Month: October 2012

The Rich, The Poor And The Oppressed

Inequalities of wealth exist not only in the West.

Granted, the tame news media will often highlight the income of politicians and how they benefit from public life, as was seen in the British expenses scandal, but there is more to it than that. Not unsurprisingly political leaders around the world try to enrich themselves and what we see in the West is comparatively small beans.

The Guardian describes how the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao’s family has accumulated billions:

“China has lashed out at a US newspaper report that premier Wen Jiabao’s family has amassed vast wealth worth at least $2.7bn (£1.68bn), censoring the New York Times website and questioning the paper’s motivations.

The story said Wen, widely seen as the humane face of China’s top leadership, was not directly linked to the holdings. But the association with such a fortune was in stark contrast to the man-of-the-people image he has cultivated.

The detailed account, based on company and regulatory filings, said several of Wen’s relatives had become extremely wealthy since his ascent to the top leadership, controlling assets whose total worth is more than the GDP of Burundi. In many cases their holdings were obscured by layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, colleagues or business partners. “

Wen Jiabao is not an exception, as the case of Xi Jinping shows:

“As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. The figures don’t account for liabilities and thus don’t reflect the family’s net worth. “

This is original article in the NTY, Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader.
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Last Presidential Debate 2012

I didn’t watch the whole debate, but Obama looked tired in this BBC clip.

There are some videos at the Beeb which give a greater flavour of the debate.

I thought the Presidential debate: Obama’s ‘horse and bayonet’ jibe was comparatively amusing, by the tame level of humour at these events, but it wasn’t a knockout blow.

CNN’s 5 things we learned in Monday’s debate is shorter, but incomplete.

This is the Guardian’s Debate decoder: the final presidential face-off deconstructed.

Depressingly, Romney is still stuck in the Cold War as CNN shows:

An Occasional Murdoch, NHS and Misogyny Roundup

Rupert Murdoch ate a mountain of humble pie at the Levinson inquiry and looked distinctly uncomfortable with his newfound humility.

That’s a thing of the past. Murdoch reveals his true feelings on Twitter:

“Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.”

Charlotte Church was a bit annoyed.

Over at the NHS they are not happy, according to one of its honchos:

“The head of the NHS has laid bare his fears that the government’s controversial reforms of the health service could end in “misery and failure”.

Women in the media, why the disparity?

An ex-Wikileaks supporter explains why:

“For a long time now I was a strong supporter of Julian. I used to donate regularly to him. I defended and supported his actions because I believed in the cause that he was fighting for. Since the days of the original attack I ran the primary South African Wikileaks mirror (www.wikileaks.za.org). Back in those days thousands of us rallied to support Wikileaks when it was under constant DDOS attack.

Now I see the absolute disdain the Assange`s treat this cause with I can no longer put my support behind the idea. To the Assange’s it has become the Assange Road Show. Wikileaks is all about them and their own personal agenda. “

Malatesta covers the activity of the British Far Right with humour, look out for Mike Mosley, yet another neo-Nazi that likes guns.

This is a piece of understated reporting if ever there was one.

French antisemitism comes to the fore on Twitter.

An indicator, if one was needed, of Tory failures, food banks serving more.

In Australia, the definition of misogyny is being updated.

When Universal Credit is introduced in Britain, the disabled will lose out.

Radovan Karadžić’s lying know no bounds.

When you think about buying an iPhone remember that Foxcon are still using youngsters to make their bits.

Worried by Americanisms? Linguistic traffic is not one way, as the Beeb shows.

Good news, neo-Nazi’s plans for social media thwarted by Twitter.

Tens of thousands have disappeared in Syria.

Paramilitary abuse and raped in Colombia, one woman’s tale.

Thanks to the UK Human Rights Blog and Irène Solomon there is an unofficial English translation of the Rachel Corrie judgment.

The Beeb and its mistakes over the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The New Yorker on Romney:

“Romney’s conviction is that the broad swath of citizens who do not pay federal income tax—a category that includes pensioners, soldiers, low-income workers, and those who have lost their jobs—are parasites, too far gone in sloth and dependency to be worth the breath one might spend asking for their votes. His descent to this cynical view—further evidenced by his selection of a running mate, Paul Ryan, who is the epitome of the contemporary radical Republican—has been dishearteningly smooth. He in essence renounced his greatest achievement in public life—the Massachusetts health-care law—because its national manifestation, Obamacare, is anathema to the Tea Party and to the G.O.P. in general. He has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed Ryan’s winner-take-all economics. “

Finally, the CST’s Online radicalisation. ‘Lone wolves’ of all stripes.

The BBC And The NHS

I think Martin Shovel doesn’t get the recognition that his wit and drawing skills deserve.

In this case he details with the BBC’s attitude to the NHS:

Those readers unfamiliar with the issues would do well to read Oliver Huitson’s and openDemocracy contribution:

“The BBC’s coverage of the NHS bill represents a profound failure to inform the public on an issue of the utmost importance. To summarise, it appears that:

- the BBC never questioned or explored the lack of democratic mandate for the changes to the NHS

- they consistently presented the bill using the government’s own highly contested description

- expert critics were not given the space and opportunity to highlight the true nature of their objections

- financial links between healthcare firms, the Conservatives and the House of Lords were never reported

- the significant role of the private sector in Lansley’s new health market was never explored

- fears over privatisation were occasionally stated but never explored or explained

- the role of private firms in commissioning care was not properly explained, if at all

- the role of private firms in creating the bill was never examined or reported

- sources with significant links to private healthcare were presented without a disclosure of their interests

- the BBC censored key stories, particularly as the bill reached its final stages. On 19 March 2012 when the bill was finally passed in the Lords, BBC Online published not a single article of news or analysis on the bill. “

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Sandra K Eckersley Deals With Rape Apologism

Sandra K Eckersley, in outlining the facts behind the Julian Assange case, has a marvellous way of dealing with rape apologism:

“Your facts relating to this case are plain wrong. Julian Assange is facing four serious allegations. One of rape, two of sexual molestation and one of coercion relating to two Swedish women.

The allegations of sexual molestation and coercion relate to Miss A. The entire sexual experience she described to police appears altogether unpleasant and she details what exactly went wrong in her police statement. She does NOT claim she was raped.

The case involving Miss W is the one that constitutes rape. Judge Riddle in the UK said after reviewing the evidence that this would also be classified as rape in the UK.

Miss W is consistently misrepresented in what has become entirely inappropriate trial by twitter. Her police statement is consistent with a victim statement and she makes no indication in interview that she wants to retract her claim. This is entirely myth.

Miss W told police: “She cycled home, showered, and washed the bed sheets. Because she had not gone to work on time, she called in sick and stayed home all day. She wanted to clean up and wash everything. There was semen on the bed sheets; she thought it was disgusting. She also went to the chemist’s and bought a morning-after pill.
When she talked with her friends afterwards, she understood that she was the victim of a crime. She went to Danderyd Hospital, and from there to Söder Hospital where she was examined and where samples with a so-called rape kit were also taken.”

That does not sound like a women who has been tricked into reporting rape to the police.

Police reports states:

“They dozed off and she awoke and felt him penetrating her. She immediately asked, “Are you wearing anything?”, to which he replied, “You”. She said to him: “You better don’t have HIV”, and he replied, “Of course not”. “She felt that it was too late. He was already inside her and she let him continue. She didn’t have the energy to tell him one more time. She had gone on and on about condoms all night long. She has never had unprotected sex before.

Police report includes this comment from the interviewer:

“In the course of the interview, Sofia and I were informed that Julian Assange had been arrested in absentia. After that, Sofia had difficulty concentrating, as a result of which I made the judgement that it was best to terminate the interview. But Sofia did mention that Assange was angry at her. There was not enough time to obtain any further information about why he was angry at her or how this was expressed. Nor did we have time to discuss what had happened afterwards. The interview was neither read back to Sofia nor read by her for approval; but Sofia was informed that she could do so at a later date.”

That to me reads that Miss W was in fact frightened of Julian Assange and that he had already indicated to her he was angry with her. Hearing that he had been arrested would have made her even more fearful as now he would probably be furious. There is no indication that Miss W wanted to withdraw her claim or was concerned for Assange’s well being.

What is clear is she is frightened of him.

Where does it say anywhere that Miss W wanted to withdraw her statement, refused to sign her statement or felt sorry that Assange was being misrepresented?

I have read enough about this case to see there is a legitimate serious of allegations that Julian Assange must answer and that he appears to be at best a reckless sex creep or at worse a rapist. It remains up to a formal trial to determine his guilt or innocence but to claim Julian Assange has nothing to answer is to indeed, in my books, to be seen as a rape apologist.

There is no real evidence that the US plans to extradite Assange from Sweden and in fact there is a wealth of evidence supporting the notion it would be impossible for them to do so. These incidents occurred a month after Bradley Manning was arrested and when Assange had applied for residency in Sweden. No mention of possible US extradition or rendition back then.

Facts are adding up that Julian Assange is doing everything he can to avoid having to go back to Sweden, as he earlier promised. Should all the legal barriers to him returning be exhausted and he is forced back I suspect he will renew his character assassination of these two women.

How any women, or man for that matter can support active avoidance of a proper Swedish trial here is beyond me.

Twitter @sandraeckersley

[My emphasis.]

The US, Food Banks And Real People

Gary Younge’s description of real Americans discussing their once well-off circumstances and the need for food banks is a reminder of how precarious existence can be:

“Mark’s fortunes began to change in the summer of 2009 when was a human resources manager in a company with 1,500 employees. He was let go and replaced by a colleague 20 years his junior on half his salary. He could have found other work elsewhere in the country, but that would have involved uprooting his three children, and he didn’t think that was fair. He got another job in a start-up that involved a long commute and eventually collapsed owing him money. With his mortgage paid off and no debts, the biggest expense for a family of five was healthcare. Since everyone in the family was healthy they contemplated doing without it.

Then his youngest daughter got bitten by a rattlesnake. “That would have been a six-figure healthcare bill,” he says. “If we’d gotten rid of healthcare at that point we would have been sunk.” It was around that time he started going to the food bank. He stopped after he got a job at a major bookstore as a night-time accountant and head cashier paying just $9 an hour but with good health benefits, and is now getting a human resources consultancy practice off the ground.

When Pezzani heard the tape of Romney referring disparagingly to the 47% of the country who don’t pay taxes she was unimpressed. “It’s very difficult to see the folks that we’re serving maligned in that way,” she says. Beck-Ferkiss at the HPI has similar reservations. “It’s hard for me to believe that Romney is focused on the population that I serve,” she says.

Mark, however, says it just confirmed everything he already thought. “It doesn’t surprise me about Romney because he’s always struck me as a stuffed shirt. He’s arrogant, and it’s hard for me to get past that. It didn’t change my mind about him because I always thought that about him. It was exactly the same as Obama saying “You didn’t build that”. Those were exactly the words I would expect to come out of his mouth.” “

US Presidential Debate: Obama vs Romney

This clip from BBC news is good at summing up the second US Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney of 2012.

I must say, I find the thought of Romney as US President to be frightening, he’s in the mold of G W Bush, but without the charm!

Women’s Rights And The New Statesman

Over at the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan has exasperated many women by his new post, Being pro-life doesn’t make me any less of a lefty.

I am not really that interested in his points, rather the marvellous response from feminists and the quality of their arguments.

Stavvers at Another Angry Woman says:

“A few more points on your piece. I’m very disappointed in you, seeing you repeating the anti-choice porky pie that France and Germany have a 12-week limit, so the UK should too. What these countries actually have is a law which allows abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, i.e. you go up to a doctor, say “I’d like an abortion”, then you have your abortion. After the 12 weeks, the legal situation resembles that of the UK: you have to jump through hoops, provide reasons, see more than one doctor.

The rest of your argument, I’m afraid to say, is a hot mess of appeals to authority. You’ve just listed the few people who agree with you who aren’t thoroughly objectionable, many of whom died centuries ago. I’m also rather baffled by the fact that you’re not ashamed to agree with Jeremy Hunt, a man who has what I like to call the Copro-Midas Touch. Literally everything that man touches turns to shit. Are you genuinely comfortable with agreeing with a man who hides in trees to avoid being seen by journalists?

You’re also repeating the tiresome “it’s a baby” myth. Again, I’m going to refer you to one of my sisters, because pretty much everyone’s already said what I want to say, but please read this heartbreaking post from Fearlessknits about life at 25 weeks gestation. “

Kelly Hills takes another tack:

“These rights are undermined when women are denied the freedom to decide whether and when to have children, and how many of them to have. Reproductive freedom is an essential part of women’s right to liberty. It is vital to both liberty and responsible moral agency that we be free to protect our health, to plan and shape our lives. So vital is this social good that wherever safe, legal and affordable abortion is unavailable, many women risk death, permanent physical injury, social disgrace and legal prosecution to end unwanted pregnancies.

Hasan argues, at the end of his article, that the biggest problem with the abortion debate is that it is asymmetrical, “the two sides are talking at cross-purposes”. But the biggest problem with the abortion debate is not that it is asymmetric – it is that one group, the anti-choice group, is attempting to force their views on everyone else. As a pro-choice woman, I am not interested in whether or not another woman is carrying a pregnancy to term or aborting, save in the case where the woman asks for my opinion or involvement. My pro-choice position is not pushing her to abort – not even if, in my opinion, it would be the best thing for her life. As I do not believe in forced pregnancy, I do not believe in forced abortion.

I believe in choice.”

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Julian Assange And Wikileaks Go After The Money

The old adage, follow the money, is so often right.

Wikileaks has seriously changed its policy towards freedom of information, now you have to pay for it.

Information and data, which were given freely to Wikileaks, is only available behind a paywall, as Wired reports:

“Secret-spilling site WikiLeaks has moved millions of documents behind a paywall, prompting blowback from elements of an underground ally, the hacking group Anonymous, including one well-known member to conclude that it “cannot support anymore what WikiLeaks has become.”

Upon clicking on any of the site’s documents, including “Cablegate: 250,000 US Embassy Diplomatic Cables,” which is said to have came from alleged WikiLeaks-leaker Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks visitors are taken to a page with a video that lambastes Barack Obama and ends with WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange asking for donations. To access documents, one can donate, share the video on Facebook or tweet it. The fullscreen overlay cannot be closed unless a donation is made or something is shared, though the video does not appear over every document dump. “

I have no doubt that Julian Assange will provide a rationalisation along the lines of “we need money to fight for greater transparency/freedom of information/against state organisations”, etc.

All tripe, but his decreasing band of gullible supporters might buy it.

Being stuck in a room in Ecuador’s London embassy is not terribly costly, but I suppose Assange must provide for his retirement and Ecuador could be expensive, evenif he gets there and has to grease any wheels along the way.

As with some many things in life it comes down to grubby money.

As the Drum puts it:

“Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website which prides itself on providing free access to information, has erected a paywall… to the bafflement of its supporters, most prominently Anonymous.

Dubbed a ‘donation’ the mandatory payments are required to be made in order to access several of Wikileaks document files, including its Global Intelligence Files, Spy Files, Guantanamo Files and Iraq War Logs.

It is justified by way of a Youtube video which asks about the expectation that US voters should have over their politicians and what they can expect from whoever wins the election. These questions are each answered by Obama stating ‘Yes we can’ taken from an address he made during the last presidential campaign.

The video claims that Wikileaks can help run America by donating to the whistle blowing website and ends with the voice of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange who states ‘I’m Julian Assange and I approve this message’. “

The Guardian covers Assange’s self-pity:

“What else? Ken Loach has donated a running machine, on which Assange runs three to five miles a day. Every two days, he works out with a former SAS officer.

Quite where he finds the room is unclear. He shares a bathroom, but has his own tiny en-suite kitchen. At one end of the room, he has squeezed a round conference table for meeting journalists and colleagues. In front of the window (and he moans about daylight!) stand four tall shelves – sparsely filled with files, CDs for burning, pens, and a printer. There’s a Spanish dictionary, for conversing with embassy staff, and a book about Guantánamo.

Assange claims he works a 17-hour day – but he still finds a suspicious amount of time for watching films. The West Wing and The Twilight Zone are current favourites, he says, as is a film about Aborigine rights: This is How You’ll Make Your Bed in Prison.

And how does Assange make his own bed, a single mattress lying on the floor? “Clumsily”, says the Mail – though “reports of a lack of self-care seem wide of the mark”.

But it’s not all fun and games. Outside, he moans, “there is an absurdly oppressive police presence”. And we thought Bradley Manning had it tough. “

Update 1: Julian Assange seems to have gone over the edge, accusing the Anonymous group of being part of the FBI struggle against him, read it in full:

“Mon Oct 15 04:19:15 UTC 2012

Basic solidarity in WikiLeaks & Anonymous.

By Julian Assange

Freedom isn’t free, justice isn’t free and solidarity isn’t
free. They all require generosity, self-discipline, courage and a sense of perspective.

Groups with unity flourish and those without unity are
destroyed and replaced by those who have it.

Traditional armies gain unity through isolation, ritualized
obedience, and through coercive measures applied to
dissenters up to and including death.

Groups who do not have techniques of unity derived from
solidarity and common cause will be dominated by groups with coercive unity.

In the end it is the techniques of unity that dominate our
civilization. Unified groups grow and multiply. Groups which lack unity imperil themselves and their allies.

It doesn’t matter what principles a group espouses. If it
is not able to demonstrate basic unity it will be dominated
by alliances that do.

When a group grows large the public press becomes a medium through which the group talks to itself. This gives the public press influence over the groups self-awareness. The public press has its agendas. So do insiders who speak to it.

For large groups, group insiders who interface with the public press are able to lever themselves into a position of internal influence via press influence.

Because Anonymous is anonymous, those who obtain this or other forms of leadership influence can be secretly decapitated and replaced by other interests.

This is exactly what happened in the Sabu affair. An
important part of Anonymous ended up being controlled by the FBI. The cooption of its most visible figure, Sabu, was then used to entrap others.

FBI agents or informers have subsequently run entrapment
operations against WikiLeaks presenting as figures from
Anonymous.

According to FBI indictments the FBI has at various times
controlled Anonymous servers. We must assume that currently
a substantial number of Anonymous severs and “leadership”
figures are compromised.
This doesn’t mean Anonymous
should be paralyzed by paranoia. But it must recognize the
reality of infiltration. The promotion of “anonhosting.biz”
and similar assets which are indistinguishable from an
entrapment operations must not be tolerated.

The strength of Anonymous was not having leadership or
other targetable assets. When each person has little
influence over the whole, and no assets have special
significance, compromise operations are expensive
and ineffective. The cryptography used in Friends of
WikiLeaks is based on this principle while WikiLeaks as
an organization has a well tested public leadership cohort
inorder to prevent covert leadership replacement.

Assets create patronage and conflict around asset
control. This includes virtual assets such as servers,
Twitter accounts and IRC channels.

The question Anonymous must ask is does it want to be
a mere gang (“expect us”) or a movement of solidarity. A
movement of solidaarity obtains its unity through common value and through the symbolic celebration of individuals whose actions strive towards common virtues.

Assessing the statement by “@AnonymousIRC”.

In relation to alleged associates of WikiLeaks. It is
rarely in an alleged associates interest, especially
early in a case, for us to be seen to be helping them
or endorsing them. Such actions can be used as evidence
against them. It raises the prestige stakes for prosecutors
who are likely to use these alleged associates in a public
proxy war against WikiLeaks. We do not publicly campaign
for alleged associates until we know their legal team
approves and our private actions must remain private. This calculous should be obvious.

Several weeks ago, WikiLeaks began a US election related
donations campaign which expires on election day, Nov 6.

The WikiLeaks campaign pop-up, which, was activated weeks
ago, requires tweeting, sharing, waiting or donating once
per day.

Torrents, unaffected even by this pop-up remain available
from the front page.

These details should have been clearer but were available
to anyone who cared to read. The exact logic and number of
seconds are in the page source. We are time and resource
constrained. We have many battles to deal with. Other than
adding a line of clarification, we have not changed the
campaign and nor do we intend to.

We know it is annoying. It is meant to be annoying. It is
there to remind you that the prospective destruction of
WikiLeaks by an unlawful financial blockade and an array
of military, intelligence, DoJ and FBI investigations,
and associated court cases is a serious business.

WikiLeaks faces unprecedented costs due to involvement
in over 12 concurrent legal matters around the world,
including our litigation of the US military in the Bradley
Manning case. Our FBI file as of the start of the year
had grown to 42,135 pages.

US officials stated to Australian diplomats the the
investigation into WikiLeaks is of “unprecedented scale
and nature”. Our people are routinely detained. Our editor
was imprisoned, placed under house arrest for 18 months,
and is now encircled in an embassy in London where he has
been formally granted political asylum. Our people and
associates are routinely pressured by the FBI to become
informers against our leadership.

Since late 2010 we have been under an unlawful financial
blockade. The blockade was found to be unlawful in the
Icelandic courts, but the credit companies have appealed
to the Supreme Court. Actions in other jurisdictions are
in progress, including a European Commission investigation
which has been going for over a year.

Despite this we have won every publishing battle and
prevailed over every threat. Last month the Pentagon
reissued its demands for us to cease publication of
military materials and to cease “soliciting” US military
sources. We will prevail there also, not because we are
adept, although we are, but because to do so is a virtue
that creates common cause.

Solidarity.

Julian Assange
Embassy of Ecuador
London “

Women And George Galloway

This piece in the Guardian reveals that all is not well in Bradford concerning George Galloway:

“”I want an appointment to see George Galloway,” announced the blonde, smartly dressed woman. “I want to talk to him about his comments on rape and consent,” she told Bilal, one of Galloway’s two case workers at his constituency office in Bradford town centre.

“Oh,” said Bilal, glancing over to see who had overheard, before offering her an appointment two weeks hence – when Galloway was due to return from a holiday campaigning for Hugo Chávez’s re-election in Venezuela and then from a speaking engagement in Kazakhstan.

Five months on, Yaqoob has resigned as leader in protest at Galloway’s refusal to apologise for his rape comments. And what Galloway bombastically described as the Bradford spring, when he overturned a chunky Labour majority to romp home with a 10,000 lead of his own in the March byelection in Bradford West, has turned into a decidedly murky autumn. A number of longstanding members of Respect’s national executive have followed Yaqoob out of the door, imperilling the party’s future and seemingly dashing any hopes that it could grow into a serious left-of-Labour outfit comparable with Germany’s Die Linke or the Front de Gauche in France.

Kate Hudson, the well-respected chair of CND, who had been due to contest the Manchester Central byelection in November, withdrew her candidacy. In Bradford, while Respect’s five councillors are largely thought to be doing their best in difficult circumstances, a number of the women who played a key role in Galloway’s win want nothing to do with the party, amid claims of misogyny and bullying.

Galloway may be a skilled and gifted politician. He’s quite an orator, but character will out, and political groupings led by singular, egotistical leaders have a way of failing. It’s just a matter of time with Respect.

But, he won’t starve.

George Galloway will always float to the top with his income from Press TV, al-Mayadeen and other media sources.

Still, it is just a matter of time before he makes another sexist and offensive comment towards women.

That’s his nature, character will out, as the people of Bradford have found now know.

Beginners Guide To Britain’s Far Right

Keeping up with the cranks, thugs and racists that comprise the Far Right is a full-time job.

These flaky individuals often work together for a few months or years then split off after a drunken argument, or simply because they can’t get on with each other or the rest of humanity.

Cataloguing the changing face of the Far Right is often a difficult job and the new Extremis Project is a useful resource in that respect.

Their Beginners guide to new groups on Britain’s far right is short, but it provides valuable insights:

“Whether culturism is a genuinely new strain of ideological thinking or a cynical euphemism for race remains unclear. However, Britain’s far right have long understood that openly racial language serves to alienate much of their core demographic. Hence, it is no surprise that an ideology that replaces racial preservation with cultural preservation may well be seen as an easier sell. Whether the language of culturism becomes more widely disseminated among Britain’s far right, or whether it proves to be an ideological cul-de-sac, is yet to be seen.

However, as the BFP scramble to jettison their far-right image in advance of their electoral endeavors, the language of culturism could perhaps prove useful in their pursuit of respectability and the ‘silent majority’. Further to this, the EDL’s leader, Tommy Robinson, yesterday resigned as deputy leader of the BFP. The motivation behind his surprise departure remains unclear, but it is possible that with several impending court cases Robinson is attempting to detoxify the BFP/EDL link and put distance between his criminal reputation and Kevin Carrolls attempt to become a Police and Crime Commissioner. Following his surprise departure from the BFP Robinson has indicated that he intends to develop the English Defence League as an independent political party, possibly targeting the 2014 European elections. Where this leaves the fledgling alliance between the BFP and the EDL remains unclear but the consensual belief that the BFP was now the political wing of the EDL is likely no longer the case. “

Julian Assange, Losing Friends

To some Julian Assange can do no wrong, but he’s increasingly losing friends.

Only recently Assange stiffed some rather wealthy supporters for his bail money and now even Anonymous don’t want to know him:

“A statement posted on the Anonymous Twitter account, AnonymousIRC, described WikiLeaks as “the one man Julian Assange show” after the website began asking users to pay for access to millions of leaked documents.

“The idea behind WikiLeaks was to provide the public with information that would otherwise be kept secret by industries and governments. Information we strongly believe the public has a right to know,” said the statement on behalf of Anonymous.

“But this has been pushed more and more into the background, instead we only hear about Julian Assange, like he had dinner last night with Lady Gaga. That’s great for him but not much of our interest. We are more interested in transparent governments and bringing out documents and information they want to hide from the public.”

Anonymous has long been one of WikiLeaks’s most loyal and vocal allies. Supporters bearing Anonymous posters regularly turned out at Assange’s public announcements, and members of the group have waged an online campaign against critics of the whistleblowers’ site.

WikiLeaks said it is funded entirely by donations from members of the public. The site angered some users on Thursday after it made a donation page automatically appear before it allowed access to leaked documents. Some users are unable to view WikiLeaks material unless they choose to donate money to the site. WikiLeaks said on Twitter that the move was an attempt to counter what it called “high costs in military courts”.

In the statement, Anonymous told its 285,000 followers that WikiLeaks was an “awesome idea ruined by egos” and claimed the site had abandoned the ideals of freedom of expression. “

A Damp Round Up Of World News

Lighter blogging than expected, so it’s a good time for a roundup.

Tom points to David Cameron’s greed, Cameron is the first PM to pocket private rent while living at number 10.

Bob from Brockley argues that the slaughter in Syria is not really covered in the Western media with any vigour. The old adage of, if it bleeds it leads, doesn’t always applied to certain parts of the Middle East.

Sexism down under, as Julia Gillard rips into her conservative opponent.

Owen Jones on Hugo.

To quote Carl Packman: “Why are @GeorgeGalloway and Ken Livingstone silent about their employer giving so many anti-Semites a platform? …”

Elsewhere, Ruskin College is accused of academic vandalism and destroying its own historical records.

Battle of the ads in NYC, the campaign to counter Pam Geller’s bigoted nonsense.

Fit for work? Don’t believe it.

The statistics are frightening: I missed it but the Mirror pointed it out in April 2012. Chris Tattershall’s treatment was atrocious.

“Panorama also revealed that between January and August last year, on average 32 people died every week who the government had declared could be helped back into work in the medium term. “

Malala Yousafzai and the Taliban. As CNN reports:

“The Taliban controlled Malala’s valley for years until 2009, when the military cleared it in an operation that also evacuated thousands of families. Last year, Malala told CNN she feared “being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education. During their rule, the Taliban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching television.” She described how she used to hide her books under her bed, fearing a house search by the Taliban.”

Norm on the Guardian’s pandering. The Beeb’s Malala Yousafzai: Portrait of the girl blogger. Related, the Safe World for Women campaign has a message. Alex Andreou is sharp on the Tories:

“Last year, he framed his speech with “Britannia didn’t rule the waves with her armbands on”. This year he says “it is time to sink or swim”. An elegant, if unwitting, indication of how his thinking has moved on; from foolhardy champion swimmer to panicked doggy-paddler. The UK economy is fast becoming a small makeshift raft, cobbled together from antiquated dogma, U-turns and fiascos, adrift in a sea of global uncertainty. Selling off the planks to passing sharks is not a solution. When the water is ankle-deep, crew and passengers look to the captain for action, not regurgitated rhetoric, however deftly delivered. All he can do is stand there and shout passionately “The Free Market will save us! Enterprise will save us! Aspiration will save us!” Abstract, deified, neoliberal concepts without a smidgeon of policy, detail or budget to back them up. I recognised his speech for what it was: A drowning man’s gurgling prayer. “

Immigration detention centres in Britain. Bradley Burston’s appeal:

“Send a message. The asylum seekers want nothing more than to live productive lives and contribute to this society. It makes much better economic sense to integrate asylum seekers into work places and schools, than it does to waste millions on building, maintaining, and operating centers for endless detention of non-criminals and their children. “

Nikolas Kozloff’s Chomsky, Ali, and the failure to challenge the authoritarian left is damning.

Some say Keynes was right? The IMF?

Trending swastikas? Twitter shows that antisemitism is not dead, not even by half.

Atos and Scotland, I must start reading the Daily Record.

When next you meet a Press TV admirer remind them of how it openly pushes the Far and Extreme Right, plus a whole host of nasty racists.

Julian Assange and leaving Sweden.

Topically, sexual harassment and the 21st century.

Didn’t  anyone see this coming? Jean-Marie Le Pen backs Marine on kippah ban.

The UK Human Rights Blog is always worth reading, in particular, their post on Back in the spotlight: the detention of mentally ill asylum seekers.

In cult news, Scientology and the Nation of Islam. Even the free-wheeling Economist thinks Mitt Romney’s foreign policy is weak:

“In truth, his speech, though grave and stern in its delivery, was pretty short on policies that differ greatly from Mr Obama’s.”

B’Tselem’s camera project.

How a society treats minorities, women and rape victims is emblematic of its priorities.

Nick Lowles on football and how not to tackle racism.

Finally, lest we forget buttons, and why history is important, Kublai Khan.

The Nasty Party In 2012

I suppose, like many who take a passing interest in politics, that I have watched a fair few party political conferences, but what we see on television is only part of it.

Decca Aitkenhead ably reveals the Nasty Party:

“It’s a very different story at an Adam Smith Institute fringe meeting on economic growth later that afternoon. It’s not just standing room only – people can’t even squeeze into the room – but still they hover at the door, hungry for the narcotic blast of high-grade, free-market rhetorical cocaine. “Remember: low taxes and low spending. If you just remember that,” urges a speaker, “a lot of our difficulties will be removed.” The chair despairs of Osborne’s warning that morning to people who don’t pay their taxes (“Why is tax avoidance a priority?”). The mantra is relentless: cut taxes, cut spending, roll back the state.

Only a few years ago this sort of session had been exiled to the fringes of the fringe, confined to diehard followers of John Redwood, but now meetings such as this dominate the week, like a runaway Thatcherite express train hurtling back to the 80s.

Every party conference can become a bit of a parallel universe, safe behind its G4S security cordon, but this takes the bubble mentality to a whole new level. In the real world outside, austerity is hurting and voters are complaining about cuts, but here inside most people put the government’s problems down to being too wet and leftwing. A Populus fringe meeting delivers an avalanche of bad news about the party’s poll ratings, but to a half-empty room; in previous years, when the polling news was good, the Populus meeting was always well attended. Now the party doesn’t seem keen to hear what voters think of them.

Ann Widdecombe’s anti-gay marriage rally, on the other hand, is packed and excitable to the point of pantomime, with Widdecombe on her feet conducting the audience from the stage. “Is that how we want our country to look?” she trills. “No!” everyone roars. “This is not an anti-gay rally, it is defining marriage full stop!” she shrieks. “Yes!” everyone cheers. “

(H/T: @jomccarron)

Greta Berlin, Free Gaza And Racism

I have been away and missed the outburst of anti-Jewish racism from the Free Gaza movement via Greta Berlin.

Jeffrey Goldberg explains it:

“This last theory of his was largely forgotten until last week, when Greta Berlin, a co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, published a message on the group’s Twitter feed: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” It contained a link to a video of Mullins delivering his message.

The Free Gaza group, the leading edge of the international campaign to delegitimize Israel and bring about its end as the national home of the Jewish people, has always argued that it isn’t anti-Semitic, and is merely trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The group came to public attention in May 2010, when it organized a flotilla of ships to attempt to break the blockade. Israeli commandos boarded the ships and were set upon by passengers wielding pipes and knives. In a terrible overreaction, they responded by opening fire, killing nine. The incident has nearly destroyed Turkish-Israeli relations, and helped make the flotilla cause popular across the Middle East and Europe.

Then Berlin’s Twitter message was discovered last week. Berlin said she posted the video without watching it, and that the message was meant for a private Facebook group. Her critics pointed out that the private sharing of Nazi propaganda doesn’t fall into a different moral category than the public sharing of Nazi propaganda, and so she then argued the message was meant to be part of a broader discussion about the nature of hateful propaganda. Free Gaza has officially disowned the post and taken it down.
But this isn’t Berlin’s first dalliance with purveyors of anti-Semitism. She has also endorsed the work of an ex-Israeli Holocaust revisionist (yes, such a person exists) named Gilad Atzmon, author of “The Wandering Who?” Atzmon has argued, among other things, that it was the Jews who persecuted Hitler, and that Jews who commemorate the Holocaust are followers of the “the most sinister religion known to man.”

(more…)

Booze In The Middle East?

You can study a region for the years, think that you know something about it and then be very surprised.

I hadn’t realised that there was an Oktoberfest in the West Bank, but DW Akademie has more:

“Lederhosen and dirndls are rare, but everything else Oktoberfest is found in Taybeh, near Ramallah, in the West Bank. The German festival, celebrated here with home-brewed beer, is a little protest against Israel.

In the unlikely place of Palestinian West Bank, the Schuhplattler dance by the Bavarian brass band dressed in traditional Lederhosen appears rather exotic.

Those singing along to the song “Ein Prosit auf die Gemütlichkeit” (“A toast to coziness”) also stumble across the words at times. But that doesn’t put a damper on the great atmosphere at the “Palestinian Wiesn” in the village of Taybeh, where many visitors – Palestinians and foreigners alike – have traveled to the annual Oktoberfest. “

The Guardian covered this some two years ago:

“There was meat grilling on barbecues, children with painted faces, stalls selling crafts and cakes, a stage for live music and even the odd priest wandering about. And everywhere people were clutching glasses of beer in the afternoon sun.

Welcome to the annual beer festival in the rocky landscape of the West Bank, specifically the village of Taybeh, home to the only brewery in the Palestinian territories.

Around 10,000 people were expected to attend the weekend’s Oktoberfest, which would make it the biggest since the event began in the Christian-dominated village. It is a mark of the festival’s success that the small area around the municipality building was crammed with food stalls doing a lively trade to Palestinian families (both Muslim and Christian), diplomats, aid workers and tourists.

But it was the Taybeh beer itself, briskly selling at 10 shekels (£1.74) for a half-litre glass, that was the star of the show. Made without additives or preservatives and using water from the nearby spring of Ein Samia, Taybeh – which means “delicious” in Arabic – was slipping easily down the throats of thirsty visitors.

Business, according to the brewery’s owner, Nadim Khoury, is booming despite the obvious difficulties of operating in an overwhelmingly abstinent Muslim environment. The brewery faces “many obstacles – religion, culture, occupation, closures” plus a prohibition on advertising alcohol, said Khoury. “I’m on my feet 16 hours a day to promote the beer, going door-to-door, bar-to-bar, hotel-to-hotel. It’s not easy in this part of the world.”

(H/T: Glyn)

Julian Assange Stiffs His Supporters

Julian Assange’s escape into the Ecuadorian embassy has had financial ramifications for some of his supporters, they will have to cough up the money they put up a sureties:

“Backers who stood as sureties for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London have been ordered to pay thousands of pounds.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said the nine had to pay £93,500 by November 6.

Vaughan Smith, a friend who put Assange up at his country mansion for more than a year, addressed Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week on behalf of the nine, who put up £140,000 between them.
He said all those who offered sureties, of varying amounts, are “convinced that they have done and are doing the right thing”.

In his ruling, the Chief Magistrate said he accepted that the nine had all acted in good faith, saying: “I accept that they trusted Mr Assange to surrender himself as required. I accept that they followed the proceedings and made necessary arrangements to remain in contact with him.

“However, they failed in their basic duty, to ensure his surrender. They must have understood the risk and the concerns of the courts.

“Both this court and the High Court assessed that there were substantial grounds to believe the defendant would abscond, and that the risk could only be met by stringent conditions including the sureties,” he said.

Sky News details the amount involved:

“Vaughan Smith has been told to pay £12,000, while another three – Caroline Evans, Phillip Knightley and John Sulston – must each pay £15,000.

Five others – Tricia David, Joseph Farrell, Sarah Harrison, Sarah Saunders and Tracy Worcester – were ordered to pay amounts of between £3,500 and £12,000.”

It makes you wonder why his supporters were arguing that they should be immune from penalty when Assange broke his bail conditions. L’exception Assange?

Still, I doubt Assange’s wealthy supporters will suffer from penury. I imagine that someone such as Vaughan Smith could easily afford £12,000, as long as he laid off the fine wines!

They shouldn’t grumble, their hero has done what he thought best for him.

His rich supporters are paying for their principles, which surely is the best way to prove they have any? But I can’t see him getting any more money from them in future. Once bitten?

Update 1: The Torygraph has more:

“The judge took into account the fact that losing all of their money would have a “significant” impact on some of the sureties, including Prof Tricia David, a retired academic; Sarah Saunders, a friend whose house in East Sussex was a bail address for Mr Assange; and Vaughan Smith, a journalist who owns the Norfolk manor house where he originally stayed after his arrest in 2010.

He added that he “cannot avoid taking some account of their integrity”, and ruled that he would not forfeit “more than is necessary” to protect the system.

The judge ruled that all nine must pay the money demanded in full by November 6th or appear in front of him to say why they should “not be committed to custody for non-payment”.

Under section 120 (3) of the 1980 Magistrates Court Act, he ruled that Prof David must pay £10,000; Lady Evans, the wife of a former Labour minister, £15,000; Joseph Farrell and Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks aides, £3,500 each; Phillip Knightley, a journalist, £15,000; Ms Saunders, £12,000; Mr Smith, £12,000; Sir John Sulston, a biologist, £15,000; and Tracy Worcester, the Marchioness of Worcester, £7,500.

Keeping An Eye On Neofascists And Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Slow blogging for me, but in the interim please do peruse HOPE not hate’s latest, Same old faces at anti-Islam demo. Not surprisingly, it was a day out for a sad mix of extremists and neo-Nazis, but let us not forget that is where anti-Muslim sentiment leads, to the extreme right.

“Jim Dowson’s Britain First had a rare public outing yesterday when they called for a demonstration outside of Parliament.

Despite Dowson now being the fundraiser for the rival “English Democrats”, he’s been all over the internet promoting Britain First as a patriotic, Christian alternative to both the EDL and the BNP.

One assumes Jim will not be happy this morning to hear that his group’s rare outing was hijacked by both the BNP and a host of other far-right extremists including members of the EDL and Eddie Stamton, a devout Hitler admirer and former C18 crank who burned the Saudi flag at the thirty strong demonstration. People also gave Nazi salutes for good measure.”

Nick Lowles and Matthew Collins’ Where now for the British far-right? is worth a read.