31st March, 2010

Asian women in British politics

by Sunny at 3:25 pm    

The BBC website today has a little feature on the “record number” of Asian women who will be fighting for Parliamentary seats as prospective candidates. Some are a shoo-in, like Priti Patel (Con) and Yasmin Qureshi (Labour). Others have little to no chance, like Adeela Shafi (Con) and Satnam Khalsa (Libdem).

Of course – just because they’re Asian doesn’t mean I would automatically like to see them elected (not a fan of Patel, or Qureshi, and prefer the Labour candidates – Kerry McCarthy and John McDonnell – who are being challenged by the other two). Anyone know why Emily Benn is on that list?

But it would be good to see a diverse parliament and on that basis I think the more Asian women MPs the better. Although, as I’ve said before – I’m for all women shortlists but not all ethnic minority shortlists.

Another argument against ethnic shortlists seems to have emerged – that it will end up with some demanding further segmentation. For example: the percentage of Muslim women candidates is way higher than Hindu or Sikh women candidates. Don’t know why this is… perhaps because Muslims are more politicised. But I certainly would not back any demands to see more Sikh or Hindu candidates being favoured.

Also interesting: How Conservatives’ software targets Asian voters.
Get used to micro-targeting people, it is inevitable.

Joanna Lumley and Labour

by Rumbold at 8:14 am    

For whatever reason, Labour ministers seem unable to cope with Joanna Lumley. Last year saw the actress embarrass Phil Woolas, the home office minister, who was forced into a climbdown over the number of Gurkhas who could stay in this country. Now a defence minister, Kevan Jones, and Gordon Brown have apologised to Ms. Lumley after Mr. Jones insulted her in a select committee hearing:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Gurkha campaigner Joanna Lumley today he was “sorry” over comments made about her by a Government minister.

Veterans minister Kevan Jones also apologised “unreservedly” to the actress for his criticism of her “deathly silence” on Gurkhas’ welfare since she forced a Government climbdown last year over the Nepalese troops’ right to settle in the UK in retirement.

Filed under: Current affairs

Christian terrorists go crazy

by Sunny at 12:34 am    

The BBC reports:

Nine alleged members of a radical US Christian militia group have been charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war against the US. The suspects were detained in a series of FBI raids across the Mid-West, while one remains at large.

A website in the name of the group shows video footage of military-style training exercises and describes Hutaree as “Christian warriors”. It is edited to a backing track of rock music.

Pah! I always knew rock music was dangerous… There was a recent article on how Obama’s victory has spurred on and brought out a whole range of white, Christian crazies who think the end of the world is coming, but I can’t find it. I’m still a bit jetlagged so I’ll write more on the subject later maybe. Note, however, that the media noise on this attack has been minimal.

Filed under: Religion,Terrorism
30th March, 2010

Rod Liddle mistook facts for his own racism

by Sunny at 5:28 pm    

It’s wonderful to be back in London (I got back last night from back-packing around S.E. Asia) and get such a wonderful present on my return.

Yesterday the PCC finally ruled on Rod Liddle’s blog post from December last year where he said London’s African-Caribbean youth were responsible for the “overwhelming majority” of violent crime in the capital and had given only “rap music” and “goat curry” in return.

You can read the PCC ruling here. What’s notable is that Rod Liddle tried to pass off his bigotry as fact, and when questioned the magazine was unable to offer proper evidence to support its case.

The ruling has been called “significant” because it relates to a blog. I don’t think it is – the Spectator was only caught out because the magazine itself is regulated by the PCC. The PCC simply extended its mandate to include online content, as it should do. I doubt this ruling will impact independent blogs because they still have no mandate in this area.

It’s more significant that the PCC actually ruled on a case that did not involve a specific person – as this was a common way for the body to avoid adjudication on complaints in the past. Newspapers would regularly publish false stories about immigrants or asylum seekers and the PCC would remain silent because no one specific was named.

In that context this is a welcome judgement because it stops bigots like Liddle trying to pass off bigotry as fact without an adequate case to back it up.

It’s amusing but not surprising that Liddle is now trying to pass this off as an attack on free speech. This, from a man who repeatedly threatened us with legal action when we exposed his views in a campaign to stop him him being appointed editor of the Indy.

Liddle doesn’t believe in free speech – he simply believes in his right to say what he wants without regard for facts or any blowback. And now it’s been proved as such.

More: Left OutsideRod Liddle: A twat in a new way

Filed under: Media,Race politics

MP: Israelis will manipulate British elections

by Rumbold at 9:19 am    

Martin Linton is a MP. He also believes that the Israelis will be using their money and influence to exert major influence over the general election.

“There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.

“You must consider over the next few weeks, when you make decisions about how you vote and how you advise constituents to vote, you must make them aware of the attempt by Israelis and by pro-Israelis to influence the election.”

This rhetoric sounds disturbing familiar (especially when no evidence has been provided). There is nothing wrong with criticising Israeli policies (or Greek policies, or Belgian policies, or Singaporean policies etc.). Some of the things Israel is doing at present are disgraceful and should be condemned. But sometimes criticism of Israel spills over into conspiracy theory or outright anti-Semitism (Mr. Linton’s critique belongs to the former). I think the collective punishment of Gaza is a war crime, and the bulldozing of Palestinian homes is disgusting. I don’t think that there is a cabal of Israelis manipulating the British elections, as no-one has offered any proof.

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Filed under: Current affairs
29th March, 2010

US military allows Sikhs to keep turbans

by Rumbold at 12:23 pm    

For the first time since 1984, a turbaned Sikh, Captain Rattan, has graduated from officer training to become a captain in the US army. For the past twenty six years Sikhs had to choose between their turbans (and beards) and joining the military, though prior to this it wasn’t such an issue. There has been no policy change as such, but the army is entitled to grant individual officers waivers. Captain Rattan, a dentist, was given one, probably in part because his skills are in short supply on the front line. Another Sikh, due to graduate as a doctor, has also received a waiver. Potential safety issues were also resolved through testing and modification:

During training, Rattan wore a helmet over the small turban, which he doesn’t remove, and was able to successfully create a seal with his gas mask despite the beard, resolving the Army’s safety concerns, said Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s legal director.

Rattan worked with an Army tailor to create a flash, the insignia patch worn on soldiers’ berets, that could be affixed to his black turban, she said.

We covered this a while ago, and I am glad that they received exemptions. I hope that this will eventually lead to a wider policy change, as Captain Rattan has shown that there isn’t any operational disadvantage to having a turban and beard. Nor would such a change bother non-Sikh soldiers in the US military, if the British experience is anything to go by.

To quote the British general Sir Frank Walter Messervy:

In the last two World Wars 83,005 turban-wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded. They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the World, enduring shell fire with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.


(Via Sepia Mutiny)

Filed under: Sikh,United States
28th March, 2010

Lee John Barnes urges BNP to ‘reach out’

by Rumbold at 7:32 pm    

The Independent reports that Lee John Barnes LLB (Hons.), the legal officer of the BNP and sometime commentor, is calling for his party to appeal to a broader range of white voters. This comes as the BNP selected a barrister to fight a seat, and is an attempt by the BNP gain more respectability by moving away from the image of the violent extremist. Perhaps for this to succeed Mr. Barnes needs to get out there and try and woo voters with his special blend of charm:

Now shut the fuck up you pathetic whining maggots.

You sell your own out and therefore you deserve nothing but contempt, and hopefully along with the rest of all your kind in the near future – a quick trial , a short rope and a long drop.

If your not prepared to answer those questions, then just shut the fuck up you boring gobshite cunt.

There’s plenty more (and from other sites as well) but the above quotes represent Mr. Barnes’ attempts to ‘reach out’ to people who would otherwise not consider voting BNP.

Filed under: The BNP
27th March, 2010

Regimental unions

by Rumbold at 7:27 pm    

It has always bemused me when people attack homosexuals who wish to serve in the military. Often the critics are those who like to trumpet their patriotism, so it seems odd to criticise those who are willing to defend their country. It is good to see that the British army has gone one step further than mere acceptance (eleven years ago it was discharging people because of their sexuality) and is now blessing homosexual partnerships:

The Household Cavalry, famed for escorting the Queen during state occasions and the fact that it counts both her grandsons among its officers, celebrated its first gay wedding in style. L/Cpl Wharton was joined in a civil partnership with his boyfriend, the Virgin air steward Thom McCaffrey, 21, surrounded by members of L/Cpl Wharton’s regiment, the Blues and Royals.

“The entire regiment has been really supportive,” he said. “When I went to ask the Squadron Leader, Major Nana Twumasi-Ankrah, for permission to get married, he just said ‘This is fantastic, congratulations’.”

Filed under: Culture
26th March, 2010

The Music of Unity and the Politics of Division

by Jai at 4:56 pm    

With the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi approaching in a few weeks, coupled with ongoing issues involving both Islamist extremists and far-Right groups such as the BNP and EDL, perhaps this would be a good time to highlight some inspirational historical and modern-day figures from a range of backgrounds.

Bhai Dya Singh

Dya Singh is a Sikh religious singer, originally from Malaysia but now based in Australia. He is the gentleman in the white turban shown meeting the Dalai Lama in the photograph at the top of this article, which was taken at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne in December 2009. Dya Singh’s World Music Group consists of non-Sikh (indeed, non-Asian) musicians as well as Sikhs, and regularly embarks on global tours where they promote Sikhism’s universal non-sectarian humanitarian message via a combination of hymns sung in both traditional and fusion styles. Dya Singh, who has performed at numerous prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall in London, makes it a point to translate the lyrics into English for the benefit of the wider audience. This is the same approach that the Sikh Gurus took, as they were fluent in multiple languages and preached their message in the local languages of the various peoples they met.

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25th March, 2010

The free market and discrimination

by Rumbold at 10:02 pm    

There has been a great deal written about the decision of bed and breakfast owner Ms. Wilkinson to turn away a gay couple because she disapproved of their sexuality. Ms. Wilkinson claimed that they hadn’t given her any warning of their sexuality (why should they have?) and there were no other rooms available to place them in. Ms. Wilkinson is in the wrong. If you take bookings from people you can’t then turn them away because you don’t like their sexuality, since that condition wasn’t stated as part of the agreement.

What should be the legal position on this though, given that Ms. Wilkinson might face prosecution? Initially I took the line that the consumer should decide. Let people who aren’t homophobes (and don’t approve of sheer rudeness) stop doing business with them. As Graeme Archer put it:

Ms Wilkinson, I hope you don’t end up being prosecuted. But you should edit your website. Remove the nonsense about a ‘warm & friendly welcome’, and replace it with words that express what you really mean: ‘No Poofs’. Then we’ll let the market decide what happens to your business.

Yet this is not an entirely satisfactory solution. In of itself it doesn’t really matter. One small guest house’s policies won’t affect anything. However, what if this happened in a different setting on a larger scale; would it be okay for the market to decide in a, say, a BNP-supporting village with five shops, all of whom decided not to serve non-whites? Free marketers like myself would (rightly) say that someone would see a gap in the market and sell to non-whites, but that would take time. America had legalised segregation (the Jim Crow laws) in the South for a long time, and that helped to entrench racism and division.

I don’t think Ms. Wilkinson should be prosecuted, but I am unsure of how the law should be framed in a situation that shouldn’t be solely left up to the free market (given the precedents of yesteryear).

It’s hot here in northern Thailand

by Sunny at 7:34 am    

Jeebus! I don’t want to make you lot jealous or anything but I’m getting a nice tan out here (believe me, I need one). I’m currently in northern Thailand – a small town called Pai just north of Chiang Mai. We thought it would be a quiet little place, but it’s pretty much back-packer central (though the town is about 5 streets big).

It took a mission to get here – straight from the capital of Laos (Vientiane), via Thailand’s excellent but a bit manic bus system. Unfortunately their train system isn’t quite up to scratch. About a week more of taking in the sun, doing a bit of sitting around reading, and I should be back by the end of the month. I haven’t written anything substantial for a few weeks now and the fingers are getting itchy.

On the other hand, it’s good to see that I’ve missed absolutely nothing so far while away. Apart from Obama passing healthcare, nothing interesting seems to have happened in the western political hemisphere. Just the way I like it.

Filed under: Blog

Another Muslim non-story

by Rumbold at 6:19 am    

A man was unable to buy a burger from KFC, given that KFC had stopped selling that burger. This shouldn’t be a news story; businesses remove products from circulation all the time, because of a drop in demand, increasing costs of raw materials and so on. If a local newsagents stopped selling cola bottles, it wouldn’t hit the headlines. So what was different about this story to attract the attention of the Daily Mail?

A diner was left furious after a KFC restaurant refused to sell him a bacon burger – because it wasn’t halal.

Ahh… Muslims are involved.

A private business decided not to sell an item which it is not obliged to sell, and had stopped offering in that branch. KFC are responding to what they see as market signals. Nobody is obliged to eat there:

Mr Phillips was told he would have to travel to another KFC five miles away to buy his bacon burger. He protested that this was too far for him to travel.

This is an example of the Muslim non-story. A Muslim non-story is an otherwise unremarkable piece of information (see above) that suddenly becomes newsworthy when Muslims are involved. The tabloids encourage these stories, because of the fear of Muslims as the ‘other’.

Take this story from last year: a shop that is part of a chain had stopped selling pork on pizzas because of a lack of demand. The offended party, a Mr. Savage, said:

I’m all for racial and religious tolerance but if anything this is intolerant to my beliefs and discriminatory against me. I had to travel two miles out of my way to their next nearest branch – I was appalled.

Sound familiar?

Filed under: EDL,Muslim
24th March, 2010

Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?- book launch

by Rumbold at 9:03 pm    

This looks like an interesting book launch. It’s tomorrow, so apologies for the late announcement. Press release below:

****
Eric Kaufmann – Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the 21st Century – Book Launch

Eric Kaufmann will speak about his new book followed by a drinks reception. The book will be available at reduced rate.

Thursday 25th March 6pm Room 403 Birkbeck Main Building, Malet St., London
Free and open to all

[Synopsis]

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have convinced many western intellectuals that secularism is the way forward. But most people don’t read their books before deciding whether to be religious. Instead, they inherit their faith from their parents, who often innoculate them against the elegant arguments of secularists. In the race for souls, demography counts for more than eloquence.

And demographic reality is very much slanted against secularism: what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population because secular birthrates have plunged below replacement. Based on a wealth of demographic studies, Kaufmann shows that the more religious people are, regardless of income, faith tradition or education, the more children they have. Religious countries have faster population growth than secular ones which is why immigrants are typically much more religious than their secular host societies. The cumulative effect of immigration and religious fertility will be to reverse the secularisation process in the West.

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Filed under: Events

Drug dealer in MP reference storm

by Rumbold at 6:17 am    

“I didn’t know she was an MP” claimed drug dealer.

Filed under: Humour
23rd March, 2010

Religion and Belief Consultative Group collapses

by Rumbold at 8:50 pm    

The main body for interfaith interface, the Equality Commission’s Religion and Belief Consultative Group, has splintered after various groups began to fight amongst themselves. What happened isn’t entirely clear, as the report talked about conflict between “secular and religious” groups, even though the terms aren’t contradictory (one can be religious and a secularist). The National Secular Society (NSS) claimed that church representatives were more concerned about getting exemptions from the forthcoming equalities bill than “championing human rights”. The NSS’ opponents accused it of arrogance. Some groups had already stopped attending the meetings. Its funding sources are also unclear: none of its members are paid by the taxpayer, but I don’t know who provides the venues.

Does the collapse of the group really matter? I am not so sure it does. It wasn’t a theological attempt to reconcile all opposing religious views, but rather a chance to air and debate concerns. It had some influence on the Equality Commission, but it is not apparent what the group actually achieved before it broke up. Do those representing viewpoints (which is ultimately what a belief or lack of belief in a deity boils down to) need such a group? What purpose, even if was functioning, would it serve? Does the state need an ‘advisory body’ on religion?

Filed under: Religion
22nd March, 2010

Marriages between cousins

by Rumbold at 12:26 pm    

Baroness Deech, who is a member of the House of Lords and a professor, has called for greater awareness about the impact of first cousin marriages on children of said unions:

Fifty-five per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins and in Bradford the figure is 75 per cent. British Pakistanis represent 3 per cent of all births in Britain but one third of children with recessive disorders.

The problem is not cousin marriages per se, as one off cousin marriages don’t have much of a genetic impact on children, but rather repeated intermarriage between first cousins:

Lady Deech calls for measures short of a ban to prevent the genetic problems arising from cousin marriage.

She says: “There is no reason, one could argue, why there should not be a campaign to highlight the risks and the preventative measures, every bit as vigorous as those centring on smoking, obesity and Aids.” While there was reluctance to “target or upset Muslims over cousin-marriage issues” the practice was not mandated by religion, only permitted, so it is not at heart a religious issue, she argues.

A campaign of education needs to start in schools so they understand about genetics and what it means to carry a mutant gene.

The Baroness’ suggestions seem sensible, though I am not sure about her plan to test genetic defects in those who have arranged marriages. It makes sense, but how would you differentiate between arranged and love marriages?

The problem is that, like in Europe a few centuries ago, first marriages are still an attractive prospect for families: they help to solidify alliances and keep property within a family. This is an issue that needs to be discussed a great deal more.

Media helping the BNP/EDL once again

by Sunny at 4:46 am    

I got this highlighted to me while travelling and thought it was worth flagging up. Expose the BNP points out what happened in Bolton and how the media help and aid fascists from the BNP and EDL:

Video on the Bolton News website makes it clear, however, that the violence was not coming from the anti-fascists. It shows an elderly veteran of World War 2 who had joined the protest, and UAF stewards can be heard urging protestors to stay calm in the face of apparent police efforts to provoke a riot.

The Bolton News had a reporter in Victoria Square who described on Twitter how EDL members had broken away from the square to cause violence: “Number of demonstrators intent on causing disorder have broken away from protest site. Large numbers of officers deployed to address.” The journalist saw “missiles flying” as the EDL tried to get out of its enclosure.

The BBC also lets the English Defence League people describe themselves as “a peaceful, non-political group” — which is of course pure rubbish. But this isn’t challenged at all. In the interests of “balance”, UAF spokespeople were not quoted.
Read the full report here

Filed under: Media,Race politics
21st March, 2010

Combating the English Defence League

by Rumbold at 2:20 pm    

The English Defence League (EDL), which is a far-right group that claims to be anti-extremist but not anti-Muslim, has seen a dozen of its members arrested yet again after a street brawl involving UAF (Unite Against Fascism). UAF are right to oppose the EDL, but too often they just seem to end up in street battles with them, which just hands more ammunition to the EDL and their ilk.

The EDL has tried to cover its tracks in the past by only taking about Islamist extremists in order to garner wider public support, but their imagery and some of their language (including from their leadership) betrays their true feelings, as ordinary Muslims and Asians in general are targeted and insulted.

The EDL seems to be a different beast from the BNP. It is less outwardly hostile to non-whites (and probably is in reality as well, though that is not saying much), and is defined by its Islamaphobia more than anything else. It has no noticeable political ambitions, and would probably struggle to pick off votes that would normally go to the BNP of the National Front.

How best to combat it? Firstly, we need to continue the excellent work done by Richard Bartholomew and others in order to expose their unsavoury links and views: the EDL must not be allowed to become seen as a genuinely anti-extremist group. Their inconsistencies and bigotry needs to be publicised so they can’t get away with their public pronouncements of only being anti-extremist, not anti-Muslim/Asian.

Secondly, continue the protests against it, but don’t under any circumstances get involved in a conflict. Innocent people get hurt and it just makes UAF protestors look like a bunch of thugs to the general public, thus undermining any anti-EDL campaign.

Filed under: EDL
20th March, 2010

Religion and class

by Rumbold at 6:38 pm    

This debate on the 25th March looks interesting:

Class has traditionally shaped the identity in the UK, but does faith now predominate? It is certainly the case that politicians, academics and popular media now focus more on the latter.

This debate raises this pivotal question at a time when the UK public is about to decide on its next government and thus make important choices about who best reflects and appeals to their increasingly complex and diverse senses of identity. At such times, we first need to reflect on who we are and what primarily defines us and drives our choices…

To register, please e-mail rsvp.events[at]britishcouncil.org by 20th March.

Class has certainly played a part in shaping some people’s identities, but, as with so many issues, how do you define it? When does someone move from being working class to middle class, or upper class, or vice versa? What tips the balance- wealth, income, job, connections, location, mentality, race or something else?

I don’t doubt that faith (or rather religion) has re-emerged as a more important issue than it was before. Centuries ago religion was one of the most, if not the most, important issue in this country. Men and women were prepared to die for their beliefs, laws were put in place to both help and hinder religious minorities, and a change in your faith might turn you from a community leader to a community outcast (or, as Alexandra Walsham has shown, it might not). By the end of the 19th century though, religion on the British mainland (i.e. excluding Ireland) mattered a lot less, with the non-conformist test acts repealed and the introduction of Roman Catholic emancipation. The gradual post-war drift away from organised Christian worship merely exacerbated this.

It is only in the last ten years or so that religion has remerged as a really noticeable feature of political debate, thanks in part to terrorism and the influx of people from more religious societies. The internet too has helped to spread information. Yet has this identity become more important than class? Can we generalise? I’m not sure.

You need to book your place today for the debate next week.

(Hat-Tip: Jai and BMSD)

England Left Forward

by guest at 11:50 am    

This is a guest post by David Dyke

Why did I set up England Left Forward?

Mainly because I got fed up with the intransigence of the other members of the Left over the issue, and the hypocrisy in allowing three out of the four nations within the Union to have self-government whilst denying the same opportunity to the fourth.

I am English; that is because I was born in England, pure and simple. Like many of my fellow countrymen I take pride in my country, especially as to how the England Football team, Rugby team and Cricket team perform, and the mix of local traditions and culture and communities that make up the country. But I am also on the Left, and to me one of the central tenets of the Left is equality of opportunity. Thus England should have the same opportunity as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – recognition of itself as its own political entity.

When Scotland and Wales gained devolution after New Labour came to power in 1997, I was hoping that eventually, the same due process would be extended to the people of England.

Continue Reading...
19th March, 2010

Defend David T

by Rumbold at 1:17 pm    

David T of Harry’s Place is being sued by George Galloway and one of Mr. Galloway’s collegues, Kevin Ovenden. They are demanding £50,000 for a comment left on another blog. The comment he made wasn’t nice or correct, but as Richard Bartholomew put it:

The legal threat seems to me to be badly conceived. I’m sure that Galloway and Overden are against the anti-Jewish hadith in Hamas Covenant, but while it’s there anyone who meets a Hamas governmental official risks being tarnished by association. Blame Hamas for that. And of course it’s annoying when a political opponent extrapolates a supposedly logical chain from one’s activities or position to the conclusion that in some deeper “objective” sense one is in fact supporting something else, but that’s life and to be allowed to do it is essential to public debate.

A lot of people have a lot of criticisms to make of David T and Harry’s Place. Fine. However, it is irrelevant in this context. The comment was clearly a joke, and should in no way be the cause of a libel action. Bloggers are only able to operate because of a modicum of freedom of speech, and for every frivolous libel action we fail to stand against, our future as bloggers becomes that bit grimmer.

Filed under: Blog,Civil liberties
17th March, 2010

Conservative calls for harsher measures against teenage mothers

by Rumbold at 8:34 pm    

The shadow children’s minister, Tim Loughton, has called for the harsher treatment of children under sixteen who have sex:

‘[It is] against the law to get pregnant at 14. How many kids get prosecuted for having underage sex? Virtually none. ‘Where are the consequences of breaking the law and having irresponsible underage sex? There aren’t any.’

Asked if was advocating more prosecutions, Mr Loughton said: ‘We need to be tougher. Without sounding horribly judgmental, it is not a good idea to be a mum at 14. ‘You are too young, throwing away your childhood and prospects of developing a career.’

This seems like a counterproductive and wrong-headed idea. Better sex education and more males using condoms is the way forward. We have laws in this country that prohibit sex with those under sixteen because we don’t believe they are able to give consent. So what would be the point in prosecuting two, say, fourteen year olds? It won’t stop people doing it, and will just criminalise teenage girls (especially). Note too how the focus of Mr. Loughton’s criticism is on teenage girls, despite the fact that it takes two to tango and plenty of teenage girls suffer sexual-related abuse at the hands of their boyfriends.

It is telling that the only person the Daily Mail quoted in support of the plan is discredited ‘parenting expert’ Patricia Morgan.

Filed under: Current affairs
16th March, 2010

Bella: fidei defensor

by Rumbold at 2:01 pm    

Bella Gerens has posted a wonderfully splenetic rant against Ed Balls, the education secretary. Mr. Balls attacked Latin as a ‘useless subject’, presumably as a way to appeal to the Labour left in the battle for supremacy in the party. Mr. Balls’ support for the workers is well known, such as when he claimed £27,000 for his second home (money of course collected from some of the lowest paid in society). Bella laments the crassness of Mr. Balls, and muses on why he attacked her subject:

It would be a pointless waste of time to allow you to observe the teaching of such an elegant and complex subject. Not only would you be incapable of understanding the material, much less appreciating it, the superior knowledge of the students would show you up in a Tennessee heartbeat. Could you even begin to grasp the idea of an ablative absolute, or listen with any light of comprehension in your eyes to a discussion of the sexual puns in a poem by Ovid? Students can. Could you find in your shrivelled soul an inclination to laugh at the comedy of Aristophanes or experience a pang of sympathetic horror at the tribulations of Oedipus? Students can.

It is a light-hearted rant in some senses, but Bella highlights the fact that it is dangerous to judge subjects solely on what some perceive to be their immediate utility to the world of work. The skills required to master a subject like Latin (or classics generally) are valuable. And before anyone asks, my Latin is virtually non-existent and I could never master the subject.

Filed under: Culture
15th March, 2010

Modi not off the hook yet

by Rumbold at 4:54 pm    

Narenda Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, has been summoned to yet another investigation into the 2002 massacres in the state which he rules. Mr. Modi, who is a member of the BJP, has long escaped any criminal charges for his widely alleged role in the 2002 massacres, where Gujarati authorities were thought to have helped Hindu mobs massacre thousands of Muslims after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims accidently caught on fire, killing fifty of them:

Last year, the court ordered that the role of Mr Modi, a leading member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), should be investigated, particularly in connection with the murder of Mr Jafri and nine other specific cases.

The court was acting on a petition filed by Mr Jafri’s widow. Narendra Modi is one of more than 60 people who have been named as co-accused. In the past the Supreme Court has criticised the government of Gujarat for failing to protect its Muslim citizens.

Given the lamentable record of bringing important figures to justice for the 1984 massacres of Sikhs to justice however, it seems likely that those involved in co-ordinating the massacre of Muslims in 2002 will continue to remain at large.

Filed under: Current affairs,India
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