Thursday, February 22, 2007

Greyhound racing now incorrect

The article below is from Britain's Leftist "New Statesman". This attack on the working-man's sport shows how far the Left has drifted from its old claim to represent the worker.

As a former registered dog-breeder myself, however, I think I should confirm the correctness of two facts mentioned below:

1). Greyhounds that do not win races (i.e. most of them) ARE often put down while still young.

2). It is a great pity that so many are put down as they makes excellent pets -- particularly for less active people and those who live in small premises -- for the quite surprising reason that they do NOT require much exercise or activity. They are happy to lie around all day with only a short walk for exercise. Confinement that would distress most dogs bred for hunting is no problem to a greyhound. They are more like cats than dogs in their need for activity.

I greatly deplore the cruel way many large dogs are inappropriately accomodated and insufficiently exercised in city conditions but for people who must keep a watchdog in the city, a greyhound is the kind solution. And when you do exercise it, people will often stop to admire and discuss your greyhound!

More than 25,000 greyhounds are discarded every year by the racing industry, and most of them get killed. This sordid cruelty must not continue. Cleopatra had hers. Queen Elizabeth I had hers, too. And I've got mine - Molly Kay, a shy, sleek, blue, aerodynamic wonder of the world. But the journey from the pyramids to the asylum where our eyes met and we fell in love is a lamentable narrative. It's a story of not rags to riches, but riches to rags and even unceremonious death.

On 16 February, David Smith, a local businessman, appears before North Durham magistrates facing an unprecedented prosecution: he has been killing thousands of greyhounds for years. He won't be prosecuted for that - it's not illegal - but has been summonsed in a private prosecution by the Environment Agency for illegally dumping thousands of unwanted greyhound carcasses on his allotment. How did it come to this?

Greyhounds are reckoned to have been around in their contemporary form for about 8,000 years. Their relics appear in the tombs of pharaohs. Their prowess streaks across the vases of Mediterranean empires. The greyhound diaspora stretches from the Middle East, along conquering trails through Europe, to the royal houses of our own monarchs, from the Tudors to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

These fleet sight-hunters who target rabbits and hares and squirrels have been petted as accessories to the aristocracy. They are admired for a peculiar faculty: greyhounds have been known to surpass 40 miles per hour, and yet they lie around all day, like Mae West, resting. That magnificent greyhound chest is for breathing and extreme acceleration. They dash, like springs; they soar. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes them as "fowels in flight". Their heads and hips are perfectly engineered for spasms of speed. They run for joy; there's even a notion that they smile, and then they spend the day prone.

The Normans banned the common people from owning greyhounds. Royal dynasties colonised them, and they made house room for greyhounds much as, sometimes, they admitted clever black slaves: as exceptions and adornments. In some societies, including our own, the greyhound was prized above a woman. The history of this dog is stitched into narratives of empire and class, of country and city.

They have been bred not for killing but for running. In less than a century, however, the greyhound has been transformed from an emblem of luxury to a victim of capitalist exploitation. In the 20th century the greyhound was proletarianised; the dog became a working-class man thing - like allotments and football and pubs, an excuse to get away from their women. This happened, however, only after the industrialisation of its spectacular prowess, with the creation of a mass spectator sport and a billion-pound betting industry.

This modern crisis begins there. The effort to release the greyhound from rural sport to urban stadium triumphed in the invention of a mechanical lure early in the 20th century. That allowed the greyhound to hurl itself around the oval stadiums that then proliferated in Britain, Ireland, America and Australia. Britain's first was Belle Vue, built in Manchester in 1926. The industry proliferated until the 1980s, when stinky, scruffy stadiums were closing down en masse. London now has only two - Wimbledon and Walthamstow.

But the decline in the live audience did not lead to a decline in either the number of dogs or the betting. The betting industry offered a fresh opportunity for you to part with your money when it invented the Bookmakers' Afternoon Greyhound Service (Bags). That means afternoon racing where the dogs sprint round empty stadiums. So, although live spectatorship declined, betting flourished. But Bags needs more dogs, and that means more surplus dogs.

Tony Peters, founder of Greyhound Action - the direct-action wing of the greyhound welfare movement - reckons that you need only study the stud books of the British and Irish breeders (most greyhounds in Britain come from Ireland) to see the source of the problem.

Greyhounds are bred to race. If each track needs 400 new dogs a year to compete, behind those racers are all the siblings who don't make the grade. "Every year more than 30,000 are bred to race," says Peters. "The industry is churning out all these dogs." Even those who do triumph on the track have relatively short racing careers. Injury or exhaustion can finish off a racer by the age of four. Then they join the armies of the discarded - it is believed that between 25,000 and 30,000 greyhounds are discarded every year. Most of them get killed. "No one was tackling this problem," says Peters.

Stop the sport altogether

Certainly not the bookmakers' industry, which is estimated to have an annual turnover approaching 2 billion pounds. Bookies are becoming interested in virtual racing - punters, it seems, will bet on anything, even the illusion of a greyhound. That appears to be an attractive option, too, to Greyhound Action, which wants to see an end to greyhound racing altogether.

The bookmakers' alibi against the growing abhorrence of greyhound destruction is the historic and necessary separation between the breeders and the bookies. This, of course, masks the symbiosis between all the players: the bookies are largely the owners of the tracks, and it is the bookies who have generated the demand for the beasts. The bookmakers tasted the first scent of pressure in 1991 when Norman Lamont, the then chancellor, introduced a voluntary levy of 0.4 per cent as a contribution to a greyhound fund for the industry, to be run by the British Greyhound Racing Board. The board was described by the racing commentator Jim Cremin as "a sham democracy", set up "in the hope of gaining control of government funding".

Many bookmakers did not contribute - including the intransigent chair of the Association of British Bookmakers, Warwick Bartlett. Unsurprisingly, little had changed by the new millennium, when the industry came under growing scrutiny from a convergence of animal welfare campaigners, corporate concern about the decline of the stadiums, and a government that was worried about the unseemly evidence of excessive gambling profits and the sordid state of the business. Cremin warned of growing government disquiet while bookmakers sat "on both sides of the negotiating table" as owners of tracks and as businesses profiting from the racing.

The Gambling Bill concentrated the mind. The government's greyhound man in the Lords, David Lipsey, took over the board, restructured it, and brokered a deal with the promoters to increase the levy to 0.6 per cent by last year (2006). But much of that fund is invested in reinventing the industry and marketing greyhound racing as a classier night out before hitting the clubs. It has not dealt with the killing fields and the dogs bred to die.

Ten thousand dogs are retired from racing every year. Some are put to sleep and disposed of by local authority pounds. Some go into rescue sanctuaries, and the number that find a new home is increasing - up from 2,000 a year to about 3,500. Molly Kay is a lucky one - she is living happily ever after among doting human beings. But she is in the minority: most of her generation lived a life brutish and short, only to be discarded by a corporate culture that depends on people like David Smith. His prosecution draws attention to the industry's total failure to take responsibility for the gap between surplus value and surplus to requirements.


Political Correctness: The Ultimate Gag order

Where did this strange animal Political Correctness (PC) come from? Never in our history have we had to be afraid of what we say, write, and do. We must not bow to that fear. Since PC tries to restrict our freedom of expression--particularly any form of dissent--it is imperative that we learn everything we can about it: more, for example, than it is simply a rebuke to various forms of bigotry.

In an address to academia in 1998, writer Bill Lind dissected PC from top to bottom. What Lind said is so vital, I will try, with implicit permission, to give you a capsule version of the five points he made.

First, political correctness is cultural Marxism. Although it's everywhere, this socialistic idea is most evident on college campuses, where crossing the line set up by sainted "victims" groups gets you in deep trouble.

PC also thrives on lies. Let's say you're told that a certain fact is true. But reality contradicts that. So reality is forbidden, to make the lie seem true. And the power of the State is used to keep the lie alive. That's why political correctness creates a totalitarian state.

Second, PC, like Marxism, uses a single factor to explain history. Marx uses economics. PC uses power. The power is determined by which groups have power over the other groups. With political correctness, nothing but power has any significant meaning.

Third, with PC, certain groups are deemed to be "good". These groups, such as feminist women, blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, etc, are considered "victims", therefore "good"-- whether they are or not. White males, of course, are the bad guys. Their "evilness" is equivalent to the wicked bourgeoisie in economic Marxism.

Fourth, both PC and Marxism take from one to give to another; (or keep for themselves. You can clearly see this at work in quotas, preferences, affirmative action, and other illegal transfers of assets from one group of citizens to another. The nice word for it is expropriation. The more accurate word is stealing.

Fifth, both political correctness and Marxism have a method of analyzing situations which automatically gives them the answers they want. This devious little process is called Deconstruction. Which simply means taking one text, removing its meaning, and re-inserting any other meaning desired.

George Orwell did an outstanding job of this in his chilling novel, 1984. "Newspeak" gave opposite meanings to common words: War became Peace, Slavery became Freedom, Ignorance became Strength.

Orwell had unknowingly described political correctness when he defined the principle of Newspeak: "The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of INGSOC (English Socialism), but to make all other modes of thought impossible."

Get that? Make all other modes of thought impossible! That bit of tyranny appears to be the objective of today's PC crowd in Washington. And if that's true, it's the worst form of treason because it undermines the most sacred bastion of freedom we have: Freedom of Thought.

And no true American should hold still for that.


Britain: It is time to be honest about black crime

So is society fractured or isn't it? Politicians' views on this seem to depend on whether they are in office at the time. When you are in opposition, a spate of street shootings - or even the distinctly atypical murder of a toddler (James Bulger) by two maladjusted children - can be a sign of endemic social breakdown.

But when your party is in power, gang members killing one another with apparent impunity is a "specific problem" in a small minority of the population. Not surprising, then, that David Cameron opts for the societal meltdown analysis while Tony Blair prefers to see the latest eruption of gun violence as an isolatable phenomenon which should not be taken as a "metaphor" (I think he meant "symbol") for the country as a whole.

They are both right, and they are both missing the same crucial point. Mr Blair is clearly correct when he says that most teenagers are not members of armed gangs, and that the majority of young people in Britain are not even involved in low-level anti-social behaviour. The problem of gun crime is, as he says, almost entirely limited to what he calls a specific small sub-culture.

But while the actual crimes with which we are all so concerned at the moment are characteristic of a very small, identifiable minority in clearly locatable parts of our inner cities, the fact that they are occurring is not unconnected to the social and political philosophy which his party has endorsed (and which Mr Cameron's party is failing to repudiate).

The sub-culture to which Mr Blair alludes in his coded way is that of black delinquency (the mores of which have drawn in quite a few non-black participants). That neither he nor Mr Cameron will say precisely this (although they both go so far as to refer to the influence of rap music) is central to our failure to cope with it. Just as using the word "black" in this context is to lay oneself open to the smear of racism, any perceptible targeting of black youths for particular attention by the police lays officers open to career-ending disciplinary procedures. The "sus" laws, which allowed officers to stop and search people on suspicion of carrying weapons or drugs, were scrapped because they were said to be a form of racial harassment.

That was the beginning of what became a systematic programme of denial, the ultimate consequence of which was that blameless black people were left unprotected in effectively unpoliced neighbourhoods, and that many black mothers were left to grieve for their sons.

When your child has been shot, having droves of police combing the scene for forensic evidence after the event must offer little comfort. What you and your neighbours need is the kind of fearless, effectual police presence that will prevent these crimes from happening in the first place - and that does not mean "social outreach" or "working with community leaders".

For the police to be nice to the most conscientious people in the neighbourhood is all well and good, but getting through to that small, specific minority of armed drug gangs involves something quite different - and it is often not "nice" at all. The women in those communities who campaign against gun crime know this, but their courage is almost never matched by political spokesmen, for whom the fear of being labelled racist is rather more urgent than the fear of having their children shot in cold blood. (And, in Mr Cameron's case, maybe the drugs question helps to make this an untouchable issue on another level altogether.)

But this is not all about gun crime in the black community. Most anti-social behaviour is a white youth problem but it is still, in Mr Blair's terms, "specific". So Mr Cameron's argument for society being fractured is - forgive the condescension - perhaps more right than he knows. When he talks of the family breakdown, the failure of paternal responsibility, and the collapse of parental authority that seems to be epidemic in Britain, he is describing a minority phenomenon. In affluent, middle-class life (which now constitutes a much larger proportion of our society than it did a generation ago), parenthood has never been a more conscientious vocation. In my experience, today's young parents are devoted to the welfare of their children to the point of obsession: a devotion which, perhaps to an unprecedented degree, involves fathers as much as mothers.

It is not British parenting as a whole that is failing. It is a segment of it: a noisy, belligerent, feckless, disruptive segment, the consequences of whose behaviour can wreak havoc on the quality of life of inordinate numbers of people in its vicinity. Society is indeed fractured: it is broken into different parts which are growing more and more dissimilar to one another. The failing part is living in a parallel universe where irresponsibility is a way of life. Isolated by welfare dependency from the need to come to terms with what has traditionally been considered the role of adults, which begins with the obligation to provide for a family, that part of society is being left behind in a morass of hopelessness and futile bitterness in which alcohol and drugs, and the anarchic thrill of delinquency, are ready diversions.

So it is literally true, as Mr Cameron says, that we have too many "adults behaving like children", but I doubt somehow that he will recommend the radical reform of a welfare state which has made it possible (and even economically advisable) for fathers to abandon their children and for teenage girls to choose single motherhood as a lifestyle. He talks of restoring support for marriage in the tax and benefit system, but would he actively dismantle the benefit support system which has created welfare ghettos?

What about Mr Blair? Will he acknowledge the role that has been played in this mess by his party's commitment to non-judgmental permissiveness - which has left communities unable to defend themselves and the police afraid to protect them? And will he ever say a word about the greatest retreat of his premiership: the abandonment of welfare reform that he once rightly believed was essential to restoring Britain's moral health?

The whole country may not be going to hell in a handcart. But that does not diminish the problem we face with some parts of it, which we have no chance of solving unless politicians speak frankly about the existence of an underclass and the part they have played in creating it.



Report from a black activist, Noel Pearson

On a recent Friday night I walked out on to the lawn of my mother's house in my home town. It was after 2am and though my family lives a kilometre away, I could hear loud music booming from several stereos in various parts of what I would have called a village in my youth, but which more accurately answers to the description of an outback ghetto today. The music emanated from houses known as party houses, where numbers of men and women congregate to binge drink, share marijuana, often out of what are called bucket bongs, laughing, shouting, singing and dancing and seeking sexual partners - consensual and otherwise.

By midnight the bonhomie of the early evening descends into tension, as various bingers develop dark moods, vent anger, resentment and suspicions at those to whom they earlier professed love. Arguments and fights ensue, over the smallest slights and often over ownership of and access to the dwindling supplies of alcohol.

While parties rage at a number of notorious locations throughout the town, with erstwhile hosts boosting their stereos with specially bought amplifiers, often placed at windows facing outwards as if for the benefit of the rest of the inmates of this sad place, it is hard to maintain the fiction that this place is a community. It is a hellhole where whirring fans and airconditioners in the concrete block houses drown out the noise, including the screams.

This Friday night was the third night in a row of parties, beginning on Wednesday evening following the receipt of Family Tax Benefit payments, which continued at a lower gear over the next day and got back into top gear on Thursday night following the receipt of CDEP work-for-the-dole payments. The number of people missing from work has led almost every community to declare Fridays as the unofficial start of the weekend. School attendance collapses from already low levels earlier in the week. This has led to many proposals over the years from educators to reduce school days in Cape York Peninsula schools to four days, as if that would be a solution.

As I drove around the streets at 3am, I passed by drunks stumbling from one party house to another. I passed groups of young teenage girls walking around or sitting on the kerbside. For too many of them, sexual activity begins young at Hope Vale, very young. Who knows the circumstances of their first experience, but the incidences of abuse that come to light are only the tip of the iceberg of sexual assault, unlawful intercourse with minors, and incest. That older men should be able to have sexual relations with the young girls I pass in the street in exchange for alcohol, marijuana or esteem, is water off the moral backs of our people. Young men may jump through windows to rendezvous with their paramours, but it is as likely they do so to interfere with women and children.

My home town looks and feels like a ghetto. The mango trees, frangipanis and old wooden church still evoke the mission of my early youth, but the fibro and weatherboard cottages built by the hands of our own local carpenters have been replaced by welfare housing, increasingly built by outside contractors. The uniform rows of kit homes and Besser Block houses are of course much more expensive and have better amenities (at least at first, because they do not last for long), but they look squalid. The once lovingly tended gardens with topiary, gardenias and fruit trees are scarce today, and the plastic bags, VB cans, old motor cars and general rubbish spill out of the homes and on to the streets.

With the eyes of someone who returns to his home town for holidays and occasional weekends, I marvel that the people who live here do not see the shit in front of their eyes. Despite vastly improved levels of funding and infrastructure the place is a mess compared with the village of my childhood. I drove past the place where my parents brought up our family in a small fibro cottage with no hot water and a pit toilet out the back. We got electricity when I was in Year 4 but I did not see television until I went to college. Now they have Austar and adults carelessly expose children and young people to their pornographic videos and DVDs.

Earlier in the afternoon at the roundabout I saw the shocking sight of a beautiful puppy that had been run over by a vehicle, in a pool of blood on the bitumen. As we say in the language of this place, Ngathu wawu baathi, my soul cried for this lost life. In my nocturnal drive I passed the puppy in the same place. The binge drinking will continue to daybreak, and on through Saturday. Bingers pass out and catch some sleep, before waking again to resume the fray.

The parties change gear during the course of the four days as participants come and go, supplies run out and fresh supplies are brought in from Cooktown. The beauty of electronic banking is that welfare and CDEP income is dropped into keycard accounts automatically, and Centrelink will assist recipients to stage the time at which payments are made to members of a household. So Jimmy can get his on Wednesday and Sally can get hers on Friday. There is money for drinking and drugs over a longer stretch of the week. Centrelink's intention of course with flexible payment plans is to assist people to manage their income to purchase food and pay their bills, but the reality is that it makes more money available for binge drinking over a longer period of time.

As I drive down to the beach early on Saturday morning I see the young children emerging out of the houses, as if from a war zone. Yes, there are children and young girls in the homes of the hosts of the binge drinking parties. How they fare through these weekly episodes depends on whether their often inebriated parent is nevertheless able to keep an eye on their welfare, because the chance that molesters are among the party people is very high. Older children may run off and stay with sober relatives, particularly grandparents, but what happens to the ones left behind? Some of the young people sitting on the kerbside at 3am are simply scared to go back home.

On Sunday things will be quiet. "They run out of grog," people explain to me. The town will be mostly quiet for the next two, and if you are lucky, three days. The bureaucrats from Peter Beattie's Government will do their business with the people and organisations of Hope Vale in the sane part of the week. Certainly the communities of Cape York Peninsula during the quiet days can give the impression of being pleasant if untidy "communities". You can excuse the rubbish and the ubiquitous high barbed wire fences and iron cages that have to be constructed around almost every public facility, because after all this is an Aboriginal community.

But the public servants and politicians only visit for the day and never sleep in the town. They never have anything other than the official conversations down in the administration offices, so they too easily have the view that "this place is not too bad", "we just need to co-ordinate the programs" and "we have a demand reduction plan" for the alcohol problem. The underbelly of these so-called communities is not intriguing like a David Lynch movie, it is Hobbesian.

Meanwhile in public policy land three relevant events take place. First, journalist Margaret Wenham reported in The Courier-Mail on February 8 as follows: "Hundreds of impoverished indigenous people in remote communities have been hit with fines totalling nearly $600,000 for breaking Queensland's controversial alcohol management laws. Figures, released this week by the Justice Department, also show that seven people have been jailed and six vehicles confiscated since December 2002 when AMPs were phased into the state's 19 discrete indigenous communities. Reports of the penalty tally were greeted with dismay by Aboriginal leaders who said most people could not pay the fines and the AMPs were not working to curb violence."

The problem with Wenham's argument and that of any Aboriginal leader to whom she refers, is that if you divide $600,000 worth of fines between 19 communities over 3 1/2 years, the average fine for each community is about $9000 per annum, or less than $200 per week. The liquor licensing authorities in Queensland do not release liquor sales figures from each community, and no one tracks alcohol purchases from outside of the communities, but if you make a rough estimate of alcohol expenditure per week I would say an average of $10,000 per week would be extremely conservative. So if an average community spends $520,000 on alcohol, how can you say that $9000 worth of fines is causing or even compounding impoverishment? Is it not the spending on alcohol that is causing poverty?

Second, on Monday this week the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University released a study which showed that in the period from 2000 to 2004, an estimated 1145 indigenous Australians died from injury, disease or suicide caused by drinking. The study found that many indigenous people died very young from diseases that do not exist among young non-indigenous people. A third of the deaths investigated were female. The second biggest alcohol-related killer of indigenous women was haemorrhagic stroke, and the average age of the deceased was only 25 years. Among non-indigenous people, stroke is a disease of the elderly. The worst alcohol-related killer of indigenous people, alcohol liver cirrhosis, on average shortens indigenous sufferers' lives to 54 years. The other major causes of death - suicide, road traffic injury, assault injury, stroke - mainly kill indigenous people in their 20s and 30s.

Third, Premier Peter Beattie met the mayors of Queensland's indigenous shire councils to discuss the problems besetting indigenous communities. The Premier emerged saying his Government would be making various investments in the communities and he expected the community leaders to take greater responsibility for alcohol.

One problem with the Premier's hopes is that these councils are still the owners and operators of the canteens which sell alcohol to their people. The councils are as addicted to the profits from the canteens as the Queensland Government is to gambling revenues. Tony Fitzgerald recommended in his Justice Study report to Beattie in 2002 that the nexus between alcohol profits and councils be broken, but the nexus remains. Typically it is the justice groups that want to maintain AMPs while shire councils want them to be watered down. In fact the Government is considering proposals from councils to allow weekend trading and takeaways, against the opposition of local justice groups.

Beattie's minister responsible for the issue, Warren Pitt, has already weakened restrictions in some communities. Beattie and Pitt need to spend an anonymous night or two in at least one, preferably a couple, of these communities. They need to be in the town on the binge-drinking nights, and they need to take a quiet drive or walk around the town and hear and see the nightmare that the sober people and children have to endure.

Last year Hope Vale's Mayor Greg Mclean invited a delegation of children from the local primary school to present their views to a large roundtable of assembled bureaucrats and community leaders. In plain English the children pleaded to these black and white adults that they wanted the drinking and violence in their community to stop. As I drove through my home town on the Sunday evening on my way back to Cairns, I saw the dead puppy still in the street. I thought about the distance between being inured to the fate of a puppy that didn't see the car coming, and being inured to the fate of our own children.


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