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  • 31st May, 2010

    Flotilla attacks: the condescended version

    by Rumbold at 8:56 pm    

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

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

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

    Did this mean they deserved to die? No.

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

    Did this mean they deserved to die? No.

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

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

    Rock and Roll Jihad

    by Jai at 12:51 pm    

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

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

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

    Continue Reading...
    29th May, 2010

    Pickled Politics meetup on the 12th June

    by Rumbold at 8:47 pm    

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

    Filed under: Blog

    Losing the plot

    by Sunny at 6:38 pm    

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

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

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

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

    Filed under: Islamists,Media

    How Iain Dale plays the identity politics card

    by Sunny at 4:21 pm    

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

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

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

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

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Party politics

    Ahmadis slaughtered in Pakistan

    by Rumbold at 3:35 pm    

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

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

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

    28th May, 2010

    Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism”

    by guest at 3:06 pm    

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

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

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

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

    Continue Reading...
    27th May, 2010

    Stephen Timms MP’s assailant treated as a terrorist attack

    by Sunny at 7:29 pm    

    Channel 4 News is reporting today:

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

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

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

    Counter-terrorism still remains very relevant i seems.

    People making up stuff about England shirts being banned

    by Sunny at 11:25 am    

    This is turning into a bit of an epidemic. First there was the case of England shirts not being banned in pubs.

    “We have carried out a full investigation and can’t find any evidence to substantiate this claim. No driver fitting the description given was working on any routes in this area at that time. Our buses were busy around the time yet no one else has been in touch with us about this alleged incident.

    “Far from banning England shirts on our buses First is fully supportive of England’s World Cup campaign and we are, in fact, currently fitting good luck banners featuring England flags on all our buses in England.”

    And this…

    “We have also checked with the Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police and Portland police, all of whom assure us they were not in that area at the time either.

    He added: “I can say quite categorically that Dorset Police has no policy to restrict the wearing of our national flag and similar emblems and certainly not during the World Cup competition.”

    There’s only one response: No one is offended by your England shirt/flag. Shut up.

    Nobody is banning any England shirts, you gullible xenophobic fool

    Gita’s vendetta against Amnesty getting embarrassingly desperate

    by Sunny at 10:50 am    

    It’s a shame that former Amnesty employee Gita Sahgal has not found something more useful to do with her time. Otherwise she wouldn’t be writing such lame diatribes against Amnesty International.

    What the hell was openDemocracy thinking giving her space? I hope they’ll be offering space to someone pro-Amnesty to take apart that rubbish.

    Listen Gita, we get it: you’re angry. No one rallied to your support other than a bunch of discredited neocons who are best known for their mealy-mouthed apologies for torture. Oh and Salman Rushdie, the man offering moral guidance after signing a letter supporting child-rapist Roman Polanski. I suppose not many sane people would be heartened with that kind of support. But Gita bravely kept giving more interviews to Christopher Hitchens so they could together take down Amnesty. Brave stuff. Meanwhile, Amnesty is not allowed to defend itself while it is being smeared all over the place.

    I know plenty of Gita Sahgal supporters also read this blog (and I’m not referring to the neo-con nutjobs). Folks, the article doesn’t even make much sense. It reads like sentences copied and pasted together from Melanie Phillips, Hitchens and Nick Cohen articles. This episode is over. Please find her something useful to do in support of women’s rights. I hope she’s not going to spend the next ten years trying to find places so she can recycle that same article slagging off Amnesty Intl. It’s not even worth fisking, it’s that bad. When you’re desperately trying to pretend the Catholic Church has done nothing wrong then you know something’s gone awfully wrong.

    Filed under: Humour,Media
    26th May, 2010

    Rape myths debated in schools

    by Rumbold at 10:04 pm    

    The Telegraph disapproves. I think it is a good idea:

    Children as young as 11 are being asked to debate myths surrounding rape – including claims that “women ask for it by wearing short skirts”. A charity is distributing teaching materials to secondary schools as part of a campaign to end violence against women.

    The pack, which schools can buy for £100, covers subjects such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, prostitution and human trafficking. Rape Crisis said the lessons were intended to encourage mixed classes of boys and girls to discuss issues surrounding rape.

    In one class, pupils are asked to debate claims that “women enjoy rape”, while another lesson instructs children to discuss the myth that “women ask for it by wearing short skirts, drinking alcohol etc”.

    As long as we live in a society where people are still willing to victim-blame, we need education like this. And as with a lot of reports regarding schools, I suspect that eleven year olds are not being taught about the graphic aspects; it is just that they happen to be at the same school.

    Filed under: Sex equality
    25th May, 2010

    Nadine Dorries continues to smear Tim Ireland

    by Rumbold at 9:39 pm    

    Nadine Dorries, who engorged thousands of pounds from the taxpayer, is continuing to smear blogger Tim Ireland, this time by comparing him to the mentally ill woman who stabbed the MP Stephen Timms recently. Mr. Ireland’s sin was to be involved in a running feud with Ms. Dorries. As Richard Bartholomew points out:

    Tim satirises Dorries quite mercilessly, and Dorries has made it clear that she has found some of his jibes to be offensive. But that’s life if you’re a public figure. Dorries knows damn well that she is not under any kind of personal threat from Tim. Why didn’t she give the newspaper an example of one of his threats, if she had anything? And – more to the point – why hasn’t the police had any contact with Tim? An MP claims that she has been forced off-line by threats, yet the police can’t be bothered to have a word with the supposed culprit? And the MP just accepts that without any bitter complaint about the unfairness of it all? Come off it. She’s lying, and shamelessly. Lying to the voters, and – if she’s sincere in her supposed religious faith – before God.

    Given that Tim Ireland has been the victim of a campaign in which his family were threatened by thugs, Ms. Dorries needs to withdraw these allegations quickly (especially as the campaign targeting him used such allegations to justify their behaviour).

    Filed under: Current affairs
    24th May, 2010

    The left reaction to government cuts may not succeed unless…

    by Sunny at 2:37 pm    

    Lots of people are, justifiably, outraged over the cuts announced today by the government. I think this outrage and narrative needs a bit of focus, if it is to put the coalition on the defensive3.

    For a start, it would be worth acknowledging that cuts in government spending cannot be avoided. Many lefties actually think we can carry on spending like we have been - a financially non-viable situation. The deficit is too big and dangerous to carry on the same level of spending.

    Secondly, the coalition government have been talking about the coming cuts for months, if not years. The public expects it and most people will be ok with it. Don’t expect them to automatically join in the outrage.

    Third: the key to mobilising public opinion against the cuts will rest on getting two things right: (1) successfully pointing out that these cuts will make the situation worse when the cuts could have been made more efficiently elsewhere; and (2) focusing specifically on what is being cut, and being able to inform particular demographics (mothers, students etc) how the cuts specifically hurt them.

    Opposing cuts in a general sense is a losing strategy.

    Update: Several have said on Twitter that the deficit should be financed by taxation. I don’t buy that for two reasons. Firstly, the deficit is just too big for that much of an increase in taxation to plug the gap. No really, it is. Do the math.

    Secondly, at one point the City was contributing to nearly 35% of our tax revenues. The sector is unlikely to ever recover to the point where it offers that much revenue in the future, so a long term decline in spending will be necessary. Furthermore, we shouldn’t even want to be that reliant on the City in the future for taxes.

    Either way, the maths point towards a long-term decrease in spending unless we can find some new growth industry that stimulates the economy.

    Filed under: Party politics
    23rd May, 2010

    Andy Burnham pretends no one talks about immigration

    by Sunny at 10:58 pm    

    This is simply an outright lie by Andy Burnham:

    I think our problem on immigration - and it was for me anyway clearly the biggest issue at the election - was the sense that we weren’t talking about it, so that some people felt we were either in denial or just didn’t want to talk about it.

    During all the three debates immigration came up as a major subject even though not all three were about home affairs. In fact immigration was the only subject that came up all three times during the 3 leaders debates.

    Furthermore, even before the debates, Gordon Brown made a major speech in March 2010 about immigration. Gordon Brown made another speech about immigration in November 2009 too.

    So either Andy Burnham doesn’t pay any attention to what his boss was saying or doing, or he’s a lying dirtbag who prefers to pander to Daily Mail prejudices with falsehoods. And this guy plans to revive Labour with new ideas?

    Filed under: Race politics

    Would anonymity for defendants benefit rape victims too?

    by Rumbold at 1:11 pm    

    There has been a furore over government plans to grant anonymity to those accused of rape (their accusers already have their identity protected). A number of feminists have come out and argued that this simply tilts the scales further in favour of men, as it gives the impression that rape defendants need special protection. There are also fears that not naming the accused would stop other women coming forward if they heard about a trial, and so it would be harder to convict serial rapists like John Warboys.

    Obviously, this change is better for the men accused of rape (which is good, as they are innocent until proven guilty), but could it be better for women too? Perhaps. We know from studies that some people are willing to blame the rape victim (or at least partially blame her), for the rape. This, combined with a perception that some rape victims are lying and desperate for attention, is likely to have a negative impact on some jurors, thus making them less likely to convict. Anonymity would eliminate the notion that a woman is seeking publicity, making some on the jury more sympathetic to their claims.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Sex equality
    21st May, 2010

    What is the progressive narrative on immigration?

    by Sunny at 9:39 am    

    My head is exploding with all the rubbish rhetoric about immigration since the election finished, let alone while it was in full flow. So much to write, so little time.

    There’s a few points I need to make.

    First, it’s possible to show via the polls that while people cited immigration as a concern - it still did not lose Labour the election. There were other factors that influenced votes much more. Especialy Gordon Brown’s unpopularity and the state of the economy.

    Secondly, it’s more obvious to point out that increased immigration does not lead to more support for the fascists: the BNP were trounced in this election thanks to a lot of local campaigning and organising and bringing people together (see Hope Not Hate). Right-wingers keep saying this, and blaming the left for the rise of the BNP. Now who will they applaud for the collapse of the BNP?

    Thirdly, the eagerness with which Labour leader contenders Andy Burnham, Ed Balls and David Miliband have made immigration their top concern shows how bereft they are of ideas. According to them, New Labour did nothing wrong in power, except it wasn’t hard enough on immigrants. Tell that to the children who were locked up in detention without charge. And they say they’re standing up for ‘fairness’. New Labour got nothing wrong other than immigration huh? Too bad the polls don’t support that view.

    It boggles the mind that people like Andy Burnham can blow racist dog-whistles and then claim to be left-wing or standing up ‘against unfairness’.

    Fourth, it’s worth stressing that what we need to talk about isn’t immigration in itself, but it’s impact: why aren’t there enough houses, investment in public services, job protection for low-income people? Labour leaders want to talk about immigration, but not its impact. They’ll talk about immigration but won’t admit they didn’t build enough houses or let down people in low-paid jobs.

    Fifth, here is the dilemma for the left. The public are not easily persuaded by facts. There’s no way of ‘educating them’. The right-wing media exists and it won’t stop printing false stories. And there are lots of traditional Labour supporters who have concerns about immigration (Labour was about 30 points behind in the polls on the issue).

    And there is little evidence that those concerns translated into lost votes. Labour had lost millions of voters even before this election, mainly because of Iraq. Nevertheless, Labour was about 30 points behind. So what would a progressive narrative on immigration look like? How do you deal with people’s concerns without sounding like the English Defence League, the BNP or Andy Burnham? How does that narrative offer solutions and hope without encouraging people to be bigots or making them fearful of immigrants?

    What’s the narrative? What do you say on the door-step? Thoughts?

    Filed under: Race politics
    19th May, 2010

    Rise in acid attacks in Britain

    by Rumbold at 9:53 pm    

    Charities and hospitals are reporting a rise in acid attacks, which is often a method of revenge on an individual or group:

    In parts of the developing world – particularly south-east Asia, the south Asian subcontinent and east Africa – acid attacks are common. The Taliban and fellow extremists have frequently resorted to throwing acid in women’s faces for even small transgressions, such as daring to go out unveiled. But there are concerns that such attacks may also be on the increase in the UK.

    Hospital admission figures for the past three years show a steady rise in the number of people being treated for acid attacks. According to the NHS information centre, 44 people were admitted to hospital in 2006-07 after they were “assaulted with a corrosive substance”. The following year the figure jumped to 67 and last year there were 69 admissions.

    As Rick Trask, one of Britain’s leading researchers on acid attacks, pointed out, it is not unique to any culture, but is usually gender-based (often aimed at women, or men who have had relationships with the ‘wrong’ women) and is a deliberate attempt to scar the victim. Meanwhile, Diana Nammi and Jasvinder Sanghera, heads of the charities IKWRO and Karma Nirvana respectively, report a significant number of phone calls from women from Middle Eastern and South Asian backgrounds worried about potential acid attacks on them.

    The police and the state have done some good work in combating ‘honour’-based violence, but this is a new and disturbing trend in the fight against it.

    BNP Update

    by Jai at 11:47 am    

    A roundup of some of the major developments involving the BNP since the recent General Election:

    1. An excellent summary from the Guardian here.

    2. Nick Griffin’s delusional post-election “analysis”, addressed to BNP members, including a huge exaggeration of the number of MPs the BNP would theoretically possess under the proposed proportional representation system.

    3. Griffin’s subsequent message in relation to the escalating civil war within the BNP. More ranting.

    4. Griffin’s third public message, including fabricated “percentages” of Barking & Dagenham’s non-white electorate along with the assertion that the BNP is the “British Resistance”. Believe or not, Griffin’s apocalyptic faux-Churchillian call to arms isn’t actually a spoof; he really did write this message.

    5. Griffin’s latest message, which can be summarised as “denial, denial, denial”. According to Griffin, any incriminating information which reflects badly on the BNP (described by Griffin as a “movement of national salvation”) is falsified and part of a huge global conspiracy.

    6. The BNP is facing a renewed legal prosecution over their constitution, since it turns out that they haven’t actually removed the problematic racist clauses as instructed (re: the previous successful prosecution by the EHRC) but just moved them to different parts of the document and slightly reworded them in an attempt to circumvent the injunction. Griffin was directly responsible for this, so he could be charged with contempt of court and potentially be imprisoned.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: The BNP
    17th May, 2010

    Britain Could Lose Its Economic Sovereignty Tomorrow

    by guest at 10:01 pm    

    This is a guest post by Shamit Ghosh

    Britain can now be forced by ECOFIN to change its own budget and we do not have a veto - thanks to the Lisbon Treaty. In effect, we have lost our economic sovereignty - thanks to the former Labour Government and Lib Dems who refused us a referendum.

    Tomorrow Spain and Portugal Governments would be presenting their national accounts to EU’s Council of Economics and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) to highlight that both countries have taken appropriate fiscal measures to reduce their deficit. This was a requirement set out by the ECOFIN last week before it approved the 750 Billion Euros to bolster the Euro. In other words, fiscal policies of EU member states are in effect now under the control of the European Union.

    Last Wednesday, the President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, announced plans to integrate European economies further. He said “In the end, we cannot have a monetary union without an economic union,” and this was reiterated by the unelected President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, when he told the media ““We can’t have a monetary union without some form of economic and – er – political union.”

    Continue Reading...

    Detention of asylum-seekers’ children to end

    by Rumbold at 4:36 pm    

    The Coalition has announced that it plans to scrap the policy, introduced by the Labour government, of imprisoning the children of asylum seekers, presumably in order to appear tough for the tabloids:

    Umair Umar recalls little about his ordeal at Dungavel, Scotland’s immigration detention centre — and, he says, he’d rather not. The 14-year-old and his family were held at the Lanarkshire facility for one night before being bundled in the back of a van and driven hundreds of miles south, where they were held at another centre, Tinsley House, in Sussex, for two days.

    “I don’t want to remember,” the child asylum-seeker says. “It was a bad three days.” Uzair, his 11-year-old brother, was frightened because they locked the doors. “It was like a prison,” he said.

    It was not a policy anyone could have been proud of, and it is good that it has been ended. The only problem is how to house the children now (as their parents will still be in detention centres).

    (Via Justin)

    Filed under: Civil liberties
    16th May, 2010

    Why more women aren’t in politics

    by Rumbold at 8:51 pm    

    Lynne Featherstone, the new equalities minister, has criticised the ‘macho culture’ of parliament, while labelling the coalition negotiating teams as ‘pale and male’:

    “We are a long way from equality and we need to find out why that is,” she told the Guardian.

    “Looking at parliament and the way it behaves, any sane woman would look at that and say do I want to be part of this bullying, finger-pointing mob who don’t talk like human beings and are disengaged from real life? To try and manage a young family makes it very difficult.”

    The impressive Ms. Featherstone has asked the question that a lot of people can answer, but which no one can answer precisely. We can say for certain that there are issues holding women back from politics, otherwise there would be more of them in the field. But which factors? There are various factors affecting the number of women in politics, which fall broadly into two categories: attitudinal and structural.

    Attitudinal factors relate to a person’s views (whether male or female). In this context they matter when the person believes that women are not suitable for the political arena, because they are ‘naturally more domestic’, or not intelligent enough, or various other sexist views. These are fairly straightforward, and may be views held by either sex, or indeed a potential female candidate themselves. Attitudes like this can lead to rejection at the selection stage, hence the calls for all-women shortlists and similar devices.

    Structural issues are those which affect the nature of the role, such as the need for non-London MPs to spend extended periods of time in the capital. Structural issues can be more complex, as they overlap and sometimes contradict attitudinal ones. Take Ms. Featherstone’s remarks quoted above. She points to a structural issue, which is one of managing a young family while being a female MP. Yet this is also an attitudinal one, as it is based on society’s general view that women should (and will) do more to look after children then men. And her critique of the “bullying, finger-pointing mob who don’t talk like human beings and are disengaged from real life” is true enough, but then it again highlights the view that women are not supposed to be as confrontational as men. So making parliament more family friendly and less confrontational will help attract more women to politics, but it might not do anything to change attitudes (at least not initially).

    So which is the most important issue to work on in order to increase the number of female candidates/MPs? Is it attitudinal factors, or structural ones? The former matter more, but the latter are easier and quicker to fix. Dealing with structural problems is likely to increase the number of female MPs, but it isn’t until we see a greater shift in attitudes that the problem will really be solved.

    15th May, 2010

    EDL/WDL spokesman on the state of the nation

    by Rumbold at 8:36 pm    

    Richard Bartholomew has uncovered a gem of a YouTube channel, which is the domain of ‘Arrylad’, a spokesman for the English and Welsh Defence Leagues. Each video starts off with a bit of jaunty music, followed by a man in a balaclava going on a long rant about anti-fascists (the ‘antifa’ of the title). The comic effect is heightened by the surroundings. As Richard puts it:

    Nothing says “patriotism” like using the St George’s Flag for a tablecloth and plonking a can of cheap lager on it, right?

    Filed under: EDL,Humour
    14th May, 2010

    The Papal Bill

    by Rumbold at 8:48 pm    

    The Heresiarch speculates on the probable huge cost to the taxpayer for police overtime when Benedict XVI visits Britain later on this year:

    Ratzo has been visiting Portugal, a country almost as bankrupt as the UK, and to the horror of British police observers, many well-wishers were allowed to come within egg-throwing distance. Meredydd Hughes, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire said that Portuguese police “have been much more relaxed and calm than we are about the distance the Pope is allowed to be from the people.” In the UK, there would be “many more physical barriers” - partly because of traditional British obsession with terrorist threats, but mainly because of “the anti-Papal protests which are expected in Britain.” Go and boo if you like, but he won’t be able to hear you. The taxpayer will be paying top whack for Operation Spare The Pope’s Blushes, naturally.

    Filed under: Economics
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