Sunday, December 31, 2006


More Leftist hypocrisy. They make laws that sound good then do their best to thwart them

Labour's flagship freedom of information laws are being blocked by ministers who are increasingly refusing to answer routine inquiries about government policy, new figures show. Seven government departments, including the department in charge of monitoring the new powers, are identified in a Whitehall report as refusing to give answers to more than half of all requests made by the public.

The Foreign Office has the worst record by claiming exemptions for 70 per cent of all requests it has received. In total, of the 62,852 requests made to central government since 1 January 2005, 26,083 have not been granted. And of those questions the Government considers properly resolved many have not been answered to the questioner's satisfaction.

The report also shows that public requests for information have fallen to the lowest number since the laws were implemented. The Department for Constitutional Affairs, which has responsibility for implementing the "right to know" laws, has the second worst record, by only providing full answers to 39 per cent of all requests.

Next month the Government is to go to court to try to prevent the public using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain even innocuous information about "the formulation" of policy after the Information Commissioner, the legislation's watchdog, ruled that ministers must reveal material that does not harm policy-making. Government lawyers are to appear before the Information Tribunal in an attempt to have the commissioner's decision overturned by arguing that all policy-related information must be withheld.

The legal challenge will be followed by the introduction of regulations designed to stop the media from making full use of the new powers. These regulations represent a direct attack on the spirit of the law, once heralded by Labour as the end of the culture of Whitehall secrecy. The media and other organisations will be restricted to a handful of requests a year, while the time taken by officials and ministers to consult and consider requests will now be counted when calculating whether people should be charged for any disclosure.

Figures released by the Department for Constitutional Affairs reveal requests to central government fell to a low of 7,641 between July and September, compared with 13,603 in the first three months after the law came into force. Freedom of information campaigners warn that this might be evidence that the public have become frustrated with their failure to get answers. Overall, the success rate for requests across all departments has fallen by 2 per cent to 60 per cent in the past six months.

While Labour has been happy to release documents embarrassing the previous Tory administration over its handling of "Black Wednesday" - Britain's forced withdrawal from the ERM - ministers have been less willing to let the public use the Act to shed light on Labour's own political controversies. For example, ministers are still refusing to release earlier drafts of the Attorney General's advice on the legality of the war with Iraq. At the heart of its strategy is the Orwellian-sounding Central Clearing House where all sensitive or difficult requests are sent. Set up by ministers before the introduction of the laws, the unit employs 12 staff to monitor the public's use of the legislation.

Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, says the Government's approach "strikes at the very heart" of the legislation. Michael Smyth, the head of public policy at the law firm Clifford Chance, said that while he acknowledged the Freedom of Information Act had opened up government, the regulations, due to come into force in April, will "emasculate" the media. "The Government dined out on the mantra that the FoI Act was to be motive-blind ... but these bizarre proposals will turn FoI requests into something where motive will become relevant," Mr Smyth said.


Where do SCOTUS Justices Alito and Roberts stand on free political speech?

A federal court decision last week upheld the right of citizens to petition their government--a right taken for granted before the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law codified speech restrictions. The ruling is overly narrow but welcome all the same. And if it's appealed, as expected, the Supreme Court will have another chance to weigh in on Congress's efforts to chip away at First Amendment free-speech guarantees in the name of "reform."

The case dates to 2004, when Wisconsin Right to Life ran television and radio spots informing the public that U.S. Senators were filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees. The ads said Wisconsinites should contact Democrats Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold and urge them to oppose the filibusters. McCain-Feingold bans certain kinds of political ads in the 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election, and the anti-abortion group sued on the grounds that its ads should be exempt from the blackout period.

Last year a district court rejected that argument, ruling that the Supreme Court's 2003 McConnell decision upholding McCain-Feingold precluded such exemptions. Wisconsin Right to Life appealed, and in January the Supreme Court said McConnell does in fact allow for exemptions and that the district court should reconsider its ruling.

Last week a federal court did just that and reversed course. In a 2-1 opinion, the court held that certain "issue" ads are permissible during campaign season, even if they (gasp) refer to candidates seeking re-election. And while we agree with the result, the justification for the court's finding is still troublesome and revealing of McCain-Feingold's assault on political speech.

The ads are acceptable, said the court, because they urge voters to call both Senators instead of just one, "do not comment on either Senator's past or current position regarding \[filibusters\]" and don't "reveal either Senator's thinking on the issue." In other words, campaign finance "reform" has left us with a system that allows corporations, unions and other special interest groups to petition government on issues of public importance so long as they don't expressly advocate the election or defeat of an actual politician.

The good news is that the Federal Election Commission is likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, which will get a chance to reconsider its muddled rulings on campaign funding and political speech. Since the 5-4 McConnell decision upholding the campaign finance law, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have joined the High Court. It's not certain how far either would move in a deregulatory direction, but it's encouraging that both voted with the 6-3 majority in last term's Randell v. Sorrell decision, which struck down Vermont's expenditure and contribution limits.

McCain-Feingold's backers claimed the law would rein in large donors and facilitate political campaigns that are less expensive, less negative and less influenced by special interests. If that nirvana has arrived, we haven't noticed. Proponents also promised that reform wouldn't hurt the ability of grassroots organizations to run ads that inform the public and hold politicians accountable. The folks at Wisconsin Right to Life beg to differ.

Perhaps the lesson is that limiting political speech isn't the cure for whatever supposedly ails the electoral system. Let's hope the Supreme Court seizes this opportunity to start dismantling the speech-regulation regime known as McCain-Feingold.


Godless bigots in Australia too

Criticism of Islam is often held to be "hate speech". Even the most swingeing criticism of Christianity never is. How strange! Both are large and influential religions. The column below is by Christian philosopher Bill Muehlenberg and is a reply to a Christmas-day article by columnist Jill Singer in the Melbourne "Herald Sun".

THANKS, Jill Singer, for picking Christmas to launch your atheist jihad. You have not only offended millions of Australian Christians, but those of other faiths as well. By celebrating Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, you show how out of touch you are with the overwhelming majority of the world's population.

The God Delusion is a 400-page attack on religion. It is one of the most narrow-minded, intolerant and bigoted books I have read in a long time.

Singer claims she is concerned about religious intolerance. The real worry is intolerance coming from unbelievers. Singer and Dawkins are quite happy to offend and ridicule the majority of those who do not share their narrow atheistic crusade. Dawkins is contemptuous of all religions, so he is an equal-opportunity offender. But it is Christianity that he especially savages. He says the Bible is just plain weird and systematically evil. He speaks of God's acts as God's jealous sulk, God's maniacal jealousy, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Yahweh is simply a cruel ogre and a monster according to Dawkins.

So much for tolerance and open-mindedness. In Dawkins' view, and presumably Singer's, religion is the source of all evil, while atheism is the path of enlightenment, brotherhood and liberation. Never mind the millions of people killed in the name of atheistic utopias, be they Stalin's, Hitler's or Mao's.

And never mind that even non-religious academics, such as Prof Rodney Stark, have claimed with massive amounts of documentation that Christianity created Western civilisation. Prof Stark points out that most of the benefits of the West, such as freedom, democracy and prosperity, are largely due to the Christian religion.

Another secular author says that for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger. Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people. God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanise their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist. Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and genocide in Darfur. Believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.

I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists.

And never mind that many noted philosophers have pointed out that it was the Christian emphasis on reason that gave rise to modern science. Singer and Dawkins are way out of their depth, showing their ignorance about the gospel accounts in particular and theology in general. They really should keep silent on subjects they clearly know so little about. As one Marxist commentator put it, "This is why (atheists) invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince". The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.

Singer says we should all worship at the altar of reason. That is just what the revolutionaries argued in the French Revolution when churches were ransacked and believers were sent to the guillotine. The truth is, a lot of open minds need to be closed for repairs. The nasty diatribes launched by Dawkins and Singer are examples of secular fundamentalism and intolerance. Indeed, they seek to make a sharp distinction between faith and reason, between religion and science. They claim that science gives us truth, but faith is simply myth. But more sober minds on both sides of the debate recognise these to be false polarisations. Faith, at least in the Christian religion, is informed by reason. It may at times go beyond reason, but it does not run counter to it.

And the scientific enterprise is also characterised by faith commitment. There are all kinds of unproven assumptions and presuppositions which may or may not be testable. The myth of complete scientific neutrality and objectivity has been countered by many important thinkers. Singer is free to engage in her simplistic thinking and crude materialism, in which only matter matters. But for billions, non-material things such as truth, beauty, justice, love and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.


Saturday, December 30, 2006


This one is too much fun for me to question the research methods too deeply

Doing housework can cut substantially a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, according to researchers. A study comparing the beneficial effects of different types of exercise found that moderate housework had the biggest obvious effect.

More than 44,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year. Last year 12,400 women died from the disease, most in their postmenopausal years.

Previous research has examined the link between exercise and breast cancer in postmenopausal women, but this is one of the first studies to include a large number of pre-menopausal women. Experts recommend that women exercise for 30 to 45 minutes five times a week to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

The study, part-funded by the charity Cancer Research UK, looked at a range of activities — including work, leisure and household occupations and chores. The pre-menopausal group doing housework spent, on average, 17.7 hours a week doing it while the post-menopausal women spent 16.1 hours. Pre-menopausal women who did housework were found to be about 30 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than pre-menopausal women who did none. Meanwhile, post-menopausal women who did housework were found to be about 20 per cent less likely to develop the disease than post-menopausal women who did none.

The researchers analysed data from 218,169 women from nine European countries, with an age range of 20 to 80 years. They followed the women for an average of 6.4 years, during which time there were 3,423 cases of breast cancer. The average age at which the disease developed in the participants was 47.6 years for pre-menopausal women and 65.6 years for post-menopausal. All forms of activity combined was found to reduce the risk in the post-menopausal women participants, but had no obvious effect in the pre-menopausal women. But the researchers found that all women, both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal, who undertook housework had a “significantly” reduced risk of getting the disease.

The research, published in the January edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, concluded: “In this large cohort of women , . . increased non-occupational physical activity and, in particular, increased household activity, were significantly associated with reduced breast cancer risk, independent of other potential risk factors. “Our results . . . provide additional evidence that moderate forms of physical activity, such as household activity, may be more important than less frequent but more intense recreational physical activity in reducing breast cancer risk in European women.”

The authors noted that housework was one of the “main sources of activity” for women living in these countries. Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “We already know that women who keep a healthy weight are less likely to develop breast cancer [Rubbish! Fatties get least breast cancer]. “This study suggests that being physically active may also help reduce the risk and that something as simple and cheap as doing the housework can help. “Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk Campaign recommends that men and women take regular exercise and maintain a healthy body weight to help prevent cancer.”


U.K.: Let's say farewell to the 'ethnic minorities'

Ten per cent of the British population come from “ethnic minorities”, a reporter on the BBC Today programme told us solemnly on Monday. He was discussing the Conservative Party’s drive to make the choice of candidates better reflect what Tories, too, call the “ethnic minority” population. The reporter added that this should be 10 per cent. By “ethnic minorities” he didn’t (and the Tories don’t) mean Albanians (Christian or Muslim) or the Irish, or Australians, Japanese or Jews.

Labour, meanwhile, has established an “ethnic minority taskforce” chaired by Keith Vaz, MP. His roadshow will not be visiting the Ukrainian community in Derby, or the Polish community in West London. It will not be talking to the substantial number of more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe who do not yet even speak English. Its remit includes third-generation black Christians whose only language is English. It does not include (white) Bosnian Muslims who speak no English at all. Mr Vaz is himself described as coming from the “ethnic minorities”. He (a Roman Catholic whose English is rather plummier than mine) is of Indian (Goanese) origin.

Oh, come on. Ethnic means “coloured” doesn’t it? If not, tell me in what respect not. The word is an adjective. The noun “minorities” is increasingly and unceremoniously dumped these days in favour of a new usage of “ethnic” as a noun in its own right — as though “ethnics” were members of a single tribe. Only one thing unites this wholly imaginary tribe: not their language, not their religion, not their background, not their culture — but the colour of their skin.

What hypocrisy this is. In Britain the word “coloured” is now more or less shunned in polite usage, and for a good reason: use of the term implicitly categorises people by the colour of their skin, which we shouldn’t do unless it tells us something useful and distinctive about the whole set.

What does a description of the colour of someone’s skin usefully convey in modern Britain? Their religion, language or culture? No; the Afro-Caribbean “community” (itself a conflation of two quite distinct groups) is mostly English-speaking and Christian: a culture closer to the British mainstream than that of a (white) Albanian. Indian Sikhs and Bengali Muslims are worlds apart. Those from the Indian sub-continent do not consider themselves to be black. Islam is much closer to Christianity than Buddhism or Hinduism.

Mr Vaz is no more or less representative of a black British voter in Brixton than I would be. A Bangladeshi Muslim in Tower Hamlets is unlikely to want Priti Patel (a new Tory candidate whose family origins are in India and Uganda) to speak for him on the dispute in Kashmir. Do British Indians consider themselves an oppressed minority any more? I doubt they would agree on this. Do prospering immigrants from Hong Kong feel common cause with refugees from Zimbabwe?

A growing diversity — of race, outlook, culture, gender — among our representatives in Parliament is an excellent thing and the Tories and Labour are right to push hard for it. But quotas for skin-colour are surreptitiously insulting, and plain wrong about the category they presume to identify. It’s time we recognised the whole concept of “the ethnic minorities” as the sloppy and ignorant anachronism it is: a category that simply does not exist.


Aunty's anti-Western bias is a dangerous political tool

Ignorant and ideologically biased ABC staff need re-educating. ("Aunty" is a common nickname for Australia's main public broadcaster -- The Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Those concerned about ABC bias may be disappointed in the ABC's new director of editorial policies, Paul Chadwick. "During the selection process I made it clear that if the ABC wanted a chief censor, I did not want the job," Chadwick said after news of his appointment last week. "The fact that it was offered and the fact I accepted reflected the understanding that this is not a chief censor role."

There has been hope among critics of ABC bias that the new director of editorial policies role, which attracts a salary of at least $280,000 a year, would redress fundamental concerns over ideological bias among ABC staff. But Chadwick's emphasis - indeed, his insistence - on the point that he will not act as a censor at the ABC raises the concern that such hopes are illusory.

Accusations of ABC bias are a problem that will certainly recur in 2007, if only because the partisans of one major political party or the other are unhappy with the broadcaster's coverage. I believe that ABC bias is one of the central problems in our national media. It is a problem I have observed both at close first hand and at the distance of consumption of ABC broadcasting products.

From both perspectives, the problem reveals itself as coming from the same source: the spiritual and metaphysical rootlessness of the tertiary-educated Australian middle class. I have always contended that dealing with this problem at its roots will require nothing less than the complete philosophical re-education of those ABC staff members engaged in intellectual tasks. Short of outright privatisation, this is the only way to arrest the endemic anti-Western bias which, at our ABC, expresses itself as partisan political passion, with the institutions and figureheads of Western liberal democracy as its principal targets.

The ABC represents the Australian intellectual class in miniature. The journalists, writers and artists who make up that class suffer broadly from the confused values that have characterised Western intellectual elites since the late 19th century. There is political passion without historical knowledge. There is philosophical scepticism, without the well thought-out metaphysical beliefs to make that scepticism useful. There is a nihilistic tendency that goes beyond the call of reason, and summons those afflicted with it to a fundamentalist rejection of the society in which they live, and which on the whole treats them very well.

This is the sort of problem that I talk about when I talk of ABC bias. It is not the problem of whether seven minutes or 12 minutes are given to Liberal and Labor spokesmen on the environment in the course of a tedious ABC interview. Much more important than such technical trivia is the question of the underlying and perhaps unconscious attitudes of those doing the interviewing, the editing and the production work on the program.

In a sense, the problem is not the creation of ABC culture as such. It is rather a problem of the Australian tertiary-educated middle class. As flag-bearers for that class, media workers naturally carry most of its baggage. In most social situations, this does not matter at all. A journalist riding the train or ferry to work in the morning is no more dangerous or offensive than another kind of office worker, or the person driving the train or boat. But once at work, ensconced in a position of command over the tools of mass communications media, the ideas at the back of a journalist's mind become more significant, and potentially threatening.

Where commercial market forces impose the disciplines of punchiness, topicality and brevity in news, the menace factor is correspondingly reduced. Where journalists in this country have the liberality to do their thing, as at a commercial-free ABC where ratings are irrelevant and the only professional issue of importance is the estimation of one's peers, the danger from their philosophical disconnectedness from society correspondingly increases. Given the attitudes of the Australian tertiary-educated class, ABC bias is the inevitable consequence of having a public broadcaster that does not operate on commercial principles.

Some say that the ABC board, with all its Howard Government appointees, ensures that the ABC cannot be biased. I have always contended that the ABC board is virtually irrelevant to the broadcaster's operating culture. The board could become, to a man and woman, more right-wing than Keith Windschuttle in his most right-wing moments. This will never affect the Monday-to-Friday newsroom thinking of an ABC journalist whose day-to-day contact is with other ABC journalists. If anything, the persistent stacking of the board with right-wing figureheads is likely to merely reinforce the crusader mentality of those excitable ABC staff members who have come to believe that their own positions, and perhaps the future of civilisation as they understand it, are under threat from the Howard Government.

Similarly I do not predict any great change in ABC operating culture as a result of the creation of any number of so-called opinion programs loaded with predictable voices from various spots on the ideological spectrum. Opinion programs, particularly if they are labelled as such (and one hopes they will be), are unlikely to carry much persuasive value one way or the other. The impact of the programs will depend entirely on the quality of work done by presenters. Like the opinion pages of newspapers, opinion programs on the ABC may provide a forum for the nation's salient political ideas. But in and by themselves, they will not change the content of any overwhelming bias that lies within the hearts and minds of our intellectual class.

Perhaps those making the coffee at ABC staff cafeterias may be excused from the need to learn the basic outlines of Western metaphysical discourse: the tension between utopian political ideologies and the doctrine of original sin, for example. But any staffer who is paid to write, record, edit or in any other way contribute to the production of verbal output through the media of ABC TV and radio should be trained to recognise the key elements in historical Western intellectual discussion. Re-education, leading to a broadened view of the traditions of Western civilisation itself, is the only way to counter the deep-seated anti-Western hostility that characterises our intellectual elites in the modern era.

Note: Just because Leftists use the term "re-education" in an Orwellian way, it does not mean that everybody does. Sometimes it means only what it says!


Friday, December 29, 2006


House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) has pledged to take up a lobbying reform proposal that would impose new regulations on speech by grassroots organizations, while providing a loophole in the rules for large corporations and labor unions.

The legislation would make changes to the legal definition of "grassroots lobbying" and require any organization that encourages 500 or more members of the general public to contact their elected representatives to file a report with detailed information about their organization to the government on a quarterly basis.

The report would include identifying the organization's expenditures, the issues focused on and the members of Congress and other federal officials who are the subject of the advocacy efforts. A separate report would be required for each policy issue the group is active on.

"Right now, grassroots groups don't have to report at all if they are communicating with the public," said Dick Dingman of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc. "This is an effort that would become a major attack on the 1st Amendment."

Under the bill, communications aimed at an organization's members, employees, officers or shareholders would be exempt from the reporting requirement. That would effectively exempt most corporations, trade associations and unions from the reporting requirements-but not most conservative grassroots groups, which frequently are less formally organized.

Larger, well-funded organizations are also currently eligible for a "low-dollar lobbyist exemption" that Pelosi's bill does not give to grassroots organizations. If an organization retains a lobbyist to contact lawmakers directly at a cost of $2,500 per quarter or less, or employs a full-time lobbyist at a cost of $10,000 per quarter or less, the organization does not have to report to the government.

Public Citizen, a liberal "government watchdog," is taking credit for helping Pelosi craft the legislation and expects the final draft of the bill to closely resemble Pelosi's Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2006, which contains these provisions.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, said the changes would help "streamline" how grassroots organizations are regulated by the IRS and other laws. Public Citizen would like Congress to adopt the IRS's definition of "lobbying," which includes communication that encourages the general public to contact a member of Congress on pending legislation or public policy.

"The IRS has a definition that requires all organizations, including non-profits, to file as a part of our tax returns," Holman said. "When it comes to the election code and the lobbying disclosure act, they have no definition of grassroots lobbying. It's excluded from everything. The IRS has a definition of grassroots lobbying, but their information is not publicly reported. It's just our tax returns to the IRS."

Suzanne Coffman, director of communication for, which makes IRS 990 forms available on the Internet, said any secular, non-profit organization that has more than $25,000 in income per year is required by law to make the last three years worth of tax forms available upon request. "We get them directly from the IRS, and we have more than two million 990s online" said Coffman. "For non-charitable organizations, like private charities or private foundations, we have fewer because the IRS began scanning those only in April 2005. They focused on charitable organizations, which make up the bulk of exempt organizations, because those are the ones that accept tax-deductible contributions. The need for accountability is much higher with them than with other types of organizations which are sort of subsidized by the taxpayer because they federally are tax exempt, but not like a charity is."

Public Citizen's public IRS 990 disclosure forms show that it raised more than $3 million in 2005. That year, the group spent $297, 431 on mail and $178,182 on consulting and professional fees.

A coalition of grassroots organizers, including David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America and Terrence Scanlon of the Capitol Research Center, have written an open letter calling on Public Citizen to renounce its efforts, which they called "flawed to the point of hypocrisy."

"This bill would apply to those who have no Washington-based lobbyists, who provide no money or gifts to members of Congress, and who merely seek to speak, associate and petition the government," it said. "Regulating the speech, publishing, association and petitioning rights of citizens is not targeted at corruption in Washington, as Public Citizen and its supporters would believe. Instead, it is targeted directly at the 1st-Amendment rights of citizens and their voluntary associations."

The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act, which made some of these changes, was actually approved by both the House and the Senate in the 109th Congress, but failed to make it through a conference committee.

To help dramatize the bill this time around, Pelosi is planning to assign sponsorship of various amendments to incoming freshman, which they will promote in their maiden House floor speeches.

Current law prevents former members of Congress and senior staff as well as senior executive staff from lobbying for one year. Pelosi's proposal would extend that to two years and completely ban members and staff from accepting gifts, meals and privately sponsored travel



And yet more encouragement for people to lie to keep out of trouble

Businesses have been warned by a Government watchdog they must individually quiz every member of staff on gay rights - or risk being sued for discrimination. Industrial relations quango Acas has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money drawing up a detailed 18-question test to establish whether workers are being unfair to any homosexual colleagues. Employers are advised to use the so-called 'audit tool' on all staff, then check their answers against a special score sheet to ensure staff do not have a bad attitude. A poor score earns a 'STOP' warning, which, according to Acas, means the company is at risk of being sued for discrimination.

Questions range from knowing how many gays live in the UK, to whether the business displays a 'rainbow flag' - a symbol of homosexual rights - on the premises. Poor scores are awarded for, for example, any 'jokes or banter' relating to gay or bisexual people. Acas said it was part of the 'Government's drive to promote good practice' on the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. Any firm which is alarmed by its results can ask for two free days consultancy, from Acas, paid for by the taxpayer. An expert will help the firm to develop an 'action plan'. The equivalent cost of the consultancy advice is an estimated 1,000 pounds.

Acas is the Government quango in charge of industrial relations in Britain, and provides advice and a reconciliation service to stop disputes reaching the tribunal stage. It has not sent the quiz to businesses, but they are all required to be up-to-date on Acas advice if they want to avoid being sued, and would be expected to download it from the website. In practice, most companies are so anxious about expensive tribunals in litigious modern-day Britain that they make sure they follow all Acas guidelines.

The test, however, was last night dismissed as a politically-correct waste of employers' time and public money. Business leaders said it was more likely to create rather than solve problems, by raising issues which had not previously caused any concern. Matt Hardman, of the Forum of Private Business, said: 'This is indicative of the state we have got ourselves into over discrimination laws. 'They seem determined to go to ridiculous lengths to flag up something which is unlikely to be an issue in most workplaces. 'In instances where it does arise, it will be dealt with informally in the first few weeks of employment and be dealt with quickly, and in an amiable away. It does not require something like this. 'We must be sensible, not take politically correct steps that are perhaps more likely to create problems than solve them.'

James Frayne, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'It's bizarre to think that people actually sat down and came up with this idea and thought it was great. 'This is just the latest in a long line of absurd schemes public sector bodies have come up with and which all add up to a small fortune for the taxpayer. Unfortunately, it's very unlikely 2007 will say anything different.'

The questions ask staff if nicknames are more likely to be given to gay members of staff than homosexual ones, or if there is an office equality policy or lesbian, gay and bisexual support group. Answers which Acas wants to see - such as ticking 'no' to the suggestion gay workers are more likely to be teased - receive a green rating, or 0 points. Saying yes would earn a red rating, or two points. A total of 31 points or more earns a 'STOP' rating. This carries the warning: 'Your organisation may well not be properly addressing issues relating to lesbian, gay or bisexual people in the workplace. 'Importantly this suggests that there is a lack of awareness relating to treating people fairly regardless of their sexual orientation, which may mean discrimination on the grounds of people's sexual preferences. 'Remember organisations that discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation, whether perceived or not, leave themselves open to a potential legal challenge under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.' A total of 0-10 is a clean bill of health, while 11-30 means proceed with caution, according to Acas.

Earlier this month, Acas came under fire for warning firms they could be sued unless they ensured office Christmas parties were politically correct. In an extraordinary advice pamphlet, the quango told firms they had a 'duty of care' to drunken staff and could face crippling legal action if they do not get home safely. Managers were also told age discrimination laws could be breached if the music and entertainment caters only for younger staff, and holding a raffle or giving out alcoholic prizes could offend Muslims. It even added a 'proper risk assessment' must be carried out before any decorations were put up, particularly if they could be fire hazards. Businesses said it made holding a Christmas party barely worth their while.

Acas said: 'Promoting equality and diversity and ensuring employees feel valued and can give their best are key issues for today's workplaces. 'This audit tool is designed to give an indication of where (an) organisation is in regard to sexual orientation and gender reassignment.' The organisation added: 'It is definitely not a test; it's designed to bring a sensitive topic out into the open and gauge whether an organisation protects basic equal rights at work whatever the individual's beliefs and practices in their personal lives.'


Thursday, December 28, 2006

A British drinker mocks British government alcohol correctness:

It is that time of year again, when the family of experts and authorities gather around to hand out shock-horror warnings that binge drinking at Christmas can be bad for us.

Here is the shocking news for them: we know. And we don’t care. For many of us, Christmas is supposed to be one big binge — a burst of spending, eating and drinking that is less festival of light than heavy session. That, after all, is what the B word means — “a bout, usually brief, of excessive indulgence” — not “a slippery slope into alcoholism”. Hopefully somebody bought the binge-whingers a decent dictionary for Christmas. Given the alternatives — not drinking at all, or not stopping — a binge has always seemed to me the best way to celebrate.

The official abuse of the meaning of “binge” is more than semantics. It blurs the distinction between the social drinking that millions happily indulge in, and the serious alcohol problems that afflict a few. The definition of “binge drinking” has been so watered down that a binge is defined as imbibing double the recommended daily limit at one sitting. So three glasses of wine, or two pints of strong lager, now qualify as a “binge” for women. Men may just be allowed a third pint before falling into the binger category. Less Ho, Ho, Ho than No, No, No.

What is all the fuss about? I grew up in suburban Surrey in the Seventies, and have blurred memories of Christmas as a ten-day bender sprinkled with violence and vomit. Somehow we survived to drink another day. By contrast, Christmas bingeing is viewed with horror today not because we drink more, but because officialdom thinks less of people — especially young people. The anxious authorities are mortified by the spectre of the public letting go, of the masses off the leash and on the lash for a few days.

But be of good cheer, there is life after a binge. Shane Warne is not only the greatest cricketer of his generation. His ability to drink himself stupid between repeated bouts of brilliance has made him a hero to binge drinkers everywhere. As he said when announcing his retirement last week: “I’ll have a few drinks and a few smokes afterwards, and take it from there.”

Some of us might not want to go so far as the binge drinker’s bible (aka the Bible), where it is written (Ecclesiastes 8:15) that “a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry”. But the occasional binge is one of life’s small joys for many. And, as even the Government’s own National Alcohol Harm Strategy admits reluctantly, most who drink more than the official guidelines “will not suffer harmful effects” — no more harmful than a hangover, anyway. The binge-whingers should remember that for millions of us this week, a binge is just for Christmas, not for life.


Compulsory halal meat in UK schools

Post lifted from Cranmer

Cranmer is indebted to his faithful communicant Ms Dexey for bringing his attention to the fact that Reading schools are serving halal meat to their students with neither their foreknowledge nor parental approval. It is not the option to which Cranmer objects, but the compulsion. The RSPCA condemns the practice of slitting an animal's throat while it is conscious, but issues of cruelty and inhumane treatment have been completely ignored as Berkshire schools bend over backwards to accommodate the sensitivities of Islam.

The reason given is that Reading `has a high proportion of Muslim students'. By the same reasoning, Bradford, Oldham, Leicester, Slough, and most of London should also be serving nothing but halal meat, and now the precedent has been set, it will not be too long before the demands are made.

But Cranmer finds a flaw in this multicultural manifestation. Of course the Christians may object, and without doubt their pleas will fall on deaf ears, but the Sikhs also have cause for complaint, and they have yet to raise their voice on this matter.

Unlike Hindus, some Sikhs eat meat, not least because one of their gurus is recorded as being a hunter. Yet within the Sikh faith are the `kurahit', or prohibitions, one of which is to not eat meat `killed in the Muslim way'. The origins, as ever, have more to do with the politics of identity, but it is a sustained article of belief for Sikhs all over the world - they are simply not permitted to eat halal meat at all. In Reading, they have been doing so without their knowledge.

Consider for one moment if these schools had been serving reconstituted pork disguised as some other meat, without the knowledge of Muslim students or parents. There would be uproar, with a high-powered delegation of `senior Muslims' to Downing Street demanding national repentance and a global apology, to which the Prime Minister would doubtless acquiesce.

In this instance, the sensitivities of other faith groups and the demands of the animal rights activists are subjugated to the demands of the Muslims.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


The U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 and in 1993 ruled that state laws establishing hate crimes could be constitutional. Because of these rulings, a crime of murder, for example, becomes worse if the murderer hates the victim. The ruling apparently assumes that some murderers are friendly chaps.

And the law can also be applied against a person who is found innocent of the alleged crime, but is found guilty of the hate that motivated the non-crime. Duh? In other words, thoughts can be illegal -- you can be sent to the pokey because you hate me even though you have not been found guilty of hurting me.

Most states now have hate crime laws that have been carefully tailored to meet the politically correct tests that were imposed by the above-mentioned Supreme Court decisions. The People’s Republic of Massachusetts, of course, is a leader in this respect with its hate crime laws that cover race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and, presumably, the eating of sweet pickles.

When a crime motivated by hate is committed, it is true that hate speech is often the most important match that ignited the deed. We see that example every day in the Middle East where endemic killing is fed by huge daily doses of hate speech in the media and, most importantly, in mosques. Young Muslims do not emerge from the womb as killers-to-be any more than do young Americans or Jews. But after years of hearing hate speech they look at Americans and Jews with hatred so instinctive that it needs only the slightest excuse to explode into an orgy of killing.

But because hate speech can have such terrible consequences does that mean that it should be criminalized even when no provable criminal act took place? Apparently the answer to that is yes and no. It all depends upon who is doing the hating.

For example, the Congressional Black Caucus concluded its four-day, 35th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington on September 25, 2005. In addition to the members of the black Caucus, Democratic Senators Clinton (NY) and Obama (IL) attended and heard (and did not disassociate themselves from) the remarks of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) who, among other things, said that President Bush is the modern day version of Bull Connor (the poster-boy bigot from Birmingham, Alabama, who in 1963 turned a fire hose and attack dogs loose on a black protest march led by Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that being poor and black in the United States is “not an inconvenience – it’s a death sentence.”

Rangel conveniently overlooked the fact that Bull Connor, two of the most racist governors of the time, Wallace (AL) and Maddox (GA), and Senator Robert Byrd (W. VA – with a Klu Klux Klan background) were all Democrats, or that the Civil Rights Act that gave political life to blacks would not have passed if Democrats of the day had their way.

Rangel is a demagogue and a hypocrite. And the congressional leaders who, by their silence, accepted Rangel’s distorted opinions regarding America and its president share his guilt. Hundreds at the conference heard Rangel’s remarks plus, according to Caucus leaders, another 100,000 over a live Web cast. Millions more became aware of his comments through the general media. Young blacks are listening to such demagogues – and reacting.

Rangel and others have peddled racism for 40 years. He and his ilk are a powerful deterrent to the progress of the people that they allegedly represent because they feed their trusting constituents a steady diet of hate speech. And they are living insults to those who have through their taxes have spent billions to assist black Americans and who, through their generosity, are doing the same today in the hurricane-battered cities of the Gulf of Mexico.

But Rangel and other America-hating left wingers are not accused of hate speech. How come?


"Civil liberties" perversions in Australia

Last week the Victorian Court of Appeal ordered a retrial of Jack Thomas on terror charges. The judges found the interview Thomas gave to ABC television's Four Corners could be used in evidence, as it potentially incriminated him. But here's the bizarre part. A number of civil libertarians were reported as being appalled at the ABC for showing the interview. "They must have known they shouldn't do it," said a past president of Liberty Victoria.

In reading this reaction I was reminded of the contrary opinions of the great English legal and moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This is the man who was largely responsible for the first Reform Bill of 1832 that vastly expanded the voting system; Bentham lobbied for such a broadening of the democratic base for many years. He also pushed for prison reform and was a progenitor of the John Howard Society (that's the prison reform group named after the long-dead Brit, not a fan club of the Prime Minister).

Bentham, who lived from 1748 to 1832, also played an important role in advancing the cause of women's voting rights. But my point is only this: Bentham had impeccable 18th-century reformist credentials in all sorts of important areas that affected real people. And yet he had a near pathological dislike, indeed loathing, of what we today would call civil libertarians.

Here's how Bentham saw it. This crowd of people forget that criminal trials are basically about getting at the truth. What is needed is a way to determine if an accused person actually did what the police are accusing him of. So relevance and truth are the key factors in any set of procedures. Yes, we'd all be better off opting to have a system that deliberately lets 10 or even 100 guilty persons go free rather than convicting one innocent person. That's why, contrary to the way newspapers often portray things, a not-guilty verdict does not in any way equate to an innocent verdict. Many guilty people are acquitted. It's the price we all willingly pay to keep the innocent out of jail, as much as is practically possible. But notice how you can admit all that and still believe that the point of a criminal procedure system is basically to find out the truth. That's certainly how Bentham saw it.

The problem with the civil libertarian mind-set is that any desire to find the truth -- to convict people who actually did what they are accused of -- seems to get brushed aside in the headlong rush after moral abstractions. Bentham caustically portrayed such thinking as a sort of fox-hunting game. Their goal, he said, was to ensure convicting accused criminals resembled a jolly good day of hunting. That means you can't catch too many. You'll need lots of irrelevant rules which will be sure to trip up the police on occasion, to make sure a few foxes get away. And you want to make sure these rules don't have anything much to do with determining guilt or innocence. The goal is always to keep the game nice and entertaining, with a fox here and there slipping away for the sake of the game itself.

Bentham went further. He saw the mind-set that, say, would exclude evidence when it clearly and undoubtedly points to guilt as part of a typical lawyer's world view, one where a person can be earning a huge salary and yet see himself as doing God's work. It's fox-hunting without any blood on one's hands; nice work if you can get it.

Now let's go back to Thomas. He either did or did not accept cash from al-Qa'ida. If he did not, or if the jury has a reasonable doubt he did not, then he should be acquitted. But if it is clear that Thomas did what he is accused of, then how, precisely, is there any injustice done if this is proved through his own words on an interview he freely gave to the ABC?

There is no obvious rationale for saying our criminal procedures should ensure the stupid don't get convicted. Nor are there any immediate grounds Lfor saying that the press should cover up admissions. Even if the ABC had promised not to show the interview until after the trial, I cannot see why that should stop the police from forcing the public broadcaster to hand over the tapes of the interview.

Confessions are sometimes suspect because we know as a matter of experience that innocent people sometimes confess to things they did not do. In other words, we're worried about the truth of the confession and fear coercion and pressure. We only should accept a confession after it's plain the confessor is telling the truth. But those civil libertarians last week weren't worried about truth. They were worried about the conduct of the ABC (not an obvious candidate for Right-wing monster organisation, truth be told). And they worried about Thomas's legal representation. You see, a smart person wouldn't have admitted anything, and so a smart lawyer would have ensured he shut up.

And so on and so forth. Not one iota of concern for whether the system works reasonably well in getting at the truth and actually takes off the streets dangerous people who do bad things: some of whom, luckily for all of us, are just plain dumb. Maybe Liberty Victoria should have its members read a little Bentham.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

British Academics seek right to offend

A right that they theoretically have already -- but not of course in practice. See also here under the heading "Staff are silenced by fear of reprisals"

A group of academics is demanding the right to be controversial in a new campaign for freedom of speech. Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) says that in today's political climate it is "harder than ever" for scholars to defend open debate. AFAF says they must be allowed to question received wisdom, and managers should not be able to discipline academics for voicing unpopular views. The group is calling on all university lecturers to sign its online petition.

"Restrictive legislation, and the bureaucratic rules and regulations of government quangos and of universities themselves, have undermined academic freedom," the groups says. "Many academics are fearful of upsetting managers and politicians by expressing controversial opinions. "Afraid to challenge mainstream thought, many pursue self-censorship."

A Leeds University lecturer, Frank Ellis, took early retirement this year before a disciplinary hearing over his comments that there was evidence to suggest white people had higher IQ levels than black people.

Statement of freedom

The statement of academic freedom which lecturers are being asked to sign says two principles are the foundation of academic freedom: "That academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive. "That academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal."

Writing on the AFAF website, Professor Roy Harris from the University of Oxford said: "Getting university authorities to agree to these principles is an essential step towards safeguarding academic freedom for the future." Professor Mary Evans from the University of Kent said: "Universities need to be able to maintain, and even extend their ability to think the unthinkable. "They should not accept a role as mere instruments of state agendas."

Simon Davies, co-director of the policy engagement research group at the London School of Economics, added: "I'm deeply worried about the number of academics who flee in terror at the slightest wisp of controversy. "Rather than engage the world in a spirit of challenge, too many academics have been sedated by an oppressive environment of political correctness and risk aversion."

Source. More detail here under the heading: "Scholars demand right to be offensive".

The war goes on

Is it a war on Christmas, or a war on Christianity?

Once again, the time of year in which there is supposed to be “joy to the world” arrives rife with conflict over the very symbols of the season, despite protestations to the contrary. In the name of political correctness — the modern euphemism for Marxist intolerance — we have seen this Yuletide season a decision by the city of Chicago to prohibit the use of a trailer from the movie “The Nativity Story” at a Christmas festival, the removal of Christmas trees from the Seattle-Tacoma airport, the usual threats of lawsuits from the ACLU and other Marxists organizations over the performance of Christmas carols in public schools, and the efforts to replace the holiday wishes of “Merry Christmas” with more generic, or meaningless, greetings. All, ostensibly, to avoid offending those who adhere to a faith, or non faith, other than Christianity.

In Chicago, city bureaucrats spent the better part of two days attempting to extricate themselves from their self-created difficulties arising from their decision to seek a ban on the use of the movie trailer. The festival, at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, is officially the German Christkindlmarket, a privately-funded event. One of the sponsors was New Line Cinema, producers of the movie “The Nativity Story,” and as part of the sponsorship, trailers from the movie were going to be shown.

Officially, city bureaucrats were worried that the movie trailers “may offend non-Christians.” Somehow, those bureaucrats seemed to have overlooked the fact that the festival is, indeed, a Christmas festival, and Christmas is, inherently, a Christian celebration. That others may wish to somehow secularize the celebration, or to somehow deny it, is not particularly germane.

At Sea-Tac airport, Christmas trees were removed almost immediately when a lawsuit was threatened. The trees were, fortunately, replaced when public outcry effectively embarrassed the man who first raised the question about the appropriateness of the display, and led to him almost immediately rescinding his objections.

But across the country, the attack on Christmas continues with varying degrees of success on the part of the politically correct attempting to impose their own brand of tyranny. It wasn’t that long ago that a New Jersey school decided to prohibit even the instrumental rendition — no lyrics — of traditional Christmas carols like “Silent Night.” Or that a school in Washington banned the performance of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” because it somehow was deemed to have “religious” connotations.

The Christmas season, it seems, is supposed to have no reference to the reason, or the tradition, it represents. Unfortunately, it seems only at this particular time of year that the continual onslaught against a particular religion, Christianity, receives any real notice, but it is not limited to this particular time of year. The ACLU battled residents of San Diego for 15 years over whether or not a cross memorializing veterans should be removed from Mt. Soledad. That case was finally resolved when the land was taken over by the U.S. government as a national memorial, allowing the cross to remain. The City of Angels, Los Angeles, has had to remove a cross from its city seal.

As these attacks go on, however, there is no mention of the obeisance the U.S. military is forced to show the Islamic terrorists detained at Guantanamo for their faith, the special treatment that must be accorded the Korans supplied to them, or the criticism leveled against guards when they were falsely accused of desecrating those Korans.

It is tragically ironic that in attacking one faith, the politically correct continues to pervert the First Amendment. In finding a non existent clause in the amendment — a separation of church and state — it has demanded the abrogation of a clause which actually does exist — Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or the free exercise thereof — by forcing the acceptance the tenets of a non religion, atheism, or of a non Christian religion, Islam.

Meanwhile, the famed “Little Town of Bethlehem” remains under siege. It was only a couple of years ago that Islamic terrorists seized the Church of the Nativity and held hostage several nuns and priests while vandalizing and looting its contents. Bethlehem, once 80 percent Christian, is now 85 percent Muslim, and the Christmas, and Christian, symbols there are being eliminated there with the same surety the politically correct are endeavoring to do in the United States.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy winter solstice to you, too ...

The GOP wishes you a happy holiday. You heard right. Not "Merry Christmas," but "Happy Holidays." Not that I have a problem with someone wishing, or indeed, having a happy holiday. 15 years ago that statement meant pretty much what it said; a happy holiday.

The problem today is the subtext that has been added over the course of 15 culture war-filled years. Vehement protest over the "exclusivist" nature of wishing one a "Merry Christmas" has led to the substitution of "Happy Holidays" in its place. Odd too, isn't it, that histrionics of this kind usually issue from the preachers of "tolerance". Apparently, "live and let live" is something for everyone else to abide by--everyone else but the multi-culti cheerleaders, that is. Thus, when organizations such as Walmart or the Republican party makes use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" in a public setting, it does so in full knowledge of the current cultural context.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing offensive about the phrase "Happy Holidays," but I think it's unnecessary and a little silly for the GOP to bow to the gods of political correctness. Seen in the light of the recent mid-term drubbing, it would seem that this is tantamount to swinging at a slow pitch and missing completely. It wouldn't hurt the GOP to tout its "traditional" credentials after an election in which many diehard conservatives stayed home. Granted, posting "Merry Christmas" on wouldn't reverse President Bush's stance on immigration, but it would be a nice gesture--a signal that the politics of hypersensitivity have no place here.

As 2008 draws closer, and the Democratic slate of contenders looks ever more formidable, it is vitally important that the GOP gets its head straight. Fortunately for all of us, Republican ineptitude isn't the end of the world. I stopped in Walmart today during my lunch break; as I headed toward the exit, I distinctly heard the greeter wish me a "Merry Christmas." I thanked her and wished the same.


Bell-ringers are prime suspects

Comment from Britain

Heard the one about the Tory shadow minister who wanted to dress up as an elf in Santa’s grotto? (Well, they are all going green.) Sadly the punchline is not as funny as the Lib Dem MP lending a hand to the Cheeky Girl. Tim Loughton, the Shadow Minister for Children, was prevented from displaying his elfin charms at a charity children’s Christmas party, because he had not been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Welcome to the spirit of Christmas present, where Santas, party helpers, choir members and bell-ringers can all come under suspicion of being undercover perverts, and children must be protected from an honourable, but unvetted, elf.

A report entitled How the Child Protection Industry Stole Christmas, published by my friends at the Manifesto Club, lists seasonal horror stories from around the country. A fat old man offering children gifts if they sit on his lap in a cosy grotto — that’s “grooming”, isn’t it? So Santa often has to be vetted, and even then probably won’t be allowed to put children on his knee, ask for a kiss or do anything more than shake hands under bright lights and even CCTV cameras. All it needs now is for the Santas to claim that they cannot have chubby children on their knee anyway because of health and safety regulations.

Elsewhere, unvetted volunteers are barred from some Christmas parties, photographing Nativity plays is frowned upon, and some churches require all adults in mixed-age choirs to be vetted. Oh succumb, all ye faithful. As for those notorious church bell-ringers they not only need CRB-vetted supervisors, but also parents must be informed that an adult may touch their child’s hand, and young campanologists are given warning not to wear anything “overtly provocative”, presumably in case it rings somebody’s bell.

As Josie Appleton, the report’s author, says: “This isn’t about ‘PC gone mad’. Sadly, these procedures have become entirely normal in schools, churches and community centres across Britain.” Whatever the intentions, the effect can only be to spread bad will and mistrust towards all men. One mother selling letters from Santa on eBay even assures customers: “The magic of Christmas is here . . . I am CRB-checked.” Magic!



The politically correct agenda of The Episcopal Church is being used to shut orthodox people up under the guise of tolerance when, in fact, liberals and revisionists tolerate anything except those they disagree with.

Consider the following: A godly Anglo-Catholic and evangelical priest from the Diocese of San Joaquin is duly elected the new Bishop of South Carolina. Within days of his clear win-on-the-first-ballot victory, a group calling themselves Via Media, announce that they think he is unsuitable for the job and write letters to the church's bishops demanding that they refuse him consents. Lawrence's sin? He is a true believer who is not buying into sodomy, homogenital priests and same-sex unions fictitiously disguised as 'gay marriage'.

They laughingly raise the issue of his "manner of life", without seeing the incongruity that the duly elected homogenital Bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson's "manner of life" might, at the very minimum, be questionable. Heaven forbid that anyone should question the new darling of the left's surrogate for sexual dysfunction.

So the Via Media, a laughable knock-off of the true Via Media hope, and presumably pray, that Lawrence will not get consents, so they can, with their new found political clout, make sure that a "moderate" will get elected, and then begin their long drive to overturn the diocese's mostly orthodox clergy. Will it work? Time will tell.

Then a group of liberal/revisionist bishops in California go after the Anglo-Catholic bishop of San Joaquin John-David Schofield saying he "abandoned the communion" of the church and filed presentment charges at him. They were ultimately thrown out, but not before the good bishop had a few sleepless nights wondering what exactly he had "abandoned".

The irony is that it is the four or more bishops in California who have abandoned the faith, while it is Bishop John-David Schofield who is upholding it!

And more recently the new "pin stripe trousered" One (see the New York Times photo) Presiding Bishop, Mrs. Schori tells that same bishop if he thinks he can take his diocese out of the Episcopal Church he has another think coming.

She accused him of "spiritual violence" saying that he had taken vows three times over to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church!"

She then says, "If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity." There is so much hubris here you could scrape it off a cathedral wall.

The truth is, there have been a growing number of bishops who have been doing "spiritual violence" to the Episcopal Church for the past 40 years including Pike, Spong, Walker, Charles, Robinson, Bennison, Shaw and Griswold, to name but a few, and their "spiritual violence" has lead to empty pews and now possibly, a departing diocese.

Spong's 12 Theses is a total departure from the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church" as to be laughably Unitarian, Pelagian and Gnostic all wrapped up in one package. And two presiding bishops, Browning and Griswold both turned a blind eye to him, with Griswold saying at one point, during his nine years, that Spong had actually brought people into the church with his inquiring mind, forgetting perhaps that he gutted his own diocese during his tenure at the Diocese of Newark.

Mrs. Schori links the doctrine and discipline of the church to property, a truly giant step forward into ecclesiastical thin air. Here is what she says: "As you contemplate this action (leaving the TEC), I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future."

So to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the church is to make sure that all properties remain in the TEC! Really. What a giant stretch of the imagination. Has any bishop or archbishop in history ever made such a claim? Is the Dennis Canon above Holy Scripture?

If what she says is true, what is Mrs. Schori going to say to, or do with, bishops like John W. Howe (Central Florida) or James Stanton (Dallas) who have already let parishes go without a fight, to other ecclesiastical jurisdictions? Why is she not writing to them? If these are diocesan matters, and properties are held in trust for the diocese and national church she will need to litigate against every diocese that has ever let a parish go without a fight.

Presumably dioceses like San Diego and Los Angeles are safe because they are litigating, often repeatedly, to keep or get back those parishes that have left the Episcopal Church.

Schori: "Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation."

And the church's forbears would never have tolerated a Spong or Pike either. If they knew what was being preached from pulpits today they would roll over in their graves. Can you imagine the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury (1729 -1796), the first American Episcopal bishop and the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, listening to the whine of a Louie Crew or V. Gene Robinson over legitimizing homoerotic behavior!

And who is doing most of the litigating? Would Mrs. Schori care to explain how J. Jon Bruno (Los Angeles) is repeatedly going after three parishes in his diocese and where the money is coming from, or that Charles Bennison, (Pennsylvania) a rank revisionist is selling closed churches and using the money to fund a war chest to go after two orthodox parishes!

And where was the victory for the Diocese of Pennsylvania in closing St. James the Less? Mrs. Schori's says properties are for "those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future." The truth is there isn't going to be a future for that parish. The entire parish left with the priest. The doors of St. James have closed forever. Bennison's efforts to jump start the parish has already failed. He now has to pay for the church's upkeep, so Philadelphia's elite, who lie buried in the graveyard, are not disturbed by a church-turned-boutique.

The Executive Council recently appropriated $100,000 for the church's task force's work on fleeing parishes, with the group also obtaining a further $25,000 co-opted from an insurance company that could be used to help those liberal and revisionist diocesan priests go after orthodox priests and parishes.

And what will Mrs. Schori say to Bishop Peter James Lee (who has already cut a deal with one parish) when he cuts a deal with two multi-million dollar parish estates so he doesn't have to face endless litigation?

Will she be firing off threats of presentments to other orthodox bishops across the country that cut deals with fleeing parishes? Where will it all end? What will she do if Bishop Duncan says the Anglican Communion Network is now the formative unit of a 10th province if Global South Primates initiate a new structure for orthodox Episcopalians, that they promised to do in Kigali and reaffirmed in Virginia recently, and give Duncan the nod to go ahead under their protection. And guess what, they are not asking Rowan Williams for permission.

They probably realize that his visit with the Pope bombed and they have even less respect for him now. Is the Archbishop of York just waiting in the wings for the top job? A number of British commentators think so.

Mrs. Schori is clearly a continuation of Frank Griswold but in pin stripe trousers, and she has nailed her ultra-liberal colors to the TEC mast. She has no theology worth talking about. One priest described her theology as variously Pelagian, Marcion, Gnostic, Pluralistic and Universalist. She has reduced everything to Millennium Development Goals. One writer says Mrs. Schori has replaced the catholic notion of "faith once for all delivered" for a "faith du jour", and nobody has blinked.

But political correctness and its twin sister liberal intolerance was also visible over the issue of women's ordination. At first it was brokered in on the back of the Civil Right's movement without any theological work being done. Twenty five years later it is now mandatory, no bishop will ever obtain consents unless such a bishop approves. The consciences of Anglo-Catholic priests and some Evangelicals were simply stomped on.

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Thompson, Dean of the School of Doctoral Studies at the Ambridge, PA based Trinity School for Ministry said that while liberal bishops will not send their seminarians to be educated at T(E)SM they do accept graduates from TSM. But, observed Thompson, TSM's students are increasingly wary of submitting to a non-supportive authority.

Finally, any notion of liberal niceness, and 'why can't we all get along', or 'go in peace to love and serve the Lord' has forever evaporated. Mrs. Schori has demonstrated that her oceanographic background with squid and octopi has taught her that having multiple tentacles to squeeze orthodox bishops was indeed the right background for her new job.

All that remains to be seen is how fast orthodox bishops can escape her clutches, or be cut off, before they themselves are squeezed to death in her liberal, tolerant embrace.


Sunday, December 24, 2006


A congressman said Thursday that he will not retract a letter warning that unless immigration is tightened, "many more Muslims will be elected" and use the Quran to take the oath of office. Republican Rep. Virgil Goode triggered angry responses from a civil rights group and some colleagues with a letter this month to constituents concerned about a decision by Rep.-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, to use the Quran when he is sworn in. "I will not be putting my hand on the Quran," Goode said at a news conference Thursday at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Goode, who represents Virginia's 5th Congressional District, said he is receiving more positive comments from constituents than negative. "One lady told me she thinks I'm doing the right thing on this," he told Fox News. "I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded." Goode also told Fox News he wants to limit legal immigration and do away with "diversity visas," which he said let in people "not from European countries" and "some terrorist states."

In his letter, Goode wrote that strict immigration polices are necessary "to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America." "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," he wrote.

Ellison said Thursday that Goode and others had nothing to fear about Muslims. "They are our nurses, doctors, husbands, wives, kids, who just want to live and prosper in the American way," Ellison, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said Thursday on CNN when asked what he would say to Goode if they met. "All of us are steadfastly opposed to the same people he's opposed to, which is terrorists, and so there's nothing for him to be afraid of." Asked whether he thought Goode was a bigot, Ellison said, "I don't know the fellow, and I'd rather just say that he has a lot to learn about Islam. ... I don't want to start any name-calling."

Virginia's senior senator, Republican John Warner, said in a statement Thursday that he respects the right of congressional members to freely "exercise the religion of their choice, including those of the Islamic faith utilizing the Quran."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat who is Jewish, said Thursday that he hoped Goode would meet with Ellison, saying he would "see what I saw: a good American with good values of a different faith who's trying to do right by the people he represents." The Council on American-Islamic Relations had asked Goode to apologize, saying the remarks sent "a message of intolerance that is unworthy of anyone elected to public office." Ellison was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college.



In the usual dishonest Leftist way, they pretend that there is no difference between rounding up lawbreaking and law-abiding people

U.S. Hispanic groups and activists on Thursday called for a moratorium on workplace raids to round up illegal immigrants, saying they were reminiscent of Nazi crackdowns on Jews in the 1930s. They accused the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of "racial profiling," or selective enforcement against Hispanics, for arresting 1,300 workers on immigration violations in December 12 raids at meatpacking plants in six states. "We are demanding an end to these immigration raids, where they are targeting brown faces. That is major, major racial profiling, and that cannot be tolerated," said Rosa Rosales, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, at a news conference. "This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up," Democratic Party activist Carla Vela said. "Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?"

The groups, which included LULAC, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, sent letters to U.S. Michael Chertoff, urging a halt to the raids. They also called on Congress to quickly to approve immigration legislation that would allow for "guest workers" to remain in the United States.

The government crackdown follows months of political debate about illegal immigrants that culminated in a new law authorizing, among other things, construction of a 700-mile wall along several stretches of the U.S.-Mexican border. Many of those arrested in the December 12 raids, all at Swift & Co. plants, were from Latin American countries.

Chertoff said the raids showed that illegal immigrants, estimated to number 12 million in the United States, contributed to the problem of identity theft because they worked under false or stolen identities. Anger at anti-immigrant rhetoric and measures is said to have hurt Republican candidates with Hispanic voters in November elections that saw the Democrats win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. LULAC, the oldest and largest Hispanic group in the country with 115,000 members, said workplace raids would cause families to be separated if the arrested immigrants were deported and also would hurt the U.S. economy. "Every labor-intensive industry including the hospitality, construction, agriculture and restaurant industries will be adversely impacted if these raids continue," Rosales said.


Moronic "sexual harassment" correctness

It shows how politically correct and devoid of sense teachers tend to be

A father in Maryland says his 5-year-old son knows nothing about sex, but the boy was written up for sexually harassing a kindergarten classmate.

Washington County school officials told Charles Vallance that his son pinched a girl's buttocks earlier this month in a hallway at Lincolnshire Elementary School. The school says that meets the state's definition of sexual harassment. Vallance says his son was only playing around and had no sexual intent. School officials say the incident will remain in the boys file until he goes to middle school.

Citing state data, the (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail reports that 28 kindergarten students in Maryland were suspended for sex offenses in the last school year - 15 of those suspensions for sexual harassment.


Australia: Long sentence for killing an Aborigine

Why are crimes alleged to be "hate" motivated penalized relatively heavily while other negligent but unintentional killings in Australia get just a slap on the wrist? The victims are equally dead

A man has been jailed for 7 1/2 years for shooting dead an Aboriginal woman and wounding another man in a racially motivated attack. Bradley Stuart Burge, 33, was today sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for the January 2000 drive-by shooting in Port Hedland, in Western Australia's north. He had pleaded guilty to murder and causing grievous bodily harm.

Burge, originally from country NSW, admitted using a 12-gauge shotgun to fire a single shot at people gathered in a park. The shot hit a 39-year-old woman in the leg and she bled to death. The blast also hit a 32-year-old man in the leg, leaving him with a permanent disability. Burge's brother Kerry James Burge, who was allegedly driving the car at the time of the shooting, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges and will face trial next year.

Burge's lawyer Josephine Pepe today told the West Australian Supreme Court her client had not meant to kill or harm anyone, only to frighten them. "They were out to do a prank that went horribly wrong,'' Ms Pepe told the court. But prosecutor Carolyn Moss called the attack "cowardly''. "This is a clear cut case of a racially motivated offence,'' she told the court. "It was pure chance and pure luck that no one else was hit . . . and there were no further fatalities,'' she said.

Justice Ralph Simmonds sentence Burge to a minimum of seven and a half years in prison, backdated to his arrest in September last year. "These are matters of grave community concern,'' he said. "The results were deeply and doubly tragic.'' But Justice Simmonds said he accepted Burge had not intended to kill anybody. He said the attack had been out of character for Burge and was not part of a pattern of violence or racism. Burge was made eligible for parole.


Saturday, December 23, 2006


The state's Christmas tree controversy has shifted from the airport to the Capitol, where the governor lit a menorah this week, but officials rejected a Nativity scene. It all started earlier this month with the plastic holiday trees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A rabbi wanted to add a large menorah to the display, but airport officials, worried about lawsuits and requests from other religions, ordered the trees removed instead. They put the trees back up a few days later -- without a menorah -- after Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad Lubavitch in Seattle said he wouldn't sue.

Bogomilsky had made the same request last year for a menorah to go with the decorated trees at the state Capitol, and he said he was delighted Monday afternoon when Gov. Chris Gregoire lit a menorah, the candelabrum lit by Jews to celebrate Hanukkah.

But when Ron Wesselius, a real estate agent in Olympia, then proposed also adding a creche, a display depicting the birth of Jesus that is the religious basis for Christmas, he was turned down. "I had been thinking about it, but it's one of those things -- you don't want to create waves," Wesselius said Wednesday. "But when I saw the menorah was there, I thought, 'Hey, why don't I ask?' " He said he was surprised at the response.

Steve Valandra, a spokesman for the Department of General Administration, said officials were concerned that in comparison with a tree or menorah, a Nativity scene might carry a stronger impression of government endorsement of religion. Lawyers for the state felt there was insufficient time to fully research the issue, he said. "Based on that, without having more time, we had to say no," Valandra said. Wesselius said he hadn't decided whether to press state officials to change their minds.



The ACLU turns to the courts in a bid to overturn the Michigan constitution. The Michigan constitution now says: "'The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting" but the ACLU figures that the courts can overturn that. The courts have long ignored the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution so the ACLU may be right. The USA has a lawless judiciary at the highest level

Filing a lawsuit today on behalf of 19 students, faculty and applicants to the University of Michigan, a coalition of civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, are asking a federal court to declare that the newly passed Proposal 2 has not changed the Supreme Court’s view, stated as recently as 2003, that it is constitutionally permissible for universities to consider race and gender as one factor among many in university admissions. "We are pleased to be able to represent current students and faculty, as well as prospective students, in a case that will be the first to evaluate exactly what Proposal 2 means in this state," said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "The recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court made clear that it is entirely within the law for universities to consider race or gender as one of many criteria in selecting their student body. Proposal 2 should not change that."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, asks the court to issue a "declaratory ruling" explaining that Proposal 2 does not ban programs that use race or gender as part of the decision-making process in any manner whatsoever. Such a construction of the language of Proposal 2 would place an unconstitutional burden on the ability of protected groups to advance their interests and rights while leaving other members of the community free to advance theirs without any similar burdens.

Rev. Wendell Anthony, President of the NAACP, Detroit Chapter, said, "Affirmative Action is still the law of the land. Recent events in Michigan related to the passage of Proposal 2 have only increased our energy to keep the doors of equal opportunity open and accessible for all of America's sons and daughters. We have come too far to allow the doors of opportunity to be shut in the face of the American promise of liberty and justice." Proponents of Proposal 2, called the "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative," have asserted from the beginning that it would not end all affirmative action but, instead, would only make it "unconstitutional to pick winners and losers based solely on race and sex."

Source. (H/T STACLU)

Good kids can come from any environment

Genetics research has shown for years that it's your inborn characteristics, not your environment, that make most of the difference in your life. Below is described one outcome of that -- though genetics is not mentioned, of course

There's good news for children growing up in bad neighborhoods in a comprehensive study led by nationally renowned University of Colorado at Boulder sociology Professor Delbert Elliott. The 8-year effort analyzing the successful development of children in different kinds of neighborhoods in Denver and Chicago found that children growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods were doing much better than expected. The rate of successful development for children from the best neighborhoods was 63 percent while the success rate for children living in high-poverty, disadvantaged neighborhoods was 52 percent.

"There's an 11-point difference between our worst neighborhoods and our best neighborhoods," said Elliott, director of the CU-Boulder Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. "That's very surprising." "The idea that living in high-poverty, disorganized, disadvantaged neighborhoods is kind of a death sentence for kids is clearly not the case," he said. "We're getting kids coming out of those neighborhoods that are doing quite well."

The examination of neighborhoods was one of four integrated studies launched by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Network on Successful Adolescent Development. The portion of the study conducted by Elliott and his colleagues looked at neighborhoods, while three other teams focused on family and school influences on development, and youth development in rural farming areas.

The results were published this fall in "Goods Kids From Bad Neighborhoods" by Cambridge University Press. The study was co-authored by Scott Menard, Amanda Elliott and David Huizinga of the CU-Boulder Institute of Behavioral Science, William Julius Wilson of Harvard University and Bruce Rankin of Koc University in Turkey.

The researchers used U.S. census data, personal interviews and focus groups to study 662 families and 820 youths age 10 to 18 from 33 neighborhoods in Denver, and 545 families and 830 youths from 40 neighborhoods in Chicago. Names of all neighborhoods in the study were changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants.

Relatively little is known about how adolescents from disadvantaged neighborhoods overcome adversity, according to Elliott. While most other studies focus on crime, drugs and the dysfunctional behavior of youth in poor neighborhoods, this study focused on success: the factors that helped adolescents develop into healthy, productive, contributing citizens.

In examining the combined effects of neighborhood, family, school and peer group, the researchers were surprised to find that "success in any one of those seemed to be able to buffer the kids from the negative effects of living in a bad neighborhood," Elliott said. This finding is "very encouraging" because it means that the conditions in all four contexts don't have to improve at once in order to make a difference in children's lives, he said.

It also was somewhat surprising that the impact of each of these social contexts was fairly similar, although not identical, Elliott said. For positive youth development, the family and the school are the two most critical contexts. But for issues of delinquent behavior, drug use and early sexual activity, the critical context is the peer group.

As expected, the family has a strong influence on the behavior of younger children but this influence wanes starting at about age 15 when the school and peer group gain in importance. The good news from this finding is that good family-based interventions are available for parents of younger children, he said. "We know that we can teach parents how to do a better job of parenting," Elliott said. "That's an intervention in disadvantaged, high-poverty neighborhoods that potentially can have a dramatic effect on youth development. The earlier we can do that the better, given this age effect that we see. You can't wait until kids are 16, 17, 18."

Another key finding was that parents in disadvantaged neighborhoods are doing a pretty good job of parenting. The researchers didn't find that the quality of parenting was strongly related to the type of neighborhood. The tendency for poor parenting, bad schools and antisocial peer groups to cluster in bad neighborhoods was quite weak. When the difference in financial resources between poorer and wealthier neighborhoods was taken into account, "The quality of parenting was just as good and in some cases better than in more advantaged neighborhoods," Elliott said.

The nature of the parenting was different, however. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, a lot of the parenting dealt with teaching children how to deal with the dangers in their neighborhoods -- the exposure to drugs, delinquency, crime and the dysfunctional behavior of some of the adults and teens who live there, he said. "A large part of the parenting practice issues for those parents had to do with ensuring the safety of their children," he said.

One of the findings in the companion MacArthur study on families showed that trying to confine kids to the house in a dangerous neighborhood doesn't appear to be a good strategy because teenagers are too apt to sneak out to be with their peers. "There's such a need on the part of adolescents to be with their friends that if you don't provide positive social contexts for that to happen, it's going to happen anyway, and it's going to happen in some sort of context where you don't have good monitoring and supervision, and then you get some pretty negative outcomes," he said. A more effective strategy was for parents to get their children involved in afterschool programs, church-related activities or athletics where there is adult monitoring and supervision. This strategy looked like it was "very, very effective," he said.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Journalism that is politically correct to the point of stupidity (if not outright deception)

I reproduce two posts below from Taranto

Crackpot portrayed as normal

Remember Cindy Sheehan? Neither does anyone else, which we suppose is why the Associated Press is now putting forward a new "folk hero" for the "anti-war movement": Rosemarie Jackowski, a diminutive sexagenarian from Vermont who was arrested in 2003 for disrupting traffic and has been appealing her conviction ever since. The AP makes her out to be just a regular old lady; "Vt. Woman Is an Unlikely Peace Activist," reads the headline, and the story, by John Curran, includes a putative veteran's endorsement:
"She's not a loony toon by any means," said Andrew Schoerke, 73, a retired U.S. Navy captain who was arrested with her. "She's a very down to earth, sensible, caring person with some very strong convictions."
But as blogger Dan Riehl points out, a simple Internet search turns up lots of information the AP leaves out. Her page on describes her as an "advocacy journalist" and includes links to articles she has written. In "Reparations for Iran," dated Aug. 9, she writes:
The United States owes reparations to the people of Iran. How much should be paid for the 1953 coup? How much is a democracy worth? Here's a thought. Suppose the U.S. gave all of its nuclear weapons to Iran. Would that be a win, win, win scenario? The world would be safer because the only nation that had ever used nukes would no longer have any. The people of Iran would be compensated for the 1953 coup. The U.S. taxpayers would be spared a bill for reparations.
In "Vermont Vets Support Ward Churchill Statement" (June 19), she praises a statement in which the crackpot Colorado "scholar" seemed to endorse terrorism to "get those in power to stop killing Indian children":
When I first saw this Churchill statement on the Mickey Z blog site, my initial reaction was that it was beautifully constructed poetry. Ward Churchill, the gentle poet, that was a new concept. As I read and re-read it over and over, I came to the conclusion that it is one of the most powerful pleas for peace and justice in literature.
Similarly, in a May 20 piece, she likened Churchill to Galileo. She also ran for attorney general last month as the nominee of the far-left Liberty Union Party, according to whose Web site she is also a member of the Socialist Party USA.

This information would seem to be useful in evaluating the AP source's claim that Jackowski is "not a loony toon." And surely it is a refutation of the AP's own claim that she is "an unlikely peace activist." It's hard to think of how she could be any likelier a peace activist.

Curran, the AP's reporter, at best shows a remarkable lack of skepticism about Jackowski's self-packaging as a normal grandma. But this is pretty much par for the course: The press tried to present Cindy Sheehan as a grieving everymom, when in fact she turned out to be an America-hating crackpot. Is it any wonder people don't trust journalists?

Diversity Drivel

The Boston Globe reports on a silly new study that purports to reveal something about race relations in Massachusetts:

Despite the increasing diversity of the population here, the state's black, white, Asian, and Latino residents are living largely separate lives and take a dim view of race relations, according to a poll released today.

At work, in their neighborhoods, and socially, an overwhelming majority of white residents, for example, still interact predominantly with other whites. The survey showed that 61 percent of white respondents said they see "only a few" or no African-Americans in daily life, and 71 percent said they see only a few or no Latinos.

"We have made a great symbolic statement about Massachusetts as a home to diverse people," said Steve Crosby, dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, which commissioned the survey along with three think tanks at the University of Massachusetts. "But this data tells us there is still serious work to be done in terms of race relations and conditions for all ethnicities in our community." . . .

According to the survey, African-Americans and Latinos also associate mostly with people of their own race and ethnicity, though they are not as segregated as the white residents. A large majority of Asians also said they interact with few or no African-Americans and Latinos, but they reported seeing more white residents in their daily lives than they do people of their own race.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Massachusetts is 83.4% white, 5.9% black, 4.7% Asian and 7.9% Latino (that last category overlaps with the racial ones). What this means is that if you came in contact with a representative sample of Massachusettsans each day, the vast majority of them (5 out of 6) would be white, while only a few would be black (about 1 in 17), Asian (1 in 21) or Hispanic (1 in 13).

The only finding the Globe describes that departs from this is that "African-Americans and Latinos . . . associate mostly with people of their own race and ethnicity." What sort of "serious work" would Steve Crosby do to prevent them from doing so?

How human rights always lead to human wrongs

A comment from Britain

Jeremy Bentham described the Declaration of the Rights of Man by French revolutionaries as “nonsense on stilts”. Nice rhetoric, but ultimately unsuccessful. Since 1789 the idea of human rights has thrived. It now even has its own day. This year’s Human Rights Day, was dedicated to the war on poverty. Bentham was right. The idea that we all enjoy certain rights, not because any legal system gives them to us, but simply because we are humans, is silly. But, in the 18th century at least, it was beneficial silliness.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are born equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These statements are not self-evident. They are not even true. They are gobbledygook. Yet they inspired the Constitution of the United States, one of mankind’s great achievements.

Alas, once nonsense is up and running, it is hard to rein in. Initially, our self-evident human rights were simply protections against the abuse of power. Today, entitlements to all manner of goods are making themselves evident to human rights oracles. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, claims that we have human rights “to food, to work, to healthcare and housing”.

This inflation has changed the politics of human rights. Whereas human rights once supported limited government, they are now invoked in favour of the welfare state and the maximal government it requires. Which is why the human rights movement, although well intentioned, has become a malign force.

In an article to mark Human Rights Day this month, Ms Arbour claimed that poverty is caused by human rights violations. It is true, of course, that if people had food, healthcare and housing, they would not live in poverty. But it is absurd to say that lacking these things causes poverty. Lacking these things is poverty. Why do millions of people lack decent food, healthcare and housing? That is the question.

The human rights lobby sees poverty as an essentially legal problem. All humans are entitled to food, healthcare, housing and so on. But countries where poverty is common have failed to enshrine these entitlements in law. If they embraced human rights, poverty would be legislated out of existence.

If you are tempted to agree, perhaps you will also like this idea. The government should enrich us by passing a law that entitles all Brits to an annual income of at least one million pounds. The difficulty, of course, is that Britain’s GDP is considerably less than one million pounds per person. It is impossible to provide everyone with this income.

The same goes for the more modest entitlements that human rights enthusiasts claim to be universal. Providing every citizen with decent food, healthcare and housing exceeds the productive capacity of many poor countries. Mauritania’s annual GDP, for example, is only $400 per person. It would be nice if Mauritanians were richer, but declaring that they should be will not help. Entitlements to wealth do not create wealth. On the contrary, they hinder wealth creation.

To see why, consider a less absurd entitlement. Suppose Gordon Brown introduced a minimum household income guarantee of £40,000. This may appear possible, since British GDP is now £52,000 per household. In fact, the policy would soon defeat itself. Only dedicated Protestants would continue to work. Those whose efforts would earn them less than £40,000 would not bother, and nor would those who earn more, given the tax rates that would be required to fund this entitlement. With mass indolence, the average household income would soon fall well below £40,000, whatever the law said we were entitled to.

Poor countries are not exempt from the perverse incentives created by entitlements. In fact, they are more vulnerable to them. Where labour is less productive, even modest entitlements will undermine the incentive to work. In Britain we can guarantee all citizens food, healthcare and housing without destroying economic incentives. But this is because we are already rich. Such entitlements would devastate less developed economies.

The causes of poverty are debated by economists. Yet most agree that property rights are essential for wealth creation. Without them, wealth cannot be accrued. And if people cannot accrue wealth, they have little incentive to create it. Why invest capital and effort in a business if you cannot feel secure in your ownership of it, and of the profits that flow from it? Communism and anarchy create poverty in the same way: by undermining property rights.

Property rights are not universal entitlements. If I own some land then you do not own it. You lack entitlements that I enjoy, such as the profits made by farming that land. Such inequalities are inherent to property rights. Which may explain why human rights activists do not care for them. In an 800-word article on fighting poverty, Ms Arbour did not once mention property rights. Instead, she lamented “unequal access to resources” — something entailed by private ownership of them.

Tens of millions of Chinese have worked their way out of poverty in recent years. It was not achieved by extending human rights law in China. Nor is it an “economic miracle”. It is a predictable consequence of establishing property rights.


Official British paranoia about "hate crime"

Contrary to UK government expectations, Englishmen just don't behave like Muslims

After the bombings in London on 7 July 2005, the British state exerted at least as much energy keeping a watchful eye on the white hordes as it did trying to find out who detonated the bombs. Many predicted a swift and unforgiving `Islamophobic backlash'. Police officers were posted outside mosques. A National Community Tensions Team set about monitoring anti-Muslim incidents around the country and provided intelligence to the government and police. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a plea for calm, warning against that `temptation in some' to make Muslims a `scapegoat'. Brian Paddick, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, called for everyone to keep their eyes peeled for hate on the streets.

Even doctors' surgeries were enlisted in the post-7/7 spying game. One primary care trust sent an email the day after the bombings asking staff to watch out for signs of hate: `At a time of raised tensions such as this, it is important that all staff challenge racism and prejudice in a positive way.' A union official called on progressives to take a stand against the `backlash' against `our Muslim brothers and sisters'.

Backlash? What backlash? We now know that the post-7/7 fantasies of an anti-Muslim pogrom were just that: fantasises, fuelled by an excitable and unfounded view of the white working classes as ignorant and given to violent outbursts. Figures published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last week show that for the year 2005-2006 (which covers 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006, thus including the aftermath of the bombings) there were prosecutions for 43 cases of religiously aggravated crime. That's right, 43. Far from being a backlash, this figure is socially insignificant, representing a minuscule minority of overall crime for 2005-2006. The `backlash' predicted by so many turned out to be a handful of mostly minor incidents carried out by drunks and losers.

As the Director of Public Prosecutions said as he presented the figures - sounding somewhat perplexed - `the fears of a large rise in offences appear to be unfounded'.

Some of the headline coverage of the stats has chosen to focus on the percentage rise in prosecutions for religiously aggravated offences. `The Crown Prosecution Service's Racist and Religious Incident Monitoring report for 2005-2006 shows an increase in prosecutions on the previous year for both types of offence', says the CPS press release. `Religiously aggravated cases rose by 26.5 per cent.' That seems to be true. But in this instance, 26.5 per cent represents a mere nine cases: there was a rise from 34 prosecutions in religiously aggravated cases in 2004-2005 to 43 in 2005-2006. Fewer than half of these religiously aggravated incidents in 2005-2006 can definitely be said to have targeted Muslims: of the 43 cases, Muslims were victims in 18 of them, Christians were victims in three, and a Sikh was a victim in one. In the remaining 21 cases, the actual or perceived religion of the victim was not known (more of which in a minute).

If you go you beyond the press release and dig into the CPS report, you'll see that this means there were fewer prosecutions for religiously aggravated cases involving Muslims as victims in 2005-2006 than there were in 2004-2005. In 2004-2005, there were prosecutions for 34 cases of religiously aggravated crime, in which the victim's actual or perceived religion was Islam in 23 cases; in 2005-2006, there were 43 cases of religiously aggravated crime, in which the victim's actual or perceived religion was Islam in 18 cases. This means that the number of prosecuted anti-Muslim crimes fell from 23 to 18 in a year in which we were warned of an ominous rise in anti-Muslim hate.

Of the 43 cases in 2005-2006, around one quarter involved assault or harassment against the person. The charges prosecuted included: 21 for religiously aggravated public disorder (shouting in the street, etc); 10 for religiously aggravated criminal damage (graffiti, smashing windows, damaging religious buildings, etc); nine for religiously aggravated assault; and three for religiously aggravated harassment. So, 72.1 per cent of the prosecutions involved public disorder or damage, and 27.9 per cent (or 12 cases in real terms) involved assault or harassment.

It is worth asking what constitutes a religiously aggravated crime. When does public disorder become `religiously aggravated public disorder'? The CPS says it uses a `similar definition' for religious incidents as the Macpherson report into the investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence used to define a racist incident. So a religiously aggravated incident is an incident perceived to be religiously aggravated by the victim or any other person. With such a sweeping subjective definition of religiously aggravated crime - where it is the perception of the victim or any bystander that counts - the really shocking thing is that the police books aren't overflowing with religiously aggravated whispers, allegations and prosecutions.

So subjective is the definition of a religiously aggravated offence that in 21 of the 43 prosecutions in 2005-2006, the actual or perceived religion of the victim was unknown. What can this mean? Presumably that some of the crimes were victimless; maybe, for example, someone was prosecuted for shouting generally anti-religious remarks in a public place. It is also noteworthy that the CPS report refers to a victim's `actual or perceived religion'. This might mean that some of the `Muslim' victims of religiously aggravated crimes were not Muslims, but rather were only perceived as such. Perhaps some were Sikhs verbally assaulted as if they were Muslims. It seems you can be a victim of Islamophobia even if you are not a Muslim.

The police and other bodies positively trawled for evidence of anti-Muslim hate post-7/7. London's Metropolitan Police published a leaflet titled `Communities Together Can Help Fight the Effects of Terrorism in London' - and by `effects of terrorism' they didn't mean injuries or rubble, but that imagined anti-religious backlash. The Met promised to respond `quickly and robustly' to prejudice and hate, and provided phone numbers for different organisations for those who felt `vulnerable, confused and angry' or believed they may have been `a victim of prejudice'. The Islamic Human Rights Commission ran ads on an Islamic TV channel encouraging Muslims to report harassment, which can be `anything from verbal abuse, nasty looks to physical assault.' The Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism also encouraged more reporting of anti-Muslim incidents, and said Islamophobia can include anything from physical assault to not being shown `respect' in public life.

Taking into account the widespread predictions of an anti-Muslim backlash, the open-ended definition of a religiously aggravated crime, and the cynical hunt by the police and unelected, self-serving groups for any hint of harassment or danger post-7/7, it is fairly remarkable that the number of prosecutions of religiously aggravated offences in 2005-2006 was only 43, and 18 for cases where Muslims were known to be the victims. Post-7/7, while the government, police, church and various worthy self-defined community groups feverishly predicted a rise in hateful violence, the vast mass of the population seem to have remained peaceable and tolerant, simply getting on with their everyday lives.

Looking at the nature of some of the religiously aggravated crimes of 2005-2006, it is clear that anti-religious hatred is not a real social force but rather something indulged in by sad and often drunk individuals. Look at the cases highlighted in the CPS press release, presumably because they were seen as among the most dramatic. One incident of religiously aggravated common assault involved a defendant who refused to pay for his meal in an Indian restaurant and then subsequently submitted a waiter (who was Muslim) to verbal abuse and physical assault. In another, a Turkish Muslim woman and her teenage daughter were waiting at a bus-stop when a drunk shouted abuse at them and spat on the ground near where they were sitting; as the women boarded the bus the man spat in their direction and `his spittle [made] contact with their upper body clothing'.

These are nasty incidents, and it sounds as though both men need to be put firmly in their place. But they also sound like the kind of inebriated incidents that happen fairly frequently around the country. I've witnessed numerous arguments and scuffles in Indian restaurants on Saturday nights, often involving a bunch of drunks making ignorant racist remarks at waiters. And who hasn't had that uncomfortable feeling of being approached by a drunken loudmouth, often shouting and swinging his fists, while waiting at a bus-stop or sitting on a train? These two religiously aggravated incidents - flagged up in the CPS press release as examples for journalists to use - reveal nothing about society at large. Rather they show what most of us already know: there are some dickheads out there.

The two cases do, however, highlight dangers behind the authorities' religious hatred agenda. The man who refused to pay for his meal in an Indian restaurant and shouted at the waiter was sentenced to six months' imprisonment - six months. The judge admitted that `it would not have been custody if the offence [had] not been religiously aggravated'. The drunk at the bus-stop was sentenced to three months' imprisonment. Here, the authorities are explicitly punishing people not only for what they do, but also for what they think; not only for their actions, but also for their thoughts, for the fact that they `hated' someone. This takes us into the realm of thought crime, where a man who pushes an Indian waiter and calls him a `f*cking c*nt' is likely to be get a slap on the wrists, while the man who pushes the waiter and calls him a `Muslim c*nt' can be thrown in jail for six months. It may be a crime to push a waiter; but should it be a crime to hate a waiter or his religion?

Finally, as in most hate crime debates, the aim of this overzealous punishment of individuals who commit religiously aggravated crimes seems to be to `send a message' to the rest of us. The authorities are using these cases to tell us they are serious about stamping out religious hatred and `hate speech'. This degrades the law and any idea of natural justice. Individual cases are effectively turned into showtrials, as the law is used to correct what are seen as backward attitudes among the populace. Individuals are punished particularly harshly for something they said or thought while committing a crime, while the rest of us are patronised by police officials and judges who think we are backward and prejudiced. This is less about justice, and more about social engineering - and such a project is far more poisonous and divisive than anything a pissed-up buffoon could do on a Saturday night.