Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


'2 killed as Koreas exchange live fire'

- headline in the Morning Star. It's reassuring to see that some things never change.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Suspended by the chasubles

So the Right Reverend David Spart, Bishop of Neasden, has been suspended. Quite right, too, and I trust the incandescent +London has selected a suitably sensitive part of the anatomy to suspend this prize twerp by.

I had a long republican phase and am still by no means an ardent monarchist, though my respect for the Queen is considerable. I hope, however, that even as a Trot I would not have been quite mean-spirited enough to derive satisfaction from predicting the demise of somebody else's marriage before it had started.

What's not to dislike about Bishop Spart's remarks? I don't know which is worse, the smug schadenfreude or the no less smug assumption that he can be an outspoken red republican whilst simultaneously holding high office in an institution headed by the Queen.

Says Spart:-

“I think we need a party in Calais for all good republicans who can't stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event.

“I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and hope to avoid this one too.”

Well, I avoided it too. I spent an agreeable day with my comrades in Boulogne (note to Bishop Spart: nicer than Calais). As I recall, the local Communists laid on some kind of reception, but apart from them and the lefties from across La Manche practically nobody was out and about. Royalty addicts are nowhere thicker on the ground than in Europe's republics.

That was of course nearly thirty years ago. One would hope that having done a certain amount of growing up in the meantime would be an indispensdable qualification for a bishop - even the Bishop of Neasden.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And then he invaded Belgium...

Inevitably much instantly forgettable comment on The Engagement, but I did enjoy this slice of history from Christopher Howse:-

'The service, in St George’s Chapel, was full of copes, scarlet robes, ermine, silver trumpets, tabards, choirs and quizzing-glasses. But it was something of a shambles. The Garter Knights became entangled in a mêlée, Disraeli had to sit on his wife’s lap on the train back, and the four-year-old future Kaiser threw his jewelled dirk across the chapel in a tantrum, biting the leg of one of Bertie’s brothers when told off.'

Prophetic, did they but know. Bertie, the bridegroom, was the future Edward VII, and let's hope that William proves to be husband material of rather better quality than him.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Islamophobia (the real thing)

As ever. Just the kind of story to make you feel extra good about our civic duty to hand out passports to hate preachers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Unbeliever On Board

Just walked past a car with a sticker in the back window declaring "ATHEIST" in big red letters. I just find this such a strange thing to do. What message is it meant to convey? That the owner considers himself (and I dare say it is a he) a better person than those of us who believe in fairy stories? Or a happier one? What, then, should I do with this information? Sorry, but I can't just decide to stop believing.

I could understand if it was saying "if you're one too you're not alone". But why, then, does the sticker also feature a fish logo cancelled by a diagonal red bar? It is not enough for our atheist to declare his own belief in nothing, he feels the need to point to somebody else's belief and actively reject it. What for?

And why, if you're going to do that, pick on the fish? I'm not the kind of Christian who puts a fish logo on his car, and not only because I don't own a car. For me those fish have always had a faint whiff of the Masonic handshake about them. But in point of fact I don't know of any actual harm attaching to them whatsoever. So in what way does our atheist feel that fishy types have got it in for him? It can't be, surely, that he suspects them of wanting to blow up a Tube train while he's inside it.

Or even of being liable to scratch his paintwork or let his tyres down. And that's the real irony, isn't it? The sticker suggests both a theoretical belief that Christianity is the root of all evil and a complacent assumption in practice that Christians are utterly harmless. I suppose as a Christian I should feel flattered that we're seen as such safe enemies to have. But I must confess to a degree of irritation.

Coincidentally, when I came home from my walk I started leafing through the Catholic Herald and came across their Thought for the Week:-

'If there were no God, there would be no atheists'
(G K Chesterton - of course)

If I ever do acquire a motor I'll be very tempted to put that in the back window, anticipating many stimulating conversations. Atheists are, after all, mostly harmless.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Waitrose don't preach

For a blogger of my stripe there is practically endless material to be found in food packaging. I've been meaning for ages to devote a post to the Co-op's instructions for preparing a carrot for consumption.

The other day Frau Grumpy brought home a bag of Waitrose potatoes adorned with the slogan "Grown with care by farmers who share our values". This really must not be allowed to pass without comment.

Let me first put before you the image of a gaggle of Fenland farmers being examined in their catechism by the local Waitrose buyer. Diverting, is it not?

Then let me suggest that Waitrose have clearly determined that our appetite for corporate sanctimony is so insatiable that we will tolerate it even when it is utterly, 500% vacuous. For these are not even organic potatoes. They are the ordinary, bog standard variety (indeed, since they come from Curmudgeshire it is very likely that they were grown in a former bog).

Our newly rediscovered compulsion to be preached at is, you might suppose, good news for the churches. Well, perhaps, but they will surely blow their chance if, as all too often seems to be the case, they confine themselves to preaching about exactly the same things as Waitrose. It's a contest they are unlikely to win. Just before the Papal Visit I was vastly entertained by a Catholic Herald piece penned by a chap of liberal leanings who'd decided there must be some good in the old boy after all on learning that he has had solar panels installed on the Vatican roof. Parody is redundant.

A final thought: with the Equality Act now in force, are Waitrose not skating on thin ice? I foresee an action brought by potato farmers who are ******ed if they're going to parrot the Waitrose creed and don't see why they should be discriminated against...

Friday, September 17, 2010

A warm welcome to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

At least that's what I call him. What Stephen Fry and friends call him is "Pope Ratzinger".

Isn't the oafishness of that the most revealing moment in their letter? It reminds me of nothing so much as the Koran-burning antics of Pastor Terry Jones. The same gratuitous bad manners, betraying the same inability to deal on a human level with the existence of persons who sincerely hold different beliefs from oneself - in a word, intolerance.

Unlike Jones, though, Fry and Co. are members of a cultural and intellectual elite who have no excuse for ignorance. Also unlike him, they have not and will not trigger a frantic damage-limitation exercise. They will not need to lose any sleep over the possible consequences of sticking two fingers up at a billion Catholics.

Well, it ought to have at least one consequence. The ayatollahs of secular liberalism have it in for all Christians who are not prepared to swallow their agenda whole; the Pope is just a particularly potent symbol. Deo volente I'll be in the West End tomorrow evening to wave to him, and I hope to have plenty of non-Catholics for company.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NO POPERY: a liberal fatwa

With the round robin letter published in today's Guardian, the anti-Pope campaign cranks up to a shrill crescendo (I'm sure there's worse to come over the next few days, though). That not just the likes of Stephen Fry and Johann Hari but so many of the Great and the Good have deemed it worthy of their signatures is a depressing commentary on the state of intellectual life in Britain.

Practically every sentence cries out for fisking, but I'll be selective.

Among the misdeeds laid at B16's door is...

'Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.'

So if you come from a large family in a poor country, you can rejoice in the knowledge that all these movers and shakers consider you surplus to requirements.

Here, of course, we have plenty of condoms and plenty of Aids. Is it too much to ask for just a little humility from the ayatollahs of secular liberalism?

Another grievance, and a decidedly bizarre one:-

'In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.'

Riiight. So how, exactly, do we identify proper states? By the blushing diffidence with which they surrender any claims to international influence?

This one goes without saying:-

'Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.'

Now because this is a debate in which no benefit of the doubt is ever extended to anyone who speaks up for the Pope, let me say at once that this is a serious matter which has been dreadfully mishandled by the Church. However, the accusation that he has failed to address it is simply untrue.

And let us take a look at the glass house from which the stones pour forth. Did I mention that Peter Tatchell is one of the signatories? Did I need to? In fact I strongly suspect that the wording is his. Now in 2008 Mr Tatchell had an article published in an Irish paper in which he argued that the law should allow adults to have sexual access to fourteen year olds. As he points out in the article, this is an issue on which he has campaigned since the 1990s. In 1997 the following appeared in a letter to the Guardian from Tatchell (at least Peter Hitchens says it was a letter, I remember it as an article):-

'The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.

'While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.'

I'd really like to see some of the Professors, Baronesses and Lords who have signed the round robin letter confronted with this quote and asked to defend their association with its author in a campaign ostensibly motivated by concern over child abuse. If this happens on the BBC or Channel 4 (which recently screened a hatchet job on the Pope fronted by... Peter Tatchell) I'll eat my hat. Mr Tatchell is Teflon Man incarnate.

Doubtless the Professors, Baronesses and Lords would, if put on the spot, counter by asking what this has to do with children being raped by priests. But that would be sophistry. The roll of shame of priestly rapes (and however much exaggeration of the figures has gone on the real ones are shocking enough) includes every case where a child was subjected to penetrative sex. Consent is irrelevant since the law deems children incapable of giving it.

Change the law, though, and you convert large numbers of priests from abusers to legal lovers. For example, in one of the US cases which was talked up in the hope (I use the word 100% advisedly) that the Pope could be incriminated, one of the victims recalled that he hadn't liked to say no because the priest was such a nice guy. Well, consent is consent. Plenty of adult sex happens on the same basis. Of course he had subsequently regretted it, but you can't have it both ways. If consent is valid you can't allow those who have given it to retrospectively cry "rape".

I would not dream of suggesting that Peter Tatchell has ever had nefarious designs on fourteen year olds. If he had, though, he could hardly have supplied himself with a more perfectly self-serving argument than this one (from the Irish Independent piece):-

'This sexual disempowerment of young people [by an age of consent set at 17 in Ireland] plays into the hands of adults who want to abuse them. Guilt and shame about sex also increase the likelihood of molestation by encouraging the furtiveness and secrecy on which abuse thrives.

'One way to protect young people against unwanted sexual advances is by promoting sex-affirmative attitudes which challenge the idea that sex is something sordid, and by empowering teenagers to stand up for their sexual rights. Sexually informed and confident youngsters are more likely to resist sexual exploitation.'

So the way to protect kids from abuse is by redefining it so that adults who succeed in persuading them that they want sex aren't guilty of it at all.

Sexual empowerment is for adults. Children have one sexual right and it is the right to be protected from sex. Blur that distinction and you start sliding towards the rationalizations of the paedophile in denial.

To sum up: I'm not the only person who remembers reading the Guardian in 1997. You can bet that 80-90% of the signatories to the letter did. If the campaign against the Papal Visit was really about protecting children, they'd have quietly ensured Peter Tatchell wasn't invited to sign. My suggestion is that they didn't because it isn't.

I have more on the letter but this is already a longish post. Another to follow, time permitting.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The rules for them and the rules for us

A senior Islamic cleric is about to pay Britain a visit, so the BBC marks the event by polling British Muslims on whether their faith has been shaken by the scale of Islamist terrorism. You can just see it, can't you?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Nein, danke!

What have I done to deserve this? Here's the latest offering that is trying to interest me in:-

Can't help feeling the title comes over as ever so slightly sinister in German. That and the author's choice of shirt colour...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Grave Concerns, or the Jobsworths Who Make a Vase Difference

Bad news and good news on the hazards of life here in Curmudge. The local paper reminded us last week of an incident earlier this year in which the police took eleven hours to respond to an alleged rape. We also learned that the average speed cameras which have dramatically reduced deaths on the notorious A14 are threatened with the spending axe.

Thank goodness, though, that staffing levels at the City Council are adequate to protect us from the Invasion of the Killer Flower Vases...

'Cambridge City Council has introduced “rigorous” new rules to enforce a ban on glass and pottery containers left as memorials. Now the council is sending letters to relatives ordering them to remove flower vases which may pose a danger.


'Cllr Tim Bick, the authority’s communities chief, said there has been a “significant reduction” in memorabilia after the order was made.

'He said: “We recognise what remains might be because our notices have been missed or relatives may not have been able to visit, so we expect and hope that a direct reminder will help us complete this as sensitively as it is intended.”'

So no unkind comments, please. This being handled sensitively. And the risks here are plain for all to see:-

'The crackdown came after a child cut her hand on a broken glass vase in the grounds of Cambridge Crematorium – even though it had been damaged by a council worker.'

Always nice to see the folk who spend our taxes getting their priorities right. I'll let you know when my Curmudge City Council-issued regulation cotton wool suit is delivered.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Something completely different

I defy anyone to be grumpy after watching this.

Or for the even more unashamedly sentimental (and for added entertainment watch out for the pianist's haircut - made in Germany)...

He's great in Bach too.

The lie that keeps creeping into the mainstream: now Israel is accused of genocide in the Big Issue

'During the trial Osmond cited cited the words of Rachel Corrie - the US activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah in 2003 - as inspiration, specifically her diary entry: "I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, this has to stop. I think it's it's a good idea for all of us to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop."' (the emphasis is mine; for the trial in question see this and - deserving a companion post in its own right - this)

Let's keep this simple. First point: Corrie's words are simply untrue - still as untrue now as when she wrote them. Untrue by any definition of the word "genocide" that does not reduce it to a Zimbabwean dollar of political discourse, that does not leave us needing a new word to describe the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Second point: it is no small matter to make a false allegation of genocide specifically against a state founded as a home for a people who have suffered the real thing. "Offensive" is a grossly overused word which I do not resort to lightly, but if ever there was a case to which it was appropriate, this is it.

Third point: the quote is from an article in The Big Issue (July 26 - August 1 2010, p. 25).

There is nothing in the article that questions the truth of Corrie's allegation. On the contrary, the passage quoted is immediately followed by allegations of war crimes committed against civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza. And let us be absolutely clear about this: I am not denying that any war crimes were committed in Gaza, but even if it were true that the Israelis had deliberately attacked a hospital and UN compounds, "genocide" is not a synonym for "war crimes".

The article is also notable for containing not the slightest hint that anyone other than Israel and its allies bears any responsibility either for the fighting in Gaza or for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. The only points at which it provides anything remotely resembling balance are where it concedes that there is actually no proof that the arms firm EDO MBM supplies Israel at all, let alone supplying kit for use in war crimes. I suspect we have the magazine's lawyers to thank for this.

None of this is surprising given that one of the co-authors is Richard Purssell. He is a long-standing member of the International Solidarity Movement, the group to which Rachel Corrie belonged. In fact, he was with her when she died. I know this because I have googled him, not because The Big Issue told me. Evidently the reader was not meant to think that the article was partisan. The other co-author is a journalism lecturer and evidently knows a trick or two.

Let there be no misunderstanding: whilst I think that diary entry paints Rachel Corrie in a very unattractive light, and I see no reason to doubt that the primary cause of her death was her own foolhardiness, her death was untimely, unmerited and tragic. However, it doesn't make her use of the "g" word any whit more justifiable. Or rather, it shouldn't do - but it's always fascinating to see how religious patterns of thought persist among the theoretically most secular-minded of people. Corrie, we are to understand, speaks from beyond the grave with the moral authority of the martyr (as the early Church knew, the best martyrs are young and female).

A good gauge of how justifiable the charge of genocide is the fact that even the ISM don't - at least officially - make that accusation. They prefer the still highly contestable but comparatively speaking reasonable charge that Israel has created an apartheid system.

So have they written to the Big Issue dissociating themselves from Corrie's claim? Are they moving to expel Richard Purssell? If they have, it will give me great pleasure to withdraw what follows. But I'm not expecting anything of the sort before the inauguration of porcine aviation.

If you hold an extreme and irrational belief which you would like to insert into the mainstream of political discourse, what is the best way of going about it? Guerrila tactics are likely to serve you better than conventional ones. Don't issue a manifesto and get imbroiled in arguments in which the weakness of your case will be exposed. No, let Rachel the martyr state your case for you, for nobody can start an argument with a martyr. Dress up your propaganda as an objective news feature, and get it published in a magazine sold by homeless people. For who will want to hear that the Big Issue is not on the side of the angels?

The lie is worthy of Der Stürmer (for, huff and puff as you may, it is a lie specifically about Jews). But was Der Stürmer ever half as a slick?

As for the Big Issue, I would hope they could be induced to feel ashamed of themselves. My fear, though, is that we have already passed beyond that point.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

More unsaintly remarks concerning a great Catholic man of letters

Thank you Ross, this has made my day.

In which Mr Grumpy blows his chances of canonisation

Light posting of late, so how about a sideswipe at a really easy target to get back into the swing of it? Oh, look, Cristina Odone's at it again. Today's pearl of wisdom:-

'I’m afraid Cardinal Newman was just too bitchy to be made a saint.

'The Catholic Church’s great intellectual convert was a magnificent writer, a bold thinker, a rigorous Church historian. But his Apologia Pro Vita Sua leaves no doubt that he was also supremely catty and precious, guilty of the self-absorption of a latter-day celeb.'

So no hint of bitchiness there, then. Pretty much a case of "takes one to know one", might one say (miaow)?

I've read the Apologia twice and it changed my life. Self-absorbed? Well, he was after all defending himself against a savage assault on his integrity. What he was he supposed to write about if not himself? If you really don't like the autobiographical slant, there is an abundance of other works to choose from. No doubt Cristina will be giving us her reactions to the Grammar of Assent in due course (miaow no. 2).

And what makes the Apologia unexpectedly unputdownable is, quite simply, the fact that Newman had a mind worth being absorbed in. Unlike some people (miaow no. 3).

Oh, and one other thing. Few Victorian English gentlemen would have doubted that the Italians were dirtier and more superstitious than the English. Certainly not Charles Kingsley. Might this view not, at the time, have contained a grain of truth? I'm not aware, though, that Newman ventured any predictions about comparative hygiene standards in the early 21st century - as Cristina's aggrieved present tense implies. Oh well, I suppose 1 September still counts as the silly season (miaow no. 4).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Double standards and self-deception: Barack Obama on the Ground Zero mosque

A brief questionnaire...

1. Should the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero be

(a) allowed in the name of religious freedom


(b) prevented on the grounds that it is grossly offensive to those bereaved by 9/11?

2. Should the Catholic convent at Auschwitz have been

(a) closed down on the grounds that it was grossly offensive to Jewish Holocaust survivors


(b) allowed to stay in the name of religious freedom?

Would I be wrong in thinking that a broad swathe of liberal opinion would reflexively choose answer (a) to both questions?

True, not a few conservatives would offer a (b) in both cases. That, however, would arguably be less inconsistent since the parallel is not an exact one. The Nazis did not claim Auschwitz as a Christian project; indeed they were very happy to murder Christians there, not least one who perished 69 years ago today. 9/11, on the other hand, was of course the work of men who saw themselves as Muslims acting in the name of Islam - and the fact that they sacrificed their lives for this conviction might seem like reasonably strong evidence that they held it sincerely.

Barack Obama, however, supporting the Ground Zero mosque, thinks he he knows their minds better than they did:-

'"Al-Qaeda's cause is not Islam," he said, "it is a gross distortion of Islam"'

Apart from anything else, this is simply a cowardly way to argue for religious freedom. 'Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear' says the banner at Harry's Place (and whilst I'd rather not hear the gross dishonesty of pieces like this, I certainly don't want them banned). Religious freedom is a costly good. The cost would be a small one if it could be assumed a priori that all religions are just different ways of articulating a belief in motherhood and apple pie. They aren't.

And who made Obama an authority on what is Islamic and what is not? Undoubtedly many Muslims would agree with him about Al-Qaeda, and that is naturally very much to be applauded. But who will adjudicate between them and the many Muslims who take the opposite view?

9/11 was not the work of callow converts. Nearly all the perpetrators were born and bred in Saudi Arabia. So is Saudi Arabia a genuinely Islamic society or isn't it? Was the Islam these men absorbed from families and mosques real or bogus? If it was real, when and why did they stop being real Muslims? When they started drawing particular practical conclusions from the doctrine of jihad? That was a very bad thing to do and, to repeat, makes them very bad Muslims in the eyes of very many Muslims, but how did it turn them into non-Muslims, Mr President?

If his choice of a place of worship in Chicago is anything to go by, I'd say Barack Obama is a less than perfect Christian. If my church started putting material from Hamas into the parish magazine I'd protest, and if that didn't work I'd walk. What this doesn't do, though, is make Obama a non-Christian. Far worse people than him have been bad, but real, Christians.

It is widely believed among Muslims that 9/11 was not the work of Muslims at all, and that no Jews were killed because they'd all been warned to stay off work. Others believe that 9/11 was fitting punishment for America's crimes against Muslims. Are these non-Islamic beliefs? If they are, can Mr Obama assure us that none of these non-Muslims will be plausible enough to insinuate their way into the Ground Zero mosque?

Places of worship can be powerful symbols of reconciliation. The reconstructed Frauenkirche in Dresden is topped with a cross made in Britain by the son of an airman who took part in the bombing of Dresden. Reconciliation doesn't happen to order, though. If I was a Muslim wanting to build a mosque at Ground Zero, I'd wait to be invited.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do

'Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said bibles translated into Dari had been found.

'"Yesterday at around 0800 (0330 GMT), one of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners. They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all," he told the AFP news agency.'

I'm more or less at a loss for words over this. The BBC lives down to expectations: you have to get past the headline and the first four paragraphs before you find a hint that this is a story of religious intolerance (whether the Taliban actually fired the shots is virtually irrelevant in this respect - they want to claim the credit).

One word I hope I won't hear today is "Islamophobia". I won't be answerable for the consequences if I do.

Friday, August 06, 2010

ContactPoint: goodbye and good riddance

For me it was what they call a defining moment: the Blair government's response to the nightmarish death of little Victoria Climbie.

The state had all the power it needed to save this beautiful child's life, and access to all the knowledge it needed to identify her as being at risk. It failed her through the blinkered incompetence of its servants.

How, then, did the New Labour state react when confronted with its inability to make proper use of the power it had? Simple: by awarding itself more power. If it could not protect a child where there were multiple indicators of risk, the "lesson to be learned" was that it must invent a new Stasi to monitor and collect data on the millions of children whose parents, far from torturing them to death, were doing a far better job with them than the state could dream of doing. And all this data was to be centrally held, with security as good as the competence and integrity of the people using it - people like, well, like the ones who let Victoria Climbie die under their noses.

Thus was ContactPoint born. And now, after an outlay of £235m and, at length, a change of government, the whole thing's being switched off.

Which seems as good a note as any for me to come out on. If the admirable James MacMillan can do it, why should I skulk in the closet? Like MacMillan, on 16 May I voted Tory.

And on the day the plug was pulled on ContactPoint, non, je ne regrette rien. The state has been too long in the hands of those who believe it is the cure for every ill and can never have too much power.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A radical anti-Zionist writes

'Ah, yes...yet another fluff piece in favor of Jewishness. Mr. Luther was not alone in his beliefs that Jews are inherently bad. Maybe people should look into the matter before passing judgement. Even today the Jews continue to subvert Christianity, control the flow of money in any/every manner. They are indeed the children of the Fallen One. Good grief, just look at how many of them are in positions of power, yet their population is a drop in the bucket of "humanity". I myself am not religious, as I refuse to assimilate to the dogma of fools.

'The Jews were expelled from Spain (as one example)well before Hitler.

'Look at Bernie Madoff...a Jew stealing from mostly Jews, and from the "goyim" but we all know how Jews feel about non-jews.

'For fuck's sake, wake up!'

(a comment left on this old post today; I suspect it may not get through the moderation process)

No doubt the writer will face the usual kneejerk charges of anti-Semitism from the Neocons, but let us hope that the power of the Lobby will not be able to silence this brave voice. What have we come to if you can't criticize Bernie Madoff without being accused of anti-Semitism?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Farewell Daleep Mukarji, Israel-baiter

In April Dr Daleep Mukarji ended a 12-year stint as Director of Christian Aid. So this is not a bad time to stumble on a Guardian Society interview with Dr Mukarji, published in May 2004 but still distinctly topical.

I started my campaign to challenge Christian Aid's bias against Israel by writing to Dr Mukarji in 2003. I received a courteous and considered response. When I wrote again a couple of years later he was enjoying an extended holiday in India, and the response promised by his PA never materialized. That I could never have expected to get any change out of him becomes clear in the first paragraph of the Guardian piece:-

'The church in Britain may once have been perceived as the Conservative party at prayer but its humanitarian wing offers a world view that embraces cross-cultural action against poverty, criticises Israel and the US, supports peasant occupations of land in Brazil, and lobbies Tony Blair on aid for Africa.'

Well, you see why I wanted to cover it, don't you? I don't think there has ever been much risk of Christian Aid being confused with the Conservative Party at anything, but just to rule out any possible doubt, here is the Guardian's seal of approval: this guy is One Of Us. How do we know this? Because he criticises Israel and the US. Because he criticises the two countries in which four fifths of the world's Jews live. In 2004 this was the way you established your credentials as a good Leftie and it still is in 2010 only more so.

And so it goes on:-

'Reality matches rhetoric, he insists. "Liberation theology has inspired many of us; we want to be part of a movement to change systems and structures, including the use of civil disobedience and protest, though never the use of violence."

'So Brazilian peasants seizing land have Mukarji's backing, while a Christian Aid report said Israeli policies deepened Palestinian poverty. "We must not be in sympathy with anyone who uses violence," he says, "but we do have to look at the root causes, respect people's rights and ask how we can find solutions."'

Need I say that Dr Mukarji apparently felt no need to accuse any other state (apart from the US) of having policies that deepen poverty? Here, too, we have the key equivocation which enables Christian Aid to disclaim sympathy with violence whilst steadfastly declining to explicitly condemn the violence of Hamas. That violence has its "root causes" in the Israeli occupation, therefore the proper response to it is not condemnation of Hamas but condemnation of Israel. Of course this is a game in which the moral parcel is only ever passed in one direction, so that Israel is never to be exonerated by an appeal to "root causes".

Perhaps I am being too hard on Dr Mukarji, though?

'One example of that movement is the UK Interfaith Humanitarian Group, which Mukarji helped set up after 9/11 to bring together Christian, Islamic, Jewish and other faith agencies, as well as Oxfam and Save the Children, to work together on common concerns such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.'

Very laudable in principle, but how does it work out in practice? Perhaps that concern with Islamophobia is the reason why Dr Mukarji did not use the interview to criticize any of the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Not even Sudan, whose regime was in 2004 still engaged in its 20-year war against the non-Muslim populations of the South of the country, deploying brutality on a scale massively exceeding anything the Palestinians have ever suffered at the hands of Israel.

But it's Israel, not Sudan, that is fair game for "criticism". And I'll say it again: whenever Israel is singled out in this way, anti-Semitism is legitimized. When the singling out is repeated time after time after time, anti-Semitism creeps stealthily back into the mainstream. Enough drops of water will hollow out a stone. Read here an example of how the mood is changing among supposedly intelligent and educated people.

"I don't think this would have happened 10 years ago" writes Eve Garrard of the outburst of "bloody Jews" academic anti-Semitism she encountered. No indeed; and Dr Daleep Mukarji has spent the past decade being part of the problem. Too many of those drops of water have dripped from Christian Aid on his watch. It's not a record that encourages me to regret his departure.


On a different tack, it's worth noting the extraordarily deferential tone of the Guardian piece. If the interviewer had any aspirations to be a Humphreys or a Paxo one day, he was keeping them under wraps. Whatever the normal hue of his nose, it was surely browner than Dr Mukarji's by the time he switched the tape recorder off. Guardian Society knows which side of its bread is buttered with advertising revenue.

Here's the executive summary of Mukarji's CV:-

'Mukarji's background mixes both the frontline of human need and leadership roles in development challenges, from working as a doctor with lepers to taking on the Christian Aid job in 1998 and becoming an influential voice in many networks, notably as chair of the Trade Justice Movement. He once described himself as "city-bred, slightly westernised, secular and cosmopolitan".

'Why is he running a multi-million pound global charity from small offices near Waterloo station, London? "I made a personal and professional choice," he answers. "I could have stayed a doctor in India, but I saw that poverty and injustice could not be solved by medical treatment alone; that needed everything from clean water supplies to women's rights. That inspired me. I'm very lucky: I get paid for doing what I enjoy, and I believe in what I'm doing."'

Practically an Albert Schweitzer de nos jours. Here, though, is the same in a little more detail at the end:-

'Career 1971, qualified as doctor; 1972-74, worked with lepers and then ran mission hospital; 1975-76, post-graduate study in London, diploma in tropical public health, and master's in social planning; 1977, returned to India to establish a rural health and community development programme; 1985, appointed general secretary of the Christian Medical Association of India; 1994, became executive secretary for health, community and justice at the World Council of Churches in Geneva; April 1998, became director of Christian Aid, seeking to expand the organisation's influence and to change public perception of the charity's work.'

So two years at most as a frontline medic, followed by some 35 years as a desk wallah! I hasten to add that I who have never entered a leper hospital have no business pointing to the mote in Dr Mukarji's eye. No doubt every one of his career moves has been motivated by a zeal for serving the poor (though it must be said that he was in no danger of joining their number during his time at Christian Aid). But I don't much like newspapers that try to manipulate me. Better just make that "I don't much like newspapers".

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

Brought to my attention by him and her:-

'Our society has moved towards, or some might say reverted to, a legislative approach that punishes those who commit crimes not solely on the basis of their actions, but on the reasoning behind those actions and the identity of the victim.'

Too right, mate. It makes a total mockery of the principle of equal justice for all, doesn't it?

Oh no, wait, this is a barrister defending hate crime legislation in the Grauniad. He's telling us about a good thing...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Typo of the month

'Social networking sties means [sic] that animal-rights campaigners can spread their message with touch-of-the-keyboard ease, says Judith Woods.' (here)

I'm all for confining the persons who have been harassing the Koupparis family to sties in which they can network with each other to their hearts' content. Not that I would want them to share their accommodation with pigs - that would be most unfair to those intelligent and pacific animals.

And since you ask, I only eat pork if free-range.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A dangerous moral non-equivalence

Dashing trendy vicar George Pitcher has picked up on the well-worn phrase "moral equivalence", and thinks he has nailed a dodgy one:-

'The British Army represents our parliamentary democracy and defends our freedoms. We are entitled to expect better of it than terrorists. Its actions must be entirely professional and accountable.'

So far so good. It does, we are, they must be. However...

'Furthermore, to kill civilians is more morally reprehensible for our soldiers and degrades their moral integrity to a level lower than the actions of IRA terrorists, because that is what we expect of terrorists – it is not what we expect of the British Army.'

No George, no. That doesn't work. The moral equivalent to murdering innocent civilians is murdering innocent civilians, actually. If by murdering innocent civilians you confirm a prior expectation that you will murder innocent civilians, all that means is that you have acquired your moral infamy by instalments. But the end result is the same.

Maybe not the strongest argument ever against GM food?

...this one from Martin Kelly:-

'Genetically modified food seems to be where the mindset of 'Star Trek' meets
that of 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm', the intensely modern, ultrarational view
that believes technology is the cure for all our ills applied to the most basic,
most ancient of human practices. GM may have some value. However, there may also
be some value in the human race deciding to recite the words 'Give us this day
our daily bread'. It works for me. Which of the two is more likely to lead to
you having bread to eat is one of those many things in life to which we will
never know the answer. We might think we know; but we won't, not really.'

Well, I don't what I'm doing wrong in the prayer department, but, no matter how often I say that one, all the shops round here still expect me to fork out money for the stuff.

Seriously, does Martin have the faintest idea how much he would have to eat if agricultural technology had remained static since the day the prayer was first uttered?

"God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform", says William Cowper's well-loved hymn. Sometimes, though, the mystery is merely mystification of our own making. Sometimes he's just asking "what did I give you lot brains for?".

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Left foot forward: Christian Aid and its mistakes

Christian Aid and Israel. There's been enough material for an entire conference just lately - and I reckon it's about time somebody organized one.

What was Christian Aid doing the other day issuing a press release which alleged sexual abuse of Palestinian schoolgirls by Jewish settlers? Answer: it was a mistake. Very sorry.

We all make mistakes, don't we? It's just that sometimes our mistakes say a lot about us. This one speaks volumes about the culture that prevails inside Christian Aid. You don't turn verbal abuse into sexual abuse unless you already have a strong disposition to think the worst of those accused. And this is not the first mistake of its kind.

In February Christian Aid's youth website "Ctrl alt shift" carried - on International Holocaust Remembrance Day - an article by a young fanatic which accused Shimon Peres of being a war criminal and equated the dead of Gaza with those of the Holocaust. As Adam Levick wrote at Comment is Free, "Such ugly charges are typically levelled only in explicitly antisemitic and extremist publications". Whilst there was no mistake on the writer's part, Levick's piece prompted what was apparently an official response from Christian Aid (though it has now strangely disappeared from the comments thread). Said marketing director Matthew Reed:-

'The incident exposed shortcomings in the moderation procedures for the Ctrl Alt Shift website and an urgent review of these procedures is underway.'

Very sorry indeed.

Then, just a few days later, it was the turn of Christian Aid's favourite politician to wipe some egg off her face. Baroness Tonge had, of course, suggested that the allegation that the Israeli Defence Force were in Haiti to harvest organs merited an investigation.

So, so, so sorry.

(at least, she was when called into the boss's office)

Three mistakes, but not three accidents. Put them together and you get an entirely coherent picture of what Jews are like when they get their own state.
  • They go to one of the poorest countries on Earth in the wake of a disaster, posing as helpers but in fact on the lookout for body parts to steal.
  • They do things which are as bad as herding men, women and children into camps and murdering them with poison gas.
  • And, they sexually abuse Gentile children.
Each "mistake" ratchets up the hysteria one more notch, makes it a little easier to look at a Jew and see a monster.

How can anyone even moderately acquainted with the history of anti-Semitism - and specifically the history of Christian anti-Semitism - fail to hear alarm bells ringing?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Summonsed by Bell: spinning against Israel in the name of Britain's Christians

'For the latest comments on Israel from Christian Aid see:

'Does Mr Grumpy have anything to say about this?'

- asks commenter David.

Well, David, due to the way the portfolios have been divvied up here I'm afraid you'll have to make do with the Nick Clegg to Grumpy's Cameron. Rest assured, though, that my remarks have been cleared by the big boss.

So, yes, meet William Bell, Christian Aid's "Advocacy Officer for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory". The man, in other words, who, with the blessing of my church (and forty others large and small), has a full-time job spinning against the Jewish state. David, I hardly know what to say (apart from everything I've been saying here for the past five years).

I'd just like to know what makes William Bell tick. Perhaps he will stumble on this and enlighten me. Does he ever turn on the radio in the morning and think "Gosh, those poor people in Tibet/Burma/Zimbabwe/Darfur... They could really do with a bit of advocacy. I'll have a word with the boss and see if I can talk him into broadening my job description."?

Or does he wake up every morning saying to himself, "What a dream of a job mine is. For if I wasn't able to speak out against the Most Evil State in the World, who else would?"?

And if that's the way it is, if it isn't about Jews, what is it about?

This particular effort from Mr Bell reveals quite a lot about the way he operates. Like any good lobbyist he can take any story and spin it on his clients' favour. Here the starting point is Israel's admission to the OECD. I'd say this accolade for the country's thriving economy was something to celebrate, on the whole. But for Mr Bell the Israeli glass is half empty at the very best. Not a proper democracy, he mutters. Unlike all those proper democracies for which the rest of the Middle East is famed. Again, I'd say it's little short of a miracle that Israel has stayed democratic through 60 years of staving off threats to its existence. No credit given by Mr Bell, though: "civil society [...] under threat [...] repression [...] intimidation [...] undermine human rights defenders [...]". Etc etc.

Does Christian Aid ever condemn Sudan, or any of the world's despotisms, in anything like these forthright terms?

I tried googling "Christian Aid Sudan repression". The first hit was the paid-for Christian Aid Week link. The second was an item on Ethiopia with a passing reference to Christian Aid. The third was a press release from the Disasters Emergency Committee, of which Christian Aid is of course a prominent member. It was issued in 2004. Of criticism of the Sudanese government there is not one word.

A little further down the list came Christian Aid's Sudan page. Still no word of criticism of the government. Maybe it's on the linked "Our work on conflict" page? Oh dear. We learn that they deliver urgent aid in Darfur, however:-

'But our experience has also told us that our response to conflict needs to be even more far-reaching than the delivery of humanitarian assistance, however important that may be.'

That's the lead in to a section headed "Speaking out". So this must be where they've put the hard-hitting criticism of the Sudanese regime, right? Wrong. Six paragraphs: one on Colombia, one general, four on... need I continue?

After this you won't be too surprised to learn that there is no Christian Aid Advocacy Officer for Sudan. And with that, back to William Bell.

What is it that has triggered Mr Bell's doom-laden pronouncements on the state of Israeli democracy? Simply this: there are moves afoot in the Knesset to limit the political activities of NGOs like, well, Christian Aid. Not, be it noted, that any laws have been passed; that it's even being talked about is enough.

NGOs in Israel enjoy freedoms which would be inconceivable under any dictatorship. That, of course, is one major reason why the BBC website tells us more about Israeli human rights abuses, real or otherwise, than those of any of the world's dictatorships (than all of the world's dictatorships put together, is the impression I often get). Every time anyone in B'Tselem blows their nose a BBC stringer is on hand with tape recorder running.

Israel is also remarkably tolerant of international NGOs coming to the country to pursue anti-Israel political agendas. Sometimes somebody is refused admission and headlines are made, but these are exceptions that prove the rule. I've written a lot about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, a Christian Aid partner and in effect a training programme for anti-Israel propagandists. Their volunteers may face some hurdles in getting into Israel, but get in they do.

So whilst a retreat from this openness would certainly be cause for concern, it would also be comprehensible. It would be directly related to the way Israel's openness has been abused by NGOs like Christian Aid, the way they take the soft option of giving democratic Israel a hard time whilst mutely bending the knee to tyrants.

Here's a reminder of how much open scrutiny of their human rights Israel's enemies tolerate. Simple but effective: if you're going to do something unpleasant, make sure no journalists are watching. True, you might not be able to suppress the story completely. But there won't be any tear-jerking eyewitness accounts or any of those pictures that speak a thousand words. Obviously it also helps that because you're Hamas you can rely on the Beeb to insert a sideswipe at Israel by way of "balance".

So where was Christian Aid when Hamas were bulldozing poor people's shacks?

From just across the border comes another recent story, taking us back to that booming economy that's won Israel a seat at the OECD. A reminder of who's benefitting and who isn't - and why.

It's only a privileged minority of the human race that can afford to turn up its noses at a thousand dollars a month for picking coriander, even if it comes at the slight risk of falling victim to a rocket attack. It's good money in Thailand and it's good money in Gaza. It's certainly more than enough to ensure you won't need to look to Christian Aid to provide your next meal.

And it's money that used to flow into the Gazan economy. Until?

'But until the start of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000 when Israel tightened the border, thousands of Gazans used to travel daily through Erez to work on Israeli farms.'

Those smooth euphemisms for the campaign of mass murder directed at Israel's civilian population. Of course Israel turned off the flow of potential suicide bombers. What country on earth would not have done so? And now the Thais are doing the jobs Israelis won't do while Gaza has 40% unemployment. It's called shooting yourself in the foot - or it is if you think that the foot and the finger on the trigger have the same owner. If, that is, you count Hamas as the legitimate democratic representatives of the people of Gaza. What do you say, Mr Bell?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The lice and the fleas fight over the cadaver of Amnesty International

Martin Bright gives us an extract from Gita Sahgal's latest salvo against her former employers Amnesty International. He's impressed and one can understand why. Of course it is unconscionable that AI has been organizing gigs for an extreme Islamist, and in this matter Ms Sahgal has acted as a model whistleblower.

My own admiration for her is tempered by the fact that her job description at AI was "Head of the Gender Unit", meaning it was very much on her watch that Amnesty declared abortion to be a universal human right, with the corollary that unborn children have no human rights at all.

So this is, after all, no more than a turf war between two factions of leftist ideologues using Amnesty to promote their agendas. For both sides the most fundamental human right of all is negotiable. It was Dr Johnson who said that there is no settling the precedence between a louse and a flea; putting it another way, only if it can be arranged for both sides to lose does Amnesty stand a chance of recovering its original and noble vocation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A fish called Humbug

"[Lord] David Alton [...] left the Lib Dems when he realised that they cared more about the rights of a goldfish than an unborn child", Cristina Odone recalled the other day.

I am sure there are strict regulations to ensure that no advert on Channel 4 ever promotes goldfish abuse.

I'm reminded of the questionnaire I was sent a couple of years ago by the Co-op Bank, whose customer I am largely as a hangover from past political affiliations. I was invited to tick boxes to indicate which ethical issues moved me. The idea of determining what is ethical by sending out a questionnaire is in itself a diverting one, is it not? David Cameron himself couldn't have done better. But the point on this occasion is that whilst there was a box by which I could have registered a concern that the bank should not invest in fur farming, any reference to the legalized culling of small humans was conspicuous by its absence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Catching 'em young

'I do continue to make generous donations to Christian Aid via the Inland Revenue. I'd like to think the change of government will lead to some rather more rigorous questions being asked about what it is they do.'

- I wrote last week.

It's looking promising already:-

'Less than a week after becoming international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell began fulfilling his pledge to ensure value for money on aid by cutting development education projects.

'As part of "a drive to re-focus aid spending", Mitchell today announced an immediate funding freeze on five development "awareness projects", a move expected to save the department more than £500,000.


'The five cancelled projects are £146,000 for a Brazilian-style dance troupe in Hackney, London; £55,000 to run stalls at summer music festivals; £120,000 to train nursery school teachers about 'global issues'; £130,000 for a 'global gardens schools network' and £140,000 to train outdoor education tutors in Britain on development. The money saved will be "redirected to areas where it will have a greater impact on global poverty".'

(Hat tip: Julia M)

Allergy advice: this post may contain traces of schadenfreude. I've nothing against Brazilian-style dancing in Hackney except that it ain't overseas development, so they can jolly well join the arts funding queue like everyone else. But it's the nursery school teachers bit that's the dead giveaway, isn't it?

Andrew Mitchell is stressing the value for money angle, but he won't need telling that there's more to it than that. This is fat-trimming in the fullest sense, not just excess pounds we're lugging around but stuff that's positively bad for us. It's about the development business not only telling us how to think but doing it with our cash - cash that it can more or less help itself to because it's doled out by tame civil servants who already think all the right thoughts because they've been parachuted in from the development business. It's grown into a very cosy arrangement over the last thirteen years, and it's an arrogant, fundamentally undemocratic abuse of power.

And when the indoctrination starts in nursery school... what's not to like, as they say, about Mr Mitchell and his new broom? A word to the wise: I wouldn't count on him being a huge fan of Friends of Sabeel UK.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The liberal Inquisition

At the Telegraph Jonathan Wynne-Jones is in complacent mood, suggesting the lack of reaction to the consecration of a lesbian Anglican bishop in America shows that "liberals have won the battle over the place of gay clergy in the Church".

As I've noted in two recent posts, the liberal (maybe that should be "liberal") orthodoxy isn't taking any chances, though. The Inquisition is in place. Christian dissenters can count themselves fortunate if they suffer nothing worse than being represented by Bishop John Spong's glib rhetoric as God-Hates-Fags bigots. The less fortunate, or less cautious, face being sacked or arrested. Burning at the stake is not on the menu - not yet, anyway.

Really it's much safer to be a daring radical like Bishop Spong, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Christian Aid Week

(thanks to eChurch Christian Blog for cross-posting this post)

If you have overlooked the fact that this is Christian Aid week I'm sure you're in good company. There have been one or two distractions around. No little gnashing of teeth at CA HQ, I suspect.

Not that such a very political charity can really complain about being upstaged by politics, though. And in writing an update on Christian Aid I shall have no difficulty in making topical connections.

Actually my last big Christian Aid post, written in October, doesn't need very much updating. On their website a new policy paper on Gaza has increased the total of papers on Israel and Palestine from seven to eight. The combined total of papers on African regional conflicts, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Zimbabwe and Burma continues to stand at zero.

There is plenty to catch up on concerning someone who had a starring part in that October post, and this is where it gets topical. Take a bow Baroness Tonge, member of and former frontbencher for what is now our junior governing party.

In October her Ladyship was still a Lib Dem health spokesperson. Though fired by Charles Kennedy and reprimanded by Menzies Campbell, it seemed that Nick Clegg was more indulgent towards her extremist views. But in February she finally went too far for Clegg. To recap, Palestine Telegraph, a website of which she was then a patron, carried an allegation that IDF members supposedly delivering humanitarian aid in Haiti were in fact harvesting body parts. Quizzed about this by the Jerusalem Post, Tonge did not denounce the accusation as a disgusting anti-Semitic slur. Instead she called for an independent inquiry. Whether she felt the inquiry should also cover the killing of Christian children to provide blood to be baked in matzos was not clear - personally, I think there should be an inquiry to clear her name. Anyway, the upshot was that she was sacked - again.

I was with those who thought it was high time for Baroness Tonge to have the Lib Dem whip withdrawn from her. How many strikes does it take before you're out? But at least Nick Clegg did something. That's more than can be said of Christian Aid or the churches which sponsor it. It was business as usual at Friends of Sabeel UK, the Israel-demonizing partner "charity" of Christian Aid which still includes Tonge among its Patrons.

Let's be fair to the Baroness, though. Fast forward to 22 April:-

'Baroness Jenny Tonge has withdrawn her patronage of the Palestine Telegraph after the paper posted a video of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke claiming that Israel is a terrorist threat to America.'

Evidently even Tonge didn't feel that Duke could be covered by the "it's not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel" line. Commendable, though given that by this time we were in the thick of an election campaign, I'm not sure we can exclude the possibility that she had some help from a Higher Power in reaching her decision. Note that her fellow patron, the then Respect MP George Galloway, who is entirely is own master in such matters, has felt no need to resign.

Galloway also got a name check in my October post. Will his Klan connection move Friends of Sabeel UK to distance themselves from him? What about Interpal, whose coordinator Ibrahim Hewitt also continues to serve as a FoSUK Patron?

It may be that the members of my church who are collecting for Christian Aid this week share the fondness for Hamas of Baroness Tonge, George Galloway and Ibrahim Hewitt. But I really don't think so. I think they just want to give help to people who need it. If I believed the only way of doing that was to support Christian Aid, I might have signed up for some tin-rattling despite all my reservations. But it isn't.

I do continue to make generous donations to Christian Aid via the Inland Revenue. I'd like to think the change of government will lead to some rather more rigorous questions being asked about what it is they do. It certainly doesn't look as if the new man at International Development shares their pet obsession:-

'Andrew has a strong interest in conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation. He served as a UN peacekeeper in Cyprus, and has twice visited Darfur, Sudan, with Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP and Conservative Party Leader David Cameron MP. He has also visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. His experience in these countries informed his 2007 pamphlet "The UN and the Failure to Protect", which made a number of suggestions for reform of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts.

'In March 2007 Andrew became the first senior British politician for many years to travel to Burma and meet the ruling junta. He delivered a robust message to the military regime about the need for a transition to democracy. He also met senior members of the National League for Democracy and leaders of the 1988 protests, and visited a camp for displaced people on the Thai-Burma border. He has followed recent events in Burma closely, and remains in touch with key figures in Rangoon. Andrew’s covertly-filmed video diary from the trip can be viewed on YouTube.'

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Another bigoted man

More in the same vein as my last post: the Pub Philosopher has a neat take on the latest story. Equally symptomatic of the way we're governed and hence deserving of being pondered on the way to the polling station.

One can only marvel at the potential this nonsense has to stir up ill-will where none was before. I've always taken what police officers get up to when they take off their uniforms as being a matter of supreme unconcern to me. But when gay coppers start getting allocated to special jobs where they don't have to bother with mundane stuff like clearing up burglaries because they're too busy taking DNA swabs from preachers...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A bigoted man?

Here's how it could work. A taxpayer-funded organization offering relationship counselling recruits counsellors who reflect the diversity of opinions on relationships to be found in our society. When it comes comes to counselling gay couples on enhancing their sex lives, many will have no problem whatsoever, some will prefer not do it. So couples seeking this service are matched up with counsellors who are happy to provide it - and why would the couples in question want it to be otherwise?

Everyone's happy. All the diversity balls are still in the air. It makes no difference to the principles at stake, but have you noticed that Gary McFarlane happens to be black? Actually, of course, it's rather more than coincidence. Members of ethnic minority groups are, on average, markedly more conservative about these matters than white Brits. More specifically, black Christians tend to be more conservative than white ones.

The reality is somewhat different from my imaginary scenario. Why? How are we better off? It's no answer to say that the law's the law and we can't go round making exceptions for all and sundry. The whole problem is that the law is not the law. For it's not as if Mr McFarlane is claiming a Biblically-endorsed right to engage in burglary with impunity. The law which has cost him his job has been created by politicians pursuing an ideological agenda, and in this it is typical of a large part of the avalanch of legislation unleashed on us since 1997.

We can test this claim by putting a simple question. Does Gary McFarlane's unwillingness to provide sex therapy for gay couples mean that he is unfit to work with the large majority of Relate clients who do not require this service? Naturally the answer is "No". There is no reason to doubt that he is an excellent counsellor, and if he is his sacking has done a disservice not only to him but to all the clients who are denied the benefit of his skills. So the law is the enemy of the common good.

There's nothing surprising about it having panned out this way. It was widely predicted when the legislation was going through Parliament. But its' sponsors were undeterred because their purpose was ideological. The law was to be used to enforce conformity, to suppress diversity in the name of diversity. Any Gary McFarlane who might dare to challenge it deserved to lose his job and to be made an example of. The right of conscientious objection could be granted in 1940 to those unwilling to help defend their country against Hitler, but the New Labour zealots will not exempt anyone from service in the war against political incorrectness.

Our rulers have pinned a label on Gary McFarlane. It says "just a bigoted man". Mr Brown, Ms Harman and the rest of you, your mike is live.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Election fever hits Curmudge - more incisive commentary

Now the small fry are making their presence known.

First off we have the Curmudge Socialists ("make the wbankers pay"). Their candidate looks as if he last smiled on the day Margaret Thatcher announced her resignation. This is the effect Trotskyism so often has on those who can't kick the habit in time. There but for the grace of God...

OK, even if your candidate doesn't exactly radiate good vibes you've pretty much got to show the punters what he looks like lest they suspect you are concealing even worse things. What you don't have to do is gratuitously compound the offence by subjecting them to a mugshot of Bob Crow. I regularly wake up screaming in the small hours having dreamt that Bob Crow was running the country.

Moving swiftly on, UKIP's man looks more the sort of bloke with whom one could contemplate sinking a tolerably agreeable pint. Indeed, his communication has the feel of having been composed shortly before chucking-out time on Saturday night. The greenish tinge of his mugshot suggests it might have been taken the morning after, displaying the after-effects of indulgence in a dodgy doner on the way home.

On to more serious matters: the Lib Dems' man, who will indubitably be our next MP unless he forgets to look both ways while out canvassing. Whereas the Green candidate (not to be confused with the green man from UKIP) has adopted an arboreal name, this one has sought to inject a much-needed touch of glamour into the campaign by borrowing the surname of a French film star.

I feel he makes rather too much of the endorsement of the retiring MP: "David who?", I hear the voters cry. They are pictured standing under a large black umbrella (didn't they have an orange one?) held by the MP, next to the cycle racks at Curmudge station, and looking less than enchanted with the situation. "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity", we read below this, so you would think they would be looking a bit happier about the fact that it is still possible to get really cold and wet on an April day in Curmudge. But no, they have the unmistakeable air of two men who would rather be on the beach at Cannes with the divine Isabelle.

"Gordon Brown has failed the people of Curmudge" is illustrated by a photo of the PM shaking hands with the other GB. Damning evidence indeed! But methinks if Nick Clegg gets his hands on the levers of power he will find that he needs to go through the motions of basic courtesy with people far, far more unpleasant than George Bush.

In the interests of balance I would like to make sport of the Tories at this point. But I've had nothing from them. Doesn't augur well.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stirring up apathy

So here we are again. In passing, I had ever such a strange dream last night. I dreamt a volcano erupted somewhere, and somehow or other it stopped me getting home for a week. Whatever was that about, I wonder.

Well, I've missed a large chunk of the election campaign. By way of making up for lost time, here are the impressions I've garnered in Curmudge over the past 24 hours.

The Green candidate has rather charmingly displayed his commitment to the cause by naming himself after a tree, but I suspect this may not be enough to swing it for him.

So far only Labour have actually been round. Their man introduces himself as 'an experienced politician, ready to represent Curmudge'. The other things he says are mostly not quite as inspiring as that, though. His desperation has now reached the level where you start calling the other side Nazis; apparently he doesn't have a minder with sufficient sense to warn him that stiff-armed salutes are best avoided if you happen to be half Austrian.

It's not looking good for Cameron, is it? I know Curmudge is different - an extreme case of the nationalization of the middle class, where anything in the way of belt-tightening is not going to be a vote-winner unless Education, Education, Education is ring-fenced, ring-fenced, ring-fenced. Nevertheless, it must be ominous for Dave that even in the posher bits there are occasional splashes of orange but no Tories coming out. Clegg certainly seems to have set at naught all DC's efforts at cornering the touchy-feely-alternative-to-Labour vote. Might he actually have done better to present himself as a conservative?

So it's a less than nail-biting contest in Curmudge, which the Lib Dems have held since 2001*. One good thing about the prospect of a hung Parliament is the hope that we may at last get a slightly more grown-up electoral system. As it is, I'm not sure I'll manage to summon up enough willpower to get dressed. Do they let you vote in pyjamas?

*Only since 2005 actually - shows you how much I know. But with a respectable 10% majority.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Off on my travels tomorrow so even less prospect than usual of any postings over the next couple of weeks. However, I hope I shall be visiting my favourite CD shop, which will give me the opportunity to select a recording by the Jerusalem Quartet.

Easter blessings to all readers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who says there are no good guys in the Middle East?

Certainly not the BBC. Here's their woman in Damascus feeling the pain of Iraqi Baathists exiled in Syria.

'"There are hundreds of thousands of supporters of the former regime among these refugees. What should we do... jail them all?" asks Samir al-Taqi, an analyst with a pro-government Syrian think tank.'

Pity all the anti-government think tanks were unavailable for comment.

'Mr Taqi argues that what is radicalising many Baathists further is the failure of the Iraqi government to involve them in the political process.'

Yes indeed, whereas the willingness to reach out to its opponents is the secret of Baathism's enduring popular appeal. Look at the al-Assad dynasty - they haven't lost an election in 47 years.

It's funny, I thought the progressive complaint was always that the post-war denazification of Germany was much too lax. By this reasoning it shouldn't have been attempted at all.

Seriously, though. I'm not saying that it was very clever to make an enemy out of every ordinary Joe who joined Saddam's party to get a job. But compare and contrast the understanding and sympathy we are being prompted to show towards these ordinary Joes with the apoplectic reactions to those other ordinary Joes, not so far away, who want homes even if they're built on land which, in the eyes of the rest of the world, doesn't belong to their country.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why does Hamas get such a good press while Israel gets such a bad press?

It's as simple as this. Gaza welcomes indignation tourists and useful idiots. But not investigative journalists.

Nothing new about the technique, of course - it worked a treat for Stalin.

And note how the Beeb lends a helping hand with a headline assuring us that the glass is half full - 'Hamas releases', not 'Hamas deports and bans'. The bit where the Hamas accusations against Paul Martin are attributed to Associated Press can probably be put down to sloppy sub-editing. Probably.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Is this the ultimate epitaph for Blair's Britain?

'In late 2005 the government appointed Mr Blair's former private secretary, Francis Campbell, as ambassador to the Holy See after the post was advertised.

'It was the first time a British ambassador had been recruited from open competition. One hundred and twenty people applied for the job, according to the Foreign Office.'


Yes indeed. Equality for us, open competition for them. Sooner or later you realize that the more some things change the more they stay the same.

'The [119] creatures outside [(clutching the utterly futile CVs they had sweated over)] looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.'

Monday, January 25, 2010

Solidarity against intimidation

Stephen Sizer, a Surrey vicar with rather more than a sideline in "anti-Zionism", has not yet featured here. No time like the present to introduce him. Seismic Shock, a Christian blogger who keeps tabs on his activities, has recently had a visit from the police. Another Christian blogger has been personally warned that she may experience similar treatment - rather bizarrely since she is based in Australia.

Mr Sizer affects hypersensitivity to accusations of anti-Semitism. If that reflects his true feelings, he isn't doing himself any favours by the company he keeps. If a book of mine was available as a free download at a Holocaust deniers' website I'd want to do something about it.

I'm pleased to see that Mr Sizer's actions have been widely publicized. It can't be widely enough. In solidarity against intimidation, here is a link to Seismic Shock's post recounting his experience, and here is a link to the post at Vee's Living Journey blog to which Mr Sizer contributed his threatening comment.

And I feel a letter to the Bishop of Guildford coming on.

Update: I've removed the link to the Holocaust denial website as I suspect there is a risk of virus infection. The address, strictly at your own risk, is:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two takes on moral responsibility: part 2

Can you believe that Simon Tisdall of the Guardian has written a piece about the plight of Christians in much of the Muslim world? Don't worry, normal service has been resumed by the time the article reaches its conclusion: it's all the West's fault.

No need for a long post since Mr Eugenides is in sparkling form on this one. A small touch of irony from self can be found nestling among the comments.

Two takes on moral responsibility: part 1

What would you think of the proposition that nobody should be prosecuted for speeding, driving without due care and attention or dangerous driving unless they cause an accident in which somebody gets hurt? And even then with a certain reluctance, since bad drivers are victims of society deserving of compassion rather than blame?

I suppose if you're a certain sort of get-the-state-off-my-back conservative you might sympathize with the first part of the proposition. Your approval would only be likely to extend to the second part if you had a significant personal stake in the matter. In which case you would doubtless also be glad to know that state-funded advocacy groups for bad drivers are waiting in the wings ready to plead for clemency on your behalf and shield you from stigmatization.

You feel an analogy coming on, don't you? Quite right, and we're actually talking HIV. I think it's fairly safe to assume that neither the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust nor the chief executive of HIV Scotland would support my suggested libertarian approach to road safety. It's tempting to wonder whether they would take a rather more punitive attitude in their own sphere of competence if someone accused of recklessly putting others at risk of HIV infection was as likely to be a straight white man as, let us say, someone accused of dangerous driving.

A man who knows he is HIV-positive has unprotected sex over a period of years with a number of women. One of them is infected. What shall we say? You may feel that anyone with HIV is a victim to whom compassion is owed regardless of their behaviour. On the other hand you may feel that precisely the demands of compassion require justice for someone who has been infected through another's irresponsible and selfish acts. If you belong to the former group, you can take comfort in the knowledge that your taxes are helping pay spokepersons to put your case. Whereas if you belong to the latter group... Need I go on?

The National AIDS Trust notes in a tone of gentle rebuke that in recent years state funding has fallen to as little as 15% of its total income. HIV Scotland is less informative; the link to its Annual Report is "still under construction". Still, I'm pretty sure that their claim to be "the independent voice for HIV in Scotland" is not to be taken too literally. For folk in this kind of field dependence on the state is so much taken for granted that it simply doesn't count.

Now I'm sure that many wonderful things are accomplished by both organizations. But the point of this microcosm of Britain in 2010 is this: a news story raises a moral dilemma; the state broadcaster is not content to report, but wants an authoritative opinion, the voice of the Magisterium; instinctively, inevitably it goes to the spokespersons of state-funded advocacy groups. We are ruled by a priestly caste which doesn't do God, but bids us worship a god of its own making.