Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sent to Manchester

Although the article doesn't mention it, I couldn't help wondering if Government plans to merge The Commission for Racial Equality into a Manchester-based equality body, which will also contain the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission were not unconnected with chair Trevor Phillips' outspoken criticism of new Labour's pro-segregation agenda. I've got to say, I had always had Phillips down as an arch-Blairite until he got this job. Hell hath no fury, eh?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On the Grauniad grapevine

I suppose I should be pleased the city where I have my second home is finally getting some recognition and Ostend may even begin to become the next, well, East End (as much as I like it, it'll never be Provence).

So why did I sigh when I saw the article? Maybe it was because I had always harboured a dream of writing a film script about Marvin In Ostend, the germ of which has now been exposed to the entire Guardian readership. But mostly, I think, it's because while I may have gone on about how cool it is when greeted with the usual sceptical reaction, I didn't actually want it to "become" cool like its London namesake. Not very likely, I know, but in these novelty-hungry times anything's possible. Babyshambles at the Kursaal anyone?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The insurgency speaks

I was struck by this piece of juxtaposition this morning in The Times. Two stories about the war in Iraq printed either side of a double page spread.

Al-Qaeda 'sorry' for Muslim dead
By Our Foreign Staff

THE head of al-Qaeda in Iraq said in an internet audiotape that the Muslim wedding parties the group bombed last week in Amman were not its target.

And then on the opposite page this piece:

Blast kills 75 worshippers at prayers in Shia mosque
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor

SUICIDE bombers wearing explosive vests killed at least 75 Shia Muslim worshippers in Iraq yesterday, prompting fears of a new wave of sectarian violence ahead of elections less than a month away.

The insurgency is certainly speaking, and you don't have to read between the lines to know what it's saying. You just have to read.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Use of weapons

Much excitement about the use by US forces of phosphorus weapons in Iraq. These are not banned weapons, but they are deeply unpleasant sticking to anything, including flesh, and burning on through.

US forces have used them chiefly to smoke out entrenched insurgents and apparently they were sporadically used in the battle for Falluja.

Labour MPs and the Guardian are concerned about their use despite phosphorus weapons not being banned. I take it they get that once these people are smoked out that if they don't surrender they will be shot or blown up?

"Since the Guardian columnist George Monbiot highlighted discrepancies in US accounts of weapons used in the bloody battle of Falluja this week, the Pentagon has backtracked on earlier denials by the state department and its ambassador to the UK, Robert Tuttle, that white phosphorus had been deployed.

"The charge was first made by Iraqi insurgents, aware of the potency of the issue in view of Saddam Hussein's notorious use of chemicals against his own people, and taken up by the Italian TV channel RAI."

Okay, yes these weapons are unpleasant, but they are legitimate parts of any army's arsenal – hence the not banned bit. We use them, but again like the Americans that's to clear out enemy positions. They're scary and really that's the point so people generally run. Job done.

Isn't that a good thing? Well it would be if you actually thought that it was right to criticise a group of people who indiscriminately kill and time and time again choose soft targets over military ones.

The anti war lobby, of course, does not criticise these people, but are ready to come down any front possible against the US and British forces and how they prosecute the fight against terror. Yes, of course, we should be open to criticism, but only where it is legitimate and right to do so.

What the anti war lobby would prefer is if American and British forces had one hand tied behind their back and really didn't use live bullets. That would even things up. While that isn't possible they look for other avenues and this is one. A smokescreen designed to eat away at morale and to rob the forces trying to bring democracy and stability in Iraq of the ability to do so.

The bit from the Guardian that really sticks is that the charge was first made by Iraqi insurgents? You mean those people who blow up wedding parties with suicide bombers? Who blow up children or anything other motherfugger they can get a car close to? You mean those people who refuse to negotiate and rarely surrender. They're complaining? Oh come on.

It seems to clearly echo the IRA who would insist they were fighting a war right up to the point that some of the boys were ambushed and killed. At that point there would be calls for an investigation, for a judicial inquiry and for charges to be brought.

How long will it be before the anti war lobby is calling for the rights of insurgents to be protected?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The last ditch

Pleased to see the Tories failed in their attempt to halt the new licencing laws. I'm sure there will be a rise in intemperate drinking, but rigorous application of new police powers combined with the passage of time should make things settle down.

But what I found extraordinary was the language Tory spokesman Theresa May used.

"This is a deeply unpopular law and the volume of evidence urging the government to think again is overwhelming," May said.

"It is sheer lunacy to say to a country gripped by binge drinking that it is okay to drink more and for longer.

"Conservatives have pledged to fight this to the end. This is our last ditch effort and we are determined that every MP should be accountable and on the record for introducing this law.

"We hope that Labour MPs will face up to the devastating impact on their constituents of backing this law and have the courage to vote with us to postpone it."

Golly. We will fight them in the saloon bar, eh? Wouldn't it be great to see a politician use this kind of language about something that really mattered?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Nadia Anjuman

Remembering Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman, 25, "slain for her verse" by her husband. I look forward to its condemnation in The Guardian Comment section.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Take one ghastly dehumanised moron...

Shortly after he was elected, the Mayor said: "Only some ghastly dehumanised moron would want to get rid of the Routemaster."

In the manner of its death, the Routemaster shows how, in modern Britain, something which works and is loved can be replaced by something which fails and is hated, for reasons which are entirely unnecessary.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

With friends like these...

So, you're a relatively obscure left-leaning Observer commentator whose controversial cheerleading for Gulf War II - the Toppling of Saddam vaults you to the big time. Soon the letter pages are busy with admonishments and support, your name becomes synonymous with a self-styled brand of "muscular" liberalism and you go on to be made an offer you can't refuse by a certain former Australian who in slimmer, more youthful times you would presumably have placed at the right side of satan, alongside a certain former Prime Minister.

Back to the future and the sitting PM has just faced his first parliamentary defeat. Both his Commons majority and his authority were devastated by the war you played such a key part promoting. Your reaction? Why, it's time for him to go.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bombs in Jordan

A friend texted me last night. She's going to Bolivia and thought I might know someone who had been. I did a quick bit of maths and came up with zero people. So I called her just to find out what the story was as the only thing I know about Bolivia is that they like to march, but then so do a lot of people.

Its some Christian Aid thing about the water privitisation that all went badly wrong leaving people without water. Who would have guessed?

"I thought I'd ask you as you've been to some dangerous places," she told me.

Not strictly true. I mean I went to South London once and really it was quite scary, and then I guess I'd been to Israel and to Jordan more recently, but that was all five star hotels and lap of luxury stuff. No real sign of danger, although the Palestinian kid at Petra was pretty pushy, but that's about it.

A little later I'm watching the news and the al qaeda Islamofascists blew up three hotels in Amman killing 57 and wounding 117.

 Posted by Picasa

Those killed included the father of the bride and the father of the groom at a wedding party at the Radisson SAS hotel in central Amman, which in July I spent a couple of days and nights at drinking cocktails and lounging by the pool.

So I guess on reflection that would have shaken my cocktail.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Whose liberty?

As someone opposed to the war in Iraq, I can't say I'm overwhelmed with pleasure at Blair's Common's defeat.

I believe that while a 90 day detention period could be abused by the police, the safeguards introduced before the vote would have provided a reasonable compromise in difficult circumstances.

It's all very well for us to get sniffy about civil liberties, but what of the liberty of the 7/7 dead and injured and their families? The police requested the 90 day time period because the scale of today's threat meant that they would often have to act quickly in order to avert an attack and it could take longer than 14 days to gather sufficient evidence to charge a suspect. In France an investigating judge can order a suspect held for two years before trial, so talk of this being extraordinary in Europe was bollocks. This was not internment.

And no, I don't necessarily believe the police, nor Blair. I don't doubt injustices would result because of this legislation. But surely the risk of a three month loss of liberty, no matter how unfair, is worth it if it saves just one single life?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Arson and forgetting

Back in the UK and the festival of smugness that is the British media on the French riots, I listened to Labour MEP Claude Moraes pontificate on the causes. Apparently France is 20 years behind the UK, where thankfully we don't have anything like this.

So much for two tube attacks and 52 dead then. Personally I would go with a few thousand burned out cars any day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Shit head(s)

Can I just say FUCK YOU to the shit head who stole the window wiper from my car. Fortunately I noticed it this wet evening en route to get some air put in the tyres and not on a stormy foreign highway...

And while I'm at it, instead of saying "this isn't a playground you know" to the two macho East European youths sounding loudly off and shoving each other boisterously on the way home this evening until one pushed the other into me, meekly minding my business along with the other tube passengers, can I add FUCK YOU TOO.

It's about respect really, isn't it? Where's the progress, Tony?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Listened to the head stamp keeper or whatever of the Royal Mail eat humble pie this morning over issuing a Christmas stamp that some Hindus found offensive (straight after an item on Lambeth scrapping Christmas for "winterval"). I wondered why, if the keepers at the Bombay musueum where the image was borrowed from were "delighted" with the image being used, British Hindus were so quick to take offence?