Sunday, September 30, 2007

Banning Boyhood

Huck Finn must be spinning in his literary grave. Just recently a Colorado Springs, Co., elementary school banned tag during recess, joining other schools that have prohibited this childhood pastime. Upon hearing this, I thought about the movement to ban cops and robbers, musical chairs, steal the bacon, and the kill-joys' most frequent target and this writer's favorite childhood school game, dodge ball. Then there's the more inane still, such as the decision by the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association to prohibit keeping score in kids' tournament play.

There are many ways to describe this trend. One might say it's a result of the left's antipathy toward competition, the increasing litigiousness of the day, or the inordinate concern with self-esteem and hurt feelings. Then, if I am to speak only of my feelings, the word stupid comes to mind. Really, though, regardless of whether the motivations are good or ill or the reasoning sound or not, at the end of the day I find a conclusion inescapable. Slowly, incrementally, perversely, boyhood is being banned.

Make no mistake, the aforementioned examples are not isolated social accidents but part of a pattern. Recently I was talking to a friend who has two young sons, and he mentioned how he bought their toy machine-gun and revolver at a garage sale. He and his wife remarked about how it was the only way to find realistic-looking toy guns nowadays, the kind that were staples of Boydom when I was a lad. Oh, toy guns can still be seen -- that is, when they aren't prohibited by crime-ridden cities or crazy moms -- but they don't resemble anything John Wayne would have wielded. Often misshapen, more and more they come only in colors that, well, men aren't known for being acquainted with, ones that some would describe as "girly."

Getting back to the People's Republic of Massachusetts' soccer league, it was so concerned about the poor little eggs' feelings that it also decided no one should get trophies. This isn't unusual, as the practice of awarding trophies to all or none is now often adopted, lest a tear run down a cherubic face. Moreover, frowning upon competition - which boys thrive on --isn't limited to frivolous pursuits, as schools increasingly dispense with merit-based academic models in favor of schemes such as "Outcome Based Education" (it's nothing like what it sounds).

No doubt some will chide me for casting these preferences as being characteristically male. Sure, not every boy craves competition any more than every girl eschews it, but the sexes are different. Boys love games, sports and locking horns; they love hierarchies and high-fives; they love guns, soldiers and shoot-`em-up games. Namely, they love things that are slowly being taken away from them or curtailed.

As I indicated earlier, there are many reasons why we've departed from sanity. The threat of litigation is real, and this article cites the case of seven-year-old Heather Lindaman, whose parents are suing their school because she broke her elbow while playing a variation of dodge ball. The opponents of such games use cases like Lindaman's to buttress the assertion that they are too dangerous for children. I'll only say that this is hogwash -- as all activities entail risk -- because it's irrelevant to my main point. Regardless of why these prohibitions are instituted, the end result is the same: Boys' passions are being exiled. Dangerous? You may as well just say that boyhood is dangerous.

Of course, we could do what one school that banned dodge ball did: Switch to yogic exercises. Wow! And liberals say that conservatives are no fun? Why is it that the most childish understand childhood the least?

While leftists may be childish, they conjure up pseudo-intellectual reasons for their social engineering like seasoned psycho-babblers. Tag leads to "conflict on the playground" and some students being chased "against their will," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus in Colorado Springs (my particular discovery is that the school is run by lunkheads). Dodge ball is emotionally damaging to less athletic children; it "hurts their self-esteem," is how it's usually put. David Limbaugh wrote about this attitude:
Diane Farr, a curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, explained that her school district implemented the [dodge ball] ban to satisfy a panel of professors, students and parents who wanted to `preserve the rights and dignity' of all students in the district. So dodge ball is a dignity thief? Of course, claims Farr. `What we have seen is that it does not make students feel good about themselves.' There's more. According to one anti-dodge ball crusader, `at its base, the game encourages the strong to victimize the weak. ... Schools preach the values of harmony, community and cooperation. But then those same schools let the big kids loose to see if they can hit the skinny nerd in the head with a hard, red rubber ball.'
Call me crazy, but the people who disgorge these notions just must have been skinny nerds in school. That is, the variety without the brains or ambition to be Bill Gates. Limbaugh continues,
"Educators also fear that dodge ball is not only violent, but that it and other games convey `a message of violence.' `With Columbine and all the violence that we are having, we have to be careful with how we teach our children,' says Farr."
We certainly do, and that's why we should keep them far from Farr and her ilk. These crackpots are just a few degraded brain cells away from saying (about football) that "violent ground acquisition games are a neo-fascist metaphor for war." Just as outrageous as these prohibitions is the persecution of hapless lads who run afoul of them. Limbaugh wrote of this as well:
The Washington Times recently detailed a litany of examples, including: a threatened suspension in California of a 9-year-old for playing cops and robbers, two New York 2nd-graders suspended and criminally charged with making terrorist threats for pointing paper guns and saying, `I'm going to kill you,' and a 9-year-old New Jersey boy suspended and ordered to undergo psychological evaluation because he told another student that he planned to shoot a classmate with spitballs.
Could it be any clearer? They are diagnosing normal boyhood behavior as a psychological problem. After all, even if little boys don't have toy guns, how many won't point a stick or their finger at you and say "Bang, bang, you're dead!"? It's also interesting to note that the very same people who will lecture us for not subscribing to the notion that homosexual behavior is innate and healthy will swear that this normal boyish behavior is learned and destructive.

Then there is that which is truly destructive. It's something dark, a motivation that lurks in the hearts of many who advocate this insanity. To wit: There is an increasingly common antipathy for all things male, especially in academia. This attitude was highlighted by Christina Hoff Summers in her book The War Against Boys. Summers cites feminists such as Carol Gilligan, who believes that we should, as Summers puts it, "... civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity," and Gloria Steinem, who counsels us to "Raise boys like we raise girls." And in this category I would also put certain men such as Harvard psychologist William Pollock, who wrote the book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. Really, our children do need to be rescued from myths, but they're not of boyhood.

We should also realize that education has increasingly become a feminine domain. While in 1982 there were 1.4 female teachers for every male, now the figure is 2.1. This is not to imply that the fairer sex can't have a sound teaching philosophy, but the fact is that far too many young women today are in the grip of feminist dogma. Moreover, the type of women who become teachers is also an issue; for instance, let us consider graduates with degrees in Women's Studies. Such people are mostly women, and since there aren't many careers available to those with such illustrious qualifications, many of these ideologues decide to teach.

And the problem with such individuals is that -- just as an Afrocentrist views matters through the prism of race and a Jihadist through that of believers versus infidels -- they tend to see everything as a battle of the sexes. In their minds, the ever-present "patriarchy" will only be vanquished and women liberated (of course, they will never see this as having been achieved) once boys are sufficiently reprogrammed. Masculine traits that may enable boys to be dominant must be quashed, because otherwise they may dominate women. These are people like Swedish politician Gudrun Schyman, who said that Swedish men were like the Taliban. The truth is that the women in question are the Femiban.

Many will protest, of course, insisting that anti-male bias doesn't rule their minds. And perhaps it doesn't in some cases. But their hearts are a different matter, complex and containing biases that aren't always so conscious; rather, it may be more a matter of visceral dislike, a feeling. The liberals in question see masculine symbols and behavior and feel an aversion, in much the same way a person with a fear of heights may get a queasy feeling upon seeing airplanes or tall buildings. So, unwilling to confront their prejudices, they manufacture excuses. Dodge ball is dangerous, cops and robbers is violent, musical chairs is exclusive, tag terrorizes. If only they would be intellectually honest and reveal their true feelings: Boys are bad.

Perhaps this is why these social engineers will see a bevy of boisterous boys and want to douse their masculinity with Ritalin.


Delhi shows how to get tough with Islamist terrorists

I am less optimistic about the generalizability of the Indian experience than is the author below but he has some interesting points

IT is a wonderful thing to be in a big, raucous Asian city, to hear the loud, insistent crackling of unexpected, multiple explosions at night, and to know for sure that it is the exuberance of celebration, not the malevolence of terrorism, that has caused the racket. Such was New Delhi this week, after India won the nail-biting final of the Twenty20 cricket tournament against Pakistan.

The struggle for the soul of Indian Islam may be expressed at one level as a struggle between cricket and the caliphate. Cricket is the symbol of the good India. It is inclusive, non-sectarian, modern yet traditional, capable of change yet preserving its core identity, loved by rich and poor across the length and breadth of the nation. The Indian cricket team contains Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, mainly lower middle-class boys who cultivate film star looks as much as possible, and is dedicatedly non-sectarian.

Yet there is undoubtedly a struggle for the soul of Indian Islam. India is the second largest Muslim nation, after Indonesia, yet the fate of global Islam is always seen as primarily an Arab question.

But here are two notable paradoxes. Indonesia, with more Muslims than any other nation, is arguably the most successful country in combating Islamist terror. And India, with more than 150 million Muslims, has produced fewer international terrorists than almost any other substantial concentration of Muslims.

There are numbers of terrorist incidents inside India, many of them sponsored by Pakistan, but until recently not a single Indian Muslim had turned up in the ranks of international terrorism. None has been incarcerated in Guantanamo. None was discovered in Afghanistan or Iraq. This record was broken by the recent attack on Glasgow airport, which involved Indians. Still, Islam in India is a remarkable success story, notwithstanding a history of some communal conflict.

After a week talking to New Delhi's finest analysts on the subject, there are some contradictory trends at work. But there are some powerful automatic stabilisers. The Muslim identity in India is deeply attached to the secular state because the secular state has guaranteed the rights of minorities. If you are an Indian Muslim and you argue for religious rule you are really arguing for Hindu rule. Muslims in a minority often find themselves embracing secularism.

Moreover, Indian Muslims, with one or two minor regional exceptions, have avoided forming a specific Muslim political party. To do so would be to run the risk of uniting Hindus against them. Instead, in an act of historic wisdom, they force the other parties to bid for their support. They make calculated alliances with other minorities and with low-caste Hindu groups.

The one time there was a powerful Muslim League in India it led to the horrific slaughter and tragedy of partition, and the emergence of the basically unsuccessful state of Pakistan. No sane Muslim really wants to repeat that experience. Most important of all, of course, is the sense that as a democracy the Indian state can address the problems and reasonable aspirations of Muslims.

India is full of intelligence, expertise and important lessons in inter-communal affairs and especially in counterinsurgency. One of the most fascinating cases of all is the Sikh insurgency, which ran in the Punjab until the mid-1990s. Sikhism is one of the world's great religions, with tens of millions of adherents. It is a monotheistic, natural law sort of religion, founded a half millennium ago in northern India, specifically in the Punjab. Sikhs have a great military tradition and a proud bearing, and served in the British and Indian armies with great distinction.

In history there had been Sikh kingdoms and through the '70s to the early '90s a tough independence campaign was waged by various Sikh insurgent groups in the Punjab. But in one of the most successful counterinsurgency campaigns ever, legendary Sikh policeman K.P.S. Gill brought the insurgency to a more or less complete end. Punjab today is safe and sound, and has one of the highest per capita incomes in India. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh.

How did this happen? This week I met one of India's foremost experts on extremism, Praveen Swami, the associate editor of Frontline magazine. He believes there are enduring lessons from the Punjab experience that should be applied to other counterinsurgent campaigns. Of course, one aspect of Gill's reign was that he was very tough on the bad guys and there were apparently excesses committed. But Swami identifies three positive elements of strategy that should be widely emulated.

"First, it was treated as primarily a police matter," Swami says. "The army was relegated to a secondary role, where it was necessary to use large numbers of troops to form a cordon or some such. The police tend to be so enmeshed with their local communities that they can respond subtly and effectively."

This is critical also in intelligence gathering. The police live among the community. There are countless reasons, from document certification to reporting a stolen car, that people go into police stations. It is much easier for an alert police force to gain critical local information and to gain it from a much wider range of sources than merely paid informers.

Second, Swami says, Gill was a master of psychological operations. The terrorists would boast that they owned the night, that the Indian state functioned during the day but could not work at night. So on one occasion Gill brought a Bollywood star to perform for the public at night. Even terrorism cannot defeat the power of Bollywood. On other occasions Gill ran a program called Operation Night Dominance. It involved people whizzing about town in armoured vehicles and helicopters buzzing overhead.

Swami says he, like most journalists at the time, regarded the operation as a complete flop as it did not result in the capture of a single terrorist. But in fact, as he found later from interviewing ex-terrorists, it greatly confused and constrained the terrorists. It stopped them from moving about at night, which made them much more prone to capture during the day, as they had not been able to change their location overnight.

Lesson No3, says Swami, was to get an effective political process going. This involved holding credible local elections, which gave the national Indian state a local administration to deal with and compromise with. To make this effective it was necessary to protect the lives of local political leaders so that the terrorists could not kill off an emerging local leadership. Eventually the population came overwhelmingly to trust its elected local political leaders much more than communal figures who supported any sort of violent path.

Instead of a lingering slow torture of sporadic violence, the Sikh terrorist movement is at an end and Sikhs are back rightfully in their place at the heart of Indian life.

On every issue facing the globe today, India is an important player. Its experience with its vast minorities, Muslims and others, is a telling case in point.


Empty-headed Australia-bashing from Leftists

It is so often asserted as a truism: Australians have become more selfish, narrower, more materialistic. In February we had the great pleasure of having an Englishman, Oliver James, visit to diagnose the Australian malady for us as "selfish capitalism".

While in Sydney visit to promote his book, Affluenza, he dropped into Bondi and instantly distilled the vibe for us: "This kind of 'f--- you, we're rich' type thing." Now we have Hugh Mackay's book, Advance Australia Where? The veteran social researcher tells us of the findings of his focus groups: "Australians typically offer three explanations for the belief that our society is 'degenerating': a lack of connectedness (People won't even look you in the eye in the big cities); a surrender to materialism (I actually think we have too much, it makes you want more); unbridled selfishness (It's all me, me, me)."

This idea becomes politically potent when blame is attributed. Some explicitly hold the Howard Government responsible. After the 2004 election, Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute wrote that "the relentless promotion of self-interest and the rejection of the politics of social progress is no more than we should expect from the Liberal Party".

I have long been troubled by the idea that the Australian people have become so selfish. I have also been struck that all of these claims are impressionistic or anecdotal or ideological, unsupported by empirical evidence. This puts them on the level of assertion, not fact. So let's test the claim. On the level of anecdote, you can always find evidence of anything you seek. But there are always contrary anecdotes. The real question is this: What does the systemic evidence tell us? Consider two measures. One is the level of charitable giving. The other is the level of volunteering in the community. If the country has become more selfish, surely one or both of these indicators will show a decline.

The most comprehensive survey of overall Australian giving found that, from 1997 to the end of 2004, individuals increased their total donations to non-profit organisations by 88 per cent, or an annual average increase of 12.5 per cent. Giving for victims of the Asian tsunami is explicitly excluded - no one can claim that any extraordinary one-offs somehow distorted the picture. Want to take out the effects of inflation? After adjusting for inflation, growth was 58 per cent, an annual average of 8.3 per cent. Note that this does not just represent a passive "ride" on a growing economy or rising incomes. The growth in individual giving was more than twice the speed of GDP growth and more than double the rate of the average increase in personal incomes.

The annual cash value was $7.7 billion in 2004. Is this unrepresentative, though? Eighty-seven per cent of adult Australians, a total of 13.4 million people, donated, according to the report, Giving Australia, which was co-ordinated by the Australian Council of Social Service and initiated by the Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership. If you're wondering about averages, the survey deducts $2 billion generated by charity events, and then figures out an average donation of $424 per adult per year. Incidentally, the numbers don't support the common assertion that Melburnians (average donation $485) are more generous than Sydneysiders ($524).

Companies gave a further $3.3 billion, contributed by 525,000 firms, which represents 67 per cent of all businesses in the country. The survey was unable, for methodological reasons, to measure the overall change in total business giving, but it did report that the proportion of businesses donating money - as distinct from goods or services - grew from 40 per cent to 58 per cent.

The increased generosity of Australian giving has implications at all levels. Last month, rich Australians gave donations worth $15 million to three competing art galleries, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Australia. At the less glamorous end of the spectrum, Father Chris Riley's Youth Off the Streets charity is able to increase the scope of the services it offers. This year, it is expanding to Griffith and Walgett, and will need an extra $600,000. "We are going to be able to fund it through donations - we have never gone into overdraft," says Father Riley, whose organisation this year has budgeted for total outlays of $15.5 million. "Our fundraising with everyday people is rising all the time. Our greatest supporters are ordinary people, parents and grandparents and pensioners who send $5 cheques, rather than the big end of town. Our results in June with the 50,000 people on our mailing list was particularly good."

Australian gifts to good causes overseas have surged even more conspicuously than gifts at home. Figures collated by the umbrella group for non-government organisations which specialise in foreign aid, the Australian Council for International Development, show that private Australian giving abroad has risen at an annual average of 13 per cent from from $391 million in 2002 to $690 million in 2006. That's an annual average increase of 19 per cent, or 16 per cent after inflation. This is private giving only, nothing to do with government aid. (The trend of rising private generosity abroad has survived the tsunami. Last year's $690 million is far greater, by 35 per cent, than the $509 million for pre-tsunami 2004.) World Vision's Tim Costello sums it up: "Fundraising has been fantastic." He dates the surge to the terrorist attacks of September 2001: "I think Australians have redefined home. They know you can't be secure at home by pulling up the drawbridge. You can't win a war on terror without winning the war on poverty."

This ranks Australians as the second-most generous people, behind the Irish, in the developed world, according to the OECD measure of donations abroad as a proportion of the national economy.

And volunteering? There are two measures. According to the Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of people donating time to a non-profit organisation has grown from 24 per cent in 1995 to 41 per cent in 2005. The average number of hours donated had, however, fallen, from 160 per volunteer to 132. The second measure is a survey by Volunteering Australia, the peak body for the sector, which finds the same trend, with different specifics: the proportion of Australians volunteering time has grown from 24 per cent in 1996 to 34 per cent last year. The overall picture in volunteering "is one of growth", says its chief executive, Julie Pollard.

So an outfit like the NSW Cancer Council, which has 3000 volunteers, reports that it is has multiple applicants for each volunteer position it offers: "It's definitely increased over time; it's becoming a huge thing here," says a volunteer program co-ordinator, Nadine Constantini.

Far from being selfish, the hard evidence is that Australians are not only a generous people, but becoming more so. If there is no intensification of selfishness, it's hard to fit up the Howard Government, or anyone else, for the blame. There is no such phenomenon. The entire construct is a mirage, a furphy, a chimera. Messrs James, Mackay and Hamilton, begone. Australians are an increasingly generous people, and entitled to be acknowledged for it.


The N-word in Australia

If elected to office, Labor is committed to set up scores of inquiries and commissions into this or that. In view of such bureaucratic largesse, there must be room for at least one more such initiative - along the lines of an inquiry/commission into the use or misuse of historical parallels in the domestic political debate. This might be established by Labor's deputy leader Julia Gillard, who has committed a government headed by Kevin Rudd to establish a commission for social inclusion. As for the title for such an entity - how about the commission for historical exclusion?

In Parliament last Thursday, Gillard made the point that to compare someone to a Nazi is "one of the most repulsive allegations you can make against another human being". Quite so. She was referring to the clumsy attempt recently by the Coalition staffer Dr Peter Phelps to allege that Labor's candidate for Eden-Monaro, Colonel Mike Kelly, was attempting to use the Nuremberg defence to justify his past involvement with the Australian Defence Force in Iraq.

Phelps was trying to argue that Kelly now regards the invasion of Iraq as improper but that he willingly served with the Australian Defence Force in Iraq. A reasonable debating point - until Phelps went over the top by alleging that Kelly was acting "like the guards at Belsen, perhaps". The historical reference was to the fact that many Nazis, who took part in the murder of Jews and gypsies at Belsen and elsewhere, later pleaded that they were only obeying orders. This line of defence was not accepted by the war crimes tribunals which were held at Nuremberg, following the end of the Second World War.

Phelps's essential error was to attempt to equate service with the Defence Force in democratic Australia with the actions of those who implemented the genocidal policies of Adolf Hitler's Nazi totalitarian regime between 1933 and 1945. Following the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office, Phelps formally apologised to Kelly for his "clearly inappropriate" reference.

Phelps is not the first Coalition supporter to use the Nazi label when criticising political opponents. For example, some years ago senator Amanda Vanstone accused the Labor prime minister Paul Keating of behaving like the Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. However, this tactic is much more common on the left side of the Australian political debate. Consequently, it is something that Gillard might see fit to resolve if she becomes deputy prime minister.

It will be quite a task. The fact is that large sections of the Australian left like to link their political opponents with Hitler's Nazi regime or Mussolini's Italian fascist regime. Now that the left has got over its one-time love affair with Bolshevism, some leftists also like to invoke the communism/Stalinism comparison as a term of abuse.

Writing in The Sunday Age on April 1 this year, Robert Richter, QC, went for the double. He claimed that the United States military commission which tried David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay could be compared to "Stalin's as well as the German show trials of the 1930s". In other words, the US military justice system - which was supported by the Howard Government - is a bit like the show trials that prevailed under communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes during the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler respectively. Julian Burnside, QC, is another Melbourne barrister who has raised the spectre of Hitler's Germany when criticising the Howard Government.

If Phelps qualifies for some Gillard-style counselling, then so do Richter and Burnside. And so should the Victorian Greens which recently compared the ALP to "hardened SS troops". And so should NSW magistrate Pat O'Shane who last June criticised Rudd for supporting Howard's (alleged) "jackboot" policies concerning Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The term "jackboot" invariably equates with Nazism.

Then there are the journalists. In the current issue of Quarterly Essay, Peter Shergold (the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet) comments on his reaction when reading a Mike Carlton column that equated his views on the proper role of the Commonwealth Public Service with the position of "Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot". For good measure, Carlton threw in a reference to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Little wonder that Shergold maintains that such attempt at humour "is more offensive than incisive". Then there is the case of the journalist Mungo McCallum who claimed in November 2005 that, in a literal sense, the Howard Government is taking Australia on "the road to fascism". In April 2006, on this page, Alan Ramsey wrote seriously of contemporary Australia's "parallels with Hitler's Germany". And so on.

Within Australian universities there is a prevailing attitude in many a humanities department that Australia was in a pre-fascist condition in the early 1930s and on the eve of the civil war. The historian Andrew Moore has gone so far as to allege that in the 1950s, when Robert Menzies was prime minister, "it is not so very far from the truth" to suggest that the Lodge in Canberra was "Australian fascism's headquarters". Moore's approach to history was recently supported by the editorial writer in the leftist-inclined Canberra Times.

The linking of democratic Australia - under conservative or social democratic governments - with fascism or Nazism or communism not only indicates a superficial understanding of this nation. Perhaps more seriously, it demonstrates an appalling ignorance of the real totalitarian thing under Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin. Gillard's critique of Phelps is to be welcomed. However, she should not forget her own comrades who share Phelps's historical confusion - albeit from a different ideological perspective.



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.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

ACLU: Privacy for deviants only

Ladies have lots of things to do in front of restroom mirrors and would not at all like some weirdo leering at them while they do it. But too bad for them says the ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union has argued in recent years that the right to privacy is so expansive it extends even to partial-birth abortion, in which a doctor kills a fully formed, almost-born child with scissors. "The ACLU has a long history of vigorously defending the right to privacy -- including the right to reproductive freedom," the organization told the Supreme Court last year in a brief arguing that partial-birth abortion is a constitutional right.

But two recent court cases demonstrate there is at least one place where the ACLU rejects the right to privacy -- at least for certain classes of people. It is in the bathroom. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge David Sam, who spurned the ACLU's claim that an anatomical male had a right to use women's restrooms.

Krsytal Etsitty, the plaintiff, had described herself, according to Judge Sam's opinion, as a "pre-operative transsexual." In 1999, Etsitty changed his name from Michael to Krystal and the sex designation on his driver's license from male to female. He took hormones that altered his "outward appearance in some ways." But he did not change his anatomy.

In 2001, the Utah Transit Authority hired him to be a bus driver. Judge Sam, who referred to Etsitty by the female pronoun, said: "At the time she applied for her job with UTA and throughout the training period, plaintiff dressed as a man and used the men's restroom." After he was hired, however, Etsitty informed his supervisor that "she was transsexual and that she would be appearing more traditionally female at work." This posed a logistical problem for the bus company. It had arranged for its drivers to have access to the public restrooms at certain businesses along its routes. Would Etsitty use the male or female restrooms?

Etsitty informed her supervisors, according to the court, "that she had some kind of written direction that required that she use female restrooms." The supervisors told Etsitty "they were concerned about potential liability from co-workers, customers and the general public as a result of plaintiff, a biological male, using female restrooms." The company let her go, notifying her, as reported by Findlaw, that she would be eligible for rehiring "once she completed the surgery." Etsitty sued, citing a federal law that bans discrimination based on "sex."

In the ACLU's view, not only was Etsitty's anatomy irrelevant, so, too, was the right to privacy of anyone who happened to be in a women's room Etsitty might use. "(N)o court has ever held that there is any legal right to privacy that would be violated simply by permitting a transgender person to use a public bathroom that corresponds to his or her gender identity," said the ACLU.

Besides, even if privacy was an issue in public restrooms, the ACLU suggested, the architecture in such facilities protects it. As Etsitty had explained to his supervisors, according to the ACLU, his anatomy would be shielded from others using the women's rooms "because there are stalls for privacy."

Alas, the ACLU published this brief two years ago -- apparently failing to anticipate that Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho would someday seek to withdraw his guilty plea for engaging in "disorderly conduct" in a men's room stall. In a brief submitted this month supporting Craig's claim, the ACLU argued that what the senator is alleged to have done in an airport bathroom is free speech protected by the First Amendment -- no matter what some guy seeking a little privacy in the next stall might think about it. "The government does not have a constitutionally sufficient justification for making private sex a crime," said the ACLU. "It follows that an invitation to have private sex is constitutionally protected and may not be made a crime. This is so even where the proposition occurs in a public place, whether in a bar or a restroom."

But then the ACLU went a step further, arguing that there is not only a right to solicit sex, but also to engage in it, in a public restroom. "The Minnesota Supreme Court," said the ACLU, "has already ruled that two men engaged in sexual activity in a department store restroom with the stall door closed had a reasonable expectation of privacy. They were, the Court held, therefore acting in a private, not a public place."

The conflated logic of the ACLU's bathroom briefs seems to be that someone entering a public restroom intending to use it for traditional purposes has no protection either from the gender sign posted at the door or from the otherwise vaunted right to privacy. Someone entering a public restroom intending to solicit and engage in sex, on the other hand, is protected by both the First Amendment and the right to privacy.

What else would you expect from a group that embraces an ideology that holds that partially born babies have no right to keep their skulls intact?


Politics should trump quality in poetry prize

So say some:

The cloistered community of American poetry has, in recent months, become a little less like Yeats's Land of Faery, where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue, and a little more like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." The board of the 97-year-old Poetry Society of America, whose members have included many of the most august names in verse, has been rocked by a string of resignations and accusations of McCarthyism, conservatism and simple bad management.

The recent turmoil was driven, partly, by fierce discussion among board members earlier this year after they voted to award the Frost Medal, an annual honor given by the society, to John Hollander, a prolific poet and critic. The concern was whether it was proper to take into consideration some past remarks made by Mr. Hollander - remarks that some felt were disturbing - in bestowing the medal. Of course, as with many a board squabble, personality disputes and misunderstandings also played their part in the fracas.

Last Friday, William Louis-Dreyfus, who had been president of the board for the last six years, officially stepped down and quit the board, becoming the fifth person on the 19-member board to resign this year. This spring Walter Mosley, the novelist, resigned, and he was later joined by Elizabeth Alexander, a poet and professor of African-American and American studies at Yale University; Rafael Campo, a poet and professor at Harvard Medical School; and Mary Jo Salter, a poet and a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, who runs an international commodities trading and shipping firm and dabbles in writing poetry, said he resigned partly to protest what he regarded as an "exercise of gross reactionary thinking" among the other board members who left in the wake of the award to Mr. Hollander, a retired English professor at Yale.

When Mr. Hollander was considered for the award three years ago, some members raised comments he had made in interviews, reviews and elsewhere that they felt should be examined when judging his candidacy. In one example, Mr. Hollander, writing a rave review in The New York Times Book Review of the collected poems of Jay Wright, an African-American poet, referred to "cultures without literatures - West African, Mexican and Central American." And in an interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," a reporter paraphrased Mr. Hollander as contending "there isn't much quality work coming from nonwhite poets today."

Other board members said they felt that such comments were not characteristic of Mr. Hollander's views or had been misinterpreted. Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said that even if the comments were representative, they were irrelevant criteria for judging the Frost Medal, just as he would argue that Ezra Pound's anti-Semitism should not detract from the literary appreciation of his work.

In some ways the questions about Mr. Hollander's remarks reflect a broader debate over whether the evaluation of artistic merit should be affected by the sometimes unsavory opinions or actions of the artist. Last year, for example, Germany was stunned when Guenter Grass, the Nobel Prize winner, confessed that he had joined the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazis, when he was 17. At the time, some people argued that he should renounce his Nobel.

At the Poetry Society the stakes are much lower, and nobody has suggested that Mr. Hollander should be stripped of the Frost Medal, which is given for "distinguished lifetime service to American poetry." Late last year, at the hastily called and poorly attended meeting where the board again discussed him as a finalist for the award, his previous remarks did not come up again.

But when an e-mail message went out to the board announcing that Mr. Hollander had won the vote, Mr. Mosley replied with his own succinct message: "My reaction to this decision is to announce my resignation." Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, who immediately assumed that Mr. Mosley was quitting because of objections to Mr. Hollander's previous comments, wrote a reply to Mr. Mosley that he copied to all members of the board. In an interview, Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said he objected to Mr. Mosley's resignation because "it seemed to me to be based on an inappropriate reason that didn't have anything to do with the quality of Hollander's work, which is what the Frost Medal is given for."

In an interview Mr. Mosley declined to comment on whether Mr. Hollander's remarks had influenced his decision. He said he resigned from the Poetry Society because the decision to give the medal to Mr. Hollander "represents a conservative trend on the board that I don't think is at all inclusive to all the elements of poetry and all the people of poetry." Since 1941, out of 38 winners of the Frost medal, only three have been nonwhite.

Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, however, focused on what he believed were Mr. Mosley's motives - namely, protesting Mr. Hollander's extra-poetic remarks. "It's as if you have to approve of the man's politics before you can praise his poetry," Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said. "I am terrified of McCarthyism in whatever clothes it wears."

More here

Live free or die

Some people think they've got all the answers. These self-appointed guardians, modern-day puritans, and prohibitionists are rushing across America and the world to ban smoking and trans-fats from restaurants and tag from schoolyards. They propose mandatory visits to the doctor and a health system focused on "wellness." From every locality in America and beyond, frivolous laws are cropping up, which, taken as a whole, are undermining the liberty and independence of the American spirit.

The "infantilization of adults," as Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine puts it, has become such a common feature of modern politics that one often fails to recognize it as anything new or foreign to the American experience. The original understanding of our relationship to government was marked by a strong desire to maintain a firmly independent citizenry, which would be capable of making decisions without government interference. The role of government in this understanding of politics is to preserve and protect American liberty. The founding fathers, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, understood that there is an inverse proportion to government power and freedom.

Schools in Massachusetts and Colorado have banned schoolyard tag. An "Environmental Court" in Sweden has prohibited a woman from smoking in her own garden. In Britain, there is talk of creating a 17.5 percent "fat tax" on salty, sugary, and fatty foods. This year, Congress considered levying a $10 tax on cigars to pay for children's health insurance, while presidential candidate John Edwards would require mandatory visits to the doctor in his universal health care plan. The city of Chicago has done its part by banning foie gras.

Because of the proliferation of such laws, the American public is increasingly becoming fed up with what many people are dubbing "The Nanny State." A 2006 CNN poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the size and cost of government is intrusive. When asked about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of respondents said that "it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." Only 37 percent believed that government should do more.

All these intrusions on our personal liberty have been made with our health in mind. The implication is that these paternalistic politicians know best and that they can run our lives for us better than we can run them ourselves. Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal put it best when she declared, "Governments always start out saying they're going to help, and always wind up pushing you around. They cannot help it. They say they want to help us live healthily and they mean it, but it ends with a guy in Queens getting arrested for trying to have a Marlboro Light with his Bud at the neighborhood bar." The modern-day Puritans reduce all of us to the status of children, incapable of making informed choice for ourselves.

David Harsanyi recently published Nanny State, a book in which he chronicles the concentrated efforts of a few "teetotaling do-gooders" and "food fascists" since the 1980s. In his book, Harsanyi states, "Nannyism is a dogma. The nanny state is a collective that may not share a single driving political purpose, but its proponents do share a belief that sticking their nose into your business is that fastest way to build a superior society."

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson defined good government as follows: "a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." Jefferson's notion about the purpose of government is as right today as it was 200 years ago. The essence of the America can be borrowed from the New Hampshire license plate: live free or die.


A Muslim legal assault on free speech

By Rachel Ehrenfeld

Since March 2002, Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz has sued or threatened to sue in England at least 36 writers and publishers - including many Americans - who have documented his financial contributions to al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups, through his Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) foundation, and the Saudi National Commercial Bank he owned. Everyone settled with bin Mahfouz, - except me.

England's libel laws favor the individual's rights over the public. They allow bin Mahfouz and other terror financiers, known as "libel tourists," to veil in secrecy their funding of al Qaeda, other Islamic terror organizations and global propagation of radical Islam. British laws earned the U.K. the label-"libel capital of the Western world"-and rained wealth on Britain's libel bar.

Bin Mahfouz's legal "victories" in London had the desired effect he and other Saudi terror financiers sought - silencing of the media even in the U.S. where the First Amendment protects writers and publishers. But American book and newspaper publishers are not willing to risk expensive lawsuits in London. Many refuse to publish even the most comprehensively documented reports on alleged wealthy Middle Eastern funding terrorism.

Bin Mahfouz sued me in London in January 2004, shortly after the U.S. publication of my book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It. I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of a British court over a book published here; the court then ruled for bin Mahfouz by default, enjoined British publication of Funding Evil, awarded bin Mahfouz $225,900 in damages and expenses and ordered me to publicly apologize and destroy the book. I refuse to acknowledge the British Court or its ruling.

Bin Mahfouz would not enjoy success were he to sue me for libel in U.S. The facts in Funding Evil are well documented by the media and the U.S. Congress, courts and other official statements.

On October 12,2001 the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist, the director of bin Mahfouz's Muwafaq foundation, Yasin al-Qadi. The Treasury report described the direct support from Muwafaq to bin Laden, quoting the latter's statement that "The bin-Laden Establishment's aid.comes in particular from the Human Concern International Society [based, and operating in Gloucester, Ontario]. [and] includes Muwaffaq Society in Zagreb." The report continues, ."$3 million from the National Commercial Bank, which was run by Khalid bin Mahfouz, [were deposited] into the accounts of the Blessed Relief and other charities that serve as a front for bin Laden."

Further corroboration comes from the French General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), as reported last summer in the French daily, Le Monde. The DGSE reported that, in 1998, it knew bin Mahfouz to be an architect of the banking scheme built to benefit Osama bin Laden, and that both U.S. and British intelligence services knew it, too. Strangely, neither bin Mahfouz nor his foundation were designated by U.S. authorities as supporting terrorism.

Since British libel law favors suits such as bin Mahfouz's, and the First Amendment protects U.S. journalists reporting on public issues, I chose to fight his false claims in America. I sued in a New York federal court, for a declaration that bin Mahfouz' English default judgment is unenforceable in the United States, because it violates my First Amendment rights. Prominent civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate described it as "one of the most important First Amendment cases in the past 25 years." On June 8, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared my case is "ripe" for hearing in a U.S. court, noting that the case has implications for all U.S. authors and publishers, whose First Amendment rights are threatened by foreign libel rulings.

The ruling thus established that all U.S. writers and publishers sued for libel in other countries, can ask U.S. courts to rule the foreign decisions unenforceable here - provided they have jurisdiction over the person who sued for libel overseas. In my case, the New York Court of Appeals will hear arguments on November 15.

This important legal decision weakened bin Mahfouz' ability to threaten or sue U.S. authors and publishers. Shortly afterwards, bin Mahfouz threatened to sue Cambridge University Press (CUP), the publisher of Alms of Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, but refrained from including the book's two American writers, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins.

Facing the mere threat of a lawsuit from Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, Cambridge University Press - the world's oldest publishing house - agreed in Britain's High Court on July 30, to pulp all the unsold copies. When the American authors rightfully refused to join, CUP issued a public apology, which in fact defamed the authors. CUP also paid substantial undisclosed damages, a huge "contribution" to a charity of bin Mahfouz' choice, and sent letters to more than 200 libraries worldwide, asking to pull the book off their shelves. CUP's capitulation handed an important victory to the Saudis' financial jihad against free speech.

Winning my case against bin Mahfouz will not change the British ruling against me. But judging by the impact my case has had already one can hope that U.K. writers and publishers would demand changing their libel laws, to allow the freedom of responsible publications without the fear of intimidating, expensive lawsuits.

If foreigners wish to sue Americans for exposing threats to our national security, they are welcome do so in the U.S., under the First Amendment laws. But Congress should terminate this form of Financial Jihad - silencing the media by intimidation - and costly foreign libel suits on matters governed by U.S. jurisdiction. To better protect our freedom of speech, Congress could reinforce the First Amendment with a new statute prohibiting enforcement of foreign libel judgments in the U.S., whenever American authors and publishers report responsibly on terror -related and other national security threats.

We are at war with enormously wealthy and determined enemies. We should prevent their use of their tremendous wealth to deprive American writers from exposing actions that threaten our safety and freedoms.



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.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Jena: Law Versus Mob Rule

By Thomas Sowell

It is painful -- and dangerous -- how little we learn from history, even when it is recent history. Just a year ago, "rape" charges spread lynch-mob hysteria on the campus of Duke University and in much of the liberal media, while professional race hustlers descended on the town of Durham, North Carolina, and mindless tribalism was stirred up by extremists in the local black community. This year, we have all learned what a total fraud that case was, from beginning to end. Yet now we see a similar outburst of mindless tribalism and another attempt at mob rule, promoted by such veterans of last year's hysteria as Jesse Jackson.

This time the scene is in Jena, Louisiana. The issue is the prosecution of a black high school student accused of stomping on an unconscious white student -- and the lack of criminal prosecution of white students who hung a noose on a tree, who were disciplined by the school. Liberals' skills at moral equivalence have been so finely honed during the long years of the Cold War that they have turned this into a case of "unequal treatment," based on race -- as if putting a noose on a tree is equivalent to stomping somebody who is unconscious.

The black student was found guilty but the verdict was overturned on appeal -- not on grounds that he was not guilty, but on grounds that the appellate court did not think he should have been tried as an adult. The usual legal procedure would be to try the student again, but this time not as an adult. However, the usual legal procedures are not good enough for those who have once again seized the opportunity to hype race -- and to hell with questions of guilt or innocence or legal procedures. The immediate demand of the mobs that have been mobilized around the country to descend on the small town of Jena is that the young man found guilty of a serious crime of violence should be free on bail pending a second trial.

The legal question is whether letting someone accused of such a crime go free on bail is likely to mean that he will not be around long enough for a second trial. But no one is seriously debating that. Racial hype has replaced all rational discussion. Moreover, the Jena episode has shown that two can play the racial hype game. Neo-Nazis have published the names and home addresses of all the young blacks involved in the school incident. The slogan "No justice, no peace" has been used to justify settling legal issues in the streets, instead of in courts of law. Neo-Nazis have now helped demonstrate what a dangerous slogan that is, since different people have opposite ideas of what "justice" is in a given situation.

Long after the imported demonstrators have left, and the national media have lost interest, the families of the black youngsters involved in the school altercation will have to live with the knowledge that their privacy and security have both been lost in a racially polarized community, with vengeful elements. The last thing the South needs is a return to lynch-mob justice, whatever the color of whoever is promoting it.

Back in the 1950s, when the federal courts began striking down the Jim Crow laws in the South, one of the rising demands across the country was that the discriminators and segregationists obey "the law of the land." But, somewhere along the way, the idea also arose and spread that not everybody was supposed to obey "the law of the land." Violations of law by people with approved victim status like minorities, or self-righteous crusaders like environmentalists, were to be met with minimal resistance -- if any resistance at all -- and any punishment of them beyond a wrist-slap was "over-reacting."

College campuses became bastions of the new and sanctified mob rule, provided that the mobs are from the list of groups approved as politically correct. Otherwise, even an injudicious remark could bring swift and certain punishment under "speech codes."

The politics of condoned law-breaking is part of the moral dry rot of our times. So is settling issues in the streets on the basis of race, instead of in courts on the basis of law.


Orwell lives: 'Rewrite British history to reflect other cultures'

Parts of British history need to be rewritten to emphasise the roles played by other races and religions like Muslims, a prominent race relations campaigner has said. Trevor Philips, the chairman of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, said the history of Britain did not properly reflect the contribution of other cultures. Rewriting the country's history would demonstrate to Britons in the 21st century how other groups apart from Anglo Saxons shaped the nation.

He told a fringe meeting at the Labour conference: "We may need to revisit our national story - we want to rewrite that story to tell the whole story." The rewriting should start with the story of how the English fleet led by Sir Francis Drake fought off the Spanish Armada in 1588, he said. The important role played by the Muslim Turks, who delayed the sailing of the Spanish fleet so that the English ships were better prepared, had been airbrushed out of the story however. Mr Phillips said: "When we talk about the Armada, it was the Turks who saved us because they held up the Armada after a request from Elizabeth I. "Let's rewrite that, so we have an ideal that brings us together so that it can bind us together in stormy times ahead in the next century." [There is in fact no evidence that the Turks took any action to trouble Spain at the time concerned]

Mr Phillips, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, declined to offer any other examples of parts of British history that should be rewritten. He also said that he supported a campaign by the musician Billy Bragg for a new written constitution to define what it means to be British in the 21st century. "We have to have an expression that is native and right for us," he said. "We have to have a more explicit set of understandings under which we can all live together."

Mr Phillips, who was educated at Queen's College Boys School in Guyana, also suggested that there should be a set celebration for when people were given British nationality. Nationality lessons were necessary because people were moving around the country more than ever before, providing less opportunities to integrate. Last year 6.5 million people moved house, he said. Earlier this week Mr Phillips said that economic migrants could be forced to make a bigger contribution to the cost of public services. Mr Phillips said that some migrants who stay in the UK only for a short time should pay more for the use of schools and hospitals.


The Islamist Trojan Horse

"We're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here" has become a hymn for the American right and an abominable lie to the left. But drowned out by all the noise is the fact that "they" are here already, having landed a long time ago and gotten very busy indeed constructing the American wing of jihad.

Have you watched the Arabic Channel, also known as TAC, which serves the New York region? Probably not, as most New Yorkers neither understand nor speak Arabic. But if you are among the estimated 1 million viewers - legal and illegal, new and old Arabic-speaking immigrants to the tri-state area - who tune in daily to Channel 507 on Time Warner Cable, this is what you can get:

* A daily dose of Islamic jurisprudence from an Egyptian sheik, Amr Khaled, who comes direct from Cairo as TAC's prime advocate of "peaceful jihad," on how the duty of every Arab-American is to become first, second, and only a member of the Muslim Ummah.

* A nightly helping of Syria's CNN-style digest of the world, sent fresh from a Damascus studio where the Iraq war is nothing but an American butchery of Arabs, and the Zionist regime in Jerusalem is just biding its time until it gets what it deserves.

* A sprinkling of Egyptian and Syrian soap operas (though TAC completely avoids footage of "Oriental" dancing and other "infidel" joys of life).

On its Web site, TAC says it is now 14 years old and serves the "Greater New York City Metropolitan area, including Jersey City, Bergen County, N.J., and Mt. Vernon, N.Y." through cable and satellite transmission.

TAC's ownership and funding are, to put it mildly, ambiguous. What is clear is that someone is funding this Islamist Trojan Horse already anchored inside the American fortress.


A careful dissection of the Mearsheimer and Walt claims

They claim that the Jews have too much influence on American policy. All the 40-odd Jews in Congress are OK of course -- because they are nearly all Democrats

Mearsheimer and Walt live in the same foreign policy world I inhabit, and no one familiar with their extensive scholarship or their lives ever accused them of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments ... until the appearance of their article last year. And such charges are not unusual in this little world. But as my mother often said, "They asked for trouble" - by the way they make their arguments, by their puzzlingly shoddy scholarship, by what they emphasize and de-emphasize, by what they leave out and by writing on this sensitive topic without doing extensive interviews with the lobbyists and the lobbied.

Early on, they write that the Jewish lobby is "certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that `controls' U.S. foreign policy." They go on: "It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel's case within the United States. ... Like the efforts of other ethnic lobbies and interest groups, the activities of the Israel lobby's various elements are legitimate forms of democratic political participation, and they are for the most part consistent with America's long tradition of interest-group activity." No problem here.

But then they heat things up, declaring that no lobby has ever been more powerful. They start quoting others, like former Representative Lee Hamilton, who said in 1991 that "there's no lobby group that matches it." And they cite a number of staff members for the lobby bragging about their power. One said: "In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 senators on this napkin." Publishing these one-liners as some kind of evidence is not the stuff of good scholarship.

Most tellingly, and contrary to their careful opening definitions, Mearsheimer and Walt move on to one story after another, premised on the lobby's domination of United States policy toward the Middle East. But they rarely back that premise up.

It's true, for instance, that the lobby has made America's longstanding $3 billion annual aid program to Israel untouchable and indiscussible. By the same token, there isn't much discussion about the $2 billion yearly aid package for Egypt. The United States regards this $5 billion as insurance against an Egyptian-Israeli war, and it's cheap at double the price.

The lobby also gives hives and hesitation to any administration thinking about criticizing Israel publicly. But instinctively and without being lobbied, American presidents don't want to gang up on Israel, since virtually every other state does so. While most countries hammer Israel for crackdowns on the Palestinians, they hardly ever criticize Palestinian terrorists or other Arab terrorists and say little about the misdeeds of Arab and Muslim dictators. As for the American government, the record clearly shows that when Israel crosses certain important lines, as when it expanded Jewish settlements into Palestinian areas like the West Bank and Gaza, Washington usually expresses its displeasure in public and, even more so, in private. Mearsheimer and Walt just don't mention that.

More troublingly, they don't seriously review the facts of the two most critical issues to Israel and the lobby - arms sales to Arab states and the question of a Palestinian state - matters on which the American position has consistently run counter to the so-called all-powerful Jewish lobby.

For several decades, administration after administration has sold Saudi Arabia and other Arab states first-rate modern weapons, against the all-out opposition of Israel and the lobby. And make no mistake, these arms have represented genuine security risks to Israel. (Interestingly, Israel does not oppose the new $20 billion proposed arms sale to the Saudis, on the grounds that the weapons are needed against Iran, the bigger threat; and not surprisingly, Israel is reportedly receiving substantial additional military aid as well.)

And on the policy issue that has counted most to Israel and the lobby - preventing the United States from accepting a Palestinian state prior to a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinians - it's fair to say Washington has quietly sided with the Palestinians for a long time. Every administration since 1967, when Israel won a war and occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has privately favored returning almost all of that territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state. President George W. Bush finally said this publicly in 2001, but Israeli leaders and lobbyists who weren't in total denial knew the unspoken reality all along. If the lobby and Israel called the shots the way Mearsheimer and Walt and so many other Middle East experts insist, the United States would not have sold all those arms to the Arabs and never would have leaned in private toward a Palestinian state.

Most unbiased students of the matter would probably agree that the lobby is the single most influential force on American policy toward Israel. But among lobbies in Washington, it is one among many strong players. It is almost certainly less powerful than the pro-Taiwan China lobby, which successfully blocked American contacts with China, or even talk of it, throughout most of the cold war. It doesn't touch the power of the gun lobby, or AARP when it presses for the interests of senior citizens. In fact, just to set all of this in a perspective that should be known to Mearsheimer and Walt, lobbying is how American democracy works. We have a democracy of "minorities rule," as the great Yale political scientist Robert Dahl once explained, writing of the endless array of special-interest groups that control their issues almost totally.

As part of their incomplete picture, the two authors also minimize the lobbying influence of the Saudis and the oil companies, the other major forces on Middle East policy. The Saudis, along with the Egyptians, have been significant voices in Washington, arguing for a Palestinian state. Moreover, if Mearsheimer and Walt had asked policy participants over the years, they would have been told that the Saudis are the single most potent regional voice in American policy toward the gulf. And Riyadh, at least as much as Jerusalem, has been urging Washington to confront Iran. As for the oil companies, Mearsheimer and Walt say it's obvious the firms want peace because peace is good for business. But it's hard to ignore the fact that the Iraq war has added tens of billions to their coffers.

In any event, the real issue is not whether the Israel lobby controls policy toward Israel and the Middle East. All strong lobbies aspire to exercise control. The real issue is whether the Jewish lobby's power seriously undermines or damages American interests.

Where Israel should stand in the hierarchy of American national interests has been one of the hot-button issues of American foreign policy since Israel's founding in 1948. The first big question was whether the United States should recognize Israel at the United Nations. The most memorable battle over this issue took place in front of President Harry Truman. The contenders were his young but formidable counsel, Clark Clifford, and Secretary of State George Marshall, the single most respected American foreign policy figure of his era.

Clifford argued for recognition on moral and historical grounds. The United States and the world had a moral obligation to support a Jewish state because everyone had stood by and done nothing during the Holocaust. Marshall retorted that recognition would distort America's true interests in the Arab world, mainly securing oil, to gain Jewish political backing at home. To Marshall, a few million Jews in their own state amid a sea of tens of millions of Arabs would cause nothing but grief for America, and in the end, the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea anyway. Truman backed Clifford, but the battle never ended.

Israel and the lobby made, and for good reasons won, the case during the cold war that Israel was a strategic asset for the United States. During this period, many Arab leaders played games with Moscow and were not reliable allies. By contrast, Washington could count fully on Israel for intelligence and joint weapons development and as a base of military operations, if need be. But with the Soviet Union's demise and the rise of new threats, the argument reopened about how vital Israel really was to the United States.

And here we arrive at the heart of the thesis of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy":

"Many policies pursued on Israel's behalf now jeopardize U.S. national security. The combination of unstinting U.S. support for Israel and Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory has fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world, thereby increasing the threat from international terrorism and making it harder for Washington to deal with other problems, such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program. Because the United States is now so unpopular within the broader region, Arab leaders who might otherwise share U.S. goals are reluctant to help us openly, a predicament that cripples U.S. efforts to deal with a host of regional challenges."

At one level, this argument is obviously correct. Of course, America's close ties with Israel compound its problems with Arabs and Muslims. But at a deeper level, one ignored by Mearsheimer and Walt, these problems would not disappear or seriously lessen if Washington abandoned Israel. The main source of anti-Americanism and anti-American terrorism is America's deep ties with highly unpopular regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not to mention the war in Iraq.

Similarly, Mearsheimer and Walt mostly dodge the question of how to fix this problem. They don't want to abandon Israel, they say, but they do want the United States to distance itself from Israeli policies. Does that mean talking to the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists? These groups are relentlessly committed to violence and to the total destruction of Israel. What is there to talk about? As for pressing Israel to turn over the territories and accept Palestinian statehood now, there is the slight problem of which Palestinians to bargain with - the Hamas leaders, who genuinely have broad support, or the far less popular and far more corrupt Fatah party. Besides, what concessions do Mearsheimer and Walt want Israel to make beyond what it has made? In the closing days of the Clinton administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met almost all Palestinian demands for a negotiated solution and was effectively turned down.

To be sure, Washington's ties with Israel make things harder for United States policy, but historically, the prime effect of the relationship has been to provide Arab leaders and discontented Arabs with an excuse for not putting their own houses in order. I doubt Mearsheimer and Walt believe that if Washington stiff-armed Israel, this would induce Arab leaders to address their real problems or produce peace in the Middle East.

Then there is the issue of nuclear weapons and taming the proliferation genie. Yes, Israel's nuclear ability adds to the hurdles Washington faces. But Mearsheimer and Walt should know that the driving force behind Saddam Hussein's quest for these arms had much less to do with Israel's nuclear weapons than with the threats he saw from Iran and the United States. The same is true for Iran today. Like Hussein, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows that only the United States can topple him and the regime of the mullahs he represents, and he wants the bomb principally for deterrence.

America's central strategic problem in the region - the main reason to worry about future terrorists, nuclear proliferation and energy supplies - is that we need our corrupt, inept and unpopular Arab allies because the likely alternative to them is far worse. There is no reliable and strong Arab moderate force in the Middle East at present. Washington's long-term goal must be to help build one. Yet Mearsheimer and Walt offer us no counsel on how to do this.

It's important to remember that the shah of Iran was overthrown not because he enjoyed good relations with Israel, which he did, but because a majority of his own people came to hate his regime and also his ties to the United States. There was no sustainable moderate center between the shah and the fanatical mullahs. And the lack of such a center is precisely what Washington needs to worry about now in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

As it happens, America's commitment to Israel rests far more on moral and historical grounds than on strict strategic ones. Israel does not harm American security interests to anywhere near the degree that Mearsheimer and Walt claim it does. And the major reality is that despite whatever difficulties the Israeli-American relationship might cause, the United States is helping to protect one of the few nations in the world that share American values and interests, a true democracy. This is the greatest strategic bond between the two countries. (And not to be overlooked is the fact that when push has come to shove, Israel has always defended itself.)

The inevitable last question is this: Why have two such serious students of United States foreign policy written so weak a book and added fuel, inadvertently, to the fires of anti-Semitism? The answer lies in their treatment of the Iraq war.

Mearsheimer and Walt should feel very proud, indeed, for their foresight in opposing the Iraq war. Their writings were more on target than anyone's, and they are justifiably mystified about how the United States could have been so stupid and self-destructive. They appear to have reasoned that a mistake of this magnitude could have been fostered only by some irresistible force. And the only such force they can conjure from the landscape of the powerful is the Israel lobby, as embodied by neoconservative gladiators like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. In the authors' words, "the lobby did not cause the war by itself. ... But absent the lobby's influence, there almost certainly would not have been a war. The lobby was a necessary but not sufficient condition for a war that is a strategic disaster for the United States and a boon for Iran, Israel's most serious regional adversary."

Their vitriol about the Iraq war - about being so right while others were so wrong - is so overwhelming that they minimize two key facts. First, America's foreign policy community, including many Democrats as well as Republicans, supported the war for the very same reasons that Wolfowitz and the lobby did - namely, the fact that Hussein seemed to pose a present or future threat to American national interests. Second, the real play-callers behind the war were President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. They hardly have a history of being in the pockets of the Jewish lobby (more like the oil lobby's), and they aren't remotely neoconservatives. The more we know, the clearer it is that the White House went to war primarily to erase the "blunder" of the elder Bush in not finishing off Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

Now, Mearsheimer and Walt fear that Israel and the lobby will shove the United States into a new war with Iran: "They are the central forces today behind all the talk ... about using military force to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Unfortunately, such rhetoric makes it harder, not easier, to stop Iran from going nuclear."

They are right again about why the United States should not be making counterproductive threats about war against Iran, let alone fighting another war. But they are wrong again about the prime movers behind the bombast. Wolfowitz and Perle and company surely favor another nice little war, but they are temporarily discredited. Meanwhile, plenty of foreign policy experts and politicians now call for "getting Iran." And by the way, so do the two most powerful men in America, who neither need nor heed lobbying - George Bush and Dick Cheney.



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.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

U.S. Christian Camp Loses Tax-Exempt Status over Same-Sex Civil-Union Ceremony

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on Monday that it was stripping the Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of its tax-exempt status for part of its property. The Methodist camp made the news earlier this year after it refused, for religious reasons, to allow a lesbian couple to hold a "civil-union" ceremony at a pavilion on the camp's property.

The pavilion, said Scott Hoffman, the camp's chief administrative officer to LifeSiteNews, "is a facility we have used exclusively for our camp meeting mission and worship celebrations since 1869."

Until recently the camp held tax-exempt status on its entire boardwalk property under a New Jersey program that gives tax-breaks to organizations that open up their property to the general public.

In June, however, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Pester, a lesbian, filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office on the basis of sexual orientation discrimination, after Ocean Grove refused to allow them to hold their "civil-union" ceremony at the camp's pavilion. A second lesbian couple has also sued Ocean Grove. New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws currently forbid those who "offer goods, services, and facilities to the general public" from "directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, service, benefit, or privilege to an individual" on the basis of sexual orientation.

"It is clear that the pavilion is not open to all persons on an equal basis," DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, wrote to the camp on Monday, in announcing the DEP's decision to revoke the camp's tax-exempt status.

"When people hear the words 'open space,' we want them to think not just of open air and land, but that it is open to all people," Jackson continued. "And when the public subsidizes it with tax breaks, it goes with the expectation that it is not going to be parsed out, whether it be by activity or any particular beliefs."

Currently, however, there is some confusion over just how much of the camp's property no longer has tax-exempt status. As such, one homosexual advocacy group is threatening to appeal the DEP's decision, saying that it doesn't go far enough, reports the AP. "We're looking for a bigger victory here," said Steve Goldstein, the chairman of Garden State Equality. "We have the symbolic victory of the state telling Ocean Grove they're wrong, but there is a bigger victory to be had by having the entire tax-exemption removed. We're happy, but there's a lot more happiness to be had."

According to the Neptune Township tax assessor, the revocation of the tax-exempt status on the pavilion will only cost Ocean Grove about $175/year, although Scott Hoffman has reportedly issued a statement claiming that the DEP's decision in fact appears to revoke tax-exempt status for "over 99 percent of the land." Hoffman said that Ocean Grove's lawyers are currently reviewing the decision.

In August, the Christian camp preempted the complaints currently pending against it by itself suing New Jersey state officials. According to the Alliance Defense fund, which is representing the camp, the attorney general's office is violating First Amendment protections by investigating Ocean Grove. "Religious groups have the right to make their own decisions without government interference," said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "The government can't force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs."


Politically Correct Anthropology

Political correctness which has been invading academia with a vengeance has a new target- Anthropology. An ad-hoc group calling themselves the Network of Concerned Anthropologists is now circulating a petition on the internet called the Pledge of Non-Participation in Counterinsurgency whose central theme says that "Anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the 'war on terror.'"In other words it's an anti-war declaration for anthropologists.

The organizers, two of whom are at George Mason University, feel that anthropologists who cooperate with the military damage the relationship of openness and trust anthropologists have throughout the world and that the U.S. military's presence in Iraq is illegitimate. Sounds like something from a brochure.

This action was spurred by an upcoming meeting on an ad-hoc group of the American Anthropological Association that will be proposing ethical guidelines for working with the military and intelligence agencies.

One person who disagrees with the new group is Marcus B. Griffin, a professor of anthropology at Christopher Newport University. Mr. Griffin is currently in Iraq supporting a military "Human Terrain System" project. If the AAA adopts a position closer to that of the dissident group then the military will be deprived of an expert in an area where it needs help and one that could help save lives.

Apparently any previous cooperation with the military is irrelevant because it is the vehement opposition to the current Iraq war that supersedes any gain in scientific knowledge. Scientists often claim that they are only interested in the science and not politics. The NCA has mixed both into a dangerous brew.



By Jeff Jacoby

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt embarked on The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a 484-page elaboration of the theme that a mighty pro-Israel machine controls America's dealings in the Middle East and crushes those who get in its way, they expected to be condemned as anti-Semites. "The charge of anti-Semitism," the two academics write in their book (as they had in their notorious 2006 essay on the subject), is one of the "most powerful weapons" in the Israel lobby's arsenal. "Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism."

This accusation they label the "Great Silencer," one that has proven "a potent way to make sure that criticisms of Israel or the lobby were rarely spoken and were either ignored or disparaged when they were." Accordingly, Mearsheimer and Walt weren't surprised when leading booksellers refused to carry the The Israel Lobby and when attendance at their public appearances was suppressed. As they predicted, media outlets either refused to review their book, or published reviews that tarred them as anti-Semites. Such censorship and defamation are the price paid by anyone foolhardy enough to challenge Israel and, to coin a phrase, its amen corner in the United States.

In another universe, that is. In this one, nothing could be further from the truth. The Israel Lobby, needless to say, is on sale everywhere. It debuted at Number 12 on The New York Times Best Sellers list, and Number 6 in the Los Angeles Times. As of Friday, it was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in's US History, Israel History, and International Relations categories. Far from being stifled or ignored, Mearsheimer and Walt have had invitations aplenty to air their views, in venues as varied as NPR's "Fresh Air" and "On Point," the Los Angeles Times editorial board, and a standing-room-only crowd at Politics & Prose, the noted Washington bookstore.

The media has neither cold-shouldered them nor deployed the "Great Silencer" to defame them. "Mearsheimer and Walt are not anti-Semites or racists," David Remnick declared flatly in The New Yorker. "They are serious scholars and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity." Newsday's Scott McLemee opened his review by noting that "The Israel Lobby" has something important in common with Israel itself: "It is necessary to affirm its right to exist." Tim Rutten, reviewing the book for the L.A. Times, recoiled from its "underlying malice" and pronounced its argument "sinister" -- but made no suggestion that the authors are bigots. Ditto the New York Times, whose reviewer found the book unconvincing and unpleasant -- "the general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves," he wrote -- but had nothing unflattering to say about Mearsheimer and Walt themselves.

This does not mean that no one has read the Mearsheimer/Walt philippic and concluded that it is, in fact, anti-Jewish bigotry dressed up as academic analysis. Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing in Commentary, pronounced the original paper a "meretricious attempt to put a scholarly cap and gown on every hoary calumny ever devised about Jewish influence," and he wasn't the only one to think so. His argument can be debated on its own merits.

For their part, Mearsheimer and Walt declare for the record that they not only harbor no anti-Semitic animus, but are in fact philo-Semites. Does that square with the view, to quote their original treatise, that a largely Jewish "Israel Lobby" has a "stranglehold on Congress" -- one powerful enough to "divert US foreign policy" in ways that benefit Israel while harming America, in order to give Israel "a free hand with the Palestinians," while Americans "do most of the fighting, dying . . . rebuilding and paying"? That, too, can be debated on its own merits.

What is not debatable is that Mearsheimer and Walt have not been silenced in any way. Their views have been widely discussed. A leading publisher invited them to extend those views in a book. Their claim that anyone critical of Israel or its supporters is ruthlessly muzzled is simply a lie. From Jimmy Carter to Noam Chomsky to Pat Buchanan, from the media to academia to the blogosphere, from the corridors of the UN to the "realists" of the State Department, Israel's detractors are loud and legion, quite often profitably so.

So why the Big Lie about the "Great Silencer?" Perhaps to disguise the fact that hostility for Israel is simply not a flavor most Americans like. Yes, the Mearsheimer/Walt message can sell books and garner lecture bookings. But in the American marketplace of ideas, the viewpoint they embrace has proven singularly unpalatable. If America's policies are pro-Israel, it is because America's people are pro-Israel -- and they are pro-Israel not because of the machinations of a Zionist lobby, but because they see in Israel a liberal democracy and a beleaguered but loyal ally in the war against radical Islam. Mearsheimer and Walt are more than welcome to peddle their anti-Israel message. But when all is said and done, most Americans just don't buy it.

Multiculturalism becomes poison for social capital

Comment from Australia

WE have heard little in this year's political debate about immigration or multiculturalism, although immigration is running at record levels. Yet a change of government has the potential to bring with it a marked change in both these policy areas, and one that most Australians may not like much. Kevin Rudd has, as on other issues, kept a low profile and told his shadow immigration minister to do the same. It has been left to Paul Keating to remind us what things were like under the Hawke and Keating governments, with his attack on John Howard earlier this year.

Keating said then that when Howard disparaged elites over what he celebrated as the mainstream, he was in fact disparaging cosmopolitan attitudes vis-a-vis the certainties of the old monoculture. There was even a comparison drawn and then withdrawn between Howard's populist appeal to ordinary Australians and Hitler's to the German Volk.

In the Labor years it was the role of cosmopolitan elites to keep ordinary, red-necked Australians and their inherent racism on the straight and narrow. It was an era of stifling political correctness, where critics were howled down with cries of racist by the cosmopolitan internationalist elites of the progressive Left. It was also an era of corrupt immigration policies, with family stream migration rorted to provide branch-stacking fodder. It was a time when ordinary Australians had the cosmopolitans' virulent multiculturalism shoved down their throats, with the result that support for immigration plummeted. This is no right-wing Liberal fantasy. Former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh described immigration policy under Hawke as a process of blow-out and cave in. The immigration program numbers blew out above target, bloated by regular cave-ins to the ethnic lobbyists.

Another former Labor minister, Gary Johns, saw its immigration policy as part of vote buying and branch-stacking. But most telling of all was the findings of the FitzGerald committee inquiry into immigration policy set up by the Hawke government. The committee, headed by Stephen FitzGerald, found a key problem in maintaining support for immigration was a profound distrust by Australians of the policy of multiculturalism. Historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt. Its right to primacy was denied; indeed, it became the most suspect of all ethnic groups given its atrocious past."

The Howard years changed all this and Rudd is unlikely to revert to the excesses of the Hawke years; however, there are signs that are worrying nonetheless. For example, Labor's platform, where immigration is dealt with in the section on human rights, itself a worrying sign of a return of the Left to policy formulation, speaks of restoring a fairer and more balanced immigration program. At the moment the program is 70per cent skilled migrants, an economic focus that is very much in Australia's interest. Restoring balance suggest Labor will increase the role of family reunion, an ominous possibility given the record of the Hawke years.

However, the real worry, given Australia will want to continue to run a strong immigration program, is a Labor government's ability to retain a national consensus in favour of immigration. There is a substantial body of research that shows the ethnic diversity driven by immigration is destructive of social capital. The most comprehensive of these studies is by American political scientist Robert Putnam, best known as the author of Bowling Alone, a book on the breakdown of community in the US. Putnam defines social capital as "social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness".

Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, told an International Monetary Fund conference on social capital some years ago: "Social capital is important to the efficient functioning of modern economies and is the sine qua non of stable liberal democracy."

Putnam, himself from the progressive Left, is somewhat embarrassed by his findings that ethnic diversity leads to the breakdown of trust and community networks that are a vital part of any society's social fabric. While his study is of the US, he says it would apply to other countries such as Australia. Worried about the impact of his research given the increased sensitivity on immigration issues since September 11, he said nothing about it for four or five years, before delivering a paper in Sweden last year. While he is at pains to say that in the long run immigration and ethnic diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal and development benefits, his own research doesn't establish this. What it does show is that over several decades immigration and ethnic diversity lead to mistrust, challenge social solidarity, break down community and are poison to social capital.

This isn't an argument for stopping immigration or for racial purity, since, as Putnam says, ethnic diversity will inevitably increase in all modern societies. But it is a powerful argument against multicultural policies that encourage ethnic separatism and discourage assimilation. The litmus test for a Rudd government will be what it does in response to the Howard Government's changes to Australian citizenship laws designed to increase the value immigrants place on citizenship and insist on competent English and an understanding of Australia's laws, history and culture.

Australian sociologist Katharine Betts and demographer Bob Birrell provide an excellent discussion of the changing approach to citizenship since the Whitlam government in 1973 in the March issue of People & Place. What they show is that under successive Labor governments the value of citizenship was reduced to little better than a certificate you could pull out of a corn flakes packet. They note two very different concepts of citizenship, which they label the procedural position and the patriotic view. The procedural view holds that migrants should have no other commitment to Australia beyond respect for the law and rights of others.

The patriotic position, which surveys show is held by a clear majority of Australians, attaches a strong value to citizenship as a national bond and expects immigrants to live like Australians. This is the position the Howard Government has moved to in recent years. Rudd has yet to declare his attitude to the Government's citizenship approach, but Labor emphatically rejects any suggestion of assimilation. Yet the strongly adverse effect of immigration and ethnic diversity on social capital suggests a policy that brings Australians together rather than encouraging cultural separation will be essential to sustaining immigration and its long-term benefits.



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.