31st July, 2008
One of the common arguments in that recent discussion about nuclear power went like: OMG how dare you diss capitalism, its just helped like hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese to come out of poverty!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a believer in free markets, but capitalism is overrated. Chinese capitalism for example has been incredibly tightly government controlled, so its rather difficult to compare with American capitalism when talking about lifting people out of poverty.
And then there’s India:
The long-term future of the Indian middle class is secure. The factors that have driven its success â€” a sure grasp of English, a facility with technology, a talent for innovation â€” will continue to be important in the global economy.
But the 300 million or so Indians living in acute poverty are being crushed by inflation. If they thought washing the floors, driving the cars and cleaning the windows of the middle class would open the doors to a better life, they know now that they were wrong. With prices rising, their savings are being eaten away. Higher food and fuel prices are being driven by big changes in the global economy that look set to continue. Even the most cheerful optimist in the past decade has seen the huge divide between the haves and have-nots, but the hope has persisted that it would somehow go away. Inflation has set like cement into that divide, solidifying the gap between the two Indias. The future for the country is two futures: rosy and grim. Indian companies will buy more foreign businesses and more Indian children will starve. In economic terms, India has become neither the U.S. nor Sudan, but something in between â€” a Latin American republic with an entrenched class chasm. Higher levels of crime and social unrest are almost certain to follow.
So not only is there the myth that Indian capitalism’s benefits are trickling down to everyone, but people are explictly ignoring the dangers that come with an incredibly class-divided society. I would argue that it should be an aim of any government to prevent its society becoming more materially unequal. Not only does that indicate that there is huge market failure, but it doesn’t bode well socially.
My point is that economic growth has to be managed. I much prefer the open economy India has now compared to the old tightly regulated ‘license Raj’. But let’s not kid ourselves about the downsides to unfettered capitalism and pretend its the only solution to how society works.
According to Dave Hill, the BNP people say Anthony Browne’s book, The Retreat of Reason, is:
A devastating expose of the effects of Political Correctness and its poisonous effect of public debate in modern Britain. The author shows how the media and government even resort to employing misleading statistical evidence to support their PC objectives. A far reaching book which has the left squealing in horror.
But apparently not everyone is convinced, as this review points out:
In similar vein, no council has ever banned black bin-bags as racist; this is another press-generated myth, as I demonstrate at some length in Culture Wars: the Media and the British Left (Edinburgh University Press 2005). When the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh was killed, Index on Censorship did not ‘automatically side with the comparatively powerless Islamic Dutch-Moroccan killer’, nor is it ‘on the brink of turning from an organisation that campaigns for freedom of speech to one that campaigns against it’. This is simply pernicious nonsense. School curricula have not ‘re-written’ history to portray Shakespeare and Florence Nightingale as homosexual, whatever the occasional individual school text may (or may not) contain. Multiculturalism does not require people ‘to give up feelings of tribalism and belonging and â€¦ to prefer “the other” to the familiar’, nor does it believe that those coming to this country should isolate themselves in ‘parallel societies’. Quite apart from the fact that both these claims are false, they’re also mutually contradictory. Again, it’s demonstrably untrue that ‘there are virtually no pressure groups that promote politically incorrect views’, still less that the ubiquitous Migrationwatch UK is ‘a lone group campaigning for less immigration’ which is ‘almost totally blackballed by the BBC’.
Need I go on?
But hey, this is Anthony Browne, why should facts stand in the way of a good rant? After all, the BNP likes it, so he must be doing something right. Right? At least Richard Barnbrook is likely to welcome Boris employing Browne as his policy director.
30th July, 2008
So says Darcus Howe in this week’s New Statesman magazine. Erm, except that none of the polling shows that. If anything, he angered Jesse Jackson and that probably helped Obama with blacks and whites. Darcus Howe refers to Obama’s recent speech:
Obama missed a step, and let fly in a rhetorical flourish his hostility to absent black fathers as the major source of the pain and suffering of the black communities in the US. Hardly any attention directed, so far, to the racism heaped upon American blacks from slavery to this day, and which accounts for the ceaseless revolt of black people internationally. I suppose he is being cautious not to alienate the white vote.
This is nothing new in the national politics of America. Every modern president has played it this way. This tendency received intellectual legitimacy as far back as 1965 in the Daniel Moynihan report, which charged black men with the failure to create a black family. There was much condemnation of this report in the black community. Martin Luther King gave his partial support, saying: â€œNothing is so much needed as a secure family life for a people to pull themselves out of poverty and backwardness.â€ But he offered criticism, too: “The fact is that problems will be attributed to innate Negro weaknesses and used to neglect and rationalise oppression.”
Justin has started blogging for a new blog by Greenpace about nuclear power, called Nuclear Reaction. I contribute monthly to Greenpeace anyway, so happy to give it a plug. But his introductory post states this:
With nuclear, not a day goes by without a jaw-dropping news item. The industry news is chock full of â€˜NO WAY!â€™ moments. Much of it is darkly, surreally comedic. If you were to write a sitcom that involved some of the nuclear incidents Iâ€™ve blogged in the last few weeks, the show would bomb as too far-fetched.
Just a reminder readers, that this Saturday we’re having a Picklers meetup in central London at a top-secret location. So secret, in fact, that I don’t even know where is it yet. We’ve had meetups before but this is the first time we’ve decided to open it up slightly so regular readers can also come and shoot the breeze. Contrary to popular perception I won’t be sitting there with a whip, to crack at the first person who strays from the party line (ie, disagrees with me). The only person who likes whips is Rohin.
Those of you who have already emailed in – I will let you know of the exact location by tomorrow. I’m sorry but I’m not going to give out the location to randoms who don’t comment regularly or I don’t know already. Security precuations, I’m sure you understand.
29th July, 2008
This is incredible:
A city council has blocked its staff from looking at websites about atheism. Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was “discriminatory” and they would consider legal action. The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.
The city council declined to comment on the possible legal action, but said the new system helped make it easier for managers to monitor staff web access.
The authority’s Bluecoat Software computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.
So us atheists are no better than sexual deviants and Satanists according to Birmingham City Council?!
Didnâ€™t Alistair Campbell once say that if youâ€™re in the news for 12 days straight [on one story] youâ€™ll have to resign? Brownâ€™s must be eyeing the calendar with some concern. Another day, another string of rumours about plots, letters and potential leaders in waiting:
David Miliband and Harriet Harman are preparing the ground for a leadership election, Times Online can reveal. Many in the Labour party now believe that a revolt against Gordon Brown is highly likely, with the probability that it will take place at the start of September.
A number of ministers are considering standing down in early autumn, possibly refusing to serve in a Brown reshuffle; it was reported by The Times today.
It is alleged that Ms Harman was spotted on Thursday night, watching the scale of Labour’s defeat in the Glasgow East by-election on the television, telling aides “this is my moment”. This comes despite public protestations of loyalty from Labour’s deputy leader, who is “minding the shop” in Downing Street this week while Mr Brown is on holiday.
Update: Is this the beginning of David Miliband’s leadership bid?
A Sikh girl’s school was found to have indirectly discriminated against her by forcing her to remove the kara (bangle), which the judge described as vital to the Sikh religion:
“A Sikh teenager has won her High Court discrimination claim against her school which excluded her for breaking its “no jewellery” rule. Sarika Singh, 14, from Cwmbach, south Wales was excluded in November 2007 from Aberdare Girls School for refusing to take off a religious bangle. The school claimed its no jewellery policy was fair to all.”
It is always a shame when issues like these have to be settled in court, as it benefits no-one but the lawyers. I think that schools should be allowed to set their own dress codes, and should adopt a common sense approach to religious items (in this case the school should have let her wear the kara). Society loses out when people constantly run to the courts to settle minor disputes, rather than working it out amongst themselves. Still, the Commons is full of lawyers and people who benefit from these kind of conflicts, so it is no suprise that they encourage them.
28th July, 2008
Anthony Browne, writing in the Daily Mail.
“If people donâ€™t learn the difference between right and wrong, it is not just that they become anti-social. They donâ€™t learn the fundamental lesson that there is only one person responsible for what they do â€” and that is themselves. Nothing is wrong, and nothing is anyoneâ€™s fault; it is always someone elseâ€™s. Donâ€™t blame me for what I do; itâ€™s societyâ€™s fault.
Obviously, there are always external factors which have a big influence. People from difficult backgrounds definitely have higher hurdles to jump over, and need help. But for all of us, whatever our background, what we do is ultimately up to us.
This Left-wing moral neutrality comes from the best of intentions â€” wanting to sympathise with victims and other vulnerable people. If they do something anti-social, it is because anti-social things have been done to them â€” they are not at fault. And if you canâ€™t judge someone for their actions, there canâ€™t really be a right or wrong thing to do.”
via Dave Hill, who quite rightly says: “I weep before this edifice of patronising, self-serving, intellectually dishonest, straw man-abusing, willfully sub-Gumby arrogance.”
Hmmm… I wonder what Nick Cohen has to say now about his newly found mate. Anyway, the thing is – the man Boris Johnson has recruited as his new Policy Director has always been a tosser when writing about social/cultural issues. Browne is worse than Rod Liddle and possibly even Jon Gaunt. And because he keeps saying the right things, people on the right keep promoting despite his obvious lack of intelligence or nuance.
But this development is great for political reasons. Boris Johnson was hated by a lot of people when running for Mayor because people thought he didn’t get this wonderfully cosmopolitan city. He didn’t, but pretended anyway. Now he’s hired a deranged loon as his policy director and its great, not only because it gives us added motivation for getting rid of Boris in four years time, but because this means the political divide (left v right) gets wider.
Frankly, all this political centrism is boring. It’s a bit perverse but I rather like some elements of American political culture – where the left-right divide is so wide that there is huge hatred and fury on both sides for the other. It makes for more interesting politics. I also want to see a bit more anger on the left. British politics lost a lot of that with Blair and frankly the left always did well when it was united against easily identifiable enemies. Anthony Browne and Boris Johnson are perfect for the job. Bring it on, I say.
The Independent on Sunday has a story about how some families are forcibly marrying off their disabled children to people from the subcontinent, who are then able to live in the UK. Some families believe that because of their children’s disabilities, this is the only way to get them married off, and this mindset is exacerbated by the fact that South Asian families are less likely to seek help from disabled organisations:
“Mandy Sanghera, a social worker with Voice UK, a charity which helps people with learning disabilities, believes that the emphasis must be on protecting vulnerable individuals rather than on the communities which are failing them. “In 15 years I have worked with more than 100 people with learning disabilities forced into marriage, from south Asian, African and Middle Eastern communities. Forget the political correctness: these human rights abuses are very real and need to be stopped,” she said.
Ms Sanghera worked with Rani, a woman in her twenties with learning difficulties and mental health problems. Rani’s mother felt under pressure from the community to arrange for her to marry an Indian man who needed a British passport. Her mother decided this would be a good match, believing that no one else would marry her. After a year of marriage, Rani suffered a miscarriage and it was discovered that Rani’s husband was physically abusing her and stealing her benefits to send to his family. But her family pressured her to stay with him for the sake of honour.”
(Via the International Campaign Against Honour Killings)
26th July, 2008
Mr Moo’s latest post is hilarious:
The new era of pigeonholing is over. We are setting up a Council of Pigeon Advisors, consisting of Pigeons, but some doves, and also, crows, and maybe a peacock. We think in the interests of community cohesion, it might even be beneficial to put a cat amongst your pigeons. And to those right-minded pigeons who are willing to co-operate, I would say this, be more like the doves. They are more glamorous, and are in the Bible and Picasso sketches, and they drink wine and eat pork and laugh at Rushdie books and have inter-racial relationships without having to go overseas to marry their cousins. They do not get squished in the 0121 area as they are too busy posing with Kofi Annan and that chap who took over from him whose name no-one remembers, no not Boutros Boutros Boutros, but yes, he too had a funny name. Anyway, we digress, our point is this: Doves are nice, and the sooner you pigeons listen to us in this regard, the better it is. Yes, you may point out that dove-poo and pigeon-poo are indistinguishable, but that is not our point. We will know what breed of bird left a smear on our Skoda Octavias, and that is the important thing. We will know.
Go and read the whole thing! And if you want the serious version, then you could read Asim Siddiqui’s article.
Ahmedabad, the state capital of Gujarat, has been hit by a wave of bombs. At least
29 49 people are dead, with many more wounded. A terrorist group, Indian Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility for the blasts. They previously claimed to be behind blasts in Mumbai and Jaipur. The explosions come a day after multiple bombs killed two people in Bangalore. Gujarat has experienced intra-communal violence over the past few years, and it is thought that the bombs were an attempt to stir up tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the state. The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narenda Modi, was implicated in the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, and one can only hope that he does not try and exploit this tension, but instead diffuse it.
Update: A plot to blow up trains in Tamil Nadu on August 15th has been foiled.
25th July, 2008
“The show is over”. That’s what someone (a seasoned political watcher) told me yesterday while we were talking about the recent by-election and the prospect of Brown remaining leader.
I can’t help but agree; it’s time for the party to plan for a post Brown Labour party and possible huge losses at the next election; time for them to finally face up to the reality of their situation.
The Guardian has a string of articles here, here, here, here and here (the last is where the following quote is from) worth reading:
Discussions are underway at cabinet level on whether to seek an orderly resignation by Gordon Brown as prime minister, in the wake of the disastrous Labour defeat at the hands of a resurgent SNP in the Glasgow East byelection.
Talks between cabinet ministers took place on the phone yesterday to coordinate a response to the defeat, with renewed pressure being placed on the chief whip, Geoff Hoon, and the justice secretary, Jack Straw, to urge Brown to stand aside. One source said: “The onus is now on Brown to prove that he should stay.”
Writing in his Evening Standard column, Nick Cohen said this week:
Browne has stood up for free speech and against liberal alliances with radical Islam, and exposed the civil servants who were pretending that a rise in HIV was due to poor sex education rather than immigration from African countries where the virus is raging. A former press officer at the Department of Health staff told me that his arguments caused consternation, not least because they were true.
Hmmm… is this anything to do with Browne joining Boris Johnson’s team, which of course the Evening Boris newspaper is desperate to prop up? Even more curious is that Nick previously said this of Browne (via Matt T):
This line of cant has been developed by Anthony Browne, an occasional contributor to this paper, and a writer for the Times and Spectator, elite journals both. “Blair’s epidemics” of Aids, TB and hepatitis B are being spread by asylum-seekers, he has asserted to great acclaim. You can understand the reasons for the applause. Browne has moved the debate on. Asylum-seekers are not only scroungers and terrorists but plague carriers, like the rats that brought the Black Death.
So earlier Browne was a nasty guy who painted asylum seekers as plague carriers, and now Browne is only speaking the truth? Its a bit unfortunate that just because Anthony Browne is similar to Melanie Phillips in shrieking about those nasty Muslims, that Nick is warming up to him.
As I said when reviewing Mad Mel’s book Londonistan, these nutcases hate the left not because they’re cosying up to Islamists, but because (to them) that is an entirely predictable alliance given the left has no moral, ethics or vision for society. The answer, for the Phillips, Steyns and Brownes of this world, is a back-to-basics vision of society, ruled by a Conservative class that subscribes to their Judeo-Christian view of the world. In other words, the problem for them isn’t making alliances with Islamists as much as it is the apparently decadent society we live in.
Its a bit sad that Nick Cohen seems to have fallen for this trick, just because Anthony Browne is saying a few similar things to him. A bit of a bizarre alliance, given Anthony Browne really really hates the left. What is Nick Cohen playing at? Dave Hill has more on this curious alliance between an old-school leftie and an immigrants / diversity / leftists hating right-wing nutjob.
24th July, 2008
Rahila Gupta isn’t convinced that the government’s latest proposals to combat forced marriages are that good. For example, she says, the plan to raise the age of spouses allowed in on a marriage visa – from 18 to 21 is a bad idea. She cites Denmark as an example. But as this paper shows, when Denmark raised the age from 18 to 24 for allowing in spouses on a marriage visa, there was a positive impact.
The problem of course is that evidence can be presented both ways. But I’d be willing to bet that for every Asian family who is willing to let the young Pakistani girl who their son has married stay there until she reaches the required age – there are more who find the whole process too much of a hassle. Maybe what the govt should have done is raised the limit to 24, and then seen what the impact would have been (like Denmark). Its not terribly liberal, I know. But then neither is forcing your kids into an early marriage.
Julian Baggini argues on Comment is Free today that the asylum system is in need of reform, and that there is a consensus on reform, despite the wide divides that are seemingly apparent:
“People support the right for people to seek sanctuary from persecution. They also believe new arrivals should contribute to society. They agree that bogus claimants should be swiftly returned. And they also agree that newcomers should not profit at the expense of existing citizens…
A more rational response to asylum would satisfy both camps. In order to return failed asylum seekers you first have to know where they are, and you won’t find that out if you adopt a punitive approach: people will just disappear. Experience suggest that the best way to return people to their countries of origin is to provide voluntary means for them to do so. Forcing return may sound tough, but it just doesn’t work.
What do you do when you don’t like the look of a rasta when next to the strapping young prince? You use photophop!. hat-tip Jim Jay.
Announced yesterday. Haven’t had a chance to think this through. Thoughts?
(watch the video by clicking ‘continue’)
23rd July, 2008
From the BBC:
A police force has apologised after a disabled child and his parents claimed they were detained at a Channel crossing point under the Terrorism Act. Julie Maynard, of Ware, Hertfordshire, was taking a day trip to Calais through the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone, Kent.
The detective constable accused Ms Maynard and her husband Leslie Coombs of trafficking her son Joshua, 12. Kent Police apologised and described the incident as inappropriate, unprofessional and lacking in tact.
They’ll detain you for whatever you want and you better like it buster! via Dib Lemming.
A senior politician was widely praised today after launching an attack on the kilt. Speaking to a national newspaper, the LabourConservative MP spoke about how a kilt was a sign that that the wearer subscribed to an extreme anti-English ideology: “Kilted men make me uncomfortable,” said the MP, “especially when it is windy.” He went on to point out that the modern kilt is not even Scottish, having been invented by a non-Scot who was a member of a religious group opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “What does this say about the wearers?” wondered the MP. “Some of them canâ€™t even speak English.”
Earlier in the week, an MP from the ConservativeLabour party attracted similar applause when he attacked men who wear suits: “Where I live, all you see are men walking about in the street in suits. Either they are off to Parliament to claim expenses, start wars and tax the poor. Or,” continued the MP, “they work in the City where they spend all day coming up with complex financial packages that benefit no-one, so that they can spend their huge bonuses on strippers. The suit is a badge of corruption, greed and moral degeneracy.”
I got this in an email a while back and I should have posted it but didn’t get around to it. Its worth reading though. At ignoblus, the blogger highlights a comment I made earlier:
Furthermore, I find it amusing that when Muslims are associated with conspiracy theories to Islamicise Britain (as Melanie Phillips is frequently liable to claim) or â€˜Eurabiaâ€™, we donâ€™t see that level of condemnation [as we see of antisemitic conspiracism].
He says in reply:
Firstly, if you feel that the sort of conspiracy theories directed at Muslims are not sufficiently critiqued, it would certainly be appropriate to say so. I’ve noticed them and wondered about them, but my perspective is different from yours. Perhaps more importantly, though, I’m concerned that you might be missing something essential about antisemitic conspiracism. It’s dependent upon a view of Jews as too much assimilated.
Chief Medical officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson declared last week that ethnic minority doctors in the NHS faced systematic racism, prejudice and harrassment, saying many doctors’ careers have been impeded due to this.
In his annual report on the state of the nation’s health he called for a “clear committment” to tackle racism in the NHS, which will include an annual round datble debate and a mentorship scheme for BME doctors.
Both he and BMA have called for urgent investigations into the reasons behind the fact that doctors born in Africa and Pakistan have a significantly higher mortality rate than their colleagues.
Referring to landmark studies uncovering racism in medical schools and the NHS, the report says that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to get into medical school and become consultants, and more likely to live in areas of high deprivation.
Sir Liam says, “Many institutional barriers have been removed, but there are still areas that cause concern.”
BMA equal opportunities committee co-chair Professor Bhupinder Sandhu said, “[It is] brave of [Sir Liam] to accept the historic discrimination.” But she also criticised as insufficient the recommendation for the new Care Quality Commission to continue formal assessment of the quality of diversity and equity in healthcare organisations and make public those that fall short.
ukliberty highlights this example of Jacqui Smith banning a student identified as ‘AE’ from studying AS level Biology or Chemistry.
(a) the objective of the Secretary of State in seeking to prevent or restrict involvement by AE in terrorism related activity is sufficiently important to justify limiting the right of AE to education;
(c) the decision of the Secretary of State refusing consent was no more than was necessary to accomplish the objective of seeking to prevent or restrict involvement by AE in terrorism related activity. As I have explained AE contends that the â€œprimaryâ€ purpose for him in doing these two AS Level course in the words of his witness statement â€œwas an effort to start on the ladder to my medical studiesâ€.
Lee Griffin has some wise advice for future policy:
Expect these subjects to be strictly off curriculum by 2010 along with P.E (encourages too much physical contact, something proven to be important in all knife crime), English (teaches you to say things that might offend another person) and Electronics/Computer science (for the obvious connections to easy routes to terrorism).
Hmmm… what other subjects could be put on the ‘suspect banned list’? Clearly flying lessons are out of the question. No photography lessons either, the Met police will have you. Mathematics? Foreign languages? The list is endless. Move along people, no one’s civil liberties are being infringed on here.
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This is taking place today.
The Government has set up a Taskforce, chaired by Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords, to increase the number of women from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) communities who are serving as councillors in local government. Local councillors play a vital role in their local communities and the Government wants to encourage and support more women from ethnic minority backgrounds to take part in public life.