British politics


American politics&British politics&Global politics&Middle East14 Aug 2006 08:18 pm

Cowley Road, East Oxford

Cowley Road, East Oxford – Photo by Dood LD, originally posted on Indymedia

“When monarchs through their bloodthirsty commanders lay waste to a country, they dignify their atrocity by calling it ‘making peace'”.
– Tacitus

American politics&British politics&Global politics10 Aug 2006 01:20 pm

Yeah, I'm hotlinking from the BBC. Don't fret, they can afford the bandwidth. I am forced to pay them handsomely every year.

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
– Joseph Goebbels

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
– Joseph Goebbels

“Once a government resorts to terror against its own population to get what it wants, it must keep using terror against its own population to get what it wants. A government that terrorises its own people can never stop. If such a government ever lets the fear subside and rational thought return to the populace, that government is finished.”
– Michael Rivero

“It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.”
– Adolf Hitler

British politics&Random life&Self17 Apr 2006 10:22 pm

Burmese marionetteA couple of people have been slightly perturbed that I vanished without notice. Sorry about that. Here are a few things I should’ve said yesterday but was too tired to remember:

1. Before my blogbreak, I suffered an extremely painful shoulder/back muscle injury which made even lifting a cup of tea with my right arm impossible, let alone typing. I was advised by my doctor to “STOP working at the computer! IMMEDIATELY! Or risk permanent damage!”, which is pretty unequivocal as advice goes. So after this episode, I felt it wise not to linger on the PC writing an explanatory pre-break blog post.

2. Some of the blogs I was reading regularly seem to have vanished, or possibly moved. If a blog has changed URL and I haven’t been told, I’ll assume this is the desired state of affairs and won’t go a-chasin’.

3. After watching the first two seasons on DVD, I have become terribly enamoured of Buffy & co. I always knew it would happen if I let it, and now it has. Damn Whedon and his Midas touch.

4. If I’d been here, I would have been writing about the government’s Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which defies all satire. It is truly the last gasp of freedom as we know it. Brits, please visit this site, or do some independent research, and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. And let’s see if we can stop these lunatics before it’s too late.

British politics22 Mar 2006 10:39 pm

Gordon Brown has allocated an extra one billion pounds to the UK’s defence budget for next year.

You’ll have to scroll down almost to the bottom of the linked page, as this news is buried as low as possible. It’s overshadowed by far more important stuff like national spending on sport and the price of beer.

£200,000,000 of the £1,000,000,000 defence budget increase is allocated to “international peacekeeping”, apparently.

How we laughed.

Arts&British politics&Global politics&Pop culture20 Mar 2006 09:55 pm

Hugo in mask I saw the film V for Vendetta today. I read the graphic novel yesterday.

Shoot me down, purists, but I thought the film was better.

**WARNING: CONTAINS LOTS OF SPOILERS**

If you read it in the 80s, you’ll no doubt be bleating in protest already, but I stand by my view. The original is a great and thought-provoking read, to be sure, but it is very much of its time. You don’t write a screenplay to be faithful to someone else’s vision. You write a screenplay to make a film as good as it can be. And the changes to the story made in the Wachowskis’ script were all sensible ones.

The concept of the personified central computer system ‘Fate’ might have been Orwellian and futuristic in the 80s but would have seemed dated twenty years on. The addition of references like a media-led avian flu panic only added to the sense of “Hold on a second, isn’t that a bit like… now?” The decision to swap the Old Bailey and the Houses of Parliament bombing order around was excellent. Much better sense of crescendo, visually. The decision to send V off in the tube decked in roses was brilliant. Cinematic gold, in fact.

I could’ve probably done without the thwarted Evey/V love theme, but it certainly didn’t detract from the story. The fact that Evey didn’t become V in the end was a slight shame, but the theme of continuation and tradition was still there in the dead characters’ reappearance in the masked crowd at the end. If I want, I can still harbour the idea that it was Valerie all along, despite the evidence of Hugo Weaving’s manly form.

By the end, I was thinking “This has got to be the most subversive blockbuster ever released”. And “Do ‘they’ realise what is in this film?” And “Couldn’t this be a highly polished recruiting tool for radical anarchy*?”

[*I’m not suggesting anarchy itself is a violent system, it isn’t. Send me none of your polite hate mail, dear anarchists.]

I mean, think about it. In Blair’s mean-spirited language, it certainly glamourises terrorism. It openly declares that violence is a moral and appropriate response to oppression. It shows that chaos and precarity are inevitable if state power is to be opposed, and should be embraced. It illustrates how the corporate media is the tool of the corporate-dominated state and how the mass media’s non-advertising content exists to distract and instruct according to the interests of its paymasters. (Which may account for the fact that the film has received a stack of “Oh it’s all boring and complicated, don’t bother with it” type reviews from mainstream media. Interesting.)

V for Vendetta So all in all, I’m rather blown away by it. I’d been led to believe that it would be a pale imitation of the anarchic original, when in fact the power of its 21st century impact surpassed it. I should’ve known those Wachowskis wouldn’t let me down.

Now: (i) how long do you think it’ll be before V masks/wigs are available in costume shops, and (ii) do you think the anti-demonstration legislation covering 1 km around Parliament (The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005) extends to people walking through Westminster in fancy dress?

American politics&British politics&Middle East21 Feb 2006 01:16 am

So let’s get this straight.

You’re a north African Muslim and a qualified pilot. You can work in Britain.

Somehow, you can be falsely accused of training terrorists. You can be wrongly detained in one of Britain’s most notorious high security prisons. You can be threatened with extradition to the US as a terror suspect, with all the nightmarish visions that conjures. Then you can be released after 5 months without charge and told by a judge there is not a bit of evidence against you.

But you aren’t eligible for any compensation for the wasted 5 months of your life, your ruined career or the injustice you have suffered.

Huh?

Lofti Raissi

Luckily Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi has now won the right to a judicial review, which means he might just get some compensation for his pains after all.

But if he still doesn’t win the argument, it means we have a criminal justice system which allows an Algerian to be banged up in Britain for no reason and receive no recompense for his shredded life even when found innocent.

Well, I feel safer just thinking about it. Thanks once again, government.

British politics&Europe&Middle East&Religion06 Feb 2006 09:00 pm

Muslim protest against Prophet cartoons Some Muslims have been protesting violently about the publication of some cartoons depicting the Prophet negatively. Embassies have been torched. Property has been destroyed. Threats have been made. Our newspapers are full of words and pictures about it. Our society is outraged.

Belief

Several Muslims have died as a result of the protests. (Not the hundreds that were killed during this year’s Hajj, admittedly, but then some Muslim deaths are more interesting than others.)

Muslim protesters rage not merely against this single act of blasphemy, but against what this act symbolises. They rage against European arrogance, Western governments’ mafia-style looting of Arab lands, media campaigns demonising anyone in a beard or hijab.

Great anger does not necessarily need great provocation. Anger is cumulative. Ills are totted up until their number is too great to bear. Like breakage of the proverbial camel’s back, after a while, a single straw will be enough.

The media is so saturated with this story, it whips the storm to ever greater intensity. More violence, better story. More coverage, more mileage for incensed non-Muslim columnists. More debate. More invented “Sensible Freedom-loving West vs. Archaic Tyrannical East” binary oppositions. More hate bred on each side.

The more the story is prodded, the angrier it gets.

Politics

In Westminster, an unpopular prime minster consults expensive public relations advisers as to how best to break the news of military action in Iran to a jaded public. The scene is replicated in European and American ministerial chambers.

The problem is that the general public do not see Muslims as “other”. The public are unable to perform the emotional detachment necessary to sanction another aggressive campaign. The ‘C2/D/E’ demographic are still open to manipulation without too much trouble, but the broadsheet readers are currently off-message. Their feeble ethical rebellion cannot stop progress, but it makes the job of presenting a benevolent veneer slightly more demanding.

If only a way could be found that would stop the leftists and pacifists from obstructing the path of Western corporate power. If only we could damage the reputation of Islam and those who follow it. If only something could be done to back Muslims into a corner and create the illusion that the wildest extremists speak for all. If only Islam could be portrayed as unreasonable, backward, dangerous, subversive, unpleasant, stupid.

If only followers of Islam could be hanged by the zeal of its most extreme adherents, in a way that would carve a deep chasm between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We know their weakness. We know which buttons to press. If only we could find a way to use that knowledge to our advantage.

If the flames of such a campaign could be fanned, it would give us the moral high ground. It would hush the whine of middle class pinko indignation and deflect pundits’ attention to such laughably naive concepts as “free speech” and “science versus religion”. While the dinner party set’s attention and sympathies are diverted elsewhere, we’d have just enough leeway to start our Iran campaign and tidy up the dregs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a bonus, we’d probably win the “Are Hamas terrorists or freedom fighters?” argument too.

Of course, expensive public relations firms and governments do not need to ask “if only”. They just need to orchestrate an appropriate story and appropriate coverage. It is easy to guide public thought, and these men and women are experts.

Muslim woman praying Communication

For their part, the media will run any story released to them at any angle required, provided it does not conflict with the needs of their advertisers or shareholders.

Fait accompli

… Well, whaddya know. Pure luck and good timing, of course. Perhaps God is an Englishman after all.

British politics&Europe&Human rights23 Jan 2006 07:00 pm

Pregnant Midge doll by Mattel Today, the High Court ruled that Sue Axon’s campaign to ban confidential medical treatment for children under sixteen is unlawful.

Mrs Axon is a mother of five. She wanted the law changed so that girls under sixteen can no longer be given advice, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or an abortion without their parents being informed. One of her own daughters is due to give birth this March on her seventeenth birthday.

Mrs Axon claims that not being informed of the intimate details of her children’s sexual health appointments “undermined” her as a parent. She believes that if medical professionals respect her child’s privacy and grant him or her the same rights to medical privacy as a legal adult, her own human rights under the European Convention are being violated.

Here’s a direct quote:

“Having endured the trauma of abortion, I brought the case to ensure that medical professionals would not carry out an abortion on one of my daughters without first informing me. I could then discuss such a life-changing event with her and provide the support she would need.”

Hmm. “Having endured the trauma of abortion”. Not exactly a neutral perspective. It doesn’t take Miss Marple to work out that her “support” would come with a very firm agenda.

She also says she wished to change the law so that “our children can be protected from potentially damaging advice offered by professionals who do not know them.”

The very fact that members of the medical profession do not have a personal relationship with their patients means they can be as objective as any person could possibly be. Let’s not delude ourselves: the average age for loss of virginity in Britain is well under the legal age of sixteen. Fourteen is a closer bet. If a child of fourteen or fifteen – or even younger – is having sex, they need access to contraceptive advice, sexual health screening and emergency measures (such as the morning after pill or abortion) if they conclude, after considering all options carefully, that this is what they need.

If they’re old enough to have sex and mature enough to seek proper medical advice, they are old enough to decide who to talk to about it.

If a nurse told a 14 year old boy that they had to call his mother before dishing out his monthly allocation of free condoms, they’d scarcely have time to look up before he pelted out of the door at top speed. Result? Well, if he’s unlucky, perhaps a local flurry of STDs and another teen pregnancy, easily prevented if that embarrassment factor had not been introduced. Any child responsible enough to seek contraceptive advice should be applauded, not humiliated.

If a doctor told a 15 year old girl that her parents had to be involved before she could gain access to abortion advice, she may well attempt to take care of matters herself with a few of the old bottle of gin/hot bath/throw yourself down the stairs type ‘remedies’. Worst still, there may once again appear a market for backstreet abortionists, for girls whose religious or fiercely moral parents would forbid them to undertake the medical procedure of their choice.

Midge and crib I’m sure Mrs Axon would not want to think of any girl taking her chances with a thug and a knitting needle. I’m sure she would prefer to convince herself that a parental right to be told would have no effect on the numbers of children who seek legitimate medical treatment in a responsible, adult way. But I believe she is wrong.

Luckily, so does the High Court. Kids, go and get yourselves kitted up with contraceptives. Get yourselves checked for STDs. Remember you can always talk to someone in confidence if things go wrong. This is your business and yours alone, and it’s going to stay that way. Just as it should.

The real tragedy here is not that Mrs Axon lost her fight, or that she considers her own “human rights” eclipse her child’s right to impartial advice, but what it says about her experience of parent-child relationships. Many children are so emotionally close to one or both parents that they would seek help and advice from them as a first resort. They would trust their parents to do the best for them. They may ask a parent to accompany them to a medical appointment, or ask them for input in the decision making process, without fearing that the parent would seek to impose their own rigid views on them. I can’t help feeling that a parent who demands a new law to allow her to barge uninvited into her children’s bedrooms is clearly not very close to her children at all.

British politics&Seasonal&Self26 Dec 2005 10:55 am

Fra Angelico - St Lawrence Giving Alms (c. 1450) So did you have a good Christmas Day? Are you ready for Boxing Day?

Americans always ask “What is this Boxing Day thing? Huh, limey? What does it MEAN?”

Traditionally, it was the day when the masters / rich gave the servants / poor their seasonal gifts / money. In the huge homes of the wealthy, Boxing Day would be the day when the servants of all the extended families present were allowed to gather together to eat and drink and celebrate Christmas. Obviously they would’ve been on duty throughout Christmas Day itself, bringing succulent treats to their pampered employers.

Many women in my mother’s family (from maternal great-grandmother backwards) were in domestic service. I am therefore going to have the laziest day I can possibly manage, in dedication to those women and their back-breaking toil. I think they’d be proud that a female descendant of theirs could afford to be idle so much of the time, and with such silky soft never-done-a-proper-day’s-work-in-her-life hands.

Let us drink a toast to the dismantling of the British class system!

(which is scheduled for the day after muscat grapes are harvested in the Sahara)

I may write more here during Boxing Day, but… y’know, only if I can be bothered. First, I’m going to paint my nails a glossy crimson and watch The Philadelphia Story. It’s what Great-Granny would’ve wanted.

British politics&Human rights08 Dec 2005 02:33 pm

Instruments of torture

Just when you thought you’d had all the sensible legal decisions you were likely to get in one week, here comes another one.

Today, the British Law Lords found unanimously that the Government’s detention of 8 men without charge is unlawful because it relies on evidence which may have been obtained by torture. Lord Carswell concluded that “to allow its admission would shock the conscience, abuse or degrade the proceedings and involve the state in moral defilement“.

None of this fuss should have been necessary. The inadmissibility of evidence gained by torture is already a long-standing pillar of British law. Unfortunately, Blair’s government seem to have chosen not to bother themselves with such trifles. Even the Court of Appeal – the highest court in the land, junior only to the House of Lords and the European Court of Justice – recently decided that such evidence could be used, provided it wasn’t obtained by British authorities.

The “turn a blind eye” attitude of those ministers and judges is the very reason “rendition” (in Condi Rice’s terminology) and Guantánamo are tolerated. The torture and degrading treatment of human beings is still being done in our name, even if we are plugging our ears with our fingers and singing “la la la, can’t hear you”. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous at best.

Now, the increasingly deranged British government will be obliged to uphold the law. The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, must review all cases where prisoners are being held due to evidence obtained in countries where torture takes place.

So the week’s going pretty well for human rights activists. What next? Abandonment of the preposterous ID card scheme? I’ll mention it in my letter to Santa.

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