Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greater powers for official British `snoopers'

More than a dozen Bills going through Parliament extend the powers of state inspectors to enter people's homes, the Government has admitted. Despite a pledge by Gordon Brown last October that he would limit powers and introduce a liberty test, he has extended the right to enter property in planning, crime, environmental, education and health legislation.

A parliamentary answer obtained by the Conservatives shows that nine Bills and one draft Bill contain new powers of entry, with three others entrenching existing powers. "The fact that Gordon Brown is entrenching and extending powers of state bureaucrats to enter people's homes makes a mockery of his so-called review into powers of entry," Eric Pickles, the Shadow Communities Secretary, said.

The Counter-terrorism Bill and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, for example, allow entrance to properties to enforce social disorder and antiterrorist laws. The Education and Skills Bill allows the State to inspect private schools and the Climate Change Bill allows officials to enter homes to enforce black bin charges and to monitor carbon-trading schemes.

Mr Pickles, who said that there was a need for measures to tackle crime and terrorism, added: "Yet this uncontrolled extension contradicts Gordon Brown's empty promises on liberty and is another worrying sign of the surveillance state." A survey of state powers to enter people's homes by the Centre for Policy Studies last April highlighted a significant expansion of entry powers under Labour. The spokesman from the Home Office said that all the Bills would be included in the review of powers of entry. The spokesman added that it was inevitable that some new powers had to be included in the Bills to ensure the laws were enforceable.


Homosexual Leader Calls AIDS 'a Gay Disease'

In a startling admission, the head of a major homosexual activist group said HIV/AIDS is a "gay disease." The comments were made last Friday at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's (NGLTF) national conference in Detroit by Executive Director Matt Foreman. "Folks, with 70 percent of the people in this country living with HIV being gay or bi (sexual), we cannot deny that HIV is a gay disease," Foreman told his audience. "We have to own that and face up to that."

Conservative organizations that work on the HIV/AIDS issue say they are shocked. "Foreman's comments are a dramatic departure from the long-standing strategic and rhetorical orthodoxy of the homosexual 'rights' movement, which in the past has heatedly objected to any such characterization by critics of its political agenda," said Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America, called the admission "refreshing." For decades, he said, homosexual activists have excoriated anyone who even implied that HIV/AIDS was a disease largely affecting homosexuals. Even the late homosexual journalist Randy Shilts was attacked in the early '80s - when AIDS was first recognized - for referring to the condition as GRID, or "gay-related immune deficiency." "Because of their war on semantics and being in such denial and not focusing on the reality of the dangers of their behaviors, many people have contracted the disease," Barber told Cybercast News Service. "Who knows how many lives could have been saved had homosexual activists been honest about the dangers of the lifestyle they choose to engage in," he added.

Indeed, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force lambasted the Bush administration in 2003 for nominating Jerry Thacker to the President's Council on HIV/AIDS. Thacker was forced to withdraw from the nomination, because he supposedly called AIDS "the gay plague."

Thacker, who said he never referred to AIDS as "a gay plague," told Cybercast News Service that he was the target of a politically motivated smear campaign by homosexual activists. "We've said for a long time now that HIV in this country is a behavioral disease, that you don't have to get it, that if you do engage in risky activities you run the risk of getting it, and that it really has little to do with your sexual preferences," Thacker said. In fact, HIV is an equal-opportunity disease, he added. "If by saying that the disease is primarily 'a gay disease,' this is an admission that their sexual practices are more likely to get the disease from one person to another. Then homosexuals are owning up to something that we've known for a long time," Thacker said.

Ironically, the heterosexual Thacker acquired HIV/AIDS from his wife, who had a blood transfusion in 1984, before the blood supply was safeguarded. Thacker, his wife, and his daughter have HIV/AIDS.

The NGLTF's admission, meanwhile, has rocked the homosexual activist community. One homosexual activist, Todd Heywood, told the Lansing State Journal the story was likely to gain traction in coming days and weeks. "When leaders of the right-wing claim HIV/AIDS (is) a gay disease, we all balk at that claim," Heywood said. "But what happens when a national gay leader says it?" Foreman has since clarified that he wasn't saying that AIDS is a gay disease worldwide, but it is in the United States.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 70 percent of all cases of HIV occur among men who have sex with other men (MSMs), people who are bisexual, or those who inject illegal drugs with infected needles.

Conservatives like Barber, meanwhile, are calling on other homosexual groups to publicly acknowledge the truth and for groups like the National Education Association to stop promoting the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.


Philly's War on the Boy Scouts

As Michael Nutter was sworn in as the city's 98th mayor last month, he called for a new wave of public service to clean up drug-infested neighborhoods. If he is serious about renewing volunteerism, he'll start by putting an end to the city's campaign against the Boy Scouts. On May 31, the Cradle of Liberty Council, the local Boy Scout chapter, will be evicted from its headquarters on 22nd and Winter Streets -- a space it has occupied since 1928.

The eviction isn't for a breach of contract. It comes at the behest of the City Council, which voted 16 to one last year to kick the boy scouts out unless they reverse the national Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays serving in the ranks or as scoutmasters or start paying "market rent" -- about $200,000 a year. Local chapters can't reverse national scouting policies. So it's a matter of paying up or moving out.

Throughout the city, there are about 56,000 Boy Scouts who spend countless hours cleaning parks, running food drives, and organizing meals for the needy. And, of course, helping young boys, many without strong male figures in their lives, develop skills that will serve them well in life.

"You think we'd be embraced by city officials," Scoutmaster J.R. Brockman told me recently. He's a human-relations consultant and father of twin 14-year-olds who volunteers to lead a troop of about 20 scouts and a dozen Cub Scouts out of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in west Philadelphia. On Fridays he can be found with his scouts at the church as the boys eat pizza and play Xbox. "It's an activity that keeps them off the streets and lets them spend time with their friends," he says.

But it's not all fun and games. Mostly Mr. Brockman focuses on steering kids clear of drugs and violence, which leads many of the city's youth to a stint in jail. "[T]he kids who have stayed in the program," he told me, "have stayed out of trouble." On weekends, his scouts go for hikes or campouts at local parks. In town, they renovate sections of the city's Fairmount Park, run food drives, and feed the homeless.

Irving Anglin, 16, is leading a renovation project in Fairmount Park. His aim is to become an Eagle Scout, an honor only a handful of scouts ever achieve. He joined the scouts as a first grader and admits he did so reluctantly. Today, however, he can't imagine life without scouting: "You get to know your limits and your strengths. You get to do different things, like swimming and sports that you otherwise wouldn't get a chance to do."

Mr. Brockman says that all of his scouting activities are made possible because he receives administrative support and help with recruitment from the of the Cradle of Liberty headquarters. Take away the scout building and Mr. Brockman loses the professional staff he relies on. As it is, he can't field all the calls he receives from single mothers looking to place their sons in his troop. "I'm a volunteer with limited resources," Mr. Brockman told me. "I just can't do it all. And without the headquarters here, that will make my job even more difficult."

For the past 80 years, the scouts have leased their corner lot off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a nominal fee. And they have made the site their own by building a three-story 8,928-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style headquarters with private funds. Scouting badges, ranks and emblems are etched in the limestone along the roofline. The scouting motto -- "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country . . . " -- is carved above the main entrance. In 1937 the scouts added the life-size iconic statue of "The Boy Scout" that greets visitors. And each year they spend about $60,000 on maintenance. In 1994, they spent $2.6 million on renovations. Charles D. Hart, who was then president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, wrote of the building in March 1930: "It will show the public that we are here and here to stay and that we are recognized as being an important factor in the city's and nation's life."

But the city's attitude toward the scouts changed in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, could exclude homosexual scouts and troop leaders. Following the ruling, local governments and organizations across the country took aim at the scouts.

The Philadelphia chapter lost annual six-figure donations from the United Way and the Pew Charitable Trusts, according to Mark Chilutti, vice chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council. Today there are fewer than two dozen staff members serving the chapter, down from nearly four dozen. With dwindling resources the chapter is watching its membership dwindle as well. Membership in the council, which covers the city and parts of two neighboring counties, peaked at 95,000 in 2001. Today it stands at 65,000, with most of those in the city itself. In 2003, the Cradle of Liberty tried to appease the city by adopting its own nondiscrimination policy, but was overruled by the national organization. That same year, Cradle of Liberty also revoked the membership of an 18-year-old scout who publicly announced that he was gay, leading to last year's City Council vote.

Mr. Brockman believes that if the focus is on the kids and what scouting offers in terms of leadership development and other skills, a solution can be found. Here's one suggestion: Sell the scouts their building. Ask for fair market value minus a generous allowance for improvements the scouts have made to the property and the resources they have devoted to its upkeep and to the city. The scouts could raise money for the purchase without touching resources needed for programs for the boys. If the goal is a safer city with an engaged citizenry, Mr. Nutter could find a way to keep the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia.


Fuzzy feelings won't save anyone

A Leftist who sees that simplistic Leftist theories make Australia's Aboriginal problems worse:

I HAVE to confess that, unlike most other commentators, I watched last week's "Sorry" address by the PM with mingled emotions. Even as I felt my heart lift and swell - as it sought, dutifully, to do - a pinprick of doubt and fear crept up my spine. So much virtuous emotion has already been poured into a limitless vessel of ineffectual sympathy for Aboriginal Australia. So many people have allowed themselves to believe that emotional bonding can cause the wounds of the past to heal. And yet so much of this emotion has been, in effect, seed spilled upon barren ground.

Unlike the motley band of conservative dissenters, my anxiety isn't really to do with history. The official version of the history of the Stolen Generations is doubtless a partial and imperfect one. It's not clear that most Aboriginal children were actually taken from their families on explicitly racialist grounds, even though those arguments were certainly broadcast in the policy debates of the day. On the whole, Aboriginal families suffered disproportionately because they were disproportionately poor, disproportionately vulnerable, and disproportionately troubled. As they still are today.

Yet there are moments in the public history of all nations when the "official" version of historical events, for all its piety, takes on a role that is more as well as less than historical, and when its faults become excusable. In reality, we don't apologise for history, so much as for the tracks that history has left in the troubles of the present. As well as, on occasion, for the injustices of the present, dressed up for convenience's sake in historical garb. So, no, my mingled emotions weren't caused by history, or even that much-abused term truth.

Paradoxically, they were generated by the sheer emotional power of the occasion. As any student of the history of Christianity knows, conscience, guilt, atonement and forgiveness can be double-edged emotional swords. The person who gives also receives. Bestowing an apology on another can cause us a perverse kind of pleasure: the pleasure of feeling better about ourselves as apologisers.

Perhaps that's why so many of the people whose hearts were raised to the skies in sorrow managed at the same time to be so mean-spirited towards the hapless but basically well-intentioned Brendan Nelson. They were distancing themselves from the other Australians out there, those less virtuous than themselves. So seductive was the call of the moment that otherwise hard-nosed journalists (such as The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien) seemed determined to adopt an aura not unlike that of Mother Teresa.

Now it's true that many commentators, as well as the PM himself, have striven almost ostentatiously to avoid any impression of losing hold of their faculties. So we've heard a great deal about the apology being the easy part, and how the hard part of the job is yet to begin. And Kevin Rudd has announced some decidedly bold benchmarks for attacking indigenous mortality rates, school attendance figures and housing availability.

And yet these gestures, I confess, serve only to stoke my anxiety. To be blunt, I worry whether a PM who seems increasingly to be cast as the deliverer of Aboriginal Australia will muster the strength of character to be hated (vociferously hated, perhaps) by many Australians - white and black alike - for making the kinds of unpopular decisions that are surely required.

Benchmarks are hardly a novelty in Aboriginal policy. Similarly stern aims to close the gap between the two nations have been invoked by every PM since Robert Menzies. Yet too often they have become ritual words, uttered without any tangible effect. No bread has turned into flesh; no wine has become blood. Indeed, so far as can be told from the publicly available figures, on some key indicators the gap has probably widened. To be frank, while I would dearly love to believe in them, I have no idea right now how the PM intends to turn his benchmarks into working reality. You can build as many new public houses as you like, but if they're built in communities with no jobs and no futures, they will simply be abandoned or neglected.

Surely it would be better if Aboriginal Australia were allowed to develop the life-savings to buy their own houses in places they might actually choose to live if they had a choice. And to take care of those houses, as other Australians do. But this is a strategy for a generation, not just the next five years.

Aboriginal literacy levels are a national scandal. Yet raising school attendance rates will have limited effect if the children concerned have no viable and stable home lives, free from violence and abuse. And this in turn means creating new communities, in some cases possibly far away from the old ones.

When public-housing and welfare-based communities composed primarily of white Australians become toxic and dysfunctional, policymakers seem to have nerve enough to bulldoze them and relocate their members elsewhere, to better places, on the whole. These are often unpopular decisions, especially among academics, who like to lament the loss of "old-style communities", in that romantic but perverse academic fashion. But they get made.

To put the matter crudely, policymakers have to put their duty of care towards Aboriginal citizens above their desire to be loved. In this respect there's no more dangerous emotion for a new PM than that inner glow that tells you you're the father of the nation. The danger is that in a generation's time we'll have a new apology to make. Put briefly, it might read something like this:

* It was we who kept Aboriginal people in chaotic communities without livelihoods, services or decent sanitation, in the belief that in this manner their culture might be preserved as an instructive reproach to our own

* It was we who persuaded ourselves that while we need decently paid jobs, financial assets and life security as part of our human and social rights, Aboriginal people were happier and more in touch with their true nature without those things

* It was we who went on long camping tours of the Top End, where we almost began to imagine ourselves as Aboriginal. Except that when we came back from these sentimental journeys we talked always of land, mysticism and the simple joys of community, and never of hygiene, employment opportunities or child safety.

* It was we who, having operatically distanced ourselves from the hard-hearted policies of another generation, let our soft-heartedness turn once again into pure, unadulterated funk.



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


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