Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quote of the day

The Palestinians have the inalienable right to indoctrinate their kids to blind evil and hate, but Norway and the West have the moral obligation to stop paying for it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Symbolism

In some ways, I'd like to see Barack Obama win the election next week. There's a symbolism about the prospect of a black President, and it is the product of America's history of slaving. The first black President wouldn't signify that racism, the peculiar pseudo-scientific racism that developed in the wake of Darwin's theory*, is at an end, but it would mark a welcome watershed, a time when that could no longer determine the prospects of a candidate for political office. There will be those who vote for him because he is black, just as the reverse remains true. The former impulse will not determine the result of this election, but if he wins it will mean that the latter cannot do so either, something that could not have been said with confidence even in the recent past. That would be welcome.

As the son of a Kenyan, Obama isn't directly connected to that specific history, but the history of slavery is not specifically American and it touches most of us in one way or another. As the son of a Kenyan, the Democratic Party candidate is linked to it too. Kenya's first, millennia-long, period of slaving ended, under pressure from the British, in 1847. But a new period has begun and now:

Kenya has become a key operation base for cartels that are turning 17,500 Kenyans (according to estimates by Randy Fleitman, until recently the US Labour Attache, in Nairobi) into bondage abroad -- about one in 40 people trafficked worldwide.
Nothing could be more repulsive then the thought of people being treated like cattle. It's hard to imagine how any defence could have been offered for this revolting institution, yet that's exactly what happened. The arguments of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz are less well remembered than those of her contemporary Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. In one of the stranger-than-fiction twists of history, these two women knew each other. At one time, they both moved to the same town in Ohio and became friends. But their ideas could not have been further apart.

Hentz published, in 1854, a novel called The Planter's Northern Bride. By then, she was an established and important novelist. Her earlier works had met with significant critical approval. "It is pleasant," suggested to the New York Commercial Advertiser, after reading "MARCUS WARLAND; or, THE LONG MOSS SPRING. A Tale of the South" "to meet now and then with a tale like this, which seems rather like a narrative of real events than a creature of the imagination." The American Courier was no less enthusiastic: "We venture to assert that there is not one reader who has not been made wiser and better by its perusal -- who has not been enabled to treasure up golden precepts of morality, virtue, and experience, as guiding principles of their own commerce with the world."

The Planter's Northern Bride was a defence of slavery. In the preface, Hentz wrote:
we have been touched and gratified by the exhibition of affectionate kindness and care on one side, and loyal and devoted attachment on the other. We have been especially struck with the cheerfulness and contentment of the slaves, and their usually elastic and buoyant spirits. From the abundant opportunities we have had of judging, we give it as our honest belief, that the negroes of the South are the happiest labouring class on the face of the globe; even subtracting from their portion of enjoyment all that can truly be said of their trials and sufferings. The fugitives who fly to the Northern States are no proof against the truth of this statement. They have most of them been made disaffected by the influence of others-- tempted by promises which are seldom fulfilled[.] Even in the garden of Eden, the seeds of discontent and rebellion were sown; surely we need not wonder that they sometimes take root in the beautiful groves of the South.(her italics)
In her preface, Hentz quoted the words of Thomas Jefferson's daughter, describing the return to his slaves of her father after an absence of five years. The emphasis this time is added by me:
The negroes discovered the approach of the carriage as soon as it reached Shadwell, and such a scene I never witnessed in my life. They collected in crowds around it, and almost drew it up the mountain by hand. The shouting, &c., had been sufficiently obstreperous before, but the moment the carriage arrived on the top it reached the climax. When the door of the carriage was opened, they received him in their arms and bore him into the house, crowding around, kissing his hands and feet, some blubbering and crying, others laughing. It appeared impossible to satisfy their eyes, or their anxiety to touch, and even to kiss the very earth that bore him. These were the first ebullitions of joy for his return, after a long absence, which they would of course feel; but it is perhaps not out of place to add here, that they were at all times very devoted in their attachment to their master. They believed him to be one of the greatest, and they knew him to be one of the best of men, and kindest of masters. They spoke to him freely, and applied confidingly to him in all their difficulties and distresses; and he watched over them in sickness and health; interested himself in all their concerns; advising them, and showing esteem and confidence in the good, and indulgence to all.
That emboldened passage has a contemporary feel to it; it is equally applicable to paternalistic conservatism and to socialism. And both these political traditions demand a price in return. It's a surprisingly similar price in each case, and it is surprisingly similar to its antecedent institution.

I described slaves as cattle earlier: human cattle. The defence of slavery put forward by Heintz was common enough at the time. It suggested that slaves were looked after from the cradle to the grave, that their conditions were better than those of the labouring class in the northern States of America. The price exacted for this cradle to grave security was a lack of freedom, and the acceptance that there would be a class above them, wealthier, free but burdened with the task of caring for their dependant slaves.

In a year when the two candidates for political office in the USA can joke with each other about how many houses each owns, and at a time when a semi-hereditary class of privileged and wealthy career politicians and bureaucrats has evolved in Europe, that doesn't seem a very alien world to our own.

This is where the symbolism of this election takes a strange and unpleasant twist. The comforts of paternalism, of socialism, are hay and a barn for human cattle. They demand a surrender of freedom from the citizens, or more properly the subjects, of such States. The distinction between taxation for common expenditure - policing, defence, roads - and taxation for redistribution is not often enough remarked upon. The former commands almost unanimous consent, even if there are differences in the details of how people think such common endeavours should be undertaken. But the latter is deeply contentious and demands that money be confiscated from significant numbers of people who disagree with the very idea of such spreading around of wealth.

Hay and a barn for human cattle: that is what Obama is promising. The man who might by his victory prove that the legacy of slavery is at an end is promising to institute a modern form of slavery if he is elected. It's a nice, benign form of slavery, the sort of slavery depicted by Caroline Heinz in her novel, but it's still a form of slavery.

Freedom is a wild, uncertain, even perilous condition. But it's the condition men and women fought to achieve, in America, a hundred and fifty years ago. It's the condition men and women fled to America to find, during the past four centuries.

I hope their descendants do not abandon it now.



*Darwin has been described as a racist, not least by creationists seeking intellectual respectability by disassociation. This is a good summary of why that is a false analysis.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cutting logs

A V8 chainsaw:

The Ohio effect

Palestinian Media Watch reports by email bulletin (not yet on web) that "Gaza residents are randomly calling American homes trying to convince Americans to support Barack Obama for president".

Smart thinking, guys. That should work well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Guilt by association

Most of the time, attempts to discredit political candidates by association are fallacious. Obama's candidacy is a case in point. His past contacts with William Ayers do not mean he is sympathetic to violent revolutionary politics; that case would have to be made on the basis of Obama's own words and actions. Ayers' attitudes don't transfer automatically to those he interacts with.

That's why this sort of thing would normally be irrelevant.

Minutes ago I spoke with friend Dr. Norman G. Marvin, M.D. and he is so concerned at what he has learned about Barack Obama’s family in Kenya that he is calling a special prayer meeting in his home to pray against the witchcraft curses attempted by them against John McCain and Sarah Palin.
So some religious nutters in the USA are supporting the Republican ticket? So what? Unity's attempts to extend this sort of insanity to the right generally is fallacious in itself, a similar type of guilt by association but also a failure to distinguish between supersets and subsets - (all oranges are fruit::all fruits are oranges) -- (all loony religious types are Republicans::all Republicans are loony religious types). Of course, loony religious types infest all parties, even though the details of their lunacies vary.

The difference here, though, is that Palin herself has a history of direct involvement with exactly the type of fanatics on display in this episode. She has attended services held by a Kenyan witch hunter, one at least indirectly responsible for the death of a woman accused of witchcraft.

Palin should not suffer from guilt by association, no more than should any other politician. But her involvement with fringe religious extremism is direct, and should be held against her.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Malalai

Malalai Kakar:

In the mornings she cooked her children breakfast and got them ready for school or their household duties. She spent a long time saying goodbye to them because she could never be sure what would happen. She did not discuss police work with them and tried to prevent them worrying about the death threats by rising early to take the night-time threats off her door.
The best get killed by the worst; luckily it's not always that way round.

Rest in peace.

Psychology quiz

NYU Department of Psychology has asked me to invite readers of this blog to participate in a survey about political attitudes and voting behaviour. You don't have to be American to take part. The survey can be found at the following address:

http://www.psychsurveys.org/brietruesdell/2008elections

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tony and Stevie

Is it that long?

Since I posted some blues?

Here's John Lee, and Ry Cooder. Nice and easy.

Blood sweat and tears of young workers

George "Oswald" Galloway feels strongly about child labour. In this audio clip he speaks about how Tesco's profits are built by "wringing the blood sweat and tears of the young workers in Bangaladesh". Such classic Gallowayan rhetoric - grandiose, clich├ęd yet incoherent - leaves the listener in no doubt of the genuine moral impulse he feels about this issue.

So I'm looking forward to seeing him use his platform on Press TV to denounce child labour in Iran - an oil-rich country which can well afford to educate its children, unlike Bangaladesh where sadly they often need the income that work for multinationals like Tesco brings in.

Oswald's stern denunciation of this child labour would be lent even more force by the fact that his salary at Press TV is paid by the same Iranian government that so grievously mismanages the affairs of its nation that children have to stack bricks to dry in factory yards instead of playing or attending school.

Lewd hand gestures

In May 2005, police arrested Ajai Raj and charged him with disorderly conduct after he asked a vulgar question and made lewd hand gestures after a speech by conservative author Ann Coulter at the University of Texas at Austin
Perhaps Ms Coulter deserves a vulgar question or two, but this round up of anti-Republican violence-porn is more disturbing than funny. It starts, of course, with some Sarah Palin attack fantasies.

Feminists for violence against women?

Neocon Zionist conspiracy

Count me in.

Quote of the day

I'm talking about a really woman-centered society of which we have no direct memory. But, as Monique Wittig said, "If you can't remember, invent."
Radical separatist feminist Mary Daly. She's an academic. So was Monique Wittig.


Also see David Thompson today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Have I got this straight?

After "a few badly-sold mortgages in the US set off an international banking crisis", the first UK institution to fall was Northern Rock - an energetic mortgage lender. Mortgages were "badly-sold" in the US in part because of government intervention.

The cause of this and subsequent bank failures has been a tightening of wholesale lending between banks, something they need to maintain liquidity. The root problem has been one of confidence and for confidence to be restored, among other things, banks need to be able to manage their credit risks carefully.

So now Yvette Cooper, the chief secretary to Treasury, has, um... intervened in the mortgage market, telling banks they should not manage their credit risks as they see fit.

Have I got that straight?

Peanut



Jesus and Mo

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Corrosion

Norman Geras describes "the free market" (his emphasis) as:

a rather large and complex institution sitting beside, affecting and affected by, other institutions, and interacting with human character, motive and action in a multiplicity of ways
This is a strange sort of institution, if such it is, without premises, personnel or any other institutional manifestation. Certainly, there are other institutions that bear upon the market - regulators, tax authorities, weights and measures inspectors - but they aren't part of the free market. What does that look like? And what form is taken by the apparently non-corporeal qualities of "human character, motive and action" with which this institution interacts?

This seems to me to be a strange piece of gymnastics, but then so does the spark for Norm's post, a question that was put to a number of eminent people:
Does the free market corrode moral character?
The term "free market" refers to the complicated and complex patterns of behaviour that emerge when people interact with one another in ways that can reasonably be measured primarily in economic terms, and do so with a fairly large degree of freedom of action.

The quoted question to the Wise can be rephrased:
Does the opportunity to act freely corrode moral character?
While a certain amount of corrosion might have preceded such interactions, it's not completely unreasonable to suggest that economic freedom might tend to reinforce self-interested behaviour and that this is detrimental to moral character. But nobody seems to be arguing this.

Instead, there are what seem to me to be spine-twisting contortions that permit this to be discussed as though people were not the ones doing the buying and selling. Instead, this all, apparently, takes place in some form of external institution, beyond the boundaries of which the disembodied virtues of actual people drift helplessly, like wraiths in the fog.

It might be the case that some schools of political thought rely on this kind of contrived separation of actor and action. It helps avoid the possibility that we are talking here about human freedom itself, and not some detached institution.

UPDATE: I initially decided not to get into this, but have changed my mind. Geras linked to a pdf of one of the Wise Folk's responses, that of "Michael Walzer [...] professor emeritus in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey[...] contributing editor of the New Republic, co-editor of Dissent, and the author, most recently, of Thinking Politically". Waltzer got close, but not very close, to the thing I said above that people were not arguing when he blamed competition for making people do nasty things. But he then went on to compare this with democracy, suggest the same thing was true for the same reason, and that the thing that makes democracy work acceptably - constitution - should also be applied to the market. He concluded:
The corrosive pressures of electoral competition don’t go away. We set limits on those pressures out of respect for human frailty. And if we need to do that with regard to governments, we surely need to do it with regard to markets.
A political constitution, like that of the USA, sets limits on government power. If one is to liken politics to ecomonic activity, then the actors in the market - individual people - are analogous to the voters in a democracy and are therefore those who should be protected - that is have their freedom protected, not limited - by a constitution. The professor has got this exactly the wrong way round. I wish this came as a surprise but, looking at his political orientation, it does not.

Incidentally, this exercise was carried out by the Templeton Foundation, an organisation that seeks to reconcile rationality with irrationality.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dispersed ownership

One of the main arguments levelled against the nationalisation of industries is that when everybody "owns" something, nobody owns it. I never felt any sense that I owned British Rail and I don't feel any proprietorial glow about the National Health Service. Sometimes such institutions provide adequate or even good service, other times they reduce users to frustrated, impotent rage. In neither case is there anything you can do about it. You ain't the guvnor.

This leads sometimes to arguments about the Tragedy of the Commons. Tim reckons that the Common Fisheries Policy is a case of such; the larger the organisation that "owns" a resource, the less the care that will be taken of it. (I think there's a bit more to it than that in the case of the CFP, but that's another story.)

Chris Dillow just wrote this about large companies:

When a firm is owned by hundreds of people, no-one has an incentive to look after it properly - because the hassle of organizing with other shareholders to control or change the management outweighs the benefits of having a better-run company, as these are spread across everyone, including the free-riders who just sat back and did nothing.
Good management is a public good. And public goods get under-supplied when many individuals pursue their own interest.
Banks’ failures are therefore ownership failures.
That's a very similar argument. And it rings true to me. Most people who own shares either directly or indirectly, through a pension plan, perhaps, have little or no sense of ownership of those businesses and the managements have little interest in the views of these shareholders. It's the institutional fund managers who wield power.

I don't share Chris's optimism that government shareholding might usher in an era of better shareholder accountability. If nationalised industries suffer from this problem then so do large publicly quoted corporations, and vice versa.

So perhaps capitalism - and for once this is actually about capitalism - and socialism share this central flaw. On a small scale they work well. This might be small or medium sized businesses on the one hand, businesses with owner/managers or small groups of informed shareholders, and on the other hand smaller voluntary cooperative structures. On a large scale, huge publicly quoted companies and compulsory collectivist structures are prone to the same problems, for the same reasons.

If there's anything in this idea, then it's noticeable that advocates of socialism draw attention to the problems of capitalism without realising that their own ideas are vulnerable to the same attacks, and supporters of large scale capitalism do the same thing in reverse.

They do this in another way too. I see people on the right argue that public employees should be personally liable for their failures, and I see people on the left trying to increase liabilities for company directors. Few argue both things. But certainly at the moment it's easy to feel a twitch of sympathy for the idea that limited liability might be a driver towards untenable risk and that the managers of banks might behave differently if they were entirely liable for their actions. If this meant that few would be willing to risk running very large businesses the above reasoning suggests this might be no bad thing.

But the point is this: in both these cases if the right is correct then so is the left. Yet they'll still manage to disagree.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog break

Posting has been very light through pressure of work. This is likely to continue until the end of October.

And indeed there's little for me to say, now that the real culprits behind the financial crisis have been identified. Yup, it's those dastardly Jews.

H/T Snoopy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Joanna mails

Joanna Lumley:

Thank you so much for signing the Gurkha Justice petition, and joining our campaign.

Already, over 33,000 people have signed: an extraordinary response in support of an extraordinary group of people. We've had great coverage for the campaign in the media across the world, and with excellent support from our UK papers.

We must be clear. We're not looking for a Government "review" of cases of ex-Gurkhas. We're not looking at a slight amendment in the law, a way of getting around the High Court's terrific judgement last week.

We demand the full, fundamental change in law that will allow all retired Gurkhas the right to live here.

In November, I plan to go to Downing Street and present the Gurkha Justice petition to the Government on your behalf. I want the petition to be so big, so huge, that they simply can't fail to listen.

To make the biggest possible impact, we really need more people to sign: lots more. I want this to be one of the biggest petitions ever handed to the Government, to show our support for the Gurkha cause.

Your support for the campaign is a fantastic boost: thank you so much. But, if possible, I need to ask you to help in two other ways, to encourage others to sign.

Firstly, ask all of your friends and colleagues to sign up to the Gurkha Justice Campaign at www.gurkhajustice.org.uk - please do forward them this
email, or email or contact them directly yourself.

And secondly, you can now download a petition form for signing from www.gurkhajustice.org.uk/gurkha_campaign_petition_form.pdf. Please download and print some copies, and ask friends and colleagues who have not signed on line to sign up. Please do pass it round (some friends of mine have run street stalls asking people for their signatures - I'm not asking you to go that far!) and return completed sheets to me at the address on the form by the end of October.

Finally - thank you again for your support. Together, we can finally right this wrong.

With warmest good wishes,

Joanna Lumley
for the Gurkha Justice Campaign

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks.

Chris Morris is making a new film:

Chris Morris's new film script satirises a British jihad cell and would be suicide bombers.

He's hoping to have it funded by donations. At the moment you just send an email to the address below and then they put you on the mailing list.

fundingmentalism@warpfilms.com

At the moment the detonator's going off and you're part of it but until the effect has gone exponential, your mails are being sorted by one person so bear with me.

Many people have asked us exactly what the Four Lions project is. Clearly we can't launch the film before its been shot, but I've pulled together a few paragraphs from the paperwork that's been flying around. Its shameless hype but its accurate – unlike almost everything you will have read in the press. No one who has read the script could disagree with a word here.

In three years of research, Chris Morris has spoken to terrorism experts, imams, police, secret services and hundreds of Muslims. Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce. At training camps young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other's feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking. A minute into his martyrdom video, a would-be bomber looks puzzled and says "what was the question again?" On millennium eve, five jihadis set out to ram a US warship. They slipped their boat into the water and carefully stacked it with explosives. It sank.

Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five a side football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks.

Four Lions is a funny, thrilling fictional story that illuminates modern British jihad with an insight beyond anything else in our culture. It plunges us beyond seeing these young men as unfathomably alien. It undermines the folly of just wishing them away or alienating the entire culture from which they emerge. It understands how terrorism relates to testosterone. It understands jihadis as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous. As Spinal Tap understood heavy metal and Dr Strangelove the Cold War, Four Lions understands modern British jihadis.

As for your offer, we're hoping to set up a one click pay scheme soon. We'll let you know.

Hope that helps

Deirdre Steed.

PS Please pass this on to ten more people.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin v Biden

I've been watching it. She was very good - poised and assured under the circumstances. Biden is much more used to that sort of confrontation. Impressive.

Opening sentence of the day

Doctors in Phuket, Thailand, are warning vegetarians at the annual Chinese Vegetarian Festival that piercing their faces with knives, axes, spades and beach umbrellas could expose them to health risks.

VP debate roundup

From my trawl of the comment pages this morning, it seems that people who agree with Biden think he did well, whereas people who liked Palin already thought she did well.

Chilling

Via CCNet, here's the English transcript of a Finnish TV documentary about Global warming, and the cooling of recent years.

Scientists John Christy and Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama at Huntsville are amazed at a temperature curve that reveals an abrupt turn in the development of global temperature. The 0.7 C rise in temperature during the past century has been almost wiped out in 16 months.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah Biden

Victor Davis Hanson does parody:

Palin may have had some experience in Alaskan politics, but at times the former small-town mayor seems unaware of the pressures of running a national campaign in a diverse society. For example, Palin — who has had past associations with reactionary groups — caused a storm earlier when she characterized Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama in seemingly racialist terms: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Such stereotyping suggested that the Alaskan was not aware of the multiracial nature of American politics — an impression confirmed when in her earlier gubernatorial run, she had once suggested that to enter a donut shop was synonymous with meeting an Indian immigrant.
(links added)

Tales from Prohibition

This was just left as a comment on an old post, from 2006:

You don't sound like a supporter of prohibition but if anyone proposes it for the UK, just tell them to study the results of the US prohibition. It lead to an incrase in the alcohol levels of booze, lead to the consolidation of little gangs into massive criminal gangs and a general disregard for law. One of my grandfathers made bathtub gin (he was trying to support his family) and my other grandfather rowed from Detriot Michigan to Canada and back with a case or two of canadian whiskey on foggy nights. He quit this when the criminals made it too dangerous (he was trying to support his family also). Who benefits from a prohibition? Those who chase and catch smugglers and lawyers on both sides of the issue!
Here's the eText of a book called What Prohibition Has Done to America, written by Fabian Franklin and published in 1922. I've read a bit of it, and it seems spot on. Interesting chapter on prohibition and socialism.
The danger to individual liberty in a democracy is of the same nature as the danger to individual liberty in a monarchy or an oligarchy; whether power be held by one man, or by a thousand, or by a majority out of a hundred million, it is equally possible for the governing power on the one hand to respect, or on the other hand to ignore, the right of individuals to the free play of their individual powers, the exercise of their individual predilections, the leading of their individual lives according to their own notions of what is right or desirable. A monarch of enlightened and liberal mind will respect that right, and limit his encroachments upon it to the minimum required for the essential objects of reasonable government; so, too, will a democracy if it is of like temper and intelligence. But it is not so with Socialism. Numerous as are the varieties of Socialism, they all agree in being inherently antagonistic to individualism. It may be pleaded, in criticism of this assertion, that all government is opposed to individualism; that the difference in this respect between Socialism and other forms of civil organization is only one of degree; that we make a surrender of individuality, as well as of liberty, when we consent to live in any organized form of society. It is not worth while to dispute the point; the difference may, if one chooses, be regarded as only a difference of degree. But when a difference of degree goes to such a point that what is minor, incidental, exceptional in the one case, is paramount, essential, pervasive in the other, the difference is, for all the purposes of thinking, equivalent to a difference of kind.

No tears for Blair

"Britain's top policeman" Sir Ian Blair managed to annoy just about everyone save a few Ken Livingstone supporters, and a gaggle of special interest groups, so there won't be much mourning now that Boris Johnson has, in effect, forced him to resign:

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has announced his resignation after three years in the job.

He said London mayor Boris Johnson, who took over as chairman of the police authority on Wednesday, had told him he wanted a "change in leadership".

Sir Ian said that "without the mayor's backing I do not think I can continue in the job".
Blair was doomed, of course, from the moment he denied he was going to leave. Look at the two circled headlines in the screencap below (click to enlarge):

Pledges, petitions...

Another chance to have your views ignored:

The most senior judge in England and Wales has said that aspects of Islamic sharia law could be used in the UK, provided they don't conflict with existing laws. I say that Islamic sharia law should not be used in the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister should do everything within his power to stop it being introduced.
I signed. You have until October 4th to do the same.

Feel free to spread the word.

Embarassing agreement

Oh dear. I seem to agree with Justin McKeating about something.

"I will buy the Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones but only if 20 other freedom of speech supporters will do the same."
I signed. I'd have bought it anyway (haven't yet - I got a bit too clicky so the pledge pages suggests I have), but what the hell, a pledge is as good a way as any to show support for authors and publishers threatened by religious psychopaths.

Separated at birth?


British MP George Galloway




Turkish creationist Adnan Oktar

Quiz time

I noticed this at Normblog:

Charlie Gere (Director of the Institute for Cultural Research at Lancaster University) today claims that 'there is no such thing as free speech'.
So I played a little game. Before hovering over the link in the quotation, or clicking on it, try to guess which major British newspaper it leads to.

I guessed right.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Quote of the day

For instance, there is no factual basis for a broad scale conclusion about the sexual adequacy of Republican men.
From this pdf of a report by the ombudsman for CBC in Canada into complaints about an opinion piece published on Sept 5th. The ombudsman found that the author of this piece, Heather Mallick, did not have sufficient factual grounds for assertions such as "It’s possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are, really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she’s a woman."

Hilary Clinton might take a different view.

CBC's reaction is not one we can expect to see from the BBC in the near future:
As a public broadcaster we have an added responsibility to provide an array of opinions and voices to complement our journalism. But we must do so carefully. And you should be able to trust us to provide you with work that's based on solid reporting and free from the passionate excesses of partisanship.

We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to insure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It's a fine line.

Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, CBCNews.ca displays a very narrow range on its pages.

In this, Carlin is also correct.

This, too, is being immediately addressed. CBCNews.ca will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country.

Disseminating culture

A couple of weeks ago the Sunday Times revealed that Shari'a courts were operating in Britain under the auspices of the Arbitration Act 1996.

Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours.

It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.

[Faiz] Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of “smaller” criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them. “All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases,” said Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.
Siddiqi was interviewed in 1997 by the Tehran Times, when he was "visiting Iran to take part in ceremonies commemorating the eighth anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini." Siddiqi commented that "You cannot be a moderate Muslim. You are either a Muslim or not a Muslim." He then said this:
For every Pharaoh there will be a Moses. And for the Pharaoh of today, which is the United States, there will have to be a Moses. I believe the lame Imam Khomeini's views enlightened the world Muslims as to the way they should react to the arrogant powers. I think the American officials cannot understand the depth of the Islamic culture which the Islamic Republic of Iran aims to disseminate."
Last year, I reproduced a brief summary of the Islamic culture theat Iran is seeking to disseminate:
In the last three years, the rulers of Iran have:
- Stoned to death women and men accused of adultery
- Hanged a 16 year old girl,Atefah Sahaaleh, who had been sexually abused since childhood, for "crimes against chastity"
– Hanged two gay teenage boys, later alleging that they had committed rape
– Engaged in brutal persecution and ethnic cleansing of Iran's Ahwazi Arab minority
– Sponsored a conference in Tehran for anti-Semitic and racist Holocaust deniers from around the world
– Arrested and brutalised bus drivers,students, teachers and other workers trying to engage in trade union activity
– Violently broken up a demonstration by thousands of women in Tehran to mark International Womens' Day
– Arrested women for dressing "immodestly" and young people for holding rock concerts
– Imprisoned and tortured academics, journalists and webloggers and closed down reformist newspapers.
Siddiqi was perhaps unintentionally accurate when he referred to the "depth" of this culture.

At the time of the Sunday Times article, Matthew Sinclair commented:
Equality before the law is dead. We might step in if some troublesome soul won't take no for an answer but otherwise many Britons now live by a different legal code to the rest of us. Such an important principle didn't die because the British public stopped caring about it or were too apathetic to make their voices heard. They reacted with utter fury at the suggestion that Sharia should be admitted as a part of British law. I'm not aware of any party manifesto ever having proposed integrating Sharia into the British legal system or even of any significant politician endorsing the idea in public.

It just sort of happened. Just like the recognition of polygamous marriages or countless other surrenders of our values that the British people never endorsed. It came about thanks to a combination of a lack of proper scrutiny of laws, this clearly isn't what the Arbitration Act was intended for, and a feeble establishment desperate for the false sense of security that can be had by appeasing those demanding Sharia.

We need a democratic revival or Britain's most cherished values are at risk.
Yes, we do.

Who is going to lead it?