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Monday, October 31, 2005

HAMS SLAM PORK TALK

Media Watch last night exposed as myth the widely-reported and linked (including here) story of two British banks banning piggy banks lest they offend Muslim customers. “Media Watch has tracked down the origin of this story to a regional paper in the north west of England, The Lancashire Evening Telegraph,” reported host Liz Jackson.

The story was “hogwash”, Media Watch concluded, having obtained denials from the banks involved (which represents something of a breakthrough; on this issue, at least, furiously leftoid Media Watch actually trusts banks). But does Media Watch trust its own viewers? Possibly not, otherwise the program might have shown more than just the headline and first paragraph from the Evening Telegraph’s article. Here’s the entire piece, forwarded by the paper, which stands by its story:

Piggy banks are being removed from promotional displays in Blackburn town centre banks — in case they cause offence to Muslim customers.

Today the action was backed by the secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Salim Mullla, who praised the organisations for acting with “sensitivity.”

However, other religious leaders from East Lancashire expressed concern that efforts not to cause offence had a danger of stifling freedom of expression and causing resentment and intolerance.

The Dean of Blackburn, The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong, said: “This is petty and political correctness gone mad.

“The next thing we will be banning Christmas trees and cribs and the logical result of that sort of process is a bland uniformity where nobody is different and that is a world that I don’t want to live in.

“We should learn to celebrate our differences and not be fearful of them.”

The Qu’ran bars Muslims from eating pork and considers pigs to be unclean.

Coun Mulla said that the banning of piggy banks or pig related merchandise and products was a sensitive issue.

He said: “Within our faith there are strict rules about not consuming pork or coming into contact with pigs.

“This is a sensitive issue and it all depends on what the individual person thinks or believes.

“Some people will not be bothered about seeing piggy banks but some will — everyone reacts in different ways.

“I think the banks are simply being courteous to their customers by removing the piggy banks.

“They are showing sensitivity to people’s beliefs and I think this action is reasonable.”

A spokesman for Halifax, which has branches in Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Blackburn, said: “We no longer have any advertising that features piggy banks or is piggy bank related.

“That has now been out-phased and we use ‘Howard’ for all our promotions and advertising.

“Customers will now see cardboard cut-outs of ‘Howard’ in our East Lancashire branches.

“‘Howard is of race so we can hardly be accused of being racist. It is very important for us that we engage with all of our customers.”

A spokesman for the Nat West bank admitted piggy banks had been removed from branches in East Lancashire but insisted there had been no directions from head office and such acts would have been at a branch’s own volition.

Jackson’s claims that “this story is not just silly ... Frankly, it was always incredible” are diminished by Salim Mullla’s approval of the banks’ reported actions; he clearly doesn’t think it a silly decision at all, and allows that some Muslims are bothered by piggy banks. The program has sought to conceal this. Also concealed: the full email from Halifax group communications manager Mark Hemingway, from which only a tiny extract is offered—although bank emails directly rejecting the piggy bank story are presented in full (in PDF form, at the Media Watch site).

Incidentally, according to the Evening Telegraph, neither bank has complained about this story—which was never “silly” or “incredible”, given that a Yorkshire school removed pig-mentioning books from classrooms (via Damian Penny), a Tory council ordered that novelty pigs and pig-related items not occupy office desks, and Melbourne KFC restaurants dropped bacon dishes from their menus. Still, it’s good that Media Watch is addressing the piggy bank controversy; one week they might get around to investigating other plastic creatures.

(More on this at HMS Cheesemaker.)

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 12:13 PM
(98) CommentsPermalink

CALL THE POLICE

Test this weekend, review to follow: the Mitsubishi Evo IX. A recent letter from the state government informs me that I’m one speeding fine away from losing my licence, so things could get interesting. Or, if I trawl along at highway limits, incredibly boring.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 11:45 AM
(32) CommentsPermalink

A JOB FOR MARGO

Internet revolutionary Margo Kingston is in a panic over “the potentially chilling effects of the Government’s proposed new sedition law on freedom of speech” and the “Government’s attempt to suppress dissenting opinion”. Hmm ... perhaps the government should hire Margo as a suppression consultant:

When [Pauline] Hanson made her maiden speech in September 1996, I was chief of staff at the Herald Canberra bureau, and unsuccessfully argued that her speech should not be reported at all. I also had a personal policy of refusing to speak to Hansons then adviser, John Pasquerelli, and not to write news stories about Hanson or her party. I even quietly cheered when watching violent protests at formation meetings of One Nation.

Kingston subsequently became a One Nation supporter in an alliance aimed at limiting free speech by maintaining restrictive media ownership laws.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 11:28 AM
(19) CommentsPermalink

RITTER V RITTER

Scott Ritter last month:

[B]y 1995 there were no more weapons in Iraq, there were no more documents in Iraq, there was no more production capability in Iraq because we were monitoring the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure with the most technologically advanced, the most intrusive arms control regime in the history of arms control.

Scott Ritter in 1999 (extract from Ritter’s Endgame):

In 1995 Unit 2001 conducted tests on live human subjects taken from the Abu Ghraib prison, using BW and binary CW agent. Around fifty prisoners were chosen for these experiments, which took place at a remote testing ground in western Iraq. The purpose of these experiments was to test the toxicity of available agent to ensure that the biological agent remained viable. As a result, all the prisoners died.

Scott Ritter last month:

[T]he whole world knew [in 1995] ... that Iraq represented a threat to no one when it came to weapons of mass destruction.

Scott Ritter in 2002:

I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health! Never! Never!

Scott Ritter in 1999:

I have grown convinced that there has been a total breakdown in the willingness of the international community to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein is well on the road to getting his sanctions lifted and keeping his weapons in the bargain.

Scott Ritter last month:

[W]e ... allowed ourselves during the decade of the 1990s to be pre-programmed into accepting at face value without question anything that was negative about Saddam Hussein’s regime, and this made selling the war on Iraq on the basis of a lie the easiest task ever faced by the Bush Administration.

Scott Ritter in 1999:

A resurgent Iraq, reinvigorated economically and politically by standing up successfully to the United States and the United Nations, will be a very dangerous Iraq ...

Scott Ritter last month:

One of the reasons why we didn’t move to Baghdad in 1991 to take out Saddam was that there was wide recognition that if you get rid of Saddam and you don’t have a good idea of what’s going to take his place, that Iraq will devolve into chaos and anarchy. Well, we’ve done just that. We got rid of Saddam, and we have no clue what was going to take his place.

Scott Ritter in 1999:

No matter how difficult stopping Saddam Hussein is today, it will become more and more difficult, and extract a higher and higher price, the longer he is left to rebuild his arsenal.

Scott Ritter last month:

I’m a big proponent of bringing the troops home as soon as possible.

Scott Ritter in 1999:

[Iraq] sooner or later will have to be confronted by American military might.

Scott Ritter last month:

[I]f we wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, then we should have had a debate, discussion, and dialogue about the real reasons and not make up some artificial WMD.

Scott Ritter in 1999 (extract from Ritter’s Endgame):

Iraq has not accounted for hundreds of tons of precursor chemicals used in manufacturing the VX nerve agent, as well as precursor chemicals used in manufacturing GA, GF, and GB nerve agent. All four agents were produced by Iraq in binary form ...

The equipment for the two chemical agent production lines that remain unaccounted for could be transported in fifteen to twenty trucks. This type of mobility plays to the strength of the SSO-run concealment mechanism, and makes targeting—by weapons inspectors as well as the US military—extremely difficult ...

Iraq has probably retained several Al-Hussein warheads filled with a dry BW agent, probably anthrax.

And so on, and on, and on. Seymour Hersh, whose interview with Ritter produced last month’s quotes, failed to ask a single question about Ritter’s earlier views. Luckily, we’ll get to ask the, ahem, straight talking former marine officer ourselves when he visits Sydney later this month.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 10:50 AM
(42) CommentsPermalink

OILY GEORGE

This site, April 22, 2003:

“I have never in my life seen a barrel of oil, bought or sold one.”

Nobody said you did, George. Nobody said you did.

Scotland on Sunday, October 30, 2005:

His denial was carefully worded from the first. “I have never seen a barrel of oil, never bought one, never sold one and neither has anyone on my behalf.” But this, as George Galloway should have known, was never the accusation.

Read the whole piece, which gives a complete run-down on all Galloway-related oil-for-George issues.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 09:28 AM
(13) CommentsPermalink

NEW MOTHER MOOTED

Charles Krauthammer reveals his Sheehan replacement:

Now that Cindy Sheehan turns out to be a disaster for the antiwar movement—most Americans are not about to follow a left-wing radical who insists that we are in Iraq for reasons of theft, oppression and empire—a new spokesman is needed. If I were in the opposition camp, I would want a deeply patriotic, highly intelligent, distinguished establishment figure. I would want ...

Who might it be??????? Read on ... if you dare! Meanwhile, Sweden’s Orgen-Borgen Smorgen asks:

Will the American War Mom Cindy Sheehan—who is repeatedly arrested for demonstrating outside the White House because she wants to know why her son had to die in Iraq—be equally famous for her civil disobedience as Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to yield her bus seat to a white man on a cold winter night in 1955?

Short answer: no. Slightly longer answer: hell no.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/31/2005 at 05:12 AM
(33) CommentsPermalink

Sunday, October 30, 2005

VIEWS CONSIDERED

Difficult to decide if Australia’s proposed anti-terrorism laws—including new sedition components—are too tough or too weak. I mean, who to trust? Sensible Age commentator Tony Parkinson, for example, is in the “too tough” camp:

To prosecute and jail Pilger for sedition, whatever his opinions, would be a travesty: a cruel and unwarranted punishment. If nothing else, spare a thought for the other inmates.

But sensible Andrew Bolt isn’t too fussed:

It is true the new laws may make sedition easier to prove. A prosecutor doesn’t have to link the sedition to a specific terrorist attack or even group, for example.

But let’s be clear what all this is for. It’s to save lives, not to jail journalists.

ALP leader Kim Beazley believes the proposed laws aren’t tough enough:

“The sedition provisions in Mr Howard’s Bill leave the door wide open for those who promote hate and incite violence in our community,” Mr Beazley said.

“Mr Howard is rushing his anti-terrorism Bill into Parliament, but has botched this key measure for tackling the breeding ground for terrorist and extremist recruitment.”

Too tough, just right, not tough enough ... maybe Peter Garrett can help us decide:

Opposition spokesman for the arts and former Midnight Oil star Peter Garrett says the proposed sedition law could catch writers and performers.

He said last night that he had obtained an opinion from a senior counsel, Peter Gray, which stated that people involved in the creative and artistic fields would be “particularly vulnerable to the risk of prosecution”.

Now you’re talking! Count me in as a provisional supporter of the proposed legislation. 

UPDATE. This seals the deal:

Dozens of prominent lawyers and doctors today turned out at Prime Minister John Howard’s Sydney residence to protest against the proposed laws, which they say are draconian and anti-democratic.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/30/2005 at 09:09 AM
(60) CommentsPermalink

GAP GROWS

“It appears,” the ABC’s Eleanor Hall once reported, “the gap between Australia’s rich and poor is growing.”

It also appears that this process is assisted by public broadcasters converting your taxes into beachfront investment properties.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/30/2005 at 08:45 AM
(54) CommentsPermalink

COALITION FRAGMENTING

Some 26,000 Iraqis have been killed or wounded since January 2004—by insurgents. Slightly less credibly, al Qaeda is claiming a similar body count for US troops:

The number of invading troops killed in Iraq is at least 10 times higher than the published toll of 2,000, the Iraqi branch of the Al Qaeda terrorism network says.

“We are not exaggerating when we say that the number of deaths in the ranks of the crusader army is 10 times higher than the 2,000 announced in the pernicious media,” the group said in a website statement.

Make it 100,000 and the pernicious media might pay attention. Happier news: the insurgents and Al Qaeda aren’t exactly working as a team. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from Iraq:

This rift in the insurgency has already gone far beyond angry words. Clashes erupted between al-Qaeda fighters and Iraqi mujahideen cells after al-Qaeda killed Iraqi insurgents who they claimed were spying for the US.

Long piece. Worth a read. In related news:

Two groups at the forefront of the violent resistance to the American presence in Iraq—the country’s Sunni community and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric—have put forward candidates for December’s national election.

Interesting.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/30/2005 at 08:22 AM
(19) CommentsPermalink

DISSENT CRUSHED

Greg Palast continues his anti-Galloway campaign:

This is difficult road. I’m obviously taking a lot of heat from some misguided Leftists regarding my expose of Galloway. And it is true that some progressive news outlets have blacklisted me. But thankfully, they are few and tiny. It turns out that one radio host who decided to block my broadcasts because “Palast is a Zionist” was himself removed from the Pacifica Radio Network stations for his Stalinist love of censorship. I am now banned from his tiny show and it matters not.

It is a great irony that my investigations of Galloway began in 2003 when I DEFENDED him on Channel 4 television. I sought additional material from Galloway and other sources to bolster that defense and to my surprise, found more that damned him than supported him. As a journalist, I could not bury the findings.

James Wolcott can help you with that, Greg.

(Via Garth Godsman)

Posted by Tim B. on 10/30/2005 at 04:48 AM
(18) CommentsPermalink

WE ROCK

Justified Australian triumphalism from Lynton Crosby in the UK Telegraph:

Which country will have no government debt within a year, contributed the most to help those in need after the tsunami, and was described by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as a “model for other countries”, America or Australia? You’ve guessed it. Australia. For so long simply seen as an adventure playground for gap year students or a breeding ground for sportsmen, Australia has now graduated into the world of big players ...

The Australian economy is now in the 15th year of the longest economic expansion in 50 years—perhaps, according to John Howard, the Prime Minister, “the longest since the gold rushes of the 19th century”. Today this continent, much of it desert, ranks 53rd in terms of world population, but is the world’s 13th largest economy; eighth in the world in income per head from 18th two decades ago.

Most impressive statistic: reducing government debt from $96 billion ten years ago to ... zero.

(Via Mike Daly)

Posted by Tim B. on 10/30/2005 at 01:31 AM
(75) CommentsPermalink

Saturday, October 29, 2005

BOOTED SCOOTER

Not up to speed on Scootergate? Here’s a straightforward Libby timeline and a take on Libby’s likely defense. David Frum examines the big and little Scooter theories:

According to the “big” theory, a sinister cabal of senior administration officials deceived the United States into fighting an unnecessary war in Iraq. When threatened with exposure by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, they attempted to punish him by naming his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA secret agent—compromising the nation’s security and the lives of Ms. Plame’s contacts.

Under the “little” theory, there was no deception, no conspiracy, no punishment, and no compromise of security. All that happened was that Mr. Libby, as chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, called reporters to contradict a false story that Ambassador Wilson had told about his boss. A New York Times columnist had reported in May, 2003, that it was Cheney who had dispatched Mr. Wilson on his famous mission to Niger in February, 2002. Mr. Libby pointed out that it was Mr. Wilson’s wife who had chosen him for the mission—and that Mr. Wilson had grossly exaggerated his own role in the whole business. The “little” theory agrees that Mr. Libby disclosed that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA—but it denies that she was an undercover agent or that any important secrets were compromised. If Mr. Libby had only told the truth about what had happened, there would have been no crime at all.

Might a conviction stall the Bush presidency? Not necessarily, writes Fred Barnes:

Bush doesn’t face the obstacles Reagan did in 1986. He is blessed with Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Reagan faced a Democratic Congress. Reagan was old, tired, and afflicted with both skin and colon cancer. Bush is relatively young and vigorous. When Reagan vetoed a highway spending bill, Republicans joined Democrats in overriding his veto. Bush’s political condition is hardly that pathetic. Still, it’s bad enough to say there’s nowhere to go but up.

Former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis:

The Democrats are playing up the idea that White House officials may have endangered national security in playing hardball politics. Well, I can remember all the times I picked up the phone and talked “on background” to reporters, “pushing back” against rumors damaging to President Clinton and citing information that I thought was “out there.” I don’t remember ever worrying about whether the facts that I felt were public knowledge might have been classified. But even if I had, I would probably have rationalized that anything I had heard on the grapevine couldn’t possibly be a state secret. If every political aide was prosecuted for those kinds of conversations with the press corps, I’m afraid there wouldn’t be enough jails to hold us.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/29/2005 at 11:44 PM
(13) CommentsPermalink

SILVIO FINDS REVERSE

In the manner of an Italian tank, Silvio Berlusconi is in speedy retreat:

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush’s strongest supporters over Iraq, says he tried repeatedly to dissuade the American leader from going to war and was never convinced military force was the best way to bring democracy ...
“I was never convinced that war was the best system to bring democracy to the country and to get rid of a bloody dictatorship,” Berlusconi said of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. “I tried several times to convince the American president to not go to war.”

“I believed that military action should have been avoided,” he was quoted as saying.

Berlusconi is up for re-election in 2006.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/29/2005 at 11:30 PM
(28) CommentsPermalink

CRASH THREAD

Prepare for the second Crash Thread. Nominate your winner and wimp from the weekly talking heads programs.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/29/2005 at 01:51 PM
(26) CommentsPermalink

NEW DELHI BLASTS

Many dead in New Delhi following a series of explosions:

“There are conflicting reports about the number of dead, but according to the fire department, 30 to 31 people have died,” the official at the Delhi chief minister’s office told Reuters.

No mention yet of any suspected cause.

UPDATE. Associated Press now reports 49 dead, and speculates:

Fireworks are widely used to celebrate the upcoming Hindu festival, Diwali, and many markets are now crowded with stalls selling elaborate - and often very dangerous - fireworks.

India’s Prime Minister believes terrorists may be responsible. So does the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party:

Alleging intelligence failure behind the serial blasts in the capital, BJP today demanded that the government take all precautions to prevent their recurrence.

“Delhi has become the den of terrorists. Hundreds of terrorists, ISI agents and Pakistanis have been arrested and huge quantity of arms and explosives including RDX seized in the recent past. Necessary precautions should have been taken by the authorities”, BJP’s Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha V K Malhotra told reporters.

UPDATE II. Death toll 58; all markets closed in New Delhi.

UPDATE III. Scooter blamed.

UPDATE IV. 65 deaths now reported; ten suspects detained.

UPDATE V. A history of recent bomb attacks in India.

Posted by Tim B. on 10/29/2005 at 10:51 AM
(19) CommentsPermalink
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