Monday, April 22, 2013
The challenge of the UK Independence party
Normal politics is slowly resuming after the death of Lady Thatcher, and things are looking pretty grim for her old party. Tories canvassing ahead of the local government elections on Thursday week indicate they will be thrashed.
Although Labour will score some big wins, the Conservatives' most worrying threat comes from Ukip. Right across the South of England, traditional Tory voters are turning to the fringe party, attracted by its Thatcherite policies.
While its anti-Europeanism is a major factor (particularly considering the prospect of a new, uncontrolled influx of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria in the new year), UKIP is also offering more grammar schools, lower taxes, tougher public spending cuts, fewer wind farms and more defence funding.
Indeed, UKIP leader Nigel Farage mischievously claimed this week that his party would never have been formed in 1993 if Margaret Thatcher had not been kicked out as Tory leader.
An opinion poll also showed that the Tories would be much more popular today if she were still in charge.
Of course, this is deeply depressing for David Cameron, who is under increasing pressure to change course and embark on a radical, more Thatcherite agenda.
One of the influential voices urging a change of direction is the party's chief election guru, Lynton Crosby, an Australian pollster with a long record of success and reliable instincts about voters' concerns.
He is rightly worried about the number of traditional Tories who've become disaffected by the so-called 'modernising' agenda, with policies such as the legalisation of same-sex marriages.
Any change of direction, though, won't be in time to stop the Tories' expected humiliation in next month's local elections. But it could reap dividends at the next general election.
Mr Crosby understands the importance of the party following Lady Thatcher's lead and reconnecting with working-class voters.
It can only do this by being the champion of aspiration - something that Labour, with its addiction to the Welfare State, will never be.
If, as expected, the Tories lose as many as 600 council seats on May 2, the calls for change will be unstoppable.
As a result, Mr Cameron would have to consider holding his promised referendum on Britain's membership of the EU as soon as possible, rather than waiting until 2017 or 2018.
He should also offer more incentives to the lower-paid by raising the threshold at which they start paying tax from nearly £10,000 (where it is now) to £15,000.
The Thatcherite doctrine of letting hard-working families keep more of their own money must be adopted. Iain Duncan Smith's recent brave welfare reforms should also be extended. Tactically, too, Mr Cameron must change tack. It's idiotic for him to attack UKIP supporters as 'fruitcakes' when, in truth, they are natural Tory supporters.
To avoid suffering any big electoral defeats, David Cameron must rein in the pernicious influence of the party's modernisers. And he needs to do that fast.
Totally confused modern morality
In the age of relativism, popular morality hasn’t so much disappeared as become schizophrenic
By Victor Davis Hanson
More than 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Yet Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel still found time to berate the fast-food franchise Chick-fil-A for not sharing “Chicago values” — apparently, because its founder does not approve of gay marriage.
Two states have legalized marijuana, with more to come. Yet social taboos against tobacco smoking make it nearly impossible to light up a cigarette in public places. Marijuana, like alcohol, causes far greater short-term impairment than does nicotine. But legal cigarette smoking is now seen as a corporate-sponsored, uncool, and dirty habit that leads to long-term health costs for society at large — in a way homegrown, hip, and mostly illegal pot smoking apparently does not.
Graphic language, nudity, and sex are now commonplace in movies and on cable television. At the same time, there is now almost no tolerance for casual and slangy banter in the media or the workplace. A boss who calls an employee “honey” might face accusations of fostering a hostile work environment, yet a television producer whose program shows an 18-year-old having sex does not. Many colleges offer courses on lurid themes from masturbation to prostitution, even as campus sexual-harassment suits over hurtful language are at an all-time high.
A federal judge in New York recently ruled that the so-called morning-after birth-control pill must be made available to all “women” regardless of age or parental consent, and without a prescription. The judge determined that it was unfair for those under 16 to be denied access to such emergency contraceptives. But if vast numbers of girls younger than 16 need after-sex options to prevent unwanted pregnancies, why isn’t there a flood of statutory-rape charges being lodged against older teenagers for having consensual relations with younger girls?
Our schizophrenic morality also affects the military. When America was a far more traditional society, few seemed to care that General Dwight Eisenhower carried on an unusual relationship at the front in Normandy with his young female chauffeur, Kay Summersby. As the Third Army chased the Germans across France, General George S. Patton was not discreet about his female liaisons. Contrast that live-and-let-live attitude of a supposedly uptight society with our own hip culture’s tabloid interest in General David Petraeus’s career-ending affair with Paula Broadwell, or in the private e-mails of General John Allen.
What explains these contradictions in our wide-open but prudish society? Decades after the rise of feminism, popular culture still seems confused by it. If women should be able to approach sexuality like men, does it follow that commentary about sex should follow the same gender-neutral rules? Yet wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing is often considered less offensive than remarking upon it. Calling a near-nude Madonna onstage a “hussy” or “tart” would be considered crude in a way that her mock crucifixion and simulated sex acts are not.
Criminal sexual activity is sometimes not as professionally injurious as politically incorrect thoughts about sex and gender. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer — found to have hired prostitutes on a number of occasions during his time in office — was given a CNN news show despite the scandal. But when former Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked in the Miss USA pageant whether she endorsed gay marriage, she said no — and thereby earned nearly as much popular condemnation for her candid defense of traditional marriage as Spitzer had for his purchased affairs.
Critics were outraged that talk-show host Rush Limbaugh grossly insulted birth-control activist Sandra Fluke. Amid the attention, Fluke was canonized for her position that federal health-care plans should pay for the contraceptive costs of all women. Yet in comparison to Fluke’s well-publicized victimhood, there has been a veritable news blackout for the trial of the macabre Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with killing and mutilating in gruesome fashion seven babies during a long career of conducting sometimes illegal late-term abortions. Had Gosnell’s aborted victims been canines instead of humans — compare the minimal coverage of the Gosnell trial with the widespread media condemnation of dog-killing quarterback Michael Vick — perhaps the doctor’s mayhem likewise would have been front-page news outside of Philadelphia.
Modern society also resorts to empty, symbolic moral action when it cannot deal with real problems. So-called assault weapons account for less than 1 percent of gun deaths in America. But the country whips itself into a frenzy to ban them, apparently to prove that at least it can do something, instead of wading into polarized racial and class controversies by going after illegal urban handguns, the real source of the nation’s high gun-related body count.
Not since the late-19th-century juxtaposition of the Wild West with the Victorian East has popular morality been so unbridled and yet so uptight. In short, we have become a nation of promiscuous prudes.
Ohio air show scraps Hiroshima bombing re-enactment with ‘Great Wall of Fire’ pyrotechnics after sparking outrage
A major US air show has canceled plans to stage a re-enactment of the World War II atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima following complaints that it was 'inappropriate.'
Dayton Air Show in Ohio has featured a re-enactment of the bombing of the Japanese city - in August 1945 - for more than 30 years.
Spokeswoman Brenda Kerfoot said a planned 'Great Wall of Fire' pyrotechnic show will still go ahead - but will not be used to represent the bombing after critics said it was inappropriate for a family event.
Ms Kerfoot said the show at Dayton International Airport in June, will not now feature a B-29 bomber - used to represent the Enola Gay which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The B-29 plane 'Fifi,' will remain in the show but in a separate role, she said.
Air show officials said the re-enactment was meant to highlight an historic event that helped end the war and save lives that would have been lost if it had been prolonged.
'We've taken it as more of an educational show,' Ms Kerfoot said. 'The wording that we used probably wasn't the best.'
She said organisers did not want the Hiroshima aspect to 'become a distraction to the overall quality of the show.'
The Dayton Daily News reported earlier that art curator Gabriela Pickett started an online petition to object to the 'glamorization of destruction.'
'I'm very pleased to hear that they are going to have two different events, and not the re-enacting,' she said. 'It would have been pretty much a celebration of dropping the bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of people.'
She said some 200 people signed her online petition in a little more than a day, and that she had received a number of emails from Japanese-Americans who were upset by the re-enactment.
She highlighted Dayton's immigrant-friendly 'Welcome Dayton' initiative. 'We are a city of peace,' she said.
The city has for years highlighted its role as the site of the Dayton peace accords on Bosnia negotiated in 1995. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize each year honors literature's power to promote peace.
Ron Katsuyama, a University of Dayton associate professor who was born in a US wartime detention camp for Japanese-Americans, said the show's contention that the bomb that killed so many Japanese ended up saving more lives is disputable. He said some historians say Japan would have surrendered without the atomic bomb attacks.
'By having shows like that, it is not only in bad taste, but I think I sustains misinformation,' said Prof Katsuyama, past president of the Asian American Council.
As many as 140,000 people were killed by the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, with more than 70,000 more killed in an attack three days later on Nagasaki.
In 1994, Bill Clinton's White House pressured the US Postal Service into scrapping a mushroom cloud stamp planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war's end, following protests by the Japanese government.
A spokeswoman at the Japanese Embassy in Washington said yesterday that it was unaware of the air show issue and had no comment.
The controversy is another setback for the show that dates to 1975 in the city that was home to the aviation-pioneering Wright Brothers.
The air show last month announced that its headline act, the US Air Force's Thunderbirds jet demonstration team, was canceled because of the cuts triggered by the failure to reach a federal budget deal in Washington.
The show normally attracts more than 70,000 people for its displays of vintage planes, aerial acrobatics and stunts. Ms Kerfoot said attendance likely will be lower this year.
Were Boston Marathon bombers followers of Harry Potter-hating Australian sheik and pro-al-Qaeda preacher?
A YouTube page reported owned by one of the Boston Marathon bombers reveals that they may have been followers of two radical Muslim sheiks - one who preached against the 'corrupting evils of Harry Potter' and another who advocates for al-Qaeda in their native Chechnya.
A user called Tamerlan Tsarnaev - the name of the alleged bomber killed in a shootout with police in Boston last night - has posted several videos of sermons of fundamentalist sheiks.
One video is from Abdel al-Hamid al-Juhani, a Russian sheik who reportedly preaches a form of Salafist Islam that is usually associated with al-Qaeda.
Al-Juhani is 'is an important ideologue for al Qaeda in Chechnya and the Caucases,' Mary Habeck, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies radical Islam, told the Daily Beast.
He also posted a video about 'The Black Flags From Khorasan,' which Habeck said is shorthand for al-Qaeda.
The other holy man that Tsarnaev's YouTube page advocates is Sheik Feiz Mohammed - an Australian-born Lebanese preacher whose fundamentalist teachings include condemnations of Harry Potter for teaching paganism. Tsarnaev posted a video of the sermon on his YouTube page. He later labels Harry Potter an idolator and an enemy of Allah.
Tsarnaev also posted a video of Sheik Feiz Mohammed teaching that Muslims are not good followers of the faith if they don't adhere to all of the Sunnah - or rulings of Islamic scholars. These rules are not listed in the Koran.
He has also urged his followers to behead the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for his campaigns against Islam in the Netherlands, according to a Dutch newspaper.
Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are both from the Russian breakaway region of Chechnya, are believed to be behind the bombing that killed thee people and left dozens maimed and at least 170 injured.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.