»   Anyone know more about this Free Schools BSEC conference that Toby Young is speaking at? Sounds all too chummy http://yfrog.com/h380020818j 50 mins ago

»   UK takes major step towards written constitution... with a 'Cabinet manual' http://bit.ly/i8fITK (we take this gradualism stuff too far) 2 hrs ago

»   Coming to Captain SKA's "Liar Liar" party tonight? Comedy, left-wing activists and lots of Tory bashing! Why not eh? http://bit.ly/fB48w4 5 hrs ago

»   'Why anti-fascists should let Pastor Jones visit the UK' http://bit.ly/gB0eO5 - great post by @RadicalDanFrost 5 hrs ago

»   'The face of our student cause isn't my brother Charlie Gilmour but Alfie Meadows' http://bit.ly/gWY6A1 says @heathcoter 6 hrs ago

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  • Technorati: graph / links
    7th June, 2010

    A more enlightened Indian policy on Kashmir?

    by Rumbold at 10:00 pm    

    Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, has been visiting Kashmir, and promised to ensure that human rights are protected:

    “I am aware of some complaints related to human rights. On this issue, the government policy is to protect the human rights of the people even when dealing with terrorism.

    The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been strictly instructed to respect the rights of the civilians. We will act to remove any deficiency in the implementation of these instructions,” he said in his convocation address at the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.”

    Dr. Singh is undoubtedly sincere. But the problem lies with the powerful security apparatus in Indian-administered Kashmir, which operates without much scrutiny. Civilians are frequently killed, tortured or falsely imprisoned. There have been numerous reports of rape too. A majority of Kashmiris in both the Indian and Pakistani-controlled areas of Kashmir want independence. Since this is unlikely to happen, the least India (and Pakistan) can do is to treat the Kashmiris like everyone else.

    Israelis making fun of the Gaza dead

    by Sunny at 10:12 am    

    I accept that there isn’t much sympathy in Israel for the 9 Flotilla deaths, but this is is actually shocking and deeply callous:

    The Israeli government has been forced to apologise for circulating a spoof video mocking activists aboard the Gaza flotilla, nine of who were shot dead by Israeli forces last week. The YouTube clip, set to the tune of the 1985 charity single We Are the World, features Israelis dressed as Arabs and activists, waving weapons while singing: “We con the world, we con the people. We’ll make them all believe the IDF (Israel Defence Force) is Jack the Ripper.”

    Here’s the video

    It features a group led by the Jerusalem Post’s deputy managing editor Caroline Glick (so much for journalistic balance there) and includes the lyrics: “There’s no people dying, so the best that we can do is create the biggest bluff of all” - wow. Just, wow. There’s also: “We must go on, pretending day by day, that there is in Gaza, crisis hunger and plague“. That’s a real show of humanity right there.

    Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev tells the Guardian: “I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny.” - I’m sure those imaginary dead people from the Flotilla appreciate the humour.

    Perhaps the IDF is frustrated after it’s terrible attempts at PR keep backfiring:

    Last week, the Israel Defence Force had to issue a retraction over an audio clip it had claimed was a conversation between Israeli naval officials and people on the Mavi Marmara, in which an activist told soldiers to “go back to Auschwitz”. The clip was carried by Israeli and international press, but today the army released a “clarification/correction”, explaining that it had edited the footage and that it was not clear who had made the comment.

    The Israeli army also backed down last week from an earlier claim that soldiers were attacked by al-Qaida “mercenaries” aboard the Gaza flotilla.

    The Jerusalem Post is still crowing about it.

    Did voters reject media election spin? Speaking at event today:

    by Sunny at 9:00 am    

    Chair: Robin Lustig, BBC Presenter
    Speakers:
    Michael Dobbs, Author and former Deputy Chair, Conservative Party
    Lord Dholakia, Chair, Liberal Democratic Party
    Stephen Pound, Labour MP
    Nicholas Jones, Author and political analyst
    Sunny Hundal, editor - Liberal Conspiracy

    I wrote an article related to this last week for the New Statesman.
    The event is free. Come down later today if you fancy it.

    Filed under: Media
    5th June, 2010

    Forcing marriage partners to learn English - I’m all for it

    by Sunny at 11:53 pm    

    The News of the World reports:

    IMMIGRANTS who want to marry Brits will be forced to take an English language test in a new crackdown on sham weddings. Immigration Minister Damian Green will unveil the plans this week, we can reveal.

    Potential brides and grooms from outside the EU will be required to prove they can speak the same language as their partner, as well as English. The test is designed to prove that anyone who moves to Britain is planning to integrate themselves into society.

    I don’t know this is being reported as a “crack-down”. I suppose that would represent the NotW’s news values, but actually I think this is a good idea.

    I’ve long argued that there’s only one way to ensure brides who comes into the country learn English: by forcing them to. I made a documentary about this for the Asian Network a few years ago, highlighting that 1000s of women come into this country as brides every year, and many don’t know or aren’t allowed to learn English when here.

    Which means that if some face domestic violence or other forms of abuse here, they are reluctant to seek help or do anything about their situation because they don’t know the local language. So in many ways this helps those women too.

    Female newsreaders on Al Jazeera

    by Rumbold at 10:53 am    

    It seems that it is not only British news channels that obsess about their female presenters’ looks, whether in terms of clothes or age. Five female newsreaders of the Arabic version of AL Jazeera have resigned after having their clothes criticised by a senior employee. Nesrine Malik explains:

    The channel is no stranger to controversy. In the latest instalment, five of its most high-profile female presenters have resigned in an apparent dispute about the dress code. The five are reportedly among a group of eight women working for al-Jazeera who had filed a complaint about “repeated offensive public remarks” about “clothes and decency” from a senior al-Jazeera employee.

    Filed under: Sex equality
    4th June, 2010

    More reaction to Israel’s Flotilla attack

    by Sunny at 9:32 am    

    This is mostly just a link-dump…

    1. Max Blumenthal: The Flotilla Raid Was Not “Bungled.” The IDF Detailed Its Violent Strategy In Advance.

    Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.

    (via @GuyAitchison)

    2. Jack Straw speaks out. And he’s not mincing his words (via @psbook), while recounting a previous experience at the border:

    All very ordinary but for the fact that the Israeli authorities made no disguise that they had ‘organised’ the crossing in a way designed to maximise the humiliation of and delays endured by the Palestinians. There was no shelter from the rain; no tarmac. None of this was remotely necessary. Indeed co-operation from the Palestinians would have been that much better if the Israelis had treated them with even a modicum of respect and dignity.

    But that was not on the agenda.

    3. George Packer in the New Yorker: Israel takes the bait

    Obama’s strategy of engagement is based on the notion that America, its allies, and its opponents have certain mutual interests that self-interest will lead them to identify and embrace. This notion has not been borne out with Iran, where the rulers of the Islamic Republic believe that self-interest—their own survival—depends on a climate of perpetual crisis and permanent demonization of the U.S. and Israel. And it hasn’t been borne out with Israel, which has just acted in a way that blurs self-interest into suicide.

    4. Reuben: A UK activist gives an eyewitness account of the raid. Reads out a list of absurd charges Israel has pressed against survivors.

    5. A demonstration is happening this Saturday in London at 1:30pm outside Downing Street (I won’t be around I’m afraid, in Oxford this weekend).

    3rd June, 2010

    Mwahahaha!

    by Sunny at 12:56 pm    

    According to Wikio, Liberal Conspiracy is now the second most talked about blog in the UK:

    The Wikio ranking is measured by incoming editorial links (i.e., not blogrolls) from blogs registered with Wikio which appear in RSS feeds. To be clear (again), this is no measure of traffic. Links are weighted by time, prominence of the linking blog, and prominence of the link in the linking article.

    Mmmmm…. nice.

    Filed under: Blog

    People don’t care about brands, only headlines

    by Sunny at 11:37 am    

    Interesting piece of research here by Niemen Journalism Labs

    This study crystallizes my thoughts. I suggest these findings illustrate the radically different way today’s consumers think of news, compared with the past. It’s not brand based. It’s not even platform based. It’s based on niche, which many have said before. But the niche isn’t just in the content or the subject matter; it’s in the mechanism of transmission.

    This, I think, is pretty profound and central to how news organisations need to think when approaching their content distribution. I’d write more but I don’t have the time.

    However, it will be the introduction to a short talk I have to give next week at this event on the future of public service broadcasting and the growth of online media. Thoughts welcome.

    Filed under: Media

    Tories against racial discrimination

    by Sunny at 12:13 am    

    Oh wait… What? It’s got official approval too? Ah well….

    Filed under: Race politics
    2nd June, 2010

    Why Bristol council got it wrong

    by Rumbold at 8:25 pm    

    Bristol council is at the centre of a media storm after advertising two posts for ethnic minorities only. The council defended its decision by citing the Race Relations Act (1976), as only 7% of its workforce is from ethnic minorities, as opposed to 12% of Bristol’s population as a whole. Whether or not this would fall foul of discrimination laws is debatable, but whatever the legality, I think it was the wrong thing to do, for a number of reasons.

    There is a great deal of debate over how to tackle the historical inequalities that exist in the labour market, namely discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, whether it be in hiring or promotion. One school of thought tends to see the solution in terms of positive discrimination, with devices such as all-women shortlists and jobs like the pair mentioned above. The other school rejects this as simply repeating the mistakes of the past (by treating people as blocks rather than as individuals), and puts the focus on meritocracy and treating candidates as individuals. Yet this approach is criticised for refusing to recognise persistent inequalities in the labour market.

    I used to be firmly in the second school of thought, and believed that merely creating an ostensibly meritocratic application process would be enough, as this would allow inequalities to be ironed out over time as the best people got chosen. However, while I still believe that should be the main approach, we also need to examine continuing structural issues. Applicants with ‘non-white’ names are more likely to get rejected from jobs then candidates with ‘white’ names, despite having exactly the same CV, which demonstrates continued racism in the job market. Factors like these show why Bristol council got it wrong.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Culture,Economy

    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.

    The cartoons on Israel’s attack

    by Sunny at 2:08 am    

    Steve Bell in the Guardian:

    Continue Reading...
    1st June, 2010

    Israel: Pirates?

    by earwicga at 9:57 am    

    Via Craig Murray

    A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

    Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

    There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

    Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

    Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

    In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

    Filed under: Current affairs
    31st May, 2010

    Flotilla attacks: the condescended version

    by Rumbold at 8:56 pm    

    Were the protesters trying to provoke a response from Israel? Yes.

    Did the protesters want to get shot by Israeli commandos? No.

    Were there unsavoury, anti-Semitic elements amongst the protesters? Yes.

    Did this mean they deserved to die? No.

    Were the protesters foolish to try and fight the commandos? Yes.

    Did this mean they deserved to die? No.

    Do ordinary Israelis or Gazans benefit from any of this? No.

    (Inspired by Shamit’s comments on the previous thread)

    Rock and Roll Jihad

    by Jai at 12:51 pm    

    ”Follow the music and it will show you the way.”

    As discussed in my previous article ”The Music of Unity and the Politics of Division”, music can be a very powerful medium to overcome boundaries between different groups of people and convey the humanitarian message by the sheer emotional force of the music itself.

    In religious terms, this is also a concept integral to Sikhism, most mainstream South Asian versions of Sufi Islam, and many devotional versions of Hinduism. The famous 13th century Persian Sufi Rumi eloquently summarised it: “Follow the music and it will show you the way”.

    Continue Reading...
    30th May, 2010

    Freedom Flotilla heading to Gaza

    by earwicga at 10:31 pm    

    Update 6am:  MSM has confirmed that Israeli commandos boarded ships in international waters.  Reports of between 2 and 10 deaths and over 30 wounded are still unconfirmed. 

    Update 4:35am:  Live streaming and contact from the flotilla are reporting the Turkish ships have been stormed by the Israeli navy and there are unconfirmed reports of deaths and injuries.  Contact has been lost with the smaller ships.  The BBC is reporting that ‘interception’ happened 150km from shore, which means the Freedom Flotilla was still in international waters and strongly suggests piracy if the unconfirmed reports are true.

    The Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla, carrying activists, media and humanitarian aid, is currently heading towards Gaza.  At present they are 80 miles away and already being harassed by Israeli warships despite being in international waters.

    The naval military zone is usually 20 nautical miles from shore but,

    organisers of the flotilla say that the state is rumoured to have extended its naval military zone from 20 nautical miles off the coast to 68 miles, which states usually do at times of war.

    Live streaming from  can be seen here and you can follow the twitter hashtag #flotilla for developments from the flotilla and also assorted hasbara.  Abbas Al Lawati, aboard the flotilla, has been blogging here and tweeting under the name @allawati.

    Edit: 
    A rundown of the six remaining ships in the flotilla can be found here.  H/T @TenPercent
    Some useful facts and links on the Gaza siege here and here.  H/T @NewLeftProject

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Terrorist chuggers and flashing burqas

    by Sunny at 11:55 am    

    Filmmaker Secunder Kermani, as part of a debate on offensive comedy, has created these videos. He told The Samosa blog:

    Muslim comedy is such a sensitive area at the moment because the community feels under siege, and when jokes are being made by non-Muslims it feels like just another round of ‘paki-bashing’. With the material I’ve helped produce we deliberately stayed away from saying anything about Islam as a faith, and instead have actually aimed to subvert stereotypes about Muslims, as well as satirise the behaviour of some followers of the religion.

    They were shown at the E4 Udderbelly last week. Videos below the fold…

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Humour,Media,Religion
    29th May, 2010

    Pickled Politics meetup on the 12th June

    by Rumbold at 8:47 pm    

    We are having a Pickled Politics meetup on the 12th June. It will be in Central London, in the late afternoon. E-mail pickledrumbold[at]gmail.com for more details if you would like to attend.

    Filed under: Blog

    Losing the plot

    by Sunny at 6:38 pm    

    I didn’t bother fisking Gita Sahgal’s article on openDemocracy, who should be ashamed for publishing such libellous rubbish, but someone else has. Alex points out the Amnesty rule.

    Jamie K is more worried about Oxfam’s killer robots. Flying Rodent wants product recall.

    Update 2: Kevin Blowe joins in. Reuben also wades in.

    And so my friends, it appears that years after the Euston Manifesto was launched with promise of a new, better kind of left, the movement has whittled down to this: a mildly entertaining website in which any blotches of red and swamped by huge dollops of red-baiting. And a star spokeswoman who appears embarassingly divorced from both reason and reality, as she peddles the same old line about lefties and fundamentalists.

    Filed under: Islamists,Media

    How Iain Dale plays the identity politics card

    by Sunny at 4:21 pm    

    The right’s hypocrisy towards identity politics is on naked display today with the news that coalition minister David Laws claimed £40,000 on expenses.

    There is a view on the story, articulated quite well here, that David Laws should be pardoned because he wasn’t trying to screw over taxpayers but keep his gay relationship secret.

    But there is an equally compelling point that Laws is a millionaire. If he wanted to keep his relationship secret then why spend any taxpayer money at all? Why the need to claim it back? After all the other MPs who thought they were obeying the rules at the time weren’t spared were they?

    Many Tories are either trying to imply homophobia on behalf of the Telegraph or saying how they understand Laws’ predicament:

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Party politics

    Ahmadis slaughtered in Pakistan

    by Rumbold at 3:35 pm    

    Over eighty Ahmadis were killed in Pakistan yesterday after extremists attacked two of their mosques. The Ahmadis are a Muslim sect which some Muslims consider to be unislamic (a theological position equivalent to that of Mormonism within Christianity). The sect originated in Pakistan but its adherents have long been persecuted there, both legally and socially:

    Three of the attackers blew themselves up with suicide vests packed with explosives when police tried to enter the mosque, officials said.

    Police were searching for at least two militants who managed to flee the scene.

    28th May, 2010

    Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism”

    by guest at 3:06 pm    

    A guest post by Mohammed Amin, vice-chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum

    Words matter. A simple example is George W. Bush’s use of the “C word” shortly after 9/11, a word which he used only once and was careful never to repeat. To Britons and Americans raised on tales of Richard the Lionheart, a crusade is a noble activity.

    To Muslims the first crusade was a barbarous assault by European invaders culminating in the slaughter of all of the Muslims and Jews living in Jerusalem. Given the need for cooperation with Muslim majority countries, even George Bush realised that repeated use of the word “crusade” would not be helpful.

    Our politicians would do well to learn the same lesson in vocabulary selection that George W. Bush did. My proposition is a very simple one: British politicians need to excise the word “Islamism” and its variants such as “Islamist” from their vocabularies.

    Continue Reading...
    27th May, 2010

    Stephen Timms MP’s assailant treated as a terrorist attack

    by Sunny at 7:29 pm    

    Channel 4 News is reporting today:

    Exclusive: Police have warned four east London MPs their names were on a terrorist hit list, Channel 4 News’s political correspondent Cathy Newman has learnt.

    The disclosure comes two weeks after the former minister Stephen Timms was stabbed while speaking to constituents. The attack in east London by a young Asian woman is now being treated as a terrorist investigation. His assailant is believed to have been radicalised by Islamist extremists.

    Wow. I didn’t realise that the attack on Timms was by an Asian woman and now treated as a terrorist investigation. Was her name ever released? And why Stephen Timms? As far as I’m aware he’s not even spoken up about Muslims or terrorism in general (not that it would be right if he had…) - very odd.

    Counter-terrorism still remains very relevant i seems.

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