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.


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