Monday, March 17, 2008

British equality watchdog fails its own test

But it's headed by a black, so that's OK

Britain's anti-discrimination quango had to be bailed out by ministers to avoid its breaching the law over its own internal equality scheme, The Times has learnt. The disclosure comes as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), chaired by Trevor Phillips, last week began its first inquiry into human rights in Britain. The commission was set up last year to replace the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Along with all other public bodies it was meant to implement an overarching equality scheme, setting out its position for its staff on race, gender, disability and other potential areas of discrimination by January 1 this year. It failed to do so, prompting ministers to lay a statutory instrument before Parliament, extending the deadline to April 1 this year.

Last night opposition MPs expressed astonishment at the failure. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for youth and equality, said: "What authority will the commission have in cracking the whip to other public bodies when they fail to comply with their own legal responsibilities with such impunity from ministers?"

According to its mandate, part of" the commission's responsibility is to "reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people and protect human rights". It must also assess compliance with the statutory duties applicable to public authorities as well as take "enforcement action when necessary and appropriate".

The commission maintains that its scheme was very ambitious and that the three-month period that it had to meet the deadline set by the Government's Equality Office was unrealistic. A spokeswoman for the commission confirmed that the deadline had been revised but said this was necessary because of the size of the job. "We take this task very seriously. We are attempting something much more ambitious than merely complying with the duty to set up equality schemes . . . we want a single integrated scheme, which obviously takes time to do properly."


Racial anxiety rules in Britannia

In Britain there has been mounting concern about the country "sleepwalking" into segregation. A government report last year showed schools increasingly dividing along racial lines, particularly in the old industrial north of England. Jack Straw, the respected former foreign secretary and now Justice Secretary, has warned about white and non-white Britons "breathing the same air but walking past each other".

For Britons, the issue has particular potency this year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the "Rivers of Blood" speech given by the Conservative politician Enoch Powell. Then the shadow defence secretary, Powell warned that if immigration wasn't stopped, there would be strife in the years to come: "As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood." Powell's speech has since been inscribed into British political culture, a reference to "Rivers of Blood" shorthand for white racism.

Yet Powellite concerns about race are slowly being reassessed. Last week BBC TV screened the first program of its controversial White season, a series of films and documentaries looking at white working-class Britain. Immigration and race feature heavily in the series (titles include White Girl, All White In Barking and The Poles Are Coming). Its commissioning editor, Richard Klein, says the white working class has been ignored by the political classes, the victim of political correctness. "The way in which they see the world may come across as extremist," Klein continues, "but that's not how they see it." Already, the BBC has been accused of indulging racist fears of immigrants.

There is much public hostility towards immigration. An ICM poll in January found that 78 per cent of Britons thought immigration policy should be tightened, with 56 per cent believing that British Muslims need to integrate more into British culture. Support for the xenophobic British Nationalist Party continues to grow in the lead-up to municipal elections later this year.

Some of this is the fallout from the July 7, 2005, London bombings and their demonstration of the dangers of militant Islamism from within. British politicians have acknowledged the need for a better defined sense of national solidarity. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has led the way with his push for "British values" to be enshrined in an official statement of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Yet the difficulties of articulating a national identity that appeals to a white ethnic majority as well as to immigrants are profound. It isn't easy to say what such a thing must involve, as the Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, found out after a speech last week. Hodge had criticised annual Prom concerts for failing to be inclusive enough of people from minority backgrounds. It was a clumsy intervention. All she managed was to estrange white Britons for whom the Proms (especially the "Last Night Of" concerts featuring pieces such as Land Of Hope And Glory, Jerusalem and Rule Britannia) represent a healthy dose of patriotism.

The bottom line is that cultural marginalisation, for natives and immigrants alike, must be avoided at all cost. Even if such discontent doesn't spill into rivers of blood, it certainly leaves a society on edge.


The costs of crime are far, far more than the costs of incarceration

By Thomas Sowell

For more than two centuries, the political Left has been preoccupied with the fate of criminals, often while ignoring or downplaying the fate of the victims of those criminals. So it is hardly surprising that a recent New York Times editorial has returned to a familiar theme among those on the Left, on both sides of the Atlantic, with its lament that "incarceration rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen." Back in 1997, New York Times writer Fox Butterfield expressed the same lament under the headline, "Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling." Then, as now, liberals seemed to find it puzzling that crime rates go down when more criminals are put behind bars.

Nor is it surprising that the Left uses an old and irrelevant comparison - between the cost of keeping a criminal behind bars versus the cost of higher education. According to the Times, "Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, and Oregon devote as much or more to corrections as they do to higher education." The relevant comparison would be between the cost of keeping a criminal behind bars and the cost of letting him loose in society. But neither the New York Times nor others on the Left show any interest in that comparison.

In Britain, the total cost of the prison system per year was found to be 1.9 billion pounds sterling, while the financial cost alone of the crimes committed per year by criminals was estimated at 60 billion pounds sterling.

The big difference between the two kinds of costs is not just in their amounts. The cost of locking up criminals has to be paid out of government budgets that politicians would prefer to spend on giveaway programs that are more likely to get them reelected. But the far higher costs of letting criminals loose is paid by the general public in both money and in being subjected to violence. The net result is that both politicians and ideologues of the Left are forever pushing "alternatives to incarceration." These include programs with lovely names like "community supervision" and high-tech stuff like electronic devices to keep track of released criminals' locations.

Just how do you "supervise" a criminal who is turned loose in the community? Assigning someone to be with him, one-on-one, 24/7, would probably be a lot more expensive than locking him up. But of course no one is proposing any such thing. Having the released criminal reporting to some official from time to time may be enough to allow the soothing word "supervision" to be used. But it hardly restricts what a criminal does with the other nine-tenths of his time when he is not reporting.

Electronic devices work only when they are being used. Even when they are being used 24/7, they tell you only where the criminal is, not what he is doing. Those released criminals who don't even want that much restriction can of course remove the device and become an escapee, with far less trouble or risk than is required to escape from prison.

One of the most insidious aspects of "alternatives to incarceration" programs is that those who control such programs often control also the statistical and other information that would be needed to assess the actual consequences of these programs. They not only control what information is released but to whom it will be released. When officials whose careers are on the line can choose between researchers who view incarceration as being "mean-spirited" toward criminals and other researchers who are much less sympathetic to criminals, who do you think is going to get access to the data?

A study of the treatment of criminals in Britain - A Land Fit for Criminals by David Fraser - has several chapters on the games that are played with statistics, in order to make "alternatives to incarceration" programs look successful, even when they are failing abysmally, with tragic results for the public.

Britain has gone much further down the road that the New York Times is urging us to follow. In the process, Britain has gone from being one of the most law-abiding nations on earth to overtaking the United States in most categories of crime.


A Bible study on poverty

In a new book, "Red Letter Christians," Tony Campolo makes the case that Christians can fulfill their duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless by electing politicians who will make this the collective responsibility of the government and all taxpayers. For fear that even one Christian in America might be so misled by the noted evangelist and theologian, I decided to do something Campolo failed to do - consult the Bible.

Of course, that's not entirely fair. Campolo does offer a scriptural citation for his prescription for coercive wealth redistribution by government. It just doesn't apply. He cites Matthew 25:31-46, in which Jesus explains the responsibility each of us has individually to be compassionate to our neighbors in need. Notice Jesus did not suggest those listening to Him lobby Herod to take care of the poor. Notice Jesus did not suggest this was Caesar's responsibility. Notice Jesus did not suggest people, listening to His words then or reading them 2,000 years later, should mug the rich and distribute their wealth to the poor.

Jesus didn't suggest anything remotely like that to help the poor and truly needy. Instead, he speaks to each of us individually. He lets us know about this because it is the best prescription for both the poor and for us who make the sacrifice to help. Sacrifice is not meant to be easy. Sacrifice is not painless. And personal sacrifice is clearly what Jesus is prescribing for His followers in Matthew 25 - and throughout the rest of the Bible, for that matter.

Jesus doesn't suggest spreading the pain and sacrifice by forcing non-believers to carry the load. Jesus doesn't suggest reducing our own responsibility by foisting it upon the entire nation. Jesus doesn't suggest stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But that's what Campolo's version of enlightened Christian socialism is all about. He specifically says problems like poverty are too big for the individual and too big for the church. Only government can tackle them, he says. Gee, I wonder why Jesus forgot to mention that to us?

When Jesus talked to the rich young ruler, He told Him to sell his goods and give the money to the poor. Even Jesus didn't force him to do so - which He certainly could have done. Had He forced Him, the rich young ruler would still not be in obedience and still not eligible for the rewards of the afterlife. That is the result only of a personal decision to follow God, not the result of coercion.

There's nothing compassionate about taking from those who have and redistributing it. In fact, it would deny the Zacchaeuses of the world (Luke 19) from the gifts of repentance, forgiveness and salvation. Would that be biblical?

Go further two more chapters in Luke to learn of the kind of sacrifice God values. The poor widow who gave two mites, we learn, actually gave more than the rest. Why? Because it's not the amount that counts in God's eyes, it's the faith motivating the giving that counts. Campolo has this all upside down. God doesn't want or need our money to perfect His Creation. He requires our obedience and faithfulness.

The Bible does, however, warn us about people who use the poor as an excuse to sin, as a rationalization for sowing discord, as a means of undermining the very will of God. We see this explored in John 12, where Judas condemns Mary for putting expensive, perfumed oil in Jesus' hair. "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" demands the man who would betray Jesus. The next verse goes to Judas' motivations: "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."

Judas was like so many "do-gooders" today who demand we show compassion for the poor by giving them, the do-gooders, our money. That's not the way it's supposed to work. You're supposed to help the poor. You don't need a middleman, a Judas, a tax collector, a bureaucrat, a politician taking a cut. It's no longer charity. It's no longer compassion. It's no longer obedience to God.

And what did Jesus say to rebuke Judas' insolence? "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." It seems eliminating poverty is not what God requires of us. The poor will always be with us, He says.

So why help the poor? Because God commands it. He doesn't tell us to solve global poverty. He doesn't tell us to pass the buck to others. He doesn't tell us to enlist government in the cause. He doesn't tell us to make the poor a political cause. God wants us to look the poor person in the eye when we give. He wants us to show God's love when we do it. He doesn't want us writing bigger checks to the U.S. Treasury. He wants us serving Him. And through serving Him, we help spread the good news of His grace.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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