28th February, 2009

Death toll of Dhaka mutiny rises

by Sid (Faisal) at 10:46 am    

The revolt by Bangladesh BDR border guards has resulted in a horrific killing spree of army officers, civilians, elderly couples and even pregnant women. The death toll has now risen to 81 after a further 22 bodies were found in sewers, ponds and shallow graves. The death toll rises hourly as reports come in.

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Filed under: Bangladesh

Scanned and fingerprinted

by Sunny at 10:40 am    

“No one community is singled-out or targeted, criminals come from all backgrounds,” says the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Craig Mackey. Except that:

A disproportionate number of Asian and black people are being stopped by police and fingerprinted using a new mobile scanner, the BBC has learned. Of the 29,000 people stopped, 14% were Asian and 16.5% black despite those ethnic groups representing just 4% and 2% of the population respectively.

Something isn’t quite right here, is it? Meanwhile, the Guardian reports today: Civil servants attacked for using anti-terror laws to spy on public. And Ben Goldacre shows how spying on 60 million people, to identify terrorists, doesn’t stack up. Oh, and some deluded blogger thinks New Labour have an “excellent” record on civil liberties. As long as white middle-class bloggers in pyjamas aren’t affected, it’s all cheddar baby.

27th February, 2009

Un-Cocooning

by Shariq at 11:45 pm    

Glenn Greenwald endorses Marc Ambinder’s suggestion that bloggers should interview or have online discussions with people from the other side at least once a month.

I think we do a pretty good job of engaging with the arguments of those we don’t agree with, especially in the comments section. However, I think this is a great idea and would take the dialogue to another level.

So who would you like us to engage with more? Tim Worstall, Tim Montgomery, Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips (:p)? Suggestions welcome.

Filed under: Blog

Is blogging mature yet?

by Sunny at 2:16 pm    

That was the essence of what the man from the Today Programme asked me the day before yesterday, the result of which came out in this article on blogging and the Orwell Prize on good writing.

No, I said, basically. Blogging won’t be mature unless it starts sustaining a few people and becomes a serious enough medium that can challenge traditional media. Of course, I’m saying this with the likes of Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post in mind. American blogs take themselves seriously as an operation to push their agenda. TPM, which is my favourite example, has a team of paid staffers and some interns who research and write news, do digging into stories and produce video content every day.

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Filed under: Blog,Media

Pakistan’s Talibanisation is a serious problem

by Fe'reeha at 9:05 am    

Pakistan has agreed to introduce Islamic law in Swat valley, and neighboring areas of the northwestern region, in a bid to take the steam out of a Taliban uprising raging since late 2007.

The reasoning behind this move, according to the government is to use Sufi Mehammed, a cleric backing the movement to restore peace in Swat as a touch-stone for bringing stability to the region. However, as many critics have rightly warned this maybe a delusion and a short term measure which will only aggravate the situation further.

First of all, one needs to understand what are the teachings of the clerics working in North Western areas? The sad reality remains, there is plenty of confusion about the teachings of Islam throughout the world. I found it in the sophisticated English-speaking British Pakistani Muslims I met in the UK, and I find it in all the sections of Pakistani society.

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The biggest leftwing budget in history

by Sunny at 5:42 am    

Obama’s spending plans in the United States have got leftwingers in the United States creaming their pants. And quite rightly too:

Mr. Obama would overhaul health care, begin to arrest global warming, expand the federal role in education and shift more costs to some corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers.

Mr. Obama would slash about $5 billion in the coming year for direct payments to agribusinesses and farmers with more than $500,000 in annual revenue, and $4 billion in annual subsidies to private banks that make college loans. Instead he would increase spending for government Pell Grants to needy students, and for the first time index the maximum yearly grant for inflation.

Departing from the free market orthodoxy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Mr. Obama would use the government’s powers of spending and taxation to push the private market in new directions. With higher taxes on the wealthy and savings squeezed from health care providers, drugmakers and insurers, Mr. Obama would create a $634 billion, 10-year “health reform reserve” as a down payment to finance disease prevention, wellness programs and research on cost-effective treatments ultimately to cut health care costs. More than any other expense, health care is driving future projections of unsustainable deficits. The health reserve would also be used to create affordable insurance programs for individuals and employers.

I know right-wingers will be spitting blood, but obviously I love it. I helped elect this man – that feels good.

26th February, 2009

We’re on Twitter

by Sunny at 11:03 pm    

Grrrr – blame shariq and leon! I didn’t want to start ‘twittering’ but they insisted we have a join pickled politics account, so now we do. I might contribute occasionally to it. But don’t let that put you off.

Filed under: Blog

What should happen when a paper apologizes

by Rumbold at 5:10 pm    

The Sun has yet again found to have been lying, and not for the first time it involved smearing a Muslim:

“A London bus driver today accepted £30,000 in damages from the Sun over a claim that he ordered passengers off his vehicle so that he could pray.

The story in March last year caused Arunas Raulynaitis considerable distress and embarrassment, his solicitor, Stephen Loughrey, told Mr Justice Eady at the high court in London.

Loughrey said the newspaper now accepted that the allegations were entirely false and that Raulynaitis did not order any passengers off, there was no rucksack and no one refused to reboard because they feared he was a fanatic.”

The bus driver has been awarded £30,000, but as someone else argued on another thread, what difference will this actually make? Much more effective, in addition to the money, would be to embarrass any paper that printed stories like this. A practical way to do this would be to force the paper to lead with the apology on their front page, and it would have to take up the whole cover. A less likely solution, but a more enjoyable one, would be to allow the injured party to edit the paper for a day, and run it how they liked. Imagine the headlines in the Sun (“Muslims are great”), editorials in the Daily Mail extolling the virtues of immigration, or columns in the Guardian on why the state shouldn’t be taking so much of our money and wasting it.

(Hat-Tip: Marvin)

Filed under: EDL,Media,Race politics

Paramilitary revolt in Bangladesh

by Rumbold at 12:16 pm    

Paramilitary forces based throughout Bangladesh have risen up in protest against alleged plans to disband them, as well as pay and conditions. Known as the Bangladesh Rifles, they number around 40,000. The mutineers have taken a number of officers hostage, and the Bangladeshi Daily Star reports that they have begun executing some of them:

“Six more bodies of Wednesday’s mutiny at the BDR Headquarters were found this (Thursday) morning at sluice gate in front of Nawabganj Park near the headquarters in the capital. Five of them were identified as Lt Col Anisuzzaman, Lt Col Kamruzzaman, Maj Mahbub, Col Zahid and Col Touhid…

Earlier, bodies of the two officers — Col Mujibul Huq and Lt Col Enayetul Haq — were recovered from a sewage system outside the BDR headquarters.”

However, reports are already claiming that some (or all?) of the mutineers are surrendering:

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Is Bobby Jindal’s presidential bid over?

by Sunny at 10:14 am    

Oh dear. The Republican party thought they’d pick Bobby Jindal to rebut President Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress. Just to take up that task was politically naive, but Jindal’s speech and delivery was so cringe-worthy that even Republicans panned it. That 2012 presidential bid looks over. Best line of the night goes to Nate Silver:

If it sounds like Jindal is targeting his speech to a room full of fourth graders, that’s because he is. They might be the next people to actually vote for Republicans again.

Heh.

Filed under: United States

Daily Mail echoes BNP propaganda

by Sunny at 2:38 am    

Thanks to Sunder for highlighting this. An article in the Daily Mail says:

However although the figures from the Government’s Office for National Statistics show an increase in numbers of foreign born people they still fail to record the true impact of immigration because they record their children as British rather than second or third generation immigrants.

Emphasis mine. One of the journalists who’s written the article, James Slack, in fact has a long history of anti-immigration hysteria and pushing BNP talking points. This is no different.

In an earlier lifetime, when I used to run British Asian messageboards, we regularly got invaded by BNP and National Front trolls who just wanted to tell us to “go back to your own country“. When we retorted that we were born here and had as much right to call ourselves British, their retort almost inevitably was: “Just because a dog is born in a stable doesn’t make it a horse.”

The Daily Mail is now echoing the same rhetoric – that people with ancestors not born here aren’t really British and can never be. They can only be sons and daughters of immigrants. This is fucking outrageous for a national newspaper to say.

Filed under: Media,Race politics
25th February, 2009

Getting off lightly

by Sid (Faisal) at 3:00 pm    

Lord Nazir Ahmed has been jailed for 12 weeks for sending and receiving text messages before he was involved in a fatal crash on the M1.

The court had heard how Lord Ahmed sent and received a series of five text messages while driving in the dark at speeds of, and above, 60mph along a 17-mile stretch of the motorway.

The judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, said that the text messaging had finished before the accident took place and was not connected to the fatal incident.

But he said that using a mobile phone while driving at speeds of 60mph was highly dangerous and only a custodial sentence would be appropriate.

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The last place you expect to see that…

by Sunny at 11:32 am    

Islam4UK, the latest reincarnation of the banned Muslim extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, is now advertising their meetings on the Sun forums! Ace! (via Dave Bones).

If that isn’t evidence that they’re (crazy) media whores who love the attention, I don’t know what is.

Filed under: Humour,Media,Terrorism

Racism within the Met Police

by Sunny at 12:35 am    

The Evening Standard reported yesterday:

The claims are made by PCSO Asad Saeed in a race discrimination case and centre on two white PCSOs at Belgravia station who have now resigned from the force after facing charges of gross misconduct. He claims they effectively ran an “apartheid” culture at the station where ethnic minority support officers were threatened with violence by the two white officers. The claims contained in a document to be submitted to the tribunal include the allegations of a “white van, black van” for PCSO staff. In particular, he outlines one incident when a black woman PCSO was ejected from one van by a white colleague and told to get into “the black van”. The two men would also play a “spot the PCSO” game when a van would drive around at night looking for ethnic minority officers.

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24th February, 2009

Playing the Blame Game

by Shariq at 7:53 pm    

Matt Yglesias takes on the phenomenon of holding people who took out risky mortgages, as equally responsible for the credit crisis as banks and regulators.

And I just don’t think it’s the responsibility of individuals to know that all the experts, and all the conventional wisdom, are secretly wrong. All kinds of people have been buying iPhones because everyone says they’re great. And if this November, the iPhones all suddenly explode injuring tons of people, I think there’ll be a lot of blame to go around. But really just about none of that blame will land on iPhone owners—it would land on Apple and AT&T and regulators and gadget reviewers and everyone else. If not, if the people who run the country and its media don’t actually expect their pronouncements to be taken seriously, then really they ought to all quit and make way for people who take their responsibilities seriously.

Things were similar in this country with Gordon Brown pronouncing that he had a put an end to ‘boom and bust’. It was an act of hubris for which he has no defense. Unless he helps bring about the recovery of the global economy it will also be his legacy.

Alan Sugar to sue Sun over ‘Jewish hit list’

by Sunny at 3:24 pm    

Damn, I knew this story a few days ago and should have blogged it. Anyway.
The Media Guardian reports:

Sugar, who returns to screens next month in the hit BBC1 show, yesterday issued a writ at the high court in London against the Sun’s publisher and News International subsidiary, News Group Newspapers, and its editor, Rebekah Wade. The businessman and TV star is understood to have been angry at the story, which he felt risked his personal security.

Woohoo! Keep in mind there are two issues here regarding The Scum. First, the original posting on the ummah.com forum said something along the lines that Muslims should contact or write to prominent British Jews. In typical racist fashion, The Scum made it into a front-page story that insinuated that Muslims had put together a ‘hit list’ of prominent Jews to target and kill. So it was a blatant case of scaremongering and lies. On this, the complainants should ensure The Scum apologises prominently and complain again if they feel the apology wasn’t prominent enough (the PCC will pursue this).

Secondly, there is the allegation that the website postings were themselves posted by so-called “anti-terrorism expert” Glen Jenvey who then sold the story. He denies this. But both Tim from Bloggerheads and the ummah.com administrators say otherwise. The problem is, the PCC isn’t the sort of body that does investigations into computer records to determine who is telling the truth. So that part of the complaint remains in limbo. But with Alan Sugar now suing (yay!), the investigation is on hold anyway.

Filed under: Media

What’s the point of supporting nutjobs?

by Sunny at 10:07 am    

In recent times, I’ve stopped taking seriously some people who claim to stand for human rights and progressive values. We still face a serious threat from terrorism and atrocities are continually committed by governments across the world. So a consistent approach to these complicated issues is needed, not one hiding behind the veneer of respectability.

Take Patrick Sookhdeo, (apparently) director of Institute of the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC), which claims to be: “committed to human rights, religious freedom, equality and respect for all and stands against all forms of discrimination and incitement to hatred.”

This claim is a bit curious since Sookhdeo one wrote an article for The Spectator titled ‘The Myth of Moderate Islam’, critiqued here. He also contributed to a book titled ‘The Myth of Islamic Tolerance’, which was put together by Robert Spencer of the notoriously bigoted Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch blogs. Sookhdeo has been applauded by the BNP too for his warnings against the ‘The Islamization of Europe’ which, if translated to any other minority, would immediately be condemned as racist material. Anyway, anyone who knows how to use Google should be clear on where Sookhdeo stands stands on intelligent analysis – firmly with Melanie Phillips.

And yet, amusingly enough, this nutjob is being promoted on Harry’s Place as an innocent man who will save the Middle East by pushing through anti-apostasy laws. Let’s be clear – I believe in people being perfectly free to join and leave religions if they wish for fear from others. Now here’s the amusing bit…

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23rd February, 2009

Peter Hitchens stakes his claim

by Rumbold at 5:33 pm    

Many people would consider Melanie Phillips to be the Daily Mail’s most unbalanced commentator. While I can see the appeal in that argument, I do feel obliged to stand up for Peter Hitchens’ claim to be a contender for title. Recently he wrote a cheerfully evidence-free article on the pro-gay tyranny of the modern state:

“We cringe to the new Thought Police, like the subjects of some insane, sex-obsessed Stalinist state, compelled to wave our little rainbow flags as the ‘Gay Pride’ parade passes by… And that’s another thing. We can’t even call homosexuals ‘homosexuals’ any more. This neutral word is not considered enthusiastic enough. We have to say ‘gay’. Which is exactly why I don’t, apart from in inverted commas.”

Now Mr. Hitchens now wonders why the Pope would consider visiting Britain, a country that he claims persecutes Christians:

“Here’s a thought. You’ll have noticed that openly Christian citizens are the ones who increasingly get the rough end of this society. The cultural elite jeers at them, militant atheists denounce religious education as a form of child abuse, people are threatened for doing or saying Christian things.”

Watch out Melanie. Your title is under threat.

Filed under: Culture,Religion

More criticism for Preventing Violent Extremism

by Sunny at 3:26 pm    

The Al-Nisa Society (a Muslim women’s group) has issued a report criticising the PVE programme.

The vast majority of Muslims are against violent extremism and terrorism and would like to help to counteract it. They are as appalled by violent extremism as anyone else and reject any justification that it can be condoned by Islamic teachings. However, the government’s approach to dealing with terrorism by targeting the whole Muslim community as ‘potential terrorists’ in its Prevent Strategy is flawed and fraught with perils. We believe that rather than creating community cohesion and eliminating terrorism it has the potential to create discord and inflame community tensions.

Furthermore, we believe this unprecedented strategy constitutes an infringement of civil liberties and human rights. There is a danger that PVE is becoming a well-funded industry with vested interests.

Our concern is that political considerations and frictions that have nothing to do with the Muslim community or the hundreds of people who, like us, have been working on the ground for decades are obstructing the vital work of producing communities at peace with themselves and each other. As an organisation with extensive experience of working for the welfare of Muslim families we are seriously concerned about the implications of the Prevent strategy and how it is impacting in local Muslim communities.

In this paper we intend to highlight why we believe the government’s approach towards its Muslim community is flawed and will offer constructive recommendations as to what the government should be doing.

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From Julie Burchill to Christian Evangelism to the BNP

by Sid (Faisal) at 10:38 am    

Julie Burchill attests to “trying hard to be a Christian” and she’s loving it.

“I believe, literally, in the God of the Old Testament, whom I understand as the Lord of the Jews and the Protestants. I’m a Christian Zionist, as well as a Christian feminist and a Christian socialist. But over the past two decades, almost without me knowing it, the Christian part has become the most important.”

But because Julie Burchill is the world’s leading expert on “Julie Burchill”, her exploration of the motivation that drives a Christian Zionist such as she, seems less to do with the Love of Christ than the hatred of secularists, atheists and Muslims.

“When one considers the shocking plight of British Muslims who seek to convert to Christianity, it seems to me quite offensive that Christianity should be dismissed by Dawkins and his like in the same breath as Islam.”

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Exclusive memo: Home Office denies spying on Muslims

by Sunny at 8:28 am    

I’ve gotten hold of an internal memo by Stephen Rimmer, the Home Office director of Prevent [Terrorism] and RICU (Office for Security and Counter-terrorism). It was sent in response to allegations made in the recent BBC Panorama programme that the Home Office was using the Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE) programmes as a front to infiltrate and spy on British Muslims.

I couldn’t copy and paste the text from the memo so you can just download it from here (PDF). Suffice to say they’re very worried by the allegations and deny them strenuously.

Given that, and the recent Guardian leak that there were plans to expand the definition of an ‘extremist’, I can see a whole range of PVE programmes going up in smoke. There’s no doubt groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al-Muhajiroun/Islam4UK will use these for their propaganda. Are there any more ways this government want to screw up counter-terrorism? Maybe they could invade Saudi Arabia.

Legal challenge launched over Gaza

by Sunny at 2:19 am    

A press release I’ve received

Miliband, Hutton & Mandelson to face historic Gaza legal challenge for breaking international law brought to court by Palestinian NGO

As many of you will be aware, the Gaza Legal Aid Fund, to be administered by the Human Rights Legal Aid Trust, was launched at the City Circle on 23 January. Its function is to provide financial support to Palestinian civilians seeking legal redress from alleged human rights violations by the Israeli government and alleged British government complicity.

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organisation will, on Tuesday 24 February 2009, begin historical legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Defence Secretary John Hutton, and Trade & Industry Secretary (now the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform) Peter Mandelson.

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22nd February, 2009

What our politicians can learn from Europe

by Rumbold at 7:52 pm    

Despite the mammoth amounts of unjustified money which our MPs claim for expenses, they still appear to be rank amateurs compared to MEPs:

“There are no guidelines regulating how much an assistant should be paid, and many MEPs use this allowance to pay members of their own family. The amount is so generous that an MEP can slip his or her spouse or offspring £50,000 to £60,000 a year and still have enough loose change to employ more than one full-time secretary and a few researchers…

MEPs can also claim a subsistence allowance of £257 a day, tax free, for every one of the 40 or so weeks of European parliamentary sessions without having to provide receipts. There is no requirement to attend a debate or committee session. On Fridays at 7am there is usually a queue of MEPs with their luggage waiting to sign in to get their allowance before rushing off to the airport or station.”

Of course most of these expenses claims are perfectly legal. But then that is the problem. It is legalised theft. The same problem exists in our Parliament, where people such as Jacqui Smith and Ed Balls ensure the rules are on their side before appropriating to themselves funds which have been raised by taxing the low paid, or by cutting spending on domestic violence refuge centres. The link between the European and British Parliament is one of contempt; namely, for the people who elected them and pay their wages.

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Palestinian resistance and neocons

by Sunny at 9:00 am    

Just some articles to read folks! I don’t have much time to blog.
Ben White: Israel’s targeting of civilian resistance to the separation wall proves the two-state solution is now just a meaningless slogan.

Eric Martin: One of the most curious features of the neoconservative political/philosophical movement is the near reflexive, compulsive tendency on the part of its adherents to conceal the full breadth of their positions, beliefs and ideological moorings.

Seth Freedman: Four years on, nothing has changed in this West Bank village fighting the encroachment of Israeli settlers.

Lastly, Maajid Nawaz from Quilliam is on with Douglas Murray and Ann Cryer MP today on BBC1 10am: ‘Is Islam compatible with Liberalism?’

Filed under: Terrorism
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