31st May, 2007
30th May, 2007
Last week the Euston Manifesto group held a debate titled ‘Terror and Liberalism’ at the Houses of Parliament. Among those participating where Reem Maghribi of Sharq Magazineand Imran Ahmad, author of ‘Unimagined: a Muslim boy meets the West’ and board member of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
In the subsequent debate on Harry’s Place, some commenters accused Imran Ahmad of being an ‘Uncle Tom’. Yes, it’s getting quite typical for some on the left who can’t stand it when a brown person does not fall for their agenda.
Anyway, Imran wrote a forceful reply in the comments [hat tip: Sid] and we publish that here with his consent. It’s worth reading.
29th May, 2007
Tory blogger Iain Dale is rather put out that Greenpeace don’t want to come on and debate that eminent of scientists Dominic Lawson (I’m being sarcastic, he’s a former newspaper editor) on 18 Doughty Street. Not that Iain is annoyed or anything, he only labels them ‘enviro-fascists’. What do they say about the first person in a debate who uses the word fascist? Not that he’s alone of course… this fervent Dale supporter calls them ‘environazis’. I should rest my case, but I digress.
I suspect Iain Dale and others on the typical Tory right have missed the point entirely. I alluded to this point last year in the death of debate on CIF: the view taken by some producers that they can have a ‘balanced’ discussion by inviting two completely opposing viewpoints and watching the sparks fly. Looks like Doughty Street might be going down the same route.
The reason why Greenpeace is right in avoiding such programmes with such participants is because it gives the false impression that there is still a debate to be had and that it could go either way. No. When 90% of the evidence supports one position then such a ‘balanced debate’ only creates a false impression. Other than in the world of loons such as Melanie Phillips, another eminent scientist, most people have slowly woken up to the fact that we have gone past climate change to global warming and that it is mostly a man-made phenomena. That Channel 4 airs unadulterated rubbish such as The Great Climate Change Swindle doesn’t change anything.
In fact there is so much disinformation out there that New Scientist has an extensive section dedicated just to rebutting those idiotic conspiracy theories. Anyone still willing to believe this is all a myth quite rightly deserves to be ignored by charity workers who have better things to do with their time.
You probably read all this in the paper, but I thought it’s worth highlighting for a chortle. A recent Expedia survey asked 15,000 European hoteliers some questions. According to them:
Brits have improved their rep, being voted the fifth worst nation of tourists (we won easily the last time round).
We are the second worst dressed tourists, after the Yanks.
Brits are the fifth worst tippers but the third biggest spenders (1. Americans, 2. Russians). The most miserly are the Germans.
The new Lonely Planet Guide to the UK says Britons love reading news about famous people “even though their ‘celebrity’ status is based on little more than the ability to sing a jolly tune, look good in tight trousers or kick a ball in the right direction”.
This was sent to me by Abortion Rights.
On 5th June, Ann Winterton will table a Ten Minute Rule Bill to impose mandatory counselling on women seeking an abortion (see text below). This is a condescending, cynical attempt to chip away at women’s abortion rights that will lead to further delays in service provision.
This is the third anti-choice Bill in less than a year. The other two were successfully defeated thanks to our combined and sustained lobbying efforts. Please contact your MP today and urge them to vote against this Bill.
More on their website on how you can lobby your MP with sample letters.
As a side note, Donald wrote a good article on abortion for The Sharpener last year which is worth reading. I’m pro-choice so there’s no point trying to convince me otherwise.
28th May, 2007
Apologies I meant to point this out last week. In this thread I questioned the attention given to ‘institutional racism’ as a concept let alone a problem; to me it is as absurd a statement to make as ‘political correctness gone mad’. The danger with resorting to labels to define problems rather than honestly examining the issues at hand is you may end up doing more harm than good. Newsnight covered the issue of ‘institutional racism and mental health’ and its well worth a look.
“He was really at risk getting hurt because of the illness that he had, and the tribunal discharged him”, she says. “I don’t know what was going on in their minds other than they were too scared of thinking that they might be being racist towards him.”
Dr Smith, herself a black woman, believes psychiatry needs to focus less on internal racism and more on helping deal with the real causes of mental illness out in the community.
“Let’s do something about those factors that increase the likelihood of people becoming unwell in this way,” she says. “Let’s do something about that.”
Thats pretty much the same sentiment I was trying to raise with my example of a girl crying in despair at Heathrow.
Sunny adds: Benedict had something interesting on this recently too.
Hugo Chavez has, rightly or wrongly, become something of a cult figure amongst those who enjoy watching Bush squirm with a thorn in his side. However, whilst we can all take pleasure in Bush’s misfortune, judging Chavez and his premiereship in Venezuela objectively is something quite separate.
It has been Venezuela’s media that has been making the world media as of late. Thousands took to the streets yesterday to protest the enforced closure of Venezuela’s oldest and most-watched TV station, Radio Caracas TV. It has been replaced by a state-endorsed station, TVES, which supports Chavez’s socialist revolution.
In an emotional close to the station’s broadcast the staff chanted “freedom” and spent their final moments on air in silent prayer, before signing out with the national anthem. Prior to this, presenters and crew alike highlighted their plight by sealing their mouths with tape in protest at an attack on their freedom of speech.
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make it law that food manufactured in the UK must state if it is not suitable for vegetarians.”
Sign it dammit.
26th May, 2007
Batman ultimately represents the capitalist view of society and inherent in its storyline are not only the fears of the bourgeoisies but their anger for humanity itself. Its protagonist Bruce Wayne grew up in an idealised childhood filled with any whim he desired being catered to until one day his ‘perfect’ family was torn apart during a street robbery that cost the life of his parents. Eternally enraged by this our billionaire playboy ‘hero’ sets out on a quest of never-ending vengeance against the hated criminals of Gotham City. America supports this man as a force of good against evil.
The bourgeois man has always had a schizophrenic attitude to the proletariat. The underclass are needed to work the factories and houses of merchants, but they are also to be feared as wild lustful creatures ever on the edge of anarchy. The megalomaniac tendencies of the bourgeois man leads him to rage at the disorder of the universe; he sits in his highly fortified palace with its perfectly manicured lawns impotent to truly control life outside his fiefdom. How dare the filthy underclass behave in such a manner. He is perpetually fearful to walk the streets at night as the unthinking psychopathic mob are sure to rob, rape and kill him in their drug filled haze. Driven to the point of mania by his inability to deal with the exploitive-symbiotic nature of his society he organises state and private terror on the proletariat. Police forces and private security organisations are set up to both guard him and keep a revolution from occurring.
Bruce Wayne represents the pinnacle of what the bourgeois would consider Ãœbermensch. A billionaire industrialist and playboy he makes his money by exploiting the working class before sleeping with as many rich ‘it girl’ whores as he can. The holy trinity of money, power and sex are thus complete. If that were all there was to the story of Batman, his comics would never be a success. Our ‘hero’ must be a given raison d’etre in our make believe world; so that most primordial fear in the upper-classes is brought up. His family were unjustifiably murdered by the unthinking psychopathic proles. What’s worse is this happened during his childhood, and childhood for the bourgeoisies is sacrosanct as is represents a time when the true reality of proletariat society was unknown to them.
The implications of this are so profound for our bourgeois hero that he dedicates his life to fighting the underclass. Completely unwilling to empathise with his fellow man he sets out for the complete domination of the working class. He exploits them by day, and using his ill gotten gains, beats the shit out of them at night with elaborate weapons. He is the prefect man. Rich. Successful. Virile. Physically capable. His own private security and police force. He can walk wherever he pleases whenever pleases. The master of his universe. Obviously however he must cover up his face at night for fear the revolution will occur in his factory in the morning. His vigilantism is expensive and he cannot afford his identity to become known to his workers.
The humanity of the proletariat in all this is obviously missing. We are never given a reason Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed other than notions of total anarchy. No storyline exists where the robbers needed to buy over-expensive medication for their sick children, or about how working 18hours a day in Wayne Industry factories wasn’t enough to pay bills. Bruce Wayne never attempts to fight the causes of crime because he doesn’t care about the causes of crime. His arch-nemesis The Joker isn’t given a definitive storyline detailing why exactly he became a psychopathic murderer because ultimately we aren’t meant to care â€“ he is just representative of the unthinking violence on the streets. We are never meant to question why his followers would even choose to work for psychopathic murder; though perhaps their choice to work for the Joker rather than Bruce Wayne tells us everything we need to know.
Instead of ‘combating’ such outlandish ideas as insufficient education, social exclusion, poverty, violence in the home or poor role models our billionaire playboy hero decides to dress up as a bat and kick the crap out of law breakers.
**Edited somewhat since original posting.**
As everyone probably knows, Rachel North has been the victim of a long-running and concentrated harassment campaign at the hands of someone called Felicity Jane Lowde, better known as FJL. FJL was convicted of harassment at Stratford Magistrates’ Court a few weeks ago. She is now illegally at large in London, with a warrant out for her arrest. Rachel would quite like it if anyone who sees her could report it to the police so that she can be arrested and sentenced and stop harassing Rachel and perhaps get some of the help that she so obviously needs. If you live in London or Oxford, which is where she is from, there is a possibility that you or someone you know may have seen her, especially if you use internet cafes.
Read about the harassment, the trial, where FJL might be hanging out and what to do if you think you’ve seen her here.
25th May, 2007
No work today, no work on Monday unless you do an important job. I could have told you years ago that all that study wouldn’t get you anywhere. Mind you your parents probably think very highly of you which must be nice, judging from my inbox, mine presently wish I’d disappeared on holiday years ago. I am trying to be sympathetic to their position but I’ve been alive 32 years -get over it.
Anyway whilst I plot something to get them really angry, let’s have your weekend plans. Is anyone going fishing? I’ve always imagined that would be rather restful. I’ve got my eye on some lurid paints at the moment. The truth is I have no talent for art or anything else but I quite fancy knocking out a couple of brightly coloured abstract paintings for the hell of it.
I’ve been having a good chuckle over the end of the worlds most tedious relationship. I’m afraid I blame both of them but her slightly more. Though that may be more to do with a hatred of neurotic women than anything else.
What else am I up to. Drinking red wine, footering with various fortune telling bits and bobs, smoking, looking out the window and maybe a short stroll at some point. What a fascinating life I lead.
So over to you. Let’s have funny stuff, exciting plans and for some reason I quite fancy hearing some mother-in-law jokes.
This might be a useful media for many small organisations and companies. The Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum had a problem: that refugees and asylum seekers mostly get terrible coverage in the press. So they actively set about to change that and conceived a media strategy with help from ICAR.
Given that trying to get positive media coverage about asylum seekers and refugees is a difficult task in our media climate, their report on the experience is very interesting. It also has a section on ‘guidance for dealing with the media’. I’m sure some of our readers would find that helpful.
Today the Conservative party has sent out a series of announcements around overseas marriages, aimed to end forced marriages. I think some are good and some miss the mark slightly.
Child pornography is one of the greatest taboos of our time. Infact its possibly the greatest. It may be vile but it is still legal to possess and distribute images or digital recordings of beheadings and war. I can’t think of a single politician who has called for possession of the Nick Berg execution to be made illegal. We may rightly be repulsed by the events that occurred, but we don’t accuse anyone in possession of that footage for being the executioner by proxy.
On the other hand there seems to be an entrenched inability to be rational about images that contain child abuse. The main reasons given for banning child abuse images are that it desensitizes the viewer to the point they become an abuser, and it encourages further abuse as a result of which you are in essence abusing by proxy. Both those arguments are essentially about condoning thought crimes.
It has been argued repeatedly that viewing violent computer games or movies encourages violent behaviour without there being conclusive evidence to support that. At the most you may become desensitized to what you see, but that doesn’t make you mimic what’s on the screen. If there was a simple casual link between viewing images and repeating behaviour the highest correlation between those who saw the images and abused children would be with the police officers who investigate the images. I don’t believe any such casual link exists and it is quite frankly absurd for anyone to suggest that viewing a naked image of a child is more likely to make me a rapist.
Similarly I can’t extend that argument to suggest that if more people were to view abuse images more abuse would occur to ‘fill a demand’. As an analogy despite numerous ‘beheading videos’ being produced there hasn’t been a demonstrable increase in beheadings occurring in other parts of the world. There hasn’t been a greater desire for ‘snuff’ movies simply because someone logged onto liveleak. It is one of the ironies of our time that we can accuse someone of being an ‘abuser by proxy’ for possessing a picture depicting the rape of a child yet if that child had been decapitated by a bomb or beheaded by a terrorist we’d never think of inflicting the same ‘thought crime’. This is before we even consider the actions of photojournalists.
One of the most laughable aspects of this hysteria is the fact it is illegal to possess an ‘indecent image’ of a 16 year old yet it is perfectly legal to have sex with them. Regardless of what justification you want to use to support these laws, I’ll leave you with this. There is no Statute of limitations on child pornography. Quite simply you are not only held responsible for something you did not do, you are held responsible even if it occurred before your birth. It is brutal and absurd to suggest anyone born today is responsible for the worst images that were apparently produced decades ago. I simply cannot justify that a person who is born 20 years from now could be held culpable for a rape that occurred 20 years ago.
The rape or execution of any individual are grotesque acts that should be punished, but unless we start to question laws that hold us accountable for merely possessing documentary evidence of something we didn’t do we risk going down an ill-thought out road where horribly injust decisions are supported.
24th May, 2007
There was always a degree of certainty about amending that most hated of laws – the Human Rights Act; it was always just a question of what angle would be used to justify it. It looks like we have an answer. The thing that immediately struck me about these ‘terror suspects’ was that, well, they don’t want to kill anyone in Britain. They apparently don’t want to blow up any nightclubs here, they just want to fight the forces of those that illegally started a war in a foreign land. In any other circumstance they’d be labelled ‘freedom fighters’ Obviously since they wish to fight against us in our illegal war, they’re hateful terrorists bent on a path of ill-thought destruction.
There is such a chasm between me and anyone who wants to repeal a law that protects them from the state, then I’m not quite sure what to say other than you are a cuckold. If you honestly think laws designed around human rights are an inherently bad thing so be it.
But let’s stop any pretense of fighting for the greater good in far off lands. To paraphrase what I’ve said in other threads: the way those of us in this ‘War on Terror’ are behaving towards anyone that dissents is as bad as the “evil states” we fight. We and the Americans may not abuse the liberty of as many people as Iran but we cannot deny the abuse itself. The Great British Public may as well torch the parliment and let the government issue a fire decree. I hope anyone who agrees with concepts like ‘house arrest’ have the intellectual honesty not to criticise the detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Al Gore, the man who would be President once upon a time, has a new book out this week ‘The Assault on Reason‘, it’s previewed in the Guardian today. Itâ€™s a remarkably strong damnation of President Bush and his time in office and looks like it could be a good read. It could also easily be read as the beginning of a manifesto for his Presidential candidacyâ€¦
Obama and Clinton watch out, if he decides to run the best you can hope for is the Vice Presidency!
The pursuit of “dominance” in foreign policy led the Bush administration to ignore the UN, to do serious damage to our most important alliances, to violate international law, and to cultivate the hatred and contempt of many in the rest of the world. The seductive appeal of exercising unconstrained unilateral power led this president to interpret his powers under the constitution in a way that brought to life the worst nightmare of the founders.
Any policy based on domination of the rest of the world not only creates enemies for the US and recruits for al-Qaida, but also undermines the international cooperation that is essential to defeating terrorists who wish to harm and intimidate America. [Via The Guardian]
Well. The sh!t has hit the fan now. Today the Ofcom report into Channel 4′s Big Brother race row came out. And guess what it turns out – that Channel 4 didn’t tell us about a secret game of limerick being played at night and denied there was any racism going on in the house.
Ofcom has released a transcript of the racial incidents inside the house. This was the transcript of what they didn’t play or acknowledge.
23rd May, 2007
Professor Tariq Modood has a new book out: Multiculturalism: A Civic Idea, is published this week. He is a defender of government-led multiculturalism of course, but in his latest book he goes further and says that perhaps ‘Britishness’, i.e. a national identity, is a good idea. An article in the Guardian yesterday was a bit short.
You can read an extended version on openDemocracy.net. They asked me to write a 500-word reponse to Prof. Modood’s article, which you can read here. That page also has responses by other well known commentators.
Rachel North writes:
â€œLast night I saw the film Taking Liberties on the big screen for the first time, (it was the cast and crew screening) and it was excellent. Funny, moving, infuriating, and best of all, it gives people things to do at the end of it. The film, which is released on June 8th, tells the stories of dozens of ordinary people. Grandmothers, teenagers, war veterans, writers, chefs, comedians, protesters, and ordinary people from across the political spectrum – all caught up in the storm. There are contributions from Tony Benn, Henry Porter, Boris Johnson, Shami Chakrabarti, Walter Wolfgang, and many more.
Many of the featured stories leave you shaking your head in disbelief. But it’s all frighteningly true, and the point is that these people’s stories could be anyone’s stories. Taking Liberties makes it clear how desperately important this issue of balancing our freedom with managing our fear is, for all of us. The right not to be detained without trial, the right to peaceful protest, the right to privacy, to trial by jury, the right not to be tortured, and many other crucial rights that we have all taken for granted for years are being whittled away, and if we don’t protest, and stop it, it will soon be too late. And we will wake up to find we have set the apparatus in place for a very different Britain under a very different type of leader.â€
The YouTube trailer is here, and here is the official website. This sounds like the making of a good Pickled Politics meet, whoâ€™s up for seeing this?
Update: The film is being shown at all Picturehouse cinemas and if it does well in its first weekend (thanks for the tip from Rachel in the comments) it’ll encourage take up elsewhere.
This is the question I have been pondering for the past few weeks and doing intense ‘research’ on. Which, erm, mostly involves trying to become ‘friends’ with any MPs and trying to see what messages they send out. There are of course lots of political groups on Facebook too but I haven’t see anything innovative yet.
Facebook has enjoyed huge growth in popularity in the past six months and now has more than 3.5 million users in the UK. Londoners make up the social networking website’s second largest regional user group worldwide, with around 450,000 in the capital.
Figures compiled by comScore for MediaGuardian.co.uk showed a steady increase in UK unique users up to just over 500,000 in October 2006. But since then UK user numbers have rocketed, to 1.35 million in December and 2.67 million in March. By the end of April, comScore estimates Facebook was being used by an estimated 3.69 million people in the UK. [Media Guardian]
Anyone is also welcome to join our PickledPolitics group.
[edit: reference taken out due to work considerations]
Yesterday evening I attended a talk at the House of Commons organised by the Conservatives Women’s Muslim Group with vice-president Sayeeda Warsi and Jasvinder Sanghera (of women’s group Karma Nirvana) speaking. It was a good event, primarily focused on forced marriages and what to do about them. [thanks to Ellee Seymour for the tip].
Sayeeda swore me not to blog about it so I shall reluctantly stick to my promise. But I will say that the Conservatives are finally making some moves on the issue and some announcements will be made this Friday. She also said that while Labour has made good progress on minority women issues in the past, they have dragged their feet over the last few years. I agree. Notice how Blair made a rash of announcements about supporting the FM bill and raising the age for women to be allowed to sponsor spouses from abroad in the last months of his reign.
Not that the Conservatives made much noise about these issues in the past but at least they are catching up. It is even better that Asian politicians themselves are raising and pushing this issue. Let’s see what Friday brings.
22nd May, 2007
Looks like Hizb ut-Tahrir are organising a protest on June 15th outside Downing Street (like they’ll get that far) and calling it British Oppression. Apparently man made law is a problem going by their website. Interestingly it has no information about who is organising the event but given the flyer talks about re-estabilishing the Khalifah and mentions ‘man made law’, it only points to one group. Let’s see who else jumps on this bandwagon.
21st May, 2007
Tory peers will today try to block controversial legislation exempting MPs from the Freedom of Information Act, David Cameron said today. Speaking at a news conference in London, the Conservative leader said his party was not prepared to support the bill in its current form in the upper chamber. [The Guardian]
This is good news. Tory peer Lord Lucas’ blog is worth watching for updates too. Gordon Brown has also decided it would be a good idea to intervene and now says he wants to ensure MPs are not exempted from enquiries about their expenses.
…thought I’d see the day Soumaya Ghannoushi refuting Hizb ut-Tahrir’s warped ideas openly. “I am often amused to hear Hizb’s members analyse international politics,” she says. True, but on a scale only slightly more than Ms ‘imperialism is to blame for everything’ Ghannoushi herself. Anyway, credit where it’s due.
Also worth reading is Zia Haider Rahman’s thought-provoking (as usual) article today.
Margaret Hodge is a typical example of why the Labour party is going to the wall and losing all its ideals in favour of cheap tabloid soundbites. Writing in the Observer yesterday she said in essence that ‘indigenous’ Britons should have preference over housing compared to migrants. This means we move away from a policy based according to need, to one based according to people’s race or nationality (let’s face it NI contributions mean nothing).
There are two reasons why such a policy is now inevitable: (a) providing housing to asylum seekers is constantly used by the BNP for their own electoral campaigning and is a big source of resentment; (b) Labour has invested so little in new housing stock that such shortages and the vicious fight over them are inevitable. But here lie clues as to why Margaret Hodge is such a disgrace to the Labour party.
In an article for CIF last year I said this:
Let’s take Margaret Hodge’s pitiful outburst on Sunday. Among other things, she said: “They can’t get a home for their children; they see black and ethnic minority communities moving in and they are angry.”
I thought that was amusing. Last year the BNP started circulating leaflets in Margaret Hodge’s area with spurious claims that Africans were being paid Â£50,000 to move into the area. Sitting on a huge majority at the time, Labour did very little to counter these claims and was accused of ignoring working-class concerns by its own constituents. A few months later when the BNP failed to get anywhere in a local byelection, Hodge said: “It is a great result. The people of Barking have resoundingly rejected the BNP’s message of hatred and division.” Now she has clearly changed her tune.
The same applies to the East End, as we pointed out on PP a few weeks ago. The narrative that whites were ignored in favour of Bangladeshi immigrants who got housing without any fuss does not provide the whole picture.
In other words Margaret Hodge cannot muster up the courage to confront BNP lies about housing being allocated to migrants or asylum seekers. Instead she is happy to change a policy that, in all likelihood is unlikely to make much difference. The BNP are not going to stop spreading lies tomorrow and neither are housing shortages going to stop people from blaming asylum seekers for New Labour incompetence. But are there any Labour politicians willing to openly challenge the BNP and the Daily Hate tabloid agenda with the real picture? Apart from Jon Cruddas and John Denham I can’t think of anyone. It’s a sad state of affairs and Margaret Hodge only confirms her unsuitability as a Labour politician.
Update: More from Obsolete and Blood & Treasure.
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For some inexplicable reason I’ve always had a soft spot for Gordon Brown despite signs and warnings by others that he is more Blairite than Blair himself. Whatever you say about him though he is a very good politician. As Daniel Finkelstein pointed out recently:
Thirteen years ago Gordon Brown was passed over for the leadership because he wasn’t as suitable for the office as one of his rivals. Now he will take the post after all. To do this he had to remain a credible contender for thirteen years, retain the respect of party and media for that entire period, build a group of supporters who would stick with him, deter any potentially popular rival from standing against him and both seduce and frighten the leader into leaving him at the Treasury. He then had to push out the incumbent earlier than he wanted to go, while still keeping him onside in the forthcoming leadership campaign.
Yup, quite an achievement regardless of all the jibes thrown at him. In my eyes his worst sin so far is his close relationship with the Daily Mail. Yesterday Tim Worstall took apart their appalling hatchet job on blogger Owen Barder, demonstrating once again why they are “a bunch of f*cking tw@ts“. Anyway, I digress.
My feeling is that Brown hasn’t really expanded on any of his policies because he wants to make sure no one will steal them from him. He is clever enough to know that in his first 100 days he has to unleash a tornado of new and interesting policies so people not only seperate him from Tony Blair, but want go give him the chance to carry them through at the next General Election. And he isn’t likely to let anyone steal the thunder on those ideas. The Conservatives will not know what hit them.
The only question is: will he go far enough? Is he willing to push the boat out on what people want: more government transparency; accountability; rolling back the attack on our civil liberties; distancing himself from the neo-cons and attaching himself to the ascending Democrats. That is in addition to sorting out the NHS, housing, crime and immigration mess. But to sort that he’ll have to shoot half the cabinet. He could fire them I guess but I’d prefer the first option. Especially for John Reid. I jest. Somewhat. Anyway, I’m firmly in the Gordon Brown camp for now.