Sunday, September 09, 2007

Women's rights now far exceed "equality"

I'm more than happy to hold the door open for a lady or tote a doddering grandma's bag. And last I checked, no one is talking about dispatching a squadron of rosy-cheeked G.I. Janes to root out the Iraqi insurgents. So let's take that off the table.

Some will recall that back in October 1971, the House of Representatives approved the Equal Rights Amendment, which passed by an overwhelming 354-24 margin. Everyone knew it was just a matter of months until the necessary 38 states came on board.

But four months later, Phyllis Schlafly penned her history-altering essay, "What's Wrong with Equal Rights for Women?" Schlafly pointed out that American women are the most privileged of all classes of people that ever lived: "We have the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties." Abundant rights and rewards, with fewer duties - that's the pedestal.

Schlafly then posed the question, "Why should we lower ourselves to 'equal rights' when we already have the status of special privilege?" That one sentence spelled the demise of the ERA. In the end, it was wrath of millions of American women who, fearing the loss of that special privilege, brought down the Equal Rights Amendment.

After the ERA heaved its last breath in 1979, feminists bitterly accused Mrs. Schlafly of "hating" women. But in truth the bra-burners took their next cue from the conservative icon. This was their ploy: Instead of striving for mere equality, why not seek to expand women's special privileges - all the while claiming to be working for equality? And that proved to be the winning formula.

Over the next 25 years, the fems engineered the passage of a series of laws and programs that afforded ever-expanding legal rights and services to women. Those laws included the Violence Against Women Act, the Women's Educational Equity Act, women's health programs, the 1996 welfare reform, and many more.

How did the Girls of Guile get away with their equality ruse, when in fact they were duplicitously scheming behind the scenes to foist a hierarchical society on the rest of us? First, they relentlessly shaded the truth - consider Hillary Clinton's laughable canards that women suffer from wage discrimination, were routinely excluded from medical research, are more likely to be the victims of war, and so on. Before long the liberal media, beholden to the mantra of victim-journalism, became a shill for feminist ideology. And the conservative media, reflexively bound to the chivalrous ideal and emasculated by the ideological assault, never arose to challenge the falsehoods.

The real target of this blitz, though, was the traditional family. Women were hectored into thinking motherhood is unfulfilling and were rooted out of their homes to ascend the corporate ladder. Babes still in diapers were shunted off to day care. Fathers were told they were superfluous and made to feel guilty for wanting to protect and provide for their families.

Then a stunning series of legal developments steadily eroded men's roles in their families. In 1992 the U.S. Supreme Court decreed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that a wife didn't need to inform her husband of an impending abortion. Domestic violence laws allowed women to send men packing without any proof of abuse. And divorced dads were reduced to mere visitors in their children's lives.

No surprise, word soon leaked out and young men began to lose interest. Three years ago Rutgers University conducted a national survey of our nation's most eligible bachelors -- single, heterosexual men ages 24-35. The researchers were in for a shock: 53% of men said they were not interested in getting married anytime soon, and 22% declared they had no intention of ever tying the knot. Marriage rates began to plummet. For the first time in our nation's history, single-adult households now outnumber traditional dad-and-mom families.

So let's revisit our modest proposal -- is it time to scale back the formidable pedestal that the rad-fems have foisted on us in recent years? Chivalry certainly has its place, and yes, women sometimes need special protections. But taken too far, chivalry can weaken the bedrock institutions of free societies and leave supposedly "liberated" women dependent on the neo-paternalism of the Nanny State. Men and women need to band together in common defense of the family. Time is running short.


Canada: 'Burqa voting' decision undermines electoral integrity & ballot box equality

The Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD) regards as unconscionable Elections Canada's reported new policy of allowing Muslim women to wear identity-concealing face veils, including full burqas, when voting in upcoming federal by-elections in Quebec and Ontario. Canada's federal elections' regulator says Muslim women can "vote veiled" merely by identifying themselves with a driver's licence and second piece of identification. As an alternative, "covered" women need only swear an oath and have another voter vouch for them.

Outbursts of public condemnation overturned a similar initiative earlier this year by Quebec's Election Commission. The Commission was forced to reverse its consent to "burqa voting" when offended Quebec citizens and public interest groups threatened civil disobedience at election time. Highlighting the problem of double standards and arbitrariness, voters promised to attend polls with their faces covered by paper bags, sheets, hockey masks and other head coverings, and to assert "sensitivity" and special religious privilege as their justification for doing so.

"Elections Canada's initiative violates the basic premise of public voting in Canada and the principle of equality of all Canadians before the ballot box. It is an invitation to fraud, misrepresentation and the debasing of our democratic electoral system," said David Harris, CCD Senior Fellow for National Security.

Beyond the ballot box, religious face coverings have at times been misused in Canada and around the world to facilitate fraud and other criminal acts. Veiling has been used abroad to advance terrorist operations, including suicide bombings. Such risks compelled France to ban the burqa in certain public spheres, and the Netherlands' government among others is considering doing the same. And last fall in Quebec, ADQ leader Mario Dumont went beyond the ballot box issue, stating that he did not "rule out the possibility of laws to make illegal the wearing of the burqa." Yet some of Canada's elites, apparently unfazed by the threat to electoral integrity and public safety, appear helpless in the face of radical lobbying in the name of "accommodation".

"Canadians call upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leaders Stephane Dion, Gilles Duceppe, and Jack Layton, to demand an end to Elections Canada's ill-considered policy of diminished electoral scrutiny for one religious group," said Harris.

"Government must promote one secular law for all, and an end to the appeasing of radical fundamentalism in whatever guise or disguise."


Loosen curbs on our liberty

Comment from the publisher of "The Australian"

DAVID Marr's essay "His Master's Voice: The Corruption of Public Debate Under Howard", weaves such a tapestry of alleged lies, deception, censorship, intimidation and persecution that, if we believed it all, Australians should be in a state of despair. While I agree with Marr some of the time, I can't accept much of his reasoning (in his article, published in Quarterly Essay Issue 26). Debate in Australia is vibrant and intense at all levels of society and through all media: newspapers, radio, television, at public meetings, through the internet and in journals like this.

The problem I see is the degree to which the flow of information that generates or fuels informed debate has been stifled. When information is suppressed, our right to know how we are governed and how our courts dispense justice is diminished. Our democracy loses some of its spark. Unlike Marr, I think there are many underlying causes and I am optimistic (they) can befixed.

Marr's passionate analysis of life during John Howard's 11 years as Prime Minister is undermined by the zeal and doggedness of his ideology and jaundiced by his dislike of the man. The problems we now face have occurred at the hands of Australian governments of all political stripes and at federal, state and local levels. Many hundreds of statutes, some federal, some unique to different states, have cumulatively created a wall of prohibitions (that hampers) what Australians can know about how our governments and courts function. It is, quite frankly, unhelpful to lay all the blame at the gates of the Lodge.

Some of the worst examples of the erosion of free speech can be seen in the adoption of spin at all levels of government and business. Debates on issues as important as this should be conducted with a view to achieving change rather than polarising positions so that problems simply become entrenched. Government decision-makers are unlikely to be swayed by rhetoric describing Howard as an evil object of derision. For example, Marr's statement: "After being belittled for most of his political career, Howard came to power determined public debate would be conducted on his terms." Belittled for most of his political career? Really? Only by his political opponents.

Marr applauds actor Terry Servio's "devastating" portrait (of Howard) in the stage show Keating! The Musical that made him "a figure of fun, but strangely unfunny". Do these observations advance the cause of free speech? Marr accuses the Government of discrediting its critics to undermine their arguments. Isn't Marr guilty of the same? Howard may well have come to power determined public debate would be conducted on his terms, but show me the politician who doesn't. There is no doubt he has deliberately built a public relations machine that ensures the "correct" spin is applied to stories affecting his Government. It rivals the propaganda machines of previous governments.

But it is disingenuous to suggest the erosion of free speech has come about as a result of a Machiavellian blueprint carefully implemented over just the past decade and by just one man. The erosion has been gradual, over at least three decades, and has occurred at the hands of commonwealth and state governments of all colours. Still, an event that happened halfway through Howard's tenure significantly compounded the problem: the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Marr contends that 9/11 was just one of a string of events, including the internet, that "changed everything". I believe 9/11 differed immensely because it was an attack on democracy and capitalism and on innocent human life that until then was inconceivable. The 9/11 attack created the climate of public acceptance that strong measures had to be introduced to counter the terrorist threat, and this was heightened in Australia by the Bali bombing and our participation in the coalition of the willing in Iraq.

These events led to a string of anti-terrorism laws that gave rise to intrusive surveillance, holding of suspects without charge and curbs on the security matters that journalists could report. While the Government regards this as a practical approach to extraordinary events and the public generally (sees) it as a necessary evil, there must be balance between security and preservation of civil liberties and the public's right to know. The recent Haneef saga is proof enough that even in times of heightened security, there must be an open process.

If citizens are to effectively participate in a democracy, form opinions freely and to protect their rights and interests, they need access to information directly or via the media on theirbehalf. But across all levels of government, this balance has shifted away from the people to governments, which makes today's freedom of information laws unworkable.

The incidents are numerous. Just recently in NSW, despite repeated attempts, access was denied to an Education Department report on violence in schools. We were also not allowed to know which pubs have the highest levels of alcohol-related incidents of assault and robbery. These surely are things that the public should be allowed to know.

At the commonwealth level, News Limited is still smarting from our costly two-year battle between The Australian and the Treasurer, Peter Costello, for the release of details of the effect on taxpayers of bracket creep, and the first home buyers scheme. Costello believed release of this information was not in the public interest. The High Court agreed his decision should be final, but I believe the media's role is to lift the veil on exactly this kind of information.

Over the 25 years the commonwealth's Freedom of Information Act has been in place, decisions like this have chipped away at the integrity of the act. An entrenched culture of resistance to disclosure of information has developed and technological changes render it at odds with the way the modern media operates. It's time for a wholesale overhaul of the act.

Another way in which debate is stifled can be seen in the recent conviction of Herald Sun reporters Gerard McManus and Michael Harvey for refusing to divulge the identity of someone who embarrassed the Government by leaking information about the workings of Veterans Affairs policy. It has become commonplace for federal police to investigate journalists to identify leaks and to relentlessly pursue public servants suspected of being informants, even when the information they have leaked is patently in the public interest. The man charged in the Harvey-McManus case was convicted and later freed through lack of evidence, but he lost his job. This could be perceived as deliberate intimidation to demonstrate the consequences for any other public servant who might consider leaking.

Perhaps the worst case of trying to gag an issue followed The Australian's disclosure of lax security and organised crime at Sydney airport, which was found by an inquiry to be chillingly accurate. But rather than fix the problems, the Government unleashed the federal police to seek and destroy the whistleblower. It's my view that in a healthy democracy there would be no need for whistleblowers because governments would be transparent when it came to matters of genuine public interest. Unfortunately, there are times when governments get things very wrong and exposure is necessary. The security issues at Sydney airport were serious and exposure of them led to an inquiry and a $200 million upgrade. Was the decision by the whistleblower to expose the problems, or the work by The Australian to publish them, in the public interest or not?

Across all Australian jurisdictions, there must be a process and protection for public servants to make public interest disclosures. But given that, even with sound protection, some public servants will not use the process, it needs to be accompanied by laws that allow journalists to protect the identity of their sources in cases of public interest.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's recent tinkering with the Evidence Act to give judges the discretion to decide whether to force journalists to give up their sources is inadequate. The new act does not provide real protection for journalists as the burden of proof remains on the journalist to show why they should not be compelled to reveal their source. It should be the other way around, where the prosecution must show why disclosure is necessary.

Judges must also take some responsibility for the lack of transparency. An important issue overlooked by Marr is the propensity for judges in all jurisdictions to close access to courts and suppress details of cases, often with scant reason. Our media is buckling under more than a thousand court suppression orders preventing publication of certain facts from court cases. Some of these, for example protecting the identity of an undercover police operative, are clearly justified, but many are not. For example, is it fair that a public figure may be protected from embarrassment by having his identity in a court case suppressed? And should an entire anti-terrorism trial be closed even though not all the information is related to national security?

It seems our courts increasingly view the media as a nuisance. No doubt we are sometimes, but shoving us away and denying us access to the workings of our justice system is dangerously short-sighted. Democracy relies on the fact justice is not only done but is seen to be done.

Recently the mishmash of Australia's defamation laws were made uniform. While not perfect, the defamation laws have improved vastly, and this leads me to be a much more optimistic man than Marr is. The significant progress made shows how, with leadership at the commonwealth level, improvement and consistency could also be achieved in areas such as suppression orders.

So how did the erosion of public debate happen? Marr believes it happened because Howard in 1996 set out on a deliberate campaign to cower his critics, intimidate the ABC, gag scientists, silence non-government organisations by threatening their finances, neuter Canberra's mandarins, curtail parliamentary scrutiny, censor the arts, ban books, criminalise protest and prosecute whistleblowers. I'm less paranoid.

I also have trouble accepting Marr's analysis of the Australian character. He believes Australians project themselves as easygoing larrikins with contempt for authority, when in reality he says they passively accept it. He traces this to the mood of the British settlers from whom most of us descend. He says those who settled America did so to secure freedom in a time of repression, hence their preoccupation with freedom. Meanwhile, those who settled Australia were content with British law and customs and compliance with authority. But then he makes the extraordinary claim that Australian children are taught not to speak. "It's a big part of our upbringing, learning to shut up, to listen, to wait until we're spoken to," he says. "Somehow the habit of holding back has been drilled into the character of the nation." He continues: "Perhaps at some obscure level we still think keeping quiet will do us good when Canberra tells us what we can say, what we can know, when we can speak."

I grew up in a different Australia. The one I see encourages children to think and talk and develop self-confidence and be part of a vibrant open multicultural and prosperous society. And the evidence of this is everywhere. In Australia we talk, we question, we read, we listen to dissenting views and we work for change. We're doing it now: three months ago, an unprecedented coalition of Australia's major media organisations formed to work for improvements to free speech. I'm proud that News Limited is part of that coalition and I'm confident that we really can effect change.

Of course, freedom comes with responsibility and we must continually strive to ensure that our media deserves to represent the public in its right to know. I accept that we haven't always been as careful and responsible as we should be in our reporting. But errors by the media should not allow us to lose sight of the far bigger issues at stake and we should all accept that a healthy democracy is also a place where people argue, disagree, criticise and speak out fearlessly when they believe it's important to do so.



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 is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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