Monday, January 01, 2018

Leftists Declare War on Thomas the Train

A conservative cynic from birth, I foolishly thought I had seen it all when it came to leftist madness. But then I saw, posted on CNN’s website, “Why kids love 'fascist' cartoons like 'Paw Patrol' and 'Thomas'.” The article referenced several other articles that described Thomas as “a premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia,” “imperialist racist and sinister,” and “classist, sexist, and anti-environmentalist.”

This caught my attention because my six-year-old boy -- like children all over the world -- loves stories of Thomas the Train. I recently took my children to Thomasland in Massachusetts and now my boy wants to visit the Thomasland in Japan. The Thomas cartoon is so popular that 1 billion dollars of merchandise related to the show is sold every year.

Reverend Wilbert Audrey, creator of Thomas the Train, has recounted how, when his 3-year-old son was ill with the measles, he told him stories about trains. Audrey says that in his own childhood he had to read boring books about perfect children so that he would learn from their moral example. He decided to write interesting books about engines with human characteristics in a fictional island he called Sodor. The trains would push the envelope until they got in trouble, be punished, and after making amends would be “bought back into the family so to speak.” Morality in the world of Thomas was making oneself useful to society, being a good friend, and keeping the railroad functioning smoothly. The human aspect of his trains is part of their appeal to children and the moral aspect of his stories was part of their appeal to the adults who read the stories to their children.

Now left-wing critics label the Thomas the Train show “racist” because the diesel villain is black. They call it totalitarian because trains are supposed to do what the manager of the rails, Sir Topham Hat, tells them to do. They call it sexist because there are more male trains than female trains. (In 2013 the British Labour shadow Transportation Secretary actually called out Thomas for its lack of females.) When Thomas is awarded two female passenger cars to pull because of good behavior, the feminists call this sexist too.

The leftists are particularly offended by the stories of Henry in the Tunnel and Toad Stands By. Henry the Train decides that rather than contribute to society he’d prefer to stay in a tunnel. Despite the best efforts of Sir Topham Hat to get Henry out of the tunnel Henry refuses to budge and Sir Topham Hat teaches him a lesson by locking him into the tunnel with a brick wall. The New Yorker quotes a commenter as saying “What moral lesson are kids supposed to learn from this? Do as you’re told or you will be entombed forever in the darkness to die?” In the next episode Henry, miserable in the tunnel, becomes willing to help again and is released. The New Yorker critic doesn’t mention that. In Toad Stands By bullying trains, otherwise known as the troublesome trucks, are taught a lesson by Oscar the locomotive, whom they had picked on. Oscar pulls the bullying trains behind him when they decide to cause trouble and not move. Oscar fights back by pulling very hard and the leader of the bullies, Scruffey, who is behind him bursts in half. The New Yorker quotes a commenter as writing: “I guess the lesson is that if someone is bullying you, kill them?” In the next story Scruffey is repaired and the troublesome trucks learn never to cause trouble for Oscar again. You are not told that by the author of The New Yorker article.

In yet another episode a nasty double-decker bus named Bulgy comes to the station and talks about revolution -- “Free the roads from railway tyranny!” he cries. The New Yorker writes “He is quickly labelled a “scarlet deceiver,” trapped under a bridge, and turned into a henhouse.” Actually Bulgy deceives passengers into riding on his bus and gets stuck under a bridge. Too damaged to move, Bulgy becomes a home for hens. Once Bulgy is willing to make amends and be useful to society he is forgiven and repaired.

Why do leftists distort and demonize Thomas stories? Leftists do not like the idea that punishment and discipline are a good thing because it implies that the fault lies with those who misbehave instead of with society. That is one of the reasons that the anti-discipline policies of leftist Mayor DeBlasio and former president Obama have increased the discipline problems in New York City schools.

In the leftist worldview society is the guilty party and therefore revolutionaries are heroes. Reverend Audrey’s portrayal of a revolutionary as a nasty bus whose revolution gets him stuck under a bridge and keeps his passengers from getting to their destination is not a message they like. Even worse he becomes a home for hens instead of great revolutionary. He even stops being a revolutionary and starts to contribute to society. It is no wonder that a critic of Thomas ends his article in Slate by writing “Cast off your shackles and rise up, little engines! Down with Topham Hatt! Sodor revolution now!”

The leftist reaction to Thomas is a demonstration of the sick tendency of the left to demonize those they don’t like and to distort what they say. I told my 6-year-old son that I was writing this article to answer those who attack his favorite show he said “Tell them that whatever is wrong with Thomas is just little mistakes and that Thomas is very nice and teaches children a lot about trains.”


Compulsory union membership case to go before SCOTUS

As thoughts turn to celebrating the incoming year, a Supreme Court case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, could give government workers a reason to be merry in 2018, by freeing them from union captivity and delivering a big win for personal liberty.

More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled on a similar case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the court determined teachers lacked the right to fully opt out of union membership while employed in a public school system where teachers are unionized.

Objecting public servants may “opt out” of paying the portion of their involuntary membership fee, but because money is fungible, union bosses still use individuals’ money to speak for what the union boss wants.

In 2016, Mark Janus, an Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services child support specialist, sued the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, arguing the union was infringing upon his rights by extracting membership dues from his paycheck without his consent.

Because he was being forced to contribute his hard-earned money to the union as a condition of his employment, Janus says he is being deprived of his rights to free speech and association, and he’s right. For a government employee wanting to leave the union entirely — and not just do the forced-unionism Hokey Pokey, which only allows workers to pull their left or right foot out — quitting an otherwise enjoyable and rewarding job is the only option.

All union activity is effectively political, and the current forced-unionism status quo violates workers’ rights by forcing them to engage in political activity against their will.

Even routine union contract negotiations have a direct effect on government actions, becoming a form of political activity. For example, when a union lobbies lawmakers to approve more public pension benefits or higher or more frequent pay raises, the government’s labor costs go up, using resources that could be put to better use on other budget items. Thus, when more money goes toward public-sector unions, less money is available for other government services, such as road repair or public libraries.

Similarly, when a union endorses a political candidate or fights a bill being proposed by a state’s legislature, it claims to speak on behalf of everyone in the union, including those who don’t agree but are forced to remain members. Government employees are being compelled to pay money out of their own paychecks against their will so that other people can speak on their behalf without their permission.

There may be valid reasons some workers would want to join a union, but there are also reasons to avoid joining. Many public servants are being denied their right to self-determination, figuratively locking them in a room and forcing words into their mouth.

The justices’ decision to consider Janus’ case is an opportunity to open that door, freeing public servants to have the right to choose not to join a union and to make decisions based on what’s best for them and not merely what’s best for the union bosses.


Islamist extremism: dance with an enemy we dare not name

Comment from Australia

The Islamist extremists are winning. Victory is unlikely and, in any event, a long way off but their immediate aims are being ach­ieved, if not in the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, then at least in the democracies of Europe and the Western world.

The signs are ominous in Australia, where 15 years after the Bali bombings this is the enemy whose name we are too often too timid to mention. The extremists have us second-guessing the cultural superiority of our Western liberal democratic model and have conjured a collective and misplaced guilt among us about the treatment of Muslims.

From the fundamentalist preachers to the bloodthirsty terrorists, the ultimate goal of Islamist extremists is simple: global Islamic dominance. To achieve it they need to weaken and harm the West, fuel Muslim grievances and assert their cultural power through demographic changes and political influence.

They loathe our tolerance, freedom of expression and plurality, yet skilfully use these Western strengths against us as they subvert our ways by convincing many of us that we are to blame for their atrocities. We can see the Islamist success in shaping this narrative all around us.

The Palestinian cause is used as a constant irritant. Just this month, popular singer Lorde was bullied into cancelling a concert in Israel while no one seems to care that she will sing in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Likewise, we saw the UN General Assembly vote by an overwhelming majority to condemn the US for recognising the obvious reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And after I argued last week that Melbourne’s Flinders Street horror was an Islamist terror attack — because that was the motivation cited by the Afghan-Australian attacker — Anglican priest Rod Bower described my comments as “poison” that could “drive fragile psyches over the edge”. See what he did there — it is always our fault.

The success of Islamist propaganda can be seen in the fact after a Muslim man allegedly mowed down 19 people on a Melbourne city street and referred to “mistreatment of Muslims” to explain his actions Victorian police denied there was any evidence of a connection to terrorism. Given this is the season for resolutions, is it too much to ask that we start being forthright about the grave threat of Islamist extremism?

The paradoxes generated by the politically correct virtue-signallers who have taken over our politics, bureaucracies and, it seems, even the upper echelons of our law enforcement agencies are deeply worrying. After the Martin Place siege in Sydney and the Flinders Street attack, police and media downplayed terrorism but talked up mental health issues.

Even ASIO once denied links between terrorism and refugees despite the truth that each contemporary, fatal, Islamist terrorist incident in this country has involved refugees. Unpalatable as they are, we must start with the facts. We are told not to stigmatise mental health issues yet we see it used as an explanation for mass casualty attacks. As bollards go up in our cities are we to believe this is to protect us from the mentally ill or the drug-addicted? Why has this suddenly become a problem?

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to maintain strong links with Muslim communities to foster co-operation. They also want to maintain social cohesion and avoid the divisions between Muslim and non-Muslim people that the extremists seek to accentuate. And we should take care not to overstate the extent of the problem. We are talking about individuals of concern in this country who number only in the hundreds and a pool of people susceptible to radicalisation that may number in the thousands. Still, the dangers are obvious.

Yet obfuscation in public information about terror attacks and police actions can only undermine confidence in law enforcement and create concern about government responses to the extremist threat, therefore creating the conditions for the mistrust the authorities want to avoid.

Besides, it is insulting to Muslim and non-Muslim Australians to deny the realities they can observe. It suggests people cannot deal with facts as they fall. We are intelligent enough to understand the threat of Islamist terrorism and sensible enough not to blame all Muslims for any attacks. Time and again we see that despite self-conscious warnings so-called Islamophobic backlashes never materialise.

Politicians and police are servants of the public and should have a clear bias towards sharing information in a forthright fashion rather than keeping secrets, unless confidentiality is important for operational reasons. Initially ruling out terrorism should not be difficult; if the offender is a non-Muslim and not espousing any religious or political cause then police may be able to announce early on that they do not suspect terrorism.

But if the attack is perpetrated by a Muslim immigrant who specifically cites Muslim griev­ances, the public ought to be told immediately that there are indications of a terrorist motive. Additional qualifiers about other factors and ongoing investigations would be understood but the public deserves to hear as many of the relevant facts as possible. Melbourne’s new loudspeakers will be a waste of time unless someone is prepared to speak into them.

At Martin Place, NSW police delayed action and hoped to wear down Man Haron Monis as they would in a domestic siege situation, rather than treating it as an Islamist terror attack where loss of life was inevitable. Yet while this was unfolding they launched an operation to protect Muslims in public places from a Martin Place-inspired backlash. (Of course the backlash never came; even the “I’ll ride with you” hashtag campaign was based on a fabricated episode.)

When Curtis Cheng was assassinated in an Islamist killing at Parramatta the police hierarchy told the public hours later that there was nothing to suggest terrorism. Yet we soon learned the attacker, dressed in black garb, had yelled “Allahu akbar” at the scene before he was shot dead.

There is a disturbing pattern here of police and politicians bending over backwards to discount terrorism even when there are obvious indications Islamist extremism is the motivation.

Experts have long pointed to the overlap between disaffected, mentally disturbed and even drug-addicted people and the Islamist cause. It is a dangerous cocktail that can self-generate lone-wolf terrorists or be exploited by extremist manipulators.

In the wake of Martin Place, Clive Kessler, emeritus professor at the University of NSW’s school of social sci­ences, wrote how the interception of any future “psychotic loner” attacks could be a matter for mental health and security agencies. “But most such incidents are the work of psychotic, sociopathic, disturbed or even ostensibly normal individuals who fall in with, and whose ideas and perverse impulses mesh them into, small like-minded groups, sometimes even broad social movements,” he said.

Kessler wrote of the importance of serious debate within and about our Muslim communities covering the triumphalist and resentful elements of the faith that are shared by the mainstream but taken to violent ends by the extremists. This is the core of the debate. Unless we intelligently confront reforms needed to undermine the Islamist extremist ideology, all the bollards in the world cannot save us.

Psychiatrist and author Tanveer Ahmed, who comes from a Bangladeshi Muslim background, also has written about the overlap between disaffected individuals — particularly refugees — and Islamist extremism. He points out that attacks do not need to be well organised or sanctioned by groups such as Islamic State or al-Qa’ida to be categorised as terrorism. It is about motivation.

Ahmed has written about how paranoid individuals may project their personal resentments through Islamist ideology. Those who are mentally ill or have criminal backgrounds have a higher risk of adopting extremist and violent practices. “None of these factors make the contribution of Islam and particular interpretations that encourage attacks upon non-Muslims irrelevant,” he explains.

Yet it is the essence of the motivation — the Islamist ideology — that politicians and authorities seem most keen to avoid. They prefer to talk about hardware and firepower — and mental health.

Will the loudspeakers installed in Melbourne’s CBD warn of mental health outbreaks? Are the military weapons of the NSW police to be trained on people who are disturbed and ill?

Or do we need to accept that the Islamist aim of disrupting our society by targeting infidels and innocents cannot be truly defeated until the ideology itself is exposed, confronted and eradicated?


Hitler's Titanic: A disaster swept under the rug

The Nazi luxury cruise liner with no 1st or 2nd class - because 'the master race was equal' -that became the world's WORST maritime disaster... but is barely mentioned in the history books

It is the naval disaster that dwarfs the Titanic but is rarely mentioned despite being the largest maritime catastrophe in history.

In 1945 almost 10,000 men, women and children were killed on board cruise liner the MV Wilhelm Gustloff as they fled the advancing Russian Army.

The ship set sail from Gdynia, then Gotenhafen, in occupied Poland and was bound for Kiel in northern Germany, but was attacked by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea in January 1945.

It sank in less than 40 minutes, causing the deaths of 9,343 people including about 5,000 children.

The fate of the vessel was a far cry from its intended use as a luxury liner for the 'master' German race and had no class division system so 'ordinary' people could enjoy holidays just like the rich.

The official capacity was 1,500 and thousands enjoyed cruise holidays between 1937 and 1939 before it was requisitioned by the military for use as a hospital ship

Despite the death toll being six times greater than the loss of life on the Titanic, the sinking of the former German cruise liner is hardly known of.

By January 1945 the area of Prussia was threatened by the rapid Russian advance from the east, leading to Operation Hannibal - a massive naval evacuation of German troops and civilians there.

Although the 685ft long ship was carrying about 1,000 army soldiers and members of the Gestapo, there were also around 9,000 civilians.

As it headed west it was spotted by a Russian submarine. The German ship was armed with anti-aircraft guns but they had frozen and were useless.

The Russian submarine fired three torpedoes at the 25,000 tonne ship which all hit and delivered massive damage.

Some of the 9,343 victims died in the explosions and others were crushed to death in a stampede by panicked passengers but the majority either drowned or succumbed to exposure in the freezing conditions.

The Gustloff was the flagship of the civilian fleet for two years and participated in many trips until spring 1939, when she was requisitioned by the German Navy to bring back troops aiding Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

After the outbreak of World War Two she served as a hospital ship but by 1941 she was moved to Gdynia to serve as a floating barracks for U-boat recruits. She remained in port for four years until the launching of Operation Hannibal.

Although the official manifest states there was only 6,500 passengers on board, it does not include civilians who boarded without being recorded.

Just as the Titanic is infamous for a lack of lifeboats, the Gustloff shares a similar cautionary tale around its lifejackets.

Despite being ordered to keep their jackets on at all times, the sheer number of people on board led to cramped conditions and many took them off to be more comfortable, contributing to the massive loss of life when it sank.

The German Navy had also repainted her since her days as a hospital ship and did not record her as such, so she was not subject to international protections given to medical vessels.

She left port accompanied by another passenger liner, the Hansa, and two torpedo boats for protection, only for the Hansa and one of the escorts to suffer mechanical problems, greatly affecting her safety as she moved on.

Another factor in the disaster was a lack of direction from the four captains she was carrying – one who governed the Gustloff, two from the merchant navy and another from the U-boat division.

They all disagreed on how best to guard against submarine attacks and eventually the Gustloff’s captain – Friedrich Petersen, ignored military advice and sailed into deep water that was known to be clear of mines.

Petersen then activated the ship’s red and green navigation lights after receiving a radio message claiming a minesweeper convoy was approaching as a means to avoid collision, although it also made the ship an easy target to spot at night.

The sheer cold also played its part, freezing the submarine sensor aboard the escort boat meaning the Russian vessel could attack without warning.

It followed the Gustloff for two hours before surfacing to fire - with the third torpedo doing the most damage when it hit the engine room, leaving the ship powerless and without communications.

Freezing temperatures also meant only nine lifeboats could be lowered into the waters as the others had to be broken free from their restraints.

Twenty minutes after impact the ship started tilting to its port side, sending lifeboats on the starboard side crashing into the sea, destroying many.

German forces rushed to the scene of the attack and were able to rescue more than 900 people, including a baby.

An inquiry was subsequently launched into the conduct of survivor Wilhelm Zahn, the senior military officer on board who had advised Petersen not to go into deep water, but nothing ever came of it after the fall of the Nazi government at the end of the war.



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


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