Prison officers: our finest public servants

31 08 2007

Theodore Dalrymple in The London Times

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the prison officers were the only public servants left in Britain who had any real sense of public duty. Given the choice – not that I would want it – between a world run by the Prison Officers’ Association and one run by the Home Office, I would choose the former any day of the week. To begin with, the prison officers are much more intelligent than the Home Office.

The prison officers still have the esprit de corps that the Government has made it its business to destroy in the NHS, the police, the schools and the universities. I remember an officer, a very mild-mannered man, approaching retirement, who had had to intervene in a fight between two gangs in the prison and had got a black eye for his trouble, as well several other injuries. He came back to work the next day and he said to me: “I’ve been in the service 30 years, and I’ve only been assaulted three times. I don’t call that bad, do you?” I did not find this spirit to be untypical, but I didn’t find it very often elsewhere.

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Is stealing wireless wrong?

23 08 2007

stealing wireless

Finlo Rohrer in BBC News Magazine

But if it can be interpreted as illegal, can it be truly said to be immoral?

Heavy downloading might affect the unsecured person’s speed of access or download limit, but a use like checking an e-mail is hardly likely to be noticed. Most “victims” will suffer no loss.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, says with technology moving rapidly, socially-accepted moral positions can be slow to solidify.

“I haven’t thought about it. I’m not sure anybody has. It might be one of those areas where cultural norms haven’t evolved or stabilised yet. It’s so new it’s not clear whether it’s stealing or not. And sometimes the law trails public norms.

“If you steal a silver Mont Blanc pen it’s theft but if it’s an ordinary ballpoint pen or a pencil it is assumed you can take it.

“In the olden days people had norms about whether you were able to pick apples from someone else’s tree. Perhaps it’s OK if the branches hang over the road, but not from inside their garden. You have generally shared expectations.”

More here.

Let’s not cower from the hard truth about race and IQ

16 08 2007

students classroom

Matthew Syed in The London Times

The reluctance of liberals to engage in real debate has left the impression that there is an inconvenient truth about IQ differences that is being suppressed by political correctness. This has bolstered the phenomenon of black skin being used subconsciously as an information-bearing trait, so that blacks are judged as a group rather than as individuals. This has prejudiced blacks in finding jobs and amounts to de facto affirmative action for whites.

The unwillingness to engage with the IQ controversy is based upon the fear that an exclusively environmental explanation is difficult to sustain. It is generally accepted that the variation in IQ within the white population is largely heritable, as is the variation within the black population. But if white-white and black-black IQ differences are predominantly heritable, how could it be that the black-white difference is exclusively environmental? This argument was first put by Arthur Jensen in 1969 in his seminal paper, How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?

But it rests upon a confusion. To see how, imagine a sack of genetically diverse seed that is randomly divided into two bunches. Bunch A is grown in a field with good lighting and Bunch B in a field with poor lighting. The differences in height between the seedlings in Bunch A will be exclusively genetic since they have all been subjected to the same environment. The same is true of Bunch B. But the difference in the average height between Bunch A and Bunch B is exclusively environmental � caused by the difference in lighting conditions.

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Why Aren’t U.S. Cities Burning?

2 08 2007

Michael B. Katz in Dissent

The summer of 2007 marks the fortieth anniversary of America’s worst season of urban disorder. The most famous riots happened in Newark and Detroit. But “nearly 150 cities reported disorders in Negro—and in some instances Puerto Rican—neighborhoods,” reported the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Today, the most intriguing question is not why the riots occurred but why they have not recurred. With the exception of Liberty City, Miami, in 1980, and South-central Los Angeles in 1992, American cities have not burned since the early 1970s. Even the botched response to Hurricane Katrina did not provoke civil violence.

The question becomes all the more intriguing in light of October 2005, when riots erupted in at least three hundred cities and towns across France. They were the worst France had experienced since 1968. Mass joblessness, isolation in ethnic ghettos, and cultural discrimination fueled anger at the police, which erupted after two teenagers of North African and Malian origins were electrocuted as they climbed a fence to escape what they believed to be police pursuit.

As in France, immigrants are transforming U.S. cities, which, already highly segregated by race, contain zones of exclusion characterized by poverty and joblessness. But American cities do not burn. Urban violence has not disappeared; it has been transformed. Anger and frustration turn inward, exploding in gang warfare, homicide, and random killing in drive-by shootings. But civil violence—burning, looting, sniping at police—actions aimed largely at symbols and agents of exclusion and exploitation remain part of urban history, not live possibilities in the urban present. What accounts for the absence of civil violence on American streets?

The question is puzzling because many of the conditions thought to have precipitated the eruption of civil violence in the 1960s either persist or have grown worse. Nationally, after the Second World War, income inequality decreased until 1973, when it swung upward. Even worse, the proportion of African American men out of the regular labor force rose sharply. The number incarcerated skyrocketed. On any given day, one of three black men age twenty to twenty-nine was either in jail or on probation or parole. Nor did allegations of police violence disappear. Police departments professionalized, waves of reform swept across urban schools, job training programs proliferated, new government incentives promised to recreate markets in inner cities. But city schools by and large continued to fail; the homeless haunted city streets; most public housing, when it was available, was awful; the police were still problematic; chronic joblessness increased; and inner cities remained bleak.

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Who are the war agitators?

27 07 2007

On September 11th 1941, Charles Lindbergh delivered this speech at the America First Committee’s rally in Des Moines.

It is now two years since this latest European war began. From that day in September, 1939, until the present moment, there has been an over-increasing effort to force the United States into the conflict.

That effort has been carried on by foreign interests, and by a small minority of our own people; but it has been so successful that, today, our country stands on the verge of war.

At this time, as the war is about to enter its third winter, it seems appropriate to review the circumstances that have led us to our present position. Why are we on the verge of war? Was it necessary for us to become so deeply involved? Who is responsible for changing our national policy from one of neutrality and independence to one of entanglement in European affairs?

Personally, I believe there is no better argument against our intervention than a study of the causes and developments of the present war. I have often said that if the true facts and issues were placed before the American people, there would be no danger of our involvement.

Here, I would like to point out to you a fundamental difference between the groups who advocate foreign war, and those who believe in an independent destiny for America.

If you will look back over the record, you will find that those of us who oppose intervention have constantly tried to clarify facts and issues; while the interventionists have tried to hide facts and confuse issues.

We ask you to read what we said last month, last year, and even before the war began. Our record is open and clear, and we are proud of it.

We have not led you on by subterfuge and propaganda. We have not resorted to steps short of anything, in order to take the American people where they did not want to go.

What we said before the elections, we say [illegible] and again, and again today. And we will not tell you tomorrow that it was just campaign oratory. Have you ever heard an interventionist, or a British agent, or a member of the administration in Washington ask you to go back and study a record of what they have said since the war started? Are their self-styled defenders of democracy willing to put the issue of war to a vote of our people? Do you find these crusaders for foreign freedom of speech, or the removal of censorship here in our own country?

The subterfuge and propaganda that exists in our country is obvious on every side. Tonight, I shall try to pierce through a portion of it, to the naked facts which lie beneath.

Full transcript of the speech here.

In the Heart of Freedom, in Chains

26 07 2007

Myron Magnet in City Journal

Even for the clear-sighted, that reality takes an effort to discern, because we see the world not in an unmediated way but through the prism of our culture (and even of our class or subgroup), which can both clarify and distort. In the act of observing, we also interpret and judge, according to the terms of our culture’s values, morals, and manners. Our power of reason has limits, so that we have to depend on aid from education, tradition, belief, on what Edmund Burke called “prejudice”—again, all products of culture, built up from the inherited wisdom and experience and sometimes superstition of mankind.

Critical reason’s task is to peer through the cultural web in which we are enmeshed to perceive clearly the reality that actually exists, including the man-made reality of the social order, whose terms give our lives meaning. We have to question our culturally created assumptions to clear away attitudinizing or propaganda or superstitious prejudice. But the professors sidestep this challenge, simplifying and flattening these complex truths about culture and consciousness. They reach the false conclusion that all descriptions of society and our nature are not just colored or refracted by our cultural assumptions but are mere propaganda, aimed at convincing others that the world is as our class or subgroup wishes it to be. Moreover, since the profs believe that not just the social order but also what we take to be “human nature” is man-made, whoever wins the propaganda battle gets to mold society and human nature—human reality itself—into the shape he chooses.

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Bollox to Begorrah

25 07 2007

Max McGuiness in The Dubliner

“Let’s celebrate the fact that Dublin is turning into a bland metropolis. Why? The alternative is insufferable.”

The good old days, the rare old times (note how the past is always a hostage to cliché) may have something to be said for them: no traffic (for those who had cars), the odd bit of shelling and shooting during the Tens and Twenties but little enough crime afterwards. No fake tan. No “Amanda from PR.”

But the real problem arises when, faced with the vacuity of the present, we start trying to fill this void with rehashed junk from the past. Nostalgia is poisonous. For the past is another country and when we try to go there, we wind up in a cultural Albania. Dublin, and Ireland generally, is littered with tasteless monuments to years gone by (there we go again) – hideous statues of Molly Malone, Phil Lynott and James Joyce. A starred distinction for excellence in the field of self-pity and self-congratulation must go to those responsible for erecting famine-stalked bronze beanpoles alongside the shimmering moolah pit of the IFSC.

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