Dawkins & Minarets!?!?

Picked up from Twitter posted on Dawkins site is a piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali entitled Swiss ban on minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion. So WTF? Is this just for pointless discussion/attention or is it an implicit agreement with the ban, a lot of people somewhat idolise Dawkins and it is certainly fun seeing him skewer religious chumps but his atheism sometimes ignores political, historic and cultural context. It sounds like me and my friends in sixth form when we were rejecting our dumb bullshit catholic nonsense, light on life experience but full of righteous iconoclasm. I don’t like religion, I am an atheist but it seems to me there is a strand of atheism that (pre) judges all religious people without finding out about them. I think religion is dumb and harmful but there are clearly people who are religious and use it to both make their life work and help others without trying to convert them or impose conditions on them (admittedly not much organised religion works like that). Given this is not a perfect world I am not going to prioritise them renouncing their beliefs before I respect their lives and deeds as long as it is not a cover for bigotry, conservatism and domination, I just think some atheists obsess over it to not much practical end and begin to appear smug. But if this also means tipping into support for this discriminatory ban I think we are seeing one thread of atheism that like religious extremists endorses discrimination. And of course the ban was fomented by fascist politicians many of whom think of themselves as Christian (and crusaders), as a commenter on Dawkins site points out the ban got more support in religious areas as opposed to less religious areas, the four Kantons that voted against were also the four who voted for women’s suffrage. So in fact that affirms tolerance and progressive attitudes yet it was a commenter left to say this not the site who posted the piece without comment. So WTF Dawko?

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No Shit Sherlock

In London 93% of the population is in reach of eight or more megabytes per second, but in Wales it is 38.4%, while more than one quarter cannot access even two megabyte services.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno “Figures show Wales is still lagging behind when it comes to broadband access and speed. We need to look at how to prioritise areas that cannot currently access broadband. I appreciate that it is important that broadband expansion is carried out in a manner that is commercially viable, but we must not lose sight of the fact that accountants must not have the last word.”

And even when you have theoretical 8MB shitty infrastructure means you don’t. Commercially viable must not be the deciding factor, by that rule we would not have had electricity & telephone lines, rail or roads in many parts. What once nationalised utilities built for the public commons decays where profit is not to be found, the inequality of access to services and quality of infrastructure is a function of the neoliberal state. Our future is going to look like a backward joke at this rate.

One Law For Us…

“Family limited partnerships” were being publicized to lawyers and accountants in November 2007 at the time Blair’s lawyers started to set up his structures. Known in the trade as “Flips”, family limited partnerships are a way of getting round stricter inheritance tax rules in the 2006 budget, imposed by Gordon Brown while Blair was still prime minister.

To be precise it is the same law but only the rich have access to the means to get around it, so we can appear a modern democratic, rule of law nation blah de blah, when in fact it’s war crimes and class war 24/7. Oh yeah and this was the New Labour party.

PS. Richard Murphy with more on Anthony’s ill gotten gains.

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USA Tops Financial Secrecy Index

Which means it is the leader in the elite’s class war against 99% of the people on planet Earth. Financial Secrecy Index.

And For Those Who Get Skittish At The Mention of Class War

Executives at Britain’s top companies saw their basic salaries leap 10% last year, despite the onset of the worst global recession in decades, in which their companies lost almost a third of their value amid a record decline in the FTSE.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to admit for the first time that spending cuts will be needed, the BBC understands. BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Brown would make his most explicit comments yet on spending choices in a speech to union leaders on Tuesday.

Those Astroturf Shills For Capital

Click to Embigenify

Click to Embigenify

Image via A Very Public Sociologist’s Twitter (me like the Nambu)

Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers

  • Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is led by health care entrepreneur Rick Scott, the co-founder of Solantic urgent care walk-in centers, which he’s spread across Florida and is looking to expand. While 80 percent of its patients have at least some insurance, Solantic also bills itself as an alternative to emergency-room care and a resource for patients with no insurance. Scott left his job as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospitals during a federal Medicare fraud probe in 1997 that led to a historic $1.7 billion settlement. He wasn’t prosecuted and got a golden parachute.
  • FreedomWorks, which has been advocating against the overhaul but has not launched TV ads, is chaired by Dick Armey, the former Republican majority leader of the House of Representatives from Texas. But also noteworthy are the group’s other backers and board members. They include billionaire flat-tax proponent and former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes; Richard J. Stephenson, who founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which offers alternative as well as standard therapies, sometimes not covered by insurance; and Frank M. Sands, Sr., chief executive officer of an investment management firm whose offerings include a Healthcare Leaders portfolio.
  • Patients First and Patients United are creations of a larger group called Americans for Prosperity. AFP’s Web site describes a grassroots organization with more than 700,000 members that advocates “for public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.” It was started by billionaire David Koch, of the Koch Industries oil family, one of the country’s top donors to conservative, free-market causes. The foundation’s board includes Art Pope, a former North Carolina legislator also involved in conservative causes, whose family owns hundreds of discount stores. Tim Phillips, AFP’s president, is a former Republican congressional staffer who helped former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed start up the consulting firm Century Strategies in the 1990s. Clients paid the firm to build Christian grassroots support for various business causes. That included work for since-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Entitled To Kill

In the Israeli army reaction to Amnesty’s report on their assault on Gaza they show again the absolute sense of entitlement that views others suffering as subordinate to their own desires. A very dangerous chauvinism that is the logical result of Zionist ideology, a militarist garrison colonial state practising apartheid. Reminding me of what Naomi Klein said recently

“There is a debate among Jews. I used to say the Jewish community then I got excommunicated. There is a debate among Jews–I’m a Jew by the way” that boils down to: “Never again to everyone, or never again to us?… [Some Jews] even think we get one Get away with genocide free card… There is another strain in the Jewish tradition that says, ‘Never again to anyone.'”


Prem Sikka via Richard Murphy

The UK has about 50,000 family doctors, but nearly 280,000 professionally qualified accountants (pdf), often earning exorbitant salaries. That is almost the highest number per capita in the world and more than the rest of the European Union put together.

Dear IMF

Would you kindly Fuck Off, you neoliberal shills. I know you enjoy presenting your demonstrably failed ideology as an objective law of nature, but it really gets on one’s tits after a while. Thank you.

Getting Away With It

So…you blow up UN compounds, shoot civilians, commit blatant war crimes, then the UN writes a report, it won’t publish the full report

Although the full, 184-page findings of the UN board of inquiry will not be made public, the 27-page summary emphasised that UN premises are inviolable, and that inviolability cannot be set aside by the demands of military expediency.

…just the summary then within hours of the report which you reject out of hand, then you make some calls and the head of the UN stops the investigations going any further.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a damning UN report on Israel’s conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip was not legally binding.

Ban made the comments in a letter he agreed to attach to the report at the request of Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal, who traveled to New York on Monday for meetings with Ban’s aides on the matter.

Hence disincentive to commit more war crimes and more exterminations of the population of the land you are colonising – none.

At the same time you are very carefully neglecting to mention a state for the dispossessed.

[nb.I think the two state solution is hardly ideal but its absence without talk of a one state solution is suspicious. AIPAC realising this are now talking about it more even though from inside the conference there is little talk and the main Israeli politicians did not mention it.]

And they must acknowledge the state that is enveloping them is a theocracy for the ‘chosen people’ and them?

“Palestinians must recognize Israel as the Jewish state.  They must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”-Bibi Netanyahu, by video feed from Israel to the AIPAC policy conference.

Well being not chosen and being denied any state of their own that means- apartheid. So let’s lay this out, Netanyahu’s vision (?):- Israel will eventually be all the land of ‘Greater Israel’ non Jews within the Israeli theocracy will have fewer rights and greater limits on their freedom. An anti apartheid struggle will form in greater Israel, it will take decades, there will be deaths and torture by the state to force submission on the ‘others’ but as South Africa showed, apartheid does not last even as its fuel of brutality grows.

A Jewish state by force is doomed, Zionism is a dead end ideology, the journey to a genuine democratic one state solution is decades away and paved with horror. What could alter this path? America (the Israeli right -which is er,  all of the political parties, hey no wonder America is such an ally…- seems like a school bully who knows he has impunity because his similarly thuggish father is school governor). But as the quashing of prosecutions on lobbyist/spies and the Jane Harman scandal demonstrates (as opposed to persecution of Palestinian’s or academics challenging the official version on the Middle East in America) America’s special relationship with Israel is something between ally and sister statelet (also illustrated by some progressives who will decry an American theocracy but say nothing about Israel’s).

At best America will end up agreeing to Palestinian lands that are in effect really only townships under the sufferance of the IDF and 200 nuclear warheads. I suspect this would be sold as a real national solution as so many were able to dismiss from their mind that Gaza remained under siege as apologists crowed about Israel withdrawing. In other words the discourse and mediated simulacrum of Israel and Palestine is so fictional and biased against truthful representation that any ‘solution’ will be unlikely to be what it appears to be, so part of any process, for it be succesful, will have to be a change in the media’s cowardice when confronted by Zionist lobbyists (although as this is a longstanding phenomenon the institutional bias without outside pressure is also powerfully entrenched).

Oink Oink

In case you weren’t clear about the voracious greed & irresponsibility of the financial class-

City bankers and financiers are scooping bumper pay rises to compensate for losing multimillion pound bonuses in a controversial development that will trigger fresh “reward for failure” rows.

The Observer has learnt that UBS, the stricken bank that last year received a £40bn Swiss government bailout, is paying London staff increases of between 15% and 20% at a time when many workers in Britain are forced to take wage freezes.

Though it is understood some equity traders at UBS have even enjoyed a doubling of salary to over £250,000, bank sources indicate these were “exceptional cases rather than the rule”. But senior City headhunters confirmed that basic pay rises for senior bank staff were rising sharply, with US banks seeing big hikes.

Bosses of Britain’s biggest companies enjoyed huge increases in the value of their pension pots last year, despite the onset of recession and the downfall of major banks such as Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS.

Two directors have already amassed pension funds which will pay them more than £1m a year on retirement. Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, has accrued a nest egg worth almost £1.2m; Todd Stitzer, boss of theCadbury confectionery group, could pick up almost £1.5m a year, not counting any further sums they accumulate between now and stepping down.

The Silence Surrounding Sri Lanka by Arundhati Roy

The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the international press – or in the mainstream media in India, where I live – about what is happening. From the little information that is filtering through, it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of “the war on terror” as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people.

The government is working on the principle that every Tamil is a terrorist unless he or she can prove otherwise, and civilian areas, hospitals, and shelters are being bombed and turned into a war zone. Reliable estimates put the number of civilians trapped at over 200,000. The Sri Lankan army is advancing, armed with tanks and aircraft.

Meanwhile, there are reports that several “welfare villages” have been established to house displaced Tamils in the Vavuniya and Mannar districts. The Daily Telegraph in London reports that these villages “will be compulsory holding centers for all civilians fleeing the fighting.” Is this a euphemism for concentration camps?

Mangala Samaraweera, a former foreign minister of Sri Lanka, told The Daily Telegraph: “A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They’re basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists.”

Given the government’s stated objective of “wiping out” the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan, this malevolent collapse of civilians and “terrorists” does seem to signal that the government is on the verge of committing what could end up being genocide. According to a United Nations estimate, several thousand people have already been killed. Thousands more are critically wounded.

What we are witnessing – or, rather, what is happening in Sri Lanka and is being so effectively hidden from public scrutiny – is a brazen, openly racist war. The impunity with which the Sri Lankan government is able to commit these crimes unveils the deeply ingrained racist prejudice that is precisely what led to the marginalization and alienation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the first place. That racism has a long history, involving social ostracization, economic blockades, pogroms, and torture. The brutal nature of the decades-long civil war, which started as a peaceful, nonviolent protest, has its roots here.

Why the silence? In another interview, Mangala Samaraweera said, “A free media is virtually nonexistent in Sri Lanka today.” He described death squads and “white van abductions,” which have made society “freeze with fear.” Voices of dissent have been abducted and assassinated. The International Federation of Journalists accuses the government of Sri Lanka of using a combination of anti-terrorism laws, disappearances, and assassinations to silence journalists.

There are unconfirmed reports that the Indian government is lending material and logistical support to the Sri Lankan government. If this is true, it is outrageous. What about the governments of other countries? Pakistan? China? What are they doing to help or harm the situation?

In Tamil Nadu, India, the war in Sri Lanka has fueled passions that have led to more than 10 people immolating themselves. The public anger and anguish – much of it genuine, but some of it obviously cynical political manipulation – has become an election issue.

It is extraordinary that this concern has not traveled to the rest of India. Why is there silence?

Given the scale of what is happening in Sri Lanka, the silence is inexcusable. More so because of the Indian government’s long history of irresponsible dabbling in the conflict, first taking one side and then the other. Several of us who should have spoken out much earlier, have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war.

So while the killing continues, while tens of thousands of people are being barricaded into concentration camps, while more than 200,000 face starvation, and a genocide waits to happen, there is dead silence from this great country. It’s a colossal humanitarian tragedy. The world must step in. Now. Before it’s too late.

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I’m Laughin’ Just To Keep From Cryin’

Hahahahahahaha Privatisation and reducing entitlement, hahahahahahaha one party-consensus-bipartisan- bullsheet baby! Hahahahahahahahah Neoliberalism rather than wither under the crisis it caused will cement its fundamentalism with further shocks. Hahahahahahaha and your choice is have it done by New Labour or the Tories. Hahahahaha, democracy! Hahahahahahahahaha y’know choice, as in do you want to get stabbed in the face or guts first. C’mon now tell me Nulabour shills how are you different from the Tories, apart from a few minor points here and there, like srsly dudes- I will implement these proposals with slightly less enthusiasm than the tories- does not actually constitute a fucking difference, just going further to betray your base is not something to get excited about, speaking of which, Trade Unions, take the fucking money and give it to actual, y’know, leftists! There are even a tiny few in Labour, give them the dosh instead of the conservatives that run the ‘party’.

And here’s the kicker, name three groups who caused the crisis- Politicians, economists, bankers.

Now guess who’s privatising welfare- Politicians, economists, bankers. Hahahahahahahaha! And even better, it’s the same guy in both parties!!!!! Suckers!

The Benefit of Work? Poverty

More than half of the children growing up in poverty have a parent in work because Britain has a low-wage economy, according to a report published today.

Although Labour has lifted 600,000 children out of poverty since taking power in 1997, almost all of them had parents who were unemployed. Some 2.9 million children are still classed as poor because their family’s income is less than 60 per cent of the median.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left-of-centre think-tank, accuses the Government of failing to tackle the problem of “in-work poverty”. It will be seen as a criticism of Gordon Brown’s flagship tax credits scheme and will call into question Labour’s ability to hit its target of abolishing child poverty by 2020.

But like good neoliberal market fundamentalists they insist on dismantling welfare and saying work is the only way out of poverty. Or maybe education-

A warning that state schools must brace themselves for years of austerity is due to be delivered by the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families today.

Still, even though the ideology is a zombie stumbling on one of its proponents has snuffed it, Chile visiting, Pinochet fan, Thatcher advising ‘sir’ Alan Walters (although many obits -grauniad included ahem- neglects his fascist torture loving chums and his praise for them, in fact a 6 year old book review has more than the obit). You tend to find mention in venues where such allegiances are considered a good thing- He visited Chile, where General Augusto Pinochet’s ministers had begun deregulatory reforms that Walters called “the greatest experiment in liberal economics”.

Indeed we are treated as subjects suitable for vivisection. (ht2 James)

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Al-Zaidi Remanded Into Custody After Court Appearance

(Reuters) – An Iraqi journalist who has admitted hurling his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush appeared before a judge on Tuesday and confirmed his action, a judicial spokesman said.

TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi, who also called Bush a “dog” at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday and became an instant sensation in the Arab world, faced charges of “aggression against a president,” said Abdul Satar Birqadr, spokesman for Iraq’s High Judicial Council.

Throwing shoes at someone is considered the ultimate insult in the Arab world and dogs are viewed as dirty and disgusting.

“Al-Zaidi was brought today before the investigating judge in the presence of a defense lawyer and a prosecutor,” Birqadr said. “He admits the action he carried out.”

The court decided to keep Zaidi in custody, and after the judge completes his investigation of the case may send him for trial under a clause in the Iraqi penal code that punishes anyone who attempts to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents.

Such a crime could result in imprisonment of seven to 15 years, Birqadr said.

Zaidi’s brother said on Tuesday he was hit in the head with a rifle butt and had an arm broken in the chaos that broke out after he threw his shoes at Bush and was leapt on by Iraqi security officers and U.S. secret service agents.

He was in a hospital in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, his brother Maitham al-Zaidi said.




And while much fun is being had if you liked what he did help him out. To even consider jail time for this is ludicrously authoritarian even if you disgaree with his views. How unequal a world where criminal leaders have impunity and protest gets you jail time. Via Raed Jarrar Reporters Without Borders have stepped up-

Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, of al-Bagdhadia television arrested after hurling his shoes at George W Bush at a Baghdad press conference during a surprise visit by the US president on 14 December 2008.

“We obviously regret that the journalist used this method of protest against the politics of the American president”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “But for humanitarian reasons and to ease tension, we call for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi who has been held by the Iraqi authorities for two days.”

“Given the controversy surrounding this incident, we urge the Iraqi security services to guarantee the physical wellbeing of this journalist, who was clearly injured during his arrest”, it added.

“While we do not approve of this kind of behaviour as a means of expressing an opinion or convictions, the relaxed way in which George W Bush spoke about the incident afterwards, should give the Iraqi authorities all the more reason to show leniency”, the organisation concluded.