Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why I'm not a good Samaritan

Britain today: Dangerous

Well, what would you have done? Linda Buchanan, 58, was verbally abused by two louts after she had asked them not to smoke on a crowded railway platform. They did the same the next day. On the third day, these big brave men shoved her off the platform and on to the rail tracks. It was only then that other commuters intervened.

I like to think I would have stepped in the first time. But, realistically, I can't be sure. Only the other day on a Tube, I saw two young men swigging wine from a bottle. Boris Johnson has outlawed consumption of alcohol anywhere on the Underground network. But the trouble is that he has not provided the resources to police the ban. I decided to say nothing, unlike a gentleman further down the carriage. He was braver than me and told them to pack it in.

You can imagine the result. "What the ---- are you going to do about it?" One then lit a cigarette. The passenger, wisely in my view, backed off. It was after 10pm; there were no staff in sight; there were no other passengers. We both got off at the next station to a chorus of abuse.

Both these incidents happened in a week when the 22nd teenager was murdered in London. Ryan Bravo, 18, was in a supermarket when he became caught up in a street gang feud. Another lad in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And so I have changed my pattern of behaviour. Would I walk late at night in certain areas? Never. Catch a night bus? Never. The last time I did, I dozed off and woke to the sound of four men kicking the hell out of an American tourist in the seat behind me. They stole his wallet. The driver connived in the crime by opening the door to let the gang off the bus. He didn't want any trouble, either.

A few years ago in east London, where I used to live, I was attacked by two hoodies. I fought back as best I could by wielding my briefcase at them. To my amazement, one hoodie went down. I grappled with the other, all the time shouting for help. A passerby who heard the commotion stopped at the gates of the park, but kept his distance until the boys had run away. He told me he felt guilty for not intervening. When I got home, I discovered the reason for my strength was not my regular work-outs, but a forgotten bottle of champagne in the bottom of my bag.

Would I do the same again? Never. I'd hand over my wallet today, because I would be scared the hoodies would have knives. In one of his most thoughtful speeches, David Cameron said: "There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth any more about what is good and bad, right and wrong." He's right. But I think there are many more people like me who fear that we have lost the courage to do the right thing.


TV Treats Marital Sex as Burdensome, Adultery as Positive

The Parents Television Council released a new study, "Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television", which revealed that broadcast networks depict sex in the context of marriage as either non-existent or burdensome, while showing positive depictions of extra-marital or adulterous sexual relationships with alarming frequency. Across the broadcast networks, the new PTC report found that verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3 to 1, and scenes depicting or implying sex between non-married partners outnumbered similar scenes between married couples by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1.

"These study results suggest that many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner. Even more troubling than the marginalization of marriage and glorification of non-marital sex on television is TV's recent obsession with outr‚ sexual expression. Children and teens are now exposed to a host of sexual behaviors that less than a generation ago would have been considered off-limits for broadcast television," said PTC President Tim Winter.

According to the PTC study, some of the once-taboo-for-TV sexual behaviors that are now found on prime time television include threesomes, partner swapping, pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, and sex with prostitutes, in addition to depictions of strippers, references to masturbation, pornography, sex toys, and kinky or fetishistic behaviors. "Behaviors that were once seen as fringe, immoral, or socially destructive have been given the stamp of approval by the television industry. And recent studies show that children are influenced by those messages. Throughout much of the history of broadcast television, the networks adhered to a voluntary code of conduct which stipulated that respect should be maintained for the sanctity of marriage and the value of the home. Our report finds that not only are the boundaries no longer respected - they have been obliterated," Winter continued.

The PTC examined all scripted prime time entertainment programs on the major broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW) during four weeks at the beginning of the 2007-2008 television season (September 23-October 22, 2007) for a total of 207.5 programming hours. Television broadcasts of movies, news, sports programs, reality and game shows were not included in this analysis. My Network TV did not air programming that matched this study's criteria within the study period.

The study found, amongst other things, that references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex 2 to 1. Although the networks shied away from talking about sex in the context of marriage, they did not shy away from discussions of masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, manual stimulation, sex toys, bondage or kinky or fetishistic sex - there were 74 such references during the study period.

The Family Hour - the time slot with the largest audience of young viewers - contained the highest frequency of references to non-married sex. Family Hour references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in marriage by a ratio of 3.9 to 1. During the 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm hours, the references to non-marital versus marital sex averaged 2.5 to 1. Visual references to voyeurism (a third party present, watching or taping while sex takes place), transvestites/transsexuals, threesomes, kinky sex, bondage, sado-masochism, and prostitution outnumbered visual references to sex in marriage by a ratio of 2.7 to 1.

Content descriptors, which are intended to alert parents to inappropriate content and work in conjunction with the V-Chip to block such content that parents may find unsuitable for their children, were often lacking or inadequate. For example, on ABC, 38% of programs airing during the Family Hour that contained sexual content did not receive the "S" descriptor and during the 9:00 pm hour, 71% of programs containing sexual dialogue did not carry a "D" descriptor. Every network had problems with the consistent application of "S" and/or "D" descriptors during every time slot.

Of all the networks, ABC had the most references to marital sex, but many of the references were negative. References to non-marital sex, by contrast, were almost universally positive or neutral. In 46 hours of programming, NBC contained only one reference to marital sex, but 11 references to non-marital sex and one reference to adultery were made. References to incest, pedophilia, partner swapping, prostitution, threesomes, transsexuals/transvestites, bestiality, and necrophilia combined outnumbered references to sex in marriage on NBC by a ratio of 27 to 1. On NBC, there were as many depictions of adults having sex with minors as there were scenes implying or depicting sex between married partners.

Michael Medved, Nationally Syndicated Talk Radio Host and PTC Advisory Board Member, remarked, "For many years, parents have worried about television's glamorization of destructive sexual behavior. This important new report suggests another cause for concern: the de-glamorization of marriage. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel satisfied and fulfilled by their marriages. The notion that sex outside of marriage is inherently more exciting, more important, more worthy as the subject of story-telling, is a toxic message for parents and children alike."

Mr. Winter continued, "Broadcasters, knowing television's ability to influence behavior, must exercise greater responsibility when handling sexual situations during primetime hours - opting for less graphic visual content, and favoring storylines that don't celebrate promiscuity, glamorize criminality, or denigrate monogamy. "The American people need to hold the networks and their local broadcast affiliates accountable for pushing questionable content into their homes over the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves. In addition, advertisers need to reconsider their role as underwriters of such material, and whether they want to continue associating their brand names and hard-earned corporate images with salacious sexual content. While the Supreme Court awaits its next legal review of indecency on television, now is the time for families to raise their collective voice against the tide of graphic sexual content invading their homes."


'Saving' borrowers from payday loans

Right about now, Arizonans are receiving mailings urging them to vote "yes" on Prop. 16, the Payday Loan Reform Act (PDF). All ballot propositions are sponsored by somebody, and this one is backed by Arizonans for Financial Reform, a group the Arizona Republic reports "has received nearly $2 million in contributions from payday lenders." It's a payday-loan industry group backing a "reform" bill that would impose regulations on the industry and -- oh yeah -- incidentally repeal a state measure that would essentially abolish the industry in 2010.

So that has critics screaming that Arizonans for Financial Reform is an astroturf group defending its evil, exploitative, industry through the appearance of a reform measure -- which it is, except for the "evil, exploitative" part.

If you don't know, a payday loan is a short-term loan people take out, borrowing against their next paycheck at a fee that works out to a very high rate of interest. Not surprisingly, it's the sort of loan people with limited financial alternatives take out -- stereotypically (though not always accurately), the working poor. That makes lenders open to vilification for preying on the needy.

Except that nobody makes people take these loans; they choose to do so, and for a reason. In fact, as Reason magazine reported six years ago, there has always been a market for short-term loans for people who see value in giving up a little money in a few weeks for cash right now.
Today's thriving industry of payday lending looks a lot like the "salary lenders," later renamed "salary buyers," that thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "In current dollars, they would buy $650 worth of salary by writing a check for $500," says Lendol Calder, a professor of history at Augustana College and author of the 1999 book Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit.

These days, if a person wants to borrow $200 on the first of the month, he'll write a check for $234 dated the 15th. When the 15th rolls around, either he pays off the loan in cash or the lender cashes the check. If he can't afford to pay off the entire amount, the lender will roll over the loan for an additional fee.

One hundred years ago, the leading critic of "salary loan lending" called such people "sharks, leeches and remorseless extortioners." Today's consumer advocates call payday lenders "predatory" and "legal loan sharks."
Are borrowers right to seek these loans? Well, you either leave the choice to them, or you substitute the judgment of legislators, do-gooders and government officials who have no idea of the specific needs of the people patronizing payday lenders.

It's not as if the alternatives are so much more reasonable. Bank overdraft fees are now drawing the wrath of the same folks (PDF) who vilify payday lenders. And Tom Lehman, a professor of economics at Indiana Wesleyan University, says bounced-check fees can actually be significantly higher than the fees charged by payday lenders.

Not surprisingly, given that people have long sought out payday lenders and their predecessors, "protecting" people from short-term loans can have serious consequences. In research (PDF) done for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Donald P. Morgan and Michael R. Strain found:
Compared with households in states where payday lending is permitted, households in Georgia have bounced more checks, complained more to the Federal Trade Commission about lenders and debt collectors, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection at a higher rate. North Carolina households have fared about the same. This negative correlation-reduced payday credit supply, increased credit problems-contradicts the debt trap critique of payday lending, but is consistent with the hypothesis that payday credit is preferable to substitutes such as the bounced-check "protection" sold by credit unions and banks or loans from pawnshops.
Is your blood pressure rising? Are you thinking that, perhaps, all short-term loans are nothing more than legalized loan-sharking that should be abolished for the good of would-be borrowers, whether or not those borrowers appreciate the gesture?

Then let me point out that the logical, final alternative to legalized loan-sharking is illegal loan-sharking, with all that implies. If you think a triple-digit rate of interest is harsh, consider that real loan sharks are known for inflicting broken bones and occasional fatalities on deadbeats.

Franchised payday lenders, no matter how much you hate them, don't do that.

So, it's our choice. We can either leave people free to borrow money at rates of interest that make us shudder, or, to give ourselves warm-and-fuzzy feelings, we can outlaw the practice, hurt some people financially, and drive others to borrow money at rates of interest that make us shudder -- from criminals.


Leave the United States if You Can

But where to go? Australia maybe but Australia tends to be too relaxed for Americans. Though Andorra sounds good, particularly if you speak Catalan

It is time -- arguably, it is past time -- for you to get your family and your wealth safely outside the borders of the United States. America has become a police state that is moving quickly toward total surveillance and, in typical American fashion, the resulting society will almost certainly be the "the best and the biggest" tyranny in the world.

Make plans right now while opportunities still exist to secure your wealth outside of the authorities' rapacious reach because that door of opportunity may be slammed in your face in the near future. It is not merely that government at all levels is starving for the cash that's dried up from property taxes and, so, will steal and confiscate like a drunken highwayman. Many factors point to rise of the Total State, which will grind up your freedom, your future and the lives of those who resist.

I read about 12 news sources a day, from far-left to the Religious Right; month by month, there is a dramatic increase in reports of police brutality, government surveillance, crack-downs, the control of daily life down to the minutia of which oils you may cook french fries... And there seems to be precious little opposition to the arrival of totalitarianism. Perhaps the flood of oppression is too overwhelming and has caused a general paralysis; at times, that is my reaction. But, mostly, I think people are either focused on financial survival or they actually applaud the Total State.

Even those who believe they believe in freedom are among the applauders because they buy the justifications being offered for the annihilation of civil liberties. For example, consider just one of the incredible and successful assaults on the due process and liberties of us all; in the name of defending women and children, the campaign against sex offenders has created a class of "untouchables" in class-free America -- people whom the government tells where to live, how to make a living, which sites they can e-visit, etc., etc. In the name of noble goals, the government has erased the idea of serving out a time in jail (which used to be called "paying your debt to society") and, instead, established the idea of indefinite sentences and 'forever' punishments.But the establishment of this caste system is just one aspect of the wild plunge into tyranny.

What should worry you the most is that everything has occurred before the economic collapse of the United States, which I believe will happen in the near future. (The timing depends somewhat on when "too many" foreign-held dollars are dumped back into America.) I expect a severe depression to unfold over the next few years. And nothing, nothing, nothing encourages the growth of State as much as people who are frightened and hungry/homeless. An entire population can turn to a leader much as children turn toward a parent...and for the same reason: to feel safe.

If an economic depression is added to the convergence of the police state with a total surveillance society, then I honestly don't know what will happen. But I do know that you don't want to be there to find out. Don't be fooled by those who say "but America has too strong a tradition of freedom for this to happen." Pre-Nazi Germans thought their culture was too sophisticated and fine to allow the triumph of barbarism. Leave.



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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