Hello all! Happy Jewish new year and Eid Mubarak! I’ve got one final day in Kathmandu left, a town I’ve fallen in love with, before I head back.
Hanging out with the backpackers, is probably how I’d describe my trip so far. In Delhi I stayed at a cheap and cheerful hotel called Ajay’s Guest House, which is right in the middle of the densely populated Paharganj market. The place is backpacker central, and more specifically Israeli backpackers central. According to some, there are over 20,000 Israeli travellers in India at any one time. The first night I struck up a friendship with a guy from near Manchester, who was also planning to come up to Kathmandu. We left together two days after, having spent much of that time hanging out with two Israeli women, who were great fun and were planning to visit north India. Another one we met the first night had spent a year back-packing India. Now that is serious stamina and was only around 22. There are so many Israelis here that I’ve had touts approach me with Hebrew. These touts certainly are entrepreneurial, heh.
Anyway, the travel to Kathmandu took around 24 hours (of continuous travel), and the final stretch involved sharing a 8-seater with 7 other backpackers. Two of us from England, an Italian couple, an Israeli couple, one American guy and one dutch. We got on so well we all stayed at the same hotel for the first few nights in Kathmandu and hung out together. The Italians were full of crazy stories about how Silvio Berlusconi has basically stitched up Italian politics. It’s actually mind-boggling.
Last night we went to a massive Jewish New Years party at the Radisson, and once that finished early (I told them that Jews had nothing on Sikhs for partying), we went to the casino downstairs after for free food and alcohol. I’m savouring my time away from the computer as you can tell.
I’m leaving my fellow back-packers behind in Kathmandu – which is full of them – and moving on Thursday morning to north India, and then to Lahore and Karachi (I doubt I’ll see any Israelis there) a few days after. Kathmandu has charm and character in spades, and its no wonder so many people want to come here to travel, stay or volunteer. I haven’t read as much this time as last time, primarily because I’ve had more company and partied more. But hey, its supposed to be a holiday! Once I get to the US in a few weeks time I’ll be in politics hell (or heaven, depending on how you see it). Adios!
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, racist, overt homophobe and President of Iran has changed his mind about the existence of gay people in his country. He has even been on the American news show Democracy Now to reveal the extraordinary news that there are indeed some gay people in Iran: “There might be a few people who are known. In general, our country would not accept it.”
“I didnâ€™t say they donâ€™t exist; I said not the way they are here. In Iran, itâ€™s considered as a very unlikable and abhorrent act. People simply donâ€™t like it. Our religious decrees tell us that itâ€™s against our values, and all divine laws, actually, believe in the same. Who has given them permission to engage in homosexual acts? Itâ€™s considered as an abhorrent act. It shakes the foundations of a society, the family foundation. It robs humanity. It brings about diseases.”
This week sees the start of the Jewish New Year and Eid il-Fitr. For those of you celebrating, Pickled Politics wishes you all the best . To avoid worrying about precisely when Eid starts, I have posted this a bit early.
In April of this year the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) and Karma Nirvana, with state funding, launched a helpline for those forced into marriages and dealing with other ‘honour’ based violence. It is staffed by experienced volunteers, and in the five months since it has been set up, it has received hundreds of calls, with an average of 62 a week. Statistically the breakdown is interesting, as 89% of the forced marriage callers were women, roughly confirming the previous estimate that 85% of people forced into marriage are women. 10% of callers were under sixteen, while the most common age of a caller was seventeen (no average age is given). This was also revealing:
“When asked to name who was responsible for violence against them, just 13 per cent of victims mentioned husbands, while 71 per cent blamed immediate family.”
The awarding of government/state contracts is not always a clear cut business. Firms who have failed in the past are often awarded new contracts in a different department. Whilst the selection criteria cannot be too precise, you could at least assume that a firm engaged in institutionalised torture would not be awarded any more government/state contracts. You’d be wrong, thanks to the SNP:
“A FIRMâ€‚ACCUSED ofâ€‚torturing Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad has beenâ€‚hiredâ€‚by the Scottish government to carry out the nation’s next census. Granting CACI (UK) – a subsidiary of the firm accused of torture – the Â£18.5 million contract has not only badly wounded the SNP government’s claims of being more ethical than Labour and putting human rights at the top of its agenda, but has also led to fears personal data on millions of Scots collected by the company might be sifted by the US government given the close relationship between the Bush administration and the CACI head office in Arlington, Virginia.
CACI’s parent company in the US was one of two private US contractors hit with lawsuits from four Iraqis at the end of last month, over allegations they were tortured in Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib became notorious in late 2003 when pictures of the horrific torture and degradation of Iraqi detainees were shown around the world. In the prison, US civilian staff working for private American security companies, which specialised in carrying out interrogation work for the US military, were heavily implicated in human rights abuses against detainees.”
It makes you wonder what crimes the firms that didn’t get the contract committed.
If you have more time, then this bloggingheads on a liberal v libertarian foreign policy is a must-watch. Both Heather Hurlburt and Chris Preble are very smart people with interesting and nuanced opinions on foreign policy. Seriously, its a great discussion and you won’t regret it.
The debate starts at 2 am but if anyone is interested i may try and setup a liveblog from either midnight or 1 if anyone is interested. No point doing this if no one is around but if you do want to drop by for a chat (hopefully at least 3 people) then let me know in the comments.
Various groups argue that a political system should accord with one or other set of revealed religious “truths” about what constitutes a moral or â€œrightâ€ action. Contained within these arguments is the assumption that God, if He exists, has the right to dictate what constitutes morally right action, and thus interfere with the organization of a political system. By using Pascal’s Wager as a springboard I’m going to argue against the idea that we should mediate out behavior based on either a belief in God, or even a sense of agnostic doubt about His existence. In other words God has no right to tell us what to do.
Pascalâ€™s argument boils down to an assertion that it is more logical to believe in God because if He exists the believer gains everlasting life upon death, while if He doesnâ€™t then the believer essentially loses nothing. Equally if God doesnâ€™t exist then the unbeliever gains nothing upon his death, but if God does exist then the unbeliever can potentially be sentenced to eternal damnation. However, in arguing this way Pascal assumes that God requires not just a belief in His existence, but also a sense of gratitude for the act of creation, the ability to divine Godâ€™s will and the ability to carry it out. In other words one must attempt to please God by modifying oneâ€™s behavior.
EDF has finally bought out British Energy, laying the foundations for the construction of a next generation of nuclear power plants. I think this is excellent news both for Britain’s future prosperity and in the battle against global warming. We had a big debate about this in an earlier thread, but given that the consensus on the progressive left seems to be against nuclear power, I think its important that I lay out my reasons for supporting nuclear power.
Did you know that the 1929 Lateran Treaty, between Italy and and the Vatican, states that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President and can be prosecuted under the Ministry of Justice? I didn’t either. And neither, it seems, did the Italian comedienne Sabrina Guzzanti. She’s in trouble with the Pope:
Addressing a Rome rally in July, Sabrina Guzzanti warmed up with a few gags about Silvio Berlusconi â€” her favourite target for her biting impressions â€” before moving on to some unrepeatable jokes about Mara Carfagna, the Equal Opportunities Minister and one-time topless model.
But then she got religion, and after warning everyone that within 20 years Italian teachers would be vetted and chosen by the Vatican, she got to the punchline: “But then, within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be â€” in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils, and very active ones, not passive ones.”
The joke may have gone done well with her crowd on the Piazza Navona in Rome, but not with Italian prosecutors. She is facing prosecution for “offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person” of Benedict XVI.
The Christian world may have been dismayed, even outraged, at the Muslim reaction in 2005 to Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammed, but Italian law enforcement appears to have had its own sense of humour failure. Giovanni Ferrara, the Rome prosecutor, is invoking the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, which stipulates that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President. Prosecution requires authorisation from the Ministry of Justice, for which Mr Ferrara has applied.
The fact that new technology has made a difference in how we act and communicate as individuals isn’t disputed by anyone. However the precise ways in which tools such as digital phone-cameras, facebook, flickr and livejournal have impacted communities and society as a whole have been less easy to quantify.
This is what Clay Shirky sets out to do in ‘Here Comes Everybody’, and his analysis of the changes to group formation as a result of greater connectivity, makes an excellent read which anyone interested in technology and forming active groups should check out.
Richard Barnbrook doesn’t like foreigners, especially Muslims. That is why he is the BNP’s London Assembly member. Yet, despite this loathing, he found time in his busy schedule to go help some foreigners in Germany (or ‘Germans’, as they are better known). What a nice chap. These Germans (called the Pro-Cologne group), don’t like Muslims either, which was why they were trying to stop the construction of a mosque in Cologne. Richard and his new friends got on well:
I was asked to speak this week at the Fabian Society fringe, with the title of this blog post as the headline. It was packed out completely, especially for an early afternoon Saturday when the conference had barely started. This is what I said – I was only given two minutes at the beginning.
The stereotype of the mildly racist white working class white-van driving man has become a common story in our national media. If it isnâ€™t journalists of ethnic minority origins using them as examples of why racism persists, then its white journalists in the Daily Mail or Express interviewing them to tell us why immigration should be completely stopped into the country.
And yet I find this picture rather bizarre because from my experience working class communities in London are more racially diverse than middle class ones.
Sunder Katwala had an excellent piece about Tory confusion over how to deal with Europe. In the Blair years, I think the Labour government did a reasonably good job in fending off the euro-skepticism of the likes of William Hague. Unfortunately that’s all they did – fend. Understandably, they didn’t want to use their political capital in defending their status quo when they were looking to make numerous reforms in health, education and ultimately the decision to pursue the war in Iraq.
However the effectiveness of the domestic policies didn’t match the investment and the foreign policy we all know about. As the centre-left anticipates being in opposition after the next elections, again understandable after 12 years in power, I think now is a good time to develop persuasive arguments about the importance of the EU rather than being stuck playing defence.
Via Andrew Sullivan, Razib at Gene Expression has posted this speech which Obama gave in 1994. Its not that long so I’m posting the whole thing after the jump because it sums up my views on this. I will say though that I think Obama is being unfair when he accuses Charles Murray of racism.
I think that Murray is one of those rare thinkers who put forward these opinions because he was genuinely searching for the truth. For instance Obama argues against welfare reform which Murray also propagated, but which according to a lot of serious people has played a big role in getting black people in the inner cities out of poverty. The fact it hasn’t been accompanied with health care reform is another matter.
Also in Murray’s favour is the fact that he was one of the few right-wing thinkers/pundits who saw the brilliance# in Obama’s post Rev. Wright speech on Race.
My review of John McWhorter’s book, ‘Losing the Race’ is also relevant. Anyways, the speech is after the jump.
The BBC has a disturbing story that senior Pakistani political figures were planning to meet at the Marriott Hotel on the day of the bombing but changed their plans at the last minute. While this might have just been a coincidence, more likely is that credible intelligence was received that the Marriott Hotel was being targeted:
“Interior Ministry head Rehman Malik said the president, prime minister and military chiefs should have been there. He told journalists “it would have been a great catastrophe”, but did not say why dinner plans were changed.”
What about those dead who were not considered sufficiently important to be warned away?
Iain Dale (and others) compose a list every year for the Daily Telegraph of the hundred most influential left-wingers, and the hundred most influential right-wingers. Our Sunny once again makes it onto the list, at number 82. He managed to finish ahead of Ken Livingstone, (ex-) terrorist Martin McGuiness and even Neil Kinnock. Perhaps Joe Biden should have plagiarised some of Sunny’s material instead (“why brown people should vote Democrat”). Whilst these lists are invariably subjective, it is nice to believe that Sunny has more influence then Ken, Martin or Neil, given the unpleasantness of those three. Shame about being beaten by Keith Vaz though.
Donna-Lee Camacho left her physically-abusive husband two years ago. Since then, she, along with her two children, has had to move home four times in order to avoid him:
“Miss Camacho said the physical abuse started early on in her previous relationship, usually when her former husband had had a drink, and in 2006 she left him. She and her children were forced to leave the family home in Preston to escape his constant harassment.
“He would follow me or even my friends home,” she said. “He would threaten to kill me, and even shoved a carving knife through our letterbox. He would yell he was going to burn the house down.”
One of the places she went to was a woman’s refuge; less then a year later she was forced to move after her ex-husband tracked her down with the help of his new girlfriend, Sarah Gillett. Gillett worked in the Child Tax Credit office and so was able to get information on the current location of Donna-Lee Camacho. Happily, Sarah Gillett has been jailed for eighteen months.
The annual Pew survey of global attitudes has found a rise in anti-semitism and Islamophobia in Europe.
A spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Centerâ€™s Pew Global Attitudes Project finds 46% of the Spanish rating Jews unfavorably. More than a third of Russians (34%) and Poles (36%) echo this view. Somewhat fewer, but still significant numbers of the Germans (25%) and French (20%) interviewed also express negative opinions of Jews. These percentages are all higher than obtained in comparable Pew surveys taken in recent years. In a number of countries, the increase has been especially notable between 2006 and 2008.
What could this sudden rise mean? People becoming more bigoted? A rejuvenation of the indignation behind the holocaust and anti-Jewish pogroms? Islam becoming more hated? Yeah right, how much more hated can it get? The most likely explanation might be simpler: more people hating religion in general. As Christoper Hitchens has pointed out, Islam may be the fastest growing religion, but atheism is the fast growing group in the world.
Falling in love continues to be fatal in western Uttar Pradesh. In what appears to be an incident of honour killing, two teenage lovers were brutally murdered and then set on fire in Bair village, barely 50 km from New Delhi. Some villagers said the assailants even chopped off the boy’s private parts.
Class disparity, rather than caste difference, appears to have caused the savagery. Both teenagers were Dalits. But Rekha, an 18-year-old Class X student, belonged to a more affluent family than her lover Sonu, a 17-year-old Class XI student. The girl’s father, Gulab Singh, is a rich farmer who also owns a ration shop. The boy’s father, Raju, ekes out a modest living singing jagrans in the area.
The grisly incident took place in a field next to a forested area in Bair village under Kakor police station in Gautam Buddha Nagar district, when the two were allegedly found together in a “compromising” position by the girl’s family around 10am on Thursday. Enraged family members strangled her with her own chunni. The boy was beaten to death.
Point of note: lower caste Hindu family. Stupid, stupid people. And this kind of behaviour always comes from a village mentality.
The Paralympic Games 2008 ended today. This is easily the most prestigious event in amateur DisAbility sport, but you wouldnâ€™t know it unless you think it. Mainstream media* coverage and publicity were both extremely limited, and the time difference between China and the UK just isnâ€™t a good enough excuse for me.
The Games started on the 6th of September this year. Hopes were high that the event would lead China to improve disabled access, as well as mainstream attitudes to disability. As usual, however, questions were raised about whether this positive development would actually last after the Games were over. Itâ€™s too early to answer this question yet, but I, for one, sincerely hope that this will last.
For all the talk about Barack Obama losing the white women vote to McCain, because of Sarah Palin, a new NY Times poll debunks this idea:
But the Times/CBS News poll suggested that Ms. Palinâ€™s selection has, to date, helped Mr. McCain only among Republican base voters; there was no evidence of significantly increased support for him among women in general. White women were evenly divided between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama; before the conventions, Mr. McCain led Mr. Obama among white women, 44 percent to 37 percent.
By contrast, at this point in the 2004 campaign, President Bush was leading Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic challenger, by 56 percent to 37 percent among white women.
The poll also notes that: “The percentage of Americans who disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is conducting his job, 68 percent, was as high as it has been for any sitting president in the history of New York Times polling.” – hah! But apparently, opposing Bush’s policies is anti-American prejudice.
… though, not permanently. This Friday I’m travelling up to Manchester for the Labour Party conference. I’m back on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning I’m flying to India.
My original plan was to go to New Delhi, buy a motorbike and ride it back all the way to London. I even had the visas sorted (to Pakistan and Iran). Last week I found out the Indian govt doesn’t allow foreign residents to buy vehicles and register it under their own names unless its for export (or something like that). In other words, I could have paid a bit extra to get the right paperwork, but it wouldn’t have worked in Europe. To travel across countries you need a document called the Carnet. Unfortunately, a Swiss authority not an Indian one controls that. So my trip back would have been illegal through Europe. Bastards.
Instead, I’m now going to backpack around India and then head to Pakistan after Eid (beginning of Oct). Don’t know where I’ll be going around India yet (I have a map, I usually just pick a city and catch a bus/train there). In Pakistan, for the first time, I’ll be going to Lahore and then travelling down to Karachi.
The upside to not being able to ride a motorcycle back is that I’m planning to come back earlier (13th Oct) and then flying to the United States a few days after. There, I plan to learn about how the Obama field operations work and what local organising has been going on (west coast).
So you’ll be reading more from the other Picklers, notably Shariq, Rumbold, Leon, Sid and Ala. If there are any disputes or major issues, then Leon is in charge. Otherwise, each writers is reponsible for their own words. Update: If you want to contribute to PP, ask Rumbold.