Sunday, November 16, 2014

Muslims Discovered America

According to Turkey's Islamist president Recap Erdogan anyway.

Muslims discovered the Americas more than three centuries before Christopher Columbus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

He made the claim during a conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, pointing to a diary entry in which Columbus mentioned a mosque on a hill in Cuba.

Mr Erdogan also said "Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178".

He said he was willing to build a mosque at the site Columbus identified.

The Turkish president - whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam - gave no further evidence to back up his theory, instead stating: "Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th Century."
There's actually quite a long list of supposed examples of pre-Columbian contact between the Old and New World, the Vikings are the only ones who've been confirmed but the Welsh, Irish, Basques, Romans, English, Egyptians, Africans, Chinese, Polynesians and Japanese have all had claims. Some of them are vaguely plausible- though probably still wrong- but most are not.

The Muslim discovery of America is not one of the more convincing theories but like a lot of psuedo-history appeals to the pride of a culture whose actual accomplishments have been rather modest since the Mongols sacked Baghdad. The former Chinese President Hu Jintao did something similar when he informed the Australian parliament that the Chinese discovered Australia back in 1421- a claim based on the ridiculous book by Gavin Menzies. Again it appealed to the pride of a culture that while once great, has lagged the West for centuries.

My favourite example of Islamists hijacking Western accomplishments is the widely believed story in the Middle East about Neil Armstrong hearing the Islamic call to prayer when he first set foot on the moon. In comparison reaching the Americas is lacking ambition.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

What's In A Word?

Female celebrities including Katy Perry, Megan Traynor and Salma Hayek often get criticised by self proclaimed feminists for refusing to identify themselves as feminists. Here is the Observer's Barbara Ellen on Hayek's recent disavowal of the term:

You have to wonder – what’s with these women and their seemingly all-consuming need to distance themselves from feminism? An unworthy thought crawls through my brain: is this a man-pleasing exercise – are they afraid that men might find even the slightest whiff of feminism a turn-off, so they bang on about “equality” to keep everything safely gender-neutral and “sexy”?

Or does it go yet deeper, darker, than that, into the realms of female self-hatred? Where the cause of womankind in itself is just not good enough, interesting enough and so men must be prominently included, feted and appeased, even at a female-celebrating event? While I’m all for inclusivity, something has to explain why some women seem to feel that good instincts to support other females have to be disguised and reframed for public consumption.
 I'm going to go out on a limb and have a guess as to what the actual reason for not associating with the word "feminism". The people who most prominently embrace the term are unfortunately often like Barbara Ellen whose views are rather anti male- see this piece in which she fulminates against men using equality legislation to challenge cases of sexual discrimination.

If people use "feminism" as a cover for politically sectional and rather outlandish views on sex they should no be surprised when others don't use the term to describe all those who believe in equal treatment and freedom from discrimination. 

If every other self proclaimed patriot demonstrated that they were in actual fact rabid xenophobes then patriotism would suffer a similar fate- with people who are thoroughly patriotic shying away from the word itself.

If actual feminists, in the sense of people who believe in sexual equality, no longer like the word "feminism" then the likes of Ellen should really look at themselves.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Unclean Unclean

During the Black Death, while plague killed a huge proportion of the World's population there were some places that managed to escape mass outbreaks all together- Poland and Milan most notably. Milan adopted a rather brutal but effective strategy of walling up the homes of anyone infected with the disease with the occupants inside, there seems to be less clarity over how Poland avoided it, but one theory is that they pretty much close the borders as well as a medieval state could.

The most effective strategies for countering the plague were the most offensive to individual rights and personal liberty. A major outbreak of an infectious disease is one of the few times where it is justifiable to put the collective good above individual rights. The outcry over a relatively minor quarantine period for those people who have been at the heart of the Ebola infected region of West Africa is not based on "the science" which is contentious, but on knee jerk ethical preening.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Europe Does Not Equal The EU.

Will Hutton writes in support of the European Union:

Moreover, geographical proximity has always given Europe its special character, if doing no more than offering a nearby bolthole or new ideas that could simply cross a frontier. Without Protestant Holland, William Tyndale would have had no home to print the Bible in English; the Industrial Revolution was fuelled by exiled scientists and entrepreneurs from all over Europe. The Ukip/Tory story that Britain’s greatness was built on independence from Europe is a fairytale. We are as much part of our continent’s history and evolution, and share its values, as any other European country. Arguably, we are the quintessential Europeans.
What he says about the influence of Europe on Britain's development is true but rather undercuts his argument.

William Tyndale fled to the Netherlands because he would have been executed on the orders of the crazed zealot Thomas More, had he remained in England, at the time the Dutch were more tolerant.

Imagine if the EU had existed in the 16th century- all that would have been needed would have been for Thomas More to issue an EU arrest warrant, and he'd have been executed within the month.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Cowards Have Beaten The Idiots

Or to put it another way, Scotland voted "No" to independence. So now we are all back to normal as a United Kingdom with a broken constitution.

Hooray!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Scotland

It is my hope that Scotland votes to keep Britain together next week, partly for emotional reasons- I'm half Scottish and much of my family is from there and I feel a sense of nationhood that doesn't stop at Berwick. It also seems to me that Britain is a stronger and more formidable country than merely England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Having said that I do think the 'No' campaign are wrong to concede nationalist demands on control of the welfare system in North Britain. Single currency areas like the UK require transfer payments from rich to poor areas in order to compensate for poor areas being unable to devalue their currency to compete. One of the quickest ways that an economically hard hit region to receive transfer payments is through the welfare system.

Paul Krugman (who despite his hyper partisanship is a renowned economist) explains the process with a comparison of how Spain and Florida were affected by the global recession here. Essentially when Florida's economy crashed, it automatically received more money from Washington whereas Spain did not automatically receive extra cash from Brussels leading to a much weaker fiscal position- because despite currency union Germany isn't willing to fund Spain's welfare system.

If Scotland manages it's own welfare system some of the automatic stabilisers won't work in the case of a shock to Scotland's economy.

More devolution is inevitable but welfare should remain substantially a UK wide issue.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Rotherham Scandal- The Culture Behind It

There is an interesting piece about the Rotherham scandal and other similar cases of Pakistani sex abuse gangs by a British Pakistani woman:
Growing up in an Asian Muslim household, ever since I can remember to be like a white girl, a “gori” was a very bad thing indeed. At primary school age, we were taught how “goras” were dirty. They didn’t wash when they went to the toilet. I was told not to eat with goras, because they ate pig – only dirty people could eat such a filthy animal. 

As a teenager, I discovered there was nothing worse than acting like a gori. I was a rebellious youth, pushing all the boundaries. I didn’t want to wear a hijab and traditional Asian dress. I wanted to be in jeans. I wanted to wear my hair out. I wanted to go out and see my friends. I wanted to meet and talk about boys. I learned that these were “white things”: what white girls did, and so strictly forbidden to me by my parents. Why? Because they were seen to be against Islam and therefore shameful. There was no honour or value in girls who dressed or acted like that. Girls like that, it was made very clear to me, didn't deserve any respect. They were the lowest of the low. 

.....

That is why I find it so infuriating in light of Rotherham that some Asian men (and women!) are still looking to blame Western culture – "the goras' culture" – and denying the part their own plays in the abuse. Gora culture, like the white girls who were targeted, is deemed to be shameless and without honour. I’ve read articles describing western culture as “pornified”, like they describe those girls as “whores” to then conclude that the abusers were somehow led astray or not fully responsible. 
On the last point about  how Western culture is "pornified" and girls wearing inappropriate clothes, that might be the justification used but I doubt it is how the victims were targeted. 

I have a female friend who worked in a heavily Pakistani part of Leicester when she was about 19/20, and there was more than one attempt to behave very inappropriately towards her- unwanted grabbing, men trying to get her in the car etc. What was interesting is that these incidents tended to happen when she was very dressed down- in baggy clothes with not much skin showing- not when she was wearing the sort of clothes that get blamed for leading men astray.

This makes sense when you think about it- the abusers target girls they perceived as vulnerable and lacking in self confidence, not those who were confident in themselves.

Rippers & Coppers

The Jack the Ripper murders seem to have been solved. The DNA evidence seems fairly conclusive and it fits in with what I said back in 2006:

I'm not sure why so many ridiculous notions about Jack the Ripper are given serious consideration, when the 'suspects' bear absolutely no relation to the sort of people who we know do commit serial killings. 

The idea that the Ripper would be a son of the Queen or a famous artist was always absurd. The killer was Aaron Kosminski- a Pole who came to Britain to escape anti-Jewish violence in his home country. One part of the story that amused me was how the crucial piece of evidence was still available in a relatively untainted state into the 21st century:
the shawl had been taken by a police officer for his wife, but she never wore it, and it was passed down through generations until it went up for sale. 
 So back in  the late 19th century there was a bobby whose first reaction upon finding a brutally murdered young woman was to steal the clothes that he thought his wife might like! Dodgy police officers aren't a new phenomenon, they were just less likely to get caught in the past.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rotherham, Ending The Taboo On Race.

The simple answer for why the Rotherham sex abuse scandal happened- and why similar cases have occurred in other towns and cities in the UK- is that no one knows for sure although educated guesses can be made.

This is because race has become such a taboo that the problem was not officially acknowledged for a decade and even now most* respectable media outlets start from the assumption that "it is has nothing to do with race" and then work backwards to support their predetermined conclusion.

The reasons for the taboo about prominently discussing ethnic issues exists for reasons that are somewhat understandable. No one doubts that in the past sweeping generalisations about racial groups have been employed by demagogues to whip up racial pogroms or justify treating people as second class citizens because of who they are.

There are more cynical reasons too- politicians wanting votes from ethnic minorities and "community leaders" wanting grants but the aversion to talking about race is sincere in most cases.

There are two kinds of problems with this approach, it is morally wrong and it doesn't work. The truth has a habit of coming out eventually. The strenuous efforts by Rotherham Council, South Yorkshire Police and others to conceal the fact that Pakistanigangs were systematically targeting vulnerable young girls has to put it mildly backfired in a spectacular manner.

Honesty is the only way of discussing race that has a chance of succeeding in the long term. In this case it has to be acknowledged that there is a specifically Pakistani (not "Asian" or "Muslim" but Pakistani) problem that needs to be identified and ended.

* Some media outlets deserve praise, the Times's Andrew Norfolk exposed the problem years ago but was ignored.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Luckily Rotherham Had A Campaigning MP

Throughout almost the entire period of the Rotherham Asian paedophile gangs running amok the town's MP was Denis Macshane. Two of the areas where he was an active campaigner were racism and criminal gangs sexually exploiting people. Yet when up to 1400 young girls were sexually abused by Pakistani gangs preying to a large extent on white girls he managed not to notice it at all.

Another triumph for the worst MP of the last fifty years.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

Plagiarism is an even greater form of flattery than mere imitation. Here's a list of the top 100 jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that includes such gags as:

10. I had an argument with one of the seven dwarfs.  He wasn’t happy. – Rebecca Humphries

 69. Why don't Africans go on cruises? That's exactly how they got us the last time.- Athena Kugblenu
77. Whats the difference between inlaws and outlaws... Outlaws are wanted.- Joe Bains

92. I believe in gay marriage so that gay people can be as miserable as straight people. – Tom Allen
 All of which I heard years ago, so either professional comedians are stealing jokes from other, better comics or they're recycling material from years ago. In this case I'm pretty sure they're just passing off other people's materials as their own.

Comedians have always plagiarised older material, when Robin Williams died recently, news coverage ignored his inglorious habit of stealing other comedians material. Still it's a bit lame that so many of the "best jokes" at the Edinburgh Fringe are stolen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Nations Without States

There is a magnificent blog article by Sean Thomas about the Yezidi people of Iraq at the Telegraph and their plight at the hands of the hateful bigot of ISIS.

The current plight of religious minorities in the Middle East* isn't restricted to the Yezidi, Christians have suffered terrible persecution too partly as a result of the Iraq War. If those peoples had a nation that could defend them and provide a refuge they wouldn't be looking at annihilation. Which is one reason Israel will do it's utmost to remain a Jewish state that is strong enough to defend itself against all its neighbours.


* While the Middle East is the current heartland of violent bigotry almost every region on Earth has periods where belonging to a stateless minority has been very dangerous.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

100 Years On

The centenary commemorations for World War One are a chilling reminder of how quickly a continent can slip from a long peace to industrial slaughter. I'm inclined to agree with the current orthodoxy on the causes of the war- that it was a result of German military expansionism.

Whether the UK should have entered the war is harder to say- if the Asquith government had stayed out, Germany would likely have won and an unrestrained aggressive nation could well have threatened Britain- with no France or the Low Countries between Germany and the UK. Yet it's hard to imagine any greater damage would have been inflicted than hundreds of thousands dead that were inflicted.

An awful even but one that offers no easy lessons.

Darling You Were Wonderful!

Alistair Darling seems to have come out on top in the Scottish independence debate against Alec Salmond. Back in 2010 during the Labour leadership contest I wrote:

Who should have stood: Alastair Darling, he is a much more substantive figure than any of the candidates. The economic woes were largely the result of his predecessor as Chancellor and he appears to be an honourable individual (resisted pressure from Brown & Balls to cook the books according to Mandleson's memoirs) apart from a bit of flipping. 

Now, as well as his existing strengths he would be able to portray himself as the saviour of the Union. I suspect that if he were the Labour leader they'd currently be heading for government. Labour supporters must be pulling their hair out when they see how effective Darling can be compared to Ed Miliband.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Housekeeping

I've updated my bloglist for the first time in years- there were blogs there that hadn't been updated in half a decade. There's more to do though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Better Than You

With so many people obsessed by money, it's good to see that there are still saintly individuals who simply don't care about little things like that.

Take Chelsea Clinton for example:

“I was curious if I could care about (money) on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t,” she told Fast Company in an interview that ran in the magazine's May edition, explaining why she gave up lucrative gigs to join her family’s philanthropic foundation.

....
The Clinton name likely opened doors for the political heiress, including an eye-popping $600,000 annual salary for an irregular stint as an NBC special correspondent, but Chelsea insists her work speaks for itself.

“I will just always work harder (than anybody else) and hopefully perform better,” said Clinton, who along with former banker husband Marc Mezvinsky, purchased a $10.5-million Gramercy Park apartment in 2013. “And hopefully, over time, I preempt and erase whatever expectations people have of me not having a good work ethic, or not being smart, or not being motivated.”

Truly a modern saint.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Moscow's Wikiwar

An obscure Wikipedia article about a type of fighter jet has been the subject of an edit war today. Why? Because it is about a "Sukhoi Su-25", and Russia's latest propaganda claim is that a Ukrainian SU-25 was detected near the downed Malaysian flight MH17.

The problem is that the Su-25 can only fly up to 23000 feet- which is far too low to have been intercepting the passenger plane that was flying at 33000 feet. So once the physical impossibility of the Kremlin's claim was pointed out, the Putinbots began to frantically edit Wikipedia like an army of Johann Haris.

If it weren't about the slaughter of 300 civilians the amateurishness of Putin's lies would be comical.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The World Game

Football is supposedly the world game, but it's questionable just how global it really is. For all the internationalism of the World Cup it's pretty obvious that based on the quality of the teams Asia and Africa are significantly overrepresented compared to Europe and South America. The game has always had two centres of gravity from which 75% of the best players and 100% of the best coaches come from-  the Western Europe and the cone of South America.

So far eight different teams have won the tournament- all from those core zones- and an additional  four teams have reached finals but never won- all European although in the case of Czechoslovakia and Hungary a little bit outside the core.

Of the top ten most populous nations on the planet, only 5 are at the World Cup, only 6 have been at a World Cup in the last 50 years. Most don't have sustainable professional leagues either, whatever passion they have for the game doesn't seem to extend to playing it.

Football is not yet a genuine world game even if it is closer to being so than any other sport.