Saturday, October 27, 2007

Must support homosexuality to be a foster parent in Britain

A Christian couple who have taken in 28 children have been forced to give up being foster parents after they refused to promote homosexuality. Vincent Matherick, 65, and his 61-year-old wife Pauline were told by social services that they had to comply with legislation requiring them to treat homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality.

They said that officials had advised them that if children in their care expressed an interest in homosexuality, they would be expected to take them to gay support group meetings.The couple said that while they would neither condemn nor condone homosexuality, they could not actively promote it because of their religious beliefs. The couple, who faced being removed from the carers' register, decided to stop fostering early. As a result, their 11-year-old foster son is being moved to a children's unit.

Mr Matherick, a Christian minister and a primary school governor, said: "We have never discriminated against anybody but I cannot promote homosexuality when I believe it is against the word of God. It's terrible that we've been forced into this corner. "They were saying that we had to be prepared to talk about sexuality with 11-year-olds, which I don't think is appropriate anyway, but not only that, to be prepared to explain how gay people date."

Mrs Matherick said: "We feel we are being discriminated against as Christians, and many others are finding themselves in our position." The Mathericks, who have three children of their own, are ministers at the non-conformist South Chard Christian Church, near their home in Chard, Somerset. They have cared for 28 children through Somerset County Council's social services department.

In February this year a social worker told the couple that the council was obliged to implement the Government's sexual orientation regulations. The rules, enacted this year, make it illegal for the suppliers of goods or services to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, said: "It's absolutely horrendous that Christian men and women doing their bit for the community are being discriminated against because of their beliefs. I'm quite certain that social services would never dare to ask a member of any other established religion to agree to such a stance on homosexuality."

Valerie Riches, the founder president of Family and Youth Concern, said: "This is rather typical of the distorted view of equality that this Government seems to have."

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said that it was obliged to implement the regulations. "I am not suggesting that it is not very difficult for some people, but there is still an obligation under the law," he said. A spokesman for the council's children's and young people's directorate said it was about "equality issues" not homosexuality. "It is not about promoting homosexuality, it is about foster carers being aware of equality issues," he said, adding that the council did not expect to lose any more carers as a result of the rules.


Federal attack on property rights and local control

Woe betide you if you own property in one of the huge new "heritage" areas

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Celebrating America's Heritage Act" (H.R. 1483) which would send over $135 million of federal pork to special interest groups in select members' districts. The bill would create six new national heritage areas, including the controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) heritage area, and increase federal funding for nine existing heritage areas by 50 percent. The bill passed by a vote of 291-122, along mostly party lines.

Although the bill passed, the measure faced more opposition than any heritage area bill in 13 years, a sign that the momentum is now against such boondoggles, says the National Center for Public Policy Research. "It is encouraging to see a growing number of congressmen reject this brand of pork barrel self-dealing," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for The National Center for Public Policy Research. "However, far too many in Congress would still rather load the coffers of pet special interest groups at the expense of fiscal sanity, local rule and the rights of property owners."

National heritage areas are creations of Congress in which special interest groups, whose work at times has been funded through secret congressional earmarks, team up with the National Park Service to influence decisions over local land use previously made exclusively by elected local governments and private landowners.

"The House was asked to choose between the rights of constituents and the demands of lobbyists, and 291 members chose the lobbyists," said David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Celebrating America's Heritage Act is a bill by lobbyists, for the benefit of lobbyists, with the taxpayer picking up the tab."

Donald Pongrace, a lobbyist with Akin Gump, wrote the legislative language for JTHG and serves on the board of the JTHG Partnership, according to the group's website. JTHG is one of the special interest groups that would receive $1 million per year under the initiative. Mr. Pongrace's wife, Olwen Pongrace, works at the JTHG Partnership as vice president. Earlier, the JTHG Partnership received a one million-dollar earmark through the 2005 transportation bill. At the time, the group was not incorporated. "A $1 million earmark buried among 6,372 others to an unincorporated group ought to raise a huge red flag," said David Ridenour. "This leaves open the possibility that taxpayer funds were used to lobby for more taxpayer funds."

H.R. 1483 passed despite the objections of Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Virgil Goode (VA), Robert Goodlatte (VA), Thelma Drake (VA), J. Randy Forbes (VA) and Joe Pitts (PA), who represent three of the four states that would be affected by The Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area designation. The heritage area would cut through Representative Barlett's and Representative Goode's districts, posing a direct threat to the rights of their constituents. It could present problems for constituents of Representatives Forbes, Pitts, and Goodlatte, as the members' districts are near the Route 15 corridor. House members were provided with a map number (P90/80,000), but not the map, outlining the heritage area's boundaries.

"Representatives Bartlett and Goode asked that their districts be removed from the heritage area, but their request was rejected in Committee," said Peyton Knight. "To refuse such a reasonable request is a rather stunning breach of House tradition."


Incompetent scholarship

A few excerpts below from a very thorough review by Walter Russell Mead of "The Israel Lobby" by John J. Mearsheimer, Stephan M. Walt

Summary: Sloppy execution means "The Israel Lobby," however commendable the intentions of its authors, will have the opposite of its desired effect: impeding new thinking about U.S. policy in the Middle East rather than advancing the debate

What was true for Clinton in 2006 was true overall. Pro-Israel PACs contributed slightly more than $3 million to House and Senate candidates in the 2006 election cycle -- less than one percent of total PAC spending in that cycle. There were a few individual races in which pro-Israel contributions played a significant role -- especially Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman's -- but in the overall context of U.S. campaign finance, "pro-Israel" money is a drop in the bucket. Moreover, in both 2000 and 2004, much more "pro-Israel" money went to Democratic candidates than went to Republican candidates, and Jewish voters overwhelmingly opposed George W. Bush. If Jewish voters overwhelmingly voted against Bush in both elections, and pro-Israel political groups gave much more money to Democrats than Republicans, how, exactly, did the lobby later control the Republican Congress it so signally opposed? And why should it bear particular blame for the policies of a president whose election it tried and failed to block?

None of this means that the role of pro-Israel groups in campaign finance should not be studied, or that relatively small amounts of money strategically placed and timed cannot have an impact. But Mearsheimer and Walt do not even list, much less take on, the various topics that an examination of the limited role "pro-Israel" money plays in U.S. politics would have to address. This is not serious scholarship.


As one might expect from international relations specialists, the book treats the geopolitics of the Middle East more professionally than U.S. domestic politics. Mearsheimer and Walt concede that U.S. and Israeli interests overlapped during the Cold War; for somewhat different reasons, both the United States and Israel wanted to keep the Soviets out of the region. They argue, however, that the strategic link weakened significantly after 1989. They find the close U.S.-Israeli relationship since then increasingly anomalous; the two countries' interests, they believe, are diverging even as U.S. policy remains firmly aligned with Jerusalem. Since this alignment, Mearsheimer and Walt argue, is not driven by common strategic interests or common moral values, it must be driven by the power of the Israel lobby.

Their geopolitical analysis of Israel's position is interesting and in many respects useful. But Mearsheimer and Walt seem not to see how it undercuts the importance of the Israel lobby. According to them, Israel is the dominant regional power, and its enormous advantages in weapons and technology are so great that it has relatively little need for U.S. support at this point. Both the military and the economic aid that the United States offers, Mearsheimer and Walt tell us, can be substantially reduced or even eliminated without undermining Israel's security. But they do not carry this point through to its logical conclusion: if U.S. aid is of relatively limited value to Israel, then threats to trim or withhold that aid will have relatively little impact on Israel's behavior. And if such aid is of relatively little importance in the regional power balance, then the efforts of the Israel lobby to extract more aid from the U.S. Congress are not really that important. In short, U.S. aid does not change the power balance, and withholding that aid would have little impact on Israel's negotiating position -- meaning that the Israel lobby, whatever its makeup or power over the U.S. political system, plays no significant role in determining the course of events in the Middle East.

Mearsheimer and Walt also significantly underestimate the importance of the U.S.-Israeli alliance to the United States. If Israel determined that U.S. foreign policy was shifting in a hostile direction, it would have the option of diversifying its great-power base of support. Given Israel's overwhelming military position in the Middle East, and its ability to provide a new partner with advanced U.S. weapons and intelligence information, China, Russia, and India might find an alliance with Israel well worth the cost in popularity points across the Arab world. Israel has changed partners before: it won the 1948-49 war with weapons from the Soviet bloc, partnered with France and the United Kingdom in 1956, and considered France (the source of Israel's nuclear technology) its most important ally in 1967. This potential shift is of major concern to the United States. One of the key U.S. objectives in the Middle East since World War II has been to prevent any other outside power from gaining a strategic foothold there. Alliances between other great powers and Israel -- the dominant military power in the world's most vital and crisis-ridden region -- could create major problems for U.S. foreign policy and significantly reduce the United States' ability to advance the Middle East peace process. Accordingly, maintaining the United States' relationship with Israel while managing its costs is the real challenge for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Mearsheimer and Walt are correct that returning Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table -- with proposals based on but in some ways going further than those that President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak presented at Camp David in 2000 -- is probably the best way to go. But as Mearsheimer and Walt show, Washington cannot simply impose that agenda on Israel by making threats. Israel cannot be compelled to negotiate on U.S. terms; it must be persuaded. Mearsheimer and Walt's goal of a fresh start in the peace process requires carrots, not sticks. And if and when those carrots are put on the table, will Mearsheimer and Walt denounce the offer as yet another triumph for the Israel lobby, or will they see it as an instance of the United States promoting its interests by coordinating policy with an indispensable local power in one of the world's most explosive regions?


Domestic politics, geopolitics: next is cultural politics -- and especially the question of anti-Semitism. There have already been public charges of anti-Semitism, and more will come. Let me be unambiguously clear: those charges go too far. Mearsheimer and Walt state very clearly that they are not anti-Semites, and nothing in this book proves them wrong. That said, some of the criticism that they will receive on this score is the result of their own easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression. A little more care on their part could have done wonders in keeping what was bound to be a very heated discussion focused more tightly on the merits of the case.

The authors do what anti-Semites have always done: they overstate the power of Jews. Although Mearsheimer and Walt make an effort to distinguish their work from anti-Semitic tracts, the picture they paint calls up some of the ugliest stereotypes in anti-Semitic discourse. The Zionist octopus they conjure -- stirring up the Iraq war, manipulating both U.S. political parties, shaping the media, punishing the courageous minority of professors and politicians who dare to tell the truth -- is depressingly familiar. Some readers will be so overpowered by this familiar bugbear that they will conclude that the authors are deliberately invoking it. In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt have come honestly to a mistaken understanding of the relationship between pro-Israel political activity and U.S. policy and strategic interests. It is no crime to be wrong, and being wrong about Jews does not necessarily make someone an anti-Semite. But rhetorical clumsiness and the occasional unfortunate phrase make their case harder to defend.

One problem is that Mearsheimer and Walt decontextualize the activity of Jews and their allies. Attempts by pro-Zionist students and pressure groups to challenge university decisions to grant tenure or otherwise reward professors deemed too pro-Arab are portrayed as yet another sign of the long reach and dangerous power of the octopus. In fact, these efforts are part of a much broader, and deeply deplorable, trend in American education, by which every ethnic, religious, and sexual group seeks to define the bounds of acceptable discourse. African Americans, Native Americans, feminists, lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons -- organizations purporting to represent these groups and many others have done their best to drive speakers, professors, and textbooks with the "wrong" views out of the academy. Zionists have actually come relatively late to this particular pander fest, and they are notable chiefly for their relatively weak performance in the perverse drive to block free speech on campus.

The authors also end up adopting a widely used tactic that has a special history in anti-Semitic literature. When anti-Semitic writers and politicians make vicious attacks, Jews are in a double bind: refrain from responding with outrage and the charge becomes accepted as a fact, express utter loathing at the charge and give anti-Semites the opportunity to pose as the victims of a slander campaign by venomous Jews. Nazi propagandists honed this into an effective weapon. Anyone who lived through or has immersed himself in the history of the golden age of European anti-Semitism is keenly aware of this tactic, and when one sees it employed in writing about Israel or the Israel lobby, one naturally assumes the worst: that the use of a tactic long popular among anti-Semites is a sign that a contemporary writer shares their deplorable worldview. The greatest living practitioner of this passive-aggressive form of provocation (and not just against Jews) is former President Jimmy Carter, whose recently published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid set off a firestorm by implying a parallel between the Israel of today and apartheid South Africa. Mearsheimer and Walt wag their fingers at those awful Jews who "smeared" the meek and innocent Lamb of Georgia. How dare the lobby be provoked by Carter's provocation!

A mental disorder that invades minds, bodies and society

A review of "The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion" by Bernard Harrison

In this absorbing book, Harrison examines the New Antisemitism as it manifests today on the Left Liberal side of the political spectrum, with special reference to the BBC and publications like The New Statesman, The Guardian and The Independent. In the opening chapter, he defines the meaning, differentiating between "social" and "political" Antisemitism. The political variety is that in which Jewish people collectively are viewed as being involved in a conspiracy to promote political agendas objectionable to those on the Liberal Left. They are moreover seen as an obstacle to world peace because of the existence of the State of Israel.

In the second chapter he dissects the January 14, 2002 issue of The New Statesman with its infamous cover art and articles by Dennis Sewell and John Pilger, as well as the faux apology by editor Peter Wilby that followed reader complaints. The brilliance of this chapter lies in the understated and tactful way that Harrison exposes the rhetorical techniques employed to slander the Jewish people under the guise of criticizing Israeli actions. In the same cautious manner he reveals the lies, inconsistencies and contradictions of people like Robert Fisk and others.

Chapter 3: Jews Against Israel, demonstrates the absurdity of the notion that all Jews support Israel. Harrison calls it "diversity denial", which is nothing else but an aspect of racism that has always been a feature of political Antisemitism. He deals not only with the overwhelming evidence of Jewish sympathy with the plight of the Palestinian Arabs versus the lack of such by Arabs towards Jews, but also with those vicious Jewish enemies of the Jewish people and the state of Israel like Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, with reference to the work of Sartre, Alan Dershowitz and French author Daniel Lindenberg amongst others.

The next chapter explores the ways in which moral hyperbole and deliberate disinformation are used to demonize Israel. Quoting Thomas Friedman, he queries why this stance, which draws upon a phony humanitarian justification, is so universal amongst the liberal elites in the arts, academia and media. Criticism of Israel is not Antisemitism, but singling out Israel out of all proportion to the situation in the Middle East and the world at large definitely is. In the rest of this chapter he refutes many of the smears against Israel based on concepts like colonialism and the single state solution, the proponents of which ignore the massacres, acts of terror and statements of Arab leaders before and after 1948. Also discussed is the 1919 agreement between Emir Faisal and Chaim Weitzmann.

Next, Harrison looks at definitions of fascism. The phenomenon is not confined to the political Right, since the USSR was as fascist as the Third Reich. Nor is it absent in the Third World. The inability to distinguish between people and their leaders is a fallacy often made by patronising Western intellectuals. As for the accusation that Israel is a "racist, apartheid" state, the author argues that it is instead a nearly textbook example of a multicultural society. There are Black Israelis and Arab Jews and anyone can convert to Judaism. In Israel the holy places and right to worship of all religions are respected, which is not the case over vast areas of the planet.

One reason for the hysterical criticism is that the Left has abandoned economics and history for morality. Chapter 8 deals with the notion of guilt and shows how extravagant the Left has become in its moral condemnation and accusation. The grotesqueries of inter alia Orla Guerin of the BBC and Robert Fisk of The Independent are examined here. In this view, all Jewish Israelis are "guilty" while the Arab World bears no responsibility whatever for the plight of the Palestinian Arabs. See also Can We Trust the BBC? by Robin Aitken.

The concluding chapter attempts to find the reason for this state of affairs. Harrison believes that a longing for simple answers and instant moral conviction - the easy soundbite - is part of the problem. But he also shows that much of the nature of the criticism resembles the "old" Antisemitism - same assumptions, imagery and concepts are employed. The fad of Moral Relativism is not applied to both sides; it is used for justifying suicide/homicide bombings but never to the measures taken by Israel to defend itself. Some victims are more equal than others.

The Appendix is a bibliography of books and articles devoted to carefully documented examples of the New Antisemitism, including La Nouvelle Judeophobie by Pierre-Andre Taguieff, The Return of Anti-Semitism by Gabriel Schoenfeld, The New Anti-Semitism by Phyllis Chesler and Occidentalism by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. On the subject of Jews opposed to Israel, Jewish Divide Over Israel, edited by Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor and Those Who Forget the Past by Ron Rosenbaum and Cynthia Ozick are excellent books. UK government sources and the relevant website addresses of the two main political parties in the UK are also provided. The book concludes with an index.

Despite the disturbing subject matter, The Resurgence Of Anti-Semitism is a gripping read on account of its eloquence. As a polemic, it perhaps treads too softly, trying to persuade by reason. I agree with Andre Glucksmann that the concept of a contagion of hatred must be taken literally as a mental disorder that invades minds, bodies and society. Such an outbreak inoculates itself against those who oppose it and is immune to reason.

It is interesting to compare Harrison's approach with that of Nick Cohen in What's Left?. In my opinion, the most valuable book on Antisemitism, exploring all its shape-shifting manifestations down the ages and across the political-religious spectrum, is Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, as it engages with the neglected spiritual dimension of this mental disease. I recommend The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther by Yoram Hazony, to learn how to deal with it.



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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