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  • 21st October, 2008

    Helping Obama on the ground

    by Sunny at 7:24 am    

    Hi everyone. After back-packing around India, Nepal and Pakistan - I’m now temporarily in the USA. My aim here is to learn from the Obama campaign’s ground operation. I’m also volunteering for this historic election. Hell, if and when he wins, wouldn’t you want to be here to watch history be made?

    To be sure, none of the actual work in political campaigning is very glamorous. It’s repetitive, tiring and long.

    First, some background. The Democrats have always been far behind Republicans in mobilising and connecting to their potential voters and supporters. Hence, they have also been far behind in knowing about their voters and connecting to them on the issues that matter to them. Karl Rove built a massive and highly sophisticated database of Republican voters during the Bush years and the Democrats still haven’t caught up.

    Continue Reading...
    20th October, 2008

    Conspiracy Theories: From Fox News to the Muslim World

    by Shariq at 7:31 pm    

    A strong reason why the right wing media machine (Fox News, Talk Radio, Blogs) developed into a powerful force over the past decade is because they tapped into a feeling that the mainstream media had a liberal bias. I think that especially when it comes to social issues, there was/is at least a grain of truth to the allegation. Despite doing their best to maintain their journalistic integrity, people who have been to top universities and then worked in the big cities are likely to be pro-choice and pro gay-rights to give a couple of examples.

    Continue Reading...
    19th October, 2008

    Simon Heffer’s hero

    by Rumbold at 4:47 pm    


    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”.

    Discipline in schools

    by Rumbold at 10:21 am    

    Snuffy, author of the To Miss with Love blog (which focuses on her experiences as a black inner city teacher), has written a fairly depressing post about the lack of discipline in schools. This has become a recurrent theme for Snuffy, who frequently highlights the sheer stupidity of many of the ways in which we teach our children. However, she does has some suggestions for reform, including:

    2. Always set and stream classes. Always.

    12. Reduce teacher timetables. Hire more non-teachers to do duties etc.

    20. Give governing bodies and Heads the power to fire people. And then begin by firing about 20% of the teaching profession, which includes those at the top. Oh, and as an extra, fire most of the people who work in Local Authorities and various educational bodies like the Specialist School and Academies Trust etc. Yeah, fire the lot of them.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
    17th October, 2008

    Self-deprecating Republicans?

    by Ala at 6:42 pm    

    As polls the world over indicate that this election is in the bag for Obama, after three unsuccessful debates for the Republicans, and most of all after we were all proven right about the poor choice of Republican running mate, it looks like the battered Republicans may make one last attempt to win hearts and minds: by making fun of themselves. Sarah Palin is set to appear in a satirical comedy sketch about herself on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, after the show gained new popularity with star Tina Fey’s effortless satires of the governor. And what better way to redeem oneself than to mock oneself? It may even make her more cute and folksy: “Isn’t that adorable, she’s laughing at herself!” Some may call it ingenious. I call it desperate.

    16th October, 2008

    India’s “National Shame”

    by Sid (Faisal) at 11:44 pm    

    Violence against Christians increased signicantly in India after the fascist Hindu Nationalist BJP party came into power in 1998. The US-based Human Rights Watch was one of the first human rights organisations to alert the Indian Government of its failure to check the attacks and the exploitation of sectarian tensions for political ends by Hindu fundamentalist groups.

    In the last ten years, the situation for India’s Christians has grown steadily worse. A wave of anti-Christian hysteria whipped up by the BJP has resulted in a concerted campaign of murder, rape and arson.

    In Orissa the violence has been staggering. Earlier this month, a nun has been raped, more than 30 people have been killed in the violence and dozens of churches and Christian institutions have been vandalised.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: India,Religion

    ‘Communities adviser’ (i.e. spin doctor) post created

    by Rumbold at 10:54 am    

    Riazat Butt reports that the government announced that a new post of ‘Communities adviser’ is to be created. From the description below it seems that the main function of such a post is to explain to Muslims why the government is pushing so hard to throw them in jail for six weeks without charge:

    [The Communities Adviser should] develop an understanding of communities and how they are reacting in real time, providing feedback and contacts to enable OSCT [Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism] to ascertain true community reaction … [and ensure the] positive public perception of counter terrorism activities within our communities and ensure work is clearly and accurately explained to the community in a cogent and understandable format.

    Are the government just falling back on the tired old colonial prescription of dealing with minorities through ‘representatives’? Or is this something different? As Riazat puts it:

    Right now though the questions are: who should get the job, who will get the job and is such a post needed?

    Obama avoids the ‘angry black man’ label

    by Sunny at 7:55 am    

    (cross-posted over from Liberal Conspiracy)

    Watching the final presidential debate between McCain and Barack Obama was a frustrating one for a strong supporter of Obama like me. Obama didn’t attack back enough; he didn’t point out that Sarah Palin was clearly unfit to be president; he didn’t hit back on the smears on Ayer and Acorn.

    But I think it makes sense in a counter-intuitive way. Obama doesn’t need people like me, or similarly inclined American voters on his side. He needs to make himself comfortable to Middle America and the biggest danger to him has always been to come across as an Angry Black Man. Obama was unbelievably calm, collected and straight to the point. In fact he went out of his way to be nice while McCain was constantly attacking and putting on that fake, scary smile. Damn that smile is scary, and McCain looked almost wierd by flashing it so constantly.

    How will the polls play out? I have no idea, but I have a feeling that Obama has seen detailed polls of the difficult demographics and realised the biggest advantage would be to come across as a nice guy to ‘ordinary Joe six-pack’. There was no reason to be nasty about Sarah Palin - her ratings have been tanking like a lead balloon without him saying one nasty word. It’s worked. Tonight, I hope it works again.

    Update: It has worked. The polls are overwhelmingly in his favour, both by CBS News and CNN.

    15th October, 2008

    Outdoor cremation court challenge

    by Rumbold at 8:26 pm    

    Currently, in the UK, outdoor cremations are not allowed. However, under the 1902 Cremation Act, outdoor cremations are not specifically banned, which is why Davender Kumar Ghai, a Hindu spiritual healer, has been allowed to seek a judicial review challenging the current refusal to allow outdoor cremation:

    “In South Asia the vast majority of cremations for Hindus and Sikhs are held outdoors, often on the banks of a river that has been deemed holy. Although widely practised in the Sikh faith, outdoor cremations are not considered compulsory.

    In Hinduism, however, there is more widespread agreement that the 4,000-year-old practice of open-air burning is the most spiritually appropriate way to release a soul from the body following death. Many Hindus believe that mechanical cremations lead to akal mrtyu (a bad death), where the soul is forced to mingle with other souls because it has not been able to escape.

    Continue Reading...

    To Obama Skeptics

    by Shariq at 6:18 pm    

    I know there are some people who are skeptical about Obama. My own opinion is that it’s right to question his ability to control the legislative agenda and magically make all of America’s problems go away. comprehensive healthcare, Iraq, energy, tax reform, regulating Wall Street are all big issues and if manages to accomplish only half of these things I think he would have done a pretty good job. In order to achieve it he’ll need to build up his political capital, perhaps by doing some things which are unpopular amongst liberals, as well as skilfully building up support in Congress.

    On the other hand I have a lot of faith in his character and temperament and believe that he will bring a lot of intelligence and good judgment to the White House. To those who doubt this I encourage you to read ‘Dreams From My Father‘.

    Written after finishing law school and before he ran for elective office, it is a remarkably honest and moving memoir. It is the story of a very precocious person, who partly due to the colour of his skin, partly due to not having a father and partly due to having lived abroad, never felt at home in the dominant culture and was continually looking for a home and a purpose which he eventually found organising in Chicago.

    In many ways it relates to a lot of what is discussed at Pickled Politics. Progressive politics, race and identity, having an appreciation for what is going on the world and America’s role in it. If you want to wait till he wins before reading it that’s understandable, but it’s definitely worth reading in its own right.

    14th October, 2008


    by Sid (Faisal) at 6:43 pm    

    Oliver Stone’s George Bush biopic W is released this Friday in the States, two weeks before the elections. And from all accounts, it is said to be a little patchy but brilliant in places. So typical Ollie Stone fare.

    As for the trailer, it is probably up there as one of those trailers which could arguably be better than the movie. The use of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ by the Talking Heads is a stroke of genius.

    W goes into general release here in the UK on November 7, three days after the elections.


    Update: David T notes that the trailer’s backing track is “possibly one of the greatest songs ever written”. And of course, he’s right:

    Terrorists lose money on investments

    by Rumbold at 4:47 pm    

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

    “The IRA may have lost a substantial amount of its fortune in the banking collapse in the United States, according to republican sources.

    Sources say that in recent years the IRA’s financial bosses moved large amounts of money through front companies into a number of Wall Street financial institutions that were offering high dividends, but which have been devastated by the sub-prime market collapse. One source put the amount invested in the US institutions at €200m. They said most of this was made through the sale of commercial properties mainly here in the Republic.”

    The money dried up after September 11th anyway when funding terrorists who blew up civilians lost its lustre on the East Coast of America.

    Journeys around South Asia

    by Sunny at 2:07 pm    

    Hello all, a quick summary of my recent back-packing trip around South Asia. I landed in Delhi about three weeks ago and immediately made a beeline for a small cheap hotel in Paharganj market which is a known backpackers hangout. Met loads of Israelis mostly (apparently around 20,000 Israelis are travelling around India at any one time) and a affable chap from Manchester who was also going to Kathmandu. We caught a train to Lucknow two days later, which was about 12 hours. From there we caught a train to a town called Gorakhpur, near the Nepal border, and from there a two hour bus to the Nepal border. After getting our visas, we met other some other backpackers and together hired a jeep to go up to Kathmandu (about 7 hours).

    Kathmandu is a bit like India, though it has a different character and tons of very nice Buddhist and Hindu temples. Stayed there for 5 nights, spending a lot of time discussing politics and religion with people from all over the world. Happy days. After that I left alone, caught a bus down to the border, then a bus to Gorakhpur (the grimiest city in India I’ve seen so far. The cockroaches alone made me want to walk around with a flamethrower). Got to Gorakhpur in the middle of the night and then caught a train straight to Amritsar, which was another 20 hours journey. This was the longest continous journey of my life - 36 hours straight. Got to Amritsar, stayed at the Golden Temple for 2 nights, and then caught a bus to the Wagah Border.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Blog

    Non Moral Reasons to Eat Less Meat

    by Shariq at 11:37 am    

    I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. Its a really provocative and entertaining talk by journalist and food critic Marc Bittman, on the relationship between modern forms of food production and and its impact on both global warming and individual health. Like most TED talks, its well worth checking out.

    13th October, 2008

    The shooting of Thomas Hurndall tonight

    by Sunny at 7:49 pm    

    … is on tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. “On 11 April 2003 in Gaza, Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by Taysir Hayb, an Israeli Defence Forces sniper. In order to gain access into Gaza to take photos, Tom, a photojournalism student, joined the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-founded organisation that makes non-violent protests against the Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories. He was shot while returning to escort young children away from Israeli gunfire.”

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Who still uses the word ‘chinky’?

    by Sunny at 5:53 pm    

    Apparently, blogger Paul Staines does. What the hell is this the 1970s? What next? Negroids? Pakis? Maybe Guido Fawkes should spend less time trying to rhyme words and more time erasing the homophobia and other bigotry that infects his blog. via Tim Ireland.

    Filed under: Blog,Race politics

    Iraqi oil for sale

    by Sunny at 5:49 pm    

    At a Fabian Society event during the Labour Party conference a month ago, I asked David Miliband a question: Was the British government looking to finance its operations in Iraq through the sale of Iraqi oil? Miliband dismissed the question without answering, partly because any specific answer could backfire on him spectacularly.

    But still, I do wonder why the Iraqi government is being forced to put up 40 billion dollars worth of oil up for sale so suddenly?

    The biggest ever sale of oil assets will take place today, when the Iraqi government puts 40bn barrels of recoverable reserves up for offer in London.

    Access is being given to eight fields, representing about 40% of the Middle Eastern nation’s reserves, at a time when the country remains under occupation by US and British forces.

    Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq’s oil minister between 1987 and 1990, questioned why there had been no competitive tendering for the gas-gathering contract and claimed it had gone to Shell as the spoils of war.

    “Why choose Shell when you could have chosen ExxonMobil, Chevron, BG or Gazprom?” he asked. “Shell appears to be paying $4bn to get hold of assets that in 20 years could be worth $40bn. Iraq is giving away half its gas wealth and yet this work could have been done by Iraq itself.”

    All smells very suspicious to me. Given there is so much corruption right now in the area, thanks to US and British involvement, this action is worth even less. It would be better an open tendering process is conducted by an outside organisation that is then able to account for the money properly after.

    Filed under: Current affairs

    The polls are looking good!

    by Sunny at 2:09 pm    

    From the latest ABC polls:

    The economy is not the only wind at Obama’s back. McCain’s receiving blowback for what’s perceived as negative campaigning; registered voters by 59-35 percent say he’s been mainly attacking Obama rather than addressing the issues. Obama, by contrast, is seen by an even wider margin as issue-focused. (See separate analysis.) The issue advantage helps Obama another way; among likely voters who say they care more about the candidates’ positions on the issues than their personal qualities he leads McCain by a huge 39 points, 68-29 percent. McCain leads broadly among those who say personal qualities matter more, but there are fewer of them.

    The debates also seem to have helped Obama; 32 percent say they have a better opinion of him as a result of the two debates so far, vs. just 8 percent worse. For McCain it’s 12 percent better, 26 percent worse. Their third and final debate is Wednesday. One apparent result of these factors is a drop in McCain’s favorability rating, to 52 percent, a loss of 7 points since the Republican convention; 45 percent now see him unfavorably, a new high for McCain in polls since 1999. Obama’s rating, meanwhile, is 64 percent favorable, near its high and up 6 points in the same time frame.

    Enthusiasm for McCain’s candidacy, never strong, has softened alongside his favorability rating. Just 29 percent of his own supporters are “very enthusiastic” about his campaign, the fewest since August and down a sharp 17 points from his post-convention peak. By contrast, 63 percent of Obama’s backers are very enthusiastic, steady since September.

    Damn, that’s like to send Melanie Phillips into even more rage!! I love it. I’m off to LA this week to shadow and leanr from the Obama campaign. More on that later.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘The Black Swan’

    by Shariq at 11:07 am    

    I wanted to read ‘The Black Swan’ because I thought it would provide some interesting insights into how we got into this financial meltdown. Enjoyably, the scope of the book extends well beyond finance. In fact it is one of those books which can change the way you think about the world in all sorts of ways.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Economics
    12th October, 2008

    Surviving the credit crunch weekend open thread

    by El Cid at 5:05 pm    

    We’re all Lidl shoppers now

    Galbraith’s seminal The Great Crash topped my reading list last Christmas. But that still hasn’t stop me from being blown away by recent events. Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG, HBOS, Hypo Real Estate… and it hasn’t even finished. In fact, it has only just started. “Your safest bet is to leave your money on deposit!”

    Well not if you are an ISaver customer. Saving money will never be the same again. But saving is exactly what we will have to do — to pay down debt, to live within our means, to build up a bigger deposit to put down on a house, and to prepare for a rainy day, in case we lose our jobs. The economic consequences of that will be even less spending, more job cuts, and slower growth. From Birmingham to Berlin, Baltimore to Beijing — we are on the cusp of humanity’s first-ever global recession. Worst still, if you are a Londoner — we’re right on the frontline, along with NY. But, hey, why be miserable!! Where’s that famous Blitz, post 7/7 devil-may-care spirit? Get over yourself!

    So can we best survive this test? What tips do you have for surviving the global credit crunch? What music will we be listening to, what films will we be watching, what books will we be reading, what food will we be cooking, what holidays will we be having? I’ve already been drawn to Money Don’t Matter by Prince, and I am thinking of buying a tent (I’ve never been on a camping holiday). I’m also looking to tap my brother-in-law trader for his wholesale merchants card: it’s time to get baked beans by the palett. What about you?

    Filed under: Blog,Economics

    I’m back from the war zone

    by Sunny at 4:17 am    

    Hello! I’m back from my back-packing around South Asia - which involved flying into Delhi, catching trains and buses to Kathmandu, Nepal, then back to Amritsar, Punjab, via more train and bus journeys. In the final leg of my trip I crossed the Wagah border from Amritsar and caught the bus to Lahore. Stayed there for 2 nights and then caught a train to Karachi, where I stayed for another 3 nights.

    I really enjoyed visiting both Nepal and Pakistan for the first time. Obviously I was a bit apprehensive about going into Pakistan but mostly it felt like travelling around India and I was perfectly at ease. I was even open about being Indian and Sikh, and people were even more welcoming. Mostly they said they were anxious Pakistan was only seen through western media eyes as being full of poverty and mad mullahs. I wanted to write more about Lahore’s history and culture (there is tons) but nearly every day I was in Pakistan, a suicide bomber went off. My first morning in Karachi started with a massive explosion at the anti-terrorist squad’s offices (yes, the Taliban are that daring) in Islamabad and ended with two more terrorist attacks around the country. The place is turning into a war zone. So I’m going to have to write about that.

    I’ve already written two pieces for CIF - one on Nepal and another one on India.

    Will write more about my trip soon, though right now I’m trying to write some articles on Pakistan first.

    Filed under: Blog
    11th October, 2008

    Palin guilty of abusing her power

    by Leon at 2:12 am    

    Why am I not surprised?

    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is guilty of abuse of power, according to a probe by the state legislature.

    Mrs Palin was accused of sacking a senior state official, Walter Monegan, in connection with a family feud. She allegedly fired him for refusing to sack a state trooper who was in a bitter custody battle with her sister.

    The verdict of the state legislature could have a significant effect on Republicans hopes of winning the US presidential election next month.

    I should hope it does. It will be a sweet irony if Palin damages McCain’s campaign. Not that he’s likely to win now anyway. Barring an unexpected Obama gaffe/scandal or terrorist attack I expect we’ll be seeing the first Black President being elected in a few weeks time.

    9th October, 2008

    How it all went Pete Tong

    by Kulvinder at 3:33 pm    

    I thought I’d write a brief history of what went wrong in the banking industry. It should be noted that this is essentially an introduction to the current crisis in the financial sector, my article isn’t meant to present a comprehensive version of events but a core narrative that helps explain the problems to someone with no prior knowledge.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Economics,Events
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