19th February, 2008
18th February, 2008
Fe’reeha is currently in Pakistan and sent us this report from there.
It’s election time in Pakistan, a time of anxiety and utmost excitement here! After days of waiting, anticipation and much ado, the day finally came and it’s almost over. But the after-effects are just about to kick in.
I spent the whole days on roads, visiting different polling booths. The turn-out was slow but at some booths I saw crowds. In particular, seeing women voters in large numbers was reassuring. I also met British residents like myself, keen on voting. There were also Pakistani American and Pakistani Australian voters….
[Update: It looks like Musharraf will be out!]
An experienced Scotsman of Calvinist stock arrives to take over the rule of England. Worried by grumbling both north and south of the border, he spends his first few years as ruler talking obsessively about the need for a ‘Great Britain’. Yet he cannot win over the malcontents, and eventually abandons his rhetoric. Some Scots fear that he has become too Anglicized to rule over them, while the English complain about a group of Scottish advisers surrounding his person. They are also unhappy at the money spent on the Scots, to the detriment of the English. Such financial profligacy only makes matters worse in an era of increasing inflation, and government debt begins to spiral out of control. In the country at large, religious extremists, some of whom have received training abroad, target this ruler, and attempt to blow him up. Peerages are sold freely, in order to raise money for this leader. Trade with India grows. The Church of England is in trouble, and the archbishop is very unpopular with some members of the Church. A previous time when a particular female ruled is looked on as a golden age by some.
Check out this email doing the rounds:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 13 February 2008 15:57
Subject: Response Source – Diana Appleyard , Daily Mail
PUBLICATION: Daily Mail (Request for personal case study)
JOURNALIST: Diana Appleyard (staff)
DEADLINE: 14-February-2008 16:00
QUERY: I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status. We can pay you Â£100 for taking part, and I promise it will be anonymous, just a quick phone call. Could you email me asap? Many thanks, Diana
HOW TO REPLY:
Phone: not provided for use
Fax: 01296 738083 (preferred)
You have to love the Daily Mail right? Please please snitch on some Eastern European person for a bit of cash and we’ll turn it into a horror story about how they are destroying British society. This has nothing to do with the long-running line of bullshit we print about them and Muslims ever day. PS: We absolutely reject the idea that running daily scare-mongering stories like this, which our editor forces us to do, leads to increased racism. PPS: No, we don’t do this for every immigrant group that comes here either. Just the ones we hate. Which is all of them.
Via 5cc, Obsolete and Alex Hilton.
Why not email Diana, concoct a story, and send her on a wild goose chase? Is that immoral? Sure, but not worse than this. The other thing is, I wonder if the National Union of Journalists can be persuaded to strike her off the register for such unethical journalism.
Rumbold adds: The funniest and most outlandish tall tale will be sent off to Diane Appleyard. Entries like ‘immigrant stole my money so he could change it into Euros and then put it back in the till’ are the sort of thing we are looking for. Oh wait, the deadline has passed. The winning entry will be sent the next time this sort of e-mail comes round then.
Whether Rowan Williams is a good man or a bad man; an intellectual or an academic; a highly sensitive soul or a machinating demagogue or whether or not he deserved the tabloid-led backlash is irrelevent to the position that he took when he delivered his speech, Civil and Religious Law in England: a Religious Perspective.
What the archbishop did was draw a line in the sand between universal secular law and religious practice and declared that the latter had arrogantly taken upon itself the role of prime mover in shaping civil society while at the same time dismissing the contribution made by religious ideas and practice.
Rowan Williamsâ€™ support for Sharia law comes not because he particularly likes Muslims as such but because he would like Sharia to be partially exempted from secular law. This is not as contentious as it sounds since the Church itself is exempt from secular laws that protect homosexuals and women. Hence the church is free to choose whether or not to employ gays, and is legally protected in doing so.
16th February, 2008
In May last year I blogged about news I heard then that Bangladeshi writer and blogger Tasneem Khalil had been arrested by the military police. The story was picked up across other news media once Human Rights Watch also issued a statement and bloggers across the world, especially Drishtipat, Mash and Global Voices started sounding the alarm. Even after he was released, around 24 hours later, Tasneem went into hiding.
Then last week I got this email:
This has been a long overdue. But before writing to you I talked to myself at a length and decided that the first thing I need to do is to tell the world what exactly happened to me on May 11, 2007. For me it was not a easy battle. Given my weak and feeble character I had to fight first with myself and come in terms with the truth, with the sheer ugliness of what I was forced to go through. Add to that the fact that fleeing a country with a six-month old son is a disastrous business. So, I hope that you will forgive me for not writing this mail earlier. That night I have seen how inhuman people can be, how they have developed a science of killing one’s soul.
I could have easily lost my faith on humanity if you did not stand by me and my family at those darkest hours of my life. No language can describe what that support means to me. The difference between my dead body and my freedom was drawn with the love and support I received from you. To all the editors, writers, commenters and visitors of Drishtipat, Somewhere in Blog, Pickled Politics, Butterflies and Wheels, other blog networks and individual bloggers who campaigned for my release from DGFI custody: I remember and I will remember, for ever.
The report is online at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/bangladesh0208
Tasneem had to seek asylum in Sweden with his newly married wife because Bangladesh still remains unstable. This story of torture has only just come out and was also been mentioned in the Guardian and CNN. Thankfully, this story has ended well. Bangladesh however still remains under military rule. Mash continues to cover the situation there (though he’s been a bit obsessed with Barack Obama lately, like us all).
15th February, 2008
Since Clairwil has gone a bit awol, I’m going to cheekily hijack her slot and post the weekend thread. This is principally because I wanted to post this track by British-Bengali singer Bishi, who’s album has just come out. I haven’t heard it, and neither do I know her, but I absolutely love this track – Never seen your face.
This is the first time we’ve featured a Bengali singer on this blog I think. Rohin should be overjoyed. Punjabis still rule though, of course. So… what’s going on this freezing weekend readers?
14th February, 2008
Dear BBC Complaints department,
I’m writing to register a complaint about the BBC’s coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on Thursday 7th February. The complaint refers principally to coverage on BBC News 24 and news bulletins on BBC television and radio on Friday 8th February and the weekend of 9 & 10th February 2008.
I found BBC News coverage sensationalist and biased against the Archbishop, muddying the waters over what he said in the speech and with no attempt at giving it context (i.e.: who it was aimed at, what the current law is on civil arbitration etc). TO elaborate further:
Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters has an eloquent article on CiF today about the Archbishop debate, saying that religious law has consistently failed women.
“Such accommodation [of religious law] is problematic because in many instances it would necessarily involve shoring up patriarchal and caste power, resulting in the violation of fundamental human rights, especially the right of choice and autonomy for women and girls in particular,” she says. I agree with that. She adds: “Our experience shows that what many eventually want the most, is the right to opt out of those aspects of their religion and culture that they consider oppressive, without fear of repercussions.”
I agree with this too. As I said earlier, I don’t necessarily agree with the Archbishop because he also assumes the conflict between bias against women inherent in current interpretations of sharia civil law and this country’s equality laws will be easily resolved. It probably won’t, especially if the government consults on people like Sheikh al-Qaradawi. That said, there have been similar cases involving the Jewish Orthodox Beth Din too, so it is very likely that extending the jurisdiction of religious courts will disadvantage women.
So rather than the stupid uproar asking for ABC’s head, questions arise:
1) Should we abolish religious arbitration in civil cases entirely, as Canada did?
2) Should the govt interfere to ensure religious courts don’t conflict with laws?
3) Should there be independent bodies monitor prejudice against women?
Or what? And can we not have the usual hysteria in the discussion please about hand-chopping and stoning and whether any progressive are crying out for it.
Update: Ooops, turns out Muslims and Jews have been working together in this area. Cue horror!
Labour MP Frank Field has proposed that those earning over Â£150,000 pay an extra 10% tax, which could yield up to Â£3.6 billion. This is not just a typical ‘squeeze the rich’ tax though, as it has an interesting caveat: those affected can choose to donate part or all of the extra tax to registered charities instead. Mr. Field argues that this will revive some of the philanthropic impulses of yore, which have been sadly lacking in this country recently (as opposed to the U.S., where such a tradition remains strong):
“Speaking at the annual Allen Lane Foundation lecture, Field argued that his proposals would encourage the super-rich to “embrace the responsibilities of wealth”. He said historical attitudes towards charitable giving, exemplified by Edwardian philanthropists such as the Merseyside and Clyde shipbuilders and the Lever Brothers on the Wirral, who provided thousands of jobs and ploughed profits back into society, have become fractured.
Field said: “There has been an explosion in the number of super-rich in our society. Today’s super-rich â€” and there are some notable exceptions â€” are neither employers of great numbers of people nor generous in charitable giving.”
America suspects that a particular country is developing a nuclear bomb even though itâ€™s leader strongly denies it. Prolonged economic and political pressure fails to persuade that nation to abandon itâ€™s weapons programme and thereâ€™s talk of a military strike.
This is not about the current stand-off with Iran but concerns the fierce row that developed between the USA and Pakistan during the late 1970â€™s. India had recently tested itâ€™s first nuclear bomb and itâ€™s smaller neighbour, Pakistan was desperate for parity.
Committed to stopping such proliferation during these dangerous cold war days, yet failing to do so at every step, a worried Washington began losing patience. With the help of formerly top secret papers and a number of key participants from the day, Mike Thomson investigates how close America came to launching a paramilitary attack or bombing raid on Pakistanâ€™s nuclear base.
Listen to the programme from here. [Hat tip: Zak]
13th February, 2008
Okay, I made the last one up. But the rest are accurate stereotypes of aspects of UK-born Indian life amongst ‘the yoof’ crowd, both within the community and rest of the British population’s notions of Indian culture.
“British Asian” culture is an interesting phenomenon, even though it has somewhat splintered during the past few years, due in part to certain local and global events (I’m sure I don’t need to go into any details here).
This is a purely subjective and anecdotal opinion, but I think that matters really began taking off from the early 90s onwards, as the UK-born contingent came of age and began to make its presence felt.
12th February, 2008
After winning 5 states over the weekend, Obama racked up three more states last night: Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia. That makes it 8 straight wins since Super Tuesday. And look at the margins:
DC: Obama 75% / Clinton 24%
Maryland: Obama 60% / Clinton 37%
Virginia: Obama 64% / Clinton 35%
He is also eating into her traditional base:
In Virginia and Maryland, they were splitting whites almost evenly, according to an exit survey conducted for The Associated Press. Even white women were beginning to move toward the Illinois senator â€” Clinton won sixty percent of their votes, a much lower percentage than in contests past. Clinton has based her candidacy in large part on her appeal to white women. In addition to his usual strong showing among young voters, Obama was also running about even among those over 65, a group Clinton usually dominates.
And Obama was winning 66 percent to 33 percent among independents, who made up a fifth of the Democratic electorate in Virginia. He did even better â€” 70 percent to 26 percent â€” among Republicans, who made up 8 percent of the Democratic vote.
“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.”
These are the words Kevin Rudd, Australia’s new prime minister, will say tomorrow in a formal public apology to Australia’s Aborigines for the “indignity and degradation” they have suffered. The apology is being viewed as a watershed in Australia.
This public act of contrition is directed mainly at the so-called Stolen Generations. These were young Aborigines taken forcibly from their families by the authorities and placed in foster homes. It was an official attempt to dilute indigenous culture, and the practice persisted from 1910 until the 1970s. One-hundred thousand children were affected. But Rudd’s text aslo refers to the “past mistreatment” of all Aborigines, not just the “Stolen Generations” of children forcibly removed from their families.
This weekend, after I had read the speech by Archbishop Rowan Williams on Friday, I was positively pissed off at the BBC. So incensed that I had to stop myself chucking a shoe at the television.
The Beeb’s coverage involved having a correspondent standing outside the Archbishop’s church claiming every five minutes that he was yet to clarify his remarks. If you wanted clarification you numbskulls then why not get someone with half a brain to go through the speech?
To put it simply, BBC News simply joined in the witchunt. It kept repeating the claim that there were calls for ABC to be sacked but had no one on defending him. Dr Williams speech was intelligent and thoughtful. You didn’t have to agree with it all, and I didn’t. Especially the bit where he says that people who have “conscientious disagreement” when work conflicts with their faith should be allowed. I don’t necessarily buy it.
But if you think Dr Williams was calling for Sharia law in Britain then you’re stupid. There’s no other word for it. And that you didn’t actually bother reading the speech (which I didn’t initially when posting about it). I’ve expanded more on this on Liberal Conspiracy. Anyway, this article is about BBC News.
Only a few weeks ago the BBC’s director-general promised that news was going to be less sensationalist. And yet, this weekend there was no attempt in its mainstream coverage to tease out what ABC was getting at. There was just blanket coverage of the criticism he faced and continuous calls for “clarification”. Is the new channel run by idiots who can’t read a 4-page speech?
I’m going to write a letter of complaint to BBC News and say its coverage was grossly biased. Who’s with me??
11th February, 2008
What defines a state? There are plenty of things that a state can do, but it seems to me that a state only needs certain functions in order to be classed as such. Namely, the ability to raise revenue, control over law and order, and defence. I bring this up because I don’t see how anyone can avoid calling the EU a state anymore. It has the ability to raise revenue (through payments by member states), it makes laws which supersede all others, it is beginning to mould an ‘EU army’, and it now has the rudiments of a police force. It has, as historians say, a monopoly of violence (in that it ultimately controls the forces of law and order):
This is interesting, the Liberal democrat leader has moved to support Keith Vaz’s proposal that parliament should introduce ethnic minority shortlists to boost the number of ethnic minorities in parliament. Women already have that provision to deal with their under-representation.
“We need urgent action to tackle the woeful under-representation of Britainâ€™s ethnic minorities in Parliament. All political parties are letting Britain down. If we want to represent modern Britain, modern Britain must be represented in us. Legislating to allow all-minority shortlists is a crucial step, which should be used as a backstop to force parties to act now. We can no longer tolerate a political system that does not represent Britain as a whole.
The Liberal Democrats have taken a number of steps to boost ethnic representation in our ranks: the creation of a diversity fund; the employment of dedicated staff to increase candidate diversity; and plans to establish a Leadership Academy to give targeted assistance to candidates. But we need to go further, faster. That is why I believe, if existing and planned resources fail to make the difference in the coming years, the Liberal Democrats will be duty bound to consider using the powers in this proposed Bill.”
… says the press release. Now I’m quite ambivalent about this because my worry is that the shortlists will push crappy first-generation unclejis who want to get on the political gravy train without much experience in local activism or helping people. Of course, it goes without saying that most politicians are quite mediocre these days so it may be no great loss.
The Libdems themselves have made lots of noise in the past about having the party itself being more representative of the population but this has gone nowhere, apart from this ‘diversity fund’ that seems to have had little impact.
10th February, 2008
The government will try and push its Counter Terrorism Bill through parliament in the next few weeks. This bill includes the provision to hold someone in detention, without charging them, for 42 days – a two week increase on the current limit of 28 days. Unsurprisingly, New Labour has been trying to paint this extension of police powers in benign terms. But we should not be fooled. Why? Because:
Despite vague allusions to â€˜emergencies,â€™ the reality of the new proposals is that the Home Secretary can activate these powers at any time. There is no need for a public emergency of the type often drawn upon by government ministers; the â€˜nightmare scenarioâ€™ of police overwhelmed by multiple terror plots. Indeed, an individual case can be trigger enough. Parliamentary safeguards proposed are anything but. The Home Secretary only has to inform Parliament that she has triggered the 42-day limit. Parliament will only be allowed to a vote up to 30 days later and then only if the government is seeking to renew the powers for another 30 days â€“ by which time suspects could have already been held for six weeks. Further, even if used unlawfully, the decision to trigger the 42-day limit cannot be challenged and the power could not be struck down.
We have to try and oppose this draconian piece of legislation by:
1) Raising awareness that the vote is coming to parliament soon
2) Encouraging people to write to their MPs opposing this bill.
3) Informing of events, protests or publicity stunts on the issue.
4) Generate and share ideas on what we can do.
So far, we have: a Facebook group designed to raise awareness; a Downing St. petition against it; a basic list of public figures opposing it. Clearly, this is not enough.
The problem is that the home secretary has been doing a lot of arm-twisting over the past few weeks and thereâ€™s a threat going around to Labour MPs who dare to help the government lose its first big vote. I have a bad feeling this will go through.
If we are serious about opposing this latest attack on our civil liberties, we have to do more. So, here goes:
1) We are going to blog this issue regularly (from now until the vote) along with OurKingdom. Please join our campaign by doing the same!
2) Compass is asking for submissions to a consultation. Add your views (until 15th).
3) Iâ€™ll soon publish a list of MPs who opposed the 90 days extention. Itâ€™s best we put pressure on them specifically.
4) Ideas or suggestions for a publicity stunt later this month welcome!
5) An event is planned later this month at City Circle. Will let you know more soon.
Imagine if you were the last person in the world who spoke your language. You would live with the knowledge that when it was your time to go, the world that lived with the words you used to speak and think and dream would be gone forever.
On 24 January, the BBC ran a story about Marie Smith Jones, who passed away at the age of 89. She was the last of Eyak-speaking people of Alaska. For the last fifteen years of her life she knew that when she died the entire culture of her people, hundreds if not thousands of years old, would disappear. So she did an extraordinary thing. Working with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, she put her knowledge of Eyak to the written record, something which had never been done before. Now it can be more than just a memory. Her language stands an outside chance of a second life.
A minister has rightly highlighted the issue of the dangers of marrying one’s cousin, a practise especially prevalent amongst those of Pakistani origin in the UK:
“A government minister has warned that inbreeding among immigrants is causing a surge in birth defects – comments likely to spark a new row over the place of Muslims in British society.
Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said the culture of arranged marriages between first cousins was the â€œelephant in the roomâ€. Woolas, a former race relations minister, said: â€œIf you have a child with your cousin the likelihood is thereâ€™ll be a genetic problem.â€
Medical research suggests that while British Pakistanis are responsible for 3% of all births, they account for one in three British children born with genetic illnesses.”
8th February, 2008
Barack Obama inflicted shattering defeats on Hillary Clinton tonight in Washington state and Nebraska, beating her by a margin of two to one. He was also won Louisiana, though by a narrower margin.
The wins in Washington and Nebraska demonstrated again Obama’s ability to reach out to whites. Both Nebraska and Washington are 90% white.
With 99% of the votes counted in Nebraska, Obama had 66% to Clinton’s 32%. In Washington, with 96% of the vote counted, he had 66% to her 31%.
In Louisiana, with 63% of the vote counted, he had 53% to her 39%.
The authorities in Dubai have got ever so slightly strict with illegal drugs. Whilst I appreciate that every country has the right to be as harsh as they please; anyone wishing to travel to or through the UAE should note the extremely small amounts of drugs that can land you with a mandatory four year sentence.
Fair Trials International are listing some jaw dropping examples, including people who’ve been jailed for possession amounting to thousandths of a gram.
Since its virtually impossible to walk around any city in Britain without picking up some form of residue its advisable to choose which shoes you take carefully, or holiday elsewhere. I am curious what they make of British banknotes – since virtually all of them have traces of cocaine.
7th February, 2008
As most of you may know, members of the Al Qaeda cult (I am not going to dignify them by associating them with the organised religion of Islam) used two women with Down’s Syndrome as suicide bombers in Baghdad about a week ago, resulting in over 90 fatalities. The explosives were detonated by remote control, and in one case the head of one of the women was subsequently found nearby. Both attacks occurred in areas where pets were being sold, especially birds.
During the past few years, the possibility of such terrorist groups using increasingly unorthodox â€œdelivery methodsâ€ to bypass suspicions surrounding the more stereotypical suicide bomber profile has been extensively discussed, especially in the West due to the attacks which have also occurred here. I also remember reading unconfirmed reports that the two women involved in this case may not necessarily have been entirely aware of what lay in store for them. Either way, I am sure that, like myself, many of you were shocked and disgusted at the sheer scale of barbarity which has yet again been demonstrated by the members of this cult. Just when you thought they couldnâ€™t get any worse.
CNN is reporting that Mitt Romney may be “suspending” his campaign. This is a bit annoying because I was hoping he’d continue to be a pain in the ass for McCain. On the other hand, a McCain nomination means the Republican base is less passionate about voting in this year’s presidential elections (they generally don’t like him), which means more chance of an Obama (Democrat) victory. Yes, I still believe Obama will take it.
Update: New York Times confirms it.
Oh, and on whether Obama can convince white voters, this is worth reading:
Take a look at what happened on Tuesday in the nearly all-white counties of Idaho, a place where the Aryan Nations once placed a boot print of hate â€” â€œthe international headquarters of the white race,â€ as they called it. The neo-Nazis are long gone. But in Kootenai County, where the extremists were holed up for several decades, a record number of Democrats trudged through heavy snow on Super Duper Tuesday to help pick the next president. Guess what: Senator Barack Obama took 81 percent of Kootenai County caucus voters, matching his landslide across the state. He won all but a single county.
The runaway victory came after a visit by Obama last Saturday, when 14,169 people filled the Taco Bell Arena in Boise to hear him speak â€“ the largest crowd ever to fill the space, for any event. It was the biggest political rally the state has seen in more than 50 years.
Okay, so Idaho is the prime rib of Red America. Ditto Utah, where Obama beat Senator Hillary Clinton 56 percent to 39 percent on Tuesday, including a 2-1 win in arguably the most Republican community in America â€“ Provo and suburbs, a holdout of Bush dead-enders. Tom Brady will date a nun before these states vote Democratic in a general election.
But those numbers, and exit polling across the nation, make a case for Obamaâ€™s electability and the inroads he has made into places where Democrats are harder to find than a decent bagel.
What, you’re surprised??
It was a good day to bury bad news. As millions of Americans were glued to the most exciting presidential race in living memory, the Bush Administration admitted publicly for the first time that it had used the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding on terror suspects in its custody.
Michael Hayden, the CIA director, confirmed the use of waterboarding in congressional testimony, in response to leaked reports that the tactic was used on three al-Qaeda suspects in the two years after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The admission prompted demands from Democratic senators for an investigation into whether interrogators broke the law.
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Archbishop Rowan Williams has today said things that will get certain people hyper-ventilating again:
Rowan Williams told BBC Radio 4′s World at One that Muslims should be able to choose whether to have matters such as marital disputes dealt with under sharia law or the British legal system.
Willams said giving sharia official status in the UK would help maintain social cohesion because some Muslims do not relate to the British legal system. Its introduction would mean Muslims would no longer have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.
Williams said his proposal would only work if sharia law was properly understood, rather than seen through the eyes of biased media reports. The archbishop said he was not proposing the adoption of extreme interpretations of sharia law practiced in some repressive regimes.
1) I don’t buy the view that it will “help social cohesion”. The trouble-maker Islamists don’t really have it on the top of their priority lists.
2) I’m concerned that having separate civil legal systems, especially when in cases where women have less rights than men, will lead to abuses of the system. What if a woman does not want a divorce by Shariah and wants an official legal divorce, but the family refuses? What do you do then? How will she enforce it?
3) It may be “inevitable”, as the Archbishop says, but not for about 20 years I’d say. I see no immediate need for it now. This is just going to blow up into a silly controversy with the usual scaremongering headlines in tomorrow’s Daily Express.