Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Danish city targeting Ramadan fasting

Officials in the Danish city of Odense say they want to limit the number of schoolchildren fasting for the Islamic month of Ramadan. Children and Youth Committee Chairwoman Jane Jegind said officials want to discourage children from fasting from sunrise to sunset for the annual holiday as they are concerned with the potential ramifications of the practice, The Copenhagen Post said Friday. "We know there some children who aren't eating during the day and it's not possible to learn on an empty stomach without being tired and rundown. That's why we want to stress to parents that it's not an acceptable behavior," Jegind said.

Principals at area schools are echoing the call for an end to such behaviors, yet are wary of any attempts to dissuade children from embracing their religion. "I can see that it's sensible to send a signal to the parents in the form of an information campaign and tell them that their children need food to concentrate, but it should be a suggestion," Principal Carsten Hoyer told the Post. "It can't be a decree because we have no possibility of sanctions. We can't suspend the children or punish the parents."


The significance of the Palin difference

IN FAIRBANKS International Airport's hangar, the school band is belting out a string of what you might call Republican pop classics - Eye of the Tiger, the theme from Rocky, Van Halen's Jump and, incongruously, YMCA. In the thin late-afternoon air, about 2000 Alaskans are milling around - hockey moms, kids, town folks, and a higher than average quota of Grizzly Adams types, all chest-length beards and wild eyes.

The Secret Service guys, in charcoal grey suits and earpieces, are sharking through the crowd talking into their hands as the MC starts up a chant: "Men shout 'Sarah'! Women shout 'Palin'!" SARAH! PALIN! The shouts drown out the band, rattle the metal hangar walls. The enthusiasm serves only to make the Secret Service more nervous. They've got their work cut out for them, these guys - their usual targets in a crowd are angry loners in camouflage jackets, and today that's 30% of the audience....

The Democrats, meanwhile, in disarray before the selection of Palin, have been utterly flummoxed by her, wandering into one strategic error after another, from their initial slating of her as a "small town mayor", to Obama's careless use of the standard political phrase "lipstick on a pig" after Palin had made an earlier lipstick reference to herself ("What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.").

Having selected the three-decade senator Joe Biden to balance out his ticket, as the McCain ticket picked Palin and changed its themes to one of "two mavericks", Obama is suddenly in the position of looking like the Washington insider - the professional politician who has never, in the words of one Republican convention speaker, "field-dressed" (that is, gutted and sliced up for freezing) a moose.

Together Obama and Biden look like the sort of black-white team that big cities - Chicago, Philadelphia - pick to appease various ethnic interests. McCain and Palin, by contrast, look like a travelling theatre version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, two people comfortable with guns and bad craziness, and coming out of no easily summarised context.

By the end of the week, sympathetic observers of the Democratic ticket were tearing their hair out over the ineptitude and complacency of the official response to Palin. It was tough enough that liberal celebrities such as the actor Matt Damon and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd seemed determined to play to every stereotype of elitist coastal liberals, mocking her as a cliche. If she was, it was because cliches are true. Damon, Dowd and others were so accustomed to the manufacture of images, they couldn't recognise real life right in front of their noses.

We can't stop talking about Palin because her candidacy is not simply a clever tactical move - it's a genuine historic moment, arguably more significant than Barack Obama's rise to the Democratic candidacy. Why? Put simply, it's because the identity of men and women in a society - what they are allowed to do, what is seen as appropriate to them - really runs deeper than what different types of men - black, white, other - are allowed to do....

This tectonic shift in American culture knocked the Democrats sideways, not only because they have been running a complacent and lacklustre campaign since the end of the primaries, but because the "theft" of a set of values and themes that the Democrats regarded as their own cut to the quick.

Panic is the usual reaction to the sudden feeling of loss of self, of annihilation, and the Democrats fell for it, unable to contain comments about experience, attitude and so on that, while not inaccurate, could be equally applied to Obama. They simply reinforced the appearance of a born-to-rule attitude.

In doing so, the party made visible the deep cultural divide in America, and the degree to which they failed to understand it. For the difference between the McCain-Palin and the Obama-Biden team no longer turned on a distinction between the old and the new, the hidebound and the progressive, but between the heroic and non-heroic, with advantage to you know who.

Suddenly with "Walnuts" McCain and Sarah the Warrior Princess marketing themselves as a pair of mavericks, Obama's extraordinary life story looked merely exotic, a Pacific souvenir. Taken together, McCain's war experience and Palin's whole life - the (very infrequent) hunting, the son going to Iraq and, god help us, shipping out on September 11, the taking a Down syndrome child to term - are all visceral, physical. They're commitments to life and death, and that is the raw material of heroism....

Both McCain and Palin have led heroic lives taking advantage of the circumstances in which they found themselves and they have both shown a dedication to the culture of life. To many Democrats that is scary.


Let government mind your own business?

By Jeff Jacoby

OUT IN the Pacific time zone, the nanny-statists have been busy. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a law banning restaurants from using trans fats when preparing food. In Seattle, city councilors passed a measure requiring shoppers to pay 20 cents for every plastic or paper bag they use in grocery, drug, or convenience stores. In Los Angeles, a new "moratorium" forbids new fast-food restaurants within a 32-square-mile section of the city that is home to 500,000 low-income residents. "Ultimately," the moratorium's sponsor declared, "this ordinance is about providing choices."

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a mandatory composting-and-recycling law that would oblige residents and businesses to separate their waste into multiple color-coded bins, whose contents would be inspected by city trash collectors. Individuals failing to "separate the coffee grounds from the newspapers," the San Francisco Chronicle reported, "would face fines of up to $1,000 and eventually could have their garbage service stopped."

Of course it isn't only on the Left Coast that government paternalists are busily restricting freedoms in order to spare adults the trouble of making decisions for themselves. Regulators in Boston want to stamp out the sale of cigarettes in drugstores and on college campuses and to shut down cigar bars altogether. It makes no difference to the city's health commissioner that tobacco products are lawful and that many individuals enjoy them despite their well-known health risks. "Why," she asks indignantly, "would you want to sell something that has absolutely no redeeming value and ends up killing a lot of people?"

Sagging pants, a ridiculous fashion trend in which pants are worn low enough to expose underwear, has been criminalized in communities from Louisiana to Michigan. In Riviera Beach, Fla., where a ballot initiative banning sagging pants passed overwhelmingly, violators can be hit with a $150 fine for a first offense, and up to 60 days in jail for repeated infractions. "It's not our intent to get rich off of fines or lock people up in jail," Mayor Thomas Masters insisted. "It's about a simple message: Pull up your pants."

There was a time - younger readers may find this startling - when society was able to convey such messages effectively without resorting to prosecution. There was similarly a time when grown-ups could decide on their own whether to have a Big Mac for lunch, or to take home their purchases in a disposable bag, or to grab a pack of smokes at the corner drugstore. The fact that some people disapproved of their choices was not a sufficient reason to deploy the state's police power. Freedom, it was understood, necessarily included the freedom to choose unwisely.

No longer. Politicians today may invoke "freedom of choice" when extolling abortion, but freedom evaporates when it comes to matters they consider really important. Thus Hillary Clinton, campaigning earlier this year in Zanesville, Ohio, endorsed government action to prod individuals to "quit smoking, to get more exercise, to eat right, to take their vitamins." In 2007, John Edwards told Iowa voters that under his universal healthcare proposal, "You can't choose not to go to the doctor . . . You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK." John McCain, coauthor of an egregious campaign-finance law, is adamant that voters not be allowed to exercise their First Amendment freedoms without Washington's help. "I would rather have a clean government," he says, "than one where, quote, First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government." If I had my choice, I'd rather have the First Amendment. But Congress took that option off the table.

There is no limit to the nanny-statists' ideas for saving us from ourselves. In Dallas, it is illegal to publicly display a toy gun. California's energy regulators floated a proposal for requiring homes and buildings to install thermostats that the government would be able to control remotely. The script for "Jersey Boys," a musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, had to be rewritten after a Chicago theatergoer complained that the actors were lighting up on stage, in violation of the city's smoking ban.

Eternal vigilance, Americans once understood, is the price of liberty. Well, that was then. Americans today are busy absorbing more important lessons. Like "put out that cigarette." And "pull up your pants."


His Grace Michael Nazir-Ali: Britons suffer 'cultural amnesia' about Christian art

Britons are suffering from "cultural amnesia" about the Christian origins of the country's art, music and language, a senior bishop has warned

The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali said the works of Shakespeare or Milton could not have been written without the English translation of the Bible and the publication of the Book of Common Prayer, while great paintings and pieces of music were inspired by Christianity and made to be showcased in churches and cathedrals. Yet he claimed many people are now ignorant of the religious background to our culture.

The bishop, a prominent conservative in the Church of England who boycotted this year's gathering of Anglican Communion leaders in the ongoing row over homosexuality, said the church should do more to ensure schools, television companies and radio channels educate their audiences. His comments, part of a speech he gave to members of the Prayer Book Society, come after he warned that Britishness itself is being destroyed by the decline of Christian values, creating a "moral vacuum" that is being filled by radical Islam.

Dr Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, said: "What amazes me is how people in this country don't take account of the brute fact that the Bible and the prayer book have shaped so much of its literary and cultural achievements. "Without the translation of the Bible into English and the creation of the prayer book, it would have been impossible to have a Donne or a Shakespeare or a Milton. "Certainly with art, poetry and music, people aren't exposed to the Biblical root of what has inspired people to create these themes. There should be better interpretation of things. "With music, you can listen to hour upon hour of Classic FM but nobody tells you what the piece means. A lot of this music was written for worship. "Some reference to the fact that it was written in the context of worship would be very welcome, otherwise this amnesia will make the culture more and more shallow."

The bishop also pointed out that many modern artists and authors, regardless of their personal beliefs, use religious themes in their work. He cited as an example the Ian McEwan novel Atonement, later made into a film starring Keira Knightley, which takes its title from the Christian idea of humans being reconciled with God through the death of Jesus Christ. "So much of the inspiration for art was Christian - even the radical ones have been reacting to the Christian story," Dr Nazir-Ali said. "So often the classic themes are used and re-used and it's very important for people to know about them."

He added that the church should make sure schools, the Government and media organisations know about the Biblical basis behind works of culture so they can communicate them to their audiences. "We need a partnership between the church and schools and the state to make sure that the Christian story is known. "The church should work in partnership with television, with radio and with the media in general to enable people to understand where these things are coming from. Even if they don't agree with it, at least they have the information."



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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