24th November, 2008
22nd November, 2008
The BBC reports:
Britain’s foreign secretary is to urge Arab leaders to make clear they do not support Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as he visits the United Arab Emirates.
“The consequent nuclear arms race would be very dangerous. The acquisition of a nuclear weapon would strengthen Tehran’s regional position, injecting its attempts to stoke up division and promote instability with much greater confidence.”
Mr Miliband will say the sanctions which the European Union and United Nations have put on Iran are not designed to promote regime change or as a precursor to military action.
No military action against Iran. Well it’s about time he said that, so the bluff could be laid to rest and diplomacy by any other means took over. This should have been done ages ago: its obvious the other Arab countries (especially Saudi Arabia) don’t want Iran to have nukes either – it destabilises their own balance of power. Let’s see how the Ahmedinijad responds.
21st November, 2008
So… how bad can the financial crisis get? I thought the collapse of General Motors, at one point the world’s largest car company, was as bad as it could get. I mean jeezus, about 2 million people will be affected almost directly if that goes under. But now the talk is of Citibank also going under.
Citibank? At one point the world’s biggest financial company, the damn company’s stock is in meltdown. There is now talk that the US govt might buy a chunk of the company, based on what is already happening to the Swiss giant UBS. Jesus! Via Crooked Timber, I also learn that one hedge fund manager thinks most big US financial companies will be nationalised within a year – that is how bad the crisis is going to get. It’s like a socialist wet dream. Oh and Michael Jackson has apparently converted to Islam. WTF?
Jenny Bourne of the Institute of Race Relations has a good piece on the rantings of Woolas, where she accuses him of pandering to populist fears, trying to win over BNP voters, being more about rhetoric and PR than politics and justice and comparing him to Powell. Here is the best bit:
The immigration minister says he wants to further ‘a mature debate’ and yet he strikes one of the most immature of poses when he attacks lawyers for turning the European Convention on Human Rights into ‘an open-borders immigration policy’. He derides those who try to help asylum seekers through the UK’s increasingly restrictive and hostile system as ‘an industry’ with ‘a vested interest’. Apart from the fact that in Woolas’ asylum scenarios (and why does he conflate asylum and immigration anyway?) there is absolutely no room for humanitarian considerations, he has the audacity, as Jack Straw before him, to attack the judiciary for doing its job – trying to balance the power of the executive.
20th November, 2008
The New Yorker thinks all these big names might work:
The team of Barack (Grandpa Was a Muslim) Obama, Hillary (Iâ€™m a Clinton) Clinton, and Rahm (Israel) Emanuel (thatâ€™s his real middle name! and he was a volunteer with the I.D.F. during the 1991 Gulf War!), with Joe Biden and Bill Clinton pitching in as necessary, would put the new Administration in an extremely powerful position to apply the kind of pressure that would give Israeli politicians the political cover they need to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. Everyone knows what the deal would look like, including Ehud Olmert. Itâ€™s a question of having the political strength and exerting the will to make it happen.
It’s a good possibility. Over on BBC blogs, Robin Lustig has even created some scenarios, which look plausible. To be honest, I think all this is pie in the sky, with too many variables all over the place.
Obama’s priorities will roughly be in this order: Economy, environment and healthcare. And frankly, given how fast the economy is diving, I don’t blame him. Obama has also appointed heavy-hitters to deal with healthcare and the environment, ensuring they will move fast.
Just when things were looking up for the world as it sees the last of Bush, the US President has decided to leave an ever-stronger and more lasting legacy by working to dismantle at least 10 major environmental safeguards, some of which include:
Exempting Industrial-size animal farms from the Clean Water Act and air pollution controls.
Exempting the interior department from consulting wildlife managers about the impact of mining and logging before it approves such developments.
Easing restrictions so power plants can operate near national parks and wilderness areas.
Downgrading pollution controls on new power plants.
Not regulating the dumping of waste into rivers and streams by mountain-top mine operators.
Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader used a racial epithet to insult Barack Obama in a message posted Wednesday, using a demeaning racial term implying that the president-elect is a black American who does the bidding of whites.
The message appeared chiefly aimed at persuading Muslims and Arabs that Obama does not represent a change in U.S. policies. Ayman al-Zawahri said in the message, which appeared on militant Web sites, that Obama is “the direct opposite of honorable black Americans” like Malcolm X, the 1960s African-American rights leader. In al-Qaida’s first response to Obama’s victory, al-Zawahri also called the president-elect â€” along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice â€” “house negroes.”
Well, Ralph Nader and John Pilger look pretty stupid now don’t they?
Update: Al-Zawahri is not one to talk about racism:
By playing the race card so quickly and so brazenly, al-Zawahiri may end up causing backlash against Al-Qaida in the very constituencies he is seeking to woo. It also invites the question, how is this a legitimate criticism coming from the senior leadership of Al-Qaida, which is dominated almost solely by Arab Egyptians and Saudis? Moreover, what would Malcolm X have thought of an organization, Al-Qaida, that at one time offered a higher salary to its Arab membership than its Black African adherents?
19th November, 2008
Justin McKeating makes a deliciously ironic observation:
The crowning jewel of the story is that the BNP, who only this month called the Human Rights Act ‘surely one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation ever passed by the mother of Parliaments,’ and reiterated its promise to repeal it when the party – don’t laugh – becomes a ‘British Nationalist government’, have now asked the police to investigate breaches of the Human Rights Act.
The Guardian reports:
The list of BNP members posted on the internet contains the details of people in a wide range of jobs. Some employers have made clear that membership of the far-right party is not consistent with their values.
The police have called in independent investigators after claims that a serving officer is a member of the British National Party.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said police are banned from becoming members of the BNP because it would damage race relations.
“Membership or promotion of the BNP by any member of the police service, whether police officer or police staff, is prohibited,” said Acpo’s workforce development spokesman Peter Fahy.
Good. I fully back the Police on this matter, with no qualms whatsoever.
Update: The excellent Lancaster UAF blog is a good place to read more updates including this Radio DJ who’s lost his job after appearing on the list.
18th November, 2008
Heh. President-elect Barack Obama has made his first publicly-known cabinet appointment: Eric Holder will be attorney-general, with a priority to close down Guantanamo Bay. Mr Holder is also the first African-American to be appointed AG.
No doubt, for some this will re-inforce their fears that Obama will want to ‘paint the White House black’. For others there are now more people they can call Uncle Toms! Everyone wins.
Crikey! There’s going to a good few pissed off BNP members today!
The British National Party has lost its membership list – the whole thing has been published online.
The list includes names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of all members up to September 2008. It also includes some people’s ages, especially those under 18 – the BNP offers family membership for Â£40. Many entries also contain more personal comments about jobs or hobbies. That’s how we know that that BNP members include receptionists, district nurses, amateur historians, pagans, line dancers and a male witch.
Members have unsurprisingly reacted with outrage. One commenter said: “I’m also on the list, what the f#ck is going on? I could lose my job.” Another: “The most shocking thing is some of the comments by the names! God help anyone who is in the army, the pison [sic] service, health care, police officer or a teacher.”
A shocking violation of the Data Protection Act I would have thought, although due to the context I’m not sure now much sympathy will be generated…
No doubt there a fair few people who’s job will be on the line should this list get wider distribution.
Rumbold adds: Regardless of what you think of the people on the list, or the ethical nature of publishing such information, please do not link to the list, as it may be a breach of the law. Thank you.
California is being rocked with protests against Proposition 8 – a measure that Californians passed in a statewide vote during the national elections – banning gay marriage. Last weekend protests were even held across the country demanding a change in the law so gays could marry. Of course, I believe gays should be allowed to marry as heterosexual couples are.
The problem I have is – what the hell is the point of organising yourselves now fools? This should have been done before the vote, no? This is what happened. Most people thought Prop 8 wasn’t going to pass because California is the liberal hub of America after all. Except, money poured in from the Mormon Church and religious conservatives also rallied hard to ensure a high-turnout on election day. By a small measure the vote was passed and people were stunned. There has been some discussion about the lack of proper strategy prior to the elections, but all that is no use now.
Liberals in America are generally more organised than lefties here, mostly because civic participation and activism is just more common there. Nevertheless, we don’t seem to get that political victory should not be taken for granted ever. We don’t seem to get that for progress we must organise instead of lamely complaining from the sidelines, like Italians do. We need to discuss and take forward strategy, rather than lamely fighting on the sidelines with each other (which makes the far-left so electorally useless). Prop 8 was the wake-up call for liberals there. I wonder what will it take here. Maybe when Nadine Dorries becomes Home Secretary for the Conservatives.
17th November, 2008
Let’s go briefly back to talking about identity. My problem is that I don’t think many people, especially far left writers like John Pilger, really understand the complexities here.
A few years ago I went on a blind-date with a young woman that ended with us never talking again. This is not unusual, I’m sure, except that while we get on great and found each other attractive – I made the grave mistake of ridiculing her over one point she made.
Despite being Indian, she had never dated anyone brown earlier, she told me. Not an issue, I said. She was almost a ‘coconut’, she added, a term usually used for people ‘brown on the outside and white on the inside‘. In other words she hardly knew any Asian languages nor bothered with the culture.
This used to be an issue for me (and my generation) about a decade ago when Asian youth sub-culture was taking off in clubs around the country and we started expressing our multiple identities. Bhangra and Bollywood consumption exploded, people openly organised and celebrated massive Eid, Diwali and Vaisakhi parties, it became socially acceptable to wear Indian clothes etc. You have to remember, when we were young – we ran away from any expression of Asian culture in order to fit in. Well, in London anyway. And yes, I’m generalising here. So sue me.
16th November, 2008
USAID, the independent federal government agency that provides humanitarian and development asistance under the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State spent $2.4 billion across the whole of the Middle East in 2007, including all reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The Bush administration did very little to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis it had brought about in Iraq let alone try to address it. In contrast, Obama pledged $2 billion in assistance for Iraq’s refugee crisis alone (the number of displaced civillians is around 5 million now) on top of a committment to an immediate and phased withdrawal.
More on what Obama means for Iraq here.
If Obama keeps his promise, this among other things will mark the beginnings of a new chapter in US-Middle East relations.
14th November, 2008
In July, five women were buried alive in Baluchistan, three of them teenagers who wanted to marry men of their choice, along with two elderly relatives. Despite international condemnation, Israrullah Zehri, a senator for Baluchistan, defended the action by claiming that:
“These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them.”
Now Israrullah Zehri has been promoted to the national cabinet by Asif Ali Zardari, as Federal Minister for Postal Services:
“The PPP should not forget that Zehri had ‘informed’ the Senate in August that the killing or burial of women alive for ‘honour’ is a tribal tradition of Balochistan province and should not be portrayed negatively. When the issue of five women being buried alive in Balochistan in the name of honour was raised in the Senate, Zehri asked the senators not to politicise the issue, as it was a matter of safeguarding the tribal traditions.”
I’ve come in for a bit of flack for raining on John Pilger’s parade so dismissively below. So let me try and justify some of this, though I’m planning a bigger piece on Managing Expectations of Obama later anyway.
I’m not in favour of constantly picking fights with writers on the far left, especially those who have done stellar work in the past such as John Pilger. But I draw the line at race-baiting, which is clearly what Pilger is doing.
In his article, Pilger is concerned for the “brown-skinned” people of Pakistan under the assumption that Obama has vowed to attack the country and rain down some nukes. He hasn’t. His specific point regarding taking out Bin Laden if credible intelligence existed is perfectly sensible. Given that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are doing their best to de-stabilise Pakistan and regularly killing more people there every month than the American govt – I would suggest Pilger is directing his ire at the wrong people especially if he cares for “brown skinned” people.
To Cameronâ€™s credit, he did reshape the Tory party to a centre-right party, and thus providing an alternative to Brown. Both Brown and Cameron are not Obama, but you know what? I prefer to live in a country where the choice is between two (or three) viable candidates, then in the US, where the choices seem to go between retards (Bush, Palin) and a superb candidate (Obama).
And Lammyâ€™s attack is lame.
By Ravi Naik in the comments of the Lammy/Cameron thread.
Sunny adds: Some weekend reading, this profile and this interview are excellent, on Nate Silver a mathematics genius who started FiveThirtyEight in March this year, now an immensely popular blog for its political number crunching.
13th November, 2008
Obama has barely been elected, and John Pilger can reliably be called upon to throw out the first far-left article accusing him of being an Uncle Tom. Obama is a stooge don’t you know! (via Olly’s Onions)
And isn’t Obama aware that, “the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class.” After all, the guy couldn’t have done it on his own back and defeated two of the most powerful campaign machines. It’s all a Zionist plot see, there’s too many Jews hanging around Obama. Jeez. Bring back George Bush, at least Pilger was happy then.
Good to see the far-left hasn’t lost any of its stupidity. I think what really annoys the hell out of Pilger is that Obama has built the largest grass-roots movement in modern American political history, one more led by the people than the far left has ever managed to create. Marxists claim to speak for the masses but it must surely be a bit annoying that they’ve never managed to find so many volunteers or be so democratic as political movements.
Following the election of Barack Obama, there has been much talk about the possibility of Britain having a prime minister from an ethnic minority. Sunder Katwala was upbeat about the possibility, Trevor Phillips less so, while Shariq provided an excellent comparison between Britain and the USAâ€™s respective situations.
Yet when one is discussing race, a lot hinges on definitions, which can mean different things to different people. Obama isnâ€™t black, but rather mixed-race, yet he was almost universally described as â€˜blackâ€™. If John McCain had been elected, would he have been billed as the first US president born in Central America? No. Therefore, what we have is a subjective assessment of what constitutes an ethnic minority.
Paul Dale of the Birmingham Post has an interesting anecdote:
All young Muslims want to do, Dr Ally told a scrutiny committee, is “go to pubs and clubs, take a spliff here and there and enjoy themselves.”
This, he said, was “young people behaving normally”.
Is it? Is it normal behaviour for most Christians, let alone Muslims?
How does Dr Ally know this to be the case?
One can assume that he has, perhaps, witnessed Muslims enjoying the odd spliff. But surely there is no evidence to suggest that most Muslim teenagers and young men and women are regularly smoking weed, or indeed are regular visitors to the pub. It seems unlikely, given the non-tolerance of alcohol and drugs demanded by their faith.
In his eagerness to defend 10 council projects to prevent terrorism, including spending Â£63,000 on lessons in “spiritual well-being” for Muslims, Dr Ally rather over-egged the pudding.
He certainly has some front.
He does indeed. I think this isn’t uncommon though – religious leaders frequently complain about sterotyping amongst the wider public, and in their private space will waste no time in condeming those people to hell.
The Guardian has picked up this smackdown by David Lammy against David Cameron:
“I know Obama,” the higher education minister writes, adding of the US president-elect:
His political worldview is grounded in his experience as a community organiser. He has a deep-seated affinity with the people of Chicago’s South Side among whom he has worked. He understands their daily struggles and the dreams they hold for their children. For Cameron to claim common cause with Obama is absurd and demeaning.
Does anyone seriously think Cameron is comparable to Barack Obama? And isn’t it a little arrogant of David Lammy to assume he has the right to determine who is or isn’t not?
12th November, 2008
This ‘letter to my son’, published in Newsweek magazine, is excellent:
No election can wipe away racism, and bigotry will show itself to you in ways subtle and not. But it is easier today than it was yesterday to see that racism, once a barrier, is now more like a hurdle. What a fine new addition I have to my mother’s arsenal of aphorisms: Son, I can (and probably will) say to you, Barack Obama faced hurdles but succeeded, and you can, too. You are only 4 months old, but already I dream of what a great rocket scientist you’d be. But if you want to be a cattle wrangler, that’s OK, too. And if you want to be president? Well, we’ll talk.
We can no longer look to blame outside forces for our failures or rest our shortcomings in the cold comfort of bigotry. If you want to be like Obama, you have to work and work hard. He went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He traveled the world and opened his mind. He did not simply dream of being president; he summoned the discipline to get there.
Your black classmates might see you reading a book at recess or raising your hand in class and call you “too white” or “Uncle Tom.” Ignore them. Don’t let them mess with your mind or steer you from your goals. … For now just understand that your race is part of who you are, but it isn’t all of who you are. If anyone doubts your “authenticity,” you can tell them that you want to be as black as the man behind the desk in the Oval Office.
What struck out to me most was ‘discipline’. Having read books and articles on Obama, it is the word that leaps out at you. The man was supremely disciplined; his campaign was supremely disciplined. I want to be that disciplined. Will write more on this topic soon.
While in the US, people often asked where I was from. Often, I said I was from England and hence English. No doubt that will confuse many people who see me constantly use the phrase ‘British Asian’, but these are broadly inter-changeable phrases (unless you’re Scottish, of course).
So I note with amusement that a Welsh board has declared that using ‘British’ is as offensive as using ‘negro’ when it comes to ‘British Asians’. Honestly, what idiocy [via Walk This World With Me).
I suspect some hype over this, simply because Welsh authorities never sound very keen in associating tightly with Westminister anyway. And it was likely that the report (which I haven’t seen) contains one person who expressed this opinion while another British Asian said he doesn’t care what he/she was called as long as it wasn’t ‘Paki’. But either way – being called British isn’t offensive. It’s more annoying that this gives more ammunition to the pompous Tory MP David Davies and his lame crusade against ‘political correctness gone mad’.
more recent posts » — « previous posts
The Independent wrote an editorial on Monday arguing that ‘Censorship is not the answer’, in response to the news, highlighted by Rumbold below, that: “news outlets should be prevented by law from reporting stories the Government judges to be against national security interests.” The paper even went as far as comparing it to 42 days legislation.
Let me explain what is actually going on here. The secret service, police and Home Office are supposed to have established a protocol in publicly talking about terrorism related raids and arrests. This came after criticism that various agencies were leaking information about raids to the media to further their own agenda. Anyone remember the idiotic rumours in the national press when Forest Gate raids took place? There have been more since, “terror in the skies” etc, and the alleged plot to kill a Muslim soldier. Various papers including the Telegraph and Sun have even had to pay out for calling people terrorists when they weren’t.