Wednesday, February 28, 2007

China sneezes, Wall Street catches a cold

Yesterday China announced measures to curb rampant speculation in the Chinese stockmarket, which promptly fell 10%, the largest fall in a decade.

Then the Dow fell over 500 points at one point (above), its heaviest fall since 2001.

A better measure of the panic on Wall Street is the volatility index, called the VIX. This is a good indicator of the amount of complacency in the market. The higher the value, the more nervous the market. Last night it went into orbit (below).


Al Gore - Hypocrite

I'm no climate-change denier, nor do i enjoy whaling or watching icebergs melt, but the one thing i cannot stand is a hypocrite. And last night's Oscar winner, Al Gore, is as hypocritical as they come.

Al Gore's 20-room, eight-bathroom mansion located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES). In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy.

In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh--more than 20 times the national average.Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh--guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore's average monthly electric bill topped $1,359. Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.Gore's extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore's mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

Big Al also has a 4,000 sq foot home in Arlington, Virginia and a third home in Carthage, Tennesse.

Gore also controls the family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum - hardly the most eco-friendly holding.

Gore also owns a private jet. To fly a private jet from Los Angeles to Washington would burn about as much petroleum as driving a Hummer for a year. During the period Jan 99 to Dec 00, Al made 16 flights on private jets.
Al - you are a fucking hypocrite.

Post to | Digg it.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Inside U2 Inc.

"U2 are arch capitalists - arch-capitalists - but it looks as if they're not"

Jim Aitken, music promoter

Bloomberg have done some digging behind the U2 empire and discovered a tax-free monster.

Generating $389mm in ticket sales, the Vertigo tour was the second highest grossing tour of all time (behind the Rolling Stones' current tour). Additionally the band sold nine million copies of the album, How to Dismantle and Atom Bomb.

In Dcember Bono was awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen and was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Bono has always supported many charitable causes. The list includes Amnesty, the Burma Campaign, DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade and Africa), Greenpeace, RED and ONE.

In June 2006, the band moved their music publishing company from Ireland to the Netherlands, in order to minimse tax. Up until this point, Ireland had allowed artists to generate income tax-free. But a newly introduced ceiling on tax free royalties of $300,000 caused the band to promptly leave Ireland and head for the Netherlands.

The relocation of U2's music publishing will halve taxes on the band's songwriting royalties, which already reportedly total $286 million. Although Bono has declined to comment on the move, the band's lead guitarist, David "the Edge" Evans, said

"Of course we're trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn't want to be tax-efficient?"

Writing in the Observer, Nick Cohen noted that Evans sounded

"as edgy as a plump accountant in the 19th hole."

Just click your fingers, relocate to Holland, and boom, Poverty is Made History.

Joan Burton, Irish Labour’s finance spokesman, is less than impressed,

“Having listened to Bono on the necessity for the Irish Government to give more money to Ireland Aid, of which I approve, I am surprised that U2 are not prepared to contribute to the Exchequer on a fair basis along with the bulk of Irish taxpayers."

In fact, U2's tax avoidance scheme is equivalent to a nation-wide 1% point reduction in income tax.

Richard Murphy, runs Tax Research LLC, a research institute based in Norfolk, England, and was one of three co-authors of the SOMO report on Dutch tax shelters.

“Ethically in my opinion, Bono’s tax arrangements are entirely inconsistent with his calls upon government to support anti-poverty drives. You cannot be demanding that resources be allocated to anti-poverty drives and then deny those resources to government."

On a recent tour to Australia he demanded that Prime Minister, John Howard increase his country's foreign aid budget from 1% of GDP to 1.7%. He was booed by the audience.

U2 now own stakes in fifteen companies and are in the almost unique position of owning the rights to all their recorded music, a fate even the Beatles failed to achieve. In 1984, the band negotiated this deal with record company Island Records. A year later, following the success of An Unforgettable Fire, the company was unable to pay all the royalties, so in return U2 were granted a 10% stake in Island Records. Four years later, Island was sold to Philipps Electronics and the band netted $30 million.

Though supporting Greenpeace, Bono owns three homes including a house in Nice, an apartment in New York and a mansion in Dublin. More recently, Bono set up a private equity company, Elevation Partners, raising $1.9 billion from investors to invest in media companies.

Murphy has some questions he'd like to pose to U2.

Do you want to:

  • stop capital flight from Africa?

  • prevent achievement of the Millennium Development Goals?

  • undermine democracy?

  • deny healthcare, education and opportunity to people around the world?

  • encourage lawlessness by promoting the abuse of regulation?

  • be seen to be pariahs from a country that is already itself a tax haven?

These are the consequences of ‘tax efficiency’. If you want these things, carry on as you are. If not, pay your taxes now. It’s not U2’s words that count, it’s their actions. Concern is a verb. Walk the talk or what you say is just a load of self promoting rubbish Bono. The choice is yours.

Last word with Bono,

"We don't sit around thinking about world peace all day"

Disclaimer; i am a lifelong fan of U2 and contrary to popular fashion, think their music is great. I just wish they would practice more of what they preach.


Blog For Sale

Stumbled upon this natty little gizmo.

My blog is worth $6,774.48.
How much is your blog worth?

It's based on Technorati technology.

Surprised mine is so low. I expect it's a glitch in the system.

Others random blogs;

Samizdata $473,084
Harry's Place $286,785
Tim Blair $532,000
Daily Kos $6,281,567
Tim Worstall $289,645
Little Green Footballs $2,927,456
Daily Ablution $251,784
Iain Dale $486,237
Pub Philosopher $64,723

So, $6,774 for the prized Pommygranate blog. That's a thousand times cheaper than The Daily Kos, and it's a thousand times better!

Just think what you could do if you are more committed, funnier and better informed than me...the sky's the limit!

Throw in a 40% takeover premium and i'll offer it up for a round $10k (US not AUD). I'll even stick around for three months to assist with the handover.

On a price-earnings ratio, i'll admit it's no steal. My Adsense account was $9.50 last month (and i only occasionally click my own ads), albeit doubled from December. Subtract $2.95 for Sitemeter and i make that a PE ratio of 127. Sure it's toppy, but hey, this is the Internet!

Please leave all indications of interest in the comments box.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Britain is to blame for all the world's ills

Oh dear. The guilt-ometer is showing a new record high.

The International Coalition for British Reparations wants the British taxpayer money to shell out $51 trillion (that's $51 million million) . Blimey. What for?

Any student of world history will tell you that if he had to pick a single nation to pin all the world's troubles on, Britain is far and away the obvious choice.

OK. We are the devil incarnate. So what must we do to assuage our guilt?

We, the International Coalition for British Reparations, are asking that the greatest criminal nation on earth—the British—pay up.


All roads of human suffering, particularly in the 20th century, lead back to Britain.


i) Genocide
Modern Britain was founded through the systematic erasure of indigenous culture and language. The English rounded up natives, seized their property, and forced them to relinquish their heritage and take on British language and culture as their own. Anyone who dissented faced extermination. This practice began in Scotland, Wales and Ireland and soon spread all over the world, where the British Empire plundered natural resources and enslaved native peoples then left without building the stable infrastructure or governments necessary for self-sufficiency.

ii) The Industrial Revolution.
Beginning in the 18th century, Britain began making our lives worse through the introduction of machines in the workplace. The health, safety, and wages of workers took a back seat to owners' greed for ever-higher output and profits. The skies above the city—first London, then the world—were filled with black smoke. Waters were poisoned with noxious chemicals. Under the careless watch Britain's elite, the Industrial Revolution got off to a horrible start, the consequences of which have continued to ring down through the centuries. The melting of the polar icecaps, the loss of countless plants and animal species, and the imperiled condition of the human race on a planet made poisonous by misapplied technology are all a consequence of British negligence and hunger to accumulate wealth at any cost.

iii) Global Misrule.
The terrorist threat has its roots in British mismanagement of the Middle East, particularly Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Britain's imperialist past has so enraged Muslim extremists. Now America is deploying our sons, daughters, and tax dollars to clean up the mess that Britain made. The deaths caused by all the major wars of the 19th and early 20th century could have been prevented, or at least lessened, if the British hadn't waited until their backs were up against the wall before getting into the action. Most of the worst tyrants in power through the end of the 20th century were put there by the British, or came to power by filling the power vacuum the British Empire left behind.

iv) Bad Inventions.
Machine guns, slums, prisons, child labor, bad hygiene, the Black Plague, concentration camps, you name it. If it hurts people, the British probably came up with it.

Ouch! But how have we gotten away with this for so long?

Britain has long controlled our patterns of thought through the modern university, an English invention. They control what we say through their hold over English, the global master language. More recently, they've bought the minds of some of our best and brightest—including numerous top U.S. politicians and public thinkers—through the Rhodes Scholarship, thus insuring that the false innocents of Britain's public image never has to face scrutiny.

So why $51 trillion?

Thirty-one trillion pounds is a fairly arbitrary figure

Oh I see.

So who gets the cash?

Everyone has suffered the consequences of the Evil Empire. We proposed to distribute the reparations monies equally between all the people of the world. Dividing a £31 trillion settlement between 6.5 billion people gives us roughly £4,770 or $8,350 for every man, woman, and child on earth. It's far from enough, but it's a start.


We don't believe this is due to any inherent defect in the character of the British people.

Phew, i was very worried then.

So who is behind the ICBR?

Steven A. Grasse, a cultural studies analyst and media communications expert

So what will happen to this petition?

We plan to present a full copy of the petition, in person, to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace

NB - Britain's GDP is $1.8 trillion

Via; Harry's Place and Pub Philosopher


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quote of the day

"The degree to which you believe global warming is causing major hurricanes is inversely proportional to your knowledge about these storms"
Dr. William Gray, the leading Hurricane expert in the U.S., talking about Al Gore.


Friday, February 23, 2007

The Right to Self Defence

I have always had a loathing for guns. My mother's family used to shoot pheasant and grouse in the Fens, a 'sport' i found abhorrent. I have never understood how Americans fail to make the connection between widespread gun ownership and a high murder rate. I have also never bought the Second Amendment nonsense that it is an American's right to bear arms.

However when the facts change, one must also revise one's opinions.

Britain is facing a gun epidemic.

But has violent crime really worsened or are the media to blame for scare-mongering. Well, it really depends on your time perspective.

In 1899, there was just one handgun murder in London and four armed robberies.
In 1986, Britain witnessed 423 murders.
In 2005 Home Office statistics recorded 5,001 injuries from firearm crimes and 833 murders in England and Wales.

Following the Dunblane massacre in 1996, the government passed the Firearms Bill, prohibiting the use of handguns. So did the ban reduce gun crime?

In the five years after the ban (from 98 to 03), handgun crime doubled. British surgeons are now receiving training in bullet wounds. The handgun ban has been an abject failure.

The US is always hailed as the capital of gun crime because of it allows its citizens to carry firearms. In 2005, there were 6,500 gun related murders in the US. Adjusting for population size however, reveals this is now only 20% higher than in the UK. The differential used to be enormous but now the two countries boast almost identical gun crime rates.

Also, gun crime is actually higher in those US States that have banned guns. Washington is one of the few US States to have banned handguns. The result? Marion Barry, a local Democrat politician says, "we are in the midst of a gun-violence epidemic. We need to see gun violence as an emergency in the District of Columbia."

Clayton Cramer of the Foundation for Economic Affairs argues that a handgun ban in the US would not reduce the murder rate. Legislation in Oklahoma which allowed the home-owner to use force no matter how slight the threat has reduced burglary by nearly half since it was passed 15 years ago. What British police condemn as "vigilante" behaviour has produced an American burglary rate less than half the English rate. And, while 53% of English burglaries occur when someone is at home, only 13% do in America, where burglars admit to fearing armed home-owners more than the police. Violent crime in the US is at a 30-year low; in the UK it is at a 30 year high.

The UK's response to rising crime has been fourfold;

i) Increasing restrictions have been placed on the use of handguns.

In 1920, the Firearms Act limited private indivduals from carrying a gun. This was tightened further in 1969 with the Home Office deciding that "it should never be necessary for anyone to possess a firearm for the protection of his house or person"

In 1953, The Prevention of Crime Act made carrying a weapon in a public place illegal.
In 1967 the concept of reasonable force in self-defence was amended and lowered.
In 2003, the Criminal Justice Act mandated a five-year minimum sentence for the offence of carrying a gun for those over the age of 18 and three years for those under 18.

ii) A softer approach to offenders
From the 1970s, sentence times have been reduced (made particularly acute by Britain's prisons now working at maximum capacity) and incarcerating fewer criminals.

iii) Reducing the number of bobbies on the beat.

iv) Making it harder to carry out a Citizen's Arrest
In 1994 an English home-owner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the home-owner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate.

The police have published guidelines as to the acceptable use of force during a break-in.

"Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime."

But what is 'reasonable force'?

Want to take the law into your own hands and make a Citizen's Arrest? Be careful. A father and son were charged with kidnap after making a "citizen's arrest" on a boy they alleged smashed a window and spat at a customer at their chip shop.

With the combination of these four factors, it's hardly surprising that crime is escalating, is it?

I have never ever been in favour of allowing gun ownership, but now i'm not so sure. If the police and the courts are unable and unwilling to prosecute violent criminals, then it is imperative that law-abiding folk are given the right to defend themselves and their families from violence.

Note to prospective carjackers - i suggest you think twice before robbing drivers in Tennessee


Thursday, February 22, 2007

French Military Test Fires Anti-Tank Missile


Quote of the Week

"I was a bit shocked that he didn't wear a condom. Looking back, I think of it as dangerous and hypocritical given that he was going to India to talk about AIDS."

Lisa Robertson, (ex) Qantas flight attendant


Welcome to Herouxville

There is a small town in rural Quebec with a population of 1300, called Herouxville.

Last month Herouxville has issued a set of standards so newcomers understand "the social life and habits and customs" of life in their new town. The statement says that,

"a woman can drive a car, vote, sign cheques, dance, decide for herself, dress as she sees fit...walk alone in public places, study, have a job"

They explain that townsfolk listen to music, drink alcohol and decorate Christmas trees and "if you come to my place we would send the kids to swim together in the pool."

Slightly more provocatively they continue,

"We consider that killing women in public beatings or burning them alive are not part of our standards of life."

Or maybe not.

Mayor Claude Dupont said the standards are "saying out loud what some people are thinking quietly but don't have the balls to say."
What 'some people are thinking' probably relates to anger that the good name of human rights is being tarnished by ever increasingly bizarre judgements like this and this.

Other Canadian towns are thinking of similar moves. St. Roch de Mekinac, Grandes Piles, Trois Rives, Lac aux Sables and St. Adelphe, also rural communities with few or no immigrants, are considering following Herouxville's lead and convening council meetings to discuss the issues.

"There are things that must change," said Mayor Lucien Mongrain of Trois Rives, population 487. Perhaps Herouxville's rules went too far, Mongrain said - "There were things in there that didn't need to be there" - but the issue is not one reserved for the Mauricie region of Quebec. "These are debates that are coming up all over the world."

Canada has one of the highest levels of immigration per capita and admitted 250,000 new arrivals last year.

This from local blogger, Hogtown Front,

Editorials in The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail didn't even bother to address the issues Herouxville raised, opting instead to paint the town’s folk as ignorant backwater "rubes." What is also not unexpected is how out of touch these newspapers are with majority opinion. The Globe op-ed piece was surprised to report that the vast majority of letters and emails the town has received supported the town's actions.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Clare College Motoons

The Clare College Motoons saga rumbles on.

The chairman of the Cambridge Mosque Committee has issued the following press release,

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful

The Cambridge Muslim Welfare Society, the controlling authority of the Cambridge Mosque, has made the following statement on behalf of the Mosque Committee and congregation:

With sorrow and anger the Mosque notes the publication, in the student newsletter Clareification, of material which deliberately insults the honour of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s.w.s.). Mindful of its duty before Almighty Allah and before humanity to defend the honour and good name of the Final Prophet, the Mosque condemns this provocation in the strongest terms.

We note with satisfaction the statement by Clare College in condemnation of the students’ actions. We accept that the College and University in no way bear responsibility for this publication and the views which it contains.

We hope and trust that the College’s view of the matter will be reflected in a statement from the students concerned, and that the students will offer a full and unconditional apology for their irresponsible action.

The University’s record of freedom of expression is a matter of record and of pride. However it is clear that incitement to religious and ethnic hatred is at all times immoral, and that its consequences for harmony between communities and nations can be grave. It is particularly important that the boundary between fair comment and hate speech be respected and understood at the present time, when misunderstanding and sometimes hatred directed against ethnic minorities of Muslim faith living in the West is on the rise, a process often exploited by far-right and racist groups whose political and social vision is abhorrent to all decent people.

Hicham KwiederChairman of the Mosque Committee

University magazine, Varsity reports that Clare College's Senior Tutor has

“been in close contact with leaders of the local Muslim Community, and also with other religious leaders, to apologise for the offence that has been caused”.
So does this edition of Clareification contain 'hate speech'? Well, we don't know because the students at Clare are too scared/lazy/busy trying to get into Goldman Sachs to tell us. What is hate speech? Is it ridiculing religious beliefs? Are we no longer allowed to poke fun at religious authorities? The Catholic Church believes that rape victims must carry their baby. Must i just accept this and move on? The Islamic Church believes homosexuality to be a 'sin'. Is this belief now sacred?

Johan has penned a response.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You have two cows; blogosphere version

Harry's Place;
You have two cows. One of them is convinced that the chickens are planning a coup. You support an armed invasion. The hen coop is destroyed. You upturn no evidence of a coup in the coop but continue to support the cows for years. You ask the cows how they plan to remove themselves from the coop as cows don't live in coops. They don't know. You are inundated in snide remarks from the rats and the cockroaches for years to come.

You have two cows. You decide that they have become too dependant on your handouts and are getting fat and lazy. You tell them they must start fending for themselves. They die.

Melanie Philipps;
You have two cows. You are convinced they are huge anti-Zionists committed to the destruction of Israel in disguise and shoot them at dawn.

You have two cows. Gordon Brown taxes you on the milk produced by six cows. John Reid slaps an ASBO on one of the cows for mooing in a threatening manner, and sticks a CCTV camera up its arse to monitor its behaviour. Peter Mandelson passes fifty regulations detailing how the cows should be milked, and the Department of Health and Safety bans cows from jumping over the moon. Tony Blair declares himself unfit for purpose and promptly resigns over a cash for cows scandal.

Tim Blair;
You have two cows. You are unhappy that they are only producing 1 million tonnes of methane per annum. You upgrade your car instead to a Range Rover Twin-Turbo Oxygen-injected V12, capable of a maximum 2 miles to the gallon. You buy a sticker for your car saying, "My other car is less fuel efficient".

Tim Worstall;
You have two cows. You cover the cows with adverts, move to Portugal and drink rioja for the rest of your life.

Mark Steyn;
You have two cows and two rabbits. You go away on holiday for a year. When you come back you discover you have two cows and six rabbits. You write a book, Cows Alone, on how rabbits are set to take over the world.

You have two cows. Every time one of them farts, you detect a significant rise in the earth's temperature. You fly your private jet to Florida to attend a Global Warming conference for advice. You are ordered to plant one hundred trees to become carbon neutral. One year later, the shade produced by your trees has destroyed the grass. Your cows die.

You have two cows. China has one trillion, growing at the rate of 100 billion per annum. You vigorously campaign to reduce the methane emissions from your two cows by 30%. You ignore the cows in China.

Daily Kos;
You have two cows. You decide that they are obese, odour-challenged and have learning difficulties. You place them on a strict vegan diet and teach them outcomes-based learning. They almost die. You take them to see a Vet. The Vet charges you $4,000 for a half hour consultancy and then refers you to a neurosurgeon for a brain scan. He fails to find one.

Little Green Footballs;
You have two cows. You sell them and buy pigs. Just to piss off the Muslims.

Disclaimer; i enjoy all the above blogs and this post is in no way an attempt to mock the writers. Except Daily Kos.


Mr. Paul Kagame of Rwanda

This just made my week.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame says his country will cement its bitter divorce from France, which he holds responsible for the 1994 slaughter of up to one million of his countrymen, by joining the British Commonwealth.

"There are many benefits for us in joining the Commonwealth - cultural, economic, political. I hope they will then (November) approve our membership. I am looking forward to it."

Mr Kagame on France's role in Africa,

"They are the ones who armed and trained the militias ... the evidence is everywhere. They continued to do so even after the genocide started. The entire experience of France and French influence (in Africa) has been negative."

The bitter relations between the two countries came to a head in November when a French judge accused Mr Kagame and several of his top aides of shooting down the aircraft carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana. The incident triggered the 100-day massacre of Tutsis and of moderate Hutus opposed to his regime.

Rwanda retaliated by severing diplomatic relations with Paris. Thousands of infuriated Rwandans took to the street in government-supported anti-French protests.

Rwanda, like neighbouring Burundi, was colonised by Belgium but after independence in the 1960s was close to France, which sent forces to help Habyarimana repel Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels in 1990. Mr Kagame was brought up as a refugee in neighbouring Uganda, where he learned to play cricket.

And he has even set up a Rwandan Cricket Board.

Just wonderful!


Monday, February 19, 2007

Pork barrel politics in NSW

NSW Premier Morris Iemma has launched Labor's campaign for the state election by making more than $2 billion worth of promises on education, health, water and policing.

Being relatively new to Australia's political scene, on first reading of this magnanimous gesture by Morris Iemma, i was stunned by how much personal wealth it takes to get to the top in local politics.

However, on further reading i discovered that he didnt' plan to donate his own personal money to the state of NSW, but the taxpayers'.

'Mr Iemma said a re-elected Labor government would spend $2 billion over four years on improving infrastructure in public schools. He also promised 40 new specialist police to combat domestic violence, 125 scholarships for rural midwives to upgrade their skills in major hospitals and 125 scholarships to attract more midwives to the bush. Mr Iemma promised to spend $130 million on a water recycling pipeline in western Sydney, to supply water for non-drinking purposes.'

In the US, the practice of buying votes by promising extra spending is called 'pork barrel' politics and is frowned upon. It is, in short, bribery.

"In politics, a pork barrel politics is a derogatory term describing government spending that is intended to benefit the constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes".

However given the total lack of comment by the media or by Opposition leaders, i guess it is the norm here.



The BBC - 'Institutionally Leftist'

Robin Aitken has been a journalist with the BBC for 25 years. He resigned in 2004 following the Hutton enquiry. He is about to publish a book exposing the "institutional biasedness" of the corporation.

Aitken is not the first senior journalist to accuse the BBC of biased reporting. Former business editor, Jeff Randall, quoted Orwell when describing the BBC,

"the BBC was full of intellectuals who 'would rather steal from a poor box than stand to attention during God Save The King'. "

Aitken writes,

'In 1984 I returned to BBC Scotland after covering the Tory conference in Brighton. The IRA had come close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher with a bomb and the country was in shock.
Apart, that is, from some of my BBC colleagues. "Pity they missed the bitch," one confided to me.

For three decades I was that rare breed - a Conservative at the BBC. In my time working on programmes such as Today and Breakfast News I couldn't have formed a cricket team from Tory sympathisers. As one producer put it, you feel almost part of an ethnic minority.

The BBC is biased,and it is a bias that seriously distorts public debate. In the past 30 years, 'Auntie' has transformed from the staid upholder of the status quo to a champion of progressive causes. In the process, the ideal at the heart of the corporation - that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan - has all but disappeared.

On Election night (in 1992 when Labour lost to the Conservatives), the atmosphere in the newsroom was one of palpable deflation. A young female producer was in tears. '

Aitken first raised his concerns within the BBC in 1998. He was ignored.

'In 1999 the news was dominated by Nato's war against Serbia. The BBC was supportive, in contrast to its sceptical attitude to the Falklands and the first Gulf wars. Why the difference? At the time Tony Blair enjoyed uncritical support within the BBC, as did President Bill Clinton.

At a Forum meeting in December 2000, I suggested to Greg Dyke, the new director-general, that there should be an internal inquiry into bias. Dyke, a Labour Party donor and member along with BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, mumbled a muddled reply. As he left the meeting, I overheard him demand angrily of his PA: "Who was that fucker?"

In 2001 I was hired by Rod Liddle, then editor of Radio 4's Today, to report on politics and economics. With an audience of six million, the programme is arguably the most influential in Britain. But I soon began noticing bias in the subjects chosen, the people interviewed and the tone of voice.

I wrote to Phil Harding, the BBC's director of editorial policy, using the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence as an analogy. If the Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist", I wrote, the BBC was "institutionally Leftist".

He was reluctant to engage and eventually told me he could devote no more time to my views, while Mark Damazer, deputy head of news, accused me of feeling frustrated about my career progress and attacked me for impugning the integrity of my colleagues. Both allegations were false; I enjoyed my career and never doubted the integrity of my colleagues - they truly believed they were acting impartially, they just didn't recognise their bias.

'Neutral' for BBC journalists is left of centre for everyone else; everything is seen through the distorting prism of the progressive agenda. As one senior news presenter told me:

"Anybody who attacks the Labour Government is always coming from the Left, and the Tories are written off as insane or - if there's the slightest chance of them getting anywhere - evil."

But Damazer wasn't interested in my views. If I was so "disaffected", he suggested I consider leaving the BBC.

Within the BBC, opinion ran strongly against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Most staff felt war was unjustified; feelings intensified by their contempt for President George Bush. On Today we occasionally allowed the case for war to be made, but the prevailing tone was doom-laden. Arguing for a better balance was a thankless task: at one meeting I said our coverage was too anti-war; the editor's response was brusque.

"That's a very dangerous view," Kevin Marsh, who took over as Today's editor in 2002, told me. Dangerous to whom? I wondered.

Aitken concludes

'The erstwhile young rebels who changed the BBC in the Sixties and Seventies are now the Establishment, and their views, once so radical, have become an ossified consensus - just like the ones they replaced. However, there is a big difference: the old Establishment was undermined by media scrutiny; the new Establishment is the media. Who can debunk it?'

The BBC currently recieves $5.8 billion a year of taxpayers money.

It's Charter directs it to be

free from both political and commercial influence and answers only to its viewers and listeners.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ni Putes Ni Soumises and Gina Khan

Well the students at Clare College, Cambridge may be running scared of religious authorities, but it is encouraging to report that not everyone is so cowed.

A Muslim woman in Birmingham, Gina Khan, 38, is leading a fight against extremists in her own community after forming a group that is determined to celebrate being British.

She described how she had been subjected to a forced marriage at the age of 16 and how this had subsequently become a polygamous arrangement. She believes forced and polygamous marriages are rife throughout Birmingham and need to be rooted out because of the damage they cause.

"People tell me I should be careful but I'm not scared, why should I fear speaking the truth? I'm not criticising the Quran, I'm challenging an interpretation of it. If we tackle the hidden epidemics of forced marriages to people from abroad and polygamy, which happen in the name of our culture, then we can tackle jihadists that also operate under the same banner."

Gina said too many young Muslims and even politicians were obsessed with the situation in the Middle East and not looking closer to home.

"I'm not saying I don't have empathy with these people but we're not taking care of our own and they're going astray. It took the London bombings for me to realise, this isn't all in my head. We're mobilised through fear not to challenge practises within our religion and culture. But our parents came to this country to escape strict regimes."

Predictably she is being attacked by Islamophobia Watch for her 'outspoken views'.

She must be doing something right.

More encouraging news from France this time. A feminist movement called Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) are committed to facing radical Islam and their misogynistic thugs in the banlieues. They are fighting the increasingly common mantra amongst the yobs that

"all women are whores except my mother"

The movement focuses on four areas;
  • Gang-rapes
  • Pressure to wear the hijab
  • Pressure to drop out of school
  • Pressure to marry early without being able to choose the husband
Founder Fadela Amara is dedicated to ‘fighting the rise of fundamentalism on all sides’ and keen to press home a key point, so absent on the Left and amongst the majority of so-called feminists in the West, that

“The first victims of fundamentalism are women. I don’t care if it’s Islamic fundamentalism or American evangelism. A fascist is a fascist”.

Good luck Gina and good luck NPNS.

But where are your equivalents in Australia?

via A Tangled Web and the Pub Philosopher.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Smokers - the new Lepers

UK; the government has announced $50 million of taxpayers money will be made available to train 1,200 council officers armed with the power to hand down on-the-spot fines of $100 and the ability to secretly film the public. The offence?


Meanwhile, while the government fiddles, Rome burns

Oh, by the way, the government collects $20 billion a year from tobacco taxes and only spends $3.3 billion of that on tobacco related illnesses, according to ASH, the anti-smoking lobby.

The State just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more powerful.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Steve Irwin and a Wrinkled Beast

"The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing 10 times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn,"

Germaine Greer writing in The Guardian just days after his death.

In a neat little twist, Steve Irwin’s portrait has just replaced Germaine Greer’s in Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery. A spokesman for the National Portrait Gallery said the decision to swap the portraits was “totally coincidental” and that "she hasn't been bumped".

Right, mate. We believe you.

Sincerest apologies to all those forced to look at this grotesque picture of a wrinkled beast.

Other Germaine Gems

"If your ambition is to live on Ramsay Street, where nobody has even been heard to discuss a book or a movie, let alone an international event, then Australia may be the place for you."

"For the vast majority, life in Australia is neither urban nor rural, but suburban. The reality is not Uluru or the Sydney Opera House, but endless, ever-expanding replications of Ramsay Street that spread out as rapidly as oil stains on water, further and further from the tiny central business districts of the state capitals. Each street has a nature strip; each bungalow faces the same way, has a backyard and a front garden, all fenced, low at the front, high at the back."

"Aborigines could teach other Australians how to make living in Oz emotionally and intellectually satisfying, but nobody is going to give them the chance."

"There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress. Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation, which was to strike."

via Israelly Cool


You have two cows...

Private Equity; You have two cows. You come home from the fields one day to
find Henry Kravis chatting to your spouse at the dining-room table. Two days later, you have no spouse, no farm, and no table. The cows are now being milked 24/7. Their grass is imported from Bangalore.

Currency Market; You have two cows. China has 1 trillion cows. Guess who sets the price of milk?

Hedge Funds; You have two cows. A 30yr old guy in Chinos who has never been to a farm, drives up in his Bentley and offers to take care of them for you in return for a year's supply of steak and 50% of their milk. They won't be allowed to leave his compound for two years. Six months later, you have half a cow, producing sour milk. ``You have to be willing to lose rump today to get rib-eye tomorrow,'' the hedge-fund guy mumbles through a mouthful of sirloin and champagne.

The Greens; You have two cows. They produce 1.2 tons of methane gas per day. The government gives you enough emission permits for six cows. You sell three permits, buy another cow, and apply for a European Commission grant to build a methane-gas
power station.

Google; You have no cows. You slap advertisements on everyone else's cows. The milk floods in. You use the proceeds to reinvent the cow.

Apple Inc.; Nobody wants your cows. You design the cutest little milk bottle. Now, everybody wants your cows.

Russia; You have two cows. Comrade, those cows are an environmental hazard. We suggest you hand one of them over to us. You do. It dies. Gazprom buys the other for, err, nothing. You are sent to Siberia.

Little Green Footballs; You have two cows. You sell them for pigs. Just to piss off the Muslims.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Clareification - update

I received this email from a student at Clare College. Very interesting perspective.


I noticed you said on your blog that you wanted a Clare student's
perspective on the Mohammed cartoons thing. I'm a second year student
at Clare and I know the guest editor well. I'm not going to give his
name, as he has asked personally that no one does and I see no need to
violate that request. A few points, though, that might not be
apparent to the outsider. Lots of the blogosphere seems to be
perplexed that no Clare students are making comment. I think there are
three main reasons for this, none of which are that Clare students are
timid in the face of religion. First, the publication actually
happened quite a while ago (nearly 3 weeks) so lots of people just
don't think it's that exciting any more. Most don't read blogs and the
press have dropped it, so it seems to most people that the story has
petered out.

Second, there has been a huge, even unprecedented perhaps, amount of
discussion about this on the Union of Clare Students (UCS) internal
forum (only accessible with a Cambridge IP address). I mean 25 full
pages of discussion, around 10,000 page views. I can assure you that
almost all the posts are in support of the guest editor (even those
that express disgust with the content) and there are people who are
preparing action in the event that the guest editor is punished.

Third, what the blogosphere doesn't seem to realise/know is that lots
of the British press (especially on the left) love nothing better than
to get a good anti-elitism anti-Cambridge story. It's been great to
see so many pro-freedom of speech blogs shout out support for
Clareification, but this time last week it looked like the opposite
would be the case: lots of anti-elite press coverage making us out to
be institutionally racist. Everyone agreed that could only be a bad
thing for us (especially with regard to admissions and donations) so
most people thought it was better to shut up and let the left-wing
press get over the story as quickly as possible. If you could see the
UCS forum, you'd know what I mean. There's been lots and lots of
internal pressure on the college authorities to support the guest
editor in private, but most of us realise that when it comes to
Cambridge and things the liberal media disapprove of, no publicity is
good publicity. The silence in general, insofar as it really exists,
is much more the result of a sense of solidarity as Cambridge students
than timidity in the face of outrage.

Some other brief points: it's been reported that the college has cut
the magazine's funding. This is bollocks – the college doesn't fund it
to begin with, the UCS does. Second, the big issue for college is the
use of communal money to call Mohammed a "violent paedophile", not the
fact that those words were printed. No one seems to have a problem
with the guest editor doing that with his own money, but more people
were concerned that – though they supported the editor's right to say
it in principle – they didn't want to be subsidising it.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions.

A Clare Student



This is a tale about Cambridge University as it is today. It tells of student pranks, of reactionary University authorities, of the abolishment of free speech on campus, and of the climate of fear instilled by the Disrimination Laws.

A 19 year-old student at Clare College, Cambridge, printed a copy of one of the Mohammed cartoons next to a photo of the President of the Union of Clare Students in the student rag, Clareification. The caption read "violent paedophile" and the other was "a prophet of God, great leader, and example to us all." It is not known which caption referred to which photo. The piece was submitted as part of this week's theme of religious satire. The copy was entitled Crucification.

Since publication on Friday, the shit has hit the fan in a spectacular fashion.

i) The College authorities have hit the panic button and have called a Court of Discipline to decide on the student's fate. However, this seems all but sealed given some of the comments from College authorities,

Senior Tutor, Patricia Fara,

"Clare is an open and inclusive college. A student produced satirical publication has caused widespread distress throughout the Clare community. The college finds the publication and the views expressed abhorrent. Reflecting the gravity of the situation, the college immediately began an investigation and disciplinary procedures are in train."

She has also requested that students hand over all copies of Clareification back to her so that they can be "destroyed".

Book burning at Cambridge?

I would pay good money for a copy. If you have one, email me. There's strangely nothing on ebay.

ii) The College has also cut funding for the paper and

iii) called the police, who replied (sensibly) that

"This is a matter for the university authorities to deal with."

iv) In typical union fashion, Calum Davey, President of the Clare Student Union decides to speak for all the students, offering his "deep regret" and adding

"This material does not reflect the views of Clare students"

v) Local Muslim leaders have predictably "expressed outrage" over the publication.

vi) Oh, and the boy in question has been taken into hiding for "his own protection". Nowhere is this spelled out why. Has he received threats? It is not clear.

Now the National Secular Society has joined the debate, with Terry Sanderson, President of the NSS publishing a statement passionately defending the right to free speech,

“We are shocked that the staff and even the students union at this supposedly liberal college have joined the attack on this student because he had the temerity to poke fun at religion. Free expression is such a precious commodity and is under such ferocious attack at present from religious interests that it is disgraceful that no-one is standing up for this young man’s right to be rude about religion – even about Islam.”
and contrasting Clare College's shameful capitulation to religious censorship with the French authorities' recent spirited defence of free speech,

“We would like to draw your attention to a case that is pending in France at the moment, in which a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been brought to court by an Islamic organisation for re-publishing the Danish cartoons that are at the centre of so much controversy. In the French case, academics, artists and politicians of all hues have rushed to the defence of the magazine. Letters of support and statements defending free speech have been issued by some of the most influential people in the country – including Mr Sarkozy, who is potentially the next President of France. Your own reaction does not bear comparison with the principled French reactions. It sides with the oppressors and censors who are doing so much to retard open debate in academe and elsewhere."

If you would like to write to the College authorities to express your feelings, the email addresses are;

The Master, Professor Tony Badger:

The Senior Tutor, Dr Patricia Fara:

Students' Union President, Calum Davey:

thanks to Pub Philosopher for the addresses

This is a local blog, which apparently is not connected with the College, despite the title, Clare Politics. Posts on the subject are starting to roll in.

Update; someone who has actually seen the magazine (and appears to be generally in favour of free speech) finds the contents "frightening and unnecessary"

via Harry's Place


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Viagra - coming to a Pharmacist near you

Britain's biggest pharmacy chain, Boots, will start selling Viagra over the counter at some of its stores on February 14.

Boots will allow men aged between 30 and 65 who want the drug a one-hour consultation with a specially trained pharmacist. The pharmacist will take their medical history and check blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. If no medical red flags are raised, the men can buy four Viagra pills for $128. For a refill, men will then have to see a private doctor for a medical examination.

No sooner had the press release hit the tapes, then the anti-fun police came charging out,

"This sets a very bad precedent and should not be condoned. This system is basically prescribing medication without doctors."

said Dr Andrew Very Dull McCullough, a sexual health expert (?) at New York University Medical Centre.


Is John Howard losing his touch?

Round 1; Howard;

"If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats"

Ouch! Tiger.

Round 2; Obama;

"So, if he's ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them up to Iraq. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."
The US has close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and Australia has 1400. So, it is a fair point.

Round 3; Howard

"If I hear a policy being advocated that is contrary to Australia's security interests I will criticise it"

Round 4; Obama

"I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced my candidacy,"

Not very edifying for either politician though, is it? Hilary and Ken must be cracking open the bubbly.

Together with John Howard's recent dramatic U-turn on environmental policy, and the emergence of a serious contender in the shape of Kevin Rudd, is it time to say goodbye to the cricket-loving old man?


Monday, February 12, 2007

Take the Environmental Test

Got into a heated discussion recently with friends about the Environment? Have they assured you that we're all doomed so we may as well throw our kids off the Harbour Bridge now and be done with it? Felt that they didn't really know what they were talking about? Then ask them to take this simple EcoTest to see how much they (and you) really know about Climate Change.

Answers below - don't cheat.

i) What is Global Warming?
ii) Since 1900, how much has the Earth warmed?
iii) During the 20th Century, what was the average annual rise in sea levels?
iv) Since the end of the last Ice Age in 16,000 BC, what has been the average annual rise in sea levels?
v) What is the 'Greenhouse Effect'?
vi) How much of the 'Greenhouse effect' is caused by human activity?
vii) Excluding water vapour, which other gases, adjusted for their Global Warming Potential, contribute to the Greenhouse Gas effect?
viii) What % of the above gases can be accounted for by man (anthropogenic)?
ix) How much has the atmospheric CO2 concentration risen since the Industrial Revolution?
x) How much of this can be accounted for by man?
xi) What is the Kyoto Protocol?
xii) What % reduction in CO2 emissions is demanded by the Kyoto Protocol?
xiii) By how much would this reduce total Geenhouse Gas emissions?
xiv) If every country observed the Kyoto Protocol, how much would global temperatures fall?
xv) And by how much would the world's economy shrink? Use Britain and Germany as an example.


i) The theory that increased levels of CO2 and certain other gases are causing an increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans because of the 'Greenhouse effect'.
ii) 0.6C
iii) 2mm
iv) 7mm
v) the process by which absorption of infra-red radiation by the atmosphere warms a planet.
vi) 0.28%
Water accounts for 95% of the effect.
CO2 (72%), Nitrous Oxide (19%), Methane (7%) and CFCs (2%)
viii) 5.53%
ix) from 288ppm to 370ppm. Source - US Dept of Energy, 2000
x) 11ppm or 3%
xi) The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Signatories commit to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases. Only developed countries were asked to sign as they are the ones that caused the problem.
xii) 30%
xiii) 0.035%
xiv) 0.05 degree Celsisus
Source - Dr. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, Univ of Virginia
xv) Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will cost Germany and Britain about 5% of GDP and increase unemployment by 1.8 million and one million respectively. Source; NCPA



Peter Hain - stupid, populist politician

A week ago, i posted that soaring CEO pay is starting to turn people off capitalism and will inevitably lead to calls for more regulation from busy-body officials.

Right on cue, welcome to one stupid, populist politician.

UK's Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, and a contender for the Deputy Leadership of the Party, has suggested that

"City firms donate two-thirds of their bonus pots to charity or inner-city regeneration"

Why such largesse from the UK's engine room and tax cash cow? Because massive City bonuses are fuelling envy and social discontent. He went on to warn that City firms could face government legislation or tax hikes to reduce inequality if they do not act themselves to curb excessive payouts.

More ominously, he threatened

"there would be a big fight if the firms did not show more moral and social responsibility.That sort of thing [excessive pay] creates a society where you start getting envy being promoted and a sense of real antagonism and that breeds all sorts of socially undesirable behaviour."

Yes, Peter. Like stupid, populist proposals from cynical politicians.

Declaring total ignorance of the City and its workings, he added

"I don't believe that people will only work in the City because they get those sort of bonuses"

What a complete wanker.

So Pete, what do you think about the pay of top footballers? Or top actors? Will you regulate David Beckham's latest deal? And what do you have to say about the real issue at stake - that of top pay for poor performance? I thought so. Absolutely nothing.

You're a hypocrite and a wanker.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

More on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

More from Ayaan Hirsi Ali - this time on US TV. One of the bravest women in the world. The price for her outspoken views on radical Islam is a permanent bodyguard due to persistent death threats.

"I wonder why my critics are not addressing those who are doing the threats."

One for her critics to ponder.

The MLK of the 21st Century?

via Hot Air

Former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote the film, Submission:Part 1,that led a Muslim extremist to shoot its producer,Theo van Gogh. Ali was born in Somalia and claimed refugee status in Holland in the early 1990's.

You were brought up a devout Muslim. What made you turn against the religion?

I knew no better than to follow the path my parents had laid out for me. I didn't question it seriously until after 9/11. Bin Laden defined the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, and these had to either be converted or killed. I asked myself where I stood after I saw the pictures of people jumping out of the World Trade Center. As a Muslim I had to ask if I agreed with that. I was saddened to see Bin Laden's citations were from the Koran and were consistent with the Islam I grew up with. It is just that we were passive until then. Now we had to take sides. I had completed a political science degree and could no longer use ignorance as an excuse. I had to make my own path.

The 9/11 attacks made you renounce your faith but radicalised other Muslims. Why?

The 74 per cent of Muslims under 24 who said in a survey that women should wear the veil and want Sharia law to be introduced have gone for the consistency that Bin Laden offers. Others have taken my path. Liberal society hasn't paid any attention to what has been happening. Radical Islam was dismissed as a fringe movement but what starts small can grow. When you look at some Arab Islamic countries, radical Islamists are in the majority. Why do we kid ourselves it can't happen in Europe?

Do you think multiculturism has failed?

Yes, we can put it in the history books and be glad we've realised that now rather than in years ahead. We need to understand radical Islam's ideology, its agents, the strategies it uses and the groups it targets. European and American leaders desperately want to disconnect the ideaology from the religion of Islam, which is a mistake. Islam is a set of beliefs on which the ideology of Bin Laden is based. We need to appeal to Muslims and show them their faith has traits that aren't reconcilable with human progress and liberal society. In the United States,agents of radical Islam are targeting prison populations. In Europe, it's universities:the kind of people who once flirted with communism. The biggest mistake we've made is regarding Islam as an ethnic thing. It's not. It's a set of beliefs that can be scrutinised. Instead of exposing the fallacies in those beliefs, we've told ourselves that every criticism of Islam is some sort of racism-but Islam is not a race.

Are you playing into the hands of Right-wing extremists?

If there is Right-wing extremism in Europe today, it's radical Islamic extremism. It's the agents of radical Islam who propose a future for women that is truly horrifying-as we saw with the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Somalia today.

Do you see any positive sides to Islam?

That's like asking if I see positive sides to Nazism, Communism,Catholicism. Of course Islam preaches generosity and kindness and taking care of the poor and elderly and so on-but these values aren't limited to Islam. If you weigh what is provided in terms of kindness and humanity against the evil that can come from a society built on radial Islam,you will see that liberals must stand up to this like they've stood up to other ideologies.

Your inundated with death threats. Don't you worry about it?

Not any more. It's something you become used to because you can't do anything about it. I have permanent protection from the Dutch government so I can do my work.

Do you have any regrets about the work you've done?

I regret that Theo van Gogh was killed but I don't regret making the film. I would do it again, only be more careful. I'm working on the follow-up to Submission Part1. One of the individuals in the film will be a gay man. I currently live in the US and work at a think-tank, and have all the intellectual freedom I need. Things are alright for me.


Australia's Carbon Dioxide Emissions - A Cunning Plan

France emits around 1/3rd the level of CO2 than Australia per capita.

How do they manage it?

"A plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it, and call it a fox"

As Baldrick might have said, had he been an Australian citizen genuinely concerned about the environment.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Prison Works?

European crime hotspots are the UK, Irish Republic, Estonia, Netherlands and Denmark, according to a new EU study.

In a follow up to my earlier post about Britain's soaring prison population, Dominic Lawson writing in the Independant makes some compelling points;

Does putting people behind bars reduce crime?

Well, between 1993 and 2001, New Labour adopted the 'prison works' approach - the number of prisoners rose by 45%. During this period, according to the British Crime Survey, which the current government regards as the most reliable, recorded crimes fell precipitously from more than 19 million to 12.6 million.

Coincidence? Maybe but

The average offender carries out 140 offences a year. Lock up an extra ten thousand and you have a 1.4 million drop in crimes.

But prison doesn't work scream the 'let-em-out' brigade pointing to data showing that 53% of those jailed for robbery go on to reoffend.

However, what they don't tell you is that 69% of those serving a non-custodial sentence also go on to re-offend. As Mr. Lawson points out, "Prison may not have a massive deterrent effect, but not-prison has even less power to deter."

OK, retort the 'let-em-outs', but we already imprison a greater proportion of the population than any other European country save Luxembourg.

Yes, we do. However, this is because Britain is a much more crime-ridden country (as pointed out by the EU study). In England and Wales 12 people are imprisoned for every 1,000 crimes committed. In Spain that figure is 48 per 1,000; in Ireland it is 33 per 1,000. Both those countries have much lower crime rates than ours.

Yes, but, won't building all those new prisons cost a load of money?

Well, it's true that Gordon Brown didn't like the idea of building more prisons because of the cost to the taxpayer. However, he should have done his sums a little better. It would cost about £7bn to double the number of prison places. Yet the annual cost of crime is estimated to be in the region of £60bn. As they say (somewhat annoyingly), do the math.

Lawson ends with a less than subtle dig at the middle-class bien pensants,

I realise that newspapers such as this one and The Guardian will continue to argue against such stern measures - and will continue to sneer at the red-top tabloid press for arguing for them. The Sun and the Mirror know their readers, however: the victims of crime are overwhelmingly among the least well-off. The relatively well-to-do have every right to parade their consciences. They are unlikely, however, to encounter the consequences.


Moderate Muslims fight back

Who says there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim?

'A Muslim group has offered to help fund a school's legal battle over its refusal to let a pupil wear the niqab (above) in class.

The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (Meco) has written to the head teacher to say it is prepared to contribute to a fighting fund. Taj Hargey, Meco's chairman, said he was also willing to organise a campaign among Muslims nationally to resist

"this largely Saudi-driven campaign to make the niqab a compulsory requirement for Muslim women"

Dr Hargey's offer comes as the school, which cannot be identified because of a court order, faces the prospect of an expensive legal fight without any backing. Buckinghamshire county council, the local authority for the school, is unwilling to underwrite a challenge which it believes could cost as much as £500,000.

A court on Thursday is due to decide whether the school's decision not to allow the pupil, aged 12, to wear the veil should go to a full judicial review. The school, which already allows girls to wear head scarves called hijabs, drew the line at the niqab, which covers the whole face except the eyes. It is insisting that the family accepts the uniform policy but the father has been given legal aid to fight a human rights case.

Last year the law lords ruled that a school in Luton, Beds, was justified in barring Shabina Begum from wearing a jilbab, a long loose gown, to classes but it took a long and expensive legal fight. The judges made clear that their ruling applied only to the Luton case and it is unclear whether other courts will consider the judgment to have established case law.

If the court allows the case to proceed, the school may be forced to back down, potentially rendering any policy on uniform unenforceable at any school threatened with legal action.
The case is complicated because the girl's sisters were allowed to wear the niqab when a different head was in charge. A new policy has been introduced which the father is challenging. The girl has not been excluded, but has been out of school since early October.
In his letter to the school, Dr Hargey said the father's insistence on his daughter wearing the niqab was a

"non-Islamic imposition upon your institution"

He added: "We are strongly committed to offering you our full and unequivocal support in banning face-masks at school. We trust that you will continue to resist any move to implement this kind of minority ethnic obsession, which has no foundation whatsoever in the transcendent sources of Islamic law."
Dr Hargey said that since the school's dress code already allowed the option for Muslim girls to wear the hijab, there was no need for full-face covering.'

Good for you, Dr. Hargey. And shame on you, Buckingham County Council.


London's new mega-mosque 2012

More on the planned 70,000 seater London mega-mosque.

It's not the fact that London is building a new mosque that bothers me, nor is it that the plans are for such a large mosque. It's the sponsors that we should worry about.

The project has the backing of a group called Tabligh-i-Jamaat, a missionary Sunni sect. They claim to be 'non-violent' but a number of convicted terrorists have passed through its ranks, including John Walker Lindh and Richard Reid (the shoe bomber). The movement's European headquarters is in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, and was often visited by Mohammed Khan, the mastermind of the 7/7 bombings.

Many of London's Muslims , like Dr. Irfan al-Alawi, are also concerned and believes the mosque will be a security threat,

"I think, yes. Once the youth have been brainwashed, and been captured by the satanic ideology of the Tablighis, yes, it will come as a very hard-hitting movement."

He added,

"The person who is really behind it is Ken Livingstone"

The question is, why?


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Armenian Genocide Denial

Now here's a fascinating prospect.

The French Government is currently legislating to make Armenian Genocide denial a criminal offence, a law the Brussels Journal believes will be enacted sometime in the late spring. However, over in Turkey, just mentioning the massacre is a criminal offence.

Armenia says Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million people systematically in 1915 - a claim strongly denied by Turkey. The bill sponsored by the opposition Socialist party provides for a year in jail and a $50,000 fine - the same punishment that is imposed for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

Hence if Turkey joins the EU then we will have the delicious situation that denial of the Armenian Holocaust is a criminal offence in France, whilst mentioning it is a criminal offence in Turkey.

As the Brussels Journal concludes,

The happy result of this could be that the entire population of France could be lifted and placed, Midnight Express like in Turkish prisons. Of course the entire population of Turkey could then find itself extradited to France and imprisoned there.

Only in the EU!

A rare word of good sense from French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin

"It is not a good thing to legislate on issues of history and of memory"



Monday, February 05, 2007

Save The Mexican Wave!

As a lifelong cricket fan, nothing annoys me more than the cricketing traditionalists. You know the sort - still disappointed that Test cricket has to end after five days; appalled that the TV stations no longer cover every ball bowled; and unhappy about the amount of fun had by a cricketing crowd, which ought to studiously watch each ball bowled in concentrated silence.

However, cricket is a form of entertainment that must compete in a very saturated market. If it doesn't entertain, the punters will stop coming. And that is exactly what has happened. The only game capable of delivering a packed crowd is The Ashes series - and after this summer's debacle, even that may be in danger of playing to half-empty stadiums.

So what does Cricket Australia do when faced with declining support? It bans fun.

This year,

i) The Barmy Army bugler was ejected
ii) Inflatables were confiscated and
iii) The Mexican Wave was banned and on the spot fines of $210 introduced

In response to this onslaught from the nanny state, outraged cricket fan Matthew Newton has set up the website Save The Mexican Wave.

"The ban is just absolutely ridiculous. It's as if Cricket Australia doesn't want people to enjoy going to the cricket any more. It's stripping the atmosphere out of the game. The Mexican wave is something that Australian fans do value."

Liberty Victoria president Brian Walters made the following observation,

"What I think is interesting in this is that Cricket Australia, which is not a government body, should be able to effectively make laws and have the police enforce them. I think that is very troubling."


But Cricket Australia meant business. Just 20 minutes into yesterday's match between Australia and New Zealand, Stevo was swiftly ejected for starting a wave, along with 121 others.

From Steve's website,

While the toffs and whingers sitting up in glass boxes swilling Chardonnay in their suits and ties, the fans below are trying to have a good time.Cricket Australia has declared war on the average fan: they screwed up the ticketing for The Ashes. They banned the Bugler from the cricket. Now they're banning the Mexican Wave. I think that Cricket Australia should be the first to take our new citizenship test as they obviously have no idea what it means to be Australian. This isn't Great Britain, Land of Hope and Glory and Stuffed Shirts. This is Australia, land of the larrikin, land of the fair go! From today, let's see the Mexican Wave back in its rightful place at the People's Ground, the MCG. That's right, Cricket Australia. The People's Ground. Stand up to them! Tell them what you think! Save the Mexican Wave!

We, Australian cricket fans, call on Cricket Australia to:
1. Lift their ban on the Mexican Wave.
2. Institute security measures to guarantee the safety of spectators during Mexican Waves.
3. Ban spectators who throw harmful objects during Mexican Waves for life.
In this form of cricket, the Mexican Wave is virtually compulsory.