Jocelyn Hurndall - Defy the Stars

Tom Hurndall's mother, Jocelyn, has written a book, Defy the Stars, about Tom's death and the difficulties she had in dealing with the IDF, the Israeli government and the UK government. It can be purchased from Amazon and there is a write-up in The Guardian.

I covered the Tom Hurndall story, with all its twists and turns, for the LSE SU's newspaper, the Beaver, while I was at LSE and met Jocelyn. A video was shown about Tom's murder; the events were sufficiently close in memory that they left the room for it. Tom was trying to find out about extrajudicial killings in Palestine after the death of Rachael Corrie and end up becoming the victim of such a killing.

From the Guardian article:
Her book is called Defy the Stars, words Tom had tattooed on his wrist. They come from Romeo's cry "Then I defy you, stars!" in Romeo and Juliet, and seemed to say a lot about his attitude to life.


How many members of the UN can you name in ten minutes

Have a go here. I managed 110. If you want the complete list, click here.

My answers were: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Vietnam.

and the missing ones were: Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Oman, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, The Bahamas, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Guido Fawkes on Newsnight

You can see Guido Fawkes unsuccessfully take on Michael White on Newsnight here at 31'58”.

Guido digs himself a large hole and then jumps into it. Michael White 'exposed' Paul De Laire Staines as the man behind Guido Fawkes. Tim Ireland did it a while ago pretty comprehensively and there was someone before that. It shows Staines' naivete that he thought he could go up against Paxman and White. After preparing a recorded piece, why on earth did he go on live television? The big selling point behind his blog was the slightly shady, anonymous poster hiding, in the manner of V, behind the name of Fawkes. White was calm and just put Staines down time after time. Identifying him in such a throwaway manner, particularly after Paxman had said at the beginning of the programme that it was very easy to find out his identity, took away his unique selling point – the facelessness.

From his point of view - blogs are taking over from the "mainstream media" - it should have been obvious that he'd have been tripped up. Why does Staines push things like that? My suspicion is that he wanted to be revealed at some point in the future, after breaking a major story, as some sort of hero. Instead, he came across as childish with the hiding in the dark, unprepared to take on 'real' journalists and self-indulgent with not producing any real stories. White kicked the stool out from under Staines at the start of the exchange by partially accepting his argument – sometimes political journalists are too close to politicians, with emphasis on sometimes – which had been laboriously constructed in the previous film.

Staines shot himself in the foot quite spectacularly by naming Nick Robinson as (one of) his source(s) for the hidden email system (which turned out, as White pointed out, to be wrong). Having attacked political journalists for having to stay pally with politicians, he, at a stroke, showed that he was dependent on second-hand news that the BBC would not run with, that he had people he had to remain pally with and revealed one of his sources. Article 7 of the NUJ code of conduct reads

A journalist shall protect confidential sources of information.
Some of the other ideas there might make good reading for Staines.

I wonder if Staines' blog is just a storm in a teacup. Staines has been on Radio Four before as Guido Fawkes, but Newsnight is reaches many more people and, frankly, he blew it. I suspect that people looking at his blog will see it as slightly badly designed and be thinking back to what they saw on Newsnight. My concern is that it will damage all bloggers as we become tarred by the same brush; will people ask why was this charlatan so popular amongst bloggers?

If you follow the link above or here to Tim Ireland's Bloggerheads, you'll see a lot of the objections to Guido Fawkes and a lot of good backup to those objections. One of these is about selective editing of comments by Staines on his blog. Do please read Staines' posts about going on Newsnight and the comments that go with them here, here and here.

I have taken copies of the posts to date as I suspect Paul is licking his wounds and will have to do some ex post facto editing. There is a lot of pro-Staines astroturfing going on.

Paul, you were greedy. The terms Newsnight offered you his own production team, a free hand with the script and five minutes of prime time to do whatever he wanted were too juicy to be turned down. We live and learn.

Update 0217: comments from Schmoo, Chris Paul and Snedds.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


Is punishment a deterrent?

Stumbling and Mumbling and Vino talk about whether punishment is a deterrent. If a rational calculus is being used, as Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling does at one point, you also have to assess the expected benefit of the crime. This shows that a lot of crimes are irrational as there isn't any expected benefit.

I think it would also show, for a lot of low-level crime that falls under the respect agenda, that you can balance that calculus away from crimes in ways other than being unpleasant to people. In extremis, stronger and custodial action might be appropriate, but we do have to move away, rather quickly, from the current system to one that makes sure people leave prison off drugs, literate and plumbed into the healthcare system and other parts of the welfare state where needed. That does mean spending more on prison officers. Ideally, you want to stop the problem before it happens - education and so on - but the problem is already here.

On another note, I dislike the terms 'right' and 'left', but the right of the Tory party are, I think it's fair to say, the most disciplinarian, law-and-order types around but also seem to be the ones complaining about speed cameras. Hmm... we like the law to be enforced except when it applies to us. This may be stereotyping on my part, but I'd love to have a look and see.



Guido Fawkes, Paul Staines and Michael White

Despite his appearing anonymously and without being able to see his face, Michael White just blew him out of the water on live, national TV by announcing that Guido Fawkes is Paul Staines.

More later. Michael White is tearing him into little bits.

I love you Michael White.


Labels: , , , , , , ,



Kelvin Hopkins MP has set up an EDM, signed by 34 people to date, that points out what I said in a draft post on Lords reform - 163 MPs, 155 taking the Labour whip, voted for a unicameral system. I wrote (but didn't post, and I know how that looks):
I believe that the best system would be unicameral with reforms to the Commons. One hundred and sixty-three MPs voted for that system including Margaret Beckett, Steven Byers, Jon Cruddas, Keith Hill (Blair's PPS), John McFall (chair of the Treasury Select Committee), 'Red' Dawn Primarolo and Alex Salmond. I don't know if there is an ulterior motive that I'm missing; if I'm reading the procedure correctly, a no-vote would not have prevented the later votes and the cries of outrage would have been audible even in the Commons. I sincerely hope that they were genuinely voting for a single chamber.
The point Hopkins makes I did not; scrapping the second chamber outright should at least be honestly and seriously considered. If nearly half the PLP want a single chamber, it has more support among the governing party than any other option.

The Lords is there as a revising and delaying chamber. Its existence suggests that the Commons does not do its job properly. Reducing the power of the whips, strengthening select and standing committees, the introduction of PR and a facility for 'experts' to be attached as non-voters to committees, along with some general tidying up, could cover the Lords contribution to democracy. Yes, it would be a large change, but it is not without precedent - Denmark abolished the Landsting, which had equal power to the Folketing, in 1953 at the same time as it introduced referendums on any Parliamentary vote that 10% of deputies requested. Since 1953, no referendums have taken place under that provision.



Peter Hitchens on David Cameron

I tuned into this halfway through, unfortunately, because it looked rather good. Michael Gove came across pretty poorly as a PR man refusing to answer questions while trying not to look like it when he actually had a pretty good reason not to give a firm answer on tax cuts three years hence. Hopefully, it will be repeated. It hasn't, though, attracted much comment on the blogosphere. Worth keeping an eye out for.





Further to McJobs, I wandered past a McDonalds. Inside was a poster advertising McJobs with the caption 'McProspects'. I am trying to track down a copy of the poster. Just for comedy value, it's great. Await outraged musings from Matt Sinclair as he defends McDonalds by saying that they're only as bad as other shit jobs.



George Galloway says something sensible

No, really. His argument is:
  1. East London is poor
  2. East London has people in it who don't speak any or good English
  3. Labour always said that means testing reduced take-up
  4. Labour ministers have said that community problems come from not being able to speak English
  5. You have to pay for English language classes
I'm sorry I can't write a more eloquent summary, but that's it. All this took place in an adjournment debate last Friday afternoon. By the looks of things, only Galloway and the minister responding, Yvette Cooper, were there. Galloway also points out that
Working tax credits—the Minister knows something about them—are a case in point. The Minister intends to use entitlement to working tax credit as a criterion for exemption from the charges. So the Government’s policy is to make access to English classes dependent on a successful application for benefits that itself demands a high level of competence in English. “Catch-22” is the literature that springs to mind.
George was once so rude to me when I asked him a question that someone sharing a platform with him apologised on his behalf. I'm no fan on his. On this, however, he's dead right and I hope he is actually listening to the concerns of his constituents. Government does need to be more joined-up and this is an easy policy hit (aside from being right) - increase the number of non-English speakers learning English.



Guido, a scraper and the bottom of the barrel

Guido Fawkes, via Tory Radio, complains about the cost of the person who's helping out with David Miliband's blog. Both articles imply in their headlines that £60k is being spent on the civil servant; it is a fraction of this. Firstly, salary and cost to employ are different. Secondly, you need someone who knows whats going on across DEFRA, has media experience and is at least computer literate.

Guido says that
Miliband should concentrate on sorting out Defra's serious problems rather than profile raising, partisan propanda blogging.
Rubbish. Ministers can legimately claim political expenses; saying that the taxpayer shouldn't cover the blog is like saying that political parties should cover the cost of printing speeches made by ministers as ministers. Why does Guido feel the need to emphasise, tabloid-style, his one-line summary of the world? Are his readers at the same level as those of The Sun?

Bloggers4Labour talks about the cost of the Miliblog and the B4L blog here.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


A holiday in San Francisco

This might turn into rather a long post, but do please at least look at the photos. If you click on them, they'll be larger and you can see more here.

Alice, my girlfriend, and I went to San Francisco last week on holiday, largely courtesy of some air miles from my father. San Francisco is a lovely city. Beyond the Golden Gate Bridge (of which more later) there is the TransAmerica pyramid as a landmark and Fisherman's Wharf is fun to visit. With the possible exception of Pier 39, it's not excessively touristy and there are parts that are just nice to walk along. Pier 39, though, does have sea lions. We didn't make it to Alcatraz but here's a gratuitous picture.

I'm afraid that this post will sound like I'm bitching. Alice and I had a lovely time in San Francisco. We were lucky with the weather and there's a lot to see and do in a very pleasant and friendly city. The city somehow feels that it works (in a way that Dallas does not) and it's easy to move around. The public transport works and, as an added bonus, there are cable cars. These run off a cable running underground and are a lot of fun to ride on. It's a good city to be a flaneur in; lots to see, some decent coffee shops and restaurants and a general feeling of comfort and unhurriedness.

LA airport is bloody awful
The staff at LAX all wear name badges with 'Dave 01421' or 'Alice 63920'; people are reduced to a number so that complaints may be easily made against them. This was probably an idea dreamed up by some exec in an office who'd never been near the shop floor as a means to facilitate praise and complaints. The human tendency is to notice the bad more than the good; the numbers would be used a lot for complaints, mostly because LAX, built for the 1976 Olympics, was never finished and it shows. Our first port of call was Los Angeles. Air pollution cannot escape LA as the city sits in a bowl. As we flew into LAX, adding to the pollution, coming back from San Francisco, we could see a grey haze floating beneath the cloud. LA is not an attractive city from the air.

Anyway, you're never going to receive a warm welcome at an airport but an efficient one works just as well. We were near the front of the immigration control queue - I felt sorry for those at the back who had a long wait - but were still standing around for a while and I felt like shouting that when to Jumbo Jets arrive around the same time, you need more than six immigration officials.
We then had to queue again to go past a point where someone looked at the customs declaration for a second time and, bizarrely, to queue to leave the building. Queuing is a generous description for the ensuing mess up a ramp and around a corner. A couple of LAX staff were trying to sort
things out but after two long queues people were not in a charitable mood.

Then things became annoying. We went to the AA desk with our e-ticket number because we were flying AA to San Francisco. Logical, no? No. AA were codesharing that flight with Alaska Air but had neglected to tell us, anyone else or put it on the displays. A walk to another terminal and Alaska told us that we had to go back to AA as we should have had paper tickets. AA passed us onto BA, with whom we booked the flights, who swore blind that we had been sent paper tickets. $150 later, we were reissued our tickets on paper that must be worth its weight in gold at those prices. When we came back and handed over our tickets to the AA desk at SF airport, we were told it was an e-ticket and not a paper ticket. Anyway, we made the Alaska Air flight but had it not been delayed we would have missed it.
It is worth looking at the TSA Pledge. There is one thing missing from this: 'efficiency'.

Customer service
People were polite and so on, but were hamstrung in what they could do. The politeness,
however, is the standard. Where a bartender in the US might say 'what would you like, sir?' their UK counterpart might plainly ask 'what do you want?'; neither is ruder or more polite as it's just the way things are done. I suppose it's a bit like this blog; flowery language and subclauses don't change the ideas beneath any more than the query of the US bartender. We booked to go on a bus tour of Muir Woods to see the redwoods and then go to some vineyards in the Sonoma valley. It ended up that the tour we wanted wasn't on offer any more, and we ended up going on a (very good, as it happens) tour of the Napa and Sonoma valleys. People at the tour company's office were polite but I would rather they'd been efficient.

Why is all cheese in America the same? We stopped at Sonoma town for lunch on the tour and ate at the Cheese Factory. Can anyone tell me why the half-a-dozen varieties of cheese they had on offer to sample all tasted the same? Has anyone ever really expressed a preference for Monterey Jack over American Sharp Cheddar? I can't believe there's not a market for something other than variously-packaged, slightly bland cheddar. Brie, perhaps, or even stilton. I don't believe that the American palette is averse to different cheeses but the invisible hand of the market seems to have banned all trace of camembert, wensleydale and roquefort.

Eating out
Talking of food, we had some great meals out, largely due to the strength of the pound against the dollar, and Plouf and John's Grill come recommended. The seafood in San Francisco is great - lots
of clams, mussels, sea bass and swordfish. I know American food is often knocked for being poor quality (as above) but there are some really good restaurants around. Plouf on Belden Place was a lot of fun. A French restaurant, it had a good menu and a wine list with new and old world wines and a cheery French waiter (the French for clams is 'palourdes') who did seem very happy with his lot in life. Clams and mussels provencale were great - I forget what else we had, but the shellfish was very good. Belden Place is a side street with restaurants all along. It's slogan is 'Where the locals go'; I don't know how true this is, but there were plenty of American accents and its location in the financial district makes me think that it's aimed at the business community. Anyhow, a meal with wine and the works for two came to about fifty quid total. If anyone can tell me more about Belden Place (if any San Franciscans are reading this...), I'd love to know. We went back to Belden Place, to an Italian called Tiramisu. While it was fine, I was annoyed because the first waiter claimed there was no house white and was generally snotty; the second one (who appeared, I'm guessing, because the other didn't want to deal with us) explained that there was a house chardonnay, pinot grigio and something else. Anyway, he brought a bottle and it was fine. Decorations a bit dodgy - supposedly Pompeii-esque murals with cracks added. The thing with the first waiter annoyed me - it made me feel ill at ease and that the restaurant didn't want casually -dressed people in it. The pretention and, frankly, snobbishness wasn't great. John's Grill, which features in The Maltese Falcon, was great. It was what I'd call classic American cooking at its best - simple ingredients of good quality, well cooked. Steak, chips and creamed spinach, plenty of a good rose and definitely worth going to. Book ahead though - it was busy.

We did things other than eating...
You can very easily see why Berkeley sustains a left-wing population. On a fine day, sitting on its lawns, walking through its woods or using its amazing facilities (the student union and centre are probably half the size of the entire LSE) makes you want to do more than just live to work. Seeing the privations of some in the Bay Area while you were a student at Berkeley would provide a spur to want to do something about it.

I did get a kick from thinking that Adelstein and Bloom would have walked on those paths at one point. Yes, many fine minds, but those two are important to me. I bought myself a homburg at a shop in Berkeley. Not, sadly, from Mars Vintage Thrift.

The richest country in the world
I mentioned the privations of some. There seem to be a relatively large number of homeless people in San Francisco. I hope this doesn't come over as strange, but here goes. I wish I was both a better and more confident photographer of people, hopefully in the Steve McCurry style of rapid, unposed, intimate photos. You can't do a huge amount individually, but I really felt that few people actually saw the homeless; everyone seemed so used to bypassing the homeless that it was automatic. Maybe some photos of people living on the streets of a wealthy city in abject poverty, with little or no healthcare or prospects of a job or housing, would move people a little.

You do sometimes see a lot in the features of people. A lot of the homeless in San Francisco had unkept, matted hair and weather-beaten faces that can give good, expressionful shots. Some, though, by their clothes and the style of their actions, unaccustomed to the streets, and a greater despair in their eyes, gave the impression of having recently lost their homes. Certainly, foreclosing and repossessions are increasing sufficiently in the US that the papers are predicting a subprime lending bubble collapse. Maybe it was an attempt to maintain dignity in a situation that many would consider to be impossible undignified that made it different.

Maybe it's the nasty feeling that there, but for the grace of God, go I; a lot people on the streets have histories of mental health problems.
There is a local version of the Big Issue, the Street Sheet, that has potential, particularly as mainstream newspapers aren't great, to provide a distinctive coverage of news, perhaps including municipal news, that could make it a better seller; for now, it seemed to concentrate to much on homelessness issues. The idea is to give the homeless and formerly homeless a voice; this could be done while making more money for the vendor. As an aside, I met a chugger who was collecting for a charity that did microfinance in Colombia, Ecuador, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh - and the US.

The Golden Gate Bridge
I went, with camera, to the recreational pier to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. The Bridge is a fascinating structure. It has a definite beauty in the curve of the cables but it is the way in which it closes the Bay, adding a finality to the land before the Pacific, that has allowed it to become a loved piece of architecture. It was initially opposed as it would have spoilt the landscape. The way in which it connects to the land is interesting - it's different at each end - and the girders in the supporting towers make fascinating patterns.

I managed, I think, some decent shots of the bridge with the sun setting behind; after all, it's pretty straightforward to take a decent photo given the setting. I actually enjoyed taking pictures of the birds more. I think there must have been an updraft of air in front of the pier as a lot of birds were flying and gliding along just in front of me. It's quite wonderful to have birds flying past a few feet in front of you. You start to see the attraction to prisoners of keeping birds; they give a sense of freedom and being able to 'shake the surly bonds of earth'. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this will save you more of my prolix.

MoMA in SoMa
We went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which is in South of Market (SoMa). I wasn't sure about some of the collection (Alice was sure that some of it was a wind-up) but they had a really interesting room on design of objects like typewriters, chairs and coffee makers. All very mundane items, but with the potential to be beautifully designed. The website for MOMA has a good interactive guide to various artists called Making Sense of Modern Art. It has given me a few ideas that, if I have time, I might work on.

I'll sign off here. We had a great time. After a few weeks of work that were pretty soul-destroying, it was good to be able to spend some time with Alice and to rest. Unfortunately the lines under my eyes are returning already. I'd like to go to Muir, Sausalito and Yosemite and so may well pass through San Francisco again.




McDonalds is launching a campaign to change the dictionary definition of a McJob. The current definition is
"An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector"
according to the OED. McDonalds apparently had the slogan
"McProspects - over half of our executive team started in our restaurants. Not bad for a McJob."
How many of the people who work for McDonalds made it to the executive team? How many are on the minimum wage? Ah, you know the usual objections. This stinks like rotting fish.




The Routemaster bus

The Routemaster bus is almost no more - it runs on a couple of heritage routes in central London. Otherwise, buses are (more or less) accessible. I'm glad that they've been replaced, both because they were useless if you had mobility problems and because they were designed when people were smaller. I can only fit with some discomfort into the seats and my brother, who is rather taller than me, can only fit on the sideways facing benches at the back. Neither of us can stand on the lower deck without stooping. I think the iconic thing people look for is a red, double-decker bus; the model is less important.

The big advantages of the Routemaster were that it had a conductor, which I think made people feel safer than cameras do, and that it had a modular design. It lasted so long because if a part broke, you could replace it pretty easily and without taking the bus apart. It also allowed parts to be scavenged from one bus for another, further adding to their lifespan. It would be good, I think, to come up with a single design of bus for London. The initial costs may be higher, but it would provide the branding that makes it a tourist icon and would, in time, become as 'loved' as the Routemaster. If its lifetime were as long as the Routemaster - 47 years in London and still counting in some places - and the fact that its design evolved from the 1938 RT, which is still running in Davis, CA - I'm sure it would pay for itself many times over.



Section 28, Polish style

It took fifteen years to repeal the homophobic Section 28. Homophobic is precisely the right word as it was founded on a fear of homosexuality and the belief that homosexuality is inherently dangerous to children.

The Polish deputy education minister, Miroslaw Orzechowski, has announced plans to bring forward legislation that will punish anyone promoting homosexuality in schools. The lead education minister is
Roman Gietrych of the League of Polish Families; the BBC reports that teachers have been protesting his intolerant policies.

Human Rights Watch published an open letter to PM Kaczynski that is worth reading.

If a European Constitution is revived, I hope that it would include a clause that would prevent these laws. There is no justification for them that ultimately does not come down to 'we don't like homosexuals'. Gah. I'm pissed off.



Pub Quiz Semi-Triumph

Following on from the victory of the Kim Jong-Il Appreciation Society last term in the ULU Pub Quiz league, the current incarnation of the team, the Saddam Hussein Execution Film Crew, won the final quiz but only came second in the league, behind Fat Kids are (Insert Something Controversial Here).

Although Fat Kids has a bit of a margin this time, we've come first and second where they've come third and first, so we're claiming a moral victory.

We will return.



Goodbye, The Daily

I return from holiday to see that one of my favourite blogs, The Daily, is no more. Always well written, it was interesting, intelligent and frequently picked up 'unconsidered trifles'. I was flattered when they linked to me. So long, and thanks for all the fish.



Dave on holiday

I should probably have said previously that I have put a tracksy widget on this blog, and so I can see that people have been visiting this past week. I, however, am on holiday in San Francisco. I was going to be blogging from here but I doubt people want to hear about my holidays; I have better things to do; and I have an eleven-hour flight back to the UK tomorrow, so I'll write things up on there. Another long post on my holidays will appear over the weekend along with a few pictures.

Stay tuned for a redesign of the blog...



Devil's Kitchen

I like this post from Devil's Kitchen.



Beat you to it, Manic

I rather like Chris Ireland/Manic's blog. He was nice to me when I (think I) ran into a Fawkesite. However, I did beat him to the problems with 'World Without America' clip from 18DoughtyStreet.



Patrick Mercer and Jade Goody

The Times reports that Patrick Mercer, Shadow Homeland Security Minister1, has come out with this gem:
"I had the good fortune to command a battalion that was racially very mixed. Towards the end, I had five company sergeant majors who were all black. They were without exception UK-born, Nottingham-born men who were English - as English as you and me. They prospered inside my regiment, but if you'd said to them: 'Have you ever been called a nigger,' they would have said: 'Yes.' But equally, a chap with red hair, for example, would also get a hard time - a far harder time than a black man, in fact,"
Patrick Mercer MPIt says, I think, "I'm not racist, but I'm happy to use someone's race as a term of abuse". I deliberately said 'use someone's race as a term of abuse' rather than 'racially abuse' because there is a subtle distinction. The latter is to abuse someone because they are a member of a particular ethnic group; the former is to abuse someone by referencing their membership of such a group. The will frequently be concurrent, but it is possible to racially discriminate without verbally abusing someone and it (or Mr Mercer would argue) possible to use a term of racial abuse without 'really meaning it'.

Although the distinction is there it is subtle and hard to tell what the user's intentions are; if you are on the receiving end of racial abuse, it's not immediately obvious in all situations which case it is. We live in a society that has problems with racism, from the BNP to institutional racism to lower opportunities for members of minority ethnic groups. I am sure that Mr Mercer is not a racist, but this adds to the confusion between the two types. I do not approve of the former and I find the latter offensive and Mr Mercer's, who may well complain of 'political correctness gone mad, makes it harder to distinguish between the unthinking and the racist.

It is unpleasant and unnecessary to be attacked over uncontrollable, physical characteristics, but to suggest that it is worse for a redhead than a black is, I think, not supported by the facts3. There is rudeness, which is not good, but there is not systematic exclusion from avenues of advancement in society, increased suspicion from the police and a greater chance of being section under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Jade Goody
It leads to the question of whether Jade Goody is a racist. I do not think she is, but I do think she displayed a great deal of cultural insensitvity on Celebrity Big Brother. Just about everyone condemned her for engaging mouth before brain and causing offence aggravated by racism in a society where people are nervous about racism.

Mr Mercer
"was speaking to Times Online about the formation of a new anti-racism trade union being set up by servicemen from former colonial countries, which he described as "complete and utter rot"."
I look forward to Mr Mercer sponsoring the creation of the Red-Headed Service Person's Emancipation Association. I did, though, talk about unionising the armed forces.

Update 1618 - the BBC report that Patrick Mercer has been given the heave-ho.


1 - I do wonder who Mercer is shadowing - there is no Homeland Security Minister. I suppose it says a lot about the Tories - shadows of nothingness.
2 - I prefer the term 'mentally interesting' to 'mad'.
3 - I am aware that people weren't keen on redheads in the past because of the supposition that Judas Iscariot was flame-haired; it doesn't even come close to what the Jews have gone through on a similar basis.


No taxation without representation

A brief thought on the debate that was going on a little while ago in the US about immigration. Given that the rallying cry of the revolution was 'no taxation without representation'. Does this apply to (legal) immigrants and resident aliens who pay taxes, if through no means other than sales taxes? How about convicted felons, who are disenfranchised for life.

Just a thought...




Tempus fugit

I went past the LSE last Thursday. Nothing particularly special, except that it was election night in the Students' Union. It was the first SU election since 2001 for which I did not attend the count. It was very strange going past - I would have liked to have attended, but I couldn't. Beyond that, I'm not sure I wanted to. We must move on and, even though we may try, we can't recapture the past. When a little more time has passed, I will go back to help with the count, but when there are less people around who remember me.

My congratulations to all those who won their elections and commiserations to those who lost, particularly those who lost Sabb races. They are physically and mentally draining, but the emotional exhaustion when you lose is unpleasant. When I narrowly lost Education & Welfare in my last year, I was in tears. You do look back, though, and remember the good things about it.




It is many years since I have studied Latin, but I am delighted to have found an online newspaper in Latin.

Ad scriptores Epheremis volo agere gratias. Ad blogae mea vinculum adjungavi.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


The best way to change a bad law... to make sure it is stringently enforced. A very large tip of the hat to Tim Ireland for this.



Quitting smoking

I haven't had a cigarette since Friday evening. I was using gum over the weekend and I put a nicotine patch on this morning. OK, you probably don't want to know the details, but it's 'so far, so good. I was a bit irritable over the weekend - a bit, not hugely - and the gum helped when it was particularly bad. The patch is working well today - it was a bit weird to put on, but I haven't wanted a cigarette yet today (I would usually have had four by now). Given that I usually smoked a packet of Marlboro Reds a day, that's pretty good going.

The NHS's Go Smoke Free website lists how your body improves over time without smoking. At 72 hours is Breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase. That certainly seems right. The best comparison I can of is if you put your head under the duvet, breathing becomes harder and the air tastes stuffy. When you put your head above the covers, the air tastes 'clean' - it's rather like that. Let's hope it continues - it's the pub quiz tonight, when I usually smoke quite a lot. I went for a meal last night and didn't smoke (although the nicotine gum did come in very handy) and I will be very pleased if I can spend the evening in the pub without having a cigarette.



Migration Watch

A good article from Red Pepper's Know Your Enemy column on Migration Watch. You can use the link here, but it looks better if you go through the front page.

Hat-tip to Priya B.



Why the Daily Mail will support immigration

The Daily Mail is obsessed with house prices. Birth rates in Europe are falling, and in some states are already negative. Britain has largely avoided this trend (largely due to immigration). It is not immune; if current trends continue, it will start declining in population. This will mean less demand for housing, causing house price to drop. This will be bad for the readership of that publication. The Daily Mail will therefore have to support immigration. I'm looking forward to it.

I trust the title is suitably Daily Mail-esque.



Click here for my Blogger profile


Ubuntu - linux for human beings

Firefox 2

Add to Technorati Favorites

Locations of visitors to this page

Powered by Blogger

Click here to find out why.

  • Atom RSS Feed

recent posts


friends' blogs


political blogs


blogs i like


photography blogs




political tools




sadly gone