Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Race Card Fraud

Thomas Sowell

Credit card fraud is a serious problem. But race card fraud is an even bigger problem.

Playing the race card takes many forms. Judge Charles Pickering, a federal judge in Mississippi who defended the civil rights of blacks for years and defied the Ku Klux Klan back when that was dangerous, was depicted as a racist when he was nominated for a federal appellate judgeship.

No one even mistakenly thought he was a racist. The point was simply to discredit him for political reasons-- and it worked.

This year's target is the Tea Party. When leading Democrats, led by a smirking Nancy Pelosi, made their triumphant walk on Capitol Hill, celebrating their passage of a bill in defiance of public opinion, Tea Party members on the scene protested.

All this was captured on camera and the scene was played on television. What was not captured on any of the cameras and other recording devices on the scene was anybody using racist language, as has been charged by those playing the race card.

When you realize how many media people were there, and how many ordinary citizens carry around recording devices of one sort or another, it is remarkable-- indeed, unbelievable-- that racist remarks were made and yet were not captured by anybody.

The latest attack on the Tea Party movement, by Ben Jealous of the NAACP, has once again played the race card. Like the proverbial lawyer who knows his case is weak, he shouts louder.

This is not the first time that an organization with an honorable and historic mission has eventually degenerated into a tawdry racket. But that an organization like the NAACP, after years of fighting against genuine racism, should now be playing the game of race card fraud is especially painful to see.

Some critics of the Tea Party have seized upon banners carried at one of its rallies that compared Obama with Hitler and Stalin. Extreme? Yes. But there was nothing racist about it, since extreme comparisons have been made about politicians of every race, color, creed, nationality, ideology and sexual preference.

Some Obama supporters have long regarded any criticism of him as racism. But that they should have to resort to such a banner to bolster their case shows how desperate they are for any evidence.

Among people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, those who are likely to be most disappointed are those who thought that they were voting for a new post-racial era. There was absolutely nothing in Obama's past to lead to any such expectation, and much to suggest the exact opposite. But the man's rhetoric and demeanor during the election campaign enabled this and many other illusions to flourish.

Still, it was an honest mistake of the kind that decent people have often made when dealing with people whose agendas are not constrained by decency, but only by what they think they can get away with.

On race, as on other issues, different people have radically different views of Barack Obama, depending on whether they judge him by what he says or by what he does.

As Obama's own books point out, he has for years cultivated a talent for saying things that people will find congenial.

You want bipartisanship and an end to bickering in Washington? He will say that he wants bipartisanship and an end to bickering in Washington. Then he will shut Republicans out of the decision-making process and respond to their suggestions by reminding them that he won the election. A famous writer-- Ring Lardner, I believe-- once wrote: "'Shut up,' he explained."

You want a government that is open instead of secretive? He will say that. He will promise to post proposed legislation on the Internet long enough for everyone to read it and know what is in it before there is a vote. In practice, however, he has rushed massive bills through Congress too fast for anybody-- even the members of Congress-- to know what was in those bills.

Racial issues are more of the same. You want a government where all citizens are treated alike, regardless of race or ethnicity? Obama will say that. Then he will advocate appointing judges with "empathy" for particular segments of the population, such as racial minorities. "Empathy" is just a pretty word for the ugly reality of bias.

Obama's first nomination of a Supreme Court justice was a classic example of someone with "empathy" for some racial groups, but not others. As a Circuit Court judge, Sonia Sotomayor voted to dismiss a case involving white firefighters who had been denied the promotions for which they qualified, because not enough blacks or Hispanics passed the same test that they did.

A fellow Hispanic judge protested the way the white firefighters' case was dismissed, rather than adjudicated. Moreover, the Supreme Court not only took the case, it ruled in favor of the firefighters.

Obama's injecting himself into a local police matter in Massachusetts, despite admitting that he didn't know the facts, to say that a white policeman was in the wrong in arresting a black professor who was a friend of Obama, was more of the same. So is Obama's Justice Department overlooking blatant voter intimidation by thugs who happen to be black.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, anything post-racial about Barack Obama, except for the people who voted for him in the mistaken belief that he shared their desire to be post-racial. When he leaves office, especially if it is after one term, he will leave this country more racially polarized than before.

Hopefully, he may also leave the voters wiser, though sadder, after they learn from painful experience that you can't judge politicians by their rhetoric, or ignore their past because of your hopes for the future. Voters may even wise up to race card fraud.


Obama's War on the Internet getting underway

The Ministry of Truth was how George Orwell described the mechanism used by government to control information in his seminal novel 1984. A recent trip to Europe has convinced me that the governments of the world have been rocked by the power of the internet and are seeking to gain control of it so that they will have a virtual monopoly on information that the public is able to access.

In Italy, Germany, and Britain the anonymous internet that most Americans are still familiar with is slowly being modified. If one goes into an internet café it is now legally required in most countries in the European Union to present a government issued form of identification. When I used an internet connection at a Venice hotel, my passport was demanded as a precondition and the inner page, containing all my personal information, was scanned and a copy made for the Ministry of the Interior -- which controls the police force. The copy is retained and linked to the transaction.

For home computers, the IP address of the service used is similarly recorded for identification purposes. All records of each and every internet usage, to include credit information and keystrokes that register everything that is written or sent, is accessible to the government authorities on demand, not through the action of a court or an independent authority. That means that there is de facto no right to privacy and a government bureaucrat decides what can and cannot be "reviewed" by the authorities. Currently, the records are maintained for a period of six months but there is a drive to make the retention period even longer.

The excuses being given for the increasing government intervention into the internet are essentially two: first, that the anonymity of the internet has permitted criminal behavior, fraud, pornography, and libel. Second is the security argument, that managing the internet is an integral part of the "global war on terror" in that it is used by terrorists to plan their attacks requiring governments to control those who use it.

The United States government takes the latter argument one step farther, claiming that the internet itself is a vulnerable "natural asset" that could be seized or damaged by terrorists and must be protected, making the case for a massive $100 billion program of cyberwarfare. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) argues that "violent Islamist extremists" rely on the internet to communicate and recruit and he has introduced a bill in the Senate that will empower the president to "kill" the internet in case of a national emergency.

But all of the arguments for intervention are essentially themselves fraudulent and are in reality being exploited by those who favor big government and state control. The anonymity and low cost nature of the internet means that it can be used to express views that are unpopular or unconventional, which is its strength.

It is sometimes used for criminal behavior because it is a mechanism, not because there is something intrinsic in it that makes it a choice of wrongdoers. Before it existed, fraud was carried out through the postal service and over the telephone. Pornography circulated freely by other means.

As for the security argument, the tiny number of actual terrorists who use the internet do so because it is there and it is accessible. If it did not exist, they would find other ways to communicate, just as they did in pre-internet days. In fact, intelligence sources report that internet use by terrorists is rare because of persistent government monitoring of the websites.

The real reason for controlling the internet is to restrict access to information, something every government seeks to do. If the American Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and Senator Lieberman have their way, new cybersecurity laws will enable Obama's administration to take control of the internet in the event of a national crisis. How that national crisis might be defined would be up to the White House but there have been some precedents that suggest that the response would hardly be respectful of the Bill of Rights.

Many countries already monitor and censor the internet on a regular basis, forbidding access to numerous sites that they consider to be subversive or immoral. During recent unrest, the governments of both Iran and China effectively shut down the internet by taking control of or blocking servers. Combined with switching off of cell phone transmitters, the steps proved effective in isolating dissidents.

Could it happen here? Undoubtedly. Once the laws are in place a terrorist incident or something that could be plausibly described in those terms would be all that is needed to have government officials issue the order to bring the internet to a halt.

But the ability to control the internet technically is only part of the story. Laws are being passed that criminalize expressing one's views on the internet, including both "hate crime" legislation and broadly drafted laws that make it a crime to support what the government describes loosely as terrorism in any way shape or form.

Regular extra-legal government intrusion in the private lives of citizens is already a reality, particularly in the so-called Western Democracies that have the necessary technology and tech-savvy manpower to tap phones and invade computers.

In Europe, draconian anti-terrorism laws enable security agencies to monitor phone calls and e-mails, in many cases without any judicial oversight. In Britain, the monitoring includes access to detailed internet records that are available for inspection by no less that 653 government agencies, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with security or intelligence, all without any judicial review.

In the United States, the Pentagon recently sought an internet and news "instant response capability" which it dubbed the Office of Strategic Influence and it has also seeded a number of retired military analysts into the major news networks to provide a pro-government slant on the war news.

The State Department is also in the game, tasking young officers to engage presumed radicals in debate on their websites while the growing use of national security letters means that private communications sent through the internet can be accessed by Federal law enforcement agencies.

The Patriot Act created national security letter does not require judicial oversight. More than 35,000 were issued by the FBI last year and the recipient of a letter commits a felony if he or she reveals the receipt of the document. In a recent case involving an internet provider in Philadelphia, a national security letter demanded all details of internet messages sent on a certain date, to include account information on clients with social security numbers and credit card references.

The danger is real. Most Americans who are critical of the actions of their own government rely on the internet for information that is uncensored and often provocative, including sites like Campaign for Liberty.

It is also likely only a matter of time before Obama's internet warfare teams surface either at the Defense Department or at State. Deliberately overloading and attacking the internet to damage its credibility, witness the numerous sites that have been "hacked" and have had to cease or restrict their activities.

But the moves afoot to create a legal framework to completely shut the internet down and thereby control the "message" are far more dangerous. American citizens who are concerned about maintaining their few remaining liberties should sound the alarm and tell the politicians that we don't need more government abridgement of our First Amendment rights.


Crime is an act of choice - and rehabilitation is a fantasy

Peter Hitchens

Let me first of all try to deal with the persistent postings of Mr Storke, who has referred me to a paper by Professor David James on the treatment of mentally ill people in prison. Let us remember that Mr Storke's original disagreement with me was about my view that rehabilitation is a fantasy, that crime is an act of choice and that more people will avoid it if they fear severe and deterrent punishment.

Mr Storke has been relying quite heavily on the professor's paper in his argument. I am at a loss to see why, since it's a report on mental health in prisons, an issue on which I haven't specially pronounced (except to agree with the oft-made point that the prisons nowadays house many people who would once have been in mental hospitals, when we still had them. This is beyond dispute. I favour the rebuilding of our lost mental hospitals to deal with it, as I have said).

He appears to believe that in some way it 'disproves' my contention that the threat of punishment is an effective deterrent of criminal behaviour.

I cannot see how. It seems to me to have almost nothing to do with the subject under discussion, and if it contains the claims he appears to attribute to it (about miracle crime cures in Switzerland and Denmark) I confess that I am unable to locate them here. Perhaps these references are in another document, which he meant to refer me to. Or perhaps I have just missed them, in which case a page reference would be appreciated.

Professor James's report appears to have nothing whatever to do with my point, which is that if prisons were properly and systematically punitive, instead of chaotic warehouses run largely by their inmates, responsible persons would make much greater efforts to avoid being sent to them. I suspect that Mr Storke has little idea of what my opinions actually are, having assumed that I defend the current state of the prisons when I deplore it, that I am some sort of Michael Howard 'prison works' person, or that my views are identical to those of (say) Richard Littlejohn. They are not, as regular readers here well know. To retain this view he has therefore ignored anything I have written which might suggest that this is not so.

The report, to the extent that it is relevant, indulges in the usual confusion and vagueness about what 'mental illness' may be - unsurprising in an area of subjective pseudo-science in which there is a great deal of opinion, and very little measurable fact. Then it piles vagueness upon vagueness. It speaks of an 'estimate' (p iii) that 70% of prisoners have two or more diagnosed mental illnesses. Whose is this estimate? It doesn't say, at least not anywhere near where it makes this claim. Why not? And then, why, if these alleged illnesses are 'diagnosed', does this have to be an estimate anyway? Surely there would be an actual figure. Later it suggests (p.7) that 90% of prisoners have ‘common mental health problems’ which it then lists as ‘anxiety, depression or neuroses’. Once again, we are dealing in subjectivity. I have no doubt that many people in prison, or awaiting sentence after conviction, might find it useful to assert that they were 'suffering' from such indefinable complaints, as this might lessen their sentences and would also indulge their sense of self-pitying grievance, and aid them in avoiding the ever-unwelcome conclusion that they are answerable for their own actions.

The authorities might equally find it useful to agree with them as it would help them to reduce the pressure on prison places by giving them lesser sentences, and allow them to dose them with tranquillising or pacifying drugs, while they are detained.

Also, one thing pretty certain to lead to genuine, objective mental disorder, through interference with or damage to the physical brain which (while not being the same thing as the mind) is the physical seat of the mind, is the taking of illegal drugs. (I'd say that many legal drugs now in existence might have this effect too.) And since illegal drug-taking and criminality are practically synonymous in modern Britain, it would be likely that some sort of disturbance or malfunction would be likely.

So these declarations are pretty much tautologies.

And, I repeat again, they have nothing to with the point. I entirely agree with those who say that there are too many people in prison who are actually insane. I have seen them there, in Wormwood Scrubs, incoherent and raving in their cells, their minds overthrown. Nobody is keener than I on the restoration of proper mental hospitals in which such people could be better and more kindly kept. But to confuse these sad persons with self-indulgent users of illegal drugs, or with excuse-making thieves and brutes, is to do truth a disservice. I urge Mr Storke to read my 'Brief History of Crime', especially the chapter in which I discuss my visit to Wormwood Scrubs Prison.


Heterosexual marriage is society's bedrock

Comment from Australia by Bill Muehlenberg, secretary of the Family Council of Victoria

SADLY Derryn Hinch manages to mangle just about everything in the marriage debate (The Australian, July 16).

He totally misses the purposes of marriage for example. Marriage is a universal and historical institution which serves tremendous social purposes.

It regulates human sexuality, and it procures the wellbeing of any offspring from the sexual union. Thus it is not a mere private matter, but a vitally important social institution.

Governments have an overwhelming interest in heterosexual marriage. They have no reason to confer special rights and privileges on other types of sexual relationships. People are free to engage in those relationships, but they cannot expect to see their relationships elevated to that of heterosexual marriage.

Indeed, talk of inequality and discrimination is off base here. Those arguing for same-sex marriage are mixing apples with oranges. Everyone is entitled to the benefits of marriage as long as they meet the conditions and requirements of it.

Homosexual relationships simply do not meet the criteria, the most basic being to have one man and one woman. Governments have no obligation whatsoever to treat unequal things equally, or to grant the benefits of marriage to those who refuse to meet its minimum requirements.

Of course various social goods are denied to all sorts of people for various reasons. A driver who cannot meet the obligations of low insurance rates (too young, too many accidents and so on) will not be eligible to receive those benefits. That is how life operates. If anything, it is a necessary and just discrimination.

To survive, all societies engage in discrimination all the time. However, discrimination can be good as well as bad. Societies have always discriminated in favour of heterosexual unions and the children they produce because of the social good derived from them.

Procreation and the raising of children is an overwhelmingly important social good, and the mother-father unit cemented by marriage is an overwhelmingly superior way of ensuring the best outcomes for children. Therefore societies everywhere extend favours and benefits to married couples that they do not extend to other types of relationships.

The restrictions on marriage apply equally to everyone, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Thus there is no discrimination. The homosexual lobby is seeking to fundamentally rewrite the rule books on marriage to get all the benefits while avoiding the obligations.

And if we redefine marriage out of existence in order to placate the homosexual activists, then why stop there?

There are all sorts of other sexual relationships that people are demanding recognition of. Polyamory, or group love, is a growing movement demanding the rights to marriage as well.

The exact arguments used by those pushing for same-sex marriage are being used by the polyamorists.

If we legalise the former, is it not discriminatory and unjust to outlaw the latter? They too claim that it is all about love, and that they should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

And Hinch is quite wrong to suggest that same-sex relationships are long-lasting. Plenty of studies prove the exact opposite. A recent study of homosexual men in Amsterdam found that the "duration of steady partnerships" was 1.5 years.

The truth is, plenty of homosexuals do not even want marriage. How many homosexuals actually avail themselves of it when it becomes legally available? Let's go back to The Netherlands. Same-sex marriage has been legal there since 2001, yet only about four per cent of Dutch homosexuals married during the first five years of legalisation.

Also, same-sex marriage demands are inexorably tied up with demands for homosexual parenting rights. But 40 years of social science research has overwhelmingly demonstrated the crucial importance two biological parents play in the wellbeing of children.

The studies make it clear that every child should have the basic human right of being raised by his or her own mother and father. And a recent Galaxy poll found that a full 86 per cent of Australians believe children should be raised by their biological parents.

This of course is stolen from them in same-sex households. Heterosexual marriage is society's most profound and valuable institution. It has been the bedrock of nations from time immemorial. To radically alter the nature of marriage and family is a recipe for trouble.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or 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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