Thursday, March 22, 2007

UK: Red nose ban

Health and safety chiefs have banned guests at Comic Relief Does Fame Academy from wearing red noses. Producers planned to give the soft foam noses to contestants' friends and family during the live shows. But officials at London's historic County Hall feared the noses may be a fire risk, reports the Daily Mirror.

A show insider said: "It's a bit ridiculous to stop adults in the audience from wearing red noses. "It's a shame because the show is to raise money and it might have encouraged more people to go out and buy the noses if they saw them on telly."

A spokeswoman for show-makers Endemol said: "It is true red noses are not allowed - but neither are newspapers, bottles, bags and all manner of other items. "We are filming in a Grade II listed building and anything that is a potential fire risk or can cause damage when dropped is not allowed. We are working with essential equipment only."


Hollywood Hasn't a Clue

by Arlene Peck

Sometimes, I think I'm talking to the wall when I seek to educate the Hollywood crowd in the hope of somehow getting them to realize that we are in a war. We're facing a real war, with an enemy who wants to actually kill us. If the Islamist savages had their druthers, we'd all be beheaded or living in submission to whatever it is that they think is Allah's will.

Actually, I think that we, in the US, are so soft that we have no concept of what terror is. In the star-studded surroundings in which I live, I am usually astounded at the utter lack of comprehension of what is facing us. When I say "us," it's a collective thing - Jew, Christian, Buddhist, white, black or purple. If you're not one of them, the Islamists want us dead.

Theirs is a culture that thrives on, and lives for, death. It's difficult to face the reality of terror when you live in a home with security systems and bodyguards behind gated walls. Most of us don't know what it's like to walk outside and find the car gone, or up on blocks with the wheels gone. For sure, we can't imagine catching a bus on which someone is riding next to us with a bomb under his or her coat. With the Hollywood crowd, everything is "over there." The media gives coverage to people who make their livings pretending to be someone else. And courage in Hollywood is getting up the guts to ask for another five or ten million dollars for a picture.

I tend to speak in basic terms. Some have even dared to call me "politically incorrect," and frankly, I don't give a diddly-squat. The people out here, and probably most people around our wonderful country, don't have a clue as to the dangers lurking. I tell it like I see it, folks; and Hollywood, as I know it, is oblivious to the real terror. Their version of a "terror attack" would be when the mechanic for their new Lexus goes back to visit family in Tijuana, or the hair stylist moves without leaving a forwarding address. A shortage of Botox would be a major disaster. Frankly, I find it difficult to work with people who have no sense of mission. Out here, the only "mission" that I see concerns whether the agent called with an audition.

To tell the truth, I think I'd rather deal with the stupid than the indifferent. Although I truly think that most of those living around me have the IQ of an eggplant when it comes to realizing the immediate danger we're facing, there is an off chance that they can be educated. How do I get them to see that they cry for endangered baby seals and dolphins at peril in the sea, yet ignore that men treat their farm animals better than the women in many Middle Eastern countries? Somehow, Hollywood cannot grasp the significance of 'honor killings' when one of these women is raped. In sick, evil minds, this brings shame to the family and, naturally, the victim must be killed.

I am surrounded by an elite group of stars who have fashion shows for children, yet somehow fail to see that there is a culture that glorifies sexual contact with infants and "marrying" children less than ten years old. Worse, Hollywood holds major fund-raisers for the new boy on the horizon with an educational background in a Wahabee school - that scares the begeeses out of me. Obama for President?

Yet, folks, it's even more heartbreaking to see that Israel is floundering, having lost the fire in her belly. Until the past few years, I may have been upset and angry with Israel's leadership, which I saw was becoming increasingly more corrupt and incompetent, but it's difficult to have any warm fuzzy feelings when the President of Israel is suspected of rape. Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, has a stack of charges for which he is being investigated; the least of which should be gross incompetence. No one trusts the candidate in the running for Commissioner of Police. Who else? Oh, the Tax Commissioner is on the verge of being charged for criminal activity and has already resigned. Did I leave anybody out? Oops. Let's not forget the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee being investigated, as probably most of the Knesset ought to be.

It's bigger than George Bush or Dick Cheney or Olmert's thirst for power and greed combined. I never once felt that the Jews of Israel wavered in their commitment. And, because of that and despite the distance, it was easy for me to think and respond to the Jewish State as if I was an "American-born Israeli." When living there, I found it amazing how even the secular Jews were proud to be Jewish. They cherished their Jewishness to the core. Because they were proud to be Jewish, so was I. I was ecstatic to be part of that. It was that sense of purpose that made us all feel that we were one people.

That's why, after going to a few breakfast meetings with some powerful ministers and good old down home preachers, interspersed with some well-known rabbis, I was also delighted to see that there is now a Christian-Israel nexus in place, with both of these communities working together to face the serious issues that concern us. This is an annex of the organization that I have named "Hollywood Against Terrorism". I figured, this way, you could be a red or blue state. It would be possible to be either Right or Left, with the blandness of the title. However, the mission isn't bland.

For some reason, the people in Hollywood are listened to. Why, I'm not too sure, as I've rarely found anyone here familiar with the problems facing us, or well educated or well traveled enough to know the situation enough to discuss it.

Just to give you an idea of what a coma they exist in, I'll tell you about a lovely lady I recently had on my television show. She is a very big soap star and truly a caring person who works selflessly on several organizations, and even travels to Africa every year to bring a child back for heart surgery. Yet, when I tried to get her to put her name on the list of concerned celebrities, she looked blankly at me and said, "I don't think so. I'd really like to help but it's really not my thing."

Her "thing"? She, and the rest of us, better start making it our "thing" or we're lost.

For years, I have been writing in my columns that we better pay attention and accept the fact that nothing that has been going on in the Islamic `crusade' - which seems to have exacerbated over the past ten or 15 years - has anything to do with Israel (other than the pure hatred that Muslims, as taught from Islamic texts, have for the Jews). And now, the Islamists are openly showing that the Christians are also in their sights. For that matter, so is any other group that doesn't grovel at the foot of their prophet, Mohammad


Free-range children a product of family evolution

Parents shouldn't lay all the blame on unscrupulous marketers and the media for the rising sophistication of their tweens. OH how we love to bitch and moan about the age of the evil Ms: merchandise, media and marketing. We're all agreed the Ms undermine family values, inculcate materialism and feed off our avaricious, competitive natures. Their effects are disastrous, especially when it comes to our vulnerable children. Yet we're like moths to the flame, lemmings to the cliff. While we're busy ranting about our heavily commercialised culture, we're hitting the malls in throngs, buying our children everything they ask for and drowning in debt to keep up with the Joneses' kids. Our suspicious minds are caught in a trap; we are at once cynic and sucker, blaming the bastards and yet buying into it all. And nowhere is this more apparent than in discussion about tweens.

If you believe media analysts, the concept of a tween was created a couple of decades ago by Machiavellian marketers who saw that children aged between six and 12 could be more fully exploited. All these shysters needed was a clever spin on the youthful aspiration to be grown up. And so ensued the demise of childhood as we knew it. One minute our eight-year-olds were healthy innocents, contentedly playing with sexless Kens and Barbies, viewing nothing worse than Skippy. The next they were overweight, prematurely sexualised, brand-name junkies, addicted to screen-based games and fanatics for the cult of celebrity. The tween was born and now it's all gone too far for us to pull it back. We throw our hands in the air. Damn the Ms.

The truth, if we can handle it, is that marketers don't work in a cultural void. The opportunity to cash in on tweens has its origins in the post-1960s evolution in family relationships. With divorce becoming an acceptable option and growing opportunities for women in the work force, children in this age group were being given more responsibility for their own care. They were starting to make decisions about their social lives, their homework routines, their sporting and other extracurricular commitments, their personal hygiene and their food consumption.

Old ideas of strict discipline and hierarchical structure within the family were being tossed out in favour of friendship-based relationships, and parents accorded their children equal rights within the family. At the same time a guilt factor was coming into play. Keenly aware that their children may be lacking quality time with their elders, parents became more likely to acquiesce to their children's demands, spend more money on their children and give their children more money to spend on themselves.

Enter personal computers and the internet. Children of this age group were uninhibited about screen-based games and new forms of communication. They accepted and appreciated the ways in which technology took them well beyond their neighbourhood, gave them freedom of information and allowed them to form different kinds of relationships with their peers.

Parents were slower to come to grips with this new era, giving children yet another layer of control over their own lives. As the authority and influence of the family decreased, the authority and influence of peers weighed in more heavily. Traditionally it wasn't until the teen years - 13 onwards - that the approval of friends became vital. That convention was shifting: children at a younger age were becoming seriously concerned with being "in". These pre-adolescents were sitting ducks for a teen spin on their toys, clothes, music and other merchandise. A new echelon of consumers had arisen: free-range children, highly dependent on the opinion of their peers, equipped with the technology to influence each other and with money to spend. It was a marketing bonanza, a vein to be mined.

Tweens, then, are not merely a commercial construct, the outcome of a malevolent marketing campaign waged against innocent, vulnerable bystanders. They are the result of decades of significant change in Western society, the reshaping of family dynamics along with the widening reach of media, technology and marketing.

While we bleat about the loss of traditional childhoods, let's remember that the traits of tweenhood - consumer sophistication, technological ability, a need to be part of the in-crowd and an assumption of equal rights in family decision-making - have evolved in response to the time-poor, information-rich, commercially motivated political environment that we sustain.

Modern children are multi-tasking and media-saturated. The influences external to family are unprecedented and unmapped. This is tough on parents. Maintaining codes of conduct and instilling core values in articulate, opinionated, technologically adept, consumer-savvy tweens is a whole new ball game. Perhaps we find it easier to blame marketers for the demise of a childhood that is no longer relevant than to take responsibility for the children we now have


Liberalism a luxury during war

IN one of the more compelling episodes of The West Wing, filmed after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Democratic president Jed Bartlet is confronted by a harrowing decision. Should he authorise the assassination of a minister of the government of Qumar, a fictional Arab nation, who moonlights as a terrorist mastermind and is involved in a foiled attempt to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge? Like any good Democrat, Jed is troubled. Let’s bring him to court, he says. Can’t happen, responds Leo McGarry, the tough-minded chief of staff. He tells the president: “This is the most devastating part of your liberalism. There are no absolutes.”

Dramatic television assassinations aside, McGarry’s observation is especially poignant as the long war against Islamist terrorism unfolds. Recalibrating the balance between individual freedom and national security is a hotly debated issue. And rightly so.

The post-Cold War peace has given rise to a comfortable and complacent liberalism, a liberalism that caused what the 9/11 commission report called a “failure of imagination” in understanding Islamist terrorism. A liberalism that means many of us are uneasy at the means required to confront an enemy almost as deadly, if less conventional, as the 20th-century totalitarians. Interrogations, Guantanamo Bay, military commissions and new anti-terrorism laws aimed at home-grown jihadists are part of a post-September 11 world.

That world means enduring endless fury from those who talk of moral absolutes, refusing to acknowledge the true nature of terrorism and trying to stoke our liberal unease. Whichever way you cut it, the civil libertarians do the bidding of terrorists when they cling to the halcyon days of peace without threats. Close down Guantanamo Bay? Excellent news for the infidel killers. Junk the military commission? Even better. Overturn anti-terrorism laws? Great news for those in our suburbs plotting our destruction. Claiming the high moral ground, the Law Council of Australia and its confreres say it’s all done in the name of individual liberty and justice, of course.

The problem is that using perfect justice - a Rolls-Royce legal system beloved of the legal lobby - for terrorists means treating them like ordinary criminals. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is proof why that can no longer apply. His confessions last week suggest he is the Mr Big of terrorism. Arrested in Pakistan in 2003, KSM has admitted to 29 terrorist plots ranging from September 11 to beheading American journalist Daniel Pearl, assassination attempts against Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter (just proving that Democrats are also infidels), Pope John Paul II, bombing the nightclub in Bali, planning second-wave attacks in the US and Australia. Now, maybe KSM is just an Islamist braggart who figures if you’re going to meet your maker and a bevy of blessed virgins, better to beef up your CV. But boasting aside, KSM is evil.

Yet sure enough, out came the claims that the guy confessed under duress because he has been detained for years, most recently at Guantanamo Bay. As one American pundit told ABC radio, Gitmo is the problem. (Right about now, we’re due to see a photo of KSM as an angelic nine-year-old.) Actually, Gitmo is part of the solution of keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield. Back in 2004, in Hamdi v Rumsfeld, the US Supreme Court affirmed the US Government’s right to capture and detain, without criminal charge or trial, enemy combatants until hostilities cease.

We don’t know what happened to KSM during his detention. In his evidence to the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he claimed mistreatment. But he also said his confession to that tribunal was not coerced. If you still think the confession is bollocks, go to the evidence amassed by US authorities, as outlined in paragraphs (a) to (v) of the unclassified transcript of the tribunal’s proceedings released last week.

A computer hard drive seized when KSM was captured contained information about the four planes hijacked on 9/11, including codenames, flight numbers, pilots’ names, hijackers’ names, photographs of the hijackers, pilot licence fees for Mohammed Atta, images of passports, chat sessions with hijackers, letters to Osama bin Laden, spreadsheets of financial assistance to families of al-Qa’ida members. And on it goes.

When asked which bits of evidence he disputed, KSM quibbled about only four points. He denied receiving funds from Kuwait or telling al-Jazeera TV that he headed al-Qa’ida’s military committee. And he objected to all those paragraphs of evidence, preferring they be rolled into one “to avoid creating the false perception that there are more allegations against me specifically than there actually are”. Oh, and he pointed out that his name was misspelled. OK, let’s concede the paragraphs, perceptions and spelling mistakes. KSM is still a grade-A terrorist.

And so, fortunately, Guantanamo Bay is home for this enemy combatant for some time to come. Just as it has been for David Hicks. Those who continually cry “Too long” have missed the problem here. There is a war on. Peacetime justice does not work in a time of war. US ambassador Robert McCallum has revealed that of the 335 detainees released from Gitmo to date, about a dozen have been recaptured or killed after they resumed playing Jihad Joe on the battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s a dangerous mistake. These guys don’t reform like your run-of-the-mill peacetime criminal.

The other apparatus constantly disputed by the peacetime justice advocates is the US military commission. And just watch the criticism heat up with Hicks, due to be arraigned next week. So let’s go back to what the US Supreme Court said last year in Hamdan v Rumsfeld. The court held, unanimously, that military commissions are a lawful means of trying and punishing those captured during the war on terror. The court struck down the original commission on the basis that congressional authority was needed if the commission’s procedures differed from those of ordinary courts martial. So the US Congress has approved a new military commission conforming to that Supreme Court ruling.

It won’t satisfy the Hicks supporters. These people rally against measures aimed at boosting national security the moment individual freedoms are curtailed. It’s a trade-off most of us accept. We know freedoms are not absolute.

Terrorists are not ad hoc robbers planning a bank heist. Their aim is to kill us. Lots of us. Taking them at their word means adjusting our liberalism. Failing that, our liberalism will be our downfall.



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

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

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


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