The farce that is the New Year’s Honours list returns. British sportsmen and women are among the biggest winners. Tax exile Lewis Hamilton is made a MBE, while someone (Robert Plant) who sings songs for heaps of money is made a CBE. A person (Anya Hindmarch) who sold a bag that wasn’t a plastic bag becomes an MBE. Even Sir Chris Hoy found it a bit silly:
“To become a knight from riding your bike, it’s mad.”
Yes it is. Honours should really mean something. They should be awarded to those who perform above and beyond what we expect of normal human beings, for the good of society. That means people like Robert and Caroline Rejdak, who were made MBEs for fostering 117 children of all ages over a period of 30 years. Not people who are simply doing their well-rewarded jobs. Sir Chris Hoy’s win benefited humanity as much or as little as someone else winning would have. People who work in sports, entertainment or business shouldn’t be awarded honours unless they do something that would get them an honour even if they weren’t famous.
There will obviously be some nutters and extremists there, but I think the weekend protests are worth going to…. the massacre of people in Gaza has to stop:
British demonstrations against Israeli bomb attacks in Gaza will gather momentum on Saturday with thousands of people expected to attend a rally in London and smaller protests planned in cities across the UK, say organisers. Yesterday, in the third consecutive day of protest within shouting distance of the Israeli embassy in Palace Green, London, numbers had diminished to around 200 and there were no arrests. The protests are planned to continue tomorrow and on New Year’s Day. A rally will be held at the Egyptian embassy in London on Friday to demand that the country’s border with Gaza be opened, while the capital’s larger rally will assemble on the Embankment at 12.30pm on Saturday
Violetta Thomson, 73, from London, said it was the first day that she had attended. She said she could not watch anymore on television without doing something. “I was brought up in fascist Spain and came here 30 years ago. I can recognise fascism when I see it and this is really what Israel is doing. The Israeli people are not fascists, I don’t think they really see the carnage their government is responsible for,” she said.
Beside her, Vicky Scarlett, 75, said: “Human instincts say you must do something about this, it shouldn’t be going on. In the most moderate of terms it is unjust. It’s an abomination for the world to stand and watch this happening.”.
Bangladesh went to national elections yesterday and the result is stupendous and joyful.
The Awami League led ‘Grand Alliance’ has swept back into power in a stunning landslide victory. The elections were conducted peacefully, with massive turnouts with more young people and women voting in unprecedented numbers. This is a massive vote of confidence for secularism, patriotism without nationalism and a rejection of Islamist religious supremacism.
Bangladesh is set for a government with the biggest parliamentary majority since 1973, following Mondayâ€™s general elections designed to bring an end to two years of military-backed rule.
In an election marked by high turnout and few incidents, the centre-left Awami League – headed by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina – and its allies pulled off a stunning victory, winning a two-thirds majority in the single-chamber national assembly.
David Aaranovitch writes a somewhat balanced editorial in today’s Times, pointing out the idiocy of Israeli foreign policy in all this:
The historian Tom Segev, writing in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, yesterday reminded readers that â€œall of Israelâ€™s wars have been based on yet another assumption that has been with us from the start: that we are only defending ourselvesâ€, but that â€œno military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestiniansâ€. He wasnâ€™t saying that Israel hadnâ€™t the right to stop the rockets from being fired from Gaza, but that it would get the larger process precisely nowhere.
Adamant though I am about the need to combat Islamist violence, it is hard not to see Western and Israeli policy towards Gaza since Israelâ€™s unilateral withdrawal in 2005 as one huge strategic error. There was the refusal to deal with the Hamas Government elected in January 2006, the siding with Fatah in the subsequent internal dispute, the imposition of an effective blockade on Gaza that amounted to collective punishment. The capacity of Hamas to govern, or fail to govern, in the eyes of the Palestinians was thus never tested.
In some ways this policy towards Hamas, though wrong, was understandable. But the failure of Israel to proceed in any substantial way with easing the conditions for Palestinians on the Fatah-controlled West Bank, or the commencement of a policy of dismantling West Bank settlements before an agreement, meant that no encouragement was given to the opponents of Hamas either.
Well, he’s being generous, but the last paragraph is spot on.
Thereâ€™s a harrowing asymmetry in this conflict that is made all the worse when it is ignored. As reprehensible as the ideology and actions of Hamas are, none of the same criticism is given to Israel for committing acts that are illegal under international law, such as imposing sanctions and collective punishment on 1.5 million people.
Hamas may have broken then truce, but Israel didnâ€™t hold to the conditions of the truce when it didnâ€™t lift the debilitating blockade which has threatened a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Whatâ€™s more, it seems that Israel, too, wanted to break the truce.
Diplomatic fronts, such as the US-dominated Quartet, continue to treat occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised, first-world high-tech army and near-starving refugee population, as if they are on the same footing. Hope is fading that the incoming administration of Barack Obama is going to make any fundamental change to US policies that are hopelessly biased towards Israel.
Some might consider that an unfair assessment, since we are told that every single Palestinian including women and children as young as two, are Jew-hating Hamas terrorists and therefore fair game in a long-range missile attack with F-16s. The Washington Post reports:
The FT’s Gideon Rachman wrote an article. It got ‘Drudged’. He writes about the experience on his blog. In it, he says:
1) There is an unbelievable amount of anger and hatred out there – directed at everything from the UN to big business to Barack Obama. These people can read, but they cannot think.
3) There are a lot of people who believe not only that global warming is a hoax – but that it is actually a conspiracy. The fact that the most influential reports on climate change have been produced by an intergovernmental panel (IPCC) – sponsored by the UN – fuels this theory. The idea is that the UN is perpetuating a climate-change hoax, to provide an excuse to impose a world government on America. Iâ€™m all part of it apparently.
Earlier, I’d be annoyed. But now I think that despite their hysteria, the global warming deniers have lost all political support. They probably revel in the view that no serious politician in the major English speaking world: UK, USA and Canada even Australia, subscribes to this bullshit anymore, but the fact is the battle is over. The war is won, and I’m happy. These people are politically irrelevant. Soon they’ll be as regarded with as much contempt at the 9/11 ‘troofers’, as the case should be.
Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public – all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning. The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.
Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.
Oh wait, I thought they were just retaliating against a recent upsurge in rocket attacks?
Meanwhile, a writer on Harry’s Place reckons that a fatwa calling for Muslims “to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible,” is inciting terrorism. That’s a bit bizarre, I thought Israelis were also engaging in ‘self-defence’? Are they also engaging in terrorism or does this only apply when Muslims want to defend their own? Maybe someone could enlighten me.
I’m going to be doing a fair bit of link-dumping over the coming weeks, as I’m trying to write more and develop more ideas on internet campaigning. So I’m going to throw out short thoughts and ideas. This article on the Washington Post makes a point I wanted to about how political campaigning online, especially in the UK, is badly conceived:
“In this Internet era, it’s not enough to run a campaign; you need to lead a movement,” Mindy Finn, a Republican online political operative, told me less than three days after the election. “That’s what Obama did.” Finn, 27, worked on President Bush’s eCampaign team in 2004 and supervised former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s Web strategy. She worries that, unlike its Democratic counterpart, the Republican establishment hasn’t fully grasped the ways the Web is revolutionizing politics. “If you look at their site,” she said of the Obama campaign, “their online videos, their online ads, everything they did, it wasn’t about ‘me, myself and I.’ It was about ‘we’ and ‘us.’ ”
It was, in essence, about you.
I think the same point can be made here. Most Labour, Tory or Libdem online operations seem to be about promoting the party and their policies, rather than assuming its a new voter who wants to empower themselves or see what this politics business is all about. It isn’t about engaging them in a movement based on any ideology or vision. It’s just: hello! We are the [whatever] party. Come and learn more about us here. In fact, the only party that explicitly thinks of itself as a movement and tries to engage its readers as much as possibly online is the BNP. No wonder they’re so popular. The Green Party, for a small operation that is meant to be radical, actually has a very conservative site, has changed somewhat with a more explicit focus on its most popular policies, on its front page. But there’s no sense of a movement, which is the only way that party will get anywhere.
Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state.
Saturday’s death toll was the highest for a single day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, when the Jewish state was established.
Piling pressure on Hamas? These people really are stupid aren’t they? I would love to see Hamas become completely de-militarised but killing 229 people (so far) and injuring over 700 people is essentially a declaration of war.
Even Sky News points out that: “Dozens of people were killled when Israeli jets fired about 30 missiles into densely populated areas.”
As much as I hate having discussions that ensue in threads such as this, its difficult to avoid mentioning the scale of the attack and the people dead in yet another “retaliation”.
And while I’m perfectly aware of Hamas’s racist nature and its constant sniping, and that Israel tries to hold back in retaliating, the net impact is still that it kills more civilians. Regardless of how it couches that impact – whether as ‘retaliation’, an ‘unfortunate accident’, or a fight for its own survival, the impact is still the same.
Even worse, there’s actually the delusion that such deadly incursions will deter Hamas, without realising its exactly the sort of polarised environment that helps them grow and become more powerful. I don’t see how lifting a blockade while simultaneously launching a huge attack is somehow being nice. It’s like giving a breather to someone you were repeatedly punching in the face… just before you set their clothes on fire. As for those defending Hamas – I don’t see what else they were expecting given the recent upsurge of rocket attacks into Israeli areas. A fucking Blue Peter badge? This really is a crappy state of affairs.
There’s another brief point to be made (that I want to expand on later), about the legitimacy political violence. The idea that you should ‘take up the sword to defend yourself if all else fails‘ isn’t a unique philosophy – it’s prominent in Sikhism, Hinduism and all the Abrahamic religions. It’s the excuse that both Palestinians and Israelis keep using to carry on fighting, regardless of how they dress up that fight (in racist ways, legal ways, theological ways or simply as a form of self-defence). Both sides accuse the others of being morally unjust, but frankly, sitting here on the fence, my attitude really is that both are to blame. One just has bigger weapons and more international support in carrying on.
Pakistan has begun moving some troops away from its western border with Afghanistan and has stopped soldiers from going on leave amid rising tensions with India, Pakistani officials said Friday. Two of the officials said the troops were headed to the border with India in the east.
The move is likely to frustrate the United States, which has been pressing Pakistan to battle militants in its lawless northwest territories and working hard to cool tempers in the two nuclear-armed countries, following terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, last month. Indian officials have blamed a Pakistani militant group for the attacks. By late Friday there was little to indicate that the troop movements constituted a major redeployment.
This shows little sign of turning into a full scale war yet, but accusations are certainly still being thrown around. An Indian minister has accused Pakistan of war hysteria, while Pak President is trying to lower tensions.
In a reference to the US and India, Zardari said, “I want to tell the oldest democracy and the largest democracy of the world–listen to us, learn from us. We have experiences to share with you. We have lost our people-we do not not talk about war, we do not not talk about vengeance”. Without directly naming India but in an obvious reference to it, the President said, “in case there are people in the region who feel that they want to test our mettle, I would like to tell them that this mettle has been tested many times. Please do not not test it again.”
My feeling is that the Indian govt is raising tensions because it has paid off recently with Pakistan acting against its militant groups, and because many Indians are still angry at their government for failing to protect them adequately.
Israelis don’t like to see the word “Holocaust” being used against them to describe their own actions against the Palestinians. But what has happened in Gaza today is nothing short of a brutal, disproportionate attack specifically executed to kill as many civilians as possible.
Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing and injuring scores of people.
Medical staff and Hamas officials said at least 140 people were killed when missiles hit security compounds and militant bases across Gaza.
The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza in recent times, come after the expiry of a truce with Hamas.
Israel said it was responding to continued rocket attacks from Gaza.
I asked you lot last week to suggest counter-intuitive subjects for an article I should write about. Trying to avoid anything political and important was difficult, so I came up with: How I grew up on the Nancy Drew series. Oh and Hardy Boys. And… *sob* Jeffrey Archer.
You don’t even have to say it…
The Daily Mail claims that its anti-racist in the sense that it’s against positive discrimination. Can’t white people do jobs as well as brown people? I subscribe to meritocracy. But the real Daily Mail stance is that it rails for meritocracy only when it applies one way.
When a brown person gets the job, all these Daily Mail types can do is sneer in contempt.
Tommy Nagra, by the way, is a friend. But I would still take offence at this sneering little piece, written by this inbred Ephraim Hardcastle, because of its insinuation (published last week).
So, nutjob President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will be delivering Channel 4′s alternative Christmas message and a whole bunch of people are upset. So far so predictable.
I don’t burn a candle for Ahmedinejad – he is clearly a tyrant and a racist. But there’s two fronts on which I find arguments against this C4 stunt a bit hypocritical.
1) The first is this threat that Channel 4′s funding should be cut or curtailed because of this. BBC News reports:
Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, a member of the all-party media group, said: “Channel Four has given a platform to a man who wants to annihilate Israel and continues to persecute Christians at Christmas time. “This raises serious questions about whether Channel 4 should receive an increased public subsidy for their programmes.”
Criticise Channel 4 all you like, but I find it fundamentally undemocratic that a broadcaster should be threatened financially for doing things the majority don’t like.
Christmas and new year festivities aside, I’ve got a ton of work to do over the next week… So I’ll still be blogging regularly. My radio doc for the Guardian is finished and will go out on 5th jan. I have two big articles to finish before then too. Woe is me Anyone else in the same predicament? Tonight however, I will eat for five people. That is the Indian Christmas way.
Unlike Sunny, I found a lot in Nick Clegg’s speech at Demos that I agreed with. I have some areas of disagreement with the Lib Dems but I think that Clegg lays out a more coherent case for a centre-left democracy than either New or Old Labour.
Take taxation. The present government has always obsessed with being revenue neutral. Rather than making a bargain with the public in which slightly higher taxes will lead to better public services, they have tried to have it both ways.
During the economic bubble, rather than taking action to regulate the financial services sector and reducing Britain’s dependency on it, they let it inflate so that the additional tax revenues would finance the increases in public spending.
Cath Elliot has a scathing piece on Comment is Free today. As she points out, police officers guilty of gross incompetence (and possibly more) are being promoted. Cath Elliot highlights two officers, Cressida Dick (now a deputy assistant commissioner) and Angela Cornes, shortly to be a sergeant. DAC Dick was considered responsible for giving the order to shoot Jean Charles De Menezes, while PC Cornes repeatedly failed to help Banaz Mahmod when her life was in danger. PC Cornes’ discplinary hearing before the Metropolitan Police Service collapsed after the key witness refused to testify. Now, in fairness to the disciplinary hearing, there is only so much you can do if your key witness refuses to testify. However, she could have at least received a written warning, as some other officers did:
Pakistani blogger, Alexpressed, is concerned that Pakistan continues to be blamed for spawning all Islamist terrorist and extremist activity plagueing the world today, whereas Saudi Arabia continues to benefit from timid to full-on support from Western powers who are particularly concerned about maintaining supine and frictionless relations with the Royal Family, for various but obvious reasons.
First off, he presents us with a crash coarse on the historical context of the religious authority of the Saudi royal family:
One thing must be made clear that this doctrine or the ideology is not any close to the old Islamic traditions. The Western belief that the kind of belief system and ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia represents the real face of Islam is not true. So is the Western belief that the House of Saud enjoys a credible historic claim over Arabia. The orthodox ideology emerged only 250 years ago under the guidance of an obscure fanatic known as Muhammad Ibn â€˜Abd al-Wahhab who later formed an alliance with a group of desert bandits, the Sauds. He established kind of an agreement with the desert tribe leaders (clan chiefs) for the creation of the modern Saudi state, the Saudi-orthodox movement spread across the peninsula brutally defeating and enslaving non-alike or rebellious elements.
The result of the political, ideological and theological agreements between the Saud clan, the tribes and the orthodox mullahs was the fall of Makkah in 1924. This solidified their grip on the power. After they had conquered Makkah, the centre of power, they were in control of the state. They knew they could use the vast oil wealth of the kingdom to export their radical ideology across the globe.
Every day there seems to be a university-produced, taxpayer-funded report telling us something that we already know, or else something that serves no real purpose (best biscuits to dunk in tea, for example). Now the Sunday Times explains why:
“Another factor in determining the excellence of a particular university department is the number of citations its work receives in academic journals. Here lies a reason for the studies into the apparently obvious: research in America has shown that citations are linked to media coverage.
In 2005 a study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that a mention of research in The New York Times would double the number of citations, and coverage on national radio and television could boost the number of references by 1,000%….
Academics understand that gaining publicity for an apparently frivolous piece of research could put them in contact with journalists who will call again when something more serious comes up â€“ and hopefully boost their citations and esteem ratings.”