Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The British Left loves criminals and hates ordinary people

Families who overfill rubbish bins are to face bigger fines than those imposed on drunks or shoplifters, the government has told local authorities. New guidance instructs councils to impose fixed penalties of "not less than $150" and up to $220 in what the opposition has attacked as a "new stealth tax". The offences for which householders can be fined include leaving ajar the lid of a wheelie bin, putting out a bin the evening before collection or leaving the bin in the wrong place.

Although the government has previously claimed that it leaves local councils to decide on the level of fines, the Fly-capture Enforcement manual, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stipulates that fixed penalties for offencesinvolving "waste receptacles" must range from $150 to $220. It suggests a standard fixed penalty of $200, adding that "if a notice is not paid, it is essential it is followed up". The penalties are higher than the o80 on-the-spot fines levied by police for offences ranging from being drunk and disorderly to shoplifting.

Local councils have been sharply criticised for taking harsh measures against trivial misdemeanours. Earlier this year, Gareth Corkhill, a Cardiff bus driver, was given a criminal conviction after being taken to court when he refused to hand over a $220 on-the-spot fine by council inspectors who found the lid of his wheelie bin open by 4in.

Eric Pickles MP, the shadow local government secretary, said Labour was creating "an army of municipal bin bullies hitting law-abiding families with massive fines while professional criminals get the soft touch". He added: "It is clear Whitehall bureaucrats are instructing town halls to target householders with fines for minor breaches. "Yet with the slow death of weekly collections and shrinking bins, it is increasingly hard for families to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. It is fundamentally unfair that householders are now getting hammered with larger fines than shoplifters get for stealing."

The environment department, headed by Hilary Benn, said on-the-spot fines were "intended to be an alternative to prosecution". A spokesman said: "Local authorities wanted flexible fines that they can relate to the severity and frequency of the offence and offender. Ultimately the fines are there to act as a deterrent." According to Phil Woolas, the environment minister, local councils face extra costs of $6.4 billion over the next five years to fund recycling measures, which would equate to a $300 council tax increase.


Centralized power is socially destructive

A friend recently arrived at his French country house to find the windows smashed and the television stolen. He accepted this as another sign of the crime-ridden society familiar back home. He did, however, mention it to the mayor at the fair held in the local village every Saturday. The mayor was shocked. The following day a young man arrived at the house, crestfallen, and said that his parents would repair the windows and restore the property. He was sorry. No police were involved.

That story is inconceivable in Britain. But it offers a backdrop to last week's diatribe against modern society by the chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, at the Lambeth Conference, when he was the latest cleric to call down hellfire on modern society. Sacks was in characteristic rabbinical default mode. Declaring that "within my soul are the tears of my ancestors", he lamented to the 650 bishops that "almost all Britain's social problems are caused by a loss of religion". They include disintegration, depression, stress, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse. With the addition of collapsing marriages, families and communities, "people feel vulnerable and alone"....

All this is grist to the mill of religious fundamentalism - that is, religion not as a source of private consolation but as an active participant in drawing up and forcing norms on society. If society is going to the dogs, say the priests, then it must be because they and their message are neglected. This cry is as old as that of Savonarola in Florence, of the mystics and millenarians to whom every misfortune, plague, war and famine was the result of a failure to pay due obeisance to mother church.

This brings us back to the rabbi and my French friend. In such classics of French history as Montaillou, the story of a medieval Cathar village, or Graham Robb's superb new work, The Discovery of France, the role of the communal authority, initially that of the church, is near absolute. It laid down the law and was the source of guidance and leadership. Robb's thesis is that until the 18th century "there was no such thing as France, nor even French provinces". There was certainly no universal language. There were families, clans, tribes, dialects, communes, mayors, continuing in many inaccessible places even until the first world war.

These communities did not regard themselves as French, or even Breton or ProvenØal. They identified only with their village or town, much as did medieval English communities. People's lives were ordained by those they knew, respected and, later, elected. Toa large extent that is still true in France today and in other European countries where such decentralisation persists. There is nothing old-fashioned about localism.

The current, peculiarly British, view is that "society" is in a state of disintegration when seen from above, largely as a result of government statistics. This view projects onto the home front the same apocalyptic gloom of the American neoconservative: that we face a cosmic threat from Muslim fanaticism. Thus even the chief rabbi equates what Al-Qaeda threatens abroad with what drunken louts threaten at home.

This is naive. Just sometimes Alexander Pope might be right, that apparent discord is "harmony, not understood". Where the rabbi is right is in implying the danger of having no institutions of social control in Britain's "atrophying" communities. The story of the French mayor and the broken windows could be repeated in Italy, Germany, Spain or most of America, but not in Britain. In Britain the centre and the centre alone demands, accepts and is held accountable for social responsibility.

The reason is not an absence of spirituality or religion but the stripping out from British communities of the human institutions which have guarded them from social atomism. They no longer have a potent mayor, a figure of authority, a framework for involving village or civic elders, merchants, teachers, parents and social workers.

The French mayor in my story clearly enjoyed status and authority by virtue of his election and his delegated power. He had tax money at his disposal. He controlled planning permissions and the barter that implied. His ear was to the ground. He was present at the fair. He could lean on the relevant parents.

In Britain, in such an incident, someone would have called the police and nothing would have happened. Had the miscreant ever been caught, probably after multiple offences, he would have experienced no restorative justice as in France. He would have come before the police, then a magistrate and, if he persisted, would have gone to prison and been destroyed for life. That is the British way. It is unnecessary, expensive and unproductive. But show me a politician who believes that the French way is better.


Where have all the real men gone?

Top American columnist Kathleen Parker is causing a furore with her new book "Save the Males", in which she argues that feminism has neutered men and deprived them of their noble, protective role in society. Excerpt below:

I know. Saving the males is an unlikely vocation for a 21st-century woman. Most men don't know they need saving; most women consider the idea absurd. When I tell my women friends that I want to save the males, they look at me as if noticing for the first time that I am insane. Then they say something like: "Are you out of your mind? This is still a male-dominated world. It's women who need saving. Screw the men!"

Actually, that's a direct quote. The reality is that men already have been screwed - and not in the way they prefer. For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life's ills. Males as a group - not random men - are bad by virtue of their DNA.

While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics or saints, men have quietly retreated into their caves, the better to muffle emotions that fluctuate between hilarity (are these bitches crazy or what?) and rage (yes, they are and they've got our kids).

In the process of fashioning a more female-friendly world, we have created a culture that is hostile towards males, contemptuous of masculinity and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible, especially when something goes bump in the night.

In popular culture, rare is the man portrayed as wise, strong and noble. In film and music, men are variously portrayed as dolts, bullies, brutes, deadbeats, rapists, sexual predators and wife-beaters. Even otherwise easy-going family men in sitcoms are invariably cast as, at best, bumbling, dim-witted fools. One would assume from most depictions that the smart, decent man who cares about his family and pats the neighbour's dog is the exception rather than the rule.

I am frankly an unlikely champion of males and that most hackneyed cliche of our times - "traditional family values". Or rather, I'm an expert on family in the same way that the captain of the Titanic was an expert on maritime navigation.

Looking back affectionately, I like to think of home as our own little Baghdad. The bunker-buster was my mother's death when she was 31 and I was three, whereupon my father became a serial husband, launching into the holy state of matrimony four more times throughout my childhood and early adulthood. We were dysfunctional before dysfunctional was cool. Going against trends of the day, I was mostly an only child raised by a single father through all but one of my teen years, with mother figures in various cameo roles. I got a close-up glimpse of how the sexes trouble and fail each other and in the process developed great empathy for both, but especially for men. Although my father could be difficult - I wasn't blinded by his considerable charms - I also could see his struggle and the sorrows he suffered, especially after mother No 2 left with his youngest daughter, my little sister.

From this broad, experiential education in the ways of men and women, I reached a helpful conclusion that seems to have escaped notice by some of my fellow sisters: men are human beings, too.

Lest anyone infer that my defence of men is driven by antipathy towards women, let me take a moment to point out that I liked and/or loved all my mothers. In fact, I'm still close to all my father's wives except the last, who is just a few years older than me and who is apparently afraid that if we make eye contact, I'll want the silver. (I do.)

My further education in matters male transpired in the course of raising three boys, my own and two stepsons. As a result of my total immersion in male-dom, I've been cursed with guy vision - and it's not looking so good out there. At the same time that men have been ridiculed, the importance of fatherhood has been diminished, along with other traditionally male roles of father, protector and provider, which are increasingly viewed as regressive manifestations of an outmoded patriarchy.

The exemplar of the modern male is the hairless, metrosexualised man and decorator boys who turn heterosexual slobs into perfumed ponies. All of which is fine as long as we can dwell happily in the Kingdom of Starbucks, munching our biscotti and debating whether nature or nurture determines gender identity. But in the dangerous world in which we really live, it might be nice to have a few guys around who aren't trying to juggle pedicures and highlights.

Men have been domesticated to within an inch of their lives, attending Lamaze classes, counting contractions, bottling expressed breast milk for midnight feedings - I expect men to start lactating before I finish this sentence - yet they are treated most unfairly in the areas of reproduction and parenting.

Legally, women hold the cards. If a woman gets pregnant, she can abort - even without her husband's consent. If she chooses to have the child, she gets a baby and the man gets an invoice. Unarguably, a man should support his offspring, but by that same logic shouldn't he have a say in whether his child is born or aborted?

Granted, many men are all too grateful for women to handle the collateral damage of poorly planned romantic interludes, but that doesn't negate the fact that many men are hurt by the presumption that their vote is irrelevant in childbearing decisions.

NOTHING quite says "Men need not apply" like a phial of mail-order sperm and a turkey-baster. In the high-tech nursery of sperm donation and self-insemination - and in the absence of shame attached to unwed motherhood - babies can now be custom-ordered without the muss and fuss of human intimacy.

It's not fashionable to question women's decisions, especially when it comes to childbearing, but the shame attached to unwed motherhood did serve a useful purpose once upon a time. While we have happily retired the word "bastard" and the attendant emotional pain for mother and child, acceptance of childbearing outside marriage represents not just a huge shift in attitudes but, potentially, a restructuring of the future human family.

By elevating single motherhood from an unfortunate consequence of poor planning to a sophisticated act of self-fulfilment, we have helped to fashion a world in which fathers are not just scarce but in which men are also superfluous.

Lots of women can, do and always will raise children without fathers, whether out of necessity, tragedy or other circumstance. But that fact can't logically be construed to mean that children don't need a father. The fact that some children manage with just one parent is no more an endorsement of single parenthood than driving with a flat tyre is an argument for three-wheeled cars.

For most of recorded history, human society has regarded the family, consisting of a child's biological mother and father, to be the best arrangement for the child's wellbeing and the loss of a parent to be the single greatest threat to that wellbeing. There's bound to be a reason for this beyond the need for man to drag his woman around by her chignon.

Sperm-donor children are a relatively new addition to the human community and they bring new stories to the campfire. I interviewed several adults who are the products of sperm donation. Some were born to married but infertile couples. Others were born to single mothers. Some reported well-adjusted childhoods; some reported conflicting feelings of love and loss. Overall, a common thread emerged that should put to rest any notion that fathers are not needed: even the happiest donor children expressed a profound need to know who their father is, to know that other part of themselves.

Tom Ellis, a mathematics doctoral student at Cambridge University, learnt at 21 that he and his brother were both donor-conceived. Their parents told them on the advice of a family therapist as their marriage unravelled. At first Tom did not react, but months later he hit a wall of emotional devastation. He says he became numb, anxious and scared. He began a search for his biological father, a search that has become a crusade for identity common among sperm-donor children. "It's absolutely necessary that I find out who he is to have a normal existence as a human being. That's not negotiable in any way," Tom said. "It would be nice if he wanted to meet me, but that would be something I want rather than something needed."

Tom is convinced that the need to know one's biological father is profound and that it is also every child's right. What is clear from conversations with donor-conceived children is that a father is neither an abstract idea nor is he interchangeable with a mother. As Tom put it: "There's a mystery about oneself." Knowing one's father is apparently crucial to that mystery.

Something that's hard for many women to admit or understand is that after about the age of seven, boys prefer the company of men. A woman could know the secret code to Aladdin's cave and it would be less interesting to a boy than a man talking about dirt. That is because a woman is perceived as just another mother, while a man is Man. From their mothers, boys basically want to hear variations on two phrases: "I love you" and "Do you want those fried or scrambled?" I learnt this in no uncertain terms when I was a Cub Scout leader, which mysteriously seems to have prompted my son's decision to abandon Scouting for ever.

My co-Akela (Cub Scout for wolf leader) was Dr Judy Sullivan - friend, fellow mother and clinical psychologist. Imagine the boys' excitement when they learnt who would be leading them in guy pursuits: a reporter and a shrink - two intense, overachieving, helicopter mothers of only boys. Shouldn't there be a law against this? We had our boys' best interests at heart, of course, and did our utmost to be good den mothers. But seven-year-old boys are not interested in making lanterns from coffee tins. They want to shoot bows and arrows, preferably at one another, chop wood with stone-hewn axes and sink canoes, preferably while in them.

At the end of a school day, during which they have been steeped in oestrogen by women teachers and told how many "bad choices" they've made, boys are ready to make some really bad choices. They do not want to sit quietly and listen to yet more women speak soothingly of important things. Here's how one memorable meeting began. "Boys, thank you for taking your seats and being quiet while we explain our women's history month project," said Akela Sullivan in her calmest psychotherapist voice. The response to Akela Sullivan's entreaty sounded something like the Zulu nation psyching up for the Brits.

I tried a different, somewhat more masculine approach: "Boys, get in here, sit down and shut up. Now!" And lo, they did get in there. And they did sit. And they did shut up. One boy stargazed into my face and stage-whispered: "I wish you were my mother."

Akela Sullivan and I put our heads together, epiphanised in unison and decided that we would recruit transients from the homeless shelter if necessary to give these boys what they wanted and needed - men. As luck would have it, a Cub Scout's father was semi-retired or between jobs or something - we didn't ask - and could attend the meetings. He didn't have to do a thing. He just had to be there and respire testosterone vapours into the atmosphere.

His presence shifted the tectonic plates and changed the angle of the Earth on its axis. Our boys were at his command, ready to disarm landmines, to sink enemy ships - or even to sit quietly for the sake of the unit if he of the gravelly voice and sandpaper face wished it so. I suspect they would have found coffee tins brilliantly useful as lanterns if he had suggested as much.

But, of course, boys don't stay Cub Scouts for long. We've managed over the past 20 years or so to create a new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up. By indulging every appetite instead of recognising the importance of self-control and commitment, we've ratified the id. Our society's young men encounter little resistance against continuing to celebrate juvenile pursuits, losing themselves in video games and mindless, "guy-oriented" TV fare - and casual sex.

The casual sex culture prevalent on university campuses - and even in schools - has produced fresh vocabulary to accommodate new ways of relating: "friends with benefits" and "booty call". FWB I get, but "booty call"? I had to ask a young friend, who explained: "Oh, that's when a guy calls you up and just needs you to come over and have sex with him and then go home." Why, I asked, would a girl do such a thing? Why would she service a man for nothing - no relationship, no affection, no emotional intimacy? She pointed out that, well, they are friends. With benefits! But no obligations! Cool. When I persisted in demanding an answer to "why", she finally shrugged and said: "I have no idea. It's dumb." Guys also have no idea why a girl would do that, but they're not complaining - even if they're not enjoying themselves that much, either.

Miriam Grossman, a university psychiatrist, wrote Unprotected, a book about the consequences of casual sex among students. She has treated thousands of young men and women suffering a range of physical and emotional problems related to sex, which she blames on sex education of recent years that treats sex as though it were divorced from emotional attachment and as if men and women were the same. Grossman asserts that there are a lot more victims of the hookup (casual sex) culture than of date rape. Casual sex, besides being emotionally unrewarding, can become physically boring. Once sex is stripped of meaning, it becomes merely a mechanical exercise. Since the hookup generation is also the porn generation, many have taken their performance cues from porn flicks that are anything but sensual or caring.

Boys today are marinating in pornography and they'll soon be having casual sex with our daughters. According to a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research issued in 2005, 12% of British males aged 13-18 avail themselves of "adult-only" websites; and American research findings are similar. The actual numbers are likely to be much higher, given the amount of porn spam that finds its way into electronic mailboxes. If the rising generation of young men have trouble viewing the opposite sex as anything but an object for sexual gratification, we can't pretend not to understand why.

The biggest problem for both sexes - beyond the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease - is that casual sex is essentially an adversarial enterprise that pits men and women against each other. Some young women, now fully as sexually aggressive as men, have taken "liberation" to another level by acting as badly as the worst guy. Carol Platt Liebau, the author of Prude, another book on the havoc that pervasive sex has on young people, says that when girls begin behaving more coarsely so, too, do boys. "And now, because so many young girls have been told that it's `empowering' to pursue boys aggressively, there's no longer any need for boys to `woo' girls - or even to commit to a date," she told me. "The girls are available [in every sense of the word] and the boys know it."

Men, meanwhile, have feelings. Although they're uncomfortable sorting through them - and generally won't if no one insists - I've listened to enough of them to know that our hypersexualised world has left many feeling limp and vacant. Our cultural assumption that men only want sex has been as damaging to them as to the women they target. Here is how a recent graduate summed it up to me: "Hooking up is great, but at some point you get tired of everything meaning nothing."

Ultimately, what our oversexualised, pornified culture reveals is that we think very little of our male family members. Undergirding the culture that feminism has helped to craft is a presumption that men are without honour and integrity. What we offer men is cheap, dirty, sleazy, manipulative sensation. What we expect from them is boorish, simian behaviour that ratifies the antimale sentiment that runs through the culture. Surely our boys - and our girls - deserve better.

As long as men feel marginalised by the women whose favours and approval they seek; as long as they are alienated from their children and treated as criminals by family courts; as long as they are disrespected by a culture that no longer values masculinity tied to honour; and as long as boys are bereft of strong fathers and our young men and women wage sexual war, then we risk cultural suicide.

In the coming years we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities. We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men - and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes. Unprogressive though it sounds, the world in which we live requires no less.

Saving the males - engaging their nobility and recognising their unique strengths - will ultimately benefit women and children, too. Fewer will live in poverty; fewer boys will fail in schools and wind up in jail; fewer girls will get pregnant or suffer emotional damage from too early sex with uncaring boys. Fewer young men and women will suffer loneliness and loss because they've grown up in a climate of sexual hostility that casts the opposite sex as either villain or victim.

Then again, maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe males don't need saving and women are never happier or more liberated than when dancing with a stripper pole. Maybe women should man the barricades and men should warm the milk. Maybe men are not necessary and women can manage just fine without them. Maybe human nature has been nurtured into submission and males and females are completely interchangeable. But I don't think so. When women say, "No, honey, you stay in bed. I'll go see what that noise is" - I'll reconsider.


Australia: Queensland police say they're unable to fight gangs

Too busy doing paperwork. Sounds like the British disease is catching

POLICE say they are losing the fight against youth violence but the Government refuses to acknowledge the existence of organised teen gangs. The Courier-Mail has documented up to a dozen named gangs on the Gold Coast alone. They are tightly knit groups identified by colours and tattoos, with some linked to criminal adult gangs. Other parts of Brisbane have their own versions of American gangs the Bloods and the Crips, or have gangs named after their suburbs or ethnic groups.

Two police officers admitted to The Courier-Mail the "grubs have control of the streets" because of understaffing. "Most police divisions struggle to put two cars on the road each shift and those crews can have up to 30 jobs backed up on their call sign when they start duty," one two-decade veteran said. Another officer said he was "trapped in the station doing paperwork". "I would love to be on the road for any entire shift to catch crooks," he said.

Online readers of The Courier-Mail claimed Police Minister Judy Spence, who has said there is no evidence of organised youth gangs, was out of touch. "What planet is she on?" wrote one reader. "Her only answer to every issue is to pretend it's not happening," another reader said. More incidents of youth and gang violence were revealed by residents, including attacks on vehicles by dozens of youths in Clontarf and Deception Bay.

Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson said the Government had no real plan for dealing with youth violence and was in denial about gangs. "We need more police presence where young people are active," he said. "These youth gangs should be home in bed. Police have got to have the power to get them home where they belong." He also doubted claims there were no statistics on youth gang violence. "They have the statistics but they don't want them released because they are embarrassing," he said.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said there were no easy answers to tackling the problem of youth violence and gangs. She said the Government had set up a youth violence taskforce and it would continue to consider ways to target the problem. "I'm concerned by advice from the Police Commissioner that what we're starting to see in relation to youth violence is firstly younger teenagers involved, secondly more girls involved in this sort of activity and thirdly a higher likelihood that some sort of weapon, particularly knives, being involved," she said. "These are difficult issues for our police, they involve responsibility from our schools, from parents and from the community and a law enforcement response."

MEANWHILE, on Surfers Paradise beach, two girls cooling their aching feet in the surf after a night of clubbing are bashed and robbed by an all-girl teenage gang. At Elanora and Main Beach, homes are trashed by youths from the Palmy Army, South Side Soldiers and Keebra Crew teen gangs. In the Currumbin Valley, a man's ears are cut off, allegedly by Lone Wolf bikie gang members who have graduated from, or have links to, notorious Tweed Coast youth gang, the Coomicub.

Coast gangs once were comprised of relatively innocent bodgies, widgies or surfies. But like other urban areas of Australia, the Gold Coast has seen an upsurge in gang activity in recent years. In the border towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, the Coomicub has become notorious for violence after a string of incidents in and around southern Gold Coast nightspots over the past two years. The gang took its name from a local rap band. Many members bear a distinctive 'C' tattoo and wear shirts and jumpers featuring the word Coomicub emblazoned in gothic writing. Last year some members of the gang were arrested over fights in Coolangatta and Palm Beach and a wild clash with the Palmy Army at the Palm Beach surf club. Police believe many senior Coomicub members have graduated to become Lone Wolf bikies.

Members of a group of about a dozen children and teens who savagely attacked off-duty police officer Rawson Armitage and his girlfriend Michelle Dodge at Coolangatta late last year were believed to have gang links. Gold Coast police said the problem lay with the parents of gang members, many of whom they claimed were "druggies and deadbeats themselves".



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.


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