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  • 18th October, 2007

    There’s racism and then there’s racism

    by Rumbold at 5:36 pm    

    Keith Vaz MP is worried that there are too many ethnic law firms being shut down, and sees this as a form of racism:

    “An MP has called for an inquiry into why a disproportionate number of black and Asian law firms are being closed by their regulatory body.
    Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has asked the justice secretary to examine the practices of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
    Mr Vaz believes black and Asian lawyers have “clear merit in the allegations of racism and harassment”.”

    Continue Reading...

    Not racist apart from ‘the odd impulse’

    by Sunny at 4:36 pm    

    Martin Amis was interviewed on Channel 4 News yesterday evening. Defending his father, he says “He wasn’t anti-semitic, except with the odd impulse”. This is really funny. We’re moving on from the days of “I’m not racist but…” to the more subtle “I’m not racist except with the odd impulse…

    Martin Amis isn’t really a racist you see. He just felt the impulse to lock up all Muslims until they “get their house in order” (they’re all culpable for each other you see). The odd impulse doesn’t really reveal what you really feel or mean. It’s just like the odd impulse once has to blow up a train or like go on a murder rampage. Why make a big deal out of quotes taken out of context, right? Watch the interview. I think Jon Snow was far too soft on him but it was still amusing to watch Amis squirm and evade the question.

    One point I wanted to make on my recent article on this; ignorant polemics like Martin Amis (and Rod Liddle, Melanie Phillips, Mark Steyn etc) survive by creating a false choice between their ideas and fascism. They keep stating that they’re only opposed to religious fanaticism, so if you oppose them then obviously you’re in league with Bin Laden. They (or their supporters) don’t want to pretend there is a middle ground for a more nuanced and intelligent analysis. It’s just constant shrieking of: Are you on the side of freedom or facism? There’s no need to buy into it, it insults our intelligence.

    Filed under: Humour,Race politics

    Reverse transcriptplease? (updated)

    by Rohin at 2:47 am    

    Science legend, James Watson, who won the Nobel for discovering DNA along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, has put his double helix in his mouth:

    The 79-year-old geneticist said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.”. He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. [Link]

    Yikes. The Science Museum has cancelled his forthcoming sell-out speech. I can’t disagree with their decision, they explained they do not shy away from controversy but in this regard he had “gone beyond the point of acceptable debate”. Let’s take a closer look.

    Continue Reading...
    17th October, 2007

    Al Gore’s “shockumentary”

    by Sunny at 4:20 pm    

    A lorry driver recently bought a case to the High Court against Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which resulted in the judge saying it contained some “errors”.

    This is an extract from an interview with the lorry driver on BBC Radio 4′s World Tonight:

    Stuart Dimmock (SD): It’s a political shockumentary, it’s not a scientific documentary.
    BBC presenter Robin Lustig (RL): But you’re not a scientist yourself, are you?
    SD: No.
    RL: Some people might wonder why you felt so strongly about this that you were prepared to take it all the way to the High Court, whether you have an agenda of some kind – do you?
    SD: I have two young children. In my mind it’s wrong that we push politics into the classroom.
    RL: Could I ask you one other question, Mr Dimmock? It’s not cheap taking a case to the High Court [The case cost £200,000].
    SD: No, it’s not.
    RL: Were you helped financially to do this?
    SD: The government have been ordered to pay my costs. [Unclear] £60,000 upfront payment.
    RL: But you didn’t know that that was going to be the order until today, did you?
    SD: No, I didn’t.
    RL: Who took the risk?
    SD: [Long, five-second pause]. Mmmm, I’ve had pledges of support.
    RL: May I ask you from whom?
    SD: You can ask from whom but I’m sorry I can’t tell you because I haven’t got the names of the people that have pledged their support. It’s through a website.

    The whole item can be heard here.
    So… who was funding and supporting him I wonder.
    Update: I’ve been emailed by Mr Eugenides pointing to this Observer article revealing who funded this lorry driver. Nothing to see here, move along!

    Further update: Thanks to Douglas in the comments, Deltoid points out that the “errors” contained in the doc were not exactly errors, but disputes which were labelled as “errors” by the judge. Most journalists of course didn’t bother reading the whole ruling properly.

    Filed under: Environmentalism

    Migrants boon to economy

    by Sunny at 10:49 am    

    Migrants are more skilled and often more reliable and hardworking than British workers, and are fuelling the country’s economic growth to the tune of £6bn a year, according to the first official study of their impact published yesterday. The report for the government’s Migration Impact Forum also concludes that migrants on average earn more and so pay more tax than UK workers.

    The economic study says 574,000 migrants came to live in Britain for the long term in the 12 months to June 2006; in the same period 385,000 left, giving a net inflow figure of 189,000 - down 28% compared with the previous year’s net inflow of 262,000.

    From the Guardian yesterday. And there’s plenty more positive economic news on this topic.

    16th October, 2007

    The Battle of Bengal

    by Rohin at 6:10 pm    

    A feature in this week’s TIME reminded me of a sporting derby that runs deeper than Arsenal vs Spurs, Rangers vs Celtic or Everton vs Liverpool. My grandfather’s brother-in-law used to own East Bengal Football Club but the rest of my family have always been die-hard Mohun Bagan fans, so this is a rivalry I have been raised with.

    Mohun Bagan Athletic is in fact Asia’s oldest sporting club and famously were the barefoot real-life Lagaan story in 1911. The club was founded on the 15th of August (later to become an auspicious day) 1889 and from the off was imbued with nationalistic fervour. The sole purpose of the disciplined outfit seemed to be to beat the British at their own game. Twenty two years after their formation, Mohun Bagan lifted the Indian Football Association (IFA) Shield, beating the East Yorkshire Regiment, previously undisputed kings of the Indian League.

    The date this feat was accomplished, July 29th, is now ‘Mohun Bagan Day’ in the club calendar and 100 years later Rajiv Gandhi named Mohun Bagan as India’s national club. A postage stamp was brought out to commemorate the united patriotism that resulted from the Indian win over the English club.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Sports

    Taking Liberties out now

    by Sunny at 2:25 pm    


    It came out on DVD yesterday. Has anyone seen it? What did they think of it? Missed it while it was in the cinemas.
    Update: Davide has a review, as does Rosie Bell.

    Filed under: Civil liberties,Media

    The BBC’s online dilemma

    by Sunny at 1:27 am    

    Yesterday evening I was invited to a consultation held by the BBC Trust, in charge of holding the Beeb to account on behalf of license fee payers, to talk about its online operations. How could BBC.co.uk be more open? How could it involve the blogosphere in its discussions and be more accountable?

    I was invited along with more intelligent, accomplished and thoughtful bloggers, who mostly write on issues around technology, society and culture etc. David Wilcox hosted it. Charlie Beckett and Anthony Mayfield, who I already read, were there too. The mighty Mick Fealty, aka Sluger O’Toole, was the only other political blogger apart from myself. Also nice to meet JP, Simon Dickson and others. Both Simon and Charlie have written about it already. I feel a bit slack in comparison.

    So what does the BBC Trust want to do? Two things. Firstly, they want to tap into a bunch of well known bloggers to spark conversations about what the BBC is doing. That is of course like herding cats and in the political blogosphere there is already enough conversation about the corporation. Though, my last article on the BBC sparked lots of reaction. In this case they probably weren’t thinking enough about political blogs.

    They also wanted us to suggest ways in which the corporation could better engage with blogs or do stuff on their own website that would help more people to participate. In coming up with practical solutions, we barely had any time left so it was quite difficult. Do you folks have any solutions (they’ll be reading this)?

    Charlie makes two good points; that the Trust can’t consult bloggers in the traditional way, and that this should be more a process than simply one or two events. In other words, it needs to experiment with lots of stuff and see what works.

    I have my own recommendations on this that I’ll write about in due course. But I raised another point early on in the discussion. The BBC Trust and BBC management believe that having interactivity on their web is inherently a good thing. I refer to the now infamous Have Your Say (HYS) messageboards that are plagued by all sorts of loonies on controversial issues.

    My question was: has there been any research to show that interaction on the BBC website, which basically consists of HYS, is helping the BBC brand than harming it? Because if people go to the website and get turned off by the comments on there, which can frequently be quite vitriolic, then the brand loses credibility. And does the BBC actually benefit by allowing people to provide their opinion on a wide range of issues on their website? There’s this assumption this interactivity is a good thing, but no one really complains about the fact that Channel 4′s website is pretty rubbish in comparison.

    On that last note, I was at a Channel 4 round-table before the BBC event (must be the season) yesterday and they were patting themselves on the back about how great C4 programming in comparison to the BBC’s. Well, their news output is, but Channel 4′s online strategy is positively medieval.

    Oh, and Dave Hill has uncovered more right-wing bias on the BBC.

    Filed under: Blog,Media
    15th October, 2007

    On Martin Amis

    by Sunny at 12:59 pm    

    I’ve written an article published today on Comment is free about Martin Amis and the ‘controversy’ surrounding him.

    There are broadly two kinds of politically correct people. Those who have good intentions and want to say or do the right thing, and those who hide malign intentions behind sweet words. In advocating free speech, I have always preferred that prejudiced people be open with their thoughts than hide behind sweet words.

    Read the rest here.

    14th October, 2007

    Borrow now, pay later

    by Rumbold at 9:25 pm    

    Should governments be allowed to borrow money whenever they want to?

    For centuries governments have borrowed money to meet their needs, whether because of war, court excess or any number of other reasons. Developed nations’ government debts are now cumulatively running at trillions of pounds. I think that there should be laws enacted in developed nations to stop governments borrowing, apart from in emergencies. This is a political argument though, not an economic one.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
    13th October, 2007

    It’s the Weekend Open Thread

    by Clairwil at 3:41 pm    

    Hello All,
    Welcome to the weekend open thread. Apologies for my absence last week but I was off visiting good old Belfast and was too busy with bus trips and er…pubs to post.

    Today has been less fun in that I’ve spent most of having beauty treatments. Most of the time I don’t bother with these things, now I remember why. 35 minutes of electric shocks (don’t ask) and hot wax on my eyebrows and the only discernible difference is a rather surprised look and a niggling pain in my right buttock. Why women refer to these treatments as pampering is beyond me I half expected someone to appear halfway through and question me on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden.

    I trust your weekends are going somewhat better than mine has so far. Still it’s a sunny day, so I’m off out with my camera to see what I can see.

    I shall leave you with a clip which highlights the perils of hitchhiking -those nympho women and their false rape allegations being the most jaw dropping!

    Filed under: Blog

    Monica Ali nails the Guardian

    by Sunny at 8:28 am    

    Monica Ali’s written a great article for the review section of the Guardian today, nailing it for stoking up the controversy over Brick Lane. I did the same last year when it kicked off. She also talks about other issues in the book, including authenticity, gender and censorship. Can’t disagree with a word. Oh, the film’s excellent.

    While we’re on the subject of brown people on screen, here’s an interesting piece on an upcoming Channel 4 drama about (you guessed it) British Muslims. I’m going to the advance preview for that too. Don’t hate on me! I expect Clairwil be along in a bit for the weekend thread. I’m off to play golf.

    Filed under: British Identity
    12th October, 2007

    Eid Mubarak - and Navratri

    by Rumbold at 10:51 am    

    As it is not clear when Eid actually starts, Pickled Politics wishes all its Muslim readers a happy Eid.

    Update: The consensus for the UK seems to indicate a Saturday Eid, but a few UK Muslims seem to follow the Saudi example.

    Further update: My mate is celebrating Eid today so I am even more confused. Oh well.

    Sunny’s update: Turns out today’s the start of Navratri today too and all my Gujjarati mates are off to garba. So Hindus are celebrating today too. Nice.

    Filed under: Religion

    Theological straitjackets

    by Rumbold at 10:10 am    

    I think that Melanie Phillips does good work in exposing some of the anti-Semitism prevalent in the world, even if she does go overboard at times. What annoys me about her though is her desire to see everything through the prism of ‘us verses them’. Her pieces entitled ‘The Dutch gates of Vienna’ and the ‘British gates of Vienna’ are a case in point. In them she reminds Europe of how the Ottoman Turks were beaten back from the gates of Vienna by an allied army in 1683:

    Continue Reading...

    A case for raising the marriage visa age

    by Sunny at 8:09 am    

    In March the government announced it was raising the age at which foreign nationals can receive marriage visas to enter Britain from 18 to 21. It was cited as an attempt to crack down on forced marriages. We covered it here and a huge discussion ensued.

    But this may not merely be about forced marriages; it may even help the education (and thus wealth) prospects of immigrant communities who usually marry their children abroad.

    Denmark recently enacted the same law but raised the age to 24. A reader recently sent me a paper looking at the impact it had in that country. It’s conclusions are interesting…

    Continue Reading...

    India’s attitude towards the Burmese

    by Sunny at 4:54 am    

    Amnesty International has issued an alert saying the Indian government is trying to forcibly return refugees escaping from Burma. The Indian government’s complicity in propping up the Burmese junta seems to have gone broadly unnoticed, which is a huge shame. Earlier this week, it was accused of running secret trials against Burmese rebels. Something to do with economic deals maybe? Manmohan Singh should be ashamed of himself.

    Filed under: South Asia
    11th October, 2007

    Possible immigration campaign tactic

    by Sunny at 4:42 pm    

    It occured to me, while reading yesterday that an airline refused to help with forcible removal of immigrants, that this is a brilliant campaign tactic.

    XL Airways, which has a fleet of 24 aircraft, said it was opposed to the policy because it had “sympathy for all dispossessed people in the world”. Last week, The Independent revealed that hundreds of failed asylum-seekers have claimed they have suffered physical and racial abuse during the removal process at the hands of private security guards.

    The Government relies on airlines using chartered and scheduled aircraft to deport asylum-seekers who have failed to win a right to remain in the UK.

    My god, a corporation actually taking an ethical stance; we don’t see that often. Good on them. Might that be a useful campaign tactic for those who oppose asylum seekers or immigrants being forcibly deported to oppressive countries? Of course, the government should not legally be deporting people to places where they’ll face torture or even death but that’s never stopped them in the past. Remember the decision to deport Pegah Emambakhsh? Hell, it’s still trying to deport people to Iraq!

    Faxing and harassing airlines has worked in the past, as Linda Grant showed recently to her immense credit. Both British Airways and Virgin claim they’re obliged to put these people on planes but that’s not true as the government itself admits. They just want to pass the buck on.

    Surely then, future campaigns should focus on highlighting their complicity in deporting people to their possible death? If the government is not willing to re-think its policies despite lawyers claiming what they are doing is illegal, then maybe forcing airlines to stop taking part in this inhumane act is the way forward?

    English PEN Burma event

    by Sunny at 4:18 pm    

    Stand in solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and the writers of Burma
    English PEN event Thursday 25 October, 7pm

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Events

    Explaining torture

    by Sunny at 11:46 am    

    The US government, unsurprisingly, has made “torture” legal now. As ever Jon Stewart nails it. The best bit is where the White House spokesperson declares that it is a “testament to this country” that we are even having this debate. Great, we’re having a debate! But are you going to carry on torturing? Umm… look at least we’re having a debate! Doesn’t that make America great? Love the logic.

    Newspapers, money and influence

    by Sunny at 3:28 am    

    Two thirds of all French newspapers and magazines are owned by Dassault and Lagardère, France’s leading arms’ manufacturers. Lagardère’s affiliate, Hachette, also owns the majority of French publishing houses, as well as controlling a large part of the book and magazine distribution network…

    “In most countries conglomeration has happened because it increases profits… But French newspapers have been barely profitable. The main reason to buy them is to exert influence, as Serge Dassault frankly admitted when he bought Le Figaro, wanting a paper to express his own views.

    via Roy Greenslade. In the UK, similarly, most newspapers lose money hand over fist. So why would anyone want to own them? For influence maybe? And if the BBC is then abolished so the market can decide, how will that strengthen our democracy?

    The case for keeping an independent BBC, one that is admittedly imperfect and frequently espouses an establishment consensus, is about keeping our democracy vibrant and strong rather than surrendering it to those with the most amount of money.

    Filed under: Media,Party politics
    10th October, 2007

    The Iraqi campaign event yesterday

    by Sunny at 11:59 pm    

    Yesterday evening we had our event at Portcullis House in Westminister, lobbying the government to grant asylum to Iraqi employees of the British armed forces. I wrote an article about it on comment is free.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Events,Middle East

    The deluded face of anti-racism

    by Sunny at 3:12 pm    

    The gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who I respect a lot, went to the Al-Quds rally on Sunday.

    The Al Quds protest was supposed in support of justice for the Palestinian people,” said Peter Tatchell. “That’s a cause I support. I am against Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and its divisive Berlin-style wall.

    “But I object to the way the Al Quds demonstration also supports the tyrannical, anti-Semitic Iranian regime and its fundamentalist, terrorist offshoots, Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Same here. And you would think that it would be the position self-styled anti-racists would take too. Except, he was subjected to abuse and called a paedophile.

    “As soon as I turned up, I was subjected to a barrage of violent, threatening abuse from large sections of the crowd. Some started chanting: ‘Tatchell is a Zionist, Tatchell is a paedophile. Get out! Get out! Get out!’

    “Despite this abuse, we handed out leaflets criticising the Iranian regime, which a number of the Al Quds marchers took and read. Following at the back of the march, we were subjected to a torrent of hatred all the way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. A few of the Al Quds marchers shouted things like: ‘You are all Zionists and CIA agents. How much money did Bush pay you to come here today?’

    Oh, and they tried to beat him plenty of times. This is the march supported by the 1990 Trust, which is apparently, “promoting human rights through advocating racial and economic equality.” Yeah, great work guys. Well done for supporting such people and marching with Hizb ut-Tahrir. You help the cause so much.

    Filed under: Race politics

    How do we define ‘British values’?

    by Sunny at 8:43 am    

    The current edition of Prospect Magazine says:
    In July, Gordon Brown published a green paper called “The Governance of Britain.” The final section said that we need to be clearer about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be British. It proposed “to work with the public to develop a British statement of values.” We asked 50 writers and intellectuals to give us their thoughts on this statement and what should inform it

    I was one of the 50 asked to contribute.
    Here is my short response.

    Continue Reading...
    9th October, 2007

    Homophobia Watch

    by SajiniW at 7:15 pm    

    Following on from Sunny’s post, the clash of cultures and attitudes continues. This time - Stateside.

    The recent murder of US desi Satender Singh has been a bone of contention between recent immigrant groups and authorities.

    Gay rights activists blame Singh’s death on what they call “U.S.-Latvia Axis of Hate”, a reference to a virulent Latvian megachurch preacher who has become a central figure in the hard-line Slavic anti-gay movement in the West. Two Slavic men, one of whom had fled to Russia, were being charged in Singh’s death, which was characterized as a hate crime.

    The increasingly ferocious anti-gay movement in the Sacramento Valley centres amongst former Soviet immigrants, some of whom are representatives of international extremist anti-gay movement Watchmen on the Walls. The Watchmen are popular among US & European Christian fundamentalists. They are known for presiding over anti-gay rallies where gays and lesbians are pelted with bags of excrement and joining US Pentecostals in West Coast states to picket anti-homophobia protests.

    What bothers me most is that not only is this deplorable behaviour imported; it also continues to be supported by existing networks of hate. I’m interested in seeing how US authorities deal with this kind of behaviour, where actual action of dealing with these perpetrators may push authorities into the trap of ‘racism’ alongside the collusion of generalised apathy towards the attitudes of those who committed the crime.

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Self-censorship over Israel

    by Sunny at 4:52 pm    

    I’ve always believed that fear of offending the “Muslim community” over something a bit controversial is a form of soft racism; the belief that they are likely to start rioting or blowing things up the minute some get annoyed. Unfortunately there have been far too many real examples (and plenty fake ones around Christmas) of organisations, especially local councils, changing things for “fear of causing offence”.

    Of course it’s not limited to them. On comment is free today there are two articles on self-censorship by groups on the basis that Jews are so sensitive that any criticisism of Israel is likely to invoke cries of anti-semitism (ok, Melanie Phillips is that crazy, but let’s ignore her for the moment). In both cases two sets of people complain: the organised lobbies/groups (Muslim Council of Britain, Hindu Forum, Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC etc) who make it their job, and their supporters who rarely come from the community that is supposed to be offended. It’s the modern way to show how right-on you are: put a ‘Support Israel or else…‘ or a Palestinian / Hamas button on your blog.

    David Golberg ends with:

    In the obsession to find anti-semites lurking under every stone, you can no longer differentiate between the important work of supporting Jewish students intimidated on campus by Muslim and far-left groups, resisting the pernicious proposal to boycott Israeli academics - or gratuitously insulting, in the name of Jewry, the brave, decent and morally upright Desmond Tutu.

    Richard Silverstein’s article is even better:

    When Israel lobby defenders respond to the censorship issue they point out that the victims of lobby pressure often benefit from controversy stirred up. But that misses the point. In a fair, reasonable and tolerant world none of these victims would have to expend the enormous energy needed to combat the campaigns against them.

    Liberal Jewish bloggers who report on these outrages understand that the Israel lobby retains enormous reach in its ability to pre-empt speech and manipulate the public debate. But our conviction is that the more these incidents see the light of day, the more the power of the lobby to stifle debate will wane.

    Now, play nice kids! I don’t want to ban more of you for being abusive.

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