Monday, October 31, 2005


Fox News Channel host John Gibson interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez

"Christmas is under attack in such a sustained and strategized manner that there is, no doubt, a war on Christmas." So writes Fox News Channel host John Gibson in his new book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. Blue state or red state, putting up a Christmas tree and not having to call it a "friendship tree" or a "giving tree" can often be quite the battle. Gibson relays some of the stories in The War on Christmas. Gibson recently sang his carols to National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez:

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Will you say "Merry Christmas" on air this year? Is that something that distinguishes Fox News from other media?

John Gibson: Fox News Channel put a "Merry Christmas" greeting on the air last year, as well as a "Happy Channukah" (though at this precise moment I'm not certain what spelling was used). I expect to see both again. As for me, I also say both depending on who it is I'm greeting, and yes, I do say the wrong thing sometimes. It happens. I trust that people understand no insult is meant if it happens to be the wrong greeting.

Lopez: You take on Aaron Brown in your introduction. Is this all a competitive anti-CNN thing?

Gibson: I wouldn't say I "take on Aaron Brown". I just pointed out what he said, and why he was wrong diminishing the importance of Christmas to a great number of Americans. As for the general anti-CNN thing, that's just the nature of competition. I want to beat them everyday, and I usually do. It's not that anybody's counting, or paying excessively close attention, but I have beaten my CNN opponent for 44 straight months.

Lopez: Isn't it a little much to be talking about "War on Christmas?" If Islamist terrorists were targeting Christmas celebrations, okay. But Festivus doesn't seem to rise to the level of war, does it? Do you hurt your argument by over hyping the problem?

Gibson: Do I hurt my argument by over hype in my choice of title, "The War on Christmas"? No. I think there is a general war on Christians underway in our country. You hear it in political discussions all the time when a Democrat or a liberal will decry the power of those "right wing evangelical Christians," and you hear it in the arguments about Intelligent Design, abortion, prayer in school, the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls, and frankly, a bunch of other ordinary discussions.

So in The War on Christmas I expose how that casual, accepted anti-Christian bias shows up once a year around Christmas when people in positions of petty power, such as school administrators, or municipal-hall managers, will suddenly pop up saying things like "We can't have that Christmas tree in here because it's too Christian." I had a long discussion with a city human-resources manager who said precisely that. What I find shocking is that people like that man do not hear the sound of their voices. Substitute any other religion for the word "Christian" and these very people would be up in arms with the cry of prejudice and bias, but if the bias is directed at Christians, it is perfectly acceptable.

Also, if you look at the newspapers over the last five years you find these stories popping up every Christmas season, with almost exactly the same arguments made, and almost exactly the same result each time: disaster.

I do believe the atmosphere is improving in some places, because people have recognized the downside of institutionalized hostility to religion in general and Christianity in particular. Tolerance is the tradition in this country, and tolerance should be extended to Christians during their important holiday period.

Lopez: Not to belabor, but: Isn't some of the "Happy Holidays" stuff out there understandable, polite, appropriate? When you're on air, you've got Christians, yes, but Jews and Muslims and others are also tuning in. Should they have to be hearing about a Christian holiday-in their faces as if there were something wrong with them for not celebrating it? Or are you all for dumbing down Christmas to make it a secular holiday everyone can celebrate?

Gibson: .Yes, if you are greeting someone you know to be a Jewish person you might want to give the appropriate greeting. But I've also had Jewish people say to me that they don't feel insulted when a Christian says "Merry Christmas" and even though there is no logic to wishing a non-Christian "Merry Christmas" if taken literally, I think most people get it, and understand no harm is meant and it is a greeting of simple well wishing.

This issue of non Christians being confronted with Christianity wherever they go at Christmas time seems to me to be best answered by "Well... DUH!" It's a Christian holiday and it's a big one. Eighty-four percent of the country self identifies as Christian. Ninety-six percent of the country observes or celebrates Christmas in some form, if only slightly, so what would one expect? I think Christmas does require the forbearance of non-Christians, but I don't think it should be a big issue. Once again, the American tradition is tolerance, and I see no reason why tolerance should not be extended to the majority religion and its secularized symbols.

As for the issue of dumbing-down Christmas, I'm probably the wrong guy to ask. People active in church, or actual clergy will say "yes," and will insist that a Christmas tree is not a religious symbol of Christianity the same way that a crŠche is. And consequently, they continue to insist that the proper public display of a Christian religious symbol is the crŠche. I would say they are right, and I urge them to continue to make that argument..."

Much more here

Three years later, courts finally get the Jewish joke

A bit of commonsense and resistance to hysteria from Britain's highest court

There's no joke like a Jewish joke. Not an anti-Jewish joke, just a knowing joke between Jews. But in our jittery nanny society, no joke is safe from the stony-faced thought police. Yesterday, in a welcome pronouncement of common sense, the law lords ruled that Harry Goldstein had meant no harm when he played a whimsical jape on his old Jewish friend Abraham Ehrlich.

Mr Goldstein has suffered for his humour. Three years ago a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty of causing a public nuisance. He was sentenced to 140 hours' community punishment and ordered to pay 500 pounds compensation and 1,850 pounds prosecution costs. Mr Goldstein appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction. Now the highest court in the land has seen the nonsense of it.

Mr Goldstein, a kosher food merchant from Manchester, owed a sum of money to Mr Ehrlich, his wholesale supplier in London. Mr Ehrlich pressed Mr Goldstein for payment. The friends, the law lords were told, had "a bantering relationship". What two Jewish traders don't? In an ancient cultural gesture, Mr Goldstein wrote out a cheque to Mr Ehrlich, but into the envelope he sprinkled a small quantity of salt.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the senior law lord, explained yesterday: "This was done in recognition of the age of the debt, salt being commonly used to preserve kosher food, and by way of reference to the very serious anthrax scare in New York following the events of September 11, 2001, which both men had discussed on the telephone shortly before."

Mr Ehrlich never got his cheque, or salt. The envelope got as far as Wembley sorting office, London, where the salt leaked on to the hands of a worker, who suspected it of being anthrax. Panic ensued. The sorting office was evacuated for an hour, the police were called and that day's second delivery was cancelled.

At his original court hearing Mr Goldstein denied the common law offence of public nuisance. He had the backing of Mr Ehrlich, who said that he would have recognised the salt as a joke, had he received it.

Overturning the conviction yesterday, Lord Bingham said that Mr Goldstein had not intended to cause trouble. "Nor, plainly, was it a result which he knew would occur, since it would have rendered his intended joke entirely futile." Lord Bingham, sitting with Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Baroness Hale of Richmond, said that the old common law charge of public nuisance would probably be rarely used in future, as statutes now existed to deal with almost every public nuisance, be it noise, pollution, racial or religious harassment, or sending noxious substances in the post.

The law lords also allowed an appeal by Anthony Rimmington, who had been convicted of public nuisance for posting packages of racially offensive material to members of the public. Lord Bingham said that the communications were strongly racist and in some instances threatening and arguably obscene. But the offence of public nuisance involved injury to a section of the public, and did not extend to individual letters.


Sunday, October 30, 2005


Comment from Neal Boortz

Florida Governor Jeb Bush is taking responsibility for relief delays that people are complaining about in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Bush says "We (meaning the government) did not perform to where we want to be. This is our responsibility." Local officials complained that the state wasn't doing enough. Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary, toured the area and asked the public for its patience.

All of this asks the question: what is the proper role of government following a natural disaster? Is it simply to restore law and order and essential services? Or is the government supposed to hold people's hand, paying for their every need and waiting on them hand and foot? This is a lesson from Katrina. More and more with each passing day Americans are being taught, and they're learning quite well we must say, to depend on government for just about everything. People who stocked up on necessities such as water, non-perishable food, batteries and other basics weren't the ones complaining. The more we depend on government the more politicians love it, and the less freedom we have. Self-sufficiency is no longer the goal for far too many Americans. Now the goal is to see how much responsibility they can turn over to the government while continuing to live the easy life.

America cannot survive this new attitude of government dependency.

Unfortunately, if the government would get out of the way after a disaster, things would go much smoother. With businesses and entrepreneurs worried about allegations of price gouging, scarce supplies and gasoline run out much sooner than they otherwise should. Immediately following a disaster, vote-hungry politicians start their warnings about price gouging. The result: artificially low prices result in shortages. Too bad. President Bush plans to tour the damage today in Florida. Expect him to be blamed for it too.

Britain: The black v Asian riots in Birmingham have roots in the politics of multiculturalism

One Asian teenager reflected on events in the Lozells area of Birmingham over the past week. It had started with a rumour about Asian men raping a Jamaican girl, and ended up with pitched battles between young British Asians and African-Caribbeans - the teenager nursed stitches in his head from a crowbar strike, and had lost teeth from a blow with knuckle-dusters.

According to the rumour, a 14-year-old Jamaican was caught stealing a wig from an Asian-run shop selling black beauty products in nearby Perry Barr. One of the shopkeepers threatened to call the police, but she pleaded with him not to ('she was an illegal immigrant, and didn't want the police to be led to her house', one black man told me). The girl agreed to have sex with the shopkeeper if he wouldn't tell the police. But then he called his friends, who came around and raped her - some say she was raped by three men, others say 13 or 19.

There is no evidence that such an attack took place. Police forensic experts have reportedly checked out the beauty parlour but found nothing. No girl has come forward, in spite of police pledges of leniency. Nobody knows her name or when the attack happened, though some claim to know her family.

The two communities are divided by the story - most local black people claim it's true, most Asians say it's a myth. But this is less about the girl, real or imagined, than about simmering economic grievances. One local black community activist told me: 'Blacks get nothing, no funding, no support. Blacks made Asians rich, we support their shops. It's a joke.' According to a 17-year-old originally from Somalia, 'The word on the street is that a war is on, and it's Asians versus blacks'. On the other side, a young Asian man claimed that blacks are 'stupid people. They go to school but don't learn anything. I don't know what they are moaning about. We did well because we worked hard'.

These kinds of sentiments fuelled the disturbances. At a rally outside the beauty parlour on Tuesday 18 October, black demonstrators carried placards reading 'Raped, violated, disrespected, how much more can our women endure?' and 'Time to unite'. Another meeting last Saturday at a local church became a flashpoint. Black youths who gathered outside the church ran through the area, smashing up Asian shops and businesses and attacking police. Young Asians came out on to the streets in retaliation. A young black man was stabbed to death in a sidestreet off Lozells Road.

Certainly, a glance down the Lozells Road shows an economic disparity between the two communities. The vast majority of the shops are run by Asians, generally British Muslims of Pakistani descent - including a substantial supermarket, a smart restaurant and two Asian clothes shops. A large new mosque is nearly finished at the west end of the road - the builders told me that the marble alone cost 600,000 pounds, and that in total the bill is well over 1 million pounds. By contrast, there are only a handful of British African-Caribbean-run shops - two takeaways, a hairdresser, and a run-down grocery store. In the past, say residents, there were more African-Caribbean- and Indian-run shops.

It's no surprise that tensions exist in a run-down inner city area such as this. This is often presented as a case of two communities hating each other, with the police standing helpless in between. In fact, the script for the conflict in Perry Barr was written at the top of New Labour's Britain. Today, different groups are encouraged to play up their victimhood and unique cultural identities, in a bid for public funds and social authority. The fireworks in Lozells demonstrate the fractious consequences.

Black campaigners were talking the language of identity politics, saying that they didn't get any 'respect' and their 'grievances haven't been understood'. '[Asians] look at Jamaican people like we are nothing', said one black woman quoted in the New Nation. Respectable community organisations have helped to broadcast the issue over the past week. Maxie Hayles, head of the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Group, has been one of the more vocal activists: he was quoted on BBC News as saying 'There are a lot of [black] people who think that the Asian people look down on African-Caribbean people'; while the New Nation recorded his comment, 'We are not going to tolerate our women being abused. We have a zero tolerance against it'. Hayles has contributed to a number of official consultations, and in 2000 was awarded the government's 'Active Community Award'. Meanwhile, one of the websites that played a role in spreading the rumours, Blacknet UK, has connections with official bodies including the Commission for Racial Equality.....

On the other side, Asians also claim that everybody is set against them, and appeal for protection. 'The government is trying to mess Muslims up, because we are doing well', said one young man. Many blame the police for the riots. 'The government can't control West Indians', said one of the builders of the new mosque. He claimed that when black youths threw stones outside the mosque, the police stood in a line and didn't do anything. 'The government makes criminals. If a thief goes into your shop, you're asked to leave him alone. The police tell me I can't put barbed wire on my wall because a thief might scratch himself.' At a meeting between the police and the Asian community on Monday night, angry locals argued that the police should have shut down the demonstrations and stopped things getting out of hand....

More here

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Are you easily offended? Does your little ego bruise easily? Do you think everyone else in America ought to give a darn about your self-esteem? Do your eyes fill with tears every time you perceive someone is being insensitive to you? Do you live under the delusional belief that you should be protected against being offended? Do you believe that anytime you are offended someone should be fired; have their life ruined or character trashed?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions you need to shut up, grow up, stop throwing your little pity parties and get a life! Frankly, you and those like you are a major part of what is wrong with America today. Your constant carping and whining are adding nothing positive to this great nation. Instead, the climate of perpetual offendedness and hypersensitivity you are creating is sapping the great spirit of rugged individualism that made America the greatest nation to ever exist in this world’s history.

Think for a moment if the Founding Fathers had been the type of wimpy whiners so many Americans are today? There would be no America would there? Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest would have been so busy filing discrimination suits and attending counseling sessions that they would have never gotten around to the business of creating a new nation.

How very pathetic these maddening wimpy attitudes are! So many in America think every thing and everyone should bend, change and alter their standards and rules so as not to exclude or offend them. How else do we explain the phenomenon of those who want to join the Boy Scouts, but ONLY if the Scouts change their rules to accommodate their over inflated sense of self-importance? Look if you are an Atheist and saying the Scouts pledge bothers you, you have a choice. You can either say the pledge and not believe a word of it, or you can start your own scouting group.

Yes! Yes! Yes! You could actually stop feeling sorry for yourself, start a scouting organization, and leave the Boy Scouts alone. Oh but that is not good enough. You, the offended feel an insatiable need to force your views onto the Boy Scouts. After all, it is all about you, your ego and your little feelings isn’t it.

More here

Conservative New Zealand political head appoints political correctness "eradicator"

National has created the menacing-sounding role of "political correctness eradicator" to counter the Government's "PC" culture that it says is eroding New Zealanders' rights and freedoms. The role is the creation of party leader Don Brash, who has given Wayne Mapp, ranked number 14 in the National line-up announced yesterday, the eradication job.

Dr Mapp, who holds a PhD in international law, gave a speech in June about getting rid of the politically correct culture. This impressed Dr Brash so much he decided to create the role. In that speech Dr Mapp said political correctness ran counter to the "basic freedoms of society". "A person, an institution or a government is politically correct when they cease to represent the interests of the majority and become focused on the cares and concerns of minority sector groups."

Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen was quick yesterday to criticise the new role, saying it was "chillingly fascist-sounding". "I think the sort of nonsense we will see from Dr Mapp on that should cause enormous amusement around the country," Dr Cullen said.

Although Dr Brash was behind the creation of the role, yesterday he appeared foggy on the details of what Dr Mapp would do and what political correctness was, instead repeatedly referring media representatives to Dr Mapp's speech for clarification.

Dr Mapp told the Herald the political correctness he was most concerned about was where it had been built into government by way of legislation or advocacy. Examples he gave were the Waitangi Tribunal, Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. He said the attempt to censor a conservative Christian video which condemned homosexuality was an example of excessive political correctness. "There are New Zealanders who want to be able to express their views on homosexuality, not just privately, but through the public media," said Dr Mapp. "The attempt to ban the video was an attempt to prevent people expressing their views, on the basis that it was hate speech." He said he would start his new role by reviewing legislation and agencies and would find and publicise occurrences of political correctness. "We are taking this seriously. We are going to do something about it, not just talk about it."


The issue of religion and political correctness

Whatever happened to allowing people to think for themselves? Our pledge of allegiance does not say one nation under Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Yahweh, Muhammad or Ricky Martin. Our pledge of allegiance says "under God." What God? That should have been up to you - God through Christ, Isaac Newton's natural order god, or no god at all, whatever takes your fancy. What's sad is that now we actually have to say things like "One nation under which you believe." How has this world become a place where any topic hurts someone's feelings and our statements have to be hundred-word politically correct treatise? Americans are becoming overly emotional and ridiculously sensitive. Instead of expressing our right to believe in anything we like, we are reduced to either openly believing in nothing or keeping what we believe to ourselves.

It is apparent our uniquely American freedom of religion is slipping through our fingertips. That ideal is now replaced by a list of grievances from those who have ever had a problem with someone else's religious beliefs. This bickering is not coming from one side- it's coming from all sides at full force and destroying the hope of ever enjoying true religious freedom. How am I free to practice my religion if I cannot bring my bible to class or bow to pray seven times throughout the day no matter where I am? How am I free if I cannot display open feelings of gratitude toward my god without being reprimanded? How am I free if I have to give an explanatory speech before I discuss evolution? The fact is that I am not free. The binding standards of American political correctness restrain us all from exercising the rights our forefathers intended us to have.

Of course, it is important to note our founding fathers were not particularly religious men and their primary focus was to prevent religious persecution. They intended for every person to have the right to practice their religion without being subject to scrutiny, ridicule or blunt force objects. As deists, they had this in mind for every person and not just one or two religious groups. What is remarkable now is that we are religiously persecuting ourselves. Soon it is going to be impossible to have any outward expressions of faith - or lack thereof - without it being punishable by law or taken down by hate. Why can Christians not study evolution when they can study Greek mythology? Can we not take the things we read and form our own opinions without the assistance of a warning sticker? Why do we have to point out the obvious - that we all have our own beliefs - in our pledge of allegiance?

The pledge of allegiance is a testimonial to what Americans have stood and fought for throughout the centuries. If you mess with the pledge, you are messing with the foundation of America and her people. It's your choice as to what you do or do not believe in. In public school, I can recall students who chose not to stand for the pledge or recite it at all on a daily basis. That was their choice. A part of American freedom is the freedom to oppose America. If you do not want to say "one nation under God," then do not say it. Please do not infringe upon the rights of those who do wish to say the pledge of allegiance in its traditional form.

Now that the pledge is altered, where do Americans go from here? How many more hurdles do we have to jump before we succeed in interfering with the relationships that God shares with the lives of all Americans? I read somewhere a statement by a man in retaliation to the removal of the 10 Commandments from the courthouses. He said, "Are we saying 'do murder, do commit adultery, do lie, do steal', etc.?" Who knows, in the next 10 years that just might be our decision.


Friday, October 28, 2005


Sounds a bit like the Holy Inquisition to me -- reaching into people's private lives. I suppose the Rev. Kieran McHugh will be bringing back the index expurgatorius next and forbidding students from reading anything that does not have the imprimatur of a bishop and the "nihil obstat" of a church censor. I hope the church hierarchy realize how much damage this sort of thing does both to the loyalty of their flock and to the image of the church in the wider world. If they do, they will pull the dictatorial McHugh into line pronto

When students post their faces, personal diaries and gossip on Web sites like and, it is not simply harmless teen fun, according to one Sussex County Catholic school principal. It's an open invitation to predators and an activity that Pope John XIII Regional High School in Sparta will no longer tolerate, the Rev. Kieran McHugh told a packed assembly of 900 high school students two weeks ago. Effective immediately, and over student complaints, the teens were told to dismantle their accounts or similar sites with personal profiles and blogs. Defy the order and face suspension, students were told.

While public and private schools routinely block access to noneducational Web sites on school computers, Pope John's order reaches into students' homes. The primary impetus behind the ban is to protect students, McHugh said. The Web sites, popular forums for students to blog about their lives and feelings about their teachers and schools, are fertile ground for sexual predators to gather information about children, he said.

Students, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for disciplinary action, said the majority of the student body protested the new rule. They tried to argue that they have freedom of speech and the school should not control what they do at home. "The idea of a private school regulating student activity outside of school is not unheard of and there is a long tradition in it," said Kevin Bankston, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San-Francisco-based defender of online civil liberties.

While Pope John's school handbook does not specifically forbid students from creating personal profiles on Web sites, it does prohibit students from posting anything on the Internet pertaining to the school, without the school's permission. "It's an incredible overreaction based on an unproven problem," Bankston said. "If they're concerned about safety, they could train students in what they should or shouldn't put online. Kids shouldn't be robbed of the primary communication tool of their generation." Bankston said he believes the real motivation for school officials was to suppress negative comments about the school posted by students. One student, who identified himself as a senior who was expelled, wrote that "pope john kicks you out once you think freely."



Swit the twit guides us to wisdom. Even overfeeding of ducks and geese is bad, apparently. Some people object to slaughtering calves for veal. Will that soon be banned too? What about cattle fattening? Is that bad too?

Amid comparisons to the mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a City Council committee agreed Tuesday to ban the sale of the liver delicacy known as foie gras in Chicago restaurants. If the full Council follows the Health Committee's lead, Chicago would join the state of California and a host of countries that have already banned the pricey appetizer. They include the United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel.

Famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter has already stopped serving foie gras, and more than 100 other Illinois restaurants have signed similar pledges. Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who proposed the Chicago ban, estimated that "not more than a dozen" local restaurants still serve it. "It'll mean that there will be fewer restaurants serving this product and, hence, fewer ducks and geese being tortured to create this product," said Moore, who has been ridiculed in some circles for trying to ban a food that most Chicagoans have never tasted. "Chicago is in the nation's heartland. It's not known as a city that passes, without considerable thought and deliberation, ordinances of this nature. It'll encourage other legislative bodies to consider similar measures."

It was actress Loretta Swit of MASH and "Hot Lips" fame who made the prison comparison. Her voice choking with emotion, [About the sacrifices being made daily in Iraq by America's military men? Whoops! No.] Swit talked about the "torture" that geese and ducks endure while being force fed to enlarge their livers 10 times normal size. Three times a day, a steel pipe is jammed down a bird's esophagus. When the monthlong ordeal ends in slaughter, the birds can barely walk, much less breathe, experts contend.

Swit quoted Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington as saying that creating the delicacy "may not be pretty, but it pales by comparison to problems like Abu Ghraib, police brutality and racial profiling." "Are we ever going to forget the memory of that girl smiling, holding a tortured prisoner on a leash and enjoying it? . . . She grew up with the acceptance of this kind of behavior in whatever form it was, whether it was torturing a cat or a dog or seeing somebody doing it and looking the other way," Swit said. "If we look the other way -- if we say, 'It's a guinea pig. It's a mouse. Who cares? It's a kitten. Whatever,' then why are we surprised at the existence of inhumane acts directed toward each other? Violence begets violence. Brutality begets brutality. Inhumanity is a disease."

Didier Durand, chef/owner of Cyrano's Bistrot, 546 N. Wells, spoke in opposition to the ban on behalf of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He noted that foie gras is a delicacy that dates back "many hundreds of years" to the Egyptians, the Romans, Germans and French. "To take it off our menu would be destroying a time-honored culinary tradition. Every restaurant has the right to serve what they want. We welcome all palates. But we strongly contend that they are not matters to be regulated by law, but by personal choice," said Durand, who serves roughly 30 foie gras appetizers each week at a cost of $15 apiece.

Carrie Nahabedian, chef/co-owner of Naha Restaurant, 500 N. Clark, called foie gras "part of the tradition of what a chef becomes when they learn to cook. They learn the values and the ancestry." She added, "We're going down a slippery slope. If we're going to look at foie gras, then we should look at a lot of other things. Maybe it moves on to hamburger and maybe it should. We have mad cow [disease] threatening us on every shore. We have the bird flu that is of major concern. Maybe we need to look at everything."

Earlier this year, Mayor Daley ridiculed the proposed foie gras ban as a Big Brother-style government intrusion. "We're trying to tell people they can't eat certain foods. They can't buy certain foods. They can't ship certain foods in. Pretty soon, you can't drink. Do you really want government to keep telling you every day what to do?" Daley said.


Alphabet correctness: "A Turkish court fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law banning characters not used in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said Tuesday. The court in the southeastern city of Siirt fined each of the 20 people 100 new lira for holding up the placards, written in Kurdish, at the event last year. The letters Q and W do not exist in the Turkish alphabet, but are used in Kurdish. Under pressure from the European Union, Turkey lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting in Kurdish in 2002, but bureaucratic resistance has delayed implementing the reforms. State television and radio began limited broadcasts in Kurdish last year, but local television channels have yet to receive permission to start programs in Kurdish. The 1928 Law on the Adoption and Application of Turkish Letters changed the Turkish alphabet from the Arabic script to a modified Latin script and required all signs, advertising, newspapers and official documents to only use Turkish letters. Many shops and companies in Turkey have names, signs and advertising using the letters Q, W and X which are not used in Turkish, in apparent violation of the 1928 law, but have not been prosecuted".

Thursday, October 27, 2005


"In his columns on the next conservatism, Paul Weyrich has several times referred to “cultural Marxism.” He asked me, as Free Congress Foundation’s resident historian, to write this column explaining what cultural Marxism is and where it came from. In order to understand what something is, you have to know its history.

Cultural Marxism is a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as “multiculturalism” or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as “multiculturalism.”

Cultural Marxism began not in the 1960s but in 1919, immediately after World War I. Marxist theory had predicted that in the event of a big European war, the working class all over Europe would rise up to overthrow capitalism and create communism. But when war came in 1914, that did not happen. When it finally did happen in Russia in 1917, workers in other European countries did not support it. What had gone wrong?

Independently, two Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, came to the same answer: Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interest that Communism was impossible in the West until both could be destroyed. In 1919, Lukacs asked, “Who will save us from Western civilization?” That same year, when he became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun government in Hungary, one of Lukacs’s first acts was to introduce sex education into Hungary’s public schools. He knew that if he could destroy the West’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying Western culture itself.

In 1923, inspired in part by Lukacs, a group of German Marxists established a think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany called the Institute for Social Research. This institute, soon known simply as the Frankfurt School, would become the creator of cultural Marxism.

To translate Marxism from economic into cultural terms, the members of the Frankfurt School - - Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, to name the most important - - had to contradict Marx on several points. They argued that culture was not just part of what Marx had called society’s “superstructure,” but an independent and very important variable. They also said that the working class would not lead a Marxist revolution, because it was becoming part of the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie.

Who would? In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question: a coalition of blacks, students, feminist women and homosexuals.

Fatefully for America, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Frankfurt School fled - - and reestablished itself in New York City. There, it shifted its focus from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to destroying it in the United States. To do so, it invented “Critical Theory.” What is the theory? To criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down. It wrote a series of “studies in prejudice,” which said that anyone who believes in traditional Western culture is prejudiced, a “racist” or “sexist” of “fascist” - - and is also mentally ill.

Most importantly, the Frankfurt School crossed Marx with Freud, taking from psychology the technique of psychological conditioning. Today, when the cultural Marxists want to do something like “normalize” homosexuality, they do not argue the point philosophically. They just beam television show after television show into every American home where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual (the Frankfurt School’s key people spent the war years in Hollywood).

After World War II ended, most members of the Frankfurt School went back to Germany. But Herbert Marcuse stayed in America. He took the highly abstract works of other Frankfurt School members and repackaged them in ways college students could read and understand. In his book “Eros and Civilization,” he argued that by freeing sex from any restraints, we could elevate the pleasure principle over the reality principle and create a society with no work, only play (Marcuse coined the phrase, “Make love, not war”). Marcuse also argued for what he called “liberating tolerance,” which he defined as tolerance for all ideas coming from the Left and intolerance for any ideas coming from the Right. In the 1960s, Marcuse became the chief “guru” of the New Left, and he injected the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School into the baby boom generation, to the point where it is now America’s state ideology.

The next conservatism should unmask multiculturalism and Political Correctness and tell the American people what they really are: cultural Marxism. Its goal remains what Lukacs and Gramsci set in 1919: destroying Western culture and the Christian religion.

It has already made vast strides toward that goal. But if the average American found out that Political Correctness is a form of Marxism, different from the Marxism of the Soviet Union but Marxism nonetheless, it would be in trouble. The next conservatism needs to reveal the man behind the curtain - - old Karl Marx himself".



The idea could hardly be more incorrect but it seems probable, nonetheless

In 1975, I was asked by Robert Hoffman, a publisher himself, and the son of Sylvan Hoffman, the originator of an American history in the format of a newspaper, News of the Nation, to become the Associate Editor of a new edition of the book. The first edition, published in 1953 had been a Book-of-the-Month selection, the subject of high praise in a "My Day" column by Eleanor Roosevelt, and had sold widely as a textbook as well.

The publisher, Prentice-Hall, sent me a book containing all of the politically correct grammar already in vogue by then. I cut out about a third of the old edition, added new pieces on cultural and social history, as well as bringing the book up to date, I had, beyond Bob, about a half dozen various editors at P-H, who were looking over all of the hundreds of articles I produced.

Amazingly, there were only two of my articles that caused a bit of a controversy. One detailed how after the War with Mexico, Hispanics in the southwest had been deprived of their property, and the efforts of the Justice Dept. to rectify that injustice. It was deemed too permeated with notions of Marxism and class conflict. I gave in to the majority when it became clear that they had no understanding of libertarian class theory and property rights.

The second involved Colon. The first edition carried a story entitled, "Fourteen Italian Cities Claim Columbus," which I suggested be replaced by a piece called "Was Columbus a Jew? I was especially excited by the opportunity this offered in the Teacher's Guide to introduce the teachers to some of the exciting literature that existed on this subject. Most of the editors were themselves Jews, but I was again overridden, not because my research was wrong, but because no one wanted to offend any Italian-American readers. Oh well, 2 out of maybe 400 ain't bad!

For those in doubt about the question of Columbus, I recommend, especially, Salvador de Madariaga's classic, Christopher Columbus; Being the Life of the Very Magnificent Lord, Don Cristobal Colon (1940), but, these days try Googling "Columbus+Jews" as well, along with other variations. In the turmoil of the Inquisition, Colon's family had left Spain for Genoa, but he continued to use Spanish and as a young man fought with the French against Genoa.

He began his diary at the time of the expulsion of the Jews early in 1492, and his log was later kept in the Jewish calendar. It was the Jewish bankers around Ferdinand, himself of Jewish ancestry, who financed the expedition with a motive of finding some opportunity for the Jews. Sephardics did come to the New World, and it is perhaps no accident that the Cubans were known as the Jews of the Caribbean.

My point is not to attempt to build that case here, that has been done in a number of books, but to ask, why has this information, even as controversy, not made its way into American textbooks? I am less concerned with political correctness than with correct accuracy.

More here

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


What a laugh! They tear down restraints and then wonder why there are none!

Feminism set out to free women from roles imposed on them by males, but a new book accuses women of building a new, self-imposed prison by acting like sex objects and tolerating sexism. In Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, New York Magazine contributing editor Ariel Levy slams both celebrities who act like porn stars, and the women and girls who want to be like them. Levy says it's absurd that stars such as heiress Paris Hilton and singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera - who dress like "hos", fake orgasms in video clips and pose for men's magazines - have become role models. She says they exude a commercialised concept of sex that is about performing for men and has little to do with their own sexuality.

Levy says trends in everyday life, such as teens who wear skimpy clothes to school and female bosses who bully employees, make poor substitutes for true liberation. "If male chauvinist pigs were guys who treated women like pieces of meat," says Levy, "then female chauvinist pigs are women who make sex objects of other women, and of themselves, and think of this as empowerment. "If we use porn stars and strippers as our role models, if they're going to teach us about sexual liberation, I think that's misguided, because these are women whose jobs it is to fake lust. "So if we imitate them, then we're imitating an imitation of real sexual pleasure and power, and that's just too far removed from authentic personal pleasure."

Speaking by phone from her Manhattan home before this week's Australian promotional tour, Levy, 30, told The Age she wrote the book in response to seeing raunch "everywhere I looked". "As I say in the book, it was as if Britney Spears' body, the sight of her half-dressed and undulating, became so familiar to me, it was as if she and I had dated. It was becoming ridiculous. "And the Playboy bunny was suddenly everywhere. Girls were wearing it on T-shirts. When I was growing up, Hugh Hefner and that whole Playboy image was, like, a bad joke. It was something that was tacky. But all of a sudden, everyone was in love with it again. "One of my best friends from college, who'd been involved in women's groups and who was smart and probably considered herself a feminist, started getting interested in porn stars and reading books about them - she was engaging with what I call raunch culture. And as I started to talk to more and more women, I came to believe that women were a very important motor behind this trend."

In the book, Levy questions the values of a world in which porn star Jenna Jameson's recent memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, stayed on the US bestseller list for six weeks; a world where elite female athletes interrupt training to appear in men's magazine FHM; and where "harem-themed" reality shows such as The Bachelor,Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire? and Outback Jack portray women "in competitions, many of which involved bikinis, to show who among them was the hottest and the hungriest". She writes that the number of US women undergoing breast augmentation soared from 32,607 a year in 1992 to 264,041 in 2004. And she points to the success of Aguilera, "who titled her 2003 album Stripped, mud-wrestled in a humping fashion in her video (for the song) Dirrty, and likes to wear assless chaps".

She added it was sad that Paris Hilton "the breathing embodiment of our current, prurient, collective fixations - blondeness, hotness, richness, anti-intellectualism" - had told Rolling Stone magazine: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." "I don't think that's a great thing for us to idolise," Levy says. "Again, it's performance over pleasure. This is a person who got famous when amateur sex tapes of her were published. It would be interesting to see what she could contribute, artistically or otherwise, to the culture. "But it's not like I think she's like the devil, going to hell. I'm sure she's a nice person; it's just that I don't think we need to be looking up to her as a heroine.".......

Levy says the saddest thing she experienced researching the book was a high-school girl who told her she and her friends competed to see who looked the "skankiest". "She asked me, ‘Was it that way when you at high school?'. "I told her, ‘In my day, you always wanted to be the prettiest and most popular, and you would have been embarrassed to look slutty'. And she looked at me and said, ‘Then how did you get the guys? Charm?' She couldn't see there was any other way to relate to the opposite sex."

More here


A psychoanalytic look at the "Rathergate" debacle

Political correctness represents hysteria, a psychological dynamic that is inconsistent with and destructive toward organization. This is shown in the case of CBS News, as illustrated by the Burkett memo debacle. News organizations can do good journalism even though they are biased, as long as they operate under the assumption that there is an external world which their reporting can get wrong. Political correctness undermines that assumption, and in fact undermines the whole idea that there is an external world. In the politically correct organization, truth refers to correspondence with a fantasy, rather than correspondence with facts in an external world. Politically correct news organizations are not in the journalism business anymore. They are in the business of political correctness, which has become an end in its own right.

From its beginnings in the university, political correctness has metastasized into every area of social relations. Even within the corporation, it has risen to unquestioned dominance over communication in the matters to which it applies. If this control were just in the area of speech, it would be a matter of little concern to organizations. However, the merest reflection indicates that it cannot control speech alone, since organizational decisions involve positions that are proposed and defended through speech. Hence control over speech through political correctness must imply control over organizational decision-making, and hence over every aspect of the organization. The implication of this is that the psychological dynamics that underlie political correctness come to be the underlying dynamics of the organization as a whole.

I have written extensively about the psychological roots of political correctness (2002, 2003, 2004) and will repeat only the rudiments here. In psychoanalytic terms, the key to the understanding of political correctness is the psychology of sex roles, which are based on primitive images of the mother and the father. In those terms, the father is seen as an obstacle to perfect fusion with the mother, which we all had, or imagine we had, in infancy, when that love was sufficient to make our lives perfect.

Now the father is not really the obstacle to that fusion, he is only the form in which it first appears. The obstacle is reality itself, which determines that we are all separate creatures, and not one with mother. Nonetheless, the father has a special relationship with external reality, precisely because he is not part of the early fusion with the mother.

In the traditional Western psychology of sex roles, his life gains its meaning by his engagement with that world. He deals with the external world as a way of gaining the love of the mother through his achievement, by transforming it so that she can simply be her loving self. In order to do this, the father must learn to deal with external reality on its own terms. He must be able to see himself as an actor among other actors, as others see him who are not emotionally connected to him, as an object rather than as a subject. This requires learning a way of seeing himself and the world that I call objective self-consciousness. Through objective self-consciousness we come to appropriate the pattern of shared terms and meanings that Lacan calls the symbolic.

By introjecting him, the children come to acquire objective self-consciousness. This enables him to pass on to the children what he has learned about the world through this process of transformation. In this way they come to acquire the idea of an external world, which is to say a world that is indifferent to them and operates according to its own terms.

Political correctness means the repudiation of the role of the father and his works. Its unconscious premise is that we could all have fusion with the mother if we could only get him out of the picture. Directly and indirectly, this outlook involves the rejection of objective self-consciousness and, along with that, the idea of objective external reality, which is rooted in it, and the symbolic, though which it is represented.

This is so for a number of reasons. For one thing, as we have seen, the cause of our separation is not really the father, but reality itself. The father only represents reality. So it is really reality that is under attack when the father is repudiated in political correctness. Second, to the extent that the father is the object of attack, as we shall see further on, the repudiation of reality is strategically invaluable. The father needs external reality so that he can engage it and transform it and in that way gain standing with the mother. Get rid of the idea of external reality and the symbolic and you deprive the father of any possibility of gaining standing.

However, students of organization will understand that the structural elements of organization are the legacy of the father. The formalized division and coordination of labor, standards of performance, and so on, require the idea that there is something outside oneself to which one must adapt. In other words they require the idea of an objective reality and the shared meaning of the symbolic, along with the attendant definitions of truth and knowledge. Undermining them would make organization impossible.

This will be a problem that may be most visible in organizations whose primary purpose is itself truth and knowledge, such as the university and the news business. I have written about its effect on the university ( 2003). The purpose of this presentation will be to explore its effect on journalism through the analysis of a recent debacle at CBS News.

In this matter, a program designed to present damaging information about President Bush's career in the Air National Guard was quickly determined to be based on memos that were obvious forgeries, and would have been known to be forgeries if proper journalistic practices had been employed. Evidently, CBS' journalistic standards had broken down and its processes had become corrupted.

Of singular importance is the fact that CBS officials, specifically anchorman and managing editor Dan Rather, clearly believed that the story was true, even though the usual journalistic bases upon which truth is established were missing. The question is, what could he have meant by truth? My contention will be that the idea of truth he was using was rooted in hysteria. It thus had a different basis than empirical verification. It was rooted in a subjective feeling of truth. But this feeling has intrapsychic roots, and is not anchored in empirical reality. Truth conceived in this way subordinates objective symbolic interaction to fantasy. I will work from this to show how this idea of truth changes the nature of knowledge in organizations and must corrode every aspect of organizational behavior and functioning.

More here

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


"She has had her first sexual encounter and made her first suicide attempt; she takes drugs and stays away from home for days at a time. She is 13 years old. You might think this teenager is the product of an abusive family background and a turbulent upbringing, but she is in fact a much-loved child of well-educated and considerate parents who have always given her everything. And that is her problem. She is suffering from pampered child syndrome.

But help is at hand. In The Pampered Child Syndrome published on Thursday, Maggie Mamen, a clinical psychologist from Canada, argues that well-intentioned, permissive philosophies have produced a generation of children who believe they are entitled to the same rights as adults but who are not ready to accept grown-up responsibilities.

Rather than blame the parents, however, Dr Mamen has devised a ten-point plan aimed at helping them to regain control. Her starting point and inspiration is not the psychiatrist’s couch but the boardroom table. “Parents need to think of themselves as the management team. They are the managers and the children are not. “The children are not the ones sitting around the boardroom table and that needs to be made clear. Children will learn to be managers one day, but for now they are the trainees,” Dr Mamen told The Times. Once this has been established, parents need to set out their policies. “You might start out with something like, ‘In this family, education is important and we have to respect each other’. Children like to know where they stand and setting out your policy makes it clear,” she said.

Dr Mamen uses the language of the management consultant not because she want to strip all emotion out of family life, but because the business analogy helps to inject some logic and neutrality into what are usually highly charged situations. “When you are working in an emotional situation it helps to use pragmatic words. I find that parents really like the use of the words ‘control’ and ‘manage’, especially the dads.” Dr Mamen also draws inspiration from the world of politics, encouraging parents to adopt the “Trudeau approach”. When asked in 1970 just how far he would be willing to go in eroding civil liberties with his anti-terror policies, the Canadian Prime Minister replied, “Just watch me!” “Even though we know that we cannot make anybody do anything they really don’t want to do, we should never under-estimate our own abilities, or at least our children’s belief in our own abilities,” Dr Mamen said. The trick is not to blink first.

A major theme underlying Dr Mamen’s book is that parents need to believe that they have the right to act without their children’s consent. “Children need parents to be willing to act unilaterally so that they feel safe and secure under their protection,” she said. If parents do not do this, she said, the consequence could be far more serious than the odd spoilt-brat temper tantrum but could lead to the kind of behaviour described at the opening of this piece. Or worse. “If we fail to recognise the behaviours of overly pampered children and to identify the contributing factors, this may sometimes lead to over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders and the prescription of inappropriate and potentially dangerous treatments,” she said.

As to whether children suffering from really serious pampering can ever fully “recover”, Dr Mamet, was cautious. “You can get rid of spoilt brat behaviour most of the time. But sometimes the effects still show in adulthood. You see these people in the workplace; they feel put out to have to show up and do things that they might not really want to do,” she said.


A healthy lifestyle begins at home

And governments are actually DISCOURAGING healthy lifestyles

Federal [Australian] Health Minister Tony Abbott is right. Banning junk food advertising on children's television programs as a way of combating childhood obesity just won't work. Parents can merely switch off the TV, something which many parents seem to have forgotten, as they seem to have forgotten they are responsible for their children's diets and lifestyles. It is parents who pack children's school lunch boxes, and they don't have to load them with chips and chocolates.

According to the NSW Health Department there are 1.5 million overweight children in Australia. These figures suggest a cultural problem, not curable simply by censoring advertising. Indeed, unless we try rationing and a compulsory physical-jerks regime along North Korean lines, the Government's capacity to trim fat is relatively limited.

The problem of childhood obesity is worth keeping in perspective. Like other temporarily fashionable apocalypses (such as Paul Ehrlich's predictions that, rather than expanding like balloons, we were all going to starve to death by about 1980), the obesity epidemic does not really herald the end of the world. Although one doctor once told me our national health is collapsing, our life expectancies continue to rise. My own observations at the beach are that people look much the same as ever, but perhaps beach-goers have become atypical and I'll accept the figures that a lot of us and a lot of our children are too fat. Perhaps the fatties are not visible in the waves at Cottesloe because they're all at home hunched over PlayStations.

Anyway, the problem would be fixed if more parents used common sense and exercised the kind of ordinary responsibility for their children that was previously thought to be a normal part of being human. Some people don't credit parents with the common sense, responsibility or even free will to do this. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Adele Horin claims parents don't have "the energy, the education, the time or the means" and need "more help from government to counter the corporate culture" because it "takes energy to say no". Parents of previous generations found the energy somewhere.

Government and legislation, often turned to instinctively as the cure for child obesity, have actually been the cause of much of it, discouraging all sorts of even mild physical activity. Laws making helmets compulsory for cyclists, even on places such as Western Australia's Rottnest Island, which has few motor vehicles, have discouraged bicycling. Surveys show compulsory helmet legislation reduces cycling by about 30 per cent (while hospital admissions for bicycle accidents have actually increased). Britain leads the way here, but Australia is not far behind, and the British experience is a warning. Participation in sports and outdoor activities of all kinds is increasingly controlled and licensed.

Children at one British primary school were prohibited from making daisy chains in case they picked up germs. Another school stopped children making hanging flower baskets for the same reason. Playground pursuits such as hand stands, tag, yo-yos, tree climbing, skipping, ball games and even bicycle riding have been banned by various schools and local authorities. Cub scouts in Windsor need consent forms signed by their parents to play conkers. At one school, children who wish to throw snowballs at other children must get their targets' permission first. The Government has approved selling off hundreds of school playing fields.

No wonder there has been an epidemic of childhood obesity in Britain a few years ahead of Australia's. In October, 2001, Paul Trayhurn, the new professor of obesity biology at Liverpool University, said British people had lost the fight to control their weight and the country was facing a public health disaster from obesity. A year later the number of obese children was estimated at one in five.

Obviously fear of litigation and insurance costs are key factors. I know of at least two Australian naval cadet units that have closed down because of insurance costs, and that is probably the tip of an iceberg. Legislation might help here by making some young people's activities which involve slight elements of risk realistically insurable (by capping liability, for example).

Political correctness, which prohibits fat children from being criticised in case they lose self-esteem, has also probably not helped. British minister "Mo" Mowlam attacked the Duke of Edinburgh for telling an obese child at a space display that he would need to lose weight to become an astronaut. The solution has to be a whole-culture one which comes back to greater parental responsibility. Governments don't make culture and shouldn't try. Only parents can turn off PlayStations, computer games and TV and stop children eating junk food, and only parents can set up a culture of healthy and balanced activity for children.



Returning to Detroit from an academic conference, my head was still buzzing with what I had learned from the feminists. All of them were doing work in feminist deconstruction, and joyfully working out its implications. Following their lead, I came to see that the organized world is a text that expresses male domination. Furthermore, I understood that the male principle is domination. If that text could be deconstructed, domination itself could be overcome and the female principle -- warm, nurturant, and life-giving -- would be able to emerge.

The shuttle bus took me to long-term parking and I found my little car, waiting for me where I had left it. Without even thinking, I opened the door and began to get in. And that was when the thought hit me.

Getting into the car ... why obviously the car was a female and I, expressing a masculinity which I now understood to permeate me to my core, was about to about to enter her and use her for my own purposes in just the same way that men have used women for thousands of years.

I stepped back from her, astonished by the power of my insight. For I saw that there was a larger dimension involved than my simply entering this car at this time. Indeed, it became clear enough tome in this moment, the whole pattern of male domination over the female was present here. And this was so perhaps least of all with regard to my entering the car and forcing her to do my will. More important, I came to realize, was the fact that the car itself, while clearly female, had been interpenetrated by male desires; her beautiful feminine essence warped and degraded by the domination of the phallus.

At that point I decided that I had to deconstruct the car; not for her sake alone, nor even for the sake of all the females of which she was a part, but for myself and all males as well. Crippled and driven by our own phallic assumptions, we had been deprived of the beauty that could exist if the female principle were allowed its sway. In a small way, I saw, I could start here. I could remove the influence of male domination from this beautiful car and leave her to express her female essence in a way that she, and only she, would determine.

I began with the item that first struck my attention: the driveshaft. Driveshaft, get it? This was obviously a penis. In the trunk was a hacksaw. I took it out and began to cut through. It was hard work, and it was hot, but as I gave up my doubts and hesitancies, it was as if I had discovered a new source of energy, for the work appeared to become lighter. And, indeed, as the hacksaw bit through the last of the metal, and as the driveshaft fell away from the car, I too felt lightened, relived of a weighty burden that I had carried all my life. Now, it was plain to me, I had passed the point of no-return. I was committed by my own actions. I could not turn back......

Read the rest here

Monday, October 24, 2005

Boulder City Council to bankroll an "anti-hate" hotline

Wasn't the First Amendment crystal clear on this point? Or did I miss the part that says freedom of speech will not be abridged unless you're "a knucklehead"? This week, the Boulder City Council decided to bankroll an "anti-hate" hotline to document instances of hateful speech in hopes of helping victims of discrimination. Government collecting information on its citizens' nasty, even reprehensible, speech habits sounds perilously close to something Orwell envisioned.

Moreover, who knows what constitutes hate speech in Boulder these days? Tactless slurs against prairie dogs? How about an errant "God bless you" directed at a sneezing atheist?

In addition, the council agreed to pass a hate-crimes ordinance in the near future. It would add additional penalties for being a knucklehead and a criminal. Specifics have yet to be worked out.

I wonder. Where are my friends at the American Civil Liberties Union? "From the national office on down, the ACLU supports measured laws in response to hate crimes, ones that do not punish speech," says Judd Golden, chair of the Boulder ACLU. "Our position is you can do this, but you have a state law that accomplishes the same things, (and) you may be merely wasting resources." As Golden points out, there already are federal and Colorado statutes dealing with hate crimes - you know, as opposed to cuddly, loving crimes.

Author Thomas Sowell, who happens to be African-American, once wrote: "It took centuries of struggle and people putting their lives on the line to get rid of the idea that a crime against 'A' should be treated differently than the same crime committed against 'B."' Now, we're slowly turning our backs on the achievement made against institutional racism, creating politically correct, feel-good laws that necessitate peeking into the souls of offenders.

Bill Cohen, a well-intentioned Boulderite, former human-rights lawyer and member of the Community United Against Hate committee, recently said: "We believe we need that because the incidents of hate crimes have increased." Perhaps he's speaking from anecdotal experience, because in reality, the FBI says reported hate crimes in Colorado dropped last year to 59 from 82.

Frankly, Boulder is not the seat of diversity, with white non-Hispanics making up almost 85 percent of the population. Cohen assures me, however, that the ordinance is "not creating a new crime."

More here


From Australian columnist, Miranda Devine

Monica Trapaga, singer, entertainer, former ABC Play School presenter, mother of two and all-round nice person, has suddenly become the bete noir of the fascist food movement. Blamed for Australia's obesity "crisis", she is being abused by mothers on the streets of Glebe, chastised on her former network, scolded by parents' groups and vilified in hate mail streaming into her manager's office. All because she appears in an ad for Coco Pops, the innocuous sugary breakfast cereal that some parents' groups are treating as if it were crack cocaine.

The Parents Jury [no doubt self-appointed] issued a media release last week about the Coco Pops ad, quoting angry unnamed parents. "My opinion of Kellogg's and Monica Trapaga has taken a nosedive," says one. "I was incensed when I saw the ad with Monica and Coco Pops . . . Of course any child seeing Monica say it's good to eat Coco Pops is going to think that it is OK," says another. "I am disappointed in her [Monica] as she has achieved a lot in the entertainment of children . . . yet now she is not showing the same regard to their health," says another.

The Parents Jury was miffed Kellogg's had "blatantly" ignored its letter demanding the axing of the Coco Pops ad. A group called the Coalition on Food Advertising to Children complained to the Australian Broadcasting Authority about the "unethical" use of a popular children's TV presenter to promote a high-sugar, low-fibre cereal.

And on the ABC's Four Corners last week, Trapaga was again in the crosshairs, with reporter Ticky Fullerton asking parents: "What do you think of the ad that Monica Trapaga does for Coco Pops?" "Totally disgusted," replied Jenny, a mother. "I mean, to have such a high-profile celebrity, or anybody these days, any actors that promote and endorse these junk food products, is not only hypocritical, it goes against everything that a parent is trying to bring up their child not to do."

While Trapaga's Newtown management agency last week said she had been told by Kellogg's not to comment on the story, a friend told The Sun-Herald's TV columnist Rachel Browne the abuse was taking its toll. "It's been very hard for Monica . . . People have twisted her words to make it seem like she's a bad person. They say she is touting the nutritional benefits of Coco Pops and that's not what she says at all. She says there are added nutritional benefits so parents don't have to feel so bad about giving them to their kids." Trapaga, 39, is whippet slim despite the fact she ate Coco Pops as a child.

Strangely enough, plenty of slim people have a dark history of occasional Coco Pops, Big Mac and Coca-Cola consumption. It is easy to forget that, in moderation, as a treat rather than a substitute for daily meals, sugary low-fibre calories do no harm. There are enough truly dangerous substances in the world requiring taboos without elevating food to pariah status. Where would you stop? Today it's parents' groups targeting Coco Pops. Tomorrow vegans will demand we stop eating meat and eggs, which is all very well if you have a team of chefs turning out delicious vegetable dishes in your Paddington kitchen, as does vegan multimillionaire Brian Sherman, founder of animal rights group Voiceless. But some people are never happy unless they're banning something, and emboldened food fascists believe junk food is the new tobacco and plan to stamp it out in the same way.

Convinced there is a conspiracy between "Big Food" and the Government, Four Corners was determined to shame [conservative] Health Minister Tony Abbott into enacting a few draconian laws to prevent people getting their hands on low cuisine. To no avail. "If parents don't think Coco Pops are good for their kids there's a very simple solution," he said. "Don't buy it."

The same common sense prevailed last week when the US House of Representatives passed the so-called "cheeseburger bill" to stop people suing food companies for making them fat. The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act holds that obesity and overeating are matters of personal responsibility. If you stuff your face with fattening food and don't do any exercise, you have no one to blame but yourself when you get fat. And if parents cave in to children demanding Coco Pops for breakfast every morning, that's not the fault of television or the government. It's because they won't say "No".



He is infamous for his raging four-letter-word tirades but now Gordon Ramsay has managed to insult 50 per cent of the population without uttering a single expletive.

The television chef has provoked uproar by claiming that young British women "can't cook to save their lives". In a move likely to alienate his army of female fans, the 38-year-old Michelin-starred chef, who is currently filming a new series for Channel 4, says that Britain has produced a generation of women who can "mix a cocktail" but are incapable of doing anything else in the kitchen.

The former professional footballer said that while more and more men were making their mark in the kitchen, far too many women were surviving on a daily diet of expensive and unhealthy ready-made meals. "I have been visiting ladies' houses up and down the country with our film crew and you'd be amazed how little cooking the girls are doing," he said. "When they eat, they cheat - it's ready meals and pre-prepared meals all the way. "Seriously, there are huge numbers of young women out there who know how to mix cocktails but can't cook to save their lives, whereas men are finding their way into the kitchen in ever-growing numbers. Trust me: I am only telling you what I've discovered."

The comments might come as a shock to Ramsay's wife, Tana, who cooks for their four young children in a separate kitchen at home.

Ramsay, who has become an unlikely sex symbol through his regular television appearances, makes his scathing comments in an interview to promote his new series, The F Word, in which he cooks a three-course meal for each episode. He tells the current edition of Radio Times that he has no time for "stick-thin models who never eat" and he says that he would refuse to serve anyone in his restaurants who asked to go off menu because they were "on a stupid diet like the Atkins or GI". "They would be out of the door before they knew what was happening," he said.

More here

Sunday, October 23, 2005

All's quiet on the Trafalgar front

The British Leftist elite have a horror of the v-word on the bicentennial of Nelson's battle. Last Friday October 21st was the actual bicentennial of the Trafalgar victory -- which was also the battle in which Britain lost its most brilliant and most beloved admiral. One hopes that a large part of the commemoration will be devoted to Viscount Horatio Nelson himself but I am not at all confident of it

"In the event, the bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar have proved curiously muted. Nelson's victory over French vice-admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve and Napoleon's First Empire seems a long time ago, of course. Yet given how it laid the basis for the British Empire, the Sterling Area and thus the world's first extensive round of globalisation, Trafalgar hasn't really had the fanfare that is its historical due.

The Royal Mint has issued 5 pound crowns; the Royal Mail, six stamps. Tomorrow the Royal Family will light beacons, beginning with the Queen at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory. In the House of Commons, however, there is silence.

Ministers do not feel good about the Empire, and they don't feel very good about victories in its name. In May 2005 Geoff Hoon, leader of the house, told the Commons that he was 'delighted' that one of the largest ships in the June international fleet review off Portsmouth would be provided by....France. In June, when Clwyd Conservative MP David Jones begged to attack New Labour's commitment to a common European defence policy, defence secretary John Reid replied that Jones had made a 'particularly churlish remark on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, when we are attempting to bring nations together'.

Maybe New Labour doesn't feel good about Britain winning any kind of victory at any time, in fact. Take 2003, the year of Gulf War Two. In April, speaking of the need to make the newly won 'peace' in Iraq worth the war that had preceded it, UK prime minister Tony Blair declared that he would succeed 'not in any spirit of elation - still less of triumphalism - but with a fixed and steady resolve that the cause was just, the victory right'. By December, Blair insisted that 'the final victory' in Iraq would that of 'the Iraqi people'.

Any victory is okay, as long as it isn't that of Old Blighty. As a result, the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich has an exhibition that celebrates 'Black Sailors in Nelson's Navy'. The Independent is on hand to explain that 1805 was the work of the third of the crew of the Victory who came from outside England, including one member from Africa, one Manxman, and three from France. Michael Portillo's BBC1 documentary Nelson's Trafalgar, shown on 22 June, paralleled Channel 4 coverage of Trafalgar in registering the contribution that women made below decks.

In all of this, 1805 is interpreted not as a victory for the British Empire, but as one for that New Labour idol, diversity. In the same way, the unbeatable rapid rates of fire mounted by British seamen are partly attributed to the onions and lemons Nelson acquired in places like Tangier, the better to fight scurvy. On British ships, it seems, the lash was bad, but the diet was wonderful...."

More here


See my tribute to Nelson on Tongue Tied


At what is being billed as the world's first finishing school for gentlemen, learning how to set the cutlery can be just as tricky as the fly fishing. But after three days in a Scottish castle, the students emerge from a minefield of etiquette knowing everything from how much to tip the gamekeeper to how to walk with a book balanced on their heads. "We have opened the floodgates of politeness around the world," said Diana Mather whose Finishing Academy has now attracted would-be candidates from as far afield as Canada, Pakistan and Japan.

"We are teaching British manners, which are the gold standard and the benchmark for the world," said Mather, a former actress and BBC presenter who truly believes the old adage "Manners Makyth Man". "Good manners are ageless, priceless and classless," said Mather who charges 650 pounds for a three-day course. "We think it is the world's first finishing school for men," she said of the academy whose first candidates ranged from a former Zimbabwean farmer out to hone his business manner to a ski instructor determined to polish his social skills.

The would-be gentlemen -- eager to boost their job prospects or just sent along by despairing mothers and girlfriends -- are given a crash course on how to cut the mustard in High Society. Table manners and cutlery terrified the nine pathfinders on the first course. "What glasses for which wine, which knife and fork -- that was what frightened them the most," Mather said. In deportment, they learned with the help of a book balanced on their heads "how to stand, sit and walk with stylishness and poise." To the relief of their nearest and dearest, they were even taught basic sewing and ironing skills as well as such manly pursuits as fly fishing and clay pigeon shooting.

Scottish reels were danced "for fun and fitness" and the networking class even taught how to offer a power handshake. "That is very important. The weak, horrible, wet fish handshake is a problem. That gives a lot away," Mather said.

The British fear their once famously polite nation is now more renowned for binge drinking and loud-mouthed, loutish behavior than for the popular image of the rolled umbrella and the stiff upper lip. "Good manners are not taught in schools or most homes. Children with no discipline are insecure," Mather complained. "Families don't eat together, children are not learning table manners or the art of conversation."

Feminism and political correctness, she argues, may have to shoulder some of the blame in an age of equality. "These days do you open a door for a woman or give up your seat? Rabid feminists may not think so but most women like to be treated like a lady. A lot of women still want a knight in shining armor," she said.



Only fear remains as a political motivator

"One symptom of the exhaustion of politics is the disorientation of the ruling elites. They seem to lack a mission or a focus. Public figures find it difficult to account for their objectives through the medium of political, moral or philosophical ideas. Their parties lack a programme, even an identity. That is why party conferences are invariably distracted by the question of 'who are we?'. Instead of addressing people about their beliefs, principles or doctrines, political parties modestly refer to an 'agenda' or a 'project'.

UK prime minister Tony Blair's 'Respect Agenda' is only the latest example of this rhetorical strategy. Increasingly, the rhetoric adopted by the political elites is deployed to obscure the fact that, not only do they not have a big idea, they also lack a small one. Take some of the Hurrah Words that trip off the tongues of public figures. Everybody is for diversity, transparency, social cohesion, inclusion, best practice, evidence-based policy, adding value and stakeholding. But what does any of it mean? Is it any surprise that some public figures feel uncomfortable about expounding their project when they are armed with such empty phraseology?

The demise of political ideology is an outcome of a profound sense of estrangement from the experience of the past. Its impact encourages a sense of defeatism about the future. Without clearly formulated alternatives, politics loses its orientation to the future. It becomes short-termist and regards the future as a no-go area for policymaking. So instead of elaborating policies that can secure a better future, governments have become obsessed with micro-managing the present.

Public figures eschew big issues, and opt for a diet of unconnected single issues. Foxhunting, school dinners, licensing laws, university top-up fees, foundation hospitals, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) or parenting orders are represented as the make-or-break questions of the twenty-first century. The flipside of the depoliticisation of public life is the tendency to focus attention on the minutiae of people's existence. But these issues, which are framed through the soulless idiom of managerialism, invariably fail to engage the imagination of the public.

Costed proposals and evidence-based policies do little to inspire or mobilise the electorate, and politicians have come to recognise that their political, ideological and moral links with the public are fragile. Managerial forms of party rhetoric and micro-politics have little purchase on an evidently disenchanted public. The ceaseless search for yet another public relations-led initiative serves to heighten Westminster's isolation from the people.

It is difficult to motivate normal human beings with a 'Respect Agenda'. People are unlikely to be inspired by a minister's undertaking to extend 'best practice' or to 'add value'. And the claim that Britain stands for diversity while the terrorists uphold evil is unlikely to engage the imagination of people who are looking for some clear purpose in life. Most people intuitively sense that the vocabulary used by public figures consists of platitudes masquerading as meaningful political idioms.

Take a key Hurrah Word: diversity. Celebrating the value of diversity is a roundabout way of saying that society has no values with a distinct purpose to celebrate. Diversity has no intrinsic political or moral meaning. It does not represent a view of the world nor provide society with a purpose or a vision of the future. Diversity merely provides a rhetorical strategy for avoiding the challenging task of outlining what society stands for by claiming that it stands for anything.

At best, the word diversity is a term of description that testifies to the unlike and the varied. The term 'diverse society' tells us that people have different origins, cultures and ways of life. It says little about what distinguishes that society and what ought to be its aspiration. It certainly offers no alternative to the jihadist, and lacks the credibility to inspire any significant section of society. The embrace of this term by otherwise intelligent political figures is evidence of a profound sense of malaise that afflicts public life.

It is the sense of political malaise that encourages many Western governments to adopt such a negative style of governance. Curbs on civil liberty are one manifestation of this trend. The other is the politicisation of fear. The politicisation of fear is inextricably linked to the inability of governments to project a sense of purpose.

Societies that are able to project a positive vision of the future do not need to employ fear as a currency in public life. Take for example former US president Franklin D Roosevelt's inaugural address in 1933. His statement that the 'only thing we have to fear is fear itself' was integral to a positive orientation to the future, which would eventually lead to the launching of the New Deal. The contrast between Roosevelt's message and the statements made by politicians today is striking. Alarmist exhortations about binge drinking and child obesity compete with the warning 'Not If - But When'.

There is now a substantial body of opinion that regards fear as a positive resource for 'raising awareness' in society. This orientation is not confined to the war on terrorism. It is worth noting that the first major speech that Blair made after returning from his summer holiday was on the need to protect the majority from the minority of irresponsible parents who refuse to control their children. Blair warned that 'people need to understand that if their kids are out of control and they are causing a nuisance to their community, there is something that is going to happen, they can't just get away with that'.

Blair's parenting orders are typical products of the kind of negative politics that contributes to the institutionalisation of fear. Like the erosion of liberties in the name of protecting people from terror, parenting orders represent an encroachment on people's democratic rights. They limit freedom of movement and threaten to force errant mothers and fathers to bring up their children in accordance with the rules set by officials. As the prime minister put it, whether they like it or not parents 'can be forced by the order to accept support and advice on how to bring discipline and rules to their child's life'.

The government appears to take the view that the British public has become more relaxed about defending its civil rights and free speech. In his September speech promoting parenting orders, Blair was upbeat on this matter. 'You know, a few years ago probably the talk about parenting orders and parenting classes.would have either seemed somewhat bizarre or dangerous', he remarked. But apparently attitudes are changing. According to Blair, while 'there are still people' who see this as 'interfering with the right of the individual', the 'law-abiding majority' is less worried about minor infringements on civil liberties.

In one sense, Blair is right. At present there is little public resistance to curbs on civil liberties as long as they are promoted as sensible commonsense policies rather than as attacks on people's freedoms. I am always surprised that the automatic vetting, by the Criminal Records Bureau, of adults who work with or who might come into contact with children has rarely been questioned. Since its introduction, more and more adults have become targets of this procedure and it is only a matter of time before a parent will need to be vetted before she drives her son's mates to their football team's match...."

Much more from Frank Furedi here

Saturday, October 22, 2005


One of the most celebrated executives in the advertising industry has offered to resign after reportedly describing women creative directors as "crap" who would inevitably "wimp out and go suckle something". Neil French, whose work for clients such as Chivas Regal is often used for case studies, is expected to leave WPP after creating a storm over his views on why so few women break into the top ranks of advertising.

Mr French denies the comments attributed to him at a private dinner. But a spokeswoman for WPP, the world's second-largest advertising group, said yesterday: "Neil has offered to resign following remarks made last week in Toronto." She declined to elaborate.

Nancy Vonk, a senior WPP executive in Toronto who was present at the dinner, responded to Mr French's remarks through her website, saying that she was "still partially paralysed" by his comments. "What struck me so hard as he described a group that will inevitably wimp out and `go suckle something' after their short stint in advertising was that in his honest opinion he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in the senior ranks of our business, " Ms Vonk, the co-chief creative officer of Ogilvy in Toronto, said. She added: "Neil did us the favour of voicing a widely held view, albeit an extreme version. It's an opportunity for us all - men, too - to confront something every bit as wrong and unacceptable as racism. Replace every comment Neil made about women with the word `black' and take my point."

The Singapore-based Mr French, who is nicknamed the Godfather, is said to have told the dinner: "Women don't make it to the top because they don't deserve to. They're crap."

It was unclear whether Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, had accepted Mr French's resignation. Sir Martin was unavailable for comment.

Last night Mr French told The Times: "I'm anti-racism, anti-sexism and everything else." He added: "What I did say was to be a creative director requires 100 per cent commitment. People who have babies to look after can't do that." Asked if he had any regrets about the controversial speech, he said: "Absolutely not".

He did admit to putting Sir Martin in "a terribly invidious position by people giving him an earache about this. I told him, `I'll save you the trouble, I'll resign'."



Blaming others for your own foolish deeds did not wash this time

Two men crippled in divings accident have had their appeals rejected by the [Australian] High Court on the basis that they should have been aware of the risks involved. Ernie Vairy, now 46, became a tetraplegic when he dived off a rock platform at Soldiers Beach on 24 January 1993 during an outing with his sister's family and was awarded verdict of $5.05 million. The NSW Court of appeal found for the local Wyong Council and by an excruciating 4-3 margin, Mr Vairy failed to win back his damages. The majority said the council's duty of care did not include erecting signs warning against diving and that an experienced adult could be assumed to appreciate the risks of diving into the sea from a rock platform.

Garry Mulligan, now 36, from Ireland, was in Australia on holiday with his girlfriend when he was rendered a quadriplegic while diving in Coffs Creek at Park Beach near Coffs Harbour on 24 January 1999. He sued for negligence over a lack of warning signs erected by Coffs Harbour City Council but lost at trial and in the court of appeal. In its unanimous decision, the court said it was not essential to post warning signs at Coffs Creek when the danger of diving into water of variable depth existed at most beaches and waterways.


Friday, October 21, 2005


It is a mark of the rapid decline of our security services that they no longer keep a file on Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary. Once upon a time she was under surveillance by MI5, but our secret agents have diverted their attentions to angry young Muslims and Hewitt has been left to pursue her mischief-making unwatched. This is a mistake. If MI5 won't do it, then it should devolve to the police or, failing that, the voluntary sector. In a spirit of civic duty I'll start the ball rolling.

Her former ministry, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), finally conceded last week that Hewitt had broken the Sex Discrimination Act by personally appointing a woman to the board of the South West Regional Development Agency when a man was the better candidate for the job. The people who interviewed Malcolm Hanney for the post insisted that he was "much the strongest candidate" and a "clear favourite". But Hewitt overruled their decision and appointed Christine Channon, a local councillor, instead. The interviewers had placed Channon third on their list.

Hanney sued, citing sexual discrimination, and won. The DTI now concedes that Hewitt broke the law - but its squirming in the face of this reverse has been a wonder to behold. Its spokesmen said that neither they, collectively, nor Hewitt had realised that they were in breach of the law - which is odd because the DTI is responsible for the Sex Discrimination Act.

Further, if there is a politician in the country who understands the Sex Discrimination Act, then it is Hewitt: it has been one of the many things she has agitated for almost since her emergence from the womb in a Canberra hospital 56 years ago.

Hewitt has spent her entire life agitating. When she left university she immediately started agitating on behalf of elderly people at Age Concern and then spread her wings and took on an unlimited agenda of agitation as general secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties. Since then she has agitated at the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Commission on Social Justice. In her spare time she ran Neil Kinnock's press office, having previously been a hardline Bennite who denounced her fellow MPs for not voting for the swivel-eyed, pipe-smoking high priest of leftie agitation when he failed in his attempt to become Labour's deputy leader in 1981. Had they voted as Hewitt insisted, it is possible that we would not have a viable Labour party. Pat often gets it badly wrong. I voted for him too. I am also frequently wrong.

But has she apologised to Hanney? Has she hell. The permanent secretary at the DTI has apologised - but he didn't make the decision. My suspicion is that Hewitt didn't apologise because she isn't remotely sorry. Further, can this business about not understanding the Sex Discrimination Act be true? I suspect she would never concede that its introduction was intended to defend the corner of maltreated job applicants if they were foolish enough to be born with a penis. It was intended to be of benefit only to women. Remember, the National Council for Civil Liberties never defended the civil liberties of workers sacked for refusing to join trade unions. No way.

For Hewitt is a proponent of something with which you will all by now be familiar, that oxymoron "positive discrimination". Her commitment to this crude and often cruel instrument of nanny state social engineering has been steadfast and complete - and it still continues to this day. She has been agitating recently to extend all-women shortlists to candidates in council elections (the main opposition within the Labour party will come from black activists and agitators who fear that all-women shortlists disfavour candidates from an ethnic minority background). She recently exulted that "soon" less than a third of the British workforce would be white males under 45. She was especially delighted at the growing number of workers who were "transgendered". I haven't a clue what this means, but I suppose we should rejoice, too. If you work with transgendered colleagues, give them a pat on the back from me, please.

In fact her entire career seems to have been built on the notion that social change must be enforced on a country that is too stupid or prejudiced to embrace her ideology voluntarily - regardless of the injustice to the individual. Women refuse to enter politics not because they have better things to do but because of male oppression: "Women find the formal political environments very off-putting and I think that's understandable." Discrimination always works in one way: against the woman or against the ethnic minorities. It is not part of Hewitt's make-up to accept that there can often be another side to the argument.

The world is divided into two great hostile camps: the oppressor and the oppressed. So even when she breaks the law and with insufferable arrogance decides that one man's legitimate right to a job should be taken away from him, she is incapable of saying sorry. Because it's the law that's wrong, not Hewitt.



Twenty years ago we used to laugh at children who were the product of experimental "progressive" schools or nurseries, or indeed the product of progressive, experimental parenting - no rules, no homework, no supervised diet, no chores, no bedtime, no potty training, no hairbrush, no pleases, no thank-yous. These children - everyone knew one, but probably not two - were in the minority. Now they have become the norm.

This is partly to do with the disastrous fact that many parents today are so insecure that they strive to be their small children's "best friend", rather than their parent, failing to grasp that you can have friends coming out of your ears, but you have only one mother and father, and that the two are not interchangeable. Such parents' reluctance to lay down the law has reached epidemic proportions. They cannot say "no", because then they risk unpopularity, a fate in their eyes worse than death.

This has the direst and most tiresome consequences: you go to dinner at someone's house and their children are rampaging about until 2am, making conversation impossible (for which privilege you are paying your babysitter œ7 an hour); you take a child a present and, if you're lucky, get a grunt instead of a thank you (thank-you notes seem to have died out altogether); you have people over for Sunday lunch and have to watch their children eating with their mouths wide open, if they deign to eat at all.

I was recently interrogated by a six-year-old about the specific ingredients, and their quantities, of a lamb stew. I was apparently the only person present that day who thought this was insane.

I know someone who cooks three different suppers for her three children every night, because they all fancy different things. Try pointing out that she's a working mother, not a short-order chef, and you get a lecture about how the little darlings' happiness is paramount.

This, like so much dubious parenting, has a great deal to do with working women's guilt. I do wish someone would explain that all the good that's done by going out to work, being intellectually stimulated and earning a living is completely undone if you're going to come home and behave like a particularly weedy throwback. An imaginary throwback, at that: women in the 1950s didn't cook three separate meals, or have no set bedtime, or no rules.

But what about the rest of us? Why do adults need to be told how to behave? "Don't indulge in nude stretches or contortions in gym changing rooms", Good Housekeeping's guide helpfully tells us. "Don't kiss anyone on the lips other than your partner", or indeed "ogle other men" in front of him. The magazine has a stolid middle-class middle-aged readership: I find the idea of it needing to be told not to bend over naked in public a bit alarming. If even the nice ladies who subscribe to Good Housekeeping need this information, what on earth does that say about the rest of us? That we are a nation of tragic oiks.

Forget not knowing which fork to use: we probably need to be reminded to use cutlery in the first place. In fact when it comes to manners the rude children have won us over: we're all toddlers now, throwing tantrums in public for all we're worth. We are tired and beginning to show off, as my sisters' horrible nanny used to say before briskly dispatching them to bed.

More here