Friday, March 31, 2006


A Leftist church (probably with a minute membership) was ostensibly trying to advertise itself but did so only by misrepresenting the great majority of Christian churches. No follower of Christ rejects anyone from Christian services -- any more than Christ rejected lost sheep -- but some churches will endeavour to point the way to more biblical standards of behaviour. Deceptive advertising is rightly banned and this ad was grossly deceptive and defamatory

The nation's major television networks have rejected an ad that shows a gay couple and others being banished from a church, saying it violates their rules against controversial or religious advertising. The 30-second commercial for the United Church of Christ will begin airing on cable networks and Spanish-language stations next week. The ad, called "Ejector," shows a gay couple, a single mother, a disabled man and others flying out of their pews as a wrinkled hand pushes a red button. Text on the screen reads, "God doesn't reject people. Neither do we," and a voiceover says, "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

The church tried to run a similar ad in December 2004 in which bouncers outside a church stopped gay couples, racial minorities and others from entering. The networks also rejected that ad. The decision by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox to decline the latest advertisement shows the networks have a narrow view of acceptable images of gays and lesbians, church leader Ron Buford said Monday. "They are saying, 'You can entertain on 'Will & Grace' and 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' but when it comes to showing you as whole people with the church, that is going to far," Buford said.

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said the network has "a long-standing and well-documented policy of not accepting advocacy advertising." Kathy Kelly-Brown, a spokeswoman for NBC, said the ad "violates our long-standing policy against airing commercials that deal with issues of public controversy." Representatives for ABC and Fox were not available for comment, but Buford said both networks had told the church they have policies barring religious advertising. Buford said CBS executives had told him the subject would be considered advocacy advertising until the inclusion of gays and lesbians is common at churches in the United States. But Jacobs challenged that statement. "That supposed exchange is simply fictitious," she said.

Starting April 3, the ad will run for three weeks on CNN, USA, TNT, BET and eight other cable networks, along with three Spanish-language stations. The church spent $1.5 million on the ads, which will run through the Easter season. The church filed a complaint against CBS and NBC affiliates in Miami after the networks rejected the first ad in 2004. That complaint is still pending.



A controversial bill to give divorced couples equal time with their kids has stirred up a battle between custodial and non-custodial ex-spouses. The state Assembly Committee for Children and Families will vote on the shared parenting bill on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach, requires "statutory presumption of joint custody" so both parents have a chance to raise their kids. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Owen Johnson, R-Babylon.

The legislation proposed for New York, if passed, would require judges to award joint custody unless there was an obvious reason why they should not, such as domestic violence. The party seeking sole custody would then have to prove why the other parent is unfit for joint custody.

Momentum is building, oddly, two months after a report released by a Matrimonial Commission appointed for a year to study the state's divorce laws said "no presumptions regarding the awarding of custody, whatsoever, should be created by legislation, case law or otherwise." Fathers' rights advocates are working hard to get the bill passed. They say children love and need both parents, but men are most often left with visitation of about four days a month.

Mothers' groups say shared parenting would be devastating and dangerous, particularly for victims of domestic violence and their children. Such changes would decrease child support payments and lead to more acrimony, they believe. "Theoretically, it sounds like a great idea," said Lisa Frisch, executive director of The Legal Project, an arm of the Capital District Women's Bar Association. "In the best of all worlds, it would be great if people could work things out, instead of being a presumption by the court," Frisch said. "But this is a tremendous burden."

The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence also opposes changes they say would tear children from the world they know best. The coalition's position statement elaborates. "Research shows that joint custody ordered without the agreement of both parents is not in the best interest of the child. Where one or both parents object to joint custody, court ordered shared custody arrangements result in high degrees of parental conflict."

But John Joel, whose children were allowed to move to Rochester after a custody battle, supports the measure. On Tuesday, Joel, the Albany County coordinator of Fathers and Families NY, personally delivered copies of a position paper urging Assembly members to support the bill. "I firmly believe that if Shared Parenting were in effect in New York state, my daughters would have never been allowed to move," Joel said. He said he sees the girls twice a month for less than 48 hours, six or more of which he spends driving half of the 400-mile distance. His ex-wife meets him halfway. "I was never given a chance to be a dad," Joel said. "No one should have to go through what my daughters and I did. That's why I want to see the law changed to give families a chance."

The first joint custody statute was passed in 1973 in Indiana and gained momentum in 1980 when California joined in. New York is one of 13 states without it.

More than a quarter of U.S. children, nearly 17 million, do not live with their father, said Glenn Sacks, a Los Angeles-based radio talk show host, columnist and commentator. Sacks has taken an interest in the state Assembly bill, and says his broadcasts prompted more than 5,000 people to deluge lawmakers with e-mails, faxes and letters, urging passage. "The bill would protect the loving bonds children share with both parents by establishing joint custody as the preferred parenting arrangement after divorce," he said.

Frisch disagreed. "The parent who's provided a home for the child should be the presumptive custodial parent," she said. "We have people who can't have a relationship with each other. It's not safe."

Concerns about protecting female victims of domestic violence during the divorce process are legitimate, Sacks conceded. But the Assembly bill's presumption of joint custody only applies to fit parents, he said: "Abused women would receive sole custody." A 4-year study by Harvard University of 517 families found that 10- to 18-year-olds whose parents shared custody did better emotionally and academically than those in sole custody arrangements, he said. A survey by the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage also says that joint custody helps reduce conflict between divorced spouses, he said.

While unable to comment specifically on the proposed legislation, Albany County Family Court Judge Gerard Maney said custody cases are decided case by case because much goes into determining what is in the best interest of a family. The fitness of parents, quality of the home environment and children's wishes, if considered of age, are key, he said. Also important: length of current custodial arrangements, effect of possible changes and whether siblings would be separated. "Arguments on both sides are interesting because this is a nebulous area," he said. "There is no cookie-cutter approach; one side doesn't fit all, because ... we live in changing times."

Family Court judges often use alternative dispute resolution with parents who are willing to sit down and communicate. In the meanwhile? "We'll have to see what the Legislature does, in their wisdom," Maney said.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Activist turned down as lawyer

The idea that the law and lawyers are beyond criticism is laughable

An outspoken men's activist and critic of New Zealand's legal system has been told he is not a fit and proper person to be a lawyer. But Peter Zohrab, acting president of New Zealand Equality Education Foundation, says he will not let matters rest there. "I just intend to keep at it and see how long it takes," he said of his quest to become a lawyer. Mr Zohrab could bypass the law society approval process that blackballed him and apply to the High Court for admission to the Bar.

He said he spent more than two years gaining his law degree because he believed men could not find lawyers who understood a man's point of view. He wanted to begin as a family law specialist and then expand into other areas where men's rights were an issue, such as criminal and employment law.

Mr Zohrab says Wellington District Law Society raised issues of "balance and judgment" against him. He believes a big part of the problem is his involvement in the men's rights movement. He was told the society took into account his web pages containing "intemperate" comments, including about governor-general and former High Court judge Dame Silvia Cartwright. Mr Zohrab had written an open letter to Dame Silvia last year, titled Resign, you incompetent, sexist, racist bitch! His website also included a copy of his complaint to the United Nations human rights committee, that the body for training New Zealand judges, the Institute of Judicial Studies, indoctrinated judges against men. The website quoted him as saying: "The law is not an ass – the law is a sexist bitch!"

Mr Zohrab would not discuss his background but his website said he was 56, born in Moscow, and had been a secondary school teacher. He holds a New Zealand Bachelor of Arts and a BA from an English university. He said he passed all his law papers and completed the practical training necessary to be a lawyer. The next step toward beginning his legal career was being admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court. But he has become snagged on the normally routine stamp of approval from the district law society. The society asks for three references, a certificate of suitability from the student's law school, and asks lawyers and other law societies to comment on the candidates for admission. The society objected to one of his references so he supplied a fourth. The dean of the law school refused a certificate, and he was told unnamed lawyers said he had spoken strongly and abusively in some unspecified circumstances.

The society's endorsement of a graduate as a fit and proper person is not obligatory and Mr Zohrab can apply to the High Court to admit him. He questioned whether a law society council was an appropriate body to assess fitness to be a lawyer. From the number of lawyers convicted of offences it was obvious the process did not prevent unsuitable people becoming lawyers, he said. Wellington District Law Society executive director David Clarke said fewer than 10 people had been refused the society's approval in the past decade. More than 300 lawyers are admitted in Wellington each year.

Source. If you want to send emails in support of Mr Zohrab's application, this site has the details you need.


I have often excerpted the writings of Frank Furedi on this blog so I thought the biographical note below might be of some interest

As a Trotskyist in the heady atmosphere of late 1970s London, Frank Furedi founded the Revolutionary Communist Party, a splinter party of the extreme Left. Three decades later the articulate, ubiquitous University of Kent sociologist, prolific author and serial stirrer is better known as a darling of the Right who has got up the collective nose of everyone from environmentalists, animal rights activists, regulators, the cultural elite, educators, parents and politicians.

Furedi's radical stance of questioning received wisdom - from the ban on human cloning to blaming human behaviour for global warming and what he calls the empty celebration of multicultural touchstones such as diversity - has won him numerous enemies on Britain's Left. George Monbiot, the prominent left-wing author and columnist for London's The Guardian newspaper, has dubbed Furedi the godfather of what he claims is a secretive, cult-like organisation with a far Right, corporatist agenda and, according to the sociologist, has tried to have him sacked from his academic post.

On the eve of a speaking tour to Australia, where he is a star attraction at Brisbane's Ideas Festival, a Queensland Government-backed talkfest, Furedi denies he can be described as "a person of the Right", telling Inquirer: "I haven't really changed but the world has changed a lot."

Suspicion of the state is the unifying theme of his work. But while many of the ideas he extols in his books and articles point to a strong streak of libertarianism, Furedi rebuffs suggestions he can be characterised in this way, preferring the label humanist. "There are different kinds of libertarianism," he says. "There are libertarians who are obsessed with the free market and think that's the high point of civilisation. I would see myself as a libertarian who sees the importance of liberty and tolerance and genuine liberalism, not the way it is understood today. I actually think that as a humanist I would have been on the Left side of virtually every major controversy of the past 300 years."

According to Furedi, the ideals of the Enlightenment, "daring to know and a powerful humanist vision", are the inspiration behind his belief in human potential to solve problems, from the millennium bug to global warming and the root of his dismay at what he sees as cultural pessimism, suspicion of science and technology and misanthropy. His is the key name behind the Manifesto Club, a new online forum set up, its website says, to tackle the cultural pessimism "gripping Western societies ... despite the significant achievements of the past two centuries". Certain to raise eyebrows is the club's second principle: support for "experimentation in all its forms - scientific, social and personal".

Born in Budapest in 1947, a little more than a year after his mother returned from a concentration camp, Furedi spent his childhood in the Hungarian capital. His father and older sister were embroiled in the country's 1956 revolt. When it was defeated the family fled to Austria, ending up in Montreal, where Furedi discovered left-wing politics as a student at McGill University. Even in those days, Furedi says, he was regarded with suspicion by fellow travellers and sometimes accused of being "a lackey to fascists" for his insistence right-wing opponents be given a voice in campus debates.

According to Furedi, he often finds himself in rows with right-wingers. "They think the free market will solve all of our problems," he says. "No.1, there has never been a free market. No.2, it is not going to solve all of our problems. I also happen to think that governments have an important role to play in providing certain services."

No matter what his politics, Furedi's appeal lies in his ability to diagnose and articulate the West's malaise. His arguments against the dumbing down of education in Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone and regarding the dangers of over-cautious child-rearing in Paranoid Parenting ring as acutely in the Australian context as in Britain or the US. In his latest book, Politics of Fear, he argues that the disorientation and disenchantment of people with the traditional Left-Right political divide has created a vacuum that has been filled by "negative politics" and fear-mongering on the part of politicians and what he calls "fear entrepreneurs". "What you were left with by the end of the 1980s was a fairly narrow, managerial rhetoric that had very little substance to it," he says. "In that situation governments and political parties find it very difficult to project a positive view of the future and feel much more comfortable with warning us about the dangers ahead." They include terrorism, childhood obesity, avian flu, climate change and genetic modification.

Furedi does not argue that we fear more than in the past but that we fear very differently and that it has left people feeling helpless and risk averse. "In previous times when we feared it often brought us together, like in the Blitz in London," he says. "Fears were very specific things you could do something about. The fears we have today are mediated through CNN. They might be things we hear about going on in Vietnam or Turkey or god knows where and we see their impact on the imagination, but these are fears we can do little about. Usually you can flee when you fear something or fight it. But these things are simply suffered."

Furedi says the result of faceless, generalised fear can be seen in diminished human relationships, in paranoid parenting and in the delayed adolescence evident among young adults. When it comes to identity, another red-hot theme in Australia, Furedi is impatient to bypass hurrah words such as diversity to get down to the "real values we sign up to, not the bullshit ones like diversity, but the real ones that tell us what is right and wrong".


Food nuttiness to be restrained by the Feds

"The House voted Wednesday to strip many warnings from food labels, potentially affecting alerts about arsenic in bottled water, lead in candy and allergy-causing sulfites, among others. Pushed by food companies seeking uniform labels across state lines, the bill would prevent states from adding food warnings that go beyond federal law. States could petition the Food and Drug Administration to add extra warnings, under the bill. Lawmakers approved the bill on a 283-139 vote. Supporters expect a Senate version of the bill to be introduced soon.

“This bill is going to overturn 200 state laws that protect our food supply,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. “Why are we doing that? What’s wrong with our system of federalism?” The bill’s supporters argue that consumers deserve the same warnings on supermarket shelves across the country. The bill would allow a state to seek a nationwide warning from FDA. “We ought to do it in all 50 states,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. “Chicken grown in Louisiana is going to end up on a plate in Michigan.” Rogers mentioned a warning his own state about allergy-causing sulfites: “If they’re bad for Michigan citizens, I think they’re bad in all of the other 49 states,” he said.

Nationwide, as many as 200 state laws or regulations could be affected, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They include warnings about lead and alcohol in candy, arsenic in bottled water and many others. The government would spend at least $100 million to answer petitions for tougher state rules, according to CBO.

Opponents of the bill scored one victory Wednesday: State warnings about mercury in fish would remain. Lawmakers amended the bill to let states keep those warnings. That amendment, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., passed on a 253-168 vote. About a dozen states have safety and labeling rules for fish. In California, white signs with “WARNING” in red letters tells grocery shoppers about high mercury levels in certain fish. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., displayed the placard during debate Wednesday on the House floor. Eshoo noted the bill’s supporters have personal ties to food industry lobbyists. “This is not about consumers. This is about special interests,” she said.

California is a primary target of the legislation. There, the voter-passed Proposition 65 requires companies to warn the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food. California has filed lawsuits seeking an array of warnings, including the mercury content of canned tuna and the presence of lead in Mexican candy.

Of particular concern to the industry is acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer that forms in starchy food cooked at high temperatures, such as french fries and potato chips. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has sued to force Burger King Holdings Inc., PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito Lay brand, McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s International Inc. and other companies to warn consumers that acrylamide is present. There is widespread opposition among state officials. Attorneys general in 39 states are opposed, as are the National Conference of State Legislature and the associations of state food and drug officials and state agriculture departments.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006


There was no evidence of racism in the police concerned so the British authorities have decided that there must have been "unwitting" racism -- i.e. racism that the police officers concerned did not themselves know they harboured. So now you can be condemnned not only for thought-crimes but even for thoughts you did NOT have!

"Four police officers were guilty of the "most serious neglect of duty" over the death of ex-paratrooper Christopher Alder in 1998, a watchdog has ruled. Mr Alder, 37, who was black, choked to death at a Hull police station. The police watchdog said the officers had been guilty of "unwitting racism". Humberside Chief Constable Tim Hollis apologised following the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report. But Humberside Police Federation said the officers "strongly dispute" it. Mr Alder's sister said those responsible had still not been held to account, and is calling for a public inquiry.

Five officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct in 2002 regarding the death of Mr Alder. Of the five, one was involved to a lesser extent than the other four in the events surrounding Mr Alder's death, the IPCC report said. Mr Alder, a father-of-two and a Falklands veteran, was injured during a scuffle outside a Hull city centre hotel and taken to Hull Royal Infirmary for treatment. He was later arrested for an alleged breach of the peace and taken to Queens Gardens police station. Half an hour later he choked to death on his own blood and vomit as he lay on the floor of the police station, without moving, for 11 minutes with his trousers round his ankles. CCTV footage showed officers laughing and joking as Mr Alder lay dying. It was more than 10 minutes before officers realised the seriousness of the situation and went to his aid.

In a 400-page report published on Monday, Independent Police Complaints Commission chairman Nick Hardwick described the behaviour of the officers present at the time as "disgraceful". The four officers criticised were Pc Matthew Barr, Pc Neil Blakey, Pc Nigel Dawson and Sergeant John Dunn. A fifth officer, Acting Police Sergeant Mark Ellerington, was also involved but to a lesser extent than the others, the report said. In 2004 it emerged that all but Pc Blakey had since retired on medical grounds.

Mr Hardwick said: "I believe the failure of the police officers concerned to assist Mr Alder effectively on the night he died were largely due to assumptions they made about him based on negative racial stereotypes. "I cannot say for certain that Mr Alder would have been treated more appropriately had he been white - but I do believe the fact he was black stacked the odds more heavily against him." Mr Hardwick said that although there were "serious failings" by the four police officers, they did not assault Mr Alder and that it could not be said "with certainty" they had caused his death. But their "neglect" undoubtedly did deny him the chance of life, he said.

Humberside Police Federation spokesman John Savage said the officers denied they had neglected their duties or acted in a racist manner, "unwitting or otherwise". The officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct by a crown court in 2002 and cleared of misconduct at an independent disciplinary tribunal in June 2003, he said. No concerns had been raised about racism in those cases and the men found it "very surprising that the IPCC has sought to do so now", he added.

Chief Constable Tim Hollis, who was not with the force at the time of Mr Alder's death, said: "The time is...right for me publicly to apologise to Christopher Alder's family for our failure to treat Christopher with sufficient compassion and to the desired standard that night. "The failure of the officers to explain to the IPCC their actions, including noises recorded on the video before and after Christopher's arrival in the custody suite, appears to have contributed to the IPCC view regarding unwitting racism.""



Too often I am asked by reporters to discuss "the religious right". My answer is always the same, "when your paper reports about the "religious Left", I will talk about the "religious right". The liberal media always talks about Falwell and Robertson, but never note THE REV Jesse Jackson or THE REV. Al Sharpton about their radical agendas. Or how about that radical Rev. Barry Lynn of "Americans United" or some such organization that claims to be religious, but demeans believers!

It is time for honesty in reporting and the media. No wonder few trust or respect the Times (LA, NY, Contra Costa, etc.). Left and Right understand that many stories in the media are biased. They have a problem keeping opinions on the opinion page, and just getting the story in the news section. Below is an article from the North County (San Diego) Times--like the other "Times", they have a real problem with straight reporting.

I spoke with Ron Nehring, chairman of the San Diego County Central Committee (and Vice Chair of the California Republican Party) about this article and thought you would like his take on it. I strongly suggest you use his approach and challenge the media when you see stories that are blatantly propaganda stories instead of straight news stories. Ron noted for me the following:

1. For instance, have the newspaper ever used the term "ultraliberal" referring to anyone or anything? In fact, the only uses of the term "ultraliberal" I can find through several searches of newspapers around the State is on the opinion or letters to the editor pages, never in the news pages. Is this because only conservatives can be "ultra" (extreme), but liberals never are? This would be an interesting thought the next time a story is written about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors or SF mayor.

2. The story suggests that the County Board of Education was an "ultraconservative" board at some point. It was stated as though it is a fact, although clearly even if it were true, it would be opinion.

3. The article refers to Nehring's own high school board as "highly controversial." That appears to be another characterization of fact based on (someone else's) opinion. By contrast, why is Susan Hartley"s consistent opposition to Governor Schwarzenegger"s reform agenda not considered "controversial" for a Republican elected official in a Republican district? Why was her appointment of Democrat Sharon Jones to a Republican seat represented by Republican Ernie Dronenburg not considered "controversial"? That was NOT in the story.

4. Although Gary Felien is a very pleasant, typical Republican guy with support from such mainstream Republican colleagues as Senator Morrow, the story manages to associate his name with "highly controversial" "ultraconservative" "extremists" and to paint his positions on issues based almost solely on the actions of others.

Oceanside investor declares candidacy for county education seat

Gary Felien, an Oceanside investor who sits on the San Diego Republican Party Central Committee, has filed papers seeking a seat on the nonpartisan San Diego County Board of Education. Felien's last-minute filing on March 10 for the June 6 election has some local educators, including opponent Susan Hartley, concerned that area Republicans may be seeking a return to the politics of the ultraconservative board of the mid-1990s. Both Felien and Hartley are Republicans. Hartley described herself Monday as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.

Felien said Monday he's nowhere near as conservative as Susan Fey or Jim Kelly, two county school board members who made headlines in 1996 by leading the successful fight against accepting more than $50 million in federal and state education money, saying there were too many federal strings attached.

Hartley said she believes Felien's decision to seek a spot on the board is part of a bigger political picture. "His candidate statement includes endorsements from the extremist faction that tried to control the county board in the past," Hartley said, referring to an endorsement from Kelly, the former board member and a former Baptist minister, past county board president and now president of the highly controversial Grossmont Union High School District.

Felien confirmed Monday that he has been endorsed by Kelly, and that he also has been endorsed by state Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, and Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista. Felien said he decided to run during conversations with other Republican Party central committee members. Felien said he and others believe Hartley does not represent the political views of voters in the Fifth District, an area that covers parts of Pala, Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton and stretches south from Oceanside to north coastal San Diego.

In April the San Diego Republican Party will take up the curious question of which if either of the two Republicans ---- Felien or Hartley ----- to endorse, according to Ron Nehring, chairman of the San Diego Republican Party. Nehring also serves on the Grossmont school board with Kelly. "I believe it's all orchestrated," Hartley said, saying she can't understand why the party would challenge one of its own Republicans on the board.

Felien cited Hartley's opposition to all four failed propositions touted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last fall as an example of her leftward leanings. All four propositions failed statewide but passed in San Diego, Felien noted.

Hartley said she submitted a resolution opposing Proposition 76 ---- the so-called "Live Within Our Means" legislation, that would have restructured the way California funds schools. That was the only official action she took on any of the propositions, she said, "It's completely within our purview to take a stand on (Prop. 76) ---- in fact, it's our obligation," Hartley said. "If it has to do with the financial health of the schools, I believe it's our duty."

Felien said he works out of his Oceanside home as an investor after having worked 21 years as a corporate accountant and analyst. He said he believes he's qualified to help guide the county board of education and its $300 million budget. Felien said he wants to increase opportunities for students to learn basic household finance. Too many teenagers and young adults do not know how to balance a checkbook, calculate compound interest or critically assess pitches for car loans, he said. Citing his son's recent experience at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Oceanside with a program called "Future Cities," Felien said he wants to help spread similar proven programs around the county that help students learn business, science and math. Felien, citing recent stories in the North County Times, said he wants to examine how districts calculate graduation and dropout rates. He said he supports more vocational opportunities for students who do not want to go to college and advocates closer cooperation with local businesses, adding that schools should focus on teaching specific skills identified by employers.

Get the picture--use something that others did years ago, claim it was "controversial", hence you are bad today! This is McCarthyism in the media. It is time that conservatives refuse to accept bad and obviously misleading reporting to stand. We need to write letters to the editor, meet with the editor and make clear, using talk radio and the Internet, that it is no longer acceptable for media to use character assassination against conservatives. The time has come for all of us to respond to this sort of reporting, not allow it to stand.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The following news item appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March, 26, 2006

A murderer in a maxlntum-security prison has lodged a sexual discrimination complaint because only male inmates are held in the high-security units. Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission forced the Department of Corrective Services to have a conciliation conference with life prisoner Russell James Williams.

Williams, who gunned down his former lover in a central Queensland hotel in 1996 and tried to escape from prison last year, says it is discrimination that only males are held in a maximum security unit.

A compulsory conciliation conference on March 16 failed to resolve his complaint and Williams now could take his case to the Queensland AntiDiscrimination Tribunal, forcing the department to defend its prison management policy.

Queensland has no maximum-security orders or units for female prisoners. Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said yesterday no females had needed one. "Prisoners are put into maximum-security units because they are the worst in the prison system and that's why these units are so tough," Ms Spence said. They were designed for prisoners such as Williams, serial rapist Ray Garland, and murderer and prison escapee Jason Nixon, she said.

The maximum-security unit at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol in Brisbane holds up to 18 men considered violent, dangerous or at risk of escape. The units, where prisoners are locked up for 22 hours a day, were introduced after the violent 1997 escape from Sir David Longland prison at Wacol, led by Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott. The prison is closed for redevelopment.

Williams, 39, was moved into Arthur Gorrie's maximum security in June last year after he used a smuggled mobile phone to plot a foiled helicopter escape from Lotus Glen prison, near Cairns. In 2003, he married a Cairns woman he had known when she was teenager. At the time, Tara Williams said her husband had spent too long as a medium-security prisoner and deserved to be moved to Lotus Glen.

Williams, who wants to be moved to an open prison, complained that Corrective Services had discriminated against him and all males held in maximum security. He has complained males spend more time in high-security prisons and take longer to progress to open-security than females.

But Ms Spence said Williams would stay in maximum security until authorities assessed his risk level had declined. She said she was surprised by the commission calling the department to conciliation over the issue, when it had a firm basis in legislation.

In 1997 Williams was jailed for life after he was found guilty of the execution-style shooting murder of his de facto Jo-Ann Leigh Brown, 27, the mother of his son, then two. On Easter Thursday night in 1996 Williams walked into the crowded public bar of the Railway Hotel at Calliope, West of Gladstone, and fired two shots at Ms Brown. He then waved his pump-action shotgun around the room and said: "Anyone else want it?" After a five-day police hunt, Williams surrendered in Brisbane.

Men-only fishing cabin challenged

Bunking in with your fishing mates for two bucks a night and no women allowed. But what may be a dream come true for some men could be under threat at a New Zealand lake after a woman attempted to reserve an anglers' club cabin for some weekend fly fishing. "We tried to book for a group of us, men and women, but were told, sorry, it's in the rule books, men only," the unnamed woman told the Dominion Post newspaper. "We all just thought that's absolutely ridiculous." A gender discrimination complaint was made to New Zealand's Human Rights Commission, which is investigating.

But the Wairoa Anglers Club, which owns the cabin by Lake Waikaremoana in the North Island's east, is not backing down. Club secretary Esther Foster says rather than being discriminatory, the rule aims to protect women. The cabin has five bunks in one room and can be shared by anglers. "It's so that you're not having young girls in with old men. It's a politically correct type of thing," Foster told the paper. "It wasn't to be sexist, it was just that the men wanted their privacy."

The club has a neighbouring cabin for families where single men are not allowed. It's booked out every weekend of the year. The charge for club members and their guests is $NZ2 ($1.72) a night. Club president Keith Pegram said the men-only cabin should be kept as a traditional fisherman's hut. If women were let in, it would become "cheap family accommodation", he said. The club may vote on the issue. "We'll try not to let anybody railroad us on this. I think it's a decision for the members to make," Mr Pegram said.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Chief of the Fat Police: Bill Clinton’s new role

On Fat Tuesday, repentant sinner Bill Clinton declared war on cheeseburgers, fried oysters, fudge, and other tools of the devil. Identified by the Associated Press as “a reformed overeater,” Bill, looking quite ghostly when compared with the robust figure he cut in his glory days, warned the National Governors Association that America has “a huge cultural problem and unless we change it our children may grow up to be the first generation with shorter life spans than we had.”

The problem, according to Clinton, is that Americans are serious chowhounds whose love of grub is a major threat not only to themselves, but to the national economy. According to the Associated Press, Clinton noted that if the U.S. could reduce health spending — now 16 percent of GDP — to 11 percent (in line with what other countries spend), the savings would be $700 billion. But it won’t be easy. “No matter what else you say, no matter what different studies show, you’ve got to consume less and burn more,” Clinton said. “To do that you’ve got to change the culture.” The governors, many of whom support anti-fat school programs, responded with thunderous applause.

It is clear to some of us that this drastic turnaround in Clinton’s viewpoint is the result of post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by that ill-advised investigation of his romantic life, capped by impeachment. Back in the day, he preferred a little plumpness: Monica, let us recall, was only a few corpuscles shy of being renamed Lulu. Now he’s become yet another leading American who believes it’s his duty to tell us what we should and should not be eating.

Clinton’s warning was no doubt welcomed by the health authorities, especially in light of a recent study indicating that eating less fat late in life does not lower the risk of cancer and heart disease in women. That $415 million investigation “showed no difference in the rate of breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart disease among those who ate lower-fat diets and those who didn’t,” according to a press account. This wasn’t what researchers were hoping for. “These results do not suggest that people have carte blanche to eat fatty foods without health problems,” snipped Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-author of the study. “The results, of course, are somewhat disappointing.”

Yet we should take Clinton’s transformation seriously, especially the part about changing the culture. Whenever an American icon says “change the culture,” it’s time to fix bayonets.

The message Bill and his ilk hope to pound into the public consciousness is that every time we order French fries we do damage not only to ourselves, but to the nation’s economy and our children’s future. This same argument holds that we commit sin against the earth by driving cars and running weed eaters, etc., etc. Each individual act is measured against the common good — and is generally found wanting. Only dangerous sex is exempt from this wide-ranging scowl.

This is a major turnaround. To our ancestors the current state of culinary affairs would represent paradise. To be able to walk into a Kroger and purchase, at very reasonable prices, French wine, Swiss chocolates, cow tongues and filets, éclairs, massive bags of ginger snaps, rivers of honey and thick crème, butter and pretty much whatever else the taste buds crave — that could hardly be imagined.



Though it is sure to cause a bit of teeth-grinding among those who try to accuse me of being a racist, the person I quote most on my blogs is in fact an American black man -- Thomas Sowell. So I thought that the biographical note below might be of interest

Thomas Sowell's excuse for limiting interviews to an hour is that it helps him "avoid stress." But one suspects the real reason is that he has better uses for his time than to humor nettlesome journalists. In any case, it's hard to question the time-management preferences of a man who's published nearly 30 books, while also producing academic articles, long-form magazine essays and a seldom-dull newspaper column for more than two decades. Not bad for an orphan from Jim Crow North Carolina who never finished high school and didn't earn a college degree until he was 28.

Mr. Sowell's unorthodox views on racial matters have made him our foremost "black conservative," but the modifier sells him way short. He is one of the country's leading social commentators--without qualification. And his scholarship is not only voluminous but wide-ranging, covering everything from education and law to political philosophy, migration and the history of ideas. His primary discipline, however, is economics, specifically the history of economic thought, the subject in which he earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1968 under Milton Friedman and George Stigler. It is the subject he taught at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst, Brandeis and elsewhere during an academic career in the 1960s and '70s. And it is the subject of his most recent book, "On Classical Economics," which Yale has just published.

Mr. Sowell, who will turn 76 this year but looks 20 years younger, sat for an interview on a cool, drizzly morning at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, his perch since 1980, and where he is--appropriately--the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow. He describes his latest tome as "partly an old book and partly a new book." It combines four somewhat revised essays on microeconomics, macroeconomics, methodology and social philosophy from his 1974 publication, "Classical Economics Reconsidered," with four new essays, on Mill, Marx, Sismondi and economic history.

Asked why classical economics--and economists like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Mill and Marx--continues to deserve attention, Mr. Sowell replies that "if classical economics is relevant, than Mill and Marx are relevant. Why is classical economics relevant? I guess it's relevant because there are people who study it, and if they're going to talk about it they ought to know what they're talking about, which is a requirement sometimes overlooked."

Free-market economics, a legacy of the classical school, is thought of as an old conservative doctrine. But Mr. Sowell explains that it was in fact one of the most revolutionary concepts to emerge in the history of ideas. Moreover, "the thinking of the classical economist was not only a radical break from landmark intellectual figures like Plato and Machiavelli but also from mainstream thinking to this day." The notion of a self-equilibrating system--the market economy--meant a reduced role for intellectuals and politicians, he says. "And even today many still haven't accepted that their superior wisdom might be superfluous, if not damaging."

Mr. Sowell may be an unabashed free-market adherent, but he's proud to say that Professor Sowell left his personal views out of the classroom. In his 2000 memoir, "A Personal Odyssey," he relates an episode in which some students approached him after taking his graduate seminar on Marxian theory. They expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment.

"My job was to teach them economics, not teach them what I happen to believe," says Mr. Sowell, who adds that efforts by some today to counterbalance the prevailing liberalism in academia with more right-wing instructors is not only an exercise in futility but a disservice to students. "Even if you succeed in propagandizing the students while they're students, it doesn't tell you much [about how they'll turn out]. I suspect that over half [of the conservatives at the Hoover Institution] were on the left in their 20s. More important, though, let's assume for the sake of argument that, whatever you're propagandizing them with on the left or right, every conclusion you teach them is correct. It's only a matter of time before all those conclusions are obsolete because entirely different issues are going to arise over the lifetimes of these students. And so, if you haven't taught them how to weigh one argument against another, you haven't taught them anything."

This lifelong passion for economics has been much on display in recent years--"On Classical Economics" was preceded by "Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy" (2000) and "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One" (2003), both of which were written for the general public. And it's worth noting the extent to which Mr. Sowell's background in the dismal science also informs his better-known works on ethnicity, race and culture. Other black conservative scholars have their strengths, to be sure. Shelby Steele writes like a dream and favors an existential approach to racial matters. John McWhorter's prose is as hip as it is provocative.

But Mr. Sowell's forte has always been rigorous analysis and adherence to facts, however stubborn and wherever they lead. And the facts led him on a writing tear in the '70s and '80s. Some titles, like "Race and Economics" (1975), "Markets and Minorities" (1981) and "The Economics and Politics of Race" (1983), betray his technical background. But Mr. Sowell's other influential books of this period--"Black Education: Myths and Tragedies" (1972), "Ethnic America" (1981), "Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?" (1984)--are no less distinguished by the dispassionate empiricism he brings to such emotionally charged topics. In these tomes and elsewhere, Mr. Sowell's research questions the basic assumptions behind popular public policies aimed at minorities.

And in the process, he's made mincemeat of the sloppy methodology and flaccid arguments put forward by mainstream civil right leaders and their liberal sympathizers. He has shown, empirically, that affirmative action does not benefit poor blacks. He has shown, empirically, that political clout is not a prerequisite for ethnic economic advancement. And most importantly, he has exposed the harmful fallacy of using racial and gender discrimination as an all-purpose explanation for statistical group disparities.

Asked why many of these failed ideas, and the black leaders who promote them, don't seem to lose credibility, Mr. Sowell responds that the phenomenon is hardly limited to the realm of race. "You could take it beyond the black leadership," he says. "Has [John Kenneth] Galbraith lost any credibility? I remember 'The New Industrial State'"--the 1967 book in which Mr. Galbraith famously argued that large corporations were immune to marketplace forces--"but since then, Eastern Airlines has gone out of business. The Graflex Corporation has gone out of business. Similarly with all kinds of big businesses. This hasn't made the slightest dent in Galbraith's reputation. We have Paul Ehrlich, who has told us there would be mass starvation in the world in the '80s, and now we find our two biggest problems are obesity and how to get rid of agricultural surpluses." Mr. Sowell's conclusion is a cynical one. "I have a book called 'The Vision of the Anointed,' and there's a chapter in there called 'The Irrelevance of Evidence.'"

The idea to apply economic concepts to racial issues came, says Mr. Sowell, from the late Benjamin Rogge, who taught economics at Wabash College in Indiana. "I was at Cornell, and Ben Rogge came on campus to give a talk called 'The Welfare State Against the Negro.' I happened to be out of town, so when I got back I wrote him a letter that said I heard you gave this talk and that you're going to write a book on the same theme. I said it's really amazing that no one's thought of this before because there's so much material out there. At this point [in the late '60s] I had no thought that I would ever touch it myself."

The two became friends over the years and "it occurred to Ben that he was never going to write that book. And so Ben Rogge took his manuscript and simply handed it to me and said do with it whatever you can. I was flabbergasted. I don't think I ever used anything directly from his manuscript. But the fundamental idea the you could apply economics to racial issues--that was the inspiration."

Similarly, Mr. Sowell says his interest in "international perspectives"--most notably demonstrated in his lengthy trilogy on cultural history published in the 1990s--initially came from reading Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1963 classic study, "Beyond the Melting Pot." "It was really the first book I read about different ethnic groups. There were many different patterns. And more than anything else, each group had its own pattern.

"The left likes to portray a group as sort of a creature of surrounding society. But that's not true. For example, back during the immigrant era, you had neighborhoods on the Lower East Side [of Manhattan] where Jews and Italians arrived at virtually identical times. Lived in the same neighborhoods. Kids sat side by side in the same schools. But totally different outcomes. Now, if you look back at the history of the Jews and the history of the Italians you can see why that would be. In the early 19th century, Russian officials report that even the poorest Jews find some way to get some books in their home, even though they're living in a society where over 90% of the people are illiterate.

"Conversely, in southern Italy, which is where most Italian-Americans originated, when they put in compulsory school-attendance laws, there were riots. There were schoolhouses burning down. So now you take these two kids and sit them side by side in a school. If you believe that environment means the immediate surroundings, they're in the same environment. But if you believe environment includes this cultural pattern that goes back centuries before they were born, then no, they're not in the same environment. They don't come into that school building with the same mindset. And they don't get the same results."

It somehow seems an imposition to press Mr. Sowell on his next project, though he graciously allows that a collection of correspondence, as well as a book on intellectuals, is in the works. As the interview clock winds down, however, he returns briefly to the topic of race. He laments the fact that more public intellectuals aren't applying economic analyses to racial policies, even while he understands the hesitation.

"I think it would be great if someone would sit down and take a sort of systematic textbook approach to it," says Mr. Sowell. "[George Mason University economist] Walter Williams has written a couple of very good books, but unfortunately they were not well promoted. Guys like Gary Becker have other fish to fry, and they're writing for a different audience. Besides Walter and me, I don't know who else out there would write it. And heaven knows it's not the golden pathway to instant popularity."


Lawyer wants Jesus off school wall: "An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer has asked a West Virginia high school to remove a picture of Jesus Christ that has hung at the school for 40 years. Harold Sklar, who works for the FBI, told the Charleston Daily Mail he first took up the issue 10 years ago. Two weeks ago, he finally decided to go over the heads of Bridgeport school administrators and take the matter to the Harrison County school board. "I have absolute respect for anyone who looks at the painting for comfort," Sklar said. "This is just a pure constitutional issue." The picture has been on display at Bridgeport High School since the school was built, mostly hanging in a hallway outside the principal's office. School officials, who say they have more important things to think about, said they have been getting a lot of calls in support of the picture".

Sunday, March 26, 2006


The organizers of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative are backing a proposed amendment to the Michigan state constitution that would outlaw "affirmative action" by the State government and local governments within the State. It will be voted on in the November 7, 2006 election. Connerly's letter below is sourced from here -- which see for extended commentary on the MCRI

The Honorable Jennifer M. Granholm
Office of Governor
State of Michigan
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Governor Granholm:

In your March 9, 2005 Guest Column, "Affirmative action ban would hurt state's future," you took great liberties in making reference to me and my motives for supporting and promoting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). At the end of your piece, you extended an open invitation for readers to write to you. Because I saw no exception that would prohibit me from accepting that invitation, I am doing so accordingly.

At the outset, let me address my status as an "outsider." Governor, I was born in Leesville, Louisiana, a fact which makes me an American citizen by birth. How is it that you, being Canadian by birth, have a greater entitlement to the privileges and benefits of American citizenship than I? Among those benefits and privileges is the right to have opinions and the right to express those opinions about matters - big and small - that affect all Americans. Michigan is not an island in some foreign country. It is one of the American states to which my tax dollars flow and where my passport of "civil rights" is presumed to be valid. If your defense of racial and gender preferences is on such solid ground, why is it necessary to hearken back to the days of Jim Crow segregationists who complained about those "outsiders" who asserted their right to urge our nation to fulfill the promise of equal treatment to all Americans, regardless of race, color, or national ancestry?

What is it about individuals such as you and Congressman John Dingell, who has also taken me to task for exercising my right as an American to express opposition to race preferences in Michigan, that causes you to be so intolerant and insecure about your convictions that you resort to such intellectual isolationism when it comes to an issue such as race? On the one hand, you talk boldly about the "global economy," but then you retreat into your state's rights cocoon when it comes to matters such as civil rights.

You assert that had I been from Michigan, I would know that "diversity is part and parcel in our economic strength." Are you kidding? Or, are you simply attempting to distract the people of your state, for political reasons, by making me a bogey man? California is one of the most "diverse" places on the planet. The California economy is vibrant and booming. And, I hasten to add, California is a state that has outlawed preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender and ethnicity. Michigan, on the other hand, is regarded by many as one of the preference capitals of the nation. How is your economy? How many jobs are you losing day-by-day? To what "economic strength" are you making reference? Are you really expecting your residents to believe that by ending preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender and ethnicity, your state's economy will worsen even more? If so, such an assertion defies logic.

It is amusing that you call the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative "deceptively named." Have you ever read the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Do you consider the principle of equal treatment "without regard to race, color or ethnicity," contained in that Act, to be such a deception that the Congress erred in naming it the "Civil Rights Act?" Has it escaped your attention that the principle contained in MCRI is identical to that contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

Your column, which seems to attempt to summon the better nature of your electorate by appealing to the importance of "diversity," is inconsistent in one major respect. You say that if I knew your people better I would understand that you appreciate the value of "teamwork and unity." You point to the great pride that the people of Michigan can take in their "steady advance of freedom and equality." All of this is true. Why, then, do you presume that these same good people are closet bigots who are just waiting for the opportunity to discriminate against women and "minorities?" Why do you lack confidence in their capacity to treat others the way they wish to be treated - with fairness and dignity?

If you oppose "quotas," as you say you do, how can you support their functional equivalent and the method by which quotas are obtained - "preferential treatment?" Like so many others who express their opposition to "quotas," your opposition rings hollow when you seek to have it both ways: oppose quotas but support preferential treatment of women and others based on skin color and ethnic background.

I was born in the Deep South, at a time when racial discrimination was rampant. I know first-hand the meaning of the term "racial discrimination." I doubt that you can say the same. Your knowledge about discrimination was probably gleaned from history books. In days of my youth, as a brown-skinned man, I rarely heard the term, "diversity." But, I sure as hell heard and experienced "discrimination." And, I can tell you that the pursuit of diversity should never be an excuse for our government to sanction or practice discrimination based on an individual's race, color, gender, ethnicity or national ancestry. That principle should be guaranteed to Jennifer Gratz, a white woman, equally as it is guaranteed to me, a black man. One should not have to be an "outsider from California" to convince you of the importance of the fundamental principle of equal treatment before the law without regard to the color of a person's skin. This principle is deeply etched in the character of most Americans. Had you been born in America, perhaps you would have a better appreciation of this fact.

Finally, let me address two astounding claims that you make about the effects of MCRI. First, you claim that MCRI would "eliminate programs that are encouraging female and minority students to pursue "these (scientists and engineers) critical careers." MCRI would do no such thing. It would prohibit you from giving them "preferential treatment." It certainly would not prohibit you from "encouraging" them to pursue careers in these fields. Also, let me state the obvious: since you are currently able to grant preferential treatment based on gender, why aren't there more women in these fields now? Could there be other factors that have nothing to do with the issue of "affirmative action?"

Have you noticed that at elite institutions of higher education, such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan and others, where race and gender preferences are taken most seriously, the number of "affirmative action" beneficiaries who graduate with degrees in science and engineering is no greater than at other institutions? It is not rocket science to realize that this phenomenon has nothing to do with the ability to promote "diversity." This argument is a fig leaf for other objectives. If women can be governors and among the highest paid university presidents in the land, without any "preferential treatment," why should we believe they need "affirmative action" to become scientists or engineers?

Second, you acknowledge the need to "eliminate the achievement gap in education in Michigan," but you claim that MCRI "would end programs that help minority students achieve the high standards we are setting in our schools."

Governor, this would be laughable were it not so tragic. It is clear that you have little knowledge about what accounts for this achievement gap. Moreover, if this gap exists in a paradigm that promotes preferential treatment, but is widening instead of closing, pray tell how the elimination of preferences will worsen the situation. Frankly, as a "minority," I consider it demeaning and insulting that you believe "minority" students can only meet high standards by the benefice of preferential treatment. Had you lived through the period of my youth and been subjected to the conditions of racial oppression, as I was, you would know about the strength of spirit of black people and their ability to achieve without preferences, as long as they were not held back by discrimination based on the color of their skin.

If you seriously want to help "minority students" - and I certainly believe you do - then you will lead the way in giving them greater freedom to attend a school of their choice. You will lead the effort to eliminate "legacy" admissions so that all students will have an equal chance, regardless of whether their ancestors attended the university or not. You will make it possible for the daughter of a union worker, whose parents did not attend UM, to have the same chance as the son of a big automaker executive, whose dad had the privilege of graduating from UM and who donates large sums to preserve a preference for his children and grandchildren. You would lend your support to the growing national movement in favor of socioeconomic "affirmative action" instead of race-based "affirmative action." Help those who need it, not those who happened to be born with the right color of the day.

Should you care to further this discussion and to become enlightened about the facts of this controversy instead of relying on the sound-bites of those aligned with you, I am at your service. Certainly, even an "outside activist from California," whose tax dollars end up in the coffers of Michigan, might have something to offer on a subject that seems to be of such interest to you.

Ward Connerly

Liberals All For Tolerance & Understanding So Long As You Agree With Them

Comment by Frederick Meekins

Many contemporary liberals have taken it upon themselves to advocate tolerance and understanding as the highest social values. Such self-professed ambassadors of magnanimity usually extend these principles to everyone except those they disagree with. Each year, my columns addressing the attacks upon the Christmas holiday elicit a number of emotional responses. My essay expounding the attempts by environmentalists to stifle enjoyment of the Advent season prompted a number of ultrapluralists to expose their true colors. One such critic began, "This article...was too full of name calling, stereotypes, and mean spiritedness. It is very opinionated and one sided. Rang of the all too familiar `Rush Limbaugh' lets bash everyone who is not like us."

While it is an honor in the content of the column in question to be compared to Rush Limbaugh, I ask you is not the offended pluralist the one engaged in "name calling, stereotypes, and mean spiritedness"? Of course, my column was "very opinionated and one sided". It's suppose to be one sided; that's why it's called an "opinion piece". There is no "Fairness Doctrine" that applies to commentaries and editorials. If someone wants to consider what the other side has to say and has way too much time on their hands, one is perfectly free to consult the National Wildlife article I originally referenced.

Interestingly, this insistence upon objectivity is usually only imposed upon conservative thinkers and ideologues. I don't remember the National Wildlife or Carroll County Times articles clarifying that holiday over-consumption was merely the opinion of a few disgruntled academics and activists with other scientists feeling differently about the matter. Furthermore, who is a scientist to say something is too much or not enough since it is not the place of science to make such value judgments? When they do, they veer off into the realm of philosophy. Nor do I remember an evenhanded approach being taken by this professed disciple of evenhandedness.

The criticism does not stop here and proceeds on in a similar vein. The comment continues in its haughty progressivist tone, "It lacked any reference to the obligation commanded to be good stewards, it offered no options or alternatives."

Firstly, there is no provision attached to the First Amendment saying one has to sit there with your mouth shut unless you have a solution to the problem you feel the need to speak out against. Sometimes the best solution to a problem that really isn't much of a problem is not to apply any solution at all. Some things just really aren't any of the government's business. Americans have been celebrating Christmas for quite a while now. Why all of a sudden do we need the government and tenured professors telling us how to celebrate it?

There is far more waste going on in society (often in government) than whether or not I buy a present someone really doesn't need apart from the pleasure I will derive seeing the joy I will bring into the life of the loved one I decide to give the gift to. Furthermore, who is to decide whether or not I need that extra present --- Barbara Streisand or Arianna Huffington as they live on their palatial estates and ride around in limousines? Claiming this is a matter of Christian stewardship is stretching that concept in some areas and misapplying it in others. The Apocalypse won't result if I use a little too much wrapping paper or have an extra slice of pumpkin pie. There is no reason to be wound that tight.

If someone is going to get all worked up into a twitter that Christmas as commonly celebrated is a misuse of resources worthy of widespread social intervention, shouldn't they be spending the most valuable commodity they'll ever possess --- namely their time --- in a manner far better than responding to online blogs? To paraphrase a classic adage, those who can, write blogs; those who can't, post comments.

Better yet, if every decision we make is to be characterized by the utmost sobriety of Christian stewardship and responsibility, should those that feel this way even have the Internet at all? Wouldn't that $20 a month be better spent elsewhere if we are going to get all jacked out of shape that someone bought at extra DVD this Christmas instead of sending a check to some televangelist so he can buy another gilded throne for his set or more pink hair dye for his wife?

The criticism continues, "it [the original column] offered no options or alternatives." Other than people minding their own business as to how others spend their money at Christmas time, what other alternatives are there?" I am not the one calling people to change the way they live their lives in terms of this issue to make Al Gore happy or whatever else it is an emotional Popsicle like him happens to feel.

Back in the days before we were conditioned into thinking government, academia, or the media knew how to run our lives better than we do and when people went to church to hear about their individual relationship with God and not about the imperatives of submitting to the glories of the community, people use to make decisions like how they'd celebrate Christmas on their own. Seems the communitarians are as thrifty with backbones as they are about allowing people to enjoy themselves without Big Brother staring over their shoulders.

This effusively sensitive ascetic concludes by exhibiting a bit of an elitist streak by saying of the commentary, "Too-done too many times and there wasn't any new voice in the piece." In other words, if someone at a pay-grade above yours has already said something similar to what's on your mind, you'd better keep your mouth shut.

Frankly though, isn't everything said since ancient times simply variations on a theme? Alfred North Whitehead said all of Western thought is but a footnote to Plato and the Bible puts it as there is nothing new under the sun. Since that's the case, if liberals really cared all that much about the various forms of pollution including that of unneeded noise, shouldn't they cease their yammering as well?

Winston Churchill is credited with saying the following: under 30 and conservative, you have no heart; over 30 and liberal, you have no head. The worldview espoused by liberals is so devoid of logic and commonsense that they themselves refuse to adhere to the rigors and demands which they expect those of us of inferior intellectual caliber to themselves to abide by.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

San Francisco City Government Calls Catholics 'Hateful, Discriminatory, Insulting, Ignorant'

In their desperation to justify their difference from normal society and claim some virtue, the disgruntled weirdos who congregate in San Francisco practically worship homosexuals -- so anybody who disapproves of homosexuals is insulting their religion -- and they react very much as Muslims did to the cartoons

In one of the most startling attacks on the Catholic Church coming from a governmental body in the United States in half a century, the governing body of the city of San Francisco - the Board of Supervisors - voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a non-binding resolution blasting the Catholic Church for its opposition to homosexual adoption.

While many city's residents agree with the Church's stand against homosexual adoption, the resolution stated "It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great city's existing and established customs and traditions, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need."

The city supervisors levelled an ad hominem attack on former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, who has been appointed to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), one of the most senior posts in the Church. " Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear,'' the resolution stated.

The supervisors also demonstrated their childishness as they attempted another dig at the Cardinal by indicating in the resolution that the CDF was once known as the Office of the Inquisition. "That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households," reads the resolution.

The resolution attacked the teaching of the Catholic Church that homosexual adoption does "violence" to children since they would be placed in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. The resolution blasted the teaching as "hateful and discriminatory rhetoric (that) is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.''

Demonstrating their own profound ignorance, at least in terms of biological realities, the supervisors contend, "Same-sex couples are just as qualified to be parents as are heterosexual couples."

Concluding, the board urged current San Francisco "Archbishop Neiderauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada."



The Easter Bunny has been sent packing at St. Paul City Hall. A toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter" were removed from the lobby of the City Council offices, because of concerns they might offend non-Christians. A council secretary had put up the decorations. They were not bought with city money. St. Paul's human rights director, Tyrone Terrill, asked that the decorations be removed, saying they could be offensive to non-Christians. But City Council member Dave Thune says removing the decorations went too far, and he wonders why they can't celebrate spring with "bunnies and fake grass."



Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said on Wednesday. The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the commission's Carolyn Beck. Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said. The goal, she said, was to detain drunks before they leave a bar and go do something dangerous like drive a car.

"We feel that the only way we're going to get at the drunk driving problem and the problem of people hurting each other while drunk is by crackdowns like this," she said. "There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they're intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car," Beck said. "People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss." She said the sting operations would continue throughout the state.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Free Speech Quagmire

The supposed hallowed hallmark of free societies, free speech, has been sorely tested these past few weeks. First there were the Mohammed cartoons - originally published in a Danish newspaper - which have infuriated Islam and sparked world-wide riots and demonstrations. Then there was the guilty verdict handed down to David Irving, the British historian who is internationally vilified for his revisionist views on the Holocaust. And looked at together they present a confused and contradictory message.

For the most part, Europe has defended the publication of the cartoons and upheld the concept of free speech. And others, the world over, have rallied to the call, even republishing the cartoons as a matter of "principle." However, Europe is far more reluctant to grant David Irving a similar right. He has been sentenced to three years in jail for a speech and interview he gave in Austria in 1989. Under Austria's strict "Holocaust Denial" laws, Irving's statement that, "there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz", has cost him his freedom. This raises important questions about what free speech actually is, and if it should ever be limited.

Defenders of free speech come in all shapes and sizes, and in fact, it's hard to find anyone who is outright against it--with qualifications, of course! Take the cartoon case. Here is a situation where a revered religious figure is made fun of or denigrated in some way. Revered, that is, by those of the Islamic faith. This type of thing is not new - as any stand-up comedian will tell you. Poking fun at, and ridiculing people is their stock in trade.

To put it into our own cultural context, consider some tasteless cartoons about Jesus, and take your own response "temperature." Of course, how you would feel about such cartoons would depend on what you believed about Jesus. If you were a Christian, you'd probably be offended. And if you weren't, you probably wouldn't care. However, one's response to such an event is a different issue - and to be evaluated accordingly.

Just because Muslims were offended by the cartoons (something which I'm sure religious people can understand) doesn't mean they can go out and start burning buildings and generally causing havoc. In fact, such a response only serves to undermine their own moral status, as people whose sensibilities need to be considered at all.

So we have the "considerate" compromiser, who says he defends free speech, but that it needs to be considered in the context of the situation, that sometimes good taste or plain politeness should deter one from exercising free speech. I call this the voluntary-code-of-conduct approach, which is fine, as in this case any curtailment of free speech is self-imposed, not imposed by others. ow, certainly, a private individual - say, at a party - may deem it not in good taste to express his personal opinion about the host, to all those present. This would undermine the unwritten rules of social etiquette and good behaviour. However, in the case of a newspaper cartoonist, stand-up comic, or even an historian, a different set of parameters come into play.

Take David Irving's case. He has been found guilty of uttering words which other people disagree with - and to which they take offence. His statement that people weren't gassed at Auschwitz or that less than six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, raises the ire of many of those who lived through the war, and in particular Jews themselves. However, if you transpose his case to another situation, it becomes absurd. David Irving is often branded a "Holocaust Denier," someone who denies the official Holocaust story. But let's imagine he was a "God Denier" - someone who denies the existence of God.

No doubt millions would be offended by his assertion - especially if he were to give public speeches on the subject and be widely published. However, do you really think he would be put in jail for such an utterance? Maybe in the Dark Ages - but not today, not in our post-religious world. And yet, the situations are very similar. In both cases he would be denying something that is hallowed ground to millions of people. He would be offending them by his assertion. So, deny the Holocaust - go to jail. Deny the existence of God - go free.

Denying the "official story" is often dangerous, of course. Consider Galileo, whose assertion that the earth moved around the sun got him brought before the Church authorities. Here was a man who, via the scientific method, had come to the conclusion that the earth orbits the sun, not the other way around. However, this truth was unacceptable to the established religious order. They weren't interested in facts, but only in the official story, which they saw as fundamental to their faith - and their power.

If we were to bring his particular story into the present age, we might compare it with someone who questions the Theory of Evolution - or its obverse, the Intelligent Design Theory. Can you imagine anyone being jailed for saying that evolution did not happen? Of course not. But I guess no one would be offended by that, as it is not a religious dogma!

The importance of free speech, in such situations, is that it is a necessary part of free enquiry. Science could not advance if all knowledge was "given" and incapable of being questioned. A scientist MUST have free speech or all scientific enquiry would come to a grinding halt.

History is no different. If we want to understand ourselves, then a rigourous appraisal of historical events is essential. So are we now to jail those who don't agree with official history? The issue is not whether a "David Irving" is right or wrong, but whether he has the right to question the historical record.

The issue of free speech covers a lot more ground than just cartoons and historical research, of course. It covers everything. Take censorship. Censorship is the opposite of free speech. In most western countries, this is limited to restricting what you and I can see on TV, watch at the movies - and perhaps even buy at the bookstore. Most people support such restrictions on free speech - on the grounds that people need protecting from themselves.

But few people consider the implications of censorship - and its potential to spread like a cancer throughout society. Censorship is undertaken by government-appointed bodies - usually made up of selected individuals (presumably chosen for their impeccable morals and good character!). It's their job to view all suspect films, books an so on, and to pass judgment as to whether they are suitable for general consumption.

Now I don't have a problem with a "ratings board" - some sort of organisation that posts ratings on such things. This can be a useful service to those who want to avoid certain films or books. So if they say a particular film is recommended for those 18 years old or over, or that it has graphic violence and sex in it, or too many "F" words, then it can be useful information. However, a censor's job is different. It is to decide (like God) what can and cannot be consumed by the public. Interestingly enough, most people never ask the obvious question, "Who decided this person is qualified to watch films that I cannot watch?"

We in the West feel smug in our "free speech zone," when we look at a place like China where they are always censoring the news. We cry "foul" and feel superior. But the reality is that censorship is censorship. Whether it's some democratically elected body deciding what you can and cannot see at the movies, or some unelected body deciding what you can or cannot read in the newspapers - it's all a violation of free speech. It's a violation of someone's right to free expression - and the concurrent right of those who choose to listen to or view such expression.

The fact is that ALL states enforce censorship. And even more so during times of war - as now, with the "war on terror." War, it appears, grants the state extraordinary powers to suppress the truth, and worse, to issue false propaganda. So much for free speech. So, we in the West are not "squeaky clean" when it comes to the issue of free speech - which explains why everybody is so confused about what it is, and whether it's worth defending.

The "currency" of free speech has also been devalued over recent years, with the gradual erosion of rights in this regard. Now we find that free speech is fine - as long as you don't use it to offend anyone, like uttering stereotypical opinions about gays, lesbians, Hispanics, feminists, right or left-wingers, the unemployed, solo mothers, fat people, macho males, Asians, and other assorted targets. Then, of course, there's the Orwellian- sounding war on "hate speech" - whatever that is. So we're left with a sort of emasculated free speech - free speech in name only. Free speech for wimps.

Which brings me to the point of this essay: Do you have the right to utter, draw, write, record or otherwise make public your own personal opinions? And do you have the right to have access to such opinions of others? And my answer is yes. For if this right is curtailed, then it is just the beginning of a slippery slope to full censorship. Once you accept the principle of "limited" free speech, then it's only a matter of time before the limits become more and more onerous, until one day you wake up and the limits are total.

Sure, with free speech you end up with more peeved, offended and disgruntled people. But that is the price we must be prepared to pay in order to have a free society. It's like the friction between freedom and security. If you want total security, then you are asking for total government (in the misguided belief that the state can actually offer such security). If you want freedom, then you are placing a higher value on freedom than security and are prepared to take responsibility for the security side of the issue.

It's the same with freedom of speech. If you value it, then you won't want to place limits on it. On the other hand, if you prefer a "safe" social environment, with no insults, no offensive utterances, and no questioning of the official line - then total censorship, i.e. total government, is the obvious destination. And if you don't like that possibility, then free speech must be more than just empty words. It must be a matter of principle.



Some call the people behind the Washington-D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest busybodies, but I call them wannabe tyrants. Let's look at their agenda, which seeks greater control over our lives. Last year, CSPI filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to reduce the amount of salt in packaged foods. They also called for the FDA to mandate warning labels on non-diet soft drinks that consumption increases the risk of obesity, tooth decay and osteoporosis. Earlier this year, CSPI announced its intent to sue Viacom Inc. and Kellogg Company for marketing junk food to children.

CSPI has long called for excise taxes on fatty foods, cars and TV sets. Their justification is that obesity adds to Medicare and Medicaid health costs. They want some of the tax revenue used to fund exercise facilities and government fitness campaigns.

There's no end to CSPI's consumer-control agenda. They say, "Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply." Therefore, they've called for caffeine warning labels. To deal with teenage and adult overconsumption of alcohol, they've called for doubling the tax on beer. According to them, "The last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones."

To fight obesity among young people, CSPI calls for a fast-food advertising ban on TV programs seen by children. CSPI's director, Michael Jacobson, said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses, [and] meat," adding that "CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything."

I'm guessing that most Americans, except politicians, find this control agenda offensive. Politicians might not find it offensive because controlling lives is their stock in trade, plus there's the promise of the higher revenues from food taxes. Most Americans who might find the CSPI agenda offensive are not motivated by principle. It's a matter of whose ox is being gored.

You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" CSPI tyrants are following almost to the letter the template created by the nation's anti-smoking zealots. Their fellow traveler, New York University professor Marion Nestle, says that the food industry "can't behave like cigarette companies. ... Yet there's a lot of people who benefit from people being fat and sick, and the whole setup is designed to make people eat more. So the response to the food industry should be very similar to what happened with the tobacco companies." ...

I'd be interested to know just how many Americans would like to see done to our food industry what was done to the tobacco industry: massive multibillion-dollar lawsuits against food companies, massive suits against restaurants that serve too large a serving, and confiscatory taxes levied on foods and snacks deemed non-nutritious.

Consumers will pay for all of this in the form of higher food prices and fewer choices. There's also the possibility that food zealots in some cities, emboldened by the success of the anti-smoking zealots in Calabasas, who are concerned about smokers passing on bad habits to our youth, might call for an ordinance banning public appearance of obese people so as not to pass bad eating habits on to our children.

More here

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Since our blood has about the same saltiness as seawater, the claim that our bodies cannot handle salt safely is absurd. We are in fact very good at it. Salt has been implicated in raised blood pressure but if that were really a concern, a much more constructive approach would be to add potassium (which lowers blood pressure) to food rather than removing salt. Both are natural food components. Also see the research report following the article immediately below -- a report which shows that a low salt diet is actually BAD for you. So it is really a puritanical desire to reduce people's pleasures that motivates the anti-salt brigade. They only look at evidence that suits them

Britain's food watchdog was accused last night of endangering the lives of 15,000 people a year after backing down on strict guidelines designed to limit the amount of salt in food. Health campaigners were furious at the decision by the Food Standards Agency to publish revised targets to cut salt in 85 types of food products by 2010. In many cases the agency raised levels after feedback from companies which claimed that they were unable to cut salt in certain products for technical or safety reasons.

Increases in permitted levels recommended by the agency included: Raising the salt allowed in crisps such as Quavers and Skips from 1.4g to 3.4g per 100g; Ketchup up from 1.8g to 2.4g; Savoury biscuits up from 1.3g to 2.2g.

The agency said that it still hoped to cut the overall intake of salt per person per day from 10g to 6g within four years. But medical experts said that the new targets meant this would not be met, especially as the targets cannot be imposed on the food industry. If salt intake were cut to 6g per day, it would prevent 70,000 heart attacks and strokes a year, of which 35,000 are fatal. If intake fell only to 8g a day, 15,000 people would die unnecessarily.

"Products like Quavers and Wotsits are still going to be allowed to contain more salt than in seawater," Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardio-vascular medicine at St George's Hospital, in Tooting, southwest London, said. "If by 2010 we only get salt consumption down to 8g a day then that will result in another 30,000 strokes and heart attacks and some 15,000 will be fatal. The new targets reflect the naked power of the food industry that is just not interested in the health of the people it feeds."

The National Heart Forum also expressed concern about "laggards" in the food industry who were failing to tackle salt reduction. Paul Lincoln, its chief executive, said that the firms resisting change should be "named and shamed". He pointed the finger at manufacturers of children's foods such as crisps, pizzas, bread, processed cheese and biscuits for making slowest progress in reducing salt. "The problem is these targets are voluntary," he said. "Some companies have demonstrated that it is possible to make significant and rapid reductions. However, without the threat of any sanctions or penalties some sectors are clearly unwilling to press ahead with healthy reformulations."

Malcolm Kane, an independent food safety consultant, said: "The new targets reveal a food industry still defending the use of excess salt in processed foods based upon weak arguments referring to technical reasons or food safety which are largely irrelevant to contemporary food processing conditions."

The FSA said that its targets were realistic. The agency also said it was pleased with the efforts made by manufacturers and supermarkets to cut salt. Salt in bread was already down by 30 per cent, in breakfast cereals reduced by 33 per cent, and down a third in Kraft cheese spreads and snacks. Manufacturers were also committed to reducing salt in soups and sauces by 30 per cent.

However, some campaigners believe that the agency is running scared of the food industry after a recent rift over the need for red warning labels on junk food. Only Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Asda have endorsed "traffic light" alerts that will show levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat. Gill Fine, the agency's director of consumer choice, said: "We believe that the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction which will have a real impact on consumers' intakes."

She said that the targets would be reviewed in 2008 to ensure people were on track to achieve a 6g maximum daily intake of salt by 2010. The targets mean that Stilton cheese has been granted a reprieve. The FSA had originally wanted to cut its salt content from 2.5g per 100g to 1.9g.

Cheesemakers argued that salt reduction could threaten the viability of the 33 million pound a year industry which employs at least 500 people.


Salt OK for health

Salt gets a shake in a large study, reinforcing previous research which questions the value of a low salt diet - and suggests it might even be harmful. I know. One day they’re telling you one thing and the next the opposite. The trouble is that with salt, doctors and dieticians have assumed because a low salt intake may help blood pressure, that it saves lives.

A 13 year follow up of 7000 people has found that in most groups, the lower the salt intake, the higher the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke - independent of other lifestyle factors. The study wasn’t a trial; it observed people’s health rather than tested a proposition, so had potential problems. But the authors say that applies to almost all the studies which supposedly justify reducing salt and that none, they claim, show that a low salt diet saves lives.

The reason for the possible risk is that a low salt diet may increase artery damaging hormones. So while it’s not carte blanche for salt, it’s probably okay to enjoy the taste of food again.

For reference see: Cohen HW et al. "Sodium intake and mortality in the NHANESII follow-up study". American Journal of Medicine 2006;119:275.e7-275.e14


There is a further comment on the scandalous ignoring of science by the anti-salt fanatics here

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Born Again Feminism for the 21st Century

March is Women's History Month, with a focus on the past raising questions about the future. Gender or left-wing feminism has defined the mainstream movement for decades, but can it carry feminism into the 21st century and away from the accusation of irrelevancy? 2006 is a fine year in which to ask that question. It is far enough into the new century for gender feminists to have provided a rough answer if one is coming. I believe the answer has arrived.

On a personal level, you may not care. You may be fed up with decades-long arguments that all seem to run in an endless loop toward the same conclusion: Women as a class are oppressed by men as a class through the institutions of society such as the free market and the family. On a political level, however, you should pay attention. Those same tiresome arguments have dramatically reshaped the institutions with which you and your children live every day.

For example, in 1980, the term "sexual harassment" was virtually unknown. Today, it is a legal reality that every campus and workplace confronts. If gender feminism successfully recreates itself, then your day-to-day life may continue to reflect its vision, not yours. Linda R. Hirshman, co-author of the book Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex, offers a glimpse of that vision. She recently published an article titled "Homeward Bound" in the liberal magazine American Prospect (12/20/05). "Home" does not refer to the hearth. Quite the opposite. Home is the ideological starting point to which Hirshman believes feminism must return in order to become effective. The much discussed article is a clear snapshot of gender feminism's present dilemma over irrelevancy and the need for redefinition.

Hirshman bluntly acknowledges the failure of feminism by pointing to one phenomenon. Many educated women are rejecting successful careers to become mothers and embrace the domesticity that Betty Friedan compared to animal life and a Nazi concentration camp in her 1953 bestseller The Feminine Mystique. How did this happen? In a word, choice is to blame: "[L]iberal feminists abandoned the judgmental starting favor of offering women 'choices'. The choice talk spilled over from.'abortion', and it provided an irresistible solution to feminists trying to duck the mommy wars. A woman could work, stay home, have 10 children or one, marry or stay single. It all counted as 'feminist' as long as she chose it."

Hirshman dismisses what she calls "choice feminism." Instead, she argues for a return to "a judgmental starting point" by which incorrect choices are to be shunned, choices like the traditional role of wife and mother. Hirshman writes, "Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice."

The 20th century gender war was fought largely in the workplace and on campuses; the 21st century's battleground is the traditional family. According to Hirshman, failure to deconstruct that one institution is the explanation for feminism's failures elsewhere.

I profoundly disagree with Hirshman's conclusions and many of her particulars. For example, I don't believe all of women's choices have been sanctioned as 'feminist'; sex work is a counter-example.

I also don't believe feminism ever ceased being judgmental. Nevertheless, the article is a fascinating glimpse into gender feminism's struggle to reinvent itself. The broad themes of this reinvention are: a rejection of the 'c-word' (choice) as the standard of feminism; the substitution of correct choices as feminism's touchstone; a renewed focus on deconstructing the traditional family; and, a reaching backward into "the golden age" of feminism in order to understand and correct mistakes.

As the reinvention occurs, the gender feminist approach to specific issues will inevitably shift as well. Without a crystal ball and with recognition that feminism is not a monolith, the following are some of the changes (or not) in approach that I expect to see: On abortion. The words choice and pro-choice will be de-emphasized. Instead, stress will be placed on weighing the rights and health of the woman against those of the unborn with the clear message that the woman takes precedence.

On sexual harassment. The argument will not change because it has proven successful but the approach will be broadened to include male victims, especially boys. For example, the latest survey from the American Association of University Women on school and campus harassment reports on male victims. I believe the shift is largely strategic. It is no longer possible to ignore male victims of harassment. Thus, the championing of boys will be co-opted and recast within gender feminism's established framework of sexual harassment.

On domestic violence. The argument will not change and the approach will not be broadened significantly. In gender feminist theory, domestic violence is key to establishing that traditional marriage is a dangerous place for women. "Staying the course" is not only an ideological matter, it is also strategic. To the extent male victims are acknowledged, the focus will be on gay male victims. A lot of funding is on the line.

What do I think is the real feminist line for the 21st century? Your peaceful choices are yours alone and no one else's business. Be a housewife, love your children without a time schedule.or dive into a 24/7 job that you get on merit. Live your own dream. Be your own woman. And, yes, that makes me a "choice feminist."


The War on Big Soda

"Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that drinking soda can be hazardous to your health."

Look for that warning label on bottles and cans of Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper and even Hawaiian Punch in stores near you in the not too distant future ... that is, if the Health Nannies and the Trial Lawyers get their way. An Associated Press story this week reports that nutrition "experts" are "escalating the fight" against obesity, and they appear to be changing their focus from fast-food to soft drinks. "In reports to be published in science journals this week, two groups of researchers hope to add evidence to the theory that soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks don't just go hand-in-hand with obesity, but actually cause it," the AP reports. "Not that these drinks are the only cause, but that they are one cause, perhaps the leading cause."

And once "science" takes that leap, the AP predicts the results could be "higher taxes on soda, restrictions on how and where it is sold -- maybe even a surgeon general's warning on labels." As Barry Popkin, a "scientist" at the University of North Carolina boasted, "We've done it with cigarettes."

Yes, they did. And many of us fought the three-headed hydra of government bureaucrats, trial lawyers and junk scientists in their war against Big Tobacco. The bottom line for our side was simply that no one was pointing a gun at anyone's head and MAKING them smoke cigarettes -- just as no one is MAKING anyone drink sodas today. But that didn't matter to a lot of fair-weathered conservatives who willingly joined the War on Tobacco simply because they didn't like cigarettes. Freedom and responsibility? Fuggetaboutit. Let's just get rid of Joe Camel, right?

Well, we tried to warn you people. And I'm not hesitant in the least to say, "I told you so." You allowed the hydra to get its nose under the tent. And now, flush with cash and success in "getting" Big Tobacco, they're coming for your Yoo-Hoo and your Pepsi. Serves you right. Of course, some of you will STILL blow off this encroachment on freedom as nonsense. The government would never crack down on Gatorade the way it did Marlboros, right?

Wrong. They're already doing it. In legislatures and local governments across the country, a quiet but growing movement is already well underway to ban soda machines in schools. After all, what self-respecting social engineering project would dare move forward without a "for the kids" component, right? In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who should know better -- signed two bills last fall banning vending machine sales of sodas, chocolate bars, crackers, chips, candy and other "junk" foods. The bills' sponsor, Democrat/Socialist state Sen. Martha Escutia, justifies her Big Brother bill thusly: "The benefits of having kids in class who are not on a sugar high, who are going to be able to concentrate and learn better - that's just as important as the obesity aspect."

Yes, dear reader, you read that right. The War on Soda is actually an effort to help kids learn better! Forget about hiring competent teachers, paying them more, raising standards, dumping No Child Left Behind, getting back to basics, breaking up the government monopoly on education, providing school choice and kicking the teachers union out of the classroom. No, all we really need to do to raise student performance is kick the Coke machine out of the school cafeteria. Good grief.

The California bans take effect in July 2007, and let me tell what's going to happen. Kids will continue to drink their favorite beverages. They'll continue to eat Snickers and Ding-Dongs. And if they can't purchase them on campus, they'll purchase them off campus. In addition, a black market in Fritos and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups will pop up under the gymnasium stands, as young entrepreneurs recognize the new demand and fill it from their back-packs. Psssst. Wanna buy a Twix?

Eventually, the Dudley Do-Gooders such as Sen. Escutia and Gov. Schwarzenegger are going to pursue legislation to crack down on the Twinkie black market, banning not just the vending machines on campus, but penalizing mere possession, thus equating snacks with the likes of marijuana, which is already sold on campuses and the use of which only fuels an even greater demand for potato chips and donuts. Hmm. I guess marijuana IS a gateway drug after all.

Eventually, our kids are going to be sent to the principal's office or suspended for getting caught sneaking a Hershey's bar between classes. Somehow I don't think this is what the Founders had in mind when they promoted the need for an educated populace in order to maintain our liberty. But does anyone care any longer?