Monday, December 30, 2013
A greeting from Jerusalem
Very meaningful for Bible-loving Christians
If Jews can acknowledge Christmas, why cannot the "atheists" of the Left? Of all people Jews have the most reason to see anything Christian as "offensive"
What our Bible says about Israel and Jerusalem:
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" -- Genesis 12:3
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy -- Psalm 137 (NIV)
A Real Life Example of Welfare Reform
Welfare advocates regularly urge Americans to look to the European welfare state as a model. At least in the case of the Netherlands, they might be on to something.
The Dutch have just announced a massive reform of their welfare system, designed to reduce dependency and put a new emphasis on work. For example, welfare applicants will now be required to prove that they spent at least 4 weeks actively searching for a job before they become eligible for any assistance. And once they begin to receive benefits they will either have to work or perform volunteer community service. Dutch welfare recipients would be required to take available jobs even if they had to move or commute up to three hours per day.
Given that just 42 percent of U.S. welfare recipients are engaged in even broadly defined work activities (including job training, college, or job search), and that an attempt to restore work requirements to the food stamp program has been met with a storm of resistance, the Dutch appear to be much more pro-work than we are.
Other reforms would reduce benefits by treating families as a single unit, rather than as separate individuals. For instance a mother with two children would receive a single payment rather than three separate payments. The combined payment would be less, based on the assumption of “shared expense.”
According to the Dutch government, the reforms will ensure that welfare is seen as “a safety net, rather than a right.”
What the Dutch apparently understand is that, in the long run, welfare dependency hurts the very people it is designed to help. Making poverty a bit more comfortable may be satisfying in the short term, but the real goal should be to reduce the number of people in poverty. To do that requires people to take more responsibility for their own lives.
That’s a lesson in European compassion that the U.S. could learn from.
Thomas The Tank Engine is to blame for a lack of female train drivers because all characters are male, claims sexist Leftist politician
Why can't people be judged as people? Why do we have to obsess over how many are male or female?
The popular Thomas The Tank Engine series has been blamed for the lack of female train drivers by Labour's shadow transport secretary.
Mary Creagh said the series set a poor example to children and that more female characters should be introduced in order to encourage girls to become train drivers.
She described the lack of women train drivers as a 'national scandal', and said the 'negative stereotypes' portrayed in children's television were partly to blame.
There are just 1,000 women working as train drivers, which equates to just 4.2per cent of the total number. Train drivers' union Aslef is currently working to encourage more women into the industry.
Mother-of-two Ms Creagh said that the Thomas The Tank Engine books and television show were 'wonderful', but criticised the series for not having enough female characters.
In the original books the only female characters were coaches Annie and Clarabel, Isabel the auto coach, Mrs Kyndley, an elderly woman, and female engine Daisy.
Thomas and the other main characters - James, Edward, Percy, Henry, Gordon, and the Fat Controller are all male, although a principle character named Emily, another steam engine, was introduced to the Thomas & Friends series, which aired on Channel 5, in 2003.
Ms Creagh said the only female characters were an 'annoyance', and could even be seen as a danger to those on the railway.
'There is a preponderance of men in the transport industry and I am very keen to unpack some of the myths that stop women from taking up what are often highly paid and highly skilled jobs.'
There are 42 books in the Thomas series, which was originally created by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry in 1946, as well as the television show.
Ms Creagh said that the tales of the little blue steam engine should follow the example of CBeebies series Underground Ernie, which features a main character called Victoria.
She also suggested that train companies could up the numbers of female drivers by advertising in womens' interest magazines, or offering more part-time posts.
Hit Entertainment, which owns the rights to Thomas, said that more female characters were being developed to address a historical imbalance.
Deconstructing the ASA’s boycott of Israeli Institutions of Higher-Ed
A variety of BDS activities took place during December but were overshadowed by the American Studies Association’s (ASA) adoption of a BDS resolution. Though the ASA is a minor academic organization, this BDS move has attracted widespread attention and is likely to be a turning point.
Passing the ASA’s BDS Resolution In November the National Council of the American Studies Association debated a BDS resolution that originated with the organization’s Academic and Community Activism Caucus. The resolution was proposed at the last minute and the debate was dominated by pro-BDS voices. These are typical BDS tactics. The National Council then unanimously agreed to put the resolution forward to the entire ASA membership for a vote.
During the two week voting period eight former presidents of the ASA issued a public statement urging members to reject the resolution, as did the American Association of University Professors. Of approximately 5000 members, the ASA stated that 1252 voted, of whom 66% voted in favor of the resolution while 30% objected. The motion was thus passed by approximately 16% of the ASA’s total membership.
The background of the ASA and the resolution requires separate discussion. The ASA is a second tier academic organization with a strong anti-imperialist and anti-American orientation, and a notable history of promoting connections with a regime-connected Iranian academic. The boycott resolution was put forward by ASA activists who have promoted BDS in other settings. It faithfully follows the templates provided by the (PACBI), U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
The ASA has issued several statements articulating what the boycott resolution actually means. The key argument is that “Israeli academic institutions function as a central part of a system that has denied Palestinians their basic rights” and that “By responding to the call from Palestinian civil society for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, the ASA recognizes that 1) there is no effective or substantive academic freedom afforded to Palestinians under the conditions of Israeli occupation; and that 2) Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights.”
These blanket indictments of Israeli universities and academics as being intrinsic elements to the “occupation” are standard BDS rhetoric. The ASA will therefore refuse “to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.”
The resolution is “expressly not endorsing a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication.” This formula singles out academics with administrative responsibilities, as all academics do at one time or another.
The ASA resolution has produced an unprecedented level of media coverage. The responses have been overwhelmingly negative. The sheer quantity of news items and negative comments suggest that the ASA has, perhaps again inadvertently, elevated BDS to a new level. It has unquestionably catalyzed unprecedented opposition.
Criticism of the ASA has been widespread across the political spectrum, notably an editorial in the Washington Post that characterized the resolution as “utterly narrow-minded” and which pointed out the ASA’s failure to boycott countries with far worse human rights records. Criticism has also come from far-left journals like The Nation and left-center publications like The New Republic, along with numerous publications and commentators from the center and right.
The Jewish left organization J Street condemned the resolution, as did the Jewish weekly The Forward. Several commentators on the left, including Peter Beinart, have also condemned the move. Some commentators from the left have pointed to the ASA as a move that will marginalize progressive causes on campus.
The negative responses from the political and cultural left suggest that BDS was either unknown or not taken seriously in these quarters. Conversely, the negative responses suggest that BDS supporters also overestimated the support from the mainstream cultural and political left. In that sense the ASA resolution may ultimately be a Pyrrhic victory for BDS in academia.
Jacobson has noted several times on his web site that boycotts are illegal under American law and indicated that he will spearhead a challenge to the ASA’s tax exempt (501(C) 3) status. The legal restrictions on boycotts by American organizations have also been extensively described by Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center.
Here, too, the ASA’s victory appears to have created unforeseen effects that will have a negative impact on BDS in academia.
Of equal note are responses emerging from political quarters. In an interview with Charlie Rose, former Harvard University president and Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers reiterated his previous position that BDS is antisemitic in practice if not intent and called on university leaders to shun the ASA.
Finally, Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas has stated his opposition to boycotts of Israel, except for products of Israeli communities beyond the “Green Line.” Predictably, however, Palestinian Authority representatives in South Africa have backtracked and issued another statement in which Abbas is said to express his “deep appreciation” for the BDS movement.
After the passage of the resolution the ASA adopted a defensive stance. It posted a series of talking points on its web site to guide members and also purged its Facebook page of critical comments. These moves indicate that the organization is attempting to shape the debate over the resolution but imply that the leadership has been surprised by the negative reaction. When questioned, ASA president Curtis Marez acknowledged that Israel was not the world’s leading human rights abuser but stated that “one has to start somewhere.” This formulation elicited considerable ridicule from observers.
To summarize, the ASA BDS resolution has created an unprecedented opposition across the political spectrum and from academic, cultural, and political leaders. The long-term results are difficult to predict but it is likely that the ASA affair has changed the landscape for BDS debates in the United States.
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 and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.