Thursday, January 31, 2008

Myths About The Founders And Religion

By Michael P. Tremoglie

Misotheists like to claim that the Founding Fathers were deists who never wanted a religious society. They maintain that there is substantial evidence proving they were not Christians. One repeatedly referenced is the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797. This is proffered as absolute proof that the Founding Fathers did not want the United States to be a religious nation.

This is sheer sophistry. If all the evidence the misotheists have that the Founders wanted to bowdlerize religion from America is a meaningless symbolic phrase of an obscure unconscionable treaty, then they have no evidence at all.

John Adams signed this treaty and it was ratified by the Senate even though it included this clause: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion ..." Yet, here are some facts about the treaty:

* It was later revoked.

* The clause was not included in the original version. It was mysteriously, perhaps fraudulently, inserted by Joel Barlow, the Algerian Consul, who was a contemnor of Christianity.

* The original Arabic version, which states several times the phrase "Praise be to God," is on file at the State Department, although it is Barlow's English version that was ratified by the Senate and signed by Adams.

* The treaty was made primarily to save the lives of American hostages. One can conclude that if the treaty said the moon were made of green cheese, it would have been ratified by the Senate and signed by Adams.

* A Spanish translation of this treaty references treaties with Christian nations - meaning in this case the United States.

When one considers these facts about the treaty, the assertion that it is evidence that the Founders eschewed religion and Christianity is not true.

Other evidence they say proves the Founders wanted a completely secular nation includes the claim that George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were deists. This is not true. There is a church in Philadelphia, St. Peter's Episcopal, that indicates the pew used by Washington when he attended services there. (Ironically, Stephen Decatur, the hero of the Battle of Tripoli, is buried in this same churchyard.). Benjamin Franklin is buried in the Old Christ's Church burial ground. This would be an odd place if he were an irreligious person.

Misotheists like to refer to various quotes from Thomas Jefferson to deny his religiosity - including the separation of church and state quote. However, they ignore his 1816 letter to Charles Thomson in which he said, "I am a real Christian."

They like this quote of Adams: "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved - the cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!" Yet, they ignore Adams' 1797 inaugural speech (the same year as the treaty they revere) during which he said, "Consider .... Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service."

Conversely, Misotheists ignore evidence that America is a religious nation. The opinion by the New York Supreme Court in the 1811 case of People v. Ruggles is such piece of evidence. The Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court was James Kent, author of Commentaries on American Law. He wrote in his opinion, "We are a Christian people. ... Christianity, in its enlarged sense, as a religion revealed and taught in the Bible, is not unknown to our law."

Another court case is the 1892 United States Supreme Court opinion in Holy Trinity Church v. United States. This involved the hiring of an English pastor that was prevented by immigration officials because of a prohibition against foreign laborers. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the prohibition did not apply to pastors because "this is a Christian nation." The justices cited the People v. Ruggles opinion.

There are too many religious practices and symbols associated with the United States to claim that the Founders were not religious or wanted to exclude religion from America. Indeed, at least one signer of the Constitution was an ordained minister.

It is unfortunate that despite the evidence to the contrary, myths that the Founders were irreligious or wanted to ban religion from the public square are considered fact. This is a function of the tendentious scholarship and revisionism taught by schools and colleges. Americans need to be reeducated about their religious heritage.


Terrorist Tort Travesty

By John Yoo

War is a continuation of politics by other means, the German strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed in his 19th-century treatise, "On War." Clausewitz surely could never have imagined that politics, pursued through our own courts, would be the continuation of war. Last week, I (a former Bush administration official) was sued by Jose Padilla-- a 37-year-old al Qaeda operative convicted last summer of setting up a terrorist cell in Miami. Padilla wants a declaration that his detention by the U.S. government was unconstitutional, $1 in damages, and all of the fees charged by his own attorneys.

The lawsuit by Padilla and his Yale Law School lawyers is an effort to open another front against U.S. anti-terrorism policies. If he succeeds, it won't be long before opponents of the war on terror use the courtroom to reverse the wartime measures needed to defeat those responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

On Thursday, a federal judge moved closer to sentencing Padilla to life in prison. After being recruited by al Qaeda agents in the late 1990s, Padilla left for Egypt in 1998 and reached terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in 2000. American officials stopped him at Chicago O'Hare airport in 2002, based on intelligence gained from captured al Qaeda leaders that he was plotting a dirty bomb attack.

President Bush declared Padilla an enemy combatant and ordered him sent to a naval brig in South Carolina. After a federal appeals court rejected Padilla's plea for release, the government transferred him to Miami for trial for al Qaeda conspiracies unrelated to the dirty bomb plot. Federal prosecutors described Padilla as "a trained al-Qaeda killer," and a jury convicted him of conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping and maiming, and of providing material support to terrorists.

Now Padilla and his lawyers are trying to use our own courts to attack the government officials who stopped him. They claim that the government cannot detain Padilla as an enemy combatant, but instead can only hold and try him as a criminal. Padilla alleges that he was abused in military custody--based primarily on his claim that he was held in isolation and not allowed to meet with lawyers.

But enemy prisoners in wartime never before received the right to counsel or a civilian trial because, as the Supreme Court observed in 2004, the purpose of detention is not to punish, but to prevent the enemy from returning to the fight.

Under Padilla's theory, the U.S. is not at war, so any citizen killed or captured by the CIA or the military can sue. In November 2002, according to press reports, a Predator drone killed two al Qaeda leaders driving in the Yemen desert. One was an American, Kamal Derwish, who was suspected of leading a terrorist cell near Buffalo. If Padilla's lawsuit were to prevail, Derwish's survivors could sue everyone up the chain of command--from the agent who pressed the button, personally--for damages.

Padilla's complaints mirror the left's campaign against the war. To them, the 9/11 attacks did not start a war, but instead were simply a catastrophe, like a crime or even a natural disaster. They would limit the U.S. response only to criminal law enforcement managed by courts, not the military. Every terrorist captured away from the Afghanistan battlefield would have the right to counsel, Miranda warnings, and a criminal trial that could force the government to reveal its vital intelligence secrets.

America used this approach in the 1990s with al Qaeda. It did not work. Both the executive and legislative branches rejected this failed strategy. In the first week after 9/11, Congress passed a law authorizing the use of military force against any person, group or nation connected to the attacks, and recognized the President's constitutional authority "to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States."

In the spring of 2002, I was a Justice Department lawyer asked about the legality of Padilla's detention. There is ample constitutional precedent to support the detention of a suspected al Qaeda agent, even an American citizen, who plans to carry out terrorist attacks on our soil. During World War II, eight Nazi saboteurs secretly landed in New York to attack factories and plants. Two of them were American citizens.

After their capture, FDR sent them to military detention, where they were tried and most of them executed. In Ex Parte Quirin, the Supreme Court upheld the detention and trial by military authorities of American citizens who "associate" with "the military arm of the enemy" and "enter this country bent on hostile acts." If FDR were president today, Padilla might have fared far worse than he has.

None of that matters to the anti-war left. They failed to beat President Bush in the 2004 elections. Their efforts in Congress to repeal the administration's policies have gone nowhere. They lost their court challenges to Padilla's detention. The American public did not buy their argument that the struggle against al Qaeda is not really a war.

So instead they have turned to the tort system to harass those who served their government in wartime. I am not the only target. The war's critics have sued personally Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Robert Gates, Paul Wolfowitz and other top government officials for their decisions in the war on terrorism. Other lawsuits have resorted to the courts to attack the telecommunications companies that helped the government intercept suspected terrorist calls.

It is easy to understand why CIA agents, who are working on the front lines to protect the nation from attack, are so concerned about their legal liability that they have taken out insurance against lawsuits. Worrying about personal liability will distort the thinking of federal officials, who should be focusing on the costs and benefits of their decisions to the nation as a whole, not to their own pockets. Even in the wake of Watergate, the Supreme Court recognized that government decisions should not be governed by the tort bar.

In a case about warrantless national security wiretaps ordered by Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, the court declared that executive branch officials should benefit from qualified immunity. Officials cannot be sued personally unless they had intentionally violated someone's clearly established constitutional rights.

The Padilla case shows that qualified immunity is not enough. Even though Supreme Court precedent clearly permitted Padilla's detention, he and his academic supporters can still file harassing lawsuits that promise high attorneys' fees. The legal system should not be used as a bludgeon against individuals targeted by political activists to impose policy preferences they have failed to implement via the ballot box.

The prospect of having to waste large sums of money on lawyers will deter talented people from entering public service, leading to more mediocrity in our bureaucracies. It will also lead to a risk-averse government that doesn't innovate or think creatively. Government by lawsuit is no way to run, or win, a war.


Deceitful parenting

I knew, just from reading the title, that I would be sputtering with indignation if I clicked through to read "Is a taste of deceit with carrots so bad for kids?" I clicked. Consider yourselves warned.

I must be totally out of step with other parents, because I cannot even conceive of asking such a question, much less giving it serious consideration. While the article focuses on sneaking healthful foods into children-something I've never really had to worry about-the crux of the matter comes up deep in the rationalizing:
But in diet as in all things, I firmly believe in parental privilege. Loopholes exist. I see no problem, for instance, in telling my kids that the DVD player in our family minivan only works on long drives on the freeway. I don't see anything at all wrong with a friend briefing his son on the federal law that prohibits boys under the age of 13 from owning pocket-knives. And I believe it was an act of inspiration when a mom I know told her daughter that the "Live Nude" sign near her school is in fact a French-language affirmation with a missing accent on the "e" that actually reads "live new day."
So, "parental privilege" for Christopher Noxon-the author of this bilge-apparently means stringing together lie after lie for one's children. And it isn't even justified solely on the basis of that overused excuse, protection-notice that his own example is simply for his convenience. Another presumably rests on the mother's embarrassment at the mere thought of naked bodies; how ever is she going to explain to her daughter the shameful fact that babies come into the world naked?

Can we really wonder how so many of today's children come to unthinkingly accept the lies of the state, when they've had years of such tripe shoved into their heads by their parents? How can someone not develop explanations that depend on "magic" or authority when they're told things that defy logic, not to mention the laws of physics, by the people they count on most to help them learn how to deal with the world? Actually, I wonder if they even bother to try to develop explanations; after passing some threshold of nonsense of this sort some kids must decide that the world is simply too arbitrary and unpredictable to try to comprehend, and instead uncritically accept whatever they're told. And thus is another generation of herd monkeys readied to step on to the job-consume treadmill ...

This kind of parenting is emblematic of what I see as the major problem today: too many parents have little or no respect for their children. Instead, they shove their convenient feeding times, their ideas of the proper amount of food, their notions of what's best in all things, on to a child beginning at birth. But even a neonate can tell when it's hungry, and full, and will signal those states to its parents if they would just respect the baby, and pay attention to it. Not face time, not play time, but that simple act of focusing upon another person and observing his or her rhythms and preferences. In our rush-rush society, that may seem like a luxury ... but we're talking about the most basic, vital relationship two individuals can have! How can learning one's child's nature be a luxury? But, tragically, it seems to be so for lots of parents.

Perfection isn't an option in parenting; that isn't the standard I am comparing these ideas against. But to build a relationship with one's child on deceit ... that is unfathomable and unconscionable to me. It's a casual dismissal of the child's humanity-his or her basic intellect and its need to be rationally engaged, so that the child stands a chance of becoming a self-directing, mature person. Even saying something like, "I don't think you're responsible enough for a pocket knife yet," or "I'm uncomfortable talking about what's going on in that business," is better than invoking a nonexistent federal law or faux French. Of course, such responses will almost invariably continue the conversation, rather than stop it; and that seems to be what such parents want-a way to avoid possible conflict or unpleasantness. So, how exactly are these protected children going to learn to deal with the inevitable conflicts and unpleasant situations that will arise in life?

In the physical world, loopholes don't exist; if one appears to, it's because some information is missing. In the social world, loopholes exist to the degree that a society's individuals accept the idea that some individuals "deserve" better or worse than other individuals, and perpetuate interactions based on such ideas. In such societies, those loopholes eventually wind up becoming nooses of some sort or other.

Anyway, just for thoroughness' sake, I'll answer the question: Yes, deceit is bad for kids. When served to them by their parents, it's poison. Other parents may see no problem in this, since "the dose makes the poison"; but, recalling my own disappointment and subsequent mistrust when I discovered my parents had lied to me, I'm unwilling to risk any titration.


The Next Legal Frontier

One reason to follow Canadian politics is that Canada's hyper-activist courts often function as a kind of test kitchen, in which the legal left can experiment with concepts before advancing them in the US. Here's the current brainwave:

Two Canadian legal groups, Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, are litigating right now to assert that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to Afghan nationals in Afghanistan. As one of the lawyers for Amnesty and the BCCLU puts it:
"If detainees are just protected by international law, only the general decides; if the Charter applies, the courts can overrule the generals. The real difference is who can supervise the generals."
Courts supervising armed forces in the field - there's a glimpse of things to come. And it may well be coming to the US too, depending on what happens in November.



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.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Freedom for thought we hate

By Nat Hentoff

Having been removed as editor of my college newspaper at Boston's Northeastern University by the president who thought I took the First Amendment too seriously, I have been a First Amendment enthusiast ever since, including writing books about it. I can now attest that the most accurate and enlivening account of its history and often extraordinary resilience is the newly published "Freedom for the Thought That We Hate" by Anthony Lewis.

Part of the title comes from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' warning of the most powerful need of the First Amendment, especially in times of national danger and epidemics of speech-suppressing political correctness: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate." I commend the title and the Lewis book to Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is still trying to get his expanded "hate speech" legislation to become law. It adds extra prison time not for the actual conviction for violent acts but for the "hateful" speech accompanying them as interpreted by police and prosecutors.

Once our republic began, James Madison expected that no American would be punished for his "thoughts." But "hate crimes" laws vigorously and incredibly supported by the American Civil Liberties Union are what Madison feared. If these added penalties for thought crimes, also passed overwhelmingly by the House, get to the Oval Office, the president should veto the legislation.

For many years, Mr. Lewis, twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was a nonpareil reporter and analyst of the continuous First Amendment wars in his New York Times column. I do not understand his removal from that sentry post since that paper now has no regular columnist with Mr. Lewis' legal and First Amendment history credentials.

Justice William Brennan once told me when I was talking about the Bill of Rights in schools around the country, "Tell them stories!" That's what Mr. Lewis does in "Freedom for the Thought We Hate." How many Americans know that before the Constitution and our revolution, "Massachusetts hanged Mary Dyer for her Quaker views"? I would add that before Thomas Jefferson and Madison surfaced in Virginia, Catholics were not allowed to hold office and priests were barred from even entering the colony.

Mr. Lewis also dramatizes why and how "it took more than a century for [our] courts to begin protecting speakers and publishers from official repression in the United States." And showing the continuing struggle to interconnect rights of privacy and speech, he quotes Justice Stephen Breyer that "the right to be let alone" encourages us to speak freely during those times "when we fear that our private conversations may become public." But the founders couldn't have predicted the advent of computer technology and government databases, and how we may be approaching the last rites of privacy.

Mr. Lewis brings into the conversation a 1927 opinion (Whitney v. California) by Justice Louis Brandeis, joined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, that affected me with the thrill of Americanism when I was a youngster. It had the freedom force of Louis Armstrong's trumpet: "Those who won our independence... believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty... and that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people, that public discussion is a political duty. They knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction.... They eschewed silence coerced by law." And in this age of terrorism, as before in our history when we were menaced from within and from afar, "Fear of serious injury cannot justify [government] suppression of free speech and assembly."

As in Salem, Brandeis wrote, "Men feared witches and burnt women." To which George Orwell added: "If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be prosecuted, even if laws exist to protect them." That's why I hope large numbers of Americans, of all ages, will read Mr. Lewis's odyssey of why we are Americans.

He acts on what he writes about. On his current book tour, he spoke before the American Library Association at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center. The ALA's leadership has resolutely refused - in contrast with library associations throughout Europe - to demand that Communist Cuba immediately release the independent librarians it has imprisoned for opening private libraries for books banned by this dictatorship: It has burned those confiscated books, including a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Lewis told the delegates what ALA officials there touting their mission of freedom to read didn't want to hear, even in the National Constitution Center: "I can't think of anything worse than putting people in jail for opening libraries." "Freedom for the Thought We Hate" will, of course, not be barred from our libraries. But, then again, the Founders did not intend the First Amendment to be exclusively American.



An "overwhelming majority" of Europeans believe immigration from Islamic countries is a threat to their traditional way of life, a survey revealed last night. The poll, carried out across 21 countries, found "widespread anti-immigration sentiment", but warned Europe's Muslim population will treble in the next 17 years. It reported "a severe deficit of trust is found between the Western and Muslim communities", with most people wanting less interaction with the Muslim world.

Last night an MP warned it showed that political leaders in Britain who preach the benefits of unlimited immigration were dangerously out of touch with the public.

The study, whose authors include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, was commissioned for leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. It reports "a growing fear among Europeans of a perceived Islamic threat to their cultural identities, driven in part by immigration from predominantly Muslim nations". And it concludes: "An overwhelming majority of the surveyed populations in Europe believe greater interaction between Islam and the West is a threat."

Backbench Tory MP David Davies told the Sunday Express: "I am not surprised by these findings. People are fed up with multiculturalism and being told they have to give up their way of life. "Most people in Britain expect anyone who comes here to be willing to learn our language and fit in with us." Mr Davies, who serves on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, added: "People do get annoyed when they see millions spent on translating documents and legal aid being given to people fighting for the right to wear a head-to-toe covering at school. "A lot of people are very uncomfortable with the changes being caused by immigration and politicians have been too slow to wake up to that."

The report says people have little enthusiasm for greater understanding with Islam and attempts to improve relations have been "disappointing". And with the EU Muslim population expected to reach 15 per cent by 2025 it predicts: "Any deterioration on the international front will be felt most severely in Europe."

But leading Muslim academic Haleh Afshar, of York University, blamed media "hysteria" for the findings. She said: "There is an absence of trust towards Muslims, but to my mind that is very much driven by an uninformed media. "To blame immigration is much harder because the current influx of immigrants from eastern Europe are by-and-large not Muslim. The danger is that when people are fearful of people born and bred in this country it is likely that discrimination may follow."


The Battle Over MoCRI

By George Will

Come November, voters will decide more than half a million federal, state and local officeholders and ballot initiatives. Ninety-nine percent of these decisions will matter less than will the five civil rights initiatives that might be on the ballots in Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri.

If the initiatives qualify for those states' ballots, all probably will pass. But the initiatives must surmount ferocious opposition from defenders of racial preferences, such as the politicians who administer and benefit from Missouri's racial spoils system. The crux of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI) would amend that state's Constitution to say: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting."

Similar language has been approved by voters in California (in 1996), Washington state (1998) and Michigan (2006). California's initiative passed 55 percent to 45 percent even though opponents outspent supporters 13-1. Washington's initiative won 58-42 against 10-1 spending. Michigan's initiative won 58-42 although supporters were outspent 5-1. Those spending disparities understate the initiatives' disadvantages because in each state, opponents were assisted by the "diversity" industry that administers racial preferences in the public and private sectors.

Missouri law requires the secretary of state to draft a summary of an initiative, which appears on the ballot "in the form of a question using language neither intentionally argumentative nor likely to create prejudice either for or against the proposed measure." The following, not the MoCRI language quoted above, is what the state's Democratic secretary of state and Democratic attorney general proposed to put on the ballot:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Ban affirmative action programs designed to eliminate discrimination against, and improve opportunities for, women and minorities in public contracting, employment and education; and allow preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to meet federal program funds eligibility standards as well as preferential treatment for bona fide qualifications based on sex?"

Well. The phrase "affirmative action" came into vogue in the years after the 1976 Democratic platform endorsed "compensatory opportunity." That obfuscating phrase appeared immediately after the platform said "we must insure that all citizens are treated equally before the law." Advocates of affirmative action have long denied that it involves racial preferences. Now Missouri is insisting that a ban on such preferences would eliminate all affirmative action.

Ward Connerly, the man organizing this year's five initiatives to promote colorblind governance, disagrees. A California businessman and former member, for 12 years, of the University of California Board of Regents, he stresses that many affirmative action measures, such as outreach to recruit students and employees from economically disadvantaged and isolated groups, do not require racial preferences.

MoCRI supporters went to court, arguing that the two Democrats' "explanation" of their amendment is couched in language that is "convoluted, ambiguous and muddled" and is "prejudicial, conclusory and untrue." They said that banning racial discrimination in the form of racial preferences does not ban programs to eliminate discrimination. They noted that MoCRI does not "allow" preferential treatment; rather, it would not obstruct receipt of federal funds tied to federal requirements. And the secretary of state's and the attorney general's "explanation" of MoCRI does not explain that MoCRI authorizes granting preferential treatment on the basis of age, disability or status as a veteran.

The judge largely sided with MoCRI's supporters, ordering this ballot language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Ban state and local government affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment in public contracting, employment, or education based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, unless such programs are necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for federal funding or to comply with an existing court order?" The two Democrats, aware that similar language has won landslides in three other states, are appealing the decision.

The conventions that govern America's racial discourse derive from the odious "one drop" rule. According to it, anyone with any admixture of black ancestry -- one drop of black "blood" -- is black. So, Connerly is an African-American. One of his grandparents was of African descent, one was Irish, a third was Irish and American Indian, the fourth was French Canadian. Two of the grandchildren of Connerly and his Irish wife have a Vietnamese mother. Are these grandchildren African-Americans?

Will the superstitions surrounding race ever fade away? Not before governance is cleansed of the sort of race-based policies opposed by Connerly, who intimately knows the increasing absurdity of racial classifications, and the folly of government preferences based on them.



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.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ethnic tension surfaces in Germany

Immigrant crime is a central issue in the Hesse state election, stirring a backlash among younger voters

A retired school principal is attacked by two young toughs, an awful beating captured on surveillance cameras and aired on television for days in what has become Germany's equivalent of the Rodney King tape. But in a country that has seen all too many neo-Nazi racist attacks against immigrants over the years, this video turned ethnic violence on its head: It was a young German-born Turk and a Greek attacking a 76-year-old ethnic German who had advised them to stop smoking on the Munich subway. They threw him to the ground and kicked him, cracking his skull, excoriating him all the while, calling him a "pig" and a "German" with a particularly nasty adjective attached. The attack last month transfixed the country, and opened the lid on anti-immigrant tensions that have skulked under the nation's politically correct surface for some time.

Now, the issue of immigrant crime has become the center of elections scheduled for today here in the state of Hesse. Gov. Roland Koch, long seen as an heir apparent to Chancellor Angela Merkel, has played the anti-immigration card with vigor in his bid for reelection, and stirred up a backlash among many voters who see uncomfortable echoes of Germany's Nazi past.

Not far into the campaign, Koch called for deporting non-Germans convicted of serious crimes, even those who may have been born in Germany. He also called for a code of public conduct that would include "German" values such as good manners, punctuality, respect for the elderly and speaking German. "We have spent too long showing a strange sociological understanding for groups that consciously commit violence as ethnic minorities," he told the mass-circulation Bild Zeitung, which has embraced the issue with gusto.

That stance has bolstered Koch's popularity among the conservative Christian Democratic Union's older followers. But it has turned off many younger Germans deeply uncomfortable with the quasi-racist rhetoric, and has dragged Koch from a substantial lead to running neck-and-neck with his opponent, Andrea Ypsilanti of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.

Around Frankfurt, many of Koch's campaign posters have had Hitler-like mustaches drawn on. "It has to do with our history that there is never open debate on this issue. It's still, in a way, the mortgage of national socialism. Roland Koch is expressing what ordinary people think, things they talk about perhaps with friends, but you don't talk about it openly in national discussions," said Juergen Falter, professor of political science at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Yet the topic is becoming unavoidable in cities such as Frankfurt, the financial heart of the European continent, where a stunning 66% of children younger than 5 come from an immigrant family.

The first waves of migrants from Italy and Turkey who came to rebuild the country after World War II were referred to as "guest workers," and it was assumed they would one day go home. Many didn't, and today millions of immigrants, mainly Turks, Russians and Poles, live in Germany and have the right to apply for citizenship, but their children are not automatically entitled to it.

What few, save Koch, have wanted to talk about is that many youths from immigrant backgrounds, saddled with poor educations because they couldn't advance through the sharply tiered education system without a mastery of German from an early age, have become involved in crime. Elderly Germans often say they are afraid to take the subway after dark, fearful of a run-in with gangs of hoodlums, sometimes German, but often Turks or other minorities.

Although immigrants' share of crime is actually decreasing, it still is higher than their proportion of the population in many areas. In Hesse, about 27% of those arrested come from migrant backgrounds. But this reflects in part the fact that police often are quicker to arrest immigrant youths.

"Koch says the truth, he says what needs to be done: These criminals should be sent home," said Josef Schreiber, a 61-year-old carpenter who sat in the front row Thursday night at a rally here for the governor. "We aren't the masters of our own house anymore," said Doris Horch, 67, a retiree.

Many young immigrants describe a society whose chief advantages, from good schools to high-paying jobs, go to ethnic Germans. "I was actually not surprised about the campaign of Koch. What has surprised me is the intensity of humiliation that is brought on those who look different," said Fessum Ghirmazion, a 27-year old doctoral student in political science at Marburg's Philipps University, who sat listening quietly at a recent rally for the Social Democratic Party. "When I enter a room, people just look at me. It makes you feel like somebody who does not belong here."

Ghirmazion, who came to Germany from Eritrea at the age of 1, was allowed to enter the more advanced schools only against the vigorous opposition of his teachers, who advised him to remain with other immigrant students in the lower-standards schools.

More here

Shifting the blame

Worried that Americans are on the brink of a recession -- or perhaps already in the middle of one -- the Bush administration and the House of Representatives have reached tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package. Glad to hear it. A stimulus may not work exactly as expected, but it's worth a try. Americans are overtaxed as it is, and anything that gets more of their tax dollars back into their hands is a good thing. And if they spend what they get, it'll be good for the economy.

There's just one thing. You hear about how voters are angry and holding Congress' feet to the fire until they get some sort of relief. But let's not get so caught up in asking what government can do for us that we forget what we can do for ourselves.

The No. 1 economic threat facing the United States today isn't globalization, stagnant wages, unfair trade policy or illegal immigration. And it certainly isn't what one cable TV demagogue glibly calls a "war on the middle class" by big media, big corporations and big special interests.

Rather, it's the sense of entitlement that many Americans take with them into the workplace and the eagerness with which they shift the blame when things don't go according to plan. The key is to never to take responsibility for the personal decisions you've made. Eventually, some opportunistic politician will come along and confirm what you've always suspected -- that you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control.

It wasn't always this way. Fifty years ago, Americans were a heartier bunch. They'd grown up in the Depression and defeated Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers during World War II, and they found honor in doing any kind of work. If they didn't earn enough money doing it, they took on another job, or another one after that. Most of all, they took pride in the idea that -- in this country -- our destiny is in our own hands.

Today, according to a survey of workers in their 20s and 30s, young Americans expect their jobs to provide not only a nice salary but also plenty of vacation time to enjoy it. And from research done by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, we know that many members of "Generation Me" walk into job interviews brimming with self-esteem and expecting to be put on a path to a corporate vice presidency.

Is that all? And what if they don't get everything that they think they're entitled to? That's when the blame comes in. Americans like to blame illegal immigrants for keeping wages low, or workers from India or China for taking high-skilled jobs. In either case, instead of accepting the challenge and trying to beat the competition, too many American workers will call out for protection. And again, some shameless politician will offer it.

Speaking of shameless politicians, what was Mitt Romney thinking when he told Michigan voters that all those lost jobs in the U.S. auto industry might just come back? Sure, and Ford might start making Edsels again.

It took John McCain to dish out some straight talk and tell Michigan voters what they need to hear -- that these jobs are gone because the world is changing and they have to change with it.

That was awfully brave. But McCain could have gone further. He could have explained that organized labor helped bring about this displacement by pricing autoworkers out of the market. He could have pointed out that many workers went along for the ride because they felt entitled to the same standard of living that their parents enjoyed but didn't want to get the extra schooling or training to achieve it. He could have said that the situation is complicated by the fact that there will always be those who won't move away from their hometowns -- even when the towns are on life support. And, finally, he could have reminded voters that they can't always blame their problems on others and that, sooner or later, they have to grow up and take control of their lives and their destiny.

As part of a stimulus package, the government wants to send out tax rebates to jump-start the economy. That's all well and good. But what some Americans really need isn't a check they take to the bank. It's a lecture they take to heart.


A view of Israel from a sympathetic outsider

Just a few excerpts from a "read it all" article

Jerusalem is an eternal city: the centre of Judaism, the fountainhead of Christianity and an important site for Islam. Visually it is stunning, its character maintained by the most enlightened civic ordinance on record: that all new buildings must be constructed of white Jerusalem stone. Like most Israeli cities it has several diverse communities: ultra-orthodox religious Jews who don't serve in the army and often don't work, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians (a small and diminishing minority), secular Jews, and national religious Jews who serve in the army and participate in the modern economy.

Tel Aviv, Israel's biggest city, is entirely different. It is a sensuous Mediterranean city that offers every decent amenity of any cosmopolitan European city. Its hedonism and its sensuousness are tempered by the strategic gravity of Israel's situation, by everyone doing their military service and by the cultural depth of Judaism, the traditions of the book. Tel Aviv is predominantly secular Jewish, with very few Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews.

Haifa, the port city to the north of Tel Aviv, is different again. It has the largest Arab minority of a big Israeli city and is where Arabs and Jews most easily and fully mix together, although such mixing occurs all across Israel. Haifa is also the world headquarters of the Bahai faith, which was founded in Iran and has suffered terrible persecution there and so has fled to two countries where religious minorities are not persecuted: Israel and India.

One night I dined at the home of a local Israeli Arab leader in the almost entirely Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh, just west of Jerusalem. It has always been identified with the Israeli state. My host had his complaints about the Israeli Government but he was also a proud Israeli. And every night his town, which has many restaurants, is full of Israeli Jews at the countless eateries because, and here I'll make a clear statement of cultural preference, Arab food is generally a little more interesting than Jewish food.

I spent days in the north of Israel and visited the town of Metulla, on the tiny tip of a finger of Israeli territory that juts into southern Lebanon. Until the 2006 war with Hezbollah, its people were repeatedly attacked by rockets from southern Lebanon. The municipality organised field trips away from the town for the children, but mostly the residents stayed. I visited the town's Canada Centre to try the odd practice of pistol shooting on the gun range. Here's another paradox of Israeli society. Many people have guns but it is not remotely a macho society. Its murder rate is low.

The status of Gush Etzion, a little distance to the southwest of Jerusalem, is also intriguing. It was a Jewish area before 1948, when the UN divided the land of Israel into Jewish and Palestinian states, which the Palestinians and their surrounding Arab neighbours declined to accept, so that several Arab nations launched a war on Israel. The Jordanian army took control of Gush Etzion at that time. After 1967 it was re-established as a Jewish settlement. Gush Etzion as a Jewish settlement has a 20th-century history long pre-dating 1967... And yet life in Gush Etzion is normal. Behind the gates people hitchhike routinely (as they do in much of Israel) because they all trust each other....

The most emphatic settlement I visited was Ariel. It's a Jewish town of about 30,000 people, deep in the West Bank. Ariel University College has about 10,000 students, 3000 of them doing pre-undergraduate courses. The student population is racially diverse, as is Israel. The Ethiopian presence is noticeable. But Ariel officials tell me some local Palestinians attend as well, although of course they are under pressure not to.

Ariel is a small but substantial city. It is a beautiful place, full of public gardens and garden homes, and it has a distinctly European air and style. People don't like to use the back road to Jerusalem because even in these relatively calm days there is the danger of attacks. Just a few days before I visit, a Jewish settler, not from Ariel but from nearby, was killed on the road, as it turns out by two Palestinian Authority policemen who simply waited for a victim to come along.

More here

White Muslim terrorists from the former Yugoslavia

Dr Darko Trifunovic has been conducting research into the origins, ambitions and operating methods of what he calls "white Al Qaeda", the home grown branch of the terrorist franchise organization in the various areas of the Balkans. It first took foothold in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Western powers in the 90's saw the influx of Afghan war veterans into the territory as an easy way to support the Bosnian Muslims. Since the Dayton Peace Accord Iranians as well as Saudi Wahhabis have flooded the statelet with funds, over-sized mosques and subversive organizations, one of which has members throughout the Bosniak diaspora in Europe, Canada and the US. CNAB appears to be the center of gravity of the present threats against Trifunovic.

Trifunovic has also found new links between Bosnia and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the London and Madrid train bombings. Specifically mentioned are Mohammed Atta, who coordinated the 9/11 outrage, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Bosnian citizenship holder and war veteran, former Al Qaeda 'Operations Chief', who - according to Dr Darko Trifunovic - took over the leadership of the Al Qaeda media campaign ('the Committee') during the planning of the 9/11. Atta's place of residence was a Bosnian hamlet before launching off to Hamburg and the US for his fatal mission. With the knowledge of the UN interim governors in Kosovo, Albanian-American radicals were actively recruiting terrorists for 'the war against America' prior to the 9/11 attack, of which they had foreknowledge. The UN however, did nothing.

The Foreign Area Officer Association FAOA posits that the Sarajevo based organization, AIO's (Aktivna Islamska Omladina)[1] "(...) Islamic weekly magazine SAFF [2] and organization's website have been fronts of radical Islamic preaching, gaining notoriety for publishing interviews with terrorists who have fought against US forces in Iraq and expressing solidarity with the jihadists and suicide bombers in Israel." FAOA also links the AIO with members throughout the Bosniak diaspora in Europe and the US, one of which is CNAB.....

Up to now Dr Trifunovic has been able to conduct his investigations from the ivory tower of the University of Belgrade in relative tranquility. When it transpired however he was invited to speak during the upcoming 11th Police Congress and - as a consequence, the results of his research would reach the professional domain - no methods have been shunned to intimidate him, discredit him as a person and as a scholar.

With false accusations of 'Srebrenica denial' and 'hate mongering' - references to laws prohibiting Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred - attempts have been made to get him banned from the police convention; impersonations and cyber manipulation being but the least methods of choice to muzzle. But it is my understanding that, far from denying the deplorable events at Srebrenica, Trifunovic has been further investigating the matter.

Apart from the personal injury done here, the public damage of this terrorist saga is two-fold: researchers are being harassed to prevent them from doing their jobs, thus interfering with the right of enquiry. The consequences of such actions on the academic level could well be considerable. The second part is even worse: the intimidation of officials conducting criminal enquiries, subverting the rule of law, leading ultimately to mob rule.

Let me wrap this up with some thoughts of my own. In the past few decades one of the greater mysteries has been the question, how the Holocaust on six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis could have taken place without the entire continent raising up in protest. At present, a sizable majority of people in the West surprisingly seem to be sharing views with the people who have declared against us. However treacherous and hard to fathom this may be, it is kinder on the persons harbouring such views: it is after all easier to be a voluntary accomplice - silent or otherwise - than it is to be a coward.

More here


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.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Britain's voluntary apartheid

The Daily Telegraph recently published an article indicating Islamic extremists have created "no go" areas across Great Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter. The Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester and the Church of England"s only Asian bishop, said people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.

Clearly at stake is the very future of Christianity as the nation"s public religion. With multiculturalism gaining ground as a philosophical position, Islam rides on its coattails. Since all faiths are to be treated equally according to this multicultural faith, it isn't possible to challenge publicly the call to prayer or the reliance on Shariah to adjudicate legal claims.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said England is "sleepwalking into segregation," has been criticized for what some consider incendiary language. However, multiculturalism clearly has led to deep and irrepressible social divisions, what one politician called "voluntary apartheid."

It would appear the divisions can be attributed to the government's failure to integrate immigrants into the larger community. But it is also related to a diminished belief in the Church of England and Christianity in general. Most in Britain believe the church will be disestablished within a generation, severing a bond between church and state that dates to the Reformation.

Of course, there are those who contend the critique of multiculturalism is little more than a manifestation of intolerance. Yet it is the intolerance in the Muslim communities that produced this blow-back.

The Rev. Nicholas Reade, bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, maintains it is increasingly difficult for Christians to observe their faith in communities where they are a minority. He too believes the government will be pressured into disestablishing the Church of England.

There is little doubt that Britain is undergoing dramatic change. In a mere few decades this nation with an acknowledged Christian foundation is now routinely described as a multifaith society. Clearly the large number of immigrants entering the British Isles account in large part for the shift in attitude. Yet that isn't the whole story.

The loss of confidence in the Christian vision, which underlies most of the achievements and principles of the culture, may account for a reluctance to defend the nation's heritage.

If minorities are permitted to live in their own insulated communities, communicating in their own languages and having minimal need to build relationships with the majority, the nation will sink into balkanization. Moreover, this separation feeds and endorses Islamic extremism by alienating youngsters from the nation and creating the impression ideological devotion is a mark of acceptability.

Some Muslims and Christians, of course, recognize the problem and are eager to do something about it. But can Shariah relate to British civil law? Can Shariah-compliant banking be accommodated in a free-market system? Can Christianity be maintained as the nation's public faith? Can universities transmit a sense of Britannia when multiculturalism is in the ascendancy?

These are merely several of the host of questions and issues that must be addressed by government and religious leaders. Unfortunately, there are many more questions than answers and much more confusion on the part of the British public than clarity about the road ahead.


Britain urged to love a man in uniform again

THE government is to sweep away curbs on servicemen and women wearing uniforms off duty in public as part of a drive to boost popular support for the armed services. A report commissioned by Gordon Brown to honour those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq will say all service personnel should be encouraged to wear their uniforms on leave. The curbs were introduced almost 30 years ago during the IRA's bombing campaign on mainland Britain when military personnel were warned not to wear uniforms off duty.

Defence chiefs believe the advantages gained from wearing uniforms and encouraging the public to fall back in love with the armed forces will outweigh any danger from home-grown terrorists. Brown's review will also call for more parades for soldiers returning from the front line and more open days at airfields and naval and army bases. It is seeking to emulate America with cheap flights for troops and free or discounted admission to theme parks and sports grounds such as Wembley, Twickenham and Lord's.

Brown ordered the study after concern that servicemen and women returning from war zones were being ignored or even insulted by some members of the public. According to Downing Street, he wants to "encourage greater understanding and appreciation of the armed services by the British public". It has been headed by Quentin Davies, the former Tory MP who defected to Labour. Last week he toured Canada and the United States to see how well regarded servicemen and women are there in comparison to Britain. "There have been some ghastly incidents, including the insulting of British soldiers in Birmingham, and a woman who insulted crippled soldiers in a swimming baths," said Davies. "People have said they do not get the welcome of their American allies when they go home."

Davies, whose father served in the RAF in the second world war, added: "There should be more exposure to the military. We are not going to recommend people are ordered to wear uniforms on leave. It is a question of encouragement by example." The review also wants Whitehall staff to wear uniforms on days other than Remembrance Sunday, as well as more school visits and involvement from the military. Of 6,400 secondary schools in the UK, fewer than 300 have combined cadet forces.

The review team has already written to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic asking for special deals for service personnel. BA said it had no plans to do so, while Virgin said it already ran a discount scheme for the military. In America Anheuser-Busch, the brewing firm, has given more than 4m free passes to theme parks such as Sea World and Busch Gardens to members of the coalition forces since 2005. British service personnel on visits to the US have benefited from discounts in hotels and restaurants by showing their military ID cards.


Problems with non-traditional family arrangements

Comment from Australia

To the disgust of some, medical technology is not quite up to making men redundant in the baby-making business. Despite the promise of burgeoning new reproductive opportunities, increasing numbers of women who want to go it alone are finding sperm does not come without strings. A case in point was the SBS documentary 2 Mums And A Dad, which aired last week, depicting the fraught attempts by two Melbourne lesbians, Kellie and Fiona, and clucky gay sperm donor, Darren, to become a parent threesome.

Before Fiona goes into her bedroom to impregnate herself with a syringe full of Darren's bodily fluids, the trio draw up a non-binding parenting contract stating that the women are the permanent carers but that Darren has limited visiting rights, which increase with the baby's age.

The women clearly don't know Darren, 39, very well. He becomes resentful of perceived slights during the pregnancy and his behaviour goes from fawning to passive-aggressive. His desperation to be a father is almost unnerving. "Look at this bundle of joy I've got for the rest of my life," he crows to his mother in England via computer video-link, the day his son Marley is born.

Not long into the pregnancy the women realise they have a big problem with Darren, a work colleague with whom they have not socialised and have little in common. The more they see of him, the more controlling and needy he becomes. One excruciating scene has Darren reading the silent women a laundry list of petty grievances, when suddenly he dashes to heavily pregnant Fiona and proprietorally lays his head on her swollen belly. The look of disgust on her face as she endures his intrusion is sad.

It is one of the conundrums of the turkey-baster approach - a woman will have the most profound lifelong intimacy with the man whose genes are mingled with hers in their child, and yet she will never have been physically intimate with him, and may even find his very touch repulsive.

A few weeks after Marley is born, Darren arrives for his scheduled block of father time and the look of trepidation on Fiona's face as he takes the baby away is understandable. But Marley is as much his baby as hers. The women have been clear from the start: they are the family unit, "mum and mum", and Darren is a marginal extra. In other words, it's all about them. But they don't seem to have thought about how Darren might feel about his incidental role. And how will the boy feel, later, when he comprehends his father's lowly standing within his family?

At one point Darren threatens to go to the Family Court when the women renege on the parenting deal, but a sensible lawyer advises him to work out the issues privately. It's not the law that's the problem. It's people and their messy relationships.

It's at least to the women's credit that they wanted the baby's father involved in his life at all rather than selecting an anonymous sperm donor. To Darren's credit, he wants more than the crumbs of fatherhood. Let's hope they work it out.

Others are not so lucky in the minefield we create as we redefine the concept of family. Advances in medical technology have outstripped society's ethical and legal ability to deal with reproductive choices available to people who previously would never have been parents. We now have a market in babies as the fashion accessory du jour. A new American book, Knock Yourself Up: No Man? No Problem! is the most celebratory of a new genre of how-to books for lesbians and single women wanting to have a baby without the messiness of a man.

In interviews with this "new breed of single mums", author Louise Sloan exposes a deep well of selfishness from women who aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary in marriage and disregard their child's right to know his father. "There's a reason I'm single," single mother Eva tells Sloan. "Relationships involve a lot of compromise and I want to keep my voice." How then will she cope with motherhood, which requires boundless selflessness?


Spanish Socialists Attack Catholic Church in Wake of Pro-Family Demonstration

In the wake of a massive pro-marriage and pro-family demonstration that included between one and two million participants, Spanish socialists are lashing out at the Catholic Church, accusing it of hypocrisy and of attempting to intervene in the political process.

Speakers at the rally, which took place on December 30, rarely made mention of government or politics. However, the message of the rally was clear, the natural, two-parent family, consisting of a husband and wife, is the foundation of society. The Socialist Worker's Party, which currently controls the presidency and the parliament, passed a law in 2005 allowing homosexuals to "marry" each other. With barely three months remaining before the national elections, they are worried about the effect the demonstration could have on an already tight race.

According to Vatican radio, the government at first asked the Catholic bishops to "apologize" for the rally. Now the Catholic News Agency is reporting that Jose Blanco, Secretary of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE) that currently occupies the presidency, denounced the Pope and hierarchy, asking them "to explain to me just exactly what is the Christian family, maybe by traditional family he means that the woman just stays at home and does housework." Blanco also claimed that some members of the Church hierarchy needed to "re-read the gospel", accusing them of promoting conditions of "inequality and injustice in the morning, and resolve them by praying the rosary in the afternoon." Blanco encouraged the hierarchy to "evolve".

Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has also complained, asserting that the bishops never criticized the anti-family policies of the Populist Party, the "right wing" alternative to the socialists, who lost power in 2004. However, as the Spanish website ForumLibertas points out, the Catholic bishops repeatedly criticized the Popular Party for failing to defend family values during their eight-year tenure.

ForumLibertas documents the fact that Catholic bishops repeatedly criticized the approval of the abortifacient "morning after pill" RU-486, which was approved under Popular Party leadership in 1998, and decried the "tragic consequence" of the government's liberal abortion laws, which were not altered under Popular Party leadership.

The Spanish ambassador to the Vatican, Francisco Vazquez, also chimed in against the Catholic Church. Speaking of himself in the third person, he said that "many Spaniards, among them the Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, in his role as ambassador, as a politician, as a member of the Socialist Party, but, most of all in his condition of Christian and Spanish citizen," had the impression that the bishops' demonstration had ended up being "practically a political rally". In response, the Spanish activist group Hazte Oir! is calling for the dismissal of Vazquez and is maintaining an on line petition for that purpose



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.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pro-life Women Jailed for Having Begged an Abortionist to Quit a Decade Ago

And that's in Nebraska, not Canada

Pro-life activists Shari McKee and Melissa Abbink were jailed on December 28th, 2007, for speaking to Lincoln abortionist Winston Crabb on two occasions in front of his home 10 years ago. Abbink faces five months in jail while McKee has been sentenced to serve eight months behind bars. According to Operation Rescue, in February 1998, both were charged with violating the "focused picketing" ordinance even though neither had signs and both incidents lasted only a minute each. "Just long enough," said OR, "to plead for the lives of pre-born children as he walked from his car to his house."

After exhausting the appeals of the criminal cases, the convictions were upheld by the Nebraska Supreme Court on September 10, 1999. However, for reasons unknown, the mandate did not come down until September 28, 2005, over 6 years later.

The last two years have been spent seeking a commutation. The women's cases were brought before the Board of Pardons, which was very sympathetic, but refused to act because the Board does not review misdemeanor cases. The Board referred the cases to the Mayor of Lincoln, who has refused to act claiming he does not have the authority to grant commutations. According to the women's attorneys, the Mayor clearly does have the authority to commute misdemeanor sentences.

"We are asking pro-lifers to write to Mayor Beutler and ask him to commute the sentences of these two women," said Larry Donlan, Director of Rescue the Heartland. "Be sure to point out that the Pardon Board says he has the authority to do so. Be polite and remember, it is a commutation that we are after, not a pardon. Like the parable of the widow, we are seeking justice for these two brave, God-fearing women. Only Mayor Beutler has that ability to grant that justice. He can do so by merely picking up the phone." E-mail:


John McCain, Multiculturalist. Immigration is just one problem

We all know John McCain is terrible on immigration. For years he held America's sovereignty and security hostage to amnesty and increased immigration, and his newfound support for "enforcement first" is so insubstantial and transparently insincere that it insults our intelligence. He's so bad that Americans for Better Immigration ranks his performance in office as the worst of all the presidential candidates - including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (See the GOP grid here and the Democratic one here.) And as Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, passage of McCain's bill "would represent the largest expansion of the welfare state in 30 years."

But his support for de facto open borders is merely one manifestation of a larger problem - John McCain is a multiculturalist. I don't mean he eats tacos at the Cinco de Mayo parade (nothing wrong with that!) - I mean he's an ideological multiculturalist. Francis Fukuyama has described (PDF) the ideology of multiculturalism this way: "not just as tolerance of cultural diversity in de facto multicultural societies but as the demand for legal recognition of the rights of ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural groups." At almost every turn over his entire public career, John McCain has supported the pluribus over the unum.

Take bilingual education. McCain has been an enthusiastic proponent of this divisive and discredited program for years. He was honorary co-host of the 1995 convention of the National Association for Bilingual Education; The New Republic reported that he wrote to convention participants that "[t]o reject a native language as a tool for teaching as well as enriching our national heritage makes learning all the more difficult and makes us a poorer nation."

In 1998 he said, "I have always supported bilingual education programs to help students learn English. Proposals to restrict the use of languages other than English are always divisive." That was the year that California voters approved Proposition 227, "English for the Children," which (sort of) abolished bilingual education there.

In 1999 McCain was given the "Legislative Friendship Award" from LULAC, the League of Latin American Citizens, at which point, in the words of the Human Events report, he "hailed the bilingual education that Californians banned with the successful `English for the Children' initiative last year. Insulting the motives of California voters, McCain told the LULAC banquet, `We don't need laws that cause any American to believe we scorn their contributions to our culture.'" (The Los Angeles Times report noted wryly that "McCain's remarks were all but indistinguishable from those of the vice president.")

Despite the fact that he mentions the long-discredited "transition" rationale for bilingual education, McCain has embraced foreign-language maintenance as the real goal, buying into the "we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us" justification for Hispanic group rights. This is what he means with his frequent references to the historical primacy of Spanish in Arizona.

McCain's ideological multiculturalism is also apparent from his longstanding opposition to official status for the English language; as he boasted on Hardball in 2000, "I have fought against English-only ballot initiatives." He started at least as far back as 1988, when he opposed Article 28, an official-English initiative approved by Arizona voters but thrown out by the courts.

More recently, he voted for the Salazar amendment to his 2006 amnesty bill, which would have codified Clinton's Executive Order 13166. That order enshrines official, legally mandated multilingualism, requiring all government agencies and all recipients of federal funds to provide any services in any foreign language requested. (See the text here and more details here and here.) With his eye no doubt on the coming presidential race, he flip-flopped and voted against the very same amendment this past summer during the debate over his most recent amnesty bill.

In last June's presidential debate in New Hampshire, when Wolf Blitzer asked if any of the candidates opposed official English, would they speak up - McCain spoke up, starting with a weasely "I think it's fine," then expounding on the language rights of American Indians. Another part of his response was revealing: "Everybody knows that English has to be learned if anyone ever wants to move up the economic ladder. That is obvious." True enough, but that begs the question: The source of the public appeal of official English is that it asserts not merely a practical reason for newcomers to learn English but a moral obligation to do so. Throughout his public life McCain has repeatedly rejected the idea of such an obligation.

Multiculturalism is more than language, of course. McCain has also supported racial preferences and racial-identity politics. As Ward Connerly wrote in NR:
[In 1996], when a number of Republicans and others in Arizona sought to pass a bill in that state's legislature outlawing race preferences, we were told by several Republican legislators that they had received calls from Sen. John McCain urging them not to support such a measure because - again, as always - it might "send the wrong message."
Rick Santorum, in his recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, describes how McCain racialized the immigration issue to his fellow Republican senators:
[McCain] lectured us repeatedly about how xenophobic we were, lectured us, us being the Republican conference, about how wrong we were on this, how we were on the wrong side of history, and that you know, this is important for his . . . because having come from Arizona, knowing the strength of the Hispanic community, that we were going to be seen as racists, and he wasn't going be part of that, that he was not a racist, and that if we were for tougher borders, it was a racist thing.
He did likewise in opposing Arizona's Proposition 200 in 2006, which would have required proof of citizenship to register to vote, and legal status to access certain state benefits, saying that it would result in "racial profiling."

Even on trivial matters, McCain adopts the racial-grievance worldview of the multiculturalists. When speaking to LULAC in 2000, the AP reports him saying this:
I am ashamed when demeaning stereotypes of Hispanic Americans substitute in our popular entertainment . . . for honest and realistic portrayals," McCain said. "I know that for you to achieve fairer representation in popular media, you will have to achieve a greater representation in the executive suites and boardrooms of corporate media.
That's not all. McCain also supported the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which would have established a parallel government for people of Hawaiian ethnic origin. And on the Kennewick Man controversy, he sided with the American Indian tribes against the scientists.

It's true that McCain has taken liberal stances on other issues - greenhouse emissions, free speech, judges - and those are all bad. But they don't strike at the coherence of the American nation. We haven't heard as much this time around about how McCain is the second coming of Theodore Roosevelt, but a comparison is striking. As John Fonte has suggested, McCain has kept TR's progressivism, which is so unappealing to modern conservatives, but discarded precisely that which made TR attractive - his unapologetic assimilationism. Before anyone ever compares him to TR again, just try to imagine McCain saying this, from one of TR's letters:
We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.
At almost every opportunity, John McCain has rejected the crucible and chosen the polyglot boarding house.


Stoneridge and the Rule of Law

Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the claims of certain defrauded investors when it handed down the decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. This week the court refused to hear the appeal of Enron investors, who raised similar claims.

Is this proof that the court is insensitive to victimized investors? Hardly. It is the mark of a court that insists on predictability and the rule of law -- principles that are fundamental to the protection of investors and success of their investments. Although some have called Stoneridge "anti-investor," the Supreme Court's decision actually protects shareholders from creative and unpredictable new ways to extract large settlements, which always include an ample portion for the lawyers.

At issue was whether companies can be held liable in class actions for securities law violations committed by companies with which they do business, the primary violators. Because the law permits private plaintiffs to recover only against primary violators and not secondary violators, the Stoneridge plaintiffs attempted to portray the defendant-companies as primary violators under the theory that they participated in a "scheme" to defraud.

In Stoneridge,the Supreme Court held that investors in one company cannot sue other companies for securities fraud unless those other companies did something that the plaintiffs specifically relied on when making investment decisions. The court warned that if it adopted the plaintiffs' concept of reliance, the "cause of action would reach the whole marketplace in which the issuing company does business." In other words, had Stoneridge gone the other way, plaintiffs would be able to reach into the pockets of customers, vendors and other firms that simply do business with companies that defraud investors.

Regardless, Stoneridge sparked an outcry from those arguing that in the name of "fairness" and "justice" someone should be forced to pay if the primary wrongdoer cannot. This outcry could lead to demands on Congress to rewrite the securities laws to give plaintiffs like those inStoneridge what they could not get in court -- the ability to reach into a deep pocket regardless of culpability. But justice is not merely finding someone who can pay. Exposing one company to class-action lawsuits because another company defrauded its investors is not fair or just to shareholders who shoulder the burden of class-action settlements.

Moreover, as the Supreme Court observed in Stoneridge, broadening the scope of securities laws can damage capital markets. Subjecting new classes of defendants to lawsuits raises the costs of being a public company, deters overseas firms from doing business here, and shifts securities offerings away from domestic capital markets to the detriment of U.S. investors.

But those who knowingly assist others in violating securities laws will not go unpunished. As the Supreme Court observed in Stoneridge, Congress amended the securities laws in 1995 to allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to bring actions against secondary violators that aid and abet securities fraud. Congress wisely declined to extend that right to private parties, out of concern of abusive securities litigation. The SEC is well positioned to hold responsible individuals accountable by imposing injunctions, officer and director bars, disgorgement, and civil penalties. Ill-gotten gains that the SEC recovers -- along with civil penalties -- may be disbursed to aggrieved investors without the usual cut for the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The SEC uses its authority to hold wrongdoers accountable, and has obtained settlements from parties for similar conduct at issue in Stoneridge. For example, the SEC filed suit against vendors that allegedly aided and abetted in the fraud of U.S. Food Service, Inc. Just last month, it filed suit against a partner of a major law firm for allegedly aiding and abetting Refco in defrauding its shareholders. For egregious violations, the SEC may refer matters to the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges. In both the U.S. Food Service and Refco matters, the SEC cooperated with DOJ.Stoneridge is no free pass to parties assisting in fraud.

The SEC has tremendous leverage to obtain settlements and assert novel bases of liability in court. But the SEC must resist efforts -- internal or external -- to broaden securities laws beyond their existing boundaries, even when those efforts are driven by a desire to see harmed shareholders recompensed. By respecting legal boundaries and not "pushing the envelope," the SEC provides predictability to investors, individuals and companies as to unacceptable conduct.

The SEC has an enormous responsibility not only to enforce the securities laws as written, but also to avoid rewriting and expanding them in the process. The integrity of our capital markets and the welfare of investors depend on the adherence to the rule of law by all participants. That is the lesson of Stoneridge.


Propaganda for toddlers in Australia

CHILDREN as young as three are being taught anti-racism lessons as part of the first NSW Government-funded program designed to stamp out bigotry from a young age. The program will be rolled out at a preschool in western NSW and youngsters will be given regular lessons in tolerance and multiculturalism.

The move comes as NSW councils investigate implementing a similar program across all council-funded daycare centres across the state.

The Menindee Children's Centre, in the state's Far West, has just received a $4000 grant to launch the first State Government-funded program of its kind. The focus on racism follows the 2005 Cronulla riots and a recent Government survey which found more than 40 per cent of migrants surveyed had come across "some" or "a lot" of racism in Australia. Claims of racism also blew up recently in the Sydney Test between India and Australia.

NSW preschool's director Hayley D'Ettorre said the centre would use the funding to launch the program, which was to include guest speakers and lessons on international music as well as foods and books. She said the centrepiece of the program would be regular discussions about racism. "It is the biggest part of the program, it will be about teaching tolerance and positive diversity every day," she said.

Premier Morris Iemma said it was necessary to teach our youngest about tolerance. "It is important for our children to learn acceptance of different cultures at an early age," he told The Daily Telegraph. "If we set our children up with the right messages we will ultimately enjoy a more tolerant, accepting and peaceful society."

Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery said they would study the anti-racism program of one western Sydney daycare centre with a view to rolling out a simular curriculum across the state.



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, January 26, 2008

Spanish Homosexuals File Criminal Charges Against Bishop for Condemning Sodomy

The Spanish State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGT) has filed a criminal complaint against the Catholic bishop of Tenerife, Bernardo Alvarez, for making statements against homosexual behavior and comparing it to child sexual abuse.

Since making the statements in late December, Bishop Alvarez has been widely criticized throughout the mainstream Spanish media for reiterating the Catholic Church's consistent teaching on the subject. After being asked "what is your opinion of homosexuality," by the Spanish newspaper La Opinion de Tenerife, the Bishop stated that people who had the condition for "physiological" reasons were deserving of respect, but went on to say that "it is another question if homosexuality is or isn't a virtue."

"It is necessary to be very careful these days because one can't say that someone suffers from homosexuality," Alvarez continued. "It isn't politically correct to say that it is an illness, a lack of something, a deformity of human nature itself. Something that all the dictionaries of psychiatry said ten years ago can't be said today." "It is very clear that, in this sense, my thinking is that of the Church: the greatest respect for people, but logically, I believe that the phenomenon of homosexuality is something that damages people and society. Eventually we will suffer the consequences just as other civilizations have."

The bishop went on to say that children needed to be inculcated with the virtues of masculinity and femininity, defending his position by noting that children receive guidance to avoid various pathologies, including violent behavior. He said that in most cases homosexual orientation is not biologically determined and is a search for sexual "novelty", comparing it in this sense to pederasty.

Denouncing the Bishop for "identifying homosexuality with the sexual abuse of minors" and for "promoting an attitude of violence and discrimination" against homosexuals, FELGT president Antonio Poveda responded this week by filing formal charges against the bishop with state government prosecutors. Poveda also attempted to portray the bishop as a defender of child sexual abuse, when in fact the bishop was showing the similarity between adolescent sexual abuse and homosexuality. When the La Opinion interviewer objected that homosexuality and sexual abuse were different because sexual abuse was not voluntary, the bishop pointed out that there are cases of minors who consent to it and even seek to provoke it.

"It seems that he is justifying the abuse of minors, coming from an institution that has been condemned the most times in the world for sexual abuse," said Poveda. "It is necessary for the hierarchy to be respectful and to know that as citizens they have freedom of expression, but they also have to respect the standards that are set by the laws in this country and in this case they have passed that boundary, therefore we hope that the Attorney General will intervene to prevent such lamentable declarations from being made again."

The FELGT's complaint follows another similar complaint the group made recently against a protestant minister in the province of Galicia. Marcos Zapata is accused of having given a talk on how to encourage heterosexual development in children. The organization has threatened to sue Zapata and has asked the government of Galicia to investigate him because he conducts anti-drug and anti-violence programs in government schools.


Guardians who need a good smack

Comment from Britain: The NSPCC is parodying itself by setting up a panel to looking into TV parenting shows

How could anybody criticise the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children? Well, they could point out that the NSPCC's media campaigns spread a poisonous message of mistrust by implying that all of our children are at risk from adults, most often those closest to them. I once suggested the charity be renamed the National Society for the Persecution of Child Carers, or the Promulgation of Calumnies about Childhood.

Now, however, the NSPCC appears to be parodying itself by setting up a new body of experts to protect children from abuse on television parenting shows. Not content with saving kids in the real world, they want to rescue those on reality TV. And having bullied and guilt-tripped parents to toe the line, they want to do the same to TV's own parenting experts.

The NSPCC took exception to two "irresponsible" programmes. Bringing up Baby on Channel 4, where mentors taught different systems of childcare, sparked allegations of abuse when one expert suggested that parents leave babies to cry. The Baby Borrowers, the BBC's "unique social experiment", has attracted opprobrium by leaving babies in the care of those whom the NSPCC calls "inexperienced teenagers".

Child protection crusaders have long expanded the definition of child abuse to include anything from smacking a child to shouting at it. Now it appears that even leaving a baby crying in a cot is to be redefined as child cruelty, especially on TV, as is leaving babies with non-related teens - or as we used to call them, baby-sitters. Somehow, generations of us survived such horrific experiences, even without an army of TV producers watching over us.

Of course, those reality shows and their multiple experts are also symptoms of our society's harmful obsession with parenting and child protection. They only add to the inflated debate about the "right" way to raise children, and risk leaving parents with a growing sense of confusion and insecurity. Time to grow up. There is no right way to bring up baby. And whatever hotch-potch method you use will have no long-term effect on your child. As one wise man said, if you can avoid locking them in a wardrobe or beating them over the head with a frying pan, they should be fine.

Old cynics like me might think the NSPCC's new focus rather appropriate, since the charity is something of a reality TV show itself. A huge slice of its 150 million pounds income goes on PR and self-publicity, to raise the cash to put out more propaganda so that it can raise more money to put out more propaganda. Perhaps its new body of experts could start by looking into exploitative broadcasts where child actors pretend to be victims of abuse to guilt-trip innocent people into giving money. Now that's what I call irresponsible TV.


The Gipper lives

BARACK Obama, who is level-pegging with Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, committed what looked like a serious gaffe last week. According to the classic definition, coined by liberal columnist Michael Kinsley, a political gaffe consists of a politician telling the truth inadvertently. And in an interview with a US newspaper, Obama praised Ronald Reagan. In the eyes of left-wing activists, that was rather like a candidate for the papacy putting in a good word for Beelzebub. Worse, Obama praised Reagan not in saccharine generalities that might have been forgiven ("a great American", "he expressed America's can-do spirit", and so on) but more pointedly and heretically as an agent of political change.

Here are his words: "Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 1960s and '70s and, you know, government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think ... he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

Obama might have cited different Reaganite achievements that seem more important historically: for instance, his masterly waging of strategic competition against the Soviets that, in Margaret Thatcher's words, "won the Cold War without firing a shot". But such an argument would not have made all the useful political points implicit in his quote, notably that (a) Reagan changed America for the better; (b) his changes limited government and liberated private entrepreneurship; (c) these changes were necessary and reflected what Americans wanted; and, above all, (d) president Clinton really hadn't altered the trajectory that Reagan launched any more than Nixon had altered the liberal trajectory of FDR and LBJ. This list amounts to a comprehensive dissing of Democratic pieties and recent Democratic history. Obama's rivals were virtually compelled to attack it.

After a day or two it began to look as if Obama's praise for Reagan was not a gaffe at all. After all, Obama had felt no need to withdraw or even amend that praise, usually the final stage of the gaffe trajectory. On the contrary, it had wrong-footed his opponents, strengthened his appeal to Republicans and independents for November, widened his ideological options and confirmed his public image of cool graciousness. Not a bad return on saying what almost everyone, including his rivals John Edwards and Hillary (and Bill) Clinton, knows to be a fact.

That fact, however, reflects a dramatic turnaround in Reagan's fortunes. According to Gallup, Reagan's average approval rating during his time in office was a distinctly average 53 per cent. Since 1989, however, it has gradually risen to 73 per cent (a rating exceeded only by the glamorous but mediocre John F. Kennedy). Asked to rate presidents in terms of greatness, Americans in recent years have put him just under (and sometimes above) Abraham Lincoln.

Such a sharp change reflects several different factors. Retirement and death usually improve a politician's reputation. Old opponents overcome the bitterness of past conflicts; newcomers hardly remember what they were about. Anyone who today cites the striking air controllers almost certainly does so to praise Reagan's firmness. Subsequent events in the world can show someone's real mettle. Dunkirk destroyed the reputation of Chamberlain and Baldwin. The collapse of Soviet communism underlined Reagan's shrewdness and strength, and the worth of his principled anti-communism.

Reagan's domestic legacy has been equally impressive: a political structure constraining government in which his Democrat opponents have been more or less compelled to follow his trajectory. The most favourable interpretation of Bill Clinton's record, for instance, is that he implemented the more progressive parts of the Republican agenda such as welfare reform and the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both Clintons have thus had to adopt a nervously favourable attitude to the Gipper. Anything less would be ingratitude.

Historical scholarship has limped along behind these developments. But recent studies of the Reagan presidency, including some by political liberals such as Richard Reeves, have conceded that Reagan was a successful and historically important president. As Reeves argued, it is simply implausible to imagine that the "amiable dunce" of earlier liberal imaginings could have racked up such impressive achievements.

More important, however, has been one trend utterly impossible to predict. Reagan refurbished his own reputation while suffering from, first, Alzheimer's and, second, death. Books based on his radio scripts, newspaper columns, letters and diaries - all published just before or after his death - have shown him to be a much more diligent, thoughtful, well-informed and able man than his earlier reputation suggested. We now have a clear impression of an inner man who matches the external achievements. His public image has risen accordingly.

Obama is the first politician in this campaign, and perhaps the first Democrat ever, to exploit Reagan's new standing effectively. Hillary Clinton, Edwards and even the adept Bill Clinton are still flummoxed over how to get around the obstacle of Reagan in their path to power. But the Republican candidates are hardly less flummoxed by a GOP primary process that is now in effect a contest to find another Reagan.

Their first problem with Reagan is that he is the great man beside whom they are all bound to look like pygmies until they gain power and, thus, the chance to match his achievements (and doubtful even then). Their attempt to resemble Reagan inevitably diminishes them. Their other problem is they cannot sensibly answer the question: what would Reagan do? They tend to fall back on the reply: what he did last time. But as various conservative intellectuals - David Frum in the new book Comeback, Victor Hanson Davis on National Review Online - have pointed out, that answer is misleading because Reagan was dealing with very different problems from those of 2008. We have to ask instead: what made him a different kind of political leader? William Kristol in The Weekly Standard argues rightly that Reagan differed from most leaders and all the present candidates in being the leader of both a political party and an ideological conservative movement.

The same is true, incidentally, of Thatcher and John Howard. It explains why they could act more boldly than most (directionless) leaders but also why their supporters trusted them when they compromised. None of the three, however, was an original political thinker or a rigid ideologist imposing a prefabricated project on their nations: that is a typical left-wing misinterpretation of Thatcherism in particular. They were courageous and principled leaders applying practical conservative solutions to the problems of hyper-inflation, economic over-regulation and the Soviet advance that had been thrown at them by history. As it happened, their solutions turned out to be the right ones. But they were elicited by the problems as much as springing from conservatism.

History is throwing different problems at America today: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, Iran and Afghanistan among them. Republicans should examine these problems rather than Reagan's record. If they are both practical and conservative, they will tend to come up with reasonable conservative solutions. Obama has already figured this out. He merely thinks the best solutions to these new problems are likely to be liberal ones, and so the next agent of change a liberal version of Reagan.


The Homily that Caused an Outcry and the Priest to be Dismissed

This past December 9, at St. James' parish in Rockford Illinois, a very normal Mass suddenly became a very unusual Mass when a parishioner stood up in the middle of the homily, interrupted the priest, shouting at him "When are you going to stop?", and then left, with her homosexual partner in tow. A few other parishioners also stood up and left the church. A few days later, the priest was dismissed from his duties at the parish by his bishop.

Catholics know that there are some things that you just don't hear preached from the pulpit any more. The most conspicuous of these unpreachables is sexual ethics, especially the idea that using contraception might be immoral, and contrary to a Culture of Life. Most priests know that these are unpopular subjects, and emphatically avoid them. But Fr. Tom Bartolomeo, who until several weeks ago was the associate pastor at St. James parish, is not your typical priest. To begin with, Fr. Bartolomeo was ordained only just over a year ago. This, of course, is not exactly extraordinary in itself, except for the fact that he is now seventy years old. At an age when many other priests are retiring, therefore, he is only getting his feet wet.

Perhaps, says the elderly priest in an interview with, his newness to the ministry and late vocation explains his almost youth-like zeal for his priestly duties. "I'm going to die with my boots on," he says. "Who knows how many years I have left? That kind of puts pressure on me to preach the Gospel message. My days are numbered."

About a month ago, however, Fr. Bartolomeo's enthusiasm for the Gospel message brought an unexpected turn into his life, when he gave what he thought was a normal Advent homily. The homily was the second of a projected series of four homilies dealing with life and family issues, designed to coincide with the four Sundays of Advent - the season leading up to the birth of Jesus. This particular homily had to do with contraception and natural family planning.

The Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is intrinsically and gravely immoral. Church teaching does, however, allow married couples to use the natural rhythms of the female body to knowingly space children, if there is a sufficiently grave reason to do so. These fundamental moral teachings formed the basis of Fr. Bartolomeo's homily.

"New births, anniversaries and funerals, separations of any kind, a photograph from the past - give us pause and remind us whom we are bound to," he said in his homily, a copy of which he provided for LifeSiteNews. "Our human sexuality - father, mother, brother, sister - reveals our deepest relationships. We call God our father, and his Son our brother." "Contraception, contra-conception, trivializes the sacred value of human sexuality - a danger humanity did not have to face a century ago before the advent of modern chemistry and technology, the pill (before or after) and a host of plastic devices."

"Contracept, take God's plan off the table, and you have mayhem," he said. "The most important thing in your lives, bearing children, is no longer discussed. It has been permanently removed from the conversation. Done deal. The pill, the IUD, the diaphragm, the sponge, the condom - who is making money here? - have shut down not only the body but the brain. And wives and husbands wonder why they grow apart? When a man and woman, a husband and wife, share daily this most wonderful mystery of their human sexuality they are bonding as nature and God intended."

In the middle of this homily however, say witnesses, one congregation member stood up and began to argue with the priest, yelling "When are you going to stop?" Gerald Weber, who has been a parishioner at St. James for 47 years, was at that Mass. "It was embarrassing, the noticeable argumentative tone with which she stopped him in his homily," he told LifeSiteNews. "Father treated her nicely for the way she was acting, but she continued yelling. She finally sat down, but then stood up again, and took her friend with her and made a show of leaving the church. With that there were some other people who objected to the subject matter."

While Weber suggests that the homily may have been somewhat "graphic" for a Sunday Mass, insofar as it touched on some of the science of NFP, he points out that nothing in the homily was contrary to Catholic teaching. The fact that Fr. Bartolomeo was dismissed from the parish Weber calls "drastic." "I think it's rather drastic, without knowing all the facts, to come down on a man in this way."

Another parishioner, Heidi Martinez, who was also at the Mass in question, disagrees that the homily was graphic, saying that she can't even recall what might have been considered objectionable in that way. Martinez says she distinctly remembers the date and time of the homily, because she gave birth to her first-born child that same day, shortly after she left the church; she calls her new-born child her "miracle baby," since she had previously gone through three miscarriages. She also says that she has something of a different perspective on the homily, being as she is recently married. The message that Fr. Bartolomeo preached was extremely pertinent and necessary, she says. "The Catholic Church pushes all the time--don't use contraceptives, use NFP, and all that, but a lot of people don't know why. And if you don't hear it from the Church that pushes it, where are you going to get it from?" "You're certainly not going to get it in the Catholic schools."

Weber also revealed to Fr. Bartolomeo, and LifeSiteNews, that the parishioner who had created the scene was a publicly practicing lesbian. She and her partner had recently been told that they could no longer lector or distribute Communion at the parish. "They [the lesbian couple] may have had an edge," says Weber, "because they have recently been kind of, not reprimanded, but not allowed to participate like they had been participating."

The priest, however, is quick to defend his bishop. "Bishop Doran's orthodox Catholic reputation is well established," he points out. "Our diocesan Respect Life Office under the leadership of Bishop Doran is continuously advancing the pro-life cause." "I'm not being punished," Fr. Bartolomeo clarifies, pointing out that Bishop Doran agreed that his homily was perfectly in keeping with Catholic teaching. "I wasn't accused of doing anything wrong. I think the implication was that I was imprudent." [Imprudent for a Catholic priest to preach Catholic doctrine in a Catholic church????]

The Rockford Diocese's media relations official, Penny Wiegert, told LifeSiteNews that the diocese would not comment on Fr. Bartolomeo's dismissal, saying "The reasons for these moves are between the individual priest and his bishop and is considered a personnel issue that our diocese does not discuss in the press out of respect for both the individual priest and his bishop."

Wiegert also defended the Rockford Diocese's pro-NFP stance, saying "The Rockford Diocese is in the forefront of supporting Natural Family Planning and educating the faithful on its physical and spiritual benefits especially in its marriage preparation programs, seminars for married couples and in informational classes....The aforementioned forums are considered to be the most appropriate for educating and promoting the benefits and details of NFP."

Fr. Bartolomeo, however, clearly does not agree that he was imprudent. "The Church is really under attack, and I think we flinch at the slight objections and I don't think that's the proper way to react to our enemies," he says. "Rather than dissuading me, all of this is drawing me more and more into that truth, into the Gospel. I have no idea where this is going to take me." He says that now he is beginning to read everything he can get on the life and family issues, and is looking into the possibility of pursuing advocacy in those areas. He also disagrees that his homily was "graphic," observing that even the youngest children routinely encounter much more explicit material in their day-to-day encounters with television, the internet, and sex-ed at school.

The priest says that he was surprised at the adverse reactions to his homily, but is also learning that many of the Church's teachings on sexuality are not well-known, and are often considered optional by some Catholics. "The fact is, I suspect that most Catholics do not practice NFP," he says. "I think for many people there's a visceral reaction to that, particularly if they haven't heard it before. And tweaking of consciences can be painful."

But, he adds, "There's nothing more central to the malaise and disease in the church than contracepting Catholic couples, and not realizing the wonderful strengthening of faith that can be found in NFP. All you have to do is meet a family and their children to see that they have found the proper way to relate to each other. It's so demonstrably wonderful to see this natural, loving union of children. You don't ordinarily see that in families."



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.