Thursday, August 02, 2007

EU evolving towards a soft Soviet system

It would be Fascism except for the fact that Fascism is patriotic -- and it may be patriotism that ultimately limits EU tyranny

A united Europe has long been an aspiration spanning the political spectrum. The leader of the pre-Second World War Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley, called for "Europe a Nation," while, only slightly later, the British Independent Labor Party worked toward a "United Socialist States of Europe." Again, in 1945 Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for a "United States of Europe," though he believed that Britain should not be part of it, apparently because of its "insular" quality.

Britain, it is probably true to say, has long had a difficult relationship with the European nations, and with the idea of being a part of Europe, having thought of itself as an island protected by sea, with a "special relationship" with the U.S. When a rail tunnel was built, joining Britain and France a decade or so ago, many British people protested that the country's natural defenses had been breached.

Now, it would seem, even the many of the once-ardent supporters of a united Europe have turned Euro-skeptic. In 2005 France - which had once been one of its main promoters - defeated the European constitution, as did the Netherlands. Perhaps most surprising of all, nationalist political parties have recently made significant inroads in Euro-politics (especially since the introduction of several Eastern European countries), with several having banded together to for the European National Front. Ironically, with few exceptions these parties do not appear to be calling for "Europe a Nation," or promoting the sort of all-encompassing political and cultural hegemony that is typically associated with at least earlier far-Right parties, but rather are promoting the idea that individual nations to retain their own historical characteristics, while forming some sort of working relationship.

Notably, Nick Griffin of the British National Party (not a member of the E.N.F.) has commented in this regard, that, "Unless the nationalists of Europe cooperate, the internationalists of Europe - the Eurocrats - will destroy all our national freedoms and identities separately." Though the B.N.P. remains a party on the margins of British politics, Britain's fourth largest political party is The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which, ironically, has ten members in the European Parliament. According to its mission statement their aim is to, "expose the true nature of the EU and. campaign for British withdrawal [from it]." Although they are usually denounced as "fascists" by their opponents the B.N.P. and other far-Right political parties in Europe do not echo, then, the historically fascist aspirations for national expansion and homogenization of occupied territories. The undoubted irony of Europe's political dynamics is that the far-Right now consciously stand for the opposite, while secular Eurocrats seem intent on homogenizing the nations of Europe, even though this against the historical and cultural reality on the ground.

Europe is increasingly "a Nation" rather than a "United States," such as Churchill called for. Despite any diversity that may appear within it, a nation is one, standardized, uniform in manner, customs, monarch or prime minister, weights and measures, etc. Churchill was American on his mother's side (though his mother's family was of English descent), and he made much of his American background when he promoted himself and the cause of liberty to the people of the U.S., prior to the latter's involvement in the Second World War. Churchill understood what it was to be American, and he knew what a "United States" meant.

The U.S.A. contrasts sharply with the European Union precisely because it is so self consciously a union of states, each of which has not only a very distinct culture, but, often, distinct laws regarding the drinking of alcohol, sex, assisted suicide, etc. Some counties are "dry" because the sale of alcohol is illegal, due to long held religious sensibilities, while cities in other states, such as Las Vegas, thrive on gambling, drinking, and other sorts of nightlife. You would think that as the U.S.A. is so diverse, the European Union would embrace the historical and cultural diversity of its member nations, yet individual cultural identity has long been undermined by the legislators of Brussels, and continues to be, much to the chagrin of Europe's people.

The first opposition to the E.U.'s encroachment upon British independence came in the form of tabloid headlines proclaiming that the Eurocrats were intent on denying the status of our "prawn cocktail flavour" crisps (or what Americans call "chips"). Later, ironically, the French wanted us to refer to our chocolate as "chocolate flavour." Regulations banning the use of the term, "prawn cocktail flavour" or some such thing, seems a trivial matter to me, and a sacrifice worth making for a real United States of Europe. Yet, E.U. regulations have continued to damp down British traditions, as well as the traditions of some of its other member nations. Recently, for example, regulations pertaining to the measurements of pints of beer have threatened the use of the British crown within Britain, which has appeared on pint glasses as a marker of correct measure since the late 17th century. In response nine different breweries complained to the then prime minister, Tony Blair. There is no good reason why a real, and long-standing tradition such as this should be eradicated by the European Union. Indeed, its function should be to protect the cultures of different European countries, or at least to allow them, by law, to keep their traditions, such as we find in the U.S.

Unfortunately Europe is uniting at a point in time when tradition, religion, and national sovereignty are concepts that are anathema to its prevailing intellectual culture and the bourgeois of several of its nations - perhaps especially Britain - and this can only affect any E.U. treaty. In 2006 Liberal Democratic Euro-M.P., Baroness Sarah Ludford condemned Poland's stance on rights for homosexuals, which are exceedingly limited in comparison to other E.U. member countries, in part because of the country's Roman Catholic heritage. Regardless of the merits of her position, Baroness Ludford commented that it was not a matter of Poland's culture, clarifying a moment later, suggesting that it would not affect the nation's language, food, music, etc. That these are held up as a nation's culture, while its religion and moral foundation are designated, by implication, as `not culture' is problematic to say the least in countries where tradition is still so alive. Would we apply this absurd notion to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Unsurprisingly, Poland seems to consider the E.U. a threat to its traditional, Christian way of life, and as attempting to impose liberal secularism upon its people. Against the trend, in 2003 Poland led a campaign to have the Judaeo-Christian roots noted in the E.U. Constitution.

If traditional, national culture has been undermined, complaints have also arisen, regarding more practical matter. Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron has noted that Britain was influential in the wording of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantee among other things, "freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression." Yet, these rights, Cameron has also pointed out, have been increasingly undermined under Labour. Sometimes, the erosion of basic rights has come from the government and at other times by the modern brand of Liberal-intolerance that the government's followers have created (and which certainly does not deserve the name "liberal").

In regard to freedom of thought, in 2005 the Labour government proposed the Religious Hatred Law, making it illegal to condemn, criticize, or ridicule any religion - thus effectively making free speech, or "freedom of expression" illegal. The law was voted down in its original form, though it was instituted in an amended form making it illegal to use threatening language in regard to any religion. Personally, I do not want to see religion attacked, though I do not want to find myself in a country where I risk imprisonment if I dare to condemn terrorist acts, for example, carried out in the name of a religion. Liberal intolerance has, of course, a trickle-down effect, and we are constantly affronted by an extreme though vocal minority, who promote turning freedom of speech into their own brand of politically approved form of speech under the banner of liberalism. Recently, then, we have seen people revealed as members of the B.N.P. by the press with - if it had any foresight whatsoever - the clear knowledge that they would be (and later were) attacked, with unions, demonstrators, etc., calling for them to be fired from their job, prosecuted, etc., even though they had not even promoted the party or spoken of their membership or political views - whatever they may be. (It is a clich,, I know, but the exposure of political opponents by newspapers became a part of the zeitgeist and semi-official policy of the early years of Germany's Nazi Party.)

The harassment campaign against ballerina Simone Clarke for her membership of the B.N.P. is well known. A similar situation had occurred even before this, however, when architect Peter Phillips ran for presidency of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2006, and won 60 votes, Sumita Sinha, founder of the equal opportunities campaign Architects for Change, called for him to be expelled from the organization and for those who had voted for him to be named. Calls for people to be fired because they support a legal political party, or for overturning secret ballots, are entirely undemocratic, and un-British. Place them in an earlier time, and we would call them fascist. Such tactics will also ultimately backfire. Note for example Rod Liddle's confession in the Times that he laughed at a "mildly racist joke." "I used to find racist jokes dismally unfunny," he notes, " but these days, because I'm not allowed to find them funny and might even be visited by the police for committing a hate crime if I did, they've taken on a samizdat quality." Such an editorial would not have been published if it did not speak to its readers, and it probably would not have ten years ago.

When trade minister Margaret Hodge dared to say that British families had a "legitimate sense of entitlement" over immigrants to government-provided housing she was denounced as "using the language of the BNP," which is usually code for "racist." The Left-wing Guardian newspaper may write of fears of the rise of the far-Right, but when centrist politicians (or even those on the Left, such as Hodge) and parties cannot raise the concerns of their constituents (as Hodge claims she was doing) it is quite obvious that ordinary people will eventually vote for whatever party is addressing their concerns. Indeed, it is fairly frequently remarked that Britain's main political parties, though ostensibly Left and Right, have effectively the same policies on nearly everything, and disagree usually only on minor details, so sanitized has the country's politics become.

With increasing intolerance toward political dissent, and the harassment of the dissenter, it is becoming increasingly clear that Britain needs a Constitution, like that of the U.S. Constitution, to guarantee its citizens such human rights as we once took for granted, e.g., free speech. Notably, while the government has been criticized for giving away to much power by signing the new E.U. treaty (designed to replace the defunct Constitution), it has attempted to moderate this opposition by amending the treaty before signing, and obtaining "an opt-out on a charter of human and social rights." In Britain the Magna Carta is not a historical document enshrining Habeas Corpus, it is merely history - forgotten history, at that. Law, it would seem, is something that depend very much on the whims of the day, and that is a very dangerous situation for the British.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, calls for a formal British Constitution have begun to surface. The minor political party, the English Democrats, has called for "a modern and wide-ranging Bill of Rights founded on traditional English civil liberties," for England, and Cameron has taken the initiative to charge the Conservative Party with producing a Modern British Bill of Rights, which, he has said, "needs to define the core values which give us our identity as a free nation." He goes on to say:

It should spell out the fundamental duties and responsibilities of people living in this country both as citizens and foreign nationals. And it should guide the judiciary and the Government in applying human rights law when the lack of responsibility of some individuals threatens the rights of others.

It should enshrine and protect fundamental liberties such as jury trial, equality under the law and civil rights. And it should protect the fundamental rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights in clearer and more precise terms.

Greater clarity and precision would allow those rights to be enforced more easily and effectively in circumstances where they ought to be protected but it would become harder to extend them inappropriately as under the present law. Greater clarity and precision in the law, as opposed to vague general principles, which can be interpreted in many different ways, is more in accordance with this country's legal tradition.
Of course, a Constitution is only as strong as the political will of the governing class to respect it. The Iraqi government has recently written its Constitution, as has a military-backed commission in Thailand - after the elected government was ousted in a coup nearly a year ago. It seems that every emerging nation writes one. I am always struck by the thought that this represents an ersatz political tradition, that there is in effect a "beginning again," a year zero. There is something socialist about it. Frequently they fail, either by vote or in practice, because their contents are often artificial, creating an ideal nation on paper rather than presenting a conscious of the nation's historical culture while establishing equal human rights. (Thailand has had no fewer than 17 Constitutions in the last 75 years.)

At the very root of the various nations we find the idea of its sacredness (expressed, for example, in such myths as that of Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, in (traditional) monarchy, etc.), and the Constitution must be an affirmation of the sacred nature of both the nation or states and citizenship within it. Such a document could only be produced by those who are conscious of history, cultured (in a traditional sense) and learned - wise, even. It remains to be seen whether an authentic British Constitution can be written in the modern age by professional politicians with one eye on their career and the other on the clubs wielded by various pressure groups.


Britain's "New Labour" flushed liberty down the toilet

Chris Atkins, director of Taking Liberties, talks about freedom, fear and how the government is making us all `stand in the naughty corner'

Freedom has become a dirty word. So dirty, in fact, that there is now a brand of toilet paper called `Freedom'. Seriously. You can buy it at Tesco. It's light blue, perfumed and it has the word `Freedom' emblazoned across its packaging. What's that all about? Freedom from skidmarks? `Man's butt cheeks are born clean, but everywhere they are being stained!' You can now literally wipe your arse with `Freedom'.

When the f-word is not being used to advertise all manner of toilet products (you can also enjoy `Freedom Tampons' or liberate the whiffy bits of your home with an air freshener called `Freedom in Fragrance'), it is being bastardised to mean its precise opposite. The war on terror promises us `freedom from fear'. This actually means sacrificing free speech, free movement and universal legal principles such as Habeas Corpus, in the name of countering the threat posed by a conspiracy of dunces: that ragbag collection of overgrown, woe-is-us Islamist-adultescents who occasionally throw terror tantrums (or at least they would, if they knew how to wire a car bomb properly).

The authorities recently granted us `smokefreedom'. Graciously, and with all the tender loving care of a kindly big brother, the New Labour government made our lives `smokefree' by banning the lighting-up of cigarettes in any building or space or bus-stop or black taxi or even home that can reasonably be described as a `place of work'. (And yes, it's the lighting up that is the crime. Like Bill Clinton, you don't have to have inhaled in order to be shopped to the cops by members of the public, who are being encouraged by state propaganda to squeal on smokers by calling the `smokefree hotline'.) `Smokefree' takes Newspeak to a new level: the intrusion of the government into every corner of every pub, club and restaurant in the land - more than that, its intrusion into the decisions we make about what to ingest into our bodies - is celebrated as a new liberty, as `smokefreedom': the Right Not to Cough.

We live in an era of Doublespeak. In Britain, `freedom' is proclaimed from the rooftops, while our real freedoms to protest, speak openly and choose how we wish to live our lives are going up in smoke. Everywhere you look, the f-word is celebrated: on bogroll packaging, in air freshener ads, in speeches by politicians who manage to dress up their assaults on freedom as new freedoms. Freedom is paid lip service while simultaneously being stabbed in the back - a mixed metaphor, I know, but then this is a mixed-up state of affairs.

Now, a fightback against our illiberal rulers has been launched from a most curious corner. Brick Lane, a long road in the East End of London, is the heart of the capital's Bangladeshi community. On a balmy afternoon, waiters in crisp white shirts and black waistcoats stand outside the lane's myriad curry shops, trying to coax passers-by to pop in for a cheap and cheerful spicy late lunch. Tempting, but I head towards the Old Truman Brewery, a former beer-making factory turned `creative industries' Mecca. It's an 11-acre site that houses more than 200 small, creative businesses. Fashion designers, artists and djs rub shoulders with architects, photographers and illustrators. The courtyard is packed with Nathan Barley lookalikes: young (well, youngish) men and women wearing casualwear and black-rimmed spectacles and tucking into exotic-looking sandwiches and cups of steaming coffee.

Tucked away on the first floor of the old brewery is S2S Productions, the makers of one of this year's most talked-about British movies: Taking Liberties. The two-hour campaigning documentary on how Blair's government signed away our civil liberties - from the right to protest to freedom of speech to the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty - was a surprise hit last month, both critically and in terms of box-office stubs. There's also a book of the same name and the film will come out on DVD later this year (complete with two hours of extra, New Labour-baiting material). The film's director, Chris Atkins, is sitting at his desk. `Hold on a minute', he says. `I'm just sending an email to some bastard who's threatening to sue me.' I notice that, taped to his wall, there is a rifle and a pair of handcuffs, which makes me think for a minute that he is really serious about taking down our killjoy government. Alas - and please pay attention, any police officers who happen to be reading this - they're only toys. (That's right, American readers, we Brits do not have the right to bear real arms. How would we ever manage to overthrow a tyrannical regime without guns, I hear you ask? Good question. Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering the very same.)

`The loss of liberty under New Labour has been unprecedented in modern times', says Atkins, over a bowl of chips and a glass of orange juice and lemonade in a gastro-pub back in the Nathan Barley courtyard. `Labour flushed down the toilet freedoms that have existed for a very long time', he says (making me think of that `Freedom' toilet paper again).

Both the film and the book versions of Taking Liberties trace the reams of illiberal laws that were enacted by the Blair regime. You think you have free speech and the right to protest? Not any more you don't, thanks to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act that passed through parliament in April 2005 and which criminalised protest without permission. The Act made the square kilometre around Parliament Square in London a `designated area' (`more like a fucking "exclusion zone"', says Atkins) in which authorisation for any kind of protest must be sought six days in advance.

The exclusion zone, designed to protect the Houses of Parliament from the sight and sound of uppity protesters, spreads from Westminster to Lambeth, and covers the whole of Whitehall (which is peppered with government buildings), County Hall and much of the south bank of the Thames. Anyone who conducts an unauthorised protest inside the exclusion zone risks being imprisoned for up to 51 weeks. That's nearly a year. For protesting. As Atkins says, the authorities have `excluded political protest from the most political bit of London'. The fencing off of the political centre from last-minute, quickfire, angry demonstrations represents a serious denigration of our right to assemble and speak freely.

You think you could never be detained without trial? Think again. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was updated at the end of 2005 to allow suspects to be held without charge or trial for 28 days. Yesterday our new PM Gordon Brown put to parliament the case for extending the detention-without-trial option to 56 days. (This should have been taken as hard evidence that Brown is as allergic to liberty as his predecessor was. Instead, much of the media, where for some mysterious reason there has been an outbreak of Brown-nosing, congratulated the PM for rejecting `the melodramatic rhetoric of the last prime minister' in favour of articulating `the delicate balance between security and liberty' (1). So apparently it's okay to bin our liberties, so long as you do it in measured tones rather than with fiery bombast.) As Atkins points out, Habeas Corpus, the idea that `all detention is unlawful unless it has been approved by a court', has existed since the Magna Carta of 1215. `And then Blair comes along and scribbles it out', he says. The late comedian Tony Hancock put it well: `Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?' (2)

Atkins' book and film also attack the government's constant monitoring of the population, through CCTV cameras, numerous databases and soon (perhaps) ID cards. The book has a cutting chapter on how the Blairites' `Respect Agenda' has been used to force through new rules and regulations governing our behaviour. Consider Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which can be used to punish and correct behaviour that is not even illegal but which someone somewhere finds annoying. Describing ASBOs as a product of New Labour's politics of `Go And Stand In The Naughty Corner', Atkins writes in the book version of Taking Liberties: `Even though New Labour has been responsible for thousands of new criminal offences, you still have to be found guilty of one of these to go to prison. ASBOs neatly get around this little niggle, by having tailor-made restrictions for each individual person.. If you are doing something that isn't against the law, but someone else doesn't like, they can go to a magistrates' court and get one of these orders that bans you acting in that way. If you break the ASBO, you go to jail.' (3)

In very plain English: you can now be imprisoned for doing something that is not against the law. This can include wearing a hooded sweatshirt in a shopping mall or making a lot of noise while you wash your dishes or gathering on street corners in groups of two or more or.hold on, this list could go on forever. To save time, yours and mine, let me state the bald truth: the ASBOs set-up means you can effectively and potentially be imprisoned for just about anything. Where's Magna Carta when we need her most?

Atkins is clearly passionate about civil liberties. He talks animatedly, in between wolfing down mouthfuls of a steak-and-salad sandwich, about how important the rights to protest and free speech are. It makes a refreshing change from listening to those sometimes dull civil libertarians who clog up the airwaves and who can't seem to get through a single sentence without bigging up Brussels as the true defender of our rights. (This is the same Brussels that scolds entire nations for voting the `wrong way' in EU referendums.) And yet. there's something peculiar about Atkins' defence of liberty, which I couldn't put my finger on at first. Then, as he tried to convince me that most Sun and Daily Mail readers do not appreciate how British and traditional liberty is, or that their hero - Winston Churchill - was apparently a great defender of liberty, it suddenly strikes me: the Taking Liberties project is actually conservative rather than radical. It uses the `politics of fear' as much as the Blairities did, and it seems to view freedom as a tradition that we must respect rather than as a thing that we do in our daily lives.

One of the most striking things about the film version of Taking Liberties is what it leaves out. It's good on the degradation of our formal rights, but it has little to say about the creeping erosion of our informal freedoms. It's good on the way in which the relationship between the state and the individual was redefined by the Blairites (with the state coming out very much on top), but it is silent on the Blairites' interference in our relationships with each other. For instance, it says nothing about the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, a shockingly Stalinist piece of legislation which will codify the requirement for every adult who works with children to undergo a criminal records check. Built on a deep suspicion of the adult population, enforced vetting will require that 9.5million adults - from youth workers to lollipop ladies, football coaches to priests - submit themselves to the watchful eye of the suspicious state. This can only poison intergenerational trust and undermine free and easy relations between men, women and children.

Nor does Taking Liberties address New Labour's smoking bans, which take away our choice even in that traditional getaway from stuffiness, the public house. Or its ban on junk-food advertising, which usurps parental decision-making on the basis that Government Knows Best what children should eat. Or its use of the health agenda to enforce a New Conformism amongst the public, where we're advised what to eat, how much exercise to take, what to wear while having sex (condoms, please), and how to raise our children as healthy and respectful citizens in the mould of our Dear Leaders (first Blair, now Brown).

Taking Liberties seems able to conceive of freedom only in the public sphere of courts and demonstrations; it has a blind spot about freedom and choice in the private sphere. Yet libertarians, alongside defending public space from the encroachments of heavyhanded legislation, must also defend private spaces as areas where we should be free to kick back, relax, experiment and make and break our own rules. A man needs an unfettered private space in which to mould relationships and develop his personality, as well as deserving respect, equality and freedom of speech when he enters the public sphere.

At times, Taking Liberties uses a very Blairite brand of fearmongering in an attempt to wake the apparently fickle public to the dangers of New Labour's illiberalism. The film hints that we could slide back to Nazism if we don't resist New Labour's illiberal agenda, while the book berates its readers by asking if they will simply `chuckle at the jokes, feel sorry for the people whose lives have been ruined, and then go back to watching "Celebrity Face Swap"' (4). Both the film and the book seem to be saying: `Don't you know there is a long tradition of freedom in Britain? Aren't you going to help defend this tradition?' The redefinition of freedom as a stuffy tradition risks devaluing liberty, while also placing people in a subordinate relation to their own freedom. Apparently our role is merely to respect the freedoms that have been graciously handed down to us by heroes of the past (Winston Churchill!), rather than to live and breathe our freedoms every day, to act them out, to call for their expansion and improvement. People should not be seen as the passive and grateful recipients of rights from on high; they should be seen as freedom personified, as freedom itself.

Atkins says we need a `written bill of rights' in order to protect freedom from power-hungry politicians. It comes across like a demand to elevate freedom above the messy business of life, love and politics. In the past, constitutions and bills of rights tended to be written in revolutionary moments by the representatives of mass movements, and thus they expressed a genuine desire on the part of large swathes of people to live differently and more freely. By contrast, a bill of rights that was based on a fear of out-of-control politicians and a suspicion of the celebrity-obsessed public would run the risk of turning freedom into stone, ossifying it, making it a museum piece that can be admired by lawyers and professional civil libertarians but which remains beyond the reach of the smoking, drinking, junk food-eating man in the street.

Atkins has done a good job of exposing to public ridicule New Labour's assault on formal rights (and I can't help noting the irony that his civil libertarian cell emerged from the heart of the `creative industries' that were so flattered by the Blairites). But we have much further to go if we are to turn freedom from rhetoric into a reality.


ACLU sides with gangs

Fed up with deadly drive-by shootings, incessant drug dealing and graffiti, cities nationwide are trying a different tactic to combat gangs: They're suing them. Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.

The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don't allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint. "It is another tool," said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. "This is more of a proactive approach."

But critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth. "If you're barring people from talking in the streets, it's difficult to tell if they're gang members or if they're people discussing issues," said Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "And it's all the more troubling because it doesn't seem to be effective." ....

Los Angeles now has 33 permanent injunctions involving 50 gangs, and studies have shown they do reduce crime, said Jonathan Diamond, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. The injunctions prohibit gang members from associating with each other, carrying weapons, possessing drugs, committing crimes and displaying gang symbols in a safety zone - neighborhoods where suspected gang members live and are most active. Some injunctions set curfews for members and ban them from possessing alcohol in public areas - even if they're of legal drinking age.

Those who disobey the order face a misdemeanor charge and up to a year in jail. Prosecutors say the possibility of a jail stay - however short - is a strong deterrent, even for gang members who've already served hard time for other crimes....

The ACLU and other critics of gang injunctions favor community programs. The Rev. Jack Crane, pastor of Truevine Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, is helping Anderson's group provide gang members with counseling, shoes and other resources needed to help them escape that life. [Yeah! that's going to be REALLY effective -- I don't think]

More here

The inverted snobbery of the long-distance traveller

"I'M NOT a tourist, I'm a traveller." I cringe every time I hear some self-righteous backpacker say these words. As if staying in some crappy concrete box that's one step up from a jail cell makes you oh-so-much-more wonderful than the person who can afford to stay at the hotel down the road.

"Oh, they just sit there in their cosy tour buses get out at the sights, take a few pictures then go back to their air-conditioned hotel." As opposed to the traveller, who crams onto the local bus, goes to the sights, takes a few pictures before returning to their concrete box or the local bar. Despite the fact that if you go on an organised tour, you quite often get to go places that someone travelling independently would never get the chance to go to because it isn't mentioned in their Lonely Planet guide.

"Travellers" look down their noses at people on organised tours, seeing them as sheep, unable to make decisions for themselves or survive overseas without someone holding their hand.

These same travellers will fall into a panic if they misplace their Lonely Planet guide. You'll often hear a traveller before you see them. They'll be the ones haggling with the downtrodden rickshaw man over an amount of money they wouldn't even bother to pick up if they saw it on the ground at home. "It's not the money, it's the principle," they'll tell you, while sucking on a fag that cost twice as much as what they were haggling over. As part of the experience, a traveller needs to dress the part. Flowing skirts, fishermen's pants - and other clothes they wouldn't be caught dead in at home - are worn until they fall apart and washed only infrequently. The locals look on, confused as to how a person can afford to stop working and travel across the world, yet not have money for laundry.

Travellers like to think that, unlike tourists, they are experiencing the real "insert place name here". More often than not, however, you'll find them in a bar, chatting to other "travellers" about how wonderful it is to "travel" and pity the poor fools who don't do it. They'll feel authentic eating from street stalls, rather than a restaurant "because that's where the locals eat". Yeah, the locals and hundreds of other travellers.

They look down their noses at mass-produced souvenirs, preferring something more "authentic", which is just as mass-produced, it's just they bought it from a stall around the corner from the main tourist drag. There isn't anything wrong with roughing it while you travel, just stop thinking that your el-cheapo room and bowl of noodles makes you superior to everyone else. You're holidaying in a foreign country. You're a tourist. Get over it.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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