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  • 22nd December, 2008

    Barack and the War of Symbols

    by Sunny at 5:10 am    

    This is a guest post by Elliot

    The scale of what the US President elect has achieved is beyond question. As a result America can claim more credibly than any other country in the free world to have become colour-blind. For historical reasons the victory is historic but I also think the emphasis that has been placed on the symbolic significance of the US Presidential election result is psychologically revealing. The consensus in the Western world is that Obama’s victory will make it easier for America’s friends to love her and for her foes to hate her.

    The notion that his election somehow deals a blow to the Muslim world would not surprise the late French philosopher Baudrillard. He argued that because the global world operates at the level of the exchange of signs and commodities, symbols are being exchanged violently in lieu of military conflicts. During his July visit to Berlin the then Democratic presidential candidate was heard to say: “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign - that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol.”

    The Sydney race riots of 2005, though misguided and hard to justify, were a manifestation of the frustration felt by white Australians at losing the symbolic war on Islam.

    Continue Reading...
    19th December, 2008

    What about Anthony Browne’s reputation now?

    by Sunny at 11:33 pm    

    Dave Hill asks some good questions of the decision by Boris advisor Anthony Browne’s to change his mind on issues around immigrants:

    This leaves me in much the same place as I already was with Browne. If he really wrote those pieces - under Boris Johnson’s editorship - simply to wind people up, what does that say about his integrity? Furthermore, articles like those do not really “provoke debate” at all. Rather, they polarise opinion, raise the temperature and lend intellectual respectability to a poisonous and ignorant strand of public sentiment that is fostered by hard right newspapers like the Daily Mail and from which the far right profits gleefully. And this affair has yet to touch on other works by Browne that have had the same effect.

    If, on the other hand, Browne really did go through a sort of crazy but temporary phase in which he felt a powerful urge to loudly disavow his former liberal-leftism, it doesn’t say much for his consistency. And his point about The Observer doesn’t follow: under the editorship of Roger Alton - now running the increasingly Tory-friendly Independent - such trashing of supposed “PC” orthodoxies was commonplace. Browne was part of a sort of coven of Observer writers who “saw the light” in similar ways, some aiming particular ire at one Ken Livingstone.

    All in all, a very odd business. Browne’s regrets may be genuine and his apology sincere. He may have a great deal to offer. But is he, shall we say, reliable?

    Not really good for his reputation is it? What will Nick Cohen say, who recently praised him for his no-nonsense attitude towards political correctness, not long after criticising him for holding the same attitudes. It’s all getting a bit confusing around here.

    Filed under: Media,Race politics

    Free Israel’s Young Conscientious objectors

    by Sunny at 10:23 am    

    From the website:

    Shministim means “twelfth-graders” in Hebrew. Military service is mandatory after high school for young Jewish Israelis. The Shministim are Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army because it enforces Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinians.

    While a number of Shministim letters have been written in the past (read about the first letter sent to Prime Minister Golda Meir here ), about one hundred youth have signed the current 2008 Shministim letter which articulates the basis for refusal.

    Because of their principled refusal to serve in an occupying army, youth who sign the letter face jail terms in Israeli military prisons. Terms range from 21 to 28 days; those who refuse to wear a military uniform while in jail are sent to solitary confinement for the duration of their term.

    Continue Reading...
    18th December, 2008

    Boris lets rape victims down

    by Rumbold at 9:35 pm    

    While campaigning for the mayoralty, Boris Johnson promised to spend £744,000 on new centres for rape victims. Now he has gone back on his word, cutting the money available to only £233,000. This really is a disgrace. It is one thing to adjust spending in line with the current economic climate, but quite another to reduce the amount available to 31% of what was originally promised. Still, as long as there is still enough ratepayers’ money to hire people from Policy Exchange, everything is okay.

    Democracy by comparison

    by Ala at 12:48 pm    

    Iraqi ambassador to the US Samir Sumaida’ie tried to reassure the audience at a press conference on Tuesday that Muntather Al Zaidi had been treated fairly because he would have been drawn and quartered had he thrown a shoe at Saddam Hussein. Anything less severe than a horrible painful death, therefore, is fair in this circumstance. A position also taken by Fox News and many others: if it’s democratic compared to a brutal totalitarian autocracy, it’s democratic.

    Al Zaidi’s family have not been able to see him and believe this is partly due to the badly beaten state he was in when they tried to visit him. Al Zaidi definitely received at least one beating, immediately after the incident, caught on camera for all to see. Everything else about the handling of the case, from his arrest to his detention, reveals a shambolic judiciary that is not yet fit to be called democratic.

    It seems the journalist could be charged with “aggression against a president”, for which conviction would result in imprisonment for 7 to 15 years. If you thought it was an exaggeration to call the flinging of a shoe an act of aggression, at least Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi ambassador to the US don’t mince their opinion regarding the real crime committed: insulting a guest. Someone should have told them that there is no reference to old tribal customs in the Iraqi Constitution and referred them to articles 20, 22 and 26 of said constitution.

    Filed under: Middle East
    17th December, 2008

    What shall I write about?

    by Sunny at 11:54 pm    

    The noble editors of CIF would like me to write something ‘counter-intuitive‘ - i.e. an issue I wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole, for Christmas. Someone on CIF suggested: “Sunny Hundal’s country diary (should include cheesemaking and cider-tasting).” Hmm… I don’t think that’s out-there enough. I might enjoy cider-tasting! Apparently Ariane Sherine should do taxation… and I have no doubt she’d write something funny about that too.
    I don’t have a sense of humour but you folks know better than most what I like writing about. So what would be… counter-intuitive?

    Filed under: Blog,Humour

    Pilger manages Obama article without ‘Uncle Tom’ jibe!

    by Sunny at 9:36 pm    

    Yes, miracles can happen! Pilger actually managed to write an article about Barack Obama without using a racial slur. This week’s New Statesman carries an article saying the same as what he did a few weeks ago. No mention of a Zionist conspiracy though, this time his object of ire is the appointment of Hillary Clinton. Oh and no usage of ‘Glossy Uncle Tom’ either, like he did in January. On Obama, he’s still talking rubbish, but it’s an improvement I guess.

    Filed under: Media,Race politics

    Pakistan: Obama’s Nightmare

    by Sid (Faisal) at 3:00 pm    

    This article presents a potted history of the Afghanistan/Pakistan crucible in 12 easy paras and is devoid of almost any peroration. It’s written by someone called Immanuel Wallerstein. I don’t know who he is or what his background is, but it offers an excellent approach to the geopolitics of the region from a “US Realist” school; the school of Zbigniew Brzezinski.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
    16th December, 2008

    PP meetup this Saturday

    by Sunny at 7:22 pm    

    We’re having a little meetup for PP writers and readers this Saturday afternoon in central London. If anyone is interested in coming, please get in touch. Though, as before, we may not give out the details to people we don’t really know.

    Filed under: Blog

    Anthony Browne: I was just joking innit!

    by Sunny at 7:09 pm    

    Anthony Browne, an advisor to Mayor Boris Johnson, has told the Guardian that all the earlier stuff he wrote about immigrants wasn’t really what he meant to say:

    Browne told Arnold: “Your concerns about me are understandable but misplaced. Accuse me of bad journalism, but not something that is not in my heart.”

    He added: “I want to assure you that my policy advice to the mayor will be based on the following principles: support for diversity, opposition to racism and other forms of discrimination, support for immigrants and immigrant communities and support for equality of opportunity. I invite you to judge me by these standards, not by what I may have written some years in the past.”

    Browne started his new £124,364 role as director of policy to the Conservative mayor, who has a duty to promote community cohesion in the capital, in October.

    Bullshit. Putting Browne in charge of community cohesion is like putting a snake in charge of looking after babies. What about all the stuff he wrote about Muslims, was that a joke too? Did he not really mean it? Or is it that we shouldn’t believe anything bigots like him write in magazines like The Spectator? Maybe Melanie Phillips is joking too. Maybe she doesn’t really believe what she writes either, and is simply trying to provoke a debate.

    Browne doesn’t even have the courage of his convictions to stand by what he wrote earlier. If he ever returned back to journalism, what credibility will he have now?

    Will Hutton on Multiculturalism

    by Shariq at 11:00 am    

    I’m currently reading Will Hutton’s 2002 book ‘The World We’re In’ and regretting not having come across it before. I’ll have more thoughts on it once I’m finished and intend on following it up by reading his latest book, ‘The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century’, which I picked up at the great Pickled Politics book swap.

    Anyways, I think which struck me was this passage defending the European model of integration and critiquing American/British multiculturalism on the grounds that it prevents the creation of a social contract providing an ‘infrastructure of justice’ for everyone. (Extract after the jump)

    I’m in two minds about this. On the hand I fully endorse the idea that race and racism isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be. Instead we need to be looking at the inequality in economic opportunities and outcomes as a whole. Race based thinking does get in the way of that. On the other hand, I’m sure I’ve come across a lot of people saying that despite the social democratic model in most of Europe, immigrants don’t do as well as they do in Britain. On Balance I’d probably agree with Hutton but I’m interested in hearing what people have to say about this. Any thoughts?

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs

    Police lie about environmental protesters

    by Sunny at 1:13 am    

    Oh look, the police have admitted to lying about apparent “injuries” sustained during a protest at Kingsnorth power station.

    Police minister Vernon Coaker has apologised for telling Parliament that 70 officers were injured dealing with protests at Kingsnorth power station. His comments came after it was revealed that injuries sustained during policing at the Climate Camp in August included insect stings and heat exhaustion. There were only 12 reportable injuries, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Liberal Democrats.

    Lying bastards. Is it any surprise that environmental protesters are antagonistic towards the police?

    Filed under: Environmentalism

    I’m making a documentary

    by Sunny at 12:58 am    

    As Matt Seaton points out, I’m making one of the four initial audio podcast documentaries for Comment is Free/Guardian. It will be about the high instance of suicide rates among British Asian women.

    It will be released on January 5th.

    Filed under: Media
    15th December, 2008

    The unbearable lightness of size tens

    by Sid (Faisal) at 11:19 pm    

    The US President with the lowest ratings in the history of presidential polls made a surprise visit to Iraq, held an impromptu press conference, which was overshadowed by this:

    The shoe missed but it made the point.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs

    The shoe of accountability

    by Ala at 10:54 pm    

    It may have been premeditated or it may have been spontaneous, but the quick and fleeting moment of two very well aimed flying shoes has become historic overnight. No doubt it will be an iconic symbolic image of the Iraq war along with the toppling of the Saddam statue. In years to come images of the falling statue will be played followed by a ducking Bush to symbolise the hope and failure of the war in Iraq.

    Some are hailing the journalist and shoe thrower Muntather al Zaidi a hero, others a Baathist ingrate, ungrateful for the great bounties bestowed on his country by the grinning, ducking George Bush (who, just moments before a shoe came hurtling towards his face, made a terrible attempt at saying ‘thank you’ in Arabic).

    For those who are railing against the ingratitude of Al Zaidi, can you please prove to all the good people of the world just how ungrateful Al Zaidi was by showing that not only were proper charges pressed against him, but that his family have been informed of his whereabouts, and that he was definitely not beaten up by security guards, all thanks to the democratic safeguards bestowed on him by the USA?

    Centre for Social Justice: help failed asylum seekers

    by Rumbold at 10:22 am    

    A think tank founded by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) has called for failed asylum seekers to be allowed to work, or else to receive state support. Not aiding failed asylum seekers means that many are forced to work in the black market, sometimes as prostitutes, while discouraging them from seeking state help. As Iain Duncan Smith said:

    “The British government is using forced destitution as a means of encouraging people to leave voluntarily. It is a failed policy. UK policy is still driven by the thesis, clearly falsified, that we can encourage people to leave by being nasty. The result is that we rely heavily on forcible return, which is both very costly and time-consuming, and engages only a small proportion of those whose claims are refused. This system gives refused asylum seekers good reason to abscond and little reason to engage with officialdom.”

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs

    Tariq Ali and Jeremy Clarkson suck

    by Sunny at 12:18 am    

    I would have made this into two posts but hey, why not combine them?

    1) Tariq Ali says on CIF that Gordon Brown, “should accept Britain’s responsibility for encouraging terror attacks rather than pointing the finger of blame at Pakistan.”

    There’s only one problem with this - that even if we didn’t go into Afghanistan and Iraq - 9/11 would have still happened. Furthermore, terrorist attacks in India would still carry on as they have been. So while I agree that the two badly fought wars and occupations exacerbated the terrorist threat, it didn’t create them. Ali’s article is abysmally one-sided for a man who hates the religious nuts as much as me.

    Continue Reading...
    14th December, 2008

    Abedin freed in Bangladesh

    by Rumbold at 10:41 am    

    Dr. Humayra Abedin, previously held captive by her family in Bangladesh in order to force her to marry, has been released after the Bangladeshi high court ruled that if her parents had not freed her by Sunday they would go to jail. She is expected to fly back to Britain tomorrow.

    (Hat-tip: Golam Murtaza)

    13th December, 2008

    Slumdog Millionaire - weekend review

    by Sunny at 11:54 am    

    Continuing the weekend reviews season, Shazanna Safdar-Karim reviews apparently the hottest indy film on the block - Slumdog Millionaire:

    Exposing the gritty underworld of India, the film explores the alleged fraud of Jamal, a young slumdog well on his way to winning 20 million rupees on Who Wants to be a Millionaire in India. En route to powering through the Indian game show, Jamal also captures the nation’s heart.

    As with numerous films which are based on novels, audience members who have read the book in advance may be disappointed. Whilst the film deals with many of the issues raised in the novel, not everything can be captured in two hours.
    Certainly, Swarup will be pleased with the acknowledgment in the titles, more pleasing will be Boyle’s supreme competence in bringing so many varied themes fate, poverty, torture, the underworld and hope.

    An absolutely honest, cutting and rather haunting must-see!

    I really want to see this film too now, several friends who have seen advanced previews have praised it. What say you?

    Filed under: Current affairs
    12th December, 2008

    Why getting out of Iraq may be a bad idea

    by Sunny at 12:15 pm    

    For anyone who thinks peace will suddenly descend on Iraq once the foreign forces leave may want to re-think that idea:

    A suicide bomber attacked a packed restaurant on Thursday where Sunni Arabs and Kurds were meeting to ease friction in the tense northern city of Kirkuk. At least 48 people were killed in the bombing, apparently aimed at provoking extremists along widening ethnic fault lines just as American plans to withdraw militarily from Iraq became official.

    Nearly 100 were wounded in the bombing, which was the deadliest in Iraq in six months. It occurred north of Kirkuk in a huge restaurant filled with as many as 3,000 people celebrating the end of the holiday Id al-Adha.

    “All of a sudden we heard a very loud explosion,” said Shirzad Mowfak Zangana, a supervisor at the restaurant. “Two of the walls collapsed, and then the next thing I remember is that I felt blood covering my face. People were screaming. Children were crying. Smoke filled all three dining rooms.”

    Let’s recap again. During Eid celebrations, a suicide bomber blows up a restaurant full of Muslims to thwart attempts at peace and dialogue between Sunnis and Kurds. Once the Americans leave this place is likely to become an even bigger warzone, with Al-Qaeda sympathisers doing anything to destabilise the place as they’re doing in Pakistan.

    While we’re dissing the Counterpunch left

    by Shariq at 8:00 am    

    I thought I’d add some substantive stuff on why I think the centre-left is the right place to be. Today’s topic, Globalisation.

    The narrative amongst the counterpunchers almost always seems to be based on how rapacious capitalists are ruining the lives of the third world. That this all a new imperialism and the colonial multi-nationals must be resisted. This sometimes leads to a response from people on the right like Niall Ferguson that imperialism wasn’t all that bad to begin with but lets not go over that again right now.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Economics
    11th December, 2008

    More media nonsense about Asians

    by Sunny at 5:51 pm    

    So a riot broke out between inmates at Aylesbury young offenders jail, and the police were brought in. Now an investigation is being launched.

    There’s no information about the racial makeup of inmates or rioters, but because it was during Eid celebration (which may have been taking place separately), various newspapers have dubbed it an ‘Asian riot’. That’s what you call a smart press eh? But The Scum newspaper gets top prize for headlining it: ‘Prison cops in five-hour Muslim riot‘, without much evidence on the assertions.
    More at 5cc on this story.

    Filed under: Media,Race politics

    Reviewing papers this Saturday - sky news

    by Sunny at 2:55 pm    

    I’ll be reviewing papers again on Sky News this Saturday morning, on at around 10:15am. So get ready to chuck tomatoes at your TV screen!

    Filed under: Media

    Reasons to love Obama even more

    by Sunny at 10:29 am    

    1) We can all argue endlessly over whether Plane Stupid are good or bad for the environmental movement (my position is clear below) but what really matters is government policy. Which is why I’m ecstatic Obama has appointed nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu as his energy secretary - a guy who famously asked his scientists to find technological ways not only to stop but reverse global warming. Grist explains why he is good. Three women are being mentioned to lead the environmental protection team. This is near-orgasmic stuff for an environmentalist like me, and the reason why I went out to the US to volunteer.

    2) In an interview with the Chicago Tribune he says:

    Barack Obama says his presidency is an opportunity for the U.S. to renovate its relations with the Muslim world, starting the day of his inauguration and continuing with a speech he plans to deliver in an Islamic capital. And when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he plans to be sworn in like every other president, using his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.

    “I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular,” Obama said Tuesday, promising an “unrelenting” desire to “create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership in countries and with peoples of good will who want their citizens and ours to prosper together.”

    Would you expect a Republican to say that? And there are still idiots who say Obama is a continuation of the past. The NY Times reckons the big speech will in Cairo. Mel Phillips will no doubt be spitting blood.

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