Saturday, November 03, 2007

Britain: Christmas should be 'downgraded' to help race relations says Labour think tank

Christmas should be downgraded in favour of festivals from other religions to improve race relations, says an explosive report. Labour's favourite think-tank says that because it would be hard to 'expunge' Christmas from the national calendar, 'even-handedness' means public organisations must start giving other religions equal footing. The leaked findings of its investigation into identity, citizenship and community cohesion also propose:

* 'Birth ceremonies', at which state and parents agree to 'work in partnership' to bring up children

* Action to 'ensure access' for ethnic minorities to 'largely white' countryside

* An overhaul of Britain's 'imperial' honours system

* Bishops being thrown out of the House of Lords

* An end to 'sectarian' religious education

* Flying flags other than the Union Jack.

The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research was commissioned when Nick Pearce, now head of public policy at Downing Street, was its director. IPPR has shaped many Labour policies, including ID cards, bin taxes and road pricing.

The report robustly defends multiculturalism - the idea that different communities should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture and identities. And it says immigrants should be required to acquire some proficiency in English and other aspects of British culture 'if - but only if - the settled population is willing to open up national institutions and practices to newcomers and give a more inclusive cast to national narratives and symbols'. It adds: 'Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions.

'If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other religious festivals too. 'We can no longer define ourselves as a Christian nation, nor an especially religious one in any sense. 'The empire is gone, church attendance is at historically low levels, and the Second World War is inexorably slipping from memory.'

The report, written by IPPR advisers Ben Rogers and Rick Muir, calls on Ministers to launch an 'urgent and upfront campaign' promoting a 'multicultural understanding of Britishness'. 'Multiculturalism can be shown to provide for a fairer and more liberal society and does not necessarily lead to social division and community conflict, as its critics have claimed,' it says.

Councils must act to 'ensure children mix and are able to form friendships with pupils from different backgrounds'. The report adds: 'Any liberal state should recast the civic oaths and national ceremonies, or institutions like Parliament and the monarchy, in a more multi-religious or secular form and make religious education less sectarian.' The presence of bishops in the House of Lords, for instance, is condemned as an 'anachronism' that should be removed.

The system in which parents are required to register a new baby at a register office is dismissed as 'purely bureaucratic'. The occasion should be transformed into a 'public rite', using citizenship ceremonies for immigrants as a model, the report says. 'Parents, their friends and family and the state [would] agree to work in partnership to support and bring up their child.'

Rural Britain, the report complains, 'remains a largely white place'. Much more needs to be done to 'ensure access' to the countryside for black and ethnic minority groups, disabled people and children from inner-city areas.

Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative spokesman on community cohesion, said: 'Their comments betray a breathtaking misunderstanding of what it is to be British. These proposals could actually damage cohesion.' She added: 'You don't build community cohesion by throwing out our history and denying the fundamental contribution Christianity has played and does play to our nation. 'As a British Muslim I can see that - so why others can't just staggers me.'

And she attacked ceremonies to mark the registration of a baby. 'The thought of Gordon Brown sharing responsibility with me for bringing up my children sends a shiver down my spine. I thought we got rid of communism?'


'Driving While Black'

By Thomas Sowell

Twice within the past few years, I have been pulled over by the police for driving at night without my headlights on. My car is supposed to turn on the headlights automatically when the light outside is below a certain level, but sometimes I accidentally brush against the controls and inadvertently switch them to manual. Both times I thanked the policeman because he may well have saved my life. Neither time did I get a ticket or even a warning. In each case, the policeman was white.

Recently a well-known black journalist told me of a very different experience. He happened to be riding along in a police car driven by a white policeman. Ahead of them was a car driving at night with no headlights on and, in the dark, it was impossible to see who was driving it. When the policeman pulled the car over, a black driver got out and, when the policeman told him that he was driving without his lights on, the driver said, "You only pulled me over because I am black!" This was said even though he saw the black man who was with the policeman. The driver got a ticket.

Later, when the journalist asked the cop how often he got such responses from black drivers, the reply was "About 80 percent of the time." When the same journalist asked the same question of black cops, the answer was about 30 percent of the time -- lower, but still an amazing percentage under the circumstances.

Various black "leaders" and supposed friends of blacks have in recent years been pushing the idea that "driving while black" is enough to get the cops to pull you over for one flimsy reason or another. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute wrote a book titled "Are Cops Racist?" which examined the empirical evidence behind similar claims. The evidence did not support the claims that had been widely publicized in the media. But her study was largely ignored by the media. Maybe it would have spoiled their stories.

Even before reading Heather Mac Donald's book, I found it hard to accept the sweeping claims about the dangers of "driving while black." Looking back over a long life, I could think of a number of times that I had been pulled over by the police in a number of states, without any of the things happening that are supposed to happen when you are "driving while black." Nor could I recall any member of my family who had told me of any such experiences with the police. It was hard to believe that we had all just led charmed lives all these years.

Only about half the times that I was pulled over did I end up being given a ticket. Once a policeman who pulled me over and asked for my driver's license said wearily, "Mr. Sowell, would you mind paying some attention to these stop signs, so that I don't have to write you a ticket?"

Recently I pulled off to the side of a highway to take a picture of the beautiful bay below, in Pacifica, California. After I had finished and was starting to pack up my equipment, a police car pulled off to the side of the highway behind me. "What's going on here?" the policeman asked. "Photography," I said. "You are not allowed to park here," he said. "It's dangerous." "All right," I said, "I am packing to leave right now." "Incidentally," he said as he turned to get back in his car, "You can get a better view of the bay from up on Roberts Road." I then drove up on Roberts Road and, sure enough, got a better view of the bay. And I didn't get a ticket or a warning.

In a world where young blacks, especially, are bombarded with claims that they are being unfairly targeted by police, and where a general attitude of belligerence is being promoted literally in word and song, it is hard not to wonder whether some people's responses to policemen do not have something to do with the policemen's responses to them. Neither the police nor people in any other occupation always do what is right but automatic belligerence is not the answer.


Fathers unpopular with the Left

By Bettina Arndt, writing from Australia

IS Kevin Rudd interested in men? The answer, sadly, seems to be no. Unlike John Howard, the Opposition Leader rarely talks about issues affecting many of his own gender, such as family law, child support, fatherless families, boys' education. Indeed, this potential prime minister seems content to hand over the running on most social issues to female colleagues renowned for their anti-male bias. For anyone keen to ensure men and boys receive a fair go, the prospect of a Labor government is all bad news.

As a prime minister, John Howard has been most unusual in his passion for social issues, his famous "barbecue stoppers" and his willingness to stick his neck out and speak about the role of men. Remember the debate about single women's access to IVF? While most politicians were cowed by the wave of women's rights rhetoric, Howard voiced the concern of many suggesting it isn't in our society's interest to encourage more fatherless families. Picking up on community discontent about children losing contact with fathers after divorce, he set up a bipartisan committee to look into the "rebuttable presumption of joint custody", where parents share care unless good reasons preclude it. But Labor's Jennie George and Jenny Macklin dug in and the committee was forced to water down their recommendations.

A 2005 survey of parliamentarians by Fathers4Equality showed 62 Coalition members likely to support a shared parenting amendment compared with six from Labor. Yet, resulting changes to the Family Law Act have done much to ensure children's rights to contact with both parents.

Labor reluctantly supported the legislation, with Kevin Rudd expressing great concern about the changes. He deferred to his then shadow attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, who played up the fear that children would be forced to spend time with dangerous dads.

Roxon previously dismissed the custody inquiry as "dog whistle politics to men's groups aggrieved by the Family Court". Labor's disdain for such groups is consistently demonstrated as Labor shadow ministers refuse to meet even the most respected of these organisations, despite strenuous efforts by a sprinkling of Labor backbenchers to encourage their party to take interest.

Labor MP Roger Price spent years tearing his hair out over his party's failure to implement the recommendations of the inquiry into child support that he chaired in the early 1990s. It was the Howard Government that finally tackled this controversial issue, implementing far reaching changes recommended by an expert committee to make the scheme more equitable.

Yet, Labor's determination to cater to lone-mother lobby groups shows in their recent announcement that they are monitoring the scheme to ensure the primary carer is not disadvantaged. They have also expressed concern about Government efforts to help lone mothers make the transition from welfare to work. Both policies could well suffer rollbacks if Labor ends up in power.

Labor doesn't just have it in for men. The party has consistently favoured women in the workforce over mothers at home with young children. The last time Labor was in power, families relying on one income lost ground compared with other families, suffering an average 4 per cent drop between 1982 and 1995, according to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling in Canberra. At the time, Joe De Bruyn, national chairman of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Union blamed Labor's "femocrat advisers" for consistently refusing to support women who stayed home, choosing instead to promote child care to encourage workforce participation.

With more than 75 per cent of all families relying on one income when they have infants, Howard moved to increase their support. Between 1996 and 2001, a single-income, two-child family on average weekly earnings gained 16 per cent in disposable income. Labor's more recent support for the babycare payment is a sign the feminist ideologues may be losing some of their grip on the party, but there are clear signs biases remain. One major reason Keating lost power was the perception that Labor governed for some rather than for all. The 750,000 non-resident parents in Australia are one group who should be wary that their interests have no place on a Labor agenda.


Australia: Many liberties being lost

Governments are taking our liberty in the name of protecting our health, writes Chris Berg

Are we freer today than we were half a century ago? That question is surprisingly hard to answer. The state control over the economy that characterised Australia in the 20th century is quickly being replaced with nanny state controls. Barriers to trade have been mostly eliminated, and state monopolies eradicated. But accompanying that has been explosive growth in social and environmental regulations. There are now more pages of Commonwealth legislation introduced every year than were passed in the first 40 years of federation.

In our social lives, freedom has both advanced and retreated. For example, restrictions on the sale of alcohol have eased. But they have been replaced by nanny state measures such as smoking bans. In the future, cigar bars will be as distant a memory as the six o'clock swill. Since smoking bans were enacted this year in Victoria and NSW, sales growth in pubs has dropped significantly. Hotel patronage may return to former levels - international experience seems to indicate that it will - but when smokers return to the pub, they will be less free than they were in October last year.

Unquestionably, advocates of individual liberty and personal responsibility have lost the battle on smoking. That's not surprising - smoking is reviled by everybody who doesn't enjoy it. In a liberal state, that disagreement would be sorted out by negotiation; before the bans, many restaurants and hotels already enforced non-smoking areas or disallowed it entirely. But in a nanny state, such negotiations are replaced by force of law. Similar sentiments lie behind restrictions on poker machines. The gaming industry is a political football to be kicked around at every state election, while individuals who value their freedom to enjoy the pokies are ignored.

In a nanny state, the government morphs into an over-eager insurance company, assuming the role of risk-manager for its citizens. Any risky or unhealthy endeavour has to be eliminated - individuals cannot be trusted to assess the risks themselves.

The next target is food. Numerous proposals are on the table to tackle our expanding waistlines, including banning certain types of fats, banning junk food advertising, and even taxing fatty food. Earlier this year, the Labor Party hinted that it was considering banning the use of licensed characters such as Shrek in junk- food advertising, should it win government. Last week, the Cancer Council of Australia came out in support of a general ban on junk food ads aimed at children.

However, there is little evidence that such bans work. Both Quebec and Sweden have tried them, but neither have seen any reduction in childhood obesity. There are twice as many overweight children in Sweden as there were 15 years ago, even though the Scandinavian country has had a ban on all advertising aimed at children since 1991.

Furthermore, politicians hurrying to make political capital out of medical problems such as obesity and lung cancer rarely think through the unintended consequences of their policies. Swedish advertising bans have not reduced obesity, but they have had other results. Losing the revenue from the highest-paying advertising has reduced the quality and quantity of children's television programs. Similarly, restricting the advertising market has raised the cost of toys in Sweden to 50 per cent above the average European level.

The Australian Government's hard line on tobacco has had similar consequences. Smokeless tobacco products have been swept up as the nanny state tries to purge society of everything that meets its disapproval.

It is unfortunate that Australia lacks a strong intellectual history emphasising individual liberty and personal responsibility. Our "she'll be right mate" attitude is easily swamped by our calls for government to intervene in personal decisions. Laws are passed with little reference to how they will affect our freedom. As a result, individual liberty in Australia is slowly being eroded by neglect.



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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