Are girls wired not to win?

In a controversial new book, psychologist Susan Pinker uncovers the workings of the hormone oxytocin, which she claims explains why females are biologically driven to nurture their young rather than climb the corporate ladder

I first found Elaine's story in a newspaper article she had written, headlined "My glass ceiling is self-imposed". She described herself as a female executive on the fast track to the corner office who had refused a promotion in a multinational company earning billions and felt she needed to explain why. She detailed how her company provided every possible perk to promote women's success, including networked home offices so they could telecommute, flexi-hours, an in-house dry cleaner and gym, an income supplement for a nanny and on-site care for sick children. It was rated one of the top 100 companies for women to work for in the United States and Europe. Her promotion would have put her third from the top in a company of 12,000 employees with offices in more than 60 countries and on the shortlist to become the company's chief executive within a few years. Yet she had stalled her own advancement.

I thought that Elaine just might be able to fill in the blanks about why it was becoming increasingly clear that highly capable women were pulling out of the race. Research showed that about 60% of gifted women turn down promotions or take positions with lower pay so as to weave flexibility or a social purpose into their work lives. Elaine was eager to tell me her story. She was glamorous, with athletic good looks and an easy-going confidence, and it soon became clear that she was hardly lacking in ambition. She had assiduously worked her way up the executive ladder.

She got straight to the point, telling me that, besides a job she loved, she had two small children, a husband and parents, all of whom were central to her happiness. A promotion would require moving to another city, and while it would boost her status and salary, it would destabilise her family. Her explicit message: work is essential but so are the needs of her family. The subtext? Saying so is somehow shameful. It's not a wise gambit to turn down a promotion, much less ascribe one's reasons to the time-warped notion that the feelings of loved ones matter to you as much as achievement at work.

Over lunch, Elaine described the reactions of men in her circle. "When I said no, the president just looked at me and said, `I think you're nuts'. My father-in-law was almost speechless - he was CEO of a company and moved his five kids all over the world." She also spoke about the pressures on women to take top jobs: "The company's desperate - they want women at the senior executive level." To get more gender balance at the top, she told me, offers too good to refuse were being made to other deserving women, as long as they were willing to move and, if they were successful, to move again a few years later. She had known just one who had said yes - someone without a family.

Could Elaine be representative of other highly placed women? There's plenty of evidence that many more women than men refuse promotions out of consideration for family, including women at the top of their game. In 2006, when investment analyst Carolyn Buck Luce and economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett tried to get to the bottom of the "hidden brain drain" of female talent by surveying 2,443 women with graduate or professional degrees, they discovered that one in three American women with MBAs chose not to work full-time - compared with one in 20 male MBAs - and that 38% of high-achieving women had turned down a promotion or had deliberately taken a position with lower pay. Instead of being forcibly barred from top positions by a glass ceiling, these women were avoiding them.

When the researchers looked at women's motivations to work, they discovered that having a powerful position was the lowest ranked career goal of highly qualified women in every sector. For 85% of the women, other values came first: the ability to work with people they respect, to "be themselves" at work and to have flexible schedules.

Logging millions of air miles, being available 24/7 and facing unpredictable demands and tight deadlines are the mainstays of top-tier jobs. Of the small minority of women in such posts, twice as many women as men described the negative fallout on their families - connecting their kids' behaviour, school performance, television and eating habits to their own job pressures in what Hewlett calls "a veritable portrait of guilt". Why is this?

At school in the 1960s, I was an instant convert to Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. If only women rejected their conditioned roles by avoiding "menial" jobs like teaching or nursing, it could be a different Continued on page 2 world. The assumption was that men had it made; only when women took on men's roles would they truly be equal.

Most women in the West are now in the workplace and young women are doing exceptionally well at school and university in comparison with their male peers. But gifted, talented women with the most choices and freedoms don't seem to be choosing the same paths, in the same numbers, as the men around them. Even with barriers stripped away, they don't behave like male clones.

As a developmental psychologist, I began to wonder about the science. We have come to expect that there should be no real differences between the sexes. But the science that's emerging upends the notion that male and female are interchangeable, symmetrical or the same. The psychology, neuro-science and economics of people's choices and behaviour have exploded with amazing findings in the past 10 years alone.

In particular, an opiate-like hormone, oxytocin, which one anthropologist calls "the elixir of contentment" (it surges during breastfeeding, childbirth, sex, cuddling and nurturing), has emerged as a key to understanding Elaine's decision to impose her own glass ceiling. Like Elaine, most of the women I have met in studying this phenomenon did not feel forcibly excluded from the most lucrative positions or feel that talented women are routinely barred from the top ranks.

One of my neighbours, Donna, spent 16 years as a computer science professor but always felt mismatched with the abstract work. Eventually she got herself a new "meaningful" job as a teacher. To Donna this was more important than status and money. But was this true for women in general? The more women I spoke to the more I came across evidence that it was. They had been taught that they could do anything a man could do but had ended up feeling completely out of place.

As a girl, Anita wanted to be a nurse but was "pushed" into engineering because she was good at maths. "It's great that people want more women in these disciplines but the women have to want it too," she said. She, too, now teaches. And there was Sonia, who was unhappy for 20 years before summoning the nerve to get out of her career in academic science. Yes, she also became a teacher. There were many others; and what all these women expressed was how high-achievers fall in step with expectations of them to take "male" roles when they are young - and regret it when they are older. So what was going on?

The science of sex differences is a grab bag of surprises. In the early 1980s I was not alone in thinking that men and women had nearly identical brains but had been socialised to take on different roles. If my husband, a doting father, could leave our newborn daughter after two weeks at home and go to work for 10 hours a day without a backward glance, the script dictated that this was because he had learnt that his role was to be the provider. And if I felt physical distress about tearing myself away from the baby to go back to work, I had internalised my role as the care giver.

Many of us thought that if only women could tame their outdated sentimentality, if only men offered their babies more bottles, then our parental roles could be reversed. I was amused but admiring when a male friend strapped on a device at a dinner party that allowed him to simulate breastfeeding. At the time we assumed that men and women were equals - not just in rights and opportunities, as they should be, but also in underlying psychology and behaviour. Any differences, including physical differences, could be fixed via technology, policy or force of will. This is the "plain vanilla" gender assumption: that female is just a variation of male. It is far from reality.

More than 20 years after my daughter was born, brain imaging and neuroendocrinology have unveiled many of the biological networks underlying mothers' specific longing for their infants and their drive to nurture them. There are distinctive design elements in female brains that evolved to promote the survival of infants. An avalanche of hormones at childbirth and during nursing trigger behaviour and emotions that don't vanish simply because the new mothers have to go to work. Breastfeeding releases hormones and neurotransmitters that induce euphoria in mothers. Prolactin turns on breastfeeding in females and circulates any time feeding, nurturing or protecting is on the agenda. And oxytocin, "the elixir of contentment", is evolution's way of making proximity to infants and feeding them so attractive.

Regular intimate contact becomes a physiological imperative. After infusing her brain with the analgesic and pleasure-inducing effects of oxytocin every few hours when she nurses her baby, a mother is suddenly cut off from her supply when not breastfeeding. That's why nursing mothers newly returned to full-time work can't wait to get home to feed the baby again. HORMONES are the catalysts that set dynamic sex differences in motion. Based on studies in animals, scientists expect that certain regions of the brain are not just transformed by hormones early on but are also endowed with receptors that enable the hormones to continue to play a role throughout life.

Rats help us to get a deeper understanding. The behavioural geneticist Michael Meaney has found that a mother rat's style of nurturing can switch on genetic functions in the pups that skew their emotions and ability to deal with stress. "Under normal circumstances, high-licking mothers are less anxious and their female offspring are less anxious," he explained. Anxious mothers lick and groom their pups less. But when Meaney matched high-licking mothers with foster pups, he found that a stress regulating capacity in the newborns' genes was switched on. Providing all is well in the environment around them, these more relaxed pups then pass on the attentive mothering they received to their own pups, whose brain circuits are altered in the same way - via their mother's nurturing.

This clever study shows how maternal behaviour, hormones, empathy, stress and genes interact. But they're rats and we're humans, you might say. Rats don't know much about the Mummy Wars - whether to consider children's needs first or take a much-vaunted promotion. While it's hard to infer empathy in rats, there are hormonal and neural pathways that are common to all mammals. A mechanism that allows a human mother and infant to transmit their emotional states to each other would have survival benefits and Meaney's work, among others, shows that just such a system exists.

We see the evidence in the pleasure pathways lit up by holding and feeding babies - a phenomenon I noticed whenever a newborn was in my own clinic. I could hear from the chorus of high-pitched cooing that the female family doctors and office staff had gathered yet again around a new mother, admiring her baby and waiting for their "fix" - the opportunity to hold it close. All these women had already chosen work that would bring them into contact with children, but babies under four months continued to exert a magnetic pull that never wore off. In animals, the nurturing relationship is so inherently rewarding to mothers that when given the choice, new mother rats choose newborn pups over cocaine.

The same pathways may allow Barbary macaques, the monkeys found in Gibraltar, to get stress-reduction benefits from grooming other monkeys. It has long been thought that, just as at the hair salon, the monkey being groomed gets the stress reduction. But Kathryn Shutt of Roehampton University has found that the longer a female macaque spends grooming others, the less stressed she is. For female macaques, anyway, it is better to give than to receive.

Shelley Taylor, a psychologist at UCLA, was the first to theorise that nurturing and stress reactions are tightly bound together in humans. Having interviewed women with cancer about how they dealt with their stresses, she was struck by how many chalked up their resilience to their social connections. Could something biochemical be triggered by reaching out to others?

Oxytocin, the underlying driver in tending children, is also the hormone of befriending. Besides being triggered by childbirth, breastfeeding, nurturing and orgasm, it is also released at critical moments in women's relationships and menstrual cycles, damping down other stress responses. It helps to keep mothers going, providing sedative and analgesic effects, calming and immediately rewarding the women who instinctively reach out to others when they are in trouble.

Oxytocin is not just a feel-good, nurturing drug. It helps people to read emotions in other's faces and increases their trust, according to two studies at the University of Zurich. These showed that oxytocin in nasal spray even has a positive effect on men's usual behavioural limitations: it boosts their trust in social situations and their ability to read facial expressions. Both studies bolster the idea that this hormone secreted in greater quantities in females - when they have babies, when they nurture them, when they cuddle or have sex with their partners, or when they reach out to others - facilitates females' capacity for empathy and their trust in others. Here is evidence, then, that biochemical drivers underlie some of the most obvious behavioural differences we see between the sexes.

Testosterone, secreted in greater quantities in males, may alter some neural connections related to reading others' emotional states. And oxytocin seems to do the reverse. It seems to help women guess what's going on inside the heads of other people, enabling them to trust them enough to seek them out, especially when they're stressed, and to feel pleasure and relief when they do. Studies have also shown that women on average perceive, experience and remember emotional events more intensely than men do and that these experiences are encoded in more areas of their brains than in men's. From this, it makes sense that their emotional attachments will figure more strongly in their career decisions.

In the context of male-dominated "extreme" jobs, being aware of others' needs can be a liability if promotion is the yardstick of success. Ingrid, a former senior executive in the automotive industry, routinely flew from North America on the redeye for a day of meetings in Europe, having to leave before her children went to bed and getting home after her husband or baby-sitter had put them to bed the next night. The adrenaline was addictive and 16-hour days were common. Accepting the 24/7 executive yoke, she rose through the ranks. "There weren't many women in the kind of work I was doing and I was going to make damn sure I didn't look like one," she said. "We were the first generation of women allowed to work the crazy life of men and we had to show them we could do it."

As one of the first women in a male industry, she felt an ineffable internal pressure that drove her to her limits, pushing her to put in 60 to 80-hour weeks when her two children were small, overshadowing her other needs: "I wanted so much to be somebody who counted." She had a husband and a nanny to take over at home and there was never any question about her competence or her commitment to her work: "Let's say you had a capacity for 100%. I thought even at 120% it would be a weakness. I didn't think I could ever say no."

But her extreme job put her in conflict with her emotions. "I was a wreck. I never saw my kids. I wasn't even home to put them to bed. I never made them a meal myself," she said. Her starting assumption had been that women were versions of men and if men could do it and were expected to, so could she: "That first batch of women - we wanted so much we didn't realise that people wouldn't have thought twice if we wanted to go home occasionally. I didn't know how miserable I was."

The science showing that many women feel empathy more acutely than many men doesn't mean they must or should make trade-offs over their work. It simply explains why some women might want to, as the British sociologist Catherine Hakim understands. For years she has pricked the ire of the European feminist establishment by asserting that persisting gender gaps in pay are the result of women's deep-seated preferences. Her worst sin, according to her critics, was asserting that social policy could never allow the majority of women to have it all, since a measurable slice of the population - 10% to 30% - never wanted it all, anyway, and another 60% adapt their ambitions to their family's needs. "If you are seriously interested in a career you don't have time for children and if you are seriously interested in bringing up more than one child, you don't have the time, effort and imagination for getting to the top of a career," she told me.

Half of all women in the top professional and managerial grades are childless, Hakim reports, which is similar to women in academic science and engineering. Reliable contraception has allowed them to choose how they want to direct their energies and to plan their ascent. In Hakim's case, over the past eight years she has written six books and "there's no way I could have done that if I had had children. The fact is that children are a 20-year project and a career is a 20 to 40-year project and there is an incompatibility there". And she added mildly: "If someone tested me, I'm sure I'd have the highest level of testosterone."



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

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

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


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

British Government "collects more data than the Stasi"

One consolation: The Brits are usually too inefficient to do much with it

This has got to stop. Britain's snooper state is getting completely out of hand. We are sleepwalking into a surveillance society, and we must wake up. When the Stasi started spying on me, as I moved around East Germany 30 years ago, I travelled on the assumption that I was coming from one of the freest countries in the world to one of the least free. I don't think I was wrong then, but I would certainly be wrong now. Today, the people of East Germany are much less spied upon than the people of Britain. The human rights group Privacy International rates Britain as an "endemic surveillance society", along with China and Russia, whereas Germany scores much better.

An official report by Britain's interception of communications commissioner has just revealed that nearly 800 public bodies are between them making an average of nearly 1,000 requests a day for "communications data", including actual phone taps, mobile phone records, email or web search histories, not to mention old-fashioned snail mail. The Home Office website notes that all communication service providers "may be served with a notice by the secretary of state requiring them to maintain a permanent intercept capability. In practice, agreement is always reached by consultation and negotiation." How reassuring.

The cell phone networks have been configured for legal wiretapping for a long time now. For example a recent case in Greece, parties unknown simply called the utilities in Ericsson's AXE system to perform an unlawful intercept.

In modern mobile telecommunication networks, legal wiretaps, known as lawful interceptions, are preformed at the switch. Ericsson AXE telephone exchanges support lawful intercepts via the remote-control equipment subsystem (RES), which carries out the tap, and the interception management system (IMS), software used to initiate the tap which adds the tap to the RES database. In a fully operating lawful interception system the RES and IMS both create logs of all numbers being taped so that system administrators can preform audits to find unauthorized taps.

The wiretapping infrastructure is there. And it's going to be used. The attack and defense of the information infrastructure inadvertently creates a technological arms race in which both sides get more sophisticated. The defense of any network -- and the Internet is no exception -- relies to a large extent on having a profile of its "normal" activities. Statistics based on huge samples and datasets are used to create a picture of what should be. Just as when a person knows something has been disturbed on a tabletop with which he is intimately familiar, so must network defenders have a way of spotting "anomalies". But this in turn creates threats to those who, often for legitimate reasons, want to do new things. For example. The RIAA wants to monitor peer-to-peer traffic on the Internet, but advocates of privacy want to prevent them from doing so. In order to frustrate the Internet monitors the privacy advocates use all kinds of ways to obfuscate or encrypt their information. This in turn leads to even greater investments in monitoring and cryptanlysis.

Sometimes public policy goes off in two different directions at once. Privacy laws mandate that data should be protected, while anti-terrorism laws provide that in certain respects they should be monitored. Recently a group of law professors denounced "online mobs" operating under cover of anonymity. But the same law professors might object to requiring everyone who went online to swipe an identity card into a reader before accessing the Internet. Somehow the balance must be struck, but not before there's collateral damage to the little guy.

Perhaps the saddest story of the last week concerned a "59-year-old PG&E worker and his wife, who were mistakenly flagged as pro-Scientology hackers" and had his home address, phone number, cell numbers, Social Security number dragged through the Internet through no fault of his own by a shadowy group called Anonymous. The big bad boys on the network can more than take care of themselves in this "arms race" but the ordinary man must trust to luck.


The batty British welfare State at work

UNEMPLOYED scrounger Mohammed Salim is getting the state to pay for him, his wife and their ELEVEN kids-because he can't be bothered to go to work. He quit his 27,000 pounds job teaching maths and science three years ago and is BETTER OFF claiming 29,096 a year in benefits. And he has much more time to devote to his Islamic political party- which ATTACKS the British government, even though this country gives his family their food, clothes and house for free. Mohammed is also busy planning his TWELFTH baby with wife Noreen, 35, but has no plans to get a job.

He grinned: "For many years I worked in Derby as a teacher, earning 27,000 a year, and Noreen would be at home with the kids. "I would come home at weekends. Then I moved back to work in Manchester and took a pay cut to 24,000. It was a load of c***. "I was teaching at a college and I'd be up at 5.30am with the kids then have to go to work. "I just couldn't be a***d with sitting in traffic. I'd be sat in traffic for hours and I felt like I'd done a day's work by the time I got there, I was so stressed." "It's nice to be at home with the kids and for Noreen to have a hand."

That's a luxury most hard-working taxpayers who struggle to support their families can only dream about. The family we're all supporting live in a comfy five-bedroom house on a quiet street in Rochdale, Gtr Manchester. They get 19,000 a year Jobseeker's Allowance, 6,600 Child Benefit, 2,496 free school meals and 1,000 pounds Council Tax Relief.

They have a minibus to swan around in, two TVs and a computer, plus a garden full of brightly-coloured toys. Noreen has never worked since marrying Mohammed-who is her cousin-when she was 16. She said: "I spend all day clearing up after the children. As soon as you pick up one pile of crisps or mop up drink, there's another."

As she sits on the sofa nursing their latest addition-an as yet unnamed two-week-old girl-Mohammed explains: "I can't stand condoms. "I used a condom once. It was awful. Never again, it's nothing like the real thing. It's up to God whether we have any more kids." He chortles: "It says in the Bible and the Koran to go forth and multiply, and that's what we'll do. It's Noreen, she finds me irresistible! "I see my children as God's blessing, as a gift from God. Some people out there pay to have children, through IVF or surrogacy. I feel so lucky that I can have as many as I want. "I want to carry on my family name and for my children and grandchildren to remember me."

The couple's ten other children are Muhammad Aves, 16, Sarah Zenib Bibi, 15, Maryam Hajra Bibi, 13, Muhammad Bilal, 11, Muhammad Haider Ali, nine, Halimn Sadia Bibi, eight, Umayah Habiba Hadia Bibi, seven, Saadiqah Fatima Bibi, five, Muhammad Ibrahim Amter, three, and Muhammad Imam Ismail, 18 months.

Mohammed moved to Britain from Pakistan in 1966, when he was eight. He went on to university and qualified as a teacher. He then taught computer studies, maths and science at primary and high schools and a higher education college in Manchester and Derbyshire until three years ago.

Soon afterwards he stood as a candidate in the Rochdale constituency in the 2005 General Election, using an anti-war message. But he only got 361 votes-less then one per cent of the total cast. Mohammed said: "It goes to show that we are not living in a democracy, because a democracy is supposed to reflect the opinions and the interests of the majority. "The so-called democratic process has let down the Rochdale people, just as it let down the people of the entire country when the Blair government went to war in Iraq." Previously, Mohammed staged a hunger strike in protest at the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses-which some Muslims claimed was blasphemous. He said: "The hunger strike was successful in that people saw I was prepared to make a sacrifice for what I believed in."

Now he spends his time running his political party, Islam Zinda Badd, whose name means `Long Live Islam'. He said: "I set it up to protest about the war in Iraq and the NHS, and we want to show that all Muslims are not terrorists. "We use the Koran for guidance. We are not radical. We believe that we should look after each other, especially children and the elderly, and that wealth should be shared. "That is what is great about Britain. In Pakistan the government does not look after you like in England. The government here is so supportive...

And he has no plans to go back to Pakistan despite his party's anger at British policy. He said: "I did want to move back at one point but now it is so unstable-and I don't think we would be able to have the quality of life we have here."


British minister warns of `inbred' Muslims

It's a wonder this guy is not accused of "hate speech" In Australia there is a similar problem and a radio host was heavily attacked for mentioning it. For some facts on the Muslim inbreeding problem in Australia, see here.

A government minister has warned that inbreeding among immigrants is causing a surge in birth defects - comments likely to spark a new row over the place of Muslims in British society. Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said the culture of arranged marriages between first cousins was the "elephant in the room". Woolas, a former race relations minister, said: "If you have a child with your cousin the likelihood is there'll be a genetic problem."

The minister, whose views were supported by medical experts this weekend, said: "The issue we need to debate is first cousin marriages, whereby a lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins, and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability [in children]." Woolas emphasised the practice did not extend to all Muslim communities but was confined mainly to families originating from rural Pakistan. However, up to half of all marriages within these communities are estimated to involve first cousins. Medical research suggests that while British Pakistanis are responsible for 3% of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.

The minister's comments come as Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, rejected calls to resign over claims that Islamic law should be introduced in Britain. "I'm not contemplating resignation," he told friends. Williams insists his remarks were misinterpreted and that he was not advocating a parallel sharia jurisdiction for Muslims, but Lord Carey, his predecessor, warned acceptance of Muslim laws in Britain would be "disastrous". The archbishop is believed to have received hate mail since he made his controversial comments but has rejected offers of round-the-clock police protection. Williams is set to clash with the government again this week by voicing opposition to plans to extend detention without charge for terrorist suspects to 42 days.

Woolas, who represents the ethnically mixed seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, has previously warned that Muslim women who wear headscarves could provoke "fear and resentment". Yesterday, he was similarly outspoken. "If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the . . . Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it's caused by first cousin marriage. "That's a cultural thing rather than a religious thing. It is not illegal in this country. "The problem is that many of the parents themselves and many of the public spokespeople are themselves products of first cousin marriages. It's very difficult for people to say `you can't do that' because it's a very sensitive, human thing."

He added that the issue is not talked about. "The health authorities look into it. Most health workers and primary care trusts in areas like mine are very aware of it. But it's a very sensitive issue. That's why it's not even a debate and people outside of these areas don't really know it exists."

Woolas was supported by Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, who called for the NHS to do more to warn parents of the dangers of inbreeding. "This is to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family," she said. "If you go into a paediatric ward in Bradford or Keighley you will find more than half of the kids there are from the Asian community. Since Asians only represent 20%-30% of the population, you can see that they are over represented. "I have encountered cases of blindness and deafness. There was one poor girl who had to have an oxygen tank on her back and breathe from a hole in the front of her neck. "The parents were warned they should not have any more children. But when the husband returned again from Pakistan, within months they had another child with exactly the same condition."


US has moved beyond racist past

IS the US an irredeemably racist society? You would think the success of Barack Obama's presidential campaign would have answered that question in the negative. Yet many observers, both in the US and abroad, still insist a black man cannot be elected president. There is no question that Obama, unlike earlier black candidates Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, has an appeal that transcends race. He won big in Iowa, a state that is only 2.3 per cent black. Although he lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton, he finished a strong second, in a state that is just 1.1 per cent black.

True, in South Carolina the Clintons' efforts to marginalise him as the black candidate seemed to pay off. Fewer than one in four white voters supported him. On Super Tuesday his share of the white vote was similarly small in the southern states of Alabama and Tennessee. But he won South Carolina and Alabama, thanks to huge shares of the black vote, and he won Georgia, where he managed to pull 43 per cent of whites.

He also won Super Tuesday contests in every other region of the country: the northeast (Connecticut, Delaware), the Midwest (Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota) and the west (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Utah). And he won at least 40 per cent of the vote everywhere except in Oklahoma and Hillary Clinton's former home state of Arkansas. This is an astonishingly strong showing for a freshman senator challenging one of his party's senior figures.

Sceptics will point out that these are Democratic primaries, in which the electorate is more liberal and, the thinking goes, more racially tolerant than in a general election. It is also true that blacks have had trouble being elected statewide in America. Obama is only the second black elected to the US Senate in the past 35 years, and only two blacks have been elected governor during the same period, or ever.

Yet the reasons for the political marginalisation of blacks are complicated and have less to do with lingering racism than with the unintended consequences of measures designed to combat racism.

For a century after the Civil War, blacks' political preferences, where they were able to vote at all, changed roughly in tune with those of the nation as a whole. Blacks were loyal Republicans between the 1860s and the 1920s, a period during which the Republicans were the dominant party nationwide. They moved toward the Democrats during the New Deal era, as did the country. In 1964 blacks voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, who beat Republican Barry Goldwater in a landslide.

Ever since, blacks have voted solidly Democratic, even as the country as a whole turned Republican. That is in large part because Johnson earned black loyalty by pressing Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while Republicans lost it by nominating Goldwater, a senator who had opposed the act, albeit on libertarian grounds rather than racial ones.

Few blacks have been elected to statewide office in part because of another landmark civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Eventually this law was construed as requiring a practice known as racial gerrymandering, the creation of majority-black congressional and state legislative districts. Republicans, normally cool to racial quotas, embraced them in this case out of self-interest: concentrating black (mostly Democratic) voters in their own districts made neighbouring districts easier for Republican candidates to win.

Racial gerrymandering had the desired effect of increasing the number of blacks in the House of Representatives and state legislatures. But it meant that in order to be elected to office, a young black politician did not have to appeal outside his race.

Thus blacks in the house tend to be more left-wing, and more focused on racial matters, than their colleagues, even fellow Democrats. This positions them poorly to face statewide electorates, which are more racially and ideologically diverse.

Obama, a member of the Illinois Senate when he was elected to the US Senate in 2004, has already beaten these odds. In 2006, two black men who departed from the ideological norm were nominated for the Senate. Although both lost, their experience belies the notion that there is a significant racist vote in the US.

Representative Harold Ford was a moderate Democrat from Tennessee, a state so Republican that George W. Bush carried it in 2000 over favourite son Al Gore. Ford lost to Republican Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, by 51 per cent to 48 per cent, the best showing by a Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee since 1990.

Lieutenant-governor Michael Steele was a Republican from heavily Democratic Maryland. He lost to representative Ben Cardin by 54 per cent to 44 per cent. Although 2006 was a Democratic year, Steele's percentage was the highest by a Republican in a Maryland US senate race since 1980.

Steele actually did better among white voters (50 per cent) than Cardin (48 per cent). But blacks voted party over race, choosing Cardin by a 74 per cent to 25 per cent margin. Steele polled very well among groups that, according to common prejudice, would not be expected to favour a black candidate. He won 94 per cent of Republicans, 83 per cent of conservatives, 63 per cent of white Protestants and 60 per cent of rural voters.

If Obama is the nominee, he will win a far smaller percentage of Republicans and conservatives than Steele did. But that is because he is a liberal Democrat, not because he is black. If anything, his race will be an asset, boosting turnout among blacks and attracting whites who like the idea of moving beyond race by electing a black president.

There is no guarantee that Obama will be the next president of the US. He still has to vanquish Clinton and voters in November may yet conclude he is too liberal or too inexperienced for the highest office in the land, or that the cult of personality that has arisen around him is a bit creepy, or simply that they like John McCain better.

To suggest that he cannot win because he is black, however, is to ignore how far he has already come, and how far the US has come in overcoming its history of racism.



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

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

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


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Monday, February 11, 2008

Archbishop, you've committed treason

My text for today is "Hold fast that which is good": 1 Thessalonians 5:21. These are words I heard so regularly in prayers at my Anglican girls' school that I have been unable to forget them. I draw them to the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to have forgotten them. At least, he seems to be losing his grip on what is good in this country and, indeed, to be throwing it away with both hands in his curious suggestion that aspects of sharia should be recognised in English law.

In an interview on Radio 4 last Thursday, Rowan Williams said that the introduction of parts of Islamic law here would help to maintain social cohesion and seems unavoidable. Sharia courts exist already, he pointed out. We should "face up to the fact" that some British citizens do not relate to the British legal system, he said, and that Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty".

What he went on to say was more astonishing. He explained to the interviewer, in his gentle, wordy way, that a lot of what is written on this confusing subject suggests "the ideal situation is one in which there is one law and only one law for everybody". He went on: "That principle is an important pillar of our social identity as a western liberal democracy." How true.

However, he continued: "It's a misunderstanding to suppose that that means people don't have other affiliations, other loyalties, which shape and dictate how they behave in society, and the law needs to take some account of that."

Stuff like this is bad for the blood pressure, but I listened on. "An approach to law which simply said there is one law for everybody and that is all there is to be said . . . I think that's a bit of a danger."

What danger? And to whom? The danger, surely, is rather the archbishop and those who think like him, who seem unwilling to hold fast that which is good. What is good and best and essential about our society ? it isn't merely a matter of "social identity" ? is the principle of equality before the law. That principle and its practice have made this country the outstandingly just and tolerant state it is; it is one of the last remaining forces for unity as well.

What is also good and essential to this country is the law itself. It has evolved over centuries from medieval barbarities into something, for all its faults, that is civilised. Our law expresses and maintains the best virtues of our society. Anybody who does not accept it does not belong here.

When other legal systems or other customs clash with ours, we prefer ours, to put it mildly. At least we should; what has troubled me for years is the way that exceptions and excuses tend to be made, in the name of multiculturalism, for practices of which we do not approve. Victoria Climbi‚'s terrible bruises were ignored because of assumptions about the cultural norms of African discipline. Last week it emerged that someone in government has sold the moral pass on polygamy: husbands with multiple wives in this country are now to get benefit payments for each wife.

In the midst of all this moral confusion and relativism, is the premier prelate in the land holding fast that which is good? Far from it. He is recommending multiculti legal cherry-picking, in which individuals would be free to choose the jurisdiction they preferred for certain matters. He even admits that his proposal introduces, "uncomfortably", the idea of a market in the law, "a competition for loyalty".

One encouraging sign is the almost universal fury that our foolish archbishop has aroused: he has miraculously united the irreconcilable in opposition to himself, from Christian extremists to mainstream Muslims, from Anglican vicars to godless Hampstead liberals, from Gordon Brown to backwoods Tories.

The archbishop and his few supporters insist that the media have misrepresented him and not many people have actually read the learned speech that he gave to a learned audience after his inflammatory radio interview. They are wrong. I haven't seen any serious misrepresentation in the media, and reading his speech several times doesn't exonerate him. Nor does it increase respect for his judgment, his command of English or his powers of ratiocination; he is woolly of face and woolly of mind.

In any case, you do not need to follow anybody's argument to understand that legally recognising aspects of sharia is either unnecessary or undesirable. If the aspects in question accord with English law (the Anglican archbishop is speaking of England, presumably), there is no need to offer any extra provision or recognition for religious courts. They are of no interest to the law. If they don't accord with English law, they are unacceptable and should be repudiated, or even prosecuted.

All this has nothing particularly to do with it being Islamic law at issue. The same would apply to any other religious law: Hindu, Mormon or wiccan. However, there is a lot to be said against sharia and the desire of a reported 40% of British Muslims to live under it. That explains, in part, the present outrage. Sharia is rightly feared here: it is disputed, sometimes primitive, grievously in need of reform and wholly unacceptable in Britain.

So what possessed this troublesome priest to stir up this predictable fury with his divisive and unnecessary suggestions? Why did he choose to speak not just in a quiet academic meeting but also in the public glare of The World at One? And cui bono? It has most certainly not been good for ordinary British Muslims, as they well understand. It has, however, given comfort to Muslim extremists, who will see this as the thin end of their Islamist wedge.

Williams's behaviour looks like vainglorious attention-seeking, but it is also something much worse. To seek to undermine our legal system and the values on which it rests, in a spirit of unnecessary appeasement to an alien set of values, is a kind of treason. It is a betrayal of all those who struggled and died here, over the centuries, for freedom and equality under the rule of law and of their courage in the face of injustice and unreason. Theirs is the good that we should hold fast and so of all people should the Archbishop of Canterbury. Otherwise, what is he for?


Talking CCTV cameras in Britain

Talking CCTV cameras have been installed at two Norwich parks with the aim of slashing anti-social behaviour. Eight cameras at Waterloo Park and one at Eaton Park have been connected to their own loudspeaker system and, through Norwich City Council's 33-screen, 500,000 pound CCTV control room, the voice of a camera operator will boom out across each park to tell off those causing a nuisance, committing low level crime and anti-social behaviour.

Norwich City Councillor Bert Bremner, responsible for community safety and cohesion, said: "It is a really positive thing for the city. "Waterloo Park has had its problems with attacks, graffiti and arson, especially at night-time, and we want to leave these places open for people to enjoy all the time. "These will be ways of embarrassing people and reminding them. Someone being told off for dropping litter will respond in a reasonable way, and I believe most people will say sorry and do something about it. There will be some that won't and, if the matter is serious, the police will follow it up."

The council, which used a 35,000 pound grant to pay for the installation of the high-tech talking system, is one of 20 areas to receive funding for the project ran in partnership with the government's Respect Unit. Six full-time operators man the cameras 24 hours a day and there is a direct communication link between the police and the CCTV control room. The talking cameras have been in operation for three months already and have been used by police on two occasions, including the theft of a woman's handbag.

"We want CCTV because it means people will use their parks and aren't frightened to be there," added Mr Bremner. "People are asking for it. We have surveyed the whole city and the response is incredibly positive. "We are not in a police state, we are in a democracy and people understand we are doing it for their safety. This will help make these places safe."

Although critics have likened the new talking system to the nightmare vision of the future George Orwell wrote about in his novel 1984, many people believe the advantages are worth it. The council's operations manager Gwyn Jenson said: "We have had some teething troubles, but that is because the system we are using is innovative and hasn't been used anywhere else in the country. "We are looking at the usage of the system and if it is a success, we'll look at expanding it further. But we think it is going to be successful and, if so, we will be looking to add the system to our other cameras across the city."

The council ran a poster competition with the city's schools to mark the launch and 12-year-old Hollie Rayfield-Brown from Colman Junior School came up with the winning design which will be placed at cameras in each park. Hollie was also given the chance to sit in Big Brother's chair and issue a telling off to a staged littering incident in Waterloo Park from the CCTV control room. Hollie said: "The poster took me about three lessons and I chose litter because if everyone dropped litter the world would be really messy. "I would wonder where the voice was coming from, but I think it's good because it makes people think twice about what they're doing."


The Color of Charity

Just when we thought we'd heard everything from the diversity police, here they come trying to prescribe even the color of charity. The California Assembly last week passed a bill sponsored by state Representative Joe Coto to require foundations with assets of more than $250 million to disclose the race, gender and sexual orientation of their trustees, staff, and even grantees. Look for this to arrive in a legislature near you.

A Berkeley-based advocacy group called the Greenlining Institute hatched this idea because, allegedly, racial minorities aren't well enough represented in California policy debates. John Gamboa, Greenlining's executive director, blames foundations for failing to donate enough money to "minority-led" think tanks and community groups and businesses, and he hopes this legislation will "shame" them into giving more. What counts as a minority-led organization? According to Greenlining, the board and staff should both be more than 50% minority.

This certainly takes the spoils system of racial preferences to a whole new level. Heretofore the government has tried to enforce a pigmentation principle in government jobs and contracts, and in private employment through the threat of lawsuits. But this is about telling private citizens how to give their own money away.

Mr. Gamboa says these philanthropies have tax-exempt status, so the public has a right to this information. "Minorities are paying a little more in taxes but are not receiving their fair share of benefits," he says. This seems an odd claim, since so much private charity is targeted explicitly at minorities. But it makes sense once you understand that what he means is that not enough of this cash is channelled through certain minority-run activist groups, such as, well, his own. It's no accident that such ethnic lobbies as the Black Business Association and the Centro Legal de la Raza also love this idea.

There's also the little problem of accountability and donor intent. Private citizens typically establish foundations with specific charitable goals in mind -- such as wetlands conservation, or medical research, or even promoting free market ideas. If donors are suddenly supposed to allocate grants by the color or sexual lifestyle of the grantee, that donor intent will be distorted at the very least. Presumably we want money for cancer research to support the most promising research ideas, not to be based on whether the labs have a rainbow coalition of Ph.Ds. The goal is to cure cancer.

Paul Brest is a former NAACP attorney and president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, California's largest foundation. And in a letter to the state Assembly on Mr. Coto's proposal, he put it this way: "[Our] fundamental operating principle is to direct our resources to organizations that have the promise of making the greatest difference in achieving [our philanthropic] goals. Thus, we do not focus on the racial composition of our grantees, but rather on how to achieve measurable impact in improving the lives of the communities that our grant recipients serve."

Lest you think this idea is too wacky to go anywhere, it is also expected to pass the California Senate and could soon land on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. The Greenlining staff is already lobbying House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel for Congressional hearings. Foundations and charities that don't want to start apportioning their donations by skin color, or between gays and heterosexuals, had better start describing this idea as the political shakedown it is.


Muslim mania

Islamophobia? It seems as if we are suffering more from Muslim-mania - an unhealthy obsession with all things Islamic, and a paranoid fixation with looking at the world from behind a veil. News that a leading awards panel has rejected a version of The Three Little Pigs for fear that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues" with the Muslim community, has been slammed as "multiculturalism gone mad". But similarly unhinged attitudes are now common in government reports.

Why does the Ministry of Defence think there is a shortfall in army recruitment? Apparently because of "prevalent views on current operations among ethnic minority communities". One might imagine that the Muslim youth of Bradford and Tower Hamlets packed the ranks before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What does the Home Office's official assessment see as the big problem it faces extending detention without charge to 42 days? Apparently, because Muslim community leaders expressed concerns about the impact on relations with the police. Presumably our Muslim-manic Home Office believes that burying habeas corpus would be OK if they were unconcerned.

Jacqui Smith has even officially renamed Islamic terrorism as "anti-Islamic activity". Never mind walking Hackney's mean streets, the Home Secretary appears most scared of treading on Muslim toes. All this can only reinforce divisions by treating Muslims as a race apart.

There are big Muslim communities in our cities - about 15 per where I live in northeast London - but the 2001 census put Muslims at just over 3 per cent of the population in England. How has 3 per cent of the public become a focus of public debate? This imbalance must have far less to do with "them" than with the rest of us. It reveals less about Islam than about the anxieties of mainstream British culture.

The clear and distinct identity of the Muslim community, embodied in the veil, makes it a visible symbol of the divisions and insecurities in Britain. But the obvious target is rarely the right one. Muslim-mania has become a sort of political veil behind which we can avoid facing up to some awkward home truths about our society.

Time to cure the body politic of this degenerative condition, stop obsessing about offensive images or playing word-games with terrorism, and start an honest discussion about the bigger questions facing society as a whole. What beliefs, if any, can we unite around today? What are we prepared to stand and fight for now? These questions remain unasked while our leaders tilt at the alternative straw men of Islamophobia and Islamofascism. The Three Little Pigs at least has a lesson about hiding behind straw to keep the wolf from the door.



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

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

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


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Uniquely Bizarre

The Arab-Israeli conflict definitely holds the record for the most bizarrely treated issue in modern history. It is easy to forget just how strange this situation is and the extent to which it is understood and handled so totally different from other, more rationally, perceived problems. Let's take a very simple example and examine the surrealistic, bizarre way in which normally sensible people and institutions respond.

On February 4, 2008, two terrorists attacked the quiet town of Dimona in southern Israel. One blew himself up near a toy store in a marketplace, killing an elderly woman and wounding forty people. The other was injured in the first blast and, before he could detonate his own bomb, was killed by a policeman.

At first, some Fatah officials claimed that one of the men was theirs, from that group's al-Aqsa Brigades; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the second belonged to them. Such are the bare facts. But from here it gets far stranger.

Apparently, Fatah and the PFLP did dispatch a two-man terrorist team, but they were apparently caught before crossing into Israel. At the exact same time, Hamas sent another duo, and they succeeded in reaching Dimona. Thus, through no fault of their own, Fatah and the PFLP did not actually commit the attack. But they tried and would have preferred to have carried out the terrorist assault. From here, a number of conclusions should be obvious:

1). The nature of Fatah. Why is Fatah, the organization routinely described as moderate by Western governments and media, involved in constant terrorism attempts--and sometimes successes--against Israel?

The al-Aqsa Brigades are an integral part of Fatah. The Brigades' founder and leader is Marwan Barghouti who has been head of Fatah on the West Bank. Many of the Brigades' gunmen are on the Fatah payroll in various ways, often as members of security forces which are supposed to prevent...terrorism.

Of course, the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and in effect Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas "condemned" the attack. That is, he said he didn't like it. But no member of Fatah has ever been expelled from the organization or fired from the security forces for involvement in terrorism. The PA's media regularly broadcasts incitement to commit terrorism. It does not transmit television, radio, and newspaper demands on its members not to attack Israeli civilians.

So is Fatah a terrorist organization? Well, apparently not. Granted, Abbas personally would prefer these attacks not occur. In the Fatah spectrum he is at the moderate end. Nevertheless, he presides over a group that is terrorist and which regards itself as fighting a war against Israel whose main tactic is deliberately murdering civilians. It uses its funds for this purpose and encourages such behavior through program and propaganda.

A Reuters' dispatch about the attack, when it was thought to be perpetrated by Fatah, said it was a challenge for Abbas to control "rebels within his own Fatah faction." The point, however, is that they aren't rebels at all but rather members in good standing who probably have more support in Fatah than does Abbas himself.

2). International policy toward Fatah. Therefore, if Fatah, and the PA, should not be shunned at least they should be subjected to serious international pressure, right? If only for their own good since presumably the world believes that they are better off if they abandon terrorism? Again, apparently not.

Fatah is the group which is being given well about $7 billion by international donors. And there are no strings attached to that aid: no measure of whether Fatah uses or advocates terrorism whatsoever. It gets the money no matter what it does. There are good reasons for the West to work with, and even aid, the PA and Fatah but there are no good reasons for that support and aid to be unconditional.

3). Motive. Fatah officials said the reason for the attack was to protest Israeli "aggression" against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. To begin with, of course, Israel is merely responding to rocket and mortar attacks on its territory. If these were to cease, Israel would never attack the Gaza Strip and continue to supply it--directly and indirectly--with its electricity. But if Israel were never to attack the Gaza Strip, the Hamas regime and its junior partners in the Gaza Strip would continue to attack Israel. By definition, then, they are the ones who are aggressive.

Incidentally, there are no sanctions whatsoever against the West Bank, which Fatah rules. Thus, Fatah is at war with Israel while Israel, despite periodic raids against individuals directly involved in terrorism, treats Fatah as a partner and urges countries to give it financial aid.

But there's more. Fatah is essentially coming to the aid of a Hamas regime which threw it out of Gaza and killed, sometimes in cold blood, and represses its own people. Why? Because Fatah and the PA are competing for Palestinian popular support in the Gaza Strip and the way that one does this is to murder Israeli civilians. This is a very telling definition of Palestinian politics, ideology, and public opinion.

4). The other terrorist killed was initially claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a radical Arab nationalist group, which also tried to kill Israeli civilians on that day. Recently, the founder and long-time head of the PFLP, George Habash, died. Habash was a veteran terrorist who practically invented airplane hijacking and international terrorism. Habash was lauded by the PA and Fatah at his funeral as a great hero of the movement.

Riyad al-Malki, the PA's Minister of Information and Foreign Affairs of the "moderate" PA is a PFLP member and ran the organization on the West Bank for many years. So when Western politicians and diplomats deal with the "moderate" PA they are talking directly to a man who played a leading role in a terrorist group which continues to make--and proudly claim responsibility for--terrorist attacks. Arab members of Israel's parliament went to the funeral and joined in the accolades for a terrorist whose group continues to murder their fellow citizens.

5). When the second terrorist fell as a result of the first explosion, Israeli medical personnel did not hesitate from rushing to help a man they thought was an Arab victim of the attack. Then the nurse saw the explosives' belt and realized the man she was trying to save was about to murder her. She had to run for her life, pulling along another wounded person, and yell for help from the police.

To summarize: Fatah acts as a terrorist group; the PA facilitates terrorism and includes people leading terrorist groups; Fatah views itself as an ally of a group that attacks it and murders its own members; the West aids Fatah and the PA with no attempt to discourage their behavior; Israeli Arab politicians side with terrorism; and Israelis, at the risk of their lives, try to save Arab lives, and would like to have a two-state solution if the other side is every able to make and implement such a deal. Oh, yes, and guess who much of the world blames for the conflict. As I said, uniquely bizarre.


Offensive traveller harassment by U.S. government bureaucrats

Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since 1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained at customs and her cellphone was taken from her purse. Her daughter, waiting outside San Francisco International Airport, tried repeatedly to call her during the hour and a half she was questioned. But after her phone was returned, Mango saw that records of her daughter's calls had been erased.

A few months earlier in the same airport, a tech engineer returning from a business trip to London objected when a federal agent asked him to type his password into his laptop computer. "This laptop doesn't belong to me," he remembers protesting. "It belongs to my company." Eventually, he agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited, said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of calling attention to himself.

Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, said her company laptop was seized by a federal agent as she was flying from Dulles International Airport to London in December 2006. Udy, a British citizen, said the agent told her he had "a security concern" with her. "I was basically given the option of handing over my laptop or not getting on that flight," she said.

The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras or cellphones. In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, plan to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including which rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices. They also want to know the boundaries for asking travelers about their political views, religious practices and other activities potentially protected by the First Amendment. The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts.

The lawsuit was inspired by two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics. Almost all involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background, many of whom, including Mango and the tech engineer, said they are concerned they were singled out because of racial or religious profiling.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman, Lynn Hollinger, said officers do not engage in racial profiling "in any way, shape or form." She said that "it is not CBP's intent to subject travelers to unwarranted scrutiny" and that a laptop may be seized if it contains information possibly tied to terrorism, narcotics smuggling, child pornography or other criminal activity.

The reason for a search is not always made clear. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives, which represents 2,500 business executives in the United States and abroad, said it has tracked complaints from several members, including Udy, whose laptops have been seized and their contents copied before usually being returned days later, said Susan Gurley, executive director of ACTE. Gurley said none of the travelers who have complained to the ACTE raised concerns about racial or ethnic profiling. Gurley said none of the travelers were charged with a crime.

"I was assured that my laptop would be given back to me in 10 or 15 days," said Udy, who continues to fly into and out of the United States. She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE's help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation.

ACTE last year filed a Freedom of Information Act request to press the government for information on what happens to data seized from laptops and other electronic devices. "Is it destroyed right then and there if the person is in fact just a regular business traveler?" Gurley asked. "People are quite concerned. They don't want proprietary business information floating, not knowing where it has landed or where it is going. It increases the anxiety level."

Udy has changed all her work passwords and no longer banks online. Her company, Radius, has tightened its data policies so that traveling employees must access company information remotely via an encrypted channel, and their laptops must contain no company information.

At least two major global corporations, one American and one Dutch, have told their executives not to carry confidential business material on laptops on overseas trips, Gurley said. In Canada, one law firm has instructed its lawyers to travel to the United States with "blank laptops" whose hard drives contain no data. "We just access our information through the Internet," said Lou Brzezinski, a partner at Blaney McMurtry, a major Toronto law firm. That approach also holds risks, but "those are hacking risks as opposed to search risks," he said.

The U.S. government has argued in a pending court case that its authority to protect the country's border extends to looking at information stored in electronic devices such as laptops without any suspicion of a crime. In border searches, it regards a laptop the same as a suitcase. "It should not matter . . . whether documents and pictures are kept in 'hard copy' form in an executive's briefcase or stored digitally in a computer. The authority of customs officials to search the former should extend equally to searches of the latter," the government argued in the child pornography case being heard by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

As more and more people travel with laptops, BlackBerrys and cellphones, the government's laptop-equals-suitcase position is raising red flags. "It's one thing to say it's reasonable for government agents to open your luggage," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. "It's another thing to say it's reasonable for them to read your mind and everything you have thought over the last year. What a laptop records is as personal as a diary but much more extensive. It records every Web site you have searched. Every e-mail you have sent. It's as if you're crossing the border with your home in your suitcase."

If the government's position on searches of electronic files is upheld, new risks will confront anyone who crosses the border with a laptop or other device, said Mark Rasch, a technology security expert with FTI Consulting and a former federal prosecutor. "Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded," he said. "Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line."

Hollinger said customs officers "are trained to protect confidential information."

Shirin Sinnar, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, said that by scrutinizing the Web sites people search and the phone numbers they've stored on their cellphones, "the government is going well beyond its traditional role of looking for contraband and really is looking into the content of people's thoughts and ideas and their lawful political activities." If conducted inside the country, such searches would require a warrant and probable cause, legal experts said.

Customs sometimes singles out passengers for extensive questioning and searches based on "information from various systems and specific techniques for selecting passengers," including the Interagency Border Inspection System, according to a statement on the CBP Web site. "CBP officers may, unfortunately, inconvenience law-abiding citizens in order to detect those involved in illicit activities," the statement said. But the factors agents use to single out passengers are not transparent, and travelers generally have little access to the data to see whether there are errors.

Although Customs said it does not profile by race or ethnicity, an officers' training guide states that "it is permissible and indeed advisable to consider an individual's connections to countries that are associated with significant terrorist activity." "What's the difference between that and targeting people because they are Arab or Muslim?" Cole said, noting that the countries the government focuses on are generally predominantly Arab or Muslim.

It is the lack of clarity about the rules that has confounded travelers and raised concerns from groups such as the Asian Law Caucus, which said that as a result, their lawyers cannot fully advise people how they may exercise their rights during a border search. The lawsuit says a Freedom of Information Act request was filed with Customs last fall but that no information has been received.

Kamran Habib, a software engineer with Cisco Systems, has had his laptop and cellphone searched three times in the past year. Once, in San Francisco, an officer "went through every number and text message on my cellphone and took out my SIM card in the back," said Habib, a permanent U.S. resident. "So now, every time I travel, I basically clean out my phone. It's better for me to keep my colleagues and friends safe than to get them on the list as well."

Udy's company, Radius, organizes business trips for 100,000 travelers a day, from companies around the world. She says her firm supports strong security measures. "Where we get angry is when we don't know what they're for."


Not Dead Yet

BOOK REVIEW of: "Decline and Fall: Europe's Slow Motion Suicide", by Bruce S. Thornton. Review by Jacob Laksin

It used to be said that when it came to worldviews, Americans were from Mars and Europeans were from Venus. But a new school of thought posits a different role for our continental counterparts. Europe, in this schema, is more like a dying star: a once-brilliant civilization whose best days lie behind it, that has lost the internal strength to endure, and that is headed toward oblivion. Bruce Thornton, a classics professor at California State University, is the latest to take up this thesis. In Decline and Fall, he makes the case that a number of factors-including unsustainable welfare states, dwindling birthrates, undiscriminating immigration laws, a society disconnected from the transcendent truths of Christianity, and a failure to confront the gathering threat of Islamic jihadism aggressively-are leading Europe to commit "slow-motion suicide."

Government largesse may seem an unlikely source of civilizational decline, but Thornton shows that it is indeed cause for concern. Europeans have long favored generous welfare entitlements as a corrective to allegedly ruthless, American-style capitalism, but they can no longer afford them. And solutions aren't forthcoming. A massive influx of immigrants from the Middle East, unassimilated into European society, contributes little to economic growth. Meanwhile, tax receipts, required to sustain social-welfare benefits, may dry up as Europe ages. As The Economist recently reported, the projected median age in Europe in 2050 will be 53, meaning that a large population of young workers will be necessary to support the older generation's exit from the economy.

Unfortunately, there may not be enough workers. Thornton identifies another sign of Europe's fall from prominence: its ongoing baby bust. Despite policies like paid leave for new parents, benefit checks for children until the age of 18, and subsidies for child care, European births remain below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Combine this population decline with a boom in Muslim immigration from the Middle East, and you have the makings of what scholar Bat Ye'or has called "Eurabia."

Thornton is right to underscore the defects of Europe's immigration policies, but his analysis might have been more compelling had he grappled with contrary evidence. In his 2004 book The Empty Cradle, for instance, demographer Phillip Longman presented data that birthrates were also falling in the Middle East. Indeed, according to some projections, by 2025 the Middle East as a whole may have fertility rates of only about 2.08. Algerian president Houari Boumedienne famously promised the Islamic world a victory that would emerge "from the wombs of our women," but the wombs, it seems, are not cooperating.

Thornton's assertion that religion, notably Christianity, is a receding force in European life stands on firmer statistical ground. Europe's historic cathedrals overflow with tourists, not parishioners, he rightly observes. Filling the space vacated by traditional religion are "pseudo-religions" like environmentalism, a movement that comes complete with its own apocalyptic prophecies (global warming), its own promises of salvation (through government regulation and other intrusions into the free market), and its own clerisy (Europe's electorally marginal yet influential Green parties). Related to the decline of faith is the rise of multiculturalism. In equal measure admiring of Third World cultures and disdainful of the West, it renders Europeans "incapable of defending their civilization against those who would destroy it."

Thornton leaves no doubt as to the identity of these enemies. The European Union, he writes, is now home to between 15 and 20 million Muslims, many of whom are not only unassimilated to the broader culture but also openly and sometimes violently hostile to it. Some of the blame, he acknowledges, must fall on European countries. Freeing up their economies might have given immigrants a chance to prosper, but they opted instead to throw money at the immigration problem in the form of welfare programs. Rage-filled ethnic ghettos like France's mainly Muslim banlieues are the unintended result.

But the fault lies, too, with the immigrants themselves. Unafraid of controversy, Thornton contends that a leading cause of violence among Muslim immigrants is their faith. Not distortions of Islam, but "core Islamic beliefs" about unbelievers and the obligations of jihad, are what drive Islamic extremists to abhor and, on occasion, attack their adoptive countries. In support of this view, which will not endear him to the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its European equivalents, Thornton marshals a bevy of well-known yet determinedly ignored statistics. For example, 40 percent of British Muslims approve of introducing sharia in the country. Nearly as many consider British culture to be a threat to the Muslim way of life. Anticipating the familiar objection that a "small minority of extremists" has hijacked the peaceful Muslim faith, Thornton calls attention to the troubling fact that 13 percent of British Muslims-some 200,000 people-say that they support violence against those who have offended them or their faith. Between one-third and one-fourth of French, Spanish, and British Muslims have "sometimes" supported suicide bombers. The usual tactic of those challenged with these details is to level charges of "Islamophobia" against their critics. Thornton justifiably dismisses such reactions as "smear terms used to demonize the unexceptional and empirically verifiable notion that in many respects Western culture is superior to others."

Less convincing is Thornton's suggestion that only a return to religious roots can empower Europe to confront Islamic extremism. If it is true that secularists are the main obstacle to a robust defense of the West, how does one explain such voices as Christopher Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wafa Sultan? Outspoken atheists, they also happen to be some of the most forceful champions of the liberal West against its jihadist enemies. Christian leaders and churches, furthermore, have sometimes been unreliable allies in this cause. Thornton hints as much when he notes that the archbishop of Canterbury, during a 2005 visit to Cairo, offered a groveling apology for the introduction of Christian hymns and prayers into remote parts of the world, lamenting that foreign peoples had been made "cultural captives" of the West. (This as opposed to the actual captives whom Islamic militants are so fond of beheading.)

A skeptic also might question Thornton's pessimism. France, the onetime refuge of Ayatollah Khomeini, has much to answer for when it comes to appeasing Islamic extremism, true, but its internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, is one of the most effective counterterrorism forces in the world. Its broad powers of surveillance, including preventive detention of terrorist suspects without charge, far exceed those of intelligence agencies in the United States.

Or consider Britain. Thornton provides some astonishing examples of willful ignorance-for example, London police commissioner Sir Ian Blair's sanguine assurance that "there is nothing wrong with being an Islamic fundamentalist." Yet it is mistaken to assume that this approach governs all police actions. Police procedures issued by the British Home Office stress that "some international terrorist groups are associated with particular identities," and the focus of surveillance efforts on men of "South Asian" origin leaves little doubt about which identities they have in mind. Italian counterterrorism investigators, similarly, recently cracked down on an Islamic terrorist network by focusing their efforts on Italy's North African immigrants. Notwithstanding the idiocies that public officials feel compelled to utter, for much of Europe's counterterrorism establishment there is something very wrong indeed with being an Islamic fundamentalist.

Thornton does note in passing that European countries have "started to change course" by deporting radical preachers, placing extremist mosques under surveillance, and strengthening assimilation policies. But in a book that sets out to chart Europe's possible demise, these efforts at self-preservation would seem to deserve more than the single paragraph that Thornton accords them.

Such shortcomings are the exception, however, in an otherwise provocative and illuminating book. Thornton's is not an entirely novel argument-writers like Bat Ye'or, Bruce Bawer, Claire Berlinski, and Melanie Phillips have covered similar territory, and Thornton acknowledges a debt to their work-but his spirited rhetoric and refreshing disdain for political correctness make Decline and Fall a pleasure to read. And if it turns out that rumors of Europe's imminent extinction are slightly exaggerated, then Thornton, an avowed admirer of its "magnificent civilization," won't be disappointed.


Equal Rights Nonsense

Now that the excitement of Super Tuesday has passed, we should remember the kinds of policies and principles at stake. Exhibit A: three pieces of legislation pending in Congress that would dramatically increase the liability of private companies for alleged acts of employment discrimination. The first would resurrect the discredited idea of "comparable worth." The second would add various sexual orientations to the classifications protected from employment discrimination. The third is a plaintiffs' bar wish list, aimed mostly at overturning cases it lost in the Supreme Court.

There are actually two versions of comparable worth legislation, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The former is co-sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama; the principal sponsor of the latter is Sen. Hillary Clinton (Mr. Obama is a co-sponsor). Both would push companies to set wages based not on supply and demand -- that is the free market -- but on some notion of social utility. The goal is to ensure that jobs performed mostly by men (say, truck drivers) are not paid more than those performed mostly by women (paralegals, perhaps).

President Ronald Reagan correctly called comparable worth "a cockamamie idea." A great lesson of economic theory, not to mention historical experience, is that government-set wages and prices not only curtail freedom, but lead to shortages, surpluses and market disruptions.

The second bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, passed the House of Representatives last fall. It would prohibit discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." In short, private-sector employers who have religious or other objections to homosexuality would be told their moral views lack legitimacy.

The Bush administration has announced its opposition, noting that the bill raises constitutional problems and "turns on imprecise and subjective terms that would make interpretation, compliance, and enforcement extremely difficult" and is "virtually certain to encourage burdensome litigation." Sen. John McCain is opposed to such legislation; Sens. Obama and Clinton are supporters. Sen. Edward Kennedy is expected to introduce the bill later this year in the Senate.

The third measure -- the Civil Rights Act of 2008, introduced on Jan. 24 by Sen. Kennedy (co-sponsored by Sens. Clinton and Obama) -- is the plaintiffs' bar wish list. It would, among other provisions, eliminate existing damage caps on lawsuits brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; add compensatory and punitive damages to the Fair Labor Standards Act; and push states into waiving sovereign immunity in individual claims involving monetary damages. It would also give authority to the National Labor Relations Board to award back pay to undocumented workers.

In addition, this bill would make it easier to bring and win "disparate impact" lawsuits under a variety of statutes, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Disparate impact claims need not allege that the criteria an employer uses to hire workers are discriminatory on their face, or discriminatorily applied, or adopted with discriminatory intent. Disproportionate results are enough. The threat of such lawsuits not only decreases productivity by pressuring private (and public) entities to abandon perfectly legitimate selection criteria, but also encourages the use of surreptitious quotas. Both of these outcomes, needless to say, are perfectly fine with the civil rights lobby and its lawyers.

Other bad legislation is pending. There's the Fair Pay Restoration Act (aka the Civil Rights Pay Fairness Act), co-sponsored by Sens. Clinton and Obama, and designed to overturn last year's Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. If passed, it would effectively eliminate any statute of limitations in many employment-discrimination cases. There's the Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act, designed to overturn at least four Supreme Court decisions about the ADA and make a bad statute even worse.

There are some good legislative proposals as well. One would prevent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from suing employers who require employees to speak English. Another would require federally funded universities to reveal whether and how they use racial and ethnic admission preferences. But there are many in Congress whose every instinct is for the central government to intervene in the market whenever a decision offends their personal sense of "fairness."

This is astonishing in a republic established on the basis of limited government and a free market. Lamentable, but tolerable -- so long as there is a critical mass of senators and representatives who disagree, or a president willing to veto the resulting legislation. That's something to bear in mind later this year.



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

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

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


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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Celebrate Diversity! Even if it Kills You

A friend has sent me a link to Andrew Bostom's Blog with the story of Major Stephen Couglin's reinstatement. Bostom includes a link to Coughlin's seminal and compendious Thesis on Jihad- all 329 pages of it!

I have to confess, I don't have the will power, or the spare time to read it all now; but I've dipped into it enough to see that this is a very important document. Of course, I flipped directly to the last chapter (this is why I never enjoyed reading mysteries). I was charmed to see that the title of that "pay-off" chapter "Disarmed in the War of Ideas" is very similar to a my phrase "Unilateral Cultural Disarmament". I'll be reading and ransacking this one for a very long time. Colleague Lazar at Augean Stables has a very good initial pass at it here.

I won't spoil all the fun for you "grinders" who will read it cover to cover and in order but I have to point out this elegant and telling observation from page 230. Coughlin is writing about how the Caliphate threat in continuing to sneak up on us.

"Under the Current Approach, this entire line of inquiry has been effectively shut down by objections that do not extend beyond surface assertions that "Islam does not stand for this" or "there are a thousand different interpretations of Islamic law" (so what's the point in looking?)."

Has anyone here not read Mark Steyn's America Alone? (If not, you can just scroll down a little and click on the Amazon book icon for it on the left hand margin of this screen to order) I was immediately taken by how similar the above sentence is to one of the quotes that I remember best from Steyn's book.

".contemporary multiculturalism absolves one from knowing anything about other cultures as long as one feels warm and fluffy toward them. After all, if it's grossly judgmental to say one culture's better than another, why bother learning about the differences? "Celebrate diversity" with a uniformity of ignorance."

And its not just celebrating diversity. It is the imbecilic prejudice against their own culture that come along with it that is more astounding and perilous. Both of these quotes point directly at the Achilles Heel of civilization. This is the very same mechanism by which people who call themselves feminists delude themselves that abstract concepts like "the glass ceiling in Corporate America" should be a greater concern for western women than the savage brutalization of women under Shari'a law. It is embodied too in the morally bankrupt blindness that calls Israel an apartheid pariah and attempts to degrade her ability to survive in the face of regimes that really do practice apartheid and murder.

This is yet another example of how Multiculturalism is actually a very subtle but corrosive form of racism. No liberal or progressive would be caught dead saying that "All those (choose one: Black people, Asians, Indians, etc.) look alike to me. So why is it ok to say that, "It makes no difference what they think or do, we love all those other cultures without discrimination, even though we can't really tell one from another and we will only criticize ours?"

It is a relatively new idea, fostered by historical revisionists, that the ascendance of Western Civilization was a product of colonialism, imperialism and cultural xenophobia. It's a guilty reaction in which only the coddled, directionless, morally deficient grandchildren of real achievers and visionaries can afford to indulge. Their lives, rendered too safe and too comfortable, spend all of their time and energy finding fault with the system that has given them those comforts and that protection while, at the same time, they remain too lazy, self-absorbed and spiritually flaccid to even notice the faults that doomed the other less-successful cultures that western civilization superseded; much less contemplate the threats posed by the rising challenge of Caliphate Islam.


American Heart Association biased against men

Ladies, when was the last time you visited a nursing home? Did you wonder why nearly all the residents were women? The reason is simple - men meet their maker 5 years sooner than the fairer sex.

It wasn't always that way. Back in 1920, men and women had almost identical life spans. But the looming threat of heart disease widened that gap. American men now have heart disease death rates that are 50% higher than women's. (The federal report Health, United States, 2007, Table 29 reveals the death rates are 268 in men, compared to only 177 in women).

Most people have never heard of Lois Verbrugge, a researcher at the University of Michigan. A few years ago Dr. Verbrugge did a study on elderly women. She found that compared to their married counterparts, single elderly women are four times more likely to end up in a nursing home. Which means after your husband dies of heart disease, you are four times more likely to be removed from your home and taken to an institutional setting to spend your last days in medicated bliss. That's what happened to several ladies I've known.

And what about men who keel over from heart disease in their 40s and 50s? What happens to their wives and children?

Last year my friend Bill died from a debilitating heart problem. His wife never wanted to be the family breadwinner. That's what she's doing now. And Randy died suddenly while jogging one morning. His two sons, now in their 20s, will never again experience a father's love. So men are at far greater risk of heart disease, and their premature deaths portend institutionalization and financial hardship for their wives.

You'd think the American Heart Association would have programs designed especially to help men. They don't. But not to worry, the AHA does have a gender-specific program - "Go Red for Women." That's right, the Heart Association has designated this Friday, February 1 as National Wear Red Day. Here's the latest fashion tip from the AHA: "National Wear Red Day has its own dress code. Wear your favorite red clothes or accessory - a red blouse, a red dress pin, a fabulous red handbag." That's not all: "Put on red lipstick, or sport a red tie and red socks. Go red in your own fashion show to show your support for women and the fight against heart disease." [www.goredforwomen.com/national_wear_red_day.aspx] Really folks, I'm not making this up!

So when you pay a visit to grandma at the nursing home this weekend, she's gonna feel a whole lot better if you're sporting red socks and red shoes. And that widow who lives down the street - be sure to remind her to pull out that fabulous red handbag she stowed away after the funeral. To complete the irony of Go Red for Women, show her a tribute card, courtesy of the AHA: "Go Red for Women - American Heart Association - A donation has been made in honor of [fill in name of former husband, father, brother, or son]."

Seriously, when it comes to the real needs of real women, it's obvious the pointy-headed execs at the AHA don't have a clue. So it's up to women bring the Heart Association to its senses. Call Mr. Cass Wheeler, head of the American Heart Association. His number is 1-800-242-8721. Send a message to the PR department: elizabeth.moreno@heart.org [elizabeth.moreno-at-heart.org]. Or just call your local heart association office. We all want to know how the American Heart Association answers these two questions:

1. Why does the Heart Association want to deprive aging women of the main source of their financial support?

2. Why does the AHA want to send more elderly women to nursing homes?

And while we're at it, why don't we ask if they believe men's hearts count for less?


Civil unions OK but weddings out for homosexual couples in Australia

The ACT is Australia's equivalent of DC

Gay civil unions are acceptable but an ACT bill that would allow couples to hold a public ceremony has been rejected by the Federal Government. Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said clauses in the ACT's civil partnerships bill allowing couples to mark their union with a ceremony were unacceptable. "We think a civil unions register along the lines of Tasmania is appropriate," Mr McClelland told The Australian newspaper. "The ceremonial aspects of the ACT model were inappropriate."

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said this week the territory would not back from its plans to allow gay couples some form of ceremony. "We will stand by our commitment to our community for the legal option for a ceremony - that is our position," Mr Corbell told The Australian. Mr McClelland declined to say whether the Rudd government was prepared to override territory legislation if the ACT defied the commonwealth and passed the bill.

The government has previously opposed gay civil unions and prefers a system of state-based relationship registers. A relationship register differs from a civil union in that it encompasses a broader range of relationships, including non-intimate ones, such as carer relationships.


Australian anti-spanking minister spanked own kids

The minister whose disgraced department broke up a family because a grandmother smacked her grandson has admitted he smacks his own children. The startling admission by embattled Community Services Minister Kevin Greene also puts the father of six in direct conflict with his own department's rule, which is that children should never be smacked.

The child protection sector is in an uproar following yesterday's revelation by The Daily Telegraph that children had been removed from their grandparents' home because the grandmother smacked her six-year-old grandson for playing in a stormwater drain. They were official DOCS [child welfare Dept.] carers and had looked after the three brothers and sister several times in the past six years.

Despite DOCS listing smacking as a "risk of harm" offence that must be reported, Mr Greene said spanking could have its place. "My wife and I have raised six children together. Three are now adults, two are in their late teens and our youngest is 12," he said. "There were times when our judgment has been that it was appropriate to smack the children. But we've moved past those days of toddler tantrums and disobedient kids." Mr Greene also said he supported the law in NSW that allows smacking but outlaws excessive physical punishment. "While discipline is a personal judgement for parents, one thing is paramount - the child's health and safety should never be threatened by the course of action parents take."

Foster care workers yesterday were asking how DOCS can punish foster carers for doing something their own minister has condoned. "It puts a lot of confusion in carers' minds when he is saying, 'Do as I say, not as I do'," Foster Care Association president Mary-Jane Beach said. "Some carers would agree that an occasional smack on the bottom doesn't hurt and they find the department's no smacking stipulation difficult. Why would you give a mixed message like that?"

The woman whose grandchildren have been taken away from her was furious at the apparent contradiction. "It is like the rich and the poor; you have one set of rules for one and one for another," Catherine (not her real name) said. "It was just to teach our grandson about getting down the drain. "If it's good for him (Greene) why isn't it good enough for the other parents and grandparents who only do it when a child mucks up?"

The fresh controversy comes amid calls to elevate the Community Services - currently a junior portfolio - to a senior Cabinet position. Mr Greene is a first-time minister accused of being out of his depth in his handling of recent child death cases. Andrew McCallum, from the Association of Children Welfare Agencies, said DOCS was not given enough importance by the Government.


Saying sorry for a great crime that never happened

By Australian columnist Andrew Bolt

It's over, and all I can do now is offer a sincere sorry of my own. You see, no matter what, a sorry to the "stolen generations" will be read out in Parliament next week by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Rudd will say that sorry to "stolen" children no one can actually find, but few commentators and politicians seem to mind. Or care to notice. Most Liberals, cowed and cringing, will just back whatever Rudd says. Most journalists, teary over their own goodness, will praise it. And most Australians will sigh with relief, hoping a bit of well-meaning humbuggery will let us "move on". So it's over. The only thing I can hope for now is that if Rudd must read out an apology, he reads out a compromise like mine.

What has divided us so far is that Rudd is a sentimentalist who wants to say sorry regardless of the facts about the "stolen generations". But I am a rationalist who can only say a sorry that respects the truth - and no apology I've read, including the ones on this page yesterday, comes close. Mine does - not that I have much hope that even this last appeal to reason will work. To Rudd and other Say-Sorries it simply doesn't matter that there's no evidence any Australian government had a policy to steal children just because they were Aboriginal. See the evidence they've ignored.

In Victoria, for instance, the state Stolen Generations Taskforce concluded there had been "no formal policy for removing children". Ever. In the Northern Territory, the Federal Court found no sign of "any policy of removal of part-Aboriginal children such as that alleged". In Tasmania, the Stolen Generations Alliance admitted "there were no removal policies as such". In South Australia, the Supreme Court last year found no government policy to steal Aboriginal children there, either. Rather, stealing black children had been "without legal authority, beyond power and contrary to authoritative legal advice".

But none of that evidence matters to Rudd. Nor does it matter that no one has yet named even 10 of these 100,000 children we are told were stolen - stolen not because we wanted to save children in trouble, but because we wanted to "keep White Australia pure", as "stolen generations" author Prof Robert Manne put it.

Name just 10, I asked Manne in debates in print and on stage. He couldn't. Name just 10, I asked Stolen Generations Alliance spokesman Brian Butler last week on Adelaide radio. He wouldn't. Name just 10, I now ask the Prime Minister. He won't.

Even the Liberals, now desperate to seem more "compassionate", seem to know they will be saying sorry for a great crime that never happened. Here is Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, urging Rudd only to not say "stolen": "(I)t has pejorative connotations particularly for several generations of very good men and women from churches and other organisations who believed they were doing the right thing in removing these children."

But if these people really did steal Aboriginal children from good homes just to smash their culture and "keep White Australia pure", how on earth could they be "very good men and women"? That's like condemning slavery while praising slavers as "very good men" who only meant well.

But not even that matters. Rudd's apology is happening and all I can hope is that he can still hear a little voice telling him he has a duty to truth, and to the Aboriginal children today who will suffer if he lies. Because suffer they will. Already we read almost monthly of Aboriginal children who are bashed, raped or killed because social workers and magistrates are too scared by the "stolen generations" to "steal" them.

So, what is my own apology? No apology can do us good, dividing us by race and suffocating us with victimhood. But mine, I hope, can avoid most harm. My sorry will acknowledge that many Aboriginal children were indeed betrayed by their walk-away parents, white and black, and even by some institutions pledged to help them. But my sorry won't make our children ashamed for a society that still offers us all - Aborigines included - more freedom, health, justice and security than any before. My sorry will also have one other great virtue you'll see in almost none of the dozens of others suggested. Mine, at least, will tell no lies. That is because I have done what few others will: I have checked the histories of scores of the "stolen" children asking for this sorry, to see what it is we should be sorry for.

I've asked, for instance, why I'd say sorry to Lowitja O'Donoghue, the Stolen Generations Alliance's co-patron. O'Donoghue in fact was dumped at a children's home by her footloose Irish father, to be educated by missionaries.

For what should I say sorry to Peter Gunner, who sought compensation in the Federal Court for being "stolen"? Gunner, in fact, was sent to a home in Alice Springs with the written permission of his mother, to get a schooling.

For what should I say sorry to Topsy, named by Manne as a "stolen" child? Topsy, in fact, was just 12 when she was found, riddled with syphilis and far from hospitals, schools or police, with her parents unknown. For what should I say sorry to Mary Hooker, another Stolen Generations Alliance spokeswoman? Hooker, in fact, was removed with three of her 11 siblings because welfare officers thought she was neglected and "I was raped by my brother".

For what should I say sorry to Lorna Cubillo, who claimed compensation? Cubillo, in fact, was just seven, with no parents or even known guardian when she was found at a missionary-run ration camp in the bush, and sent to a home and school in Darwin.

For what should I say sorry to Molly, portrayed in Rabbit Proof Fence as a girl stolen to "breed out the colour"? Molly in fact was taken into care with the agreement of her tribal chief after warnings that she was in danger of sexual abuse and had been ostracised as a half-caste by her tribe.

For what should I say sorry to Archie Roach, famous for his song Took the Children Away? Roach, in fact, said yesterday he was removed when he was three because "word got around" he was neglected -- his parents weren't there, and his sister was trying to care for him.

For what should I say sorry to all the "stolen children" like these - activist Robert Riley, whose mother dumped him at a home; author Mudrooroo Narogin, who turned out to be neither stolen nor Aboriginal; claimant Joy Williams, whose mother gave away her illegitimate girl; bureaucrat Charlie Perkins, whose mother asked a boarding school to help her gifted boy; and "stolen generations" leader Annette Peardon, whose mother was jailed for three months for neglecting her children. And here's the sorry I say to them:

What makes us Australians helps make us human. As Australians, we believe in the dignity of each person, regardless of their race or place of birth, of their colour or creed. We believe that no one is a stranger to us, beyond our sympathy and our help. And we believe it is in offering such sympathy and help that we best realise our humanity.

But we are sorry. We are sorry that at times we have not as a nation, or as individuals, lived up to those ideals. We are but human, and, as all humans do, have failed and fail still. As a nation, we are sorry for those children that we harmed, when we meant to help. We are sorry that in helping many, we did not help all.

We have failed at other times as well. We are sorry for having taken, when we could have shared. We are sorry we have treated some as strangers, when in truth this is their sacred home.

But we are a people whose sins are small when set beside our virtues, which are great. We have as a nation desired to do good, just as we desire it now. We therefore commit ourselves anew to the purpose with which this nation was founded - to give every citizen the right and opportunity to live their life in peace, honour and freedom, under laws common to us all.

But more - we recommit ourselves, today especially, to our young, our lost, our helpless and our poor. They will not find us wanting as some have found us wanting before. This will be the measure of our repentance.

For our failings we are sorry. But for our ideals we are not. What has divided us can be overcome, and with the goodwill that compels us to say sorry today, overcome we surely will.


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

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

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


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Friday, February 08, 2008

Britain is welcoming to minorities. They in turn should respect Britain's Christian culture

By Daniel Finkelstein

Tu B'shvat. Latkes. Kinloss. Simchat Torah. The four questions. Viennas. Halacha dictates that you should affix your mezuzah on the right side of the door in the upper third of the doorpost within approximately three inches of the opening. Chrain.

If you are not Jewish my list will have lost you by now. Other people's religions are mystifying. The son of God - who came up with that one? The Eucharist - what's that when it's at home? Fortunately you don't need to understand any of the words with which I started this column. (Although I recommend finding out about latkes. And Viennas. Oh, and chrain.) If you insist on learning - because you think it might come up in a quiz or something - then by all means go ahead. But not on my account. All I really need you to do is leave me alone to get on with it.

And I don't doubt that you will. That's what I love about Britain. Our country is a very tolerant, quiet, modest, hospitable sort of place. We try and leave others in peace and expect to be left in peace ourselves. When a mass murderer is discovered in our midst, the neighbours still murmur with approval: "He kept himself to himself." You know what else I love? That none of you will have questioned my right to use the word "our" about this country, even though I am the son of immigrants naturalised not long before I was born. Imprisoned by communists and Nazis, expelled from their homes, seeing their relatives die, forced to start again with nothing, my parents found peace and freedom in this country. Because of its traditions and its culture. Because there is something precious about this place.

Now I'll tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like you to look after it. I'd like you to stand up for the principles that make this country what it is, even when it's mildly awkward to do so. And an awkward case has just arisen, as it happens. So I can test your resolve. Over in East Oxford, the Central Mosque wants to issue a call to prayer by loudspeaker three times a day. As the mosque's spokeman, Sardar Rana, put it: "The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions." He then added, without, I think, trying to be funny: "I don't think it would disturb anybody."

You can see why this is awkward, can't you? The first, and correct, instinct of the Englishman is to see if we can accommodate the request without any fuss. It is, however, hard to see how this is possible. With the best will in the world, the muezzin's electronically enhanced recitation is going to be an intrusion.

Yet I don't think it's enough to confine one's objection purely to the noise. Let me dispense with a couple of minor - but in my view incorrect - arguments about the call to prayer. There's nothing all that wrong with the words that would be recited. Apart from anything else it would be in Arabic. And yes, the muezzin will announce that God is great, but fortunately we are entitled in Britain to disagree. I don't accept either the idea that this call to prayer would create a Muslim ghetto. Nor would I fear such a thing. It is natural that Muslims want to live near each other anyway, just as Jews do. And that they will wish to live near the mosque.

These arguments are diversions from the important principle involved. And that concerns this country's status as a Christian country with an established Church. Perhaps you feel reluctant to use this argument - feeling it a departure from inclusiveness. Well, I don't think you should be reluctant in the slightest. Immigrants and their children in this country receive a fantastic deal. We are able to practise our religion in peace. We can openly enjoy our culture. Our colleagues tolerate our taking vacations on holy days and they even let their children be taught about some of our practices, which is most courteous, I must say.

In return I think it reasonable for us to show respect for the majority religion and for the established religious institutions. We could, after all, live somewhere else. We came here on purpose. And here we have a right to practise, but not to dominate the public space. We have the right to pray, but not to blare out our prayer across Cowley.

Let's say that the call to prayer, the sound of the muezzin from the minaret, is the most precious sound to you. You do not have to live in East Oxford. There are any number of mosques all over the world, loudspeakering away to their hearts' content. One of the reasons I support the existence of the state of Israel is that I feel there should be one place in the world where Jews can loudspeaker away. Although most of us Jews talk loud enough without a megaphone, so we can settle in Pinner.

Here, however, they have church bells. And the Queen is defender of the faith. Many members of the Church of England aren't very religious - my favourite Spitting Image joke involved a man knocking on a door and saying: "Jehovah's Witnesses here. Do you believe in God?" To which the man inside replied: "No, I'm C of E." But even among the less religious many marry in church and are buried in a churchyard. And religiosity isn't the only issue here. It's also culture. Why should the mild, gentle culture of the Anglicans not deserve the same preservation and respect as any other ancient culture? I regard the Jewish tradition as something I hold in trust for my children. What of the culture and sights and sounds of this country and its heritage?

I'm not calling for a retreat from the tolerance and mutual respect of this country. That's the last thing I want. I depend on it, don't I? It's just that I don't think tolerance and mutual respect come from nowhere. There's a reason why this country shows it, why we have fought for it, and died for it. I am just saying that if this country doesn't protect its own heritage and culture, how can I expect it to protect mine?


Britain's charming Muslims again

Women face prison for ignoring a murder under their own roof

Two sisters wept and their mother screamed abuse when all three were found guilty yesterday of turning a blind eye to the horrific murder of a young woman in their house. Sabia Rani, 19, was systematically beaten and abused by her husband, Shazad Khan, over three months at the home that they shared in Leeds. When she died she had 15 broken ribs and bruising over 85 per cent of her body and, according to a pathologist, looked like the victim of a catastrophic road accident.

Khan was convicted of her murder a year ago. Yesterday his mother, Phullan Bibi, 52, his sisters, Nazia Naureen, 28, and Uzma Khan, 23, and Uzma's husband Majid Hussain, 28, were all found guilty of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult under the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004. The judge told the family that they should be prepared for custodial sentences before they were bailed overnight to reappear before the court today.

As the jury delivered the verdicts all three women began wailing and shouting in the dock. The sisters hugged each other screaming "not guilty, not guilty" while their mother stood up and shouted abuse, slamming her hands down on the bench, before collapsing on the flooor.

Simon Myerson, QC, for the prosecution, had told the court that the young victim had been brought up in rural Pakistan. She married her cousin, Shazad Khan, in December 2002, but it was not until three years later that she came to England. She spoke no English when she arrived in Leeds as Khan's bride, five months before her death in May, 2006. She was kept a prisoner in a suburban semi-detached house in the Roundhay district of the city and was not allowed out unescorted. An ambulance crew found her collapsed on the bathroom floor of the house. Her bodily systems had simply given up, the prosecution said.

Mr Myerson said that each of the defendants must have known that she was in pain, and the cause of her suffering, but did nothing to stop it. Uzma Khan claimed in evidence at her brother's trial in January last year that the injuries were caused by evil spirits and black magic. Mr Myerson said: "It is not a question of faith. It is a question of evidence. No scientific report has ever stated that evil spirits could have beaten this woman to death. The evil spirit that beat Sabia Rani was Shazad Khan and Uzma knew that."

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that the defendants were among the first people in the country to be convicted of allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. Malcolm Taylor, from the CPS, said: "Sabia Rani was the victim of horrific violence at the hands of her husband while her family chose to do nothing. "If families or other people with a duty to look after those who need protection deliberately choose not to do so, their neglect will not be ignored by the law enforcement agencies, and prosecution will follow."


Loony British health and safety rules trip up pancake race

A Cathedral pancake race that is part of a 600-year-old tradition has been stopped because of health and safety rules. The bell at Ripon Cathedral, which has rung at 11am to mark Shrove Tuesday since the 15th century, has signalled the start of the city's pancake race for the past 11 years. However, the event, in which children, traders, soldiers and even clergy compete, has been abandoned because of the amount of work needed to carry out risk assessments.

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev Keith Jukes, who helps organise the races, said: "We have looked at this and there are a number of reasons why it won't take place and a big reason this year is, sadly, health and safety. "Any organisation that runs an event has to go through risk assessments. The insurance companies demand it and in the end you have to work out whether it's a risk you take. "There is also the issue of road closures, which can be an expensive business." Bernard Bateman, one of the organisers, said it was also becoming increasingly difficult to find volunteers willing to help as marshals.

In past years, the event, part of a long tradition of pancake races in Ripon, was likened to a village sports day, a last chance to have fun before the solemn season of Lent. The race has been growing in popularity and even involved members of 38 Regt Royal Engineers, based in Ripon, who cook pancakes from a field kitchen outside the west front of the cathedral.

Mr Bateman, a councillor, said: "The main problem is health and safety. There are so many things to put in place to make sure the event can get off the ground. "We had hoped to make the pancake race as much of a tradition as the pancake bell and it's a travesty that it has been killed off. "Everyone involved in the race is a volunteer and at the end of the day fewer and fewer people are volunteering these days, and it's because of the paperwork that started off as well-meaning but has now gone overboard. "It puts people off helping. It's just one thing after another."

Jean Smith, 61, a resident of Ripon, said: "It's totally daft. Why should paperwork get in the way of kids having fun? We seem to hear it all the time now but it's bureaucracy gone mad." Ripon Cathedral traditionally used the "pancake bell" to summon penitents to church to be "shriven" by making confessions before the start of Lent.

A survey has suggested that two thirds of people in the country no longer mark the Christian tradition of making pancakes. Many are even unaware of its place in the calendar. Shrove Tuesday, which falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, is today. Pancakes have featured in cookbooks since 1439. The custom of flipping or tossing them is believed to have started in the 17th century. They are made from rich ingredients that include eggs and milk, which were used up in households before the 40 days of Lent during which only plain food should be eaten.


Leftist love of "unity" (Translation: Hatred of dissent) on display again

Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun transcribes a revealing interview that Jon Faine, an Australian Broadcast Corp. radio host, conducted with Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie. As background, Australia recently elected a left-wing government to replace the right-wing one that had been in power for more than a decade:
Faine: I want to expand our discussion to another aspect of media which I think is quite intriguing as the Rudd Government is about to start its first session in the parliament, and that is whether or not the media needs to go through a bit of a rethink, as it would seem, according to last year's election, the nation has. Have things moved on and have some of the staples of the media in the Howard era worn out their usefulness as we enter a Rudd era? . . . I'm going to talk in particular about columnists . . . and Bruce you have some notorious ones of your own? Although I'm going to here, stick my neck right out, and say I think the Australian newspaper has perhaps the most loyal band of Howard supporters amongst its current crop of columnists. And you have to wonder how they're quite going to adjust, and cope, and fit in when the people they are so well connected to, are no longer in office.

Guthrie: Yes, I'd probably take issue with the word notorious Jon, by the way. I'd say notable rather than notorious . . .

Faine: But it's more the columnists [on the Australian], the sort of Christopher Pearsons and Janet Albrechtsens and Mark Steyn was the American columnist who was used in the paper yesterday and so on. And you think, well, it kind of represents the thinking that's out of step with the result of the election in a way, some of the material that those people are very much making their own and their own beat.

Guthrie: I guess it comes down to whether you think newspapers need to be in step with the Government?

Faine: Oh no, not with the Government with the electorates. . . . But within your newspaper, rather than asking you to speculate about other things, within your own newspaper, does the result of the election mean you rethink any of the component parts that make up your weekly diet? . . .

Guthrie: I think it's very, very hard to contribute a column on a weekly basis over a long, long period of time and so we're forever monitoring that.

Faine: Very interesting, so you're not going through a cleansing process?

Guthrie: Definitely not.
Media criticism on the right usually centers on questions of balance--of opinion masquerading as news, and of opinion on the right being given short shrift. Media criticism on the left tends to be more authoritarian--the complaint, as in this case, is that the other side gets a forum at all.

Presumably Faine would not argue that the election of a conservative government should lead to a purge of liberal commentators. Yet he seems to think that because one election went his way, the opposition no longer has a right to be heard. That's not exactly how a democratic system is supposed to work.


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

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

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


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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mystery 'Man' Sought in Chicago Murders

Post below lifted from Jammie Wearer. See the original for links

A brutal mass murder on the south side of Chicago on Saturday provides yet more evidence of Reuters mindless political correctness. Here is the article by my good friends at Reuters:
TINLEY PARK, Illinois (Reuters) - Five women were shot and killed inside a clothing store at a suburban Chicago shopping center on Saturday in what police said appeared to be a botched robbery. Police were searching for a lone gunman spotted outside the store by a witness, but said they had not identified him.
Awful crime, right? You'd like to see the murderer caught ASAP, right? Might be helpful to have an accurate description in the paper to help catch this crud, right? Here's the description published by Reuters:
The suspect had fled and they issued an alert for a man wearing black jeans, a black waist-length winter coat and a black knit cap, police said.
So you know for sure that the suspect is a man. That's it. For comparison, I now offer the corresponding description in the article carried by CNN, not exactly a right wing bastion of law and order itself:
A witness who saw the gunman leave the front of the store described him as a black man, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing between 230 and 260 pounds, Tinley Park Police Sgt. T.J. Grady told CNN on Sunday. He was wearing a waist-length black winter coat, a black cap and dark jeans.
Notice much difference? Gee, I wonder why Reuters editors ran a generic description that could fit every man alive? Reuters, documenting their stupidity and political agenda, every day.

Affirmative Action: Discrimination "Without Any Restrictions"?

I always find it instructive when people say, unselfconsciously, what they really mean when they say "affirmative action." Here's a good example from the American heartland, Mason City, Iowa.
Minorities make up 1.2 percent of the city workforce - far below the the minority makeup of the city as a whole. U.S. Census figures for 1996 show Mason City's population at 27,740 with 93.4 percent white, 3.4 percent Hispanic, 1.2 African-American and 2 percent Asian and Indian.
Now whether or not this level of minority employment by the city is "far below" what, by implication, it should be is open to some debate, but leave that aside. What's interesting to me in this article is the official explanation for this deficiency (if that's what it is), a very revealing comment about how affirmative action is widely understood:
Tom Meyer, human resources director, points out that city jobs are not like those in private industry where a business can decide to hire a certain number of minorities without any restrictions. Most city workers must take Civil Service tests to qualify for their positions and then are selected from the pool of applicants who pass the tests. Human Rights Director Lionel Foster, the only black city employee, said the city adopted an affirmative action policy years ago but has never pushed it. He acknowledged that Civil Service testing makes a difference. "You can't just go out and recruit people for jobs and promise them anything," said Foster.
Oh, so that's the secret of private industry's success in the "diversity" sweepstakes! It can discriminate to its heart's content "without any restrictions" like those pesky exams.


The Jong Show

Post below lifted from Don Surber. See the original for links

The "Fear of Flying" author shows once again the elitist nature of "feminism." Upset by something William Kristol said on Fox News, novelist Erica Jong defended Hillary Clinton against the Patriarchy. In so doing, Miss Jong showed that the feminism born out of the Seven Sisters schools in the '60s is just the girls's version of "Skull and Bones" and other knock-ring orgs for men.

In the Washington Post today, Miss Jong wrote: "I'm hardly the only woman who sees my life mirrored in hers. She's always worked twice as hard to get half as far as the men around her. She endured a demanding Republican father she could seldom please and a brilliant, straying husband who played around with bimbos. She was clearly his intellectual soul mate, but the women he chased were dumb and dumber."

Puh-leeze. What tripe. "She's always worked twice as hard to get half as far as the men around her." Really? She was hired by the most powerful law firm in Arkansas because she was married to the attorney general who later became the governor. And how hard did she work to land a directorship on the Wal-Mart board. Again, connections, connections, connections. George Bush or John Kerry in a pantsuit.

"She endured a demanding Republican father she could seldom please and a brilliant, straying husband who played around with bimbos." As a Republican father, I should resent that, but "brilliant, straying husband who played around with bimbos" libels every woman who was ever sexually harassed by this man. The very stereotypes that feminists said they stood against, she invokes to defend what's her name.

"She was clearly his intellectual soul mate, but the women he chased were dumb and dumber." Again with the elitist slamming of people who are "inferior" because of their station in life. You know what? Monica Lewinsky has it all over Hillary Rodham Clinton because Miss Lewinsky made it without any help of a man - in fact, she made it despite the infamy her relationship brought. Mrs. Clinton is where she is at because she is someone's wife.

Oh she is talented and smart. If she had a little more confidence in herself 35 years ago - if she truly worked twice as hard for half as much - she would not be running for president on her husband's coattails. She'd be an ex-president.

British police lose SIX MILLION hours a year to red tape

The Blair legacy. As Lenin said: "Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything"

Up to six million police hours a year are being wasted on bureaucracy, says a damning review. Officers are "straitjacketed" by red tape and reduced to arresting the most minor of offenders to meet crime targets. The withering verdict is passed by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in his bombshell review of the state of the police service. His conclusions - due to be published tomorrow but leaked to the Daily Mail last night - are an indictment of Labour's record on policing and insistence on targets. Sir Ronnie claims that three to six million police hours a year - the equivalent of 3,000 frontline officers - are being squandered on bureaucracy.

Despite a string of promises and reforms since Labour's election in 1997, the former chief constable describes the police as so afraid of getting in trouble they are "risk averse" and reluctant to use their initiative. Sir Ronnie paints a picture of a police service drowning in form-filling - which takes a fifth of officer time - regulations and 'perverse' Government targets. He reveals one officer even charged someone who had built a snowman on a footpath with a public order offence because it helped meet goals imposed by Whitehall.

Sir Ronnie says: "The 21st century police service is in danger of becoming a slave to doctrine and straitjacketed by process." The "needless drain of unnecessary bureaucracy" and the emphasis on targets had led to "poor professional judgment" and the criminalising of people who had not committed any offence.

Other findings include the fact that - despite five years of Labour promising change on bureaucracy - up to 70 per cent of information is entered into police computers more than once. Forty one new pieces of doctrine have been introduced in the last two years alone. A staggering 500,000 hours of officer time are spent each year on internal audits.

Yet Sir Ronnie's recommendations stop well short of the Conservative blueprint unveiled over recent weeks and are likely to leave rankand-file officers dismayed. The review was supposed to set down a blueprint for the future of the police service. But the stop and search form - which takes 25 minutes to complete - will stay. Officers will simply be given hand-held computers to make it easier to input the details. The Tories would replace the form with a simple call to the station.

The proposals for replacing the stop form - which Mr Brown had indicated would be scrapped altogether - will also cause bemusement among police. Sir Ronnie said they should hand over a "business card" containing their details to anybody who they question about their movements - enabling them to later ring to complain. There is also no reference in the 106-page document to giving police more powers to stop a person if there is no suggestion of wrongdoing. Last week, Downing Street spin doctors were suggesting this would be the case.

Plans for a bonfire of red-tape by moving to a single set of forms across the country have also been shelved. Tory police spokesman David Ruffley said of the leak: "This review simply does not go far enough in cutting red tape and risk aversion in the police force. "It does not follow our pledge to abolish the 40 question stop and search form and allow officers to radio in the basic details of a search which will be digitally recorded. "After five Labour red tape reviews in ten years, this lags way behind already announced Conservative plans for tougher law and order."

Sir Ronnie wants targets which give police a "perverse incentive" to catch minor rather than serious criminals to be ditched. The rules, which rank solving a murder in the same way as fining a litter bug, have been blamed for police targeting normally law-abiding citizens. As well as the snowman case, Sir Ronnie highlighted a child prosecuted for chalking on pavements. Some of these offences should no longer be classed as "notifiable", he says, which means police will not be rewarded for solving them. He also warns the police must be less "risk averse", a process which would require the Government to accept mistakes will occasionally be made.



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

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

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


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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

British hospital porter fired in crucifix row

A hospital porter has been sacked after a row over a crucifix being covered up in a prayer room. Joseph Protano, 54, was suspended four days after the incident last month at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Pendlebury. He has now been dismissed for gross misconduct, but intends to appeal.

Police quizzed him for four hours last month, on suspicion of religiously aggravated assault, but he was released without charge. He denies the allegations and must wait to see if police take any action.

The row centres on a prayer room available to staff and visitors of all faiths at the hospital, which contains a Virgin Mary statue and a crucifix. Mr Protano, a Roman Catholic who has worked two years at the hospital, entered the room when three Muslims were using it - two patients and a doctor.

An argument broke out after he asked them to remove a cloth covering the crucifix and statue and to turn a picture of the Virgin Mary face up. He said he was unable to comment on his sacking as the police probe and his plans to appeal were ongoing. But a friend said: "He was very shocked at the decision. "He thinks he has been treated terribly. "He loves his job and doesn't do it for the money - until recently, his employers were paying just 5.88 pounds an hour.

"They are saying he should not have gone into the prayer room and it is alleged he used racist language, which he totally refutes. "His pay has been stopped, even though he intends to appeal, and he has had to sign on for benefits."

The friend said Mr Protano went into the prayer room about six times a day to check the statue and crucifix were not left covered. He said as a Christian, he felt it could be upsetting for visiting parents to find them covered up. The case has angered many hospital staff, who think he has been treated unfairly. Police said a file had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide on any further action.

Source. As GOV comments:

"It seems that this miscreant, who was interrogated by the police for four hours on suspicion of the crime of "religiously aggravated assault" [I kid you not] had the audacity to request that the Christian icons in an interfaith chapel be uncovered while he prayed....

So that's where the time, money, and productivity of Britain's public servants go: harassing whomever the Muslims complain about. And the Manchester Children's Hospital? They're just trying to avoid a costly lawsuit.

Female Muslim medics 'disobey hygiene rules'

Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules brought in to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, because they say it is against their religion. Women training in several hospitals in England have raised objections to removing their arm coverings in theatre and to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands, because it is regarded as immodest in Islam

Universities and NHS trusts fear many more will refuse to co-operate with new Department of Health guidance, introduced this month, which stipulates that all doctors must be "bare below the elbow". The measure is deemed necessary to stop the spread of infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile, which have killed hundreds.

Minutes of a clinical academics' meeting at Liverpool University revealed that female Muslim students at Alder Hey children's hospital had objected to rolling up their sleeves to wear gowns. Similar concerns have been raised at Leicester University. Minutes from a medical school committee said that "a number of Muslim females had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate handwashing". Sheffield University also reported a case of a Muslim medic who refused to "scrub" as this left her forearms exposed. Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, and warn that it could leave trusts open to legal action.

Hygiene experts said last night that no exceptions should be made on religious grounds. Dr Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London, said: "To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C.difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist. "I don't think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of bare below the elbows has to be applied universally."

Dr Charles Tannock, a Conservative MEP and former hospital consultant, said: "These students are being trained using taxpayers' money and they have a duty of care to their patients not to put their health at risk. "Perhaps these women should not be choosing medicine as a career if they feel unable to abide by the guidelines that everyone else has to follow."

But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam. "No practising Muslim woman - doctor, medical student, nurse or patient - should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow," it said. Dr Majid Katme, the association spokesman, said: "Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence to suggest skin is safer to the patient if covered. One idea might be to produce long, sterile, disposable gloves which go up to the elbows."


This will have the Australian Left frothing

But they wouldn't say a word if it were Ramadan that was involved

Kevin Rudd is under pressure from the Jewish community to change the date of his Australia 2020 summit which clashes with Passover. The Prime Minister has been accused today of inadvertently locking out the Jewish community from political talkfest by holding it during a period which is the Jewish equivalent of "Christmas or Easter."

The nation's peak representative body representing the Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told The Australian Online today that it will lobby the Prime Minister to change the dates or develop alternative ways Jewish people can contribute. "We are not suggesting it was deliberate as opposed to inadvertent,'' President Robert Goot said. "(But) It is most unfortunate because regardless of your religiosity, the festival of Passover and in particular the first night of the festival is almost universally observed. It will preclude I would think practically anyone of the Jewish faith of attending. "I have written to the Prime Minister today pointing it out and seeing if it is at all possible to change the dates. But if not we are seeking an assurance that people who would have been invited but will be precluded will have the opportunity to make a contribution through alternative means."

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff said he was also concerned. "It actually is a problem simply because the Passover is one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar. It makes it very difficult for Jewish people to be present,'' he told The Australian Online.

Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield raised the alarm this afternoon attacking Mr Rudd's decision to hold his Australia 2020 summit during Passover as "insensitive and discriminatory". "Mr Rudd says he wants to 'bring into the tent those who have got ideas to contribute to these long-term challenges', yet he has chosen dates that will preclude most of the Jewish community from attending,'' Senator Fifield said. "The Rudd Government can hardly plead ignorance. Passover is listed on the Calendar of Cultural and Religious Dates on the Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship's website. "It is simply unacceptable for the summit to proceed on these dates. Kevin Rudd must announce new dates that do not clash with important faith festivals or national events."

Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said today the 2020 Summit risked degenerating into a Jerry Springer-style fight club. "I'm very dubious that 1000 people, if they're truly given the chance to have their say, are going to come with a conclusive co-ordinated position," he told the ABC. "I do perceive that what we will end up with is some sort of mutli-faceted hothouse gab session with an outcome very similar to Jerry Springer. "


Australia: Total leniency for a disgusting Muslim

Previous report here

A Brisbane judge spared him a criminal conviction so as not to jeopardise his future career, but the would-be doctor who tried to give an 11-year-old boy a penis massage might not be so lucky a second time. State Attorney General Kerry Shine is seeking a jail term for disgraced University of Queensland medical student Shakeel Mirza, who escaped with only 12 months probation over his attempt to molest the boy in February 2006.

A criminal conviction was not formally recorded after his defence lawyers successfully argued that a black mark against his name could prevent Mirza, 27, from getting a government Blue Card - or security clearance - allowing him to treat children in hospital. But at an appeal hearing in Brisbane's Supreme Court today, barrister for the Crown, Michael Copely described Mirza's punishment as "manifestly inadequate", and accused sentencing judge David Searles of "closing his eyes" to other sentencing options. He asked the court to resentence Mirza to 12 months' jail - albeit wholly suspended - and record a criminal conviction. "The offence was serious enough in itself, given the age disparity of the parties and the breach of trust," Mr Copely argued.

The Pakistani-born medical student had been appointed as a mentor to the 11-year-old boy under the Lions Club's "Aunties and Uncles" program when he tried to force his hands down the youngster's pants at the family's Brisbane home.

The court heard he had been rubbing the child's head to relax him when he offered to massage the child's penis instead because "it would feel better". The boy managed to fend off Mirza's advances. It was later suggested Mirza had been inspired to touch the boy after watching the comedy film Spaceballs, which had been playing in the room at the time.

Today, Mirza's defence barrister Brad Farr argued that in some cases, shame was enough to deter people from reoffending, and that a jail sentence - even a wholly suspended one - was not warranted. He also maintained that a criminal conviction would cast a pall over his client's promising future as a doctor. [As indeed it should!] The court has reserved its decision.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Political correctness produces some strange reasoning in otherwise sane people

The teacher below presents evidence to show that the races are genetically different and then says that it proves that race does not exist! I suppose we should feel sorry for him. He is either mentally ill or feels obliged to mouth arrant nonsense

For most of her life, Georgia State doctoral student Erin Harper thought of herself as African-American with French ancestry. But through a DNA analysis project in her biopsychology class last spring, Harper learned her ancestors traveled out of east Africa, through Asia and over the Bering land bridge to what is now North America, a lineage often carried by Eskimos. "My family and I were in disbelief, and kind of amused," Harper said. "We were like, `Eskimos, what?' But it made me want to know more and dig even deeper into my ancestry."

Harper is not alone. Many Georgia State students who participated in the project had similar reactions when they received answers to such basic human questions as, "Who am I?" and "How did I get to where I am today?"

Next week, biopsychology professor Scott Decker will invite a new class of students to participate in the project and learn about their collective ancestry. The exercise not only teaches students the complexities of DNA, evolution and human migration, but it also can change their perspective on race, Decker says. "What this project says is, `Race doesn't exist,'" he said. "Any observable differences between us are climatic adaptations. We all have the same emotions, thoughts and decision-making processes."

Using a DNA collection kit, Decker's students will scrape their cheek cells and send samples to be compared against the largest DNA database studying human migration ever assembled.

Launched in 2005, National Geographic and IBM are collecting and analyzing DNA from people across the globe for their Genographic Project, which attempts to fill in the gaps in the knowledge of how the human species migrated out of Africa to populate the planet.

Once students get their results and learn their genetic journey, they will research the paths their ancestors took and reflect on how it compares to what they know about their personal histories. The students' DNA will be voluntarily submitted to the Genographic Project, adding another piece to the puzzle of human migration. Decker will also use his students' reactions in his research on how genetic results impact views of race. "By giving students this information - tangible evidence - it changes their attitudes on diversity," Decker said. "It brings history to life."


William Jefferson Faubus: The Clintons start a new conversation about race

The reference is of course to Southern Democrat segregationist governor, Orval Faubus

In the 1990 Senate campaign in North Carolina, there was one ad and one moment that emerged as iconic. Run by Republican Jesse Helms against Harvey Gantt, a black Democrat, it showed a pair of white hands crumpling a piece of paper. "You needed that job," said the voice-over ominously, "but they had to give it to a minority."

Those white hands now belong to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and their complaint is remarkably similar to that of the man in the ad. The Helms ad was a cri de coeur against affirmative action, or at least that form of it that gave preference in hiring--or presumably college admissions--to nonwhite applicants on the grounds (a) that this made up for generations of prejudice and curtailed opportunities, and (b) that diversity for its own sake was a good in itself.

For decades, people who were so crass as to protest such quotas and take their complaint to court--from Allan Bakke at the University of California-Davis medical school in 1974 to Jennifer Gratz at the University of Michigan in 1995--were reviled by the left and by Democrats, portrayed as the second coming of Simon Legree and instructed to suffer in silence for the greater good of humanity.

Now Bill and Hillary Clinton are finding themselves in those same shoes: She has applied for a job with experience and credentials that she thinks are weightier, and yet many voters seem determined to "give it to a minority" who has not paid his dues. According to

the unwritten rules of themselves and their party, the Clintons ought to have shouldered their cross in the name of diversity. Instead, they are playing the race card with a vigor beyond Helms's most extravagant dreams. In their hands and those of their surrogates (including the once well-regarded Bob Kerrey), a gracious and eloquent member of the upper house of the Congress running to be president of all of the people has become a cokehead, a dealer, a Muslim (with possible terrorist leanings), an ally of slumlords, and this year's token black candidate. From the onetime president of black America, the defender-in-chief of quotas and set-asides, this is all unexpected, but then Bill and Hillary Clinton never expected that a walking example of all they professed to admire would come between them and something they thought they deserved.

More here

British army town welcomes back front-line troops

Good to see that many ordinary British people still respect their military

Hundreds of people have turned out to welcome back soldiers who recently returned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,500 lined the streets of the Oxfordshire market town of Bicester to cheer the men and women of 23 Pioneer Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps as they paraded through their home town.

The regiment returned late last year from service in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and the southern province of Helmand. Other members of the unit were on postings in Iraq. Major Mark Comer, 34, returned in November from a six-month tour of duty in Iraq. "I think it's fantastic," he said. "This is the first parade I have done like this. I was absolutely delighted to see such a great turnout. It was really heartwarming."

The event is the latest in a series of high profile occasions since [Leftist] local authorities were criticised for not doing enough to welcome back forces who have been on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The moral and intellectual decay of the British Left

By James MacMillan, a Composer/Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic. He has realized that destruction is all that the modern Left want

In my travels I see myself frequently described in foreign media as a `left-wing and Scottish nationalist' composer. The latter label is ludicrous, and I just put it down to a foreigner's ignorance and justifiable disinterest in the parish-pump tedium of devolved Scotland. It doesn't bother me too much. The first, however, disturbs me much more.

I used to be on the Left - I joined the Young Communist League in 1974, when I was just 14. Part of the motivation behind this was no doubt to annoy my devoutly Catholic relatives, who were all Labour supporters, but anxious, to the point of distraction, about insiduous Marxist manoeuvrings in the unions and in the workplace. My grandfather was part of a Catholic rearguard action in the NUM in the 1930s and 40s to safeguard the union from a far-left takeover. He, and most of the politically active working class in places like Ayrshire throughout the 20th century, were old-style socialists. They tended, also, to be moral and cultural conservatives. There was a tradition among Irish descendants, but also in other communities throughout the country, of Roman and high-Anglo-Catholic orthodoxy that was also politically radical, favouring social justice through economic distribution. The Labour movement was their vehicle to build the just society that was promised in the gospels; the welfare state and greater access to education were seen as fruits of moral Christian activism in society.

After battling against the acolytes of Joe Stalin in the mid-20th century, my grandfather and his friends witnessed a new usurpation of their beloved Labour movement coming from the convulsions of the 1960s. A new generation appeared, whose interest seemed less in economic inequality and more in confronting the traditional values of people like my grandfather, whose beliefs had underpinned the very idea of social order. Marx was giving way to Nietzsche and Freud; Bolshevism was moving over for nihilism. The Left, which had been shaped as much by the muscular Christianity of the 19th century as by anything else, was now being colonised by something very foreign indeed. The cherished values of generations, the foundation of correct, well-ordered structures and relationships were under attack from a formidable foe. The traditional family and education, sexual mores, artistic aspirations, religious belief - all were now seen as coercive strategies of the powerful, designed to enforce conformity and slavish obedience.

The `progressive' liberalism of the new Left, its destructive atheistic iconoclasm, was miles away from the vision of the early Scottish socialists such as John Wheatley, Manny Shinwell and James Maxton.

I muddled along with the Labour party for a few years even though, deep down, I knew instinctively that an essential breach had taken place. Even today, I manage to survive trendy dinner parties by keeping my mouth shut, nodding at the received wisdom of the bien-pensant, and avoiding nasty and surprising arguments. Anything for a quiet life. But the political education I received from old Catholics like my grandfather and even from old Marxists I met at Communist party meetings in the 1970s has made me contemptuous of the simplistic banalities of the modern progressive ,lites. They lack intellectual rigour and ethical integrity, their politics are bland and sentimental, their hatred of Christianity is fundamentalist.

My revulsion is particularly acute in the artistic circles I sometimes find myself in. I regret to say that the most eager acceptance of the new hectoring political puerilities are to be found in The Arts. This has its roots in Romanticism, of course, but a gradual systemisation of radical politics settled in the early 20th century. Think of how, from the 1920s, groups such as Imagists, Vorticists, Futurists, Surrealists, Expressionists habitually declare their commitment to Revolution. Yes, any old revolution would do, but as long as it overturned manners and lifestyles as well as aesthetics and politics.

This has nothing to do with a love of life, a love of the poor or the outsider, but all to do with a love of transgression. It becomes addictive and in the past has led artists as much to the extreme Right as to the far Left. Childish `anti-bourgeois' militancy has no political intelligence or moral fibre. Witness, for example, Harold Pinter's descent into infantilism every time he mentions the United States, or for that matter decides to write poetry. Rather than being ridiculed for the embarrassing doggerel-merchant he has become, he is lauded to the highest by his fellow-travellers, easily impressed by easy rhetoric and equally determined to maintain their favoured positions in the back-slapping arts establishment.

The legacy of this militancy can be seen nowadays in `arts criticism' and the rise of a secular priesthood whose dogmas we now endure day in, day out. The common purpose of this new cultural elite is to attack the institutions and principles of our shared common life. What passes in Britain for an intelligentsia has appropriated the Arts for their own designs - a recent debate at the South Bank proclaimed `All Modern Art Is Left Wing'. No dissent from the party line goes unpunished. What we are seeing here is a cultural regime which adjudicates artists and their work on the basis of how they contribute to the remodelling, indeed the overthrow of society's core institutions and ethics.

Before the performance of one of my orchestral works in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I gave a short introductory talk and quoted the philosopher Roger Scruton. The Guardian review denounced this as `perilous'. What or who was perilous? Were Scruton's ideas perilous? Was my public association with him perilous? And, if so, for whom? For me? Was this a threat?

In the Daily Telegraph last year Dominic Cavendish asked, `Why do so few of today's plays challenge the left-liberal consensus? Is there a tacit complicity between many of today's writers and the liberal establishment? Is the "liberal consensus" and the fear of appearing right-wing hobbling the urge to conduct tough, awkward debates?' The response from Lisa Goldman, artistic director of the Soho theatre, was telling, and depressing in its simplistic caricature of what `right-wing' means. She asked, `What would a right-wing play have to offer? Anti-democracy, misogyny, bigotry, nostalgia of all kinds? Let's get back to a white Britain? That the slave trade had a civilising influence? That women should stay in the home?' For her, and many like her, anything that is not left-wing is intrinsically and irredeemably evil. There seems no room in her intellectual and aesthetic view to observe a huge and diverse world of moderate and civilised thinkers who have rejected the extreme narrowness of the modern Left.

There is a growing backlash against this bullying, hectoring and unthinking dogmatism. More and more artists describe themselves as lapsed lefties or recovering liberals. There is a growing resolve to confront a liberal establishment in the Arts, media and elsewhere, responsible for the systematic trashing of much that has been our common heritage, including authentic socialist values handed down from Keir Hardie and others. As an ex-socialist I have seen the aspirations that motivated past generations of good, ordinary people discarded with a contemptuous, superior sneer. As a Catholic artist I am sick of the smug ignorance, the gross oversimplification and caricature that serves as an understanding of religion, particularly Catholic Christianity, in so much that passes for criticism and analysis. The destruction visited on schools and universities, the degradation of the media, the vulgarisation of culture, the deliberate and planned dismantling of the family - all this is a result of liberalism, not socialism.

I hope to God that I don't see myself described as a liberal left-winger again when I go abroad.



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

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

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


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Monday, February 04, 2008

Britain has just legalized polygamy

For the benefit of guess who? Interesting that they can do it without reference to their legislature. Britain is adopting more and more characteristics of a Fascist State

Husbands with multiple wives have been given the go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal. The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record.

The decision has been condemned by the Tories, who accused the Government of offering preferential treatment to a particular group, and of setting a precedent that would lead to demands for further changes in British law.

New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: "Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate ... The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently 33.65 pounds." Income support for all of the wives may be paid directly into the husband's bank account, if the family so choose. Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family.

The ruling could cost taxpayers millions of pounds. Ministers launched a review of the benefit rules for polygamous marriages in November 2006, after it emerged that some families had benefited financially. The review concluded in December last year with agreement that the extra benefits should continue to be paid, the Government admitted. The decision was not publicly announced.

Four departments - the Treasury, the DWP, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Home Office - were involved in the review, which concluded that recognising multiple marriages conducted overseas was "the best possible" option. In Britain, bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Islamic law permits men to have up to four wives at any one time - known as a harem - provided the husband spends equal amounts of time and money on each of them.

A DWP spokesman claimed that the number of people in polygamous marriages entering Britain had fallen since the 1988 Immigration Act, which "generally prevents a man from bringing a second or subsequent wife with him to this country if another woman is already living as his wife in the UK".

While a married man cannot obtain a spouse visa to bring a second wife into Britain, some multiple partners may be able to enter the country via other legal routes such as tourist visas, student visas or work permits. In addition, officials have identified a potential loophole by which a man can divorce his wife under British law while continuing to live with her as his spouse under Islamic law, and obtain a spouse visa for a foreign woman who he can legally marry.

"Entry clearance may not be withheld from a second wife where the husband has divorced his previous wife and the divorce is thought to be one of convenience," an immigration rulebook advises. "This is so, even if the husband is still living with the previous wife and to issue the entry clearance would lead to the formation of a polygamous household."

Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said that the decision was "completely unjustifiable". "You are not allowed to have multiple marriages in the UK, so to have a situation where the benefits system is treating people in different ways is totally unacceptable and will serve to undermine confidence in the system. "This sets a precedent that will lead to more demands for the culture of other countries to be reflected in UK law and the benefits system." Mr Grayling also accused the Government of trying to keep the ruling quiet because the topic is so controversial.


How Anti-Terror Laws Threaten Free Speech

Restrictions of all sorts have multiplied in the heightened security environment of the last six-and-a-half years, so it should be no surprise that, around the world, legal restrictions on speech have tightened. Since 2001, there has been a clear trend toward prohibiting speech perceived as supporting terrorism, and toward barring the dissemination of materials--including books, videos, and other forms of written and graphic communication--that are believed to be of use for terrorist activity.

International protections on free expression in no way restrict governments from criminally prosecuting direct incitement to terrorism--speech that directly encourages the commission of a crime, is intended to result in criminal action, and is likely to result in criminal action--whether or not criminal action does, in fact, result. (In the United States, where the Constitution imposes stricter protections for expression than found elsewhere, the courts have required that the prohibited incitement present a risk of "imminent" criminal action.) Yet the legal trend globally is not only to criminalize direct incitement to terrorist activity, but to criminalize indirect incitement--to prohibit speech perceived as justifying, defending, or "glorifying" terrorism. This, from the standpoint of free expression, is problematic.

The British government has been a leader in this effort. Not only has it passed new domestic laws to regulate speech, it has pressed international institutions to take up the issue. In September 2005, the U.N. Security Council adopted a UK-sponsored resolution that purported to repudiate "attempts at the justification or glorification (apologie) of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts." Although the resolution used the term incitement, rather than indirect incitement, its references to justification and glorification suggested a broad understanding of the term.

Earlier that year, the Council of Europe, a European human rights body, adopted a Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism with similarly expansive language. The treaty requires states to criminalize "public provocation" of terrorism, a crime that could include indirect incitement. The convention defines public provocation as the public dissemination of a message "with the intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence, where such conduct, whether or not directly advocating terrorist offences, causes a danger that one or more such offences may be committed." Note the clear erosion of the incitement standard: There's no need for the message to directly encourage terrorism, and rather than having to be "likely" to result in criminal action, it's enough that the message may "cause a danger" of such action.

A Global Survey

Let's review a few examples from different countries to get a better sense of what kinds of statements these laws tend to cover:
*. The UK's 2006 counterterrorism law criminalizes any public statement that is intended to encourage, or that recklessly encourages, acts of terrorism, if the statement takes the form of "glorif[ying] the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences" and is such that the audience "could reasonably infer" that what is being glorified should be emulated. (A 2000 UK law already specifies that "inciting another person to commit an act of terrorism" is a criminal offense, one punishable in the same manner as the offense that was incited.)

* Under Zimbabwe's 2006 counterterrorism law, a person who "solicits, invites, or encourages moral or material support" for a designated terrorist organization commits an offense.

* The United Arab Emirates' 2004 counterterrorism law reportedly provides for up to five years of imprisonment for anyone who promotes verbally or in writing any of the offenses set out in the law.

* Bahrain's 2006 counterterrorism law includes extremely broad and vaguely-drafted restrictions on expression. The law provides that: "Whoever uses religion, religious buildings, public places or religious festivities to propagate provocative appeals or extremist ideas, or holds notices/posters, or puts up graphics, pictures, slogans or signs that might create fitna [disorder] or insult monotheist religions, their symbols or their believers, or harm the national unity or social peace, or destabilize security or public order shall be punished by imprisonment and fine or one or both penalties." The legislation also provides that anyone who "promotes or approves, in any way" of a terrorist act faces imprisonment.

* El Salvador's 2006 counterterrorism law prescribes a five- to ten-year prison sentence for anyone who publicly justifies terrorism.

* In Australia, the 2005 Anti-Terrorism Act bars organizations from advocating terrorism. An organization is understood to advocate a terrorist act if it: 1) "directly or indirectly counsels or urges" such an act; 2) "provides instruction" on how to commit such an act, or 3) "directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person T to engage in a terrorist act."

* Turkey's 2006 counterterrorism law imposes criminal penalties on those who "make propaganda for a terrorist organization or for its aims." The law provides for harsher penalties for those who do so using the media. A Council of Europe expert committee has criticized the provision, finding it to be "ambiguous and written in wide and vague terms."

* Under French and Spanish counterterrorism laws, which predate the September 11 terrorist attacks, the act of justifying terrorism (apologie or apolog'a) is a crime. The difference between the two countries is that such prosecutions are quite common in Spain, whereas they are extremely rare in France.
What these laws generally have in common is broad language, which may in some instances cover legitimate political speech, and which gives prosecutors enormous discretion in deciding when and if to bring a case.

Possession of a Map Without an Excuse

In some countries, moreover, not only is it illegal to express views deemed to support terrorism, it is illegal to possess materials that support terrorism. Again, the UK has taken the lead in this area, both in passing legislation to restrict the possession and dissemination of such materials, and in prosecuting alleged offenders.
* Under the UK's 2000 counterterrorism law, the possession of articles connected to terrorism--including terrorism-related publications or videos--is a criminal offense, as long as there is some minimal showing that the person's possession of the items may be related to plans to commit terrorism. Specifically, the law provides that: "[a] person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism." * Another provision of the same UK law criminalizes the possession of documents containing information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." This extremely broad provision--which could otherwise bar, for example, possessing a map of London--also provides that a person charged with violating the law may defend against prosecution by proving that he has "a reasonable excuse for his action or possession." * Finally, the 2006 UK counterterrorism law criminalizes the distribution of "terrorist publications," defined as publications that either glorify terrorist acts or are made available "wholly or mainly" because they would be useful in the commission or preparation of terrorist acts.
Preemptive Action against Terrorism

The reasoning behind such laws is understandable. Governments want to stop terrorism before it occurs; indeed, they would prefer to deal with the problem before the potential terrorist gets anywhere near the stage of actually planning violent acts. Some proportion of the people who communicate support for terrorism, or who read terrorist publications, may one day be moved to action.

Still, a spate of recent prosecutions in the UK does little to instill confidence in these laws. Defendants have included a couple of 17-year-olds, and a young woman known (for her poems) as the "lyrical terrorist." Are such people really a threat? It's hard to tell; the problem with preemptive action is that it's based on prediction. And while some number of adolescents may go from downloading Al Qaeda videos to actively supporting terrorism, the gap between the two activities is large.

By wasting scarce legal and prosecutorial resources going after speech, rather than action, governments may be doing more harm than good. The defendants in such cases no doubt see them as political and religious persecution, and their families, neighbors and larger communities may agree.


The FEC vs. Free Speech

A rich person, acting alone, can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose a candidate, without government interference. But the government will interfere plenty if two, or more, less wealthy people cooperate to match what the rich person spends. Individuals who cooperate to express opinions about candidates have to consult lawyers and accountants, file reports with the government, and potentially face large fines. They will also be limited to contributions of $5,000 each, while the rich person, acting alone, bears none of these burdens, and can spend millions. When it comes to political campaigns, one rich person has more rights than an infinite number of poor people.

The federal government has a special gang it uses to control the right of people to cooperate to express opinions about candidates. It's called the Federal Election Commission -- FEC for short. The FEC is made up of exactly 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. Its members never face a public election. They are appointed by the President, and approved by Congress. The FEC's partisan composition reflects its partisan purpose.

The FEC is a cartel, designed in fact, if not necessarily with the intent, to protect incumbents from challengers while insuring that neither major party gains a legal advantage over the other. This is the reason for having exactly 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. There is no odd-numbered vote to break ties. The FEC serves as legislature, judge, jury, and executioner -- dictating the fate of all those who join together in cooperation to express opinions about political candidates. The FEC recently made use of its legislative powers to silence and control a group known as SpeechNow.org.

SpeechNow.org was created by a group of cooperating individuals to endorse or oppose candidates based on their positions regarding . . . yes, you guessed it, the FEC. SpeechNow.org accepts contributions only from individuals, not corporations or unions. It neither contributes to parties nor candidates, nor coordinates with them. It is totally private and independent. And yet, the FEC has asserted -- legislated? -- that it has the power to regulate this group. This assertion of power by the FEC is not a final ruling, but it has already had the force of law.

SpeechNow.org has decided to submit to FEC governance in order to avoid legal penalties later. The FEC has effectively hobbled a critic of the FEC. No legislation by elected representatives was required to achieve this outcome. No due process in a court of law was needed to reach this verdict. Instead, it was achieved by the vote of six unelected people with a direct interest in the outcome.

There are two Constitutional problems here . . .

First, the First Amendment dictates that Congress can make no laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." If Congress can't make such laws, neither can it authorize an agency of the Executive Branch, such as the FEC, to make them.

Second, the FEC, along with many other federal agencies, writes the regulations they enforce. This is unconstitutional. If the First Amendment never existed, the FEC would still have no legitimate authority to regulate political speech. That's because regulations are laws, and the Constitution requires that all laws be written by Congress.


Do-gooders discover that even kids are not a blank slate!

No mention of genetics below, of course. Most personality traits, including aggressiveness and impulsiveness, are inherited so the chances of your changing them are very slim -- no matter what you do and no matter at what age you do it. But the Left and the do-gooders like to dream on about their ability to change people. That you cannot, the study below shows

PARENT training programs don't reduce reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, an Australian study shows, suggesting they may be a waste of time and money. On average, behavioural problems afflict every seventh child aged four to 17, previously studies have shown.

Aggressive or extremely defiant youngsters are said to have externalised problems, while those of kids who withdraw, or suffer anxiety and depression, are described as internalised. Troubles in childhood often have serious personal, social and economic consequences later in life, experts say. Left untreated, about 50 per cent of preschoolers with behaviour problems develop mental health problems, including depression. Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and increased crime have all been linked to behavioural difficulties very early in life.

One approach is to deal with the problems as they emerge through counselling, drug treatment, or psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective. Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled behaviour, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic expectations.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and their eight-month old tots in the Melbourne area into the training program. Unlike earlier studies, this one looked not just at high risk families, but a representative sampling of parents and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families. The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre for Community Child Health in Parkville, Australia, compared behaviour of the test group over an 18-month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not receive any special counselling.

The results showed very little difference between the two groups. Mothers in the program were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic expectations of how quickly their children would progress. But there was no significant difference is the level of behaviour problems in the children, or in the mental health of the mothers. "The outcome at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal programme to prevent behavioural problems in toddlers,'' the researchers concluded.



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

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

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


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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Jury to decide if British mother threw away an apple core

A young mother-of-three is to be tried by a crown court jury after being accused of throwing an apple core from her car on to the pavement. Kate Badger, 26, denies the littering charge but also claims the nature of the accusation is "ridiculous" because apples are biodegradable. She has accused Wolverhampton city council of wasting taxpayers' money by pursuing her through the courts

The council said it took a tough line on those who dropped litter and it would be up to a jury to decide if she was guilty. The council originally wanted simply to issue a 60 pound on-the-spot penalty for the alleged offence, said to have been committed on March 19 last year while Miss Badger's Volkswagen Golf was parked on a street in Wolverhampton town centre. Miss Badger refused to pay and the local authority took her to the magistrates' court, where she chose to be tried by a jury in a crown court.

She faces a fine of up to 20,000 pounds or six months in prison if she is found guilty of the charge, which states that she threw "controlled waste" from the car. A guilty verdict could see her separated from her sons Christopher, eight, Daniel, five, and four-year-old Callum, and the council could also recoup its costs from her.

Yesterday, Miss Badger, a company promotions co-ordinator, was bailed unconditionally by Wolverhampton magistrates until a hearing at the crown court on Feb 6. She is accused of "knowingly causing the deposit of controlled waste, namely an apple core, on land which did not have a waste management licence".

Miss Badger, who lives in the city, said after yesterday's hearing: "I refused to pay the 60 fine because I didn't throw the apple core. "I think it is a ridiculous charge because apples are biodegradable and it is not as if we are talking about a huge bag of rubbish." She added: "The council has taken it to court and they have been to photograph my car. I'm being treated like a criminal." She said she did not believe dropping an apple core was worthy of the court's time.

However, a spokesman for Wolverhampton city council said: "Authorised officers of the council can issue 60 pound fixed penalty notices to anyone seen dropping litter. "A fixed penalty notice is issued in preference to a court summons for littering offences as there is no criminal record recorded if the fine is paid and the penalty is less than that of a conviction for littering. "In 2007 we collected almost 3,000 tons of rubbish from the streets. "Litter is a priority for our residents. It is they who want to make streets tidier and therefore we take a tough line on those who litter."


Life requires a GOP president

There is nothing like the prospect of losing to focus one's mind. That might explain the dynamic at work in the East Room of the White House on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. After President Bush's brief remarks, the first response I heard from pro-life leaders and activists was, "Wow." And the second. And the third. The president was interrupted by applause so often he was barely able to deliver his remarks. And once it was over, he was so electrified by the crowd that he worked the room as if it were a political rally - something I've never seen at one of these quick, official, fairly routine events.

Across town an hour or so later, another pro-life gathering was being held at the Family Research Center. Here, Bush was being criticized for his lack of leadership - there is more he could be doing, more he could have done. Fair enough. Each of the leading presidential candidates was also criticized for having either that same lack of leadership or a hostility to the anti-legal abortion position.

In separate conversations about the state of the presidential race, multiple well-informed conservatives told me of their affinity for Barack Obama. He's a likable guy. He has a sense of humor. He has a beautiful family. They hate the dirty tactics of the Clinton campaign against him - using his middle name, Hussein, against him; whispering untrue rumors about his past; trying to hang him on confessions about his past. All of this, understandably, makes Obama a rather sympathetic figure.

However, when pro-life conservatives flirt with a Democrat and beat up on Republicans - including a president who has promoted a culture of life - they ignore the stark political realities they face this election cycle. I know I have also done my share of criticizing. There are some real concerns for a pro-lifer when looking at John McCain, who supports embryo-destroying stem-cell research. However, I also know what the alternative would mean.

While in the Illinois legislature, Obama voted "present" on a Born-Alive Infants Bill. What this means is that when he, as a state legislator, was presented with the reality that babies who had survived abortions were being left to die, he would not raise his hand to provide those children legal protection. His reason: He didn't want to cede ground to crazy pro-lifers. He warned: "Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a - a child, a 9-month-old - child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place."

This floors his opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is outraged, however, not in the way someone devoted to human rights and protecting the most vulnerable would be, but in the way a radical, pro-abortion feminist would be. How dare he not oppose the bill. "A woman's right to choose . demands a leader who will stand up and protect it," one Clinton-mailing said.

The fact of the matter is, if you oppose abortion, you want a president who is committed to protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us. You're free to complain that Mitt Romney was once on the other side even if he's since led on life issues and better articulated his reasons for why he opposes "Brave New World" projects, like Harvard's effort to clone, than most politicians are able to.

You're free to complain that Bush should have done more, that the Bush administration didn't demonstrate as much proactive leadership as you'd like. But know that the White House will not be an incubator for a culture of life if Obama or Clinton becomes president. Remember that in the last Clinton administration, a ban on partial-birth abortion was vetoed three times. Know that neither an Obama nor a Clinton administration will invite pro-life marchers to the White House on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and declare, as Bush did: "We aspire to build a society where each one of us is welcomed in life and protected in law. We haven't arrived, but we are making progress." To the country, at a time when public opinion is turning as Romney did, there are clear choices. A President Clinton or Obama would be a big baby step backward.


Europe's undemocratic new "treaty"

Although in the aftermath of the Dutch and French electorates' rejection of the proposed Constitution New Labour did promise to hold a referendum, it has always been reluctant to test the public on this issue. The pretence that the Lisbon Treaty does not represent a fundamental change to the make-up of the EU allows New Labour ministers to wriggle out of their earlier commitment to a referendum. Through representing the Lisbon Treaty as a relatively minor technical amendment, various European governments hope to depoliticise this important change to the way that the continent is managed. Distancing the EU from public debate, and elevating it over the people's say-so. that appears to be the main tactic of EU supporters these days.

Many observers have commented on the so-called `democratic deficit' that afflicts the European Union and its institutions. Even some of the EU's most ardent advocates are frequently embarrassed by its bureaucratic, top-down approach. Nevertheless, these advocates have little inhibition about doing whatever it takes to insulate the institutions of the EU from popular pressure.

I am constantly struck by the way that numerous `democratic' thinkers focus their emotional and intellectual energies on denouncing the allegedly `anti-democratic' impulse of those who rejected the Constitution in 2005. At least Jurgen Habermas, the pro-EU German political theorist, had the good grace to praise the French for their `bravery' in holding the 2005 referendum. Others have dismissed the gesture of consulting public opinion with open contempt. With a deeply patronising tone, the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk remarked that `if you don't believe that the mood of the people is something akin to the mouth of truth, then a referendum is a mistake, not only for formal reasons but also in terms of political reality'.

According to Sloterdijk, the French plebiscite opened `the way for xenophobia to articulate itself'. It seems that when people are left to themselves, to express their views as they see fit, what tends to come out of their mouth is not `truth' but `xenophobia'. In the same vein, the French critic and philosopher, Paul Virilio, claimed that `under the appearance of democratic openness, the French referendum on the European Constitution increasingly appears as a denial of democracy'. From this perspective, it seems that `democracy' is something that should be left to those who know better than the public; the `democratic' ideal can apparently only be realised by the highly educated wing of the EU political oligarchy.

The most striking thing about the elites' current promotion of the Lisbon Treaty (or the Not-The-Constitution) is not simply the cynical and disdainful way in which the case for a referendum is dismissed; even more significant is the fact that there cannot really be a substantive debate on the Constitution, for the simple reason that there is no coherent pro-European outlook to motivate the people of Europe.

Observers often confuse the pro-EU sensibility of the oligarchy with a pro-European outlook. In truth, support for the EU is driven predominantly by pragmatic and instrumental concerns rather than by a fundamental adherence to any European ideal. For example, in the UK, there is a notable absence of any expression of a mature pro-European standpoint. `One of the problems for the Blair government has been that in opposition Labour never worked out what being pro-European meant', writes a former economic advisor to Downing Street (1).

Even in Germany, where the political class has embraced the ideal of European unification to compensate for its loss of authority after the Second World War, the EU is regarded instrumentally - as an institution that's `good' because it works rather than because it has a profound meaning to the people. Rhetorical commitment to the `European ideal' notwithstanding, there is little content to the cosmopolitan discourse on Europe. Indeed, every time the term `European ideal' is used, the oligarchy risks being exposed as an emperor without clothes.

Despite appearances, the political oligarchy is not passionately pro-European. It lacks a political language or any ideals that might give Europe some meaning. That is why those who celebrate and uphold the EU are not necessarily pro-European. National governments are happy to participate in the EU because it relieves them of the need to take direct responsibility for many policy initiatives and measures. Frequently, they can shrug their shoulders and say: well, these policies emanate from a technocratic, supra-national body, the EU. In earlier times, national governments jealously guarded their policymaking processes and prerogatives. Today, they are eager to subordinate themselves to EU protocols, and to `share' authority with others.

The voluntary relinquishing of sovereignty by European elites does not show that they are high-minded, forward-looking, enlightened internationalists. Or even that they are fervently pro-European. It merely shows that an insecure oligarchy is happy to work through institutions that allow it to disavow full responsibility for its actions.

The real challenge facing those of us who are genuinely devoted to European culture and civilisation is not right-wing populism, xenophobia or small-minded parochial nationalism. In so far as those sentiments exist, they are often a response to the contemptuous manner in which popular aspirations are dismissed by an oligarchy that passionately believes it knows what is best for the people. Those who are devoted to European ideals must take a more critical stance on the EU. It is not good enough to point up the EU's `democratic deficit' or its bureaucratic practices. We need to put forward a compelling case for holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and for its rejection by the people.

Even more importantly, we need to engage our publics in a mature discussion about the European Union. In the end, the biggest threat to democracy is not the EU itself but the mood of apathy and disengagement that it fosters throughout the continent.



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

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

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


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Saturday, February 02, 2008

UK Government Education Guidelines: Don't use terms "Mom" and "Dad"

One reason why Brit schools are failing to teach basic knowledge and skills: They are too busy inculcating far-Leftist propaganda

Government guidelines for training school officials to be more sensitive to homosexuality, instruct teachers not to use the terms "mum and dad" when referring to students' parents, and to treat "even casual" use of terms like "gay" as equal to racism. The guidedance was commissioned by the Labour government directly from the homosexual lobby group Stonewall. The document was launched today at a Stonewall conference by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

Ed Balls said, "Homophobic insults should be viewed as seriously as racism." "Even casual use of homophobic language in schools can create an atmosphere that isolates young people and can be the forerunner of more serious forms of bullying."

The guidelines say that the word "parents" must replace "mum and dad", and that teachers should educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.

In Britain's current political climate, even young children have been subject to police interventions on accusations of making "racist" or "homophobic" comments. In October 2006, a 14-year-old school girl was arrested by police and detained in a cell for three hours after she asked to be moved into a group of students who spoke English in class. Stott was denounced to police for "racism" by her teachers. In April 2007, a ten-year-old boy was questioned after the boy sent an email calling another boy "gay".

In the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the guidelines, in answer to the question, "We have to respect cultural and religious differences. Does this mean pupils can be homophobic?" the guidelines specifically state that those with religious views regarded by the homosexual movement as "intolerant" must be silent. "A person can hold whatever views they want but expressing views that denigrate others is unacceptable."

For Stonewall, youth and sexual innocence is no reason for an exemption. To the objection that primary school students are too young to understand issues of homosexuality, the guidelines respond, "Primary-school pupils may be too young to understand their own sexual orientation but it is likely that some primary-school pupils will know someone who is gay." "Homophobic language is used in primary schools without the pupils necessarily realising what it is that they are saying. Primary schools should respond to homophobic bullying in an age-appropriate way whilst demonstrating that it is not acceptable in school."

For parents who object to their children being exposed to instruction on homosexuality, the guidelines say, "Regardless of their views on gay people or sexual orientation, parents and carers have to understand that schools have a responsibility to keep pupils safe."

Stonewall, perhaps the most successful homosexual activist organization in the world, has been accepted by the Labour government, first under Tony Blair and now by Gordon Brown's leadership, as the leading voice on all issues regarding homosexuality. The guidelines take this a step further in actually allowing the lobby group to author a government document.

Under Tony Blair's "New Labour" government, Section 28 - the law which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools, was repealed. Since then, homosexual activists have used their influence in Parliament to implement a full roster of training for both teachers and students in normalizing homosexuality.


Standoff in Minnesota Over Elephant Rides

A childhood rite of passage may be banned in Minneapolis on Friday, when according to The Star Tribune, the city council is expected to vote on an unusual issue: elephant rides. Leading the charge is a council member named Ralph Remington, who failed to push through a tougher measure last year that would've banned wild-animal circuses from the city. In both cases, public safety and animal cruelty were cited, two worries brought to him by an advocacy group based in Minnesota called Circus Reform Yes.

A fact sheet on the group's Web site lists harsh confinement and training practices and a total of 30 humans who have been killed worldwide since 1990 in connection with "elephants in performance situations." Critics of the effort say those concerns are overblown. Last September, Minnesota Public Radio interviewed one such critic, who offered an irresistible comparison:
"There's been more people hurt by roller coasters in the last 10 years than there has been by elephants. Nobody wants to ban roller coasters," says Minneapolis police Sgt. Timothy Davison. He may not be an expert on roller coasters, but does know a thing or two about elephants. Before he became a cop, Davison was an elephant trainer and caregiver. Davison worked regularly with the Shrine Circus and disputes the contention by activists who charge that circus animals are routinely mistreated.
Readers of the Star-Tribune have been voting 3-to-1 against the ban in an (unscientific) online poll that is still under way. If the measure passes, the city may lose more than just the elephant rides. Only one animal circus visits the city of lakes these days, and a top official of the show vowed to "seriously consider leaving the city if we can't do elephant rides."



The Left are so stupid sometimes that it is amusing

The Boston Globe has just run an op-ed under the headline "Ending the Stranglehold on Gaza." The authors are Eyad al-Sarraj, identified as founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Sara Roy, identified as senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. The bias of the op-ed speaks for itself, and I won't even dwell on it. But I do want to call attention to this sentence:

Although Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.

You don't need to be a math genius to figure out that if Gaza has a population of 1.5 million, as the authors also note, then 680,000 tons of flour a day come out to almost half a ton of flour per Gazan, per day.

A typographical error at the Boston Globe? Hardly. The two authors used the same "statistic" in an earlier piece. They copied it from an article published in the Ahram Weekly last November, which reported that "the price of a bag of flour has risen 80 per cent, because of the 680,000 tonnes the Gaza Strip needs daily, only 90 tonnes are permitted to enter." Sarraj and Roy added the bit about this being "a reduction of 99 percent."

Note how an absurd and impossible "statistic" has made its way up the media feeding chain. It begins in an Egyptian newspaper, is cycled through a Palestinian activist, is submitted under the shared byline of a Harvard "research scholar," and finally appears in the Boston Globe, whose editors apparently can't do basic math. Now, in a viral contagion, this spreads across the Internet, where that "reduction of 99 percent" becomes a well-attested fact.

What's the truth? I see from a 2007 UN document that Gaza consumes 450 tons of flour daily. The Palestinian Ministry of Economy, according to another source, puts daily consumption at 350 tons. So the figure for total consumption retailed by Sarraj and Roy is off by more than three orders of magnitude, i.e. a factor of 1,000. No doubt, there's less flour shipped from Israel into Gaza--maybe it's those rocket barrages from Gaza into Israel?--but even if it's only the 90 tons claimed by Sarraj and Roy, it isn't anything near a "reduction of 99 percent." Unfortunately, if readers are going to remember one dramatic "statistic" from this op-ed, this one is it--and it's a lie.

Sarraj is a psychiatrist, but his co-author, Sara Roy, bills herself in her bio as a "political economist." Her research, the bio reports, is "primarily on the economic, social and political development of the Gaza Strip." You would think someone with this claim to expertise would know better than to copy some impossible pseudo-statistic on the consumption of the most basic foodstuff in Gaza. Indeed, in a piece she wrote a decade ago, she herself put Gaza's daily consumption of flour at 275 tons. Did she even read her own op-ed before she sent it off to Boston's leading paper? If she did, what we have here is a textbook example of the difference between a "political economist" and an economist.


Obama's antisemitic adviser on Israel

Barack Obama's real thinking about Israel and the Middle East continues to be an enigma. The words he chose in an address to AIPAC create a different impression than the composition of his foreign policy advisory team. Several advisors have evidenced a history of suspicion and worse toward Israel. One of his advisors in particular, Robert Malley, clearly warrants attention, as does the reasoning that led him to being chosen by Barack Obama. [Note: "Malley" here appears to be an Arab name, not an Irish name. His father was a Syrian] ...

Robert Malley's writings strike me as being akin to propaganda. One notable example is an op-ed that was published in the New York Times (Fictions About the Failure at Camp David ). The column indicted Israel for not being generous enough at Camp David and blamed the failure of the talks on the Israelis.

Malley has repeated this line of attack in numerous op-eds over the years, often co-writing with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat (see, for example, Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors ). He was also believed to be the chief source for an article by Deborah Sontag that whitewashed Arafat's role in the collapse of the peace process, an article that has been widely criticized as riddled with errors and bias.

Malley is a revisionist and his views are sharply at odds with the views of others who participated at Camp David, including Ambassador Dennis Ross and President Bill Clinton. Malley's myth-making has been peddled in the notably anti-Israel magazine, Counterpunch and by Norman Finkelstein, the failed academic recently denied tenure at DePaul University. Malley's Camp David propaganda has also become fodder for Palestinians, Arab rejectionists, and anti-Israel activists across the world....

Malley has written a range of pieces over the years that reveal an agenda at work that should give pause to those Obama supporters who truly care about peace in the Middle Peace and the fate of our ally Israel.
Playing Into Sharon's Hands: which absolves Arafat of the responsibility to restrain terrorists and blames Israel for terrorism. He defends Arafat and hails him as ..the first Palestinian leader to recognize Israel, relinquish the objective of regaining all of historic Palestine and negotiate for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 boundaries. And he remains for now the only Palestinian with the legitimacy to sell future concessions to his people.

Rebuilding a Damaged Palestine: which blames Israel's security operations for weakening Palestinian security forces (absurd on its face: terrorists filled the ranks of so-called Palestinian security forces-which, in any case, never tried to prevent terrorism) and calls for international forces to restrain the Israelis

Making the Best of Hamas's Victory: which called for international aid to be showered upon a Hamas-led government and for international engagement with Hamas (a group that makes clear in its Charter, its schools, and its violence its intent to destroy Israel). Malley also makes an absurd assertion: that Hamas' policies and Israeli policies are mirror images of each other.

Avoiding Failure with Hamas: which again calls for aid to flow to a Hamas-led government and even goes so far as to suggest that failure to extend aid could cause an environmental or health catastrophe-such as a human strain of the avian flu virus!

How to Curb the Tension in Gaza: which criticizes Israel's for its actions to recover Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped and is being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. He and co-writer Gareth Evans call Israel's actions `collective punishment" in "violation of international law".....
Robert Malley also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, 2004. In that appearance he called for the Road Map to be cast aside because incremental measures intended to build trust were unworkable. He advocated that a comprehensive settlement plan be imposed on the parties with the backing of the international community, including Arab and Moslem states. He anticipated that Israel would object with "cries of unfair treatment" but counseled the plan be put in place regardless of such objections; he also suggested that waiting for a "reliable Palestinian partner' was unnecessary.

This is merely a sample of Malley's views -- which are focused on disengaging from our ally Israel (whose lead America should not "follow") and engaging with and, in some cases financially supporting, the likes of Syria, Moqtada al-Sadr, Hezbollah and Hamas. His ideology is radically at odds with American foreign policy as it has been practiced by two generations of Presidents -- both Democrats and Republicans -- over the years. This is the type of advocacy Robert Malley has been pursuing in the years since the end of the Clinton Administration and from his perch at the International Crisis Group -- an organization that may share his agenda.

The International Crisis Group

Robert Malley is the Director of the Middle East/North Africa Program at the International Crisis Group (ICG). Given the impressive title of the group, one might expect it to have along and impressive pedigree -- say long the lines of the well-regarded Council of Foreign Relations. In fact, the group is rather small and it has a short pedigree. More importantly, it has ties to George Soros. Soros is a man who has supported a wide variety of groups that have shown a propensity to criticize America and Israel; a man who has made clear his goal is to break the close bonds between America and Israel ; supported the views of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer whose work on the issue of the "Israel Lobby" has been widely criticized for factual inaccuracies, shoddy research, and has been called "anti-Semitic" in the Washington Post; a man who has taken steps to counter the supposed political influence of the pro-Israel community in America; a man who has also been a key financial backer of Senator Obama's; and a man who can activate a wide variety of 527 (c) and other activist groups for any politician he supports.....

Why would Barack Obama have on his foreign policy staff a man who has been widely criticized for a revisionist history of the Middle East peace process sharply at odds with all other accounts of the proceedings? Why would Barack Obama give credibility to a man who seems to have an agenda that includes empowering our enemies and weakening our friends and allies? How did Robert Malley, with a record of writing that reveals a willingness to twist facts to serve a political agenda, come to be appointed by Obama to his foreign staff?

Was it a recommendation of Zbigniew Brzezinski to bring on board another anti-Israel foreign policy expert? What role did the left-wing anti-Israel activist George Soros play in placing Robert Malley (or for that matter, Brzezinski himself) in a position to influence the future foreign policy of America? What does it say about Senator Obama's judgment that he appointed a man like Malley to be a top foreign policy advisor? Or does it speak more to his true beliefs?

Much more here


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

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

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


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Friday, February 01, 2008

A Victory for Military Parents

When the Iraq war began nearly five years ago, tens of thousands of parents who serve in the Armed Forces expected hardship and sacrifice. However, they never expected that their children might be taken from them while they were deployed, or that their own government might jail them upon their return.

Military service sometimes costs parents their children. For example, with the long deployments necessitated by the war, a military spouse can move to another state while his or her spouse is deployed, file for divorce, and then be virtually certain to gain custody through the divorce proceedings in the new state.

Given service personnel's limited ability to travel, the high cost of legal representation and travel, and the financial hardships created by child support and spousal support obligations, it is extremely difficult for deployed parents to fight for their parental rights. For many, their participation and meaningful role in their children's lives ends-often permanently--the day they are deployed.

In one highly-publicized case, Gary S., a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL, had his child permanently moved from California to the Middle East against his will while he was deployed in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 18-year Navy veteran with an unblemished military record has seen his son only a handful of times since he returned from Afghanistan in April, 2002. Meanwhile, he was nearly bankrupted from child support, spousal support, travel costs, and legal fees.

While some military parents face the loss of their children, others face prosecution and jail for child support obligations which their service has rendered them unable to pay. Support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When reservists are called up to active duty they sometimes pay an impossibly high percentage of their income in child support.

I've discussed this issue in numerous newspaper columns and on the radio, and I often hear from deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who tell me heart-wrenching stories of being hammered in divorce proceedings while serving.

The first success on this issue occurred in 2005 under the leadership of Michael Robinson of the California Alliance for Families and Children with the passage of SB 1082. SB 1082 addressed the way parents who serve are often taken advantage of in custody and family law matters while they are deployed, and helped resolve the child support nightmare many mobilized reservists face....

The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) (formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act) protects deployed soldiers against civil legal actions. Perhaps the biggest problem deployed parents face is that judges often do not interpret the SCRA as applying to family law proceedings. Today Robinson and the California Alliance for Families and Children announced that a new federal law will specifically extend the protections of the SCRA to family law proceedings and eliminate default judgments for deployed service personnel. Robinson writes:

"As some of you may know, we have been working on a provision at the federal level to provide child custody protection for deployed military parents. The original amendment was introduced by Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio, in HR 1585. Senator Gregg NH, had also introduced a stand alone bill in the Senate but that bill was killed in committee. The Gregg bill had the same language as the Turner amendment. After HR 1585 went to the Senate the provisions we were seeking went to conference committee and some of the language was lost but the overall intention of the bill was kept.

"For those of you not familiar with HR 1585, this was the National Defense Appropriations Bill that President Bush used the pocket veto on because there was language in the bill that would have allowed the current Iraq Government to be sued for past bad acts by Saddam. I was immediately informed of this even prior to press on the issue, but was assured that Congress was going to fast track a revised bill to fix the problem and that the provision we were seeking for protecting military parents with custody orders was not in jeopardy.

"Sure enough, they did in fact fast track a new bill, HR 4986 and the bill was cleared for the White House on 1/22/08 and presented to the President on 1/24/08. I was contacted today by Congressional and White House staff informing me that the President will sign this bill.

While the language is not as strong as the California statute, where it all started in 2005, and other state statutes we pushed, the language does at least provide protection in all 50 states now.


Blood-boiler: Berkeley vs. the troops

I told you on Sunday about the city of Berkeley's move to treat military recruitment centers like porn shops. Reader Bob USMC e-mails that Berzerkeley advanced two other anti-troop measures last night-voting to give Code Pink special treatment and send the Marine Corps a letter saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city. This must not go unanswered:
Members of the Berkeley City Council showed their opposition to a Marine Corps recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley last night. Council members supported the two resolutions-one supporting anti-war protests and the other criticizing military recruitment practices-citing opposition to the war in Iraq, deceptive recruitment practices and the right to protest.

"By taking a stand against recruitment we are protecting the health and safety of our youth," said PhoeBe sorgen, a member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission. "I see the protest as taking a proud and courageous stand."

Code Pink, a national anti-war grassroots organization, will be granted a parking spot for their regular Wednesday afternoon protests and will not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months, under one resolution.

The other resolution more directly criticizes the presence of the center in Berkeley. The city manager was directed to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city. In addition, the city attorney has been directed to investigate whether the city's anti-discrimination laws can be enforced at the center, based on the military's consideration of sexual orientation in hiring.
The other initiative is forging ahead:
Local activists have proposed an initiative for the November 2008 elections that would require military recruiting centers to acquire a special use permit. "The Marines ought to have better sense than to come here," [Councilwoman Betty] Olds said.
Move America Forward is spreading the word:
The City of Berkeley, California has passed two resolutions attacking the United States Marine Corps, calling the Marines, "uninvited and unwelcome intruders in the city." The Berkeley City Council voted to condemn the Marines on Tuesday night (January 29th) as part of a campaign by anti-war activists to shut down a U.S. Marine Recruiting Center located in the city of Berkeley.

The votes by the Berkeley City Council were immediately condemned by Move America Forward (website: www.MoveAmericaForward.org), the nation's largest grassroots pro-troop organization. "It is disgraceful that in the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, anti-military activists would attempt to silence the same military men and women who serve this country and give their lives to protect the free speech rights of all Americans, including these ungrateful and despicable people on the Berkeley City Council," said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.

The actions by the Berkeley City Council followed continuous protests by Code Pink and other anti-military organizations that vandalized and defaced the U.S. Marine Recruiting Center in September 2007.

One of the two resolutions passed by the Berkeley City Council last night granted a parking spot in front of the Marine Recruiting Center to be used by anti-military activists to harass Marine recruiters. The anti-military activists would not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months - allowing them free reign to disrupt the day-to-day operations by the Marines.

Move America Forward organized a counter-protest in support of the Marines last October that attracted over 400 pro-troop supporters who stood in solidarity of the Marine Recruiting Center. "We have hundreds of thousands of military men and women serving honorably overseas to protect our freedoms. Imagine how they feel when they go to turn on the news and see that they are being stabbed in the back by shameful people here at home, it's disgraceful!" said Catherine Moy, Executive Director of Move America Forward.
Every member of the California delegation should be pressed to state where they stand on Berkeley's troop-bashing actions-starting with Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Boxer and Feinstein.


Christian Photographer Hauled before Commission for Refusing Same-Sex Job

The case of a Christian photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony", was heard before the New Mexico Human Rights Division on Monday. A same-sex couple asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband of Elane Photography, to photograph a "commitment ceremony" that the two women wanted to hold. Huguenin declined because her Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.

The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Division, which is now trying Elane Photography under state antidiscrimination laws for sexual orientation discrimination. The Alliance Defense fund (ADF), a legal alliance that is dedicated to defending and protecting religious freedom, sanctity of life, marriage, and family, is currently defending Elane Photography.

"On Monday we defended Elane Photography in court, saying basically that no person should be required to help others advance a message that they disagree with," ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice-President of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Jordan Lorence, told LifeSiteNews in an interview today. "That's a basic First Amendment principle. The government is punishing Elaine photography for refusing to take photos which obviously advance the messages sent by the same-sex ceremony - that marriage can be defined as two women or two men."

In their complaint the homosexual couple has sought for an injunction against Elane Photography that will forbid them from ever again refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony. They have also requested attorney's fees. "Depending on how far up the ladder this goes of appeal that could be a lot of money," said Lorence. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Lorence said that the ADF is framing its case in a similar fashion to the 1995 Supreme Court "Hurley" Case. "In the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade case the US Supreme Court said that the State of Massachusetts could not punish a privately run parade because it refused to allow a homosexual advocacy group in to carry banners and signs in the parade. They said that would be compelled speech, ordering the parade organizers to help promote a message they do not want to promote. To apply the discrimination law that way violates freedom of speech. We are making a similar kind of argument in this case."

Lorence said that this current case is demonstrative of a "tremendous threat" facing those with traditional views on marriage and family. "I think that this is a tremendous threat to First Amendment rights. Those who are advocating for same-sex marriage and for rights based upon sexual orientation keep arguing, 'We are not going to apply these against churches. We are going to protect people's right of conscience. We are all about diversity and pluralism.'"

But, in practice, says Lorence, "Business owners with traditional views or church owners with traditional definitions of marriage are now vulnerable for lawsuits under these nondiscrimination laws. There are 20 states that have these laws where they ban sexual orientation discrimination. Most of the major cities in the United States also have these kinds of ordinances. So these are a big threat, as the federal government debates whether to make this a blanket nationwide law. "We see that these [non-discrimination laws] are not rectifying some unjust discrimination, but being used to punish those who speak out in favor of traditional marriage and sexual restraint," he concluded.

Lorence said that the ADF is "cautiously optimistic that the commission will do the right thing." If the New Mexico Commission, however, decides against Elane Photography, Lorence said that the ADF would appeal the decision all the way up to the US Supreme Court if necessary.


Ratty Australian Leftist becomes a Muslim menace

PICTURE the sitting room of a modest two-bedroom flat at Lakemba in southwest Sydney. Neatly covered floor cushions lean up against the wall beside a shelf full of brass ornaments from the Middle East, while a tank of goldfish bubbles in the corner. It doesn't look like a terrorist's lair. The occupant is a 54-year-old mother of six and grandmother of two, retired and living on a disability pension. She doesn't look like a terrorist.

But this is the most-watched woman in Australia, monitored for the past 20 years by ASIO and described by intelligence analysts as the "matriarch" of radical Islam in Australia. Rabiah Hutchinson snorts with laughter at the description. "They've got it wrong. I am not important. I'm just a 54-year-old granny with diabetes and arthritis. What are they so worried about?"

Ms Hutchinson has been closely watched by Australian authorities since October 2003, when she returned to Australia from Iran, where she had spent nearly two years in hiding after fleeing from Afghanistan amid the US bombing raids that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. Her passport was subsequently cancelled, based on advice from ASIO to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that she was "likely to engage in conduct that might prejudice the security of Australia or of a foreign country (and) endanger the health and physical safety of others".

Ms Hutchinson remains barred from travelling overseas, believes she is under constant ASIO surveillance and claims her family and friends are continually harassed. After years of silence, she has decided to speak out to deny any involvement in terrorism and accuse the authorities of persecuting her and her family. "It's not just me they're targeting. Now it's my children and even my grandchildren," Ms Hutchinson says. "It's absolutely ridiculous - to think I had any personal knowledge of or contact with Sheik Osama bin Laden. I am absolutely nobody. I just happened to be there."

As she recounts her life story, Ms Hutchinson laughs, sometimes shouts and occasionally weeps - at the memory of friends killed by US bombs in Afghanistan, or the hardship endured by her children because of her activities. She is passionate, funny and articulate, a natural story-teller and eloquent advocate of her faith. Born of Scottish stock and raised in Mudgee, in central NSW, she is also very Australian, describing in a broad Aussie accent how she carried Vegemite on all her travels, even to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

She is certainly extreme - in her absolute and unwavering devotion to Islam. And she is also angry. "When we left Afghanistan, we became among those classified as the most hated people on the face of this planet," Ms Hutchinson says. "And being one of those people means that there are a lot of people on this planet who believe you have less rights than an animal, that you can be tortured, raped, maimed, renditioned and have the most horrific things done to you in the name of anti-terrorism."

Rabiah Hutchinson has been of interest to Australian intelligence since the 1980s, when she was living in Indonesia and joined the rising Islamic resistance movement opposed to the Suharto regime. She had arrived in Indonesia as a 19-year-old backpacker visiting Bali in the early 1970s. There she converted to Islam and married an Indonesian man, with whom she had three children. When they divorced, she returned to Australia, but later went back to Indonesia to study Islam, which she says transformed her 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, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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The Real Politically Incorrect Net Ring

This net ring exposes political correctness for the fraud that it is and advocates universal values of individual freedom, free speech, and equal rights for all.


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