Posts Tagged ‘politics’
Watch the video by Lena Dunham before reading below – spoilers!
“Your first time [voting] should be with a great guy”. It seems that by not including the word voting in the first line the Barack Obama promoting video is causing foaming at the mouth for those that think alluding to sex is not proper social intercourse. An example:
RedState editor-in-chief and CNN contributor Erick Erickson wrote: “If you need any further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire, consider the number of people who have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting.”
Indeed ridiculous. After all you usually get screwed after the election not in the voting booth.
In case you were wondering why 250,000 (500,000 may be over stating it in some of the papers today) marched in protest at government cuts on Saturday – and not as Libyan TV stated against our military intervention in their country – in London below is a letter that was sent by Tony Benn and others last year. It sets out the left’s response to the coalition government’s fiscal policies.
If you wondered why Fortnum and Masons was occupied by protestors yesterday, it was because “proper tea is theft”.
The time to organise resistance is now.
We reject these cuts as simply malicious ideological vandalism, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. Join us in the fight.
Tony Benn and 73 others
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 4 August 2010 15.32 BST
It is time to organise a broad movement of active resistance to the Con-Dem government’s budget intentions. They plan the most savage spending cuts since the 1930s, which will wreck the lives of millions by devastating our jobs, pay, pensions, NHS, education, transport, postal and other services.
The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers’ profligacy.
The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.
Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors.
We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.
This government of millionaires says “we’re all in it together” and “there is no alternative”. But, for the wealthy, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have already been restored to pre-crash levels.
An alternative budget would place the banks under democratic control, and raise revenue by increasing tax for the rich, plugging tax loopholes, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, abolishing the nuclear “deterrent” by cancelling the Trident replacement.
An alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and foster a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, thereby creating a million jobs.
We commit ourselves to:
• Oppose cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services.
• Fight rising unemployment and support organisations of unemployed people.
• Develop and support an alternative programme for economic and social recovery.
• Oppose all proposals to “solve” the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating.
• Liaise closely with similar opposition movements in other countries.
• Organise information, meetings, conferences, marches and demonstrations.
• Support the development of a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance.
We urge those who support this statement to attend the Organising Conference on 27 November 2010 (10am-5pm), at Camden Centre, Town Hall, London, WC1H 9JE.
Caroline Lucas MP
John McDonnell MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Mark Serwotka, general secretary PCS
Bob Crow, general secretary RMT
Jeremy Dear, general secretary NUJ
Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary, NUJ
Frank Cooper, president of the National Pensioners Convention
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention
John Hendy QC
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary NUT
Cllr Salma Yaqoob
Lee Jasper, joint co-ordinator of Black Activists Rise Against Cuts (Barac)
Zita Holbourne, joint co-ordinator of Barac campaign and PCS national executive
Ashok Kumar, VP education and welfare, LSE student union
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
Francis Beckett, author
David Weaver, chair, 1990 Trust
Viv Ahmun, director Equanomics UK
Paul Mackney, former general secretary NATFHE/UCU
Clare Solomon, president ULU student union
Lindsey German, convenor, Stop the War Coalition (personal capacity)
Andrew Burgin, archivist
John Rees, Counterfire
Romayne Phoenix, Green party
Joseph Healy, secretary Green Left
Fred Leplat, Islington Unison
Neil Faulkner, archaeologist and historian
Alf Filer, Socialist Resistance
James Meadway, economist
Cherry Sewell, UCU
Alan Thornett, Socialist Resistance
Peter Hallward, professor of modern European philosophy
Matteo Mandarini, Historical Materialism editorial board
John Nicholson, secretary Convention of the Left
Michael Chessum, UCL union education and campaigns officer
Mark Curtis, writer
Sean Rillo Raczka, chair, Birkbeck College student union, and mature students’ representative, NUS national executive
Robyn Minogue, UoArts NUS officer
Prince Johnson, NUS president Institute of Education
Roy Bailey, Fuse Records
Gary Herman (CPBF national council member, in personal capacity)
Louis Hartnoll, president UoArts student union
Sarah Ruiz, former Respect councillor and community activist in Newham
Mary Pearson, National Union of Teachers, vice president Birmingham Trades Union Council
Joe Glenholmes, Unison, life member Birmingham Trades Union Council
Baljeet Ghale, NUT past president
Jane Holgate, chair of Hackney Unite and secretary of Hackney TUC
Marshajane Thompson, Labour Representation Committee NC
Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary
Trevor Phillips, campaigner
Stathis Kouvelakis, UCU, King’s College London
Hugh Kerr, former MEP
Nina Power, senior lecturer in philosophy Roehampton University
Norman Jemmison, NATFHE past president, NPC
Kitty Fitzgerald, poet and novelist
Iain Banks, author
Arthur Smith, comedian
Anne Orwin, actor
George Bush had not one, but two shoes thrown at him. The journalist even had time to make a speech before hauling them – the first shoe about the invasion of Iraq and the second for the widows and orphans.
Much is being made about Arab culture and showing the soles of your feet as a sign of disrespect.
That though would surely be a double barefooted flying kick?
However, despite having the best security of any leader in the world, a man was able to let fly with a second shoe before being surrounded by security agents. Both shoes narrowly missed the President. Considering the damage a Pretzel did this qualifies as an all out assault.
Just five weeks to go before Obama becomes President. If he can go eight years without such an incident he will have done well. The fear, softly spoken but felt, is that the risk is beyond steel tipped footwear.
Such fears are less compared to everyday life in Iraq. Still, it must be a safer place if you would risk going about barefoot in Iraq.
In Britain Spitting Image was a satirical comedy involving puppets of politicans and celebrities. While no longer around it had an impact on popular perceptions – John Major being the colour grey, David Steel being in the pocket of David Owen, Neil Kinnock unable to fall off a log to prove he could win the election (which he did not). While it may not have changed minds, it did reinforce views people took on politicians.
In the USA Tina Fey (30 Rock) is having a similar impact playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. As a mimic she is spot on in her interpretation of Palin. A natural advantage; a few years ago Palin dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween.
At some points the comedy actually uses what Sarah Palin has said. While Sarah has said she is a fan, and there is talk that before Polling Day she may do a sketch with Tina on Saturday Night Live – John McCain did saying he had the oldness required for the job.
Check out one mock interview on Saturday Night Live (SNL) with Tina Fey as Palin here.
A week after the first broadcast of SNL, Palin’s approval rating went down by ten percentage points. For some a Republican victory seems less likely with Fey’s impersonation:
But you, Ms. Fey, have the ability, with just a wink and a smirk, to change the minds of millions of casual viewers and even more casual voters, to educate them as to what this woman stands or doesn’t stand for. These viewers don’t react to a radical move like Republican Senator Chuck Hagel coming forth to question Palin’s credentials or credibility, or really care about what political pundits prognosticate on cable news shows. Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, many swing-state voters get their information and cue from you, Ms. Fey, and you need to provide as much of it as one woman possibly can, before the election is upon us and it is too late. [Huffington Post]
As for Fey, she has said that come November 5 she hopes to be done with the impersonation. One would hope that the voters would base that on the issues and what Sarah Plain stands for then a comedic impression. Because if that really was how people formed their opinions on policy and issue, then we have even more to fear then the leader of the world’s only superpower. If it does hopefully the saving grace is that something is funny because it is often so true.
It is not only Hollywood celebrities that are accused of hurting people’s sensibilities when it comes to religion (Natalie Portman). Pat Condell, a comedian who has been featured on Richard Dawkins Website, had his video on Sharia Law flagged by users and complained about by Muslim Groups when posted on 30 September. YouTube have reinstated the video stating:
“YouTube is a platform for expression of all kinds. Our Community Guidelines prohibit speech that promotes or encourages hatred or violence towards certain groups or individuals, and the video was flagged by our community on that basis. Upon further review of the context of Pat Condell’s comments, we’ve reinstated it.”
Richard Dawkins welcomed the decision:
I congratulate YouTube on an excellent decision. Pat Condell is hard-hitting, but always quietly reasonable in tone. That some people say they are ‘offended’ by something is never a good reason for censoring it. Incitement to violence is. Pat Condell never incites violence against anybody. He always signs off with “Peace” and he means it.
Freedom of speech can not be limited based solely on people saying they are offended. There is a huge difference between not respecting ideas and inciting hatred and violence towards people. That distinction needs to be kept in mind and free citizens need to be vigilant against that distinction being eroded at the cost of all our civil liberties.
Here is the video:
[N.B. Only British Citizens can sign these petitions - the first one runs out today; the second one 1 January 2009 - thanks to Stephen Gash for comment]
The circular argument – the con artist (features Pat Condell video on atheism at bottom)
A reshuffle sounds like a conjuring trick. You think the deck is changed fundamentally from what it was before, but the dealer is still there and what matters is how he plays his hand rather than the cards he has chosen. The win is in the betting.
Peter Mandelson is back. Sent to Brussels (the political equivalent of Siberia) for misdemeanours that had him twice resigning from cabinet – once for accepting a cheap mortgage from a Minister that was under scrutiny of his department without declaring a possible conflict of interests; the second advocating citizenship for businessmen, under investigation by the Indian government, that had given money to the Millennium Dome that he was responsible for.
Mandelson, who will be promoted to the House of Lords as he is not an elected MP to be in the Cabinet, has said third time lucky on the announcement that he will be the Business Secretary.
Meanwhile Margaret Beckett, caretaker leader of the Labour Party when John Smith died before Tony Blair was elected and under him going as far as Foreign Secretary – not so much for her talents but because so far out of her depth she would probably agree with what Blair wanted – has sunk down to housing. Is this anything to do with lack of ego, or to stay in the Cabinet (as an attendee not Cabinet Secretary) no matter what is offered?
The same cannot be said of Des Browne. The former Defence Secretary and Scotland Secretary, he apparently turned down the job of Scotland and Northern Ireland Minister to resign from the cabinet. Not unreasonably, he had been against having another job eating into his time as Defence Secretary – surely the straightforward issues of Iraq and Afghanistan are enough without the complex cultural and logistical nightmare that is Scotland to contend with as well?
The new defense secretary John Hutton will at least not have Scotland on his plate. The army though were hoping for one Minister to stay around for continuity and planning purposes. With Des Browne calling for more resources for the armed forces – in particular calling for £500 million from reserve funds for 600 armoured vehicles – maybe the offered demotion was more about preventing future collateral damage to Gordon Brown. It will be interesting to see what Browne will say and Hutton will do in the coming months.
Or it could be that having three people called Brown in government would have been confusing. Nick Brown, a very personable former agricultural minister has returned to government as chief whip. The hapless Geoff Hoon having faced insurgents at Defense, and more recently in the Labour Party as Chief Whip has been moved to Transport. Both he and Beckett seem to be travelling in the same direction.
Ed Milliband heads the new department of climate and energy, while his brother David remains Foreign Secretary, despite seeming to want Gordon’s job (something that made A.C. Grayling excited because of his atheism). It seems that while he may want it in this life time it will be as a successor to Gordon rather than acting as Brutus.
Back to the Future
With Mandelson back, a key Blair ally, Brown is sending a fig leaf out to the Blairites in the Labour Party. Whether this will mean a change in direction for the party’s fortunes is another matter, but putting out the fires of rebellion in his party is a must for Brown’s authority, and to have a united party against the Conservatives at the next election that has to be held by 2010. With the economic outlook looking like it could last till for at least another year or so tough time are ahead for the country. An undermined Prime Minister would lack the authority necessary to lead in these troubled times.
However, Mandleson does pose risks as well. Having twice fallen from grace, there is nothing to suggest this will not happen again. This may be more about desperation than reconciliation. Having shuffled the deck and dealt, Brown has gone all in. This could make or break him.
Expanding nursery places, and the personalisation of the NHS (National Health Service) – fairness being extended in Britain as it is coded into our DNA and the reason the Labour Party existed. A commitment to end child poverty by 2020 – he also spoke of how blindness threatened him after playing Rugby made him blind in one eye, but the NHS was there. Free health check ups for the over 40s. Free prescriptions for cancer drugs. He also spoke about extra tuition being made available to children who fall behind.
Attacking the Conservatives, listing achievements “We did fix the roof while the sun was shinning”. He attacked the Shadow Chancellor for saying that in market downturns people make money out of other people’s misery. “I’m all for apprenticeships; but this is no time for a novice.”
Whether talking about Conservatives cutting public spending will have the same effect when people have less disposable income we shall see. “The Conservatives have changed their tune but have not changed their minds”.
The speech was an upbeat talk of Britain, and the hard work people do – that Britain was not a broken society, but the best in the world. Stronger together as the United Kingdom, but with devolution planned for Northern Ireland. The best armed forces in the world. Working together, not just for compassion for the vulnerable but for globalisation to be successful for the challenges both diplomatic and economic.
He mentioned speaking up for justice for the children of the world. “Fairness at home, fairness abroad – the new settlement of our time.” Staying true to himself, he said what ever the cynics throw his way the job was worth doing if it helped one child, one community (though I personally hope it would benefit more) because he wants to make a difference, helping someone in need and not passing by on the other side. All of us united we are a great movement, that where each of us can say this is our country, Britain, we are making the fair society for the sake not of the Party but of the country.
The speech played on those traditions that make Labour the party one of social justice. It even borrowed from America having his wife introduce him (unheard of in British politics). However, with the economic downturn and a lack of assured confidence over recent events the question is will Gordon Brown be back or stabbed in the back?
The song at the end “(Your love keeps lifting me) Higher and Higher”. Using some of those lyrics, the question is whether they want to take up his offer of “Quench my desire and I’ll be at your side, forever more”.
In Britain we are not faced with an immediate election contest. Rather with the death by a thousand cuts of Gordon Brown, where rumours keep circulating of Labour MPs wanting him to either change his leadership or step down. The latest being MPs seeking nomination papers to change the Labour leader prior to the party conference.
Not quite up there the Obama/McCain campaign. This is whispers and murmurs, and stories recycling themselves into fresh intrigues in dark corridors. Discipline seems lacking (not surprising when your own whips turn against you) as backbench MPs challenge on issues ranging from stamp duty on houses, fuel allowance payments and the recent demands for a windfall tax on energy companies. On these issues it seems that Number Ten is being led rather than providing the leadership – and MPs feel like Brown has his hand on the tiler of the Titanic.
Once he was thought as a sure winner for Labour – much was made at the last General Election that he would succeed Blair. There was even suggestions that Blair would only win with Brown. Now, it seems the only person that would do better than Brown is Blair (though as he is not an MP highly unlikely). Though that poll reflects that anyone replacing Brown would not shift party fortunes with the iceberg of a Cameron revived Conservative Party taking over. The once thought unsinkable Brown appears very vulnerable.
If some MPs believe that Labour will be out of government then part of their behaviour which seems disloyal and undermining can be seen as trying to influence the government to have a radical socialist agenda which would be impossible under a Conservative Government. Another way of looking at it is that with the election lost, lets do what grass root activists would like. They may even hope that such policies may genuinely improve opinion polls, or at least save their seats at the next election.
Where Brown went wrong was to give the impression he would call a General Election soon after being nominated unopposed to the Labour leadership – to receive a symbolic mandate from the people (which constitutionally comes from his MPs). In many ways appearing chicken by not calling it having allowed the rumours for several months made him loose the bounce he had when becoming Prime Minister.
How can Gordon improve things? He needs to rally the troops – if he cannot unite the party on common
ground, or inspire natural supporters h will continue to look weak. He has to look like he is in charge of the agenda. Writing and editing books while Prime Minister, despite his work ethic, is not helping his image. He is not a natural orator (unlike Tony Blair) – but he needs to play to his strength as a man of details who knows what is going on, and leadership that he knows what he is doing rather then reacting to events.
Above all he has to realise that he has to earn the right to be Prime Minister every moment. He had no natural right to it as a successor to Tony Blair. Nor have Labour MPs been elected with him as their leader. The moment to call an early election is over. Right now the government has to show that when it comes to economic turmoil their social justice agenda and economic competence of the past means they are treid and tested, and with current policies a new Conservative Government lacking experience is not worth the risk.
It is a tall order. Perhaps Gordon Brown does not want to take the risks involved, or even believe that he can do this. In answer he has to fake it till he makes it. Past glories as Chancellor, bringing in the minimum wage and independence are not enough now with Northern Rock going bankrupt and a faltering economy.
As the whispers show, even his own MPs are beginning to voice that he cannot make the grade. The media, lacking anything of real significance and lusting after the US election campaign, go for intrigue and machinations. Where survival depends on Turkey’s not voting for Christmas, Brown needs to hush his critics, or do what John Major did with a put up or shut up challenge which showed balls inviting a leadership challenge after winning a General Election – which he won.
The fact that I am suggesting that John Major showed better leadership qualities than Gordon Brown is in itself a testament to the hole Gordon Brown has dug himself in. He needs to climb out, and he needs to reassert his leadership. The fact that no one else can improve the fortunes of the party gives him the cover to be bold. Otherwise the cuts will at some point draw enough blood to bring him down.
Reposted from BBC NEWS website:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and outspoken critic of Islam, has appealed to the EU to create a fund to help protect people in her position.She told the European Parliament in Brussels her life was in greater danger because the Dutch government had stopped paying for her security.
“I don’t want to die, I want to live and I love life,” she said.
Ms Ali added that the cost of her bodyguards was beyond anything a private person could raise.
The Somali-born former MP has been living under police protection since the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in 2004.
She was threatened in a note left on his body for writing the script for Van Gogh’s Submission – a highly controversial film alleging that women were being abused under Islam.
But she left the Netherlands for the United States in 2006 after a political row in which she admitted lying in her Dutch asylum request.
She now works for a conservative think-tank in the US and the Dutch government has said it can no longer justify paying for her security.
Ms Ali said she had been working full-time on raising funds.
Dozens of MEPs have signed a declaration backing the creation of a fund.
But for the initiative to become official, half of the parliament’s 785 will have to back the petition.
Earlier this week she announced she was seeking French citizenship.
She said the campaign for her to receive honorary French citizenship was being spearheaded by a group of French intellectuals and was supported by the country’s political leaders.
“Europe needs to defend her because she has defended Europe,” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy told MEPs.
To contact your Member of European Parliament (MEP) follow this link:
choose language and at the top there should be a “Your MEPs” at the top which will let you find your representive.
I have just e mailed three of my MEP’s for my region. Will publish their replies (should I get any!). My e mail was:
As a resident of the East Midlands I am writing to you about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and people in similar circumstances in Europe.
She was the screen writer for the Dutch film “Submission” that examined women and Islam; the director Van Gogh was brutally murdered and attached to his chest was a note saying Ayaan would be next. The Dutch Parliament have backed out on a promise to pay for her security, and she recently appeared before the European Parliament to advocate a fund that would help to protect people like herself who are under threat.
When I was in Washington DC in the fall last year I had the pleasure of meeting her, and her attendance at the conference there was nearly cancelled due to the death threats being issued. As a private citizen she does not have the means to pay for her security, and while I hope France will be able to take on the charge to protect her if she obtains honorary citizenship the need for such funding for individual’s security should be available if it is not forthcoming when the need is a matter of life and death.
I would strongly urge you to back the petition before the European Parliament in the creation of such a fund.
More on the story can be found on the BBC News link here.
My previous blog on faith schools resulted in an e mail from someone very hurt that their fond childhood memories at a faith school were not only being insulted, but they felt under attack due to my passion on this issue. As someone that is concerned about the separation of church and state you have to appreciate where I am coming from on this; I am not belittling your experience or diminishing you because you went to a faith school.
You must understand that you had a good educational experience at a faith school; I on the other hand due to faith nearly had my life chances ruined because faith was considered by the government an acceptable reason for me to be taught at home. But that is not the principle that matters here. I am not saying that educational experiences cannot be wonderful in a good (faith or none) school. Of course they can. My own secular school after being taught at home lacked character or inspiration. Given the choice between the school you went to and my old one, hands down I would go for yours.
If you look carefully at the blog I am attacking the selection of pupils on the basis of religion. That for me is more crucial then the religious character of a school. I do not think that a tax paid institution of education should be able to select pupils on the basis of faith. It provides a public service and as such should not discriminate places on the basis of religion.
That is my contention as well as with more faith schools covering more religions we are actually not promoting social cohesion. Rather, we are deepening and widening the social divisions that already exist. The future is that these will become fault lines – misunderstandings and intolerance will be reinforced by never having known people outside your circle. The curriculum itself of religious education is not the same as being with people from different backgrounds.
If faith schools did not use the faith of parents as the basis of selection in a state school I would still have concerns that not all faith schools would be as well run as many are – but at least what I regard as an inappropriate way to select children for an education placement in a tax paid institution would be negated. Not to mention less segregation.
The simple maths – segregation reduces social cohesion, and the earlier in life that happens the worse it is.
If you disagree with that argument then by all means state why I am wrong, that children born of Islamic parents that go through the whole of their educational life in a Muslim school, live in a Muslim area of town, will be just as socially cohesive as one where the local kids go to a state school open to all regardless of faith? Or that in Northern Ireland the fact that children grew up in segregated schools did not add to tensions during the troubles that lasted over many generations?
Where parents make the choice out of educational opportunity, I understand that. When it is done out of religious conviction I am concerned, but the education on offer is what matters. My concern is public provision that is limited based on religion I find abhorrent – children should not be turned away on the basis of faith.
Social cohesion and use of tax payers money where children are excluded based on faith would therefore be my two greatest concerns. For more on that, people may want to look at the following links: