Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming soon: national service (or else)

It's interesting that Germany, of all places, is discussing reducing (though not eliminating) the demands of conscription even as the United States is edging slowly but surely toward some sort of national service.

True, the national service both Barack Obama and John McCain promise doesn't really resemble old-style military conscription -- although there have been calls to reinstate exactly that. Instead, the two presidential contenders envision sort of an expanded AmeriCorps -- bureaucratized volunteerism for every job the government wants done on the cheap -- with young people encouraged to participate through a combination of bribes, such as tax credits, and social pressure to conform.

But some high schools are already requiring community service as a condition of graduation, and Obama's website says he wants to "require 100 hours of service in college." That may not be a lot, but it is compulsory, and suggests an attitude that regards citizens as servants of the state. It's easy to see how the "voluntary" national service of next year could become the expected-as-a-condition-of-a-diploma labor for the state of five years from now.

I'm working on the assumption that my son will be strongly encouraged, or even required, to surrender some portion of his life to the dictates of government officials. If he's so inclined, I'll do what I can to help him defy such demands.


'I despise Islamism' says award winning British author

He is known for his polished prose, critically acclaimed novels -and for keeping a decidedly low profile. But today the Booker-winning novelist Ian McEwan found himself at the centre of an uncharacteristic row. During an interview with an Italian newspaper, the author launched a stinging attack on Islamism, saying he despised it and that it wanted 'to create a society that I detest.'

The fiercely private Mr McEwan, whose books include On Chesil Beach and Atonement which was recently made into a film starring Keira Knightley, was prompted to make the comments in defence of his friend Martin Amis. 'A dear friend had been called a racist,' he said. 'As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist. "This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. 'And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on - we know it well.

He went on: 'When you ask a novelist or a poet about his vision regarding an aspect of the world, you don't get the response of a politician or a sociologist, but even if you don't like what he says you have to accept it, you can't react with defamation. 'Martin is not a racist, and neither am I.'

Mr McEwan made his comments to Guido Santevecchi, a London correspondent for Corriere della Sera, and it is even possible he could now be investigated by police for a hate crime.

The novelist had spoken on the topic before and last year told The New York Times 'All religions make very big claims about the world, and it should be possible in an open society to dispute them. 'It should be possible to say, "I find some ideas in Islam questionable" without being called a racist.'

Mr McEwan's comments, however, are nowhere near as strong as those made by Martin Amis. 'The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order', he has said and in an open letter to columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a Muslim 'Islamism, in most of its manifestations, not only wants to kill me - it wants to kill you.'


Kids' parties dictated to in Sweden

Equality is COMPULSORY

It was supposed to be a party with balloons and a birthday cake but the eight-year-old Swedish boy had not reckoned on his country's obsession with equality and inclusiveness. Two of his classmates were left off the invitation list - and that, deemed his school - was forbidden and a violation of their rights in the strictest "nanny state" in Europe. The case has been sent to the Swedish parliament and has sparked a national debate about individual liberty. Does a child have the right to invite anyone he wants to a party, even if he risks hurting the feelings of those who were left out?

These issues are taken seriously in a society that has a very active Children's Ombudsman and which encourages children to voice their complaints about school and society. Sweden is the best place in the world to grow up, according to the Save the Children Fund's 2008 index. So much so, apparently, that adults and school managers have been put on the defensive. The Swedish pressure group Children's Rights in Society publicised recently 1,895 complaints by children about the way their parents used the household computer to access pornographic websites or sex chatlines. The Government is now looking into the problem.

Lena Nyberg, the Children's Ombudsman, is waging a campaign against collective punishment in schools too. Children have been complaining to her about the way that entire classes are kept behind after hours to punish an offence committed by a single pupil. "Adults at work would never accept being punished for something which a colleague is guilty of," Ms Nyberg said.

The birthday party case takes state intervention to a new level. Before the beginning of lessons the boy had cheerfully threaded his way through the class handing out invitations. When the teacher spotted that two children had not received one he confiscated the invitations. "One of the children had not invited my son to his own birthday party," explained the father of the boy, who lodged an official complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman. "The other one had been bad to my son for six months. You do not invite your antagonists."

That was not convincing enough for the headmaster or government deputies. "I believe the staff acted correctly, in a model way," said Lars Hansson, of the Swedish Liberal party, one of the four ruling coalition partners in the country. "It is their duty to reject any forms of insulting behaviour. To eliminate individual children from parties is not acceptable."

The school, in Lund, southern Sweden, argues that if invitations are handed out on school premises, which are public areas, it has an obligation to ensure that there is no discrimination. It is irrelevant that the party will be held in a private household. In other societies, exclusion from a party may be considered as a rite of passage. Many Swedes seem to believe, though, that equal treatment helps to reduce the unseemly scramble for classroom popularity and the splitting of pupils into groups of the socially attractive and those children perceived as unpopular.

A poll in Dagens Nyheter, a daily newspaper in Stockholm, showed that Swedes are divided on the matter: 56 per cent believed that a child should be free to choose who attends his party and 44 per cent backed the teachers. The debate is likely to continue until a verdict is reached in September, in time for the next school year. "My son has taken it pretty hard," his father told the newspaper Sydsvenskan. "No one has the right to confiscate someone's property in this way, it's like taking someone's post." In the meantime, the boy has several years to plan a very special celebration for his 18th birthday, when he will be free to leave anyone he wants to off the guest list.


Duplicitous affirmative action defenders

Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

An article about the anti-equality protesters in Arizona has all the usual drivel we have come to expect from them - outraged (and outrageous) charges that the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative is a "fraud"; would be "a setback for civil rights"; etc. - but it is nevertheless noteworthy, for three reasons: 1) one of the misrepresentations from the anti-equality protesters is unintentionally but revealingly humorous; 2) one of the misrepresentations is perhaps the most egregious I've seen in the long, sordid history of the pro-preference crowd; and 3), and perhaps most astounding of all, one of the Arizona protesters actually said something that is almost true. I'll take these in turn.

1. Shanta Driver, a "national spokeswoman" for BAMN, the violence-promoting pro-preference group whose official title is "Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, & Immigrant Rights and Fight For Equality By Any Means Necessary," has been encountered here a number of times, spouting nonsense and doublespeak, promoting unruly, disruptive behavior, engaging in Driver-by attacks on equality, filing frivolous lawsuits that inevitably get dismissed by the courts, etc. Now, predictably, she's shown up in Arizona to organize BAMN's voter intimidation efforts there, only now she's apparently trying to clean up her image. She is identified in the article (linked in first paragraph above) as representing "The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action." Looks like the "... By Any Means Necessary" was conveniently discarded, temporarily, as too incendiary for Arizonans.

2. Mathew Whitaker, one of the Arizona pro-preference protesters, had the nerve (or perhaps merely the ignorance) to claim that voting for the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative
would be rolling back mechanisms, programs, procedures and policies that allow everyone regardless of race, regardless of gender, equal access to that which sustains us here in the state.
In short, Whitaker has given new meaning to the concept of duplicitous disingenuousness (unless,of course, he's simply too dumb to know what he's talking about). Accusing civil rights advocates of engage in fraud and misrepresentation, he asserts that prohibiting the state from discriminating against any individual based on race, ethnicity, or gender would eliminate programs that provide equal access to everyone "regardless of race, regardless, of gender." News bulletin for Mr. Whitaker et. al.: it is the opponents, not the supporters, of the Arizona Ciivl Rights Initiative who regard official colorblindness ("regardless of race," etc.) as racism, who want to preserve programs that discriminate against some and give preferential treatment to others based on race.

3. Whitaker, perhaps doing an imitation of the stopped clock that is right twice a day, did, uncharacteristically of BAMN protesters everywhere, say one thing that was almost true. He urged voters to look closely at the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative in order
to understand that what you are looking at is not necessarily a measure that has been put forth by people whose definition of civil rights is the same as yours.
Almost true, but not quite. That initiative is "put forth" by people whose definition of civil rights is indeed different from Whitaker's and BAMN's, but I'm confident it is a definition shared by most voters in Arizona, as it was by voters in California, Washington, and Michigan.


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, June 29, 2008

Muslim polygamy: Taboo topic sparks critical debate in Canada

In the month since the Star published its investigation into the secret world of polygamy in our community, reporter Noor Javed has braved a firestorm of criticism. So too has the Star itself, with several complaints about Javed's groundbreaking articles about polygamy within the Muslim community in the GTA coming to the public editor's office. I've spent considerable time looking into these concerns and I think that the Star's reporting on this was accurate, fair and balanced.

I also believe it was a courageous act of journalism for Javed, a Muslim woman who has written illuminating articles for the Star in the past about her spiritual journey to Mecca to fulfill the holy Muslim pilgrimage called the hajj, and also about her choice to wear the Muslim head scarf, the hijab. As a journalist and a "visible" Muslim who chose to expose evidence of polygamy within the GTA's Muslim community, Javed well knew she would come under fire. But she also believed that reporting on this controversial, "taboo" issue, which is clearly illegal in Canadian law, could spark critical debate among Canadians.

I, however, was surprised by the personal attacks against her. Javed's commitment to her faith has been questioned by other Muslims and some have even suggested it was improper for a Muslim reporter to report on this. One "open letter" that came to my office, the Star's letters page, and is now circulating in the online blogosphere, accuses Javed of demonizing Islam itself. "If your intention was to spark debate on polygamy in the community then the Toronto Star was not the forum for it," the letter states. "There is already ample anti-Islamic sentiment in the world and it is not befitting for a Muslim to add to it. "As a Muslim woman, you had an Islamic obligation, to defend this aspect of your faith, not to deliver a further blow to an already bruised community."

While many North American Muslims have widely, and sometimes justly, criticized the media for anti-Islamic bias in the days since 9/11, I don't think the Star's reporting on polygamy was either anti-Islamic or unfair. Javed spent several months investigating this, talking to dozens of people including four local Muslim women who believe they have been victimized by polygamy. This has not been about "airing dirty laundry," as some have accused Javed of doing, but of airing these concerns.

Javed's reporting put the issue into context, explaining the perspective on polygamy of both the Muslim faith and Canadian law. She wrote that while polygamy is generally among the "last taboos" in Western society, it's practised in more than 850 societies worldwide, including within the fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C. She also spoke to several legal experts who believe polygamy will soon be forced to face a constitutional challenge.

But as Star columnist and editor emeritus Haroon Siddiqui also pointed out in a follow-up column to Javed's articles, those practising polygamy in Canada are breaking the law as it now stands: "Muslims are obliged to obey the law of the land where they live" he wrote.

Aly Hindy, the iman of Saluhuddin Islamic Centre who openly told Javed that he has "blessed" numerous polygamous unions, now accuses the Star of bias against the Muslim community. In an email to several hundred people, now posted online, Hindy's son, Ibrahim, states that the Star has an "agenda" to "caricature" the Muslim community and Hindy as "backwards, as anti-women and even anarchist ..."

Last week, Hindy submitted a lengthy opinion article suggesting that Javed had quoted him out of context and was inaccurate in her reporting. In fully investigating this, including listening to Javed's tape-recorded interviews with Hindy, I found these charges to be without merit. The Star declined to publish Hindy's article. We did tell him that the Star would publish a letter to the editor to clarify his perspective. He has thus far declined to submit a letter.

Despite this controversy, Javed's reporting on polygamy has done what it was intended to do - instigate critical debate. Whether it was in mosques across the GTA, at dinner tables, or on radio and television, these Star articles have sparked heated and necessary discussion about polygamy and the legislation around it. For me, that fulfils the highest purpose of great journalism.


Offensive thoughts now vie with offensive words

Beyond the rude words, which now cause the merest frisson of surprise, there are areas which, by a more subtle process than legislation, have, over time, become out of bounds. In an age when taking offence has become a cultural pastime, a process of gentle, fuzzy self-censorship has become established. It is no longer swear words that have the power to offend, but inappropriate thoughts.

For example, when did someone last dare to suggest in open debate that feelings - the feelings of ordinary people - are often completely irrelevant when it comes to public policy? Ever since the British discovered the dangerous pleasures of shared, public emotion, reason has become suspect. Politicians, obliged to show their soft and caring side, now play down the very strengths which any decent leader should possess - the ability to think coolly and rationally. You are as likely to hear a minister or shadow minister dismissing emotion and arguing for judgement and reason as you were in the 1970s to hear one of George Carlin's dirty words on Last Of The Summer Wine. Sentimentality rules, and anyone who disagrees is a cold-hearted rationalist.

There are more specific no-go areas. Thanks to a careful rewriting of recent history, the invasion of Iraq is now treated as if it was foisted on the British people by the brutal and ruthless Blair government. In fact, it was rather widely supported at the time, although it suits us to forget the fact. Soldiers are still dying today but the debate is over; it is as if only a tiny handful of people believe in the Iraqi cause any more, and they happen to be running the country. For their part, the media are too bored or embarrassed to address the issue. The war has become a non-subject.

Television reflects back at us our deepest confusions and anxieties, most obviously in matters of race. Is the colour of a person's skin important? In the reporting of gang behaviour, it is not. When one contestant on a reality show addresses another as "nigger", she is expelled from the show amid an orgy of hand-wringing. On the other hand, an entire episode of South Park whose plotline revolves around the same word can be broadcast without the slightest worry.

Occasionally, as in the recent appointment of Paul Ince as manager of Blackburn Rovers Football Club, the awkwardness which surrounds the subject of race becomes evident. The first black manager of a Premiership team is, on the face of it, a worthwhile story but, because colour should no longer be an issue for serious people, there was a sense of uneasiness in the television reports, an embarrassment that such a thing had to be covered at all. There are other more obvious problem areas. No writer or director who wishes to remain employed will include a scene in which a character lights a cigarette, inhales contentedly and sighs, "Ah, that's better." Yet other addictions are actively and cheerfully encouraged.

A group mindset extends into the most trivial of areas. Why have newsreaders become so grand, with Sir Trevor McDonald or Huw Edwards taking on the rather peculiar role of father figures to the nation? Who was it that decided that Dame Judi Dench is the greatest actress of her generation, or that Stephen Fry is the most brilliant man to appear on television, or that Dawn French is hilariously and endearingly funny?

The group wisdom about such things, and the way certain topics and points of view become inappropriate, are part of the same faintly sinister process. The obscenity law may be marginally more relaxed than it was in George Carlin's heyday, but self-imposed controls and constraints exert a firm, suffocating grip.


The revenge of the Ku Klux Klan

When I heard the secular jihadists at Americans United for Separation of Church and State had filed a lawsuit trying to block South Carolina from issuing vanity license plates that say "I Believe," it reminded me of the Ku Klux Klan. Why would the actions of the self-proclaimed "progressives" at Americans United for Separation of Church and State make me think of the racist bigots from a bygone era? It's very simple, really. You probably don't know that today's radical secular agenda promoting absolute separation of church and state was a movement actually birthed by the Klan.

It's one of many interesting insights I gleaned from reading a new book, "Who Killed the Constitution?" by Thomas E. Woods and Kevin R.C. Gutzman - by the way, perhaps the best book I have ever read on the betrayal of our American heritage. "The 'Klansman's Creed' included a statement that 'I believe in the eternal Separation of Church and State," write the authors. Between 1915 and 1926, the Klan had a major revival, largely due to increased Irish immigration that the organization exploited into anti-Catholic bigotry and fear-mongering.

It was the Klan that spawned Justice Hugo Black of Alabama. He officially joined the group in 1923 and used his activism in it to launch a successful campaign for the Senate. In 1937, the Senate confirmed his nomination to the Supreme Court. Throughout his tenure on the Supreme Court, Black pushed the separation of church and state line in his opinions, setting the stage, as the authors put it, for the landmark Engel v Vitale case in 1962.

"The facts of the case were simple: New York state had a policy of encouraging local public school districts to adopt prayers to be recited each morning by those students who chose to participate," they write. "New Hyde Park, New York, had adopted an anodyne prayer: 'Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.' The plaintiffs asserted that this practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause - as Justice Black put it in his majority opinion, that it 'breache[d] the wall of separation between Church and State.'"

Might it surprise our friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State to know who made the bed in which they now sleep? It wasn't Thomas Jefferson. It was a red-necked bully and coward in a hood and white robes. Later, one of those racist hate mongers traded in his white robes for the black robes of a Supreme Court justice and carried on his bigoted agenda in a powerful new venue.

President Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged in correspondence to a friend that he suspected Black was a Klansman before he named him to the court. And, today, Black's racist roots have been glossed over by historians, largely because of his rulings in cases like Engle v Vitale.

As one biography of Black puts it: "He was often regarded as a member of the liberal wing of the Court, together with (Earl) Warren, William O. Douglas, William Brennan, and Arthur Goldberg." So, apparently there is little distinction between the Ku Klux Klan and the progressive movement when their agendas overlap.

The movement for so-called "separation of church and state" in America began in earnest as an anti-Catholic extremist effort directed by the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was successful at getting one of its own on the Supreme Court at a critical time in history. It was Hugo Black's important swing vote that established the notion that reciting a simple, inoffensive, non-sectarian prayer in school was tantamount to establishing an official state religion.

That's the ancestry of today's radical secularist jihad to chase any vestige of faith from the public square. Americans United for Separation of Church and State was founded in 1947, right after one of Hugo Black's landmark opinion in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township - a decade after the Klansman made the transition to honored justice.

I don't suggest Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, shares the Klan's racist, hateful ideals. But I do need to point out they represent the heritage of his ideals.


Antisemitic slur from Time magazine columnist

Accusing Jews of "divided loyalties" is an ancient antisemitic slur

Time magazine political columnist and blogger Joe Klein has posted his reaction to a column today by David Brooks of the New York Times.

Brooks credits President Bush for his decision, in the face of enormous political pressures, to embrace the so-called surge strategy in Iraq. Klein chalks this up not to President Bush's knowledge of tactics or strategy but to Bush's stubbornness - while Klein, who presents himself as a man in possession of enormous knowledge and sophistication about counterinsurgency doctrine, merely happened to be wrong in his fierce opposition to it. In any event, Klein admits he was wrong in opposing the surge and has proper praise for General Petraeus, which is admirable.

But then Klein goes on to say this:

The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked-still smacks-of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives-people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary-plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.

Put aside the fact that Klein himself, swept up in the success of democratic elections in Iraq in 2005, was quite sympathetic to what he now refers to as "neocolonialist legerdemain." The "divided loyalties" charge is an ugly smear, one that ignores, among other things, the vast non-Jewish and non-neoconservative support for the Iraq war. (For example, the use of force resolution passed with 77 votes in the Senate - the overwhelming majority of which were cast by non-Jews and non-neoconservatives).

And on the matter of Iran: isn't it reasonable to assume that if Iran possessed a nuclear weapon it will pose an enormous threat not simply to Israel but to the region (including other Arab states) and the interests of America? And doesn't it matter that Israel is among our closest allies, a nation of extraordinary achievements and virtues, and one with whom we have security agreements? This doesn't necessarily lead one to support U.S. military strikes against Iran in order to prevent Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, & Company from possessing a nuclear weapon. If Klein is against that, fine; he should make the argument on prudential and policy grounds. But arguing that those who favor using military force against Iran and happen to be Jewish are driven by "divided loyalties" is despicable and libelous.

Joe Klein appears to be a man who cannot control his anger and even hatred toward those with whom he has policy disagreements. It is a sad thing to witness. And those who care for Klein should do him a favor and urge him to give up blogging, which allows his unfiltered rage to make its way into print and embarrass him and the magazine for which he writes.



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, June 28, 2008

TIME magazine for Socialism

Anyone who is still wondering why the so-called "mainstream media" was so hostile toward Congressman Ron Paul's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination will find an answer in the June 2 issue of Time magazine. Congressman Paul is a deeply educated student of economics, among other things, and an unabashed advocate of economic freedom and limited constitutional government; Time magazine is staffed by socialist ideologues who display little or no evidence of ever having studied economics at all.

The second paragraph of "How the Next President Should Fix the U.S. Economy," by one Justin Fox, explains the real problem as Time sees it: Americans enjoy too much economic freedom. The natural solution, therefore, is to strip them of their freedom with higher taxes, more regulations, and greater regimentation of their lives. The cause of all of today's economic problems, says Time, is of course Ronald Reagan, who supposedly cut taxes, went about "slashing regulation," and preached "the gospel that individual Americans were better suited to make economic decisions than bureaucrats in Washington were." Where on earth did Americans ever get such a crazy idea?

But there is hope, says Time. "There are signs that . America's 25-year love affair with tax cuts and deregulation" is ending. One reason for this is that the federal budget is "way out of balance." According to Time, the fact that the Bush administration has been even more spendthrift (on domestic spending as well as military) than the notorious Johnson administration, and has accumulated huge budget deficits, is evidence that Americans have too much freedom and too much money in their pockets. They need to be taxed more severely in the name of budgetary "balance." Not one word is devoted to the idea of cutting spending of any kind by a single dollar, let alone abolishing entire government bureaucracies altogether.

Then there are "soaring energy prices," caused by increased worldwide energy demand coupled with sluggish supply growth that has been blocked by environmental regulation. This would include the regulations that prohibit oil exploration in 85-90 percent of the outer-continental shelf off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as in most of Alaska. Even though regulation has caused this problem, the "solution," according to Time, is more regulation of the energy industry.

A third reason for "hope" that Americans will give up their economic freedom is the housing crisis, which again was caused primarily by the Fed-generated boom-and-bust cycle, with a little help from the government's thirty-year policy of forcing banks to make bad loans to uncreditworthy borrowers under the Community Reinvestment Act. Time wants to blame it all on the free market, however, and makes no mention at all of the role of monetary policy in generating the housing-market crisis.

Health-care costs began spiraling out of control as soon as government became involved in the post-World War II era, especially with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid. Health care and health insurance are arguably the most heavily regulated industries in America; decades of cost-increasing regulations have been the main cause of the "health care crisis" that the socialist ideologues at Time are so worried about. Government control of health-care markets is the problem; therefore, the obvious "solution" is even more government control of health-care markets, says Time.

Time's Justin Fox presents a tired, old, laundry list of failed socialistic interventions. These include protectionism; more income "redistribution" (a.k.a., legal theft) via the tax system, i.e., "heavy taxes on the rich"; more pork-barrel "infrastructure" spending - and higher taxes to pay for it; an additional round of tax increases "to close the budget gap" (which of course tax increases never do); yet another round of tax increases on oil, gas, and natural gas to "steer" consumers away from these items; more tax increases still in the form of elimination of the mortgage-interest deduction, which "costs the government about $80 billion a year"; and, of course, socialized medicine, the tax increases for which would entirely swamp all of the previously mentioned tax increases. (Time promises to explain how to "make universal health care work" in a separate article. I can't wait.)

What Time's "fix" involves is essentially the Sweden-ization of America, where the average working family would be handing over 65-70 percent of its earnings to government bureaucrats, with regulation-induced price increases eating up perhaps another ten percentage points. This all needs to be done at the very beginning of the next administration, moreover, for "putting off change won't be an option much longer." It is a perfect recipe for impoverishing America.


Ethnic independence helps keep the peace

President George W. Bush recently visited Slovenia for a summit between the United States and the 27-nation European Union. Slovenia is the only success story emanating from the violent ethnic break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s after the Cold War ended. The reasons for its success, and lack thereof in other new states originating from the now defunct Yugoslavia, should inform policy decisions in faraway Iraq.

Unfortunately, in the 1990s, violence during Yugoslavia's break up tended to be directly proportional to the ethno-sectarian diversity of the geographical entity. Slovenia-the most ethnically, religiously, culturally, and linguistically homogeneous of the former Yugoslav states-had the least violence during the disintegration. After a war of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 that lasted only 10 days and killed only 70 people, Slovenia has flourished politically and economically. In contrast, in the more ethnically and religiously diverse Croatia, severe violence occurred in its subsequent war of independence. Even worse, the most ethnically and religiously heterogeneous piece of geography in the former Yugoslavia-Bosnia-had a brutal civil war with the worst atrocities committed in Europe since World War II. The Western powers, led by the United States, became involved and forced the parties into the uneasy Dayton peace accord.

The primary reason that Bosnia has not exploded into renewed civil war since the 1990s is the Dayton accord's creation of a decentralized Bosnian state. Such a governing arrangement allows each group-the Serbs, the Croats, and the Muslims-to have autonomous governance and a veto over decisions by the weak central government. The structure is not perfect, but it has helped prevent further eruptions of ethno-sectarian carnage.

Although faraway geographically, culturally, ethnically, and religiously from the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, like Bosnia, is an artificial country containing many ethno-sectarian divisions. Also as in Bosnia, politically correct Western do-gooders-some of whom histrionically argue that decentralized autonomous rule by ethno-sectarian groups constitutes "apartheid"-would like a stronger central government in Iraq. In fact, the already decentralized Iraqi governance needs to allow even more autonomy to ethno-sectarian and tribally based jurisdictions. Apartheid-in which one dominant group enforces racial, ethnic, or sectarian separation using coercive means-is much different from boundaries for autonomous governance created voluntarily by ethno-sectarian groups. We in the wealthy United States may not choose this type of voluntary ethno-sectarian-based governance-although the United States does have voluntary ethnically or racially homogeneous areas-but it may be the only means to achieve a modicum of stability in some developing countries racked with internecine ethno-sectarian violence.

Unfortunately, many areas in Iraq have become more homogeneous because of forced ethnic cleansing between ethno-sectarian populations. But returning refugees to their homes would probably only rekindle the slaughter. Instead, if new autonomous regions are created, incentives may have to be provided to get them, and people stuck on the "wrong" side of the boundaries, to permanently relocate to safer areas.

In the short-term, the United States has reduced the violence in Iraq. It has done so, however, by reinforcing ethno-sectarian identities-for example, by arming and training former Sunni guerrillas and Shi'i militiamen and by relying on Iran to broker a cease-fire with the Shi'i militia of Moktada al-Sadr, instead of undertaking a U.S. attempt to defeat this force. At the same time, the United States has contradictorily demanded that these same parties reconcile and share control of a central government.

Given Iraq's history of one group dominating the central government machinery-the Sunnis-and using it to oppress the other groups-the Kurds and the Shi'a-the groups will likely eventually fight over any significant central government power. Thus, to prevent an all-out civil war when the United States finally pulls its finger out of the dike and withdraws its military forces from the country, the power of the Iraqi government will probably have to be reduced to a weak confederation of autonomous regions based on voluntary tribal or ethno-sectarian associations. And even then, the best Iraq can probably hope for is uneasy stability-similar to than afforded to Bosnia by its weak confederation.


Iranian corruption

Underneath Iran's imperial ambitions and messianic pretensions suppurates a pre-modern patronage system that corrupts everyone who comes near it. The system is rotten, and must either break down, or break out, that is, through military adventures. Western observers who hope for reduced tensions through replacing the feckless Ahmadinejad with Majlis (parliament) speaker Ali Larijani will be disappointed. On that more below.

Iran's economic disaster looms large in the twilight war now in progress in the Middle East. Israel has just conducted the sort of public display of force that a nation does not do if it actually plans a surprise attack. Israel engages Syria, Egypt engages Hamas, and everyone else engages Iran - but to what end? It may be Sitzkrieg (sitting or phony war), but it is war nonetheless. Wars arise not from whim, but from circumstances that the prospective belligerents cannot bear. Iran has shown in the most vivid fashion that it cannot solve its internal problems. It is therefore likely to seek an external solution.

What happened to the US$35 billion of oil revenues that Iran's Shabab News, in a now notorious account, claims disappeared from official accounting during the year through March 2008? Half the country's oil revenues disappeared from the books. A great deal of it left the country for banks in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere; capital flight already was running at a $15 billion annual rate last year, by my estimate.

During the past year, though, conspicuous consumption in the form of a luxury housing boom has absorbed even more of Iran's oil windfall. Luxury apartments in Tehran's better neighborhoods now sell for $15,000 per square meter, Agence France Presse reported May 26, equal to the best neighborhoods in Paris or New York. A 200-square-meter apartment in northern Tehran sells for about $1 million. Real estate prices in outlying suburbs and some provincial cities have doubled over the past year.

Corruption has metastasized, that is to say, for the scale of the property boom implies that tens of thousands of Iranians are taking six-to-seven figure bites out of the oil budget. Rather than a handful of officials siphoning state funds into bank accounts in Dubai, an entire class of hangers-on of the Islamic revolution is spending sums beyond the dreams of the average Iranian, and in brazen public view.

Ahmadinejad's patronage system generates payoffs to the political class that have set in motion uncontrolled inflation - officially 25% per year but certainly much higher - and a rush into real assets. A side effect is that the average Iranian urban household, which spends $316 a month, is gradually being priced out of the rental market.

Not only rents but foodstuffs, fuel and other essentials have registered double- or triple-digit price increases during recent months, according to fragmentary reports trickling out of the country. The government's 25% inflation figure cannot be correct. The German Suddeutsche Zeitung's Tehran correspondent wrote on June 17, "Price increases follow one another in batches. After the prices of rice and detergent suddenly jumped by a multiple, tea prices have their turn. In just a few days different types of tea have become 300% to 700% more expensive." It is too early to speak of hyperinflation, but the the Iranian bazaar already presents with symptoms of incipient hyperinflation. How do households survive?

"Iranian urban households spent an average of 35 million rials (US$$3,700) for current annual living expenses (about 2.9 million rials per month)" in fiscal year 2005-2006, reports the country's central bank, of which just under 30% bought food. But it also reports that "urban households had an annual average gross income of 31,674 thousand rials [US$$3,423], about 2,640 thousand rials per month, out of which 74.6% was the share of money income and 25.4% was the share of non-money income."

These are the most recent data available from the central bank, which does not explain how it is possible for households to spend more than they earn in a country that has no consumer credit (nor for that matter what "non-money income" involves). Part of the explanation seems to be that every poor Iranian has a part-time job, from selling black-market gasoline to prostitution. The latter appears to be the most lucrative source of extra household income. Some 300,000 prostitutes ply the streets of Tehran, or one out of 10 of the city's female population of child-bearing age, [1] according to the most frequently cited sources (see Jihadis and whores Asia Times Online, November 21, 2006.)

In addition, tens of thousands of Iranian women are working as prostitutes abroad, notoriously in the Gulf States, but in Europe and Japan as well. The US State Department recently downgraded Iran to a "Level III" country, that is, one that does nothing to suppress the trade in female flesh.

Prostitution incorporates such a large proportion of Iran's marriageable females as to accelerate the country's demographic decline, which by 2030 will leave Iran with as high a proportion of pensioners as Western Europe, just as its oil reserves run out. Unlike Norway, which entrusted its oil windfalls to a national trust under professional management, Iran has allowed the political class to steal its patrimony.

The Persian pocket empire never had a government or a civil society: it only had a court and a bazaar, which are incapable of managing the affairs of a modern society. There is no political party, no social movement, in fact no form of popular organization of any kind capable of handling $350 million a day of oil revenue at present prices.

"Regime change" is a buzzword among Western strategists, but it is not at all clear what sort of regime might replace the court-and-bazaar combination that has characterized Persian politics for the past 2,600 years. Apart from a thin crust of Western-oriented students in the larger cities, the Iranian population remains sullenly dependent on state subsidies as well as its own cupidity.

Apart from oil, Iran exports mainly fruits and nuts. Its most talented people have emigrated, leaving behind only the leeches of the bazaar who hope to grow fat on state oil money. Its demographic problems are insoluble. It has no employment to offer its last generation of young people, half of whom have no visible employment, and no way to support a rapidly aging population. I am in no position to judge the likelihood that the Twelfth Imam of Shi'ite soteriology will reappear in the near future, but it is a fair assertion that nothing else is likely to steer the Persian pocket empire out of the ditch. Western analysts start with the premise that a solution exists for every problem, and set out to find it. I do not believe there is any way to save Iran from terminal dysfunction; it is only possible to prevent Iran's problems from turning into a disaster for the region.

It is no surprise that Iran's leaders remain obsessed with Shi'ite revolution. Larijani told the Islamic Coalition Party on June 19, "The jihadi forces of the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas are the pioneers of change in today's world," Iran's official press agency reported. Larijani added, "Interpreting the moves made within the Islamic World as terrorism under such conditions that the Islamic society enjoys the pride of having jihadi combatants is a grave mistake, since those groups are the soldiers of Almighty Allah." IRNA continued:
Larijani reiterated, "During the course of the 33-day war [in 2006] the global arrogance invaded against an oppressed nation with all its might having assumed that they could in confrontation with the jihadi combatants fighting for Allah's sake crash them fatally."

He reiterated, "The US Secretary of State had at that time directed the March 14 group to disturb the internal situation, assuring them that the Zionists, backed by the US, too, would wrap up the work of Hezbollah, and that was their strategic mistake." The parliament speaker said, "The Lebanese nation, in the framework of Hezbollah, resisted against the United States and Israel so that even their friends confessed to their defeat."

Larijani said, "The sagacious stands adopted by [Hezbollah leader] Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah regarding the recent developments in Lebanon revealed the plots hatched by the arrogance and they begged assistance from the small country Qatar, where they yielded to the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon."

He considered all such jihadi victories as fruits of the martyrs' pure blood, arguing, "The martyrs were those who changed the conditions and were involved in deciding the fates of nations."
The fact that Larijani holds a doctorate in European philosophy and has authored books on the philosopher Immanuel Kant impressed political observers in Germany, that is, until he spoke at the annual Munich Conference on Security in February 2007. As Der Spiegel reported, "Larijani was cornered. In his answer he talked about an 'overreaction' to the Holocaust. In any case, he said, 'That's a historical matter,' which has 'nothing to do with us'. He was 'neither for, nor against' the idea that the Holocaust had really occurred, saying it was an 'open question'. He thus delicately danced around a straight denial of the Holocaust, which is illegal in Germany. If Larijani had voiced the well-known opinion of his own president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, he could have been arrested."

Adhmadinejad is a boor from the back streets of Tehran, while Larijani is the polished son and the son-in-law of two ayatollahs. No matter; German universities during the 1930s were crawling with Kant scholars who enthused for Adolf Hitler. Larijani's enthusiasm for the blood of martyrs as the determinant of national destiny is not a philosophical, but an existential view, and Iran is one of the few venues in the world in which existential despair is sadly justified.


Photo crackdown hits parents' proud moments

Comment from Australia

ACCORDING to recent reports, parents have been forced to ask for permission to photograph their kids at some children's sporting clubs. Other clubs have prohibited the taking of snapshots altogether. Many parents are understandably distressed at the idea that they cannot provide themselves or their children with permanent and special images of their offspring's athletic accomplishments. But what do these extraordinary measures suggest about us as a society?

What point have we reached when we either have to ask permission or are prevented from doing what parents have done ever since the camera was invented: that is, create pictorial records of our children playing sport? What sort of hysteria is guiding these decisions? Suddenly, any adult with a camera within range of a child is looked at askance, and their motives are not only under suspicion but also their entire character is assassinated. Many adults with cameras at playing fields on weekends have reported being verbally abused, to the point where threats were made against them and accusations screamed, often in front of their own, shaken and confused, children.

Recent debates in the media and interest-group fuelled fears have ensured that no longer are these snap-happy grown-ups able to lovingly capture moments to place in the scrapbook of memories. No. Instead, innocent adult intentions are maligned and these people are branded pedophiles - loudly and publicly by other angry and frightened mothers and fathers.

Some people are attributing this extreme response to the recent Bill Henson photographic exhibition fiasco. But I'm afraid they're off the mark. This same excessive effect has occurred before, such as when bathing children at South Bank were surreptitiously photographed a couple of years ago.

While Henson's provocative images have allowed an important debate about children and sexualisation to continue, we also have to be sensible around these types of discussions and the outcomes they generate. But instead of moderation, we're allowing frenzied desperation, finger-pointing, ugly and unjust accusations, demonisation and panic to govern our responses.

We start to see "peds under beds" everywhere and construe the most benign and innocent of gestures as sexual; the most normal and natural of desires (such as wanting to photograph children) as sick and unnatural. In other words, we start to view other adults through a pedophile's lens.

There's no doubt that pedophiles and their perverted practices sicken most people. But the fact is that pedophiles sexualise children no matter what. They are aroused by images and ideas that bear little or no relation to what would be considered sexual by those with normal, healthy, adult appetites. They delight in the combination of innocence and provocation and seek out that kind of stimulus and generally, no matter what preventive measures we put in place, find or create it, even where none originally exists. They also hide their practices and are, generally, very successful at this - hence the huge police operations to uncover pedophile rings and the shock when one is unearthed.

The overwhelming majority of us are not pedophiles. It may come as a surprise considering the alarmist rhetoric out there, but most of us are decent and caring and appreciate young people and want the best for them. Sometimes, that means hugging them when they're upset or hurting, even when they're not our children. It can also mean taking photographs as significant mementos of childhood experiences. It also means setting reasonable and realistic boundaries around children and those who come into their orbit and organising and monitoring our children's exposure to age-appropriate material throughout their developmental years.

Being aware of and concerned about pedophiles does not and should not mean viewing every adult in a child's life with a jaundiced and unhealthy eye. As Professor of Media Studies at the University of New South Wales, Catherine Lumby, stated in a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday night, "we don't want to raise our children to believe that their bodies are dangerous" or "that they can somehow provoke child sexual abuse with what they wear or what they don't wear".

The one thing we must not do as a community is live our lives or constrict our children's because we're afraid of pedophiles. If we do that, then our children are already victims - and so are we. If we allow this misguided and now misdirected, panic-stricken fear of pedophiles to regulate our actions and reactions, then the pedophiles have already won. Our fear has managed to control us and our relationships, to our children's and everyone's detriment. To label someone a pedophile because they show a "normal" level of interest in children is ridiculous. It is also slander. To hurl abuse at them in public because we're suspicious and judgmental is highly dysfunctional and sad.

Soon, everyone will be a pedophile and we'll end up raising a generation of detached and lonely youngsters afraid of shadows we have created and ashamed of what their little bodies might potentially arouse in a person they will likely (thank goodness) never meet. It is so important that we continue to discuss issues around childhood protection, sexualisation and pedophiles, but not at the expense of those we're trying to shelter.



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

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

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


Friday, June 27, 2008

Media bias against men

The image of fathers and fatherhood has taken a beating over the past several decades, and the media has been part of the problem. While there has been some improvement in the past few years, fathers are still frequently unfairly stereotyped. For example, in April the Council on Contemporary Families issued a report on men and housework. CNN's headline to the story was typical of most media- "Report: Men still not pulling weight on chores."

In reality, studies which account for the total amount of work that husbands and wives contribute to their households-including housework, child care, and employment-confirm that men contribute at least as much to their families as women do. What the CCF study actually said was that the amount of child care fathers provide has tripled over the past four decades, and the amount of housework men do has doubled. Moreover, men have accomplished this in an era where the average workweek has significantly expanded. The papers reporting the story barely noticed.

Ex-NBA Player Jason Caffey was widely vilified in April for being behind in his child support. Caffey had paid over 90% of what he was ordered to pay, but fell behind when his post-career income dropped, and was threatened with jail. Neither CNN commentator Nancy Grace nor Caffey's other critics stopped to ponder the absurdity of calling a father who had already paid millions of dollars in child support a "deadbeat dad."

Similarly, in April Chandra Myers made national headlines when she took the unusual step of suing New York bakery worker Robert Sean Myers' employers Sara Lee Bakeries and Bimbo Bakeries for allegedly failing to garnish his wages. Yet while Robert was labeled a "deadbeat dad," the media didn't even notice that a court had obligated Myers to pay $2,000 a month in child support for one child-on an income of only $1,600 a month.

USA Today financial columnist Sandra Block recently explained that widows receive significantly more social security benefits if their husbands delay retirement. She could have written, "Men, we know your wives and children appreciate the sacrifices you've made as family breadwinner, and delaying retirement will help ensure your loved ones are provided for." Instead, Block wrote:

"If you want to make up for all the times you came home with beer on your breath, left your socks on the bathroom floor or gave your wife a DustBuster for Valentine's Day, hold off on filing for your Social Security benefits." She then adds, with some understatement, "Many men who are eager to retire may chafe at this suggestion." You think?

In 2002, Clara Harris repeatedly ran over her husband David as his daughter begged Clara not to kill her father. She recently filed a suit against her former attorney, triggering a round of media reports on her case. Media outlets consistently referred to David simply as "Cheating Husband" or "Cheating Spouse." At one point, 233 of the 354 news stories indexed on Google News, referred to David Harris as Clara Harris' "cheating husband." If an unfaithful woman was murdered by her husband, it's doubtful that newspapers would disparage this victim of domestic violence by referring to her simply as "cheating wife."

The reporting of the Britney Spears-Kevin Federline child custody battle also had some low points. Many headlines were similar to Yahoo News' "Court awards Spears' kids to K-Fed." Funny, we thought "Spears' kids" had two parents, not just one.

Research shows that dads matter. The rates of the four major youth pathologies-teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, school dropouts and juvenile crime-are tightly correlated with fatherlessness, often more so than with any other socioeconomic factor.

The public portrayal of fathers is fairer now than it was a few years ago, and much fairer than it was during the 1980s and 1990s. Still, too much of the media reflexively buys into unfair, destructive stereotypes of dads as slackers, deadbeats, deserters, and louts.


British Tories back have-a-go citizens

The public should be able to use physical force to restrain yobs without fear of being prosecuted for assault, according to a new Conservative policy. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "We have a duty to prevent crime, and law-abiding citizens should not be discouraged by either the state or the police."

It was necessary to clarify the law in order to "reignite the citizenry", he said. "If you grab a 12-year-old by the scruff of the neck now, you might be in trouble and this is something that we should be looking at. "People should act sensibly, but they can do a lot to stop crime."

Grieve believes people have become wary of intervening to stop delinquency after a series of cases in which members of the public and teachers have been charged with assault for trying to restrain violent teenagers. The disappearance of traditional reprimands by parents, teachers and neighbours, he said, meant many teenagers were being dealt with unnecessarily by the criminal justice system.

To redress the balance, Grieve wants the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to be given new guidelines for dealing with people who intervene to prevent crime. He argued that it was often better in the long run for teenagers to be tackled by an authority figure than to end up in court with a criminal record, which could start them on the path to serious crime.

Many teenagers who got into trouble, he said, went on to lead law-abiding lives. To illustrate the point, Grieve admitted that when he was 12, he and a friend broke into an abandoned house and smashed it up, shooting out the windows with an air rifle.


The "incorrect" Carlin

Carlin's comedy was not simply about dirty words; it was about the English language, and our collective fear of it. He used more expletives than Howard Stern, but his obsession was linguistics, not lasciviousness. As Carlin told CNN in 2004, "[I]f I hadn't chosen the career of being a performer, I think linguistics would have been a natural area that I'd have loved-to teach it, probably...Language has always fascinated me."

He was especially fascinated with the blunting of language for comfort's sake. Carlin ridiculed our watering-down of sexual descriptions and ethnic categories, not to mention our mourning clich‚s, all of which he believed were the real-life manifestations of George Orwell's "Newspeak," utilized to obscure reality, numb the mind, and discourage criticism. As much as Carlin loathed theology, war, greed, and hypersensitivity, he was most disgusted when religous puritans, the military, corporations, and P.C. "classroom liberals" mangled the language for the purpose of soothing the masses. When I saw Carlin perform in the `90s, the biggest laugh of the night came from his observation that "the unlikely event of a water landing," discussed in every preflight safety lecture, sounds suspiciously like "crashing into the f*cking ocean."

In fact, Carlin was disgusted with the mangling of English for any reason. He hated anyone who pronounced forte as "for-tay," insisted that "no comment is a comment," and advised us that "unique needs no modifier; very unique, quite unique, more unique, real unique, fairly unique, and extremely unique are wrong and they mark you as dumb, although certainly not unique." For all of his lifelong ranting against conservatism, Carlin was a diehard traditionalist when it came to grammar and vocabulary.

This mastery of the language allowed Carlin to craft his puns ("Soft rock music isn't rock, and it ain't's just soft," "I thought it would be nice to get a job at a duty-free shop, but it doesn't sound like there's a whole lot to do in a place like that"), but also gave him the ability to see how we pad our existences with pleasant lies. In Carlin's mind, language should not be safe, and neither should life. Children, he argued in his final HBO special, this year's It's Bad for Ya, should play with sticks, not have "play dates" under the ever-watchful eyes of overprotective, micro-managing parents. (He had previously complained, with his trademark growl, "We've taken all the fun out of childhood just in the interest of saving a few lives.")

Near the end of his career, Carlin was more bitter than funny-It's Bad for Ya is a righteous tirade that provokes more nods than laughs-but he never lost his unparalleled ability to play with words. He deconstructed the phrases that we use absentmindedly, exposing our hypocrisies-and our human condition-in the process. He was a comic genius because he was a linguistic master. As Carlin said in his most famous routine: "I thank you for hearing my words... They're my work, they're my play, they're my passion. Words are all we have, really."


Of the clueless, by the clueless and for the clueless

Our old buddy Haroon Sidiqqui is back with another op-ed in the Toronto Star trying to make the case that hate-crime laws are a "reasonable limit" on free speech. You may remember Mr. Sadiqqui from his last feeble attempt to sell this load of malarkey. His new approach? Well, it's not about the concept of "rights" this time - it's about the process. Canada, you see, marches to the sound of a different drummer:
Canada has followed a different path on free speech than the United States, where there are no anti-hate laws because the U.S. Bill of Rights says "Congress shall make no laws ... abridging freedom of speech or of the press."

The Canadian Charter of Rights, too, guarantees "freedom of the press," but it places "reasonable limits" on it. That's why the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the anti-hate provisions of both the Criminal Code and human rights statutes.
Canada, you see, has decided that "legality" is much more important that a concept of inalienable rights which limits government's action. Or said another way, it is government which has to last say, not the people. How else do you explain this:
What constitutes hate is up to the commissions and, ultimately, the courts to decide. But this being Canada, different jurisdictions tackle the issue differently.
So, if the commission in Ontario decides what someone from Alberta says in Alberta constitutes a hate-crime (even if the Alberta commission finds nothing hateful at all about the speech), Ontario can take the Albertan to court.

After all, instead of a matter of rights, this is all a matter of arbitrary opinion. And in Mr. Sadiqqui's world, arbitrary opinion that agrees with him is much more important than establishing a right which limits government. Nope, he'd much rather see government limit a right.

He produces a whole list of "anomalies" which should make you cringe, but seems to find nothing fundamentally wrong with their arbitrariness since they serve his purpose of seeing hate speech laws supported. Defense number two.
The federal commission gets up to 15,000 inquiries a year, says Jennifer Lynch, chair. "We take up only about 700 and refer only about 70 or 80 to the tribunal.

"Hate cases are only 2 per cent of that stream. The tribunal has dealt with only about 15 hate cases, so far. And not a single one of them has been overturned by the courts." So, why the hue and cry?
If you have to ask, it is clear you don't get it at all. But still - the old "its only 2% of whatever" defense? What's next? The old "if you don't say anything hateful, you have nothing to worry about" line? And why would the courts overturn anything - we've just been schooled in the fact that the commissions get to decide what constitutes hate - they make it up on the fly and the courts have little room to dispute their decisions, do they? Sadiqqui then lets out the big dog:
Karim Karim, chair of Carleton University's School of Journalism, says journalists are "fixated on their own right and privileges.

"What about the rights of people to be free of discriminatory and hateful speech? Journalists talk about one principle, and not the other."
One of the premises of the right of free speech has to do with that right being so important that a society must allow its free exercise at all times, with very few exceptions (and the US outlined its exception as the incitement to violence not being a part of free speech). And as I pointed out previously, acts of violence are factual evidence of such incitement.

When you further limit speech through arbitrarily defined means such as "discriminatory or hateful speech" you put a very real chill on free speech, to the point that you kill the debate that is necessary to the maintenance of liberty and freedom.

You don't talk about race, because such a discussion could be construed by some as "discriminatory or hate speech". You don't talk about religion, because such a discussion could be construed by some as "discriminatory or hate speech." You don't talk about gender because such a discussion could be considered by "discriminatory or hate speech."

In fact, you don't debate much of anything when you really have no idea who might take it wrong and haul you up in front of some commission on hate-speech charges do you? Vague and arbitrary hate-speech laws have then triumphed over the concept of free speech.

In his conclusion, Saddiqqui seems to retreat a bit from his defense of hate-speech laws but if you read it carefully, you'll see he's still all for hate-speech laws and not at all for free speech:
Anti-hate laws could be made consistent across Canada by exempting the media, as in Ontario, or axing the anti-hate provisions altogether. We may even adopt the American system and remove the anti-hate section from the Criminal Code as well.

Many disagree, including the Canadian Jewish Congress. Its head, Bernie Farber, says the anti-hate laws have helped make Canada "the warm, tolerant and accepting nation that it has become."

Beyond the law, there's self-restraint. Most media exercise it, every day. We do not publish racist cartoons and anti-Semitic rants. That Maclean's published a series of virulent articles about Muslims itself speaks volumes.
Note his first line - who is he pandering too? You bet - the media. Get them on board and this is a done deal. More importantly, though, notice who is left out his pandering altogether - the rest of Canada.

As for Mr. Farber's claim as echoed by Saddiqqui - a nation which puts its own people's speech on trial based in arbitrary definitions of "hate" is neither warm, friendly or accepting as I see it. Nor is it free.



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

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

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


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fathers' day on the way to being banned

If Scotland is a bellwether

Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness. Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples. The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday. While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday. The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire. Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year. “This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not. “The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers. “I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children. “Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said. “It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce. “Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively." A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.” Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.


Age discrimination in the USA

Concerning the issue of age discrimination, the Supreme Court in Meacham v. Knolls said that the burden of proof resides on the employer. If a company lays off too many older people (meaning, incredibly, people older than 40), it is under the gun, and must show that factors other than age account for the disparate impact. Otherwise, the courts will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and the business will be forced to fork over, even to the point of bankruptcy.

The age-discrimination law in question is 40 years old and an embedded part of the machinery of social planning by the courts. This decision is yet another move toward government control, but the real problem is more fundamental. Step back and think what it means for the government to make and enforce such a law.

Labor relations are as complex as any human relations. There are many reasons why people choose to associate or not associate. How do you decide whom to invite to a birthday? What are the standards you use? There is a scarcity of space and food, so you must discriminate in some way. There is no choice about that.

Think of the last party you held. There are some people you did not invite simply because you can't stand those people, usually for many reasons. And there are some who just might not mix well with others. Some people you want to invite but cannot because you have to cut the list somewhere.

Now imagine that the government appoints a party planner who says that you can invite or not invite whomever you want, provided that one consideration is not part of the mix: you must not decline to invite someone on grounds of hair color. Now, it may never have occurred to you to think along these lines. But now you have to. You notice that you have no redheads attending the party, much to your alarm.

What if this fact is taken as evidence that you are discriminating? Will it? You can't know for sure. You think again: even if no redheads are coming, this is surely not the reason why you are not inviting them. There are other factors, too many factors to name. In any case, how can the state's party planner know for sure what your motivations are? Isn't it astounding that a government agency would presume to read your mind, know your heart, and discern your innermost emotions and motives? Truly it is totalitarian.

It is precisely the same in workplace management. There are an unending variety of factors that go into the makeup of the workforce of a single firm. How the mix turns out in the end is not something you can entirely plan. It might be dictated by any of a million factors depending on time and place.

The state says that you the employer may not discriminate on grounds of age. Fine, you think. You would never think to do that. You just want a job well done. But let's say your firm is heavily into new technologies. Everyone must have great programming skills and quickly adapt to new web interfaces and innovations.

That has no direct bearing on age. A 60-year-old can in principle be just right for the job. But it so happens that the young have more technological skills than the old. Your workforce, then, is dominated by people under 40. Then a Federal Reserve recession comes along, and you must choose the better programmers. The remaining people over 40 are cut.

Have you discriminated on grounds of age? Not to your mind. You are thinking only of job skills and profitability. But from the perspective of a government planner with an agenda, it is different. Looking at the facts, it seems like a clear case of age discrimination.

With this new court decision, the burden of proof is on you to show otherwise. But how can something like the absence of a motivation be demonstrated? Now, it is possible or even likely that you might be able to show that factors other than age constitute the main reason for the disparity. But it is a toss-up as to whether the court or the EEOC will agree with you.

The only way to be off the hook completely is to pad your workforce with people hired because they are older. In the name of proving that you are not discriminating against a group, your only protection is to discriminate in favor of that group. And by doing so, you are necessarily discriminating against other groups, since young people will be turned way to make room for the older group.

But isn't this a case of age discrimination of a "reverse" sort? Of course. After all, everyone is either young or old. The charge that the employer is weighing decisions by age can be trumped up in every case one can imagine. Here we see an amazing thicket, created entirely by a state that presumes the capacity and the right to read minds like a swami guru or mystic soothsayer. The state has assigned to itself superhuman powers, and it is up to you to obey.

In contrast, here is what the free market permits. Employers can hire or fire for any reason they want. Employers can be biased, bigoted, or have poor judgment, but it is the employers' judgment to make. The same is true of employees. They can quit for any reason, including one that discriminates against some trait of the employer.

Imagine if the state said that you may not quit your job on grounds that you dislike your boss's age, race, religion, or sex. If that is your reason, you must stay working there. We would all recognize that this is a case of involuntary servitude. It is an attack on freedom. So why do we not see that it is the same with the employer?

Under freedom, if an employer decides, for no good reason, that employees should not be older than 40, that is his judgment. If it is a bad decision, the competition will gain an edge by hiring the people who have been passed over.

A final point about the employee. Would you want to work for a company that doesn't really want you there, that is only maintaining your job for fear of the bureaucrat? That is not a prescription for a happy life. The happy life comes through permitting maximum freedom to associate and choose - a freedom that applies to everyone and under all circumstances, without exception.


A world without children

IN 1965, the population of Italy was 52 million, of which 4.6 million, or just under 9 percent, were children younger than 5. A decade later, that age group had shrunk to 4.3 million - about 7.8 percent of Italians. By 1985, it was down to 3 million and 5.3 percent. Today, the figures are 2.5 million and 4.2 percent. Young children are disappearing from Italian society, and the end isn't in sight. According to one estimate by the UN's Population Division, their numbers will drop to fewer than 1.6 million in 2020, and to 1.3 million by 2050. At that point, they will account for a mere 2.8 percent of the Italian nation.

Italy isn't alone. There are 1.7 million fewer young children in Poland today than there were in 1960, a 50 percent drop. In Spain 30 years ago, there were nearly 3.3 million young children; there are just 2.2 million today. Across Europe, there were more than 57 million children under 5 in 1960; today, that age group has plummeted to 35 million, a decline of 38 percent.

The world's population is still growing, thanks to rising longevity. But fertility rates - the average number of children born per woman - are falling nearly everywhere. More and more adults are deciding to have fewer and fewer children. Worldwide, reports the UN, there are 6 million fewer babies and young children today than there were in 1990. By 2015, according to one calculation, there will be 83 million fewer. By 2025, 127 million fewer. By 2050, the world's supply of the youngest children may have plunged by a quarter of a billion, and will amount to less than 5 percent of the human family.

The reasons for this birth dearth are many. Among them: As the number of women in the workforce has soared, many have delayed marriage and childbearing, or decided against them altogether. The Sexual Revolution, by making sex readily available without marriage, removed what for many men had been a powerful motive to marry. Skyrocketing rates of divorce have made women less likely to have as many children as in generations past. Years of indoctrination about the perils of "overpopulation" have led many couples to embrace childlessness as a virtue.

Result: a dramatic and inexorable aging of society. In the years ahead, the ranks of the elderly are going to swell to unprecedented levels, while the number of young people continues to dwindle. The working-age population will shrink, first in relation to the population of retirees, then in absolute terms.

Now a determined optimist might take this as good news. In theory, fewer people in the workforce should increase the demand for employees and thus keep unemployment low and the economy humming. But the record tells a different story. In Japan, where the fall in fertility rates began early, the working-age population has been a diminishing share of the nation for 20 years. Yet for much of that period, unemployment has been up, not down. "Similarly, in the United States, the number of people between the ages of 15 and 24 has been declining in relative terms since 1990," demographer Phillip Longman observed in the Harvard Business Review. "But the smaller supply has not made younger workers more valuable; their unemployment rate has increased relative to that of their older counterparts."

Far from boosting the economy, an aging population depresses it. As workers are taxed more heavily to support surging numbers of elders, they respond by working less, which leads to stagnation, which reduces economic opportunity still further. "Imagine that all your taxes went for nothing but Social Security and Medicare," says Longman in "Demographic Winter," a new documentary about the coming population decline, "and you still didn't have health care as a young person."

Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, emphasizes that nothing is more indispensable to growth than "human capital" - the knowledge, skills, and experience of men and women. That is why baby booms are so often harbingers of economic expansion and vigor. And why businesses and young people drain away from regions where population is waning.

A world without children will be a poorer world - grayer, lonelier, less creative, less confident. Children are a great blessing, but it may take their disappearance for the world to remember why.


The enemy has a name

If you cannot name your enemy, how can you defeat it? Just as a physician must identify a disease before curing a patient, so a strategist must identify the foe before winning a war. Yet Westerners have proven reluctant to identify the opponent in the conflict the US government variously (and euphemistically) calls the "global war on terror," the "long war," the "global struggle against violent extremism," or even the "global struggle for security and progress."

This timidity translates into an inability to define war goals. Two high-level US statements from late 2001 typify the vague and ineffective declarations issued by Western governments. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defined victory as establishing "an environment where we can in fact fulfill and live [our] freedoms." In contrast, George W. Bush announced a narrower goal, "the defeat of the global terror network" - whatever that undefined network might be.

"Defeating terrorism" has, indeed, remained the basic war goal. By implication, terrorists are the enemy and counterterrorism is the main response. But observers have increasingly concluded that terrorism is just a tactic, not an enemy. Bush effectively admitted this much in mid-2004, acknowledging that "We actually misnamed the war on terror." Instead, he called the war a "struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world."

A year later, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London transport bombings, British prime minister Tony Blair advanced the discussion by speaking of the enemy as "a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam." Soon after, Bush himself used the terms "Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism," and "Islamo-fascism." But these words prompted much criticism and he backtracked.

By mid-2007, Bush had reverted to speaking about "the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East." That is where things now stand, with US government agencies being advised to refer to the enemy with such nebulous terms as "death cult," "cult-like," "sectarian cult," and "violent cultists."

IN FACT, that enemy has a precise and concise name: Islamism, a radical utopian version of Islam. Islamists, adherents of this well funded, widespread, totalitarian ideology, are attempting to create a global Islamic order that fully applies the Islamic law (Shari'a).

Thus defined, the needed response becomes clear. It is two-fold: vanquish Islamism and help Muslims develop an alternative form of Islam. Not coincidentally, this approach roughly parallels what the allied powers accomplished vis-…-vis the two prior radical utopian movements, fascism and communism.

First comes the burden of defeating an ideological enemy. As in 1945 and 1991, the goal must be to marginalize and weaken a coherent and aggressive ideological movement, so that it no longer attracts followers nor poses a world-shaking threat. World War II, won through blood, steel, and atomic bombs, offers one model for victory; the Cold War, with its deterrence, complexity, and nearly-peaceful collapse, offers quite another.

Victory against Islamism, presumably, will draw on both these legacies and mix them into a novel brew of conventional war, counterterrorism, counterpropaganda, and many other strategies. At one end, the war effort led to the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan; at the other, it requires repelling the lawful Islamists who work legitimately within the educational, religious, media, legal, and political arenas.

THE SECOND goal involves helping Muslims who oppose Islamist goals and wish to offer an alternative to Islamism's depravities by reconciling Islam with the best of modern ways. But such Muslims are weak, being but fractured individuals who have only just begun the hard work of researching, communicating, organizing, funding, and mobilizing.

To do all this more quickly and effectively, these moderates need non-Muslim encouragement and sponsorship. However unimpressive they may be at present, moderates, with Western support, alone hold the potential to modernize Islam, and thereby to terminate the threat of Islamism.

In the final analysis, Islamism presents two main challenges to Westerners: To speak frankly and to aim for victory. Neither comes naturally to the modern person, who tends to prefer political correctness and conflict resolution, or even appeasement. But once these hurdles are overcome, the Islamist enemy's objective weakness in terms of arsenal, economy, and resources means it can readily be defeated.



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.