Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A break from the norm today. Leaving Chomsky aside, in today's Times Oliver Kamm expresses what many of us who listened to yesterday's events at the CBI conference unfold on BBC Radio 5 Live were no doubt thinking: Thuggery with a green gag.
The intention of yesterday's Greenpeace protest at the CBI conference was, the organisation's spokesman said, "to stop Tony Blair delivering his speech". Not since the author of Tarka the Otter, Henry Williamson, evangelised for the English landscape and wartime fascism has British political debate seen a more explicit identification of the ecological cause with contempt for democracy.

Some might be tempted to treat seriously Greenpeace's objections to nuclear energy, or GM crops, while not necessarily endorsing its tactics. That is misguided. Greenpeace's determination to shut down debate is not aberrant hotheadedness but deeply held conviction. Its is an obscurantist illiberalism more appropriate to a cult than a pressure group.
He rounds things off nicely by concluding:
While all pressure groups are vulnerable to the charge that they advocate policy while insisting someone else picks up the tab, Greenpeace is a case apart. Its campaigning extends to vandalising GM crops and now a thuggish disregard for free speech. Another campaigning group, Fathers 4 Justice, neatly demonstrated, by hurling projectiles at the Prime Minister and handcuffing a minister, that some of its members were entirely unsuited to the responsibilities of fatherhood. Greenpeace has likewise given definitive evidence that its voice should be discounted and derided in public debate.

In my mind Greenpeace lost any credibility they possessed after the infamous Brent Spar debacle. Although Shell actually had the facts on their side, they buckled to the pressure of public opinion against them, much of that having been stirred up by Greenpeace's false claims whixh, as it turned out, were based on extremely shoddy data. One could argue that in doing so Shell bought themselves some well-needed credibility (at least in the eyes of the public) but the real damage had been done. Greenpeace had shown that, regardless of the facts, direct action and an effective propaganda campaign could bend the will of its opponents.

On the surface it was a classic "David and Goliath" - cuddly environmentalists triumphing over an evil, multi-national corporation, intent on polluting the Atlantic. But it was more than that. Greenpeace had found that if they shouted and stamped their feet long enough, they would get their way: "survival of the shrillest" if you will.

Yesterday's events were merely a continuation of this policy. Direct action followed by threats to rain missiles on Blair if the protesters were not given the opportunity to make a ten-minute speech at the conference. That they refused to compromise, despite Blair offering them the first question at the subsequent press conference, only highlighted the level of their extremism. In doing so he invited them, albeit in a small way, to become part of the democratic process. They refused.

For them there is no debate: they are right and that's all there is to it. Anyone who disagrees may find themselves being pelted with missiles, their fields on fire or a victim of whichever ugly method of "justice" the activists choose to dish out on any given day.

Democracy is not about small pressure groups imposing their will on the rest of us. If Greenpeace have a valid point to make, it is up to them to convince the rest of us of its merits via reasoned debate. We can then pressure the government of the day to act and if they do not we are free, to put it bluntly, to boot them out of office. (I can't believe I am having to justify the democratic process. You'd have thought it would be rather difficult to think otherwise given the blood spilt trying to defeat the scourge of totalitarianism in the last century. But there we are.)

I shall wait to see what stance Greenpeace takes on this, but I have a feeling I know already.


Oliver Kamm has added comments regarding the missile-throwing threats that for some reason didn't make the Times article.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


(Apologies for the South Park reference.) You wait ages for a big Canada-related story and just like buses, three turn up at once.

First up to bat: Canada's government is thrown out (from the BBC).
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's government has been ousted in a no-confidence vote.

Canada's three opposition parties united against his Liberal Party, which has been mired in a corruption scandal. His government has only been in power for 17 months, but has failed to shake off a scandal dating from a previous Liberal administration.

In the late 1990s C$100m ($85m; £50m) of public money was paid by the Liberal government to advertising agencies, for little or no work in return. It has been alleged that Liberal officials demanded kickbacks for awarding the contracts.

Mr Martin is not implicated in the scandal, but the opposition says he has lost all moral authority.
Whether or not Martin can ride this one out remains to be seen. Perceived (and actual) corruption played a big part in the downfall of the Major government but crucially Martin is ahead in the polls. Could be an interesting couple of months.

Secondly, as if corruption wasn't enough, it looks like all those smug Canadians who like to criticise Bush for his poor record on the environment are going to have to eat a piece of humble pie: Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions increase. (Courtesy of Damien Penny)

Looking over the record of industrialized countries in controlling their greenhouse-gas emissions is to see cases of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Among the countries judged to be good are Germany and Britain. They're undisputed leaders in showing the way for countries to curb their releases of planet-warming gases. Unfortunately, Canada is listed among the ugly.

In preparation for this week's international climate summit in Montreal, the UN's climate change secretariat has released a report on the progress, or lack thereof, made by the 40 developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent.

Here come the excuses:
Federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion attributes Canada's rise partly to robust economic growth. The economy has grown by 43 per cent since 1990. Canada is also being saddled with emissions from the booming energy industry, which is exporting record amounts of oil and gas to the United States.
So the economy's growing. Isn't that the get-out clause that India and China use to avoid compliance with the Kyoto Treaty? Surely the Canadians knew that their economy was on the up when they became signatories to the Treaty? It makes the decision to sign look little more than an empty gesture, an attempt to placate the vocal green contingent whilst being able to take the moral high ground with the US.

Speaking of which, how do our Canadian cousins compare to the gas-guzzlers on their southern border? Not very well as it happens.

One surprise in the figures is that Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto.

Mr. Bramley said the United States is "actually ahead of Canada in just about every area" of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states "is far ahead of any province in Canada."

Ouch. That's got to hurt.

For me this was always the problem with the Kyoto Protocol. Completely unenforceable, the greens reckoned it didn't go far enough and industry viewed it as a pointless exercise that wouldn't cut global warming by anywhere near enough (and that's assuming man-made global warming exists as a phenomena and can be reversed). Countries that didn't sign up were vilified (e.g. the US) and yet have shown themselves capable of reducing their emissions more effectively than those who talked the talk, but so far have failed to walk the walk (e.g. Canada and almost all of Western Europe).

On the subject of global warming, I'm still not convinced by arguments from either side to be honest. But in keeping with the precautionary principle, three cheers for Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia who (according to this article) are the only countries who managed to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 50% between 1990 and 2003.

And back to Canada. The final "big" story reads like something out of the Onion: Former Canadian Minister Of Defence Asks Canadian Parliament Asked To Hold Hearings On Relations With Alien "ET" Civilizations.

A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister (I'm thinking John Prescott meets Geoff Hoon - what a hideous thought... ed.) under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with "ETs."
Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."
Aren't we all Mr Hellyer, aren't we all? Now for the obligatory Bush-bash:
Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."
Hell yeah Mr Hellyer! When they're not busy occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, you can always rely on the Americans to be letting their imperialistic ambitions run wild in the rest of the galaxy. I can only urge Mr Hellyer to invest in a tin-foil hat - there is no other defence!

Monday, November 28, 2005


If you can stomach it, here's ex-Taliban prisoner, now full-on Islamist Yvonne Ridley berating the family of al-Zarqawi for daring to renounce him for being a terrorist. The title: "Something Rather Repugnant...." by Yvonne Ridley says it all really.
While the killing of innocent people is to be condemned without question, there is something rather repugnant about some of those who rush to renounce acts of terrorism. They rather remind me of trembling slaves all scuttling forth for the approval of the boss class in the hope of receiving a few crumbs from the big man's table ... oh, if only they knew how pathetic they really are.
Apparently condemning al-Zarqawi in half-page advertisements was a "cowardly move". Her despicable tirade continues:
I think I'd rather put up with a brother like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi any day than have a traitor or sell-out for a father, son or grandfather.
Of course you would Yvonne. Anything but the US. Even if that anything is militant Islam. Much better to have a mass-murderer of civilians as a brother than a grass for a grandad, eh?

In her own words:
How on earth can these malignant rulers and corrupt journalists sleep at night? Hmm, I suppose when you have no backbone or conscience then it doesn't matter how lumpy the mattress is.
Quite Yvonne, quite. For a supposed Muslim to stand up for al-Zarqawi shows a remarkable lack of spine IMHO. How much easier to play the moral equivalence game and take potshots at the US, his family and the Jordanian government than to accept that al-Zarqawi, despite being on what you would call "the right side" in Iraq, is actually a bloodthirsty fascist, intent on enforcing his own extremist version of sharia law on an unwilling Iraqi populace.

##Courtesy of Adloyada##


From Engage.

To promote his new book "Beyond Chutzpah," Norman Finkelstein will be speaking to the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies' (SOAS) Palestine Society later this evening. Now I wonder what would attract a second-rate academic whose previous works have included "The Holocaust Industry" to SOAS?

Was he impressed that they tried to ban Israeli diplomat Roey Gilad from speaking to their Jewish Society, or by their college rag publishing an article legitimising Israeli citizens as terrorist targets? Maybe it was because they hosted an anti-Israel hate-fest entitled "Resisting Israeli Apartheid?" Or perhaps he heard that Red Ken was flavour of the month there and had been elected as the first-ever honorary Union President having just compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard and accused Israel of ethnic cleansing? (The fact that Ken was chosen over Nelson Mandela speaks volumes.)

I'm sure Finkelstein will fit in nicely.


Poor old Gavin Gross. I've just seen he's up for UK Islamophobe of the Year, for daring to stand up for Israel at SOAS. Now the reasons the Islamic Human Rights Commission website give for proposing him are:
For the vilification of Muslims in SOAS and tarnishing the name of the School.
We wouldn't want the name of SOAS tarnished by being associated in any way with Israel now would we? I wonder how many students at SOAS share these views?

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Much as I love to see Christiano Ronaldo using his trickery and pace to round defenders, or Wayne Rooney using his guile and strength to leave them for dead, both look rather ordinary when you see footage of Best practically walking the ball round players almost twice his size. Sure, today's defenders possess much better technique than their predecessors, but when you remember that Best was plying his trade in the days when a scything two-footed tackle from behind was positively encouraged and pitches were often more mud than grass, that he got away with such amazing play is all the more remarkable.

According to
George was perhaps the most important member of the great United team which won the League Championship twice in the 1960's as well as the European Cup in 1968 - where he scored a superb solo goal in the final. He later claimed that having beaten round the Benfica keeper he wanted to take the ball up to the line stop it, lie down on the ground and head the ball over the line. Only a truly special sort of player would even have considered such an outrageous act in a game of such importance.
That really says it all. Cheers George.

Friday, November 25, 2005


All in all it was about as well organised an event as I'd always imagined grass-roots SWP-style politics to be - i.e. not very. There was lots of last minute putting up of posters and leafletting (by the barman funnily enough - is the union paying his wages to hand out propaganda or serve pints? Hmmmm) but amidst the chaos I must admit I particularly liked the red lightbulb which had been switched on to give Birkbeck bar a more socialist feel, as if it doesn't look like the back room of a squat anyway.

Corbyn turned up 45 minutes late (and the meeting had to finish 15 minutes later) during which time the debate consisted of several calls for more meetings (presumably for the purpose of calling for more meetings) and someone suggesting making a banner with the Birkbeck crest on it to take out on marches. A few ironic "Not in our name" remarks popped out from one corner of the bar. Someone suggested getting in touch with ex-Birkbeck Iraqis - their assumption that they would all share the same virulently anti-war stance was to be brutally shattered later.

By the time Corbyn had brought up white phosphorus and Bush and Blair chatting about bombing Al Jazeera, his ten minutes were up and we hit the questions. Question number one was from an Iraqi who asked the panel what exactly they thought would happen if the troops left and pointed out that although he couldn't speak for all Iraqis, he for one was bloody grateful for Tony Blair and George Bush and that he felt although Corbyn's heart was in the right place he was somewhat deluded in believing the violence would all go away if our troops bowled backed to Blighty. This was met with various cheers and claps from around the room and looks of bafflement and astonishment from the Stoppers. Instead of answering his question, the chair got more people to ask questions and let Corbyn answer them all in one go at the end, allowing him to completely dodge the Iraqi chap's points. Nice work.

As time had run out, I had to ask Corbyn in a one-to-one whether or not he'd signed the 2nd Cairo Declaration or not. He couldn't remember if he had, but agreed that the bit about a Zionist plan to establish an Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates was ludicrous and he would never knowingly have signed a declaration containing such nonsense.

I grilled him about the IFTU as well and he said that as a union man he supported them fully and couldn't understand why the SWP and the Stoppers had been so harsh on Abdullah Muhsin. He claimed it wasn't an issue any more and that the Stoppers now fully recognised the legitimacy of the IFTU. I'll need to do some more checking to see if he was bullsh1tting on that front.

To be fair to Corbyn, he seemed a decent but somewhat gullible (does he really believe that Bush was planning to bomb Al Jazeera?!?) Old Labourer. But he had the gall to state that "today's terrorists are tomorrow's freedom fighters" which was appalling, and snuck in one completely irrelevant reference to Israel/Palestine as a reason for the violent insurgency in Iraq. So not as cuddly as he could have been.

Overall, apart from the sausage rolls and popcorn, it was a bit of a poor show from the Stoppers. I'll bet good money that half the people were there to get pre-lecture drinks at the bar rather than start the revolution. But there we are.

The night then took a turn for the surreal when a pervy member of the Psychology Society found out that I had a background in genetics and computers and joined our table with the opening gambit of "Genetics and computers? SOOO, what do you think about CYBERSEX then?" but that's a tale for another blog methinks.

Right, time to bowl off to see if UCLs Islamic Society really does have Taji Mustafa, Hizb ut-Tahrir's UK media representative speaking. More later.


Looks like freedom of speech trumped University (and, I believe NUS) regulations and Taji Mustafa was allowed to speak in the Chemistry Department (?!?) as part UCLs Islamic Society week. I could only stay for 30 minutes and up to that point little had happened other than some chaps dressed in luminous vests offering me a piece of paper to write a question down on for our learned guest to answer. I'm told that the talk went ahead anyway with all the usual guff about restoring the Caliphate etc., but thankfully the lecture theatre was as empty by the end as it had been for the first half hour.

I must admit I found it rather odd that male and female students would voluntarily sit as far apart as was possible at a university event, but that'll be my cultural intolerance seeping through. The idea that one day the UK as a whole could be like that (e.g. with separate sections on buses for men and women) strikes me as so backward I just can't see it catching on. Despite the shrillest efforts of Melanie Phillips, I'm not convinced that Eurabia is on the cards for us just yet.

And as for the Hizb guy being given a platform at UCL - well I'm in two minds. I certainly wouldn't want my Department associated with fascists, but then who would? Perhaps next time a more concerted effort to provide information on HuT to those attending would be a good move. As the Harry's Post thread I linked to points out, not everyone will be willing to believe it, but at least those who are curious about HuT will be able to go away and come to their own (and hopefully our) conclusions.

##Hat-tip to Bevan##