Thursday, April 10, 2014

A thought for abortionists

British police fiddle crime figures 'to hit targets': Even rapes are not recorded, say MPs

Police are failing to properly record crimes as serious as rape to hit performance targets, a damning report has revealed.

A target culture within policing has created ‘perverse incentives’ and driven officers up to the most senior level to ‘misrecord’ crime, MPs said.

The Public Administration select committee called for local Police and Crime Commissioners to abolish all targets to  help restore public trust in  crime figures.

They also called for an investigation into treatment of a police officer who blew the whistle on corrupt recording practices.

Former Metropolitan Police officer James Patrick described how massaging numbers to hit targets had become ‘an ingrained part of policing culture’.

He exposed how crimes were routinely downgraded, with robberies logged as theft and burglary reclassified as criminal damage – or even ‘no-crimed’ – to make them ‘disappear in a puff of smoke’.

He resigned last month after an investigation into misconduct was launched.

The report was published as a new YouGov poll for Channel 5 found 40 per cent of Britons think crime has gone up in the last decade. This is despite police figures and the national crime survey showing sharp falls in crime levels.

Bernard Jenkin, the committee chairman, said it was ‘depressing’ how the officer was treated by the Met and claimed most forces were ‘still in denial about the damage targets cause, both to data integrity and to standards of behaviour’.

The report found crime figures recorded by the police vastly exaggerated the extent of genuine decreases in recent years.

National targets for crime figures have been abolished by the Home Office. But the report found targets, and a target culture, remained at a local level, set by Police and Crime Commissioners or senior officers.  These, it said, ‘drive perverse incentives to misrecord crime, tend to affect attitudes and erode data quality’.

It went on to warn: ‘The attitudes and behaviour which lead to the misrecording of crime have become ingrained.’

In particular, the report pointed to ‘strong evidence’ that sex crimes such as rape were under-recorded in many areas, with MPs concluding that officers were failing to comply with national crime recording rules.

The report also found ministers and statisticians have been ‘too passive’ in failing to confront concerns over the quality of police statistics.

Peter Cuthbertson, director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: ‘It’s encouraging that this issue is being investigated by Parliament but the findings are damning.  ‘There should really be only one way the police make crime figures look better: by catching more criminals and bringing them to justice. Anything else is fiddling the figures.’

Shadow police minister Jack Dromey said the credibility of the Government’s crime statistics now ‘lies in tatters’.

Earlier this year, police crime figures were stripped of their national kitemark by the statistics watchdog – official recognition of the fact they could no longer be trusted.

However Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, pointed to the new Code of Ethics for officers.

He said: ‘In terms of crime recording, the Code specifically highlights the importance  of accurate and honest record-keeping.’


Brainless "archaeologists" destroying WWII sites for fun and profit

UK Production Company ClearStory and National Geographic Channel have been accused of unethical practice and ignoring advice in a new battlefield metal detecting series.

The bitter fighting in Latvia, Poland and the Kurland Peninsula which took place in the Winter of 1944/45 became known as Nazi Germany’s Dunkirk.  Last weekend, The National Geographic Channel and British television production company ClearStory; producers of the Channel 4 series “Sex Box”, as well as documentaries featuring Historian David Reynolds and Scientist Richard Dawkins; are facing their own ignominious retreat and bitter rearguard action over their new television series “Nazi War Diggers” [], which was partly shot in Kurland and  Poland and which is set to premier on the National Geographic Channel in April 2014.

The series of four programmes set out to “ to hunt for relics and bodies, uncovering a forgotten story of World War Two’s bloody front.” promising  that the programme’s team of amateur talent would “come face to face with the dangers and cost of war.” However, hundreds of archaeologists from the USA, the UK and Europe as well as from across the blogsphere and social media, including many experts in human osteology and battlefield archaeology, are united in condemnation of the series.

The allegation is that a video and images originally posted on the National Geographic Channel website publicising the series apparently show behavior which, while it may be legal under Polish and Latvian Law, is in archaeological terms unethical. In particular human remains are shown being pulled from the ground and displayed for the camera in a way which would be completely unacceptable on any conventional  archaeological site; would be forbidden by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and UK Ministry of Defence if they related to the remains of a British Serviceman and, worst of all, would destroy forensic evidence and the context of the burial making a positive identification of the individual soldier difficult, if not impossible and potentially denying him a named grave.

The video, the promotional website originally launched to publicise the programme, and statements from the programme producers ClearStory, all suggest that the programme format follows a tried and tested television template whereby a group of metal detector users investigate a historic site accompanied by a dealer in antiques and other historic material.

This kind of cheap reality television demands a strong back story which the audience can engage with and iconic objects around which stories can be woven.  Such formats are frequently criticised by archaeologists as promoting commercial value over historic value and glorifying treasure hunting over the more questioning gathering of knowledge for the common good.  However, these formats are very popular with television audiences.  A programme with the same basic premise, an exercise in discovery and valuation, the BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow” has been running for thirty five years and thirty six series with the format being sold all over the world.

The initial fear in this case, expressed by many archeologists when the video first surfaced, was that the excavations shown might have been illegal.  A televised version of the kind of antiquities theft by metal detector users working illegally which is sometimes given a spurious glamour by the name “nighthawking”.  However in a statement released on Friday 28 March by the National Geogrpahic Channel stresses that the work was done in conjunction with two community based battlefield research and recovery groups, “Legenda” in Latvia and the “Pomost Archaeological Association” in Poland, both of which claim to obtain proper permissions and licences from landowners and their respective Governments and liaise with appropriate war graves organisations in Germany and Russia.  However, there is a far more fundamental question which raises very difficult questions for both ClearStory and the National Geographic Channel.

That is; even if the work was undertaken in full compliance with the legal regimes pertaining in Latvia and Poland and even if the programmes were recorded under the wing of the two community based organisations which set out to search battlefields and recover missing servicemen, “Pomost” and “Legenda”; that reflects Polish and Latvian practice, undertaken by Latvians and Poles.

What ClearStory facilitated and what National Geographic Channel appear to be about to broadcast, are the efforts, not of Poles or Latvians working to a common purpose, but of an imported team of three amateur metal detector users, UK based Stephen Taylor, Kris Rodgers and  Adrian Kostromski and militaria enthusiasts and an American dealer in Nazi militaria and memorabelia, Craig Gottleib.

None of the “Nazi War Diggers” employed by ClearStory appear to have any training in the kind of archaeology, forensic anthropology or explosive ordnance safety which would be of use to “Legenda” or “Pomost” in their principle work recovering battlefield casualties along with the war material which accompanys them.  Mr Taylor, a Pharmacist who lives in Leicestershire, is heavily involved in the World War Two Relic Retrieval and Preservation Group [!about-us] and is a regular contributer to metal detecting and militaria websites. While Mr Rodgers describes himself on his Twitter account as a “blogger, teacher, writer, musician, treasure hunter and now TV presenter.”

However, in the promotional clip, now withdrawn, Mr Rodgers is shown apparently giving direction on the delicate matter of exhuming human remains to the third member of the team of on screen talent, Mr Gottlieb.  Mr Gottlieb, a former United States Marine, is able to employ his particular expertise in the collection and sale of Nazi era militaria and memorabilia.  As he was quoted as saying in the programme publicity “I feel that by selling things that are Nazi related and for lots of money, I’m preserving a part of history that museums don’t want to bother with”   “Nazi Shmazi” as American satirist Tom Lehrer once said.   Mr Gottleib’s quotation has now been removed from his biography on the series website.

Meanwhile, although the UK has great expertise in the archaeology of twentieth century conflicts, there is no recognised professional conflict, battlefield or forensic archaeologist named in any of the pre-publicity for the programme. Perhaps not surprisingly, because what the employment of MrTaylor, Mr Rodgers and Mr Gottleib suggests and what the programmes appear to show, is not battlefield archaeology, carried out in a controlled research focused way for publication, but the more or less random recovery of objects and human remains from battlefields.  Something entirely different.  However it is known that the production company were briefed in detail about the ethical and safety issues surrounding battlefield archaeology on twentieth century battlefields including in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  They were also given the contact details of recognised UK based archaeologists with specific expertise in unexploded ordnance and ammunition safety and the ethical forensic recovery of human remains on the battlefield.

In a statement issued to Heritage Daily on Friday 28 March, , National Geographic Channel responded to the initial criticism of the video and web site content saying,

“Despite misinformation being circulated, our show will in fact demonstrate the need for the activities portrayed to be done in an authorized and legal manner. This will be a point of emphasis in the opening of each show, and the series will be complemented by a robust website further exercising this point.

In addition, during filming, our production crew remained in close contact with local museums, including the Latvian War Museum. All relics uncovered by the team were cataloged and photographed and are now in safe storage. Items have been offered to museums. No items were trafficked or sold. The human remains found in the series will be reburied with due ceremony in military cemeteries under the supervision of the relevant war graves commissions.”

Of course the devil is in the PR detail and the precise meaning of the language: “a point of emphasis in the opening of each show,” leaves the rest of the show open to breathless descriptions of weapons and ordnance and descriptions of their effects on the human body, while ”authorised and legal” is not the same in archaeological terms as ethical, archaeologically competent and safe.

The wider question of course is how this particular programme pitch came to be accepted. There is a truism in the media, pointed out by the author Robert Harris in his best selling account of the Hitler Diaries fiasco, that having the word “Hitler” or “Nazi” in a book or programme title immediately adds to the sales and audience ratings.  You might have noticed HeritageDaily cynically using the same trick in the title of this article demonstrating that this fact is as true of media analysis and historical documentary making as it is of SS fetishising, sexploitation films like “Ilsa She Wolf of the SS”.

The period of Nazi Germany is also one of the eras in history which attracts a general television audience in addition to what might be perceived as the “military anorak” market,  meaning it is a relatively easy sell to commissioning editors and channel controllers.  Although I have been told by one TV professional that according to at least one Commissioning Editor [Factual] “the Romans are the new Nazi’s”.

Be that as it may, speaking before the controversy erupted in online archaeological forums, Russell Barnes, the Co Executive Producer for ClearStory along with Molly Milton, made a familiar pitch to the public in justification of the series saying:

“The Eastern Front of World War II saw probably the bloodiest fighting in human history and time is running out for us to capture the historical truths of the conflict that lie literally hidden in the ground…Nazi War Diggers not only tells the lost human stories behind the battles, but it also explores ethical ways to preserve our history and the dignity of the people who made it.”

Bloody gore and Nazis might indeed sell and we are genuinely on the edge of human memory as far as World War Two goes.  Therefore television has an important role in collecting testimony and in conveying the realities, complexities and tragedies of War to the public.  That is why Jeremy Isaac’s landmark series for ITV “The World At War” is still being broadcast forty years after it was made.

Equally, the war on the Eastern Front and the sacrifice of the tens of millions of soldiers and civilians on all sides who died there, is not as well known in the West as it should be.  However, it is in invoking the words “ethical” and “dignity” that most archaeologists and historians will finally part company with Mr Barnes’ view, because on the strength of the video trailer these are two qualities which it appears are conspicuous by their absence in his company’s product.  As a result “Nazi War Diggers” lays down a number of challenges to both the archaeological community and to the media.

In spite of Friday’s rapid backtracking and the re-launching of the series website minus the controversial  video and photographs, there is a clear risk that the National Geographic Channel, will suffer further damage to a reputation already severely compromised in the academic community by the channels insistence in commissioning or broadcasting a number of earlier series which have been criticised for condoning treasure hunting masquerading as archaeological or historical research, including another series featuring metal detecting, “Diggers,” which attracted thousands of signatures to an on-line petition calling for it to be scrapped.  Something the National Geographic Channel declined to do.

For the archaeological sector there is the challenge that the media in general knows so little and thinks so little of archaeological opinion and practice that a programme including this type of content could even be commissioned in the first place.  Indeed, this is not the first time unethical, illegal and potentially dangerous practice in the archaeology of conflict has been put on screen by a UK based production company.  Archaeology must find a way of confronting these profound ethical and safety issues in a way which gains traction with the production companies such as ClearStory who make this sort of work, principally because it is far cheaper to employ a couple of metal detectorists to find visually interesting stuff and fantasise about it, than it is to do a proper archaeological job.


The program has now been withdrawn from screening but the irregularities involved in making it remain under scrutiny

“The Curmudgeon’s Guide”: A Q&A with Charles Murray

Dr. Charles Murray’s book “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead” was released today. The book, available here, details the “dos and don’ts of right behavior, tough thinking, clear writing, and living a good life.” On April 17th, AEI will be hosting an event on “The Curmudgeon’s Guide”- see more details here. Below, the author answers a few questions about his book, his favorite piece of advice, and Bill Murray.

“The Curmudgeon’s Guide” is very different from any of your other books. Where does it fit in your own view of your work?

It’s the most fun I’ve had with a book since my wife and I wrote “Apollo” in the late 1980s. In fact, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide” started out purely for fun. I volunteered to write a series of tips for AEI’s interns and research assistants about how to avoid offending grumpy old people like me. I began with things like “Excise the word ‘like’ from your spoken English,” but as time went on, I got into more substantive topics. Then my boss, Karlyn Bowman, suggested I turn the series into a book, and here we are.

Why do you think Millennials need this advice so much?

Not all of them do need it. I wrote for twenty-somethings who have grown up in loving homes, have gone to good schools, haven’t ever really held jobs except maybe an internship or two, and suddenly find themselves out of college and facing the real world. Not to put too fine a point on it: a lot of them are clueless about how a workplace operates, and a lot of them are far too ready to stay in the academic cocoon, going directly to graduate school without the least idea of what they truly want for a career. Those Millennials are my target audience.

What’s your favorite tip from the book?

I’m fond of just about all of them—in fact, I’m probably too fond of this book for my own good. But if I had to name just one, it is “Watch ‘Groundhog Day’ repeatedly.” It comes from so far out of left field, after I’ve been discussing super-serious topics about the life well lived, that I imagine my readers coming across the title and saying to themselves, “What the hell is this about?”

How can a young person stand out in the workplace?

The easiest way is to work as hard as you can, for as many hours as are needed, and not make a big deal out of it. The highly successful people in your organization almost all behaved exactly the same way when they were in their twenties (and probably throughout their careers), and they are going to see something of themselves in you. That’s a really good way to attract their interest. The little secret that is seldom revealed in this era of praising everyone for everything is that very few people work as hard as they can, and the ones who do have it made. But of course, there’s one other thing: you have to be competent while you’re working all those hours.

You write in tip #25 that “Being judgmental is good, and you don’t have a choice anyway.” This is a rather unusual message in a culture that often says the opposite. Could you elaborate on that?

You’re encouraging me to vent on one of my most passionately held complaints about contemporary culture. What makes humans special is their ability to process information, evaluate it, and make judgments. Nonjudgmentalism is, at bottom, an ethic that tells us to avoid acknowledging to ourselves that we like some things better than others, think some ways of behaving are more virtuous than others, and that we downright disapprove of some ways of behaving. I’m all in favor of tolerance. But tolerance means accepting things with which you do not necessarily agree, but think that people should be free to do in a free society. That’s very different from refusing to think about things and reach considered judgments about good and bad, right and wrong, true and false.

Before you went to graduate school, you joined the Peace Corps and went to Thailand for five years. How was that experience valuable, and would you recommend something similar for others?

It was transformative. The first two months in Thailand, my culture shock was so severe that I envied a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who was in a car accident and suffered severe injuries, because he had an honorable excuse to quit and go home. I had to stay—and by a few months later, I was in love with Thailand. But it wasn’t just fun. I learned things that profoundly affected the way I saw the world forever after (I talk about those Thai experiences in the introduction to one of my books, “In Pursuit”).

But most of all, I became at home in what had been a totally alien culture. It was like adding a whole new world to the one I had known in the States. Do I recommend that others do something similar? When my daughter Anna was graduating from college and told her friends that she was buying a one-way ticket to Bologna, Italy, where she would get a job (any job) and live for a few years, her friends thought that sounded cool, but asked her “What do your parents think?” assuming that we must be appalled at this hare-brained scheme. “In my family,” Anna would reply, “it’s practically obligatory.”

In an increasingly secular society, why is it important to take religion seriously?

I went to Harvard at a time when college socialized its students to be secular as assiduously as college in the previous century had socialized them to be devout. The same thing holds true today. It took me a long time to realize that the Christian religion—the one I grew up with as a child—doesn’t consist of Sunday school stories that are easy to dismiss. It needs to be grappled with in its full complexity and depth. The same is true of the other great religious traditions. Think of it this way: if there are truths underlying the great religious traditions, being oblivious of them is a hugely important moral shortcoming. Maybe after taking religion seriously you’ll decide that you’re an atheist after all. But at least you won’t be one of the unreflective atheists that infest most college campuses.

Other than buying your book, what’s the most important thing for college graduates to do as they prepare for the real world?

Ponder the extent to which they may be self-absorbed naïfs who are about as resilient as Baccarat champagne flutes. If that’s what they are, it’s probably not their fault. They have been the victims of excessively happy childhoods and excessively patient and understanding parents. But sooner or later, life is going to get tough. You don’t want the first tests of your toughness and resilience to come when you’re 35 with a spouse and children and you shatter into a thousand glittering shards. Use the years right after college to jump out of the nest and force yourself to learn to fly before you hit the ground. Put yourself in harm’s way. Trust me: it won’t only help you grow up; it will turn out to be more fun than you could have imagined.

A question about “Watch ‘Groundhog Day’ repeatedly.” Do you know Bill Murray?

I’ve been touting “Groundhog Day” since I said in “Human Accomplishment” 10 years ago that it was one of the few films that would still be watched a century from now. I keep hoping that Bill will see these wonderful things I say about “Groundhog Day” and tell me to give him a ring the next time I get to L.A. Hasn’t happened. It’s too bad. I think cousin Bill and I would get along great.


Australia: Old tribal customs no excuse for crimes

WITH increasing regularity, Australian courts are accepting “cultural differences” as ­exculpatory or mitigating factors for more lenient sentencing or even to excuse the most abhorrent crimes.

Surely this is not the multi-culturalism that even the most avowed flag-waving, sandal-shod, inner-urban, Green-Labor voting wearers of tie-dyed rainbow garments believe in?

Though the Left has worked strenuously to denigrate the very notion that Australia has any culture whatsoever, ­attacking Anzac Day, sneering at the national enthusiasm for sport, attempting to airbrush all references from the education curriculum to our Anglo heritage which is the bedrock of our law and language and disparaging our debt to ­Judaeo-Christian values, it is patently obvious our culture and the economic opportunity it provides, is a beacon in an ­increasingly chaotic world. In the politically correct non-judgemental world of the kumbaya crowd, all cultures are equal and must be respected.

In 2013, Victorian Court of Appeal Justice Robert Redlich granted Esmatullah Sharifi, 31, who had pleaded guilty to the rape of an 18-year-old girl and a 25-year-old woman in the same week in December, 2008, the right to appeal against the cumulative 14-year-jail term he is serving.

When he was sentenced, Judge Mark Dean said Sharifi had gone hunting for vulnerable, drunken women to rape.

Judge Dean pointedly noted that his flight from the Taliban was no excuse.  “The offence committed by you was an extremely serious act of violence, and in my opinion you well knew the victim was not consenting,” he said.

Sharifi found the teen near a Frankston nightclub and ­offered to drive her to meet friends at a Mornington hotel. But instead he drove her to a dark street and raped her. “Your brutal conduct must be denounced by this court,” Judge Dean said.

In granting leave, Judge Redlich found Sharifi’s lack of insight into his offence and the fact that he had no appreciation that his conduct was wrong adequate reasons to support his appeal.

Sharifi succeeded in his ­appeal with the Full Court knocking one year and six months off his total sentence.

Even more strange was the decision of Magistrate Ron Saines to drop an attempted child-stealing charge against Ali Jaffari, 35, in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court saying he would have reasonable doubt about his guilt, citing “cultural differences” as one mitigating factor.

The case related to the ­alleged attempt by Jaffari in January, 2013, to lead a four-year-old girl away from a sports oval while her father and brother played cricket.

Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Brooke Shears said that while the child’s father was throwing the ball to his son in the nets, the little girl was playing with her own bat at the net opening.

She said Jaffari was walking around the oval, when he ­approached the child, removed the bat from her hand and ­rested it against a bollard.

“He then grabbed the child’s hand and began to lead her away before she looked up, saw it wasn’t her father, started crying and pulled her hand away,” she said.

“The victim’s father turned, saw what was happening and yelled at Jaffari, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ The victim ran crying to her father and he comforted her while Jaffari walked off around the oval.”

After being awarded a permanent protection visa in early 2012 by the Gillard government upon arriving by boat, Jaffari was convicted of ­indecent assault on two boys aged 12 and 13.

The prosecutor said that, when interviewed, Jaffari told police: “For us is not an issue.”

Magistrate Saines said the prosecution case fell short of criminality and cited cultural differences as a possible mitigating factor.

But Sgt Shears insisted that the offending had nothing to do with cultural differences. After being awarded a permanent protection visa in early 2012 by the Gillard government upon arriving by boat, Jaffari was convicted of ­indecent assault on two boys aged 12 and 13.

Witnesses said he started grabbing and rubbing himself against them, cuddling and kissing them on the neck and telling one of the boys he was “sexy”. One of the victims said he followed them to the showers, cornered them and asked if he “wanted company”.

He received a two-year community corrections order with 300 hours unpaid community work and was listed on a sex offenders’ register.

Curiously, sex crimes, usually against women and not boys, attract far harsher penalties under Afghan law than they do here, yet it is one cultural difference our judges and lawyers don’t seem to embrace.

Playing to the minorities is a losing game as nations across Europe find to their cost.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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