Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Anything for attention. Post lifted from The American Thinker

In an article called "Naomi Wolf: I had a vision of Jesus", the Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Herald reported that feminist heroine Naomi Wolf has turned to spirituality.

This will outrage the feminist Left, but it may actually mark a new trend, since Madonna last year revealed her conversion to Kabbalah mysticism. Whether Madonna ever bothered to convert to Judaism before becoming a Kabbalist is doubtful. But those distinctions mean little to the Beautiful People as they grow older and get bored with their younger persona. Madonna began her fabulous career as a Material Girl, but that's so retro by now. So she is gunning for sainthood, with other aging Boomers hot on her heels.

Wolf's conversion experience, however, is bizarrely homoerotic:

"I actually had this vision of Jesus, and I'm sure it was Jesus," said Wolf. "But it wasn't this crazy theological thing; it was just this figure who was the most perfected human being that there could be - full of light and full of love." More bizarrely, she experienced this as a teenage boy. "I was a 13-year-old boy sitting next to him and feeling feelings I'd never felt in my lifetime," said Wolf. "[Feelings] of a boy being with an older male who he really loves and admires and loves to be in the presence of. It was probably the most profound experience of my life. I haven't talked about it publicly."

Well, it is certainly good to know this wasn't any "crazy theological thing."

One trouble with these spectacular conversions is that the sheer seductiveness of fame taints whatever may be sincere. It is impossible to know whether Wolf or Madonna mean anything they say. In traditional religion, self-proclaimed saints are treated skeptically. That is one reason why humbleness and privacy plays such a great role in traditional faith. Neither Madonna nor Wolf seem humbled by their new spiritual feelings.

There is such a thing as spiritual arrogance, and it lives right next door to the moral arrogance that marks so much of the Boomer Left.


Australian parents now need permission to photograph their own kids!

Parents are being banned from taking photos of their children at sporting events in response to growing fears about pedophiles. Queensland's junior sports clubs are demanding parents get permission from other parents and team officials before photographing children. And some sporting codes now require professional photographers to hold blue cards before allowing them to work at grand finals. Many clubs said the crackdown was in response to reports about men photographing children swimming at South Bank in inner Brisbane and posting the images on websites.

South Bank and pool operators such as Belgravia Leisure, which runs a chain of water parks including the Albany Creek Leisure Centre on Brisbane's northside, said they had a policy of asking people not to take photographs without permission. They also banned mobile phones with camera functions in their change rooms.

A similar situation now applied at most of the state's patrolled beaches, where lifesavers have been given guidelines on camera use. "Sadly in this day and age we have had to be more vigilant," a Surf Life Saving Queensland spokeswoman said. "We don't want to stop the mums and dads taking photos, and nor is that our place, but it's all part of our duty of care."

Queensland Netball affiliates such as the Downey Park Netball Association in Brisbane have a total ban on photography unless it has approval from team officials. Netball Queensland also has an official policy of employing only photographers with blue cards. "We ask parents who want to take pictures of their children to go to the manager of both teams which will be playing," Downey Park president Jane Seawright said. "The policy has been in place for over two years because sometimes we have undesirables hanging around."

AFL Brisbane juniors administration manager Cherie Brockwell said that from the start of the season in April the league would make parents check with ground marshals before taking pictures. "It was only a recommendation last season," she said. "We haven't had any incidents but we decided to be proactive because of what happened at South Bank." ....

A Grandparents and Grandchildren Society spokeswoman said the changes removed a simple pleasure for families. "These photos are what grandparents live for," she said. "You take that away and you're taking away a lot of enjoyment of life for a lot of people."

More here

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why being a mum is tops

A normal woman answers the bitter and twisted Maureen Dowd back and tells her what she is missing

Are women necessary? Yes, they are, at least for breeding, and changing the sheets. But what about women who aren't married and don't have children? Could we get rid of them? No, I'm kidding, just as New York Times writer Maureen Dowd was kidding when she called her new book Are Men Necessary? Dowd is only woman at the Times to have her own, permanent space on the Opinion page and she is a single, childless feminist. So, without reading her book, people have assumed men aren't relevant to her life. They assume she's going to say: "Let's get rid of the lot of them and use a sperm farm to reproduce!" But in interviews to promote her book, Dowd says yes, men are necessary - if only for "heavy lifting" (boom, boom!).

No, that's one of Dowd's jokes, too. She really does like men and has actually dated quite a few of them. Trouble is, none were willing to commit. She suspects it might be because she's so smart, funny and successful. In her book, she says she might have had more luck with romance if she'd been a maid like her mother. She recounts a tale in which a powerful man explained he wanted to ask her out but was too intimidated by her brilliance. Such claims - made in jest, with the aim of ruffling a few feathers - have sparked outrage in the US, especially from married women, who reject the implication that they must be stupid, otherwise how else did they find somebody willing to marry them, and from men who don't think their wives are thick.

The controversy has startled Dowd, who says she wrote Are Men Necessary? in a "fun, breezy" way, hoping to start "cool, sexy conversations" between men and women about what she calls "sexual politics" and "modern relationships". I have read Dowd's book and she's right, it does have a breezy feel. It isn't argumentative and often it's quite fun. I'm not offended if she thinks my husband chose me because I'm dumber than him. It may well be true.

However - and maybe this is because Dowd is about the same age as my mum (in their 50s) - some of her ideas about women's lives do seem a bit old fashioned. For example, Dowd laments the fact - and it's true - that many young women no longer want to move into positions of political power and are "losing interest in scampering up the corporate ladder". She says the corporate culture still "reeks of testosterone". She notes that only 7 per cent of men in the top tier of the Bush administration are single, compared with 33 per cent of women. Women who do get "to the top" - like the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice - tend not to have children.

Dowd seems dismayed by all of this and I suspect that's because, despite putting herself forward as a fun commentator on sexual politics, she doesn't really understand women. She lives alone in a big old mansion decorated with nude statues. Every night, if she likes, she can pop out for a martini. She has good friends, lots of money and prestige, and she's won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Most women don't live like that. They go to school, then get a job and date a bit. They find a fellow they like, get married and have children. After those children arrive, most women either stop working or start working part-time, at least for a while.

That's because most women believe it's important to be home for the children. Sure, they can see how pleasant it might be to be able to shop at leisure for leopard-skin boots, but it's not as important as raising good citizens. They don't want to spend long hours in the office while the little ones are raised by strangers. I know it's not polite to say this, but it's difficult for women who are not mothers to understand the depth of commitment required to get married, have babies and then raise a child. It's not like having a boyfriend. The emotions involved are extremely powerful, too. When my children are away - such as this week, when they spent a night at Grandpa's - I sometimes crawl into their empty beds at night, stick my face into their pillows and try to drink up the smell of them. I'm sure that sounds pathetic, but every mother I know has done it. Or else they've opened their children's wardrobes and sunk their faces into their clothes, or walked around patting all their stuffed toys on the head. Spending time with the child is vastly more satisfying - and takes more skill - than spending the longest night in the coolest bar in New York, or the most satisfying day in the office.

Dowd laments the quality of conversation between men and women, too. What she can't know is that when mums and dads go to bed at night they often spend a few minutes nose to nose in the dark, chattering in whispers, about their children. It's an exquisitely tender part of the day. It's hard to explain to a woman whose interests are world politics and US oil consumption, because it sounds so daggy, but the joy of having these conversations - and of putting Band-Aids on scraped knees, of singing lullabies, of feeling one's chest burst with pride as the child puts on his first school uniform and marches proudly into class - is, for many women, more important than scrambling madly up the career ladder.

Dowd talks often about her singleness, both in her books and her interviews. It helped her get to "the top". I'm sure she's trying to be helpful when she says other women, including mums, should be able to join her there. But maybe they don't want to.



Last November, I wrote about the controversy about the Public Broadcasting Service documentary, ''Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories," which claimed that male batterers and child abusers frequently gain custody of their children in divorce cases after the mothers' claims of abuse are disbelieved by the courts. The film caused an outcry from fathers' rights groups. In response to these protests, PBS announced a 30-day review to determine whether the film met the editorial guidelines for fairness and accuracy. Unfortunately, it seems that the review amounted to little more than a whitewash.

On Dec. 21, PBS issued a statement acknowledging that the film ''would have benefited from more in-depth treatment of the complex issues," but also concluded that ''the producers approached the topic with the open-mindedness and commitment to fairness that we require of our journalists" and that the program's claims were supported by ''extensive" research. Those claims included some highly inflammatory assertions: for instance, that three-quarters of contested custody cases involve a history of domestic violence, and that wife and child abusers who seek child custody after divorce win two-thirds of the time.

Connecticut Public Television, which co-produced ''Breaking the Silence," has supplied me with two detailed reports -- one from producer Dominique Lasseur, the other from Lasseur and George Washington University law professor Joan Meier, the film's lead expert -- on which PBS drew to support its conclusion. To call these reports shoddy and self-serving would be an understatement.

Thus, the reports cite the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's Gender Bias Study of 1989 as proof that fathers who seek custody receive it at least 70 percent of the time -- even though this study does not distinguish custody disputes from cases in which the father got custody by mutual agreement. Other sources used to support the claim of male advantage are even weaker: They include the Battered Mothers' Testimony Project from the Wellesley Center for Women, which used a sample of 40 women with grievances about the family courts. No mention is made of much larger, representative studies of divorcing couples (such as the one reported by Stanford University psychologist Eleanor Maccoby and Harvard law professor Robert Mnookin in the 1992 book ''Dividing the Child") showing that far fewer fathers than mothers get the custodial arrangements they want.

Assertions that abusive men are especially likely to seek custody of children and are likely to prevail in court are backed by similarly slipshod evidence. Defending the claim made in ''Breaking the Silence" that children are in greater danger of abuse from fathers than from mothers, Lasseur and Meier point to several limited studies that often lump together biological fathers with stepfathers and mothers' boyfriends (who, statistically, pose a far higher risk). Yet even these cherry-picked statistics show that a significant proportion of perpetrators of severe child abuse are mothers -- which makes the film's exclusive focus on abusive fathers difficult to defend.

The producer's account of how he went about researching the film reinforces the impression of bias. Battered women's advocates are presumed to be disinterested champions of victims, even though many of them have an ideological agenda of equating family violence with male oppression of women and children; advocates for divorced fathers or abused men are seen as tainted with ''antiwoman bias." In the same vein, Lasseur's report is supplemented by a letter signed by ''98 professionals" who support the film's conclusions -- but a number of those ''professionals" are feminist activists, including National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy.

Lasseur and Meier profess to be shocked that anyone could see the film as collectively maligning divorced fathers when it focuses only on abusive fathers in contested custody cases. Yet the film clearly suggests that if a divorcing father decides to fight for custody, chances are he's a batterer who's using the custody suit as an abuse tactic -- and that if he's accused of abuse, he's most probably guilty. And that's not prejudicial?

Notably, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler and especially Corporation for Public Broadcasting ombudsman Ken Bode have taken a far more negative view of the film than did the PBS review. On Jan. 4, Bode wrote, ''After close review including discussions and e-mail exchanges with those involved with the program or closely affected by it, I found the program to be so totally unbalanced as to fall outside the boundaries of PBS editorial standards on fairness and balance." The one silver lining in this mess is that PBS has decided to commission another, more in-depth film on the subject of abuse and child custody. Let's hope that this time, it tackles the subject with real ''open-mindedness and commitment to fairness."


Sunday, January 29, 2006


(Post lifted from "The Corner")

Another hateful attack on Narnia and its admirers, this time courtesy of Alison Lurie in the New York Review of Books. Did you know that C.S. Lewis is part of a conspiracy to make poor people vote against their economic interests? Or that Aslan is the moral equivalent of Donald Trump? Or that evangelical Christianity is all about keepin' people down? Let Alison Lurie enlighten you!

It is no surprise that conservative Christians admire these books. They teach us to accept authority; to love and follow our leaders instinctively, as the children in the Narnia books love and follow Aslan. By implication, they suggest that we should and will admire and fear and obey whatever impressive-looking and powerful male authority figures we come in contact with. They also suggest that without the help of Aslan (that is, of such powerful figures, or their representatives on earth) we are bound to fail. Alone, we are weak and ignorant and helpless. Individual initiative is limited-almost everything has already been planned out for us in advance, and we cannot know anything or achieve anything without the help of God.

This is, of course, the kind of mindset that evangelical churches prefer and cultivate: the kind that makes people vote against their own economic and social interests, that makes successful, attractive, and apparently intelligent young men and women want to become the apprentices of Donald Trump, or of much worse rich and powerful figures. This mindset could even be called deluded, since in this world a giant lion does not usually appear to see that the right side wins and all the good people are happy. In Narnia faith in Aslan, who comes among his followers and speaks to them, may make sense: but here on earth, as the classic folk tales have told us for generations, it is better to depend on your own courage and wit and skill, and the good advice of less than omnipotent beings


A reader wrote to me concerning the above as follows:

In Alison Lune's attack on Narnia, the opening salvo, "They teach us to accept authority; to love and follow our leaders instinctively," certainly rang differently from what I read. I found C S Lewis rather distrustful of bureaucracy, authority etc. A perfect example is this text from the end of The Silver Chair.

"After that, the Head's friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an inspector to interfere with other Heads.And when they found out she wasn't much good even at that, they got her into Parliament, where she lived happily ever after."

Typical liberals with a terminal case of "I know better" hate the characters in Narnia, who basically muddle through mostly on their own, with a little help from Aslan. The triumph of the individual over the collective is an anathema to them.


"Look!" exclaims my 3-year-old daughter, pointing excitedly at a box of cookies in the supermarket. "It's Dora! And Boots!" I nod and smile. "Yes, it is," I say, and we move on. I do not feel injured by this exchange. But according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a D.C.-based health nanny group, if I lived in Massachusetts the incident would be worth at least $25 in statutory damages.

Using that sort of reasoning, CSPI, the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and two Massachusetts parents who would rather sue multinational corporations than stand up to their own children are seeking billions of dollars in damages from Viacom (which owns Nickelodeon, home of "Dora the Explorer" and Kellogg, maker of sugary breakfast cereals and other food products CSPI thinks your kids shouldn't eat. The plaintiffs say it's not about the money.

I believe them. This lawsuit, which CSPI and its allies plan to file under a Massachusetts consumer protection statute prohibiting "unfair or deceptive acts or practices," is really about censorship. By threatening onerous damages, CSPI aims to achieve through the courts what it has unsuccessfully demanded from legislators and regulators for decades: a ban on food advertising aimed at children.

The lawsuit argues that Viacom is on the hook for $25 "at a minimum" every time a kid in Massachusetts sees one of its characters attached to a "nutritionally poor" food product or sees an ad for such a product on Nickelodeon or in another Viacom outlet. By CSPI's reckoning, Kellogg owes $25 whenever a child sees one of its ads, so an Apple Jacks commercial on Nickelodeon is worth $50 per viewer every time it airs. "The injury continues ... each time a parent purchases one of these items," says CSPI in a letter announcing its intent to sue. So if a parent, helpless to resist a preschooler's demands, actually buys the Dora cookies or the Apple Jacks, that's another $25 in damages. You can see how the bill starts to add up.

But all the talk of injuries and damages is a charade. As obesity litigation advocate Richard Daynard notes in this month's American Journal of Preventive Medicine, one advantage of suing food companies under state consumer protection statutes is that it "avoids complicated causation issues." Most of these laws "do not require a showing that the defendant's misbehavior caused a specific illness," writes Daynard, a Northeastern University law professor who plans to join CSPI in using such statutes to stop soda manufacturers from selling their products in schools. Indeed, "many state consumer protection statutes do not require a showing that individual plaintiffs relied on the [defendant's] misrepresentations."

Under the theory pressed by CSPI in its suit against Viacom and Kellogg, you don't even have to show that the companies misrepresented anything. CSPI argues that children "are intrinsically deceived and abused by encouragement to eat unhealthy junk foods," and it's seeking an injunction to stop all such encouragement.

While I have no doubt that advertising encourages children to request certain products, what happens after that is up to their parents. Neither Viacom nor Kellogg has the power to dictate whether SpongeBob SquarePants Wild Bubble Berry Pop-Tarts are purchased, how often and in what quantities they're eaten, what else children eat or how much exercise they get.

"Nickelodeon and Kellogg engage in business practices that literally sicken our children," says CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson. Given the difficulty of demonstrating a causal connection between seeing Dora the Explorer on a box of cookies at age 3 and dying from obesity-related heart disease half a century later -- precisely the difficulty CSPI is trying to avoid by filing this kind of suit -- it would be more accurate to say these business practices figuratively sicken people like Michael Jacobson. The question is how much weight the law should give to Jacobson's queasy gut.


Saturday, January 28, 2006


They are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Community relations were better before they came along

Miranda Devine has an interesting article pointing out that even Australian left liberals are now airing doubts about multiculturalism's ugly side. She points out how recently Philip Adams interviewed Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, the man often credited with being the intellectual architect of Australia's multiculturalism policy.

"Zubrzycki told Adams the Cronulla riots were a "wake-up call" for multiculturalism. They illustrated the folly of dumping poor, unskilled migrants from Lebanon in the outer suburbs of Sydney in the 1980s, "on the understanding they would be looked after by their families . We left them to their own devices, with no specific settlement policy, traumatised [by civil war], unable to speak the language, unable to come to grips with Australian culture and also largely of the Islamic faith" ."

So the answer to multiculturalism's failures is even more multicultural bureaucracy. Isn't this like a losing General demanding he be sent more troops? My guess is that both Adams and Zubrzycki would (as I do) regard Australia's post WW2 immigration as successful. Yet the hundreds of thousands who came to our shores in the two decades after WW2, many of whom experienced devastation and wartime traumas, at least as bad as anything seen in Lebanon, had far fewer government provided services than immigrants and refugees who have arrived in recent decades. Many post-WW2 refugee immigrants to Australia ended up in Displaced Persons camps and had to spend two years living in amenity poor tent cities, with dozens of nationalities thrown together, more or less at random, working with pick and shovel before being released into the general community. Once released they had no translator services, no high profile community advocates on TV every night, and anti-discrimination laws were decades away. Hard work was really their only option. Still they survived and thrived. The immigrant groups who have come since the 1990s have, comparatively speaking, had it easy.

The pundits also ignore the comparative add-on costs between the two generations of immigrants and it's impact in promoting anti-immigration sentiment in the wider community. In the 1940s-1960s immigrants had a much lower government spending price tag per capita, even in relative terms, than in the 1990s-2000s. As such it shouldn't be surprising to learn that polls show popular opposition to the immigration program was much lower in the earlier period. Despite Australian society in the 1990s being considered much more diverse and 'tolerant' than the "White Australia" of the 1950s.

Trickle down arguments about modern immigrants 'paying their own way' may be correct in a textbook economics sense but are irrelevant in this particular case. If modern immigrants manage to 'pay their own way', the earlier generation must have been a bargain. The pundits also fail to explain why there were no "anti-immigrant" riots among the former generation of anglophile-educated Australians. No liberal pundits have even noticed that the participants in the Cronulla riot were actually from the first generation of Australians with pro-multicultural schooling from their first day of kindergaten. We know that three generations of Communist propaganda failed to turn the Russians into true believer marxists. Even though in the Soviet era all learned to mouth the phrases as required. Perhaps a similar situation impacts the doctrine of multiculturalism. Zubrzycki's solution would undoubtedly exacerbate tensions not relieve them.


"Affirmative action" under legal challenge. It looks like the fire service is the ham in the sandwich, though

A federal appellate court changed its stance and ruled Wednesday in favor of plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit against the city of Shreveport and its Fire Department, overturning a lower court's decision to dismiss the case. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the heart of the five-year-old case to U.S. District Court in Shreveport. The petition was brought against the city in 2000 by Todd Dean, who was not hired by the department and felt its hiring practices discriminated against him because he is white. Dean earned a higher test score than some blacks hired then, his lawsuit alleges. Other men joined the lawsuit soon after.

The 5th Circuit's ruling "should compel the city not only to cease race-based hiring procedures in all departments, but also to re-evaluate the continued validity of all city programs that incorporate race as a criteria for participation," said local attorney Pamela R. Jones, who represented Dean, Shawn Sanders and Jason Matthews. Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran said he was unaware of the decision and withheld comment until he reviews and discusses it with the city attorney. The department ended race-based hiring 11 months before a federal magistrate dismissed Dean's case in December 2004 hoping to avoid more lawsuits, officials said. Now the department relies on a pass/fail civil service exam, educational background and technical training of each candidate and psychological and physical ability exams.

The city has maintained that the department's hiring practices are based on a complaint brought by the U.S. Justice Department in 1980 that said the department had discriminated against blacks and women. Up to that point, the department had hired only three black men in its history, according to court records. Then the 5th Circuit ruled that the department had to fill "at least 50 percent of all vacancies with qualified black applicants" and put qualified women in at least 15 percent of all vacancies. The department was ordered to divide job candidates into two categories, white and black. The most qualified from each received job offers -- even if the most qualified candidates were all in one category -- so that jobs were equally distributed to both whites and blacks.

A consent decree was agreed to with a long-term goal of the department staff reflecting the available work force of the city. In its ruling Wednesday, the appellate court notes its change in view of the decree: "We reviewed the decree at that time under a rational basis standard of review. This standard of review no longer applies. ... Thus, as we re-evaluate the decree under strict scrutiny, we are not bound by our prior approval of it under the rational basis standard."


Friday, January 27, 2006


A university Christian Union has been suspended and had its bank account frozen after refusing to open its membership to people of all religions. The Christian Union, an evangelical student organisation, has instructed lawyers and is threatening court proceedings against the Birmingham Guild of Students. The Birmingham Christian Union has more than 100 members who attend meetings regularly and has been functioning at the university for 76 years.

Members claim the actions have been taken against them after they refused on religious grounds to make “politically correct” changes to their charitable constitution, including explicitly mentioning people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. The Christian Union was advised that the use of the words “men” and “women” in the constitution were causing concern because they could be seen as excluding transsexual and transgendered people.

Difficulties arose after the organisation Christians in Sport, whose supporters include Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic gold medallist, attempted to book a room in the name of the Christian Union. After checking the union’s constitution, the Guild of Students objected to a number of clauses. Andy Weatherley, Christian Union staff worker in Birmingham, said: “The guild insists the Christian Union constitution must be amended to include mandatory clauses, insisting on more control by the guild and open membership to those who would not call themselves Christians.”

At a recent guild meeting Matthew Crouch, of the Christian Union, appealed against derecognition. He said: “All guild members can attend our meeting but only members can vote,” but Stuart Mathers, a guild vice-president, said that all student groups have to follow guild council policy. Birmingham University Christian Union is affiliated to the University and Colleges’ Christian Fellowship. Pod Bhogal, its communications director, said: “We support the Birmingham Christian Union. We would not dream of telling a Muslim group or a political society how to elect their leaders or who could or could not become a member. The same applies to a Christian Union



(An article by Ilana Mercer)

Writer Robert Locke recently warned that “free speech may become illegal in England.” He focused specifically on the case of Nick Griffin, “chairman of a small opposition party called the British National Party.” Griffin is apparently facing trial for saying, “at a private political meeting,” that “Islam is an evil and wicked faith. Unfortunately for him,” Locke reported, “government thought police were watching, and recorded him on video tape… Such things really do happen in Britain today. Let us pray they do not happen in America tomorrow, and draw the line now,” Locke excoriated:

“Most Americans know that America’s precious civil liberties were born in England, out of English common law, English ideas of individual rights, and British parliamentary democracy.

Most Americans don’t know that this glorious tradition, in defense of which Americans and Britons fought two world wars and a Cold War together, is dying where it was born.

Today, believe it or not, civil liberty is under attack in the UK as it has not been since the dark days of 1940.

Then, as now, it is threatened by a would-be United Europe, and by those at home who lack the courage to defend it.

Today, European Union laws have snuffed out many of the cherished rights in Britain— rights Americans still take for granted, like the presumption of innocence and the right to elect their own government—and they threaten to snuff out more, from freedom of speech to the right to trial by jury. British liberty is in danger of being swallowed whole by the alliance between Political Correctness and an alien and Napoleonic legal tradition from the Continent, where freedom is nothing more than a loan from the state, revocable at its convenience. [More on the European “superstate” in Adieu to the Evil EU]

Make no mistake: the unelected masters of the European Union know full-well that British liberty is one of the biggest roadblocks on their drive to create a superstate that will rival and displace the USA. They cannot allow the virus of freedom to infect any part of their bureaucratic despotism, and they mean to eradicate it. Tony Blair is their enthusiastic collaborator.

The present British government—just like in the 1930’s—has responded to the aggression of a diabolical foreign ideology by deciding to appease it. Then it was major newspapers hushing up the truth about Hitler. Today it is the fact that in Britain, a man can be thrown in jail for telling the truth about Islam’s agenda of world conquest [my emphasis].

If you know that Islam has waged holy war from Arabia to Lower Manhattan for 1,400 years, aiming at the forcible conversion of the world, you will know this is the simple truth. If you know its holy book, the Koran, explicitly commands every Moslem to wage jihad, you will understand why the world needs to know. If you remember 9/11, you will understand why this is the crucial issue of our time.

…You understand how important free speech is. Without it, all other liberties are moot, as no-one can tell the truth about threats to them [my emphasis]. Islamic radicals are hoping to exploit the British courts – using rights Islam would abolish – to silence criticism of their jihad agenda. If they win this case, they will have acquired enormous powers of intimidation.”

I share Locke’s outrage. England has stooped as low as Turkey, which is prosecuting novelist Orhan Pamuk for “denigrating Turkishness.” That’s Orwellian for daring to acknowledge and decry the Armenian genocide during the First World War and the mass slaughter of the Kurds, also vital truths that should not be forgotten. Locke and I, however, would agree that Turkey has no legacy of free-speech to lament.

In 2002, France prosecuted the brilliant author, Michel Houellebecq. He was dragged before a French Revolutionary Assembly (English for a Parisian court) for calling Islam “a stupid religion.” And there’s Oriana Fallaci, forced to flee her native Italy, because of the persecution of that government, acting as a proxy for Muslim groups. Although Locke would not be surprised by these events, I’m sure he’d condemn the assaults on these people.

However, it is not entirely clear whether Locke would defend Holocaust denier David Irving’s right to speak his misguided mind. Unless I have misunderstood him, Locke appears to decry the state’s assault on Griffin because he happened to speak the truth. What of liars? Is their speech a legitimate target of state aggression? Do the British “Rights of Englishmen”—the inspiration for the American Founding Fathers—protect only speech that is true?

American jurisprudence allows the regulation of speech only under very limited circumstances. If speech poses a “Clear and Present Danger,” it can be censored. While the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment doesn’t protect words that are likely to cause violence, the required threshold is extremely high. And so it should be. In fact, the preferred course of action against imams who publicly preach and incite violence against Americans on American soil is deportation, not censorship.

Locke ought to have emphasized the imperative of protecting all speech, truthful and untruthful. That’s the American way—and the right way—although it is clearly no longer cool in Cool Britannia.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I enjoyed the haggis I had on my Burns Night. Attacking a central part of the Scottish heritage is certainly not wise. The Scots are very proud of their heritage

Scotland's national dish, haggis, has become the latest foodstuff to be targeted as part of a drive to combat growing levels of obesity among British children, prompting outrage among producers. According to health officials in Scotland, the delicacy -- a sheep's stomach lining stuffed with offal, oatmeal, onions and seasoning -- contains too much fat and salt and should only be given to youngsters once a week.

But the guidance has angered makers of the "love it or hate it" foodstuff, which is traditionally eaten with a tot of whisky on Burn's Night, the annual January 25 celebration of the life of the legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. "With good neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), there's nothing more nutritious than haggis," said Alan Pirie, of butchers James Pirie and Son, the current holders of the sought-after title "Scottish Haggis Master". "It's made of all natural ingredients -- there's no rubbish in it at all. To compare it with processed meat like chicken nuggets or hot dogs is just ridiculous. It's a big knock for us for it to be compared to those."

Haggis was placed on a "restricted" list of foods issued to nurseries, playgroups and childminders as part of a drive by the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh to improve the health of pre-school children under five. The numbers of obese children in Scotland is twice the British average; 20 percent of three-and-a-half-year-olds were overweight, 8.6 percent obese and four percent severely obese in the 2004-05 school year, official statistics show. Mortality rates among adults, particularly in the densely populated "Central Belt" between Glasgow, in the west, and Edinburgh, in the east, are also among the highest in Europe, mainly through alcohol, smoking and a high-fat diet.

The Scottish Executive, which has made a number of moves to improve the nation's health, including an imminent ban on smoking in public places, insisted haggis was not being outlawed but should be eaten in moderation. "The nutritional guidelines are intended to give advice on how to provide a balanced diet over a week," said a spokeswoman. Preventing an obesity epidemic in Britain has been the subject of a number of government initiatives in recent years, including improving school dinners in England and Wales with the help of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.



When I was a little girl, and all my friends were little girls, none of us thought we'd grow up to be housewives. We might have played dollies in pretend houses and made pretend cakes and poured invisible tea from plastic pots, but no one ever considered that being a housewife, a home-maker, would be something that we would choose to be. For many years, that was not even an option. But now, at 40, I wonder why not?

My mother stayed at home. She baked cakes - terrible ones - and dusted and cleaned and darned names on knickers and obviously hated it. She would tell me how dull she thought stay-at-home mothers were. She would tell me how she'd wanted to be an artist, but that her father, my grandfather, wouldn't let her.gcause nice girls did not go to art school. She worked for a while as a physiotherapist and then, after she married my father, stopped working altogether, as so many women did.

But, during my childhood, my mother provided me with a steady stream of literature by women such as Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan. Kate Millett. Simone de Beauvoir and Susie Orbach. My mother was intent that we were educated properly. She took us overseas and showed us art, history and architecture. She helped me learn the joy of having an inquiring mind, of not just accepting everything I was told. She congratulated me when I confronted my teachers, even though she was hauled in to see the principal of my school regularly.

So did my mother expect me and my sister to stay at home, have children and turn into housewives? No, she did not. And yet, what has happened to us? In Susan Faludi's 1993 book Backlash, she predicted the tide would turn, that feminism would start becoming a dirty word, that men would march against women and that women would return, mentally beaten and bereaved. back to the home.

Now we have Darla Shine, who says in her book Happy Housewives that women should be allowed to embrace the mother, the housewife within and should no longer feel they have to go to work and break through the glass ceiling to be a proper, functioning person. "Why wasn't being a mum offered to me as a career?" Shine says.

What has changed? Staying at home - or even saying you want to stay at home -is breaking the last taboo. When, aged 29, I had my first child, all my friends thought I was mad. They thought I was even crazier when I moved out of city life and re-emerged in the bush complete with boots, basket, fresh fruit from the garden and an apron. They baulked when I got a dog. They nearly cried when I went on to have two more children and spent all my earnings on small shoes and baby outfits.

But now I know my friends love to come to see me. They love the atmosphere of the house, the freshly-cooked food, the salad picked from the garden, the grubby, muddy tearaway children and the over-friendly dog.

And yet I still work. I ask myself why: is it too much part of my past, part of what my mother instilled in me, for me to totally embrace my domestic goddess within?

But I am not the only woman who secretly likes baking an apple pie. Many seem to have quietly turned away from work. Everyone is "down-sizing" and searching for "quality of life". Why have it all when you only want a little bit? I think part of the problem is that women never really thought about what "work" meant. It's no fun being a woman holding down a full time job and also trying to run a house, children and a marriage. Where's the joy in trudging to and from work, to home, to the shops, and back again on a daily basis? (I am sure men feel just the same way, but we are talking housewives here, not house-husbands).

It's exhausting. I tried it. It was a disaster. I barely saw my children. I had no idea what they were up to. The cupboard was bare, the house was cold and unloved. I felt more tired than I ever have been. I resorted to checking my eldest son's homework when he was in bed. I made packed lunches at llpm. I barely spoke to my partner. At work, I sneakily called plumbers and electricians. Yet I seemed to achieve nothing, either at work or at home.

When I recently suggested to a friend that I give up work and stay at home with my children full-time, she gasped in horror: "But work is so much a part of who you are!" But work used to be part of who she was. Now she has two children, a husband who works from home, a serious tennis addiction and the best-baked cakes. Doesn't she miss her working life? She says not. When I press her on it, she says that she had always told herself that, if she had children, it would be her job to look after them. "I feel I owe that to them," she says. Her children, it has to be said, are happy.

And now I'm surrounded by these stay-at-home women - my sister, my sisters-in-law, my friends; none of them work. Elizabeth used to be a doctor, but now stays at home with her three girls. Emma was in films as a producer, but now spends her life videoing her twins, and Kate was a lawyer in Hong Kong, but was paid off. She's used her money to buy a run-down pile and, whenever you go round, there she is, paintbrush in hand, surrounded by children having fun renovating the place. They all seem happy. They all seem fulfilled. They are intelligent women and these are their choices.

Something has shifted. I find myself increasingly drawn to making cakes and staring wistfully at ingredients in the fridge. My friend calls up to tell me of a new lentil recipe her kids like. The correct feminist response would be: "Why are you calling me up with cooking tips? Burn your bra, baby! "Instead, I hurry to the shop to prepare for cooking it myself the next night. The truth is, I feel better when the house is clean and organised and the kids' clothes are folded and in their drawers. I LIKE to put a meal on the table for my partner when he comes home from work.

When I'm not working and the kids are at kindy, I go for a pushbike ride, walk the dog, or pop round for coffee at a friend's house. I find I rather like wearing an apron. I have a "baking" cupboard, although I am still not very good on cakes. But the kids like making them, so some afternoons we get floury and pour everything into a mixing bowl and then eat it.

The children are happier. My partner is happier. The dog is happier and I am happier. If I'm feeling particularly daring, I might even open a bottle of wine at lunchtime and invite people round. And who decreed we should all work so hard that we forget how to enjoy life? I think women are redefining things. Working hard, being successful and beating men at their own game now seems tiring and boring and, at the end of the day, not necessarily fulfilling.

It's much more fun to have freedom to be at home, to play with the kids, to walk a dog, to make my own decisions about my life. Being a housewife is no longer the dead-end job it was, and it's also not for ever. As their children get older, many women I know intend to start up some sort of small business. The internet has made this perfectly possible. Others intend to re-train as family therapists, teachers and such like. Some are doing extra-curricular courses in art, ceramics, philosophy.

If I had daughters, I'd give them the books to read that my mother gave me. I would encourage them to seethat they have choices, and that those choices are not between a man's world or a woman's world, or between going to work or staying at home, but the chance to do whatever it is they feel they want to do. And if it's a dishcloth that does it for them, hey, so be it.

An article by Lucy Cavendish from the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 22 Jan., 05

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The curious rise of anti-religious hysteria

Ex-Marxist Frank Furedi says that it is the Anglo-American cultural elites' insecurity about their own values that encourages their frenzied attacks on religion. He also highlights the contempt for ordinary working people that the Left once claimed to represent

The verdict of my son's 10-year-old mates was that it was 'not bad', but a little bit 'boring'. Maddie, a sassy nine-year-old, said it was 'okay for young kids' but it was not in the same league as King Kong. In a few years' time, these kids will recall the unexceptional film that was Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and wonder why it attracted so much adult controversy.

The intense and venomous attacks on the Disney-produced Narnia film are truly puzzling. The novelist Phillip Pullman has described CS Lewis' original book as 'one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read'. With the zeal of a veteran cultural crusader Polly Toynbee of the UK Guardian cut straight to the chase: 'Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.'

What Toynbee seems to find most hateful about religion is that it is able to express a powerful sense of faith. 'US born-agains are using the movie', she warned. Many critics seem especially outraged by this prospect of religious organisations 'using' the film to promote their faith. The advocacy group Media Transparency warns that the film is based on a book that has a 'frankly religious element' - which is not really surprising when you consider that the author was a well-known publicist for Christianity. What is surprising, however, is that Christians promoting Christian propaganda should invite such bitter condemnation.

First there was the controversy provoked by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in 2004, and now there is this censorious dismissal of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Both are testaments to a potent mood of intolerance towards expressions of religious faith in popular culture today. The artistic representation of religious conviction is frequently stigmatised with terms such as 'fundamentalist', 'intolerant', 'dogmatic', 'exclusive', 'irrational' or 'right-wing'. As a secular humanist who is instinctively uncomfortable with zealot-like moralism, I am suspicious of the motives behind these doctrinaire denunciations of films with a religious message. Such fervour reminds me of the way that reactionaries in the past policed Hollywood for hints of blasphemy or expressions of 'Un-American values'. Replacing the zealotry of religious intolerance with a secular version is hardly an enlightened alternative.

I wonder how today's anti-religious crusaders would respond to The Nun's Story, the 1959 film about a woman who gives up everything to become a nun? Would it be denounced as a subversive plot to manipulate the emotions of vulnerable girls? Or a conspiracy to give fundamentalism a human face? Might it be described as a sick film with a subliminal plot that promoted the 'Just Say No' campaign?

There is little doubt that if Ben Hur (1959, starring Charlton Heston) was released today it would be denounced as a shameless attempt to promote 'muscular Christianity'. As for the wretched 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street! Its privileging of Christmas would be crucified as a crude example of the politics of exclusion. Instead of enjoying the acclaim of the cultural elites of old, films like The Robe, Quo Vadis or The Ten Commandments are today likely to be dismissed as insidious and disturbing religious propaganda.

Until recently, cultural expressions of religious faith were simply considered old-fashioned and gauche. But over the past decade, scorn has turned into bigotry and hatred.

It is a sign of the times that even some of the people associated with the making of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe self-consciously deny that the film has a Christian agenda. 'We believe we have not made a religious movie', said Dennis Rice, Disney's senior vice president of publicity. Andrew Adamson, the film's director, says the story's obvious Christian message is 'open to the audience to interpret'. 'Faith is in the eyes of the beholder', said actress Tilda Swinton, who plays the White Witch. This defensive response suggests that the alleged 'muscular Christianity' behind the film is in fact rather flabby. According to Stanley Mattson, president of the CS Lewis Foundation in Redlands, California, such defensiveness is understandable since today's cultural elites tend to discredit anything judged 'Christian'.

The attempts to dissociate the film from any explicit Christian project are not only motivated by commercial thinking. Despite the claims of the anti-religious crusaders - especially in the US - that the Christian right is on the rise, in fact in cultural terms it is increasingly marginalised. Films with a Christian message find it difficult to convey a powerful sense of faith and meaning. Instead, religious values and beliefs tend to be transmitted through non-human anthropomorphic forms. The attempt to endow even the behaviour of penguins with transcendental meaning - in the widely acclaimed March of the Penguins - is symptomatic of this theological illiteracy. The enthusiasm with which Christian organisations embraced March of the Penguins showed up their disorientation, if not desperation, rather than their aggressive confidence. After the penguin it is the turn of another animal - Aslan, the lion in the Narnia film - to serve as a symbol of innocence, sacrifice and resurrection. What beast will Christian filmmakers pick next?

Even when films depict religiosity in human terms, such as in the figure of Christ in Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, it tends to be in a degraded fashion. In Gibson's vision Jesus is reduced to little more than a lump of meat, the victim of whippings and abuse whose physical suffering is shown in gruesome detail. It is far from uplifting.

So preoccupied are the critics of religious activism with the alleged threat posed by their enemies that they fail to notice that many Christian groups lack the courage of their convictions today, and seem to doubt the authority of their own faith. This is particularly striking in relation to the controversy surrounding Intelligent Design. This theory holds that certain features of the universe, and of animal and human life, are 'best explained' as having an 'intelligent cause' rather than being the product of natural selection. Many see only the danger of superstition in Intelligent Design, describing it as a new form of Creationism on the march. They overlook the remarkable concession that Intelligent Design makes to the authority of science.

Unable to justify creationism as a matter of faith based on divine revelation, advocates of Intelligent Design are forced to adopt the language of science to legitimate their arguments and the existence of some kind of God. This highlights their theological opportunism and inability to justify religion in its own terms. Of course Intelligent Design isn't science; but its appeal to faith in science exposes the limits of the authority of religious faith today.

Superstition and prejudice should continually be countered by rational argument. But the vitriolic invective hurled at Christian believers today is symptomatic of the passions normally associated with a fanatical Inquisitor. Like the old Spanish Inquisition, anti-religious fanatics are constantly on the look out for fundamentalist plots. Richard Dawkins' recent two-part TV rant against religion on Channel 4 demonstrated the fanatical intolerance of critics of religion. The language and tone adopted by the anti-religious crusade - especially in the US - frequently acquires pathological dimensions. So, many anti-religious warriors repeat Dawkins' assertion that St Paul's idea of atonement for original sin is 'essentially, psychological and emotional child abuse'.

Others continue to attack religious organisations for trying to exploit films with a religious message or motif. There is a double standard at work here. After all, films and propaganda are inextricably linked. AIDS campaigners, for example, embraced films such as Philadelphia - in which Tom Hanks played a dignified man dying from AIDS - for the positive way they promote their cause. Currently gay organisations are celebrating Ang Lee's gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain for its affirmation of gay love and identity. 'Using' films to promote a cause is hardly the prerogative of religious movements.

So what is the liberal elite so worried about? The liberal elite's obsession with the insidious threat posed by faith-based films is paralleled by its paranoia about the religious right. Anti-religious crusaders, in particular in the US, continually exaggerate the influence of Christianity in culture and politics. Every time I visit America, this fear seems to have worsened. Raising the alarm about Christian fundamentalists has become a taken-for-granted affectation among those who define themselves as liberal or left-wing, who are forever telling horror stories about the power of the religious right.

It is now commonplace to attribute the re-election of President George W Bush in 2004 to his army of religious supporters. 'The fundamentalists and evangelicals who came out in such great numbers in this election are driven, and have always been driven, by fear', argues one critic of creeping theocracy. Instead of asking the harder question of why some of their own arguments fail to resonate with significant sections of the public, many prefer to point the finger at the religious right and blame them for using 'fear' and unfair arguments.

The idea that religious fundamentalism is on the offensive and threatening to dominate public life is widely held on both sides of the Atlantic. It is fuelled by the belief that recent developments in the world of politics point to a revival of moralism. Many liberal commentators argue, for example, that the re-election of Bush was made possible by the ability of the religious right to connect with the search for meaning among everyday folk. According to this now-standard interpretation, much of the public 'found a "politics of meaning" in the political Right'. Why? Because 'in the right-wing churches and synagogues these voters are presented with a coherent worldview that speaks to their "meaning needs"'.

The religious right is often said to be mobilising and gaining support around values that appeal to a primitive and simplistic electorate. That is why even a kids' film like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe can provoke such hostility. The liberal elite's unease with religion is often motivated by the fear that it will become even more isolated from the public unless it can engage with the 'big questions' they are apparently asking. It is also concerned that unless it can project a positive vision on to society, people will become influenced by value-driven 'extremists', by religious and political organisations that are hostile to the status quo. In short, religion is seen as a powerful force that appeals to those apparently simple people whom sophisticated members of the elite cannot reach.

Such beliefs are underpinned by the patronising assumption that, unlike educated urbane people, ordinary members of the public need simplistic black-and-white answers about the meaning of life. In private conversation, some in the liberal elite discuss the masses - or 'rednecks', Nascar dads, tabloid readers, etc - as being crass, materialistic, simplistic, racist, sexist, homophobic.

New theories are doing the rounds to account for the kind of audience that flocks to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and other feelgood films and who respond to the appeals of the religious right. George Lakoff - whose book Don't Think of An Elephant has become a kind of bible that explains their electoral demise for many liberal Democrats in the US - describes those who tend to vote for Bush as the products of authoritarian 'strict father families' who are motivated by self-interest, greed and competitiveness. These people hate 'nurturance and care', apparently, are religious bigots and lack the therapeutic sensibilities of their liberal cousins.

In the guise of a political theory, Lakoff offers a diagnosis of human inferiority. You can almost hear him murmur: 'They actually take their children to see The Passion of the Christ..' In previous times, such contempt for people was the trademark of the authoritarian right. In today's 'inclusive' society, it is okay to denigrate sections of the electorate as simpletons if they are still gripped by the power of faith.

Lakoff and others argue that many people who vote for Bush, or who are influenced by the religious right, simply do not know what is in their best interests. Instead of acknowledging the failure of its own political projects, the liberal elite prefers to indict sections of the public for being thick and gullible.

This trend for blaming the rise of theocracy on ordinary folks' apparent penchant for simplistic black-and-white solutions shifts the focus from the elite's failure to promote and uphold a positive vision of the future on to the alleged political illiteracy of the masses. That is why discussions of so-called fundamentalist movements often contain an implicit condemnation of the people who support them - and why the alleged creations of fundamentalist culture are implicitly condemned as immoral. It is the insecurity of the Anglo-American cultural elites about their own values and moral vision of the world that encourages their frenzied attacks on religion. There is a powerful element of bad faith here: many leftists and liberals denounce those who appeal to moral values as being inferior, but they are also envious of them. So when the 'progressive' Rabbi Michael Lerner criticises his fellow liberals for their 'long-standing disdain for religion' and for being 'tone-deaf to the spiritual needs that underline the move to the Right', he is implicitly paying homage to the power of persuasion among his fundamentalist opponents.....


Panic: 'Why what we eat has led to rise in mental problems', says the Daily Telegraph, reporting a new study prepared by the food campaign group Sustain and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). The report surveys research on the effect of various nutrients and foods on mental development and illness. The report suggests that industrialised farming and changing patterns of eating may be leading to the loss of vital nutrients and imbalances which can effect brain formation, concentration and memory. The suggestion is that rising levels of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and Alzheimer's may all be related, in part, to diet.

Don't panic: Coverage of the Sustain/MHF report has been much more definitive about the conclusions drawn than the report itself. At the very start, the author notes that it is not a systematic review of the literature and that there is a distinct bias towards studies that show a link between diet and mental health. So, the author suggests the report should not be read as a definitive statement on the science, but as an awareness-building exercise. 'Advocacy research' might be nearer the mark.

Even some of the basic assumptions need to be called into question. It is far from clear that there has been a real increase in mental health problems over the last few years. In a society increasingly obsessed with health and the inability to find a wider meaning to life, many behaviours previously regarded as normal variations of personality are being redefined as mental illness. Moreover, if there has been any increase in mental health problems, those same navel-gazing trends must be a prime candidate as an explanation. Increasing levels of drinking, drug-use and the decline of traditional patterns of family and working life could all represent a stronger explanation than our failure to eat enough oily fish.

In the foreword, Professor Tim Lang of City University makes the analogy with heart disease and diet. The heart disease-diet link is well-established now, he suggests, and the mental health-diet link must surely follow. In reality, while our diets are allegedly getting worse, death rates from coronary heart disease for those under 75 have tumbled in the past 30 years. Far from confirming his case, the analogy only illustrates how 'common sense' explanations of ill-health need to be treated with caution.

Still, the provisional nature of the research hasn't stopped Sustain from packing the report's recommendations with their own particular hobby-horses. For example, 'All prison facilities should instigate sustainable food policies and practices so that all residents and staff are encouraged to choose culturally diverse and appropriate meals, snacks and drinks that promote their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.' What have cultural diversity and sustainability got to do with whether we getting enough selenium or iodine in our food?

It is true that at a fundamental level, 'we are what we eat' - but we are much more than the sum of the nutrients that make up our bodies, and our minds are much more than the chemical make-up of our brains.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A lesson in conformity for parents

Forget 'respect': the UK government's National Parenting Academy is based on contempt for mums and dads everywhere

The most disconcerting thing about babies, someone once told me, is that they don't come with an instruction manual. They cry, they giggle, they get sick and they become fascinated with random things like rain and washing machines, and you often have no idea why.

You can follow your Contented Little Baby Book, you can monitor the thermometer, you can swot up on child development theory - but pretty damn soon you realise that babies are contrary little buggers who are developing their own will as fast as they are absorbing the myriad contradictions of the world around them. You can't turn them on or off, and there is no guarantee that, if you just follow the rules, everything will be okay. And that's before they even start walking and talking.

But whatever else might be taught at the UK government's new National Parenting Academy, the message that 'children are people too' will not be included. In setting up children as a subject to be studied and parenting as a skill to be taught, such an institution assumes not only that children should come with an instruction manual, but that it is the government's job to write it.

Furthermore, through instructing new parents in officially sanctioned methods of parenting, the government hopes to achieve its key policy goal of reducing anti-social behaviour and fostering a new culture of 'respect'. Just like that? Backed up with a few more laws and sanctions - but otherwise, yes, just like that.

Commenting on the new 'respect' measures, a leader article in The Sunday Times (London) says resignedly: 'None is bad in itself, although some smack of the nanny state at its worst. Students of New Labour are familiar with these barrages of initiatives, most of which tend to go nowhere.' (1) Indeed, from parenting classes to therapeutic childcare initiatives such as Sure Start, we are no strangers to official new attempts that teach parents how to parent, and push the philosophy 'expert knows best'.

But just because New Labour's authoritarian agenda is familiar doesn't mean that we should stop objecting to it. In pinpointing parents both as the cause of today's 'culture of disrespect' and the solution, the government is abdicating its own core responsibilities, and doing so at a heavy cost to families' privacy and autonomy. The upshot will not be a new culture of respect, but a more deeply entrenched culture of mistrust.

The Sunday Times goes on to berate the government for fiddling with policy while Rome burns - in this case, while other government initiatives have caused secondary schools to collapse, public drunkenness to spiral out of control, and marriage to be further undermined. To blame specific policies of this government for the worldwide decline in traditional social institutions and solidarities is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. But the newspaper is on to something in its argument that parents are being made responsible for factors way beyond their control - and as such the government is attempting to pass the buck.

It was former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher who famously said: 'There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.' New Labour's obsession with parenting as the root of all evil and the panacea for all problems takes this individualised philosophy another stage on. There is no such thing as Society, implies New Labour, as it 'puts the individual at the heart' of education, healthcare and other public services, with the result that children are taught self-esteem while parents have to teach them to read, and people who get sick are taught that they only have themselves and their lifestyles to blame.

But while there is no such thing as Society, there is, apparently, such a thing as Anti-social Behaviour - which seems to amount to individuals putting themselves at the heart of decisions about the volume of music they play or the street corners on which they hang out, to the detriment of other people's peace and quiet and peace of mind. In this way, the government seeks to abdicate responsibility for the big picture - the fabric of society, its values and core institutions - and put the onus on individuals to choose which education, values, relationships they want. At the same time, individuals are threatened with moral sanctions and legal penalties, from fines to eviction, if they do not choose to behave in the fashion that least offends anybody (otherwise known as exhibiting 'respect').

The aggressive promotion of conformity at the heart of the government's 'respect' agenda is bad enough in its own terms. It offers no sense of even trying to work out what we are as a society, and where we want to go; there is no notion that political leaders have a role to play in fostering common values or shared goals. All Blair's culture of respect really means can be summed up in the grim philosophy: 'Be whoever you want to be - but behave, or else'. When it comes to using parents as a means to push this agenda on to children, the message is even more bleak.

The National Parenting Academy, one senior government source told The Sunday Times, 'is about nipping [anti-social behaviour] in the bud, before these kids start getting Asbos' (2). A parent's role is redefined as simply controlling their children's behaviour before their children fall foul of an offence of the government's own making, thereby receiving an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. It is hard to imagine a more circular argument, or a more impoverished justification for state intervention into family life.

As I have argued before on spiked, the role of a parent is quite distinct from that of a law enforcement official - and trying to make parents into an extension of the police and truancy agency can only end in tears all round. It robs parents of the privacy and autonomy necessary to do the really important stuff for their kids - loving them, caring for them, disciplining them in the most effective way they choose (see Parents: We are not the law) And while the government is screwing up the family in this way, it lets itself off the hook. Atomisation, crap education, the lack of inspiration or opportunities for young people - none of this, apparently, has anything to do with bad behaviour, and the government can do nothing about it anyway. Just blame the parents, and meddle even further with family life.

'There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.' At least Thatcher conceded that much. For New Labour, there are individual men and women, there are parents and there are children - all of whom have conflicting interests and negative motivations which need monitoring and mediating by the state. This is a deeply anti-social philosophy, and it needs nipping in the bud.


Ridiculous Comments: Only the Far Left Gets Away With Them

Racial over toned remarks are not acceptable, whether they coming from the mouths of Senator Hillary Clinton or New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. However, that does not seem to stop the far-left from making them. They say whatever they please when speaking to a mostly black audience such as Hillary Clinton did at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

On Monday, the Senator tossed out the word plantation without batting an eye. She blasted the Bush administration as "one of the worst" in U.S. history and compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation where dissenting voices are squelched. Her remarks were met with applause during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. She further went on to make egregious remarks that were totally one-sided, unbalanced, and not factual.

Senator Clinton and her ilk are good for speaking double talk that only leftists understand. They have a lot of hate and scurrilous accusations to talk about amongst themselves. It's a requirement these days to have all those attributes of a lying snake while running for office as a Democrat, ask Senator Joseph Lieberman. He is a marked man who is being shunned by his own party for being a rational thinker.

Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin suggested on Monday, during a Martin Luther King Day celebration, that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" for "being in Iraq under false pretenses." He also said that God was angry at black communities for tearing themselves apart with violence.

Nagin has nothing on Reverend Pat Robertson. Robertson's remarks cornering God and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were also looked upon as being presumptuous. However, Nagin will get a pass from the far-left for his racist remarks concerning "a chocolate New Orleans" and "You can't have New Orleans no other way." What's with that?

For the far-left, perception is everything, and lies go hand in hand. The far-left media gives their favored pets a free pass for every outlandish word they speak. The headlines that we see today will be a mere blip in days to come. If these contemptuous words were spoken by a conservative, a whole year's worth of damnation would be made of them, enough to run a campaign on. One could dare say that a by George Clooney produced movie would follow on it's heels. We will no doubt witness the back peddling of these odious remarks by the newspapers and media; i.e., ABC, CBS, and all the other alphabetical affiliates.

It is sad to say that we have a serious to communications problem in America. The media, that was supposed to serve this country, has lost it's way and gone so far astray. It blatantly panders to the left propaganda. One now has to depend on the new media called the internet and talk radio for the truth. The shrill words we have heard from those in the Democrat Party for over four years are just what they are, ridiculous comments: Only the far-left gets away with them.


Monday, January 23, 2006


Tongue Tied is down at the time of writing -- probably because of a hiccup with the new system. So I repeat below my four posts that I put up there over the weekend:

Anti-Christian fantasies

Of a recently televised Leftist conference we read:

"At one point, a speaker spoke about the need "to save democracy" from the "Christian Right," to which the audience broke out in applause. An associate professor of comparative studies equated the zeal of the "Christian Right" with that of "suicide bombers."


That the historical fountainhead of democracy as we know it today was an intensely Protestant Britain and that the great bulwark of democracy now is the overwhelmingly Christian USA, completely escapes these emptyheads. Such fact-free fantasies are bordering on insanity. And I wonder where all those Christian suicide bombers are? If the speaker had, on the other hand, talked of saving democracy from the atheist Left, he would have had VERY good examples to mention: Soviet Russia, Communist China etc. It must be sad for the Left that they cannot live in the real world.

Offending ordinary people is the Real Aim of Political Correctness

How else can we explain this?

"I moved out of Seattle for many reasons, one being that I was disgusted at how the gay population received enormous preferential treatment... I will give you an example. I worked for the Parks Department for many years. I was told that the City Council has given orders to NOT arrest or charge any of these individuals doing lewd acts, etc., because it would seem like the city were targeting a special group of people. On the other hand, if a straight person or couple was engaged in activities of such nature, they would be fined, arrested, charged".


The old saying, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" implies that you should be consistent in what you allow. But consistency of principle is a rarity on the Left.

Bratton Tells it Like it is

There is a refreshingly frank interview with L.A. police chief Bratton here. A Canadian journalist is asking how he would fix the spiralling rate of violent crime in Toronto. I am just going to reproduce a few pointed excerpts below:

"Bratton: Tell me, the gang violence that you are experiencing, what is the racial or ethnic background of the gangs?

Journalist: That's a refreshingly blunt question. Some say it may be as high as 80 per cent Jamaican. But no one knows for sure, because people here don't like to talk about that.

Bratton: You need to talk about it. It's all part of the issue. If it's Jamaican gangs that are committing the crimes, well then, go after the Jamaican gangs. And don't be afraid to go after them because they're black. That's the last thing you need to be concerned with.

Journalist: Oh boy, I can see the complaints coming in already. You have to understand the climate here. The major local daily in Toronto, the Toronto Star, says it doesn't believe in "gratuitously" labelling people by ethnic origin.

Bratton: Well, that really helps identify who they are, doesn't it? The next step will be to refuse to allow the police to identify people by their race or ethnic origin. That type of societal consciousness really goes to extremes.

Journalist: I'm sure you heard that Toronto's mayor and our prime minister blame the Boxing Day shooting on you Americans....

Bratton: Mm-hmm, yes. They talked about the problem of guns coming in from the United States. But whose hands are the guns in? You have to look at all sources of the problem. It is a combination of lax gun laws, which certainly contributes to our problem here in the United States, but ultimately the responsibility is on the individual who pulls the trigger....

Journalist: NDP Leader Jack Layton has pointed to "despair" and "poverty" as the root causes of crime.

Bratton: When you put too much emphasis on the idea of poverty being the cause of crime, you're as much as saying that just because you are poor or disadvantaged, you are going to resort to crime to get by. And that's a phenomenally racist and insensitive attitude. The vast majority of people who are poor do not resort to crime".

Germans Ban Wikipedia Site

Access to the German version of Wikipedia has been banned by a German court. But there are of course still ways of gaining access. See here for details. This is of course an intolerable attack on free speech which I am sure all libertarians will do their best to defeat. You can see that the forbidden information which caused the site to be taken down -- the information that the real name of a German/Yugoslav hacker known as "Tron" was in fact Boris Floricic -- cannot be found via a search of the German site but the information IS still freely available on the U.S. site. To do my bit towards spreading the forbidden information, I will repeat the core of it here in my rough German: Hacker Tron heisst im Tatsache Boris Floricic. "Tron" is ein Beiname. Weiter hier. And my comment to the German court concerned: "Heil Hitler"!

The Passion of the Left: Hating Christians

If viewers happened to be tuned into CSPAN several weeks ago, they were in for quite a spectacle. CSPAN was re-airing a conference that took place in May of 2005 with the ominous title, “Examining the Real Agenda of the Far Religious Right.” Sponsored by the New York Open Center, the conference was anything but open-minded. Instead, participants launched into a litany of complaints against the so-called Christian Right that bordered on bigotry. I half expected it to end with a pitchfork armed mob breaking down the doors of a local church.

Perusing the Open Center’s website, one will find the sort of New Age psychobabble melded with eastern mysticism and apocalyptic environmentalism that is common on the left these days. Having been taught by multiculturalism to hate their own western religious background, they turn instead to the east. It just goes to show you that people need to believe in something. Those who run the Open Center obviously believed they were enlightened in holding their anti-Christian confab, but elitist would be more like it. Every time a speaker referred to a particular Christian belief or quoted a remark they found particularly inflammatory, the audience snickered knowingly, as if to say, “what a fool.” Obviously, the secular fundamentalists of the Open Center consider themselves far more reasonable than those nutty Christians. But judging by the level of paranoia expressed at the conference, I wouldn’t bet on it.

At one point, a speaker spoke about the need “to save democracy” from the “Christian Right,” to which the audience broke out in applause. An associate professor of comparative studies equated the zeal of the “Christian Right” with that of “suicide bombers.” A former Pentecostal minister gave a presentation titled, “Christian Jihad,” while someone claimed to unveil, “The Real Hidden Religious Agenda: The Theocratic States of America.” For those suffering under such delusions, evangelical Christians are indeed the biggest threat to America and the entire world for that matter. Meanwhile, actual threats from a different religion go unnoticed.

Not once during the conference was it mentioned that the real suicide bombers are Islamists who have been killing innocent civilians all over the world. Call me crazy, but isn’t the zealot who’s actually acting on his beliefs just a tad scarier than the one who’s simply talking about it? Anyway, in a democratic society, belief does not equal theocracy. Islamists on the other hand, are actively pushing a system that hearkens back to the 7th Century and they’re not taking no for an answer. To compare this approach to that of American citizens simply exercising their democratic rights is beyond ludicrous.

The conference attendees seemed particularly concerned with Christians who believe literally in the Book of Revelations, The End Days, The Rapture, Armageddon and so on. They labeled such beliefs Dominionism and decried its real or imagined influence. They spoke menacingly about Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series and referred to its “surprising popularity.” The fact that 82% of the country is Christian seems not to have come under consideration. Much like those who lament the popularity of conservative talk radio as if it weren’t simply a case of supply and demand, the Left is simply in denial about the nature of their country.

Lest it be thought that Christians were the sole objects of wrath, “Neoconservatives” or in other words Jews, were also reviled. Apparently, it’s the Christians and the Jews that are the problem. The funny thing is that’s exactly what the Islamists are always saying.

And that’s exactly why some of us are so concerned with maintaining that bulwark of Western civilization, the Judeo-Christian alliance. At precisely the time that Jews, Christians and all those interested in advancing democracy should be banding together in the face of a fascistic and totalitarian threat, the Left would have us hasten our demise.

It’s no coincidence that as Christianity has declined in the West, Islam has been ascendant. Whether through demographics in Europe or ideological sway in America, Islam is clearly on the rise. In an ironic twist you couldn’t make up if you tried, the attacks of 9/11 seem actually to have helped this along. The number of Muslim converts is growing, with disaffected secularists being ripe for the picking. Meanwhile, Saudi money continues to pour into the coffers of U.S. institutions and to taint future generations with the stain of Wahhabism.

The left flank in the battle against Christianity certainly hasn’t been neglected. The fact that President Bush is a man of faith has upped the ante for the left and they’ve been in anti-Christian overdrive ever since his election. While organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State were doing damage long before Bush’s presidency, the campaign to erase Christianity from American public life has reached new heights in the past six years. This combined with the encroachments of Islamism has led to an ideological battle in which Christianity finds itself on the defensive.

Although almost a year ago, the attitudes expressed by leftist attendees at the Open Center conference have if anything magnified in the time since. A recent article by Bill Moyers demonstrated the same anti-Christian fervor, complete with references to the “rapture index.” Moyers’ main bone of contention is that evangelical Christians somehow threaten environmentalism. Never mind terrorism, it’s the specter of global warming we should be worried about.

Then there’s the new television show, The Book of Daniel, which portrays an Episcopal priest and his family as a collection of druggies, perverts and sociopaths. When NBC’s Nashville affiliate chose not to run the show due to the large number of complaints from viewers, those on the left immediately cried, “censorship.” To them, not publicizing one of their pet projects is tantamount to banning it.

Yet Christians are not taking the abuse lying down. Groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice, The Alliance Defense Fund and others have had great success tackling the legal front. The recent hoopla over the “war on Christmas” was really generated by the Left, which is simply outraged that Christians are now fighting back. Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation have jumped into the fray as well, demonstrating that Christians are not alone in this struggle. The secularists’ attempts at bullying are in fact starting to have the opposite effect and Christianity in America is now stronger than ever. I certainly hope so, for in civilizational battles, those that cease to believe in anything tend to fall by the wayside. And if people aren’t willing to fight for their civilization, there’s always someone waiting in the wings that is.



This echoes what the academic literature of psychology has long shown

My friend Luis is studying to be a sommelier. He knows more about Spanish wines than most people ever will. He describes a corked bottle as tasting “like wet cardboard.” Luis has amassed a small but important wine collection. He can tell you about the soil in Graves and he can tell you what the bacteria that yields Sauternes is called.

Luis was born in Mexico. He is twenty-three and large and he wears t-shirts with pictures of dead rappers on them. He lives with his parents in Coney Island and he once told me that the only time he left New York after moving here was to go on a day trip to Boston. Looking at him, you wouldn’t expect Luis to know all that much about wine. You wouldn’t expect his palate to be as refined as it is and you certainly wouldn’t expect his eyes to light up at the mere mention of a first growth Bordeaux, which he would probably call “bad ass.”

The other night, Luis left his job at the restaurant where we both work, was picked up by the police, and spent the remainder of the evening in jail. He had done nothing wrong, but he fit the profile of someone who had. Mostly, Luis was the type of person the police expected to catch in some act of defiance.

He told me this on Wednesday, as we stocked the wine cellar. He was teaching me about the Super Tuscans and he was talking about varietals when he launched into a story about racial profiling. “I fit the description,” he told me, as he gingerly handled a bottle of wine. He was—is—massive and hulking and he certainly could have passed for a criminal in some other person’s eyes.

Obviously it seemed unfair, especially since I will likely never fit any description the way Luis does. But the funny thing is that the industry in which we work requires the same kind of snap judgment that was used against Luis on Tuesday night. On weekends, before service begins, our managers remind us to beware the “B and Ts,” Manhattanites’ not-so-affectionate term for weekend visitors from New Jersey and Long Island—the Bridge and Tunnel Crowd. We are reminded that non-New Yorkers require a different kind of attention and we are told to gauge our tables accordingly.

Weekends are no exception. In the service industry, we are taught to assume. Assume the customer knows nothing. Assume that the elderly will split entrees. Assume that foreigners will not tip well. Assume that people who order pinot grigio by the glass do not know very much about wine. Assume that people who order their steaks well-done have no culinary mind.

But we are offended when the act is reversed. I found Luis’ story deeply disturbing because it proved how much image mattered and because it proved that racial profiling is not, regrettably, a thing of the past. But when I started to think about ways to remedy the situation, I was at a loss. Wasn’t I, too, responsible for the same kind of unfairness? Didn’t Luis and I both secretly roll our eyes at people who came in and ordered ice with their merlot? Weren’t we basing our sales pitches, our speed with a table, our attitudes, on assumptions we made at the very beginning of a table’s experience?

When you’re a professional and, more importantly, when part of your job requires you to make fast decisions about other people, being a good person is hard. All of the stereotypes that people like me rage against in everyday life are precisely what we use to help us on the job.

But recognizing the conundrum is half the battle. Richard Pryor, the venerable comedian who died Saturday from a heart attack, made light of these problems. He saw racial inequity everywhere, but his way of dealing with it infused humor into an otherwise dire situation. That said, Mr. Pryor capably brought to the surface issues that no one was willing to talk about. After a near-death experience some years ago, Mr. Pryor said, “I woke up in the ambulance, right? And there was nothin’ but white people starin’ at me. I say … I done died and wound up in the wrong heaven. Now I gotta listen to Lawrence Welk the rest of my days.”

Pryor was desperately funny and his humor allowed such categorically racial differences to enter American discourse sans anger. He was aware of the stereotypes and, in fact, used them to his benefit. It is likely that we are all better for it.

More here

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Letterman case shows the sheer evil of Restraining Orders

A Santa Fe, New Mexico judge recently granted a temporary restraining order against TV talk show host David Letterman for a woman who alleges that Letterman-who works in New York City and whom she has never met--has mentally harassed her through his TV broadcasts. According to Colleen Nestler, Letterman has caused her "mental cruelty" and "sleep deprivation" for over a decade, and has used code words and gestures during his broadcasts to show her that he wanted to marry her and train her as his co-host.

The woman, who also claims that Letterman and fellow celebrities Regis Philbin and Kelsey Grammer have been conspiring against her, requested that Letterman stay away from her, not "think" of her, and "release [her] from his mental harassment and hammering."

Letterman's attorneys were able to get the order dropped, and the judge--who apparently never thought to suggest to Nestler that she use the "off" button on her TV--has made good fodder for gossip columns and news of the bizarre. However, the case also demonstrates a much larger though rarely discussed problem-it is far too easy to get a restraining order based on a false allegation.

Beginning in the 1970s, restraining orders became a tool to help protect battered women. This is as it should be. However, in the rush to protect the abused, the rights of the accused are being violated on an arguably unprecedented scale. Many if not most domestic violence restraining orders are simply tactical maneuvers designed to gain advantage in high stakes family law proceedings. The Illinois Bar Journal calls the orders "part of the gamesmanship of divorce."

A recent article in the Family Law News, the official publication of the State Bar of California Family Law Section, explains that the bar is concerned that "protective orders are increasingly being used in family law cases to help one side jockey for an advantage in child custody." The authors note that protective orders are "almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence and usually without notice to the restrained person....it is troubling that they appear to be sought more and more frequently for retaliation and litigation purposes."

According to the Justice Department, two million restraining orders are issued each year in the United States. The vast majority of these are related to domestic violence allegations. For example, according to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, 243,401 of the 274,482 restraining orders currently active in California are related to domestic violence.

Such orders are generally done ex parte, without the accused's knowledge and with no opportunity afforded for him to defend himself. When an order is issued, the man is booted out of his own home and can even be jailed if he tries to contact his own children. This helps women position themselves as their children's sole caretakers, which aids them in winning sole (or de facto sole) custody of their children in their divorce settlements. In California and other states, the order itself can be considered a finding of domestic abuse, making the restrained person ineligible for joint custody.

Despite these grave effects, many courts grant restraining orders to practically any woman who applies. District Judge Daniel Sanchez, who issued the restraining order against Letterman, explained "If [applicants] make a proper pleading, then I grant it."

Research shows that these orders often do not even involve an allegation of violence. Usually all that's needed is a claim that the person to be restrained "acted in a way that scared me" or was "verbally abusive"-what's known as "shout at your spouse, lose your house."

A restrained person does have the opportunity to contest the orders at a hearing a couple of weeks later. However, these proceedings are often just a formality for which no more than 15 minutes are generally allotted. In fact, the State of California's website gives the following advice for men who are contesting restraining orders: "Practice saying why you disagree with the charges. Do not take more than three minutes to say what you disagree with. You can bring witnesses or documents that support your case, but the judge may not have enough time to talk to the witnesses."

One study of restraining orders published in the Journal of Family Violence found that 94% of those brought by women in one Massachusetts district were extended.

Restraining orders turn ordinary men into criminals by forbidding many routine behaviors. Men are being arrested for violating their orders by such acts as: returning their children's phone calls; going to their children's school or athletic events; sending their kids birthday cards; or accidentally running into them at the park or the mall.

Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, documented one case where a father of three was arrested for getting out of his car to pet his kids' dogs when he picked them up for a visit. Later, he was fined $600 for returning a phone call from his son.

In another case, a divorced dad with no police record was convicted of a crime because he opened the door to the lobby of his ex-wife's apartment building when dropping his then-five-year-old son off after a visit. When he refused to go to batterers' treatment for this "crime," he was sent to prison for six months.

Restraining orders generally only limit the restrained person's contact with the protected person but not vice versa. As a result, husbands who have reconciled with their wives are being arrested during routine traffic stops for being in the same car with them. In one case, a father was arrested and jailed for three days for breaching a domestic violence order by taking his son to the hospital. The mother had called the father, said their son had been injured in a bike accident, and asked him to take the boy to the hospital. The conviction stays on his record and hurts his job prospects but he can't get it undone.

Some men have been arrested and jailed after being tricked into violating their restraining orders. In one Seattle case, a man was jailed for three months after returning phone calls from his ex-wife, who showed the police the phone screen with the man's number on it. The man explained that when he received the messages he worried that something might have happened to his kids. He asks "what kind of parent would I be if I didn't return those calls?"

Restraining orders have a particularly devastating impact upon law enforcement and military personnel. Under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, individuals, including police officers and armed forces personnel, are prohibited from possessing a firearm if they are subject to a restraining order issued at the behest of a spouse or an intimate partner. The 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban expanded this prohibition to bar officers and service personnel from carrying weapons as part of their jobs. As a result, many police officers who are hit with restraining orders lose their careers.

The judicial system must devote far more time and resources to investigating abuse claims that are made in order to obtain restraining orders. Divorce proceedings should not be prejudiced by restraining orders, either as indications of guilt or for the purpose of setting custody precedents. And real punishments are needed for those who employ false claims. Restraining orders are a legitimate tool to help fight domestic violence. Their use should not be permitted to turn our judicial system into a series of Kangaroo Courts.


Secularists Once Again Call For The Suppression Of Knowledge

Post lifted from Fred Meekins

Since the 1920's or thereabouts, secularists have invoked the imagery of the Scopes Monkey Trial as evidence that conservative Evangelicals are bent on suppressing knowledge in the realms of science and literature.

Most following the news are no doubt aware of the ongoing angst on the part of unbelievers and Modernists regarding the propriety of introducing Intelligent Design into the Biology classroom since in their eyes suggesting anything but the materialist hypothesis (itself a faith-based assumption) diminishes the rigor of so-called scientific education. Instead, they suggest such ideas should be considered as part of the Social Studies or Humanities curriculum.

Yet such gestures of enlightened magnanimous compromise are little more than a canard. For when it becomes time to examine the metaphysical issues within what liberals previously promoted as the appropriate venue for such a discussion, they then cry Separation of Church and State. Thus, what they really want is a monopoly on the perspective taught across all of public education.

As could be expected, Americans United For The Separation Of Church And State has demanded that the State of Florida alter an essay contest that encourages students to submit their reaction to The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The Humanist front group contends some students might be offended by a work that has often been interpreted as a Christian allegory. The agitators suggest alternative titles should be made available for students to select from.

One wonders if the Lynnites would be as prompt about coming to the defense of students that did not want to read Harry Potter or other works of literature even more salacious in their content. Interesting when it comes to the boy wizard the important thing is that Miss Rowling gets the kids to read; shouldn't this be the same attitude towards Professor Lewis among those that insist we have nothing to fear from books?

No doubt had the White Witch been the hero of the story rather than the villain, those sympathetic to Wicca and the Dark Arts would have no problem with the novel. The thing about contemporary liberals is not so much that they oppose spirituality in the classroom but rather merely traditional forms of it.

Neither do these liberals support the principles of individual mental autonomy to the extent that they claim. Where were they when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals essentially ruled parents have no constitutional right to protect their elementary-age children from perverts masquerading as educators asking these little ones all kinds of questions even an adult would be embarrassed to answer and to which no agent of the government has a right to know their answers.

These sensitive liberals whine students not wanting to read the book do not have an alternative to choose from if they still want to participate in the contest. Any other time these advocates of radical tolerance and inclusion insist that in a pluralistic society the upstanding member of the community has an obligation to subject oneself to ideas one might otherwise find objectionable.

So if students have to be subjected to putting condoms on cucumbers for their own good, then how are they going to be harmed by a novel about a talking lion? Makes you wonder what they are so afraid of.

All the fuss causes the critically minded to speculate if it's for the sake of the children or rather about something else the hypertolerant malcontents themselves do not want to confront. A child not belonging to the Christian faith is not going to necessarily pick up on any Christian motifs Lewis might have incorporated into the text.

To pick up on any parallels, one would already have to be familiar with Christian doctrine. Thus to be offended by Aslan as a perceived Christ-figure is to have a problem with an intellect more formidable than even that of C.S. Lewis, namely God Himself.

Adherents of absolutist relativism will contend it is not the place of educators to convert students to any particular set of religious ideas. Funny, public educators don't mind using the persuasive powers of the classroom as to influence the choices pupils make regarding viewpoints on issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and the origins of the universe. If no set of ideas is better than any other and parents are usually seen as being too stupid to decide what is in the best interests of their children, what's the big deal if a child switches to Christianity if all paths to God or whatever else you happen to see as the supreme universal truth or lack there of really are equal?

In Lewis' novel, it is revealed that the White Witch has placed a curse on the Land Of Narnia so it is always winter but never Christmas. With the lust of liberals to remove all vestiges of Christianity from Western culture, my guess is that they hate this book because Lewis just hit too close to home