Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Dark news from Doughnut Boy Andy - his mate's been banged up in Poland for attending a gay march:
Participants of Saturday’s many thousand strong “Parade for sexual Equality” in Warsaw were arrested and held in Polish jails. One of them, Rene from Berlin, is still being held. “Queer Berlin”, an alliance of different initiatives and projects, is calling for the immediate release of those arrested and calls for the charges and enquiries to be dropped.

During the finishing speeches on Saturday afternoon the situation escalated as the demonstration was attacked from neo-nazis and ultra conservatives, who had attempted throughout to disrupt the peaceful manifestation. Despite a force of 2000 police, officials did not see themselves able to stop an encroachment of the right-wingers or to stop attacks and provocation. What followed was that those attempting to disrupt the non-violent parade managed continually to provoke and attack the demonstration. They succeeded time after time to hold up banners with nauseating homophobic slogans directly along the demonstration route, crying out sexist chants. The demonstration participants were attacked with eggs and even stones.

At the close of the demonstration the police moved in and indiscriminately pulled participants out of the parade and arrested them. 24-year-old Rene K from Berlin was among those arrested. He was part of a group from Berlin invited over to Poland by Polish groups taking part in the event. Rene was beaten down by police during the closing speeches and subsequently arrested. His travelling companions attempted everything possible to find out from the police the reasons for his arrest. When still on the following day no information had come from the police as to why Rene was still being held, a Polish lawyer was arranged for him and the German embassy informed. Rene is being charged with resisting arrest. Why he was arrested in the first place is seemingly irrelevant for the Polish authorities that have still to this day not given a reason.

A spokesperson for the regional court responsible for the case has added to the confusion by describing Rene as “far-right” when talking to journalists and accused Rene of attacking the very parade that he was invited to take part in. Whether his false statements were made through ignorance or to confuse the situation is not known. Rene is the only participant in the parade to be still held in jail.

The actions of the district public prosecution authority are also worth noting in Rene’s case. In contrast to the normal procedure, they firstly informed the German embassy of the Berlin resident’s arrest themselves. A custodial judge then decided that Rene should stay in prison on remand awaiting developments without being given the possibility of requesting a lawyer and legal assistance.

The German embassy in Warsaw’s reaction has also been disgracefully limited, although they were well informed of the case. Despite the failures by the prosecuting authority and custodial judge to follow standard legal procedures against a participant of a peaceful demonstration, the German representatives did not step in during the procedure, although it is their job to do so.

In the meantime a solidarity group “Queer Berlin” has formed to campaign for the release of Rene, working in close cooperation with groups in Poland. In order to be able to continue our solidarity work effectively we will need a lot financial help in order to pay for legal costs and legal observation. Any donation you could make to the following account would help us enormously and be highly appreciated.

Receiver: Rote Hilfe Berlin
Account number: 7189590600
Sorting Code: 10020000
Keyword: Warsaw

For those in or around Berlin there is a solidarity stand planned for Friday the 23rd of June 2006, 3 PM, outside the Polish Embassy. This is at Lassenstrasse 19-21, Berlin-Grunewald (S-Bahn. Grunewald, M19 to Hasensprung). Please come and show your support for Rene and the other peaceful demonstrators arrested in Warsaw.

For those not in Berlin there are other ways of showing solidarity in addition to donating towards legal costs. Please write to your nearest Polish and German embassies, as well as representatives from the press, and inform them of Rene’s case and your opinions and concerns.

Solidarity Group "QueerBerlin"
Tel.: Germany (0049) 0163 388 1037
And here's my bit, for what it's worth:
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
23 Belgrave Square

Tel. 020 7824 1300
Fax. 020 7824 1449


Ambasada Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej
47 Portland Place
Londyn W1B 1JH
Tel.: 0870 774 2700
Fax: 0207 291 3573
Let them know what you think. This is not clever.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


He's a sneaky one that Hirsh. Nothing for weeks, then he pops up and knocks a belter for six.

Some might say it's like shooting fish in a barrel, but judging by the comments on the Cif thread, there's some sickly bloaters out there that need putting out of their misery, quicksmart.

David's take:
In January the Chief Rabbi said that he feared that a "tsunami" of antisemitism was threatening to engulf parts of the world. Over-blown analogies detract from rather than illustrate a message and this is frequently true of discussions about anti-semitism and the Palestine-Israel conflict.


A producer from Radio 4 contacted me to ask if I would discuss the "tsunami" comments with Lerman but in the end they chose Melanie Phillips. This set up an easy debate for listeners to understand. On one side, Lerman, who is embarrassed by the fuss and who thinks that people wouldn't hate Jews if Israel behaved better, and on the other side Phillips, who argues that "The Arabs", armed with their essentially aggressive religion, have always been the aggressors against Israel because they want to wipe out the Jews.

This is also the framework in which the guardian's Jackie Ashley understands the "debate". In February Ashley uncritically scribbled up Livingstone's spin for the guardian, arguing that because he was elected then he could not be held to account for racist comments, calling the affair "darkly funny", repeating his straw-man defence that he is accused of antisemitism because he dares to criticise Israel, and doesn't he, after all, have a long record of opposing Nazis?
A nicely written essay that points out what to many of us is blindingly obvious: the two extremes of the debate (in this case Phillips and Ashley) are completely missing the point.

A brave move and one that was guaranteed to get the knuckle-draggers on both sides up in arms. Not that Hirsh didn't anticipate the response:
Do you think the antisemites will outnumber the Islamophobes on this thread or the other way round?
Tempting fate maybe, but the comments (hopefully these will not be removed by the Grauniad but I've saved them anyhow) certainly lived up to expectations.

Before you read the following comments, please remember that this is the blog for Britain's most progressive newspaper. Also bear in mind that David Hirsh is forever being attacked for daring to suggest that antisemitism is rearing its ugly head within leftist circles.

Even Charles at The Site That Shall Not Be Named raised an eyebrow at this. Some might argue that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but compare the resources that one West Coast blogger has compared to those behind a national daily replete with editors, sub-editors, lucky Pierres and the rest. If the Grauniad can't police its own forums, what hope is there for the rest of us?

We begin with a commenter known as Dellis. Unsatisfied with claiming:
originaltony is showing us the articles that the mainstream media in the west hide ......... what you read in the msm is usually written by a jew or zionist neocon sympathiser ........ hence the greater number of islam-haters........
we learn:
infiltration of the media........hmmmm......check out their names........ vast majority of the infiltrators happen to be rabid zionist israel firsters like mad melanie phillips and other not so mad israel firsters like aaronovitch & several guardian commentators.........
Then Dellis drops the bomb. Brace yourselves...
the zionist israel firsters living in the uk or usa are indeed traitors and parasites to the host countries .......... once the hosts armies/economies are used up in their wars of civilisation they move to another host and start again ......... they are already planning on moving to china & india
Aha. I'll just write that up on my invisible typewriter...

One nutjob down, we're onto the real hardcore - the fallen leprechaun known as GoodFairy. Now this fella's a good'un. Almost a Moby-troll, if such a thing exists.

Those who deny the existence of a mutual masturbation club comprising of hard Leftists and Islamists would do well to read his words:
WHY the F**k do Muslims, if they have any pride or fighting spirit at all, not prioritise the overturning of the Egyptian dictatorship? That is the KEYSTONE of Zionist/American power in the Islamic world.

The lesson of Ireland is you deal with the collaborators FIRST. All else follows. If you don't deal with them, NOTHONG follows. Except defeat.
You got that? If not (pedantic references to Sisqo aside):
kmir, whether your lefty friends think the Taliban are "pure Islam" or not is unrelated to my geopolitical argument. What is important to us is that they are opposing US Hegemonism. Far more so than what they actually believe in.
Yep. And the Taliban love you too GoodFairy. Calling you a useful idiot is doing you a favour.

Not content with this, GoodFairy actually castigates the commenter kmir for, well, not being just quite the right sort of Muslim:
"someone above doubts sypmathy for Al Qaeda - my advice is, consult the independent polls cited by Daniel Pipes, where you will find it documented."

And thank God for that, eh Kmir? At least not all Muslims are prepared to prostrate themselves before the Islamophobes.

As you'd say; "Think about it". Obviously millions of your fellow Muslims have thought about and reached the same blindingly obvious conclusion I have.

Get up off your knees. Stop trying to reach-out to folk to whom you are, at best, just an Uncle Tom.
And all on the Guardian website. Brilliant. Muslims such as kmir end up not only being attacked by Islamist hardliners but by supposed Leftists as well. Nice. It reinforces what David Hirsh was alluding to in his article beautifully.

After trawling through the Cif thread I came across something that at least provided me with a little amusement. Here comes the fun:
as a western, liberal, non-Muslim anti-religious agnostic may I say that you Muslims are patient and peaceful almost beyond reason given the assault that is taking place on your Islamic nations and culture by the Great Hegemenon.
Hegemenon? Now there's an unusual word. A quick Google search brings up all sorts of possibilities.

I'm not one to be arguing against anonymity on the net, but check for yourselves, that Hegemenon word doesn't pop up in too many places does it? Ignoring the links to Cif and the Irish Times which are clearly the efforts of the same man, we also have:
The Silver Hegemenon of Calcedony Dreams and Glory (his parents are a bit wierd...) was born rich, one of the members of a powerful merchant family (can't remember the merchant dragonmark family, wasn't it the gorgon one? Anyway...), and raised as any social-climber should. Impeccable manners, fine taste, all the trappings of a young noble. Unfortunately, the Silver Hegemenon gained all of those things, as well as a taste for manipulation. Early on, he learned how to work his silver tongue to get others to do what he wanted. Unlike other manipulators, however, he saw life not as checkers, every piece being able to make the same moves unless you kinged it. No, life didn't work like that. Emotion complicated things a little. Different people would accept and decline different things. Therefore, life was chess, and that philosophy has made the Silver Hegemenon's life far more complex and interesting than the average silver-tongued devil. His tastes are not so vile as the Marquis de Sade, but the Silver Hegemenon is still learning. Who knows?
One other proud user of said word is a pentogenarian of athletic build and unclassifiable religious convictions who reckons (hit 9 if you will):
I don't know about the rest of you, but doesn't it seem that Bush's own efforts at 'defending' America are becoming the catalysing agencies to self fulfilling prophesies ?

I'm starting to think of these events as the historical period in time, that will come to be seen when world events culminate in 'the birthing of the beast'.

Look at halftimedad's accurate synopsis of the present national conditions and throw in some of the forseeable future repercussions, a generation of esculating 'terror', as every campaign of 'defense' only spawns the conditions for the inflamatory passions of counter attack. Mired in a pattern of lethal circular violence and mired in massive debt of sustaning the campaigns. Soaring energy prices, the rising passions of internal divisions, unexpected world alliances take shape, as the mobilization of outside force threats coalesce....

Sorry to be so pessimistic about this .... but I begin to sense the sound of very distant hoofbeats aproaching ....

Three things contribute to influence my mood, I've been watching a documentary on the early Bob Dylan years, the songs are haunting me, it is a cold, dark and windiflled day, I haven't been sleeping well and have taken to watching a tele evangelist preacher, in the dead of night, speak on 'end time prophesies' ...
I've always been skeptical of folk who jump to use words such as hegemony, but it would seem that the hegemenonists are to be treated with even more caution.

Take care out there.

I'm off with a couple of Londonistanis to see Tunisia-Ukraine (restricted view - bound to be a classic) and what looks like being Argentina-Mexico as of tomorrow. There may be the odd post here, but if not, see you in a week.

Oh, and yes, we were cobblers tonight, but then we always are against teams that play in yellow. In the past 8 years we've lost leads to Sweden, Brazil and Romania and been tonked by Australia. That doesn't bode well for a meeting with Ecuador does it? Arse. I thought teams that played in red were supposed to do better than their counterparts? Hmmm.

Monday, June 19, 2006


According to the Times (amongst others) - US 'issued alert' on 7/7 bomber in 2003:
The leader of the July 7 suicide bombers was considered such a dangerous threat that he was banned from flying to America two years before the attack in London, according to a book written by a US intelligence specialist.

Although MI5 has always denied knowing that Mohammad Sidique Khan was a potential danger, the CIA is alleged to have discovered in 2003 that he was planning attacks on American cities.

The disclosures are made in a book by the award-winning author Ron Suskind that is serialised today in The Times.
From today's published extract, US authorities suspected Khan might be up to no good long before 7/7. According to the FBI's main man on Al Qaeda, Dan Coleman:
Khan, Ali and others exchanged e-mails discussing Khan’s upcoming trip to the US and plans for various violent activities. They included a desire to “blow up synagogues on the East Coast”. Other records showed that Khan had been to the US at least three times in the past two years, meeting with fellow radicals.

Dan read the cables intently. “This is a very dangerous character,” he told colleagues at FBI. “We and the Brits should be all over this guy. But we have to do it right. Unless we have some co-ordinated effort between us and CIA to handle him — arrest him on some charge that’ll stick, or work close, co-ordinated surveillance on him and all the people he’s in contact with over here when he comes, we just can’t take the risk. Let’s say he goes and blows up a temple in Washington. You going to explain to the President that we knew what he was going to do and we let him into the country anyway?”
So did they take the risk? Apparently not:
What happened next speaks volumes about the War on Terror, and the perils of a war being fought — in America and abroad — by competing bureaucracies.


Dan Coleman’s assessment was passed, hurriedly, to Joe Billy [head of the FBI’s New York office], who called back the CIA New York station. Billy’s focus was on the interdepartmental conflict. He echoed Dan’s concern but didn’t say much about swiftly launching an ambitious, joint FBI-CIA effort to track the incoming Brit. The discussion was about who’d ultimately be responsible for Khan, and who would take the fall if he did anything. “We’d be wide open on this one,” he told the CIA’s New York chief. If Khan managed to do some damage, “everyone — including Langley — will blame FBI. It ain’t gonna happen.”

They had to make a decision. Khan, according to the sigint, was due to fly to the US the following afternoon. After a few more calls between FBI and CIA — tense exchanges that went all the way to top bosses in Washington — Khan was put on a no-fly list. Essentially, inaction. A default.

The next day he arrived at Heathrow for his flight to the US. At the ticket counter, he was informed that the US had a problem with him. He was on a no-fly list. He wouldn’t be going anywhere. Befuddled, and alerted for the first time that he was known to US authorities, Khan quietly returned to his home in Leeds. He knew, now, that he’d have to keep an especially low profile, not do anything that would arouse suspicion, and not talk on phones or send e-mails that might be traceable. All of this was very valuable information to a young man bent on destruction.
We all know what happened next.

If these allegations are true, it's an interesting tale. The US "Not In My Back-Yard" approach was a delaying tactic, forced by circumstances rather than intelligence. The problem only came when Khan was alerted to the fact that the authorities were onto him. A pretty vicious dilemma - the US didn't want him plotting mischief over there but British intelligence on the man was sketchy at best and sticking him on a "No-Fly" list only aroused his suspicions, forcing him underground and making him harder to track.

But not everyone agrees with this version of events. From the original Times article:
The claims contradict evidence from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director-General of MI5, to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee that Khan had never been listed as a terror threat before the attack that killed 52 innocent people.

A senior British security source has told The Times that they were aware of the allegations but said that they were “untrue and one of the many myths that have grown up around Khan”.
Clearly our security services aren't always one step ahead of the game, but then neither is Ron Suskin. PowerLine (of RatherGate fame) exposed Suskind for completely misrepresenting evidence to support his version of events leading up to the Iraq War in 2001.

We already know that our security services lacked sufficient resources to tackle the problem of home-grown Islamic extremism. Even if Khan were denied entry to the US, that would hardly make him unique - there are another 300,000 suspected terrorists or supporters of terrorist groups on the US National Counterterrorism Center's watch-list. And from the ISC report we know that British intelligence certainly didn't have the capability in 2001 to track several hundred 'primary investigative targets', let alone trawl through a list of hundreds of thousands of "No-Fly" suspects.

Time will tell whether these allegations hold any weight.

In the mean time (and given his track record) I wonder how much of Suskind's thesis is written through the rosy prism of hindsight?

UPDATE: Suskind's talking cobblers according to the Telegraph. They claim it's a case of mistaken identity.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


We've all been there. A couple of sherbets worse for wear, picking up the mic and somehow thinking we're the new Jay-Z.

Well maybe not. But Peter Crouch has. Not content with bringing bodypopping back to the masses, who'd have thought he'd try calling for the rewind and chatting over the top of Ini Kamoze's "Here Comes the Hot-Stepper?"

[If the embedded player doesn't work, click the link above for the full movie, including a nice bit of dancefloor action.]

In other football-related news, HakMao's dug up a brilliant Delia recipe, perfect for knocking up during those half-time breaks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Quite a few bits of lariness to report.

Firstly, Oliver Kamm takes Rageh Omaar to task for being a bit, well, pony:
Three years ago the telegenic BBC journalist Rageh Omaar was on the brink of “televisual superstardom”, according to one gushing newspaper profile.

Superstardom was not so easily obtained. Omaar’s book about the Iraq war generated a huge advance and poor sales. But Omaar has re-emerged as a presenter for al-Jazeera’s English-language channel, columnist for the New Statesman and author of a new book on being a Muslim in Britain. Unfortunately his output suggests a reason for his thwarted promise. He is no thinker and no writer.


One of the few aspects of the book that rises above the commonplace is Omaar’s opinion of himself. In his account of the US assault on Najaf, he pays tribute to his understanding of the significance of Iraq to Muslim identity. In recounting certain travel difficulties in Ethiopia, he compares himself to Gandhi.

Less original are his use of the idle propagandist’s term “Islamophobia” and his habitual coupling of the importance of free speech with the conjunctions “but” and “yet”.

Nothing prepared me, however, for his comparison of the Somali-born former Dutch MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islam, to a suicide bomber. If this disgraceful analogy is how Omaar understands argument within a liberal society, his journalistic career is destined to tell us even less than it has already.
Ouch. One book I shan't be bothering with then.

Here's another. On the one hand Tory MP Michael Gove praises Niall Ferguson's "The War of the World" for weaving a "riot of events" into a coherent narrative. On the other, Johann Hari (fresh from losing his spat with Scott Burgess on points) doesn't:
Next week, Channel Four will broadcast a startlingly obscene TV series. A handsome historian will walk around the rubble and mass graves of Soviet Russia and declare with an aggressive smile, “If it hadn’t been Stalin, it might have been somebody worse. In any case, Russia has been ruled by murderous despots for centuries and centuries, so you might as well cast a moral judgement on rain as on Stalin.” He will argue that the collapse of Stalinism was “one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century.”

Sounds impossible? Thankfully, it is. But Niall Ferguson will be doing the same thing for an equally psychopathic form of totalitarianism – one that in fact killed even more people. For over a decade now, Ferguson has built a role as a court historian for the imperial American hard right, arguing that the British Empire from the Victorian period on was a good thing with some unfortunate “blemishes” that have been over-rated and over-stated. “If it hadn’t been the British, it might have been somebody worse,” he says. “In any case, empires have been with us as a means of power and control for centuries and centuries, so you might as well cast a moral judgement on rain as on the British Empire.” He adds, “I am fundamentally in favour of empire,” and says the Americans should be our successors as imperial rulers of the world.


Today, Ferguson poses as somebody who is simply providing a hard-headed balance sheet of Empire. Yes, there were “drawbacks”, he admits – but we have to weigh them against the good things. The problem is that his calculations consistently underestimate or ignore the massive crimes of Empire, and grossly overstate the benefits. His historical judgement is constantly skewed, both by his childhood affection and by his almost punk-style desire to spit at historical orthodoxies.
And for some fisking fun, Snoopy the Goon of SimplyJews takes a look at a rather poor Cif post by one Karma Nabulsi. Her previous role as a PLO representative seems to have affected her impartiality somewhat, although it's perhaps more disturbing that she claims to be a "politics fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford University". Wow.


Nordish has photos of yesterday's anti-Olmert protest in Trafalgar Square.

Pretty poorly attended, probably because it was a school day.

He also has shots of the "Rally for Justice" demo held outside Scotland Yard on Sunday. Interesting that one of the organisers should be sporting such a delightful outfit:


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


One of the more surprising stories of recent days - the Pet Shop Boys have dedicated their current album to two Ahwazi teenagers hung for being gay:

British pop band Pet Shop Boys has dedicated its latest album "Fundamental" to Muhammad Askari (Mahmoud Asgari) and Ayaad Marhuni (Ayaz Marhoni), two Ahwazi Arab teenagers executed after being accused of homosexuality. The album by one the UK's leading pop music acts went straight to number five in the British charts when it was released two weeks ago. It is due to be released in the US on 26 June.

The 17 year olds were executed in July 2005 in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, where their families had been forcibly relocated from Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) under the Iranian regime's ethnic restructuring programme. The regime had portrayed them as serial child rapists and professional criminals. In one interview with the regime's Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a pro-government academic claimed that people from their social group (implicitly their race) were prone to rape and robbery with violence.

The executions were carried out during a wave of anti-government protests by Ahwazi Arabs in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan). Some Ahwazi activists believe that the death sentences, carried out in Mashhad's Justice Square, were staged to portray Arabs in a bad light.

The British gay rights group Outrage! published a lengthy and detailed investigation into the Askari and Marhuni cases and other instances of state violence against gay people, as well as "honour" killings by relatives who fear that their clan and ethnic group will be tarnished by revelations of homosexuality (click here to download the report).
It's all in the sleeve notes apparently.


Agh, so much to comment on, so little time. And 4 1/2 hours of football a day to deal with. Others haven't been quite so lucky over recent days.

Yesterday, Iran Press News reported on a violent crackdown on protesters at the General Women's March held in Haft'eh Teer Square in Tehran.
Many of the regime's guards and agents were dressed in plain-clothes and passed themselves off as demonstrators until they began to attack and beat the protestors. They had batons, tear and pepper gases as well as all kinds of other chemical agents that make people sick and disables their breathing and vision which was continuously launched into the crowd.

The regime's new tactic in their so-called attempt at a "kinder, gentler" way of treating protestors is to send out armed, green-clad female thugs and have them beat women demonstrators. The green outfits (as seen in photos) with nun-like hijabs connect in one piece to the rest of the shapeless shroud.
Kind and gentle, my arse.

Yahoo News has a couple of pictures:

Winston has more, as does Kosoof:

Azamehr writes:
"We are women, we are human, but we don't have any rights!" protesters chanted.

This is what they wanted:
  • Banning polygamy;

  • Reversal of men's uncontested right to divorce;

  • Equal child custody rights for mothers and fathers;

  • Equal rights in marriage (such as a woman's right to choose where she works, to travel freely, etc.);

  • Increase in the legal age of children to 18 years of age (currently girls are viewed as adults at 9 years of age and boys at 15 years of age, making them eligible to be tried as adults);

  • Equal value placed on women's testimony in court; and

  • Elimination of temporary work contracts which disproportionately and negatively impact women.
Yet Elaheh Rostami, a lecturer at SOAS and a promoter of the Islamic regime, claims "Iranian women have more rights now than before the revolution."

How could the British universities have sunk to such a low level to employ such idiots as lecturers?
It's not just British lecturers - have a look at some of the bile directed at Peter Tatchell when he flagged up the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran for one of his Comment is Free posts.

Trying to brush events like these under the carpet or accusing those of condemning it of sucking up to Bush, Blair and the Neo-Con Fighting Machine (see the comments) isn't doing the Iranian public any favours at all. From the BBC:
The viciousness of the police attack caused men who were passing by in the street to protest, our correspondent says.

"These are our sisters, how can you do this?" passers-by shouted at police.

The women then gathered again on the other side of the square, but the police used pepper spray against them and onlookers.

As the police started making arrests members of the public who had nothing to do with the protest repeatedly shouted: "Leave them alone."

One man screamed at the police, saying: "Why do you take money from the government to beat women like this?"
Do you think that passers-by who had the guts to stand up for the rights of their fellow countrymen and women were worried that in doing so they were "creating conditions for an attack on Iran"? I don't think so.

Friday, June 09, 2006


I've been called a few things in my time, but being described as "shabbos goy" in this Harry's Place thread came as something of a surprise, as I imagine it did to Will of A General Theory of Rubbish who was also tagged with the same curious label.

It's always good to be accused of being something you don't actually know the meaning of. gives the following definition:
Shabbos goy: A non-Jew who does work on Sabbath that a Jew cannot do.
So far so good.

Delving a little deeper, I came across this rather unusual claim on the SomethingJewish website:
Think of Jewish celebrities and Elvis Presley isn't someone who immediately springs to mind. However, the authors of a new book and accompanying documentary feature have discovered that the rock n'roll legend, while not actually Jewish, had strong links with the Jewish community in Memphis, where he grew up.

According to Max Wallace and Jonathan Goldstein, the authors of Schmelvis: In Search Of Elvis Presley's Jewish Roots, Elvis grew up in a Jewish area of Memphis and as a teenager, lived downstairs from a local Rabbi, Alfred Fruchter. The Rabbi's widow, Jeanette Fruchter, recalls; "He was about 15 years old then and we got along so beautifully. He was such a nice boy, such manners. He called my husband Sir Rabbi."

Elvis got on so well with the couple that he even became their 'Shabbos Goy', visiting them every Saturday morning to turn on lights and do other jobs they were prohibited from doing. "We never told him we called him a Shabbos Goy. Usually, you give a small tip to the gentile who does this for you, but Elvis would never accept any money, he said it was his pleasure.
So to answer my original question, it looks like the answer is two: me and Will.

I'm sure we should take it as a compliment.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


From the BBC:
Militant [So much for the BBC deciding to use the T-word where appropriate] leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has announced.

"We have eliminated Zarqawi," Mr Maliki said at a news conference, sparking sustained applause. The US said he was killed in an air raid near Baquba.

The Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq was considered the figurehead of the Sunni insurgency.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for hundreds of bombings that have killed thousands of Shias and US forces.
Pretty militant then. But good news regardless of the language the BBC choose to use.

Omar at Iraq the Model gives a little more background:
Hibhib is a small town several kilometers to the northwest of Baquba and most of its people are from the Azzawi tribes. This small town was traditionally nicknamed Um al-Arak as it was famous for producing some of the finest Arak in Iraq, an industry that flourished in the area for the abundance of date palms. It's even said that Hibhib's Arak can make the fox get drunk!

Of course that was before the Salafi Zarqawi tide reached this once peaceful town.

It was quite visible lately that Hibhib became a place for intense terror activity, especially after the phenomenon of severed heads appeared. Severed heads of civilian Iraqis were found twice in fruit boxes in and around Hibhib; a terrible crime that shocked Iraqis.

Also a few days ago 19 passengers, mostly students were murdered in cold blood just north of Hibhib which indicated that a seriously bloody terror cell was in this area.

There had been several reports about Zarqawi fleeing Anbar to Diyala after the tribes in Ramadi turned against al-Qaeda but obviously, Diyala and its suburbs and Iraqi tribes were not willing to endorse the head chopping criminal.
When heads start cropping up in fruit-boxes, you can understand why the locals weren't too keen to grant Zarqawi an extended stay.

Even Hezbollah hated him with a passion. From Michal Totten:
I mentioned before that I interviewed Hezbollah's Mohammad Afif in the suburbs south of Beirut and that he had almost nothing to say that wasn't boilerplate propaganda. It was boring and useless and I saw no point in publishing it. But he did say two interesting things. The first I quoted here [Also worth a read]. And here is the second:

I asked him what he thought of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Zarqawi's head-chopping mosque-burning faction in Iraq. I knew he would condemn them, of course, but I didn't expect to find his condemnation convincing.

But I did, as it turned out, find his condemnation convincing.

"We hate them," he said. "They call us cockroaches and murder our people."

It's hard to think he came up with that answer just to assuage me. Hezbollah is Arab and Shia just as many of Zarqawi's victims in Iraq are.
Responding to Glenn Reynolds' theory - "Is it just me, or is the Middle East a lot like 7th Grade with RPGs? - Totten writes:
It's also a bit like a loony bin with RPGs. I mean, for God's sake, Zarqawi is accusing Hezbollah of being a cover for Israel. He would be hilarious if he weren't a psychopath.
Thanks to information from Jordanian security services and handy pointers from locals, that's one less psychopath the world has to deal with.

UPDATE: Bagrec makes a great point - hopefully this news will really annoy Yvonne Ridley:
She described Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself, after he took responsibility for the Jordanian terrorist attack and was subsequently denounced by his remaining Jordanian family, as a brother she’d much rather put up with than have a traitor or sell-out for a father, son or grandfather – by which she means the Jordanian king. Ridley calls the family renunciation of al-Zarqawi "cowardly".
You backed a losing horse there Yvonne.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


From the fifth columnist and terrorists' mouthpiece the Times:
Google has admitted for the first time that it compromised its principles when it entered the Chinese market and agreed to toe Beijing’s strict line on censorship.

Speaking in Washington, Sergey Brin, Google’s billionaire co-founder, said the company, which operates under the motto "do no evil", had adopted "a set of rules that we weren’t comfortable with".

In a hint that Google could adjust its stance in China in the future, he added: "Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense."
Now to work on Yahoo! and MSN...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The 7/7 Report came out yesterday.
Rescuers trying to save victims of the July 7 terrorist attacks struggled with poor communications, lack of medical equipment and weak planning, an official report has concluded.

One hospital was alerted only when paramedics went begging for help. Not enough ambulances were available to deal with casualties and a vital radio system for London Underground is still not in place.

The highly critical review by the London Assembly, published yesterday, praises the work of the rescue services but says that they faced difficulties which should never have arisen four years after 9/11. The review calls for a wide-ranging overhaul of plans for major incidents and criticises a strategy which placed too much emphasis on the rescue process and not enough on the victims. In all, 56 people died and 946 were injured when four suicide bombers attacked three London Underground trains, at Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square, and a bus in Tavistock Square.

But the review, which makes 54 recommendations, found that despite all the preparation in London after 9/11, "there is a lack of consideration of the individuals caught up in major or catastrophic incidents".

It adds: "Procedures tend to focus too much on incidents rather than on individuals and on processes rather than people."
I can understand people panicking and making mistakes on the day, but whose bright idea was this?
The review members were concerned to discover that vital London Underground emergency response vehicles which had to respond to the incidents have to pay the congestion charge, have no blue lights and are banned from using bus lanes.
Despite all of this, and in keeping with the views of most I've spoken to who were caught up in the events of Central London that day, the report highlights the many extraordinary efforts made by those at the front line:
3.22 We are in no doubt whatsoever that individual members of the London Ambulance Service, along with the other transport and emergency services, worked extremely hard, under exceptionally difficult circumstances, on 7 July. Their many individual acts of courage, skill and initiative led to the saving of many lives that may otherwise have been lost.

All four sites were ‘cleared’ within three hours, during which time almost 200 vehicles and 400 staff and managers were deployed, and 404 patients were transported to hospital. The fact that there were four separate incidents across London, and that three of them were in tunnels underground, made the emergency response very complex and difficult to manage systematically and effectively.
You can download the full report here.

Monday, June 05, 2006


The Muslim Council of Britain has chosen Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari to be their new Secretary-General. The BBC gives very few details in their report:
He was chosen from a field of 37 candidates to succeed Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the post holder since 2002.

Mr [sic?] Bari, a 52-year-old Bangladeshi, is a specialist teacher in behaviour support for Tower Hamlets Council.
So far so good. Wander over to their profile of him and you'll find:
As chairman of the East London Mosque he was considered instrumental in helping controversial MP George Galloway secure his parliamentary seat by telling Muslims they had a duty to vote in the last general election, thus ensuring a healthy turnout.
Not that he's too chummy with George, mind you. He was just as disgusted by the Gorgeous one frolicking in a catsuit on Celebrity Big Brother as the rest of us:
Dr Bari told The Times: "It’s a matter of decency. A lot of us find his behaviour very strange."
That aside, one flaw the BBC neglect to remind us of is his appalling judge of character, as witnessed during his interview for Panorama last year. It's worth reading the transcript again:
John Ware: Several MCB affiliates do have links to anti western ideologies from abroad.

The Deputy General Secretary of the MCB is Dr Abdul Bari.

He's also Chairman of the East London Mosque which has maintained good relations with other local faith groups.

Last year a £10m new Islamic centre was opened.

The guests included Christian leaders. The Chief Rabbi and Prince Charles also sent goodwill messages.

The guest of honour was one of the most prominent clerics from Saudi Arabia - the most austere Islamic state in the world whose ideology is the polar opposite of secular Britain.

But London's East End is home to many faiths and the Sheikh's theme was tolerance.

Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais, Imam, Ka'ba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia: The history of Islam is the best testament to how different communities can live together in peace and harmony. Muslims must exemplify the true image of Islam in their interaction with other communities.

John Ware: Sheikh Sudais is a leading Imam from the great mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

He had one voice for his Western audience - another for his followers in Saudi.

Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais: The worst ... of the enemies of Islam are those... whom he... made monkeys and pigs, the aggressive Jews and oppressive Zionists and those that follow them: the callers of the trinity and the cross worshippers... those influenced by the rottenness of their ideas, and the poison of their cultures the followers of secularism... How can we talk sweetly when the Hindus and the idol worshippers indulge in their overwhelming hatred against our brothers... in Muslim Kashmir...

John Ware: The East London mosque received $1m from the Saudis towards their new centre. The mosque's links to Saudi go back many years.

The mosque's Chairman Dr Bari remains to be convinced that his honoured guest Sheikh Sudais has repeatedly vilified other faiths.

John Ware: Do I take it that if you were satisfied he had said such things you would not have invited him over?

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Chairman, East London Mosque, Deputy Secretary General, Muslim Council Of Britain: Well of course if it was proved that he exactly said this thing that you mentioned then why do you invited people who would be saying like this?

John Ware: I mean, let me say what else he's reported to have said, he said: 'There should be no peace with the rats of the world.' Again he refers to Jews as the scum of the human race, offspring of apes and pigs, and he has also referred to Christians as worshippers of the cross.' You don't see Christians in those terms?

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: I don't see Christians in those terms.

John Ware: You don't see Christians in those terms?

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: No.

John Ware: No. And idol worship, you don't see Hindus as idol worshippers, do you? I'm sure you don't, do you? Do you?

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: Well... why are you bringing all this?

John Ware: You, er, I mean you do not regard Hindus as idol worshippers?

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: Well Hindu... you mean the definition? When it's idol worshipper, different people worship God in different manners.

John Ware: Mmm.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: Once again you are entering into the theological debate and Muslims worship one monotheistic God and many other communities may have different versions of God.

John Ware: No, I understand that.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: The Trinity may be one of them.

John Ware: I understand that.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: And it all depends how you use the word and explain the word.

John Ware: Sure, but this is harsh.. you wouldn't... I mean no, I accept all that, but this is different, isn't it. This is very harsh language; this in effect denounces other faiths, Hindus, Christians and Jews.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: Well denouncing any faith is not acceptable in Islam, that's not the Prophetic teaching. We need to know the source of this and this is very dangerous thing, that character assassination of Muslim scholars and leaders are getting very widespread.

John Ware: I'm not trying to assassinate his character I'm simply trying to deal with the facts. That's all I'm trying to do.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: No, I know, you are mentioning... you are saying facts but we have a question whether these are facts.

John Ware: The facts are easily checkable - we found a selection of the Sheikh's sermons on a Saudi website covering mosques in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca - with English translations.

Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais: Monkeys and pigs and worshippers of false Gods who are the Jews and the Zionists.

John Ware: The $1m gift from the Saudis to the East London Mosque is but a drop in the ocean compared to the billions they've spent spreading their narrow form of Islam around the world.
Not the sharpest tool in the box then.

In a recent discussion on Pickled Politics, Sunny made his feelings about the man perfectly clear:
Mohammed Abdul Bari - yes of course. I didn’t even think of him. I was in a debate with the guy once. His English was bloody terrible. If he takes over the MCB is truly doomed.
I wonder if that's a line he'll be sticking to?

Personally, I'm not encouraged by his election either. Someone who can't spot Islamist extremism when it's dangled under his nose may not be best suited to deal with the problem of home-grown extremism, a task that as head of the MCB he ought to be in a better position to tackle than most.

At the very worst, Dr Bari does have one major asset his detractors cannot ignore - a truly formidable barnet:

Friday, June 02, 2006


I can't remember how I came across it but this essay by Jorge G. Castañeda ought to keep you busy if you find yourself at a loose end this weekend.
Latin America's Left Turn

Summary: With all the talk of Latin America's turn to the left, few have noticed that there are really two lefts in the region. One has radical roots but is now open-minded and modern; the other is close-minded and stridently populist. Rather than fretting over the left's rise in general, the rest of the world should focus on fostering the former rather than the latter -- because it is exactly what Latin America needs.

Just over a decade ago, Latin America seemed poised to begin a virtuous cycle of economic progress and improved democratic governance, overseen by a growing number of centrist technocratic governments. In Mexico, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, buttressed by the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, was ready for his handpicked successor to win the next presidential election. Former Finance Minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso was about to beat out the radical labor leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the presidency of Brazil. Argentine President Carlos Menem had pegged the peso to the dollar and put his populist Peronist legacy behind him. And at the invitation of President Bill Clinton, Latin American leaders were preparing to gather in Miami for the Summit of the Americas, signaling an almost unprecedented convergence between the southern and northern halves of the Western Hemisphere.

What a difference ten years can make. Although the region has just enjoyed its best two years of economic growth in a long time and real threats to democratic rule are few and far between, the landscape today is transformed. Latin America is swerving left, and distinct backlashes are under way against the predominant trends of the last 15 years: free-market reforms, agreement with the United States on a number of issues, and the consolidation of representative democracy. This reaction is more politics than policy, and more nuanced than it may appear. But it is real.

Starting with Hugo Chávez's victory in Venezuela eight years ago and poised to culminate in the possible election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico's July 2 presidential contest, a wave of leaders, parties, and movements generically labeled "leftist" have swept into power in one Latin American country after another. After Chávez, it was Lula and the Workers' Party in Brazil, then Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, and then, earlier this year, Evo Morales in Bolivia. If the long shot Ollanta Humala wins the April presidential election in Peru and López Obrador wins in Mexico, it will seem as if a veritable left-wing tsunami has hit the region. Colombia and Central America are the only exceptions, but even in Nicaragua, the possibility of a win by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega cannot be dismissed.

The rest of the world has begun to take note of this left-wing resurgence, with concern and often more than a little hysteria. But understanding the reasons behind these developments requires recognizing that there is not one Latin American left today; there are two. One is modern, open-minded, reformist, and internationalist, and it springs, paradoxically, from the hard-core left of the past. The other, born of the great tradition of Latin American populism, is nationalist, strident, and close-minded. The first is well aware of its past mistakes (as well as those of its erstwhile role models in Cuba and the Soviet Union) and has changed accordingly. The second, unfortunately, has not.
It's a long'un and I've not had a chance to finish it yet, but as usual, thoughts and criticisms welcome.


One for Friday lunchtime: How the world’s media were hoaxed by a petfood salesman with an obsession about capital punishment.
THE macabre tale of a Suffolk craftsman who sold handcarved gallows to despotic regimes such as those in Zimbabwe and Libya gripped the world’s media.

David Lucas, 45, a businessman, told an undercover reporter that he sold his “mobile execution units” for up to £12,000 each. More than 30 top newspapers, including The Guardian, the Daily Mail, and the Sydney Morning Herald followed the story. Commentators condemned his shocking opportunism and Jeremy Vine debated the issue on Radio 2.

BBC and Sky News sent crews to the village of Mildenhall to film him inside his pet-food shop. Amnesty International accused him of making “a mockery of the UK’s efforts to oppose the death penalty around the world”.

Glowering behind his bushy beard, Mr Lucas posed defiantly next to gallows outside his shop, and explained that he had been selling execution equipment for ten years. “It is for law and order, not for bad people to get hold of. You are safer on the streets of Libya and African countries than you are here,” he told reporters.

But now it is the veracity of Mr Lucas that hangs in the balance. His business partner has come forward to claim that the story is an elaborate hoax.

Brian Rutterford, who owns the land where Mr Lucas has his shop, said yesterday that his partner had been fooling everyone. “It is a hoax that has got completely out of hand. I know David well, work closely with him and I know he has built one set of gallows — the one that remains outside his shop on my land. The rest is rubbish,” he said.

“He has no sale receipts for gallows because he hasn’t sold any. He keeps up the pretence because he likes talking to the media about capital punishment,” he added. “David sells pet food from my property and I speak to him twice a week. If he was building gallows for foreign governments, I think I would know about it.”
To be filed under: "You couldn't make it up, but somebody did"...

And full marks to the Times reporters who managed to get away with sarcastically calling the Daily Mail a "top newspaper". Well done.


The BBC are reporting that:
A man has been shot by police during a raid involving 250 officers carried out under the Terrorism Act.

He was taken to a nearby hospital after police searched a house in Forest Gate, east London. His injuries are not life-threatening.

A 23-year-old man has been arrested and is currently in custody at a central London police station.
SkyNews is claiming that:
Police sources have told Sky's Crime correspondent Martin Brunt detectives expect to find chemical or biological agents in the house in Lansdown Road, Forest Gate, east London.

They were allegedly being primed for a suspected bomb plot against the UK.

He said: "These brothers were being watched for many weeks if not months.


"Police are not expecting to find conventional weapons. They are looking to find chemical ingredients of some kind."
We'll see. You'd like to think that 250 police officers don't jump out of bed for an early morning raid over nothing.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Remember the striking bus-workers in Tehran?

Here's an update from RoozOnline, courtesy of Regime Change Iran:
Mansour Osanloo, the head of Iran’s bus syndicate who was arrested some months ago continues to be in prison because, in the words of Ayatollah Mousavi Khoeiniha, an advisor to the supreme leader, until the secretary general of Iran’s largest student organization Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat is coerced into a televised confession of purchase of weapons from abroad and links to foreigners.

Imprisoned defense attorney Nasser Zarafshan who was on leave from prison for a few days during the Iranian new year feast (March 22) also brought news of Osanloo’s health and condition in prison. “Osanloo did not agree to make fake concessions or repent as requested by his interrogators,” he said. Recently a letter signed by about 445 prominent Iranians was sent to officials calling for Osanloo’s release. The letter complains about the conditions under which Osanloo is being kept in solitary confinement while being denied all his constitutional rights.

Osanloo was an activist of the Bus drivers Sherkate Vahed syndicate of Iran who was arrested in late January of 2006 in connection with his syndicate activities, along with other activists. All others were subsequently released, except Osanloo. Recently the student committee of a local human rights organization said that Osanloo had suffered serious stomach bleeding caused by pressure but he is still being denied proper medical care at a hospital.

His complainant is Tehran’s prosecutor who despite domestic and international pressure continues to deny a bail for his release.

When the drivers syndicate was formed, Osanloo is on record to have written that they were after peaceful and civil work to attain their professional rights, rejecting any form of violence for their goals. “All we ask is that officials change their pay check for one month with us, workers, and see if they can sustain their life with our pays. If they can, then we would not even need a syndicate,” he has said (see Hanouz webblog).
There's a good timeline of events surrounding this affair on the website of the International Transport Workers' Federation. Although many of the union workers appear to have been released, things are still looking pretty bleak for Mansour Osanloo. Last week the NY Sun reported:
A video surfaced over the weekend of the leader of Iran's striking bus drivers, Mansour Osanloo, discussing and showing the results of his torture, including a gash on his chin and a hole in his tongue, at the hands of his jailors earlier this year.


And so the game of cat and mouse continues. From Yahoo! News:
Iran's foreign minister on Thursday welcomed direct talks with Washington on his country's disputed nuclear program but rebuffed a U.S. proposal that Tehran must suspend uranium enrichment as a condition, state-run television reported.

"Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but (we) won't give up our (nuclear) rights," the television quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying.

"We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about (our) common concerns," he added.
Here's the offer:
"Our message to the Iranians is that one, you won't have a weapon, and two, that you must verifiably suspend any programs at which point we will come to the negotiating table to work on a way forward,"
President Bush said Wednesday.

"I thought it was important for the United States to take the lead — along with our partners," Bush said. "And that's what you're seeing. You're seeing robust diplomacy. I believe this problem can be solved diplomatically and I'm going to give it every effort to do so."
Sensible talk that, for all concerned. Not that the Iranian Foreign Minister sees it quite the same way:
Mottaki said Iran has no intention to halt its uranium enrichment program.

"There is no evidence proving Iran's diversion (toward nuclear weapons). Therefore, Iran is interested in continuing this path," he said.
As you were then.

The prospect of talks is mildly encouraging, but don't get too carried away. Iran's President is still off with the faeries if his interview with Der Spiegel is anything to go by:
SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.


Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.

On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...

SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...

Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.


SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel's right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?
So if the Holocaust happened, Israel should be relocated to Europe. If it didn't, Jews should "go back to where they came from". Head I win, tails you lose.

This should serve as a wake-up call for those who claim that Ahmadinejad only spouts his antisemitic nonsense for the benefit of a minority of crazies back home. At least he's upfront and honest about it, unlike some leaders who say one thing to the West and quite another to their own people. The West can hardly say it doesn't know where he stands on Israel.

On the Iraq War, this remark was quite breathtaking in its hypocrisy:
No, we feel animosity toward no one. We're concerned about the American soldiers who die in Iraq. Why do they have to die there?
Why indeed? Perhaps the insurgents who sally to and fro across the Iraq-Iran border might have something to do with it?

UPDATE: Great post from Brownie over at Harry's Place on this. If you've not already looked, do so.