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  • 30th November, 2009

    IKWRO under further attack

    by Rumbold at 11:10 am    

    After losing monies for a specialist outreach worker, The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) has had its funding cut yet again after the government decided to focus on large charities instead:

    The Ministry of the Third Sector abruptly diverted funding of £750,000 from 35 small charities under the ‘Campaigning Research Programme’, including IKWRO, despite the existence of a Compact. The monies will be reallocated to 15 larger charities through the Hardship fund while the smaller charities may suffer yet more losses in the difficult climate of recession.

    In a corporatist state, the government, large corporations and large charities work closely together. Employees are able to move between the three with ease (especially politicians/top civil servants who are looking for a job). Large charities, like corporations, are preferred by the corporatist state not only because of greater job opportunities but because, like small businesses, smaller charities are harder to control. They are away from the centre of power.

    That is not to say that large charities don’t do anything worthwhile (they do), or that there isn’t a need for large charities (there is). But IKWRO and others are suffering in part because of their size and remoteness from power.

    29th November, 2009

    Swiss to vote on banning minarets

    by Rumbold at 1:14 pm    

    The Swiss are to hold a referendum on whether or not to ban the construction of new minarets. The plan is backed by the Swiss People’s Party, the largest party in parliament and the creators of this poster:

    There are currently only four minarets in Switzerland, and around 400,000 Muslims (making it the country’s second largest faith, after Christianity).

    This is one of those profoundly illiberal bans that doesn’t do anyone any good. Let’s say you wanted to tackle extremism amongst Muslims, or improve the lot of Muslim women. How would banning minarets help? What effect can this have apart from to make Muslims feel under attack and give them more incentive to withdraw into their own world? More minarets won’t lead to more extremism, but this referendum will.

    (Hat-Tip: Steve at Amnesty)

    Update: Swiss exit polls now indicate that a ban has been apporved.

    28th November, 2009

    Guru Gobind Singh’s stance towards Muslims

    by Jai at 10:43 pm    

    [Rumbold's note- this is from an earlier thread but I decided to reprint it in full in this post]

    I think a few more things need to be stated for the record in relation to Rajinder Singh [the Sikh who is supporting the BNP]. While his reaction is understandable from a “flawed human nature” perspective, considering the apparent loss of his father during Partition, it isn’t justifiable, either from a general moral perspective or indeed from a specifically Sikh perspective. Let me give an example of another Sikh who suffered immense personal tragedy at the hands of Muslims, in some cases explicitly claiming to be acting in the name of Islam.

    Continue Reading...

    Great comment exchanges of the modern age

    by Rumbold at 3:51 pm    

    From this Harry’s Place thread (the highlights):

    Lee John Barnes (legal director of the BNP): Fuck off Graham you PAEDO.

    Lee John Barnes: Fuck off Edmund [Standing] you Zionist rent boy.

    Graham: You just can’t get the Aryan supermen these days can you?

    Lee John Barnes: Funny that – your mother never said that when I was slipping her a length last night.

    Graham: Hmm she’s been dead a year.


    Filed under: Humour,The BNP

    BNP terrorist pleads guilty

    by Rumbold at 11:52 am    

    Hope not Hate/Searchlight reports that Terence Gavan, a BNP member, has pleaded guilty to twenty two charges, including multiple firearms and explosive offences. His arsenal consisted of:

    54 nail and ball-bearing bombs between May 1999 and May this year. He also manufactured shotguns, pen guns and pistols at his home in Batley, West Yorkshire. Gavan was also found in possession of ammunition, a manual on boobytraps, an improvised munitions handbook and a copy of the Anarchists’ Cookbook.

    As Hope not Hate point out, the BNP are likely to deny that Terence Gavan was ever a member. However, Hope not Hate has established that not only was he a member, but that he held gold membership (which amusingly gives one no more rights than ordinary BNP membership, but costs twice as much and in return you get a nifty gold BNP badge- which is probably made in China).

    (Via Harry’s Place)

    Filed under: Terrorism,The BNP
    27th November, 2009

    The papal problem

    by Rumbold at 12:29 pm    

    Gordon Brown is the latest in a long line to call for the repeal of the part of the 1701 Act of Settlement which bans Roman Catholics and those married to Roman Catholics from becoming our monarch. He also wants to change the line of succession so that it is the eldest child, not the eldest male child, who succeeds.

    The latter proposal seems sensible to me. There is no reason for males to be put ahead of females, especially not in the modern world. The proposal to allow Roman Catholics to ascend to the throne is more problematic though. Firstly there is the issue of the Church of England. The monarch is the supreme governor of the Church of England and so for a Roman Catholic to take the throne they would either have to renounce their religion, or the church would have to be separated from the state. I don’t have a problem with the disestablishmentarian position, so perhaps the separation of church and state (and the expulsion of the bishops from the House of Lords) would be the best way forward.

    The 1701 act was conceived at a very different time, when William III was on the throne. He had no children, his wife had died and it looked likely that the throne would pass first to the Protestant Anne, then possibly to James II or his children (all of whom were Catholic). James II had only been deposed twelve years previously, and he still had supporters in the British, particularly from some Tories, Irish and Scots. He also had the backing of foreign continental powers, most notably Louis XIV (William III’s great enemy). To allow a Catholic the opportunity to take the throne was to risk another civil war. This problem has clearly disappeared.

    Continue Reading...
    26th November, 2009

    V & A Maharaja exhibition

    by Rumbold at 5:28 pm    

    Recently I went to see the Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum, in South Kensington. The show, which runs until mid-January, features treasures, paintings and other artefacts from noted maharajas. The period covered is roughly from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries (though there is some material from before and after), and it is a good all round exhibition, with plenty of variety and history. I would recommend it, but allow plenty of time.

    (The fort of the Maharaja of Gwalior, one of the princely houses featured in the exhibition)

    Filed under: Events

    No Winterval cards here

    by Rumbold at 9:11 am    

    As is traditional, this time of year brings complaints about the Political Correctness brigade (an elite commando unit based in Islington) attempting to suppress Christmas by nefarious means. Most of it is utter nonsense (though there are always a few idiotic attempts that are real), and this elicits the usual complaints about ‘PC going mad’ (an angry computer springs to mind). Now David Cameron has been accused of not representing the Christian message on his Christmas cards, prompting another wave of harrumphing.

    In response, the wonderful Anton Vowl has created his own non-PC Christmas cards, designed to appease even the most rabid Daily Mail reader (Baz, expat, EUSSR).

    Filed under: Events,Humour
    25th November, 2009

    Are we really ready to start being reasonable?

    by guest at 10:11 pm    

    This is a cross-post by Bananabrain from the Spittoon.

    Ray Hanania, the Palestinian-American journalist, is proposing to run for president of the Palestinian Authority on a very interesting platform indeed, as detailed here at the Huffington Post:

    It’s been picked up in the Israeli press by Bradley Burston of Haaretz – you’ll forgive the large c&p, but I think it’s important in this case:


    1. I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel’s “Jewish” character and Israelis should recognize Palestine’s “non-Jewish” character.

    2. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas’ participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a “final” peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.

    Continue Reading...

    BJP leaders implicated in mosque’s destruction

    by Rumbold at 12:29 pm    

    Two senior figures in the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party that forms the main opposition in India, have been condemned in a leaked report over the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992. The mosque was said to have been on the site of the birthplace of Lord Ram, and the destruction of the mosque helped raise the profile of the BJP and increase communal tensions.

    L. K. Advani, the current parliamentary BJP leader, and Atal Behari Vajpayee, the former leader and prime minister, are the two most senior BJP figures named in the report. Yet given the lamentable record of the Indian courts at charging politicians with starting/aiding communal violence, I doubt that anything will happen to them. Both BJP (Modi) and Congress (1984) politicians have avoided any sanction over their past behaviour, and this report too is likely to have little legal impact.

    24th November, 2009

    Nick Griffin’s Spanish sojourn

    by Rumbold at 8:37 pm    

    The BNP’s forays into Europe have not been universally successful. Despite recently taking two seats in the European Parliament, their jaunts across to the continent have tended more towards farce than success. In the past we have been treated to Richard Barnbrook’s quasi-fictional account of his German adventure, and the Eurofascists who refused to work with the BNP.

    Now Nick Griffin has got himself in trouble again after a far-right meeting in Spain was attacked by another far-right group, the Patriotic Socialist Movement, who were angry after not being allowed to enter the building:

    A rally attended by Nick Griffin MEP got ugly as Spanish police detained 28 members of a neo-fascist party who tried to disrupt an event held by a rival extremist group attended by British National Party leader at a Madrid hotel.

    Those arrested were all members of Spain’s ultra-nationalist Patriotic Socialist Movement and they were arrested after they attacked doormen at the hotel who were trying to prevent them from entering. Four people were lightly injured in the scuffle but did not require medical care, a police spokesman said.

    Filed under: The BNP

    Would Cameron mind a coalition?

    by Rumbold at 4:20 pm    

    The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has suggested that if there was to be a hung parliament (i.e. one in which no party controls more than 50% of the seats), the Liberal Democrats would support the Conservatives instead of Labour. Whilst David Cameron would seemingly prefer a strong Conservative government, would he (privately) bemoan a coalition government? I think not.

    Most people recognise that the Conservatives are ahead for two reasons. First is the anti-Labour vote (anyone but…) and second is the successful detoxification of the Conservative brand by David Cameron (people feel able to vote Conservative again). The second of these reasons would be under threat in a Conservative government, as the more hardline elements of the party would push for measures that would put off some moderates/independents. This is where the Liberal Democrats come in.

    A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government would have David Cameron as prime minister, and would have a Conservative home secretary. This would allow the government to reassure voters that they will be tough on crime and so forth. Vince Cable would probably be chancellor, because he is both popular and relatively fiscally conservative. Yet where the Liberal Democrats would demand most control would be over issues like the environment, which are precisely the sort of issues that Mr. Cameron needs to keep away from the more hardline members of his party. Thus the Lib Dems would act as a natural moderating influencing on an incoming Conservative government, leaving Mr. Cameron to complain (in public) about his hands being tied over certain issues.

    Europe would be interesting though.

    Filed under: Party politics
    23rd November, 2009

    Johann Hari and former Islamists

    by Rumbold at 10:54 pm    

    Johann Hari has a good, detailed piece up on a group of former Islamists. Not all the information is new of course, but he is a very good writer and it made for an interesting piece:

    The Muslims who arrive here every day from Bangladesh, or India, or Somalia say they find the presence of British Islamists bizarre. They have come here to work and raise their children in stability and escape people like them. No: these Islamists are British-born. They make up 7 per cent of the British Muslim population, according to a Populous poll (with the other 93 percent of Muslims disagreeing). Ever since the 7/7 suicide bombings, carried out by young Englishmen against London, the British have been squinting at this minority of the minority and trying to figure out how we incubated a very English jihadism.

    But every attempt I have made up to now to get into their heads – including talking to Islamists for weeks at their most notorious London hub, Finsbury Park mosque, immediately after 9/11 – left me feeling like a journalistic failure. These young men speak to outsiders in a dense and impenetrable code of Koranic quotes and surly jibes at both the foreign policy crimes of our Government and the freedom of women and gays. Any attempt to dig into their psychology – to ask honestly how this swirl of thoughts led them to believe suicide bombing their own city is right – is always met with a resistant sneer, and yet more opaque recitations from the Koran. Their message is simple: we don’t do psychology or sociology. We do Allah, and Allah alone. Why do you have this particular reading of the Koran, when most Muslims don’t? Because we are right, and they are infidel. Full stop. It was an investigatory dead end.

    (Hat-Tip: Jai)

    Filed under: Islamists

    A mother’s plea: Dr. Mitu Khurana

    by Rumbold at 11:16 am    

    Dr Mitu Khurana is a doctor in India who fears for her children’s lives after repeated attempts by her husband and her in-laws to abort and then kill her daughters (he wanted a son). Dr. Kamal Khurana denies the allegations, but an NGO and other groups have taken up Dr. Mitu’s case. Her case has been extensively covered in the India media, but it has still not brought her justice or the safety of her daughters. Here is her story in her own words:

    I, Mitu Khurana, a pediatrician and mother of twin girls, would like to share my experience in saving my girls from being killed by my husband and in laws while they were in my womb and subsequently after their birth.

    I got married to Dr Kamal Khurana in November 2004. Initially, there was a lot of dowry harassment. In January 2005 I became pregnant. An ultrasound showed that I was carrying twins. Then my mother-in-law started demanding that I undergo a sex determination test. I was even tortured to get it done. My husband and in-laws would deny me food and water and fight with me every day to undergo the sex determination tests. I, with full support from my parents, tried resisting it

    So my in-laws and husband got it done by deception. Knowing that I was allergic to eggs, they fed me cake made with eggs, all the while assuring me it was eggless. I developed allergic manifestations — stomachache, loose motions and vomiting. I was taken to the hospital.

    My mother-in-law asked me many times to at least get one child killed in-utero. I was kept without food and water. My husband who began ignoring me even turned me out of the house at 10:00 one night and asked me to go to my father’s house. When I asked him to let me take my mobile and car keys as I did not want to be stranded at night at this stage of pregnancy, he said “is ghar se kisi cheez ko haath lagaya to thapar parega (if you take anything from this house, I will slap you)”. My father-in-law intervened and asked my husband to let me stay the night, and in the morning I could be sent to my parents.

    Continue Reading...
    22nd November, 2009

    Where do they find these people?

    by Rumbold at 5:53 pm    

    A Conservative councillor in Kent is in trouble after he complained that too many candidates who wished to become the area’s MP had ‘foreign names’. Peter (a middle eastern name) Hobbins sent e-mails out bemoaning this:

    Mr Hobbins, who stood unsuccessfully for the Tories at the 2001 election and was shortlisted for the London mayoral race, suggested he should change his name to ‘Petrado’ to succeed in the party. One email said: ‘I have been contacted by a Mr Dilon Gumraj and a Zerha Zaidi and others who are all on the approved Conservative Parliamentary Candidates list.

    ‘Not one of them has a ‘normal’ English name.

    ‘They want to be the PPCs for Orpington and asked me for my personal advice on how they would be the best candidates for the Orpington Constituency. My view? For Hell’s sake.‘Why are the Candidates Department so keen on these foreign names?!!!! Maybe I should change my name to something foreign – how does Petrado Indiano Hobbinso sound to you?!’

    The Conservatives have suspended him.

    Filed under: Current affairs,EDL

    Secular Muslims open letter to ‘Stop Islamisation of Europe’

    by Sunny at 12:19 am    

    bmsd’s letter to “Stop the Islamisation of Europe”.

    Dear Mr [Stephen] Gash,
    We are a group of Muslim democrats who are committed to the values that define the British state,
    including legal and constitutional equality for all, equal rights for women and minorities, and religious
    freedom, including the right to be free of faith.

    We take such pride in these virtues that we actively seek to defend them against any individual, political
    group or organised religious outfit which seeks to impose their religious beliefs upon others (thereby
    infringing the right of all people to practice any religion or to be free of any religion).

    Continue Reading...
    21st November, 2009

    Dangerous art

    by guest at 10:14 am    

    This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

    I’m never one to argue with anyone who tries to raise awareness of any DisAbility. Until now, that is. A dancer, who happens to have epilepsy, has come up with a rather… erm… original way to raise awareness of the condition. Rita Marcalo plans to try to induce a seizure on stage at The Bradford Playhouse as part of the 24-hour Involuntary Dances event on 11 December, which will also include dance and poetry readings. The audience will be invited to film the event on mobile phones. Ms Marcalo has stopped taking her medication ahead of the event.

    Arts Council England, which is funding the performance, said it aimed to raise awareness about the condition. The organisation has provided about £2000, which they say includes £932 for medical risk assessment and support.

    Their spokesperson, Diane Horton, said: “This project raises awareness of a disability through the artist’s personal experience of epilepsy and we support this. We have made sure that a full risk assessment of the project took place, including medical advice, and that appropriate medical support is available during the performance. Rita is an important artist whose work deserves to be seen and the Arts Council both respects the creative decisions she makes in her work and supports her right as a disabled person to be heard.”

    However, Ms Marcalo has been criticised by the epilepsy charity Epilepsy Action. Their deputy Chief Executive, Simon Wigglesworth, urged her to reconsider the idea, saying that she will put herself at risk, and that she may also put at risk other people with epilepsy who may wish to copy her behaviour. He added that: “Throwing away seizure control treatment trivialises the condition and does not respect the fact that some people have spent time trying to get it under control.” As I said earlier, I certainly think the idea is original. However, I’m really not sure about the safety of intentionally stopping medication for that long. From the little I know of epilepsy I would say that is a very dangerous thing to do.

    Filed under: Culture,Disability
    20th November, 2009

    Non-whites join the BNP… because they hate Muslims

    by Sunny at 12:29 pm    

    This isn’t surprising at all is it?

    An elderly Sikh who describes Islam as a “beast” and once provided a character reference for Nick Griffin during his racial hatred trial is set to become the British National Party’s first non-white member.

    Rajinder Singh, an anti-Islam activist in his late seventies who blames Muslims for the death of his father during the Partition of India in 1947, has been sympathetic towards Britain’s far-right party for much of the past decade even though he currently remains barred from becoming a member because of the colour of his skin.

    Mr Singh and another Sikh from Slough who goes by the pseudonym Ammo Singh have previously co-operated with the BNP and have been used by the party’s leadership to try to woo Asian supporters, particularly Hindus and Sikhs living in areas where tensions with Muslims run high. The party has had little success, however, with all mainstream Sikh and Hindu groups widely condemning the BNP.

    I thought the old man had said he previously appeared on the BNP political broadcast because he was tricked? Doesnt seem like that here. This isn’t that big a story because we knew such bigots existed among Sikhs/Hindus (as they do with Muslims). But it is an interesting development…
    [hat-tip: several readers sent in the link]

    Filed under: Race politics,The BNP
    19th November, 2009

    Understanding how voters think and get information

    by Sunny at 10:23 am    

    This article by Daniel Finkelstein at the Times is political gold. He points out that ‘Pundits and politicians obsess about dividing lines. They are wasting their time. The public are serenely indifferent.’
    The money quote:

    Politicians and pundits share the idea that people are constantly re-evaluating their position. But not at all. At a few big moments they might pause and think again; the rest of the time they let events float by, or at best reinterpret them to fit with their existing views. In 1997 Tories thought perhaps Robin Cook’s affair would shake Labour’s goody-goody image. Instead focus group respondents just assumed he must be a Tory because he had had an affair.

    But out of all this, surprisingly, something heartening emerges. And that’s where the Queen’s Speech comes in. Because people don’t know, aren’t following and don’t believe politicians and their promises, they can only judge them on one thing. Whether what politicians do works.

    Add to this the fact that voters rarely sit there and evaluate policies of each of the parties and make a rational decision at voting time (which is why most of the daily speculation over at Political Betting is a waste of time).

    Voters not only pay little attention to politics in the news, they also forget that news very quickly. However they do end up internalising that little bit of emotion (negative or positive) they felt at the time. Over time that builds up and polls shift slowly in a direction. This is why you rarely see big jumps or falls in polls over big news: people rarely pay that much attention. But it also means that if you’re trying to stem a decline in your ratings then you have a much bigger mountain to climb: once people start associating negative emotions with a politician or public figure it’s very hard to shake them off that feeling.

    This brings me to the Labour leadership. Labour activists are deluding themselves in thinking they have a chance of winning the election and that the queen’s speech will actually make a difference. It won’t, as Danny Fink points out.

    At the Labour party conference I was in a discussion with a Labour MP and three other activists and I said Brown had to go if Labour had any chance of holding on to power.

    This was because the public had already characterised him (negatively) in their minds and had turned off from listening to his message. Plus G Brown is an incredibly bad communicator. I said the only hope was to have a quick change of leader, which would make the public sit up and notice for about a month. Within that month the new Labour leader would have to lay out a good agenda for the next term and call for an election (which people would clamour for anyway). But a change of leadership was the only way to make people listen to a new Labour agenda. Right now they’ve internalised the view that re-electing Brown would continue this tired administration and they don’t want it. Which is why the polls have remained static.

    My audience disagreed vehemently, obviously. But they disagreed because they thought the public would pay attention or actually cared about changes in policy. They don’t. Messaging and framing is a long slog and takes months, sometimes years, to hammer through the public conciousness. That is if you win the debate on your own term (another problem this govt has - it keeps losing public debates to the Tories).

    I also find it amusing that readers think by saying this, on a public blog, somehow that will diminish Labour’s chances even more. They’re not even paying that much attention to the Sun let along PP or LibCon. These spaces are then best served by discussion political strategy in a way that many American blogs do, I think. But that is a different discussion. Right now - that article is a must read for anyone who wants anything to do with politics.

    Filed under: Media,Party politics

    Digging deeper into a hole of stupidity

    by Sunny at 2:55 am    

    If you ever want to see another example of vile misogyny by someone who calls themselves a ‘leftie’, then Marcus’ pathetic respond to Laurie Penny today on Harry’s Place is it.

    Poor Marcus must have been a bit stung by all the criticism he got elsewhere, and decided the best he was going to rescue his reputation was to write even more tripe. In fact, Laurie isn’t the only person who’s complained about the dire sexism over at HP. A long-standing commenter there, Judy, turns up in the thread to say:

    This is an updated and edited version of the comment I’ve put up on Penny’s response to her treatment by HP:
    Penny, well done for calling Harry’s Place on its bullying and for refusing to be put down by their usual abusive response techniques. In particular, thanks for going on pointing out the particular forms of misogynist and patronising abuse some members of the collective and a great many of the commenters invariably direct at women who challenge whatever particular piece of received wisdom they regard as beyond criticism.

    Like you, I’ve been subjected to tirades of the sort of violent, childish and deeply personalised misogynist abuse, and gave examples on the thread which grew out of your blog. I see today’s response from Marcus is to put up yet another defensive blustering post which uses resorting to reductio ad absurdum and frivolity rather than dealing with these issues.

    Guess how the boys in the comments respond? By calling them both ‘silly cows’. And poor ‘Brownie’ got so upset by Laurie Penny closing the thread at her place that he started crying that he was ‘banned’, also patent rubbish. Perhaps they’re among the 55% of people across the country who think white males are the most discriminated in the country. Life is so harsh in reality they have to take out their frustrations online.

    Filed under: Blog,Media
    18th November, 2009

    Stories round-up

    by Rumbold at 3:46 pm    

    Lawyers give thanks for the new educational bill, as it creates opportunities for many more court cases.

    Richard Bartholomew reviews Peter Oborne’s programme on the pro-Israel lobby and finds it flawed.

    Richard again on the Sun’s initial response to the fake ‘Alan Sugar terror’ story.

    South Asian babies in Britain are more at risk of death than other babies, and doctors do not know why.

    The Telegraph is harrumping at the news that children are being taught not to stereotype by having to disprove such statements as “all white children are fascists” and “all Muslims are extremists” (the paper edition takes the former quote as its headline). This seems a sensible way of proceeding to me, as it doesn’t allow people to indulge in generalisations.

    And finally, Unity and friends respond to fears that the Press Complaints Commission will now try and regulate blogging.

    Filed under: Culture

    Policy: how Obama has been different from Bush

    by Sunny at 8:42 am    

    This was forwarded to me in an email, so I can’t take credit for its compilation. But it offers a list (I’ve taken out some small ones) of how the Obama administration has been different to the Bush administration. For all the haters out there… etc etc.

    Foreign policy
    Beginning the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
    The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed
    The US now has a no torture policy and is in compliance with the Geneva Convention standards
    The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010
    Restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks and building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols
    The prison at Guantanamo Bay is being phased out
    Visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office
    Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan

    Science / Environment
    Reengaged in the agreements/talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
    Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research
    Federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research
    New federal funding for science and research labs
    Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions
    Energy producing plants must begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources
    Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports

    Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women
    Ended media blackout on war casualties; reporting full information
    The White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act
    Limits on lobbyist’s access to the White House and on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration
    Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit US government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals
    The FDA is now regulating tobacco
    Built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office!

    17th November, 2009

    Peter Hitchens on prison

    by Rumbold at 10:26 pm    

    Peter Hitchens has written a good piece on prisons. I don’t agree with parts of it, and it has its usual Hitchenesque flourishes (blaming rock music and so forth), but is a much more thoughtful piece than I expected. Mr. Hitchens asks what is the point of modern-day prisons, and avoids the usual tabloid line of claiming that prisons are simply recreational camps:

    This is not to say (as I will be accused of saying by thoughtless contributors) that the prisons are nice places to be. As long as the prisons are warehouses, they will be squalid, fearful and ineffectual. Readers of this weblog would hate prison. It is not a ‘holiday camp’, but a sort of hell, where the worst rule, and so do not suffer.

    Actual criminals, men of violence, cruelty and guile, flourish in the anarchy of the modern prison. God help the poor innocent person thrown into one of these places. In a disciplined prison, such a person would at least be safe from violence, pressure to take and supply drugs, and extortion, and have peace in which to read or study.

    In our lawless warehouses, he will be victimised and denied any peace or solitude. It is these awful institutions that are regularly condemned by HIM Inspectors, who do not seem to realise that it is the liberal policies they support which lead to the results they condemn. The fact that it never gets any better should be a clue, but apparently not for these people.

    He also criticises the closure of specialist psychiatric hospitals, and the subsequent jailing of mentally ill patients who should never have been jailed.

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    Filed under: Current affairs
    16th November, 2009

    The UK’s Israel Lobby - tonight. Peter Oborne speaks

    by Sunny at 10:53 pm    

    This is an article by the Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne written in advance of his Dispatches documentary tonight on Channel 4. The link to the full pamphlet, which has extended links and material in the programme, is here.


    Every year, in a central London hotel, a very grand lunch is thrown by the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is often addressed by the Conservative leader of the day. Many members of the shadow cabinet make it their business to be there along with a very large number of Tory peers and prospective candidates, while the Conservative MPs present amount to something close to a majority of the parliamentary party. It is a formidable turnout.

    This year’s event took place in June, with the main speech by Tory leader David Cameron and shadow foreign secretary William Hague in attendance. The dominant event of the previous twelve months had been the Israeli invasion of Gaza at the start of the year. So I examined Cameron’s speech with curiosity to see how he would handle that recent catastrophe.

    I was shocked to see that Cameron made no reference at all to the invasion of Gaza, the massive destruction it caused, or the 1,3701 deaths that had resulted. Indeed, Cameron went out of his way to praise Israel because it “strives to protect innocent life”.

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    ‘Shut up woman, don’t you know grownups are talking’?

    by Sunny at 2:20 pm    

    Laurie Penny of PennyRed fame wrote an article for the new blog The Samosa about Harry’s Place. Her main problem was:

    Whilst most contributors to sites such as Harry’s Place or MPACUK attempt to maintain at least a façade of tolerance, a scan of the comments to the average article reveals reams of virulent and poorly understood dogma, much of it founded on ignorance, racism and religious intolerance.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who has spent time moderating blog comments that as well as being a brilliant place to share ideas and force the pace of social change, the blogosphere has a tendency to lure idiots, bigots and bullies from their hiding places. Such is the case in comments threads of both camps in this debate. Not content with hosting frothing wingnuts, however, Harry’s Place has pursued what has been seen as a ‘witch-hunt’ against any Muslim or Muslim-ally who does not fit the site editors’ strict definitions of ‘moderation’; to whit, near non-involvement in politics.

    Can’t really argue with that. Of course, Marcus does, with hilarity. The best way to sum up his response is actually done by Neil Robertson, who says:

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