20th November, 2010

China’s Nobel bullying has failed

by Rumbold at 9:46 pm    

After the Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize, China reacted harshly. Mr Liu was jailed for eleven years, and his wife and other activists found themselves persecuted (and in some cases jailed too). China also tried to discourage other countries from sending their ambassadors the Nobel prize ceremony. Previously countries have been wary of upsetting China by discussing human rights, not wanting to disrupt what they see as important trade deals. Surprising though, this time the threats were ignored. Only a handful of countries have decided not to attend the event, and the list, which reads like a George Galloway world tour, contains no countries with a healthy respect for democracy and the rule of law anyway.

6th October, 2010

Why the trial against Geert Wilders is wrong

by guest at 10:14 am    

by Iman Qureshi

Equating the Quran with Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf, calling Islam a “retarded” religion, and demanding a “head rag tax” are just a few examples of how Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, has succeeded in catching the attention of many media headlines, as well as a Dutch court.

Wilders, whose trial is set to resume this week, is facing five counts of giving religious offence and inciting hatred against Muslims—particularly those immigrant to the Netherlands which are of Moroccan origin—through his comments to the public and media, as well as his short film, Fitna, which can be viewed on YouTube:

Wilders’ arguments make the scaremongering right wing press in America look moderate. His appearance on Fox News is almost amusing in its juxtaposition of an interviewer who clearly agrees with Wilder on many issues, but doesn’t quite have the balls or endorsement to say so out loud.

Indeed, Wilders’ is acutely aware of his unconventional and outspoken discourse. He dismisses theories of multiculturalism, cultural relativism and political correctness. They have no place in a Western liberal-democratic society, he argues. And nor does Islam and its proponents.

Continue Reading...
2nd June, 2010

And in a break from the usual…

by Sunny at 2:29 am    

This is not man-made at all.

Created entirely via a tropical storm in Guatemala. The high resolution picture is here.

18th November, 2009

Policy: how Obama has been different from Bush

by Sunny at 8:42 am    

This was forwarded to me in an email, so I can’t take credit for its compilation. But it offers a list (I’ve taken out some small ones) of how the Obama administration has been different to the Bush administration. For all the haters out there… etc etc.

Foreign policy
Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed
The US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards
The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010
Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols
The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out
Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

Science / Environment
Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
New federal funding for science and research labs
Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

Domestic
Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women
Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information
The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act
Limits on lobbyist’s access to the White House and on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
The FDA is now regulating tobacco
Built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!

11th November, 2009

Lefties should stop cutting their noses to spite the face

by Sunny at 9:39 am    

Lefties make this argument all the time: that if we only have some small incremental change then it kills off the prospect for more revolutionary change. Therefore many, especially on issues like climate change, oppose progress on the basis it does not go far enough. I oppose this stance for various reasons, principally that while I’d like to see much more change in our society – incremental steps are usually the best way forward.

Ezra Klein, who writes about healthcare in the USA, confronts the question of whether a watered down bill is worse than no bill at all. This should be required reading for every leftie.

This is, I think, a misreading of not only the politics of this issue going forward, and also the history of health-care reform going backward. Failure does not bring with it a better chance for future success. It brings a trimming of future ambitions.

Failure does not breed success. Obama’s defeat will not mean that more ambitious reforms have “a better chance of trying again.” It will mean that less ambitious reformers have a better chance of trying next time.

Conversely, success does breed success. Medicare and Medicaid began as fairly limited programs. Medicaid was pretty much limited to extremely poor children and their caregivers. Medicare didn’t cover prescription drugs, or individuals with disabilities, or home health services.

As any scientist will tell you, it’s much easier to encourage something to evolve in a certain direction than it is to create it anew. The idea that a high-profile failure in a moment where a liberal Democrat occupies the White House and Democrats hold 60 seats in the Senate for the first time since the 1970s will encourage a more ambitious success later does not track with the history of this issue, nor with the political incentives that future actors are likely to face. If even Obama’s modest effort proves too ambitious for the political system, the result is likely to be a retreat towards even more modest efforts in the future, as has happened in the past.

This is spot on. The left should not lose the stomach for revolutionary change or radical ideas. But it must also have the pragmatism to find ways to push for them, perhaps even incrementally, rather than constantly throw toys out of the pram when change does not go far enough quickly.

19th August, 2009

Racism in Italy ramps up; no one cares

by Sunny at 9:44 pm    

Claude highlights some craziness in Italy:

After a wave of ugly rhetoric and dubious policies, a number of northern Italian councils run by the far-right Northern League (Silvio Berlusconi’s biggest coalition partner in government) have gone on the rampage against anything foreign.

Top of the list, the town of Capriate, 20 miles from Milan, where the council announced a ban on kebab and ‘ethnic’ shops from the town centre. The news hasn’t reached the foreign press yet, so you’ll have to be able to understand Italian if you want to find out more here and here.

In a nutshell, a council ordinance tabled by the Northern League bans all ‘ethnic’ shops and businesses from Capriate town centre.

This is what happens when you have a population over-run by the sort of wingnuts who go around screaming about ‘dhimmification’ and ‘multiculturalism gone mad’. Italy is about half a step away from an official fascist state and yet hardly much is said about it. Why isn’t anyone taking the entire country to the European Court of Human Rights? Why aren’t we chucking Italy out of the EU?

9th August, 2009

Touring Bosnia

by Sunny at 12:12 pm    

Shazia Awan, who is a Tory member and a regular reader of PP, sends in some pictures from a recent trip to Bosnia. I thought it was a nice story so I said I’d plug it.


(Left to right: Tobia Ellwood MP, Shazia Awan, Lord Ashcroft & Baroness Sayeeda Warsi)

She says:

For me I really wanted to go as I remember I was in school when all this was going on with ethnic cleansing and I couldn’t quite understand why people were being killed just for being a different religion- I still can’t understand it now. The trip really has had a massive impact on me. We went out there to build a house for a refugee family, refurbish a classroom at a local comprehensive and construct a football pitch. I was quite heavily involved in the school project managed to get lots of books donated from a publisher in this country and also we did everything from empty out the classroom, to painting the walls and ceilings to mopping the floors. William Hague flew into Bosnia to join us which was fantastic- he opened the IT suite for us.

To avoid another disaster like Srebrenica I strongly believe that the international community needs to help Bosnia become more stable, help encourage tolerance and only then can people in the region learn to fully embrace each others differences.

Shazia is currently looking to get selected as a Parliamentary candidate.

30th June, 2009

Obama finally takes stance on Honduras coup

by Sunny at 3:18 am    

I was, a couple of days ago, going to write an annoyed blog post condeming Prez. Barack Obama for not saying anything about the military coup against the president of Honduras. It’s the most pressing matter in the world I’m sure you’ll agree. I bet John Pilger was angrily sharpening up a column for the New Statesman calling him an Uncle Tom again. Anyway, Obama has now spoken out and said the coup was illegal. Phew! That saved me from criticising Obama and no doubt killed a few ‘No Change President‘ headlines.

22nd May, 2009

I’m Haroon Saad and I’m standing for European elections

by guest at 12:00 pm    

This is a guest article by Haroon Saad

About 9 months ago, over dinner with a group of friends, we entered into a kind of pact. We decided that it would be good to explore the setting up of a movement that could generate a list of candidates for the 2009 European Parliament Elections. Our goal was NOT to create another party, at least not in way that corresponds to what we currently have. The movement would be based on some key principles:

• Politics is service NOT a career.
• We are “Europeans” but not in the current institutional sense.
• We are committed to developing a more inclusive political discourse – more café style than chamber style. A “ we think” model as opposed to the current “I think” model
• Comfortable with diversity and pro-equality

Continue Reading...
29th January, 2009

Untangling Cameron’s ‘Progressive Conservatism’

by Shariq at 8:00 pm    

I’ll admit that I’ve always sort of liked David Cameron. I’m a realist about politics and hope that when my side eventually loses, the other side has some decent people governing. Canada’s a great example of this – despite Liberal party rule for a long time suggesting that Canada is a fundamentally centre-left nation, a funding scandal saw the Liberals booted out and Stephen Harper, a talented politician but unreconstructed righty take power.

The problem has always been that Cameron’s Tories have been woefully thin on policy, causing people to be suspicious. Also, understandably the whole Eton/Bullingdon thing doesn’t go down well with a lot of people.

So I was interested to see that Cameron has given a speech on ‘Progressive Conservatism’. What does it mean though? Is it just semantic nonsense, influenced by the venue of his speech, or is there some real cause for hope? Lets try and figure it out.

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5th November, 2008

President Barack Hussein Obama

by Leon at 5:16 am    

President Obama

24th October, 2008

Women’s rights: Western foreign policy double standards

by Rumbold at 11:36 am    

Johann Hari has a piece (warning: graphic descriptions) on the way in which Muslim women are abused around the world. One of the most pertinent sections is when he talks about how Britain and the West have being willing to sacrifice the struggle for women’s rights in return for other benefits, whether economic or military:

“Our governments are equally hobbled from supporting Muslim women – for a very different reason. They claim to oppose the Taliban or the Iranian Mullahs because they abuse women. But when it comes to Saudi Arabia, they declare the just-as-vile regime “our close friend” and lavish cash on it. Why?

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19th October, 2008

Simon Heffer’s hero

by Rumbold at 4:47 pm    

Probably.

A Nigerian Islamic court has sentenced a 20-year-old man to six months in jail and 30 strokes of the cane for idleness… Court clerk Tasiu Musa said that the judge sentenced the defendant for “having no job and also for associating with bad friends, which is an offence contrary to the Sharia penal code”.

11th August, 2008

Evo Morales wins again!

by Sunny at 4:02 pm    

A bit of foreign news folks, for those inclined – the socialist president Evo Morales wins in Bolivia again. Good stuff! via Jim Jay. Good news for Latin Americans and Bolivians in particular. As the New Statesman points out:

Waldo, a driver who gives tours through the altiplano and Bolivia’s famous salt plains, pointed out the benefits of Morales’ redistribution policies when recognising small villages.

Many once only had three or four hours of electricity. But, thanks to Morales’ initiatives, now have up to eight hours of light due to solar panelling. Morales’ future plans are to introduce 24 hours of energy a day in these once forgotten places, and also to pave their mountainous roads with concrete.

More on the BBC site. For some reason I’ve had this interest in how Eva Morales is doing, and wrote about his win when he was first elected. Its about time Latin Americans had someone who looked after their interests than those of the rich minority.

9th August, 2008

Russia invades, China parades…

by Leon at 12:05 am    

torch

There’s a rather strange mixture of images today with the news that Russia has killed roughly 1200 civilians in their invasion of Georgia while China opened the Beijing Olympics.

Europe and the US must be watching with interest at China and Russia both flexing their respective organisational powers in two very differing ways…

6th August, 2008

I’m supporting Paris Hilton

by Sunny at 7:53 pm    

Well, there’s something you won’t hear from me every day. But this video, posted by Oliver on the Guardian blog, is ace. “See you at the debates, bitches.”

22nd July, 2008

How not to deal with terrorism (pt 2)

by Sunny at 9:05 am    

On a recent blog post at Harry’s Place, one of the readers asked David T:

David, I know Sunny is a friend of yours but he is clearly losing the plot. Some of the recent stuff he wrote about the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Islam Expo was bizarre. There was a time when he was reliably hostile to the prumptions of Islamism but recently he seems to have become some kind of anti-anti-Islamist, preferring to focus his energy on attacking anyone who dares to point out the danger. Any insights into what’s going on?

To which David T replies:

No, I really don’t know. All I can say is that this isn’t the perspective of all the Pickled Politics bloggers at all.

It is a bizarre response for two reasons. First, David is a regular reader and should have seen this post where I explained my reasons for a subtle change in my own editorial direction.

Secondly, my post on IslamExpo was actually more about the Quilliam Foundation, and the essential point was no different to what I had already said when writing about QF’s launch.

Continue Reading...
1st July, 2008

Is it over for Bishop Nazir-Ali?

by Sunny at 3:37 am    

Until recently I paid little attention to politics within the Church of England. The Anglicans are hardly the most exciting bunch around. But this changed when constant attacks by Bishop Nazir-Ali, the most well-known conservative Bishop within the Church, on Muslims led me to believe he was trying to build up a base against Archbishop Rowan Williams. See this article on CIF. So I became interested in what Nazir-Ali was up to and how we going about building his power base.

Last week when the big bomb dropped that the Anglican Church faced a major split from more conservative bishops from Africa, objecting against increasingly liberal moves within the Church of England to allow women bishops and bless gay marriages, I thought – what’s Nazir Ali going to do now?

He joined the conservative faction from Africa of course, because it challenged Rowan William’s legitimacy. I expect he thought that people might nominate him as the new Anglican Church head so he could smooth things over with the Africans and restore unity again. The first problem is that Rowan Williams isn’t taking this lying down.

The bigger problem for Nazir Ali is that this looks more like a power play from the African Anglicans, who want the centre of Anglican gravity to shift to the south. Over the long term they probably don’t give a toss for Nazir-Ali either. Which means that many conservative Anglicans in Britain, recognising this is as a serious long-term blow to their power, will rally towards Rowan Williams. They still want the power after all. Here’s the religion editor at the Telegraph (which has been supporting Nazir Ali a lot) saying he has become a “useful idiot”.

Which basically means Lord Nazir Ali may be left hanging out to dry and all those conservatives who secretly supported his bid to be the next Archbishop will have to ditch him. Fun and games. I, for one, can’t see the back of Nazir Ali back into obscurity.

PS: I wonder what Simon Barrow, Riazat Butt and Richard have to say on this too…

18th June, 2008

Blacks in France rejoice over Obama

by Sunny at 12:59 pm    

This piece in the NY Times is interesting.

Americans, who have debated race relations since the dawn of the Republic, may find it hard to grasp the degree to which race, like religion, remains a taboo topic in France. While Mr. Obama talks about running a campaign transcending race, an increasing number of French blacks are pushing for, in effect, the reverse.

Having always thought it was more racially enlightened than strife-torn America, France finds itself facing the prospect that it has actually fallen behind on that score. Incidents like the ones over the weekend bring to mind the rioting that exploded across France three years ago. Since it abolished slavery 160 years ago, the country has officially declared itself to be colorblind — but seeing Mr. Obama, a new generation of French blacks is arguing that it’s high time here for precisely the sort of frank discussions that in America have preceded the nomination of a major black candidate.

When he sat down to talk the other morning, the first two words out of his mouth were Barack Obama. “The idea behind not categorizing people by race is obviously good; we want to believe in the republican ideal,” he said. “But in reality we’re blind in France, not colorblind but information blind, and just saying people are equal doesn’t make them equal.”

He ticked off some obvious numbers: one black member representing continental France in the National Assembly among 555 members; no continental French senators out of some 300; only a handful of mayors out of some 36,000, and none from the poor Paris suburbs.

Careful! I might be promoting a supremacist racist agenda here! Sunny the communalist in action! I admit that I find American discussions on race in the media far more frank than here or in Europe. Apparently, just mentioning the word “brown” or “black” in Britain makes you a foot-soldier for the Muslim Council of Britain.

12th June, 2008

David Davis Resigns

by Leon at 1:12 pm    

David Davis has resigned as an MP to provoke a by election, he says that this is to fight the seat with regard to the vote yesterday on 42 days.

Shadow home secretary David Davis has resigned as an MP. He is to force a by-election in his Haltemprice and Howden constituency which he will fight on the issue of the new 42-day terror detention limit.

Mr Davis told reporters outside the House of Commons he believed his move was a “noble endeavour” to stop the erosion of British civil liberties.

Update: Paul Linford and Nick Robinson think David Cameron has found himself in dangerous water over this. Rachel North is impressed by David Davis’ stance while Unity is less so. Hopi has some media management advice for the government. Iain Dale thinks the dust has settled and Luke wants the gloves to come off.

11th June, 2008

Excellent Globalisation Articles

by Shariq at 5:09 pm    

Thought I’d post a couple of links on globalisation. Tyler Cowen has an interesting piece on how the benefits of free trade continue to be underestimated.

More than 400 million Chinese climbed out of poverty between 1990 and 2004, according to the World Bank. India has become a rapidly growing economy, the middle class in Brazil and Mexico is flourishing, and recent successes of Ghana and Tanzania show that parts of Africa may be turning the corner as well.

Despite these enormous advances, however, there is a backlash against globalization and a widespread belief that it requires moderation. Ordinary people often question the benefits of international trade, and now many intellectuals are turning more skeptical, too. Yet the facts on the ground show that the current climate of economic doom and gloom simply isn’t warranted. The classic economic recipes of trade, investment and good incentives have never been more successful in generating huge gains in human welfare.

Dani Rodrik responds on his blog with an excellent post of his own.

It is important to understand this because it provides an important clue as to why domestic and international trade are different. Domestic trade takes place within thoroughly embedded markets; there are clear rules and they apply to all transactions equally. International trade, on the other hand, is conducted in only weakly embedded markets: the rules either do not exist or apply unevenly. I believe this is the fundamental reason why their consequences are often perceived so differently.

28th January, 2008

The new global politics

by Sunny at 3:11 pm    

Writing in the New York Times magazine, Parag Khanna has an interesting view on the future of global politics.

At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.

The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.

The whole article is quite long but I plan to read it soon. I love this kind of crystal ball-gazing. Saying that, it’s hardly a controversial view is it?

18th January, 2008

Where are our foreign-policy hawks?

by Sunny at 8:46 am    

People on the right of the political spectrum usually constitute of a group called ‘foreign policy hawks‘. These people like to see a strong defence force and are quite hawk-ish (as opposed to being dove-ish) on foreign affairs. In America they’re all foreign policy hawks – Republicans and Democrats.

Here, the traditional position to take on the left is to be somewhat dove-ish and try and understand the concerns of other countries when they do things we don’t like. In other words: let’s negotiate and talk rather than start waving around guns and warships. I say traditionally because 9/11 turned a whole bunch of lefties into foreign policy hawks and they start bandying about stupid phrases like “moonbats” etc.

Anyway, this post is about foreign policy hawks in general, especially on the right. Where the hell are they? This was yesterday:

The diplomatic standoff with Russia entered a dangerous new phase yesterday as British officials denounced “a pattern of intimidation” by Russia’s security services against British Council staff.

The Foreign Office complained of unacceptable behaviour, after Russians working at British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg were called in for questioning by the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and visited at home by interior ministry officials.

There is a pattern here of the Russian government flexing its diplomatic and military muscles since the murder of Alexander Litvenko in London. My point is, if this was a country like Iran, we would hear shreiking all over the place. And yet, there is complete silence on this issue from the right.

At the Spectator, apparently the home of the right, there is nothing on their main blog. Melanie Phillips is still harping on about ‘Slouching towards Dhimmocracy‘ (she just changes the words around slightly every day)… and Stephen Pollard is as boring as ever. Nothing on at Iain Dale or EU Referendum. On ConservativeHome CentreRight they’re actually thanking the Russians for saving them money!

Bloody hell, our right-wing foreign policy hawks really are lame and useless. Where’s our Ann Coulter? Do they only get worked up when those damn muzzies are involved? Or maybe they get easily scared of the Russians? Either way, a very poor show.

14th January, 2008

Damn these Filipino Monkeys

by Sunny at 8:06 pm    

I always wanted to write an absurd headline like that. Now I have an excuse. It turns out that ‘Filipino Monkey’, a heckling radio ham who harasses patrols boats in the Persian Gulf, may be responsible for the recent stand-off between the USA and Iran.

The US navy came within seconds of firing at the Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz on January 6 after hearing threats that the boats were attacking and were about to explode. Senior navy officials have admitted that the source of the threats, picked up in international waters, was a mystery.

And now the US navy’s journal, Navy Times, has claimed that the threats, which were broadcast last week by the Pentagon, are thought to have come from an infamous radio prankster. It said the Filipino Monkey, who could be more than one person, listens to ship-to-ship radio traffic and then interrupts, usually with abusive insults. Rick Hoffman, a retired captain, told the paper: “For 25 years, there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats. He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy.

“Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”

This is rather worrying… the US Navy could have started a local war that could have escalated into something bigger on the back of some unknown broadcast. And then we had President Buch calling it “highly provocative” without any actual evidence that it was.

(you still can’t comment on stories unfortunately)

29th November, 2007

Free Speech in Denmark

by Shariq at 2:33 pm    

Its been almost 2 years since the world went crazy over some cartoons. In today’s Guardian, there’s a fascinating article about 7 people in Denmark, who have been arrested for ‘sponsoring terrorism’, by selling and publicising t-shirts which support the PFLP in Palestine and Farc in Columbia.

Before you think that this is a simple case of Danish double standards, there are a number of very interesting ironies. For instance, both the PFLP and Farc are listed as terrorist organisations by the EU (and the US), but not by the UK. Also, while most people reading this site will probably have sympathy for the Palestinian cause in general, I doubt that they see Columbian resistance movements in the same way.

On the whole, I think that the people on trial are harmless activists and that it undermines the legitimacy of anti-terror legislation, if it is used to put them away for upto ten years. However, its very interesting and I encourage everyone to read the article and make up their own mind.

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