Friday, July 25, 2008

Anti-choice, anti-research, anti-gay fundamentalist wins Glasgow East

So it seems John Mason of the SNP has one the Glasgow East by election.

A victory for an anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, anti-gay religious fundamentalist is a bad day for Scottish politics, whether that candidate is pro union or pro independence. SNP supporters don't however care too much about this - they do not do "values" beyond that of independence.

Considering that their largest financial donor, Brian Souter, the man who bankrolled their 2007 election operation with a £500'000 donation ,is an anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, anti-gay religious fundamentalist perhaps it goes beyond not having any values beyond that of independence.


Back to blogging

It's been a while...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What if 9/11 never happened? A counter history

Interesting article at the New York magazine pondering What if 9/11 Never Happened with contributions from Thomas L. Friedman, Bernard-Henri Levy, Fareed Zakaria, Al Sharpton, Andrew Sullivan and others from across the political spectrum. My sentiments would echo those of Zakaria on the subject:
But, to prick this fantasy, Afghanistan would still be run by the Taliban, and Al Qaeda would be happily ensconced there. Wahhabi clerics would still be fomenting hatred of the West. Saudi millionaires would still be funding madrassas and militants. And there would still be jihadis plotting a terrorist attack on the United States. History would have been delayed, not denied.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

By any means necessary: the symptoms of an advanced degenerative disease

There was a quite astonishing piece of Islamist terror-apologia by Ian Bell in The Herald newspaper today

He starts his article reasonably enough, although I would disagree with what he is saying - it's only on those on the extremes of the debate that would consider opposition to Bush to be comparable to actions of a suicide bomber - to say otherwise is just using a rhethorical trick similiar to what he is criticising of painting those holding opposing views as deranged loons without perspective:
Dissent from the occupation of Iraq and you are styled anti-American, a de facto enemy of democracy. Specify the Bush administration, exempt the tens of millions who personify decency, laud a culture so vital it could make your head swim: none of that will help much. Oppose a planetary hegemony and you are no better, it seems, than the most demented suicide bomber. The trick is rhetorical, but almost always effective. If you oppose the things being done in America's name you are, clearly, a fellow traveller of every insane jihadi. You wanted 9/11 to happen, you are soft on terror, weak on values, a descendent, somehow, of every Quisling. Our own prime minister has been exploiting the gimmick ever since Saddam's weaponry failed to materialise: with us or against us, no ifs, buts, maybes, or alternatives. Your choice.
It starts to go downhill quickly from this disagreement with what he is saying, to astonishment at how low he is stooping:
I am anti-American. I oppose this empire. I want it stopped, as brother Malcolm once used to say, by any means necessary.[emphasis added]
By any means necessary? Flying passenger aircraft into buildings full of civilians, bombing nightclubs full of clubbers, bombing subway trains packed full of commuters, bombing UN compounds, bombing embassies, hacking off the heads of aid workers and journalists. By any means necessary is acceptable apparently.

Oh and it's a small but important point; middle aged white men - especially those who bear a passing resemblence to George Galloway as Bell does - look and sound even more ridiculous when they refer to Malcolm X as "brother Malcolm"

Guantanamo exists, remember, simply because the government of the United States cannot bear to trust America's invaluable laws and America's shining constitution. Stalin had the same problems, as it happens, with the impeccable Soviet legal code, and he adopted much the same solution.
Guantanamo is a problem that has to be fixed. It's wrong legally, it's wrong morally and in terms of the War on Terror it is an enormous own goal by the US in the battle for hearts and minds. But some perspective would be nice. Guatanamo has a few hundred prisoners, the Soviet Gulags held over 2 million political prisoners following the purges in 1937 alone. Some of the Soviet camps has a death rate as high as 80% of prisoners in the first months of incarceration. Where does that leave the comparisions between Bush and Stalin?
Yet by pointing this out I am, clearly, the sort of extremist whose visa problems are about to get worse, and then some.
"By any means necessary" - does he not get it? He may not be a militant Islamist strapping on a bomb vest - but he is an extremist who is advocating the support of terrorism and the murder of innocent civilians.
The greatest irony of life under totalitarianism, meanwhile, is that no-one notices. The world goes on. An occasional weirdo will point out that the emperor is wearing full battledress. The rest go shopping at the mall, or celebrate their own courage in the face of unspeakable terror, and forget to realise that they no longer have a sense of scale.
So the US is totalitarian now? Interesting that he goes onto the subject of a sense of scale, this is a journalist who has just compared the flaws of a democracy (and there are many justifiable criticisms to make of the US and particularly some of it's policies in the War on Terror) with Stalins Russia. The suicide of three prisoners with the Gulag. To add a bit of perspective to there is a female prison called Cornton Vale about thirty miles away from where Ian Bell's newspaper The Herald is published and between 1995 and 1998, eight women killed themselves. Since then the suicide rate has declined somewhat and averages about one a year. That is one prison, of approx. 200 inmates.
Even I find these words sticking in my throat. I have no interest in defending, aiding or abetting fundamentalist maniacs. But I return, increasingly, to what once seemed a bizarre mental experiment: how would the world look if America were recognised as an enemy of freedom?
What and have China become the worlds pre-eminent power? That well known bastion of human rights, democracy and freedom. Everything will be alright then, the world will be henceforth be known as Happy Land, and everyone can live in a gumdrop house on lollipop lake!
On the afternoon of 9/11 I wept like a child, like a human being. Never again.
This man has some nerve to call himself a liberal. What sort of mind considers mass murder by theocratic fascists, acceptable - by any means necessary - and yet still go an and characterise the American body politic as being the ones in the throes of an advanced degenerative disease?

Monday, May 29, 2006

No to Sexual Exploitation at the World Cup, Germany 2006

From June 9 - July 9, 2006, 12 German cities will host the football world cup. Approximately 3 million football fans will attend. In 2002 Germany legalised pimping and the sex industry however it is predicted that the legal red light districts will be too small for the thousands of sport/sex tourists in attendance. It is estimated that up to 40000 women will be "imported" from Central and Eastern Europe into Germany to "sexually service" the men. But buying sex is not a sport and it simply should not be considered an acceptable practice It is sexual exploitation in which women are physically and psychologically harmed, and women'’s bodies are treated as commodities to be bought and sold.

There is a petition to protest this sexual slavery. If you wish to sign this the petition is available here. More details on on the campaign are available here

But now for the "However".

I cannot underline enough that I support the goals of the campaign - ending sexual slavery and the exploitation of women at the world cup. However while I am happy to draw attention to the petition I will not sign it myself. First of all I have a bit of a problem with online petitions, in the same way as I have a problem with the Make Poverty History wristbands. I think it encourages the notion that by signing my name to something, or by wearing a white wristband, that means my responsibility is up. I think the implication must always be that this should only be the start of one's involvement in an issue, not the end as it is for so many people. However the awareness raising aspect can only be seen in a positive light hence why I bring the campaign to your attention.

The other issue that prevents me from signing this particular petition is that it is organised by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. C-FAM are anti-choice and anti stem-cell use and while I am supportive of their ending prostitution campaign the reasons they are anti World Cup prostitution are light years away from the reasons I have. It is a worthy cause but I am simply uneasy putting my name towards something organised by a group like C-FAM.

While on the subject of prostitution there is a good piece at Gendergeeks that is worth a read.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman

A few months ago I read this article by Martin Kettle in the Guardian about Russian author Vassily Grossman and his novel Life and Fate. According to Kettle;
Little by little, Vasily Grossman seems to be working his way into the consciousness of the modern world. If his name already means something to you, and especially if you have read his novel Life and Fate, you may share my view that it is only a matter of time before Grossman is acknowledged as one of the great writers of the 20th century. If today is the first time you have encountered his name, take note of it, for your life may be about to change.
So I followed his advice and took note of Grossmans name and got a copy of the book. Anyway a couple of months after reading it for the first time and a day after reading it for the second time i've come to the conclusion that Kettle is correct when he says it is one of the great works from the 20th century. It can and should be mentioned amongst the all time classics like War and Peace or Don Quixote.

We are, however, lucky that we get the chance to read it at all because after Grossman submitted Life and Fate for publication the KGB raided his apartment. The manuscripts, carbon copies, notebooks, as well as the typists' copies and even the typewriter ribbons were seized. He wasn't arrested, but his book was! With the post-Stalinist thaw underway by this time, Grossman wrote to Khrushchev in protest;
What is the point of me being physically free when the book I dedicated my life to is arrested… I am not renouncing it… I am requesting freedom for my book.
It was punished with what amounted to a 200 year jail sentence. Fortunately at some point in the 1980s, sadly long after Grossmans death, someone smuggled out the last remaining manuscript of the book (all the others had been destroyed) and it was published in Switzerland. Whoever it was that saved that last copy and smuggled it out deserves the praise of a generations to come.
Time is a transparent medium. People and cities arise out of it, move through it and disappear back into it. It is time that brings them and time that takes them away. But the understanding that had just come to Krymov was avery different one: the understanding that says, "This is my time," or, "No, this is no longer our time." Time flows into a man or State, makes its home there and then flows away; the man and the State remain, but their time has passed. Where has their time gone? The man still thinks, breathes and cries, but his time, the time that belonged to him and to him alone, has disappeared.
There is nothing more difficult than to be a stepson of the time; there is no heavier fate than to live in an age that is not your own. Stepsons of the time are easily recognized: in personnel departments, Party district committees, army political sections, editorial offices, on the street ... Time loves only those it has given birth to itself: its own children, its own heroes, its own labourers. Never can it come to love the children of a past age, any more than a woman can love the heroes of a past age, or a stepmother love the children of another woman.
Such is time: everything passes, it alone remains; everything remains, it alone passes. And how swiftly and noiselessly it passes. Only yesterday you were sure of yourself, strong and cheerful, a son of the time. But now another time has come - and you don't even know it.
As it's main subject area is the Eastern Front during World War Two, Stalingrad, the German concentration camps, the Soviet gulags, the Lubyanka and so all this makes it sound like it is going to be a thorougly depressing book - but despite what the subject matter is it's not really. The basic premise is summed up by Grossman himself in the question;
Does man lose his innate yearning for freedom? The fate of both man and the totalitarian State depends on the answer to this question. If human nature does change, then the eternal and world wide triumph of the dictatorial state is assured; if his yearning for freedom remains constant, then the totalitarian state is doomed.
For Grossman the yearning for freedom is constant, there is after all;
no higher happiness than to be able to crawl on one's stomach, out of the camp, blind, one's legs amputated, and to die in freedom, even if only ten yards from the cursed barbed wire.

this is a partial repost from an entry i have made on my personal blog

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hitch v Cole "it's a blogwar"

It started wih this article by Hitch, The Cole Report: When it comes to Iran, he distorts, you decide. Juan Cole retaliated with Hitchens the hacker and Hitchens the Orientalist.

Hitchens responds to this in a radio/podcast interview transcribed and available to listen (in mp3 format) at Juan Cole is 10th rate...he is the embodiment of the mediocre...his sentences are syntactical train's illiteracy, simply. The interview contains some vintage Hitch-slapping that people by now have either grown to love or hate (i love it, naturally): also suggests very strongly, which is the fun bit, that Professor Juan Cole does not know what he is talking about, in any language. His English is, by the way, very poor. I can't believe his Persian is excellent, because his English is lousy. He knows no history, he has no policies. He is a complete dim bulb, and well, I must say, I took pleasure in pointing this out.
I get the feeling this ones going to run and run...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dispatches from Khartoum

With the long running crisis in Sudan once again back in the news I thought i would link to Strange Glitter which is an online diary of a young English teacher living in Khartoum. While it doesn't go into depth on the current crisis (it's a non-political blog) instead focusing on her day-to-day life in Sudan it's still an enlightening read nonetheless. There are interesting contrasts between her obvious love of the place and many the people she lives and works with on a daily basis and the difficulties experienced living there on other - whether it be the low level corruption of officials and the police to what it is like living as a western woman under Sharia Law.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Euston Manifesto: a new democratic progressive alliance

The Euston Manifesto: I am reminded of the words of a great man (namely Homer J. Simpson) hmm your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.
Here's a bit of background to it from Norman Geras and Nick Cohen writing inThe New Statesman
It started with some like-minded progressives meeting in a London pub. Disenchanted with what they saw as the wrong-headed thinking of the anti-war movement, they began to talk of a new left movement.

On a Saturday last May, right after the general election, 20 or so similarly minded people met in a pub in London. We had no specific agenda, merely a desire to talk about where things were politically. Those present were all of the left: some bloggers or running other websites, their readers, a few with labour movement connections, one or two students. Many of us were supporters of the military intervention in Iraq, and those who weren't - who had indeed opposed it - none the less found themselves increasingly out of tune with the dominant anti-war discourse. They were at odds, too, with how it related to other prominent issues - terrorism and the fight against it, US foreign policy, the record of the Blair government, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, more generally, attitudes to democratic values.

At that first meeting our discussion focused on our common sense of discord with much current left-liberal thinking. We talked of how the prevailing consensus had ample representation in the liberal press, on the BBC and Channel 4, whereas the viewpoint of our own segment of the left was significantly under- represented in the mainstream media. We had, however, found a place on the internet and in the blogosphere, which had helped to connect people who might otherwise have felt isolated and had given expression to the voices and debates of a left other than the one heard loudly everywhere: from TV screens and newspapers, in universities and other workplaces, in theatres, at dinner tables and at every kind of social gathering. Its ideas were so much perceived as conventional wisdom that many found it difficult to allow that there could be an alternative left-liberal view.

The group that took informal shape that Saturday decided to continue meeting, with the aim of getting its political arguments out beyond the internet, of winning for those arguments a greater space within more traditional forums of public discussion. We have met twice more (at a pub near Euston Station, as it happens); others who were not at the initial meeting have become involved.

We have now produced a manifesto, in advance of a public launch some time in May. In it we set out our basic commitments. In the nature of what it is, a document of orientation, the manifesto may, in some of its points, appear to state the obvious. We make no apology for this. Part of the problem with much contemporary left-liberal opinion is that too many things that should be obvious in the light of the history of the past hundred years seem not to be so.

We hope that this manifesto will serve as an encouragement to others who, like ourselves, bel ieve that some of the most important values of a progressive politics have lately been lost sight of, subordinated to wrong-headed political priorities and insubstantial tactical consideration.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

German neo-Nazis to support Iran at the World Cup

Why does this not surprise me in the slightest?
A neo-Nazi group in Germany has announced plans to attach themselves to Iran during the World Cup to further its dissemination of anti-semitic propaganda. The NPD party, a right-wing extremist group, intends to march around the east German city of Leipzig on June 21, when Iran take on Angola in group D.
The NPD admires the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has referred to the Holocaust as "a myth" and called for Israel to be "wiped of the map".

Friday, January 13, 2006

Channel Four balance on Iraq and their creepy circus sideshow

So that is another season of anti-war documentaries and programming on Channel 4 and it's sister Channel More4 with Iraq the bloody circus almost finished now. It's about time Channel 4 commissioned some programming acknowledged the other side of the debate as it's been completed airbrushed from their narrative of Iraq and the "war on terror". I remember the height of the anti-globalisation protests a few years back there were a few documentaries supportive of the protestors case (which were always amusingly juxtaposed with the commercial breaks for Mercedes, Pizza Hut, KFC and the rest - Much like how the Independent will run an article on climate change and the damage SUV's are doing to the environment, then over the page with be an advert for a BMW X5 or the Jeep Cherokee). The important thing though was that one the hand Channel 4 were broadcasting work by the likes of Noreena Hertz or the Alt-TV series - but at the same time as this were also showing pieces like the Johan Norberg documentary Globalisation is Good. In other words there was balance. Now I don't expect there to be a 50/50 split in their coverage on the Iraq war and the "war on terror" more generally, but it would be nice for a change for some dissenting viewpoints being aired. Right now, there is nothing being broadcast that offers an alternate viewpoint. The alternative viewpoint may well be inaccurate but the viewer should be allowed tomake these sorts of judgments for themselves, not have it airbrushed it from the media schedules as Channel 4 is doing now.

While on the subject of Channel 4, earlier tonight they ran a trailer for Celebrity Big Brother with the creepiest thing I've seen in years. The clip consisted of George Galloway acting as if he was a cat and then "lapping" milk from some woman's cupped hands (Who I imagine is a celebrity of some sort but I didn't recognise her). Previously I thought Dennis Hoppers role as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet was the creepiest thing I'd ever see on TV but this beat it. There can only be one word for it: EEeeeewwww.

See the video nasty by clicking here. (It's on google video courtesy of dj bleu. Nice soundtrack!)

The Hitch had a brief piece in the Mirror today on the whole sorry spectacle,at home with the tenth rate.
I notice that Galloway has said he'll donate his fee to a charity that helps hard-pressed Palestinians. Has anyone asked lately what happened to poor Mariam, the gravely sick Iraqi girl? The last I read, she was sicker than ever and her family in Baghdad asking to know what had happened to her once-generous "Big Brother".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Get back to work Galloway

Contentant George Galloway MP: Why Isn't He At Work?

Friday, December 23, 2005

The slow road to Justice finally produces some results

Justice is beginning to be dealt as a court in the Netherlands sentences Dutch arms trader Frans van Anraat to 15 years in prison for his role in the supply of ingredients used to make chemical weapons which were to be used by Saddam Hussein's regime against Kurdish civilians in an attempt at ethnic cleansing. Before van Anraat could be convicted, the judges had to decide whether the 1988 attack on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja amounted to genocide, it's findings stated
The court has no other conclusion than that these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq.
The role of van Anraat in the genocide may have been a small one but nonetheless the decision is important because it recognises acts of genocide against the Kurds in Iraq and as such another small step towards justice for those innocent victims.

Some background to the trial can be read on the blog From Holland to Kurdistan, here and here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Palestinian FA plan to punish Peace Team players

From football being used as a symbol of hope and of peace last week when a joint Israeli/Palestinian team played together against the mighty Barcelona to football administrators in Palestine displaying remarkable small mindedness just a few days later. From Reuters
The Palestinian FA plans to punish players under its jurisdiction for participating alongside Israelis in a "Peace Match" in Barcelona, an official said on Wednesday.

A 'Peace Team' of Israeli and Palestinian players lost 2-1 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp last week in front of 31,820 spectators, including many dignitaries.

"The Palestinian FA will form a committee to investigate the players who participated in the match ... everyone involved will be punished," senior FA official Jamal Zaqout told Reuters.

"We act in accordance with the attitude of our people who are against normalisation (of relations with Israel) before the end of the occupation," Zaqout said, referring to Israel's hold over lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Fifteen Israelis, including many internationals and 12 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank joined up for the match sponsored by Israeli statesman Shimon Peres's Centre for Peace foundation.

Zaqout, who is based in the Gaza Strip, said the five West Bank players who competed, including national team member Khaldon Fahd would be subject to the investigation.

The official Palestinian national team and their Israeli Arab coach Azmi Nassar were participating in a tournament in Qatar at the time, losing to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

A Peres Centre spokeswoman said the Palestinian FA's reaction was "irresponsible and annoying".

"The Peres Centre together with its Palestinian partner, the Abu Sukar Centre, received the blessing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and (his senior security adviser) Jibril Rajoub for the match," spokeswoman Michal Eldar said.

"The match in Barcelona was an unprecedented event in which we managed to convey to the world the message of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians," she said.

A spokesman for the Israel FA (IFA) said it had approved the participation of its players.

Israel's FA has been generally supportive of its Palestinian counterpart, which became a full FIFA member in 1998.

The IFA helped Palestinian players receive permits to leave Gaza for overseas matches when Israel controlled the coastal territory before pulling out last September.
Only one word can describe the Palestinian FA's response adequately - Pathetic.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tories choose Cameron as new leader

As expected, David Cameron is elected leader of the Conservatives. May I be the first to express a great sense of dismay at this turn of events - the country is obviously in a very disturbing state of moral decay when degenerate hard drug users can be elected to lead one of the main political parties!

While I say that tongue in cheek (being quite a fan of many things considered morally degenerate by those who make such judgements on others activities) when it comes to drug use I can become quite puritan. I don't agree with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair on many things but on Cocaine use he was spot on in early 2005 when he stated:
People seem to think the price of a wrap of cocaine is 50 quid, but the cost is misery on estates here and a trail of blood back to Colombia. Someone has died to bring it [cocaine] to a dinner party. People who wouldn'’t dream of having a non-organic vegetable don'’t seem to notice the blood on their fingers.
On a related point there was an interesting juxtaposition of articles on the BBC News front page. Sadly it only lasted a few minutes (I wonder if they got a call from Tory central office?) but thanks to the print screen function here it is.

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