Thursday, July 31, 2008

British Sikh girl beats anti-religious ban

With good British hypocrisy, the ban was not overtly anti-religious but there is little doubt that that was part of the underlying motive

A Sikh teenager excluded from school for breaking a "no jewellery" rule by refusing to remove a wrist bangle which is central to her faith was a victim of unlawful discrimination, a judge ruled today. The victory in the High Court for Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, means that she will be returning to Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales in September - wearing the Kara, a slim steel bracelet. Her lawyers had told Mr Justice Silber that the Kara was as important to her as it was to England spin bowler Monty Panesar, who has been pictured wearing the bangle.

Sarika, of mixed Welsh and Punjabi origin, of Cwmbach, near Aberdare, was at first taught in isolation and eventually excluded for refusing to take off the bangle in defiance of the school's policy, which prohibits the wearing of any jewellery other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. Today, the judge declared that the school was guilty of indirect discrimination under race relations and equality laws.

After the judgment, Sarika's mother, Sinita, 38, said: "We are over the moon.It is just such a relief." Afterwards, a spokeswoman for the family hailed it as a "common sense" judgment. Sarika said: "I am overwhelmed by the outcome and it's marvellous to know that the long journey I've been on has finally come to an end. "I'm so happy to know that no-one else will go through what me and my family have gone through." She added: "I just want to say that I am a proud Welsh and Punjabi Sikh girl."

Anna Fairclough, Liberty's legal officer who was representing the Singhs, said: "This common sense judgment makes clear you must have a very good reason before interfering with someone's religious freedom. "Our great British traditions of religious tolerance and race equality have been rightly upheld today."


It's certainly difficult to see what harm she was doing. I wonder whether this will prevent bans on Catholics wearing crosses too? Very annoying that the "purity ring" case was not similarly decided. The British government claims to be concerned about teenage promiscuity and pregnancy but Christian efforts to combat it were disallowed in that case! That Left-run Britain is an anti-Christian country is however now rather well-established.

Film unmasks Bush as the real Batman

By Andrew Bolt

FINALLY Hollywood makes a film that says US President George W. Bush was right. But director Christopher Nolan had to disguise it a little, so journalists wouldn't freak and the film's more fashionable stars wouldn't walk. So he hides Bush in a cape. He even sticks a mask on him, with pointy ears for some reason. Sure, when the terrified citizens of Gotham City scream for Bush to come save them, Nolan has them shine a great W in the night sky, but he blurs it so it looks more like a bird. Or a bat, perhaps. And he has them call their hero not Mr Bush, of course, or even "Mr President", but . . . Batman.

And what do you know. Bush may be one of the most despised presidents in American history, but this movie of his struggle is now smashing all box-office records. Critics weep, audiences swoon - and suddenly the world sees Bush's agonising dilemma and sympathises with what it had been taught so long to despise.

Well, "taught" isn't actually the exact word. As this superb Batman retelling, The Dark Knight, makes clear, its subject is a weakness that runs instinctively through us - to hate a hero who, in saving us, exposes our fears, prods our weaknesses, calls from us more than we want to give, or can. And how we resent a hero who must shake our world in order to save it, or brings alive that maxim of George Orwell that so implicates us in our preening piety: "Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

(Alert! Alert! Spoilers ahead. Do not read on if you plan to see the film.)

This is The Dark Knight's theme. See how Bush - oops, I mean Batman - must time and again compromise his values, and ours, to save his city from far greater evils. And see how Nolan, who wrote the script with his younger brother Jonathan, empathises with him every time - as does the audience in the wide-eyed dark.

How many examples do you want? There's the scene at the police station in which Batman tortures Heath Ledger's sensationally vivid Joker - trying to cave in his face rather than simply, say, waterboarding him, as the CIA did to three of al-Qaida's most senior commanders. The audience understands. Batman has resorted to the last hope to make this terrorist squeal, because only the Joker has the information the police need to save two goodies who have just minutes left to live.

Of course, Batman is considerate enough to first jam shut the cell door with a chair, which means Commissioner Gordon and the police - who were watching through a one-way window - can rush to stop this terrible infringement of a prisoner's human rights yet still conveniently fail to break in. This helps them to preserve their purity while still getting from Batman the addresses they so gratefully grab with their clean hands. Note well this detail. We can pose as pure because harder men do what we need to keep safe - so safe, that we can afford to later despise them for it.

See it again when Bush - damn, I did it again - Batman, I mean, bugs every phone in the city to identify the whereabouts of the Joker, hoping to stop him before he blows up a shipload of civilians. His techno-whiz, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is almost as horrified as a New York Times reporter told that Bush wants to wiretap the international calls of terror suspects. "This is wrong," he editorialises. "Spying on 30 million people isn't part of my job description." What a wonderful conscience. How brightly that man's halo will shine when the fighting is done, and the human rights seminars begin in the campuses of cities made secure.

But, of course, even Lucius, thrust not into a newspaper office but into a position of responsibility where he must choose urgently between moralising or saving lives on a ticking time-bomb of a ship, chooses to help Batman bug just seconds after declaring it "wrong". For the record. It's the choice the audience always knew he'd make, and would have despised him for dodging.

But the residents of Gotham? They soon end up hating Batman. If he hadn't gone after the Joker so hard, they cry, maybe the Joker wouldn't have blown up their hospital, or planted bombs on ships, or killed so many soldiers, or flown aeroplanes into office towers, or blown up a Bali bar, or . . . sorry, have I confused fact with fiction, again? Anyway, the citizens hate Batman, especially once they are safe, for disturbing their sense of order, and violating their nice rules for defining their goodness - rules that are less useful for defying the evil of men who, Batman's philosopher-butler Alfred says, "just want to watch the world burn".

And they hate him also as many Europeans hate Bush, for showing that what protects their world are not ultimately the laws they pass, but a violence that intimidates them, because they cannot match it. They hate him as many once hated Ronald Reagan for defying a Soviet Union they feared would fight back. They hate him as Melbourne University's hand-washing Professor Tony Coady, for one, can now afford to hate the men who dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, deploring this war-ending attack as "an act of terrorism far greater than any single act of terrorism since by non-state actors".

This hatred is the burden that Batman accepts - and which The Dark Knight explains better than the comics did. When Batman doubts the good he had done, Alfred urges strength: "Endure, Master, endure. Take it. They'll hate you for it, but that is the point of Batman. He can make the choice that no one else can make - the right choice."

Batman does not need, and cannot get, the soaring opinion polls and flattering media coverage of a hero. He must instead be not only the citizens' saviour, but its scapegoat for its anxiety over what it took to save them. As Commissioner Gordon says, in reluctantly branding Batman an outlaw: "We'll hunt him because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector . . . a dark knight."

Mind you, the same excuses for violence, and for defying the public's will, is used by vigilantes and tyrants. And Nolan is so careful to sugar his pill that some critics, and not only of the Left, have taken his film as an attack on Bush instead. Take's deputy editor, Anne Thompson, who seizes on the scene in which the Joker taunts Batman: "What would I do without you? You complete me . . . To them (the public) you're just a freak. Like me." Concludes Thompson: "The film-making suggests the Joker has, like a Shakespearean fool on PCP, hit on a harsh truth: Batman has more in common with his killer-clown foe than with the normal people he means to protect. So should we conclude The Dark Knight argues that Bush and bin Laden are two sides of the same coin?"

Answer: are you kidding? In fact, the Joker is saying that without Batman's great good to oppose, his great evil would never be realised in its horrific glory. It would be like Hitler being allowed to exterminate nothing more than mosquitoes. Who'd care? What's more, Batman clearly has more in common with the people he tries to protect than does the Joker with people he tries to destroy, or the audience wouldn't be cheering him, and the next film in the series wouldn't be Batman III but The Joker II.

No, the cinema audience understands what the Gotham citizens do not - Batman's dilemma and the awesome imperatives of responsibility. And they are with him, not his critics.

So why don't Americans in particular leave the movie cheering Bush as they cheered Batman? Because in leaving the cinema they stopped being that audience and re-entered their own real Gotham City - with a real Batman they once more feel driven to hate for all the hard things he's had to do to protect them. They have become the citizens of Gotham they were watching just minutes before with contempt. But Bush would understand. As Alfred says: "He's not being a hero. He's being something more."


"Unhealthy" to display the flag of England in England??

A retired teacher says she was banned from waving her Cross of St George flag during a Proms performance on health and safety grounds. A steward told Rosalind Hilton to put the five foot flag away during the Last Night of the Halle Proms event at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.

She and sister Susan Stanyard were preparing to hoist the flag above their heads for Land and Hope and Glory in the rousing finale, having unfurled the flag over the balcony by her seat. She was later told it could have been a danger to those below. Mrs Hilton, 58, from Chester, said: "Every year I always go with my sister Susan. We make a real deal of it and dress up in red, white and blue. "Every year I take the flag which is quite large. There are English, Scottish and Welsh flags and towards the end, when they play Land of Hope and Glory, everyone stands up and waves them around. It's a fantastic atmosphere. "But in the second half after about five minutes a steward arrived and asked me to take it down. She said: 'You can't have that flag up.'

"When I asked the manager why, he said it was policy in the Bridgewater Hall that you can't have anything hanging from the sides. I told them they were just being kill-joys." Ridiculing the assumption that dangling flags were dangerous, she plumped the furled-up standard on the manager's head and asked him: "Would that really hurt if it fell on your head?"

She said the interruption last Saturday "ruined the whole evening" and commented: "Who wants to get up and sing, 'Britons never, never shall be slaves,' when the health and safety Nazis are making a mockery of our freedom?" Her party was offered eight-inch plastic Union Jacks instead, leading her husband Keith to conclude: "They are trying to suppress us using the English ensign." Mrs Hilton has vowed to get an answer on why her flag was banned: "I have asked them to look in their policy document and send me a photocopy of where it says you can't hang flags."

Popular anthems from the Last Night of the Proms include Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia and Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

But such flag-waving patriotism has come under attack before. In March Margaret Hodge, the culture minister, criticised the BBC Proms for not being multicultural enough. She said the BBC Proms, which run from July to September at the Royal Albert Hall, did not do enough to encourage a British sense of "shared identity". She said: "The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events - I'm thinking in particular of the Proms - is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this." Her comments were roundly condemned. Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's position on this is quite clear - he thinks the Proms are a good institution."

Nick Reed, chief executive of the Bridgewater Hall, said: "No-one was refused admission to the concert because of a flag, and flags were in abundance as they always are at proms concerts. "We do not allow large flags to be draped across the balconies in case they fall on patrons below and we take exactly the same approach with coats, bags and other items. "The Halle proms concert was enjoyed by a capacity audience and we received no other comments."


University makes unfounded allegations and then grovels to a racist black woman

Says the inimitable Mike Adams:

Contrary to popular opinion, the case of Keith Sampson at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is not over. An article by the Associated Press seemed to imply that the case was resolved. But, having done some thorough research on the case - more thorough than the AP, I believe - I respectfully dissent. And, today, I am calling for an investigation of university Chancellor Charles Bantz as well as university spokesman Rick Schneider.

Keith Sampson is really a rare kind of student. First of all, he was willing to take a job as a janitor to help pay for his college education. But, even more impressive, he spends his break time reading scholarly books on subjects such as American history. But, when he decided to read a book on race relations - one describing how students at Notre Dame defeated the KKK in the 1920s - all hell broke loose.

A black female co-worker at IUPUI decided to charge Sampson with racial harassment. This matter should not have been hard to resolve since the book, which Sampson checked out from the IUPUI library, was objectively anti-Klan and anti-racist. The only difficult part of the case should have been deciding the fate of Sampson's accuser. Had she intentionally leveled the false claim of racial harassment, she should have been fired. Had it been accidental, she should have been sent to sensitivity training to get over her obvious prejudice against white people.

But, of course, this happened in a university setting, which means that common sense never had a fighting chance. Sampson was told last November that his conduct constituted racial harassment. The affirmative action officer (Lillian Charleston who is now retired) stated "You used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading this book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your black co-workers." Such ignorance is by itself a good argument against affirmative action.

But, fortunately, the ACLU - like the blind squirrel that occasionally finds a nut - found out about Lillian Charleston who is obviously a nut, and more than a little squirrelly. With pressure from the ACLU, Charleston exuded sheer eloquence in later telling Sampson "There is no university policy that prohibits reading (scholarly books) on break time." Too bad she's retired. This woman is obviously brilliant.

But of course this was not good enough. Remember that in November Charleston had said "We conclude that your conduct" - of reading a scholarly book in front of a black woman - "constitutes racial harassment." But after the ACLU got involved in February the university informed Sampson that no disciplinary action would be taken because they were unable to determine whether Sampson's conduct was intended to disrupt the work environment. But, of course, the work environment was disrupted by a hypersensitive black female with a distorted view of the "typical white person" - and what a good thing this bigot isn't running for President of the United States! So, I took the time to call Rick Schneider to ask him about the uncertainty of the university's findings.

Regrettably, Rick Schneider was the most evasive, stammering, and uncertain administrator I've ever spoken to (in the six years I've been investigating university speech codes). For example, I asked him whether the charges leveled against Sampson were objectively false and he could not answer. When I asked him whether he even believed in the existence of objective truth and falsity, he replied "I do not wish to get into a general philosophical discussion with you." I swear I'm not making this stuff up. And I do believe in objective truth. But, finally, I did get a direct answer from Rick Schneider. When I asked whether he was aware any other acts of racial harassment by Sampson he stated unequivocally "No." And this is very important.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Wall Street Journal recently asked someone from media relations at IUPUI the same question. The media relations person replied that Mr. Sampson had engaged in other racially insensitive conduct and that Mr. Sampson was aware that he had. And this is why we need an investigation of Mr. Schneider. If Rick Schneider was not the person who made those statements to The Wall Street Journal it is very good news for him. But, of course, that only means that someone else should be sued for defaming the character of Mr. Sampson whose personnel file is clean and who has never engaged in any racially harassing behavior (despite the university's pathetic attempt to smear him). But the Chancellor must also be investigated in order to explain this statement made in an email sent by Rick Schneider:
"The chancellor has sent letters of apology to Keith Sampson, to the co-worker of Keith Sampson who filed the complaint, and to two co-workers who were interviewed as part of the investigation of the complaint. In these letters, the chancellor said he regrets this situation took place and believes this matter could have and should have been handled differently."
The public has every right to see that letter in order to ascertain the reason why a university president would apologize to an obviously racist black woman who disrupted the IUPUI work environment with an objectively false accusation of racial harassment. Keith Sampson has suffered a good deal of grief although not as much as the lacrosse players at Duke University. But at least Duke's chancellor didn't apologize to the stripper.



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.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Madness: British appeals court outlaws hitting delinquent children in custody

Someone should confine these judges to one of the "training" centres concerned. They would soon change their tune

Controversial methods of disciplining young people in custody have been abolished by the Court of Appeal today, only a year after they were introduced by the Government. Three judges ruled that the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) rules - which included advice to hit unruly children on the nose or ribs, or bend back their thumbs to distract them if they were disobedient - breached human rights.

Sally Keeble, Labour MP for Northampton North, who has been campaigning for a change in the law over physical restraint methods since 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died in custody in Northamptonshire four years ago, said she was delighted at the ruling She said: "This court victory is absolutely stunning. The Government has ducked and dived and refused to recognise the fact that these holds are barbaric and have no place in the British system."

Ms Keeble said that at their peak, the holds, which included a karate chop to the nose, were used up to twice a day in the four secure units in England and Wales run by private companies on behalf of the Department of Justice "These inhumane methods should be withdrawn and a new, safe system introduced for managing behaviour of young people in detention," she said. [Like what?] "There also needs to be a proper training system for staff, better monitoring and oversight by the Ministry of Justice of what happens in these privately-run secure training centres."

Adam Rickwood, 14, was on remand in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in Co Durham in 2004 when he became the youngest child in Britain to die in custody. He hanged himself with his shoelaces shortly after being restrained for the first time. Gareth Myatt, 15, who weighed six and half stone, was asphyxiated whilst being restrained by three members of staff. He was three days into a six-month sentence at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has been involved in a test case about physically restraining young people in custody in the wake of the two deaths, said today that the inquests had showed that staff at the STCs employed restraint as a way of maintaining order.

Yet despite grave concerns about the two deaths, the Ministry of Justice had chosen in 2007 to extend the use of restraint at Oakhill, Hassockfield, Medway and Rainsbrook STCs. Until June 2007 staff at STCs were only permitted to use physical restraint when it was necessary for the prevention of escape, damage to property or injury. The new rules, brought in after the deaths, allowed restraint when it was thought necessary to ensure good order and discipline.


The Deobandi Fatwa Against Terrorism Didn't Treat the Jihadi Root

By Walid Phares

Many in the West and in other regions of the world were impressed by the issuing of a fatwa (Islamic theological edict) condemning Terrorism by one of the leading religious centers in the Muslim world, the Darool-Uloom Deoband in India. An Islamic seminary said to have 'inspired' the Taliban has, according to the said document denounced "terrorism" as against Islam, calling it an "unpardonable sin."

Hoping for a major change in ideology, international counter terrorism authorities and policy makers have been asking experts to determine if the Deobandi declaration will help counter the calls for violent Jihad by al Qaeda and its ilk around the world. In the war of ideas with the Jihadists, many Western architects of strategic communications look for any sign that hearts and minds may be changing course and sympathies. From Washington DC to Brussels and beyond, bureaucrats tasked with exploring the Muslim world for new trends, shop around for what they call "counter-narrative against extremism."

The Deobandi School, a classical third branch for Salafi Islamism (along with Wahabism and Muslim Brotherhood), has significant weight in the South Asia Theater. Its teachings based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law have reached many countries, including Afghanistan and Britain, where they are said to have indoctrinated the Taliban. "If they change course, al Qaeda and the Taliban are finished," I heard in Europe and the United States. So the question now is have they changed doctrinal direction and is this fatwa the evidence?

I regretfully conclude that it is not the case yet. It looked good at first. Tens of thousands of clerics and students from around India attended a meeting at the 150-year-old Deoband, north of New Delhi, and declared that they stand "against acts of terrorism."

"There is no place for terrorism in Islam," Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, the older rector of Deoband, told Reuters. "Terrorism, killing of the innocent is against Islam. It is a faith of love and peace, not violence." Rahman said it was unjust to equate Islam with terrorism, to see every Muslim as a suspect or for governments to use this to harass innocent Muslims.

"There are so many examples of people from other communities being caught with bombs and weapons, why are they never convicted?" said Qazi Mohammed Usman, deputy head of Deoband. The meeting defined terrorism as any action targeting innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, whether committed by an individual, an institution or a government.

These statements could be seen as impressive when quoted by news agencies rushing to break the good news, but to the seasoned analysts of Salafism, the solid doctrinal roots of Jihadism were kept untouched. Here is why.

Much more here

Arrogant European Bureaucracy Runs Amok

The European Commission is an unelected bureaucracy that is slowly but surely seizing powers to govern member nations. This is bad news for national sovereignty and jurisdictional competition, but it also leads to crazy regulations, including proposals to prohibit the British from using acres instead of hectares, banning the traditional preparation of Peking Duck and detailed rules about the proper size and shape of vegetables.

But regulatory overkill is just the tip of the iceberg. Far more troubling is the effort to subvert democracy in order to further centralize power in Brussels. The EU Constitution, which would have expanded the powers of the European Commission, was rejected by the voters of France and the Netherlands a few years ago. Rather than shelve the proposal, the European elites renamed it the Lisbon Treaty and said that it no longer was necessary to let the people vote. Fortunately, Ireland still has the rule of law and held a referendum - and the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty was decisively rejected. The French President has since asserted that the Irish should vote again (and presumably again and again) until they reach the "right" decision.

But perhaps the most Kafkaesque reaction came from a French bureaucrat, who was quoted in Le Figaro stating, "It isn't about putting pressure on the Irish. We well understand that they have expressed themselves democratically. But so have the other 26!"

Only the French could deny their people the right to vote and then claim their voters (and the disenfranchised people in the European Union's other 25 nations) had somehow expressed their views.


Economics Does Not Lie

Though economics as a discipline arose in Great Britain and France at the end of the eighteenth century, it has taken two centuries to reach the threshold of scientific rationality. Previously, intuition, opinion, and conviction enjoyed equal status in economic thought; theories were vague, often unverifiable. Not so long ago, one could teach economics at prestigious universities without using equations and certainly without the complex algorithms, precise (though not infallible) mathematical models, and computers integral to the field today.

No wonder bad economic policies ravaged entire nations during the twentieth century, producing more victims than any epidemic did. The collectivization of land in Russia during the twenties, in China during the fifties, and in Tanzania during the sixties starved hundreds of millions of peasants. The uncontrolled printing of currency destabilized Weimar Germany, facilitating the rise of Nazism. The nationalization of enterprises and the expulsion of entrepreneurs ruined Argentina during the forties and Egypt a decade later. India's License Raj--requiring businesses to obtain a host of permits before opening their doors--froze the country's economic development for decades, keeping millions impoverished.

On an even larger scale, the century witnessed a war between two economic systems: state socialism and market capitalism. In the socialist system, property was public, competition forbidden, and production planned. In the market system, property was private, competition encouraged, and production determined by entrepreneurs. Faced with the choice of which system was superior, nations hesitated and economists remained divided.

The state of affairs today is entirely different. When the Soviet Union crumbled, the socialist model that it embodied imploded, too--or, more precisely, the Soviet Union fell because the socialist economic system proved unworkable. Now only one economic system exists: market capitalism. Virtually everywhere, the public sector has given ground to privatization; currency has escaped state control, to be governed by independent central banks; competition has taken wing, thanks to the deregulation of markets and the opening of borders; taxation has become less progressive, so as to encourage entrepreneurs and create jobs.

The results have been breathtaking. Opening economies and promoting trade have helped reconstruct Eastern Europe after 1990 and lifted 800 million people, many of them in China, Brazil, and a now-license-free India, out of poverty. Even in Africa and the Arab Middle East, nations that have embraced capitalism have begun to escape from the terrible underdevelopment that has long plagued them.

Behind all this unprecedented growth is not only the collapse of state socialism but also a scientific revolution in economics, as yet dimly understood by the public but increasingly embraced by policymakers around the globe. The revolution began during the sixties and has finally brought economists to a broad, well-founded consensus about what constitutes good policy. No longer does economics lie; no longer would Baudelaire be able to write that "economics is a horror." For the mass of mankind, on the contrary, it has become a source of hope.

If economics is finally a science, what, exactly, does it teach? With the help of Columbia University economist Pierre-Andre Chiappori, I have synthesized its findings into ten propositions. Almost all top economists--those who are recognized as such by their peers and who publish in the leading scientific journals--would endorse them (the exceptions are those like Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs, whose public pronouncements are more political than scientific). The more the public understands and embraces these propositions, the more prosperous the world will become.

1. The market economy is the most efficient of all economic systems. Adam Smith's eighteenth-century take on market efficiency was metaphorical, nearly metaphysical: he said that it seemed to be guided by an "invisible hand" that produced outcomes beneficial to society. In the mid-twentieth century, Friedrich Hayek observed that no central-planning institution could possibly manage the huge quantity of information that the market organized automatically and spontaneously by pricing resources. More recently, Berkeley economist Gerard Debreu has used computers to demonstrate that the spontaneous order that Hayek postulated does indeed exist in a mathematical world.

Market mechanisms are so efficient that they can manage threats to long-term development, such as the exhaustion of natural resources, far better than states can. If global warming does become a real problem, for example, price mechanisms or a carbon tax would easily encourage a more efficient use of energy. It's worth recalling that during the 1970s, when an excess of sulfur in the atmosphere was sometimes producing acid rain harmful to North American forests, the U.S. government didn't ban sulfur emissions outright. Instead, it created a market in which companies could buy and sell the right to pollute above a certain amount or "cap," pricing emissions so that factories had a financial incentive to turn to non-sulfurous technology, which was already available. Over time, companies shifted to cleaner technology and the acid rain disappeared--to the dismay of many green activists, who tend to prefer doomsday discourse to efficient market solutions.

Some economists favor free markets not only for their efficiency in allocating resources but for political reasons as well, fearing that central planning or excessive bureaucratic controls could, in the guise of rationality, stifle individual freedom. Markets leave us "free to choose," wrote Rose and Milton Friedman, and society is the better off for it--though not all economists embrace their libertarian political vision.

2. Free trade helps economic development. As Smith observed when his native Scotland began to benefit from free trade, it is through access to the world market that poor nations become rich. They never do so by trying to become self-sufficient. Free trade also makes rich countries richer, economists agree. By importing less expensive goods made in low-wage nations like China, wealthy nations effectively increase their own citizens' income--and the main beneficiaries are poor and middle-class people, who can buy cheaper clothes, electronics, and myriad other goods. In addition, importing cheaper components--computer chips, say--lowers the cost of equipment in wealthier economies. In fact, economists have long understood the law of comparative advantage: whenever differences in the cost of producing goods exist between two countries, both will benefit from free trade, a mechanism that allocates their resources most effectively.

Free trade not only generates the greatest possible growth; it tends to distribute it widely, both within nations and among them. For evidence, consider the emergence of vast middle classes in all free-market societies, as well as the economic convergence among nations that have embraced capitalist economics. After less than 20 years of market-driven growth, Brazil, China, and India--whatever their injustices--are closer to the Western level of development than they were before that growth got under way.

This does not mean, as some observers fret or gleefully predict, that the United States is about to stop leading the world economically. Other nations may draw closer to it--Western Europe in 1950 had a per-capita income half that of the U.S.; now it's 80 percent--but the American economy has remained the world's most vigorous for more than a century because of its superior efficiency, demographic dynamism, and innovation (today, for example, the U.S. is the world leader in the hugely promising fields of nanotechnology and biotechnology). One might add that no globalization, with all its economic benefits, could take place without a global security framework to protect shipping from piracy and to contain border conflicts. Today the U.S. military provides that security, just as the British navy once did.

Much more here


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.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The disgusting British police again: They say they have no duty to protect anyone

The anger and frustration felt by people who are the victims of crimes to which they have already alerted the police can be imagined. But when a loved one is murdered because the police failed to act in time, despite warnings that something terrible might be about to happen, the feelings of relations and friends can only be guessed at. Spare a thought, then, for the parents of Giles Van Colle, who will on Wednesday learn if a legal battle they have waged since he was murdered nearly eight years ago has been successful. If it is, the implications are profound. Irwin and Corrine Van Colle sued the police for failing to protect their son, who was a witness in a court case.

However, this is not a story of gangland intimidation: Mr Van Colle, 25, was simply preparing to do his duty as a responsible citizen in what should have been a straightforward case of theft. But it was to turn into a nightmare - and the police did nothing to stop it unfolding. Mr Van Colle was an optometrist with his own business, GVC Opticians, in Mill Hill, north London. He had employed as a laboratory technician an Iranian whose real name was Ali Amelzadeh, but was known by the alias Daniel Brougham. He had obtained the job using a false CV and when he was challenged about his National Insurance number and the disappearance of equipment from the clinic, he left. Subsequently, stolen property, including glasses and frames belonging to Mr Van Colle, were found at Brougham's home and he was charged with theft.

Mr Van Colle was asked to identify the property as a court witness. Until now, this was fairly unexceptional case. However, Mr Van Colle began to receive threats to his life and his family from Brougham, to which the police were alerted. Then his car was set ablaze outside his home. Yet nothing was done to protect him. In November 2000, two days before the trial was to start, Brougham lay in wait for Mr Van Colle as he left work and shot him three times at close range.

Most murders happen out of the blue and there is always a danger of accusation by hindsight. But that was not the case here. A witness in a court case was specifically threatened on a number of occasions by the man against whom he was giving evidence. It should have been relatively straightforward for the police to have offered him protection or to have revoked Brougham's bail.

Since Brougham lived in Stevenage, that job fell to Hertfordshire constabulary and specifically Det Con David Ridley. At a disciplinary tribunal in 2003, he was found guilty of failing to perform his duties diligently, failing to investigate thoroughly the intimidation of witnesses, and failing to arrest Brougham. He was fined five days' pay.

Mr Van Colle's parents considered it was important to establish where the duties of the police lay and invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, claiming a violation of Article 2 - which enshrines the "right to life" - and Article 8, which guarantees everyone's right to respect for their home and family life. In the High Court, Mrs Justice Cox awarded them $100,000 in damages against Hertfordshire Police. She said that, had Mr Van Colle been placed in a safe house or given other protection after Brougham threatened his life, there would have been "a real prospect of avoiding this tragedy". The award was reduced in 2007 to $50,000 by the Court of Appeal; but the judgment against Hertfordshire Police was upheld. This is where the case stands.

The chief constable appealed to the Law Lords, who will rule on whether the police can be sued for failing to carry out their duties properly to investigate a crime. The police say that unless it is overturned, they - and other public services - will face a flood of similar claims. But is that true? Are they simply not being required to do their job properly? After all, Mr Van Colle's case is not an isolated one.

Alex and Maureen Cochrane died and their daughter, Lucy, was seriously injured in an arson attack on their home in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, in 2006. The attack had been preceded by an incident at the Cochranes' home in which a fluid was poured on to the front door and a tree uprooted in the garden. Police, who were aware of a feud with another family subsequently convicted of the killings, failed to act. Last year, an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found Greater Manchester Police guilty of "individual and systemic failings" over the tragedy.

Scotland Yard is investigating complaints that it failed to respond to threats made against a schoolgirl a few weeks before she was killed. Last year, the same force apologised for doing nothing to protect a young father shot dead after confronting a gang in the road where he had been stabbed just months earlier.

Wiltshire Police were strongly criticised by the IPCC for failing to protect Hayley Richards, a pregnant woman who was murdered by her boyfriend a week after he attacked her. Even though police were told where he was, officers who could have responded were dealing with a report of a dog locked in a car.

In all these cases, the police say that the murderous intent of the killers could not have been foreseen. But that is not the point. It is the fact that they did nothing that is so appalling. People can understand if, despite their best endeavours, some dreadful criminal act occurs; but it is the first principle of policing to prevent crime, not investigate it after it has happened.

In the Appeal Court, Sir Anthony Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, said the duty of the police to protect Mr Van Colle was "not an onerous one"; and nor was he persuaded that the court's ruling would "threaten police resources" or "open the floodgates to baseless claims against the police". "They should have done everything that could reasonably have been expected of them," added the judge. That is all that Mr and Mrs Van Colle, and the rest of us, are asking.


So wrong, so often, for so long, Yet it's Europe we should copy?

If anyone suggested that Tiger Woods should try to be more like other golfers, people would question the sanity of whoever made that suggestion. Why should Tiger Woods try to be more like Phil Mickelson? If Tiger turned around and tried to golf left-handed, like Mickelson, he probably wouldn't be as good as Mickelson, much less as good as he is golfing the way he does right-handed.

Yet there are those who think that the United States should follow policies more like those in Europe, often with no stronger reason than the fact that Europeans follow such policies. For some Americans, it is considered chic to be like Europeans. If Europeans have higher minimum wage laws and more welfare state benefits, then we should have higher minimum wage laws and more welfare state benefits, according to such people. If Europeans restrict pharmaceutical companies' patents and profits, then we should do the same. Some justices of the U.S. Supreme Court even seem to think that they should incorporate ideas from European laws in interpreting American laws.

Before we start imitating someone, we should first find out whether the results that they get are better than the results that we get. Across a very wide spectrum, the U.S. has been doing better than Europe for a very long time. By comparison with most of the rest of the world, Europe is doing fine. But it is like Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.

Minimum wage laws have the same effects in Europe as they have had in other places around the world. They price many low-skilled and inexperienced workers out of a job. Because minimum wage laws are more generous in Europe than in the U.S., they lead to chronically higher rates of unemployment in general and longer periods of unemployment than in the U.S. - but especially among younger, less experienced and less skilled workers. Unemployment rates of 20% or more for young workers are common in a number of European countries. Among workers who are both younger and minority workers, such as young Muslims in France, unemployment rates are estimated at about 40%.

The American minimum wage laws do enough damage without our imitating European minimum wage laws. The last year in which the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate in the U.S. was 1930. The next year, the first federal minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act, was passed. One of its sponsors explicitly stated that the purpose was to keep blacks from taking jobs from whites. No one says things like that any more - which is a shame, because the effect of a minimum wage law does not depend on what anybody says. Blacks in general, and younger blacks in particular, are the biggest losers from such laws, just as younger and minority workers are in Europe.

Those Americans who are pushing us toward the kinds of policies that Europeans impose on pharmaceutical companies show not the slightest interest in what the consequences of such laws have been. One consequence is that even European pharmaceutical companies do much of their research and development of new medications in the U.S., in order to take advantage of American patent protections and freedom from price controls. These are the very policies that the European imitators want us to change.

It is not a coincidence that such a high proportion of the major pharmaceutical drugs are developed in the U.S. If we kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as the Europeans have done, both we and the Europeans - as well as the rest of the world - will be worse off, because there are few other places for such medications to be developed. There are a lot of diseases still waiting for a cure, or even for relief for those suffering from those diseases. People stricken with these diseases will pay the price for blind imitation of Europe.

It must be a bitter disappointment to those in the media and in politics who have been dying to use the word "recession" that, for the second quarter in a row, there has been no downturn in the economy, though growth has been slow. Alarmists have been reduced to quoting other alarmists on the supposedly impending recession, but that is still not the real thing. The definition of a "recession" is very clear and straightforward: Two consecutive quarters of negative growth. We have not yet had one consecutive quarter of negative growth....

Some of the people who are most adamant against outsourcing economic activity from the U.S. to other countries often seem to think we should outsource our foreign policy to "world opinion" or act only in conjunction "with our NATO allies." Like so many things that are said when it comes to public policy, there is very little attention paid to the actual track record of "world opinion" or of "our NATO allies."

Often there is a blanket assumption that European countries are just so much more sophisticated than American "cowboys." But there is incredibly little interest in the track record of those European sophisticates whom we are supposed to consult about our own national interests - including, in an age when terrorists may acquire nuclear weapons, our national survival.

In the course of the 20th century, supposedly sophisticated Europeans managed to create some of the most monstrous forms of government on earth - communism, fascism, Nazism - in peacetime, and to start the two World Wars, the bloodiest in all human history. In each of these wars, both the winners and the losers ended up far worse off than they were before these wars were started. After both World Wars, the U.S. had to step in to save millions of people in Europe from starving amid the wreckage and rubble that their wars had created. These do not seem like people whose sophistication we should defer to.

Between the two World Wars, European intellectuals - more so than ordinary people - completely misread the threat from Nazi Germany, and were urging disarmament in France and England, while Hitler was rapidly building up the most powerful military force on the continent, obviously aimed at neighboring countries.

During the Cold War, many European intellectuals once again misread the threat of a totalitarian dictatorship - in this case, the Soviet Union. When they finally recognized the threat, many saw the question as whether it was "better to be red than dead." They were no more prepared to stand up to the Soviet Union than they had been ready to stand up to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Worse yet, much of the European intelligentsia objected to America's standing up to the Soviet Union. Many of them were appalled when Ronald Reagan met the threat of new Soviet missiles aimed at Western Europe by putting more American missiles in Western Europe, aimed at the Soviet Union.

Reagan, in effect, called the Soviet Union and raised them, while many of the European sophisticates - as well as much of the American intelligentsia - said that his policies would lead to war. Instead, it led to the end of the Cold War. Are we now to blindly imitate those who have been so wrong, so often, over the past hundred years?

More here

World's Most Successful AIDS Prevention Programme in Uganda "Sabotaged" by Western "Experts"

Western advisors used their control of international funding to force a change in direction to condoms and casual sex

While the US Senate considers a proposal to allocate US$50 million more for AIDS prevention programmes, one Ugandan expert says it will be wasted money if the attitudes of the Western AIDS prevention community towards AIDS transmission do not change. In a column appearing in the Washington Post on June 30, one of Uganda's leading AIDS prevention experts called on the Western "experts" to "Let my people go." "We understand that casual sex is dear to you, but staying alive is dear to us. Listen to African wisdom, and we will show you how to prevent AIDS."

Sam L. Ruteikara wrote in the Washington Post that efforts to maintain the world's most successful AIDS prevention programme was "sabotaged" by precisely those Western "experts" who insisted that only condoms would work. Ruteikara is the co-chair of Uganda's National AIDS-Prevention Committee. He wrote in a column in the Washington Post on June 30, "AIDS epidemics in Africa are driven by people having sex regularly with more than one person." The Western experts, dedicated to the exclusive promotion of condoms, were incensed when Ugandan AIDS rates plummeted with this "ABC" method that left condoms as a "last resort".

The success of the Ugandan programme, Ruteikara said, did not sit well with those international experts and advisors, sent to Uganda to oversee the spending of international relief funds, who are devoted to the condom as the first and last answer to the AIDS epidemic.

Despite the official line that Western "advisors" were to work within local programmes, these experts, Ruteikara asserted, actively stonewalled the Ugandan committee's recommendations. The Western advisors objected that the programme was an attempt "to limit people's sexual freedom" and they used their control of the international funding to force a change in direction.

"Repeatedly, our 25-member prevention committee put faithfulness and abstinence into the National Strategic Plan that guides how PEPFAR [President's Emergency Plan for HIV-AIDS Relief] money for our country will be spent. Repeatedly, foreign advisers erased our recommendations. When the document draft was published, fidelity and abstinence were missing."

More insidiously, Ruteikara says that a "suspicious" statistic appeared in reports that claimed a significant increase in rates of AIDS among married couples. The claim was that 42 per cent of married couples were infected, a rate twice that of prostitutes. Repeated requests for the origin of this statistic were ignored. Domestic surveys done by Ugandan health officials found that only 6.3 per cent of married couples are infected, lower even than rates among widowed and divorced Ugandans.

Since the Ugandans were forced to change their programmes, surveys have shown that the percentage of sexually active men with multiple partners has more than doubled, undoing earlier declines, and the AIDS rate has begun to climb again.

The Ugandan success story is one of the most impressive in the fight against AIDS. Between 1989 and 1995, the number of men having three or more sexual partners in a year dropped from 15 to three per cent and HIV rates plunged from 21 percent in 1991 to 6 percent in 2002. At the same time, Western nations brought more than 2 billion condoms on Africa and the epidemic continued in nations that went along with the condoms-only approach.

The motive for opposing the Ugandan initiative, Ruteikara said, was financial as well as ideological. "In the fight against AIDS, profiteering has trumped prevention," he said. "AIDS is no longer simply a disease; it has become a multibillion-dollar industry."

Ruteikara's assertions are supported by Dr. James Chin, a former top AIDS epidemiologist at the World Health Organization, who said, "Easily preventable diseases are still killing millions of children each year, while billions of dollars are being squandered annually by AIDS programs."

Robert England, head of the charity Health Systems Workshop said in the British Medical Journal, "Although HIV causes 3.7 per cent of [worldwide] mortality, it receives 25 per cent of international health care aid."

Ruteikara concluded, "Telling men and women to keep sex sacred -- to save sex for marriage and then remain faithful -- is telling them to love one another deeply with their whole hearts. Most HIV infections in Africa are spread by sex outside of marriage: casual sex and infidelity. The solution is faithful love."

"We, the poor of Africa, remain silenced in the global dialogue. Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored."


Justice Department Bureaucrats May Set Risky Precedent with Extra-Territorial Tax Persecution

Bush Administration appointees involved with issues such as the Iraq war and coercive interrogation of suspected terrorists probably don't spend much time thinking about international tax policy, but they may rue the day that the Justice Department decided to persecute Swiss banks and Swiss bankers for obeying Swiss law and protecting the financial privacy of customers.

What's the connection? By going after Swiss banks and Swiss bankers in hopes of finding a few Americans who might be hiding money from the IRS, the Justice Department is embracing the notion that governments should not be constrained by national boundaries and national laws. Richard Rahn already has an excellent piece explaining why this is an absurd policy but let's consider some of the broader implications. What if John Yoo or Donald Rumsfeld travel to Europe in the near future for business or personal reasons and some European government decides to throw them in jail for violating "international law"? This may sound fanciful, but German authorities already have moved in this direction and it doesn't take much imagination to foresee politically ambitious officials from other nations grabbing the baton.

The Wall Street Journal report does not cover these broader implications, but it is a good summary of the Justice Department's fishing expedition:
The Justice Department, in an unprecedented move against a foreign bank, is seeking to force UBS AG to turn over the names of wealthy U.S. clients who allegedly used the giant Swiss bank to avoid taxes. .U.S. authorities have been holding discussions for several weeks with UBS and Swiss banking authorities to identify the U.S. account holders. People familiar with the talks say UBS officials floated the possibility that the U.S. could obtain the names through a request to Swiss regulators. Monday's federal court filing instead puts the bank in direct conflict with the U.S. government. .The filing is the first against a non-U.S. bank by the Justice Department using what it calls a "John Doe summons," a maneuver typically used to investigate tax fraud by people whose identities are unknown. The move could spark a major legal battle because the Justice Department is essentially gambling that courts will bless the move when it's directed at a company with extensive U.S. operations but that isn't based in the U.S.


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.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Guns, Foreign Courts, and the Moral Consensus of the International Community

In a landmark decision that will impact the future of gun regulation in the United States, late last month the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C. In District of Columbia etal. v. Heller (No. 07-290) a slim 5-4 majority found the D.C. ban to violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Over the last few years observers of the Supreme Court have noticed a trend among some of the justices to cite the decisions of foreign courts as part of the relevant precedent in deciding the cases before them. In 2005, justices Scalia and Breyer engaged in a rare public conversation on this very topic, "Constitutional Relevance of Foreign Court Decisions." In the recently-decided D.C. v. Heller neither of the two dissenting opinions, written by justices Stevens and Breyer respectively, make substantial reference to foreign court decisions. But the growing phenomena of reference to foreign judgments as precedents raises the question of what the justices might have found if they had consulted such materials.

This tendency to invoke foreign jurisprudence is becoming more troubling as it becomes clearer that the moral consensus that once united Western nations has almost entirely broken down. A few years ago a pastor I know, as part of his duties as a representative of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC), took part in an inter-church dialogue with a member of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN), a grouping of Reformed congregations in the Netherlands. The GKN sent what they considered to be a moderate pastor to participate in this conversation about moral issues. In the course of the discussion, the GKN moderate asserted that it was more evil to own a gun than to have an abortion. At this, the CRC representative was only able to respond that their discussion was effectively over. The CRC's official position on abortion is that the church "condemns the wanton or arbitrary destruction of any human being at any stage of its development from the point of conception to the point of death." As any rhetorician knows, argument can only proceed where there is some basic level of agreement, and the ethical opinion expressed by the GKN pastor was so far removed from the sensibilities of the CRC that there was effectively no point of contact for continuing dialogue. The GKN has since joined a number of other Protestant denominations in the Netherlands, including other Lutheran and Reformed denominations, to form the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (PKN).

While this is a relatively minor anecdote, it serves well to illustrate the conflicting moral values placed on issues of life by the mainstream culture in Europe and the United States. No doubt there are those on either side of the Atlantic who would take issue with the dominant cultural judgment, but the national and international legal documents underscore the real differences. Where the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights singles out the right of the people to keep and bear arms, proposed European Union constitutional documents make no such mention. And as a recent Washington Times article relates, "many in Western Europe and Japan see U.S. gun ownership rates and gun violence as a clear mark of difference with other industrial countries."

But the difference has not always been so stark. Indeed, the preamble to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written in 1948, recognized the possibility of "rebellion against tyranny and oppression" as "a last resort," an option that ideally could be avoided by protections according to the rule of law.

On the question of abortion, part of what derailed adoption of the EU Constitution in 2004 was concern by nations like Poland and Ireland that the vague constitutional provisions about "dignity" and "integrity" of the human person would require the repeal of national anti-abortion laws. The Treaty of Lisbon, successor to the failed EU Constitution, was rejected by Ireland last month, in part over similar concerns by pro-life advocates that adoption of the treaty "would threaten the Irish constitutional protection for the unborn, given the almost universal acceptance and promotion of abortion at the EU level."

Upon reflection, then, the ethical judgment expressed by the GKN pastor seems to represent fairly well the mainstream EU attitude toward moral issues like guns and abortion. If part of what characterizes a civilization is a consensus on moral issues, then the idea of a unified Western civilization encompassing Europe and the United States is an illusion. A consensus that diverges on such fundamental questions of the right to life and responsibilities of self-defense is simply no consensus at all.


The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City, a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the "deceptive" petition "could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse."

Mr. Connerly says that it's ironic that those who claim to believe in "people power" want to keep people from voting on his proposal: "Their tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system." He's not alone. Liberal columnist Anne Denogean of the Tucson Citizen opposes the Connerly initiative, but last month she wrote that BAMN "is showing a disgusting lack of respect for the democratic process and the right of all Arizonans to participate in it." She detailed how members of this organization harass petitioners and film people who sign the petition, while telling them they are backing a racist measure. The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. "BAMN's tactics," she concluded, "resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics."

But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. "If you give me your signatures, we'll leave you alone," says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who's earning money by circulating several different petitions.

What about voters' rights to sign ACRI's petitions? BAMN organizer Monica Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being educated that ACRI is "trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them know it's up on the KKK's Web site." Mr. Connerly has repudiated any support from racists.

Other opponents of Mr. Connerly deplore the blocking and name-calling. Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told me that initiatives have been used to pass ideas such as campaign finance and redistricting reform often opposed by entrenched legislators. "People have a right to sign a petition, hear the arguments and then vote," she says. Ms. Sinema thinks Arizonans can be persuaded to vote down ACRI's measure, much as they voted down a ban on gay marriage in 2006.

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 22% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another "voter educator" hired by the state's Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.

Ever since voters in virtually every state with direct democracy passed term limits in the 1990s, state legislators have been hostile to the process. Now Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado have all passed legislation to prohibit people from out-of-state from circulating a petition, and also to ban payment to circulators on a per-signature basis.

To his credit, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed such curbs. In March, a Sixth Circuit federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled that an Ohio law barring per-signature payment violated the First Amendment. Similarly, a Ninth Circuit panel just voted unanimously to strike down Arizona's residency law for circulators.

Some judges think the "blocking" of signature gatherers has gone too far. In 2006, Nevada Judge Sally Loehrers decreed a "civility zone" that barred opposing sides from coming within arms' length of each other at petition signing sites. "The blockers were off the streets within two days," says Paul Jacob, the head of Citizens in Charge, which promotes the initiative process.

Last year, Mr. Jacob was charged with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma in a bizarre prosecution that claimed he brought in out-of-state signature gatherers in violation of the state's residency requirement. Yet local public sector unions opposed to Mr. Jacob hired out-of-state outfits such as the Voter Education Project, an AFL-CIO offshoot that specializes in harassing signature drives.

Representative government will remain the enduring feature of American democracy, but the initiative process is a valuable safety valve. So long as elected officials gerrymander their districts and otherwise make it nearly impossible for voters to oust them, direct lawmaking will be popular. That's why attempts to arbitrarily curb the initiative, or to intimidate people from exercising their right to participate, must be resisted. It's a civil liberties issue that should unite people of good will on both the right and left.


Did Colorado ban the Bible?

Social conservatives are in a fine lather over a Colorado law (PDF) signed by Governor Bill Ritter on May 29 that extends anti-discrimination protections to sexual minorities in matters of business and public accommodations. On its face, the law is the latest effort by our socially conscious lawmakers to force us all to be nice to each other under penalties of fines and imprisonment -- specifically, $300 or one year in jail per violation.

It's all just a bit too much like that old joke about the Soviet Union, in which the commissars express concern about the dreary, bleak attitudes of their subjects: "Everybody must be happy! Anybody not happy by noon tomorrow will be shot!"

Religious conservatives have also fretted that businesses will be forced to cater to people they find repugnant -- for instance, that wedding photographers will be compelled to take shots of same-sex ceremonies. That does, in fact, seem to be the intent of the authors. Rep. Joel Judd responded to just such an objection with the comment that, "If you choose to do commerce in Colorado you have to abide by these rules."

Uh huh. Good luck to the happy gay couple who hires a true-believing Roman Catholic shutterbug. May the record of your most-important day not be made up of 300 shots of the photographer's shoes.

Perhaps most troubling, the law's Section 8 restricts the sort of written material that businesses and landlords may publish and distribute. Supposedly, this provision applies only to statements of an intent to discriminate, but if that's what the authors intended, it's not what they wrote.
SECTION 8. 24-34-701, Colorado Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

24-34-701. Publishing of discriminative matter forbidden. No person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement, directly or indirectly, by himself or herself or through another person shall publish, issue, circulate, send, distribute, give away, or display in any way, manner, or shape or by any means or method, except as provided in this section, any communication, paper, poster, folder, manuscript, book, pamphlet, writing, print, letter, notice, or advertisement of any kind, nature, or description which THAT is intended or calculated to discriminate or actually discriminates against any disability, race, creed, color, sex, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, marital status, national origin, or ancestry or against any of the members thereof in the matter of furnishing or neglecting or refusing to furnish to them or any one of them any lodging, housing, schooling, or tuition or any accommodation, right, privilege, advantage, or convenience offered to or enjoyed by the general public or which states that any of the accommodations, rights, privileges, advantages, or conveniences of any such place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement shall or will be refused, withheld from, or denied to any person or class of persons on account of disability, race, creed, color, sex, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, marital status, national origin, or ancestry or that the patronage, custom, presence, frequenting, dwelling, staying, or lodging at such place by any person or class of persons belonging to or purporting to be of any particular disability, race, creed, color, sex, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, marital status, national origin, or ancestry is unwelcome or objectionable or not acceptable, desired, or solicited.
Note that the law doesn't just say that you can't publish material that states you'll deny services to protected classes of people, it also says you can't make them feel "unwelcome." Hurting people's feelings is now a criminal offense.

Social conservatives object that handing out the Bible or the Book of Mormon may be illegal under the new law. While I can't imagine the courts allowing that interpretation to stand, the text of the law is open to just such a reading. I have to think that legislators threw as much as they could against the legal wall, just to see what would stick.

Many socially conservative groups based in Colorado say they flat-out won't obey the law. As much as I despise their attitudes toward gays and lesbians, I can't blame them. Private individuals, businesses and organizations have the right to decide who they'll associate with and who they won't, and what ideas they'll express along the way, no matter how abhorrent or unpopular their criteria. If the law doesn't recognize that right, the law should be defied.

Lawmakers who set out to make society kinder and gentler through the use of force do violence to the whole idea of tolerance -- and to our liberty.


Third of Britain's Muslim students back killings

Radicalism and support for sharia is strong in British universities

ALMOST a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll. The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. "Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values," said Han-nah Stuart, one of the report's authors. "These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities."

The report was criticised by the country's largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: "The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming. "There is a wide cultural divide between Muslim and nonMuslim students. The solution is to stop talking about celebrating diversity and focus on integration and assimilation."

The researchers found that 55% of nonMuslim students thought Islam was incompatible with democracy. Nearly one in 10 had "little respect" for Muslims.

In addition to its poll of 1,400 Muslim and nonMuslim students, the centre visited more than 20 universities to interview students and listen to guest speakers. It found that extremist preachers regularly gave speeches that were inflammatory, homophobic or bordering on antisemitic. The researchers highlighted Queen Mary college, part of London University, as a campus where radical views were widely held. Last December, a speaker named Abu Mujahid encouraged Muslim students to condemn gays because "Allah hates" homosexuality. In November, Azzam Tamimi, a British-based supporter of Hamas, described Israel as the most "inhumane project in the modern history of humanity". James Brandon, deputy director at CSC , said: "Our researchers found a ghettoised mentality among Muslim students at Queen Mary. Also, we found the segregation between Muslim men and women at events more visible at Queen Mary."

A spokesman for Queen Mary said the university was aware the preachers had visited but did not know the contents of their speeches. "Clearly, we in no way associate ourselves with these views. However, also integral to the spirit of university life is free speech and debate and on occasion speakers will make statements that are deemed offensive."

In the report, 40% of Muslim students said it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to associate freely. Homophobia was rife, with 25% saying they had little or no respect for gays. The figure was higher (32%) for male Muslim students. Among nonMuslims, the figure was only 4%.

The research found that a third of Muslim students supported the creation of a world-wide caliphate or Islamic state.

A number of terrorists have been radicalised at British universities. Kafeel Ahmed, who drove a flaming jeep into a building at Glasgow airport last year and died of his burns, is believed to have been radicalised while studying at Anglia Ruskin university, Cambridge.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, condemned the study. "This disgusting report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right-wing think tank - not the views of Muslim students across Britain," he said. "Only 632 Muslim students were asked vague and misleading questions, and their answers were wilfully misinterpreted."

Some of the findings amplify previous research. A report by Policy Exchange last year found that 37% of all Muslims aged 16-24 would prefer to live under a sharia system. Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "Violence, or the incitement to violence, has no place on a university campus."



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.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Those charming feminists at work

All Desiree Carpenter wanted was a chance to succeed. As a young woman Ms. Carpenter (not her real name) had been subjected to repeated physical and sexual assaults, losing her eyesight during one attack. Her assailant did hard time, but now he was back on the streets and vowing to track her down. Her only hope was to flee to another state, assume a new identity, and start over. Washington was the best place to begin anew, since the state had passed tough anti-stalking laws. So she packed her bags and hopped on the train with her two children in tow, bound for Bellingham, a couple hours north of Seattle.

Being blind, she had come into a laptop computer with a screen reader that converts text to the spoken word. That's how Desiree and I exchanged information for this article. Arriving at the Bellingham train station, she expectantly called the Womencare Shelter, a group that bills itself as a "feminist organization working to end violence against women."

Desiree was told to go to the local MacDonald's to be interviewed by an intake worker. There she was scrutinized to make sure "I was acceptable," as Desiree later recounted. The staffer told Ms. Carpenter to detail her rape experiences while her children sat quietly and listened.

Admitted to the shelter, the staff removed her daughter's electronic homeschooling program, saying African-Americans spend too much time with rap videos. Desiree's television was padlocked and she was informed she could only watch TV on weekends. Like all residents, Desiree was assigned housekeeping chores. It's not that the tasks were menial, but asking a blind woman to clean toilets and sort broken glass seems a little cold-hearted. When the new resident questioned her duties, the staff urged her to become more "empowered."

The staff forbade the woman from making safety accommodations on the shelter's flat-top stove. So Desiree and her young children ate micro-waved meals and peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of their stay. When residents wanted to re-enter the facility, they typed in a security code. Desiree asked to have the keypad marked with Braille dots, leading her to be ridiculed as being disruptive and manipulative. At one point a resident confided to her, "The staff here acts worse than an abuser."

The shelter did help Desiree to secure the all-important name change. Of course that entailed losing all her educational credentials, job references, credit cards, and so forth. That was the sacrifice she knew she would have to make. Over the next two weeks things went from bad to worse, especially after Ms. Carpenter complained about the videotape that lectured residents why organized religion was "oppressive" to women. In desperation, Desiree contacted the Bellingham Adult Protective Services, pleading they dispatch a disability aide so she could cook her own meals.

But the Womencare director ordered "Nyet," claiming that would compromise the shelter's secret location. Then the shelter staff began to suspect she was planning to file a complaint with the Washington Human Rights Council - of course that was forbidden by shelter rules. So that evening the director barged into Desiree's room and issued an ultimatum: "Either you drop your civil rights complaint or you're out of here!" When Desiree tearfully said she had only requested someone to assist with the necessities of life, the staff interpreted her claim of innocence to be further proof of guilt. That was reason enough to summon the police.

Within minutes a female officer dashed into the shelter, gun drawn, pulled the startled children out of bed, and ordered them out. The officer explained that even though Desiree had not violated any rules, the shelter was "exiting" her because she was unhappy with their services.

Then came the crushing blow - the shelter director blurted out Desiree Carpenter's previous name. The officer hastily entered both names, linked by a single report, into the National Crime Information Center database. In that moment, all the labors of the past month were undone, all her hopes of a life free of fear were dashed!

The staff then ransacked Desiree's room, stuffing her possessions, food, and legal documents into a black trash bag. Mother, son, and daughter were sent packing into the rainy night.

During her one-month nightmare at Womencare, Ms. Carpenter suffered too many indignities to recount in a single column - more details can be seen here. In the end, Desiree's daughter said she would rather die than ever again trust an abuse shelter.



Are you anxious? Dejected? Fearful? Why wouldn't you be, considering the barrage of rotten news assaulting you from every direction? "Everything seemingly is spinning out of control," moaned the apocalyptic headline on a recent Associated Press dispatch. "Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Airfares, college tuition, and healthcare border on unaffordable . . . Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets, or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire."

Thanks in part to journalism of that caliber, consumers are more apprehensive than they have been in decades. Consumer confidence is at a 16-year low, while according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll, more Americans than ever, 84 percent, think the country is headed in the wrong direction. The New York Times devoted one-fourth of Saturday's front page to illustrating ways in which the economy is mired in "A Slowdown With Trouble at Every Turn" -- and continued the gloom for a full page inside.

Voices of reason keep trying to point out that conditions are not nearly as bad as they were the last time consumers were this despondent. That was in May 1980, during the final year of the Carter administration, when the "misery index" -- the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates -- hit an excruciating 21.9. Inflation was then at 14.4 percent; unemployment was 7.5 percent. The numbers today are 5 and 5.5 respectively.

But voters don't want to be told to buck up. When former senator Phil Gramm, an economic adviser to John McCain, said last week that America had "become a nation of whiners" and described the current slowdown as a "mental recession," the backlash was immediate. McCain repudiated Gramm's remarks and quickly issued a statement assuring voters that he "travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump, and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage."

Well, that's politics. Politicians who want to get elected genuflect to what Bryan Caplan, in *The Myth of the Rational Voter* calls the pessimistic bias: the "tendency to overestimate the severity of economic problems and underestimate the (recent) past, present, and future performance of the economy."

For a nonpessimistic view, hearken to W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who in the current issue of The American ask "How Are We Doing?" -- and offer some useful perspective. The nation's present troubles, they argue -- rising oil and food prices, job losses, sluggish growth, the mortgage crisis -- "will turn out to be mere footnotes in a longer-term march of progress." The US economy, "a $14 trillion behemoth," remains without equal as an engine of growth and prosperity. However impolitic it may be to say so, when you take the long view it is clear that we have never had it so good.

Cox and Alm point to an array of reassuring trends. Americans on average work far less than they used to. Annual hours devoted to the job have fallen from 1,903 in 1950 to just 1,531 today. We start working later in life, retire earlier, and live much longer. Even including household labor, they write, "only about a quarter of our waking hours are consumed with work, down from 45 percent in 1950."

The material progress of recent decades has been extraordinary -- at all income levels. Forty percent of poor families own their own homes. For many goods (kitchen appliances, color TVs, air conditioners) ownership rates are higher among poor Americans today than they were among the general population in 1970.

On highways and in the air, we travel billions of miles more than we used to, yet death rates are at all-time lows. Healthcare is more expensive, true, but quality is much better. Real total compensation -- wages plus benefits, adjusted for inflation - has been climbing for generations. And if prices are calculated as a function of work-time -- how long one must work at the average pay rate to earn the price of something - a gallon of gasoline, even with the runup in pump prices, "still goes for less than 11 minutes of work."

Short-term troubles notwithstanding, Cox and Alm observe, the "data points add up to steady, continuing progress for average Americans." So no, everything is not spinning out of control. Alarmist headlines notwithstanding, we're doing all right. Buck up.


Rejoicing in death. Why is the Left so full of hate for Lady Thatcher?

The Letters page of The Guardian, seldom the sanest of arenas, has this week descended to virulent venom. In place of the customary corduroyed bores calling for unilateral disarmament, rainbow-nation multiculturalism or celebrations of Castro's Cuba, there have appeared several letters which gloated at the prospect of Margaret Thatcher's death. Their vengeful tone, though hurtful about the still very much alive Lady Thatcher, has been instructive. It was a timely reminder that no one does viciousness quite like the Left. Far from the Conservatives being 'the Nasty Party', Labour's preachy brothers and sisters have long deserved that title.

The Guardian letters were sparked by reports that Lady Thatcher will be given the rare honour of a state funeral. Even to discuss such arrangements is, let us be honest, a difficult matter. The widowed, octogenarian Lady T is in fair health. Long may she remain so.

Some Guardian readers have taken a markedly less charitable line towards the former Prime Minister. Typical of the response was that of one Chris Gibson, who said that on seeing the headline about a state funeral for Lady Thatcher: 'I thought that the week had got off to the best possible start.' Charming. Another contributor, Chris Hardman, wrote: 'Just a couple of questions: 'Does that include the grave/dancefloor combo?' and 'When is it booked for?' Guardian reader Rob Watling suggested that the contract for any state funeral should be 'put out to compulsory competitive tender and awarded to the lowest bidder'.

On one level, these letters are merely the prattish words of small minds - people unable to accept that many of the battles of the Eighties were lost for good by Labour and that Lady T was a remarkable election winner whose titanic will reversed Britain's post-war decline and, incidentally, destroyed the class structure so loathed by the Left. But the fact such horrible letters were written, let alone published in a national newspaper, tells us something else. The vituperative tone was even less restrained on The Guardian's internet website, and those of other Left-wing publications such as The New Statesman.

It is all of a piece with other instances of shrill intolerance by the Left. Why is it that socialists, in contrast to their professed humanity and Methodist origins, are so remarkably malevolent? Why is the Left so mean?

Look at the way Labour hardliners reacted to the idea of Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London. A moderate Tory, socially liberal, urban, pro-gay, generally pro-minority, he has more in common with middle-class London Labour than he does with old-fashioned provincial Tories. Yet the last days of his campaign saw near apoplexy among Left-wingers - not least with some ludicrously skewed coverage in The Guardian. Genial Boris was depicted as little short of a rapist and Ku Klux Klansman.

Look at the way Labour portrayed Edward Timpson, Conservative candidate in the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election. A barrister specialising in family disputes, an area of the law which exposes practitioners to terrible examples of social breakdown, Mr Timpson is no goose-stepper. He is a well-informed Centrist from a family which has done much charity work in Cheshire. So how was he depicted by the caring, sharing Left? As an early 20th century fop, a political opportunist, a figure to be hated. A hit squad of hecklers was hired to pursue him. Labour spent thousands of pounds on negative campaigning.

Left-wingers like to talk of ' progressive politics', by which they suppose they mean open-mindedness, but historically they are far more dogmatic than the Right.

Factionalism and drunken intrigue were rampant in the trades unions of old. On immigration, Left-wingers have been exceptionally illiberal. Commentators and politicians who questioned the pro-immigration consensus were shouted down as racists. The thoroughly decent former Tory leader Michael Howard was cast as something close to a Nazi for daring to suggest that immigration was becoming a problem. His assailants were not shamed by the fact that Mr Howard is of Jewish emigre stock. He'd had the temerity to oppose the Left. He had to be destroyed.

Tony Blair's regime was infamously unpleasant to people who tried to stand in its way. Government scientist David Kelly paid for his independence with his life - suicide, we were told, although he was pushed into any such suicide by Labour-ordered briefings. Other refuseniks, from Cabinet ministers who refused to do grubby deals or military commanders who questioned bad orders, had their reputations traduced. Civil servants who did not 'fit' were sacked by Blair's thugs. Some people tried to claim smiling Tony's nastiest piece of work, Alastair Campbell, was no worse than Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's press spokesman. But Ingham never wielded the power - or malevolence - of the spitting, table-thumping Campbell.

How depressing it is that even now Blair has gone, the Labour Government continues to show a vindictive streak. The treatment of General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of General Staff, is the latest example of a good public servant being shafted by rancorous Leftists, furious that an 'old school' figure should try to oppose their sway.

One of the Left's great propaganda achievements over the years has been the idea that it was somehow kinder to support Labour than to be Conservative. Think a little harder, though, and you may start to see that Left's attitude depends on the suppression of tolerance. It demands communal conformity rather than independent freedom. It seeks to dictate supply rather than allowing the market to find a level. It places the state above the citizen.

Here are the philosophical roots of the harshness of discipline which fuel the unpleasantness. Those Guardian letters spring directly from Left-wing orthodoxy. It is hard to imagine any Conservative worth that name rejoicing at the death of a Labour opponent. The Tory instinct does not work like that. When the then Tory party chairman, Theresa May, told her activists they were 'seen as the nasty party' she was probably right - even though it was unfair.

Labour's cleverness has been to hide its vindictive streak. If anything, the Tories have not been nasty enough. Let's hope it stays that way. I'd hate to think any of us would descend to the level reached by the Left - the REAL nasty party.


"Useful Idiots" Convene in Madrid

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the Custodian of Postmodern European Secularism, Spanish Prime Minister Jos, Luis Rodr­guez Zapatero, on July 16 opened the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid. The aim of the event is to promote dialogue between the world's main religions, and, as some observers suspect, to establish a one-world religion based on Islam. More than 200 leaders of different religions [pdf], including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Universalism, Marxism and Multiculturalism, are attending the three-day conference. Also attending are leading personalities specialized in dialogue and useful topics such as "life of human societies, international cooperation, human rights, security and peace and living peacefully together."

The conference is being organized by the Muslim World League (also known as the World Islamic League) following an initiative by King Abdullah, whose country is the birthplace of Islam, a religion of peace. The Muslim World League also happens to be the principal agent for the propagation of Wahhabi Islam in Europe. In 1987, it was elected as a "Messenger of World Peace" by the United Nations.

Saudi officials said Spain was chosen as the site for the gathering because of its historical symbolism as a place where Muslims and those Jews and Christians who paid the dhimmi tax lived in peace under Islamic rule between the 8th and 13th centuries.

The event will take place against a backdrop of tensions between the Islamic world and the West due to the intolerable intolerance of the latter. They range from restrictions on the use of the veil by Muslim women in some European countries to cartoons regarded as blasphemous by Muslims and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conference, which seeks to promote openness, consists of five closed-door round tables. They will be followed by a final communiqu, to be issued on July 18. The first session, titled "Dialogue and Its Religious and Civilizational Foundations," will be chaired by the secretary-general of the Millennium World Peace Summit. The session will touch upon touchy topics such as "Dialogue in Islam" and "Dialogue in Christianity."

The second session is titled "Dialogue and Its Importance in Society." A president of the World Conference of Religions for Peace will present a paper on "Dialogue and Interaction of Cultures and Civilizations," while the president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace, will speak on "Dialogue and its Impact on Peaceful Coexistence." Other lofty topics for discussion include: "Dialogue and Its Impact on International Relations" and "Dialogue in the Face of Calls for the Clash of Civilizations and End of History."

The third session, titled "Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue," will be chaired by the secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Featured speakers are the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); the secretary-general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought in Iran; and the rector of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue at the Vatican.

The fourth session is titled "Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue" and will be chaired by the secretary-general of the Jewish Congress in Latin America and the Caribbean. This session will cover topics such as "Muslim-Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Its Future & Horizons" and "Efforts of States and International Organizations in Augmenting Dialogue and Overcoming its Obstacles."

The fifth session is titled "Disseminating of Culture and Co-Existence of Dialoge." It will focus on topics such as: "Media and its Impact on Disseminating the Culture of Dialogue and Co-Existance." The final communique will be read out by the assistant secretary of the Muslim World League.

Saudi Arabia hopes the conference will prove that it is trying to: 1) shed its international image of harboring a xenophobic religious establishment; and 2) moderate clerical conservatism that even objects to women driving cars.

According to Reuters, the conference offers Saudi Arabia a chance to declare its "openness and willingness to cooperate with the international community [.] It marks a new direction for Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi Islam has come in for criticism internationally" after 15 of the 19 Arabs who killed some 3,000 people in the September 11 attacks in the United States were Saudis.

Abdullah al-Turki, the head of the Muslim World League and conference organizer, says: "Saudi Arabia, on whose ground the global message of Islam was launched, affirms to the whole world its openness and cooperation with the world community." And then, just in case there was any doubt, al-Turki adds: "Islam requires Muslims to inform people about Islam as the final divine message that came after the previous prophets."

So why is the hyper-secular and hyper-tolerant Zapatero embracing one of the most theologically intolerant strands of Islam? And why is he turning Spain into a Saudi public relations rehab center? Zapatero (like his Saudi counterparts, but for different reasons) views Judeo-Christianity as public enemy number one because it is the main impediment to the realization of his vision for a socialist multicultural utopia in which everything goes. And he hopes his pact with Islam will accelerate Spanish history.

Zapatero and his socialist advisors believe Muslims are the "useful idiots" of the left. And Muslims believe Zapatero and his socialist friends are the "useful idiots" of Islam. Such is the future of Spain.



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.