31st July, 2007
I came across a small article in this weekend’s Sunday Times and thought and nearly choked on my morning muesli. The government is planning to change legislation to allow charities to ‘become political’. In other words they can make political activity their dominant work if they wish, being currently restricted from any political activity at all.
If I was an activist I’d be creaming myself. In fact, for reasons that will soon eventually become clear, I am creaming myself over this.
1) It would allow major charities to lobby, campaign against or support politicians. Of course it would be beneficial to think-tanks like the Smith Institute, which the Tories are worried about, but this is being short-sighted. Imagine if major memberships groups like Greenpeace or the RSPCA started flexing their muscles and sent their members a rate card of how local politicians did on particular issues? Imagine the bargaining power. The Green Party could set up an alliance with WWF / Greenpeace etc for example and become a serious player.
2) Inevitably this would go even further. Rather than working with single-issue charities to lobby politicians or parties, activists could set up charities explicitly to support a party or an ideological line and ask for donations on that basis. America already has huge Political Action Committees (PACs) which do this (like the liberal group MoveOn.org). We would inevitably see a spurt of charities on both the left and right to raise finance and spend it without being constricted in the way political parties are.
The long-term impact of this legislation could be huge. In the United States the political landscape would be completely different without such regulation. I’m surprised more hasn’t been said about this.
On a mailing list I’m on, a teacher of Hinduism from the Vivekanda Centre in London sent out this message about the recent furore around the cow Shambo. I thought it was worth reading. He hits the nail on the head on how this ‘controversy’ has misrepresented Hinduism, but was used by the Hindu Forum of Britain for their own publicity.
30th July, 2007
Sent to me recently
As you may know, Human Rights Watch is one of the largest human rights organizations in the world. We investigate human rights abuses, publish reports on our findings and mount campaigns to put an end to the abusive practices we have exposed. By engaging the media, the public and policymakers, we generate intense pressure to confront human rights abusers and promote human rights protections.
As major fighting between the Sri Lankan military and rebel Tamil Tigers has resumed, so have serious abuses committed by both sides. On Tuesday, 31 July at 7 pm, Charu Hogg, our South Asia researcher will be discussing her most recent fact-finding mission. Her report documents how Sri Lankan forces are violating the laws of war by indiscriminate attacks on civilians and forcibly returning the internally displaced to their homes. At the same time, the government has cracked down on critics in the media and civil society who criticize its approach.
This event is being put on by the Human Rights Watch London Network, a young professionals group, that helps support our work by putting on events such as the one with Charu. We would be delighted if you were able to join us.
Contact: on 020 7713 2773 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This looks like one of the few times a major Sikh organisation has taken a progressive stance. [hat tip: Rumbold]
Sikh religious leaders have issued an edict to their community to end lavish weddings that involve days of revelry as a measure to discourage dowry demands. By enforcing austere weddings, the Delhi Sikh Temple Management Committee also hopes to prevent the outlawed but growing practice among Sikhs of aborting foetuses discovered to be female.
The Sikhs’ home state of Punjab has 793 females per 1,000 males, the lowest in the country as many female foetuses are aborted following ultrasound tests proscribed by law for several years.
Female foetocide is a huge problem in Punjab. The real problem of course is misogyny and the idea that women are ‘worth less’ than men. I don’t think its possible to deny that the cost of expensive weddings & dowry (which, though outlawed, persists) makes it into an economic issue that impacts how families welcome daughters. This is a good decision, although I don’t see it having much impact here or Canada, where Sikhs are known for massive weddings, simply because Gurudwaras are unlikely to listen until the head committee – the SGPC – says something similar. And they’re about as progressive as George Bush.
29th July, 2007
BBC Asian Network (national digital radio station) is publishing a poll today, carried out by ICM, on identity issues. I detest polls because they try and reduce complex feelings into a simple answer and this is no different. They should be limited to very straightforward questions. But anyway, here are some highlights.
1) Thinking about your nationality, to what extent do you feel British?
Completely / a lot: Whites (73%) ; British Asians (59%)
The second figure on Asians is broken down in two ways:
Indians (62%) ; Pakistani (63%) ; Bangladeshi (62%) ; Other Asian (43%)
Christian (85%) ; Other 46% ; Sikh (77%) ; Hindu (46%) ; Muslim (64%)
2) Generally speaking, to what extent do you think that white British people treat you as British?
Total Asians: 50% … broken into:
Other (58%) ; Bangladeshi (33%) ; Pakistani (54%) ; Indian (48%)
Other (55%) ; Christian (50%) ; Sikh (64%) ; Hindu (47%) ; Muslim (49%)
3) To what extent, if at all, do you think that your own Asian culture is being diluted by living in Britain?
Total Asians: 75% … broken into:
Other (70%) ; Bangladeshi (80%) ; Pakistani (76%) ; Indian (74%)
Other (72%) ; Christian (88%) ; Sikh (82%) ; Hindu (70%) ; Muslim (76%)
4) Generally speaking, how satisfied are you with life in the UK?
Total Asians: 84% (!) … broken into:
Other (73%) ; Bangladeshi (90%) ; Pakistani (86%) ; Indian (86%)
Other (72%) ; Christian (77%) ; Sikh (90%) ; Hindu (80%) ; Muslim (88%)
Knocks stereotypes on their heads doesn’t it? I’ll be on Asian Network at 9am discussing this poll along with Aki Nawaz. I expect I’ll be the one advocating ‘Britishness’.
Full poll results: Whites / Asians.
Media coverage: BBC Online is trying to ape the Daily Express by running a negative slant (when it’s actually quite positive) and featuring a picture of two women in a niqab [now changed!]. Yeah, they represent British Asians don’t they!
28th July, 2007
More video fun for the weekend…
Of course we see this happening more frequently in the UK too.
Side note: the case against Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef (as part of the London/Glasgow attacks) has disintegrated because it looks like the evidence was manipulated and falsified.
27th July, 2007
A friend sent me the link for this song; I think it’s brilliant. Enjoy the weekend.
I’ve written a short article for the Our Kingdom blog on the loss of ‘British identity’, blaming multiculturalism, and my solution to the problem.
Anyone who thinks Facebook will soon revolutionise politics should be shot. Ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly, but military-style executions aren’t so bad, are they?
But seriously, since Social Networking and Web 2.0 become increasingly used buzzwords in the media landscape and journalists sign up in droves, I expect this question to crop up much more.
A 70 yr-old grandmother and her son Sukhdave, 43, were yesterday found guilty of murdering his wife Surjit Athwal. Good news of course, I hope they both rot in jail. There’s still too much of this going on.
Blogger Suz has interesting background perspective on this case, including the difficulty that Surjit’s brother had in raising this issue.
From the onset it was believed she had been killed and those who’d planned it. Jagdeesh and his family have campaigned tirelessly over the years trying to get justice. It was felt the Foreign office wasn’t taking much interest. There was even a suggestion that because she was Asian and not white there was a lack of motivation in getting to the bottom of the matter. The ‘Justice for Surjit’ campaign was set up to put pressure on the British government to do more to get the Indian authorities to thoroughly investigate her disappearance.
To a certain extent this case shows how much impact politicians and the media can have on forcing the authorities to act and properly investigate such cases. I believe that makes it important to keep highlighting each case to ensure this issue is not driven out of the spotlight until it is eradicated. And British Asians needs to be at the forefront of fighting it.
26th July, 2007
[On the previous thread on Shambo, commenter mettaculture made a brilliant point that I thought should be highlighted. It's worth thinking about.]
The point is that we have a system of rules that deals with all communicable diseases in animals by quarantining or killing them. This is hardly scientific.
Treating (which prevents infectiousness in most cases) and vaccinating animals according to the basic principles of epidemiology (the science of measuring disease in populations and interveneing to prevent transmission) is almost never used in Britian and this is because animals are seen as a part of agriculture rather than public health.
So we mass cull badgers, cattle, sheep, foxes etc [because] that’s what the British do. Our plans for dealing with a rabies outbreak are mass slaughter of almost every wild living thing (foxes, bats, owls, eagles) that could possibly transmit Rabies.
Other countries vaccinate and treat index cases to prevent transmission, its more scientific and you get better compliance with farmers (who are likely to underreport anything if their whole herd is going to be slaughtered). Sometimes slaughter is necessary as is quarantine but we donâ€™t even examine alternatives.
The only reason we changed our ridiculous pet quarantine laws (allowing for vaccination) that traumatised animals and fed handsome profits to a government enforced business momopoly, was because Chris Patten wished to bring his pooches back from Hong Kong.
We have an irrational slaughter driven animal disease control policy enacted by blockheads and scientific ignoramouses and an inflexible inhuman and inhumane bureaucracy.
Don’t assume that Government policies are rational or effective or up to date scientifically just because they are there and an official says ‘rules is rules’.
Shambo, the six-year old Friesian resident at Skanda Vale Temple in Carmarthenshire, is awaiting his fate today. The animal has tested positive for bovine TB and under the guidelines of government vets and the National Farmers Union is recommended for culling.
After much protest, Shambo was allowed to live. This verdict was overturned and the Welsh Assembly vets were sent to the temple this morning to take Shambo to slaughter. In a twist of fate, they forgot their warrants and the protest prayers got louder. The Guardian is following the development of the story here.
What I find most interesting is this petition. The writers have raised a valid point in whether an animal of religious interest should receive special treatment. It’s difficult to see why Shambo should be spared the slaughter that other infected cows have received, given that all cows are supposedly sacred to Hindus.
Temple well-wishers have also offered to pay for medical TB treatment, which is an option the owners of other cows culled didn’t have. I’d like to know why the Assembly are reluctant to try this option, given that Shambo is kept in isolation and isn’t going to be used for meat/milk production like the vast majority of cows killed were? Shambo’s purpose is similar to that of a family pet – to be cared for and treated with love and affection. I’m of the belief it’s unfair to treat him under the same DEFRA guidelines as livestock and dairy cows as he wasn’t reared for these purposes.
What about you?
25th July, 2007
So, Gordon Brown has decided 28 days internment in prison without trial is “not an option” any more. The Guardian lists four choices on offer in his consultation. But if the PM wants to push forward with an extension, he should provide the evidence to support it, no? The BBC quotes critics:
Amnesty International’s Nicola Duckworth said locking people up for 56 days without charge “amounted to internment” which had “devastating consequences” in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. And Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said it would act as a “terrorist recruiter’s dream”.
At the Our Kingdom blog, Anthony thinks 28 days is enough. On the Demos blog, Charlie points out that Gordon Brown had already made many of these recommendations last week:
Today the Conservative Party will publish their national and international security policy paper. Brownâ€™s sharp piece of political maneuvering will leave Cameron and his national security adviser Pauline Neville Jones only a few recommendations to choose from.
Gordon Brown has also signalled his support for ID cards. Bummer. As Tim Worstall rightly says, this is how we lose our liberties.
Since British troops occupied Southern Iraq in the spring of 2003, thousands of Iraqi citizens have worked for the British Army, the Coalition Provisional Authority (South) and for contractors serving UK forces. There is now considerable evidence that their lives, and the lives of their families, are at risk: some former workers for the British have been murdered, and many others have fled to neighbouring countries or gone into hiding in Basra. The British Government, for whom they were ultimately working, has not offered them the right of asylum in the UK. This is morally unacceptable.
24th July, 2007
Journalist Urmee Khan, an avid reader of Pickled Politics, sends us an exclusive dispatch from Gloucester, where she has been covering the floods.
THIS MORNING I woke up in Gloucester and it felt like the waves were going to get us. It was 6.30am and the power was dead and there was no water. BBC Gloucester had started to play D Ream ‘things can only get better‘.
As the Equal Opportunities Commission wraps up for good and passes on its mantle of gender equality to the new Commission on Equalities and Human Rights, which comes into being in October this year, it has issued a damning report today saying that gender equality in Britain is still “decades away”.
I think this is also worth taking into stock at a time when many male bloggers spend an inordinate amount of time criticising Arab countries for their record on women’s rights (also a laudable aim) but say nothing about the inequalities at home.
Thank you so much for all your good wishes to the Chairwoman, who was admitted last night. She was very touched by all the lovely comments left on Saturday’s thread. Shockingly, she has no internets, nor will she whilst she is in here – but she may in fact only be in for a couple of weeks so hopefully we will have her back very soon.
I hope so, anyway. After years of begging me for biscuits, the dog now refuses to take them from me. Apparently I am not dipping them properly in the tea. I lack the Chairwoman’s biscuit technique.
Anyway, let’s treat this as a big happy open thread. Bung all your non-political stuff in the comments below and I shall print them out and relay them to the Chairwoman. Hurrah!
For global warming deniers it has become one of their biggest pet theories – that it is actually the sun that is causing the rise in global warming, not man-made activity. Except now that is also been proven wrong.
A spokesman for the Royal Society, the UK’s leading scientific academy, said: “This is an important contribution to the scientific debate on climate change. At present there is a small minority which is seeking to deliberately confuse the public on the causes of climate change. They are often misrepresenting the science, when the reality is that the evidence is getting stronger every day. We have reached a point where a failure to take action to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions would be irresponsible and dangerous.”
Channel 4 and Martin Durkin, producer of The Great Global Warming Swindle, declined to comment.
More at New Scientist and Nature magazines. [via Dal Nun Strong]
This weekend a Foreign Affairs Committee published a report on the recent UK-Iranian standoff over the naval soldiers held by the latter. It was deeply critical of the government’s handling of the situation. But while a BBC story focuses on the sale of personal stories to the media, we have to look at a newspaper report in Australia to get the bigger story: British map in Iran crisis ‘inaccurate’. Bizarre that the BBC ommitted to mention that. Afraid to embarass the government?
23rd July, 2007
[This is a copy-and-paste job]
OneVoice is the fastest growing Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution group. It has over 350,000 grassroots members; mainly young Israelis and Palestinians aged 18-35, and a Board of supporters from the Islamic Chief Justice of Palestine to Israeli Knesset members. Today they need your support – and you can help.
In the UK Wednesday 25th July 2007 at 6 pm, hundreds of students, young professionals and families from all faiths and backgrounds will gather on Abingdon Green opposite Parliament to record their messages of support to the Israeli and Palestinian people in the gaze of the international press.
Tomorrow evening an event will be held to debate findings of The Iraq Commission, broadcast on C4 last week. Organised by Polis, along with Channel 4 and FPC, “it will ask what role the public and press have in carrying out the Commission’s findings, and what impact implementing the Commission’s findings will have on community cohesion, the terror threat and Muslim/ media relations in the UK.”
21st July, 2007
Remember this post made in April? Remember we asked you to register your disgust with that piece of advertising? Guess what Zahed saw last week…
20th July, 2007
Yes, it’s true. After a really spectacularly long period of sitting in a chair waiting for treatment, the Chairwoman is finally to be admitted to hospital to start said treatment, which will hopefully mean that she comes out less of a Chairwoman and more of a generally-moving-around-Woman. It is not yet clear what sort of access she is likely to have to the interwebs, so please send her your best wishes in this thread. You can also put funny/interesting/non political stuff in here. Do not wreck it with serious stuff. For once, frankly, if I don’t like it I’ll delete it. Yes I will.
The Chairwoman goes into hospital on Monday. Get commenting…
PP contributor Cath Elliot wrote a brilliant article for CIF today, taking apart James Harkin’s frankly obtuse article on sex trafficking yesterday. She says:
Sex trafficking is now the third most profitable illegal trade in the world after arms and drugs. Let’s not mince words here; it is the slave trade of the 21st century.
But his condemnation of feminist campaigners as “self-righteous drones” for campaigning against trafficking, reveals a stunning lack of awareness about the nature of both sex trafficking, and of the continuing oppression and subjugation of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
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Every time The Sun publishes an editorial attacking the BBC’s apparent ‘loony left’ views, the blood pressure starts rising and I instinctively become defensive of the Corporation and temporarily forget its sometime downright dodgy journalism. Today Simon Jenkins has written an excellent piece in the Guardian defending the Beeb, while yesterday blogger septicisle exposed The Scum’s hypocrisy.
It annoys me more that the Corporation does not retaliate by pointing this out or keeps inviting windbags like Melanie Phillips back on. Maybe they could ask Rupert Murdoch what he discussed with Blair in three meetings over nine days just before the invasion of Iraq.