Rosa Park, Listening To It

rosaparks1

BBC World Service has a marvellous programme on Rosa Parks:

“The programme also features a never before broadcast interview with Rosa Parks in which she tells biographer James Haskins what it was really like during the years of segregation in the Deep South. In this recording she describes her upbringing and the events that led her to become a civil rights activist. She dispels many of the myths that have grown up around her 1955 ‘act of disobedience’, by revealing that she had already been active in fighting against racial injustice for over a decade; and that she believed even as a child that she was the equal of any white person.”

It is available on Iplayer.

A podcast, Docs: Rosa Parks – Quiet Revolutionary 23 Feb 2013, can be downloaded too.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott site is superb.

Lest we forget, Huff Post has photos of the period.

George Galloway “I don’t debate with Israelis”

I had always thought the George Galloway was a skilful, if devious and often nauseating, politician, but a recent video clip suggests he is none too smart, when caught on the spur of the moment.

Galloway can be seen storming out of a students’ debate saying “I don’t debate with Israelis” and more:

I wonder what the reaction would have been if he’d been a fringe UKIPer saying “I don’t debate with the French”? Hmm.

Update 1: Oxford Student covers it too:

“Mahmood Naji, who runs Oxford Debates and selected Galloway to speak, said before the event: “I chose Galloway because he is probably the most vocal and well-known voice on this issue.

“Oxford is an establishment that should prize free speech and open dialogue more than any other. This is the kind of institution that will put extreme or controversial views up to academic scrutiny and then shoot them down accordingly.”

Galloway has been consistently outspoken in his views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in 2009 received a Palestinian passport from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas are considered a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU.

This was the second time this academic year that Galloway has visited Oxford. In October the former ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ contestant spoke at the Oxford Union, where he was met with protests by members of Oxford Feminist Network. These came after Galloway described allegations of rape facing Wikileaks leader Julian Assange as constituting “bad sexual etiquette”, but added “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion”. These comments led to the NUS passing a motion adopting a ‘no platform’ policy towards the MP.”

Update 2: Liberal Conspiracy has a thread on it, which I imagine will soon be overflowing with toxic comments.

Update 3: Galloway’s employer, Press TV, is more than happy to promote neo-Nazi views.

In this instance from 2011, arguing that the racist forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has a point:

“And as for the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and its Protocol Number 7, its statement that, “the press, which with a few exceptions that may be disregarded, is already entirely in our hands,” is only partially true.

Yes, Press TV of Iran is one of the “few exceptions” to The Lobby’s control of global print and electronically transmitted news and analysis.

Continue reading

Slow Witted Iain Duncan-Smith and LBC’s James O’Brien

LBC’s James O’Brien interviewed Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and gave him a enough rope.

The slow witted Tory didn’t seem to understand half of the questions or the contradictions in his own answers and those of his department.Disturbances across the UK

O’Brien describes his desire to interview IDS:

“I did this because in recent months I have been trying desperately to work out whether he genuinely believes in things that I, and many others, find almost surreally implausible or whether he is, in fact, knowingly delivering rancid and divisive policies to the people while dressing them up as deserved assaults on the feckless and the workshy.

Whether. for example, he really believes that the relationship 500,000 job vacancies and 2.5 million jobseekers is somehow addressed by making some of the latter do unpaid work in the hope of equipping them with what is needed to fill some of the former.

And whether, when his own Department categorically refutes the claim that its schemes cast benefits as remuneration for labour, he really sees no dissonance or contradiction when he talks of people being ‘paid’ with JSA to do ‘work experience’. “

Listen to it here or download as an MP3.

Orwell, Atos and The Tories

Like many, I have read most of Orwell’s work, discussed and debated what he was trying to get at and even questioned some of his later decisions. Not unsurprisingly there is a lot to get to grips with. He was a multifaceted character living in turbulent times and profoundly affected by it.

David Aaronovitch does an excellent job in presenting the views of various scholars, friends and associates of Orwell. Nicely balanced. Over at the BBC Iplayer, The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Readers will remember how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsourced to Atos, eligibility assessments of the disabled. Atos, in return, have been roundly criticised for declaring people to be “fit for work” only to have them die a few weeks later. Charities and other organisations connected with disabilities have pointed out the flaws in Atos’s methodology.

But now, in a bizarre twist, Atos are outsourcing many of those assessments to the NHS.

So the Public sector outsources to the private sector, a nasty task, who in turn outsource it back to parts of, the once, Public sector.

Atos is using this to deflect criticism on how many of those declared fit either die or end up destitute, whilst Atos rakes in millions.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah has been attacking Syrians with rockets.

Mapping child poverty, not something the Tories or their LibDem allies will welcome.

In other news, a UN official wonders about food banks in Britain. I am just waiting for some idiot Tory to trumpet them, saying “…at least we are world leaders in food banks!”

The privatisation of education continues a pace as Gove brings in help to sack people.

Polly Toynbee on the bedroom tax and housing.

Not above shelf stacking.

Finally, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests, well worth a read. I can’t even imagine how scathing George Orwell would have been, of a society which attacks the poorest and weakest whilst selling off the family silver, and for once a Tory was right about something.

Tories, Adulterated Food And Horsemeat

You might suppose, given the recent outburst by Lord Dalmeny, that the Tories are either fools or knaves.

Gummer feeds beefburger to daughter

Such an assessment is fairly incontestable, but the horse meat scandal has shone a stronger light on the Tories’ conduct and actions in government.

We shouldn’t forget that Andrew ­Lansley tried to emasculate the Food Standards Agency in 2010:

“For the past four years the FSA, which was set up to protect consumers after the BSE crisis, has been at the centre of a regulatory battle that has pitted big food companies against consumer groups and public health professionals, with both sides accusing each other of misinformation campaigns and excessive lobbying.”

Critics noted that the end of the FSA was floated days after the health secretary offered a pact with the food industry. “

The mad cow disease crisis in the 1980/90s and its aftermath should have been a wakeup call, however according to Farmers Guardian, the Tory-led government has decided to relax the rules on abattoirs testing cattle for BSE.

According to the BBC, even Edwina Currie “…made a scathing attack on the Conservatives’ record on BSE, the so-called mad cow disease.”
Experts intends that:

“Since the recognition of BSE in 1986, over 180,000 cattle in the UK have developed the disease and 1–3 million are likely to have been infected with the BSE agent, most of which were slaughtered for human consumption before developing signs of the disease.”

So it is perfectly possible that horse meat entered the food chain along before it came out in the press:

“John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told the Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in April that year that he said was ignored.

The letter to former minister Sir Jim Paice on behalf of Britain’s largest horsemeat exporter, High Peak Meat Exports, warned the government that its passport scheme, designed to stop meat containing the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, getting into the food chain was a “debacle”.

“Defra gave nearly 80 organisations the authority to produce passports and some of them are little better than children could produce … It’s a complete mess,” he said.”

Continue reading

David Ward MP, David Duke And His Supporters

Power and privilege affect people’s judgements. Proximity to it changes people, clouds their common sense.

Witness the sense of entitlement that Westminster MPs had, they genuinely could not understand the issue of their excessive expenses claims. These MPs lacked any insight into their own conduct and how others saw them.

So it is with David Ward MP.

A few weeks ago, Ward made sweeping generalisations about “the Jews”, compounded offence with an insincere apology and only then begrudgingly when threatened by the LibDem chief whip.

Now Ward continues on his path of dog whistles, paranoia and is devoid of any self examination.

After his crass behaviour, an unapologetic interview at the Guardian was meant to clear the air and help him, but Ward made things worse:

“There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly and focuses intensely on anyone who’s seen to criticise the state of Israel.”

Later on, Ward had the temerity to email the Jewish News and asked the most facile of questions.

Snap 2013-02-09 at 21.19.06

There are being a number of intelligent responses to David Ward’s idiocy, but I can’t help thinking that nothing will sink in, nevertheless, Rabbi Neil Janes makes the effort:

“Instead of leaping to the conclusion that you are being silenced by a powerful lobby or that you were ‘just’ speaking truth to evil, I advise you to begin to demonstrate your understanding and empathy for all peoples – by the way, it is not just Jews and Palestinians who live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. If you had done that and then voiced your concerns in a measured way, not on Holocaust Memorial Day, you may have found the reaction would have been different.

Continue reading

French Imams, Sellafield Dumping And Syria Round Up

So much to blog so little time to do it. I have been meaning to do a couple of posts and roundups, but never finally get round to finishing off. In the interim, this is a meagre effort.

Given the background to recent events, this visit was a very positive move:

“(JTA) — Dozens of imams have commemorated the Holocaust at a monument near Paris.

Monday’s event took place at Drancy, a suburb of the French capital where tens of thousands of Jews were confined in 1942 before being transported to extermination camps during the German Nazi occupation. The French paper Le Figaro called the event unprecedented.

France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, who also attended the cermony, said the imams’ presence there made for “a very strong image that speaks better than words and speeches,” according to the website of the French television station TF1. He added: “The world needs peace and harmony, people who engage in dialogue and listen.”

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy and a veteran activist for dialogue between Muslims and Jews in France and against anti-Semitism, hosted the imams.

Le Figaro reported at least 100 imams were expected to arrive to Drancy. The event, according to the report, was the initiative of Chalghoumi and the French Jewish novelist Marek Halter.”

Despite six decades of experience, the management Sellafield (Windscale) do not really understand their duties and responsibilities. They have been dumping nuclear waste in landfill sites.

Even Centrica are walking away from these failures.

The tame Public Accounts Committee have criticised the inability to deal with nuclear waste:

“An enormous legacy of nuclear waste has been allowed to build up on the Sellafield site. Over decades, successive governments have failed to get to grips with this critical problem, to the point where the total lifetime cost of decommissioning the site has now reached £67.5 billion, and there’s no indication of when that cost will stop rising.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority believes that its decommissioning plan is credible but it has not been sufficiently tested and uncertainties remain – not least around what precisely is in the waste that lies in the legacy ponds and silos. “

The situation in Syria worsens by the day. The International Rescue Committee’s report made grim reading. Only recently some 800 people were killed in one week. Eight hundred.

Coverage in the Western media barely reflects the seriousness of the situation. Nearly 5,000 are estimated to be killed, every month in Syria. The Daily Beast’s coverage is better than most, but hardly what is needed.

In other news, Chris Huhme won’t be expelled from LibDems for bare faced lying.

Charley Windsor screws the workers.

The F-Word’s Caring and living in poverty is an absorbing piece. Robert Reich’s new documentary, Inequality for All, looks at the issues from an unconventional angle.

Finally, NBC reports on the full-on crisis in Syria:

“”This is a full-on crisis,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. “There was a huge increase in January alone; we’re talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month.”

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

In Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are sometimes contaminated, putting children at an increased risk of diseases, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.”

The BNP Congratulates Neo-Nazis in Greece

Anyone pretending that the British National Party were merely a bunch of concerned citizens, rather than hardcore neofascists, will have to do a lot of explaining.

The BNP’s web site can be seen applauding a Golden Dawn rally and droning on about Social Nationalists (which is presumably the new name for neo-Nazis):

“The preparations for the rally and the march begun from early this morning, preparations suiting the greatest Nationalist march of the last decade.

The streets around the monument are filled with Greek flags and the banners of the Party, while our slogans rocked the surroundings. Those attending saluted the newcomers with cheers.

The Parliamentary Team of the Golden Dawn, the General Secretary and representatives of Regional Organizations all over Greece.

At the peak of the gathering, 50.000 Nationalists honoured the memory of those that fell in Imia, in 1996.

Speeches were given by many comrades, including the Greek Popular Front of occupied Cyprus.

Once the memorial ended, the Greek National Anthem and the Hymn of the Golden Dawn were sung.

The post on the BNP web site provides direct links to Golden Dawn’s YouTube page, where bucket loads of neofacist propaganda can be found.

This is a reminder about the awful, neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn:

Golden Dawn_Salute1



[Pictured above are Golden Dawn supporters giving the Nazi salute, with Nikolaos Michaloliakos, their leader walking by.]

Michaloliakos called Hitler “a great personality of history”.

The Guardian provided an in-depth look at them, Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right.

At Searchlight, 30,000 Golden Dawn Supporters March in Athens Under Neo-Nazi Banners.

The Observer’s 2009, Exposed: ugly face of BNP’s leaders.

Haaretz on Greek mythology.

Finally, Golden Dawn’s leader makes excuses for the Nazis’s crime. That is what the BNP admire.

Update 1: Spiegel Online is reporting that Golden Dawn are linking up with German neo-Nazis:

“The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn has established contacts with German neo-Nazis in Bavaria. The group, which is represented in Greek parliament, is also attempting to set up a cell in the southern German state.

The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn is establishing close contacts with Bavarian neo-Nazis and began setting up a cell in Nuremberg last year. The party, known in Greek as Chrysi Avgi, even held a conference in the southern German city recently.

Bavaria’s state intelligence agency is particularly interested in meetings that have been taking place between right-wing extremists from Greece and those in Bavaria.

Is Liberal Conspiracy Hung Up on Jews?

Snap 2013-02-01 at 18.35.06

I like Liberal Conspiracy. As a blog it has much to recommend it, there is a diversity of posters and a variety of topics.

Well, that’s what I like to think, however, some of its recent posts suggests an unhealthy concentration.

At Liberal Conspiracy within the space of a few days, there have been two, rather mean spirited and fairly questionable, posts.

Scarfe.

One which seemed to categorically argue that nothing was wrong with Gerald Scarfe’s offensive cartoon.

Another takes a pop at the Jewish Chronicle’s editor, Stephen Pollard.

The former, I could, just with some effort, understand. There is a debate to be held on what constitutes racism towards Jews. There is a diversity of opinions on this lurid cartoon, but to argue emphatically that it couldn’t ever be seen as offensive to one particular ethnic minority is silly, in the extreme.

The fact the author of the posts doesn’t find such cartoons offensive doesn’t mean other people can’t, or see elements of the past in it, as Mark Gardner argued:

“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.

But as I say, there is a debate to be held on these issues. I feel the way the Liberal Conspiracy brushed over, even the possibility, that this cartoon, content and timing could be seen as offensive, was intellectually loutish and distasteful.

Pollard And Cartoons.

[Up front: I am not a fan of Stephen Pollard, still less his time at the awful Daily Express.]

The other post is ostensibly on Stephen Pollard’s hypocrisy on offensive cartoons.

The post goes on to argue that Pollard is guilty of double standards, etc. Apparently, condoning the publication of the anti-Prophet cartoons but decrying ones when they are aimed at Jews. Some of the commentators point out the obvious difference between, right to publish and having the sense sometimes not to.

Pollard’s own arguments can be heard in this audio extract of the BBC Radio 4 Today programmme. They are more sophisticated than the post suggests.

Initially, I had put the odious tone of the post down to another spat between media types. It seems fairly common. The underlying argument is normally disregarded as an opportunity to settle scores.

Not very edifying, but such is the media. Then I began to ponder alternative possibilities, and I did not like them. To settle scores but with whom?

Hung Up on an ethnicity?

For quite some time I had noticed that the comment boxes at Liberal Conspiracy often became cluttered with nasty remarks, in one certain direction. Time and again, there were the stray arguments of the Far and Extreme Right. Most covered with euphemisms, but a well-worn animus was evident. Those common themes.

I have seen such derangement at Comment is Free, and it seems prevalent in parts of the British media.

Yet I debated, was a persistent sub-plot at Liberal Conspiracy that I was missing? Not in the comments, but the articles and their focus.

Analysing Bias

Fortunately, there was a methodology which was developed many years back, to remove my or anyone else’s subjective judgement.

It is fairly simple.

You tally up the articles around a certain subject matter and then categorise them, negative or positive. If that result is balanced or within expected tolerances that is one thing. However, if the majority of the articles are hostile towards one or more particular ethnicity then there is an issue. The Over Coming Hate portal discusses these issues and its section, Fanning The Flames, provides a useful background on the media, racism and the issues. Teun A. van Dijk’s Racism and the Press is helpful in explaining some of the issues [PDF].

Gwen Sharp summarised one application of this approach, Who’s Reporting The News? An Analysis By Race And Ethnicity.

If I ever get the time I might apply those techniques to Liberal Conspiracy and see what patterns come out.

Personally, I would prefer if Liberal Conspiracy employed its usually politically sophisticated approach to this and related subjects.

Yet I am not sure that will happen where one particular ethnicity is concerned. Worrying.

Update 1: This is a fair summary of the arguments about Scarfe’s cartoon from the JLC:

  • “Jews (and others) throughout the country reacted to this cartoon with a visceral disgust that is unprecedented in recent years. This was due to the gratuitous and offensive nature of the image, made worse by its use of blood and its being published by Britain’s leading Sunday newspaper on Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Blood has a long and ugly tradition within the history of anti-Semitism, premised upon the notorious medieval Blood Libel, with Jews being alleged to steal the blood of others for religious purposes. The use of blood, including on occasion the actual Blood Libel, persists in extreme Arab and Iranian anti-Israel propaganda. It is a profoundly disturbing example of the adaptation of anti-Semitism for modern day usage.
  • These historical and contemporary contexts have racist impacts upon victims and proponents alike. This is why so many Jews were wounded by the cartoon, regardless of the initial motivations of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times.

Update 2: This is a good interview with Jeremy Newmark from Radio 5 Live, as an MP3.

Update 3: Marc Goldberg looks more broadly at these issues, nevertheless argues:

“But what I hated was the timing of all this, for me an undercurrent of hostility which occasionally raises it’s head, the dark side of an England in which I was hard pressed to feel at home came into the light. The Holocaust Educational Trust has done sterling work in making sure that the tragic event that saw so many Jewish communities in Europe wiped out has become a part of the national consciousness but there has been a blowback effect, the likes of David Ward and Gerald Scarfe put this on centre stage and the people who rallied around Ward in particular, show off the extent to which this is a point of view that is bigger than him alone.

Update 4: Mark Gardner in 2010 wrote:

“Anti-racists must condemn anti-Jewish racism as readily as they would any other type of racism. Anything less and they risk fostering the notion, seductive for a dangerous minority, that antisemitism in the name of anti-Israel hatred is somehow a legitimate form of political protest. On previous occasions when we have tried to discuss the issue of antisemitism on this forum, we have been accused of various things. First, that we are part of some global conspiracy to shut down criticism of Israel. Second, that the figures are fake and exaggerated. Third, that even though the figures are lies, they paradoxically prove that the escalation in antisemitic incidents is the fault of Israel and the fault of Jewish representative bodies. Indeed, the fault of everybody but antisemites.”

Update 5: For the moment, the final word will go to a poster at Liberal Conspiracy:

“32. Shatterface 10:53 pm, February 1, 2013

  • attacking someone for hypocrisy is a weasely way of dodging the main issue which is the continual use of antisemitic tropes by British cartoonists.
  • It’s perfectly possible to criticise the Israeli politics without falling back on stereotypes of big-nosed puppeteers using blood as an ingredient just as it is possible to comment on African politics without images of black people with bones through their noses cooking missionaries in a pot
  • or, for that matter, portraying the English as football hooligans with the George Cross tattooed across their faces. ” [My emphasis.]

Update 6: Certainly, whatever your opinion of Liberal Conspiracy’s choice of topic, many of its posters have grotesque views:

“46. sara ann 12:27 pm, February 3, 2013

why is it wrong to not like Israel or Judaism?

we are encouraged not to like say iran, argentina, mali etc and certainly to dislike Islam .”

Update 7: Barely a week passes and Liberal Conspiracy are at it again.

A nonsensical and linguistically illiterate piece attempts to compare David Ward MP’s disparaging remarks with those of the Israeli Prime Minister, Why is there no backlash when Benjamin Netanyahu focuses on “the Jews”?

I suppose the simple answer is context.

Here is an easy example, suppose a tattooed neo-Nazi skinhead went around making disparaging remarks about ethnic minorities and then invokes the “N” word. Suppose that.

Would it be the same if an Afro-American rapper used that awful expression in the song? No, of course, not.

But that’s an argument often heard on the Far Right: that because ethnic minorities occasionally use the “N” word that therefore it is legitimate for the Far Right to use it. All nonsense but that’s how they argue.