Thursday, May 27, 2010
British parents beat ban on ‘competitive’ school sports
A children’s sports competition that was cancelled to protect young players from becoming upset if they lost has been reinstated after parents campaigned against the decision.
The tournament, which has taken place in Tweeddale in the Scottish Borders for 40 years, was threatened because sports development officers at the local council believed that primary schoolchildren on losing teams would suffer from “low self-esteem”.
Fiona Pagett, 41, whose daughter attends Broughton Primary, one of the affected schools, said: “I couldn’t believe it. Competition is part of life. You can’t shield children from that.” She lodged a formal complaint with Scottish Borders Council but was told that sports development officers were following guidelines issued by the Scottish Football Association, which also extended to other sports.
Ms Pagett undertook a Facebook campaign supported by other parents and the council reinstated the inter-schools football and netball competition. “I’m pleased they saw sense and realised it was not in the best interests of the children,” Ms Pagett said.
A council spokesman said that it has a “trophy-free” policy to enable children to express themselves “without the focus on the result”.
A spokesman for the Scottish Football Association said: “Our policy for primary schools is a non-competitive one. Years of research has shown that young children’s emotions can be negatively affected by competition.”
Work or lose your benefits: Tories herald biggest shake-up of British welfare state since war
Britain’s welfare system is ‘bust’ and faces its most radical overhaul for 60 years to undo Labour’s legacy of benefit dependency, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has declared.
The former Tory leader vowed to end the scandal that means welfare claimants are no better off – and sometimes poorer – if they come off the dole to take jobs paying up to £15,000 a year. He also signalled that benefit payments to the middle classes were likely to be pared back in favour of income tax cuts – and the state pension age might have to rise more quickly than planned.
Giving his first newspaper interview since making an extraordinary return to the political frontline, Mr Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail the unemployed should do community work to keep benefits. Those who refused to look for work, take jobs that were offered to them or do voluntary work would have their handouts stopped, he said.
Mr Duncan Smith said it was simply not ‘sustainable’ for Britain to carry on spending almost 14 per cent of its national income on welfare. The bewilderingly complex benefits system should be radically simplified, and the perverse penalty against couples living together brought to an end, he added.
Mr Duncan Smith is today preparing to publish startling new evidence of the benefits culture and inequality that Labour has left behind after 13 years in power.
A Government report will reveal that 1.4million people in the UK have been on an out-of-work benefit for nine or more of the past ten years. It will show income inequality in the UK is at its highest level since comparable statistics began in 1961, and a higher proportion of children are growing up in workless households in the UK than in any other EU country.
Mr Duncan Smith said it was clear that Britain’s welfare system was ‘broken’ and ‘bust’. ‘It’s not going to be sustainable,’ he said. ‘We have created a benefits system which basically says you are better off out of work than you are in work.
‘We have to challenge the whole idea that it’s acceptable for a society like Britain to have such a significant number of people who do not work one day of the week and don’t have any possibility of improving the quality of their lives.
‘Five million people are actually sitting there doing nothing, fulfilling no employment role. The present benefits system is counter-productive, it’s complex and difficult to understand.’
Mr Duncan Smith said he wanted a rapid reassessment of all those claiming incapacity benefit and said he would move a ‘significant number’ into work. ‘About 43 per cent of those who are economically inactive are stuck on some sort of sickness benefit. ‘That has risen from about 15 per cent in 1981,’ he said. ‘What we propose will save money, but it will also shake up this nonsense.’
Mr Duncan Smith said that as Britain struggled to pay back its £156billion budget deficit, middleclass welfare would have to be reined in, in favour of income tax breaks.
The Government has already indicated that it will scrap tax credits for better-off families.
He said: ‘The benefits system is a deeply ineffective and costly way of subsidising people’s lives. ‘We obviously have a limited amount of money and our purpose is to improve the quality of life for the worst-off in society so they can play a part and hopefully pay tax one day themselves.’
Mr Duncan Smith said the coalition government represented a ‘once in a generation chance’ for radical welfare reform. He invited senior Labour figures – including his predecessor James Purnell – to help draw up the Government’s plans.
‘What we want to do is reform the welfare system in the way that Tony Blair talked about 13 years ago but never achieved – a system that was created for the days after the Second World War,’ he said. ‘That prize is now I think achievable. I will also invite the Labour Party to play a part in this. Do they want to just sit back and just throw rocks at us? ‘Or do people like James Purnell, who admits that the system cannot go on much longer as it is, want to play a part?’
Publishing the identities of rape accusers
Name both the accuser and the accused
On May 20th, the new U.K. coalition government pledged to change the law so as to extend anonymity in rape cases to cover the accused as well as the accuser, at least until and unless a conviction occurs. A firestorm of controversy has ensued.
The law should not determine what information may be broadcast or revealed to the public. Especially in America, however, the practice of naming those accused of sexual assault while protecting accusers has evolved largely as a tradition. But is it a tradition that encourages false accusations and unjust convictions? If so, it is time to break with tradition.
The prospect of doing so has caused a firestorm of controversy in the U.K. which mirrors the debate that occurred in America during the 2006 Duke Lacrosse rape case in which the lives of three demonstrably innocent young men were almost destroyed by a false accuser, to whom the media first accorded anonymity. As the injustice became obvious, however, various outlets publicly named the woman.
Before examining some of the key arguments, it is important to consider what are the possibilities regarding anonymity or disclosure? Only four exist: both parties are named, neither, only the accused, or only the accuser. Since the option of naming only the accuser never arises, three possibilities remain. (As I argue later, I believe both parties should be identified once the accusation has become a public matter, involving police and the court system.)
Those who want to identify both parties usually contend that false accusations of sexual assault are common place and that protecting the identity of an accuser encourages injustice. Anecdotal information seems to support this contention. For example, as of January 21, 2010, 249 U.S. prisoners have been exonerated by the Innocence Project through DNA testing; almost all of their convictions involved a form of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, statistics on false accusations are notoriously difficult to obtain and vary wildly. (I tend to place the figure at about 20% but, again, that is merely an estimate based on my own review of studies and reports.)
At the high end of estimates is a study by the now-retired Purdue University sociologist Eugene J. Kanin who worked in cooperation with the police in a small metropolitan town. Kanin examined reports of forcible rape from 1978 to 1987 during which 109 accusations were lodged; 45, or 41 percent, were discarded as false. (Note: 'unfounded' cases were counted as 'false.') Why would someone lie? Three factors commonly motivated the false allegations: revenge, the need for an alibi, and a desire for attention.
At the low end is the much-cited but vaguely supported "feminist" figure of 2 percent, which was popularized by Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book on sexual assault,"Against Our Will." There, Brownmiller claimed in passing that false accusations in New York City had dropped to 2 percent after police departments began using policewomen to interview alleged victims. Although the figure subsequently appears in many articles and in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004, "no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis."
Two defenses are commonly offered for maintaining anonymity for the accuser: 1) to protect the victim from embarrassment; and, 2) to encourage other victims to come forward in the future.
The first defense rests on the compassionate belief that a rape victim should not be brutalized a second time by publicity but it fails by assuming precisely what is in question. Is the accuser a victim? Is the accused guilty? Until the evidence has been openly examined, these questions cannot be answered. Moreover, sympathy for an alleged victim does not explain why equal consideration is not extended to the accused who should be presumed innocent. Reporting of name might well devastate an innocent life, even if he is not convicted. If compassion protects the accuser's identity, then logically it should also protect the accused.
The second defense for the accuser's anonymity is to encourage accusers to come forward. But there is nothing positive about increasing the number of accusations unless they are accompanied by standards that maintain the accuracy of evidence and the rights of the accused. By lowering standards of accountability, it seems likely that false reports would increase. Moreover, the anonymity decreases the likelihood of a fair trial by disadvantaging the accused. For example, when an accused rapist is publicly named, other victims can come forward to add their testimony. By contrast, when an accuser remains unnamed, witnesses who could discredit her account may be unaware of the proceedings.
What is the solution? First and foremost, no law should be involved. But traditions can be unjust and, when they encourage false accusations or bias a trial, those traditions should be violated. New ones should be forged. Again, once the accusation has become a public matter, involving police and the court system, the names of all parties should become also be public. The demand for transparency in judicial proceedings does not reflect a lack of compassion for or an indifference to victims. Quite the contrary. The right to a public trial is one of the strongest safeguards of justice; and nothing expresses concern for victims more than ensuring judicial fairness.
In America, the media is not and should not be required to protect or to disclose the name of anyone. But a tradition that encourages injustice should be discarded. Name both the accuser and the accused. A free and responsible press should do no less.
Embracing the tormentors
Conducting "truth commissions" to denounce American armed forces and organizing divestment campaigns to cripple Israel are vital issues to some American church officials. Raising the banner of Intifada and expressing solidarity with Palestinians are also very important to this collection of liberal leaders. They "spiritualize" the Democratic immigration and health care reform agendas with pompous prayer, but their social justice-focused prophetic vision has strange blind spots. Leftist church leaders hardly ever see, let alone condemn, the imprisonment, enslavement, torture, and murder of Christians in the Islamic world, North Korea, and China.
Church officials and partner organizations such as the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) issue strident policy statements on such topics as "eco-justice," broadband access for "economically depressed rural areas," the Israeli "occupation," and "unnecessary Department of Defense spending." But one is hard-pressed to find these church leaders denouncing the recent appointment of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. One searches in vain for an expression of solidarity with the Christian community in Jos, Plateau State, in central Nigeria, where hundreds of Christians were slaughtered by Fulani jihadists during March and April of 2010. If there are any such statements, they address vaguely "ethnic conflict" and are masterpieces of moral equivalency.
Such reticence to speak about persecution is not new for liberal church leaders. Downplaying or denying the egregious human rights violations of the Soviet system was symptomatic of Leftist hatred of America and Western values. It was also considered essential to the type of appeasement of tyrants necessary to achieve the liberal Utopian dream of a peaceful, nuclear weapon-free world.
In the 1970's, the NCC's Friendship Press published two mission studies on China seemingly which would be welcome additions to the Anita Dunn library. In both of these so-called "mission studies," Chinese Communism received preferential treatment and the efforts of early Christian missionaries were viewed with disapproval as imperialistic and unwelcome interventions.
The 1975 mission study China: People-Questions, expresses no similar disapproval towards the horrific violence that took place during the Cultural Revolution. Instead, the book praises the Cultural Revolution for having "deepened and continued" the process of moving China to socialism by "unceremoniously" uprooting "mutant social growths." The church mission study gushes, "In time the road of Mao and his followers clearly emerged as the one that humanized the social relations of the society."
The other mission study was China: Search for Community, released to unsuspecting church members by the NCC in 1978. Included in this mission study is a retelling of the story of the Good Samaritan, casting all things Western and religious as the assorted villains of the piece. Imagine thousands of Sunday School members in mainline churches, receiving their only education about the People's Republic of China from this story:
A country, a culture, was on its way through the centuries. It fell in with robbers, who stripped it, beat it, and left it at the roadside half dead. The robbers were many: graft and corruption, war lords and generalissimos, foreign powers, Western merchants and missionaries. And China was helpless. A priest passed by: Christian or a Buddhist…too concerned with religion to be willing to get his hands dirty with social reform and politics. . .
Finally the Samaritan arrived on the scene.… In Chinese eyes he could be no other than Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist Party. The wounds made by the imperialist robbers were healed, national dignity restored, and armed protection was given. Here was the neighbor, the comrade…. Here was the one deserving the love of the people and setting the example for a life style and a political program.
Mao was not the only Marxist beloved by liberal church leaders. The Religious Left has had similar admiration for Fidel Castro while ignoring the oppression and persecution of Cuba's Christians. One of Cuba's most famous prisoners of conscience, Christian poet and patriot Armando Valladares, was imprisoned for 22 years. Soon after he was released, he was the recipient of The Institute on Religion and Democracy's (IRD) 1983 Religious Freedom Award. In his moving acceptance speech, Valladares revealed the betrayal of prisoners such as himself by churches of the Religious Left:
The honor which you bestow upon me today will have special significance for Cuba's political prisoners….During those years, with the purpose of forcing us to abandon our religious beliefs and demoralize us, the Cuban communist indoctrinators repeatedly used the statements of support for Castro's revolution made by some representatives of American Christian churches. Every time that a pamphlet was published in the United States, every time a clergyman would write an article in support of Fidel Castro's dictatorship, a translation would reach us and that was worse for the Christian political prisoners than the beatings or the hunger.
While we waited for the solidarity embrace from our brothers in Christ, incomprehensively to us, those who were embraced were our tormentors…. the Christians in Cuba's prisons suffer not only the pain of torture and isolation but also the conviction that they have been deserted by their brothers in faith.
You might think that Valladares was exaggerating -- surely national church leaders are not as naïve as those teenagers and aging hippies who sport icons of Che on their tee shirts? (Of course many church leaders are aging hippies.) But Contending for the Faith, the autobiography of Methodist reformer and evangelist the Rev. Dr. Ed Robb, shows otherwise. Robb tells of a typical church delegation's visit to Cuba that took place while Armando Valladares "was languishing in a Cuban prison cell without clothes, books, Bible, pen, or paper" in 1977. He smuggled out poems written in his own blood. The delegation, led by then NCC head Bishop James Armstrong, was enamored with Valladares' jailers, but not with those brave dissidents in Cuban prisons.
The members of the delegation made the following statement upon their return home: "There is significant difference between a situation where people are imprisoned for opposing regimes designed to perpetuate inequalities (as in Chile and Brazil, for example) and situations where people are imprisoned for opposing regimes designed to remove inequities (as in Cuba)." (Armstrong and Dilly, A Report from Cuba, United Methodist Church of the Dakotas Area, June 1977) Regimes designed to "remove inequities" have always been in favor with the Religious Left, and continue to be so today, even closer to home than Cuba!
The cries of oppressed and persecuted Christians in the former Soviet Union were likewise dismissed by Religious Left church leaders obsessed with the dream of nuclear disarmament. The World and National Councils of Churches routinely ignored thousands of brave believers from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, and elsewhere, while fawning over KGB-groomed Russian Orthodox clergy participating in the World Council of Churches (WCC). In 1983 at the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Vancouver, The IRD reported that in deference to the Soviet bloc delegates "The WCC again refused to make any public statement on behalf of the millions of persecuted Christians living under the Soviet empire. Appeals by imprisoned believers were spiked on the grounds that they did not come from member churches of the WCC."
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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.