All entries by this author

Kindness, in the end, makes the difference

Jul 3rd, 2016 11:21 am | By

Clive James puts it well – briefly, savagely, tragically, well.

After the death of Jo Cox at the hands of Thomas Mair, I found myself comparing two photographs and wondering if I hadn’t lived too long. One was of Jo Cox: radiant, intelligent, with no limit to the good she might have done. The other was of Thomas Mair, the face of her killer. Here was a face with nothing in it except an unspoken question: do you really want to go on living in a world where a twerp like me can take the life of a woman like her?

That’s pretty much what I kept thinking. It’s what we all have occasion to think so much too often. … Read the rest



Even as they killed the foreigners

Jul 3rd, 2016 10:50 am | By

The murderers at the Holey Artisan Bakery wanted to get famous.

Sumir Barai was hiding in the washroom when one of the gunmen shouted “Bengali people, come out.”

“You don’t need to be so tense,” one of the men told them. “We will not kill Bengalis. We will only kill foreigners.” At that, Mr. Barai’s gaze flicked to the floor of the restaurant, where he could see six or seven bodies, apparently shot and then sliced with machetes. All appeared to be foreigners.

The gunmen, he said, seemed eager to see their actions amplified on social media: After killing the patrons, they asked the staff to turn on the restaurant’s wireless network. Then they used customers’ telephones to post

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The trouble is the clock says 1931

Jul 2nd, 2016 6:07 pm | By

George Szirtes comments on Brexit xenophobia. He’s an immigrant himself, one who has lived in the UK for 60 years. (What happened in Hungary in 1956? You know.)

It is not as if the xenophobia that so influenced the leave campaign as it moved from economics to immigration did not exist before – it exists everywhere and often in more virulent form. Indeed, it set the stage for the campaign, and those who had muttered in the wings were encouraged to come out and occupy it. The filthy messages to Poles, the graffiti on public buildings, are part of the same spectrum that saw the hooligans on a tram in Manchester threaten a man with the words: “You’re a

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The discomfort

Jul 2nd, 2016 5:00 pm | By

And speaking of the need to talk about racism and hatred and what they lead to, the NY Times takes us back to the days when Donald Trump was busy being a birther. I remember those days, and I remember rolling my eyes and paying no further attention, because who the hell cares what Donald Trump says about anything? Remember that innocent time? I still think it’s a waste of life to pay any attention to him, of course, but now we’ve been forced to, by gullible people who think he’s interesting and correct.

In the birther movement, Mr. Trump recognized an opportunity to connect with the electorate over an issue many considered taboo: the discomfort, in some

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Elie Wiesel

Jul 2nd, 2016 4:02 pm | By

Joseph Berger writes about Elie Wiesel.

Mr. Wiesel was the author of several dozen books and was a charismatic lecturer and humanities professor. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But he was defined not so much by the work he did as by the gaping void he filled. In the aftermath of the Germans’ systematic massacre of Jews, no voice had emerged to drive home the enormity of what had happened and how it had changed mankind’s conception of itself and of God. For almost two decades, both the traumatized survivors and American Jews, guilt-ridden that they had not done more to rescue their brethren, seemed frozen in silence.

But by the sheer force of his

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Anyone who was unable to recite the Koran

Jul 2nd, 2016 10:13 am | By

The BBC reports that 20 people have been killed in the Bangladesh attack. Tasneem Khalil said an hour ago that a new ISIS statement puts the figure at 22 “crusaders” and 2 police officers.

More from the Beeb:

At least nine Italians and seven Japanese were among those killed.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said one other Italian was still unaccounted for. Many of the Italians reportedly worked in the garment industry.

Japan said eight of its nationals were in the cafe. One was among 13 people rescued but the other seven died.

All were consultants for Japan’s foreign aid agency and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they “were giving their all for the development of Bangladesh”.

The army

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Safety in numbers

Jul 1st, 2016 5:57 pm | By

One thing you can do is wear a safety pin.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said on Monday there had been a 57 per cent rise in reports to an online hate crime reporting sitebetween Thursday and Sunday compared to a month ago.

The majority of attacks appear to be aimed at immigrants, or people perceived to be immigrants, and are along the lines of “We voted Leave, you’re going home”.

Like many people, Allison, an American woman living in London, toldindy100 she was dismayed by the outpouring of racist abuse following the Leave vote. But she’s also come up with a clever way to tackle it.

She’s started a new campaign asking people to wear an

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1293 words

Jul 1st, 2016 4:10 pm | By

Kirsty Hall has a stunningly good post on Brexit that tells me many things I didn’t know – in particular, how short the notice was and how horrifyingly inadequate the necessary informing of the voter was. Basically she says Cameron did this for his own selfish short-sighted political reasons, blithely assuming Leave would fail, and he did nothing whatever to prevent the Leave win or to prepare the country for that outcome. The Scottish referendum, she says, was far more carefully planned and executed.

But then Brexit was never about the whole of the UK and Gibraltar examining the issues and deciding what was best.

Because you simply cannot drill down into such a complex issue in that short amount

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Austerity and gentrification

Jul 1st, 2016 3:04 pm | By

A London council sticks a feminist library with a massive rise in rent. Emma Thatcher, a volunteer at the library, tells the story.

For more than 30 years the Feminist Library has had a home in Southwark, London; now we face eviction by the council. Seemingly, this is because the council wants to maximise profits at the expense of culture, history and community.

The library collection was started by a group of volunteers in 1975 and documents the women’s liberation movement – not just in the UK but internationally – in all its inspiring, messy, complex glory. It inspires me every day to understand how women before us have come together to fight for social change, share knowledge, and

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Solitary splendour

Jul 1st, 2016 2:17 pm | By

Charlie Hebdo on Brexit:

 … Read the rest



The latest of dozens

Jul 1st, 2016 12:07 pm | By

Bangladesh is being torn to pieces some more today.

A Hindu temple worker has been killed by three men on a motorcycle, local police have said, the latest of dozens of brutal attacks in Bangladesh.

Shaymanonda Das was preparing for morning prayers at a temple in the south-western district of Jhenaidah when he was attacked.

Police said he was hacked on the neck several times with machetes.

Meanwhile in Dhaka:

Gunmen have stormed a popular cafe in the diplomatic area of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, taking a number of hostages, officials say.

Several foreigners are among those being held by eight or nine men in the city’s Gulshan district, they add.

A police officer has been killed and

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At other times, people are polite and rub along

Jul 1st, 2016 11:34 am | By

The Guardian a couple of days ago on the frenzy of hatred after Brexit:

True Vision, a police-funded hate-crime-reporting website, has seen a 57% increase in reportingbetween Thursday and Sunday, compared with the same period last month. This is not a definitive national figure – reports are also made directly to police stations and community groups – but Stop Hate UK, a reporting charity, has also seen an increase, while Tell Mama, an organisation tackling Islamophobia anti-Muslim hatred, which usually deals with 40-45 reports a month, received 33 within 48-72 hours.

In Great Yarmouth, Colin Goffin, who is vice-principal of an educational trust, was told about taunts and jeers being directed at eastern European workers

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What Farage thinks he knows

Jul 1st, 2016 9:30 am | By

Take that, Nigel Farage, you smug ignorant git.

Wondering what Farage deems to be a "proper job". #definitelynotprocrastinating #thanksmicrosoftword #eu #brexit #ukip #voteremain

A photo posted by Luki Sumner-Rooney (@luki.sumner) on Jun 29, 2016 at 8:30am PDT

H/t David Colquhoun… Read the rest



Management can get things wrong

Jun 30th, 2016 6:02 pm | By

For some reason I’ve been thinking about bad management decisions and when employees get to “disobey” management. One of the classic examples of recent times was NASA managment’s overruling of the Morton Thiokol engineers who told them that the O rings wouldn’t work in cold weather. I went looking and found a post I wrote on the subject back in January 2007.

A remark in Thomas Kida’s splendid book Don’t Believe Everything You Think (Prometheus) snagged my attention yesterday. Page 193:

However, overconfidence can also cause catastrophic results. Before the space shuttle Challenger exploded, NASA estimated the probability of a catastrophe to be one in one hundred thousand launches.

What?! thought I. They did!?! They can’t have! Can they?

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The husband is the only one who has a head

Jun 30th, 2016 4:53 pm | By

Another in the continuing series, Weird Bullshit From Religious Fanatics Who Think They Need to Tell Everyone How to Live: meet Fix the Family.

It has a blog. The blog has a picture.

What do they tell us? It’s pretty simple really. Man the boss. Woman the obeyer. The end.

Here’s their most recent post, which claims to be about American Catholic Marxism. It’s a transcript of a guy talking, and I’m not going to watch that. There’s a limit.

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Fix the Family. My name is Raylan Alleman, and we are bringing you truth without compromise for the family. Welcome to our blog edition. A little Quick Fix for you, the unplugged edition

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Details proving even more elusive than unicorn

Jun 30th, 2016 1:10 pm | By

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the Momentum guy said in the Q&A that prompted Ruth Smeeth to say “How dare you?!” and a few seconds later walk out. There are videos but all the ones I’ve seen start with her “How dare you” so you don’t get what the guy said. Like this one for example.

It’s not that I think anyone’s lying, it’s that I can’t find the details. The reporting is frankly rather muddled.

A tweet by a Telegraph journalist who was there (and who is on video asking the Momentum guy if he’s going to apologize) helps some:

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The promised unicorn has been delayed

Jun 30th, 2016 12:26 pm | By

Helen Lewis delicately points out that marketers of quack remedies aren’t allowed to tell lies but marketers of quack politicians and quack policies are.

If there is one sentence that explains the referendum result, though, it’s this one from the website of the Advertising Standards Agency. “For reasons of freedom of speech, we do not have remit over non-broadcast ads where the purpose of the ad is to persuade voters in a local, national or international electoral referendum.” In other words, political advertising is exempt from the regulation that would otherwise bar false claims and outrageous promises. You can’t claim that a herbal diet drink will make customers thinner, but you can claim that £350m a week will go to

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Accused of colluding with the right-wing press

Jun 30th, 2016 11:44 am | By

Also in news from UK / English/Welsh politics today

A Jewish Labour MP has left Jeremy Corbyn’s launch of an antisemitism report in tears after being accused of colluding with the right-wing press.

I watched the video clip in which she leaves and I didn’t see any tears or signs of tears.

…a man handing out leaflets linked to Momentum, an activist group that supports Mr Corbyn, then verbally attacked Ruth Smeeth.

Witnesses said the campaigner accused the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove of “colluding” with the right-wing media, after refusing to hand a leaflet to Ms Smeeth and taking down her name.

Ms Smeeth said she was “verbally attacked” and accused of being part of

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A cold, calculated career decision

Jun 30th, 2016 11:11 am | By

According to Andrew Grice in the Independent (and he’s not the only one), Brexit is all about Boris Johnson’s personal ambition. It’s amazing how just one person can fuck up everything in sight.

In killing Boris’s bid, the Justice Secretary has delivered the justice that Boris deserved. Johnson’s personal ambition got the better of him. He used to tell friends that he wanted to not just run Britain but “the world”; he was only half-joking.

But what a price the whole country has paid for that ambition; our EU membership has probably been sacrificed for it. The Leave camp would probably not have won without Boris as their front man.

“I am not an Outer,” he told some fellow Tory

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Something as important as the world’s agricultural future

Jun 29th, 2016 5:30 pm | By

107 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to stop fighting GMOs.

The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.

“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular,” the letter states.

The letter campaign was organized by Richard Roberts, chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs and, with Phillip Sharp, the winner of the

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