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  • 31st May, 2011

    Why the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad matters

    by Sunny at 6:14 pm    

    Pakistani TV is reporting that the body found today of a dead man was indeed that of journalist Saleem Shahzad. I hadn’t heard of this case earlier but I’ve been horrified by it.

    A few days ago Shahzad wrote an investigative article for Asia Times pointing out that Al-Qaeda elements and the Pakistani navy had been negotiating over some prisoners. When the talks broken down, Karachi naval base got bombed.

    Al-Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links, an Asia Times Online investigation reveals.

    Pakistani security forces battled for 15 hours to clear the naval base after it had been stormed by a handful of well-armed militants.

    Shahzad was Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He pointed out that the Pakistani security forces were getting worried that senior people were harbouring sympathies for al-Qaeda. When these people were arrested, al-Qaeda elements got involved and eventually stormed the base.

    A few days ago, before the second part of the investigation was published, Saleem Shahzad went missing. Human Rights Watch pointed said the Pakistani ISI had him. Now he’s found dead, with signs that he was tortured. Sickening.

    Ahsan Butt on FiveRupees is spot on:

    I literally cannot believe that the ISI acted with such impunity. They can pick someone one up, torture and murder them, and expect absolutely no legal recrimination.

    Remember, these people’s job is to protect us. But they torture and kill us, and protect Osama bin Laden and Hafiz Saeed instead.

    They do this in Balochistan most every day, what with student activists, nationalists, and regular party workers ending up in gutters, but they have made the entirely rational calculation that no one in Pakistan cares about Balochistan — watch the video in this Cafe Pyala post if you don’t believe me. This feels somehow different, because his abduction was front page news. And yet they still went ahead and killed him.

    This isn’t just about the intimidation and murder of journalists. This is also about hiding the truth that Pakistan has more to fear from Al-Qaeda and militants than it does from the Americans. But since the media is intimidated into keeping quiet the true extent of al-Qaeda infiltration.

    Moscow gay pride protest marchers attacked

    by Rumbold at 10:17 am    

    Peter Tatchell, who went to Moscow to protest against the government’s decision to ban the gay pride march, reports on the violence directed against him and others by both neo-Nazis and the police. A number of observers pointed out the collusion between the neo-Nazis and the police:

    I went to City Hall to protest but was separated from our Moscow Gay Pride group. Neo-Nazis identified me for attack. Being alone and with the police refusing to protect us, I had to escape down alleyways to avoid a beating. I was not arrested.

    By banning Moscow Gay Pride, Russia has defied a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it must be allowed to proceed. Some of us now plan to press the Council of Europe to suspend Russia’s right to vote in the Council’s parliamentary assembly. Russia must not be permitted to defy the European Court with impunity.

    The two non-white protestors at the march were both arrested and put in solitary confinement, before eventually being released. Russia has long seem homophobic attacks and official harassment of LGBT activists and individuals.

    30th May, 2011

    Geneticist warns of dangers of cousin marriage

    by Rumbold at 11:59 am    

    Professor Steve Jones, a highly respected geneticist, has warned about the dangers of inbreeding. Using Bradford as an example, he pointed out that 75% of Pakistanis in Bradford marry their cousins:

    ‘There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful,’ he told an audience at the Hay Festival.

    ‘We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene. ‘Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.’

    The problem occurs not as a result of a one off marriage between cousins, but rather through persistent inbreeding.

    He was criticised by Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation:

    ‘I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem with their children. ‘Obviously, we don’t want any children to be born disabled who don’t need to be born disabled, so I would advise genetic screening before first cousins marry.

    ‘But I find Steve Jones’s comments unworthy of a professor. Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate and further demonises Muslims.’

    Continue Reading...
    28th May, 2011

    How Asians in the USA are doing

    by Sunny at 10:20 am    

    There’s an interesting study into the demographics of the different Asian communities in the USA.

    Jeanne Batalova examined the size, distribution, demographics and socioeconomic characteristics of immigrants from Eastern Asia, South Central Asia, South Eastern Asia, and Western Asia.

    Using the most recent government data available, it was found that:

    · Immigrants from Asia number more than 10.6 million, accounting for 27.7 percent of all foreign born currently residing in the United States. The largest groups of immigrants from this region are from the Philippines, India, China (including Hong Kong), Vietnam, and Korea.

    · While California, New York, and Texas are home to nearly half of all Asian immigrants in the United States, nearly or more than half of the immigrant population in Hawaii (78.2 percent), Alaska (51.6 percent), West Virginia (51.6 percent), Michigan (45.5), and Virginia (41.4) are from Asia.

    · Immigrants from Asia are more likely than the overall foreign-born population to be proficient in English and be naturalized US citizens, and are more likely than both the foreign born and the native born to have a Bachelor’s degree.

    · Asian immigrants accounted for about 58 percent of immigrant physicians and surgeons and for roughly 60 percent of immigrant registered nurses practicing in the United States.

    · South Eastern Asians made up the largest proportion of the Asian-born population, followed by those from Eastern, South Central, and Western Asia.

    What is with Asians and becoming doctors huh? And why are so many of them settling in Texas of all places?

    27th May, 2011

    Leading by example

    by Rumbold at 5:17 pm    

    It has been revealed that David Cameron spent around £680,000 of taxpayers’ money on Downing Street last year:

    Records of all government spending reveal nine bills for the refurbishment of Downing Street including £30,000 for work he and his wife Samantha carried out on the No 11 flat last summer. The centrepiece of their revamp was the kitchen, revealed this week in official photographs of the President Barack Obama’s state visit…

    The other £653,192.34 was spent on external and internal renovation work to the offices and reception rooms in Downing Street, including cabling, plumbing and energy efficiency improvements. No 10 declined to specify further what the money was spent on and has previously refused Freedom of Information requests asking what changes have been made to the Grade I listed building since the election and the costs.

    Clearly the Camerons should have a small taxpayer-funded allowance for repairs and renovations for their flat, since they live in Downing Street for work and security reasons. The money allocated should also reflect the cost of Central London and the need for vetting of staff. Yet the money spent seems excessive. It would be useful to have a breakdown of the money spent of thing like plumbing (it might or might not have needed doing, since there are offices there too).

    However, the £30,000 for a kitchen, unless it was a complete shambles, is expensive, and David Cameron shouldn’t been lecturing the nation on the necessity of cutting back whilst spending excessive amounts of taxpayers’ money on a kitchen as opposed to something a rape crisis centre. Is it a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things? Yes. But it is the principle of it, as well as being real money which could help people. Some will also say that Labour were more wasteful in government. They were, but assessing the proper use of taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be measured at the lowest common denominator.

    Filed under: Economics,Economy
    26th May, 2011

    Depressing gender census data in India and tackling the problem

    by Rumbold at 10:33 am    

    The latest figures from India’s national census make for grim reading. Between 2001 and 2011 the gender ratio (number of girls compared to number of boys per thousand) worsened, with only 914 girls for every 1000 boys being recorded, down from a ratio of 974:1000 in 1961. Some of the worst offending states, especially Haryana, did see slight improvements, but this was more than offset by the decline in Southern India, which traditionally has been less anti-female than the north. Much of the gap is due female foetuses being aborted. But infanticide (the killing of babies/infants) is also widespread, with young girls being murdered all over India.

    What though can be done about it? Lifting people out of poverty is often the answer to many issues, but not this one. In the last twenty years, India has got richer, yet the gender imbalance is worse. It is often richer families who abort female foetuses, as they have access to ultrasounds and the money to pay for an abortion. As Rita Banerji’s article last week showed, such attitudes still exist in the (comparatively) wealthy Indian diasporas in the West, and this is only likely to worsen, as more Indians get access to affordable ultrasound machines.

    Continue Reading...
    25th May, 2011

    Home Office Planning To Deport Severely Disabled Rania, 5

    by guest at 1:42 pm    

    This is a guest post by Sarah of Same Difference

    I read a heartbreaking story yesterday. There are plans to deport a five year old girl back to Algeria. And Rania Abdechakour has severe disabilities- quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, heart problems and partial eyesight.

    Rania was sent to the UK on a six month visa in 2008 to live with her aunt and uncle and receive medical treatment. Her stay was then extended so that her medical treatment could continue. Now, she is making good progress, and even attending a mainstream school.

    However, an application for permanent leave to remain in the UK has been rejected. The Home Office says that Rania must return to Algeria. Her family say that there is no chance of her receiving appropriate medical treatment there. And epilepsy, says her aunt, Jo Taleb, is still seen as possession in Algeria. They fear that if she is deported, she faces death.

    So the family are appealing the Home Office decision. They have set up a petition to the Home Secretary and a Facebook group called Rania Must Stay.

    I hope you’ll agree that this campaign needs as much publicity as possible.

    Filed under: Disability
    24th May, 2011

    Racial Profiling at the Met

    by Sunny at 9:17 am    

    The Guardian reports:

    People from ethnic minorities are up to 42 times more likely than white people to be the target of a counter-terrorism power which allows the stopping and searching of the innocent yet grants them less rights than suspected criminals, official figures seen by the Guardian show.

    The power is contained in schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop people at ports and airports for up to nine hours without the need for reasonable suspicion that they are involved in any crime.

    The figures have led to accusations that police have resorted to “ethnic profiling”, which they deny.

    It’s odd that conservatives rarely raise their voice on stuff like this, since they constantly claim that institutions should not make decisions based on a person’s race or gender etc. Odd, isn’t it?

    Filed under: Race politics

    EDL’s Guramit “Singh” continues lying in open letter to Sikhs: Part 2

    by Jai at 8:00 am    

    This article is a direct continuation of Part 1, which was published yesterday, and discusses further extracts from the EDL spokesman’s recent open letter to numerous British Sikhs who have condemned the EDL. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read Part 1 first before continuing below.

    “One of my closest international allies is Rabbi Shiffren.”

    This is the same Rabbi Shifren who has been condemned by numerous senior Jewish leaders for his anti-Muslim fanaticism, ended up having to be forcibly thrown out of a conference by five conservative rabbis after he started screaming abuse at Reverend Jesse Jackson, and is on record as making the following extremely derogatory remarks about Muslims during a speech at an EDL demonstration in October 2010: “In those so-called freedom centres, they plot to destroy and kill us. We’re still waiting for the Muslims to make peace with each other. They eat each other alive, like the dogs that they are…”

    It is worth remembering that the EDL also have international links to Jewish convicted terrorists who are not only completely banned from entering Israel, but are also part of groups which the FBI have officially designated as terrorist organisations.

    “A Sikh who truly understands his or her religion will understand the true message of the English Defence League. Our battle against militant Islam”

    False. As a result of multiple interviews by the BBC (see here and here), Guramit is on record as publicly claiming that there is absolutely no difference between “militant Islam” and Islam in general. In fact, his public speeches at EDL rallies have repeatedly included remarks demonising Islam full-stop along with Allah, the Prophet Mohammad, and Britain’s entire Muslim population, frequently using extremely obscene language (see here, here and here). Therefore, when Guramit uses the term “militant Islam”, he means that Islam itself is by definition inherently militant.

    Continue Reading...
    23rd May, 2011

    Damning: how BBC coverage is biased against Palestinians

    by Sunny at 2:12 pm    

    Former BBC journalist Tim Llewellyn has a damning article in the Guardian today, exposing the BBC’s failings when reporting on Israel / Palestine.

    He says:

    There is no attempt to properly convey cause and effect, to report the misery, violence and pillage that demean and deny freedom to the Palestinians and provoke their (limited) actions.

    For example:

    >> In the bulletins they examined, the BBC gave 421.5 lines of text to Israeli explanations of why they attacked Gaza: the “need for security”, “enemy rockets”, “to stop the smuggling of weapons”. The BBC devoted 14.25 lines to references to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 10.5 lines to the blockade. The BBC repeatedly stressed the word [Israeli] “retaliation”, and also implied that police stations bombed by the Israelis were military targets, describing other casualties as “civilian”. It described these civilian installations as “targets”. Newspapers such as the Guardian did point out the distinction.

    >> “The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this exchange [rockets v shells and air strikes] … was almost completely absent from the coverage,” say the authors. They cite a BBC reporter saying: “Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.” They add: “We have not found a commentary noting that ‘Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason.’ Israel’s official view is given as fact, they say, but the Palestinian view, on the rare occasions it is found at all, is not. Israelis “state”, Palestinians “claim”.

    >> Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous. The Israelis, it seems, are for the BBC “people like us”. The Arabs are “the other”.

    >> For example, the BBC consistently describes illegal Israeli settlements as “held to be illegal”. But they are illegal. Even the Foreign Office says so. The BBC always adds “Israel disputes this.” Well it would, wouldn’t it? Why these caveats?

    Shame on the BBC for not improving its coverage of the Middle East.

    And I’m sure people will say ‘just watch Al-Jazeera instead’, but that ignores the BBC not only has a duty to proper journalism but also reaches vast parts of the country in a way al-Jazeera can’t.

    EDL’s Guramit “Singh” continues lying in open letter to Sikhs: Part 1

    by Jai at 8:00 am    

    Further to my recent article highlighting Guramit “Singh’s” ongoing doublespeak and religious hypocrisy in his public statement responding to the excommunication ultimatum, the English Defence League’s “Sikh” spokesman has issued a very long, extremely dishonest “open letter” directly addressing the numerous British Sikh supporters & signatories of the joint statement which condemned the EDL and any Sikhs who join them. I’m not going to link to the EDL’s website directly, but if you Google “EDL open letter ideological opponents” then you’ll be able to locate the letter. Alternatively, you can read it in full via another website here.

    As a Sikh myself, I’ll address a series of extracts from Guramit’s rambling letter:

    “I’m writing with regard to the document you signed, a document issued to you by members of the turban campaign, something that slanders not just myself but also the English Defence League…..This is me reaching out to all those people who have been hoodwinked into believing slander from the ideological opponents of the EDL…..This was the turban campaigns next lie, as you can probably guess this is getting ridiculous considering that members of the turban campaign claim to represent the whole of the Sikh community, I would never claim such a thing. I only represent those who are sincere to our cause no matter what colour creed or religion”


    Continue Reading...
    22nd May, 2011

    Is an EDL-BNP tie up on the cards?

    by Rumbold at 9:11 pm    

    After their electoral disaster in last year’s elections, the BNP have increasingly faded from view. As the author of a new book on the BNP, Matthew Goodwin, points out, the BNP has only really been focused on electoral success for the last decade or so:

    Born into the spring of 1982, during its early years the party steered clear of elections. It was not until the arrival of Nick Griffin as chairman in 1999 that a serious quest for votes commenced. Influenced by his time in the 1970s National Front, and inspired by its more successful French counterpart, Griffin went about revamping the BNP under a strategy of “modernisation”. The goal was to attract a broad and stable electorate by detoxifying the brand, adopting community-based activism and throwing resources at local and European elections.

    At this point, it seems unlikely that the BNP will pose a serious electoral threat in the near future, as the anti-Griffin rebellion grows and senior figures leave or have left already. But, as Matthew Goodwin argues, there is still space for an “anti-immigrant populist party”. This opens the way for the EDL.

    Continue Reading...
    19th May, 2011

    Indian Girls “Missing” Worldwide

    by guest at 11:21 am    

    This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

    Many assume The 50 Million Missing Campaign I run is about the female genocide – the mass and deliberate annihilation of women — in India. However, this is a phenomenon that concerns other countries too with sizeable Indian communities, like the U.K., the U.S., Norway and Canada.

    In India the elimination is systemic and in many forms. But in expatriate communities, while issues like dowry violence and honour killings do exist, the most prevalent method of elimination is female feticide. The reason is, while western governments are compelled by law to deal with homicides, they are unwilling to address the systematic extermination of women through sex-selection.

    A study published [subscription required] by researchers at Oxford University, reveals that 1500 girls went ‘missing’ from the Indian communities in England and Wales between 1990 and 2005. The 1500 figure indicates that 1 in 10 girls, who should have been born according to normal birth statistics, had been selectively aborted. The study raises another important question. This practice is not evident in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the U.K., even though all three countries share a common history and culture, and the same social preference for sons.

    Continue Reading...

    Shockingly, there’s more brown people in the UK

    by Sunny at 9:40 am    

    I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. The brown babies have multiplied manifold and soon their numbers will be so big that the entire Daily Express readership will be devoured. Mwahahaha!

    The non-white British population of England and Wales has grown from 6.6 million in 2001 to 9.1 million in 2009 – nearly one in six of the population.

    The figures, which give a detailed ethnic breakdown for every one of the 423 local authorities, were published on Wednesday in an “experimental” data release from the Office for National Statistics. They also show there are now almost a million mixed-race people in the two countries.

    Just 2.5m extra minorities in a decade? That’s a pretty pathetic rate of growth when compared to brown people in India and Pakistan. What’s going on?

    Brent in north London is the most ethnically diverse borough, while parts of Wales the least diverse. Haringey has the most amount of mixed-race people apparently.

    The Daily Express is naturally alarmed by all this. That makes me happy.

    17th May, 2011

    MPs recommend specifically criminalising forced marriages - I agree

    by Sunny at 1:07 pm    

    A report today by MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee says forced marriages must be criminalised.

    A bit of background is important here. Its not like forced marriages are legal right now: its just that law-enforcers focuse on stopping forced marriages by using existing legislation against coercion, kidnapping etc to stop a forced marriage.

    Some Asian women groups have been against a law specifically criminalising forced marriages in the past because of fears that it might drive the practice even more undergound. I’ve never really understood that argument.

    A few years ago the Forced Marriage Bill was quietly passed but it seems to have made little impact, partly because the bill had no teeth. I wrote about it then for CIF.

    Now MPs including Keith Vaz say its time to go further. I’m not a fan of Vaz but I’m inclined to agree. The law is a blunt instrument but the UK needs to take a big symbolic (and legal) step forward and take action on forced marriages. It might even force countries like India and Pakistan to take it more seriously.

    13th May, 2011

    ‘But what’s your strategy, oh revolutionary?’ asks @PaulMasonNews

    by Sunny at 1:13 pm    

    A lot of anti-cuts activists and students radicalised by the jump in tuition fees cite the Suffragettes. After all, they took on the establishment and won. They even used violent tactics! Take that you wimpy non-violent people who want to stick with the status quo!

    But the Suffragettes were fighting for the vote. This point seems to be getting lost in all the noise. They were fighting to get representation in Parliament because there was no alternative to the laws passed there. A law had to be passed to kill off slavery. A law created the NHS. A law created income tax. A law created the BBC, broke up the railways and promised everyone a Living Wage. The Suffragettes were keenly aware that unless their vote was counted, the law would ignore them.

    Now. Paul Mason of Newsnight has reviewed ‘Fightback’ the book edited by Dan Hancox, on the recent rise of activism. There’s one line that is key:

    And yet, throughout Fight Back!, the lingering question is one of strategy. Given that the default ideology of this new movement is what Noam Chomsky calls “libertarian communism”, it would be worth exploring why all its predecessors fell victim to their “sour-faced” opponents from the right or the left (or, as in the Spanish civil war, both at the same time).

    This is a key question. This is also why I hitched my bandwagon to the Labour party, because without strategy and a plan - you’re just ranting. To be fair, a lot of the activists aren’t just ranting (though its about the only thing the libertarian communists do). Many are organising events, getting activists involved, leafleting, providing inspiration to others, having debates etc.

    But where’s the infrastructure? What are the goals? What is the strategy to achieve those goals? These questions not only remain unanswered, but are actively avoided because that always lead to some form of compromise - to reach out to people beyond the already converted. And if there’s something many of the activists hate, its compromise. So the strategy debate goes nowhere. And its never clear what the goals are, beyond opposing the Tories.

    Filed under: London Politics
    12th May, 2011

    The alternatives to Labour in a local by-election

    by Sunny at 11:57 pm    

    Last month I campaigned hard in central London. There was a by-election in Peckham Lane ward in Southwark, south London. There are always lots of stories to tell in such campaigns. I started recognising people who’s doors I had knocked on before. I remembered the first names of people we were trying to convince to go out and vote on the day. It was fun, but hard work.

    It’s an area full of estates and social housing. And many of them are right next to leafy streets with middle-class residents. It’s a nice mix.

    It’s also an area hit hard by cuts imposed by the central government, which the Labour-controlled Southwark council had to carry out. So surely Labour would have paid the price for imposing the cuts?

    Rowenna Davis (Labour) won. In fact, by a landslide and a majority even bigger than before. The Libdem vote collapsed, naturally, and the Greens beat them to second place by one vote. The Tories came fourth. TUSC - the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition - got just over 100 votes.

    Voters didn’t blame the Labour-run council for imposing the cuts; they were intelligent enough to know who was behind the cuts. They just wanted Osborne and Cameron out of power.

    There are lots of people who constantly accuse the Labour party of betrayal over lots of things. Fair enough, that’s up to them. But I didn’t see any lefties come out and support the Greens nor TUSC there either. Peckham was in fact the only local-election in London in May. The TUSC had no support, no money and no activists. They didn’t even come close to making anyone else sweat on a platform of no cuts to local services. Even the Greens were starved of activists.

    Now, obviously I wanted Labour to win and I worked hard for that. But it seems to me that if people are going to start talking about supporting alternatives to Labour, they should do so in practice too (exception for disabled people who can’t knock on doors easily of course). Even Sue Marsh campaigned hard - despite her illness - and got some amazing results for Labour. My utmost respect to her.

    The other point is this. Lots of lefties seem to think it’s quite easy for a new party to spring up, win people’s trust, and get elected. But left of Labour is littered with failed alternatives. Of course they don’t have the money or the organisation. But they also under-estimate how difficult it is to win people’s trust, to become comfortable with them, and start worrying the more established parties.

    This doesn’t mean I always support whatever the Labour party does. I don’t. I’d like Labour to win power in four years time but I’d like an engaged electorate that has plenty of choice. This is also why I campaigned for AV - it would have given people the opportunity to support smaller parties while making sure the vote wasn’t split so Tories get in. But we’re stuck with FPTP for the time being. The choice won’t be there.

    Filed under: Party politics
    11th May, 2011

    The fetishisation of Anjem Choudhary by some middle-class luvvies

    by Sunny at 3:28 pm    

    Last week BBC Newsnight decided, in their infinite wisdom, to invite Anjem Choudhary (who heads up various now-banned Islamist groups) as representing Muslim opinion on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

    Now it turns out some philosophy festival in Hay has invited him to debate on two separate panel discussions.

    Anyone who has watched Choudhary debate as long as I have can tell you he’s not a particularly bright chap. He’s a master at pulling stunts to attract publicity, but his thought-process is boiler-plate extremist rubbish that Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun types have been spouting for years. I could probably predict his response to most political questions.

    So why invite him? Will he add to the discussion in an intelligent way? Or will he simply represent the ‘Muslim radical’ that some luvvies can’t get enough of?

    Yahya Birt, who probably has more brain-cells in his pinky finger than Choudhary has in entirety, asked them why he had been invited.

    Their response:

    Yahya - thanks for your interesting post. Anjem Choudary hasn’t been invited to speak because he has a ‘mandate’ from the British Muslim community. He’ll be expressing views that are his and his alone. As mentioned below, the fact that he’s… speaking in debates and not delivering a solo talk means that he’ll be forced to defend his views and held to account by his fellow panelists - and, indeed, the audience.

    Ultimately it’s for individual members of the audience to decide for themselves who to disagree with and who to support.

    Do these idiots actually think that Choudhary is there because he relishes the intellectual battle of ideas?

    I already know who most of the audience will support, and it wont be Choudhary, because this isn’t meant to be a serious debate but more a spectacle. He’s being fetishised in a way that Nick Griffin wouldn’t be by the same crowd. Double-standards? I shall leave that for you to decide…

    Filed under: Culture,Islamists
    10th May, 2011

    Trying to draw equivalence

    by Sunny at 11:31 am    

    Are writers for CagePrisoners - the organisation which aims to work only to highlight cases of people politically imprisoned (esp in Gitmo) - on mind-altering drugs?

    I only ask because, in response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, they’ve decided that the best response would be to draw equivalence between Obama and Osama and do a mock-up of Obama being shot by authorities. (via Harry’s Place).

    It’s not even absurd, its a pathetic attempt at equivalence. On the one hand these people believe people should be able to defend themselves, but apparently that does not apply to America.

    I have no problem whatsoever with the assassination of OBL. He declared war on the USA and got killed in retaliation. Case closed. CagePrisoners should go back to highlighting cases of injustice and stop trying to be clever. Their funders may also want to take note of the actions of the people they’re funding.

    Filed under: Islamists
    9th May, 2011

    In defence of Laurie Penny

    by Rumbold at 7:26 am    

    I do not share Laurie Penny’s politics. I am not a regular reader of her material, and I strongly dislike some of her assertions, such as comparing housing benefit reforms to the murder of six millions Jews. From what I have read, there is plenty to criticise in her writings, and she should be held to the same standards as everybody else. But she isn’t.

    Ms. Penny, more than any other writer, attracts a tidal wave of hate-filled abuse. In the comments on one critical post, her death is called for, her looks are dissected and scorned, she is called a ‘cow’ and ‘bitch‘ various times and attracts other comments too unpleasant to link to.

    And that is just under one post. Posts frequently emerge attacking her, often leading to a plentiful supply of hateful comments, especially those focusing on her appearance. Much of the abuse is sexual/gendered in nature, and I can’t see a male blogger attracting the same sort of vitriol.

    The other frequent criticism of Ms. Penny is due to her privileged background. She is quite open about this, and it is unclear why having a privileged background should stop an individual from taking the stances that Ms. Penny does (as long as she practices what she preaches). Would her critics prefer that she ignores the issues she cares about and instead revels in the advantages her upbringing has given her?

    Some people manage to criticise Ms. Penny without resorting to either of these tactics, as they should. Those who can’t manage to criticise Ms. Penny in a civil way should hold their tongues, as they are nothing more than bullies.

    Filed under: Media,Sex equality
    8th May, 2011

    A year on, regrets on voting Libdem?

    by Sunny at 5:50 pm    

    The New Statesman asked if I regretted voting for the Libdems a year ago at the General Election.

    My reply was:

    I regret the course of action Nick Clegg took after the election – but at the time it was the only decision I felt at ease with. The Labour Party of May 2010 was trying desperately to triangulate on the economy, on cutting benefits, on immigrants and asylum-seekers. It had no positive vision for the future and it was intellectually spent. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for it.

    In hindsight, many decisions are regrettable, but we have no choice but to stand by them. I saw how quickly the Lib Dem leadership were willing to ditch their principles; I saw a much better vision articulated by Ed Miliband – so I joined Labour to support his leadership bid and that vision. And there were plenty who followed the same path. You live, you make mistakes and you learn. But you can’t whitewash your own history.

    Laurie Penny was also asked the same question and says she nearly voted Libdem but changed at the last minute because she had a good Labour MP. I didn’t. I had Alan Keen: who was happy about going into Iraq, happy about the Third Runway at Heathrow and was claiming absurd amount of expenses. I just could not bring myself to vote for him.

    I don’t really care much for some ultra-left idiots who keep mentioning this as some sort of proof that I’m not a leftie. Grow up, fools.

    At the time I did campaign for Labour candidates in south London who I felt had more principles. I wasn’t alone in being a Libdem voter who joined Labour or switched the allegiance after the election. I hope both the Libdems and Labour keep that in mind.

    Filed under: Party politics

    Happy Mother’s Day Elton John!

    by guest at 8:56 am    

    This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

    I know I’m going to be the party-pooper at this grande-monde celebration of madre-hood today in India.

    But the thing is that I don’t really buy the idea of a ‘mother’s day’ or for that matter a ‘father’s day.’ Let me explain.

    This lady, who is my mother’s age, recently said to me, “You know that Elton John singer. He’s gay and he married a man! And now they have a baby. That’s impossible.” I asked why. And she said, “How are they going to raise a baby without a mother? A baby needs a mother.” I told her she reminded me of some of my students, when I taught biology. For the laboratory exams when asked to identify the sex of fetal pigs, the boys would invariably write, “Female, because it has nipples.” And I always told them that they needed to go home and take a good look at themselves in the mirror, and I would give them the chance to re-write their answers.

    Motherhood is pushed and promoted like it’s the biggest, global brand-name that every woman must have! First it’s about the ‘biological instinct’ that demands to be fulfilled through imageries of ‘weeping wombs’ and ‘ticking clocks.’ And later on, as with celebrations of mother’s day, it becomes this over-arching, altar of self-sacrifice. It’s fundamentally illogical: First it’s an acquisition, something that a woman craves for, and chases after. And once she has it – it becomes this icon of selflessness.

    What happened there? Why does the image of motherhood go from hankerer to altruist?

    My argument is, that this is because women are never told what motherhood is really about. It is not about the pregnancy glow, the nine-month bump, the maternity dresses, or the cute, bright nurseries with Disney prints.

    Motherhood is really about a person raising a person. The child is always a totally separate and unknown entity, and the real job of the parent is to recognize and foster that. Motherhood is no different from any other kind of parenthood, whoever the parent is: man or woman, father or mother or guardian, straight or gay.

    It is a difficult job, a demanding career, and a womb and mammary glands don’t necessarily equip you for it. Nor are they equipments that are necessary for it!

    Filed under: Sex equality
    5th May, 2011

    Mitu Khurana’s children under new threat

    by Rumbold at 8:48 pm    

    Dr Mitu Khurana is an Indian doctor and activist whose case we have covered a number of times on Pickled Politics. She is now facing a fresh and imminent threat to her daughters. Her case to date is best summarised by the below two paragraphs:


    Dr. Mitu has been battling her husband and in-laws for years. Her troubles began when she refused to have an ultrasound (which is illegal in India due to the fear of female foeticide if the mother is found to be pregnant with girls); this upset her in-laws, who poisoned her and took her to a hospital in order to have the ultrasound done. When it was found she was pregnant with twin girls, she was pressured to have an abortion. She refused, and when they were born, she was expected to give them up for adoption. She did not want to, so her in-laws started conspiring against her, with her mother in-law pushing her then four month old daughter down the stars on one occasion.

    Dr. Mitu eventually left the house with her daughters for good, and filed a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, the first individual to do so. Since then her in-laws have taken her to court in order to gain partial custody of her children, an action she believes is merely a ploy in order to get her to drop the complaint against them and the hospital. Numerous officials she has encountered have been unsympathetic or downright hostile. A high court judge even told her to reconcile with her husband and in-laws after they had tried to kill one of her daughters.

    Now a court has awarded her husband visitation rights, despite the fact that he showed no interest in them prior to being accused of bringing about an illegal ultrasound. Dr. Mitu fears this could endanger her children, and puts further pressure on her to drop the sex determination case, as this would be the only way to get her in laws dropping their custody case.

    Her husband is due to visit them on the fifteenth, and Mitu and a number of other activists are trying to prevent them from happening by lobbying politicians. Anyone in India should write to the president or local MP, whilst in England we should contact the Indian High Commission in London:

    High Commission of India
    India House
    WC2B 4NA

    4th May, 2011

    Victim forced to pay compensation for refusing to cheer attacker

    by Rumbold at 7:01 pm    

    This case from America was truly shocking. A high school cheerleader has lost a court case against her school and will have to pay the school $45,000 (£27,300) in compensation.

    What was worst was not the case itself, but how it came about. The unnamed cheerleader (‘HS’) was sexually assaulted by Rakheem Bolton, an athlete at her school. He pleaded guilty to the assault, but the charge of rape against him was dropped, so he was allowed back onto the basketball team (because being convicted of sexual assault isn’t a bar to representing a school it seems).

    In a subsequent game, ‘HS’ refused to cheer her attacker when his name was mentioned, which prompted her expulsion from the cheerleading squad. The school deserves plenty of criticism for this, but so do the courts, especially given the way in which they dismissed her appeal by branding it “frivolous”. Whatever the merits of awarding ‘HS’ compensation, the anger of a sexual assault victim at being punished for failing to cheer her attacker is not some ‘frivolous’ gesture. The court said:

    “As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams,” the appeals court decision says. “This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”

    So the school wasn’t at fault for allowing a sex attacker to represent them, rather it was the victim for trying to rebuild her life by taking part in something which mattered to her? Disgraceful.

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