The widely trailed and discussed Channel 4 drama Britz is on tonight at 9pm. I was sent preview tapes 2 weeks ago and still haven’t watched them, that’s how bloody busy I am. What do you make of the publicity? And give us your views after episode 1. (P.S. Both Manjinder and Riz are friends so I won’t hear a bad word about their acting, which is usually superb)
I was chatting to a friend yesterday who works at a British women’s NGO and regularly conducts research and lobbies the government on that basis. As many organisations do. So I said it would be really useful if more of their people blogged about the research they do and feed into debates taking place on the web.
I think that’s important because, as we already know, many (political) bloggers will simply spout off on a subject without having any research to back up their points. They have an opinion on an issue and then get really agitated when the government does something else. Why does no one listen to them, they scream with rage.
Firstly, I think the level of debate on the blogosphere makes it very difficult for academics, anlysts, think-tanks and other NGOs to get involved. There’s too much “drive-by commenting” and people just want to spout abuse because that’s the culture we’ve developed. I believe this needs to change if the British blogosphere is to attract heavy-weights who can feed into constructive dialogue, as is the case a lot in the United States. I’m not saying the Americans do it better but I definitely think the level of debate there is way better (apart from the likes of LGF, Michelle Malkin and sometimes even Daily Kos) because more academics, analysts, policy people get involved.
Secondly, there’s also a fair bit of elitism amongst such organisations, who feel that testing their ideas amongst the masses serves no purpose and they should concentrate solely on lobbying. To an extent I can see their point since resources are usually quite stretched.
But sometimes I get the feeling they don’t want to have that debate because they’re worried it might challenge their own methodology / ideas. It may partly be because they don’t see a constructive debate happening (so it becomes a chicken and egg situation). But unless we get more people working at grass-roots, doing research or developing policy actually engaging with others on their ideas, it means intellectual stagnation. And I see this happening a lot on the left on areas like race, religion, feminism, environment, migration etc – where the same ideas from 20 years ago are being recycled.
That was the main reason I launched New Generation Network – to challenge those ideas and move the debate forward. And I think we did that well. Now the challenge remains to build a broad coalition, to have cross fertilisation of ideas, but also re-think our ideas on other issues than just race and religion. There are far too many single-issue groups just talking to themselves. It needs to change.
Over on CIF, Jon Cruddas has quite rightly taken David Cameron to task on this:
Unfortunately, Cameron had little to say on systems to measure real time demography and ensure that public service provision follows – the crux of the whole debate around migration. We have a real problem when public investment does not follow population change, and too often those changes are off the state’s radar.
Unfortunately, his speech treads dangerous territory in implying a simplistic link between housing shortages and net immigration. The lack of council housing is largely due to the refusal of successive governments to allow councils to replace stock sold under the right to buy with new build.
Similarly, Cameron seems to have woken up to the pressures that many of the most vulnerable workers at the lower end of the labour market are currently feeling. But the hint that migrant workers are to blame looks like a dog whistle that risks playing into the hands of the far right. The problem for Cameron is that he is unwilling to confront the real problem – the pressure from unscrupulous employers as they push down wages and conditions for their employees
There are three issues here: public services, housing and wages. I’m sympathatic to the view that large-scale immigration causes problems in all three areas. But David if the Tory party wanted to resolve the problems, they would get to the root of the problem, as outlined by Cruddas, rather that constantly going on about how many darkies come into this country. Is he really going on about darkies? Yes he is, because his focus was on non-EU migration rather than migrants from other European countries (who form the bulk of people coming in). But mention ‘immigration’ to most Tories and they start salivating so they’ll probably lap it up without realising they’re being sold rubbish.
Acting Liberal Democrat leader Vincent â€˜Vinceâ€™ Cable has refused to attend a state banquet honouring a vicious and corrupt regime:
“Mr Cable says he will not attend any of the planned ceremonial events – as would be normal for the leader of one of the main opposition parties. Mr Cable told the BBC’s Today programme that by any assessment of Saudi Arabia, “the human rights record is appalling”.
He also cited the regime’s arms deal with the British firm BAE and the row over alleged corruption surrounding it. Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”
Good on you Vince, and shame on those who imposed this humiliation on Her Majesty. Update: Blogger at Amused Cynicism does not agree though.
One of the characteristics I admire in political commentators on the right is their willingness to repeat a “truth” until it becomes received wisdom for them, and sometimes even for their opponents on the left.
So, we must remember: the BBC is a leftwing institution populated by “metropolitan liberals”; the immigration debate has been suppressed for decades (as the Daily Mail and Telegraph constantly remind us); global warming is fiction; and most problems can be traced back to political correctness.
Did you notice I didn’t mention the phrase conspiracy theorists anywhere?
That is the International Atomic Energy Agency chairman Mohammed ElBaradei:
I have not received any information that there is a concrete, active nuclear weapon program going on right now. â€¦ We have information that there have been maybe some studies about possible weaponization. But we are looking into these alleged studies with Iran right now. â€¦ But have we seen having the nuclear material that can be readily used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No. So there is a concern, but there is also time to clarify these concerns.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel, Haaretz magazine reveals in an article on Livni to be published tomorrow.
Livni also criticized the exaggerated use that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears. Last week, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy said similar things about Iran.
We know all about politicians who manipulate people for their own gain don’t we? Incidentally, I’m a signatory to the Hands Off People of Iran campaign.
From nabobs buying votes in the House to Neil Hamilton asking questions for cash, from James I selling Baronets to the â€˜loans for peeragesâ€™ scandal, corruption and politics have always been intertwined. The above are examples of obvious corruption. Should however our definition of corruption in government be widened? At what point do government actions become a form of corruption?
This is why a free (and fearless) media is so important. On Thursday India’s Tehelka magazine published a damning report showing the extent to which the Guajarat state government, led by its Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was an active participant in the 2002 riots in which Hindus massacred over 2000 Muslims across the state.
Tehelka has even put videos supporting their claims on YouTube. [Note: a few years ago Tehelka was harassed by the BJP government (when it was in power), to the point it had to shut down, because it exposed a major bribery scandal involving its defence minister]. This story is all over the Indian press and blogs. For some bizarre reason the Guardian has zilch coverage and the BBC’s story is horrendously lame.
There’s two points to make here. Firstly, that for progressives in Britain, India’s continual denial of justice to Sikhs and Muslims over politically-motivated riots in 1984 and 2002 should constantly feature in any discussion, to the point that politicians there are shamed into doing something. India’s human rights record, for a country claiming to be the world’s largest democracy, is a slap in the face to the ideals of its founding fathers as well as religions that were born there (Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism).
Additionally, this episode only reinforces my point that it’s not religion that is inherently violent, but bigots who use it as a tool for political purposes. Was this massacre carried out in the name of Hinduism – undeniably. But as atheism cannot be blamed for Hitler or Stalin’s pogroms, Hinduism cannot be blamed for this (even though Hindu leaders in India have done remarkably little to wrest control away from the VHP, a sister organisation to the BJP). Those who blanket-blame religion for society’s ills miss the point completely I’m afraid. Guns don’t kill people… people kill people.
Anyway, coming back to this controversy, there has been a blackout of various news channels across Gujarat for covering this story (via SM). That is media censorship plain and simple. Let’s see if the Gujarati media in Britain write something about this, although I doubt it.
I’m in the huff after the outbreak of disharmony on the open thread last week and mark my words if it’s repeated this week heads will roll. To prevent entirely justifiable murder here is one simple rule that must be followed;
KEEP YOUR BLOODY SQUABBLES OFF MY THREAD.
See it’s easy peasy. Now let’s have joyful stuff. I want obscure sports, dogs dressed up as mermaids or walking on their hind legs, soap spoilers, three men in a boat and little kittens mewing in a basket.
Failing that I rather fancy tales of angry relatives, family comedy and general chit chat but for the love of God keep it light.
Now before I swan off to bed, I must confess to being involved in an internet racket, it’s perfectly harmless but the upshot is that I earn small royalty payments for operating pointless web pages. If you’d like to make me grin click this link which will take you to one of my little sites. It’s nowt sinister and perfectly safe for work, though maiden aunts should be seated before viewing to avoid injury.
Simon Barrow tells me there’s an article in The Church Times that mentions me. The article echoes my earlier criticisms of the National Secular Society.
But my real argument with the NSS is the trickery it constantly employs with respect to the word â€œsecularâ€. I contend that the core meaning of secularism is the belief in the separation of Church and state. Religion, the secularist contends, ought not to have a place in shaping the laws or political realities by which we live. Thus there should be no bishops in the House of Lords, the Queen ought not to be the head of state and Supreme Governor of the C of E, and so on. There are many Christians who believe in this sort of thing. From time to time, I am one of them.
Yet, not far below the surface, another meaning of secular breaks out. Here, secular is little more than a synonym for virulent anti-religious prejudice. In this guise, the NSS portrays all religion as being about â€œbrainwashingâ€ and â€œindoctrinationâ€. It goes so far as to defend comments about Muslims as having â€œshit for brainsâ€ (from a â€œcomedianâ€ also beloved by the BNP).
The commentator Sunny Hundal, who is from a Sikh family but is not religious himself, says of those in the NSS: “While they preach secularism, they actually prefer atheism.”
Here’s the original blog post I wrote about the NSS.
Update: Terry Sanderson of the NSS replies in the comments.
There are, in any case, relatively few abortions at such a late stage â€“ officially no more than 136 were performed last year at 24 weeks or more, and in almost all cases they were occasioned by the discovery of a life-threatening condition to either the mother or the foetus. Some 89 per cent of operations were carried out within 13 weeks and 68 per cent of those were under 10 weeks.
Those against abortion often focus on the wrong issue. They should direct national energies into more vigorous campaigns on responsible contraception, better support networks for women and a more candid acknowledgment of the toll that abortion takes on people and on society
I agree with this. I also think that unless the pro-choice camp actively start to counter the rubbish that is spouted by many who are anti-choice on this issue, the debate will start to move in the way it has in the United States. Of course, MPs such Nadine Dorris don’t want the actual facts, they just want to use callous language such as “the abortion industry”.
…the last three attempts to start a ‘debate’ on abortion in Parliament were made by Conservative MPs tabling Bills that were largely about introducing delays and obstacles to women’s abilities to choose an abortion and treating women as incapable of making informed decisions on their own, and not by new evidence from the medical establishment.
1) October 2006 by MP Nadine Dorries: Bill introduced a compulsory 10-day delay in womenâ€™s access to abortion called a ‘cooling off period’ which would include compulsory counselling, while simultaneously reducing the time limit to 21 weeks (you do the math!)
2) March 2007 by MP Angela Watkinson: Bill repealed the right to confidentiality for young women seeking abortions.
3) June 2007 by MP Ann Winterton: Bill imposed compulsory counselling for women seeking abortion coupled with a compulsory 7-day delay in women’s access to abortion
The stupidity of the Conservatives on this issue speaks for itself.
Gordon Brown will try today to restore his reputation as a prime minister driven by principle by setting out his plans to reform the constitution with a new British bill of rights and duties that builds on the existing Human Rights Act.
In a speech today to the human rights organisation Liberty, Mr Brown is expected to renew his commitment to constitutional reform and firmly reject Conservative demands to repeal the Human Rights Act.
He is expected to argue that abolishing the act would prevent British citizens from asking British courts to protect their fundamental rights, forcing lengthy delays as they appeal instead to Strasbourg judges who are less likely to appreciate the British context of their case.
The three consultation papers are expected to include options for constitutional change over the power to make war and sign treaties, giving MPs the final decision over committing troops; over the appointment of senior judges to the courts; and the right to demonstrate in the vicinity of parliament.
From the Guardian today. I don’t know why he’s flaffing about; should just introduce a codified constitution instead of all this assortment of documents and bills.
At least eight submissions of written evidence have come from medical professionals who have not disclosed their membership of Christian groups opposed to abortion on faith grounds. Six of the doctors are members or activists with the Christian Medical Fellowship, an organisation that has given its own evidence to the inquiry.
Suspicion that contributors had not been transparent about their affiliations has led the clerk of the committee to take the unusual step of writing to all those who gave evidence asking them to disclose their links to any relevant organisations.
This has since bubbled away in the letters sections. Who doesn’t want to see more transparency over what organisations these contributors are linked to? Surely transparency is the hallmark of a vibrant democracy?
Clearly not Nadine Dorries MP, who declares that asking for people’s affiliations is a sign of “anti-faith prejudice“. And then she goes on to write a blog post of calling the bodies involved part of the “abortion industry” and saying that they have a financial interest in “ensuring that the number of abortions which take place in the UK remains amongst the highest in Europe“.
There’s only one word for it – callous. Clearly, there’s an army of doctors out there egging on women to have abortions just so they can keep the dollars flowing in. It just shows how debased this debate is within the Tory anti-abortion lobby that they use such fatuous arguments. Also, unsurprising we also find that Iain Dale is happily promoting such disgusting attitudes on his own blog using the same terminology – “abortion industry”. Is that the way to have a rational debate Iain? If you want to have an emotionally charged slagging match instead, by all means go ahead because you’re doing a fine job of taking that route.
How should the government deal with convicted terrorists?
A BBC report indicates that prison is reinforcing the beliefs of jailed terrorists:
“Al-Qaeda prisoners in UK jails are being hardened instead of reformed, top Whitehall sources have told the BBC. A major programme of radicalisation is underway in prisons, targeting vulnerable young men and preaching violent jihad, it has been claimed.”
This started yesterday in the US. Ali Eteraz recently pointed out why it’s a farce:
An ex-senator that opposes individual rights of women; a pundit that calls people “faggots” and considers Islam a “cult”; a Christian scholar who is considered a “polemicist” and an “Islamophobe” by conservative Christians themselves; and an intellectual who has received millions from “far right” organizations since 2001, are rising up for the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities in the Muslim world. This laughable spectacle is called the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
In The Nation magazine, Barbara Ehrenreich makes the same point. But there is a broader problem here. As I said earlier this week the debate on identity, terrorism and Muslims is so stupid that if some dimwit sticks Islamo-fascism on anything these days they’ll get a whole horde of nutjobs supporting them. Horowitz, Coulter etc know this. Martin Amis knows this too because any response by supporters (and himself) to his stupidity has been along the lines of: “well he opposes terrorism and that’s what we oppose, and if you don’t support Amis then you support the terrorists!”
Anyone can oppose terrorism, it’s how you do it that matters. I pity the fools with such simple brains.
This week Human Rights Watch and Ensaaf published a report on the Indian state of Punjab, saying the government has failed to take concrete steps to hold accountable those who killed, “disappeared” and tortured thousands of Sikhs during its counterinsurgency campaign in Punjab during the 1980s and 1990s.
The 123-page report, “Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India,” examines the challenges faced by victims and their relatives in pursuing legal avenues for accountability for the human rights abuses perpetrated during the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. The report describes the impunity enjoyed by officials responsible for violations and the near total failure of India’s judicial and state institutions, from the National Human Rights Commission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to provide justice for victims’ families.
Beginning in the 1980s, Sikh separatists in Punjab committed serious human rights abuses, including the massacre of civilians, attacks upon Hindu minorities in the state, and indiscriminate bomb attacks in crowded places. In its counterinsurgency operations in Punjab from 1984 to 1995, Indian security forces committed serious human rights abuses against tens of thousands of Sikhs. None of the key architects of this counterinsurgency strategy who bear substantial responsibility for these atrocities have been brought to justice.
“Impunity in India has been rampant in Punjab, where security forces committed large-scale human rights violations without any accountability,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “No one disputes that the militants were guilty of numerous human rights abuses, but the government should have acted within the law instead of sanctioning the killing, ‘disappearance,’ and torture of individuals accused of supporting the militants.”
I also want to clarify my own stance on this issue. While I have been dismissive of Sikh separatists and Khalistanis generally, because of reasons highlighted in this report, it doesn’t mean I have no sympathy for what happened in 1984. Of course I do. And I’ve always been critical of the Indian government’s human rights record towards Sikhs and other minorities (including Dalits, Christians and Muslims). I just have little time for those who want to establish countries based on religions. Anyway, this is not meant to be a discussion on the viability of an independent Sikh state. This is about human rights violations.
I also think that its about time non-Khalistani Punjabis and Sikhs started making more noise about this issue because it gets hijacked by the likes of the Sikh Federation UK, who have their own political agendas. And that not only turns off those who would support such campaigns, but also makes it easier for the Indian government to ignore them and thus continue denying Punjabis any justice.
I’m in favour of a British constitution, as I have briefly said here many times. Reading his piece in The Times today it sounds as if the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is also in favour of one, although he’s being very vague about it. He says we need “a covenant” but doesn’t exactly elaborate on what it could be. As I stated in my short piece for Prospect magazine recently, it can only take shape in form of a constitution.
America always has the capacity to surprise you. On Saturday Bobby Jindal became the country’s first Indian-American governor, and that too in the deeply Republican conservative south state of Carolina Louisiana. It has not had a non-white chief since Reconstruction. Typically Indian, he is also a bit of a geek. (hat tip to Tim for clarifications).
A NY Times profile recently said:
But he is not a natural fit for Louisiana. The state likes its governors to know the fundamentals of the Cajun two-step, speak some derivation of French patois, and at least get to a duck blind, regularly and publicly. But Mr. Jindal has labored assiduously to overcome the disadvantage of being a non-Cajun, Rhodes Scholar policy wonk whose given name was Piyush, and who has a penchant for 31-point plans.
He is a born-again Roman Catholic who has suggested that teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution may not be out of place in public schools, favors a ban on abortion and opposes hate-crimes laws. Conservative views aside, the slightly built congressman is anything but a backslapping good olâ€™ boy.
Oh, yeah he’s a crazy Republican nut. So like our liberal cousins from across the pond at Sepia Mutiny, I’m a bit torn as to whether this is a good or bad thing. On the one hand he has broken through a glass ceiling in a very conservative state, on the other I’m deeply opposed to his politics. A few years ago I would have had more enthusiasm for this development than I do now. What would trump for you?
After the suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto’ home-coming celebration killed as many as 136 supporters on Thursday, the big question still remains – who was behind the attacks?
Bhutto’s first speech after the carnage was notable because it grabbed the attention and admiration of a number of people, some of even those who usually stay detached from political activities in Pakistan.
An undeterred Benazir Bhutto donned a black armband on Friday as she vowed not to be frightened by the murder attempts. The body language was loud and clear. Twice she snapped at people’s ringing mobiles and on several occasions made sure her words were heard exactly she meant them. As she stood among a crowd of hundreds she seemed to be signalling to not only the media but also to her enemy that this is Butto’s daughter and she would stand unmoved. Her resolution could not go unnoticed even by her worst critics.
Yes already it’s that time of the week, time to leave random comments on a thread of little consequence. It is of course the weekend open thread.
So far today I’ve been out shopping and have returned home somewhat concerned about one of the young boys in the lighting department. I can only assume some idiot manager has told him to be cheerful with the customers because the whole time he was serving me was spent making inane remarks about the weather through a false and fixed grin. I kept my answers brief and to the point, wished him a quick shift and sped away. Honestly I think they might have to drug the poor boy if they want to keep up this performance. Something ought to be done -but what?
Earlier in the week I spent a very pleasant hour being hypnotised. I can highly recommend it. I was there to stop me eating crisps and junk food and so far it’s worked like a dream. Mind you it hasn’t made me want to go to they gym but lets face it who does really? Well apart from Madonna and what good has it done her? She’s a haggard shadow of herself and married to that fool Guy Ritchie. Pah! even when I was really fat I could pull better folk than that without really trying.
I have recently taken ownership of one of those lights that cheers you up in the winter, it’s early days yet but I’ve been annoying Mr Clairwil by being chipper -the poor soul is in one of his slumps and I don’t suppose me birling about talking about performing dogs and roller skates helps much.
Right I shall leave you with Terry Wogan and David Icke chatting about old times.
We had a back and forth with folks at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the false Tutu quote after they used it in a release. Well, these guys are good and went to the source, the Zionist Organization of America, and finally put to bed this terrible smear against Tutu. … The extreme rightwing ZOA still insists Tutu is an anti-Semite.
This controversy erupted when the University of St Thomas, Minnesota declined an invitation to Tutu on the basis that some Jews may find his view offensive. They’ve now reversed their decision. Good.
The utterly charming thing about the Zionist Thought Police is their apparent inability to restrain themselves, even from the very excesses that will prove to be their own undoing. Having asked sane and rational people to believe that Jimmy Carter is a Holocaust denier simply for pointing out the obvious about the apartheid regime Israel maintains in the occupied territories, the same crew now want us to believe that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an anti-Semite.
Frankly, this case I think this case underlines precisely how absurd the policing of discussion about Israel in the U.S. has become. As a South African veteran of the liberation struggle, I can testify that there are few, if any, more decent, humane, courageous and morally unimpeachable individuals in the world than Bishop Tutu. Speaking truth to power is what heâ€™s always done, both to the old regime in South Africa as much as to the new, when the latter has failed to live up to the standards it professes on AIDS, crime and other issues.
Instead, thanks to the atmosphere created by the right-wing nationalists of AIPAC and the ADL etc., many mainstream institutions would now prefer to shoot the messenger, if only to avoid incurring the wrath of those who have stripped the very term “anti-Semitic” of its meaning (by using it as a bludgeon in defense of behavior utterly abhorrent in the Jewish tradition as much as anything else), and as such, commit a great crime against Jews and Judaism.
At least 132 people were killed and hundreds injured late on Thursday night as suspected suicide bombers targeted former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on her return from eight years in self-imposed exile.
Two explosions went off a minute apart shortly after midnight near Karsaz close to the vehicle Ms Bhutto was travelling in, at the head of a procession of hundreds of thousands of Pakistan Peopleâ€™s Party (PPP) supporters who had flooded the streets of Karachi to welcome the return of their leader. The attack bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda and resembled assassination attempts by militants linked to the terrorist network on President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in recent years.