Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I love Easter more than Christmas... and it's got NOTHING to do with bunnies and chocolate eggs

Quentin Letts reports on a British Easter below.  An account of my limited observance  of the occasion under a blue Australian sky can be found here. -- JR

Good Friday is the most contradictory of national holidays. It is quite unlike Christmas. Far preferable, I reckon.

The banking system comes to a halt — and not just in Cyprus. Offices have closed until Tuesday.

Tradesmen kick on to double-time tariffs. Public transport switches to ‘weekend timetables’ (often a euphemism for simply giving up the ghost, to use an expression from the Bible’s account of Good Friday).

There is enough of a close-down to make the Easter weekend feel distinctive. At the same time, supermarkets will be open from dawn to midnight, their aisles crammed with beady-eyed shoppers.

Have we bought the Easter eggs? Have we got mint sauce for Sunday’s lamb? We forgot the daffodils for Granny! Instant U-turn and back to the shops we go.

There is a full list of sporting fixtures. Hotels are in high season. Garden centres and DIY stores brace themselves for a rush. Easter is not just the start of the Church year — it is also the beginning of the season for green fingers and bruised thumbs. With all that DIY going on, hospital casualty departments will be busy.

All this occurs on the most mysterious, mournful day in the Church calendar. What a satisfying paradox this Easter weekend is.

It starts with a day whose very name can perplex. ‘Good Friday’ marks Jesus’s crucifixion. Why should a day marking a painful death be ‘good’?

The origins of the name are uncertain. It may be a corruption of ‘God Friday’ or it may be that it was called good because the Crucifixion led to the Resurrection. The Germans call today ‘Karfreitag’ — the Friday of Suffering. Perhaps that is an example of Teutonic pessimism.

Good Friday has its rituals. These nowadays include queuing for a parking space at shopping centres such as Gateshead’s MetroCentre and Dartford’s Bluewater. But there are other, more elevated traditions, and without them Easter would lose something.

From Canterbury to Jerusalem, millions will fast while others will eat only fish. In Ross on Wye’s marketplace yesterday, I bought some fine-looking coley. It was only 8am but the fishmonger was doing brisk business.

Good Friday laments will be intoned across the Christian world. Empty coffins will be borne through city streets, flowers hurled at them by wailing believers. Easter may be a ‘festival’, but it is preceded by this most grief-stricken of days.

In England, altars are stripped, vicars wear black and candles are removed. Yet if you enter a church on Sunday it will be a riot of flowers — Hereford cathedral, for instance, becomes filled by the intoxicating scent of lilies. It may set off Mrs Letts’s hay fever, but this contrast, the sudden switch from winter to spring, darkness to hope, is integral to the Easter idea.

Before we can crack open those chocolate bunnies and Easter cakes — are you a simnel fanatic or a fruit and almond fan? — we have to earn it. Some churches hold long religious services called ‘The Three Hour Agony’.

The agony is officially that of Jesus on the Cross, yet as a boy in Gloucestershire I would contemplate an agony of boredom as the marathon of sermons ensued.

One Good Friday in the 1980s, I found myself in Santiago de Compostela, a historic pilgrim town in north-west Spain. The streets were packed by crowds gawping at men who processed through the narrow streets in white robes and hats that made them look like the Ku Klux Klan. They beat the cobbles with staves. Easter has this almost exotic mixture of gloom followed by frenzied exultation.

In other countries, believers whip themselves, don chains, even nail themselves to crosses. The bemused onlooker may ask: you call this a holiday? Well, yes. The apparent oddness is what makes it so special. Otherwise it would just be another bank holiday.

Last weekend, I added my honking tenor to a makeshift church choir. We met for the first time at 2pm on the Saturday and were given scores for The Crucifixon by the Victorian composer John Stainer.

There were about 30 of us, volunteer singers of varying standard. The idea was that we would rehearse for three hours, break for tea, then give our sole performance of the oratorio — to an audience of, as it happened, ten people. A cold church, wobbly harmonies, a tiny throng of onlookers: it no doubt sounds like Vicar Of Dibley stuff, about as spiritually uplifting as the telephone directory. Not so.

The rehearsals may have been painful but when it came to the actual performance, I found myself extraordinarily moved. It was not just Stainer’s tunes, stirring though they be. Nor was it the comradeship of choral singing that got me.

As the story of Holy Week unfolded, I found that Easter means more to me with every passing year. In that draughty church, I realised that I now prefer Easter to Christmas.

This is not to attack Yuletide which, only three months ago, we were celebrating with bells, holly, mince pies and the Christmas edition of Radio Times. I am as much of a sucker for that as most people.

Christmas has been mottled by commercialism, I suppose, but it remains a lovely family time. I well up like a leaky faucet when our ten-year-old comes clattering down to our bedroom on Christmas morning, hoping to find her stocking. I even, at weak moments, fall for Charles Dickens’s crippled Tiny Tim piping goodwill to one and all. Christmas offers a manipulative sugar rush of emotion.

Easter’s story is more layered than the happy little saga of the manger at Bethlehem. This is a story more epic, more intellectually satisfying — more showbizzy!

Medieval impresarios understood this. They staged mystery plays which covered Old Testament ground (The Garden of Eden — phwoarr, check out Eve and her skimpy outfit — and a bickering Mr and Mrs Noah) and some of Jesus’s miracles (the raising of Lazarus and the turning of water into wine always went down well).

The climax of these entertainments was Holy Week: the drama of Christ entering Jerusalem, being tried and crucified, then rising from the dead.

Christmas nativities end with the three wise men trotting off on camels and Joseph and Mary gawping at their presents. Touching? Yes, even if, as happened to us, your daughter is playing Mary and drops the baby — it was only a doll, thank goodness.

But compare that to the dazzling events of Easter and there is only one winner.

Easter has everything a West End producer could demand: a dusty Jesus riding into the city on an appropriated colt; the last supper; betrayal by Judas and arrest by soldiers from an occupying force.

There is a crowd scene when Pilate allows the mob to grant clemency to crook Barabbas; there is the bloodshed on the cross (some gore always goes down well with an audience); Jesus’s generosity to the thieves being executed alongside him; and then the dawn scene outside the sepulchre.

Imagine the first stirrings of birdsong and the ethereal light. Mary Magdalene arrives and finds the tomb empty. A second later: there is Jesus before her, alive. Showstopper.

Why does this mean more to me now than it did a few years ago? As we age, we lose loved ones. We accrue sorrows just as trees grow rings.

Perhaps this is why Easter is so powerful, so much more affecting than Christmas. Easter is a festival to sadness as much as to joy.

My late father, at the church service before Easter, always read that passage from chapter 20 of St John’s Gospel which describes Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the resurrected Christ. I only have to read the words — ‘woman, why weepest thou?’ — to hear his dry, very English voice speaking the words.

It is as though he is there beside me, just as Jesus was next to Mary. I may not be able to touch my dead father’s body, but it is nearly as good and it provokes feelings in me stronger than the easier, safer story of Christmas. So I hope that, as well as a happy Easter, you have a thoughtful Easter, even an Easter brushed by sadness. For that is how it should be.


The painful price we pay for love and the REAL meaning of Easter

By Bel Mooney

A few weeks ago, on one of the very few tall walls in our old farmhouse, we put up a dramatic, nearly life-size woodcut — actually five separate blocks — of Jesus Christ on the cross.

I’ve had it in store for ten years, with no suitable space, but at last we’ve been able to hang the work of art.

I do realise that a massive crucifixion wouldn’t be everybody’s idea of interior design. It’s more demanding and far less fashionable than the gentle head of Buddha, which crops up everywhere, from budget home stores to garden centres.

But I love this work for multi-layered reasons — and not just because the artist, Paul Riley, is an old friend.

It’s a big statement, and one which teaches me as much as it taught people in centuries past.

Why on earth would a gentle soul like me choose to live with an image of extreme suffering, torture and death? Because it is a help.

Because Easter is the most important chapter in the Christian story, and because the iconic image has important truths to tell us all — believer and non-believer alike — about the human condition.

The image of the cross towers over Western civilisation. With the joyful Nativity (complete with riotous angels in the sky) and the sombre sweetness of the Madonna and Child, it is an essential part of our consciousness.

Even a questioning intellectual like the great writer Rebecca West understood this. She wrote: ‘Jesus of Nazareth sits in a chamber in every man’s brain, immovable, immutable, however credited or discredited.’

To be honest, a part of my determination to display this great crucifixion was sheer, bolshie rebelliousness. Suddenly it seemed as if Christianity was on the run. When someone is forbidden to wear a cross around her neck in the workplace, a call to protest sounds in my ears like a trumpet.

Fascinated by other religions since my schooldays, I’ve read widely in the sacred texts of the world and made radio programmes discussing a variety of beliefs.
Why on earth would a gentle soul like me choose to live with an image of extreme suffering, torture and death? Because it is a help

Why on earth would a gentle soul like me choose to live with an image of extreme suffering, torture and death? Because it is a help. (Above, Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in the film The Passion Of The Christ)

But the fact that Britain has always been part of the Western Christian culture matters more than I can say. Our national flag is a pattern of crosses for good reason, and so let it remain.

Notice that word ‘culture’. You can be an agnostic (as I am), yet revere the centuries of tradition which once influenced every man, woman and child who learned the stories of the Bible with their first words; knowing that ‘the greatest story ever told’ has inspired some of the greatest art — painting, sculpture, music, architecture and literature — in the world.

I feel that if the day comes when the young are no longer taught any of those references (let alone the faith itself), I shall be ready to meet my maker, because everything I value will have gone. That time seems to be on the way.

As we hung the masterly woodcut, I thought (with grim merriment) that if an unholy alliance of Secularism and Sharia ever holds sway in this land, and Christian images are actively discouraged if not forbidden, then this mutinous old lady will put up barricades and retreat to her sanctuary.

I’ll be a rebel, reading real books (including works on atheism!) and listening to Bach’s St Matthew Passion as I contemplate the cross, in the knowledge that once again it has become subversive, even an emblem of revolution.

Convinced Dawkinsites can jeer, but who cares? And keep your lectures on all the wrongs committed in the name of Christianity. I know all that stuff.

But my imagination is shaped by the pictures in the little Bible my father bought me in 1953: gentle Jesus meek and mild curing the sick, listening to the children, standing up for sinners, driving the greedy men out of the temple, riding on a humble donkey. How I liked him.

So I am content to embrace teachings like ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’ as my bedrock, for how can we live unless by seeking better lives?

When my instinctive humanism quails before human wickedness, I still find meaning, consolation and emotional sense in Christianity. And when I myself wish I could write to an advice columnist, this helps keep me sane. Contemplating the Crucifixion, I see beyond the unspeakably cruel punishment.
Central to Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ accepted his terrible death for the sake of flawed humanity.

He was the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself to take away the sins of the world. So the wider significance of the Easter story is that love and suffering are indivisible.

The history of a familiar word can lead you to a deeper meaning. We’ve high-jacked ‘passion’ to mean strong, enthusiastic feeling (passion for sport) or rage (in a real passion) or, most commonly, tumultuous sexual desire.
Pictured, the Wintershall Players perform the Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square yesterday

The traditional Passion play was about the Easter story, with its root in the Latin word for to suffer, to endure. This connects to the word 'patience'. And patient is what you must be when you shoulder the commitments of real love. Pictured, the Wintershall Players perform the Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square yesterday

But the traditional Passion play was about the Easter story, with its root in the Latin word for to suffer, to endure. In turn, this connects to the word ‘patience.’ And patient is what you must be when you shoulder the commitments of real love.

When you love another human being, you begin to make sacrifices on many levels. Perhaps above all, you sacrifice freedom.

But to take the frightening step from ‘me-first’ to ‘you-first’ isn’t easy — which is why some people never do it. They won’t take the risk, but find a reason to step back from the brink and retreat into the safety of the self.

The terror of commitment which seems to afflict so many young people is rooted in selfishness. The idea of giving so much that you actually value the happiness of somebody else more than your own doesn’t fit with the requirements of those who’ve never been refused anything, and regard the freedom to have endless multiple choices as a right.

Scratch the surface of so many problem page letters I receive and you realise that for many people the issue is not loving, but how to be loved. ‘Why can’t I find love?’ they ask. Of course I am sympathetic, but feel more uplifted by those letters which express the problem as, ‘I have so much love to give’.

Let me be clear: by invoking human love I’m not referring to the serial sexual antics of much-married stars which get splashed over Hello! magazine, but something far more mature.

The pain rooted in real love is of a very different order to the romantic agony felt when sexual desire goes wrong. It may make you stand by the sinner in spite of your better judgment, or strengthen you in an endless vigil at the bedside of your loved one. ‘I can’t bear the thought of you dying,’ whispers the young wife to her husband, knowing he feels the same.

You don’t want pain? Then you cannot allow yourself to love.

Then what of children? When you have a baby, the love you feel is so different from the old affection for parents, or adoration of a beloved partner. This protective devotion would confront a horde of wolves threatening your child.

You yearn to protect it from all the danger and grief of the world. This love makes you accept financial burdens, and tells you that from the first sight of the tiny squirming creature in a nappy, your own  desires MUST take second place to the needs of this child.

So you shrink from responsibility and sacrifice? Then don’t have a child. Love the child and you are immediately nailed to your own small cross.

In one beautiful medieval poem, Mary, the mother of Jesus, begs: ‘Take down from the tree my dear, worthy son / Or stick me on the cross with my darling.’ All over the world, devoted parents identify with that cry in their very souls.

At the stroke of a painterly brush, we move from mother and child, to adult child and mother; from the Nativity to the Pieta — the child Jesus as a man, taken down from the cross to lie in his mother’s arms. So the premonition of pain in the Madonna’s eyes was correct.

How I understand that image. Since family love in all its complexity shaped the adult that I am, the passion (yes, that word) I feel for my family puts me on the rack every day of my life.

Parents are forever tortured by the jabbing spears of their own imaginings. What’s more, your own life seems more precious than ever — not because of its selfish pleasures (fun though they are), but because you want to stay alive for the sake of the people you love.

For me, the arrival of two grandchildren has intensified this feeling. Believe me, it’s no tight-lipped sense of martyrdom, just a merry shouldering of the weight of love, just as Jesus willingly bore his cross along the alleyways of Jerusalem. 

The phrase ‘a cross I have to bear,’ comes easily to the lips, even if the speaker isn’t thinking about the emblem of Christianity. It might refer to a difficult boss, thinning hair, an inherited blemish, even a disability. It says there are some things you just have to put up with.

But endurance is hard to accept. Used to choice in all things, people stamp their feet like spoilt children when the hand of Fate wags a finger and says  ‘This is how it’s going to be’.
Since family love in all its complexity shaped the adult that I am, the passion (yes, that word) I feel for my family puts me on the rack every day of my life

That’s why Pastor Niebuhr’s famous Prayer is so wise: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’

Naturally, we should all work to right wrongs (the disgraceful state of a local hospital for example); yet you can wear yourself out railing against destiny and death.

The suggestion that we must endure — accepting hardship as the pathway to peace — may seem tough. Yet learning how to deal with not being happy is the most important first aid for the soul.

On the Cross, Jesus cried out for help but it didn’t come. It couldn’t come. I’m afraid that truth sometimes has to be borne.

But that is not the end. It doesn’t stop at the Cross. There is the light at the end of the tunnel, the ultimate pipe dream, hope against hope.

Please don’t ask if I believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection. ‘No’ is the only sensible answer.

But on the other hand, I’ve always wanted to have faith in the possibility of miracles. Jesus died on the cross and on the third day he rose again? My reason rejects it, at the same time as my heart whispers, ‘What do I know?’

What I have no doubt of is this. The message of endurance, of self-sacrificial love and of forgiveness expressed by the great Crucifixion is entirely glorious.

Whatever your beliefs (or lack of them), it can give you strength to bear all problems, no matter what you believe.

Because all of us need to hope that the metaphorical stone will be rolled away — and that we will each be allowed to walk out of our private darkness into a garden of spring flowers.

This is redemption: the possibility of a changed life.


Christians are the butt of bad jokes in Britain

Gentle mockery or sharp satire aimed at Christians and their leaders has been replaced by abuse of Christianity itself

By Ann Widdecombe

Our Man at St Marks, All Gas and Gaiters, The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, Rev. Some of the finest comedies have chosen the Church as its subject and would indeed make most Christians laugh, give or take the occasional wince as a barb goes home. I have very fond memories of Our Man at St Marks and long for the day when it is released on DVD but I won’t hold my breath.

For although Christianity and comedy have long been natural bedfellows, something has changed in recent years. Gentle mockery or sharp satire aimed at Christians and their leaders have been replaced by abuse of Christianity itself.

The BBC asked me to look at why this might be and to try to explain, to a secular world, why it matters so much to Christians. After all, comedy producers respect Islam sufficiently to avoid laughing at the Prophet so why are even the most sacred aspects of this country’s major faith seemingly the stuff of so much comedy? Is it because the Church here is seen as part of the Establishment? Or is it due to the rise of militant atheism? Or is it simply that comics would be afraid to do to Islam that which they regularly do in their routines to Christianity?

We began making the film with one obvious drawback: it had not been a priority throughout my life to watch mockery of the Church. I had not, for example, seen Life of Brian. It was widely banned at the time of its release and I have never since felt that I was missing anything. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, assured me that it was “very funny”, so I watched excerpts chosen for me by the producer.

Most of it, being slapstick and Pythonesque, made me yawn. A man claims he can suddenly see and promptly falls down a hole. I got over laughing at that sort of predictable Carry–On stuff about 50 years ago. Then, however, came the crucifixion scene and my soul revolted. How could anybody not find that offensive, Christian or not?

Next I was shown a scene from Goodness, Gracious Me in which the body and blood of Christ were mocked with two recipients putting chutney on the bread and ordering a couple of bottles of wine. It was justly banned by the BBC and has been forbidden to be aired again. We had to get special permission to view it but those who made it were unrepentant, apparently oblivious to the enormity of the offence caused. Anil Gupta, one of the creators of the series, still felt aggrieved at the ban.

Yet this repellent scene was to provide one of the programme’s most riveting moments for me, when I was interviewing comedian Marcus Brigstocke, whose initial reaction was to defend the scene. I tried to explain to him why I found it so upsetting and then asked him if he would draw the line at anything, fully expecting him to say no, that comedy should know no bounds, but instead he bravely responded that my explanation had given him pause for thought.

Stand-up comics tend to make two assumptions: that Christians have no sense of humour and that all their audiences are unbelievers. The first is so ignorant as to need no answer but the second explains the current trend towards thinking that even the most sacrilegious mockery will be seen as fun. Such comics work on the principle that only stupid people believe in God and that their audiences are too intelligent to do so and will therefore share any joke directed at any aspect of religion.

There are increasing claims that Christians in this country are being persecuted: Christians are forbidden to wear a small cross in a workplace which includes colleagues wearing turbans or hijabs, which by any definition are vastly more visible. One has been demoted for posting a perfectly moderate expression of dissent over gay marriage on his private Facebook site. Others have been disciplined for saying “God Bless” or “I will pray for you”. Others still have found the police on their doorstep because someone has taken exception to their views and invoked either hatred or equality laws.

Perhaps then the modern trend towards ridiculing what is sacred to Christians in comedy – as opposed to ridiculing its priests or congregations – is a part of this persecution? Why otherwise single out only the one religion?

To that the comics answer that people can laugh only at what they know and understand: that the average Briton knows next to nothing of Islam and even less of other minority faiths. Indeed it seems unlikely that Life of Brian would have much resonance today. To laugh at the joke “blessed are the cheesemakers” you would have to know that Christ had said “blessed are the peacemakers” and standards of Biblical literacy now make that unlikely.

So the laughs today are sought not in subtlety but in coarseness, sneering at the creed having replaced satire aimed at the believers, and mockery of the person of Christ replacing mockery of His all too fallible followers.

It is a vital distinction.

We have no blasphemy laws these days but with that freedom comes the responsibility which should always attend the exercise of free speech: truth, courtesy and an awareness of impact. It is the last of these which is so neglected by so much modern comedy.

Heard the one about the vicar, the priest and the rabbi? Or the vicar who skived off church to play golf? Or how Noah’s ark was ruled unlawful by the EU? Everybody has a favourite Church joke but I made this programme in order to ask where the joke stops and how much further it might go. Sadly I think it might go a lot further before common decency prevails.


Cameron accused of betraying Christians: Astonishing Easter attack on the PM by former Archbishop of Canterbury

Many Christians doubt David Cameron’s sincerity in pledging to protect their freedoms, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says today.

In an article for the Daily Mail, Lord Carey squarely accuses ministers of ‘aiding and abetting’ discrimination against Christians.

He says he believes there is an ‘aggressive secularist and relativist approach’ behind the Government plans to legalise gay marriage and says the Prime Minister has ‘done more than any other recent political leader’ to ‘feed’ Christian anxieties.

As a dramatic new poll released on the eve of Easter Sunday revealed that more than two-thirds of Christians feel they are now part of a ‘persecuted minority’, Lord Carey insists the Government must do more to demonstrate its commitment to pledges to stand up for faith.

The survey suggests churchgoers increasingly feel religious freedoms are under assault from aggressive secularism.

Critics say court rulings against Christians who want to wear crosses at work, and legal action preventing prayers before council meetings, have helped make people feel marginalised.

In the article, Lord Carey expresses particular alarm about apparent Government support for a campaign by Labour MP Chris Bryant to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there.

But he also turns his fire on the Prime Minister, saying: ‘It was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should “stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation” when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.

‘At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity.’

The ComRes poll suggests there is continuing resentment over the Government’s decision to legalise same-sex unions, even though there is special protection for the Church of England in the law.

More than half (58 per cent) of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 suggested they will ‘definitely not’ vote for the party in 2015.

The ComRes poll of 535 regular churchgoers, commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), reveals that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.

The march of secularism means that if trends continue, Britain will no longer be a Christian country by 2030 when the number of non-believers will have overtaken the number of Christians.

In the past six years the number of Muslims has surged by 37 per cent to 2.6million, Hindus by 43 per cent and Buddhists by a massive 74 per cent.

Numbers who choose to call themselves Christians fell by more than 4million in a decade after 2001, the 2011 census showed. Fewer than six out of ten – 59.3 per cent – described themselves as Christian.

A decade ago nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, did so. Some 33.2million people said they were Christian in 2011.

Downing Street strongly rejected Lord Carey’s attack. A spokesman said: ‘This government strongly backs faith and Christianity in particular, including backing the rights of people wanting to wear crosses at work and hold prayers at council meetings. Christianity plays a vital part in the Big Society.’



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Friday, March 29, 2013

Why so many men cut all contact with their kids

When my wife left me when my son was aged 5, I would not have contested it if she had wanted me to have no further contact with my son.  I would have felt that she would look after him well and I would not have wanted to introduce conflict into our three lives.  And sometimes you win a battle without fighting.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong".  As it was however, she realized that boys needed their father and insisted that he see me every weekend -- JR

Sam De Brito

I'm in no way defending dads who refuse to support their children or disappear from their lives, because it's something I could or would never do.

But I understand the impulse. I know how lacerating a relationship measured in hours a week can be. It's a scab ripped open every time you drop them off.

I get why some men would chose not to go there. It's just easier. If you don't see them, there's nothing to miss, the memories will dull, they become an abstraction.

Interestingly, there's not been a whole lot of study done on this subject.

In his 2004 report for the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Parent-Child Contact and Post-Separation Parenting Arrangements Bruce Smyth notes: "Not a great deal is known about paternal disengagement and its correlates. Indeed only a handful of studies has directly examined why many fathers lose contact with their children after divorce. None of these has been conducted in Australia."

Smyth did however identify "nine key themes" for parents in the little or no contact groups:

(1) limited parenting skills;

(2) repartnering;

(3) relocation;

(4) fathers' perceptions of being cut out;

(5) the psychology of disengagement;

(6) "the system" as a barrier to contact;

(7) the "shallowness" of sporadic contact;

(8) other forms of contact; and

(9) children's adjustment.

Smyth quotes a 1994 study of British and Canadian "deadbeat dads" that found many men disengaged from their children for structural reasons as listed above (distance, repartnering) but also "psychological factors" including "grief, loss, role ambiguity, a sense of unfairness, concern about the potentially negative impact of divorce on children, the perception of becoming a 'visitor', and the 'pain of visits - their brevity, artificiality, and superficiality'."

"Unable to tolerate the idea of the loss of their children, but given little expectation for success and what many consider to be a highly adversarial means to try to prevent the loss (which they believe will seriously harm their children), they gradually disengage from their children's lives."

This research, notes Smyth, paints a picture of "Defeated Dads", as opposed to "Deadbeat Dads".

He goes on to quote a 1998 US study that concludes:

"Many of the fathers interviewed felt that everything about the divorce, especially anything concerning the way the children were raised, was completely out of their control ... they were on the outside looking in.

"Many were extremely embittered that society demanded that they still assume the responsibilities of parenthood. As they saw it, society, the legal system, and their ex-wives had conspired to rip asunder their connection to their children ... Overwhelmingly it was these disempowered, embittered, despairing fathers who were the ones who discontinued contact with and support of their children.

"In each case, something profound happened to them to make these formerly responsible fathers disengage. Their paternal urges were thwarted. They were somehow made to feel, either by the legal system or perhaps their ex-wives, that they had no real role to play in their children's lives.

"A better, more accurate label for them might be 'Driven Away Dads'."  Now, there's a headline you won't see on the front page of a newspaper.


Why Women Still Can't Have It All

Excerpt below from a controversial article last year by Anne-Marie Slaughter. Her assumption that "success" means having a career is common but has never made the slightest sense to me.  Bringing up healthy and happy children seems to me the highest form of success

It's time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.

Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations' annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other-or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls-invariably on the day of an important meeting-that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

As the evening wore on, I ran into a colleague who held a senior position in the White House. She has two sons exactly my sons' ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D.C. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly. I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, "When this is over, I'm going to write an op-ed titled `Women Can't Have It All.'"

She was horrified. "You can't write that," she said. "You, of all people." What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman-a role model-would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women. By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet. I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved. But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could.

A rude epiphany hit me soon after I got there. When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I'd come home not only because of Princeton's rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible. I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career women: I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book. But I routinely got reactions from other women my age or older that ranged from disappointed ("It's such a pity that you had to leave Washington") to condescending ("I wouldn't generalize from your experience. I've never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great").

The first set of reactions, with the underlying assumption that my choice was somehow sad or unfortunate, was irksome enough. But it was the second set of reactions-those implying that my parenting and/or my commitment to my profession were somehow substandard-that triggered a blind fury. Suddenly, finally, the penny dropped. All my life, I'd been on the other side of this exchange. I'd been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I'd been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I'd been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I'd been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).

Last spring, I flew to Oxford to give a public lecture. At the request of a young Rhodes Scholar I know, I'd agreed to talk to the Rhodes community about "work-family balance." I ended up speaking to a group of about 40 men and women in their mid-20s. What poured out of me was a set of very frank reflections on how unexpectedly hard it was to do the kind of job I wanted to do as a high government official and be the kind of parent I wanted to be, at a demanding time for my children (even though my husband, an academic, was willing to take on the lion's share of parenting for the two years I was in Washington). I concluded by saying that my time in office had convinced me that further government service would be very unlikely while my sons were still at home. The audience was rapt, and asked many thoughtful questions. One of the first was from a young woman who began by thanking me for "not giving just one more fatuous `You can have it all' talk." Just about all of the women in that room planned to combine careers and family in some way. But almost all assumed and accepted that they would have to make compromises that the men in their lives were far less likely to have to make.

The striking gap between the responses I heard from those young women (and others like them) and the responses I heard from my peers and associates prompted me to write this article. Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating "you can have it all" is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.

I still strongly believe that women can "have it all" (and that men can too). I believe that we can "have it all at the same time." But not today, not with the way America's economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged-and quickly changed.

Before my service in government, I'd spent my career in academia: as a law professor and then as the dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Both were demanding jobs, but I had the ability to set my own schedule most of the time. I could be with my kids when I needed to be, and still get the work done. I had to travel frequently, but I found I could make up for that with an extended period at home or a family vacation.

I knew that I was lucky in my career choice, but I had no idea how lucky until I spent two years in Washington within a rigid bureaucracy, even with bosses as understanding as Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. My workweek started at 4:20 on Monday morning, when I got up to get the 5:30 train from Trenton to Washington. It ended late on Friday, with the train home. In between, the days were crammed with meetings, and when the meetings stopped, the writing work began-a never-ending stream of memos, reports, and comments on other people's drafts. For two years, I never left the office early enough to go to any stores other than those open 24 hours, which meant that everything from dry cleaning to hair appointments to Christmas shopping had to be done on weekends, amid children's sporting events, music lessons, family meals, and conference calls. I was entitled to four hours of vacation per pay period, which came to one day of vacation a month. And I had it better than many of my peers in D.C.; Secretary Clinton deliberately came in around 8 a.m. and left around 7 p.m., to allow her close staff to have morning and evening time with their families (although of course she worked earlier and later, from home).

In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else's schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be-at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office-at least not for very long.

I am hardly alone in this realization. MichŠle Flournoy stepped down after three years as undersecretary of defense for policy, the third-highest job in the department, to spend more time at home with her three children, two of whom are teenagers. Karen Hughes left her position as the counselor to President George W. Bush after a year and a half in Washington to go home to Texas for the sake of her family. Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to Bush and the counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney before stepping down to spend more time with her daughters, wrote: "Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work."

Yet the decision to step down from a position of power-to value family over professional advancement, even for a time-is directly at odds with the prevailing social pressures on career professionals in the United States. One phrase says it all about current attitudes toward work and family, particularly among elites. In Washington, "leaving to spend time with your family" is a euphemism for being fired. This understanding is so ingrained that when Flournoy announced her resignation last December, TheNew York Times covered her decision as follows:

"Ms. Flournoy's announcement surprised friends and a number of Pentagon officials, but all said they took her reason for resignation at face value and not as a standard Washington excuse for an official who has in reality been forced out. "I can absolutely and unequivocally state that her decision to step down has nothing to do with anything other than her commitment to her family," said Doug Wilson, a top Pentagon spokesman. "She has loved this job and people here love her."

Think about what this "standard Washington excuse" implies: it is so unthinkable that an official would actually step down to spend time with his or her family that this must be a cover for something else. How could anyone voluntarily leave the circles of power for the responsibilities of parenthood? Depending on one's vantage point, it is either ironic or maddening that this view abides in the nation's capital, despite the ritual commitments to "family values" that are part of every political campaign. Regardless, this sentiment makes true work-life balance exceptionally difficult. But it cannot change unless top women speak out.

Only recently have I begun to appreciate the extent to which many young professional women feel under assault by women my age and older. After I gave a recent speech in New York, several women in their late 60s or early 70s came up to tell me how glad and proud they were to see me speaking as a foreign-policy expert. A couple of them went on, however, to contrast my career with the path being traveled by "younger women today." One expressed dismay that many younger women "are just not willing to get out there and do it." Said another, unaware of the circumstances of my recent job change: "They think they have to choose between having a career and having a family."

A similar assumption underlies Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's widely publicized 2011 commencement speech at Barnard, and her earlier TED talk, in which she lamented the dismally small number of women at the top and advised young women not to "leave before you leave." When a woman starts thinking about having children, Sandberg said, "she doesn't raise her hand anymore . She starts leaning back." Although couched in terms of encouragement, Sandberg's exhortation contains more than a note of reproach. We who have made it to the top, or are striving to get there, are essentially saying to the women in the generation behind us: "What's the matter with you?"

They have an answer that we don't want to hear. After the speech I gave in New York, I went to dinner with a group of 30-somethings. I sat across from two vibrant women, one of whom worked at the UN and the other at a big New York law firm. As nearly always happens in these situations, they soon began asking me about work-life balance. When I told them I was writing this article, the lawyer said, "I look for role models and can't find any." She said the women in her firm who had become partners and taken on management positions had made tremendous sacrifices, "many of which they don't even seem to realize . They take two years off when their kids are young but then work like crazy to get back on track professionally, which means that they see their kids when they are toddlers but not teenagers, or really barely at all." Her friend nodded, mentioning the top professional women she knew, all of whom essentially relied on round-the-clock nannies. Both were very clear that they did not want that life, but could not figure out how to combine professional success and satisfaction with a real commitment to family.


The Retro Wife

Feminists who say they're having it all-by choosing to stay home

When Kelly Makino was a little girl, she loved to go orienteering-to explore the wilderness near her rural Pennsylvania home, finding her way back with a compass and a map-and the future she imagined for herself was equally adventuresome. Until she was about 16, she wanted to be a CIA operative, a spy, she says, "like La Femme Nikita." She put herself through college at Georgia State working in bars and slinging burgers, planning that with her degree in social work, she would move abroad, to India or Africa, to do humanitarian work for a couple of years. Her husband would be nerdy-hip, and they'd settle down someplace like Williamsburg; when she eventually had children, she would continue working full time, like her mother did, moving up the nonprofit ladder to finally "run a United Way chapter or be the CEO." Kelly graduated from college magna cum laude and got an M.S.W. from Penn, again with honors, receiving an award for her negotiating skills.

Now Kelly is 33, and if dreams were winds, you might say that hers have shifted. She believes that every household needs one primary caretaker, that women are, broadly speaking, better at that job than men, and that no amount of professional success could possibly console her if she felt her two young children--Connor, 5, and Lillie, 4-were not being looked after the right way. The maternal instinct is a real thing, Kelly argues: Girls play with dolls from childhood, so "women are raised from the get-go to raise children successfully. When we are moms, we have a better toolbox." Women, she believes, are conditioned to be more patient with children, to be better multitaskers, to be more tolerant of the quotidian grind of playdates and temper tantrums; "women," she says, "keep it together better than guys do." So last summer, when her husband, Alvin, a management consultant, took a new position requiring more travel, she made a decision. They would live off his low-six-figure income, and she would quit her job running a program for at-risk kids in a public school to stay home full time.

Kelly is not a Martha Stewart spawn in pursuit of the perfectly engineered domestic stage set. On the day I met her, she was wearing an orange hoodie, plum-colored Converse low-tops, and a tiny silver stud in her nose. In the family's modest New Jersey home, the bedroom looked like a laundry explosion, and the morning's breakfast dishes were piled in the sink. But Kelly's priorities are nothing if not retrograde. She has given herself over entirely to the care and feeding of her family. Undistracted by office politics and unfettered by meetings or a nerve-fraying commute, she spends hours upon hours doing things that would make another kind of woman scream with boredom, chanting nursery rhymes and eating pretend cake beneath a giant Transformers poster. Her sacrifice of a salary tightened the Makinos' upper-middle-class budget, but the subversion of her personal drive pays them back in ways Kelly believes are priceless; she is now able to be there for her kids no matter what, cooking healthy meals, taking them hiking and to museums, helping patiently with homework, and devoting herself to teaching the life lessons-on littering, on manners, on good habits-that she believes every child should know. She introduces me as "Miss Lisa," and that's what the kids call me all day long.

Alvin benefits no less from his wife's domestic reign. Kelly keeps a list of his clothing sizes in her iPhone and, devoted to his cuteness, surprises him regularly with new items, like the dark-washed jeans he was wearing on the day I visited. She tracks down his favorite recipes online, recently discovering one for pineapple fried rice that he remembered from his childhood in Hawaii. A couple of times a month, Kelly suggests that they go to bed early and she soothes his work-stiffened muscles with a therapeutic massage. "I love him so much, I just want to spoil him," she says.

Kelly calls herself "a flaming liberal" and a feminist, too. "I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants," she says. "But I also want to say, `Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.'?" And she is not alone. Far from the Bible Belt's conservative territories, in blue-state cities and suburbs, young, educated, married mothers find themselves not uninterested in the metaconversation about "having it all" but untouched by it. They are too busy mining their grandmothers' old-fashioned lives for values they can appropriate like heirlooms, then wear proudly as their own.

Feminism has fizzled, its promise only half-fulfilled. This is the revelation of the moment, hashed and rehashed on blogs and talk shows, a cause of grief for some, fury for others. American women are better educated than they've ever been, better educated now than men, but they get distracted during their prime earning years by the urge to procreate. As they mature, they earn less than men and are granted fewer responsibilities at work. Fifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, women represent only a tiny fraction of corporate and government leaders, and they still earn only 77 cents on the male dollar.


Lesbian British Policewoman responsible for the death of an innocent Brazilian electrician now harassing journalists

The officer in charge of Scotland Yard's inquiries in the wake of  the phone-hacking scandal  has been forced to defend her force's tactics.

Questions have been raised over the scope of Operation Elveden, the multi-million pound criminal inquiry into alleged bribes paid by journalists to public officials, after it targeted police officers who have `leaked' information with no payment involved.

Those concerns follow mounting  controversy over the dawn arrests of journalists - including an ex-editor who was seven months pregnant - and reporters left facing many months before discovering whether they will face charges.

The arrests have also prompted fears, after the Leveson inquiry, that informal contact between police officers and the Press is being outlawed.

Now Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick has written to the Society of Editors justifying the Met's investigations and methods.

In her unsolicited letter explaining the Elveden operation she insists: `The investigations being carried out do not mean that the Met wants or intends to stop officers talking to journalists.'

Defending the much-criticised `7am door knocks', Miss Dick says there are `sound operational reasons for the times of day we elect to arrest people'.

Miss Dick said there was `genuine concern' by police over the time those arrested have been on bail but said there have been `millions of emails, documentation, complex communications data and trails of financial transactions that require painstaking analysis'.

She concluded: `An unintended and, I hope, short-term consequence of this may be a negative effect on relations between police and journalists.

`This is unfortunate but in no way undermines the value the Metropolitan Police Service puts on the role of a free and investigative Press in a democratic society - indeed this investigation is the result of such journalism. We want open, professional and trusting relationships between our officers and journalists.'

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: `While I am glad she has recognised the need to give an explanation, areas of concern remain.

`We should all recognise that the police sometimes have a difficult job to do, but early-morning knocks on the doors of journalists still require some justification.'



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Thursday, March 28, 2013


Life is harder today than 40 years ago … and it’s not just the twenty-somethings saying that, their parents agree

The are too many knees under government desks now -- instead of being out doing something productive and useful

Raised on rationing and under the spectre of a nuclear war, older generations have loved to grumble about the easy ride enjoyed by youngsters today at one point or another.

But it would seem that despite the improved working conditions, freedom and vast array of ways to splash the cash, life for young people has never been tougher.

A surprising study of 4,000 people across two generations found that not only does the current younger generation think their parents had it easy, the over-50's agree.

The study, which was commissioned by health retailer Holland & Barrett, also revealed 68 per cent of those questioned believe today’s generation are forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago.

Despite the consumer revolution in personal technology, comparatively bigger salaries and better working conditions, those in their twenties say they face a more significant range of threats to happiness and contentment.

Better job security, comfortable pensions and a clockon, clock off approach to the world of work made life easier 40 years ago, as did a better housing market and the absence of high interest loans and credit cards.

'The results are surprising, and reveal that young men and women in their twenties are planning for the future, investing time and effort in maintaining health and fitness, and fretting over their finances – rather than hedonists living for the day,' said the LSE sociologist, Dr Catherine Hakim.

'Perhaps this is a response to the current tough economic climate.'

Stress is a huge problem for today's twenty-somethings, with 41 per cent saying they experience regular or constant stress. Just 15 per cent said the same 40 years ago, with half saying they never got stressed at all.

Money worries, being overworked and concerns about their body image were the most prevalent concerns for those in their twenties, but didn't chime with older respondents, who, in general, were far more content with their body shape and image in their youth.

As a result, the average twenty-something is also twice as likely to want to 'make a lot of money quickly' than the older generation did when they were that age.

Hakim added: 'Young men and women are also vastly more materialistic than were their parents’ generation.

'Having money has become a life goal in itself, as a high standard of living becomes taken for granted.'

'Overall, it’s clear the route to happiness and contentment has changed over a generation to become more aspirational and more individualistic.'

There were some similarities between those in their twenties and those in their fifties however. Both generations aspired to finding a partner and having a long term relationship in their twenties.

Paired off or not, having children has been pushed back by those in their twenties, with most agreeing that the ideal time to have a baby is at 29, compared with 27 in 1970.

Marriage too has declined with less than half of today’s youth considering it important compared to the 54 per cent of over 50’s who placed faith in it when in their twenties.

People had better relationships with the neighbours also in years gone by – one in four over fifties as fond memories of visiting a neighbour’s home and being on very good terms with the people next door while just 7 per cent of today's twenty-somethings can claim the same thing.

Surprisingly, alcohol consumption remains fairly similar but naturally people were far heavier smokers in the older generation – just a fifth of the modern generation smoked compared to over half of people forty years ago. The average smoker back then smoked 15 a day, while those today get through nine.

'We commissioned the Good Life Report to better understand what the challenges and pressures really are for today’s younger generation,' said Lysa Hardy, Chief Marketing Officer for Holland and Barrett.

'In a world where we’re constantly rushing around and connected 24/4, we found people now have to make more of a concerted effort to keep fit and healthy, often fitting it around their busy lifestyle at the expense of having fun and seeing friends and family.

'The idea of what makes up a good life has also changed over a generation, and we’ve noticed a trend for many younger people to take an interest in health and looking after themselves.

'The common view is young people live for today – yet the report shows quite the opposite.

'Today’s younger generation are looking ahead, investing in their health, saving, and making smart choices about healthy eating and exercise.'


New penalties to punish British press are illegal, says peer: Lord Black warns 'exemplary damages' plan will fail

Plans to push newspapers into joining a new press regulator under threat of punitive damages are ‘almost certainly illegal’ and will ultimately collapse, a Tory peer warned last night.

Lord Black of Brentwood, a senior executive with Telegraph Media Group, delivered an outspoken attack on the proposals thrashed out by the three political parties last week.

He described them as a menace to free speech that will have ‘a chilling effect on investigative journalism’.

He spoke out as peers discussed legislation drawn up to implement the recommendations of the inquiry into press standards by Lord Justice Leveson. Under the plans, media organisations that refuse to join an approved regulator could be hit with ‘exemplary’ damages if they lose court cases for libel or invasion of privacy.

But Lord Black denounced that as ‘alien to English law’, where exemplary damages are only used in extreme circumstances.

He said the plans are ‘wrong in principle and fundamentally flawed’.

‘I’m sure they are almost certainly contrary to European law and so will collapse or be struck down,’ he added. ‘I think they are a constitutional nightmare.’

Lord Black quoted from a legal opinion drawn up by Lord Pannick, Desmond Brown QC and Anthony White QC, which warned that the proposals will fall foul of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The legal experts said that punishing newspapers is ‘particularly objectionable’ under European law.

‘To punish the Press for what others may do without punishment is inconsistent with the importance that both domestic and Strasbourg jurisprudence attaches to the freedom of the press.’

Criticising the way the reforms have been rammed through ‘at breakneck speed’, Lord Black said it was ‘very dangerous’ that fundamental issues of freedom of speech were pushed through the Commons after just two hours of debate and intense lobbying from the Hacked Off pressure group.

Lord Black pointed out that the Government’s legislation seeks to use exemplary damages as a stick to encourage newspapers to sign up to the new body.

But loopholes mean that publishers could be hit with exemplary damages in ‘strikingly wide circumstances’ even if they do sign up.

The Government last night tabled an amendment which would prevent those who publish a ‘small scale blog’ from being among those who could be fined.

It was nodded through by peers without a vote. Lord Black’s intervention is significant since he has been a  leading player in the industry in drawing up plans for a new regulator.


The culture war is all Obama has left

When former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean began campaigning for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, he would regularly say in his stump speech, "I am tired of fighting elections on guns, God and gays. We're going to fight this election on our turf, which is going to be jobs, education and health care."

Fast-forward 10 years to the third month of President Obama's second term. Suddenly, the Democrats' turf doesn't look so friendly anymore. It's not hard to see why they're changing gears to fight a culture war of their own choosing.

The U.S. economy is still suffering through the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Unemployment is stubbornly high, especially for Americans age 25 to 54, who make up the core of the nation's workforce. And the American public does not approve of Obama's bumbling and ineffectual attempts to handle the economy.

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Meanwhile, Obama's failure to reach a grand bargain on deficit reduction has completely killed any hopes for new jobs or education programs. Instead of pushing for new stimulus spending or $10 billion a year for his proposed early education program, Obama is just trying to survive this year's $85 billion in sequester spending cuts.

Obama's signature domestic accomplishment, Obamacare, remains highly unpopular. Health care premiums are rising, as its opponents predicted, and numerous newspaper stories are now highlighting how the law is either discouraging new hiring altogether or forcing more Americans into part-time work involuntarily. The key component of the law, the state-based insurance exchanges, are supposed to be up and running in just over seven months, and no one believes they will be functioning properly. The federal bureaucrat in charge of implementing the exchanges recently told industry officials that he is no longer trying to make these exchanges provide a "world-class experience," but instead merely hoping they won't provide "a Third World experience."

Suddenly, guns, God and gays don't look so bad as key issues for the Democratic Party.

On Saturday, Obama devoted his weekly radio address to proposed new gun control laws, including background checks (which would not have prevented the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.) and the restoration of a demonstrably ineffective assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 after failing to prevent several of America's saddest and most memorable mass shootings. Given that nearly all gun violence is perpetrated with handguns -- not long guns and not so-called "assault weapons" -- it seems Obama's new focus on guns is designed not so much to prevent gun deaths as to energize Democratic voters who look down their noses at gun enthusiasts in flyover country.

And over the past week the most dangerous place to be in Washington was between a microphone and every Democratic politician looking to announce their newfound support for same-sex marriage. Democrats, detecting a sudden shift in public opinion on the issue, are just now starting to lead from behind.

Unless the economy markedly improves in the near future, or Obamacare is miraculously implemented without a hitch, expect Obama and the White House to turn the 2014 election into an all-out culture war centered around gun control and gay marriage. This is the only turf that appears remotely friendly to them these days.


Pope Francis is third of three consecutive  champions of freedom

Karol Wojtyla lived under both the Nazis and the communists, and helped bring about the shattering of the communist empire.

Joseph Ratzinger grew up under the Nazis as well, and spent most of his life locked with his friend John Paul II in the worldwide battle with the Soviets and their branch operations in various intellectual garbs around the globe.

Now comes Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has also spent much of his life in the double conflict with fascists and communists. Christopher Hitchens told me in the last interview I did with him that the Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Videla was the most evil of the many evil people the writer had met. The new pope has thus struggled against the worst of the worst, just like his immediate predecessors.

The battles of the 20th century have thrown up one last experienced leader for the opening chapters of the new century. Francis comes to lead a church that is more than a little exhausted and wounded from those epic battles, and from those wounds have come even more poisons. A weakened body is susceptible to such things. As any American who can read knows, the Roman Catholic Church in America and elsewhere around the world was invaded by very great evils which are still being expelled and expiated by new leaders like Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishops Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

Since J.R.R. Tolkien was a Catholic, let me borrow a reference or two from "The Lord of the Rings" to illustrate the challenges facing Francis.

Evil never sleeps. As soon as it was thrown down in the fantasy epic it began to search for a new home, and came to occupy Mordor. I wouldn't presume to play Tolkien Jeopardy with modern media's Tom Bombadil, Stephen Colbert, but the arc of the Englishman's epic is always in front of us.

Good battles evil, and even when good wins -- as in 1945 and 1989 -- evil calls for reinforcements and opens a new front on which to renew the battle.

Lots and lots of people are blessedly living in their various Shires, tilting at global warming and various other pretend monsters, but the real horrors are out there, and the Roman Catholic Church has, for the third time in a row, called forth a leader who knows exactly the depths of human evil.

I spent most of last week interviewing leading intellectuals from the American branch of the Roman Catholic Church: George Weigel, and priests such as Robert Barron, Joseph Fessio, C. John McCloskey, and Robert Sirico. Each of them was surprised but also thrilled by the choice of Francis, confident of his internal compass. (Transcripts of all the interviews are available at the "Transcripts" page of

My last interview of the week was with Archbishop Chaput, who said of the new pope that Francis was "an extraordinary man" and an "extraordinary choice," and that no one should fear that liberation theology has entered St. Peter's from South America.

"[L]eft-wing liberation theologians from Argentina didn't like him as the bishop, and actually tried to stop him from being promoted to be the archbishop of Buenos Aires," Chaput told me. "So they must be especially nervous today."

But not defenders of religious freedom. As with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, they have in Francis a reliable, tough, experienced and courageous leader.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

US Supreme Court to take up Michigan affirmative action case

At issue in the Michigan affirmative action case is whether a ballot initiative violated the rights of minority students to try to influence school officials to adopt race-conscious admissions plans.

The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine whether a 2006 ballot initiative banning affirmative action at public universities in Michigan violates the equal protection rights of minorities.

Fifty-eight percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in college admissions based on race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin.

Civil rights groups and minority students sued to block the measure, arguing that the constitutional amendment erected disadvantageous barriers to those advocating for the use of racial identity and ethnic background to grant preferential consideration to minority candidates by college admissions officers.

By targeting racial classifications in college admissions, proponents of the ban on racial classifications were themselves guilty of using such classifications, they argued.

A federal judge disagreed and upheld Proposal 2. A sharply divided Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling 8 to 7 that the ban on affirmative action violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The central issue in the case is what the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection actually protects.

Want your top political issues explained? Get customized DC Decoder updates.

It is well established that it protects against political obstructions that would hinder or undermine equal treatment of black students and white students.

But the question in the Michigan case is whether it also protects against political obstructions that make it more difficult for minority students to obtain preferential treatment in college admissions based on race or ethnicity.

“It is exceedingly odd to say that a statute which bars a state from discriminating on the basis of race violates the Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates on the basis of race and sex. Yet that is precisely what the [Sixth Circuit] majority held here,” Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch wrote in his brief to the high court.

“Until now, no court has ever held that, apart from remedying specific past discrimination, a government must engage in affirmative action,” Mr. Bursch said.

He said the case presented a question of "immense importance."  

At issue is whether state governments are free to replace race-conscious affirmative action admissions plans with race-neutral alternatives as a means to achieve classroom diversity.

In addition to Michigan, seven other states have undertaken such efforts: Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington.


This is all about saving the euro, not Cyprus

There is a glimmer of hope – and that is the Cypriots’ desire to reassert independence

By Nigel Farage

The brinkmanship that has been on display over the Cypriot financial crisis makes obvious to all but the wilfully blind the level of political determination in Brussels to save the euro at all costs. No amount of empirical economic evidence – or misery for ordinary people – matters when the dreams of the continent’s elite are threatened.

After the French and Dutch rejected the European Constitution in 2005, the then European Commissioner for Communications, Margot Wallström, put it perfectly. She and the other EU cheerleaders had invested “a lot of energy and political capital” in the project, she declared, and they were not going to give up on it. No matter what the people said, no matter what the economic realities were.

Five years later, this delusion in the face of brute reality has reached its apogee in Cyprus.

How can it be that the German parliament gets to vote on the wholesale theft of money from richer Cypriot depositors, while the Cypriot parliament has no such voice? Instead the theft is labelled “restructuring” – and as such there will be no Cypriot democratic oversight of the economic rape of their country. Be under no illusion: this is being done not to solve the Cypriot economy, but to save the euro. The crashing irony is that, in their February elections, the Cypriots threw out the Communists. One could ask why they bothered.

But at what cost is the euro being saved? What we can see here is an almost deliberate attempt to set the people of Cyprus against each other. By restricting the damage to those who have deposited 100,000 euros in the bank (rather than across the board, as was the previous suggestion) they will be undermining social cohesion, pitting those with against those without. It destroys any pretence that the EU has at its heart a belief in democracy, or in those warm words so often repeated about it being the guardian of essential “European” qualities. In truth it was only a fair-weather friend and its behaviour in this storm, as in others, is to drop these benevolent ideas like hot stones.

Worse still, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, has made it clear that this is now the template for all eurozone countries. Think about that for a moment. These politicians really believe that all the money in the eurozone is actually theirs – as if people have it on sufferance, and not by rights. Since Dijsselbloem spoke, bank shares in Spain, France and Italy have collapsed: citizens of these countries not unreasonably fear the worst.

All this is done for the European elite’s devious ends. One of which is the so-called “Target 2”. This is the eurozone bank clearing system, by which private transfers of money from one member to another are cleared through the national central banks. If, for instance, 100 euros is moved from a Greek bank deposit to a German bank deposit, the Greek central bank ends up owing another 100 euros to the Bundesbank (through the European Central Bank).

At present, the Bundesbank is owed 600 billion euros thanks to Target 2, mainly as a result of capital flight from Mediterranean countries. But, unlike with normal debts, the debtor countries have no contract or understanding about how this should be repaid.

Cyprus has just been granted a 10 billion euro bail-out loan from the other eurozone countries. But the irony is that Cyprus is already in receipt of a bail-out worth 7.5 billion euros – this is the Target 2 debt of the central bank of Cyprus. And they are desperately trying to prevent this growing as a result of further capital flight.

Perhaps this is the most ominous result of the Cyprus debacle. While the details of the controls to prevent money leaving Cyprus are not yet known, they will quickly lead to euros in a bank account there being worth less than euros in bank accounts elsewhere.

I have been saying this since the start of the latest chapter of the crisis: that the level of risk and the prospects of contagion are such that those who have deposits in other southern European countries should get them out as soon as possible. Don’t just take my word for it. The economist and journalist Anatole Kaletsky yesterday made his support for my comments utterly clear on Twitter: “Anyone with more than 100,000 euros in a French, Spanish or Italian bank is crazy if individual, or criminally negligent if a company director.”

There is, however, a silver lining to all of this – a small one, but possibly the most important aspect in the whole sorry debacle. Cyprus is different from Greece, different from Ireland and different from Spain and Italy. In Cyprus we have a population that would prefer to leave the eurozone than comply with the privations of Germany and Brussels. We have a parliament that has already voted down one scheme, and is thus barred from debating this one. We have a Cypriot archbishop who supports his people rather than the EU. They are not happy and they are pointing to a new reality.

That David Cameron is welcoming these plans shows how far the British political class is from any ideals of democracy, accountability and liberty. Instead the future to him is a technocratic, post-democratic world, run in the most part by unelected, fanatical and deluded power-mongers in Brussels and Frankfurt.


Airlines should charge 'fat tax' on obese travellers because their extra weight burns more fuel, says Professor

A pay-what-you-weigh airline pricing scheme should be introduced because heavier people cost more in fuel to fly, a professor has claimed.

Heavier passengers would pay more for their plane tickets and lighter ones less under plans put forward by Dr Bharat P Bhatta.

Writing in this month's Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management publication, Dr Bhatta said weight and space should be taken into account when airlines price their tickets.

Dr Bhatta, of the Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, said: 'Charging according to weight and space is a universally accepted principle, not only in transportation, but also in other services.

'As weight and space are far more important in aviation than other modes of transport, airlines should take this into account when pricing their tickets.'

Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management editor Dr Ian Yeoman said: 'For airlines, every extra kilogram means more expensive jet fuel must be burned, which leads to CO2 emissions and financial cost.

'As the airline industry is fraught with financial difficulties, marginally profitable and has seen exponential growth in the last decade, maybe they should be looking to introduce scales at the check-in.'

Dr Bhatta says the fare could be generated with a fixed rate for kilograms per passenger so that a person weighing 60kg pays half the airfare of a 120kg person.

Alternatively, airlines could have a 'base' fare with an additional charge for heavier passengers to cover the extra costs, as well as a discount for lighter flyers.

The proposals have detractors, such as Bob Atkinson of He questioned whether passengers would be entitled to a discount if they lose weight between when they booked their tickets and when they arrive at the airport.

He told the Daily Express: 'Customers are already paying extra charges for their baggage, but actually making one for a person - I think that's a bit distasteful.'


English MPs could finally hold sway on England-only laws: Scots' power must be curbed says report

Laws that affect England alone should no longer be passed in the Commons without the consent of a majority of English MPs, an inquiry has concluded.

The changes are designed to end the problem of unpopular measures affecting England, but not Scotland, being approved only with the support of Scottish MPs.

In 2004, for example, Tony Blair pushed through tuition fees for England even though most English MPs voted against the policy.

It passed only because Scottish Labour MPs packed the lobbies in favour of the move – despite the fact tuition fees would not apply north of the border because the devolved executive there had rejected the plan.

An independent commission, led by former House of Commons clerk Sir William McKay, has said more needs to be done to ensure English MPs have better control.

The report was commissioned by the Cabinet Office last year, and ministers will now consider whether to implement its conclusions.

It calls for a compromise ‘double-lock’ system, under which laws that apply in England alone are approved first by English MPs before they go to a vote before the whole Commons, which comprises MPs of all four nations of the UK.

The report suggests any England-only laws should first be considered by a committee made up of MPs representing English constituencies.

Laws would not go forward unless they achieved the support of this committee, whose make-up should reflect the balance of parties in England.

The legislation would then be voted on by all MPs in the Commons – be they English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish.

This is to ensure that MPs from other countries are not relegated to ‘second class’ status.

So, in effect, every law would have to be supported by both a representative majority of English MPs and a majority of all of Britain’s MPs.

The new regime is designed to solve the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question, which asks why it is that Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs have the same right to vote at Westminster as any English MP now that large areas of policy are devolved to national parliaments and assemblies.

Many Conservatives have called for purely ‘English votes for English laws’, with MPs from other nations barred from voting on such issues.

But Labour says to do that would undermine the Union. The party is also concerned that, because it often relies on Scottish MPs for a majority at Westminster, English votes for English laws could make governing impossible.

Now Sir William’s commission has unveiled a compromise which maintains the integrity of the UK but provides a greater English voice.

He said: ‘Surveys have shown that people in England are unhappy about the existing arrangements, and support change. There is a feeling that England is at a disadvantage, and that it’s not right that MPs representing the devolved nations should be able to vote on matters affecting England.

‘The status quo clearly cannot be sustained. Our proposals retain the right of a UK-wide majority to  make the final decisions where they believe UK interests or those of a part of the UK other than England should prevail.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We will give the report very serious consideration before we respond.’



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obama tolerance police accused of intolerance

The government agency charged with investigating discrimination in the workplace is itself facing a discrimination lawsuit by a worker claiming he was forced to violate his religious beliefs.

Greg Somers, an investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has filed a lawsuit over an agency policy requiring employees to investigate and prosecute claims against employers based on allegations of “sexual orientation.”

However, claims of discrimination based on “sexual orientation” have no basis in federal law.

In 2011, the EEOC, under the Obama administration, issued a policy directive requiring that claims of discrimination on the basis of lesbian, “gay,” bisexual or transgender status be processed as gender discrimination.

Shortly after the memo was issued, Somers requested a religious exemption from being forced to investigate LGBT claims, arguing it violated his sincerely held religious belief that homosexuality, along with adultery and other sexual practices, is a personal choice. Towards the end of last year, after working its way through the federal administrative process, Somers was told his request had been denied.

Somers has since filed a lawsuit against the EEOC alleging his rights are being violated under the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The suit also claims that the EEOC policy violates the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

“I regret the EEOC’s decision to refuse to accommodate my religious beliefs,” Somers said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Tolerance of religious beliefs and freedom of religion are fundamental constitutional rights. No one should have to choose between their lifelong career and their religious beliefs.”

Tim Newton, an attorneys representing Somers, said legislators have made it plain they never intended for sexual orientation to be covered under existing anti-discrimination laws.

“In every Congress since 1994, with the exception of the 109th Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced,” Newton explained. “This act, were it to be enacted, would expand the definition of discrimination in employment to include sexual orientation. This is a plain indication that Congress never intended for sexual orientation or gender identity to be covered under title VII’s existing non-discrimination provisions.”

The EEOC acknowledges on its website that federal law does not specifically cover discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In a section titled “Facts about Discrimination in Federal Government Employment Based on Marital Status, Political Affiliation, Status as a Parent, Sexual Orientation, or Transgender (Gender Identity) Status,” the agency says federal laws “prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information, as well as reprisal for protected activity.”

The EEOC then goes on to admit that it has arbitrarily decided to extend classes listed under the law to include individuals engaged in the “gay” lifestyle as well as transgenders.

“The EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the agency says. “The commission has also found that claims by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals alleging sex-stereotyping state a sex discrimination claim under Title VII.”

On the group’s “Sex-based discrimination” page, the agency also claims LGBT individuals are permitted to file claims over “adverse actions taken because of the person’s non-conformance with sex stereotypes.”

“Under the Constitution the executive branch is supposed to enforce the law, but is it is supposed to enforce the law as set forth by the legislature which has the responsibility for actually enacting the law,” Newton said. “When that begins to be short-circuited there is a real vulnerability towards arbitrary actions by the government.”

He went on to explain there are several important issues in the case.

“One of them is that the EEOC has refused to accommodate Mr. Somers’ request that he be exempted from these types of cases because they are against his sincerely held religious beliefs. That’s a federal employment law claim,” he said. “Somers is also arguing that the EEOC overstepped its bounds by implementing a policy without authorization from Congress.”

He went on to explain that even if Congress were to enact ENDA, Somers should still be entitled to a religious exemption from investigating LGBT cases.

“There are claims both on statutory and constitutional rights of religious freedom that would allow him to argue that even if ENDA was passed and authorized the EEOC’s actions, it would still violate the rights of religious conscience if people were forced to comply with it against the religious beliefs.”

Newton said if the EEOC is permitted to arbitrarily determine who is a protected class under discrimination law with no legislative oversight, it would have a chilling effect on all employers.

“What’s at issue is the EEOC’s decision to make sexual orientation a protected class so that nobody, regardless of what they believe on the matter, can make any employment determinations based on that. They are essentially forcing people to come in line with a particular ideological view through the coercion of the government.”

He went on to explain that with the push to expand discrimination status to LGBT members, the courts are beginning to find themselves forced to deal with the issue of what to do when different civil rights collide with each other. For instance, if a woman objects to a person who claims to be a woman being in the same restroom with her, what are her civil rights?

“When individual rights collide, I believe the Constitution should do is promote fairness so that on the one hand the government is not arbitrarily and wrongfully denying fundamental rights, but on the other hand that same government is not being used as a tool by one group to essentially cram their views down the throats of another group.”

Newton said rather than deny Somers’ request for an exemption he believes the EEOC should instead be grateful for his being honest about his religious beliefs.

“It seems to make sense that someone who believes that they have been discriminated against by their employer on the base of sexual orientation would want an investigator who was sympathetic with their position,” Newton said. “Rather than deny his exemption request they should attempt to try to find an accommodation. The EEOC should not force an employee to violate their conscience or force them to choose between their faith and their job.”


As Support For Gay Marriage Grows, An Opponent Looks Ahead

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on gay marriage, Maggie Gallagher, one of the nation's leading voices in opposition to same-sex marriage, is also preparing for what might come next.

Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, likes to call herself an "accidental activist." After graduating from Yale in 1982, she thought she'd become a writer and focus on what she called "important things," like money and war. She never fathomed she'd end up on TV almost daily, smack in the middle of the war zone over gay marriage.

Indeed, Gallagher only started speaking against gay marriage in 2003, when, she says, she could no longer avoid it. She'd spent the prior decade publically warning about the decline in marriage in general — how the sexual revolution, feminism and divorce were threatening the institution and children. Then gay marriage lurched out as the biggest threat of all.

Gallagher's crusade to save the institution of marriage was driven by her own experience as a young, unwed mother and the pain she saw in her own son.

"By time he was 2, he was asking where his dad was," Gallagher says. "And I think it's wrong to deliberately create a child, consciously depriving them of either their mother [or] father."

Gallagher's beef with gay marriage is actually more practical than moral or religious — although she is a practicing Catholic. If you believe that kids need a mom and dad, she argues, you simply can't endorse same-sex marriage at the same time. If you do endorse gay marriage, her argument continues, you automatically send the message that a married mom and dad are not really critical. And then, she insists, more kids will end up hurt.

A Deep Conviction

"I don't like saying this, in one way, because it's not like a contest. But in truth, the suicide rates of teenagers whose parents divorce are elevated at about same rates as teenagers who are LGBT," Gallagher says. "But we don't hear much about the one and we hear a lot about the other. You know, Lady Gaga is not making songs about it."

That's exactly why Gallagher says she's focusing now on what she calls "culture creating." She's not quitting the fight, she says, but rather making sure that even if the legal battle ends, the fight for traditional marriage will go on.

"I'm thinking more hard about — how do we sustain the ideal of marriage that I care about if this idea is treated as the moral and legal equivalent of racism in the public square?" she says.

"We need a social institution for attaching fathers to the mother-child bond," she says. "And for communicating to young people — in the midst of their sexual, romantic, erotic dramas — that they have a serious responsibility to try to get this great good for their children. And that's the heart of marriage as an idea."

These days, Gallagher spends less time making her case against gay marriage than she does trying to convince people that there's even a legitimate case to be made.

"I have always believed that gay people are human beings with human dignity who need to be treated with respect," Gallagher says. "But that's different from having a foundational norm that says there is no morally relevant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships and [that] if you see one, you're like a bigot who's opposed to interracial marriage."

If being on the front line of such a heated debate takes a toll on Gallagher, she doesn't show it.

"I'm not worried about me. Maggie's fine. Everything's cool," she says. "I do worry about other people — I worry when I get an email from a woman who's a nurse in a hospital, who wrote a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage, and finds that she fears her job is in jeopardy."

What Gallagher will never understand, however, is how gay marriage could ever be considered "marriage." She's focusing now on new ways to strengthen what she calls the "culture of marriage," through the arts and churches, for example.

With several polls now showing public support for gay marriage at greater than 50 percent and growing, Gallagher says she's less optimistic about her cause than she used to be, but still holds on to hope.

"I was told when I was young that there would be no more people opposing abortion and that communism was the inevitable way of future," she laughs. "So, first of all, I just don't believe in inevitability."

But Gallagher has definitely adjusted for the possibility. A decade after declaring that gay marriage was threatening civilization, her mission has evolved from staving off the threat to making the world safe for dissent.


Three cheers for the Scottish football fans fighting back

How Scottish football fans are resisting the state's violent clampdown on their speech and behaviour

Last Saturday, around 200 supporters of one of Glasgow’s two big football clubs, Celtic, attempted to march along Glasgow’s Gallowgate to Celtic Park before the game against Aberdeen, in protest against police harassment and victimisation. Within seconds, they were met by a massive force of Strathclyde Police, more than 200 officers dressed in yellow fluorescent jackets, with batons drawn. This force was supported by 30 police vans, scores of other vehicles, mounted police on horseback, dog units, a police helicopter and a camera surveillance team.

As police waded into the crowd, making 13 arrests, they knocked several young fans, and at least one elderly fan, to the ground. In one video clip, posted on YouTube, four burly officers can be seen forcing a young fan flat on his stomach with his face pushed into a puddle. As passing fans tried to film this brutal treatment, they were threatened with arrest for daring to film police action. Unfortunately for Strathclyde Police, videos of Saturday’s protest have nonetheless been posted on social-media sites, showing various incidents of ill-treatment.

The supporters targeted at the weekend are members of the Green Brigade (GB), a noisy, radical and pro-Irish republican section of the Celtic fanbase. Their refusal to stop singing pro-IRA songs, which some people find offensive, has earned them enemies in high places. They are despised by Scotland’s SNP government. GB had announced that it intended to march against police harassment and the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which restricts what fans can sing, shout and do at games. But before they could set off, police moved in to stop them in a military-style operation. The latest examples of police brutality come on the back of lawyers claiming that many fans have been mistreated under the new football legislation.

Strathclyde Police regularly treat Celtic fans, and GB in particular, as scum. However, the police are not used to having to defend or account for their actions in the media. In this respect, their behaviour on Saturday backfired badly. One of Scotland’s leading legal figures, Brian McConnachie QC, publicly condemned the police, even talking of a ‘police state’. He also cast doubt on the police’s official version of events, pointing out that the huge numbers of officers who arrived on the scene armed with cameras, batons, a helicopter and dogs were clearly not, as the police had claimed, just spontaneously responding to reports of a large gathering.

McConnachie was right to challenge the police’s ludicrous version of events. This was a premeditated act of police intimidation. Responding to the police attack, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Neil Findlay, noted: ‘As predicted in parliament, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill is being used to criminalise working-class young men, with Old Firm [Celtic and Rangers] fans singled out.’ Another Labour MSP, Michael McMahon, ridiculed the police. He highlighted the irony of football fans marching against police harassment and then being met by the very victimisation and heavy-handed treatment that they were complaining of. MSP Hugh Henry accused the SNP justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, of introducing legislation that was being used to harass Celtic and Rangers fans on a daily basis.

For over a year now, I have documented incidents of police harassment of Celtic fans. One year on from the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, it is clear that those in power feel increasingly emboldened in their targeting and harassment of supporters. We have seen dawn raids and arrests of teenage fans, while other fans have been stopped at airports or questioned at their place of work. Social gatherings have been broken up or threatened, as the authorities have mounted all-out assaults on any resistance to the new law.

GB has borne the brunt of this intimidation because its members refuse to be told what they can and cannot sing. They are loathed by SNP politicians and police alike, precisely because they refuse to comply with the latest diktat on how fans should behave at a football match. Ironically, the very thing that makes GB seem dangerous to the authorities is the same thing that makes them attractive to growing numbers of fans: a sense of resistance and a refusal to be treated like naughty schoolchildren.

The emboldened and intolerant authorities are now being put on the backfoot. Alongside GB’s fightback, an umbrella group called Fans Against Criminalisation (FAC) is coordinating a series of public protests, the biggest of which will be a mass rally at George Square in Glasgow in early April. FAC says ‘the horrific scenes on Saturday represent a ratcheting up of the assault on the civil liberties (and bodies) of Celtic fans…’

People who care about freedom, and the basic right to attend a football match without being hassled by the police, should support the fightback by groups like GB and FAC. They are showing fans everywhere that it is possible to organise against authoritarian policing. They are a reminder that that we do not have to accept censorship of our songs or seek approval for the banners we wave. Over-the-top policing and petty restrictions on our behaviour are not natural; they are not just everyday things that we should accept as fate. They are things that we can, and should, overthrow.


Strong evangelical influence in Brazil

A Leftist complains below

On March 7, Brazil’s House of Representatives elected Marco Feliciano, a right-wing Pentecostal pastor from the country’s Social Christian Party (PSC), as president of the lower chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities’ Commission (CDHM). 

The CDHM was created in 1995, during Brazil’s re-democratization process, to serve as a bridge between congress and social movements on reproductive rights and domestic violence campaigns; anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigns; as well as protections for indigenous people, women, and children. The CDHM was also the home of a working group dedicated to the truth and memory of those killed or disappeared during Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964–1985. With such an agenda to fulfill, the CDHM has long been the province of progressive politicians. Indeed, Feliciano’s election is only the second time the Commission has been headed by a right-wing party.

But this time, the situation is particularly alarming. Feliciano, an Assembly of God pastor elected in 2011 as a parliamentary representative of the state of São Paulo, has a peculiar idea of the human rights he’s been tapped to defend, with a bevy of homophobic and racist statements to his credit (including some that manage to entwine the two). He has publicly declared himself opposed to LGBT rights, tweeted derogatory statements about the continent of Africa as a bastion of “paganism, occultism, penury,” and attributed diseases there, from Ebola to AIDS to famine, to the “1st act of homosexualism in history.”

He similarly announced on Twitter that “Noah’s damnation over Canaan touches all its direct descendants, African people,” and that “the rot of homosexual feelings lead to hatred, crime and rejection.” In his two years in office, he has already proposed bills to repeal same-sex civil unions and to criminalize abortion even in cases of extreme fetal abnormality—two issues that the Supreme Court has already weighed in on. As a Pentecostal pastor, Feliciano has appeared at recent events like the “Last Time Missionary Gideons’ Congress,” where he spoke in tongues and denounced the Devil’s activities in Parliament to an audience of thousands, referring to LGBT advocacy.

The increasing popularity of Feliciano’s Social Christian Party reflects the growing political power of Pentecostals and evangelicals* in Brazil, such that they’ve begun to challenge the longstanding dominance of Catholics in the central government. Pentecostal churches have taken root across the country, especially in poorer areas, preaching a version of prosperity gospel and building their empire on the tithes of families benefiting from anti-poverty programs. The result has been a massive 61% spike in Brazil’s evangelical population from 2000 to 2010—a number now amounting to more than 43 million people, or 23% of the national population. Unsurprisingly, this new constituency is enjoying success in electing leaders to city halls, and state and federal parliaments.

Brazil’s new evangelicals have also begun to cooperate with American counterparts. In a recent article at Public Eye, I described how Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) met with Brazilian politicians, with the aid of Feliciano’s PSC, seeking support for the cause of a Christian pastor convicted of apostasy in Iran. The efficiency of Brazil’s evangelical political network so impressed the U.S. conservative group that the ACLJ decided to open a Brazilian branch: the Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ). The new organization’s director of operations, Filipe Coelho, told me of the PSC’s ambitions to elect an evangelical president to Brazil who would govern in the name of Jesus Christ.

Brazil’s human rights community has become concerned at the growing insistence of evangelical leaders that the country should be governed according to “Christian values”—values that include homophobia, Islamophobia, and “traditional values” that demand women’s obedience to husbands, children’s submission to father figures, and individuals’ surrender to the Holy Spirit. Leaders like Feliciano seem to value these perspectives over constitutional principles—principles that were hard-won after the collapse of the military dictatorship less than three decades ago, and cultivated during the slow restoration of democracy ever since. 

When Feliciano was nominated on March 6, a coalition of gays, lesbians, trans people, women, feminists, black people, and African-Brazilian religious leaders (including Christians) mounted a loud protest at the Commission, warning that Feliciano’s selection would represent a dangerous regression in human rights history. That day, the session was suspended without any decision, only to resume the next morning closed to the public (but live-streamed).

After five progressive representatives walked out in protest of the closed session, Feliciano was elected with 10 votes and one abstention. As he was inaugurated, the members who had voted him in made statements denouncing “Christophobia” and “gayzism” in Brazil, and Feliciano’s new vice president on the Commission triumphantly announced, “As evangelicals who don’t deny their evangelical identity to anyone, we’ll give here a clear demonstration on how to love your neighbor.”

Secularism in Brazil’s parliament may be an endangered concept, perhaps as the natural result of politicians courting evangelical influence in recent years. In the early 2000s, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, long condemned by evangelicals as “satanic” or “demonic,” sought and received influential pastors’ support in recasting that image, in exchange for giving them a seat at the table in steering national politics.

Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, who signed an agreement with evangelical leaders for support during her successful 2010 electoral campaign, repaid her debt in May of 2011 by vetoing educational materials that would have been used to undermine discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity within public schools, declaring such a measure LGBT “propaganda.” In an unusual step, other evangelical leaders have been granted diplomatic passports to represent Brazil’s interests abroad. 

With the election of Feliciano, however, these trends will go from an indirect to a direct influence: pastors with a clear track record of homophobia, hostility to reproductive rights, and racial insensitivity are no longer applying pressure behind the scenes, but have assumed control of the very body meant to safeguard these very rights.



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 POLITICSDISSECTING 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