2012

A Poor Excuse For Rationalists

As an atheist, secularist and rationalist I should be within the ideal catchment area for the Rationalist Association.

I should be, but I am not.

Having read their recent contributions to the discussion over Richard Dawkins’s conflating Islam with Muslims as a bloc, and studiously avoiding the issue of why he retweeted material from an EDL sympathiser I am less than impressed at their rationality.

I don’t mind a polemic. But to be oblivious of racism in Britain, not to understand the nature of the English Defence League and to reflectively defend Richard Dawkins is not rational, even for the Rationalist Association.

Daniel Trilling’s moderate piece on how we need to get beyond Richard Dawkins has set the cat among the pigeons and brought out some rather irrational rationalists.

Not good.

Update 1: A reminder of what a self-confess Dawkins fan said:

“Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion.

Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.“[My emphasis.]

Update 2: I was probably a bit harsh, not all at the Rationalist Association are purblind to racism.

Paul Sims wrote a good piece in 2011, Demonising Muslims: When does criticism of religion cross the line into racism?

“Whatever the debates over terminology, it seems clear that there is a serious problem with anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain and, indeed, beyond. “All across Europe we have seen right-wing extremists moving more and more to using attacks on Islam as a way of using fear to win people to their cause,” says Sam Tarry, a campaign organiser at the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate. Of the extremist groups tracked by Tarry and his colleagues the most high-profile in recent years has been the English Defence League, which emerged in the aftermath of a protest in 2009 against homecoming troops in Luton by the extremists of Islam4UK, the now-proscribed group led by Anjem Choudary. Drawing on pre-existing networks of right-wing extremists and football hooligans, the EDL positioned itself specifically in opposition to what it called “militant Islam” and organised street demonstrations in towns with large Muslim populations, drawing attendances of up to 2,000 by the spring of last year.

While EDL leaders maintain that their concern is with Islamic extremism, Tarry says their marches target a far broader section of society. “They’ve actually hardened their position over the last two years,” he explains. “Now they are pretty much saying they are against Islam itself as a religion, that it’s evil, that it’s incompatible with the West, and this feeds into a whole other set of arguments that they make about the general Islamification of Britain.” Hope Not Hate estimate that the demonstrations, which have frequently descended into violence, have cost the taxpayer as much as £25 million in policing and have caused serious damage to community relations. “I was there in Leicester [in October 2010] when they managed to break through police lines,” says Tarry. “Around 500 managed to rampage through the city centre and attack a halal fast food restaurant, smashing windows and storming it. In terms of victimising a particular community in this way, we haven’t really seen this kind of behaviour since the days of the National Front.” “

Newsnight, Paul Mason And Spanish Neofascism

Paul Mason’s report on the resurgence of Spanish neofascism is a must see.

It is available on Iplayer, starts 01:05.

The Wikipedia entry on España 2000 is quite revealing.

I hope that Newsnight have the wits to release the clip onto YouTube, allowing it to reach a wider audience.

Over in Egypt

President Morsi’s move to give himself almost dictatorial powers was generally condemned, but his swift move to ratify the new constitution was a canny ploy.

Now the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is mobilising all of its supporters and those dependent on it to push through this regressive constitution. However, many Egyptians are aggrieved by these actions and are actively demonstrating against them.

The Guardian’s coverage is good, and the fact that the new regime is using the old security apparatus against ordinary civilians should not surprise anyone:

“Egyptian security forces have clashed with opponents of Mohamed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo to protest against his assumption of new powers.

The march came amid rising anger over decrees Morsi has passed that give him sweeping powers. Opponents say the drafting of a new constitution has been rushed and is a move towards dictatorial rule. Morsi has called for a referendum on the draft constitution on 15 December.

Marchers chanted that “the people want the downfall of the regime”, and held placards bearing slogans of “no to the constitution”. “

Post US 2012 Presidential Election Thoughts

A random pile of US election insights, links and wit.

Fox News didn’t have a good night, Watch Fox News Chew Its Own Leg Off in a Fury of Recrimination.

Huff Post and idiotic GOPers, US Election: The Funniest Angry Republican Twitter Responses To Barack Obama’s Victory.

On voting, Hollywood tweets on the Obama win, sexy voting and Karl Rove.

How Wall Street gambled on Romney and lost! Wall Street left to rebuild Obama ties after backing Romney.

Gary Younge from Chicago, Obama’s second victory is more low key, but in some ways more impressive.

Bigots can’t take it, Obama’s reelection sparks racially charged protest at Ole Miss.

At Labour List, 5 lessons for Labour from Obama 2012.

Again, Fox News provides their own excuses as to why Romney lost.

Netanyahu handling of Obama has backfired, so he’s told his MKs to shut up for fear of causing more offence.

Peter’s The Times They Are A Changin’.

Bad losers, Karl Rove melts down after Fox News calls Ohio for Obama.

Elizabeth Ann Warren’s win.

Most racist moments of the election, not pretty but Donald Trump gets a lookin.

Ever the politician, Boris Johnson buries news.

Markos Moulitsas is good and thoughtful.

Photos from the NYT.

GOPers might like this, How To Cope If Your Candidate Lost.

Talking of losers, Fox News Slowly Loses Its Mind Over Election Results.

From the Middle East, Likud and Islamic Jihad Decry Election Results.

Finally, as younger readers might say, Mel Phillips, has jumped the shark. Unbelievable nonsense, completely detached from reality, like reading a poisonous discharge from the John Birch Society. Glad I never read her in the first place!

Donald Trump And The Egalitarianism Of Twitter

There is one marvellous aspect to Twitter, its egalitarianism.

Class, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation and wealth are all irrelevant.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire, a millionaire or just someone with access to the Internet, you are all equal.

Twitter judges you on the contents of your tweets, not your wealth, and this has proved to be a problem for the likes of Donald Trump.

He is a regular Twitter user, but despite a vast wealth his idiocy is laid bare on Twitter.

Trump rants and raves with ease yet struggles to make the most elementary arguments.

He tries to delete his more idiotic comments but thankfully New York magazine has captured a few of them.

Update 1: One of Trump’s previous stupid tweets.

Crooks and Liars have more.

US Presidential Election 2012 Part Round Up

This is a partial round up of the US Presidential Election 2012, it is highly subjective as it is still going on and the final votes are not in yet.

If Romney wins as a picture!

The BBC’s America votes: scenes from the US election.

MIT or MITT? Florida Polling Place Denies Entry to Woman with an MIT T-Shirt.

Daily Kos Elections 2012 coverage.

Wow, Family of anti-gay Republican candidate for US Senate take out newspaper ad – against him.

Politics Home US elections – live.

Estimated declaration time in the US.

HOPE, not hate:

Mapping America’s Election Night and Tea Party vandals launch racist attack on Obama posters.

The Guardian live coverage is good.

This 2008 article by Mitt Romney might have lost him the election, Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.

Some intelligent comments at the Atlantic.

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:

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!

Rounding Up Racism, Misogyny And Craig Murray

In Australia, there is no shortage of Far Right headbangers:

“The Australian Protectionist Party firebrand joins a growing number of controversial far-right candidates chasing the xenophobic vote at next month’s council elections.

Australia First, the anti-immigration party hoping to fill the political void left by One Nation, is running 23 candidates across western and south Sydney and the Blue Mountains, up from 15 at the last council poll.

The party’s website takes aim at the Channel Ten program The Shire and its sprinkling of ethnic characters, labelling it ”media contrived assimilation”. Several candidates attempt to link urban sprawl and rate increases to immigration.

The artist Sergio Redegalli, who painted the controversial ”Say no to burqas” sign outside his Newtown workshop, is making a first-time bid for Marrickville Council as an independent.

Mr Folkes, 42, an industrial painter from Rozelle, wants Leichhardt council declared a ”sharia-free zone” and would scrap council grants to multicultural groups.
”There is a vacuum in politics at the moment. We believe that a lot of people, in time, will definitely vote for us,” he said.

History indicates that day is a long way off. Mr Folkes attracted 289 votes, or 0.6 per cent of the vote, when he ran as an independent for the seat of Balmain last year.

A University of Western Sydney immigration expert, Kevin Dunn, said only 12 per cent of Australians held negative views towards cultural diversity and that anti-immigration candidates typically polled badly.

But their agendas could influence council decisions on issues such as building mosques or religious schools, especially during times of national unrest over boat arrivals.”

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Livingstone Defeated By The Web

Rob Marchant has an astute piece up at the New Statesman on Ken Livingstone’s mayoral defeat.

How politicians have to realise that modern technology allows their every action and word to be scrutinised and verified. So, if politicians try to play it fast and loose, saying one thing here and another there then they will soon be caught out.

In fact, it holds true for all those in the public eye. Be more careful what you say and to whom.

Rob argues:

“The free-and-easy availability of information makes it easier to catch politicians out: and if you speak as carelessly as the Labour candidate always has, you will be caught out not once but repeatedly; which is what has happened. Trust, or the lack of it, is what stopped the Livingstone bandwagon in its tracks. That’s the beauty of twenty-first century politics: it requires politicians who say the same to everyone.

In short, it is perhaps Livingstone’s failure to adapt to this new world that has most contributed to his astonishing achievement: of gifting a campaign, which should really have been won, to his enemies, on a very good night for Labour. “

Real Election News: Neo-Nazis Win In Greece

There is no shortage of elections across Europe, from parts of Britain all away to Greece, stopping off at France in between.

Each election appears, to its participants, to be the most important.

In Britain, the Tories were given a drubbing and only had the consolation of the London Mayoral win to save them from complete embarrassment.

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy’s hapless Presidency has come to an end. The none too radical François Hollande has succeeded him.

In Greece, the traditional parties have been decimated, but more critically one of the beneficiaries has been Greek neo-Nazis.

Nowadays, the term neo-Nazi is occasionally used loosely to suggest, someone nasty, someone horrible, but in this case it is very clear that the epithet is not wasted.

Chrysi Avyi (Golden Dawn) is the real thing. There is no pretence with them. There is none of the camouflage used by their British and French fellow travellers.

Golden Dawn are the genuine article, Hitler loving, flag-waving neo-Nazis.

At last projections they could have 22 seats in the Greek parliament, yes, twenty-two.

That is the real news from the elections, the scary news as any thinking person will realise.

London 2012: Ken Lost It, Boris Didn’t Win It.

The old political adage that elections are lost, not won seems to apply to the London Mayoral race of 2012.

Boris Johnson has managed to win the position of London Mayor, in the face of a countrywide defeat for the Tories.

Part of it has been personality, partly keeping his head down and the other, the benefit of running against Ken Livingstone.

Unlike the GLA results, natural Labour supporters did not flock to Ken Livingstone’s campaign.

On paper they should have, his policies seemed good and promised much.

However, the political baggage that Livingstone drew along from his questionable tax activities to his communalism soured many people’s attitudes towards him.

In the last few years of his previous administration, Livingstone showed an insensitivity and arrogance which were his undoing.

Rob Marchant, a solid Labour member and previously a Labour Party manager, was just one who felt he couldn’t vote for Ken.

There were many more:

“Despite a late wobble, Johnson was predicted to have secured a four-point lead on first preferences in London, enough to protect him even if the bulk of second preferences of other candidates went to his dogged Labour rival, Ken Livingstone. Labour activists rounded on Livingstone for crassly insulting Jewish voters. It was pointed out that in seats with strong Jewish communities, such as Barnet, the Labour candidate outpolled his Tory rival by 21,000, yet in the mayoral election in the same seat Johnson beat Livingstone by 24,000.”

But let us not weep for Ken Livingstone, he’s not poor or without earnings.

If nothing else he can prostitute his principled and work for Press TV, again.
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London Elections Results 2012

I should have posted this before, but forgot.

These are some good sites with details of the election results. They are getting inundated with requests so are a bit slow on occasions.

London Elects.

London Elects Mayor of London.

The Guardian’s Politics blog.

Torygraph’s local elections.

The Beeb’s Politics section and Mayoral Election 2012 (when they are counted).

Finally, Hope NOT hate’s blog.