Thursday, November 13, 2014
Atheist group at work again
Recently, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has brought accusations against the University of North Georgia in a letter found here. Allegations state that UNG has violated the Constitution and now the MRFF plans to take litigious measures against the university.
The MRFF seeks to protect religious equality and ensure freedom of worship under the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, found in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. Key components of their work are guarding the religious and non-religious from oppression concerning religion as well as ensuring that no one religion dominates or suffocates the expression of worship to all religions.
The MRFF bases their case off of recent meetings held with university officials, services and events. In particular, the 2014 9/11 Memorial Service, in which a Christian prayer was led by the Corps Chaplain.
In order to make the University aware of its' "illegal actions" the MMRF sent a letter to President Jacobs on October 1, 2014. This is a notification of the plan of action that the MRFF seeks to take in order to maintain and cultivate religious equality. The letter outlines grievances against the university as well as a timeline of events.
In the timeline, the most recent event listed is the 9/11 memorial service. According to the MRFF the service was mandatory and "not an optional religious formation"; prayers and invocations were made to the Christian God under leadership of the Catholic Campus Ministry.
Just as well, according to a UNG student, who has asked to remain anonymous, who brought forth information and has shed light on the fact that the Corps has only allowed Baptist chaplains in the Corps of Cadets participate in spiritual leadership.
According to school regulations, enacting this practice has broken rules and standards, as well as completely ignored the custom of military desegregation.
a national security expert reveals military leaders are overtly promoting evangelical christianityA national security expert reveals military leaders are overtly promoting evangelical Christianity.
It appears that the MRFF has a strong case against the University. Yet, the University has hired lawyers and stands ready to defend itself from any and all legal attacks. President Jacobs has responded to the MRFF in the form of a written letter. In the following letter Jacobs defends as well as explains how the University is not at fault for recent events that are currently under attack by the MRFF. Jacobs, as well as the current UNG administration believes that University is not fault.
President Jacobs' letter to the MRFF defends UNG's traditional religious presence. "The Corps of Cadets did not sponsor the Event" Jacobs writes, "but rather it was sponsored by the Student Government Association." According to President Jacobs, cadets were not required but encouraged to attend. Clearly stated in Jacobs' response is a weekly memo sent out to all cadets. Jacobs went on to explain that the SGA president had asked another SGA member to plan and organize the layout of the service. The student, on their own accord, decided to have a benediction and religious speaker.
The University, in order to comply with national laws and standards, at all school-sponsored events has removed the word "prayer." Rather, "a time of reflection" is allowed for all present; for example, at a convocation or graduation ceremony. UNG is also obligated to follow to specific clauses in the constitution. First, the University must obey the Free Speech clause and is unable to censor student speech. Secondly, the University must adhere to the Establishment clause. So, the University cannot endorse one single religion, when it comes to religion it is required to be student led.
In Dr. Jacobs' response to the MRFF she writes, "Genuinely student initiated religious speech at events organized by student organizations on campus implicates both of our constitutional obligations."
Punching the Duggars
While so much of reality television dwells on catty "Real Housewives" and Snooki-style party-hearty debauchery, it's interesting to note that a small fraction of this ever-expanding genre is celebrating evangelical Christianity and values like chastity.
This drives the libertines crazy. Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever recently raged on the Internet against the Duggar family of TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" and how they are no more worthy of attention than the Kardashians. Their children are denied "freedom of choice."
"My thoughts on the Duggars are few and far between because I think the show treats its viewers like they're learning-disabled," he wrote. Then he doubled down. "The viewers, not the Duggars. Although ... "
Leftists, especially openly gay writers like Stuever, itch for the children to rebel against that old-time religion. "I guess we just sit and wait and hope that there's a contrarian in the bunch who gets the itch to write a tell-all at some point down the road. I'd be surprised if anyone seriously watches the Duggar show out of a place of envy."
It is the right of a TV critic to knock the Duggar show as too sweet and happy and prim for his snarky tastes. But how do those critics react when you knock a show they like? "If you don't like it, turn the channel!" Let's face it, the Duggar family isn't broken by divorce or addiction or other social maladies. That is why the critics are turned off.
On the other hand, the celebrity magazines have found these popular Christian reality shows to be worthy of cover stories. The latest Us Weekly forwards "Duck Dynasty" teenager Sadie Robertson's decision to forego premarital sex. A recent edition of People magazine reported on newly married Jill Duggar and the family's "Extreme Courtship Rules." Those principles are a direct challenge to today's hookup culture, and that's what makes magazine readers so curious about them.
It naturally follows that loutish "sex columnist" Dan Savage would get in his insults at these "professional virgins." The conservative blog site Twitchy took exception to his wisecracking on Twitter that the Duggar daughters should observe his mating rules, including his notion of "F-- First." Savage thinks people should be sexually compatible before marriage, so chastity is a terrible idea. In fact, he despises virginity and its advocates. His rules also include cheating, which is "inevitable" in his mind.
After Twitchy spurred the conservative Twitterati to attack him, Savage then responded with a 2,500-word attack on the Duggar worldview. Like Stuever, it begins with the notion that Christians are an organized "hate group." Their oldest son Josh now works for the Family Research Council, which validates their charge, they would tell you.
Savage argues that if the Duggars were Muslims and Josh worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, conservatives would never embrace them. "But the right wing doesn't have a problem with the Duggars: They're the right color, they worship the right God, and they want to impose the right brand of theocracy."
Savage, like Stuever, wishes these robot-children would grow up to reject their freakish parents: "I have hopes for all the unmarried little Duggars still being pimped on television and dragged to campaign rallies: I hope they all get out from under the thumbs of their crazy, controlling, virginity-obsessed parents."
Leftists better hope their "best wishes" for rebellion are never turned on them. Would it seem kind for conservatives to wish that Dan Savage's adopted son should write a "tell-all book" about growing up having to hear all about his "father's" extreme sex rules and obsessions? It would seem unkind, intolerant and smug -S all adjectives that apply to the Duggar bashers.
Immigration: the real cost to Britain
It's official: immigration is great. According to a new report from University College London, those arriving on these shores between 2001 and 2011 put roughly œ25 billion more into the economy than they took out, creating millions of new jobs in the process. So what's all the fuss about?
Well, before Nigel Farage runs down to Heathrow with a great big "Welcome!" sign, let's stir in a pinch of salt. For starters, the benefits we're talking about aren't as significant as they sound. During that decade, the immigrant population grew by more than 2.5 million, meaning (to a rough approximation) that each new arrival is chipping in less than œ20 a week.
In fact, if you widen the timescale, and focus on immigrants as a whole rather than those who have arrived in the past decade or so, you can tell a rather different story. Between 1995 and 2011, those originally from Europe - whether they arrived under Heath, Thatcher, Blair or Cameron - added just œ4 billion to Britain's economy. Meanwhile, those who came from further abroad - the West Indies, India, Australia etc - took out œ118 billion. It's hard to call that a good deal.
The next obvious criticism is that "net fiscal benefit" is not the same thing as things getting better. Just as concreting over the green belt increases GDP, but sends voters into a rage, so immigration has costs that don't turn up on the spreadsheets - greater competition for housing, pressure on public services, lower wages for those at the bottom, changes to the character of communities. It would be a foolish politician who waved this report at the people of Rochdale or Boston, and told them not to worry.
Even the fact that the newest arrivals are putting in more than they take out shouldn't be much of a surprise. For all the furore over benefit tourism, it's long been clear that most migrants want to add to Britain's wealth, not to leach off it.
The problem is that increasing the size of Britain's economy is not the same thing as making its existing inhabitants richer. Back in 2008, Lord Lawson, the former chancellor, was part of a House of Lords committee that produced a wide-ranging study of immigration's effects. "If you take everything into account," he tells me, "there's very little evidence that it increases prosperity, in terms of GDP per head of population. In terms of what most people are worried about - their standard of living - it doesn't make any difference at all."
Moreover, while today's immigrants may be young and keen, they will soon grow out of it. "Initially, you may get some economic boost," says Lord Lawson. "But as immigrants get older they require more help from social services and so on, and as they have children, those children require education, and in the longer run you don't get that benefit."
But in fact, the central message of this report isn't about immigration at all. It's about the people who are already here.
During that period between 1995 and 2011, the total net contribution to the public finances of European immigrants, new and old, was - as mentioned above - œ4 billion. But at the same time, the British-born population took out a staggering œ591 billion more than it put in.
That, ultimately, is why we've got a deficit: because the average Briton is getting more services from the state than he or she is willing to - or, more charitably, has been asked to - pay for. Non-European migrants are even more of a drain on the Exchequer, partly because they have larger families, but also because they've been here long enough to learn our bad habits.
What this suggests, in turn, is that we've got our perception of immigration upside-down. It's not a case of foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs. It's us creaming off the best and brightest from other countries, and bringing them here to do the jobs we can't or won't.
Consider the following statistics from the UCL report. Native Britons, it finds, are more likely to be on benefits (37 per cent of us receive some kind of handout or tax credit) or to be living in social housing than new arrivals. The starkest differences are in education: as of 2011, more than half of the British-born population had left school before the age of 17, putting them in the "low-education" category. Among Europeans living in this country, the figure was 21 per cent, and among non-Europeans, 23 per cent. Fewer than a quarter of native Britons have university degrees - among our foreign guests, it's 35 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. And this attainment gap is getting steadily wider, as ever more BAs and PhDs arrive on these shores.
This injection of brainpower is undoubtedly good for that nebulous beast, "the economy". But it also allows us to paper over the social cracks. Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms have done wonders to push people back into work. But the proportion of households where no one actually works is still almost one in six. Because there is such a ready supply of skilled labour from elsewhere, Britain's under-educated can all too easily be written off.
Alongside the state, employers must take their share of the blame. "If you want to be a high-wage economy," says David Green, of the Civitas think tank, "then you need a skilled and trained workforce. I think companies have taken the easy option of importing skills because they can get people right away. For example, you can't say that employers have reduced the number of apprenticeships because of the influx of skilled newcomers from overseas. But it's certainly a hell of a coincidence."
It's not just Britain that loses out. Between 1995 and 2011, claims the UCL study, "European immigrants endowed the UK labour market with human capital that would have cost œ14 billion if it were produced through the British education system". Instead, we got others to do the teaching for us, and reaped the rewards - even if the jobs we gave the arrivals, such as bartending or waitressing, were far below their competence.
The impact of this new "brain drain", from the rest of the world to Britain, can be seen in the NHS, which is hugely dependent on immigrant labour (26 per cent of doctors are foreign nationals, compared to 15 per cent of the workforce as a whole). A study by Civitas found that after EU migration controls on Romania were lifted, it lost 30 per cent of its doctors to richer countries within two years. If a flu crisis hits the NHS this winter, dozens of emergency wards will be set up to house the elderly victims - and to man them, we will wave wads of cash at foreign staff, with no thought to the impact in their home countries.
Britain's success at attracting bright, talented people from overseas says impressive things about the kind of society we are - one where effort is rewarded and strangers are welcomed. I and many others remain convinced that a healthy level of immigration is good not just for our economy, but our society.
But immigration becomes unhealthy when we use it, as we are, to mask our own deficiencies. Hiring more well-spoken, well-educated foreigners may seem a more attractive option than pushing ahead with education and welfare reform, or asking people to work for longer, or forcing them to take less from the state. It's not a substitute, however, because it merely postpones the terrible day when we have to live within our means. So yes, let's welcome the best and brightest to Britain. But we can't keep relying on them to save us from ourselves.
25 years after the Berlin Wall fell, Conflicts over Lifestyles and Values have replaced it
As Germany celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mikhail Gorbachev spoiled it all by reminding everyone that the world is still far from at ease with itself. The former Soviet leader warned that we are on ‘the brink of a new world war’ and he criticised the Western powers for cultivating a climate of conflict and tension in their dealings with post-Soviet Russia.
For once, this old Soviet politician was almost right. Twenty-five years after the demise of the Berlin Wall, the global situation looks more uncertain and unpredictable than it did during the Cold War, when the world was frozen into two super blocs. However, despite the seeming reappearance of diplomatic clashing between the US and Russia, the world today has little in common with the Cold War moment of the post-Second World War era.
It is worth noting that, at the time, the collapse of the Berlin Wall was looked upon by most of the major powers as, at best, a mixed blessing. The division of Germany provided the foundation for the postwar global balance of power. This Cold War balance helped to minimise the conflict of interests between East and West. Indeed, the Cold War was underpinned by an understanding which allowed the US to maintain hegemony over the capitalist world and which gave the Soviet Union a regional sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. In retrospect, what was remarkable about the Cold War was the ability of most of the major players to manage their conflict. Despite the aggressive rhetoric of this era, the Cold War was a period of relative peace between hostile geopolitical blocs. The bloody upheavals and wars occurred not in Europe, America or Russia, but in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and were either directly or indirectly a response to the experience of Western colonialism.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union was greeted by numerous Western observers as a vindication of their way of life. At least superficially, it seemed to many that the post-Cold War era would herald a new Golden Age of global capitalism. Yet once the Berlin Wall came down, and the Soviet Union followed it on to the scrapheap of history, ending the Cold War, the Western elites were faced with some fundamental questions that they had tried to evade for so long. The big question of what Western society stands for could no longer be answered by the statement: ‘We are defined by our hostility to Communism.’
The Soviet bloc imploded from within. The superficiality of its ideological outlook was exposed in the fact that it could not inspire or motivate a significant number of its own citizens. The West did not face any serious ideological competition towards the end of the Cold War - the swift demise of the Soviet bloc indicated that the West was very much kicking at an open door.
Paradoxically, Western societies were not intellectually or politically prepared for the post-Cold War era. Previously, Western societies could avoid the problem of spelling out what they stood for by appealing to the need to fight Communism. The Soviet Union and its very bad reputation served as the best argument for the Western way of life. The negative example of the Soviet way of life helped Western governments to dodge the question of what they really stood for. Liberalism itself, particularly in the form of so-called neoliberalism, remained an intellectually underdeveloped outlook and possessed relatively limited cultural support even in the West.
The Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist, Milton Friedman, was in no doubt that liberalism did not actually conquer its ideological opponents. He recognised that by the late 1970s support for the free market and capitalism had won out against the opponents of these systems; but he also knew that the shift in public opinion in his direction was more a consequence of the failures of state socialism than it was evidence of the compelling force of the ideals of liberalism. He insisted that the ‘change in the climate of opinion was produced by experience, not by theory or philosophy’. After summarising the numerous setbacks suffered by advocates of big government and the welfare state, he asserted that it was ‘these phenomena, not the persuasiveness of the ideas expressed in books dealing with principles’, that explained the ‘transition from the overwhelming defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the overwhelming victory of Ronald Reagan – two men with essentially the same programme and the same message’. In other words, the success of liberal economics was contingent on the failures of its opponents.
The end of the Cold War coincided with the erosion of the master narratives of modernity. The absence of any ‘overarching’ ideological project, and the general tendency towards the depoliticisation of public life, was most coherently expressed in the Third Way projects of the 1990s.
In effect, the tensions and conflicts immanent in capitalist societies had ceased, at least temporarily, to be fought on the battlefield of politics. This development was most vividly expressed in the phrase Margaret Thatcher hurled at her detractors: ‘TINA’ – ‘There is no alternative’. By the 1990s, very few people needed to be reminded that TINA had acquired a life of its own and was now widely accepted. As Perry Anderson, one of Britain’s leading leftist intellectuals, argued in 2000: ‘For the first time since the Reformation, there are no longer any significant oppositions – that is, systematic outlooks.’
Yet the rhetoric of TINA – which continues to influence public life to this day – does not provide the political establishment with an ethos that might inspire public support and endow the establishment’s actions and policies with authority and legitimacy. The depoliticisation of public life that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall has encouraged public institutions to embrace a narrowly technocratic and opportunistic modus operandi.
The estrangement of policymakers from principles and foundational values has made them vulnerable to short-termist, often arbitrary influences. The power of these corrosive trends explains the very poor quality of political leadership and policymaking in Western societies today. Governments now find it difficult to elaborate any norms, values or policies through which they might express national interests, or even just their own party’s interests.
The most extreme manifestation of this incoherent form of policymaking can be seen in the realm of foreign affairs. Western military and diplomatic interventions in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine serve no geopolitical purpose; rather, these are self-destructive policies conducted by political elites that lack an understanding of geopolitical interests and any sense of clarity about the workings of the world. The recently published report Dangerous Brinkmanship, which argued that close military encounters between Russia and the West have escalated to Cold War levels, with 40 dangerous or sensitive incidents recorded in the past eight months alone, is evidence of just that: irresponsible brinkmanship.
As was the case in recent interventions in Libya and Syria, these are provocations without regard for consequences. This pattern stands in sharp contrast to the carefully calibrated behaviour of hostile blocs during the Cold War.
Our post-Berlin Wall, depoliticised era has encouraged political leaders to behave in a way that feels extraordinarily disconnected from the real problems facing the global community. The West’s escalation of the war of words against Russia and the application of diplomatic pressure on the Putin regime is a good example of the kind of immature policymaking that threatens to unleash instability today. It is almost as if a nostalgia for the certainties of the Cold War drives NATO countries to confront Russia in this way.
However, contrary to appearances, the world does not face a new Cold War. With the rise of China and India, the development of new economies in Latin America, and the rise of radical Islam, the world can no longer be divided up into two hostile ideological blocs.
But just because there is no prospect of a return to the Cold War, that does not mean society and international affairs have been spared bitter conflict and disputes. On the contrary, the depoliticisation of public life has coincided with the emergence of conflict in the most unexpected places. What has happened is that in recent years the depoliticisation of public life has led to the politicisation of other areas of social experience, particularly morality and culture.
Disputes over lifestyle, family life, sexual orientation and the nature of community life are no longer confined to the domestic sphere. The Culture Wars have become internationalised. Muslim jihadists are not just fighting with bombs. They are directly assaulting Western liberal values and denouncing them as immoral. For his part, Putin has sought to assume the mantle of the global leader fighting for traditionalism and the Christian way of life. In turn, Western diplomats have criticised Russia for its patriarchal and sexist culture.
Some might conclude that the new international conflict over values is relatively benign compared to the old ideological wars that led to the division of Germany and the rise of the Berlin Wall. But this isn’t true. Conflicts over lifestyles and values are difficult to manage because they touch on basic moral issues such as good and evil. Morally charged conflicts are rarely susceptible to compromise and often lead to a breakdown in communication. Which is why in the current era, the displacement of ideology by the politicisation of values has been expressed in the shift from a Cold War to a Culture War. Hopefully, the divisions that were once symbolised by the old Berlin Wall will not reappear in the form of an equally depressing Culture Wall.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.