Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eyes watering...

Fox News:

Rebecca Arnold Dawson, 34, was charged with malicious castration in a fight early Tuesday at a party hosted by the 38-year-old man's girlfriend, police said.

Unfree speech

Via Tim Worstall, The Telegraph reports:

Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, yesterday announced he was to close the country's oldest television channel for being critical of his regime.
Earlier this year, Ken Livingstone wrote:
When it comes to the social transformation taking place in Venezuela, the political qualifications often necessary in our imperfect world can be set aside. It is crystal clear on which side right and justice lies. For many years people have demanded that social progress and democracy go hand in hand, and that is exactly what is now taking place in Venezuela.

It therefore deserves the unequivocal support of not only every supporter of social progress but every genuine believer in democracy in the world.
Yet, whatever else he might be, Livingstone is not naive. He went on to foreshadow this more recent announcement when he added:
... Chávez and his supporters have won 10 elections in eight years. These victories were achieved despite a private media largely controlled by opponents of the government.

Prophetless BBC

On yesterday's World at One BBC radio programme, they aired a report about the Haj pilgrimage during which neither the studio reporter nor the correspondent in Saudi Arabia called used the title "Prophet" when talking about Mohammed. New policy at the Beeb? I certainly hope so.

Friday, December 29, 2006

All he's got

There's a quote from the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven:

It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have.
It's also taking something away from their loved ones:
Najeeb al-Nueimi, a member of Saddam's legal team in Doha, Qatar, said he too requested a final meeting with the deposed Iraqi leader. "His daughter in Amman was crying, she said 'Take me with you,'" al-Nueimi said late Friday. But he said their request was rejected.
There's a woman who will never see her father again.

I think execution is the right end for Saddam, but let's not gloat about it. It's a brutal end to an horrific reign. May peace, eventually, come of it.

Saddam to be executed tonight

Yahoo reports:

The official witnesses to Saddam Hussein's impending execution gathered Friday in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in final preparation for his hanging, as state television broadcast footage of his regime's atrocities.

With U.S. forces on high alert for a surge in violence, the Iraqi government readied all the necessary documents, including a "red card" — an execution order introduced during Saddam's dictatorship. As the hour of his death approached, Saddam received two of his half brothers in his cell on Thursday and was said to have given them his personal belongings and a copy of his will.

No surrender

I have the gravest doubts about some forms of vivisection, and doubt it is ever acceptable even to keep great apes in captivity - except to ensure their survival - let alone experiment on them. But we must never give in to terrorism, so I applaud this:

The decision by the New York Stock Exchange to list a medical research company targeted by animal rights protestors on a new electronic market where shares can be traded anonymously is being hailed as a victory by animal researchers.

Life Sciences Research, Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based medical research firm that specializes in animal experiments announced just before Christmas that it had settled a dispute with the NYSE, and would be listed on the exchange's new all-electronic trading platform called Arca.

"We're thrilled," the company's Chief Financial Officer Richard Michaelson told United Press International. "It is a totally anonymous trading environment," he said of the new electronic exchange. "In our situation that is a big advantage."

Life Sciences Research, Inc., is the parent of U.K.-based Huntingdon Life Sciences, and has been targeted on both sides of the Atlantic by animal rights activists organized under the name Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC.

As an aside, it seems to me that while we applaud ourselves as a species for being the only one to develop sophisticated language and a mechanical culture, we might be misinterpreting the evidence. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are the first species, on this particular planet, to do so.

It might also be a measure of our worth, as a species, whether or not we allow any other species to exist in competition with us for long enough to follow our example.

One fewer

Via the always superb Butterflies and Wheels, Sam Harris writing about myths and thruths about atheism quotes historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71):

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."


Day One

From here:

By September 1973 some British left-wing radicals, trade unionists, Irish people living in Britain and many other ordinary people had managed to see something of the truth of what was happening in the North of Ireland through the fog of British Government propaganda.

They were appalled at what they were seeing and they came together in London to form the Troops Out Movement.
But the troops didn't leave. After a painful peace process, broken ceasefires, low-level paramilitary violence but the best part of a decade of peace and the complete avoidance of the sort of bloody civil war Ireland has seen in its past, The Times today reports:
A final peace deal in Northern Ireland seemed to be a step nearer last night as the Sinn Fein leadership prepared to sign up to the police and court systems.

Day Two

From here:
The Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC) is a national grassroots coalition of antiwar activists, trade unionists, solidarity activists and community organizers.

TONC activists first assembled in New York City for a December 3, 2004 National Strategy Meeting and issued a call for a day of protest on March 19, the second anniversary of the beginning of the war.
Christopher Hitchens reports, in the latest Slate:
The idea that we could even consider abandoning such a keystone state, and so many decent people, to the forces of the faith-based is as inhumane as it is unrealistic.

Day Three

There will be a Day Three. These bastards never give up.

That's Right

After mulling over the Indymedia /David Duke tryst I mentioned yesterday, try this nugget from the Libertas site:

In reality, like most young men, gay or not, Porter was certainly not opposed to one night stands, but throughout his life he would also have two (maybe three) monogomous years-long relationships with men. Men he truly loved. Whereas the film portrays him as no better than an animal prowling for sex, in reality much of his life was spent searching for the one true love he felt would complete him.
That's Libertas - the Liberty Film Festival blog. The right wing, conservative film festival blogsite.

One commentator said:
I constantly hear leading conservatives being homophobic, when I know many conservatives who are personally very tolerant and open-minded about homosexuality. Thanks for being a traditional conservative and reminding us all that “freedom” is still a core American value.
With the conflict between authoritarianism and libertarianism clouding what once seemed a clear distinction between left and right, this might seem almost a historical note, but the conflation between left wing and good, and conversely right wing and bad, still infects media organisations like the B.B.C.

That set of conflations was always propaganda rather than analysis, but if you're going to propagandise you need a nugget of truth and as every year passes it seem more likely that the opposite to the conventional wisdom is more reasonable.

So farewell then

Saddam Hussein will doubtless be executed in the next day or so; rumours of his death (worth a read even if this rumour is wrong) have already appeared. I don't agree with the death penalty as a rule but situations like Nuremburg and this are exceptions. There is no doubt of guilt, and at stake is the removal of a rallying point for dissidents in a country trying to achieve stabilisation.

Iraq The Model describes the situation in Baghdad:

US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed on the streets.

We're hearing and reading more confirmations that US military has already turned Saddam in to the Iraqi authorities and I don't think the government is willing, or able, to keep him in custody for too long.
Rumors are spreading fast through phones and text messages in Baghdad, mostly saying that curfew will be imposed in the city tomorrow. No word about that from state TV though.

Friends and relatives are calling me asking me whether he's been already executed, some are claiming he already has.
Meanwhile lots of updates are coming through news TV here; al-Arabiya reporter said the noose is already set in a yard in the IZ. Al-Hurra reported that preparations for the execution are underway and no delay is expected.
Two blogs cited there... and not a mainstream media report worth linking to yet. Breaking news happens best in the 'sphere.

An emollient priest

Criticising Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury is difficult; it's like squeezing a handful of porridge.

When asked whether he thought creationism should be taught, he replied:

"I don't think it should, actually. No, no. And that's different from saying – different from discussing, teaching about what creation means. For that matter, it's not even the same as saying that Darwinism is – is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."
So you shouldn't teach creationism, but you should teach "what creation means", which assumes a creation and is therefore creationist.

Darwinism isn't the only thing that should be taught but, apart from creationism, what are the alternatives?

And then there is that final sentence... creationism is, of course, synonymous with the doctrine of creation. We can rework this sentence as follows:
My worry is [that] the doctrine of creation can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it.
It is almost demeaning to try to mine meaning from waffle of this, almost epic, proportion. It must be emphasised that this is not subtlety, it is waffle. There are no shades of meaning here, just an inability to move to the conclusions of ones own opinions in an honest and open way.

This morning, Williams was a guest editor on Radio 4's Today programme:
He asked the programme's producers to look at issues around the morality of possessing Trident missiles, credit and finance for the very poor, the phenomena of 'invisible homelessness', the environment, the contribution of Christian values in public life, Christianity in the Middel East[sic] and the challenges to a happy and balanced childhood posed by the modern world. He also asked the presenters to choose sound and music which helped them slow down, as an antidote to the hectic pace of modern life.
On Trident missiles, the Archbish. had this to say:
I’ve never been convinced that the threat of using a nuclear weapon is totally different from the actual use – you imagine what would be involved in the mass slaughter of the innocent, you plan for what would be involved in the mass slaughter of the innocent: I think there are moral problems with that
On the face of it, this was a thoughtful thing to say; planning for the use of nuclear weapons involves a descent into imaginative depths of great horror. On closer inspection, though, it is less impressive. In a world where a number of countries have nuclear weapons, a failure to plan for their use, even on the part of those who do not possess them, would be a moral outrage.

But this explanation is not intended to withstand scrutiny, it is camouflage. What we remember about this passage is not the subsequent gloss, but rather the initial equivalence between those who use nuclear weapons and those who seek to avoid their use through deterrence. To make that, entirely unwarranted, equivalence and then equivocate in a way designed to throw a veil over its weaknesses is the act of a moral degenerate.

Speaking of veils, we were treated to the following exchange between Ed Stourton (ES), the presenter and Williams (ABC):
ES ... the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Rochester; both of them on the question of the veil have said that they think it’s inappropriate in this country, that it’s not part of the Christian culture here

ABC It’s clearly not part of the Christian culture here

ES They’ve said it’s actually in conflict with it in some way or suggested that.

ABC Well I don’t know, I’ve not sensed any great disagreement about this between myself and my colleagues; I think they’re flagging up a concern about what I'm tempted to call a rather ‘empty-headed’ multiculturalism which doesn’t know where to put itself, which has no centre to it. I'm saying that I think a Christian-based, historically Christian society can cope with that and needn’t panic with the visible signs of other faith commitments.

ES I don’t want to create disagreement where there isn’t one, but you have said something different, haven’t you, because you’ve said that we should all be free to wear religious symbols whether it’s a cross or a niqab, and they’ve said that there are some things, in some circumstances when you shouldn’t do.

ABC I haven’t heard my colleagues say there ought to be legislation against niqabs …

ES No, but that’s not quite the same thing is it? yhey’ve (sic) merely said that the

ABC There are contexts and I’ve said this where I think a niqab may not be appropriate and the school teaching one is a very difficult one and I think you have to judge it on common sense and the interests of the children involved.

ES So there are some circumstances where …

ABC … there are circumstances where you might say, yes, negotiate, negotiate,

ES But, just to be clear about this, you think there are circumstances where the veil might not be appropriate for someone to wear?

ABC I think that in the instance that was discussed a few months ago with the niqab in primary school, there was an argument to be had and I don’t know the details of what happened in that particular school, but you would need to establish that the interests of children were not affected by someone else’s liberty to wear the niqab.
Clear? By "there was an argument to be had", Williams must mean that the answer to the very plainly stated final question in that exchange is "yes". But he cannot bring himself to give an honest answer, withdrawing instead into the equivocations of an intellectual coward.

On the Iraq War:
It has, yes; I said before the war began that I had grave reservations about the morality of it, and as I’ve said recently, I haven’t really been convinced that that case was fully made, and that’s not to impugn the actual notice of people making those decisions – I’m wholly prepared to believe that those who made the decisions made them in good faith, but I think those decisions were flawed and I think the moral and the practical flaws have emerged as time’s gone on. I’m painfully and [aware?] they’ve put our own troops increasingly at risk in ways that I find deeply disturbing, as someone with friends in the military as many people must have, family members.
I highlighted one statement in bold. What does it mean? In what ways has the government put troops increasingly at risk? What is it about those ways that are disturbing? This is drivel.

Williams then hinted he might take a more active part in anti-war activities:
I can’t easily balance for myself the pros and cons of thinking, well, putting yourself at the head of a popular movement and resisting and that might be effective or that just becomes words, that just becomes noise. I said what I believed I needed to say; I shall need to think quite a long time about whether I ought to have said more or less for that matter
Everything this man says is, in fact, just noise. It's a sort of sanctimonious form of white noise, droning constantly, meaning nothing. There is nothing to fear, or favour, in his words because they are too muddled and confused.

But there is a great deal of capital to be made by the Stop the War fascistic alliance from the more prominent involvement of so eminent an Anglican priest. I suppose Williams is trying to be emollient when he speaks; he does, after all, lead such a broad church that it seems in danger of splitting across the middle. Trying to be all things to all men comes with the territory, doomed as it is as a strategy.

But in this matter of war, the options are not so simple. If he is not careful, The Archbishop will find himself seated next to the former Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

At least their robes will match.

Don't blame me

I didn't vote for them.

The Times:

The Government was plunged into deepening crisis over NHS cuts last night after it emerged that three Cabinet ministers and four Labour MPs have joined local campaigns against hospital closures in their own constituencies.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, Hazel Blears, the Labour Party chairman, and Jacqui Smith, the Labour Chief Whip, were accused of hypocrisy by opposition MPs, health campaigners and unions for supporting government policies in Whitehall but protesting against their effects in their constituencies. They variously joined street demonstrations, handed in petitions or lobbied health ministers to stop NHS closures affecting the people who elected them.

The Journal of Obvious Research

Consultant radiologist Brian Witcombe has discovered that:

... sword-swallowers are prone to suffering from sore throats.

However, practitioners of the art can suffer more serious injuries such as perforated intestines, internal bleeding and even major haemorrhages.

James (R.I.P.) was right

It's a man's, man's man's world.

Barely five years after the first reports that ingesting semen is a cure for female depression, we learn that housework can help to beat breast cancer.

Unknown unknowns

If you don't know about the Lebanese ambulance fraud, when it was alleged Israeli missiles hit two vehicles dead centre and... made neat little holes just like the ones cut out to mount the flashing lights, then read this. And this, and this.

Of course, if you do know all about this, and haven't seen the follow-ups to Human Rights Watch's in depth report, read them too.

Thus, in order to explain the physical evidence, HRW proposes the theory that one of three types of Israeli weapons caused the damage seen in the photographs:

- A Spike anti-armor missile; or
- A DIME (dense inert metal explosive) missile; or
- An as-yet unidentified mystery missile of unknown type.

Even a cursory examination shows that none of these options matches the evidence, and that HRW was misinformed as to the nature of the Spike and DIME missiles that they say must have caused the damage. Nor could any type of mystery missile explain the forensic evidence, as discussed below.
These fiendish Israelis and their mystery missiles of unknown type...

Via lgf

Left, er... right... that is, left... er...

Melbourne Indymedia is a:

website produced by grassroots media makers offering non-corporate coverage of struggles, actions and celebrations. Everyone is a witness. Everyone is a journalist.
It's part of the progressive left, offering the following feature sections:
climate change
global news
civil liberties
social movements
It also prohibits:
Posts which use language, imagery, or other forms of communication to promote racism, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism etc., or any other form of discrimination.
But as a part of the Stop The War progressive left/ radical Islamist alliance it is entirely natural for them to publich a piece by... David Duke, fresh back from the Iranian Holocaust conference where he said gas chambers were not used to kill Jews, and added:
"The Zionists have used the Holocaust as a weapon to deny the rights of the Palestinians and cover up the crimes of Israel," Duke told a gathering of nearly 70 "researchers" in Tehran at Ahmadinejad's invitation.

"This conference has an incredible impact on Holocaust studies all over the world," said Duke, a former state representative in Louisiana who twice ran for president.

"The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder," Duke told The Associated Press.
It would be wrong to suggest that Duke, who founded the White Youth Alliance in 1970 and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1974, is a racist, though:
Duke is a self-styled "white nationalist," and he is commonly referred to as a white supremacist. He says he does [not - this is Wikipedia error] think of himself as a racist, however, stating that he is a "racial realist" and that he believes that "all people have a basic human right to preserve their own heritage." He speaks against racial integration and in favor of white separatism
So I guess he doesn't break any Indymedia guidelines. And his non-racist, progressive thoughts for the festive season?
Should Christians Support Israel?
by Dr. David Duke • Friday December 29, 2006 at 02:22 AM

This broadcast is dedicated and directed to my Christian listeners. May we not let “Fear of the Jews” prevent us from doing what’s right -- dd
(yes, you can download them as a podcast, and share them with guests over afternoon tea)
Recently, I have been shocked and appalled by the unqualified support by some Christian televangelists for the most anti-Christian religion on the face of the earth, Judaism. They also support the corrupt, Jewish supremacist, anti-Christian Israeli state. I know that some of you reading this may respond by saying that Islam is really the most anti-Christian religion and that Judaism is a friendly faith. Many mistakenly think that Judaism is a sister religion to Christianity. The term “Judeo-Christian” has entered our modern lexicon to the point where no politician, George Bush on down, would dare even invoke the term “Christian heritage” without adding the prefix, “Judeo” to it. The term “Judeo-Christian” didn’t even come into existence until after the Second World War when Jews became supreme in their influence over major media.

The truth is that there is no such thing as Judeo-Christianity. That would be like saying Satanic-Christianity. The religion now called Judaism did not even come formally into existence until six hundred years after Jesus Christ. It began with the codification of the Babylonian Talmud. In Judaism, the Talmud is the supreme scripture, not the Old Testament. Only Satanism can rival Judaism’s vicious hatred for Jesus Christ. The Talmud even claims that Jesus Christ is being punished in hell by “being boiled in hot semen!”
Another mince pie, vicar?

Via the Infidel Bloggers.

No kidding?

National Geographic:

Small Nuclear War Would Devastate Global Climate, Scientists Warn

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Up, not down

Forward, not backward.

In, not out.

Words, not actions.

New Labour rhetoric:

Soon after the 7/7 bombings in London, Tony Blair announced that, as part of the fight against terrorism, he would seek the banning of the group. Furthermore,

'On a trip to Pakistan last month, he is understood to have given personal assurances to President Pervez Musharraf that the ban would go ahead. Musharraf made clear to him that outlawing the group - banned in Pakistan since 2003 - must be a priority for Britain.'

Well, President Musharraf can go whistle for that ban. After "intense discussions" between Number 10 and legal experts it was decided not to ban the group. Our counter-terrorism experts, who spent the past 15 years turning this country into "Londonistan" have, once again brought their moderation into play:

'Despite public concerns about Hizb ut-Tahrir's perceived extremism, Home Office lawyers, the Foreign Office and representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers have quietly lobbied against outlawing the group and have, for now, won the argument.

"If there was evidence for proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir, we would support a move to proscribe it," said Rob Beckley, Acpo lead for communities and counter-terrorism. "But we think such a move would be counter-productive and not in the spirit of the government's [anti-terrorism] legislation. It is not an offence to hold extreme views."'

Butcher, Baker...

Let's involve Iran in Iraq, eh?

Iran is financing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel through Lebanon's Hezbollah, Israeli intelligence officials say.

Ha'artez, quoting sources with Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency, reported Thursday the money is being smuggled to Palestinian groups through Lebanon and Syria in a cash-for-attack scheme.

"We know Hezbollah is involved in funding terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip and West Bank," an unidentified Sin Bet official was quoted as saying.

"Palestinian terrorists get thousands of dollars per attack. Sometimes they are paid before the attack and sometimes they submit a bill to Lebanon and the money gets transferred a short while later."

According to intelligence officials, Islamic Jihad receives the money from Hezbollah through its headquarters in the Syrian capital. Fatha's Tanzim group and the so-called Popular Resistance Committees get payments through Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The money, the report said, all originates from Iran, which is the major financial backer of Hezbollah, which in addition to its military wing that fought Israel last summer has a number of legislators in the Lebanese parliament.

Too late for a ceasefire

But in time to save lives:

MANILA, Philippines, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Philippine military, with help from U.S. forensic experts, are examining skeletal remains that may be those of terrorist leader Khadaffy Janjalani.

Janjalani is head of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an Islamist organization in the southern Philippines believed connect with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida.

People in masks rob jewelers' shops shock

In India:

PUNE, India — Muslim women wearing the head-to-toe Islamic robe, or burqa, could be banned from shopping at jewelry stores in this western Indian city after a series of thefts carried out by burqa-clad robbers, jewelers said Thursday.

Did I turn over too many pages in my calendar?

A group called Academics For Academic Freedom (ACAF) has been formed to campaign for:

Academic freedom - the responsibility to speak your mind and challenge conventional wisdom - defines the university and stands as a model for open debate in wider society.

In today’s political climate it is harder than ever for academics to defend open debate.
Their statement reads:
Statement of Academic Freedom

'We, the undersigned, believe the following two principles to be the foundation of academic freedom:

(1) that academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive, and

(2) that academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.'
Let me check that calendar. Yes, it says "2006". Soon to be 2007. The twenty first century. Not the twelfth century. I did get that right. I thought my eyes were playing me up for a moment.

That's a relief.

Effective ceasefire

In sequence, earlier today the Times reported that

Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies were closing on Mogadishu last night after seizing several strategic towns from the Islamic militias who once threatened to overrun the country
Two bullet points headed this piece:
# Troops prepare for Mogadishu siege
# Rebel leader calls for new peace talks
I'll bet he did.

Preparing for a siege, though. Another Stalingrad?

Somali government forces, supported by Ethiopian soldiers, entered Mogadishu unopposed today after the leaders of Islamist militias that have controlled the city since June fled last night.
Undaunted, the Times then ran a piece of analysis:
Rob Crilly, who has been covering the conflict in Somalia for The Times, says the Government's swift defeat of the Islamist militias, with the help of Ethiopia, suggests nothing more than a return to the political vacuum that has endangered the country for 15 years:
So, the story so far:

  • Government troops with their Ethiopian allies advance on Mogadishu

  • It's going to be a seige

  • Ah... it wasn't

  • But! But! It hasn't achieved anything

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council had sprung into decisive action:
For two late afternoons and early evenings the panel of 15-failed to reach an accord on how handle the situation, or even make a statement about it.

It was left to outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appeal Wednesday night to Somalia's neighbors to stay out of the spiraling violence in the country
"It is essential that neighboring governments stay out of this," said Annan, who had spoken to Ethiopia's president on the issue.
"The council is in genuine debate," he said...
Luckily, Ethiopia has adjourned the debate for the moment:
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi vowed not to give up the fight until extremists and foreign fighters supporting the Islamic movement had been crushed.

"We need to pursue them to make sure that they do not establish themselves again and destabilize Somalia and the region," he said, predicting it would take a few weeks longer.

Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, he added that between 2,000 and 3,000 Islamic militia had been killed and 4,000 to 5,000 wounded.

Ethiopia suffered a few hundred casualties, Meles told reporters.

The Islamic forces, who had threatened to defend the capital to the last man, retreated toward the southern port of Kismayo.

Islamic fighters have gone door to door in Kismayo, recruiting children as young as 12 to make a last stand on behalf of the Islamic courts, according to a confidential U.N. situation report, citing the families of boys taken to the front line town of Jilib, 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of Kismayo.

Residents told the AP that Islamic leader Hassan Dahir Aweys had arrived in Jilib with hundreds of fighters aboard 45 pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

The Islamic movement took Mogadishu six months ago and then advanced across most of southern Somalia, often without fighting. Then Ethiopian troops and fighter aircraft went on the attack in support of the government last week.
But for how long? How long until international pressure forces them to pull back and allow the Islamists to regroup, re-arm and resume the hostilities? The correct course of action for the international community would, of course, be to encourage the pursuit of the Islamists by Ethiopians so that the matter is brought to a speedy conclusion. This is the way of lesser bloodshed, and it is the way to develop a base of stability.

But, as happened when the Israeli military pursued Hezbollah terrorists into Lebanon earlier this year, pressure will be brought - is already being brought by Annan - to bring hostilities to a temporary close. This is the way to cultivate violence, to let it fester and recur for decades, and the U.N. has honed it to an art form.

There is only one really effective sort of ceasefire. It's called victory.

Could it be

a good omen?

It takes an Australian

to point out that, on the one hand:

Ken Livingstone is planning a “massive festival” across London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution.
and on the other::
The 300th birthday of Great Britain is to pass next year without any major celebrations.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Liberal Message

J0nz points out the new Channel 4 Christmas message.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Innocent, but ruined

On Tuesday, while the mainstream media were picking over the life of Tom Stephens, a suspect in the Suffolk serial killings, I wrote:

But there's another echo too, that of Colin Stagg, who fitted the profile of a murderer so well that the police brought an absurdly constructed case against him for a crime that now seems likely to have been committed by a man already held in Broadmoor secure unit.
Now we read that another man has been charged with these murders and Stephens has been released on police bail, which suggests he is not a serious suspect any more.

It seems probable now that Stephens is not the culprit, and like Colin Stagg has had the details of his self-described "sad" life paraded before the world.

Those maliciously accused of rape suffer similar consequences routinely. It's time the identities of suspects remained anonymous at least until they are charged but preferably until they are convicted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why it was right

From The People's Daily:

U.S.-led coalition forces handed over security control of Najaf province to Iraqi forces on Wednesday in third such transfer of an entire province.

"It is a major step forward in improving security and strengthening the authority of the government," U.S. Major General Kurt Cichowski, who oversaw the transfer of authority, told a gathering of political and religious leaders in the Najaf Stadium south of Baghdad.

"Coalition forces will continue to provide support if called upon," Cichowski said.

"Today marks a historic event for the great country of Iraq," U. S. commander Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said.

The Iraqi national advisor Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told the ceremony "in a few days we shall see a transfer of security in three other provinces in northern Kurdistan."
Democracy and autonomy, at a high price.

Letter from God

I like The Big Pharoah:


To: Grand Imam Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar

From: God

Dear worshiper Mohamed Tantawi,
My angel Gabriel brought me the latest issue of Sout el Azhar. I held it up and my jaws literally dropped when my eyes fell on the main red headline (see below). My jaws dropped Tantawi. You managed to drop the jaws of Allah. Congratulations!

"The Grand Imam: the hijab of the Muslim woman is a divine obligation. She who fails in implementing it will be penalized by God," the paper's main headline read.

You know Tantawi, two things I really hate: sin and people putting words in my mouth. You just did the former. You didn't just put words in my mouth, but you've turned me into something which I'm not.

The lunatic orthodox Jewish settler who lives in the West Bank and used to live in Gaza turned me into a foolish god who keeps on making Palestinians yet denies them any piece of land to live on. The Coptic Christian turned me into someone who's in a blood feud with divorced people and this poor Christian lady who has to wait till her husband sleeps with another woman in order to get a divorce and escape his abuse. Osama Bin Laden turned me into a mass murderer. And you just turned me into a cruel nutbag. A cruel nutbag who punishes girls and women for not covering their hair.

Shopping bagged

From The Telegraph:

A dangerous criminal being chased by 21 police officers through a busy town centre was halted in his tracks by three middle-aged women who used their Christmas shopping bags as weapons.

We are not all Hezbollah

There's a change happening in the Arab world. I've seen several examples this week, but here's one that sums it up:

Last week we were discussing events in Lebanon and by default my friend was on Nasrallah's side. I thoroughly explained the full dimension of what's happening in Lebanon. Today I met the guy and was greeted by a very nice surprise.

"You know, I supported Hezbollah when they were fighting Israel," he said. "But now, I am not sure. I mean Nasrallah is fighting against fellow Lebanese, fighting against an elected government. He's destroying Lebanon. I think Nasrallah is very selfish. I'm now against him."

"Good. Just don't forget to throw away the Nasrallah picture you have in your room," I said.


UKIP is emerging as a genuinely libertarian force with a party leader who makes me want to cheer when I watch him skewer the EU in the Brussels Parliament. But in the domestic political arena, they have the potential to set back the Eurosceptic cause. As John Redwood remarks:

Sensible Eurosceptics will understand that we can achieve nothing in sorting out the relationship between London and Brussels unless we have a majority in the House of Commons. The hard facts of political arithmetic are very simple. UKIP is not about to win seats at Westminster. All it does is aid and abet the federalist cause by opposing good Eurosceptic Conservatives. If it really wished to be positive, it could use its base and support to help Eurosceptic Conservative candidates and to put its best and fiercest critics of this Government’s federalism into opposing high profile Labour and Lib Dem figures in seats they currently hold with a big majority.

Redwood's blog

John Redwood's blog offers his list of waste saving measures:

I am sure many of you must have good examples of how public money is being wasted both locally and nationally, and maybe you could share them with me. My own target list of waste and undesirable public spending includes:

* The national identity computer and ID cards
* All unelected regional government
* The excessive use of consultants throughout local and national government
* The overbloated ranks of advisers and spin doctors clustered around Ministers
* The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, who now enjoys an expensive office with few real functions..

What’s on yours?

David Irving's release

has been announced. Good. The criminalisation of Holocaust denial is destructive and tyrannical, used to justify erosions of liberty such as the Incitement to Religious Hatred Act in Britain and the Holocaust denial conference in Iran. The sooner these laws are repealed, the better.

Age of Empires

Via Iain Dale, this must-watch animated history of middle eastern empires.

Clarification needed


A Somali asylum seeker wanted for the murder of WPc Sharon Beshenivsky is believed to have fled Britain dressed as a woman wearing a Muslim niqab, which covers the whole face apart from the eyes.
We learn that
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said it “beggars belief” that a wanted criminal could leave the country hidden behind a veil.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme there were existing powers for people wearing veils to be searched and urged the Government to issue “urgent clarification” on whether immigration or airport officials should carry out the check.

He added that asylum seekers like Jama, who had been convicted of crimes but not be deported, should be subject to “much stricter surveillance”.

“He was left to his own devices and of course the consequences were tragic for Sharon Beshenivsky.”
Indeed they were. But it is hard to imagine a more feeble response than to call for "urgent clarification". Nobody should be allowed to board an airplane wearing a mask of any kind, or enter a bank, or teach in a school.

It seems that:
Mustaf Jama, 26, was allowed to stay in Britain despite serving four jail terms in six years after arriving with his family on a false passport.

His first criminal conviction was in 1998. In August 2000 he was allowed to stay in the UK for seven years.

He was dealt with by the courts on 11 occasions for 21 matters including two firearms and weapons offences, theft and offences against the person. Home Office officials decided not to deport him to Somalia, ruling that it was too dangerous for him.

Intelligence sources suggest he stole his sister's passport and slipped though the net at Heathrow between Christmas and New Year.

He is thought to be hiding in Somalia...

Stop making sense

From The Telegraph in Australia, an Al Gore quote:

We are altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe.
UPDATE - I can't resist adding this one. from the same collection of quotes:
"Gender inequalities will likely worsen with climate change." – page 23, chapter four of the Stern Report

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Care in the community

Kimo was like a Hollywood version of a Vietnam Vet, except he was real. During lunchbreaks, he'd sit sharpening his hunting knife, talking to no one. While he worked, the knife was in his belt, and a gun was in his boot, a .38 revolver. Under the seat in his truck was a .44 magnum he'd had bored out to take .45 rifle bullets. Behind the front seats, a gun rack held a couple of shotguns and a hunting rifle, and in the back was a case of dynamite. When the salmon factory ran out of money and nobody knew who was going to be paid, Kimo put the dynamite somewhere in the plant and told the foreman that he'd be one of the lucky ones. But that was later.

Kimo wasn't very sociable, but most of the workers there were students from the "lower 48", earning cash during the summer break of 1981 - people like Danny, a heavy-set party animal from Syracuse who specialised in Three Stooges impersonations and planned to be a doctor because that was where the money was. He drove an old camper van and one evening we were all stopped by State Troopers because he was driving too slowly - practically at walking pace. Colombian grass and Wild Turkey had made him the safest driver in Alaska that evening, but he still spent the night in the drunk tank.

The salmon factory was a couple of miles outside the town of Kenai, south of Anchorage. Nearby, a tent city had sprung up, as it did every summer, in the shadow of the woods. On warm evenings we'd light bonfires and watch the sun go down behind the mountains across the Cook Inlet. Guitars would be played, joints lit, cases of beer unloaded from a car sent into town for these vital supplies. If people had planned ahead, they'd bake potatoes in the embers of the fires, and roast hot dogs in the flames. Most hadn't.

But Nelson always had. He'd roast his hot dogs, and unwrap the foil from his potatoes with a smile, watching out of the corner of his eye to see who'd noticed. Tall, heavily built and immensely strong, somewhere in his mid-twenties, Nelson worked loading cases of king crabs onto trucks on Kodiak Island in the winters, and loading cases of frozen salmon onto trucks in Kenai in the summers. It's hard to estimate these things meaningfully, but I'd guess his mental age was somewhere around ten.

When I first started work there, he heard me speak and knew my accent was strange. During lunch, he asked where I was from. I said London, England - which was close enough. I thought he'd have heard of it. He had, sort of. How long would it take to drive there, he asked.

There was a sort of watchfulness in the canteen. Nobody stopped talking, but the conversations had shifted down a gear. Kimo's knife sharpening had grown slower, more deliberate. He studied the blade for a moment, then resumed. Nobody knew me and nobody had anything against me, but people were generally protective of Nelson. If I'd started mocking him, or in any way tried to take advantage of his slowness, I'd have found myself facing everyone in the plant, from the foreman, through Kimo, to the preppiest college student. That's how it was.

I've only ever encountered something like this once before. On the Isle of Skye in 1976 I was with some people waiting in a pub for the ferry. It was a wait of a couple of hours, and we were being introduced to Talisker, the local malt. A Down's syndrome teenager was also in the pub, vastly friendly, unaware of his own strength, laughing, curious as a kitten and every much a part of the community as the barman who was trying to blind-test us on the different strengths of the whisky.

We don't have village idiots anymore. That probably has less to do with inbreeding than is commonly thought. There are still lots of mentally disabled people about. Or rather, not about. The point about village idiots was that they were in the village, like Nelson, like the Down's kid on Skye.

Care in the community was:

... a policy of the Margaret Thatcher government in the 1980s. Its aim was a more liberal way of helping people with mental health problems, by removing them from impersonal, often Victorian, institutions, and caring for them in their own homes. Also, better drugs became available and this meant that patients could be treated at home. It was also meant to reduce the cost of institutionalizing so many mentally ill people.
I visited one of those Victorian asylums once, in the early '80s. Shaven-headed people in pyjamas wandered, confused, through endless shabby corridors painted bile-vomit institutional green. It was a nightmarish place.

This image is from the BBC's website entry announcing the end of the care in the Community programme:
The Junior Health Minister, Paul Boateng, is supervising the review of mental health care.

"There will be no return to the grim Victorian asylums. But the old mantra, `community good, hospital bad' is dead," he said.
There had been several high profile murders committed by mental patients. But Nelson wasn't schizophrenic. He wasn't a danger to anyone. I don't see any Nelsons in the towns of England.

There is a Mencap estate near Cambridge where Down's syndrome people live a supervised life in neat new houses. But a ghetto isn't the community. Right now, I'm not sure what is. Migrant workers in a tent city do form a strong community. So do settled and stable populations like Skye in the 1970s. But we're falling between those two stools in English society today. The word "community" is used almost fetishistically, but it has come to mean its opposite - a faction, a ghetto, a splintering of the community which actually needs to comprise us all if it is to be meaningful.

Calling people carers doesn't mean they care. The bird-light nonagenarian mother of one of my friends was left sitting, day after day, in her own waste at home because people with the job title "carer" didn't want to risk hurting their backs if they lifted her.

Nelson didn't need any care at all, in the sense of state intervention; he was completely independent. But he did need to be in a community where people cared. In this country, we don't. Disabled people, especially the mentally diabled, make us feel uncomfortable. They're "raspberries" (raspberry ripple = cripple). And when you really don't give a damn, you get the state to take them away and you dress it all up in deceitful, sanctimonious language.

The flaw with the Care in the Community programme, above all else, was that we don't have a community, and we don't care.

Weather God

Freezing fog all night and then all day... Could it be?

Is The Big Guy in town?

Religious equality in Egypt

The Big Pharoah reports:

Imagine you went to Wall Street to buy a number of stocks. You bought a few shares in a certain bank. When you arrived home, you received a phone call from a Wall Street official informing you that the stocks you bought were nullified because you're a Jew or a Muslim or whatever. You ask the official what does your religion has to do with the stocks you bought. "The bank rules state that only Christians can purchase its stocks," the official answers.

The above might never happen in Wall Street, but here, where modern civilized inventions such as the stock market get coupled with medieval principles, anything can happen. That's exactly what happened to a group of Egyptian Christian investors who bought shares in Faisal Islamic Bank. The Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchange canceled their stocks because the bank allows only Muslim to purchase its stocks.

Crushed to death, Praise Be!

From the CentCom (U.S. Central Command) Press agency I learn that a jihadist website has posted details of "operations" carried out by the Ansar al-Sunnah Group:

On Tuesday, 12 December [ 2006], your brave brothers, the mujahidin of Mosul, crushed a policeman at the command post on Al-Jisr al-Khamis in Mosul. This took place when he asked them to stop as they left after planting an explosive and crushed him and went through the command post safely. Praise and gratitude be to God.

At 0930 on Wednesday, 13 December [ 2006], your brothers in jihadist Mosul killed a member of the apostate police by setting an ambush for him in Al-Wihdah quarter on the left side [as published] of Mosul. He was shot to death. Praise and gratitude be to God.

Enforced cruelty

I don't eat intensively farmed meat, specifically factory farmed pork or chicken, because while I don't mind killing an animal humanely for food, I don't want it to have been ill-treated while alive. We all die, it's how we live that counts.

I won't eat anything that's been tortured to death, either, so I don't eat frogs legs - the legs get cut off living frogs and the torsos are discarded to die. I won't eat kosher or halal meat for the same reason. Slow death is not humane, and the animals know they are being killed.

I'm particularly concerned that a curious looseness seems to have attched itself to halal slaughter. When I dealt in meats, a lorry driver once told me how he had driven up and down a suburban street looking for the halal slaughterhouse, and eventually knocked on the door of a semi-detached house to ask directions. The directions were: down the hall into a rear room that had been lined with tiles with a drain in the centre of the floor. Sheep were herded along the corridor into this room, where they screamed and jostled as they tried to escape the knife-wielding man who was making his way among them. The driver, a veteran of slaughterhouse deliveries, was sickened.

That's why this report from the Daily Mail is so disturbing:

Halal meat is being served to pupils in state schools without their knowledge, even if they believe the religious slaughter is cruel.

Parents have reacted furiously after being sent letters telling them their children's school dinners have been all-halal for 'some time'.
The meat was introduced at four schools in the Reading area with a high proportion of Muslim pupils. But parents of non-Muslim pupils - between 20 and 50 per cent of the schools' roll -say they were not consulted.
Last month, a head teacher in Rotherham caused an outcry when she said she intended to replace traditional turkey with halal chicken to create an 'integrated Christmas'. Jan Charters, head of Oakwood School, backed down after complaints by MPs.

A spokesperson for Reading Borough Council said: "The decision was taken several years ago. Schools thought it was the appropriate choice for their multi-cultural community. We are increasing options at the four schools by offering fish each day."
Earlier this year, an RSPCA pamphlet stated: "Muslim communities in the UK should review their slaughter practices. Research demonstrates that slaughter of any animal without stunning can cause unnecessary suffering."

Altered states

Melanie Phillips writes:

One of the most striking things about the Ipswich prostitutes was that drug addiction — as often as not starting with cannabis— led them straight into the trade that in turn led them to their terrible end.

This has caused some to conclude that both illegal drugs and the prostitution trade should be legalised. Quite apart from the fact that prostitution itself is legal, this is based on the utterly misguided belief that if sordid and destructive illegal activities are legalised and regulated, the damage they do will be minimised.
No, that's not the argument made by proponents of legalisation; it is generally along the lines that when consensual activities between adults are prohibited, more harm than good is done.

She goes on:
The idea that legalising drugs would get rid of crime is simply risible. Legal drugs would always be undercut — both by lower prices and higher strengths — by a black market.
This is impressively stupid. The only valid comparisons here are alcohol and tobacco and both exist on the black market in Britain purely because they are available cheaper twenty miles away from Dover, across the channel in vast warehouses in France. There is no black market in illegally made booze or fags - though prohibition would ensure that this developed.

Beyond irony

David T, of Harry's Place, has shown how the "progressive" left can be beyond parody and oblivious to irony. David went into a blog run by an "anti-imperialist" called Chris Voidis and in the comments section of a post, typed the following parody of "progressive" opinion about Israel:

Hi Chris

I am thinking of running a conference, to discuss the possibility of wiping the Hellenist Entity from the page of time.

Before the Hellenist uprising in the late 19th century (backed by notable English imperialists, such as Lord Byron), the Greeks were a happy and integrated part of the Ottoman Empire, where they were granted full national rights, and were respected as People of the Book.

The Hellenists carved out their settler state in the Hellenic Entity by two means.

First Greek Muslims were ethnically cleansed from the land which their forefathers had long owned. 500,000 Greek Muslims were expelled. In Crete, they were massacred. We propose that all Greek Muslims, and their their descendents be granted a full right of return.

Secondly, the illegitimate Hellenist Entity was colonised by more than 1.22 million Greek residents who hitherto had been happy citizens of the Caliphate.

As an Englishman, I feel a particular obligation to speak out about this historic injustice. My country was a key participant in the Treaty of Lausanne which created the illegal puppet state in which you live, and precipitated the end of the Caliphate.

It is my obligation, therefore, to ensure that your country once more becomes part of the Caliphate, that the regime in Athens is brought to an end, and direct rule from Ankara is restored.

I know that you have a firm commitment to justice and progressive politics. I hope that you are not a clandestine Hellenist, who will raise some spurious objection to this important project. I am sorry to speak so bluntly, but from my experience, almost all Greeks I have met seem to have some problem with this proposal.

Will you join with me?
And Voidis bought it:
Hi David T,

sure, I would be more than happy. Your english nationalism has caused us Hellenes much trouble. You can take it back now. Oh, and by the way, if we are to restore that Caliphate, then that would be in Istanbul, not Ankara. I have no problems with that.

To his credit, Voidis has not deleted this exchange.

David T has posted a full account here.

Human Wrongs

A good piece in The Times today by Jamie Whyte:

Mauritania’s annual GDP, for example, is only $400 per person. It would be nice if Mauritanians were richer, but declaring that they should be will not help. Entitlements to wealth do not create wealth. On the contrary, they hinder wealth creation.

A barbed response to rape

Via a comment at Tim Blair's blog, from News of the Weird:

Sonette Ehlers of Kleinmond, South Africa, recently invented a tampon-like sheath that she says will reduce the disturbing number of rapes that plague that country, but local anti-violence leaders are skeptical, as well as alarmed. The device folds around the penis with microscopic hooks and, once engaged, requires medical intervention to remove.


Listening to the "off the record" interview given to Radio 5 Live by Tom Stephens, the first man arrested in connection with the string of murders in Suffolk, brought back eerie memories of Ian Huntley's media interviews before he was arrested for the Soham murders.

But there's another echo too, that of Colin Stagg, who fitted the profile of a murderer so well that the police brought an absurdly constructed case against him for a crime that now seems likely to have been committed by a man already held in Broadmoor secure unit.

Stephens, however, accepts that he could be mistaken for a killer. In his [Radio 5] interview on Sunday, he said: "From the police profiling it does look like me. I know I'm innocent. But I don't have alibis for some of the times — actually I'm not entirely sure I have tight alibis for any of the times."
Dreadful crimes like the Suffolk murders are situations ripe for miscarriages of justice. Let's hope that this one plays out more like the Soham case than the Colin Stagg fiasco.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wikan festival

Unni Wikan has had an unusually high level of traffic today on his profile page at the Oslo University website. Mr Wikan, a professor of social anthropology, has the distinction of being the person who, in 2001, reportedly said:

“Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. The professor’s conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: “Norwegian women must realize that we live in a Multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”
He was speaking in response to reports of rising levels of rape in Oslo in that same year when:
... two out of Norway's three largest newspapers, Aftenposten and Dagbladet, reported that most of these rape charges involve an immigrant perp, which again mostly means Muslims. Both newspapers have since then conveniently “forgotten” about this, and have never connected the issue to Muslim immigration although the number of rape charges has continued to rise to historic levels. They are thus at best guilty of extreme incompetence, since their former articles about this issue are still available online.
From the same Brussels Journal post I've linked to twice above, and which, via Tim Blair, has led to the rise in Wikan traffic:
The number of rapes in the Norwegian capital Oslo is six times as high as in New York City. I’ve written about the issue of rape and Muslim immigration so many times that I am, quite frankly, a bit tired of the subject. But as we all know, problems don’t disappear just because you are tired of talking about them, so here goes.

There has been an explosive increase in the number of rape charges in the city of Oslo, but both the media and the authorities consistently refuse to tell us why.
Tim Blair compares the prof's words with some of Kofi Annan's:
The offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were first published in a European country which has recently acquired a significant Muslim population, and is not yet sure how to adjust to it.
I'm old enough to remember the "Reclaim the Streets" demonstrations of the 1970s, a cause celebre of the left, in which feminist marchers demonstrated against attacks on women. Street lighting was extended as a consequence and, in a case of an excellent campaign championed by the left succeeding, women did indeed become safer in the streets. I haven't been able to find any good links about the Reclaim the Streets marches, I tried when I wrote about the mass sexual assault in Cairo this October.

Interesting, isn't it, that this has now become a cause of the right?

There are several things here to unpick.

Firstly, the idea that women can provoke rape by dressing immodestly. If a woman walks through the streets naked she is perhaps misguided, possibly reprehensible, but never a legitimate target for rape. No woman, or man, is ever under any circumstances a legitimate target for rape. I can hardly believe I have to type that sentence in the year 2006. But, in the light of the reported Wikan belief system, I do.

On to the more complicated part of this. Why has the left abandoned, and the right adopted, this cause? In a word, immigration. Immigration has galvanised the right, and paralysed the left. If nothing else, this shows the system of comparative values: for the left, issues entangled with migration outweigh the disgust with sexual violence; for the right, they outweigh a puritanical disgust at immodest dressing on the part of young women today.

That is of course enough of a simplification to be untrue. Simplifications are like that. I'm on the right, apparently, but I don't have a problem with women dressing immodestly, in fact I often approve... I'm not a conservative. I think we should have gay marriage, not civil partnerships; I think we should legalise drugs, all drugs; I think we should have legal, licensed brothels. Not a manifesto to get Melanie Phillips rushing to a barricade. Strangely enough, I think it is a conservative manifesto, in an ideal world. Gay marriage? Gay adoption? Gay priests? To paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke: getting married, bringing up kids, going to church... next thing you know, they'll be voting conservative. Smaller state, individual responsibility, responsibility for ones actions, your home is your castle... legalise drugs. This type of argument can be made for every Liberal (as opposed to liberal) cause.

The problem comes if you hate poofs. Or sex outside marriage - commercial sex at that. Or bohemian, sensualist lifestyles. Or, in the present context, people with more permanent suntans than ones own. While conservatives never approved of rape, they didn't feature noticably in the Reclaim the Street marches. Now there is a clear problem with immigrant crime (which is under-reported as matter of public policy), including rape, they seem more galvanised.

It's hard to be as charitable about the left, or at least, the hard left. It would be easy to mock the self-proclaimed Decent Left if it weren't for the fact that they are conspicuously decent. But the hard left seeks to interpret worries about immigrant crime as some kind of phobia, because they are trapped within a Marxist dialectic of wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness, that has absolutely no relevance to contemporary problems.

It is axiomatic for Kofi Annan, Professor Wikan and Channel 4 that a host community must adapt to immigrants, even when it comes to being raped or allowing hard won freedom of expression to be eroded by a supremacist, atavistic minority.

But what does assimilation mean? No noodles for the Chinese? No Balti or Tiger beer for Indians? No pizza for Italians in America? Assimilation is, and always has been, a melting pot. Balti was invented in England. Tiger beer is the brainchild of an English entrepreneur, of Indian stock. Take away pizza is an American invention. Assimilation is a melding, the cherry-picking of the best of all worlds, and of all the world. It does not mean that women need to wear a sack developed in Arabia as a shield against sandstorms if they are to be free of the threat of rape.

This problem is not purely a Muslim one. Sikh fanatics closed a play in Birmingham a year or so ago. Hindus are guilty of forced marriages and honour violence. African migrants to Europe commit more than their fair share of rapes, if that isn't too contradictory a phrase. Cypriot armed robbers were a problem people of a certain age can remember in London. Carribean migrants shoot guns a disproportionate amount of the time, and there is an entirely unreported phenomenon of muggings of white pensioners in north London by Carribean migrant descendants that is entirely racist. When you have migration, you get the whole migrant, warts and all, and racism is a disease that crosses every boundary.

But this problem is overwhelmingly a Muslim one. And that is absolutely not the fault of the majority of Muslims. Equally emphatically, it is the fault of a minority of them. Unfortunately, they are the people the governments of Britain, America and other countries have chosen to shower with public money, and allow to represent themselves as "Muslim" spokesmen (and they are almost all men).

And it is the fault of the Marxist left, who are unable to fault, in any way, a minority they see as powerless.

Muslims are not powerless. They are, in fact, uniquely privileged in western society. Police raiding a house in parts of England will, if it is a Muslim household, remove their shoes, not use dogs, and not touch any holy books. Before a raid is undertaked, community leaders will be consulted. Community leaders? I don't have a community leader, and many Muslims are sick of the bearded old loons who appoint themselves to these roles, but it still happens. No analagous privilges are extended to any other section of the community. No racist could tell the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim, yet Hindus outperform the host community and Muslims underperform. The fault lies with the Muslims, or more accurately, with their culture.

But even if they were powerless, this would not stop them developing a hateful fascistic ideology. Such ideologies are almost a signature of the powerless. Look at White Aryan Resistance in the USA, or the BNP here in Britain. They are not organisations of suave, accomplished, successful people.

Circumstances such as power, powerlessness, wealth or poverty have no bearing on the ideologies that develop in sections of the community. That we have home-grown apologists for rape is a scandal. That this isn't front page news is a scandal. That we don't welcome people here, but maintain our standards of decency is a scandal.

Kofi Annan is a handsome, dignified scumbag who has presided over one of the worst episodes in the history of the U.N. but this isn't an excuse, it's just context. Values are absolute. Adjustment should be towards what is right - liberty, democracy, freedom of expression and the safety and integrity of the person.

UPDATE - Super-Electro-Magnetic Midget Launcher points out that Wikan is female and might have more complicated views than would appear from the above.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let's play Genocide

The Iranian government has a reason for placing so much emphasis on holocaust denial and the attendant spin that this is all just an exercise in free expression.

The plan is to establish the idea that Israel was founded after the Second World War in response to the Holocaust, and if the Holocaust never happened Israel should not exist.

Memri reports that on a visit to Gilan University, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin said:

the Holocaust conspiracy was to facilitate the establishment of the state of Israel, which would, in turn, provoke the Muslims to rise up, confront the Jews, and massacre them. 'This [conspiracy],' he said, 'conducted by Europe and America, would lead to the total annihilation of global Jewry."
I'd guess this is a bit extreme even for Reuters to swallow and regurgitate: The West set up Israel in Muslim lands in order to annoy the Muslims so much they would massacre all the Jews, and it would be the fault of the West. Even for a radical Islamist, that's an impressive blend of self-pity and self-justification. Ramin and his foil-lined turban are going to convince a lot of conspiracy theorists, but the grand plan of Jewish genocide will work with a much more modest distortion of reality. All it relies on is an ignorance of history.

Because Israel was not set up as a consequence of the Holocaust.
In June 1922 the League of Nations passed the Palestine Mandate. The Palestine Mandate was an explicit document regarding Britain's responsibilities and powers of administration in Palestine including "secur[ing] the establishment of the Jewish national home", and "safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine".
There were calls for the re-establishment of Israel as early as the twelfth century, migrations from the diaspora started after the Roman control collapsed in Palestine, and have continued ever since. Almost half a century before the Holocaust, the world recognised the legitimacy of the aspiration to restore the Jewish homeland in its historical lands. The Holocaust was a factor in the timing of this much-delayed event, but no more than that.

Muslim countries all over the world have an antipathy towards Israel simply because it consists of land once conquered by Muslim armies, and the teaching of this fundamentally supremacist religion is: once Muslim, always Muslim.

So, here we have a game we can all play: Genocide. There are several versions. The first one is being played by the Iranians. It consists of repeating that the Holocaust was the justification for the foundation of the State of Israel by European Jews. Repeat this often enough, and people will start to believe it. It's a classic Hitlerian Big Lie. The winner gets to nuke Israel knowing there will be only a muted and cowardly European response.

Version number 2 is more subtle. You can play this if you are a reporter or correspondent for a news or media organisation. This consists simply of repeating the Iranian lie without placing it in context, as a lie. Half the fun, of course, is the wide-eyed astonishment you can display if anyone accuses you of promoting the lie yourself. You were quoting. The winner gets to blame America when Iran nukes Israel.

Anyone can play version number 3. You get one point every time you spot someone in the mainstream media playing game number 2. I've got a Radio 4 piece from last week on my scoresheet already; the reposter just stated that the Holocaust was the reason why Israel was founded, and then they moved on. Brilliant!

I predict a cricket score by the end of January.

Political principle #1

Cox & Forkum, of course.

Milk chocolate

I have a confession to make. I've been gripped by the X Factor this year. I liked all three of the final contestants, but there was only one Leona, a woman who has as good a voice as Whitney Houston. I'm more into music with an edge, but I have no interest in denying talent where it's so obvious.

Her beauty has also been remarked on, not least on You Tube, where I've watched most of the songs. Where did it come from? I saw her parents on TV this evening - very blonde and very black.

It's a great combination. You can see both in Leona, and she shines.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas message

Channel 4 has decided to broadcast an alternative Christmas Message this year from, rather than a celebrity, a Muslim woman in a full veil. (Stop Press is that the woman has pulled out. Even so, everything below stands.).

"In a year in which issues of religious and racial identity, freedom of expression and social cohesion have dominated the news agenda, Channel 4's alternative Christmas message will be delivered by a veiled Muslim woman," a spokesman said.

"The right to wear religious symbols from niqabs to crucifixes, remarks made by the Pope about Islam and the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed have all generated a debate about multiculturalism, secularism and integration. A debate in which British Muslims have played a key role and one that will shape the future of British society."

Channel 4's alternative Christmas message, which will be produced by independent company Chameleon TV, will air at 3pm on Christmas Day against the Queen's traditional broadcast on BBC1 and ITV1.
Alison, who blogs at Making Headlines, A Tangled Web and Biased BBC, mailed me, furious. On her blog, she has written:
How does platforming a fundamentalist extremist opinion at Channel 4 on Christmas Day serve these women who suffer abuse in this country? And when so many women suffer under the veil world wide how can liberals use 'freedom of expression' without the true challenge of debate when so much controversy exists on this garb elsewhere? Ever since i was 17 and read 'Saudi Princess', then read and watched Not without my Daughter I have been opposed to this bullshit mysoginist rubbish shroud. Now there is no escaping it. Some women marry child molesters on death row in the United States. It doesnt make them right! Christ, you can't bury it. Its even a publicity drive for Christmas bloody viewing on Channel Fucking 4.
I think she understates this, but more on that later. She suggested we produce an alternative, alternative Christmas message.

That afternoon, I was phoned by a friend in London. He was sitting chatting with a lesbian friend and they were talking about a veiled woman they'd seen on the tube earlier that day. She'd been wearing a full veil from within which beautiful, dark, liquid, carefully made-up eyes watched the world. Her feet were encased in expensive, sexy Jimmy Choo shoes. Her hands were manicured and elegant. She was, they agreed, the most erotic creature they'd seen all year. What was she wearing beneath the shroud? Stockings? Expensive lingerie? Many Muslim women completely wax their pubic area, for reasons - I am told - of hygeine (in parts of North Africa, they wax with a mixture of filtered beeswax and honey, and it's hard to dislike that). Perhaps she was wearing nothing at all beneath the veil, not even body hair.

It's erotic because the woman is hidden, hinted at, left to the imagination. It's erotic because it's a statement that the woman's entire body is a sexual object and needs to be concealed from men. It's erotic because submission and domination are erotic, and the veil is a sign of submission and an acknowledgement that men are dominant - the woman wearing the veil is owned by her husband if married, and her relatives if not. Submissive women and dominant men in the BDSM scene can only whistle with admiration at the thought. It is as though she is walking around in ponygirl straps and a dog collar. The one thing it isn't is modest. Flat shoes and a knit skirt are modest, not a shroud.

I don't think ponygirl gear and dog collars should be illegal, but I don't think people should walk round wearing them in public. What they do in the privacy of their homes, or clearly identified clubs, is their own business, but the streets are a shared space and we need to exercise some consideration when occupying them. To that extent, veils are fine in people's homes but not in the street. But, of course, the veil is more than that today.

Because the full veil in Britain, and the west more generally, has nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with Islamism. It isn't Islamic dress, it's an expression of extremism. This garment, designed to protect women from desert sandstorms, has been co-opted by the branch of Islam that dances in the street when thousands of innocent Americans get roasted in a towering grave.

What were Channel 4 thinking of? Their statement reveals some of this.

"The right to wear religious symbols from niqabs to crucifixes..."

This parses as "from Islamic to Christian". Is a niqab really the equivalent of a crucifix? Where does that leave the headscarf? What is a lesser symbol of Christianity than a crucifix? Of course, there isn't one. And nobody complains about headscarves. I'm not sure there is a Christian equivalent of the niqab, nor a Bhuddist one, not Hindu, nor Sikh, nor Jewish. None of these religions harbour a movement that has as its aim the complete domination of the world and everyone in it. None of them has within it a movement that deliberately dresses like an icy blast from the dark age of mankind, whatever the unintended - or intended - erotic consequences of this might be.

"... remarks made by the Pope about Islam and the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed have all generated a debate about multiculturalism, secularism and integration. A debate in which British Muslims have played a key role and one that will shape the future of British society"

Now, this is a full passage. Why "the prophet"? Do they talk about Lord Buddha? The Lord Jesus Christ? Nope. What are they playing at here? They are not all Muslims, and nor are the staff of the BBC where the same naming policy is observed.

The controversies about the Pope's speech and the Danish cartoons have prompted lots of debate, but mainly about freedom of speech. This is because there was a general attack against freedom of speech from radical Islamists following these incidents. And what do they mean when they say "A debate in which British Muslims have played a key role and one that will shape the future of British society"? I note they don't say it will shape British Muslims.

In the wake of the cartoons affair, Amnesty International and Liberty blathered on about how freedom of expression brings with it the responsibility to exercise restraint and avoid offending people. They were half right. It does bring with it a responsibility. But someone is always going to be offended by something someone says. If we go the Amnesty path, then one group dominates, their sensibilities become the social norms, and everyone else has to submit.

In fact the responsibility freedom brings is tolerance. We have a responsibility to tolerate things that annoy us or offend us. We have every right to argue against them, to dislike or hate the people who said them, but we have to share our society with people we dislike and we have to tolerate the things they say without resorting to violence. Instead of tolerance, we have growing fascism.

This past year, Channel 4 and the BBC have openly embraced fascistic movements and given them succour. They have been joined by The Guardian and The Independent. Channel 4 isn't just seeking publicity, as Alison said - though she was right about that. They have become part of a movement that seeks to deny age-old freedoms and liberties. They have devoted huge resources to trying to weaken the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, Israel.

They are often attacked for being liberal, but there's nothing liberal about supporting fascists.

This past March, I organised a rally in Trafalgar square in support of freedom of expression, in direct response to the Danish cartoons controversy. Maybe 600 people attended. The best turnout elsewhere in the world for a similar rally was, so far as I know, 180, so this was good. It wasn't the thousands the fascists get, though. Not many people really support freedom of expression, and to some people at least, I don't either.

This is because I asked people not to bring the cartoons to the rally. I did this because I was trying to make the event as friendly to supportive Muslims as possible, and I did manage to make the British National Party disappear, attracting instead a mixture of democrats from the left to the right, but excluding the violent fascistic elements of all camps. I'm very glad of that, and I stand by what I did.

In the aftermath, I was asked to lead a free expression movement, but I hesitated because I have a rather "colourful" past and was unsure whether I was the right person, or indeed whether I wanted my past to come back to colour my present. By the time I had decided, sod it, do it anyway, I had come to a different realisation. We have very little censorship today, but increasingly, we have self-censorship, mainly out of fear of violent Muslim extremism.

And then we have Channel 4. Who needs to self-censor when the channels into living rooms are dominated by an unrepresentative, illiberal elite of fascist sympathisers?

We don't need the advocacy of free expression, we need the expression itself. And we need channels through which this can reach more than just the converted who seek out blogs.

So that's what I have been working on for the past six months. That's how it comes to be that tomorrow I am going to film an alternative, alternative Christmas Message.

I hope to be able to join with Muslims in Egypt, Saudi, Iraq and every other part of the world - democrats who hate the extremism that is crippling their beloved countries. I hope to be able to join with democrats in Africa, Europe, America, Australia. I hope they will take this project over and make it their own.

Perhaps they won't. But it would be wrong not to try. And I have already joined with a group of UK based bloggers and activists who embrace this idea. The mainstream media has tried to colonise the blogosphere. Now, my friends, we're going to return the compliment.

Uxbridge English Dictionary

This week I've been configuring a farm of vanilla FreeBSD servers in London, using remote connections. One thing I've had to do is set up jails and restrict login access. If you make a mistake, and I made a couple, you can lock yourself out. The sensible thing, of course, is to cron a script to revert the settings five minutes later, and kill it if it isn't needed, but I wasn't sensible every time, so I had to drive down to London twice to type three words at the console, then drive back.

On the way, I played the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue game Uxbridge English Dictionary - thinking up new definitions for old words. My favourites so far are:

badger - even more like a badge

aadvark - the kind of vark you'd hate to meet in a dark alley

oxymoron - a stupid person who is a bit like an ox

UPDATE: fish - quite like the letter "f"

The KwikSave test

BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze this week discussed whether

the core reason of family and social breakdown in our society is due to the decline of marriage and the rise of cohabitation
Professor Steven Rose asked Theodore Dalrymple whether he could imagine what it is like to have to live on £160 per week. Rose was blaming an absence of socialist redistribution for all social ills, as usual.

Dalrymple, who was disappointing as a witness - I like his writing - seemed unable to say he could. At least, he wavered. I know I could have given an unequivocal affirmative to the question, though. I've lived on less.

In about 1993, I was living in a high rise flat in Battersea, London, refusing to take welfare on principle, occasionally driving a mini cab and living on less than a welfare package would have given me.

The trick is simple enough: you cook using cheap ingredients. Roast, stuffed lambs hearts are delicious and at today's prices a roast meal for three people would cost less than £1 for three hearts, £1.20 for home-made stuffing made of breadcrumbs, chopped shallots, fresh garlic, fresh sage, ground pepper and sea salt, and another £2.50 gets you the fresh vegetables (loose, in no greater quantities than needed) making a grand total of £4.70 - under £2 a head. On £160 per week, you could throw in a bottle of wine.

A big bag full of neck of lamb costs a fiver, plus about the same for a load of root vegetables. Lamb stew the first day, then the left-overs can be made into Cornish Pasties the following day. Cheese and onion pie or flan is even cheaper and very tasty. It requires a little care, a little bit of shopping and some preparation, but it's easy enough to live on a low income. If you cook...

Adjacent to the council estate where I was living was a large cheap supermarket called KwikSave. This particular branch was a bit up market by the standards of the chain, because Battersea is affluent and just a block away was Prince of Wales Drive, which overlooks the Park, and is quite posh. So this supermarket had two very distinct types of customers, very up-market, nipping in quickly for the stuff they'd forgotten to buy in Waitrose, and very down-market.

Without looking at the people themselves, you knew immediately which category they fell into from the contents of their shopping trolleys:

Fresh vegetables, flour, condiments and a bottle of wine = posh

Huge bottles of soft drinks, vast multi-pack sacks of crisps, ready-to-cook meals = poor

While the richest were getting the best value for their money, the poorest were spending as much as it is physically possible to spend on water with added sugar and gas; potato and oil; tiny, over-salted portions of unpleasant over-cooked and stale food.

I don't believe this is a rarely observed phenomenon, but it is certainly rarely commented on. Perhaps this is because it raises some genuinely difficult issues. Buying such expensive foods - expensive for what they are - and failing to cook from raw ingredients is a characteristic of the poorest, and it is stupid, though not in a pejoritive sense. It is unintelligent. Delicate ground, this. People often downplay the idea of a link between heredity and intelligence, but our daily experience tells us it exists.

It's true that intelligent parents tend to own books and give a stimulating environment to their children, but there is a hereditary component. The problem is that the left has a large investment in the idea of the tabula rasa, but this is a nonsense engineered to justify endless interference in individual life. There is such a thing as innate intelligence, and there is a correlation between prosperity and intelligence.

Are there lessons here for social policy? Is the socialist preoccupation with wealth distribution an irrelevance at best; at worst a totalitarian intervention that can only fail. The experience of New Labour's policy of pouring money into pits labelled 'health' and 'education', while both decline amidst increasingly pleasant surroundings, suggests this is the case.

For example, in the field of education, if we accept that intelligence is hereditary then we should expect there to be a bias towards the university education of the children of university-educated parents. Yet Labour formulates policies designed to "correct" this imbalance. Of course, a simple and patently fair solution would be meritocracy, whereby children who successfully pass qualifying exams go, free, to academic schools. Maybe we could call them Grammar Schools. Or we could give the kids grants directly to go to private academically orientated schools. That could be called the Direct Grant.

But I digress. Back to the shopping trolleys at KwikSave. Why are the poorest buying so badly?

One factor is advertising. At its most extreme, when it is directed at small children, advertising could be described as the process whereby the most predatory people in society hire the most manipulative to exploit the most vulnerable. My instincts are libertarian but I do feel that children are not miniature adults but rather they are small creatures in the process of growth and formation, and they deserve the protection of adult society. This means that while I generally believe that adults should be free to make mistakes (nobody questions successes) and to take the consequences, I don't think this applies to children.

On the Moral Maze, Dalrymple talked of the 'deserving' and the 'undeserving' poor. He has a point. But the KwikSave shoppers weren't feckless, just stupid in their buying decisions. A cause of this stupidity is susceptibility to advertising. They were buying either the most heavily advertised products, or unbranded versions of them. A feature of inner-city life is poorly-nourished people in very expensive branded clothing, most notoriously training shoes. I don't know the answer but I think this is a valid question: do the more susceptible, less intelligent deserve protection from advertising, just like children? Do we have a paternalistic duty?

How do we deal with the lack of home cooking among some of the poorest? Jamie Oliver has been derided for bringing this issue into schools, but he has a point. It is much better for people to enjoy and understand good food, and that isn't necessarily expensive food. It would also alleviate the effects of low incomes more than anything else.

I have bought whole sheep, pigs, even sides of beef and divided them between myself and friends, with everyone getting excellent meat at a significant discount. I even learned to butcher them. This could be called self-help. Why is it vanishingly rare?

Why is this sort of thing never mentioned when low incomes are discussed? Not only do people like Professor Rose never think of teaching anyone to fish, rather than giving them other people's catches, he actually regards the very idea as immoral. Yet there could be no surer way of cementing people in the poverty of aspiration and circumstances we see in our vastly wealthy society - when measured against almost all other human societies in history and geography - than the policies of this indecent Professor.