Comment from Britain
Equality is a principle that is constantly being tested to destruction. Harriet Harman's proposed Equality Bill is a startling case in point. She is right to insist on equal pay for equal work; that is a principle that nearly every woman in the country must believe in passionately, and by now most men as well. It is clearly wrong to pay one person less than another for the same work, simply because of her sex (or indeed his colour or age). It is and ought to be illegal.
However, this principle soon grows into much more ambitious and more nebulous ideas about equality at work, including the dubious concept of equal representation - equality not just by person but by group. These ideas, as Harman's bill clearly shows, lead not only towards an explosion of bureaucracy and cost, but also towards injustice and inequality - towards the destruction of the very principle.
Harman proposes to replace a "thicket of legislation" against various different kinds of discrimination with a single duty of equality covering everything from race and gender, through religion and belief to sexual preference and age. That seems reasonable, and it is true that despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970 there are still persistent, incontrovertible inequalities at work. There are some disgraceful cases both at the top and the bottom of the market. Women employees in local authorities are in some cases still being paid less than men for comparable semi-skilled jobs, and employment tribunals regularly expose huge gender differences in City high-flyers' pay.
What's more, the gender pay gap - these weighty subjects create horrible expressions - still appears to be marked in government itself. According to civil service number crunchers' figures for 2006, it was 26% in the Treasury, 21% in the transport department, 17% in Defra, 16% in the culture department and 7% in the work and pensions department. (However, in the government equalities office, women were paid 4% more than men; do not smile.) Harman explained with passion on the Today programme that a part-time woman worker is paid 40% less than her full-time male equivalent. "Do we think she is 40% less intelligent, less committed, less hardworking, less qualified? It's not the case. It's entrenched discrimination."
Her plan, or part of it, is to allow employers to discriminate in favour of women and ethnic minorities, against equally qualified white men. She has other inflammatory suggestions, such as forcing public sector employers (and "encouraging" private ones) to reveal what they pay people, and explain what they are doing to close the gender gap, and to provide opportunities for ethnic minorities and disabled people. One could argue about all that - I'm not sure I am entirely opposed to employers revealing what they pay their employees, though the unintended consequences would no doubt be awesome.
These issues, though important, are secondary. What really matters is that we have a minister who is prepared, with the full backing of a Labour government, to enshrine in law, in the name of equality, the principle of institutionalised inequality against men. Employers will be free (and, it seems, pressed, by other provisions of this bill) to take positive action to recruit more women and ethnic minorities, to achieve what they have learnt to assume would be a "better balance" within their companies.
White men are no longer to be equal to everyone else; they will lose their rights in employment tribunals (unless they are beyond retirement age, when they may possibly regain them); they are to pay for the sins of their fathers (or rather for the sins of their fathers' bosses) against working women and against ethnic minorities by being unjustly treated in their turn. And Harman is prepared to do this terrible thing on the basis, merely, of unexamined assumptions about the facts.
For it is an unexamined assumption that equality must be connected with representation. Why do people so often assume equality for women - in, say, nuclear physics or welding or the police force - must mean the representation of women in equal numbers in those fields? If a certain percentage of policewomen are not Muslims or Hasidic Jews, does that of itself mean they have been discriminated against? Clearly not. And why do people assume that women earning less over a lifetime, and being underrepresented in senior posts, must of itself mean they were discriminated against?
Both assumptions are irrational. Women and men are different, and make different choices. We still understand little about such things, but are beginning to recognise that women often choose to work less, or less regularly, or with less responsibility than one would have predicted on their abilities alone. Many have other priorities.
We are also recognising that across a population women's and men's abilities vary; you would expect women to be underrepresented in quantum mechanics or navigation; though individual women may excel in these fields, women in general are unlikely to do so, for innate reasons. And vice versa with the low visibility of men in some fields.
The same is true of pay. The figures Harman has been discussing look depressing, but one ought not to rush into any assumptions about them. There are many explanations for women's lower earnings besides unfair exploitation, and while any one case might be blatantly unjust - and employment tribunals exist to redress such inequalities - again it ain't necessarily so. In some circumstances women may earn less than men for reasons that are not inherently unjust.
Women move in and out of jobs more. In devoting time to their families, they lose time at work to develop skills, not to mention experience and contacts, and in many careers that makes them less valuable as employees, with the result that in an equal market they might well earn less.
The only occupations to which it doesn't much apply involve unskilled and semi-skilled work. For this reason it ought to be possible to ensure equal pay in this sector. It is a shameful thing that the long march towards equality for women has been forced into a dead end of institutionalised inequality for men.
A quarter of British adults to face 'anti-paedophile' tests
A quarter of the adult population faces an "anti-paedophile" test in an escalation of child protection policies, according to a report. The launch of a new Government agency will see 11.3million people vetted for any criminal past before they are approved to have contact with children aged under 16.
But the increase in child protection measures is so great it is "poisoning" relationships between the generations, according to respected sociologist Professor Frank Furedi.
In a report for think tank Civitas, he said the use of criminal records bureau checks to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults has created an atmosphere of suspicion. As a result ordinary parents - many of whom are volunteers at sports and social clubs - now find themselves regarded "potential child abusers".
The checks were introduced to tighten procedures to protect children after school caretaker Ian Huntley murdered 10 year olds Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in Soham in 2002. However, there are growing fears that the measures have now gone too far.
Professor Furedi said most adults now think twice before telling off children who were misbehaving, or helping children in distress for fear of the consequences. He said that the need for the checks had transformed parents "in the regulatory and public imagination into potential child abusers, barred from any contact with children until the database gives them the green light".
From next year the new Independent Safeguarding Authority will require any adult who come into contact with children or vulnerable adults either through their work or in voluntary groups to be vetted.
But Prof Furedi's report, Licensed to Hug, highlighted examples of when adult-child relationships were distorted by the need for CRB checks already being required by schools and other organisations. In one example, a woman could not kiss her daughter goodbye on a school trip because she had not been vetted. In another, a mother was surprised to be told by another parent that she and her husband were "CRB checked" when their children played together. In a third example, a father was given "filthy looks" by a group of mothers when he took his child swimming on his own in "a scene from a Western when the room goes silent and tumbleweed blows across the foreground".
Prof Furedi details how one woman was made to feel like a "second class mother" because she was barred from a school disco because she did not have a CRB check.
Prof Furedi, a sociology professor from Kent University, said that "adults are no longer trusted or expected to engage with children on their own initiative". He said: "When parents feel in need of official reassurance that other parents have passed the paedophile test before they even start on the pleasantries, something has gone badly wrong in our communities. "We should question whether there is anything healthy in a response where communities look at children's own fathers with suspicion, but would balk at helping a lost child find their way home."
Prof Furedi, the author of a book called "Paranoid Parenting", said there was a trend to treat parenthood as a "professional endeavour that demanded increasing regulation and monitoring". Prof Furedi said that CRB checks did not "provide anything like a cast-iron guarantee that children will be safe with a particular adult". "All it tells us is that the person has not been convicted of an offence in the past," he said. He called for a national review to demonstrate the need to "improve and clarify adult authority".
Prof Furedi said: "The adult qualities of spontaneous compassion and commitment are far more effective safeguarding methods than pieces of paper that promote the messages 'Keep Out' and 'Watch Your Back'." Figures show that volunteering is on the decline with 13 per cent of men saying they would not volunteer because they were worried people would think they were child abusers, according to a survey last year.
The report comes after Children's Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley Green, said 50,000 girls were waiting to join the Guides because of a shortage of adult volunteers, partly caused by the red tape of the CRB process.
Martin Narey, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's, said his behaviour had been affected by the suspicions around adult-child relationships. Writing in The New Statesman, he says: "I am likely to usher my wife forward if a child falls over in the street, lest my picking up the child could be misinterpreted. We need to address that. Adults - particularly men - should not routinely be seen as potential child abusers. " And we need urgently to expose the nonsense of 'stranger danger' and convince parents that, although the risk of a child of theirs being abused at all is small, that risk comes not from lurking strangers, but from people known by their children - often relatives - who are able to exploit a child's trust."
However, he stressed that not to run any checks on past behaviour that could point to potential abuse would be "scandalously reckless" and he supported plans for the new Independent Safeguarding Authority whose work he said "will restore parental confidence" in adults who volunteer to help groups like the Scouts.
The CRB said yesterday that it will process 3.6million checks this year - up from 3.4million last year - of which 20 per cent were for volunteers. Vince Gaskell, the bureau's chief executive, said he did not believe that CRB checks were poisoning the relationship between adults and children.
Socialist sailing under false colours
Too many Americans have been instilled with unrealistic expectations for lifestyle and a spirit of entitlement, and they will glom onto any slick demagoguewho promises a larger piece of the pie.
One of the consequences of being right in an age of lies is that it brands you as a radical. Remember that being an extremist doesn't mean you're wrong, but simply that your views deviate greatly from those of the mainstream. If you say that 2+2=4 in a land where everyone else insists it's 5, you'll be labeled a radical. The same is true if you assert that a certain society of men is full of wolves when everyone else believes they're sheep.
Now, for years I've been telling people that most of our Democrats are essentially socialists; sure, either they won't admit it publicly or aren't fully aware of it themselves (quite common; self knowledge is often sorely lacking, especially among leftists). It was a message as hard to relate as it is for many to accept, as it renders you something less than the kind of "credible" commentator who gets invitations to appear on Fox News (bigot Opio Sokoni was on O'Reilly last week). But that message now goes down a little easier with the recent Democrat proposal to nationalize oil refineries.
There is a great article on this very subject by a writer named Lance Fairchok; it is titled "Why Do We Call Them 'Democrats'?" After quoting a couple of Democrats who waxed enthusiastic about nationalizing the oil refineries, he presents this Freudian slip by Congressman Maxine Waters:
"This liberal will be all about socializing, uh, uh . . . would be about . . . basically taking over and the government running all of your companies."
Well, well, I don't suppose that's the kind of rhetoric she used on the campaign trail (although I suspect most of her constituents either wouldn't know what she was talking about or wouldn't care). Don't rejoice too much at the shedding of the mask, however, as it's not so much attributable to a sudden spirit of honesty as it is to a changing climate. The truth is that no small number of American citizens are now socialists, only, they usually aren't aware of it. These are people– and we've all met them– who never heard a proposal for government involvement they didn't like. They only ask that one of two criteria be met: The proposal must sound convenient for them or inconvenient for someone who they envy. Oh, and, yes, I have always known that greed and jealousy — as opposed to some noble desire to help the downtrodden — are what drive leftists. Winston Churchill observed this decades ago when he said:
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.If you doubt both that old curmudgeon and me, a younger one, consider research related by columnist Peter Schweizer in this article. He writes,
Scholars at Oxford and Warwick Universities found the same sort of behaviour (a desire to take from those who have more) when they conducted an experiment.Unfortunately, while we can give ourselves pep talks about how we value liberty and the wonders of our "free market" (if only it were freer), the truth is that socialism has swept the West. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer quipped about this over a century ago when, after introducing death duties in the budget of 1894, he said, "We are all socialists now."
Setting up a computer game that allowed people to accumulate money, they gave participants the option to spend some of their own money in order to take away more from someone else.
The result? Those who considered themselves 'egalitarians' (i.e. Left of centre) were much more willing to give up some of their own money if it meant taking more money from someone else.
Much of the desire to distribute wealth and higher taxation is motivated by envy– the desire to take more from someone else– and bitterness.
As I said before, though, let's not lose sight of the fact that the politicians merely reflect the people. Too many Americans have been instilled with unrealistic expectations for lifestyle and a spirit of entitlement, and they will glom onto any slick demagogue (even if he has a strange foreign name) who promises a larger piece of the pie. As to this, in Fairchok's article he presents a chilling prediction made by U.S. Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas more than half a century ago. To wit:
The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of 'liberalism,' they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.While I can't say much for the man's politics, he was, at least insofar as this went, quite prescient. Most Americans have been inured to socialism under a different name, although virtually all would protest loudly if so accused.
People fall victim to the idea that socialism can work for a few reasons. For one thing, new generations are born and, with history taught so poorly, the mistakes of the past must be learned anew. Then, many labor under the illusion that socialism breeds prosperity in places such as Sweden, when in reality such countries are dying a lingering death.
Yet, if socialism– in any guise– is what Americans want, it's what they will get. But not only won’t they know how it happened, as Thomas said, they won’t like the consequences and won't know what to blame them on. Thus, they probably will fancy that the solution is even more government involvement.
Another thing that gets you branded a radical is when you point out that socialism is just a less virulent strain of communism. Yet the pseudo-intellectuals who would thus stigmatize you are blithely unaware of an important fact. Karl Marx himself said that socialism was just a transitional phase on the road to communism. We just have to wait for the second mask to come off.
Why Islam Cannot Reform
Following 9/11, in order to try to discover for myself the true nature of this purported Religion of Peace, whose ardent followers had just been responsible for the worst attack ever to take place on American soil, I began to research Islam. I started by reading the Qur'an, at the painfully slow rate of 5 hate-filled pages a day. It soon became apparent that this revered Book of Peace had more in common with Mein Kampf than with the New Testament. In fact, there were many similarities between the two. Both were filled with violence and threats of violence, both shared an arrogant contempt for those who dared to disagree with their authors, both advocated for the complete and utter subjection of all unbelievers, and sought an eventual worldwide hegemony.
Both are difficult books to endure. And basically for the same reasons: incessant redundancy, awkward literary style and structure, an annoying tendency to digress and wander off subject; and, although both books were written by undeniably powerful and charismatic leaders, both displayed a fundamental lack of basic literary ability.
However, for me, the most difficult part of the laborious challenge of the Qur'an was in wading through page after page of the incessant and obsessive hatred and violence - by this author's count, of the 434 total pages in my Penguin Classics version of the Qur'an, 288 pages contained some form of usually quite graphic violence, invariable directed against the unbeliever or the apostate.
For me, the question had been resolved. Resolved by the power of unquestionable numbers. 288/434. No longer could anyone ever convince me that the Qur'an is a Book of Peace, that had merely been misinterpreted. Numbers don't lie, people do.
However, as our recent unfortunate national divide so clearly demonstrates, many of us are still in a quandary about Islam and the Qur'an. We are still confused, still attempting to equate Islam with other religions. We still hold out hope that those Moderate Muslims can get in there and perform the necessary surgery and cut the malignant cancer of extremism from the suffering body of Islam.
The following excellent article from Jihad Du Jour, I believe, presents us with one of the clearest and most irrefutable arguments against this kind of comforting delusion. Only by understanding the true nature of our enemy do we have a chance of defeating him. - rg
There are deluded Jews and Christians who believe that the barbaric attacks against non-Muslims and even fellow Muslims alike throughout the world are being perpetrated by members of a small, extreme, perverted brand of Islam and that "true" Islam is probably just like modern Christianity or Judaism; that all that is needed is for moderate Muslims to take back their religion from the radicals. Then there are the deluded Jews and Christians who have actually read the Quran for themselves and realize that the barbarity of Muslim terror we see today is indeed rooted in the very essence of Islam and argue that we must not condemn the religion when all that is needed is for Islam to go through a reformation and modernization as Christianity and Judaism has done. But an expert in religion disagrees:
The QandO Blog, 11 Jan 2006, Pope says Islam can't reform Now Pope Benedict XVI has let it be known that he does not believe Islam can reform. This we learn from the transcript of a January 5 US radio interview with one of Benedict's students and friends, Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, posted on the Asia Times Online forum by a sharp-eyed reader. For the pope to refute the fundamental premise of US policy is news of inestimable strategic importance, yet a Google News scan reveals that not a single media outlet has taken notice of what Fessio told interviewer Hugh Hewitt last week. No matter: still and small as Benedict's voice might be, it carries further than earthquake and whirlwind.There are Muslims who believe that Islam can reform but they too are deluded:
FaithFreedom.org Why Can't Islam be Reformed?Then there is the website Muslims Against Sharia who argue that the Quran is not the literal word of Allah; that Islam, in its present form, is not compatible with principles of freedom and democracy; that Muslims must remove all the evil passages from Islamic religious texts; that there is no one religion that is superior to another; that Sharia Law must be abolished; that Seventh Century practices such as stoning, cutting off body parts, marrying and/or having sex with children or animals must be condemned; and hundreds of other suggestions to make Islam more like Christianity or Judaism. If somehow one could actually change one letter of a book whose wording letter for letter was fixed by no one but Allah, and dutifully followed the advice of Muslims Against Sharia and actually purged Islam of all of its barbarity then we would have in our hands a slim book with the Title "The Quran" and a sole, blank page bound in leather.
This is the position of many modern Muslims, including Irshad Manji the author of "What Is Wrong with Islam, Today". A great number of Muslims realize there is something wrong with Islam, but they erroneously believe the problem can be solved through the miracle of reinterpretation; and that they can keep the Quran and believe in Muhammad but somehow do the opposite of what he did and said and still call themselves Muslims..You ask: "Can Islam be reformed?" No, it can't! To reform Islam you have to first get rid of Muhammad and second get rid of the Quran. You have to take out a great portion of that book which is violent. The rest is nonsense and absurdity. But this you can't do, because you have no authority to do such a thing. Muhammad said that he has perfected his religion (Q. 5:3). How can you improve something, which is perfect? You can't change the Quran. You can't reform it. All you can do is to reinterpret and, for example pretend, "slay the unbelievers wherever you find them" means something else.
But this would not be enough, the other leg of Islam, the Sunnah is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence without which one cannot practice Islam. The Sunnah: the way of the prophet, his sayings, deeds, etc. One could compare these two legs of Islam to Christianity: the Quran, or the word of God, is like the Old Testament, and the Sunnah, or the deeds and sayings of Mohammed, are like the Gospels: the sayings and deeds of Jesus.
But while the deeds and sayings of Jesus are of humility, love, and peace, the deeds and sayings of Mohammed are of narcissism, hate, and military conquest. While the message of Jesus is "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," the message of Mohammed is "Stone all those who disbelieve." No, I'm afraid that all of the Sunnah must be purged as well.
"But," you may protest, "if we remove all the evil from the Quran and excise all that is vile in the Sunnah, then there will be nothing left to follow in Islam!"Precisely.As to what happens to Muslims who try to practice even the slightest deviation from the absolute written word of Allah:
Reuters, 28 Apr 2008, Hardliners torch "heretical" Indonesian mosque-police Hundreds of hardline Indonesian Muslims burnt a mosque early on Monday belonging to a sect that has been branded heretical by most Muslims, police said.The attack in West Java's Sukabumi district came after a government team recommended this month the Ahmadiyya sect be banned because its teachings deviate from the central tenets of Islam.I believe that the government in Indonesia has a perfect right to ban a religious group because its teachings deviate from the central tenets of Islam. I believe we in America and Europe should follow their example and likewise ban all of Islam because its teachings deviate from the central tenets of modern civilization.Source
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.
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