12th April, 2010
Women and men who have been forced into marriage (or came close to being so) are to tour schools and police stations in order to raise awareness about the issue:
Those working to stop the practice say the period just before the summer holiday is always their busiest time of the year. They hope that prompting survivors to tell their own stories will encourage children at risk to come forward and local authorities to take those fears seriously when they do.
This seems an excellent idea to me. One of the biggest problems amongst both forced marriage victims and the state (e.g. police and schools) is the lack of awareness out there, in terms of how it happens and what support is out there for victims.
The RSA chief Matthew Taylor says on his blog:
The public is not particularly interested in equality as a policy goal but is much more exercised by what philosophers call â€˜procedural justiceâ€™ â€“ this is the idea of fairness in relation to the application of rules.
So, if people are asked what is most unfair in society they are less likely to say poverty and exclusion and more to talk about illegal immigration and benefit cheating.
I think that the concept of ‘fairness’ when approaching voter concerns is important. People seem generally more worried about what is ‘fair’ than what ‘is right’ in a way. I say this repeatedly on the issue of inequality – people are less worried about unequal distribution of wealth and more concerned by the thought that wealthy people may have acquired that wealth ‘unfairly’.
In policy terms for the Left, that means if you want a more equal society then stop talking about ‘equality’ and start talking about ‘fairness’ in how people are rewarded for their work.
But there’s a point I think Matthew Taylor misses out. It’s not that poverty and exclusion does not bother them. In fact, poor and excluded people are massively bothered by those issues. It’s just that the media pays little attention to them. So we think its not an important issue for many people.
Take the Daily Mail’s coverage of immigration for example. The Mail constantly argues that poor people are hurt by immigration because it makes them poorer and decreases their quality of life. The evidence is patchy but let’s assume that is true.
But will poor people benefit if immigration is banned entirely? They won’t because globalisation and poor workers’ rights is still a problem. People will still lose their job to Chinese workers across the world. They will still find their standard of living falling because there isn’t enough investment into public services. But the Daily Mail doesn’t call for more investment into services or the end of globalisation. That’s because it doesn’t care about poor people it simply wants to tell them that their problems are down to immigration.
11th April, 2010
This is just a round-up of some news stories, not a blog post as such.
Glenn Greenwald: How Americans are propagandized about Afghanistan
“Although numerous witnesses on the scene as well as local investigators vehemently disputed the Pentagon’s version, and insisted that all of the dead (including the women) were civilians and were killed by U.S. forces, the American media largely adopted the Pentagon’s version, often without any questions.”
Guardian: Israeli groups fight orders allowing army to jail West Bank residents
“Israel’s leading human rights groups are trying to stop two new Israeli military orders which will make any resident of the occupied West Bank who does not have an Israeli-issued permit liable for deportation or jail. The new Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration and Order Regarding Security Provisions, which comes into force on Tuesday have “severe ramifications,” the rights groups say. Palestinians, and any foreigners living in the West Bank, could be labelled infiltrators and deported within 72 hours or jailed for seven years if they are found without the correct permit. It does not define what Israel considers a valid permit.”
US summit expected to back Barack Obama’s plan to prevent nuclear theft
Raj Patel: We don’t need a messiah (and anyway, it isn’t me) — this is a hilarious story.
10th April, 2010
This time last year TV historian David Starkey attacked female historians for ‘feminising’ history and supposedly dumbing down the subject. His criticism focused on the idea that female historians were concentrating too much on things like relationships and women, which gave a false picture of the past. This was an incorrect assertion, as there are plenty of female historians writing on topics that don’t revolve around relationships and women. Dr. Starkey’s criticisms, I felt, could be explained in part by his position as a TV historian, rather than as an academic one.
Now he is at it again. In an interview, the TV historian claims that female historians tend to be quite pretty and like to show off their looks, with the implication being that they are academic lightweights who can only compete with ‘intellectual titans’ like him if they flaunt themselves:
Now the historian David Starkey has poured vitriol on his female competitors, likening their books to â€œhistorical Mills & Boonâ€.
The broadcaster and writer, whose speciality is Tudor history, says patronisingly that women who write history books are â€œusually quite prettyâ€ â€” and eager to show off their looks on their book covers.
Once again, Dr. Starkey has attacked female historians without any foundation: it is not clear whether he is just trying to generate publicity for a new project or whether is it evidence of something more deep-seated (such as a dislike of women or envy at colleagues who have stayed within the academic sphere so are more respected).
Hundreds of books and articles are published by female historians each year. Few of them ever have a small picture of the author on the front, and most of them are on serious and well-researched topics (just like most articles and books by male historians). I wouldn’t be able to recognise most female historians I have read by sight, and know that their books speak for themselves. A quick survey of my collection reveals precisely zero books where the historian’s (male or female) picture is visible on either the front or back cover, but then I don’t own anything by David Starkey.
9th April, 2010
The excellent Ben Goldcare, a science blogger, writes about a nurse in Holland who is appealing her conviction for killing six patients. There isn’t much to say about the article, and it doesn’t just highlight what seems to be a miscarriage of justice but also examines how statistics can be misused in circumstances like this:
The case against Lucia was built on a suspicious pattern: there were nine incidents on a ward where she worked and Lucia was present during all of them. This could be suspicious but it could be a random cluster, best illustrated by the “Texas sharpshooter” phenomenon: imagine I am firing a thousand machinegun bullets into the side of a barn. I remove my blindfold, find three bullets very close together and paint a target around them. Then I announce that I am an Olympic standard rifleman.
This is plainly foolish. All across the world, nurses are working on wards where patients die, and it is inevitable that on one ward, in one hospital, in one town, in one country, somewhere in the world, you will find one nurse who seems to be on a lot when patients die. It’s very unlikely that one particular prespecified person will win the lottery but inevitable someone will win: we don’t suspect the winner of rigging the balls.
And did the idea that there was a killer on the loose make any sense, statistically, for the hospital as a whole? There were six deaths over three years on one ward where Lucia supposedly did her murdering. In the three preceding years, before she arrived, there were seven deaths. So the death rate on this ward went down at the precise moment that a serial killer moved in.
8th April, 2010
During Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC’s “Question Time” in October 2009, he directly confirmed that one of the BNP’s main goals upon achieving power is still to reduce Britain’s non-white population from 10% to 1%. This is despite the fact that, a few months earlier, he had stated that he was abandoning the proposed repatriation policy because “nobody wants it or wants to pay for it”.
Griffin recently reiterated the BNP’s “voluntary repatriation” plans (apparently now expanded to include people originally from mainland Europe) in a lengthy interview with Iain Dale published online by Total Politics, as follows:
In your 2005 manifesto you said: “We will end immigration to the UK and reduce our land’s population burden by creating firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home.” What does “firm” mean and what does “home” mean, because they are quite difficult to define?
Firm would mean that certainly in the case of serious criminals and illegals and people whose right to work was removed. For instance, when we left the European Union, there wouldn’t be a choice about it. They would have to go.
Indian minister and suspect in the Sikh massacres of 1984 Kamal Nath was served with papers when he visited America:
A journalist from a local daily handed Nath a photocopy of the summons moments before a process server knocked on the doors of the New York consulate with the legal documents. Nath has been issued a court summons in a civil suit filed against him by Jasbir Singh and Mahinder Singh on behalf of the New York-based Sikhs for Justice. Nath said he was â€œappalledâ€ by the allegations and denied any wrongdoing.
Although Mr. Nath has not been convicted of anything, and is unlikely to face trial in America, it should provide a (temporary) shock to those in power who are still shielded from prosecution.
Several of you pointed out a virus problem on here. Having done some investigation into this, I’ve found that the ‘Trojan.Script.Iframer’ virus had infected the blog. It’s a trojan that set up an iframe (now removed) and leads people’s computers to other places.
It looks like my computer is affected (it secretly uploads to the server using my settings and then changes a file to insert some code). I’ve removed the malicious code – do let me know here if you see it again. I’m now off to nuke my own computer
It shouldn’t affect your computer – but as a precaution you should run a virus scan anyway. Sorry for any inconvenience.
7th April, 2010
On the BNP Twitter page, they can’t even spell the name of the country they’re trying to defend.
Rumbold recently wrote of an attempt by George Galloway to sue David T of Harry’s Place over some comments he made. At the time, I said I supported David T, having also been the subject of several libel letters. Libel law is unfairly stacked against people being sued and I sympathised with his predicament.
But I find this unacceptable and frankly rather grotesque. Andy Newman is right: the precedent set could be horrendous for other bloggers:
6th April, 2010
On Friday I’ll be speaking at this event at the Frontline Club as part of World Press Freedom Day:
‘Unregulated political comment online helps the democratic process’ – Motion for and against.
Naturally I’ll be for the the motion.
Five years ago I was one of the biggest voices in the media supporting writer Gurpreet Bhatti when Sikh fundamentalists were trying to stop her play Behzti, from being shown in Birmingham.
Now her new play is going on tour and, as part of a pre-show discussion in Coventry this Saturday, I’ve been asked to join a debate panel asking how things have changed. I’ll also be writing about this for Guardian CIF in coming days.
5th April, 2010
From someone who has actually done some research and doesn’t just spout off on the internet based on hunches:
Robert Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, argued in his 2005 book Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism that suicide bombers are motivated not so much by Islamist (or any other kind of religious) fervor but, rather, by anger at foreign troops occupying their land.
Since then, as founding director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, Pape has collected and analyzed a database of 2,668 suicide bombings carried out between 1980 and 2009â€”which has confirmed, even strengthened, his initial theory.
It turns out, Pape told me in a phone conversation today, that 96 percent of those suicide bombers were engaging in what they saw as acts of nationalist resistance to foreign military occupation; most of them were living within a few miles of where the bombing took place.
I’ll come back to the idea of nationalist resistance very soon. But the point here is that research shows that foreign policy and regional / local instability has a huge impact on the likelihood of terrorism. The Moscow terrorist bombers were Chechen, and furthermore one of the women had her husband killed by Russian forces earlier.
The question then is: what kind of nationalist resistance is acceptable and what isn’t. Anyone who says any kind of resistance is unacceptable when your country is being occupied is either a fool or highly naive.
The BNP have sacked their head of publicity, Mark Collett, after he alleged made death threats against Nick Griffin. There have been rumours about a possible coup within the BNP for some time now, and it is thought that Mr. Collett was amongst those who was unhappy with the current leadership, and his support for the Nazis had been damaging the BNP’s attempts to rebrand themselves. He has also been arrested:
Humberside Police said a man had been arrested “on suspicion of making threats to kill” and later bailed. In a statement, police said: “A 29-year-old man was arrested on Thursday 1 April on suspicion of making threats to kill.
“He was interviewed by Humberside Police detectives and has been released on police bail pending further inquiries. This investigation was initiated as a result of a complaint by a member of the British National Party and inquiries are ongoing.”
4th April, 2010
I’ve written a few times about the willingness of certain commentators to smear human rights agencies because they’re critical of Israel. Most recently this has been happening with Amnesty Int., and at the same time partly with HRW.
The Sunday Times has been a key player here – running hatchet jobs on Amnesty and last week HRW, here.
Yesterday, it was forced to issue this correction.
3rd April, 2010
Readers, you’ll be happy to know PP has been featured in the print and online edition of today’s Observer. MS Bennett says:
For some on the left, progressiveness is denoted by the denial of platforms for one or more of the following: the BNP, Islamists, Israeli academics, climate change deniers, arrogant BBC comedians, newspaper columnists pushing their idea of “free speech” that bit too far. Last week, the progressive website Pickled Politics was enjoying the humbling of its current bÃªte noir: “[Rod] Liddle doesn’t believe in free speech,” declared Sunny Hundal, “he simply believes in his right to say what he wants without regard for facts or any blowback.” Blowback? As in a critical response to one’s opinions? If so, it seems Tory commentators are apt to be equally heedless. At ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie has counselled offenders that “there is constructive criticism and there is destructive criticism. There is a time for debate on the right and a time to either be silent or gun for Labour”.
God knows what reassures such speakers that their high-minded support for gagging has absolutely nothing in common with, say, that of the Chinese communist party and, moreover, that they will never suffer the consequences of their own selective approach to free expression.
All welcome! Here is the Facebook group, and the event page, and the event is partly organised by myself. You need to RSVP if you’d like to come though as numbers are really tight. Regular PP readers Sonia and Nyrone will be speaking on the day too
2nd April, 2010
Most people agree that speaking the language of the country you are in benefits you. It doesn’t matter so much in certain circumstances, say if an English-speaking engineer went out to Dubai for a year, but in general it gives you a significant advantage: it gives you much greater access to services, the legal system and every day life. Some translations are provided, and while these are useful, they can only cover certain areas. The ability to speak the language is especially important when an individual is amongst the weakest in society, thanks to a lack of education, wealth, connections, and so forth.
It also benefits society as a whole, as it increases interaction, makes teachers’ lives easier and means the state has to spend less money on things like translations. Therefore it makes sense for the government and local councils to provide services in order to achieve this. Which is why it is wrong that one local council is essentially abolishing their service:
The founder of a renowned language service facing massive council funding cuts said she was â€œvery sadâ€ it was being axed after receiving an MBE for her 28 years with the organisation. Rosalind Carter was head of Hounslow Language Service (HLS) for nearly three decades, and it developed a national and international reputation for supporting children and families…
HLS now helps more than 7,000 youngsters from ethnic minorities to develop their English. But Hounslow Council announced last year it would end its Â£686,000 annual subsidy â€“ axing up to 80 jobs and leaving just a handful of teachers and staff. Mrs Carter, who retired as head of HLS three years ago and now works as a part-time adviser, is among those who could face the axe.
It is not as if Hounslow Council are short of money.
Tomorrow I think I’m going to write a bit about my trip, just because it needs to come out somewhere… I have nice pics too? What are you lot doing this long weekend? Anything interesting?
1st April, 2010
Of course, global warming is all a myth! All these fake islands submerging under water over time. Must be a conspiracy peddled by those ‘eco-fascists’!
A low-lying island in a sprawling mangrove delta which has been disputed by India and Bangladesh for almost 30 years will be squabbled over no more. It has disappeared beneath the waves.
In what experts say is an alarming indication of the danger posed by rising sea levels brought about by global warming, New Moore Island has become totally submerged. “It is definitely because of global warming,” said Professor Sugata Hazra of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. “The sea level has been rising at twice the previous rate in the years between 2002 and 2009. The sea level is rising in accordance with rising temperatures.”
Mmm… wonder what climate-change troofers have to say about this.
While out in South East Asia, I was blown away at this problem, and in two ways. Firstly, people on TV looked way whiter than most people on the streets. And I don’t mean they were just naturally lighter, but many of them were obviously airbrushed to look lighter. And yet in Thailand this as quite normal.
Secondly, skin whitening creams were everywhere to the point I couldn’t buy a moisturiser (my skin was burning) that didn’t have whitening agents in it. Completely absurd.
I have an article on the subject on Guardian CIF today…. but we know this applies to British Asians too as well as Thais.
Just over a week ago, travelling through Cambodia, I noticed a small item in the Phnom Penh Post reporting that a skin-whitening cream was blamed for the recent death of a young woman. Chhuon Sovann, 23, from the Cambodian border town of Poipet, began vomiting after using the cream and had to be rushed to a Thai hospital and was later pronounced dead.
A minor diplomatic kerfuffle ensued as it turned out the cream was being illegally imported from Vietnam. Some newspapers reported that health officials, backed up by paramilitary troops, started searching suspects coming into Thailand from Cambodia
Rest is here.
Some people are actually comparing this to tanning in the comments *sigh*
Update: Just saw this NYT photo-article on – Bodies Altered in Pursuit of Beauty
31st March, 2010
This is rather shocking:
Personal information concerning the private lives of almost 1,000 British Muslim university students is to be shared with US intelligence agencies in the wake of the Detroit bomb scare.
The disclosure has outraged Muslim groups and students who are not involved in extremism but have been targeted by police and now fear that their names will appear on international terrorist watch lists. So far, the homes of more than 50 of the students have been visited by police officers, but nobody has been arrested. The case has raised concerns about how the police use the data of innocent people and calls into question the heavy-handed treatment of Muslim students by UK security agencies.
In the latest case, details of students from University College London (UCL) were handed over to police by the university’s student union, after detectives visited the campus in early January 2010 during their continuing investigation into the attempted Christmas Day bombing in Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab studied engineering at UCL in 2005-08, and was president of the UCL Islamic Society in 2006-07.
I wonder what all those commentators who called for tighter regulation of university societies will say now. I pointed out at the time that what they basically wanted was for universities, or more likely professional bodies, to spy on mass numbers of students. Now it seems this is taking place.
What will Con Coughlin, Melanie Phillips, Douglas Murray, or the writers at Harry’s Place say now? Not much, I suppose, since it seems they are only bothered about civil liberties when they don’t involve Muslims.
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.
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.
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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.