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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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cowardly British police kill three people

In the name of Britain's notorious "health & safety" rules. There are a lot of males in the British police force but not many men

Police held back would-be rescuers as three people died in a house fire, angry neighbours said last night. They said they could see heavily-pregnant Michelle Colley at an upstairs window, screaming 'please save my kids'. But police said they had to wait for firemen to arrive. By then, however, Mrs Colley, 25, her husband Mark, 29, and their three-year-old son Louis were dead. Their daughter Sophie, five, is fighting for her life in hospital.

Family friend David Davis, 38, said: 'It was the most harrowing thing I have ever seen. 'Michelle was at the bedroom window and we wanted to help but the police were pushing us back and not allowing us near. 'We were willing to risk our own lives to save those children but the police just wouldn't let us - and there was no way they were going to try themselves. 'Tempers were running high but the police were saying we have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety rules.' He added: 'When a family is burning to death in front of your eyes, rules should go out of the window - especially when children are involved.' Neil Cotterill said he heard another neighbour shouting for people to bring ladders. 'We could have helped,' he said.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight on the ground floor of the family's three-bedroom terraced home in Highfields, near Doncaster. Mrs Colley, who was expecting her third child in a fortnight, and her husband had spent a quiet evening at home before going to bed. They were woken by the fire and a 999 call was made at 12.26am. Police were the first to arrive.

Mr Davis said: 'There were four or five officers. We heard the sirens and went across to help but they wouldn't let us. 'I thought the police were there to protect lives. Years ago they would have gone inside themselves to try a rescue. But all they seemed bothered about was health and safety rules. 'It's unbelievable that it could happen like that. Everybody wanted to try and help. You can't have respect for police if they have no respect for other people's lives. It might have been different if it was one of their own. 'Mark and Michelle were a great couple. A real family - they loved their kids and the kids were smashing.'

Another witness said some friends and neighbours ignored the police warnings and tried to reach the family with ladders and a hosepipe. But again the police intervened and stopped them. Chris Richardson, 37, said: 'It was shocking. I couldn't believe the police were acting like that. 'One woman climbed over the garden fence and went to the house but there was a policeman at the back who stopped her.'

Firemen using breathing apparatus-found Mr Colley, a DIY store supervisor, in the master bedroom with his wife. Sophie was in another bedroom and Louis on the landing. Witnesses said police arrived 'several minutes' before firemen but South Yorkshire police refused to give the exact time, citing 'data protection' rules.

Detective Superintendent Peter McGuinness said: 'I would like to commend our officers. The Fire Brigade were only minutes away [How many minutes? Odd that they won't say. Minutes matter in a fire] but our officers were faced with a raging fire. They handled the incident as professionally as we would expect and then worked long into the night.' Experts said the blaze was not suspicious.


Love That Hate!

By Paul Kengor

"We must teach our children to hate," Vladimir Lenin instructed his education commissars. The Bolshevik godfather declared that hatred was not only "the basis of communism" but "the basis of every socialist and Communist movement."

Class envy has been a defining staple of the left for centuries, from the frenzied mobs leaping around the French guillotines to the Soviets to, well, the new masses circling AIG executives today. The difference is merely the degree of response -- a question of socially acceptable force or violence.

Historically, this behavior is both foreign and antithetical to the American experience. Unfortunately, modern Americans don't understand their founding and the nation's core principles -- our educational system doesn't teach those things. Thus, they are now voting, and behaving, in kind. And we are now witnessing our own homegrown socialist movement in action, inspired by hate. Some Americans, whipped into poisonous hatred by their elected representatives, have literally called for death for AIG executives, and one U.S. senator openly requested that these businesspeople commit suicide.

Liberals in Congress, from Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Chris Dodd, plus a wild gaggle of unleashed central planners in the House, have conducted a show trial of AIG executives, with the larger purpose of placing American free enterprise in the dock. The interrogation by this anointed body made me think of the old Soviet "Extraordinary Commission," the operation of which was explained by its awful head, the Latvian M. Y. Latsis:
In your investigations don't look for documents and pieces of evidence about what the defendant has done, whether in deed or in speaking or acting against Soviet authority. The first question you should ask him is what class he comes from, what are his roots, his education, his training, and his occupation. These questions define the fate of the accused.
Latsis characterized his commission as a tribunal acting on the home front against the capitalist class.

Liberals -- if they'd ever heard of Latsis, which they probably haven't in their universities -- might ridicule the extremism of my analogy. After all, they aren't talking about "eliminating the bourgeoisie as a class," as did Latsis. Fair enough. But, again, it's a matter of degree. Certainly, the acceptable demonization of an identified, despised class, for the purpose of working the masses into a rush of rage for political exploitation, is not terribly different. As members of Congress target the likes of AIG chief executive Edward Liddy, mobs target the homes of AIG employees in Connecticut.

Of course, our sophisticated members of Congress separate themselves from the fray by choosing a non-violent but, ironically, somewhat Bolshevik-like response: they confiscate AIG pay ("bonuses") at a flat, full tax rate of 90%.

Will this financial penalty satiate the mob's bloodlust? No. That's the problem when deadly sin -- envy -- becomes government demagoguery and policy. The torch-carriers spill into the streets to take "social justice" into their own hands. A case in point is a remarkable New York Times article, titled, "Scorn Trails AIG Executives, Even in Their Driveways." Though frightening, the piece is not surprising. It begins with AIG executive James Haas trying to make his way into his home in Fairfield, Connecticut -- a "bay-windowed house," as the Times described it. "I feel horrible," said Haas, "this has been a complete invasion of privacy."

But Haas's tormentors do not respect things private. They seek to expropriate the private. "You have to understand," pleaded Haas, fighting back tears, "there are kids involved, there have been death threats." Haas explained how he had offered political penance -- to pay reparation: "I didn't have anything to do with those credit problems. I told Mr. Liddy I would rescind my retention contract.... Leave my neighbors alone."

The neighbors, however, are fit to be tied. They want a body. The Times quoted a loving New England resident who for 24 years lived down the block. Driving by, dripping with rage, surely after watching the morning news shows, she practically spit as she fulminated against AIG bonuses - which are a microscopic sliver compared to the trillions of dollars in debt Obama and the Democrats have racked up in only eight weeks. "It makes me absolutely sick," scowled the neighbor, in reference to AIG, not the federal government. "It's despicable. It's disgusting what these people have done. They should be forced to give every cent back." AIG workers are being demonized, noted the Times; they are hiring bodyguards. And it isn't only AIG. Merrill Lynch is dealing with similar assaults.

And that's just the start. It's only a matter of public exposure until another group of private-sector "reptiles" -- Lenin's word -- is identified for the proletariat. Congress and the White House will be happy to call out the next group of kulaks.

Alas, among the eager comrades joining this effort -- and, predictably, not investigated by the liberal media camped outside AIG homes -- are the ringleaders behind the packs of protestors across the country, including those carted around in "bus tours" of AIG executives' homes. These alleged unprompted uprisings of "the people" are, of course, hardly spontaneous. They are organized, particularly by the odious Service Employees International Union.

Personally, I knew where to follow the footsteps. I went to the website of People's Weekly World, an organ of Communist Party USA. There, among the articles praising Obama's "mandate for change," praising the "Employee Free Choice Act," and so forth, was an article titled, "Angry about AIG? Here's how you can do something about it." The CPUSA article emphasized that "President Obama calls AIG's behavior an ‘outrage.'" "But what can [you] do about it?" asked the communists. Well, "if you're angry," you can join the "March 19 Day of Action Against Corporate Excess." CPUSA then linked to a "complete list of cities and events." "Don't see your city on there yet?" carefully guided the article. "Sign up to organize your own Take Back the Economy rally -- all the materials you need are available through the site." Indeed, they were: PDF's of fliers and all kinds of things.

Following the links, one ends up at the sponsors for the Day of Action. Topping the list, naturally, is ACORN, the training ground for the current President of the United States and leader of the free world. Joining Obama's alma mater is SEIU, MoveOn.org, the National Lawyers Guild, the Mass Nurses Association, and other usual suspects.

Dependably, the useful idiots of the Religious Left were there: Interfaith Worker Justice, United for Peace and Justice, Catholics United, American Friends Service Committee, Brockton Interfaith, Catholic Scholars for Social Justice, Mass Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, New England Jewish Labor Committee, and other fellow travelers.

But most significant, the greatest dupes of all -- the liberal media -- are relied upon as the ultimate sucker: The ringleaders count on the press to report the tiniest protest; they understand that the mainstream media is educator-in-chief to most Americans. From there, the likes of James Haas's Connecticut neighbor learn how to feel about the Haas family's bay windows. That's the process. Thus, the mob.

Well, the mob wants someone's head on a platter -- now. Time to eat the rich. Perhaps our dear leader, President Obama, can go to Connecticut to play the role of healer, addressing the faithful, calming their fears, a political sermon on the mount. Blessed would be the peacemaker. But not yet -- for now, this hate is just too excellent, too perfect for advancing the agenda of the leftist ideologues and envy-mongers running the republic.

Who's to blame? The American people are to blame. I'm tired of the populist nonsense from talk-radio on how Americans "deserve better than this." They do? Why? They voted for this. Obama is being Obama. Pelosi is being Pelosi. Schumer is being Schumer. The American people cast the ballots. You reap what you sow. Enjoy the hate, America. You elected it.


Waltz with Sisyphus: Israel's impossible propaganda war

Israel's supporters mostly agree that the country has an image problem. To solve it, they look to ways of improving hasbara. The telling Hebrew expression literally means "explanation," and its ideal is the revelation of the nation's dreams and pain to the world. Its creed might be rendered "the better we are known, the more we will be understood and supported."

As domestic news coverage of Operation Cast Lead made clear, hasbara philosophy has deep roots. During the operation, the public was subjected to endless footage of frightened women and children in the South. It reminded the public why it was at war. The Israeli people doesn't like to make sacrifices based on long-term necessity or cold calculation. When it reluctantly gives battle, it prefers to be in dire straits. And for many, the suffering face of the South explained the much greater suffering of the Palestinians.

In large part, the foreign hasbara effort relied on the same formula, focusing on making the South's face known. Especially in Europe, the explanation was dismissed as "disproportional."

Israel might have chosen instead to spend more words on Hamas's intractability and its genocidal philosophy. The goals of the war might have been more clearly stated, or Iranian ambitions in Gaza exposed. But Israel explained the war to the world the same way it explained it to itself, in terms of its own immediate suffering. It demanded direct empathy from people, asking, "How would you react?"

ISRAEL'S IMPULSIVENESS, its sensitivities and its unique moral symbolism run deep. For many, the face of captive Gilad Schalit explains the need to release hundreds of terrorists from jail. To understand the phenomenon, one must certainly understand the country's specific character. But it is another thing entirely to expect the rest of the world to share it.

The film Waltz with Bashir, like Beaufort before it, is an Oscar-nominated antiwar film with a documentary feel. Its animated sequences recount the stories of several aging veterans of the First Lebanon War. They suffer flashbacks from their experiences and try to come to terms with their moral wounds. As the film progresses, a universal message of the senselessness of war is interwoven with direct and specific attacks on politicians and generals, and the IDF's culpability for the Sabra and Shatila massacres is strongly implied.

The film's director, Ari Folman, revealingly commented that his work was not geared specifically toward Israelis. He also admitted that two government funds had paid for the film to represent Israel at international film festivals, adding, "I think that they think that the film does good propaganda in the sense that it shows Israel is a very tolerant country that can deal with issues of the past that are hidden in many ways."

Nor were the government and Folman the only ones to think so. Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, whose conviction of the country's essential wickedness is unassailable, criticized it on the same grounds. "It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are," he wrote.

The expression "we shoot and weep," ridiculed by Levy, describes the moral pride of middle Israel forced into war. Waltz with Bashir is a beautifully choreographed pageant of shooting and weeping, with perhaps more weeping than shooting. Political messages aside, the film shows the very human face of IDF soldiers sent to war. It explains. The one thing it is not does not explain, however, is the justice and necessity of Israel's ways. This hardly makes for successful propaganda.

ISRAEL'S CASE for existing is strong. It is not evident that its moral tears, however genuine, make that case stronger in the eyes of the world. Its self-doubts, encouraged by world condemnation, only remind the West of its own self-doubts and historical episodes it has chosen to reject. Direct empathy and identification, as terrorists and insurgents around the world have learned, is the longest path to the heart of the West.

Outside of America, few Western nations identify with Israel. For them, to be Western is above all to be charged with not inflicting suffering. Israel shares the West's repulsion with suffering. Perhaps it thinks for this reason that its tears will win sympathy. In fact, they encourage its enemies and confuse its supporters. The bitter truth is that hasbara is not propaganda at all, so much as a moral need particular to the Israeli psyche. And Israel's need to be known, warts and all, does not convince Westerners of justice of its cause.

In many laudable ways Israel tries to be a light unto the nations. They can all be accomplished in the absence of unlimited self-revelation.


Australia: Melbourne Catholic Church embraces testing to ID gay priests

THE Melbourne Catholic Church has embraced a Vatican recommendation to test potential priests for sexual orientation. Under the guidelines, potential priests who "appear" to be gay must be banned. The head of the Vatican committee that made the recommendations has made it clear celibate gays should also be banned because homosexuality is ‘‘a type of deviation’’.

Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman James O’Farrell confirmed Carlton’s Corpus Christi Catholic seminary had started adhering to the guidelines, but refused to comment further.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokeswoman Hayley Conway said the church was sending a ‘‘dangerous and offensive’’ message about sexuality. ‘‘They seem to be moving backwards in a lot of ways which is really unfortunate . . . especially for those who are Catholic and out, and there are a lot of them already struggling,’’ she said. ‘‘If the plan is to root out pedophilia or child molestation, targeting people with homosexual tendencies isn’t the way to go about it.’’

Outspoken Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire said the document ‘‘flies in the face of secular society’s sense of fairness and justice’’. ‘‘The point is not to what gender you are attracted, but how you manage that attraction,’’ he said. [Since it seems to have been badly managed in the past, surely it is best not to have that problem in the first place. Frustrated homosexual would-be priests could easily become Anglicans, where they would find many "friends" and plenty of gorgeous eucharistic services, complete with bells, smells and elaborate vestments]



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

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

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


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Some Leftist history

The Leftist view of the world is driven by their emotional needs rather than by reality so history is very unkind to their simplistic theories. They know that and normally avoid history like the plague, even when conservatives try to shove it down their throats. Sometimes however they get themselves into a position where they have to say something about history, so, on such occasions, they pick out a few bits and pieces and distort them. They NEVER tell the whole story. That great hater, Ward "Eichmann" Churchill, gives us an excellent example of that below

We've received, via one of our jackbooted thugs, a copy of Professor Ward Churchill's recent Works & Days article "The Myth of Academic Freedom: Experiencing the Application of Liberal Principle in a Neoconservative Era" (published a few scant weeks before Teh Trial began). It is as chockful o'facts as we've come to expect of any Churchill screed, provided that—in this PoMo world—zero still equals zero. We're reading it over the weekend, and we'll post our impressions as time and industry (or our lack of same) permit.

We note right off that in the section "On Matters of Historical Interpretation" Churchill makes his usual flight into fabulism with yet another iteration of his intentional smallpox infection story. He says, for instance, that in 1837
"[Charles Larpenteur] exposed a group of forty Assiniboins [sic] to a child in the most highly contagious stage of the disease, them told them to flee back to their home village(s)"
and cites in the accompanying footnote Larpenteur's own Forty Years A Fur Trader as part of his documentation (his other source is the two-volume A History of the American Fur Trade in the Far West by Hiram Martin Chittenden—which, incidentally, Churchill consistently misspells as Chittendon). Unfortunately for Churchill, the text of Forty Years is available on the Internet, and the relevant passage reads thus:
While the epidemic was at its height a party of about 40 Indians came in, not exactly on a trade, but more on a begging visit, under the celebrated old chief Co-han; and the word was, "Hurry up! Open the door!" which had been locked for many days, to keep the crazy folks in.

Nothing else would do we must open the door; but on showing him a little boy who had not recovered, and whose face was still one solid scab, by holding him above the pickets, the Indians finally concluded to leave. Not long afterward we learned that more than one-half of the party had died some said all of them.
Clearly, Churchill would have the reader believe Larpenteur's actions were consciously malicious toward the Indians, while the text is far less self-accusatory. More importantly, the immediately preceding sentences give the reader a very different perspective on the incident:
"[...] for immediately on the landing of the [steamer] we learned that smallpox was on board. Mr. J. Halsey, the gentleman who was to take charge this summer, had the disease, of which several of the hands had died; but it had subsided, and this was the only case on board. Our only apprehensions were that the disease might spread among the Indians, for Mr. Halsey had been vaccinated, and soon recovered. Prompt measures were adopted to prevent an epidemic. As we had no vaccine matter we decided to inoculate with the smallpox itself; and after the systems of those who were to be inoculated had been prepared according to Dr. Thomas' medical book, the operation was performed upon about 30 Indian squaws and a few white men. This was done with the view to have it all over and everything cleaned up before any Indians should come in, on their fall trade, which commenced early in September. The smallpox matter should have been taken from a very healthy person; but, unfortunately, Mr. Halsey was not sound, and the operation proved fatal to most of our patients. About 15 days afterward there was such a stench in the fort that it could be smelt at the distance of 300 yards. It was awful the scene in the fort, where some went crazy, and others were half eaten up by maggots before they died; yet, singular to say, not a single bad expression was ever uttered by a sick Indian. Many died, and those who recovered were so much disfigured that one could scarcely recognize them."
That Larpenteur was not only not maliciously intent on infecting Indians with smallpox, but rather, was trying desperately to save them (even observing in admiration their courage in the face of certain death), Churchill does not note in his "history," probably because it interferes with--the uncharitable might say baldly contradicts--his narrative. Count us among the uncharitable.

Churchill notes that Larpenteur was a fur company employee who filled in as post surgeon at Fort Union "while Denig was recovering from a very mild case of the pox" and cites Barton H. Barbour's Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade as the source for this assertion, but Barbour himself only notes that Denig "was stricken with an unidentified violent fever, probably a mild case of the disease."

By the way: Larpenteur's account (being, as it is, one told by someone who was there and completely involved in the events) offers what we'd call pretty substantial proof that the smallpox epidemic started with the infected white trader, Mr. J. Halsey. One would think that to contradict such a straightforward recounting of events as witnessed by a participant with a tale of malicious and intentional infliction of smallpox by the US Army would require at least a similarly first-person account of same. One, of course, would be wrong. Churchill need offer no such proof. He is, after all, Ward Churchill.


Conservative Black Group Challenges Liberal Urban League's "State of Black America 2009" Report

"Harmful Recommendations," "Dreary" Tone Among Criticisms

This year's edition of the liberal National Urban League's annual State of Black America report fails to effectively challenge the Obama Administration, is unnecessarily dreary and makes recommendations that would be harmful, say members of the conservative Project 21 black leadership group.

"It is long past time that groups such the National Urban League should be given a pass as they blame poor personal decisions, lack of personal preparation and the realities of life on a phantom bogeyman of conspiratorial dictates designed to impede black progress," said Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "If they are going to point fingers, they should not exclude pointing fingers at themselves. They cannot claim 100 years of making a difference in the lives of blacks while simultaneously claiming that blacks aren't succeeding as quickly as every other group of Americans."

This year's National Urban League report, like past reports, dwells on negatives. National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, for instance, says, "The election of the first black president does not mean we can all now close up shop and go home." This echoes Morial's predecessor, John E. Jacobs, who wrote in the 1993 edition that black Americans were faced with "bleak despair countered by fresh hope" upon the change of presidential administrations.

Among essays by entrepreneur and publisher Earl Graves, Jr. and scandal-plagued U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), the report makes specific recommendations on policies pertaining to education, health care, homeownership and employment, among others. Some of these recommendations, as categorized in the National Urban League report's executive summary, are constructively challenged by Project 21 members.

In the area of health care, the National Urban League recommends government-run universal coverage. As Project 21's Massie points out, this sort of health care has failed abroad and would fail in America as well.

"Do we need the people who run the DMV in charge of the emergency room? That's what you get with government-run health care," said Massie. "Creating a new health care bureaucracy would stifle innovation and limit choice."

"If you want an example of what may happen, look no further than the 'Urban Health Initiative' created by now-First Lady Michelle Obama and Obama political guru David Alexrod at the University of Chicago," noted Massie. "Their plan seeks to divert residents away for the university's elite hospital to county hospitals and clinics. This shocking plan is now being reconsidered after the Chicago Tribune reported that Dontae Adams, a 12-year-old dog bite victim, was given only a shot and some painkillers at the university hospital. He was told to seek follow-up treatment the next week at a county hospital. His mother immediately took him to another hospital on a bus for reconstructive facial surgery that same day."

Massie added: "What happened to Dontae might be a common occurrence for all under government-run health care. What Americans need are more choices and the ability to make their own decisions when it comes to their medical needs. That's what the NUL should be asking for."

Regarding homeownership, the NUL report suggests funding educational initiatives and credit counseling, something that might find them at odds with some activist groups of which they are usually allied that have opposed such programs in the past as akin to "redlining" because they might target certain areas and populations.

But NUL also supports an expanded Community Reinvestment Act - the regulation that mandates risky mortgage lending situations and is blamed by many as the catalyst for the subprime mortgage crisis.

Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli said: "Government aid and intervention should not replace an individual's responsibility to exercise good judgment. Achieving the American Dream of homeownership begins with understanding the terms of the contract and meeting those obligations. Expanding the Community Reinvestment Act risks inflating another housing bubble that would further hinder our country's economic recovery. For the National Urban League to encourage more risky loans at this point is reckless."

On education, the NUL suggests retaining the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" standards policy, but does not adequately speak out in favor of popular school choice and charter school programs that explicitly spotlight and seek to remedy failing government-run schools by denying them a captive student body. NUL suggestions still look to government as the best administrator of education despite its poor track record.

"The status quo on education has not worked and it never will work," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin. "While the National Urban League is focused on what the government can do, they are not speaking out enough about what parents can do. Education is the civil rights issue of our time, and vouchers, charter schools and similar alternatives to the failed government approach need to be encouraged."

Overall, Project 21's Martin noted: "The black community does not need to be protected from capitalism, as the National Urban League's report seems to imply. The black community needs to embrace capitalism. The free market is where true opportunity lies."

The above is a press release from Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or project21@nationalcenter.org

Britain's Leftist government has emasculated the police

Police efforts to deal with anti-social behaviour are being crippled by Government diktats, a hard-hitting report by ‘Robocop’ Ray Mallon has found. Mr Mallon, who became famous for his zero-tolerance policing as a Detective Superintendent in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, warns that officers are in the grip of an ‘arrest or ignore’ culture. He warned that police priorities have become distorted, leading to a collapse in public confidence.

Mr Mallon, who is now Mayor of Middlesbrough, makes his claims in a report released tomorrow by the Centre for Social Justice, a think tank set up by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

In an article for Mail Online today (below), Mr Mallon says that officers’ discretion has been removed by strict operational guidance from the Home Office and a need to hit arrest targets, while the real problems of anti-social behaviour are not being tackled. It means officers have to make a snap decision to either arrest a suspect or let them go instead of giving them an old-fashioned clip round the ear and a stiff talking-to.

He quotes one policeman as saying: ‘Prisons are full, detections are up, but go to any High Street in the country and ask anyone: do you feel safer? The answer is a resounding no.’ He adds: ‘Over the last ten years, policing has become far too complicated and needs to be made simple again. More and more, the police find their actions constrained by tight Government prescription, set down in complex action plans, performance indicators and targets.’

Mr Mallon’s report coincides with a drive by the Conservatives to toughen up the party’s law and order policies. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling says the Tories would introduce a number of measures to combat anti-social behaviour, including allowing the police to ‘ground’ children who cause trouble.

Research carried out for the report found that more than three-quarters of people did not think there were enough police on the streets or that they were doing enough to combat anti-social behaviour.

Taking Back the Streets

By Ray Mallon

Over 28 years as a career police officer and now as an elected mayor, I have seen how important it is for police to challenge unacceptable behaviour on the streets. When I talk to the public I find it isn¹t the fear of burglary that worries them but what might happen on their way home from work. It¹s when they have to cross the road to avoid a crowd of violent yobs or when they wait at home concerned because someone they love is late back from the bus.

That's when their heart rate rises and the fear of their streets sets in. This is the essence of what policing should be about. For that rising heartbeat is the fear of crime.

Despite the Home Office saying year after year that crime is going down, two out of three people think it has gone up. As one police officer told us: 'Prisons are full, detections are up but go to any high street in the country and ask anyone: 'Do you feel safer?' The answer is a resounding 'No'.' The public just don't trust crime statistics that tell them they are safer now than ever because that isn't their experience in the street.

It was because of my concerns about what has been happening to the police that when Iain Duncan Smith at the Centre for Social Justice asked me to help by getting to the heart of what's gone wrong with policing, I agreed. We started by commissioning national polling which told us what any Government should already know. Eighty-five per cent of people said that there are not enough police on the streets.

Seventy-two per cent of people said that it is unacceptable for police officers on duty, not to intervene when they see a crime. and seventy-six per cent said that the police don't deal with antisocial behaviour.

These are worrying numbers which show the public have become dissatisfied, losing their faith in a once proud force. Is it any surprise they feel like that, when police officers spend less than a fifth of their time on street patrol – that's under seven hours a week for a full-time police officer.

They patrol in pairs and in cars, making them half as visible and stopping them from interacting with the public. In the end, only one per cent of an officer's time is spent on foot patrol. How can the police intervene, if they aren't even on the streets? The public want a Force to police the streets. Instead, we have been de-policing them.

This is because over the last ten years, policing has become far too complicated and needs to be made simple again. More and more, the police find their actions constrained by tight government prescription, set down in complex action plans, performance indicators and targets.

During the course of this report, my team and I met so many officers who felt they were being forced to police in a straight jacket, unable to use their discretion. They knew that without the ability to use discretion, when on patrol, they couldn't provide a proper service to the public.

Discretion allows officers to judge when to make an arrest and when to use an informal approach. The public will judge the officer's intervention not by whether it achieves some government target but by whether it makes their street a better and safer place to live.

While I want to see a police force committed to intervene against every crime, disorder or act of antisocial behaviour that doesn't mean they have to arrest every kid who causes trouble.

I believe most of the public want the police to send a strong message about what is and isn't acceptable in their towns and streets. To break up the fight, to make the litterer pick up their mess - a voice of authority yet also a voice on the side of the law abiding in their community.

They should be encouraged and resourced to talk to parents and to schools, to use commonsense, to make the drunken college student repair or work off the shop window that he smashed. To make this happen, we need to tear up the excuse book. We have to get rid of these central targets, no one out there, not the police or the public wants the hand of central government on their shoulder, they are desperate for local policing driven by local priorities.

Too many times officers told us in desperation, 'We've been politicised. We don't police to do what we think is important, we police to do what someone up there wants.' They're right. Too often the public feel as though the police have become the agents of an over centralised state and of course the police know this.

What makes it worse is that as their methods have become less responsive to local needs, the dead hand of the health and safety lobby has emasculated the police further still. Stories about police unable to enter the scene of a shooting in case they got injured or unsure whether to save a drowning child because the risks were to great. This is madness on stilts.

I want police officers to be under orders to put themselves in harm's way if the safety of the public is at risk. That's why I joined and I know that is why those young men and women join today. They have joined to protect and serve the public and to make a difference. Surely It's time to free them and give them that chance.

If policing is going to improve, it needs to become a true profession, strongly led by effective Chief Officers who are liberated from petty political interference and have genuine operational independence.

Those Chief Officers must put the needs of the community they serve first ahead of careers and awards. To do this they will need to be overseen by effective and truly local governance, to hold not only the Chief Constable to account but also all of the agencies who combine together to make our streets safer.

Good policing is a basic expectation for every citizen and the recommendations in our report will make sure that it happens. They must become effective if they are to regain the trust of a sceptical public and through this trust they will regain the consent of the public. When the police reclaim the streets they will become, once again, a Force to be reckoned with.


Leftist racism again: Treating Arabs (and Muslims generally) as irresponsible children

By Caroline B. Glick

Tuesday's violent riots in Umm el Fahm and the debate which accompanied them are emblematic of one of the greatest challenges facing not only Israel, but much of the Western world today. Far right Jewish Israeli political activists held a peaceful demonstration in the radical Arab-Islamist dominated city of Umm el Fahm in the Galilee under heavy police protection. Thousands of Arab Israelis supported by far left Jewish Israeli political activists reacted with violent rioting. And the media blamed the violence on the peaceful Jewish Israeli demonstrators.

Tuesday's demonstration, which was led by former followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, MK Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir was supposed to take place last December after the Supreme Court upheld the activists' legal right to march through the city. But the police blocked it, claiming they could not guarantee the marchers' security. Only after again being ordered by the Supreme Court to the let demonstration to go forward did the police relent. But they limited the march to the outskirts of the city.

In accordance with the police guidelines, Tuesday the marchers were transported to the outskirts of the town in bullet-proof buses. 2,500 policemen deployed along Wadi Ara highway, and throughout the town to protect them. They were allowed to march holding flags and singing folksongs for a half an hour and then returned to their bullet proof buses. In the meantime, thousands of local residents standing on rooftops and crowding into the streets began rioting. They threw volley after volley of rocks at the Jewish marchers and the police protecting them. They cursed them. They cursed the police. In the end, some 15 policemen were wounded by the projectiles - including Inspector General Shahar Ayalon, the Deputy Superintendent of the National Police.

As far as the media were concerned, the fact that thousands of Arabs attacked the police and the lawful demonstrators was a non-story. The fact that these Israeli Arab citizens claimed to be personally insulted and injured because the demonstration "forced" them to set their eyes on their national flag was seemingly understandable. The fact that these Israeli citizens rejected Israel's flag while waving Palestinian and Islamic flags was neither newsworthy nor controversial. No one in the media asked the Arab rioters whom they felt threatened by. No one asked them why seeing Jews marching with the flag of Israel should provoke them to attack.

To the extent the media found a culprit, it was the Israeli demonstrators. They were "provocateurs" who forced taxpayers to spend millions of shekels to deploy 2,500 policemen armed with riot gear to the city. It never occurred to the media that Ben Ari, Marzel and Ben Gvir were not the cause of the enormous police presence. They were a danger to no one. The reason the police were forced to deploy so massively was because they believed that the Arabs would violently attack the Jewish demonstrators. It was the Arabs, not the Jews whom the police feared would break the law. And as it works out, they were right.

The media's coverage of the Umm el Fahm riot fits into an ongoing pattern. Over the years, the local media have developed a code for reporting on Arabs - whether Palestinian or Israeli or foreign. And it is a bigoted code.

As far as Israel's media are concerned, Arabs cannot be expected to act like responsible citizens. They cannot be required to abide by the law like the rest of the country's citizens. As far as Israel's media and the rest of the political Left are concerned, Arabs are either victims or objects. They cannot be culprits or independent actors. Their will -- to the extent they have one -- is collective. No individual can be held accountable for his or her actions. And their will is reactive. All Arab actions are but reactions to Jewish provocations. Many in the US and Europe have expressed surprise and indeed mystification about Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party's strong third place showing in last month's elections. And there is good reason for their confusion. Lieberman is not an easy candidate to swallow for either rightists or leftists. Right wingers find his plan to make the Galilee and parts of the Negev part of a future Palestinian state absurd and wrong. Leftists find his call for all Israelis, including Arab Israelis -- to declare their loyalty to the state as a condition for keeping their citizenship absurd and wrong. And yet, due to the 15 Knesset seats he won from both right and left wing voters, Lieberman will serve as the foreign minister in the incoming Netanyahu government.

The Israel Left has demonized Lieberman as a racist for his positions on the Arabs. The anti-Israel lobby in Washington is already using their attacks to discredit the incoming government. But the fact is that fundamentally, Lieberman is little different from the Left which demonizes him.

Lieberman is a populist. He owes his popularity to the fact that he properly identified the political radicalization and increasing lawlessness among Israel's Arab citizens as the major domestic issue of our times. Lieberman is unique among politicians from both the Left and the Right in that he is the only one who is willing to confront the issue head on. And it is due to his readiness to discuss this issue that the public rewarded him with fifteen Knesset seats.

Like most populists, Lieberman is not a deep thinker. As a consequence, he adopted the bigoted framework of the Left for contending with the challenge posed today by Israel's Arabs. His idea of removing the Galilee from sovereign Israel and attaching it to a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is based on the Left's bigoted assumption that Israeli Arabs cannot be expected to be loyal to the country or act as law abiding citizens. Lieberman's adoption of the Left's prejudiced perspective on Israeli Arabs has engendered a dismal situation where while the debate has now been joined on the issue of how to contend with Israeli Arab disloyalty and crime, the debate that has developed is nothing more than a dialogue of the deaf.

No one talks about the need to inculcate Israeli values of liberal democracy among our Arab citizens. No one talks about blunting the power of radical leaders like Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, who heads the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch or Arab parliamentarians who openly treat with Hizbullah and Hamas and side with Israel's enemies in time of war. No one talks about empowering Israeli Arabs who are loyal to Israel. That is, no one talks about adopting policies that could actually improve the situation.

And this is a tragedy because the situation is truly grave. Early this week a Hizbullah-controlled Israeli Arab terror group which calls itself the Free People of the Galilee claimed responsibility for the attempted car bombing at Haifa's largest shopping mall Saturday night. That bomb, planted in a car trunk outside the mall, was large enough to have toppled the three story mall and kill hundreds of people. Mercifully, it was discovered before it was detonated.

Since 2001, the same group has claimed responsibility for a string of murderous attacks - mainly centered in Jerusalem. It claimed responsibility for the massacre of eight students at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva last year. It claimed responsibility for the first bulldozer attack in Jerusalem last year in which three people were murdered. And it claimed responsibility for the murder of several individual Jews around the Old City in Jerusalem since August 2001.

Also this week, the Jerusalem District Attorney's office announced that four Israeli Arabs have been indicted for the attempted murder of an American Hebrew University student last month. The four attacked the student as he walked through the Jerusalem Forest on the way to his dormitory. They beat him, stabbed him in the cheek, and tried to slash his throat before fleeing the scene. And earlier this month, the police announced the arrest last month of another Israeli Arab on charges of spying for Hizbullah. The arrest of 27-year-old Ismail Sulaiman from a village in the Jezreel Valley is the latest in a string of arrests of Israeli Arabs on charges of spying for Hizbullah. Last September IDF Sgt. Maj. Louai Balut from the Western Galilee, who served as a tracker along the Lebanese border was sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying for Hizbullah. And of course, former MK and Balad Party leader Azmi Bishara remains on the lam after he fled the country just before being charged with spying for Hizbullah during the 2006 war.

Israel of course is not alone in contending with this challenge. Throughout Europe governments are forced to contend with the fact that increasingly, the greatest threat to the security of their general citizenry comes from their Muslim and Arab citizens. The only difference is that Israel alone is castigated as a racist state simply for suffering from the problem of Muslim extremism.

On Sunday Phillip Johnston published a column in the *Sunday Telegraph* critiquing the British government's new strategy for defending against Islamic terror. Johnston bemoaned the fact that the new plan pays no attention to the fact that most of the terrorists sitting in British jails as well as the perpetrators of the July 7, 2005 bombings are British. Whereas the new strategy concentrates on the need to fight terrorists in places like Afghanistan, as Johnston put it, "There was not a single mention of the undeniable truth that the extremists who will actually carry out atrocities live among us and need to be confronted here and now."

Johnston argued that rather than ignore the problem of increased extremism among Britain's Muslims "in the interests of 'community harmony'," the British government should actively engage in "an unequivocal and enthusiastic espousal of British values of tolerance and liberal democracy."

That is, to contend with the growing radicalization of British Muslims, the government in London should end its current policy of appeasement of radical Muslim groups which is based on the bigoted assumption that Muslims cannot be expected to either abide by the laws or to integrate into wider society. Britain should instead embrace its own identity as a liberal democracy and require its citizens to abide by liberal democratic norms.

In Britain as in Israel and indeed throughout the free world, those norms are based on the understanding that the ability of a society to remain a free society is contingent on its citizenry's recognition that there can be no civil rights without civic duties. The Umm el Fahm riots serve as yet another warning of this fundamental truth.

Here in Israel we face the same choice. Either we encourage our Arab citizens to fully accept both the rights and duties of citizenship or we continue - through either populism of cowardice - to facilitate their rejection of our society. If we embark on the first path, we will safeguard our national identity as a Jewish liberal democracy. If we remain on the second path, we will imperil our lives, our way of life and our national existence.



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

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

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


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Truth Catches Up, Probably Too Late

In the aftermath of Israel's incursion into Gaza, there was widespread criticism of the conduct of Israeli troops. News outlets in Israel printed accounts of alleged killings of civilians that originated with left-wing activists. Those stories were quickly repeated in the American press, including the New York Times, which reported on March 19:
Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army's conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military's chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier's account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.

When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: "What's great about Gaza -- you see a person on a path, he doesn't have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, 'Maybe he's a terrorist.' What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood." ...

One of the soldiers' testimonies involved the killing of a family. The soldier said: "We had taken over the house, and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left. The sniper on the roof wasn't told that this was O.K. and that he shouldn't shoot. You can say he just did what he was told."
These widely-publicized incidents have now been investigated, and the conclusion is that they didn't happen. CAMERA has the story:
The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged "wanton killings" in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not take place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander's findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings. According to the story (translation by CAMERA):
Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. The brigade's commander today will present to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few days, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander's investigation cites the sniper: "I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, 'Why did you shoot at them?' I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots."

Officers from the brigade surmise that fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.
The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:
Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times and other newspapers that published the original "testimonies" follow up on this more current, and more reliable, information.


More tedious BBC political correctness -- at the expense of historical accuracy

Friar Tuck has been viewed for centuries as a roly-poly, comic addition to Robin of Sherwood's band of merry men. But in the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, which begins tonight, he has been reinvented as a black martial arts expert, to the fury of historians. David Harewood, the new Friar Tuck, who starred in the BBC thriller Criminal Justice, admitted that this reincarnation of the character had seemed ridiculous to him at first. “I actually laughed,” he said.

Historians are less amused about the casting of Friar Tuck, who is usually played by short, fat, balding white men. There had been rumours that Matt Lucas, the star of Little Britain, would get the role. Helen Phillips, Professor of English at Cardiff University and an expert in medieval literature, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn't have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have mostly been Muslims. “Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn't have been in any sense African.”

Harewood, who was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, said that he had been persuaded of the merits of the radical interpretation of the character. “They sent me the character breakdown and it was very different from what I expected. It was a welcome change and something I really felt was going to be exciting,” he said. “Funnily enough, when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I thought they'd missed a trick and that they should have had a black character in it. It turns out that I am the black character, so I think it adds a modern dimension to it, as well. I think viewers will really take to it: at least I hope they will.”

In the first episode of the new series, at 6.50pm on BBC One, Tuck has abandoned his mission to the Holy Land and returns to England with the hope of resurrecting the legend of Robin Hood. However, he finds the country a different place. Harewood said: “He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find that the people are slightly broken, much like they are now with the credit crunch. “The people need a hero, and that's what Tuck very much wants: to stand behind a symbol of good.”

But viewers will at first be led to believe that the friar is a tricksy, brooding character with more on his mind than simply helping the battle against the Sheriff of Nottingham. “If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic,” Harewood said. “He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic. He wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.

“Tuck is very much his own person. Many times he will go against Robin, argue with Robin and talk Robin into doing things he doesn't want to do. I think he's going to be a challenge to the whole group.”

The actor underwent gruelling fighting lessons for the role, in line with historic interpretations of Friar Tuck as being proficient with “clubbes and staves”. He said: “My stunt double was a kind of a capoeira [a Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance] champion, and there's quite a lot of martial arts that my character does later on in the series, which was really, really fun to do and very physical.”


The Holy Father was right!

When the pope visited Africa back in mid-March, a firestorm erupted when the media reported he had said “condoms spread AIDS.” Although the pope didn’t use those exact words, it was an accurate summary. Here’s what the pope did say:
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness—even through personal sacrifice—to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
According to the pope, “the scourge [of AIDS] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms”—in fact, doing so “risk[s] worsening the problem.” Predictably, there was a cacophony of condemnation directed at the pope. And to give just one example, ACT UP, the gay activist group, labeled him “assassin,” and threw condemns at worshippers leaving service at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

I guess activists can’t help throwing condoms—either at those who oppose their policy, or at populations dying of AIDS in Africa and around the world.

Soon after the story broke, Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, released an interview with Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Here’s what Green had to say:
We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.

The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that condoms have been proven to not be effective at the level of population. There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded Demographic Health Surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction technology such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by compensating or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.

I also noticed that the pope said monogamy was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than abstinence. The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).
So Harvard agrees with the pope: condoms spread AIDS!

Have you ever heard this before?—anywhere? It’s hard to believe that there’s a classroom or newsroom in America where this has ever been discussed or broadcast. Who knew that distributing condoms doesn’t lower the HIV-infection rate, it raises it? I didn’t.

We were talking about this on my radio show the day the story broke, when I went to the next caller, “Rick in Santa Margarita”—who ended up being pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback, listening in on his way to a hospital visitation.

Rick shared that he’s friends with Ed Green, familiar with his research, and stays up to speed on the whole AIDS pandemic in Africa. No pastor in America has done more to fight AIDS in Africa than Rick Warren—and he went on to affirm everything Ed Green and the Pope said about condoms: passing out condoms promotes promiscuity, promiscuity increases risky behavior (i.e., “non-safe sex”), and non-safe sex spreads AIDS. Thus, “condoms spread AIDS.”

As Rick pointed out, the real question policy-makers must answer is whether they want to stop AIDS or merely slow it down. If they want to slow AIDS, then they’ll keep passing out condoms and teaching “safe sex.” But the problem is, we now know this isn’t true. Condom distribution doesn’t even slow the spread of AIDS, it actually speeds it up.

If they want to stop AIDS, then they’ll have to stop encouraging promiscuity and adultery and teach abstinence and monogamy.

This is why in Africa, where AIDS has already killed tens of millions, more and more countries are abandoning our Western strategy of condom distribution and replacing it with the strategy that actually does save lives.

Since it began teaching abstinence, Uganda has dropped its HIV infection rate from 30 percent down to 6 percent. Other countries have gotten the message.


Why children do best with strict parents

British findings

Children are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians, academics claimed yesterday. Traditional 'authoritative' parenting, combining high expectations of behaviour with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more 'competent' children. It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, said researchers from London's Institute of Education, a body widely viewed as Left-wing.

The findings, from a Government-funded study into parenting qualities, raise questions about whether parents leading hectic lifestyles need only be 'good enough'. 'Contrary to the notions of "good enough" parenting, a wealth of research indicates that better parenting leads to better-adjusted, more competent children,' the report said. 'The notion of "good enough" parenting may seem ideal in today's hectic world, yet the realityis that "good enough" parents will most likely produce "good enough" children at best. 'Considering this, we need to provide support to parents to be more than just "good enough" to ensure that children are not at risk.'

The best parenting was characterised by high expectations that children would act with the maturity befitting their age. Supervision and discipline was also key, as was responsiveness to children's needs. 'Multiple studies have documented that children who have authoritative parents - that is, both firm disciplinarians and warm, receptive caregivers - are more competent than their peers at developmental periods, including pre-school, school age and adolescence,' said the report.

It drew from studies which had shown that girls whose parents were 'mediocre' were more likely to experience 'significantly more internalising problems such as low self-esteem or the use of illicit drugs'.

Principal author Dr Leslie Gutman is research director of the Institute's Centre for Research On The Wider Benefits of Learning.

The findings, which will fuel parental angst over the best way of bringing up children, were handed to Children's Minister Beverley Hughes yesterday. The conclusions, based on a review of studies on parenting, were reinforced by the centre's own study. This involved observing more than 1,000 mothers reading to their children at age one, and again at five. It found that mothers who breast-fed, had strong mental health and well-developed social networks were more likely to score highly on the task. These mothers were also more likely to show warmth towards their children, and communicate effectively with them.

'We would therefore recommend that maternal mental health, breastfeeding and social networks form the focus of intervention efforts to boost parenting capabilities,' the report added. 'Both who you are and what you do are important in terms of parenting - personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and education and behaviours such as breastfeeding are significant predictors.'

The claims are the latest salvo in the fiery debate over child-rearing. The Good Childhood Inquiry recently claimed a culture of 'excessive individualism' among adults was to blame for many of children's problems. It said 30 per cent of adults in the UK disagreed with the statement that 'parents' duty is to do their best for their children even at the expense of their own well-being'.



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

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

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


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Illegal to wake up a dormouse??

Batty Britain again

When Dreamy the dormouse was pictured in the Mail sleeping peacefully on a red rose, he became a very small celebrity. Not that he knew, of course, because he was busy hibernating. But his celebrity status became a big problem for staff at his rescue centre home after Jonathan Ross showed the picture on his BBC1 chat show.

Ross suggested Dreamy must have been woken from hibernation at some point during his photographic session, an offence under the Animal and Welfare Act. Some viewers believed him and rang police. When an officer went to investigate at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in Somerset, staff were horrified. After all, they had originally saved Dreamy when he was found in a greenhouse with wounds thought to have been inflicted by a cat. Spokesman Jamie Baker said: 'We told them the dormouse had never been woken up. '

Avon and Somerset Police later said no offence was committed. The following week, on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, the presenter apologised, adding: 'The charity who provided that picture have been raided by the police for allegedly disturbing the dormouse during its hibernation, which is illegal. The dormouse stayed asleep during the whole thing and was fine.'

Mr Baker said: 'I think people meant well but they should have got the whole story first.' A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that a complaint was made over the dormouse and that an officer was sent out to investigate. He added that no offence was committed.


British elite hatred of the middle class again

'Equal Justice Under Law' are the words chiselled in stone above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court building in Washington. I did not notice whether any similarly stirring sentiment adorns the somewhat less impressive frontage of a certain magistrates' court in East London but I rather suspect that it does not.

My wife and I are three months behind with our council tax payments to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and as a result we had to appear in court. We hoped that if we promised to clear our debt of 549 pounds by March 31, the end of the fiscal year, the magistrates would waive the additional 75 cost of our summons. As most of our food shopping involves the 'Last Day Of Sale' shelf - we walk a fine line between nourishment and food poisoning - that sum represents more than two weeks' worth of groceries for us.

We felt we had a chance. After all, the two magistrates on the bench had been magnanimously lenient in the four cases that preceded ours. However, it was not to be.

Our financial troubles had started when the credit crunch began to affect our already irregular incomes, necessitating the selective paying of bills. My wife, Vahni, is a sporadically employed ballet dancer and I am a sporadically employed actor. We have always resorted to various day jobs to get by between engagements: market stalls, telesales, product demonstration and a host of other badly paid, short-term posts ranging from the boring to the unbearable. Now even those were becoming few and far between. One firm we had worked for had closed its doors without notice, owing us money.

So our cardinal rule has been never to sign on or to claim any form of social assistance. I'm Canadian, naturalised British, Vahni is American, and although we've lived here for many years and are eligible for benefits, we would find it embarrassing and presumptuous burdening a 'foreign' country with the responsibility of subsidising our artistic ambitions...

On our day in court, the magistrates, both of whom had public-school accents, worked slowly and carefully through each case preceding ours and were punctiliously fair to all the defaulters, who were of many different nationalities. Interpreters were provided, all sorts of holy books were made available for oath-taking and a lawyer was present to explain the finer points of the law. In two instances, the magistrates gently admonished those before them for obvious lies and evasions.

It didn't seem to bother them that not a single defendant was completely self-supporting. Employed or not, all were on some sort of benefits and the magistrates carefully took this into account when assessing repayments. In each of the four cases, thousands of pounds had been owed over a considerable time but the magistrates generously charged no interest, wrote off a significant proportion of the arrears and made no mention of court costs. The most flagrant evader was ordered to repay 20 pounds a week - he'd owed 5,000 for some years - the others were let off with repayments of 10 pounds per week.

We were easily distinguishable from the other defendants because we'd made the effort to dress in a manner we felt appropriate for a court appearance. Also, our case involved just a few months of arrears rather than years, we were not on benefits and we spoke English as our native language.

Our turn. Into thy hands, Blind Justice. I rose and politely stated our case. I freely admitted the money was owed, explained our impecunious circumstances, promised repayment as soon as possible, and asked only that court costs should not be charged.

The magistrates smiled, and one thanked us for being so straightforward and honest. 'Are you aware,' he asked with a vulpine grin, 'that your appearance today means a further 20 pounds in costs, in addition to the 75 previously assessed?' I was not - and I sensed with some unease that the magistrates seemed almost to relish our discomfort.

'We will,' the second magistrate pronounced in lordly tones, dripping with munificence, 'waive that 20.' A pause. 'The 75 will stand.' 'Yes,' said the first. 'You should realise many people are suffering financial hardship these days. We can't make exceptions for everybody. Kindly make arrangements with the council to pay this off as quickly as possible.'

Undoubtedly their predecessors would have hanged me and sold my remains to an anatomist. The court usher sighed as he showed us out. 'Can't say I'm surprised,' he said. 'Sometimes they seem to come down hardest on the well-spoken ones.'

On the way home to our privately rented flat, we tried to work out what had gone wrong; why we were the only people the court had stigmatised. Was it because we were the only ones who had respected the court and dressed accordingly, perhaps making us look affluent? Was it our assurance that we'd do everything we could to pay off the debt as soon as possible? Or had we simply made too much of the fact that we'd never succumbed to the lure of benefits?

Not for the first time I wondered why our society seems dedicated to the punishment of those who are trying to pull their own weight. Is it because liberal democracies know that without the taxes extracted from those of us who concede the necessity to pay them, their mad social engineering schemes would vanish in a puff of brimstone?

But I'm not bitter: everything is grist to an actor's mill. If I am ever asked to play a victim of injustice, I can always draw on the memory of this experience.


How Not to Fight Discrimination

The EEOC joins a class-action effort against Wal-Mart

The federal government reversed course last week and endorsed a new model for suing companies that could result in untold riches for trial lawyers at the expense of U.S. businesses, employees and consumers. The Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission filed an amicus brief on Thursday in support of plaintiffs in a closely watched gender class action against Wal-Mart. The lawsuit was first filed by six women in 2001, and until now the agency had decided not to get involved. The retailer is accused of not promoting women and systematically paying them less than male counterparts.

Wal-Mart says the women who filed the suit are not representative of the 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees whom they seek to represent. But a U.S. District Court in San Francisco certified the lawsuit as a nationwide class action in 2004, ruling that statistical disparities in pay and promotion were enough to justify class treatment. The decision was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Wal-Mart asked for a rehearing, which was granted, and the full Ninth Circuit heard arguments Tuesday.

In its amicus brief, the federal government does not defend the trial court's class certification order in toto, which isn't surprising given that the judge's order conflicts with the decisions of many courts of appeal. But the EEOC brief does support the notion that a claim seeking billions of dollars in punitive damages and back pay may be decided on a class basis without individual hearings that would permit the company to defend itself. In other words, the Obama Administration is saying that it's appropriate to impose huge monetary damages on companies without allowing them to show that employees were treated fairly.

Wal-Mart says that not allowing it to defend against the women's claims on an individual basis is a violation of due process and would result in payouts to people who weren't harmed. Allowing the suit to proceed as a class action also conflicts with the Supreme Court's 1977 Teamsters ruling, which held that in cases alleging systemic discrimination, defendants have the right to challenge the claims of plaintiffs individually.

As startling, the EEOC's brief conflicts with the federal government's own defense against discrimination suits. The class action against Wal-Mart was certified under a provision of the law that allows for injunctive relief, not large money awards. Class claims for monetary relief must meet a higher standard to be certified. And one of Wal-Mart's arguments is that the plaintiffs are seeking billions in damages but never met the more rigorous threshold for class certification. The EEOC's amicus brief never mentions that the feds have successfully defended themselves in the past by making the same argument as Wal-Mart. Apparently, the EEOC would allow the government to play by a set of rules that are off limits to private companies trying to defend themselves against massive class actions.

The five-member EEOC is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans thanks to a vacancy caused by the recent departure of a Bush appointee. And we hope the brief against Wal-Mart doesn't mean we can expect a more radical agency under President Obama. If the plaintiffs prevail, companies will have every incentive to establish race and gender quotas for hiring, lest they be sued for statistical imbalances. The EEOC can play a useful role in combating discrimination, but not by urging courts to stack the deck against the accused.


"Great men are almost always bad men" (Acton)

We like the story of the disgraced former [Australian] judge Marcus Einfeld, jailed last week for lying about a minor traffic fine, because it is a reassuring morality tale. It restores our belief that character is destiny, that karma eventually catches up with everyone, and that lying, even in an era when trust is in short supply and truthfulness downgraded, is a serious transgression that can land a big wig in jail.

Einfeld didn't just start telling lies in 2006, when he falsely named a dead friend as the driver of his car when it was caught travelling at 10kmh over the limit by a speed camera in Mosman.

The pattern of deception apparent in even a superficial examination of his life shows that he gained a lot of kudos and reward from his fabrications, whether it was padding his Who's Who CV with dodgy degrees from American "diploma mills", or alleged plagiarism, or allegedly claiming a lost overcoat on expenses when he was head of the Human Rights Commission, having already lodged an insurance claim, or using the names of people living overseas in statutory declarations to evade traffic fines. A habit of dishonesty went unpunished.

Instead, Einfeld was richly rewarded, becoming a darling of the legal and media establishment, with an Order of Australia and named a "National Living Treasure". Sad as it is for a 70-year-old man suffering from prostate cancer and depression to be thrown in jail for what essentially began as a trivial matter, his punishment represents a larger righting of wrongs.


Being an incorrigible academic, I thought I might give a fuller version of the famous quotation from Lord Acton. It formed part of Acton's opposition to the declaration of Papal infallibility of 1870
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. "

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

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

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


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Friday, March 27, 2009

Penn. police officer punished for upholding the law

Unfortunately, more and more of the stories we share with you tell of government officials ignoring or violating the Constitution in their actions against those who speak their faith in public places.

But it's also true that many officials across this country continue to recognize and respect those who thoughtfully, publicly share their beliefs. And sometimes, these officials pay their own price for refusing to enforce a more politically-correct agenda.

Corporal Steven Armbruster, for example, of the Kutztown University Police Department in Philadelphia, has for nearly two years been reaping the consequences of his decision to respect the Constitution. On April 18, 2007, he was one of several university police called in when 15 members of a local Christian group shared the gospel and addressed moral issues like abortion and homosexual behavior with some other students on campus.

Nearly 300 protestors from other campus clubs converged on the scene and began shouting their disagreement. Alarmed at the disturbance, University President F. Javier Cevallos called in the school's police chief, William Mioskie, and urged him to get the Christians off campus.

One member of the group was promptly arrested, and then Armbruster heard Mioskie order his officers to "push" the other members off campus for "disorderly conduct." To Armbruster, that meant either arresting or threatening to arrest the Christians, who – as best he could tell as an eyewitness – had done nothing "disorderly" to contribute to the uproar.

He stepped over to share that concern with his chief, along with his understanding and knowledge that any action taken against the Christians under the current circumstances would constitute a violation of their civil rights. Armbruster was relieved of his duties and ordered to leave the scene, while other officers proceeded to arrest some of the Christians.

As it turned out, a local court dismissed all charges against the Christians. Unfortunately, that same justice has so far eluded Armbruster himself. Placed on administrative leave after the incident, he was later suspended without pay for five working days and warned that he'd be fired if he made any similar assertions in the future. A disciplinary letter was placed in his administrative file and could easily block any future promotion.

"Campus police officers who understand and respect the constitutional rights of American citizens should be commended, not punished," said ADF-allied attorney Randall L. Wenger, chief counsel for the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, which on March 12 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Armbruster. "Corporal Armbruster honored his conscience as a Christian and his duty as a civil servant to protect – not violate – these citizens' free speech rights. He knew that he was being asked to punish the wrong party in the situation."

The complaint in this lawsuit, Armbruster v. Cavanaugh, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


Will they lock me up for playing Widow Twankey?

A British homosexual actor rejects the need for new speech laws

During the dark days of Soviet oppression, there was a joke that did the rounds in Russia. ' Homosexuality is a crime and the punishment is seven years in prison locked up with other men. There is a three-year waiting list.' Don't laugh too loudly. It could soon be illegal to repeat a joke like that.

I'm not kidding. In the name of challenging 'homophobia', the Government is planning to push legislation through Parliament that will make it a serious crime to use any language which could be construed as offensive to gay men and women. The new law will even override the basic requirements of freedom of speech, one of the pillars of our democracy.

All comedy, entertainment, TV, books and radio will be subjected to this new regime if it comes into existence, no doubt rigorously enforced by an army of boot-faced, unsmiling commissars desperately trying to find some infringement of their rules. The politically correct censors will be our own British version of the East German Stasi. Under this proposed new orthodoxy, almost any colourful display of theatrical high camp could be presented as stereotyping of gay life and would therefore fall foul of the law.

So no more repeats of Are You Being Served. In place of John Inman's deliciously shrill battle cry, 'I'm free', there would be only the silent void of Puritanism. No more showings of Carry On movies with Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey, no more Matt Lucas sketches of the Only Gay In The Village.

Those of us who have made something of a habit of taking to the stage as pantomime dames will be living in fear of the knock at the door, wondering whether we will be charged with wearing wigs, high heels and lipstick in a public place. Widow Twankey might have to be performed in secret locations to groups of brave dissidents.

This might all sound absurd. The proposers of the new law would, no doubt, claim they are only seeking to ban extreme abuse of gays and lesbians. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. New laws so often have unintended consequences, especially when they are introduced not to combat a genuine crime but to establish the state's view of orthodox thinking.

If this legal change really came into practice, there is no doubt it would create a new climate of fear, stifling creativity and restricting the scope for humour. This is exactly the point made by Rowan Atkinson, the comedian who has campaigned heroically to protect freedom of speech in this country from the interfering busy-bodies. Speaking to members of the House of Lords last week, he warned that if the legislation became law, then writers and performers would adopt a form of self-censorship to avoid falling foul of the authorities.

In such a world, it is unlikely that Rowan would dare to come up with some of the dazzling performances that made his reputation - like the wonderful sketch in Blackadder Goes Forth, where he was being held in prison and sent for Bob Massingberd, the finest lawyer in England, to secure his liberty. Outlining the brilliant courtroom gifts of Massingberd, Blackadder recalled the lawyer's role as prosecutor in the trial of Oscar Wilde: 'Big, bearded, butch Oscar - the terror of the ladies; 114 illegitimate children, world heavyweight boxing champion and author of the pamphlet Why I Like To Do It With Girls. And Massingberd had him sent down for being a whoopsie.'

You can just imagine the outraged intake of breath from officialdom at that word 'whoopsie'.

In fact, even before the legislation is introduced, the censors have been at work, as I discovered to my own cost. In 2007, the BBC showed repeats of that wonderful sitcom Porridge, in which I was lucky enough to play the rather effeminate prisoner nicknamed Lukewarm. But in its determination to uphold fashionable thinking, the Beeb decided to strike out one passage where Ronnie Barker's character Fletcher, in response to a remark that Lukewarm always kept his cell clean, said: 'Well, that sort do, don't they?' I thought the whole thing was utterly ludicrous. Far from being homophobic, Porridge handled the whole gay issue with sensitivity as well as humour - indeed, with far more sensitivity than the clod-hopping zealots show today.

I sometimes have to ask myself what is happening to dear old Britain. Humour is meant to be part of our national DNA. Yet the politically-correct brigade are behaving like a bunch of Cromwellians, cracking down on any signs of laughter. In these times of mass unemployment, economic recession and financial crisis, hasn't the Government got anything better to do than waste taxpayers' money on this killjoy campaign?

Supporters of this change like to pose as the protectors of the gay community, but they are nothing of the sort. The idea that we are all such enfeebled victims that we cannot take a single joke is actually an insult. Most gay men and women love self-deprecating humour and camp exaggeration of stereotypes. That is why drag artists are so popular on the gay scene. It can hardly be a coincidence that the two greatest wits of the modern English theatre, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, were both gay, since the glamour of showbusiness and quickness of dialogue has such an appeal to large numbers of gays.

The great American comedienne Joan Rivers once put it well: 'Gay people were the first to find me out, they're so sharp. I'll look out in the audience and I see three or four gay guys in the front row or a couple of lesbians and I know it's going to be a good show.'

Camp humour is an integral part of British culture, as epitomised in the pantomime dames of the old music hall.

Even when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, the popularity of the BBC radio show Round The Horne, featuring the camp solicitors Julian and Sandy, or the performances of drag artist Danny La Rue, showed that the public was not nearly as intolerant as the political establishment believed. Showbusiness and comedy provided a route to acceptance, not oppression.

Recently, I read of a remarkable instance of such tolerance during World War II, on one air base of Bomber Command. You could not get a tougher, more hardened masculine environment, yet one flier, 'queer as a coot', used to provide uproarious entertainment by going on stage at the station in drag under the name 'Miss Dillis Fixey', an inversion of the famous female stripper of the time, Phyllis Dixey. To wild cheers, he would then perform his own striptease, only to reveal, on shedding the final garment, the slogan emblazoned across his chest: 'Not tonight, darling.' I suppose the modern censor would disapprove of that act, condemning it as nothing more stereotyping.

Showbiz, camp theatrics and dazzling wit helped to pave the way for gay rights. They should be cherished, not suppressed. It is bitterly ironic that, in the name of tolerance, the Government should be marching towards such a culture of intolerance.

The politically correct bigots should not be allowed to have it both ways. They cannot say, on one hand, that gay lifestyles should be accepted as a perfectly normal part of life, and then, on the other, demand special treatment for gay people to shield them from everyday humour. We are more grown up than that. But just as importantly, we must not be allowed to lose the ability to laugh at ourselves. In these times of crisis, laughter is more vital than ever.


Crucial medical research 'threatened' by EU animal welfare plan

Important medical research into conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and Aids will be “closed down” if a European Union directive on animal experiments is passed in its current form, leading scientists said yesterday. Vital studies of brain and cell function that promise new therapies for serious disorders would be blocked by the proposed regulations, turning Europe into a “scientific backwater”, a coalition of research organisations warned.

The directive also threatens the capacity of European countries to defend against a flu pandemic, it was claimed. It would bring hens’ eggs, which are critical to the production of flu vaccines, under the scope of vivisection regulations, creating costs and bureaucracy that could drive vaccine manufacture out of Europe.

The proposals from the European Commission and the European Parliament would create new bureaucratic burdens for scientists without delivering benefits for animal welfare, and sometimes increasing suffering, the experts said. The new rules would impose stringent restrictions on monkey experiments that would effectively ban research intended to improve understanding of neurological conditions and infectious diseases.

Nine British research groups, including the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Association of Medical Research Charities, issued a “declaration of concern” about revision to Directive 86/609. The European Science Foundation, the European Medical Research Councils and the Pasteur Institute in France also protested about its contents before a European Parliament debate that begins next week.

Sir Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust, Europe’s biggest biomedical research charity, said that the directive “would simply close down some aspects of medical research that can only be addressed by animal models”. He added: “It will increase the costs of research and the bureaucracy of research, and I’m afraid we think it will bring little or no benefit for animal welfare at all.”

One of the chief concerns is a clause that bars the use of nonhuman primates in research intended to investigate basic brain or immune system functions rather than to test new therapies for particular diseases. Primate experiments would be allowed only if they directly examined “life-threatening or debilitating” conditions. This would have blocked studies that have transformed understanding of the brain, such as the discovery of cells called mirror neurons that are involved in autism, the experts said. Roger Lemon, Professor of Neurophysiology at University College London, said: “Blocking basic research in nonhuman primates would render the EU a scientific backwater.” Research with implications for Parkinson’s disease, strokes, malaria and HIV/Aids would suffer.

Tim Hammond, of the drug company AstraZeneca and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, said that the extension of animal regulations to cover eggs would be disastrous for vaccine production. “It would encourage companies to move outside the EU, which would give us real issues in terms of access to vaccines in a flu pandemic,” he said.

The directive was published by the Commission last November, and a European Parliament committee will vote on amendments next Tuesday. Animal rights groups urged MEPs to resist the campaign to amend the draft directive. Emily McIvor, the policy director of the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, said: “The revision of [the directive] is a great opportunity to make a better deal for animals in laboratories.”


Hunt supporters say decision to drop charges against three hunt masters proves ban has failed

Hunt supporters have hailed a decision to drop charges of illegal hunting against three members of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds as evidence that the ban has failed and leads to "confusion, cost and conflict". The case against joint-master Maurice Scott, huntsman Donald Summersgill, and whipper-in Peter Heard was dropped on Friday.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that, in the light of a High Court ruling in February, it was for the prosecution to prove a hunt was not carrying out exempt hunting. The case was the second under the Hunting Act to be dropped by the CPS this month. The three men were charged with illegal hunting in 2006, and pleaded not guilty on the basis that their hunting was "exempt" and therefore legal.

Mr Scott said: "This is a huge relief, not just for myself, and others facing the charges but for hunting as a whole."

Simon Hart, the Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: "There have only been three successful prosecutions of hunts, involving five people, since the Act came into force in February 2005. "The decision to drop this case suggests that prosecutions under the Hunting Act will now be even rarer. "It could not now be more obvious that this Act has failed and all it now promotes is confusion, cost and conflict."

The CPS dropped four charges of illegal hunting against a huntsman, Julian Barnfield, of the Heythrop Hunt, in Oxfordshire, earlier this month. That decision followed a High Court ruling that the use of dogs to search for a wild mammal in order to stalk it or flush it out was not in breach of the Act.



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

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

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


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dumbing Down Marriage

Being able to buy a $500,000 house on fabricated and blown up income figures with no money down....... a perversion of the American dream of homeownership. Getting paid $15MM for employment that helped cause failure at major financial institutions.....a perversion of the American work ethic. Assaulting the institution of marriage so as to eviscerate it of any meaning whatsoever..... a perversion of the American social fabric.

And assaulting the very idea of marriage is exactly what is occurring at every turn. Consider just four examples from the past week:

1) New data shows more than 40% of American babies were born out of wedlock. This staggering figure continues a twenty-year growth trend in children starting life from the outset in incomplete families.

2) Most, if not all, dictionaries, now provide multiple definitions for “marriage.” Their stated goal is to reflect cultural usage rather than to create it.

3) The same-sex marriage battle continues in California in spite of the passage of Proposition 8 in November. Gay activists have already begun mobilizing for another referendum if the state's Supreme Court allows Proposition 8 to stand.

4) Two Pepperdine University law professors published an article in Time this week, arguing that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether.

These four examples join what has become a siege on the very notions of family and marriage in America. Much like Vicksburg in 1863, where residents dug tunnels to survive the daily bombardment from Union cannons and hid food to try to outlast the severed supply lines, marriage and family today live in a fixed state of defense and survival, clinging to what little sustenance they can find in a culture almost exclusively hostile to them. From the defective idea of “same-sex marriage,” to the increasing disregard for marriage as the birthplace for children, and to a malformed desire to make marriage contractual and disposable at will, family and marriage stand battered and bruised by a ceaseless bombardment of attack.

Sadly, in the not too distant future, we will experience the painful chaos borne by those in our nation who claim to “broaden” our understanding of marriage. In fact, these folks dumb down the very concept of marriage so as to gut it of meaning altogether. The resulting chaos, if the trend continues, will wreak havoc on children who will consistently find themselves unable to give and receive love in appropriate ways, unable to form deep bonds of intimacy and long-term commitments, and unable to provide a stable setting for future generations. This chaos comes from the increasing pressure in our culture to define the ideas of marriage and family by purely individual desires rather than by socially meaningful and viable ones.

Such positions fail to recognize that our culture has a huge interest in encouraging and supporting healthy marriages, much moreso than it ever did to encourage or support home-ownership. The nuclear family provides the basic building block of stability for the culture, doing so in an almost unseen way. The family structure holds our society together much like the threads holding the individual squares comprising a quilt. Without those threads, we become a mere collection of squares, chaotically strewn across the landscape. That collection may be many things, but it is not a cohesive whole; nor is it a quilt.

As Helen Alvare has shown, the family is a place of love, a place where attentive, secure, and sacrificial love can develop. Through that love, marriage is characterized by an openness to life and bringing new life into the world. As such, marriage becomes a family where children learn to give and receive love. If that kind of love is not experienced as a child in a family, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop those abilities as one matures. Moreover, a family provides the long-term commitment necessary to raise slow-maturing human lives. Government clearly should encourage that behavior. Healthy citizens are made and raised in marriages and families, and economically stable citizens live in those same marriages over the long haul.

The evidence uniformly demonstrates that children who do not benefit from a two-parent home face greater odds in life's most basic tasks. They are more likely to develop substance abuse issues, more likely to land in the criminal justice system, and less likely to complete their education. The social costs of government's endorsing merely tolerable, as opposed to encouraging best, marriage and family behaviors are enormous. With good reason, family advocates remind us that if a person gets three things right in life (finish high school, get married after the age of 20, and wait to have babies until married), there is an 8% chance of their living in poverty sometime during their life. Get one or more of those wrong, and there is a 79% chance of your living in poverty at some point in your life.

Moreover, the government has a large, vested interest in encouraging what is best for children rather than merely blessing what is tolerable or what is accepted as the lowest common denominator. To fail to encourage settings which are best for children invites further cultural chaos and deterioration. For example, the ever-rising tide of out-of-wedlock births will likely have a continuing snowball effect as each successive generation becomes less able than the one before it to provide stability and security for its own children.

Marriage is a gift, something to be cherished and nurtured. Marriage and family are among God's greatest gifts to us. Marriage provides a bedrock for our society, an underlying foundation of stability for children. However, marriage is not a right, something to which each of us is entitled, any more than home-ownership is a right. Not everyone is designed for marriage. Marriage may be a gift, but it is not the only gift, nor is it a gift absolutely intended for everyone.

The total union, commitment, and fidelity of a marriage between a man and a woman is a beautiful thing when done well. Is it always done well? Of course not. But that does not mean that the government or our society should therefore dumb down the definition of marriage to bless any configuration an individual might desire. Nor should we continue to stand and applaud the trend toward incomplete homes and fatherless children in the name of feminism and women's rights. The stakes simply are too high, for all of us.


Palestine victim of Arab betrayal

INTERNATIONAL donors pledged almost $4.5 billion in aid for Gaza earlier this month. During the past few years it has been very painful for me to witness the deteriorating humanitarian situation in that narrow strip where I lived as a child in the 1950s.

The media tends to attribute Gaza's decline solely to Israeli military and economic actions against Hamas. But such a myopic analysis ignores the problem's root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at cementing the Palestinian people's status as stateless refugees to use their suffering as a weapon against Israel. As a child in Gaza in the '50s, I experienced the early results of this policy. Egypt, which controlled the territory then, conducted guerilla-style operations against Israel from Gaza. My father commanded these operations, carried out by Palestinian fedeyeen (Arabic for self-sacrifice).

Back then, Gaza was already the front line of the Arab jihad against Israel. My father was assassinated by Israeli forces in 1956. It was in those years that the Arab League started its Palestinian refugee policy. Arab countries implemented special laws designed to make it impossible to integrate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab war against Israel.

Even descendants of Palestinian refugees who are born in another Arab country and live there their entire lives can never gain that country's passport. Even if they marry a citizen of an Arab country, they cannot become citizens of their spouse's country. They must remain Palestinian even though they may have never set foot in the West Bank or Gaza.

This policy of forcing a Palestinian identity on these people for eternity and condemning them to a miserable life in a refugee camp was designed to perpetuate and exacerbate the Palestinian refugee crisis. So was the Arab policy of overpopulating Gaza. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, whose main political support comes from Arab countries, encourages high birthrates by rewarding families with many children. Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian woman's womb was his best weapon.

Arab countries always push for classifying as many Palestinians as possible as refugees. As a result, about one-third of the Palestinians in Gaza still live in refugee camps. For 60 years, Palestinians have been used and abused by Arab regimes and Palestinian terrorists in their fight against Israel.

Now it is Hamas, an Islamist terror organisation supported by Iran, that is using and abusing Palestinians for this purpose. While Hamas leaders hid in the well-stocked bunkers and tunnels they prepared before they provoked Israel into attacking them, Palestinian civilians were exposed and caught in the deadly crossfire between Hamas and Israeli soldiers.

As a result of 60 years of this Arab policy, Gaza has become a prison camp for 1.5 million Palestinians. Both Israel and Egypt are fearful of terrorist infiltration from Gaza - all the more so since Hamas took over - and have always maintained tight controls over their borders with Gaza. The Palestinians continue to endure hardships because Gaza continues to serve as the launching pad for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Those attacks come in the form of Hamas missiles that indiscriminately target Israeli kindergartens, homes and businesses.

And Hamas continued these attacks more than two years after Israel withdrew from Gaza in the hope that this step would begin the process of building a Palestinian state, eventually leading to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was no cycle of violence then, no justification for anything other than peace and prosperity. But, instead, Hamas chose Islamic jihad. Gazans' and Israelis' hopes have been met with misery for Palestinians and missiles for Israelis.

Hamas, an Iranian proxy, has become a danger not only to Israel but also to Palestinians as well as to neighbouring Arab states, which fear the spread of radical Islam could destabilise their countries.

Arabs claim they love the Palestinian people, but they seem more interested in sacrificing them. If they really loved their Palestinian brethren, they would pressure Hamas to stop firing missiles at Israel. In the longer term, the Arab world must end the Palestinians' refugee status and thereby their desire to harm Israel.

It's time for the 22 Arab countries to open their borders and absorb the Palestinians of Gaza who wish to start a new life. It is time for the Arab world to truly help the Palestinians, not use them.


In Praise of Black Conservatives

No word is more overused in public discourse today than 'courage.' A loyal viewer hailed CBS for its courage in producing Swingtown, the now defunct series detailing the sexual infidelities of married couples in the 70s (bedhopping on network TV — what a daring concept). Sean Penn was dubbed courageous for his nauseating Oscar acceptance speech, as are most liberal entertainers who spew left-wing tripe before adoring audiences.

But if going verbally against the (real or perceived) grain of public opinion defines courage, then should we not salute those black Americans who are not celebrating the presidency of Barack Obama? Black Americans who didn't vote for Obama are statistically insignificant, though we harbor that sliver of hope that Michael Steele will be the one to attract the masses of black voters that Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice never did. Nonetheless, they can inspire us — with American rationality numbed by Obama-mania, soon we may all be black conservatives.

Just before the election, popandpolitics.com profiled Joe Hicks, a conservative radio host in Los Angeles. Hicks also heads a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on issues of race in society. He numbers among the fewer than 1 in 10 black voters who supported the McCain/Palin ticket. He is one of those described as “the marginalized of the marginalized.” A proud liberal for much of his life, when he came out as a conservative, he heard the familiar calls of 'Uncle Tom,' 'Traitor' and 'Sellout' from his colleagues.

Certainly some black conservatives were torn between their ideology and their racial identity, wanting to be part of history in electing Barack Obama. Former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts expressed his indecision and we all know how Colin Powell opted — but then was he ever a conservative in the first place?

Dena, who I met through a conservative website, was never undecided. She is a black single mother who, like Hicks, lives in Los Angeles. She proudly supported McCain/Palin (which, in LA, is brave in itself). Also like Hicks, she was a liberal for much of her life. She desperately wants more for herself and her son. She would love to be married someday, though in the meantime she relies on her own grit and determination and the support of friends and her church to help her through tough times. She reveres Dr. King's memory and one of her greatest recollections is of having once seen Rosa Parks. Not only does President Obama not factor into her unwavering optimism, she can't stand the guy, mainly for his stances on abortion and increasing dependency on the federal government, referring to him merely by his first and third initials.

If Joe Hicks and Dena — and Alan Keyes and Larry Elder and Star Parker and Thomas Sowell — don't amount to profiles in courage, they certainly earn points for marching to their own beat. Conservatism has never been chic, but now with Obama it is all but marginalized and black conservatives are often more reviled than their white counterparts. They are perceived as betraying the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and, thus, their own people. Few were offended that Clarence Thomas was portrayed as a lawn jockey in editorial cartoons. Even moderate Republican Condoleeza Rice was graphically depicted in Civil War-era stereotype for her loyalty to President Bush and barely an eyebrow was raised. Certainly knowing that our nation's major parties are both headed by black men should make Americans proudly aware of our progress, but that fact has yet to resonate. It's still Barack Obama's moment. Say what you will about them, black conservatives have little to gain personally by standing on conviction. In the words of Joe Hicks, “If I wanted to be on the winning side, I'd be sitting here telling you how great Obama is.”

More here

EU rules to abolish part-time British firemen

The extension of the European Working Time Directive will force the majority of firefighters, who are part-time, to choose between their day job and covering for the emergency services. Even the time they are on call is calculated by Brussels as part of their working week. Around 90 per cent of Britain is protected by retained firefighters.

The Chief Fire Officers' Association has warned that the Fire Service "could not function effectively" and predicts that 13,200 retained firefighter posts will be regulated out of existence by the EU.

The Conservative Party, which is opposing the change, has predicted that council taxes will also have to rise sharply as local authorities will be forced to pay more permanent rather than part-time staff. The Tories have warned that the tax on band D properties could rise by between £59 to £167-a-year.

Last week the Daily Telegraph reported that patients face a significant increase in waiting times for operations because "insane'' European rules mean doctors' hours will be cut so much by the 48-hour week rule that they will not be able to cope.

Fire chiefs have warned that they too will not be able to cope as they are the only ones in Europe who depend so heavily on part-time workers.

David Dalziel, Secretary of the Chief Fire Officers Association in Scotland, said: "The potential loss of the individual opt-out in the UK would have catastrophic effects." In Scotland there are only 76 full-time stations, compared with 248 part-time.

Mr Dalziel added: "These men and women provide the national resilience and emergency response to natural and man made disaster, major incidents and other emergencies crewing two out of every three fire stations in the country. They hold other jobs in their local communities and also provide around 120 hours availability every week of the year to deliver a local fire and rescue service. Any adverse impact on that would expose this country to an unacceptable level of risk."

Philip Dunne, the Tory MP who chairs the Commons All-Party Parliamentary group on rural services, said that his Shropshire constituency was typical of rural Britain with only three of the 23 stations manned by full-time firefighters.

He said: "This European decision threatens to leave residents of many areas in Britain, particularly rural areas, without fire fighting protection. It's putting lives at risk. The UK is the only country in Europe to have fire protection provided by part-time paid firefighters. So other EU countries are not concerned by this problem."

Caroline Spelman, the Shadow Local Government secretary, said: "This will be yet another blow to rural services. Lives will be put at risk through reduced fire cover, and the fire levy on council tax will have to rise even more."

Glyn Morgan, chief executive of the Fire Officers Association, said: "There is a widespread fear that these EU changes will potentially have an adverse impact on safety and lead to reduced fire cover particularly in remote and rural areas where nearly all the firefighters are retained."

In North Wales there are 550 retained – or part-time – firefighters who hold down full-time jobs while still making themselves available to fight fires in their communities. Dorset has 26 fire stations, but only eight fire engines are manned by full-time crews. The other 33 are manned by retained firefighters, who usually have full-time jobs but spend up to 120 hours a week on call in their homes or workplaces.



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

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

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


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Illegal jokes in Britain

At last – legislation is about to be passed which will make homophobic jokes illegal. It has been a long time coming. I haven’t found jokes about homosexuals funny for at least two decades, so either way I win...

The other great thing is that jokes about homosexuals will immediately become funny again, because they are now contraband, samizdat and against the law. Those same boring old jokes about not bending down in the shower, being good at interior design, liking Judy Garland and so on, will now make one prick up one’s ears (ooh, get you, dearie! But not the ears, surely). And these days we need more things to laugh at.

For years I found racist jokes extremely boring – but they became funny when it was apparent that the act of telling them could (a) lose you your job and (b) bring the Old Bill down on you with a charge of inciting racial hatred. Now, as a consequence, I find almost all racist jokes hilarious, especially ones about Muslims and particularly if they are cartoons which feature Allah or Muhammad or fat ladies in burqas saying to one another: “Does my bomb look big in this?”

However, I don’t find them quite as funny as I find jokes about physical or mental disabilities – they are the real howlers these days. And that’s because the disability lobby has become so preternaturally sensitive, so disposed towards pouncing on anything which might be construed as disablist. Consequently, these days, all you have to do is say “and guess what . . . he only had one arm!” and I fall about laughing.

When my colleague Jeremy Clarkson described Gordon Brown as a “one-eyed Scottish idiot” I smiled briefly; but when the professional race monkeys and anti-disablist monkeys got on his case I suddenly found it all killingly funny. “How dare he imply that having one eye, or being Scottish, is an insult?” these terrible people ranted, and with every rant Jeremy’s comment became truly funny. Oh, I thought, in the end – strap up my sides, I can’t stand it. Such wonderful pomposity, a real gift to the comedian. Such hilarious hypersensitivity.

Jokes are almost never funny per se, when they are stripped of their social context (if they ever could be). The stuff that makes us laugh is never neutral; it involves poking that part of us which, for most of the time, remains unpoked. The part of us which civilised behaviour insists should remain below the surface. That’s why Ricky Gervais is so funny; he gets this point – he understands the latent humour of social embarrassment, of saying things which you are simply not supposed to say. The mentally handicapped kid in the restaurant, the black actor confronted by a golliwog.

It is the breaching of the social convention which is really funny, not the supposed slighting of black, disabled or homosexual people. It is the potential for naughtiness, which exists in all of us (yeah, okay, except maybe Patricia Hewitt). Bring on the legislation and bring on those queer jokes.


Why does it take a German like me to get the English to celebrate St George's Day?

By John Jungclaussen, London Correspondent, Die Zeit

I confess: I am an Anglophile. It is a condition I first succumbed to when I arrived on these shores some 16 years ago. Back then I spent my first week travelling round chocolate-box villages in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds. A week later I found myself on a teeming campus in the heart of London where I enrolled at university. One couldn't, perhaps, think of two places in Britain that are more different - and yet the tranquil and unspoilt beauty of the 'Heart of England' and London's relentless rhythm of people and politics, commerce and culture are both quintessentially English.

They encapsulate what is great about this nation: the instinct to try to preserve and protect its sublime countryside, including the social structure and cultural heritage that come with it, and the tolerance to absorb people from different cultures who have migrated to London over the centuries to create the most global metropolis in the world. Those are among the many things that I have come to love about this country.

I have now settled down in London in my job as a foreign correspondent and although my view of the English is perhaps not quite as rose-tinted as it was back then, my love for the English has only grown over the years. It is like getting to know a friend. The more you know about them and the more you understand their peculiarities, the dearer they become.

But the one thing that strikes me most about this dear friend is how little the English think of themselves. I can't think of a fellow Anglophile who is English. Those who love England are foreigners like myself. Ask an Englishman about his native land and all you get is a litany of how dreadful things are. This is a nation that seems to revel in a Press that is constantly talking the country down. Life in Britain these days seems to be about nothing else but Asbos, binge drinking and teenage pregnancy, spiced up only by yet another celebrity scandal.

About time then for somebody to do something to change that - and London Mayor Boris Johnson's plan to use April 23, St George's Day, to stage a festival of Englishness in the capital seems to be just the kind of event that is long overdue.

It is not surprising that an unashamed celebration of Englishness has to be organised from the top. The Welsh have been celebrating St David's Day for generations. Children have a day off school and wear daffodils when they attend eisteddfods to celebrate their music and literature. The Scots have Burns Night and St Andrew's Day to remind themselves of their national identity, and on St Patrick's Day the Irish celebrate their nation across the world from London's Trafalgar Square to New York's Times Square.

Were it not for a populist mayor who likes to boast about his Turkish roots [The reference is to Boris Johnson, an old Etonian and Balliol Classics graduate], it wouldn't even occur to London's English population to stage a celebration of their culture and national identity.

If anything, being English has become something to be embarrassed about. In the same vein as the previous Mayor Ken Livingstone, who thought it necessary and appropriate to apologise to the capital's African and Caribbean communities for London's role in the slave trade, 200 years after its abolition, the English would rather apologise for their history as conquerors of the British Isles and creators of the United Kingdom than be proud of their heritage.

The last stage for English national sentiment is on the terraces of the football stadium where - a German might be forgiven for saying this - Englishness does not present itself in its most appealing guise. I have often found myself in the firing line of bellicose football supporters, reduced to the German whose grandparents were beaten on the beaches of Normandy and whose parents were beaten at Wembley.

Although it seems too obvious that the English have achieved a lot more in the past 64 years than winning the war against Nazi Germany and winning the World Cup in 1966, all they are concerned with is debating notions of Englishness versus Britishness instead of celebrating the countless positive aspects and achievements that make up their identity. Let me suggest a few things about the English that are well worth celebrating.

First of all, the sublime beauty of your countryside. Millions of my fellow countrymen flock to England every year on holiday. They love the romantic beauty of the West Country with its quaint villages and the dramatic scenery of the Peak District.

Although the protest march against the Government's fox-hunting Bill in 2004 mobilised one of the largest demonstrations in English history, there is no sense that the celebration of the countryside is part of an English identity. It should be.

Second, William Shakespeare. Every child knows that the Bard is one of the greatest writers of all time and yet the world sees him as a Briton, not as an Englishman. Claim his heritage in the same way that we Germans claim the heritage of Bach and Beethoven and the Austrians have made Mozart their own. And while you are at it, acknowledge and be proud of the fact that English is the lingua franca and one of most important tools in the globalised world.

Third, your history as merchants and inventors. England kick-started the Industrial Revolution and led the way in the introduction of new production techniques which, in turn, revolutionised trade and helped to create in the 19th Century the first wave of globalisation.

Acknowledging these achievements and these aspects of English national heritage should be the norm in the same way that the notion of British cuisine, a focal point of Boris Johnson's London festival of Englishness, needn't be seen in the context of French cuisine. After all, the French don't suffer from an inferiority complex when they talk about gardening.

The English revel in individuality and instinctively question authority, which is why the cradle of modern democracy stands in Westminster. Kings and queens were well advised to hand over power to Parliament before an unruly mob could storm their palaces.

What happens in societies where the collective overrules the individual was amply demonstrated in the 20th Century across Europe when Queen Victoria's descendants lost at least their thrones and mostly their lives as they were sacrificed on the altar of great utopian ideas of revolutionary societies.

Such grand visions didn't appeal much in England where Anglo-Saxon pragmatism helped society to muddle through the upheavals of wars, economic crises and social change.

Whereas her European neighbours created societies according to textbooks, Britain relied on the age-old notion of getting by on a shoestring. Although that way the country avoided bloodshed and revolution and maintained an admirable political stability, over time it also lost a sense of its own identity.

Every now and then people and nation states need an earth-shattering event to remind themselves of who they are. Germany and countries all over Central and Eastern Europe had to redefine their national identities after the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago. The US lived through the traumatic events of 9/11 to strengthen her sense of purpose.

England, on the other hand, continued to muddle through. Neither the 7/7 bombings in London nor the recent collapse of Anglo Saxon capitalism seem to have done much to refocus British society on a strong common theme.

So, Boris, organise a festival of Englishness that captures the imagination in the same way that the 1951 Festival of Britain excited previous generations. The Skylon and the South Bank Centre showed postwar Britain a new way into the future. What England needs is a reminder of her greatness to overcome all the current social and economic problems - for they are only going to get worse.


Setback for Australia's Gestapo

iiNet quits Government web filter trials. "Gestapo" is an abbreviation for "Geheime Staatspolizei" or "Secret State Police". Judge for yourself whether it fits

AUSTRALIA'S third largest internet service provider (ISP) has pulled out of the Government's web filtering trials, saying the plan is "no longer just about stopping child porn".

The Government's plan involves a nation-wide filter that stops "unwanted material" from appearing on Australian user's computer screens. iiNet says the ambiguity of "unwanted material" is what caused it to pull out of the trials. “We are not able to reconcile participation in the trial with our corporate social responsibility, our customer service objectives and our public position on censorship,” iiNet managing director Michael Malone said in a statement.

“It became increasingly clear that the trial was not simply about restricting child pornography or other such illegal material, but a much wider range of issues including what the Government simply describes as 'unwanted material' without an explanation of what that includes."

Shadow Minister for Communications Senator Nick Minchin said the iiNET withdrawal cast further doubt over the internet filtering trials. “This decision by iiNet casts further doubt over the veracity and credibility of these trials and raises more questions about the Rudd Government’s unpopular mandatory filtering policy,” Senator Minchin said. “While the Government has selected six ISPs to take part in the first stage of the trial, I am advised that none of them, other than Webshield, which already offers its customers an ISP-level filtering option are in a position to even yet start.

“The onus is squarely on Communications Minister Senator Conroy to demonstrate what he is proposing is even technically feasible and while the Coalition is prepared to examine any trial results that are produced, he must commit to an independent audit of any results to ensure they are credible. Without the involvement of the nation’s three largest ISPs it is difficult to see how any meaningful results will be produced," he said.

Earlier this year, the Government snubbed larger ISPs Optus and iiNet when announcing participants for its first round of live trials, instead favouring a handful of small ISPs. One of them, Primus, has since compared compulsory web filtering to China.

Optus will still seek to participate in the second round of trials, according to ZDNet.com.au.

iiNet had stated it would take part in the trials to prove that an ISP-level web filter won't work. “Everyone is repulsed by, and opposed to, child pornography but this trial and policy is not the solution or even about that." “In reality, the vast majority of online child pornography activity does not appear on public websites but is distributed over peer-to-peer networks which are not and cannot be captured by this trial or policy.”

The web filter is based on blacklist of websites administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Last week, a list of websites purporting to be ACMA's blacklist was leaked online, containing alleged links to child porn as well as more common sites such as YouTube, Wikipedia, and small businesses.

Geheimepolizist Conroy denied the leaked list was the same as ACMA's, but said it contained "some common URLs".


Australia: State of secrecy

THE media in the US enjoys an incredible amount of freedom, at least compared with the media in Australia. For example, the media in the US can tell you exactly what Barack Obama did on his first full day in the White House. He spent the first 10 minutes alone in the Oval Office in quiet contemplation. During that time, he read a letter that former president George W. Bush had left on the desk for him. At 9.10am, wife Michelle popped in. Together they went to prayers, then, on his return to the Oval Office, Barack Obama issued his first memo as President. The topic? Transparency in government.

In that memo, widely available online, Obama instructed the heads of all the various government agencies he controls to be open and honest with the American people. The presumption, he said, should be "in favour of disclosure". To that end, department heads should renew their commitment to freedom of information law and take "affirmative steps to make information public". Moreover, they should use modern technology (that is, the internet) to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government.

Now, it's all very well for Obama to issue such a memo on day one in office. Time will tell how transparent his administration actually is, but it's interesting to compare that memo from Obama's first full day in office with the Rudd Government's progress on transparency in government.

When Labor was in Opposition in Australia, it too promised a "sunlight" policy on information held by government. It pledged changes to freedom of information laws that would make so many more documents accessible, in a reasonable time frame and at a sensible fee, to anybody who wanted to seethem. It promised protection for whistleblowers, who could include people such as the nurse who came forward and exposed the horror at the heart of the Bundaberg hospital scandal; and it promised shield protection for journalists such as the Herald Sun's top reporters, Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey, who were fined $7000 each and given criminal records for refusing to reveal their sources on a story about lax airport security that was correct and in the public interest.

These changes are necessary and overdue, and not just because the media says so. The ordinary member of the public probably has no idea how difficult it is to get even the simplest information out of government.

Under existing law and protocol, anybody employed by the government - that can mean a nurse, a police officer or a bus driver - is threatened with disciplinary action if they speak to the media.

It's not possible for journalists to call state schools and ask principals what they think about a state government plan to tackle bullying. It's not possible to call social workers in indigenous communities to ask them whether new rules on the supply of petrol have helped or harmed the young. All must go through the central press office: in other words, through government.

In recent weeks, the Rudd Government has busily been insisting that it has, or is, delivering on its promise to make government more transparent. Last Friday, for example, Attorney-General Robert McClelland congratulated himself for introducing to parliament the Evidence Amendment (Journalists' Privilege) Bill 2009, otherwise known as the Government's shield laws for journalists.

McClelland says the law will provide "much-needed protection for journalists", but it won't do any such thing. It won't give a journalist the right to protect their source and it won't place the onus on the government (or any other agency) to explain why a source should be exposed.

All the change will do is give judges some discretion when dealing with journalists who won't reveal their source.

How will this change compare with law in other democracies? The Australian National University's leading student of shield laws, Lorraine Ingham, last year compared Australian laws with legislation in New Zealand, Britain and the US. She says Australia continues to "lag well behind its foreign counterparts" because there is "no presumption in Australia that a journalist need not reveal their source" and the new legislation will not change that.

Moreover, there is nothing in the Australian amendment about public interest or about the right of the people to a free flow of information, both of which are features of the US and the NZ laws.

According to Ingham, it should be incumbent on the Australian government, or whatever other party is seeking disclosure, to explain why the identity of the source is a matter of public interest and the reason can't be: "Because we want to charge them with the offence of leaking."

McClelland says that, under his amendments, judges will have to consider "the potential harm disclosure of identity could cause both the source and the journalist".

With respect, the fact journalist or source may come to harm if their identity is revealed is hardly the point. The point should be: Is this information in the public interest? If so, it's right and proper that it's before the public.

The protection of one's source is of paramount importance to journalists. This was proven in 1995, when The Australian's editor, Paul Whittaker, who was working as an investigative reporter for Brisbane's The Courier-Mail, refused to answer 430 questions at a commission of inquiry about the source behind a story about former Labor senator Graham Richardson. The inquiry was set up to determine who had leaked to Whittaker and Marian Wilkinson, then a reporter at The Australian, information about a politically sensitive investigation into allegations of corruption concerning Richardson. Richardson was accused of being supplied with prostitutes by Gold Coast businessmen in exchange for making favourable representations on their behalf to a US defence contractor. Whittaker's home was raided and he was threatened with being jailed indefinitely for contempt, but he held firm and 14 years later he shows no sign of buckling. He has never revealed his source.

A coalition of media organisations, formed last May under the banner of Australia's Right to Know, has welcomed the planned changes, saying the amendments, if passed, will at least mean that journalists won't "automatically face conviction or jail" if they refuse to disclose the identity of a source.

McClelland says the new law should be read in conjunction with the Government's planned laws to protect whistleblowers, which are likely to be introduced later this year.

The whistleblower laws are likely to be informed by the findings of a legal and constitutional affairs committee headed by Mark Dreyfus QC. That committee suggests that whistleblowers first take their concerns to a superior of some kind (and, in the process, probably wreck their career); and, if that doesn't work, they should complain to an external body such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman (a process that is itself likely to be a bureaucratic nightmare, befouled by politics). If - or when - that fails, the whistleblower must wait a reasonable period (whatever that may mean) before taking their concerns to journalists, and then only if the matter concerns "an immediate and serious threat to public health and safety".

According to Dreyfus, these changes would "transform the culture of the public service and protect whistleblowers from reprisals".

In fact, whistleblowers would still have to jump through hoops and lawyers would have a field day trying to decide what constitutes an immediate and serious threat.

This newspaper wonders: would airport security qualify? After all, it was The Australian that in 2005 published details from an internal Customs report that revealed lax security and drug-smuggling rings at several airports, leaving the country vulnerable to terrorism. The report had been ignored by internal officials for two years before it eventually was leaked to the newspaper. No journalist was dragged to court but Customs official Allan Kessing was charged, convicted and sentenced to nine months' jail, later suspended. He lost his job and is fighting an appeal, which has cost him his savings, all while protesting his innocence. The Australian has never given up its source. Its view issimple: the story was correct and in the publicinterest, and therefore was published.

University of Queensland business school lecturer Bill De Maria has described the planned reform of whistleblower law as "mean and narrow in its vision" and "embarrassingly conservative in its proposals". "It won't give protection to ordinary members of the public wishing to report instances of commonwealth wrongdoing," he says. "It won't give protection to people fed up with bureaucratic obstruction and harassment who go to the media."

Australian Press Council chairman Ken McKinnon agrees, saying: "The future situation will be hardly better than it is today. Whistleblowers know that their best and quickest chance of rectifying corruption, waste and general governmental incompetence is to go directly to the press."

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren says: "This Government made some very positive noises in Opposition. There are some signs that it has a positive attitude to some of these issues, but we'd like it to go a lot further. Paying lip-service is not enough. It demands national leadership, practical legislation and committed campaigning. It also demands a change in culture, from that of secrecy to one of transparency and openness."

Nobody is pretending the news media always gets the balance right when it comes to the release of information. As John Hartigan, chairman and chief executive of News Limited (publisher of The Australian), said in one of his many speeches on this topic: "Certainly our media is imperfect and its journalism sometimes flawed. The media, like most industries, has room for improvement."

Hartigan's point, however, is that media "remains our primary source of information" about politicians and government, and "the only one that can challenge that information, to test that it's right ... to unearth the things they're hiding, tell everyone what's really going on."

That is why members of the Right to Know coalition - Fairfax, the ABC, SBS, the commercial television networks and News Limited - remain united on the subject of media freedom. Today this group will host a forum on the Right to Know.

Of particular interest will be Special Minister of State John Faulkner, who is expected to outline details of the freedom of information reforms. He has hinted that a change in culture is necessary. That's both true and overdue.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homosexual couple sue Christians for barring them from hotel bed

The Christian owners of a seaside hotel may be prosecuted after refusing to allow a gay couple to stay in a double room. Peter and Hazelmary Bull are facing an unprecedented court case under controversial new equality laws.

Martyn Hall, who lives with his civil partner Steven Preddy, has lodged a county court claim for up to 5,000 in damages alleging 'direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation'.

But the Bulls deny the charge, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples, both heterosexual and gay, from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance in Cornwall. Mrs Bull, a 62-year-old great-grandmother, said that even her brother and his female partner had to stay in separate rooms when they visited the hotel.

The Bulls, who have the backing of the Christian Institute, have operated their 'married only' policy since they bought the hotel in 1986. The hotel website says: 'We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only.'

Last August, the Bulls received a letter from Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, saying it had received a complaint and warning the hotel it was breaking the law.

The following month Mr Preddy, from Bristol, rang to book a double room for two nights. Mrs Bull, who took the call, said last night that she had wrongly assumed that he would be staying with his wife before she accepted the booking. When Mr Preddy and Mr Hall arrived, they were told by the manager, Bernie Quinn, that the hotel could not honour the booking. The couple told him he was acting illegally before leaving and reporting the incident to police.

Mrs Bull insisted last night: 'I have had people clearly involved in affairs and under-age people who have tried to book in here for sex, and I have refused them the same as I refused these gentlemen because I won't be a party to anything which is an affront to my faith under my roof.'

The couple's solicitor, Tom Ellis, from the Manchester-based firm Aughton Ainsworth, said: 'Our argument is that the regulations impinge on the Bulls' human rights. 'Under the European Convention on Human Rights, people are able to hold a religious belief and manifest it in the way they act.'

A spokesman for Stonewall said: 'We look forward to the hotel changing its policy to reflect equality, the 21st Century and the law.'


Brussels ‘recreating Soviet bloc in Europe’

The outspoken Czech leader has warned of a ‘democratic deficit’

THE leader of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, has warned that a “Europe of states” is in danger of turning into a “state of Europe”, legislating on almost every aspect of people’s lives but lacking in democracy and transparency. In an interview with The Sunday Times, President Vaclav Klaus drew parallels between Brussels and the failed communist dictatorships of eastern Europe. “My criticism is based on the sensitivity towards attempts to restrain freedom and democracy, and it does relate to the fact that for most of my life I lived in a political, social and economic system which was not free and was not democratic,” he said.

Klaus also predicted that Gordon Brown’s attempts to produce a European solution to the global economic crisis in time for next month’s G20 summit in London could make the problems worse.

Klaus, 67, an economist by training and a successful finance minister after the fall of communism, said he believed Brown’s plans for more regulatory supervision of the financial system would resolve nothing. Instead, Europe should let business and markets go free. “The crisis cannot be solved by restraining human initiative and putting further burdens on businesses,” he said. “I propose the exact opposite: deregulation, liberalisation, removing barriers and unnecessary obstructive legislation at the European level.”

A longstanding Eurosceptic and admirer of Margaret Thatcher, Klaus remains scornful of attempts to impose the Lisbon treaty on an unwilling electorate. He said the treaty contained measures to give unelected officials in Brussels “even more power”. Irish voters who threw out the treaty in a referendum last year “knew what they were doing”, Klaus added, and he was not certain that the second vote which has been called will have a different outcome: “But the pressure will be enormous and not very democratic.”

He talked of a “democratic deficit” in the EU when he addressed the European parliament last month. In his interview, conducted by e-mail, he explained: “I see the democratic deficit in a growing distance between the citizens of the EU member states and the EU political elite, as well as in the shift of decision making from the member states’ capitals to Brussels.” About 75% of legislation was made in the EU by unelected officials, he said. The Lisbon treaty would give the EU its own legal personality and would abolish important rights of veto: “This certainly is not a solution to the democratic deficit. It makes the democratic deficit even greater.”

Klaus refused to say whether he would agree to sign the treaty, which has yet to be passed by the Czech Senate, if and when it arrives on his desk. “I don’t wish to foresee . . . what happens after that; let’s wait for the Senate’s decision,” he said. The Czech government’s presidency has smashed any hopes of a cosy EU consensus. Klaus was booed by many MEPs after his speech and a humorous sculpture installed in Brussels portrayed Bulgaria as a lavatory, Romania as a Dracula theme park and France as a country permanently on strike. They were not amused.

Klaus, who helped to lead his country from communism to freedom, warned that the new constitution would stifle debate and democracy. “Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition,” he said. “It was through this experience that we learnt the bitter lesson that with no opposition and tolerance to differing points of view, there is no freedom.”

Klaus revels in speaking his mind on controversial subjects, always prepared to confront politically correct orthodoxies. He is a leading critic of the green movement and also of measures to fight global warming. Freedom and prosperity, he said, were much more endangered than the climate.

He firmly refuses to fly the blue and gold European flag over his official residence in Prague, pointing out that “the European Union is not a state and legally it does not have a flag”.

In a pointed reference to his country’s Soviet-dominated past, he said: “We have lived through the times when it was compulsory on some days to fly another state flag next to ours. I am very glad that these times are over.”


Boris ignores political correctness to fly England's flag and celebrate St George

Boris Johnson slew the dragon of political correctness yesterday by announcing London would mark St George's Day with a week of celebrations. The capital's mayor said he would proudly fly the red and white flag of England's patron saint from his City Hall office on April 23.

St George's Day has been a low-key event in London in recent years, dwarfed by a St Patrick's Day parade funded to the tune of £100,000, and enormous crowds at Gay Pride. The Mayor's endorsement of St George's Day appears to mark an official determination to make English patriotism more acceptable. In recent years, many local authorities have banned taxi drivers, builders and firemen from displaying the Cross of St George – often citing spurious health and safety reasons.

Mr Johnson said: 'St George's Day has been ignored in London for far too long, but I'm truly pleased to announce some fantastic events to mark this occasion. 'We have much to be proud of in this great country. England has given so much to the world, politically, socially and artistically.'

A music festival on Sunday April 25 in Trafalgar Square will feature artists 'finding innovative ways to express music that is inspired by English folk tradition'. And as April 23 is also Shakespeare's birthday, there will be an event commemorating the Bard's work at the Globe Theatre in London.

Many councils have shied away from endorsing St George and the English flag over a perception that they were the preserve of far-Right political parties and racists. St George's adoption by Crusaders against Islam in the Holy Land has been a further obstacle. But in recent years, English patriotism has become more acceptable, with the flag more likely to be associated with the national football team.

The news was welcomed by the Left-wing musician Billy Bragg yesterday. He said: 'I think it's great that the Mayor is grasping the nettle. Good luck to him. If you don't use the flag in a positive way then you leave it to be used by the far-Right and it will have negative connotations.'

Until the 18th century, St George's Day was a celebration on a par with Christmas. But it fell out of favour. Despite being the patron saint of England, St George is thought to have been a Roman soldier born in Turkey. The legend of George slaying the dragon is believed to have been brought back from the Middle East by Crusaders, growing in popularity until he was canonised in the 1400s.

Last year, Gordon Brown flew the flag of St George over Downing Street for the first time in recent years. But the day has not received much backing from government. Over the past five years, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent just 230 pounds promoting St George's Day.


Australian rights record under scrutiny in UN seat bid

What a lot of crap. Human rights are as good in Australia as in any country in the world. And as far as Aborigines are concerned, successive Australian governments poured welfare money down their throats for decades because anything else would have been called racist. The fact that welfare did more harm than good is no surprise but it was a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't

PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd's dream of winning a UN Security Council seat might be dashed by international concerns about Australia's record on human rights.

Australia's poor treatment of its indigenous population and refugees will come under scrutiny by an international human rights watchdog, amid continuing lobbying for a seat on the prestigious UN body that oversees military and peace-keeping operations.

The Human Rights Committee will today examine Australia's human rights record and issues, including the Northern Territory intervention and immigration detention.

Australian lawyers meeting in New York last week said a good report from the committee would improve the Prime Minister's bid to join the Security Council.

"It would assist substantially," said Human Rights Law Resource Centre director Philip Lynch. "Australia has put human rights front and centre of its Security Council bid."

High level officials from the Immigration, Indigenous Affairs and Attorney-General's departments will represent Australia during the two-day hearing.

Andrew Hudson, senior associate at non-government organisation Human Rights First, said the committee objectively examined countries and their compliance with treaties and standards.

"It will criticise Australia's human rights record to the extent that it falls short," he said.

Unlike the US and Britain, Australia does not have a bill of rights. Proponents sense the Security Council bid could propel the Rudd Government to enshrine human rights in law, as they are in Victoria and other states.

Teena Bagli, from the National Association of Community Legal Centres, said human rights had to be secured for a bid to succeed. "It's vital for the Government - who has said human rights is important and is a part of their Security Council bid - to walk the walk," she said.



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

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

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


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Monday, March 23, 2009

New rights spark ‘nanny state’ row in Britain

Ministers are to introduce new “human rights” covering housing, healthcare and education in a move critics fear could lead to a massive and costly expansion of the welfare state. Plans for the new bill of rights will be unveiled tomorrow by Jack Straw, the justice secretary. He will suggest that new entitlements such as rights to good healthcare, education and freedom from poverty could be added to traditional freedoms such as trial by jury and free speech.

The new rights would be offset by responsibilities, such as a duty to look for work in return for receiving benefits or to look after one’s children.

Tomorrow’s green paper is expected to face attack from those who believe such reforms are a distraction from the task of battling the recession.

There will also be fears that the plan would be another step towards a “nanny state”, providing further lucrative work for lawyers who have cashed in on the 1998 Human Rights Act.

David Heathcoat-Amory, a Conservative member of the Commons European scrutiny committee, warned that the introduction of “socio-economic rights ” would herald increased power for the state and restrict reforms. “I very much doubt Margaret Thatcher would have been able to carry out the reforms she made in the 1980s if the institutions she reformed were covered by some kind of bill of rights,” he said. It is understood several cabinet ministers privately urged Gordon Brown to scrap the plan.

Straw’s deputy, Michael Wills, writing in today’s Sunday Times, insists the recession has made a bill of rights more important. He says: “Better articulating the responsibilities we owe and the rights we have is not an alternative to decisive action on the economic front but an essential complement to it.”

The Human Rights Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, has been much criticised, particularly by Tories. In his article, Wills says the government has no intention of scrapping the law. He says there may well be a case for not making the new rights enforceable in the courts, but adds: “Words have power in their own right. They can move us and mould our society even though they are not law.”


The Great Betrayal

On this sixth anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq, there is finally a consensus among supporters and opponents that we’ve won the war. The surge that Bush launched and Democrats opposed has been successful and, as a result, Iraq has become a Middle Eastern democracy, an anti-terrorist regime, and an American ally. It would be hard to imagine a more remarkable turnabout or a more comprehensive repudiation of conventional political wisdom. Yet this has not led to a comparable reappraisal by critics of the war of their previous attacks, or to any mea culpas by Democrats who launched a scorched earth campaign against the president who led it, and continued it for five years while the war dragged on

The Democratic attacks on the war described America’s commander-in-chief as a liar who misled his country and sent American soldiers to die in a conflict that was unnecessary, illegal and unjust. This made prosecution of the war incalculably harder while strengthening the resolve of our enemies to defeat us. It is time to re-evaluate the words and actions of the war’s opponents in the stark light of a history that proved them wrong.

In the fall of 2002, a majority of Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans in voting to authorize President Bush to use force to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein. In July 2003, only three months after Saddam had been removed, the Democratic National Committee launched a national campaign which accused President Bush of lying in order to trick Democrats into voting for the war. It was the beginning of a five-year campaign designed to paint the president as the liar-in-chief and America as a criminal aggressor, and the military occupier of a poor country that had not attacked us.

What had changed in the intervening three months to turn Democrats so vehemently against the war they had authorized? The answer can only be found in domestic politics. In those three months, an unknown antiwar candidate named Howard Dean had taken the lead in the primary polls and was looking like a shoe-in for the Democratic presidential nomination. As a result rival candidates who had voted for the war, including eventual nominees Kerry and Edwards, changed their positions 180 degrees and joined the attacks on President Bush. Naturally, the Democrats couldn’t admit their attacks were motivated by crass political calculations. Instead, they claimed that they had been deceived by the White House which had manipulated the intelligence on Iraq, persuading them to support the war on false premises.

This allegation was in fact the biggest lie of the war, since Democrats had full access to all U.S. intelligence on Iraq through their seats on the congressional intelligence committees. This intelligence was available to them, in advance of their vote to authorize the use of force. In the months and years that followed, the Democrats added other false charges -- that troops “killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” were “terrorizing kids and…women,” and had committed atrocities comparable to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime.” They rejoiced when news reporters leaked information about national security programs designed to combat the terrorists – and thus destroyed them. They held up funding for American soldiers on the battlefield, attempted to cut off all funding, and when that failed, tried to tie funding to a timeline that would ensure America’s defeat. They openly accused uniformed officers like General David Petraeus of lying about conditions on the ground and hoped against hope that “this war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything.”

Dissent is legitimate in wartime, but the Democratic Party’s opposition to this war went far beyond dissent into unprecedented territory. Fortunately, the Bush administration was able to retrieve its own mistakes and its domestic opponents to win a war that Democrats said was unwinnable and (despite their own authorization) shouldn’t have been fought in the first place. But it was no thanks to the Party that now occupies the White House that this American war was won.


Australia's secretive internet censorship

The censorship is offensive enough by itself but the veil of secrecy over it is an open invitation to abuse by bureaucrats and politicians

SECRECY, said British judge Sir John Chadwick, is the badge of fraud. He was speaking in the context of financial fraud but it seems equally to apply in Australia where governments wear the badge while robbing us of our freedoms, all the while pretending to do precisely the opposite. We have over the past decade descended down a path of official deceit where governments erode our freedoms of association and expression while making it an offence to speak of their fraudulence.

It began in the hysteria of a post-9/11 world when the Government stole our presumption of innocence and the protections of habeas corpus under the pretext of protecting us, and then made it a crime to speak about its trespasses. Demonstrable incompetents were empowered to bang people up and, if their blunderings found nothing criminal, to release them under an oath of secrecy and pain of punishment if they revealed what had been done in the name of national security. Secrecy became an end to itself, behind which the Government and its minions were able to hide their worst excesses and intimidate their victims.

Now, under the pretext of protecting us from corruption on the internet, a government of a different colour hides its abuses of power behind another veil. And it threatens punitive damages against anyone who lifts the veil and exposes its stupidity.

Anyone who gives more than a passing thought to their rights should have been long concerned over the Federal Government's nobly declared but ill-considered and illiberal plan to filter the internet. More specifically, they should have been outraged over the Government's blacklist of 10,000 sites which were to be added to another 1300 identified by the unelected and faceless Australian Communications and Media Authority to be filtered out of our consciousness.

Just what might we be protected against? We may never know. The ACMA list was said to be mainly of child pornography sites, but last year Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy could not even define the grounds for restricting the 10,000, although they were supposed to contain "illegal and unwanted content". Now we learn the ACMA list of banned sites has mysteriously grown to more than 2300, with no public inquiry and no rights of appeal. Worse, we are not allowed to know what is on the proscribed list and anyone who wants to rescue us from our ignorance is threatened with up to 10 years in jail.

An outfit called Wikileaks put online a leaked list of what purports to be the banned list, including entirely innocent sites and blameless individuals. For its trouble, it was threatened with huge fines and placed on the blacklist. Conroy denies the veracity of the list but we may never know because it is a dark secret shared by the Government, the ACMA and a favoured few who stand to get fat by perfecting the internet filter.

For all Conroy's denials and sanctimony about irresponsibility, the expert opinion is that for the national filtering scheme to work the Government, through the ACMA, will have to be party to the distribution of possibly salacious, hurtful and erroneous information to a select few private companies.

And we, the people whose freedoms are curbed, will be forbidden under pain of penalty from ever knowing or speaking of what is hidden from our eyes.

What next? Who next? This is an assault on our freedoms, an insupportable presumption of power by government and its unelected officers that begins to erode freedoms guaranteed since Magna Carta. It is a Kafkaesque exercise in mindless tyranny that is unworthy of one of the world's oldest, proudest and previously durable democracies. Secrecy may be a badge of fraud. It is also the flag of frightened men.


Australia ready to boycott Durban II

Australia said it will boycott the Durban II anti-racism conference unless the heavily anti-Israel conference draft document is changed. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in federal parliament March 12 that Australia would join Israel, Canada, the United States and Italy in withdrawing from the United Nations-sponsored conference pending a revision of the text of the draft documents for next month's conference in Geneva. “If we form the view that the text is going to lead to nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue and an anti-Jewish propaganda exercise, Australia will not be in attendance,” Smith said.

“We will give the working group every opportunity to revise the text in a qualitatively improved way to ensure that that does not happen, and we will make our judgment at a time of our choosing when we have given all nation-states concerned the opportunity to add qualitatively to the text to enable it to form the proper basis of debate at the conference," he said.

Numerous Jewish representatives have lobbied the federal government to boycott the April 20-24 conference, which they fear will be a reprise of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that took place in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Israel and the United States walked out of the conference, which they criticized as an anti-Israel hate fest.



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

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

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


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Short Interview With Evan Sayet About The Nature Of Liberalism

Evan Sayet has given not one, but two of the best talks I have ever heard about liberalism (You can see them here and here). So, I was very pleased to get an opportunity to get together with him for an interview to talk about liberals. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Q. You used to be a liberal, correct? So why are you no longer a liberal? What changed you around? What changed your perspective?

A. Yes, where I grew up you were a liberal or a Democrat. It was practically in your DNA. There was no intellectual rational reason that I was a Democrat. You went into schools. You leave your home. You leave your temple and by the time you go out into the real world to actually experience things, you've been bombarded with liberal ideology from day one.

You know, one of those things that I recognized later on when I went out and sought out Republicans, and attended a Republican meeting, was that it dawned on me that it was the first time I had ever heard what Republicans believed from Republicans.

Q. Now you've been around a lot of liberals. You said that's how you grew up -- and you worked on Bill Maher's show. So you certainly saw them there. What's the difference between liberals and conservatives? What is the basic difference?

A. The basic difference is a recognition that good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse do exist and that's what the conservative believes -- and it becomes his job to do his best to seek out the good of fighting evil, to promote the better end and squelch the worse.

The opposite point of view is that nothing can be recognized as better or worse than anything, not because it doesn't necessarily exist, but because as human beings we don't have the objectivity to know if our belief that something is good is really because it's good or if it's a reflection of our bigotries.

So to eliminate the possibility that our beliefs are bigotries, to eliminate the evil of bigotry, the liberal eliminates all critical rational judgement.

Q. Now you say, and this is related, that the modern liberal will invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right...

A. ..Evil over good, wrong over right. You got it.

Q. ...And behaviors that lead to failure over behaviors that lead to success. You say it's not because they're not stupid or evil, so is it just because of that that they don't discriminate?

A. It's twofold. One, it may be because they don't discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil, better and worse. But indiscriminateness of thought doesn't lead to indiscriminateness of policy.

Indiscriminateness of thought leads to a society with evil, failure, and wrong because if nothing is better than anything else, then that which failed must have been victimized. If it's just as good as everything else, then if it fails or if it's just as good as everything else and it commits an evil act, that evil act must have been de facto, provoked.

Q. College kids and celebrities are often very liberal. Can you explain why you think that is?

A. Sure. In order to hold onto the belief that nothing is better than anything else, you have to remove yourself or have been removed from the consequences of your beliefs. Because once you went to the real world, you recognize some things are right, some things are wrong.

...One of the lines I like to use is that stupidity is a luxury. And when you're young and you're on the college campuses and you don't have a job, you're not paying taxes. You're not starting a business. You don't have to worry about environmental policies that are ridiculous.

You're living on these college campuses where no matter how much you binge drink, no matter how much you projectile vomit, no matter how much you go wild for the cameras in Cancun and strip naked, the next day you wake up on a campus with lush manicured lawns. You wake up in an ivy covered two room mansion. You wake up and somebody else has bought your food, cooked your food, serves you your food, and when you're finished, cleans your dishes for you.

...Then you have the other side that you mentioned, the celebrities who have been retarded at the age of the child by their fabulous wealth. These are people who never have to recognize right and wrong, better and worse. They don't have to make decisions in which those have consequences. You know, of course, Bruce Springsteen doesn't have to choose between putting money away for his retirement or spending it now. He can spend it now and have hundreds of millions for retirement too.

Susan Sarandon doesn't have to choose between not getting a new car this year because the rent may go up. She buys lots of houses and lots of new cars. But, the celebrity is isolated from the consequences of their beliefs by their money. This goes to professors as well that are on the left at college campuses. They can't get fired no matter how bad they are at their job. That isolates them from the need to be smart. It isolates from the need to be right. It isolates from the need to be good -- and these are things that allow somebody to hold onto their childish, foolish, and quite just plainly spoken, idiotic mentality that is modern liberalism.

Q. Well, let me ask you, how does that apply to the media, for example? They certainly don't make as much money. They're not as privileged. They're almost uniformly liberal though. How does that happen, do you think?

A. Remember the real world is an antidote to the stupidity of liberalism -- and it used to be that journalists learned their craft in the real world. If you wanted to be a journalist, you got the most rotten job there was in journalism -- the late night to 8 a.m. at the courthouse shift or whatever -- and you learned your craft and you got a slight promotion. You got a slight raise -- and then 20 or 30 years later maybe, you were the anchor of a network or whatever.

Now you don't do any of those menial jobs where you actually learn your craft. You go to the Columbia School of Journalism where you were taught theoretics, not actuality -- where your childhood is perpetuated not only through college but now through grad school. Suddenly instead of starting out as a working journalist, you start off with the credential from the Columbia School of Journalism -- and you start already hosting the weekend news reports and you never get down and dirty. You never get to the grit. You instantly go from the fanciful life of college to the world of great personal power -- and you're dictating the truth to people -- and the money ain't bad either. Because once you graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism, you know, your entry level salary is pretty darn good.


Leftist British government forced to acknowledge historic occasion

Britain's D-Day veterans will receive the respect and support they deserve during this summer's 65th anniversary after Gordon Brown finally threw the full weight of Government behind the 'great generation of heroes'.

In a resounding victory for the Daily Mail's campaign, Downing Street tacitly admitted ministers had misjudged the public mood in refusing to help. The Royal Family is now expected to play a full part in this year's events both in France and Britain, while Mr Brown will travel to Normandy on June 6 where he will be joined by other ministers and military service chiefs.

In a further major success for our campaign, National Lottery chiefs announced they would repeat the 'Heroes Return' programme - which paid for 39,000 British veterans to revisit foreign battlefields to mark the 60th anniversary celebrations five years ago. That means the dwindling band of surviving veterans hoping to make one last pilgrimage to Arnhem, Germany, Italy, Burma or any other World War II battlefield in the comanying months will benefit from lottery cash to cover their expenses and those of their carers.

Mr Brown also said he hoped to stage a commemoration service at Westminster Abbey for all the veterans who could not make it to Normandy on health grounds.

In the wake of the dramatic rethink by the Government, the veterans themselves voiced their delight and thanks for the magnificent response to the Daily Mail's fund-raising appeal - and called a halt to further fund-raising. Generous readers donated 70,000 pounds on the first day of our campaign, and officials said they were now confident that the final few thousand pounds they need would follow, so that every Normandy veteran fit to travel can join in official events in France on June 6.

But when the Normandy Veterans' Association - which is to disband this year - approached the MoD for help with funding for the June celebrations it was firmly rebuffed, and defence officials even blocked plans for a national service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey. When the Mail first highlighted the veterans' plight on Wednesday, the Government said there were no plans to send ministers to Normandy to represent Britain. Bureaucrats cited a policy of giving official support only to 25th, 50th, 60th and 100th anniversaries, despite the fact that none of the veterans would be alive for the centenary.

Yesterday the Prime Minister completely reversed that position, while Downing Street sources voiced frustration that MoD officials had mishandled the issue. At an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Brown said he 'very much' wanted to be part of the event. 'As some of you know, I have written about this quite extensively in a book I have done for charity, so I want to be very much a part of the commemoration of both D-Day and the huge contribution that British soldiers made by risking their lives for the freedom of Europe. 'Nicolas Sarkozy and I are talking about what we can do together, how to commemorate this important occasion not only in Britain but across the whole of Europe.'

Diplomatic protocol means that Mr Brown and the Royal Family must wait for an invitation from the French government before drawing up plans, but Downing Street confirmed that it would back any invitation to the Royal Family to attend events in Normandy, and that they would also be invited to attend any service in London to mark the 65th anniversary. Palace officials stressed that no invitation had been received and some Royal Family members already had engagements booked, but added: 'We are seeing what we can do.' The Queen is already scheduled to meet some Normandy veterans at an event in Hampshire next month.

Peter Hodge, Secretary of the Normandy Veterans' Association, said: 'There's a special bond between the Queen and the D-Day veterans. 'She was there to take the salute at Arromanches for the 60th anniversary in 2004. I remember overhearing one of her equerries asking her how long she was prepared to stay, and she told him, "As long as it takes". 'If she were able to attend one of the events - perhaps the Cenotaph on June 21 - it would be the icing on the cake.'

Trevor Beattie, the businessman who has overseen fundraising for the Normandy Veterans, said he was 'absolutely delighted' with the response from Mail readers. Any surplus funds will be used to meet carers' travelling expenses, and to help those Normandy veterans too frail to go to France to attend events closer to home.

Tory leader David Cameron said he was 'hugely encouraged' by the response to the Mail's campaign. 'It sent a powerful signal of support to our veterans that the Government could no longer ignore.'


Britain's social work tyranny again

"We had our baby taken away for a year over a doctor's blunder". No second opinion sought, of course. Taking a baby away is a mere bagatelle to hate-filled British Leftist social workers -- unless the baby is really in danger, of course! Then the mother is "supported" and the baby can go to hell -- and often does! There should always be expedited judicial proceedings in an open court before a baby is taken away. Scum social workers are the last people who should be trusted. They are taught in their social work schools to despise the society they live in and it shows

A soldier and his wife had their baby taken away for almost a year after a doctor misread an X-ray. Lance Corporal Matthew Dean and his wife Katie were accused of abusing Louie and were suddenly faced with the threat of losing all their three children. The ordeal started with a hospital scan when Louie was two months old which found blood between his brain and skull. He had been thriving despite being born five weeks prematurely with a slightly enlarged head and floppy limbs.

Further X-rays seemed to show no more injuries until a doctor claimed she could see a broken rib. Louie's father, who has served with the Princess of Wales Regiment in Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland, and mother were told they could not be trusted with him.

It was only after almost a year of misery that a judge ruled that the blood on Louie's brain was the result of an accident and that the rib had never been broken at all. The doctor had misread the X-ray. Social services then realised their case was so weak that they did not even bother to cross-examine the couple in court.

Cuddling Louie, now 18 months, Mrs Dean, 32, said last night: 'Social services treated us like something they'd stepped in and were desperate to build a case. 'Doctors and social workers have an important job but in this case they've over-reacted on a suspicion, rather than facts. Louie had one injury, and that was accidental.' Lance Corporal Dean, 34, said: 'Nothing can ever repay us for that year away from Louie.'

The couple, from Southampton, met in 2002 and have a five year-old daughter Daisy. Mrs Dean has another daughter, Charlotte, nine, by an earlier relationship.

Louie was born in August 2007 near Hanover, Germany, where his father had been posted. Because his head was enlarged, the couple were told to take him to a civilian hospital for regular check-ups. After the scan found the blood between his brain and skull, he needed two operations. Louie also developed meningitis but was eventually sent home with his parents. The cause of the blood remained a mystery but Army social workers said their should be no problem as German doctors could find no evidence of other injuries.

The family returned to England for Christmas but X-rays had been sent to Southampton General Hospital consultant radiologist Jo Fairhurst. Court documents show Dr Fairhurst believed 'there was a healing fracture' of a rib 'suggesting non-accidental injury'. On the strength of her opinion, the Deans were told they were to be arrested for child abuse when they returned to Germany. A document from the British Forces Social Work Service informed them that Mrs Dean's mother Christine Long, 62, would have to take charge of their son. Mrs Long moved temporarily to Germany to watch over Louie 24 hours a day while investigations continued.

The only way the couple could regain the right to look after him was through the UK courts, so LCpl Dean gained a transfer in January 2008. Hampshire social services took over the case and told them Louie would have to live with his grandmother on the other side of the town.

Last December, the couple were finally able to look after their son again when a judge rejected a bid to place their three children in care. The High Court in Portsmouth heard that the blood on Louie's brain was probably the result of an accident or could have simply happened spontaneously. His parents suspected it dated from his difficult birth.

More importantly, a German doctor assured the court that the 'rib fracture' was a misreading of a line on the X-ray created because Louie's lungs and spine had moved.

The judge said: 'I cannot find it proved that Louie suffered a fractured rib. I conclude it is very unlikely either of these parents was responsible for causing the bleeding between his brain and skull.'

John Coughlan, Hampshire's director of children's services, defended the 'necessary but proportionate intervention'. He said: 'We went to great pains to ensure Louie stayed within the care of the family.'

A hospital spokesman said Dr Fairhurst was working overseas and he was unable to comment in her absence. [Someone should fire the stupid bitch]


British council forced to give squatters a list of all its empty properties

Having 800 properties vacant is a huge bureaucratic disgrace but that is no excuse for letting just anyone march into them. Allocating them to qualified applicants should be urgently expedited

A council has been forced to give details of every empty home in its area to squatters because of a legal loophole. Lambeth in South London had to hand over the list after squatters submitted a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request. The Labour-run borough provided details of an estimated 800 properties despite council officers' fears that the move could lead to a marked rise in squatting in the borough.

Critics will ask whether the coup could be used as a precedent by other squatters' groups. They accuse the local authority of 'incompetence' in the way it handled the request from the Advisory Service for Squatters, submitted in September last year.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Ashley Lumsden said a senior council source told him that housing officers had earlier committed 'a grave error' by publishing a list of all vacant properties in the appendix of a council document. When the squatters presented their demand, the information was already in the public domain so the request could not be denied.

But the council said it had been forced to give out the information because of a legal precedent set by another council. A spokeswoman for Lambeth Living, which manages the borough's council housing, said: 'When responding to FOI requests we have to operate within the letter of the law. 'A legal precedent had already been set in response to a similar FOI inquiry to Bexley Council. 'On challenging the request, they were instructed by the Information Tribunal that they had a legal duty to provide the address details of empty properties which were not owned by individuals.' She added that the number of Lambeth properties with squatters had fallen over the past six months from 49 to 45.

The incident is not the first major embarrassment for Lambeth in its struggle with squatters. Four empty blocks of flats at Limerick Court on the border of Streatham and Balham were occupied by more than a hundred people for six months until they were evicted last summer. Two years ago at least 100 armed police officers used stun grenades in a huge raids on a property in Kennington which had been used as a squat for decades - finding several kilos of cannabis, crack cocaine and six rounds of live ammunition.

Councillor Lumsden said the Freedom of Information incident was in a long line of blunders by the housing department that has seen it overspend by an estimated 23 million pounds, and the number of empty council homes double since 2006 to close to 900. He told the Streatham Guardian: 'The administration seems hell-bent on destroying public housing in Lambeth through a mixture of brain-numbing incompetence and sheer bloody-mindedness.'



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

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

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


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Britain fails to shut down a single extremist website in two years

The Home Office has failed to shut down a single terrorist website despite a pledge to do so from Tony Blair four years ago.

Stopping extremist websites operating was one of the measures unveiled by Mr Blair in the aftermath of the 7 July suicide bombings in London in 2005. Although the powers were enshrined in law with the Terrorism Act 2006, the Home Office has now admitted that not a single website has been shut down in the past two years. The Tories said the news "smacks of dangerous complacency and incompetence".

Under Section 3 of the legislation, a police officer can order that "unlawfully terrorism-related material is removed or modified within two working days". However, Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister, said: "The preferred route of the police is to use informal contact with the communication service providers to request that the material is removed. "To date no Section 3 notices have been issued as this informal route has proved effective."

Last year a leaked report from the Security Service highlighted the importance of the internet in radicalising young people.

Mr Coaker insisted that some sites were shut down after informal contact with the sites' hosts with the police. Yet the Home Office had no idea how many were shut down after the informal talks. Mr Coaker added: "Statistics covering the number of sites removed through such informal contact are not collected."

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative backbench MP who obtained the information, said he was shocked that despite spending over 100 million pounds on preventing radicalization, not a single extremist website had been closed down. He said: "Websites are a crucial means of communication for the terrorist and unless the Government takes action against them, they will continue to be one of the terrorist's most powerful weapons."

Baroness Neville-Jones, the shadow Security Minister, added: "We have known for years that organisations like al-Qaeda are increasingly using the internet as a tool for radicalisation. "So it is shocking that the Government has failed to shut down a single terrorist website, even though Parliament gave them the power to do so more than two years ago. "They claim that they haven't closed any down because they prefer to put pressure on internet service providers to remove dangerous material. But they're not even able to tell us what they've achieved by this route."

A Home Office spokesman said: "If material is hosted in the UK, informal contact between the police and the Internet Service Provider has, to-date, proven sufficient to have material removed from the internet. We hope that this continues." [Must be nice to Muslims -- which also precludes checkups on them, apparently]


Children don't make you happy... says an expert who hasn't any!

A baby's first smile, a toddler's first steps... all the way through to seeing your child walking up the aisle. These are the moments parents treasure - but one social scientist says they give us an unduly rosy impression of raising a family. Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee - who does not have children himself - is pouring cold water on the idea that being a parent makes you happier.

'Social scientists have found almost zero association between having children and happiness,' he said. 'In a recent study of British adults, for example, we found that parents and non-parents reported the same levels of life satisfaction.'

The economist, from the University of York, believes he can explain why the benefits of parenthood have been repeatedly overstated. He said most parents remember milestones like a first smile, and think these rewards more than compensate them for the challenging task of raising children. But Dr Powdthavee claims that any small bursts of happiness are cancelled out by the day-to-day chores of having a family.

His comments are published in the latest issue of The Psychologist, the magazine of The British Psychological Society. The widespread belief that having children makes you happy is a 'focusing illusion', he argued. 'To imagine what it's like being a mother or a father we're likely to focus more on the good things about being a parent than the bad things. 'This is mainly because we believe that the rare but meaningful experiences like a child's first smile or graduating from university or seeing them get married will give us massive and long-lasting increases in happiness.'

But he added: 'These boosts in wellbeing tend not to last for very long. Instead, parents spend much of their time attending to the very core processes of childcare - problems at school, cooking and laundry - which are much more frequent. 'And it is these small but negative experiences that are more likely to impact on our day-to-day levels of happiness and life satisfaction.'

Despite his research, the 30-year-old and his girlfriend are thinking about starting a family of their own. He said that 'deep down' everyone knows that raising children is probably the 'toughest and dullest job in the world'. 'But what if all of us decided one day - for the sake of our own personal happiness - not have children any more?' he asked. 'Then chances are that the future will stop at our generation, which is perhaps worse.'


Media trashes breadwinning dads over Parenting Magazine's `Mad at Dad' survey
"Alarming percentages of moms are angry at dads on a regular basis." "Hell hath no fury like a mommy scorned." "Moms are angry about dad's role." These are some of the headlines which greeted Parenting Magazine's new "Mad at Dad" survey which found that 31% of mothers get "little or no help" with childcare and 46% of mothers "get irate with their husbands once a week or more." The New York Times called the survey "disturbing," while a Washington Post columnist announced that mothers are "literally killing themselves."
Is the survey a wake-up call? A shocking portrait of dysfunction in American family life? No-it's junk science, and the New York Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets should have known better than to parrot its outlandish claims.To do the study, Parenting's research arm, the MomConnection, sent out 5,000 survey questionnaires to subscribers. Parenting's "nationally representative" findings are based on the 1,000 who responded.

In the social science field this is known as a "SLOP"-a Self-selected Listener Opinion Poll. Four out of five of those receiving surveys didn't respond. The ones who did are more likely to have an ax to grind or be angry-exactly the response the magazine claims its survey revealed. This data cannot be credibly applied to the average mom or family.

SLOPs are a widely discredited methodology. For example, 35 years ago sexologist Shere Hite used the same SLOP methodology to produce the shocking statistic that 98% of married women were dissatisfied with their marriages and 75% had had extramarital affairs.

However, according to Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo, only 4% of the women who were given the survey responded. When the Washington Post and ABC News did a scientifically credible survey on the same topic, they found the exact opposite to be true-93% of women reported satisfaction in their marriages, and only 7% reported having had affairs.

Parenting's claims that dads are derelict in their duties contradict credible surveys on American families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2004 Time Use Survey, men spend one and a half times as many hours working as women do, and full-time employed men still work significantly more hours than full-time employed women. Yet Child Trends' 220-page study Charting Parenthood: A Statistical Look at Fathers and Mothers in America found that in two-parent families, mothers spend only about 35 minutes per day more with children than do fathers [2 hours, 21 minutes vs. 1 hour, 46 minutes]. And the Families and Work Institute in New York City found that fathers provide three-fourths as much child care as mothers do.

Mothers who are dissatisfied might want to examine their own behavior as well as that of their husbands. Studies reported in the Journal of Family Psychology in June, 2008 and the Journal of Marriage and the Family in 1999 show that mothers are generally the gatekeepers of fathers' involvement with their kids. If she criticizes or insists that any way that isn't her way is wrong, dad will often withdraw. But if she stands aside and lets him parent, he usually does.

Another problem with Parenting's survey is that they only queried mothers-a poor method to judge what fathers do or don't do. For example, a 2002 Rand Graduate School study of father involvement found that "the failure to incorporate both parties' (i.e. mothers' and fathers') perspectives may lead to inaccurate, inappropriate.conclusions."

Credible social science researchers and journals routinely report the details of how their research was conducted. Yet Parenting doesn't seem to want people to know how they got their results. Despite multiple requests, Parenting has refused to make public the questions its researchers asked or the answers responders gave.

Are fathers shirking their responsibilities to their families? A 2002 University of Michigan Institute for Social Research survey found that women do 11 more hours of work in the home per week than men, but men work at their jobs 14 hours per week more than women. According to the BLS, men's total time at leisure, sleeping, doing personal care activities, or socializing is a statistically meaningless 1% higher than women's. When work both outside the home and inside the home are properly considered, it is clear that men do at least as much as women.

Most moms have no reason to be mad at dads, and there's no evidence that they are. Unfortunately, such a finding doesn't play to the mainstream media's anti-family "woman good/man bad" drumbeat. It also doesn't make for catchy headlines.


Australia: Millions may have visited popular websites on 'leaked blacklist'

A SECRET list of websites purporting to be from the communications watchdog has been leaked to the public, and includes one of the most popular sites in the country. The pornography site, which news.com.au cannot name, is the 38th most popular site in Australia, according to web ranking service Alexa. It is more popular than sites like White Pages, Yellow Pages, Optus, Career One and the official sites of the NSW, Victoria and Queensland state governments.

However the Communications Minister has denied this "leaked list" is the original from the watchdog.

A secret blacklist of illegal sites, maintained by the Australian Communications And Media Authority (ACMA), is the basis of the Federal Government's web filtering plan. Under the plan, all internet service providers will be forced to block access to sites on the blacklist.

The fake list was published on a public website without any age verification or warnings. It contains 2395 sites, which is what identified it as a fake, says Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. "The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1061 URLs," Senator Conroy said in a statement. Last November the media watchdog said its blacklist contained 1370 sites.

“The leaking of the list has confirmed some of our worst fears,” said vice-chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) Colin Jacobs earlier today, before the list was slammed by Senator Conroy. “This was bound to happen, especially as mandatory filtering would require the list to be distributed to ISPs all around the country."

As well as sites suspected of publishing child pornography the fake list includes pages on Wikipedia, YouTube and Wikileaks as well as online gambling sites.

ACMA has warned that anyone who republishes the list or attempts to access child pornography sites on it could face up to 10 years in prison. It has also warned that linking to sites on the list could incur fines of up to $11,000 a day.



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

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

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


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Friday, March 20, 2009

The western world needs more like this guy

There's a huge Union Flag flying proudly outside Deva Kumarasiri's house and it's been there so long the edges are tattered and torn. Nearby, another one flutters from the back of his favourite Land Rover as he drives to work as the local cornershop postmaster.

In case it's not immediately clear, the Sri Lankan born father of two - who fulfilled a dream to come this country 17 years ago and took citizenship to make his life here - is proud to be British. So proud, in fact, that he's insisting all his fellow immigrants embrace our culture and pride with the same enthusiasm as he does.

Mr Kumarasiri, who taught his two young daughters every word of the National Anthem and is encouraging them to join the RAF when they grow up, introduced a controversial new regime at his post office counter. If his customers can't be bothered to learn English, he tells them, they must go away and learn it before he serves them.

His bold stand against non-integration has sent a shudder of political correctness down whatever spine the post office has these days, and infuriated some local do-gooders who accused him of inciting division among the community. But even a few minutes spent with the 40-year-old Liberal Democrat councillor is about all it takes to establish that his motives are pure - and that he's driven only by a passion for the country he loves so much.

'Nobody stands up for anything in Britain any more,' he said. 'It's the best country in the world as far as I'm concerned, but the great country I once called Great Britain has changed a lot since I came here. All I'm doing is telling people that if they want to live in Britain, be British.

'Don't boo our soldiers when they come home from Iraq. Don't live your life without embracing our culture. Don't stay here without making any effort to learn the language. And if you don't want to be British, go home.'

Mr Kumarasiri runs the sub-post office inside a corner shop in Sneinton, an inner city area of Nottingham that boasts a diverse ethnic mix. He became so weary at of customers expecting to be served without uttering a word of English that he took to telling them to go away and learn the language. It's not exactly a ban, he says, because they keep coming back anyway. But he tells those who make no effort to speak English they will need an interpreter if he is to give them a proper standard of service. 'Our laws are written in English; our culture is chronicled in English. How can anybody understand that if they can't understand English? 'I tell them if they don't speak the language and they can't be bothered to learn, then don't bother coming here. It's up to them whether they take any notice - but if they want to live here in Britain, they should take notice.'

Mr Kumarasiri, whose wife is a nurse, likes to call his regular customers 'duck' and 'dear', following local tradition. 'The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don't all speak the same language. You can't be wholly part of British culture if you don't speak the language.

'When I left Sri Lanka I left behind that country's culture, customs and language. I have done my utmost ever since to be part of this country's culture. There are far too many people who come here and expect Britain to change to suit them.

'White people can't say what I'm saying because they'd end up in jail,' he explains.


Where government secrecy and coverups get you

In a small provincial courtroom, the most high-profile trial in Austria's post-war history is taking place behind closed doors. The public, and the world's media, have been banned from hearing evidence against Josef Fritzl because of Austria's obsession with privacy. After brief opening arguments from the prosecution and defence on Monday, and a tantalisingly short statement from Fritzl himself, everyone bar the defendant, judges and lawyers was ordered to leave the room

Journalists have been warned that if we report anything said in the trial (by getting it second-hand from lawyers, for example), we will be imprisoned for up to six years. So much for justice being seen to be done. While it may seem incredible that a man who imprisoned his own daughter in a cellar for 24 years should be tried in an empty room, in Austrian courts secrecy is the rule, rather than the exception. Officially, the media ban is to prevent "voyeurism". The consensus in the Austrian press, however, is that the authorities simply don't want the horrific evidence to be used to question their failure to stop Fritzl sooner.

It is this culture of secrecy that enabled Fritzl to get away with his crimes for so long - a culture that has its roots in Nazi-era Austria, and one that is viewed with growing shame by a younger generation of Austrians, some of whom have staged noisy demonstrations outside the court in St Poelten.

One protester, Peter Rosenauer, of the child welfare group Resistance for Peace, told me: "We have a society where child abuse is hushed up and trivialised. People who report cases of abuse are often ignored or even intimidated by the authorities. The golden rule, which starts with bureaucrats and filters down through society, is that you shouldn't pry into people's private lives."

It was this very attitude that enabled Fritzl to hide his daughter away for a quarter of a century while those in authority failed to ask the obvious questions which could have saved her. Elisabeth ran away from home on several occasions as a teenager, only to be returned by police to her father each time. What was making her so unhappy? No one bothered to ask her. None of their business.

When three of Elisabeth's children turned up on Fritzl's doorstep, supposedly left by Elisabeth after she ran off to join a cult, social workers visited him 21 times to make sure he was fit to adopt the children. What they didn't know, because of Austria's draconian privacy laws, was that Fritzl was a convicted rapist who had served time in prison in 1967. His conviction had been deleted from all official records after 15 years. As far as the authorities were concerned it was all in the past and no one had a right to know about it.

Josef Leitner, a former tenant in Fritzl's house, said: "Why didn't the authorities try to find out why Elisabeth wanted to run away? If they'd asked her friends, I'm sure they would have told them." Leitner says that after raising questions about those in authority he was visited by the police, who threatened to report him to the state prosecutor in what he says was a blatant attempt to "shut me up".

Fritzl's may be an extreme case, but it is by no means unique in Austria. Natascha Kampusch escaped her captor in 2006 after eight years in a bunker; three children were rescued from a cellar in Linz in 2007 after being locked up for seven years by their mother.

Austria's preoccupation with privacy is a throwback to the Nazi era, when Hitler was enthusiastically welcomed into towns like Amstetten, where a young Josef Fritzl sat on his father's shoulders and cheered the fuhrer. Collaborators were encouraged to inform on neighbours who did not embrace the Nazi agenda, who were then taken away to a nearby concentration camp. After the war, Austria was desperate to hush up its complicity in the Holocaust: three out of every four death camp commandants was Austrian. Hence the instinct, which exists to this day, to cover up the unsavoury and discourage the sort of curtain twitching that was rife during the war.

Such a culture has led to farcical scenes at Fritzl's trial, where judges were so nervous of breaching the defendant's right to privacy that they did nothing to stop him covering his face with an A4 ring binder when the media were briefly allowed to film him. Austrian newspapers are only allowed to refer to the defendant as Josef F, which is standard procedure in sex abuse trials but pointless pedantry in a case where the entire world knows the defendant's name.

Back in Amstetten, the mayor and senior civil servants have all gone on holiday for the duration of the trial to avoid any awkward questions. Before they left, the council put out a statement saying: "The crime case of Amstetten does not exist. It is the crime of a single person."

Josef Haslinger, a philosopher, said: "There is this pretty, shiny surface that Austrians like to show, but it hides a monstrosity . this perverse world that nobody wants to talk about. The de-Nazification process never succeeded. We have a culture of looking away."


My imam father came after me with an axe

Hannah Shah had been raped by her father and faced a forced marriage. She fled, became a Christian and now fears for her life

We are all too familiar with the persecution of Christians in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yet sitting in front of me is a British woman whose life has been threatened in this country solely because she is a Christian. Indeed, so real is the threat that the book she has written about her experiences has had to appear under an assumed name.

The book is called The Imam's Daughter because "Hannah Shah" is just that: the daughter of an imam in one of the tight-knit Deobandi Muslim Pakistani communities in the north of England. Her father emigrated to this country from rural Pakistan some time in the 1960s and is, apparently, a highly respected local figure.

He is also an incestuous child abuser, repeatedly raping his daughter from the age of five until she was 15, ostensibly as part of her punishment for being "disobedient". At the age of 16 she fled her family to avoid the forced marriage they had planned for her in Pakistan. A much, much greater affront to "honour" in her family's eyes, however, was the fact that she then became a Christian - an apostate. The Koran is explicit that apostasy is punishable by death; thus it was that her father the imam led a 40-strong gang - in the middle of a British city - to find and kill her.

Hannah Shah says her story is not unique - that there are many other girls in British Muslim families who are oppressed and married off against their will, or who have secretly become Christians but are too afraid to speak out. She wants their voices to be heard and for Britain, the land of her birth, to realise the hidden misery of these women.

Hannah's own voice is quiet and emerges from a tiny frame. She is clearly nervous about talking to a journalist and the stress she has been under is betrayed by a bald patch on the left side of her head. Yet she has a lovely natural smile, especially when she reveals that she got married a year ago; her husband works in the Church of England, "though not as a vicar".

I tell Hannah that the passages in her memoir about her sexual abuse are almost impossible to read - but I also found it hard to understand why, now that she is in her early thirties, independent and married, she has not reported her father's horrific assaults on her to the police. "What has stopped me is that if my dad went to prison, the shame that would be brought upon the rest of the family would be horrific. My mum would not be able to . . . I mean, it's bad enough having a daughter who's left, is not agreeing to her marriage and is now a Christian. Then to have my dad in prison would be the end for her."

I tell Hannah, perhaps a little cruelly, that in her use of the word "shame" she is echoing the sort of arguments that her own family had used against her. "I understand that, but what I'm saying is that if I do that, then there will never be a door open to me to have contact with my family ever again. I'm still hoping that there will be some opportunity for that." Of course, by writing this book, albeit under an assumed name and with all the places and characters disguised, there is a chance that her family and community will identify themselves in it. What does she think they would do, then?

"To be honest, I don't even want to think about that. Either they will decide between them that they are not going to say anything because it will bring shame on all the community, or they will decide that they want to take action. Then my life will become even more difficult, because they'll all be looking for me."

Hannah's description in the book of the moment when her "community" discovered the "safe" home where she had fled after becoming an apostate is terrifying. A mob with her father at its head pounded and hammered at the door as she cowered upstairs hoping she could not be seen or heard. She heard her father shout through the letter box: "Filthy traitor! Betrayer of your faith! Cursed traitor! We're going to rip your throat out! We'll burn you alive!" Does she still believe they would have killed her? "Yes, without a doubt. They had hammers and knives and axes."

Why didn't you call the police afterwards? "First, I didn't think the police would believe me. That sort of thing just doesn't happen in this country - or that's what they'd think. Second, I didn't believe I would get help or protection from the authorities."

Hannah had good reason for this doubt. When, at school, she had finally summoned the courage to tell a teacher that her father had been beating her (she couldn't bring herself to reveal the sexual abuse), the social services sent out a social worker from her own community. He chose not to believe Hannah and, in effect, shopped her to her father, who gave her the most brutal beating of her life. When she later confronted the social worker, he said: "It's not right to betray your community."

Hannah blames what is sometimes called political correctness for this debacle: "My teachers had thought they were doing the right thing, they thought it showed `cultural sensitivity' by bringing in someone from my own community to `help', but it was the worst thing they could have done to me. This happens a lot. "When I've been working with girls who were trying to get out of an arranged marriage, or want to convert to Christianity, and they have contacted social services as they need to get out of their homes, the reaction has been `we'll send someone from your community to talk to your parents'. I know why they are doing this, they are trying to be understanding, but it's the last thing that the authorities should do in such situations."

This is the sort of cultural sensitivity displayed by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, last year when he suggested that problems within the British Muslim community such as financial or marital disputes could be dealt with under sharia, Islamic law, rather than British civil law. What did Hannah, now an Anglican, think on hearing these remarks? "I was horrified." If you could speak to him now, what would you say to the archbishop? "I would say: have you actually spoken to any ordinary Muslim women about the situation that they live in, in their communities? By putting in place these Muslim arbitration tribunals, where a woman's witness is half that of a man, you are silencing women even more."

She believes the British government is making exactly the same mistake as Rowan Williams: "It says it talks to the Muslim community, but it's not speaking to the women. I mean, you are always hearing Muslim men speaking out, the representatives of the big federations, but the government is not listening to Muslim women. With the sharia law situation and the Muslim arbitration tribunals, have they thought about what effect these tribunals have on Muslim women? I don't think so."

It's fair to say that Hannah Shah is an evangelical Christian, who clearly feels a duty to spread her new faith to Muslims- something with which the Church of England's eternally emollient establishment is very uncomfortable and the government even more so. She points out that even within this notionally Christian country, people are "persecuted" for evangelism of even the mildest sort. She cites the recent cases of the nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient and the foster parents who were struck off after a Muslim girl in their care converted to Christianity.

"Such people - I'm not talking about apostates like me - have been persecuted or ostracised in this country simply because they want to share their faith with others. People call this political correctness but I actually think it is based on a fear of Muslims, what they might do if provoked."

Shah's conversion seems to have its origins in the fact that the family who put her up after she ran away from the prospect of an arranged marriage in rural Pakistan were themselves regular church attenders. She began to go with them and, to put it at its most banal, she liked what she heard. "It was the emphasis on love. The Islam that I grew up knowing and reading about doesn't offer me love. That's the biggest thing that Christianity can and does offer. I sense that I belong and am accepted as I am - even when I do wrong there is forgiveness, a forgiveness which Islam does not offer."

So does Hannah offer Christian forgiveness to the father who raped and abused her and who, by her own account, was even prepared to murder her? "It's taken a long time and it's only in the past few years that I've got to that. It's very hard to get there and it's taken a lot of shouting and screaming behind closed doors, and praying, to get me to the point of being able to say: I forgive. I have to, partly because otherwise I would be a very bitter and angry person and I don't want to livea life that's full of anger."

I can't help asking how she would react if a future child of hers decided she wanted to abandon the Christian faith of the family home and become a Muslim. "It would be very hard for me, obviously." Would she try to discourage it? "No. I'd bring them up as Christians, take them to church, but I'd also want them to know about, well, my culture, about Islam. Because being Christian should be a choice, not what you're born to. But yes, it would be hard if they chose Islam." Somehow, though, I think Hannah Shah would cope.


Australia: Lebanese Muslim gang rapists cop it in jail

They are such scum that they asked for it in my view. They acted like big men when dealing with defenceless women but did not do so well in the company of other men of their own low standards

Four of the state's most notorious killers, including notorious triple family killer Matthew Wayne De Gruchy, have appeared in court this morning over the vicious jail bashing of infamous gang rapist brothers. Matthew Wayne de Gruchy, who is serving a 28-year jail term for the murder of his mother and two siblings at Albion Park Rail, near Wollongong, in 1996, is among the four murderers, two rapists and an armed robber allegedly involved in the vicious bashing of the brothers who can only be known as MSK and MAK.

The bashing, in a yard of Goulburn jail in February 2007, almost killed MAK who suffered severe head injuries and needed to be airlifted to hospital for brain surgery. His brother was treated for a broken arm.

After an extensive two-year investigation the inmates have been charged and made their first appearances for inflicting grievous bodily harm in Goulburn Local Court this morning. The inmates charged, who appeared this morning via videolink, include De Gruchy who was only 18 when he killed his mother Jennifer, 42, brother Adrian, 15, and sister Sarah, 13. Also charged was triple child murderer Craig Andrew Merritt. Jay William Short, who murdered Lithgow teenager Alison Marie Lewis in 1997, was also charged, as was killer Shannon Daley. Adrian Gray, serving time for armed robbery, and Chebli Djait, serving time for drink spiking-related sexual assault, have also appeared in court. Yet to appear is another man, serving time for aggravated sexual assault.



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

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

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


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Five Ways that Insanity Has Become the New Normal in America

by John Hawkins
"In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven't been ordinary, however. ...(T)he pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning...visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors." -- Clay Shirky in an explanation of the downfall of the newspaper business that also describes what's happening in America
Since Barack Obama has been elected, gun sales and copies of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged have flown off the shelves. Meanwhile, there's a Russian academic all over the news predicting that America will soon collapse, "tea parties" springing up all over the country, and the stock market has been doing a great impression of Michael Richards' career since he left Seinfeld.

Is that because people have gone crazy? No, it's the reaction of sane people to the crazy as a football bat insanity that has begun to pass for conventional wisdom in large swathes of America. Living in this country today is like sitting in the back seat of a car that's hurtling towards the edge of a cliff at a hundred miles an hour while the driver fiddles with the radio and the guy in the passenger seat mocks the very idea of using brakes. When sheer insanity becomes the new normal, people who can admit that the emperor has no clothes are left to point out:

The Global Warming Fraud: There are few things stranger than watching a "debate" over global warming. One side constantly quotes scientific facts, makes logical arguments, and tries to appeal to reason. These people are called "anti-science" by the side that "argues" by comparing their opponents to Holocaust deniers, spins apocalyptic doomsday scenarios out of whole cloth, and is constantly dinged for stretching the truth on the few scientific facts they do talk about. These people are the ones who supposedly "put science first" in the debate. Meanwhile, the earth has been getting warmer and colder since it was formed, the planet has been considerably warmer in the past than it is today, and the earth is currently cooling, not warming. Yet and still, our President intends to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a Cap and Trade scheme that will spike energy costs into the stratosphere so that we can solve this non-existent "problem."

The Lawsuit Lottery: In our legal system, you can injure yourself doing something utterly stupid, sue someone who just happened to be in the vicinity while you acted like a lunatic, and if you get lucky, you can walk away with millions of dollars while he's driven out of business. It's like playing the lottery, except your odds of winning are much better.

The evidence of how warped our legal system has become is all around us. It's difficult to find an obstetrician in some parts of the country because they've been sued out of existence. In California, it's legal to sue good Samaritans who try to help people who've been injured. Many people and corporations actually settle lawsuits that they know they would eventually win because it's cheaper and less of a hassle than defending themselves in court because our system, in most cases, provides no compensation whatsoever for being the target of a meritless lawsuit.

This illness in our justice system goes all the way up to the Supreme Court, where we have four justices who believe in actually sticking to the Constitution and four who vote for whichever result best serves liberalism. That means whether a law is ruled unconstitutional or not may often depend on little more than whether Anthony Kennedy got enough sleep or is a little cranky because his lunch was delivered late. Justice is supposed to be blind, but we've gone one step further in America and made it random.

Demonizing Success and Rewarding Failure: In America, we have a government that rewards people for failure. If you lose your job, we will incentivize you not to get back to work with unemployment insurance. If you stay out of work long enough, then we'll give you welfare and more money via a "tax credit." If you don't pay your mortgage, then we'll help you out with that, too. Is your corporation going out of business? Then we'll bail you out. Long story short, if you're failing in life, then we will give you goodies to reward you for it.

On the other hand, successful people are suspect, just by virtue of their success and therefore, they must be punished. At a time when taxes are already so high that corporations are fleeing overseas and even the Treasury Secretary is a tax cheat, the President is planning massive tax hikes on both successful individuals and corporations. After all, how are we going to reward all of life's losers if we don't take the money from people who have succeeded? In order to justify killing the Goose who laid the Golden Egg, successful people are regularly vilified as greedy nuisances to society who should be thrilled to have the money they worked for confiscated by people who hate them so it can be handed to people far less industrious than themselves. But, what you subsidize, you get more of and what you penalize, you decrease. That's one of the oldest and simplest lessons in the book; yet it's one we never seem to learn.

Spending Money Like We're Never Going To Have To Pay It Back: Here's Peter Schweizer describing how the Soviet Union was broken by Reagan,
First of all, the Soviet Union has been in economic crisis, there was an economic crisis from the very beginning in 1917, but they'd always been able to figure out a way, working internationally, to bail out their system. They got western businesses that would set up industries, they got western banks to loan them money, they were able to get peace agreements with the West that would provide temporary relief to their economy. So the Soviet economy was always in crisis but they'd always been bailed out by the West. Reagan's administration is really the only one that never did that.
So, the Soviet Union relied on its enemies to keep it financially afloat and when they refused to do it any longer, it was the beginning of the end. Well, replace the "Soviet Union" with the "United States" and "The West" with "China" and ask yourself: doesn't it seem more than a little familiar?

What happens if China decides one day that they'd like to see us go the way of the Soviet Union and does to us what we did to the Reds? Do we end up with skyrocketing inflation that makes a dollar today worth ten cents tomorrow? Do we end up passing on such large debts onto our children that we will guarantee that they can never have the opportunity to grow up in the sort of great country that we did? The people spending our money? The frightening thing is not that they're coming up with different answers; it's that they're not even asking the questions.

Our Topsy-Turvy Approach To Illegal Immigration: Although we have laws on the books designed to prevent illegal immigration, they are systematically ignored or the people in charge of enforcing them are deliberately understaffed so they can't fulfill their duties. Bizarrely, people who merely suggest that the laws on our books should actually be enforced are derided as racists and nativists. Worse yet, to suggest that tens of millions of uneducated foreigners, many of whom don't speak the language or obey our laws, should not be able to benefit from breaking our laws by staying here permanently is treated as beyond the pale. Why, how dare we "break up the families" of people who have been shamelessly breaking our laws for so long that they've had time to start a family here?

Despite the fact that we've already had a "one time only amnesty" and drug violence is now regularly spilling over our borders, advocates of amnesty are unfazed. In fact, under Barack Obama we've actually gotten to the point where we're prosecuting people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio for enforcing our immigration laws even as we create 300,000 jobs for illegal immigrants with the stimulus plan.

If you don't have borders, you don't have a country -- and if we believe we can turn tens of millions of poor, uneducated, non-English speaking people with no love for our nation or respect for our laws, into productive, well assimilated, loyal Americans merely by granting them citizenship -- then we're engaging in exactly the sort of magical thinking that has helped undermine and destroy more than a few nations -- including most notably, the Roman Empire.


Britain's target culture 'is harming justice': Police accuse prosecutors of downgrading charges

Serious criminals are being allowed to cheat justice so that prosecutors can save money and hit Whitehall targets, police claim. Officers have broken ranks after growing 'frustrated' amid claims that the Crown Prosecution Service is repeatedly downgrading the seriousness of an offender's crime - or not charging them at all. In many cases, police say the CPS - ordered to save 69million by ministers by 2011 - wants to avoid the prospect of a case going to Crown Court, where they would have to pay for an expensive barrister.

In an exclusive Daily Mail interview, Police Federation vice-chairman Simon Reed said prosecutors were also trying to hit Government targets for reducing the number of unsuccessful trials. As a result, they are opting for charges which the criminal will be more willing to accept, rather than challenge in court.

Police are powerless, as Labour recently gave responsibility for charging many criminals to the CPS - rather than police. Officers give the examples of actual bodily harm (ABH) being downgraded to assault, drug-dealing to possession of drugs, burglary to theft and mugging to theft from the person. Mr Reed said: 'We know there are people who are not being prosecuted when they could be. It leads to a lot of angst for the police. The criminal justice system is pulling in different directions. 'We see very few charges of ABH any more. They are prosecuted for common assault instead. It keeps the case away from Crown Court.'

The Federation says this makes the police's job harder, as criminals will be back on the streets sooner or are not jailed at all. The deterrent against reoffending is also reduced if criminals feel they have been treated leniently. Mr Reed added: 'The reoffending rates from criminals are 70 per cent, and that tells its own story. It is hugely frustrating for police officers.'

Police are keen to regain the right to charge suspects themselves but prosecutors are resisting. The Conservative police spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This is soft justice for criminals and an insult to victims. 'That's why the Conservatives will return discretion to charge more offences to police sergeants - without them having to refer it first to the CPS lawyers. This will also help cut paperwork and time spent waiting for a CPS lawyer to make a decision. It will mean more commonsense policing.'

Criminologist David Green, director of the Civitas thinktank, said there was a ' paradox' at the heart of Government policy. The police have recently been told the raft of Whitehall targets they previously faced would be scrapped for a single target of the public having increased confidence in them effectively dealing with crime in their local area. Dr Green said officers had been deprived of one of the main powers they need to provide this confidence - the right to decide on charges.

The number of criminals handed cautions by the police instead of being charged and put before the courts has risen significantly in recent years. In 2005 a total of 333,420 offenders were let off with a caution, while 423,000 were charged with a crime. By 2007 - the last year for which full figures are available - cautions had risen to 357,222 with 405,000 suspects charged.

However, a CPS spokesman said: 'The CPS is not undercharging defendants in order to reduce ineffective trials or as a cost-cutting measure. 'A recent joint independent CPS-police inspection of statutory charging confirmed that the standard of charging decisions by prosecutors was good. 'Since the CPS assumed responsibility for charging decisions in all but minor offences, Crown Court cases have increased year on year from 95,000 to 102,000 whilst the conviction rate has increased from 74 per cent to 80 per cent.'


Governments that are strangers to business

Comment by Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen

Pick the odd man out: Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd, John Key. Only one of them, New Zealand's Prime Minister Key, has any material personal experience of how to make a dollar in the private sector. Rudd may be the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has had, because of his wife's admirable business acumen, but even that business is built on government contracts. Rudd's experience is that of a lifelong public servant and politician, with a short stint as a consultant with KPMG. Obama is the world's most famous community organiser, lawyer and, since 1996, full-time politician. Only Key - who was a manager at a clothing manufacturer and then moved into currency trading - has worked in a wholly private enterprise for any meaningful period of time.

This is not to denigrate the public service or community sectors. They do important work. But a lifelong immersion in the public sector creates a government-focused cast of mind and blind spots about the private sector. Obama and Rudd are in the business of pursuing growth by government programs, which demonstrates a dangerous ignorance of the role of growth led by productive private enterprise, small business in particular. No wonder Obama gave Rudd the thumbs up last week for the PM's approach to the global financial crisis. But if there was ever a time when we needed those who understand the importance of growth in the private sector, it's now.

If you doubt that blind spot, here is how US Vice-President Joe Biden explained the Obama administration's strategy to help small business. He was asked on the CBS Early Show by a viewer who had laid off most of her staff last year how the US President's trillion-dollar stimulus package would help small business. Biden was plainly stumped. After buying time by suggesting the woman contact his office, he then spluttered that "it may very well be that she's in a circumstance where she is not able, her customers aren't able to get to her, there's no transit capability, the bridge going across the creek to get to her business needs repair, may very well be that she's in a position where she is unable to access the - her energy costs are so high by providing smart meters, by being able to bring down the cost of her workforce".

This is not a spoof. Either Biden is a buffoon who does not know his stuff or there is no stuff to know. The best Biden could conjure up for a small business owner was to build a bridge to improve her customers' "transit capacity" and smart meters so she can count her energy costs.

Closer to home, addressing the NSW Chamber of Commerce in Sydney a few weeks ago, Rudd had nothing much to tell small business either. Small business men and women waited in vain for Rudd's vision for small business. All they got was Rudd's standard helicopter made-for-television view of the GFC and Australia's response to it. There was no chance for questions and answers. "It was all spin and no substance," said one businessman at the luncheon.

Rudd's appointment of Craig Emerson as Small Business Minister was promising. Yet the Government as a whole demonstrates no understanding that, with two million small businesses employing about 4.5 million people, according to the Council of Small Business of Australia, small business is the key to real growth.

Now ask yourself why the Obama administration and the Rudd Government have nothing much to offer small business. Given that both are committed to industrial relations reforms that boost the power of unions, perhaps they have very little interest in small business where unions have no hold? Or could it be that neither is focused on growth derived from private enterprise, preferring to forge ahead with growth by bigger government? A bit of both perhaps.

Key, on the other hand, understands what is needed to make businesses hum: lower taxes, smarter regulation and a flexible labour market. He has recognised that a one-off sugar hit - or cash splash - won't help business employ people for any longer than it takes to spend the cash. Permanent tax cuts help business employ more staff - permanently.

He told The Wall Street Journal's Mary Kissel a few weeks back that he is determined to stop the slide that has seen NZ fall to the bottom half on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's per-capita gross domestic product rankings. "We have been on a slippery slope ... so we need to lift those per capita wages, and the only way to really do that is through productivity growth driving efficiency in the country." Key is cutting taxes, reforming regulations that inhibited foreign capital and tackling environmental legislation that has been misused by green groups to stop private sector investment. Oh, and he is undertaking a line-by-line review of every government department as part of his Government's commitment to capping spending.

No wonder Key is the odd man out. And it is a shame that NZ will not be attending the G20 meeting in London next month, the latest effort by world leaders to confront the global financial crisis. Spend big and all will be in order is Obama's resounding theme. It's all stimulus this and stimulus that. Is it too much to hope that G stands for growth, not group-think?

Yet real growth - through the private sector - is not a concept you hear much about these days. We have a Government that talks incessantly about the dangers of the GFC yet is steadfastly committed to industrial relations policies that will, through their unfair dismissal laws, discourage small businesses from employing more people. And a Government that only accidentally supports small business when it suits some other agenda, cherry picking small business stimulus winners to push Labor's green credentials and its education revolution. Good for those who sell insulation batts and a small band of workers who will build new school halls. But there is no broader vision to encourage growth in the small business sector as a whole.

There is plenty the Rudd Government could do if encouraging jobs growth was its genuine focus. Banking on rising unemployment and focusing on retraining is not enough. For example, the PM, keen to stamp his influence on state governments, ought to be paying the states to abolish payroll taxes - which have the direct effect of hindering employment - rather than funding this year's sales of plasma TV sets. And that's just for starters.

This could be the Liberal Party's moment in the sun, reminding us it stands for encouraging real growth in small businesses, in the same heartland that once delivered it government


The Islamic Assault on Free Speech

Comment from Australia

It is one of the many benefits of Christianity that the West enjoys religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The properly understood notion of the separation of church and state arose from the Christian worldview, and goes back to the words of Jesus: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".

Islam of course knows of no such separation. Church and state are one in Islam. There is no sacred-secular distinction in the Muslim world. Everything is religious and everything is political. As Rodney Stark wrote, "Muhammad was not only the Prophet, he was head of state. Consequently, Islam has always idealized the fusion of religion and political rule, and sultans have usually also held the title of caliph" (The Victory of Reason).

Or as Dinesh D'Souza put it, "The prophet Muhammad was in his own day both a prophet and a Caesar who integrated the domains of church and state. Following his example, the rulers of the various Islamic empires, from the Umayyad to the ottoman, saw themselves as Allah's viceregents on earth" (What's So Great About Christianity?).

As Bernard Lewis explains, "In classical Arabic and in the other classical languages of Islam, there are no pairs of terms corresponding to `lay' and `ecclesiastical,' `spiritual' and `temporal,' `secular' and `religious,' because these pairs of words express a Christian dichotomy that has no equivalent in the world of Islam" (Islam and the West).

It is the genius of the West to have run with the Christian version of events in this regard, and not the Islamic one. But these cherished freedoms are ironically now being whittled way in the West as we increasingly seek to appease militant Islamists.

In many parts of the Western world Muslims are demanding, and getting, preferential treatment. And in the process, freedom of religion is slowly being eroded. A classic example of this can be seen in Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. This bit of scurrilous legislation has been used to silence Christians from proclaiming their faith, and from making rational criticism of Islam. The nefarious Victorian law effectively cramps real freedom of speech and religious diversity.

Of course hyper-sensitive Muslims around the world are seeking to implement such censorship on all non-Muslims. At the UN level, for example, Muslims are hoping to use UN Resolution 62/154, which has to do with "combating defamation of religions" to allow Islam to be above all criticism and critique.

A number of people have written about this recently, expressing their concerns. Atheist Christopher Hitchens for example wrote in the Australian warning of "so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the UN that Islam not only be allowed to make such absolutist claims, but that it be officially shielded from any criticism as a result."

The Resolution is full of typical UN balderdash: "For example, paragraph five `expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism', while paragraph six `notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001'."

"You see how the trick is pulled? In the same weeks this resolution comes up for its annual renewal at the UN, its chief sponsor-government (Pakistan) makes an agreement with the local Taliban forces to close girls' schools in the Swat Valley region (a mere 150km or so from the capital in Islamabad) and subject the inhabitants to sharia law. And this capitulation comes in direct response to a campaign of horrific violence and intimidation, including public beheadings."

One reason why the Victorian legislation is so fatally flawed is that it mixes two quite different things: racial or ethnic vilification, and religious vilification. There may be a case to seek to reduce wrongful discrimination based on race, but to seek to isolate religious views from theological scrutiny and public debate is ludicrous. This is just what is happening in the UN Resolution:

"Yet the religion of those who carry out the campaign [of Islamist violence] is not to be mentioned, lest it `associate' that faith with human rights violations or terrorism. In paragraph six, an obvious attempt is being made to confuse ethnicity with religious allegiance. Indeed this insinuation (incidentally dismissing the faith-based criminality of September 11 as merely tragic) is in fact essential to the entire scheme. If religion and race can be run together, then the condemnations that racism axiomatically attracts can be surreptitiously extended to religion, too. This is clumsy, but it works: the useless and meaningless term Islamophobia, now widely used as a bludgeon of moral blackmail, is testimony to its success."

The muzzling of free speech is the sure outcome of this: "See where the language of paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that `the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.' The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalise opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned."

The five-year-long court case involving two Christian pastors should suffice to demonstrate the lunacy of Victoria's anti-vilification laws. The entire case was a travesty of justice, and was simply an attempt by Muslims to silence Christian voices which dared to question Islam.

To have such laws on an international scale would achieve as much for the Islamists as 9/11 ever did. As always, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and this goes for religious freedom as well. The question is, will the West resist this clampdown on freedom of speech, or will it instead submit to appeasement and dhimmitude?



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

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

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


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

British police release 'hero' arrested after teenage burglar is 'stabbed to death breaking into house'

A man quizzed over the fatal stabbing of a teenage burglar was freed on bail today as supporters hailed him a hero. He was released as members of the public swamped websites set up in memory of the raider with messages backing the man's actions. The suspected burglar, 17-year-old Tyler Juett, was killed after he was allegedly caught breaking into a house in Old Basford, Nottingham. The youngster died from stab wounds after being rushed to the city's Queen's Medical Centre after the incident on Friday afternoon. Neighbours later claimed he was confronted inside the home of foster carer Jacqueline Johnson, 46, and her three grown-up children.

It emerged yesterday that a 14-year-old boy - believed to have been an accomplice of Juett - was also stabbed but was not seriously injured.

Two men in their early 20s - thought to Ms Johnson's relatives - and four male youths were later arrested in connection with the incident. Police, who are treating Juett's death as murder, released the 21-year-old without charge on Sunday and freed the 22-year-old on bail yesterday. There was no sign of the Johnsons at their home, which remained cordoned off as forensic officers continued to search the scene for clues.

But the family received massive public support on the internet, with one site specially set up to hail a householder's right to defend his home. One visitor claimed Juett deserved his fate, adding: 'This dude is a pretty cool guy. He stabs thug wanna-bes and isn't afraid of anything.' Others left comments including 'I admire your work - good job, sir', 'The world is a better place', 'He got what he deserved' and 'Good riddance'.

Juett's family have demanded proof that he and his friends were raiding the property, claiming suggestions he was a burglar were 'made up'. His mother Michelle, 34, refused to speak to the press but wrote on her Facebook page: 'Why, why, why, why, why? I want my baby back.' One visitor to an anti-Juett website responded: 'It's always the parents who are first to complain when something happens to little Johnny. 'If they took more responsibility for their kids they wouldn't be out burgling people's houses and wouldn't get shot or stabbed or whatever.'

A page dedicated to Juett on memorial site gonetoosoon.org was removed after being overwhelmed by comments in support of the householder. Friends yesterday admitted Juett, a former pupil at the Henry Mellish School in inner-city Bulwell, Nottingham, was known to get into trouble. One, Chris Imrie, said the one-time promising footballer would be missed, adding: 'He had a hard upbringing, but he was always a mate. 'If you were around him it would always be an upbeat atmosphere, because he could always say things that made people laugh.' A posting on another tribute site, which hailed Juett as a 'solja', added: 'He done what we do. But it went wrong, so that's unlucky.'

A post mortem confirmed Juett died from a stab-wound, but detectives have refused to reveal who owned the knife that was used to kill him. Nottinghamshire police said they were still treating the incident as a murder and that a burglary attempt was one line of the inquiry. A spokesman added: 'We would ask anyone who was in the area to cast their minds back and see if they can remember anyone acting suspiciously.' Neighbours living near the scene of the killing said the area had suffered a number of recent burglaries and householders were 'on edge'.


The Protocols of the Drinkers of Coffee

By Melanie Phillips

If this were only a Purim joke! What we are up against within the Islamic world is quite simply a wholesale negation of reason; nothing less

From Egypt, further evidence that the Islamist hatred of the Jews is not caused by Israel's behaviour or even its existence. It's caused by... hatred of the Jews. Here, Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya'qoub raves:
If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them. Absolutely not. The Jews are infidels - not because I say so, and not because they are killing Muslims, but because Allah said: 'The Jews say that Uzair is the son of Allah, and the Christians say that Christ is the son of Allah. These are the words from their mouths. They imitate the sayings of the disbelievers before. May Allah fight them. How deluded they are.' It is Allah who said that they are infidels.

Your belief regarding the Jews should be, first, that they are infidels, and second, that they are enemies. They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing. Allah said: 'You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the disbelievers [sic] to be the Jews and the polytheists.' Third, you must believe that the Jews will never stop fighting and killing us. They [fight] not for the sake of land and security, as they claim, but for the sake of their religion: 'And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back you're your religion, if they can.'

This is it. We must believe that our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle - and this is the fourth point. You must believe that we will fight, defeat, and annihilate them, until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth.
Egypt, let us not forget, is a `moderate' Arab state that has a peace agreement with Israel. It is nevertheless a major source of barking-mad Jewish demonisation in the Arab world. Here is Egyptian Cleric Salama Abd Al-Qawi warning Muslims against the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - the notorious Czarist forged claim that the Jews covertly rule the world - and many US companies :
They [the Jews]began conspiring to annihilate the Islamic and Arab nation, to plunder its resources, and to destroy its youth. Regretfully, the plots they hatched are being implemented today in detail. One of their conspiracies, which stemmed from their black hatred, was to gain control over the entire global economy, bringing the world under their thumb. So they founded huge companies, which, like spiders, send their webs all over the world. The main goal of these companies was to erase Islamic identity.

... Many basic products, which may be found in many Muslim households, like the Ariel, Tide, and Persil laundry detergents, are made by Zionist companies. The Coca Cola and Pepsi companies and all their products - Seven Up, Miranda, Fania, and all these products, all the carbonated beverages, with very few exceptions that don't bear mention... Almost all the carbonated beverages are Zionist-American products.

[...] Some restaurants, I'm sad to say, are teeming with Muslim youth, and their safes are full of the money of Muslims... McDonalds is Jewish-Zionist, Kentucky Fried Chicken is Jewish-Zionist, Little Caesar, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Burger King... By the way, all these products, which I have mentioned... In addition, there is a new type of coffee these days... All these are pure Zionist products, especially what is known as Starbucks, the well-known coffee. It is Zionist.
Ah yes, Starbucks: home of the Zionist genocidal apartheid bean. In January, Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi brought viewers of al Nas TV urgent news about the Starbucks logo:
Has any of you ever wondered who this woman with a crown on her head is? Why do we boycott Starbucks? ... The girl on the Starbucks logo is Queen Esther. Do you know who Queen Esther was and what the crown on her head means? This is the crown of the Persian Kingdom. This queen is the queen of the Jews. She is mentioned in the Torah, in the Book of Esther. The girl you see is Esther, the queen of the Jews in Persia...

Can you believe that in Mecca, Al-Madina, Cairo, Damascus, Kuwait, and all over the Islamic world, hangs the picture of beautiful Queen Esther, with a crown on her head, and we buy her products.[...]We want Starbucks to be shut down throughout the Arab and Islamic world. We want it to be shut down in Mecca and in Al-Madina. I implore King Abdallah bin Abd Al-`Aziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques: It is inconceivable that in Mecca and Al-Madina, there will be a picture of Queen Esther, the queen of the Jews.
As anyone can see, however, the female figure in the Starbucks logo (pictured above) has two fish tails. This is a clue that she is not Esther, queen of the Jews in Persia. She is instead a twin-tailed siren of Greek mythology. This is because the company is apparently named in part after Starbuck, Captain Ahab's first mate in the book Moby Dick.

What we are up against within the Islamic world is quite simply a wholesale negation of reason; nothing less.


Push to criminalise criticism of Islam

The Muslim religion makes unusually large claims for itself. All religions do this, of course, in that they claim to know and to be able to interpret the wishes of a supreme being. But Islam affirms itself as the last and final revelation of God's word, the consummation of all the mere glimpses of the truth vouchsafed to all the foregoing faiths, available by way of the unimprovable, immaculate text of "the recitation", or Koran. If there sometimes seems to be something implicitly absolutist or even totalitarian in such claims, it may result not from a fundamentalist reading of the holy book but from the religion itself. And it is the so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the UN that Islam not only be allowed to make such absolutist claims, but that it be officially shielded from any criticism as aresult.

Although written tongue-in-cheek in the language of human rights and of opposition to discrimination, the non-binding UN Resolution 62/154, on "combating defamation of religions", seeks to extend protection not to humans but to opinions and to ideas, granting only the latter immunity from being "offended". The preamble is jam-packed with hypocrisies that are hardly even laughable, as in this delicious paragraph, stating that the UN General Assembly: "Underlining the importance of increasing contacts at all levels in order to deepen dialogue and reinforce understanding among different cultures, religions, beliefs and civilisations, and welcoming in this regard the Declaration and Program of Action adopted by the Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Tehran on September 3 and 4, 2007."

Yes, I think we can see where we are going with that. The stipulations that follow this turgid preamble are even more tendentious, and become more so as the resolution unfolds. For example, paragraph five "expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism", while paragraph six "notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001".

You see how the trick is pulled? In the same weeks this resolution comes up for its annual renewal at the UN, its chief sponsor-government (Pakistan) makes an agreement with the local Taliban forces to close girls' schools in the Swat Valley region (a mere 150km or so from the capital in Islamabad) and subject the inhabitants to sharia law. And this capitulation comes in direct response to a campaign of horrific violence and intimidation, including public beheadings.

Yet the religion of those who carry out the campaign is not to be mentioned, lest it "associate" that faith with human rights violations or terrorism. In paragraph six, an obvious attempt is being made to confuse ethnicity with religious allegiance. Indeed this insinuation (incidentally dismissing the faith-based criminality of September 11 as merely tragic) is in fact essential to the entire scheme. If religion and race can be run together, then the condemnations that racism axiomatically attracts can be surreptitiously extended to religion, too.

This is clumsy, but it works: the useless and meaningless term Islamophobia, now widely used as a bludgeon of moral blackmail, is testimony to its success. Just to be clear, a phobia is an irrational and unconquerable fear or dislike. However, some of us can explain with relative calm why we think faith is the most overrated of the virtues. (Don't be calling us phobic unless you want us to start whining that we have been offended.)

And this whole picture would be much less muddied and confused if the state of Pakistan, say, did not make the absurd and many-times discredited assertion that religion can be the basis of a nationality. It is such crude amalgamations -- is a Saudi or Pakistani being profiled because of his religion or his ethnicity? -- that are responsible for any overlap between religion and race. And it might help if the Muslim hadith did not prescribe the death penalty for anyone trying to abandon Islam; one could then be surer who was a sincere believer and who was not, or (as with the veil or the chador in the case of female adherents) who was a volunteer and who was being coerced by her family.

Rather than attempt to put its house in order or to confront such grave questions as the mass murder of Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslims (and vice versa), or the desecration of Muslim holy sites by Muslim gangsters, or the discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims by other Muslims, the UN resolution seeks to extend the whole area of denial from its existing homeland in the Islamic world into the heartland of post-enlightenment democracy, where it is still individuals who have rights, not religions.

See where the language of paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that "the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs."

The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalise opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned.


Heavy government internet censorship at work -- not in China -- in Australia

I doubt that this would survive a High Court challenge, however

The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks. Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark's list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website. ACMA's blacklist does not have a significant impact on web browsing by Australians today but sites contained on it will be blocked for everyone if the Federal Government implements its mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme. But even without the mandatory censorship scheme, as is evident in the Whirlpool case, ACMA can force sites hosted in Australia to remove "prohibited" pages and even links to prohibited pages.

Online civil liberties campaigners have seized on the move by ACMA as evidence of how casually the regulator adds to its list of blacklisted sites. It also confirmed fears that the scope of the Government's censorship plan could easily be expanded to encompass sites that are not illegal.

"The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship," Wikileaks said on its website in response to the ACMA ban. The site has also published Thailand's internet censorship list and noted that, in both the Thai and Danish cases, the scope of the blacklist had been rapidly expanded from child porn to other material including political discussions.

Already, a significant portion of the 1370-site Australian blacklist - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which are legal to view but would be blocked for everyone under the proposal. The Government has said it was considering expanding the blacklist to 10,000 sites and beyond.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said the leak of the Danish blacklist and ACMA's subsequent attempts to block people from viewing it showed how easy it would be for ACMA's own blacklist - which is secret - to be leaked onto the web once it is handed to ISPs for filtering. "We note that, not only do these incidents show that the ACMA censors are more than willing to interpret their broad guidelines to include a discussion forum and document repository, it is demonstrably inevitable that the Government's own list is bound to be exposed itself at some point in the future," EFA said. "The Government would serve the country well by sparing themselves, and us, this embarrassment."

Last week, Reporters Without Borders, in its regular report on enemies of internet freedom, placed Australia on its "watch list" of countries imposing anti-democratic internet restrictions that could open the way for abuses of power and control of information. The main issue raised was the Government's proposed internet censorship regime. "This report demolished the Communications Minister's contention that Australia is just following other comparable democracies," Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said. "We are not. The Government is embarking on a deeply unpopular and troubling experiment to fine-tune its ability to censor the internet. "I agree with Reporters Without Borders. If you consider this kind of net censorship in the context of Australia's anti-terror laws, it paints a disturbing picture indeed."

EFA said the Government's "spin is starting to wear thin" and it could no longer be denied that the ACMA blacklist targets a huge range of material that is legal and even uncontroversial. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has repeatedly claimed his proposed mandatory filters would target only "illegal" content - predominantly child pornography. "As time goes on, pressure will only mount on the Government to expand the list, while money and effort are poured into an enormous black box that will neither help kids nor stem the flow of illegal material," EFA said. "If the minister truly believes that children are seeking out, or being bombarded with, child pornography, then there's a dearth of both common sense and proper research in the ministerial suites."

Already, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace, has said he hopes the sex industry will go broke as a result of the censorship scheme. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon previous expressed his desire to have online gambling sites added to the blacklist but has since withdrawn his support for the scheme, saying it was dangerous and could be "counter-productive". The Greens and Opposition also oppose the scheme, meaning any legislation to implement it will be blocked. The Opposition has obtained legal advice that "legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required", but others have said it may be possible to implement the scheme without legislation.

Speaking at a telecommunications conference last week, Senator Conroy urged Australians to have faith in MPs to pass the right legislation. Despite previously saying his scheme would be expanded to block "refused classification" content that includes sites depicting drug use, sex, crime, cruelty and violence, he said opponents of his plan were spreading "conspiracy theories".

The Government's internet censorship trials are due to begin shortly but critics have said they may not provide much useful data on the real-world implications because none of the major ISPs were chosen to take part.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The British Nanny State pulls back, for once

Gordon Brown has rejected a proposal by his top medical adviser for a minimum price of alcohol to tackle binge drinking. The Prime Minister acted after newspapers published details of Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer's, plan, which could result in every can of beer costing at least 1 pound and a bottle of wine a minimum of 4 pounds. The Department of Health gave the idea a fair wind initially, saying that nothing was ruled out and pointing out that Sir Liam had been one of the earliest proponents of a ban on smoking in public places.

Mr Brown made plain that the idea, which would fix prices at no less than 50p per unit of alcohol, was a non-starter. "I do not think this is where we are going," said a source close to the Prime Minister. "The majority of sensible drinkers should not have to pay the price for the irresponsible and excessive drinking by a small minority."

That line was repeated by James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary. "We want to focus on the irresponsible minority rather than I think punishing everyone equally. Clearly we will look at Liam Donaldson's proposals; he's a very eminent person in his field," he told BBC One's The Politics Show. "But we are very clear we don't want to punish the majority for the sins of the minority. I think certainly at a time of economic difficulty that looks like it would be the effect."

Department of Health sources said that it would have come to the same conclusion as Mr Brown but would have preferred to see Sir Liam's ideas debated. "There is no split on the policy," an insider said, "but the truth is, this policy was made this morning in Downing Street. That is their right. They are in charge." Other Whitehall sources denied that the department's approach suggested a split with No 10. "The Health Department has to be diplomatic about this and dealing with Sir Liam. It's easier for No 10 to knock it."

The Conservatives were equally unenthusiastic about raising prices. Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary, said: "There is clearly a need for action. But it is very important to recognise that we need to deal with people's attitudes and not just the supply and price of alcohol."

He said that Conservative proposals, which include measures to tackle loss-leader promotions and higher taxes on high-alcohol drinks aimed at young people, would address this without penalising the majority of moderate drinkers. "This would seem to be a much better route to go down than distorting the whole drinks market, which in any case may not be legal."

The Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport spokesman Don Foster backed Sir Liam's call. "The Liberal Democrats have long argued that the ridiculously cheap below-cost price of alcohol in some of our supermarkets and off-licences is a key contributor to the problem of binge drinking," he said. "There is clear research showing that putting an end to pocket money-priced alcohol will influence drinking behaviour. While more work needs to be done on the details, we welcome Sir Liam's intervention and hope that the Government will act." Sir Liam's proposal would mean most bottles of wine could not be sold for less than 4.50.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said that the Government had not ruled out taking action on cheap alcohol. She said: "It's clearly linked to people drinking more and the subsequent harm to their health. It would be wrong to make sweeping changes without consideration of all the options suggested by our research published in December. "We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective. Any decisions we make will take into account their wider economic impact during this difficult time and it would not be right to penalise the overwhelming majority of responsible drinkers."

More here

Free Speech, Fewer Lawsuits - A Fight Worth Fighting

In a time of massive Ponzi schemes and widespread financial turmoil, it is important for people to feel they can speak up when they believe that something improper is being done. The protection of free speech was given a big boost this past week with a $545,000 settlement, which wrapped-up over three-and-a-half years of court cases.

During that time, Elizabeth Enney lost both parents, survived a fifth heart surgery and paid more than $300,000 to defend herself against two libel lawsuits ultimately found to have been without any basis in law or fact. The lawsuits were described by Enney's lawyer, Cynthia Counts, as "frivolous." The 11th Circuit scolded the plaintiffs who brought the suits, which tied Enney's life into knots. The court stated in its decision that, "based on a reasonable inquiry, they either knew or should have known that they could not satisfy necessary elements of their cause of action for libel." In other words, the lawsuit should never have been filed in the first place.

Enney's saga began in July 2005, when she e-mailed the board of directors of the Rolls-Royce Owners' Club, a non-profit corporation, regarding a "serious conflict of interest," regarding a $9,000 payment the club made for a computer system. One month later, Enney was named in a $1 million federal libel lawsuit filed in Connecticut by M.S. Koly and Delcath Systems. The libel portion of this lawsuit was dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. But Enney was then named in a second $1 million lawsuit filed in the Northern District of her home state of Georgia, in July of 2006.

While others might back off, apologize and hope that the lawsuit would disappear, Enney said "I just look at it as my civic duty," to stand up for what is right. Enney comes from a long line of people who have loved and served their country. Her father, Kenneth Enney, served 33 years in the U.S. Navy as a naval aviator. Fulton Lewis, Jr., her maternal grandfather, was a conservative syndicated newspaper columnist and radio commentator in the 1950's. Her brother serves today as a lieutenant colonel in the Marines. Referring to her family as "good old-fashioned salt of the earth," Enney said "I've been a fighter all my life," and I was not going to just walk away."

On April 19, 2007, District Judge Jack Camp granted Enney's motion for judgment and dismissed the libel case, but rejected the motion for Rule 11, which permits for the reimbursement to Enney for attorney fees for the defense of the lawsuit. Charles Tobin, who chairs Holland & Knight's national media practices team and is a partner in the Washington office of the law firm, said there has been "too much predilection to let libel go forward," in the courts. When cases are dismissed, the courts essentially tell the defense to "Get over it," rather than applying Rule 11, he said. According to Enney, even after the dismissal of the libel lawsuit brought against her, she felt "we didn't win anything" in that the plaintiffs had been able to "force me to defend a frivolous lawsuit and nobody won."

By the time of the dismissal, Enney had spent more than $300,000 defending herself. Tobin said that Rule 11 should dissuade plaintiffs from filing frivolous lawsuits, but its value is limited since plaintiffs know that it is only rarely applied. Counts, Enny's attorney, appealed to the 11th Circuit Court, requesting the application of Rule 11. How often is Rule 11 applied? "Once in a blue moon," said Tobin, adding "you have to move heaven and earth" to get the courts to pay attention.

But Counts apparently did just that. The 11th Circuit reversed and remanded the case noting "that the district court abused it discretion by denying Enney's Rule 11 motion." According to Tobin, this is a strong statement by the extremely prominent 11th Circuit Court, and its action on this case "should lead to more fee awards" and therefore fewer frivolous lawsuits. Last September 25, Judge Jack Camp referred the case to mediation. The result - a global settlement approved by Camp on March 10, 2009, which included the $545,000 payment to Enney.

Enney said it is important to her for the case to serve as an example to others, and hopefully dissuade frivolous libel lawsuits. While she was able to pay the legal fees, Enney understands that most people would not have this ability and needed someone else to fight this battle for them.

Her belief is that free speech is one of the cornerstones of our country; her hope is that people will not be afraid to speak. When something needs, as she says, a bit of "sunshine shown on it," Enney hopes those who can pull back the shades will not be afraid to do so. In our country, it is important for us to feel safe to speak up for what is right without fear of a resulting lawsuit. That right was reinforced last week, thanks to Enney.


"Civil Liberties For Our Side Only"

Tom Maguire skewers liberals Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias for "their unsteady commitment to civil liberties." "The topic," Maguire writes,
is the right of Deborah Weinsig, a Citigroup equity analyst who covers retail stocks, to explain to her clients why she thinks that card check will be bad for WalMart.

Mr. Klein:
This is a big deal for two reasons. First, it calls into question the impartiality of Citibank's ratings division. Second, it happened amidst a government-funded bailout of Citibank. This is a moment when you'd expect Citibank to be on its best behavior, both in terms of its political action and its business practices. In fact, they appear to be dispatching their analysts and leveraging their ratings division to oppose a policy that the Obama administration supports.
So much for dissent as the highest form of patriotism. Here is Mr. Yglesias:
But there's a fairly clear case to be made that firms on the public dole shouldn't be engaged in lobbying or political activities.
I would say that it's a polite exaggeration to describe their "commitment to civil liberties" as "unsteady." In fact, their spotty or non-existent commitment calls to mind a very revealing episode from the 1930s in the history of contemporary liberalism, the first bitterly divisive debate inside the American Civil Liberties Union over ... civil liberties. There has been a good deal of talk, much of it uninformed, over Obama's determination to usher in a new New Deal, but we may be able to learn more about the values of current liberals by looking at the 1930s schism in the ACLU over "civil liberties for our side only" than by looking at the National Industrial Recovery Act or the Civilian Conservation Corps.

That schism was caused by the ACLU's intervention in a dispute between the Ford Motor Company and the National Labor Relations Board over limits on the right of Ford, and by extension other employers, to campaign against union organizers. (A nice summary can be found here, especially around pp. 47-50.) "From its inception in 1920," writes William A. Donohue in The Politics of The American Civil Liberties Union, the work just linked, "the ACLU had defended Communists and Fascists, labor agitators and Klansmen, but never once - not for eighteen years - did it defend the free speech rights of capitalists to oppose unions."

It was forced to confront that issue head on in 1938, when the National Labor Relations Board found Ford guilty of "unfair labor practices" under the Wagner Act, and one of those "unfair" practices was distributing anti-union literature to employees.
Do employers have the right to free speech? The NLRB did not find the question difficult. It ordered the company to cease and desist from "circulating, distributing or otherwise disseminating amongst its employees statements or propaganda disparaging or criticizing labor organizations, or advising it employees not to join such organizations."

Government restriction of the right to distribute literature would seem to be a clear First Amendment violation, but, Donohue reports, "the mere suggestion of such a fundamental civil liberties principle was greeted as heresy by members of the ACLU's `non-partisan' staff." A bitter fight then ensued. The ACLU's labor committee initially supported the NLRB.
[ACLU founder and long-time head Roger] Baldwin ... stated that when employers were asking if they too did not enjoy the right of free speech, the [American Civil Liberties] Union said, "No, you have not rights of free speech against unions now because the right to form a union is now a fundamental one under the National Labor Relations Act." When employers asked, "Well, can't we even talk?" most of the board members, according to Baldwin, replied, "No, you can't even talk."
One labor committee member dissented, "suggesting that the same test of coercion used by the NLRB would have to be applied to the statements of government bureaucrats...." He was promptly dismissed, and subsequently he accused the ACLU of a "liberal purge" and resigned from the organization.

Eventually the ACLU board compromised. It half-heartedly reaffirmed its commitment to free speech by stating its opposition to "any interference with the expressions of opinion on the part of employers" but placated its pro-labor faction by also announcing its opposition to "threats" such as "We'll never recognize the United Automobile Workers or any other union," claiming that such statements violate the civil liberties of workers.

This "civil liberties for our side only" approach to fundamental (or not) rights frequently roils the shallow waters of liberalism. How many of those today, for example, who want to muzzle Citibank employees will propose imposing similar restrictions on other beneficiaries of government largesse, such as ACORN?

Readers of DISCRIMINATIONS, I'm sure, will also be quick to see the similarity - indeed, almost identity - of the belief that only progressives should have unfettered free speech rights and the equally unprincipled position that the right to be treated without regard to race, ethnicity, or gender applies only to some races, ethnicities, and genders - and to them only some of the time (when it works to their alleged benefit; at other times, they have the right to preferential treatment).


Embryos and ethics

by Jeff Jacoby

SHORTLY AFTER the president announced his new policy on funding embryonic stem-cell research, CNN's Larry King devoted a special program to the subject. His first guest was Mary Tyler Moore, the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who has long been involved in raising funds and awareness for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, a disease for which there is still no cure. "I am so pleased with the thought and care that he put into making this decision. I think it's a good one," Moore told King when he asked for her reaction to the president's statement. "What's wonderful too is that this means that the United States will maintain its leadership in things medical and scientific. . . . So this is a very good thing."

Moore's words of praise might not strike you as exceptional, given the widespread approval last week of President Obama's order reversing the Bush administration's restrictions. But Moore wasn't speaking about Obama. Her interview on "Larry King Live" followed President Bush's stem-cell decision, which was announced in a televised address on Aug. 9, 2001. Also joining the conversation that night was Christopher Reeve. His take on Bush's policy was "a little bit more mixed," he acknowledged. "However, I think it is a step in the right direction. I'm grateful for that to the president."

For eight years Bush's critics caricatured him as a Bible-thumping yahoo for whom ideology routinely trumped science, so it might be difficult to remember that the policy he articulated in 2001 was anything but a knee-jerk rejection of scientific progress. The commentator Charles Krauthammer-- a graduate of Harvard Medical School, a quadriplegic, and a former member of the President's Council on Bioethics who did not agree with Bush's decision -- recalled it a few days ago nonetheless as "the single most morally serious presidential speech on medical ethics ever given." In it, Bush explained why "embryonic stem-cell research offers both great promise and great peril," conscientiously laying out the arguments for and against supporting such research with tax dollars. In the end, he concluded that federal funding could be justified for work on existing stem-cell lines, but not for research that would require the destruction of additional human embryos. Bush's decision had clearly been reached after much deliberation and consultation. "I don't think he did it just politically," Reeve observed. "I do believe he really thought about it."

Obama had an opportunity last week to deliver an equally thoughtful speech. He could have explored the moral dilemmas involved in exploiting a living embryo to advance scientific knowledge. Instead he resorted to political rhetoric and ill-disguised scorn for his predecessor.

The president rejected the "false choice between sound science and moral values" that supposedly characterized the Bush policy, and declared that his administration would "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." Promoting science, Obama said, means "letting scientists . . . do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion" and "listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient."

But science is not an unqualified good, and scientific ends do not justify any and all means. It is not "manipulation" or "coercion" or "ideology" to insist that scientific research -- especially when funded by taxpayers -- be restrained by moral and ethical guardrails. The absence of those guardrails can lead to such abominations as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which government doctors -- with the support of the American Medical Association -- deliberately withheld medical treatment from infected black men in order to better understand the natural progression of venereal disease. Those who raised ethical qualms about the study were disregarded by the Public Health Service -- an example of what Obama might call rejecting the "false choice between sound science and moral values."

Like most Americans, I don't believe that microscopic human embryos deserve all the legal protections of personhood. But whether it is right to kill such embryos for the sake of medical research is not just a question about science; it is also a question of moral and political judgment. Public officials are called on to make those judgments, not to simply defer to whatever scientists say they want. Obama blithely concedes that "many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research." Yet at no point did he articulate or address those concerns, let alone attempt to allay them.

"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable," Dr. James Thomson, the pioneer of embryonic stem-cell science, told The New York Times in 2007, "you have not thought about it enough." Thomson's remark has been widely quoted, but it seems not everyone has gotten the message.



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

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

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


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Monday, March 16, 2009

British clergyman beaten after clashing with Muslims on his TV show

A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: `If you go back to the studio, we'll break your legs.' The Reverend Noble Samuel was driving to the studio when a car pulled over in front of him. A man got out and came over to ask him directions in Urdu.

Mr Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, said: `He put his hand into my window, which was half open, and grabbed my hair and opened the door. He started slapping my face and punching my neck. He was trying to smash my head on the steering wheel. Then he grabbed my cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took my laptop and Bible.' The Metropolitan Police are treating it as a `faith hate' assault and are hunting three Asian men.

In spite of the attack, Mr Samuel went ahead with his hour-long live Asian Gospel Show on the Venus satellite channel from studios in Wembley, North London. During the show the Muslim station owner Tahir Ali came on air to condemn the attack.

Pakistan-born Mr Samuel, 48, who was educated by Christian missionaries and moved to Britain 15 years ago, said that over the past few weeks he has received phone-in calls from people identifying themselves as Muslims who challenged his views. `They were having an argument with me,' he said. `They were very aggressive in saying they did not agree with me. I said those are your views and these are my views.' He said that he, his wife Louisa, 48, and his son Naveed, 19, now fear for their safety, and police have given them panic alarms. `I am frightened and depressed,' he said. `My show is not confrontational.'


Britain: We demonise all boys as feral .... then wonder why they turn into hoodies

We demonise all boys as feral .... then wonder why they turn into hoodies. When did head covering become such an issue? Hoods and hijabs both cause enormous anxiety. Hoods more so - but no one is forced to wear them. Hoodies really want to be hoodies. I saw that when talking to a group of teenagers about the representation of teenage boys in the media last week. The fact that another generation finds hoods scary is remarkable. The kids themselves, hooded or unhooded, were just bemused that their clothing could cause such a fuss.

We were there to discuss new research that measures how boys are seen by the rest of us. A photograph of a boy in a hood is now the symbol of urban decay or the end of the world. Teenage boys - when not knifing each other or fathering children - are hanging around drinking and drugging. Or they are in their bedrooms playing violent games, which is anti-social.

What the research commissioned by Women in Journalism highlighted was that there are very few good stories about teenage boys. Reality TV and shows such as Pop Idol are about the only place where we might see them in a positive light.

Does it matter if we label what we have reproduced ourselves as feral scum? I think it might. If every teenage boy is a potential mugger or knife-wielder then every teenage boy must carry a knife to protect himself. There is a horrible logic to it. I have had enough boys in and out of my house, thanks to teenage daughters, to see that the mumbling, gangly ones virtually wearing balaclavas are doing so partly to intimidate, partly out of fashion and partly because they are shy.

Yes, I know when one encounters a group of hooded youths on the street who won't step aside, one doesn't immediately think `poor shy little boys' - but sometimes these hoods are their security blankets. Eve Pollard, not a woman easily scared, was also in the discussion and asked some of the boys to remove their hoods. `But I can't see your faces,' she said. You could see the boys cowering as she spoke. When challenged as to why they wouldn't by the ultra-reasonable Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, one even came up with `My ears are cold'. There are an awful lot of cold ears about, then.

This fashion is also, surely, a deliberate, if unconscious, response to the surveillance culture of CCTV. It is, of course, in some boys' interest to keep their faces covered, but not the majority. So why have we criminalised an entire generation? It is as if we fear for our children too much and then we begin to fear them.

This divvying up of kids into angels or devils is not new. Think back to James Bulger's murder. Children killing children. I will never forget the mothers with toddlers in buggies outside the courtroom screaming that the ten-year-old murderers should now be killed as `killing children was wrong'. Ever since then, relentless images of underclass feral youth have been pumped into our consciousness. Most kids go to school, go through a bit of a dodgy stage and turn out OK in the end.

The madness of the Myerson saga reveals parents who could not accept their golden boy was growing up, no longer the sweet baby. He turned into a great, hulking manchild who didn't know what to do with himself for a while. It's really not the Jake Myersons of this world we need to worry most about but the white, disaffected working-class kids.

In demonising boys we make them afraid of each other. It is scary out there. But if we are afraid of our youths and their silly hoods, then we make them frightened of each other. That is a dangerous thing to be doing right now.



The Obama administration is increasingly fixed on resolving the "Arab-Is raeli dispute," seeing it as the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. This is bad news for Israel - and for America. In its purest form, this theory holds that, once Israel and its neighbors come to terms, all other regional conflicts can be duly resolved: Iran's nuclear-weapons program, fanatical anti-Western terrorism, Islam's Sunni-Shiite schism, Arab-Persian ethnic tensions. Some advocates believe substantively that the overwhelming bulk of other Middle Eastern grievances, wholly or partly, stem from Israel's founding and continued existence. Others see it in process terms - how to "sequence" dispute resolutions, so that Arab-Israeli progress facilitates progress elsewhere.

Pursuing this talisman has long characterized many European leaders and their soulmates on the American left. The Mideast "peace process" is thus the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone - its mere existence being its basic justification. And now the Obama administration has made it US policy. This is evidenced by two key developments: the appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell as special envoy for the region, and Secretary of State Hillary's Clinton's recent insistence on a "two-state solution" sooner rather than later.

Naming Mitchell as a high-level, single-issue envoy - rather than keeping the portfolio under Secretary Clinton's personal control - separates Israel from the broader conduct of US diplomacy. Mitchell's role underlines both the issue's priority in the president's eyes and the implicit idea it can be solved in the foreseeable future. Obama and Mitchell have every incentive to strike a Middle East deal - both to vindicate themselves and, in their minds, to create a basis for further "progress." But there are few visible incentives for any particular substantive outcome - which is very troubling for Israel, since Mitchell's mission essentially replicates in high-profile form exactly the approach the State Department has followed for decades.

When appointed, Mitchell said confidently: "Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings." This is true, however, only if the conflict's substantive resolution is less important than the process point of "ending" it one way or another. Surrender, for example, is a guaranteed way to end conflict.

Here, Clinton's strident insistence on a "two-state solution" during her recent Mideast trip becomes important. She essentially argued predestination: the "inevitability" of moving toward two states is "inescapable," and "there is no time to waste." The political consequence is clear: Since the outcome is inevitable and time is short, there is no excuse for not making "progress." Delay is evidence of obstructionism and failure - something President Obama can't tolerate, for the sake of his policies and his political reputation.

In this very European view, failure on the Arab-Israeli front presages failure elsewhere. Accordingly, the Obama adminstration has created a negotiating dynamic that puts increasing pressure on Israel, Palestinians, Syria and others.

Almost invariably, Israel is the loser - because Israel is the party most dependent on the United States, most subject to US pressure and most susceptible to the inevitable chorus of received wisdom from Western diplomats, media and the intelligentsia demanding concessions. When pressure must be applied to make compromises, it's always easier to pressure the more reasonable side.

How will diplomatic pressure work to change Hamas or Hezbollah, where even military force has so far failed? If anything, one can predict coming pressure on Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of these two terrorist groups, and to negotiate with them as equals (albeit perhaps under some artful camouflage). The pattern is so common that its reappearance in the Mitchell-led negotiations is what is really "inevitable" and "inescapable."

Why would America subject a close ally to this dynamic, playing with the security of an unvarying supporter in world affairs? For America, Israel's intelligence-sharing, military cooperation and significant bilateral economic ties, among many others, are important national-security assets that should not lightly be put at risk. The only understandable answer is that the Obama administration believes that Israel is as much or more of a problem as it is an ally, at least until Israel's disagreements with its neighbors are resolved. Instead of seeing Israel as a national-security asset, the administration likely sees a relationship complicating its broader policy of diplomatic "outreach." No one will say so publicly, but this is the root cause of Obama's "Arab-Israeli issues first" approach to the region.

This approach is exactly backward. All the other regional problems would still exist even if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got his fondest wish and Israel disappeared from the map: Iran's nuclear-weapons program, its role as the world's central banker for terrorism, the Sunni-Shiite conflict within Islam, Sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda and other regional ethnic, national and political animosities would continue as threats and risks for decades to come.

Instead, the US focus should be on Iran and the manifold threats it poses to Israel, to Arab states friendly to Washington and to the United States itself - but that is not to be. President Obama argues that he will deal comprehensively with the entire region. Rhetoric is certainly his specialty, but in the Middle East rhetoric only lasts so long. Performance is the real measure - and the administration's performance to date points in only one direction: pressuring Israel while wooing Iran. Others in the world - friend and foe alike - will draw their own conclusions.


Opulence for All!

Tibor R. Machan

As I drive to work in the morning I pass a community college on my right and for years now I have been struck by its opulence. This facility looks like some palace built for pharaohs, not a supplementary educational institution helping people with a few under-division college courses each term. No, by now at least California has several of such fabulous schools--I recall Foothill College up in the Bay Area, which matches some of the best endowed private universities in its architecture, as well as Santiago Canyon or Santa Barbara City College. These and others stick to my mind but there are hundreds of them, as well as similar so called public facilities that show enormous investment at taxpayers' expense or on government credit.

When I hear about California's enormous budget deficit--were they not constitutionally required to balance it each year?--my mind quickly focuses on these and other indulgences throughout the state. They certainly make it appear that whoever plans the state's educational programs has no concern about frugality or thrift. Instead the mentality that appears to go into these projects is that if anyone anywhere is studying at a marvelous college, well then everyone must, including those who spend but a few hours three times a week on campus.

This egalitarian mentality seems to me to have contributed big time to the country's financial wows. Although I am convinced of the superiority of privatizing all education, I figure that if the government is going to get into the education industry, it could certainly practice some restraint. Subsidized education ought at least to be modest and the opulence witnessed around California and some other regions of the country--Long Island, New York comes to mind, as does Florida and Texas--is simply way over the top.

Certainly if I am going to ask my friends to help me out with some of my personal needs, such as purchasing a car or dish washer, I would be abusing the privilege if I spent their good money on the most expensive of these items. But the egalitarian entitlement mentality is such as to insist that if some people in society are studying at institutions with outstanding and beautiful facilities, well then everyone is entitled to the same. Never mind that the money is obtained through the extortion method called taxation, a relic of feudal times when monarchs had to be compensated for allowing their realm to be used by their subjects.

Which brings to mind a related matter--Nevada Senator Harry Reid's recent contention in an interview widely circulated on the Web that taxation is voluntary and that when taxes are collected, it's like collecting dues from us which we all owe because we choose to pay them. Bunk. Dues are the result of signing up for a benefit with the provision oft paying an agreed upon weekly, monthly, or yearly fee. But taxes are nothing like this. Just being born and trying to make a living qualifies one as the subject of it, to being extorted arbitrary portions of one's livelihood.

But back to the egalitarian opulence that has contributed to the current fiscal meltdown in so many regions of not only America but the rest of the world. It may be driven by envy or by a phony political ideology, namely that everyone is naturally entitled to equal "shares" of the country's wealth but in either case it is nonsense. And it's costing big time. Of course there is an ancient habit afoot that supports this sentiment. It is one that sees society as a club or team to which everyone belongs as an ant to a colony and from which everyone may draw maximum benefits, so long as the leadership allows it.

In the time of kings and other mythical leaders of state it was an ideal to aspire to because it was one way to wrest of the wealth from the rulers--persuade them it isn't theirs in the first place (which it wasn't though they firmly believed it was). But once it was widely enough realized that societies were supposed to be realms wherein we all were to be free to work and aspire to some level of success but not entitled to end up like everyone else, this was supposed to change and we are all more or less competing with the understanding that in a competition people end up in different places at different points of the race. But by refusing to see it this way, the society is seen as obligated to maintain everyone in a state of economic opulence and that is simply unsustainable and leads to George Orwell's very apt depiction of an egalitarian society in his novella, Animal Farm, wherein everyone is equal only some are far more "equal" than others.



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

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

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


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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Britons who HATE Britain: The Muslim extremists hell-bent on segregation rather than integration

And the British government subsidizes them!

This was the scene that greeted homecoming soldiers in Luton this week. Behind it is a community where integration has abjectly failed, breeding a small but rabid band of poisonous fanatics. The call to morning prayers begins at dawn: 'Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar' (Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest). The voice echoes across the rooftops from an amplifier on a minaret at Luton Central Mosque. Outside, men in beards and tunics are arriving. They slip off their shoes, douse their faces in water, then kneel with foreheads meeting the carpet. So it was yesterday, Friday - the most sacred day of the week for Muslims.

The mosque, with its distinctive golden dome dominating the skyline, is the most visible symbol of Islamic life in the town. It was also one of seven Muslim centres in Luton chosen to receive Home Office funding last year for a project called 'Preventing Violent Extremism'. So far, 200,000 pounds has been handed out via grants from the council. Another 400,000 has been set aside to capture the 'hearts and minds' of young Muslims. In the wake of the scenes which greeted soldiers taking part in a supposedly morale-boosting homecoming parade in Luton this week, some might wonder whether this is money that has been well spent. Members of 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment faced jeering protesters waving placards saying 'Butchers of Basra'. It seems that some hearts and minds have not been captured.

One in five of Luton's 200,000 population is Muslim. But in the Bury Park district, where Luton Central Mosque is situated, the figure is much higher. Indeed, the original indigenous white population has all but disappeared from these back-to-back terraces near the Kenilworth Road football stadium. Bury Park has effectively become a town within a town, with its own madrasah (faith school), Islamic primary school and high street, where the local butcher has been replaced by the halal store and the corner shop by a Muslim grocery. Boutiques now sell Day-Glo saris and other traditional Asian clothes. So far, so familiar in modern Britain - but there is another side to life here.

While the majority of Muslims are peace-loving, industrious people, it would be wrong to deny that there are deeply disturbing tensions in the area. When a Mecca Bingo Hall opened in the heart of Bury Park, its windows were smashed. The neon Mecca sign, some Muslims claimed, was an insult to their religion because it associated the name of their holiest city with gambling. Adverts and billboards featuring women deemed to be showing too much flesh have been defaced. An evangelical church was daubed with graffiti.

Over the past 18 months or so, around 30 non-Muslim homes in the area have also been attacked. One white couple in their 80s had bricks - and, on one occasion, a lump of concrete - hurled through their front window. A West Indian woman in her 70s was watching television when a metal beer keg crashed through her bay window. The culprits have never been caught. Rightly or wrongly, the victims of these incidents are in no doubt that they were targeted by a small group of religious extremists who want non-Muslims out of Bury Park.

Sadly, the process of integration, which began back in the 1970s when thousands of families from the Indian sub-continent came to Luton to work at the Vauxhall car factory, has turned into segregation in all but name. Multi-culturalism in Bury Park now seems to mean a Muslim from Pakistan living side-by-side with a Muslim from Bangladesh, not white living next to black and brown. Multi-culturalism also, presumably, means allowing a group of young men the freedom to hand out inflammatory leaflets in the street - entitled 'Return of the Khilafah' - just 24 hours after they had launched that ugly protest against the Anglian Regiment returning home from Iraq. A Khilafah, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is an Islamic state created by Jihad, or holy war. Osama Bin Laden is the standard-bearer for these beliefs.

The Luton extremists - part of a network, it should be stressed, that is only 35 strong - may not have made the headlines before this week, but they have been waging their own local Jihad for a number of years. At the Luton Central Mosque, one respected Muslim leader - who asked not to be named - told me this week that the group were the Islamic world's equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan.

Recently, Holocaust memorial ceremonies attended by many moderate Muslims were among the events the extremist group tried to disrupt. Almost all of the fanatics, according to the Muslim leader at the mosque, are on the dole or claiming benefits of some kind. 'They wouldn't have the time to stir up so much trouble if they worked,' he said. So the state is supporting them even as they plot to overthrow it.

A number of the extremists attend a mosque in Bury Park and, at one time or another, their group has gone under different names: One Nation, Muslims Against British Atrocities, The Saviour Sect (anyone who does not follow their path is 'damned') and now Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah. This latest is said to have succeeded the Luton branch of Al-Muhajiroun, the banned organisation led by 'preacher of hate' Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, who is now in exile in Lebanon.

Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) operates mainly through an invitation- only internet forum set up in 2006. Sheikh Bakri Mohammed is a regular contributor, along with Anjem Choudry, who this week taunted the grieving families of three Royal Anglian Regiment members killed in a friendly fire incident and who yesterday said he wants to see an Islamic flag 'flying over Downing Street'. One journalist who penetrated ASWJ found recordings of Osama Bin Laden on the website.

Luton, according to a leaked intelligence report, remains a focus of concern for anti-terror police and continues to be a 'magnet' for extremists, alongside Beeston in Leeds, Birmingham and parts of London. One of the first signs of the impact of extremist ideology being propagated in Luton came in 2001, when two British Muslim men from the town were killed fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Six years later, it emerged that one of the militants convicted of plotting to use a fertiliser bomb to blow up the Bluewater shopping centre in Essex came from the town. And in a further chilling twist, the ringleader of that gang was revealed to have met the leader of the 7/7 London bombers four times. (The London gang congregated at Luton station before heading to King's Cross.)

One of the organisations which is now getting government money to combat the militant threat in Luton is the Islamic Cultural Society, based in Luton Central Mosque in Bury Park. The 25,000 it received last year is helping to fund two full-time teachers whose job it is to engage and educate potentially disaffected young Muslim men. The unemployment rate in the town is more than 8 per cent, but significantly among the Asian population it is estimated to be as high as 25 per cent. Again, the great majority of these unemployed people are peace-loving, but, as we have already said, there are tensions....

More here


Comments by a Brit living in the USA

'Americans are so stupid!" states the teenage daughter of good friends visiting us last year in Washington DC from the UK. I have just finished telling her about a silly little misunderstanding of language that had taken place at our local supermarket (where, needing to buy butter, I had finally had to resort to doing a charade of milking a cow and buttering toast, with the assistant at the shop suddenly exclaiming, "Oh, you want buh-der!)

I study our young friend, wondering how a 17-year-old brain can already be so automatically programmed to espouse such views. As an expat living in Washington, I am extremely used to spending (ill-afforded!) intellectual currency on defending Americans but, even so, the reaction of this lovely young girl has me releasing a large sigh of disappointment and thinking: "Oh no, not you too."

Expats living Stateside, often try to stave off verbal attacks on America by listing the many examples of American achievement and scientific discovery that we should all feel grateful about. We become a pastiche of John Cleese's character in Monty Python's Life of Brian. He asks, "Well, what have the Romans ever given us then, eh?", only for people to start shouting out a list which leaves him saying: "Well, alright, apart from the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, public baths, public order and wine - what have the Romans ever given us, eh?"

One could easily substitute the word 'Americans' for 'Romans' and list a plethora of wonderful American inventions; the first ever powered human flight, animation, the bra, oral contraception, the assembly line, personal and laptop computers, carbon dating, celluloid, blood banks and a multitude of other amazing contributions. But, as in the film, the Romans would still be hated - loathed all the more for their brilliance of ingenuity. Is it, then, a type of jealousy that makes Europeans so detest Americans?

I do realize that it may seem naive, verging on downright neglectful, to blame the dislike of Americans on jealousy. What of globalisation? What of the hypocrisy of Guant namo? What of Iraq? What of the non-ratification of the Kyoto Accord? There seems to be a veritable moral smorgasbord of distaste for us Europeans to choose from but are we balanced in our views?

To try to better understand the European dislike of Americans, I asked the BBC's North America Editor, Justin Webb, to shed a little insight. Justin has lived in the USA with his wife and children since 2002 and has written a book, Have a Nice Day, on the subject of anti-Americanism. Having spent the past seven years travelling the country, as well as producing a documentary for Radio 4 about anti-Americanism, he has had plenty of opportunities to examine the American psyche, at a collective and individual level.

Justin begins his book by depicting a scene from his childhood, when he would accompany his mother (who was both a Quaker and a pacifist) to Saturday protest meetings in the Abbey churchyard in his home city of Bath. He describes his mother and her fellow band of protester friends as 'genteel and sensibly shod' but, a few years later, he was left wondering why this group of 'good people' only pointed an accusatory group finger at the USA. Why, for example, did their protests against nuclear weapons, concentrate solely on American warheads and not Soviet missiles?

Justin said: "These seemed to me to be more than attacks on the things America did. They were part of a general attitude towards America and the world, an ideology whose central tenet was that 'the Yanks are to blame'.

"In spite of ourselves, and in spite of all the evidence, we keep expecting Americans to come to their senses and have a National Health Service, or a ban on keeping pistols under suburban pillows, or affection for public transport. But, guys, they won't!

"On occasions European dislike of America comes close to racism. It is a deeply felt prejudice. Why else would English friends with impeccable anti-racist credentials ask of our children (who have grown up in the US), 'How will you get rid of their accents?' They assume, without ever questioning why, that we would want to."

What then, I ask him, of the future of anti-Americanism? Am I being too Doris Day-like, too Pollyanna-ish, to believe that the dawn of the Obama years, and a week in which he welcomed Gordon Brown to Washington, will eradicate the worst of the stereo-typing and scapegoating?

In his view, Obama will help but only up to a point: "European anti-Americanism has only a limited amount to do with who is in power here," he says, "it is also a function of our disappointment with ourselves, our jealousy at the success that America has been, and our seduction by the American Way; all of this comes together to make us hate ourselves for loving America. The relationship is complex - too complex for Obama to resolve."

Although I cannot believe that the all-pervasive European anti-Americanism of the past will entirely dissolve with this new administration, the Doris Day in me would like to hope that the changes we see in the White House will effect change in our judgments towards everyday, Americans.

While the hands of Congressmen and women are still recovering from the many standing ovations they gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his trip to Washington, his words, "There is no old Europe, no new Europe. There is only your friend Europe", are still ringing in our ears. If, as Gordon Brown states, this is the "most pro-American European leadership in living memory", hope springs eternal for this expat that Europeans will let us all have a nice new day.


Recession-Proof Diversity

By Heather Mac Donald

The college diversity racket is immune to economic downturns. Harvard University has announced its latest diversity dean for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Any rational budget analyst would mark this deanship for the ax, since it overlaps with the senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity--and with the cochairpersonships of the Standing Committee on Women. Yet it would appear that no financial meltdown, no matter how great, can shake academia's manic and irrational pursuit of a creature as imaginary as a unicorn: an even remotely qualified faculty made up of proportional numbers of blacks, Hispanics, and women.

Back in 2005, then-president Larry Summers inflated Harvard's already bloated diversity bureaucracy in penance for suggesting, in the spirit of open academic debate, that the distribution of high-end math skills in men and women could at least partly explain male dominance in the hard sciences. That recklessly truthful comment ultimately cost Summers his presidency, but not before he bootlessly tried to placate the diversity machine by creating a diversity sinecure--the senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity--and committing $50 million to a fanatical search for a racially and sexually proportional faculty.

Now, Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust and dean Michael D. Smith have appointed sociology and African-American studies professor Michele Lamont the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' diversity dean. Lamont--an "expert on the dynamics of social exclusion in France and the United States," the Harvard Crimson says--will also chair yet another new diversity committee. But please don't confuse the diversity dean for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with the senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity. They are not the same, though how they differ is a mystery beyond ordinary human ken. The diversity provost just published a report comparing the percentage of minority and female professors at Harvard and other universities; the new diversity dean will use this latest report to browbeat departments for their lack of diversity, which the diversity provost does as well.

Not daunted by the superfluity of her role, Lamont plans to "research what other universities are doing on the diversity front," the Crimson reports, something that the senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity also does. The answer, no matter who's asking, is simple. For the last 30 years, Harvard and its peers have pledged repeatedly to find the Holy Grail of perfect diversity. They have remained deliberately blind to the fact that the critical precondition to attaining diversity--a sufficient number of qualified minority Ph.D.s across the academy and of female Ph.D.s in the hard sciences--is not in place. They have desperately searched the horizon for a miraculous, undiscovered trove of qualified "diversity" candidates, and lowered hiring standards when they have failed to discover it. And, of course, they have obsessively produced comparative diversity studies for years, as if running the numbers would magically produce candidates who don't exist.

If ever there were a time to reconsider this futile quest, now would be it. Harvard lost at least $8 billion from its endowment--or 22 percent--between the end of June and early December. The university has put a freeze on faculty salaries, searches, and promotions. In a November 10 letter to the Harvard community, President Faust called for "greater financial discipline" and said that "tradeoffs and hard choices" could no longer be put off. Well, getting rid of Harvard's duplicative diversity apparatus wouldn't even be a "hard choice." When one is cutting budgets, the most obvious items to target are those that don't accomplish anything. The diversity racket fits that description to a tee.

Lamont is already up to speed in the three essential qualifications of a diversity bureaucrat: pretending that the sinecure requires special expertise, repeating the same tired bromides that have been endlessly regurgitated for years, and ignoring reality. "I'm basically using my knowledge to advise [Dean Smith] and to educate the Faculty," she told the Crimson. And in what arcane science will she be "educating" the faculty? In the agonizingly trite and wholly unjustified assertion that "diversity and excellence are not opposites--they're additive."

On the reality front, the fact that faculty searches and promotions have been frozen would seem to preclude "diversity" hires and promotions. Not to a diversity dean, however. Lamont says that she sees "opportunity" in the financial crisis. Departments will be able to focus more on diversity issues, Lamont said, according to the Crimson. Believing that departments can make diversity hires during a hiring freeze is no more irrational than believing that a department can achieve racial proportionality when the number of black and Hispanic Ph.D.s in substantive fields barely registers.

Lamont's expertise in the "dynamics of social exclusion" will no doubt sharpen her eyes to the exceedingly subtle ways that Harvard excludes blacks and minorities. Someone without the special insights of a diversity dean might find such a claim of exclusion inconsistent with Harvard's having poured millions of dollars into finding and promoting minorities and women. Too bad Harvard can't direct just as much energy to scoping out waste. Somewhere within that massive university, vital scholarship and scientific research takes place. While such research may be jeopardized by the current financial crisis, it's all the more at risk from Harvard's foolish conformity to diversity nonsense.


Australia: His Eminence Cardinal Pell believes West now scared of criticising Islam

The West has become scared to criticise Islam and accepts death threats by Muslim extremists as normal, Cardinal George Pell has suggested in a speech in England. The outspoken Catholic Archbishop of Sydney said laws intended to promote tolerance were being used to stifle debate, which was "fermenting intolerance under the surface". In the March 6 speech at Oxford University, he also attacked a global campaign of "bullying and intimidation" by secular groups trying to drive Christians from public debate and stop churches providing schools, hospitals and welfare.

"Many in the West have grown used to practising self-censorship when it comes to Islam, just as we seem to accept that ex-Muslims who criticise Islam and extremism, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, require round-the-clock police protection," he said. "You can be persecuted for hate speech if you discuss violence in Islam, but there is little fear of a hate-speech prosecution for Muslim demonstrators with placards reading 'Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas'."

He said the expense and time of defending frivolous hate-speech allegations and the anxiety from "being enmeshed in a legal process straight out of Kafka" stifled robust discussion. "No one in the West today would suggest that criticism of Christianity should be outlawed," he said. "The secular and religious intolerance of our day needs to be confronted regularly and publicly."

Some secularists wanted a one-way street, and sought to drive Christianity not only from the public square but from providing education, health care and welfare to the wider community. "Modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies," he said.

Cardinal Pell said a Californian referendum that rejected same-sex marriage had been a focus for demonstrations, violence, vandalism and intimidation of Christians. He said "this prolonged campaign of payback and bullying" would have received much more attention if same-sex marriage supporters had been the victims. It was strange how some of the most permissive groups easily became repressive despite their rhetoric about diversity and tolerance, he said. "Opposition to same-sex marriage is a form of homophobia and therefore bad, but Christianophobic blacklisting and intimidation is passed over in silence," he said.

Cardinal Pell said discrimination laws had been used to redefine marriage and the family. Children could now have three, four or five parents, relegating the idea of a child being brought up by his natural mother and father to nothing more than a majority preference. He said last year's Victorian law decriminalising abortion made a mockery of conscientious objection, which had been attacked as merely a way for doctors and nurses to impose their morality on their patients. Cardinal Pell said Christians urgently needed to deepen public understanding about religious freedom.



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

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

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


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

A downturn in British moral values?

Watch out: the recession could turn you into a fat fascist wife-beater with anger-control issues. Allegedly.

Remember when the recession was supposed to be a good thing? Not long ago, the great and the good were sending Mac-written missives from their unrepossessed homes about how the economic downturn would help us - the little people - to rediscover `long-forgotten, old-fashioned values', like thriftiness, rationing, community spirit, hunger. Well, now the G&G have gone and changed their minds. It turns out the recession will not bring out the best in people, but the very, very worst, threatening to turn us into fascist wife-beaters with vastly expanding waistlines and a whole host of mental health problems.

First the recession will make us fat. You would think, in a time of economic downturn, that any start-up, business expansion or other form of job creation would be warmly welcomed. In fact, the news that Domino's Pizza has boosted its profits by 25 per cent over the past year, and now plans to open 50 stores and create hundreds of new jobs in the coming year, was treated as an Hieronymus Bosch-style warning of a hellish future of fat-limbed, jobless people eating themselves into an early grave. The recession is `ruining our health', declared one newspaper headline. A food writer said it is `utterly, utterly depressing' that people are `slobbing out on the sofa at home, not with a bowl of hearty, homemade soup, but with a whopping great bucket of fried chicken or a calorie-laden pizza'.

Food critic Jay Rayner dry-heaved upon hearing that KFC plans to open 300 new outlets and create 9,000 new jobs in the next 12 months. The recession has further exposed the `deeply chronic divide', he said, `between those who give a toss about what they eat and those who, frankly, do not, and who see lectures about what they have for dinner as little more than that: a hectoring irrelevance for lives lived at the bottom of the economic heap'. Hmm, I wonder why people might see `food advice' as a `hectoring lecture' from poshos? Expanding on who it is that `doesn't give a toss about what they eat', one medical expert used that deliciously Dickensian phrase `the poor' to describe those people who `cannot cook' and who in a recession `are increasingly likely to eat poorly nutritious fast food'.

The celebrity chef and government adviser, Jamie Oliver, who with his use of the term `white trash' has been far more honest about who these `slobs' are who eat buckets of chickens that are a `killer combination of cheap protein, even cheaper carbs and tongue-coating fats', told the House of Commons Health Select Committee (yes, he was invited) that the recession will make our `obesity epidemic' even worse.

This discussion of recession-induced lardiness, especially amongst The Poor and white trash who according to Oliver suffer from the `new poverty' of not knowing how to cook, perfectly sums up what fuels the obesity panic today: not hard scientific evidence that the uneducated hordes are waddling towards early death with a family-sized bucket of boneless chicken under each arm, but a voyeuristic, vicarious obsession with slipping standards of health and morality amongst the lower orders. Obesity is a metaphor for the old sins of gluttony and sloth, and celebrity chefs are the new priests who want to save The Poor from their own worst (eating) habits. The less well-off are seen as a peculiar, unknowable blob, who might be pushed further down the road to hydrogenated hell by the uncertainty of the recession.

Once you have been made more rotund by the economic downturn, you will be the perfect size and shape for the next expected impact of job losses and money worries: fascism. The G&G are positively (one might even say pornographically) convinced that the recession will make neo-Nazis of us all. Well, not all of us; just those who `don't give a toss about what they eat' or about foreigners. One UK government minister, Jim Murphy, has warned of `credit crunch racism'. Trevor Phillips of the Equality and Human Rights Commission says Britain could become more racist as the recession bites, giving rise to `an angry, embittered permanent underclass looking for targets on whom to vent its rage'.

The Labour left is gripped by fascist fantasies. Some old-style Labourites warn that this global downturn, likes its 1930s cousin, could facilitate `a rise in fascism'. Only they don't mean the emergence of an elite jackboot movement such as that which emerged in one of the most powerful countries in Europe in the 1930s (which would be an ahistorical prediction anyway); they mean that `racist workers' and the `permanent underclass' might start attacking anyone who looks or smells foreign in an attempt jealously to guard their own jobs and dole money. Commenting on the recent wildcat strikes - slogan: `British jobs for British workers' - Tribune magazine whined about how New Labour's promises to protect British jobs sound like a `dog whistle to working-class Labour supporters toying with the idea of voting for the British National Party'.

Here, too, it is not any evidence of a recession-linked upsurge in Johnny Foreigner hatred that fuels the fascist predictions, but rather an elite view of the little people as volatile, unpredictable, given to outbursts of irrationality. At a time when the old politics of left and right is a thing of the past, and the workers v bosses divide looks like a distant memory, the working classes and The Poor are seen as unreadable, and as easily swayed by what one Labour commentator describes as the `leeches of the far right'. It is the aloofness and disconnection of commentators and quango heads that generates fascism fears.

This is clear from Tribune's use of the `dog whistle' metaphor: the working classes are seen as automatons, the human equivalent of attack dogs, who speak in their own shrill, high-pitched lingo that is not readily audible to the more sensible, leeches-immune Labour commentariat who sit above them.

And once you are fat and a fascist, what is the next logical step? Wife-beating, of course. Last week's news was rife with predictions that the `recession will prompt a rise in domestic violence' and that women will be `worst hit' (literally) by the economic downturn. The UK attorney general, Lady Scotland, warned that `domestic violence will rise with increased financial worries'. What has triggered this fear of male-on-female violence in downturn-whacked Britain? The arrival of hundreds of badly beaten wives of newly unemployed men at police stations across the UK? No. It springs from a government report, titled Real Help Now for Women, which casually and unscientifically predicts that during the recession `women may face threats from violent or abusive partners'.

The Metropolitan Police says there had been a `slight increase' in domestic violence over the past year, but there was no evidence yet that it was linked to `stress in terms of lost jobs'. Yet that didn't stop the government from focusing its `real help' for women during the recession, not on creating jobs for them or on ensuring that they can remain active, productive citizens despite the downturn, but on protecting them from their own allegedly violent families. The wife-beating panic is fuelled by elite porno-fears about what takes place Behind Closed Doors, and a view of the family as a dangerous place rather than a sanctuary, a means of pooling resources and pulling through during tough economic times.

What all of these recession predictions have in common is a view of the public as an amorphous mass that will be pushed, prodded, twisted and reshaped - for the worse - by the economic downturn. Any view of us as resourceful, tough individuals, who together with our friends, families and social networks can get through the economic downturn in one piece, has given way to fears that we will become dog-like haters of foreigners and women with chicken-blocked arteries to boot. Even worse, the relentless focus on managing the masses' foul and violent reaction to the recession - by giving more food lectures, censoring those `dog whistles' tempting us to become fascists, encouraging women to be suspicious of their husbands, or offering free therapy to counter the `epidemic of anxiety' - lets off the hook those who are largely responsible for this mess in the first place: the authorities. Unable to manage the economic fallout, far less have an honest debate about what needs to be done to improve productivity and living standards, the powers-that-be focus on micro-managing wayward individuals instead.


'We've left children to rot, now they are animals': Michael Caine speaks out after returning to his roots to make new movie

Sir Michael Caine has spoken of his horror at returning to the 'sink estates' in the area he once called home. The Oscar-winning actor said children in Elephant & Castle, South London, were being 'left to rot' and growing into 'animals'.

Sir Michael is no stranger to the tough streets of the capital, as he grew up in the same area when 'spivs' prowled with razor blades sewn into the brims of their hats. But on returning to film a low-budget thriller about gang culture, he was shocked by what he found. Much of his time shooting Harry Brown was spent around an area called the Heygate Estate, a 1960s social housing scheme that is to be demolished. And none too soon, according to Sir Michael.

The actor, who grew up Maurice Joseph Micklewhite - the son of a Billingsgate fish market porter and a charwoman - said such 'rotten places' should never have been built. Sir Michael, 75, moved to Camberwell from Rotherhithe in the 1940s, when he was 12. He lived in a prefabricated house which had electric lights and an inside bathroom. 'That terrible place for me was a step up,' he said. 'But when I see how children live now, compared with the flats there now it was like a middle-class dwelling.'

'[The film] is about sink estates and the violence on them,' he told the Evening Standard. 'This is a dark portrait but unfortunately it is very true and we're all responsible for it. We left the children to rot. We left these children and they grew into animals.' He added: 'The families have let the children down, the educators have let the children down. 'We've put them in rotten places like the Heygate Estate... which fortunately is being pulled down. It should never have been built.'

Last night, Kim Humphreys, Conservative councillor for Southwark, said Sir Michael seemed to be confusing reality and fiction. 'I understand he is making a gang movie, but if he went around the estate, given the amount of security he would find it one of the safest, cleanest and friendliest estates in South-East London.' He admitted the estate was 'past its sell-by date', and said that was why residents were being rehoused.


Black History Month: racial equality not black and white

Does Black History Month in America does more harm than good ?

For one month only: classroom walls in America are covered with posters of famous black figures. But Morgan Freeman doesn't approve: 'I don't want a Black History Month,' he says. 'African history is American history'

February brought two things to classrooms in the United States: Valentine's Day and Black History Month (BHM). The walls of schools around the country were suddenly covered with love hearts and pictures of famous African Americans, which will quietly disappear again next week.

Last year, our first in the US, BHM took me by surprise. At six, Athena, my daughter, was blissfully unaware that skin colour had any more significance than green eyes or red hair. I loved this innate sense that humans were just humans, and hoped to keep it that way for as long as possible. For her, Venus Williams was just a tennis player.

Every February, I discovered, first and second grade pupils are asked to choose their favourite famous black person and create a poster about his or her life and achievements, to present to the class. Athena, still inhabiting a parallel universe of Lion King and unicorns, didn't have a favourite celebrity of any hue. She hadn't even registered the terms "black" and "white" till the previous month on Martin Luther King Day. After that, she literally painted him black on a computer colouring activity, causing all his features to disappear. We had a lot of ground to cover. To help, a list of suggestions came home, from Oprah Winfrey to Louis Farrakhan.

The more I thought about it, the more misgivings I began to have. I recalled how, as a postgraduate journalism student, I had written an article about successful black people in the media. Trevor McDonald agreed to be interviewed but Moira Stewart turned me down - she didn't like being seen as a "black" newscaster. I realised how patronising I had been. Now I was asking my daughter to do the same thing! The thought of her standing before the class with her famous-black-person poster made me cringe. It seemed a crass introduction to sensitive, complex issues. I tentatively canvassed the views of a few other parents, hoping they wouldn't think I was a closet racist. One defended BHM passionately. Without it, racial intolerance would creep in at a very early age, he argued. Others had misgivings, but their kids had started doing it at the age of four or five. "We've been doing this for so many years here that no one really questions its relevance for the littlest ones," said one.

Another emailed: "As someone who grew up in the American South and always had Black History Month as a fixture in our schools (because if we didn't there would be no person of colour ever considered), I have gotten used to the idea. I agree we should be able to integrate historical figures and writers into the main lessons and not have to single them out. But the books haven't advanced that far yet."

BHM was obviously a non-negotiable, "carved-in-stone orthodoxy", as one friend described it. It was a reflection of the long way the US has to go in making reparation for its past sins, many of them shockingly recent. It began as Negro History Week in 1926, created by African-American historian Carter G Woodson at a time when lynchings were common and thousands of black people were denied the vote. It became a monthly fixture in 1976. The UK has one too - in October - but I suspect not many primary school children know that.

Realising I couldn't single-handedly orchestrate a cultural revolution, I nevertheless emailed Athena's teacher. Was singling out one race for a month of scrutiny the best way to promote tolerance and equality? Surely instead it implied otherness. Wasn't this just what Barack Obama was trying to escape from - being regarded as a black candidate, rather than just a candidate?

She immediately called me in for a talk, expressed her sympathy but suggested that her hands were tied. This was the way it was. So Athena did her poster about Venus Williams while I quietly mourned the passing of her racial blindness.

This year we have an African-American president and a black school principal: what more positive role models could our children hope for? Yet, on cue, the posters appeared again - Louis Armstrong, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King. But this time I bit my tongue. After all, there is something wonderful about this wealth of inspiring individuals adorning the walls and I'm delighted that Athena has had the chance to learn about some of them. Her poster features Harriet Tubman, who led slaves to freedom on the underground railroad. Yet I still can't help agreeing with the actor Morgan Freeman, who in 2005 said that black history should not be relegated to a month. "I don't want a Black History Month," he said. "Black history is American history."

Now that Obama is a household name, surely the idea of separating black history will seem increasingly redundant. The American electorate has shown it is ready for change. Until then, as the satirical paper The Onion puts it, next month it's back to "the traditional observation of White History Year".


Palestinian/Jewish dialogue unwelcome in Australian Arab organization

by Philip Mendes

The recent Senate Inquiry into allegations of academic bias highlighted the intense ideological divisions within universities and schools of learning. As confirmed by the Inquiry, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides one of the most volatile and polarised sources of such division. My personal experience as a long-standing participant in this debate suggests that even the most moderate academic supporters of Israel cannot find common ground with pro-Palestinian academics for respectful debate and dialogue.

For 15 years from 1987 till early 2002, I was active in the left-wing Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS). The AJDS position on the Middle East was very straightforward: a two-state solution based on the State of Israel existing roughly within the 1967 borders, and the corresponding creation of a state of Palestine within the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A key AJDS strategy was to establish links and dialogue with members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Central to this strategy was a concern to show the rest of the Jewish community that Jews willing to recognise Palestinian rights and aspirations would receive positive feedback from local Palestinians and Arabs. A further implicit motivation was that successful Jewish-Arab dialogue in Australia based on mutual recognition and compromise could perhaps be seen as a model for successful peace negotiations within Israel/Palestine. This strategy included participation in the Australasian Middle East Studies Association (AMESA), an academic association consisting of both academics teaching in Middle East Studies - some of whom were Arabs and others who were Anglo-Saxon - and members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Throughout the period of AMESA's existence (from about 1981 onwards), AJDS representatives had regularly been invited to speak at AMESA conferences, and welcomed within AMESA circles. My own involvement in AMESA had perhaps been less significant, but had included presentations to two AMESA conferences, contributions to the Deakin University (and AMESA-linked) Journal of Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, and contributions to the AMESA Newsletter. In addition, I had submitted in November 1997 at the request of a leading AMESA figure a witness statement to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission supporting a case by the Australian Arabic Council against the Herald & Weekly Times and Australia/Israel Publications (AIP).

Briefly, the matter involved some allegedly racist anti-Arab statements made by a visiting AIP-sponsored speaker David Pryce-Jones which had been published by the Herald Sun. The matter was subsequently settled out of court, and the Australian Arabic Council thanked the author in writing for "your very honest and powerful witness statement, and all your support throughout the two year case".

Not only this, but two prominent AMESA and Arab community intellectuals, Ray Jureidini and Christine Asmar, had approached me to draft a joint opinion piece on Jewish-Palestinian community relations in Australia. The article was intended to pinpoint the negatives of existing relations, and the future potential for improving relations. Plans were even made for the publication of a joint monograph on Palestinian and Jewish experiences of otherness and racism in Australia.

In late 1998, I was invited by the President of AMESA, Christine Asmar, to contribute an article to the AMESA Newsletter exploring how AMESA might improve its relations with the Jewish community. The submitted piece made the following points: that there was at best token representation of Jews in AMESA, that there did appear to be an in-built structural bias against Jewish representation within AMESA, but that nevertheless there were different views within the Jewish community about AMESA including some interest in identifying common ground.

In order to facilitate constructive engagement, I suggested the following: that AMESA adopt for its 1999 Conference the theme of "Jewish/Arab dialogue and friendship historically and today"; that AMESA invite the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to nominate two representatives to participate in the Conference Planning Committee; that AMESA invite the Israeli Ambassador and the Palestinian Ambassador to co-open proceedings, that AMESA consider inviting a mainstream Israeli writer or academic as a keynote speaker; and that AMESA invite the editor of the Australian Jewish News and a commensurate Arab community newspaper to speak at a joint session on Australian media presentations of Jews and Arabs, and possibilities for joint action against racist coverage.

To my surprise, AMESA chose to publish six responses to my article in the same issue without either my prior knowledge or permission. Three of the responses were broadly positive. However, the other three responses - from Ray Jureidini, John Docker, and Ned Curthoys - were vociferously critical. Their common concern seemed to be that my proposals would transform AMESA from a pro-Palestinian organisation into potentially a pro-Israel organisation. Docker, an anti-Zionist Jew, was the main concern. He argued without any evidence that my intention was to "intimidate, threaten and marginalise Jewish intellectuals" who did not conform to the Jewish community consensus. He claimed that my proposals would lead to the "surveillance and control of" AMESA by Zionists who had also suppressed "debate and discussion" in the media. Similarly, Ned Curthoys argued that my proposal was "grotesque", and reflected a "totalitarian vision for society".

Both Docker and Curthoys knew that I had argued for over 15 years both within and outside the Jewish community for the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations, for the creation of an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel, and for a free and tolerant Jewish debate around these issues. I was the last person who could reasonably be accused of wanting to censor anyone.

But worse was to come. I wrote a relatively short, careful and arguably measured response to the six responses, pointing out the negative and positives, and trying to focus again on the desired objective of achieving better relations between AMESA and the Jewish community.

Initially, Christine Asmar indicated that she would have to cut my letter to one page to which I reluctantly agreed. She also indicated at the same time that our proposed joint paper on Palestinian-Jewish relations would not go ahead. One month later I was informed by a new editor that she had cut and rewritten (without consultation) my letter to 150 words. I subsequently wrote a protest letter to the AMESA President, but to no avail. The organisation had closed ranks, and I was purged. My experience of Jewish-Arab dialogue was over.



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

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

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


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Friday, March 13, 2009

French chef plans foie gras museum in his Chicago bistrot

When Didier Durand led a campaign to overturn a ban on foie gras in Chicago, blood was spattered onto his restaurant windows, his patio was vandalised and he received threats. While American animal-rights activists denounced him as a symbol of French cruelty, however, he won admiration in his native Dordogne for his steadfast defence of the local speciality. Now Mr Durand is about to become a cult figure in the countryside of southwestern France after announcing plans to open a new front in the battle over Gallic gastronomy with what he calls a foie gras museum at his bistrot in Illinois.

He said: "I'm expecting more protests. I think I'll have to install surveillance cameras this time." Mr Durand, 48, who grew up on a farm near Bergerac watching his mother produce the fatty duck livers seen by the French as one of the world's great delicacies, says he is on a mission to educate Americans about la cuisine Francaise. "Foie gras has been produced for 5,000 years. It was the Egyptians who started it and there is nothing bad about it whatsoever," he told The Times. Mr Durand insists the force-feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers, a practice described as abhorrent by opponents, is inoffensive. "Ducks are built to be force-fed the same way that horses are built to be ridden," he said. To prove his point, he will trace the history of foie gras with pictures and documents on the wall of a room in his restaurant, Cyrano's Bistrot.

Among the exhibits will be photographs of elderly French peasant women stuffing corn down the throats of ducks and geese, and a collection of labels from Gallic producers. "I'd like to be able to move the museum into a separate building at some point, but for now it's going to have to be in the restaurant," he said. His hope is that diners will be inspired to try some of his dishes, such as sauteed foie gras accompanied by crushed potatoes with fines herbes, brioche and peaches and shiitakes with rhubarb glaze; or poached foie gras au torchon with Guerande salt and figs.

In the Dordogne, there could be no more noble cause. Although the French export only about 20 tonnes of foie gras a year to the United States out of a total production of 21,000 tonnes, criticism of the delicacy is seen as an affront to the national identity. Mr Durand, who moved to the US in 1986 and opened his bistrot a decade later, is being hailed as a saviour. "It will take more than a bit of haemoglobin on the front of his restaurant to stop this convinced gastronome," said Sud Ouest, the local daily.

In Chicago, however, his initiative could re-ignite controversy. "It's inappropriate that this horribly abusive industry which rams pipes down animals' throats should have a museum," a spokesman for Peta, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said. "This will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history along with other human atrocities."

When the city outlawed the sale of foie gras in 2006 in the name of animal welfare, Mr Durand campaigned against the ban and continued to serve foie gras in defiance of the law. "I got round the law by charging people for the salad and telling them the foie gras was free," he said. "It is a question of freedom of choice."

As a result, his restaurant was vandalised and he received letters threatening to "stuff him" in the same way that ducks and geese are stuffed with food.

Mr Durand was triumphant when the ban was lifted last summer, and suggested that June 11, when the food re-appeared on Chicago menus, should become national foie gras day in the United States. "More people are ordering it now than ever before," he said. "The more they want to ban it, the more people want to eat it." Now he is turning his attention to California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's Governor, plans to prohibit foie gras in 2012. "They want us to eat grass," Mr Durand said. "But we will not give up. The fight continues."

SOURCE Is this another war on `Jewish science'?

The elite protest against today's Israel Day of Science in London is built on double standards and a deep disdain for academic freedom.

At the London Science Museum today, school students will be able to attend workshops on everything from solar energy to water desalination. That these science sessions will be run by experts in their fields, such as a physicist who worked on the Large Hadron Collider or a leading nanotechnology researcher, will be of immense value to the students, many of whom will be taking science A-levels this summer.

There is a problem, however. This `Israel Day of Science' is organised by the Zionist Federation and several Israeli universities, a fact of sufficient power to prompt a 400-strong protest organised by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the same group which has consistently called for a ban to be imposed on Israeli academics. In an open letter to the Guardian, the protest organisers write: `The event is promoted by the Zionist Federation and is designed to showcase the scientific achievements of seven Israeli universities. But all of these are complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry so recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza. The event is being billed as a celebration of science. In fact it is an attempted celebration of Israel.' (1)

A celebration of Israel? While there's little doubt that the Israel Day of Science pays tribute to the achievements of scientists working in Israel, the content of the day is, as far as I can tell (and the title's a clue here), science. Subjects include cancer research, stem cells, biochemistry and water desalination. There are no sessions on 1948, Gaza or the West Bank. While the organisers of the day do seem to be showing off the achievements of scientists employed in Israel, that is considerably different to boasting about Israel the nation, or celebrating the `occupation of Palestine'.

Sadly, making a distinction between science and the nationality, let alone the opinions, of its practitioners seems to be beyond those calling for the Science Museum to expel the Israeli scientists in their midst. In the words of the frontpage splash in the Independent on Tuesday, `400 academics, a Nobel laureate and the former chair of the Science Select Committee called on the museum to cancel workshops due to be held this week that promote Israeli scientific achievements to schoolchildren' (2). Perhaps it is just unfortunate wording, but what on earth are `Israeli scientific achievements'? Does cancer research have national characteristics? Is physics in Tel Aviv different to physics at Imperial (London)?

Analogies with Nazi-era Germany are too easily and too carelessly flung around these days, both to the detriment of understanding events in the present and the horrors of the past. The protest against the Israel Day of Science bears no relation to Nazism, as some of the shrill defenders of Israel have claimed. And yet, insofar as the protesters are conflating scientific achievement with the national background of the scientists involved, the parallels with the wartime German persecution of the `Jewish Physics' of Albert Einstein or the `Jewish Science' of Freud are revealing: both then and now, in vastly different ways, the life and findings of the mind are being shot down by political expedience.

Curtailing the freedom of those with whom one disagrees is damaging enough to the exchange of ideas and the development of human knowledge. But to try to prevent people from speaking or from educating sixth-form students - not because one is outraged by what they have to say about desalinating water or making solar panels, but rather by their nationality - is a common disgrace.

There is great hypocrisy in the condemnation of the Israel Day of Science. Labour MP Ian Gibson objects to the Day on the basis that `science is not neutral': `It is part of the political process, and very much so in that part of the world.' (3) He is right: science is not `neutral'. It has meaning as part of a universal human desire to understand the world. It is pursued, not for its own sake, but for us; not neutrally, but contextually, humanly.

But Gibson, of course, is saying something more. He is saying that in Israel, science is corrupted by politics, tainted by the demands (and funding) of the Israeli nation state. One wonders where he thinks certain British university departments get their funding from, if not from his own ruling Labour government, the destroyer of Afghanistan and Iraq. And does the granting of honorary degrees to Bill Clinton or Tony Blair infect certain university departments with the Clinton/Blair virus of fact-defying, war-mongering zeal? By the criterion of BRICUP's accusation of `complicity', it would be a struggle to find any university in the world not guilty by state association. There are extraordinary double standards at play here.

What has been utterly buried by the impassioned rhetoric and craven moralising directed at the Israel Day of Science is the principle of freedom that ought to be enshrined in the academy - that is, the freedom to pursue knowledge without impediment, to question orthodoxies, to engage in the free exchange of ideas. Such open pursuit of knowledge is a bastion of freedom of speech itself. But the righteousness of the anti-Israel cause is so overpowering that it seems this freedom is to be withheld from those deemed `unacceptable' or `tainted'. If such freedom is limited in this way, if the freedom to pursue one's research or to engage with students is curtailed, then academic freedom as a whole is compromised. The liberty to explore and articulate ideas is not negotiable, a license to be dispensed or withheld depending on the academic's background; it must be universal. This week's protest against the Israel Day of Science is built on prejudice, illiberalism and anti-intellectualism.


State of Connecticut is trying to bring the Catholic church under its control

The Communist Chinese model seems to be their guide. But China is not restricted by a First Amendment

As I wrote in the comments section here:
I have no doubt that there will be a "schism" within the next few decades that will find an "American Catholic Church" formed (Cardinal Mahoney will probably be its titular head) which will look quite a lot like the Church of England or the Anglican church - rites, rituals, "sacraments" etc, and it will even have the imprimatur of the government insofar as it may - and it will be a church that the majority flock to; it will be seen by many as the "victory" over that stuffy old, stubborn Church of Rome. People will go on Oprah and say "I always loved God but I never felt accepted, but this enlightened American Catholic Church tells me what I need to hear, that God loves me and that divorce, abortion and all that stuff doesn't matter as long as I am a good person, and I AM a good person, Oprah, I AM, and now I am accepted, and (weep, weep) I feel like God finally makes sense in the world!"

"That's right," Oprah will declare, "there is no sin, except the sinfulness of not loving the self! God doesn't make junk!"

Applause, applause. The only ideal that matters is the one that makes you happy and doesn't challenge the status quo. Quite different from what Archbishop Romero or Archbishop Dolan are saying here, though.

And the Church of Rome will probably be sued into seeming non-existance, too, for one political point after another. The church will be declared in extremis. And that is when the remnant will kick in.
The Remnant is much deeper than any movement, and it will surface on its own - full of surprising and surprised people - in due time, when it must, and that may be soon, but neither you nor I know the day or hour. The thing about remnants is that they identify themselves after a carpet has been laid or a robe has been cut, not before. Remnants do not stop a construct from happening.they survive it.
There will always be a remnant. The Roman church will become very much smaller, I think. I'm not afraid of it. In America, of course, the idea of "bigness" is conveyed as superior. But then we've all always known that `bigger" is not especially "better."
If you are not up on the details, of a story Deacon Greg writes "landed like a grenade, yesterday", here it is, in a nutshell:
According to the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause, the government has no business dictating to religious organizations how they should structure themselves. In Connecticut, though, some lawmakers seem to have skipped over the Constitution. A new bill will require Catholic parishes and dioceses - and only Catholics - to organize their parish leadership in a way that pleases the Connecticut legislature; The [Democrats] Lawlor-and-McDonald-controlled Judiciary Committee has introduced Raised Bill 1098, a bill aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, which would remove the authority of the bishop and pastor over individual parishes and put a board of laymen in their place. .Lest you think this is a joke, American Papist has Lawlor's response to criticism. He admits that the state legislature wants to dictate the structure of this volunteer organization.
You can read the whole bill, here. It is, as Ed Morrissey correctly says,
"a piece of work.In other words, bishops would no longer have power over the actions of the parishes. That's the Connecticut legislature's vision of Roman Catholicism, but in America, government doesn't get to structure religious organizations to suit itself. That, in fact, is a form of fascism that we routinely decry in other countries. The State Department objects to China's insistence on picking Catholic bishops itself to suit their political oppression of religion, and Lawlor's motion would find a welcome in Beijing as another means to the same end: state control of Catholicism.
Indeed. "You cannot tell a church how to govern itself," said Marc D. Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress in New York, in this report. "The church is entitled to govern itself any which way it wants." Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, wastes no time in speaking out:
Addressing the perception that outsiders have of the Church as "a monolith," Archbishop Chaput said that "the opposite is true." "Her real structure is much closer to a confederation of families. Each diocese or `local Church' is accountable to the Holy See and in relation to one another within the Catholic faith," the archbishop explained.

"Bigoted legislators," Chaput said in reference to Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor, "including some who claim to be nominally or formerly `Catholic,' are thankfully uncommon. Most lawmakers, whatever their convictions, sincerely seek to serve the common good.

"But prejudice against the Catholic Church has a long pedigree in the United States. And rarely has belligerence toward the Church been so perfectly and nakedly captured as in Connecticut's pending Senate Bill 1098, which, in the words of Hartford's Archbishop Henry Mansell, `directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.'"

"In effect, SB 1098 would give the state of Connecticut the power to forcibly reorganize the internal civil life of the Catholic community. This is bad public policy in every sense: imprudent; unjust; dismissive of First Amendment concerns, and contemptuous of the right of the Catholic Church to be who she is as a public entity," the archbishop criticized.
My email has been exploding with horrified reactions - and not just from Catholics. Most people of faith understand that this is an unconstitutional and dangerous incursion by a state, and one that ought to be resisted with all our might, and a precedent that could potentially bring all religions under the control of the government. Morrissey is quite right to make the comparison to China, where the "state-approved" Catholic church bows to the government, while the Roman Catholic Church runs largely underground, where the Terrible, Traumatic, and Intolerable Name of Jesus Christ may still be uttered and cause knees to bend.

Where is Richard John Neuhaus when you need him? Ah, well.he's in heaven, where he can pray for us before the Throne, along with his good pal (and the great American Patriot) Cardinal John O' Connor.

That's certainly heartening. But I think it's time to face the fact that the notions of "tolerance" and "liberty" in America are about to be wildly re-interpreted, and not in some nebulous distance - not ten years or five years from now - but this very day - or, tomorrow, as it turns out. Just as we are watching the president - who thinks the US constitution is "fundamentally flawed" - make noises that "reproductive freedom" has primacy over "religious freedom" (the latter is explicitly mentioned in the constitution and the former is not), we're going see the state try to penetrate the day-to-day management of the churches. What they cannot subvert through legislation, they will see destroyed, eventually, by lawsuits and punitive damages on a wide range of issues (gay marriage, re-opened statutes of limitations (for Catholics only, not for public school cases) on abuse scandals, "green" population initiatives) that will bankrupt the church and leave her (materially) against the ropes.

In an email, one of my more liberal Catholic readers, BK, writes,
"I am a liberal Catholic and I support gay marriage, think our teaching on abortion, contraception and divorce is heartless, and support female ordination, but I am against this bill. These changes should come from the parishes and the people, not the government."
Well.changes in the church should not come from the government OR "the parishes and the people." The church is not a democracy; it never has been. For all of its serious human failings - and they've existed within the church ever since Christ gave faulty, human, impetuous Peter the Keys - the church is at its core a supernatural entity, and the sorts of changes BK and others like him desire must come from the Holy Spirit, or not at all.

If we look at it that way - and I'm afraid that is the way it's supposed to be in the church Instituted by Christ - then the church may never approve divorce, because Christ himself spoke against it. He may not have spoken explicitly against gay marriage (he would likely have had no need to) but he said clearly "a man and woman shall cleave and the two shall become one." He didn't say "people will cleave."

And I'm afraid no matter how much people may think otherwise, the Holy Spirit is unlikely to approve abortion or any other casual destruction of the life God Himself has brought into being. The Life-giver, who is all about creating Love is probably not going to sign on to "love" that would prefer not to have "life." Female ordination? It might come down the pike, but then again, it might not.

A recent study suggests that a growing number of Americans are either losing their faith or re-evaluating what faith means to them. In a nation where we have been conditioned to want "what we want, when we want it," or to "have it your way" that is not surprising.

And it is precisely why eventually - sooner than we think - (certainly sooner than I thought) we will see the formation of the schismic Catholic Church of America, to which many, many (including, I am sure, our friend BK) will flock. Because Americans have come to want God to accommodate their worldviews, not the other way around. They want the church that teaches the age throughout the faith, not the church that teaches the faith throughout the age.

Do not be afraid. Pray. But understand that sometimes things need to happen in order for other things to happen. So, pray for the longview. Pray that God may use you as His instrument. Pray for wisdom and an understanding heart. Pray that when the rubber meets the road, when it's time to stand up, you'll be ready and able. Much of what you are fretting about right now is passing illusion. The rest of it, well, we'll walk that road.

And remember what I said this morning - it's going to be alright. Practice psalmody. Get quiet. Read the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians - yes, the whole thing. And remember Romans 8:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, 9 nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, 10 nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39
Much to be concerned about, yes. Much to defend and fight for, yes. But do not be afraid.

UPDATE: Well, a reprieve of sorts. Seems "The bill is dead for the rest of the legislative session. As soon as word spread about the bill, the Legislative Office Building was flooded with telephone calls and e-mails on Monday. The bill, virtually overnight, became the hottest issue at the state Capitol.". (H/T Ace) That's good. But it's still on the way - next year, year after that, because as Ed Morrissey writes: They're embarrassed, but they still haven't learned why.

This battle is going to happen. Bank on it.

UPDATE II: This article in the Christian Science Monitor says Evangelicals will find their numbers halved within ten years or so. Maybe. Or maybe something else will happen!

SOURCE History's oldest hatred

By Jeff Jacoby

There is much truth below but I don't think it is the whole story. See my take on the matter here

ANTI-SEMITISM is an ancient derangement, the oldest of hatreds, so it is strange that it lacks a more meaningful name. The misnomer "anti-Semitism" -- a term coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr, who wanted a scientific-sounding euphemism for Judenhass, or Jew-hatred -- is particularly inane, since hostility to Jews has never had anything to do with Semites or being Semitic. (That is why those who protest that Arabs cannot be anti-Semitic since "Arabs are Semites too" speak either from ignorance or disingenuousness.)

Perhaps there is no good name for a virus as mutable and unyielding as anti-Semitism. "The Jews have been objects of hatred in pagan, religious, and secular societies," write Joseph Telushkin and Dennis Prager in Why the Jews?, their classic study of anti-Semitism. "Fascists have accused them of being Communists, and Communists have branded them capitalists. Jews who live in non-Jewish societies have been accused of having dual loyalties, while Jews who live in the Jewish state have been condemned as 'racists.' Poor Jews are bullied, and rich Jews are resented. Jews have been branded as both rootless cosmopolitans and ethnic chauvinists. Jews who assimilate have been called a 'fifth column,' while those who stay together spark hatred for remaining separate."

So hardy is anti-Semitism, it can flourish without Jews. Shakespeare's poisonous depiction of the Jewish moneylender Shylock was written for audiences that had never seen a Jew, all Jews having been expelled from England more than 300 years earlier. Anti-Semitic bigotry infests Saudi Arabia, where Jews have not dwelt in at least five centuries; its malignance is suggested by the government daily Al-Riyadh, which published an essay claiming that Jews have a taste for "pastries mixed with human blood."

There was Jew-hatred before there was Christianity or Islam, before Nazism or Communism, before Zionism or the Middle East conflict. This week Jews celebrate the festival of Purim, gathering in synagogues to read the biblical book of Esther. Set in ancient Persia, it tells of Haman, a powerful royal adviser who is insulted when the Jewish sage Mordechai refuses to bow down to him. Haman resolves to wipe out the empire's Jews and makes the case for genocide in an appeal to the king:

"There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among ... all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different from those of other peoples, and the king's laws they do not keep, so it is of no benefit for the king to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed." After winning royal assent, Haman makes plans "to annihilate, to kill and destroy all the Jews, the young and the elderly, children and women, in one day . . . and to take their property for plunder."

What drives such bloodlust? Haman's indictment accuses the Jews of lacking national loyalty, of insinuating themselves throughout the empire, of flouting the king's law. But the Jews of Persia had done nothing to justify Haman's murderous anti-Semitism -- just as Jews in later ages did nothing that justified their persecution under the Church or Islam, or their expulsion from so many lands in Europe and the Middle East, or their repression at the hands of Russian czars and Soviet commissars, or their slaughter by Nazi Germany. When the president of Iran today calls for the extirpation of the Jewish state, when a leader of Hamas vows to kill Jewish children around the world, when firebombs are hurled at synagogues in London and Paris and Chicago, it is not because Jews deserve to be victimized.

Some Jews are no saints, but the paranoid frenzy that is anti-Semitism is not explained by what Jews do, but by what they are. The Jewish people are the object of anti-Semitism, not its cause. That is why the haters' rationales can be so wildly inconsistent and their agendas so contradictory. What, after all, do those who vilify Jews as greedy bankers have in common with those who revile them as seditious Bolsheviks? Nothing, save an irrational obsession with Jews.

At one point in the book of Esther, Haman lets the mask slip. He boasts to his friends and family of "the glory of his riches, and the great number of his sons, and everything in which the king had promoted him and elevated him." Still, he seethes with rage and frustration: "Yet all this is worthless to me so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." That is the unforgivable offense: "Mordechai the Jew" refuses to blend in, to abandon his values, to be just like everyone else. He goes on sitting there -- undigested, unassimilated, and for that reason unbearable.

Of course Haman had his ostensible reasons for targeting Jews. So did Hitler and Arafat; so does Ahmadinejad. Sometimes the anti-Semite focuses on the Jew's religion, sometimes on his laws and lifestyle, sometimes on his national identity or his professional achievements. Ultimately, however, it is the Jew's Jewishness, and the call to higher standards that it represents, that the anti-Semite cannot abide.

With all their flaws and failings, the Jewish people endure, their role in history not yet finished. So the world's oldest hatred endures too, as obsessive and indestructible -- and deadly -- as ever.



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

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

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


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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Insane British bureaucrats: It's too wet for swimming when it rains!

They are tinpot Hitlers who just like harassing people

For those hardy souls who enjoy an outdoor dip, a little extra water seems unlikely to be a major deterrent. But the threat of a spot of rain - when combined with the implacable nature of 'elf and safety regulations - look like succeeding where the cold and the wind have failed. Swimmers at one outdoor pool have been warned they may be banned from taking a dip whenever the heavens open.

The bizarre measure came to light at the popular London Fields Lido in Hackney, East London, during a brief burst of rain. Customers arriving at the baths were advised to wait outside while the downpour was monitored. Eventually the rain eased and the swimmers were allowed to go about their exercise. Staff at the Olympic- sized pool informed them that rain could cloud the water and make it difficult for lifeguards to see the bottom. One swimmer said: 'It was difficult to believe that what I was hearing was serious. The idea that it could be too wet to swim seems almost incredible, but that was what they were actually saying.'

Hackney Council, which runs the Lido, said swimmers would be warned at the earliest opportunity about possible rain-related closures. A spokesman said: 'In exceptional circumstances the pool may be required to be closed in order to protect users' safety. 'For example, exceptionally heavy rain or foggy conditions can distort the clarity of the water, restricting lifeguards' visibility and their ability to keep swimmers safe.'

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said: 'This rule is ridiculous and the ultimate example of risk avoidance. 'If we continue down this mad path of mindless health and safety rules it will get even worse. There's no common sense and this is just a continuation of the growing nanny state that prevents people from doing more and more things.'

A raft of contentious health and safety rules have been introduced at swimming pools during recent years. Many now insist that anyone taking more than two children under eight for a swim must be accompanied by at least another adult. It means that a parent of three young children is not allowed to take his or her family swimming.

Meanwhile, managers at the Crystal Palace National Sport Centre in South London barred the public from swimming in half of the pool's eight lanes amid fears lifeguards may not be able to see them properly. The rule was introduced despite senior staff reporting they had never experienced that kind of problem.

And retired civil servant Alan Treece, 64, was ordered out of Erith Sports Centre in Bromley, Kent, in 2006 for breaching health and safety rules by diving into the pool. Guidelines required swimmers to gently lower themselves in instead.


New battle for Britain

Warning to tourists - it is now illegal to take a photo of a London bobby (policeman). The time-honored tradition of tourists having their pictures taken with London cops is being dealt a silly death blow by those who control the British nanny-state. The British are not only losing their economic prosperity, but their civil liberties as well.

Will Britain again become the "sick man of Europe"? A quarter-century ago, Margaret Thatcher led Britain out of an economic wilderness and enabled it to have the fastest-growing economy among the four big countries in the European Union. Today, however, under Gordon Brown's Labor government, Britain is rapidly rushing backward with pre-Thatcherite economic policies. Taxes are being raised, government spending is soaring, and deficits, as in the United States and most other countries, are projected to reach record levels. Despite the Thatcher reforms, government spending was only reduced to about 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) while the United States was able to keep government spending at about one-third of GDP for the last quarter-century.

The British public sector is almost certain to grow to about 48 percent of GDP, while the U.S. government spending will grow to the old British level of 40 percent of GDP. The large countries within the EU that had government sectors approaching 50 percent of GDP (i.e., France, Germany and Italy) grew at about half the rate of the United States over the last 25 years, with Britain falling in between. Thus it is reasonable to expect British growth to fall to the anemic levels of the other big EU countries and the United States. to drop to the old British levels.

Britain had the first big bank to fail - Northern Rock - as a result of the global financial crisis. The government nationalized not only Northern Rock, but now has also effectively done so with its recent takeover of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The London property price bubble has burst, and, as in the United States, many people are no longer making their mortgage payments.

As the government attempts to prop up the banks and other affected industries, while expanding the social safety net, deficits will soar. The British will add more than $1 trillion in new debt in the next few years, while its economy is less than one-sixth that of the United States.

As a result, public sector debt will rise from the current relatively prudent 40 percent of GDP to well more than 100 percent in the next couple of years. Britain has relied on foreigners to buy much of its debt, but this is unlikely to continue as many countries increase their own debt issuance severalfold.

As a result, interest rates will rise, greatly increasing debt service costs. This, in turn, will put further pressure on the pound, making foreign investment in Britain even less attractive. The U.K. economic establishment is all worried about deflation while it should be worried about the potential for a high rate of inflation from all the new deficit spending.

Civil libertarians on both the left and right are increasingly concerned that Britain is drifting toward becoming a police state. The government has been trying to obtain the right to detain anyone up to 42 days without bringing charges, which would severely undermine the centuries' old right of habeas corpus. Police monitoring cameras in London are more pervasive than in any other city in the world. Public demonstrations near Parliament and other government buildings are restricted more and more. British libel laws are much more restrictive than those in the United States and have effectively make it increasingly difficult to charge public officials with wrongdoing.

The British are also feeling increasingly oppressed by the surge in growth of regulations by both their own government and that of the EU. The cost of regulation has soared by 74 percent in just the last three years. Worse yet, the number of laws and rules the British are now subject to has grown by two and a half times in the last 10 years.

For good reason, the British are increasingly feeling less free, as the politicians in Brussels and Westminster raid their pocketbooks and strip them of their independence. As in the 1940 Battle of Britain, the current struggle to keep Britain both free from control by Europe and from its own bureaucratic class depends on the courage of the young men and women of those fair isles to stand and fight for liberty.


Muslim protest arrests over British Army homecoming

Two people were arrested after a protest against the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment as they paraded through Luton yesterday. The Prime Minister said in a statement: "The whole country is proud of our brave servicemen and women who serve their country with great distinction and courage. "That pride in our Armed Forces was shown once again today when thousands turned out to welcome the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment. It is therefore disappointing that a tiny minority tried, but ultimately failed, to disrupt today's event."

The battalion were returning from their second six-month tour in Iraq in two years. The mainly Muslim protesters held cards with slogans including "Anglian Soldiers: Butchers of Basra" and "Anglian Soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists". Protesters accused the soldiers of "gloating" about "killing innocent women and children". Crowds began a counter-demonstration and two people were arrested.

Shahid Malik, the Justice Minister, said that "all decent people, irrespective of religion, will be sickened by the antics of this group of extremists".


EU Gestapo defeated in EU court

"Gestapo" is short for "Geheime Staatspolizei" or "Secret State police". And it was precisely official secrecy that was used oppressively but eventually defeated in this case

A tennis player today won his case at the European Court of Justice against airport security staff who believed that his racquets posed a terrorist threat and threw him off a flight. Judges ruled that the unpublished European Union register of hand luggage restrictions could not be enforced because passengers had no way of knowing exactly what was prohibited. The EU list shows that racquets are not specifically banned from the cabin. However, it contains a catch-all prohibition on "any blunt instrument capable of causing injury". An over-eager airport official might still argue that racquets fall into that category.

BAA tonight advised tennis travellers at British airports to play safe and store their racquets in the hold. A spokesman said that even if they escaped a ban as a terrorist weapon, they would most likely exceed the size limits for cabin baggage.

The case was brought by Gottfried Heinrich, Austrian tennis enthusiast. On his way to a tournament he was thrown off a flight at Vienna airport in 2005, having already cleared general security screening. It highlighted what one legal adviser called the "fundamental absurdity" of European anti-terror regulations from 2003 that outlawed a range of possible weapons from the aircraft cabin - but were not made public for security reasons. The EU eventually published the secret list last summer, finally explaining why passengers had found that skateboards, golf clubs and fishing roads were not allowed in the cabin.

Mr Heinrich was so angry that he brought a compensation case against the Austrian authorities for failing to inform him that he was carrying banned items. The Austrian court felt that the matter was of such great importance to all airline passengers in the EU that it referred it up to the ECJ in Luxembourg. After winning his case today, Mr Heinrich is now able to pursue his compensation case at the court in Austria.

Ignasi Guardans, a Spanish MEP who campaigned on behalf of Mr Heinrich, said: "It was utterly illogical to produce a list of banned objects from cabin baggage yet not tell anyone what they were."

A spokesman for BAA said: "Our view is that tennis rackets will clearly contravene the hand baggage size regulations of 56x45x25cm, and therefore we would definitely recommend to passengers that these are placed in their hold luggage. Even if they were smaller than that, it is worth noting that the regulations prohibit "sporting bats, cues and darts" from being taken aboard."

Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said: "This categorical judgement is a victory for democracy and openness, and a slap in the face of the European Commission and EU governments who thought Kafkaesque methods acceptable. "The Court has now agreed with our protest that it cannot be right for 500 million EU citizens to be told to obey laws they cannot read for themselves."



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

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

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


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obnoxious name given to morally troublesome act

Soon after President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting the ban on the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research, the wizards behind the White House web site posted the photo above. Though I find it less troubling than the president's continuing assault on the unborn, the file name (hero_stemcell_main2.jpg) under which someone at the White House saved the photo of the signing ceremony this afternoon is disturbingly creepy.

I discovered the file name when I went to save the photo to my computer. Click here to see a screen shot which shows the file name for the photo highlighted in blue as I was in the process of saving the photo to my computer.

To imply that President Obama is somehow heroic by signing a measure that lifts a ban on the slaughter of human embryos for scientific purposes goes beyond the pale. Such an amateurish action should not, however, surprise anyone familiar with Obama's socialist agenda (a.k.a., "Obamalism") and his follower's blind allegiance to "Dear Leader."

Post above recycled from Bob McCarty.

Our brains are wired up for God

As Billy Graham often said: "There is a God-shaped void in people". This does rather explain why some atheists are so evangelical about their atheism. It has always been clear to me that I have strong religious instincts despite being an atheist. But I put those instincts into supporting those who are believers. I think atheists who attack Christians are just insecure in their own beliefs. I feel no need to "convert" anyone. I don't need others to validate my thinking on the matter

The brain of every human being, from believers to atheists, has been revealed to contain at least three "god spots", all linked to religious beliefs and thoughts. A team of US researchers has obtained strong evidence that religiosity is managed by the same parts of the brain that are used every day to interpret other people's moods and intentions and to analyse experiences. Moreover, the spots exist in the brains of ordinary people, not just those whose extraordinary religious experiences have been triggered by brain injury or neurological conditions like epilepsy.

Scientists, philosophers and theologians have long argued about whether religious belief is a biological or a sociological phenomenon. Britain's controversial evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins contends that religion is essentially a cultural virus, spread from brain to brain. Others argue that it arises from the structure of the brain itself. The new findings by researchers at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland -- obtained by non-invasive brain scans of 26 Americans -- have gone far to resolving the debate.

Jordan Grafman and his colleagues wrote in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the evolution of the brain networks that handle religious thoughts "was likely driven by their primary roles in social (thinking), language and logical reasoning".

According to University of NSW evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks, the study shows that religion taps into existing parts of the brain that evolved to handle complex social interactions. "It exploits existing parts of our brain," Associate Professor Brooks suggested. He agreed with the US team that, regardless of whether god existed, the work showed that religious beliefs did exist and could be studied rigorously.

Dr Grafman's group broke down religious belief into three "psychological" components: god's perceived emotion, god's involvement with the world and doctrinal, or knowledge, aspects of religion. They then used functional magnetic resonance imaging to watch what went on in the brains of volunteers as they evaluated statements about religious belief. The scans revealed that the volunteers' brains evaluated the actions of other people in the same way they contemplated god's mood and involvement with humanity. The imaging also pinpointed an association between a person's previous religious teachings and a part of the brain involved in memory and speech.


How the Great Depression brought Adolf Hitler to power

Oh goody! Looks like we're having another Depression -- maybe just a little one, but who knows how long we can stretch it out, if we give it a good try? So now we can play FDR and The Glorious New Deal. If that sounds insane to you, well, it's what both Charles Krauthammer and David Broder -- the Burt and Ernie of the Washington Post -- have now concluded about the Obama White House.

The Great Depression certainly empowered FDR to make big changes in America over his four terms. In spite of all the hoo-hah the country didn't get out of the long, long slump until 1940 or so, with the huge mobilization of men and industrial resources for World War II. But FDR did get to play to his heart's content, through the NRA, the WPA, the AAA, the CCC, the TVA, the NLRB, the FDIC and the SEC. By comparison all we've got is a measly TARP. So far.

Trouble is, the Great Depression also brought Adolf Hitler to power. (Darn, I knew there had to be a downside somewhere.) For those who have forgotten history or never bothered to learn it, here's is the sixty-second version.

1. Adolf Hitler started out as just another Bohemian intellectual, a sort of fire-breathing hippie, hanging around the coffee houses of Vienna after the big defeat of World War I. Just like Lenin, Mussolini and all the other psychopaths who rose to power around the same time. (Look it up, kids). His ilk can still be found in all the big city cafes of Europe, along with Berkeley, California, Madison, Wisconsin, and other college towns. They all profess peace. But in the right conditions, they are all happy to set off sociological or real dynamite. (Viz., Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn; the Rev. J. Wright and all the rest.)

Today the cafe intellectuals are more likely to be Islamic fascists, but what's the big diff? They all follow Hitler's big maxim, "Alles muss anders sein!" ("everything must change") or, in Obamalingo, "Change you can believe in." They all hate whatever is; it doesn't matter where they want to go.

They want a perfect world, every single one of them. Therefore they all hate freedom, electoral democracy, and the blood-sucking capitalists. They all demand justice and equality. And millions of suckers always fall for it. Some things never change; even the words don't change, much less the marching music.

2. When Hitler got out of the Kaiserliche Wehrmacht with burned-out lungs from mustard gas, Germany was broke. The Reich had started the war as the wealthiest, most industrialized, most highly-educated, and perhaps even the most arrogant nation in Europe. (Although that's a tough one to judge, there being so much competition in the arrogance sweepstakes in Europe.) Anyway, if you remember the goose-stepping soldiers with the funny helmets with the little spikes on top, and all the cheering people standing on the sidewalks going Hoch! Hoch!, that's the one.

3. As punishment for the war, the Versailles Treaty required the Germans to pay their victims, to handicap their military and heavy industries, and to be nice to their neighbors. They did pay some money for a while, but then they just lied about all those other things. None of the victorious nations dared to actually find out if the Germans were re-arming or not. Besides, the Germans and Austrians felt threatened by the new and militant Soviet Union, accidentally created when the old Reich helped Lenin to overthrow the Czar of Russia. (Lenin was another cafe intellectual who turned into a ruthless mass-murdering tyrant, except that he hung around Zurich rather than Vienna.)

4. After WWI the Weimar Republic brought parliamentary democracy of a kind to Germany. But it also saw a wave of corruption, degradation of middle class values, attacks on religion, promiscuity, and glorification of "alternative lifestyles" -- which all agreed on their hatred of the bourgeoisie (who happened to be their parents) -- along with lots of artistic expressions of the same Up Yours! attitude that has made government-funded artists so popular in our day.

(A lot of our avant garde is just the derriere garde of Europe's Weimar period. Nothing new there at all.)

5. Having the Soviets practically next door was a big help to the German Communists -- who still called themselves Communists rather than Black Liberation Theologians, as ours do today. But just like Rev. J-Wright, they all hated middleclassness, or as they called it, the bourgeoisie. (That was their parents, remember?) So did Mussolini and Hitler, who also rose to power as radical world-changers in the turmoil of the day. They were also big ecofreaks -- because Mother Nature was good, you see. They practiced a fair amount of nudity and gayety, celebrated sex and violence, got drunk and carried on riots, and whipped up giant hatreds against scapegoats -- the French, other racially inferior peoples, and of course ... . Yes.

They also swore to eliminate the handicapped, the retarded, and any organized religion. Both the Communists and the Nazis really really hated Christianity. Not just Judaism and the Jews. They were equal-opportunity haters, without fear or favor.

6. The whole Ship of Fools seemed to go sailing along until the economy went kaput. But why did it? You can point to hyperinflation, long and deep declines in industry and agriculture, unemployment, and shaky currencies. Europe had decades of troubles before the United States caught the bug. Stock markets dwindled, trade barriers went up, and on October 29, 1929, far away in New York City, Wall Street went into a tailspin. It was followed by the other big stock markets. People lost their jobs and their savings. No capital, no productivity, just despair.

7. Europe decided that democracy wasn't its thing after all, and looked for nice trustworthy generals to take over the hopelessly ineffective parliamentary governments -- like in Germany. But the President of Germany, General Paul von Hindenburg, was elderly and out of his depth, and after a while was forced to ask that nice Herr Hitler to organize a new government. Hitler's National Socialist Workers Party had never gotten a majority, but the time was ripe, and the Nazis never cared much for rules. So they took power.

In the end United States kind of lucked out, compared to Europe -- but don't try to tell that to anybody who managed to live through it. It's not just our habit of democratic governance that brought us out of it without tyranny and the devastation of Europe and Asia. FDR had a certain amount of demagogue blood in him. Or as he proclaimed in accepting the Democratic Party nomination: "Throughout the nation men and women ... look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth... I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people... This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms."

A better "opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth? ... A call to arms?" Has the Obama crowd seen this speech? FDR naturally attacked greed and wealth, coming from a family of old wealth and long-forgotten greed himself. Greed is in the eye of the accuser.

What's the bottom line? Well, certain politicians thrive in times of trouble; and if they don't see enough trouble, they're always happy to add some more. They always practice the same kind of demagogy. They always promise radical change. And they often bring the opposite.

Historians have long pointed to the breakdown of Europe's middle class as the single biggest earthquake, the one that shook all the other pillars of society until it crumbled.

In the 21st century, you can kill the middle class by teaching kids to despise their parents and their traditions; you can tax them into poverty; you can whip up nationalistic fervor against the Frogs or the Boches; you can inflate the currency so that everybody is equally miserable; you can teach the poor, the black, the women, the young, to attack the middle class values that brought prosperity over generations of toil; you can torpedo the currency and destroy retirement plans; you can turn the Organs of Propaganda -- pahdon me, the "news media" -- to assault middle class values; you can unify the very wealthy with the very poor to try to squeeze and whack the middle; you can take historic wrongs like black slavery or Christopher Columbus to turn people against each other; you can easily turn bubbleheaded movie makers and starlets against George W. Bush; you can break the banks and turn the desperate against the malefactors of great wealth; or you can unify white liberals with poor blacks and militant feminists against all the Evil White Guys...

But it's all the same, you see. Nothing ever changes except the color of the flags and the uniforms. And it's always the militant idealists, the obsessional clerks and scribblers, who seize the moment to raise yet another Hero of Change and Hope to the peak of power. Because, you see, Adolf Hitler was not the exception. In the century of Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, of Lenin and Stalin, of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, of Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein, of Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, of genocidal little tyrants in the Sudan and Rwanda, Hitler was by no means the exception. He was just brought down faster than the others.

Heigh-ho. Interesting times. See what a little history can teach you?


Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace

Muslims can start with better Quranic scholarship


The film "Fitna" by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders has created an uproar around the world because it links violence committed by Islamists to Islam. Many commentators and politicians -- including the British government, which denied him entry to the country last month -- reflexively accused Mr. Wilders of inciting hatred. The question, however, is whether the blame is with Mr. Wilders, who simply exposed Islamic radicalism, or with those who promote and engage in this religious extremism. In other words, shall we fault Mr. Wilders for raising issues like the stoning of women, or shall we fault those who actually promote and practice this crime?

Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion -- while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.

Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are "pigs and monkeys," that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion. Isn't, then, Mr. Wilders's criticism appropriate? Instead of blaming him, we must blame the leading Islamic scholars for having failed to produce an authoritative book on Islamic jurisprudence that is accepted in the Islamic world and unambiguously rejects these violent teachings.

While many religious texts preach violence, the interpretation, modern usage and implementation of these teachings make all the difference. For example, the stoning of women exists in both the Old Testament and in the Islamic tradition, or "Sunna" -- the recorded deeds and manners of the prophet Muhammad. The difference, though, is that leading Jewish scholars agreed to discontinue these practices centuries ago, while Muslim scholars have yet to do so. Hence we do not see the stoning of women practiced or promoted in Israel, the "Jewish" state, but we see it practiced and promoted in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the "Islamic" states.

When the British government banned Geert Wilders from entering the country to present his film in the House of Lords, it made two egregious errors. The first was to suppress free speech, a canon of the civilized Western world. The second mistake was to blame the messenger -- punishing, so to speak, the witness who exposed the crime instead of punishing the criminal. Mr. Wilders did not produce the content of the violent Islamic message he showed in his film -- the Islamic world did that. Until the Islamic clerical establishment takes concrete steps to reject violence in the name of their religion, Mr. Wilders's criticism is not only permissible as "controversial" free speech but justified.

So, Islamic scholars and clerics, it is up to you to produce a Shariah book that will be accepted in the Islamic world and that teaches that Jews are not pigs and monkeys, that declaring war to spread Islam is unacceptable, and that killing apostates is a crime. Such a book would prove that Islam is a religion of peace.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why does Britain honour those who loathe her?

Twice this week I have been reminded of a peculiar quality of the British. We love to praise, honour and reward those who don't really like us - who may indeed hate us. While Gordon Brown was sweet-talking the Americans, it was announced that an honorary knighthood is being conferred on 77-year-old Senator Edward Kennedy, who is seriously ill with a brain tumour. One might suppose that Mr Kennedy - who was notoriously involved in the terrible death of Mary Jo Kopechne - was an old friend of this country. But he isn't.

During the Seventies he portrayed the British role in Northern Ireland as one of virtual occupation, and even suggested that the majority Protestant population be encouraged to 'return' to Britain. He is certainly a chip off the old block. His father, Joe, was an arch appeaser while he was American ambassador to London during the early days of World War II, believing that Hitler was bound to win, and that 'democracy was finished' here. Ted Kennedy is a rare visitor to our shores and probably doesn't think about us very much.

I have been even more struck by the row concerning the 91-year-old historian Eric Hobsbawm [Hobsbawm is a corrupted name. His father's surname was "Obstbaum", meaning Fruit-tree. He is of German Jewish origin], who has lived in this country since 1933. Mr Hobsbawm is upset because he has been denied access to his own MI5 file, which he had applied to see under the Data Protection Act. This refusal has been described in various quarters as an outrage - further proof, if any were needed, that we live in a police state.

Listening to the row as it has been explained on the BBC, or reading about it in our more progressive newspapers, one might suppose that Mr Hobsbawm was a kindly old gentleman who would never harm a flea. A panegyric by Seumas Milne in The Guardian newspaper called him Britain's 'greatest living historian'. He is almost invariably so described. Mr Milne reminded his readers that his hero is a Companion of Honour. Only 45 Britons hold this distinguished award, whose motto is: 'In action faithful and in honour clear.'

How could MI5 possibly keep a file from such a man? Why, indeed, had it opened one in the first place? In a long list of virtues, Mr Milne mentioned that Mr Hobsbawm is also a 'veteran of the last mass anti-Nazi demonstration in Berlin before Hitler came to power in 1933'. So he is not only a Companion of Honour, a member of the British Academy and, yes, this country's greatest living historian. He has also personally grappled with the Fascists. And this brilliant and saintly man is being denied his rights by MI5 which, Mr Milne informs us, has been involved in ' antidemocratic skulduggery' in the past 'against non-violent political movements'.

It all sounds a very bad business. One is almost ashamed to be British. And yet the truth about Mr Hobsbawm is almost the exact opposite of what has been stated. For most of his adult life Mr Hobsbawm supported the Soviet Union, whose methods made MI5 look like a bunch of amateurs. It is not even true that he always opposed fascism. In 1939 he co-wrote a pamphlet justifying, from a communist standpoint, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Only after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 did the Nazis revert to being the bad guys.

Eric Hobsbawm joined the Communist Party in 1936 and remained a member for some 50 years. As an intelligent young man with a social conscience in that deeply troubled decade, he did not have to become a communist. He could have been a social democrat, but he chose Joseph Stalin instead, and stuck with him. He either turned a blind eye to Soviet atrocities, or justified them. He defended, albeit with some hand-wringing, the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956. He deprecated Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's totalitarian methods. Long after decent fellow communists had disowned Soviet communism, Mr Hobsbawm refused to condemn it.

In his book On History, published in 1997, he wrote: 'Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even minimal, use of force was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.' Somehow, he had forgotten about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The British security services would have been criminally irresponsible not to have kept copious records on Eric Hobsbawm. Although there is no evidence that he ever worked directly for the Soviet Union, he continued to justify and defend it throughout the several decades when it was this country's enemy. You don't need an MI5 file to know any of this. Hobsbawm admits to much of it in his 2002 autobiography, Interesting Times, in which he shows little affection for his adopted country despite the wonderful opportunities he has been offered here.

He came to Britain after the deaths of his father, a British citizen, and his mother, in Vienna. At one point he writes with chilling, and repulsive, detachment: 'I refused all contact with the suburban petty bourgeoisie, which I naturally regarded with contempt.' There are other self-incriminating writings and public statements. Most shocking among them, perhaps, was his response to a question put to him on BBC2's Late Show by Michael Ignatieff in 1994. Asked whether 'the radiant tomorrow' promised by Stalin would have justified 'the loss of 15 to 20 million people', Mr Hobsbawm simply replied: 'Yes.'

The old Soviet sympathiser is honest in one sense. He does not attempt to deny his past beliefs and affiliations. To a large extent he does not even repudiate them now. He has never apologised for having championed one of the nastiest regimes in human history - one that rivalled Nazi Germany in its brutality, and in some respects surpassed it. There is obviously nothing wrong with historians holding Left-wing views - so long as they do not try to outlaw fellow historians who have Right-wing ones. The objection to Eric Hobsbawm is not that he is Left-wing. It is that he plumped for Stalin when there were already ample reports in the West of the millions of people annihilated in the Terror. It is that he stuck with Soviet communism long after World War II, and would not condemn it even when the Hungarian revolution was savagely crushed.

Yet despite all this - despite his well-publicised support for an inhumane regime - he is widely treated as a grand, as well as a delightful, old man, whose views deserve to be venerated. I do not particularly have in mind journalists such as Seumas Milne, an intellectual Wykehamist [A graduate of the "intellectual" Winchester College, an ancient non-government school] Left-winger who might himself have walked out of the Thirties, and shares many of Hobsbawm's political beliefs. I am thinking more of the mildly Leftist or supposedly 'liberal' types who work for our progressive newspapers and the BBC.

Billed as Britain's greatest living historian, an accolade with which many of his peers would quarrel, Hobsbawm is feted by the BBC. A few months ago he was accorded a lengthy interview on Radio 4's Today programme. He was allowed to maunder on about the 'incredibly unstable' nature of modern capitalism and, encouraged by a reverential Ed Stourton, digressed on to the failures of globalisation which Karl Marx had predicted. Stourton, in awe, dared not ask the obvious question, which was whether, for all its imperfections and recent excesses, global capitalism does not produce a lot more wealth for many more people than Soviet communism ever did - as well as, incidentally, respecting the rule of law. Nor did he think of asking why Hobsbawm had been such an indefatigable supporter of that benighted regime.

Why do liberal-minded journalists who would normally abhor the excesses of Soviet communism spare a man who was associated with them - and not only spare but often venerate him? Ignorance cannot be the explanation, as Mr Hobsbawm's views are so well known. It cannot be a result of good manners, since they would not be polite to a historian who had defended fascism. The fact is that, however much these liberals may deprecate Soviet communism, they can't help indulging its apologists.

There is a lack of imagination on the part of these enlightened media folk, who cannot easily conceive of how a kindly looking and apparently civilised gentleman could really have supported a monster like Stalin. He has described himself as 'an accepted member of the official British cultural establishment', and that is how he appears. This gentle-seeming, ruminative soul has been a determined servant of the communist cause until recent times. No one doubts he is a considerable historian - if he were not, he would not have been so powerful a figure.

More here

Quotas Come To Charities

It's not enough that more of rich people's income will, thanks to President Yes-We-Can!, be given to the IRS and that the deductions allowed for giving to charity will now be reduced, starving charities of funds they would formerly have received. Now, according to this disturbing article by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal, the "diversity" police are demanding that private "public interest" organizations, i.e., charities, philanthropic foundations, etc., toe the new mandatory "diversity" line. Typical of this effort, Ms. Riley argues, is a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy whose "real aim is to push philanthropic organizations into ignoring donor intent and instead giving grants based on political considerations."
The report, titled "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best," advises foundations to "provide at least 50 percent of grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined." The committee looked at 809 of the largest foundations in the country, whose combined three-year grants totaled almost $15 billion, and concluded that the majority of foundations are "eschewing the needs of the most vulnerable in our society" by neglecting "marginalized groups."
The NCRP, alas, is not alone.
Two years ago, an advocacy group in San Francisco called Greenlining began releasing similar reports. Greenlining's aim then was to pass legislation in California mandating that foundations report to the public the percentage of their dollars given to "minority-led" organizations and the percentage of their boards and staffs made up by racial and ethnic minorities. The legislation was dropped when several foundations promised to donate money to causes Greenlining favored.

Now Greenlining has put out reports in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York trying to shame foundations into distributing grants differently, as well as pressure them into recruiting more "diverse" board and staff members. The NCRP report picks up on this theme to suggest that foundation boards and staffs should include people with a "diversity of perspectives."
There a number of problems with this effort to dictate the composition of philanthropic boards and the direction of their giving, not the least of which is the nettlesome issue of donor intent. One of the NCRP's recommentations, for example, is that at least 25% of grant funds be devoted to grants promoting "advocacy, organizing and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity and justice in our society." As Ms. Riley notes, "[t]his might be a worthy mission,"
but whose mission is it? Philanthropists give money to foundations with a particular cause in mind. And promoting "justice in our society" may not have anything to do with it. Indeed, foundations that redirect funding to match the NCRP criteria may have to violate donor intent in order to do so.

The best way for a donor to make sure that his money is given for the purposes he wants is to choose people for his board who agree with him. Whether these people are family members, co-religionists or old college buddies, what is important is that they share his philanthropic vision.
As we've seen in other arenas, however, those determined to do good with other people's money are seldom slowed down by the inconvenient issue of a conflicting intent, whether expressed by legislators, Constitution-drafters or adopters, or, in this case, charitable donors. (For discussion of other recent examples, see here and here.)

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Peremptory Racial Nonsense

The more I think about the current conventional liberal wisdom (pardon the oxymoron) regarding racial discrimination, especially as that wisdom defends racial preference policies, the more it strikes me as incoherent peremptory nonsense, as in:
per emp to ry, adjective, (esp. of a person's manner or actions) insisting on immediate attention or obedience, esp. in a brusquely imperious way : "Just do it!" came the peremptory reply. [From the built-in Macintosh dictionary]
This reaction was provoked again yesterday in spades (if you'll pardon the expression) when I read this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on the racial challenge to peremptory jury challenges. "In the interest of fair trials," the article begins,
attorneys can dismiss people from jury pools for dressing strangely, for being fat, even for just looking at them funny. What lawyers can't do is dismiss potential jurors based on their race, gender or ethnicity. Yet, attorneys and academics say, it happens all the time. To root out discrimination in the jury room, critics have called for a radical solution: Get rid of peremptory strikes, which typically allow lawyers to dismiss a limited number of jurors, no questions asked.
So, the current rule is that an attorney can have a prospective juror dismissed for any reason, or no reason, except for race, gender, or ethnicity. That, it is felt, would be discrimination. But these race-gender-ethnicity-based dismissals go on all the time, sometimes with humorous attempts at non-racial justifications. (Among those mentioned in the article: one juror dismissed for long dreadlocks; another "because she was obese, not because she was the only black in the jury pool. `Heavyset people tend to be very sympathetic toward any defendant,' the prosecutor had explained.") As a result there is a move afoot to eliminate or limit peremptory challenges.

The dishonesty apparent in these evasions, however, is no worse than the everyday dishonesty of using the idea of "diversity" to justify discrimination against Asians, whites, and others in favor of blacks and Hispanics. It's simply another example of the hypocrisy required by the determination to make "race-conscious" decisions at every opportunity while pretending not to be engaging in discrimination.

But let's return to juries, because the brouhaha over peremptory challenges reveals one of the glaring contradictions at the core of CCLW (Current Conventional Liberal Wisdom) on race. Consider the following points:

* Racial profiling is bad ... except when admissions officers do it.

* Presumably the reason racial profiling is bad is that it uses race as a proxy for something else (in this case, likelihood/probability of being a criminal). Same with Arabs in airports.

* But the entire edifice of "diversity" is based on the belief that race is in fact a valid proxy for all sorts of things - experience, values, ideas, "culture," etc. If blacks weren't thought to be "different" in important ways, they would not be able to provide the "diversity" to others that is the justification for giving them preferential treatment.

* But if race is a legitimate proxy for "diversity"-providing characteristics, how can liberals object to attorneys being allowed to use it as proxy for one or more of those characteristics and thus peremptorily disqualify black jurors if people with those characteristics are thought to be less likely to be sympathetic with their client?

* Admissions officers say they are not discriminating when they "take race into account" because race is only "one of many factors" they consider."

* But the police and airport guards almost never racially profile on the basis of race alone. They too take other factors into account (young, Arab, male, one-way ticket, bought with cash; young, black, male, fancy car of a certain type, long dreadlocks, Jamaican accent, driving in unlikely place, etc.)

* Defenders of race preferences implicitly, and often explicitly, argue that if it's legitimate to give preferences for other reasons -- athletic ability, legacy status, musical talent, etc. -- it should be legitimate to give preferences based on race. Race, in short, shouldn't be singled out, made a "protected category," walled off and made off limits to either favorable or unfavorable treatment by the state.

* But if race (like religion and to a degree like gender) isn't special, isn't deserving of being a protected category, why not just abolish the anti-discrimination laws, since doing so would undermine the arguments of those who oppose race preferences?

* I could go on, and generally do.

For a detailed examination of the work of one thoughtful observer who perceptively points out many of these same contradictions and then obliviously proceeds to commit them himself, see my discussion of The Inscrutable Randall Kennedy.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

What the Obama Revolution Means for Religion in America

In his successful drive for the presidency, Barack Obama went out of his way to cultivate churchgoing Americans. Obama spoke frankly and fluidly about his faith, he participated in Pastor Rick Warren's candidates' forum at the Saddleback megachurch, he reached out personally and persistently to evangelical and Catholic leaders, and his campaign targeted American religious groups like no other Democratic candidate for president has in recent times. Moreover, Obama and his campaign downplayed his socially liberal views, stressed his commitment to tolerance and civility toward those with whom he disagreed on social issues, and sought to underline the ways in which his progressive policy positions were consistent with biblical faith and Catholic Social Teaching.

Obama's efforts paid off. In 2008, according to CNN exit polls, Obama won forty-three percent of the presidential vote among voters who attend religious services once a week or more, up from Senator John Kerry's thirty-nine percent in 2004. Obama did especially well with Black and Latino believers. But he also made real inroads among traditional white Catholics, according to a recent article by John Green in First Things .

His cultivation of churchgoing Americans has not let up since winning the election. From his selection of Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation to his public support for charitable choice to his recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama has sought to signal to the faithful in America that his administration is no enemy to religion.

I do not doubt the sincerity of Obama's religious intentions. But while many social conservatives have pointed a spotlight on Obama's socially liberal policies ( repealing the Mexico City Policy, for example) few have paid attention to the likely impact his stimulus, bailout, and economic welfare programs will have. One unremarked and unintended consequence of Barack Obama's audacious plans for the expansion of government-especially in health care, education, and the environment-is that the nanny state he is seeking to build will likely crowd out religious institutions in America. In other words, if he succeeds in passing his ambitious agenda, the Obama revolution is likely to lead the United States down the secular path already trod by Europe.

To fund his bold efforts to revive the American economy and expand the welfare state, Obama is proposing to spend a staggering $3.6 trillion in the 2010 fiscal year. Obama's revolutionary agenda would push federal, state, and local spending to approximately 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product, up from about 33 percent in 2000. It would also put the size of government in the United States within reach of Europe, where government spending currently makes up 46 percent of GDP.

Why is this significant for the vitality of religion in America? A recent study of 33 countries around the world by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde, political scientists at the University of Washington, indicates that there is an inverse relationship between state welfare spending and religiosity. Specifically, they found that countries with larger welfare states had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, had higher rates of citizens indicating no religious affiliation whatsoever, and their people took less comfort in religion in general. In their words, "Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals."

Gill and Lundsgaarde show, for instance, that Scandinavian societies such as Sweden and Denmark have some of the largest welfare states in the world as well as some of the lowest levels of religious attendance in the world. By contrast, countries with a history of limited government-from the United States to the Philippines-have markedly higher levels of religiosity. The link between religion and the welfare state remains robust even after Gill and Lundsgaarde control for socioeconomic factors such as urbanization, region, and literacy. The bottom line: as government grows, people's reliance on God seems to diminish.

How do we account for the inverse relationship between government size and religious vitality? As Gill and Lundsgaarde point out, some individuals have strong spiritual needs that can only be met by religion. This portion of the population remains faithful, come what may.

But other individuals only turn to churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques when their needs for social or material security are not being met by the market or state. In an environment characterized by ordinary levels of social or economic insecurity, many of these individuals will turn to local congregations for social, economic, and emotional support. At times of high insecurity, such as the current recession, religious demand goes even higher. Witness, for instance, press accounts chronicling the recent boom in churchgoing among Americans hit hard by the recession. Of course, many of those who initially turn to the church around the corner for instrumental reasons often end up developing an intrinsic appreciation for the spiritual and moral goods found in their local congregation.

By contrast, the more the state steps in to reduce the economic and social insecurity of its citizens, the less likely fair-weather believers are to darken the door of a church on Sunday. Now, to paraphrase Charles Krauthammer, Obama hopes to expand the size of the welfare state by offering cradle-to-grave health care and cradle-to-cubicle education to Americans. If he gets his way, Americans will not have to trust in God, or their fellow congregants, to support an ailing parent, or to help them figure out how to pay for their daughter's college tuition. Instead, they can put their faith in Uncle Sam.

To secularists and religious skeptics, this may seem no great loss. Who cares if Americans substitute "In God We Trust" for "In Government We Trust"? But as political scientist Alan Wolfe observed in Whose Keeper? , one of the primary dangers associated with the rise of the nanny state is that when government assumes moral responsibility for others, people are less likely to do so themselves. Wolfe noted that large increases in welfare spending in Sweden, Denmark and Norway over the last half century have ended up eroding the moral fabric of families and civic institutions in these societies. Scandinavians have come to depend not on family, civil society, or themselves, but on the government for their basic needs.

The problem with this Scandinavian-style welfare dependency is that many Scandinavians, especially young adults who have grown up taking the welfare state for granted, are markedly less likely to attend to the social, material, and emotional needs of family and friends than earlier generations. As a consequence, social solidarity is down and social pathology-from drinking to crime-is up. In Wolfe's words, "High tax rates in Scandinavia encourage governmental responsibility for others; they do not, however, necessarily inspire a personal sense of altruism and a feeling of moral unity toward others with whom one's fate is always linked." Not surprisingly, cheating on taxes is on the rise in Scandinavian countries, both because the social solidarity undergirding these societies is fraying and because men and women-especially high earners-are recoiling from paying the hefty taxes associated with keeping their nanny states afloat (sound familiar?).

The dangers that Wolfe identifies in societies like Sweden would likely be even more salient in America, which has a much lower level of cultural homogeneity and collectivism than the Scandinavian nations. In the United States, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, religious institutions have long provided crucial social and moral ballast to the individualistic ethos of our nation. For instance, as political scientist Arthur Brooks pointed out in his recent book, Who Really Cares , religious Americans are significantly more likely to give to charity and to volunteer their time than are secularists. In 2000, he found, for instance, that ninety-one percent of regular churchgoers (those who attend religious services nearly every week or more frequently) gave money to charities, compared to sixty-six percent of secularists (those who attend religious services a couple times a year or not at all); moreover, sixty-seven percent of churchgoers volunteered, compared to forty-four percent of secularists.

This is why, even though Obama's audacious agenda might provide short-term relief to the economic and social challenges that now beset us, over the long term the Obama revolution is likely to erode first the religious and then the civic and moral fabric of the nation. Undoubtedly, this is not the change religious believers who put their faith in Obama last November are hoping for from this president. But if the European experiment with the welfare state tells us anything, it tells us that this is the change we can expect from a successful Obama revolution.



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

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

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


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Monday, March 09, 2009

The racist Dutch

The article below, printed in "De Telegraaf" in Holland, describes the cancellation of a big celebration party that was to be held in honour of the appointment of a new police chief in the province of South Holland - a region that has been without a police chief for the past year and a half. The reason for cancelling? The new police chief, Teun Visscher, is white!

The Dutch Minister of Internal Affairs, Ms. Ter Horst, has also refused to give her approval to the promotion of Police Chief Visscher, stating that the choice should have been for either a woman or a black person. The minister has demanded that the police corps of South Holland give him a guarantee that Visscher will be the "last white man to fill the top post" in the corps.

This decision was made despite the fact that the province has been unable to find a black or female police officer qualified to fill the post of police chief.

The severe anti-discrimination laws of Holland apparently no longer apply to Government Ministers or the Police Force.
Groot feest promotie afgelast: Blanke politiebaas taboe

Een feest voor een nieuwe korpschef in Zuid-Holland is in allerijl afgeblazen, na discussie over de benoeming van 'weer een blanke man' in de politietop.

Minister Ter Horst (Binnenlandse Zaken) gaf de gevraagde en verwachte goedkeuring voor deze benoeming niet. Voor de installatie van Teun Visscher was schouwburg Kunstmin in Dordrecht al afgehuurd voor een groot feest, aanstaande dinsdag. Het korps moest de boeking annuleren.

Haar ministerie zegt dat zo'n feest dan 'veel te vroeg' is gepland. Bij een informele bijeenkomst bespraken diverse korpschefs deze week openlijk dat Ter Horst dwarsligt. Zo moet de politie garanderen dat Visscher de l  tste 'blanke man' is die voorlopig in de politietop komt. De volgende moet per se een vrouw zijn of een kleurtje hebben - ongeacht of er betere kandidaten zijn.

"De korpsbeheerders hebben met de minister afgesproken dat vijftig procent van de politietop vrouw of allochtoon wordt", zegt een woordvoerder van het ministerie. "Als nu een blanke mannelijke korpschef wordt benoemd, kan de volgende geen blanke man zijn."

Het korps in Zuid-Holland zit al bijna anderhalf jaar zonder korpschef. Voor de functie werden wel twee vrouwen benaderd. Maar zij konden niet, of waren niet gekwalificeerd.

Daarop werd Visscher voorgedragen. Ter Horst wil ook uit de subtop 'blanke mannen' weren. Deze bestuurslaag moet minstens voor 30 procent vrouw of allochtoon zijn. Hier is veel gemor over bij de politie. Prima kandidaten worden geblokkeerd, terwijl de eisen omlaag gaan omdat er nauwelijks vrouwelijke en allochtone kandidaten zijn.

Zo werd in Noord-Holland-Noord een vrouwelijke korpschef benoemd, afkomstig van stadstoezicht in Amsterdam. De promotie is zeer omstreden.


Boris Johnson on censorship of what children see

The perennially untidy Boris Johnson is the Conservative Mayor of London and has far and away the best sense of humour of any leading politician anywhere -- Which is refreshing after the perennial rage of Leftists. I don't always agree with him but enjoy his writing immensely. Not very surprisingly, his father is a brilliant humorous writer too. See here and here. He read classics at Balliol so had a good but old-fashioned education. Which makes it surprising that he misspells "krater" as "crater" below. Perhaps a spell-checker "corrected" what Boris originally wrote. A krater was a large decorative pot used in ancient Greece to mix wine and water. It is spelled with a "k" (kappa) even in Greek. The mention of Liege below refers to several recent shocking crimes against children in Belgium. Oxfam is a self-righteous British charity that runs thrift shops

The risk of going on holiday with friends is that you inadvertently expose the vagaries of your child-rearing methods to the scrutiny of others. Some parents seem to be breast-feeding lusty six-year-olds. Some of them have strange systems of potty training. And I am now accused by my fellow parents of being eccentrically liberal in what I consider suitable for the kiddies to watch on television. It happened like this. We were all chuckling at a DVD of For Your Eyes Only, a superbly bad 1981 Bond film starring Roger Moore, and I was just thinking what wholesome family viewing it was. For those of us in the throes of middle age it was cheering to watch the elderly Roger Moore as he creaked around the set while younger, fitter women flung themselves at his wobbly jowls. It is not so much an action movie as an anti-ageism tract.

So there we were giggling away, when another friend and mother came in and said - very nicely - would we mind pressing the pause button, because she didn't want her 11-year-old exposed to the sex'n'violence of James Bond; and of course we immediately complied, though I was puzzled. There was no swearing; the violence was so parodic as to be completely undisturbing. As for sex, the only racy scene involved Bond and the girl taking off their dressing gowns, so that you saw their undraped knees - in the case of Roger Moore, a reassuringly wrinkly knee.

What was wrong with that, I wondered; and then another parent piped up and observed that we let our children watch a film called Hot Fuzz - an acutely observed satire of rural policing - even though it carried a 15 certificate, and most of our children were not yet 15. Yes, said someone else, and what about this DVD of Shaun of the Dead? Don't tell me you let your children watch Shaun of the Dead? Er, yes, I said. Like families across Britain, our family has been richly entertained by the bit where they bludgeon the zombies with cricket bats, and the bit in Hot Fuzz where the spire falls from the church and skewers someone.

But I have to admit that under the interrogation of my friends I felt a spasm of guilt. Am I contributing to the erosion of public morals? Am I failing to set the right boundaries? Am I partly responsible for Broken Britain? Well, yes, you are, said one friend and mother. These James Bond films glamorised violence, she argued. They carried the implication that chaps with guns were successful with women, and she didn't like the way her three-year-old rushed around pointing his finger and going bang.

And what's this, said someone else, riffling through the pile of DVDs: not Desperate Housewives! Not Sex and the City! Did we really let our children watch these shows? I don't think I am grown-up enough to cope with a full episode of Sex and the City, since it is Aristophanic in its vulgarity, but I had to admit that some of our children might have seen some of it, and they might have seen some of Desperate Housewives; and by this time I realised that I stood convicted in the eyes of my peers. We have been so lax as to allow our nation's future - at their most impressionable age - to be exposed to shattering images of New York harlots, exsanguinating zombies and Roger Moore's knees.

I have been racking my brains for a defence, and the first point to make is that we are always slightly stunned to discover what the younger generation is reading or watching. I remember my grandmother being amazed that I was reading David Niven's risque memoir, The Moon's a Balloon; and no one stopped me picking up Flashman, at the age of 11, and discovering that the hero gets off to a cracking start in life by being expelled from school and raping his father's mistress. I speak for most of my generation when I say that in every group of 13-year-old boys there was always a porn merchant who did a lively trade in Knave or Fiesta before going on to hone his skills at Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs.

Did these literary or visual stimuli corrupt us, or make us any more dysfunctional than we would otherwise have been? I doubt it, any more than children in fifth-century Athens would have been corrupted by sneaking a look at the images on their parents' red?figure calyx-craters.

Every generation is phobic about the effect of new technology on the morals of the next, and the truth is, I don't like the idea of kids spending hours on the web, probably being groomed by paedophiles from Liege; and yet all the kids I know - whatever they have been goggling at - seem remarkably unruffled, and surprisingly moralistic. No matter how sordid the programmes, they disapprove vehemently of swearing. Anything remotely racist or homophobic sounds much more profane, to their ears, than it did to children 30 years ago. I could direct you to an 11-year?old who certainly likes Desperate Housewives, but the show she really loves is called High School Musical and is so clean as to be positively emetic.

Sometimes I think our censoriousness is not so much about protecting children as it is about preventing them from seeing the embarrassing silliness of adult behaviour. Of course there must be limits. It's just that I am not sure we always put them in the right place. The satirical schlock of Hot Fuzz is apparently only suitable for those of 15 and above, while the much nastier and more violent Batman yarn, The Dark Knight, rates only a 12A. What's that about? In so far as there is any potential for corruption in these films, it depends, I suppose, on what else is going on in the lives of our kids and what else they do with their time.

The real trouble is that they watch too much blasted electronic media altogether, and for a treatment of this painful issue I direct you to the micro-selling volume, The Perils of the Pushy Parents, by me, published by HarperCollins, and still available at the local Oxfam.


Why is it 'Left wing' to allow millions to live on benefits and let children get each other pregnant, asks the ex-minister who broke Labour's last taboo

By Tom Harris, Labour Mp For Glasgow South

A prominent Labour politician in Glasgow once told me of a family he knew, every member of which was claiming incapacity benefit. When one of the sons managed to get a job, he was pressured by the rest of the family into giving it up, since an adult in the household gaining employment put the family at risk of being deprived of other benefits, including council tax.

The benefits culture remains Glasgow's shame, and it is not confined to my city; many other post-industrial areas of Britain suffer the same malaise of second and third generations of families being brought up to believe a life on benefits is acceptable. It isn't, as I said a few days ago on my blog. I was not just trying to make the point that young women's lives are wasted by early pregnancy and a subsequent life dependent on benefits. I was also seeking to reverse what I see as a culture of tolerance, where we are now expected to accept everyone else's choices without criticism or judgment, even when those choices have a negative effect on the wider community.

This has led us to a place where children are giving birth to children. There is no criticism of 16, 15 or even 14-year-old girls (and boys) who become parents. Yet why is it so difficult for us to admit that when a 14-year-old becomes pregnant, or gets his girlfriend pregnant, it is a personal tragedy and a social failure?

This is where politicians are completely out of step with the public. I have been taken aback by the number of people who have told me how relieved they are that I have come out and said what to most people has been blindingly obvious for years.

Politicians are not expected to talk about moral absolutes. Raising questions about other people's choices, after all, could offend someone and nothing is less acceptable these days than causing someone offence. I certainly seem to have offended a lot of people in the past few days. I was severely criticised by some on the Left and a number of women have contacted me to say they felt insulted, pointing out that since becoming single parents at a young age, they had gone on to further and higher education and made a success of their lives. Which is brilliant. I have nothing but admiration for them.

But I was very specifically criticising our acceptance of those young women who lose all their educational and career opportunities because of their pregnancies and who spend the rest of their lives on benefit.

So why are so many on the Left angry at me? For some it is because they don't feel it is a problem; they believe that, as a rich society, we can afford to fund this 'lifestyle choice'. Others are uneasy at a Labour politician making judgments about other people's choices; I have 'no right' to put greater value on one person's choices than on another's, it seems. Still others fear I am adopting the rhetoric of the Right-wing by 'doing a Peter Lilley', the Social Security Secretary who caused controversy by lampooning benefits cheats with his 'I have a little list ...' Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche at the 1992 Tory conference - and by attacking vulnerable young women.

But I'm attacking no one. I am pointing out that we have an unacceptably high level of teenage pregnancies. I am stating a fact that, for many of these young women (and far fewer young men), parenthood will mean fewer opportunities and a higher chance of life on benefits. There is no doubt that raising yet another generation of young men in fatherless homes is a recipe for social disaster.

Yes, I'm generalising and, yes, there are plenty of homes where the absence of a violent, abusive father is a blessing to the mother and children. But common sense dictates that, in general, children benefit from having the love of a mother and a father. Yet what kind of society have we created when the above statement will inevitably be seen by some as offensive, narrow-minded and intolerable? As for the accusation of giving comfort to the 'Right-wing', when did it become 'Left-wing' to tolerate such a colossal waste of lives? Why is it 'Left-wing' to allow millions of people to remain on benefits instead of working? When did 'Labour' stop meaning 'work' and start to mean 'benefits'?

There are many others who believe the gradualist approach to moving people off benefits and into work is the right way to go. But my instinct tells me more radical measures will have to be introduced to see the step-change needed to make a real difference to the number of claimants. I know of some Ministers who would prefer this issue not to be raised, who would rather be able to get on with quietly and doggedly chipping away at the mountain of claimants, encouraging here, facilitating there, empowering here ...

But if more extreme measures, such as financial penalties for long-term claimants, need to be implemented in future, they will need public support. That means being absolutely honest about the scale of the problem and the devastation that long-term benefit dependency can cause.

I have written before about the responsibility the Thatcher Government bears for initiating the benefits dependency culture in the Eighties, when millions of redundant workers with no hope of further employment were encouraged to claim invalidity benefits to keep the headline jobless figures at a 'politically acceptable' level. That argument is still valid. But I don't care which government or politician was responsible for the problem 25 years ago. I don't want to know who is to blame for the fact that the problem has barely receded since then. The only thing that matters is that children are still getting each other pregnant and that their children will grow up without the life chances I think they deserve. And another generation is about to be lost to the benefits culture. No matter who wins the arguments in the TV newsrooms and the Commons about who should accept the blame, our society will remain hobbled by benefits dependency.

No single party, I'm convinced, has all the answers. James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has proposed some of the most radical changes yet to the welfare state. But just because Labour is in Government does not give us a monopoly on solutions. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, have much to add to this debate, as has Frank Field, the Labour MP who was asked by Tony Blair to 'think the unthinkable' back in 1997, who did - and was sacked for his efforts.

It has taken nearly three decades of failure to get to this point. It could take us a similar time to repair the damage. So the sooner we start, the better. Instead of our political leaders blaming each other for our past failures, far better, surely, for them in years to come to be able to share the credit for their success by giving back hope and ambition to our young people.


The EU equality law that will let 'upset' atheists sue companies that hang up crucifixes

Organisations which hang crucifixes on walls could be sued if they upset atheists under equality laws proposed by the European Union. Any group offering a service to the public, including hospitals, charities, businesses and prisons, would be at risk. Legislation may also allow Christians to bring an action against a hotel if it displayed something they deemed offensive - such as a poster for the 1979 Monty Python film The Life Of Brian.

There are already laws banning harassment in the workplace, but the new Brussels regulations are designed to offer people protection from providers of goods and services. However, they are so broad that critics say they could lead to a spate of civil cases by anyone claiming their dignity has been violated by the 'hostile environment' of an organisation. The Church of England says hospices or charities for the homeless could face legal action if people using their services felt degraded by their religious practices or symbols, such as the cross. The Archbishops' Council even fears that charities could be challenged by atheists if grace is said before meals. The Law Society says religious believers may also be able to launch a civil action for harassment.

In an official submission to the EU, the society said: 'For instance, in a shop or shared lodging house, there may be a notice board on which is posted material that some of those who see it will find offensive on religious grounds (for instance, a poster for a film, such as The Life Of Brian).'

The proposals, which go before EU governments for approval later this year, are part of a new directive outlawing discrimination by businesses on the grounds of sexual orientation, age, disability or belief. If approved, it will become the latest in a swathe of European-inspired equality laws which critics say stifle freedom of speech and marginalise religion.

The Government tried to introduce a similar law in 2005 but dropped it after a resounding rejection by the House of Lords. Peers feared it would encourage politically correct officials to stop public expressions of religion, such as carol services or Bibles by hospital bedsides.

Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said the proposed EU directive would 'open a Pandora's box'. He asked: 'What about Gideon Bibles in hotel bedrooms? Would councils ban nativity scenes from Christmas displays?' A spokeswoman for the Government Equalities Office, which is responsible for the EU directive, said it was felt that existing UK law was 'adequate'.



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

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

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


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Sunday, March 08, 2009

British parents face court action for removing children from homosexual history lessons

Parents face possible court action for withdrawing their children from lessons on gay and lesbian history. More than 30 pupils were pulled out of a week of teaching at a primary school which included books about homosexual partnerships. The controversial content was worked into the curriculum at George Tomlinson School in Waltham Forest, East London.

The council has declared that children who missed the lessons will be viewed as truants. The ruling means some families could breach rules that children should not be absent for more than 19 days a year. Sanctions include spot fines, parenting contracts and ultimately court action.

The parents, who objected to the lessons on moral and religious grounds, said the content was more appropriate to secondary age pupils. Pervez Latif, whose children Saleh, ten, and Abdur-Rahim, nine, attend the school, said he knew of up to 30 withdrawals from the lessons. The 41-year-old accountant said Christian and Muslim parents had objected to the theme linked to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month. `We as parents did not receive any guidance that this was going to happen,' he added. `There was just a newsletter mentioning the week and that certain themes would be taught. `I didn't want my children to be learning about this. I wrote a letter to the chairman of the governors explaining that I would be taking my children out of school and he wrote back saying that there was no other option. `If I am faced with court action, then I will just explain that these are my views. It was also very difficult explaining to my nine- and ten-year-old boys why they were being removed from school. `I found it difficult to explain topics such as homosexual relationships at such a young age.'

One story covered in a lesson was King and King, a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before falling in love with one of their brothers. Another book, And Tango Makes Three, features two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love at a New York zoo.

Sarah Saeed, 40, took her eight-year-old daughter out of school during the week. She said: `It is not an appropriate age for the children to be learning such matters. We have our own way of explaining things to them and they should not be subjected to this. `I was aware they were going to be learning about homosexual relationships through stories. `If the council takes action against me I will tell them that I told the school beforehand I would be taking my child away if they did not change their policy. `She has a 100 per cent attendance record otherwise. This is the only time and this is the only choice I had.'

Parents have a legal right to withdraw their children from religious education and sex education lessons - apart from science lessons which cover biological reproduction as part of the national curriculum. A spokesman for Waltham Forest Council said: `As part of the borough's policy of promoting tolerance in our schools, children are taught that everyone in our society is of equal value. `At George Tomlinson, parents were invited to meet with teachers and governors several weeks ago to discuss what work would be taking place throughout the national LGBT History Month and how this work would be delivered. `Regrettably, some parents chose to remove their children from school. `The council does not condone any unauthorised absence from school and action has been taken.'

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: `It is a fundamental principle of education law that children must be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. 'It is outrageous for a school or local authority to think it can ride roughshod over parents and impose lessons upon children that arouse such widespread concerns. `The only action that needs to be taken is to offer an apology to the parents concerned.'

George Tomlinson is close to a school which launched a gay version of Romeo and Juliet called Romeo and Julian - also to mark the alternative history month.


Gym club banned from holding classes at girls school after Muslim parents complain about boy members

A gymnastics club was forced to stop holding classes at an independent girls school after Muslim parents complained about boy members of the group. Colin Perry, who runs the Shirley Gymnastics Club, said he was saddened by the decision which he said compromised the school's commitment to multiculturalism because of fears of offending a minority. He is now desperately searching for a new home for the club's 250 members - including 36 boys - which had held mixed-sex classes at the junior school site of Old Palace School, in Croydon, South London, since January last year.

'It's unbelievable,' Mr Perry said. 'There is a group of Muslim parents with Muslim children at the school and they are the ones putting pressure on the headteacher. 'It makes me sad to say that.'

He was told about the decision at a meeting with headteacher Judy Harris a few weeks ago. 'She said some of the parents have said their children go to an independent all girls school and unfortunately they're concerned because we have got boys in the club,' Mr Perry said. 'She said to us that the school has got far more Muslim children than last year, so effectively we have to interpret that in our own way.'

Dudley Mead, a Tory Councillor in Croydon and governor at Old Palace school, said he was aware of the parents' concerns. He said: 'That's the Muslim belief isn't it? They are very protective of their female children.' The school did offer a compromise, that the gym club could stay but start later at 6.30pm, rather than 5pm as at present, by which time pupils will be off the site. But Mr Perry says this would be impractical as some sessions wouldn't end until 9.30pm, which is way too late for many of the club's young members. The club, which caters for young gymnasts aged between five and 21, has until April 3 to find a new home.

Mrs Harris released a statement and refused to answer any further questions. In it she said: 'We were unable to accommodate the early starting time of the club as the school was still functioning. 'We had hoped that the club could be held at a later time but this was thought unworkable by the organisers. 'It has not been a decision taken lightly but we have to consider the needs of the school and the security of the site given the very young age of our juniors.'

On its website the school describes how it has a Christian Foundation and is devoted to unleashing creativity and innovation and 'celebrating multicultural understanding and respect.' Last year the school scrapped halal food from the menu after complaints from outraged parents.


Family's fury at lazy British prosecutors who left husband free to kill wife despite her warnings he would murder her

The family of a young mother stabbed to death by her abusive husband yesterday condemned the authorities for missing repeated opportunities to put him behind bars. Sabina Akhtar, 26, had told police that Malik Mannan had beaten her 25 times, and predicted he would kill her if he had the chance. However, prosecutors decided not to charge him, even though he had repeatedly breached bail conditions by pestering her and calling at her home. Taxi driver Mannan, 36, then taunted Miss Akhtar by text message, boasting: `I am a free man, since 1.30. Case file closed. Isn't it great.' Five days later he burst into the marital home and stabbed the mother-of-one to death with a kitchen knife.

Last night, after Mannan was jailed for life, his wife's family attacked the blunders by the Crown Prosecution Service. Her uncle, Reaz Talukder, said: `Sabina's parents blame the CPS for their wrong decision not to charge Malik Mannan at an earlier stage. 'This was simply negligence - if they had charged him she might not be dead.' He added: `Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel about the brutal killing of Sabina.'

CPS chiefs have admitted they got it wrong, and have promised to meet her family to apologise.

The couple had an arranged marriage in Bangladesh in 2003, and Miss Akhtar joined him in Britain two years later when she was pregnant with their son, Tahmid, now three. But she discovered he had a gambling habit and was having an affair with another woman, Suraiya Ali, by whom he had two children. He promised to end the affair, but not only continued to be unfaithful but also began beating his wife repeatedly. She suffered in silence for the sake of their son until two days of vicious abuse in July last year when he repeatedly lifted her by her throat before throwing her to the floor. Mannan warned: `One day I will kill you just like this. One day you will die in this way.'

She went to police, but no formal complaint was recorded. Early the following morning he attacked her again, telling her `This is your final hour', but left after she made a desperate call for help to his brother. He threatened to return with a knife and `slaughter' her.

Miss Akhtar went back to police who took a statement with the aid of an interpreter. In it, she warned: `I have become extremely concerned about my personal safety. `My husband is a man of an extreme violent nature. I genuinely believe if he gets the opportunity, he will not hesitate to kill me.' Mannan was arrested on suspicion of assault and making threats to kill before being released on bail. His bail conditions required him to stay away from his wife. But, soon afterwards, he turned up at their home in Longsight, Manchester, demanding over the next few days to be let in. He was arrested again, but this time the CPS advised that he should be released without charge, and his bail conditions were removed.

Five days later, Miss Akhtar contacted a community worker saying she feared for her safety and called relatives saying he was `stalking' her. That night Mannan burst in armed with a kitchen knife and stabbed her in the chest. He bought a plane ticket to Bangladesh, but he was arrested before he could flee. After a jury took just 20 minutes to convict him of murder, he was jailed for life at Manchester Crown Court and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years.

Afterwards her uncle added: `Sabina was loved very dearly, she was a brave woman and was devoted to her only son who is now under foster carers. `We are now satisfied that justice has been done.'

A CPS spokesman said: `We have dealt with this through our disciplinary procedures.' The case has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.


Can Congress Regulate All Political Speech?

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., which will be argued before the Supreme Court today, is one of the most important cases this term. Unfortunately, much of the press coverage of this dispute is superficial and misleading -- and as a result, the public is unaware of the momentous First Amendment issues at stake.

The case has its roots in a complicated tale of political and corporate intrigue between two coal companies, leading eventually to a jury verdict of $50 million in favor of Hugh Caperton, owner of Harman Mining Co., against Massey Coal Co. for fraud and breach of contract. As Massey's appeal worked its way through the West Virginia court system, Massey CEO Don Blankenship spent $3 million of his personal funds in 2004 on hard-hitting advertisements attacking incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, who was seeking re-election.

Mr. McGraw's opponent, Brent Benjamin, won that election and later joined the 3-to-2 majority that threw out the verdict against Massey. The argument before the Supreme Court is that Justice Benjamin should have recused himself from the case because of Mr. Blankenship's campaign expenditures. National media coverage has framed the issue as one of defining a standard for recusal due to contributions to judicial campaigns -- but it has muddied a crucial distinction between independent spending and direct campaign contributions. Left undiscussed as well are the free speech consequences of requiring a judge's recusal based on the spending of an independent group....

The difference between campaign contributions and independent spending has, for more than 30 years, occupied a central position in campaign finance law. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may regulate direct contributions to candidates, which can create at least the appearance of a quid pro quo exchange. But the Court has consistently rejected regulation of independent expenditures, recognizing that if the government can regulate any spending that might influence an election or make a candidate grateful, it can effectively regulate all political speech. Ads urging congressmen to vote against the stimulus? The Democrats could have banned them. The Republicans for their part could have gone after the ads critical of President George W. Bush before the 2006 elections that tossed the GOP out of power.

Self-styled reform groups such as Democracy 21, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Public Citizen -- always eager to regulate political speech -- are scrambling for any affirmation that expenditures automatically equal corruption. Hence these groups have, en masse, joined Mr. Caperton's side.

Suppose Brent Benjamin lost: would the re-elected Justice McGraw have been required to recuse himself from Caperton v. Massey? Wouldn't he be biased against Massey? (Mr. Blankenship's ads, Justice McGraw told the New York Times, "absolutely destroyed" him and made him "embarrassed to go out in public.") If so, the justice would have been off Mr. Blankenship's case no matter who won the election.

Short of abolishing judicial elections -- which many "reform" groups would like to do -- there is no credible way to craft a workable recusal standard based on independent speech. Recusal rules present a serious issue. Yet a victory for Mr. Caperton would establish the proposition that political speech -- not contributions to a politician's campaign, but the independent speech of citizens -- "corrupts" democracy. For those who think that free speech and a healthy democracy go hand in hand, the stakes could hardly be higher.



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

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

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


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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

Critics, outraged that the Boy Scouts of America are allowed to exclude gays and atheists while receiving federal funding, want the president to reject the title of honorary president of the Scouts

President Obama says he wants to be president of all the people. But some groups are urging him to make an exception for the Boy Scouts of America. Critics of the Scouts who are outraged that the group is allowed to exclude gays and atheists while receiving federal funding are urging Obama to reject the group's honorary presidency, a designation bestowed on every U.S. president since William Howard Taft in 1910. "I'm hoping and praying he turns down the honorary presidency," said Howard Menzer, president of Scouting for All, which advocates for inclusion of gays into the Boy Scouts. "No way should he be involved with a discriminatory group. That would be the best thing that could happen if he said, 'You discriminate too much for me. I can't be your honorary president.' I think that might begin to change a few things."

Obama was meeting with a delegation of the Boy Scouts in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon, at which time he was to accept the group's 2008 Report to the Nation. A Boy Scouts spokesman said Obama has indicated he will accept the title of honorary president. "We believe one of our greatest strengths as a nation is that we can disagree on a number of issues while agreeing to support the common good," Deron Smith, a spokesman for BSA, told FOXNews.com. "We're a voluntary, private organization for families that share our values," he added. "While many may disagree with our policies, there's no question that we're part of the common good and have been for 100 years."

The White House did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

As a presidential candidate, Obama provoked fears from conservative groups that his policies would undermine the Scouts. Focus on the Family Action wrote a hypothetical letter last year imagining the consequences of an Obama presidency. In the "Letter from 2012" in Obama's America, the Boy Scouts disbanded rather than obey a decision forcing them to allow homosexual scoutmasters. The group, which is a cultural action organization separate from Focus on the Family, backed away from that rhetoric during an interview with FOXNews.com. "The Boy Scouts are a venerable faith-based institution in our country. And the president could celebrate diversity by accepting that honorary status," said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of public policy for the group. "We hope the White House will keep its hands off the Boy Scouts," he said. "The courts have settled the question." In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts can bar homosexuals from being troop leaders.

Because of the Boy Scouts' exclusionary practices, some public schools across the country tried to limit or end their ties with the organization. But in 2001 the federal government ordered public schools to keep their doors open to the Scouts. And Congress, responding to the threat of campus lockouts, voted to cut federal funding to any school that banned the Scouts or any similar group from "open forum" access.

Taxpayers also fund Boy Scout activities with several millions of dollars through military personnel, federal land use and other assistance. Taxpayers doled out roughly $8 million for the 2005 Jamboree, held every four years.

Gay and atheist activists now hope Obama will signal his disapproval of the Boy Scouts practices or turn the federal faucet off. The American Humanist Association, along with 18 other nontheistic, atheist and agnostic organizations, sent a letter to Obama in January urging him to reject the title of honorary president. "The BSA has elected to set itself apart as a private organization that may discriminate in ways contrary to the laws and practices required of local, state, and federal authorities," the letter reads. "Accepting the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America would thus send the message that institutional discrimination against people who don't happen to believe in a god is acceptable." AHA president David Niose pointed out that Obama was raised by a mother he described as a secular humanist. "As such, he surely realizes that, if he were to accept the current Boy Scout standard, he would be endorsing discrimination against the same value system under which he was raised."


MA: "Married" homosexuals sue for equal benefits

Mary Ritchie, a Massachusetts State Police trooper, has been married for almost five years and has two children. But when she files her federal income tax return, she's not allowed to check the "married filing jointly" box. That's because Ritchie and her spouse, Kathleen Bush, are a gay couple, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act makes them ineligible to file joint tax returns.

Now Ritchie, Bush and more than a dozen others are suing the federal government, claiming the act discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as pensions and health insurance. Plaintiffs also include Dean Hara, the widower of former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. In Ritchie's case, she and her spouse say they have paid nearly $15,000 more in taxes than they would have if they had been able to file joint returns.

"It saddens us because we love our country," Ritchie said. "We are taxpayers. We live just like anyone else in our community. We do everything just like every other family, like every other married couple, and we are treated like less than that."

The lawsuit was being filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the anti-discrimination group that brought a successful legal challenge leading to Massachusetts becoming the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage in 2004. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire allow civil unions.

Californians voted in November to overturn a court ruling that allowed gay marriage, but the state still offers domestic partnerships that guarantee the same rights as marriage. Hawaii is considering a bill that will allow same-sex civil unions.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The new lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording Social Security and other benefits to same-sex couples.

More here

Only 38% of Britons have any faith in their police

This is a huge change. The British were once remarkable for the high esteem in which they held their police. I remember it well

Less than half of the public have confidence in the police to deal with crime and loutish behaviour, a Government survey revealed yesterday. In some force areas, the approval rating is an alarmingly low 38 per cent, while nationwide it is only 46 per cent, the Home Office said. Now Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is demanding that all forces achieve a confidence rating of 60 per cent by 2012 - even though this will still leave four out of ten people without faith in the police.

Miss Smith said that, with immediate effect, she was scrapping all the targets currently imposed on police forces by her department, such as asset recovery, monitoring prolific young offenders and race equality employment. In their place will come the single new measure of confidence. To hit a confidence rating of 60 per cent, some forces will have to make dramatic improvements.

Critics said the Government was responsible for the public having so little trust in the police to protect them. They said officers were so bound up in red tape they were unable to do the jobs the public demanded - such as patrolling the streets. Conservative policing spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This underlines the real urgency of getting more police back on the beat to deter anti-social behaviour and make arrests where necessary. 'That is what the public want to see in their neighbourhoods. Twelve years of Labour red tape and bureaucracy have wasted police time, keeping them away from front line crime-fighting.'

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: ' This reflects not so much the public's attitude to the police, but to the criminal justice system in general. 'The view is that the whole system is failing and because the police are in the front line we take the brunt of it. How can any society be expected to cope with 70 per cent re-offending rates?'

The findings, based on the British Crime Survey of 30,000 homes, are the first directly to address the question: 'Do you have confidence in police and local councils in dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime?' Lincolnshire scored only 38 per cent while South Wales managed 38.7 per cent, Humberside 39.2 per cent and Gwent 39.3 per cent.

Miss Smith said: 'I have a single-minded focus on building public confidence in policing and that means the police should be answering to the public, not the Government. That is why I have scrapped all but one central target for the police - to raise public confidence. 'I have always been clear that this target needs to be challenging if we are to see real change in public confidence in the police. By 2012, I want to see at least 60 per cent of people confident that the police are addressing what matters locally.'

However, police insiders questioned the significance of the Home Office scrapping the existing targets. Forces will still be answerable to other Whitehall departments, such as the Audit Commission, and will also remain free to set their own local targets.

Meanwhile, complaints against police officers in England and Wales have risen to record levels. According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission there were 48,280 complaints in the year to March, up 5 per cent on the previous year and the highest total since independent investigations began more than 20 years ago. Most of the complaints concerned alleged failures to investigate or record crimes properly.


Intelligence is no guarantee of goodness

by Jeff Jacoby

PETER SINGER has written a new book. The prominent Australian philosopher, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, argues in The Life You Can Save that residents of the affluent West have it within their power to eradicate extreme Third World poverty and its attendant suffering. By donating money to charity instead of spending it on things we don't really need, he writes, everyone can save lives -- and when you fail to do so, he suggests, "you are leaving a child to die, a child you could have saved."

Singer told the Wall Street Journal last week that he tries to practice what he preaches by giving one-third of his income to "Oxfam and other organizations working in the field." Few of us can give away that much of our earnings, but Singer urges most people to donate between 1 percent and 5 percent of what they make to help the destitute, with those who earn more digging even deeper.

You don't have to be a disciple of Singer's philosophy to admire his commitment to charity, especially when you consider the tightfistedness of some of our leading public figures. (One recent example: For the 10 years ending in 2007, then-Senator Joseph Biden and his wife gave slightly more than one-eighth of 1 percent of their income to charity -- a mere $3,690 on an adjusted gross income of $2.45 million.) I salute Singer's generosity, and sincerely hope that his new book prompts many readers to do more for the needy than they have ever thought about doing before.

And yet I can't help wondering which will ultimately prove more influential -- Singer's efforts to save lives through charity, or the role he has played as an intellectual enabler for the modern culture of death.

In 2005, Foreign Policy marked its 35th anniversary by asking several thinkers to speculate on what ideas or values taken for granted today will vanish in the next 35 years. "The sanctity of life," answered Singer, looking forward to the day when "only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct." A year earlier, pronouncing "the whole edifice of Judeo-Christian morality . . . terminally ill," Singer had elaborated on his notorious view that it ought to be lawful to kill severely disabled infants. "All I am saying," he told The Independent, "is, why limit the killing to the womb? Nothing magical happens at birth. Of course infanticide needs to be strictly legally controlled and rare -- but it should not be ruled out, any more than abortion."

Perhaps it seems odd that the same individual can be a champion of both saving life through philanthropy and ending life through legalized infanticide. Yet if morality is merely a matter of opinion and preference -- if there is no overarching ethical code that supersedes any value system we can contrive for ourselves -- then why not value the lives of the impoverished above the lives of the disabled? Singer accepts that some of what he says "seems obscene and evil if you are still looking at it through the prism of the old morality." But give up that "old morality," and the objections are easily resolved.

In his Wall Street Journal interview, Singer spoke of dilemmas that may arise in the future when parents are able to select the genetic traits of their offspring. "I would not oppose selecting for intelligence," he says. "We could assume that people of higher intelligence would have good consequences for society."

Could we, though? Does higher intelligence always, or even usually, lead to "good consequences?" Like strength or agility or attractiveness, intelligence is only a gift, not a guarantee -- an asset that can as readily be used to harm others as to help them. Singer's faith in intelligence is consistent with his own life's work, but highly intelligent people are perfectly capable of monstrousness. Reason, education, and intellectual quickness are to be prized, but they are no substitute for good character, kindness, and ethical values. In the 20th century, after all, it was learned intellectuals who signed newspaper ads supporting Stalin, and men with PhDs who planned Hitler's Final Solution.

Intelligence alone will not make the world a better place, and if anyone's career proves the point, it is Singer's. Over the years, he has turned his skill to rationalizing bestiality, proposing a 28-day period during which newborns could be killed, and concluding that breeding children for spare parts is "not . . . something really wrong in itself." And why not? Once you've jettisoned the "old morality," good and evil become just a matter of opinion. "Man without God is a beast," wrote Whittaker Chambers, "never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness."



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

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

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


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Friday, March 06, 2009

Leftist support for drug abusers

Our public policies are indeed founded on the liberal notion that drug users need support, but the opposite view prevails in the country. The result is an underlying tension that, for the most part, we successfully ignore. Just occasionally, however, the moral issues surrounding drugs, and our inability to deal with them, are painfully exposed.

Where, one wonders, does Jake Myerson fit as a drug user? When he was 17, his mother, the novelist Julie Myerson, ejected Jake from home because of his abusive and occasionally violent behaviour. As a teenager in South London, Jake, now 20, became a user of the addictive and powerful form of cannabis known as skunk; on the receiving end, many would say, of peer pressure. His parents, worried about their younger children, gave him a chance to reform and when he didn't, they changed the locks. Jake was taken in by a friend's parents.

Did the Myersons do the right thing? Was it a child they threw out, a victim of drugs; or an abusive young man who needed to be shown the consequences of his behaviour? Jakes's father is Jonathan Myerson, also a writer, magistrate and former councillor. The couple are educated middle-class people - very smug, in Julie Myerson's own words - who saw themselves as good parents. Were they confused about where the boundaries lay?

Plainly, they suffered private agonies. So much so, in fact, that Ms Myerson's new book, The Lost Child, a candid version of events, with Jake's name removed, is due out shortly. We cannot pass judgment on its contents, but we can, I think, observe that misery literature, in all its forms, is still a bestselling genre.

Victimhood, however, is a crowded town to live in. Jake condemned the book this week, saying that he did not want it published. He resents that his mother has been writing about him "for the past 16 years". He's not an addict, he says, describing his parents as naive, insane and emotional about his use of drugs. And there we have it: a man-child who feels rejected, exploited, his rights abused, who says that the drugs are no big deal. A victim, in other words. And a mother who feels understandably violated by her child's drug use, and who has, probably brilliantly, turned private trauma into literary victimhood.

Everyone is on ambiguous moral ground. The Myerson case is, in many ways, a classic example of how confusing it can be when a comfortable, creative lifestyle rubs up against the harsh realities of drug use.

In the case of Brandon Muir there was no cosy lifestyle, but the same questions about a drug user's rights and the fallibility of liberal attitudes are raised. How far must we consider the drug user as the victim? Sometimes, until they kill someone other than themselves.

The story of Brandon, 23 months old when he died at the hands of his mother's heroin addict boyfriend in Dundee, is as ghastly as that of Baby P. His mother sold her body for drugs while her son was dying from a fatal blow that ruptured his duodenum. The toddler, who had 40 injuries to his body, was then taken to a squalid drugs party, where he vomited brown liquid while, all around him, young addicts partied. They laughed at him being sick. Hours later he was dead. His killer was convicted on Tuesday.

Brandon was not on any at-risk register. Why should he have been, when social policy emphasises that drugs users be supported in their lifestyle, not told to wise up? From top to bottom in the existing system, that ethos rules.

Addicts are official victims. They are not regarded as people with a choice. The presumption, therefore, is on keeping their children at home with them, not removing them. Suggestions that contraception be a condition of receiving methadone for addicts caused an outcry in Scotland, with accusations about eugenics.

Which take precedence? The human rights of the infant born to the junkie, or the right of the junkie to have both lifestyle and children? At the moment, it is firmly the latter. Social policy remains studiously non-interventionist; non-judgmental; passive. Hence the confusion. Hence the increasing number of babies raised in addict households; and hence - if you like- the increasing number of screwed-up middle-class teenagers.

According to an Audit Commission report today, children's services deteriorated last year and remain the least good area of councils' work. We should not be surprised. Among both families and professionals, only confusion and lack of confidence will reign until we begin to address the moral status of drug taking.


The useless British police again

Guess which of the two above is the thug

Two catastrophic errors by police allowed the convicted knife offender Karl Bishop to be free on the streets to murder Rob Knox, the Harry Potter actor. Bishop, 21, is facing life in jail after being found guilty at the Old Bailey of killing Mr Knox outside a bar in Sidcup, Kent, last May. Two months before the murder, he had been named as a suspect to police twice in two days over an alleged burglary and a knifepoint robbery. Inexplicably, officers investigating the claims failed to speak to Bishop or question him, despite his long and violent criminal record going back to his early teens. The inquiries were still "live" in May last year when Bishop, who had only been recently released from jail for slashing two men across the face, stabbed Mr Knox and four of his friends with two kitchen knives, in a 90-second frenzy.

Mr Knox, 18, who had just finished filming for the new film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had confronted the killer after he had earlier threatened his younger brother Jamie at knifepoint. Scotland Yard admitted that the blunder would cause "concern" to the public and the victim's family. When police chiefs learned of the mistake, they called in the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate and launched a force wide review of all outstanding knife offences.

Two police officers, a constable and a sergeant, have been given written warnings. They were based at Plumstead, the same station recently revealed to have failed to identify Robert Napper before he killed Rachel Nickell in 1992, despite him being named by his mother as a rape suspect years before.

Bishop, "a habitual knife carrier" was well known in the area and had two previous knife convictions, one of them for slashing two men in the face in 2005. He served two years of the four-year sentence and nine months after his release, he murdered Mr Knox on May 22 last year. The killing followed a series of incidents, including one at the same Sidcup venue, the Metro bar, the previous week in which Bishop made a "chilling'' prediction. After a row with Mr Knox and his friends, which ended with a fight, Bishop said: "I'm going to come back and someone's going to die".

When he did return as promised, he was armed with two kitchen knives, 11 and 12 inches long. On his way back to the bar he ran across Jamie Knox, 17, and his friends, and threatened them with the blades before continuing on to the bar. Rob was alerted to what had happened by a phone call and came out of the bar to confront Bishop just as he arrived. The knifeman was soon surrounded by a semi-circle of youths and Rob had to be held back as Bishop goaded them, shouting: "Who's going to make my ****** day?"

As well as the murder charge Bishop, who refused to leave the cells to hear the proceedings in the dock yesterday afternoon, was found guilty of wounding Rob's friend Dean Saunders, 23. He was found guilty on majority verdicts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Charlie Grimley, 17, and Nicky Jones, 20. He was also found guilty by a majority of wounding Andrew Dormer, 17, but cleared of wounding another friend, Tom Hopkins, 19. Bishop will be sentenced tomorrow

Asked about the blunders, a spokesman for the Met said: "Lessons have been learned from what happened in this case and measures have been taken, including the introduction of a new system to monitor centrally the progress of action to arrest suspects for all violent crime offences, including knife crime".


"What happened to that America Dad?"

I am "Old School". In a previous era I may have been considered macho. I prefer combat sports (boxing and mixed martial arts) to team sports (baseball and basketball). I prefer outdoor activities (rock climbing, whitewater rafting and camping) to video games. I prefer competition to cooperation, and may the best man win. All too often today, macho self-confidence is confused with "a*shole", "arrogant", or "pig-headed" particularly when it entails any interface with the gentler gender. I believe that in this era of feminized, emasculated, gender-neutral, neutered, politically-correct, "my right to not be offended, trumps your freedom of speech" era, many men who would otherwise voice their opinions have chosen instead to be quiet and pine for a better yesterday. Yet, straight shooters who opt to solve problems rather than wring their hands over them, is exactly what we need.

One method of compensation I have adopted is to collect movies of a John Wayne, Chuck Norris variety. I prefer a simple life where problems can be dealt with head on. The other night, my family was deciding on a movie to watch, and I suggested, that because my son was studying American history and WWII that we watch Patton. The monologue at the beginning is famous and parts bear repeating. "Americans traditionally love to fight." "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser." Within five minutes, of the beginning of the movie, my son turned to me with wonder and admiration in his voice and asked, "Dad, what happened to that America"? I suddenly got tears in my eyes, I hadn't realized how far off the path we had gotten. My response was as accurate as it was politically incorrect, "Son, the last two generations in power have pissed away that America and I fear that if my generation doesn't do something to reverse the slide, there won't be anyone who remembers what was once noble and admired about cowboys and firemen and soldiers".

It has become common in business literature and B School classes to deride the "charismatic leader". To portray the team as paramount and the lone wolf as dangerous, this in the face of all of the facts. Some things to consider, Steve Jobs has saved Apple not once but twice. Microsoft has gone nowhere since Bill Gates backed away from his day to day responsibilities. When Dell got into trouble several years ago, the first thing they did was bring Michael Dell back. In Organizational Behavior they stress the fact that group decisions are often better than what an individual leader will come up with. This is after discussing "sub-optimization" and "group think" and failing to discuss at all, the time cost associated with group dynamics. Give me a decisive, informed, engaged, ethical visionary to a group anytime.

It is interesting to note the difference between Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address and Barak Obama's. Both inherited an America on the ropes. In each case unemployment was high and getting higher. Arguably in Reagan's case the scenario was worse, interest rates were MUCH higher, and inflation was higher. I don't know for sure, but is suspect in Reagan's first thirty days he never claimed that they were in the worst economy since the Great Depression and I suspect he never used the terms "catastrophic", "crisis" or any other similar panty-waste, hand-wringing, pussy whipped, "I feel your pain", BS for what he saw, as a job that needed doing with an outcome measured in the quality of people's lives, NOT in how many poll percentage points a certain stance was worth. What we need in America today is more Patton's and fewer Powell's, more Apple`s and fewer Lehman Brothers, more leadership and fewer focus groups.


The Devil Made LBJ Do It

J. Edgar Hoover is the scapegoat for past Democrat excesses

Don't blame President Lyndon Johnson for digging up salacious gossip on future Motion Pictures Association President Jack Valenti. The devil made him do it. "Previously confidential FBI files show that [J. Edgar] Hoover's deputies set out to determine whether Valenti, who had married two years earlier, maintained a relationship with a male commercial photographer," a page-one Washington Post story revealed last week. "Johnson initially blocked the FBI from obtaining a sworn statement from Valenti or approaching the photographer, asserting that Valenti was 'attracted to the women and not to the men,' files show. But under FBI pressure, the president relented and approved an investigation of his close friend."

The investigation evidently concluded that the ad-man-turned-Johnson-aide-turned-Hollywood-lobbyist was not a homosexual. "Even Bill Moyers, a White House aide now best known as a liberal television commentator, is described in the records as seeking information on the sexual preferences of White House staff members," the Post further reported. "Moyers said by e-mail yesterday that his memory is unclear after so many years but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover."

The Washington Post's scoop, and Moyers's non-denial denial, regurgitates a familiar excuse: Hoover did it. In this time-worn script, the FBI director plays the role of Mephistopheles, with various liberal presidents cast as the innocent with the pesky devil upon his shoulder.

Don't blame President John Kennedy, or his attorney general brother Bobby Kennedy, for sleazily bugging Martin Luther King's hotel rooms. The devil made them do it.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. contended in Robert Kennedy and His Times that tapping King's phone "had been on Hoover's agenda for some time." "The Bureau kept up its pressure," Schlesinger wrote, and "Kennedy finally assented." Schlesinger pled with the reader to understand "the dilemma in which Hoover had placed the Kennedys": "If Robert Kennedy refused a tap on King and anything went wrong, Hoover would have a field day. On the other hand, a tap might end the matter by demonstrating King's entire innocence, even to the satisfaction of the FBI." The Kennedys' motives, Camelot's court historian implied, were entirely benign. "The Kennedys authorized the taps for defensive purposes-in order to protect King, to protect the civil rights bill, to protect themselves."

Don't blame Harry Truman for ordering suspected Communists out of federal government jobs. The devil made him do it.

Biographer David McCullough noted that Hoover had pushed for more stringent measures weeding out loyalty and security risks from federal jobs, claiming that the "whole concept troubled" Truman and the "political pressures bore heavily" upon the 33rd president. Truman didn't want to do it. Alas, the devil made him do it: "On Friday, March 21, 1947, nine days after his address to Congress, Truman issued Executive Order No. 9835, establishing an elaborate Federal Employees Loyalty and Security Program. And he did so with misgivings." As a postscript to the affair, the Truman biographer notes: "Truman's concern over J. Edgar Hoover continued to trouble him."

Don't blame Woodrow Wilson for jailing (e.g., Eugene Debs, Kate Richards O'Hare, and "Big" Bill Haywood) and deporting (e.g., Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman) radicals. The devil made him do it.

A 2007 book by Kenneth Ackerman places much of the blame for the first "Red Scare" on J. Edgar Hoover, despite being just 24, fresh out of law school, and a low-level bureaucrat, and makes excuses for Woodrow Wilson, despite being president of the United States. "J. Edgar Hoover had been [attorney general A. Mitchell] Palmer's special assistant when the raids began on November 7, 1919, and he had his fingerprints all over them," contends Young J. Edgar: Hoover, The Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties. How did the young mastermind escape notice from contemporaneous chroniclers? "Edgar carefully kept his name out of the all the press releases and news accounts of the day; Palmer wanted all the headlines for himself. But no one could deny this was Edgar's job from start to finish." Tying Woodrow Wilson to the policies of the Wilson administration proved more problematic for Ackerman. "And what did Woodrow Wilson think? Nobody quite knew, because the president never quite said." As Ackerman would have it, "the president's mind was elsewhere," making it difficult to connect him to his own policies.

J. Edgar Hoover is necessary to square the soaring liberal rhetoric on civil liberties with the atrocious civil liberties records of liberal presidents. With an ideology extolling civil liberties crashing into its record of smashing civil liberties, ideologues reshape the facts to fit the ideology. The blame-Hoover template asks readers to believe that the president takes orders from the director of the FBI rather than the reverse. It portrays the world-class arm-twister Lyndon Johnson as a man prone to crying uncle, Woodrow Wilson as secretly opposing his administration's policies, and the Kennedys acceding to electronic surveillance on Martin Luther King only for his own protection.

The familiar narrative of the FBI director making liberal presidents go against their better judgment is convenient but false. J. Edgar Hoover's posthumous ability to make liberal academics and journalists to go against their better judgment, on the other hand, grows ever more powerful with every revisionist biography and page-one scoop.



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

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

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


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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why HAS the British State got it in for foster parents?

Harriet Sergeant spent a year studying the care system and was shocked by what she found...

Foster parents are the saints of our age. A good foster parent can transform the fortunes of a child who has had the worst start in life. One woman, abandoned by her mother at birth and discovered two days later covered in rat bites, later described to me what her foster mother had done for her. 'She taught me the things that carried me through. She showed me all the really good things in this world.' So how are local councils behaving towards the foster families who invite some of the country's most troubled youngsters into their homes? Are they praising them and giving them appropriate support in their difficult task?

No. Shamefully, they are doing nothing of the sort. In fact, many councils treat foster carers with almost criminal negligence. Two recent cases make it clear where their priorities lie - and it is not with the foster parents, their families or even the child that is placed in their care. Just yesterday, it was reported that a foster couple from the Vale of Glamorgan took in a homeless teenager, only for him to rape their two-year-old son and molest their nine-year-old daughter. Scandalously, the council had failed to tell them that the 18-year-old had a history of alleged sex attacks on youngsters.

Equally shocking is what happened to another family who fostered a baby for Newham council in East London. It was reported last week that the council failed to inform them the baby was possibly infected with HIV, even though they had three young children of their own. Indeed, Baby J, who was born to a HIV positive mother, was considered such a risk that medical staff who delivered him wore protective masks, goggles, boots - and two sets of gloves. No such precautions were taken for the foster family.

There are, of course, many councils and social service departments who take seriously their duties to foster parents and the children they care for. Phil Evans, director of social services at Vale of Glamorgan council, for example, claims these tragic cases are rare. 'Such events are never repeated,' he said. But this is simply not true. As I discovered during a year-long investigation into the care system for the Centre for Policy Studies, such cases are not only commonplace, but the result of a shameful and deliberate policy.

When midwife Tricia McDaid, for example, raised 'difficult questions' with Newham council about the case of Baby J, they ostracised her. 'They tried to freeze me out as they didn't want this getting out,' she said. 'This is happening all the time, and it's putting foster carers and their children at terrible risk.'

So what is behind all this tragedy and incompetence? The answer is simple - cost. More and more seriously disturbed children are coming into care and after a spate of paedophile scandals, local authorities have closed many of their larger children's homes, putting them into specialist private care instead. And the cost of caring for a child in one of these small, private homes is eye-watering. Weekly fees in the ones I visited ranged from 3,000 to 6,500 pounds.

Compare that to what a foster family receives - as little as 50 to 200 per week. In a recent survey, six out of ten foster carers said their allowance failed to cover even their expenses. But for obvious economic reasons, councils want to keep young people, however difficult, out of private care homes and with foster parents - whatever the terrible cost to the latter.

Human rights legislation is making the problem even worse for those who volunteer to look after troubled children. Article Eight of the European Convention On Human Rights protects an individual's right to respect for one's private and family life. But councils can use this legislation to justify keeping foster families in the dark by claiming disclosure of a child's past infringes their human rights. The brutal truth, however, is that it allows councils to off-load disturbed youngsters onto unknowing families - and to save a fortune in the process.

For foster carers don't just suffer from a lack of background information. Many of the foster families I talked to told me that they received little support from social workers. They said their social workers would often disappear 'for months' on end - or turn up only for an annual review. This is a scandal, for foster families desperately need regular expert help. When a child first arrives at a new foster home, typically all goes well. It is only weeks later, as the child relaxes and begins to feel more confident that their emotional problems surface - sometimes with devastating results. To the untrained foster carer, this sudden explosion of bad behaviour is often inexplicable. If social services are absent from the scene, there's no one else to turn to and they can give up just as the child needs them most. This is often tragic for the child as, once again, they find themselves rejected, their problems compounded.

Ian and Gail (not their real names) described what happened when they took in a difficult child with no training, support or information from social services. The social worker informed them they were to receive 'a dear little boy' of six who had been attending school. This, as Gail remarked bitterly, 'was all lies'. The social worker arrived with the child, who immediately threw himself on the floor and began to indulge in frenzy of sexual behaviour. The social worker looked 'really surprised', explained Gail, and 'left us to him'. Only later did the couple discover what social services had not told them. Born dependent on heroin, the child had been through ten different foster parents in his first year alone. And things got worse.

When he was two, he'd been moved to foster parents who sexually abused him. But his social worker had been on long-term sick leave at the time, and he had been forgotten about for four years before he was finally removed from his abusive carers and placed in a new home. The tragic effects of this soon became clear. He woke Ian and Gail at night by punching them or smearing excrement on the bedroom wall. He associated affection with sex and threw explosive tantrums. 'We felt like we had been set up,' said Gail. When they sought advice, their concerns were dismissed. As Ian remarked bitterly: 'We got virtually no support and training from social services. It has had a huge effect on our health and our relationship.' Three years on, they are still fighting an uphill battle.

To make matters even worse, foster carers are offered little stability. Children will be moved for what is perceived as the child's benefit - but also if one foster parent is cheaper than another. Children desperate for stability and a loving relationship have their cases reviewed every six months by some local authorities who refuse to sign long-term agreements with foster carers. This can go on for years.

One woman I spoke to had fostered a little girl from the age of two. The local authority promised it was permanent, but suddenly announced that it was moving the child. They had been together for five years and both mother and child were devastated. 'She called me Mum,' the woman told me. 'Losing her was like a death for me.' But two social workers arrived at the foster mother's house and dragged the child away, screaming. The foster mother hasn't heard from the child since.

The care system should be about transforming lives for the better. Instead, foster families, and the children they care for, are too often being treated disgracefully - and all in the name of human rights and cutting costs.


Once again we see that British social workers are only good at attacking decent people

Ferals are just too hard -- so are ignored

A toddler who was killed by his mother's heroin-addict boyfriend had been on social workers' files for more than a year - but was not considered to be at risk. Brandon Muir died from a ruptured intestine after an assault by Robert Cunningham, 23, at the Dundee flat he shared with his mother, who was also addicted to drugs, and sister. Cunningham was found guilty yesterday at the High Court in Glasgow of culpable homicide.

The boy's grandparents had contacted social services at Dundee City Council 19 days before his death, begging social workers to remove Brandon from the shambolic flat shared by their mother, Heather Boyd, 23, and her new boyfriend. The court was told that, less than three weeks later, Cunningham delivered a blow of such force to the toddler's stomach that it ruptured his intestine, leading to his death from peritonitis. A post-mortem examination also noted up to 40 other injuries including bruises, scratches and four fractured ribs. The boy was 23 months old. Professor Robert Karachi, a consultant paediatric surgeon, said that the injury was consistent with a child receiving a "massive blow" and Brandon would have been in "severe pain" before he died.

Veronica Boyd, 43, the boy's grandmother, said that she had called social services on February 25 and told them she and her husband were "not happy about the relationship Heather had got herself into". Mrs Boyd said: "My husband phoned social services...and was told by them we had no parental rights. It was social workers that put those children back into that accommodation. Not us."

The Scottish government has asked Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education to bring forward its report on measures to protect children in Dundee and publish it three months early. A separate investigation into the circumstances leading to Brandon's death has been commissioned by the Dundee Children and Young Persons Protection Committee, headed by Peter Wilson, a former Chief Constable of Fife.

Adam Ingram, Scottish Parliament Minister for Children and Early Years, said: "This awful case is a harrowing reminder to us all why child protection measures are so important and it's crucial that, in light of this case and the public concern it has raised, we get a clear picture of how child protection services are performing as quickly as possible."

During the trial, it emerged that there was only one bed in Ms Boyd's flat, which had no sheets or pillows. On March 15 last year, she went out with Cunningham's sister Ann Margaret to a local shop leaving him to care for Brandon. During this time, Cunningham admitted shouting at Brandon after he twice climbed on to a window ledge, but claimed that he simply told him to stay in the "naughty spot" as punishment.

The court was told that Cunningham and Ms Boyd later took the sick child to a party. He repeatedly vomited brown liquid, while the adults dranks and smoked cannabis. Ms Boyd refused to call the emergency services. She later left to work as a prostitute and earn more money for heroin. Charges against Cunningham stated that he seized Brandon, making him stand against a wall or other surface, and applying pressure to his abdomen "by means unknown" the day before he died.

Their was already being monitored by the council's antisocial behaviour team after repeated complaints from neighbours. Boyd had also failed to attend medical appointments with her son. Charges that Ms Boyd ill-treated Brandon and that she killed him by failing to get him medical help were dropped last week.


CA: Challenge to anti-homosexual law reaches state Supreme Court

Once again the Left is trying to use the courts to thwart democracy

One year and one day after the state Supreme Court entertained arguments on extending marriage to gay couples, many of the same lawyers will be back before the same seven justices Thursday arguing why California's voter-appproved ban on same-sex marriage should stand or fall. The passage of Proposition 8 last November changed the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage and trumped the high court's decision as few months earlier to legalize it. But the ballot measure was appealed and the justices are getting the final word on whether marriage is an institution that must accommodate two women or two men.

The debate will be framed by not only the gay and lesbian couples who see their struggle as the modern equivalent of prohibitions on interracial marriage, but the 7 million citizens who rejected that comparison in an $83 million election.

The stakes are high - for the 18,000 couples who married while same-sex weddings were legal, for gay marriage opponents who object on religious grounds and for others who are deeply divided on the issue. And whatever the court decides is likely to have ramifications not only for millions of Californians but also for other states grappling over gay marriage. The question is whether a majority of the justices will defer to popular will or, having already declared that preventing gay people from marrying was unconstitutional, will do so again. Legal experts say it is a tough call and that the court's decision, due within 90 days, will be debated for years to come.

"It's very unusual for any kind of state court to do what the petitioners are asking the California Supreme Court to do," said William Eskridge, a Yale University constitutional law professor who frequently writes on gay issues. "If you are going to do something like that, it had better be on an issue where you are sure what the verdict of future generations is going to be."

Same-sex marriage supporters are urging the court to overturn Proposition 8 on the grounds that the measure made such a sweeping change to the state constitution that its sponsors lacked the authority to put it on the ballot without approval from the California Legislature. Citizens can petition to put constitutional amendments, but not substantial revisions, directly to voters.

In a rare departure, the state's own top lawyer, Attorney General Jerry Brown, has refused to defend the initiative and is urging the justices to invalidate it. Brown says Proposition 8 itself is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court's 4-3 decision last year recognized gays as a minority group entitled to judicial protection and established marriage as a fundamental right.

Legal experts say Proposition 8, which won 52 percent of the vote, would almost certainly stand if not for one notable fact: the marriage amendment represents the first time in California history that the constitution was changed at the ballot box to deprive a protected minority group of a right expressly carved out by the court. "It would be unprecedented for the court to overturn Proposition 8 only because Proposition 8 is unprecedented," said Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota constitutional law professor.

Carpenter, who support marriage rights for same-sex couples, said he immediately thought the appeal was the reaction of a sore loser. "But when you get away from the particular issue of same-sex marriage and ask the question in general, 'Do we want a simple majority of voters to take fundamental rights away from protected classes?' the answer is no," he said.

A broad spectrum of civil rights groups, including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Organization for Women, have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in the case, saying other minorities could have their rights put up for a vote if the measure is upheld.

Others, however, see just as much danger in limiting California's tradition of direct democracy. Lynn Wardle, a Brigham Young University professor who submitted brief in support of Proposition 8, said, "Do you defer to the political establishment, which in this case supports same-sex marriage and wants Prop. 8 undone, or to California's history of being probably the most populist state in America?"

In the 99 years since California has allowed constitutional changes by citizen initiative, the Supreme Court has tossed out only a handful of voter-approved measures because they were significant revisions that needed prior legislative approval. Meanwhile, the court has upheld hundreds of voter-approved constitutional changes. One reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s after the panel had ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional.

On Thurday, the court also will hear arguments on what should happen to the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that were sanctioned in the state before election day, if the measure is upheld. The sponsors of Proposition 8, represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, argue the measure's language makes it clear the state can no longer recognize those marriages. The attorney general and lawyers for the couples and local governments say the initiative was not explicit enough to undo the unions.

Legal observers, even some gay marriage opponents, say they think the court may be reluctant to void existing marriages. "There is no question, for a period of time, there was same-sex marriage in California, albeit a very short period of time," said James Sweeney, a constitutional lawyer in Sacramento who represents the California Catholic Conference. Most of the plaintiffs in the original gay marriage case now have wed but wonder whether the same justices will void their unions. "The fact that we have to sit here and wait for another court case is painful and takes something away from our joy and our celebration," said Jeanne Rizzo, 62, of Tiburon, who married her partner of 19 years last year.


The MBA menace

If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today's guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in. From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Lehman Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.

I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School - once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today's purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse.

Harvard Business School alumni include Stan O'Neal and John Thain, the last two heads of Merrill Lynch, plus Andy Hornby, former chief executive of HBOS, who graduated top of his class. And then of course, there's George W Bush, Hank Paul-son, the former US Treasury secretary, and Christopher Cox, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a remarkable trinity who more than fulfilled the mission of their alma mater: "To educate leaders who make a difference in the world." It just wasn't the difference the school had hoped for.

Business schools have shown a remarkable ability to miss the economic catastrophes unfolding before their eyes. In the late 1990s, their faculties rushed to write paeans to Enron, the firm of the future, the new economic paradigm. The admiration was mutual: Enron was stuffed with Harvard Business School alumni, from Jeff Skilling, the chief executive, down. When Enron, rotten to the core, collapsed, the old case studies were thrust in a closet and removed from the syllabus, and new ones were promptly written about the ethical and accounting issues posed by Enron's misadventures.

Much the same appears to have happened with Royal Bank of Scotland. When I was a student at Harvard Business School, between 2004 and 2006, I recall a distinguished professor of organisational behaviour, Joel Podolny, telling us proudly of his work with Fred Goodwin at RBS. At the time, RBS looked like a corporate supermodel and Podolny was keen to trumpet his role in its transformation. A Harvard Business School case study of the firm entitled The Royal Bank of Scotland: Masters of Integration, written in 2003, began with a quote from the man we now know as Fred the Shred or the World's Worst Banker: "Hard work, focus, discipline and concentrating on what our customers need. It's quite a simple formula really, but we've just been very, very consistent with it."

The authors of the case, two Harvard Business School professors, described the "new architecture" formed by RBS after its acquisition of NatWest, the clusters of customer-facing units, the successful "buy-in" by employees. Goodwin came across as a management master, saying: "A leader's job is to create the conditions that enable people to believe, in their hearts and minds, in the value of what they are doing."

Then just last December, Harvard Business School revised and republished another homage to RBS - The Royal Bank of Scotland Group: The Human Capital Strategy. It is tragic to read now of all the effort put in by those under Goodwin, from "pulse surveys" to track employee performance to "the big thank you", a website where managers could recognise individual excellence in customer service.

Every trendy business school idea was being implemented, it seemed, while what really mattered - the bank's risk assessment, cash flow and capital structure - was going to hell. To be fair, neither Podolny nor the authors of the case studies were finance professors, but it's still pretty shocking that a school that purports to teach general management should fail to see the gaping problems at a firm they studied in such depth.

Is there a pattern here? Go back to the 1980s, and you find that Harvard MBAs played a big enough role in the insider trading scandals that washed through Wall Street for a former chairman of the SEC to consider it a good move to donate millions of dollars for the teaching of ethics at the school. Time after time, and scandal after scandal, it seems that a school that graduates just 900 students a year finds itself in the thick of it. Yet there is remarkably little contrition.

Last October, Harvard Business School celebrated its 100th birthday with a global summit in Boston. While Wall Street and Washington descended into an economic inferno, Jay Light, the dean of the school and a board member at the Black-stone private equity group, opened the festivities by shrugging off any responsibility.

"We all failed to understand how much [the financial system] had changed in the past 15 years or so, and how fragile it might be because of increased leverage, decreased transparency and decreased liquidity: three of the crucial things in the world of financial markets," he said. "We all failed to understand how that fragility could evidence itself in a frozen short-term credit system, something that hadn't really happened since 1907. We also probably overestimated the ability of the political process to deal with the realities of what could happen if real trouble developed. "What we have witnessed is a stunning and sobering failure of financial safeguards, of financial markets, of financial institutions and mostly of leadership at many levels. We will leave the talk of fixing the blame to others. That is not very interesting. But we must be involved in fact in fixing the problem."

You would think after failing on so many levels, the school that provides more business leaders than any other might feel some remorse. Not in the least. It's onwards and upwards, with the very people who blew apart the world's financial plumbing now demanding to fix the leak.

You can draw up a list of the greatest entrepreneurs of recent history, from Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Bill Gates of Microsoft, to Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Lak-shmi Mittal - and there's not an MBA between them. Yet the MBA industry continues to grow, and business schools provide vital income to academic institutions: 500,000 people around the world now graduate each year with an MBA, 150,000 of those in the United States, creating their own management class within global business.

Given the present chaos, shouldn't we be asking if business education is not just a waste of time, but actually damaging to our economic health? If doctors or lawyers wreaked such havoc in their own professions, we would certainly reconsider what is being taught at medical and law schools.

During my time at the school, 50 students were chosen to participate in a detailed survey of their development. Scott Snook, the professor who ran it, reported that about a third of students were inclined to define right and wrong simply in terms of what everyone else was doing. "They can't really step back and take a critical view," he said. "They're totally defined by others and by the outcomes of what they're doing."

A group of people unable to see their actions in the broader context of the society they inhabit have no business being self-regulating. Yet in the financial services industry this is pretty much what they demanded and to a large extent got - with catastrophic consequences.

The happiest in my cohort, which graduated into the rosy economic conditions of 2006, are now certainly those who went off to do the unfashionable jobs: a friend who spurned Wall Street to join a Mid-western industrial firm, and now finds himself running the agricultural division of an Indian conglomerate; one who joined a foundation promoting entrepreneurship; one who went into Boston city government, another who moved to Russia to run a cinema chain. However, these were the rarities: 42% of my class went into financial services and another 21% into consulting, both wretched sectors to be in today and for the foreseeable future.

Applications to business schools in America and Europe are broadly up, as people search for a safe haven from the recession. What are they thinking? Many MBA jobs will not be coming back. Students who stump up more than o60,000 for a two-year MBA can expect a long wait to make that back.

For those about to graduate from business school, these are grim times. Financial and consulting firms, which used to soak up two-thirds of the MBAs from top schools, have all but vanished from campuses. Suddenly jobs in government and at nonprofit organisations are in hot demand from students who used to consider them laughably underpaid.

A dose of modesty among MBAs and business schools is long overdue. But it's not going to come from Harvard. Light, told his audience in October: "The need for leadership in the world today is at least as great as it has ever been. The need for what we do is at least as great as it has ever been." A bold claim to which many might say: please, spare us.



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

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

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


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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Britain's hate-filled Leftist social workers again

They despise ordinary people. There is no way they could have been unaware of what they were doing in the matter below. Social work schools are one of the chief sources of political correctness and all the inverted values that go with that -- such as favouring criminals at the expense of victims and ferals at the expense of middle-class people.

Social workers failed to warn foster parents about sexual offences committed by a teenager placed in their care who went on to rape their two-year-old son and abuse their nine-year-old daughter. The youth, 18, attacked the children within months of being welcomed into the family, a court was told yesterday. An inquiry was ordered as the director of social services for Vale of Glamorgan Council apologised for what he admitted was a serious error of judgment in placing the youth in a home with young children. The youth was ordered to be detained indefinitely, after admitting rape and sexual assault.

Richard Evans, for the prosecution, told Cardiff Crown Court that the youth, who cannot be identified, abused the children over a period of several months until the older child told her parents what was happening. He said: “The foster parents’ daughter told them how he would come into her room, lie on top of her, kiss her and put his hands under her clothing. She said when she called out, he put his hand over her mouth. The girl confided in her parents after her little brother was raped by the teenager. It was an horrific abuse.”

The court heard that the foster parents had taken in the youth as an emergency case because he was homeless. They were not told that he had a history of sexual offending dating back at least five years, when he first faced allegations of inappropriate behaviour with a young boy. In 2005 he admitted exposing himself and sexually touching another young boy. Two years ago he was sacked from a job at a bowling alley after complaints that he was asking young girls for their telephone numbers. Last year he was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while she slept.

Nicholas Cooke, QC, the Recorder of Cardiff, said it was a matter of grave concern how the youth ended up with the family. He said: “In this case a tragedy ensued for a family who only wished to serve the community and who were let down by the system. They were unable to protect their own children because of a failure to provide them with information.” He told the youth he would be detained for a minimum of six years and would be released only when he was considered to be no longer a danger to the public. His name was put on the sex offenders register and he was banned from working with children for life.

David Pinnel, for the defence, said that the youth had been exposed to temptation through no fault of his own. “He was immature and in need of help but through no fault of his own was placed in an environment where he was afforded the opportunity to commit these terrible offences. The criminal responsibility is his, but it would not have happened if he had not been placed in that position.”

Foster parents have a legal right to all the information held by social workers on a child they take into their home. That was established in 2000 when the parents of four children sexually abused by a fostered teenager in Essex won a seven-year court case. Their case also established the right to sue the local authority in question.

The inquiry is to be overseen by the NSPCC, the children’s charity. Vale of Glamorgan Council confirmed that the inquiry will look at what should have been done to protect the children. It said: “The carers have been asked to play an important role in finding out what went wrong. Issues of professional practice and judgment highlighted during the initial inquiry have received an immediate response, including use of the council’s disciplinary policy.”

Phil Evans, Vale of Glamorgan’s director of social services, apologised yesterday to the family. He said: “The council deeply regrets the distress and harm caused to the family. Senior managers have met with them to apologise and to find out what support they may need now and in the future. “It has become clear there was a serious error of judgment. Staff are taking this very seriously. We are doing all we can to find out what went wrong and to ensure such events are never repeated.”


Another blow to fatherhood: British IVF mothers can name ANYONE as 'father' on birth certificate

Family values were under attack again last night with the news that single women having IVF will be able to name anyone they like as their baby's father on the birth certificate. New regulations mean that a mother could nominate another woman to be her child's 'father'. The 'father' does not need to be genetically related to the baby, nor be in any sort of romantic relationship with the mother. Critics said a woman could list her best friend on the birth certificate. The word 'father' may even be replaced with the phrase 'second parent'. The second parent, who will have to consent to being named, will take on the legal and moral responsibilities of parenthood. This raises the spectre of a legal minefield in which female 'fathers' will fight for visitation rights and be chased for child support payments if their fragile relationship with the mother breaks down.

The changes, due to come in on April 6, will apply to many of the 2,000 women a year who have IVF using sperm from anonymous donors. The regulations are part of the controversial Embryology Bill passed by Parliament last year. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said they will give lesbian couples in civil partnerships who undergo IVF the same rights as married heterosexual couples. An unmarried man whose girlfriend has fertility treatment will also find it easier to claim full parental rights.

The new rules state: 'The women receiving treatment with donor sperm (or embryos created with donor sperm) can consent to any man or woman being the father or second parent.' The only exemption is close blood relatives.

Critics said the change would lead to the role of father being downgraded to the one of godfather and warned that the child would be the one to lose out. Baroness Deech, a former chairman of the HFEA, said the practice would lead to the ' falsification of the birth certificate'. She said: 'This is putting the rights of the parents way above those of the child. It is absurd that anyone can be named as the father or the second parent.'

Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP and lecturer in healthcare ethics, questioned the strength of the relationships or friendships between the mother and 'father'. He said: 'There is no doubt from sociological evidence accumulated over the past few years that children do best in a two-parent married family with heterosexual couples being the married parents. 'It probably will be the child that is the loser but by the time we find that out, in 15 or 16 years, a huge amount of damage will have been done.'

Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecambe, said a birth certificate should be a true record of a child's genetic heritage. She added: 'I don't think the state should collude with parents to conceal the true genetic identity.' David Jones, a professor of bioethics, likened the role of second parent to that of godparent. He added: 'This sounds like social engineering on the hoof.' Philippa Taylor, of Christian charity CARE, said: 'We are going to get to the point where a birth certificate is not going to be a true statement of anyone's biological heritage.'

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said a father played an essential role in the development of a child. He added: 'The present Government seems not to care a damn about families. 'Teenage pregnancy is on the increase, abortion is on the increase, family breakdown is at record levels and we have got a growing number of dysfunctional children that are the product of broken homes. 'The lesson seems to be loud and clear to me that fathers are required.' Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said the change would destroy the 'basic nature' of a man and a woman bringing up a child together as parents.

Other critics said that Labour's family and benefit policies support and reward single parents at the expense of couples and have sidelined marriage as a lifestyle choice with no value for children. The HFEA said it was unlikely for the actual sperm donor to be named on the birth certificate because the sample is normally obtained from a sperm bank. It added that the welfare of the child would always come first and any person nominated as a second parent would have counselling to ensure they understood the implications.


Big Brother Britain is a menace. The irony is, it's the civil liberties lobby who are to blame

Suddenly, a new political consensus appears to have emerged for the chattering classes. At the weekend, lawyers, celebrities, writers, politicians and lobbyists took part in a series of meetings across Britain, organised by the umbrella group Convention on Modern Liberty, to discuss their fears about the erosion of Britain's historic rights and freedoms by the 'surveillance society'. The convention brought together such stalwart Lefties as the human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy with the former Tory home affairs spokesman David Davis - who resigned his post specifically to devote himself to campaigning on the civil liberties issue. Even the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is regarded as a security hawk through his strong backing for a national identity card scheme and tough anti-terror laws, warned of the danger of a 'Big Brother' state through data-sharing between public bodies. Like all bandwagons, however, this one needs a beady eye cast over it, not least because of its occasional note of hysteria.

Its claim that Britain is turning into a police state is clearly over the top (and reveals no small ignorance of what terrors a true police state inflicts). Its alarmism over closed-circuit TV and DNA profiling pays scant regard to their usefulness in catching criminals. And there's more than a whiff of an underlying agenda to paint Britain as worse than the tyrannies and rogue states that threaten its interests, with a corresponding anxiety to downplay the terrorism threat against this country.

Nevertheless, we should, indeed, be concerned about some of the ways in which freedom is being compromised. Some local councils are making wholly inappropriate use of anti-terrorist legislation to snoop on citizens, while other public bodies - such as the Charity Commission, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the BBC - are able to make deeply questionable use of further surveillance powers. There will soon be compulsory CCTV cameras tracking people as they shop in supermarkets for a bottle of wine, and pubs are being told they will only get a licence if they agree to train their security cameras on their customers.

The Coroners and Justice Bill will allow inquests involving matters of national security to be held in secret if ministers so decide. And the Home Office is planning a new 'Intercept Modernisation Programme' which will store details of every phone call, email and internet visit - a proposal condemned by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, as 'a step too far for the British way of life'.

These are very real concerns. But despite them, the campaigners' argument is skewed. They claim that fear of terrorism has curtailed freedom. But this ignores the role played by the civil liberties lobby in bringing about this state of affairs in the first place. For many of those now howling about the erosion of our ancient principles are the very same people who were behind the introduction of human rights law.

It may be thought a curious irony that the Human Rights Act was introduced in 1998 to tackle precisely the concerns expressed last weekend of a slide into tyranny - and yet liberty has been seriously eroded in the past decade. In fact, this isn't curious at all. Although the campaigners would sooner cut off their hands than admit it, the one has followed directly from the other. The idea that human rights law expands freedom was always a serious mistake. It has the opposite effect.

One of the main reasons the State has resorted to gathering intelligence within Britain on such an alarming scale is the collapse of the ability to control our borders. And that was brought about by the systematic refusal by the courts, on human rights grounds, to keep out or deport a range of undesirables. The reason this country never had the identity card system common to so many European states was the fact that it used to have robust border controls. Once those barriers came down, the only way to protect the country's security became internal surveillance.

Of course, this runs wholly contrary to the historic principles of English liberty. But that is the inevitable outcome of human rights law - which has ridden roughshod over those principles - because many of those now campaigning against the erosion of liberty also claim that 'universal' human rights principles trump Britain's own. Under that law, judges have been handed the power to balance rights against each other. And time and again, they have come down in favour of the rights of terror suspects, illegal immigrants and common criminals against the rights of indigenous, law-abiding people. So it's a bit rich for the liberty campaigners to claim that fear of terrorism has eroded human rights.

And it's even more hard to take when such campaigners claim they are passionate about defending the English common law. This is, indeed, the bastion of our liberties by holding that people are free to act unless the law expressly prohibits them from doing so. But the human rights law these campaigners foisted upon us has taken a judicial axe to that principle by making judges the arbiters of our freedoms. In doing so, they deliberately transferred power from Parliament to the courts. And the inevitable consequence of that has been that MPs lost power to the judges. This weakening of Parliament has enabled the Labour Government to use Parliamentary procedure to short-circuit debate and force through legislation without proper scrutiny.

A more robust Parliament would have prevented the Government passing those laws which threaten our fundamental freedoms. But over the past few years, Westminster has had the stuffing knocked out of it by a series of measures, including human rights law, whose purpose was to destroy this country's constitutional settlement and powers of democratic self-government.

Devolution took away Parliament's power to decide many laws for Scotland and Wales. Above all, EU membership - whose impact upon Britain has greatly increased during the past decade - has taken away more and more powers of self-rule and made Parliament increasingly irrelevant.

Most of today's liberty campaigners are also supporters of this constitutional revolution. That's because the dominant creed in such progressive circles is the belief that the historic values of this nation should be superseded by international laws and institutions - which will apparently usher in the utopia of the brotherhood of man. In fact, this is profoundly anti-democratic and anti-freedom because it upholds the rights of some preferred groups against others. As such, it is responsible for the real curtailment of our liberties through anti-discrimination laws and codes against 'hate speech', hijacking freedom by deciding who is or is not entitled to have it.

Accordingly, such liberty campaigners have been notably silent over, for example, the banning from Britain of the Dutch MP and anti-Islamism campaigner Geert Wilders. They have been silent over the erosion of the rights of men accused of rape to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. They were silent when a Christian was forced off an adoption panel because she opposed gay adoption. Such selectivity undermines their claim to be the true defenders of liberty.

Some of the concerns they are now raising are valid. This country's bedrock principles of freedom and democracy are, indeed, being eroded. But the campaigners should look in the mirror if they want to know who is to blame.


The Current Confusion Of Black Protest Politics

It is almost amusing to watch practitioners of the old black protest politics try hold on to their old positions as the threats to them come from new and unexpected directions. Take this lament by noted black protest author/journalist Earl Ofari Hutchinson that "the number of black elected officials has been stagnant at best and, at worst, on a downhill slide," an article that inadvertently reveals some of the confusions and contradictions of contemporary black protest politics. Note, for starters, his assumption that blacks are owed guaranteed political success and that removing that guarantee is a "peril" for black politicians:
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 1993 on minority redistricting is another potential peril for black politicians. The court tossed out districts that had been gerrymandered to preserve black population majorities. These so-called race-based districts were mostly in the South and were deliberately drawn to insure that black candidates would perpetually be elected to Congress.
Since Hutchinson himself said that these districts were "gerrymandered to preserve black population majorities," why does he insist on calling them so-called race-based districts? And where in the Constitution, or anywhere else, is the guarantee that "black candidates" should be "perpetually elected to Congress"? Next Hutchinson trips over some factual hurdles (facts are often hard to get across or around):
An added dilemma for black voters is that any future increase in the number of black elected officials must come from what are currently majority white districts. Yet, with the exception of former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts and former Connecticut Rep. Gary Franks - both Republicans and both conservatives who were elected from majority white districts - it is still a hard sell for blacks to triumph in non-black majority districts.
What are black Democratic Representatives Sanford Bishop of Georgia and Melvin Watt of North Carolina, potted plants? Bishop's district (Georgia 2nd) is 60% white, and Watt's (North Carolina's infamous 12th, the I-85 district) has a plurality of whites.

Even the New York Times has noticed what Hutchinson hasn't. In an article from last October that featured Melanie Levesque of New Hampshire, a black woman who "represents one of the whitest districts in one of the whitest states in the nation." Levesque, however, was simply the cover girl for the article's main subject: "a new generation of black elected officials who are wooing white voters and winning local elections in predominantly white districts across the country."
... [O]ver the last 10 years, about 200 black politicians have won positions once held by whites in legislatures and city halls in states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. In 2007, about 30 percent of the nation's 622 black state legislators represented predominantly white districts, up from about 16 percent in 2001, according to data collected by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research group based in Washington that has kept statistics on black elected officials for nearly 40 years.
Finally, note what Hutchinson describes as another of the "daunting obstacles" facing black politicians:
The turgidity in black political gains can also be dumped squarely on several phenomena: black voter apathy, alienation, inner-city population drops, suburban integration and displacement by Latinos and Asians who have shown a far greater willingness than blacks to split their votes more evenly among both Republican and Democratic candidates....

Black politicians must also expand their agenda to address the needs of Latino and Asian voters. Their support will be absolutely crucial if black politicians expect to hold or win office in the future in districts that were once majority black but are fast changing to majority Latino and Asian districts.
Turgidity? My dictionary (the Oxford American, a version of which is built into the Mac's operating system) defines turgid as follows:
swollen and distended or congested : a turgid and fast-moving river. [But also, and this may be more appropriate] (of language or style) tediously pompous or bombastic : some turgid verses on the death of Prince Albert.
But never mind the turgid style; the real problem here is the confusion and contradiction of the substance. First, it still doesn't occur to Hutchinson that if blacks want to get elected they should "expand their agenda" to appeal to whites as well. The pale, apparently, remain beyond the pale.

More fundamentally, however, Hutchinson doesn't explain why blacks should be elected to represent districts that "are fast changing to majority Latino and Asian districts." Well, of course he doesn't. He can't. The whole point of "diversity" these days is that people should be represented (even in institutions that are not designed to be representative) by people who "look like them."

It has never struck me as a smart move for minorities to elevate pigment to principle and to pin their claim for equal treatment on what they look like, and I suspect some black politicians who are in the process of being displaced by Hispanics and Asians may come to hold colorblind merit in higher regard than they have in the past.



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

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

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


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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The steady erosion of British liberties by Britain's Leftist government

It's the little things, always the little things, that get you in the end. For me, it was having to be police checked to take my child on a school trip to our local High Street. Sure, I realise that for quite some time the usual suspects have been banging away about erosion of our civil liberties, but it's easy to turn a blind eye when you are not being actually arrested. Laws were being passed one after another, changing our rights. But, to be honest, most people just don't understand or have enough time to read the small print of legislation. Not even the MPs who vote it through.

A lot of the time we feel it is nothing to do with us. We noticed the smoking ban as we huddled under patio heaters, but took little notice of the odd person being locked up for 28 days for having a beard and having looked at some odd websites. We have become so inured to the continual health warnings that emanate from this Government of puritans that sometimes I think our culture of public intoxication is, in itself, a simple form of resistance to it all.

We were led to believe that the world changed so much after September 11 that endless checks on freedoms were necessary. We were scared and therefore allowed security to trump liberty, as there is no liberty for the dead, is there? We accepted this notion passively but are now agitated in airport queues. I always struggle with the difference between lipstick and lip gloss as a matter of national security. The armed police stalking around frighten rather than reassure me. Now, they have the right to stop and search anybody and any car in designated areas, but I do not feel safer.

Should I want to protest about this, I could, of course, go on some kind of demonstration, as long as I pre-arrange it with the police and if I make sure that I do not go within 1km of the Houses of Parliament. This is part of another ridiculous new Act. And there is a law that means that if I took a picture of a policeman standing still I could be liable for a ten-year prison sentence. Why? We are now all suspects and subject to a massive amount of surveillance. Thousands of CCTV cameras record endless footage. They don't prevent crime but blurrily remind us that no space is unobserved. We have sleepwalked into a society in which, because technology watches us, we no longer watch out for each other.

All of us will have felt the chipping away of small freedoms. I was astonished to know that because I had more than 20 people to my last party it was legally classified as a rave. At my age! Read the Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003. But even to spin a few records in a pub one now has to declare what kind of music will be played. It's a kind of insanity. Mozart or basement? You can see how racially sensitive this legislation is.

Perhaps, though, freedom of expression and of association are rather vague terms until some New Labour apparatchik starts reining them in, all the while talking to us as if we were five.

This weekend, all over the country, The Convention on Modern Liberty organised a series of events to discuss these issues. Have we left it too late? I think not. Now is the right time to put our feet down. Why, for instance, must I be made to think of myself as a potential paedophile, rather than a parent? Something has gone badly wrong. Culturally we could read the runes. Although we have less faith in politics and institutions than ever before, they have been shoring up their power.

Simultaneously we have been bombarded by advice from lifestyle experts. Smoking, eating and drinking are no longer regarded as private choices but subject to public scrutiny. Much of what we do is bad for us. Television reinforces this with experts who make people examine their own faeces or get `made over'. We have not been nannied but bullied on to the naughty step, forever infantilised.

More seriously, we have been lied to. While freedoms have been curtailed at home we have flown people round the world to be tortured. In the dying days of this administration, Jack Straw and David Blunkett have been wheeled out to tell us that comparisons with a police state are crazy. No one is saying that, we are simply staging a fight-back.

Liberty does not belong to any particular party. The Convention on Modern Liberty brings together Left and Right in a powerful coalition. Something that has been fairly abstract in people's minds is being made real. And part of that is surely connected to the economic downturn. Every day it becomes more clear that where this Government, and indeed the one before it, should have regulated our monstrous financial institutions, they didn't. They gave them freedom. The free market, remember, would save our souls and supposedly our public services. Now it all looks crazy because instead they over-regulated everywhere else. We cannot know the data kept on our own children. Surveillance is hard-wired into every aspect of our lives.

All this is done because we need protecting, not only from terrorists and criminals, but from ourselves. The truth is, though, no one feels more secure, they just feel their liberties shut down bit by bit. As Joni Mitchell sang all those years ago: `Don't it always seem to go / That you don't know what you've got till it's gone.' But we are starting to know, because though we feel bewildered by all the jargon and legalese, we feel in our bones we are losing what made this country great. Times have changed, yes, but ancient and hard-won freedoms, which may make things difficult and messy sometimes, are part of our quality of life.

The challenge for the next Government is how far it is prepared to restore what has been lost. Freedom is not a theory, it's a practice. It is precious. We don't need protecting from ourselves. We need protecting from those who would take away our freedom. The enemies of freedom have shown themselves to be not simply murderous bombers but smiling legislators who know what is best for us. In the name of keeping us safe, they have imprisoned us. Time to break out.


Sharpie Sharpton's protection racket

Businesses pay up or face demonstrations against them

Anheuser-Busch gave him six figures, Colgate-Palmolive shelled out $50,000 and Macy's and Pfizer have contributed thousands to the Rev. Al Sharpton's charity. Almost 50 companies - including PepsiCo, General Motors, Wal-Mart, FedEx, Continental Airlines, Johnson & Johnson and Chase - and some labor unions sponsored Sharpton's National Action Network annual conference in April.

Terrified of negative publicity, fearful of a consumer boycott or eager to make nice with the civil-rights activist, CEOs write checks, critics say, to NAN and Sharpton - who brandishes the buying power of African-American consumers. In some cases, they hire him as a consultant. The cash flows even as the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn has been conducting a grand-jury investigation of NAN's finances.

A General Motors spokesman told The Post that NAN had repeatedly - and unsuccessfully - asked for contributions for six years, beginning in August 2000. Then, in December 2006, Sharpton threatened to call a boycott of the carmaker over the closing of an African-American-owned GM dealership in The Bronx, and he picketed outside GM headquarters on Fifth Avenue. Last year, General Motors gave NAN a $5,000 donation. It gave $5,000 more this year, a spokesman said, calling NAN a "worthy" organization.

In November 2003, Sharpton picketed DaimlerChrysler's Chicago car show and threatened a boycott over alleged racial bias in car loans. "This is institutional racism," he bellowed. In May 2004, Chrysler began supporting NAN's conferences, which include panels on corporate responsibility and civil rights and a black-tie awards dinner to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Last year, Sharpton gave Chrysler an award for corporate excellence.

In 2003, Sharpton targeted American Honda for not hiring enough African-Americans in management. "We support those that support us," wrote Sharpton and the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, president of NAN's Michigan chapter, in a letter to American Honda. "We cannot be silent while African-Americans spend hard-earned dollars with a company that does not hire, promote or do business with us in a statistically significant manner." Two months after American Honda execs met with Sharpton, the carmaker began to sponsor NAN's events - and continues to pay "a modest amount" each year, a spokesman said.

More here

Australian police cover up ethnic violence again

Police and cinema chiefs have clashed about outbreaks of violence that have resulted in a critically-acclaimed film about Lebanese gangs being pulled from theatres across the state. The Combination has been dumped by all NSW Greater Union cinemas - the second blow for the movie's makers in just four days, after one of its stars was sentenced to almost six months in jail for a violent assault not dissimilar to those the film depicts.

At least two incidents at its Parramatta cinema complex had compromised the safety of staff and moviegoers, Greater Union's Robert Flynn said yesterday. A sold-out screening of the film was nearing completion on Saturday night when an altercation between a number of patrons began and then spilled out on to the street - apparently sparked after a girl asked other patrons to be quiet. On Thursday night a guard was hospitalised after he was assaulted for asking a patron to stop smoking.

Police and the cinema operator disagree about the seriousness of the incidents, The Australian reports. "A fight broke out. It went into the foyer, over the aero-bridge, and our security (footage) shows police arriving," Greater Union spokeswoman Melissa Kesby said. "We have people being put in police cars on the security footage. "A staff member was hit in the head. We can't understand why police are saying that nothing happened, because that's not what our staff said."

A spokeswoman for NSW police said: "Police were advised (on Saturday night) there were four people involved in an altercation, and perhaps 50 onlookers. Police got the call at 17.38, and were there at 17.39, and there were no signs of that incident."

Meanwhile film's writer and actor, George Basha, who plays a Lebanese-Australian fresh out of jail, said the decision to pull the film was "discriminatory". "You've got 300 or 400 people in the cinema, and then you've got three or four kids, 15 and 16 years old, making a nuisance," Basha said. "The cinema is saying they were smoking in the cinema, and there were fights breaking out ... I've seen fights happen. I'm pretty sure those films didn't get closed down."

Leading film critic, David Stratton, told The Australian the movie had "a powerful message". "It points out the problem with violence," Stratton said. "It's an excellent film, an important film. It seems to me to be an extreme reaction, a knee-jerk reaction. "It's akin to shooting the messenger. Good films are meant to provoke and challenge, and that is what this film does."

Film distributor Allanah Zitserman from Australian Film Syndicate said the decision to scrap screenings at all NSW Greater Union cinemas was upsetting for the cast and crew. "The film has done exceptionally well so far, it's been selling out in these areas," she said. "It's particularly devastating because here we have an Australian film that's connecting with audiences, touching a nerve and three days into its release it's been pulled because of a small group of troublemakers who've spoiled it for everyone else."

The company hoped to hold talks today with Greater Union about overturning the decision.


Homebirths may be pushed underground by Australia's meddling socialist government

Something that the human race has done since pre-history is suddenly wrong

Hundreds of women each year who choose to give birth in their homes are likely to face greater medical danger for themselves and their babies with the introduction of regulations that could force the practice underground. From the middle of next year, midwives will be required to hold professional indemnity insurance as a condition of practice, under the Rudd Government's plan to streamline registration requirements for all health professionals.

No commercial insurer has been prepared to offer an insurance policy to an independent midwife since the medical indemnity and wider insurance crises of 2001. When the new regime comes into effect, it will no longer be legal for these uninsured independent midwives to attend home births. The only exception will be if the midwife is employed by one of the very few publicly funded services, thought to be fewer than half a dozen nationwide.

Although the number of women giving birth at home is tiny in Australia - just over 700 in 2006, or 0.26 per cent of all births - this represents a committed group. More than 50 per cent of submissions to the federal Government's recent maternity services review came from women calling for greater support for homebirthing services, which claim up to a 10-fold greater share of births in some overseas countries such as Britain. Since 2001, an estimated 150 midwives have provided homebirth services to women, at a typical cost of between $3000 and $5000, but without rebates from Medicare or private health funds, and without insurance cover that would give recourse to compensation should anything go wrong.

Midwifery experts, consumer advocates for homebirthing and even some obstetricians are calling for the problem to be sorted out before midwives are forced out of homebirths. Sarah McLean, a volunteer with the Homebirth Access Sydney consumer group, is pregnant with her third baby and is planning to deliver at home. She said the prospect of losing the option of homebirth was "quite devastating". "It's ridiculous to effectively make homebirth illegal, when other countries like Britain have publicly funded homebirth programs," Ms McLean said.

Caroline Homer, professor of midwifery at the University of Technology Sydney, said the "worst-case scenario is that women would be unattended" when giving birth. "Another scenario is that the midwives will continue to practise under other names, but there won't be any standards of care, and no peer review or evaluation, because it will all be in secret," Professor Homer said. "Removing independent midwives and saying we won't do homebirths won't solve the problem; women will continue to have babies at home."

Obstetrician Andrew Bisits, director of obstetrics at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, said there was no reason that the federal Government should not support midwives' indemnity costs as it already did for obstetricians and other doctors. Between 2003 and 2006, the federal Government subsidised doctors' premiums to the tune of $54.39 million. "If that's denied, you will have a number of people going underground, making these very fragile, secretive arrangements," he said. "It's much more sensible to be positive about it."

Homebirth supporters had been hoping the Maternity Services Review would solve the problem by recommending federal support for midwife indemnity. In the event, the report said homebirthing was "a sensitive and controversial issue" and the "relationship between maternity healthcare professionals is not such as to support homebirth as a mainstream commonwealth-funded option (at least in the short term)".

Evidence for the safety of homebirths is disputed. US research published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 found low-risk women giving birth at home with midwife supervision had lower rates of medical interventions, such as the use of forceps, and no greater risk of their baby dying either during birth or soon afterwards.



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

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

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


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Monday, March 02, 2009

U.S. Boycotts Durban 2 Conference, Citing bias against Israel

It looks like Obama et al. are beginning to "get it"

The Obama administration decided to boycott a U.N. conference against racism in April because the final communiqu, will condemn Israel, the State Department said Friday. The U.S. also objected to a strong statement in the document favoring reparations for slavery. "We don't look at the text as salvageable," a U.S. official said. Washington stands ready to re-engage with the conference if the passage on slavery is removed and if reference to any one country or any single conflict is dropped, the official said in a clear reference to Israel and the Middle East.

The event in Geneva is a follow-up to the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, that was itself mired in controversy. The Bush administration also didn't participate because the communique branded Zionism as racism.

President George W. Bush left it up to President Barack Obama to decide about the so-called Durban II conference. The new administration sent a negotiating team to Geneva on Tuesday to try to influence the language of the document. That decision alone drew criticism. On Friday, the State Department said it had had enough and withdrew. "The document grew from bad to worse," the U.S. official said.

The decision to take part in the preparatory phase was initially praised by the Organization for the Islamic Conference, whose secretary-general said it was "widely perceived by the Muslim world as a credible signal of the new administration's goodwill." The preparatory committee was chaired by Libya with Iran and Cuba as vice chairs.

The U.S. also objected to language against defaming religions because it could limit free speech, the official said. The White House informed Jewish leaders in a conference call Friday morning of its decision. Canada and Israel had already pulled out. Israel had urged that the U.S. do the same.


Films that rewrite history

In the West, we tend to assume that the greatest threats to democracy and liberty come from outside. We think of the totalitarian systems of the last century or fundamentalist terrorism today, but we fail to recognise the viral strain that has developed out of our own entertainment industries.

Over the past dozen or so years, television and movie-makers have managed to blur the border between fact and fiction to an unprecedented degree. They pretend increasingly that their film is based on a true story. Every device possible, from computer-generated imagery to place names and dates thrown onto the screen seek to suspend the disbelief of historically illiterate audiences. Alarmingly, the new technology has coincided with a dramatic growth in conspiracy theories.

The author Damian Thompson has labelled the phenomenon "counterknowledge". This includes the propagation of totally false legends. They may well stem from a completely unbalanced person who genuinely believes in a conspiracy - usually a government one - and who, through the internet, makes it sound plausible to tens of thousands, even to millions of others who also have grievances and are eager to believe the worst. This is done by seizing upon one or two minor discrepancies in a government report, then joining up all the wrong dots to create a monstrous fable that runs completely counter to the facts.

Examples of counterknowledge include the notion that Aids was created in a CIA laboratory, that Princess Diana was murdered by the Secret Intelligence Service, and that the 9/11 attack on New York was orchestrated by the Bush administration. The dramatic decline of traditional moderate forms of religion has resulted in a spiritual void and thus a desperate need to believe intensely in something. This has accompanied the "Wikipedia age". A populist notion has developed that any individual has the right to correct or change the truth according to their own beliefs. It is, of course, the democratic ideal taken to its most grotesque extreme. But in reality it is the opposite of democratic. It is the easiest way for the demagogue to exploit gullibility and ignorance.

The home-produced movie Loose Change takes the ultimate conspiracy-theory approach to 9/11. It is now said to have been seen by more than 100m people on the internet. A few weeks ago, a leading Russian TV channel broadcast Loose Change to mark the anniversary of 9/11. The film was accepted as completely true by the presenters and the studio audience, who debated it in a three-hour prime-time programme.

Studies of internet sites reveal an unholy alliance between left-wing 9/11 conspiracy theorists, right-wing Holocaust deniers and Islamic fundamentalists. Many Muslims throughout the world now believe that no Arabs were involved in 9/11. Significantly, Islamic websites have also been learning from American creationists and have eagerly embraced their theory of intelligent design, which attributes the origin of life to a higher power and opposes theories of natural selection.

In a post-literate society where the image is king, the scope for mischief is almost without limit. I suspect that it will not be long before we see a Holocaust-denial movie. It could take the form of a Da Vinci Code-style thriller, and be packaged as straightforward entertainment.

The commercial potential for such a project is huge, above all in the Middle and Far East. If it were banned under Holocaust-denial legislation in some European countries, this would only convince conspiracy theorists that the Holocaust is a Zionist exaggeration or even invention. Already in British schools, many teachers have stopped mentioning the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslim students. This is because, according to one survey, only 29% of Muslims in Britain accept that the Holocaust took place as western history books describe it.

Political correctness is so easy to exploit. Universities in the United States, supposedly the guardians of intellectual rigour and scientific proof, have been cowed into accepting courses that clearly reject normal standards of evidence. This is perhaps the logical extreme of the anti-hierarchical revolution begun in the 1960s and now taken to a ridiculous and dangerous degree.

It may sound alarmist when one talks of these attempts to fragment proven reality. Yet the effects of counterknowledge and pseudo-history might develop a bigger threat to liberal democracy than the authoritarian onslaughts of Stalin and Hitler. This new insidious power to produce intellectual and scientific chaos is easy to underestimate.

It should be the duty of not just every scientist and historian, but also of every writer, publisher, movie-maker, TV producer and ordinary citizen to fight all attempts to exploit the ignorance and gullibility of audiences. Today's silly conspiracy theory in the West can easily become tomorrow's article of faith in the world at large. Quite simply, we play with facts at our peril. From selling fiction as truth in movies to peddling the big lies of counter-knowledge is not such a very big step after all.


Digging Out of Government's Hole

by Martin Hutchinson

The $787 billion stimulus bill has been signed by President Obama and the $275 billion help for homeowners has been announced and generally well received, but still the stock markets keep dropping. Worldwide, daily new plans for stimulus and rescue are met with daily declines in stock prices and gloomy economic figures. There's a reason for this: the markets have figured out that the deepest economic hole out of which the global economy will need to climb is the one that the world's governments have dug.

The relationship between public sector stimulus packages and output is fairly simple, but it is non-linear and Maynard Keynes was no mathematician. It basically appears to depend on four factors: 1. The share of public spending in GDP; 2. The public sector deficit as a percentage of GDP; 3. The composition of the stimulus package itself - its split between tax cuts, "digging holes and filling them in" unproductive spending and "TVA/Interstate highways" productive spending; and 4. The level of slack in the economy.

U.S. deficit spending during the Great Depression was thus fairly productive. The share of public spending in GDP was low, so increasing it did not greatly impact the private sector. The public sector deficit was low, so the spending was easily financed, without too much "crowding out" of private sector needs. At least some of the spending, the Tennessee Valley Authority, was productive. And the level of slack in the economy in 1933-40 was enormous. Thus if Keynesian stimulus was ever going to work, it should have worked then.

In reality, it didn't work all that well; unemployment remained above 10% until the United States entered World War II in 1941. Part of that failure was due to foolish non-Keynesian policies that dragged the economy down - the Glass-Steagall Act (which de-capitalized investment banks, thus almost closing the capital markets to new issues) and the NRA and unionization policies which raised prices and wages above market levels. Herbert Hoover's 1932 tax increase, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and the introduction of Social Security (heavily cash-flow-negative to taxpayers in its early years) also weakened the economy, as did unduly restrictive monetary policy in 1930-33. Conversely, the introduction of bank deposit insurance strengthened it.

Still, even in the Great Depression, the Keynesian case is a difficult one to make, judging by results alone. After all Britain, managed economically by the anti-Keynesian Neville Chamberlain, cut back public spending and emerged from the depression much more quickly and successfully than the United States.

Much though President Obama may not wish to admit it, his stimulus plans are not original. In 2001-02, a combination of a tax cut of 2% of GDP and spending increases of another 4% of GDP (partly the War on Terror, partly the No Child Left Behind Act and partly cyclical) provided fiscal stimulus of about 6% of GDP between the fiscal years (ending in September) 2001 and 2002. Monetary policy was also exceptionally stimulative, with short-term interest rates declining from 6% to 1% within a two-year period while inflation remained positive.

Judging by results, the George W. Bush stimulus worked rather better than the New Deal. It was begun from a position of fiscal surplus, lessening the strain placed on the debt markets by its borrowing, while inflation during the period was suppressed by the deflationary effects of globalization and the Internet. However, it distorted the economy, leading to an undue concentration in the unproductive sectors of housing and speculative finance, while manufacturing and much of the high-skill service sector was outsourced to Asia. Notoriously, the subsequent expansion led to very meager gains in living standards, except for the very rich, while inflation crept up and the federal budget deficit remained in substantial deficit, even at the top of the 2002-07 expansion.

This time around, the conditions for stimulus were much less propitious than in either the Great Depression or 2001-02. Public spending, including state and local spending, was far higher as a percentage of GDP than in the 1930s. In Europe, particularly Scandinavia and in Japan since 1990, we have seen the adverse effect on growth exerted by high public spending. The increase in global public spending through stimulus plans is thus likely to be substantially growth-destroying in its own right.

Second, an exceptionally large stimulus (including bank and mortgage bailouts) has been combined with a public sector deficit that was already excessive to produce a likely federal budget deficit in fiscal 2009 and 2010 of more than 10% of GDP in each year. The difficulties of financing these deficits will unquestionably be very serious, and the adverse effect on the U.S. Treasury's ability to borrow resulting from their probable persistence will be equally severe. Outside the United States, Britain and Japan are notable among other countries that were already in a difficult fiscal position before the downturn hit, and will be in impossible positions as a result of their misguided stimuli.

Third, the Obama stimulus package, having been largely dictated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) consists largely of short-term state budget palliatives or handouts to favored constituencies, with very little TVA-type long-term beneficial spending.

Even in areas where true economic benefits might be expected, such as the $8 billion subsidy to high speed rail, the package has not been designed to favor rail projects in the country's main centers of population and economic activity, which could hugely benefit from their rail systems being brought up to current international norms. Instead, it favors the utterly frivolous project to run a maglev train, the most expensive and least tested technology available, to the isolated casino result of Las Vegas. Politically, that project may be very attractive to Reid, but it is economically almost worthless because of Las Vegas' geographic isolation. It would also be socially highly damaging, forcing the destructive forces of gambling even more deeply into the fabric of American society.

Finally, at the time stimulus began with the bank bailouts last October, there was very little slack in the U.S. economy, with unemployment only around 6%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average at bubble levels over 10,000, house prices still sharply overvalued and the U.S. savings rate still disgracefully moored at around zero. To re-stabilize the economy after its years of imbalance, the savings rate needed to be brought back to its historical level of around 8%, or rather more to make up for the years of nil saving, while the U.S. balance of payments deficit also needed to decline by 5% to 6% of GDP. In such circumstances, injecting yet more wasteful spending into the economy was a wholly perverse approach to the problem.

Going forward, we are now presented with an annual fiscal deficit of 10% of GDP that will be very difficult to finance or to eradicate (and that's without taking account of further costs of any more bank bailouts that the erratic U.S. Treasury or the Federal Reserve may consider necessary.) President Obama's Fiscal Responsibility Summit will find significant cuts in public spending impossible, given the political orientation of the decision-makers and the expectations of their followers. The only approach that will appear feasible is thus one of massive tax increases, delayed sufficiently as to allow recovery from the recession before they take effect.

Substantial tax increases are already scheduled, with the December 2010 repeal of the Bush tax cuts. At less than $200 billion per annum, however, this repeal will go nowhere near far enough. To correct the budget imbalance, it will be necessary to schedule tax increases of at least 4% to 5% of GDP ($600 billion to $800 billion) unless public spending can be cut commensurately. Even those draconian increases would only bring the budget deficit down within historically precedented levels, rather than eliminating it altogether.

Not only will such tax increases have an appalling economic effect, they will also be very difficult to fit into Obama's political timetable. Tax increases that took effect in 2009 or 2010 would be disastrously counterproductive, reproducing almost precisely Hoover's blunder of 1932. However, massive tax increases that took effect in 2011 or 2012 would have an equally massive adverse effect on Obama's re-election chances, particularly if they caused even a minor relapse in the U.S. economy.

Hence, all but modest tax increases are likely to be delayed until 2013 or later, and the U.S. budget deficit is likely to remain at least well above 5% of GDP until then. That will increase U.S. public debt to around 100% of GDP by the 2012 election. It will also cause a massive increase in interest rates, which will doubtless be resisted to the utmost by the Ben Bernanke Fed. That, in turn, will cause a resurgence in inflation, probably at a speed and to a level that will make the late 1970s seem like child's play.

Already, the Producer and Consumer Price Indexes have continued increasing in January, demonstrating that the specter of deflation is no more than a Bernanke fantasy. Once inflation reappears in earnest, accompanied by higher interest rates caused by the excessive budget deficits, Bernanke will not rein in money supply immediately, as he currently claims he would; the unexpected (to him) resurgence in inflation will cause hysterical denial and delay in necessary tightening for at least a six to 12-month period.

The Bernanke problem can only be solved by replacing him when his 4-year term is up next January, but it is not clear whether Obama has either the understanding or the bottle to bring in a Paul Volcker clone to the Fed to do what is necessary.

Internationally, the stimulus expenditures of Japan and Britain are likely to prove equally damaging to those countries' recovery possibilities. Japan will have an election this year, from which an anti-stimulus opposition government may emerge; if so, it will face an uphill fiscal battle more strenuous than that facing Junichiro Koizumi in 2001. In Britain the election need not be held until June 2010, and even after it the feeble David Cameron and George Osborne team seems unlikely to provide much policy improvement.

It's already certain that 2009 will be a thoroughly unpleasant year, and many commentators are coming to realize that 2010 will not be much better. Thanks to stimulus, it now seems likely that 2011 and 2012 will also be years one would rather not experience and only in 2013 and after may some kind of feeble economic recovery emerge. Gee, thanks Maynard!


Mistresses can claim maintenance under new Australian laws

Sounds like converting all relationships into prostitution to me

CHEATING husbands will be open to divorce-style litigation from their mistresses under new laws. Mistresses can now claim income maintenance, property and even superannuation funds under the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures), dubbed the "mistress laws", which were passed by the Senate last November and came into effect today (March 1).

The main objective is to remove same-sex discrimination from the Family Court system, but they have left the door open for a raft of de facto relationship claims.

The laws declare that de facto couples who satisfy basic criteria - such as being in the relationship for at least two years - will be treated in the Family Court in the same way as a married couple. It also applies to same-sex couples.

The laws will change the way property is divided by enabling the court to consider the "future needs" of partners, as it does for married couples.

Men or women who have a second relationship outside a marriage are now liable to legal action in the Family Court should the second partner decide he or she deserves income support or a share of assets. This is particularly the case if a child is involved.



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

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

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


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Sunday, March 01, 2009

9-0 and no more! PC rule could blow the whistle on crushing defeats in British children's football

For generations of young footballers, being soundly thrashed by a rival team has been a tough, if character-building, rite of passage. But the days of double-digit goal tallies may be numbered. Some officials want the Football Association to introduce a so-called 'mercy rule' in youth soccer. An import from the United States, the rule means that if one team achieves a certain goal advantage over another the match is declared over, thus sparing the losers further humiliation.

Supporters claim such a move would prevent youngsters from becoming prematurely disillusioned with the beautiful game. But critics insist it will also deprive them of a vital life skill: Dealing with utter defeat.

The Mid Lincolnshire League is calling on the FA to bring in rules which would mean that if a nine-goal gap opened up between teams, then the game would stop. Ron Westerman, chairman of the Mid Lincs Youth League, in which more than 6,000 children aged up to 13 play in 400 teams, said: 'We'd not be taking away victory or defeat, merely lessening its severity. Scorelines of 25-0 don't do anyone any favours, especially at age eight to ten. 'We've asked the FA to consider bringing this in nationwide, but at the moment it's just one of many things up for consultation.' The rule already operates unofficially in Devon's Pioneer youth league. Now both counties want the FA to adopt the idea more widely, saying it will encourage more youngsters to enjoy the game.

But sceptics believe such measures merely provide a politically correct comfort blanket for children against the realities of the wider world. Robert Whelan, deputy director of think-tank Civitas, said: 'We're being over-protective with youngsters but doing them no favours. It's a symptom of a society that wants to protect the young from anything unpleasant at all costs. 'But the fact is that life can sometimes be unpleasant and you don't always win - and sometimes you lose by a big margin. 'Life throws down challenges to you, and sometimes it lays you flat on your back, but you have to learn to pick yourself up again, and you won't develop that spirit if no one ever allows you to lose.'

Tory MP Julian Brazier described the idea as 'terribly sad', adding: 'How can you really appreciate a fantastic win, if you've never experienced a crushing defeat?' But Devon FA chief executive Paul Morrison said: 'People talk about defeats being character building, but children are more vulnerable these days and we don't want to put them off playing the game because they are thrashed. 'A women's team I know lost 42-0 one Saturday, and within three weeks they'd disbanded. These days it should be about enjoyment and player development, rather than winning at all costs.'

An FA spokesman said: 'So far the reaction seems about 50/50, so it's not been introduced nationally yet, but it's something that could be considered in the future.'


Clint Eastwood goes gunning for PC killjoys by saying we should laugh at race-based jokes

Clint Eastwood believes the rise of political correctness is no laughing matter. He says the world would be a better place if we could still laugh at inoffensive jokes about different races. The Hollywood actor and director, 78, said we live in constant fear of being labelled racist for simply laughing about national stereotypes.

'People have lost their sense of humour,' he told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine. 'In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. 'You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth otherwise you will be insulted as a racist. 'I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a "Sam the Jew" or "Jose the Mexican" - but we didn't think anything of it or have a racist thought. 'It was normal that we made jokes based on our nationality or ethnicity. That was never a problem. ''I don't want to be politically correct. We're all spending too much time and energy trying to be politically correct about everything.'

His comments come in a week in which BT suspended 30 call centre staff after they had circulated an Irish joke by email. BT, however, insists other serious matters were involved and that a joke was not the sole reason for the suspensions.


A Radical Presidency

When Barack Obama delivered his 44-minute acceptance speech in August among the majestic columns of Denver, it was apparent his would be an expansive presidency. Some wondered whether his solutions for a very long list of problems was too ambitious. On Tuesday, before Congress, he made clear across 52 minutes that the economic downturn would not deflect him from his Denver vision.

Instead, the economic crisis, as it did for Franklin D. Roosevelt, will serve as a stepping stone to a radical shift in the relationship between the people and their government. It will bind Americans to their government in ways not experienced since the New Deal. This tectonic shift, if successful, will be equal to the forces of public authority set in motion by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The Obama presidency is going to be a radical presidency.

Barack Obama is proposing that the U.S. alter the relationship between the national government and private sector that was put in place by Ronald Reagan and largely continued by the presidencies of Bill Clinton and the Bushes. Then, the private sector led the economy. Now Washington will chart its course.

Mr. Obama was clear about his intention. "Our economy did not fall into this decline overnight," he said. Instead, an "era" has "failed" to think about the nation's long-term future. With the urgency of a prophet, he says the "day of reckoning has arrived." The president said his purpose is not to "only revive this economy."

In fact, people would probably coronate Mr. Obama if he merely revived the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Dow's fall since the Sept. 14 collapse of Lehman Brothers and sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America has eviscerated the net wealth of Americans across all incomes. Many are in the most dispirited state in their lifetimes.

Yesterday, the post-Obama Dow lost another percentage point. No matter. In his worldview, "short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity." His speech did include a plan to address the market crisis. It consists of a program to support consumer and small-business loans; a mortgage refinancing mechanism; and the "full force of the government" to restart bank lending. Mr. Obama delivered that last element with a rather crude pistol-whipping of the nation's bankers and CEOs, thousands of whom have been operating their companies in a responsible, productive way.

This was just the prelude. Notwithstanding the daily nightmares of the economic crisis, now is the time to "boldly" rebuild the nation's "foundation." The U.S. budget he released today isn't just a budget. "I see it as a vision for America -- as a blueprint for our future." With it, Mr. Obama becomes the economy's Architect-in-Chief.

This blueprint will reshape energy and health. With energy, it proposes a gradual tear-down of the existing energy sector and its replacement with renewables. This vision has foundered before on the price disadvantage of noncarbon energy. Mr. Obama says he will "make" renewable energy profitable. He'll do this with a cap-and-trade system for carbon. The goal here is to "make" renewables economic by driving up the price of carbon.

The once-private auto industry, now run by federal "car czar" Steve Rattner, a reformed investment banker, is about to be ordered to produce "more efficient cars and trucks." Americans, like it or not, will buy these government-designed vehicles with government-supported car loans.

Mr. Obama believes health-care costs cause a bankruptcy "every 30 seconds" and will drive 1.5 million Americans from their homes this year. Therefore, the budget's vision on health is "historic" and a "downpayment" toward comprehensive health insurance. This "will not wait another year," he said.

He announced "tax-free universal savings accounts" as a solution to Social Security's crisis. This is a savings plan supported by federal matching contributions automatically deposited in individual accounts.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that this spending -- which in the public sector's new vocabulary is always "investment" -- will be costly. His read-my-lips moment was that no family with an income under $250,000 will pay a "single dime" in new taxes to support the construction of this new federal skyscraper. If that's still true in 2015, Mr. Obama will be walking back and forth across the Potomac River.

He told Congress he does not believe in bigger government. I don't believe that. It's becoming clear that the private sector is going to be demoted into a secondary role in the U.S. system. This isn't socialism, but it is not the system we've had since the early 1980s. It would be a reordered economic system, its direction chosen and guided by Mr. Obama and his inner circle.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's postspeech reply did not come close to recognizing the gauntlet Mr. Obama has thrown down to the opposition. Unless the GOP can discover a radical message of its own to distinguish it from the president's, it should prepare to live under Mr. Obama's radicalism for at least a generation.


More Contributions To The Racial Conversation From Non-Cowards

Most of the criticism of Attorney General Holder's recent speech lamenting that "Black History Month" was separate and unequal has concentrated on his accusation that we (or at least those of us who are pigment-impaired) are a "nation of cowards."

Now a second wave of criticism has begun to appear, and it is even more devastating than the first. A good example of this second wave is Abigail Thernstrom, who writes in National Review Online: "`A nation of cowards'" - those attention-grabbing words have been much remarked upon. In fact, the rest of the speech is even more disturbing than that mud-slinging phrase."

Thernstrom begins with Holder's charge that "outside the workplace" there is so little racial interaction that "[o]n Saturdays and Sundays" America today "does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago." Really?
A little fact-checking is in order. Saturdays and Sundays looked quite different even less than 50 years ago. In 1964 only 18 percent of whites said they had black friends; the figure today is 87 percent. Raise the bar to "a fairly close personal friend" and the proportion jumps from a mere 9 percent in 1975 to 75 percent in 2005. The share of blacks with close white friends has soared from 21 percent to 82 percent over that same period.

We don't have much in the way of historical data on interracial dating because, not so long ago, the figure would have been too low for pollsters to bother tabulating. But we do know that in 1963 only 10 percent of whites approved of it. In 2006, however, a Washington Post/Kaiser poll found that 59 percent of black men and 41 percent of black women had dated someone who is white. And 41 percent of white women and 36 percent of white men had crossed the racial-dating divide. Today, the number of black-white marriages is up to almost half a million - still low, but a steep rise over the last 40 years. Presumably, these couples generally spend Saturdays and Sundays together.

Holder says that on the weekends blacks and whites lead separate lives. That's not so easy to do, given the racial composition of many American neighborhoods. Half a century ago, only 20 percent of whites reported having black neighbors; today the figure is above 60 percent. Blacks, on average, live in communities that are only half black. Do blacks and whites living in close proximity never chat about common concerns - the schools, the traffic, and the life of their kids in and out of school? Do the whites who voted for Barack Obama refuse to talk to the blacks who live on their street?
Another second-waver is Stuart Taylor, in the National Journal. Holder's speech, he writes, in the form of an open letter to the Attorney General, was "embarrassingly misinformed, hackneyed, and devoid of thoughtful contributions to racial dialogue." And that was just for starters.
The one point that you developed in a bit of detail in the February 18 speech was especially silly: "Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment.... Until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so-called `real' American history." Bosh. The reality is that our high schools and universities are quite clearly focusing disproportionate attention on black history.

The proof includes a poll published last year in which 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states were asked to name the 10 most famous Americans, other than presidents and first ladies. The top three finishers were black: Martin Luther King Jr. (67 percent), Rosa Parks (60 percent), and Harriet Tubman (44 percent). So is the only living finisher, Oprah Winfrey (22 percent).

As for the universities, "the almost obsessive emphasis on race, class, and gender in the humanities and social sciences means that, if anything, black history is overrepresented in college history curricula," in the words of professor KC Johnson, a distinguished scholar of American history based at Brooklyn College....

It's true that college black-studies courses are often "separate." But the reason is hardly to slight black history. It is to satisfy demands for hiring more black professors, who tend to specialize in black studies. Some of them also use their platforms to spread the lie that America is still pervaded by white racism.
Moving on, Taylor argues:
Your unelaborated assertion that "this nation has still not come to grips with its racial past" is also way off base, Mr. Attorney General.

To the contrary, this nation has adopted numerous civil-rights laws. It has replaced the once-pervasive regime of discrimination against blacks with a benignly motivated but nonetheless wide-reaching regime of discrimination against whites, euphemistically known as "affirmative action." It sometimes seems more interested in teaching children about slavery and segregation than about math and science. It has elected a black president.
On affirmative action:
If you really want an honest conversation and if you don't share the opposition of the vast majority of Americans (including me) to large racial preferences, please clarify specifically why you disagree. Also, please come to grips with the fact that these preferences do very little for truly poor people; that a substantial percentage of them go to middle- and upper-class blacks at the expense of less affluent Asians and whites; and that preferences harm some of their intended beneficiaries.

On this last point, please address the social-science research showing that virtually every selective college and university in the country discriminates so heavily in admissions that most black students cluster toward the bottom of the class and the best black students see their accomplishments stigmatized -- and that alarming percentages drop out. And that more than half of entering black law students never pass the bar and never become lawyers. And that many blacks might do much better and get better educations at the less selective schools they would attend if the racial preferences were not so large. And please state whether you support the racial-preference lobby's efforts to deny researchers access to the empirical databases that would cast more light on the magnitude of these problems
If Holder really wanted an honest conversation, Taylor writes, he would state his views on the large and growing number of black babies born out of wedlock; on underperforming black students who avoid "acting white" and graduate from high school having "learned no more in school than the average white eighth-grader"; on the "dominant cause" of current problems, which is not continuing white racism but rather "the misguided welfare policies and cultural trends that did so much to destroy work incentives, foster irresponsible child-bearing and dependence on the dole, and break up poor families in the latter half of the 20th century."

Maybe in future comments Thernstrom and Taylor will say what they really think of Holder's speech.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


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

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

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


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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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