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  • 30th May, 2009

    Difference between liberals and conservatives

    by Sunny at 2:43 pm    

    This article in the NY Times is somewhat fascinating:

    Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals don’t worry as long as Dad has given permission. Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintance’s drink are more likely to identify as conservatives.

    One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.

    That’s just about the difference in attitudes - which is revealing in itself. But how do you bridge the divide (if you want to)? Kristoff says that merely exposing someone to the opposite view isn’t enough, because it might simply re-inforce their view. In other words, the fact that many of us in the blogosphere think it’s great that people are exposed to a range of opinion doesn’t necessarily mean people are more likely to become open minded. They just argue a lot more.

    Here’s the crunch:

    Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public’s growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay. A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate.

    How does this apply to the UK? Well, one of the reasons I think race relations are unlikely to get like the 70s or 80s is precisely because people have many more friends/partners of different races. That barrier has been broken in the mainstream.

    The empathy point is important though - when discussions about Israel/Palestine or Muslims/Jews or terrorism/racism come up - it seems to me that the main reason why they don’t get anywhere is because the loudest voice on each side is unwilling to acknowledge the other side has legitimate concerns, or empathise with them.

    Policy Exchange’s Charles Moore is a prat

    by Sunny at 5:13 am    

    …and has forced the BBC to apologise for his on-screen stupidity.

    The BBC has offered to apologise to the Muslim Council of Britain after airing claims the organisation encouraged the killing of British troops. The comments were made by the former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore on Thursday’s edition of Question Time. Mr Moore spoke about the Islamic protests which disrupted a UK soldiers’ homecoming parade in March

    Mr Moore said the Muslim Council of Britain had been reluctant to condemn the killing and kidnapping of Britain soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and claimed the organisation thought such activities were “a good thing”.

    This of course not long after Policy Exchange was forced to apologise and took its report on Muslim extremism off its site. I’m not a fan of the MCB but you’d think someone who works for an apparently respected think-tank would have some basic facts in hand before spouting off on national television.

    29th May, 2009

    The scale of sex slavery in Britain

    by Rumbold at 8:46 am    

    After our discussion on this thread, I decided to look at the scale of slavery/exploitation (most often in terms of sex), that still exists in Britain. An article from 2008 paints a shocking (though, sadly not surprising) picture:

    “Up to 18,000 females, including girls as young as 14, are working in brothels across Britain after being smuggled into the country to meet the booming demand for prostitutes…

    Most victims are foreign, with least 85 per cent of the women working as prostitutes coming from countries including Brazil, China, Lithuania and Thailand. Many victims are lured to Britain with false promises of work in bars or nightclubs only to be sold for up to £5,000, often at airports or service stations, to pimps and brothel-keepers.”

    As Rahila Gupta put it:

    ” Trafficking is a lucrative activity, estimated to be worth $32bn globally per year. It is the selling of women and children into the sex industry that usually takes the limelight, eclipsing those trafficked into Britain to do work that is dirty, difficult and dangerous - construction, care work, cleaning and agriculture - for little or no pay.”

    28th May, 2009

    Did Eastenders avoid Muslim actors for gay storyline?

    by Sunny at 6:23 pm    

    Bear with me on this, however trivial it may sound. A couple of months ago the BBC announced that they were introducing a new character to Eastenders - 24 yr old Syed Mahmood, played by actor Marc Elliot.

    A few people emailed me angrily asking why, given there were so few Asian actors on TV as it is, were the BBC was giving such a prominent part to a non-Asian actor. I think that’s a fair question. At the time no one at the BBC wanted to comment.

    Now the BBC has told the Media Guardian that Syed Mahmood will share a gay kiss and find his “religion and sexual feelings in conflict”. It got me thinking - perhaps they avoided hiring someone Muslim for that part precisely because they were worried the actor may not be willing to act out a gay kiss. I’ve seen non-Muslim Asian actors do gay scenes on television / film (Jimi Mistry, famously) but not anyone Muslim.

    So is religious baggage is holding back Muslim actors? I bet to a certain extent casting directors avoid Muslim actors for that reason.

    David Cameron doesn’t know how many houses he owns

    by Sunny at 2:11 pm    

    Don Paskini raised this on LC over the morning and now it’s all over the blogosphere. And in fact I’m surprised more isn’t being said about this hilarious episode. In an interview with The Times the other day, this is how an exchange went:

    I only get one flash of that Mr Nasty streak in Mr Nice when I raise the question of the Camerons’ various properties. We had been talking about his bewilderment about the depth of dislike that some people in the Labour party have towards the Conservatives: “Where I think Conservatives tend to feel Labour are misguided and wrong, there are some people in the Labour Party who just think the Tories are awful and evil, which is ridiculous and wrong.”

    In my attempt to explain why they might have these feelings – I confess to shuddering whenever I see that photograph of young David and Boris in their Bullingdon Club regalia – I mention the four houses: “The four properties thing is rubbish. Touching that you believe everything you read in the newspapers!” You patronising git, I exclaim.

    “I don’t mean it like that, but…” So how many properties do you own? “I own a house in North Kensington which you’ve been to and my house in the constituency in Oxfordshire and that is, as far as I know, all I have.”

    A house in Cornwall? “No, that is, Samantha used to have a timeshare in South Devon but she doesn’t any more.” And there isn’t a fourth? “I don’t think so – not that I can think of.” Please don’t say, “Not that I can think of.” “You might be… Samantha owns a field in Scunthorpe but she doesn’t own a house…”

    The rest of the interview was punctuated with Cameron’s nagging anxiety about how this exchange was going to make him sound: “I was wondering how that will come across as a soundbite”; “‘Not that I can think of’ makes me sound… I am really worried about that…”; “I am still thinking about this house thing”; and his parting shot was: “Do not make me sound like a prat for not knowing how many houses I’ve got.”


    Filed under: Party politics

    Article for New Statesman

    by Sunny at 1:55 pm    

    I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, before the MPs expenses scandal blew up, but my article for New Statesman magazine has finally been published:

    Hanging on to civil liberties
    Technology allows corporations and governments to store huge amounts of our personal data – but it also gives us ways to fight back

    Article on their website or this week’s print edition.

    Filed under: Civil liberties

    Taliban blamed for Lahore attack

    by Sunny at 4:06 am    

    New update: Two more blasts have hit Peshawar.

    This is probably one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent times. And I was in Lahore less than six months ago and it was so peaceful:

    Pakistan’s government has blamed Taliban fighters for a bomb attack in Lahore which killed 23 people and left hundreds more injured. A group of men shot at police officers before detonating a powerful car bomb, damaging buildings belonging to the police and intelligence agency the ISI.

    A group calling itself Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab claimed responsibility for the bombing in a Turkish-language statement posted on jihadist websites, the SITE monitoring group said.

    As I’ve said repeatedly this is why I supported the ousting of the Taliban and now Obama’s attempts to sort out the mess that George Bush made. The Taliban are expansionist, terrorist scum. If left alone they would have eventually moved to destabilise the whole of the Indian sub-continent. In other words provoke war between country in possession of nukes. Trying to sort out Aghanistan may be a near-impossible task, but it is still preferable to letting the Taliban rule it.

    I hope that Pakistanis quickly realised the true nature of the Taliban, and every indication is that they’re waking up to this, because that’s the only way to ensure the Taliban’s downfall.

    27th May, 2009

    Birmingham Tory Councillor in hot water over ‘endorsement’

    by Sunny at 2:34 pm    

    This story is so funny. Conservative councillor Raja Khan, in Birmingham, is being criticised for using pictures of other people for his campaign leaflet - most notably Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob. She’s sent out a statement saying:

    Mr Khan approached me for a photo on the recent trade union defend jobs demo in Birmingham. I agreed on the explicit condition that it not be used in any way for party political purposes.

    But check out the leaflet! The English on that leaflet is all over the place. It doesn’t even make sense. How the hell is this guy going to get anyone to vote for him? A Libdem councillor has stepped in saying that Salma Yaqoob supports him - to which of course she hit back. Birmingham must be the only place in the country the Respect Party has a shred of credibility left.
    Local politics eh - don’t you just love it?

    Those dastardly migrants

    by Rumbold at 11:54 am    

    The Telegraph reports that “a drop in migrants” threatens Britain’s economic recovery:

    “Immigrant workers have been leaving in large numbers and the Ernst & Young Item Club said the level of migration to the UK over the past decade would not return even when the downturn ends.

    It said the country was losing its appeal to migrants and the impact could hit the growth of gross domestic product and damage efforts to “rebalance” an economy heavily reliant on financial services by boosting manufacturing.”

    These migrants can’t seem to get anything right. Last year they were ‘taking our jobs’, now they are leaving just when we need them. Typical Johnny Foreigner.

    Supreme court nominations & identity politics battle

    by Sunny at 5:38 am    

    If you haven’t heard yet, Barack Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court. She’s not only the first Hispanic woman to be nominated (and most likely appointed) but also one of the very few women.

    The New York Times reports:

    In restaurants, homes and offices across the country, Hispanics responded to Judge Sotomayor’s selection with a puff of pride, some gratitude and considerable discussion. In interviews in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, many said this kind of recognition from Washington — Democratic or Republican — was long overdue given the growing size of the Hispanic voting bloc.

    Some of those interviewed said Hispanic appointments mattered less than issues affecting them directly, like immigration and the economy.

    Another article looks at the risk to Republicans in opposing her nomination:

    But some Republicans warned that the image of Republicans throwing a roadblock before an historic nomination could prove politically devastating. Republicans saw a dip in Hispanic support in 2008, after eight years in which former President George W. Bush and his political aides had made a concerted effort to increase the Republican appeal to Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group of voters.

    Matthew Dowd, another one-time adviser to Mr. Bush, said that in 2000, he calculated that Republicans needed to win 35 percent of Hispanics to beat Democrats. He said that given the steady increase in the number of Hispanic voters, he now believed Republicans needed to win a minimum of 40 percent to be competitive with Democrats.

    Continue Reading...

    Picklers meet-up this Sunday

    by Sunny at 3:40 am    

    Hi readers - Fe’reeha, one of our writers is over from Pakistan for a couple of weeks. So we’re having a short-notice Picklers meetup this Sunday. Regular commenters and some regular readers welcome, though you’ll have to email me to get more details! It’ll be somewhere in central London early Sunday (31st May) afternoon. Around 1pm.

    Filed under: Blog
    26th May, 2009

    Caste riots across Punjab amongst Sikhs

    by Sunny at 4:23 am    

    This is such a bizarre story. Apparently a fight kicked off between Sikhs in Vienna, Austria, with the result that Sikhs across Punjab got angry and started rioting. I swear, people don’t need much excuses in India to start burning shit.

    Sant Ramanand, 57, was attacked by six men with knifes and a pistol at a ceremony in a Vienna gurdwara on Sunday. It is thought that Ramanand, from the Dera Sach Khand sect – a low caste Sikh sect that is widespread in Punjab and made up largely of Untouchables or Dalits – was targeted by Jat Sikhs – a higher caste, landowning sect – who accused him of disrespecting the religion when he visited the gurdwara.

    That, to me, looks like another one of those cases where Jat Sikhs (a grouping my family unfortunately belongs to) swagger around telling everyone who is a proper Sikh and who isn’t, and who is a fake Sikh etc. I’m not surprised that lower-caste Sikhs in Punjab are angry. But street riots?

    This article in the Times of India says it has put caste in the spotlight. And here’s the shameful thing - Sikhs are not supposed to follow the Hindu caste system at all. It is strictly forbidden. And yet Jat (landowner) Sikhs, who see themselves at the top of the pecking order, are the worst offenders in perpetuating caste differences. Annoys the hell out of me.

    25th May, 2009

    Modern day slavery

    by Rumbold at 7:49 pm    

    The Guardian has an excellent, and harrowing, article on the abuses which many female immigrant workers from the developing world suffer, with the focus on the huge numbers of migrant workers in the Middle East:

    “Her testimony, along with thousands of others’, has been gathered by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The group claims that, every week, one of an estimated 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon dies. Normally it is recorded as “suicide” or falling while trying to escape their employer. Another major cause of death is untreated illness - hospitals cost money and maids aren’t seen as worth the expense. HRW claims that maids in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the Middle East, are increasingly vulnerable to beatings, rape and murder - and there are no laws to protect them from abusive employers.”

    Continue Reading...

    Racist thugs

    by Rumbold at 4:18 pm    

    There’s no other name for them:

    “Nine people were arrested yesterday after trouble flared during a protest march against supposed Muslim extremists…

    Yesterday there were about 500 protesters, some carrying banners with slogans such as “No Sharia Law in the UK” and “Respect our Troops”. Several cars were damaged after a small group split off from the march. An Asian-owned business had its windows smashed. In Stuart Street in the town centre, police drew batons. Mounted police and officers in riot gear were used to try to control the mob and stones were thrown.”

    (Via Harry’s Place and Bartholomew’s Notes)

    Filed under: Current affairs,EDL

    The new BNP poster

    by Sunny at 10:22 am    

    Click it for the full image. via Daily Bread

    24th May, 2009

    Bank Holiday Weekend open thread

    by Rumbold at 11:05 am    

    If anyone is doing this tomorrow, you have my admiration:

    Watch out for the safety stewards, and the person who starts a chant of “cheese”. Results of last year’s races here.

    Filed under: Blog
    22nd May, 2009

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

    by guest at 12:00 pm    

    This is a guest article by Haroon Saad

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

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

    Continue Reading...

    MEP calls for boycott of Sri Lanka

    by Sunny at 12:49 am    

    I doubt it will have any impact really. As Robert Evans is known as a Tamil-friendly politician, this is likely to be just posturing. Plus, Sri Lanka needs aid right now to rebuild the country and to provide for the displaced Tamils. So I really don’t think a boycott would help.

    No doubt some will be annoyed that a politician has actually called for a boycott of Sri Lanka - since it was a good argument to use over Israel/Palestine!

    Leading Euro-MP Robert Evans has called for an immediate ban on travel to Sri Lanka for tourists and cricket teams.

    Continue Reading...
    21st May, 2009

    Gurkhas allowed to stay (probably)

    by Rumbold at 7:49 pm    

    I hope they mean this. But you just know that somehow they will find a way to weasel out of it:

    “All Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with at least four years’ service will be allowed to settle in the UK, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said.

    Ms Smith told MPs she was “proud to offer this country’s welcome to all who have served in the brigade of Gurkhas”.

    It comes after a high-profile campaign by Joanna Lumley and other supporters of Gurkha rights - and an embarrassing Commons defeat for the government.”

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Are Tamils attacking Buddhists in London?

    by Sunny at 1:15 pm    

    Thanks to mk1 in the comments of a previous blog post for pointing me to this worrying story in the Harrow Times.

    The latest attacks follow a spate of vandalism at the temple, which Buddhist leaders claimed was the work of Tamil Tiger sympathisers seeking retribution for the actions of the Sri Lankan Government. In the past two years, the temple has been fire-bombed, windows smashed, vehicles vandalised and the Sri Lankan national flag that flies outside the temple has been set on fire. Monks have also been repeatedly attacked.

    Bizarrely, this is the first time I’ve heard about any of this. Anyone heard more?

    Filed under: Race politics

    Having Tamils over for Tea

    by Rumbold at 11:19 am    

    Why has there been so much antagonism between Tamils and the Sinhalese in recent decades in Sri Lanka? After all, Tamils and Sinhalese have co-existed on the island for several thousand years. There are many factors involved of course, but tensions began to rise in the second half of the nineteenth century as hundreds of thousands of Indian Tamils came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). By 1900 Indian Tamils made up around 7.5% of the population (roughly 300,000 out of 4,000,000). Why did they come? They were invited around for coffee and tea, as Roy Moxham demonstrates in his excellent book, A brief history of tea, from which this article takes its information.

    Prior to the nineteenth century, Sri Lanka exported little, with high grade cinnamon being the only notable crop, albeit an incredibly lucrative one. Once the British took over from the Dutch though, they began to experiment with planting other cash crops, firstly coffee, and then tea. Coffee was planted in the mid 1820s, and the industry expanded, until 1869 when it was hit by a fungus, causing production to drop to less than 10% of its 1869 peak in 1890. Workers were needed on the coffee plantations, as very few of the native Sinhalese wanted to abandon their own subsistence holdings to work for someone else. The plantation owners (who were mostly British) turned to South India. Coffee was a seasonal crop, so Indian Tamils could travel to Sri Lanka to harvest coffee for four or five months, then return home to harvest their own rice.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: History,Sri Lanka

    4 arrested in US terrorist plot

    by Sunny at 4:31 am    

    The New York Times is reporting that four people were arrested in a possible conspiracy to commit terrorism in the United States. Although it should be pointed out that none had any weapons accumulated as yet.

    Federal authorities arrested four men on Wednesday night on charges of plotting to bomb a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to use antiaircraft missiles to shoot down military planes at a military base in Newburgh, N.Y., 60 miles north of New York City.

    Though Mr. Cromitie, who is described as the lead defendant, is said to have told an F.B.I. informer that he had ties with Jaish-e-Muhammad, a jihadist group based in Pakistan, none of the defendants actually obtained weapons of mass destruction, according to the authorities. The men were, however, given an antiaircraft missile system that was incapable of being fired, as well as homemade bombs containing inert plastic explosives, as part of the undercover investigation, the authorities said.

    According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Cromitie met the informer last June, and told the informer that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and that he was upset about the deaths of Muslims at the hands of United States military forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Cromitie expressed interest in returning to Afghanistan and said that if he were to die a martyr he would go to paradise, according to the complaint, which states that Mr. Cromitie threatened to do “something to America.”

    It looks like entrapment - though it’s worth stressing that these nutjobs wanted to / did buy plastic explosives and guns to attack a synagogue too.

    Filed under: Terrorism

    In praise of “military means”

    by Sunny at 1:24 am    

    Aaaaand we’re back to our favourite topic - the continuing craziness of Spectator Magazine’s greatest star Melanie Phillips. But first this: a couple of weeks ago I pointed out that many people who constantly obsessed about Muslims and Israel/Palestine had started using the Sri Lankan / Tamil as a stalking horse for their own agenda. Where is the outrage in support of the Tamils, they screamed! It’s a conspiracy that no one is obsessed about Sri Lanka and they keep talking about Israel / Palestine!

    There are of course several legitimate reasons why the Israel/Palestine conflict gets more coverage than the Sri Lankan/Tamil conflict, outlined here.

    Unsurprisingly, Melanie Phillips is now employing that same exact tactic. And how many times did she write about the Tamils? Oh. But check out the money quote:

    The lesson to learn from all this would therefore seem to be that terrorist insurgencies can only be defeated by military means — which in turn can only work if such measures are not undermined by the queasy neo-pacifism and defeatism of the west expressed through the surrender monkeys of human rights lawyers, NGOs and the media.

    Damn those cheese-eating surrender monkeys for mentioning the plight of innocent Tamils! They just hate things like democracy, freedom and err… human rights! And to think that a mainstream political magazine and a daily newspaper give prime space to Melanie Phillips.

    20th May, 2009

    The ‘token ethnics’ at the party

    by Sunny at 5:02 pm    

    Ever been at a party where you know you’re invited just so the organisers could feel better knowing its a bit mixed? I get the feeling this story is all about that. Have an event, invite a few token ethnics to give the impression that you’re all ‘multicultural’, then then accidentally invite the BNP too.

    Heh. Saying that, I know it cuts both ways too. I’ve been to events where I’m the token non-Muslim, or a token white person is invited because the organisers don’t really have a wide base of friends / contacts. All I can do is smile in amusement. Got any anecdotes of your own?
    (on PP we have our own token white person Clairwil (Rumbold just looks white, secretly he’s Indian)).

    Filed under: Culture,Race politics
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