Those charming feminists at work
All Desiree Carpenter wanted was a chance to succeed. As a young woman Ms. Carpenter (not her real name) had been subjected to repeated physical and sexual assaults, losing her eyesight during one attack. Her assailant did hard time, but now he was back on the streets and vowing to track her down. Her only hope was to flee to another state, assume a new identity, and start over. Washington was the best place to begin anew, since the state had passed tough anti-stalking laws. So she packed her bags and hopped on the train with her two children in tow, bound for Bellingham, a couple hours north of Seattle.
Being blind, she had come into a laptop computer with a screen reader that converts text to the spoken word. That's how Desiree and I exchanged information for this article. Arriving at the Bellingham train station, she expectantly called the Womencare Shelter, a group that bills itself as a "feminist organization working to end violence against women."
Desiree was told to go to the local MacDonald's to be interviewed by an intake worker. There she was scrutinized to make sure "I was acceptable," as Desiree later recounted. The staffer told Ms. Carpenter to detail her rape experiences while her children sat quietly and listened.
Admitted to the shelter, the staff removed her daughter's electronic homeschooling program, saying African-Americans spend too much time with rap videos. Desiree's television was padlocked and she was informed she could only watch TV on weekends.
Like all residents, Desiree was assigned housekeeping chores. It's not that the tasks were menial, but asking a blind woman to clean toilets and sort broken glass seems a little cold-hearted. When the new resident questioned her duties, the staff urged her to become more "empowered."
The staff forbade the woman from making safety accommodations on the shelter's flat-top stove. So Desiree and her young children ate micro-waved meals and peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of their stay. When residents wanted to re-enter the facility, they typed in a security code. Desiree asked to have the keypad marked with Braille dots, leading her to be ridiculed as being disruptive and manipulative. At one point a resident confided to her, "The staff here acts worse than an abuser."
The shelter did help Desiree to secure the all-important name change. Of course that entailed losing all her educational credentials, job references, credit cards, and so forth. That was the sacrifice she knew she would have to make. Over the next two weeks things went from bad to worse, especially after Ms. Carpenter complained about the videotape that lectured residents why organized religion was "oppressive" to women. In desperation, Desiree contacted the Bellingham Adult Protective Services, pleading they dispatch a disability aide so she could cook her own meals.
But the Womencare director ordered "Nyet," claiming that would compromise the shelter's secret location. Then the shelter staff began to suspect she was planning to file a complaint with the Washington Human Rights Council - of course that was forbidden by shelter rules. So that evening the director barged into Desiree's room and issued an ultimatum: "Either you drop your civil rights complaint or you're out of here!" When Desiree tearfully said she had only requested someone to assist with the necessities of life, the staff interpreted her claim of innocence to be further proof of guilt. That was reason enough to summon the police.
Within minutes a female officer dashed into the shelter, gun drawn, pulled the startled children out of bed, and ordered them out. The officer explained that even though Desiree had not violated any rules, the shelter was "exiting" her because she was unhappy with their services.
Then came the crushing blow - the shelter director blurted out Desiree Carpenter's previous name. The officer hastily entered both names, linked by a single report, into the National Crime Information Center database. In that moment, all the labors of the past month were undone, all her hopes of a life free of fear were dashed!
The staff then ransacked Desiree's room, stuffing her possessions, food, and legal documents into a black trash bag. Mother, son, and daughter were sent packing into the rainy night.
During her one-month nightmare at Womencare, Ms. Carpenter suffered too many indignities to recount in a single column - more details can be seen here. In the end, Desiree's daughter said she would rather die than ever again trust an abuse shelter.
THESE ARE (STILL) THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Are you anxious? Dejected? Fearful? Why wouldn't you be, considering the barrage of rotten news assaulting you from every direction? "Everything seemingly is spinning out of control," moaned the apocalyptic headline on a recent Associated Press dispatch. "Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Airfares, college tuition, and healthcare border on unaffordable . . . Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets, or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire."
Thanks in part to journalism of that caliber, consumers are more apprehensive than they have been in decades. Consumer confidence is at a 16-year low, while according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll, more Americans than ever, 84 percent, think the country is headed in the wrong direction. The New York Times devoted one-fourth of Saturday's front page to illustrating ways in which the economy is mired in "A Slowdown With Trouble at Every Turn" -- and continued the gloom for a full page inside.
Voices of reason keep trying to point out that conditions are not nearly as bad as they were the last time consumers were this despondent. That was in May 1980, during the final year of the Carter administration, when the "misery index" -- the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates -- hit an excruciating 21.9. Inflation was then at 14.4 percent; unemployment was 7.5 percent. The numbers today are 5 and 5.5 respectively.
But voters don't want to be told to buck up. When former senator Phil Gramm, an economic adviser to John McCain, said last week that America had "become a nation of whiners" and described the current slowdown as a "mental recession," the backlash was immediate. McCain repudiated Gramm's remarks and quickly issued a statement assuring voters that he "travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump, and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage."
Well, that's politics. Politicians who want to get elected genuflect to what Bryan Caplan, in *The Myth of the Rational Voter* calls the pessimistic bias: the "tendency to overestimate the severity of economic problems and underestimate the (recent) past, present, and future performance of the economy."
For a nonpessimistic view, hearken to W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who in the current issue of The American ask "How Are We Doing?" -- and offer some useful perspective. The nation's present troubles, they argue -- rising oil and food prices, job losses, sluggish growth, the mortgage crisis -- "will turn out to be mere footnotes in a longer-term march of progress." The US economy, "a $14 trillion behemoth," remains without equal as an engine of growth and prosperity. However impolitic it may be to say so, when you take the long view it is clear that we have never had it so good.
Cox and Alm point to an array of reassuring trends. Americans on average work far less than they used to. Annual hours devoted to the job have fallen from 1,903 in 1950 to just 1,531 today. We start working later in life, retire earlier, and live much longer. Even including household labor, they write, "only about a quarter of our waking hours are consumed with work, down from 45 percent in 1950."
The material progress of recent decades has been extraordinary -- at all income levels. Forty percent of poor families own their own homes. For many goods (kitchen appliances, color TVs, air conditioners) ownership rates are higher among poor Americans today than they were among the general population in 1970.
On highways and in the air, we travel billions of miles more than we used to, yet death rates are at all-time lows. Healthcare is more expensive, true, but quality is much better. Real total compensation -- wages plus benefits, adjusted for inflation - has been climbing for generations. And if prices are calculated as a function of work-time -- how long one must work at the average pay rate to earn the price of something - a gallon of gasoline, even with the runup in pump prices, "still goes for less than 11 minutes of work."
Short-term troubles notwithstanding, Cox and Alm observe, the "data points add up to steady, continuing progress for average Americans." So no, everything is not spinning out of control. Alarmist headlines notwithstanding, we're doing all right. Buck up.
Rejoicing in death. Why is the Left so full of hate for Lady Thatcher?
The Letters page of The Guardian, seldom the sanest of arenas, has this week descended to virulent venom. In place of the customary corduroyed bores calling for unilateral disarmament, rainbow-nation multiculturalism or celebrations of Castro's Cuba, there have appeared several letters which gloated at the prospect of Margaret Thatcher's death. Their vengeful tone, though hurtful about the still very much alive Lady Thatcher, has been instructive. It was a timely reminder that no one does viciousness quite like the Left. Far from the Conservatives being 'the Nasty Party', Labour's preachy brothers and sisters have long deserved that title.
The Guardian letters were sparked by reports that Lady Thatcher will be given the rare honour of a state funeral. Even to discuss such arrangements is, let us be honest, a difficult matter. The widowed, octogenarian Lady T is in fair health. Long may she remain so.
Some Guardian readers have taken a markedly less charitable line towards the former Prime Minister. Typical of the response was that of one Chris Gibson, who said that on seeing the headline about a state funeral for Lady Thatcher: 'I thought that the week had got off to the best possible start.' Charming. Another contributor, Chris Hardman, wrote: 'Just a couple of questions: 'Does that include the grave/dancefloor combo?' and 'When is it booked for?' Guardian reader Rob Watling suggested that the contract for any state funeral should be 'put out to compulsory competitive tender and awarded to the lowest bidder'.
On one level, these letters are merely the prattish words of small minds - people unable to accept that many of the battles of the Eighties were lost for good by Labour and that Lady T was a remarkable election winner whose titanic will reversed Britain's post-war decline and, incidentally, destroyed the class structure so loathed by the Left. But the fact such horrible letters were written, let alone published in a national newspaper, tells us something else. The vituperative tone was even less restrained on The Guardian's internet website, and those of other Left-wing publications such as The New Statesman.
It is all of a piece with other instances of shrill intolerance by the Left. Why is it that socialists, in contrast to their professed humanity and Methodist origins, are so remarkably malevolent? Why is the Left so mean?
Look at the way Labour hardliners reacted to the idea of Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London. A moderate Tory, socially liberal, urban, pro-gay, generally pro-minority, he has more in common with middle-class London Labour than he does with old-fashioned provincial Tories. Yet the last days of his campaign saw near apoplexy among Left-wingers - not least with some ludicrously skewed coverage in The Guardian. Genial Boris was depicted as little short of a rapist and Ku Klux Klansman.
Look at the way Labour portrayed Edward Timpson, Conservative candidate in the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election. A barrister specialising in family disputes, an area of the law which exposes practitioners to terrible examples of social breakdown, Mr Timpson is no goose-stepper. He is a well-informed Centrist from a family which has done much charity work in Cheshire. So how was he depicted by the caring, sharing Left? As an early 20th century fop, a political opportunist, a figure to be hated. A hit squad of hecklers was hired to pursue him. Labour spent thousands of pounds on negative campaigning.
Left-wingers like to talk of ' progressive politics', by which they suppose they mean open-mindedness, but historically they are far more dogmatic than the Right.
Factionalism and drunken intrigue were rampant in the trades unions of old. On immigration, Left-wingers have been exceptionally illiberal. Commentators and politicians who questioned the pro-immigration consensus were shouted down as racists. The thoroughly decent former Tory leader Michael Howard was cast as something close to a Nazi for daring to suggest that immigration was becoming a problem. His assailants were not shamed by the fact that Mr Howard is of Jewish emigre stock. He'd had the temerity to oppose the Left. He had to be destroyed.
Tony Blair's regime was infamously unpleasant to people who tried to stand in its way. Government scientist David Kelly paid for his independence with his life - suicide, we were told, although he was pushed into any such suicide by Labour-ordered briefings. Other refuseniks, from Cabinet ministers who refused to do grubby deals or military commanders who questioned bad orders, had their reputations traduced. Civil servants who did not 'fit' were sacked by Blair's thugs. Some people tried to claim smiling Tony's nastiest piece of work, Alastair Campbell, was no worse than Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's press spokesman. But Ingham never wielded the power - or malevolence - of the spitting, table-thumping Campbell.
How depressing it is that even now Blair has gone, the Labour Government continues to show a vindictive streak. The treatment of General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of General Staff, is the latest example of a good public servant being shafted by rancorous Leftists, furious that an 'old school' figure should try to oppose their sway.
One of the Left's great propaganda achievements over the years has been the idea that it was somehow kinder to support Labour than to be Conservative. Think a little harder, though, and you may start to see that Left's attitude depends on the suppression of tolerance. It demands communal conformity rather than independent freedom. It seeks to dictate supply rather than allowing the market to find a level. It places the state above the citizen.
Here are the philosophical roots of the harshness of discipline which fuel the unpleasantness. Those Guardian letters spring directly from Left-wing orthodoxy. It is hard to imagine any Conservative worth that name rejoicing at the death of a Labour opponent. The Tory instinct does not work like that. When the then Tory party chairman, Theresa May, told her activists they were 'seen as the nasty party' she was probably right - even though it was unfair.
Labour's cleverness has been to hide its vindictive streak. If anything, the Tories have not been nasty enough. Let's hope it stays that way. I'd hate to think any of us would descend to the level reached by the Left - the REAL nasty party.
"Useful Idiots" Convene in Madrid
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the Custodian of Postmodern European Secularism, Spanish Prime Minister Jos, Luis Rodrguez Zapatero, on July 16 opened the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid. The aim of the event is to promote dialogue between the world's main religions, and, as some observers suspect, to establish a one-world religion based on Islam. More than 200 leaders of different religions [pdf], including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Universalism, Marxism and Multiculturalism, are attending the three-day conference. Also attending are leading personalities specialized in dialogue and useful topics such as "life of human societies, international cooperation, human rights, security and peace and living peacefully together."
The conference is being organized by the Muslim World League (also known as the World Islamic League) following an initiative by King Abdullah, whose country is the birthplace of Islam, a religion of peace. The Muslim World League also happens to be the principal agent for the propagation of Wahhabi Islam in Europe. In 1987, it was elected as a "Messenger of World Peace" by the United Nations.
Saudi officials said Spain was chosen as the site for the gathering because of its historical symbolism as a place where Muslims and those Jews and Christians who paid the dhimmi tax lived in peace under Islamic rule between the 8th and 13th centuries.
The event will take place against a backdrop of tensions between the Islamic world and the West due to the intolerable intolerance of the latter. They range from restrictions on the use of the veil by Muslim women in some European countries to cartoons regarded as blasphemous by Muslims and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The conference, which seeks to promote openness, consists of five closed-door round tables. They will be followed by a final communiqu, to be issued on July 18. The first session, titled "Dialogue and Its Religious and Civilizational Foundations," will be chaired by the secretary-general of the Millennium World Peace Summit. The session will touch upon touchy topics such as "Dialogue in Islam" and "Dialogue in Christianity."
The second session is titled "Dialogue and Its Importance in Society." A president of the World Conference of Religions for Peace will present a paper on "Dialogue and Interaction of Cultures and Civilizations," while the president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, will speak on "Dialogue and its Impact on Peaceful Coexistence." Other lofty topics for discussion include: "Dialogue and Its Impact on International Relations" and "Dialogue in the Face of Calls for the Clash of Civilizations and End of History."
The third session, titled "Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue," will be chaired by the secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Featured speakers are the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the secretary-general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought in Iran; and the rector of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue at the Vatican.
The fourth session is titled "Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue" and will be chaired by the secretary-general of the Jewish Congress in Latin America and the Caribbean. This session will cover topics such as "Muslim-Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Its Future & Horizons" and "Efforts of States and International Organizations in Augmenting Dialogue and Overcoming its Obstacles."
The fifth session is titled "Disseminating of Culture and Co-Existence of Dialoge." It will focus on topics such as: "Media and its Impact on Disseminating the Culture of Dialogue and Co-Existance." The final communique will be read out by the assistant secretary of the Muslim World League.
Saudi Arabia hopes the conference will prove that it is trying to: 1) shed its international image of harboring a xenophobic religious establishment; and 2) moderate clerical conservatism that even objects to women driving cars.
According to Reuters, the conference offers Saudi Arabia a chance to declare its "openness and willingness to cooperate with the international community [.] It marks a new direction for Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi Islam has come in for criticism internationally" after 15 of the 19 Arabs who killed some 3,000 people in the September 11 attacks in the United States were Saudis.
Abdullah al-Turki, the head of the Muslim World League and conference organizer, says: "Saudi Arabia, on whose ground the global message of Islam was launched, affirms to the whole world its openness and cooperation with the world community." And then, just in case there was any doubt, al-Turki adds: "Islam requires Muslims to inform people about Islam as the final divine message that came after the previous prophets."
So why is the hyper-secular and hyper-tolerant Zapatero embracing one of the most theologically intolerant strands of Islam? And why is he turning Spain into a Saudi public relations rehab center? Zapatero (like his Saudi counterparts, but for different reasons) views Judeo-Christianity as public enemy number one because it is the main impediment to the realization of his vision for a socialist multicultural utopia in which everything goes. And he hopes his pact with Islam will accelerate Spanish history.
Zapatero and his socialist advisors believe Muslims are the "useful idiots" of the left. And Muslims believe Zapatero and his socialist friends are the "useful idiots" of Islam. Such is the future of Spain.
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.