Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stay thin, obey your man: advice in anti-feminist bestseller

A SELF-HELP guide that tells women to stay thin and follow their man's orders if they want to keep him has become an unlikely bestseller. The book, titled The Re-education Of The Female, also says women should wear sexy clothes while doing the cooking and cleaning. Despite first-time author Dante Moore's chauvinist opinions, copies have been flying off the shelves in America.

One piece of advice reads: "Men never really ask for anything. They command. And believe me, what you won't do, 10 broads around the corner will." Advising women to stay slim to attract men, Moore also writes: "When you go to the grocery store to shop, do you pick out the nastiest-looking, most rotten, smelliest fruit or meat you can find? "Oh you don't? Why not? It's the same with men when they see in New York baby elephant-sized, out-of-shape women."

Moore, a 33-year-old computer engineer, has never married but has an 11-year-old son from a previous relationship and has had a girlfriend for two years. However, he says he has never found true love. He insists he wants to help women and wrote the book to show where they go wrong in relationships.


Russia and the New Axis of Evil

With Russian tanks now presiding over the dismemberment of the Republic of Georgia, can a lame-duck Bush administration -- weary from its long drubbing by critics over Iraq and eyeing the exit door -- rise to the challenge Russia has chosen to pose to the Free World?

To understand the nature of this challenge, consider that the distance between Baghdad and Tbilisi is barely 578 miles, less than the distance between New York City and Chicago. Iraq and Georgia, both of which have democratic governments, are sandwiched between Iran and Russia, two of the most authoritarian governments in the world. Russia has been collaborating with Iran to strengthen the latter's nuclear program and its military. It is also steadily arming Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

Russia's invasion of Georgia came exactly one month after Iran test-fired its Shahab III intermediate ballistic missile in order to intimidate neighbors like Israel and Iraq, and two weeks after Mr. Chavez traveled to Moscow to formalize a "Strategic Alliance" with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Meanwhile, Iran's proxies remain the principal threat to peace in Iraq -- while on the other side of the world, evidence mounts of Mr. Ch vez's links to the terrorist group FARC, which threatens neighboring Colombia.

Coincidence? Iraq, Georgia and Colombia are battlegrounds in a new kind of international conflict that will define our geopolitical future. This conflict pits the U.S. and the West against an emerging axis of oil-rich dictatorships who are working together to push back against the liberalizing trends of globalization. One of their prime objectives is toppling or undermining neighboring, pro-Western democracies.

The term "axis" has been overused in recent years, and in misleading contexts. But Russia, Iran and Venezuela are acting very much as Japan, Italy and Germany did in the 1930s, when each took advantage of each other's aggressive moves to extend their own regional power at the expense of liberal democracy -- and, as a result, propelling the world to the brink of war.

The chessboard of traditional competitive geopolitics is back with a vengeance. Russia is the principal source for Iran's nuclear weapons program as well as the principal obstacle to international sanctions. Between them, Mr. Putin and Tehran's mullahs clearly aim to control access to every major source of fossil energy from the western end of the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. The third player in this new axis, Venezuela's President Ch vez, hopes for an oil and natural gas monopoly over the natural resources of neighbors like pro-Ch vez satellites Bolivia and Ecuador.

All three dictatorships are flush with cash thanks to rising oil prices; all three are bent on regional domination. All three openly celebrate a model of government that is authoritarian and monolithic in opposition to Western pluralism, market-oriented economies and representative democracy. All three run economies built on mafia-style crony capitalism. All three denounce U.S. "imperialism," and evidently hope that the 2008 election will help to bolster their geopolitical plans.

And all three see themselves as natural allies. Since 2004, Mr. Ch vez has steadily strengthened his strategic and economic ties to Tehran. Last year he joined with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to push OPEC to cut production and boost oil prices. In addition to his Allianz Estrategica with Mr. Putin, Mr. Ch vez was the one international leader who publicly praised Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Finally, all three members of this axis see the emergence of pro-American, Western-oriented governments on their borders as mortal threats and are determined to hit back. In Russia's case, this means direct military force against Georgia. Iran has used its terrorist proxies to sow chaos in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Mr. Chavez wages a proxy war against Colombia through the terrorists of FARC.

What can the U.S. and a new president do? Despite Russia's nuclear arsenal, none of these states poses a military threat comparable to the Cold War Soviet Union, or even the Axis powers in the 1930s. For all their bluff and bluster, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have a relatively tenuous position in the world; for all their oil wealth their economies remain weak and unstable.

A broad strategy of targeted economic sanctions and multilateral diplomacy, backed by U.S. military power -- together with a determined effort to push down oil prices by expanding supply and strengthening the dollar -- can introduce a note of sober realism to the strategy of this new axis, and force them to realize how limited and vulnerable their source of money and power really is.

However, the most important strategy right now is to secure democracy's vital new flanks -- Iraq, Georgia and Colombia. By shoring up and strengthening, rather than abandoning all three governments, the U.S. will send a clear signal that liberty, not tyranny, is the wave of the globalizing future.


The Down with Israel Syndrome

Each year, in preparation for Israel's birthday, American newspaper editors feel an urge to invite Arab writers to tell us why Israel should not exist. Typical this year were the Los Angeles Times (Opinion, May 12 "Forget the two-state solution", by Saree Makdisi) and the Christian Science Monitor (Ghada Karmi "A One-state Solution for Palestinians and Israelis", May 30, 2008), where the elimination of Israel were advanced under the usual euphemism of a "one-state solution."

I presume this exercise gives editors some satisfaction, of the kind one would get in inviting officials of the Flat Earth Society to tell us why the earth should not be round, and do so precisely on Earth Day, lest the wisdom would escape anyone's attention.

Undoubtedly, the banalization of absurdity has its kicks. It is sporty, admirably "out-of-the-box-ish" and, if only it did not involve a dangerous experiment with the lives of millions of human beings, could be considered mighty cute.

But this practice is adult matter, and the result is a depressing Kafkaesque choreography, in which Israel is put on trial for its very existence, while less radical commentators, if they are invited, deal with Israel's future, difficulties and achievements, but leave the accusations unanswered.

There is some wisdom to ignoring insults and unfounded accusations. By answering one tacitly bestows credence, however minimal, upon the arguments that put you on the accused bench -- the last bench that a birthday celebration deserves.

So, perhaps it is wise to write chapter and verse about Israel's achievements (as Bill Kristol did May 12, and Tom Friedman did June 8) and let the "colonial" and "apartheid" accusations hang there, unanswered, as living testimonies of the Orwellian mentality of the accusers? I am not totally convinced.

I am concerned about the possibility that a non-negligible percentage of American readers, especially the novice and the hasty, would interpret the publication of opinion articles calling for the dismantling of Israel as evidence that the arguments and conclusions presented are deemed worthy of consideration in the eyes of editors whose judgment the public has entrusted to protect us from Flat-Earth type deformities.

This concern becomes especially acute when news reporters too begin touting the "one-state" slogans, with unmistaken sympathy, under the cover of "World News." (e.g., Richard Boudreaux and Ashraf Khalil "For some Palestinians, one state with Israel is better than none," LA Times, World News, May 8 )

I am concerned because evil plans begin with evil images. Once the mind is jolted to envision deviant imagery it automatically consructs a belief structure that supports its feasibility and desirability. The first phase of Hitler's strategy was to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Jews -- the rest is history.

Today we are witnessing a concerted effort by enemies of co-existence to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Israel - the rest, they hope, will become history. The American press seems to fall for it.

In fairness to the editors of some newspapers, articles calling forthe elimination of Israel are often balanced by articles discussingthe prospects for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. But, ironically, this "balance" is precisely where the imbalance cries out loudest, for it gives equal moral weight to a provocation that every Jew in Israel considers a genocidal death threat, most Jews view as an assault on their identity as people and most Palestinians view as an incentive to undermine or forestall peace negotiations.

Balance has its norms, logic and responsibilities, mirrored and shaped by sound editorial judgment. We do not rush to "balance" each celebration of Martin Luther King Day with articles by white supremacists, and we do not "balance" a hate speech with a lecture on breathing technique; a hate speech is balanced with a lecture on the evils of hate.

A true, albeit grotesque, moral balance would be demonstrated only if for every "down with Israel" writer the newspaper were to invite a "down with Palestinian statehood" writer.

But editors seem to have strange takes on morality; for some, questioning the legitimacy of Israel's existence is a mark of impartiality, while questioning the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations is a moral taboo. Decency should somehow inform these editors that both "down with" calls are morally reprehensible and insulting to readers' intelligence, hence, both should be purged from civil discourse and marginalized into the good company of white supremacy and Flat-Earth rhetoric.

But until decency reigns, we can be sure to see them again at Israel's birthdays, the predators of peace, paraded by the press, demanding their annual prey: once more to envision, just envision, a world without Israel.

Ironically, Arab commentaries published around Yom Haatzmaut can actually be of some service to Israel, for they provide a faithful mirror of the prevailing sentiments in the elite ranks of Palestinian society and thus gauge how ready this society is to accepting a peace agreement, whatever its shape, as permanent.

This year, the LA Times (May 11), The Nation (May 26) the New York Times (May 18) the Washington Post (May 12) the Christian Science Monitor (May 30) and others lured an impressive group of Arab intellectuals into unveiling their worldview to American readers.

Highly educated, mostly secular, champions of modernity and masters of communication, these authors are keenly attuned to grass roots sentiments and, enticed by the limelight, revealed the naked landscape of the Palestinian mindset.

Sadly, what they revealed in 2008 is not what Mahmoud Abbas and public opinion polsters would like us to believe. They revealed what we feared all along but were afraid to admit: the notion of a two-state solution never began to penetrate the surface of Palestinian consciousness.

In vain would one search these articles for a shred of an idea that morally justifies a two-state solution, or that acknowledges some historical ties of Jews to the land, or that makes an intellectual investment contrary to the Greater Palestine agenda. One by one, the articles depict Israel as a temporary outpost of Western imperialism, a entity to oppose not to neighbor.

This does not mean that the two-state solution is dead - after all, it is the only proposal worthy of the word "solution" - but it means that the current efforts to reach a peaceful settlement should begin to address one key obstacle: the ideological landscape as revealed to us by our Arab brethren on Yom Haatzmaut.


Britain: A conservative approach to poverty

Last week, George Osborne made a speech about fairness in which he castigated the Government for its failure to deal with poverty. A Tory Shadow Chancellor attacking Labour's record on poverty: that really is a raid into enemy territory. In the long run, however, it could leave the Tories open to a counter-attack.

In the short run, Mr Osborne did not rely on rhetoric. His arguments were reinforced by statistics that gave them added bite. Although the Shadow Chancellor was happy to concede that many Labour MPs were sincere in their abhorrence of poverty, any Labour supporter who reads the speech will wince at the dissection of Labour's inability to realise its ideals.

But Mr Osborne was not merely trying to add to Labour's miseries: hardly necessary these days. His speech had a serious purpose. He was outlining a new Tory theory of poverty and the state. He insisted that this Government was not failing because it did not care enough and had not spent enough. It was failing because its strategy was fundamentally misguided.

The author of that strategy was Gordon Brown. His insistence that "only the state can guarantee fairness" has both underpinned and undermined Labour's approach to social policy. By stifling initiative and imposing central direction, not least through the target culture, it had ensured that much of the extra money devoted to health and education was wasted.

This helps to explain why only 176 pupils who received free school meals gained three As at A level this year and why half of all children in care leave school without a single GCSE. There is a direct relationship between that last statistic and social misery. Many of those uneducated victims of care will be busy acquiring diplomas in mugging, burglary, prostitution and drug-taking.

Instead of Gordon Brown's great clunking state, the Tories want to empower churches, charities and social action co-operatives to help the needy. They also propose a radical change in the supply of education, ending the Government's monopoly over state schooling. To improve opportunity for the poorest, argues Mr Osborne, society and the state must work together.

A dramatic programme for social reform, this is the basis of David Cameron's approach to government. Shortly after he became Tory leader, he met Nicolas Sarkozy, who told him how much he admired the Tories' economic reforms of the 1980s. Mr Cameron hopes that in the 2030s, a French president will be telling a Tory leader how much he admires the social reforms of the 2010s.

The Tory party always has two great tasks: to defend the integrity of the nation and to solve the pressing questions of the day. Apart from the economy, two intractable and related problems have now forced themselves onto the agenda: how to redeem the underclass and how to ensure that the public services serve the public. Mr Cameron will not duck either challenge.

Well and good, but enthusiasm will not be enough. Contemporary British poverty is not just an economic phenomenon. It arises from cultural demoralisation. In the EU, Britain has the highest proportion of children living in households where no adult works. Though many hereditary peers have been banished from the House of Lords, hereditary unemployment is flourishing in the inner cities.

London is one of the mightiest engines of wealth creation in the whole of history. There is no reason why any able-bodied youngster who looks willing and trustworthy should not find a job. Yet a short Tube journey from the Bank of England, there are housing estates where no one thinks in terms of finding work.

David Cameron is determined that this will change. Yet even if he succeeds, it will take years, and the middle classes will not be idle. As the economy recovers, opportunities will increase. The middle classes will take them. Economic innovation will create new, well paid jobs. Middle-class children will rush to fill them.

That should not dismay sensible Tories. As the middle classes grow richer, they create the wealth to fund social programmes. In order to clear up Gordon Brown's toxic economic legacy, the Cameron government will depend on the efforts and tax contributions of the middle classes, and those efforts will be forthcoming only if they are adequately rewarded.



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.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain: "If I Am President, Advancing the Cause of Life Will Not Be Above My Pay Grade"

In a radio address Saturday, Senator McCain took Barack Obama to task over his unwillingness to defend the life of children born alive after abortion attempts. Key quotes from the address follow:
The week began with a debate of sorts between Senator Obama and me at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In case you missed it, the discussion yielded the line of the week, and maybe even of the campaign, when Pastor Rick Warren asked my opponent a very serious question. He wanted to know at what point, in my opponent's view, does a baby have human rights? Senator Obama thought about it for a moment, and came back with the reply that the question was, quote, "above my pay grade."

Here was a candidate for the presidency of the United States, asked for his position on one of the central moral and legal questions of our time, and this was the best he could offer: It's above his pay grade. He went on to assure his interviewer that there is a, quote, "moral and ethical element to this issue." Americans expect more of their leaders.

Listening to my opponent at Saddleback, you would never know that this is a politician who long since left behind any middle ground on the abortion issue. He is against parental notification laws, and against restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortions. In the Illinois Senate, a bipartisan majority passed legislation to prevent the horrific practice of partial-birth abortion. Senator Obama opposed that bill, voting against it in committee and voting "present" on the Senate floor.

In 2002, Congress unanimously passed a federal law to require medical care for babies who survive abortions - living, breathing babies whom Senator Obama described as, quote, "previable." This merciful law was called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Illinois had a version of the same law, and Barack Obama voted against it.

At Saddleback, he assured a reporter that he'd have voted "yes" on that bill if it had contained language similar to the federal version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Even though the language of both the state and federal bills was identical, Senator Obama said people were, quote, "lying" about his record. When that record was later produced, he dropped the subject but didn't withdraw the slander. And now even Senator Obama's campaign has conceded that his claims and accusations were false.

I can assure you that if I am president, advancing the cause of life will not be above my pay grade.


Lights Out on Liberty

By Mark Steyn

On August 3, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stood at the window of his office in the summer dusk and observed, "The lamps are going out all over Europe." Today, the lights are going out on liberty all over the Western world, but in a more subtle and profound way.

Much of the West is far too comfortable with state regulation of speech and expression, which puts freedom itself at risk. Let me cite some examples: The response of the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security to the crisis over the Danish cartoons that sparked Muslim violence was to propose that newspapers exercise "prudence" on certain controversial subjects involving religions beginning with the letter "I." At the end of her life, the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci-after writing of the contradiction between Islam and the Western tradition of liberty-was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland, and most other European jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely offensive, but criminal. In France, author Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist groups" who believed the opinions of a fictional character in one of his novels were likewise criminal.

In Canada, the official complaint about my own so-called "flagrant Islamophobia"-filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress-attributes to me the following "assertions":
America will be an Islamic Republic by 2040. There will be a break for Muslim prayers during the Super Bowl. There will be a religious police enforcing Islamic norms. The USS Ronald Reagan will be renamed after Osama bin Laden. Females will not be allowed to be cheerleaders. Popular American radio and TV hosts will be replaced by Imams.
In fact, I didn't "assert" any of these things. They are plot twists I cited in my review of Robert Ferrigno's novel, Prayers for the Assassin. It's customary in reviewing novels to cite aspects of the plot. For example, a review of Moby Dick will usually mention the whale. These days, apparently, the Canadian Islamic Congress and the government's human rights investigators (who have taken up the case) believe that describing the plot of a novel should be illegal.

You may recall that Margaret Atwood, some years back, wrote a novel about her own dystopian theocratic fantasy, in which America was a Christian tyranny named the Republic of Gilead. What's to stop a Christian group from dragging a doting reviewer of Margaret Atwood's book in front of a Canadian human rights court? As it happens, Christian groups tend not to do that, which is just as well, because otherwise there wouldn't be a lot to write about.

These are small parts of a very big picture. After the London Tube bombings and the French riots a few years back, commentators lined up behind the idea that Western Muslims are insufficiently assimilated. But in their mastery of legalisms and the language of victimology, they're superbly assimilated. Since these are the principal means of discourse in multicultural societies, they've mastered all they need to know. Every day of the week, somewhere in the West, a Muslim lobbying group is engaging in an action similar to what I'm facing in Canada. Meanwhile, in London, masked men marched through the streets with signs reading "Behead the Enemies of Islam" and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust, all while being protected by a phalanx of London policemen.

Thus we see that today's multicultural societies tolerate the explicitly intolerant and avowedly unicultural, while refusing to tolerate anyone pointing out that intolerance. It's been that way for 20 years now, ever since Valentine's Day 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie, a British subject, and shortly thereafter large numbers of British Muslims marched through English cities openly calling for Rushdie to be killed. A reader in Bradford wrote to me recalling asking a West Yorkshire policeman on the street that day why the various "Muslim community leaders" weren't being arrested for incitement to murder. The officer said they'd been told to "play it cool." The calls for blood got more raucous. My correspondent asked his question again. The policeman told him to "Push off" (he expressed the sentiment rather more Anglo-Saxonly, but let that pass) "or I'll arrest you." Mr. Rushdie was infuriated when the then Archbishop of Canterbury lapsed into root-cause mode. "I well understand the devout Muslims' reaction, wounded by what they hold most dear and would themselves die for," said His Grace. Rushdie replied tersely: "There is only one person around here who is in any danger of dying."

And that's the way it's gone ever since. For all the talk about rampant "Islamophobia," it's usually only the other party who is "in any danger of dying."

War on the Homefront

I wrote my book America Alone because I wanted to reframe how we thought about the War on Terror-an insufficient and evasive designation that has long since outlasted whatever usefulness it may once have had. It remains true that we are good at military campaigns, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our tanks and ships are better, and our bombs and soldiers are smarter. But these are not ultimately the most important battlefronts. We do indeed face what the strategists call asymmetric warfare, but it is not in the Sunni triangle or the Hindu Kush. We face it right here in the Western world.

Norman Podhoretz, among others, has argued that we are engaged in a second Cold War. But it might be truer to call it a Cold Civil War, by which I mean a war within the West, a war waged in our major cities. We now have Muslim "honor killings," for instance, not just in tribal Pakistan and Yemen, but in Germany and the Netherlands, in Toronto and Dallas. And even if there were no battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if no one was flying planes into tall buildings in New York City or blowing up trains, buses, and nightclubs in Madrid, London, and Bali, we would still be in danger of losing this war without a shot being fired.

The British government recently announced that it would be issuing Sharia-compliant Islamic bonds-that is, bonds compliant with Islamic law and practice as prescribed in the Koran. This is another reason to be in favor of small government: The bigger government gets, the more it must look for funding in some pretty unusual places-in this case wealthy Saudis. As The Mail on Sunday put it, this innovation marks "one of the most significant economic advances of Sharia law in the non-Muslim world."

At about the same time, The Times of London reported that "Knorbert the piglet has been dropped as the mascot of Fortis Bank, after it decided to stop giving piggy banks to children for fear of offending Muslims." Now, I'm no Islamic scholar, but Mohammed expressed no view regarding Knorbert the piglet. There's not a single sura about it. The Koran, an otherwise exhaustive text, is silent on the matter of anthropomorphic porcine representation.

I started keeping a file on pig controversies a couple of years ago, and you would be surprised at how routine they have become. Recently, for instance, a local government council prohibited its workers from having knickknacks on their desks representing Winnie the Pooh's sidekick Piglet. As Pastor Martin Niemoller might have said, "First they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character, and if I was, I'd be more of an Eeyore. Then they came for the Three Little Pigs and Babe, and by the time I realized the Western world had turned into a 24/7 Looney Tunes, it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to stammer, `Th-th-th-that's all folks!', and bring the nightmare to an end."

What all these stories have in common is excessive deference to-and in fact fear of-Islam. If the story of the Three Little Pigs is forbidden when Muslims still comprise less than ten percent of Europe's population, what else will be on the black list when they comprise 20 percent? In small but telling ways, non-Muslim communities are being persuaded that a kind of uber-Islamic law now applies to all. And if you don't remember the Three Little Pigs, by the way, one builds a house of straw, another of sticks, and both get blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Western Civilization is a mighty house of bricks, but you don't need a Big Bad Wolf when the pig is so eager to demolish the house himself.

I would argue that these incremental concessions to Islam are ultimately a bigger threat than terrorism. What matters is not what the lads in the Afghan cave-the "extremists"-believe, but what the non-extremists believe, what people who are for the most part law-abiding taxpayers of functioning democracies believe. For example, a recent poll found that 36 percent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 believe that those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. That's not 36 percent of young Muslims in Waziristan or Yemen or Sudan, but 36 percent of young Muslims in the United Kingdom. Forty percent of British Muslims would like to live under Sharia-in Britain. Twenty percent have sympathy for the July 7 Tube bombers. And, given that Islam is the principal source of population growth in every city down the spine of England from Manchester to Sheffield to Birmingham to London, and in every major Western European city, these statistics are not without significance for the future.

Because I discussed these facts in print, my publisher is now being sued before three Canadian human rights commissions. The plaintiff in my case is Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a man who announced on Canadian TV that he approves of the murder of all Israeli civilians over the age of 18. He is thus an objective supporter of terrorism. I don't begrudge him the right to his opinions, but I wish he felt the same about mine. Far from that, posing as a leader of the "anti-hate" movement in Canada, he is using the squeamishness of a politically correct society to squash freedom.

As the famous saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. What the Canadian Islamic Congress and similar groups in the West are trying to do is criminalize vigilance. They want to use the legal system to circumscribe debate on one of the great questions of the age: the relationship between Islam and the West and the increasing Islamization of much of the Western world, in what the United Nations itself calls the fastest population transformation in history.

Slippery Slope

Our democratic governments today preside over multicultural societies that have less and less glue holding them together. They've grown comfortable with the idea of the state as the mediator between interest groups. And confronted by growing and restive Muslim populations, they're increasingly at ease with the idea of regulating freedom in the interests of social harmony.

It's a different situation in America, which has the First Amendment and a social consensus that increasingly does not exist in Europe. Europe's consensus seems to be that Danish cartoonists should be able to draw what they like, but not if it sparks Islamic violence. It is certainly odd that the requirement of self-restraint should only apply to one party.

Last month, in a characteristically clotted speech followed by a rather more careless BBC interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it was dangerous to have one law for everyone and that the introduction of Sharia to the United Kingdom was "inevitable." Within days of His Grace's remarks, the British and Ontario governments both confirmed that thousands of polygamous men in their jurisdictions are receiving welfare payments for each of their wives. Kipling wrote that East is East and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet. But when the twain do meet, you often wind up with the worst of both worlds. Say what you like about a polygamist in Waziristan or Somalia, but he has to do it on his own dime. To collect a welfare check for each spouse, he has to move to London or Toronto. Government-subsidized polygamy is an innovation of the Western world.

If you need another reason to be opposed to socialized health care, one reason is because it fosters the insouciant attitude to basic hygiene procedures that has led to the rise of deadly "superbugs." I see British Muslim nurses in public hospitals riddled with C. difficile are refusing to comply with hygiene procedures on the grounds that scrubbing requires them to bare their arms, which is un-Islamic. Which is a thought to ponder just before you go under the anaesthetic. I mentioned to some of Hillsdale's students in class that gay-bashing is on the rise in the most famously "tolerant" cities in Europe. As Der Spiegel reported, "With the number of homophobic attacks rising in the Dutch metropolis, Amsterdam officials are commissioning a study to determine why Moroccan men are targeting the city's gays."

Gee, whiz. That's a toughie. Wonder what the reason could be. But don't worry, the brain trust at the University of Amsterdam is on top of things: "Half of the crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin and researchers believe they felt stigmatized by society and responded by attacking people they felt were lower on the social ladder. Another working theory is that the attackers may be struggling with their own sexual identity."

Bingo! Telling young Moroccan men they're closeted homosexuals seems certain to lessen tensions in the city! While you're at it, a lot of those Turks seem a bit light in their loafers, don't you think?

Our Suicidal Urge

So don't worry, nothing's happening. Just a few gay Muslims frustrated at the lack of gay Muslim nightclubs. Sharia in Britain? Taxpayer-subsidized polygamy in Toronto? Yawn. Nothing to see here. True, if you'd suggested such things on September 10, 2001, most Britons and Canadians would have said you were nuts. But a few years on and it doesn't seem such a big deal, nor will the next concession, or the one after that.

The assumption that you can hop on the Sharia Express and just ride a couple of stops is one almighty leap of faith. More to the point, who are you relying on to "hold the line"? Influential figures like the Archbishop of Canterbury? The politically correct bureaucrats at Canada's Human Rights Commissions? The geniuses who run Harvard, and who've just introduced gender-segregated swimming and gym sessions at the behest of Harvard's Islamic Society? (Would they have done that for Amish or Mennonite students?) The Western world is not run by fellows noted for their line-holding: Look at what they're conceding now and then try to figure out what they'll be conceding in five years' time. The idea that the West's multicultural establishment can hold the line would be more plausible if it was clear they had any idea where the line is, or even gave any indication of believing in one.

My book, supposedly Islamaphobic, isn't even really about Islam. The single most important line in it is the profound observation, by historian Arnold Toynbee, that "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder." One manifestation of that suicidal urge is illiberal notions harnessed in the cause of liberalism. In calling for the introduction of Sharia, the Archbishop of Canterbury joins a long list of Western appeasers, including a Dutch cabinet minister who said if the country were to vote to introduce Islamic law that would be fine by him, and the Swedish cabinet minister who said we should be nice to Muslims now so that Muslims will be nice to us when they're in the majority.

Ultimately, our crisis is not about Islam. It's not about fire-breathing Imams or polygamists whooping it up on welfare. It's not about them. It's about us. And by us I mean the culture that shaped the modern world, and established the global networks, legal systems, and trading relationships on which the planet depends. To reprise Sir Edward Grey, the lamps are going out all over the world, and an awful lot of the map will look an awful lot darker by the time many Americans realize the scale of this struggle.


Iraqi Billionaire Threatens Reporters Investigating Rezko Affair

U.S. media outlets are historically strong defenders of press freedoms. But there has been near-total silence about the UK-based legal threats to public discussion of the Rezko affair. Why aren't the American media investigating the role of British billionaire businessman Nadhmi Auchi in supplying loans to Barack Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko? Some point to media bias, but there is another factor. Working for Auchi, who was born in Iraq, attorneys from London law firm Carter-Ruck have for several months been flooding American and British newspapers and websites with letters demanding removal of material they deem "defamatory" to their client.

In its June 28 edition, British satirical magazine Private Eye explains: "Until Carter-Ruck and Partners and England's stifling libel laws got to work, the few American journalists not caught up in Obama-mania were turning to the archives of the British press to answer an intriguing question: who is Nadhmi Auchi?"

What is so "stifling" about English libel law? In the U.K., as Carter-Ruck explains on its own website, "A libel claimant does not have to prove that the words are false or to prove that he has in fact suffered any loss. Damage is presumed."

The Obama campaign recently issued a non-denial denial in response to claims that Obama met with Auchi?contained in Jerome Corsi's bestseller, The Obama Nation. They cited only two references. One is, "Mr. Auchi's lawyer" who told the February 27, 2008 London Evening Standard, "As far as he can remember he has had no direct contact with Mr. Obama." Another is, "A lawyer for Auchi, Alasdair Pepper" who says, according to the April 16, 2008 Washington Post, "Auchi Had `No Recollection' Of Meeting Obama or Michelle." Alasdair Pepper is the attorney whose name appears on the Carter-Ruck demand letters.

The Secret Loan

A secret $3.5 million loan from an Auchi company to key early-money Barack Obama fundraiser Antoin Rezko was exposed while Rezko was awaiting trial on fraud and money-laundering charges earlier this year. Rezko's bail was revoked and police showed up banging on the doors of his Wilmette Chicago mansion to drag him off to jail early in the morning of January 28th. Auchi's loan to Rezko had come on May 23, 2005 but had not been disclosed to the Court as required in his bail agreement. Three weeks later, on June 15, 2005, Rezko's wife assisted the Obamas in the purchase of their South Chicago mansion by purchasing a next-door undeveloped lot being sold with the house.

According to the Times of London, "Mr. Rezko's lawyer said his client had `longstanding indebtedness' to Mr. Auchi's General Mediterranean Holding (GMH). By June 2007 he owed it $27.9 million. Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, M. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as $3.5 million transferred in April 2007. That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be `forgiven' in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development."

Rezko's relationship with Barack Obama goes back to at least 1990, when Obama's law firm did work relating to thousands of now-decaying Rezko apartment units in South Chicago. Rezko was a key early-money fundraiser in Obama's state Senate campaigns and his failed run at the U.S. Congress.

According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi first met Mr. Rezko after the 2003 Iraq war and they have a business relationship." At the time Auchi was facing the possibility of extradition to France. The Times of London explains: "Mr Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined o1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe. He, in a statement from his media lawyers, claims he is appealing against the sentence."

In 2003, Nick Cohen of the UK Guardian wrote: "Allow me to introduce you to Nadhmi Auchi. He was charged in the 1950s with being an accomplice of Saddam Hussein, when the future tyrant was acquiring his taste for blood. He was investigated in the 1980s for his part in alleged bribes to the fabulously corrupt leaders of post-war Italy. In the 1990s, the Belgium Ambassador to Luxembourg claimed that Auchi's bank held money Saddam and Colonel Gadaffi had stolen from their luckless peoples. In 2002, officers from the Serious Fraud Squad raided the offices of one of Auchi's drug companies as part of an investigation of what is alleged to be the biggest swindle ever of the (British National Health Service). With allegations, albeit unproven, like these hanging over him, wouldn't you think that British MPs would have the sense to stay away?"

But after threats from Carter-Ruck, Cohen's "defamatory" article became one of six Guardian and Observer articles scrubbed from the Internet this April. Blogger "A Jacksonian" received a similar demand on or before June 24. His article is still up. It details much of the information contained in the six deleted Guardian/Observer articles.

Auchi in 1967 began an Iraq Oil Ministry career eventually rising to be Director of Planning and Development under the Baathist dictatorship. He formed GMH in 1979 and then left Iraq. A key source of weapons procurement for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, GMH became the largest single private shareholder of Banque Nationale du Paris (BNP) which later merged with Paribas to form BNP-Paribas. BNP and BNP-Paribas, at Saddam Hussein's insistence, handled all Oil-for-Food transactions until 2001 when the incoming administration of George W. Bush demanded change.

Investigative journalist Bill Gertz explains: "A 2004 Pentagon report obtained by The Washington Times identified Auchi as a global arms dealer and Iraqi billionaire `who, behind the facade of legitimate business, served as Saddam Hussein's principle (sic) international financial manipulator and bag man.'

"The report to the Pentagon inspector general stated that . `significant and credible evidence has been developed that Nadhmi Auchi has engaged in unlawful activities working closely with Iraqi intelligence operatives to, Bribe foreign governments and individuals prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom to turn opinion against the American-led mission to remove Saddam Hussein.'"

The web scrubbing did not stop with the six Guardian/Observer articles. New Statesman writer Martin Bright reports that Auchi lawyers "have written to ask us to remove the names of the articles concerned." Removed, the six titles are now available for reading only in difficult-to-find independent web archives.....

U.S. media outlets are historically strong defenders of press freedoms. But there has been near-total silence about the UK-based legal threats to public discussion of the Rezko affair. While Auchi's interference may explain part of the media's lack of interest, the attitude of the New York Times and New York Review of Books goes a long way towards explaining the rest.

If elected President, Obama will be required to swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Will Senator Obama now join in co-sponsoring S-2977, the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, and call upon his fellow Democrats to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote? If not will Obama explain why the Free Speech Protection Act is not necessary to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?"

Will reporters covering the campaign ask Obama whether, if elected, he would approve a request for U.S. residency from Auchi? Are the media now cooperating in their own silencing? The attitude of the New York Times does not bode well.

More here

Australia's centre/Leftists are pretty conservative on welfare

HOW very un-Laborlike, said one Labor MP in response to the Rudd Government's proposal to introduce legislation this week that would tie welfare payments to the responsibility of parents to ensure their children attend school. Not all Labor MPs are on side, it seems. The Rudd Government is about to discover that tough love is a tough policy. Nay-sayers wedded to the failed idea that compassion comes in the form of unconditional welfare will be out in force to kill off Labor's embrace of mutual responsibility.

Where, one must ask, have these Labor MPs been? Welfare reform that matches rights with responsibilities was endorsed long ago by the Centre-Left in the US under Democratic president Bill Clinton and in Britain under Labour prime minister Tony Blair. They proved that linking rights to responsibilities was not some nasty conservative agenda to punish those most in need. It is an idea that crosses the political divide for the simple reason that it works, whereas past policies of passive welfare have failed.

So credit where it's due. Kevin Rudd is right to point out that an education revolution depends on children attending school. Education Minister Julia Gillard says there could be up to 20,000 Australian children who are not at school, with Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggesting that at least 2000 children are not enrolled at school within the Northern Territory.

Though it's a case of Labor-come-lately for some in the ALP, the Rudd Government's plan to tackle the problem of truancy by setting up trials in six NT communities and in Western Australia before a national roll-out deserves unequivocal praise.

For too long, welfare has been seen as an unfettered right, without any attendant responsibilities. The rights-based culture that emerged in the 1960s and `70s failed, in particular, an entire generation of indigenous people. Many of them are lost. Uneducated and untrained, relegated to the dysfunctional fringes, they will never have a chance of entering mainstream society. Now, the children of that generation risk being lost too unless policies encourage parents to accept responsibility for their children. Accordingly, Labor's belated acknowledgment of past policy failures is to be applauded.

But let's also pay tribute to those who got us to the point where a Labor government in Australia is ready to instil responsibilities into the welfare equation. Howard haters, shut your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. Here it is. By tackling the old orthodoxy of no-responsibility welfare, John Howard fundamentally realigned our thinking on this issue.

Sure, we watched welfare reform unfold in the US and Britain. But in Australia the Rudd Government is proposing to link welfare to parental responsibility after a decade of conservative rule that did the hard yards on welfare reform.

Encouraged by The Australian, which provided an early and continuing platform for genuine debate about these critical issues, what was once the accepted left-wing orthodoxy has been challenged and found wanting by a more questioning mindset. Not so long ago, if you raised questions about welfare you would be labelled as mean-spirited. If you raised those questions about welfare in relation to indigenous people, you were mean-spirited and racist. Back then, orthodox thinking was framed around the virtues of Aboriginal welfarism, apologies, treaties and separatism.

By tackling that PC-infected entrenched orthodoxy, the Howard government legacy is one that has paved the way for Labor's present policy. Under Howard, the first steps to address indigenous disadvantage were premised on practical reconciliation: on outcomes, not politics. Symbolism was eschewed as demonstrably counterproductive to solving disadvantage and passive welfare uncovered as poison. When critics shouted about racism, Howard did not flinch. His government challenged mindless policies such as the Community Development Employment Program, which allowed able-bodied indigenous people to work for a few hours a week in return for full welfare.

As a reminder of that fundamental shift, it's worth remembering that Noel Pearson once derided the Howard government as "racist scum" and said Howard was "totally useless to the nation". That was before Pearson's epiphany that greater individual responsibility, not indigenous victimhood, was the way to address disadvantage and dysfunction within indigenous communities.

Today, indigenous leaders such as Pearson and former ALP federal president Warren Mundine are daily pushing the frontiers for more sensible indigenous policies that promote education, training and work as the solution to Aboriginal dysfunction. They recognise that welfare reform must escape the shackles of left-right labels. After all, as The Australian said last Friday in an editorial, Ben Chifley's vision of a Labor light on the hill did not involve "putting an extra sixpence in somebody's pocket". Chifley's 1949 call was about empowering people.

Rudd is on that path. His proposal for a 13-week suspension of welfare as a last resort for parents who do not ensure their children attend school is premised on the state providing the right signals to encourage parents to do the right thing by their children. As Gillard said, a child who misses large slabs of schooling is set up for failure for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, so many on the Left remain cemented to past policies predicated on the role of the state rather than the power of individuals. Critics immediately labelled Rudd's plan as a "blunt instrument". They prefer to point the finger of blame at anyone except parents. Blame the system. Blame the schools, they say. Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert described Labor's policy as "crazy thinking in the 21st century from a government that's supposed to be committed to social inclusion".

Yet genuine social inclusion must mean encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives. Those who view individual responsibility with suspicion necessarily view human potential with equal suspicion. Their paternalism is based on an inherently defeatist view of human ability and aspiration. It entrenches social exclusion and human misery, and ensures the only outcome of their paternalism is the continued existence of their own handout-premised industries.

The importance of the Rudd Government finally confronting the unprogressive consequences of the so-called progressive mindset cannot be underestimated. The Howard government was always going to be attacked by so-called progressives as launching a right-wing ideological crusade in its efforts to encourage greater personal responsibility.

The Rudd Labor Government can, depending on the strength of its conviction, bring many of these critics to a quiet halt by following Howard and showing courageous leadership aimed at moving the national conversation on disadvantage in more sensible directions.

The fear is that this will be some will-o'-the-wisp Labor policy that flickers with hope but can never be realised, either because Labor is not serious about the policy or because it falls victim to old Labor types still wedded to the past.



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.


Friday, August 29, 2008

"Dangerous" board game seized by moronic British police

A War On Terror board game designed in Cambridge has been seized by police who claim the balaclava in the set could be used in a criminal act. The satirical board game was confiscated along with knives, chisels and bolt cutters, from climate protesters during a series of raids near Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last week.

The game's creators, Andrew Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, web designers from Cambridge, have expressed total shock at the inclusion of their toy among "criminal" items. Andrew, 32, said: "I saw pictures of the board game in papers and was absolutely baffled. "Surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

War on Terror, similar to games like Risk, revolves around creating empires that compete and wage war. But there is a twist - players can poke fun at the rhetoric of world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair. The game was born from the frustration of its creators as they sat watching the news in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each player starts as an empire filled with good intentions and a determination to liberate the world from terrorists and from each other.

Then the reality of world politics kicks and terrorist states emerge. Andrew said: "The terrorists can win and quite often do and it's global anarchy. It sums up the randomness of geo-politics pretty well."

In their cardboard version of realpolitik George Bush's "Axis of Evil" is reduced to a spinner in the middle of the board, which determines which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.

Kent police said they had confiscated the game because the balaclava "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act".

Andrew fumed: "It's absurd. A beard can conceal someone's identity. Are the police going to start banning beards?"

All High Street retailers declined to stock the controversial game. But more than 12,000 copies have been sold online or through independent stockists.


England's surveillance state at work

Dreary old England is suffering mightily under the weight of the authoritarian government of the Labour Party. Labour has been working assiduously to impose a total surveillance state trampling on traditional British freedoms. First, here is a video of the local police randomly stopping people and demanding to search them. As they make clear, if you do not "consent" to being searched you will be arrested. Of course, once they arrest you they can search you. In other words, in England, the police may search anyone they wish, anytime they wish without any probable cause.

One British "subject" has filmed this sort of police state mentality. It is hard to understand some aspects of the video as the sound is not totally up to par. Please note that these these officers are not only searching the man's belongings but frisking him, going through his pockets, looking in his wallet, and flipping through the books he reads. Notice the lie they tell. They argue that they are looking for anything that can be used by terrorists. But they start going through his credit cards and looking through his wallet. And then, when they find nothing wrong, they send in his details to check up on the man.

Basically the cops end up arguing that anything a "terrorists" could use can be inspected by them at any time they wish. Of course the terrorists can use anything. Also watch as people walk by and look over at this poor man being searched. You know that many of them are wondering what this man did that was illegal to be apprehended by the police.

The last time I was in the UK I saw a thug harassing an older woman inside the local McDonalds. I complained to the staff who did nothing. I went outside and told the police. The thug walked out and I pointed him out. The police REFUSED to do anything saying they didn't want to "embarrass" him in "front of his mates". Apparently guilty people shouldn't be embarrassed but innocent people deserve to be frisked, searched and checked out on some central data base. Sieg heil! The one thing I will say is that, as disgusting as this is, in the U.S. merely asking the police the questions this man asked would have gotten him beaten, perhaps tasered and possibly shot.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that the local councils are using the antiterrorism surveillance systems to spy on "couples' sleeping arrangements." Taxes are based, not only on the value of property, but also on the number of people living there. So councils "undertake `surveillance' of cars registered to addresses `to substantiate the allegation of living together.'" Documents from one council show they are checking to see if couples are living "as husband and wife."

In Thurrock single residents are required to sign a document giving blanket permission to local bureaucrats "to enter their home as part of an inspection" to determine if they really are single or in a couple. If they have a partner their tax rate increases by one-third. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said:
Day by day under Labour, the country is sleepwalking into a surveillance state, where spying on citizens has become the norm. Laws which were originally intended to tackle the most serious crimes and safeguard the public are now being deployed routinely and without hesitation.

Councils will naturally wish to ensure that council tax discounts and benefits are not wrongly claimed. But I am concerned that innocent citizens will be spied on through heavy-handed and disproportionate use by town hall snoopers. There are far less intrusive and more cost-effective ways of vetting council tax, such as through data matching, rather than paying town hall officials to camp out overnight outside people's homes.

The fact such snooping is already over-used by local authorities bodes ill for the planned powers for town halls to access communications data. There are insufficient checks and balances to prevent people's sex lives being habitually monitored by state bureaucrats, purely because they claim a council tax discount for living alone.
Bureaucrats with the Local Government Association have a unique stand on the matter. They say "Pretending to live alone to defraud the taxpayer is not a victimless crime." This goes on the assumption that your wealth belongs to the government and they let you keep some of it. If you keep more of your own income then the government has to take more of other people's income. So it is your fault that they are confiscating more wealth from other people. Thus keeping your own money is a crime against others.

Already it has been shown that government powers initially created to "stop terrorism" have been used by councils to arrest people whose dog took a shit in the wrong place or who dumped trash in the wrong location.

But one government official, with the title of Interception of Communications Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, complained that the local councils were not using their spying powers enough. He suggested that more councils spy on people to fight crimes "such as skipping work and filing fraudulent overtime claims." The Telegraph reports: "Councils across the country were criticised last month as it emerged that they used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act up to 10,000 times a year to investigate such petty offences as dog fouling and under-age smoking."

And while the Conservative Party is, this now, whining about the surveillance state, only days ago they were demanding that police powers be expanded to do more surveillance. Then another Tory spokesman said: "It is not right that we charge our police with combating crime and disorder and then tie their hands behind their backs.... the police should be given both the resources and the freedom to use those resources to do their job." In that incident the Tories said that restraints to protect citizens from spying were "red tape" and promised to make it easier to spy, including putting in wire taps, without any court permission required.


Character is Relevant!

This country has gone through some deep changes about this issue: is a politician's sex life "private" in the sense that it is irrelevant to what we should think about the things he or she does or will do as a "public" official?

During the agony of the Clinton sex scandals I tried to interest a class I was teaching on moral character in writing a term paper on this issue, and they were struck dumb -- literally -- by the suggestion that there is a discussable issue here. When I prodded them with a few questions, I was told that the idea that a politician's sexual behavior is relevant to our moral or political judgments about them as politicians is a myth invented by cynical Republicans, who are pursuing their own political ends. In other words, as a philosophical issue, it is utterly beneath contempt. Well, then, I said, what do you think of the Mother of All Character Issues: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. If these allegations are true, do they give us some reason to chisel him off Mount Rushmore? Or not? What do you think? Anybody? Anybody?

No one wrote on that issue. I concluded that the students' view was probably the standard one among Democrats at the time, including those who constitute almost 90% of my esteemed colleagues at the university. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and I can only gain insight into how such people think in the same way that an anthropologist finds out about the beliefs of distant tribes: by observing the behavior of others. Introspection is less than no help at all. Today, using the same methods, I conclude that things have changed. During the flap about Edwards, it became obvious that many of his supporters (or former supporters) it were genuinely disappointed by his behavior. Today, his political status seems to be somewhere in the category of damaged goods.

What do I think about this issue, other than that it really is an issue?I have actually written on theoretical issues that bear on this question but every time it pops up I find myself thinking about -- not some theory or argument but -- a comment someone made to me while we were watching a movie.

He was a Russian scientist, here to do research, and we were watching the original airing of a made-for-cable biopic about Stalin, in the early years of the Clinton agonies. During a scene in which Stalin (Robert Duval) was treating his wife, Nadezhda, in a particularly beastly way (she later committed suicide), my companion became very upset and said something like: "This is what drives be crazy. How can people say that the way Clinton treats women has nothing to do with what we should think of him as a politician? What Stalin was doing to his wife, he later did to the whole country! The same thing!"

A similar point is made about Hitler's relationship with Geli Raubal in a fairly good novel by Ron Hansen. I hope it is obvious that I am not comparing Clinton and Edwards to Hitler and Stalin -- the issue here is the (in some broad sense) logical one of whether the "private" realm of a person's life is a separate compartment from the "public" one, with no inferences (not even probablistic ones) allowed from one to the other.

To accept the compartmentalization idea is very close to denying that there is such a thing as moral character at all. The idea of character is the idea that there is a certain kind of connection between one's acts: that people act from traits, like courage and cowardice. If you do a brave thing, that is evidence that you have the trait of courage and are a courageous person. Not conclusive evidence, because acting out of character is possible. Compartmentalization is also possible. A person can be a hero in the face of physical dangers and a coward about moral ones. I don't deny for a minute that this sort of looseness and independence between the parts of one's life is possible. But the compartmentalization idea implies that such things are not merely possible but necessary.

In effect, the compartmentalization idea says that, necessarily, there two Stalins: the one who abused Nadezhda, and the one who abused Russia. It is simply a coincidence that they were both abusive. But why only two? Applied consistently, the idea would disintegrate the person into an infinitude of homunculi, with no connection between them. That, of course, is not how things are.


Social Security Increases Poverty

One of the most common arguments supporting Social Security is that it reduces poverty among the elderly. Last week, Barack Obama stated that, "Social Security has lifted millions of seniors and their families out of poverty. Without it, nearly 50 percent of seniors would live below the poverty line." This is almost certainly untrue.

Social Security affects poverty among the elderly in two offsetting ways. While it reduces poverty by providing income to retired persons, it discourages private saving during the working years-ultimately decreasing the private assets people bring to their retirement. The net effect of this is increased poverty among the retired population.

To understand this conclusion, it is important to compare the rate of return on taxes paid that is generated by Social Security to the rate of return people could receive on their private saving. For those retiring in 2008, the average implicit real (inflation-adjusted) rate of return on Social Security taxes paid was slightly below 3 percent-and it is scheduled to decline to under 2 percent in the next forty years. In contrast, if people retiring in 2008 had invested the taxes they paid into Social Security in a balanced portfolio (60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds), they would have received a return of 5.5 percent.

The difference between a 5.5 percent return and a 3.0 percent return may not sound like much, but in annual returns compounded over a lifetime, this difference has a huge influence on the income available during retirement. In fact, the annual retirement income provided by a 5.5 percent return is double than that provided by the 3.0 percent return of Social Security. Even more compelling, an investment in the stock market averages a 7 percent real return, which would mean an annual income of three times what Social Security provides. In short, it is likely that we would have fewer poor among the elderly had they been free to invest their taxes in private assets. Once Social Security's rate of return drops to below 2 percent, it will only continue to aggravate poverty in the future.

While this simple comparison is compelling, it overlooks the huge hidden costs of this system. By reducing the incentive for workers to save privately for their own retirement, we reduce the economy's saving and investment in productive assets. This means the economy grows more slowly as a result of Social Security and people end up with lower incomes even before they pay their taxes. When this cost is taken into account, the real return from Social Security to those retiring today is actually negative!

And things are only going to get worse. Although Obama assures us, "the underlying [Social Security] system is sound," economists have emphasized for years that this is not the case. Today, government expenditures on Social Security and its companion retirement program, Medicare, are 7.3 percent of GDP. However, the Boards of Trustees of Social Security and Medicare tell us that figure will rise to 15.2 percent by 2040 if we don't change the rules for determining benefits.

Ultimately that means we will have to more than double tax rates to pay the benefits Congress has unwisely legislated. Or we will have to cut benefits in half, or some combination. Raising taxes would be disastrous-imagine a 35 percent payroll tax rate (compared to the present 15.3 percent) and higher income tax rates as well. And since Medicare is partially funded by the federal income tax, its rates would have to rise as well.

Neither option is attractive, but cutting benefits is clearly preferable since people would then depend more on private saving. Most economists favor gradually raising the retirement age as the least painful way of cutting benefits. But the longer we wait, the harder it is to implement this option and the more likely we will be forced to accept substantially higher taxes.

The elderly poor, as well as the rest of us, are ill served by politicians who systematically downplay the huge costs of Social Security and delay confronting what is indeed a true crisis



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.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy

As a dues-paying member of Hillary Clinton's Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, it came as a revelation of sorts to learn about the parallel universe in which a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy exists. Within it, liberals do endless battle with one another for control of the Democrat Party.

Ron Arnold's book, 'Freezing in the Dark: Money, Power, Politics and The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy', is not light reading. This heavily researched and documented narrative reveals all the major players of the liberal universe and how these renamed 'progressives' interact through networks of wealthy foundations, advocacy groups, think tanks, and leftist media.

'Freezing' will particularly please policy wonks, but it is also a brilliant romp through the jungle of leftist politics. If you have the stamina to get into and through it, you will understand what drives the Left. To get you started, I will quote Winston Churchill who defined Socialism as 'a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.'

As I reached the end of 'Freezing', I had a random thought about the 2008 election and its outcome. Simply put, Democrats who have been driven insane by the very existence of George W. Bush cannot run against him. In the funhouse of modern politics, the Republican they must defeat is more like them than not. John McCain is Democrat Light. One of his best pals is Joe Lieberman who ran as the vice president nominee with John Kerry!

Emerging swiftly from the text is the way the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act transformed how politics was to be funded. Little wonder that Sen. Obama abandoned his pledge to work within the constraints of federal campaign funding in favor of raising gobs of money from the Internet and the traditional supporters of anything and anyone labeled liberal, progressive. Never mind that the Communist Party USA also supports Obama. It must surely just be a coincidence.

McCain-Feingold banned 'soft money' donations, the large and unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations to political parties. This 'reform' required Democrats to create a networking restructure with the many satellite groups competing to use the party to get the only reform they ever wanted, the trashing of the U.S. Constitution.

It's useful to remember that the Constitution exists to limit the power of the federal government and, via the Bill of Rights, those of the States to the extent that individual liberties are protected. This is why the liberalism discredited by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s has returned as a Halloween mask labeled 'progressive.'

Progressives, however, come in many colors of red. There are, as Arnold notes, social, labor, anti-globalization, anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, environmental, post-national who like Sen. Obama see themselves as citizens of the world, and campaign finance reform progressives who think that the current electoral system is a threat to democracy, mostly one suspects because it keeps defeating progressives.

As Arnold reveals, one can hardly call liberals or progressives a movement. 'It was more like a mental hospital without doctors or nurses.' They don't have a cohesive culture, have no coherent ideology, but are 'just quarrelsome factions with loads of issues.'

What they all seemed to have, however, was gobs and gobs of money from leftist foundations and millionaires who wanted to change the world by supporting one or more of the myriad of issues they embrace as their penance for being successful, thanks to capitalism.

The ultimate symbol of this is the billionaire George Soros. As Arnold points out, 'The Soros mishmash of leftist causes at home ranged from financing the anti-gun lobby to abolishing capital punishment; from anti-Israel activism to promoting abortion rights; from feminism, population control, and gay liberation to anti-corporate campaigns, radical theories of education, and replacing national sovereignty with global institutions.'

Compare this with conservative values that include 'hard work, duty and obligation, self-reliance, high levels of national pride, pro-life values, rejection of homosexuality, belief in the importance of religion and God in one's life, and that children should learn respect and obedience.'

Essential to the compact that the American government makes with citizens is the understanding that if you work hard and stay out of trouble with the law, it will leave you alone!

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy believes that your life must be guided from birth to death by the government, its prohibitions, and its demands, a society in which everything not mandated by law is prohibited. To achieve this, progressives come at voters from all directions, conjuring up hoaxes like global warming, promises of often imaginary 'clean' energy, the demand to end 'urban sprawl', the 'right' of same-sex couples to marry, support for the United Nations, and endless charges of racism, among other charades to gain control of the federal government and its judiciary system in order to implement a top-down control of your life.

'Freezing in the Dark' is a roadmap to understand why we are assailed daily with the insanity of liberalism, an utterly failed system that depends on coercion while seeking to devalue the central principles of our constitutional system, from private property to individual merit and, yes, the promotion of wealth as a good thing.


Our Vanishing Right of Dissent

As long as America has existed there has been political dissent. From clashes over entry into the Revolutionary War to early battles regarding Federalism and taxes to the Lincoln-Douglas debates to conflicts about entering two World Wars to modern skirmishes on abortion rights and 'separation of church and state,' there has always been political disagreement in our great nation.

The freedom to voice our opinions has been one of the defining principles of America; it separates us from a host of world nations where the ideas of freedom of speech and religious freedom are completely foreign.

However, I have grown concerned about an emerging strategy in our culture that aims to silence or punish those who hold opinions that counter those who have a little power.

We have seen this in the case of the Boy Scouts of America, which legally won the right, as a private organization, to define membership prerequisites. However, some cities and municipalities that oppose the Boy Scouts' ban on homosexual and atheist leaders have barred the Scouts from utilizing public property-solely because of their membership requirements. Words like 'discrimination' and 'intolerance' are carelessly attached to the Scouts even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the organization may-as all private organizations may-legally define membership qualifications.

This collectivist mindset that penalizes groups (or individuals) who embrace a mindset that counters the so-called 'mainstream' contradicts all that we know to be true about our nation.

This week, I learned that the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), a consortium of law schools, under pressure from liberal activists, has decided to punish a California hotel owner who supports the state marriage protection amendment (Proposition 8).

The AALS's 2009 annual meeting will be held at Doug Manchester's San Diego-based Manchester Grand Hyatt, but the organization says it will hold all AALS events at another hotel, in effect establishing a boycott against the hotel with which it signed a contract to hold the event.

Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law and founder of Liberty Counsel, says this circuitous boycott indicates how the AALS does not respect the rule of law and more specifically demonstrates how the organization will seek to punish a businessman who deviates from the organization's stance on same-sex marriage.

'This type of action is not what law is about,' Mr. Staver said. 'People are using law, separate from transcendent principles and morality, as a coercive force to pound home their liberal ideology and their agenda.'

As Mr. Staver told that actions like the AALS boycott highlight the burning need for the Liberty University School of Law to turn out lawyers and policy makers who hold true to the evident biblical foundations of America's legal system.

'[W]e at Liberty University School of Law are intent on training a new generation of lawyers and judges, policymakers, and world leaders in the rule of law from a Christian perspective,' he told . 'Certainly the time has come to train a new generation-not the way these secularists want to train them, but to train them in a proper foundation of the rule of law.'

It's tragic to see this one-view mindset taking hold in our culture because it contradicts the basis of our founding principles. It is a throwback to the old 'sand box' principle of our youth.

While the dissenting spirit of our Forefathers is in our blood, we are beginning to more resemble Beijing than Biloxi. And that should trouble us all.


Binge-drinking mother jailed after crying rape against devout Muslim taxi driver

A binge-drinking mother has been jailed after falsely accusing an innocent taxi driver of raping her. Joanne Rye, who kept up the lie for 20 months, was told by a judge her behaviour was despicable and was handed an eight-month prison sentence. [The bitch should have got what he would have got]

The mother-of-one caused great shame and disgrace to devout Muslim Sherekhan Kali and his family after claiming that he dragged her down an alleyway and assaulted her. Maidstone Crown Court heard Rye, then 18, was known as a troublemaker and had been banned from using the All Night Car Hire in Dartford, Kent where Mr Kali worked. The court also heard the week before she made the rape allegation, she had used racially insulting language to Mr Kali.

Valeria Swift, prosecuting, said Rye was very drunk and was taken to hospital claiming she had suffered an asthma attack on the night of October 21, 2006. Ms Rye became aggressive and police were called and it was then she made the rape claim, giving a detailed account of the attack. She claimed she was waiting for taxi in Dartford when she was grabbed and a pellet gun was fired into her kneecap. She said her attacker then dragged her into an alley and raped her. But she said there would not be any DNA because he had used a condom. She also told how she had recognised Mr Kali because he had taken her in his taxi a week before.

The part-time cabbie was arrested at his home and taken to the police station where intimate samples, DNA and fingerprints were taken. His boss Nicholas Morris confirmed that Ms Rye had been banned from using the firm's cabs because of racist abuse to drivers. Miss Swift revealed a check of the satellite navigation system in Mr Kali's cab showed he had been nowhere near the area where Rye said she was attacked. CCTV footage of her drunken behaviour on the night she said she had been raped also proved it could not have happened in the way described. The prosecutor said the only motivation for the false allegation was the incident a week earlier when the fare was disputed.

Rye continued to maintain she had been raped up to the first day of her trial in June, accused of perverting the course of justice. Miss Swift said of Mr Kali: 'This case has had a very profound effect on him indeed.' Sarah Morris, defending, said Rye, now 20, would go out and get drunk, smoke cannabis and behave in an anti-social manner. But she had since settled down with a boyfriend and had a child, now aged five months. 'The prospect of a custodial sentence is frightening for her,' said Miss Morris. 'She has put herself in the position where her child will be without the mother. 'Of course, many people would say well, tough, that is your doing. You have brought this on yourself and must face the consequences. 'What she did was thoroughly reprehensible. But it has not been every case where a woman who has cried rape has gone into custody.'

Miss Morris said Rye, who worked in catering for the elderly, knew her boyfriend was not equipped to deal with a young baby. Her mother would have to give up her job to care for the child. But jailing Rye for a 'modest' eight months, Judge Crawford Lindsay, QC, said he had no doubt the matter was so serious there had to be an immediate prison sentence. 'I consider this to be a despicable offence,' he said. 'You made an allegation that this entirely innocent taxi driver had raped you. 'It was fully investigated with the consequences that police time and doctors' time was wasted in the investigation.'

It was not until the first day of her trial in June this year that she 'faced the inevitable' and owned up. 'This is a case where the victim is a strict Muslim, who regularly attends to his beliefs and prays regularly,' said Judge Lindsay. 'At the police station, intimate samples were taken. Having another female touch a part of his body is forbidden. It would bring shame on his family. As a consequence, he left this country for a period.' When he returned to work, Mr Kali was frightened of having women in his cab and would go home. 'So we have a man of blameless character who is subjected to your dishonesty and trumped up allegation,' said the judge.

'It is clear when you are in drink, you are loud-mouthed. You have a young child but that is a matter which does not in my judgment prevent a penalty for an allegation that is easily made and had a serious effect on the victim. 'He suffered the suggestion there is no smoke without fire.'


Regulating water

Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are granted jurisdiction over the "navigable waters" of the United States. If a boat can float on it, it's theirs to regulate. Over the years, the definition of "navigable waters" overflowed its banks, expanding to include virtually anywhere with detectable levels of H2O.

"What began as a reasonable attempt to control water pollution in our nation's interstate rivers, lakes, and streams," says Peyton Knight at the National Center for Public Policy Research, "spiraled into unreasonable federal regulation of isolated wetlands, ponds, dry lakebeds, intermittent streams and drainage ditches." As time went on, landowners were required to obtain permits for everything from draining a field for plowing to building a dock to filling in a low wet spot.

In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a muddled opinion in Rapanos v. United States that reined in some of the more exotic interpretations of "navigable waters." Now Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have introduced the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would replace the phrase "navigable waters" with "waters of the United States," by which they mean "all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing."

If the bill passes, it will create new regulatory barriers for fishermen, boaters, hunters, and even some conservationists, who may find that their favorite hobbies no longer pass muster. The act leaves it up to the courts to decide if "waters of the United States" also includes your kitchen sink.



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, August 27, 2008

Another "artistic" attempt to offend decent people

Childish attention-seeking behaviour

London Olympic organisers are at the centre of an extraordinary row after an image of Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderer, was included in a montage of images of British achievements designed to promote the upcoming Games.

The clip, a portrait of Hindley made out of children's hand prints by the artist Marcus Harvey, was screened as the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcomed British medal winners at a party to celebrate the capital taking over from Beijing as the official Olympic host city. It was immediately condemned by the Mayor and Gordon Brown.

While the two men each delivered a short speech to around 500 guests, a video screen behind them showed a series of quintessentially British images. Party-goers at the event at London House, a trendy outdoor temporary nightclub in down town Beijing used during the Games by athletes and officials to unwind, were stunned when the portrait of Hindley appeared on the screen.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said that the montage had been compiled by Visit London, an agency responsible for attracting tourists to the capital which had been commissioned by the Mayor's office to carry out the work, and was meant as a showcase of all things British. He added: "The Mayor knew nothing about this. He is appalled."

Visit London said that the portrait was among a number of images of British art used in the short promotional film, which had been used before and received no complaints. A spokesman added that the inclusion of the controversial work showed that there was no "censorship" in the UK but promised to withdraw it immediately. "This is a general three minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey at the Tate very fleetingly appears," said the spokesman. "The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade. There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect."

The series of clips ran through the day at London House, and the image is said to have appeared on the screen as Mr Brown was making his speech, to the fury of watching Downing Street aides.

Downing Street said the image was "in extremely poor taste" and should not have been used to promote London. A No 10 source added: "It is a total disgrace that this proud night for Britain has been sullied by this grotesque prank. "Whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately."

Many officials and athletes' relatives had gathered at London House from late afternoon to watch the closing ceremony on the large screens, but apparently did not notice the image of Hindley in the series of clips, which were allowed to run into the evening as they were joined by those who had participated in the ceremony. As well as gold medal winners including Chris Hoy, the party was attended by previous British Olympic athletes such as Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper, along with David Beckham, the former England football captain, and the singer Leona Lewis, who had both featured in the Olympic closing ceremony. Guests were treated to a barbecue and free champagne bar, with dancing until late into the night.

Myra Hindley died of cancer in prison in 2002, while Ian Brady, her partner in the deaths of at least four children, remains in jail.

The portrait of Hindley caused uproar when it was first shown to the public at the Sensation exhibition, a showcase of Young British Artists held at the Royal Academy of Art between September and December in 1997. The 11ft by 9ft painting of the Moors Murderer, based on her infamous police mugshot, was particularly chilling because the artist, Marcus Harvey, created it using hundreds of stencil outlines of children's hands.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims, asked for the 1995 portrait to be excluded from the exhibition to protect her feelings. She picketed the first day of the show along with supporters to protest against the work, which was part of a collection owned by Charles Saatchi. Even Hindley sent a letter from jail suggesting her portrait be removed from the exhibition because it had "a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim." But despite the protests the painting remained in place, prompting more drastic action. Windows at Burlington House, the Academy's home, were smashed and two demonstrators hurled ink and eggs at it


British Submission

Foot baths for Muslim students at Michigan universities? Muslim cabbies in the Twin Cities who refuse to carry seeing-eye dogs? The FBI and other government agencies taking sensitivity training from radical Muslim organizations? You think we’ve lost the plot over here? Take a look at British submission to Islamofascist demands and threats, as that once great nation succumbs to creeping dhimmitude.

It has reached the point that in mid-April, the British Foreign Office instructed the Royal Navy not to return pirates to jurisdictions sporting sharia law (such as Somalia) for fear that their human rights will be violated. They have even been discouraged from capturing pirates, because the freebooters might ask to be granted asylum in Britain, a request with which the UK might have to comply under international and European Union human rights law.

This for a Navy that almost singlehandedly defeated piracy in the early 19th century, and a nation that retained the death penalty for this scourge of the high seas until the late 20th century. Welcome to Britain today.

Another recent outrage involves special handling of a traffic violation. Seems that a Muslim driver was stopped by police while speeding between two homes in the north of England. When he appeared in court, he explained his high speed – over twice the speed limit – was necessary to accommodate his two wives. His explanation was accepted, and he was allowed to keep his license.

That comes fast – very fast – on the heels of a decision by the British government to grant full spousal benefits to multiple wives. It won’t affect more than an estimated 1,000 individuals. And it mercifully won’t affect the indigenous Christian, Hindu or Jewish population, as traditional bigamy laws apply. Britons may rest easy, as it will only cover multiple wives married in a jurisdiction that practices Sharia law, such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

These are not isolated instances; there are a myriad more: Swimming periods at pools restricted to Muslims only; the establishment of a BBC Arabic language station staffed by Arab broadcasters and managers with track records of being anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western; the refusal of female Muslim medical students to wash their arms as that practice might reveal the forbidden flesh between wrist and elbow; an attempt by a national union of university lecturers to call for a boycott of Israeli academics; and, a local Council ban on pig-themed toys, porcelain figures and calendars on workers’ desks because it might offend Muslims.

No comment from the Home Office or No. 10 Downing Street. No comment from the government, because it has been their policy to appease Britain’s large Muslim population in response to menacing behavior up to and including the bomb outrages of July 7, 2005.

It’s no coincidence that Muslims constitute a substantial portion of the Labour Party’s electoral support in London and in much of its heartland in northern England. In the expected close election for Parliament that will be held by mid-2010, an increasing Muslim population may be the difference between victory and defeat for the Labourites.

But Labour’s bien pensant hardly needs convincing. Like most on the left today, they fancy themselves champions of the underdog and the oppressed, and sympathy for Islam, and Arab and Muslim causes fits neatly into their intellectual program. Along with America and Israel-bashing, it goes to the very heart of how liberals view themselves and, more important, how they wish to be viewed by others. It supplies them with the appearance of a self-abnegation that is supposed to relieve their Western, middle-class guilt with a cleansing humility but is nothing but moral exhibitionism; and, as always, involves other people’s money, other people’s freedom, and other people’s comfort – never or very rarely their own.

A classic of political correctness run amok, wonderful as a burlesque if it weren’t slowly undermining Britain’s way of life and its will to oppose extreme Islamism.

Worse is that acceding to this nonsense gives Islamofascists confidence that they are on the winning side of history. That if they just shout a little louder and push a little harder, they may expect more of the same that becomes increasingly normative until it convinces the longer-settled among the UK’s population that they have no power to stop, let alone reverse, the process.

One might have become inured to the gutless behavior of France or Italy, but many in the U.S. are still under the impression that, like other countries in the Anglosphere, the British remain clear-eyed, realistic and most importantly resolute about the threats with which the West is confronted. But they aren’t; and while these cultural changes are in the realm of the comical right now, they are beginning to affect British public policy, domestic as well as foreign.

Why is this important to us? Because the ZaNuLabour Party’s tendency to pacifism and appeasement, and its devotion to political correctness, victim ideology, cultural relativism and liberal guilt is shared by our own Democrats. Look for more of it in Britain, and don’t be surprised when it arrives full force here in America.


Blaming affluence for crime? That's a bit rich

David Lammy's `explanation' for the teenage stabbings in London is a pointed attack on aspiration and prosperity.

The stabbing of Nilanthan Murddi in Croydon last weekend brought the number of teenagers who have met a violent death in London this year to 23. This spate of attacks seems to bring out the pop sociologist in MPs and newspaper columnists. Rather than interpreting such grim incidents as rare, isolated crimes, there's a tendency to imagine an all-encompassing social influence on which to hang a catch-all explanation.

David Lammy, described by some as the nearest British equivalent to Barack Obama, and by everyone else as a New Labour hack, has put forward his own theory - and it's a pretty trite one. Writing in the current issue of British political weekly the New Statesman, Lammy, the parliamentary under-secretary for innovation, universities and skills, believes he has identified the root `causes' of teen-on-teen male violence: the influence of consumerism and affluence, and the lack of identifiable `role models' for young men.

Now, whenever I hear the phrase `lack of role models', I'm tempted to reach for an illegal firearm myself. It's one of those banal, daytime TV platitudes that suggests young people are simply passive automatons waiting for the correct `on-message' individual to point them in the right direction. In education circles, this sort of thinking is everywhere. There's a genuine belief that, say, if black boys were taught by black, male teachers (the much-fabled `role models'), they would make better progress at school. Lammy expands on this simplistic and wrong-headed notion to suggest that if only there were more male teachers in primary schools, then boys would grow up to `identify' with more `acceptable' ideas of masculinity. And apparently, this would lead to less anti-social behaviour on the streets of London. Fantastic!

But teenage boys aren't likely to behave or perform better if their teacher wears trousers or has the same skin colour. Teenagers of all stripes will seek to be oppositional to any teacher in order to undermine them and attempt to exert control in the classroom. This is partly because teenagers crave autonomy and independence and will thus instinctively see how far they can push against `the line'. What a teacher looks like isn't remotely a determining factor on pupil behaviour or academic performance.

Of course, it's essential that adults do play a role in socialising teenagers into adulthood. But that process isn't based on ticking gender or ethnic group boxes, but on the ideas and knowledge of adults and how they articulate them. If there's an identifiable problem today, it is that society lacks a confident set of ideas and a recognisable adult framework through which teenagers can be socialised. Lammy is on to something when he says some teens are prone to outbursts of emotionalism and infantilism today, but he is less forthcoming in identifying his own political party's role in contributing to the current culture of blubbering emotionalism as well as infantilising teenagers.

Incredibly, even though she was UK prime minister before many of today's teenagers were born, Lammy insists that Margaret Thatcher is somehow to blame for anti-social behaviour. What he implies is that Thatcher's supposed blueprint for a 'consumer society' has turned today's generation into selfish, amoral monsters. Traditionally, the left always cited grinding poverty as a contributing influence on anti-social behaviour; now the likes of Lammy are insisting that affluence and materialism are leading youngsters astray.

Lammy quotes an allegedly popular saying amongst today's youth - `get rich or die trying' (itself the title of the debut album of American rapper 50 Cent) as proof that they are morally bankrupt. But since when was it advisable to take youthful bravado at face value? And is simply saying such a thing really the same as being an underworld crime lord? It is conveniently forgotten how most young rap fans see through the absurdity of hip-hop's pantomime excesses. At a further education college in Hackney where I once taught, the `rapper' most of the kids were obsessed with wasn't Tupac Shakur, but Fur Q - Chris Morris' spoof gangsta rapper in satirical TV comedy The Day Today.

Rather disgracefully, it seems Lammy is using the bogus cover of bling-bling rap to demonise consumption and the everyday, normal desire for prosperity. In this way, Lammy is following psychologist Oliver James' cranky idea that material aspiration is a pathological problem in need of therapeutic correction. And to this end, Lammy is proposing tighter regulation on the types of advertisements, films and videos that young people might watch and be influenced by. He also implies that the state should be barging its way even further into the family home and supervising how parents raise their children.

To pathologise healthy consumption is one thing, but Lammy wants to go one step further and criminalise it as well. His crass implication is that affluent societies such as Britain, and our attendant `culture of consumerism', lead inexorably to violent attacks and even murder by our young. Thus, endless consumption somehow creates selfish and feckless individuals who don't appreciate the value of human life. This is tantamount to blackmailing poorer sections in society to keep their heads down and `make do' with hardship, lest material aspiration sends their errant offspring on a random killing spree.

Sociologists such as Stanley Cohen also made the connections between the cultural influence of `the American dream' and how some people in US society achieved that goal through organised crime. But for Cohen and others, that was not a justification for slamming material aspiration, but rather showed how `conventional' routes to success are closed off to certain sections in society.

Lammy's argument also doesn't add up on closer inspection of the murders involving teenagers in London. On the whole, the incidents reported did not feature street robberies that have gone horrifically wrong. More often than not, they involved petty arguments amongst groups of youths that spilled over into fights and fatal stabbings. As dreadful and shocking as these incidents are, street fights and casual violence amongst young people are hardly a new phenomenon. As Mick Hume has argued, the amplification of street crime into a generalised threat means that more teenagers are more likely to carry knives than before - and with sometimes tragic consequences (see Knife crime panic reaches crisis point).

The logic of Lammy's anti-consumption, anti-prosperity argument doesn't add up in another way, too: if rich societies automatically raise feckless and amoral thugs, then how come the number of murdered teenagers is far higher in poorer countries like Brazil or Mexico? Surely the lack of affluence and consumption in those country's shanty towns should mean they are harmonious and trouble-free places, at least in Lammy's worldview? The fact that the teen murder rate in those areas runs into the thousands, rather than double figures, suggests that it is still miserable poverty that has a destructive impact on young people's lives. This doesn't simply translate as poverty forcing people to rob others; but it shows how poverty fuels listless boredom as well as generating a fatalistic and even nihilistic outlook on life in general.

Far from materialism leading to a breakdown in morals, as Lammy disingenuously argues, material prosperity enables people to develop morally as well as intellectually. It provides the very basis through which individuals can begin to live like humans and not act like animals. Instead, Lammy attempts to turn reality on its head and blackmails the poor into accepting their miserable lot in the process. To put this forward as a proposal for combating random and rare violent crime, well, Lammy's a bit rich for even trying.


Against all booze bans

There have always been different social rules for drinking in public: sometimes it's okay, at other times it is definitely not. In some places, sipping beer in the street is considered acceptable and sociable; in other places, it marks you out as a disrespectful low-life.

Over the past few years, though, cracking open a can in the street became not just rude, but illegal. For the first time in Britain, police gained powers to confiscate your bottle of lager or wine, or to ask you to tip it down the drain, and to arrest you if you refused to comply. The state became the arbiter on a question of social etiquette that had previously been decided by individuals and communities themselves.

The new London mayor Boris Johnson's ban on Tube drinking is an infamous case, but the illiberal regulation of public drinking now stretches the world over. Booze bans have cast a shadow over both the Fourth of July celebrations on San Diego beach and the Christmas celebrations on Australia's Bondi beach - these traditionally jolly festive occasions now continue only under the cloud of prohibition.

The land of Hogmanay has fared no better. Drink was banned from many Scottish town centres and beaches this summer, after the Scottish Executive pressured councils to pass booze-banning bylaws covering particular areas. These draconian laws are now pasted on lampposts throughout Scotland: one bans people from carrying around an empty drinks carton, while another prohibits carrying a drinks container `when it could be reasonably assumed they would want to drink it in a "designated public place"' (1).

Areas of towns and cities in the Czech Republic are designated no-drinking; New Zealand has gone so far as to ban driving through `no-drink zones' if you have booze in the boot of your car (police officers say they have the right to stop and search, though if you are caught red-handed you have the option of tipping it down the drain, which is very generous of them) (2).

It was in opposition to this trend that the Manifesto Club - the organisation I head - launched the Campaign Against the Booze Bans. We set up a campaign Facebook group, where more than a thousand people from all over the world have registered their objection to booze bans. In a week's time, on Bank Holiday Monday, we will launch a report on the rise of booze bans at our Provocation Picnic in Hyde Park, London.

The right to drink in public may not be considered a classic civil liberties issue, such as the right to free speech or the right to protest - but it is just as important now. In many ways, the regulation of public drinking is a litmus test for the state of public freedoms. With the erosion of the right to drink, we see how public space is being organised more around the whims of police officers, and less around the desires and morals of free citizens.

In the UK over the past few years, there has been a creeping growth of drinking-control legislation. Where communities once set the rules on when and where one could crack open a can, police officers and councillors now write those rules from scratch.

Booze bans first started in the late 1980s, when some councils - such as Coventry - passed bylaws against public drinking. But these laws were sporadically enforced, and police officers had no powers of arrest. In 1997, the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act gave police powers to confiscate alcohol and containers from under-18s. This law was extended from minors to adults in 2001: the Criminal Justice and Police Act introduced Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs), which allowed officers to confiscate drink from adults, and gave powers of arrest if the person refused to surrender their can or bottle.

At first, DPPOs grew only gradually, but from 2004 they started to take off rapidly with a rush of applications from councils and police forces for the right to confiscate booze from local residents. There are now 613 Designated Public Place Orders in England and Wales, covering parks, stations and beaches the length and breadth of the country (3). Every new drinking control zone seems to create more, as councils emulate each other's regulations, and zones are extended bit by bit throughout towns and cities.

Meanwhile, government legislation has tightened. The 2003 Licensing Act allowed `sealed' as well as open alcohol containers to be confiscated; it also allowed for an emergency blanket ban on alcohol (police recently showed off this power when they threatened to shut down all pubs and off licenses in Torbay in July 2008, after the idea of a beach party was floated on Facebook) (4).

These new regulations don't reflect a switch in public morals, but a switch in the ideology of the state. The control of public drinking is really the result of officials' concerns about social order, their fear of uninhibited groups of people. They look at unregulated groups relaxing and drinking in public and imagine a threat to law, civilisation, and much else besides.

We start to see the return of a very nineteenth-century idea: that crime is the result of unruly and uninhibited crowds. Police have implicated public boozing in crimes ranging from murder to domestic violence to robbery. Inspector Colin Mowat from Aberdeenshire said that bans on public drinking could help stop `under-age drinking, drink-driving, domestic abuse and street disorder' (5); after the 2007 murder of Cheshire man Gary Newlove by a gang of drunk youths, the leading police officer called for a blanket ban on public drinking (6). The role of the police is exposed for all to see: not just to identify and prosecute for criminal offences, but also to control and manage groups of people.

Booze control laws are produced entirely from above, and as such they are erratically enforced. There are few guidelines for how the police should use their drinking-confiscation powers, so they tend to use them as they please. During the Merseyside Police's Operation Beach Safe, officers decided to confiscate booze at the beach entrance in June 2008. Richard Clarke, acting sergeant of Operation Beach Safe, welcomed visitors with the words `If you're coming to the beach to drink don't bother, go and drink in your gardens or somewhere else', and his officers posed for trophy photos with their confiscated cans of Fosters (7).

Police also take alcohol away from people they think of as troublesome types - younger people, football supporters, or alcoholics - and, unlike with an arrest for a crime, they have no obligation to justify their actions. If you contest an officer's request to tip your Carling down a drain, you are committing an offence and could be arrested and fined up to $1,000. There is no luxury of a defence lawyer.

One post on our Facebook wall discusses the uneven-handed way in which drinking controls are applied in Brighton: `Here. the booze ban, extends to basically the homeless. Community Support Officers [CSOs] do not take drink off you on the beach and ignore you basically if you look well-to-do. One homeless man I met the other day says he had his unopened can of cider in his pocket taken from him by CSOs because they "thought" he was "about to" or had "reason to believe" he would drink it in a public place. He was on his way to drink it at his hostel!' (8)

This shows how the police are playing fast and loose with these powers. At the Manifesto Club, we call for these drinking laws to be challenged and rolled back, and for police powers to be kept on a very tight leash. This is not so much a campaign for public drinking, as a campaign for the public to set the rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Basically, for Community Support Officers to butt out of communities.

If you are free on Bank Holiday in London, join us for a drink and picnic in the park. It may not always be the done thing to crack open a can in public, but it should never be illegal.



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.