Here we have the McCain campaign’s execrable Michael Goldfarb slinging around accusations of anti-semitism–a favorite pastime, as we’ve seen this year, among Jewish neoconservatives. I’ve never met Rashid Khalidi, but he is (a) Palestinian and therefore (b) a semite, so the charge of anti-semitism is fatuous. Khalidi is also a respected academic, the sort of person who is involved in foundation work that John McCain, for one, was willing to support financially. I’d say that if we have a bigot here, it’s Mr. Goldfarb who, if he’s intent on calling people antisemitic–or any other epithet–should be required to provide chapter and verse, which he does not do on CNN.
Typical trick for right-wing and for McCain.
Here is Michael Goldfarb, communications director for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, using the insinuations of “I think we all know Obama is an Angry Black Man/Secret Muslim/Terrorist” again. Notice too the robust use of the race card. Unfortunately for Goldfarb, who advocates religious-identity politics and Jewish bloc voting, not very successfully.
The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead.
This is only days after an endorsement by the Financial Times. And yet the Republicans are hilariously trying to tag him ‘socialist’. Anyway – 5 days to go!
Thereâ€™s no doubt that the current witchunt against BBC presenters was in part exacerbated by the right-wing press seizing this morsel of bad BBC press like a rabid pack of hounds. The rest of it is just the general publicâ€™s hankering for a good old self-righteous lynching. But what was the crime that ignited this moral rage? Joking about an old manâ€™s suicide? Talking of oneâ€™s sexual partner in pejorative and sexist terms (and making a point that it was consensual. And here’s us thinking he’d gone and raped her). Or was it the sympathy for a man whose honour had been violated via a sexual encounter with a female relative? What disgusted me about the Brand-Ross prank, but not enough for me to call for their dismissal, was its underlying misogyny. And it seems the complaints were in tandem with this. So many people were outraged because they sympathised not so much with his granddaughter but with Sachs himself.
Worryingly, even the left-wing press has taken this line. Peter Tatchell surprised me when he said in the Guardian:
It is not as if Baille is some innocent convent girl. She admits she slept with Brand and she works as a “burlesque dancer” in a group called Satanic Sluts. Yet she claims Brand’s jokes have damaged her public image and hurt her feelings. Oh please!
So because sheâ€™s not ashamed of her sexuality, we can talk about it in pejorative terms, sheâ€™s fair game. Had she been an â€˜innocentâ€™ virgin, we should presumably call for blood when her honour is violated. I, for one, am outraged.
Given that the news right now is entirely dominated by Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and Barack Obama, I thought I’d link to these two pieces of news.
Firstly, over 200 people have died in an earthquake which has hit parts of Baluchistan in Pakistan. Oxfam’s report is here.
Secondly, 61 people died in bomb blasts in Assam in India. Apparently the United Liberation Front of Assam hasn’t taken responsibility. I don’t know much about this but as I said in my last post, its a reminder that India’s rise isn’t inevitable.
Zak sent us this interesting article about Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a figure I had only heard of in passing. A documentary film, The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace, is shortly to be released:
“Little known in the West is a figure named Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who argued that religiously justified violence was “not God’s religion.” Known as Badshah (also spelled Baacha) Khan to his followers, the devoutly Muslim leader was called “The Frontier Gandhi” and built an Islamic parallel to Gandhi’s violence-eschewing ideals of compassion for one’s enemies and peaceful resistance to oppression as a means of overcoming it.
Khan, a Pashtun tribal leader who died at 98 in 1988 in Peshawar, also founded the Awami National Party, which today fights against enormous odds to organize tribal aspirations in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and nearby areas away from the Taliban…
I finished reading Edward Luce’s book, ‘In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India’ last week. The thing I really liked about it was the fact that Luce doesn’t shy away from looking a look at the many, many problems that India faces. There have been too many people who have made the rise of China and India seem inevitable when it is anything but. Some parts of India are going forward at a rapid speed, but other areas are if anything getting worse.
In the end, Luce is still optimistic about India’s future. He believes that although its plurality (both cultural and political) may sometimes inhibit the speed of growth, in the long run it will provide it with the stability to become a major power. I tend to agree with this but am worried about the impact of external shocks which Indians might not be in a position to control, such as how to deal with global energy shortages.
When I say the ground operations that Obama’s team have put together on the ground are huge, what I really mean to say is that they are bloody massive. Last weekend alone hundreds of Californians, and myself, drove down to the neighbouring swing state of Nevada (Las Vegas) just so they could knock on doors, deliver leaflets and encourage fellow Democrats to go out and vote.
All of this has been organised automatically over the internet. You sign up on the Obama website, websites to hook up with others so you car-pool there, and a ton of people in Las Vegas offering supporter housing, couches and sheds so Californians can come and stay while campaigning. In fact the Las Vegas people were overwhelmed with the number of people who came. There are similar campaigns running for Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and more. It’s rather mind-boggling the number of young, middle-aged and older people doing this in their free time.
As a bonus, I also attended my first ever Obama rally while in Vegas! Here are some pics:
I thought that this had been killed off. Sadly not. If the government really wants to promote a shared identity, they should stop their anti-immigrant scaremongering, or just stop pandering to the tabloids in general. Not lazily stereotyping Muslims might be a good start.
The Ministry of Justice insist plans for a British Day have not been axed and remain “very much alive”. The plan for a national holiday, like July 4 in the US or Bastille Day in France, was proposed as part of Gordon Brown’s plan to celebrate Britishness.
Somewhat of a furore has sprung up over the weekend with the news that a group of French revisionist historians are holding a conference to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (1415). The controversy arose after the English were branded “war criminals” by Christophe Gilliot, a French historian, because of alleged war crimes on the battlefield:
“At the very least the English forces acted dishonourably. The middle ages were a very violent time, of course, but some might accuse the English of acting like what might now be called war criminals…These [acts] included burning prisoners to death and setting 40 bloodthirsty royal bodyguards on to a single Gallic nobleman who had surrendered.”
Let’s assume for a moment that these acts did happen. So what? This doesn’t really tell us anything new. We already know that the English forces acted appallingly throughout the Hundred Years’ War (which was actually a series of wars, lasting roughly from 1337 to 1453- the term ‘Hundred Years’ War’ is a historical invention). In fact, this was the cornerstone of the English strategy: to devastate the French countryside through widespread pillaging, burning and rape, in the hope of reducing the revenue of the French king and forcing him into battle (the French avoided battle mostly in the hopes of wearing the English down). Nor were the French any better, doing the same to English-held areas of France, or England, when they could get to it.
One of the key points I made in my “Can we give the white working classes what they want” speech at the Fabian event at the Labour Party conference was that a lot of middle class white commentators on this country – people like Rod Liddle for example – use the working classes to project their own bigotry. It’s that classic Enoch Powell syndrome – conjure up a conversation with some poor white sod who says the area has changed beyond recognition, and then say you’re only stating what the poor, downtrodden white working class person is saying: that immigration destroys this country etc.
In the United States, the same discussion keeps coming up in the form of the bloody “Bradley effect“, which is constantly talked about to justify why whites might end up switching their votes from Barack Obama at the last minute because they can’t bring themselves to vote for a black man.
In an article for the NY Times, Frank Rich reaches a similar conclusion to me:
My only response to this story is: LOL. Clearly, not enough Jews are reading Mad Mel Phillips and her attempts to tell us that an Obama candidacy, the man apparently with “a Muslim heritage” (cue scary music) will lead us into the end of the world for All Freedom Loving People. All you fake freedom loving people can just go ahead and vote for Obama. Like a majority of the United States is currently planning to.
Far from this being a time for the environment to take a back seat as some EU countries have suggested recently, the worst financial crisis since the great depression is not only the best catalyst to create a new system of low- carbon growth but environmental prioritisation may be the only way we can fortify our economy in the long-term.
The British government has already resurrected the Keynesian model and now all it needs to do, as it has done in creating Ed Milibandâ€™s new department, is wisely direct spending towards ushering in an economy that will ensure environmental security, and in this way reduce the chances of a future recession. It might be an unregulated free-market system that has failed us in the short-term, but it is unsustainable capitalism that will fail us in the long-term, especially when economies threaten to collapse on the frail or non-existent foundations we have built them on. In reality, we have a heavy debt to the earth that weâ€™ll never be able to repay. The least we can do is stop borrowing.
We are yet to see the full extent of the knock-on effects of this crisis, but at least weâ€™ve learnt that we donâ€™t have to stupidly spend our hard earned salaries on things we donâ€™t need. Many new opportunities and sectors can be created on the relics of old, redundant ones; we can have all the innovation, growth and prosperity one could desire while stopping runaway climate change at the same time: and who said you couldnâ€™t keep your bonus? For things to get better, much better, it seems they have to have gotten this much worse first. Maybe we needed this kick up the backside.
Black and southasian readers of Pickled Politics more than 10 years old will remember how casually racist and intolerant England was in the early 70s and 80s. They will remember how easily and routinely anti-foreign sentiment was ratcheted up a degree or two during times of national economic hardship. Most people will probably remember, painfully, the passive-aggression that was targetted, widespread and palpable during the late seventies. Others may have even faced real violence.
The mood against “foreigners” almost always turns ugly during times of economic hardship. So when Gordon Brown made the statement that the country is officially in recession, he confirmed what everyone already knew. But as the country enters a possible 2 year recession, I wondered to myself how long it would be before first anti-foreigner soundbite, like bird call signalling the changing of season, would appear.
What did surprise me was how quickly that call would come. Phil Woolas, Labour Minister of Immigration kicked off:
“We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It’s not. It’s easy.”
Johann Hari has a piece (warning: graphic descriptions) on the way in which Muslim women are abused around the world. One of the most pertinent sections is when he talks about how Britain and the West have being willing to sacrifice the struggle for women’s rights in return for other benefits, whether economic or military:
“Our governments are equally hobbled from supporting Muslim women â€“ for a very different reason. They claim to oppose the Taliban or the Iranian Mullahs because they abuse women. But when it comes to Saudi Arabia, they declare the just-as-vile regime â€œour close friendâ€ and lavish cash on it. Why?
A few weeks ago, Ashik said something that made me think. Now, it wasn’t any of his BNP-esque rhetoric about interracial couples, rather it was a criticism that by talking a lot about ‘honour’-based violence (HBV), Pickled Politics was somehow operating a double standard because we didn’t spend enough time discussing domestic violence throughout British society. I don’t think that it is a problem posting frequently on HBV. This is one of the few sites that does, and many people who read it have experienced the problems associated with HBV, or at least the attitudes that underpin it. However, he was right in that we don’t write enough about domestic violence in wider society.
Whilst many of us deplore the way in which the tabloids act on occasions, we can at least console ourselves with the fact that our press is one of the freest in the world. We have a wide range of newspapers, TV channels and blogs to choose from, and even the BBC, though paid for through tax, is at least independent in the sense that the government does not control its world view (not that it needs to). Yet a new report from Reporters Without Borders ranks the UK only 23rd in the world for press freedom (up one place from last year), behind a number of Eastern European countries and level with Namibia. The USA does even worse, finishing 36th (albeit up from 48th), one place behind France, which traditionally has had an image of a restricted press. India also did worse then I would have thought, finishing only 118th (up from 120th). Looking at the criteria for measurement, I suspect that our restrictive libel laws had something to do with our relatively lowly position:
Why so, since my views align a lot more with McCainâ€™s than with Obamaâ€™s? And since I truly dread the notion of a Democratic president, Democratic House, and hugely Democratic Senate?
Primarily for two reasons, those of temperament and of judgment.
When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, Iâ€™ve concluded that thatâ€™s no way a president can act under pressure.
I’ve not worked this hard for such a long time – and that too for free. It’s almost insane, if it wasn’t for the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people across this country doing the same. Every morning I see so many people making calls for Obama. People working full day shifts, purely voluntarily. I barely get time to check my email let alone blog.
This weekend I’m off to Las Vegas, Nevada. Initially it was just to see how things happen on the ground in a swing state. Now it turns out Obama will be speaking in Las Vegas on Saturday. I feel like a groupie… but in that I’m not alone. No politician has got Americans this excited for decades, if ever. I’ll post pictures once I take them. History is being made folks – I’m just glad that I’m witnessing it.
Given that the Obama campaign seems to have revolutionised political fundraising through his online, grassroots campaign, why do we have to continue to put up with stories about shady meetings? I know its tough because there is tri-partisan support for not doing anything, but why not do something along the lines of the American model.
Limit contributions to political parties and individual candidates to individual citizens. Have a limit as to how much each person can contribute, Â£100, Â£1000, Â£5000, whatever – I don’t know what a good number would be but it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out.
There are always going to be question marks about public financing, most of all who decides how much each party gets and the current system seems to be broken. I think that at least this would have some sort of benefit by reducing the influence of lobbyists and getting politicians to actually connect with all voters rather than focusing all their attentions on swing voters in middle england.
Discussing the rise and then sudden collapse of support for Sarah Palin is likely to be the biggest story if John McCain loses the American election in less than two weeks time. When she was unveiled as the candidate, right-wingers mostly swooned over her (incl. Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes) while the left went on the attack. I was amongst the most scathing.
Now here is the interesting thing. In America there was clear agreement in the left-wing media (the blogs, some shows on MSNBC) on how to regard her and approach her: with contempt. They highlighted every mistake and played up every bit of stupidity. Her supporters in the USA and UK responded to that by essentially saying: hah! Under-estimate her at your own peril. You’re just elitist of making fun of this family woman. This is why liberals keep losing elections.
The key difference is that even some left-wingers in the UK were making that argument, scared as they are of criticising anyone on the right in case they look a bit elitist. One of the key articles was this by Nick Cohen, which now looks rather silly doesn’t it? And there was Shuggy’s post too.
There has been much written about the upcoming vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, especially about the proposal to liberalise abortion further in Northern Ireland. Sarah however has spotted a little-discussed government amendment, which, if passed, raises a serious issue of medical ethics (ironically a restriction of same right that the government wishes to defend; namely the right of a person to decide what happens to their own body).
If the amendment is passed, tissue samples for creating human/animal embroys can be taken from people who are not considered mentally capable of making their own decisions. Now, obviously there are some areas (such as financial ones), in which it is right for carers/relatives to have a degree of control, as that might be the only practical situation. I cannot, however, see any rationale for this. As Sarah points out:
Leading learning disability charities said they knew little about this amendment to the Bill, which has, not surprisingly, received very little publicity… if this amendment to the Bill is passed on Wednesday, it will not only sweep away 25 years of progress in medical ethics. It will also sweep away too many years of hard work by Disability Rights campaigners to convince the mainstream world that we are human, too, and that they should do Nothing About Us, Without Us.