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Jindal versus the “science deniers”

Louisiana’s Republican governor Bobby Jindal– who probably will be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016– has accused the Obama administration of being “science deniers.”

That would be the same Bobby Jindal who mocked the idea of monitoring volcanic activity.

The same Bobby Jindal who signed the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, permitting the teaching of alternative theories to evolution in the state’s public schools. (Seventy-seven Nobel Laureates have signed a letter calling for the law’s repeal.)

The same Bobby Jindal whose administration tried to provide state-funded vouchers for students to attend schools that teach creationism instead of evolution.

So when Jindal talked about “science deniers” in the Obama administration, it’s no surprise that he was mainly referring to the delay in approving the Republicans’ pet project, the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil-sands crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast. There are arguments both for and against the pipeline, but those who oppose it on the grounds that oil-sands crude produces more greenhouse gas emissions than regular crude are not “science deniers.”

“Absolutely, let’s listen to scientists, absolutely, let’s work with job creators,” Jindal said. “But let’s not do so in a way that hurts our economy.”

Does not hurting the economy always trump scientific concerns? Sometimes it seems Republicans believe that the only meaningful ways to create jobs are projects that are potentially harmful to the environment. Meanwhile they oppose funding for projects that would create tens of thousands of jobs by repairing crumbling infrastructure.

Asked about his personal views on climate change, [Jindal] said he believed that the climate is “always changing.”

Whatever the hell that means.

Neverendum Land

So we really have gone crazy up here. The polls tighten, the campaigners for an independent Scotland, the Yessers, who thought they could pat themselves on the back for making a respectable showing, now have a chance of winning.

Heady, exhilarating – for those on the Yes side and for those who are cheering them on. For us Unionists – and I never thought of myself as such a thing, just a British citizen with dual nationality living in Scotland – these last weeks have been nerve-wracking. Acute anxiety is my normal state of mind now, and others
feel the same.

The charged, hysterical atmosphere is like the outbreak of World War I, except instead of emanating from the newspapers it’s from the Yes campaign, which has captured the patriotic side of the argument. The cries of traitor, treachery, quisling, the message that this is a heroic struggle and only the cowardly and feart will be on the wrong side of history, the solemn announcement that I have voted Yes, with the same pride as I have joined up to fight for King and Country and the proud badges waved on Facebook profiles. Those of us who think this is a march – well not to disaster but at least disillusion and certainly not the land of vibrant egalitarianism they are prophesying- are handed out metaphorical white feathers.
I’ve been called a traitor, a quisling, tory scum, a hun, and a diet Scot, because I support Scotland’s place in the Union. ”
There is the endless lies and propaganda and the rumours of secret weapons, such as the hidden oil field that the UK government is keeping under wraps.

42% of Scots believe in this.

And for armchair generals, substitute armchair economists, for moving flags forward and back to show territory won and lost and the attendant mood swings, think poll-watching, and for the Somme and Paschendale think in the short term at least a tanking economy, austerity, high unemployment, emigration. Ah, but all those will be ours. If it’s a mess, it’s OUR mess.

As some Noes have said, I have seen the intelligent minds of my generation turn into blithering idiots.

The Yessers have campaigned in poetry – offering hope that all ills will be removed by independence. Their ad in today’s Metro showed a baby hand against an adult hand “Vote Yes and keep Scotland’s future in your hands for good”. The No ad gave a list of points of contradicting false claims on the NHS, currency etc by the SNP. The Noes are definitely prose, and reasoning, the Yessers offer a fantasy Scotland. And when did reality ever match up to fantasy?

Ewan Morrison has a brilliant article on the cult-like atmosphere of the Yes campaign and compares it to the SWP.

As a ‘Trot’ we were absolutely banned from talking about what the economy or country would be like ‘after the revolution’; to worry about it, speculate on it or raise questions or even practical suggestions was not permitted. We had to keep all talk of ‘after the revolution’ very vague because our primary goal was to get more people to join our organisation. I learned then that if you keep a promise of a better society utterly ambiguous it takes on power in the imagination of the listener. Everything can be better “after the revolution”. It’s a brilliant recruitment tool because everyone with all their conflicting desires can imagine precisely what they want. The key is to keep it very simple – offer a one word promise. In the case of the Trotskyists it’s ‘Revolution,’ in the case of the independence campaign it’s the word ‘Yes’. Yes can mean five million things. It’s your own personal independence. Believing in Yes is believing in yourself and your ability to determine your own future. Yes is very personal. How can you not say Yes to yourself? You’d have to hate yourself? Yes is about belief in a better you and it uses You as a metaphor for society as if you could simply transpose your good intentions and self belief onto the world of politics.

And as Salmond calls any requests for some sane answers on the currency and other questions “scaremongering” so do the Yes campaigners

From Tom Bradby, a reporter for ITV:-

The essential trouble is that the ‘Yes’ campaign’s argument here is high on emotion, but short on sensible detail. I have said before and wholly stick to the view that their long-term analysis is pretty fair, save perhaps for some exaggeration of the revenue they are likely to glean from North Sea Oil.

… But the ‘Yes’ campaign here is about to bring its incipient nation into being based on an economic policy that would literally be laughed at if it were produced at Westminster.

Alex Salmond has barely set foot inside the House of Commons for a decade and yet on the question of a currency union he claims to know what politicians there are going to do better than they do themselves – and certainly better than all those Westminster analysts whose job it is to talk to these people and study their mindsets, day in day out. It is frankly absurd. Anyone who lived through the Euro crisis at Westminster knows that, but point it out and you are guaranteed a volley of abuse.

all reporters I chatted to yesterday agreed that the level of abuse and even intimidation being meted out by some in the ‘Yes’ campaign was making this referendum a rather unpleasant experience.

And whilst I am sure both sides have been guilty, the truth – uncomfortable as it is to say it – is that most of the heckling and abuse does seem to be coming from the Nationalists…

I shouldn’t moan. Some people on this site write posts while under bombardment or in fear of Jobbik in Hungary. I don’t think Scotland will turn into Yugoslavia or the Ukraine, or a Middle East country where Shi-ites and Sunnis who have lived as neighbours for generations start killing each. Family fallouts, a reeling economy and poisonous politics are not the end of the world. This is still part of a state that is on the whole civilised. How angry I am that a bunch of nationalists, deluded progressives and ideologues are trying to break it apart.

Michael Connarty MP Rails Against “Israeli Spies”

Michael Connarty is the Labour MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk.

A member of the public sent him the following letter:


I understand that you spoke at the PSC Rally yesterday.

  • Given the previous disgraceful, divisive and distasteful remarks by David Ward MP and Baroness Tonge (for example see here and here), why did you agree to share a platform with them?
  • Do you support a two state solution?  (As I’m sure you know, the PSC is ambiguous about this and has a logo which indicates it does not support Israel’s existence.)

o   If you do support a two state solution, why did you speak at a PSC event?

o   Are you pushing the PSC to clarify its position on this topic?

  • Will you condemn the direct action tactics used by boycott campaigners against Israeli goods (and sometimes against kosher goods) in branches of Sainsbury’s and Tesco, which have caused fear and intimidation amongst shoppers and staff and have led many people from the Jewish Community to be very distressed?
  • This was Michael Connarty MP’s extraordinary response:

    I presume the Israeli government’s spies were there, as I always expect.

    I support and will encourage a boycott, and an arms embargo of Israel.  I have seen the behaviour of the State of Israel first-hand often enough to in all conscience say it acts like a rogue state, and should be treated like a rogue state.

    I have no religious prejudice against those who live in Israel, but not in the settlements in Palestine, and I give no support to the anti-democratic Hamas regime.

    If you would like to take your prejudiced views up with my electorate, I look forward to debating the issue with you in front of them.

    I do not and will not allow you to try to assume I am answerable to you, who question me while burdened by your own prejudices.

    There should be no immunity, no impunity such as is allowed for Israeli military members who kill and maim innocent civilians.

    Michael Connarty MP

    Linlithgow & East Falkirk constituency

    [email protected]

    What a remarkable response.

    I mean, it is usual to be accused of making false accusations of antisemitism, and so on. But for a Labour MP to accuse a member of the public of being an Israeli government spy…?

    That really crosses a whole new boundary.

    ISIS and Fighting Clerical Fascism

    This is a cross-post by John Sargeant from homo economicus

    This is a section from the middle of John’s post. You can read the full piece here.

    The secular Muslim heritage, the mysticism of Sufis, a spiritual Caliphate – they are forgotten on this rampage. Universal human rights are absent. This is total war as they enlarge their territory. Imposing clerical fascism. The Art of War with Jihad coupled with modern tactics. Announcing they were now a geographical Caliphate was a message.

    A message for political Islamists that envisage a unified Islamic empire that can defend and promote one theological Islam to the world: we have done it join us. Even now, some ask if the territory can be kept intact with the defeat of ISIS.

    Hypothetical. If Muslims fix the caliphate, can they keep it? (Mo Ansar)

    Those siren voices again. To use the murder, pillaging and atrocities of ISIS for the realisation of an Islamic caliphate that might undo the old colonial powers. As if ISIS were an eraser for the lines that western imperialists drew on the map as they carved up territory.

    So of course you will have the likes of Anjem Choudary belittling the carnage, and Dilly Hussain saying Yazidi were fleeing tax dodgers, and Mo Ansar saying this could give birth to a good Islamic state. Islamists hope that people will rally up against their incompetent and dictatorial rulers for an Arab Winter to freeze the whole of the Middle East and South Asia into a theological ice block of uniformity. Even some Islamists that are against ISIS hope a thaw sees a different set of theocrats in charge one day.

    Political Islam has laid the ground work for a caliphate to be seen as a requirement for Muslims. The misrule by secular despots and incompetent clerics has made many buy into this vision.

    How many have to die for theological hegemony? As many as it takes. So the question then becomes why antagonise the US and UK by beheading their citizens?

    The risk is ISIS want a final confrontation. A battle to end all battles. Set up the theological state, Allah is meant to be the Ace in the Hole. They believe Muslims will flock to their banner to finally rid the infidel once and for all. At last the unity of Muslim people, and the final victory of ISIS. The Caliphate remains.

    We can and must denounce fascism in all it’s gory forms. Theological fascism should be no exception. Not only denouncing ISIS but the caliphate they wish to create. Too many people, Muslim and non Muslim, have died because of this nightmare.

    Sky News Arabia: bSkyb’s Faustian Pact with the UAE government

    Jessy El Murr is the Deputy News Editor of Sky News Arabia.

    She tweets at @JessyTrends – mostly about Israel and Gaza. Writing in The Daily Star Lebanon last month, she opposed the idea of journalistic objectivity in Gaza. She excitedly tweets and retweets outrageous views of Jews and Israel.

    Here are some examples:

    So how could someone with as views so obviously prejudiced as Jessy El-Murr become a deputy editor at a major international news brand?

    Sky News Arabia is not a straightforward news channel.

    You would be forgiven for thinking that Sky News Arabia is basically Sky News in Arabic. Not quite.

    bSkyb has outsourced the “Sky News” brand to an outfit that pays well, but this outfit is diametrically opposed to the very principles that Sky News is founded upon.

    Read more »

    The Mizrahi story can end the colonialist myth

    This is a cross-post by Lyn Julius from the Times of Israel

    This summer’s Gaza war has highlighted the role of the media and opinion formers in shaping a hostile view of Israel and a more favourable understanding of Hamas. Two journalists, formerly staffers with mainstream media, Matti Friedman and Tom Gross, have called the biased reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict a ‘political weapon – with which they arm one side in the conflict.’

    There are many reasons why journalists have become accessories to Hamas’s propaganda war, behaving as activists rather than reporters. They relay a picture of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli extremism and intransigeance, suppressing any facts that make a nonsense of this narrative. Tom Gross identifies one reason:

    ” …Many have a kind of guilt about being white and Western, and the history of their own colonization. Israel is perceived as a white country and the Palestinians are perceived as non-white, even though in fact many Palestinians have lighter skin than some Israelis. Many Western journalists abroad have barely heard of the fact that there are Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews.”

    This is a key reason why organisations like mine, Harif, have been trying to raise awareness that Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews constitue over 50 percent of Israel’s population.

    We want people to ask why these Jews ended up in Israel. They did not move to Israel only out of Zionism, although this was a factor : the majority fled their countries as refugees – out of fear, to escape harassment, violence and death.

    They fled the same conditions of intolerance and bigotry that are now forcing the other non-Muslim minorities of the Middle East to choose between extinction or exodus.

    We must turn the Israel-as-colonialism narrative on its head. We must re-assert that Jews are the most ancient of indigenous Middle Eastern peoples, with a history of continuous residence in what is now known as the Arab world going back 3,000 years.

    Moreover, the colonial relationship between Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and the Arab Muslim conquerors is the exact opposite of what reporters and western observers believe: the Jews of the region are the colonised and the Muslims the colonisers. For fourteen centuries, Jews survived at the beck and sufferance of their Muslim rulers. As the historian Georges Bensoussan has explained, they sought to escape insecurity as a vulnerable minority and their second-rate status by seeking western protection and embracing modernity.

    The state of Israel, although under attack since the day it was born, has provided Jews with the wherewithal to defend themselves. This is an affront to Muslim pride and supremacy, and a key reason why the Arab/ Islamist struggle to destroy the sovereign Jewish state continues.

    The Sephardi/Mizrahi ‘narrative’ may not be able to reverse the supertanker of current public opinion any time soon, but it can seriously hole it below the waterline.

    Hatreds old and New: Jonathan Freedland and Mehdi Hasan

    Much of last night’s discussion sought to bring out symmetries between the two hatreds under discussion, anti-Muslim bigotry and antisemitism. Freedland and Hasan both presented themselves as critical friends of their communities, raising the difficult questions some would rather not tackle, while still remaining insiders.  There are certainly parallels between the abusive comments and charges of disloyalty each man attracts – Freedland has been accused of being a kapo and Hasan of being a sell out.

    But there was some lack of symmetry in the discussion.  Antisemitism, its possible causes or triggers, and its relationship with antizionism, was discussed in detail.  Criticism of Israel was (usefully) distinguished from antizionism, which in turn was differentiated from antisemitism.  It was agreed that ‘Zionist’ was sometimes used as a codeword for ‘Jew’ in a way even anti-zionists might acknowledge to be antisemitic. It was Hasan, I think, who asked whether there was not a possible tension between asserting a strong tie between Jews and Israel, and insisting that British Jews could not be asked to account for Israel’s actions.  Freedland explained that the bonds between the British Jewish community and Israel did not necessarily equate to support for its government or its actions.  This was a good point – I drew a parallel with Hasan’ attitude towards Iran (a topic touched on last night) – he seems to take a rather protective interest in Iran but is also a pretty outspoken critic of its policies. However – I began to have the sense that, while antisemitism was being framed (of course) as unacceptable, so was a more robust (as opposed to Yachad-style) support for Israel.

    The phenomenon of anti-Muslim bigotry, or Islamophobia, seemed probed far less searchingly.  Hasan freely acknowledged that there was a difference between out and out bigots and those with legitimate concerns – but his example of a legitimate concern was the so-called Islamic State.  That left an awful lot of unexplored middle ground.  Many who oppose ISIS themselves support (ideally) penalties for apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality.  Mehdi Hasan has himself condemned such punishments – so it would hardly have been a hostile act to probe him a little further on such issues, unpacking the difference between reasonable and bigoted ways of expressing anxieties about theocratic and illiberal tendencies.  But I wasn’t too surprised that Jonathan Freedland didn’t push on this.

    Some statements about the two hatreds might have been challenged. Mehdi Hasan insisted that the media is Islamophobic – I accept this is true of many tabloids, and of some centre right columnists in the Spectator and Telegraph.  However the Guardian suffers from the opposite problem, as evidenced for example in its poor and partial coverage of the ‘Trojan Horse’ issue.  It was also asserted (I think again by Hasan) that UK politicians did not make antitsemitic statements. Freedland perhaps hinted at a counter-argument when he spoke later of the worrying way in which people misused the Holocaust (a worry echoed by Hasan).  But I don’t think any mention was made of the fact that several politicians (including a disproportionate number of Lib Dems) seem happy to flirt with antisemitic tropes.

    In a further assertion of symmetry between these ‘hatreds old and new’, Hasan and Freedland both differentiated themselves from outliers in their communities – out and out anti-zionists on the one hand and Quilliam types on the other. But this seemed a slightly problematic parallel.  There is a category difference between anti-Muslim bigotry and antisemitism, because Islam is a religion, whereas Jewishness has both a racial and a religious element.  And in fact Zionism seems far more central to modern antisemitism than Judaism, so it seems reasonable to compare the communities’ outsider figures in relation to these two ideas – i.e. Zionism and Islam.  Whereas anti-zionists reject Zionism completely, the Muslim outliers mentioned last night (such as Irshad Manji) do *not* reject Islam – they are not ex-Muslims, but in fact identify as Muslim. So Maajid Nawaz, for example, is perhaps less a Tony Greenstein than a Peter Beinart, or even a Jonathan Freedland.

    A further asymmetry was thrown up right at the beginning of the evening when the moderator, Anita Anand, quizzed Mehdi Hasan briefly about the infamous ‘cattle’ clip.  I didn’t think it was particularly necessary to raise this myself, and it must be wearisome having it brought up again and again by people who never acknowledge that Hasan has since eloquently countered illiberal Muslim regimes and views.  Hasan partly deflected and partly apologised for his earlier statements. He also admitted that he’d said some rather unkind things about atheists, before remarking drolly that Richard Dawkins stress-tested his new found tolerance.  I laughed.  But it’s difficult to imagine someone at a HuffPo/Guardian event making a similarly semi-facetious confession of anti-Muslim bigotry.

    At one point, an opportunity to draw out a symmetry was lost.  Anand asked whether the two journalists didn’t sometimes feel they were handing ammunition to the far right. Mehdi Hasan agreed that it was frustrating to see his criticisms of the Muslim community picked up gleefully by bigots in support of their arguments. Freedland described feeling a similar irritation at having fierce opponents of Israel suddenly invoking him as an authority (following his sharp criticisms of Operation Protective Edge) even though normally they’d shun him as an evil Zionist. What was missing here was an acknowledgement that whereas Hasan’s words would be weaponised by the right, I’m pretty sure Freedland’s opponents were on the far/’progressive’ left. (Admittedly it can be difficult to tell sometimes.)

    Although I had some criticism of the discussion, it was in many ways a positive event.  Mehdi Hasan spoke well at the beginning of the evening about the importance of accepting differences of opinion without jumping to an assumption of bad faith, or immediately turning against the person one disagrees with. (As someone who has spoken out many times against anti-Muslim bigotry he has been understandably vexed by some Muslims’ extreme hostility to his more self-critical pieces.) Freedland was robust on the need to hold antisemites, not Jews, responsible for racism, and spoke bitterly about those who thought Jews, rather than those who persecuted them, had lessons to learn from the Holocaust.  Hasan engaged sincerely with his concerns – people may define antisemitism (and anti-Muslim bigotry) differently without being insincere in their dislike of it.  The discussion was courteous and good humoured, and Anita Anand was an engaging and effective moderator.

    “Nothing screams Scottish freedom quite like a millionaire Australian antisemite on horseback”

    John Oliver explains the Scottish independence referendum to an American audience and makes a moving plea to the Scots not to leave.

    Two questions:

    1. Why are there flames coming out of the bagpipes at the beginning?

    2. In which movie does the guy hold up signs to the woman he’s trying to woo? I want to make sure I never see it.

    Update: If you are outside the US and unable to view the video through normal channels, we are informed that it is viewable by entering the website address at

    (Hat tip: billm99uk)

    Further update:

    Ghoncheh Ghavami imprisoned after trying to watch Iran play volleyball

    Cross-posted from Potkin Azarmehr at For a democratic secular Iran

    On 20th June this year, Ghoncheh Ghavami had gone along to watch Iran’s national volleyball team play against the Italian side. In any normal country, this would have been a joyous event, but in Iran for Ghoncheh and other women it carried a risk. Women are not allowed to enter sports stadiums in Iran and watch men play sports like football or volleyball.

    Ghoncheh and some other women, who had seen this as an opportunity to protest against this discrimination against Iranian women, were arrested. They were later released on the same day after signing a pledge not to engage in such actions again. Their personal belongings however were kept by the security forces for further examination.

    Ten days later, Ghonche went to collect her personal belongings but was arrested again. Security agents then searched her house and collected more of her belongings. Ghoncheh was transferred to the notorious Evin prison and spent 41 days in solitary confinement. Although her interrogation is reportedly now finished, they have extended her detention by another 2 months.

    Her family until now had decided not to publicise her arrest, thinking that it would further harm her case and she would be released after a brief period. Since yesterday however, the opposition site Kalameh, published her arrest and continuous detention.

    I knew Ghoncheh from London. She had dual British-Iranian citizenship. Ghoncheh in Persian means bud and she had lips that immediately reminded you of a red rose bud. She told me once, when she was born, as soon as her father saw her lips, he decided he could only call her Ghoncheh.

    As attractive as she was, Ghoncheh was extremely and frustratingly naive when it came to Iran politics. I remember having endless arguments with her about the new administration in Iran. Ghoncheh was delighted with the election of Rouhani, as the new president of Iran. She was convinced that Rouhani was the right man to set the catastrophes of the past 8 years right and lead Iran into the future. My continuous advice to her that this was just a window dressing for the outside world and inside Iran, it will be business as usual, did not resonate with her.

    I remember explaining to her that every Iranian presidency repeats the same pattern on three fronts:

    1- They all start with magnificent slogans and promises.

    2- They all blame the previous administration for all the ills and shortcomings in Iran.

    3- They all continue to blame their rivals are putting the spanners in the wheels and preventing them from setting things right.

    And so they keep on stringing along the new generation of voters.

    But again, sharing my experience with this young naive 25 year old was to no avail. She decided not to listen to my advice and to go back to Iran, thinking she can better support Rouhani’s government from inside Iran.

    I was last due to see Ghoncheh on the opening night of the movie, King of Sands, made by the Syrian director, Najdat Anzour. I had two extra tickets for Ghonche and her friend but they could not make it and I never saw her again. I was not aware she had gone back to Iran and did not know she was a prisoner until yesterday.

    I could say she was a victim of her own naivety but I could also say that at least, unlike many other Iranian asylum seekers who are promoting the Iranian regime while being paid benefits by the UK government, she went back to help the person she believed was the right man to save Iran. It will be a painful lesson for her, but perhaps her plight will open some other eyes.

    Gene adds:
    Two points:

    –If foreign sports teams play in Iran, they should at least make it a condition that men and women are admitted equally as spectators.

    –It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the “reformist” president Rouhani is at best Khatami 2.0, with no real power to produce meaningful change in the Iranian regime even if he wanted to.

    National Action appear at University of Leeds

    This is a cross-post from Student Rights

    In July Student Rights reported on efforts by the neo-Nazi group National Action to target several London universities with posters.

    At the time we wrote that institutions should be concerned about the group’s efforts to target campuses, and that further activity was likely.

    We have now uncovered a photograph which shows up to 14 members of the group appearing on campus at the University of Leeds.

    A number of those present are making Nazi salutes and holding a banner featuring EugeneTerreblanche, the white supremacist South African paramilitary leader murdered in 2010.

    While National Action claims to have carried out poster drops at universities around the UK, this is the first significant on-campus appearance since members targeted an event at the University of Warwick in January 2014.

    A racist organisation which has declaredto be British you have to be white”, National Action regularly shares Nazi imagery and Holocaust denial online.

    Members claim “there is no legitimate reason to not be a racist or an anti-Semite in 2014” and promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, claimingthe entire civil service is in the hands of the Zionists” and “the Zionists have taken control of the country”.

    They also state that the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn “are a perfect example of what we’d like to replicate”, quote Adolf Hitler, and produce racist posters targeting immigrants.

    While the far-right has traditionally found it difficult to gain a foothold on campuses it is important that this does not lead to complacency amongst university staff.

    An interview with National Action in Aprildeclared it was seeking to create a “reign of terror” on campuses throughout the 2014-15 academic year, and threats like this should be taken seriously.

    As such, we hope that students will report any evidence of this group operating on their campus to their universities immediately – and will get in touch with Student Rights if they have any concerns.