Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Dwarves of Perception

I don’t think you’ll like it,” my boyfriend MSNed me yesterday, “why don’t you listen to the CD and let me know later.” He was booking tickets to go and see Electric Eel Shock at The Garage in Highbury last night.

So I put in “Go Europe!” and decided on balance I’d go along. I’m glad I did. (I’m also glad I remembered that I has a set of earplugs in my bass case – remember kids, there is nothing cool about going deaf – or worse.)

Electric Eel Shock are fantastic. Here is a band that is cool simply because they either refuse to be cool or don’t know how to be or care to be. They’re from Toyko, Japan, and simply exude a love of rock and roll. They’re a reminder that at its core, a rock gig is supposed to b fun. With short snappy, catchy songs with titles like ‘Bastard’, ‘Suicide Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Japanese meets Chinese in USA’ I was boogieing away on the floor, sticky with spilt coke, bear and sweat.

Of course, they make the worst rock cliche’s seem charming simply because they do it with such conviction. The bass player dives off the top of his bass amp, the guitarist balances his Flying-Vee on his nose and the drummer plays bullock-naked except for a sock on his cock. Magic stuff!

EES where the support band for The Dwarves, who were not so much fun. Their website is sexist. (Yes, I know, what’s wrong with sexy…”)

They’re a strange bunch who make an awful lot of noise. Glad I took the ear plugs. Infact, the boyfriend was asking for my spare pair midway into their set. I don’t know what to make of them. A lot of shouting, like bad Rage Against The Machine, without the progressive politics. Obviously cock-rock is catching on, because one of The Dwarves played completely naked (except for Doc Martins and a full-face wrestling mask, similar to this one), his flaccid todger dangling underneath his axe.

This reminds me about the story of an old professor who would frequent an all-male nude bathing complex. One day a women strayed in and all the men rushed to cover their privates with their towels – except the professor who put his towel over his head. When he was asked to explain this later, he replied “I don’t know about you, but in this town I’m known by my face.”

But I digress…

Between songs, he seemed to masturbate (unsuccessfully) and I swear he was hoping the solitary woman at the bopping at the front of the stage would reach out and touch “it”. Sensibly, she didn’t, even after a few suggestive pelvic thrusts from Ukulele Lad. She obviously didn’t fancy being crushed by a Dwarf.

Amazingly, the metal-heads moshing beneath his swaying meat didn’t seem to mind – and metal is supposed to be such a macho, hard subculture. I wondered to myself if one of these chaps had reached out and touched The Dwarves privates, whether a charge of assault would have had to be answered. What does the law say? I wonder. Hmmm….

Anyhow… if the music had been better, I doubt I’d have been mulling over all these issues. We’d gone to see the Electric Eel Shock, as, I suspect, had a large number of the audience.

For my friends in LA, Electric Eel Shock are playing in Anaheim, California @ House Of Blues (With BG) on Saturday, 08 October 2005 and in Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theater (With BG) on Monday, 10 October 2005. Go check ‘em out.

Hopefully they’ll have left the Dwarves behind. They don’t seem to get it – and may soon be headlining a puppet show. Electric Eel Shock, they’re spot on.

Apart from “Go Europe”, check out their other albums “Beat Me’ and “Go USA”.

Viva the Age of Reason!

Anthony Andrews sums up in a piece in The Guardian today what I’ve been saying for over a year: human rights and religious interests are incompatible. Not only that, but that repugnant views should not be excused simply because they are deeply felt religious beliefs rather than political ideology.

In a secular world, all ideology must be evaluated on its own merits. The fact that its adherents claim that it was ‘divinely inspired’ should count for nothing.

Viva the Age of Reason!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Doublespeak from Falwell

“You spoke with passion for the civil rights of all Americans — regardless of if they’re gay or straight. Thank you.”

This was the response of Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign – one of the largest gay and lesbian lobbying groups in the United States – to the news that evangelical wingnut Jerry Falwell had moderated his views on the rights of LGBT citizens.

Falwell, who once mused that 9-11 might be divine retribution on America for tolerating gays and feminists; and who has spent decades decrying so-called “special rights” demanded by the gay community (what’s so special about equality?) spake thus:

“Well, housing and employment are not special rights. I think - I think the right to live somewhere and to live where you please or to work where you please, as long as you’re not bothering anybody else, is a basic right, not a - not a special right.”  

Great stuff.

“I have always believed that all Americans should have basic human rights,” Falwell told the paper. “I’ve made it clear that I don’t consider the right to fair housing or employment a conservative or liberal value. Those are American values.”

But it had to be too good to be true.

The evangelist told the News & Advance that his support for basic rights does not mean he favours enshrining it in law.

What’s the use of a “right” if it isn’t enshrined in law? In fact, isn’t that the very definition of a right?

Would he be practicing what he preached? Would he be hiring staff for his own institutions without discrimination? Hell no!

Our doctrinal belief is that homosexuality is wrong,” says he.

And proving that, while well-meaning, he still actually doesn’t ‘get it’, he says:

“As long as a person obeys the law and doesn’t recruit a student to a certain lifestyle, they shouldn’t be prevented from teaching.”

Gay people are not automatically criminals and recruiters of young people, you bigoted moron!

Sorry, was that ungracious? Didn’t mean it to be. I guess it is progress. We should be encouraged that at least one religious whack-job might not be interfering in our lives quite as much as before, and at the end of the day – let’s face it - any lesbian or gay person who actually wants to work for Falwell at his “Christian Liberty Academy”, (the type of institution upon which this movie is broadly based) frankly, needs their head read.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Livid about divid

Why are DVDs now subsidising VHS video tapes? More importantly, why are video tapes cheaper?

Okay, so they’re cheaper because you get no extras and a shitty picture quality on an inconvenient format that gets worse every time you use it. With DVDs, you’re paying for ‘quality, reliability, durability, ease-of-use, extra content, etc, etc, etc...

But why pay more for things which are an automatic by-product of the format and the improvement in technology?

It infuriates me when I see an advert for a new film which says “Available on DVD for £19.99 and VHS for £15.99.

Think about it. A VHS cassette has lots of little springs, cogs, levers and flaps. Not only can they all go wrong, but the manufacturing and assembly costs must be enormous compared to a bit of laminated plastic. Blank DVDs, for example, can be found for around 20p each. A blank video tape costs about £2.00.

Then there’s the size and weight. A VHS cassette package is twice the size and three times the weight of a DVD. This means that the packing, freighting, warehousing, stocking, distributing, posting and storing of the format is at least 2 to 3 times the cost.

An argument might be made for market penetration, but this too is nonsense. Fewer and fewer High Street shops and online retailers bother with the format. On the playback hardware front, VCRs are on average twice the price of a DVD player – which can now be bought from supermarkets for as little as £25 – so there is no excuse for people not to upgrade: an entry level player costs less than two pre-recorded tapes.

So why don’t the manufactures just stop?

Why not put the subsidy that is obviously eating into DVD profits into giving away the player hardware? Yes, let people simply swap their old VCRs for a basic DVD player and stop this nonsense?

Better still, dump the tapes and drop the price of DVDs by whatever amount you’ve added on to finance a more expensive, limited appeal and disposable format – at, scandalously, a cheaper price!

What’s up?

Are we supposed to RESPECT that?

If you challenge people’s religious beliefs you’d better be prepared “to deal with the consequences”.

One might be inclined to consider that sensible advice, but when the person dispensing the advice is George Galloway, ‘MP’ for Bethnal Green & Bow, and the person receiving that wisdom is Salman Rushdie, erstwhile ‘author in hiding’, it is entirely more ominous. Indeed, it sounds like a threat.

"Is that a threat?" asked Rushdie.

The exchange occurred, according to a report in The Guardian at the Edinburgh Festival during a debate between G.G. and Mr Rushdie on a special edition of Question Time, chaired by Andrew Neil.

G.G. cautioned:

"You have to be aware if you do [offend people's beliefs] you will get blowback. You should do it very carefully, especially if you are a public service broadcaster."

On the idea that Rushdie’s book, ‘The Satanic Verses’, be adapted by the BBC for the small screen, Galloway said that any broadcaster who did not respect the sensitivity of peoples religious beliefs would have “to deal with the consequences".

Rushdie replied to the MP for Respect:

"The simple fact is that any system of ideas that decides you have to ringfence it, that you cannot discuss it in fundamental terms, that you can't say that this bit of it is junk, or that bit is oppressive ... we are supposed to respect that?"

The Indian-born author, who we need not be reminded still lives under the threat of a death-fatwa, also claimed that Islam was "backsliding into bigotry" and described Muslim leaders in Britain as "a joke, because no one follows them".

He’s wrong. George Galloway was sitting right next to him.

Galloway should not be excusing (sorry, “explaining”) attacks on people for expressing their views on religion.

While everybody ought to absolutely support the right of everyone else to practice their religion without fear and intimidation and we must loudly deplore discrimination (or worse, violence) against any person because of their religious faith, we should not be required to have a commitment to preserving the image of any religion or respect people’s feelings about their beliefs.

Religion is just a set of ideas which must be open to debate, discussion, criticism and even ridicule, just like any other set of ideas.

We must deplore attacks on PEOPLE, not on IDEAS.

Rushdie is a symbol of the former, while Galloway appears to be an apologist for the latter.

Which is odd, considering that George himself has faced “blowback” and “consequences” from the same section of society that would likely renew attacks on Salman Rushdie and any broadcaster attempting to produce his work.

As Nigel Tuffnell would say, “It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever.”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Another blow-up over Qaradawi

Well, this is progress! Finally The Guardian is reporting that Dr Qaradawi is indeed a supporter of suicide bombers:

“Suicide bombs are a duty, says Islamic scholar”

Apparently, speaking at a conference of Islamic scholars in Egypt last week, Dr Q said:

“I think that saying it is a legitimate right in Palestine and Iraq is not enough because a right is something that can be relinquished. It is a duty...”

Okay, no need to panic – he hasn’t said it is permissible here yet!

He says that those who might consider blowing themselves up on the tube need a really good talking to rather than a pat on the back.

“We cannot say we pat these misguided boys on the back but we do want to listen to them. They have gone astray so we want to treat them in a way that will set them straight... we want to treat them the way clerics treat their students, the way fathers treat their sons.”

Livingstone himself has allowed himself to become an apologist for suicide bombers.

He told The Guardian that while Israel had fighter jets and tanks, the Palestinians "only have their bodies" and no other way to "fight back".

Fuzzy thinking. These bombers are not throwing themselves at tanks, but school busses, and Hamas don’t seem to have any shortage of rockets – which are perfectly able confront tanks.

So, without taking sides on what often seems like a tit-for-tat cycle of violence, the idea that school kids need to be blown up in pizzerias is, frankly, bullshit. Bullshit, Ken!

Though, of course, Ken had to defend his decision to welcome Dr Q to London, despite the latter’s outburst:

“Has fighting colonizers become a criminal and terrorist act for some sheikhs?”

Israeli society, he fumed, was “completely military in its make-up and did not include any civilians. In Israel, men and women are soldiers… They are all occupying soldiers.”

Of course, this fact was pointed out a year before London became a target, and there was no shortage of apologists for this view, including in The Guardian.

Now that the blood’s flowed in our own streets (and threatens to again) we find ourselves having to be a little less cavalier – and a little less callous – about where and when suicide bombing is understandable and/or acceptable.

It’s time to say it. There is only one instance when the actions of suicide bombers can be condoned… when they do it in the privacy of their own homes and discretely enough not to alarm their neighbours.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Out for a duck

Some fuckwit has shot a duck with a crossbow.

The duck has survived, but a crossbow bolt is sticking out of its side. I spotted the story on the ITV news at lunchtime. Were it not for the fact that the duck must be suffering some distress, I would have been more amused at their attempts to catch it, which appear to be luring it with breadcrumbs and gaining its trust sufficiently for them to attempt to grab it. They’re not having much success and expect it might take days before they can get close enough to the quacker.

When I was a kid growing up in South Africa, there was a TV programme called “Attie en Joos” about the adventures of two tramps (or ‘boemelaars’ as they would have been called, since the programme was in Afrikaans). I mention this because, being 6 or 7 at the time, I learned a naughty trick from the pair.

In order to catch dinner, they headed for the local park with a cardboard box, a stick, and a long piece of string – and of course some breadcrumbs. The method of catching a pigeon was quite simple. Prop the box up with the stick, tie the string to the stick and scatter breadcrumbs around the box and underneath it. When the pigeons start tucking into the breadcrumbs, invariably some will stray under the box. At that point, give the string a yank and you’ll have your bird.

My friends and I naturally gave it a go. Guess what. It works!

Perhaps the RSPCA could give Attie and Joos’s tried and tested method a go. What have they got to loose?

Of course, if this trick fools a bird-brain, they could also consider using it to catch the troglodyte who shot the duck.

When the 'relatives' come to town

"Why is it that with all this touchy-feely cultural respect stuff, it’s always the bigoted culture that wins?" asks Jason Kuznicki on the blog Positive Liberty.  

It’s a question I’ve been asking a lot lately.

The first time I realised that something might be amiss is when OutRage! (of which I am a member) started getting accused of “racism” for supporting the Jamaican gay rights group JFLAG in a campaign to highlight the murderous incitements to gay-bashing peddled by certain Jamaican Dancehall artists.

Apparently what we hadn’t taken into account was that homophobia was “part of Jamaican culture”, and if that wasn’t the one-eyed jack, then the ace was certainly that homophobia was part of “strongly held religious beliefs”.

When we asked our accusers whether being gay-bashed by their heterosexual neighbours was simply part of gay Jamaican culture, they looked startled, but only for a second, because as one learns, when logical politics fails, some simply turn up the knob of the shrillometer. Racist! Imperialist! It just got louder, because name-calling is easier to manage than having to make an honest assessment.

Why is it that the assertive and oppressive faction is always considered the ‘authentic’ representative of a culture? Why is it that patriarchal males who control the power in a society get the thumbs up, while women, gays, and other minorities – who surely have as much claim to being an authentic part of a culture – are marginalised by the very people who ought to be championing them? Yes, that’s us on the Left, the liberals, the progressives – we would never silently tolerate abuses of women, gays and other minorities in our own culture, but any one of us who pipes up with the suggestion that the marginalised in other countries be the beneficiaries of our solidarity has their head bitten off.

There is a word for treating people of other cultures and races with double-standards: racism. And, many – in their fear of being called racist – end up acting like racists.

When a child makes a mistake you may overlook it, excuse it or go easy on them because.. well, it’s a child, they make mistakes. But infantilising other cultures is racism. And that’s what it is when you refuse to criticise Jamaican singers or politicians because of their homophobia.

Then the issue reared up again in a big way when we dared to criticise Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi for his views on homosexuality. He described homosexuals as “perverted” and “a disease that needs a cure” and is a primary apologist for the death sentence meted out under Sharia law… by any objective standard he is a vocal homophobe.

So why is it “racist” and “Islamophobic” to say so?

Imbeciles like Bob Pitt (of Islamophobia-Watch) claim that criticising Qaradawi is de facto Islamophobia (which he says is a form of racism). But hang on a moment – weren’t those criticising Qaradawi reacting to his homophobia? Isn’t he the one who started spouting the bigotry? Why aren’t they criticising him for his homophobia instead of us for reacting to it? Oh, I forgot, if they criticised him, they would then be Islamophobes – which would make their enterprise nonsensical.

Isn’t circular logic marvellous?

Now as OutRage! distributed a document yesterday by (black – for, alas, it needs to be said) gay Zimbabweans about the impact Robert Mugabe’s Operation ‘Clean Up The Filth’ campaign is having on them, already the accusations are coming in of… you guessed it… racism. Not, I hasten to add, from stooges of Mugabe’s regime, but from people, who really ought to know better.

Peter Tatchell wrote an essay on this issue a few weeks ago. Read it here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Not so elementary

The Evening Standard reports that bus bomber Hasib Hussain called his (by then dead) accomplices after he failed to get on a delayed train at King's Cross. Apparently he needed their advice on what to do since his train was not running and was in a flap.

I was impressed with how vivid the Evening Standard writer described the scenario - but then I realised that the reason I was reading the paper was to wile away the time while waiting for a train myself - my regular train having been cancelled due to [insert garbled Tannoy-speak here]. So he hadn't actually evoked the feeling - I was already feeling the frustration and disorientation of unreliable trains...

But ho-hum... I'm not a member of a death-cult trying to draw a flaming cross on the map of London, so by comparison I was taking this transportational setback relatively in my stride.

Anyhow, the point that grabbed me is not the absurdity of phoning your more successful colleagues for pointers when your colleagues happen to be uh, SUICIDE BOMBERS but the absurdity of the conclusions the paper reports investigators have drawn from Hussain's frantic call logs.

The Evening Standard says confidently:

"Security sources say the calls prove:"

(1) The bombers had not planned to target a bus - it was a spur of the moment act by Hussain as he wandered the streets in confusion after being unable to reach his intended target.

It may make it a reasonable speculation, but proof? There are other reasons why he may have called them. He may have had trouble setting the bomb off. He may have been having second thoughts and was trying to establish if everyone else had gone though with the plan.

(2) It is unlikely that there was an al Qaeda "mastermind" or support network - if there had been, Hussain would have called one of them for help.

This proves nothing of the sort. He may have known full well that the mastermind had already left the country and there was no point in calling him. Alternatively, contact with the mastermind may only have been through the team leader, who was now dead. And, of course, if he was suffering from doubt, he may have been phoning to see if all the others had really gone through with it.

The Evening Standard now appears to have noticed the shortcoming of this assumption themselves. In an updated story online, they point out:

"However, sources suggested the calls did not necessarily prove this as Hussain may not have known the identity of the planners, or how to contact them."

(3) The 21 July cell was part of a copycat operation which targeted three tube trains and a bus, believing that to be the original plan.

Now this is the most dangerous assumption. There are many reasons why - even if the first 3+1 method was not planned - that the second wave would follow that pattern. They might have realised how powerful an above-ground image of an exploded London icon was in terms of generating terror. They may have realised that the psychological impact of not being able to confidently switch to another form of public transport was worth reinforcing. They may have decided that in order to make it seem like a coordinated attack, they should repeat it - musicians know this trick: if you play a bum note, play it again a few more times, and then make a big show of resolving the note - that way it seems deliberate instead of a fuck-up.

This assumption is dangerous because it may colour the prosecution of the four failed bombers, and it may forestall lines of enquiry that might ultimately point to a wider conspiracy.

Indeed, the final conclusion is that these were "self-starter" terrorists, and not linked to a bigger plot. That may very well turn out to be the case, but it is not a conclusion that can be drawn from the above.

Like Mayor Ken Livingstone, who I think is taking the most sensible approach to the policing crisis of any party, I have every confidence that the London Metropolitan Police do a great job of protecting this city. But if these 'conclusions' are official (and not leaked to the ES by some of the rotten apples in the force that Livingstone suggested troll its corridors) then we are in trouble.

You don't need a deerstalker to work out that these call logs hint at much, but prove nothing.    

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Right of reply

There is ample evidence here and here that the technique by which you can be forced to say things you don't realy mean to say was invented by a Jewish agent. Sometimes these things can be inconvenient and make you look like a fool.

So with this overwhelming evidence, why will no one believe that Sir Iqbal Sacranie was set up when his answers to straighforward questions on the BBC's Panorama programme cast him and the organisation he represents in a bad light. Clearly it was the fault of the Jews who often are involved in covert operations.

In a letter to Director General Mark Thompson, Sir Iqbal states: "The Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organisations in the UK." Apparently the BBC is under the spell of "highly placed supporters of Israel". He complained in The Guardian that this was "deeply unfair".

The evidence seems to support Sir Iqbals' view. Let's examine it:

When confronted with the fact that Ali Hadith, and MCB affilliate, have a statement on their website saying that Christians and Jews ways are "based on sick or deviant views" and that "imitating the Kuffaar leads to a permanent abode in hellfire", (NOTE: the page has now been removed from their website, but is still available in the Google cache) Sir Iqbal replied:

"Well we must accept the reality on the ground that the diversity that we have with the Muslim Community in the UK and as long as they subscribe to our constitution, which is very clear, which is on the website and it's totally transparent in terms of its activities of a work which is through the teachings of the Quran and upholding the principles of Islam; then what they do outside the Council, there is no control that we have on them."
Now, this clearly suggests that the MCB's constitution allows its members to use the most insulting and disrespectful language about other religions without limitation. It also suggests that the MCB's leadership is questionable and that it has "no control" over its membership. This is a very negative image and could only serve the interest of the Jews... sorry, the "highly placed supporters of Israel".

Okay, let's be honest, all religions believe the other ones are somehow "deviant" and Sir Iqbal should be supported for supporting the use of free speech to criticise other beliefs, no matter how robustly. This is a very healthy attitude. Which is why it is infuriating that the biased BBC and their Jewish puppet-masters made it appear that Sir Iqbal was totally opposed to the criticism of religion, especially his own. Whose interests did it serve when they showed him saying:

"Attempting to insult the blessed prophet, peace be upon him, is the most serious crime in the eyes of Islamic law. The crime is considered as transgressing the limits and is worse than treason and is a capital offence. "

He is right, it is "deeply unfair" to portray him as holding the murderously anti-humanitarian view that not only is insulting his religion wrong, but that such apostates and blasphemers deserve to die by broadcasting a clip of him saying so. It is only because of that Jew Freud's devious invention that people are shown to say what they might otherwise simply mean.

The BBC completely ignored the fact that Sir Iqbal had courageously defended Salman Rushdie when a death fatwa was issued against him after the publication of 'The Satanic Verses'. Denouncing the death penalty, Sir Iqbal pointed out that such a punishment was wholy inappropriate:

"Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him" he

But the defamation didn't stop here. The BBC's reporter John Ware then asked a very difficult question: If 'The Satanic Verses' were published today, would Sir Iqbal Sacranie call for government intervention to have it banned?

"There is no law at the moment, sadly, that would enable me to pursue with a legal course of.. of seeking its withdrawal. "

Oh dear. One can almost smell the mallicious venom oosing out of the poors of the editor as he included a quote from Sir Iqbal that clearly gives the impression that he might either resort to extra-legal means to block free expression or lobby government to introduce a law to do so.

"If the law that we would like to sort of see appear, a law does not prevent totally, it's a very powerful message that goes out in type of what sort of society we have. We respect the freedom of expression but we expect freedom of expression to be exercised with responsibility."

Then, when the BBC allowed him to continue, it also facilitated the impression that Sir Iqbal has tottally unrealistic expectations for the law. Why are the BBC allowing Sir Iqbal to use his own words create the impression that he is anti-free speech and would like to see the death penalty imposed for blasphemy?

They must have known full well that when they showed him saying that freedom of expression must be "exercised with responsibility", viewers would still have fresh in their minds his earlier comment that "the crime is considered as transgressing the limits and is worse than treason and is a capital offence."

The 'Right of Reply' has always been the cornerstone of a democratic media. Now we have an example of how - probably with the backing of Jews, um, "highly placed supporters of Israel" - the BBC have found a way to damn people with their own replies. It is wrong that people are made to look and sound ridiculous and dishonest simply by what they say on TV in reply to some mind-bending technique which, in the trade, are called "questions".

Apparently these "questions" elicit a reply - something referred to in the media community as "answers" - and this is where the danger lies. The Jews might make you say what you mean.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

School of hard Nocks

As a gay man, I've always been aware of the threat of hate-attacks. Unless you're in a class of people who are targetted, it's hard to explain the feeling. The threat is a part of your phsychological "peripheral vision" - something you're not exactly focussing on, but you're aware of its existence just enough not to walk into it.

For me, it is always being aware of who I'm on the train with, or who is walking towards me on the street, or what sort of neighbourhood I'm in. Depending on where I am or who I think I'm with, I might not engage in any public displays of affection for my partner, or I may not read my Pink Paper while waiting for the train - you know, small adjustments, or concessions, if you will to the reality of the world we live in.

Of course, this involves some degree of "profiling". I'm not saying that a 70 year old grandmother escorting two toddlers is any less likely to be homophobic than four twenty-something men with shaved heads, England football apparel, and carrying open cans of Stella, but I figure I can handle granny, so I don't care.

At least I can be an identity-chameleon. I don't know how my black friends deal with it, much less friends who are both black and gay. Perhaps if you can't hide the virtual bullseye that all minorites wear you have to replace fretfulness with resignation.

The reason I am philosophising about this issue all of a sudden, is the news in The Star (the newspaper of my last home, Johannesburg) that a South African living in London was the victim of a xenophobic attack.

Grant Nock, a South African Londoner was walking home with a group of friends after watching a rugby match at a nearby pub. They were wearing South African rugby team (Springbok) jerseys when they were accosted by a group of youths,

"They started to shout and swear at us and threw bricks and bottles... They told us to go back to our own country," said Nock.

Like most South Africans who have settled in London, the things I appreciate most about this city (and this country) is that people generally aren't running around with guns, you don't freak out at the robots* and you don't have to live in Fort Knox to safeguard your VCR.

[* Okay, most Londoners would freak out if they saw 'robots' in London, but to us Shouf Efrikens it just means 'traffic light'. I've never really cared to find out why we called traffic lights robots until now, this may be the answer.]

Understandably, Mr Nock's parents - who still live in South Africa - are really, really shocked that this could happen. It's not supposed to happen in the UK. Still, Mr Nock told the South African Press Association that he has no plans to cut short his working holiday in the UK and leave London with a bitter taste in his mouth. I find this remarkable because I've left cities with a bitter taste in my mouth and rage in my chest because I couldn't find a decent vegetarian sandwich!

In the News24 report, something else caught my eye (Oh dear, I've just realised how tasteless that might sound). The police, apparently, do not believe the attack to be race related.

This puzzles me. If people attack you for no other reason than because your jersey betrays your national origin, and they shout abuse about going back to your own country as they plunge a broken bottle into your face, what sort of attack is it?

In any event, perhaps it's time to make sure I say "traffic light". 'Robot' may be the new shibboleth.

Oh, and one more thing. A note to the morons who want South Africans to "go home". Perhaps you should visit Cape Town or Johannesburg and see how many Brits live and work there! Quid pro quo, people! Of course, whenever anyone has ever asked the Brits to go home, they've responded by sending in a battalion of Red Coats to poke 'em in the eye with a broken bottle - metaphorically speaking, of course.

And I say this as the progeny of a Brit who probably did some poking.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The race to conflate

Secular campaigners are increasingly resigned to the fact that any criticism of Islam will get them branded as racists. Indeed, even Maryam Namazie, an Iranian secularist, was bizarrely branded a racist by the curious tripe that appears on the Islamophobia-Watch website.

Now, it makes perfect sense to guard against and denounce far-right groups (like the BNP) who quite obviously use "Muslim" as a not-too-subtle proxy for any non-white immigrant person (and who is probably not a Christian), but to define Islamophobia as "anti Muslim racism" (as Islamophobia-Watch do) and to include all criticism of the religion under this rubric - and then to shriek that a woman from the Middle East is an Islamophobe (and thus a 'racist') is crazy - especially when the person doing the shrieking is a white male westerner (as Bob Pitt, the editor is).

Now, wasn't Marx's famous comment "Religion... is the opium of the people"? Funny then, when an Iranian communist rages against the religion of her own State (and one not terribly kind to apostates, women, communists and trade-unionists), some white guy - who allegedly is also a left-winger - denounces her as a racist.

How is this allowed to happen? Simple, the conflation of religion and race. The side effects are that religious leaders are automatically elevated to community leaders and secularists are marginalised.

It also allows the absurdity quoted in today's Guardian to be taken seriously:

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, says "we will not allow the demonising, devaluing or targeting of the concept of Islam which will we (sic) hold very dear."

Now, while it is an utter disgrace that people are demonised and assualted simply because they belong to a religious faith, isn't Mr Shadjareh shifting the goalposts when he says that the concept of Islam shouldn't be criticised?

Surely any concept, any philosophy or ideology (which, after all, Islam in common with all other religions is) should have no more protection than Existentialism, or Scientology, or any other fad or movement - like those annoying people who try to motivate you to work harder for less money by taking you hiking and selling you books like 'Who Moved My Cheese".. but I digress...

The serious issue is that, in a scary echo of the Salman Rushdie affair, we're being told in very robust terms that criticism of religious ideas won't be tolerated.

Funny that the coalition of groups represented by Mr Shadjareh should conclude (in the same Guardian piece) with very sensible advice:

"Criminalising the mere possession of certain opinions is the hallmark of dictatorships, not democracies."
But how does that square with "we will not allow the demonising, devaluing or targeting of the concept of Islam which will we hold very dear"?

That sounds like a threat.

Surely we all have the right to express our opinions - even if they are about Islamic concepts?

Control of the asylum

If I were fleeing a dictatorship or a theocracy and found asylum in Britain, I'd breathe a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, a few individuals, having found sanctuary here, inexplicably decide to use the freedom and safety of the UK to campaign to transform this country into a theocratic dictatorship.

Even more inexplicably, when the Government threatens to send them back from whence they came to face the music of their own making (in an effort to preserve the UK, in theory at least, as a safe-haven from theocratic dictatorships), some people cry that this is "abhorrent".,15935,1550061,00.html

Of course it is abhorrent, on the face of it, to send someone back to a country where they may face torture or execution. (It should be noted however that the British Government is obtaining written undertakings by these other governments that these individuals won't be tortured or executed.) But what is the lesser of the two evils? Risking the lives of a handful of fascist agitators or making life risky and unpleasant for everyone else in this country.

Now I hasten to add, that by "everyone else" I not only include, by emphasise, those other people who have found asylum in the UK who continue to be persecuted by the likes of Omar Bakri Muhammad and his ilk. I have a friend who is a refugee from Islamist terrorists. Not only does he feel that their threatening rhetoric has followed him here, but he's had to deal with the irony of some of these terrorists being granted asylum ahead of his own claim. See, they would face the death penalty after their campaign to mutilate women, flog gays and execute apostates, but their victims might only risk being mutilated, stoned or murdered if returned - so they're much less of a priority.

In the past year, two gay Iranian asylum seekers have committed suicide - one setting himself alight outside an immigration centre - after their desperate appeals for the protection
of the United Kingdom from the horrors they faced at the hands of clerical fascists in Iran failed. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile Bakri enjoyed the hospitality of this country for two decades.

It's shameful. So why are "Muslim leaders" in the UK expressing their horror that Bakri might have to face up to his crimes, while remaining silent about the innocent - like the late Iranian asylum seekers, or indeed the hundreds more currently in the UK fleeing exactly the sorts of conditions Bakri wanted to establish here?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

No respect for Respect

After the so-called People's Justice Party of Birmingham - who enjoyed an election pact with the Respect Party of George Galloway - put out an election flyer during the local elections last year denouncing the LibDems for being pro gay rights...

.... one would have thought no respectable politician would have touched them with a bargepole.

However, with the tone set by Respect's Lindsay German (she of the gay rights and women's rights are “shibboleths” comments at Marxism 2003), ...

.... it came as no surprise that Respect were first in line to congratulate the PJP when they won seats on the Bordesley Green local council, and adding:

"We look forward to further co-operation with the PJP in the future."

I wonder, does that "co-operation" include ensuring that the LibDems don't get any further promoting gay rights?

Monday, August 08, 2005

When the left is right, who's left and who's right?

"Socialism and Islam are very close, other than on the issue of the existence of God. We are synthesising the socialist idea with religious ideas in Britain in a way no-one else in the world is doing. It’s one of the reasons for the success of the Stop The War Coalition. It’s one of the reasons for the success of Respect.”

- George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow.

"Many moderate Muslims believe that much of Britain is decadent. They are right. Mr Blair says that the fanatics who want to blow us up despise us, but he won’t admit that their decent co-religionists — who are the best hope of undermining the extremists at source — despair of us. They despair of the moral decline and the ugly brutishness that characterise much of urban Britain. They despair of the metropolitan mix of gay rights and lager louts. And they despair of the liberal establishment’s unwillingness to face the facts and fight the battle for manners and morals. They are not alone."

- John Hayes, Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings.

Is this how Islamist ideology will become the new "middle way" - the happy compromise for both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum? The Islamic Party of Britain seem to think so. In their manifesto they say:

"Islam is the middle way. Both communism and capitalism have to admit that they fall short of the aim they set out to achieve and cannot deliver what they promised to provide: a happy way of life. Islam, often being blamed to be an outdated medieval system, is indeed the only answer for the future. "

And, they have just the stuff to please Mr Galloway's faction:

"Islam rejects these aspects of capitalism. Islam rejects the ethos whereby the measure of human worth is degraded to a toting up of bank balances. We as Muslims reject that system of economics whereby millions of human beings have to starve to death and suffer utter deprivations in order that a country can pay off extortionate interest payments on foreign debts. We also reject that system of economics whereby a food mountain in one part of the world is refused to the starving in another, so that the international price of this or that commodity is not threatened. "

And, just the sauce for Mr Hayes's moral crusaid:

"Islam condemns and outlaws homosexuality. As far as Islamic law is concerned, the rules are that the state does not interfere in the privacy of people's homes, but it would need to safeguard public decency by preventing any public advocacy for homosexuality. Such activity would come under the heading of public incitement. The death penalty the questioner mentions only applies to a public display of lewdness witnessed by several people. "

So the terms "Left" and "Right" don't seem particularly useful any longer. What is needed is a new label that combines these right-wing social policies with left-wing economic policies. Perhaps we could call it something like "National Socialism".

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Terrorism as performance art...

... attempted murder as pantomime.

I wish I could say I was shocked at this defence offered by would-be suicide bomber Osman Hussain's Italian lawyer., but I'm not.

I'm a cynical bastard, you see, and only this past weekend I was holding forth to friends at a party that since no one had been injured in the attempted bombings, it was likely that the suspects would claim that it was all a misunderstood practical joke and that various apologists would argue on Newsnight that we're entering a new phase of witnessing terrorism as performanc art*.

(* Note: This could still happen!)

- Flour Power -

Hussain claims that his rucksack was filled with flour, not explosives. " It would have made a bang and scared people" reports The Independent. What's wrong with the tried-and-tested method of achieving that by dying your hair green and putting a safetly-pin through your nose?

But seriously, there is legitimate politically-motivated direct action which can "shock and scare" people in the best possible way and make a non-violent political point - just ask Peter Tatchell. Even if we believe Hussein's story, how is blowing up a potential pancake breakfast on your back and scaring the heebie-jeebies out of completely random strangers on a train - and then legging it like a frightened rabbit - making a coherent political point?

- A fair cop -

To add to this silliness, Hussain says "I'm scared of what I could suffer in jail there, I'm scared of having to spend the rest of my life in a cell."

What? Is he convinced the Italian police are a lighter touch than their British counterparts?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A fundamental truth

Whenever some nutjob commits some atrocity in the name of their religion, we hear hand-wringing commentators glibly repeating the soundbite "they're motivated by a distorted version of the religion".

Whether it is Christian fundamentalists blowing up abortion clinics Alabama or Muslim fundamentalists blowing up trains in London, we're always told that they've misinterpreted and distorted scripture.

I'm curious how these glib expressions like "a distorted version of the religion" originate.

Can anyone actually give a concrete example of a religious justification for an atrocity given by an Christian or Islamic fundamentalist that was actually "distorted"?

Can anyone give an example of a religious motive given by a fundamentalist that wasn't actually "fundamental"?

I think we'll find that it is the moderates who are actually "distorting" the biblical texts (for the better, I hasten to add). Modern interpretations of the major religions keep the traditions and merge it with secular Humanism - and throw out the "fundamentalisms".

It is actually the fundamentalists who practice the pure, unadulterated version of the religion. That is, after all, why they are called "fundamentalists"!

That is why a revisionist, reformationist (i.e. "distorted") version of religion is so necessary.

We should be praising the "distorted" versions or religion and condemning the pure ones - not the other way round.

For some revision on what the Bible and the Koran actually say, visit:

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Blood lines

It is a fact that the majority of the suicide bombers who attacked London where Middle-Eastern or North-African looking.

Now many might intuitively think this is an excuse for targeted, racially profiled, stop and search. After all, most people's common sense will tell them, that if the police are searching for football hooligans, it makes no sense to stop and search an elderly Japanese woman. Ditto, Islamist terrorists.

It may be intuitive, but this thinking is flawed. All it ends up doing, is advertising to the terrorists what your (institutionalised) blind spot is. How long will it be before they draft into service someone who doesn't fit the profile?

Funily enough, the "statistical" approach is quite common. Take the ban on gay men donating blood.

The argument against not aloowing gay men to donate blood is based soley on the fact that gay men are more statistically likely to be carrying the HIV virus - but not exculsively so, because there are many straight men (and women) who carry the virus. Therefore, it makes sense to check all blood that is donated - because a statistical approach won't be foolproof.

It is also a fact that statistically, a Middle-Eastern or North African man is more likely to be a suicide bomber, but not exclusively so, merely "statistically". Because it is not exclusisely so, it makes sense to profile on behaviour, body language, etc, rather than on race or religion or gender.

In both cases the stakes are high: if blood is evaluated on statitics, it won't be safe - that is why every pint donated needs to be checked (and I believe is - so why the ban? Is this not a tacit admission that the 'statistical' argument is so flawed as to be useless - and only prejudice remains?).

Similarly, to be blinkered by statistical profiling in finding bombers will expose the same deficiencies in that approach.

Just found this story from Australia on Must be zeitgeist.
"Gay blood donor ban criticised"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Packard your troubles with this kit.

Most of the large corporations couldn't give a toss about product support (aka: allowing one to enjoy using the product after you've bought it).

The reason for today's rant? Well, my sisters little Packard Bell 'AudioKey'..

... (with alledgedly 'Upgradeable firmware') has gone on the blink, displaying a message: "Incorrect Format, reformat the player!"

No problem. The phrase wasn't hard to find on their website (using Google, not their internal search function which allows you to "search the web" but not specifically their website! Why oh why oh why would the PB web team think that anyone would want to use their website to do a web search? That's what google, altavista, hotbot, etc, are for. When people visit they wantto search - for christ's sake!) But now the fun starts...

The problem - which I guess is a 'known' problem - is described here:

The solution, apparently is to either "To solve this problem format the key from Windows"... well, that didn't work... or to "download the firmware/format tool and use this application to flash the firmware and format the data area of the key". Well, that looks hopeful.

Except it isn't. It's a bloody wild goose chase.

The AudioKey entries under "Support/Downloads" reveal, um... nothing under 'AudioKey Classic' or 'AudioKey FM'

Okay, there's a driver for Win98 under 'AudioKey 330' , but that's not what we're looking for...

We're looking for this phantom "firmware/format tool. Nuffink! Nudduh!!

On with the goose chase... back to Google. Google reveals that there is in fact such a product - described - surprise, surprise - on the PB website, here:

But, no one has thought to include a link to DOWNLOAD the bleeding product from the description page!

Back to Google...

No prob.. we find them here:

Okay, prob.

There is a very serious warning. Check your serial number it says, if it isn't listed, then this is the wrong driver for your Is it C040090000 (listed)? No #$$!^&*%!! mine is C040060000 (unlisted).

So I download it anyway, because at this point I'm starting to get desperate. It find the AudiKey in my USB slot, but when it compares the firmware versions, it seems the currently loaded one is actually several versions higher. Is there an option to just reformat without upgrading the firmare? HELL NO!!!

Since product serial numbers are important, do you suppose I could find anything that supported the serial number my player has? HELL NO!!!
Then, finally, after more googling, I found this:

This seemed to be the happy medium. Admittedly, the firmware was older for some parts and newer for others, and it was for the version that included the FM radio, but worth a try... did it work? HELL NO!!!

"The semaphor timeout period has expired" or some shit like that! In English, doesn't that mean that the flag waving went on too long?


Surely these mega global corporations can employ a web editor who makes sure that the damn website is user-friendly enough that a customer doesn't have to use Google to track down product information? How hard can it be to link the recommened driver information to the download page for that driver? Actually, how hard can it be to actually make sure the driver you've recommended actually EXISTS!!!

They say: You can also download the tool from our public web site at Oh really! Is the driver really called "The requested URL /items/ was not found on this server"? Who knows, maybe it's "irony". Or maybe not.

So reluctantly - after two hours of PB taking the piss - I give up. But I shan't be calling their £1.75 per minute hotline either!

Instead, I shall carry on transferring some old VHS cassettes to DVD using my new Pinnacle Systems video capture card. Oh wait a minute, I just remembered, the lipsync isn't working and the only advice is to get a new PC that is 8-times faster than the recommended specs instead of merely 4-times.

Maybe I'll just go and sit on the lawn and play my acoustic guitar. D-minor is still where I left it.