THE BRITISH GRASSHOPPER
HOW IT USED TO BE:
The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold
HOW IT IS NOW:
The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.
A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving. The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food. The British press inform people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so, while others have plenty.
The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the squirrel's house. The BBC, interrupting a cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts a multi cultural choir singing "We Shall Overcome". Ken Livingstone rants in an interview with Trevor McDonald that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his "fair share" and increases the charge or squirrels to enter inner London.
In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The squirrel's taxes are reassessed. He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders for the work he was doing on his home and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.
The grasshopper is provided with a council house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel's food is seized and redistributed to the more needy members of society, in this case the grasshopper. Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home.
The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Britain as they had to share their country of origin with mice. On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Britain's apparent love of dogs. The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody.
Initial moves to then return them to their own country were abandoned because it was feared they would face death by the mice. The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people's credit cards.
A Panorama special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel's food, though spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain the house. He is shown to be taking drugs. Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper's drug 'illness'.
The cats seek recompense in the British courts for their treatment since arrival in UK.
The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks. He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him. Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery. A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost 10,000,000 and state the obvious, is set up. Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers and legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased.
The asylum-seeking cats are praised by the government for enriching Britain's multicultural diversity and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats. The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose.
The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison. They call for the resignation of a minister.
The cats are paid a million pounds each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in the United Kingdom. The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses, their taxes are increased to pay for law and order and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.
Another British "social work" horror
Threat by secret court to take new-born. Big Brother knows best
A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of "emotional abuse", even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way.
Social services' recommendation that the baby should be taken from Fran Lyon, a 22-year-old charity worker who has five A-levels and a degree in neuroscience, was based in part on a letter from a paediatrician she has never met.
Hexham children's services, part of Northumberland County Council, said the decision had been made because Miss Lyon was likely to suffer from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, a condition unproven by science in which a mother will make up an illness in her child, or harm it, to draw attention to herself. Under the plan, a doctor will hand the newborn to a social worker, provided there are no medical complications. Social services' request for an emergency protection order - these are usually granted - will be heard in secret in the family court at Hexham magistrates on the same day. From then on, anyone discussing the case, including Miss Lyon, will be deemed to be in contempt of the court.
Miss Lyon, from Hexham, who is five months pregnant, is seeking a judicial review of the decision about Molly, as she calls her baby. She described it as "barbaric and draconian", and said it was "scandalous" that social services had not accepted submissions supporting her case. "The paediatrician has never met me," she said. "He is not a psychiatrist and cannot possibly make assertions about my current or future mental health. Yet his letter was the only one considered in the case conference on August 16 which lasted just 10 minutes." Northumberland County Council insists that two highly experienced doctors - another consultant paediatrician and a medical consultant - attended the case conference.
The case adds to growing concern, highlighted in a series of articles in The Sunday Telegraph, over a huge rise in the number of babies under a year old being taken from parents. The figure was 2,000 last year, three times the number 10 years ago. Critics say councils are taking more babies from parents to help them meet adoption "targets".
John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, said the case showed "exactly what is wrong with public family law". He added: "There is absolutely no evidence that Fran would harm her child. However, a vague letter from a paediatrician who has never met her has been used in a decision to remove her baby at birth, while evidence from professionals treating her, that she would have no problems has been ignored." Mr Hemming was concerned that "vague assertions" of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy - now known as "fabricated and invented illness" - had been used to remove a number of children from parents in the North-East.
Miss Lyon came under scrutiny because she had a mental health problem when she was 16 after being physically and emotionally abused by her father and raped by a stranger. She suffered eating disorders and self-harm but, after therapy, graduated from Edinburgh University and now works for two mental health charities, Borderline and Personality Plus.
Dr Stella Newrith, a consultant psychiatrist, who treated Miss Lyon for her childhood trauma for a year, wrote to Northumberland social services stating: "There has never been any clinical evidence to suggest that Fran would put herself or others at risk, and there is certainly no evidence to suggest that she would put a child at risk of emotional, physical or sexual harm."
Despite this support, endorsed by other psychiatrists and Miss Lyon's GP, social services based their recommendation partly on a letter from Dr Martin Ward Platt, a consultant paediatrician, who was unable to attend the meeting. He wrote: "Even in the absence of a psychological assessment, if the professionals were concerned on the evidence available that Miss Holton (as Miss Lyon was briefly known), probably does fabricate or induce illness, there would be no option but the precautionary principle of taking the baby into foster care at birth, pending a post-natal forensic psychological assessment."
Miss Lyon said she was determined to fight the decision. "I know I can be a good mother to Molly. I just want the chance to prove it," she said. The council said the recommendation would be subject to further assessment and review. "When making such difficult decisions, safeguarding children is our foremost priority," a spokesman said.
* A recording of social workers threatening to take a newborn into care has been removed from the YouTube website after Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire started legal action, claiming the Data Protection Act was breached. Vanessa Brookes, 34, taped social workers telling her and her husband that they would seek to place the baby, due next month, in care, while admitting there was "no immediate risk to the child."
Is there a major political party more stupefyingly brain-dead than the Democrats? That's the ultimate takeaway from "The Argument," Matt Bai's sharply written, exhaustively reported and thoroughly depressing account of "billionaires, bloggers, and the battle to remake Democratic politics" along unabashedly "progressive" (read: New Deal and Great Society) lines. Well-financed and influential groups ranging from the Democracy Alliance to the New Democrat Network to MoveOn.org may be taking over the Democratic Party, he says, but they are not doing the heavy thinking that will fundamentally transform politics - unlike the free-market, small-government groups formed in the wake of Barry Goldwater's historic loss in the 1964 presidential race.
Bai has the grim job of covering national politics for The New York Times Magazine, which means his livelihood depends on following closely whether the Tennessee actor-turned-politician-turned-actor-again Fred Thompson will actually run for president (a decision reportedly put off until after Labor Day, allowing an anxious nation to savor the last days of summer) and taking seriously the White House fantasies of Senator Joseph Biden (at least in Biden's presence). While sympathetic to the new progressives, Bai describes a movement long on anger and short on thought.
In detailing the machinations of superrich Democratic activists like George Soros, who blew through close to $30 million of his wealth in an unsuccessful attempt to unelect George W. Bush in 2004, and barricade-bashing cyberpunks like Markos Moulitsas Zœniga, founder of the popular Daily Kos Web site, whose participant-readers attack all things Republican with the same fervor they showed when championing the already forgotten Ned Lamont in his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2006, Bai reluctantly and repeatedly owns up to a hard truth: "There's not much reason to think that the Democratic Party has suddenly overcome its confusion about the passing of the industrial economy and the cold war, events that left the party, over the last few decades, groping for some new philosophical framework."
To be sure, these are giddy times for the Dems. Since last year's elections, they're back in control of the Congress they've dominated most of the time since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term. According to a July 27-30 poll conducted for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, the general public thinks Democrats will do a much better job than Republicans not just on global warming, health care and education but also on traditional Republican bailiwicks like controlling federal spending, dealing with taxes and protecting America's interest in trade. The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, continues to lead her Republican counterpart, Rudy Giuliani, in most polls, and a generic Democrat beats a generic Republican in 2008 too.
But as John Kerry might tell you, never write off the Democrats' ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The recent farm bill passed by the House - and pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi - maintains subsidies to already prospering farmers, angering not just conservative budget cutters but liberal environmentalists. House and Senate Democrats allowed a revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that broadens the scope of warrantless wiretaps just after holding hearings denouncing the man who would issue them, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for routinely abusing his power. Although the misconceived and misprosecuted war in Iraq was the issue most responsible for their return to power, Congressional Democrats have yet to put forth a coherent or convincing program to end American military involvement there.
Little wonder, then, that the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 24 percent of American adults approve of the job the Democratic Congress is doing. That's a decline of seven points from March. There are longer-lived trends that should worry the Democrats. In 1970, according to the Harris Poll, 49 percent of Americans considered themselves Democrats (31 percent considered themselves Republicans). In 2006, the last year for which full data are available, affiliation with the Democrats stood at 36 percent (the silver lining is that the Republicans pulled just 27 percent). If the Democrats are in fact the party of Great Society liberals, the problems run even deeper. The percentage of Americans who define their political philosophy as "liberal" has been consistently stuck around 18 percent since the 1970s, and the Democratic presidential candidate has failed to crack 50 percent of the popular vote in each of the past seven elections.
"The Argument" provides plenty of reasons to think that the Democrats, owing to an off-putting mix of elitism toward the little people and glibness toward actual policy ideas, are unlikely to go over the top anytime soon. Or, almost the same thing, to make the most of any majority they hold. The book describes Soros, after Bush's victory in 2004, coming to the realization that (in Bai's words) "it was the American people, and not their figurehead, who were misguided. ... Decadence ... had led to a society that seemed incapable of conjuring up any outrage at deceptive policies that made the rich richer and the world less safe." Rob Reiner, the Hollywood heavyweight who has contributed significantly to progressive causes and who pushed a hugely expensive universal preschool ballot initiative in California that lost by a resounding 3-to-2 ratio, interrupts a discussion by announcing: "I've got to take a leak. Talk amongst yourselves." Bai never stints on such telling and unattractive details, whether describing a poorly attended and heavily scripted MoveOn.org house party or a celebrity-soaked soiree in which the host, the billionaire Lynda Resnick, declared from the top of her Sunset Boulevard mansion's spiral staircase, "We are so tired of being disenfranchised!"
Moulitsas, the Prince Hal of the left-liberal blogosphere, comes off as an intellectual lightweight, boasting to Bai that his next book will be called "The Libertarian Democrat" but admitting that he has never read Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and social theorist, who is arguably most responsible for the contemporary libertarian movement. Moulitsas' co-author (of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics"), Jerome Armstrong, talks a grand game about revolutionary change, but signed on as a paid consultant to former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, an archetypal centrist Democrat whose vapid presidential campaign ended almost as quickly as it began. When MoveOn - the Web-based "colossus" whose e-mail appeals, Bai says, have always centered on the same message: "Republicans were evil, arrogant and corrupt" - devised its member-generated agenda, it came up with a low-calorie three-point plan: "health care for all"; "energy independence through clean, renewable sources"; and "democracy restored."
Recalling a meeting of leading progressives - including Armstrong, Representative Adam Smith of Washington and Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network - just after the 2006 midterm elections, Bai writes: "Seventy years ago ... visionary Democrats had distinguished their party with the force of their intellect. Now the inheritors of that party stood on the threshold of a new economic moment, when the nation seemed likely to rise or fall on the strength of its intellectual capital, and the only thing that seemed to interest them was the machinery of politics." The argument at the heart of "The Argument" is less about vision and more about strategy.
That's bad news, even or especially for those of us who don't see large differences between Republicans and Democrats. Our political system works best - or is at least more interesting - when big ideas are being bandied about, both within parties and between them. The lack of depth among the Democrats may not hurt them in the 2008 elections - the Republicans, whose would-be presidential candidates have mostly publicly rejected evolution, are not exactly bursting with new ideas either. But it remains profoundly disappointing.
"Protests" as hot air
The APEC juggernaut has finally hit Sydney. 21 world leaders and their entourages will descend on the harbour city, while protesters from various groups are determined to make their voices heard during the week-long summit. But is there a point to all these protests?
Sydneysiders are gearing up for traffic chaos and restricted movement as security measures such as a 5km fence, public transport shutdowns and clearways are implemented in the city for the conference.
According to Prime Minister John Howard, it is the potential for violent protests rather than the visiting world leaders that has led to these severe security actions. He has stepped up his rhetoric against the potential protesters, calling them hypocrites who undermine the very values they campaign for.
So what's it all for? Protest groups say that these demonstrations help to raise awareness for issues on climate change, the war in Iraq, the rights of workers - issues that they say APEC does not support. APEC delegates however, argue that these protests are pointless and do not make a real difference. Mr Howard called on protesters to "stop for a moment and consider that if they really are worried about issues such as poverty, security and climate change, then they should support APEC and not attack it".
The protesters undoubtedly add colour to these economic and political summits. Remember the 1999 protests in Seattle during the WTO summit, or the S11 demonstrations in Melbourne in 2000 when the World Economic Forum was held? What do you remember them for - the trade issues discussed or the demonstrations? Is it fair to make such a comparison when APEC comes across as a dour multilateral organisation that sets long-term aspirational targets rather than deadlines.
So the question remains - did these protests really make a difference? Did they at least create awareness among the general public on issues such as globalisation, war, poverty, climate change and the rights of workers? Or like the international summits that they campaign against, more a symbolic talking shop, all hot air and no real action?
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 INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.