Monday, January 03, 2011
Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:
We have stuck together since the late 1950's for the sake of the kids, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce....
I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way. Here is a model separation agreement:
Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a similar portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.
We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.
We'll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them).
We'll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved lifelong welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless, homeboys, hippies, druggies and illegal aliens.
We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood .
You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.
You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.
We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values... You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N... But we will no longer be paying the bill.
We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find. You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right.
We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World.
We'll practice trickle down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.
Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.
Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you answer which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.
Sincerely, John J. Wall Law Student and an American
P. S. Also, please take Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Barbara Streisand, & Jane Fonda with you. P. S. S. And you won't have to press 1 for English when you call our country.
Britain's prisons minister says prison doesn't work. Little wonder when they're holiday camps like this one
With a regrettable absence of considered reflection, a BBC radio report suggested yesterday that as a result of impending cutbacks in the coming year, we are likely to see repeat performances of the riot at Ford Open Prison in West Sussex, which happened on New Year’s Eve.
But what took place had little, if anything, to do with a lack of resources. On the contrary, the prisoners at Ford would appear to have been indulged by the prison authorities to an extraordinary extent, while being subjected to only negligible and intermittent discipline.
Lavish facilities included ten pool tables as well as a gym and snooker room. Many people might not begrudge prisoners such relative luxuries if some of their number did not proceed to try to burn down the place, causing an estimated £2 million of damage.
Combined with a pampered lifestyle, there was an absence of discipline that is hard to credit. According to one report, before the attempt by staff to breathalyse prisoners that led to the riot, 40 empty bottles of alcohol had been found at the prison, and last Friday a stash of cocaine and heroin was discovered in a jail dormitory after a tip-off.
One former Ford inmate called ‘Dave’ told BBC Radio Five Live: ‘Certain inmates in there will be encouraged to jump over the fence, nip down to Tesco, which is just down the road, and go and get x amount of pounds of alcohol.’
Lord Brocket, who spent time in the open prison as part of a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for insurance fraud, described in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday how he discovered a woman in a fellow inmate’s room who had been smuggled in over the fence, and was effortlessly smuggled back out again.
Before the riot began, there were supposedly only two guards on duty looking after more than 500 inmates. Why it was thought sensible to start breathalysing prisoners in such circumstances will be one of many questions that must be considered by an inquiry set up by the Government.
Some will suggest that the shortage of prison officers is the consequence of previous economies. I doubt it. Descriptions of Ford and other similar prisons highlight the provision of costly luxuries. The lack of staff probably illustrates administrative incompetence, and in this case staffing levels had very likely been kept unrealistically low because prison officers wished to celebrate New Year with their friends or family.
Another key question is why many hardened criminals had been sent to Ford to live alongside the supposedly less troublesome Category D prisoners for whom it was intended. It was the ‘tough nuts’ who started the riots in a prison that was never meant to house the likes of them.
Incidentally, those supposedly ‘soft’ Category D prisoners who joined in the mayhem might be the very types who, so the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke believes, should be given community sentences.
Everything we have learned makes Ford sound much more like a holiday camp, albeit a highly dysfunctional one, than a properly run prison. The authorities have evidently given up any attempt to subject inmates to a well-ordered, punitive regime free of drink and drugs in which they have the remotest chance of rehabilitation.
Is there any point at all in sending people to prison if they are treated in such a lax and indulgent way? Just before Christmas, we learned how a group of animal rights extremists jailed for a campaign of terrorism have described prison as a ‘holiday camp’.
Seven fanatics were sentenced to a total of 50 years for intimidating workers connected to a laboratory that used animals in experiments. Tactics included branding hundreds of innocent staff as paedophiles, threatening to kill their children, and sending hoax bombs and items allegedly contaminated with Aids to workers’ homes.
But on a website for supporters of the group, called Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, these criminals gloat about life in jail. One calls his prison ‘Butlins’, while another says she is ‘blissfully happy’. A male inmate jailed for four years enthuses about his ‘en suite shower’ and says that ‘prison is fantastically easy and nothing more than an inconvenience’.
Surely it should be a guiding principle that incarceration must entail a measure of hardship over and above the withdrawal of liberty. If prisons were to gain a reputation for being like five-star hotels, the disincentive to committing crimes would be almost completely removed. Judging by these reports, we might be halfway towards that situation.
Equally, prisons should be places where rehabilitation can take place so prisoners have a better chance of not re-offending when they are released. If drink and drugs are freely available, as is the case at Ford and many other jails, and if prison officers preside over a laissez faire regime organised by the worst elements among prisoners, the chances of rehabilitation will be practically nil.
Kenneth Clarke breezily suggests that for many criminals prison does not work. He should modify that belief. The wrong sort of prison — over-indulgent and undisciplined to the point of anarchy — is unlikely to work. Mr Clarke rightly points out the appallingly high rate of recidivism. But is it surprising that so many criminals should re-offend when they are merely ‘warehoused’ in prisons of this sort?
In fact, Mr Clarke and his deputy and fellow Tory, prisons minister Crispin Blunt, are using bad prisons as a justification for not locking up criminals, when they should be striving to reform jails so they can again become effective places of rehabilitation and punishment.
That, of course, would require a lot of hard thinking and root- and-branch reform of the prison system, as well as taking on the Prison Officers Association, which is part of the problem. Rather than embarking on such an arduous programme of change, Mr Clarke prefers to take refuge in the lazy assertion that prison doesn’t work.
Mr Blunt is no more clear- thinking. He has also asserted that there are too many people under lock and key. And it was he who last July announced that a ban on ‘inappropriate’ prison events, introduced in 2008 after bizarre reports of a fancy dress party, should be lifted. Fortunately, on that occasion he was over-ruled by No 10. Why should prisoners be allowed to hold parties?
Fittingly, this same lightweight Mr Blunt was quaffing champagne while watching fireworks at a lavish party in the House of Commons on New Year’s Eve, as the riot in Ford Open Prison began. If only he had known it, the explosions at Ford would be far more significant.
We might, indeed, see a repeat performance of the events there, but it will not be because of any Government cuts or shortage of money. It will be because ministers have forgotten what prisons should be like, and what they are for, and are too timid or muddle-headed to do anything about it.
Christianity not dead yet
St. George's Chapel, located within the walls of Windsor Castle, is anglophile heaven -- a marvel of Gothic in the Perpendicular style, mother church of The Most Noble Order of the Garter, the holy of holies of monarchism. Sitting in the Quire during Sung Evensong, one faces the common grave of Henry VIII and Charles I. Behind and in front are the wooden stalls of the Knights of the Garter, topped by heraldic banners. Above is the enclosed box seat where Victoria would watch services during her endless mourning.
At one point in the service, prayers are said for the kings, queens and members of the royal family who have aided the order. It was the first time I had ever prayed for the soul of Richard III, who may or may not have been responsible for the deaths of his nephews. I suppose everyone can be spared a prayer. Besides, the communion of saints includes more than a few rogues.
This pilgrimage (made a few years ago) came nostalgically to mind while reading a recent article in the Guardian. "This Christmas," it declared, "for perhaps the first time ever, Britain is a majority non-religious nation." In 1985, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, 63 percent of Britons called themselves Christians. In 2010, it was 42 percent, with 51 percent claiming no religion at all.
So all that history -- Cranmer and Laud, roundheads and cavaliers, Henry with his wives and Charles without his head -- has led to a shrug and a yawn. The next monarch will still pledge to "maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law." But the meaning is increasingly hollowed out. First a ceremonial monarchy, then a ceremonial religion.
Britain is exhibit A for the secularization thesis -- the idea that modernization and scientific rationality will cause religion to wither and die. That is manifestly false in places such as Africa, India or the Muslim world. Only in Europe does it feel true.
Even in Europe, however, the thesis is less compelling under scrutiny. The European past was not nearly as pious as we imagine. Christian conversion on the fringes of the Roman Empire -- in places such as Gaul and Britannia -- was always a shallow and partial affair. Rulers pledged their orthodoxy; the populace hedged their bets with magic and animism. In late medieval times, church attendance was spotty, often with good reason. "Members of the congregation," according to historian Keith Thomas, "jostled for pews, nudged their neighbors, hawked and spat, knitted, made coarse remarks, told jokes, fell asleep and even let off guns."
And the European present is not as secular as church attendance numbers would indicate. Spiritual beliefs broadly persist, even in the absence of formal religious associations.
But the swift decline of European religious institutions is not a small thing. Institutions codify and transmit faith, producing the Perpendicular Gothic and the Book of Common Prayer. They can also discredit faith, especially when too closely tied to the established order -- seeking its favor, implicated in its power games, justifying its scandals. The aid of various Richards throughout the ages comes with a price.
Contrast this to American religion, involving less heraldry and more vitality. The whole pageant is well described in "American Grace," by Robert Putnam and David Campbell. They depict a "highly religious people," divided by contentious social issues but generally tolerant of other religious traditions. Immigration, conversion and intermarriage produce a churn of belief that undermines settled prejudices. American religious congregations cultivate civic engagement, creating citizens who are generous, active and trusting.
All this liveliness comes with some disturbingly American characteristics -- a general theological ignorance, a tendency toward the anodyne, turning a creed into a hobby. But the general impression left by "American Grace" is of a fluid marketplace of faith that is favorable to faith itself.
There are many reasons for this American achievement, but foremost is a commitment to religious freedom -- which originated in the struggles of English Protestants, but was applied in a way the world had not seen before. There would be no Church of America, because Christian belief was compromised by secular alliances, and because true fidelity to God could not be forced. By creating this system, the Founders proved that secularism is not essential to political liberalism. Pluralism will suffice.
The decline in the standing of many religious institutions is undeniable. But this cannot be extrapolated to the end of belief. Institutions grow gray and gouty. Faith, in freedom, is ever new.
Cast adrift from reality, the slick spruikers of 'our' shame
Comment from Australia. In case it is not understood elsewhere, a "spruiker" means a salesman and a con man
The water in Sydney Harbour over the New Year weekend was clear, the sky was bright blue and endless, and the new fashion on the beach was bikini-clad women wearing pork-pie hats. A great look. There can be no city in the world where so many people, millions, have easy access to so much natural beauty and a comfortable life. Nowhere else on this scale.
Millions of people would want to come here if they could. I don't blame them. There are roughly 60 million refugees or displaced people in the world, and we would like to scoop them all up and save them. But in the real world it can take a powerful amount of work to even save one's own children from harm. If Australia decided, by an act of democratic will, to become the most generous nation in history, and open its borders to all who sought a better life here, in time this would have dire consequences for the society that has evolved here, and the environment we have already degraded so much.
In this context, I would like to hand out medals for the most dubious contributions to Australian public life in 2010. I don't question the sincerity or good intentions of those I am about to disabuse, I question their grasp on reality.
The gold medal goes to Graeme Innes, the Human Right Commission's disability discrimination commissioner and race discrimination commissioner, who has spent his entire 33-year career as a human rights lawyer. In August, Innes flew to Geneva, at taxpayers' expense, to address the committee of the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
Innes managed to cram his speech with six major points that I regard as self-serving or untrue or both:
(1) He said there was "a strong need for a domestic implementation mechanism for CERD in Australia".
(2) He claimed, "We have a clear sense of what the Australian community wanted … an enshrined bill of rights …".
(3) He called for changes to the Australian constitution to give greater effect to anti-racism laws.
(4) He wants "a national multicultural policy".
(5) He complained that there was "no national data on the prevalence of migrants as victims of crime".
(6) He called for a "federal law to criminalise race hate".
This is a proscriptive paradise for human rights lawyers, as if Australia were not already excessively regulated and litigious and footing the bill for a human rights industry scrambling for clients and relevance.
The silver medal goes to another lawyer, a District Court judge, Stephen Norrish, who believes Aboriginal criminals should have prison terms of less than 12 months automatically suspended or converted to community service. He wants culture and disadvantage to be considered in mitigation during sentencing. He wants special "Koori courts". "Unless acts of affirmative action are formally recognised," he said, "not only will the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system continue, but it will increase, to this nation's greater shame."
What about some collective remorse and self-criticism from the Aboriginal community? What about the gangs of young Aboriginal men who roam the streets of Sydney and country towns stealing and belting white kids, a problem my extended family has experienced first-hand multiple times? What about an apology from the Aboriginal people (a concept which itself is a white fiction) for the endemic child abuse inside Aboriginal families and communities?
I don't believe most Australians feel "shame" that Aborigines are 15-times over-represented in the criminal justice system. I believe they feel anger, as the victims of crime. Australians are sick of the chasm between rhetoric and reality, and the idea that the only acceptable public narratives for Aboriginal people are that of victim or artist or noble custodian. The percentage of incarcerated Aboriginals would be even higher if so many were not given a free pass by the justice system, which in turn has led to a self-perpetuating culture of violence.
The human rights industry, and lawyers from the High Court down, have created a system of moral and legal apartheid in this country in which Aboriginal communities are guaranteed to fail. And they want more of the same failed policies.
Judge Norrish does not treat Aborigines as human beings. Instead they are to be treated as something outside Australian law and culture, as victims, mendicants, piccaninnies, avatars of white guilt, incapable of knowing right from wrong. His comments are profoundly insulting to the majority of Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal people who function well within the norms of society.
At least he does not extend his "shame", like Commissioner Innes, who returned to Australia and complained about the "race to the bottom" by the major political parties in their policies for the handling of illegal boat arrivals. This is a deeply contemptuous phrase. It strips all principle from the debate for those who support strong border protection. It supports the false premise that the relatively small number of people who arrive by illegal boats makes this a minor matter than can be dealt with by compassion, not hysteria, exaggeration or xenophobia.
But this argument is about principle. Not numbers. The principle applies whether there are two boats or two hundred. The heart of the current debacle is a failure of law, an absence of legal certainty. If an election were to be fought today over whether those who arrive by illegal means, or without proper papers, should be guaranteed of failure, Julia Gillard and her government would be gone.
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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.