Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Britain: Squatters taught to pick locks by council leaflet

Squatters are being given advice on how to break into empty properties and set up home without paying rent, in a council-recommended handbook. The booklet, issued by the Advisory Service for Squatters, gives tips on removing locks, and suggests that those caught breaking in to a property should claim they are “clearing drains”. In a section on legal advice, squatters are told to put a notice on the door warning it is a criminal offence to evict the new residents, and to threaten any homeowner who objects with the words: “You may receive a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment.”

A number of councils across the country are steering local people who do not have a home to the Advisory Service through links on their websites. They include Hackney, Islington, Brent and Camden in London, as well as Durham and Doncaster. The Home Office also consults the group on its equality policies.

The guide positively encourages people to become squatters, with advice such as: "Only a small minority of squatters ever get nicked - squatting is not a crime. "If anyone says it is, they are wrong. "With a few exceptions, if you can get into an empty building without doing any damage, and can secure it, you can make it your home. "Private houses may provide years of housing to lucky squatters."

Eric Pickles, the Conservative local government spokesman, said he was appalled that councils were helping potential squatters get advice on breaking into empty properties. He added: "Homeowners will be horrified that town halls are giving squatters the green light to break into law-abiding citizens' homes."


Why does it take Bishop Nazir-Ali to tell Britain how it really is?

Why is it that nobody in our own elite actually likes or understands this country or its people or its traditions? Why did we have to wait for Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, born and raised in Muslim Pakistan, to remind us that, as he put it, `the beliefs, values and virtues of Great Britain have been formed by the Christian faith'?

Just as important, why did we have to wait for him to urge us to do something about restoring that faith before we either sink into a yelling chaos of knives, fists and boots, or swoon into the strong, implacable arms of Islam? Most of our homegrown prelates are more interested in homosexuality or in spreading doubt about the gospel or urging the adoption of Sharia law.

Then again, why did it take the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to explain to us that our parliamentary system was the best guarantee of liberty in the world and to remind us of the courage and valour of our people in war? This is not what British leaders say or even think, not least because they are busy pulling the constitution to pieces. It is not what our children are taught in schools. In fact, any expression of national pride is viewed with suspicion by the state, by the education system and above all by the BBC.

It was not always so. Half a century ago, we had churchmen, broadcasters, academics and military men who thought it normal to love their own country, normal to support the Christian faith which made us what we are, and were willing to defend it. The question of what happened in the years between is one of the most interesting in history.

We know, thanks to their endless memoirs and the dramas about them, that this country's foreign and intelligence services were maggoty with Communist penetration. I am sometimes tempted to wonder if the same organisation targeted both political parties (especially the Unconservatives), the Church of England, the BBC, the Civil Service, the legal profession and the universities. The Communist leader Harry Pollitt certainly urged his supporters back in the Forties to hide their true views and work their way into the establishment. An organised conspiracy could not have done much more damage than whatever did happen.

We have a country demoralised in every sense, its people robbed of their own pride, its children deprived of stability and authority, terrifyingly ignorant of their own culture, its tottering economy largely owned from abroad, its armed forces weak, its justice system a sick joke, its masses distracted by pornography, drink and drugs, its constitution menaced, its elite in the grip of a destructive, intolerant atheism. Ripe, in fact, for a foreign takeover.


The enormous costs of building restrictions and other urban regulations

A comment from California about Texas

Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, an old-school Democrat who ran the nation's fourth-largest city between 1992 and 1998, told those of us who attended the American Dream Coalition (ADC) conference in his city last week that he moved there, from a poor, industrial city in East Texas because Houston was "an open city." A person's race or economic background didn't much matter even when he got there decades ago, and it still doesn't matter much in Houston today. Anyone who works hard, he said, can make it in Houston - a city that sophisticates decry as insufficiently planned (it still lacks zoning), too tacky (money is still what matters there) and too "boom-to-bust." Houston remains a place where fortunes soar and fall, and where brashness and bigness aren't frowned upon.

Unfortunately, instead of trying to create cities with grand opportunities, government officials are trying to create compact, expensive, trendy places that appeal to wealthy elites - neat places to go out to eat and attend a concert, but bad places to raise a family and start a business.

Granted, Houston's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's a nice city with an impressive skyline, lush tree-lined neighborhoods, upscale shopping, great restaurants, endless economic opportunities and amazingly low home prices. During one session, Houston city councilman Peter Brown decried the growing lack of affordability in some parts of the city, where a person needs $220,000 to buy a nice house! The room broke out in laughter as those of us from California, Washington and Oregon guffawed spontaneously. As I rode to George Bush airport, I spotted a billboard for a new development boasting prices from the $80s to the $120s. The median home price is in the metropolitan area is $148,000, according to the National Association of Realtors, and anyone with 500 grand - about the median home price in Orange County - can afford a minipalace.

There's more to life than cheap houses, but you can certainly have a better life if you don't have to work three jobs to meet the $3,000 a month mortgage payment.

One obvious reason for the relatively low prices is Houston's location, in a swampy plain with few physical restrictions to stunt the region's growth. But the prices are mostly a reflection of the pro-growth, low-regulation attitude that is dominant in the Lone Star State. Regulations are slimmer than in most places, and that allows builders to respond to market demand. One of the key reasons for the current housing crisis is that when demand shot up, the market couldn't respond in tightly regulated, authoritarian places such as California and Oregon, explained Wendell Cox, a housing expert and Heritage Foundation fellow.

The lead time for putting up new houses was too severe around here - not because of the time needed to build the houses, but because of the months and even years necessary for West Coast builders to negotiate all the political hurdles. So prices shot upon inadequate supply and the bidding war got started, driving homes to inordinate price points. In places such as Houston, the market reacted to the credit boom by building more homes quickly to meet demand. Prices stayed low, so after the bust, there was no precipitous fall.

Low home prices are one indicator of an "open city" - a place where any person can make his mark if he works hard enough. In an open city, where regulations are low and prices are reasonable, it's easy for anyone to get a business permit and open a store or provide a service. That's the American Dream. That's the key to helping recent immigrants make it into the mainstream. It's a lot more cost-effective and kind-hearted than building a massive wall.

Yet as conference presentations explained, the dominant ideas found in city planning offices and among regional planners are Smart Growth and New Urbanism - efforts to set aside open land as permanent open space, to force builders to provide dense housing on small lots, and to replace highway construction with mass transit. The goal is to recreate old-fashioned city living and, supposedly, to enhance the sense of "community" we experience as we live cheek-by-jowl with our neighbors.

As a result, today's planners - and as ADC's outgoing director Randal O'Toole noted, government long-term plans are guaranteed to be wrong - are imposing one new restriction after another on what we do with our own private property. They push for more rules, more control, bigger regional planning bodies, less individual choice. Decisions, one speaker noted, are made either by free people or in the political process. Those are the only choices. In a free society, individuals can decide what to build and how to live - provided they follow some simple, easily understood rules. In un-free places, such as California, one must lobby councils, win over neighbors, pay consultants to twist arms, make promises to city governments. Approvals are based on the whims of the officials; there's no certainty or well-defined rights. Call a society that functions that way what you please, but don't pretend it's free or open.

The modern urban planning profession is, as author Joel Kotkin argued in a recent booklet called "Opportunity Urbanism," about enhancing an "area's ability to attract the wealthiest individuals, the people with the highest skills, and those who can perform the most rarefied economic functions. The resulting 'superstar cities' cater largely to the upper classes and to those who serve them; generally, those cities are becoming too expensive for middle income individuals or families." Hence, urban gurus such as Richard Florida entice cities to embrace policies that attract what he calls the "creative class." But it's perverse, really, for governments to use their power and energy to build cities for wealthy Yuppies, while ignoring - beyond lip service about affordable/subsidized housing - the needs of the middle class and poor.

A New York Times article in 2005 explained the result of such policies in the trendiest cities: "San Francisco, where the median house price is now about $700,000, had the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation . . Seattle, where there are more dogs than children, was a close second. Boston, Honolulu, Portland, Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin and Atlanta, all considered, healthy, vibrant urban areas, were not far behind. . Officials say that the very things that attract people who revitalize a city - dense vertical housing, fashionable restaurants and shops and mass transit that makes a car unnecessary - are driving out children by making the neighborhoods too expensive for young families."

Those cities also lack an entrepreneurial culture. Southern California, for instance, is a fun place to live, but if you want to start a business, you'd be best advised to head for Nevada or Arizona. That's what the activists at the American Dream Coalition are about - reminding the public that when planners take over, our freedom, and our opportunity suffers. I spoke about the city of Santa Ana's Renaissance Plan, which is the effort to drive out long-standing businesses and settled neighborhoods and replace them with high-rise condos and fancy clubs to appeal to this upscale demographic sought-after by planners.

Instead of pitching an aesthetic vision of recreating an old-time city, city planners ought to promote the ideas expressed by Lanier, of an open city where the future is as endless as the Texas prairie. It's not a bad thing for politicians to remember also: Lanier won resounding victories among every political and ethnic demographic in Houston - a testament, he said, to the enduring political appeal of opportunity


Groupthink is the foundation of Fascism and racism

"When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts. Smiley-smiley." So said George Carlin, and Jonah Goldberg's graphic designer ran with it.

But what if racism were to politically take over America, become (once again) institutionalized by government? How would it be attired? I had always assumed it would come "wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross," like fascism. But after encountering three devotees of institutionalized love who were unknowingly working the soil in which racism grows, I fear there is another possibility. Each person teaches a lesson - prompted by a desire for justice, compassion, fairness - in how to begin thinking like a racist.

Lesson 1 by Sharon Stone

You may have seen the following headline on Drudge recently: "'KARMA': Sharon Stone Blames Treatment Of Tibet For Earthquake." Here's what she said: "[I]t was very interesting because at first I'm . . . not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans . . . . And then I've been . . . concerned about, 'Oh, how should we deal with the Olympics?' because they're not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who's a good friend of mine.

And then . . . this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, 'Is that karma? When you're not nice, that the bad things happen to you?'

And then I got a letter for the Tibetan Foundation that they wanted to go and be helpful. And that made me cry. . . . [I]t was a big lesson to me: that sometimes you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who aren't nice to you . . . .

The lesson wasn't that karma can tell the difference between a government in Beijing and citizens in a province almost a thousand miles away. The lesson was: Even though people - who have nothing to do with what their communist government does - get punished by the Moral Order of the Universe, we should be nice to them.

This kind of group-think (pun intended), which treats people as group-members rather than persons, is a necessary condition for racist thinking. It produces the inability to distinguish between members of groups, to recognize individuality: If Chinese people (in government) were mean to Tibetans, and you're Chinese, you must have been mean to the Tibetans too.

Lesson 2 by Chief Justice Ronald George

The conclusion which Chief Justice George reached in the recent California Supreme Court decision on marriage makes sense to me. The "reasoning" he used to get to it, however, is not only irrational but insulting. Chief Justice George argues that the individual Californian's right to marry should be re-understood to include the right to marry a person of the same sex.

To get from the original understanding of the individual's right to marry to the new understanding of the individual's right to marry, however, Chief Justice George chose to go through groups: Given that individuals have a right to marry, both individuals in a couple have a right to marry. Therefore, "the couple as a whole" has the right to marry (p. 53, n. 34). Therefore, (same-sex) couples have the right to marry. Therefore, the individual's right to marry includes the right to marry any other person, regardless of gender.

For Chief Justice George, the individual's new right is derived from a corporate right, held not by individuals but by couples. The person is subordinated to the group in an attempt to show persons greater respect.

This type of collectivist thinking, where persons are seen as group-members, and assigned their properties/qualities/rights on the basis of their group-membership - not on the basis of their individual personhood - is a necessary condition for racist thinking: The individuals of the privileged race derive their "rights" (to dominance) from their group-membership. The individuals of the subordinate races derive their responsibilities (to submission, servitude, punishment) from their group-membership.

Lesson 3: by Ron Rosenbaum

Lastly, we have "In Praise of Liberal Guilt," which just won an Honorary WEeding Award. Again, the motivations are noble: Rosenbaum wants us to recognize problems and work to solve them. In the process, however, he joins Stone and George in group-reification. For Stone it is "the Chinese" and "the Tibetans." For George it is "the couple" (or "the family"). For Rosenbaum it is "America."

America has "virtues" and "sins" in Rosenbaum's worldview, and if - against your better judgment - you were born an American, you're saddled with both. One wants to break into song with the anti-imperialist cultural critics of Gilbert and Sullivan's day (namely, Gilbert and Sullivan):

He is an [American]!
For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his [(dis)]credit,
That he is an [American]!
. . .
But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an [American]!

Rosenbaum's thinking is so distorted, he can't tell the difference between William F. Buckley Jr.'s feeling guilty about something he himself wrote, and people feeling guilty for things they haven't done and would never do. Even those who took part in the Civil Rights movement were guilty, according to Rosenbaum, because they were part of a guilty nation.

How someone as knowledgeable about Hitler as Rosenbaum, who argues that he (Rosenbaum) has a "a right to be angry, still, about the Holocaust, even though it happened before [he] was born," could miss the similarity between the corporate guilt he champions and the Nazi/KKK rationalization for anti-Semitism is a mystery. According to Hitler, all Jews were guilty because they were Jews (whether or not they did what Hitler said Jews were doing). According to some (all?) American anti-Semites, Jews are guilty because "their people killed Christ." According to Rosenbaum, all Americans are guilty because of "our shameful racial past."

In the name of spurring us to correct the injustices of racism, Rosenbaum celebrates a pattern of thinking without which racism would be impossible.


To subordinate the human person to the group is to fertilize the soil in which racism grows. And you'll find both progressive and conservative hands unwittingly working the field.

Whether racism can be kept from springing from such soil, whether anything good can grow therefrom instead, and whether this article's semantic leakiness is different from some of the very thought-patterns it critiques are questions I hope to eventually sort out. Till then, however, let's not get blindsided because we expected the attack to come from across the aisle.



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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