Monday, May 31, 2010

Radical snobbery

Comedian Mark Thomas’s ‘People’s Manifesto’ confirms that no one is more suspicious and disdainful of the masses today than the worn-out, disillusioned rump of the radical left

The funniest [British] election result on 6 May probably passed most of you by. It wasn’t Esther Rantzen losing her deposit (and what meagre shred of respectability she had left) in Luton South. It wasn’t the ousting of cheeky cheeky Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire. It wasn’t even the fact that under Nick Clegg – who had been appointed by the chattering classes as the High Representative of liberal, cosmopolitan, Waitrosean values – the Lib Dems actually lost seats. No, the most grin-inducing result was in Bristol West, where an independent called Danny Kushlick came sixth with 343 votes.

Normally there wouldn’t be anything especially chucklesome about an independent candidate doing badly. But Kushlick was standing on a ticket of ‘The People’s Manifesto’, no less, a document drawn up by left-wing comedian Mark Thomas (I say comedian. I say left-wing) and modestly described as ‘the ultimate political manifesto’. For all its radical pretensions, Thomas’s intolerant document actually highlights the sneeriness and cynicism of what remains of the radical left. It is a work of high radical snobbery, jam-packed with disdain for, rather than faith in, the toiling masses.

Throughout history a lot of dodgy individuals have claimed to speak on behalf of ‘The People’, but Thomas’s might just be the most dubious claim yet. By ‘The People’ he actually means members of his audiences, who were asked, during his recent stand-up tour, to come up with policies for a manifesto. The idea that the kind of people who attend Mark Thomas gigs represent the people really is funny. Simply the fact that they enjoy being bombarded with radical-liberal prejudices camouflaged badly as gags – Coca-Cola is evil! Rupert Murdoch is Satan! – should be evidence enough that they aren’t like normal folk. If you need further evidence, take a look at their collected policy proposals.

They’re obsessed with dog shit, in that way that miserable, moaning tossers tend to be. Loads of Thomas’s audience members suggested instituting new laws to punish people who allow their dogs to take a dump on the streets. ‘If a dog owner lets their dog shit on your doorstep, you should be able to shit on theirs’, says one. ‘[I]f someone allows their dog to shit on your doorstep, then you should be able to shit upon their head’, says another. Two audience members said the government should keep a DNA sample of every dog’s shit and then set up a ‘multimillion-pound dog-turd database so that police could work backwards to track down the offenders’.

In the end – spoilt for choice on the burning question of how to get dog shit off the streets – Thomas opted to include the following proposal in his People’s Manifesto: ‘People who allow their dog to shit on the pavement without cleaning it up should be forced to wear it as a moustache.’ It’s Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life meets Dirty Sanchez, where the blue-haired, Mary Whitehouse-style conservativism of being obsessed with what disgusting people allow their disgusting dogs to do on my doorstep is sexed-up with some talk of shit-moustaches to give it a radical gloss.

The manifesto continually adds a dash of surrealism to its miserabilist proposals in an attempt to make them appear funny ha ha rather than funny authoritarian. One proposal is that ‘There should be an age of consent for religion’, which would aim to ‘balance the rights of religious freedom and the rights of the child by setting an age limit on religion’. That is, mums and dads should be prevented by law from bringing up children under the age of 14 in a religious faith.

Never has there been a more graphic illustration of what ‘children’s rights’ really represent: the watering down of the real rights of adults, in this case the right of adults to have the freedom of belief to bring up their children in whatever moral fashion they see fit. To take the edge off this proposal to invite the filth into the most intimate relations of ordinary families, Thomas says: ‘This policy will prevent children entering mosques, temples, synagogues and churches until they are 14 and will be enforced with a height bar, just like those at funfairs and adventure parks.’ See? It’s funny to increase the power of the state over families!

With yawning predictability, Thomas’s audience members proposed enforcing sanctions against 4x4 drivers. ‘4x4 drivers should be forced to drive everywhere off-road, even to Sainsbury’s’; ‘4x4 drivers should be forced to drive their vehicle sitting on the roof in a deckchair with a long steering column’, etczzz. No one went quite as far as an artist who attended the Guardian’s launch of its climate-change initiative last year – who suggested that 4x4 drivers should ‘spend a night in the cells’ – but the Two Minutes Hate against 4x4 drivers in Thomas’s manifesto confirms what they have become in the mean, envious, thrifty imaginations of the agitated middle classes: symbols of unacceptable ambition, affronts to the top-down ideological demand that we should all live as meekly (and naturally) as sheep. ‘4x4 driver’ is effectively code for ‘nouveau riche’ – people with ideas above their station (wagon).

And there are two policy proposals on the Daily Mail in The People’s Manifesto, out of 40 proposals in total, such is its alleged threat to the reading public’s mental health. ‘The Daily Mail should be forced to print on the front page of every edition the words: “This is a fictionalised account of the news and any resemblance to the truth is entirely coincidental”’, says the first; ‘The Daily Mail should be forced to print the words “The paper that supported Hitler” on its masthead’, says the second. The operative word in both instances is ‘forced’. In the feverish Mail-fearin’ minds of contemporary radicals nothing is more attractive than the idea of the British state – which of course never distorts the truth or had any dodgy dealings with Hitler prior to the war – forcing a newspaper effectively to brand itself with a modern-day mark of Cain, singling it out as Completely And Utterly Beyond The Pale (As Decided By Guardian Readers).

Thomas says these proposals are not born from a ‘desire to stigmatise the paper’. Yes they are. What drives Mail-bashing is the rather mad idea that it’s the only paper with a penchant for sensationalism and the censorious idea that its words translate directly into prejudicial public behaviour, as if its readers are sponges waiting to soak up whatever nonsense the Rothermere clan is spouting. And who are these readers? Thomas favourably quotes Stephen Fry describing the Mail as ‘a paper that no one of any decency would be seen dead with’. Ah, so its readers are the indecent, Them, the fickle, suggestible mob. This is a modern-day, ‘humour’-tinged version of the anti-newspaper snobbery of earlier elitists, who, as John Carey documented in The Intellectuals and the Masses, said ‘the rabble vomit their bile and call it a newspaper’ (1).

Thomas’s proposals on politics are so dripping in cynicism that you could almost scoop it up, bottle it, and sell it to students. He suggests ‘Politicians should have to wear tabards displaying the names and logos of the companies with whom they have a financial relationship, like a racing driver’. Most strikingly, for someone who claims to be a fan of the Chartists, and even their political heir (another brilliant joke), he proposes: ‘MPs should not be paid wages but loans…because they get highly paid jobs after they graduate from Westminster’.

One of the nineteenth-century Chartists’ great democratic demands was that members of parliament should be paid a wage, so that even a man without a pot or a window but with some political convictions could choose to run for office, alongside those moneyed lords and barons. Thomas’s loan proposal would rewind history and make parliament once more the preserve of those with no financial headaches.

For a true taste of why Thomas’s audience members are not ‘The People’, consider the following policy proposed during a gig in Darlington: ‘Institute the “Sky test” on benefit claimants, so if you suck on the teat of Murdoch, no benefits for you.’ In other words, explains Thomas, ‘if you are unemployed and have Sky, you get your benefits cut’. What a cast-iron confirmation of the spite that lurks behind apparently radical, anti-capitalistic Murdoch-bashing. What presents itself as a critique of a massive media mogul is in fact a profound discomfort with the dumb automatons who lap up the media mogul’s produce, whether it’s Sky, the Sun or whatever.

Most manifestos put forward ideas for creating a better world – this one only moans about a world apparently smeared in dog turd and peopled by parents who religiously brainwash their kids and lazy spongers who suck Rupert’s nips all day long. It confirms that the most poisonous snobbery leaks from those sections of society most cut off from the masses, in this case the remnants of the disappointed, disgruntled, radical left. The wonder is that even 343 people voted for this steaming pile of dog dirt.


The usual Leftist perversion of language is being used to demonize Israel

Over the past generation, the Left has commandeered our language. It has inverted the terminology of human rights, freedom, morality, heroism, democracy and victimization. Its perversion of language has made it nearly impossible for members of democratic, human rights respecting, moral societies to describe the threats they face from their human rights destroying, genocidal, tyrannical enemies. Thanks to the efforts of the international Left, the latter are championed as the victims of those they seek to annihilate.

Two incidents in recent weeks make clear just how disastrous the Left’s wholesale theft of language and through it, their inversion of reality has been for Israel.

Last Monday, Noam Chomsky arrived at the Allenby Bridge and requested a visa to enter Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The police at the border refused his request. The radical leftist Israel-basher made a fuss and waited around for several hours before he went back to Jordan.

Chomsky left Jordan at the end of the week and travelled to Lebanon. For the second time in four years, on Friday Chomsky toured southern Lebanon with a Hizbullah guide. Now an official guest of Hizbullah, Chomsky is scheduled to give an address in Beirut Tuesday to celebrate the IDF’s pullout from south Lebanon 10 years ago.

As David Hornik detailed in *FrontPage Magazine on Friday, the leftist-dominated Israeli media went nuts when they discovered Chomsky had been turned away at the border. *Yediot Aharonot and *Haaretz heralded Chomsky as a great mind and proclaimed hysterically that the refusal to allow him to enter the country marked the end of Israeli democracy and the start of a slide into fascism. The Western media quickly piled on and within hours Israel’s right to deny its avowed enemies entry was under assault.

And Chomsky is Israel’s enemy. As Hornik pointed out, Chomsky has repeatedly defended Holocaust deniers while accusing Israel of being the ideological heir of Nazi Germany. When he hasn’t been too busy championing the Khmer Rouge and Josef Stalin, and attacking the US as the Great Satan, Chomsky has devoted much time and energy to calling for Israel’s eradication and defending Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorists.

IT WAS the government’s job to point this out. But instead, faced with the leftist onslaught against its right to control its borders, the government crumpled. Instead of explaining that Chomsky is an enemy of Israel and an abettor and defender of genocide, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev apologized for the unpleasant reception Chomsky received at the Allenby Bridge. Regev also promised that if Chomsky returns, he will be granted an entry visa.

The government’s cowardly handling of the Chomsky incident is testament to the Left’s success at intimidating Western leaders to the point where instead of standing up to leftist propaganda and lies, they accept them as truth and even collaborate in disseminating them.

Probably the PMO figured no one would listen if it told the truth about Chomsky. It probably felt that defending the decision to bar Chomsky from the country would only elicit a second barrage of media attacks.

And perhaps they were right. But the fact that the Left would have remained unconvinced doesn’t excuse the government’s abject surrender of the truth about Chomsky to Israel’s enemies on the Left who portray the MIT professor as a human rights activist and a great intellectual humanitarian. As David Horowitz and Peter Collier prove in their book *The Anti-Chomsky Reader, there doesn’t seem to be a tyrant that Chomsky hasn’t championed or a victim that Chomsky hasn’t demonized in the entire span of his 50-year career as a radical activist.

The government is not alone in its fear of exposing and fighting the Left’s campaign to demonize the country.

THE RADICAL left’s ability to block voices of dissent from its anti-Israel and anti-freedom positions was similarly demonstrated two weeks ago at Tel Aviv University’s annual Board of Governors meeting.

For several years, a large, vocal group of tenured professors from the university have actively participated in the international campaign to boycott Israeli universities and academics while actively supporting Hamas and Hizbullah. That is, many Tel Aviv University professors, whose salaries are paid by university donors and Israeli taxpayers, have been using their university titles to undermine the university and to advance the cause of Israel’s destruction.

This year the university’s Board of Governors bestowed an honorary doctorate on Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz. In his acceptance speech, Dershowitz called these professors out for their vile behavior and named three of the most vocal enemies of the university and Israel on the international stage: Profs. Anat Matar, Rachel Giora and Shlomo Sand.

The university’s tenured anti-Zionist activists were quick to retaliate. More than 46 professors signed a letter to university president Joseph Klaffter demanding that the university disassociate itself from Dershowitz’s statements.

Klaffter was quick to oblige. At the Board of Governors meeting, Klaffter silenced board member Mark Tanenbaum when he tried to put forward a resolution calling for disciplinary action against university professors who use their university titles to defame the university or Israel. Klaffter, who isn’t even a member of the Board of Governors, reportedly grabbed the microphone away from Tanenbaum and adjourned the meeting. Klaffter justified his physical denial of Tanenbaum’s freedom of speech by claiming that he was defending academic freedom.

Like the Prime Minister’s Office’s apology to Noam Chomsky, Klaffter’s action – aside from arguably being prohibited by his own university’s constitution – was further proof of the Left’s success in appropriating the language and imagery of freedom and tolerance in the service of forces that seek to destroy freedom and end tolerance.

ON THURSDAY Hamas’s maritime enablers from Europe, Turkey and beyond will arrive at our doorstep. The navy will block their entry to Gaza. Israel will be demonized by terror-abettors disguised as human rights activists and journalists worldwide. And the story will pave the way for the next assault on Israel’s right to exist.

This endless circle of demonization and aggression will continue to widen and escalate until our political leaders and our intellectual elite reclaim our language from those on the terror-abetting Left. True, our reclamation of our language will not go unopposed. But if we do not reassert our right to describe objective reality, our inability to explain why we are right and our detractors serve evil will be our undoing.


Hatred of Israel among Australian far-Leftists

by Philip Mendes

Historically, the international Left has incorporated a wide spectrum of views on Zionism and Israel ranging from unequivocal support for Israel to even-handedness to hardline support for Palestinian positions. The contemporary Australian Left also lacks any consensus on this issue.

Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a wide majority on the Left support a two-state solution which encapsulates recognition of both Israeli and Palestinian national rights. It is also fair to say that those anti-Zionist fundamentalists who advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine represent a small if vocal, minority.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, this minority group attempted to censor and exclude any Left voices in favour of the continued existence of the State of Israel. For example, the assorted Trotskyists and Maoists in the far Left Australian Union of Students (AUS), and Bill Hartley’s extreme Left faction of the Victorian ALP hurled abuse and vitriol at any Jewish-identifying leftists who didn’t identify unconditionally with the abolish Israel aims of the PLO.

Political scientist Dennis Altman – himself Jewish, non-Zionist and sceptical of both extreme Zionist and anti-Zionist perspectives – famously wrote at the time that this anti-Zionist fundamentalism had become a new symbol of ideological purity in the radical Left. In the UK, a significant number of student unions even disaffiliated Jewish student societies on the prejudiced grounds that they were Zionist and hence allegedly racist.

This fanatical intolerance for moderate two-state views went on the backburner during the years of the Oslo Accord, but returned with a vengeance as the fundamentalists were reinvigorated by the blood and guts of the Second Intifada. Recent debates suggest that this vocal, but still small, pro-Palestinian lobby is enjoying some success in excluding and censoring the majority of Left voices.

For example, the proponents of an academic boycott of Israel essentialise Israeli Jews by claiming that left and right-wing Israelis are no different, and that they are all racist oppressors of the Palestinians. They argue that the rights of the oppressed Palestinians – who they also collectively essentialise as being uniquely innocent and deserving victims – should always take precedence over the rights of Israeli Jews.

The fundamentalists also attack all Jewish supporters of Israel’s existence as apologists for oppression, irrespective of whether they are supporters of two states, or alternatively advocates of a Greater Israel. They reserve particular hate for the so-called “left Zionists” who oppose the West Bank occupation and settlements whilst also critiquing Palestinian violence and extremism. These moderates are constructed as little more than the equivalent of left-wing Nazis. And then they use the old Soviet trick of highlighting the views of a few Jewish “Uncle Toms” who are willing to exploit their own religious and cultural origins in order to vilify their own people. That malevolent game was used in the 1950s to defend Stalinist anti-Semitism. Now it is employed to misrepresent the historical and political context of the creation and development of the State of Israel.

The crude political objective is the exclusion of all Jewish-identifying leftists from Left debates on Zionism and Israel. And any means are justified to achieve this outcome including the ad-hominem abuse of individual Jewish activists, and a horrific lowering of intellectual and scholarly standards. The pro-Palestinian lobbyists are willing to throw out the most basic academic conventions regarding accurate presentation of evidence and correct citations and referencing if they don’t serve the interests of the Palestinian cause.

Two recent examples that come to mind are those of Overland and Arena Magazine. Some will say that these journals have a small readership within the Left elite and do not matter. Yet both journals are read widely by students and intellectuals, and have an influence far beyond their formal subscription figures. They are not the equivalent of party propaganda sheets such as Green Left Weekly, and that is precisely why they should incorporate a diversity (rather than narrow uniformity) of Left voices on Israel/Palestine. For the record, I have regularly contributed to both journals in the past on a range of issues, and continue to respect their broader political projects despite their current adherence to a particularly fanatical form of pro-Palestinian orthodoxy.


The case of Overland is particularly disturbing. This Melbourne-based quarterly journal was formed by ex-communist Stephen Murray-Smith in 1954 to promote progressive and democratic debate. Overland is best known for its publication of local poets and short story writers, and its powerful cultural presentation of Australian progressive politics. Although Murray-Smith published a powerful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism in issue 32 (1965), it has rarely covered Jewish-related issues. To the best of my knowledge, it rarely if ever published material on Israel until 2007.

Under the editorship of Jeff Sparrow, the pro-Palestinian lobby has captured Overland’s agenda. This is particularly reflected in the four recent articles that appeared in issues 184 by Ned Curthoys, 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull. As a combination, they form a mad hatter’s picnic of fanatical attacks on Israel and supporters of Israel followed by more fanatical attacks of the same ilk.

Curthoys, who co-ordinates the two person Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism with his father John Docker, is a serial hater of Israel and Zionism. In Issue 184, he provides not surprisingly a positive review of Antony Loewenstein’s anti-Israel text, My Israel Question. He also cannot resist promoting his favourite obsession concerning the campaign for a cultural, economic and academic boycott of Israel based on the racial stereotyping of all Israeli Jews as oppressors.

But in Issue 187, he firmly criticises the founding statement of Loewenstein’s Independent Australian Jewish Voices group for being too moderate, and specifically for accepting Israel’s right to exist. Instead, Curthoys returns to his theme of the necessity of an economic and cultural boycott of Israel, and particularly targets Left Zionism as inherently racist. He proposes the elimination of Israel, and its replacement by an Arab majority state.

Arena Magazine

The case of Arena is equally disappointing. This intellectual journal of “Left political, social and cultural commentary” was formed by dissident party and non-party Communist intellectuals in 1963. Originally informed by Marxist ideology, it published a useful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism by Jewish leader Isi Leibler in the mid 1960s, and some views to the contrary. In recent decades, it has been increasingly influenced by a wider range of ideologies including particularly post-modernism.

For example, the August-September (Issue no. 85) 2006 issue published three contributions from Antony Loewenstein, Jeremy Salt and John Hinkson which all presented a parochial Palestinian narrative instead of a balanced internationalist perspective. Worse was to come. The February-March 2009 issue on the Gaza war contained no less than three pro-Palestinian articles by Jeremy Salt, Les Rosenblatt, and the Docker/Curthoys tag team backed up by four biased photo montages from anti-war demonstrations in Israel. The contribution from Docker/Curthoys of the Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism was uniquely fanatical, contesting the legitimacy of Israel’s creation in 1948, and advocating an unconditional return of 1948 Palestinian refugees to Israel which would mean the immediate end of Israel as a Jewish state.


The pseudo-radical war on economic growth

Some old moans about the evils of wealth-creation still burbling on among people who are themselves doing very nicely

Some of the world’s most influential thinkers are engaged in an earnest debate about the goals of society and even about the character of humanity itself. Strangely, however, hardly anyone seems to have noticed.

The main reason for this oversight is that the discussion is wrapped in an arcane dispute about statistics. It is presented as economics in the most turgid, evidence-based, technocratic sense of the term. Typically the debate is focused around an analysis of the shortcomings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator of wellbeing – GDP being the standard measure of economic output, which works out the total value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders during a fixed period, normally one year. The influential thinkers who are increasingly criticising the category of GDP then go on to have endless technical debates about the pros and cons of alternative ways of measuring human welfare.

But the turgid nature of the debate should not be taken to mean that it is unimportant. On the contrary, this debate represents the ratification and extension of some of the most backward contemporary ideas. It also reveals much about the elite mindset in relation to the mass of humanity and the possibility of progress.

The central idea that is being endorsed in many of these intellectual discussions is that humanity should give up on the idea of economic growth. Striving to make the mass of the world significantly richer is viewed as counterproductive. It is seen as undermining quality of life, damaging the environment and threatening planetary disaster. It is a view I have called ‘growth scepticism’, because it purports to support growth in principle but, through the conditions it attaches, it constantly undermines it in practice (1).

Several core assumptions typically accompany this aversion to economic progress. Humans are seen as defined primarily by what they consume – and mass consumption is viewed with revulsion by the elite. In that respect, growth scepticism can be seen as a defensive response to protect what the elite regards as its fair share of resources.

At the same time, the productive and creative side of humanity is downplayed or even ignored. Growth sceptics have lost confidence in the ability of human ingenuity to solve difficult problems or reshape the world for the better. Growth scepticism is also a strongly asocial approach. The emphasis is on individuals and households rather than understanding society as a whole. There is little attempt to probe the complex relations of consumption and production that characterise modern societies.

With such a diminished view of humanity, it is hardly surprising that pessimistic conclusions are drawn about economic progress. If humanity really did simply consist of seven billion consumers – a giant swarm of human locusts – then the future would indeed be bleak. But if it is understood that humans are also capable of amazing feats of creativity and production, then the prognosis is entirely different. Humans are not simply consumers, but producers capable of remarkable ingenuity.

Once this context is understood, it is possible to start to appreciate the implications of the widespread move away from seeing economic growth as the driving force behind human progress. The point is not that the target of these thinkers’ wrath – Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the conventional measure of economic output – is a perfect measure of progress or human wellbeing. On the contrary, it has many flaws and alternative indicators of welfare can be useful. But the current discussion is not about the GDP measurement itself – rather it is about undermining the desire for economic progress.

Superseding GDP

Although the attack on GDP is often presented as an innovative, radical campaign, it is in fact a long-standing focus in official circles. As far back as 1990, the United Nations Development Programme launched the Human Development Index (HDI) as a measure of wellbeing in the poorer countries (2). The HDI combined life expectancy, literacy and income into a composite measure of wellbeing. Then in 1992, the United Nations Rio Summit, attended by most of the world’s top leaders, adopted Agenda 21, which invited signatory countries to develop ‘sustainability indicators’....

However, undoubtedly the highest profile of all such reports was a commission inaugurated by Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, in 2008. It included many of the world’s leading academic superstars in social science. The three key authors of the report were Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate in economics, former chief economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the World Bank), Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate, also one of the architects of the HDI), and Jean-Paul Fitoussi (an economic adviser to Sarkozy). Other panellists included Daniel Kahneman (Nobel laureate for his work in behavioural economics), Nicholas Stern (known for the key British government report on the economics of climate change) and Robert Putnam (a Harvard academic known for his key Bowling Alone study on social capital) (9).

A full technical version of the report was published last year as the ‘Report by the Commission on Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress’. Less formally it was known as the Sen-Stiglitz-Fitoussi report, or simply the Sarkozy report (10).

Recently a non-technical version of the report was published as Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up. The report starts with a foreword by Sarkozy, followed by sections on traditional problems with GDP, quality of life, and sustainable development and environment. It repays examining in some detail, as it draws out many of the flawed assumptions embodied in the attack on GDP.
Forcing a change in behaviour

Sarkozy’s foreword is useful as it makes many of the assumptions embodied in the report explicit. His opening sentence is particularly telling: ‘I hold a firm belief: we will not change our behaviour unless we change the ways we measure our economic performance.’ This immediately puts the discussion in its proper context: the political class is intent on encouraging the mass of the population to behave in a different way.

Soon afterwards he starts to explain what this means. ‘We must change the way we live, consume and produce.’ He goes to call for ‘a revolution in our minds, in the way we think, in our mindsets and values’. So Sarkozy is keen for a transformation of behaviour and values. He wants us to be satisfied with less and for our subdued desires to be reflected in our behaviour.

He then goes on to make the point that the discussion of statistics is not only about numbers. ‘Our statistics and accounts reflect our aspirations, the values that we assign things. They are inseparable from our vision of the world and the economy, of society, and our conception of human beings and our inter-relations.’

He also makes two common but dubious assertions. He argues that economic growth is destroying what it is creating and endangering the future of the planet. Then he approvingly cites the commission’s authors arguing that most people perceive themselves as worse off because they actually are worse off.

Interestingly, Sarkozy closes his foreword by stating his opposition to ‘conformism, conservatism, and short-sighted interests’. Despite being the French head of state and a member of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), he presents his arguments as somehow radical. This is a typical growth-sceptic perspective. In their upside-down world, ordinary people demanding a more prosperous life are a conservative force, while the romantic demand for restraint is radical.

The authors of the report have obediently followed Sarkozy’s vision. They have produced a technical-sounding report which suggests that downgrading the importance of economic progress would somehow benefit humanity. No doubt the report’s arguments will be percolated down to the mass of the population by other equally conformist politicians, non-governmental organisations and journalists....

Most fundamentally there is a problem with the way the Sarkozy report downgrades the importance of production. It fails to see that increasing and transforming production is a pre-condition for human advance. Economic growth is central to the more general project of social progress. In any case, everything that is consumed has first to be produced. Increased production is also closely associated with technological and scientific advance.

It is true that in a market-based society a relatively small number of people can command many of the revenues generated by growth – although the empirical record shows that even the poor gain substantially from rising economic output. Even poorer countries have typically benefited from large rises in life expectancy, sharp declines in infant mortality, higher levels of literacy, better nutrition and many other developments. But whatever the reality of inequality, it is absolutely certain that without economic growth the mass of society will not be able to meet its needs.

This is most obviously true in relation to the developing world – which was included in the remit of the report. It has been forgotten that such countries need not only economic growth, but more broadly an economic transformation. For their living standards to rise to match those in the West, they need more efficient production combined with industrialisation and urbanisation. Otherwise, whatever the protestations of Western greens, they will be condemned to remain in poverty.



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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

In defense of bigots

This may come as a shock to collectivists, but narrow-minded, prejudiced, rude, stupid bigots have the same rights as everyone else.

The recent television discussion between Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul) and Rachel Maddow (collectivist propagandist) has gotten a lot of attention, and has prompted a flood of comments from people who don't know how to think. Personally, I think Rand deserves some criticism for his comments ... for being too civil and too "moderate" with the state-violence-worshiping hostess. To the question of whether a restaurant owner has the right to have a "No blacks allowed" policy, the principled answer would have been, unapologetically and unconditionally:

"Yes, a restaurant owner has the absolute right to serve and not serve whomever he damn well pleases, for any reason or no reason at all. An owner can say 'No blacks allowed,' or 'No whites allowed,' or 'Only atheist albino midgets allowed.' It's his damn property, and no one--not you, not me, and not any collective or any 'government'--has the right to initiate violence to FORCE him to do whatever WE think would be the polite, fair, noble thing."

It's bizarre how statists--those who advocate that the violence of
"government" be used to fix every "unfairness" they see (or imagine)--are the ones who most often claim to be "tolerant." To "tolerate" something doesn't mean to approve of something, or to support it--it only means to let it exist. Therefore, the bigot who chooses not to deal with his money, or on his property, with a particular racial or religious group, but who doesn't go onto their property to harass or attack them, is being 100% tolerant of them. On the other hand, Rachel Maddow, and millions of other well-indoctrinated collectivist Americans, who seek to have "government" forcibly impose their version of "fairness" on the bigot, are being completely intolerant. Ironically, they feel good about it, and consider themselves compassionate and morally superior for wanting to introduce violence into the situation, via "legal" coercion.

I wonder what Comrade Maddow would think if the Department of Fairness determined that she was spending too much of her money at white-owned businesses, and commanded her to change her evil ways. Would she suddenly recognize the principle involved here? How about if the Fairness Fascists told Black Entertainment Television (BET), or the NAACP, that they were required to hire more whites, and were commanded to stop trying to target their services towards one particular racial group?

The principle is not complicated: You get to decide who you will associate with and trade with, and I get to decide who I will associate and trade with. And yes, some people--quite a few, in fact--will make choices that you or I would find stupid, or even offensive. You have the right to not patronize businesses you don't approve of. You have the right to publicly criticize their practices. You have the right to encourage other people to boycott such businesses. But you do not have the right to choose what is to be done with someone else's property. The notion that the collective has some right to forcibly impose its beliefs on every individual is infinitely more destructive than letting people be stupid with their own property.

Exactly what threat is posed to society by some racist dude who won't let people of another race onto his property? Damn near none. (And how many customers do you think the guy would get anyway?) His choices of who to associate with, and who to trade with, are his--and his alone--to make. That is true of everyone, of all races and religions.

In contrast, an enormous threat is posed to society by people thinking that they have the right, via "government" mercenaries, to force people into associations and trades those people don't want to make. You can call it "affirmative action," or "anti-discrimination laws," or some other euphemisms that make you feel better about it, but what you are advocating is adding violence into a situation to try to achieve whatever you deem to be "fair." And if you think that using the state to force people to deal with each other is going to lead to peace, love and harmony, you're a bonehead. Do you really think the KKK guy with the "government" gun pointed at his head is suddenly going to start loving black people? Of course not. Getting "government" mercenaries involved will only exacerbate the problem.

And don't think the tyrants don't know this. What those in "government" have done in the name of improving "race relations" was designed to forever divide the races, and to keep both sides forever begging "government" for its blessings and preferential treatment. The result is perpetual strife among the citizenry, and increased power for politicians.

Keep in mind, slavery lasted as long as it did only because it was sanctioned by "government." How long do you think slavery would have lasted if there was not a national network of "law enforcement" using violence against those who attempted to free slaves? And the Jim Crow "laws" were edicts from the tyrants, forcing business-owners to discriminate. Remember the Rosa Parks incident? It was the result of a "law" mandating racial segregation on busses.

Now, do you really think that the establishment Democrat party which pushed for those segregation and other racist "legislation" suddenly grew a conscience when the "civil rights movement" expanded? No, they just found a new way to control and subjugate people, black and white. The racist, divisive, oppressive "Jim Crow" type policies were replaced by racist, divisive, oppressive "civil rights" legislation. (Heck, they didn't even always change the faces. Try doing an internet search for Robert Byrd--U.S. Senator and former KKK big-wig--and the term "race mongrels," and see if you still believe that the Democrat party establishment has the best interests of black folk at heart.)

(As an aside, I find it very impressive that way back in 1865, Frederick Douglass, a former slave, could already see that "government" efforts to "help" the freed slaves was a really bad idea, and that the best thing the politicians could do was nothing. Regarding the politicians' "attempt to prop up the Negro," Douglass implored them to simply "Let him alone," and "Let him fall if he cannot stand alone!")

In short, if you want to be tolerant, open-minded, compassionate, and peacefully coexist with people of all colors, creeds, etc., then you need to recognize that "government" is always the enemy, even when it pretends to offer "help." It will always try to pit you against some other group, and will always try to use differences (or make differences) in order to increase its own power. It will always add threats and coercion to the situation--that's all it ever does, and all it can do (that's all "law" is)--and that is not the way to achieve harmony, justice, or fairness.

"Government" is the enemy of blacks, the enemy of whites, the enemy of humanity. But as long as the people keep falling for the tyrant tricks--as long as we keep crying to the control freaks in "government" to forcibly impose our preferences and beliefs on everyone else--then human society will be nothing but a cage full of squabbling brats, all whining for the jailer to whip the other prisoners harder (which is pretty much what every election is).

The other choice--and I realize this is pretty darn radical--is to accept the fact that .... I OWN ME, and YOU OWN YOU.


'Caucasian Only' Ad in Massachusetts Newspaper draws fire

This ban is an example of the intolerance discussed in the article immediately above.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is investigating a racially charged advertisement that was in a local newspaper. The ad announcing land for sale appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times recently and was placed by Harmon Law Office in Newton, MyFoxBoston reports.

The advertisement stated that the land "...shall not be sold, leased or rented to any person other than of the Caucasian race or to any entity of which any person other than of said race shall be a member, stockholder, officer or director."

“Such restrictive covenants have long been deemed unlawful and unenforceable under Massachusetts statute, and conveyance of any such deed is expressly prohibited under Massachusetts anti-discrimination law,” said MCAD Chairman and Commissioner Malcolm Medley. “Advertising such a sale may also be unlawful under the statute. Our obligation is to investigate this matter to determine whether a violation of law has occurred.”

Harmon Law issued a statement to FOX25: "This notice involves a restriction that a previous owner placed on the property. We do not condone the language and do not believe that it would be enforceable. It is industry practice to include in the notice of sale the exact legal description as set forth in the mortgage. We have removed the language for future legal notices."

The MCAD investigation comes just days after Fox Undercover did its own investigation of housing discrimination in Massachusetts.

Figures from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development show that since 2007, there have been 324 complaints filed in Massachusetts alleging housing discrimination based on race and national origin.


Sir David Attenborough laments health and safety rules that stops children roaming countryside

Sir David Attenborough has lamented the health and safety culture that is preventing children from 'roaming the countryside' discovering nature. The veteran natural history broadcaster said he learned many of his skills "fossicking" or searching around the countryside for birds eggs, insects and flowers.

But today children are prevented from spending time alone in the countryside because of traffic and fears of abduction. As a consequence the country risks losing the next generation of naturalists.

"Kids of ten or twelve are not encouraged to get on their bikes and go fossicking around the countryside where their mothers do not know where they are," he said. "That was not the case for me. I was able to get on my bike and sit in the fields of Leicestershire watching animals. I learned a lot about natural history."

Sir David has spoken out before about laws that stop children collecting fossils or flowers. He said the rules should be relaxed so children are able to take common species. The 84-year-old also called for more opportunities for children for exploring nature at home and school.

"It is my belief that there is barely a child born into this world who is not initially interested in nature and other creatures," he said. "Now it much more difficult for children. Agreed you cannot have everybody collecting birds eggs but children should be able to collect fossils and flora here and there. Those are the ways naturalist are born. I am sorry for legal reasons and perfectly proper reasons so many of our children are no longer allowed to do that."

Speaking at the 10th Anniversary of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre in London, Sir David said people in modern Britain are "out of touch" with the nature that can be seen in their own environment.

"There is a huge amount to be learned and we are getting less and less in touch," he said. "We are in a paradoxical situation in that whereas over half the world's population is becoming urbanised and knowing less and less, oddly through the television they more and more about exotic places like the Galapagos or theEcuadorian rainforests or the plains of East Africa that they ever have knew known. I dare say they know more about East African lions and game than they do about foxes."

The presenter praised recent programmes on British wildlife like the BBC's Springwatch but said more needed to be done to educate people about nature in their own surroundings.

He urged people to go "on safari" in their backyard by using the techniques learned in nature programmes to watch wildlife. He also said they could dig ponds and plant bee-friendly plants to encourage wildlife into gardens. "You can transfer the principles of what you see in a decent natural history programme into the studying the nature you see around you," he said.


A brotherly disagreement over faith

Christopher Hitchens, the celebrated author and polemicist, never got on with his younger brother, Peter. Some siblings, spawned from the same genetic pool but vastly different in character, temperament and outlook, just don't.

Famous for his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher has become a champion of atheism and secular liberalism. He came to Australia this month to promote his memoir Hitch-22, an enticing prospect for readers who know something of his extraordinary life, wit and command of language. But at the same time that Hitch-22 hits the shelves, so does The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, Peter Hitchens's personal response to his older brother's attack on God and all things religious.

The younger Hitchens, also a noted journalist and author, was once an atheist (and radical socialist), but returned to faith in his 30s and has remained a believer ever since. This course of events has no doubt added to existing tensions between the two, although the truth is they would have lived very separate lives anyway.

Christopher decided upon the folly of religion at a very early age. It's not hard to see why his early experience of Christianity was a turn-off. Sent to boarding school at age eight, he entered a brutal ''Tom Brown's school days'' world where a sadistic and spartan regimen came to be, in the mind of the young Hitchens, closely associated with the religious trappings of the institution.

Peter's own youthful rejection of the faith was followed by years embracing a secular creed and international socialism. He writes that he passed through the same atheist revelation his brother and many self-confident members of his generation experienced as they rejected a sagging postwar establishment, where the sheen had somehow been rubbed off everyone from the policeman to the vicar, the local MP to the school headmaster. Engrossed in modernity and technology, his generation came to see God as a nuisance and religion as an embarrassment.

But the accidental concord with his brother's sensibilities was not to last. In The Rage Against God he directly counteract the arguments of the New Atheists by drawing attention to what he sees as logical flaws, inconsistencies and blind spots.

Are conflicts fought in the name of religion always about religion? The younger brother sees such an idea as "a crude factual misunderstanding". Is it ultimately possible to know what is right and wrong without acknowledging the existence of a deity? He insists that, to be effectively absolute, a moral code must be beyond human power to alter.

And he rejects his brother's strident claim that teaching religious concepts to children is a form of child abuse. Believers and non-believers should be free to raise their children as they wish, but it would be ridiculous to pretend, says Peter, that it is a neutral act to tell a child "the heavens are empty, that the universe is founded on chaos rather than love, and that the child's grandparents on dying have ceased altogether to exist''.

So what brought the prodigal back into the fold? His personal 'rage against God' came to an end when he hit marriage and fatherhood - "a cliche of discovery that is too obvious and universal, and also too profound, private and unique to discuss with strangers", he writes.

His experiences living and reporting from Russia and eastern Europe profoundly shaped his view of the world. Having lived in Moscow at the close of the Soviet era, and having witnessed other atheistic regimes in full flight, he refuses to accept his brother's evasion of what he sees as an organic link between atheism and the most notorious modernist experiments of the 20th century.

It is this experience that appears to shape his concerns for society. He believes Christianity is under attack today because it remains the most coherent and potent obstacle to frightening and ruthless idealism: "The concepts of sin, of conscience, of eternal life, and of divine justice under an unalterable law are the ultimate defence against the utopian's belief that ends justify means and that morality is relative. These concepts are safeguards against the worship of human power."

In Hitch-22, Christopher describes Peter, with uncharacteristic gentleness, as "to outward appearances almost tragically right-wing". There will be some who would be tempted to dismiss Peter's arguments because of this. But his literary quarrel with his brother brings into the light some important counter-arguments to the New Atheist claims. And through his experiences in the Soviet Union he does provide profound observations and warnings about a culture that has banished God from every area of public life.

He longs for an argument from atheists that "recognises the possible attractions to the intelligent mind of the religious explanation rather than denouncing all religious belief as stupid". Of course many non-believers are not in that camp. No doubt he is thinking of his brother, whose disdain for all religion remains intractable.

But as Peter makes clear, it is not really arguments that will win the day or change the heart of a person so sure of a godless universe and the singularly negative impact of religion. "'Those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry," he writes. Ultimately shrill and often ugly arguments for and against the existence of God mask something deeper and more personal.

Peter describes a 2008 public debate with Christopher in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the existence of God in which, despite the hopes of the gathered throng, both men refrained from a public mauling of each other. Somehow it didn't feel right. He says it was as if the longest quarrel of his life was over. "On this my brother and I agree: that independence of mind are immensely precious, and that we should try to tell the truth in clear English even if we are disliked for doing so."



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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Must not react to Gypsy crime

Gypsies normally live by petty crime, and always have

A Swedish appeals court has ruled that a Norrköping hotel was guilty of discriminating against a guest who was participating at a conference on ethnic discrimination at the time.

The court upheld a district court ruling in favour of the Discrimination Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsman - DO) who had taken up the woman's case, and ordered the hotel to pay 8,000 kronor ($1,000) in compensation plus interest and court costs.

The woman, whose is member of Sweden's Roma community, was attending the conference at the Elite Grand Hotel in Norrköping in eastern Sweden when she was repeatedly asked by staff as to why she was there.

According to court documents three different members of staff approached the woman and asked her whether she was a guest at the hotel. At one point she was informed that the coffee which she was helping herself to at the time was for the consumption of paying guests only.

The woman was in Norrköping to attend a conference addressing the subject of ethnic discrimination and she later reported the hotel to DO.

The hotel responded, in its defence, that it had previously had problems with Roma and thefts, an explanation the hotel later changed, arguing instead that staff are instructed to check the identity of all guests that they don't immediately recognise.

"It is almost impossible to imagine that hotel staff in practice approach every single guest that they do not immediately recognize," the court stated in response to the hotel's explanation.

The court furthermore ruled that the Grand Hotel had not sufficiently been able to prove that the woman had not suffered insult or injury as a result of the discrimination and thus remained liable to pay the damages awarded by district court.

The Elite Grand Hotel Norrköping's general manager, Krister Eriksson, told The Local on Friday that he was unwilling to comment further on the case.


Must not describe neighborhood ethnicity

A South Buffalo landlord will have to pay a $1,000 settlement as a result of an advertisement on craigslist that described an apartment for rent in a “nice Irish neighborhood.”

Because federal and state fair-housing laws prohibit the use of preferential or discriminatory language, Housing Opportunities Made Equal began an investigation and dispatched testers to play the role of prospective renters.

According to the federal complaint, property owner Abdul Aljamali asked an African- American tester whether she had children, which is in violation of the state’s Human Rights Law.

The white tester also was asked about children and additionally was told that “there are no coloreds here . . . I hope your husband isn’t black.”

HOME filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which refereed the case to the state Division of Human Rights for investigation and adjudication.

In a settlement agreement, which did not constitute an admission of wrongdoing, Aljamali agreed to a pay the $1,000 in seven installments, as well as undergo training in fair-housing standards, record-keeping and reporting, said HOME officials.

The settlement was reached April 30, and payments begin in June, said Rayna Grossman, HOME community educator.

HOME is a civil rights organization that has led the struggle for fair housing in the Buffalo Niagara region since 1963.


Useless, jobless men – the social blight of our age

The British benefits system has produced an emasculated generation who can find neither work nor a wife

Of all the government adverts that have swamped our radio stations these past few years (must be a quick saving there for the Treasury), one of the most irritating was the jolly woman asking us in a sing-song voice if we had remembered to report changes in our circumstances. Like hell. Every time I heard the ad it conjured up a vision of a lonely official waiting in vain at her desk for people to come in and sign away entitlements to which they feel, well, entitled.

This pathetic advert seemed to me to epitomise the politicians’ total loss of control over the monster that is our benefits system. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) presides over a system so complex that it has to issue 8,690 pages of guidance to help its staff to apply its 51 different benefits — the product of the ever more precise targeting of benefits to particular groups.

In the years of plenty, it was easier to placate and complicate than to simplify. Every new benefit and its separate computer system was just bolted on to the mainframe. But the result is that Britain has more than twice the number of sick people as France. The potential for playing the system, defrauding the system and falling foul of the system is enormous.

So in declaring war yesterday on both poverty and the benefits system, Iain Duncan Smith had it right. If the Government is going to make real inroads into the deficit it will have to tackle the nearly £200 billion welfare budget, which is a third of government spending. This week’s £6 billion of cuts was only Round 1: £6 billion is only 1 per cent of government expenditure, so this was a warm-up. Round 2 will need to take on the DWP leviathan.

But the argument for welfare reform is not just one of affordability. In too many cases, welfare has entrenched poverty. Mr Duncan Smith is one of the few politicians who really understand the poverty trap. Gordon Brown made life more bearable for many people on benefits, but he also made it harder to escape from them. Get a job tomorrow earning between £10,000 and £30,000 a year and you’ll take home only 30p out of every extra pound you earn after the first £10,000. Twenty pence will go in income tax, 11p in national insurance, and 39p in lost tax credits. Add in the loss of other allowances (housing benefit, council tax benefit) and you may find it simply doesn’t pay to work harder. Our poverty trap is deeper than that of most other European countries. That is a strange legacy for a government that wanted to make work pay.

The fear of losing benefits — of not being able to scramble back on to the lifeboat if you fall off — is a huge disincentive to change your circumstances, let alone report them. One in seven working-age households is dependent on benefits for more than half its income. More than half of all lone parents depend on the State for at least half their income. William Beveridge would be horrified to discover that the safety net he designed has become a trap, creating generations of worklessness and dwindling self-esteem. It is also creating a glut of unemployed, unwanted, unmarriageable men.

These men were overlooked during a decade of prosperity that did nothing to change their lives. At the beginning of that decade, 5.4 million working-age adults were claiming out-of-work benefits. The same number were still claiming just before the recession struck. Almost a fifth of 16 to 24-year-olds were not in education, employment or training in 1997. The number was identical in 2006. These people stayed put in the Welsh valleys, in Liverpool, in Glasgow, while Eastern Europeans travelled a thousand miles to pick up work on construction sites in London. Immigration reduced the opportunities available to white British men whose poor education made them less attractive candidates, while the benefits system undermined their motivation.

The problem affects the whole of society because of the striking correlation between male joblessness and single motherhood, particularly in the old industrial cities. In Liverpool, male unemployment rose from 12 per cent in 1971 to 30 per cent in 2001. In 1971 11 per cent of families were headed by a single parent; by 2001, 45 per cent were. Similar patterns can be seen in Birmingham, Strathclyde and Newcastle. The epidemic of male joblessness after the collapse of manufacturing industries coincided with an increase in female employment and welfare support to mothers who found that they could manage alone.

Overlooked by society, irrelevant to employers, unwanted by women who can raise families on benefits without their help, the man who has no work or a series of short-term jobs is a problem. Without steady work, he will struggle to acquire a family: unemployed men are less likely to marry or cohabit than employed ones. Without a stable relationship, he is less likely to grow into a good family man and raise good sons. The taxpayer has become the father: one in four mothers is single and more than half live on welfare. A lot of these women describe the real fathers of their children as “useless” or worse. The men have no role.

In the worst cases, the State has helped to create a class of jobless serial boyfriends who prey on single mothers on benefits. When two of these men moved into the flat that Haringey Council had generously provided for Tracey Connelly, Baby P’s mother, the little boy’s fate was sealed. They killed him. Other such men appear in bit parts in tragedies such as that of Shannon Matthews, abducted and drugged by her own “family”. The welfare system has helped to deprive these children of the most effective check on abuse — the family.

Robert Rowthorn, Professor of Economics at Cambridge, has shown that female and male worklessness have been going in opposite directions for 30 years, well before this latest “mancession”. His research suggests that half the rise in lone parenthood in the past 30 years may be due to male unemployment. He believes that governments must start to focus on these men, and question the feminisation of education and the workplace. It is no solution, he says, to say that women don’t need men or that men should become more female. Nor is it any good waiting for economic growth to dig them out of poverty. Those men need a chance, not a benefits system that undermines them.


Don’t trust Google, trust the government

Comment from Australia by Jessica Brown

Thank goodness for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his tireless campaign to protect us from the nasty World Wide Web. Like a brave David squaring up against colossal Goliath, he vows to protect us from the evil clutches of internet behemoth Google and its dastardly ways.

In a Senate Estimates hearing this week, Conroy launched a scathing attack on the search giant for a privacy breach in which personal data were inadvertently collected from some Wi-Fi users. The breach was indeed serious, and Conroy is not the only person around the globe to raise concerns. But he just might be the angriest.

A quick scan of HANSARD, however, reveals that Conroy’s real problem with Google is that the search engine doesn’t know its place. ‘They consider themselves to be above government,’ says the Senator. ‘When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, “Trust us.” They state on the website, “Trust us.”'

And it is this attitude that, according to Conroy, is so dangerous. Perhaps he has a point?

Google can decide – on a whim – to remove web pages it doesn’t like. We will never know what they are because its blacklist is a secret. We don’t even know what criteria are used to decide which pages get binned, or if and when those criteria are changed.

But guess what? It’s the same story with Conroy’s proposed internet filter.

The only difference is, if you don’t like the way Google works you can switch to Bing, Yahoo or any of the other multitude of search engines. If you don’t like the way the government’s internet filter will work, your best option is to leave the country.

Conroy doesn’t really see the connection though. While Google is a ‘corporate giant who is answerable to no one and motivated solely by profit,’ his government is driven by an altruistic urge to protect us all.
But what about those times when it is motivated not by altruism but by a desire to win the next election? Or push an ideological barrow? Or buy off an interest group? Or pander to the political views of an independent that holds the balance of power?

Can we really trust the government to decide – behind our backs – what is in our best interests any more than we can trust Google?

Perhaps a (not so?) radical idea would be for Conroy to trust us to decide for ourselves.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 28 May. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Nine out of ten on British incapacity benefits 'are fit to return to work'

Nine out of ten who claim to be too sick to work are actually fit to take a job, an official study has found. The figure emerged in the first report of pilot medical tests for incapacity benefit applicants.

At the end of 2008, all fresh claimants were told to apply for new-style employment and support allowances. Benefit levels were maintained but paid out only after rigorous medical assessments that were carried out by a private firm. The report into the trial found that virtually all of the 500,000 incapacity applicants under the new regime had had their claims rejected.

An astonishing 37 per cent abandoned their applications when they discovered they would undergo medical tests. Of those who went on to take the tests only 9 per cent were deemed to be too ill to work. More than two-thirds were told to look for work immediately, while a quarter were given extra support to help them back into the workplace.

Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, announced yesterday that the 2.6 million existing claimants will also have to take the tests. He said that if someone genuinely could not work they would continue to qualify for additional benefits.

But those assessed as fit would be moved immediately on to jobseekers' allowance - cutting their benefits by more than £25 a week and requiring them to seek work. He claimed that anyone on incapacity benefit for at least two years is more likely to die than work again.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper conceded that Labour had been 'slow to get started on some of the incapacity reforms' but pointed out that they were under way before the election.

Paul Farmer, of the mental health charity Mind, called for the tests to be overhauled before the system is rolled out to all incapacity claimants. He said the tests didn't work for mental health sufferers.


"Moderate" Islam at work

Egyptian TV: “We Must Get Our Children Accustomed to Hating the Jews.”

This slice of progressive education from Egyptian TV is notable for a few reasons. Egyptian TV is state run, hence all programming and opinions have the official Egyptian seal of approval. Egyptian cleric sheik Ahmad Al-Johainy soberly instructs his audience that if you want to learn how to properly and vigorously hate Jews, well, just study the Koran. It is the authoratative text.

Unlike others who claim that modern day Muslim Jew-hatred is derived from Nazi ideology, Seraphic Secret maintains that normative Islam is the source of Arab Muslim Jew-hatred. Nazi propaganda is just the icing on the cake.

The video is quite refreshing. The imam does not even try and pretend that he's “merely anti-Zionist.” He's wonderfully candid and proud of his Jew-hatred.

And make no mistake about it, the hatred of Jews has nothing to do with so-called occupation or so-called settlements, just as the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with national boundaries. It's codified Islamist intolerance that goes back to the times of Mohammed, a doctrine that sees the annihilation of the Jewish people as a religious duty.

Ironically, Egypt is considered a moderate Muslim country. If this is the face of moderation imagine the barbarism of Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iran.

The racist views of this genocidal yearning imam are the norm in the Arab Muslim world. Arab TV is saturated in this kind of filth.

Finally, the so-called peace process is and will remain a dangerous delusion until the Arab Muslim world frees itself from the malignancy of Jew-hatred.
We must enlighten the younger generation about our cruel enemy. We must show them who the enemies are, who the Jews are. This must be done in several respects.

First, there is the family. The parents must take an interest in their children, and teach them who the Jews are. This must be achieved by means of the Koran, by studying the raids of the Prophet Muhammad, and how he treated the Jews of the Nazir, Quraiza, and Qaynuqa’ tribes – how the Prophet dealt with the Jews, how he signed a treaty with them, only to be betrayed by them, and what he did to them, after they had violated the treaties. We must teach these things to our children. We must plant in our children’s hearts the truth about the Jews — that oppressive and cruel enemy.

We must teach our children who the Jews are. We must get our children accustomed to hating the Jews. We don’t want our children to grow up knowing nothing.

Go to MEMRI to view the video.


Empathy for Mass Murderers?

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on whether to promote District Judge Robert Chatigny to a life-tenured seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Any citizen who expects judges to bring the most heinous criminals to justice should be seriously concerned about this nomination.

In an infamous 2005 case, Chatigny, a judge on the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, fought tooth and nail to remove a serial rapist and murderer from death row. Chatigny argued that the murderer, known as the Roadside Strangler, “never should have been convicted” and certainly should not have received the death penalty. Why? Because he was “sexually sadistic.” Yes, according to this judge, the fact that the murderer was driven by excitement at the suffering of his victims somehow makes him less culpable for the lives he took.

Here’s a quick history of the case. Michael Ross confessed to the rape and murder of eight young women. A jury determined that his actions warranted the death sentence—the first handed down in Connecticut in over 40 years. After 20 years of failed appeals by his attorneys, Ross decided to accept the sentence. Days before the scheduled execution, the public defender’s office requested a stay of the execution—against Ross’s wishes—arguing that “death row syndrome” had caused Ross to fall into suicidal despair. Chatigny granted the stay based on this strained argument. The U.S. Supreme Court did not buy Chatigny’s foray into bench-chair psychology and ultimately vacated the stay.

While the stay was pending before the Supreme Court, Chatigny granted a temporary restraining order on behalf of Ross’s father, arguing that the execution would “extinguish [the father’s] constitutionally protected bond with his son in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in that the State will have assisted his son in committing suicide, which is a crime in itself.”

The idea that the Fourteenth Amendment somehow protects father-son bonding is novel to say the least. It is hard to say which is more preposterous: this or the notion that the state is engaging in “assisted suicide” by executing a brutal murderer who refuses to fight his death sentence. Ross was not sentenced to death because he wanted it, but because he deserved it. The Second Circuit and the Supreme Court vacated the temporary restraining order.

But Chatigny’s activism in the case did not end there. In addition to issuing judgments and orders, he actively advocated outside of the courtroom for Chatigny’s death sentence to be remanded, even bullying an attorney with threats to his legal career.

The day before Ross’s execution was to take place, Chatigny held a conference call with members of the public defender’s office and Ross’s attorney, T.R. Paulding. He demanded to know why Paulding was not taking further action and accused Paulding of being complicit at Ross’s attempt to gain “state-assisted suicide.” During the call, he threatened Paulding saying, “I’ll have your law license,” adding that, “if Michael Ross is dead, oh, boy it’s not going to be nice for anybody.”

It was during this call that Chatigny made the outrageous claim that Ross’s sexual sadism made him less culpable for his crime. Not only was he less culpable but, in Chatigny’s words, he was the “least culpable of anyone on death row.” Chatigny further asserted that Ross’s sexual sadism was “clearly a mitigating factor.” If this standard was actually applied in criminal law cases, imagine how many rapists and murderers would serve even shorter sentences than they already do.

While Judge Chatigny was later cleared of ethical wrongdoing by a panel of Second Circuit judges, this does not mean that he should have been cleared or that his actions should be forgotten. His behavior in this case raises red flags about both his temperament and his ability to be impartial.

The facts are stark. Chatigny abdicated his role as an impartial judge—not even feigning neutrality. Instead, he pursued his desired result by whatever means necessary. This sort of behavior is unacceptable for any court in the land at any level of government. Such conduct raises grave concerns about his proposed promotion to an even higher life-tenured judicial position.

Reasonable people can differ on the societal desirability of having a death penalty, but the legal questions of the Ross case were not open to reasonable debate. A capital sentence was handed down by the people and the state of Connecticut. Chatigny put his own judgment about administering the death penalty above the unanimous decision of the jury, the state legislature (which provides capital punishment as an option for the most serious crimes), the numerous state court judges who heard his direct and collateral appeals, and even—indirectly--the United States Supreme Court, which has upheld capital punishment for aggravated murders in cases like Ross’s. For Chatigny, none of that seemed to matter. He was looking for any flimsy theory to overturn the judgment.

President Obama has stated that he considers “empathy” a necessary quality for judges. This is a perfect illustration of why empathy should not be a judicial standard. If we accept that a judge may rule based on personal empathy, we must also accept that we cannot control the direction or depth of that empathy.

District courts are generally much more constrained in their actions by higher courts, as occurred in this case through multiple reversals. But this one instance is enough to show that Chatigny has a penchant for inventing bizarre constitutional rights at a whim. If he is elevated to the Second Circuit, time can only tell what rights he will create next.


Rand Paul and the right to be odious

by Jeff Jacoby

ONE PUZZLE about Rand Paul's much-discussed interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last week is why he ever allowed himself to get drawn into a discussion of his doubts about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One day after winning the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, was that really a topic he thought it would be useful to explore on national television?

I suspect that's exactly what he thought. I can't prove it, of course, but I imagine that in the flush of his victory and the certainty of his convictions, he thought the moment was right for a fearless demonstration of libertarian principle -- for making it clear that when it comes to liberty and the Constitution, he makes no exceptions. Not even for a law as iconic as the Civil Rights Act.

All he ended up demonstrating, however, was his inability to thoughtfully defend his position. Which was a shame, because the principle Paul was contending for -- that freedom necessarily includes the freedom to make unpopular, even wicked, personal choices -- is not frivolous. The fact that discrimination may be wrong does not establish that it must be illegal. Regardless of your view of the Civil Rights Act, that is an argument worth hearing. But Paul failed to make it.

In the interview's key exchange, Maddow asked Paul: "Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?" This was his reply:

"I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. . . . But I think what's important about this debate is not written into any specific 'gotcha' on this, but asking the question: What about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way. . . . We tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized."

Paul went on to explain that he embraced the 90 percent of the Civil Rights Act that targeted "governmental racism or discrimination," such as the Southern Jim Crow laws and segregated schools. It was only the remaining 10 percent, the ban on discrimination by private businesses, that he balked at. He personally would shun any Woolworth's lunch counter that refused to serve blacks, but he didn't think government had the right to force Woolworth's to desegregate.

The weakness in that position is that it was government that forced Woolworth's and other establishments to exclude blacks in the first place. Jim Crow was imposed by the state, often through police power and over the objection of local businesses, and backed by courts that refused to enforce the 14th Amendment. The Civil Rights Act rightly aimed to uproot not just public discrimination, but private discrimination that government malice had entrenched.

But that was nearly a half-century ago. What is the justification for laws banning private discrimination today, when Jim Crow is dead, racism is overwhelmingly abominated, and a black man is president of the United States? If a bigoted store owner today wants to refuse service to blacks, why should he be barred by law from doing so?

"Unless it's illegal," Maddow told Paul, "there's nothing . . . to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

But does anyone really believe that? With or without a federal law, Jim Crow is never coming back. Segregated restaurants would be as unthinkable today as "No Irish Need Apply" signs. A firm that adopted a "No Blacks" policy would set off a storm of public outrage, with pickets and boycotts, appalled editorials, a chorus of condemnation. If the company didn't back down, it would be driven out of business within a week.

The larger point is that behavior must not be criminalized merely because it is ugly. The same Constitution that guarantees our individual right to express odious ideas should likewise entitle us as individuals to engage in odious discrimination. So long as there is no violence or fraud, we are far better off deciding for ourselves whom we will and won't associate with.

That can be a hard reality to swallow, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. understood. "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought," he wrote in 1928. "Not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate."



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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

British parents beat ban on ‘competitive’ school sports

A children’s sports competition that was cancelled to protect young players from becoming upset if they lost has been reinstated after parents campaigned against the decision.

The tournament, which has taken place in Tweeddale in the Scottish Borders for 40 years, was threatened because sports development officers at the local council believed that primary schoolchildren on losing teams would suffer from “low self-esteem”.

Fiona Pagett, 41, whose daughter attends Broughton Primary, one of the affected schools, said: “I couldn’t believe it. Competition is part of life. You can’t shield children from that.” She lodged a formal complaint with Scottish Borders Council but was told that sports development officers were following guidelines issued by the Scottish Football Association, which also extended to other sports.

Ms Pagett undertook a Facebook campaign supported by other parents and the council reinstated the inter-schools football and netball competition. “I’m pleased they saw sense and realised it was not in the best interests of the children,” Ms Pagett said.

A council spokesman said that it has a “trophy-free” policy to enable children to express themselves “without the focus on the result”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Football Association said: “Our policy for primary schools is a non-competitive one. Years of research has shown that young children’s emotions can be negatively affected by competition.”


Work or lose your benefits: Tories herald biggest shake-up of British welfare state since war

Britain’s welfare system is ‘bust’ and faces its most radical overhaul for 60 years to undo Labour’s legacy of benefit dependency, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has declared.

The former Tory leader vowed to end the scandal that means welfare claimants are no better off – and sometimes poorer – if they come off the dole to take jobs paying up to £15,000 a year. He also signalled that benefit payments to the middle classes were likely to be pared back in favour of income tax cuts – and the state pension age might have to rise more quickly than planned.

Giving his first newspaper interview since making an extraordinary return to the political frontline, Mr Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail the unemployed should do community work to keep benefits. Those who refused to look for work, take jobs that were offered to them or do voluntary work would have their handouts stopped, he said.

Mr Duncan Smith said it was simply not ‘sustainable’ for Britain to carry on spending almost 14 per cent of its national income on welfare. The bewilderingly complex benefits system should be radically simplified, and the perverse penalty against couples living together brought to an end, he added.

Mr Duncan Smith is today preparing to publish startling new evidence of the benefits culture and inequality that Labour has left behind after 13 years in power.

A Government report will reveal that 1.4million people in the UK have been on an out-of-work benefit for nine or more of the past ten years. It will show income inequality in the UK is at its highest level since comparable statistics began in 1961, and a higher proportion of children are growing up in workless households in the UK than in any other EU country.

Mr Duncan Smith said it was clear that Britain’s welfare system was ‘broken’ and ‘bust’. ‘It’s not going to be sustainable,’ he said. ‘We have created a benefits system which basically says you are better off out of work than you are in work.

‘We have to challenge the whole idea that it’s acceptable for a society like Britain to have such a significant number of people who do not work one day of the week and don’t have any possibility of improving the quality of their lives.

‘Five million people are actually sitting there doing nothing, fulfilling no employment role. The present benefits system is counter-productive, it’s complex and difficult to understand.’

Mr Duncan Smith said he wanted a rapid reassessment of all those claiming incapacity benefit and said he would move a ‘significant number’ into work. ‘About 43 per cent of those who are economically inactive are stuck on some sort of sickness benefit. ‘That has risen from about 15 per cent in 1981,’ he said. ‘What we propose will save money, but it will also shake up this nonsense.’

Mr Duncan Smith said that as Britain struggled to pay back its £156billion budget deficit, middleclass welfare would have to be reined in, in favour of income tax breaks.

The Government has already indicated that it will scrap tax credits for better-off families.

He said: ‘The benefits system is a deeply ineffective and costly way of subsidising people’s lives. ‘We obviously have a limited amount of money and our purpose is to improve the quality of life for the worst-off in society so they can play a part and hopefully pay tax one day themselves.’

Mr Duncan Smith said the coalition government represented a ‘once in a generation chance’ for radical welfare reform. He invited senior Labour figures – including his predecessor James Purnell – to help draw up the Government’s plans.

‘What we want to do is reform the welfare system in the way that Tony Blair talked about 13 years ago but never achieved – a system that was created for the days after the Second World War,’ he said. ‘That prize is now I think achievable. I will also invite the Labour Party to play a part in this. Do they want to just sit back and just throw rocks at us? ‘Or do people like James Purnell, who admits that the system cannot go on much longer as it is, want to play a part?’


Publishing the identities of rape accusers

Name both the accuser and the accused

On May 20th, the new U.K. coalition government pledged to change the law so as to extend anonymity in rape cases to cover the accused as well as the accuser, at least until and unless a conviction occurs. A firestorm of controversy has ensued.

The law should not determine what information may be broadcast or revealed to the public. Especially in America, however, the practice of naming those accused of sexual assault while protecting accusers has evolved largely as a tradition. But is it a tradition that encourages false accusations and unjust convictions? If so, it is time to break with tradition.

The prospect of doing so has caused a firestorm of controversy in the U.K. which mirrors the debate that occurred in America during the 2006 Duke Lacrosse rape case in which the lives of three demonstrably innocent young men were almost destroyed by a false accuser, to whom the media first accorded anonymity. As the injustice became obvious, however, various outlets publicly named the woman.

Before examining some of the key arguments, it is important to consider what are the possibilities regarding anonymity or disclosure? Only four exist: both parties are named, neither, only the accused, or only the accuser. Since the option of naming only the accuser never arises, three possibilities remain. (As I argue later, I believe both parties should be identified once the accusation has become a public matter, involving police and the court system.)

Those who want to identify both parties usually contend that false accusations of sexual assault are common place and that protecting the identity of an accuser encourages injustice. Anecdotal information seems to support this contention. For example, as of January 21, 2010, 249 U.S. prisoners have been exonerated by the Innocence Project through DNA testing; almost all of their convictions involved a form of sexual assault.

Unfortunately, statistics on false accusations are notoriously difficult to obtain and vary wildly. (I tend to place the figure at about 20% but, again, that is merely an estimate based on my own review of studies and reports.)

At the high end of estimates is a study by the now-retired Purdue University sociologist Eugene J. Kanin who worked in cooperation with the police in a small metropolitan town. Kanin examined reports of forcible rape from 1978 to 1987 during which 109 accusations were lodged; 45, or 41 percent, were discarded as false. (Note: 'unfounded' cases were counted as 'false.') Why would someone lie? Three factors commonly motivated the false allegations: revenge, the need for an alibi, and a desire for attention.

At the low end is the much-cited but vaguely supported "feminist" figure of 2 percent, which was popularized by Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book on sexual assault,"Against Our Will." There, Brownmiller claimed in passing that false accusations in New York City had dropped to 2 percent after police departments began using policewomen to interview alleged victims. Although the figure subsequently appears in many articles and in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004, "no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis."

Two defenses are commonly offered for maintaining anonymity for the accuser: 1) to protect the victim from embarrassment; and, 2) to encourage other victims to come forward in the future.

The first defense rests on the compassionate belief that a rape victim should not be brutalized a second time by publicity but it fails by assuming precisely what is in question. Is the accuser a victim? Is the accused guilty? Until the evidence has been openly examined, these questions cannot be answered. Moreover, sympathy for an alleged victim does not explain why equal consideration is not extended to the accused who should be presumed innocent. Reporting of name might well devastate an innocent life, even if he is not convicted. If compassion protects the accuser's identity, then logically it should also protect the accused.

The second defense for the accuser's anonymity is to encourage accusers to come forward. But there is nothing positive about increasing the number of accusations unless they are accompanied by standards that maintain the accuracy of evidence and the rights of the accused. By lowering standards of accountability, it seems likely that false reports would increase. Moreover, the anonymity decreases the likelihood of a fair trial by disadvantaging the accused. For example, when an accused rapist is publicly named, other victims can come forward to add their testimony. By contrast, when an accuser remains unnamed, witnesses who could discredit her account may be unaware of the proceedings.

What is the solution? First and foremost, no law should be involved. But traditions can be unjust and, when they encourage false accusations or bias a trial, those traditions should be violated. New ones should be forged. Again, once the accusation has become a public matter, involving police and the court system, the names of all parties should become also be public. The demand for transparency in judicial proceedings does not reflect a lack of compassion for or an indifference to victims. Quite the contrary. The right to a public trial is one of the strongest safeguards of justice; and nothing expresses concern for victims more than ensuring judicial fairness.

In America, the media is not and should not be required to protect or to disclose the name of anyone. But a tradition that encourages injustice should be discarded. Name both the accuser and the accused. A free and responsible press should do no less.


Embracing the tormentors

Conducting "truth commissions" to denounce American armed forces and organizing divestment campaigns to cripple Israel are vital issues to some American church officials. Raising the banner of Intifada and expressing solidarity with Palestinians are also very important to this collection of liberal leaders. They "spiritualize" the Democratic immigration and health care reform agendas with pompous prayer, but their social justice-focused prophetic vision has strange blind spots. Leftist church leaders hardly ever see, let alone condemn, the imprisonment, enslavement, torture, and murder of Christians in the Islamic world, North Korea, and China.

Church officials and partner organizations such as the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) issue strident policy statements on such topics as "eco-justice," broadband access for "economically depressed rural areas," the Israeli "occupation," and "unnecessary Department of Defense spending." But one is hard-pressed to find these church leaders denouncing the recent appointment of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. One searches in vain for an expression of solidarity with the Christian community in Jos, Plateau State, in central Nigeria, where hundreds of Christians were slaughtered by Fulani jihadists during March and April of 2010. If there are any such statements, they address vaguely "ethnic conflict" and are masterpieces of moral equivalency.

Such reticence to speak about persecution is not new for liberal church leaders. Downplaying or denying the egregious human rights violations of the Soviet system was symptomatic of Leftist hatred of America and Western values. It was also considered essential to the type of appeasement of tyrants necessary to achieve the liberal Utopian dream of a peaceful, nuclear weapon-free world.

In the 1970's, the NCC's Friendship Press published two mission studies on China seemingly which would be welcome additions to the Anita Dunn library. In both of these so-called "mission studies," Chinese Communism received preferential treatment and the efforts of early Christian missionaries were viewed with disapproval as imperialistic and unwelcome interventions.

The 1975 mission study China: People-Questions, expresses no similar disapproval towards the horrific violence that took place during the Cultural Revolution. Instead, the book praises the Cultural Revolution for having "deepened and continued" the process of moving China to socialism by "unceremoniously" uprooting "mutant social growths." The church mission study gushes, "In time the road of Mao and his followers clearly emerged as the one that humanized the social relations of the society."

The other mission study was China: Search for Community, released to unsuspecting church members by the NCC in 1978. Included in this mission study is a retelling of the story of the Good Samaritan, casting all things Western and religious as the assorted villains of the piece. Imagine thousands of Sunday School members in mainline churches, receiving their only education about the People's Republic of China from this story:

A country, a culture, was on its way through the centuries. It fell in with robbers, who stripped it, beat it, and left it at the roadside half dead. The robbers were many: graft and corruption, war lords and generalissimos, foreign powers, Western merchants and missionaries. And China was helpless. A priest passed by: Christian or a Buddhist…too concerned with religion to be willing to get his hands dirty with social reform and politics. . .

Finally the Samaritan arrived on the scene.… In Chinese eyes he could be no other than Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist Party. The wounds made by the imperialist robbers were healed, national dignity restored, and armed protection was given. Here was the neighbor, the comrade…. Here was the one deserving the love of the people and setting the example for a life style and a political program.

Mao was not the only Marxist beloved by liberal church leaders. The Religious Left has had similar admiration for Fidel Castro while ignoring the oppression and persecution of Cuba's Christians. One of Cuba's most famous prisoners of conscience, Christian poet and patriot Armando Valladares, was imprisoned for 22 years. Soon after he was released, he was the recipient of The Institute on Religion and Democracy's (IRD) 1983 Religious Freedom Award. In his moving acceptance speech, Valladares revealed the betrayal of prisoners such as himself by churches of the Religious Left:

The honor which you bestow upon me today will have special significance for Cuba's political prisoners….During those years, with the purpose of forcing us to abandon our religious beliefs and demoralize us, the Cuban communist indoctrinators repeatedly used the statements of support for Castro's revolution made by some representatives of American Christian churches. Every time that a pamphlet was published in the United States, every time a clergyman would write an article in support of Fidel Castro's dictatorship, a translation would reach us and that was worse for the Christian political prisoners than the beatings or the hunger.

While we waited for the solidarity embrace from our brothers in Christ, incomprehensively to us, those who were embraced were our tormentors…. the Christians in Cuba's prisons suffer not only the pain of torture and isolation but also the conviction that they have been deserted by their brothers in faith.

You might think that Valladares was exaggerating -- surely national church leaders are not as naïve as those teenagers and aging hippies who sport icons of Che on their tee shirts? (Of course many church leaders are aging hippies.) But Contending for the Faith, the autobiography of Methodist reformer and evangelist the Rev. Dr. Ed Robb, shows otherwise. Robb tells of a typical church delegation's visit to Cuba that took place while Armando Valladares "was languishing in a Cuban prison cell without clothes, books, Bible, pen, or paper" in 1977. He smuggled out poems written in his own blood. The delegation, led by then NCC head Bishop James Armstrong, was enamored with Valladares' jailers, but not with those brave dissidents in Cuban prisons.

The members of the delegation made the following statement upon their return home: "There is significant difference between a situation where people are imprisoned for opposing regimes designed to perpetuate inequalities (as in Chile and Brazil, for example) and situations where people are imprisoned for opposing regimes designed to remove inequities (as in Cuba)." (Armstrong and Dilly, A Report from Cuba, United Methodist Church of the Dakotas Area, June 1977) Regimes designed to "remove inequities" have always been in favor with the Religious Left, and continue to be so today, even closer to home than Cuba!

The cries of oppressed and persecuted Christians in the former Soviet Union were likewise dismissed by Religious Left church leaders obsessed with the dream of nuclear disarmament. The World and National Councils of Churches routinely ignored thousands of brave believers from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, and elsewhere, while fawning over KGB-groomed Russian Orthodox clergy participating in the World Council of Churches (WCC). In 1983 at the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Vancouver, The IRD reported that in deference to the Soviet bloc delegates "The WCC again refused to make any public statement on behalf of the millions of persecuted Christians living under the Soviet empire. Appeals by imprisoned believers were spiked on the grounds that they did not come from member churches of the WCC."

More here


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

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

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