Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Centre for Social Justice: British PM has broken pledge to support family values

David Cameron’s Coalition has failed to support marriage, unfairly penalised middle-class parents and done “almost nothing” to address the breakdown of families, according to a think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith.

In opposition, Mr Cameron promised to make Britain “the most family-friendly country in Europe” and tackle the social problems arising from break-ups.

But in an audit of the Coalition’s first year in office, the Centre for Social Justice, which was set up by the Work and Pensions Secretary, said little had been done to support marriage and strongly criticised plans to cut child benefit for middle-class parents.

Marking the Coalition’s performance on family policy at just two out of 10, the centre concluded that the deal with the Liberal Democrats had seen family-friendly plans being watered down.

“Compromise to avoid difficult family policy decisions means it’s just business as usual,” the report said. The Coalition’s family policy was “a disappointing continuation of the last government’s failed approach”.

Gavin Poole, the centre’s chief executive, accused the Coalition of “compromise-driven inaction in tackling our devastating culture of family breakdown”.

The criticism will increase the pressure on the Prime Minister to enact more traditional “family values” policies. Mr Cameron fought last year’s election on a promise to introduce a transferable tax allowance for four million married couples worth £150 a year.

The centre said that transferable allowances “could make a genuine difference”, but despite its popularity among Tories, the policy had “moved off radar”.

The centre was set up by Mr Duncan Smith in 2004. He remains its patron, but is not involved in its day-to-day work. In opposition, its research on family breakdown and welfare dependency informed Conservative social policies and led to Mr Cameron’s warnings about Britain’s “broken society.”

The think tank’s “Report Card” for the Coalition also criticised the “unfortunate and unfair” decision to withdraw child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

The benefit will be taken away from a single-income couple earning more than £42,475 but retained by a couple where both parents work and earn £40,000 each, prompting allegations that ministers were penalising mothers who stay at home to care for their children.

The criticism will add to pressure on ministers to make changes to the Child Benefit plan, which will take effect in 2013.

The report was more positive about Mr Duncan Smith’s work to reform the benefits system, giving his plans to increase incentives to work eight out of 10.

However, some of the strongest criticism was reserved for a policy conceived to please Right-wingers, the planned cap on benefits claims. Under the new rules, no household will be able to claim more than £500 a week, regardless of how many members the family has. The centre warned it could bring hardship to thousands of large families “who will have the rug pulled from under them overnight”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said around 50,000 households would be affected, losing an average of £93 a week. However, some could lose as much as £150 a week. The centre said the move was “likely to be devastating” for some families.


Geert Wilders’ problem with Islam

Jonathan Kay comments from Canada

As an editor at the National Post, I often rely on three letters to protect my columnists from human-rights tribunals: I-S-M — these being the difference between spelling Islam and Islamism.

The former is a religion — like Christianity or Judaism. The latter is an ideology, which seeks to impose an intolerant fundamentalist version of Islam on all Muslims, and spread the faith throughout the world. Declaring Islamism a menace isn’t controversial. Declaring Islam a menace is considered hate speech.

Geert Wilders’ refusal to deploy those three letters is the reason that the 47-year-old Dutch politician travels with bodyguards, and cannot sleep in the same house two nights in a row. For Mr. Wilders, the problem plaguing Western societies is Islam, full stop. Terrorism, tyranny, the subjugation of women — these are not perversions of Islam, as he sees it, but rather its very essence.

“The word ‘Islamism’ suggests that there is a moderate Islam and a non-moderate Islam,” he told me during an interview in Toronto on Sunday. “And I believe that this is a distinction that doesn’t exist. It’s like the Prime Minister of Turkey [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, said ‘There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’s it.’ This is the Islam of the Koran.”

“Now, you can certainly make a distinction among the people,” he adds. “There are moderate Muslims — who are the majority in our Western societies — and non-moderate Muslims.”

“But Islam itself has only one form. The totalitarian ideology contained in the Koran has no room for moderation. If you really look at what the Koran says, in fact, you could argue that ‘moderate’ Muslims are not Muslims at all. It tells us that if you do not act on even one verse, then you are an apostate.”

Unlike most critics of Islam, who tend to shy away from the explosive subject of Mohammed himself, Mr. Wilders forthrightly describes the Muslim Prophet as a dictator, a pedophile and a warmonger. “If you study the life of Mohammed,” Mr.Wilders told me, “you can see that he was a worse terrorist than Osama bin Laden ever was.”

It is an understatement to call Mr. Wilders a divisive figure in the Netherlands. On the one hand, he is the leader of the PVV, the country’s third most popular political party — which currently is propping up the ruling minority government. And Mr. Wilders has been declared “politician of the year” by a popular Dutch radio station, and come in second in a variety of other mainstream polls.

On the other hand, the Muslim Council of Britain has called him “an open and relentless preacher of hate.” For a time, Mr. Wilders, even was banned from entering the U.K. A popular Dutch rapper wrote a song about killing Mr. Wilders (“This is no joke. Last night I dreamed I chopped your head off.”)

Before meeting Mr. Wilders on Sunday, I knew him mostly from his most inflammatory slogans — such as his comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf — which his detractors fling around as proof of his narrow-minded bigotry.

Yet the real Geert Wilders speaks softly and thoughtfully. It turns out that he’s travelled to dozens of Muslim nations. He knows more about the Islamic faith and what it means to ordinary people than do most of Islam’s most ardent Western defenders.

Nor do I believe that Mr. Wilders is a bigot — a least, not in the sense that the word usually is understood.

“I don’t hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology,” is what he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2008. Mr. Wilders sees Islam as akin to communism or fascism, a cage that traps its suffering adherents in a hateful, phobic frame of mind.

Mr. Wilders describes Muslim as victims of bad ideas, in other words. In this way, his attitude is entirely different from classic anti-Semites and racists, who treat Jews and blacks as debased on the level of biology.

Of course, in the modern, politically correct Western tradition, hatred expressed toward a religion typically is held on the same level of human-rights opprobrium as hatred expressed toward a race or an ethnicity. But Islam is not really a religion at all, as Mr. Wilders sees it, but rather a retrograde political ideology with religious trappings.

He notes that while other religions draw a distinction between God and Ceasar, between the secular and the spiritual, Islam demands submission in every aspect of human existence, both through the wording of the Koran itself and the Shariah law that has developed in its shadow. The faith also supplies a justification for aggressive war; vilifies non-believers; and pronounces death upon its enemies. In short, Mr. Wilders argues, it has all the ingredients of what students of 20th century history would recognize as a fully formed totalitarian ideology.

“I see Islam as 95% ideology, 5% religion — the 5% being the temples and the imams,” he tells me. “If you would strip the Koran of all the negative, hateful, anti-Semitic material, you would wind up with a tiny [booklet].”

It’s easy to see why many Europeans casually jump to the conclusion that Mr. Wilders is a hatemonger. He wants to halt non-Western immigration to the Netherlands until existing immigrants can be integrated, and he wants to deport any foreigner who commits a crime — the same sort of policies as those advocated by genuine xenophobes.

But even so, his insistence on the proper distinction between faith and ideology is an idea that deserves to be taken seriously. For it invites the question: If we permit the excoriation of totalitarian cults created by modern dictators, why do we stigmatize (and even criminalize) the excoriation of arguably similar notions when they happen to be attributed to a 7th-century Bedouin with supernatural visions?

It’s a good question. And as far as I know, Geert Wilders is the only Western politician taking it seriously.


MALE chests now obscene??

Soon everybody will be offended by everything. Where does it end

We've all wanted to tell a jogger to put his shirt back on, but what happened recently in suburban Boston is a little different.

Westwood High track coach Tom Davis was fired last week because one of his runners decided to whip off a shirt during training on a 75-degree day. This wasn't a girl, by the way. It was a boy.

And the Westwood High athletic director, Karl Fogel, was so irate about it that Davis thought he was going to lay him out. "I fully 100 percent was expecting to be swung at," the coach told NECN TV.

That wasn't the end of it. Davis was let go on the spot, in front of his team, and eventually escorted off school property.

"The kids on my team, it was terrible," Davis told the TV station. "Their faces, just pure disgust, pure fear."

The team was doing quite well this year under the second-year coach: one of the relay teams went to nationals less than two months ago and the outdoor team started off 5-0 this spring.

But there was an undercurrent of tension at the school as Fogel told Davis that some members of the girls team felt uncomfortable when the boys ran without shirts. [WHY, for heaven's sake??] Davis even warned his team about possible punishment for not wearing a shirt.


Australia: Harsh Federal Budget cracks down on welfare

WORK-for-the-dole rules will be twice as tough for almost 230,000 long-term unemployed people as part of the Gillard Government's Budget crackdown on welfare. And disability pensioners will face tougher work rules and limits on time spent overseas to prevent rorting of the payments of up to $670 a fortnight.

But Labor faces major hurdles in selling its "tough love" Budget to average families who will be offered little to help offset the soaring cost of living.

The Government has been pushed further into the red by the impact of the global financial crisis, the summer of natural disasters and a collapse in company tax revenue.

Labor has promised a tough approach to Australia's ballooning welfare bills to force more people into work. People who have been on the dole for more than two years will be forced to double their minimum work experience and training requirements to two days a week for 11 months.

At the moment, these work requirements are limited to six months. The new rules bring work-for-the-dole in line with the number of weeks worked by average Australians who take four weeks holidays a year.

Work-for-the-dole activities can include part-time work, volunteer jobs that lead to work and on-the-job training.

Disability pensioners could face rules that allow them to work for up to 30 hours a week and still get welfare payments in a bid to slash the 860,000 people receiving the assistance.

The Government will also tighten eligibility rules for the dole, youth allowance and parenting payments as it wields a big stick against welfare recipients.



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.


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