Friday, August 31, 2007

Biased CNN `Warriors' crosses the line

Critics of religion like to claim that the source of most of the world's ills can be traced to believers who wage wars in the name of their distorted fanatic faiths. Indeed, this thesis has led to a spate of new books advocating atheism and deriding religion in the past year.

Needless to say, critics of this trend have pointed out that the vast majority of the deaths incurred by conflicts in history's bloodiest century - the twentieth - were caused by fanatical non-believers in traditional faiths in the name of their Communist, Maoist and Nazi faiths.

But it must be admitted that violent religious extremists are, at this moment in time, the primary threat to the peace of the world. The only problem with this unpleasant fact is that the opprobrium rightly aimed at the perpetrators of this faith-based violence cannot be neatly distributed across the board to practitioners of the three major monotheistic religions.

Though present-day Jews and Christians are not all saints, there is no getting around the fact that neither of those religions has sprouted a contemporary movement aimed at world domination to be achieved by terror and war. That honor is reserved for the Muslim faith, among whose adherents Islamist terror movements have found a home in the mainstream of its culture.

Not all Muslims are Islamists. Most American Muslims are nothing of the kind. But the notion that supporters of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other assorted anti-Western and anti-Jewish terror movements are a tiny minority in the Arab and Muslim world is a delusion.

But in this age of political correctness, to single out one group for the sins of a large number of its members is considered unfair and perhaps even racist. So, instead, we are asked to pretend that there is an intrinsic connection or even symmetry between Christian, Jewish and Muslim extremists.

That was exactly the premise of a widely heralded three-part series on CNN last week. Titled "G-d's Holy Warriors," and fronted by famed international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, it was a tryptich across the globe to highlight the danger from Jewish, Muslim and Christian extremists who are all given the same treatment and air-time in the guise of even-handedness.

Thus, by its very structure of equating the three different situations, the series was nothing short of a brazen lie.

Though all parts of the series were problematic, the first of the series, devoted to threat from extremist Israeli Jewish settlers and the entire network of support for the State of Israel in this country, was as classic an example of a dishonest piece of biased programming as anything that has been broadcast on a major network.

Though a tiny fraction of the settlement movement, which itself commands the support of only a fraction of Israelis, have committed isolated acts of violence, the notion that this group is in any way analogous to Al Qaeda is nothing short of bizarre. If anything, Jewish settlers and ordinary Israelis living inside the pre-1967 borders have themselves been the victims of the intolerance, fanaticism and violence of their Muslim neighbors.

That the broadcasts' view of international law on the question of the legality of the Jewish presence in the territories is one-sided is an understatement. A strong case can be made that the Jews living in those places have every right to do so. Moreover the idea that their living in these places constitutes the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is nothing short of fantastic especially given the events of the last several years which have shown how disinterested the Palestinians are in peace with Israel no matter where its borders are.

Even worse, the show seemingly accepts the discredited canard of Israeli and American Jewish control of American foreign policy put forth by such risible figures as former president Jimmy Carter and academic John Mearsheimer whose views were treated with respect rather than journalistic skepticism.

As such the worldwide news network lent itself to a line of argument that has rightly been termed a modern intellectual justification for anti-Semitism.

But no matter what one's view of the settlers, the main problem with the series cannot be explained away. Extremist Muslims are a threat to both peace and the West. But a few right-wing Jews are no threat to anyone and are, if anything, among the primary victims of Muslim terror.

CNN cannot be allowed to get away with this sort of despicable bias. Decent persons of all faiths need to speak out against this network and to make sure that it, and its arrogant star Amanpour, are made to hear of our outrage at every possible opportunity and in every way possible, including the use of economic leverage by both sponsors and viewers.


Homosexuals assault critics

Angry homosexual activists harassed and assaulted ex-homosexuals at the Arlington County Fair last week, according to an ex-gay educational and support group.

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) reports its volunteers were distributing education materials on same-sex attraction and awareness of ex-homosexuals at their fair booth. Homosexual activists approached them and created a disturbance, spewing obscenities and dashing materials from the exhibit table. The group demanded that PFOX leave the fairgrounds, recognize "same-sex spouses" and rejected arguments that homosexuals could change their sexual orientation although they admitted they knew heterosexuals who had done the same.

The confrontation escalated after one activist struck a PFOX ex-gay volunteer after becoming infuriated over the man's testimony about leaving the homosexual lifestyle. A police officer then ejected the activist from the fairgrounds, although the ex-homosexual volunteer declined to press charges citing the example of Jesus Christ. The incident, while not uncommon in PFOX experience, continues to highlight homosexual activists' rejection of tolerance and equal access ideas opposing and competing with the homosexual agenda.

PFOX said that several homosexuals had identified themselves as teachers and would make sure that PFOX ex-homosexual materials would not reach teenagers in schools as pro-homosexual materials do.


The Racial Engineering of San Francisco

Post below lifted from American Thinker

One of the ugliest aspects of contemporary "progressive" thought is a thoroughly patronizing attitude toward African-Americans, regarding them as eternal victims unable to fend for themselves. The latest insult comes from America's most stridently left wing big city government, San Francisco, where municipal officials are fretting over recent declines in the number of blacks living within the city limits.

The nation's largest newspaper, USA Today, yesterday joined the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle in bemoaning the trend of San Franciscans of African heritage moving out of the central city. Not just to "working-class cities like Vallejo, Richmond or Fairfield" (The New York Times), but to genuine American Dream suburbs like fast-growing Tracy California, which welcomes all races and hosts a proud and growing African-American community that includes a number of people of my acquaintance.

Even more pernicious than liberal journalists lamenting blacks behaving like every other group attracted to the amenities of suburban living are the official attitude and actions of local government.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last April that:
San Francisco officials are now calling the thousands of black people who have moved away "the African American diaspora," and the mayor's office is putting together a task force to figure out what can be done to preserve the remaining black population and cultivate new residents.
USA Today helpfully updates:
San Francisco officials... vow to stop the exodus and develop a strategy to win blacks back to the city. In June, Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed a task force to study how to reverse decades of policies - and neglect - that black leaders say have fueled the flight. [emphasis added]
So taxpayer funds are already being expended for the purpose of encouraging one race to live in the city of San Francisco, and by extension discouraging other races who might instead occupy the same housing. Am I the only person who sees this as racist madness?

A thought experiment

Imagine that instead of blacks, the white population of San Francisco (which has declined significantly over the last several decades, from 89.5% white in 1950 to 53% in 2000) were the object of concern. City officials trying "stop the exodus" or "win whites" (as if they were a prize) or "to figure out what can be done to preserve the remaining white population and cultivate new white residents" would be properly accused of racism.

But the problem with the city's concern to "preserve" (not in formaldehyde, one hopes) its black population go deeper than just an unthinking and reflexive desire to see blacks as a special group deserving special rights and needing special protections from a wise and benevolent city government that knows better than they where said blacks should live. The very concept of racially engineering a city's population ought to be anathema to anyone who gives a moment's thought to the matter.

What's the "optimum" number?

How would one go about deciding how many blacks are "enough" for San Francisco? Any theory or method one might choose is deeply flawed.

The latest estimate of San Francisco's black population puts it at 6.5%, a level which is below the national average of 12.3%, but which is almost equal to the California average of  6.7%. Yet the current black percentage of the city's population already is regarded as a problem because it is too low. So apparently the thinking is that San Francisco for some reason should have a greater-than-California-average concentration of black residents. It is not merely a matter of San Francisco reflecting the average, San Francisco should exceed the average. Why? Are blacks to be stereotyped as "urban" - the kind of people who should be concentrated in certain neighborhoods? I thought we called this "ghettoization" and considered it racist.

All three newspaper articles linked above mention the history of African-Americans in San Francisco, so perhaps the thinking is that some sort of "historic preservation" principle applies to ethnic communities as well as to structures of architectural or historic significance. But anyone with the slightest familiarity with San Francisco history, or the history of practically any large American city for that matter, should see that neighborhoods change over time, as established groups prosper and move on, and are replaced by newer residents.

Historical amnesia

All three newspapers specifically mention the Fillmore District in San Francisco as a neighborhood sadly being lost by its apparently somehow rightful black inhabitants. Yet none of the papers bothers to note that African-Americans came to the Fillmore in large numbers only because the previous Japanese-American residents were forcibly evacuated to internment camps during World War II. Incidentally, it was liberal President Franklin D. Roosevelt and liberal Governor (and subsequently Chief Justice) Earl Warren who were responsible for this non-lethal ethnic cleansing. The forced evacuation handed the neighborhood by default to black immigrants from the South who flocked to San Francisco to contribute to the war effort on the shipyards, docks, and other defense facilities.

In fact, prior to World War II, San Francisco had very few black residents (well under one percent). The relatively few blacks in the Bay Area were concentrated in West Oakland, a community that had its origin as the home of sleeping car porters who worked the transcontinental railways with their terminals in Oakland. In those days of overt racism, sleeping car porters were among the best-paid blacks in the country.

Nobody tried to "protect" the Irish or Italians

There are plenty of other neighborhoods in San Francisco which have seen their ethnic character change over the past several decades. For example the Castro District, now famous as a gay neighborhood, was formerly inhabited predominantly by Irish Catholic families. I would be astonished if someone could point out to me articles in the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle which sympathetically portrayed the plight of these families who watched the ethnic and cultural tone of their neighborhood radically transformed by affluent immigrants from elsewhere. I know of no initiatives on the part of the city of San Francisco to make itself congenial to Irish Americans, or which sought to "preserve" the Irish population. The same could be said of the city's Italian-American community.

What about Asians and Hispanics?

Another note entirely missing form the press coverage was any mention of those groups which are replacing the blacks who are moving out. It is no secret to anyone that Asians and Hispanics have been moving to the city (and to California and the United States) in large numbers. Just walk the streets or visit any of the city's famous restaurants. On what basis do city officials and the newspapers believe that these and other groups are less desirable residents than African-Americans? And why are municipal resources being spent to (by implication) discourage them from residing in the city so that blacks may instead live in the city's relatively finite housing stock?

Every group fondly remembers "the old neighborhood"

It is entirely a different matter to remember ethnic neighborhoods of the past nostalgically and recall the good times enjoyed at the churches, restaurants, barbershops, pubs, and other community gathering places. Every group does that when they have moved on. A major theme of The Sopranos, after all, was nostalgia for the old Italian-American enclave in Newark, a city now heavily African-American.

San Francisco, for all its political foibles, is city whose housing stock is in high demand thanks to views, climate, and a dynamic economy that has seen wave after wave of new firms formed to exploit cutting edge business opportunities, attracting wave after wave of newcomers to staff them. In the past, the market mechanism has sufficed to allocate the housing to those who wish to live there. One of my children is making a considerable financial sacrifice in order to live in a small apartment in the city, rather than in more spacious and less expensive accommodations elsewhere. Life is full of such tradeoffs, and I see no reason why African-Americans should be presumed less capable of making these tradeoffs for themselves than anyone else. Evidently city officials see it otherwise.

A city government entering the business of racially engineering of its population is repellant.The liberal journalists who fan this sort of racism ought to be ashamed of themselves. And the city officials who proclaim their preference for residents of one racial group over others ought to be challenged to justify their racism

Australia's Howard attacks religious `insults'

John Howard last night condemned two entries in the nation's top religious art competition, labelling them "gratuitously offensive" to Christians. A statue of the Virgin Mary shrouded by a Muslim burqa and a holographic image of terrorist Osama bin Laden that morphs into Jesus Christ submitted for the Blake Prize have drawn a furious response from politicians and church leaders.

Yesterday, Mr Howard said the pieces were insulting and lacked any artistic merit. "The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians," Mr Howard said. He was backed by New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma who said the inclusion of the artworks was extremely questionable. "I haven't seen either of these pieces but from what has been described to me, it's a pity they were not stolen instead of the Dutch masterpiece," Mr Iemma said, referring to the recent theft of a painting from the Art Gallery of NSW.

Last night, the Uniting Church minister who chairs the Blake Society defended the pieces. The Reverend Rod Pattenden, who awarded the $15,000 prize to the competition winner in Sydney yesterday, said his mission was to spark debate about spirituality in a world that was "cynical, degraded and in crisis". Mr Pattenden said he did not expect controversy to result from the exhibition at the National Art School Gallery "because the Christian community doesn't look at art a great deal".

Artist Luke Sullivan's entry, The fourth street of Fatima,which is on display at the gallery in Darlinghurst in Sydney, is a statue of the Virgin Mary with a rosary and a burqa - for many, a potent symbol of female oppression. Priscilla Joyce Bracks' Bearded Orientals, Making the Empire Cross is a lenticular image in which the viewer can flip between portraits of Jesus and bin Laden by shifting slightly from side to side.

Mr Pattenden said the Virgin statue embodied "iconic representations of two different religious traditions". "He (the artist) is making a comment about gender in a religion dominated by men," Mr Pattenden said. "I find it unsettling and unfamiliar and I think that's always an opportunity for new insight." As for Bracks' double image of Christ and bin Laden, Mr Pattenden said the artist was questioning "the idea that you can have absolute good and absolute evil. Life's a bit more complicated than that".

The Australian Christian Lobby said placing Jesus in the same artwork as Osama bin Laden was "a big mistake". "Jesus brought a message of love and forgiveness that has nothing to do with terrorism," spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan said.



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.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

King Tut Exhibit Prompts Debate on His Skin Color

Egyptian frescoes all show a clear color distinction between Egyptians and the Nubians ("Africans") to their south. There is no reason to think that the Egyptians had anything but the off-white skin color still normally found among Mediterranean people -- including other North African people in modern Libya, Algeria, etc. North Africa has always been racially different from the rest of Africa

The King Tut exhibition has drawn millions of visitors to museums across the country since it opened two years ago. But some African-American scholars believe the exhibition makes King Tut look too white. The debate over Tut's race led the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, where the show is on display, to sponsor a conference on the subject.

The show, Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs has drawn a steady stream of protesters since it opened in Los Angeles. But nowhere have they been as persistent or vocal as in Philadelphia. More than 500 people showed up to hear scholars discuss Tut's race at the Franklin Institute. The auditorium couldn't hold them all, so the museum had to set up big-screen TVs in the lobby. The three speakers said the exhibition on display upstairs gives the false impression that King Tut was white. And worse, says Temple University professor Molefi Asante, it implies that Egypt is not a part of Africa. "We asked the students as they were coming out of the museum, you've seen the exhibition of King Tut, 'Where is he from?'" Asante said. "You would discover that people can see the exhibition of Tutankhamen, and come out and not know that they have seen Africa."

A forensic reconstruction of Tut's head and shoulders at the Franklin Institute exhibit is remarkably lifelike, until you get right up close to it. On the side of the glass case, there is a disclaimer that reads, "The features of [Tutankhamen's] face are based on scientific data. But the exact color of his skin and the size and shape of many facial details cannot be determined with full certainty." "Our best guess is that he was neither lily white nor ebony black. He was probably somewhere in between," said Nina Jablonski, author of Skin: A Natural History.

Jablonski teaches anthropology at Penn State University. She also served as an advisor to the team from the National Geographic Society that produced the forensic reconstruction of King Tut that's currently on display. Jablonski points out that it's only a working hypothesis. Scientists have not been able to retrieve much DNA evidence from Tut or other mummies. But they do have a good idea of who lived in Egypt 3,000 years ago - and she says they probably looked a lot like Egyptians today. "Modern Egyptians are a very heterogeneous group," Jablonski said. "Some of them have very Arabic features. Others of them have very African or so-called Nubian features. This is because the Nile River itself was a tremendous byway for movement of people in the past and present."

Jablonski says Tut's skin probably looked like a mixture of those people, only lighter, because the Boy King would have spent most of his time inside, protected from the sun. The speakers at the Franklin Institute rejected that hypothesis. In fact, they seemed to enjoy making fun of it. "Okay, now let's look what this really is about. This is shocking. See if you recognize the person on the right," said activist Maulana Karenga, who remain best known as the founder of Kwanzaa. He got a big laugh by comparing the reconstructed image of King Tut with a picture of a young Barbara Streisand.

The panelists believe the Egyptians of Tut's time had, for the most part, very dark skin, like people from sub-Saharan Africa. Charles Finch is the director of International Health at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Whenever ancient writers, Hebrew or Greek, make any reference to ancient Egyptians' color, it's always black," Finch said. "There was no issue back then. There was no discussion. There was no debate. It only became a debate in the last 200 years." For example, Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the fifth century BC that the Egyptians were "dark-skinned and woolly-haired."

But as anthropologist Nina Jablonski points out, it's hard to say exactly what ancient historians meant when they described the skin they saw as "dark." And she says much of the archeological evidence points to a different conclusion. "When we look at the representation of the Egyptian royalty on the walls of tombs, we see a range of sort of moderate, tan-colored skin on the royalty," Jablonski said. "This probably is a fairly close approximation of what skin color these people actually had." Jablonski speaks with the patience of someone who has answered this question many times before, and expects to keep answering it until more definitive evidence comes along. That's why she hopes the King Tut exhibition will inspire students to become interested in reconstructing the past. That could let the students, Jablonski says, "make a better stab at this in 20 or 25 years' time." Until then, we'll have to make do with an educated guess.


Towards an age of abundance

Ignore the critics of economic growth who claim that prosperity makes us unhappy. We need to win the war against scarcity once and for all, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of longer, healthier and wealthier lives

Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic? But hold on. Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.

There is - or at least was - such a place. It is called the past. And few of us, it seems, recognise the enormous benefits to humanity of escaping from it. On the contrary, there is a pervasive culture of complaint about the perils of affluence and a common tendency to romanticise the simple life.

From the 1790s onwards, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the prospect of a world without scarcity seemed like a realistic possibility (1). Humans strove for a day when they could have a guaranteed food supply at all times. It should be remembered that the famous clause in Christianity's Lord's Prayer - `give us this day our daily bread' - was meant literally. Our ancestors struggled for a world where we could take abundant food, clean water and adequate shelter for granted. Not only have we achieved these goals, at least in the developed world, but modern technology and economic organisation have improved our lives hugely.

Yet in the midst of contemporary abundance, there are vocal criticisms. The gains of modernity are under attack. Cheap food, one of the great achievements of humanity, is frequently derided as a curse rather than a blessing. Our houses are said to be too large. Cars and aeroplanes are seen as both destroying the planet and wrecking communities. Although we travel more than ever before, the local is being exalted at the expense of wider horizons.

Of course most people get on with their lives and enjoy the benefits of affluence. They eat plentiful food, travel abroad for their holidays and go to the doctor if they become ill. But the pervasive cynicism towards popular prosperity still has a negative effect. It makes it harder to enjoy or make the most of what we have got. It is also a barrier against making things better still. In this context, it is important to remember that there are still many billions of people in the world who live in poor countries. And yet the prospect of everyone having access to the best the world has to offer is commonly seen as an environmental nightmare rather than a worthwhile goal.

Attacking prosperity

Deep Economy is one of the most articulate recent assaults on popular prosperity. Bill McKibben, an environmental writer and campaigner based in the American state of Vermont, follows a pattern typical of such works. He grudgingly admits that mass affluence has advantages. For example, he concedes that we are richer and healthier than a few hundred years ago. Then he introduces numerous caveats to call the benefits of prosperity into question. This is an outlook I have previously described as `growth scepticism', as it represents an indirect attack on growth rather than an overt rejection of its benefits (2). ....

McKibben's arguments on happiness draw heavily on the work of Richard Layard, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. Layard has observed, like others before him, that beyond a certain threshold, economic growth does not seem to generate more happiness (5). McKibben also emphasises Layard's arguments on how economic growth can destroy communities. Deep Economy places great importance on the need to promote local communities for everything from food to entertainment.

There are numerous reasons to object to the happiness agenda. For a start, economic growth should be advocated for its objective benefits. It has given us the ability to lead longer and more prosperous lives. It gives us more leisure time. It is a key factor in the development of science and culture. The question of individual happiness is a separate one.

It is also questionable that, as Layard has advocated, happiness should be a goal of public policy. There are plenty of things that are worthwhile but do not necessarily make people happy: bringing up a family, learning a foreign language, excelling at sport or producing great art, to name a few. Although those involved in such activities may experience brief moments of elation, these are far from guaranteed. And for much of the time, what they experience is likely to be hard work and sometimes even misery or physical pain. But this does not mean that such goals are not worth striving to achieve. On the contrary, the contemporary obsession with individual happiness has a narcissistic edge.

Perhaps worst of all is McKibben's emphasis on local communities. Although this is presented as somehow humanistic, it is the very opposite. It means downgrading our common humanity in favour of privileging those who happen to live close by. In practice it seems to mean favouring such things as farmers' markets and community radio stations over supermarkets and the global media. It also means condemning Wal-Mart for exporting `American jobs' abroad (6). McKibben's vision of a healthy community is primarily one that consumes goods and services that are produced locally. It is a depressingly parochial vision for the twenty-first century.

Haves and have-nots

Although McKibben pays little attention to the discussion of inequality, it is the main focus of Falling Behind. Robert H Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell University in New York state, has developed a sophisticated attack on economic growth in relation to inequality. Frank's argument is built on the distinction between positional goods and non-positional goods first made by Fred Hirsch, a British economist, in the 1970s (7). Positional goods are ones whose consumption strongly signal someone's rank in the wealth hierarchy - for example, the size of their house, the quality of their suits or the fanciness of their wristwatches. Non-positional goods are those that are weakly associated with social rank, such as time spent on vacation.

"Frank proposes a consumption tax to deter individuals from spending too much money"

The drive for economic growth, in Frank's view, unleashes an unhealthy Darwinian battle for positional goods. There are `positional arms races' in which people strive for ever-larger houses, ever-more expensive suits and ever-fancier watches. Not only does such competition yield little or any benefit, it also diverts resources from non-positional goods. People work longer hours and get into debt so that they can afford luxury items they do not really need. The effect of such positional arms races is made even worse by the steadily rising inequality in American society.

There are two main ways to respond to Frank's arguments. One is to show, empirically, that despite a trend towards widening inequality, Americans are generally getting better off as a result of economic growth. For example, Stephen Rose, a respected labour economist, has argued that most Americans have benefited from productivity growth in recent years (8). And Brink Lindsey (who will be discussed later in this review) has argued that even poor Americans are in many respects better off than the average American in 1971 (9). There are also debates to be had about whether American working hours have increased in recent years, and whether household debt levels really are excessive.

A more fundamental objection to Frank is to the character of his reaction to inequality. It is clear that, to a greater or lesser extent, capitalist societies tend to be unequal. But the response to that quandary should surely be to demand more rather than less. Everyone should have the resources to have a large house and, if they so wish, expensive suits and elaborate watches.

Indeed, for all of Frank's apparently intricate theory, his proposed solutions are strikingly mundane. He proposes a consumption tax to deter individuals from spending too much of their income on positional goods. And he favours voluntary simplicity in which people forsake some luxury goods for the sake of an emotionally richer life....

Towards the `realm of freedom'

The Age of Abundance is by far the most interesting of this crop of books on the growth-sceptic theme. Brink Lindsey, vice president for research at the Cato Institute think tank in Washington DC, is broadly in favour of affluence. His aim is to examine how what he sees as the advent of a post-scarcity society in America since the 1950s has affected politics and culture.

Lindsey's starting point, with deliberate irony, is Karl Marx's distinction between the `realm of necessity' and the `realm of freedom'. In the first, humanity lives under the tyranny of scarcity, while the second refers to a post-scarcity society. Although the terms were seldom used by Marx, he was certainly an ardent believer in the need for humanity to overcome scarcity (11).

Lindsey argues that America became a post-scarcity society in the 1950s. Only it achieved this objective not through socialist revolution, as Marx had predicted, but through capitalist development. As a result, says Lindsey, the class struggle is over. For Lindsey the historic victory over scarcity unleashed tremendous changes in American society, which he sees as, on balance, positive. Whether Lindsey is right to characterise America as `post-scarcity' is debatable. But it has certainly achieved levels of prosperity that previous generations would have found hard to imagine.

In the political sphere, The Age of Abundance argues that the newfound prosperity unleashed the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, environmentalism, feminism and gay rights. The victory over scarcity made it easier for people to focus on these issues rather than everyday survival. Lindsey broadly favours this shift in values, although he argues it sometimes goes too far in undermining necessary restraints. If taken to an excessive extent, he argues, it can undermine families, encourage crime, promote drug-use and create welfare dependence. However, he also opposes the evangelical right, which he sees as too zealous in its opposition to libertarian freedoms.

In the economic sphere he welcomes the rise of market economics. He sees the demise in the 1970s of the cosy relationship between big government, big labour and big business as a triumph. Lindsey welcomes America's deregulated, globalised and computerised economy.

"Marx was an ardent believer in the need for humanity to overcome scarcity"

Overall, Lindsey sees himself as close to the mainstream of middle America. He rejects the excesses of those involved in the `Culture Wars' and welcomes the new tolerance of freedom and of the market. For him the gains are in large part the result of the transition from a scarcity society to an age of abundance. The most valuable element of Lindsey's argument is his reminder that the shift away from scarcity has a substantial impact on society. His characterisation of an `age of abundance' may be an exaggeration, but it is true that few Americans live on the edge of existence. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that many human preoccupations are different from those in the past. Yet many social commentators, with their bleak view of the present and romantic view of the past, miss this simple fact.

A post-scarcity society?

Lindsey goes too far in attributing important social shifts to economic factors. For example, broader social forces were eroding the appeal of traditional conservative thought long before the counterculture of the 1960s. The experience of the Second World War, and the Holocaust in particular, discredited the politics of race and empire that was widespread until then (12). It became virtually impossible for conservatives to uphold a belief in racial superiority. The rise of several of the social movements that Lindsey refers to, such as environmentalism and feminism, should also be related to the demise of the left.

In contrast, the ideological victory of market economics came about in the late 1970s and 1980s. The defeat of the left and the subsequent end of the Cold War discredited socialist alternatives. It seemed that there was no alternative to the market - the only debate worth having was between different forms of market system. It is true that the unexpected resilience of capitalism played a role in the historic defeat of the left. But there were other factors involved in the battle between right and left. Certainly in America, to the extent that there was a `left', by the 1970s it had largely become identified with big government and discredited unions.

It is therefore insufficient to characterise America as a post-scarcity society. American politics is shaped by the defeat of the right on social issues and the defeat of the left on the economy. As a result, there is a peculiar amalgam among the mass of the population of broadly liberal social attitudes with a pro-market take on the economy.

It is a pity that Lindsey does not take the growth sceptics head on. The likes of Bill McKibben and Professor Robert Frank would probably accept the characterisation of America as a post-scarcity society. Only for them the erosion of scarcity has substantial costs as well as benefits. It is time to launch a counter-attack against the critics of popular prosperity. The forms that growth takes in a market economy may be far from perfect, but there are enormous advantages to prosperity. It has the potential to make our lives longer, healthier and more fulfilling. It can help promote the development of culture, science and technology. And it can allow us to overcome parochial divisions to make the world less local and more global. We should be looking forward to a true age of abundance rather than romanticising a world in which we felt we had to pray for our daily bread.


Why I'm fleeing South Africa

By Anne Paton (widow of Alan Paton)

I am leaving South Africa . I have lived here for 35 years, and I shall leave with anguish. My home and my friends are here, but I am terrified. I know I shall be in trouble for saying so, because I am the widow of Alan Paton. Fifty years ago he wrote Cry, The Beloved Country. He was an unknown schoolmaster and it was his first book, but it became a bestseller overnight. It was eventually translated into more than 20 languages and became a set book in schools all over the world. It has sold more than 15 million copies and still sells 100,000 copies a year. As a result of the startling success of this book, my husband became famous for his impassioned speeches and writings, which brought to the notice of the world the suffering of the black man under apartheid. He campaigned for Nelson Mandela's release from prison and he worked all his life for black majority rule. He was incredibly hopeful about the new South Africa that would follow the end of apartheid, but he died in 1988, aged 85. I was so sorry he did not witness the euphoria and love at the time of the election in 1994. But I am glad he is not alive now. He would have been so distressed to see what has happened to his beloved country.

I love this country with a passion, but I cannot live here any more. I can no longer live slung about with panic buttons and gear locks. I am tired of driving with my car windows closed and the doors locked, tired of being afraid of stopping at red lights. I am tired of being constantly on the alert, having that sudden frisson of fear at the sight of a shadow by the gate, of a group of youths approaching - although nine times out of 10 they are innocent of harmful intent. Such is the suspicion that dogs us all.

Among my friends and the friends of my friends, I know of nine people who have been murdered in the past four years. An old friend, an elderly lady, was raped and murdered by someone who broke into her home for no reason at all; another was shot at a garage. We have a saying, "Don't fire the gardener", because of the belief that it is so often an inside job - the gardener who comes back and does you in. All this may sound like paranoia, but it is not without reason. I have been hijacked, mugged and terrorised. A few years ago my car was taken from me at gunpoint. I was forced into the passenger seat. I sat there frozen. But just as one man jumped into the back and the other fumbled with the starter I opened the door and ran away. To this day I do not know how I did this. But I got away, still clutching my handbag.

On May I this year I was mugged in my home at three in the afternoon. I used to live in a community of big houses with big grounds in the countryside. It's s till beautiful and green, but the big houses have been knocked down and people have moved into fenced complexes like the one in which I now live. Mine is in the suburbs of Durban , but they're springing up everywhere. That afternoon I came home and omitted to close the security door. I went upstairs to lie down. After a while I thought I'd heard a noise, perhaps a bird or something. Without a qualm I got up and went to the landing; outside was a man. I screamed and two other men appeared. I was seized by the throat and almost throttled; I could feel myself losing consciousness. My mouth was bound with Sellotape and I was threatened with my own knife (Girl Guide issue from long ago) and told: "If you make a sound, you die." My hands were tied tightly behind my back and I was thrown into the guest room and the door was shut. They took all the electronic equipment they could find, except the computer. They also, of course, took the car. A few weeks later my new car was locked up in my fenced carport when I was woken by its alarm in the early hours of the morning. The thieves had removed the radio, having cut through the padlocks in order to bypass the electric control on the gates.

The last straw came a few weeks ago, shortly before my 71st birthday. I returned home in the middle of the afternoon and walked into my sitting room. Outside the window two men were breaking in. I retreated to the hall and pressed the panic alarm. This time I had shut the front door on entering. By now I had become more cautious. Yet one of the men ran around the house, jumped over the fence and tried to batter down the front door. Meanwhile, his accomplice was breaking my sitting-room window with a hammer. This took place while the sirens were shrieking, which was the frightening part. They kept coming, in broad daylight, while the alarm was going. They knew that there had to be a time lag of a few minutes before help arrived - enough time to dash off with the television and video recorder. In fact, the front-door assailant was caught and taken off to the cells.

Recently I telephoned to ask the magistrate when I would be called as a witness. She told me she had let him off for lack of evidence. She said that banging on my door was not an offence, and how could I prove that his intent was hostile? I have been careless in the past - razor wire and electric gates give one a feeling of security. Or at least, they did. But I am careless no longer. No fence - be it electric or not - no wall, no razor wire is really a deterrent to the determined intruder. Now my alarm is on all the time and my panic button hung round my neck. While some people say I have been unlucky, others say: "You are lucky not to have been raped or murdered." What kind of a society is this where one is considered "lucky" not to have been raped or murdered - yet?

A character in Cry, The Beloved Country says: "I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving they will find we are turned to hating." And so it has come to pass. There is now more racial tension in this country than I have ever known. But it is not just about black-on-white crime. It is about general lawlessness. Black people suffer more than the whites. They do not have access to private security firms, and there are no pol ice stations near them in the townships and rural areas. They are the victims of most of the hijackings, rapes and murders. They cannot run away like the whites, who are streaming out of this country in their thousands.

President Mandela has referred to us who leave as "cowards" and says the country can do without us. So be it. But it takes a great deal of courage to uproot and start again. We are leaving because crime is rampaging through the land. The evils that beset this country now are blamed on the legacy of apartheid. One of the worst legacies of that time is that of the Bantu Education Act, which deliberately gave black people an inferior education.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that criminals know that their chances of being caught are negligible; and if they are caught they will be free almost at once. So what is t he answer? The government needs to get its priorities right. We need a powerful, well-trained and well-equipped police force.

Recently there was a robbery at a shopping centre in the afternoon. A call to the police station elicited the reply: "We have no transport." "Just walk then," said the caller; the police station is about a two-minute sprint from the shop in question. "We have no transport," came the reply again. Nobody arrived.

There is a quote from my husband's book: "Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a moun tain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much." What has changed in half a century? A lot of people who were convinced that everything would be all right are disillusioned, though they don't want to admit it.

The government has many excellent schemes for improving the lot of the black man, who has been disadvantaged for so long. A great deal of money is spent in this direction. However, nothing can succeed while people live in such fear. Last week, about 10km from my home, an old couple were taken out and murdered in the garden. The wife had only one leg and was in a wheelchair. Yet they were stabbed and strangled - for very little money. They were the second old couple to be killed last week. It goes on and on, all the time; we have become a killing society. As I prepare to return to England , a young man asked me the other day, in all innocence, if things were more peaceful there. "You see," he said, "I know of no other way of life than this. I cannot imagine anything different." What a tragic statement on the beloved country today. "Because the white man has power, we too want power," says Msimangu.

"But when a black man gets power, when he gets money, he is a great man if he is not corrupted. I have seen it often. He seeks power and money to put right what is wrong, and when he gets them, why, he enjoys the power and the money. Now he can gratify his lusts, now he can arrange ways to get white man's liquor. I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating."

Source. That was written in 1998! There has been no change for the better since


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.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


MPs and Jewish leaders have condemned a high-profile British charity which has unveiled plans for a world-wide anti-Israel boycott. A document, described as a guide for boycott, divestment and sanctions, appears on the War on Want website, and as a booklet, laying out a strategy for those planning sanctions against the Jewish state. MPs have called on the Charity Commission to investigate the publication, described as a handbook of hate by Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark.

It suggests that the boycott movement needs to gain greater popular support in order to grow into a truly global movement. Comparisons are drawn between sanctions against Israel and those imposed against apartheid-era South Africa. Investment in Israel should be presented to the public as investment in a system of occupation, injustice and apartheid, it says in the booklet, co-published with the Palestinian Stop the Wall organisation.

Lorna Fitzsimons, former Labour MP and chief executive of BICOM, the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre, said that to equate the Palestinians situation with the absolute powerlessness of black South Africans under the apartheid regime is at best misguided, and at worst an insult and a tragedy. Liverpool Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman said the publication was very questionable for a charity. Ilford North Conservative MP Lee Scott found it disgraceful. I'm going to ask the Charity Commission to look into it.

Labour peer Lord Janner suggested that if the charity wanted to attack anyone they should concentrate on the non-democracies of this world. They seem to be existing on another planet.

Zionist Federation president Eric Moonman warned that those who thought that pressure for boycotts only came from academics and the unions have made a mistake. This is much more serious. It shows that well-meaning people are buying into the boycott too.

Despite the criticism, a War on Want spokesman told the JC: This [document] is produced with our partner organisation Stop the Wall. We helped fund it and we are happy to promote it. It was to be be followed up, by a more extensive study of boycott strategy to be published later this year.

A government spokesman said that War on Want had received government backing of 1.1 million pounds from the Department for International Development, but none of this was for projects in the Middle East.



A conference organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in Jerusalem last month dealt with anti-Israel attacks in the United States that constitute, according to organizers, a "long-term threat" to Israel's standing. Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz told Ha'aretz that American academics are at the forefront of those denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and admitted: "I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and, in truth, I myself don't know how this could be done."

I doubt whether organizational efforts could stop anti-Israel attacks, but two incidents in the past few weeks have suggested for me a grassroots approach that, if pursued vigorously, might well slow down their growth. The approach calls for exercising honesty, moral assertiveness and personal indignation against attacks on Israel's legitimacy. The incidents I am talking about started with a rather routine scenario. In fact, it has probably happened to you so many times that it did not leave a memorable mark.

Like many of us, I am on the e-mail lists of friends and colleagues who occasionally call my attention to an article worth reading. So it was that on one of these bright California mornings, I received a message from a colleague with an article and a comment: "Palestinians, with all their suffering under the Israeli apartheid regime, have never been Holocaust deniers."

It is, by today's standards, a rather commonplace remark -- one that could have been written by any of my friends from the far left or the Muslim community. I would normally either brush it off with a head shake: "There he goes again, the same old rhetoric," or start an argument on whether the comparison to apartheid South Africa is appropriate.

I do not exactly know what it was that morning that compelled me to do neither of the two but resort, instead, to what I normally refuse to do -- take offense. It may have been the recent vote in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, calling for a ban on "religious insults" or it may have been the latest press blitz on the moral ills of Islamophobia.

Whatever the cause, somehow an invisible force jolted me into writing my colleague thus: "The word 'apartheid' is offensive to me. In fact, it is very, very offensive. And, since I am not situated on the extreme end of the political spectrum, I venture to suspect that there are others on your e-mail list who were offended by it and who may wish to tell you that this word is not conducive to peace and understanding. It conveys anger, carelessness and a desire to hurt and defame. Hence, it shuts off the ears of the very people you are attempting to reach."

After a short exchange of polite messages, in which my colleague explained that, echoing his idols, President Jimmy Carter and journalist Amira Haas, he used this word not to offend but to evoke a sense of justice among his Jewish friends, I realized that I handled it correctly. I realized that taking offense is a statement of conscience that shifts attention from the accused to the legitimacy of the accusation. It calls into question the accuser's choice of words, his assumptions, his worldview, as well as his intentions, and, thus, turns the accuser into a defendant, at least for a short moment of reflection.

For a split second, I even ventured to imagine how powerful it could be if each one of us were to implant a moment of reflection into the mind of an anti-Israel colleague, but I soon forgot about the incident, and I received no further messages from this colleague. Evidently, he had either deleted my name from his mailing list or had taken note of our exchange and become more conscientious of what he sent and to whom.

A few weeks later, a similar incident occurred. This time, harsh anti-Zionist slurs were scattered throughout an essay authored by the sender -- a history professor at an American university. Essentially, the author blamed Zionism for being the evil force that drives Bernard Lewis' "anti-Muslim diatribes." Emboldened by my previous experience, I sat down and wrote this man -- let's call him Mahmoud -- a message, this time a little longer. I explained that I had found his contempt of Zionism deeply offensive and that given that I consider myself progressive and open-minded, others may share my feeling but were too polite to say so. "I hope," I said, "that as a writer who spends pages describing how offensive Orientalism and Islamophobia are to Muslims and Arabs, that you will be able to understand other people's sensitivities and accommodate them in the future."

I then went further and explained to Mahmoud that, for me, Zionism is the realization of a millennium-old belief in the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the birthplace of their history, a right that is no less sacred than that of the Palestinians or the Saudis. Additionally, I wrote, it pains me to see my hopes for peace being spat upon. Such hopes require that all sides accept a two-state arrangement as a historically just solution, and anti-Zionist rhetoric, by negating the legitimacy of this solution, acts as an oppressor of peace.

Mahmoud explained that he did not mean to delegitimize Zionism or the two-state solution. His portrayal of Lewis' Zionism as the mother of all evils was apparently triggered by a speech delivered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in March of 2007, in which Lewis pitted Europe and Islam against each other, coupled with AEI (and Lewis') one-sided support of Israel. Personally, I have never understood why a one-sided support of Israel, which to me is tantamount to a one-sided support of a quest for coexistence, would be considered a crime, but this takes us away from our main story.

The point of my story is that, again, I felt invigorated by exercising an almost forgotten right -- the right to be offended. I also noticed that personal indignation has the magic power of shifting the frame of discourse from arguing Israel's policies to the very core of the Middle East conflict -- denying Israel's legitimacy -- an issue where Israel's case is strongest and where Israel's adversaries find themselves in an embarrassing and morally indefensible position.

More pointedly, I felt invigorated by practicing what I have been preaching for months: Religion has no monopoly on human sensitivity; Zionophobia is no less revolting than Islamophobia.

Here I have exercised my right to be offended not against abusers of my religious beliefs -- this I can stomach -- but in defense of a more pivotal part of my identity -- my people, our history, our collective memory and our collective aspirations -- in short, in defense of Zionism. Some claim that Zionism is not entitled to such defense, since "Zionism is a political movement, not a religion," or "Zionism is a recent phenomenon, a product of 19th century European nationalism."

These claimants know little about Jewish history or Jewish identity or how Jewish history and identity were shaped for centuries by the Zionist idea of the "return of the exiles." They certainly have not read the Mishna, or Nahum Sokolov's "History of Zionism (1600-1919)" or my grandfather's siddur (e.g., Veholichenu Kommemiut Leartsenu -- "and thou shall walk us in sovereignty to our country" [Birkat Hamazon]).

We tend to forget that the right for protection from religious insults emanates not from sanctity of religious beliefs but from empathetic concerns for all intellectual resources that shape one's identity. The Jewish experience in the 20th century proves that secular historical narratives can unleash unifying and identity-shaping forces far stronger than religious beliefs in deities, prophets, messengers or the afterlife. Israel, the focal point of these narratives, therefore deserves all the protection that human sensitivity can provide, and we are perfectly entitled to accord her this protection with the same ferocity that we fight religious defamation.

We, as Jews, have been grossly negligent in permitting the dehumanization of Israel to become socially acceptable in certain circles of society, especially on college campuses. Our silence, natural resilience to insults and general reluctance to confront colleagues and friends have contributed significantly to the Orwellianization of campus vocabulary and the legitimization of the unacceptable. Most of our assailants are even unaware of the shivers that go down our spines with utterances such as "apartheid Israeli regime" or "brutal Israeli occupation."

But if we take seriously the moral basis for our right to take offense and exercise that right broadly and consistently, a reverse process of de-Orwellianization will ensue. If instead of avoiding confrontation, swallowing our insults or letting ourselves be dragged into defensive arguments, we simply halt the conversation and assert with honesty and dignity, "Sorry, this is offensive to me," or "This is unacceptable," we will reclaim the respect that our adversaries plan to trample. History and decency have given us that right. If we act on it proudly and resolutely, the word will quickly come around that good company no longer accepts smearing Israel with apartheid or bashing Zionism as a crime.


Social acid has burnt the heart of Britain

Fifty years ago I was a schoolboy in a Liverpool suburb and a strong supporter of Everton like Rhys Jones. My parents were cautious and loving, but they had no qualms about letting me follow the team around the country. That a boy might be killed by a drive-by shooter as he was returning from his local soccer practice would have struck them as an episode in a Latin American coup rather than a possibility in their relatively tranquil lives.

Not unreasonably. In 1955, the anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer described this tranquillity in his book Exploring English Character: "When we think of our faults, we put first, and by a long way, any lapse from our standards of non-aggression, bad temper, nagging, swearing and the like. Public life is more gentle than that reported for any society of comparable size and industrial complexity."

Swearing? Yes, though omni-present in all-male milieus such as the Army, swearing didn't occur in mixed company. Class was irrelevant. My grandmother served behind the bar in a pub on Liverpool's Dock Road before and after the First World War. On only one occasion did someone swear in her presence. The miscreant was promptly taken aside by other dockers and given a talking-to. He returned and apologised.

Next week, I'll be making one of my regular trips from the United States to a different Britain. Like the Jamie Bulger murder of 14 years ago, also in a Liverpool suburb, the casual killing of Rhys Jones has driven home to the British the extent of their social decline - the rise of an underclass, the high rate of crime, especially violent crime, the vandalisation of public spaces, the spread of public drunkenness, and the coarsening of popular culture.

My returning American friends sugar-coat their vacations to me. They enthuse over the historic monuments, the superb theatre, the cathedral cities, the improvement in British cuisine, the precision of the Royal Horse Guards, Fortnum & Mason, and the kindness of almost everyone they met. Almost everyone? Yes, after a while, they admit sadly to the odd disappointment: the snide anti-American remarks directed at them, the warnings against crime near their hotel, the vomiting young people dominating the centres of every town at night. "Going to a West End play today is like going to Broadway in the 1970s," said one. "You thread your way past the same sleazy porn shops, over the same junkies, and past the same drunks, except that the swearing doesn't stop when the play starts."

It didn't happen overnight. Breaking down a strong culture of civic self-control takes time and several social acids. The first such acid was the cultural liberalism generally associated with the 1960s: the attempt to free people from irksome traditional moral customs and the laws that reflected them. Anthony Jay has recently described how the "media liberalism" of the BBC - an institution founded in part to promote social virtues and British institutions - increasingly undermined them all: from military valour to the monarchy.

Assuredly, this revolution had its worthwhile side, especially for the educated and prosperous. Britain today is a freer and more relaxed society with less supervision from maiden aunts and aldermen than in 1955. Combined with a welfare state that picked up the tab, however, cultural liberalism promoted social irresponsibility - more voluntary workless, more divorces, children with fewer opportunities because they live in homes without two parents, a growing underclass, a society that is cruder, more disordered, less gentle. Less neighbourly, too, because of the second social acid: the ethnic and religious diversity introduced by mass immigration.

You may be surprised to learn that "diversity", which is usually discussed as an undeniable social good, has any drawbacks. But Robert Puttnam, an American social scientist, has established from a major survey (and to his own distress) that ethnic diversity makes people less trustful of each other. Worse, people feel this distrust towards those from their own ethnic group as well as towards "the Other". Diversity, it transpires, is a recipe for bad neighbourliness.

This growing distrust might have been lessened, even overcome, by an effective policy of American-style "assimilation" - that is, getting everyone to think of themselves as "British first" and to embrace a common British history and culture. That policy worked well in the US until the 1970s. Instead government promoted the third acid: a "multiculturalism" that encourages minorities to retain their culture and identity. Thus, our rulers set out, eager and well-intentioned, to maximise the differences and therefore the tensions inherent in diversity.

America has so far avoided the worst effects of its own multiculturalism because it has a proud national identity. Most immigrants still want to become Americans as they once wished to become British. Except for the Thatcher years, however, the British establishment, from a blend of multiculturalism and Europeanism, drained all pride and meaning out of Britishness. No one, not even the Scots, wants to assimilate to a nullity.

The result is a fractured, distrustful and disorderly society. And because a diverse society lacks agreed values and standards, governments regulate the behaviour of all, including the law-abiding, to maintain social peace. Thus, we have far more officials supervising us than in the 1950s, but they are anti-smoking social workers and ethnic diversity officers rather than park wardens. The police have become little more than the paramilitary wing of The Guardian, sniffing out "racist" or "Islamophobic" attitudes rather than investigating serious crimes that have some "cultural" excuse. Society gradually becomes more governed and less self-governing.

Rebuilding a united democratic nation that governs itself with decency will be a difficult task. As Geoffrey Gorer pointed out in 1955, however, his gentle Britain had been sculpted by the Victorians from the recalcitrant marble of a brutalised society very much like today's Britain. It will take leaders in the Victorian mould to do it, though.



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.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Black racism again

If a group of whites had objected to a Chinese sculptor being used to portray an heroic white political figure, what would have been the reaction?

The selection of a Chinese sculptor to carve a three-story monument to Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall is raising questions about what part of his legacy should be celebrated.

King promoted peace and understanding among all people. His primary fight, however, was to win particular opportunities for blacks in the United States by juxtaposing the plight of an oppressed people against a message of freedom and democracy. A loose-knit but growing group of critics says a black artist - or at least an American - should have been chosen to create the King memorial between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials in the nation's capital. They have been joined by human rights advocates who say King would have abhorred the Chinese government's record on religious and civil liberty.

"They keep saying King was for everyone. I keep telling people, 'No, King wasn't for everyone. King was for fairness and justice,"' said Gilbert Young, a black painter from Atlanta who has started a Web site and a petition drive to try to change the project. "I believe that black artists have the right to interpret ourselves first," Young said. "If nobody steps up to the plate to do that, then certainly pass it along to someone else."

The memorial foundation directing the project seems surprised at the criticism. Ten of the 12 people on the committee that chose the sculptor, Lei Yixin, are black. Lei is working closely on the design with two black sculptors in the U.S., organizers said, and the overall project is being directed by a black-owned architecture firm. The foundation also points to King's preaching - in a quote that will be incorporated into the monument - that to achieve peace, humans must "transcend race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." "The bottom line is Dr. King's message that we should judge a person not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character," said Harry Johnson, the foundation's president and chief executive. "In this situation, we're talking about the artistic character."

Lei, designated a master sculptor by the Chinese government, is one of nine artists in the field who are considered national treasures in China. He has carved monuments to many of the country's national figures, including Mao Zedong, father of communist China.


Britain in Meltdown

As an Englishman I am dismayed, to put it lightly, at Britain's continuing meltdown. Our so called institutions are falling apart. The government is at best incompetent, the Anglian church ineffectual, and the poor old military-overstretched, undermanned and dangerously short of equipment. Ten years of `New Labour' under the malevolentcontrol of Blair and Brown has seen our public services wrecked, the pensions of millions of diligent workers destroyed, and society falling apart. Only this week we have seen an 11 year old boy gunned down in a British city, possibly by a 12 year old. How bad must things get before action is taken. The Judiciary have lost the plot, a serial child-molester just got a community rehabilitation order, murderers are given light sentences, and illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes have their `human rights' put before those of the victims. The Police spend half their time on paper work the other handing out speeding fines. Only when there is a `media' driven crime is there anything done. If someone breaks into house make them a cup of tea and offer them your wife, because thats all that is going to save you!

The spin of the Blair years has now been replaced by the arrogance of the `Stalinist' policies of Gordon Brown. The results will be the same just presented in a different way. Brown has had some good press coverage, coming from an acquiescent media, giving gravitas after Blair's `Hollywoodisation' of giving an interview. People are too quick to forget that almost all of Britains internal policies have been `controlled' by Brown for many years-'he who holds the purse strings etc'. Money has been thrown at the public services without any regard for cost control or accountability, unheard of in the private sector, with the resulting finantial carnage we see today.

The Military have had regiments cut, funding reduced (in comparison with other departments), and have been thrown to the lions in Iraq and Afghanistan by a government that has no understanding of how it works or what it needs. Not one single member of the government in the last 10 years has served in the military so what do you expect. Several were members of CND (The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) including Blair. They have an active dislike of all things military, but will use them if there is a good headline in it. See Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. They send troops willy-nilly to all the worlds trouble spots (which I support) but with out the right equipment and ROE to win. Yet they will not touch Zimbabwe because of the Foreign Office's misplaced guilt over the Empire, and their love of all nutters everywhere.

The Church of England has been `neutered', by a succession of weak and ineffectual Archbishops of Canterbury. This is a political appointment and which Prime Minister is going to appoint someone who is going to stand up to them. Militant Islam is gaining support due to the governments refusal to act against the `Preachers of Hate'. People who do not accept British Law, prefering to impose Sharia on a subservient population, are using those same British Laws to protect themselves to the benefit of a growing number of dodgy lawyers.

As for the future: Well a Brown victory at the next election will bring more of the same. Worse still Silly Hilly in the White House will cause global chaos. A weak America will allow all those who are at odds with us to run riot. As long as they do not attack America directly they will be safe. Just remember that `lil Billy's idea of fighting the 'War on Terror' was to use his intern as a humidor. The 21st Century is going to be bloodier than the last.


Socialism kills

In a period of two weeks during August, more than 11,000 elderly French men and women died of heat stroke. It is important to note this is not nearly the scandal in France that it would be in America. In fact, upon hearing the news, French president Jacques Chirac decided to stay on vacation in Quebec, Canada. Why not? Because, in the words of British historian Paul Johnson, the French - like most Europeans, and like most left-thinking people anywhere - love ideas more than people. The average educated European can intelligently discuss Hegel or Matisse almost as well as the average educated American - who probably never heard of Hegel or Matisse - can discuss real estate or sports.

Europe has given the world Marxism, communism, fascism, Nazism, racism and socialism, all rotten ideas that have caused immeasurable human suffering. But for Europeans and their ideological twins on the American left and at universities, ideas are not judged by their ability to ameliorate human suffering or reduce evil, but by their complexity and apparent profundity. An idea is not good because it produces good - that's unromantic American pragmatism - it is good because it sounds good.

Eleven thousand unnecessary deaths occurred in France largely because socialism inevitably breeds hedonism, selfishness and callousness. As ironic as it may seem, but the fact is that socialism - i.e., cradle-to-grave state welfare - makes people worse.

First, the socialist mind loathes work. In France, the legal length of the work week is 35 hours. Working hard to make more money is an American value that is held in contempt by the Left. The New York Times recently featured an article describing the death of the Protestant work ethic in secular, socialist Europe and the thriving of that ethic in America - and that this explains the far greater productivity and affluence of America. The Judeo-Christian tradition values work; secularism doesn't. And as we all know from watching our children, people with a lot of time on their hands have character problems.

Second, socialism values equality more than liberty. The Norwegian government recently passed a law that the boards of its largest corporations must be half female. The California left - the Democratic Party - just passed a law that no employer may fire a male employee who wears women's clothing at work. Because the Left holds liberty (except sexual liberty) in lower esteem, Europe has raised a generation that does not value liberty nearly as much as Americans do (though we're getting there).

Third, socialism teaches you to avoid taking care of other people. The state will - why should you? If people in France and elsewhere in Europe take less care of their aging parents, it is because they are taught from childhood to allow others - i.e., the state - to take care of everybody. Just as we saw in America when the state stepped in to take care of women who had children without a husband, these women increasingly refused to marry and felt little compunction about having more babies out of wedlock. The bigger the government, the worse the people.

Fourth, as a result of this socialist mindset, people in socialist countries give little charity, while Americans give vast amounts (just as Americans in conservative states give more charity per capita than people in liberal ones).

Fifth, the larger the state, the more callous it becomes. Twentieth-century evil was made possible in large measure by the bureaucratic mentality - the type of person who is merely a cog in huge governmental machine, collectively all-powerful but individually powerless to do anything except take and execute orders. The bigger the state, the colder its heart. (It is also true that the bigger the corporation, the more callous its heart. But unlike the state, corporations have competition and have no police powers.)

As I wrote in a previous column, the future of the world is either European secular socialism, Islamic totalitarianism or the unique American combination of Judeo-Christian religiosity and political and economic liberty. Few Americans are attracted to the second possibility, but vast numbers look to Europe as a model. One hopes that the next time they do, they will note the 11,000 elderly dead in France. But don't bet on it.


Prospective Australian citizens must score 60pc in Aussie values

A PASS mark of 60 per cent will be enough to became an Australian under the citizenship test to be introduced later this year. The draft Citizenship Test Resource Book released yesterday by Immigration and Citizenship Minister Kevin Andrews contains little that is likely to frighten civil libertarians. To become a citizen, applicants will need to correctly answer 12 out of 20 questions in the test, expected to be introduced later this year after legislation has passed through parliament.

The booklet from which questions for the test will be drawn stresses cultural diversity, freedom of religion, a society governed by the rule of law and a nation of proud sports traditions. Sample questions contained in the 40-page book include: What is the floral emblem of Australia? and, In what year did Federation take place?

"It is important that people wishing to become Australian citizens demonstrate an understanding and commitment to Australia and our way of life," Mr Andrews said yesterday. "A citizenship test provides the means of ensuring that prospective citizens have such an understanding. "Before becoming a citizen it is reasonable to expect that a person will understand the core values that have helped to create a society that is stable yet dynamic, cohesive yet diverse. Respect for the free-thinking individual and the rule of law are the foundations of the Australian liberal democratic tradition."

The new test applies only to those seeking to become citizens, not those migrating and settling in Australia on permanent or provisional visas. Special arrangements will be made for those with low levels of literacy or with special needs.

In a section on freedom of religion, the booklet says: "Australia has secular government with no official or state religion. Religious laws have no legal status in Australia." It also tackles the concept of mateship, saying: "Australia has a strong tradition of mateship -- where people help and receive help from others voluntarily, especially in times of adversity. A mate can be a spouse, partner, brother, sister, daughter, son or friend. A mate can also be a total stranger."

In the section Introducing Australia, the guide describes Australia as a nation of immigrants and says the country's history has been built by the efforts of millions of immigrants from 200 countries. Migrants have added to the rich tapestry of Australia, the booklet says, and have become a vital part of our society.

The ANZAC legend is covered, and so is the vexing history of Aboriginal people and their treatment by European settlers. "There has been great debate about how many Aboriginals were killed in the frontier battles. Many more Aboriginals than settlers were killed," it says.

Intending citizens are warned that Australia is also a "sports-crazy" nation and that of all our sporting heroes Donald Bradman is the best-known. While Australian rules is the dominant style of football in four states -- Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania -- more recently soccer has started to attract a larger following among young people.



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.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Grunting, dimwit, male stereotypes alarm fathers

In a smart bar lissom, single women sip cocktails and contemplate potential mates. The prospects do not look good, however, for the men in the bar aren't men at all - they're pigs. This was the premise of a recent US advertisement for that nation's market-leader condom brand, Trojan. The punchline came when one pig trotted off to the gents, bought himself one of its products and was transformed back into Homo sapiens. Ads such as these have led to an increasingly strident protest at the way that men are portrayed in the media.

According to Paul Nathanson and Katharine Young, two authors at the heart of the movement, the advert exemplifies the growing phenomenon of misandry: hatred of men. They insist that misandry is now pervasive and that we should be every bit as alert to it as we are to misogyny. They argue that men are now routinely defined by a limited set of negative stereotypes: the man as fool, slob or irrelevance. And they contend that nowhere are these archetypes more apparent than in advertising.

But is it really of concern? "Ask women why they thought it was a problem when they were ridiculed," says Nathanson. "I don't think men and women are different in that respect. Do two wrongs make a right?" Left unchallenged, he says, these images take on the patina of truth that will seep into the minds of those who implement laws and develop policy.

One man making a stand is Glenn Sacks, an American journalist whose newsletter reaches 50,000 subscribers. In 2004 he was alerted to an ad for Verizon. It showed a father trying to help his daughter with her maths homework only to be humiliated by her and her mother. Sacks, who has a son and daughter, says: "The worst thing about it was not that it shows the man being an idiot, because we see that all the time, but seeing the man portrayed as an idiot in front of his daughter and ridiculed by her mother in front of his daughter." He says his campaign prompted 3,000 people to contact Verizon and the ad was pulled.

But what most concerns Sacks, Nathanson and Young is the potential impact on boys growing up surrounded by images that tell them there is no acceptable or dignified way to be a man. "If you just have a bunch of negative images, how are boys ever going to develop a positive image of themselves?" says Young.

Sacks is appalled by the Trojan advert, and concerned about the message it sends to boys such as his 14-year-old son. "A boy looking at that would think that men are just inferior, disgusting animals and have to change and jump through hoops in order to be as good as women." Like Nathanson, he doesn't believe that these stereotypes stay locked harmlessly inside the TV. After a sex education class at school, his son complained, "It's always the boys who are wrong; boys who are trying to put one over on the girls," - "and they get this drum beat," says Sacks. "They are just fed a steady diet of this."

More here

Destructive British Leftist "non judgmentalism" bears fruit

It is no exaggeration to say that today's children have been betrayed by today's adults. The killing of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool is a direct consequence of a mass abdication of responsibility by the generations that should have been protecting him - and his murderer, too. I am not talking about Rhys's grieving mother and father, who are loving parents of the sort every child should have. I mean the agencies of state, from police officers and local authorities to those in Whitehall and Westminster who have turned their backs on adult obligations and discouraged the rest of us from taking them on.

Although we are the most spied-upon nation in Europe and although we have spent billions on social renewal schemes, we have reached a state in which children and teenagers in big cities live in terror of other children and teenagers and in despair of protection from adults. They carry knives because they are afraid. They are afraid on their way to and from school and they learn almost nothing when they get there, partly because adults don't protect them from bullying, thieving and disruption. Teachers have either lost or relinquished their authority and children can expect little or no guidance and protection from them, or from their parents, or from council care, or from the police.

Children know the police cannot protect them from gang leaders and that they would be daft to cooperate as witnesses. I know of two boys who were tortured by a young teenager to stop them giving evidence against him. For many young people in inner cities, there is no alternative to the comparative safety of gang life.

Since January eight young people have died in shootings - six in London, one in Manchester and now one in Liverpool. According to Home Office figures, the total number of young people aged between five and 16 who were murdered, one way or another, has gone down from 44 in 1995 to 20 in 2005-6 (and 40% of these were killed by a parent). However, overall gun killings went up from 49 in 2005-6 to 58 in 2006-7, which is a big leap.

Knife crime has gone up and knife owning is becoming common: 12 teenagers have been stabbed to death since the beginning of this year. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London found that between 22,000 and 57,000 young people could have been the victims of knife crime in 2004; without better official data it is impossible to know. It is clear that violent crime among those under 18 has risen for four consecutive years. And it is increasingly clear that, like mass illiteracy and innumeracy, this is at root due to an adult flight from responsibility - a loss of a sense of proper authority, replaced by a misguided pursuit of improper authority.

Take policing, the first, thin line of protection. I find it incredible to learn that there are known gangs in Croxteth, where Rhys was shot (as in Peckham, where Damilola Taylor was stabbed). If the police know of these gangs, why don't they control them with all possible severity? Why don't they watch them ceaselessly and remove the ringleaders with Asbos? Why don't they have police on the beat, as politicians keep promising? Of course they know of these gangs. Recognising the gravity of gang gun crime, Merseyside police set up a special unit called Matrix two years ago with 200 officers. Why aren't they patrolling the danger spots aggressively? If 200 officers are not enough, why aren't there more?

According to locals, the car park where Rhys died had become a meeting place for gangs, yet plans to have police there between 8pm and midnight were withdrawn last May. A camera was proposed for this coming October. It is depressing by comparison that a camera was already in place on a beach in Sussex to catch two girls exposing their breasts, and police were available to arrest and charge them, and accompany them to court last week (though the case was later dropped), while nobody from our busybody state was watching the known troublespot where Rhys died.

There was also police time and presence enough in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, this month to arrest a boy who threw a sausage at a man in the street and to charge him with assault, for which he could stand trial at vast expense. A police culture that permits this is the culture of Nero - fiddling with cocktail sausages while the inner cities burn.

The police are not entirely to blame, however. It is not their fault that under politically correct micromanagement from Whitehall, policing has become pen pushing, forcing them off the beat. Alistair McWhirter, a former chief constable of Suffolk, recently made the well-known point that officers spend much of their time doing preposterous amounts of paperwork. A file for a simple assault case contained 128 pieces of paper and had been handled by more than 50 people before it got to court. Recording an arrest will take up at least a morning of an officer's time in paperwork. It was irresponsible enough to dream up such a time-wasting procedure; it has been almost criminally irresponsible, after several years of complaint, to continue with it. This is the betrayal of the Whitehall mandarins, who have insisted on this nonsense, in all public services, backed by government.

The failures of the police are only one part of a complex collection of social problems and if society is broken, the police can hardly be expected to fix it. What's needed is a passionate backlash against irresponsibility and irresponsible, misguided waste and the terrible state sector mentality that promotes both. It's this mentality that has produced teachers who can't or won't teach, school leavers who are unemployable, students who can't study, feckless parents, broken homes, police who are obsessed with things that don't matter, neighbours who dare not stand up to other people's children, jails overcrowded with the wrong people, idiotic state sector make-work, intrusive quangos imposing idiotic make-work and the divisive follies of multiculturalism and uncontrolled immigration. Until we begin to stand up against all these things, we can probably expect more senseless killings of children.


Halal meat for prisoners in Australia

What's happened to the advice: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time

ALL prisoners at Brisbane's Wolston Correctional Centre are being served halal meat - whether or not they are Muslim. Halal meat is blessed and slaughtered by a Muslim slaughterman and cooked and stored in accordance with religious laws. "Wolston prison provides all prisoners halal meat as it can be sourced at the same price as non-halal meat," a Corrective Services spokesman said. However, only about 10 of the prison's 570 inmates currently request a halal diet.

Last year a Muslim child-sex offender was awarded $2000 compensation because he was not given fresh halal meat while he was in prison. The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found that the State Government had directly discriminated against Sharif Mahommed while he was in Wolston and Palen Creek correctional centres. The Government appealed against the decision, with Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence saying it could open the floodgates to prisoners requesting "all manner of special diets". The Government lost its appeal.

Special diets given to Queensland prisoners include vegetarian; no pork, ham or bacon; no seafood; Asian; diabetic; soft food; no mushroom; low fat; low salt; no salt; gluten-free; no curry; no pineapple; no lactose; high fibre; and vitamised.


Testing times for migrants to Australia

MIGRANTS will face a tough new citizenship test obliging them to endorse the values of mateship and the fair go, as well as learn the English language. For the first time, the Federal Government has laid out what it regards as the 10 essential Australian values every citizen must embrace.

A draft copy of the pamphlet Becoming an Australian Citizen, which will be given to all new citizenship applicants before their test, will be released by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews and Prime Minister John Howard today. It describes Australia as a nation at ease with the world and itself, but lays down a firm obligation on aspiring citizens to respect the nation's core values.

Questions in the citizenship test will range from the types of official flag, the national flower and colours, to sporting heroes, national days, military achievements, convict history and the fate of Aborigines. Migrants can even be asked where the origin of the word Digger comes from, along with the well-known expressions such as Anzac and battler. Migrants will face a 20-question test drawn at random from a list of 200. They must correctly answer 60 per cent.



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.