Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stupid British rules say homes must be safe for robbers

A woman who suffered a break-in robbery in which she lost some valuable antiques worth "thousands" has been told she could face a significant liability if she beefs up her home's security, and a returning robber would be injured. "If I have got to live behind locked doors for the rest of my life, I hope the rest of my life isn't very long," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Rugby, England, Advertiser. "But why would I want my house safe for these people? It's crazy," she said.

The woman had antiques and personal items worth "thousands" stolen from her home during her absence to attend to the needs of her brother, suffering with cancer. The invaders smashed through a security gate and broke windows in order to get inside, police reports said.

During their investigation, Rugby police provided her with a crime-fighting booklet that discusses home security. But she told the Advertiser when she asked about putting in a new security fence and upgrading its capabilities, she was told the laws on liability meant she risked a police investigation herself if any trespassers hurt themselves climbing it. She had wanted to add barbed wire to the fence in order to reduce the ease with which the robbers apparently gained access to her home.

But the Warwickshire Police "Operation Impact" booklet, which gives victims information on crime-fighting, suggested she could risk a prosecution herself if someone would be hurt. "I respect that if the postman or the gas man calls, they don't expect to hurt himself. But I was speechless - you couldn't make it up. I think these laws show we have gone soft in the head," she told the newspaper.


A feminist who believes that some values are better than others!

She will become a conservative yet!

'We are just protecting women's rights to take their clothes off," was the Irish budget airline Ryanair's response when it came under fire this month for a charity calendar that showcased its female employees, bikini babe-style.

The right to pose for photographs in skimpy clothes probably wasn't what Mary Wollstonecraft had in mind when she wrote A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman back in 1792, but for all its seemingly unintended humour, the statement is difficult to argue with.

Ryanair might have been looking to achieve more through the calendar than simply supporting the desire of some of its staff to disrobe, but few would argue that they shouldn't be allowed to produce it. As the airline's spokeswoman pointed out, none of the women who posed for the calendar were forced. It was their choice to do so.

Choice. There are few words in the English language that validate a course of action quite so seamlessly. To attack someone's choices is to attack their very person, to suggest that you know better than they do. For women especially, the word represents freedom and independence - and for good reason. Historically speaking, the feminist movement's most significant wins have been about giving women choices about their lives: from deciding who runs the country they live in, to financial independence, to being able to decide when and even if to have children.

Choice equals power, and that means that with the right linguistic packaging, almost anything - no matter how controversial - can be presented as empowering. Take cosmetic surgery, transformed from a curtsy to unattainable beauty standards into a procedure that empowers those who undertake it to look their best. Or Sex And The City's Charlotte, who defended her decision to quit her job to try to have a baby by arguing: "The women's movement is supposed to be about choice. And if I choose to quit my job, that is my choice." As Charlotte and many others like her would have it, any choice a woman makes is a positive, politically empowering one - so long as it is hers.

If feminism has allowed its sisters to choose to become lawyers, never marry and keep their grooming au naturel, why should they not equally be permitted to wear high heels, bake muffins or pose for swimsuit calendars - or as many women do, pick a little from column A and a little from column B? If that is what they choose to do, how are their choices any less valid, even any less feminist, than any other woman's?

This kind of relativism isn't entirely negative. It keeps the question of what defines feminism open to be redefined by the people it's supposed to represent, and it doesn't assume that the same set of solutions will work for every woman simply because of her sex. But it also ignores the important reality that not all choices are positive or empowering - either for the person making them, or for society as a whole. Nor are all choices that women make "feminist" simply by virtue of the fact that they were made by women.

No one makes decisions in a vacuum, and our choices are shaped as much by the behaviour we see rewarded - by our friends, family, colleagues, the media - as they are by our own desires. Even before that, they are limited by government policy, our financial means, our individual strengths and weaknesses. So it's not surprising that, in a society in which women are valued largely for their appearances, many women would choose to trade at least partly on the way they look. Or that when women are paid less than and occupy leadership positions in far smaller numbers than men, women are the sex more likely to cut back on work to give priority to family life.

Equally, it is important to acknowledge that our choices have impacts beyond ourselves. Choice may be sacred, but it's not a values-free zone. One arena in which we have begun to recognise this is consumption: we know that flying contributes to global warming, that our water resources are limited, that buying clothing produced by sweatshop labour is unethical.

Similarly, the choices we make elsewhere in our lives - how to present ourselves, how to conduct our relationships, how to balance work and life - have social and political implications. Our choices determine which behaviours are normalised and rewarded as much as they reflect the status quo. The decisions individual women make have implications for the status of women as a group. And some decisions will have more broadly positive effects than others.

This doesn't mean that women should be denied the right to determine how they run their own lives, or that only certain ways of living qualify as "feminist" or "empowering" - what does qualify will and should remain permanently up for discussion. But it does mean that our right to choose comes with certain responsibilities, and one of these is that we are prepared to defend our decisions in a manner that goes beyond "well, it's my life, and it's my choice". Yes, we should be free to make the decisions we believe will make us happiest, but in doing so we need to keep our eyes open to the values that underlie them, and recognise that our choices have impacts beyond us as individuals.


Affirmative action may be on ballots

A campaign is underway to ban affirmative action in five states already embroiled in debates over illegal immigration. Efforts are proceeding in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma to put initiatives on November ballots that would end programs to increase minority and female participation in government and education. The push is led by Ward Connerly, a California management consultant who successfully ran similar campaigns in California, Washington and Michigan. It is part of Connerly's effort to ban race- and gender-based policies nationwide.

The initiatives will add to the racially charged atmosphere in state elections, says Michael Kanner, a political science professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. All five states have had big increases in their Hispanic population since 2000, leading to racial tensions and debates over illegal immigration.

Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma have passed the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration. Among their provisions, they penalize employers of undocumented workers. In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt is pushing for tougher immigration laws and enforcement. In Nebraska, towns with large food processing companies that employ Hispanic immigrants have been targeted by federal immigration raids.

"It's about race in both issues," Kanner says. "Affirmative action, by its nature, is associated with minorities. In Colorado, for example, the dominant minorities are Hispanic, so it is inevitable that the two will be tied together."

Connerly, founder of the American Civil Rights Institute, a group working to end affirmative action, says, "We will deliberately try to stay away from the issue of illegal immigration. It's a tangential issue that we cannot control." He says, "It's a simple principle we are promoting: equal treatment for all Americans." Connerly says he believes in affirmative action if it is based on socioeconomic conditions, not gender or race.

His campaign is in its first stage in Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska, gathering signatures to qualify to be on the ballot. It has turned in signatures in Oklahoma, but is stalled in Missouri in a court dispute over language. Connerly's language says the state shall not discriminate or grant preferences based on race, sex or ethnicity. The language substituted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan goes further and says the initiative would end programs that provide equal opportunities for women and minorities.

Brenda Jones, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, says Connerly's language misleads voters. "They are co-opting the language of Martin Luther King," she says.


"Anti-discrimination" nonsense

A campaigner shows up the absurdity of the law

A crusader for justice has come to Colorado. He has traveled around the country fighting discrimination, tirelessly combating prejudice and unfair treatment. Already, his efforts have paid off in Minnesota and the EU is listening to his calls for justice. This man is Steve Horner, and he's here to end Ladies Night.

Mr. Horner moved to Colorado a year ago and quickly took issue with Proof Nightclub's "Ladies Night" promotion. Ladies Night is a common bar special where women's cover charges are waived or their drinks are discounted. The goal of the promotion is to attract more women and, by doing so, attract more men as well. Mr. Horner argued that only waiving cover charges for women was gender discrimination, and that he shouldn't be charged more for simply being a man.

Mr. Horner took his complaint all the way to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and on June 25 commission members decided that Ladies Night is indeed an illegal practice in Colorado. To justify its decision, the Commission cited a State Statute that prohibits a place of public accommodation from "denying an individual equal enjoyment of goods" based on their sex.

To enforce this decision, the Commission has been granted somewhat less than far-reaching powers. They can request that any employees who were wrongly fired as a result of Ladies Night be rehired, and they've been given the power to post notices that Ladies Night is illegal.

Moreover, they've even been allowed to request that the nightclub also post notices. Soon, we may live in a world where men who want to enjoy a drink in a place where they have the chance of meeting women are forced to read a sign first. It is a grim vision, indeed.

This is, evidently, the world Steve Horner wants. It's the world he's been working to build for fifteen years. Horner successfully pressed the state of Minnesota in 1992 to end Ladies Night. He also was convicted of harassing a state official who didn't pursue his claim against Hooters for declining him employment as a waitress.

As absurd as his mission might appear to many of us, he seems to have a legal precedent for his actions. Though he often has to badger officials and pay his court filing fee out of pocket, the State usually sides in Horner's favor. People from both ends of the political spectrum feel that this cannot possibly be right. Clearly, something needs to be done. One possible solution is to change the way our nightclubs operate. Utah, for instance, requires all bars to allow entry only to members, or guests of members. Though nightclubs are privately-owned businesses, they are considered public establishments. By changing nightclubs from public establishments to private ones, businesses can dodge the bullet. The problem here is that it puts a serious damper on bar owners, who are small business owners like anyone else. Utah's laws were written specifically to discourage drinking, Colorado does not necessarily share this goal.

Another answer is to change our laws. We could rewrite our discrimination policies to include a de minimis defense, whereby trivial infractions like Ladies Night are still illegal, but not punishable. Most people would agree that an infrequent five-dollar price differential against men is not a wholesale example of discrimination. The problem with this solution is that it still requires bars to defend themselves in court, even if they will never pay a fine. Rational individuals wouldn't take a bar to court in a case they know they would lose, but still there are irrational men like Steve Horner who routinely pay a $47 filing fee to contest a $5 cover charge. The underlying problem with both of these solutions is that they don't address the real issue at hand: our freedom.

Freedom is a big issue to trot out over a debate on Ladies Night, but it is exactly what could be at stake here. A bar, which is a private business, should be free to charge any price they want for drinks and entry. We, as consumers, are free to avoid that bar if we think they're charging too much for the goods and services they provide. This is the method by which successful businesses succeed and by which bad businesses fail. Introducing government restrictions in the form of a control over promotions and bar specials, like Ladies Night, can only harm this process. That means closing good bars, or keeping otherwise unpopular bars in business.

This control could eventually extend farther than just Ladies Night, too. Many businesses have specials that single out a specific group. Senior Citizen discounts, Military discounts, Student discounts, Kids Eat Free nights, and myriad other promotions that many of us enjoy could hang in the balance of this decision. All of these promotions benefit some small group, and in doing so benefit the business as a whole. Many of these are businesses we all enjoy using, and their success means better prices and services for all of us. Hindering the way they do business over trivial matters like Ladies Night might help guys like Steve Horner save a few bucks, but it could cost the rest of us far more than that.



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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