Monday, August 25, 2008

Anger as British veterans' parade cancelled while gay pride march goes ahead

About 3,000 former and current servicemen and women who served in wars ranging from World War Two to Afghanistan proudly marched through Doncaster town centre last August on the town's inaugural Veterans' Day. But this year the local Royal British Legion branch claims it has been shunned by the council, and told the event could not be staged because of a "lack of amenities." Yet Doncaster staged its first gay pride parade last Sunday, and a few weeks before hosted a civic parade in which dignitaries, community workers and the public took part.

Ken Wood, 46, a Coldstream Guards gunner who served in the Gulf War and is the district secretary of the Royal British Legion said: "All the Doncaster branches of the Legion are disgusted that there will not be a Veterans' Day parade. "The council do not seem to care about the achievements of servicemen and women. "I am not homophobic but the council supported both Doncaster Pride and the Mayor's civic parade."

The veterans assumed they would be allowed to hold a parade this month but were astonished to discover they had little civic support. Mr Wood said: "One of our Legion members spoke to an official at the civic offices who told him we couldn't have a parade this year because the council did not have the amenities. "I rang the official and she effectively told me the police couldn't afford the staff to block off the roads. It's crazy, I went on the parade last year and only saw two community bobbies stopping the traffic. "It's hardly down to finance or manpower is it? I asked her to put what she told me over the phone in writing so I could read it out to my members but I'm still awaiting a reply. "I wrote to say I was sorely disappointed that we were not being allowed to parade in our own town. We just wanted to parade our standards and colours."

Doncaster Council initially said that the police would only provide officers for Remembrance Sunday, the St George's Day parade and the civic parade. But now the council and the police have issued a joint statement saying they had not received an official request to stage the Veterans' Day parade.

Local war veterans were so upset they boycotted the civic parade in protest at the council's handling of the situation. Diane Dernie, the mother of Doncaster paratrooper Ben Parkinson whose compensation fight following his horrific injuries in Afghanistan made national headlines, said: "It is a terrible shame. We've seen in the past that people in general have been very supportive of the Armed Forces. "Ben would have been very keen to take part. He is Army through and through."

Veterans' Day was introduced by the Government on June 27 in 2006 to celebrate the contribution of ex-servicemen and women but events can be held throughout the year. Doncaster Council said: "It is not a matter of finance or the council not wanting to do it. "The police look into the number of parades being held and give the go-ahead on a case-by-case basis. We are quite happy to hold the Veterans' parade provided the police are happy." Acting Chief Insp Andy Kent of South Yorkshire Police added: "Each request is assessed on an individual basis. We have not received a request this year about the Veterans' Day parade."


Class War?

Michael Kinsley opposes "class war," which he thinks would result from substituting affirmative action based on class for affirmative action based on race. Although he recognizes that "racial affirmative action is ... a raw sore on our body politic," he does not explain why he believes class-based affirmative action would lead to "blood in the streets resentments" but race-based affirmative action leads only to "a raw sore," presumably treatable with sufficient applications of liberal rhetorical balm.

Kinsley regards class-based affirmative action as a "terrible idea," and he makes some good points.
.... People with better qualifications would still lose jobs and university slots to people with worse qualifications, and their resentment probably wouldn't be mollified by the fact that the beneficiaries of this policy might be white. Moreover, it would put America in the business of labeling people and rewarding them according to a criterion--social class--which would be a nightmare possibly even worse than race.

Although most African Americans are actually of mixed blood, defining who is black for purposes of affirmative action has not been very difficult. (Grotesque sometimes, but not difficult.) Defining concepts like "working class" or "rural poor" and then assigning individuals to their appropriate class would be far more challenging. And deciding exactly what degree of reverse discrimination each allegedly deprived social class is entitled to would be even worse. Today's affirmative-action battles, and the deep resentments they stir up (reasonably or otherwise), are nothing compared with the blood in the streets and the bitterness in the hearts of Americans denied a promotion after some tribunal ruled that they were upper middle class when the guy next door (who has a pool in his backyard, for crying out loud) got a precious "lower middle" classification and a handsome raise to go with it.
Kinsley errs, however, as do so many defenders of our current racial spoils system, by identifying one criticism of race preferences - that they violate the merit principle - as the only one.
Opponents and supporters of affirmative action all carry a picture in their heads of how things should work. In this picture, everyone in the world is lined up, from No. 1 to No. 7 billion, in order of their qualifications for a job, admission to a university or whatever. The job goes to the first person in line who wants it. Opponents of affirmative action say it's unfair to let anyone jump ahead because of his or her race. Supporters say, Unfair? Are you kidding? Affirmative action just gives people the same places in line they would have had if there had been equal opportunity.

This picture is wrong in many ways. What makes someone good in a job depends on a variety of factors that are hard to define or measure. They can't be used to line people up on the basis of a variable called "qualifications." Furthermore, race, or at least a diversity of racial backgrounds, often is a qualification. Finally, the benefits of affirmative action sometimes go to people who have already had equal opportunity and more.
But what Kinsley calls "the principal complaint people have about affirmative action: that it violates the principle of merit" is not, in my view, often expressed here, the principal complaint at all, nor is it the most fundamental one.

The most fundamental reason it is "unfair" to reward someone (and thus punish someone else) because of race is not that doing so violates the "principle of merit." It is that it violates a principle much more deep-seated in American history and in the American system of values, that each individual has a fundamental right to be treated "without regard to race, creed, or color."

Merit is nice. Sometimes it's very important. But sacrificing it for something else (often a different kind of merit, as when academic standards are lowered for athletes) does not violate what Gunnar Myrdal called "The American Creed." As the eminent social scientist James Q. Wilson once wrote (quoted here):
we did not fight the Civil War to make sure the University of Mississippi would admit good quarterbacks, we fought it to make certain it would admit blacks. To say that racial and athletic classifications are similar or that one can reason from the latter to the former is foolish. No court has ever held, or is likely to hold, that being able to throw a football 60 yards (or to have a father who gave the school a million dollars) places you in a class whose rights are protected by the barrier of strict scrutiny. Of course, one could argue for making both race and athleticism the same, by getting the Court to say that race is no longer a suspect classification. But that would mean reversing 40 years of desegregation. ["Symposium: Is Affirmative Action on the Way Out? Should It Be?" COMMENTARY, March 1998]
Kinsley to the contrary, race should not be "a qualification" for anything, except (the only example that I think is "tailored" narrowly enough) for selecting police officers to go undercover in a racial or ethnic gang.

Source (See the original for links)

Without Judicial Merit

Several readers sounded off yesterday on our August 14 editorial on the American Bar Association's new proposal on judicial selection. We especially liked the rejoinders from ABA President Thomas Wells and Bert Brandenburg of Justice at Stake, claiming that their idea for lawyer-led commissions is nothing but high-minded, nonpartisan, good government that is already working beautifully in many states.

Those two aren't lawyers for nothing. For a reality check, we'd direct readers to Missouri and Florida, where judicial selection commissions have recently teed up nominees designed to force Republican Governors to choose the commissions' own favored picks. These states show how "merit selection" really works.

In Missouri, the nominees to fill the seat of conservative Justice Stephen Limbaugh were announced on Thursday, with the commission presenting Governor Matt Blunt with three undesirable candidates: left-leaning Appeals Court Judge Lisa White Hardwick, former trial lawyer and Appeals Court Judge Ronald Holliger (who was nominated by the commission last time) and Atchison County Associate Circuit Judge Zel Fischer, a conservative who the Governor already rejected for a lower court vacancy. The game is rigged to favor Judge Hardwick, a favorite of Missouri Chief Justice (and commission member) Laura Denvir Stith.

Though the Missouri Plan is supposed to keep politics out of the process, it has instead transferred power from voters to state bar associations and legal groups that control the judicial commission. The result is a system that's contentious and opaque -- and has tipped the state courts steadily to the left. The commission presented Governor Blunt with a similarly rigged panel last year. At the time, he briefly considered rejecting the whole slate to send a message, but ultimately backed off and appointed one of the commission's choices. Now that he's not running for re-election, the coast is clear for him to take a principled stand.

Mr. Blunt has said he's committed to filling the open seat with a judge "who will faithfully interpret our constitution and not legislate from the bench." That's a request the commission could easily have met with such highly qualified options as former U.S. Attorney Stephen Easton or well-respected lawyer Brenda Talent. Instead, the commission opted for a game of chicken with the Governor. By nominating Zel Fischer as the conservative option, it dares Mr. Blunt to either select the less-qualified conservative judge, elevate Ms. Hardwick, or send the whole slate back, which means the commission then gets to make the pick.

A similar political game is playing out in Florida, where the judicial selection commission has presented Governor Charlie Crist with a slate of five nominees to replace departing Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero. Amid pressure to appoint a Hispanic jurist, the commission nominated Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jorge LaBarga, a darling of the criminal defense bar, and lawyer Edward Guedes as the Hispanics on the panel. The top conservative option, highly qualified former Congressman Charles Canady, would force Governor Crist to risk offending Hispanic voters by choosing a non-Hispanic nominee. Notably missing was a conservative Hispanic like Frank Jimenez, general counsel of the Navy.

Governors Crist and Blunt now have opportunities to take a stand against a process that has allowed bar associations to manipulate the selection of judges. Mr. Crist could select Mr. Canady and request more diverse panels in the future. Mr. Blunt can reject the whole slate, which would jumpstart a debate on reforming the system and bringing deliberations over judges out of the backrooms.

Merit selection states have already proven you can't get politics out of the court system. The real issue is who does the choosing -- voters through elections or their elected representatives, or lawyers working to help their own.


More Muslim attacks on Christians

This time in "moderate" Indonesia

Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wielding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. The incident comes amid growing concern that Indonesia's tradition of religious tolerance is under threat from Islamic hard-liners.

In talks since the attack, the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut its 20-year-old campus in east Jakarta, accepting an offer this week to move to a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital. "Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?" asked the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, chairman of the 1,400-student school.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament, is struggling to balance deep Islamic traditions and a secular constitution. With elections coming next April, the government seems unwilling to defend religious minorities, lest it be portrayed as anti-Islamic in what is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The July 25 attack, which injured 18 students, was the culmination of years of simmering tensions between the school and residents of the Kampung Pulo neighborhood. Senny Manave, a spokesman for the Christian school, said complaints were received from neighbors about prayers and the singing of hymns, which they considered disturbing evangelical activity. Several neighbors refused to comment, saying they feared that could further strain relations. A prominent banner, signed by scores of people, has been hung over an entrance to the neighborhood. "We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved," it says.

The assault began around midnight, when students woke to the crash of stones falling on their dormitory roof as a voice over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque cried "Allah Akbar," or "God is great" in Arabic. The unidentified speaker urged residents to rise up against their "unwanted neighbors," said Sairin, the head of campus security, who goes by a single name. The attack followed a claim that a student had broken into a resident's house, but police dismissed the charge.

Uneasy relations date to 2003, when neighbors began to protest the school's presence. Last year, residents set fire to shelters for construction workers to try to stop the campus from expanding deeper into the neighborhood. Some also questioned the legality of the school's permit. Christian lawmaker Karol Daniel Kadang accused property speculators of provoking last month's incident to clear the land for more profitable use, after the school refused to sell out. He also blamed the government for failing to build interfaith relations, which he and others believe are beginning to fray. "People are still tolerant, but there is a growing suspicion among Muslims of others," said Prof. Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century.

He added that the police have failed to prevent both attacks on minorities and the forced closure of Christian churches and nontraditional mosques by mobs incited by radical Muslims. "The state has some responsibility for this growing intolerance, namely by not upholding the law," he said.

A mob stormed a church service last Sunday in another east Jakarta neighborhood, forcing dozens of Christian worshippers to flee, said Jakarta Police Chief Col. Carlo Tewu. No arrests have been made.

Since being driven from campus, nearly 600 female students have been sleeping under suspended tarps at a nearby scout camp, where they had to dig trenches to keep water out during downpours. Classes are held with megaphones in the sweltering summer heat, under trees or the tarps. A similar number of male students live in a guesthouse. The remainder have returned to their families. Food, water and school supplies are donated by church groups and community charities. "We feel like refugees in our own country," said Dessy Nope, 19, a second-year student majoring in education. "How can you study here? I only followed 20 percent of my last lesson. It's difficult to concentrate."

Christians have not been the only targets for Muslim hard-liners, who this year set fire to mosques of a Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, that they consider heretical. In June, the government ordered members of the sect to return to mainstream Islam, sparking concern among activists who fear the state is interfering in matters of faith and caving in to the demands of radicals. "We're living in a country where there are many religions, but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups," said Manave, the school spokesman. "The government cannot protect minorities."



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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