31st May, 2008
Things may prove a bit quiet here today folks – most of the PP team will be out drinking in the afternoon to celebrate the last day one is legally allowed to drink on London’s public transport. If you’re in London and want to join us, get in touch through the contact form.
(ermm, not that we drink on the tube regularly… but its a good excuse for a meetup)
30th May, 2008
I’m writing a longer article on how crap Nazir Ali’s article in Standpoint is, but there’s no surprise that the usual suspects on the right are getting a hard-on over it. The thing is, Nazir Ali’s point was actually made by Melanie Phillips ages ago and it was taken apart then. After all, it wasn’t long when she asked in all seriousness: “How long will it be before Christianity becomes illegal in Britain?”
When Lord Nazir Ali is headlining your magazine then you know its rapidly going to become the house journal of Christian Concern for our Nation, Nadine Dorries MP and assorted Melanie Phillips fans (aka nutjobs). And in case you haven’t yet spotted the magazine’s recurring theme yet, there’s this gem from one Michael Burleigh:
Many of the 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain, for example, still do not seem to fully appreciate the outrage that a finger-jabbing minority causes at home and abroad with each escalating demand for Islamist enclaves.
That’s right folks – all of Britain’s Muslims are to blame for the way they allow some extremists to behave! No, there’s no stereotyping here. There’s no attempt to lump them all together. They’re just all to blame for the way that a “finger-jabbing minority”, otherwise referred to as “those uppity Muslims who don’t appreciate how lucky they are being allowed to live in Britain.” If any brown person gets too big for their boots, just blame the ethnics for letting the “finger-jabbing minority” get out of hand.
“Voting for the BNP is a deliberate decision: you are not “driven” to it any more than a car drives itself. It is a decision to allow self-pity to influence your vote and to disguise it as righteous anger,” says Linsey Hanley in the Guardian today. I happen to agree, and would argue the same applies to Muslims seduced by Islamist and more violent terrorist organisations.
But here’s the question: How do you deal with the BNP or Islamist party if they attract significant numbers of votes? Do you acknowledge their existence because its democracy at work? Or do you say the voters are stupid, should be in a mental institution, and pretend the election didn’t happen?
And that’s just the parties. What do you with the voters? Is everyone who votes for a racist party or sympathises with an Islamist party a lunatic in danger of harming others? Do you lock them up as a precaution? Or do you say there’s a problem with the system that makes those parties the only protest option?
Are these voters then beyond the pale? Should they be branded with a big swastika sign somewhere so w we’re aware of the fascists among our midst? After all, over 5% of voters in the London Mayoral elections voted for the BNP. One in 44 Londoners is an active fascist voter. Should the national media ignore these people for making such monumentally stupid electoral decisions?
A young 7 year old girl in Birmingham dies of neglect and starvation. The MP blames the social services, and so does the father. But of course the real problem here is the bloody parents who neglected their daughter isn’t it?
I quote Steve:
No, Mr Zaire, you never lifted a finger. It was you who did nothing. You chose to be somewhere else.
I’m not saying Birmingham’s social workers are blame free. They should have asked questions when the child had been away from school for so long. If they were unaware of this, then that is a system failure too. But Mr Zaire has some cheek to blame just about everyone else when, it appears, he had very little involvement with his children.
Family breakdown has become one of the biggest issues of our generation. Conservatives cannot stop harping on about it because it captures the sense of moral panic some people feel over issues (crime, unemployment, teenage pregnancies, abortion) and allows them to blame that on liberals and Labour governments.
29th May, 2008
Talking to someone about blogging today and I said the key to developing a presence on the web is having someone new to say and taking controversial positions. The Spiked Online crew are perhaps the best example in Britain, I said, because they’re known only for spouting hilarious, contrarian positions for its own sake.
Lo and behold, its editor Brendan O’Neill is on CIF today telling us what a conniving bastard the Dalai Lama is. Up next: Margaret Thatcher was right! Nelson Mandela is a terrorist!
His Grace Bishop Nazir-Ali has written an article in Standpoint, a new monthly magazine. In it, he argues that British values have been shaped by Christianity, and that the cultural revolution which has been going on since the 1960s has led to the decline of Christianity and a moral vacuum. I am going to leave the latter part of his discussion, and just focus on his contention that values like the rule of law, civility and suchlike arose from Christianity in Britain in the preceding centuries.
Those Evening Standard journalists eh, always quick with the journalism! I pointed out last week that Munira Mirza’s Manifesto Club was diametrically opposed to Boris Johnson’s tube drinking ban. First the Observer’s Pendennis column picked that up, and now the ES has a big story!!!! about it. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against her. But those sharp hacks at the ES should have picked up this amusing story ages ago. Maybe they were too bosy slobbering over Boris. More at Dave Hill.
I don’t normally do this of course, but this itch has been getting bigger lately. A few months ago on CIF I said that the race between Obama and Clinton was leading to a fight between feminists and anti-racists in the fight to claim the mantle on who faced more bigotry in this presidential race: did the black man have it worse or the white woman?
Quite sensibly, most feminists in America have tried not to let it get out of hand by highlighting the sexism that Clinton has faced, but not play that against Barack Obama, as if its still his fault and he’s getting off easily. But not all.
28th May, 2008
It looks like the Gulf financiers of the Quilliam Foundation have withdrawn their funding without so much as a by-your-leave. The Evening Telegraph writes:
The Quilliam Foundation, the think tank devoted to promoting harmony in West/Islam relations, is facing the withdrawal of its financial backers. The foundation was set up by former Hizb ut-Tahrir members Maajid Nawaz and Ed Husain in April with the explicit aim of freeing Western Muslims from “the cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent and the political burdens of the Arab world”. Its work has already been feted by such figures as Michael Gove, the Conservative Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, and socialite Muslim Jemima Khan. But now its financial backers, based in the Gulf, have cut off funding because they are incensed at its criticism of Ken Livingstone’s favourite Islamist, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Husain, author of The Islamist, who is now seeking new sources of funding from Muslims based here in the UK, blames the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain for mounting “a character assassination attempt” on his organisation and intimidating its advisers. “It’s a challenge having the funds pulled out,” he tells me. “But it’s not easy for normal Muslims to condemn figures like Qaradawi and then sustain themselves. The people who are trying to shut us down are the same people who were behind Ken Livingstone’s campaign to mount a character assassination of Boris Johnson, portraying him as a racist.”
Another day, and yet more news of the crumbling Bush adminstration:
A former aide to President Bush claims the White House deliberately mounted a dishonest propaganda campaign to sell the Iraq invasion to the US public, in the most damning insider account of the presidency so far.
Scott McClellan, who worked for Bush for seven years, including three as White House spokesman, brands the war a “serious strategic blunder” and “not necessary”. The scathing comments stunned Washington today because the Bush team, until now, has had a reputation for intense loyalty to their boss.
Great news for the Obama campaign, another weapon in the growing stockpile against that idiot John ‘A thousand years in Iraq dammit’ McCain.
As for those comments of why he didn’t speak up before? Better late than never and the more damage these Republicans do to themselves the better I say!
Sunny updates Best headline goes to Wonkette: “Bush Propagandist Complains Of Bush Propaganda”.
The NY Times has an amusing round up of American blog reactions.
The Daily Telegraph website is hosting the blog of the BNP councillor Richard Barnbrook, as I pointed out on LibCon last night. When contacted by the Media Guardian today, they said:
The newspaper yesterday defended its decision to host the blog and said it has had no complaints. A spokeswoman said: “Our readers are entitled to their opinions and, within the law, they’re entitled to publish them on the My Telegraph blogging platform. We believe our readers are intelligent and discerning enough to avoid the content they dislike and report that which offends. That doesn’t mean the Telegraph necessarily endorses their opinions nor promotes them.”
What actually happened is that Telegraph readers didn’t even notice the difference between what the BNP councillor is saying and what the paper’s journalists write anyway.
Barnbrook says: Blame the immigrants. Who is the Telegraph to disagree? This is a goldmine for bloggers to watch… I wonder how long it’ll take before the idiot says something beyond the pale and the Torygraph takes it down.
Update: Neil D on Harry’s Place says:
The Guardian apparently has no moral objections to propagating the views of far right sectarians, as it actively solicits pieces by Muslim Brotherhood supporters such as Faisal Bodi, Anas Altikriti, Ismail Patel and Soumaya Ghannoushi. They even publish, on a regular basis, work by Azzam Tamimi, a Hamasâ€™ â€œSpecial Envoyâ€œ and wannabe suicide bomber.
This rather silly. Most of them might be conservative right-wingers,
and Faisal Bodi a complete idiot, but comparing them to the BNP is disingenuous. They don’t go around spouting racial or religious hatred (Bodi and Azzam Tammimi excluded).
I blogged last week about two people from Nottingham University, Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza, who were arrested when the police thought there were downloading terrorist material. It turned out they were researching the material and downloading it from an American govt website. The police let them go after 6 days of questioning.
But the story doesn’t stop there. The dimwits from the police force, in order to cover up their own embarassing stupidity, decided they would deport Hicham Yezza in order to make themselves feel better. On his release Hicham was re-arrested under immigration legislation and, due to confusion over his visa documentation, charged with offences relating to his immigration status. His visa conditions say if he is arrested then the home office has the right to deport him.
So the police wrongly arrest him and then use that as an excuse to deport him! It’s at times like this I wish I could become a more sweary blogger because the idiocy of govt officials never ceases to amaze me. There was an article in the Independent on Sunday highlighting this.
Hicham Yezza is such a popular figure at the uni that there is protest today at the uni to highlight his deportation. There is also a popular Facebook group, with more info, and a blog – Free Hicham Yezza. If you’re in the Nottingham area, try and attend the demonstration! He is apparently being deported this Sunday. A disgrace.
Update – good news, this story is all over the press!
Press Association // Guardian letter // Boston Herald // BBC News
27th May, 2008
Church of England row over Muslim conversion, exclaims the Telegraph, showing a picture of the embattled Lord Nazir Ali. The article says near the end,
Britain’s only Asian bishop, he was tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury before Dr Rowan Williams’s appointment in 2002. Since he was passed over, he has felt able to speak more freely about his inter-faith views and has become a talisman for hard-line evangelicals who see Islam as a threat to culture and religion.
Yup, we’re aware of that, since he made shit up about ‘Muslim no-go areas’ without actually having been in one and then claimed people were unfairly targetting him. I love this latest sob-story by Lord Nazir Ali too.
Apparently, senior figures within the Church are not exactly happy with his plans to covert British Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus to Christianity because its unlikely to lead to better inter-faith relations. The horrors of social cohesion! Who wants it?
Sometimes you’d think Lord Nazir Ali was a lone figure flying in the face of political correctness to bring social cohesion…. and other times he wants to make sure these damn heathens listen to his word of God. Throw in the word Muslim (we’re not going enough to convert them!) and the right-wing broadsheets are all over it like a rash.
But there is more to this. The conversion thing is a private members motion to be debated by the Church of England General Synod. It is being proposed by Paul Eddy, a guy who does PR for the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (via Bartholomew). His partner in crime there is Andrea Minichiello Williams, who was most recently seen on the C4 documentary cussing Muslims. You can see why this might pose a problem for inter-faith dialogue. Now if this were some Hizb ut-Tahrir or al-Muhajiroun nutjobs cussing Christianity, the usual bigots would be up in arms saying these people should leave this Christian nation. But in this case they’re busy admiring Paul Eddy’s conviction. Oh, the sweet smell of hypocrisy.
The thing is, this is a classic wedge tactic. If these people really wanted to convert non-Christians, they’d just be out there doing it. But these Christian fundamentalists need to create a sense of being under attack, and they need to get rid of the Church of England’s more liberal leaders. So they’re making this into a wedge issue and trying to galvanise the nutjobs within the Synod so they can eventually provoke a clash between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists. That, for them, would be the best way to attract more followers over the longer term and depose of Rowan Williams and his buddies. The Telegraph is more than happy to oblige.
By now some of you might have seen the government’s new Â£10 million campaign highlighting the number of alcoholic units in drinks, which was launched because it was felt that people were underestimating the level of alcohol that they were consuming. Larger glasses and stronger beers and wines have become increasingly common, and this was an attempt to get people to estimate their consumption correctly.
There are two problems with this campaign.
Labour MP and former Europe minister Dennis MacShane has called for tax and spending cuts in order to benefit the lowest paid in society. He has also set out a compelling vision for why this should be so:
25th May, 2008
A few weeks ago I had lunch with Colin Byrne, the highly perceptive head of Weber Shandwick, along with my friend Rakhee Vithlani. Both love blogging too. Anyway, we talked again about political blogging in light of this article in the Economist which mentioned Liberal Conspiracy. Colin’s also a leftie and asked why British lefty bloggers seemed so ineffectual on the blogosphere.
Are bloggers on the political left of the spectrum really that crap compared to those on the right? I don’t believe so, but I’ll come back to this question another time. I do want to point out how and what can be achieved if we put our minds to it.
Is Barack Obama a Muslim? A website that tells you the answer. Link it from your blogs and drive up its google rankings, to help those stupid Americans who keep asking this question.
We are now fed a nearly daily diet of stories about MPs claiming expenses for things they shouldn’t be entitled to. Therefore, one can only be impressed when a story emerges in which the MPs involved have gone to a new low in terms of what they think they can get away with on their expenses form:
“The health minister Ann Keen is this weekend revealed to have insured her 70-year-old husbandâ€™s life for Â£430,000 â€“ and to have claimed the premiums on parliamentary expenses. Keen took out a joint HSBC â€œfirst deathâ€ policy with her husband Alan, also a Labour MP, which meant if one of them died the other would get the payout.
The Â£867 monthly premiums were submitted as part of their parliamentary expenses. The couple are already entitled to generous payouts if one of them dies under the Commons pension scheme. Details of the policy have been released after a three-year freedom of information battle by The Sunday Times. Michael Martin, the Speaker, was forced to publish the expenses of 14 MPs after spending more than Â£200,000 of taxpayersâ€™ money trying to block their release.”
The worst news was that such claims were actually considered valid. The Keens are already fairly notorious for claiming tens of thousands of pounds every year for a flat in Westminster, even though their constituency home is only nine miles away from Parliament.
24th May, 2008
more cat pictures
Anyway, what are people’s plans for this long weekend? Mine involves a lot of beer.
23rd May, 2008
I was going to write about the failed nail-bomber in Exeter but I didn’t for various reasons. The main reason is that the guy may have been a Muslim convert but there’s no evidence to suggest he was part of an active cell. It may very well have been that the mentally ill convert became more radicalised on his own and went out on a warpath alone.
In that context he is no different to a severely mentally ill person who attacks someone without provocation. I do also want to say most mentally ill don’t do this, so I don’t want to feed into the media narrative that mentally ill people are a menace to society. In most cases they are a danger to themselves.
For example, on Harry’s Place Brett says:
Now we know Islamist terrorists in Iraq use mentally disabled people as suicide bombers, but it would be a quite a wake-up if our local jihadis have now adopted similar tactics.
And this is where I become somewhat suspicious you see. The story of the twin-bombs in Baghdad, detonated apparently by women with Down’s Syndrome (we blogged it too) was never confirmed by medical reports. In fact, I remember watching a video on the NY Times website (which I can’t find now) where an intelligence officer cited that as an example of the US military getting a grip on their public relations (meaning propaganda) and putting out that story before anything had been confirmed.
So, beware received wisdom that mentally ill people are good fodder for suicide bombers. Not that it makes much difference, but my point is that the Exeter bombing incident may have more to it than meets the eye.
At a time when ‘Populist’ and progressive politics should have a real chance of succeeding, its ironic that a conservative shadow government led by David Cameron and George Osborne are the faces of change and seen as sticking up for the common man. One only has to look at the potentially huge gains the Democrats could make in November to see the scale of the opportunity.
Supposedly Gordon Brown was the one to make a clean break from New Labour and go back to traditional ‘Labour’ values. Unfortunately this was a lot of spin. The 10% tax fiasco is a perfect illustration of how the Prime Minister tried to further undermine the Labour base and woo middle England by reducing the middle rate from from 22% to 20%.
According to some rough calculations I did, the changes in the tax rates were going to benefit those who made at least Â£17,000. The fact that there has been such a negative reaction to this is an indication of a number of things.
1) The rise in commodity prices means that those even in the middle income range aren’t as well off as they otherwise would have been.
2) Supposed gains for the people at the bottom of the income scale have been overstated, and the tv show by Peter Snow and his son on the extent of income inequality in the UK are largely accurate.
3) The often derided ‘middle classes’ still have a sense of fairness and were also unhappy at the way in which the 10% tax changes affected those who were least well off in society.
I’m not sure what the solution for Labour is. Getting rid of Gordon Brown right now won’t have any long term benefits. Neither will trying to rush through reforms in health, education or crime as too much meddling has probably made increased investment less efficient (this is the opposite of the blair line that you couldn’t have investment without reform – its counter-intuitive but i think it holds up).
Ultimately, the only way forward is to try and make sure that the Conservative majority in the next parliament is as small as possible and to be thankful that Cameron beat out David Davis in the last leadership election.
I know the Evening Standard is still in honeymoon period after helping elect Boris Johnson but its slobbering praise for Boris Johnson must surely be becoming a bit embarassing to his supporters?
“A private equity millionaire branded ‘The Prince of Darkness’ for his ruthless costcutting has been appointed Boris Johnson’s chief of staff,” gushes the London paper. Tim Parker is now Boris Johnson’s fifth deputy mayor. Presumably Boris will be so busy writing his weekly column for the Telegraph and other duties that he needs so many deputies around him. It isn’t just that, “We now have a First Deputy Mayor, three notional deputy mayors and a statutory Deputy Mayor whose responsibilities seem extremely vague to say the least.”
It’s also that:
Deputy mayor Richard Barnes, who will technically stand in for his boss in his absence, earns Â£92,594 for his role. However his executive counterpart, deputy mayor for government relations Ian Clement, will pick up Â£124,364 while deputy mayor for young people Ray Lewis is unpaid at present but is expected to receive about the same.
The fourth deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, will only be paid his Assembly member’s salary of Â£53,543 to run policing. There are still unanswered questions about his status as both an elected official and a member of the executive he is supposed to scrutinise.
Former BBC political correspondent Guto Harri, the Mayor’s director of communications, will earn Â£124,364. He gave up a lucrative position with PR firm Fleishman-Hillard to join Mr Johnson’s team. Director of transport Kulveer Ranger will earn Â£100,000 while director of arts and culture Munira Mirza will receive Â£80,000.
Mmm…. mooolah. Maybe the first round of cost-cutting could go towards all the deputy mayors and their Â£100k+ salaries? Another advisor was also going to be paid about a Â£100k before it turned out it possibly wasn’t legit. No mention of “exorbitant salaries” yet on the Evening Standard’s articles.
Oh and this is also quite amusing. The Mayor’s own cultural advisor preumably opposes his policies to ban drinking on the tube (you heard it here first!). Munira Mirza co-founded the Manifesto Club. MC opposes drinking ban on the tube. I see a story there!
Update: The Observer picks it up.
Not long ago I asked when Republican candidate John McCain will disown the bigot that is Rev John Hagee. The Republican candidate, it must be remembered, actually went out to get Rev Hagee’s endorsement and got it, despite knowing what he had said in the past about people of other religions. And it must also be remembered that Conservatives on this side of the pond also keep endorsing McCain without acknowledging this fact.
Anyway. The website Talk2Action, which aims to expose Christian fundamentalism, last week uncovered evidence that John Hagee had also said in one of his sermons that biblical verses made clear that Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust was part of Godâ€™s plan to chase the Jews from Europe and drive them to Palestine.
22nd May, 2008
Angry emails are being circulated by people about this incident at Nottingham Uni:
A masters student at the University of Nottingham who was arrested under the Terrorism Act under suspicion of possessing extremist material was studying terrorism for his dissertation, Times Higher Education can reveal. Academics and students have expressed concerns about the policeâ€™s handling of the case, which saw police searching campus property.
Rizwaan Sabir, a 22-year-old who was studying in the politics department, was arrested along with a 30-year-old member of staff. Both were released without charge on 20 May after having been held in custody for six days.
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Seeing thisÂ clip and a couple of others on youtube has made me terribly excited about the prospect of Sen. Jim Webb as Obama’s running mate. In thisÂ one he aggressively but articulately attacks Lindsey Graham on the actual impact of the surge. He also doesn’t let Graham use the classic Republican talking point of hiding behind the troops, by looking at the consequences of the war on the soldiers. It’s one thing Jon Stewart doing this, but it has a lot more weight when it comes from someone who served in the millitary and in Ronald Reagan’s administration.
In this video, he makes some really interesting points about the scottish/irish cultural group in America and how they have been left behind and the possibility of a populist politics which cuts across across racial lines. Also check out this clip in which he’s interviewed by Olbermann on the State of the Union address.