Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ban Germany's NPD? Neo-Nazi revelations spark debate

Like Hitler's Nazis, the NPD (National Democratic Party) is both socialist and Green so it is amusing to see a German government that is also socialist and Green trying to ban it. The difference is that the NPD preaches national pride, which is regarded as very dubious in Germany. Pride in their country is very common among Americans, however, so demonizing the NPD purely on those grounds is pretty silly -- JR

The mural is 2 meters (6.6 feet) high, several meters long, and looks as if it came straight from a 1935 German schoolbook: a young family in farmer’s clothes, the mother cradling a baby, the father putting his arm protectively around his older son’s shoulders. Next to the painting in old German font, it reads: “Village community Jamel: Free – social – national.”

Jamel is what neo-Nazis in Germany call a “nationally liberated zone,” a no-go area for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and overt left-wingers. It is one of the places where the National Democratic Party (NPD), Germany’s legal far-right party, has won the battle for hearts and minds – and probably did not have to fight very hard. In some villages and towns of this region, the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the NPD easily reached 20 percent in regional elections earlier this year.

“The authorities have given up on Jamel,” says Horst Krumpen, chairman of the Network for Democracy, Tolerance, and Humanity, a campaign group in the nearby town of Wismar. “We don’t have problems with right-wing violence here – there hardly is any. Our problem is the widespread support for the NPD in the region and the impotence of the state.”

For years, places like Jamel were more or less ignored by the German authorities. In a speech this summer, Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich called right-wing extremism a phenomenon on the decline, and stressed the threat of Islamic terrorism. But the shocking revelations a month ago about a terrorist cell of neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is alleged to have killed as many as 10 ethnic-minority citizens as well as a policewoman and carried out several bombings and bank robberies over the past decade, have put such enclaves back in the focus, along with a debate about whether the NPD, which gives a legal voice to extreme right-wing sentiment, should be banned.

Jamel is a tiny village of only a dozen houses, close to the Baltic coast in northeast Germany. It is surrounded by idyllic landscapes, but there are metal shutters on most windows, attack dogs behind fences, a shooting range outside a collapsed barn with a playground in front of it. Everywhere you look there are manifestations of the inhabitants’ world: a tall cross with the words “Better dead than a slave” on it, flags with Germanic runes and symbols, and signposts pointing to various places in Russia and Poland which used to belong to Germany before World War II. A placard reminds people: “NPD – we keep our promises.”

The NPD, which is represented in the regional parliaments of two German states but has never played any role at the federal level, has tried for some time to shed its extremist image. “People can come to their party offices and get help filling out welfare application forms,” says Mr. Krumpen. NPD members are running youth clubs and local soccer teams, and sitting on local councils. Just last month, the party elected a new leader, Holger Apfel, who is regarded as less radical than his predecessor.

In a poll last week, 74 percent of Germans were in favor of banning the NPD. “A ban would destabilize the right-wing scene, throw it back for decades,” says Bernd Wagner. The ex-policeman is Germany’s foremost authority on right-wing extremism. He runs “Exit,” an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the scene and reintegrate in society. “We need to act,” says Mr. Wagner. “The official statistics show a decline in the number of right-wing extremists. But we at Exit see a core of neo-Nazis that is better organized and more radical than before.”

But the German government needs to show a concrete and direct link between the NPD and the terrorists of the NSU. Otherwise it risks a repeat of the embarrassment of 2003, when an attempt to ban the NPD failed, because Germany’s constitutional court rejected the case. Back then, the NPD was so heavily infiltrated with informers of the domestic intelligence service that the court decided most of the evidence brought against the far-right party would be inadmissible.

The arrest of a former NPD official who is accused of actively supporting the NSU last week could make the case for a ban and push the informer problem into the background, politicians hope. “If we can produce a watertight link between NPD and terrorists, we have an important argument on our side,” the Interior minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, told a German newspaper. Bavaria’s Interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the support for a ban was growing on a daily basis.

Not everybody agrees, though. Hartfrid Wolff is an MP for the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. He sits on the Parliamentary Oversight Committee that controls Germany’s intelligence services. “The failure of the domestic intelligence agency to stop this terrorist gang was a disaster,” he says. “But we should not in a knee-jerk reaction try to ban a party that has a considerable electorate. It would be much better to dry up its voter base, win over its supporters.”

Mr. Krumpen has a more practical approach. “If we ban the NPD, we don’t get rid of a single right-winger,” he says. “What we lose is a target whose structure and weaknesses we know well enough to fight. Ban it, and the neo-Nazis just go underground.”


IQ Blackout: Why Did Studying Intelligence Become Taboo?

Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. An IQ blackout descended.

Scholars used to avidly study human intelligence. They measured cranial capacity. They administered IQ tests. They sought to define what intelligence was and who had more or less of it and why.

These days, not so much. Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. Its legitimacy as a field of study, as a measurable quality -- on par with height, eyesight and hand-and-eye coordination -- and as a concept came under fire. Talk of "brainpower" and "smarts" ebbed as scholars proposed "multiple intelligences" -- such as musical, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal -- rather than whatever had hitherto been called IQ. An IQ blackout has descended. When researchers talk about IQ at all, the big question is whether it's inherited, and if so, how much. IQ now faces fierce competition from SQ and EQ, social and emotional intelligence, two burgeoning theories.

Why are our minds and their capabilities among the most taboo topics in 21st-century academia?

"I believe there are a number of factors involved," says Dennis Garlick, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at UCLA and the author of Intelligence and the Brain: Solving the Mystery of Why People Differ in IQ and How a Child Can Be a Genius (Aesop, 2010). "Certainly a major factor is the race issue. Arguing that the races differ in IQ has tainted the whole field, and many researchers and commentators would prefer to just avoid the area for fear of being labeled racists."

Much of that taint and fear dates back to the work of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, whose writings in the 1960s linking differences in cognitive ability with differences in race sparked protests on the Berkeley campus and outrage in the scientific community that echoes to this day.

"The most important fact about intelligence is that we can measure it," Jensen wrote in his most famous work, "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?" published in the Harvard Educational Review in 1969. "IQ is known to predict scholastic performance better than any other single measurable attribute of the child," Jensen wrote.

Asserting that intelligence is "heritable" -- that it's mainly in our genes -- he then warned against making racial generalizations: against, in a sense, being racist.

"Whenever we select a person for some special educational purpose ... we are selecting an individual, and we are selecting him and dealing with him for reasons of his individuality. ... Since, as far as we know, the full range of human talents is represented in all the major races of man and in all socioeconomic levels, it is unjust to allow the mere fact of an individual's racial or social background to affect the treatment accorded to him."

Jensen then went on to advocate diversity, although not quite in the same way we do today. "Schools and society must provide a range and diversity of educational methods, programs, and goals," Jensen demanded: In other words, diversify the curricula, not necessarily the faculty or student body.

"Jensen is still greatly respected by many traditional intelligence researchers," Garlick says. "By 'traditional intelligence researchers,' I mean researchers who still value IQ and continue to do studies that evaluate the effectiveness of IQ in predicting outcomes, or studies that examine possible mechanisms that may cause differences in IQ. However, due to the unpopularity of Jensen’s findings, this group of researchers is now very small.

"The major move in response to Jensen’s findings hasn’t been rigorous and compelling research to try and disprove his hypotheses and findings. Rather, it has led to an exodus of researchers away from the area, and a drying up of grant funding and research positions for researchers interested in IQ."

Jensen's work was a flashpoint dividing the study of human intelligence into two periods: BJ and AJ, you might say.

"The post-Jensen period has not been filled with good research aimed at disproving and discounting Jensen’s hypotheses," Garlick laments, "but rather with treating not just Jensen but the field of IQ in general as persona non grata. What this means for people who are low in intelligence is very much up to debate."

IQ is un-PC, Garlick adds, because "studying IQ is highlighting differences between people. Identifying differences between people in a characteristic where one end of the spectrum is associated with many more negative outcomes can result in hurtful information."

"While IQ tests are not a perfect measure of intelligence -- and a perfect measure does not exist -- performance on an IQ test can provide important insight into a person’s relative ability to understand concepts that play a role in successful performance in both educational and work domains," Garlick says.

"The major problem with ignoring differences in intelligence is that this does not resolve the underlying issue. For instance, low IQ can be reflected in poor performance at school. To address this, the criteria for 'successful' performance at school can be lowered. Children will then get higher grades. But simply telling children that they are doing well in their schoolwork when they have not mastered the underlying concepts will not help them later on when they are expected to apply their school learning to other situations.

"I find it ironical that so much research is devoted to disorders like autism that only affect less than 1 percent of the population, but little research is devoted to understanding differences in IQ. ... If the deficits of autism can be improved through research, why not IQ?"


'Tis the season for Christmas phobia

Atheists must be the most fragile peaches in the basket. They're always getting bruised by the slightest exposure to public displays that remind them of Christmas, God, the Ten Commandments -- or worst of all, Jesus.

Just as pathetic are the atheist enablers who are complicit in doing away with any reminders of America's Christian heritage, even secular symbols. For example, the Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston, South Carolina, recently decided that a visit by Santa Claus might upset nonbelievers. Perhaps they feared that it could lead to heart attacks, an Inquisition or perhaps even inspire local militant imams to issue a fatwa (death threat). You can never be sure what kind of chaos a visit by Santa could unleash.

After the public rebelled, the center said that Santa can squeeze down the center's chimney, but we'll have none of that overtly religious stuff such as crèches, angels, Christmas greetings -- anything that brings joy to the world.

On Nov. 18, the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel sent a letter [PDF] reminding Center Director Andrew S. Kraft, M.D., about how freedom of religion works in America under the Constitution and how his actions constitute viewpoint discrimination. Let's hope Dr. Kraft will grow a big heart like the Grinch did in Whoville.

The secular virus has been spreading for years in public and private zones. Shopping malls, which would go broke without Christmas, try their best to attract Christmas shoppers without mentioning Christmas. Hence, we get generic "happy holidays" and color schemes with blue and silver snowflakes cold enough to freeze the socks off Grandfather Frost. He's the former Soviet Union's made-up patron saint who took over giving gifts to children after the commissars bumped off St. Nicholas. It's rumored (just starting it now) that the Christmas-phobic ACLU tacks up portraits of Grandfather Frost in back offices to inspire them during that darned holiday season that Dare Not Tell Its Name.

Driving the whole mess is the growing fear Not to Offend. The war on Christmas, part of the ongoing trend to eradicate anything Christian in the public square, is also driven by a profound misreading of the First Amendment, which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

To the ACLU and other pro-atheist groups, that means the government must be hostile to any public expressions of belief that offend atheists. That makes atheism the de facto official religion, something the Founders went out of their way to prevent.

Genuine conflicts do arise, and the courts have found ways to keep religiously themed items legal on public property -- as long as they fulfill a secular purpose. In 1984, the Supreme Court in Lynch v. Donnelly ruled that the presence of a crèche amid other seasonal displays -- a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, and a "Seasons Greetings" banner -- erected by the city of Pawtuckett, Rhode Island, was not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

The secular purpose? Government was acknowledging the cultural significance of a traditional holiday celebrated by the vast majority of Americans. In what became the "reindeer test," the Court said that religious elements are okay if secular elements are present. So if you dust off a Bambi, put a red nose on it and place it next to the baby Jesus, all is right with the world. Previous generations didn't need this kind of "cover," but we're in a different place now.

The court also noted that, "The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any."

In early November, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving roadside cross memorials to fallen Utah state troopers. The American Civil Rights Union filed an amicus brief arguing for a new constitutional standard. The "Coercion Test" would evaluate whether a policy, practice, or action involves coercion in regard to religion. The framers meant to prohibit coercion, but they did not intend to prohibit voluntary, public, religious speech, or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve coercion. This test might have helped the state-supported cancer center folks see that barring Santa was a silly idea.

In Allegheny County v. Greater Pittsburgh ACLU (1989), the Court clarified the holiday standard by forbidding stand-alone nativities but not Christmas trees or menorahs. So the National Christmas Tree is safe -- for now. Wonder if the Ban Christmas crowd knows that a decorated fir is not really a Christmas tree unless crowned with a star or an angel? Hillary Clinton's National Tree had a purple, sparkling planet atop it one year. Make of that what you will.

Please don't tell the ACLU about the stars and angels, though. Grim-faced volunteers will be fanning out with ladders to grab them and fling them into the nearest dumpster to save us from the Reason for the Season.

Last year, atheists in Loudoun County, Virginia, upped the price of having a crèche at the county courthouse by erecting signs with diatribes against Christianity and belief in God. When you see this stuff, keep in mind that the devil can't create anything. He can only pervert what is good. And he's especially adept at enlisting atheists for his schemes, because, as Psalms 14 and 53 say, "the fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

Fortunately, since we're all prone to foolishness of one kind or another, that same God loves us anyway and gave us the ultimate gift, which is why we celebrate Christmas.


Australian Labor Party faces pulpit-led backlash on homosexual marriage

LABOR'S approval of gay marriage has sparked a pulpit-led revolt and accusations that Julia Gillard has breached an election promise to protect the Marriage Act.

Factional warlords engineered a political fix at the ALP national conference to save the Prime Minister's credibility, with the party backing her motion to give Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue, but the decision to amend the platform to include same-sex marriage has set off a firestorm.

Interfaith religious leaders yesterday warned that Labor faced the loss of seats - which would turf it out of power - echoing warnings from the Australian Christian Lobby that the marginal electorates of Corangamite and Deakin in Victoria, Greenway and Reid in western Sydney, and Brisbane's Moreton were in danger.

Speaking from Rome, the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, said Labor's move was "a temporary win for the political class".

"Marriage is about man, woman and children, as it has always been. Any Australia-wide political party which repudiates this does not want to govern, and rejects both tradition and the working class," Cardinal Pell said.

Anglican Church Primate Phillip Aspinall said his church had discussed the issue of gay marriage at its general synod and consistently supported marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, based on scripture.

And Isse Musse, imam of the Virgin Mary Mosque in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee, and the spiritual leader of Melbourne's Horn of Africa Muslim community, urged federal MPs to "look at the next 100 years and consider where families would be as they make this decision". "This is going to have some bearing on how people vote when elections come," he said.

"If a person is a true Muslim - and these days there are bogus Muslims, as there are bogus Christians as well - and understands Islam, then a conscience vote would lead him or her to vote against same-sex marriage."

On Saturday, Labor's national conference in Sydney amended the party's platform to recognise gay marriage, putting itself at odds with Ms Gillard, who insists that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, said: "Jewish tradition dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman." He added: "However, the progressive and conservative movements in Australia have endorsed officiating at same-sex commitment ceremonies."

The Grand Mufti of Australia, His Eminence Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, told The Australian he was "deeply disappointed with the result of this vote". "We see in this a serious incursion on the nature of families as created by God and as known by humanity. I believe that this will reduce the support for the Labor Party," he said.

"Australian society prides itself in, and highly respects, its value system. What has occurred with this vote threatens the family unit and the natural order of matrimony, being a natural union between a male and a female."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned that political extremists and Christians could rally to defeat the Labor reform and bolster right-wing political causes.

Ms Bligh, who faces an election next year, has vowed to fight for the reform and expressed her desire that federal parliament legalise same-sex marriage before the next federal election, due in 2013. "Is it possible that we will see some of the large Christian churches mobilise in this election?" Ms Bligh said. "Yes. But I don't think this will be the only issue that motivates them."

The president of the Islamic Friendship Society, Keysar Trad, noted that at the NSW election in March the NSW Council of Imams had urged its followers vote against any candidate who supported gay marriage, and predicted that such a direct instruction would be forthcoming at the next federal election.

Such a move would create the prospect of forcing individual Labor candidates to state their position on the question. "This is an issue which will deliver a lot of people towards the Liberals and Nationals and some of the minor parties," Mr Trad said.

If the predictions prove correct, it could greatly increase the chances of Labor losing those seats in western Sydney that survived the Liberal onslaught at the last federal election.

With ethnic voters from a variety of faiths often the strongest adherents to organised religion, any electoral impact of Labor's change in platform could be most pronounced in seats such as Reid, held by Labor's John Murphy by a margin of 2.5 per cent. The seat has a proportion of overseas-born residents of nearly 40 per cent.

Deborah O'Neill, who represents the marginal seat of Robertson, told the conference she thought the community support for gay marriage was "overstated". "Perhaps time will change and broader community views on the Marriage Act will change. But at this time, I believe it is an issue that continues to divide us."

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce warned that the government was sending a loud message to blue-collar voters that it had been completely captured by the left-wing causes of the Greens and activist group GetUp! and had lost sight of the concerns of mainstream voters.

Labor backbencher Stephen Jones said he would move a private member's bill early next year to amend the Marriage Act in competition with the Greens.

ACL managing director Jim Wallace yesterday insisted that Ms Gillard had promised before last year's election that under her leadership the Marriage Act would continue to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "Labor's granting of a conscience vote on this issue does not change the statement this policy change makes on its values as a party, and the degree to which we can trust its election promises," Mr Wallace said.

He said there was now a clear differentiation between the Coalition and the ALP on marriage and that his organisation would continue to back Labor MPs who stuck to their promise and rejected change.

Saturday's debate on same-sex marriage was a torrid affair, with about 3000 pro-reform activists marching on the conference. Speakers opposing the change jeered from the floor as they warned that the issue put Labor out of step with the mainstream.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association national secretary Joe de Bruyn told delegates that Labor had "a fighting chance" to win the next election, but "If the platform is changed, then rather than win seats in Queensland, as we need to do, we may very well lose more seats. In suburban Sydney or Melbourne, again, we are likely to lose more seats."

Tony Abbott accused Labor of "navel gazing". But despite previously indicating that the Coalition would not change its united position of opposing same-sex marriage, the Opposition Leader refused to give a clear answer. "There's a sense in which every vote in the Liberal Party is a conscience vote because we don't expel people for exercising their judgment, unlike the Labor Party," Mr Abbott said.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek called on Mr Abbott to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote on the issue, noting that Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent had recently made clear he favoured gay marriage.

It is clear that some Coalition MPs support marriage equality, including former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, whose Sydney seat of Wentworth is home to a large gay community.

Mr Turnbull was unavailable yesterday, but in a recent email to a constituent he made clear that he believed the Liberal Party should have a conscience vote.



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 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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