Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"We will not be taking questions from the press"

Via Man in a Shed - the BBC's Sarah Mukherjee describes yesterday's Stern Report press conference.

The North Koreans would be proud.

Leftie Academics Demand Bigger Licence Fee

From the Media Guardian (registration required):
A group of 14 senior academics have attacked the BBC's commercial competitors insisting that they are attempting to "diminish" the corporation by lobbying for a lower licence fee settlement... The letter says the BBC is a "trusted ambassador for Britain" and calls on the government not to force the corporation to "reduce its vision or scale through the back door of inadequate funding".
The full letter and signatories can be seen here. The Guardian comments:
The calibre of the signatories will be hard for the government to ignore as it decides the BBC's promised settlement this autumn.
Let's have a look at some of those signatories.

Andrew Graham is a former economic adviser to the Labour Party and a current member of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian and Observer. Less money for the BBC would mean less advertising revenue for the Guardian.

Steven Barnett is a former Observer columnist, a "frequent commentator on radio and TV programmes", and has made a film as part of BBC 4's TV on Trial in 2005. Wouldn't want all that extra work to dry up, eh Steven?

Andrew Gamble co-edited Marxism and Social Science: “This major reassessment of the relevance of Marxism in the social sciences decisively rebuts claims that it has been consigned to the dustbin of history by the collapse of communism and apparent triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy.”

Donald Sassoon is author of One Hundred Years of Socialism, Tom O’Malley co-authored a book with ex-Labour MP Clive Soley, David Marquand is a former Labour MP, and Jean Seaton is the official historian of the BBC in the 1980s (yes, apparently there is) and widow of Labour historian Ben Pimlott. Sonia Livingstone, Sylvia Harvey, Bob Franklin, and James Curran are all professors in various media studies-type departments. Simon Frith is “a sociologist who specializes in popular music culture”.

Best of all, I think, is Professor Georgina Born. She wrote this:
This paper is based on the experience of doing an 'engaged' institutional ethnography of the BBC, one that attempted to provide 'useful' knowledge of relevance to policy, government and the world of media practitioners, while at the same time remaining experimental in form, analysis and scope. One feature of the study was an ethnographically-grounded critique of the BBC's institutional racism, which led me to write back to the institution and policy-makers to argue for the necessity of the BBC responding to 'cosmopolitan' realities in its employment practices and programming. The paper reflects on the paradox entailed in making such arguments to an institution like the BBC utilising similar reified and reifying terms that the institution itself employs as part of its armoury of defences against criticism and change - such as its 'accountability to its publics'. The paradox echoes Debbora Battaglia's observation (citing Derrida) that in identity politics, 'cultural identity presents itself, paradoxically, as "the irreplaceable inscription of the universal in the singular"'. On the other hand, the paper details also the BBC's imperfect attempts to engage with the messy complexity of its audiences' experiences, and to weave the insights back into its practices - to translate the rhetorics into operational form. Can we utilise terms such as 'cosmopolitanism' as a short-hand in exchanges with dominant public institutions in applied anthropology without risking a descent into the abstractions of contemporary social theory, which abjure specificity and complexity? Does the practice of applied anthropology, which speaks for or in alliance with 'others' in its engagements with powerful bodies, necessarily require such a reduction? Is such a reduction in tension with the nature of anthropological knowledge?
You couldn't make it up.

BBC drama

First we had this two-parter from the BBC’s Spooks, reviewed by a correspondent to Melanie Phillips' blog:
The main plot involves a group of ruthless Mid-East hijackers who take over a London embassy and shoot people every hour. They turn out (of course) to be Jews in disguise. We have a Jewish traitor in high places with dialogue invoking the classic ‘can’t serve two masters’ accusation: ‘I asked which side he would fight on in a war between Britain and Israel. He just gave me his answer.’ The plot also relies on the same argument as the 9/11 conspiracy theory that Mossad blew up the twin towers because Muslims aren’t smart enough: MI5 realise the baddies must be Jewish because they’re too clever for their own good (and merciless and self-serving, naturally).
Now here's last night’s episode, as described in the Telegraph TV guide:
Adam is sent to infiltrate a Christian extremist group that is launching a terror campaign on Muslim targets. He finds his man and discovers a planned attack on a Manchester mosque, but his mole has also caught the eye of the Israeli secret service, who pick an inopportune moment to attempt an assassination.
This Thursday sees the start of a new drama series, The State Within. From the Telegraph guide:
Four minutes into the first episode, a terrorist bomb explodes aboard a plane that’s just left a US airport, killing everyone on it… At first, the bombing seems to have been perpetrated by a British Muslim…
Let me guess - and I'm going out on a limb here - the bomber isn't really a British Muslim?

And I see that last week’s episode of the BBC’s PC version of Robin Hood actually had the hero reading the Quran. Well, at least it impresses trendy metropolitan wet-liberal multiculti Islamofascist-hugging pinko-poofters like BBC cheerleader Dave Hill. I'm sure Dave will love this Saturday's programme which sees Robin freeing some Saracen slaves. Who knows, the Quran-reading anti-imperialist bowman might even join them in prayer.

Now, what was it the BBC chiefs were saying?

Director general Mark Thompson:
Judging by some of the headlines over the past week, there are people out there who think the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism.

Like all the best conspiracy-theorists, though, they don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Deputy director general Mark Byford:
"I do not accept that the BBC is crammed full of soft liberals."

Head of BBC News Helen Boaden:
"I found their claim of liberal bias unconvincing."

Monday, October 30, 2006

DFH in the Jewish Chronicle

Belated thanks to Little Bulldogs for this scan from the Jewish Chronicle.

Stern and the consensus view

In a recent article about the consensus view on climate change, the Telegraph’s Ruth Lea made the following observations:
Economics, albeit more prosaically, has also been subject to fads, whims and consensus views to which history has not been kind.

Twenty-five years ago Britain was at an economic crossroads. The credibility of the British economy was collapsing as inflation and unemployment soared, manufacturing output slumped and the national debt spiralled upwards. Margaret Thatcher and her Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, concluded that drastic action was required. Taxes were raised by £4bn (then a huge sum) in the 1981 Budget in order to provide scope for lower interest rates and tackle public sector borrowing. There was, unsurprisingly, substantial political opposition.

But, of more interest, 364 economists signed a letter to The Times stating that there was "no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence" for Sir Geoffrey's policy and that it threatened Britain's "social and political stability". An alternative course of action must be pursued, these savants insisted.

Almost the entire academic economic establishment stood against the Government with a mere handful of brave "mavericks" dissenting from the consensus view. But, as we now know, the letter's signatories were wrong because they believed in the then ubiquitous, but faulty, Keynesian consensus of the time.

Moreover, not only did the economics establishment regard Sir Geoffrey's Budget as fundamentally flawed, they also took the same view of the mavericks' judgments. This is instructive. Many in academia seem to believe that "peer-reviewed" research guarantees impartial, sound and independent assessment. It does not. Mavericks can be marked down and dismissed by their consensus-minded peers. Dissension is rarely popular.

The story of the 364 economists should be a warning to all who give the impression that the consensus view is an impregnable fortress of truth.
One of the 364 signatories was a certain professor from Warwick University:

I wonder what he's up to these days...
Climate change could shrink the global economy by a fifth at a cost of up to £3.68 trillion unless drastic action is taken, a review is to warn.

But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, economist Sir Nicholas Stern says.

Update. Philip Chaston at Samizdata comments:
The Letter from David Miliband, the appointment of the political failure Al Gore and the report by Stern are all designed to provide the intellectual ballast for continued government expansion. These taxes are politically unpalatable and would be rejected by the electorate, if levied without green cover. Therefore, climate change and catastrophism are the reasons for a 'greener than thou' ratchet effect, where politicians use Britain and our money to puff themselves up as a moral example for others.
Talking of Al Gore...

(Part one)

(Part two)

(Part three)

I'm back

I was away a bit longer than I anticipated. Did I miss much?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Drinking Away From Home Again

Bye 'til next week.

(Comments are off in case yesterday's trolls return in my absence. Sorry.)

Ahmadinejad threatens Israel, Europe, the World

Iran's president has warned that Muslims around the world will take revenge on states who supported Israel against the Palestinians...

It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow."

The "ultimatum" was directed at European states in particular.

"We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away, but you are the neighbours of the nations in this region," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

"We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt."

...Mr Ahmadinejad said Israel no longer had any reason to exist and would soon disappear. "This regime, thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence. Efforts to stabilise this fake regime, by the grace of God, have completely failed."
Earlier this week:
While the West is preparing to impose sanctions on Iran, due to the country's failure to suspend its nuclear activities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still optimistic. "We shall win," he was quoted in the Iranian media as saying Monday, and added: "One day I will be asked whether I have been in touch with someone who told me we would win, and I will respond: 'Yes, I have been in touch with God'."
And who else might this nutter have 'been in touch with'? Here's Israel's ambassador to the UN yesterday (hat tip "yet to use"):
"Today I learned that Iran had paid USD 50 million to Hamas in order to torpedo the deal to the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. If Iran is willing to pay so much money to solve a humanitarian issue, it is frightening how much they will be willing to pay to torpedo any diplomatic initiative to block their nuclear efforts," Gillerman said, referring to an item first published by Yedioth Ahronoth Thursday morning.

Naughtie joins Pilger in Bush is Stupid hilarity

'Bush is stupid' jokes are par for the course for someone like Pilger, but how can the BBC justify its own journalists joining in?

It’s extremely rare for a Today presenter to butt in and comment during a colleague’s interview but James “Bush Derangement Syndrome” Naughtie couldn’t resist this morning. During a discussion about Bush’s recent comments on the Tet offensive, Carolyn Quinn (I think, but possibly Sarah Montague) asked John Pilger (who else?) what he thought Bush meant...
Pilger: Who knows what he meant? (Laughs)
Interviewer: (Laughs)
Naughtie : (Laughs) Can he remember?
Pilger: I watched it. I don’t think he knew really what country he was in. I doubt whether he’d heard of the Tet Offensive.
Listen to the clip - mp3 (40 secs) or hear the full piece as streaming audio (the Pilger interview begins 2:50 in)

Ex-BBC reporter Robin Aitken commented on the anti-Bush editorial line of the Today programme in a Telegraph interview last year:
“Last autumn, Today sent Jim Naughtie over to Washington to cover what they imagined would be the defeat of America’s knuckle-dragging President,” he says.

“And what did we hear? Jim reporting Bush’s re-election through gritted teeth. Honestly, it would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh.”
This morning's intervention from Naughtie shows they've now dropped all pretence of objectivity.

[And the BBC can't claim this was just a slip of the tongue, as they did when Naughtie referred to the Labour Party as "we" during an interview with Ed Balls (mp3).]

C of E school should employ only Muslims

[This is a re-post. The previous thread got taken over by someone impersonating regulars and I can't be bothered sorting it all out. I've saved all the comments - if there's anything anyone particularly wants re-posting then email me. Sorry to do it this way but I'm going away for a week tomorrow and I'm not wasting time picking over the comments of trolls]

Yorkshire Post:
An Islamic educational trust has called for a Yorkshire school at the centre of the row over women wearing full face veils to sack all of its teachers who are not bilingual Muslims.

Headfield CE Junior School in Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, has been thrust into the national spotlight by the suspension of 23-year-old classroom assistant Aishah Azmi for refusing to remove her veil while teaching.

She has been suspended from her job as a bilingual support worker helping children who have English as a second language since February. And she has taken her employers Kirklees Council to a tribunal on grounds of religious discrimination.

The authority claims Mrs Azmi needs to communicate face-to-face with children to do her job properly. A decision is expected this month.

Now the London School of Islamics has defended Mrs Azmi's actions.

Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamics said: "It is not the fault of the veil and its wearer that the school is at the bottom of the educational ladder. It is the fault of the teaching staff who are monolinguals and who are unable to communicate with the children who can't speak English in a local accent.

"The staff as well as the head teacher should be replaced by bilingual Muslim teachers
who are in a position to impart bilingual education right from nursery level. I hope that within a couple of years the school would be at the top of the educational ladder."
From what I can gather the London School of Islamics ceased to be a school in the 1980s, and now appears to be little more than a one-man lobby demanding public funds for Muslim schools. (How long will it be before there are more Islamic organisations in Britain than actual Muslims?)

Here are some more helpful suggestions from Iftikhar Ahmad:
State funded Muslim schools need Muslim teachers. Highly qualified teachers can be recruited from Muslim countries for the teaching of National Curriculum, Islamic Studies, Arabic and Urdu languages so that Muslim children do not find themselves cut off from their cultural and linguistic roots. The study of Comparative religions is not required because Islam teaches respect, tolerance and understanding of those who are different from them.
And more:
It is the state schools who have been producing intolerance. Citizenship lessons do not make full sense” unless they are taught within the context of Islam. In the same way Multicultural studies should also be taught in the context of Islam. Just because people do not throw bricks at each other on a daily basis, does not mean everything is rosy in the garden. We do need a common sense of British Identity but it has nothing to do with “common values or shared culture”. We can learn from Ottoman multi ethnic empire which achieved remarkable degree of religious tolerance. Terrorism is nothing to do with British Muslim community... Islam does not believe in integration but encourages participation and feel responsibility in the British society. (sic)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Britain - No 1 Target

The Guardian leader comment, August 17:
...French, Dutch and German ministers are said to support ethnic profiling, while the usual suspects within the British media have taken up the call, attracted by a naive utilitarian argument that since young, male Muslims are the likeliest perpetrators, the easiest means of increasing security would be to single them out for special attention. The EU and the British government would be wise to resist such calls - not only is ethnic profiling counterproductive and antagonistic, it is also dangerously ineffective.
The Guardian today:
Britain now No 1 al-Qaida target - anti-terror chiefs

...Britain is an easier target, they have concluded, because of its traditional links with Pakistan which is visited by tens of thousands of people each year. Intelligence agencies have found it very difficult to penetrate the camps there... Potential new recruits are carefully selected and targeted - mainly Muslim men in their late teens and early 20s...
Remember - we must resist the calls for ethnic profiling. I mean, what possible good could it do?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ch-Charsss Kendenny

From The Sun:
CHARLES Kennedy was axed as host of an awards ceremony last night — after organisers decided he was not fit to deliver a speech.

Kennedy, who quit as Lib-Dem leader over booze problems, allegedly slurred his words at a dress rehearsal yesterday afternoon.

Mr Kennedy reportedly stumbled over his lines and struggled to read an autocue...

Mr Kennedy’s spokeswoman claimed last night there were "some problems with the script"
As Guido points out, a euphemism with the potential of legend.

Talking of Charles Kennedy and rehearsals, remember this?

The BBC and England

Today's press release from the National Audit Office about the abject failures of the Rural Payments Agency was titled:
"Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Rural Payments Agency: the delays in administering the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England"
The release states clearly:
The Rural Payments Agency is responsible for administering single payment scheme payments in England. Payments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are handled by the devolved administrations.
And here is how the BBC reported it:
A series of government mistakes while bringing in a system of agricultural payments cost UK farmers up to £22.5m, the National Audit Office says.
England is not mentioned once in the BBC article. Why is it such a dirty word within the BBC?

Via Waking Hereward.

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive

Michelle Malkin's latest Hot Air report lays into the EU's attempt to regulate, stifle and ultimately suffocate free expression on the net.

UK readers - you can contact your MEP here.

"BBC Bias?"

Peter Hitchens:
I have just taken a phone call from a radio station wanting to discuss Muslim veils. What did I think? You can guess. My views were rejected by the show's producer as being 'too reasonable’. Here's the rule. Moral, social and political conservatives can generally only get on the BBC if they can be cast as extremist monsters, perched on the extreme end of the panel and 'balanced' by a presenter who pretends to be neutral and isn't, and at least three other panelists who disagree with them. BBC bias? Whoever would say there was such a thing?
(Via Pete in the comments at Biased BBC)

Journalists force Daily Star to drop "Daily Fatwa"

More censorship. Last night members of the National Union of Journalists "courageously resisted" the possibility of offending Muslims. From the Media Guardian (registration required):
The Daily Star last night pulled a page that mocked Muslim law by turning the tabloid into the "Daily Fatwa" following a newsroom revolt.

Management acted after the Daily Star's National Union of Journalists' chapel held a stop work meeting that produced a resolution condemning the page.

The page included a "Page 3 burqa babes special" showing a woman in a niqab, as part of a feature billed as "How your favourite paper would look under Muslim law".

The page also contained a blank editorial stamped with the words "censored" and "Allah is great" while across the top of the page were the words "no news no goss no fun".

A competition told readers to "Burn a flag and win a Corsa", while a picture of the US president, George W Bush, was accompanied by a caption "death to infidels".

At a hastily arranged stop work NUJ chapel meeting, staff voiced fears of violent reprisals and carried a motion that condemned the feature.

"This National Union of Journalists chapel expresses its deep concern at the content of page 6 in tomorrow's Daily Star which we consider to be deliberately offensive to Muslims," the motion read.

"The chapel fears that this editorial content poses a very serious risk of violent and dangerous reprisals from religious fanatics who may take offence at these articles. This may place the staff in great jeopardy. This chapel urges the management to remove the content immediately."

When staff protested about the page, editor Dawn Neesom had already left the office, leaving deputy editor Ben Knowles, who joined the paper from men's magazine Zoo in September, in charge.

Knowles pulled the page and replaced it with a story about the seven wonders of the modern world.

The NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: "This was an outrageous and hugely irresponsible idea which fortunately our chapel courageously resisted and, in so doing, protected both the paper and its staff from possible serious repercussions.

"The union's code of conduct condemns this sort of gratuitous material which is likely to encourage discrimination and hatred in our society.

"We are calling on the Daily Star to act wisely and responsibly and put this moment of madness behind them for good."

The Daily Star had not commented in time for publication.
The Press Gazette has also covered the story:
According to a source at the paper editors have not ruled out running the story tomorrow.
Whatever the Daily Star chapel of the NUJ thinks, nobody has a right to be not offended. If you want to offer your support to the editors or tell the journalists what you think, here's the email address of the newsdesk:
Update. Head office of the NUJ:
It's the claim that they "courageously resisted" that really gets me. Oh yeah, really courageous:
A Muslim journalist facing charges of sedition for advocating ties with Israel was recently attacked and beaten by a crowd in Bangladesh that allegedly included leading officials of the country's ruling party, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly Blitz newspaper, an English-language publication based in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, was working in his office on October 5 when nearly 40 people stormed the premises

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BBC Open Secrets Watch

Still nothing from the BBC's Open Secrets blogger Martin Rosenbaum on the decision to take the Balen Report case to the High Court, but he has commented on the proposed changes to the cost of freedom of information requests:
I've been asked numerous times today what the impact of the latest government proposals would be on BBC journalism, so here is the answer - they would dramatically curtail the use of FOI by the BBC.

The cost limits (£600 for government department, £450 for other public authorities) would be imposed not on one request (as at the moment) but on the total of all FOI requests from one particular organisation (eg the BBC) over three months, even if the requests are from completely different indviduals and relate to completely unconnected topics.

So effectively if one BBC journalist puts an FOI request to, say, the Ministry of Defence then it would probably prevent any other BBC journalist (of whom there are thousands) putting another FOI request on any other topic to the MoD anytime in the next three months.
Bad news, but it's hard to sympathise when the BBC is spending God knows how much of the licence payers' money opposing an FOI request. And just to highlight the hypocrisy, here's a page where the BBC brags about the number of times its own journalists have used similar requests with great success.


The Times:
A HYSTERICAL David Blunkett told the Prison Service to call in the Army and “machinegun” inmates in order to regain control of a riot-torn jail, the former Director-General of the service claims today.
The Last Ditch:
Every time in future we hear a proposal for "positive discrimination", hear sentimentalism about victimhood or hear about candidate "A lists" that put minority status over competence, we should picture David Blunkett screaming down the phone demanding slaughter.
Quite so.

The Lancet - job done

The Lancet study, thoroughly trashed by Iraq Body Count yesterday, continues to be referenced by the BBC. Here's James Naughtie on this morning's Today:
We know what the Lancet said last week - they predicted in that study that more than half a million would turn out to be the figure.

"Do I have to answer all the questions?"

Here's Aishah Azmi, the teaching assistant at the centre of the veil row, interviewed by the BBC's Peter Sissons.

Related - Richard Littlejohn:
Reading the papers these days is like being a witness at one long show trial as Left-wing politicians line up to recant just about everything they've ever believed in.
The Guardian is worried by these developments (heh!). Today's leader comment prioritises the paper's concerns, and guess what's top of the list?
Politicians would do well to untangle and tackle problems separately.

The first is not with Muslims themselves, but with non-Muslim Britons: the problem of Islamaphobia.
Typical (and how ironic that they spell 'Islamophobia' incorrectly).

Laban Tall thinks Mohammed Abdul Bari's ill-judged and revealing warning that "Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists" may have contributed to the sudden change in attitude by so many government ministers.

Update. More from Little Bulldogs - Veiled Teacher Plot Thickens.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dutch Suicide Watch

From NIS (via Dhimmi Watch):
The CNV trade union federation feels that a Muslim feast should be introduced as a bank holiday in the Netherlands. The Christian trade union federation is willing to sacrifice a Christian holiday.

CNV vice chairman Rienk van Splunder wishes "to offer Muslims the freedom to practice their faith". The federation is prepared to sacrifice Whit Monday or Easter Monday for a free day during the Sugar Festival. This is the feast day held to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.
Anybody know how much support there is in Holland for such an act of cringing abasement?

Update October 17. I think this article says that the Dutch parliament has rejected the idea, stating that existing legislation allows employees to sort out their days off. However, it looks like the CNV will continue lobbying for an officially recognised Muslim bank holiday. Here's the Babelfish translation, which I hope clears the matter up:
The proposal of trade union CNV to exchange second pinksterdag second paasdag or for an Islamic holiday in, gets no support of CDA and PvdA in the House of Commons. Cda-kamerlid Gerda Verburg finds it ` sympathetic idea that employees can take a free day for their religious holiday, but employers and employees can regulate that according to its better itself in a collective labour agreement...

` we find that álle Dutch, therefore not only Christian, the space must get their religious holidays to celebrate, say to head communication Jos Stuart in an explanation. A number of collective labour agreements offers to people now already the possibility second of exchanging pinksterdag in for for example the Suikerfeest. But it appears so far not possible get this regulated in all collective labour agreements. In a time in which everyone has it concerning integration and lives together this a next step is. Because why the right has the one Dutchman wèl to be religious celebrate holidays and must the other one especially rather for that take? piece of furniture boulevard To blame that it CNV the Christian standards and values scramble at throws, finds he not correct. The association has had consultation concerning giving up the second religious days with churches. ` strictly speaking are second paas - or pinksterdag from ecclesiastical point of view no holiday. It have become days on which many people go to the piece of furniture boulevard.
So there you have it:
"To blame that it CNV the Christian standards and values scramble at throws, finds he not correct."
Can't say I'm convinced. However, it's nice to see that it isn't just Brits who like to go to the piece of furniture boulevard on bank holidays.

(Hat tip William in the comments)

Iraq Body Count rejects Lancet Report

The anti-war monitoring group Iraq Body Count has a issued a detailed press release rubbishing the recent Lancet study on mortality in Iraq. Here's the summary (hat tip Lopakhin):
A new study has been released by the Lancet medical journal estimating over 650,000 excess deaths in Iraq. The Iraqi mortality estimates published in the Lancet in October 2006 imply, among other things, that:
1. On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms;
2. Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment;
3. Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq;
4. Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;
5. The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "Shock and Awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.
If these assertions are true, they further imply:
* incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began;
* bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis;
* the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas;
* an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.
In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy.
That last line highlights the fact that IBC has no desire to play down the number of deaths in Iraq.

Here are a couple of extracts. IBC on car bombs:
Lancet estimates 150 people to have died from car bombs alone, on average, every day during June 2005-June 2006. IBC's database of deadly car bomb incidents shows they kill 7-8 people on average. Lancet's estimate corresponds to about 20 car bombs per day, all but one or two of which fail to be reported by the media. Yet car bombs fall well within the earlier-mentioned category of incidents which average 6 unique reports on them.

'Baghdad-weighting' of media reports, even if applicable to car bombs, is unlikely to account for this level of under-reporting, as half of the car bombs IBC has recorded have been outside Baghdad. The Pentagon, which has every reason to highlight the lethality of car bombs to Iraqis, records, on average, two to three car-bombings per day throughout Iraq, including those hitting only its own forces or causing no casualties, for the period in question.
IBC on the Lancet's pre-war death rate:
First, despite the confidence with which the Lancet authors make the assertion, the natural death rate of 5/1,000/year is not an established fact for Iraq in 2002. It is one estimate, a projection or extrapolation from some smaller set of known data. It may be correct, or it may not be, and there can be considerable room for debate on the matter.

The Balen Report

As I noted yesterday, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the BBC is still trying to keep secret the findings of a 2004 report into its Middle East coverage.
The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.
To listen to BBC reporters using the Act to pursue their journalism, click here (mp3, 45 secs). The clip comes from a 2005 Michael Crick programme from Radio 4 called, ironically, The Right to Know (streaming audio). Crick does a fair bit of work for Newsnight, where they don't bother with trivialities like the FOIA, preferring leaked papers instead.

By going all the way to the High Court the hypocrites at the BBC are trying to delay the release of the findings so they can claim it was all a very long time ago. Public funds are being used to save the blushes of BBC execs and journalists, and that is a disgrace.

When the BBC lost the last round of its fight against the Balen Report, this was the feeble response of Martin Rosenbaum who writes the BBC's Open Secrets blog about freedom of information:
Personally, I haven't read the report in question, and my work making FOI requests is separate from the activity of the BBC team who deal with incoming FOI requests. So I can't comment on the BBC's point of view or what might happen next.
It'll be interesting to see if Mr Rosenbaum has grown a pair since then and has anything more substantial to say on the matter. Here's the main page of Open Secrets to check for updates.

Update. The Editors blog has at least linked to the Sunday Telegraph story.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

BBC articles

A couple of stories about the BBC in today's Telegraph.

What do you do if a report you paid for with public funds comes up with conclusions you don't like? You use more public funds to prevent its release (hat tip USS Neverdock again):
The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage.

The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.

The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming.The High Court action is the latest stage of a lengthy and expensive battle by Steven Sugar, a lawyer, to get access to the document, which was compiled by Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser, in 2004.
And from Christopher Booker:
Imagine that a very experienced, knowledgeable and brave whistleblower sets out to expose a commercial racket that is ripping off businesses and members of the public to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year, and which a government agency, despite being supplied with factual evidence, does nothing to stop. If a leading BBC "consumer affairs" programme learned about this story, might one not expect it to throw all its resources into exposing the racket?

It might seem odd that, using evidence supplied by the very people who are behind the scam, the BBC would instead pull out all the stops to discredit the whistleblower.

Woolas: Sack her

The controversy over Muslim women wearing veils escalated after the Government's race minister demanded the sacking of a Muslim teaching assistant who insisted on the garment.

Phil Woolas said Aishah Azmi was "denying the right of children to a full education", and had put herself in a position where she could not "do her job".

It also amounted to "sexual discrimination" for Ms Azmi to refuse to work with men, he added.
Well said, Phil.

And there's a fine rant about the veil at Making Headlines.

Update. From AKI (via USS Neverdock):
The niqab, a Muslim headdress that leaves only the eyes exposed, is not a religious object, Egypt's religion minister said Friday, entering the debate started by British ex-minister Jack Straw, who said he asked Muslim women visiting him to show their faces to facilitate dialogue. "Nor is the niqab a duty deriving from the Sharia" added Mohammad Hamdi Zaqzouq.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Richard North

He despises the rest of the British blogosphere but, let’s face it, he’s in a league of his own.

Blogger comes clean about his past

Light blogging from me today, but if you want a good read check out Peter Risdon’s account of his colourful past. I won’t spoil it for you, except to say my reaction was “Bloody hell!"

(For those who don’t know, Peter organised the March for Free Expression earlier this year, and was on the radio quite a bit when Pope Benedict upset the Religion of Perpetual Outrage last month.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

9/11 Truther

What really happened on 9/11? According to Truther Rick Siegel, it can't have been Muslim terrorists:
I read an English translation of the Koran and spent some time reading the Live.com returns on a search for “definition of jihad”.

Two very important government and mass media obfuscations came immediately to the surface. The first thing they hide, and most important was the fact that any follower of Mohammad and the faith of Islam could not possibly commit an act of a “terrorist”. It would be impossible for them to do the kind of harm claimed by the west for this.
No, it was the US government with an H-bomb:
The factual evidence indicates that our government is using and has used 3rd or possibly 4th generation hydrogen bombs domestically and internationally. The evidence for international usage is not quite as strong as the domestic usage, but when domestic usage is considered, the international usage seems inescapable. The process of exclusion based on the known facts leaves only one viable option for the destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings - a relatively pure hydrogen bomb.

(Hat tip Peter North)

The Truthers are stranger than fiction.

The Lancet Study

I've just been having a little look at the claims made in the Johns Hopkins/Lancet study on mortality rates in Iraq. Now my aptitude for maths is low, but the survey seem utterly ridiculous to me.

Take deaths by car bomb, for example. The survey sample of 300 violent deaths from March 2003 to July 2006 (page 7 of the survey) is extrapolated to approximately 600,000 for the country as a whole. Of the 300 violent deaths, 30 (10%) were the result of car bombs in the year June 2005-June 2006. Using the survey's methodology, I believe that equates to 60,000 people killed by car bombs in one year. The most recent data available on the Iraq Body Count website lists 15 car bombs in the first half of September (ignoring bombs which targeted non-Iraqi forces); taking the highest figure for reported deaths, these bombs killed 75 people. That’s an average of 5 people killed per car bomb. On that basis, 60,000 deaths would require 12,000 car bombs in one year, or 33 per day. Either that or there are hundreds of massive car bombs killing hundreds of people which are going totally unreported. I respectfully suggest that the study is a load of bollocks.

And what about the 5.5 deaths/1,000/year for pre-war mortality rates? Today's UK rate is 10.13 deaths/1,000. I seem to recall that before the war the likes of Galloway and Pilger kept telling us that hundreds of thousands of people were dying because of sanctions on Iraq. And yet now we're supposed to believe that the mortality rate was half that of the UK? Conclusion - they're all full of crap, the lot of them.

Natalie Solent has a link-rich post highlighting the political bias of those behind the study.

And here are Iraq the Model's thoughts.

Oh, FFS!

Daily Mail:
A teenage schoolgirl was arrested by police for racism after refusing to sit with a group of Asian students because some of them did not speak English.

Codie Stott's family claim she was forced to spend three-and-a-half hours in a police cell after she was reported by her teachers...

According to Codie, the five - four boys and a girl - then began talking in a language she didn't understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher.

"I said 'I'm not being funny, but can I change groups because I can't understand them?' But she started shouting and screaming, saying 'It's racist, you're going to get done by the police'."

BBC News:
A poster linking eating meat with child abuse has been unveiled by an animal rights group in a County Durham town named as a national obesity blackspot.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) says Easington was targeted because of an obesity rate of 22% above the national average.

It claims feeding meat to children is tantamount to child abuse as it is linked with life-threatening diseases.
Update. The Sun:
A MUSLIM teacher claims she was forced out of her job for not removing her veil in class.

Pupils said they found English lessons hard to understand because they could not see Aishah Azmi’s lips moving.

Bosses at Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury, West Yorks, agreed Azmi, 24, could wear the veil around the school, but not while teaching.

But furious Ms Azmi refused to take it off. She claimed her veil was cultural, and was then suspended.

Last night a local authority source said: “How can you teach English to young kids with your face covered?”

The Muslim Council of Britain said Islamic women did not need to wear a veil in the presence of young children.
Nobody needs to wear a veil. As Rod Liddle says in this week's Spectator, if a non-Muslim woman demanded to cover herself from head to toe because she feared the predatory attentions of men she'd be sent to a psychiatrist.

Sir Richard Dannatt

The new head of the British Army Sir Richard Dannatt has, understandably, caused a storm by telling the Daily Mail that we should "get ourselves out (of Iraq) sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

Not making the headlines, though, is this part of the interview:
"We can't wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the Army, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life."
So, on the one hand the troops in Iraq are fighting the challenge to our accepted way of life, but on the other hand they should get out. Maybe I'm misreading this (it is late) but it seems like a bit of a mixed message to me - and mixed messages are the last thing troops need. I think Dannatt should get in front of a microphone and clarify exactly what he means. And he should do it "sometime soon".

This section is less ambiguous:
"We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it. In the Cold War, the threats to this country were about armies rolling in. Threats now are not territorial but to the values of our country.

"In the Army we place a lot of store by the values we espouse. What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large — courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.

"I think it is important as an Army entrusted with using lethal force that we do maintain high values and that there is a moral dimension to that and a spiritual dimension.

"When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind.

"There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I am responsible for the Army, to make sure that its moral compass is well aligned and that we live by what we believe in.

"It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British Army."
Update 9.30am. The broadcast media whipped itself into a frenzy over this story last night. Commentators on the BBC, ITV and Sky reacted with hysteria, taking their lead from the Daily Mail’s ludicrous headline “Army chief declares war on Blair”. The hyperbole was off the scale with talk of this being an unprecedented crisis for the government.

Hmmm. Here’s Dannatt clarifying his position on the Today programme this morning (streaming audio):
Naughtie: When you say “we should get ourselves out sometime soon”, what do you mean?

Dannatt: I mean that when the mission that we’ve gone to do is substantially complete, we should be leaving…

…we’ve been there three and half years , we don’t want to be there another 2, 3, 4, 5 years. We’ve got to think about this in terms of a reasonable length of time. And we’re making progress…

When the job is done, we will go and I hope that will be sometime soon...

I'm a soldier - we don't do surrender.
The Daily Mail interview with Sarah Sands lasted an hour and half and concentrated on Afghanistan. A small section dealt with Iraq and Dannatt says it was taken out of context. He had an MoD press officer with him and the interview was okayed by the Secretary of State.

Memo to the MSM - you can stop jerking now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Terrorist pleads guilty

BBC News:
A man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder people in a series of bombings on British and US targets.

Dhiren Barot, of north London, planned to use a radioactive "dirty bomb" in one of a series of attacks in the UK, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

He intended to cause "injury, fear, terror and chaos", prosecutors said.

Barot, 34, also allegedly plotted to cause explosions at several US financial buildings "designed to kill as many innocent people as possible".
I wonder if Stop Political Terror and CagePrisoners will have anything to say.

A bit more Sion Simon

"Charlie Whelan... is the only man left in the kingdom who still really believes that Gordon Brown will one day be prime minister. He is the last descendant of a once proud line, the final keeper of the one true faith." Sion Simon, The Spectator, March 14 1998.

Sion Simon

It's headline news in the MSM today - BBC, ITV, The Times, The Sun, The Guardian etc.

It's week-old news for readers of this blog.

(I emailed Guido Fawkes about this last week, but he wasn't interested. He is now. Clearly fame has dulled his instincts for a story. In fact if I had any political gossip to spread, I'd probably email me - drinkingfromhome@hotmail.co.uk )

Laughing Matter

Light blogging today. Here are some links which might raise a chuckle.

Iowahawk goes nuclear.

Ace of Spades - The 10/11 Truth Movement.

And best satire of the day - the Telegraph's spoof columnist "Boris Johnson" ("MP for Henley" - nice touch) with his solution to the nuclear proliferation crisis. Hilarious.

(One more thing - it would appear that Dave Zucker's Albright ad is no longer censored on YouTube.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is the tide turning?

Secretary of State for Communities Ruth Kelly:
In future, I am clear that our strategy of funding and engagement must shift significantly towards those organisations that are taking a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism and defending our shared values.
The Guardian:
Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, today weighed into the debate over Muslim women wearing the veil by offering his support to universities that banned the full-face veil.
Pioneer Press:
Two weeks ago, Twin Cities airport officials were firming up plans to allow many Muslim taxi drivers — staunchly opposed to transporting passengers carrying alcohol of any sort — to alert potential fares of their beliefs with a different-colored light atop their cabs.

After a barrage of negative feedback, they've decided to scrap the idea.

"Since then, we've heard from Australia and England. It's really touched a nerve among a lot of people. The backlash, frankly, has been overwhelming," said Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. "People are overwhelmingly against any kind of cultural accommodation."

YouTube Censors Anti-Democrat Ad

From Newsbusters:
The video sharing site YouTube, just recently purchased by Google, has once again allowed a band of determined users to censor something they don't like.

The latest casualty is a a controversial spoof political ad by a Republican filmmaker David Zucker (producer of such films as "Scary Movie 4," "Airplane," among others) which depicts former secretary of state Madeline Albright, a Democrat who served in the Clinton administration, acting as a maid, servant and cheerleader for Islamic terrorists and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il...

While you can still view the video if you watch it embedded on another web site, if you try to watch it on YouTube, you'll be greeted with the message: "This video may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube's user community. To view this video, please verify you are 18 or older by logging in or signing up."

Flagged videos don't appear on the 'most viewed', 'top rated' and 'most discussed' charts. Even so, the ad has had over a quarter of a million views since yesterday.

Alzheimer's drug denied to English and Welsh

Daily Mail:
At least 50,000 people each year will be denied drugs to treat Alzheimer's that cost just £2.50 a day after the NHS rationing body yesterday turned down an appeal by campaigners.

Angry sufferers condemned the ban which will affect patients diagnosed with the early stages of the disease. Instead they will be told to come back when their symptoms have got worse...

The ban applies only in England and Wales, as the drugs have been approved in Scotland.

. It would seem that the Daily Mail article was misleading. From The Scotsman (hat tip Clematis Fraudster):
After the announcement, NHS Quality Improvement Scotland indicated that it would follow this ruling and also deny the drugs to new NHS patients with mild Alzheimer's.

File on Four: Defence Procurement

A rare post praising a BBC programme.

Last night's File on Four about the UK's disgraceful defence procurement system is a must-listen. To say that the procurement minister Lord Drayson is a weasel would be a terrible insult to weasels.

Paxman & the Stealth Edit

(Hope this makes sense - I'm a bit pissed)

Yesterday Newsnight revisited its recent story about the Defence Academy policy paper leak. The director of the academy demanded the right to reply, and Newsnight sent Paxman down to confront him.

From the interview:
Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely: What I want to do is put the record straight about the original Newsnight programme which portrayed research notes from a researcher here at the Defence Academy as an official Ministry of Defence report which it manifestly wasn’t. I was amazed to see the programme and see that what was just raw research notes as being portrayed as the report on Pakistan and the war on terror.

Jeremy Paxman: We didn’t say it was the Ministry of Defence view
Er... are you sure Jeremy? (click to enlarge)

The above story has since been stealth-edited to this:

The time-stamp has not altered. At some point since Wednesday 27 September the BBC changed the phrase “a Ministry of Defence (MoD) report has said” to “a research paper prepared for the Ministry of Defence's Defence Academy says”. Paxman's claim that "We didn’t say it was the Ministry of Defence view" is easier to justify with the updated version. Sneaky move, eh?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

John Bolton on Radio 4

From this morning's Today - Carolyn Quinn presses John Bolton on America's blame for the North Korean nuclear test. Bolton swats away the suggestion each time. Did she expect him to change his mind at the third time of asking? (Listen here - streaming ram) :
Carolyn Quinn: What do you say to those people who say that if President Bush hadn’t spoken of the axis of evil, including North Korea in that list, then this nuclear test may never have happened - North Korea may not have felt pushed into wanting to show its might in this way?

John Bolton: I’d say “Get a life”. The North Koreans have been pursuing nuclear weapons for at least ten to twelve years. They signed the agreed framework in 1994 promising to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons and then began violating that agreement almost before the ink was dry. So this has nothing whatever to do with the axis of evil statement, although it was certainly true when made and has become even truer since then as we’ve learned about cooperation between Iran and North Korea in the ballistic missile field for sure and one can only speculate if there’s cooperation in the nuclear field as well.

Carolyn Quinn: But one could also speculate that North Korea is responding to a potential threat that they might be dealt with in the same way that Iraq was.

John Bolton: Well if they were to pursue the route that Libya has undertaken - giving up the effort to acquire the nuclear weapons capability - I think they would find that they would actually be safer and more welcomed into the community of civilised nations than if they continued to pursue the nuclear weapons route.

Carolyn Quinn: But do you accept that argument about Iraq - the example of Iraq stirring North Korea into action?

John Bolton: No I don’t because as I said before the North Koreans have been pursuing nuclear weapons for quite some time including after they signed the agreed framework in 1994 when Saddam Hussein has still happily in power. This idea that all the world’s ills are caused by the United States just doesn’t bear out under the evidence. I mean I know a lot of people like to blame America first but the facts don’t support it.

Carolyn Quinn: If you don’t mind me saying you haven’t been a fan in the past of the UN, have you? Do you think the UN is up to this challenge?

John Bolton: I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll find out.
(I like “If you don’t mind me saying…” As if Bolton cares that he’s not seen as a big fan of the UN. It’s obviously a difficult concept to grasp for purveyors of the liberal consensus.)

This map of North Korea's nuclear programme from 1999 would appear to support Bolton's assertions (via the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Update. Compare with this map of Iran's nuclear programme.

Update. Perhaps Carolyn Quinn only had time to read today's Guardian leader comment before her Bolton interview:
Mr Kim's triumph represents the failure of diplomacy. North Korea agreed in 1994 to freeze its nuclear ambitions, but revived them when George Bush became president. Its position hardened when the country was named as part of the "axis of evil".
Bush was elected in November 2000. Now, what's the date on the above map again?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Korean Nuclear Test - Dud?

Via Hot Air (many links and updates) - this from Defense Tech :
You're thinking, 3.6, 4.2, in that neighborhood. Seismic scales, like the Richter, are logarithmic, so that neighborhood can be pretty big.

But even at 4.2, the test was probably a dud...

3.58-3.7 gives you a couple hundred tons (not kilotons), which is pretty close in this business unless you're really math positive. The same equation, given the US estimate of 4.2, yields (pun intended) around a kiloton.

A plutonium device should produce a yield in the range of the 20 kilotons, like the one we dropped on Nagasaki. No one has ever dudded their first test of a simple fission device. North Korean nuclear scientists are now officially the worst ever.

Of course, I want to see what the US IC says. If/when the test vents, we could have some radionuclide data -- maybe in the next 72 hours or so.

But, from the initial data, I'd say someone with no workable nuclear weapons (Kim Jong Il, I am looking at you) should be crapping his pants right now.

First the missile, then the bomb. Got anything else you wanna try out there, chief?
Update. Are they going to have another try? (Via LGF)

Update. From the Adventures of Chester:
Gratuitous Machiavellian thought of the day: if we tell them we don't believe their test was real, and they test again, how many tests before they run out of weapons?
Just watching Channel 4 News - trying its best to blame America. There's a surprise.

Update. From BBC News:
The Americans have circulated a 13-point draft resolution seeking targeted sanctions. They include:
Halting trade in material that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction
Inspections of cargo going in and out of North Korea
The ending of financial transactions used to support nuclear proliferation
Huh? Was this not going on already? WTF?!

Korean Friendship Association

Via the Drink-soaked Trots, check out the insanity that is the Korean Friendship Association forum. And then check out the rest of the site, with its fun activities and souvenirs such as the Songs of Korea Volume 98 CD:

(Hat tip Mr Eugenides)

Update. A North Korean music video:

Another post about R4's Today

Just about every Thought for the Day I happen to hear these days seems to be done by a Christian using his or her 3 minutes to put the case for Islam. This morning’s effort from Rev Dr Colin Morris was typical. Morris doesn’t like Muslims being called extremists, and in a disingenuous and simplistic discourse on semantics he tried to reclaim the words 'extreme' and 'radical' from those who use them to criticise Islam. For him, monks, nuns and Christian pacifists are also extremists, ergo religious extremism is not a bad thing. Likewise 'radical', which apparently has only one true dictionary definition (and it's not negative). His line of logic leads him, inevitably, to absolve Islam of any blame for the horrors done in its name. Indeed, the last sentence indicates where he feels real blame lies. I’ve done a quick transcript, or listen here (streaming ram):
Whenever stories about our Muslim citizens hit the news, the complex world of Islam tends to be reduced to two simple categories - moderate Muslims good, extreme Muslims bad. But that’s a political judgement made from the outside often based on some notion of security risk. Religiously it is a loose use of language. Put the boot on the other foot. Talk instead about moderate and extreme Christians. What does it mean to be moderately Christian? When you’re a follower of one who said you must lose your life in order to save it. That the social order will be turned upside down. That those who will do you harm must be loved and cherished. If that is moderation, what is extremism? Indeed, if you’re looking for Christian extremists go no further than the nearest Society of Friends. A more respectable group of people you couldn’t hope to meet, but on one issue they must be judged extreme. However patriotic they are, they won’t take up arms to fight for their country. They’ll die for it but they won’t kill for it, and in times of war Quakers and other pacifists have gone to jail for their convictions. Or take monks and nuns. For the sake of their faith they have turned their backs on normal life - sex and the family, economic and political power, social ambition. If to be extreme means to go to the limit you can’t go much further than they do out of obedience to God. An MP recently expressed anxiety about what he called the ‘radicalisation of Muslims’ in some mosques, but every religious movement is in the business of radicalising its followers. Unless words have lost any meaning, to be radical is to go below the surface, to get right down to the root of an issue; in the case of religion, to do and believe the things that will bring you ever closer to God. And it’s the strength of a free society that it concedes the right of believers to have this higher loyalty without treating them as subversive. Of course there are the deluded who make religious noises and they are capable of anything. But it’s not genuine faith, however fervent, that drives them. The explanation of their behaviour belongs in the realms of psychopathology rather than religion. With the wisdom of hindsight perhaps if after 9/11 there had been less religious rhetoric talked about a worldwide crusade against evil there might have been less danger of our demonising a great faith.
I wasn’t surprised to discover that Rev Morris is a former BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting and Controller of BBC Northern Ireland.

To hear more crap like this, tune in to Radio 4, 7.45am, on almost any day of the week.

The BBC & Incontestable Truths

In yesterday’s Observer Nick Cohen commented on the difference in attitude BBC news presenters show when interviewing those who oppose or support the liberal consensus:
Although they subject opponents of, say, abortion to rigorous cross-examination, their lust for ferocious questioning deserts them when supporters of abortion come on air. Far from being tested, they treat upholders of the liberal consensus as purveyors of an incontestable truth.
This morning’s Today programme provided a perfect example of this. To discuss North Korea's nuclear test Ed Stourton introduced Joseph Cirincione from the Centre for American Progress, an advocacy group with the following aim:
Every day we challenge conservative thinking that undermines the bedrock American values of liberty, community and shared responsibility.
It claims to be non-partisan but is in fact stuffed with Democrat supporters (just click on the bios of the senior staff for proof). Had this been a conservative think-tank it goes without saying that the term “right wing” would have been mentioned, but no equivalent warning was deemed necessary here. Cirincione got a free run to blame the North Korean situation on the Bush administration, encouraged by a leading question from Stourton on the situation in Iraq. Cirincione’s solution:
“If the US is smart they’ll settle for a sharply-worded verbal condemnation and the agreement to impose limited sanctions on North Korea.”
And if that doesn't work, maybe they could put their sharply-worded condemnation in writing.

Nothing Cirincione said was questioned; as an upholder of the liberal consensus he was purveying an incontestable truth.

Update. The line of questioning was a little different when John Humphrys interviewed Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher later in the programme:
Rohrabacher: We have been spending 100 million, probably upwards of 100 million dollars over the last ten years feeding the people of North Korea while they use their own resources to develop this nuclear weapon. That is an insane policy and we are now reaping the results of it.

Humphrys: So you’d starve them?

Rohrabacher: We’d starve them? It would be their own government starving them.

(Hat tip The Pedant-General)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Challenge to LibDem Bloggers

The LibDem blogs seem to have been rather silent on this:
STUDENT leaders are organising a mass protest over St Andrews University’s decision to award an honorary degree to a former Iranian president who praised Hezbollah.

Muhammad Khatami is to be made an honorary doctor of laws by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader who is also the university’s chancellor...

The decision to confer the honour on Khatami has provoked criticism from human rights groups who claim thousands of Iranian citizens were jailed and tortured for their political beliefs during his eight-year term that ended last year with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Come on, do the right thing and stop your leader from going through with it...

Update 9.20pm
. ...you bunch of gaywads.

Couple of links

EU Referendum on troop resources.

USS Neverdock on the stoning of women in Iran.

Robin Hood

The BBC’s much-hyped Robin Hood series began last night. Here's the Scotsman preview from Friday:
After five bloody years fighting what he ultimately saw as a misguided conflict in the Holy Land, this Robin (played by relative newcomer Jonas Armstrong) returns to England as a disenchanted and tormented war veteran… The most telling aspect of 2006 reflected in this Robin Hood is the fact that, having been traumatised by what he witnessed in an unnecessary war, our hero now has an aversion to killing.
And this comes from yesterday's Hollywood Reporter:
When Maid Marian confronts Sir Guy over plans to execute Robin without trial, their argument sounds like a current debate over prisoners at Guantanamo.
Via Allan_D in the comments at Biased BBC, some dialogue from the opening episode:
"How many years have you been here?"
"Three years four winters."
"And yet you still do not have the respect of the populous."
"How was the Holy Land?"
"I understand the King is winning."
"He’s killing more people."
"Is that not winning?"
"Show me an argument ever settled with bloodshed then I’ll call it winning."
"You of all people should know the King needs funds to fight a holy war."
"Is it our Holy War or is it Pope Gregory’s?"
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with Rome."
"And we fall shoulder to shoulder too, I have seen it."
Subtle, eh?

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the BBC toyed with having an Imam Tuck (as it is Friar Tuck does appear, but only in later episodes - apparently there was much PC concern (scroll down) over the idea of a fat person being a figure of fun.)

Reactions from the BBC message boards:
This episode was titled, "Would you put up with this?" (or something like that). I decided "no" after five minutes.

A load of dull crap.

How can you take a story like Robin Hood and ruin it? Answer: Get the BBC to make it.

It made Kevin Costner's film version look like a work of genius.

What a load of crap! After all the trailers- is this what we're paying good money for?

AWFUL! Sorry for my lack of eloquence at this moment but I am currently in shock. The episode is the biggest turkey I have seen in a long while.

Now I know why the master tapes for Robin Hood were returned, the thieves must have watched them… How can the BBC justify their claims for yet another extortionate licence fee increase when they produce shows of such poor quality as this.

That was terrible, just terrible. I cannot believe I did not anticipate the dire consequences of those few words "A contemporary take".

God it was awful.
I resent the 45 minutes I've just wasted.
Where to start?
The unfunny Jar Jar Binks style comedy sidekick?
The unsubtle Iraq war references?
The god knows how many different accents in the same area?
And judging by the number of comments on the subject, the sound appears to have been rubbish too.

Still, at least someone is happy:
"This Robin hits the mark." - Socialist Worker.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Returning troops targeted by Muslims

On Monday we had the story of the injured soldier accosted by a Muslim in a Birmingham hospital, and now this:
MUSLIM yobs who wrecked a house to stop four brave soldiers moving in after returning from Afghanistan sparked outrage last night.

The house in a village near riot-torn Windsor had BRICKS thrown through windows and was DAUBED with messages of hate.

Four young Household Cavalry officers who had planned to rent it were also the target of phone THREATS.

They were yesterday forced to look elsewhere to live — after top brass warned them against inflaming racial violence near the Queen’s Windsor Castle home....

Louts struck two days after the four arrived in uniform in an Army Land Rover to view it.

The source said: “A gang of local Muslims set about keeping them away. They hurled bricks through the windows and then wrote offensive graffiti across the front of the house.” The vile messages included one in 4ft letters on the drive — warning: “F*** off”.

Sources inside Windsor’s Combermere Barracks — where the officers are based — confirmed Muslims had made calls threatening the men.
And the lesson for the Muslim thugs? Threaten violence and you'll get your way.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hamas leader collapses at rally

Jerusalem Post:
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh collapsed on Friday during his speech at the rally in Gaza in support of Hamas and its beleaguered government.

Haniyeh, who is fasting during Ramadan, stopped speaking in mid-sentence and collapsed onto aides standing next to him as he addressed tens of thousands of Palestinians that had gathered in a Gaza Strip soccer stadium.

Update. Watch the BBC report here (RealPlayer). BBC anchorman:
If we were talking here about an Israeli prime minister for example one would assume that he would have the best of medical care available just an arm’s length away.

Tory front-bencher resigns over Israel policy

Melanie Phillips:
The shift in Tory thinking about Israel, signalled by remarks made by the party’s foreign affairs spokesman William Hague during the Lebanon war, has claimed its first political casualty. Baroness Miller of Hendon, the Tory trade and industry spokesman in the Lords, has now resigned from the front bench in protest...

...The Tories are riding the tiger of anti-Israel prejudice. Their leadership seems to have decided there’s a better show in town than the Jews. The Tories maintain they are still Israel’s friends; but as the saying goes, with friends like these who needs enemies?

Islamic plot to murder Czech Jews

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Islamic extremists planned to kidnap dozens of Jews in Prague and hold them hostage before murdering them, the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Friday.

The Czech Republic's leading newspaper quoted unidentified sources close to intelligence agencies as saying the captives would have been held in a Prague synagogue while the captors made broad demands that they knew could not be fulfilled.

When those demands -- which were not specified by the sources -- were not met, the extremists would blow up the building, killing all who were inside, the paper added.

Tories condemn/Alibhai-Brown supports Straw

Press Association:
Cabinet Minister Jack Straw has waded further into the row over his call for Muslim women to remove their veils by saying he would like the garments to be discarded altogether.

The former Foreign Secretary sparked controversy when he revealed that he asks female visitors to his constituency surgery to uncover their faces, to improve "community relations".

But asked on the BBC if he would rather the veils be discarded completely, Mr Straw said: "Yes. It needs to be made clear I am not talking about being prescriptive but with all the caveats, yes, I would rather."
Lining up to condemn him:
The Conservative Party described the remarks as dangerous and Respect MP George Galloway has demanded Mr Straw's resignation... The Islamic Human Rights Commission said Mr Straw was "selectively discriminating".
But other groups are less concerned by the comments:
Dr Daud Abdullah, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he understood Mr Straw's views.
And here's Muslim columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Radio Five Live:
Jack Straw is absolutely right and it’s time we talked about it.”

Update. The Pub Philosopher compares Straw's request with the demands of others.

Further Update. The Anti-jihad pundit has more, including this from prolific online commentator Fjordman (not one to mince his words):
The veil, is not ”just a piece of cloth”. It serves as a demarcation line between proper, submissive Muslim women and whores, un-Islamic women who deserve no respect and are asking for rape. The veil should more properly be viewed as the uniform of a Totalitarian movement, and a signal to attack those outside the movement. An Islamic Mufti in Copenhagen, Denmark, sparked a political outcry after publicly declaring that women who refuse to wear headscarves are "asking for rape." Apparently, he isn’t the only Muslim in Europe to think this way. Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported in 2001 that 65 percent of rapes in Oslo were performed by "non-Western" immigrants – a category that, in Norway, consists mostly of Muslims. The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, Unni Wikan, as saying that "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. The professor's conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it."