Sunday, July 31, 2005

Travel advice

Some of the jubilant headlines in today's press seem in stark contrast to the mood in London. Here's the Sun and the Daily Express ran with "Thank God", the Daily Mail "Surrender" and the Daily Mirror "Got Them".

There was lots of talk of normalcy, but little evidence of it. The leader in the Times today put it quite well. "The character of life will have to change. The abnormal will become normal."

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Got five guys, but it really isn't over and the police are urging the public to be watchful and alert, which it seems is still the order of the day.

"Riding a packed Victoria line subway train on Saturday from Finsbury Park to Stockwell, where the failed attacks began, Natasha Snell, a 22-year-old dental nurse, said.

"I think there's more people out there waiting to do it. It doesn't make it any less anxious. I said to my friend this morning as we were coming into the station, we'll go to the end of the train because it always happens at the front," from the New York Times.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

V for Voyeur?

Take a look at the trailor of the movie they tried to... well, haven't banned actually, though will be interesting to see if it fares better than Incendiary.

I don't know about you, but the idea of wading through a novel about terrorism in London doesn't really do it for me right now, but watching a movie doesn't seem half as bad. Maybe with the movie its the voyeurism/ car crash thing (shit's happening ... to other people) whereas being "inside" a novel seems a bit too close for comfort...?

Did anyone bother to call the tourist board? Posted by Picasa

Charles Clarke is on holiday

In case you didn't already know Charles Clarke is on holiday. Shortly we will notice absolutely no difference in service to the running of the nation in this time of crises, but this doesn't stop the media thinking that somehow this is important.

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Tony Blair has defended the Home Secretary's decision to go on holiday while the hunt for those behind the London bombings continues. If you cast your mind back to Monday, Clarke delayed the start of his holiday and came in for stinging media criticism.

Why on earth are the media so obsessed? If Clarke actually did anything of value other than grow a beard and appear on TV answering questions on behalf of the PM do you think they would let him go? Get a grip.

Please stop. Clarke is useless. He is the latest in a long line of useless Labour ministers whose sole purpose is...well just to look not very good at what they do. They do this well, we should be pleased. If not pleased then amused. If not amused then vaguely pissed, but possiblly most of all generally disinterested. I'm already there.

Geoff Hoon? John Prescott? Alastair Darling? John Reid? Patricia Hewitt? Tessa Jowell?

Boy is the list a long one. Now please will the media stop going on about Clarke and is bloody holiday. We should all be glad he has gone. I am with Blair on this.

"I personally think it's sensible for people to take the holiday they should have," Mr Blair told reporters.

And no, I have no idea where he has gone. Please do not ask.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

They're back!

"Neighbour Sarah Scott, 23, said Ibrahim had once told her "he was going to have all these virgins when he got to heaven if he praises Allah".
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Boom boom

Ok, cheap joke lifted from Harry's Place, but hey, we could all do with a laugh...

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Read this or the bear dies

So the Met police have concluded the man killed at Stockwell tube station last week had no connection to terrorist activities. His crime appears to have been to have been wearing the wrong sort of coat. This really is the end of the day for the bomber jacket.

We have clearly handed the power of life and death to Trinny and Susannah. These two can now issue fatwas against anyone not following the fashion rules...

South Americans wearing unseasonable coats are clearly in danger. I fully expect Sir Ian Blair to be apologising for the tragic killing of Paddington Bear any day now!

Where do you think you're going in that duffel coat sonny...? Posted by Picasa

V for Vendetta

There's been a call to ban a scene in the upcoming moving 'V for Vendetta', which shows bombings on the London Underground.

Yes, it's an excuse to use a picture of Ms Portman Posted by Picasa

The movie stars Hugo Weaving, that's Agent Smith or the guy who looks like Sam Neil to the rest of us and Natalie Portman in a totalitarian-state England of the near future. The producers say that the movie, which is an adaptation of Alan Moore & David Lloyd's seminal graphic "is going to make people think". While I doubt that very much I wish we could avoid this scramble to ban anything that has anything remote resemble some horror that has gone on in the world recently even if, as it does at present, it's something on a own doorstep with 7/7.

There was a similar clamber after 9/11, when a scene in Spiderman was cut. It featured Spiderman moving between the two towers. I thought it was wrong to remove that and I think this is wrong now.

It sounds cheesy, but really it's just another blow for the Islamofascists or their fellow travellers. There shouldn't be an editing of our culture whatever it might be.

If people don't want to go and see it. They have a choice, which is kind of the point.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Heads in the sand

Hidden away in the back pages I noticed this report about plotters jailed for planning to crash airliners into Parliament and Tower Bridge on 9/11. The plot only fell apart when the hijakers chickened out at the last minute.

While recriminations over Iraq may be largely justified, it is worth bearing in mind that we were always in the line of fire.

Meanwhile a welcome article by Mona Eltahway talking tough on the "yes, but..." attitude of so many Muslim spokesmen. The article got me thinking that while there is a tendency in the West (the liberal West at any rate) to try to see things from the Islamic perspective, what is so seldom remarked upon is that this perspective is usually male.

It is only the very few female voices that seem to really challenge Islam these days. Maybe it is because they are the ones who really have something to lose.

As news comes in on Iraqi women's groups fighting desperately to preserve the rights they had under Saddam, I do wonder about our dialogue with the Muslim community. Isn't it a kind of paradox that out of respect for their culture we largely keep quiet about their stance on women and gays? Is our supposed tolerance not actually born of a multicultural "equal but different" ethic, but in a simple effort to save our own skins (or perhaps an inverted kind of racism)?

Does anyone have any doubts that Bush and Blair would happily withdraw the troops from Iraq regardless of what the constitutional settlement meant for women or gays?

What kind of way of life are we fighting (or just surviving) for? And among the supposed liberal-left what non-Muslim Westerners (never mind feminists) have dared speak out? Only Peter Tatchell so far, for which he has received the customary death threats.

Iran today - hung for being gay Posted by Picasa

Should sensitivity to different cultural mores mean turning our backs on the very principles of equality and freedom for all that we have been raised with? Little wonder then a third of British Muslims think ours is a "decadent, immoral society that should be brought to an end".

If we are not true to our beliefs, how can we expect others to respect them accordingly?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Close encounters of the potter kind

Midnight July 16th 2005 some where in west London...

It's a balmy summer evening, a small group of enthusiasts have gathered outside a book store. They have spent two years waiting for this moment and they are a tiny part of a vast world wide community. Look around you one of these people is probably sitting near you at this very moment.

Harry potter and the half blood prince has arrived, J K Rowling's boy wizard is back for the sixth time and it is clear that we are not dealing with just another book, we are looking at a full-blooded cultural phenomenon. No other book can inspire readers to queue up at midnight. Would any one wait in line for the latest Dan Brown?

The Harry Potter world has gone way beyond the actual books. It doesn't matter whether they get good reviews or not, it probably doesn't matter whether they are actually any good or not, the books sell in such vast numbers because they are a real part of people's lives. Working at midnight in a high street retailer on Harry Day I was struck by the affection readers have for the series. Buying the book wasn't just purchasing, it was akin to being reunited with an old friend. New Yorkers once waited for the next installment from Dickens in the same way a large part of the world waits for the next Potter.

Rowling is head of Potter Plc readers are stake holders, younger readers have a world of muggles and magic, Harry and chums are a reassuring presence in a tough world. But try as I might I can't be too cynical about Potterworld, it is great that kids are excited about a book, it's fantastic that a generation is at least reading and enjoying the experience.

But Potter is a book for kids. While it is charming to see children enjoy the tales, it is disturbing to see an adult reading the same book. Grown ups reading Potter are in denial: reading the books is a comfort blanket, it's the literary equivalent of thumb sucking something that you should grow out of by the time you're old enough not to believe in magic.

Harry Potter like Father Christmas is a magical figure who brings cheer to the kids, but we all grow up and we can't have the world as it once was. I wouldn't trust an adult who believed in Santa Claus and I'm not sure about the mental state of adult Potter fans.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Signs of the times

"He looked absolutely petrified and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him, [they] couldn't have been any more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand.

"He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him.

"I got into the ticket hall. I was approached by a policeman and London Underground staff asking me if I needed counselling."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

F**K OFF YOU W*NKERS I believe the appropriate response.

Just another Thursday afternoon in Hackney Posted by Picasa

Is this copyist development bandwagoneering? Do we care? Whatever, frankly, we won't be cowed, we may get bored - is that what you want? Do we care - NO!

Justify that

Not a fan of the Independent in any way shape or form, but its front page today telling the fate of Ateeque Sharifi is worth some attention.

His parents were killed by the Taliban. He fled Afghanistan for the safety of London. He was blown up by the bomb at King's Cross. All very final destination.

No escape. Posted by Picasa

He fled from Kabul to find Britain, learnt English and worked in a pizza takeaway with most of his cash going back to his younger sister in Afghanistan. Then along come some disgruntled brain washed British Islamofacists and blow him up on the tube. Nice work.

Not sure about the juxtaposition though. Gwen Stefani? Final victim? Mmm, maybe not.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Taking the piss

The reporter on the radio sounded somewhat surprised that opposition to the proposed bill against inciting religious hatred has grown. What I found so surprising was a majority still support the bill.

I think this comes down to the ICM question, basically: do you think it's a good idea to stop people stirring up hate against others just because of their religion? Well, yeah, obviously.

But if this really was the intention of the bill, then the government wouldn't have blocked the amendment to clarify that race hatred legislation could be used in such instances.

Sadly the bill, which has been slagged off by every sensible commentator, has little to do with religious or race hatred. Instead its a cynical attempt to win back the Muslim vote by extending the blasphemy laws.

But given how rarely these laws are enforced, the only thing its likely to do is increase hatred: from Muslim hardliners disappointed they can't prosecute, to other religious and secular groups angry about their freedoms being constrained.

If the maker of Piss Christ didn't end up in the Scubs, Salman should be safe... whatever Labour MP Khalid Mahmoud might think... Posted by Picasa

February 2005, from the National Secular Society archives...

England's only Muslim MP, Khalid Mahmood, drew loud objections from fellow MPs when he defended the attacks on The Satanic Verses, a book that many Muslims wanted banned.

Mr Mahmood said: "As far as the Muslim community is concerned, if a preacher from the Christian faith, or any other, wants to make valid criticism as they see it, they are entitled to do that. We are talking about inciting hatred and abuse against people. That is the point we are making - it is a serious issue that has to be dealt with. People of other religions, other than the Sikh community and the Jewish community, feel that there is no protection in this area." (Under case law, Jews and Sikhs are alone regarded as mono-ethnic groups and thus are protected by the racial hatred provisions.)

He was challenged by Labour MP Diane Abbott (Hackney), who drew attention to the many Muslims who had opposed the publication of Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses in 1988. She said: "I was a Member of Parliament at the time of The Satanic Verses and there were thousands and thousands of Muslims who believed emphatically that people were not entitled to criticise their religion."

Mr Mahmood said: "I am sorry but I take issue with that. It was not a question of making a valid criticism of the religion. In the context of Salman Rushdie, the issue was the abusive words that he deliberately used, which were written in phonetic Urdu..."

This drew a loud response from MPs as he explained: "Actual swear words were used within that text."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Marilyn tells it like it is

Chris snapped this Posted by Picasa

This seems to have struck a bit of a chord...You can find out more about the artist 'Marilyn' at the Then It Hit Me website.

Excess baggage

So the conspiracy of silence over HIV prevention is beginning to crack.

AIDS specialists have suspected for years that circumcision dramatically reduces rates of female-to-male transmission but have faced a dreadful quandry over whether to actively promote a "get snipped" policy because it does not offer the total protection of condoms.

However, given the relative failure of safe sex initiatives in the developing world, a childhood snip could help protect a generation, as I explained to the Secretary General of the Church of England whom I found myself sitting next to on a flight back from Tanzania a few years ago.

The kindly Right Reverend had never heard of what was back then a relatively new field of research and we had a slightly surreal conversation during which we discussed the relative states of our own foreskins...

'Blimey,' I remember thinking at one point, 'I'm discussing the penis of the head of the Church of England!' Or the head of the penis of the... anyway...

Pictured is Reverend John chatting to the late Pope. I can only hope he used the opportunity to raise my proposal: it could help mitigate the Catholic church's disasterous anti-condom stance...

'Are you in the hood your Holiness? You see I met this guy on a plane...' Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why do they hate us?

There's a good piece in The Times this morning by Gerard Baker on the question a lot of people have been asking. Asking not necessarily of the Islamic fascists who recruit, plan and arm the bombers, but of sections of our own political and media landscape.

Imagine this. Suppose we'd never invaded Iraq, and terrorists had blown up London in pursuit of their cause, what would the apologists have said about last week's attacks? In fact we know exactly what they would have said because many of them did say it after al-Qaeda attacked the US on September 11 - long before any American or British soldier set foot in Afghanistan or Iraq.

They said it was because of our support for Israel and its "brutal occupation of Palestinian territory", our complicity in the victimisation of Arabs from the Balfour Declaration to the ascent of the Jewish lobby in America.

He goes on to his extend this to pose the question, what if there were no Israel and instead a Palestine and we had still been attacked?

What would the apologists have said then? They would have said, of course, that we were to blame for having abused the Arabs and Muslims generally for decades through our colonial ambitions and economic exploitation of Arabia and the broader Middle East.

And further back he goes to push home the point that it doesn't matter, the anti war stoppers and appeasers will always find some justification to explain with a straight face how we brought this on ourselves.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

This ICE thing is getting out of hand...

OK, OK, its meant to be practical, but why do I feel that this ICE business is our wierd inhibited introvert English version of tying a yellow ribbon around our mawkish identification with the inevitability of future tragedy, like some kind of anti-talismanic bet with chaos theory, a gamble against our own demise.

What am I talking about?

C'mon, you must have had at least a couple of forwards of the ICE - In Case of Emergency email?

I've just got my 3rd or is my three hundredth,its all a blur... it goes like this:
"East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In case of Emergency (ICE)" campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston and in association with Vodafone's annual life savers award.

The idea is that you store the word "ICE" in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency". In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. If you want more than one contact then store ICE 1, 2 3 etc"

Ice ad campaignPosted by Picasa

Now I know it probably is a good idea but I do have a few questions, plus, call me sick if you wish, but whenever anybody mentions Simon Weston AND East Anglia I start looking for the punchline:

First, I know its macabre but something tells me that if I'm too f**ked up to say who my next of kin are the chances are my mobile isn't going to be in good shape either. While I suppose, on reflection, that mobiles should be tougher than people I do tend to ask how tough was yours the last time you dropped it down the stairs (or down a toilet come to that - a friend of mine is always doing that)...

Also if most coppers find a reference to ICE in your mobile they're probably going to assume its the number of your crack-dealer...

Plus, I've just got to ask, but what are the chances of getting picked up by an East Anglian ambulance next time some sicko decides that today London its Semtex Day - maybe its just me but I though they kind of worked round the Norwich, Ipswich, err, East Anglia-type area?

(Oh and one final thing, does the bright spark who came up with this idea have a bad sense of humour or what, bearing in mind the meaning of the slang to 'ice' someone?!?)

And that's before I even get onto Vanilla Ice...

Still I'm sure someone somewhere is saying 'cool idea' as I write this... oh: ICE - In Case of Emergency : Off Topic Forum - Travellerspoint

PS Even more finally, bearing mind that mobile phones are frequently used as timing and control devices for bombs, do YOU want to be the person searching through mobiles found at a bomb site, looking up ICE in the directory, then dialling it and inadvertently blowing up the Post Office Tower?!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Who's Afraid?

We are not afraid, but the Americans, it seems, are.

Ban the Bible and the Koran

Until now, I had thought that the government's bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred was a Very Bad Thing. But tonight, a thought struck me. This is actually one of the best laws this government has tried to introduce. We can use it to make bibles and korans illegal in the UK, which I think is a great idea. Actually, I'm amazed nobody else has thought of this yet (perhaps they have, but if so it's been kept very hushed up).

Now, I don't know a huge amount about the bill, but from what I've read it will cover spoken or written words which incite hatred. So, books which promote religious hatred will be outlawed. As I mentioned the other day, the Old Testament says that if a city houses people who worship false gods we should:

smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein... with the edge of the sword.

...gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street, and burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit... and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.

Meanwhile, the Koran tells its adherents to:

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Both of which sound to me very much like incitements to hatred and explicit calls to violence.

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins has said: "It is about protecting the believer, not the belief." Which is perfect, as the last thing we want to do is protect the belief. Now, once this gets through parliament, as it undoubtedly will (Tony always gets his way), does anybody know of any high-powered legal types who would be willing to assist me in putting together some sort of case?

Monday, July 11, 2005

The beginning... of the beginning?

One of the frustrating things about 7/7 is its utter pointlessness. I don't mean the usual pointlessness of terrorism per se, but the actual, literal pointlessness of the act. This is not the IRA or the Germans. Like 9/11, there are no real, or realisable, objectives here (the nature, perhaps, of holy war) which makes it as difficult to fight as to understand.

And no, as Nick Cohen points out, this had as little to do with Iraq as 9/11 or Bali. As someone who opposed the war, while I'm sure Iraq is a useful tool to the recruiting sergeants of Islamicist terror, I never doubted an attack of this kind was inevitable here, only wondered why it took so long to come.

Further, I don't really buy all this "opressed by the west" crap. Are middle eastern Muslims really being more opressed by Britain than by their own governments? What heinous crimes has Britain committed against British Muslims for heavens sake? And if Muslims really are being so terribly opressed, why is it among the comfortable middle classes that the terrorists draw the most recruits? If anyone is being opressed by the west, it is Africans and where are their bombs? The truth is this has nothing to do with opression, perceived or otherwise, but rather is a heady mix of self-pity and fanaticism. Remind you of anything?

Around the time of the French headscalf ban, the Guardian ran a fictive piece positing a nuclear attack on the centre of Paris by two pissed-off Jihadi sisters miffed they couldn't wear the veil to school. Oh those silly authoritarian Frenchies, ran the tone of the article from laid back liberal Britain, now they've got their comeuppance. Yet, neither France, nor Turkey which has similar restrictions, have suffered similar attacks. Oh, actually there were the Istanbul bombings - on British interests.

According to the Times "only" around one percent of British Muslims supports or is actively involved in terrorism. That's about 16,000 people, with about 3,000 thought to have visited AQ training camps. Well that's a relief then - only 3,000! If just one per cent of these are actively planning attacks in this country that makes 10 cells of three...

Even an optimistic scenario would suggest we're going to face terrorism of the 7/7 brand for the next 20 years or so, until the current lot grow up or get caught. And what about those growing up now?

Like global warming, we have to plan now for the long-term, put in place policies that might not come to fruition for generations hence.

But I'm not calling for a headscalf ban in schools, universities and government offices (can you imagine?! Even suggesting it sounds so, well... un-British). What I do believe in however is a pro-integration policy. Drawing on the best practice from abroad, this would mean a ban on all faith schools, public or private with the exception of Sunday (or Friday, Saturday) schools. We must get the children to mix. Where there are cultural ghettos then they should be bussed. There needs to be a balance of all creeds, cultures and colours in our schools to demystify "the other".

Much in the way of affirmative action in the US, pro-integration should be targeted at all our poorest immigrant groups, setting minimum quotas in institutions of higher education. The young need to feel they are wanted by our society.

Religious groups of any kind should be banned from campus. All religious leaders, whether rabbis, vicars or imans must make a generic affirmation to the pluralistic values of our society. If necessary here we could learn from France and Turkey. Pronouncements from all pulpits should be carefully monitored, in the first instance by self-selected councils from the religions, to ensure they are consistent to the affirmation. The bill to ban incitement to religious hatred, if it must come into law, should be as vigorously enforced against religious intolerance as intolerance of religion. Adopting a constitution that enshrines the above principals in law should help too.

Of course there is much more that could be done, particularly vis-a-vis our foreign policy, but at home our priority must be to make any future wired sisters understand that the people on the tube are not infidels, but British citizens like themselves.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Our city, where freedom is strong

"I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

"That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

"Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

"In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

"They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London , 7 July 2005

London 7/7

So much already written and so much more to write about what is now being called London 7/7, but what did strike me was the familiarity with so many having grown up the threat of bombs from one group or another.

It doesn't make it any easier to take or bear, but there has yet to be a decade in since people writing here have been around when London has not been bombed. It was only a couple of years ago that the last Real IRA bomb went off, before that just six years ago that 29 people were killed at Omagh.

I still remember when the Provisional IRA blew up Canary Wharf in 1996 and the bomb on the Number 30 bus at Russell Square yesterday?

"One person was killed and eight others were injured when a bomb ripped through the top portion of a London double-decker bus on…"

That's from 1996, not I think a suicide bomber, but another deadly amateur killed most likely while transporting the device from one place to another.

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Tragic, but familiar. No big thoughts really, but the coveage today in the national press, full words of defiance and echoes of the 'blitz spirit', as it is seems to hit the mark quite fairly. To quote Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror today "The British can take it. London can take it". Although hopefully it doens't have to take this again.

Keeping Faith

Quiz time. Which religion urges its followers to do this to those who follow other gods:
smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein... with the edge of the sword.

...gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street, and burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit... and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.

WRONG! That's actually what every bible-reading Christian should do, according to the book of Deuteronomy. All religions are much of a muchness, its just that some religions' followers are better at sticking to the word of the religious law than others.

Religion is stupid. Give up.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Don't blame the Mail, ask the MEPs...

As the great and the good converge on Gleneagles for the latest global junket [is that Gordon in the extraordinary headgear just behind Chirac?] it seems as good a time as any to address the enigma that is the European project.

Considering europe's bloody history the European union can be seen as a success. Since the end of the Second World War we have managed to create a community based on trade and a recognition of certain basic rights and obligations, we have in fact seen an unprecedented level of economic growth which has seen countries such as Spain and Portugal transformed from dictatorships to democracies and seen Eire transformed from an economic backwater into a "Celtic Tiger".

Whilst much of this could have happened anyway I like to believe that the existence of a European community was at least a catalyst in creating an environment in which nation states could see a model of peaceful development through cooperation. The European union is an 'empire' which people want to be part of, full EU membership is seen across most of the continent as way of playing a full role in the modern world economy. On top of this the single currency has been launched and while it is certainly 'too early to tell' if the euro will last, at the moment it seems to be a fully functioning world traded currency.

So economic prosperity, unprecedented peace in Europe a community which is appealing to countries across the continent, the only question remains: why is the European union perceived as such a disaster? Between endless su duko puzzles and celebrity lifestyle features the great British press still has some space for a good deal of rampant europhobia: Wouldn't it be great if the EU had a democratically elected institution, a parliament of Europe elected by Europeans representing Europeans?

Shock horror: there is actually a European parliament!! Several hundred million Europeans vote to send members to the European parliament and then what?

Nothing, zip, zero. Armed with a mandate MEPs disappear into political limbo unloved unnoticed ignored.

This is a parliament that has reduced Ian Paisley, Robert Kilroy-Silk and Glenys Kinnock to silence, there must be something in the air that reduces rent a quote politicos into mute witnesses... it could be the vast expenses, it could even be that the trappists have engineered a coup, but whatever it is a parliament that should be an example of European democracy [squabbles, name calling etc... just like our our dear Westminster] is in fact a euro-skeptics dream. I am fully aware that the European parliament has limited powers, that turnout for elections is pitiful and that those results are generally a reflection of domestic politics BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER.

MEPS should get out there. Surely they got elected to do a job [something along the lines of representing their constituents in Europe] and they should take every opportunity to shout out 'I'm an MEP and and proud to be an MEP!!'

Perhaps the european parliament should launch it's own wrist band to increase recognition, maybe they could try getting their message out into the world via e- mail, text messaging, sponsoring big brother, in fact any way possible.

Er... 'Make CAP history'? Posted by Picasa

Europe needs a strong visible vibrant parliament that even if it is a toothless tiger can still make a roar. MEPs rise up: you have nothing to lose except your anonymity!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reform the Lords NOW!

Yes its another Lord with no interest at all in dismissing the concerns of the environmental movement (and in this case virtually all the worlds scientists).

One question for Lord Global Warming is going to be good for Siberia Wakeham (yeah sure it is - when its underwater you can drill for oil there without bothering about permafrost OR uppity locals - though doesn't Roman Aabramovitch own them all anyway...): As a former Director of Enron (yes, remember them) WHY AREN'T YOU IN PRISON?

Meanwhile Blair defends Asbo tsar's gaffe ... it all sounded quite amusing really and where on earth did the idea that she was criticising Charles Clarke come from, maybe they didn't play that bit of the tape - on the whole however I'm sure he'd broadly approve of the woman's apparent approach to her job (that is as far as I can go...)

HOWEVER it isn't funny. Its one law for them and one for us as usual. New Labour's New Establishment once again casts its eye back to what it claims it wanted to replace with an envious air.

The thing is that Louise, ranting in her 'accountant goes out on the town' manner about how great it is to be drunk misses the point - in her imaginary Asbo-land someone might nick her laptop or take a mobile photo of her flashing her nickers to picture-message to their mates but where she's invited out to speak by her 'friends' in the real establishment, they will tape her drunken ramblings and send them to David Davis and the press.

Now who looks like the fool who can't hold their drink Louise? Maybe we Tony will Asbo you for being drunk in charge of the cabinet office' reputation; it would befairer than the poor autistic kid who got Asbo'd for staring at his neighbour!

Lets face it Louise you can't have it both ways, introduce village justice and you might just end up losing the respect of the villagers too - then maybe it'll be you tied to a metaphoric lamp-post for the child-catcher to collect after your next big night out...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Give me, give me, give me

Not sure how this happened, arch pro-Israeli Zionist that I am, but it only took a few days inside of Jordan before I succumbed tourist agogo like and had an Arab kaffiyeh headdress on. I feel it's only fair to publish this as having previously long taken the piss out of those Anglo saxons among who wore them, particularly as students, to show their solidarity et cetera with the Palestinains. The politics of those sporting such head was always easy to read and they were only ever a tassle away from uttering some anti-Isareli rhetoric or anti-semtic rant.

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I feel bad for succumbing so quickly in a moment of "me, me, give me, one of those", but sadly this is what happens to even the vaguely intelligent when on press trips. I realise I have little or no will power.

There was further irony when wandering through Petra some Bedouin kid ran up shouting "Arafat" as I joked "great I'm a late Arab terrorist lookalike".

I put it down to several things:

1. It was hot
2. I thought I might look cool.
3. It was a press freebie and I can't say no.
4. And the facial hair, it does weird things to you.
5. I thought later I might want to relive the old days, hi-jack a plane and land it in the Jordanian desert, you just can't that kind of stuff in a Sox baseball cap.

Friday, July 01, 2005

God Bless... Britannia?

The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey indicates America's popularity continues to slide. According to The Economist, two years on from Iraq not only has hostility hardened, but when asked: "Suppose a young person who wanted to leave asked you to recommend where to go to lead a good life what country would you recommend?" nobody except the Indians picked the US first. Indeed, even the UK scored higher, and the funny thing is this kind of makes sense...

I'm certainly no Anti-American - in fact I grew up dreaming of the US I glimpsed on the Brady Bunch and Starsky and Hutch. America to me was the land of plenty... of TV channels anyway which, stuck in three channel Britain along with its three day week and power cuts seemed about as close to the Promised Land as one could get.

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As I grew older and, naturally, angrier I was still never really Anti-American. I never got the imperialism thing and grew up too late for Vietnam. If anything I saw the US as a classless land of opportunity and dreamed of getting laid, like the guy in Love Actually, because of my English accent.

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As it happened when I finally washed up on American shores in the mid-Nineties... I didn't get laid. But honestly, I don't hold that against the US. In fact, following that and subsequent visits, I came to quite like the place: the people were nice enough and the country itself was... ok, if all a little bit new. A big Milton Keynes if you like, along with a New York Theme Park which just happened to be, well... New York.

Then came 9/11, after which to me the US lost its aura of invulnerability, its status as the Exceptional Nation, Gods Own Country. It was no longer the City On The Hill, the New Jerusalem. It was no better than the rest of us...

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And of course we are far less forgiving of those we once placed on a pedestol. So now when I think of America I don't necessarily think of Bush, or Iraq or global warming, but I do remember how tricky it was to get a drink, the poor public transport and health systems, how little holiday they have, what long hours they have to work... and all of this in, well, Milton Keynes. Meanwhile we Brits no longer have to put up with three channels, day-weeks or social classes...

So if a young person was to ask me where to go, while I might not actually say the UK, I probably wouldn't recommend the US either. And do you know what? Part of me finds that kind of sad.

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