Archive for December, 2009

Some resolutions for 2010.

December 31, 2009

  • Force more people to read the above book.
  • Do more to encourage readers to leave comments – even though the majority of you have found yourselves here after looking through approximately 100 pages of Google search results for ‘Lily Allen’.
  • Get round to writing a post about Salvador Allende (the bloke who features at the top of this blog). 
  • Finish radio play script.
  • Find myself a proper job (suggestions/offers to the email address on the right!).
  • Do my best to keep my neighbourhood Labour.
  • But at the same time I want to dedicate myself to more campaigning/volunteering that isn’t party political.
  • Try to write a guest post for Harry’s Place (if Clawes can do it, why can’t I?!).
  • Eat more chilli paneer.

Time to bring 2009 to an end:

As they remained at the window looking out over this scene for a few minutes after the train had passed out of sight, it seemed to Owen that the gathering darkness was a curtain that concealed from view the Infamy existing beyond. In every country, myriads of armed men waiting for their masters to give them the signal to fall upon and rend each other like wild beasts. All around was a state of dreadful anarchy; abundant riches, luxury, vice, hypocrisy, poverty, starvation and crime. Men literally fighting with each other for the privilege of working for their bread, and little children crying with hunger and cold and slowly perishing of want.

The gloomy shadows enshrouding the streets, concealing for the time their grey and mournful air of poverty and hidden suffering, and the black masses of cloud gathering so menacingly in the tempestuous sky, seemed typical of the Nemesis which was overtaking the capitalist system. That atrocious system which, having attained to the fullest measure of detestable injustice and cruelty, was now fast crumbling into ruin, inevitably doomed to be overwhelmed because it was all so wicked and abominable, inevitably doomed to sink under the blight and curse of senseless and unprofitable selfishness out of existence for ever, its memory universally execrated and abhorred.

But from these ruins was surely growing the glorious fabric of the Co-operative Commonwealth. Mankind, awaking from the long night of bondage and mourning and arising from the dust wherein they had lain prone so long, were at last looking upward to the light that was rising asunder and dissolving the dark clouds which had so long concealed from them the face of heaven. The light that will shine upon the world wide Fatherland and illumine the gilded domes and glittering pinnacles of the beautiful cities of the future, where men shall dwell together in true brotherhood and goodwill and joy.

The Golden Light that will be diffused throughout all the happy world from the rays of the risen sun of Socialism.

See you on the other side!

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Time to rip up the autograph.

December 31, 2009

When I was a CLP delegate to Labour conference in 2004 I shook hands with Dear Leader Tone and then later that same day with Billy Bragg (a shake with which I am more pleased).

However, towards the end of the conference, I jokingly remarked to the PPC for my constituency that I hadn’t spent as much time hobnobbing with celebs in Brighton as I thought I was going to. My comrade then said she could rectify this situation immediately and walked off somewhere.

A few minutes later she returned. With a triumphant look upon her face, she thrust into my hand a small card with some squiggly writing on it. It said something along the lines of:

Dear Jako, Love and Kisses, from Floella Benjamin

I gave my sincere thanks to the PPC, but had to then be honest and ask who Floella Benjamin was. I thought she might be some government minister I had not heard of before. Turns out she was an actress and TV presenter. Apparently quite famous, thought obviously not hugely so.

Floella Benjamin was at Labour conference talking about how she supported Labour’s education spending rises. I have not given her much thought since that day in 2004, but I recently came across a very glossy leaflet being distributed by Islington Liberal Democrat in which Floella Benjamin features.

Imagine my (admittedly fairly moderate) level of shock to see that Floella Benjamin is now slamming Labour’s record on education and is instead supporting the Liberals. Another formerly Labour-supporting celeb lost.

Oh well.

Daily Mail celebrates the execution of Akmal Shaikh.

December 29, 2009

Remember how the Daily Mail provoked a storm of fury when they published an article by weirdo bigot Jan Moir speculating about Stephen Gately’s death only a few days after the singer kicked the bucket?

Well, they’ve stooped to a similar level, if not even lower. Akmal Shaikh was executed less than 12 hours ago but today’s Daily Mail contains an article by Leo McKinstry entitled ‘Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die’.

It is full of the usual Daily Mail gibberish about “the human rights brigade” being responsible for crime and describes Akmal Shaikh as “amoral, selfish, and irresponsible”. Because laying the boot into someone killed earlier today is the moral, selfless, and responsible thing to do, eh Leo?

This being the Daily Mail, it’s impossible for the article to gain the editor’s approval without any references to celebrities. It is therefore accompanied by a big picture of Kate Moss and McKinstry predictably rants about drug-abusing celebs not being given meaningful punishments. Will McKinstry next be calling for Moss, Doherty, Winehouse and Michael to face a firing squad as punishment for their indiscretions? Surely that would act as a deterrent, following his logic!

On a more serious note: McKinstry’s argument (if it can be called that) would work better if there was evidence that China’s killing of drug traffickers was actually helping to stop people using heroin there. He can’t provide any – I certainly can’t find any. Even if I could, I don’t think we should trust any data coming out of a country run by a single party dictatorship. It is bizzare that McKinstry pours so much bile on our liberal, human rights-respecting legal system and is instead so enthusiastic about an authoritarian Communist state’s approach to dispensing justice. 

As for McKinstry’s boring claim that the death penalty lowers crime rates, well, zzzzz. Correlation does not equal causation. McKinstry writes that there were fewer murders and crimes in the 1950s when Britain still had the death penalty. Aside from improvements over time in police data-keeping and recording crime (which means of course the numbers will go up), McKinstry can’t back-up his argument that abolishing the death penalty led to more crimes being committed. You could just as well posit that mass ownership of televisions in the 1960s messed with people’s minds and increased criminality.

It would also help McKinstry’s rant if countries with the death penalty (such as China and the USA) had lower crime rates than Britain and if the safest, most crime-free countries weren’t ones where the death penalty has been abolished (places like New Zealand, Finland, Denmark).

McKinstry’s article is so outrageous and stupid I find it hard to believe he genuinely believes in what he’s writing. Perhaps he instead felt he needed to raise his profile a bit. I hadn’t heard of him previously. Similarly, I wasn’t aware of Jan Moir existence before her controversial piece – maybe McKinstry’s trying to repeat the trick? Daily Mail columnists often like to lecture everyone about morality but their primary motive is almost certainly a greedy craving for attention and the extra cash that can bring their way.

As FCO Minister Ivan Lewis said today: “Anybody with a modicum of compassion will be horrified” by Akmal Shaikh’s execution.

Clearly that does not apply to Leo McKinistry and the rest of the scum at the Daily Mail.

The Pantybomber and the middle-class nature of terrorism.

December 28, 2009

The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (nicknamed ‘The Pantybomber’ by wags) has been analysed in various ways.

Some focus on what the development of exploding underwear means for airport security and the travel industry. Others look at the significance of what appears to be Al Qaeda’s ongoing desire to blow things up in American skies. I’m sure there’s a terrorism expert getting excited about this wannabe-suicide bomber coming from Nigeria.

What I find interesting is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his alleged crime present further evidence that terrorism is an essentially middle-class endeavour. Perhaps even upper-middle-class, if we are going to get specific about it.

Abdulmutallab is an extreme example in that his background is especially wealthy and privileged. Not quite at the same level of spoilt bratness as Osama bin Laden, but getting there. However, research suggests that most recruits to terrorism come from relatively well-off families and are educated to at least degree level, which makes them decisively middle-class.

Of course, it depends on how you define terrorism and class exactly. Definitions need to be taken into account, but let’s not get bogged down in this for now. Trust me – there is a lot of interesting stuff that has been written about the relationship between individual terrorists and social class. 

Victoroff’s review article ‘The Mind of the Terrorist’ has a handy table on page 8 showing the reported demographics of terrorists from the mid 20th to early 21st centuries. Terrorism expert Martha Crenshaw came up with the memorable phrase: “Terrorism is the resort of an elite when conditions are not revolutionary”. Scott Atran looked at the data about suicide bombers in the Middle East and came to the conclusion that, despite the stereotypes made by terrorists’ supporters and opponents, “sucide terrorists are neither poor nor ignorant”.

In conclusion: academics writing about how terrorists tend to be poshos will now be able to use Abdulmutallab as another example supporting their hypothesis.

Odious Ferry.

December 27, 2009

Otis tries to use his celebrated wit and formidable powers of persuasion to convince a passing motorist that foxhunting is a "ruddy good thing, yah!"

Otis Ferry, the clearly quite mental son of a boring musician, has been interviewed by today’s Sunday Times. He comes across as a wonderfully horrible character. 

Highlights include Ferry charmingly referring to Emily Thornberry MP as “some bitch from Islington” (Emily’s clearly doing something right if she’s irritating scum like Ferry). A recent poll has suggested 75% of the population is opposed to foxhunting – Ferry thinks they are “morons following Simon Cowell”. When asked how far he would go to campaign for a repeal of the hunting ban he suggests he could “blow myself up on a bus”. Excellent, mad stuff!

Otis Ferry does not seem to have much of a life outside of hunting. 27-year-old Ferry does not appear to have a job as such, although modelling brings in some moolah (conveniently Mummy is a model). He spends most of his time with his horses and hounds. However, it would be wrong to think he is in anyway small minded or a single-issue obsessive! The interview revealed that he does have opinions on other topical matters:

“We have such a magical country which is fading so quickly. I’m really not racist, but immigration is a huge issue for me … I don’t understand how it works and hate the thought of being accused of depriving poor Mrs Punjab of her [right to come here] but we’re all packed onto this tiny island, and I genuinely believe we are maxed out. But no one is brave enough to say there are too many people in this country.”

Just you and the BNP, Otis! Maybe if you put more effort into encouraging people from recent migrant communities to put on the pinks with you then foxhunting would not be considered the exclusive hobby of weird, probably racist, reactionary twits!

But perhaps the most offensive thing that emerged from Ferry’s gob is when he gets rude about David Attenborough, aka ‘The Nation’s Grandpa’:

He has always been “fascinated by wildlife”. He admired David Attenborough, “but then I saw him on Loose Women and I had to turn it off because he was flirting with these fat, ugly women. I thought, this is not the David Attenborough I want to be dreaming of”.

Oookay. Pretty strange that:

  1. Ferry is so inexplicably disgusted by the sight of David Attenborough talking to “fat, ugly women” (did they teach Otis no manners or lessons in basic decency at Marlborough College?!) on a television programme.
  2. Ferry wants to be having dreams about David Attenborough.

 The Countryside Alliance will surely be begging Ferry to take the advice of their PR consultants. I hope he maintains his cavalier attitude and rejects their help. I suspect that Otis Ferry is actually an undercover agent working for the League Against Cruel Sports.

All the Torygraph wants for Christmas is the repeal of the ban on foxhunting.

December 26, 2009

Am currently staying with my folks. They usually get the Guardian delivered on Saturdays. However, some sort of festive mix-up meant that they had the Daily Telegraph left outside the front door today.

It is a good thing to occasionally stray outside your newspaper comfort zone. Reading a rag with an editorial line that you strongly disagree with helps familiarise you with the arguments, assumptions and prejudices of your opponents. You will then be in a better position to counter these views. If you are like me, you will also end up furious with renewed dislike of your opponents’ opinions.

The Daily Telegraph today has certainly succeeded in this regard. It contains the usual rage-inducing delights. There’s Simon Heffer’s column in which he bangs on about how 12 years of socialist government have eroded British freedom to “be ourselves”. There is also the paper’s printing of the ‘Court Circular’, which really suggests to me that the folk at the Telegraph would prefer to be living in the aristocracy-respecting 18th century rather than an age of iPhones, Twitter, space travel, automobiles, women’s rights, mass suffrage, etc.

But what really strained my seasonal goodwill was the Tally-ho, Tories editorial. The Telegraphers are convinced that David Cameron will soon be forming a government and that by this time next year Labour’s ban on foxhunting will have been repealed.

Apparently it is quite right that this should be a priority for Cameron and the Conservatives. The Countryside Alliance is of course delighted and arrogantly expecting that things will soon be going its way. After all, supporting foxhunting is the main focus of the Countryside Alliance. They seem to consider it more important than post office closures, house prices turning the countryside into the preserve of the rich, unemployment, pensioner isolation and poverty, and a host of other serious problems afflicting people in rural areas.

In fact I can’t recall the Countryside Alliance ever organising marches around any of those issues. Call me crazy but I would put the legal status of foxhunting pretty low on the agenda when it comes to ‘pro-countryside’ campaigning that could actually improve peoples’ lives.

Cameron’s earnest committment to revising the ban is evidence that he’s not genuinely changing the concerns of the Conservative Party to reflect broader opinion in modern Britain. It may be the number one issue of importance for a small number of people, but let’s face it most of them are privileged and wealthy. Once again Cameron’s new Conservativism seems very similar to the Conservatism everyone recognises from the past.

If, like me, you support the ban on foxhunting then you should sign up here.

And the bells were ringing out…

December 25, 2009

(Don’t forget to email the Chinese ambassador)

The internet can bring humanity together. Or it shows that there are morons all over the world.

December 24, 2009

There is a Facebook group called ‘STOP THE EXECUTION OF AKMAL SHAIKH’. It is raising awareness of Akmal Shaikh’s plight and encouraging people to send emails to the UK government and to the Chinese embassy. All very good.

Some Chinese Facebook users, however, have joined the group and are acting like total shits. Apparently any criticism of China’s sick enthusiasm for executing people is “Western arrogance” and all of those trying to save Akmal Shaikh’s life are “white racists”.

I remember similar attitudes being displayed by Chinese Facebookers during the 2008 riots in Tibet. Facebook groups calling for a peaceful resolution to the situation and condemning China’s occupation of the country would soon be filled up with Chinese people calling all the other members racists, imperialists, etc.

The blind loyalty of these young, well-educated, English-speaking Chinese to their authoritarian government is very depressing. Any criticism of China’s human rights record is interpreted as a hostile Western conspiracy aimed at stopping their country’s rising power – even though the primary victims of the Chinese regime are the Chinese people themselves.

The nationalistic instinct to think ‘my country, right or wrong’ clearly pollutes minds everywhere. What a pity.

Ken Livingstone up to his old tricks.

December 23, 2009

As I’ve said before, I like many things about Ken Livingstone and his politics, but I am also very annoyed by his cosying up to Islamist organisations.

I received an email today from Progressive London (basically Ken’s re-election campaign group). They are holding a conference at the end of January. A variety of ‘progressive’ speakers will be there. Obviously I’m not going to approve of all of them – after all Ken wants to establish a broad-based coalition of support.

However, I’m uber-peeved that Ken has invited Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain and Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Initiative. Ken’s close cooperation with these so-called representatives of Muslim opinion reeks of communalist politics – i.e. get someone from an organisation with the word ‘Muslim’ in its title and we can then rely on them to deliver us the Muslim votes.

It is sickening to have these organisations represented at a left-wing conference when many aspects of their politics are so far from ‘progressive’ (at least as far as I understand what the term is supposed to mean). The Muslim Council of Britain spent many years boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. The British Muslim Initiative is led by a man linked by the BBC to Hamas and who was apparently caught on camera ranting about the “evil Jew”.

Ken’s connections to these reactionary weirdos makes me far less enthusiastic about supporting him again as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London.

Save Akmal Shaikh

December 23, 2009

As inconvenient as it must be for Downing Street officials and Foreign Office types to be working hard over the Christmas period, I hope everything possible is being done to prevent the execution of Akmal Shaikh.

Akmal Shaikh is a Briton apparently caught trafficking heroin in China. The Chinese authorities have neglected to take into account his history of mental illness and plan to execute him on 29th December.

Even if he was indeed smuggling a shedload of smack and is actually as sane as a plank of wood it is appalling that he faces state-sanctioned murder in the name of ‘justice’. The British government is firmly opposed to the death penalty and must make clear to the Chinese authorities that killing this British citizen would be totally unacceptable.

Nearly a million Britons got involved in the Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas No 1 spot. Wouldn’t it be great if even half that number of people did something to try to help save Akmal Shaikh’s life?

Human rights campaigners at Reprieve have got a suggested message you can send to Gordon Brown and the Chinese ambassador via email. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time.