Bikes v. the car-centric world

Ticketed for riding his bike not in the bike lane, one man fights back - hilariously: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

Beauty salon for children creates a stink

"A beauty parlour has become the first in Britain to offer makeovers, fake tans and facials exclusively for children and toddlers, it has emerged," says everybody's favourite Conservative broadsheet The Daily Telegraph before going to list the services available at the salon, Trendy Monkeys of Brentwood, including "fruit smoothie facials, mini pedicures, manicures or make-up application, hair “up-dos” and haircuts." And all this in the same week as the Government's new proposals to combat the sexualisation of children! Keen eyes will note that brazilians and vajazzles do not appear.

Trendy Monkeys. Doesn't look all that sexual, does it? Unless monkeys in tutus do it for you. They probably do for some people, but we'd prefer not to Google anything like that just in case we see images.

Apparently, girls as young as one year old can be treated to ""Princess pamper parties", which costs several hundred pounds" which begin with them and up to five friends being "picked up in a pink limousine" and taken to the salon, where doting parents "can pay for extra services including spray tans while having a photographer follow them around."

Professor Judy Hutchings of the Centre for Evidence Based Early Intervention told the paper that the salon represents "not just the sexualisation but the commercialisation of children." We dislike the sexualisation of children as much as any other normal adult, but the commercialisation bit is stretching things a bit far. The same could be said about The Beano, Ladybird books, Dinky cars and all the other kiddies' products that were with us in that delightful bit of the 1950s with the rosy glow around it, when children were innocent creatures of joy and light and went around with scabby knees saying "brilliant!" and drinking lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Precisely the same thing is going on in the half-timbered cottages of the Black Forest where Geppetto hand carves toys for sale to tourists, in the Tridias shops that were so beloved among the upper middle classes for their traditional toys and lack of the latest kill-em-up videogames, and everywhere else that toys or anything else marketed at and for children has ever been sold.

Tellingly, the Toryrag points out early on in the story that the salon, which opened last weekend, "is located in an area featured in the ITV reality television show The Only Way Is Essex." Two members of the cast were in fact at the opening of the salon, as revealed by The Daily Mail which, predictably, takes a similar line to the broadsheet and has a picture of the celebs in question in Marbella ("Marbella? How vulgar!"). Which rather begs the question: what do we have here? A story which raises legitimate concerns over the way children are being raised in modern society or an opportunity for the newspaper's readers to enjoy a spot of "haw haw, look how tasteless the working classes like the ones in that dreadful programme (which none of us watched, of course, because we're much too highbrow) are, aren't we so much better than them?"-style upper middle class snobbish solidarity over their breakfast coffee this morning?


Israel shoots Golan Heights protestors 2

As suspected, further information to have come to light following the incident in which an uncertain number of "unarmed" Syrian protestors were shot dead by the IDF after rushing the border fence in the Golan Heights prove that all those who preferred to grab an opportunity to attack Israel apparently have an agenda of their own - or at the very least, need to learn to wait for the facts rather than make themselves look stupid with kneejerk reactions - it seems the "unarmed" protestors were in fact armed with molotov cocktails which they threw at the soldiers, setting off landmines in the area. It also transpires that, just as many of those who attacked Israel said they should have done, the IDF did in fact fire tear gas and stun grenades in an effort to contain the protestors using non-lethal techniques before firing warning shots and, eventually, aiming at human beings.

Once again, people - remember it's always best to wait for more information before reacting.


Israel shoots Golan Heights protestors

Israel faces yet more international criticism after IDF soldiers opened fire on protestors as they attempted to breach the border fence with the Golan Heights. Tragically, on of those shot dead was a 12-year-old boy - may Allah have mercy upon him. The total number of people killed varies according to which report one chooses to read, with the BBC stating 4 and Yahoo News, who have decided to go with the figure reported by that highly respected, impartial and utterly free of governmental control source Syrian state television claiming 23. Another 325 were injured during the incident during which a large number of people, despite repeated warnings to stay back, rushed towards the fence.

Cue condemnation across the internet and the usual reader comments comparing Israelis to the Nazis - "Israelis (not all Jews), and Nazis, do you spot the difference?" says Mr. Unemployed in the comments section of Yahoo's report, a comment which is actually rather atypical since the writer at least has the ability to recognise that "Israelis" and "all Jews" are not the same thing.

Imagine that this angry crowd has made it clear that they wish to destroy you. Suddenly, they all rush towards you. Are you willing to assume they're all unarmed or would you prefer not to take that risk?

I've got a bit of a hangover this morning, but even so the difference is glaring and easy to spot. The Nazis attempted the wholesale extermination of several ethnic minorities, along with homosexuals, the mentally ill and those who held political beliefs other than Nazi fascism. Israel did precisely what any other nation would do when faced with a group consisting of several hundred people attempting to illegally cross its border.

In fact, since most of Israel's neighbours have made it quite clear that their primary aim in the complete and final destruction of both Israel and the Jewish people and have been the source of various suicide bombings, terrorist attacks and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians, it could even be argued that in taking the time to warn the protestors before shooting, the IDF showed admirable restraint and determination to prevent the loss of civilian lives (something the Arabic governments and military of the surrounding nations aren't especially well known for doing). That the protestors were unarmed counts for nothing - when several hundred people, who you know want to destroy you, suddenly decide to rush at you, you really don't have the option to assume none of them have weapons or bombs concealed about themselves.

What would have happened had this have taken place not in Israel but in any other nation in the world? Google "US border patrol kills Mexicans" for the answer. One of the stories you'll find is that of Anastasio Hernández Rojas, a 42 year old husband and father of five, who was shot with a Taser before being brutally beaten to death whilst in the custody of the US Border Patrol. Had you ever heard of him before? Nope. Nor had we. Wonder why the USA wasn't accused of war crimes and compared to the Nazis afterwards? Or after 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, shot and killed after he and a group of other teens threw rocks at Border Patrol officials, rather as Palestinians sometimes throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, confident that the world will accuse Israel of brutality if they defend themselves.

Yet another case of Israel being subjected to double standards by those who seek to delegitimise the country, her right to exist and everything she does in her attempts to protect her citizens. Who, let us not forget, are made up of Jews, Muslims, Christians and assorted followers of other faiths, each and every one of them permitted under Israeli law to practice their religion freely in a complete contrast to the Arabic states where anyone following anything other than the state-approved branch of Islam can expect to be suppressed.


US Senate calls for Goldstone report to be rescinded

Following Judge Richard Goldstone's statements a fortnight ago that the notorious report bearing his name into the events surrounding and during Operation Cast Lead that accusations Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted Palestinian civilians, the US Senate has voted - unanimously - to request that the United Nations rescinds the report.

Goldstone also claimed that the UN Human Rights Council displays bias against Israel, leading the Senate to demand action so that the Council no longer unfairly attacks Israel "on a regular basis."

Good news - however, what difference will it really make? Politicians and those with a keen interest in Israel will take notice, but all around the world the man in the street's attention has moved on. He probably won't even hear about this, partly because large sections of the media seem to have little interest in reporting any news concerning Israel unless it shows Israel in a bad light (notice how quickly they dropped the flotilla story once it became clear that there was a bit more to it than evil Israeli commandos murdering a bunch of humanitarian flower children who were on their way to deliver toys, food and medicine to the poor children of Gaza? Or the decision many news services - including the BBC - took to make no mention of the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, an outrage during which a baby was beheaded by brave Palestinian freedom fighters?)

Cast Lead and Goldstone are old news, except to Jews. Mud sticks. The damage has already been done to Israel's reputation, and this is too little too late.


Acid Rabbi predicts the future!

Obviously, we have no truck with that sort of thing being the good Jewish types that we are, but nevertheless we do wonder if our publication of this image (below) over a year ago might be enough to win us the Randi prize. Or perhaps not - since Elliot Morley was possibly the MP to most shamelessly rip us all off (to the tune of £30,428) as though his role earned him the right to let us pay his mortgage for him it seemed pretty obvious to those of us who, despite piles of evidence to the contrary, still believe that there is justice in this world that sooner or later the ex-MP for Scunthorpe was going to find himself behind bars.

Morley in the nick. Looks like it's really gonna happen, folks! Really, we couldn't wish it upon a nicer bloke.


Boycott Israel (and a bloomin' big orange)

March the 30th 2011 is International Boycott Israel Day, when various apparently well-meaning organisations with all the supposed best intentions encourage You The Consumer to avoid purchasing anything made or produced in Israel. This, they claim, will deliver a message the Knesset simply can't ignore that the rest of the world has seen the human rights abuses carried out by Israel against the people of Gaza, the oppression under which the Arabs are forced to live and the general murderous unpleasantness of the Jewish state.

March the 30th is Boycott Israeli Goods Day. Is refusing to purchase Israeli goods and effective way to relieve the plight of the Palestinian people?

Now, anyone with any humanity and sense will be opposed to human rights abuses, and that's very obviously a good thing. But all too many of us fail to scratch below the surface of what is presented to us as Truth - there's an old saying that the best thing about the Internet is that absolutely anything can publish anything they want to publish, and the worst thing about the Internet is that absolutely anything can publish anything they want to publish. This means that of the enormous amount of literature out there on the Internet dealing with Israel and Gaza, the vast majority is written by people who either have hidden agendas - pro-Hamas or, sometimes, good old fashioned antisemitism (because many people appear to have difficulty in distinguishing "Israeli governmental policy" and "all Jewish people in the world from one another) or, more commonly, people who have little idea what's really going on and derive the bulk of their information from whichever voices can shout the loudest.

Now, we lefties are well accustomed to all the terrible policies governments hath wrought and equally as accustomed to supporting anti-government uprisings - the popular image of the Freedom Fighter is powerful and enduring, and the Hamas member with his stylish keffiyeh is an impressive figure as he faces IDF tanks armed with his trusty, rusty AK-47. But just as we attack Western beauty fascism by telling all and sundry that beauty is only skin deep, and below the epidermis that gorgeous supermodel is an ugly and confused mess of anorexia and body dismorphic disfunction churned up by the Fashion Industry, we need to remind ourselves that the same applies in this case: that uber-cool freedom fighter style is only skin deep, and what we have below it is a terrorist who thinks nothing of murdering innocent men, women and children. Last week, a baby was stabbed to death in a West Bank settlement. How did Hamas respond to this sickening, outrageous horror? They called it "a heroic operation." Stabbing babies is heroic? If Bonnie Tyler ever got that hero she was searching for, she can keep him - I'd rather have nothing to do with that sort of "person," thank you very much.

Similarly, we need to understand that the Israeli government is not the demon it is so often painted to be. OK, not all Knesset policies are above criticism. No government is perfect, and we need to make sure we always let them know when we're unhappy about something they've seen fit to inflict upon us - but the Israeli government is no worse than any other. Also, those who are considering taking part in the boycott would do well if they tried to ignore the loud anti Israeli rhetoric, suspend our indoctrinated prejudices and have a little look at some of Israel's policies. They make interesting reading.

Let's begin with what would happen if we all stopped buying Israeli products and, in doing so, removed the greater part of the country's annual income. Israel's gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $199,456,000,000 for 2010.

They'll have spent a fair chunk of that on the military, you may be thinking, and you'd be right - 6.9%, or $13,762,464,000 to be precise. That's a lot of money and yes, it would be wonderful and lovely if they spent it on schools instead. However, most of Israel's neighbours are somewhat less than neighbourly and have spent much of the last six decades calling for Israel to be destroyed and her citizens slaughtered. This means that she needs, absolutely requires, a powerful, well-equipped and well-trained military; otherwise there'll be a lot of corpses and no children to attend those hypothetical schools (incidentally, Israel spends 10% of its GDP on education, which explains why this tiny state with few natural resources has risen to become one of the world leaders in science and technology in less than 70 years of existence). You can't fault the Israeli government for wanting to protect the civilians it serves (unless you happen to be the most moronic type of antisemite who wishes for all Jewish men, women and children to be murdered - in which case, you may as well stop reading right now because we're going to be discussing human rights here, which is something your poisoned, poisonous little mind is incapable of comprehending). After all, that's what governments are supposed to do.

Operation Cast Lead brought widespread condemnation of Israel after it became clear that the IDF had used white phosphorous weapons. White phosphorous is nasty stuff - although it does have legitimate uses in warfare, using it against human beings, especially civilians, is considered reprehensible on the world stage if not actually in violation of international law. Following the operation, Israel launched an inquiry into its use, and army officers found guilty of irresponsible use or other human rights violations were punished.

One thing that may come as a surprise is that Hamas too has used white phosphorous - and is the subject of a huge amount of concern over its own human rights record - but to date hasn't even pretended to make any attempts to bring anyone to book over either. The difference here is that while Israel avoids deliberately targeting civilians - and despite anti-Israel accusations, has never been shown to do otherwise - that Hamas considers doing so a perfectly acceptable way to wage war. That's why civilian townships such as Sderot, just a kilometre from the Gaza border, has been hit by so many Qassam rockets.

It's beginning to look as though Israel values human life more highly than does Hamas, isn't it? Let's now look at healthcare expenditure. Israeli hospitals are first class, among the best in the world and far and away the best in the Middle East - many people who have experienced it have said that it compares favourably with that in the USA. Participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory for all Israeli citizens, though all are guaranteed the same care regardless of financial wealth, combined with government expenditure equal to around 7.8% of the country's GDP - or, $15,557,568,000 if you prefer a long number. Note, if you will, that this is
$1,795,104,000 - more than one and three quarter billion dollars - more than is spent on the military. As the Israeli population is 7,653,600, healthcare expenditure per capita (total health spending/population) is just under $2,032 per annum. In Gaza, it's $138. You can argue all you want that Gaza suffers from chronic underfunding, but the fact is Gaza doesn't need a powerful army. Gaza's neighbours do not want to wipe it off the Earth, nor do they want to wipe the population out. In fact, the only neighbour with whom it has any argument is Israel, which voluntarily pulled its military out of the state and allowed it to establish self-rule in 2005, returning only when the Qassam rockets threatened Israeli lives.

Why, then, does Hamas need to spend money, when it has so little to spend on healthcare, on weapons? Is it because they need to keep the population of Gaza, who may have voted Hamas into power but would probably waste little time in getting rid of them again were it not for the fact that opposing Hamas tends to lead to one being thrown from the roof of a tall building as an example to anyone else who fancies a bit of freedom, need to be kept in their place? Hamas could divert what they spend on arms to healthcare - or perhaps they don't really have the general population's welfare at heart? Luckily for the Palestinians, Israel doesn't limit admissions to its hospitals to Israeli citizens - they're also willing to offer medical assistance to Palestinians.

Hmm. That reminds me - didn't Israel once offer to treat wounded Gaza residents in one of its field hospitals, as used to great effect in Haiti following the earthquake? Apparently, yes it did. And apparently, Hamas refused. Not what you'd expect from an organisation dedicated to ending Israeli tyranny over the Arab people, but quite consistent with anyone who doesn't want to the population to think "Hang on - remember when those IDF medics saved little Achmed's sight after he got hit by shrapnel? Maybe they're not monsters after all - in fact, I'm starting to wonder if Hamas might be nothing more than a criminal gang of thugs and whether we might not be a lot better off we booted them out and made friends with the Israelis."

Finally, let's take a look at another Israeli policy which for some reason doesn't seem to get much coverage in the global press - the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza. We all know what happened in May 2010 when IDF commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, a so-called peace vessel carrying food and medicine.

We all know what happened as a result, too - Israel was demonised in the world press, who seem to have lost interest in what's going on off the shores of Gaza since then because with very few exceptions they entirely neglected to mention what showed up in the hold of the Victoria, a ship boarded 200 miles off the Israeli coast last week. Stashed away under sacks of lentils and fabric was a tasty selection of military hardware including ammunition, mortars, one coastal radar system, two hydraulically-operated missile launchers and a matching pair of computerised command stations and - the pick of the bunch - six Iranian C-704 anti-shipping missiles, all apparently put on board when the ship docked in Syria last Monday and heading for the eager hands of Hamas. It's true that Israel blocks the transport of certain goods into Gaza - some of them are admittedly a little strange, such as coriander - and expects the right to inspect all shipments into the the Strip. However, last week's discovery rather suggests they have every right to do so.

This brings us rather conveniently onto what Israel does allow into Gaza, and what it has provided. In the first quarter of 2010 alone, Israel provided the following among many other items:

40,000 tons of wheat (sufficient to bake 53 million loaves of bread)
2,760 tons of rice (about the same as 69 million servings from your favourite local Chinese takeaway)
553 tons of baby food and formula milk (3,100,000 days' worth for a 6 old month baby - or just over 8493 years - or, since this was for one quarter alone, enough to feed 33,972 babies for a year, which ought to have been enough since the total population of Gaza is less than half a million)
1,987 tons of clothes and shoes (not quite sure what that equates to in "real world" terms, but it's probably even more clothes and shoes than my missus owns)

To put this into context (and to enable us to line up a narrative device), think if you will of a juicy Jaffa orange. I've got one right here which I've just dissected and discovered to have a strangely-metric-for-Nature ten segments (I don't usually count orange segments, as doing so would probably be considered OCD). Right, now imagine that your mental orange is a little bigger than the average orange - in fact, imagine it's the Megaorange and weighs in at 45,300 tons. That's one big orange - and it's also equal in weight to the humanitarian aid listed above. Nine segments of the Megaorange are roughly equal to the wheat that Israel provided to Gaza in those three months. Around two thirds - 6% or the orange - are equal to the rice. A bit less than half a segment, 4%, is equal to the clothes and shoes. The rest - 1.2% - is equal to the baby food, which doesn't seem that much but babies don't eat very much.

Support Gaza! Buy Jaffa oranges! (You should also buy them because they're yum)

Think about it next time you eat an Israeli orange - you are not contributing to the oppression of the people of Gaza, you are contributing to their welfare. Don't accept everything you're told without question, because people with hidden agendas want to take advantage of you.

Question everything - and, on March the 30th, buy something produced in Israel and make sure you enjoy it. It's the simplest and most effective way you can help the people of Gaza.

Anyway, that Israeli Jaffa orange I dissected back there? It was my last one, so I'm popping out to the local grocery for some more. I'll buy them with pride and they'll taste even sweeter than they did in the past.


News of the Day

Interesting crop of headlines on tomorrow's ferret litter tray liners. The Daily Star seems slightly surprised that some gypsies can sing and play musical instruments and that there's a possibility of a Britain's Got Talent-type programme starring travellers. Now, we understand that they probably don't play all that much jazz in the Star offices, but you'd have thought at least someone there would have heard of Django Reinhardt. Fair bit of jizz in there though, one might suspect, what with all those porno mags that owner Richard Desmond also owns.

Apparently, some gypsies are quite good musicians. Whodathunkit, eh?
Public Domain image from the William P. Gottlieb collection via Wikipedia

The Independent reveals a "highly classified" US plan to supply arms to the Libyan rebels, as they're "desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents." Mmmmm - and tooling up the enemy's enemies has always worked out so well for them in the past, hasn't it? One wonders also how a highly classified document made it into the clutches of a British paper, especially one with such a small circulation - and hence available funds for mole payments - as The Independent. Perhaps they're using the proceeds of the I, which is outselling its parent considerably (either because the Great British Public welcome a paper free of slebbage or because it's only 20p and thus cheaper than Asda Smart Price bog roll) - which is probably a good thing as ever since The Grauniad disappeared up its own smug, middle class arsehole and turned into a lifestyle magazine for rich bell ends The Independent has been far and away the best Britrag, despite - or perhaps as reflected by - it having the smallest circulation of any of the proper newspapers. If the I enables The Independent to keep going, even if at a loss, then all well and good.

The Guardian itself devoted the top of the front page to a section in the G2 in which fashion correspondent Hadley Freeman discusses whether or not it's still acceptable to wear Dior following John Galliano's embarrassing little antisemitic outburst last week. Good to see they're still covering the stories that matter to the poor and oppressed, who will no doubt be showing a bit of the old Cable Street solidarity and burning their Dior couture on the streets tonight in response.

The Daily Express - also owned by Richard "Asian Babes" Desmond, as it happens - predicts snow in the near future as it was a little bit cold last night. We didn't bother to read the story, preferring not even to prod with a stick anything quite so unpleasant as the Express in case its vile poison should travel like that of a cockatrice up the stick and into our mortal hearts, but have little doubt that the snow can be blamed on the EU in some contrived way. May Saint Diana have mercy upon us!


Three cheers for Julian Huppert MP

Three cheers (and a pint, if we happen to see down the pub) for Cambridge's Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert who intervened to prevent the repatriation of an immigrant to a nation where he was likely to be persecuted and tortured.

Cambridge's LibDem MP Julian Huppert - a good bloke, even if he is a politician.

It's about time a few politicians stood up for immigrants, who - by allowing the right wing press (especially the Daily Mail, which is virtually fascist) to ram a load of utter racist rot down the electorate's collective throat - they have used as a convenient scapegoat, allowing them to take the blame for problems that were in fact the government's fault all along.

Secondly, repatriating immigrants to nations where they will face persecution, torture and even murder is shameful and flies in the face of all the traditionally British qualities that make us a great country. Mr. Huppert should feel as proud of himself as we do to have him as our MP.