Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Beta Blogger

I just migrated the blog to the new blogger beta thingie. If anything looks strange, please comment to that effect, so I can try to fix it.

Technical Antisemitism

Venezuela has stopped issuing tourist visas to Israelis.

However, a Venezuelan official said the halt was technical in nature.
Just so.

What was it Ken Livingstone said? Ah yes:
We work with the government in Caracas as we work with other emerging progressive governments - to create a new world order

Thanks to USS Neverdock

Support Mahmood


Mahmood Al-Yousif is a Bahraini businessman who runs one of the Arab world's most popular blogs: Mahmood's Den. Known as the godfather of the blogging scene in Bahrain, Al-Yousif has inspired dozens of young people in the Persian Gulf to begin blogging and his blog receives over 1.5 million hits a month from around the world. For the last two years, he has served as a judge for HAMSA's Dream Deferred Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East.

But now Al-Yousif's outspoken and free-spirited writing has prompted Bahrain's Ministry of Information to block his site. If you try to visit Mahmood's Den from inside Bahrain, all that appears is an error page with the word "Forbidden" in big letters.

Please take a moment to protest censorship and protect free expression in Bahrain. Below is a petition/email. You can edit the sample text if you like. When you hit send, an email will be delivered to Bahrain's Minister of Information. Please sign - and encourage your friends to do the same.
I just signed. Please consider doing the same.

Oh, and check out his blog.

Quote of the day

From the must-read medical blog, Dr Rant We have this from a post by Dr Blue:

Labour’s reforms of the NHS are reformations in the same sense that a piece of paper is reformed by being shredded. They are reforms in the same way that a sinner is reformed by being burnt at the stake.

MCB Finances Update

Further to this post I see that Michael Gove's questions continue:

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind her Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96278]

Meg Munn [holding answer 20 October 2006]: Since its creation in May 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government has not given any financial support, or support in kind, to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96277]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was formed in June 2001 from the Department of Social Security (DSS), the Employment Service (ES) and parts of the former Department for Education and Employment (DfEE). Any financial information would only be available from that time.

The Department for Work and Pensions has provided neither financial support nor support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind her Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96286]

Mr. Lammy: My Department provides no financial support or support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Keeping the Peace

Perhaps because they are too busy scanning the skies for Israeli planes to shoot down, U.N. forces in southern Lebanon seem uninterested in stopping Hezbollah rearming, and doing so in a way that directly put civilians and their property in danger:

Hizbollah has stepped up the rebuilding of its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon despite the deployment in recent weeks of thousands of Lebanese troops and international peacekeepers to limit the Islamic militant group's activities.

Standing firm against international pressure to disarm, the Shia group is rearming and rebuilding tunnels and trenches destroyed by the Israeli army during this summer's 34-day war.

Locals in Bint Jbeil, a town which saw fierce fighting, told yesterday how Hizbollah was using the major reconstruction efforts to rebuild their security infrastructure.

"They are working extremely fast," said one, who did not want to be named. "Militants in Shia strongholds have interconnected tunnels and bunkers under their houses. These are being rebuilt under cover of the reconstruction work."
But what's new? Yesterday, in news reported in every media outlet from the Washington Times to the, er... Washington Times, we learned that:
details are now known of a secret Hezbollah operation, mounted long before the war and focused, in violation of international law, on putting civilians at risk, that significantly contributed to this toll once the fighting began.
The activity upon which Hezbollah had embarked was conversion of private homes into mini-military sites from where it could easily target Israel's civilian population. Cloaking itself as the protective shepherd, Hezbollah effectively prepared an unwitting Lebanese civilian flock as sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered in furtherance of its own war-fighting capabilities.
Long before hostilities erupted on July 12, Hezbollah construction teams had gone out and modified numerous Lebanese homes. Sometimes with, but most the time without, the homeowner's permission, workers began adding on a large, single-function room. These rooms were unique for, when completed, they lacked an essential element of all rooms -- a door. Each room was sealed shut -- but only, and immediately, after an object was placed inside.
Often homeowners and neighbors did not know what exactly was entombed within the room as the object's insertion and the subsequent sealing of the room normally took place at night -- with the object always kept under wraps.
The residences Hezbollah selected for these unsolicited "home improvements" were chosen for their proximity to the Israeli border. When the fighting started after Tel Aviv responded militarily to Hezbollah's July cross-border raid, resulting in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers and the capture of two more, the purpose of the covert home improvements became evident to the owners -- though many were destroyed by Israeli air strikes before they could be activated.
When war erupted in southern Lebanon, designated leaders of Hezbollah combat teams received envelopes, each containing an address of one of the modified homes. The team quickly deployed to its assigned location, immediately breaking through an exterior wall of the sealed room. Each envelope contained aiming and firing instructions for the object prepositioned inside the room before it was sealed -- a surface-to-surface missile atop a launcher. After removing part of the room's roof to allow for unobstructed flight and on command, the team was to fire the missile, raining death and destruction down upon Israel's civilian population.
There was one major flaw in Hezbollah's home-conversion-to-missile-launch-site plan: Their construction activities had not gone unnoticed by Israeli intelligence. Closely monitoring Hezbollah's activities, they knew in advance the locations of most sites. As each room was completed, it had been added to Israel's target list so, once fighting started, it could quickly be destroyed -- its civilian hosts in many cases becoming collateral damage due to Hezbollah's illegal use of such a tactic.
I hear the distant echo of cheers for the U.N. coming from the direction of Srebrinica.

Multiculturalism in Retreat

Heartening news from Northern Ireland:

NORTHERN IRELAND’S first public housing estate to accommodate Protestants and Roman Catholics together in 40 years was opened officially yesterday, in a further sign that the Province’s Troubles are coming to a close.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, cut a ribbon at Carran Crescent, on the outskirts of Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, and chatted with some of the residents of the estate, home to 20 Catholic and Protestant families.

The residents have all signed up to a “neighbourhood charter” that bans flags, murals and the painting of kerbstones — all characteristics of the divided patchwork of homes across Northern Ireland used by both sides for decades to indicate which of the two “tribes” lived in the area.
So why are the dozy sods building an apartheid state in mainland Britain, with their "faith" schools and "community leader" liaison reinforcing differences and helping segregate society?

Multiculturalism in Action

In Fiji:

Fiji's military has refused to accept a presidential decision to oust its commander, following his threats against the government.
The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) has said the Suva exercises are not threatening, another Fiji online media service reported.

"The RFMF has confirmed that it is conducting exercises at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks and in the greater Suva area and there is no cause for alarm," the fijivillage.com website said.
Fiji Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes, an Australian, has said police are worried about Bainimarama's outbursts against the government - so worried that he has withheld an ammunition shipment intended for the army.

Fiji has suffered three coups and a failed mutiny since 1987.

The coups have been racially fuelled, with indigenous Fijians fearful of losing political control of their island nation to ethnic Indian Fijians, who dominate the sugar and tourism-based economy.

Iranian Unrest

Exiled Iranian blogger reports small scale protests in Tehran and Karaj

demanding the change of labor laws, abolition of discrimination at work place and asking for the unpaid salaries due to them.
More protests over unpaid wages to come from
... the city of Tehran librarians and libraries' staff in front of the ministry of culture. They will ask for the salaries that are due to them for a long period of time.

A regime that cannot pay the wages of its own people, while pumping funds into military programmes and foreign terrorist organisations, is a temporary regime.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fat people cause Global Warming

It's official.

Stolen from the blog of Norman Geras.

Mass Sexual Assault in Cairo

There is understandable uproar in the Egyptian blogosphere about... well, I'll let the Sandmonkey explain:

The story is as follows for the those of you who didn't hear about it: It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gatherd trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenxy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncoverd. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police, who didn't do shit. The good people of downtown tried their best to protect the girls. Shop owners would let the girls in and lock the doors, while the mobs tried to break in. Taxi drivers put the girls in the cars while the mobs were trying to break the glass and grab the girls out. It was a disgusting pandamonium of sexual assaults that lasted for 5 houres from 7:30 PM to 12:30 am, and it truns my stomach just to think about it.
What was unusual was the silence of the press. Nobody was mentioning it. Nobody was bringing it up. It seemed like there was some consensus of just not reporting it and maybe it will just go away. What at first seemed like a conspiracy got later on confirmed by my sources in the news media. Al Jazeera had taped the incidents but were forbidden to air it at the request of the egyptian authorities. The new editor at the Daily Star refused to touch it with a 6 foot pole. This was going to be one of those incidents that only the blogsphere would talk about, while the mainstream media ignored.

Until Nawarah Negm blew the whole thing wide open on live television on the Dream Channel.

She was brought in as a writer to be part of a fluffy segment on Mona Al Shazly show talking about the Ramadan TV shows, and the girl's first response to the question was: "What Television shows do you want to discuss, when egyptian girls are assaulted on the streets of Cairo while the police watched and did nothing?" When Mona counterd that she never heard of it before, Nawarah told her all about it, in details and how it's all over the internet.
And one of the victims gives an account:
I am one of the females who got sexually harassed on downtown streets, more specifically on Talaat Harb street starting from Metro Cinema until the beginning of Sabry Abu Alam street.

There were two other friends with me, a female and her male.

We felt like we were in a war--I had my self defense spray was emptied on the endless number of guys who surrounded us and yet still wasn't enough.

We, girls, had our butts, breasts, and every inch in our bodies grabbed. I end up slipping into a car that was parking on the road side when I tried to catch one of the guys who insisted and never gave up on grabbing my butt. I end up with a deep cut in my right hand palm and another one on my thumb of the same hand as I slipped into the cars head light that broke and cut my hand. 6 stitches on my hand palm cut and 3 on my thumb--still my anger is pretty fresh in the deep inside of me that wants me to put all Egyptian men on fire right now for what they have caused. What the fuck mother fuckers? Don't you have sisters who can also face the same thing as we did? How the fuck would you feel about this knowing your sister's butt and breasts got grabbed by the guys on the street?

I think you better act cold towards that since you might be one of the assholes who grab other girls asses. But let me tell you this: It's NOT and NEVER the girl to blame you sons of a bitches, it's NEVER the girl, NEVER! It's you to blame for doing such things to girls who you could consider them sisters and try to protect them not fucking grab them and show the world the worst picture of how Muslim men are who say and insist on how good people they are, but to tell you the truth, Muslim men are the worst human being on the entire planet and they just don't know it. Oh no, they don't even deserve to be called human beings, they are ANIMALS--DIRTY PIGS! Mother fuckers, You're putting Islam in the worst image ever in front of the world, so don't be so surprised when the westerners call you TERRORISTS which I simply agree with them! Think about it, assholes, think about it!
If you haven't read any blogs from the Arab world yet, please follow the links. Don't comment here about "Muslims" being rapists. These are Muslim commentators, female and male, outraged and enraged about what was done to Muslim victims by Muslim perpetrators. This ain't a "Muslim" thing, in any simple sense.

Basically, religion is no fucking excuse. Religion deserves no special treatment. The Muslim world has got into a serious mess right now, but we're heading down the same path with our "faith" schools and our media pandering to any superstitious maniac who has the wit to pull a Diana face when challenged.

The voices you hear when you read the Muslim blogosphere are those of people who deserve to see our hands outstretched towards them, not the doors slamming shut in their faces.

Eastern Values

I'm cross-posting this from the CaFE forum, where people were discussing the defense of Western values:

I'm going to make myself even more unpopular. It seems to me that to talk of defending Western values, culture or civilisation is both factually inaccurate and tactically misguided.

I have the impression that most people who think of Western civilisation believe it to have been built on two pillars - the Bible, and Classical Greek civilisation. Both of those were Eastern in mentality and outlook. When Alexander the Great set out to conquer the known world, he headed east and carried on in that direction, taking in much of what is now the Arab world, including parts of North Africa, through Persia until he passed through Afghanistan to reach India. That was the world as he knew it, and for the Greeks, the strange northern barbarians were just curiosities in tales like Jason and the Argonauts.

Classical Greek culture was formed through centuries of contact, and conflict, with that, Eastern, world where writing, arithmetic and mathematics were developing long before literacy came to the north.

The Bible, especially the Old Testament (before the Romans made them look West as well), was equally the product of a non-European world: Egypt, Iraq, Persia were the neighbours of the Jews and the influences of those cultures can be seen as early as the Book of Genesis.

It is absolutely true that the traditions of democracy and Christianity took better root, eventually, in Europe but to seek to divorce these things from their Eastern antecedents seems wrong in fact.

It's also tactically inadvisable, because nothing could be more certain to eliminate the possibility of a worldwide enlightened movement than the dividing of the world into a civilised West, and a barbaric "other".

The great advantage we have, of course, was the miracle of the Enlightenment and the Reformation - roughly contemporary movements that liberated human inventiveness from the shackles of theocratic suppression. And others in the world want to benefit from this. It's worth browsing Memri's website from time to time to see, in addition to the horrors we associate with the Muslim media, the voices of sane, cultured, rational people striving under circumstances much less congenial than our own to liberate themselves from oppression.

If we describe ourselves - define ourselves - in opposition to them - West versus East, North versus South - then we reduce the possibilities of joining with them to build free and open democratic societies everywhere.

Muriel Grey has today defined something she calls "enlightenism". It's worth reading and considering. At the very least, I think you'll enjoy some of her language:

Read Grey's argument here

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mediaeval Tyrants

Tim Worstall's Sunday Evening Thought:

In English law 'time immemorial' is defined as 1189. So we've actually had people making and passing laws since then, adding all the time.

817 years and counting. When do you think they will get the job finished so that the politicians will all go home?
I'm cross posting the comment I made there:
Henry II came to the throne in 1154, when there was still Trial by Ordeal. When he died, in 1189*, there were circuit judges, juries, the King's Bench, the law of tort and so on. Henry II repays investigation, and W.L. Warren's eponymous book is a good place to start.

P.J. O'Rourke asked the "Are they through yet" question in his book Parliament of Whores, at least a decade ago (I can't be bothered to look up the publication date).

The answer still seems to be "no".

Interesting to reflect, in passing, that the rights of jury trial and habeas corpus that were initiated and codified by a mediaeval monarch are being eroded by a bunch of elected tyrants. The Republican case is now made most strongly not by any discontent with the way the monarch carries out her role, or by opposition to the hereditary principle, but rather by the reflection that these bastards are not fit to wield the Royal Prerogative. Parliament should only have limited powers, not essentially those of an absolute monarch.

*I actually wrote 1190, but think the above date is correct. If I remember, he died at Christmas and Richard I wasn't crowned until 1190, which is why I put this as the date of HII's death.


While Scotland On Sunday tells us that:

THE leaders of the Catholic Church in Scotland have descended into an extraordinary public spat over claims by a "rogue bishop" that they do not speak out enough against homosexuality.

In an unprecedented move, the Church's two most senior clerics, Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Archbishop Mario Conti, have moved publicly to rebuff a third bishop, Joseph Devine of Motherwell, after he claimed the Church was embarking on "a policy of appeasement".
We learn from The Observer that:
Secularism is suddenly hip, at least in the publishing world. A glut of popular science books making a trenchant case against religion have soared up the bestseller lists both here and in America. The phenomenon represents a backlash against a perceived rise in religious fundamentalism and recent crazes for 'spirituality' by way of books such as The Da Vinci Code. Secularists are now eager to show that the empiricism of science can debunk the claims of believers.
I wonder whether those two stories are in some way related.

However, the absolute must-read comes from Muriel Grey in the Sunday Herald:
GIVEN the uniformly alarmist nature of the news, leaving the country for the half-term holiday felt good this year. Choking in the wake of our carbon emissions was a nutcase Britain utterly obsessed with religion. People were threatening Jack Straw with violence; some woman (we think – for all we know it could have been Paul Gascoigne under that niquab) was claiming her right to mumble lessons at children while wearing a bag over her head, and the pope had made the hilariously Monty-Python esque declaration that he was “considering” abolishing limbo for unbaptised babies, no doubt making intelligent Catholics squirm with embarrassment at the screaming silliness of heavenly admission by human whim.

But on our return, sadly, there is no let up. Some senior Australian cleric declares that women without hijabs are uncovered meat inviting rape, and now we have arguments over faith school quotas and whether or not 25% of pupils admitted should come from other faiths, including no faith. If I tell you that I am sick, sick, sick, way beyond the back teeth, of all this dark ages, loony tunes, divisive religious garbage then I am making an understatement. The worst thing is that although for the most part all the nonsense can be ignored, when it gets political it simply cannot, and there is nothing more political than how we educate the next generation of British citizens.

Let’s start with vocabulary. Let’s stop describing these tax-funded establishments as faith schools. They are superstition schools, for that is what they teach. Alongside hard facts, innocent children are hoodwinked into accepting as real the mythology of virgin births, gods who regard women with bare heads as wicked harlots, that Noah’s Ark was real and that Darwin was wrong. It’s clear that, given the rising tide of superstition sweeping our country, no politician will help end this state-funded child abuse, and so it is time to try and fight back. The difficulty with people who think as I do is that we are always described in the negative as atheists. The word, although it simply means not believing in a deity, is mostly used in the pejorative to imply a lack of belief in anything, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are not a group who are seen as a “community”, who are organised in our desires, or who can bring political pressure to bear on our government in the way herds of men in frocks seem to do with the sweep of a cassock or twitch of a beard.

So let’s get organised. Someone tried a group called “The Brights”, but the name is so smug and pretentious that it’s not surprising it was a damp squib. Why not take instead The Enlightenment as the inspiration? Enlightenmentists is a bit of a mouthful, so let’s try Enlightenists.
Here’s what I believe as an Enlightenist. Atheism is not a driving concern, since belief in God is of little consequence. After all, if there is an interventionist God then there would be continuing demonstrable evidence of such, which there most certainly is not, and if there is a creator God who is non-interventionist then he neither requires nor merits worship, and if there is no God at all then so be it. Therefore you could happily suspect that there might be a non-interventionist God of sorts that could eventually be discovered scientifically and still be an Enlightenist. Since no action needs to be taken until such an unlikely discovery, it doesn’t matter. Now let’s move on.

Enlightenists believe in the awe-inspiring, wonder, beauty and complexity of the universe, and aspire to unpick its mysteries by reason, constant questioning, observation, experiment, and analysis of evidence. The bedrock of our morality is empathy, from which logically springs love, forgiveness, tolerance and a profound desire to make a just, egalitarian society and reduce suffering. The more knowledge a person has, the more they question and understand the real world, and the more they are required to analyse what is true then the greater the increase in empathy. Enlightenists care and wish to do good not because a vengeful God tells them to, but because intelligence suggests it is the only and the right thing to do.
It's hard to cull quotes from this piece - it deserves to be read in full.

Muriel Grey alone makes a subscription to the Sunday Herald worthwhile.

Links shamelessly culled from the ever-excellent Butterflies and Wheels

The vocal majority

I just watched a repeat of the best top ten lists of great top fifty comedy films. Top of the listing was... Life of Brian. I remember when it came out. There was a bussing system, because some local councils - including some that didn't even have cinemas - banned it and people from those areas took organised coach trips to see it. The Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge argued against it on a television programme , during which John Cleese pointed out that if the Pythons had made it 400 years earlier they'd have been burned to death. That means, he said, we've made some progress. I watched that programme with my parents and was heartened, even then, to see how much the audience sided with the Pythons and how the Bishop's secret weapon line about 30 pieces of silver was received completely unsympathetically as the contrived piece of bullshit it was.

If they made it now, or more to the point if they made a Life of Mohammed, they'd be hunted by Islamic Supremacists. Nobody would make such a film nowadays.

That is regress. Let's roll it back, folks, to a better time. It's the moment to get the old - and I do mean old - cameras out...

But let's remember this: people voted it the best comedy. There is a huge majority against this religious intolerance revival. Time to make our presence felt.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Breathe again

Mass extinctions need two causes, like a huge meteorite AND massive volcanic activity.


Racial Murder

As I predicted, it's happened again.


In other news:

Arshad Misbahi of the Manchester Central Mosque confirmed his views in a conversation to John Casson, a local psychotherapist.

Casson said: "I asked him if the execution of gay Muslims in Iran and Iraq was an acceptable punishment in Sharia law, or the result of culture, not religion.

"He told me that in a true Islamic state, such punishments were part of Islam: If the person had had a trial, at which four witnesses testified that they had seen the actual homosexual acts."

"I asked him what would be the British Muslim view? He repeated that in an Islamic state these punishments were justified. They might result in the deaths of thousands but if this deterred millions from having sex, and spreading disease, then it was worthwhile to protect the wider community."

"I checked again that this was not a matter of tradition, culture or local prejudice. 'No,' he said, 'It is part of the central tenets of Islam: that sex outside marriage is forbidden; this is stated in the Koran and the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had stated that these punishments were due to such behaviours.'"
Peter Tatchell is quoted as saying:
Muslim and gay people know the pain of prejudice and discrimination. We should be working together to challenge homophobia and Islamophobia
Well, yes they should. But of course, Tatchell's stance has caused him to be accused of Islamophobia, and to be targetted by the Workers' Revolutionary Party front, Islamophobia Watch.

One of the more honourable reasons why the hard left has been unable to deal with Islamist hate speech is their wish to continue with the sort of analysis of the world they maintained up to the end of the Cold War. This is a dialogue of power and powerless, wealth and poverty, minority and majority.

Yet many evil movements come from the powerless and poor; the BNP's membership isn't drawn, on the whole, from the class of suave and accomplished boomers, but rather from the anonymous ranks of the unsuccessful and the poor. Nazism rose during a period of national shame at the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

This blinkered vision has in fact rendered the labour movement powerless in the face of the current wave of Islamic supremacist aggression. It remains to be seen how much damage this will have caused. But when the media gets over its reluctance to show pictures of Hitler-saluting Hezbollah, while RESPECT marches in their support, the damage could be vast, and long-lasting.

First, though, we need a realignment in the media. It might be coming sooner than you think.

Out of Context

Mr Meat himself, Sheik Taj al-Din Al Hilaly, has been linked with terrorist groups for twenty years, according to Australian media reports:

ASIO warned authorities 20 years ago that Sheik Taj al-Din Al-hilaly could inflame communal violence in Australia.
Court judgments show ASIO initially believed the controversial mufti posed a risk to the community because of his alleged propensity to cause or promote violence.

Shortly after his arrival in Australia as the new imam of Lakemba Mosque in 1982, Sheik Hilaly was also linked with a shadowy terrorist group, Soldiers of God, which is thought to have been involved in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Sheik Hilaly was also alleged to have endorsed suicide bombing, verbally attacked women and preached a highly political message of extremism.

The Sunday Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman writes today that a former intelligence officer said Sheik Hilaly's name first surfaced in a report by one of Australia's most senior intelligence assets in Cairo. The claimed the sheik spent a number of years training in Libya and was sent to Australia to train extremists.
The Sheik is Australia's most senior Muslim cleric. The BBC's Nick Bryant described him on Thursday as a:
softly-spoken man, who clearly commands both enormous respect and affection within his community
and suggested that Hilaly is being criticised for reasons of cynical political partisanship:
Pru Goward, the country's outgoing Sex Discrimination Commissioner, also weighed in, calling for the cleric to either be deported or prosecuted for incitement to rape.

A leading light in the Liberal Party, Ms Goward is a parliamentary candidate and is said to harbour prime ministerial ambitions of her own.

She will not have done her chances any harm by speaking out so forcefully on this issue.
While yesterday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty blamed the media for negative perceptions of Islam:
"You hear more and more stories of treatment of the Islamic community that really is substandard by members of our own wider community," he said at a lunch hosted by the South Australian Press Club. "It is vilification, picking them out of the crowd because they dress differently or they speak differently.

"If we are not careful we risk raising a generation of Australians who will have a bias against Islam."
Meanwhile, Abduljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council of Britain backed up the Sheik:
saying that “loose women like prostitutes” encouraged men to be immoral. Dr Sajid, visiting Australia, said that Sheikh al-Hilali was attacking immodesty and loose dress, or “standing in the streets, inviting men to do these bad acts”.

Although the Australian cleric did not use the word prostitute, but appeared to be attacking women wearing revealing clothes, Dr Sajid said that the sermon had been taken out of context. Referring to the thrust of the Sheikh’s argument, he said: “So what is wrong in it? Who will object to that?”
Who indeed?

When the Wind Changes Direction

I have been posting about a change in the attitude of the Labour Party to their white working class bedrock who, I have suggested, are shown by private polling to be deserting the Labour cause. That's speculation, based on observations of the statements and policies we have been hearing recently, not on inside knowledge.

Now Iain Dale has weighed in, quoting an article in The Economist (paid link omitted):

Apart from election campaigns, when rising support for far-right political parties in areas such as Dagenham causes alarm, the traditional working class is largely overlooked. When politicians say that some communities are failing to integrate with mainstream society, they mean Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. When campaigners complain that schools are failing some children, they often cite black boys. Yet the nation's most troubled group, in both absolute and relative terms, is poor, white and British-born.
Iain's conclusions are:
none of the three main parties seem willing to accept what is happening under their very noses. Social Justice has to mean bringing opportunity and hope to ALL parts of the community, not just those which appear to be politically correct. The question is, is it too late? Are people in the poorer white communities so disconnected from the political process that they are out of reach of mainstream politicians? This is why it's so important that the Conservatives get back into the Cities for the long term.
While Cameron's 'hug a hoodie' approach was derided by many, perhaps he had cottoned on to (wittingly or not) the fact that it is this group of kids who are the ones in real need of attention.
I had missed the significance of the "hug a hoodie" speech. The Tories were quicker to understand and react to this situation than Labour.

This change is just beginning.

War and Peace

Wouldn't it be wonderful to end all war and famine? Is that just a utopian ideal, straight out of the John Lennon songbook? Isn't it just what the Stop The War crowd want? The answers might be yes, no and no respectively. Funnily enough, it's more likely to be what George W. Bush and the neo-cons are trying for, or at least were trying for before realpolitik reared its ugly face again.

The Bush Doctrine, as outlined in 2002, was :

a commitment to "extending democracy, liberty, and security to all regions". The policy was formalized in a document titled The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, published on September 20, 2002. The Bush Doctrine is a marked departure from the policies of deterrence and containment that generally characterized American foreign policy during the Cold War and the decade between the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11.
Objections to this idea tend to be based on allegations of hypocrisy (Bush does treat with tyrants when it suits him), hidden agendas (these are fine words to mask a new imperialism) or a more generalised suspicion of what might be termed "preventative war" best summarised, interestingly enough, by Abraham Lincoln in a letter dated 1848:
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure.... If today he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us," but he will say to you, "Be silent; I see it, if you don't."
Whether or not Bush is a hypocrite, or has a hidden agenda, are fit subjects for debate. But I'm interested here in the question of whether or not the doctrine itself is a valid one, and whether it might hold the key to lasting world peace and plenty. In saying that, it needs to be noted that neither of those goals are exactly imminent. It also needs to be emphasised that, if it is accepted that the only valid end for foreign policy, beyond immediate responses to circumstances, is the spread of democracy, there is still a great deal of room for disagreement as to how that might best be prosecuted.

Here are the two critical assertions:
  1. "...in the the 1816-2005 period there were 205 wars between nondemocracies, 166 wars between nondemocracies and democracies, and 0 wars between democracies."
  2. "...no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press."
The first comes from the Wikipedia entry for R.J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and exponent of Democratic Peace Theory. A good explanation of this theory, including the objections that have been raised against it, can be found here.

The second is a quote from a paper by Nobel Prize in Economics winner in 1998, Amartya Sen.

It needs to be emphasised that both of these theories have their detractors. However, nobody disputes that Democracy makes external aggression (especially against other democracies), internal repression and large scale famine very much less likely. War, tyranny, torture and starvation are not vote-winners, indeed the present electoral prospects of the Republicans in the U.S. and the Labour Party in the U.K. have been adversely affected by the Iraq invasion.

I quoted the Iraqi blogger Iraq The Model in an earlier post:
One of our biggest problems here is that many of us and of our politicians in particular seem to have lost the ability to strategic vision
When people do refer to a strategic vision, it tends to be one of fighting an enemy. Comparisons between the threat of Islamic Supremacism and that posed by the Nazis in the 1930s are frequently made. Here's Nick Cohen from a recent book review:
Suppose there had been one million Germans in Britain in the 1930s, most of them at the bottom of the heap and all of them the potential victims of racism. Suppose only a few were actual Nazis, but many others either sympathised vaguely with Hitler’s demands that the punitive conditions of the Treaty of Versailles be lifted or were pushed back into a German identity by the constant harping of the rest of society on the Nazi menace. The liberal left of the day would have feared inciting racism if they joined the chorus, and found it far harder to oppose Hitler consistently
Cohen is as ever making an important point, but it is couched in terms of what one might oppose rather than the advocacy of something positive. It is also trapped in the disputes of one section of the political spectrum, the left. It is part of a squabble, not a vision for the future.

There have been other reasons for war than religious expansionism. There will be again when we have seen off this specific attack. There is widespread hunger and frequent famine around the world, and a general sense that we are all diminished by allowing it to continue.

If the only way to bring peace to countries, regions and, eventually, the world, and the only way to eliminate famine, is to spread democracy, then we should not be reluctant to say so. Moreover, migration in the world is almost entirely from unfree countries to free ones, and it is the free ones that are prosperous, not because they exploit the rest of the world, though occasionally they do, but because they are energetic and enterprising, because the energy and enterprise of individuals is free to be expressed in commerce and wealth creation. People generally prefer to live in free countries and to suggest that this somehow doesn't apply to those of darker complexions is simple racism.

In the name of our common humanity, for the sake of world peace and for the elimination of famine, we should openly be following a policy of spreading democracy throughout the world. This should be a cornerstone of the foreign policy of every free country. What tactics we might use in furtherance of this could then be more widely discussed, and could benefit from the contributions not just of neo-conservatives and neo-liberals.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Just to Remember

why we're fighting against the fundamentalist puritans who would ban music, here's John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison playing Baby Please Don't Go.

Rights, Responsibilities and Autonomy

Last month, Lord Falkoner came out fighting for the Human Rights Act, and this was sniped at, elegantly, by Tim Worstall. I won't reprise either - follow the links if you want to see what they are saying - but the conflict here is between ancient English liberties and a different, more continental and more leftist approach to rights (yes, I know the Human Rights Act was based on a British initiative after the Second World war, but the point stands; WWII was a long time ago and contemporary interpretations of human rights wouldn't have crossed even a fevered judicial mind in 1946).

There are running problems with the concept of rights and their relationship to responsibilities. How can animals have rights, ask some, when they cannot have responsibilities? Yet almost everybody would feel it would be wrong to gratuitously torture an animal. Why, if they don't have rights?

Well, they don't, and nor do we. The concept of rights is convenient to a certain type of absolutist mind. It is one of the mechanisms whereby opinions are presented in the guise of natural laws by people who are strangers to uncertainty, questioning, skepticism, honest enquiry and doubt.

If you want to know the intrinsic qualities of an object, chemical, phenomenon, you isolate then examine it. So let's isolate a human being - strand them alone on a desert island. What rights do they have? What responsibilities do they have? None, and none. But they do have to take the immediate consequences of their actions, or of their inaction. They can say whatever they like, do whatever they like, but if they don't build a shelter they'll get wet when it rains and if they don't hunt, or gather, they'll go hungry. That is our intrinsic state, as individuals.

But we don't live alone on desert islands. We are still autonomous, because that's our intrinsic quality. Living in a social group means we have responsibilities, and we all acknowledge this freely. The problem is, we don't agree what those responsibilities are.

This is the proper terrain for debate: what are our responsibilities? Suddenly, everything becomes clearer. Whether or not animals have rights is neither here nor there. It's a non-question. Instead we have to talk about what responsibilities we have to them - acknowledging that they are also autonomous creatures. We are, relatively, very powerful. Do we accept that this brings with it responsibilities? If so, what are they?

I don't want to walk past starving people on the street, and I'm willing to pay tax to provide a safety net. But how much tax and what sort of safety net? The "rights" of the people in question disappear and suddenly the onus is on me. What should I be doing?

Nobody could present themself at a port and claim asylum based on their rights. Instead, I have to face the question of what I'm prepared to do - what I think it is right to do - not just for migrants but for every citizen of a despotic country.

The issue of free speech becomes very simple. We are autonomous. Plainly, what we say will annoy and offend others. The onus is on them to be tolerant. And the onus is on us - on me - to be tolerant of expressions that annoy or offend me.

The Price of Failure

I tried to show, in an earlier post comething of the variety of opinion amongst Iraqi bloggers. Of these, Iraq The Model may be the most hawkish on the war situation. In his most recent post, he explains some of his reaoning:

One of our biggest problems here is that many of us and of our politicians in particular seem to have lost the ability to strategic vision and allowed themselves to indulge in details and are satisfied by looking at only one corner of the image that they are no longer able to comprehend the magnitude of this critical conflict of our time.

I am an Iraqi so naturally I am only interested in what's going on within the borders of my country or even the city where I live, just like most people in the third world are, and this is fine and expected.
But what's neither fine nor acceptable is to see politicians and decision-makers, who are supposed to be the leaders of the new world order, think and behave in the same manner as third world citizens.

All they seem to think about is how to get away from this debilitating conflict in Iraq no matter what the outcome would be. Even worse, few people seem to realize what the amplifications of a defeat in Iraq would be on the Middle East and the rest of our small global village.
Let's call the battle for middle east, and I think politicians do not need anyone to explain to them what this part of the world means…the outcome of war in Iraq does not affect Iraq alone, a victory means disrupting the ring of terror and extremism the enemies are trying to establish while failure would be equal to allowing them to establish that huge ring, or should I say that gigantic octopus of terrorists and terror-supporting regimes that would extend from Afghanistan in the east to Libya in the west and from Iraq in the north to Sudan and Somalia in the south.

And instead of creating islands of democracy and liberty, connecting them and extend from there to change the world to the better, the enemies would engulf those islands and add them to their multi-jointed entity of terror.

We need the decision-makers to rise above the rhetoric of who's right and who's wrong and focus on protecting the world from falling prey to the vicious enemies of civilization.

The strange silence of the European left

Nick Cohen reviews two post 9/11 books for the New Statesman. In conclusion, he comments:

The failure of [Joschka] Fischer [German Green Party] and so many other 1968 radicals to challenge the neo-conservatives with a left-wing argument that included solidarity with the victims of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda astonishes him, and rightly so: it was astonishing.
It still is.

Life on Mars

I'm not usually a swearblogger, but now I'm cross.

Writing in The Times today, the Archbishop of Canterbury says:

COMING BACK from a fortnight in China at the beginning of this week, into the middle of what felt like a general panic about the role of religion in society, had a slightly surreal feel to it. The proverbial visitor from Mars might have imagined that the greatest immediate threat to British society was religious war, fomented by “faith schools”, cheered on by thousands of veiled women and the Bishops’ Benches in the House of Lords. Commentators were solemnly asking if it were not time for Britain to become a properly secular society.

The odd thing was to come into this straight from a context where people were asking the opposite question. Wasn’t it time that China stopped being a certain kind of secular society?
Rarely has a human being crammed so much dishonesty and self-deceit into so few words.

The greatest immediate threat to British society IS religious war, you cretinous, bearded twat. 7/7 isn't a fucking convenience store.

Terrorism IS fomented by faith schools.

Headline-grabbing campaigners for the veil ARE activists in mosques that churn out suicide bombers or puppets of supremacist religious cults.

And exactly which "kind of secular society" is China? In case you didn't notice on your visit it's a fucking communist dictatorship. A communist dictatorship that killed some 70 million people in the twentieth century (also see next link). All told, communist dictatorships murdered more than 148 million people in the twentieth century.

And Williams has the mendacious, bare-faced duplicitous cheek to characterise China not as a communist tyranny, but as a secular society.

And who the FUCK has mentioned the Bishops' Bench in the House of Lords? I haven't seen a single reference to it in the newspapers of the past few weeks. But let me remedy that omission right now. Last year the Fabian society called for:
the Church of England's preferential status to end and for its bishops to the lose the right to sit in the House of Lords.

The Fabian Society says the change is needed to establish the principle of equal treatment of religions, including Islam, and that it remains the only part of the constitution untouched by reform since 1997.
Damn right. And it can't be soon enough.

A self-deceiving moron like Rowan Williams, a man who would put the sectional interests of religious partisans above social cohesion and peace, has no place in Parliament.

Don't sugar coat it like that

Give it to her straight.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Peter Tatchell

It's very strange to admire someone as much as I admire Peter Tatchell, while disagreeing with almost all of his politics. While we always disagree with every person about some issues, we rarely find individuals with such courage, integrity and consistency.

Of course, I need to declare an interest, to the extent that he supported and spoke at the Rally for Free Expression last March. But his attitude towards Simon Hughes after the disgusting Lib Dem campaign in Bermondsey in the 'eighties was that of a saint.

And anybody who had the balls to attempt a citizen's arrest of Robert Mugabe is a fit subject for anyboby's admiration.

I know you won't like a lot of my politics, Peter. But, as you signed your correspondence to me during the build-up to the Rally:


MCB Finances

Michael Gove, M.P. and Times columnist as well as author of the book Celsius 7/7 has been asking a series of Commons questions. On the 24th October:

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96284]

Mr. Hain: The Northern Ireland Office has provided no financial assistance or support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.
On the 25th, two question:
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96283]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office was established in July 1999. Since that date it has incurred no expenditure in cash or in kind in support of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96282]

Mr. Hain: The Wales Office was established in 1999 and has given neither financial support nor support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.
So what is his point? Surely there are public accounts from which he could get this information.

Well, not exactly. The MCB has a very unusual structure(pdf):
7. Legal Status

The MCB shall be an unincorporated association.

a) The MCB shall cause title to all property, land and investments held by or on behalf of the MCB, to be vested in not less than five individuals appointed by the MCB as Holding Trustees.
I have been unable to find a page on the MCB website that lists who these holding trustees might be. And they have had a fair chunk of public money. I have a copy of a letter from the Home Office that confirms
1.I am writing to make you a formal offer of a grant for this financial year ending 31 March 2005.

2.This offer is subject to the terms and conditions set out below and in the enclosed Standard Terms and Conditions of Grant (1 April 2004). Please read these conditions, and this letter, carefully.

3.The purpose of the grant is to fund 5 projects that you proposed. These are 1) MCB Leadership Development programme 2) MCB Leadership mentoring programme 3) MCB Direct 4) British Citizenship Programme 5) British Muslim Equality programme. You may regard the money as restricted funds for accounting purposes.

4.The sum offered for the financial year ending 31 March 2005 is £148160.00 This will be a single payment and will be made on a one off basis.
There have been other grants - for website development and other specific projects.

There is a registered charity, The Muslim Council of Britain Charitable Foundation but this handles more modest sums:

Financial Year StartFinancial Year EndGross IncomeTotalExpenditure
01 Apr 200131 Mar 2002£27,146£9,376
01 Apr 200231 Mar 2003£27,848£17,263
01 Apr 200331 Mar 2004£2,215£4,877
01 Apr 200431 Mar 2005£13,401£7,926

Small potatoes, compared to the grants flowing from the public purse to an apparently entirely unaccountable body. Their annual reports show no financial information whatsoever, just the Chairman's speeches.

I have no idea what reason Mr Gove has for his questions. But I cannot see any justification for giving taxpayers' money to such an opaque organisation as the MCB. Until they adopt a proper structure with filed public accounts, they should receive no more public money.

UPDATE: On reflection, my reaction was far too calm. I suppose I'm so used to seeing public money being poured into unaccountable and positively destructive holes that I just grunt and move on.

Of course the MCB should be compelled to provide audited financial statements for every year in which they have received any grants whatsoever from public sources of any kind, including the National Lottery. This is MY money and I want to know how it is being spent. As things stand, I am aware of no mechanism whereby it can be established that the MCB have spent money on the purposes for which it was awarded.

This is a disgrace.

UPDATE 2: 26th October 2006:
Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind his Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96280]

Hilary Benn: To date no financial support has been given to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)

MCB were successful in securing the commitment of funding for a development awareness project among the Muslim community through the 2005-06 Development Awareness Fund which is a competitive funding scheme. The programme has not yet begun and DFID has not given any funding for activity yet.

DFID has had dealings with the MCB on occasions, including co-chairing a seminar for Islamic NGOs in 2005, and in 2001 publishing its fourth Target 2015 booklet, in association with the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief. These activities did not involve direct funding of MCB.

International Law

I had to nip in and post this.

Argentinian prosecutors are seeking the arrest of former Iranian president Rafsanjani in connection with the 1993 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre that left 85 dead and injured more than 200.

They also were asking the judge to detain several other former Iranian officials, including a former intelligence chief, Ali Fallahijan, and former Foreign Minister Ali Ar Velayati.

They also said they were urging the judge to order the arrest of two former commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, two former Iranian diplomats and a former Hezbollah security chief for external affairs.

Nisman and fellow prosecutor Marcelo Martinez Burgo said they suspected that Hezbollah undertook activities outside Lebanon only "under orders directly emanating from the regime in Tehran."
This a very welcome initiative, and is based on a very important principle - the rule of Law.

While all complicity in terrorist actions should be prosecuted, and every tyrant should know that a court awaits them unlessd they peacefully relinquish power, the principle should be extended beyond actions to include words. The only valid exceptions to freedom of expression are incitement to violence and treason, neither of which is actually a free speech issue at all. When a cleric in, say, Pakistan offers a bountry for the murder of a cartoonist they should be extradited, tried and if convicted imprisoned for a term commensurate with an incitement to murder.

Evening blogging today

Which might have to become the general pattern.

A minority of One

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Mind you, there are several with my name in England and, contrary to the assertion of this site, my surname is certainly found in the U.S.A., so I'm a bit sceptical.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Religion of Compassion

I'm misting up.

Australian religious seer, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, has compassionately described rape victims thus:

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

The uncovered meat is the problem


If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred

Via Tim Blair (yet again). It seems this follows another Australian Sheikh, Feiz Muhammad's gentle suggestion last year that rape victims deserve to be raped.

UPDATE - The Sheik apologised, saying he certainly didn't mean to offend anybody. What he really meant was it's OK to rape prostitutes.

UPDATE 2 - The Sheik apologised for his apology...(cont. p.94)

Telephone Sanitisers

Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy made a very British joke about the origins of the human species.

On a distant planet a terrible, if unspecified, disaster was looming. The population was divided into three parts: the scientists and thinkers, the doers (engineers, plumbers, businessmen), and the middlemen - advertising agents, telephone sanitisers and the like. The middlemen were sent out on a spacecraft and the rest promised they would follow. But the middlemen hadn't heard anything from them for a while... and then they crashed into the Earth.

While this rings true, in modern Britain, evolution meant that some people with enterprise developed. And what enterprise was shown here, in the cradle of the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions; the home of the Elizabethans who crossed in the Atlantic in ships the size of double-decker buses; the birthplace of the eighteenth-century Bulldogs and the mighty Victorians.

Unfortunately, it seems, they all buggered off, emigrated to Australia and the USA. Our national character now seems to be that of the people, in Adam's book, who haven't built a wheel yet because the Tincture Committee hasn't yet decided what colour it should be, though it has set up a focus group.

While we spend, for example, £300M for tattoo removal on the NHS, in America they produce genuine technical innovation by having fun.

If anyone missed the DARPA Grand Challenge, which was won this year, check out their website. A $2M cash prize was offered to the first organisation that managed to put a fully autonomous, full size vehicle through an arduous 132 mile desert course in less than 10 hours. Teams were organised in Universities, private companies, or just by enthusiasts; think Robot Wars with Humvees and 4x4s. It was won last year by Stanford University. The next competition will be in an urban environment. Two million dollars! An interpersonal facilitation development counselling team-building consultancy focus group wouldn't get out of bed for that kind of money. But DARPA got weird-looking vehicles, diesel smoke, unmanned jeeps crashing through rivers...

Now we have, or rather they have, the Space Elevator Games, with entrants like the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team. And this one cost just $400,000 in prize money (which hasn't been won yet). The idea of a space elevator came from Arthur C. Clarke. It is likely to be a signature of technology sometime later this century, as another idea of his, geostationary satellites, have been for decades already.

And that's where the real tragedy of this lies. Clarke is, of course, an Englishman. Computers were developed to a significant degree by the British. The world wide web was designed by an Brit. The jet engine... There is enormous talent, enterprise and innovation in this country. We are not a nation of telephone sanitisers. But we are governed by them.

Last year, Gordon Brown made a speech in which he promised to make Britain a centre for science and technology. On the same day, Hull University announced it was going to close its Maths Department. The year before, when Exeter University announced the closure of its Chemistry Department, Sir Harry Kroto announced he was going to return his Nobel Prize for Chemistry in protest. We are going through an unprecedented collapse of science in particular, and of genuine education in general at the same time as we see a massive resurgence of religious fundamentalism and religious "education".

We cannot survive this. It is national suicide. It will impoverish us, diminish us, condemn us to a twilight of superstition and ignorance.

But we can fight back.

And one way, one small start, would be the announcement of a few small prizes - game show money - for technical achievement, but fun technical achievement. There's no better way to harness the ingenuity, time, expertise and enthusiasm of thousands than to offer, say, £2M for the first fully autonomous aircraft to perch on a scaffolding pole like a bird after completing an obstacle course. In the great scheme of public expenditure, this is less than peanuts. It is nothing.

But in our dreams, our hopes, and in our future, rebuilding our scientific heritage is everything. Labour has shattered it. They will continue to destroy for as long as they hold power. We can't really, on past performance, expect anything from the Tories except the dessicated, over-intellectualised management of national decline.

We deserve better. Where are we going to get it from?

Poster Girl

I hold two passports - British and Australian. I'm very sad indeed to say that I'd prefer the former to be an English passport nowadays but I have no reservations about the Australian one. I'd give anything to have a Prime Minister like John Howard over this side of the world, and I'm very proud about the role the Australian troops have been playing in the war against the 21st Century equivalent of the Nazis.

Beccy Cole is an Australian singer who is also proud of the Diggers and she has toured some of the places they are stationed at the moment, entertaining them, supporting them and, it has to be said, significantly enhancing the landscape wherever she has gone. That has made her some enemies among the anti-civilisation movement; in some places her posters have been defaced and torn down.

She has responded with a song.

Via Tim Blair, who got it via Blackfive, who got it... well, you can read the other links if you click through.

But before you do, listen to the lady.

Light Blogging

Next to no blogging today - too much work.

It's all about oil

We knew at the time that France's opposition to the invasion of Iraq was largely driven by its oil interests - Elf was a major player in Iraq's oil program. Then we learned that a bit of graft might have been an influence.

Now EUReferendum has a characteristically excellent post surveying French foreign policy. Sample:

Given that the continuous and expanding threads of evidence point to France as a country that has, from Vietnam through Algeria and a succession of African colonies up to and including the Ivory Coast, exercised a wholly malign influence, we really do have to ask ourselves whether this is a country with which we can afford to be associated.
Read it all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Just a guess

But has anyone seen this man leaving or entering the Iranian Embassy?

Muslim Action Committee Representative Supports Political Violence

In the comments to this post, Ismaeel-Hanif Hijazi, a representative and spokesman for the allegedly moderate Muslim Action Committee, made the following comment:

Ismaeel said...

I believe people shouldn't be threatened or attacked if they make reasoned and informed criticisms. However when they are gratuitiously insulting and provoking, my stance is somewhat less rigid. After all isn't a provocation a defence in English law? And we are after all discussing about freedom of expression within the context of obeying the law. In case you are in any doubt by the way i uphold obeying the law of the land in which you are a citizen with rights and duties.
(Emphasis added).

There's no getting round it. Ismaeel thinks that criticism is sufficient provocation for violence. The fact that he tries to argue this is within the law makes absolutely no difference.

The Muslim Action Committee was formed to organise demonstrations over the Danish cartoons controversy and made much of their "peaceful" and "non-violent" stance. They plainly retain the right to be violent if they consider it appropriate. They are closely allied with the Khomeinist Islamic Human Rights Committee and have been trying to stake a claim to public recognition on the back of that crisis and that organisation.

Turkeys don't vote for Christmas

Is the Labour Party facing electoral meltdown as a direct result of its own policies?

I wondered in an earlier post what the motives might be for the recent change in attitude towards Muslims on the part of the government:

It must be a deliberate policy. I can see no other explanation than that their private polling has revealed a serious threat to their position with the bedrock of their support, the white working class.
Now there is a changed approach to migrant labour and E.U. expansion. From The Times:
"Two years ago the Government predicted between 5,000 and 13,000 people a year would come to work from the eight countries who were joining the European Union. According to official estimates around 600,000 have arrived.

"Quite a few Labour MPs are now picking up a lot of anguish in their constituencies over the impact of this influx of low-paid workers. John Denham has stated that in his Southampton constituency the wage rates for labourers have now halved. That directly harms a lot of natural Labour Party supporters.
David Cameron has been making reassuring noises about taxation and spending - reassuring for the enormous public sector workforce who would feel their jobs were threatened by cuts. He knows Turkeys don't vote for Christmas. But perhaps a lot of Labour voters are wondering whether they did just that by electing "New" Labour three times in succession.

Migration affects core traditional Labour voters (who are actually very conservative, socially) more than any other section of the population, in downward pressure on wages, reduced availability of housing, the social changes to the places where they live, increased crime and the sense that the place of their birth has become a foreign country wherein their children have to attend schools in which even English speakers are in a minority.

It's also true that while the Tories have been agonising about "looking like Britain", with more gay, more women and more ethnic minority candidates, the Labour elite don't look anything like their own supporters. That's why Prescott has been kept around so determinedly.

Traditional Labour voters are very hostile to the Tories, but not necessarily to the idea of voting for some other party. UKIP has lost the most boring party leader of my lifetime - in a competitive field - and now has in Nigel Farage a man who can perform better than any of the major party spokespeople, when he is on advantageous ground. It remains to be seen how he will do with issues like the Health Service.

And then, unfortunately, there is the B.N.P. - a socialist party, but of the national rather than international variety.

The evidence of changed government policies towards Islam and eastern European migration suggest the Labour Party is gravely concerned.

English Constitutional Settlement

Ian Dale writes:

I;m a co-signatory on a letter to the Daily Telegraph announcing the setting up f an English Constitutional Convention. As resgular readres know, I favour an English Parliament to solve the democratic deficit now being experienced by the people of England. I don't want anything like the white elephant of the Scottish Parliament, but it's clear that the status quo is not enough. Sometime in the next next few years this is an issue which all parties have to take seriously. At the moment the Conservative position is that English votes on English measures will solve everything. It won't, and is merely a short term band-aid solution. Anyway, we'll be talking about this subject on tonight's Vox Politix, so hope you'll be watching!...

Sir – The current "post-devolution settlement" is iniquitous to England.Scotland and Wales have their own Parliament and Assembly, and yet are still over-represented in the House of Commons; the West Lothian Question has yet to be answered – why should Scottish and Welsh MPs preside over English matters when MPs representing English constituencies have no reciprocal right? And the long-discredited Barnett formula, the system by which regional funding is allocated, remains grossly unfair to the taxpayers of England.It has been nearly 10 years since the people of Scotland and Wales were consulted in a referendum prior to devolution. No such courtesy has been extended to the people of England, and our politicians seem reluctant even to allow open debate on the subject.Dividing England into "regions", while leaving Scotland and Wales as "nations", is rightly unpopular and undemocratic. Stopping Scottish and Welsh MPs voting on English issues will cause as many problems as it solves. The question of the establishment of an English parliament must be considered and the option placed in front of the electorate. At a meeting in the House of Commons today, the English Constitutional Convention will be formally established, with the aim of promoting debate and raising public awareness of England's democratic deficit. As patrons to the convention, we urge the Government, Opposition and all the people of the United Kingdom actively to participate in that debate. England will be heard. The time for silence is over.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley; Lord Stoddart of Swindon; John Horam MP; Professor Hugo De Burgh; Professor Jeremy Dibble; Prof Roger Scruton; Dr. Gerald Morgan Trinity Dublin; Jervis Kay QC; Garry Bushell Journalist; Iain Dale Conservative commentator; Neil Addison Barrister; Mike Knowles, Chairman, Campaign for an English Parliament; Robin Tilbrook, Chairman, English Democrats; Christine Constable, Chairman, English Lobby; Bishop Michael Reid; Rev Richard Martin; Richard Long, Solicitor; Andy Smith, Past President, Chartered Institute of Journalists; Simon Lee, Lecturer, Hull University; Prof Charles Greenawalt
This initiative is overdue and deserves support.


Channel Four last night broadcast a debate about Muslims and Free Speech. At the end, after a stream of Muslim speakers attacked free speech, a vote was held: Is free speech under attack from Muslims?

And yes, the irony was that obvious.

The vote was "no", narrowly. Why? Partly because the question voted on was badly worded. All Muslims? Some Muslims? Only Muslims?

I think people were generally voting on whether or not they thought the attacks they had just been witnessing from some Muslims against free speech were justified.

I assume (from watching who applauded when during the debate) that the large Muslim component of the audience - it looked like some 30% to judge from headscarves and obviously religious dress - generally voted in favour of the suppression of free speech.

Others feel it's nice to be nice and were voting in disapproval of contentious speech of all kinds. Most people feel we can live without the noisy, obscene and marginalised fringes of society. (We can't, incidentally).

"How would you feel if I insulted your mother?" asked Tony Soprano at one stage during the debate. OK, maybe it wasn't Soprano. Maybe it was someone from Hizb ut Tahrir. It's significant how this language of offence and revenge has spread from the New Jersey Mafia, professional gangsters everywhere, and the villages of Albania, Sicily, Corsica and the Hindu Kush into mainstream society so that a young man can stand at a podium explaining the ancient basis of the vendetta - that all insults must be avenged - with aggressive language and posture, while a nice middle class liberal presenter nods approvingly from his podium.

Unfortunately, Jon Snow is not the only person in our society to have become so degraded.


Excellent reviews of this debate at The Select Society and Oliver Kamm's site.

Ismaeel, in the comments, points out a different view, from someone who was in the audience, the Gay Jihadi.

Pope Warns Scientists

Continuing his crusade against scientific materialism and rational thought, the Pope warned scientists yesterday that they risked sharing the fate of the mythical Icarus:

"Letting yourself be seduced by discovery without paying attention to the criteria of a deeper vision could lead to the drama the myth speaks of," he told the Pontifical Lateranense University at the inauguration of a new academic year.
What on earth does this mean?

Take Richard Dawkins, a man who surely fits the bill for Pope Benedict. What is or will be his fate? In what practical way will he share the fate of Icarus?

The Pope's words were meaningless drivel, I'm afraid.


An American soldier has gone missing in Iraq.

Perhaps he'll be dressed badly, given so much food he puts on weight, and will have to endure seeing one of his abductors standing near his Bible, in a way he finds disrespectful.

Or maybe he'll be tortured with electric drills, dragged behind a truck then decapitated.

I don't support Guantanamo Bay. It should be closed and the American government should respect and observe the Geneva conventions. But for the first time, this is not in order to ensure that captured US troops will be treated equally fairly. They won't be. Not under any circumstances, not in Iraq, nor in Afghanistan.

Catholic Taliban

A campaign by extremist Catholics to out gay clergy has been likened to a Catholic Taliban:

Catholic Truth believe outing gay clergy would be a “great work of charity”. The group has an office in Edinburgh’s Princes Street and claims to have over 1000 people on its mailing list .

McKeever told the Sunday Herald at the time of the anti-gay launch: “The key objective behind naming homosexual priests and bishops is to raise awareness of the problem within the church .”

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

I emailed Ismaeel (see earlier posts) privately, but he posted the mail on his blog. Here it is, with his comments:

Peter Risdon has emailed me the following. The interesting thing about this email from the self-styled champion of unfettered free speech is his constant calls for civility. I have placed the appropriate sections in bold italics below. Maybe this dialogue thing is working.....
I had the courtesy to post on both blogs and found your failure to reciprocate irritating, so I deleted your comment. In hindsight I should have left it there, so I'll post an entry pointing to your site.
But I do find some of your language aggressive ("we won't take this lying down...") and patronising ("you should learn..."). Dialogue is a good thing. Constructive criticism is also a good thing - there are worse alternatives as the recent increase of physical attacks on Muslims, a woman having the veil torn from her face, four Muslims attacked last night in a mosque, show.
I would be greatly encouraged if you would accept the hand I have always extended to you, from the invitation for you to provide a speaker for the march rally in Trafalgar Square, through my request that the cartoons not be displayed, to this present response to an aggressive ad hominem attack by you on your blog with an invitation to dialogue.
Every time you have reacted out of hostility and paranoia - as over the debate in Oxford - you have been wrong. That will remain the case. My attitude is completely genuine. I am an atheist, I dislike extreme religion but not the people who practise it. Hate the sin, love the sinner, as the Catholics say.

Actually Peter the attitude of loving the sinner and hating the sin is one shared by a true Islamic perspective and was the first lesson given to me by my Shaykh. I'm glad you are appreciating the importance of civility in dialogue.
The hand is still there, open. I hope that, at some point, in the future, Ismaeel will grasp it.

Prisoners of Conscience in Iran

Azarmehr reports:

A vicious assault on political prisoners in Gowhardasht took place yesterday. The attack was carried out by ordinary criminals who are kept alongside political prisoners in Gowhardasht. They used knives and cut glass to injure the political prisoners.

Behrouz Javid Tehrani, one of the victims of this attack has had 17 stitches and many of his teeth broken. Despite his injuries he is still kept in the cell, where he fears further attacks.

In a separate incident, two students in Shiraz, Hamid Kargar and Bahador Dareh-Shoori were abducted by plain clothes agents. The two were recently expelled from university for their political activities. Their families are unaware of where they have been taken to.

Monday, October 23, 2006


There's a lot of comment on anti-jihadi sites and blogs right now about unrest in French suburbs. Incidents like the torching of a bus are described as an intifada. So far, most of the MSM put more weight on social conditions - poverty, unemployment - that were said to have been behind the riots last year.

The problem is that the attitudes of radical Islam have permeated the identities of Western Muslim underclasses in just the same way as, and alongside, those of Gangsta rap. Thus, the clothing of these people reflect US urban chic, they drink and take drugs, pimp and deal, steal and threaten - all completely un-Islamic - at the same time as professing to be proud of their Islamic identity and basing that identity more on bin Laden than on Omar Khayyam or Andalucian astronomers.

There used to be a similar pattern with Rastafarianism. A real Rasta, and a real devout Muslim, is as puritan and boring as a devout Christian or a Mormon door-knocker. Yet in the 1980s a lot of street criminals grew the locks, listened to reggae and thought of themselves as Rasta.

In some ways, describing the French unrest as an intifada is just buying the learnt rhetoric of a part of society that has long known the benefit of regurgitating any philosophy that might boost their sense of self-righteousness. The language of liberal criminology and sociology - that they are victims of poverty and it is all society's fault - is also regurgitated. The "policeman's hat" syndrome is another example, learned from miscarriages of justice: "I might have been caught red-handed in a bank with a striped T shirt, eye mask and bag marked 'swag', raping a pensioner, but the policeman who arrested me wasn't wearing a hat and I happen to know that's illegal, so while this vicious, corrupt police force continues to victimise me I remain a victim, the [insert town here] one".

Buying into this, in turn, reinforces the sense of self-justification in the rioters. We're not just vandals and thugs, we're an intifada, like the Palestinians, victims of injustice, noble, resisting tyranny.

Yet in a way, they are victims. It is harder for them to get work in France than it need be because of racism and economic and social policy that discourages the hiring of unskilled or young workers. A great deal of the problems of the underclass come from a lack of opportunity and an excess of help, the sort of help that makes the giver look and feel better while actually assisting the recipient not one jot.

The French social model, excessive regulation and excessive employee featherbedding, together with excessive welfarism, wastes people as well as money. And then they riot.

This problem isn't helped by radical Islam, but it isn't the consequence of it either.

Bye bye emacs

What the hell, why not blog about technology too.

I've always used emacs/tramp for editing remote files but when it hangs, it's easy to lose the file itself, which is a major nuisance (the backupfile~ stays there so not all is lost). And boy, does it hang. Every other ssh connection I use - shell, vfs etc - is fine but not tramp.

Today this has been a major strain on my productivity.

But Gnome-vfs handles the remote connection fine. If I switched to KDE, KIO-slaves would do the same job, maybe even better. Shame, I like emacs, but there are a lot of good programming editors there and I can't afford to lose two hours as I have today every time there's something flaky about my broadband line.

It's an emotional moment... I've used emacs for years. When I started using tramp, there was no real alternative for remote editing, now you can use pretty much anything. Next you know, I'll be using a graphical IDE...

Libertarianism and Immigration

An excellent essay here from Scottish Libertarian David Farrer. Libertarians are often criticized as hypocrites if they want any restraint on immigration. While some might be, in fact the criticisms are generally based on a misunderstanding of libertarianism.

If welfare systems are not identical (or indeed exist at all) then there can be no free market in labour (or the movement of people). Equally, in a society in which everything is privately owned, then nobody would be able to take up residence there without an invitation from a property owner, or the purchase of some of the property.

This is a very quick summary, and the piece is worth a read.

This could be read as a device to avoid any immigration (we do have welfare systems, they are unequal between countries, and we don't have 100% property ownership so there can be limits on migration and they can be whatever I decide, arbitrarily, to make them). But I don't think that's the idea.

The theory of any political idea is not necessarily founded in the world as we find it, but rather an aspiration of the world as we would like it to be. Of course, most libertarians are to at least some degree pragmatists anyway. While they do tend to favour immigration on principle, they also often want to recognise the problems that large scale migration can cause in the world we actually find ourselves in.

Sign of the Times

Well, I did warn:

The consequences of giving preferential treatment to extremists like the MCB for a decade, of deferring to the real or imagined sensitivities of a small section of the population, and thereby causing genuine resentment, dislike and even hatred of all Muslims generally within society, then reversing the position and releasing a constant stream of remarks, initiatives and policy changes that feed this cultivated dislike could be horrendous.
And now:
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of racial assault after four men were attacked in a mosque last night.
Muslims are widely perceived as combining aggression with a victim complex born out of paranoia. Pretty much every non-Muslim population in the world feels under assault from radical Islam. It's a very dangerous situation because if one fifth of the world's population is Muslim, four fifths are not.

One infrequently commented-on quality of satire, criticism, mockery and abuse is that they act as a safety valve. If people are denied those outlets for their feelings, then the pressure builds until there is an explosion. Recent attacks on free expression have had this effect.

These recent attacks on free expression are as much to blame for assaults on people coming out of mosques as any idiotic special privileges accorded to Muslims by the government and the police. The fatuous habitual cries of "Islamophobic", used to stifle debate and criticism, have made matters much, much worse.

Dialogue, honest criticism, debate and equal treatment for everybody, regardless of race, sex, gender and religion provide the only way forward.