Saturday, May 08, 2010
Useless British police again: Library forced to hire security guards to stop staff being threatened
For most of us, it is a welcome refuge where silence is still golden. But one library has had to hire bouncers after young thugs tore through the premises, 'terrorising and tormenting' two female staff and intimidating visitors.
Security staff were also needed to deal with groups drinking near the entrance of the premises.
Hundreds of pounds have been spent on bouncers in black jackets with high-visibility armbands to watch over the town library in King's Lynn, Norfolk.
Derrick Murphy, the county councillor responsible for cultural services, said: 'It was very intimidating for staff. The police were not doing anything about it. 'Children go into the library and they run around and make a lot of noise. They were engaging in antisocial behaviour. Children were running around, shouting and screaming.
'This was not "children being children". This was anti-social behaviour as laid out in law. 'The vast majority of people going into the library act perfectly normal but unfortunately there was a small minority that were not. 'We have a duty of care and responsibility to our staff to provide a safe and secure environment.'
The 105-year-old library was opened and funded by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist who emigrated to the U.S. as a child. But it has recently become a focal point for troublemakers. As a result, bouncers were drafted to safeguard people visiting or working in the library when it stayed open late three times a week.
The council spent £13.25 an hour on a security guard to patrol the library for three hours until 8pm on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. The cover was provided by Norwich-based firm EventGuard, which normally handles security at nightclubs and football matches.
Local resident George Chappell, 67, who visits the library daily, said: 'Some of the kids got a bit unruly. The security guards provided a warning hand. I don't know whether it was used as prevention rather than cure.'
Kevin Smith, a retail assistant in a nearby cycle shop, added the mayhem would have put off visitors. 'You're not going to go if you have got trouble and need security guards outside,' he said.
A Norfolk police spokesman said: 'A community support officer has been designated a patrol by the library and moved on a number of people drinking in the area.'
Evangelist defends calling Islam inferior
Salvation through 'Christ alone'
Evangelist Franklin Graham was the undisputed center of attention Thursday during National Day of Prayer observances in the nation's capital, putting in an early morning appearance outside the Pentagon, speaking to 350 people on Capitol Hill and then meeting the media at a press conference afterward.
Despite the controversy that attended his participation, Mr. Graham's message was unchanging and unapologetic - that Islam is inferior to Christianity.
"I don't believe Muhammad can lead anyone to God, but salvation is through Christ alone," he told reporters outside the Cannon House Office Building caucus room. "I don't accept this notion that all roads lead to God."
He added, "What Islam does to women is wicked and evil," he added. "It's horrid, horrid. I'll stand up for women's rights every day of the week."
The Pentagon last month rescinded an invitation to Mr. Graham, eldest son of evangelist Billy Graham, to its annual National Day of Prayer event after Muslim members of the military complained about his 2001 remarks in the Wall Street Journal characterizing Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion."
"Those were statements nine years ago," Mr. Graham told reporters Thursday. "To be prevented from speaking at a Christian gathering is a shame."
The prayer day events went forward across the city despite a Wisconsin judge's ruling last month that the event was an unconstitutional mix of church and state. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb has delayed implementing her ruling while Obama administration lawyers prepare an appeal.
Mr. Obama signed the annual proclamation last week noting the National Day of Prayer, but for the second year in a row, the president took part in no public events Thursday to mark the day. During the Bush administration, National Day of Prayer organizers held an early morning prayer service at the White House attended by the president.
The lawsuit challenging the day was brought by Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that opposes religious expression in public places.
Despite the cancelled invitation, Mr. Graham appeared at the Pentagon early Thursday. He and a handful of supporters and relatives including his wife, Jane, gathered on a sidewalk to pray. Then he held an impromptu press conference.
When asked how he felt about being cut from the Pentagon guest list, he replied, "It looks like Islam has gotten a pass. They are able to have their services, but just because I disagree ... I'm excluded," the Associated Press reported.
At the Capitol Hill event, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, congratulated Mr. Graham for giving "a loving response to his critics." "We have a lot of opposition," Mr. Dobson continued, "but we have a God in heaven who hears us every time we open our mouths."
After Mr. Graham took the podium, he greeted members of other faiths present by saying, "I love you but please allow me to speak today as a minister of the Gospel. I don't want to offend anyone, but I only know how to pray and preach as the Bible instructs me."
So-called ‘anti-capitalism’ – which is underpinned by a powerful misanthropy – is the main barrier to progress today
The most predominant explanations of the economic crisis have to do with individual greed, irresponsible borrowing, excessive consumption and financiers’ reckless speculation.
Time and again, bankers and their bonuses are presented as proof of greed run amok and as the cause of the crisis. Denunciation of big bonuses is meant to denote a profound understanding of what went wrong. In last week’s televised leaders’ debate in Britain there were plenty of references to Sir Fred Goodwin and other bankers. On the other side of the Atlantic, Naomi Klein says that the banks’ culture is ‘an orgy of greed’. There is a strong moralistic streak running through the discussion of greedy bankers, which is reinforced by a condemnation of the apparently decadent practices among them – spending on booze, nights out with lapdancers, and so on.
In turn, an attack on the bonus culture has easily slipped over into an attack on a materialistic culture generally. For example, home-owners also stand accused of bringing on the financial crisis, by taking on mortgages that they couldn’t afford. In his book Reset, Kurt Andersen argues that everyone is to blame. Americans developed ‘an unfettered zeal for individual getting and spending’ in the decades before the crisis. ‘For 20 years we’ve had Homer Simpson’s spot-on caricature of the quintessential American: childish, irresponsible, wilfully oblivious, fat and happy’ (for more on Andersen, see here).
From this perspective, the recession is in fact welcomed as a salutary lesson for us all. The hope is that we will now constrain our impulses: less spending, less going out, and more time spent with the family – getting reacquainted with the ‘important things in life’. Greens in particular hope that the crisis will lead us to consume less and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Devin Leonard concludes his review of the book Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution with the following: ‘If there was ever a time to ponder the long-term consequences of our spending habits, it’s in the wake of the worst economic crisis in decades, which was fuelled by rampant consumer borrowing. Is it possible that we could save the planet and restore the economy at the same time?’
In prior crises, such as the 1930s, capitalism was faulted for not meeting needs, for not providing enough growth, jobs and income. The focus was on production – specifically the lack of expanding productive capacity – and the discussion was posed in terms of structural economic issues. If critics attacked excessive consumption, they focused on the consumption of the rich.
In contrast, today’s discussion is exceptionally superficial. It is preoccupied with individual behaviour and there is very little exploration of underlying economic forces. The current attacks on bankers is a caricature of criticism: they have much in common with late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century populist prejudices about financiers and Jewish people. And what is truly unique today is the fact that criticisms of consumption blame us all, not just the rich. We’re all complicit, or so they say. In the past, the lack of mass consuming power was a problem that needed to be addressed – today’s critics say the issue is that we’ve got too much consuming power.
How ‘anti-capitalism’ undermines a critical perspective
Why are the prevailing perceptions of the crisis so superficial and backward? In a nutshell, because ‘anti-capitalist’ values now predominate in Western societies. I put ‘anti-capitalist’ in quote marks because this critique is not in fact against capitalism or the market economy per se; it is really against any form of economy that seeks to promote dynamic growth and development. And it is the old left that has been at the forefront of promoting this perspective. Traditionally, the left has used a crisis to expose the limitations of the market, while the right has usually sought to defend the system. But in the past two decades the left has become anti-development, anti-consumption and misanthropic, which has had the effect of redirecting criticism away from the market itself, and towards blaming humanity in general.
The shift towards an anti-development and anti-technology outlook, especially among so-called progressives, has affected the interpretation of the recession. Prior to the financial crash, the left criticised capitalism for being too dynamic, as if it could increase production and consumption limitlessly. In this respect, the left held as many illusions as the most staunchly pro-capitalist ideologue. This excessive dynamism was said to have negative consequences in many areas, especially the environment.
Those who argued that capitalism was too dynamic were caught off-guard by the financial crisis. They were not sure how to respond, given that the downturn was a stark reminder of the pain caused by a lack of economic growth and employment. But rather than argue that the crisis showed the need for consistent development, the left pivoted to reinterpret the crisis as the result of too much growth, too fast. Their implicit ideal is ‘sustainable development’, or stasis, rather than dynamism, and the crisis was claimed to be the result of losing the proper balance.
Similarly, the common understanding of the recession has been coloured by a pre-existing anti-consumption attitude. In the years running up to the arrival of the financial crisis, the left in particular criticised so-called excessive consumption. Their attack was sometimes directed against the higher earners, such as ‘fat cat’ executives, but more often than not against the broader consumer society. The masses’ desire to purchase more was now considered a bad thing, as it distorted values and would make people unhappy.
This anti-consumer prejudice was then utilised to explain the recession. Rather than argue that the recession had revealed that capitalism could not consistently raise living standards, the crash was put down to a futile search to keep up with the Joneses, especially for bigger and better houses. The crisis was a ‘credit crunch’, and the working class in particular was now criticised for this expanding credit. The reality is that workers’ real incomes had stagnated, and many people sought to take advantage of low interest rates to borrow so as to maintain their living standards. But their critics adopted a moralistic posture and admonished people for trying to live beyond their means.
Finally, an underlying misanthropic viewpoint has also contributed to a distorted discussion of the crisis. Recent years have seen a return of the ideas of the population scaremonger Thomas Malthus and his notion of economic limits. This outlook is most clearly expressed by environmentalists, who see people’s impact on the world as one-sidedly destructive. The consequence of this outlook is to argue that there are too many people on the planet and we should stop procreating. For example, after reviewing a variety of possible individual acts that could help the environment, Lisa Hymas writes in Grist: ‘But even in aggregate, all of these moves don’t come close to the impact of not bringing new human beings – particularly new Americans – into the world.’
The stress on limits has been used to interpret the recession as coming about as the result of seeking to extend beyond natural boundaries. Moreover, this anti-human outlook has made it more readily accepted that ‘we only have ourselves to blame’. It also means that a crisis that has brought much pain and suffering can be perversely greeted as a welcome development, since austerity conditions will mean there are fewer people taking cheap flights, driving cars on vacations, and otherwise spoiling Earth.
The misanthropic emphasis on flawed humans is also expressed via conspiracy theories. Such theories hold that wicked individuals are colluding behind the scenes and that people cannot be trusted. Historically, conspiracy theories were the province of the reactionary right, but in recent times the left has adopted them in a variety of areas, including health (for example, vaccines) and terrorism (for example, the 9/11 ‘truth’).
A conspiracy of bankers is now one of the main explanations given for understanding the crisis. In the US, this has taken the form of bashing Goldman Sachs. Again, left-leaning commentators are taking the lead. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi is the most rabidly anti-Goldman, and his description of the firm – ‘a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money’ – is now repeated ad nauseum by others. But a vampire squid was an image used by Nazis to describe Jewish financiers, and the description of Goldman as a ‘tribe’ is also an anti-Semitic trope. Taibbi may not be consciously anti-Semitic, but he is definitely conspiratorial. (And, in common with many writers on the liberal-left, he exhibits little desire to try to understand how financial markets actually work.)
The problem with focusing on conspiracies surrounding one firm like Goldman is not only that they are they wrong, but that they also direct our attention towards supposedly wicked individuals, and in turn towards our flawed human nature. The focus on corrupt individuals suggests that what is legal and allowed, what goes on in front of us, is otherwise okay, if not for nefarious goings-on behind the scenes. In reality, what is legal and apparent is the problem. Also, in a conspiratorial account that picks on one institution like Goldman, other groups that contributed to the crisis – such as politicians – are effectively absolved, and the broader systemic problems of the economy are dismissed.
All in all, from an anti-development, anti-consumption and misanthropic perspective, an economic crisis is not really something that provokes or requires a change in how society is organised. You might, as some have, even see benefits to a recession. Such an outlook undermines an active, aggressive response to overcome economic crisis conditions.
Using the state to keep a lid on growth
Compared with the popular perceptions of the crisis – which, as I have mentioned, focus on greedy bankers, senseless borrowers and mindless consumers – the discussion among economists, government officials and other professionals appears to be much more sophisticated. And yet a closer look shows that the same low horizons and anti-humanist tendencies found in the more widely held conversations can also be found in the economic arena, albeit expressed in more lofty theoretical terms.
With the arrival of the financial crisis, liberal-left politicians and economists proclaimed a new era had arrived. ‘Laissez-faire is finished’, said French President Nicholas Sarkozy. In his book Freefall, American economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote that the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers ‘may be to market fundamentalism… what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to communism’. Such strong pronouncements, with the references to the end of the free market, suggest that the debate is about the fundamentals of the economic system.
However, these economists are, as they say in the American West, all hat and no cattle. They do not back up their words with a robust alternative. Most liberal economists would identify themselves as neo-Keynesians, and yet the worst economic crisis since the 1930s is not enough for them to put forward a solid defence of Keynesian intervention. Yes, government bailouts in the West have been influenced by Keynesianism, but these have only been introduced as short-term rescue plans and stimulus packages, not as a counter-model for the longer term. Having gone into deficit to shore up sinking ships, government officials are now resigned to just wait and hope their efforts work.
Slumps in the past tended to lead to discussions about structural, ‘macro’ issues regarding the entire economy. But in response to this crisis, liberal economists have focused narrowly on the financial sphere. Of course, it was the financial panic in 2008 that set off a chain reaction, but the job of an economist should be to understand all of the economy – both the ‘real’ and financial sectors. Instead, fixating on finance means that economists’ efforts have been mainly spent on arguing for greater restrictions on financial practices. While certain regulations may be reasonable, this approach does not address why the economies in the US and UK became ‘financialised’ in the first place – that is, so skewed towards finance relative to industry. The preoccupation with finance mirrors the popular view of reckless bankers. And, for all their high-minded theories, liberal economists can be as populist as any in denouncing greedy bankers.
Moreover, the discussion of what is wrong with finance is itself revealing. Here, liberal economists have criticised their conservative opponents’ theories of finance, such as Efficient Market Hypothesis and Rational Expectations Hypothesis. While these theories uphold the concept of a rational economic man, the liberal counter-critique emphasises that the various players in the financial world act irrationally. While the ‘rational’ theories are abstract and open to criticism, the liberal approach is even worse, because it assumes that people are essentially senseless.
Some who stress irrationality, like economic historian Robert Skidelsky and behavioural economist Robert Schiller, see themselves as following the footsteps of Keynes’ writings about ‘animal spirits’. However, this is a retro-fitting of Keynes to suit today’s concerns. Keynes was more interested in structural categories than in narrow investigations of investor psychology. The trendy discussion of irrational behaviour in economics is one of the main ways that the general anti-humanist tendency in society expresses itself in economic theory.
Liberals’ calls for greater state intervention may appear on the surface to be a return to older social-democratic ideas, but in fact they represent something new. The impulse behind them is different: whereas in the past, the state was said to be deployed as a vehicle to enhance growth, now the emphasis is on state control of the economy, trying to keep a lid on destabilising propensities of capitalism, especially in finance. In this way, this stress on state regulation is more akin to the idealisation of a static economy promoted by greens than prior notions of state intervention......
Challenging the current consensus means confronting each of these points: insisting on the importance of production (and innovation in production); resisting austerity and focusing on expansion of the economy, rather than lowering horizons; and contesting the depiction of the world as unknowable and fearful, and encouraging an active, problem-solving attitude towards economic issues.
Truly to challenge this consensus, we have to recognise that ‘anti-capitalism’ is now the biggest barrier to progress. True progressives ought now to focus on challenging ‘anti-capitalism’ and the poisonous, anti-humanist notions that underpin it, if we are to have any hope of achieving the great aim of moving society forward to a time of plenty. Against those who preach the politics of limits, we should argue that the possibilities for humanity are limitless. The good news is that the economic constraints we face are largely of our own making, and represent first and foremost a failure of imagination – which means that it is within our control to do something about all this.
Australian Federal budget spending to target Muslim radicals in bid to boost national security
One of course hopes that it will do some good but I suspect that it is just pissing into the wind. Deporting Muslim criminals at the end of their sentences would undoubtedly be a lot more beneficial
MILLIONS of dollars will be spent trying to halt the spread of radical Islam as part of a big-spending Federal Budget package to bolster national security.
Tuesday's election-year Budget will include hundreds of millions of dollars for national security as Labor tackles concerns it has gone soft on border protection following the flood of asylum seekers in recent months.
The Government will announce "preventative" measures to counter the growth of radical terrorist cells across Australia. While the Government will be careful not to demonise Muslims with its policies, it is understood new programs will target the potential spread of radical extremism in the nation's jails.
Some states already have their own programs, aimed at stopping the rise of radical Islam in prisons. But the Budget is expected to outline a national scheme, with religious classes and better contact between inmates and their families.
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.