Thursday, August 31, 2006
Even a casual reading of the news pages these days serves up a larger than usual number of comments and assertions so silly or stupid that even those who make them have to know that they are silly or stupid. Granted, we seldom expect straight talk from statesmen and politicians, but wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we could get answers to the following questions ?
If Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is correct that the unintentional loss of lives due to Israeli air strikes constitutes crimes against humanity, how do we categorize Hezbollah's intentional killing of Israeli civilians with its rocket attacks upon Israeli cities ?
If John Kerry truly believes that Joe Lieberman's refusal to support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq is a Republican position, hasn't he concisely explained why no Democrat, including Kerry, has won 50 percent of the popular vote for the presidency over the past 30 years ?
If George W. Bush's use of the term "Islamic fascists" in the aftermath of the Heathrow terrorist scare spreads hate and represents a slur against all those Muslims who aren't fascists, as some Muslim activists claim, don't we need to urgently revise our history books to remove all references to German and Italian fascists ? Or are such terms only politically correct, thus acceptable, when directed against Europeans ?
If even discussing the propensity of Muslim extremists for terrorism and violence represents hate speech, how do we engage in reasoned discourse with the goal of identifying and removing the sources of such Muslim violence and terrorism ? Or are we to somehow pretend that those who have committed so much of the terrorism against us in recent years, including on 9 / 11, are actually Christians, Buddhists and Hindus in disguise ?
If using military force in response to terrorism is counterproductive, as many liberals (and conservatives like George W. Will ) now argue, doesn't that leave only the law enforcement approach that we pursued before 9 / 11 as an alternative ? And how, precisely, is that an improvement ?
If Iran and Syria are acknowledged sponsors of terrorism directed at Americans and American interests, how can such behavior constitute anything other than acts of war by any reasonable reading of international law ?
If Hezbollah is truly the resistance, what, exactly, were they resisting in all those years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon ?
If Islam is so obviously a religion of peace, why do so many of its clerics preach jihad and hatred, and why do they have no counterparts of any kind in the clergy of other religions ? Or is it intolerant and bigoted to merely ask such questions?
If all religions are, by definition, peaceful, then why have there been so many bloody religious wars over the centuries ? Or do we use the "religion of peace" moniker only because it is politically incorrect to do otherwise, regardless of the facts ?
If Hezbollah won't disarm and leave southern Lebanon in accord with the cease-fire agreement, why should Israel be required to withdraw its forces ? And does anyone other than Kofi Annan really believe that the Lebanese Army has either the ability or will to disarm Hezbollah and police the area ?
If most everyone in Hollywood is anti-Bush and opposed to the war in Iraq, why are Hollywood figures always being praised as courageous when they express such sentiments ? Wouldn't courage in such a context consist of doing exactly the opposite, of being pro-war and saying nice things about the current administration ?
If Fidel Castro is as beloved by the Cuban people as news reports suggested on the occasion of his recent illness, why has he never put that popularity to a test in a free and fair election ?
If Islam has been hijacked by extremists, then why did so-called mainstream Muslims let that hijacking take place, and what are they doing about it ? Or have they simply been too busy blaming the problems of the Islamic world on America and tiny Israel to look into the mirror ?
If Democrats truly believe that Americans will embrace their "withdraw now" position on Iraq, why do they attempt to disguise that position by referring to it as a redeployment of forces ? Perhaps because it sounds better than "cut and run" ?
THE GREAT BRITISH COVERUP OF INFORMATION GETS WORSE
The British love of revealing biographies is under threat because of a legal case about a Canadian folk singer determined to keep the public from finding out what lay under the linoleum in her Irish cottage. The ramifications could also affect "kiss-and-tell" stories in print and on television, and could give stars the power to veto photographs taken in public.
Publishers and media organisation are now mounting a legal battle against the "backdoor" assault on freedom of expression. Loreena McKennitt, whose albums including The Book of Secrets and The Mask and Mirror have sold 13m copies worldwide, went to the High Court in London to stop a former friend from publishing a book about her. While the details of the case are not judged to be important, it was what Mr Justice Eady said in his judgment that has exercised legal minds. They fear that the most trivial or anodyne details about a celebrity's life, even ones that are known to the public, could now be hidden under the guise of protecting privacy.
Times Newspapers (publishers of The Sunday Times), other newspaper groups, the Press Association, the BBC, BSkyB and a number of magazine publishers will go to the Court of Appeal on September 4 to seek permission to intervene in the case. They also fear public figures such as politicians and celebrities will use the case in an attempt to muzzle information that has already been made public. One media lawyer said: "It would be like trying to make someone a virgin again."
Literary and other public figures who have fought to block unauthorised biographies include JK Rowling, Bono, Mary Archer and Sir John Mortimer. Eady awarded McKennitt 5,000 pounds damages and an injunction preventing Niema Ash from Hampstead, northwest London, publishing specific passages in her book Travels With Loreena McKennitt: My Life as a Friend. These included such mundane matters as what was under the lino of the house in Ireland, how many bunk beds were put up when visitors came to stay and what happened when McKennitt was aroused from sleep.
But his judgment went much further. For the first time a British court drew on a 2004 ruling at the European Court of Human Rights that said photographs of Princess Caroline of Monaco shopping in a public place or in a swimming costume at a beach club breached her right to privacy. The judge claimed there was a "significant shift" taking place between, on the one hand, the right of freedom of expression and the corresponding interest of the public to receive information and, on the other hand, "the legitimate expectation of citizens to have their private lives protected".
He said information about an affair between two people could be protected even if one of them decided to reveal it to the public; incorrect information could breach someone's right to privacy; and the fact that something was already in the public domain did not always mean it could be published again.
Ash has lodged an appeal and the media organisations are seeking to join in the action when it is heard later this year. McKennitt has said in an interview: "Privacy is integral to people's emotional and psychological wellbeing. It doesn't matter if you are a so-called public figure."
Media lawyers say the case has wider ramifications than the long-running one brought against a tabloid newspaper by Naomi Campbell, the supermodel. She won 3,500 pounds damages from the Daily Mirror after it revealed her fight against drug addiction. The Court of Appeal overturned the award but the House of Lords then allowed the model's appeal against that judgment, saying the newspaper had gone too far in detailing her medical treatment.
Under the Eady judgment, celebrities will be able to sue for breach of privacy over the slightest affront to their feeling of self-importance. They will not have to prove that something is untrue, but just that raising it has invaded their privacy.
A spokesman for the solicitors Farrer & Co said: "This judge has clearly recognised the development of privacy cases in Europe. This judgment will be much quoted in future `kiss-and-tell' actions."
Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Bill Targeting People of Faith
Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1441 (Kuehl-D) into law today. SB 1441 would require all businesses and organizations receiving funding from the state to condone homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality or lose state funding. There is no exception for faith-based organizations or business owners with sincerely held religious convictions.
"This isn't even a veiled attempt at subtly advancing the radical homosexual agenda," stated Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute. "SB 1441 is an outright, blatant assault on religious freedom in California."
This legislation will prevent parochial schools, such as private, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, and many other religious universities, from receiving student financial assistance if they also maintain a student code of conduct preventing behavior deemed immoral by their religious beliefs. By withholding state funding from schools, students' educational opportunities will be severely limited. And limiting educational opportunities will result in a less diverse, less educated citizenry.
"As a citizen of California and a religious person, I am terribly disappointed in Governor Schwarzenegger," stated Meredith Turney, Legislative Liaison for Capitol Resource Institute. "It is bad public policy to add to the list of protected classes a sexual behavior. Equating sexual preference with the immutable characteristics of age, national origin or race will result in other variable behaviors being added to the list of invariable classes rightfully protected."
Forcing private education institutions to accept students engaged in behavior offensive to the school's moral code is a serious infringement of the constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
"This bill is yet another attempt to prevent citizens with moral and religious principles from expressing their beliefs and educating their children according to those beliefs," continued England. "On behalf of California families, private schools and other private organization, I express our outrage at this attack on our freedom. Unfortunately for California families, there are several other radical homosexual bills heading towards the Governor's desk."
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Even after his shins were bruised from kicking, his scalp bloodied from getting slammed against a door and his neck splotched with fingerprint-shaped bruises, Patrick Letellier heard from friends that the injuries inflicted by his lover were nothing more than rough "sex play." Back then, there were no shelters for battered men. And police were often not inclined to get involved in household disputes involving same-sex couples.
"I got really good at hiding things and wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts," said Letellier, a 43-year-old journalist San Francisco. Nearly 20 years later, as gays and lesbians have achieved greater recognition, so too has the darker side of same-sex relationships. After years of fighting what one service provider called an "invisible epidemic," lawmakers and government agencies are taking steps to abandon the assumption that spousal abuse does not occur in couples who share the same gender.
The California Legislature is considering a law requiring gays and lesbians who register as domestic partners to pay $23 toward domestic violence programs specifically aimed at same-sex couples. If it passes as expected, the measure would be the first of its kind in the nation. The proposed fee mirrors a similar surcharge on California marriage licenses that funds battered women's shelters and other domestic violence services. The measure also would require the state to train law enforcement and social service agencies on gay domestic violence, and to make sure that gay representatives are included on committees that dispense domestic violence grants.
In New York state, where same-sex couples do not have domestic partner or civil union status, advocates are pushing a bill to dedicate money for domestic violence programs that serve a gay clientele. They also want to win same-sex couples access to family courts that are accustomed to dealing with domestic disputes, which would make it easier for battered gays to obtain restraining orders against their abusers, said Clarence Patton, acting executive director of the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
In the absence of government mandates, a growing network of nonprofit agencies that specialize in same-sex domestic violence has sprung up in cities like Boston, Columbus, Ohio, Houston, Kansas City and Tucson, Ariz. Meanwhile, many police departments have started training officers to know how to respond to gay or lesbian victims.
A 2003 survey by Patton's organization of 10 U.S. cities and Toronto reported 6,523 cases of same-sex domestic violence, including six homicides. That was a 13 percent increase from the year before, but the number is assumed to represent a fraction of the true number of incidents. Like many victims, it took years for Letellier to summon the courage to recognize himself as a victim of domestic violence. "It's not supposed to happen to men - or it doesn't happen to men - is still the thinking about it," he said.
Matthew Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said tales like Letellier's show that police and government officials are not alone in their tendency to minimize or misunderstand domestic violence when it occurs in gay relationships. Since many gay men and lesbians already feel not accepted by society, seeking help for a problem they may be doubly ashamed of is especially difficult, he said. "There is enormous stigma attached to all domestic violence, but if you are a gay man and want to talk about it with friends, they will say, 'Why didn't you hit him back?' or 'How come you can't protect yourself?" Foreman said. "And since women are perceived to always be the victim of domestic violence in heterosexual situations, there is a stereotype of, 'How could two women be living in a domestic violence situation?'"
Susan Holt, who runs the domestic violence program at The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center said the program serves 400 clients a month, including batterers and their victims. Yet Holt still feels she's fighting "an invisible epidemic," noting that Los Angeles County has 150 abuse prevention programs geared toward heterosexuals, compared to a handful designed for gay men and lesbians nationwide. She recalled an abused client who had to attend a court-ordered batterer's intervention program because he was physically bigger than his partner and therefore assumed to be the aggressor. Because there was not a program for gay men near where he lived, the client went to a program for straight men and tried to pretend his partner was a woman. After the truth came out, he was followed out of the meeting and beaten by two other group members.
After coming to terms with his own experience and writing a book on gay domestic violence, Letellier said he was gratified to see California officials taking the problem seriously. He has counseled other survivors, men and women, gay and straight, and been impressed to find how much they have in common. "Domestic violence, on some level, is so amazingly unoriginal," he said. "It's so the same everywhere, so painfully the same."
A SENIOR BRIT ATTACKS BRITAIN'S CRAZY LEGAL SYSTEM
The liberal legal establishment has been condemned by the Director of Public Prosecutions for its patronising attitude towards the public and victims of crime. Ken Macdonald, QC, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said that elitist attitudes had helped to break the bond of trust between the public and the criminal justice system. In an extraordinary warning, he said that the country would enter dangerous territory if the public felt that justice was not being delivered by the courts.
Mr Macdonald also called for a move away from the position held by many lawyers that only the defendants' rights matter. Greater emphasis should be given to the rights of victims and witnesses, he said. "Few sounds are less attractive than well-educated lawyers patronising vulnerable victims of crime with inflexible platitudes."
The speech has been made public as new figures show that while 80 per cent of people think that the justice system is fair to the accused, only 36 per cent are confident that it meets the needs of victims. It also comes after a series of high-profile killings by criminals released from jail on parole.
Mr Macdonald said that in some cases the victims of crime had been treated as "pariahs" by the system and witnesses were handled in an appalling manner. The DPP added: "The perception that no one looks out for them and that it's only defendants whose rights are taken seriously is not wildly wrong." He said that there had to be fairness for both victims of crime and suspects: "The view that only defendants' rights matter, still quite commonly held by many criminal lawyers, appears to me to be a fundamentalist position that we should move away from. "My own view is that liberal commentators need to start by acknowledging that the public have a point. The service given to victims and witnesses has traditionally been appalling."
The speech is Mr Macdonald's most controversial since he became director three years ago. Made in May at a seminar organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, and passed to The Times, it will provide useful ammunition for the Government, which announced plans to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority last month.
Mr Macdonald said that the old-fashioned idea that thecriminal justice system sits above the public and consists of principles and practices beyond popular influence or argument was "elitist and obscurantist".
David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, had seen the need for a democratic element to criminal justice which, while not slipping into "vigilanteeism, serves to temper an increasingly dangerous disconnect between our people as a whole and the traditional judicial and practitioner establishment", Mr Macdonald said. He added: "If people, including victims, feel they cannot secure justice through the courts, we are entering dangerous territory".
The speech, which was given to an audience of lawyers and criminologists, will provoke anger among many lawyers, particularly those representing suspects, and it will raise suspicions that Mr Macdonald wishes to water down traditional legal safeguards for defendants. But in it he insisted that the principles of jury trial, presumption of innocence, a right to appeal and full disclosure of the state's case were all non-negotiable.
Last night Richard Garside, acting director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: "It is important that we make a distinction between a legal system treating people with respect and a defendant whose guilt has still to be proved."
John Cooper, a leading criminal law barrister, said: "The fundamental of a trial in the criminal justice system is the analysis of facts and evidence to decide if the prosecution have proved their case. "It is not, and never should be, an arena where victims primarily undertake a cathartic exercise for the allegation that is tested at the trial."
WHAT THE BRITISH PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THEIR COURTS
The Director of Public Prosecutions has given warning that the legal system will stray into "dangerous territory" if people feel justice cannot be achieved through the courts. However, the widespread perception is that the law and the legal profession have already lost the confidence of victims and the general public.
The British Crime Survey 2005-06 reflects this view: 80 per cent of respondents thought the system was fair to the accused, but only 36 per cent were confident that it met the needs of victims. The widely held opinion is that criminals receive soft sentences, paedophiles are pitied, foreign terrorists are given vast sums in legal aid and illegal immigrants who commit crimes are never deported. Ordinary people who stand up for themselves and their families are either punished or become victims. Perhaps worst of all, the rights of such victims are ignored.
Last month a judge was heavily criticised after sentencing a paedophile, who had repeatedly sexually assaulted an 18-month-old baby boy, to four years in jail. Judge Simon Hammond, sitting at Leicester Crown Court, said that Christopher Downes, 24, needed help for his "undoubted problems". Michele Elliott, of the charity Kidscape, said: "There is something wrong when a man could admit to sexually abusing an 18-month-old baby regularly and be out of prison in two years."
The concern of campaigners is outstripped by the anger of the families of victims. Last month the family of Natalie Glasgow described as laughable the sentence imposed on Mark Hambleton, an electrician whose van hit and killed the 17-year-old girl as she walked home from a party. Hambleton was given a 100-hour community service order and banned from driving for a year. The dead girl's father, Paul, said: "The law says it doesn't matter whether you hit a teenage girl or a lamppost in terms of the charge of failing to report an accident. That can't be right. It must be changed."
The apparent downgrading of victims' rights, compared with those of the defendant, also causes anger. The defence of Kamel Bourgass, the Algerian terrorist trained by al-Qaeda who is serving life for murder and conspiring to make ricin toxins, cost the public purse 996,934 pounds in legal aid. The family of DC Stephen Oake, who was stabbed to death by Bourgass in 2003, received only 13,000 pounds from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
Judges reply that the legislative straitjacket is the cause of many of the current problems. The case of Craig Sweeney attracted huge attention. Sweeney was jailed for life by Cardiff Crown Court for abducting and indecently assaulting a three-year-old girl but Judge John Griffith Williams cut his minimum tariff in recognition of his guilty plea. It meant that Sweeney could be considered for parole in five years.
As The Times reported last month, John Reid, the Home Secretary, said that this was unduly lenient. Vera Baird, QC, the Constitutional Affairs Minister, had to apologise after saying that the judge was wrong. The judiciary rallied round the judge, saying he had followed the law to the letter.
Both Victim Support and Nacro, the crime reduction charity, say that perceived soft sentencing and the treatment of victims are separate issues. Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, said: "The sentencing in this country is harsher than most other Western Europe countries. And we have the highest prison population in Western Europe, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population. "I don't accept that you can measure how supportive a criminal justice system is to victims by the sentences given out. "It is not in the interests of victims to pass sentences that don't reduce future offences."
A spokesman for Victim Support said: "Victims want a system whereby we deal with criminals properly and we give out punishments that are an effective deterrent. Our experience is that even if victims are happy with the result in court, the happiness is short-lived because their lives have still been altered."
Liz Jones said that she lost her faith in the criminal justice system when a teenager who smashed her cheekbone avoided a jail sentence last month. Dexter Hungwa, 16, attacked Ms Jones, a headmistress, because she had asked him to shut a door. Ms Jones, 51, said: "At first I was frightened because I thought he could turn up at any time. The experience was horrendous but when I found out that he had been given a referral order, I was really, really angry."
Australia: Politically correct Play School exploits kids
It's no exaggeration to say that generations of Australian children and young parents have grown up with the ABC's Play School. Whether it was Big Ted, Little Ted, Noni or Benita, Lorraine, John or Don, viewers of all ages found some character they could identify with over the 40 years of its existence. But the harmless happy-family content has fallen victim to the nauseating politically-correct agenda that drives so much of the ABC's news and current affairs programming on radio and television.
ABC Children's Television head Claire Henderson says Play School owes its success to the fact "we respect the child, we respect the audience. We don't patronise, we don't exploit them, we don't preach to them, we don't talk down to them. We will always have the nursery rhymes and things children know and love, but the program will always be a program for today."
Except it isn't. The show does patronise kids, it does exploit them, it does preach to them, it does talk down to them and it doesn't have the nursery rhymes the children know and love, it has bowdlerised humbug that the ABC's in-house ideologists know and love. Take Play School's recent treatment of the classic nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep, for example, as rendered by Christine Anu and an associate, which began:
"Ba Ba Woolly Sheep/Have you any wool?
Yes, O, Yes, O/Three bags full. One for the jumper/And one for the socks," etc, etc.
You get the drift. Black sheep are out, as probably are diminutive people of the male gender, but the reader who sent this in was so bemused by the attempt to scour any possibly offensive material from the nursery rhyme that she didn't pay attention to the rest of the verses. But if black sheep have been magically erased, it seems likely that words such as "master", "dame" and "sir" have also been banned for fear of upsetting the sensitivities of the ABC's young audience.
This sort of hamfisted attempt to induce culturally anodyne thinking into the minds of youngsters would be laughable were it not of a piece with the efforts of the trade union movement and the ALP to ensure that organised Labor's messages, too, are pushed upon malleable young minds. Having exposed Labor's "real life" cases campaign against the Howard Government's industrial reforms as bogus, The Daily Telegraph can also reveal that the union movement is asking teachers to assist it in wooing school students to its cause with a campaign based on xenophobia and outdated class war materials.
Just as parents should pay more heed to Play School's rewriting of the classics of nursery, it would also pay them to monitor the "factsheets", "case studies" and other resources provided for teachers on Labornet's UnionTeach website. With union membership rapidly eroding, the diehards are trying to staunch the flow and save their jobs by pandering to youthful insecurities with scenarios designed to create fear and insecurity. In a "case study" of "globalisation, redundancy and Australian workers", for example, "Ben", a network administrator in his 50s who has been in the telecommunications industry for the past 20 years is advised by a new manager that all jobs in his team's field are to be declared vacant and staff must reapply for their positions. At the same time there is also an announcement that about "300 jobs in the company are going to be performed from India". The discussion points suggested for the lesson include "What are the advantages and disadvantages of union membership in a call centre?" and "How could the union assist in dealing with workplace conflict?"
Suggested activities include calling the ACTU for a call centre charter on workplace rights and responsibilities, designing a brochure promoting the role and benefits of a union in a call centre, developing a pamphlet or poster showing how to contact call centre unions, and watching a video titled Working it Out: ACTU. In the proposed group activity, the teacher role-plays with the students as the call-centre employer and changes the conditions of work by setting time-limits or quotas on simple tasks, "students complete tasks and teacher pressures them. Conflict is created."
There are laws designed to protect the young and impressionable from perverted adults who target them for sexual abuse. This campaign and the pap served up by the ABC's Play School would suggest that there should be laws protecting them from adults who want to rape them intellectually. The new workplace reforms contain specific protections for young workers, in addition to those which cover employees generally, and concerned parents can contact the Office of the Employment Advocate.
The ALP's media arm, the ABC, is well-known for its ducking and weaving whenever its core ideologies are challenged, from its recent biased Behind the News program on Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, to its four-year refusal to admit that the Palestinian groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are terrorist organisations. ALP or ABC, it doesn't matter. The exploitation of young people is rife with misinformation, disinformation and blatant untruths and propagandising being foisted on unsuspecting minds. The young must be able to learn without having their minds mortgaged to politically-correct causes by their teachers and agenda-driven institutions.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Inc. is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for racial discrimination in a workplace, an EEOC official said on Friday. EEOC filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the cruise line (NCL) in a Honolulu federal court representing seven or more Muslim employees of Middle Eastern descent who had worked aboard the Pride of Aloha in July 2004.
Anna Park, an attorney at EEOC in Los Angeles, said the workers were fired because they were deemed a security risk. She said the EEOC had investigated the matter in the past two years, and the suit was filed because it could not reach a resolution with NCL. EEOC is the plaintiff in the case representing the seven people, but more ex-employees may come forward, Park said. "We are in the discovery phase of the law suit right now. NCL has not been served the papers yet," she said.
NCL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Cruises Ltd. SCL, publicly listed in Hong Kong, is a core member of the Genting Group and 36.1 percent owned by Resorts World, which is, in turn, 57.7 percent owned by Genting Berhad. Susan Robison, a spokeswoman for NCL, said in an e-mailed statement on Friday that the cruise company was proud of its employment practices and record, and that it did not discriminate in hiring. "Our employees come from a very broad range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, which provides a wonderful diversity among our staff," Robison said.
She said the firings were probationary period dismissals, and NCL was confident that when the facts and circumstances surrounding them came out at trial, its actions would be judged to have been completely proper. NCL operates 12 cruise ships, which represents about 9 percent of the overall cruise capacity in North America in terms of berths.
Muslim fear of femininity surfaces in Australia
A Melbourne Muslim girl condemned by Islamic leaders for entering a beauty pageant has defied protests to be shortlisted for the Victorian final. Ayten Ahmet, 16, advanced to the top 26 of Miss Teen Australia yesterday despite an outcry from Victoria's senior Muslims. The Year 11 student said she entered the pageant to fulfil her modelling ambition, and was surprised by the objections. Parents Salih and Sarah Ahmet said their daughter was a typical teenager, and her faith was irrelevant to the contest.
Miss Ahmet, from Craigieburn, beat hundreds of hopefuls at an open casting session at Federation Square. A spokesman for Melbourne cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran last week branded the competition, which involves swimsuit parades, as a "slur on Islam". And Victorian Islamic leader Yasser Soliman said the contest did not conform with the teachings of the Koran.
Ms Ahmet, who plans to combine modelling with an accounting degree, said the criticism was disappointing and unnecessary. "I thought it would be good experience and an opportunity to have a bit of fun," she said. "The cameras are something I love."
Sherene Hassan, executive committee member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said Sheik Omran's comments were unfair. "He is entitled to his opinion, but people should be aware he does not represent the mainstream Muslim community," she said. Ms Hassan said she felt beauty contests were exploitative, but she supported Ms Ahmet's right to make her own choice. Ms Hassan said she never judged women by the clothes they wore.
Mr Ahmet said the family respected their religion, but his daughter was entitled to participate. "We are not flying any flags, we are Australians first and foremost," Mr Ahmet said. "We live in a democracy, we respect the religion as well, and they are good kids and come from a good upbringing."
Two girls from next month's Victorian final will go on to the national final. The winner will represent us at Miss Teen World. Miss Teen Australia Victorian manager Carley Downward said she was surprised by the uproar.
INCORRECT CANDY IN CANADA
A Charlottetown city councillor says he was disappointed to be told last week he couldn't throw candy from a float in last Friday's Gold Cup Parade because it was too dangerous. This was the first time Coun. Bruce Garrity could recall being asked to participate in the parade. He bought $8 worth of penny candy to throw into the crowd along the route. "It sure is taking the fun out of it," said Garrity. "I can remember parades in the past where we had our little kids when they were small, and somebody would throw the little gum at them or wrapped candy, and the kids always got a thrill at this."
Bans on throwing items from floats in parades are becoming more common across North America. Sibyl Cutcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Gold Cup Parade committee, told CBC News that anyone who applies to put a float in the parade is told nothing can be tossed into the crowd. Cutcliffe said the potential for injury is just too great. The major concern is children might dart out in front of floats to grab candy that ends up on the streets. Cutcliffe doesn't think the rule spoils the fun. "I think that the interest in the parade is in what's going by, not in what's coming out to them," she said. Cutcliffe said parade marshals are instructed to keep an eye out for would-be candy-tossers and tell them to put the goodies back in their pockets.
Garrity would like parade organizers to find alternative ways to distribute candy to the crowd. "The bottom line is we'll be more cautious. Maybe when we stop for the parade when there's bottlenecks, maybe we can do it then," he said. "Jump off the float and give some away. There's ways of doing these things."
HATE SPEECH TRIAL NOW UNDERWAY IN AUSTRALIA
Is it hate speech to quote what the Koran says? The State of Victoria seems to think it is
It is impossible to vilify Islam without also vilifying Muslims, because the two are indistinguishable, the Victorian Court of Appeal was told yesterday. "If one vilifies Islam, one is by necessary consequence vilifying people who hold that religious belief," Brind Woinarski, QC, told the court. Mr Woinarski was appearing for the Islamic Council of Victoria in the appeal by Christian group Catch the Fire Ministries and pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot against a finding under Victoria's religious hatred law that they vilified Muslims in 2002. The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act defines vilification as inciting hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against a person or class of persons.
Cameron Macaulay, for the pastors, argued that the act explicitly confined the prohibition to vilifying persons, not the religion - otherwise it could operate as a law against blasphemy. Instead, it recognised one could hate the idea without hating the person.
Justice Geoffrey Nettle asked Mr Woinarski: "There must be intellectually a distinction between the ideas and those who hold them?" "We don't agree with that," Mr Woinarski said. "But in this case it's an irrelevant distinction, because Muslims and Islam were mishmashed up together." Justice Nettle: "Are you saying it's impossible to incite hatred against a religion without also inciting hatred against people who hold it?" Mr Woinarski: "Yes."
Mr Macaulay said orders by Judge Michael Higgins against the pastors to take out a newspaper advertisement apologising and not to repeat certain teachings were too wide, and beyond his powers under the act. He said it was surprising that the pastors could hold the beliefs but not express them. "They are restrained by law from suggesting or implying a number of things about what in their view the Koran teaches: that it preaches violence and killing, that women are of little value, that the God of Islam, Allah, is not merciful, that there is a practice of 'silent jihad' for spreading Islam, or that the Koran says Allah will remit the sins of martyrs. "Contentious or otherwise, these are opinions about Islam's doctrines and teaching. Statements of this kind are likely to offend and insult Muslims but their feelings are not relevant under the act." Mr Macaulay said the act burdened free speech, contravened international treaties Australia had signed and breached the Australian constitution.
The act, amended in May, has been controversial. Opponents rallied against it outside Parliament earlier this month, and some Christians vowed to make it an issue at the state election. This case has been monitored by Christian and Muslim groups overseas, and at one point Judge Higgins had to assure the Foreign Affairs Department he was not considering jailing the pastors after a flood of emails from America.
Monday, August 28, 2006
They are picky about who they will marry, tend to have flings, put off having children to the point of infertility, keep dirty homes and are miserable to boot. So why marry a career woman? The argument that working women make lousy wives was given a new lease of life last week by Forbes, a top American business magazine, prompting a slew of furious protests from women readers. One typical response was that the article was "blood-boilingly misogynistic".
Written by Michael Noer, a senior editor with Forbes.com, it began: "Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career." He went on: "While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it."
Noer's article was a particularly brutal and highly selective way of summarising recent research, which has revived the long-tarnished concept of the "happy housewife". To many readers it was infuriating that a respected magazine that features female leaders of industry and finance on its covers could publish such "retro-nonsense". Michelle Peluso, chief executive of Travelocity, America's fifth largest travel agency, said: "This article feels like one that would have been behind the times were it published in 1950, never mind 2006."
Gloria Steinem, the pioneering feminist who famously worked as a bunny girl to expose sexism in the 1960s, rallied anew to the cause in Salon.com, where she praised Forbes sarcastically for "saving many women the trouble of dealing with men who can't tolerate equal partnerships, take care of their own health, clean up after themselves or have the sexual confidence to survive". The glamorous Steinem, however, did not marry until she was 66 and does not have children.
Struggles over issues such as childlessness and fertility, the "mommy wars" between stay-at-home mothers and working women and the alleged misery of wives who try to juggle home and career have become publishing staples, squarely aimed at the women's market. In the tabloids the topic is equally hotly debated. If celebrity magazines are to be believed, the marriage of Hollywood stars Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt foundered partly over Aniston's desire to pursue a film career before babies. Meanwhile, Britney Spears's marriage to the dancer Kevin Federline is under scrutiny because she wears the trousers.
So had Noer provoked a tidal wave of anger by telling a few home truths? And was his chief crime the fact that a man was saying it? It did not help his cause that Noer had previously earned his credentials as a male chauvinist pig with an article on the "economics of prostitution" in which he posed the question, "Wife or Whore? The choice is that simple". Under pressure from staff and readers, Forbes showed a distinct lack of confidence in Noer's latest thesis, which was entitled Don't Marry a Career Woman, by removing the juiciest bits from its website.
A section headlined In Pictures, Nine Reasons to Steer Clear - which included the warning "She is more likely to cheat on you" accompanied by a photograph of a scantily clad woman lying across a man's lap - was speedily replaced with a riposte by Elizabeth Corcoran, a Forbes executive, wife and mother-of-two. It was headlined: Don't Marry a Lazy Man. Gone too was a photo and caption for the claim that "she'll be unhappy if she makes more than you", taken from a report by two sociology professors, What's Love Got to Do with It, published this year in the journal Social Forces. Noer failed to mention that other research suggested "increases in married women's income may indirectly lower the risk of divorce by increasing women's marital happiness".
The much-pilloried Noer has been forbidden by Forbes to give interviews. Yet some of his most controversial assertions, including "You are much less likely to have kids", had already been made by women. Noer cites research by Sylvia Hewlett in her much-discussed book Baby Hunger, which claims that only 51% of high-achieving women earning more than $100,000 a year have had children by the age of 40. He might equally have referred to the bestselling book The Bitch in The House, edited by Cathi Hanauer - a collection of essays by career women who write of their rage at dealing with the kids, cleaning up after working husbands and coping with do-nothing men.
There is also To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, which Virago is bringing out in Britain next month. In her book Flanagan compares the so-called epidemic of sexless marriages today with the "repressed and much pitied 1950s wives" who were "apparently getting a lot more action". "Nowadays, American parents of a certain social class seem squeaky clean, high-achieving, flush with cash, relatively exhausted, obsessed with their children, and somehow - how to pinpoint this? - undersexed," she writes.
Inevitably much of the debate comes down to personal experience. Molly Jong-Fast, a 27-year-old writer, surprised her friends by getting married in white three years ago and giving birth to a son. "My experience with stay-at-home moms is that they are more depressed, more lonely, more obsessed with their kids, more unhealthy, more likely to be left by their husbands and more likely to be divorced," Jong-Fast said. "They are dependent on their husbands for money, and that power balance is the kiss of death. I have my own life and it makes me more desirable to my husband."
As Noer has found, when men join in the conversation they sound horribly sexist. Yet with women now making up 48% of the American workforce, men are going to have to live with career women, like it or not. [Point missed there: Not all working women are career women]
BRITAIN'S LEFTIST "NANNIES" ARE PISSING INTO THE WIND
Last weeks appointment of Caroline Flint as Britains first minister for fitness, charged with combating the alarming rise in obesity, is just the latest of the middle classs perennial and doomed attempts to reform the lower orders. Political correctness forbids Flint from admitting her campaign is primarily aimed at the underclass, but the statistics for London tell their own story: the lowest rates are in posh Kensington and Chelsea, while downmarket Barking and Dagenham show the highest.
Throughout its 600-year history, the middle class has looked askance at the underclass: the great unwashed, hooligans and now hoodies. Sherlock Holmes always carried a revolver east of Aldgate and the inhabitants of our dingier streets and estates have ever brought forth admonitions from the nanny state.
More recently, Jack Straw promised that new Labour would purge the streets of aggressive begging, of winos, addicts and squeegee merchants so that the law-abiding citizen could walk abroad undisturbed.
Middle-class to the tips of his toes, Tony Blair believes access to education will convert underclass youth into biddable, ambitious and hard-working citizens. But we have been here before; a middle-class visitor to the Oxford Industrial school in 1879 was comforted by the sight of children from the dregs of the population undergoing instruction that would halt their slide into the criminal and dangerous classes.
United by its dread of the underclass, the middle class has always disagreed about the reasons for its existence, and how it might be tamed and admitted into civilised society. But the underclass has manfully resisted attempt at reform: Victorian licensing laws and legislation outlawing bull-baiting and cock-fighting were seen as them telling us what not to do.
At every stage of its existence, including today, the middle class has been united in believing that reasoned and well-informed debate offers the best solution for all human problems. Its flattering image of itself has always been as industrious, prudent, self- disciplined and sometimes godly. When the 1832 Reform Act gave the middle class political dominance, it projected itself as the intelligence of the nation and the banner-bearer of progress.
Arrogant perhaps, but this description was accurate insofar as the middle classes have always been brain workers. An Elizabethan social analyst defined the middle orders as those who lived solely through the exercise of their wits. They practised law and medicine, managed estates, were schoolmasters, creative artists, merchants, shopkeepers and financiers. The industrial revolution provided new jobs for what, from about 1800, was called the middle class.
In 1900 it was calculated that the middle classes comprised a tenth of the population; by 2000 it was nearly two-thirds. A form of classlessness now exists, although what it means is that we live in a society that frowns on the idea of judging individuals simply because of their birth, education or possessions.
But egalitarianism is a recent phenomenon. For most of our history, class differences and deference have been taken for granted and religiously observed. Until the 19th century the middle classes existed within a hierarchical order, positioned between the landed aristocracy and gentry on one hand and the broad base of artisans and manual labourers on the other.
This tripartite society represented Gods will and it was accepted that those in the uppermost strata possessed a superior wisdom which entitled them to guide and discipline their inferiors. But as it began to expand, the middle class accumulated power. Its magistrates enforced laws framed to control the underclass and its excesses. The astringents of the statute books were supplemented by the gentler therapies of charity and persuasion.
This urge to rescue and reform runs like a thread through the history of the middle classes. It was nannyism before its time and, like its modern counterpart, it rested on the premise that the middle class knew what was best for everyone.
A medieval cleric deplored the habitual drunkenness of the poor, their addiction to idle plays and japes and, most alarming of all, their sturdiness against men of higher estate. In 1717 a Cumbrian tenant farmer invited his landlords steward to kiss my arse when taken to task in court. Its reminiscent of the Wiltshire chavette who recently swore at a magistrate and boasted of her vices.
Defiance was understandable, given that middle-class programmes for the regeneration of the poor always rested on that Cromwellian axiom: what is for their good and not what pleaseth them.
However, it was not unknown for the middle class to kick over the traces just usually well hidden. In RS Surteess Handley Cross (1843) a formal dinner for foxhunters and hare coursers ends in a drunken fight that spills onto the streets.
Victorian Britain is often wrongly cited as a golden age of civil tranquillity when the laws of God and the Queen were universally respected and obeyed. But at the beginning of the Queens reign, a public hanging at Devizes was marked by disgraceful and indecent behaviour and beastly drunkenness and debauchery.
At its end, hooligans including pistol gangs of teenagers rampaged through the inner-London suburbs, scaring the middle classes and prompting editorials about the nations terminal moral decline.
The Victorian middle classes may have civilised industrial, urban Britain with street lights, sewers, museums, art galleries and public baths, but they never curbed the violent instincts of the underclass. Hooligans were followed by teddy boys, mods and rockers, skinheads and hoodies. We have been here before, although it may be no comfort for todays middle class to know that their experience and fears of street crime and abuse were shared by their ancestors.
Modern correctives may ultimately become redundant if future miscreants can be identified at birth. Spotted in their cradles, they will receive treatment and grow into responsible and maybe huggable members of society.
The brave new world of the bar-coded baby is at hand the government is considering a plan to track the progress of every child born in Britain and, its architects hope, it will be one where the middle classes will finally enjoy that peace of mind which has eluded them for so long.
Yet perhaps some humility is now required and we should concede that human nature cannot be changed completely, either by compulsion, lectures about diet or even the scientific monitoring of toddlers. But such an admission would have been and perhaps still is unthinkable to a class which has inherited its predecessors assumption that the world would be a better place if everyone behaved and thought as they did.
Conservatives were right after all (as usual)
Quick, somebody buy a wreath. Last week marked the passing of multiculturalism as official government doctrine. No longer will opponents of this corrosive and divisive creed be silenced simply by the massed Pavlovian ovine accusation: "Racist!" Better still, the very people who foisted multiculturalism upon the country are the ones who have decided that it has now outlived its usefulness - that is, the political left.
It is amazing how a few by-election shocks and some madmen with explosive backpacks can concentrate the mind. At any rate, British citizens, black and white, can move onwards together - towards a sunlit upland of monoculturalism, or maybe zeroculturalism, whatever takes your fancy....
It has all been a long time coming. Some 22 years ago Ray Honeyford, the previously obscure headmaster of Drummond middle school in Bradford, suggested, in the low-circulation right-wing periodical The Salisbury Review, that his Asian pupils should really be better integrated into British society. They should learn English, for a start, and a bit of British history and a sense of what the country is about; further, Asian (Muslim) girls should be allowed to learn to swim despite the objections of their parents (who did not like them stripping down even in front of each other). Muslim kids should be treated like every other pupil, in other words.
For these mild contentions, Honeyford was investigated by the government, vilified as a racist by the press, ridiculed every day by leftie demonstrators outside his office and was eventually hounded from his job. He has not worked since. Perhaps it will be a consolation to him, as he sits idly in his neat, small, semi-detached house in Bury, Lancashire, that he has now been comprehensively outflanked on the far right by a whole bunch of Labour politicians, including at least one minister, and indeed the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. Then again, perhaps it won't.
It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this shift. To give you an example of the lunacy that prevailed back in Honeyford's time: then, the Commission for Racial Equality was happy to instruct Britain's journalists that Chinese people were henceforth to be described as "black" because that, objectively, was their subjective political experience at the hands of the oppressive white hegemony.
I don't suppose they asked the Chinese if they minded this appellation or derogation - the question would not even have occurred. By definition, people who were "not-white" - from Beijing to Barbados - were banded together in their oppression and implacable opposition to the prevailing white culture and thus united in their political aspirations. People from Baluchistan, Tobago and Bangladesh were defined solely by their lack of whiteness. This was, when you think about it, a quintessentially racist assumption, as well as being authoritarian and - as the writer Kenan Malik puts it - "anti-human".
We are not born with a gene that insists we become Muslim or Christian or Rastafarian. We are born, all of us, with a tabula rasa; we are not defined by the nationality or religion or cultural assumptions of our parents. But that was the mindset which, at that time, prevailed.
This is how far we have come in the past year or so. When an ICM poll of Britain's Muslims in February this year revealed that some 40% (that is, about 800,000 people) wished to see Islamic law introduced in parts of Britain, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality responded by saying that they should therefore pack their bags and clear off. Sir Trevor Phillips's exact words were these: "If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else."
My guess is this: if such a statement had been made by a member of the Tory party's Monday Club in 1984 - or, for that matter, 1994 - he would have been excoriated and quite probably would have been kicked out of the party. "If you don't like it here then go somewhere else" was once considered the apogee of "racism".
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Ruth Kelly broke with decades of Labour support for multiculturalism as she admitted the Government's failure to impose a single British identity could have led to communities living in 'isolation'. The Communities Secretary became the first Cabinet minister to question the idea that different faiths and races should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture. In an extraordinary volte face, she appeared to concede that Government policies had contributed to communities drifting into segregation. 'In our attempt to avoid imposing a single British identity and culture, have we ended up with some communities living in isolation of each other, with no common bonds between them?' she said.
In a keynote speech launching a new commission on community cohesion, Miss Kelly said: 'We have moved from a period of near uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism, to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness.'
Tony Blair and other senior Labour ministers have repeatedly underlined their commitment to multiculturalism and its doctrines over their nine years in power, insisting it allows different communities to promote their own cultures while co-existing happily. But Miss Kelly conceded that its central planks were now being challenged by a series of Britain's leading ethnic minority figures. Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and most recently, BBC newsreader George Alagiah have expressed serious doubts.
Miss Kelly called for a 'new, honest debate' about the dangers of segregation. She signalled a series of possible policy rethinks about the way different cultures and religions are treated in Britain. She suggested wider teaching of English to immigrants as a way of encouraging them to integrate better into British communities. And she said young children from segregated communities should be made to mix with other cultures. Miss Kelly proposed 'twinning' schools with different ethnic and faith profiles and student exchanges between them.
In West Yorkshire, Spring Grove, a majority Asian primary school in urban Huddersfield is already twinned with Netherhong, a majority white primary school in the rural Holmfirth Valley. Pupils aged between six and ten are matched with pupils with similar interests and encouraged to correspond and interact. The policy is reminiscent of an experiment in the 1970s which involved transporting Asian children from Bradford's city centre to schools on the outskirts.
In 1975, the Race Relations Board decided that 'bussing' ethnic minority children into white communities contravened the Race Relations Act. The board argued it was being done on the basis of racial or ethnic identity rather than educational need.
Miss Kelly said the question was more urgent because patterns of immigration into Britain were far 'more complex' today than they were when the Empire Windrush arrived in 1948, carrying 492 Jamaicans who wanted to start a new life here. 'Our new residents are not the Windrush generation,' she said. 'They are more diverse, coming from countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from South Africa to Somalia.'
Miss Kelly admitted global tensions were increasingly reflected on the streets of Britain's communities as a result. 'New migrants fell the fierce loyalties developed in war-torn parts of Europe. Muslims feel the reverberations from the Middle East,' she said.
She said some white Britons 'do not feel comfortable with change'. 'They see the shops and restaurants in their town centres changing. They see their neighbourhoods becoming more diverse,' she said. 'Detached from the benefits of those changes, they begin to believe the stories about ethnic minorities getting special treatment, and to develop a resentment, a sense of grievance.'
Miss Kelly adopted former Tory leader Michael Howard's slogan from last year's election campaign, insisting it was 'not racist' to have concerns about immigration and asylum. 'We must not be censored by political correctness and we can't tiptoe around the issues,' she said. 'For example, it's clear that we need a controlled, well-managed system of immigration that has clear rules and integrity to counter exploitation from the far right.' She said Government policies would not be based on special treatment for minority ethnic faith communities. 'That would only exacerbate division rather than help build cohesion,' she said. 'And as a society, we should have the confidence to say "no" to certain suggestions from particular ethnic groups but, at the same time, to make sure everyone can be treated equally, there are some programmes that will need to treat groups differently.' Miss Kelly said the new commission, charged with improving community cohesion and tackle extremism, would be more than another 'talking shop'.
But critics pointed out that a series of official reports dating back to 2001 had warned of dangerous segregation between communities. And the idea of a cohesion commission was first floated by the Government last July in the wake of the London bombings. For the Tories, shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: 'Previous Government initiatives have proved to be more about grabbing a day's headlines than working on the roots of the problem. This time, it must make a proper long-term commitment to solving the problems. 'There is a huge and vital challenge to be met in helping Britain's new communities integrate fully with the mainstream values of British society.'
WHAT ISRAELI SECURITY COULD TEACH US
By Jeff Jacoby
The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel's national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.
But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. On the other hand, major American airports generally offer the convenience of curbside check-in, while in Israel baggage and traveler stay together until the security check is completed. Screeners at American airports don't usually engage in conversation with passengers, unless you count as conversation their endlessly repeated instructions about emptying pockets and taking laptops out of briefcases. At Ben Gurion, security officials make a point of engaging in dialogue with almost everyone who's catching a plane.
There is a reason for these differences. Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad *things* -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons, so sharp metal objects were barred from carry-on luggage. Would-be suicide terrorist Richard Reid tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, so now everyone's footwear is screened for tampering. Earlier this month British authorities foiled a plan to blow up airliners with liquid explosives; as a result, toothpaste, eye drops, and cologne have become air-travel contraband.
Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad *people.* To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition -- what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the "human factor" that technology alone can never replace.
Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers -- yes, that's what they're called -- make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor recently explained to CBS, for "anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.
Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water.
Gradually, airport security in the United States is inching its way toward screening people, rather than just their belongings. At a handful of airports, security officers are now being trained to notice facial expressions, body language, and speech patterns, which can hint at a traveler's hostile intent or fear of being caught.
But because federal policy still bans ethnic or religious profiling, US passengers continue to be singled out for special scrutiny mostly on a random basis. Countless hours have been spent patting down elderly women in wheelchairs, toddlers with pacifiers, even former US vice presidents -- time that could have been used instead to concentrate on passengers with a greater likelihood of being terrorists.
No sensible person imagines that ethnic or religious profiling alone can stop every terrorist plot. But it is illogical and potentially suicidal not to take account of the fact that so far every suicide-terrorist plotting to take down an American plane has been a radical Muslim man. It is not racism or bigotry to argue that the prevention of Islamist terrorism necessitates a heightened focus on Muslim travelers, just as it is not racism or bigotry when police trying to prevent a Mafia killing pay closer attention to Italians.
Of course most Muslims are not violent jihadis, but all violent jihadis are Muslim. "This nation," President Bush has said, "is at war with Islamic fascists." How much longer will we tolerate an aviation security system that pretends, for reasons of political correctness, not to know that?
Saturday, August 26, 2006
But say something derogatory about homosexuals or Muslims and they will be on your doorstep in no time
A father has been shot dead in front of his fiancee and young son by a gang of young men after being terrorised for months. Peter Woodhams, 22, staggered to his front door in Canning Town, East London, after being shot in the chest and collapsed onto the ground. His fiancee, Jane Bowden, 23, who rushed out with their three-year-old son, Sam, to see what was happening, claimed that the same gang had stabbed Mr Woodhams in the neck in January, narrowly missing his jugular vein. She said that she gave the names and addresses of his alleged attackers to the police but no-one had been arrested and officers had not even taken a statement from her.
Speaking about the fatal attack she said that Mr Woodhams had come home from a trip to the shops on Monday and had said that there had been some trouble before going back out. When she heard shooting she ran out with her son in her arms. "Peter turned to me and walked a few steps. I could see blood on his clothes," she said. "Then he just collapsed into some bushes and I started screaming. He managed to drag himself up and walk over to the front door and then fell on to his front. He had been shot in the chest and a bullet had gone through his hand where he had tried to protect himself. Peter was still conscious and talking to me. He kept saying that he couldn't breathe, he was panicking."
Mr Woodhams, a television satellite engineer, had been to the local shops in his car where there is believed to have been an altercation with some youths. Ms Bowden told the Evening Standard how Mr Woodhams had been held down and stabbed in the neck several times at the beginning of the year after he confronted them for throwing a stone at his car. "They wrestled him to the ground and one said, `Hold him down'. Three held him while one slashed his face and stabbed him in the neck. They knew what they were doing - they tried to kill him. "I phoned the police every day for five weeks and they never even came to take a statement from me."
She said that since then the gang of youths, believed to be aged between 14 and 18, had mounted a campaign of intimidation against them. "They knew they had stabbed Peter and got away with it. They thought they were untouchable. He was traumatised by it, but he was determined not to let them win. He wanted to stand up to them and protect me and Sam - that's the way he was." Shopkeepers and residents in the area said that the gang terrorised everyone and regularly stole from cars and shops.
A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said that "a full review" would take place into the initial stabbing inquiry to make sure the "correct police procedure" was followed. She said that at the time a full statement was taken from the victim and officers were given a list of names and addresses of possible suspects but no arrests had been made in connection with the stabbing.
The spokeswoman said: "Following the tragic murder of Peter Woodhams, officers from the Specialist Crime Directorate were made aware of a serious stabbing incident involving the victim in January 2006. Officers from the SCD have been liaising with the senior officers from Newham borough to establish the outcome of this incident; as a result a full review is currently being conducted to ensure correct standards of police procedure were initially taken." A 14-year-old has been arrested in connection with the murder.
Teen car safety runs into political correctness
When I turned 18, my father gave me the keys to our old family car, a dark red 1985 Buick Riviera. It was big, slow to accelerate, and drove like an army tank. My friends got a good laugh seeing me cruising around in the Riv'. Dad knew it was risky to let me drive as a teenager, but he must have figured my risk would be reduced in such a huge car. Now Consumer Reports says he was wrong. In a June 9 CNNMoney article, Consumer Reports spokesman Robert Gentile recommends that parents purchase small or midsize cars for teenagers. Large cars, in his opinion, are too bulky for teenagers. In Mr. Gentile's words, "they are generally more difficult to handle."
Consumer Reports is, for many people, the top source for objective car-buying advice. But Mr. Gentile's recommendation is simply wrong. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) points out in its brochure, "Buying a Safer Car," "the first crashworthiness attributes to consider are vehicle size and weight. Small, light vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. There's less structure to absorb the energy of the crash, so deaths and injuries are more likely to occur. This is true in both single- and multiple-vehicle crashes." IIHS data shows that the smallest cars have a death rate that's more than twice as great as that of the largest cars.
Mr. Gentile claims that small cars are more maneuverable, and he implies that this makes up for their reduced crashworthiness. If that's true, then it should be reflected in the IIHS data, which is based on the road experience of millions of drivers. It isn't. In fact, as long ago as 1972 the claim of small car maneuverability was debunked in a Ralph Nader Study Group book, "Small on Safety: the Designed-in Dangers of the Volkswagen": "Small size is supposed to have one compensating advantage: according to a prevailing myth, cars like the Beetle are less likely to become involved in accidents, because they are more maneuverable than large cars. This myth is not supported by the facts."
Could it be that teenagers form a special subgroup for which maneuverability is more important than it is for anyone else? The IIHS experts don't think so. "We don't recommend small cars for teens," said spokesman Russ Rader in a phone interview. "Small cars are inherently less protective in crashes than large vehicles because of their size and weight." Rather, says Mr. Rader, consider getting your teen a mid- to large-size newer car that has earned good crash-test ratings. As he told parents in a 2001 interview for Bankrate.com, "Surround them with as much car as you can afford. Since teens have a tendency to speed, you want a well-engineered car with crumple and crush space." IIHS senior vice president for research Susan Fergusson took the same view in a 2004 interview. Commenting on the small, old hand-me-down cars that teens often end up driving, she stated, "These vehicles typically provide inferior crash protection. Yet they're being driven by the youngest drivers, who are the most crash prone."
In the words of Phil Berardelli, author of "Safe Young Drivers," "parents should think big. Resist the thought that a smaller car will be easier for a teen to handle and give him more maneuverability to avoid an accident." Of course, size and weight aren't the only safety considerations. Design and equipment can make huge differences as well, and features such as seatbelts, air bags and electronic stability control can be lifesavers.
So what's behind Consumer Reports' attitude? Is it being swayed by the political incorrectness of large cars? If that's true, it's a darn shame. We can all make our own decisions about a car's political correctness, but judging safety and reliability requires expertise of the sort that we expect to find at Consumer Reports. When I find time to travel home to Texas, I still drive the old `85 Buick. Sometimes I'll see old friends. They'll laugh, and ask one more time how the old Riv' is handling the road. I doubt my father was worried about being politically correct when he gave it me. No matter. I was safe, and that was his top priority. I wish I could say the same about Consumer Reports.
Shameful inaction: Children must be rescued from wicked parental neglect
And to hell with the politically correct social-worker doctrine that children must stay with their parents
The tragic death of 11-month-old Wade Michael Scale in Western Australia is another sad reminder that not all parents have the best interests of their children at heart. Equally shocking, but not unexpected, is the state Government's response, to hide the full extent of its own incompetence.
Baby Wade was found drowned in a bathtub with the adult prescription sedative diazepam in his blood. West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope could not tell if the drug-addicted parents had given Wade the drug to keep him quiet. But the Coroner heard enough to criticise state welfare for failing to offer protection in light of repeated warnings of parental neglect from the child's grandmother.
Wade's death appears to be the tip of a nightmarish iceberg. But we do not known how big because the West Australian Government has suppressed details of an investigation into other children who died while being monitored by the Department of Community Development. Wade's case has echo's of the death of a three-year-old boy in NSW who was raped and then electrocuted by a pedophile his mother had met at a train station. In that case, complaints of abuse by the boy, and his six-year-old sister, were ignored. As were repeated warnings of neglect despite the mother's documented history of handing her children to predators.
This issue clearly haunts all state governments. In Queensland, after campaigning in the 2004 state election to fix its appalling record on child welfare, the Government admitted that 4544 of the 11,896 child abuse reports received last year had not been passed on for investigation. In NSW, dozens of children, many known to be at high risk, die each year because authorities are too willing to accept promises by mothers that things will improve.
In Western Australia, the evidence is that wicked acts have thrived on inaction. A common theme remains the wrong-headed policy of keeping children with their natural parents at any cost. The rights of the parent must give way to the safety of the child and state governments must be accountable for the terrible things that happen because of their inaction. Public exposure is the first, necessary, step.
Friday, August 25, 2006
A MOST incorrect article below -- even more so because it is heavily research-based. It produced such outrage that it was rapidly taken down from it original source
Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.
Not a happy conclusion, especially given that many men, particularly successful men, are attracted to women with similar goals and aspirations. And why not? After all, your typical career girl is well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged. All seemingly good things, right? Sure.at least until you get married. Then, to put it bluntly, the more successful she is the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you. Sound familiar?
Many factors contribute to a stable marriage, including the marital status of your spouse's parents (folks with divorced parents are significantly more likely to get divorced themselves), age at first marriage, race, religious beliefs and socio-economic status. And, of course, many working women are indeed happily and fruitfully married--it's just that they are less likely to be so than non-working women. And that, statistically speaking, is the rub.
To be clear, we're not talking about a high-school dropout minding a cash register. For our purposes, a "career girl" has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year. If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill ( American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier ( Institute for Social Research).
Why? Well, despite the fact that the link between work, women and divorce rates is complex and controversial, much of the reasoning is based on a lot of economic theory and a bit of common sense. In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home and women have tended to do "non-market" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely. And, indeed, empirical studies have concluded just that.
In 2004, John H. Johnson examined data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and concluded that gender has a significant influence on the relationship between work hours and increases in the probability of divorce. Women's work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men's work hours often have no statistical effect. "I also find that the incidence in divorce is far higher in couples where both spouses are working than in couples where only one spouse is employed," Johnson says. A few other studies, which have focused on employment (as opposed to working hours) have concluded that working outside the home actually increases marital stability, at least when the marriage is a happy one. But even in these studies, wives' employment does correlate positively to divorce rates, when the marriage is of "low marital quality."
The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen their mate run off with a co-worker: When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they'll meet someone they like more than you. "The work environment provides a host of potential partners," researcher Adrian J. Blow reported in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, "and individuals frequently find themselves spending a great deal of time with these individuals."
There's more: According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.
And if the cheating leads to divorce, you're really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually-transmitted disease. Plus divorce is financially devastating. According to one recent study on "Marriage and Divorce's Impact on Wealth," published in The Journal of Sociology, divorced people see their overall net worth drop an average of 77%.
So why not just stay single? Because, academically speaking, a solid marriage has a host of benefits beyond just individual "happiness." There are broader social and health implications as well. According to a 2004 paper entitled "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage?" marriage is positively associated with "better outcomes for children under most circumstances," higher earnings for adult men, and "being married and being in a satisfying marriage are positively associated with health and negatively associated with mortality." In other words, a good marriage is associated with a higher income, a longer, healthier life and better-adjusted kids.
A word of caution, though: As with any social scientific study, it's important not to confuse correlation with causation. In other words, just because married folks are healthier than single people, it doesn't mean that marriage is causing the health gains. It could just be that healthier people are more likely to be married.
Long service awards are 'ageist'
Council bosses in Norfolk are planning to axe long service awards for staff - in case they are accused of being ageist. New laws that come into force in October will make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of how old or young they are. Bosses at Broadland Council say they are "reviewing" their policy of handing out awards to employees, in case they breach the rules.
According to The Sun an insider said: "The council officers are terrified of contravening the new legislation. "Officially they are saying the axing of long service awards is just one of a number of options being considered. But the word here is that they've already taken the decision."
Stuart Beadle is leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, which serves the Norfolk Broads and out-lying areas of Norwich. He said: "I think we ought to have a bit of common sense. If people have served councils or business for a very long time it should be recognised."
Local Age Concern worker Luis Santos added: "This is totally outrageous - absolute madness. If a person is 60 or 70 and going to get an accolade they wouldn't see it as being branded old. "It is very good for people when their contribution and achievements are recognised." A council spokeswoman said: "We are looking at all processes in terms of age, gender and race."
Long jail sentence for would-be Muslim terrorist in Australia
The 20-year jail sentence imposed on Faheem Khalid Lodhi sends important signals to all sorts of Australians. For a start, it is a welcome wake-up call for those who refuse to accept we are all on the front line in the war on terror. Lodhi planned an attack on the electricity grid, to wreak havoc on a country that he professed to call home.
His conviction also sends a clear message that individuals in our midst with murder on their minds cannot use the legal system as a shelter from the consequences of planning or committing evil acts. Certainly, self-confessed al-Qa'ida footsoldier "Jihad" Jack Thomas was acquitted of terror offences last week because of police errors in the way he was interviewed. But Lodhi is now convicted, and sentenced to two decades in prison.
The job of the police and the courts is to justly protect us from the mad and the bad. And this sentence shows how it can be done according to law. Lodhi's imprisonment may not deter the most adamant of the enemies of all Australians from taking his place. But some may consider his fate and think again before they plot against us. Lodhi will rot in prison for 20 years, knowing that Australians of all and no faiths despise him for what he planned. Their contempt is a message he deserves to hear loudly and often and for many, many years.
There is also a message for other Australians in Lodhi's conviction and sentence. Despite years of mass murders by Islamic terrorists all over the world, there are still some who say the war on terror is a political contrivance designed to frighten us all. They should consider the judgment of Justice Anthony Whealy in sentencing Lodhi when he warned that even though the plan was amateurish and ill-conceived, it could have caused death and damage.
It is an essential argument. From Bali to London, mass murderers have demonstrated it does not take any special ability to kill innocent people and to shatter the social cohesion and trust that democracies depend on. "Australia has, to this time, not been a country where fundamentalist and extreme views have exposed our citizens to death and destruction within the sanctuary of our shores. One has only to think of the consequences on the national psyche of a tragedy such as the Port Arthur massacre to realise how a major terrorist bombing would impact on the security, the stability and wellbeing of the citizens of this country," Justice Whealy said.
Nor was Lodhi acting to address any grievance that could ever be addressed in a democracy. As Justice Whealy put it: "The extremist views, which he must in truth be taken to have espoused, are not representative of the true nature of his Islamic religion. Rather, they are a distortion of it." In his duplicity and his intent, Faheem Lodhi is our enemy. His conviction will not end the danger of attack, but in removing the risk from a bad man, and reminding us all of the dangers we face, it is a victory in the war on terror we needed.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
When the chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales reveals that the number of youngsters being sent to court each year has risen by up to 40,000 over the past decade, two conclusions must be drawn. First, the chronic overcrowding in young offender institutions, announced by the YJB last week, should have been foreseen long ago. Secondly, the system designed to identify "at risk" teenagers and keep them out of trouble is not working.
The problem is partly procedural. The official response to most youthful antisocial (but not criminal) behaviour used to be a police caution, with no limit to the number of cautions an individual could amass. That patently inadequate system has been replaced with a highly prescriptive one. Young repeat offenders, however trivial their offences, receive an official reprimand, then a final warning, then a summons to a magistrate's court.
It is no surprise that magistrates are swamped with cases that they do not believe merit their attention. But how to handle them if not via the courts is a question with, literally, life and death implications. It emerged yesterday that Danny Preddie, who was convicted this month of the manslaughter in 2000 of Damilola Taylor, was routinely able to flout curfew orders at his care home in South London because he, and the other teenagers living there, knew staff were banned from using force to stop them leaving.
This does not constitute an argument for a general return to the lash. Rather, as Professor Rod Morgan, chairman of the YJB, tells The Times today, staff in schools and care homes need far greater latitude to sanction their charges as they see fit. Police and the courts should be a last resort.
Freedom from box-ticking will help teachers and carers only if they know what to do with it, however. Professor Morgan is also, rightly, concerned that many who confront violent and disruptive youngsters on a daily basis have lost the confidence to insist on decent behaviour for its own sake. When instilling basic discipline does not come naturally, specialist training has been shown to help. This is true not only in care homes, but also in the most important, most neglected institution in the youth justice debate - the family. Even though parenting is a less instinctive skill than many would-be parents think, the unwritten taboo on "teaching" parenting is only now being broken. When help is offered, however, especially to young, single parents of children at risk of sliding into truancy and crime, it is often gratefully received.
In schools, as in single-parent families, a shortage of suitable male role models may be fuelling delinquency. Professor Morgan calls this issue "tricky". For him, it may be. But policymakers must grapple with it. Vital lessons in acceptable behaviour are being missed by children who then graduate to "criminality". This is a failure of parenting and education, but also of an inflexible youth justice system. The Government's role should not be to micromanage the adults involved, but to empower them to be adults
Hunt saboteurs revealed in their true colours
It could have been a scene from a film set in a future in which law and order has broken down, and Britain is ravaged by marauding gangs. This week, a group of anglers were set on by a posse of 30 masked hunt saboteurs, who emerged from the woods next to a Lancashire lake armed with baseball bats. The "sabs" assaulted and threatened several anglers, including women: a 36-year-old nurse had her expensive rod smashed and was told that, if she did not get out of the way, she would end up in the lake. She described the gang, accurately, as cowards, and intends to return to the lake - at Bank House Fly Fishery near Lancaster - as soon as possible.
How did this grotesque incident come about? The saboteurs had apparently been thwarted in their plan to disrupt a grouse shoot, so picked an easier target. But can these activists seriously expect that their campaign will lead to the banning of an activity in which about three million Britons take part?
The Government has no plans to ban this most unassuming and democratic of field sports, pursued by so many of its natural supporters: indeed, its social engineers are currently trying to thrust rods into the hands of women and ethnic minorities, spending the revenue from fishing licences on - among other things - teaching Muslim women to fish. (The idea that adults should be chivvied into healthy leisure activities, like recalcitrant schoolboys being pushed on to a rugby field in the middle of winter, is dear to New Labour's heart.)
Perhaps the "sabs" are too stupid to have worked out that this is a battle they will not win: after all, they might reason, their guerilla warfare against foxhunting paid off in the end. Then again, perhaps they do not much care. Many of the young people who attached themselves to hunt saboteur gangs in the 1980s and 1990s were misguided idealists (who, after a couple of early morning outings, quickly lost interest).
But there was also another element present in the movement, made up of fanatics and thugs who modelled themselves on Northern Irish paramilitaries (hence the balaclavas and baseball bats). At the time, we suspected that these people were not motivated by distress at the death of foxes, but were instead class warriors of a particularly intolerant variety. The attack on angling - a sport with a strong working-class base - strips away even that ideological fig leaf.
The outrage at Bank House Fly Fishery shows the hard-core "sabs" in their true colours. Like the masked "animal rights" activists who terrorise scientists and their families, these thugs are sociopaths: not animal-lovers, but people-haters.
More on those pesky Maori genetics
Previous post here on 12th.
There is within our species a genetic strain that could possibly be a significant factor in objectively evaluating some of the more dysfunctional aspects of our collective nature.
In 2002, Cognitive Neuroscience researchers at the University of London identified a gene on the X chromosome that was associated with genetic susceptibility for the anti-social personality disorder. This gene codes for the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA).
While males have only one copy of this chromosome, women have two and are therefore much more likely to have at least one copy of the protective gene, this may help explain why severe anti-social behaviour is more common among men than women. The study has also shown that environmental or social factors activate the gene.
Evidence is also emerging of biological differences in a distinct group who systematically manipulate others. They have on average 24% more white matter in their prefrontal cortex and 14% less grey matter than the general population (White matter enables quick, complex thinking, while grey matter mediates inhibitions).
Approximately 3% of European men and 1% of European women have some form of antisocial personality disorder, recent New Zealand genetic epidemiology research indicates an incidence of around 30% for European males and up to 60% for Maori men.
So we have a statistical bell-curve, with the Korea, China and Japan at one end of the scale, and the most isolated frontier of Western culture at the other.
In evaluating cultures, a judgemental perspective has always been something of a precarious minefield. Perhaps the only acceptable criterion has been how a culture treats its marginalised. To that might also be added what a culture does not wish to know about itself. It's therefore unlikely that, within the near future, appropriate research in the fields of Cultural Anthropolgy and Sociology, will originate in New Zealand. Academic opportunity lurks...