Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Fudging" and treading on dangerous ground

"Fudging" is of course what the English do in order to avoid treading on dangerous ground but I have enough independence in me to be rather un-English about that. I mentioned yesterday some of the points made by Punditarian. One point I did not mention, however, was his comment about "fudging". He cautiously mentioned that Jews are rather good at that too. He must be Jewish as I cannot imagine a gentile daring to say so. It could feed the stereotype of Jews as being devious and dishonest.

So let me start out by saying that Australians do a bit of fudging too. And we even call it that. I imagine that fudging occurs from time to time in a lot of places. An essential point however is that British fudging is primarily used to avoid upsetting community or political applecarts. It is used to keep everyone involved reasonably happy. So whether Jews often do that sort of thing from time to time I will leave unanalysed. My point about the matter is that modern-day Jews certainly overlook large opportunities for doing so -- and overlook such opportunities at considerable loss. The example I gave of a way in which Jews could do some good British fudging still seems to me to be valuable: Jews could declare that fundamentalist Christians are after all just another Jewish sect. Like all fudges, that is only partly true but it would surely warm relationships greatly nonetheless. And the importance of warm relationships between modern day Christians and Jews was the whole point of everything I have recently written on the topic.

An omission:

I note that although I have defined "Jew" in what I think is the most reasonable way, I have not defined "English". As an academic, I see that as a regrettable omission and I think it may have led to some confusion. So: As with the Jews, a number of definitions are possible but not all are equally good. Some sort of rough racial description could perhaps be managed, for instance, but for my present purposes, all I need to do is to define the English as the LINGUISTIC group that first came to England c. 1500 years ago and who still live there in the persons of their descendants -- descendants who still speak an evolved version of the same language. That makes no racial claims and in fact what I say is heavily dependant on a cultural claim, as we will see in a moment.

And the descendants of the original German tribes of 1500 years ago have of course received heavy genetic input from other groups: Particularly the previous Celtic inhabiants of what was once Britannia and various Norse invaders (Danes and Norwegians). So racial purity is in their case, as usual, a fantasy. It is however true that the physical and cultural differences between the three major groups were slight so have left little difference that is now detectable.

What is important, however, is the large cultural change brought about by the last (Norman) invasion of England in 1066. Before that event England was getting invaded all the time, with the previous invasion being only a couple of weeks before, in fact. The Normans represented racial groups (Celts and Norse) that were already well represented in England so the change they brought was not a racial one. What the Norman rulers brought to England was a much larger and cannier political perspective and, for one reason or another (due in part, no doubt, to the Norman struggles for independance from France), that perspective hardened rapidly into the alliance-orientation that has characterized the English ever since. And so it still is. Tony Blair sent 15,000 British troops into Iraq not because Britain had been attacked but because America had been.

LOL: A school in Britain has banned the word "school" because it thinks that the word may have negative connotations

We read:
When is a school not a school? When it is "a place for learning". Watercliffe Meadow Primary in Sheffield has adopted the new phraseology because it thinks that the word school may have negative connotations for pupils and parents. Linda Kingdon, the head teacher, said that the change would bring the school (or place of learning) closer to real life. But critics condemned it as laughable political correctness.

Watercliffe Meadow is among scores of schools that are dropping the "S-word" from their titles to reflect their changing uses and trends in education. Ms Kingdon said that Watercliffe Meadow, which was formed from the merger of three schools, decided from an early stage not to use the word "school".

"This is Watercliffe Meadow, a place for learning. One reason was many of the parents of the children here had very negative connotations of school. Instead, we want this to a be a place for family learning, where anyone can come. We were able to start from scratch and create a new type of learning experience. There are no whistles or bells or locked doors. We wanted to deinstitutionalise the place and bring the school closer to real life," she said.

Richard Caborn, the local MP, is unimpressed. "I'm always open to new ideas, but the reality is education is about preparing young people to live in the real world," he said. "I just don't think the case has been made to drop the word school to a place of learning. I don't know why they have done it."

A spokeswoman for the Campaign for Plain English said that it was laughable. "This is the whole political correctness agenda. Using unfamiliar words instead of a simple one like `school', will get in the way of children's ability to learn," she said.

Andrew Sangar, Sheffield City Council's Cabinet member for children's services and lifelong learning, said that as far as he was concerned Watercliffe Meadow was a school and that was how the council would continue to refer to it....

Professor Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, said that dropping the word school was symptomatic of a reluctance to face up to hard truths. "Frankly, calling something a learning centre is likely to confuse parents and it rather diminishes the institution," he said.


Bell "problem" in British schools

What will British teachers find to whine about next?

School bells which ring too loudly could be damaging the hearing of pupils and staff, a teaching union has warned. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) claimed some schools were buying one very loud bell, instead of several smaller ones, to save money. It said while infrequent exposure was acceptable, repetitive and prolonged ringing could be harmful.

Jim Docherty, SSTA's acting general secretary, said new schools were among the worst offenders. He said: "Schools build under PPP/PFI arrangements are worse than many older schools. There has been a consistent failure to carry out adequate risk assessments, as required by the Health and Safety at Work act, in many schools. "Quite simply many of these schools have been built on a 'minimum cost' basis."

Mr Docherty called on local councils to address the issue. He said: "School authorities must recognise these concerns where they are expressed and act accordingly before the hearing of staff and students is damaged. "The result will inevitably be legal action against the authorities."


Detox diets are a 'nonsense', dieticians warn

Detox diets championed by celebrities including Carol Vorderman and Gillian McKeith are "nonsense" and a waste of money, dieticians have warned. The British Dietetic Association, which represents 6,000 dieticians across Britain, said that there was no "potion or lotion" which could "magically" rid the body of chemicals. The theory behind detox - that dangerous toxins build up in the body - was dismissed by the health experts, who said the body was constantly cleaning itself.

Thousands of slimmers are expected to try a detox diet in the next few weeks, spurred by guilt over heavy drinking and eating during the festive period. A wide range of different kits, including ready-prepared vitamin drinks and diet plans, are available on the high street and from specialist health shops. Vorderman launched her own range of detox books after losing weight and a detox plan is also sold as part of McKeith's health food range. They are based on the theory that chemicals and other pollutants remain in our bodies over time, causing health problems, and need to be removed. Dieters undergoing a detox are usually advised to cut out a wide range of "unhealthy" foods and supplement their diet with vitamin drinks.

But the BDA insists that there is no such toxic build-up, and branded the industry "pseudo scientific". Dr Frankie Phillips, a spokesperson for the BDA, said: "The whole idea of detox is nonsense. "The body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste from top to toe. "Skin, the gut and liver and kidneys are all chemically-controlled powerhouses that respond to signals in the form of, for example, hormones, to remove waste products - typically detoxifying the body constantly.

"There are no pills or specific drinks, patches or lotions that can do a magic job. "If you have over-indulged on alcohol, for example, the liver works hard to break down the alcohol into products it can remove. "Being well-hydrated is a sensible strategy. "It sounds predicable, but for the vast majority of people, a sensible diet and regular physical activity really are the only ways to properly protect your health for the year ahead."

The BDA warns that only eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids can help the bodies' natural cleansing system. The group recommends that New Year's diet resolutions include drinking enough fluids, around six to eight glasses a day is sufficient; keeping a diet diary; making small changes that will last, such as eating one extra portion of fruit or vegetables a day; and planning meals ahead. The BDA represents registered dietitians across Britain and two-thirds of its members are employed by the NHS.

Carol Vorderman, whose books include Detox for Life, said: "I've put everything I think about detoxes in my book and without seeing what the dieticians have written I can't make any further comment."


Britain shows that Leftist sex education does not work

Old fashioned approaches worked better

Affluent middle-class areas are experiencing the sharpest rises in teenagers giving birth, figures reveal. The number of teenaged mothers is rising in two out of three constituencies - and has almost tripled in some of the leafiest suburbs. Teenage maternity is also rising in two-thirds of the areas already worst affected, despite being targeted by Government policies to tackle the problem.

The damning statistics will further-undermine Labour's claims that is getting to grips with the issue through greater sex education and contraceptive use. Experts said young women are over-reliant on the morning-after pill or are having babies to copy so-called 'celebrity' pregnancies. They also claimed there is a growing distaste for abortion among well-off families.

Last month official figures showed a 2.7 per cent increase in the rate of under-18 pregnancies in England and Wales last year. Britain already has the highest teenage pregnancy levels in Europe. The latest figures uncovered by the Tories provide the first seat-byseat snapshot of the number of teenage girls giving birth. They show women aged under 20 gave birth to 42,300 babies in England and Wales in 2006.

The Nottingham suburb of Rushcliffe - whose MP is former Health Secretary Ken Clarke - saw the biggest increase in teenage births. In 2006, 44 teenagers gave birth compared with only 16 in 2002 - a rise of 175 per cent. Next on the list was the well-to-do West Yorkshire town of Pudsey, where the number of maternities to mothers aged under 20 rose from 26 to 60, or 130 per cent. And the leafy Surrey constituency of Epsom and Ewell saw a 113 per cent rise - from 15 to 32.

Other well-heeled areas which saw huge increases included Finchley and Golders Green in North London (81 per cent), Haltemprice and Howden in East Yorkshire (76 per cent), East Devon (75 per cent) and the affluent Cheshire seat of Altrincham and Sale West (73 per cent). The National Childbirth Trust wants schools to focus less on sex education and more on the realities of being a parent.

The Conservatives uncovered the figures from Parliamentary answers. Tory spokesman on children Tim Loughton said: 'Despite all the Government's smoke and mirrors on teenage pregnancy the fact is that in most parts of the country the situation is getting worse. 'Most of the areas that are already experiencing the biggest problems are seeing the number of teenage pregnancies rise.'

Former Tory frontbencher Ann Widdecombe said: 'Girls are increasingly sexually active and nobody is willing to tell them that they should not be. We are all afraid of being judgmental.' Norman Wells, director of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: 'The Government's emphasis on more sex education combined with the confidential provision of contraception and the morning-after pill is counterproductive. 'It is giving the green light to girls to embark on sexual relationships when they might otherwise have refrained from sexual activity.' Nadine Dorries, a pro-life Tory MP, said there was 'no doubt' that the figures reflected an increasing distaste for abortion among the middle classes.

A large number of the constituencies with the highest increases would traditionally be considered wellheeled areas. A significant proportion have Tory MPs - usually voted in by affluent voters in suburbia or the shires.


White working class feels ignored over immigration, says British Leftist boss

Communities secretary Hazel Blears says politicians need to reconnect with this group, as study shows resentment over impact of migration. As the name implies, the Labor party was once the party of the worker so it shows some glimmering of intelligence that someone in the party has rediscovered that group

Many white working-class people across the country feel their concerns about the impact of immigration are being ignored, according to the communities and local government secretary, Hazel Blears. Politicians need to start reconnecting with this group of people, Blears said today, as a study of attitudes to immigration was published finding a widespread sense of resentment, unfairness and disempowerment among white working-class communities in England. "White working-class people living on estates sometimes just don't feel anyone is listening or speaking up for them," Blears said. "Whilst they might not be experiencing the direct impact of migration, their fear of it is acute." It was the responsibility of politicians to challenge the myths about immigration spread by the far right, she said.

A report for the Department for Communities and Local Government based on interviews with people living on estates in Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Thetford, Runcorn and Widnes, found that some people believed that the same rules were not applied to everyone equally. Anecdotal evidence suggested many believed refugees and single mothers were more easily able to find a council house than working-class white people whose families had lived in the area for generations. People taking part in the focus groups said that when white people complained they were told that the system was fair and their concerns were racist.

Blears said that changes in communities could generate unease and uncertainty and needed explaining, otherwise the myths that currently surrounded the treatment of ethnic minorities "jumping the queue" would become harder to shift. The report found that some members of the white working class felt "betrayed" and believed politicians had washed their hands of them. A lack of "open and honest discussion" about the impact of immigration among politicians locally and nationally had created fertile ground for rumours spread by far-right groups about preferential treatment being given to ethnic minorities.

Blears warned that white people's concerns about the effects of immigration should not simply be branded "racist", as this would simply alienate them even more. Citing a "growing sense of unfairness and disempowerment among poor white people", the Communities and Local Government report found that hostility to immigrants was worst in the most deprived estates, as "people who have the least are more likely to be afraid of things being taken away from them".

Few of those questioned had frequent contact with people from ethnic minorities and few of them understood the idea of integration, the report said. Respondents found it difficult to speak openly about their concerns for fear of being branded racist or offending others. Blears said: "People who care about their communities and have lived there for generations have every right to ask questions about what is happening in their estate, street, neighbourhood. "We cannot allow people to exploit situations but where there are legitimate concerns or questions they should be able to express them without fear of being branded a racist when all they really want are answers or information. "The job of politicians and leaders is to listen and respond, to have the very debates that people in these estates are having or we risk losing touch with them altogether. "What the report shows is that there are real complexities around the perceptions held by the white working class and government is keen to look more closely at what can be done to ensure that grievances and misunderstandings are addressed."

A seminar is to be hosted by DCLG ministers in the coming weeks, bringing together government departments, councils and academics to look at how to "bridge the gap" between the authorities and the white working-class communities they serve.

In the past Blears has faced criticism for some of her remarks on immigration but the minister accused her political opponents of taking her comments out of context. Speaking later on the BBC's World at One programme, Blears admitted that the national housing shortage was at the heart of the problem. "People do want to see more housing in this country," she said. "That is a key problem that is causing a lot of the underlying tension with people. "When people have very little they feel insecure then you get myths and rumours peddled by those on the far right and that is what we are trying to prevent." Blears repeatedly dodged suggestions that councils should be instructed to give priority housing to local people but said plans to build more than 1 million new homes should ease the problem.

Labour MP Frank Field, co-chairman of the cross-party group on balanced migration, called on the government to address white working-class worries about immigration. He said: "Hazel Blears says that people on council estates feel ignored. That is exactly our point. And not only on council estates - 80% of the public want to see a substantial reduction in immigration, but the government refuses to address the issue. "No wonder people feel the government is riding roughshod over their wishes, and not only in the poorest areas, which are bearing the brunt of the present massive level of immigration. Unless further action is taken soon, immigration will add nearly 10 million to the population of England in the next 20 years. "If Labour wants to influence the outcome of the next general election, it had better start addressing white working-class concern about immigration, not simply reporting on it."

Responding to Blears's statement, Lady Warsi, the Tories' spokeswoman on community cohesion, said: "What an indictment of New Labour that they have to have an investigation to show that over the last 10 years they have completely lost touch with their so-called roots. "The danger for the rest of us is that this has now created a ticking time bomb of racial and class prejudice. "Amongst other things this has also demonstrated the dangers of Labour's past use of identity politics for electoral purposes. I do hope they take the right lessons from this and not use it as an excuse to go down the line of a new 'white relations industry' now to be built on yet another 'special needs identity'. "This should be a call to focus on the real core problems of worklessness, debt, welfare dependency, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse."


British birdwatcher makes fruitless journey to Norway only to find Arctic bird in her own garden

It goes with Britain's current episodes of of Arctic weather. See here

A birdwatcher who made a fruitless journey to Norway to see a rare snow bunting, returned home to Britain only to discover one of the species had landed on her garden fence. Janet Davies, 58, an amateur ornithologist, spent three weeks in the Arctic including a week in Spitzbergen hoping to catch sight of a snow bunting. She failed to see one of the distinctive birds but was startled when she returned to home in Helston, Cornwall, and found one in her garden.

She said: "It was an expensive trip. Organised birdwatching holidays can be pricey. "We were in Spitzbergen for a week but I never saw a snow bunting and it is one of the birds I wanted to see most. "It never happened and I thought it would be the one that got away and I would never cross it off my list. "But then lo and behold one shows up in my back garden in Cornwall. I looked out of my window and there it was. The odds of it happening and showing up in a birdwatcher's back garden must be huge. It must have been blown off course. Sightings of them in Britain are few and far between."

Mrs Davies, a community carer, added that the bunting arrived in her garden on Sunday and was mixing with some chaffinches. "I feed wild bird seed to them and the snow bunting is quite happily eating it from the ground." She said it was believed to be a female. "It is different from North American species because it has not got the brown back. It is totally white on its upper shoulders and back. We think it is female because of its brown head and speckled buff breast. That would be the winter plumage of the female." Mrs Davies added: "It is about the size of a plump chaffinch or sparrow. Its colour is beautiful and when it flies it stands out. I worry it might be in danger from predators because it is so conspicuous. I have put out extra seed for it."

She joked: "I am hoping to go Antarctica when I retire and when I get back I am half expecting a penguin to show up at the back door." Snow buntings, which have striking 'snowy' plumages, are normally found in Scandinavia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. They are only occasionally seen in Scotland and eastern England.


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