Thursday, May 12, 2011
Political correctness is as severe a form of censorship as any, warns The Duchess of Cornwall
The Duchess of Cornwall yesterday branded political correctness ‘as severe a form of censorship as any’. In a timely speech, Camilla described freedom of expression as being ‘at the heart of our democratic system’ and expressed her hope that people would continue to speak without fear or favour.
The Prince of Wales’s wife also expressed her ‘passionate belief’ in the ability of newspapers to ‘question, debate and criticise’ and described the Press as having a ‘pivotal’ role in scrutinising every corner of society.
Camilla, who has fielded her fair share of brickbats from the media, chose to speak out at a time of intense public debate over the insidious nature of privacy laws. Parliament is facing calls to debate super-injunctions – draconian gagging orders being used with alarming regularity by celebrities to prevent the media reporting details of extra-marital affairs and other personal misdemeanours.
But rallying to the defence of the media, the Duchess said yesterday: ‘I take enormous pride in our ability to question, debate and criticise all aspects of our society.
‘I believe passionately in freedom of expression. I believe freedom of expression, so long as it doesn’t contravene the law, or offend others, to be at the heart of our democratic system. In this, you [the Press] play a vital, if not pivotal role.
‘But just one note of caution: in our right to speak freely, please let us not become too politically correct, because surely political correctness is as severe a form of censorship as any.’
Sources close to the Duchess said that by ‘political correctness’ she was expressing her hope that people – and newspapers – would be able to speak out about a variety of issues, including race and sexual equality, without feeling ‘inhibited’.
‘She sees arguments over what is deemed the politically correct thing to say about issues that affect our day-to-day life as a way of curtailing free speech,’ the sources said.
The Duchess was speaking at the prestigious London Press Club awards, giving a warm and witty address to the assembled editors.
‘When it comes to the Press you have probably guessed that my motto is “No news is good news”,’ she said. ‘But I wanted to take this opportunity of talking about something that matters deeply to me but which I feel sometimes goes unnoticed, and that is to celebrate what is best about Britain.’
In particular she praised the nation’s ‘brave’ armed forces as well the foreign correspondents and cameramen who risk their lives to report on international incidents.
Camilla also jokingly referred to ‘a certain wedding the other week’ which, she said, provided a much-needed boost of patriotism.
Drawing to a close, she concluded: ‘There is nothing shameful in expressing pride in our values and accomplishment.’
As she presented the awards, Camilla couldn’t help but smile when one of the speakers included a waspish remark about the financial problems recently suffered by Duchess of York.
Fired: Stationmaster who pulled trolley off line to stop an accident... and what a surprise, it's all down to elf 'n' safety
Over nearly three decades of dedicated service, he was always happy to go the extra mile for his rail passengers. Stationmaster Ian Faletto even spent his own money on flowers, carpets and heaters as well as handing out free sweets and jigsaws to travellers.
Now, however, he has been sacked after pulling a shopping trolley dumped by vandals off the track. The 49-year-old bachelor believed his prompt action prevented an accident at Lymington Pier, Hampshire.
But bosses at South West Trains saw it very differently – and dismissed him after a 27-year career for ‘a serious breach of safety’.
Mr Faletto said: ‘I can’t believe it after all I have done for them. What I did prevented an accident which could have derailed a train and injured passengers.
‘I saw the trolley on the line and managed to remove it before the first train arrived that morning. Health and safety rules have gone too far when you prevent an accident and get sacked for it. I just want my job back.’
As well as dipping into his pocket to add homely touches, he used to go in on days off to make sure Lymington Pier and the other three stations he ran were staffed. Mr Faletto, from Southampton, also painted railings in his own time and had not taken a holiday in five years.
‘I’ve been a real ambassador for the company,’ he said. ‘I have spent thousands of pounds of my own money making the stations the best they can be.
‘That’s what commuters deserve for the amount they pay, to have a nice warm place to wait and they were grateful for it. ‘I don’t know how I am going to get by.
‘Because I was sacked, I lost my mortgage protection and my pension. I will have to find a way but the trains are all I know.’
The incident which cost Mr Faletto his job was on Sunday, March 6. After arriving at 8.30am and spotting the trolley, he contacted the signalman to request that the power be turned off and jumped on to the line in protective shoes to remove it.
A week later, a district manager saw the incident while looking through CCTV footage and it emerged that the power had not been switched off. Mr Faletto was suspended and then sacked following a disciplinary hearing.
Passengers are also very unhappy at the decision to axe him. They include the Reverend Alex Russell, 52, from St Mary’s Church, Pennington, who is organising a petition in a campaign backed by 200 people. ‘He always went the extra mile for passengers,’ she said. ‘No one has ever had a bad word to say about him.
‘People have been driving miles just to sign my petition. He has been sacked for breach of health and safety but there is an exception rule if it is an emergency. ‘I would have thought stopping an accident is an emergency. ‘His life is in ruins. He has worked for the railways for 27 years and has nothing else.’
Mr Faletto also ran Lymington Town, Ashurst and Beaulieu Road stations on a branch line from the main line to Lymington, a staging post for Isle of Wight ferries. The single-track line has two trains an hour in each direction. Mr Faletto, who is taking his former employers to a tribunal, worked at nearby Sway station for 15 years before moving to the Lymington line. He has won 25 awards, including most improved station in the region and best kept station in the country for four years in a row. Mr Faletto also won a rare award for ‘outstanding personal contribution’ to the railways.
He fears standards have slipped in his absence. ‘I’m so upset about this as well as angry,’ he said. ‘I went back to see the station and it’s a blooming mess now, full of rubbish. I tried to make it the best it could be.’
The significance of Herman Cain
The most intriguing question raised by the first presidential debate in Greenville, S.C. involves the way Republicans will characterize the surprising showing of Herman Cain. Does the business leader and talk radio host represent the next Ronald Reagan --or the second coming of Alan Keyes?
Cain’s fans and supporters cite the reaction to Thursday night’s encounter to stress the Reaganesque qualities of their champion. According to a focus group conducted by Fox News analyst Frank Luntz, Cain gained more support from his self-assured and capable performance than any other candidate in the 35 debates the pollster has covered. Among 29 participants, only one favored Cain prior to the telecast; afterwards, a clear majority selected him as their “first choice” among presidential possibilities. (Most of the heavyweights ducked the debate.)
Cain’s detractors liken his long-shot campaign to a three-time presidential loser and notorious vanity candidate who similarly (and disastrously) relied on his communication skills: Alan Keyes. His debate performances always grabbed attention (including an incident in 1996 when Atlanta police blocked his attempt to rush the stage of a candidate forum to which he’d been disinvited), but he gained no traction in terms of votes or delegates. Some Republicans encouraged Keyes out of a desperate and forlorn desire to promote telegenic black conservatives; Cain’s critics say he exploits that same hunger, even as logic dictates that his chances of victory remain remote.
But the Keyes analogy makes little sense. Herman has been a guest on my radio show several times, and at 66, he has compiled a genuinely dazzling record of corporate success, with top executive positions at Pillsbury, Burger King and Godfather Pizza. Keyes could point only to minor diplomatic appointments and failed campaigns, with no more executive experience than Barack Obama. Cain’s business background (including chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City) and proven head for numbers (he holds a mathematics degree from Morehouse College and a master’s in computer science from Purdue) make him a plausible candidate at a time of economic stress and looming fiscal catastrophe. His followers, citing his leadership of Godfather Pizza, bill Herman as “the Godfather of Common Sense”; on the other hand, the phrases “common sense” and “Alan Keyes” have never appeared together in the same sentence.
Despite the flurry of attention to Cain’s candidacy, he stands scant chance of winning a major primary or caucus. His modest personal fortune provides a comfortable life for himself and his family but, unlike other business leaders pursuing the presidency (Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, John Huntsman) he can’t pump tens of millions of dollars into funding his own campaign. The expected addition of better-known contenders in the next few weeks (almost certainly including Newt Gingrich and perhaps Mitch Daniels and Michele Bachmann) means that he’ll never again be able to steal the show in future debates the way he did in this initial outing (against Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and the enigmatic Gary Johnson).
Still, Herman Cain could well play a significant role in building a stronger GOP for 2012 and beyond. While many commentators sneered and snickered at the South Carolina debate (my Daily Beast colleague Matt Latimer compared it to “a low-budget Star Trek convention where only the guy who played Dr. McCoy and a bunch of extras bothered to show up”) they ignored a truly historic, even epic aspect of this event.
In South Carolina – the home of secession, John C. Calhoun, Strom Thurmond, and the long-fluttering Stars and Bars over the state Capitol building – a black guy won in a landslide with a nearly all-white focus group of local Republicans.
This provides potent counter-evidence to the tired Democratic charge that conservatives – particularly Southern conservatives – dislike Obama primarily because he’s African-American. In fact, right-wingers don’t hate the president’s guts because he’s black: they despise him because he’s liberal—an old-fashioned, free-spending, big government lefty. They didn’t like Bill Clinton any better (does anyone remember impeachment?) despite his notably lighter complexion. To paraphrase Cain’s fellow Georgian (and fellow Morehouse graduate): conservatives care more about the content of his character (or his political ideology) than they do about the color of his skin.
Of course, some cynics suggest that any Republican attempt to draw support from African-Americans represents a distracting waste of time and resources, given the virtual certainty that Obama will once again carry the black vote by vast margins. This argument, however, ignores the undeniable fact that the African American vote amounts to such a substantial share of the overall electorate (13 percent in 2008) that even small shifts could bring big consequences.
If John McCain had performed as well as George W. Bush performed among black voters in 2004 (winning 11 percent instead of 4 percent), it would have brought nearly a million extra votes to his popular vote total, and swayed desperately close outcomes in major battlegrounds carried by Obama, including Virginia and North Carolina. Part of the untold story of the Republican House victory last year involves more than doubling the GOP percentage of the black vote, and electing two new African-American Republican congressmen. The very survival of the party depends on further efforts to undermine Democratic efforts to portray the GOP as a bigoted, whites-only political movement.
Minimum Wage's Discriminatory Effects
By Walter E. Williams
As if more proof were needed about the minimum wage's devastating effects, yet another study has reached the same conclusion. Last week, two labor economists, Professors William Even (Miami University of Ohio) and David Macpherson (Trinity University), released a study for the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute titled "Unequal Harm: Racial Disparities in the Employment Consequences of Minimum Wage Increases."
During the peak of what has been dubbed the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for young adults (16 to 24 years of age) as a whole rose to above 27 percent. The unemployment rate for black young adults was almost 50 percent, but for young black males, it was 55 percent.
Even and Macpherson say that it would be easy to say this tragedy is an unfortunate byproduct of the recession, but if you said so, you'd be wrong. Their study demonstrates that increases in the minimum wage at both the state and federal level are partially to blame for the crisis in employment for minority young adults.
Their study focuses on 16-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts, understandably a relatively inexperienced group of labor market participants. Since minimum wage laws discriminate against the employment of the least-skilled worker, it shouldn't be surprising to find 16-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts its primary victims.
Among the white males, the authors find that "each 10 percent increase in a state or federal minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5 percent; for Hispanic males, the figure is 1.2 percent.
"But among black males in this group, each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage decreased employment by 6.5 percent."
The authors go on to say, "The effect is similar for hours worked: each 10 percent increase reduces hours worked by 3 percent among white males, 1.7 percent for Hispanic males, and 6.6 percent for black males."
Even and Macpherson compare the job loss caused by higher minimum wages with that caused by the recession and find between 2007 and 2010, employment for 16-to-24-year-old black males fell by approximately 34,300 as a result of the recession; over the same time period, approximately 26,400 lost their jobs as a result of increases in the minimum wage across the 50 states and at the federal level.
Why do young black males suffer unequal harm from minimum wage increases? Even and Macpherson say that they're more likely to be employed in low-skilled jobs in eating and drinking establishments. These are businesses with narrow profit margins and are more adversely affected by increases in minimum wage increases. For 16-to-24-year-old men without a high school diploma, 25 percent of whites and 31 percent of blacks work at an eating and drinking establishment. Compounding the discriminatory burden of minimum wages, not discussed by the authors, are the significant educational achievement differences between blacks and whites.
The best way to sabotage chances for upward mobility of a youngster from a single-parent household, who resides in a violent slum and has attended poor-quality schools is to make it unprofitable for any employer to hire him. The way to accomplish that is to mandate an employer to pay such a person a wage that exceeds his skill level.
Imagine that a worker's skill level is such that he can only contribute $5 worth of value per hour to the employer's output, but the employer must pay him a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, plus mandated fringes such as Social Security, unemployment compensation and health insurance. To hire such a worker would be a losing economic proposition. If the employer could pay that low-skilled worker the value of his skills, he would at least have a job and a chance to upgrade his skill and earn more in the future.
Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America's permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.
Australian parliamentarian proposes tough love for prisoners, saying prisons 'like hotels'
Mr McLindon is the sole representative of his party so will not have much influence. But he represents a rural electorate so some mainstream conservatives might take up his ideas
PRISONERS would have to go without air-conditioners, 24/7 electricity and porn in a proposed new "tough love" approach.
Following an inspection of the Townsville Men's and Women's Correctional Centres, the Queensland Party will today propose new restrictions to be placed on prisoners across the state. Leader of the Queensland Party, Aidan McLindon, will make these suggestions to Parliament today, including that prisoners be put on the same medical waiting lists as other Queenslanders.
"I spent four hours touring the facility and saw that prisoners had access to electricity, air conditioning and the latest DVDs along with stockpiles of pornos," said Mr McLindon. "It is no wonder that there is a 70 per cent re-offending rate in Townsville.
"Additionally, offenders have direct and instant access to medical treatment while everyday Queenslanders are left waiting for years."
Mr McLindon said the Queensland Party are looking to end the "easy living conditions" and replace them with "tough love". "Prisons are becoming hotels whilst the prison guards act as nothing less than glorified room service," Mr McLindon said.
"Queensland prison guards are doing the very best they can under these ludicrous circumstances and somebody has to lift the lid on this stupidity."
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.