Thursday, January 04, 2007

Britain: Muslim in court on racial hatred charges

We read:

"A Muslim protester called for the bombing of Denmark and the United States during a demonstration against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the Old Bailey was told yesterday....

Police video of the protest, played to the jury, showed Mr Javed, 27, leading chants of “Bomb, bomb USA. Bomb, bomb Denmark”.

David Perry, QC, for the prosecution, said that Mr Javed appeared to be one of the leaders of the protest and used a loud-hailer to address the crowd. “He addressed the crowd in terms which encouraged killing and incited racial hatred.”

Mr Perry told the court that the case was not about freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. He said that even a society that enjoyed freedom of speech had to have rules. “It is not about freedom of expression, but it is not surprising there are rules against encouraging others to kill or incite racial hatred.”


Food fanatics impossible to satirize

I have had satirical comments about the evils of cheese and butter at the bottomn of each day's postings here for some time now. But reality has caught up with me. Even cheese (and lots of other mainstream stuff) is now under attack in the Unhinged Kingdom. Have they gone too far this time?

New advertising rules that will officially label cheese as "junk food" were condemned yesterday by the dairy industry as unfair, misleading and counter-productive. Under regulations coming into force this month, broadcasters will be banned from advertising cheese during children's television programmes or in shows with a large proportion of child viewers, such as The Simpsons and Hollyoaks. The ban is part of a government drive to crack down on junk food adverts on television, which is designed to reduce the exposure of children to foods high in fat, salt and sugar. It follows evidence that TV commercials have an indirect impact on children's eating behaviour and are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

However, the dairy industry says the rules, which are being introduced by the television regulator Ofcom, are a nonsense. Under the nutrient profiling model used to distinguish junk food from "healthy" food, cheese is officially labelled as more unhealthy than sugary cereals, cheeseburgers, double chocolate chip cake and full fat crisps. The industry points out that if breast milk were covered by the rules, it too would be classed as junk food.

Dan Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cheese, branded the model as "simplistic and counter-productive". He said: "How preposterous that Ofcom restrictions should be based on a model so flawed as to take cheese off the air, while diet cola, which has no nutritional value whatever, is left firmly on children's menus. It has to be perverse that while milk may be advertised, a wholesome product made from milk - cheese - cannot."

Ofcom published its draft conclusions on junk food adverts in November and is expected to release its final report within weeks. Its initial report went much further than expected. It proposed banning the advertising of all foods classified as high in fat, salt and sugar during programmes made for children under 16, on dedicated children's channels and during programmes with a higher than average proportion of child viewers. However, the ban only covered specific foods, not brands. So while McDonald's cannot advertise burgers during children's programmes, it could promote its restaurants.

The rules also proposed a ban on cartoon characters for adverts aimed at primary school age children shown at any time of the day. The most controversial part of the proposals is the use of the nutrient profiling model drawn up by the Food Standards Agency. The model assesses the fat, sugar and salt content in a 100g or 100ml serving of a food or drink - rather than a typical serving.

The food industry says the use of the FSA model has led to anomalies. Tomato ketchup, for instance, contains a high proportion of sugar and salt and is counted as a high fat, salt and sugar food - even though most people only eat a small amount with a meal. Marmite, which contains 11 per cent salt, is also counted as junk food - even though most people eat only a few grams on bread.

The British Cheese Board says the typical portion size of cheese is 30g to 40g, the size of a small matchbox, not the 100g used in the FSA nutrient profiling model. If a typical portion sized was used in the model, most cheese would be exempt from the ban, it says. Nigel White, a spokesman for the board, said: "Cheese is one of the most nutritionally complete foods and can play an important part of a healthy balanced diet for children of all ages."


Foods caught by the junk food ban:

Marmite, Flora Lite, half-fat cheddar cheese, Dairylea triangles, bran flakes, camembert, sugar-coated puffed wheat, instant hot oat cereal, Jaffa cakes, reduced calorie mayonnaise, multi-grain hoop cereal, half-fat creme fraiche, takeaway chicken nuggets, potato waffles, Greek yoghurt (sheep), ham, sausages, bacon rashers, low-fat spreads, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, peanut butter, raisins, sultanas, currants, low-fat potato crisps, olive oil, butter, pizza, hamburgers, tomato ketchup, chocolate, brown sauce, cola, lemonade

More on the Persecution of the BNP

by Sean Gabb

One of my duties as Director of the Libertarian Alliance is to defend the right to free expression of people whose views I do not share. I do not perform this duty as often or as effectively as I might wish. But I begin the new year with another of my comments on the persecution of the British National Party.

Just before last Christmas, a journalist called Ian Cobain published a series of articles in The Guardian newspaper, revealing how he had joined the BNP and been made its Central London Organiser. In this capacity, he got hold of the Party's membership list. His articles were essentially a listing of names of middle class members. Further news reports in the same newspaper and in others detailed the actual and suggested persecution of these members.

The most widely discussed member has been Simone Clarke, a leading dancer at the English National Ballet. She was quoted by Mr Cobain as saying that immigration "has really got out of hand". The ENB is a body funded by the taxpayers, and it has a duty under the Race Relations Act 2000 to "promote good race relations". The funding body, Arts Council England, insists that funded "organisations have to make sure that they promote cultural diversity as a clear and central part of all their work".

Not surprisingly, there have been calls for her to be sacked. Lee Jasper, Equalities Director for the Mayor of London and Chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism, said:

The ENB must seriously consider whether having such a vociferous member of an avowedly racist party in such a prominent role is compatible with the ethics of its organisation. I seriously doubt that it is and that should lead to her position being immediately reviewed. I think she should be sacked.

He called on funders and David Lammy, the Arts Minister, to intervene. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said people had a right to their private political views but added:

This will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities. Questions need to be asked about how someone in that position can be allowed to abuse that position to promote the BNP."

I could move to my analysis of the agenda behind Mr Cobain's articles. But I cannot resist a brief digression on Mr Bunglawala. He is treated in the coverage of this story as if he were a political moderate, righteously shocked at the "political extremism" of the BNP. In fact, his own opinions appear quite as alarming as anything alleged against the BNP. Take his statement that people have a right to their private political views. That may be the case in some benevolent oriental despotism. In England, it has long been accepted that we have a right to express our political views in public. Such, at least, has always been my understanding.

Turning to his comments on the ENB, it is worth asking what possible further taint he thinks the organisation can receive through its association with Miss Clarke. He appears to believe that western classical music is a sinful indulgence, and that listening to it is inconsistent with Islam. He makes a point of rejecting the more purist Islamic position, that

Listening to music and singing is a sin and cause for the sickening and weakening of the heart. The majority of the scholars of the Salaf are unanimous that listening to music and singing and using musical instruments is Haram (prohibited).

He says instead that:

We accept music but would frown on disco-going, or concerts where alcohol is served or where there is unrestricted mixing of the sexes. That would be opposed by Islamic scholars.

But where is the difference? While in Bratislava last month, I attended a performance of La Traviata. The plot centres on the relationship between an unmarried man and a high class prostitute. There was shameless mingling of the sexes in the audience. There was alcohol served in the intervals. During Act 2, Scene 2, the ballerinas showed their legs most immodestly and contorted their bodies in ways that might have given Mr Bungawala a seizure.

He says he accepts music. Has he ever seen The Rite of Spring? Is he aware of the double orgasm portrayed in the Overture to Don Giovanni? Does he know the score of Tristan und Isolde? Would he recommend Moslems to attend any of these works? So long as she refrains from lecturing the audience between pirouettes, does it add to the infamy of a performance if Miss Clarke holds opinions of which he disapproves?

But enough of Mr Bunglawala. I turn to the main agenda. We have in this country a ruling class committed to political, economic and social globalisation. While some parts of this are consistent with libertarianism, others are not. Much of the consequent association of peoples takes place in a market systematically rigged by taxes and regulations. Much is nakedly coerced through equal opportunity laws and censorship. But whatever libertarians might think of what is going on, large and increasing numbers of people dislike it all.

Since both main political parties are agreed, opponents have a choice between not voting at all and voting for one of the smaller parties. Many are voting for the BNP. There is a chance that many who do not vote will also vote BNP once it can prove that it is a credible political force. Therefore, the BNP must be destroyed.

The gentler forms of destruction involve lies. Undoubtedly, the BNP grew out of a national socialist movement. But it does not appear now to be a national socialist organisation. So far as I can tell from its website, the BNP believes in a mixed economy welfare state, with some regard for traditional civil liberties. It also believes that the alleged benefits of this should be largely reserved for English-speaking white people. This is not something that I find particularly attractive. Nor however is it the same as wanting a totalitarian police state plus gas chambers.

Since lying about the BNP does not work very well in the age of the Internet, the gentler forms of destruction are being supplemented by stronger. Its leader has just been acquitted after a trial for speech crimes that did not exist when I was a boy. Its known members are losing their jobs in public bodies up and down the country. It has trouble getting its material printed. Banks are being persuaded to close its accounts. The legal machinery is in place to deny it access to the ballot in elections.

Mr Cobain's articles must be seen as part of this attempted destruction of a political party. Let it become known that middle class supporters will be named and have their careers destroyed, and party membership will not proceed far beyond the working classes. Let it be made effectively impossible for any middle class person to stand as a BNP candidate, and the only candidates will be criminals and fools, who can then be held up as a reason not to vote BNP.

Much of this would be happening if there were a Conservative Government. But the intensity of the persecution faced by the BNP is peculiar to Labour. There has been a strain of antinomianism in our politics since 1997 not seen in centuries. From Tony Blair down, the Ministers believe passionately that they can and therefore must turn England into some kind of multicultural love feast. Their vision of a transformed England is not very clear. But, as with an impressionist painting, vagueness of detail is compensated by vividness of colour.

These people cannot imagine that anyone of good will could fail to believe as they do. Therefore, all opposition is evil, and may rightly be put down without regard for traditional norms of right and justice and common decency. See, as an example of this, how Peter Hain defends as a Minister police state measures that he used to condemn when used by the South African Government. To the Saints of New Labour, all things are lawful. It helps that most of these people used to be Marxists. They no longer seem to believe in the positive doctrines of Marxism, but they retain its assumption that the traditional norms are mere "bourgeois legality".

We can, therefore, look forward to much more of this. Sooner or later, our ruling class will shut down all electoral dissent. The only possible opposition will then be on the streets.

Now, I am able to say this from a position of safety. Neither I nor the Libertarian Alliance expect to suffer in any measurable degree from this shutting down of debate. We live in a potemkin democracy, where only limited diversity of opinion is tolerated. But even so, there must be some opposition.

I am fortunate enough to find myself in the licensed opposition. I face no official discrimination that I can see. I am allowed to work in state universities. I am allowed regular appearances in the media. I am not obviously under surveillance. This may be because our ruling class does not regard libertarians as much of a threat. It may be because someone outside the ruling class has to be tolerated, for the sake of keeping up the pretence of liberal democracy. Whatever the reason, we do not operate under any of the disadvantages that the real dissidents of the BNP must take as facts of life.

This imposes a duty on me and my friends to speak up in defence of the dissidents. Unlike the other "rights" organisations, we believe in freedom of speech with no exceptions. We do not enquire into the substance of a person's views before defending his right to express them. We denounce the persecution of the BNP. Though I do not expect them to pay any attention, I call on Liberty and the Conservative Party to do likewise.



A comment from Britain

Bill Cosby said that one of the fundamental problems in relationships between men and women is that men do not know when they are wrong. He gave an example. He said he could be minding his business, lying on his sofa, in his house, watching his television, when his wife walks in: now, in his mind, he is doing nothing wrong. And so it is with pollution. Woke up this morning, turns out I was a polluter. So are you.

We all are, apparently. "The polluter pays" is the latest catchphrase for those that require complex issues diced into soundbites, and it is one you will read a lot in the next year. "You pay" is its honest translation. In this scenario, you are the polluter. You don't want to be; you'd like not to be; you are just going about your life as quietly as possible, paying your taxes, keeping your head down, playing the hand as dealt by short-sighted governments (local and national), the vast retail chains, the cost-cutting manufacturing industries, the Royal Mail, the real villains of the piece. But just to do that makes you the bogeyman; the polluter. And now you must pay.

Everything comes down to money with this Government and just as the wealthy and privileged have for years been able to opt out of the failing health service and the sub-standard education system, with transport now going the same way - vote Labour, keep the poor off the roads - once new waste policies are implemented, soon rubbish collection will be divided into the haves and have-rots. We are moving to a time when household waste is weighed and billed and, just like road pricing proposals that have done little to curb the ruinous proliferation of needlessly overpowered cars, those with money will shrug their shoulders and write the cheque.

A good accountant will find a way to partly off-set waste charges against home as office businesses expenses, the big companies will cut a deal utilising the economies of scale, while employees of Goldman Sachs and Chelsea FC will pay cash for 20 unsorted, non-recyclable sacks and wonder what all the fuss is about. It is the struggling everyman who will be hit hardest. He is The Polluter.

He has not got the money or the cunning to skirt round these measures, just as it is his two-litre Ford, not the gas-guzzling Hummer that has been driven from London's roads by the congestion charge. Yet our rubbish crisis is a direct result of a Britain that the average householder did not want, did not ask for and did little to help to create.

We did not ask for green beans from Zambia to be available 12 months a year, cased in two layers of Cellophane and a black plastic tray. We did not ask for 20 opportunities to open new credit accounts to be delivered weekly. We did not ask for every single item of furniture to arrive requiring assembly and swaddled in polystyrene, bubble wrap and enough Sellotape to gag a busload of hostages for six months. We did not ask for the small high street shops to be slowly murdered by exorbitant council rents and prohibitive parking schemes that played into the hands of out-of-town supermarkets and spelt the end of daily small-scale grocery shopping, as exists in continental Europe.

We did not ask for half the workforce to be laid off to cut costs, so that manufactured items are now sent out in pieces, each individually protected in layer upon layer of unnecessary packaging. We actually liked it when we ordered a wardrobe and it turned up looking like a wardrobe; when the only instruction was "put it in the bedroom, mate" not "connect screw (A) to shelf (B), first making sure that rods (C) and (D) are attached via facing panel (G)" and the only question was how much should we tip the shifter, not what the hell do we do with all this polystyrene because it cannot be taken as paper waste, garden waste or glass and if we try to dispose of it in this inadequately sized wheelie bin we will only have room for one more black bag over the next two weeks and the sideway will be running alive with maggots/foxes/rats again.

Governments would not dare take on the real polluters and are far too late to address the political and cultural mistakes that have created the mountain of waste that is shovelled our way daily. So they come up with a catchphrase like "polluter pays" and try to convince us that just by being on the receiving end of an overflowing daily postbag that we did not request and cannot avoid - it is said you can opt out of junk deliveries by contacting the Royal Mail, but try it and you will discover this is, at best, misleading and at worst, a downright lie - that it is all in some way our fault.

Yes, we have a responsibility to think and act on green issues, and most of us do. But it is the presumption that when we wake in the morning we are immediately the bad guys, that we are at fault for merely existing in a world that is largely made for us by people over whom we have no control, that is so objectionable.

The average household will create roughly 500 pounds of CO2 waste each year, or the equivalent of one 950-mile round trip by plane. Tony Blair's winter holiday equates approximately to waste pollution from your side of the street for the next 12 months and some trendy new Labour type flying to Barcelona for the Feliz Navidad experience will burn up the equivalent of your household waste for a year. He might then plant a tree in Kenya to make him feel better, with a certificate to prove it featuring a kind word from Bill Oddie. I'm not making this up.

The Observer magazine this week featured a couple that felt very angry about green issues. They had a second home in Sussex, a studio flat in Battersea and ate out most nights each week (ever seen restaurant waste?). It would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh.

Me? I'll lie on my sofa, watching my television, in my house. I'll put the paper in the clear bags, the glass in the blue box and the old Christmas tree on the compost heap at the bottom of the garden. To my mind, like Bill, I'm doing nothing wrong.



The small readership of most blogs would strongly suggest that no blogs other than the top three or four could possibly have much influence on anything. That however overlooks something: Google and other search engines. Because they are heavily interlinked (well over 1,000 other blogs link to this one) blogs tend to have a high page-ranking in response to any search. That means that what blogs say on any given topic tends to pop up on the first page of any set of search results.

And who are big users of searches? Journalists. Like most people they Google their own name and they also of course Google any topic they are "researching". Googling is a lot easier that getting out of your chair and going to look in person at what you are talking about. So what blogs say tends to get picked up by journalists (and Right-wing radio commentators too) and, in their constant search for something new to report, the blog-origin information or perspective may rapidly find its way into what they write or say. They may not like what the blog says but they like being "scooped" by other journalists even less.

So it is not mainly a matter of blogs and the MSM competing. What has developed is a symbiosis between blogs and the MSM.

I had an amusing example of how blogs affect journalists recently. My Greenie Watch blog usually gets only about 400 hits a day so you might think that it is one of those many blogs that are destined to flower in the desert, forever unnoticed by almost anyone. Yet it is not so. I get all sorts of email from people and organizations I mention in it. The amusing example: On October 4, 2005, I put up there a post that had a good laugh at a delightfully-named British journalist called Andrew Buncombe (pronounced "bunkum"). It mocked the old polar bear scare that he was doing his best to promote in "The Independent", a very "Green" British mainstream newspaper.

Recently, however, the Bush administration threw the Greenies a bone by commissioning a report into whether the bears were "endangered" or not. This was hailed as a great triumph by Greenies, and Buncombe was one of those elated. So what was one of the first things he did when he learnt of the new move? He emailed me suggesting that I now owed him an apology for the bad things I had previously said about him! He had obviously been stewing for over a year in response to my comments and took the first opportunity he had to shoot back at me! Commissioning a report into an allegation was a very small triumph but Buncombe clutched at it like a drowning man to save his self-esteem!

So whether journalists just google their own name or the topic they are writing about, they do read what is on blogs and they do take notice of what they read there. Whether it just generates heartburn in them or leads them to follow up the matter in their own articles depends on their intellectual quality, of course.

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