Friday, November 07, 2008

Horrible British social workers lose for once

But only after a very expensive appeal to the High Court

A couple prevented from adopting a baby girl because they once slapped another child for swearing won a court's backing today when a judge branded the ban 'bizarre'. The 'caring and sensitive' couple had been told by a council they could not take in the half-sister of a little boy they adopted five years ago. Social workers cited the adoptive father's 'attitude to corporal punishment' after he revealed in adoption interviews he had once smacked the boy, now seven, for swearing.

But the couple, named only as Mr and Mrs A, today succeeded in their High Court bid to force Newham Council, in East London, to reconsider. It means they could yet be allowed to adopt the girl, known as K, and unite the siblings.

Outside the court, the couple said: 'We are absolutely delighted by today's outcome. 'We will continue our fight to adopt K but this was an important hurdle to overcome. 'For us, this case is not about smacking but people being treated in the correct way by their local authorities.'

Mr and Mrs A, aged 48 and 49, returned to their smart semi-detached Victorian house. They said they were unable to elaborate on their feelings as the adoption decision was still in Newham Council's hands.

The Mail Online understands the couple became foster parents, taking in a dozen children over the years, after failing to conceive using IVF treatment. In 2003 they decided to adopt a young boy - and despite a lack of support from Newham Council, eventually won permission. Because they ensured the youngster maintained contact with his natural family, Mr and Mrs A learned in 2006 his real mother had given birth to a girl, now two, who was put in care. They felt it would be ideal if she could be raised with her brother.

An initial report by an independent social worker approved the couple's application - but this was rejected after the father told of the smacking incident. A review panel then backed the parents, calling them 'strong, caring, sensitive, supportive and resourceful'. But Newham Council's senior social services executive, Jenny Dibsdall, simply dismissed the panel's findings. She said: 'Mr A does not appear to accept that corporal punishment should not be used. Such indications would normally mean an adoption application would be refused.' But ordering a re-hearing today, Mr Justice Bennett said this reasoning was 'unreasonable', 'bordering on the bizarre' and 'in dangerous territory'.

The couple's solicitor Katy Rensten said: 'The court quashed the decision of the local authority that they were not suitable to adopt - and now it goes back to the local authority to have another look at it.'

A neighbour of the couple described the boy and his foster siblings. She said: 'They are extremely polite. It's obvious they come from a very good family who go to great lengths to love them and raise them correctly. 'They are very good parents and I do not think there is anything wrong with disciplining children reasonably. 'They have very thin walls and I would hear very clearly if anything had gone too far.'

Newham Council director Kim Bromley-Derry said: 'As a result of today's decision we will be making a fresh decision as to whether Mr and Mrs A are suitable to adopt, and if so whether a further assessment is needed. We will do this as quickly as possible.


Sign of the times - we're turning into robots

Take a look around: our overmanaged, system-crazy, authoritarian society is destroying common sense and initiative

By Libby Purves in Britain

I must apologise to fellow passengers on the 0731 from Newton Abbot. I may have snorted. I know I laughed, out loud and suddenly, in the dozing carriage. This outburst of joy was occasioned by the report of a Welsh road sign near an Asda. It said: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only."

At least, that is what it says in English. The compulsory Welsh translation underneath, following an e-mail query to the local authority's in-house translation service, actually says: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." Which is "Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith l'w gyfieithu". Obviously, it should have said "Na chofnodiad achos 'n drwm da vehicles. residential safle ond".

Or should it? I got that translation of the correct message from an internet translation service, but when I fed it back in the other way round, it emerged as "I do entry because heartburn drum good vehicles. residential position except". So I then reversed the translation of the actual Welsh out-of-office message, and that returned "Bit I am being crookedly in the office at this time..." You can see why the council needs in-house translators. Even if they are so piously, humourlessly Welsh-speaking that they don't put their out-of-office responses into both languages.

But it was not the mere Hoffnung phrasebook joke which slew me. I saw with beautiful clarity the implications of what happened. Plainly, nobody in the traffic department that commissioned the sign spoke any Welsh (or they would have wondered why the second sentence was an incongruous length and lacked familiar words). Nor did anybody, at any stage of the proofing and manufacturing process involving non-retroreflective glass bead technology, aluminium sheeting and BS 873 standard lettering compliant with Highways Sector Scheme 9A, raise a query. Nobody: not a word of Welsh between them. And more importantly, not a flicker of curiosity.

And don't tell me the sign was made by ignorant English people, because there are at least three Welsh firms that make road signs. I cannot believe that a Welsh council would send work elsewhere. Basically, nobody gave a damn, including the workmen who put it up. The first to spot it were readers of a Welsh-language magazine, the editor of which sorrowfully says it is not a first. Cyclists between Cardiff and Penarth were baffled by a sign, the Welsh text of which warned of "an inflamed bladder". A pedestrian sign in Cardiff briefly said "look right" in English and "look left" in Welsh. A school in Wrexham had "staff" translated as "wooden staves". In all these cases, great chains of personnel must have let it all through.

Look, I have nothing against efforts to preserve the Welsh language. It is beautiful, heartstoppingly so when spoken mellifluously by my friend Mari, or recited as poetry. I applaud its being taught in Welsh schools (though the results seem dubious, given this debacle). And if the Welsh Assembly feels strongly that signs should be in both languages, even if nobody actually needs them to be, I defend their democratically endorsed decision to the last bewildering consonant. Anyway, as a visitor I rather like having the Service area beyond the Severn Bridge announce itself as a Gwasanaethau, and often make spirited attempts to pronounce it. It adds exoticism to a long journey.

No: the real hilarity of the road sign affair is that it is so beautifully typical of modern life in an overmanaged, system-crazy, authoritarian society where regulation and routine either deaden common sense and initiative, or frighten it into silence. On the same train where I spluttered helplessly over the Welsh sign, the usual announcement kept telling passengers not to leave any luggage unattended "at any time". Passengers heading for the lavatory or the buffet, however, were not hefting giant half-term suitcases and rucksacks, nor did anyone expect them to. Another safety-conscious announcement warned us to remain in our seats until the train came to a complete halt at Paddington. But if passengers getting off at Slough took this "safety" advice they would never all make it to the door with their baggage before the train shot off again. [So true!]

Look wider: it is all around you, this robotic senselessness. A village playgroup may not employ a granny well known to everybody these 50 years until she has waited weeks for a formulaic, expensive vetting certificate from the lumbering machinery of Capita's Criminal Records Bureau. Even so, if she then wants to help the Sea Scouts with their dinghies she'll need a whole new check. A small-town bank manager who has known a pensioner for 30 years still has to put him through cumbersome "anti-money-laundering" procedures to open an ISA. Doorkeepers in office buildings who have seen staff members a hundred times must make them wait for an escort if their ID card fails to bleep.

Elsewhere, a Marks & Spencer staff member refuses to speak to a small child's mother about a faulty Superman outfit because "data protection law" insists they deal with the owner. A pair of evangelists get warned off by a Community Support Officer because Christianity constitutes "hate crime in a Muslim area". A builder gets fined 30 pounds for smoking in his own private van. In those last three cases, jobsworths actually got the law wrong. But so cowed and confused do you get when you work in a huge unwieldy system, so used to not being trusted to blow your own nose without "guidelines", that these things are bound to happen. Thus somebody in a Welsh transport department thinks: "It has to be in Welsh, that stuff looks like Welsh, OK, it doesn't look as if it's about lorries, but better not query it."

It is all about the fear of stepping out of the groove, making an independent decision or asking an intelligent question. People are not naturally like that. It is fiddly systems and unimaginative management that make them that way. So employees, strike out! Ask questions beginning with "why?" at least once a day. Point out that, even if the emperor does have clothes, they're on inside out.

Incidentally, the Welsh for "the emperor has no clothes" is "r hymerawdwr has na ddillad". Only, when I reversed that again, it came out as "Group emperor ace I do garments". See? You can't trust everything that comes out of your computer. Or your rule book.


How America is like a decaying monastery

The walls are ancient, massive, and seemingly impenetrable. Built over centuries, stone by stone, they allowed those who lived within them to largely forget their existence. Their security was a given, their maintenance deemed unnecessary, the once-white radiance which glimmered from afar now pockmarked and pummeled, the mortar crumbling but unnoticed by those thus protected. The ramparts stand lightly guarded now, for few found the siege of small hideous men a threat - and many envied their crazed passions from atop the high walls, where sanctuary seemed like slavery and chaos freedom.

Those few who sounded the alarm went unheeded, for the massive stones which tumbled and thundered to earth were lightly regarded, the trembling of the ground at their impact ignored lest it disturb the revelry within. The city has been infiltrated, not with shock troops but with trollops, its defenders lying naked in the embrace of whores. The breach is imminent - yet the city sleeps, its shops shuttered, its currency squandered, its treasury depleted, its armies far abroad fighting fearlessly a war no one notices for a cause long forgotten.

The light streaming through the now-breached walls most surely represents change - and just as surely brings not hope, but new horrors.

We have been engaged for some decades in what is often called a "culture war." It is in truth far more than that - far more than simply clashing preferences or soft values at variance, more than red versus blue, big government versus small, professors versus plumbers, city versus rural. It is at its core warfare in a different dimension, in a realm we understand poorly if at all. It rages in the realm of philosophy, or perhaps more precisely, in the realm of spirit.

The increasingly-likely presidency of Barack Obama - teamed with a entrenched, empowered, and intractably secular and liberal Congress - portends a tectonic shift in these cultural clashes, with profound changes looming for those who battle to preserve and advance the causes of traditional morality, respect for life, and religious values. In addition to changes in the political landscape which may prove every bit as drastic (and destructive) as the New Deal, two recent essays peer through the looking glass, not toward this impending change in the socio-political landscape, but rather toward the ethical and moral morass into which we are about to be thrust. The view through the glass is sobering, to say the least.

Richard John Neuhaus, writing in First Things, takes a look at the culture wars and the courts in Obama, Abortion, and the Courts:
We are two nations: one concentrated on rights and laws, the other on rights and wrongs; one radically individualistic and dedicated to the actualized self, the other communal and invoking the common good; one viewing law as the instrument of the will to power and license, the other affirming an objective moral order reflected in a Constitution to which we are obliged; one given to private satisfaction, the other to familial responsibility; one typically secular, the other typically religious; one elitist, the other populist.

No other question cuts so close to the heart of the culture wars as the question of abortion. The abortion debate is about more than abortion. It is about the nature of human life and community. It is about whether rights are the product of human assertion or the gift of "Nature and Nature's God." It is about euthanasia, eugenic engineering, and the protection of the radically handicapped. But the abortion debate is most inescapably about abortion. In that debate, the Supreme Court has again and again, beginning with the Roe and Doe decisions of 1973, gambled its authority, and with it our constitutional order, by coming down on one side.

The result is the Court's clear declaration of belligerency on one side of the culture wars, endorsing the radically individualistic concept of the self-constituted self.
In like manner, Robert George at Public Discourse paints an even gloomier prognosis on the future of the defense and protection of human life based on Senator Obama's own legislative history:
Obama's Abortion Extremism

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law.
Grim prospects, these - and surely discouraging to those who mourn over our nation's growing embrace of a culture of hedonism and death. It is difficult not to grieve over a nation so increasingly lost that it seeks salvation in soothing words while embracing that which destroys it.

Yet I have sensed for some time that we have been fighting the wrong war in the wrong way in such matters. We have massed troops and sent them heroically into the hardened defenses and machine gun nests of an entrenched secular culture. We have protested at abortion clinics; spent millions to defeat laws and propositions to legalize euthanasia, or prostitution, or gay marriage; elected pro-life candidates who too quickly compromise, or leave office shortly after discovering the futility of changing a corrupt and co-opted political culture. We have filled the radio airwaves and internet blogs with billions of words to protest activist judges and the politicians who appoint them, or expose the hypocrisy of politicians who "personally" oppose abortion as "faithful" members of their church while voting in lockstep for every abortion right - even infanticide.

Yet we have, for all our screeds and screeching, changed little - and been unwilling to change that which is most important: ourselves. We rant against the soft porn and profanity of what passes for TV entertainment - but our TV sets stay on. We abhor Hollywood, but go to their movies, obsessing about their empty hedonism while faithfully reading People and Us and Vanity Fair. We decry our materialistic age while filling our lives with costly toys and glittering bangles, as our credit cards threaten to crush and devour us. We criticize our sinful culture but never mention sin in our churches. We hate our corrupt and compromised politicians - then vote them right back into office, showing our sophistication and nuance on political issues. We resist and deplore the aggressive pro-gay agenda in politics, culture, and education - but never befriend the gay man or woman, nor learn to humbly love nor embrace the wounded soul thus enslaved. We split our churches into a million denominations, self-righteously hating those heretic Catholics, or Protestants, or charismatics, or fundamentalists, as is our wont - while fully embracing a culture which will not be content until we are all silenced and destroyed.

In ages past, the church responded to a decaying culture - violent, decadent, pagan, hopeless -by separation, drawing itself apart from a lost and self-destructive world. The monastic movement sought dissociation in order to focus on that which truly mattered, to reject the sound and fury which invariably accompanies the hollow hopelessness of men hiding from the harsh light of truth, who ridicule the eternal while reaping its rebuke. It is perhaps no accident that monasticism prospered most after the church fully embraced the corrupt culture, emerging from centuries of isolation, exclusion, and persecution to embrace the harlot in the person of Emperor Constantine. The church became wealthy, and powerful, and fashionable, and favored - and thereby lost the passion for purity, and humility, and sacrifice, and personal holiness which had been its hallmark in its first three centuries. Yet men yearned for that which is eternal, and sacrificed the comforts of culture for the discipline of devotion.

It is, I sense, time to revisit these truths and this history, to ask ourselves if we have benefited our culture and country by fighting its wars on the battlefields of its choosing. Is it not time to consider whether we, too, should draw back, not in defeat but in strength, and fight this war - and it is most certainly a deadly combat - on grounds where it must be fought, in the hearts of men - starting with ourselves. Perhaps it is time - well past time, even - to begin our pilgrimage away from a lost culture which has embraced the delusion that we control our own destinies, that our pleasures and profits will makes us happy, that freedom and peace may be had by embracing selfishness and slavery. The monastery we must seek is not some sacred sanctuary, some pastoral refuge of stone in a land far away. Our world is not the world of centuries ago; we cannot cloister ourselves in some lonely enclave, distanced and detached from debauchery and decadence far away. Ours must be the monastery of the soul, an abbey of abstinence, and devotion, and prayer, and self-sacrifice.

The call of the monastery is not a call to isolation, or hermitage, nor a call to a John Galt-vengeance on a society which has rejected our noble pleadings and higher values. The heart of the monastery requires no walls, but is instead a community, with a rule of order, spiritual discipline, prayer, simplicity of living, and hard work. It is a place where humility and honesty thrive; where prayer is a daily, even hourly, discipline; where we challenge every desire in the light of absolute values and eternal perspective; where relationships are reconciled and true peace among men can thrive. The abbey abides where we live - in our churches, our small groups or Bible studies, our neighborhoods, in coffee houses, in the warmth and hospitality of our open homes. It is here where we may truly transform our society - one heart, one soul, one life at a time.

Let the culture go where it may; we must be a true light. It is time to abandon the delusion that we may change the hopeless by becoming more like them - we must instead become a shining city on a hill, a stark contrast to the darkness which surrounds us. If what we believe is true - and it is - then those who run from truth may well see in us an answer to their failed and fruitless pursuits, to the shallow shell of a life lived in self-gratification and the pursuit of pleasure and power.

We will be misunderstood, hated, ridiculed, rejected. So be it - our strength will lie in one another, and in Him who calls us to holiness. Let us now say, "Let it begin - and let it begin, with me."


New Book recommendation: The Woman Racket

I'm reading an excellent new book called 'The Woman Racket' by Steve Moxon. From the jacket:
"Notwithstanding its provocative title, The Woman Racket is a serious scientific investigation into one of the key myths of our age - that women are oppressed by the 'Patriarchal' traditions of Western societies. Drawing on the latest developments in evolutionary psychology, Moxon finds that the opposite is true - men, or at least the majority of low-status males - have always been the victims of deep-rooted prejudice."

"Even so, you won't find me suggesting adding men to the ever-expanding list of 'victims'. As it stands there's but a minority of people who aren't already on this list... Instead the real story of men and women is the key to tearing up the entire list and throwing it away" (p2).

"The whole edifice rests on a vague imagining of an overarching description of masculinity, both within and without individual men, whereby somehow women are victimised. This is the ghost in the machine of society that somehow gave rise to 'Patriarchy'. No mechanismn for this has ever been tendered, let alone tested empirically, for the reason that researchers know that nothing of the kind does or could exist" (p18).

Moxon attempts to draw out the economic and philosophical origins of the current mess in chapter 1, after which he goes on to tell the real story of men and women, based upon scientific evidence. In some ways, this is the book that I have wanted to write for years. I highly recommend it.



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, OBAMA WATCH (2), 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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