Saturday, December 05, 2009 

Weekend links.

A lot of utter nonsense has been written on climate change science the emergence of those leaked emails. John B, Flying Rodent and paulinlancs attempt to somewhat redress the sceptic balance, while Sunder Katwala attempts to answer his own question over whom the shadow cabinet climate sceptics are. On other matters, Craig Murray wonders what we do if we didn't have those completely essential bankers, Paul Linford thinks Gordon Brown still might be vindicated over not calling a snap election back in 07, 5cc finds we're still not banning Christmas, or cracker jokes, Chris Dillow says Brown is fighting the wrong kind of class war, BenSix reflects on the case of Ibrahim Jassam, Angry Mob goes into the kind of detail rebutting Richard Littlejohn that is highly admirable, and lastly Third Estate reports on the latest ridiculous imposition of an ASBO.

Far too much has been written already about Gordon Brown joking about tax policy being dreamed up on the fields of Eton, but not too much for the usually decent Matthew Parris not to comment on. Janice Turner attempts to redress the balance somewhat with a piece on how the rich are different, Amy Jenkins thinks that bankers have a death wish while Andy Trotter of ACPO doesn't make a very convincing case for why photographers are increasingly being harassed under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Slim pickings from the papers, unless of course you want to read how Amanda Knox really is an evil she-devil and how there definitely hasn't been a miscarriage of justice, honest.

As for worst tabloid article of the weekend, we'll stretch the rules once again slightly to include the Spectator's website, and the increasingly openly racist Rod Liddle (ht PP):

The first of an occasional series – those benefits of a multi-cultural Britain in full. Let me introduce you all to this human filth.

It could be an anomaly, of course. But it isn’t. The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.


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Friday, December 04, 2009 

Apologies and junk.

Have to apologise for the utterly piss-poor blogging this week, for which there's no real excuse. Will try to do better next. In the meantime, Andy Worthington has the good news that those unelected, unaccountable judges have struck a blow for freedom once again:

Yesterday, however, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Owen finally addressed this lapse in the equal application of the law, ruling that it was "impossible" to conclude "that in bail cases a less stringent procedural standard is required" than in control order cases. The judges also rejected a claim by Siac that its decisions should be "immune from judicial review".

The judges' ruling came in the case of XC, a Pakistan student (and one of 10 students arrested in April), who was refused bail on the basis of secret evidence, and the case of U, an Algerian. Imprisoned without charge or trial for seven years, U had finally secured bail last summer, and lived for a short time, under a 24-hour curfew in a rented house in southern England, until, in February, then home secretary Jacqui Smith decided that he was likely to abscond, and persuaded Siac to revoke his bail and return him to prison.

And have some rather lovely dubstep while we're at it:

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Thursday, December 03, 2009 

25 years of poison.

25 years ago to the day, the worst industrial disaster in history took place in Bhopal, India. 8,000 to 10,000 people died within 72 hours; the number of deaths attributable to the release of Methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide plant has since risen to around 20,000, with as many as half a million affected in some way.

25 years ago to the day, I was born.

In my more spiritual, bullshit, irrational moments, I like to imagine that despite the fact that I came into conciousness long before I was actually delivered, and that reincarnation in any event is laughable, that one of the souls which broke free from its corporeal body in such a brutally painful fashion flew half-way around the world and entered mine as I properly entered the world. Feel free to laugh. It sounds good though.

There is though the most tenuous of further connections. Chances are, I myself wouldn't be here if the youngest of my three elder brothers hadn't died in an accident when he was 5 years old. In a way, I was the replacement, right down to being born on the same day as he was, a coincidence rather than a conscious attempt on the part of my parents, as far as I'm aware. We do incidentally share the same hair colour but not the same personality, although you can't exactly know for sure how his would have changed had his life not been cut so short.

While the personal tragedy of my own existence continues, the genuine tragedy, the outrage which took place in Bhopal goes far beyond ordinary disgrace into extraordinary, deadly farce. As Indra Sinha concludes:

When people ask, "Why is the disaster continuing? Why has the factory not been cleaned? Why have Union Carbide and Dow not faced justice?", the answer is this: Union Carbide's victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders.

For me at least, however bad this sounds, it rather brings things into perspective.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009 

Mandelson vs News International.

If we needed any more evidence that New Labour has decided that they have nothing to lose, Peter Mandelson's astonishingly personal attack on News International in the Lords today during the reading of the Digital Britain bill most certainly fits the bill. According to the Graun:

"There are some in the commercial sector who believe that the future of British media would be served by cutting back the role of the media regulator. They take this view because they want to commandeer more space and income for themselves and because they want to maintain their iron grip on pay-TV, a market in which many viewers feel they are paying more than they should for their music and sport. They also want to erode the commitment to impartiality. In other words, to fill British airwaves with more Fox-style news."


"They believe that profit alone should drive the gathering and circulation of news rather than allowing a role for what they call 'state-sponsored journalism'. The government and this bill reject this worldview, and I hope that the whole house, including the Conservatives, will make clear today that they think likewise, and that they will support Ofcom – including its efforts to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal in the pay-tv market."

Whether Murdoch senior and/or junior will directly return fire or not remains to be seen, and if there is one person who might just manage to win in a full-scale war between the two, Mandelson might just be that man, but it is a staggering act of cynicism which causes trouble for all sides. After all, if the Sun had delayed its changing of support to the Tories until next year, there wouldn't be a snowball's chance in hell of Mandelson making any such statement, regardless of its accuracy and regardless also of how NI would still be attacking Ofcom for daring to suggest that it shouldn't have a monopoly on how much it charges for its exclusive content.

The problem this poses though for those of us think Mandelson is exactly right, just for exactly the wrong reasons, is obvious. The Murdochs have, as they usually do, played it perfectly: they identify when something or someone is weak, then move in for the kill, on this occasion on both the BBC and Ofcom at the same time. The power which NI wields was ably illustrated by just how quickly Google decided to roll over and play dead once attacked by Rupert. For Mandelson to now be making the exact same arguments which we should be against increased NI media market dominance runs the risk that we end up looking like New Labour stooges, or that we ourselves have an interest in keeping the status quo. Mandelson's attack also potentially puts the BBC in a difficult position, as it could perpetuate the view that NL has an interest in ensuring it can keep churning out its "state-sponsored journalism", when the nation as a whole has an interest in impartial, free at the point of use news, which is what the BBC provides both online and off to a generally excellent standard, and which the public themselves overwhelmingly choose over the online offerings of a certain News International.

Mandelson does have a point though, when it comes to the Conservatives actually putting forward an intellectual argument for why they have decided to so favour NI over the opposition. So far all they've done is stated what their intentions are without explaining why - which doesn't exactly inspire confidence that they're doing it for any reason other than currying favour with the Murdochs. We certainly haven't heard the last of this, that's for sure.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009 

Drop your bombs between the minarets...

Stopped clocks and all that, but I think Daniel Hannan very succinctly nailed the reasons why the Swiss vote on banning minarets was, as he put it, regrettable (ht Neil):

The decision by Swiss voters to outlaw the construction of minarets strikes me as regrettable on three grounds.

First, it is at odds with that other guiding Swiss principle, localism: issues of this kind ought surely to be settled town by town, or at least canton by canton, not by a national ban.

Second, it is disproportionate. There may be arguments against the erection of a particular minaret by a particular mosque – but to drag a constitutional amendment into the field of planning law is using a pneumatic drill to crack a nut.

Third, it suggests that Western democracies have a problem, not with jihadi fruitcakes, but with Muslims per se – which is, of course, precisely the argument of the jihadi fruitcakes.

Hannan could have even done without the first point entirely: he's quite right in his second that the construction of any conspicuously large structure, religious or otherwise, should be considered on a case by case basis. A blanket ban on minarets is egregiously illiberal, it goes without saying; it is, in this political era of "sending messages", the equivalent of telling Muslims not to get above themselves. This might be a free, democratic, multicultural country where freedom of worship is cherished, but don't go getting any ideas that your place of worship can have a fancy tower, that's beyond the pale.

The most troubling thing about the Swiss vote is that everyone imagined that something which was of a minority interest, Muslim-baiting, which despite the efforts of some has not yet become a spectator sport, would result in a minority turning out to support it. As it was, there wasn't an overwhelming majority in favour of the ban, with 57% on a 53% turnout supporting it, yet it was still a major surprise that it passed. Equally lacking was the intellectual case for the ban: the claim that the minaret has no scriptural basis, while accurate, is also irrelevant; there isn't, as far as I'm aware, any verses in New or Old Testament which advocate the construction of church spires, which could equally be construed as a architectural statement of religious power, but then not many of those are being built these days.

When you reduce the exact reasons for the vote down to their respective bare minimums, you're left with unpleasant choices to make about why it was passed: either that 57% aren't taken with large structures; they're openly xenophobic and are resistant to change of any sort; or they believe the scaremongering about Islamification and are worried about immigration. As it is, it's probably a bit of all three. Almost any planning applications in this country are routinely opposed by either nimbys or bananas (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything), regardless of their merit; some of those who supported it will have been openly racist and worried sick of how we're all dhimmis; while likely the vast majority just aren't convinced about the merits of immigration and believed that minarets are, as was argued, the thin end of the wedge.

Unfortunately, this reflects badly on Europe as a whole: while we've enjoyed the benefits of immigration for decades, even while complaining about it, we seem to have decided that now the drawbridge must close. Watch any political debate programme and you'll only probably hear the Liberal Democrats make the case for immigration now; the other parties will of course laud immigration in the past, but conspicuously say that now we need caps. When we're afraid, out of fear of opprobrium, to support immigration both in the past and now, we hand the likes of BNP the entire floor with which to work. The same goes for defending Muslims from those who wish to portray them all as niqab wearing militants determined to establish hand-chopping emporiums on the high street: for too long we've been prepared to shout "racist!" without backing the argument up. Then again, we also aren't helped by Sayeedi Warsi when she does the equivalent of declaring some Muslims takfir for disagreeing with her (while they did the same with her). We need to reach out to everyone, regardless of views, entrenched or otherwise. The alternative is the superficial but significant statements of intent, which was just what the Swiss vote was.

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Monday, November 30, 2009 

Mine Fuhrer, 25 years later.

Only just been alerted (ht: John B) to a rather famous Sun front page which never was: the Mine Fuhrer Arthur Scargill front page from the height of the miners' strike in 1984, courtesy of the-sauce:

It never saw the light of day thanks to the production chapels mass-refusing to set it - something which Murdoch and MacKenzie ensured would never happen again when News International moved to Wapping two years later, smashing the print unions, something which continues to be contentious to this day.

Do have to disagree with John B's additional comments, therefore, that "printworkers shouldn't have a veto over editorial content, however vile." The old motto is "publish and be damned", but if say the printworkers could have blocked "THE TRUTH", as they perhaps could have done had the unions not been crushed, it would have certainly prevented additional pain being piled upon an already grieving city. They would have been the only ones capable of keeping MacKenzie in check - something which the hacks themselves either couldn't or were unwilling to do. More recently it has still taken union power rather than individual power to stop the Daily Star from running a "Daily Fatwa" page, which promised a page 3 lovely in a niqab, while the union reps on the same paper complained also to the Press Complaints Commission that they were under pressure to write "anti-gypsy" reports. Overruling the editorial staff when they go too far, by threatening strike action if necessary, is better than the alternative.

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