Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, January 31, 2011

What a difference nine and a half thousand days make

Mind still running on 1982 and how long ago it is, I looked up what was in the pop charts that year.

Only five weeks before the Serrano Cruz sisters (ages 7 and 3) were abducted, this singularly appropriate song won the Eurovision Song Contest for Germany:



And to give you an idea of how long ago that is, Nicole helpfully reprised it in
2008 for the programme where the Germans were voting to select their country's entry.



That's how much Nicole has changed from age 17 to age 43.

To quote Red Sovine, I'll sign off now before I start to cry.

Saviour's Day

As usual, I am writing my contributions to the Amnesty International Greetings Card Campaign at the last possible moment. Partly my natural disorganisation, partly a wish to spread the arrival of cards at the destination out as well as possible. Nah, just kidding, mostly disorganisation.

When one writes letters for Amnesty it's easy to become hardened: a torture victim here, a disappeared spouse there, an execution somewhere else. I always read the background of those for (or as here, to) whom I am writing so as to get some perspective. A few years ago, before I had a family and when I could spend more time on letter-writing, I used to work on quite complicated casework in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, where each action had a minimum of 4-5 pages of background materials and sometimes upward of 100. So I got used to reading fairly detailed descriptions of a wide variety of human rights abuses.

In this year's Greetings Card campaign I was working my way down through the guys locked up for writing short stories, or for spray-painting slogans on walls, or for no good reason at all. Passing over the communities trying to protect their way of life from guerrilla warfare or intensive fossil fuel extraction, I was brought up short by one of the cases.

This one, to be precise.

Maybe it's because I'm a father, whose two children (girl, boy) have a four-year age gap like Ernestina and Erlinda Serrano Cruz. Maybe it's because I can remember when mine were seven and three, some fifteen years back. Maybe it's that these girls went missing nearly twice as long ago as that. Or maybe it's that their mother died without ever knowing what became of them. Anyway, this is the one that had me briefly tearful.

Your mileage may vary.

But it's a staggering thought that those girls went missing before this song was even written:

Gradus ad parnassum

A friend of mine posted a link to this on Facebook.

There is a set of stairs, with a moving escalator next to it .... both of which lead to the same spot on the floor of the upper level. At first no one took the stairs, almost 97% of the people took the escalator. Okay. I think that could be a normal expected result.

Then a group of engineers got together, and decided they wanted to change the percentage around.

Notice what these scientists did. Clever huh. And now they have reversed the percentages, as a whopping 66% more people take the stairs, than ride the escalator.



Now I have to go there, obviously.

Of course, real engineers would simply have reversed the direction of the escalator.

Soldiers of the IDF show true bravery and really risk their lives



Another thing I nearly missed last week because it wasn't publicised (indeed it was hidden away in a slot on Channel 4 News so at first I couldn't find it when I'd heard about it from reviews) was this film of interviews with three IDF soldiers who had taken part in Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza invasion). They are the first who have given interviews, and while their accounts are far from being a litany of war crimes they give the lie not only to the myth that only military targets and not civilians were targeted but to the often-heard assertion that the IDF is a uniquely "moral" army. (Perhaps the IDF, chickens themselves who hide behind human shields, targetted Gazan chickens because of the threat they posed to Israeli chickens' racial purity.)

One has to admire the soldiers' honesty, as well as their innocence: I expect they were all murdered by their government within hours of the programme airing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Reading a Book

This amused me (posted on Facebook by Eddie Louise Clark who occasionally comments here):

Hindi Metal

While on the subject of mashups, here's another. Iron Maiden and Aishwarya Rai: what's not to like?

The Whole F***ing Show

On Thursday, Ruairidh and I did one of those father-and-son things: we drove through to Glasgow for the TNA Impact! wrestling tour. Yes, several hours of highly-choreographed mayhem, as American as apple pie (or as apple pie which had been whacked with a fake guitar and then had a 270 lb man jump on it from a height).

We had excellent seats, and if the show ever appears on TV then when you get to the bit where the announcer comes out into the audience and one of the fans proposes to his girlfriend in front of the cameras, we're right behind them (they were sitting in our row before they stood up).

We watched Angelina Love and Mickie James beat Madison Rayne and Tara (I'm always surpsised by how normal the female wrestlers look compared with most of the men).

We saw Matt Morgan ("The Blueprint"), who must be about 7 ft tall, demolish one of the few black fighters "The Pope" (I couldn't resist a "Pope on a rope" gag).

The wonderfully named tag team Beer Money defeated The British Invasion. The latter (in their union jack shorts) arre very popular in the USA, but as they're English they didn't have much of a Glasgow fan base. Beer Money, meanwhile, despite being one of the Teams They Love To Hate (the technical term is "heels") on the TNA circuit, very obviously had a large and vocal following. When they won the cheering was considerable.

Jeff Jarrett (now retired as a wrestler and one of the organisers of TNA) had issued a challenge to anyone from Glasgow to take him on. So of course someone did (or so the script ran): cue Lionheart. He did pretty well before being decked with a guitar (chairs are SO 20th century).

Finally, the main bout was Rob van Dam (tag line "The whole fucking show") with Mr Anderson (I was disappointed that he didn't wear dark glasses and a suit) against the Hardy Boys. Ruairidh was very keen to see the latter, and was a little disappointed that the match didn't last longer. He did rate it highly as a match though, as did I.

Other reports here, here and best of all here.

Perhaps the best moment of the night though was when Ruairidh was listening to the music playing between bouts and suddenly broke into a huge grin as he realised he was hearing a mashup of Stevie Wonder's Superstition and Metallica's Sad But True.

An example of the feral press telling vicious lies about innocent victims

As I don't read the Daily Mail I nearly missed one of the week's big stories. Melanie "Mad Mel" Phillips posted this extraordinary homophobic rant back on Monday. (And "homophobic" is the precisely accurate description: Mel is terrified that gays are taking over Britain, though how she squares that with her oft-stated belief that we're all living under Sharia Law is a little hard to follow.)

My attention was drawn to the story by this spoof in the Daily Mash.

Any pretence that her article had even a distant connection with facts is demolished, first by Tabloid Watch and then here by Andy McSmith.

For a response to her gay-despising sentiments rather than simply a catalogue of her stupid lies, see Johann Hari in the Independent. For a humorous rather than an angry response, go here.

Mel's rant was one of the most-tweeted stories of the week. Another was the failure of Brenda Namigadde's appeal against being deported to Uganda where she will (not might, will) be murdered for being a lesbian. The story is covered here along with the murder of David Kato in Uganda for being gay.

In a response to the criticism of her article on Twitter, Ms Phillips wrote

“I have nothing against gay people and would always defend them against true prejudice........as I often do when considering the threat posed to them by radical Islamism."

I suspect the reason for Mel's total silence on the cases of both David Kato and Breenda Namigadde - at a time when some support for them might have demonstrated that she is not, in fact, a raging homophobic bigot but would genuinely defend gays against true prejudice - is that their persecutors are not radical Muslims but Roman Catholics. As Mel's article demonstrated, when Muslims are involved she's all for gay rights, but when the bigotry comes from so-called Christians it's just fine to murder gays in the name of religion.

One has to ask whether there is a single human rights issue on which Melanie Phillips has ever taken the side of the victims rather than the perpetrators. Any suggestions?

Jimmy thinks we're too stupid to read, and that our murder victims are just a distraction from real news. But then he's not British.

I have to say that if this piece from Jimmy on the Guardian's reporting of the market shares of various UK news organisations is anything to go by, his new blog will be as worthless as his old one. As a good little Tea-Partier Jimmy obviously hates public service broadcasting on principle, and loathes the Guardian because he's been banned from its comments pages for a few too many racist diatribes. But he loves journalists, especially dead ones that can be blamed on nasty foreign Muslims. And once again the BBC comes in for criticism from Jimmy for spending too much time reporting murders in Britain. I mean, why would British people be interested in finding out who killed some woman or other when the killing clearly had nothing to do with political Islam? Why were the BBC so obsessed with a killer at large in Bristol when they could have been interviewing Geert Wilders or carrying out an expose of how Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who wants to impose a global caliphate? Clear leftist bias: "filling their slots so that they wouldn’t have to look at other items in any depth".

Of course, maybe Jimmy is just keen for the BBC to cover the news from Virginia or Florida or wherever he hails from. Why would he care if one of the "stupid, freedom-hating British" gets offed?

Tasteless though Jimmy's lack of interest in dead British women may be, it's his outright lies about the Guardian article that have moved me to post this. How does his post open?

Why no mention of the BBC’s 40% by The Guardian?

If you were a Guardian journalist writing on this news coverage comparison story and chart, wouldn’t you have thought there was something more noteworthy than that Sky’s ‘Murdoch media to control over a fifth of UK news consumption’?

For instance, the small matter that the BBC has currently almost 40% of news consumption?

Why indeed? The Guardian article certainly begins with an analysis of the market shares of the various commercial news organisations, pointing out that Sky's proposed takeover of Newscorp will be "a merger of the number one and four commercial media groups, which is the sort of thing that in most other markets would be questioned hard". But why would it ignore the BBC's dominance of the whole sector?

Well, of course, it does no such thing. Jimmy is assuming here that we will take his lies on trust and not bother following the link to the article. After all, he's already told us it's rubbish, and as Simon Callow and Martin Luther could testify, he's an exemplary fact-checker. So we're not supposed to read this:

Of course, there is one glaring exception. The BBC. Which at 39.3% is the dominant force. And it's hard to argue with. Until now, Britain has regulated commercial media far more tightly than the BBC - and you argue that it is time for a change. But the BBC is also different, and you can expect this argument to form part of the points made by the critics of the News Corp deal - which rests on the notions of, wait for it, 'internal plurality' which exist separate to considerations about market share.

Nobody owns the BBC, but Rupert Murdoch owns nearly 40% of the voting stock of News Corporation. Media may seem like a fast moving business, but the characteristics of media companies are such that they are steady-state businesses that can stay under one person or family's control for generations as long as the owners don't over expand and take on too much debt. Media companies, in short, can easily become somebody's personal property - and there are more than enough examples of where that has happened in Britain.

The BBC is a notoriously plural organisation, tolerating all sorts of dissent, which often manifests itself on screen and on air. Presenters cheerfully take executives apart; a crisis about standards (cf Ross/Brand) is gleefully reported across the whole organisation. In short, the BBC may control 39.3% of Britain's news consumption by the minute - but it is a more internally plural organisation than those newspapers where decisions about which political party to back are taken right at the top. Measuring internal plurality is, however, tricky - but the essential point is clear.

We can see, then, how powerful the enlarged News Corp is. And that it is a different kind of beast to the BBC. The question, then, is what will Ofcom, and more importantly Jeremy Hunt do about it.


"No mention" of the BBC's 40% of the market? That would be in the same way that Jimmy's blog makes "no mention" of Tony Blair.

As Joseph Goebbels put it in 1941, "The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."

I'm sorry, Jimmy, but however much you lie and however ridiculous you look as a result, we still won't believe you're English (or Scottish). Just a freedom-hating fool.

Brothers In Arms

It is a rare week when one can look at the news and see the similarities between Tommy Sheridan and Uncle Jimmy laid bare. Oh sure, Sheridan is Scottish and Jimmy claims to be (Glaswegian indeed), and both are batshit-insane conspiracy theorists. One claims to be a socialist and has spent much of his career attemting to destroy socialism in Scotland. The other is a fervent supporter of another Scot who once claimed to be a socialist and then in one of the most blatant pieces of entryism in political history destroyed the Labour Party (and had a good try at killing off the trade union movement).

But this week Tom of the Thousand Days and his supporters were blaming his three-year sentence in HM Prison, Barlinnie as a consequence, not of his lying his face off in a court of law in order to trouser a huge amount of cash, but of wicked collusion between the police, the judges and the media to prevent him from speaking out on the evils of...whatever is evil this week.

Uncle Jimmy, meanwhile, has been complaining of a similar conspiracy between the ignorant leftist media and the police, which has prevented poor Tony Blair from appearing in places without wicked protestors spoiling his day by reminding him of the hundreds of thousands of dead people sacrificed to prop up his ego. According to Jimmy, poor Tony is effectively in "internal exile", just like the suspected terrorists under Control Orders. There are a few problems with that analysis, as my readers will already have spotted. Apart from the fact that the only restrictions on TB's movements are wholly voluntary and arise from his disinclination - as ever - to face criticism, the main flaw is surely that for exile to be "internal" one has to remain in the country. Blair is hardly ever here, sadly not because he's been kicked out as an embarrassing disgrace but because he can make more money in other places. That kind of exile is usually called "tax exile", though depending on whether we have a double taxation agreement with Israel as well as with the USA it's probably just "financial exile" in his case.

(I wouldn't want to give the impression that Mr Blair only prefers to live abroad because they pay him more. They also shower him with worthless "honours", name every male child in the country after him, declare him a god.... you name it, someone will have found an ego-boosting Blair-attractant to tempt him to visit their tinpot dictatorship. Because the only thing Tony Blair values more highly than money is Tony Blair.)

Anyway, tiring of the disinclination of Britain's media to kow-tow to every loony pronouncement from the Great Mouth ("I mean, look here, you've got to believe Iran is an enormous threat to Britain, what with its crazy dictator and its nuclear weapons. I mean, I said just the same things about Iraq. None of the inspectors found any WMDs there either, but I was right, wasn't I, because Saddam was nasty and I didn't like him. So we - well, you, obviously, because my role is to be important and issue commands - have to invade Iran and remove this wicked tyrant that I don't like. Mel Phillips agrees with me! Why are you all going away? I'm IMPORTANT, I tell you! I used to be a politician!....") Uncle Jimmy has started a brand new blog, The Feral Press. (Because the only kind of press Jimmy likes is the compliant government-controlled kind.) No doubt it will prove as much of a hoot as his original blog. Perhaps I should start a book on how long it will take for the "Asians/Muslims/terror suspects aren't REALLY British like me" line to make its way over to the new site.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ho ho ho

I may be accused of juvenile humour (again....) but sometimes the bad guys are not so much despicable as risible.

Take Bare Naked Islam, for example. This one is a sight gag, but great fun. This post is headed up

ALLEN WEST (R-FL) condemns Obama Regime for allowing terrorist organization’s flag to fly in Washington DC

“The raising of this flag is an attempt to legitimize an organization with a known history of terrorist actions,” West said, in a written news release.


Now look at the picture accompanying those words, and see which flag (other than the Stars and Stripes) appears in it with Congressman West. LOL. His description of Israel is spot on, of course, though since it was recognised a long time ago by the United Nations I suppose banning its flag would be a tad controversial.

Nothing quite so wonderful from Jimmy, just one of his normal pieces of carelessness. In this post (under "Related", just below the huge picture of Tony Blair) he tells us that one of the major events of 1968 was "Martin Luther shot dead". That would presumably be shortly after he gave his famous "I Have 95 Theses" speech.

Shake or stir?

There was an article in New Scientist at Christmas time discussing some of the myths surrounding alcohol. (I can't find the whole thing online unfortunately.) One of the questions it pondered was whether martinis should be shaken or stirred. Fans of James Bond will have one opinion, while others may tend toward Jed Bartlet's view in The West Wing:

President Jed Bartlet: Can I tell you what's messed up about James Bond?

Charlie Young: Nothing.

President Jed Bartlet: Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

Still, as the New Scientist piece (also this similar article) make plain, there are points in favour of shaking, especially with a vodka martini in the 1950s when vodka tended to be potato-based. (Indeed, in Moonraker Bond sprinkles a little black pepper into his neat vodka so as to cause the fusel oil to sink to the bottom: even with grain-based Stolichnaya he felt the precaution necessary back then.)

So little though I like the idea of my hero's having feet of clay, Bartlet was wrong about vodka martinis at least. (Come to that, he thought Beowulf was written in Middle English, so Nobel Prizewinner or not, he clearly wasn't infallible.)

Gaza Manifesto For Change

(Copied from A Cloud In Trousers.)

Gaza Youth Breaks Out has issued a manifesto against Hamas; against Israel; against Fatah.

GAZAN YOUTH’S MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA!

We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom.

We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30rd November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated.

We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them?

We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now.

During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations.

We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime.

Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared.

Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed.

We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore.

ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration!

WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free.We want to be able to live a normal life.We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect.

We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance.

We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under.

We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: freegazayouth@hotmail.com

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.
FREE GAZA YOUTH!
GYBO
December, 2010

Monday, January 24, 2011

BarelySentientIslamophobes

Uncle Jimmy may be an Islamophobe but he only sometimes steps over the line and posts remarks that are actually racist. His jolly chums over at Bare Naked Islam (when I Googled it, even I was surprised at how many links he's posted to them since he discovered them back in the autumn) show no such restraint. Not only do they generally lard their hate speech against Muslims with pretty intense anti-immigrant, anti-Arab (though they're so stupid they think Pakistanis are Arabs), anti-woman (funny, I thought it was the Muslims who were supposed to have no respect for women?), homophobic (but isn't it Muslims who hate gays?), even anti-European invective (if they forget, the commenters invariably do so), sometimes they leave out the anti-Muslim bits and just go for the niggers and the Jews.

For example here*, where electing a black president of the USA is "putting lipstick on a monkey". (* This one is actually at a similar site which I reached via one of many links there from BNI: Muslims Are Terrorists. A thoroughly delightful site (/sarcasm) which actually seems more interested in slandering the President of the USA than in anything to do with Islamic terrorism (mind you, if it restricted itself to actual Islamic terrorism, what would the blog do for material?) . POTUS is variously described as the "nigger Muslim", "nigger bastard", "Osama", "Kenyan-born dictator", "Hussein the Muslim terrorist" and the like. Clearly a site dedicated to true American values, and the folk at Bare Naked Islam lap it up (after all, they usually refer to the President as the "Muslim-in-Chief"). At least Jimmy hasn't linked to MAT....yet.)

Or here, where a wicked Jew financier who controls the world's economy is shown working President Obama like a puppet.

Or here, where they say

I will be so happy to see Jon Stewart (the Jew) beheaded on Hollywood Blvd when the Muslims take over.

And they're perfectly open about lying. See here, where the headline

PHEW! Shari’a Law outlaws suicide as an expression of anger or protest

is immediately followed by the sub-heading

But doing it as a way to kill infidels is just fine

Yet the very first sentence of the post itself reads (my highlighting)

Al Masryalyoum –In a statement issued late Tuesday, Egypt’s Al-Azhar university said that Islam strictly prohibits suicide for any reason, and those who recently attempted suicide by setting themselves on fire might be suffering from a mental or psychological disorder that compelled them to do so.

So let's see: this is a site catering for America-bashing Europhobe white supremacist anti-semites with an attention span which doesn't run to twenty words.

I'm sorry, but every time Uncle Jimmy posts an approving link to such a site, or posts a comment correcting then about the relationship of Lauren Booth to Tony Blair without showing any sign of discomfort at the earlier comment stating that

The tick is a parasite and it spreads lyme disease.

Islam is a disease spread by parasites!

and then links that piece on his own blog - every time, his plaintive bleating that

I am no racist, never have been and never will be. Falling back on that argument against someone who is not exactly convinced that Islam is a good thing is churlish, and I’m sick of your juvenile claptrap.

sounds less and less credible. He may be better than they are, but by giving them encouragement he shows his heart to be in a very similar place.

Fair trials for all (even Tony Blair)

Jimmy's current rant as he gathers his strength again after the relentless licking of Tony Blair's boots over the past few days' worth of posting (but fair's fair - one would expect no less given the title of his blog) is about Control Orders and how the BBC (see? the BIASED BBC again) reported on them. The only comment I want to make is on Jimmy's whingeing about

our high hurdles of legal proof, which as we know, or if we don't we should, attracts characters from all over the world, since they know that in Britain they can get away with murder, and/or the incitement of murder

and his sarcastic appending of

ALL ALLEGEDLY OF COURSE!

to the list of crimes of which the eight subjects of COs are under suspicion.

This from someone who never misses an opportunity to remind us that Tony Blair is not guilty of any crime until he has been tried and convicted on the basis of proper evidence. In which he and I are entirely in agreement. Where we disagree is that I believe that if a suitable charge could be framed (not a foregone conclusion - it would need to be one that would stick, after all) then Slippery Tone should indeed be brought to trial. If the evidence held up then he would deserve conviction and punishment: if not, that would be the end of the matter (well, for me at least). Why would he not want that?

Anyway, Jimmy believes in the principle of "no guilt without trial" when it comes to his idol, but not for suspected terrorists. For them

EXTERNAL exile is the answer

Yes, well, "Send them back where they came from" has always been popular with some kinds of folk. Even when owing to the anonymity under which they are held we don't know how many of then "came" from anywhere except Britain. And if they're British (yes, yes, I know, suspected Muslim terrorists don't count as real indigenous Brits, they're just "creatures", but work with me here) how do you "exile" them? Drop them out of a plane at 30,000 ft? Tie them to paving slabs and drop them in the Thames? Order up that nice fumigant stuff the Czechs still make?

Perhaps what Jimmy has in mind is sending them all to the Falklands. If these guys are as wicked as Jimmy (on no actual evidence of course) believes, what have the Falklanders done to deserve them?

Not thanks, Jim: I'd rather stick with the tried and tested British method of...well., trying and testing. Our general reluctance as a nation to go in for imprisonment without any intention of trial is what sets us apart (IMHO) from the likes of Iran, Haiti, Zimbabwe, China and the like. And if Tony Blair doesn't like that, he can go and live somewhere else. Oh, wait, he does.

I stand corrected

In a comment under his 14 Nov 2010 post BBC Bias 2 about the protests at the Remembrance ceremony it appears that I did actually refer to Jimmy as a racist on his blog before he had banned me. Not in any of the links where Stan claimed to find it (see comments here), but there it is: I was wrong.

Mind you (a) the first mention of Jimmy's racism in those comments under his post was when Jimmy himself contrasted the EDL's "possible" racism with his own utter lack of it. I then pointed out that he had done so precisely one paragraph after asking me "Why do you never defend the British indigenous people? Why are you so pro these creatures - these debased inhuman ANIMALS (in my opinion)?", which I felt rendered his "I am not racist" comment worthy only of ridicule.

So yes, I did accuse him of racism, but only after he had both protested his freedom from it AND demonstrated his total complicity in it in the same comment.

Oh, and Jimmy then goes on to say that because people refer to "indigenous" North Americans and Australians (what we used to call Red Indians and Aborigines) as distinct from their European conquerors (sorry, bringers of "civilising Western development") it's therefore not racist to contrast indigenous British people with "animals". Maybe if the indigenous Australians were routinely compared with "debased inhuman European animals" I'd go along with that. Though maybe not: at least the Native American and Australian population have a reasonable claim to having been undisturbed on their lands for a very long time indeed. But "indigenous British"? Jimmy claims his family go back to the Magna Carta. Wow, how impressive. So after the Normans, Saxons. Norwegians, Danes, Romans, old uncle Rud Kipling and all had strolled in and dispossessed the previous "indigenous" inhabitants, Jimmy's ancestors decided they were the real deal, and anyone later was FOREIGN. Best not to mention the Hanoverians, or Prince Philip (a Greek) - Jimmy would be demanding the royals all be sent packing. Oh wait, no, there's something about those "non-indigenous" people that sets them apart from Jimmy's "creatures" and "animals", isn't there?

SO - I was wrong to claim I hadn't said it: but dead right that Jimmy was, and still is, a racist. Nothing to do with his views on Islam: it's his views on the innate superiority of white British over the rest that gains him that accolade. Here is a bit of my last comment:

Like it or not (and I’d say not) this country belongs to the “pathetic things" as well as to the rest of us, so they won’t be going anywhere.

And here is Jimmy's response:

And, btw, I do not accept that we should accept these “pathetic things” who mean to destroy western civilisation. You do. Clearly. A sign of your weakness and your inability to understand, not mine.

Ah, yes, my acceptance of non-whites as British shows that I just don't get it. Thank God for that. As long as Jimmy is describing this blog as a "little hell-hole of half-truths" I know I'm doing something worthwhile to fight those who REALLY mean to destroy western civilisation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thank you and goodnight

And of course yesterday Tony Blair made that appearance at the enquiry, where his performance (lesser folk gove testimomy: Blair gives performances) told us several things.

1) Despite his having neglected to mention the fact during his self-justifying spiel last time, he is actually quite sorry that tens of thousands of people died because he took us to war in Iraq.

2) Nobody in the courtroom believed a word of it. (Which is not to say it wasn't true - few folk beyond Osama bin Laden feel no remorse at causing massive loss of life - but as Blair is famous for having built his career on self-serving lies and also has the least convincing delivery since Richard "Would you but a used car from this man?" Nixon, he was always going to have trouble there.)

3) He did indeed decide a long time in advance of the war that he would support the USA, after which all questions of fact became subordinated to the need to spin the war as desirable.

4) No occasion, not even a solemn legal enquiry, is deemed inappropriate for Blair to launch into his favourite conspiracy theory tirade against Iran and the threat it poses to the rest of the world. Never mind that the only connection Iran has to the Iraq war is that it was only the threat of possible further attacks from Saddam that kept Iranian regional ambitions in check prior to the Iraq war. Relevance isn't the point - indeed I suspect the point was precisely to divert attention from the actual subject of the enquiry, in case there were any serious questions waiting to be answered.

5) We are so lucky not to have this man polluting British politics now or ever again.

Apparently Tony Blair is no better at representing the Quartet than he was at representing his Sedgefield constituents

A collection of EU Middle Eaatern envoys recently recommended that the EU should recognise East Jerusalem (which of course has never been part of Israel) as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

I tried Googling to see whether Tony Blair, Special Envoy on behalf of, among others, the EU, had made any comment on this. Surprise, surprise, not a word. I suppose the poor dear was too busy polishing his self-justifications for the forthcoming Iraq whitewash enquiry to waste any of his expensive time commenting on the lesser beings doing his job for him.

Glad to have cleared that up

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. I thought it was rather good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Preserving western culture against wicked Muslims. Oh, and Jesus.

Uncle Jimmy's blog posts fall into several categories. Despite all protestations to the contrary, there are sometimes out and out racist ones. There are the normal Islamophobic ones, the tedious puff pieces for whatever ego-trip Tony Blair has most recently been on, the hilariously inept ones, the merely mistaken ones, and the barefaced lies. There are also ones that are just plain boring, and ones that I actually find myself in broad agreement with.

There are some great examples of all of the above from recent weeks on Jimmy's blog. But having laid into Jimmy recently for his racism and Islamophobia, let's begin by lightening the tone and simply put him straight on a small matter of fact. Nothing sinister here: indeed I would just have posted it as a comment on his blog if I weren't Blogger Non Grata.

One of the Blair puff pieces deals with the establishment in Sierra Leone of a Tony Blair Academy. Sorry, a Tony Blair INTERNATIONAL Academy. Jimmy has this to say:

I wondered for a while if this was a first for a British politician/(former) prime minister, within his/her lifetime?......In fact there was a precedent but some time ago – see below, Grey College, Durham.....In fact Grey College was named after the then Prime Minister – Charles Grey. Grey was among those responsible for setting up the Reform Act of 1832.

I'm not about to make hay with this as I'm sure it's an honest error, but while Grey College was indeed named for Charles Grey, it was founded rather a long time after his death: in 1959 to be exact. Grey was the Prime Minister when Durham University was founded, but the college is a comparative newcomer. I hadn't known that it was nearly called Oliver Cromwell College: how many Tony Blair Colleges/Schools/Academies/Recycling Plants/Motorway Service Areas may have been planned, only to be snatched away from their rightful dedicatee and devoted instead to lesser beings?

The only one of Durham's colleges founded in Grey's lifetime is in fact my own alma mater, University College. Though our arch-rival across the road only missed out by one year.

Clearly not a deliberate falsehood, not is it funny the way the Simon Cowell/Simon Callow confusion was. But it does draw attention to a....how shall I put it?....devil-may-care attitude to researching facts.

This blog-first-think-never attitude sometimes leads Jimmy hopelessly out of his depth, though, as in this comment.

The word “dishonour” is never used in western culture.

Leaving aside its long and, er, honourable pedigree in Western military circles (if Jimmy doesn't consider the Romans sufficiently Western, surely the impeccable British Caractacus will do?) Jimmy seems to be suggesting that neither the Bible (Old or New Testaments) nor Shakespeare is part of "western culture". Earth to American chappie: here in Britain, they both are.

Before I am accused of "juvenile humour" for drawing attention to this gaffe, may I point out that it has generally been the lot of those making sweeping and readily disproved statements (especially where any school child is capable of rebutting them) to be laughed at alike by crowds of children and adults. Do I think Uncle Jimmy seriously believes what he wrote? No. Do I think he gives a moment's thought to whether what he writes is correct, or even whether it makes any kind of sense? No again. In the case of the Grey College error, I'm sure Jimmy believed it to be true.

But if you want something really ironic, try guessing who said this about the victims of the Holocaust:

"We must never dishonour their memory by allowing the ugly poison of racial prejudice and hatred to hold sway again."

Go on, have a guess. (Hint: he is impeccably Western, though one suspects that maybe when he hears the word "culture" he reaches - figuratively speaking - for his gun.)

If I Gave Her The Wool Dept.

What a great idea.

And according to this lady (who has coined the name Kni-Tits for them) her gay friends find them great stress relievers.(Post on 30 Nov 2008).

Personally I've always found the non-knitted kind good that way....

Or why not have the best of both worlds:

She must be really, REALLY good at jigsaws

Taiwanese forensic expert repairs shredded banknotes

I think Uncle Jimmy and I have this point of view in common. Of course, he may think he disagrees.....

Credit where it's due, again

From my employers' intranet site today:

Lloyds Banking Group has received public recognition for our work on sexual orientation equality. The Stonewall 2011 Top 100 Employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, revealed today, ranks Lloyds Banking Group as the top private sector employer in the UK. The Group was runner up in the overall index. In a second win, the Group has been named as Top Scottish employer by Stonewall Scotland.

Today’s national media has extensive coverage of the wins, in the Times and the Herald. Our achievement was also on Radio 4’s flagship Today Programme.

Stonewall’s Top 100 is the UK’s major sexual orientation equality award. Competition for a place is fierce, with almost 400 private and public sector entrants this year. It carries weight with prospective employees as well as our own employees and the wider lesbian, gay and bisexual community.


“I’m absolutely delighted with these fantastic accolades,” says Helen Weir, Executive Sponsor for our sexual orientation programme, who is due to accept the award on behalf of the Group this evening. “I’m passionate about my role as Executive Sponsor for sexual orientation. It makes sound commercial sense that Lloyds Banking Group should aim to be the best place to work - and bank – for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. And winning these awards shows we are another step closer to our goal! I’m so proud of our progress and look forward to continuing our journey.”


And Fiona Cannon, who is our Director for Diversity and Inclusion, was given an OBE in the New Year's Honours list.

I'm pleased that Lloyds Banking Group is doing this work (and no, I'm neither gay nor bisexual, nor have I had a sex change, and I haven't dressed in women's clothing since I played a witch in Macbeth at school in 1972). I'm just as pleased that it's being recognised for doing the right thing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two Men, Two Women

There are plenty of things I want to post about, but I think we need to lighten the mood a little again, so here are my half-dozen all-time favourite Abba songs. Because we all need some Abba in our lives.

1) One Of Us





From what Lisa described as Abba's "magisterially depressing" period, otherwise known as their final album The Visitors. Abba's last big worldwide hit, and still popular due to its preservation in Mamma Mia! One of Agnetha's best vocal performances, with a reggae-ish beat and the uneven phrase lengths which had become an Abba trademark. Woman breaks up with man and owns up that she regrets it. The way the title phrase is used in the lyric is sheer genius (but Bjorn had got pretty good at songwriting by then).

2) The Day Before You Came





The last song Abba ever recorded. Released as a single, it had mixed success, doing well in Europe but failing to make the top 30 in the UK, traditionally a haven of Abba fandom. Now a bonus track on The Visitors, where it fits the generally sombre mood perfectly, though it isn't actually a sad song. I can never decide whether it's the brilliance of the lyrics that keeps me enthralled - the way the song is about a new man in a woman's life but never mentions him directly, confining itself to describing the humdrum routine that he has subverted - or the music (minor key modulating to relative major and back, with the vocal line almost totally uncoupled rhythmically from the accompaniment, like a recitative). Something keeps me coming back to this one, anyway. The video doesn't hurt either: railway commuters in black and white. (No longer available! But this one I found is surprisingly close to the spirit of the original.)

3) My Love, My Life


Here (embedding disabled)



This one never came out as a single: you need to hunt it down on Arrival. Where One Of Us would be about a woman regretting ending a relationship, here we have a woman who knows that her man wants to end it but is finding it hard, so she helps him by being resigned and self-sacrificing. It sounds schmaltzy, but they bring it off. Great swirl of cellos leading into the refrain, too.



4) That's Me








I have a weakness for song lyrics that start in mid-flow, dropping you into the middle of a conversation (think of the Beatles' We Can Work It Out). Here it's "Are you sure you wanna hear more?" from a girl who likes to do her own thing but seemingly has no confidence that any man could be interested in her because she's not just a bimbo. A complex lyric married to a catchy and clever tune with those uneven phrase lengths again. Never a single, it appeared on Arrival.

5) Move On






Another one that wasn't released as a single (it's on Abba: The Album) so has remained comparatively obscure. As a big fan of Heraclitus how could I not love this one on first hearing? "All things move and nothing remains still". A concept known to Buddhists as anicca.



And I do like what I think of as the "Yippee-ki-yay" backing vocals on the last chorus.


6) When All Is Said And Done





OK, so this song contains one of the worst rhymes ever, never mind in the Abba canon. "In our life, we have walked some strange and lonely treks / Slightly worn, but dignified, and not too old for sex". But apart from that (Mrs Lincoln), it has one of Abba's best melodies, a terrific introduction with the angelic choir (and am I alone in hearing the faintest of nostalgic nods to the Eurovision ident in the first few bars?), one of Frida's very best performances, and a wonderful feeling of resignation about the lyrics. Bjorn wrote the words not long after Benny and Frida had announced their divorce, and while he didn't consciously write it about them he admits that their situation must have had an effect. ("Hi, Frida: sorry to hear about you and Benny. I've got this new song for you to try out...")



As a bonus for my daughter if she drops by, here is the Spanish version of When All Is Said And Done. - No Hay A Quien Culpar. She likes foreign language versions, especially when done by the origonal artists as this clearly is.



It's a tough job, but somebody has to stop doing it.

In other news, I lost my job on Monday.

More precisely, I was informed by Lloyds Banking Group that I was at risk of redundancy having been unsuccessful in my application to keep my existing job. Not a big surprise, as around two-thirds of the permanent staff in our department were slated for redundancy. I hadn't applied for voluntary severance as my preference was to keep on working, but if the alternative is being redeployed into a non-IT job somewhere in Edinburgh (and I dare say the bank would try very hard to do that) I think taking the money and running - which is still an option - looks more attractive. At least I';m old enough to draw my pension immediately. At least I have enough service to get a reasonable pension. And there is still contract IT work to be had in Edinburgh (which will be a new experience for me).

The good news is that probably I won't be let go immediately, as the project I'm mainly working on is to do with merging the Lloyds TSB and HBOS IT systems and is due to finish in the third quarter of this year. At least, a number of us working on the same project and now destined for the exit have found that unlike some of our colleagues we have been given no definite exit date. Room for (very) cautious optimism there, especially as a stay of execution beyond August would put another year's service on my pension and my redundancy payment. Plus the project is likely to involve substantial quantities of weekend work over the summer, which is pretty well paid (otherwise nobody would do it). So while I may not laugh all the way to the bank, I can probably laugh all the way from it.

Over the next week or so there will be a lot of calculation of financial impacts to be done, and life will certainly look different soon, but probably not much worse. So much counting of blessings, and considering what I want to do with the rest if my life.

My heart goes out to those of my impacted colleagues who have only a few years' service; or who are too young to draw their pension straight away; who have young families; or worst of all who have spouses similarly afflicted. Also to those who for whatever reason truly believed the axe wouldn't fall on them. Shit really does happen: and this is what it looks like.

Alors, continuons.

Sending the right message

Actually, not all the news today was bad, not even about prison. There was this story.

I have chatted to people who felt the sentence of two years and eight months was harsh. I disagree. Look at it this way. The guy chucked a large, heavy object from a great height into a crowd. As it happens, it missed everybody: but it could have caused life-changing injuries to a couple of people. If it had landed directly on top of one person it could have put them in a wheelchair; in a persistent vegetative state; in a coffin. It is no credit to Mr Woollard that none of those tragedies came to pass: when he launched the fire extinguisher, he didn't care.

Imagine if Edward Woollard had got drunk one lunchtime, climbed into a car, and driven at 50 mph on the wrong side of the road in the centre of, say, Edinburgh. Suppose he ran a red light, but amazingly he didn't hurt anyone. Even if he'd given himself up to the police afterwards, he would have been charged with dangerous driving and would probably have got three years or more in jail for recklessly endangering life. So what's different here?

If one or both of my children was a student in London rather than Edinburgh, then one of them might have been at the tuition fees protest. Might have been in the courtyard into which Woollard chucked the extinguisher. Perhaps you think I'm just worried in case the extinguisher hit one of my children? No, I'm wondering if either of them would ever completely recover if they were standing next to someone - a policeman perhaps - who was suddenly transfigured into a foreshortened pile of meat as they were drenched in his blood.

Actions have consequences. Edward Woollard should count himself ridiculously lucky that he faces only a temporary loss of liberty, and doesn't have to live with having killed, paralysed or traumatised people.

....you'd better never bother with me old bamboo....

Today's news has all been a bit depressing so far. So let's have something more cheering:

Edinburgh Zoo is to get a pair of Giant Pandas!

The zoo is, of course already famous for some of its black-and-white inhabitants.

The spectre haunting Europe today

Two articles from Der Spiegel, which is (my daughter the German student assures me) a thoroughly respectable middle-of-the-road German newspaper.

This one is worrying.

This one is absolutely terrifying.

Though presumably not to this man.

And some idiots still reckon it's Muslims we're supposed to be afraid of?

Letters to America (or at least American territory)

I wouldn't want to leave anyone with the impression from some of my recent posts that I think Israel is unique in keeping people locked up after the expiry of their sentences. As the ninth anniversary comes round of the establishment of the USA's infamous Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, let us recall that it currently holds 89 prisoners (none of whom has been tried or convicted of a crime, of course) who have been cleared for release: that is, the US authorities have determined that there was no reason for them to be held in the first place. Which is as close as you can come to expiry of your sentence when you were never sentenced. And now President Obama, who told us that he was going to erase this stain on America's reputation in his first year, has signed into law a bill banning the use of military funds to transfer prisoners to the mainland to be face crimial charges, and banning the release of any of the cleared prisoners to countries considered dangerous by Congress (bad news if you're one of the 58 innocent Yemenis held in the camp).

Here is a message from Reprieve asking people to write to one of the unlucky innocents destined to stay in jail for a good deal longer simply because the members of Congress care more about party political point-scoring than about natural justice or the good name of the country they swore to serve.

Today is the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay and marks two years since President Obama promised to close the prison and seek justice for its inmates. Yet instead of closing the prison, last Friday President Obama signed a bill blocking its closure and condemning its prisoners to indefinite detention without trial.

The 173 prisoners still trapped inside now have little hope of either trial or release after the US Congress inserted provisions into the bill that are explicitly designed to prevent even cleared prisoners from leaving.

The disastrous Defense Authorization bill includes a ban on using funds to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to the US mainland to face criminal trials, a ban on using funds to buy or build a prison on the US mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners and a ban on the release of any prisoner cleared for release by the Obama Administration’s Guantánamo Review Task Force to countries considered dangerous by Congress.

As a result:
- 89 prisoners cleared for release by the Task Force will remain imprisoned without charge or trial;
- 58 of those cleared prisoners remain imprisoned simply because they are Yemenis, due to a moratorium on releasing any Yemen nationals;
- 31 of those cleared prisoners remain imprisoned largely because they cannot be safely repatriated due to a substantial risk of torture; for many the stain of Guantánamo would vastly increase the risk of persecution;
- 33 prisoners recommended for trials by the Task Force will, for the most part, remain imprisoned without trial.


As you can imagine, this is a very dark time for prisoners in Guantánamo. Please consider writing to someone being held there to offer your support. All the information you need to do so is on our website.

Thank you, as ever, for your support,

The Reprieve Team

For those not put off by Christian imagery, might I humbly submit that I have full confidence that "I was in prison and you wrote me a letter" will count towards the achieving of full right-hand-of-God sheephood (Matthew 25:36). Of course, doing all the other stuff to be on the safe side is just prudent.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Blogger is being weird

You remember Stan, my recently acquired troll (sorry, Stan, but mostly that's what you are). Well, he posted a surprisingly reasonable comment on my post about Salman Taseer's assassination. And I replied to it. (Comment and reply shown below.) He then wrote a further comment, also pretty reasonable, but for some reason that never appeared here. More precisely, it seems to have appeared and then vanished, because Stan then posted a complaint that I had deleted it. (FWIW, Stan, if I HAD intended to delete it I would have put in a comment or post to that effect, at least when deleting the first one. I delete very few comments other than obvious commercial spam: I did knock out a few of Uncle Jimmy's a while back, but I had already warned him via a comment that if his comments didn't strike me as funny I reserved the right to trash them, as he had just banned me.) His complaint also vanished from that thread.

Anyway, here are the comments: his original one, then my reply, then his new one. I've posted that under my own name with a label identifying it as Stan's, so we'll see if it sticks this time. The funny thing is, although both his comment and his complaint about deletion were dropped by Blogger from the Salman Taseer post, when he copied the complaining one into the comment thread for my recent diatribe against Uncle Jimmy it stayed there. Which must have given the rather odd impression to Stan that I had deleted a perfectly reasonably comment while leaving all his abusive ones in that thread intact.

OK, here is the whole Salman Taseer comment stream as at 0428 GMT 09 January 2011:

At 07 January, 2011 22:12, Stan said...


Even you must admit, Rob,that this murder and the Islamic justifications for it from large sections of the Pakistani community is not the best advert for this particular religion.

If it can be interpreted so easily to excuse so many atrocious crimes and assassinations (in a way that has no parallel with other religions today) there must be something wrong somewhere, even if it's a matter of going through some kind of civilising reformation as other religions


At 08 January, 2011 00:43, Rob said...


Blimey, Stan, a relevant comment!

Fundamentalist nutters of whatever kind are never a good advertisement for the religions they pervert, for sure. I'm not sure whether Islam has a higher proportion of them than other religions or whether they simply shout more loudly (and their every pronouncement of hatred is picked up and gleefully repeated by folk like BlairSupporter). I wouldn't say they had no parallel in other religions: numerical superiority, perhaps, but think of the Jewish fanatics who still commemorate Baruch Goldstein's machine-gunning of a mosque. Do you imagine the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in Sri Lanka operated in a vacuum without support from local Hindu extremists? They were one of the world;s biggest and most heavily-armed terrorist organisation, not a couple of guys with Kalashnikovs. Plenty of Sikhs cheered when Indira Gandhi was murdered by her Sikh bodyguard, and I'm pretty sure that there are "Christians" in the USA who would be ecstatic if somebody killed Barack Obama. Every religion has violent nutters, and supporters of violent nutters, Fortunately for us all, every religion (INCLUDING Islam) has a core of decent believers who want nothing to do with them. It;s the folk who turned up for Salman Taseer's funeral in defiance of the nutters who are the advertisement for Islam. It's the thousands of Muslims who turned up to form a human shield around the Coptic Christians' Christmas service who are the advertisement, not the murdering swine who bombed them.

Reform movements aren't always the solution. Mostly they are partial failures (the Protestant Reformation gave us Luther and the Church of England, but also Pat Robertson and Oliver Cromwell, while Islam has spawned the distinctly peaceful Sufis but also the Salafis whio inspired much of today's political Islam.) Judaism probably has the best record of reform, with comparatively few of the world's Jews being religious nutters.

Where I see a glass half full, you see one half-empty. It's the crazies who want to destroy the Islamic glass altogether that I worry about.

At 09 January, 2011 04:15, Rob said...
THIS COMMENT WAS POSTED BY STAN AT
08 January, 2011 14:26 - but for some reason Blogger dropped it, and all following comments in this thread
.

Blimey, we can actually agree that fundamentalist nutters of whatever religious persuasion are the pits..

However I think there can be little doubt that Islam has a greater share of them than most, if only because, as a Muslim put it in today's Guardian, no two Muslim scholars can agree on the basics of Islam and therefore any nutter is free to set up his own sect and set his followers "on any course of action regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense".

The whole thing is getting so out of hand in Pakistan that even
the Guardian has been prompted to publish an editorial about it headed "The moral collapse of a nation"

As you say, every religion has its share of fanatics but none on the scale and intensity of Islam in the 21st century, possibly because its anti-west practitioners see fanaticism and martyrdom as a path to paradise.

This really is becoming the world's
No.1 political problem. If the fanatics take over Pakistan, that will mean there could be two nuclear states with no qualms about delivering a holocaust against "the infidel" since a retaliatory response will only speed their way to paradise. At least non- religious or non-fanatically religious nuclear states are held back by the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction.

The only answer is to stand up for those heroic Muslims who are trying to reverse the tide of Muslim extremism.

Posted by Stan to Eine Kleine Nichtmusik at 08 January, 2011 14:26


I shall attempt to post a reply, and see whether my own comment gets axed. So far, the pseudo-Stan one is still there.

My apologies to Stan for the messing about, but I certainly did not delete either of the comments. If I were Uncle Jimmy I would suspect an Islamic conspiracy at Blogger, but as an IT geek I think shoddy software is to blame. Still, Jimmy has his own problems from time to time with Wordpress, so I guess I'll just have to put up with Blogger.


Here's my reply (still there so far though I got an error message when I posted it so am quite surprised):

I shall try to reply - trusting that my own comment will stay here longer than yours originally did.

I can't find much to disagree with there, Stan, just a few quibbles. You refer to two (Islamic) nuclear states, but Islamophobic rhetoric notwithstanding there is no evidence that Iran is anywhere near producing a bomb, even if it wished to. Oh, I know Tony Blair thinks they have one, but he thought Saddam had one so forgive me if I'm sceptical.

There is another nuclear state in the region, of course, and that is Israel. So far, as you say, Israel has held back from using its atomic weaponry for fear of the consequences. But with Obama being so spineless over settlements, and with the hard-liners in the Israeli government in the ascendant at present, I don't feel as confident as I used to that Israel will always be so sensible. It's not something I lose sleep over: but them neither is a global Islamic plot to destroy Western civilsation.

The nutters may not yet have taken over the Pakistani asylum but they do seem to be out of their wards right now. And I entirely agree that the brave souls who stand up to them need support. I mean the ones who put their lives on the line in Pakistan or Egypt (or Saudi Arabia, or Iran). I have a lot less time for the attention-seekers who sit in the UK and the USA claiming to be reformed ex-terrorists, or experts on Islam. As you say, anyone can claim to be an expert on Islam, and most of these guys semm to have no more credibility than the nutters in Pakistan.)

In the Islamic world there have been some - by Western standards - fairly iffy characters who have nevertheless made a stand against the extremists, and paid the price. Neither Benazir Bhutto nor Anwar Sadat was especially democratic (put it this way, I'd rather have Tony Blair as my head of state than either). Their methods, in many ways, stank: and clearly they weren't totally effective, as they were both murdered by their fundamentalist opponents. But again, it's not purely an Islamic issue: Indira Gandhi was pretty vile but tried (clumsily) to tackle Sikh terrorism. Result: she was murdered by a Sikh. Or take Yitzhak Rabin: he signed the Oslo accords and was getting ready to square up to the extremists among the settlers in the OT. He was assassinated by an extremist Zionist, not by a Muslim zealot.

I'm enough of a bleeding-heart liberal that I will always want to call these people to account insofar as they torture, murder and imprison their opponents: but if I had to choose between Benazir Bhutto and the folk who killed her (or Yitzak Rabin and the folk who killed him) my preference would be for the non-fundamentalists. There are limits: while deeply disgusted by what has succeeded him I wouldn't laud Saddam simply because he kept the lid on Muslim fundamentalism - though he did. Not do I support Islam Karimov's reign of terror in Uzbekistan.
My worry is that the broad-brush Islamophobia so prevalent around the world obscures the distinction between the murdering scum and the decent masses. What they need is what you described as a reform movement, someone to bring them to their proper Islamic senses: NOT someone to tell them that "Moslimes" are all wife-beating paedophiles who have sex with animals and commit human sacrifice to a moon god. There are plenty of decent Imams out there getting on with being Muslims and helping other to be Muslims (though not enough in Pakistan, perhaps). Their job is made harder by folk like Geert Wilders, the BareNakedIslam crowd, and BlairSupporter who cannot see the baby for the bathwater and simply play into the hands of the extremist demagogues.

09 January, 2011 05:41

Saturday, January 08, 2011

But I thought pantos were supposed to be about cross dressing?

I like the Red Cross. I like the Geneva Convention. And I sometimes like pantomimes, (though our local ones haven't been the same since Stanley Baxter retired).

But Good Grief! I think somebody had a sense of proportion bypass here.

Banged Up

Uncle Jimmy may feel sorry for David Chaytor and Phil Woolas, but I don't. Not from any party political sentiment, but simply because they are crooks. Chaytor has just been jailed for 18 months for stealing £20,000 of taxpayers' money. Woolas has been banned from standing as an MP and is likely to get a jail term for rigging an election.

At least they seem to have taken their lumps with some kind of dignity. Somehow I think we're going to see more unpleasant displays, both in and out of court, from Tommy Sheridan. He's bringing an action against the News of the World as a victim of its phone hacking activities. If it were anyone else I'd be cheering, but as it is I simply have a sinking feeling. So far his main contribution to politics has been to make the News of the World look like an upright, crusading newspaper. What will he accomplish next?

I must say that the thought of Barlinnie's doors closing on Tommy brought this to mind:

Friday, January 07, 2011

Coptic Christians and Muslims - Surprise No 2

The Iraqi wing of al-Qaida has been killing Christians for some time. You probably also saw this story back in October, where they killed 52 Christians in Baghdad. Nothing surprising about that, nor that in their normal way they claimed responsibility without shouldering the blame. No, al-Qaida were cross with the Coptic Christians in Egypt so they attacked Christians in Iraq. (What is it about Iraq, that whenever anyone has a grievance against some other country it's Iraqis who get attacked? Just asking.)

The surprise is in what gave al-Qaida their "excuse". It seems that two Egyptian Christian women were married to priests in the Coptic Church who abused them. Their church forbids divorce, so they took the only way out other than suicide: they fled and attempted to convert to Islam. The Coptic Church would then declare them offically dead as apostates, thus voiding their marriages. They were caught, of course, and handed back to their wife-beating husbands by the police. Since then they have not been seen, and nobody is very hopeful of their ever beng found alive.

Opinions differ on whether they succeeded in converting before being recaptured, but of course al-Qaida and the like assumed that they had, and made hay with the story. Muslims abducted and killed by Christians for having converted to Islam! Al-Qaida to the rescue (sadly nobody DID rescue the women), defenders of Islam. Aye, right.

Anyway, let's back up there. This is a story of two women being abused by their (religious) husbands. The women are not allowed to divorce, and if they become apostates they will be considered dead. They were dragged back to their abusive husbands and apparently became the victims of "honour killings". If only they had been Muslims trying to convert to Christianity, they would have become worldwide celebrities. As it is, they lie in unmarked graves somewhere, and hardly anyone picks up the story. because who wants to hear about women fleeing TO Islam to escape abuse? Stories of women fleeing wicked abusing Muslims, now that's news, even if the stories are fake like Ayaan Hirsi Magan's.

Unlike my previous surprise story, there is nothing positive to take from this one: merely a lesson, that good is not always on the Christian side nor evil always on the Muslim. Al-Qaida's subsequent atrocity should not cause that to be forgotten: or else Wafaa Constantine and Camilla Shehata will truly have died in vain.

Coptic Christians and Muslims - Surprise No. 1

I guess you will all have seen the reports of the murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Alexandria on New Year's Eve. The suicide bomb attack had all the hallmarks of an attack by Islamic terrorists, possibly "al-Qaida in Iraq" who have claimed responsibility for previous attacks on Egyptian Copts. It is good to note that not only did all Egypt's main Muslim leaders condemn the attack in vigorous terms, even the Muslim Brotherhood said that no religion in the world could condone it. President Mubarak, referring to the fact that the dead incuded Muslims as well as Christians, said:

"This act of terrorism shook the country's conscience, shocked our feelings and hurt the hearts of Muslim and Coptic Egyptians. The blood of their martyrs in Alexandria mixed to tell us all that all Egypt is the target and that blind terrorism does not differentiate between a Copt and a Muslim...... This sinful act is part of a series of efforts to drive a wedge between Copts and Muslims, but Allah has aborted the plotters' plans and turned it against them. We are all in this together and will face up to terrorism and defeat it."

Unsurprising, that that the Coptic Christian community was very nervous as Christmas approached. Like many African Christians, the Copts operate according to the Orthodox calendar so celebrate Christmas on January 6th. (A difference which famously led to a gobsmacked Bob Geldof climbing out of a plane in Sudan or somewhere similar in the January just after Band Aid had topped the charts, to be met by Christians celebrating Christmas. Why no newspaper had Does He Know Its Christmas? as a headline I will never understand.) The Christians were worried that Muslims might try to carry out more violent acts.

Well, Egypt's Muslims turned up in their thousands for the Christmas celebrations. Not to disrupt them, but to act as human shields to protect them.

Expect to hear a deafening silence from the Islamophobes about this example of Muslims not only tolerating other religions but risking their lives for them. When it was just a story of Christians murdered by Islamic terror they were of course all over it. Some, like Uncle Jimmy, even criticised the BBC for reporting that the 21 dead included 8 Muslims as well as 13 Christians: because dead Arabs are only interesting if they're Christians.

Truly, love came down at Christmas.

UPDATE: Uncle Jimmy has noticed - and praised - the actions of the Muslims. Sadly he didn't do so in his post on the Salman Taseer assassination or one of his other ones on Islamic violence, but buried it right at the end as a "Related" matter) in a post which was simply a puff piece for Tony Blair and his International Academy in Sierra Leone. As a result I suspect most of Jimmy's readers probably missed it: perhaps they were meant to. But there we are. Now let's see who else reports it.

What to do with those leftover Christmas cards?

The best thing to do with spare Christmas cards - or better still with extra ones - is to send them to the folk listed in this year's Amnesty International greetings card campaign. You can download all the details here. The recipients are people who are the victims of many different kinds of human rights abuse, perpetrated by regimes of all political shades and religious denominations. Just follow the instructions: sometimes you can religious cards, sometimes not. I generally send non-religious ones as New Year greetings (the campaign runs to the end of January).

You can imagine the joy your cards will bring to the imprisoned, the persecuted, or to the families of the murdered or disappeared; and you can also imagine the consternation and confusion each one, along with its thousands of fellows, causes for those perpetrating the abuses.

Go on. Send a message of hope.

Salman Taseer - may he rest in peace

Just to remind ourselves that 2010 has been a year of steadily rising Islamophobia around the world. Uncle Jimmy (BlairSupporter) and the murderous scum at Bare Naked Islam have played their part in this, of course, but it's generally been a bad year to be a Muslim.

Not that 2011 has been much better, especially for one Pakistani Muslim, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab province gunned down by one of his bodyguards. Uncle Jimmy has a post on the assassination, and I can agree with him on one thing at least: Taseer is a genuine hero. He was a pretty heroic figure in the history of Pakistani democracy before standing up to be counted as an opponent of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law, and specifically of the death penalty ordered for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman.

What do the loony left, those who still proclaim moral equivalence of all religions, have to say about the horrific murder of one of Pakistan’s few moderate and liberal-minded political leaders? If they are what they say they are – moderate, liberal and freedom-loving – he should be their new hero. A man standing up for women’s rights, even Christian women’s rights in a deeply patriarchal and conservative Muslim country. A man opposed to Pakistan’s extreme blasphemy laws. Laws which say that execution is the penalty for insulting the name of Mohammed.

Let us note note that this deeply patriarchal country (indeed) has at least managed to elect a woman as Prime Minister in the recent past (so not perhaps the irredeemable "basket case" of a country Jimmy makes out) and that the death penalty for blasphemy has never yet actually been carried out (whether it will be for Asia Bibi depends on the bravery of the President: the huge reaction to Taseer's murder may actually have made clemency more likely rather than less). Let us also observe that Jimmy, naturally, emphasises the many voices raised in support of the murderer while downplaying the thousands of brave souls who have come out in support of Taseer and his stand. For example these, and these.

Jimmy, moreover, sullies the memory of Taseer with some sarcastic anti-Muslim digs. After all, why bother remembering that Salman Taseer was himself a good, decent Muslim when lazy Islamophobia has so much appeal for his target audience? A word of warning, though, for Jimmy. His oh-so-ironic sub-headings such as

IGNORE QADRI. HE’S ONLY DOING WHAT WE’D ALL LIKE TO DO

and

DEFEND QADRI, HE HAS ONLY DONE WHAT WE’D ALL LIKE TO HAVE DONE

are likely to be taken at face value by his new chums at Bare Naked Islam, where the commenters frequently opine that all Muslims should be killed, and where the site owner has written that no Muslim has ever contributed anything of value to any society.

And Jimmy can't resist a cheap "Nazi" slur:

QADRI IS A NAZI sorry – GHAZI (Islamic Warrior)

Interesting word that – Ghazi. Don’t you think? Wonder when it was coined?

Ooh, yes, because nothing bespeaks respect for the dead more than making fun of their language and their religion, except perhaps desperately trying to smear that religion with false associations with Nazism. Yes, Ghazi has three letters in common with Nazi. So does Zion. What larks, eh?

(Incidentally, thirty seconds with Google yields the answer to Jimmy's rhetorical question: the term dates from the time of the Samanid Empire, 819 - 999.)

Then Jimmy rediscovers his feelings of respect for the dead, because he shows a picture of people defacing a picture of Taseer and captions it "After learning that Taseer has been killed, Pakistanis abuse his picture. Do YOU reckon this is civilised behaviour? After anyone has been assassinated?"

Well, gosh, no I don't. But unlike Jimmy who never said a word of protest, I found the similar scenes after the judicial murder of Saddam Hussein equally distasteful.

And finally:

But perhaps now, or some time soon, the Guardianistos of this world, the lefty broadcasters, the so-called feminists and the so-called freedom-lovers will start to re-think their position on Islam as a concept – even as a “religion”.

I'm not sure what "Islam as a concept" is supposed to mean, far less what my position on it is expected to be. But Islam as a religion deserves no sneering quotation marks to spit on the memory of a great man, and a great Muslim. Salman Taseer: twenty times the man BlairSupporter, the blogger too cowardly to use his name let alone put his life on the line, will ever be.

Good News and Sad News

The sad news is that Gerry Rafferty has died.

Here's my favourite of his many brilliant songs:



And another one from earlier in his career (despite the captions it's from a solo album not a Humblebums one):



The good news is that Richard Thompson has been awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours List. Good to have our greatest living rock guitarist (also one of our best songwriters and a pivotal figure in the development of English folk-rock) receiving official recognition, not just as a great musician but a real contributor to Britain's musical soundscape for more than forty years. And it does no harm to have a positive news story about a British Muslim (what? they're not all Arabs and Asians?) to counter the constant chatter of conspiracy-theory bilge spewed out by Uncle Jimmy and his chums. Here is his take on Islam as currently practised. Nothing there for anyone reasonable to disagree with (though I'm as wary of 9/11 conspiracy theories as I am of global caliphate ones, and am not about to convert to Islam myself any time soon).

Here he is casting a critical eye (and musical ear) over the fundamentalist crazies:



Here he is doing Wall of Death:



And here on Turning of the Tide he shows what he can do on his own with just an acoustic guitar:



Finally, here he is with his then wife Linda, doing probably my favourite of all his songs.



Let's round off with a great Gerry Rafferty song featuring Richard Thompson on guitar: