Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nation of Cowards?

So says Eric Holder, but what’s really cowardly is racial dishonesty

Attorney General Eric Holder, a Clinton administration retread, wants to revive Bill Clinton’s National Conversation on Race. (What’s next? Hillarycare?) Holder recently told his Justice Department employees that the United States was a “nation of cowards” for not talking more about race. “It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

Is he nuts? Leave aside for a moment Holder’s purely decorative call for a “frank” conversation about race. The Clinton-era Conversation also purported to be frank, and we know what that meant: a one-sided litany of white injustices. Please raise your hand if you haven’t heard the following bromides about “the racial matters that continue to divide us” more times than you can count: Police stop and arrest blacks at disproportionate rates because of racism; blacks are disproportionately in prison because of racism; blacks are failing in school because of racist inequities in school funding; the black poverty rate is the highest in the country because of racism; blacks were given mortgages that they couldn’t afford because of racism. I will stop there.

Not only do colleges, law schools, almost all of the nation’s elite public and private high schools, and the mainstream media, among others, have “conversations about . . . racial matters”; they never stop talking about them. Any student who graduates from a moderately selective college without hearing that its black students are victims of institutional racism—notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of black students there will have been deliberately admitted with radically lower SAT scores than their white and Asian comrades—has been in a coma throughout his time there.

Education bureaucrats maintain an incessant harangue on white racism because they see the writing on the wall: most students are indifferent to race and just want to get along. If left to themselves, they would go about their business perfectly happily and color-blindly, and the race industry would wither on the vine. Thus the institutional imperative to remind black students constantly about their victimization and the white students about their guilt. Last month, the elite Phillips Academy at Andover proudly announced a student presentation on White Privilege: A History and Its Role in Education. Would the student have come up with such a topic on her own without the school’s educators deliberately immersing her in such trivial matters? Of course not.

But if Attorney General Holder is really sincere about wanting a “frank” conversation about race, he should put the following items on the agenda:

The American electorate. The country just elected its first black president. And it actually didn’t talk a lot about Barack Obama’s race during the election, thank heavens, because most Americans were more interested in the candidate’s ideas than in his skin color. There were undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people who wouldn’t vote for Obama because of his race. I would guess that their average age was 75. There is no question that a great many geriatric Americans continue to harbor the rankest racism for blacks, but guess what? They’re not going to be around for much longer. Young people growing up in the last 30 years live on a different planet when it comes to racial attitudes—until the educrats start playing with their minds.

Crime. Holder told his Justice Department employees that they had a special responsibility to advance racial understanding, according to the Associated Press. Uh-oh. Before and during Holder’s first stint at Justice, when he served as Clinton’s deputy attorney general, the department’s civil rights division specialized in slapping onerous federal consent decrees on police departments. Its assumption was that racial disparities in cops’ stop-and-arrest rates reflected police racism, not racial disparities in crime rates.

Before Holder and his attorneys revive that practice, they should study certain facts that remain taboo in the mainstream media. For instance, the homicide rate for black men between the ages of 18 and 24 is well over ten times that of whites. And disparities in other violent-crime rates are just as startling. In New York City, one of the nation’s safest large cities, 83 percent of all gun assailants were black during the first six months of 2008, according to victims and witnesses, though blacks make up only 24 percent of the city’s population. Add Hispanic perps, and you account for 98 percent of all shootings in New York City. The face of violent crime in cities is almost exclusively black or brown. That explains why someone might feel a sense of trepidation when approached by a group of black youths. That’s not racism; it’s the reality of crime. And it’s that reality that determines whom the police stop, frisk, and arrest.

Education. Commentators on NPR’s “black” show, News and Notes, recently groused about the lack of black policy experts on the Sunday talk shows but ignored the possibility that the education gap might have something to do with it. Blacks, they said, need to be twice as qualified as whites to get a job. Let’s look at the evidence. The black high school drop-out rate approaches 50 percent. On the 2006 SAT, the average score in the critical-reading section was 434 for blacks, 527 for whites, and 510 for Asians; in the math section, 429 for blacks, 536 for whites, and 587 for Asians; and in the writing section, 428 for blacks, 519 for whites, and 512 for Asians. America’s lousy showing in international math, science, and reading tests compared with Japan and Western Europe is influenced in large part by the low scores of blacks and Hispanics. If blacks and Hispanics performed at the level that whites do, the U.S. would lead all industrialized nations in reading and would lead Europe in math and science, according to a study published in the Phi Delta Kappan in 2005.

Likewise, after their first year of legal education, 51 percent of blacks labor in the bottom tenth of their class; two-thirds reside in the bottom fifth. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on the first try. Until such achievement disparities are eliminated, any allegations of racial discrimination in the absence of proportional numbers of black policy wonks—or law partners, chemists, engineers, or investment bankers—is absurd, especially when the nation’s elite institutions are doing everything they can to recruit black students, professors, and employees. Perhaps Holder could confront the stigma against academic achievement in the black community, which derides studying and staying out of trouble as “acting white.”

The family. Closing the educational achievement gap will be difficult as long as the black illegitimacy rate is nearly 71 percent, compared with a white rate of 26 percent. Taxpayers foot the bill for this family breakdown—when fatherless children who never learned self-control and self-discipline disrupt classrooms and prevent other children from learning, and when the same fatherless children get sucked up into gang life and fail to connect with the world of work and responsibility. Many poor single mothers work heroically to raise law-abiding sons, but the odds are against them.

When communities resist an influx of Section 8 housing-voucher holders from the inner city, say, they are reacting overwhelmingly to behavior. Skin color is a proxy for that behavior. If inner-city blacks behaved like Asians—cramming as much knowledge into their kids as they can possibly fit into their skulls—the lingering wariness towards lower-income blacks that many Americans unquestionably harbor would disappear. Are there irredeemable racists among Americans? To be sure. They come in all colors, and we should deplore all of them. But the issue of race in the United States is more complex than polite company is usually allowed to express. If Eric Holder wants to crank up our racial preoccupations even further, let him at least do so with a full airing of the facts.


Tear it up! The British Labour party's welfare reform isn't working

A new generation are growing up jobless. If they haven't worked, they should receive less benefit than those who have

By Frank Field (Frank Field is Labour MP for Birkenhead and the former Minister for Welfare Reform)

The main force of the recession is yet to hit us but unemployment is surging. In its Pre-Budget Report the Government predicted that at the end of 2010 the number of unemployed on benefits would have reached 1.55 million. That total looks as if it will be passed a year and a half early. The recession calls for a totally new, two-stage programme of welfare reform. But first we must acknowledge that the Government's New Deal and "making work pay" strategies have failed to get many unemployed people into work, even at the height of the boom. It has been an expensive failure - various tax credit schemes and New Deal projects have cost the taxpayer œ75billion since 1997.

The results are derisory. In ten years, the number of jobless people of working age has fallen by only 400,000, down from 5.7 million. The record of each of the New Deals is depressing, in particular the Government's flagship New Deal to end youth unemployment. In the early years more than half of those on the New Deal for Young People landed a sustainable job (one that is held-down paid employment for 13 weeks or more). But at the top of the boom two thirds of New Dealers - 30 per cent of them "retreads" of the scheme - failed to find such a job. This failure can be seen in the increased number of Neets ("those not in education employment or training"). There are now 1.1 million in Britain, more than when Labour took power in 1997.

There are many young people in my Birkenhead constituency anxious to work. But others have never worked and tell me that, as they are given 100 pounds a week or more (with housing benefit) as a right, they wouldn't take a job for less than 300. When I suggest to them that no employer will offer them that kind of money because they can barely read or write, they tell me to take it or leave it.

It is terrible that we have abandoned a generation who believe they have got a pension for life. I once interviewed a group of unemployed youngsters who were anxious to work. Their contempt for the New Deal surprised me. Little wonder - it does not lead to work, it does not teach the skills that they need, and for many it is just an excuse to mess around.

After six months on benefit all those under 25 are enrolled on the New Deal. First, they must negotiate what is called a gateway. Up to four months are spent getting claimants ready for the world of work. If no job is forthcoming, they must choose one of four options: employment, membership of an environmental task force, voluntary placements or full-time training All the New Dealers I spoke to had, through lack of choice, to take training. Whether it was suitable or not, the only training was for IT work. But there were not enough workstations to go round, making a mockery of the exercise.

Sanctions against bad behaviour or not turning up were conspicuously absent. Certainly there was no incentive for trainers to take a tough line; they risked losing their fees if they sent recalcitrant new dealers back to the Jobcentre. A key change that the Government wants to make is to pay New Deal contractors by results. But with programmes failing in the boom years, it is understandable that providers are squealing at such an idea. With unemployment rising, they want more of the old New Deal that gives them their fees upfront.

So what should be done? First, scrap the New Deal for Young People and recycle the money saved into green community programmes that lead to actual jobs. These locally run projects would take young people who cannot find work and offer them training. It could be fairly simple: learning how to be a park warden or to insulate the roofs of pensioners. It should also teach new skills: the chance to earn plumbing qualifications by working for companies installing new, more efficient central heating. When they are trained, they could become full-time workers, paid the minimum wage, on these green projects

One of the biggest lessons the Government has yet to learn is that these schemes must be run locally. It is still drawing up mega-contracts with big companies for large-scale New Deal schemes like the ones that the disgruntled New Dealers described. Mega-contractors are replacing the sort of local providers I have met who were brilliant at tailor-making schemes that were relevant to New Dealers' needs. We need more schemes run by them.

The second prong of a new strategy must be directed at those now joining the dole queues. Many registering at Jobcentres for perhaps the first time in their lives are shocked that, after decades of making national insurance contributions, they are entitled to a mere 60.50 a week. This is the same sum that would be paid to someone who has never worked. It hardly reinforces the culture of work. The jobseeker's allowance ought to be graded according to the number of years that a claimant has worked. It could be doubled to 121 for those with, say, ten years' of NI contributions and increased to 181.50 for those with 15 years. Work is part of their DNA - a more generous benefit payment will not stop them returning to work as soon as they can.

But more can be done to help these workers. Last year more than 120,000 skilled foreign workers came to work in Britain filling jobs that were not first advertised locally. Employers should register all skilled vacancies at Jobcentre Plus. Only then, when it is clear that a company cannot find suitable local labour, should permits be granted for non-EU skilled workers. The Government must seize the initiative now. If it doesn't, joblessness could become permanent for this older generation and the generation to come.


The Nazis were human!

Stupid Leftists have to demonize Nazis to avoid confronting the fact that the Nazis were very much like them. Movie review below reveals the discomfort with regarding Germans of the Nazi period as human

The makers of period drama The Reader insist it is not a Holocaust film. Of the five films nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards next week, none is more problematic than The Reader. Nor, according to its screenwriter, the English playwright David Hare, is any of the movies less likely to win the coveted prize. "It's a controversial film and the other four, which are excellent, are more ameliorative," he suggests. "They're more familiar." And he's not particularly bothered if his film, directed by Stephen Frears and featuring Kate Winslet, doesn't win. "I don't think we're concerned about that," he says with a smile.

Such a statement is unlikely to please Harvey Weinstein, the formidable head of the film's US distributor, the Weinstein Co. He pushed hard for Oscar recognition for The Reader, and his efforts seem to have paid off. Winslet, deservedly, is a frontrunner in her category (she has already won Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for acting), and Daldry and Hare have also received nods.

But the film has received mixed reviews in the US and been loudly condemned from some quarters for its depiction of Germany's past. The accusations, according to reports at the weekend, have been circulated by supporters of rival films vying for Academy Awards.

Based on the best-selling novel by German author Bernhard Schlink, The Reader tells the story of Michael Berg (David Kross) who, as a 15-year-old in Germany in 1958, is given a sexual initiation by an older woman, Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), to whom he reads aloud great works of world literature. The relationship comes to an abrupt end when Hanna suddenly disappears, leaving Michael heartbroken.

Their paths cross again in the 1960s when Michael, now an undergraduate law student, is taken to a Nazi war crimes trial and discovers one of the women in the dock is his former lover. He learns that not only did she work as a guard at Auschwitz but that during the subsequent death marches she participated directly in the mass murder of 300 prisoners in a burning church. She confesses to her crimes (without apparent understanding of the enormity of them), but conceals what she appears to believe is an even greater shame than murder: that she is illiterate.

Michael realises he has evidence that could help her case but ends up wrestling with his own feelings of shame and guilt, betrayal and emotional confusion. Years later, he is still traumatised by the effects of their relationship.

Although the Holocaust looms large over the characters, especially in the film's second half, The Reader is not a Holocaust film, Daldry and Hare insist, when I meet them at the Berlin Film Festival in advance of the film's German premiere.

"It's a post-Holocaust film," says the writer. "It's that subject of how do you live in the shadow of the great crime which you're not personally responsible for but in whose shadow you live?"

The shadow is evident in The Reader but, problematically, Daldry refused to dramatise Hanna's crimes. These are reported, not visualised, and we see more of Winslet's naked flesh than we do of the horror perpetrated by her character. "What is especially repellent about The Reader," wrote American critic Charlie Finch, "is the use of Kate Winslet's nubile body to create sympathy for a repellent character." The head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in New York, Mark Weitzman, has said The Reader is one of several films guilty of "Holocaust revisionism".

The question of whether Daldry discussed filming moments from Hanna's time as a guard appears to make him uncomfortable. "We did," he says tersely, as if hoping to terminate the inquiry. Pressed a little, he explains that because the story is seen through Michael's eyes, he could not work out whose perspective we would see those moments from. Moreover, he was not convinced we needed to see images which -- after 252 Holocaust movies, by his reckoning -- are now "etched on our retina". "I don't think it's necessary. (And) I didn't want to film it anyway. I think it's disgusting. Why would I want to get into that?"

Daldry's direction, with the help of Winslet's thoughtful performance, has the effect of humanising a character who is accused of monstrous acts. We inevitably feel some sympathy for her, says Daldry, because we are primarily perceiving her from Michael's point of view. "So the audience is bound to have a complicated roller-coaster relation to her, as he does, from not understanding her to being in love with her, then finding out what she was involved in, then not understanding what either his emotional relationship is or what his responsibility to her is, right the way through to the end of her life."

Hare suggests it is worthwhile to strip away the demonic image of people such as Hanna in order to try to understand how atrocities such as the Holocaust happen. The aim, presumably, is not to sacrifice one's moral authority in the endeavour.

"The film doesn't justify Hanna, it doesn't forgive Hanna and it doesn't redeem Hanna, partly because Hanna herself never comes to an understanding of what she's done," the screenwriter says.

"But it does say perfectly ordinary people got caught up in these events and then after the war found ways of living with these events. Now to begin to confront that, and confront what that means, seems to me the grown-up thing to do."

Thus the filmmakers treat their viewers like adults and give them tough questions to chew on while providing no answers. This non-judgmental approach sometimes worried one of their former producers, Anthony Minghella. He had bought the rights to Schlink's book intending to write and direct an adaptation himself. But years passed and when it was clear he would never get around to it, he gave The Reader to his friend Daldry.

"(Minghella) had a different view of it to me," says Hare. "I think his film of it would have been very different. He was occasionally nervous at the degree to which we felt ourselves wanting to leave the audience's reaction entirely up to the audience. But I feel very strongly that's what contemporary filmmaking has to be about."

He points to elements in The Reader that he says break the rules of Hollywood filmmaking and confound expectations, making it confrontational. This is one reason why he doesn't think the film will win best picture at the Oscars.

Needless to say, Hare considers the film's outsider status at Tinseltown's top awards practically a badge of honour. He also thinks time, and the public, are on his side.

"Films like this and The Hours (which Hare also wrote) are the future. I really believe that. And I believe that genre picture-making that just follows the same old tracks is looking very, very tired.

"The audience has been manipulated up to here," he says heatedly. "They are sick to death with it. Sick to death of story arcs and character journeys and tenth acts and all that UCLA bollocks. All the good films for the 21st century are the ones that tear the rule book up."


Australia: Now some killjoys even want to ban glowsticks

Even the Brits have not gone this far, I gather. First it was fireworks, then sparklers and now glowsticks. What about banning twisty globes too? They contain that fearsome mercury pollutant. Somebody needs to tell these attention-seekers that EVERYTHING can be dangerous. Even drinking too much water can kill you. Do we want official regulations to prevent excess water drinking?

Campbelltown Council is in danger of becoming the "fun police" if glow sticks are banned from all future council events, Mayor Russell Matheson said. Councillors are considering a proposal to ban the sale of glow sticks at council-organised events following an incident at December's Christmas Carols at Campbelltown Arts Centre. Cr Mollie Thomas, who proposed the ban, said a child needed to be taken to hospital when liquid from a broken glow stick came into contact with the child's eyes. The council confirmed St John Ambulance staff needed to treat "some attendees" at the carols after glow stick liquid came in contact with their skin. There were no details on the ages of the children.

The proposed glow stick ban follows the council ceasing its Christmas lights competition in 2005 and banning Home Ice Cream vans from the area in 2007. Both decisions followed concern over public liability issues.

Cr Matheson said the council needed to determine if the glow sticks sold at the event were faulty before a blanket ban of the item was considered. "Hopefully it's just a one-off incident, but we've gone to Consumer Affairs to see if it's a safe product," he said. "Also it's a bit hard to police. "We don't want to become the glow stick police. "We don't want to over-react to things. If it's a safe product it should be allowed to be used."

But Cr Thomas said the council had to ensure there were no problems with glow sticks in the future. "The recommendation is council should not have them at council events right across the board," she said. "Because just one child is one too many (if they are hurt). A lot of parents don't realise the dangers, I know we didn't."

The council's business services director Michael Sewell confirmed there were a small number of incidents at the carols event. "There were reported cases of liquid from the glow sticks coming into contact with the skin of some of the attendees, who were then attended to by St John's staff on site," he said. Mr Sewell will contact Sunrise Rotary, who sold the glow sticks, in regard to the product being referred to Consumer Affairs.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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