Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Britain's slap-on-the-wrist justice system: 37,000 violent thugs a year escaping with just a caution

Magistrates yesterday revealed that 37,000 violent thugs got away with a caution rather than jail in a single year under Britain’s ‘incoherent’ justice system.

John Thornhill, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said the yobs could have been hauled before the courts to be properly punished but instead received just a slap on the wrist. In a withering attack on sentencing policy, he said victims were being cheated out of ‘opportunity to see justice being done’, as well as compensation.

The wrong cases were ending up before the courts, he told the association’s annual general meeting. Mr Thornhill contrasted the amount of court time spent addressing minor offences compared with violent crimes. He said: ‘We have an incoherent justice system – a system in which a court is asked to adjourn two separate charges of fare evasion of £1.30 – a matter that could have been dealt with outside of court.

‘A system in which minor drunk and disorderly offences cannot be heard in absence as the streamlined process does not allow the serving of the evidence against the offender – more adjournments and unnecessary expense.

‘Yet set against these examples, in one year 37,000 offenders received a simple caution for an offence that in court would have attracted at least a community order if not custody – assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 'A caution which denies the victim the opportunity to see justice being done and receive compensation for the hurt and injuries caused.’

Under Labour, the number of cautions rocketed, as police and prosecutors were put under pressure to settle cases outside court in order to meet Whitehall targets. The surge sparked fears that the criminal justice system had gone ‘soft’.

Now the Coalition plans to slash the prison population by 3,000 by 2014, meaning tens of thousands of convicts receiving community orders instead of jail terms.

Yesterday, in his own speech to the conference, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke insisted he was not about to tear up short sentences or open prison doors to release violent criminals. ‘If you are alarmed by the debate about that... it has not actually ever featured as part of our proposals,’ he said. ‘The same with letting out the burglars, the rapists, the murderers, people being allowed to stab people and get a community sentence – just forget that.

‘I’ve never met a sane person who agrees with any of those proposals and I regard myself as a comparatively sane man, so none of them are likely to come forward.’ But he added: ‘There will be extremely serious changes. 'The biggest thing we’re addressing in the current system, where we have an enormous prison population, is the rate of reoffending.’

The sentencing Green Paper was still ‘a few weeks’ away, Mr Clarke added. It has been hit by rows between departments over concerns about being seen as ‘soft’ on crime.

Last month, it was revealed that almost 2,700 offenders were handed a community sentence in 2008 despite being found guilty of a crime more than 50 times before. Incredibly, 315 convicts received a non-custodial sentence after 100 or more previous convictions for indictable offences.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We need a more intelligent approach to sentencing that targets the root causes of crime and reoffending, so making our communities safer and better places to live.

‘There is no question that we must protect the public from the most dangerous criminals in our society. ‘However, we must also ensure the courts have the power to make the right response to stop people committing crime.’


Confessions of a young anti-feminist

By Josephine Asher, writing from Australia

Is the pursuit for gender equality sucking life out of relationships? Instead of harnessing the different qualities of men and women to energise us, we are striving to make men and women equal.

More women are joining the battle for the CEO’s chair and pursuing dominance in their homes and communities. But in the process they’re becoming more like men. And men are becoming… well, less like men.

Renowned Australian neurosurgeon Charlie Teo believes men and women have different roles “set not only by society but set by physiology”. “The current trend is for dads to be more hands on. But for all we know it may be proven in a hundred years time that that may be a negative thing for the upbringing of children,” he said recently on Seven’s Sunday Night program.

“They’re there to be protective. A man has to have a good job; he has to do well at school so he can get a good job and support his family. A woman has to be loving and caring,” he said.

As a 29-year-old single woman, many of my peers don’t appreciate my traditionalist views. I’d rather dodge a flying pair of high heels thrown at me in anger than pin a man under a pair of mine.

Feminism has achieved victories for women, but could it be at the expense of femininity, chivalry and attributes of the opposite sex that instinctively attract us to each other?

In his book The Way of the Superior Man, David Deida describes attraction between the masculine and the feminine as “sexual polarity”, referring to varying degrees of strength and vulnerability.

“This force of attraction is the dynamism that often disappears in modern relationships. If you want real passion, you need a ravisher and a ravishee. Otherwise you just have two buddies who decide to rub genitals in bed,” he writes.

Earlier this month, TopGear presenter James May branded the new generation of men as “useless morons” who struggle to master the basic skills once defined as masculine roles. “The decline of practical skills, some of them very day-to-day, among a generation of British men is very worrying. They can’t put up a shelf, wire a plug, countersink a screw…” he said.

For thousands of years men were providers and protectors and women nurturers. Evolution provided each with the physical and emotional assets to do these jobs well.

Well into the last century the husband provided his family with a home and food and this sole responsibility gave him a sense of power and purpose. And women didn’t feel pressure to justify their existence with a career. They were proud home makers and mothers.

Until feminism. Now, two thirds of Australian families with dependent children have two incomes. Women are more independent, and consequently they are less dependent on men.

However, mothers now feel more pressure to stay in the workforce either to financially keep up with the surge in double income families or to avoid the negative stigma of being a housewife.

Is it becoming unacceptable in our society for women to rely on men and take pride in abilities defined as gender roles?

Women are also suppressing traditional feminine characteristics like elegance and fragility to take on high power careers and step into male dominated roles.

The Annual Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey found 33 per cent of women who returned to work did so for independence, and 27 per cent for career progression. However, a British survey of 2000 men revealed one-third of men would prefer to be the sole breadwinning traditional father while another quarter would like to be the main breadwinner with their spouse working only part-time.

Instead, men are sporting aprons, doing their own ironing and pushing trolleys down supermarket aisles – roles that don’t exactly exude manliness.

The survey also found more than half of respondents thought 21st century society was turning men into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals”, who had to live according to women’s rules.

How does that impact a man’s morale? My friend Dave told me his wife speaks to him in the same tone as she speaks to their children – and the dog. “Kids, turn off the TV, Buster outside, Dave, the dishes aren’t going to clean themselves.” Dave feels like he’s surrendered his balls.

When a man is stripped of his sense of purpose, it’s more difficult to satisfy that instinctive hunger for power and purpose. Could this be part of the reason why one in eight Australian men experiences severe depression in their lifetime?

Deida describes it as a “weakened impotent existence”. “Without a conscious life purpose, a man is totally lost, drifting, adapting to events rather than creating events,” he said. “The mission is the priority of the masculine, whereas the search for love is the priority of the feminine.”

It seems marriage is becoming less about being dependent on each other and more about living independent lives. But is it making couples happier? Now, 40 percent of Australian marriages are predicted to end in divorce.

The Relationships Australia Relationships Indicators Survey 2008 revealed stress, work pressures and lack of time to spend with their partner were the top three factors that negatively impacted upon partner relationships.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007), 67 per cent of mothers felt pressed for time in families where both parents were working, compared with just 12 per cent in families where one parent was employed.

I don’t think that women should surrender their careers all together. But if we allow men to reclaim some power, we women could do more to embrace our femininity. Would we be happier if more of us accept that men and women are not equal?


The still lethal obsession

No matter how many prizes Prof. Robert Wistrich’s massive tome A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad garners, the book still deserves more attention than it has received. Indeed no amount of attention would be sufficient.

Its packed 938 pages of text reflect neither authorial grandiosity nor editorial lassitude. The copious detail amassed is required so that Wistrich’s central arguments not be dismissed as cherry-picked quotes used to exaggerate the seriousness of the phenomena under discussion. Random House, a commercial publisher, did not request him to cut a single sentence.

A Lethal Obsession stands as a refutation of three widespread misconceptions fostered in the West, partly out of ignorance and partly out of fear. The first is that radical Islam is a relatively minor phenomenon in the Muslim world. On his recent visit to India, US President Barack Obama provided a good example of Western ignorance or dissembling. Asked about jihad, he began his reply by insisting that jihad has several meanings in Islamic thought. Wrong. In contemporary Muslim discourse, jihad invariably refers to conquest to establish the domain of Islam.

The president went on to state, “Islam is one of the world’s great religions, which has been distorted in the hands of a few extremists.” As Wistrich makes clear, however, Islamo-fascism, with its death cult and cosmology of civilizational struggle between the forces of righteousness and demonic evil (with the Jews or Israel always at the center), holds millions, from alienated Muslim youth in Europe, across the 57 Muslim states, in thrall.

Nazi race ideology found fertile soil in the Middle East. Hitler was a hero to the founder of Syrian and Iraqi Ba’athism, Michel Aflaq. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the founding father of Palestinian nationalism, recruited Bosnian Muslims for Hitler’s extermination of Balkan Jewry. In wartime broadcasts from Berlin, he extolled Hitler for having fully grasped the nature of the “Jewish peril” and for “having resolved to find a final solution to liberate the world from this danger.” He synthesized Nazism with the teachings of “the prophet” on the perfidy of the Jews in all times and all places – “bloodsuckers of the nations and corrupters of morality, incapable of loyalty or genuine assimilation.”

Sayyid Qutb, theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas and al-Qaida are but two offshoots, wrote in his Our Struggle with the Jews (an echo of Mein Kampf) of “the liberating struggle of jihad” that can never cease, and threatened any Muslim regime that should contemplate any form of accommodation with Israel. (He was executed by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.) For him, as for so many Muslim thinkers after him, the very existence of the State of Israel represented the measure of the Muslim world’s degradation and moral bankruptcy.

Virulent anti-Semitism, Wistrich quotes the dean of Middle East scholars Bernard Lewis, “is an essential part of Arab intellectual life.” The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been reprinted in countless editions in almost every Muslim country. It climbed to No. 2 on the Turkish best-seller lists in 2005, at a time when Turkey was still a strategic ally of Israel. Egypt, a nation nominally at peace with Israel, recently broadcast a 24-part TV dramatization of The Protocols.

Conspiracy theories about Jews are readily believed throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Jews are the all-purpose explanation for the Islamic world’s weakness and failure vis-à-vis the West, and a metaphor for all the disorienting aspects of modernity and globalization. Iranian-sponsored Holocaust denial is but the most repugnant of those conspiracy theories. In Pakistan, like Iran a Muslim nation with no border or national dispute with Israel, two-thirds of the population did not discredit out of hand the claim that Jews were behind 9/11 and were told in advance not to show up for work that day.

The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 – a revolution without borders, according to its leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – raised the pride and hopes of downtrodden Muslims around the globe. And with the Soviet expulsion from Afghanistan, the fall of the godless Soviet Union and most recently the emergence of a nuclear Iran, a narrative of Islam ascendant and ready to confront the corrupt, Jew-controlled West has inflamed millions of Muslims around the globe. Determination to extirpate the cancer of Israel is the key element allowing Shi’ite Iran to gather the Sunni Muslim street to its banner. Not surprisingly, a 1999 poll by the American University of Beirut of the Arab world found: 87 percent supported Islamic terror attacks on Israel, 70% opposed peace with Israel and 54% advocated a war of annihilation of Israel.


Attack on age-old Jewish customs in New Zealand defeated

New Zealand? Jews are fair game everyewhere, it seems. When will the world ever learn?

A farming company part-owned by a Cabinet minister was able to give him a briefing about how the Government could protect its lucrative trade with Muslim countries by banning Jewish slaughtering. Agriculture Minister David Carter supported the recommended law change but had to back down days before he was to be taken to court to justify it.

It is the second time this year Crown lawyers have had to leap to the defence of one of Parliament's wealthiest MPs - and this time in a case in which he was forced to admit getting basic facts wrong.

Carter was being sued by the Auckland Hebrew Congregation for changing the law in May to make traditional Jewish slaughter of animals illegal. The case was set to begin in the High Court at Wellington tomorrow - until an embarrassing backdown by Carter who on Friday overturned the ban he asked Cabinet to support.

The practice of shechita on poultry was declared no longer illegal while the Government also agreed to negotiate the ban on sheep. New Zealand Jews will still have to import beef from Australia, where shechita is allowed.

Documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday appear to show Carter broke the rules governing his portfolio by considering trade implications when making the original decision.

An allegation of conflict of interest has been made because of that - he holds shares in a company which exports meat and met with senior managers who wanted a ban on shechita to protect their interests.

Carter was pulled back into line after lawyers told him he was allowed to consider only animal welfare issues. He had been advised trade with Muslim countries might suffer if it emerged kosher meat was allowed to be produced here while restrictions were placed on halal slaughter.

New Zealand requires halal meat be stunned before slaughter while kosher meat - which is killed only for a small domestic market - does not have the same restriction....

Crown Law Office spokeswoman Jan Fulstow was unable to provide details of the cost of defending Carter over the shechita ban before press time.

It emerged in April that taxpayers paid $115,000 towards Carter's legal bills after a defamation scrap with former NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Fulstow contacted the Herald on Sunday on Friday to warn against printing material relating to the court case. Fulstow said she was calling to warn about a confidentiality order at the urging of Carter's lawyer.

The call came within minutes of questions from the Herald on Sunday to Carter's ministerial office over Jewish community claims of a conflict of interest.

But much of the information used by the Herald on Sunday came through the Official Information Act, sought by Auckland's Jonathan Shenken, who became concerned his religious right to kosher meat would be threatened.

Shenken began and continued a decade-long research initiative which turned up concerns by MAF over the possible trade impacts of shechita - and eventually Carter's meeting with Silver Fern Farms Ltd. Other information included a High Court judgment released on Friday.

In the judgment, from Justice Alan Mackenzie, it was revealed that Carter had banned shechita slaughter of poultry, sheep and cows with the belief all could be imported from Australia.

But Carter's lack of knowledge was exposed in the judgment. Judge Mackenzie reported that Carter had no idea it was not possible to import kosher chicken meat and that "his understanding was wrong".

His evidence also revealed he had no idea how much it could cost to import kosher meat - in the case of lamb, more than $120 a kilogram.

It was the judgment that also revealed Carter's office had repeatedly referred to shechita and trade after he had been told by lawyers he was not to do 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Proposal to deport "black sheep" from Switzerland

The posters show white sheep kicking black sheep off the Swiss flag. They were widely condemned as racist when the Swiss People’s Party launched them three years ago. Now, as the nationalist party’s demand to automatically deport foreigners convicted of serious crimes goes before a Sunday referendum, the posters have been cropping up again in stations and squares.

Polls show the message is getting through. A survey published last week by polling group gfs.bern showed 54 percent of voters approved the measure, which also proposes to kick out foreigners found guilty of benefit fraud. In the poll of 771 voters conducted Nov. 8-13, 43 percent opposed the plan and 3 percent were undecided.

Under Switzerland’s unique political system, any group wanting to change the law can collect 100,000 signatures to force a referendum. Last year the country drew international condemnation after voters defied a government recommendation and approved a law to ban the construction of minarets.

Critics of the deportation proposal include legal experts, who say the law could clash with international treaties that Switzerland has signed up to.

“For the same crime some people will suffer one punishment, other people suffer two punishments,” said Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

Kohen said foreigners who have lived all their life in Switzerland, married Swiss citizens and had children, would be unusually hard hit by expulsion. Likewise, under international law refugees cannot be sent back to their country of origin if they face persecution there.

“You have to analyze the concrete situation, and this is the main problem with the initiative,” Kohen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. Other countries that have deportation laws allow judges to exercise discretion in deportation cases.

The federal government has put forward an alternative proposal that would require each deportation case to be individually examined by a judge. Voters will be able to choose between the two or reject both.

Georg Kreis, the president of the Federal Commission against Racism, said automatic expulsion, if approved, would lead to discrimination, but denied that the campaign indicated there was greater xenophobia in Switzerland than in neighboring countries.

“Direct democracy makes prejudice against minorities more visible,” he told the AP by e-mail.

The black sheep posters were heavily criticized by anti-racism campaigners when they first appeared in 2007, for their not-so-subtle depiction of blacks as criminals. The U.N.’s racism expert at the time, Doudou Diene, noted that previous poster campaigns by the party had drawn on similarly stereotypical images to paint foreigners as felons and benefit cheats.

A senior People’s Party official denied the black sheep posters were racist.

“In all four languages spoken in Switzerland, everybody understands when you‘re talking about black sheep you’re talking about people who don’t stick to the rules,” Silvia Baer, who is deputy general secretary of the party, told the AP. “It’s a figure of speech, so there is no problem with the posters.”

Alexander Segert, head of the Swiss advertising agency that devised the campaign, said it was one of his company’s most successful ever.

“It works incredibly well because everybody who sees it immediately understands it,” said Segert. “It’s not about skin color.”

SOURCE. Note: On preliminary figures, the referendum has succeeded

Race row erupts over The Hobbit after Pakistani rejected as too dark for casting

PETER Jackson's troubled Hobbit project has become embroiled in a race row after a would-be extra was told she was too dark to play one of the pint-sized Tolkien creatures, reports said. Briton Naz Humphreys, who has Pakistani heritage, attended a casting session in the New Zealand city of Hamilton last week, queueing for three hours only to be told her skin tone was not suitable, the Waikato Times reported.

"It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin," Humphreys told the newspaper. "The casting manager basically said they weren't having anybody who wasn't pale-skinned."

The newspaper said video footage showed the casting manager telling people at the audition: "We are looking for light-skinned people. I'm not trying to be - whatever. It's just the brief. You've got to look like a hobbit."

Humphreys said she was a huge fan of Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy and, with a height of 1.5 metres, had hoped for a bit part in The Hobbit, a two-part prequel to the original movies. "I would love to be an extra," she said. "But it just seemed like a shame because obviously hobbits are not brown or black or any other colour. "They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool."

Humphreys has started a Facebook group called Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to hobbit racism!

A spokesman for Jackson told the newspaper that the director was unaware of the casting restriction and described it as "an incredibly unfortunate error". "It is not something the producers or the director of The Hobbit were aware of," he said. "They would never issue instructions of this kind to the casting crew. All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition."

The production has been dogged by problems, including a union dispute that saw studios threaten to move it from New Zealand, which was settled last month when the government offered generous tax breaks and changed industrial laws.

Previously, The Hobbit had been stalled for years by wrangling over distribution rights, reported budget blowouts and financial woes at the MGM studio, prompting director Guillermo del Toro to quit earlier this year.

It is scheduled to begin filming in 3D next February with Jackson back in the director's chair and Martin Freeman from The Office starring in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins.


A forced backdown. I think

A real New Yorker

It obviously peeved officials that she was more popular than the Arab lady but expecting a Muslim to be popular in NYC was a big ask. You can censor what people are allowed to hear but you can't censor their thoughts

MISS New York Davina Reeves didn't want to be just another face in the crowd at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- she wanted to be the star. So the 27-year-old beauty queen, ever the New Yorker, muscled her way, uninvited, onto the float of Miss USA Rima Fakih, of Michigan, the New York Post reported.

Reeves, who gives up her tiara Sunday night when a new Miss New York is crowned in Albany, admitted she wanted one last moment in the spotlight. "It's the biggest parade in the world, and my sister and I were like, 'Hey, this is my last weekend as Miss New York -- let's go out with a bang,'" the mischievous miss said.

On Thursday morning, she donned her official sash and crown and hit the parade route with her sister, Ashley. Looking the part of Miss Congeniality, she signed autographs and flashed a winning smile while her sister asked a parade official which float Miss New York was supposed to ride. A man with a clipboard pointed them to Float No. 9, where Miss USA was ruling the roost atop the "Pep Rally" float. "There was no lying, because that's bad karma," Reeves said.

"At first, it was just fantastic!" said Reeves, who swanned onto the float as if she belonged there. She said Fakih was "surprised but happy" to see her. But with the hometown crowd cheering the local beauty a bit too loudly, Reeves wore out her welcome with Fakih's handlers. "Someone asked me to take off my crown, because Miss USA wasn't wearing her crown," said Reeves, who willingly stuffed her tiara into a backpack.

But she didn't pack away her chutzpah. Still hamming it up, she was kicked to the back of the float five blocks later. "They told me I needed to move, so I just nonchalantly moved to the back, like it was no big deal," Reeves recalled.

By the time the float hit 72nd Street, parade officials had lost their patience. "This woman from Macy's with headphones on was talking on her walkie-talkie and running next to the float and told me I needed to get off the float completely," Reeves said.

Reeves made sure police escorted her away, to make it look as if she were rushing to a photo-op.

The beauty queen, said she has no regrets. "It was the most daredevil thing I ever did," she said. "We had a blast. This title is about growing, about being courageous and fearless ... This was fun, and that's what life's about."


Gender-bending athletics

Brent Bozell

A New frontier on the battleground of men's and women's athletics is upon us: When is a female jock really female, and a male really a guy?

Kye Allums, a shooting guard on the George Washington University women's basketball team, has decided that she is a he. She is believed to be the first Division I college basketball player to go public about being a "transgender" person. The obvious question is whether Allums would still be able to compete. You can't have men playing in a women's basketball program, and it's more than awkward to have a man showering with the women in the locker room.

Spurred by a track-and-field controversy four years ago, NCAA rules prohibit sexual reassignment surgery or hormone treatments for athletes to retain their eligibility. Allums, a junior, has pledged to forego those steps while she retains her eligibility for college basketball.

But in the meantime, in the midst of a culture that doesn't dare utter a discouraging word about gender denial and genital self-mutilation, Allums is listed on the GWU Web site as a male member of the women's basketball team. All the press reports swoon about how "he" -- who remains a woman in every biological way -- is handling this so bravely as a role model: "I'm trying to be an example for other people to not be afraid of who they are."

Allums boasts, "My teammates have embraced me as the big brother of the team." Transgender activists insist that everyone accept their favored pronouns, despite their obvious inaccuracy. Our sports media can't seem to locate anyone in their good-for-you coverage that would even whisper that this is . . . weird. That's apparently hate speech.

So "he" plays in a girls' league, and we should all accept that.
This isn't just a school issue. The Ladies Professional Golf Association is being sued by a golfer named Lana Lawless, who says her civil rights are being violated. She says she had a 1 handicap as a man, but now as a woman, she wants to join the LPGA tour even though their bylaws state that you have to be "born a female." But California being California, the state now prohibits discrimination against transgender athletes.

Lawless went on KGO-TV in San Francisco with "her" deep, froggy voice, insisting, "I don't have an advantage anymore. All the testosterone has basically been removed from my body."

"She" is a 57-year-old former police officer who looks like a middle linebacker and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2005. She is also suing the Long Drivers Association, which changed their rules after Lawless drove a golf ball 254 yards -- as a "woman."

Despite the physical evidence, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan was already backtracking under KGO's pressure. "I think, to be honest with you, [as] I think through this, I'm going to have to educate myself as well in terms of what qualifies as being female. So you know, maybe this lawsuit will make us look at it as well." What a coward.

The gender-bending activists on this issue want their preferred standards of "non-discrimination" imposed nationally, all at once, in high schools and colleges, and in professional sports, to teach allegedly ignorant Americans to respect "gender identity and expression."

If it takes such "courage" for Kye Allums to become honored as a public example, why does it seem that no one has the courage (or fairness in the media) to oppose or even question this war on reality?



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Muslim "refugee" tries to bomb Oregon Christmas tree lighting

A Somali-born teenager was arrested in an undercover operation on charges that he tried to detonate a van that he thought was filled with explosives at a Portland, Oregon, Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, obtained what he believed to be the bomb from undercover FBI employees, according to court papers filed with his arrest yesterday. The public was never in danger, a Justice Department statement said.

"I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured," Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI agents, according to an affidavit filed in support of the arrest. At another point, he allegedly said, "It’s gonna be a fireworks show" and "a spectacular show."

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and resident of Corvallis, Oregon, told undercover FBI agents that he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since he was 15 years old, and that he had written for an online publication supporting such actions, according to the affidavit.

Counterterrorism officials, citing a series of cases in recent years, say they are increasingly concerned about American citizens planning terror attacks in the U.S. because those plots are difficult to detect and prevent.

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, was convicted of a May 1 attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square.

Mohamud is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance in federal court in Portland on Nov. 29.

In August 2009, Mohamud was in contact by e-mail with an associate outside the U.S. who authorities suspect of being involved in terrorism, according to the Justice Department. They allegedly discussed the possibility of his traveling to Pakistan to "engage in violent jihad," the Justice Department statement said.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in June contacted Mohamud under the guise of being affiliated with the associate, according to the arrest affidavit. He told them he wanted to stage an explosion and needed help, according to the Justice Department. He allegedly told an undercover agent that he wanted to attack a "huge mass" of people "in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays." He said he wanted to carry out the attack in Oregon because "nobody ever thinks about it."

Earlier this month, Mohamud and the undercover FBI agents went to a remote location in Lincoln County, Oregon and detonated a bomb concealed in a backpack as a trial run, according to the affidavit. Mohamud mailed bomb components to undercover FBI agents, who he thought were assembling the device, according to the affidavit.

Mohamud told the FBI agents that he thought it was "awesome" when people had to jump from the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, and said he wanted to see body parts and blood after setting off his bomb, according to the affidavit.

Before the planned bombing at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, Mohamud put on a white robe and a white and red headdress, along with a camouflage jacket and read a written statement in front of a video camera, the affidavit said. "For as long as you threaten our security, your people will not remain safe," he said, according to the affidavit.

Yesterday, Mohamud and an undercover agent allegedly drove a white van near the courthouse. The fake bomb, constructed by FBI technicians, included six 55-gallon drums containing inert materials and diesel fuel, according to the affidavit.

Mohamud tried to detonate the bomb using a cell phone, according to the affidavit. He was taken into custody soon after, about 5.40p.m. Portland time, about 10 minutes after the tree lighting was scheduled to begin. As he was being transported, he allegedly yelled "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great" in Arabic, and began kicking the FBI agents.

Mohamud took classes at Oregon State University in Corvallis starting in late 2009 and he withdrew last month, said Todd Simmons, a university spokesman. Mohamud faces life in prison if convicted.

"The threat was very real," said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, in the Justice Department statement. "Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale."


Call for reform of British "human rights" law

David Cameron is under pressure to deliver on a promise to reform the Human Rights Act following the disclosure that the foreign-born murderer of Philip Lawrence has been arrested on suspicion of another violent attack.

Frances Lawrence, the headmaster’s widow, said the legislation needed to be “revised”. Conservative MPs urged the Prime Minister to act on his previous pledges to scrap the current legislation.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Wednesday that Learco Chindamo had been arrested four months after his release for the 1995 murder of Mr Lawrence outside a west London school.

The Government had been prevented from deporting Chindamo to Italy, where he lived as a child, because of the Human Rights Act. He was freed in July and allowed to live in Britain.

Yesterday Mrs Lawrence told The Daily Telegraph: “I think the Human Rights Act needs revision. It omits the notion of responsibility, without which we are less than human. I don’t think this is a mere philosophical point.”

The legislation was introduced by the Labour government in 1998, but has been criticised for providing more protection for criminals and terrorists than law-abiding citizens. Over the past few years, Mr Cameron repeatedly called for the legislation to be reformed, describing it as “a glaring example of what is going wrong in our country”. The Conservatives drew up plans for a Bill of Rights to replace it. The change would have been introduced before the end of the year had the Tories won a majority. Under the Coalition, the reform has been delayed. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and a previous supporter of the Act, has been charged with helping to lead a commission reviewing the legislation.

The commission will not start work until 2012 at the earliest, raising fears that the Act will not be overhauled.

The decision to hand control of the issue to Mr Clegg has irritated some ministers, who are braced for the issue not to be resolved before the next election.

One Conservative Cabinet minister said: “This is another totemic issue like inheritance tax which has been thrown overboard.

“It is an issue which needs to be resolved but Cameron has virtually given up on it. It now looks like reforming the Act properly will be for the next manifesto.

“This was all ready to go; it would have been law next year if we had won the election. But that’s life.”

Last night, Conservative MPs urged Mr Cameron to push ahead with his previous pledge to reform the Act.

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, said: “The public will be appalled to see that human rights laws continue to prevent us from sending dangerous foreign criminals back to their own countries. Instead of the public being protected they are being left to commit more crimes in Britain. There are serious issues with the way human rights legislation operates which has left people feeling that the rights of criminals are being put above those of the law-abiding majority.”

Dominic Raab, MP for Esher & Walton, who helped to draw up the plans for a Bill of Rights, said: “Britain’s inability to deport criminals because it disrupts their family ties is a direct result of the Human Rights Act, not the European Convention [on Human Rights]. This case highlights the difference a Bill of Rights can make, and why it should be a priority. It must not be kicked into the long grass.”

Rehman Chishti, a barrister and Conservative MP for Gilliam and Rainham, said: “Learco Chindamo should have been extradited a long time ago when he was first sentenced. People talk about his human right to a family life but what about the human rights of the public who have a right to be protected from him?”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There is a Coalition agreement on this and it sets out very clearly what we are going to do on the European Convention on Human Rights. There is an awful lot of work going on between now and then.

“There are many other things going through the House of Commons and many other bits of policy, and significant reforms under way in lots of areas and we are getting on with those.”


Segregation’s back with “Sisters’ Splash.”

Are you a Muslim woman? Don’t want to share the pool with men? Then welcome to George Washington University’s “Sisters’ Splash, the ladies-only swim hour.

“The school’s Lerner Health and Wellness Center closed the pool to men and covered the glass door with a dark tarp, giving female Muslim students the chance to swim at their leisure, while honoring the basic tenets of their religion.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State are of course outraged, oh wait a minute, they aren’t: “Because George Washington is a private university, there should be no constitutional issues with the swim hour, Ayesha N. Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”

Interesting, yet when Bob Jones University wanted to discriminate against black students they were told they would lose their tax-exempt status. Oh well, I guess some people are better than others.

“Aliya Karim, social chair of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) women’s group, tells the student newspaper the organization made the effort to coordinate the swimming hour so fellow Muslims would feel comfortable in the pool. “Personally, I would only want to go when just girls are there,” Karim, who is also a Hatchet photographer, tells the newspaper.”

Well, we wouldn’t want Muslims to be uncomfortable, would we? I mean, I remember being a fat kid and being forced to take swimming lessons as part of the mandatory physical education program at my high school, I remember the kinds making fun of me, too bad I wasn’t a Muslim, I would have loved “fat hour” at the pool.

“Rahiba Noor, a junior who serves as the community service chair of the MSA, tells the newspaper that, prior to attending GW, swimming laps at a private pool was an important part of her health regimen. At school, however, Noor tells the student newspaper she’s resigned herself to staying away from the water and using a treadmill.

“Religious values always define us,” Noor tells the newspaper. “Although I wouldn’t really mind, it would be satisfying to me religiously to swim only with girls.”

Plenty of people have religious values, like Orthodox Jews, they don’t eat pork. So what do they do? They bring their own lunch, pick something else from the menu, go to a kosher restaurant or get their education at Brandeis, Yeshiba University or Baruch College. So if we’re not accommodating Orthodox Jews, why the hell do it with Muslim women?

So here’s my compromise as a believer in freedom, now listen up Muslims because this is for you: Instead of donating so much money to Hezbollah why don’t you raise funds for a private Muslim country club? Then you can build your own damn pool, hell, build two pools, and practice all the segregation you want. Until then, stop demanding special treatment from a private school that gets taxpayer dollars!


We learn here that the pool was constructed with money donated by a Jewish philanthropist. Does he approve? If not, change could be in the air

Netanyahu: Palestinian distortion of historical facts hurts Mideast peace drive

Is there anything else left for the Palis to lie about?

A Palestinian Authority report claiming the Western Wall was not a Jewish holy site and was, in fact, sacred to Muslims poses a serious question as to the Palestinian's desire to reach a peace deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The prime minister's rebuke came in the wake of a report released by a senior PA official on Wednesday which said the Western Wall had no religious significance to Jews and is in fact, holy Muslim property.

Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy minister of information in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank, told The Associated Press that his five-page study published on a Palestinian government website reflected the official Palestinian position.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday, Netanyahu severely criticized the PA-sponsored study, saying that "denying the link binding the Jewish people and the Western Wall by the Palestinian information office is a travesty."

"When the Palestinians Authority denies the connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall it raises serious questions as to its intentions to reach a peace deal founded on coexistence and mutual recognition," the statement said, adding that the PA must cease its "distortion of historical facts and encourage a bridge to peace that would lead to a historical reconciliation between the two peoples.

Part of the report released by the Palestinians on Wednesday disputes that the Western Wall was a retaining wall of the Temple compound, discarding centuries of documentation and archaeology.

"This wall has never been a part of what is called the Jewish Temple," the report claimed. "However, it was Islamic tolerance which allowed the Jews to stand before it and cry over its loss."

The report concludes that since Jews have no claim to the area, it is holy Muslim territory and must be part of Palestinian Jerusalem.

SOURCE. A less restrained comment on the matter 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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

British Jews have been cowed; Now in survival mode; joining their enemies in attacking Israel

Links about the high level of antisemitism in 21st century Britain here and here and here and here and here. And, perhaps most troubling of all, the new British Conservative government seems to be even less principled in its attitude to Israel than were their Leftist predecessors. In that situation most of the British Jewish leadership is treading the well-worn path of appeasement, which leads only to perdition. A vigorous defence of Israel would do them more good. If ever the traitorous Mick Davis has to flee to Israel for his safety, Israel should turn him back: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Or, perhaps in the words of the greatest Jewish Rabbi of them all: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (Mattew 12: 30)

Chaim Weizmann would turn in his grave were he aware of the public attacks on the Israeli government by some in the UK Jewish leadership.

Mick Davis, the South African-born chief executive of the powerful mining group Xstrata, is chairman of Anglo Jewry’s United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) – the principal fund-raising institution for Israel of the UK Jewish community.

He also heads a body known as the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) – essentially comprised of a group of wealthy British Jews and their acolytes who, by virtue of their financial largesse, assume a dominant influence on many levels of communal life. The power represented by their collective wealth enables them not to be accountable to anyone and few would dare question their policies.

Anglo Jewry has been blessed in the past with rich philanthropists, many of whom were also endowed with wisdom. Despite his immense wealth and access to the most important leaders in the land, Sir Moses Montefiore was devoted to his people and, far from radiating hubris or arrogance, generated respect and love.

In striking contrast, Mick Davis, also known as “Big Mick,” displays characteristics associated with the nouveau riche, akin to the behavior of some of the Russian- Jewish oligarchs. His opinions are rarely challenged and he contemptuously rejects the suggestion that holding a communal role in any way precludes him from publicly expressing views which would normally be considered incompatible for anyone occupying such a position.

Needless to say, Davis is fully entitled to say whatever comes to his mind. Nobody seeks to deprive him of freedom of expression.

Many Jews are critical of Israeli governments.

But for a person holding senior public office in a major Diaspora community to indulge in crude public attacks on Israeli leaders and relate to Israel’s security requirements in relation to their impact on his image in non-Jewish circles is surely bizarre and utterly unconscionable.

While occupying the role of chairman of the UIJA in a country in which hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism have reached record levels, Davis brazenly incites his fellow Jews to criticize Israel.

RESIDENT IN London, he had the chutzpa to berate the Israeli prime minister “for lacking the courage to take the steps” to advance the peace process, arguing that “I don’t understand the lack of strategy in Israel.” He also employed the terminology of our enemies, predicting an “apartheid state” unless Israel was able to achieve a two-state solution – unashamedly blaming Israelis rather than Palestinians for being the obstacle to peace.

His sheer arrogance was best demonstrated in his most outrageous remark: “I think the government of Israel has to recognize that their actions directly impact on me as a Jew living in London, UK.

When they do good things, it is good for me; when they do bad things, it is bad for me. And the impact on me is as significant as it is on Jews living in Israel... I want them to recognize that.”

Aside from implying that Israel is responsible for the anti-Semitism he is encountering, Davis is effectively warning that when considering defense issues which may have life-or-death implications for Israelis, the government must be sure not to create problems for him in his non- Jewish social circles. From his London mansion, he blithely brushes aside suicide bombers, rockets launched against our children and the threat of nuclear annihilation because his gentile friends might complain about the behavior of his Israeli friends.

Jonathan Hoffman, vice president of the UK Zionist Federation (one of the few Anglo-Jewish leaders courageous enough to criticize Davis), expressed outrage that the UIJA chairman could make such a remark. “We are not aware that Hampstead is within range of Iranian or Hamas missiles, nor that its residents have to send their children to the IDF for three years,” he said.

It is telling that over recent years, Davis has not been renowned for condemning the shameful policies of British governments in relation to Israel. And it is no coincidence that immediately after the UK abstained from the UN vote on the Goldstone Report, Davis chaired a JLC reception at which former foreign minister David Miliband was the key speaker. On that occasion, the “outspoken” Davis felt constrained not to express a single word of complaint or disappointment at the perfidious behavior of the British government in relation to this issue.


Whatever happened to freedom of speech in Britain?

We live in a democracy in which it is widely supposed that anything can be said and anything done - at least by celebrity ­television performers.

Yet within politics, freedom of speech is more drastically constrained than ever before. Seldom have those who govern us been so much inhibited in what they feel able to say or write, not by legislatively-imposed censorship, but by a smothering blanket of supposed propriety and oppressive liberal values.

Until Thursday, former Tory MP Howard Flight enjoyed a lower recognition rating than your average park pigeon. He sprang to fame, or rather plunged into notoriety, by making some explosive remarks during an interview prompted by his newly-awarded peerage.

He denounced government benefit cuts as likely to make the middle class have fewer children and the underclass breed more: ‘Well, that’s not very sensible.’

Headlines screamed. David Cameron fumed, Labour raged, The Guardian revelled in the furore. The ‘guilty’ man apologised. Here was another day, another ‘gaffe’, less than a week after Tory veteran Lord Young was forced to resign after telling the nation it had ‘never had it so good’.

Shocking, isn’t it, the wicked things these politicians say? The funny part starts, however, when we examine the words of Howard Flight and Lord Young.

It is a statistical fact that the middle class have fewer children than the underclass, because the former assess their own ability to raise and educate them, and the latter seldom bother.

As financial pressures on the middle class intensify in the years ahead, it is indeed highly likely that some parents will decide to have fewer children, because they cannot afford them.

The truth of Lord Young’s remarks is equally evident: the British people enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle than at any time in their history.

Whether we shall be able to maintain this happy state is another story, and again the middle class has cause for special alarm. But Young was correct to assert that we ‘have never had it so good’.

His words nonetheless cost him his ­government job. He committed the most heinous crime of a modern politician: he told the truth, but in terms unacceptable to the commissars of the liberal establishment.

We claim that we want our ­rulers to be honest, but in ­reality modern politics is ringed by a vast minefield of Things We Know, But Are Not Allowed To Say.

The term political correctness has become a cliche, but identifies something real. In every aspect of our lives, lines are drawn which politicians and even the rest of us cross at our peril, because a raging pack of truth-deniers will spring at our throats.

Examples? Let us start with the NHS. The idea that healthcare must be absolutely free for everybody has been elevated to a neo-religious principle, which David Cameron treats with more respect than the prayer book.

Every intelligent study shows that Britain’s present NHS structure is not indefinitely affordable. People treat their own health more responsibly if they have a financial stake in adopting a sensible lifestyle, however small. Sooner or later, Britain must move to an insurance-based system or go broke.

But it is deemed suicidal for ministers to admit this. No MP who wants to keep his seat will say that all but a handful of obese people eat too much and exercise too little - that their ghastly condition is their own fault.

More than that, no canny politician suggests that any misfortune in life is the victim’s own fault. It is a fundamental tenet of our society that somebody must be blamed for everything that goes wrong, in order that they can be sued. A whole new breed of vulture lawyers has arisen, to fulfil this purpose.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, that supremely foolish Welsh windbag Dr Rowan ­Williams, has denounced the ­Government’s impending ­benefit cuts as not merely ­mistaken, but ‘immoral’. Dr Williams offers no hint of any constructive ideas about how the unaffordable cost of the current welfare state is to be curbed: like Labour’s front bench, he merely proclaims the wickedness of cutting welfare entitlements, as if these were enshrined in Magna Carta.

Rights, rights, rights - the word is abused almost daily by people who should know better, to foreclose debate about how Britain can pay its way through the 21st century, and about what rewards should be conferred on those at the bottom of the pile, heedless of any obligation to strive for themselves.

Another taboo subject is immigration. Almost no frontline politician dares tell the truth about something that has changed this country more irrevocably than two world wars.

Nor are we allowed to say that as long as we are members of the EU and subscribe to the European Convention on Human Rights, pitifully few avenues are open to ministers by which the flow of migrants can be stemmed. It is also these days essential to pretend to think well of Islam, and pay the occasional visit to a mosque.

Any minister who said publicly ‘Race relations in Britain might be in better shape if more ­Muslims who live here showed a willingness to join our culture and adopt our values’ would be out on his ear next day, denounced on front pages as a bigot. It is unacceptable to assert that if newcomers want to come and live in Britain, they will live happiest and fit in best if they dress and act British.

Selection in education is a ­litmus test, which no candidate for high office can flinch from, or rather address honestly. David Cameron has closed the door on new grammar schools and is apparently also against any selective schooling system.

The Left and the education establishment denounce these things as elitist, anti-egalitarian, discriminatory. Some of the mud sticks even to those who argue the rational case for apportioning children to schools and classes according to their abilities and willingness to learn.

It is acceptable for women politicians to speak ill of men, but an ambitious male politician who knows which way his bread is ­buttered will say nothing about the opposite sex, except how wonderful they are. He will not admit, for instance, that some women shamelessly milk employment law to ­pursue bogus claims of sexual ­discrimination; that few pretty women in the workplace fail to make the most of their looks; that extending maternity leave, never mind paternity leave, is potty.

One of the least attractive spectacles in British politics is that of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband vying with each other to demonstrate their credentials as good parents, running the kids to school and taking paternity leave.

As a voter, I don’t want anybody who has chosen to run the country at a time of crisis to be messing about with Lego. I want him dealing with our problems, not his children’s. If a man wants to play the good dad, he should choose another career. But now the entire front rank of British politicians has agreed to play the parenting game, what future candidate for high office will dare break ranks and say ‘This job is too important to waste time changing nappies’?

The silly myth must be sustained that people filling the most demanding offices in the country should also do their bit about the house.

In 2010, it is suicidal to make any statement that might invite a charge of discrimination: I doubt whether any member of the Government could long keep their job after suggesting publicly that gay adoption or IVF treatment for ­lesbians is a bad idea.

The title of the current comedy movie The Kids Are All Right, about a couple of lesbian parents, says it all. Many of us do not think ‘the kids are all right’: but we would have no future at Westminster if we declared as much.

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, recently took much stick for his alleged blunder in saying that those who want to have a lot of children should think more about taking financial responsibility for them, which most of us think a statement of the obvious.

It is politically perilous these days to assert that the aspirational middle class deserve to succeed because they work hard, use their money sensibly, make the most of education, and accept responsibility for their actions. It is even more hazardous to say that some of those who fail in life do so because they dismiss those principles.

At a more frivolous level, every politician must enthuse about Harry Potter, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor, or find themselves denounced for being ‘out of touch with the public’.

Can you imagine David Cameron admitting in an interview, as did Harold Macmillan when he was prime minister, that he spent his leisure hours reading the Victorian novels of Anthony Trollope?

If you want to end a promising career fast, tell a TV audience that you hate football. Worse still, suggest that Joanna Lumley is not the fount of all wisdom about public issues and should stick to acting.

We allow and even expect our rulers to offer obeisance to the vacuous culture of celebrity, when we should have the sense instead to demand that they behave like serious people with serious ­values. We might even applaud if they wore ties in ­public, rather than flaunt open-neck shirts to ­emphasise their informality and ‘accessibility’.

The BBC, with its overwhelming power to set the agenda and ­influence values, bears a significant responsibility for driving our politicians into an iron cage of political correctness. Not merely its news coverage but the entire ethos of the BBC’s ­output reflects the values of the liberal establishment - the Rowan Williams view of life, if you like.

The knowledge that BBC correspondents will treat any minister’s deviation from the PC path not as an error but a career-threatening gaffe goes far to explain why traditional rights of free speech are now so rarely exercised at Westminster.

Both Howard Flight and Lord Young were foolish to say what they did in the way they said it, especially at a time when the ­British people’s tolerance is strained by financial crisis and looming spending cuts. But the wider becomes the gulf between obvious realities - or at least, reasonable points of view - and our politicians’ willingness to express these, the worse it must be for us all.

Freedom in Britain is not today threatened by law or official ­censorship, but by an oppressive liberalism which is almost equally pernicious.


British photography phobia again

Their eyes crudely blacked out to disguise their identities, these little girls look as if they might be the victims - or perhaps perpetrators - of a crime.

But this disturbing image was actually issued in a school yearbook. It is the result of the bizarre ‘photography policy’ of headmistress Vicky Parsey, who bans parents from taking pictures in school for fear children’s faces will be superimposed on obscene internet images.

Now two mothers of pupils at the school are stepping up their campaign against the ban in the hope they will be able to take photographs of the school’s nativity play.

Last night local MP Grant Shapps said the ‘absurd’ ban created a ‘climate of fear’ that effectively branded all parents paedophiles.

Housewife and part-time exam invigilator Natasha Stannard, 39, and husband George, 42, have two children among the 450 pupils aged three to 11 at Applecroft primary school in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

They used to enjoy sending photographs of school pantomimes and sports days to grandparents in South Africa – but three years ago Mrs Parsey declared it had to stop.Mrs Stannard said: ‘I was looking forward to taking photographs at the school’s annual Christmas performance.

‘We were told in a newsletter “We will no longer permit the use of videos, photographs or mobile phone camera pictures of any children by parents/carers/visitors during performances and school events”.’

Mrs Stannard and her friend Caroline Baynes, 44, a project manager whose two children also attend Applecroft school, began lobbying the school to relent.

Instead, the school produced a 17-page ‘photography policy’ which states: ‘The proliferation of internet web pages and social networking sites has given rise to increased concerns that images will be misused and that a child’s face or body could be used to represent matters wholly contrary to the wishes of their parents.’

The photographs of children with eyes blacked out were issued in ‘yearbooks’ given to the parents of four-year-olds in the school nursery.

Photographs of classroom activities were enclosed, but teachers had blacked out the eyes of all children other than the parents’ own. In effect, each parent got a customised yearbook.

Mrs Baynes said: ‘This “photography policy” has created an unnatural situation where you can’t take a photo of your own child. It’s the nanny state gone mad.’

Mr Shapps, a Conservative, said he had taken up the issue with the school with no effect. He said the blacking out of eyes was ‘creepy’, adding: ‘This is absurd – these pictures look like the kids have been taken prisoner. They have created a climate of fear, suggesting that every parent is a paedophile.’

Mrs Stannard and Mrs Baynes are surveying all parents’ attitudes to the draconian policy. They are being supported by campaign group the Manifesto Club, which warns there is a national problem with schools imposing such restrictions.

Manifesto Club director Josie Appleton said: ‘There is no law banning nativity photos. Parents and children now have massive gaps in their family photo album.’

Mrs Parsey, 43, was not available for comment yesterday.


TSA Measures: Liberals' Distorted Versions of Freedom & Equality

By now everyone has experienced, witnessed, or at least heard about the TSA’s brilliant two-layered airport security strategy. The typical passenger must now choose between being the subject of high-tech porn or governmental molestation, all in the name of a political correctness that liberals keep dragging to new heights, or lows, of stupidity. The only way to attempt an analysis of something this idiotic is to dig as far as possible until one reaches a vestige, a sliver, of good intention, common sense or, at least, pathetic swipe at virtue. Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom and equality, but experience should have taught us by now that these two goals are neither completely parallel nor always virtuous.

For example, total freedom to drive as I wish, while seemingly providing me with greater freedom, would invariably lessen the freedom of others to drive safely. Only an imbecile or a traitor would knowingly advocate chaos; and total, unlimited freedom is chaos. The imbecile would favor chaos because he or she is too ignorant to realize the logical succession from rampant freedom to wanton disarray. Conversely, the traitor would favor chaos because he or she realizes its ability to undermine the society the traitor wishes to bring down or transform. The freedom intended by our founders, then, is a freedom of balance, compromise, logic, and common sense. It is the salt that, when appropriately applied to a society, adds the flavor of human integrity only found in true democracies.

The sort of equality proposed by our founders intended a similarly appropriate, balanced, logical, rational, and sensible application. At a deeper level, this equality was intended to be applied in the image of John Rawls’ distributive justice, where everyone is provided with an equal opportunity, but not necessarily an equal guarantee of success. In both the classroom and workplace, this means a teacher or supervisor who provides the tools for success, defends and rewards those who play fair, and refuses to coddle and protect those who do not. This was the original, appropriate intent to affirmative action. However, in the hands of hypocritical liberals, affirmative action has become an excuse to patronize, victimize, and enslave the afflicted while bashing, accusing, and recycling unfairness upon the identified victimizers by fanning the flames of emotions and racism even as such racism is practiced.

Our nation’s original foundation in freedom and equality was sensitive to the voice of the people, but liberals’ present distortions of those goals are anything but. Simply put, they are a distorted mutation of those ideals wrapped in a pathetic, tragic, selective, and hypocritical blanket of political correctness. The freedom of safe travel by most Americans is threatened by a relatively small, clearly defined, and even self-identified group of individuals, but liberals propose to defend that freedom and right using methods which do not further our safety while managing to offend and violate us in other ways.

Imagine answering a fire in your kitchen by setting the whole house on fire in order to avoid implying that the kitchen was the most dangerous part of your home. Suppose you fail an entire class in order to avoid making those who did fail feel stupid or lazy. Imagine refusing to identify the physical characteristics of a bank robber lest one offends those of similar appearance or dress. Imagine going out with anyone who asks you to avoid offending those you reject. If all of these scenarios seem idiotic to you, then you have something to be thankful for when you sit with family and friends to share a meal this Thanksgiving. If, however, you see nothing wrong with these strategies, then you probably think that Katie Couric, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, and Joy Behar are fair, impartial, and clear thinking analysts of our national scene. My favorite personal encounter which such imbecilic thinking is a school system refusing to place dangerous and disruptive students in a special school because most of them happened to be of a particular racial background. Typical liberal thinking: Offend most of us while lumping some dysfunctional people with their functional counterparts and blindly defending that chosen group.

Harming the functional most to protect the dysfunctional some is a mantra that liberals will bash us over the head with until we lose consciousness or switch to their way of thinking, which might be synonymous. Harm the security and integrity of our borders to coddle people who ignore, mock, or thumb their noses at our laws. Harm the interests of those who have paid their dues or followed the law to coddle the interests of those who wish to cut the line for fear that we will be called racists, biased, intolerant or God knows what else. I suggest that it is racist to use race as an excuse to defy, mock, ignore or trample our laws. Harm the interests of all Latinos by pretending that the agenda of those who enter illegally is the same as that of those who have entered legally. Harm the security and safety of Americans and future generations to coddle the desires and sensibilities of people who want to blow us up yesterday.

Whether liberals like it or not, freedom must be regulated to be enhanced; equality is not always possible nor desirable, and profiling is sometimes necessary and rational. Since we have unlimited resources of time, money, energy, and everything else, we must focus our attention on attending to those things most likely to go wrong and those people most likely to make those things go wrong. We encounter profiling every day in many ways. Some eating establishments are given poor safety records as compared to others. Some students have a record of not doing their homework or acting up in class. Some kinds of people tend to bore us on dates. Some television shows, magazines, or newspapers tend to interest us less than others. Differentiation is part of life, and profiling is rational, sensible, logical, and justifiable differentiation. Liberals will tell us that profiling is prejudice, but that notion assumes that all profiling is baseless and superficial, which is simply not the case.

The fact is, liberals tend to select causes and groups to defend and blindly protect without regard to common sense, logic, or fairness. Typically, and sadly, those causes and groups tend to be selected not based on the lofty ideals which liberals portray but, more likely, on some ulterior agenda or purpose. One wonders how fervently liberals would defend illegal immigrants if such people were expected to vote for conservatives. Likewise, liberals have shown a great sensitivity to Muslims and a corresponding lack of sensitivity to Christians. If liberals were truly as enlightened as they pretend to be, they would differentiate between those legally and illegally in this country, and refuse to play the race card against conservatives in an obvious attempt to enflame the emotions of all involved. Likewise, if liberals were as fair as they portray themselves to be, they would treat all religions equally, but any fool can see that this is not the case as routinely shown in public schools, the media, and the selective censorship of Christmas.

If the present TSA security measures seem unfair, offensive, intrusive, and even mindless, it is because they are. They purport to offer us safety when evidence shows that terrorists will still find ways to avoid detection. They pretend to be fair and even-handed when neither evidence nor experience justifies their blanket application across the population. They pretend to offer the freedom of two options when each option violates the integrity and sensibilities of all exposed. Liberals would rather insult and offend most of us than insult or offend their favored group. Ironically, their very protection of this group mimics their patronizing approach to illegal immigration. Liberals offensively lump those legally and illegally in this country under the blanket of immigration in order to paint any efforts against those illegally here as attacks on all immigrants. Likewise, they conveniently and offensively lump any measures against radical Muslim terrorists as attacks on all Muslims, including the many law-abiding ones who care about this country, in order to paint themselves as noble defenders of that group.

Scanning and groping grandmothers and children while defending and welcoming border crossers is the sort of logic, justice, and common sense that liberals spill on us every day. Those looking for our national interest should not bother looking under liberals’ beloved political correctness, where only their pet causes and agendas may be found.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


Friday, November 26, 2010

British flower arrangers and bell ringers fighting crazy criminal vetting of anyone who works near children

The British take to bureaucracy like ducks to water but a few rebel

Last January, Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild, received an email saying that she and her 60 fellow flower arrangers would have to undergo a CRB check. CRB stands for Criminal Records Bureau, and a CRB check is a time-consuming, sometimes expensive, pretty much always pointless vetting procedure that you must go through if you work with children or ‘vulnerable adults’.

Everyone else had already been checked: the ‘welcomers’ at the cathedral door; the visitors’ guides; the whole of the cathedral office (though they rarely left their room). The flower guild was all that remained. The cathedral authorities expected no resistance. Though the increasing demand for ever tighter safety regulation has become one of the biggest blights on Britain today, we are all strangely supine: frightened not to comply.

But not so Annabel Hayter. ‘I am not going to do it,’ she said. And her act of rebellion sparked a mini-­revolution among the other cathedral flower ladies. In total, she received 30 letters from guild members who judged vetting to be either an invasion of privacy (which it ­certainly is), insecure (the CRB has a frightening ­tendency to return the wrong results), or unnecessary (they are the least likely paedophiles in the country). Several women threatened to resign if forced to undergo it.

Thus began the battle of Gloucester Cathedral, between the dean and the flower guild — a battle which is just reaching its final stage. First the guild asked why the checks were necessary. The answer turned out to be that the flower arrangers shared a toilet with the choirboys, and without checks there would be ‘paedophiles infiltrating the flower guild’.

The ladies of the guild snorted with derision — and the cathedral retaliated with another burst of pointless bureaucracy. It carried out a risk assessment on the guild, which was completed in early October.

When Hayter asked to see the assessment, she was told that this was ‘private information for the chapter and the council’ — but she still wasn’t cowed: ‘Why? It’s a risk assessment on us! We must surely be entitled to see it?’

While Annabel Hayter has become the figurehead of the growing resistance to the CRB, she and her guild are not alone. All over the country, brave volunteers are ­digging in their toes.

Lord Vinson, who acts as warden in the church of Ilderton, Northumberland, is another who refuses to be vetted. He says the CRB ­procedure is not just pointless, but dangerous, offering ‘an illusion of protection, an illusion of safety’ — and at huge public cost. Checks, he says, are ‘turning off sound volunteers, and encouraging children to distrust all adults’.

So far Lord Vinson has received a severe letter saying that the bishop is ‘very disappointed in your attitude’; ultimately, he will probably be asked to resign.

Though the Church as an institution has become horribly infected with CRB madness, with a love of petty regulations and procedures, there are members of the resistance within it. The former Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, has delivered a broadside against ­‘hysterical’ CRB checks.

Dr Wright realised he had to take a stand when he discovered his 80-year-old assistant filling in a CRB form, ready to present her ID documents to the very church she had served all her adult life.

Jeremy Hummerstone, a reverend of Great Torrington, Devon, held out for months against his archdeacon’s demands that he be ­vetted. ‘I’ve been in the parish a long time,’ he said, ‘and I took strong exception to being asked to go through with this. ‘We don’t need all these rules. They should use their common sense — as I use mine.’

It was when Mr Hummerstone retired and moved to Yorkshire that they finally caught up with him. The Exeter Child Protection Adviser reported him to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, saying that he ‘persistently or ­recklessly failed to comply with the safeguarding policies and procedures of the organisation’.

This is the hallmark of CRB madness: it persuades even sensible, decent people to behave in the most ridiculous ways. It puffs up their self-esteem with an ­important-sounding title, then encourages them to use a slew of petty laws at their disposal to ­punish disobedience.

Every Church of England and Roman Catholic diocese has at least one full-time safeguarding officer (or adviser), who sits on panels with Orwellian-sounding names such as the ‘Multi-Agency Diocesan Safeguarding Management Group’ or the ‘Risk Assessment Panel’ of the ‘Diocesan Safeguarding Reference Group’.

Each church parish must also appoint a child safeguarding co-ordinator, with responsibilities to ‘monitor the implementation of diocesan guidance’ at a local level.

This structure does little to stop incidents of child abuse, but is highly effective at micromanaging the everyday activities of church workers and volunteers. ‘In a way, the CRB has become a new religious axiom,’ says Mr Hummerstone.

He is quite right. These officers seem to occupy a position some way above worldly or religious authority. But the crucial point — and the reason we need a resistance — is that their power is growing.

Very few of these rules come from central government or the law. Yes, they originate from government guidelines (cooked up in response to the Soham murders), but they have spread like a virus through institutions; fuelled by power-hungry bureaucrats, panic, fear and a collective sacrifice of common sense.

Institutions have invented their own child-protection case law. When Tom Addiscott, a church ­volunteer (and professor), refused to be CRB checked to help out with his church’s ‘Tots and Teddies’, he was told that it was ‘the law’ that he be vetted every five years. But there is no law that says this. Other organisations believe firmly that CRB checks are required every two or three years.

There is now a ‘safeguarding ­procedure’ for everything from ‘safe photography’ at nativity plays, to ‘appropriate touch’ for bell ringing, to rules on transporting children to and from church events.

Take bell ringing. It was once ­customary for junior bell ringers to turn up an hour early to get extra practice with an expert — but now a second adult must attend as a ‘watcher’. The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has produced guidance on maintaining ‘A Safe Environment for Young People in the Belfry’.

Of particular concern is the situation where a young ringer’s bell is out of control, and an adult needs to ‘take hold of the learner’s hand to take control of the bell rope’. The document suggests that this hand-grabbing action be explained and ‘demonstrated to the parents ­during their early visit to a ­practice’.

This year’s round of nativity plays will, in the age of camera phones, be less documented than ever, thanks to growing bans on photography in schools and churches.

So the revolution is overdue. The CRB and other ‘safeguarding’ ­procedures have become part of a war not on perverts, but on the best and most decent members of our society — and it’s these members who must follow Annabel Hayter’s lead and stand up and say: ‘Enough! We refuse to be checked!’

The Coalition Government’s review of the Vetting and Barring Scheme is extremely welcome, but it can only do so much. The contagion runs not through government, but through the minds of officials.

Only if mothers, flower arrangers, choir-masters, reverends, teachers, parents and peers stand up to be counted will the whole shoddy structure start to weaken, crack, and finally come tumbling down.

Nobody actually believes in these absurd rules; they have spread by acquiescence — and they can yet be stopped with a little resistance.

Every week, there are new points of rebellion. Two mothers in ­Welwyn Garden City are petitioning outside their children’s primary school, calling for a reversal of the school’s photo ban which prevents them from recording this year’s nativity play.

Annabel Hayter has not yet received her final summons for a CRB check, but she has her response prepared. ‘If I say “I’m not going to be checked”, what are they going to do? If I carry on arranging flowers, will they get the constabulary in?’

Annabel knows that officers breaking up the spring flower festival would not be good PR. Annabel Hayter has begun to realise this battle can be won.


More perverse British justice

You can get 4 years jail for denying the Holocaust but deliberately driving your car into a policeman and hitting him is minor

After mowing down a policeman in an attempt to escape justice, shoplifter Saphhia Da-Silva was expected to face the full wrath of the British legal system. But instead magistrates have adjourned sentencing – so she can enjoy a pre-booked seven-week holiday to Australia.

Da-Silva was spotted shoplifting at a Gap store and was followed to her car by two police community support officers. As she attempted to escape in a silver BMW, hit an empty pushchair and then PCSO Daniel Smith flinging him 5ft in the air.

Her case had been adjourned for pre-sentence reports, and a sentencing hearing would have likely been held in mid-December. But the mother-of-two's planned seven-week trip Down Under, on a visa, is from November 28 to January 15 so Ashford magistrates agreed to adjourn the date until January 31. Nigel Numas, for Da-Silva, said: 'She wants to go to Australia and take her mother and children to see her nan.'

Chairman of the bench Anne Norris told him: 'We are dealing with something extremely serious. Is it relevant for your client to go on holiday? 'There is also a victim who is off sick and has been seriously injured.'

But Mr Numas explained that Da-Silva cared for her mentally ill mother, as well as her two children, a six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. He said: 'In terms of going to Australia this is to get a bit of respite and a bit of help from her grandmother."

Mrs Norris asked for authentication of the trip and Mr Numas said it had been approved by a clinical team. Magistrates studied documentation before agreeing to the longer adjournment.

Da-Silva had admitted physically assaulting PCSO Smith, failing to stop after a road accident and shoplifting £236.12 worth of clothes from Gap on November 5 this year.

She also asked for a further offence from that day - of stealing £205.95 in clothes from Ralph Lauren at the same retail outlet - to be taken into consideration.

Da Silva, a former manager for Gap, was warned that a custodial sentence was still being considered, despite her holiday being allowed by the court. 'What you did was absolutely appalling,' said Magistrate Mrs Norris. 'You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. You deliberately drove at a PCSO causing him to go 5ft in the air.'

PCSO Smith seemed so badly injured after the incident that a colleague thought he had been killed. Colleague Stuart Manning, who had also been injured, said: 'I believed he was dead. I was astounded that a person could run the risk of killing or injuring someone for the sake of a few items.' Both men are still off sick.

The court heard that after the incident Da-Silva was arrested at a nearby club where she was found to have a magnetic tag remover, used to take off security tags in shops. It was said she had changed from career woman to thief in a 'spectacular fall from grace'.

She had once been a manager in the very chain she stole from and was the youngest manager in the country for the retail outlet.

'Pressures of her life, financial pressures, were the reason for the shoplifting,' said Mr Numas. 'It has led to a spectacular fall from grace.'


British girl arrested for 'burning Koran and posting footage on Facebook'

If it's her own book, what's the problem with burning it -- or is Muslim law now British law?

A BRITISH teenager has been arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after she allegedly burnt a copy of the Koran and posted footage of the incident on Facebook.

The girl, 15, has been bailed pending further inquiries.

Police also arrested a 14-year-old boy on suspicion of making threats over Facebook. He too has been bailed pending further inquiries.

The girl is accused of burning an English-language version of the Islamic holy book at her school in Sandwell, near Birmingham in central England.

A police spokesman said: "The local neighborhood team have strong links with the school and have been working closely with key partners from the community and the local authority to resolve the matter locally.

"Police will investigate and monitor any crime reported by individuals who may have been targeted."


Connecticut Roller Rink Defends Policy on Headscarves After Muslim Woman Complains‏

A roller skating rink in Connecticut is standing behind its decision to ask a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf because it could present a danger to skaters if it fell off.

Marisol Rodriguez-Colon was set to attend her 4-year-old niece’s birthday party at Ron-A-Roll but apparently didn’t make it very far past the check-in counter before she was stopped by a rink employee, who offered her two options: remove her headscarf or wear a helmet over it.

Rodriguez-Colon said she felt “mortified” when an employee at a rink asked her to wear a helmet on top of her religious headscarf, or hijab.

But Jennifer Conde, the operations manager at the Ron-A-Roll, said the rink’s main priority is the safety of its patrons. “We are not insensitive to people’s religion,” she said. “We just focus on safety.”

In a statement to FoxNews.com, Ron-A-Roll said it has a policy that prohibits headwear to be worn in the building. Safety helmets are offered to those that are unable to remove headwear for any reason, because they are secured with a chin strap.

Each roller rink has its own rules. In many cases, these rules are tailored to fit their unique clientele.

The Roller Skating Association, through a lawyer, said that the “recommendation from the RSA is to not infringe on the use of recognized religious headgear unless the use of the headgear would expose other patrons to a risk that would not be otherwise present.”

Ron-A-Roll has a history of inflexibility to its rules, even when they turn out to be public relation nightmares. Back in January, a bald woman suffering from cancer left the rink when employees insisted that she wear a helmet over her head scarf. The woman, apparently embarrassed, left the rink. Friends of the woman created a Facebook page calling for the boycott of the rink.

Frank Schiazza, the owner of CN Skate Palace in Pennsylvania, said he has a "no hat" rule at his rink but never forced a Muslim woman to remove her scarf. “They usually don’t fly off,” he said.

Ron-A-Roll’s meticulous attention to details, in this case, is troubling to Mongi Dhaouadi, the executive director of the Connecticut office for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Dhaouadi said the rink has all but turned a deaf ear when he asked to talk about the matter. “These were two women who were not allowed in because they wore this headscarf,” he said. “They had absolutely no intention to skate.”

The women told Dhaouadi that few people at the rink were wearing a helmet at the time. “I’m hoping it’s a misunderstanding,” he said.

Janine Gallo, who organized the party, said she signed a contract that assured the club that the rules would be followed by her guests. The two women, according to Gallo, were not on the roster and created an unnecessary scene. “They were shouting that they were going to sue,” said Gallo.

The worker told Gallo that all she needed to do was put a helmet over the headscarf.

“The kids were having a great time, but they had to make it a racial thing,” Gallo told FoxNews.com. “It really shouldn’t be.”



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.