Saturday, May 12, 2007

I did wonder ...

... if this site was a joke. It seemed too much like a parody of what a Cultural Studies lecturer should sound like. It appears to be only too true though.

David Davies MP

Appears to do the walk as well as the talk.

Galloway Arrested

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that George Galloway has been arrested in Canada.

"He will be extradited to the UK under immigration procedures but it is not known when this will take place."

Arrivederci Roma ?

The really wild card is the Roma question. A UN study last year found that 80% were unemployed and one in five were permanently hungry. The governments of Eastern Europe have been urged to pass laws to outlaw discrimination. It is, however, hard to say what impact this will have on the lives of the Roma and how they will perceive the alternative of migrating to Western Europe, particularly Britain. This is not a question that is amenable to mathematical calculations.

Migrationwatch, July 2003.

Roma children flood into Slough

A Berkshire town has been struggling to cope with nearly 90 children who have arrived unaccompanied from Eastern Europe. The Roma children, one as young as ten, have apparently paid someone in Romania to send them to Slough. The Borough Council does not know why it has been singled out but has been forced to set up a special team and spend £150,000 helping the children. It has called for more government help to offset the strain on other services.

Strain on services ? They're doing us a favour coming here, surely. The council should be flush with all that extra tax revenue. Don't even get me started on the diversity.

The children usually arrive in groups of three, but six have had babies of their own and seven have been pregnant. The local authority has had to set up an emergency Roma assessment team.

I wonder what that 'have been pregnant' means ? Babies, or 'terminations' ?

UPDATE - the "unaccompanied children" seem to have been arriving for some time.

Kent's director of social services Peter Gilroy warned: "If I don't get help from my local authority colleagues then I have no other course than to develop further our work with the private sector because we are reaching the point of saturation."

The council said that it currently looked after 2,000 asylum seeking children and that another 150 arrived every month. Already 400 of the older children, mainly 17- to 18-year-old boys, were being cared for in private hostel accommodation.

As well informed commenter Observer points out :

Provision of Accommodation for Children (Section 22-23, Children Act, 1989)

Local Authorities also have a duty to provide accommodation for a child in need who requires accommodation as a result of:

* no one having parental responsibility for him or her
* being lost of abandoned
* the person who has been caring for him or her being prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation and care.

Do You Remember The Days of Slavery ?

2005, apparently, according to this UN site reporting on the landlocked state of Niger.

"Last month in parliament, not one of the MPs took the floor for the debate on slavery. Yet there are nine white Arab slave-masters and a dozen white Tuareg slave-masters in the chamber," he said. "Everyone knows they own slaves but no-one wants to talk about it."

Black and white seem to be pretty relative terms methinks. In England an Iranian police officer is apparently black. In Niger, Arab and Tuareg can be white.

"A matriarchal society with a caste-based hierarchy" says this wargaming site of the Tuareg.

Cornershop Cameron

Call me an old cynic, but when I see this :

I'm reminded of this :

(Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess at the Petit Trianon)

Some of Cameron's Conservative predecessors, in the grammar school era, played corner shop for real.

While I completely agree with him that Asian family values put today's native culture, product of the modern Britain that he's so comfortable with, to shame, he puts a toe into murky water when he says :

Every time the BBC or a politician talks about "Islamist terrorists" they are doing immense harm (and yes I am sure I have done this too, despite trying hard to get this right.) Think of Northern Ireland – "IRA terrorist" was fine because it marked them out as part of a terrorist group, Catholic terrorists would have been a disaster. Yet that is the equivalent of what we are doing now.

While I understand what Cameron's getting at, unfortunately the parallel stinks. For why see here. The Philospher spells it out :

".. while the IRA may have been Catholics, they were not bombing people in the name of Catholicism. The IRA were often referred to as Irish Republican terrorists, which was the ideology behind their terror campaigns. Islamists are killing people in the name of Islam and they use their religion to justify their murderous acts. How else are we supposed to describe them? Denying the terrorists' ideological motivation just because the term Islamist offends some people is absurd."

I hope DC got a kuthlama in while he was in Balsall Heath. The Ambala in Coventry Road does pretty good ones.

UPDATE - in fairness, I should point out that DC is pretty straight about this :

"In the mosque and elsewhere I got the familiar depressing questions about who was really responsible for 9/11 and even 7/7. Dig a bit deeper and it all comes out. "CIA plot ... Jews told to leave the twin towers" - even when it comes to 7/7 "how do we know the suicide bomber videos are real and not fakes?"
Even if this is a view held by 5 or 10 per cent of British muslims - and I suspect it is at least that – this is a real problem which we have all got to get to grips with."

OK DC - does getting to grips with it mean grasping the fact, or doing something about it ?

Friday, May 11, 2007

More Cheese Poetry

I wrote a couple of years back about James McIntyre, the Bard of Cheese.

There's a site.

Ode on the Mammoth Cheese

Weight over seven thousand pounds.

We have seen thee, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,
Or as the leaves upon the trees,
It did require to make thee please.
And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to to send you off as far as
The great world's show at Paris.

Of the youth beware of these,
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek, then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.

We'rt thou suspended from balloon,
You'd cast a shade even at noon,
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Black Polar Adventurers

Boys brought up in the Fifties knew all about explorers and adventurers. Hillary and Tensing, Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton, Peary, Fawcett.

But I had no idea that alongside Peary on the first trip to the North Pole was a black American, Matthew Henson.

According to this National Geographic portrait, the notoriously difficult Peary wasn't at all happy at the idea that Henson might have been first there.

On April 6, 1909, Henson arrived at Camp Jesup, 89°47', 45 minutes ahead of Peary, concluding by dead reckoning that he had reached the Pole. Henson greeted Peary, "I think I'm the first man to sit on top of the world."

I picked this story up because another Hillary, 75 year old Barbara Hillary has just become the first black woman to reach the North Pole, skiing from Norway. Admittedly, it's not like the old days. You pay about $21,000 and get a helicopter back from the Pole - not an option Scott could avail himself of.

But all the same - 18 days pulling a 100lb sled across the ice, at 75. Good going.

"Non-visible ethnic communities"

I find it hard to keep up with the jargon. Hot on the heels of the Poles, lauded by all as hard-working types, come the Romanians, lauded by ...

1,600 officers in Westminster have been issued with a ten-point guide to the Romanian language so they can communicate more effectively with Eastern Europeans seen acting suspiciously.

"The number of East European immigrants in Great Britain has risen with 25% after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, a survey of the British government points out. According to the study from the beginning of the year, each month in Great Britain arrive 50 thousand citizens of the two new EU-member states. In the first three months of 2006, the number of immigrants in Great Britain from the then eight East European new member-states was 540 thousand people. In the same period of time this year, i.e. after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the number has reached 680 thousand people."

In fairness I must point out that the 680,000 mentioned on the Bulgarian news site aren't "immigrants", they're people from Eastern Europe arriving in the UK - mostly in England. They may all be tourists for all we know. As people leaving the UK aren't recorded, we have no way of knowing.
They may all have left, apart from the Demitrie family of Slough.

Thanks, Tony

When I got back from work today the fox had taken four chickens. Only two left. I like to think of it as a parting gift.

Mr Eugenides offers a sideways look at the Blair years. Recommended.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Well could it be ... ?

Yes it could
Something's coming
Something good

Let's just say my views have changed in the last ten years.

Sellling England

Blogger Chris Paul in the Guardian comments. The emboldening is mine :

On Friday I was at a kind of Big Conversation event on Britain in the World at Manchester Town Hall. Hilary Benn and Hazel Blears were the MP guests and in BC style they worked the room with 15 minutes at each table.

Both seem to struggle with immigration and asylum. They appear to have a well founded fear of electoral persecution on this matter - if the UK is perceived to have open borders.

Young Benn responded to a question of mine about the extra hurdle for women asylum seekers of the sexism and the standard incredulity about rape and threat which tends to be dismissed out of hand and in some cases dubbed "domestic". We know in the UK how hard it is to get a conviction on rape 1-in-20 of cases that go to court, 1-in-50 of police reported.

How much harder if the rapists are 4000 miles away in Lagos.

In response to my tales of a woman in a wheelchair who had been repeatedly raped in Nigeria and a woman under serious threat of harm in North West Frontier Province Hilary swerved and gave an example from his Leeds casework of a woman who was experiencing domestic violence in Jamaica.

He said this wasn't an asylum case. That's as may be. Mine were.

Provided with my idea that it would be easier to win hearts and minds on a more progressive line on immigration if absolute AND relative poverty were tackled properly Hazel still recounted a rendezvous with twenty decent people relaxing in their gardens in her constituency whose number one concern was and is immigration.

She feels Labour cannot win unless we are tough on immigration.

I support the Strangers into Citizens idea of an amnesty with a two-year trial. I support a general idea of converting asylum seekers into work visa cases - without an out of country application. And I can tell you from looking close up that the mistakes made by government agencies on work cases are legion.

The complexity of the system for visits, holidays and working is way OTT.

So finally my questions:

We need to be able to sell what we believe in. How do we sell this amnesty and the real benefits of immigration ? A cross-party consensus could help but could drive racist votes.

Who is the leadership candidate to sell this, and how ?

The problem that Chris doesn't seem to acknowledge is that

a) the capacity of the UK is not infinite - either physically or culturally. There is - how can I put this kindly ? a risk that importing too many people too quickly, without allowing time for previous arrivals to integrate and take on the key British cultural norms (as defined by Gordon Brown - tolerance, inclusiveness, apologising when someone treads on your toes), may result in a society where those values - which surely underpin what succour we have given to refugees - are no longer valued.

b) the number of deserving cases is, if not infinite, extremely high.

Take the woman under 'serious threat of harm' in the NWFP. From a UK perspective pretty much EVERY woman in NWFP is under serious threat of harm. It's a place pretty short on radical feminists - a place where even suspicion of female 'dishonour' can be a death sentence. There are around 24 million people in NWFP, half of whom are women.

Or the poor woman from Nigeria, who has certainly done well to get to the UK despite her disability. Would anyone imagine she is the only one in danger in her home country ? According to the WOMEN, LAW and DEVELOPMENT in AFRICA site :

The Nigerian woman suffers violations of her rights from conception till she dies without redress by the society. At birth the male child is preferred to the female, as she grows the female child suffers various forms of violence such as genital mutilation or female circumcision, In the home she is denied education in preference to her male counterpart and subjected to heavy burden of household chores. As a child the female may be given out to marriage in some cultures and or become victim of trafficking.

During marriage the woman suffers inferior status in the home, she is not part of decision-making, denied inheritance rights as a child or wife and is a victim of domestic violence and marital rape. In the society the woman is a victim of various forms of sexual assaults without redress, denied access to credit and suffers poverty more than her male counterpart despite her enormous contribution to the Nigerian economy especially in the informal sector.

There are around 70 million women in Nigeria.

I could go on. In the cycle of atrocity and counter-atrocity in Rwanda over the last 30 years, probably the entire population, some eight million, would have had a reasonable case for asylum at one time or other. The same could be said for 50 million Congolese. Every homosexual in Iran and Pakistan has a case, every adulterer in Saudi Arabia, every democrat in China. Most of the non-Arab population of Sudan.

The asylum laws were passed in a different, non-globalised era, when international travel was still expensive and the main expected source of refugees was the Iron Curtain nations.

Sacred Cows

I'll be interested to see how this one plays out :

The animal, called Shambo, is kept by the Skandavale Temple in Llanpumsaint, south west Wales. The authorities insist it must be culled after testing positive for the cattle disease, which can be transmitted to humans.

But the Hindu Forum of Britain has promised to form a human chain around the temple to save the bull, which Hindu chiefs insist is isolated and in a healthy condition. The temple has promised to keep the animal, which will never enter the food chain, in isolation for the rest of its life but requests for a reprieve have been rejected.

The legal battle over Harriet the pet cow was still ongoing when she fell ill and died earlier this year. Whether MI5 or Ben Bradshaw poisoned her none can say, but I hope they tested for polonium. As far as I recall the government were adamant that she must die.

Like Harriet, the sacred bull of Shiva will never enter the food chain. But 'it's the regulations'.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Nation Fit For Criminals

Wonderfully revealing BBC story of the mafia wife returning to the UK from Italy after plea-bargaining for a suspended sentence. Hubby's doing 30 years for for drug trafficking and murder.

"This experience has destroyed me. In Agrigento jail I was kept in isolation and only had a shower three times a week.

"But the worst thing was the isolation. It was inhumane.

"In England, prison was completely different. It was like being in a hotel - we had a pool, I was able to use the phone and my children visited me.

"Now I just want to get back to my children.

"I won't have to work as the State will look after us and pay for us until my daughter is 16 years old."

UPDATE - Guardian

"She admitted the facts of mafia association. It was difficult for her to do otherwise because it was all on tape from the intercepted telephone conversations."

Monday, May 07, 2007


It's not often I agree with "Good-hearted Harry" Fletcher of NAPO, the probation officers union.

'Over the last few years the government has failed to deal with the looming prison crisis,'
said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation officers' union. 'Successive predictions produced by statisticians in the Home Office have indicated that the prison population would surge past 80,000 by 2007. Despite the warnings, the government has not commissioned further prison places, changed the law so that fewer people go to prison or provided adequate resources for probation.'

Obviously I'd prefer option 1 and Mr Fletcher would like option 3. Looks like we're going to get option 2 - but without any change in the law, which would have to be debated and voted on.

(More on prison, probation and community service here.)

Cruddas Tackles The Issues

"The BNP’s failure to gain seats in last week’s elections masks worrying levels of support says deputy leadership candidate for the Labour Party, Jon Cruddas MP.

The MP for Dagenham said there are underlying issues that are driving people to the BNP which must be urgently addressed."

Mr Cruddas was speaking at a rally calling for an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

And We're Off !

May 7, 2007 - 7:15AM

Riot police fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters gathered in central Paris today to demonstrate against the presidential election victory of right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy, an AFP journalist said. The clashes took place on the Place de la Bastille where about 5,000 supporters of the defeated Socialist candidate Segolene Royal had gone to await the election results. Up to 300 rioters, some of whom were masked, made running attacks on riot police who took up positions at the entrance to boulevards leading onto the square. Earlier a small crowd of protesters, brandishing black and red anarchist flags, set fire to an effigy of Sarkozy in the square before tearing it limb from limb and then stamping on it.

Be fair though - these are traditional French Leftist rioters (the kind who say the Right are 'full of hate'), not 'racaille'. I imagine a lot of police will be on duty tonight.

UPDATE - strange. The graphic (from Le Monde) seems to show Sarkozy as winner in the industrial North - which I'm sure the Guardian describes as the socialist heartland - and the east, while Royal seems to be ahead in ... well, the touristy, less vibrant bits - Brittany, Bordeaux, the Southwest.

Have I got the reactions correct ? (O-level French)

Mme Royal appelle à "continuer ensemble"

The lovely Sego said she will continue to wear the same outfits.

François Bayrou et l'UDF félicitent Nicolas Sarkozy

Bayrou and UDF congratulate Sarkozy.

Jean-Marie Le Pen : "les électeurs auront le président qu'ils méritent"

Le Pen : 'You'll get the President you deserve !"

Reid Quits

Adam Boulton

The Home Secretary's bombshell announcement - and its timing, coming in between Labour's drubbing at the polls and Tony Blair announcing his departure - looks like a calculated and deliberate snub to his old foe the Chancellor.

The obvious conclusion is that Dr Reid simply doesn't want to be part of a Gordon Brown government. And although his announcement shocked and stunned MPs, he must have told Tony Blair that he was planning to go, because within minutes of the Reid announcement, No 10 released a glowing tribute to Mr Blair's loyal ally.

Is this the first known case of the rat leaving the ship before it's actually set sail ?

Turning Webellion Into Money II

Listening to R5 on Friday, some interviewee with beautifully modulated middle-class tones was talking about the Clash - 'twas one Julien Temple, another nice boy fascinated by the wild side.

"I was born the same year as Joe Strummer, so in a funny way I couldn’t help but go through some of the same moves as him. I didn’t go to a public school, but I guess you could say that my parents were middle-class. We shared certain things, like that pivotal moment in the mid-’60s when we were at school. The Kinks and the Stones and that whole London thing affected both of us. Then, later in the 60s, there was the hippy thing, although I don’t think I was ever as much of a hippy as Joe, who went the whole way. Then the squatting. We shared things in common."

Public-school hippy ? You amaze me.

I first became aware of Joe when I was squatting in Notting Hill, just as he was ... then I got involved in the punk thing by meeting the Sex Pistols by chance. I was completely amazed to see Joe at the 100 Club, with his blonde hair, all punked out, totally unlike this hippy from before. It was an amazing transformation ... Joe was harder to get to know because he was always covering up his middle-class background. He was such a different person from before. He was wary of anyone who shared his past.

Full-on urban rebel, up and dahn the Westway, eh ? Trouble was, a lot of people who should have known better took it all seriously. I wonder when exactly the officer class started to feel the need to hide their origins - early 60s I'd presume, about the same time that nice middle class Mr Jagger invented mockney.

I first met Joe in the seventies, but then didn't see him again for about 25 years! Then one day he appeared in my garden. It turned out that his wife Lucinda was an old school friend of my wife ...

Asbo Comprehensive, perhaps ? I wonder which school that would be.

Later he said that he wanted to live here – and he did. He bought a farm up the road and we spent a lot of time together.

So Temple, the chronicler of London punk, ends up in rural Somerset, and good old Joe turns up to (in every sense) buy the farm up the road ! As you do. Just another example of urban hipsters letting us know what they really think. A long way from the Hammersmith Palais ...

"We're safe here ... miles away from explosions, inner-city crime, miles away even from suburbia."

Normblog profile

This week is the estimable Squander Two. Couldn't agree more with his important advice about life. Or A.A. Milne as a comic writer.

Moral Barrel - Indie Scrapes Out The Bottom

He's a poet, a fisherman, a chess-player, a family man described as considerate and thoughtful, somebody who cares about nature and the environment, passionate yet even-tempered.

Well, yes. He certainly cared about the environment of Londonderry.

His units did a great deal of damage to the city with a campaign that made it look, in the words of one observer, as if it had been bombed from the air.

McGuinness was not always in the business of twinkling geniality, or of making friends and influencing people. He began as a trainee butcher, packing bacon in a Derry butcher's shop.

He'd soon moved on to professional butchery.

The British Army in particular had cause to regret his streetfighting skills: it lost more than two dozen soldiers, gunned down on Derry streets.

"Lost" them, did they ? How careless.

Let's just suppose that there were English Nationalists prepared to kill hundreds of innocents in pursuance of an independent England. What would the odds be of a sympathetic Indie portrait ?