Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Anyone listening to the BBC earlier will have heard Ken Livingstone taking a defiant stand against his suspension as Mayor of London, essentially defending his right to offend.

Despite the distasteful nature of his remarks and the fact that he used to work as a restaurant critic for the paper he claims to despise so much, it's a compelling argument and one High Court Judge seems to agree, granting him a reprieve pending his appeal:
Ken Livingstone was due to be suspended from Wednesday, after being found to have brought his office into disrepute with his comments to a reporter.

Earlier he said he would fight the "attack on the democratic rights of Londoners" through the courts.

He said his remark, comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, had been "blown out of all proportion".

He has been granted a judicial review of the decision by an adjudication panel of the Standards Board for England, which he said had "profound constitutional implications".

The High Court judge ruled he was entitled to have the controversial sanction put on hold, while his appeals.

Earlier Mr Livingstone said he would consider taking the case to the Court of Appeal and the Law Lords if he lost, even though it could end up costing him "a couple of hundred thousand pounds".

And he said he would not be apologising to the Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold, as it would be an insincere apology.
"I believe what I said was right. I said it to many journalists. No one has ever complained before," said Mr Livingstone.
This is where Ken's defence starts to fall down. He's said it to many journalists? Who, when and why? Would they care to step forward? Whether or not anyone's complained before is irrelevant. But here comes the big one.

Having just given a persuasive argument defending his right to free speech, he blew it with this:
Mr Livingstone told a news conference on Tuesday the Board of Deputies made the complaint because of his views on the Israeli Government.
He really ought to learn when to shut up. Who's his PR advisor - George Galloway?

Although the BBC doesn't provide a transcript, using three examples he dropped the cliched allegation that "Anyone who criticises Israel is labelled as an antisemite" (or "anti-sea-mite", as Ken prefers to say) which is frankly untrue.

Given his claims that he's used his "concentration camp guard" line on several journalists, one could argue equally well that "Anyone who criticises Ken is labelled as a Nazi," which is also untrue. Sadly, the former appears to be some form of received wisdom for many on the Left today.

After he'd finished playing the "I'm a victim of the evil Zionists" card he came up with another classic:
Mr Livingstone said any implication that he had been anti-Semitic was unjust, because had fought an unrelenting war on racism as mayor.
Exactly how does cosying up to the publicly antisemitic Sheik Yousef Al-Qawadari fit into his unrelenting "war on racism"?

Monday, February 27, 2006


Following on from my last post about Trevor Phillips's recent comments, here's a nice idea from Peter Risdon and Patrick Ridaud - a March for Free Expression.

Although they've already managed to enrage many on the hard left and Christian right, their Statement of Principle seems A-OK to me:
The strength and survival of free society and the advance of human knowledge depend on the free exchange of ideas.

All ideas are capable of giving offence, and some of the most powerful ideas in human history, such as those of Galileo and Darwin, have given profound religious offence in their time. The free exchange of ideas depends on freedom of expression and this includes the right to criticise and mock.

We assert and uphold the right of freedom of expression and call on our elected representatives to do the same. We abhor the fact that people throughout the world live under mortal threat simply for expressing ideas and we call on our elected representatives to protect them from attack and not to give comfort to the forces of intolerance that besiege them.
The organisers hope to attract decent folk of all political and religious flavours to Trafalgar Square on Saturday March 25th between 2.00 and 4.00pm. Both Democratiya on the left and The Freedom Association on the right have pledged their support.

So is Trafalgar Square going to full of Google-eyed bloggers and obsessive politicos with nothing better to do? Hopefully not:
This is also a celebration of freedom and free expression, so let's enjoy it. Jugglers, clowns, unicyclists will be very welcome. It's a serious event, but let's make it a party too.
The response so far has apparently been really good, but don't be afraid to drop them a line to let them know you're intending to come along and show your support.

Watch this space (or their website) for more details, including plans for similar rallies elsewhere around the world.


Another voice pipes up to defend freedom of speech. Sir Trevor Phillips:
Muslims in Britain must accept that British values include a commitment to freedom of speech, even if that meant offending people, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality said.

Speaking after the uproar over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, Sir Trevor Phillips said that the right to offend was an “absolutely precious” part of British identity. He also suggested that Muslims who wanted Sharia should leave the country.

But Sir Trevor said that non-Muslims must also accept the right of imams to denounce homosexuality in a way that many would find offensive. “One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is,” he told Jonathan Dimbleby on ITV1.

That’s why freedom of expression — including Muslim leaders’ right to say they think homosexuality is harmful — is absolutely precious.
Quite right.

Echoing the sentiments of Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, Phillips added:
“We have one set of laws, and that’s the end of the story. Anybody who lives here has to accept that. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.”
Now just wait for the accusations of Islamophobia and racism to start flying about.

3, 2, 1...


An interesting piece in today's Times on the lot of Iraqi satirists - "Raising a laugh in a land where the next one could be your last":
Saddam Hussein’s regime may be gone but, in a nation of extreme opinions, the satirical cartoon business remains a highly dangerous one for those who refuse to be intimidated.

In the space of seconds, and with a few deft wriggles of his pen, Khudiar al-Himiari draws a cartoon of a fortune teller reading the palm of an Iraqi everyman who wears the cheriwiya hat of old Baghdad.

There is no caption. None is needed. The fortune teller weeps.


Iraqi cartoonists have been further hit by the recent death from a stroke of Muayad Ne’ma, 54, their doyen.

In Saddam’s time, Mr Ne’ma and his colleagues were skilled in walking a tight line to avoid arrest or execution while commenting on social issues, western policy towards Iraq and, using abstract symbolism, the oppression of the regime.

Saddam’s demise has thrown uncertainty over the boundaries of what is now acceptable in cartoons. Since 2003 Mr Ne’ma had often attacked terrorists through satire — and received numerous death threats as the result.

“These threats imposed a huge strain on him and led to his death,” said Ali al-Mandalawi, a friend and fellow cartoonist who returned to Iraq in 2003 after several years of living in London.

“I warned him many times to back off from targeting former Ba’athists and terrorists. I told him they would kill him. But he just said, ‘It’s our country and we have to fight for it’.”

Mr al-Mandalawi, while working in London for the Saudi-financed Asharq al- Awsatnewspaper, was used to taking on fundamentalists. Responding to one of Mr al-Mandalawi’s cartoons showing daggers spewing from his mouth, Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical cleric jailed this month for race hate and incitement to murder, once told him that he would go to hell. “I replied that I’d rather be in hell than in paradise with Abu Hamza,” Mr al-Mandalawi said.
Sadly, the Times website doesn't host the cartoons that accompany this story in the print edition - you'll have to look over someone's shoulder on the tube to see them I'm afraid. But, for those needing a toon-fix, this rather similar LA Times article links to a Flash slideshow (at the top right of the page) that contains a couple that were published today, along with several others.

Friday, February 24, 2006


A tale of two protests in Oxford tomorrow. For once, the anti-vivisectionists won't be alone - Pro-Test will be countering their usual demo with one of their own in favour of animal testing within science and in particular, a proposed biomedical lab being built in collaboration with the Univeristy of Oxford. Their website states:
Pro-Test was formed in January 2006 by a Laurie Pycroft, also known as "Sqrrl101" as a response to demonstrations by anti-animal testing protestors in Oxford. We stand for science, reasoned debate and, above all, the welfare of mankind. Our organisation supports only non-violent protest and we condemn anyone who uses violence or intimidation to further their cause, no matter what that cause may be.
If you live in the area and feel strongly one way or the other about animal testing, why not pop along and have a look?

After all the recent fuss over our right to freedom of speech, here's a great opportunity to use it, peacefully.


An interesting letter in today's Times:
Sir, We write to express our support for the position taken by the Chief Rabbi on the recent motion passed by the General Synod of the Church of England regarding divestment from products which are used by the Israeli Government in the territories (report, Feb 17; letters, Feb 20, 21 and 23).

We know from the lobbying and educational activities of the non-partisan, cross-party “Anglicans for Israel” group that this decision has caused enormous pain to ordinary Anglican worshippers and even more hurt to the Jewish community.

No matter how well meaning, politically motivated boycotts polarise opinion, particularly where there are a variety of causes to which attention could be similarly drawn. The recent AUT educational boycott, though quickly rescinded, had an immediate and destructive impact.

Synod might on reflection want to consider the plight of Palestinian Christians whose right to worship is explicit in Israel, yet becoming increasingly difficult within Palestinian territories, and who view with alarm the success of Hamas. They might be puzzled as to why there has been no similar overt manifestation of concern by the Church against such an explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Christian movement. (Is it because they're the "wrong" sort of religious minority? Ed.)

We believe a better Christian witness is to encourage positive engagement with all parties in a difficult and protracted conflict which cries out for tolerance, justice, forgiveness and understanding. Another partial position just adds a further hurdle to peace rather than a bridge.

For those that weren't aware, David Amess is the Tory MP who famously stood up in the House of Commons and asked a question about "Cake - a made-up drug from Czechoslovakia" in one of Chris Morris's funniest Brasseye episodes.

At least Amess and the eight other Tory signatories got something right for once.

(Aside: the same Brasseye episode also featured a spoof report on a school which kept a junkie going through cold turkey in a padded cell so that schoolchildren could see what it was like. In Channel 4's quest to continue to push the boundaries of taste, ten years on they can do just that by turning their TV's on and watching "Going Cold Turkey".)


Courtesy of the BBC:
Police have released a description and computer image of one of the armed robbers involved in the multi-million pound Securitas depot raid in Kent.

The man posed as a police officer to trick depot manager Colin Dixon into getting into a Volvo car on Tuesday.

He wore a police-style cap and a high visibility jacket.

He is described as white, 6ft to 6ft 1in tall, with a scruffy, "wiry and wispy" ginger beard which could have been false.
Here's the e-fit of the suspect with a "false beard":

Not trying to make light of a serious robbery, but the chaps from Guess Who? have facial hair that looks more realistic. It must have been a pretty shocking false beard.


This has taken me somewhat by surprise - from Pajamas Media:
A Brigadier General was arrested after he approached the Philippine chief of staff to join a coup de etat. The Philippine president is said to be calling the major commanders in an ongoing loyalty check process. A number of rallies, some of them without permits, are proceeding in the face of threats by the police to break them up. Classes have been cancelled at schools. There are unconfirmed rumors that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will announce whether or not a state of emergency will be declared when she speaks later today. Dean Jorge Bocobo at Philippine Commentary will be liveblogging the situation.

Two Pajamas sources in Manila says a state of emergency has been declared as Proclamation 1017. Authorities are announcing the arrest of unnamed individuals and warned that the rally to be attended by former President Cory Aquino will not be countenanced.
Sounds pretty serious. Unlike the "nothing to see here" spin that AFP are pushing:
The Philippines military detained a brigadier general for allegedly plotting against President Gloria Arroyo, armed forces chief of staff General Generoso Senga said.

Two days after the military said it had foiled a coup plot against Arroyo, General Senga said Brigadier General Danilo Lim, the commander of the Philippine Army's elite Scout Rangers had been taken into custody.

He was among "misguided elements who are planning to join a march," scheduled by the opposition later Friday that would call for the resignation of Arroyo, Senga told DZBB radio.

"He has been prevented from doing whatever he is planning," Senga said.

"This was not an attempted coup, but an attempted withdrawal of support" for Arroyo, Senga said.

[article continues]
It's late and I'm going to bed. By the morning we should have a clearer picture of exactly what's going on and whether traditional or citizen journalism had the better take.

UPDATE (13:18PM 24-02-2006): Looks like Pajamas Media called this one right. From the BBC - Emergency declared in Philippines:
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has declared a state of emergency, after the army said it had prevented a coup.

She said was taking the action "because of the clear threat to the nation".

A top general is being held, suspected of planning to use rallies marking 20 years since the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos to launch a coup.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manila on Friday in breach of the emergency order, but were beaten back by riot police using water cannon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Bad news from Iraq. According to Iraq the Model:
Today is a day off in Iraq, emergency situation now officially declared with extended curfews 8pm-6am.

Sistani has been calling for restraint and calm but it seems that some Shia factions are not listening to him but instead they are listening to their direct references or acting on their own.

Spokesmen of the Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars claim more than 120 mosques have been blown up, set ablaze or came under small arms and RPG fire including the Um al-Qura mosque which is the HQ of the Association of Muslim Scholars which came under several drive-by shootings.

Radio Sawa reported a short while ago that the central morgue in Baghdad received some 80 bodies of people who were killed with gun shots since Wednesday afternoon.

In our neighborhood the Sadr militias seized the local mosque and broadcast Shia religious mourning songs from the mosques loudspeakers.
In several other cases, worshippers were turned away by "gunmen in black" who surrounded the closed mosques. Other mosques are encircled by razor-wire to stop anyone from approaching them.
If the aim of those responsible for bombing the Samarra Shrine was to edge the country closer to civil war, it appears to be working.
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, summoned political leaders to a meeting Thursday. But the biggest Sunni faction in the new parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, refused to attend, citing the attacks on Sunni mosques.

"We want a clear condemnation from the government which didn't do enough yesterday to curb those angry mobs," said Dr. Salman al-Jumaili, a member of the Front. "There was even a kind of cooperation with the government security forces in some places in attacking the Sunni mosques."
A couple of days of curfew ought to restore some semblance of order but the situation remains extremely volatile and it seems that the neither Shia nor Sunni extremists are paying an awful lot of attention to Sistani's pleas for calm.

Of course, there are those who have already started blaming You-Know-Who for the destruction of the Samarra shrine. From Al Jazeera (Hat-tip, Harry's Place):
Ahmadinejad: "They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice. These passive activities are the acts of a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers who intended to hit our emotions."

al-Qawadari: "We cannot imagine that the Iraqi Sunnis did this. No one benefits from such acts other than the US occupation and the lurking Zionist enemy."
And extremists hell-bent on bringing about a civil war, but far easier to blame America and Israel, eh?

Even before these latest attacks, in another of his fascinating dispatches from the Middle East earlier this week, Michael Totten reported on Kurdish dreams of seceding from Iraq:

Iraq may not survive in one piece. The overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds are packing their bags. Most have already said goodbye. Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish) is the capital of the de-facto sovereign Kurdistan Regional Government. Baghdad is thought of as the capital of a deranged foreign country.

In January 2005 the Iraqi Kurds held an informal referendum. More than 80 percent turned out to vote. 98.7 percent of those voted to secede from Iraq. Not only have the Kurds long dreamed of independence, when they look south they see only Islamism, Baathism, blood, fire, and mayhem.

If Middle Easterners had drawn the borders themselves, Iraq wouldn’t even exist. Blame the British for shackling Kurds and Arabs together when they created the new post-imperial and post-Ottoman map. The Kurds do. They call the W.C. (the “water closet,” i.e. the toilet) “Winston Churchill.” Several times when my translator needed a bathroom break he said “I need to use the Winston Churchill.”

Arab Iraqis who want to “keep” Kurdistan ought to thank the heavens for Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s new president and the party chief of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. He belongs to the 1.3 percent of Iraqi Kurds who want to stay connected to Baghdad. The Kurds love Talabani, whom they affectionately call “Mam Jalal” (Uncle Jalal), for leading the militarily successful fight against Saddam Hussein.
A fine piece that also examines the ways in which the Kurds propose to counter Saddam's "Arabisation" of their homeland.

(Aside: If you've not come across the Yezidis before, Totten's "The Beginning of the Universe" essay is a must read)

UPDATE (24-02-06)

As predicted, the curfew appears to be working, in the short-term at least:
Anthony Loyd, Times correspondent in Baghdad, says that a day-time curfew kept a lid on the violence in Iraq today but the future is far from clear and civil war is a very real possibility:

"Things are much quieter in Baghdad today because of the curfew, that's been extended to 4pm. The security forces are more visible on the streets and beyond isolated incidents I've not heard of significant violence in the city so far.

"It's selective, not a 100 per cent curfew. In some areas like Sadr City, the Shia area northeast of Baghdad, people have been out in the streets and attending Friday prayers. Sunni areas appear to be in a state of lock-down though. The curfew is principally designed to keep the various neighbourhoods separated.

"So, it's calmer and I think everyone has stepped back a bit as they consider the next move. They're wondering what is to be gained from more violence or even from civil war.
Other than bringing the extremists out into full view, probably not much.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Worrying news from France - Jews claim police hid killers' motive to appease ghetto:
The torture and murder of a young Jewish man in Paris triggered outrage among Jewish leaders yesterday as the Government sought to prevent the affair from inflaming emotions in the Muslim-dominated housing estates of France.

Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, and his ministers promised that justice would be done after the parents of Ilan Halimi, 23, who was held captive for three weeks on an immigrant estate, accused the police of playing down the anti-Semitic motives of his kidnappers.

Voicing the anger felt among the Jewish population, Radio Shalom, a station in Paris, said that M Halimi had “been made to pay for the (Danish) cartoons of Muhammad and Abu Ghraib”, the prison where US forces tortured Iraqi captives.

M Halimi, who worked in a telephone shop, died shortly after being found ten days ago naked and bound on a suburban roadside. Police denied any racial aspect in the kidnapping and ransom demands, but on Monday investigators added racial hatred to the kidnapping and murder charges that six men and a woman in police custody are facing.

The kidnappers are alleged to have referred to M Halimi’s Jewish background in their telephone and e-mail demands to the family for ransom, and one of the young torturers was reported by accomplices to have stubbed out a cigarette on M Halimi’s forehead while voicing his hatred for Jews.


Ruth Halimi said that her son might still be alive had the police not evaded the nature of his kidnapping as they were negotiating over ransom.

“We told the police that there had been at least three other attempted abductions of young Jews, but they persisted in considering the motives purely criminal because they are afraid of reviving a clash with the Muslims,” she said.
Remember Blunkett saying that the British police were slow to act over Hamza because they feared a "race crisis"? If what Ruth Halimi says is true, it's not just our police who have adopted the softly, softly approach. (Of course, in their defence, the French police may not be able to refute Ruth Talimi's allegations until the case has been settled in court - a French legal eagle ought to be able to answer this.)

It's a tricky one to weigh up in terms of what to tell the public. An attack on a Jewish person is not necessarily antisemitic and the allegation of a cigarette being stubbed out in the face of Ilan Halimi appears to have been made after the suspects' arrest.

But if the police knew of the attempted abductions of three other Jews it's appalling they didn't pursue the antisemitic angle of this case, even if they were afraid to mention it in public until they were absolutely certain, for fear of the estates once again going up in flames.

Remember the racist murder of Anthony Walker? The police didn't think twice about revealing the racist nature of this vicious attack. Despite roughly half of Britons believing that the UK is a racist society (make of that poll what you will), the police didn't seem to be too concerned about a possible backlash from racist bigots over the motives behind this attack.

It's a sad day for society when the police cannot highlight the antisemitic nature of a crime without worrying about possible repercussions.


International Socialist Resistance and Socialist Students were handing out flyers for their forthcoming conference outside the University of London Union this lunchtime.

Apart from preying on the naive with the heading "Do you want to change the world?" above a globe constructed of words representing the world's many ills (which apparently include "individualism"), the leaflet contained the following gem under the banner "FIGHT FOR YOUR FUTURE" which made me chuckle:
We have been given nothing from society all our lives.
Do ISR / SS really believe that society has given them nothing over the entire course of their lives?

I wish I'd noticed this before I'd walked off - I could have reminded them of the University no more than ten feet from where they were stood.


I knew it wouldn't be long. Something's stirring in Hitchensville:
Put the case that we knew of a highly paranoid religious cult organization with a secretive leader. Now put the case that this cult, if criticized in the press, would take immediate revenge by kidnapping a child. Put the case that, if the secretive leader were also to be lampooned, two further children would be killed at random. Would the press be guilty of "self-censorship" if it declined to publish anything that would inflame the said cult? Well, yes it would be guilty, but very few people would insist on the full exertion of the First Amendment right. However, the consequences for the cult and its leader would be severe as well. All civilized people would regard it as hateful and dangerous, and steps would be taken to circumscribe its influence, and to ensure that no precedent was set.

The incredible thing about the ongoing Kristallnacht against Denmark (and in some places, against the embassies and citizens of any Scandinavian or even European Union nation) is that it has resulted in, not opprobrium for the religion that perpetrates and excuses it, but increased respectability! A small democratic country with an open society, a system of confessional pluralism, and a free press has been subjected to a fantastic, incredible, organized campaign of lies and hatred and violence, extending to one of the gravest imaginable breaches of international law and civility: the violation of diplomatic immunity. And nobody in authority can be found to state the obvious and the necessary—that we stand with the Danes against this defamation and blackmail and sabotage. Instead, all compassion and concern is apparently to be expended upon those who lit the powder trail, and who yell and scream for joy as the embassies of democracies are put to the torch in the capital cities of miserable, fly-blown dictatorships. Let's be sure we haven't hurt the vandals' feelings.

You wish to say that it was instead a small newspaper in Copenhagen that lit the trail? What abject masochism and nonsense. It was the arrogant Danish mullahs who patiently hawked those cartoons around the world (yes, don't worry, they are allowed to exhibit them as much as they like) until they finally provoked a vicious response against the economy and society of their host country. For good measure, they included a cartoon that had never been published in Denmark or anywhere else. It showed the Prophet Mohammed as a pig, and may or may not have been sent to a Danish mullah by an anonymous ill-wisher. The hypocrisy here is shameful, nauseating, unpardonable. The original proscription against any portrayal of the prophet — not that this appears to be absolute — was superficially praiseworthy because it was intended as a safeguard against idolatry and the worship of images. But now see how this principle is negated. A rumor of a cartoon in a faraway country is enough to turn the very name Mohammed into a fetish-object and an excuse for barbaric conduct. As I write this, the death toll is well over 30 and — guess what? — a mullah in Pakistan has offered $1 million and a car as a bribe for the murder of "the cartoonist." This incitement will go unpunished and most probably unrebuked.

Read it all.

Now, here's a challenge:
And there remains the question of Denmark: a small democracy, which resisted Hitler bravely and protected its Jews as well as itself. Denmark is a fellow member of NATO and a country that sends its soldiers to help in the defense and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. And what is its reward from Washington? Not a word of solidarity, but instead some creepy words of apology to those who have attacked its freedom, its trade, its citizens, and its embassies. For shame. Surely here is a case that can be taken up by those who worry that America is too casual and arrogant with its allies. I feel terrible that I have taken so long to get around to this, but I wonder if anyone might feel like joining me in gathering outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, in a quiet and composed manner, to affirm some elementary friendship. Those who like the idea might contact me at [Christopher dot Hitchens at Yahoo dot com], and those who live in other cities with Danish consulates might wish to initiate a stand for decency on their own account.
OK, who's up for it? The Danish embassy in London is situated at 55 Sloane Street (nearest tubes: Knightsbridge, then Sloane Square).

Anyone else up for sinking a couple of Carlsbergs (or Elephant beer if we can get our hands on some) outside the Embassy one evening after work, to catch some of the commuters / millionaires that hang around those parts?

Fair enough: it'll be cold, dark and we'll look like tramps, but it could be an interesting meet-up...


Forgot to mention. I have a couple of crates of Carlsberg from a party that need to go; add them to the warchest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


David Aaronovitch on form: Whoever insults the one true Church deserves to be killed.
From a Reuters report, Rome, some time around now

The Vatican has protested in “the strongest possible terms” against the publication in paperback of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Cardinal Loopi, of the Office of the Defence of the Faith, condemned the book for defaming Catholicism and, in its suggestion that Jesus Christ was married, of heresy. “We demand that the book be destroyed and that the author be punished,” said Loopi, “otherwise we cannot be held responsible for how Catholics throughout the world may react.”


Angela Merkel on German attempts to produce a nuclear weapon

“Those who oppose us should be grateful that our people has acted nobly towards you so far, and has been patient. We want to remain patient. Don’t make us lose our patience. The peoples have awakened. The world of Christendom has awakened. Do not make us reconsider our policies.”
I'm wondering whether this is a contender for Tim Worstall's next book?


David Irving should not be in prison.

He should be free to speak his mind.

Just as we should be free to speak ours, demolish his despicable views in public debate and expose the vile POS for the far right fraud that he is.

Locking people up for Holocaust denial only makes martyrs of toe-rags like Irving, providing additional ammo for the likes of Ahmadinejad to further rant about a global Zionist conspiracy.

Not clever.

Woodrow Wilson hit the the nail on the head when he said:
“I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking”
I'll drink to that.


Their cover's been blown by an intrepid young detective who goes by the name of Vinnie Brett. Where would the Left be today without such moral guardians?
Hi, my name is Vinny. As a liberal I'm becoming increasingly concerned by the "Muscular Liberals" or "Liberal Interventionists" as they describe themselves.

It was David Aaronovitch's increasingly bizarre justifications for the Iraq fiasco which alerted me to these "Decent leftists" (David is very ex The Guardian: cf The Norman Johnson column in Saturday's Guardian: and is now taking Rupert's shilling over at the soaraway Times.)

My research led me discover the blog "Aaronovitch Watch (incopporating Nick Cohen watch)" at http://aaronovitch.blogspot.com/ where I found many others who were baffled at previously impeccable liberals' unqusetioning support for Bush's post 9/11 global hissy-fit.

I also discovered that the pro-war left was far more organised and genuinely intimidating than I had imagined, their website at http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/ is the hothouse for their bile, have a look.

I think that there are some very powerful forces at work here, there appear to be connections between Harry's Place and a number of New Labour Newspeak outlets.

Maybe I'm just paranoid.

The folks at Harry's Place have some very strange views for people supposedly of the left, they often sound racist and disturbingly mysoginistic.

They appear to know little about Islam but clearly despise it as inferior to Christianity and must spend most of their time searching for bad things to say about George Galloway (not difficult) and Robert Fisk (apparently a monster) they have even created a word "fisking" due to their hatred of Fisk. I haven't workrd out what it means yet, but it doesn't sound like a term of affection.
In time you will learn, young Padawan.
I think these are dangerous people and must be watched to the point of ridicule. What do you reckon?
You're damn right.

Here's a shot I took when I snuck into one of their sinister rituals that acolytes like to call a "Beer Blast". Just look at the fevered manner in which they play "Pour (or was it Purr?) the Galloway", their scales glistening with sweat in eager anticipation of the links their mighty overlords will bestow upon them for their services to the fascist Commentariat.

MEANWHILE, three of their masters look on with great satisfaction at their devotion to the cause:

These armchair generals spend much of their time plotting and devising novel methods with which to Fisk their victims. At this moment we can clearly see Oliver Kamm's Chomsky Hat in the left of the picture - the very same hat that was used to such devastating effect on Neil Clark only recently in one of the nastiest pieces of treachery the Left has ever seen.

To the right we can see one of the British HP Corps wielding in his mouth what I believe is known as a "Hitch-Stick", a semi-lethal device that when primed instills complete bewilderment and cognitive disarray in one's political opponent.

Do not allow yourselves to become complacent. These are but two of many deadly weapons they possess in their substantial Fisking arsenal.

The freemasons have nothing on this bunch.

But we will resist. And march.

And hang pictures of Tony Benn above our fireplaces.

Yours in protest,


Monday, February 20, 2006


From Yahoo News:
Israel on Sunday halted a monthly transfer of funds to the Palestinians but did not adopt a tougher package of restrictions proposed by some Israeli security officials. The Cabinet decided to stop the transfer of the roughly $55 million a month it collects in taxes and tariffs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The order did not specify when the payments would stop, but government spokesman Asaf Shariv said the next payment, scheduled for early March, "won't take place."

Army Radio quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz saying the cutoff would be reviewed each month.

Israel and Western countries have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, but Hamas has resisted pressure to moderate. The group took control of the Palestinian legislature when the new parliament was sworn in Saturday.

"The PA (Palestinian Authority) is — in practice — becoming a terrorist authority," acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet on Sunday. "Israel will not hold contacts with a government in which Hamas takes part."

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority relies on monthly transfers to help pay the salaries of roughly 140,000 government employees, including about 57,000 in the security forces.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Haniya said he was "deeply sorry" that Israel had labeled Hamas a terrorist group.

"The West is always using its donations to apply pressure on the Palestinian people," he said.
Really? For years EU aid went into the financial black hole otherwise known as Arafat's Pocket and until recently that didn't seem to be a problem.
Haniya said the Palestinians had "lots of alternatives."

"We have other Arab and Islamic countries and members of the international community who are ready to stand next to the Palestinian people," he said.
Ah yes, all those Arab and Islamic countries who have stood next to the Palestinian people for so long. All that oil money being pumped into the Palestinian economy and funding social welfare projects. Excuse me for being skeptical but Saddam offering to pay the families of suicide bombers doesn't really count as "standing next to" in my book.

One major downer is that this measure will cut funds to some 57000 Palestinian security forces. As Yahoo's impartial reporter Ibrahim Barzak puts it:
Should the government, the Palestinians' largest employer, be forced to lay off tens of thousands of workers, it would lead to increased chaos and poverty in Palestinian towns throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
True. Of course, a lot of that money would be going to ex-terrorists who are now freelancing as Palestinian security forces. According to this BBC report, those that have yet to be employed by the Palestinian Authority have already been causing quite a bit of chaos of their own. So no change there then.

(ASIDE: Ibrahim Barzak appears to be universally reviled for his shoddy reporting. See here and here for opposing examples. Make up your own mind as to how much salt to pinch with this one.)

Were Hamas to accept Israel's right to exist, Israel would be forced to release these funds. Do all those who voted for Hamas hold its charter so dear that they would endure additional hardships for the cause? I doubt it.

Much has been made of Hamas's election strategy of talking up the failings of Fatah and not focusing on its own rather dubious charter. If Palestine is like anywhere else, most people are not extremists at heart and thus did not vote for Hamas to push Israel into the sea, whatever the goals of their charter.

Indeed, as this article in the Telegraph suggests (via Clive Davis; the original link appears to be dead), many Palestinians probably voted for Hamas as a protest against the ruling Fatah party's incompetence and corruption.
"I voted Hamas so that my own Fatah Party would be shocked and change its ways," he said, giving his name only as Mohamed, in the Palmeira cafe in Gaza City. "I thought Hamas would come second.

"But this is a game that went too far. Nobody thought Hamas would win - even them. I know lots of people who voted Hamas, who regret it now. If I could vote again, I would vote for Fatah."
You know something's up when a Fatah activist votes for Hamas. Neo-neocon has more, following her earlier article, including this from the Boston Globe:

Muayad Abu Ghazaleh, 36, is the ultimate Palestinian swing voter. A lifelong backer of Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, he grew so disgusted with its cronyism and corruption that in parliamentary elections on Jan. 25 he cast his ballot for Hamas, never suspecting the militant group would actually win.

What he wants from Hamas now, he said, is good government, plus something that the group's charter says it can never deliver -- a peace deal with Israel.

Swing voters such as Abu Ghazaleh -- who doesn't share Hamas's vision of Islamic rule and unending war with Israel -- handed Hamas its surprise victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections. Now those voters are confronting the confusing reality of the day after.
The best that those who voted for Hamas can hope for is that they are incapable of forming a government forcing everyone to the polls again in a month's time. Who they'd vote for is another question.

But for now, Israel is having to dangle a carrot on a stick. Witholding funds may seem harsh, but then would you pay money to someone who wants to see you destroyed?

Apparently you ought to, if you read between the lines of Ibrahim Barzak's copy. Here's the opening paragraph again:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - A moderate Gaza lawmaker was set to become the first Palestinian prime minister from the Islamic militant group Hamas, as Israel cut off vital funds and branded the new regime a "terrorist authority."
Moderate? By whose standards? Does Haniyeh reckon the bit in the charter about a world-wide freemasons conspiracy is a tad far-fetched? The next paragraph explains all:
Ismail Haniyeh, a relative moderate in the hierarchy of the violent movement that has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.
A-ha, a relative moderate, although Barzak makes no effort to substantiate this claim.

But he's not the only one referring to Haniyeh as a moderate: the New York Times is at it too, describing him as "pragmatic" (Hat-tip: Spotted at neo-neocon whilst re-reading her other posts I've linked to).

Perhaps some in the media think that if they repeat the word "moderate" enough times in conjunction with Hamas, eventually it will become so?

Back in the real world, Shimon Peres sums up Israel's predicament:
"We must see to it that not a single shekel reaches Hamas and terrorism, and that not a single innocent Palestinian suffers from an economic boycott."
Enforcing the former is relatively simple. I wonder how they intend to ensure the latter?

Saturday, February 18, 2006


And on. Another nine dead over those Mohammed cartoons. From the Grauniad:
The furore over the prophet Muhammad cartoons hit a new peak last night when at least nine people were reported dead in the Libyan city of Benghazi after a mob set fire to the Italian consulate.

More than 1,000 protesters set upon the mission, setting cars alight and breaking windows, apparently angered by a minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government who has said he intends to wear T-shirts bearing some of the cartoons.
I worked with an incredibly offensive man who used to wear a t-shirt that said:
Jesus loves you.

Everyone else thinks you're a c*nt.
He wasn't a particularly nice bloke, but noone felt the urge to kill him or the rest of us who worked with him. We just took the piss back.
An Italian consular official said nine protesters had been killed and several more had been wounded as armed police clashed with the crowd. State television showed part of the consulate on fire.

Italian state-owned RAI television said six members of the consular staff were trapped inside, but unhurt. RAI said anger mounted at the actions of Roberto Calderoli, the minister for constitutional reform, and a leading member of the xenophobic Northern League. Earlier this week, he announced that he planned to wear T-shirts featuring the cartoons that were published in European newspapers and have sparked violent protests around the world. Last night Mr Berlusconi asked for Mr Calderoli to resign.
Idiot he may be, but really, is this the way to respond to right-wing taunts? Especially those that are aimed to show Muslims in a bad light?
The row also showed no signs abating in Pakistan where a cleric offered a £600,000 reward to anyone who killed the Danish cartoonists. Muhammad Yousef Qureshi, the leader of the hardline Jamia Ashrafia religious school in Peshawar, announced the bounty after Friday prayers. The reward also included a Toyota car, he said.
Remind me what was so offensive about this:

Does it really warrant a death sentence?

Friday, February 17, 2006


A little Friday fun. One of the following is a genuine article that appeared in a well-known newspaper, the other a spoof. Enjoy.

Exhibit A:
Hamas Calls For 'Giant Summit' With All Israelis


After his militant Islamic party took the majority in Palestine’s recent elections, Ismail Haniyeh called for a “giant summit with all living Israelis” Monday, rekindling international hopes for peace in the war-torn region.

Haniyeh characterized the one-day summit as “the final solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” and invited every Jewish citizen of the world to attend. Haniyeh said he expects more than 5 million participants from Israel alone.

“It was foolish of us to think that a satisfactory resolution could be reached through small-scale aggression,” Haniyeh said. “It will take more than the sporadic deaths of small groups of Israeli civilians to achieve our ends.”

“This summit is long overdue,” he added.

Haniyeh, who once said that Palestinian independence could only be achieved through the destruction of Israel, has apparently reversed his stance.

“It is clear to us now that a positive outcome will not be possible unless many, many sacrifices are made,” Haniyeh said. “I give my word that the Israeli people shall have their cries for peace heard for miles around.”

Haniyeh did not disclose the issues that will be discussed at the summit, saying only that he “would be very surprised if the entire process took longer than a couple of hours.”


"Very much like a cleansing fire, the summit will wipe the slate of Arab-Jewish relations utterly and irreversibly clean," Haniyeh said. "By the end of our negotiations, those who walk out of the summit will be very pleased."
OK, you're halfway there. Now for Exhibit B:
Condoleezza Rice's anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems

The US Secretary of State released a coarse anti-Russian statement. This is because she is a single woman who has no children.

Ms. Rice's criticism can be explained with the politician's personal peculiarities. Why is Condoleezza Rice so fond of her “strict teacher” role? Is it her technique that she follows to stay in the center of political attention? The leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, expressed his opinion on the matter in an exclusive interview with Pravda.Ru.

”Condoleezza Rice released a coarse anti-Russian statement. This is because she is a single woman who has no children. She loses her reason because of her late single status. Nature takes it all.

”Such women are very rough. They are all workaholics, public workaholics. They can be happy only when they are talked and written about everywhere: “Oh, Condoleezza, what a remarkable woman, what a charming Afro-American lady! How well she can play the piano and speak Russian! What a courageous, tough and strong female she is!

”This is the only way to satisfy her needs of a female. She derives pleasure from it. If she has no man by her side at her age, he will never appear. Even if she had a whole selection of men to choose from she would stay single because her soul and heart have hardened. Like Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, or Alexander the Great of Macedon Ms. Rice needs to fight and release tough public statements in global scale. She needs to be on top of the world."


"Complex-prone women are especially dangerous. They are like malicious mothers-in-law, women that evoke hatred and irritation with everyone. Everybody tries to part with such women as soon as possible. A mother-in-law is better than a single and childless political persona, though.

"This is really scary. Ms. Rice's personal complexes affect the entire field of international politics. This is an irritating factor for everyone, especially for the East and the Islamic world. When they look at her, they go mad.

"Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age. This is a complex. She needs to return to her university and teach students there. She could also deal with psychological analysis.

"The true reason of Ms. Rice's attack against Russia is very simple. Condoleezza Rice is a very cruel, offended woman who lacks men's attention. Releasing such stupid remarks gives her the feeling of being fulfilled. This is the only way for her to attract men's attention," Vladimir Zhirinovsky said.
Quite remarkable.

Links: Exhibit A, Exhibit B.

With thanks and a hat-tip to I Am A Doughnut.


I was just about to go to bed when I flicked the TV across to find some odious woman discussing this morning's papers on BBC2. A name briefly popped up on the screen: "Yasmin Alibhai Brown - The Independent". I knew I was in for a treat.

Whilst pooh-poohing Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks's stinging rebuke of the Synod over their vote on divestment from Israel, she managed to misrepresent the CofE motion as being purely down to a boycott of Caterpillar.

Let me draw her mind back to Monday February 6th, when according to the Church Times Synod round-up:
A following motion was carried urging disinvestment from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar, until they changed their policies.
If she wasn't being deliberately disingenuous, she was either incredibly sloppy in her analysis or else is woefully misinformed on a matter she seems so passionate about. Neither case merits her presence on the BBC's flagship news channel.

She wasn't finished with rubbishing Jonathan Sacks. Even when the topic changed to yesterday's Brit Awards she was unable to control the words spilling out of her mouth.

In showing her dismay at urban music's poor showing, she dropped this clanger (paraphrased as I was still reeling from her Caterpillar outburst):
Music is the one thing that black people are absolutely brilliant at.
The ONE thing? It's a good job she didn't reach the sports pages or she could have refined her ridiculous statement by adding:
And they're quite good at running too.
Maybe she didn't mean it quite like that. After all, she's a caring, thinking type of Leftist - the sort who suffer moral trauma over Iraq, wanting "more chaos, more shocks, more disorder to teach our side a lesson." A real bleeding-heart.

She got one thing right though. In a rare moment of clarity, she succeeded in getting in a plug for her book that's coming out next month. I can hardly wait.

Have the Independent really sunk so low that this is the best they can send to the BBC?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Bad news for ravers. From New Scientist - Ecstasy and loud music are a bad mix:

Partygoers who take the recreational drug ecstasy may face a greater risk of long-term brain damage if they bombard themselves with loud music all night long.

The warning follows experiments in rats that were simultaneously exposed to loud noise and MDMA, aka ecstasy. The noise both intensified and prolonged the effects of the drug on the animals' brains.

Michelangelo Iannone of Italy's Institute of Neurological Science in Catanzaro and his colleagues gave rats varying doses of MDMA while bombarding them with white noise for 3 hours at the maximum volume permitted in Italian nightclubs.

Those given the highest dose of ecstasy, equivalent to the average amount taken by a partygoer on a night out, experienced a slump in electrical power of the cerebral cortex for up to five days after the noise was switched off. Previous studies suggest that such loss of power is related to brain hyperactivity and can ultimately lead to depression.
Someone needs to take a look at the brain belonging to Mr C (of The Shamen fame).

In an interview I read with him about 5 years ago, I'm sure I recall him claiming to have taken ecstasy several times a week since the early days of rave and never had a come-down. He's also managed to run one of London's best clubs for a decade and two record labels. His grey matter must be made of sterner stuff than these rats'.


Some good news courtesy of Condi - US to devote 75 million dollars to promoting democracy in Iran:
The US administration will ask Congress for another 75 million dollars to boost democracy in Iran amid growing concern over Tehran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

She told a Senate committee the money, which amounts to more than a doubling of the funding for pro-democracy activities in Iran, would go to stepped-up radio and television broadcasts and other programs.

"The United States has been at the forefront of nations seeking to take Iran to the UN Security Council on fears that it is seeking nuclear weapons," Rice said in prepared testimony for the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The United States will actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime," she said. "At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country."
Regardless of your position on the current adminsistration's many failings, this can only be a good thing. I'm still not convinced that $120 million is anything like what could and ought to be spent promoting democracy and putting pressure on the current regime from within, but it's a start.

On the subject of Iran, here's a date for your diaries. From Regime Change Iran:
Join the Women of Iran for the peaceful march in commemoration of The International Women's Day in Tehran a fight for freedom.

The date: March 8th. Watch this space for more details.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


And still the row blazes on. Five people have now died in Pakistan following riots and protests in Pakistan.
Three more people have died in Pakistan in continuing violence over the publication in the West of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

In the city of Peshawar, two people died as protesters targeted anything linked to foreign firms, but local businesses also suffered.

In Lahore, one person died when police clashed with Islamic students. Two people died in Lahore on Tuesday.

Thousands of supporters of hardline Islamic groups marched up to the main business district in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, and attacked shops and businesses.

Police used teargas and then opened fire to break up the protest after the mob set fire to a KFC fast food outlet and ransacked it.

Eyewitnesses say some of the protesters opened fire as well.

An eight-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet, while another person died when a power transmission line fell on protesters.
And the BBC's take on it?
Correspondents say the protests are part of a rolling campaign by Islamic parties ahead of a visit by US President George W Bush next month.
This is in keeping with Amir Taheri's notion that the violence in response to the cartoons has been largely been caused by rent-a-mobs and is not condoned by the vast majority of the world's Muslims.

Meanwhile, cartoonists are going to be busy. In response to Iranian paper Hamshahri's competition to design the best Holocaust cartoon, Israeli site Boomka.org is calling for antisemitic cartoons of it's own, but with a twist:
Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”
So in summary:
  • Christians / atheists draw offensive cartoons of Mohammed / Muslims

  • Muslims draw offensive cartoons of Jews

  • Jews draw offensive cartoon of Jews

Next up: Jews drawing offensive images of Jews drawing offensive images of Jews.

Finally, it was inevitable - Fark issue a new competition: Sitcom situations for Mohammed. Pretty offensive but not quite up to b3ta standard though.

My vote would be for Imam Mo', based loosely around Father Ted, with a veiled Mrs Doyle serving up lashings and lashings of mint tea. Given that alcohol is prohibited, an Islamic version of Father Jack could be tricky, mind you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


A huge number of demonstrators have assembled in Beirut to mark the anniversary of Prime Minister Hariri's assassination. From Beirut Spring:
Forget the pessimists. Today, we broke the record.

I woke up in the morning to watch T.V, and I was surprised to see the huge amount of people flocking down to martyr square in Beirut to mark one year of the Assassination of ex Prime Minister Rafic al Hariri. Let me put it this way: I come for Tripoli, and except for my old Grandmother and my pregnant sister, every single person I know has gone to the demo.

The problem is, the internet surfers are significantly under-informed about the scale of today’s demo. To people with satellite TV, it’s a completely different story. Aljazeera, for its now well known agenda, doesn’t even mention the demo on its webpage (11:00 GMT). Lebanese bloggers are not writing much because they left their pcs and joined. Worldwide media are not posting aerial pics. But the fact of the matter is, the people who came down to February 14, 2006, seem to outnumber those who came on March 14, 2005, considered back then to be Lebanon’s largest ever demo.

The event is unfolding and eventually better pictures will make their way to the net, but trust me on this one: if you had a TV, you would have been amazed.
Naharnet Newsdesk is reporting a million protesters, although I've yet to see this confirmed elsewhere. Lebanese Political Journal has further analysis on those present and notable absentees from the rally.

Naharnet have published excerpts from the speeches of Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Here's a taster:

We came to tell you rulers of Damascus, you tyrants and your allies that we are not a passing minority or an imaginary majority…We came to say that if forgetting is impossible then forgiving is impossible and impossible and impossible.
We say to the terrorist tyrant Bashar Assad that the Lebanese are free men. We say to him he can take back his agent Emile Lahoud.
Their regime represents a passing criminal minority who rule over an oppressed and imprisoned majority.
Brothers in the nation. Brothers in freedom. Lebanon is more important than all of us and Lebanon's unity is more precious than any party and any sect. Our party is the party of 'Lebanon First'.
We meet here today to allow Lebanon to be first. We form one rank facing those aggressing Lebanon's sovereignty. We are one will defending Lebanon's independence. We are the heart of Lebanon, one heart facing those planning to incite strife in Lebanon.
We said and we repeat here in Freedom Square, Rafik Hariri's Square, the March 14 Square that there are no Muslims and no Christians, but only Lebanese who are shouting: Lebanon First.
And Geagea:
They thought that by killing one of our great men they would stifle our spirit. We came to tell them…we are here, we have always been here and we will remain and the powers of hell will not defeat us.
The quest for justice, truth and freedom has started and we will not let anything stand in its way.
From Beirut to the Beltway published these pictures earlier today:



Everyone's favourite winning loser said some interesting things over the weekend:
Jiddah, Saudi Arabia - Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."
I'm not sure how useful Gore's speech was at the present time. I'm also curious as to what Gore would say were the US authorities to turn a blind eye to those without valid visas or green cards. Probably not the wisest move in terror prevention.

And on the subject of Vice Presidents, spare a thought for Dick Cheney. He "violated a cardinal rule of hunting" - by not immediately telling the press all about his recent hunting accident. Oh, and he should have been looking more carefully at what he was shooting.

Poor Harry Whittington. With friends like these...

Monday, February 13, 2006


A great story from Stewie (of Political Dodos fame), posted in the comments:
The internet's biggest companies will come under unprecedented grilling in Congress this week for joining hands with China to censor the Internet, despite the proud American tradition of free speech.

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco Systems have all agreed to appear on Wednesday before a House of Representatives human rights panel, which summoned them following public outcry over their compliance with Beijing.

By complying with China's demand for censorship in order to enter the booming Chinese market, some of the top American Internet firms in essence have become "a megaphone for communist propaganda and a tool for controlling public opinion," said Chris Smith, who will co-chair the hearing.

The Republican Representative from New Jersey, who heads the House subcommittee on global human rights and international operations, is drafting legislation imposing curbs on Internet companies seeking to expand into China.

"I think a lot of members will be supportive of the legislation," Smith's spokesman Brad Dayspring said.

Some lawmakers accused the American firms of helping Beijing build the "Great Firewall of China."

"Our message to the Chinese is, 'When you build a wall to oppress your people, can we sell you some bricks?"' said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who introduced legislation last week to downgrade US trade ties with China.
Quite. And funny how it's a bunch of Republicans, supposedly keen on making a buck at any price, who are up in arms over this.


Having just spent a five hour round-trip to ensure I stay on my NHS dentist's books, only to find he'd taken the day off without telling me, blogging is really the last thing on my mind.

But, I received an email over the weekend from Philo from Students for a Free Tibet that I really ought to post. He wrote to let me know of NoLuv4Google's Mass Breakup with Google day tomorrow, February 14th.

Over to Philo for the details:
I know progressive bloggers haven't picked up on the Google story to the same extent as the right -- though there's a great deal of hypocrisy on the censorship issue. Fortunately there has been real outrage from both sides of the blogosphere in response to the revelation that Yahoo turned over information that put a second Chinese dissident in jail for his political beliefs. I really believe it's a matter of time before Google is put in the same position as Yahoo. If we don't raise our voices now, what chance do we have of Google doing the right thing.

As of today, over 2,050 people have committed to boycott Google on Valentine's Day, over 45,000 emails have been sent to Google's executives, and over 4,300 emails have been sent to executives at Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco.

Most importantly I want to let you know that we've just posted our latest Google break up video, which you can view NoLuv4Google homepage or here. We've also launched our new blog, powered by WordPress, which you can visit at http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org.

As always, I'd really appreciate if you can post on this. We're getting down to the wire. We're getting down to the wire. We've heard from contacts inside Google that they have given ALL of their employees the option of not coming to work on February 14th to avoid our protests. Help us continue to put pressure on Google for their disgraceful partnership to help the Chinese government block information about democracy and human rights from people inside Tibet and China.


Students for a Free TibetUSA
When I last checked, just under three thousand people had pledged to break up with Google tomorrow. That's not exactly going to have Google quaking in their boots, but like all these campaigns, it's about reaching a critical mass to get the matter brought up in the media which is important.

At the very least, why not send a letter off to Google's head honchos to show your disgust at their censorship of search results on Google.cn? A similar letter for the big guns at Yahoo!, MSN, and Cisco is available here.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I popped along to the protest in support of the striking Tehran bus workers earlier today. A couple of badly timed meetings meant I could only spend a little while there. According to Harry's Place:
The Worker-Communist Party of Iran and Outrage are holding a protest: Friday 10 February, 12 noon to 2pm, ILO offices, London
Well, there was no sign of Outrage. In fact, there were only a dozen or so activists there who all seemed to be from the Worker-Communist Party of Iran. There seemed to be a good camaraderie there, with lots of chanting of slogans I lack the language skills to translate, and there were probably more posters and banners than protesters.

But where was everyone else?

Well, apparently the activists there were unable to join a larger demonstration in Geneva today, although I haven't been able to find any reports of it yet.

Fair enough, but looking at the list of names on their petition, I reckon by 1.45pm when I left, 15 minutes before the protest was due to finish, that around 30 people had signed it.

Here's a shot of the demonstration from across the street:

Surely we can do better than this?


Gene of Harry's Place has kindly linked here. Thank you.

Hopefully this will generate more interest in this Wednesday's protest outside the Iranian Embassy (6 Prince's Gate, London SW7 1PT, nearest tube: Knightsbridge)
from 11am.


Yahoo! up to their old tricks again: Dissident jailed 'after Yahoo handed evidence to police'
THE American internet company Yahoo! provided evidence to Chinese police that enabled them to imprison one of its users, according to allegations that came to light yesterday.

The disclosure marked the second time in months that the company had been accused of helping China to put someone in jail. Li Zhi, a civil servant, was imprisoned on charges of trying to subvert state power after he criticised corruption and tried to join the dissident China Democracy Party.

The link between him and Yahoo! was hidden after he was sentenced to eight years in 2003. However, a copy of the appeal filed by his lawyer in 2004 — posted on Boxun.com, the US-based Chinese-language news portal — alleges that Yahoo! Hong Kong provided details of Mr Li’s e-mail registration to the police.

Yahoo! said that it could not comment on an individual case. However, it said that it turned over to governments only legally required information. Mary Osako, at Yahoo! headquarters in California, said: “We would not know whether a demand for information focused on murder, kidnapping or another crime.” She added that Yahoo! regarded the internet as a positive force in China.

The journalist Shi Tao may not agree. He was jailed for ten years last year on charges of leaking state secrets after Yahoo! supplied Chinese police with his user identification.

Julien Pain, an internet expert with the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, believes that the revelation that Yahoo! had co-operated in two cases could be the tip of an iceberg. He said: “The problem is how many (cases) do we not know about? Probably dozens, given how hard it is to get information from China. Yahoo! should release a list of people they helped to jail.”

M Pain urged internet companies to reduce their operations in China. He alleged: “Yahoo! certainly knew that it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals.”
Disgusting. And it goes without saying, it's not just Yahoo! who are brown-nosing the Chinese government.

Time to start using another search engine? Students for a Free Tibet have a list of supposedly ethical alternatives. To show your displeasure at the major search engines pandering to Beijing's repressive rulers, you can send a letter to the following:
  • Cisco Chief Marketing Officer, Susan Bostrom

  • Cisco President & CEO, John Chambers

  • Cisco Senior Vice-President, Dennis Powell

  • Founder and Chief Yahoo, David Filo

  • Founder, Chief Yahoo and Director, Jerry Yang

  • Microsoft CEO, Steven Ballmer

  • Microsoft Founder and Chairman of the Board, Bill Gates

  • Yahoo! CEO, Terry Semel
by clicking here.


Whilst the C of E have been planning to divest from Israel, international monitors have been forced out of Hebron as Hamas-run Palestine takes a lurch towards anarchy:
International monitors in Hebron, in the West Bank, are leaving after their office was attacked by Palestinians protesting over the Muhammad cartoons.

A spokeswoman for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (Tiph) said the withdrawal would be temporary.

Hundreds of protesters hurled stones and bottles and smashed windows at the building housing the mission.

Eleven Danish personnel left after the row erupted last week. The cartoons were first published in Denmark.

In Wednesday's attack, rioters forced open a door of the building and reports say the unarmed observers had to wave clubs in order to drive them away.

Palestinian police were outnumbered by protesters but eventually pushed the crowd back and allowed the 60-strong European team to leave the city.

The international presence was established in 1994, intended to be a buffer following the killing of 29 Palestinians by a Jewish settler.
Things are getting pretty serious when diplomats are having to face raging mobs with cudgels. And don't expect too much of the Palestinian police - most of them are allied with Fatah and politically have much to gain by allowing lawlessness to promulgate under Hamas. There's certainly no love lost between the two factions:
"We'll show them hell as an opposition, and we will turn the Palestinian Authority security forces into armed militia led by Al Aqsa," Ramzi Obeidi, a leader of the Fatah-allied Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, told the crowd.

Other Fatah activists staged angry protests throughout the
West Bank, including in Nablus.

"We are now no longer part of the cease-fire," an Al Aqsa gunman, Nasser Haras, told the crowd, referring to a year-old truce with Israel.

In Tulkarem, gunman Ibrahim Khreisheh warned against cooperating with Hamas. "Whoever will participate in a government with Hamas, we will shoot him in the head," he said.


Clashes have already broken out between the two sides. Hamas gunmen wounded two policemen in Gaza early Saturday in what authorities said was a roadside ambush. The attack came hours after another firefight wounded a Hamas activist and two police officers, one of whom was in a coma Saturday.
That article was written two weeks ago. Things haven't improved much since if the following two stories from yeesterday are anything to by. Firstly:
Scores of Aqsa Martyrs brigades (the armed wing of Fatah) members stormed the ministry of finance building in Gaza on Monday demanding their monthly wages.

The action came when the militants, who had been given jobs in the Palestinian Authority security forces, did not receive their monthly wages with the rest of the other security forces employees, local sources reported.
Secondly, gunmen have kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in Gaza:
Gunmen abducted an Egyptian military attaché in Gaza yesterday, the latest incident in a resurgence of unrest in the territory since last month's Palestinian elections.

The kidnappers shot at a car in which the diplomat, Hussam el-Musli, was travelling in Gaza City, forcing it to stop. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Palestinian Authority officials ordered a search for Mr Musli as Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, warned he would not allow anyone to harm relations with Egypt.

Israel, meanwhile, closed the main Erez crossing point into Gaza after soldiers there came under gun and grenade attack yesterday. Israeli soldiers killed two attackers in the exchange of fire.

In a separate incident in the same area, a man Palestinians identified as a local farmer was killed when Israeli soldiers fired on two men they believed were planting a bomb.

The Israeli military has killed 14 Palestinians in the past week, most of them in targeted missile strikes on militants in response to an upsurge of rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel. On Wednesday, a rocket hit the industrial zone of Ashkelon, the Israeli city nearest to Gaza.
An interesting title for the article too - "Gaza's post-election calm broken by envoy's abduction". Israeli and Palestinian rockets firing over each other with 14 dead counts as "calm"? I'd hate to see how bad things would have to get for the hacks at the FT to describe the situation as "stormy."

To finish the round-up, there's an article in the NRO today by Barry Rubin that is a must read - "The World Misread Fatah. Will it Misread Hamas?"
For years Fatah, under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, was widely understood in the West to be a normal, potentially pragmatic, nationalist movement that simply wanted a state of its own, an end to its followers' oppression and an improvement in their living standards. If the organization used terrorism it was only because either Israel treated Palestinians so badly or because they had not yet been made a good enough offer for statehood. Given a clear opportunity to have a country of their own alongside Israel, Palestinian leaders would surely grab it--if only a stubborn Jewish State would let them.

With this depiction of the movement passing for accepted wisdom in much of the West, there was a reluctance to consider some alternative explanations for the Palestinian leadership's behavior: that it might be incapable of--or even uninterested in--making peace; that it was too dominated by extremists to morph into a peaceful, stable state; or that terrorism, far from being a pragmatic political tool of the marginalized and desperate, was in fact an expression of a genocidal urge that had always dominated the PLO and that the organization had successfully implanted in the West Bank and Gaza. To be sure, not all Palestinian leaders were complicit in this; there have always been moderates in the movement. But the moderates remained a minority in the PLO, unable to compete with the gunmen and radical ideologues who actually ran things. Indeed, on several occasions, PLO members were murdered by their colleagues for expressing moderate views, further marginalizing reasonable voices within the organization.

Why did the West misunderstand the Palestinian movement so badly? First, because Palestinians were mainly content to be seen as victims--indeed this was the leadership's strategy--and in the modern world there is a strong predisposition to believe the weaker side is always right. There was an ugly and ironic racialist bias here on the part of many supposedly progressive Europeans and Americans: that Third World residents and even their leaders are only reflections of Western oppression, incapable of having goals or views of their own.

Second, to understand the movement as extremist and dominated by violent men who wanted only to destroy Israel would have thrown considerable doubt on the possibility of achieving peace. Many Westerners--some well intentioned, some less so--sought peace above all else, and therefore indulged wishful thinking about Arafat and his movement. In order to preserve their credibility as peace brokers, they wanted to maintain a "balanced" attitude towards the two sides in the conflict. In this approach, however, to be a prospective mediator apparently required being a bad analyst.

Third, many in the West tend to project their values onto others. They find it hard to accept that there are groups whose ideologies cannot be moderated by real-world compromise. The rise of Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks were a strong challenge to this worldview, but not enough to dislodge it as the West's main framework for understanding the Palestinian national movement.
Tasty stuff. Get stuck in!


Oliver Kamm sets his sights on the Church of England over their one-sided divestment campaign against Israel:
Surveying a conflict that is neither simple nor clear, and that has defied diplomatic resolution for decades, the General Synod voted to sell the Church’s investments in companies whose products are used by Israel in the occupied territories. This policy will contribute nothing to a peace settlement, and have no impact on the companies’ share prices. Its sole lasting significance may lie in the lack of seriousness with which the Church’s pronouncements are received in future.

The model for the divestment campaign is the financial pressure exerted on apartheid South Africa. It is a pernicious precedent, for it implies a parallel between constitutionally mandated racial discrimination and a conflict of nationalisms. Both sets of national claims in the Holy Land are legitimate; both must coexist in any lasting territorial settlement.

The modern Church of England believes by contrast in penalising a state that faces enduring anti-Semitic campaigns of delegitimation, and whose civilians till recently contended with continual suicide bombings. The Church’s witness to our nation is not dead, but you might be better off seeking moral guidance from the next person you pass in the street.
I lost any faith I had in the Church of England last September, when they advocated apologising for the Iraq War, equated neoconservative foreign policy with terrorism and described "democracy as we have it in the West at the moment" as "deeply flawed."

Looks like I'm not the only one - from yesterday's Letters to the Editor in the Times:
From Lord Carey of Clifton

Sir, General Synod’s resolution calling for disinvestment from companies whose products are used by the Israeli Government (report, Feb 7) in the occupied territories, sadly, illustrates a propensity in the Church to reduce complex issues to black and white.

Here is the common ground I share with synod. We must all work to heal the divisions in our world and particularly in the Middle East. A crucial element in that is the creation of a viable Palestinian state, living side by side with the state of Israel, freely and peacefully.

With that goal, it is a “one eyed” strategy to rebuke one side sternly, and forget the traumas of ordinary Israelis who live in fear of suicide bombers and those whose policy it is to destroy all Jews.

A fully sighted strategy means transcending polarised politics and working and praying for peace that both Jews and Palestinians desire with all their hearts. Instead of punishing Israel by this kind of resolution, I would like to see synod directing the Commissioners to invest in Palestine, by seeking to create businesses as many are doing, including, yes, Jewish businesspeople.

With such a positive approach general synod would begin to look credible.

London SW1
Now I can't say I expected that. Well said, primate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Britain's most popular tabloid The Sun carried an unexpected headline yesterday:
  • Cleric cheated on wife with whore

  • He told trial 'brothels are targets'
It would seem this was before his conversion to hardline Islamism, so charges of hypocrisy over this may not apply. Full marks to the Sun for trying to turn an historic legal victory over one the most dangerous men in Britain iinto yet another sex scandal. Perhaps they thought Hamza was running in the LibDem leadership election?

Sensationalism aside, yesterday's Times had an interesting interview with his first wife, Valerie Fleming, who charts his metamorphosis from romantic ladies-man to hate-filled preacher:
According to Valerie Fleming, the former wife of Abu Hamza, the man she met and later married changed in just four years from a romantic, gentle, 22-year-old Westernised student who was constantly being courted by girls, into a deeply religious fanatic.

It also seems that it may have been Fleming, a young single mother when she first kissed Abu Hamza in the West London hostel where he worked, who was responsible for his decision to dedicate his life to Islam.

Fleming had given him an ultimatum about his flirting, she says, insisting that it must stop or she would leave him. His response was to say that he would try to change and would follow Islam rigorously.
Ouch. She really didn't do too well out of this marriage.

Not only did Hamza spirit their three year old son off to Egypt without her permission, but the next she heard of him was the media reporting his trial in Yemen on charges of terrorism.

Abu Hamza's associates haven't been the most supportive either:
The spectre of Hamza has continued to hang over Mrs Fleming. She is aware that some people still identify her with him; she received death threats in a telephone call from one supporter of Hamza in 2003 warning that if she spoke out against the cleric, she would be murdered.

“The caller warned me that if I spoke out against that man, I will be killed, as will my family. It was after I was quoted in a newspaper saying that I wouldn’t mind if he was deported,” she says.

Of course, Hamza's ex-wife isn't the only one to have suffered as a consequence of Hamza's militant Islamism. From today's Times:
The US indictment against Abu Hamza alleges that he bought and supplied a £2,000 satellite phone for the [Yemen] kidnappers and purchased £500 worth of air time for the device. It also states that Abu Hamza received telephone calls from the gang leader before and during the kidnap drama in which four hostages were shot dead. He is also charged with sending recruits to al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and trying to train terrorists in America.

British detectives are still investigating Abu Hamza’s alleged links with other terrorist incidents including the July 7 London bombings.
It's a shame that British authorities thought him a harmless idiot for so long. From the same article:
Last night David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, suggested that the police, MI5 and the CPS could have acted earlier to seize the cleric. He claimed that they rejected his warnings because they feared it would trigger a race crisis.

Writing in The Sun, Mr Blunkett said: “So much for those in the security services who told me when I was Home Secretary that I was exaggerating the threat and the closure of the Finsbury Park mosque where he preached his evil message would be a ‘massive overreaction’.

“There was a deep reluctance to act on the information coming out of Abu Hamza’s own mouth. And some in the police and security services did not want to believe how serious it all was.”
The question remains as to why action wasn't taken against Hamza sooner:
Last night David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, suggested that the police, MI5 and the CPS could have acted earlier to seize the cleric. He claimed that they rejected his warnings because they feared it would trigger a race crisis.


Mr Blunkett is understood to have told the police, security chiefs and the CPS that they would have political backing if they raided the mosque and arrested Abu Hamza. The revelation that Britain had detailed evidence alleging Abu Hamza’s direct involvement in terrorist kidnapping and murder, but was prevented from using it, will reignite the debate on intercept evidence. The Times has also been told that Mr Blunkett argued strongly for such evidence to be used in serious cases but was again rebuffed by the security services.

Michael Howard, the former Conservative Home Secretary, also told The Times last night that he backed the use of intercept evidence.

A senior counterterrorist source told The Times that the phone taps strongly suggested that Abu Hamza was “involved in operational terrorist activity”.

But when Britain tried to move against the cleric in the spring of 1999 the case had to be abandoned because the evidence was deemed “inadmissible”. The FBI stepped in and said that if Britain could not use the material, it would.
With what sounds like further damning evidence against him, I don't fancy his chances should he be extradited to the US.