Saturday, 30 August 2014

Equality & Human Rights Commission seek evidence

From the

Secular views needed for equality and human rights consultation

You may have noticed a spate of recent articles (e.g. Andrew Brown, Cristina Odone, Dominic Grieve) claiming Christians, in this country are being persecuted and unable to comment about their faith. They blame "hard secularism", our equality laws and the outcome of court cases which they consider to be unsatisfactory or biased against them.

Cristina Odone paints a grim but grossly unrealistic picture of:

The conscientious objector who cannot marry a gay couple because to do so would run counter to her religious beliefs will lose her job; the pharmacist who won't sell the morning-after pill because he thinks abortion is a sin will lose his.
NSS president Terry Sanderson has called this a "disgracefully dishonest narrative", in his piece dismantling common falsehoods and misrepresentations behind these articles and others like them.

Andrew Brown may have been closer to the truth than he realised when he remarked:

The difficulty is that most of the (Evangelical) alliance's cases appear to the outside world to be Christians claiming that unless they can discriminate against gay people, they are themselves the victims of discrimination. This is not a view with wide appeal.
The National Secular Society is encouraging supporters to respond to the Commission's consultation and offer their views and experiences.

It's important that both in the workplace and when we use publicly-funded services such as schools, hospitals and other services provided by local authorities, no-one is treated unfairly or denied access on grounds of religious belief or non-belief.

• Have you been denied (or been unable to apply for) a job or promotion because of your religion, belief or lack of belief?
• Have you been unable to access a public service because of your religion, belief or lack of belief or someone else's?
• Have you or your child had your school choice restricted because of your religion, belief or lack of belief?
• Have you been denied goods or a service because of someone else's religion or beliefs?
• Are you worried that expansions to religious exemptions could prevent you from accessing goods or services?

You can take action to defend principles of secularism and equality by submitting a response to the consultation.
Equality and Human Rights Commission calls for evidence on religion or belief issues

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a major call for evidence from individuals and organisations about how their religion or belief (including non-belief), or that of other people, may have...

Attempts to erode equality and undermine secularist principles must be challenged, argues Stephen Evan

Grievous nonsense

The narrative that Christians are somehow persecuted in the UK – which the Daily Telegraph and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve were happy to promote this week – is a dishonest appeal for privilege, argues NSS president Terry Sanderson.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tackling Islamist extremism must be an issue for the British Left

About time this subject was tackled by the left!

From Hope not hate by Nick Lowles:

The awful murder of photojournalist James Foley, supposedly at the hands of a British jihadist, is just the latest outrage from a group that is seeking to impose its Islamist extremism on all around them.

While ISIS is currently operating just in the Middle East, the ideology that underpins it is found throughout the world and so must be combated wherever it raises its head.

Our opposition to ISIS, and its supporters in the UK, is not down to the terrorist threat they pose but of a rejection of their politics of hate and a worldview that we do not share. They want to impose a system that is totally at odds with one that respects human rights, diversity and equality and we have to oppose it.

It is no surprise to find Anjem Choudary and his al-Muhajiroun network cheerleading for ISIS. For too long he and his group have been dismissed for their clownish antics but the society they want to impose on us is the same as what is being carried out in the supposed 'Islamic State'.

The al-Muhajiroun network is unquestionably the single largest recruiter for ISIS in this country and, as recent videos have made abundantly clear, many of their activists have been involved in some of the worst atrocities being carried out by the group.

For too long, much of the British left has remained silent on the threat from Islamist extremism, partly out of ignorance but also because fear that opposing it will stoke Islamophobia. This has to change. Islamist extremism stands in opposition to our belief in equality, fairness and tolerance and it is in fact the left's unwillingness to confront this threat that leaves a vacuum for Islamophobes and racists to spread their poison.

ISIS represent the most terrifying force in the world today. It is not good enough to shake our head and deplore their actions abroad whilst staying silent on its supporters in the UK.

Above all, the failure to develop a progressive opposition to Islamist extremism, that is based on our values and principles, is letting down the very people and communities that are now under attack.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Uniting families

Fill in the name of any one of the thousands of separated families below:
London Demonstration for the rights of British Citizens and their foreign spouses

A chance for everyone affected by the 2012 "Rules against Families" - and their friends and families - to dress up and make a stand to be with those they love. The new rules mean that more than 2 in 5 *British workers* can no longer expect to marry and live with whomever they choose.

Please invite your friends!

To be held on Saturday 23rd August 2014

Our Itinerary

11am - Meet up at Parliament Square. 1hour protest.
12:15 - Be at Downing Street. 1 hour protest.
1:15pm - Coffee/toilet break for 30mins
2pm - Be at Trafalgar Square. 1 hour protest.
3:15pm - Be at Leicester Square. 30 min protest.
Finish at 3:45pm

Then drinks and celebratory hugs after that.

We do ask that you wear a wedding dress, suit or cultural wear to grab peoples attention. We want people walking past to stop and ask why we are dressed this way and that's when we can get talking and educate people as to why we are campaigning. It doesn't have to be a big wedding dress ladies but something white (a maxi dress is a comfy choice) and a cheap veil from a charity shop will do nicely. Alternatively, wear all-white to symbolise the #whitefeather campaign.

Please make and bring your own placards too. Hobby craft sell stiff foam board for £3 each. Make them as personal as possible, paste photos of you and your spouse and your children, wedding photos and family days out. We need people to see that our spouses are not just another foreigner in the UK, but part of a family unit.

Educational leaflets and banners are being arranged.

Our aim of this demo is to get noticed, to share our story with as many people as we can and educate people about what our government is doing to us.

We need to curb this misconception that foreigners are bad and a "burden on society". We need to tell everyone how the Minimum income requirement is tearing families apart. Keeping parents away from their children, lovers apart and force exiling British Citizens that cannot afford the income requirement [over 40% of the working population].
If you can't be there on the day, but still want to support the activity, please put some time aside to share pictures and information about the event. Internationally it would be great to have companion support events in other countries, no matter how big or small. Aside from the demo, follow 'BritCits', 'Migrants Rights Network' and 'Love Letters to the Home Office' for more details and ongoing updates about the wider situation.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wade's book "plausible and preposterous"

The Paradox of Racism By Andrew Gelman:

Why the new book by the New York Times’ Nicholas Wade is both plausible and preposterous.

Racist views of Germans as warlike and subhuman seem preposterous now but plausible at the time

The paradox of racism is that at any given moment, the racism of the day seems reasonable and very possibly true, but the racism of the past always seems so ridiculous.

I’ve been thinking about this recently after reading the new book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History by New York Timesreporter Nicholas Wade, who writes about the big differences in economic success between whites, blacks, Asians, and other groups and offers a sophisticated argument that racial differences arise from genetic differences that are amplified by culture.

Wade’s argument has three parts: First, along with the divergence of physical traits such as skin color and types of earwax, racial groups have genetically evolved to differ in cognitive traits such as intelligence and creativity. Second, Wade argues that “minor differences, for the most part invisible in an individual, have major consequences at the level of a society.” Third, he writes that his views are uncomfortable truths that have been suppressed by a left-wing social-science establishment.

The word “inequality” does not appear in the book’s index, but what Wade is offering is essentially a theory of economic and social inequality, explaining systematic racial differences in prosperity based on a combination of innate traits (“the disinclination to save in tribal societies is linked to a strong propensity for immediate consumption”) and genetic adaptation to political and social institutions (arguing, for example, that generations of centralized rule have effected a selection pressure for Chinese to be accepting of authority).

Wade is clearly intelligent and thoughtful, and his book is informed by the latest research in genetics. His explanations seem to me simultaneously plausible and preposterous: plausible in that they snap into place to explain the world as it currently is, preposterous in that I think if he were writing in other time periods, he could come up with similarly plausible, but completely different, stories.

As a statistician and political scientist, I see naivete in Wade’s quickness to assume a genetic association for any change in social behavior. For example, he writes that declining interest rates in England from the years 1400 to 1850 “indicate that people were becoming less impulsive, more patient, and more willing to save” and attributes this to “the far-reaching genetic consequences” of rich people having more children, on average, than poor people, so that “the values of the upper middle class” were “infused into lower economic classes and throughout society.”

Similarly, he claims a genetic basis for the declining levels of everyday violence in Europe over the past 500 years and even for “a society-wide shift ... toward greater sensibility and more delicate manners.” All this is possible, but it seems to me that these sorts of stories explain too much. The trouble is that any change in attitudes or behavior can be imagined to be genetic—as long as the time scale is right. For example, the United States and other countries have seen a dramatic shift in attitudes toward gay rights in the past 20 years, a change that certainly can’t be attributed to genes. Given that we can see this sort of change in attitudes so quickly (and, indeed, see large changes in behavior during such time scales; consider for example the changes in the murder rate in New York City during the past 100 years), I am skeptical of Wade’s inclination to come up with a story of genetics and selection pressure whenever a trend happens to be measured over a period of hundreds of years.

Wade’s attitudes toward economics also seem a bit simplistic, for example when he writes, “Capital and information flow fairly freely, so what is it that prevents poor countries from taking out a loan, copying every Scandinavian institution, and becoming as rich and peaceful as Denmark?” The implication is that the answer is racial differences. But one might just as well ask why can’t Buffalo, New York, take out a loan and become as rich (per capita) as New York City. Or, for that matter, why can’t Portugal become as rich as Denmark? After all, Portuguese are Caucasians too! One could of course invoke a racial explanation for Portugal’s relative poverty, but Wade in his book generally refers to Europe or “the West” as a single unit. My point here is not that Haitians, Portuguese, and Danes are equivalent—obviously they differ in wealth, infrastructure, human capital, and so forth—but that it is not at all clear that genetic differences have much of anything to do with their different economic positions.

What if Wade had been writing his book in 1954 rather than 2014?

Wade contrasts his model with various other explanations of the rise of the West, most notably Jared Diamond’s idea, expressed in his influential book Guns, Germs, and Steel, that European countries had a series of geographical advantages, including regular trade and exchange of ideas with other cultures, challenging terrain that made it difficult for a single government to rule the continent, and a low level of parasites. Wade expresses dissatisfaction with Diamond’s “pretty arguments,” which he thinks are “designed to drag the reader away from the idea that genes and evolution might have played any part in recent human history.”

But in many ways, I think a better comparison would be to global historians such as Arnold Toynbee, who in his massive 12-volume Study of History traced the rise and fall of different world civilizations over the centuries. Toynbee’s work in turn is a response to traditional history that is based on considering individual countries as units.

In his book, Wade moves somewhat uneasily between racial groups and smaller entities, at first writing about distinctive characteristics of Caucasians but then later focusing on Europeans and “the West” as being distinct from Caucasians of the Middle East and India. Similarly, he moves away from considering East Asians as a race and instead focuses on Japan, China, and Korea, with other nationalities in the region being excluded from the favored club:

The Malay, Thai, or Indonesian populations who have prosperous Chinese populations in their midst might envy the Chinese success but are strangely unable to copy it. ... If Chinese business success were purely cultural, everyone should find it easy to adopt the same methods. This is not the case because social behavior, of Chinese and others, is genetically shaped.
I suspect that had this book been written 100 years ago, it would have featured strong views not on the genetic similarities but on the racial divides that explained the difference between the warlike Japanese and the decadent Chinese, as well as the differences between the German and French races. Nicholas Wade in 2014 includes Italy within the main European grouping, but the racial theorists of 100 years ago had strong opinions on the differences between northern and southern Europeans.

Nowadays, though, Europe seems more like a single culture, and China, Japan, and Korea don’t seem so different either, which allows for this sort of generalization:

Japan and China, two of [the West’s] chief economic rivals, show no present sign of being better innovators. ... No one can yet say exactly what patterns in the neural circuitry predispose European populations to prefer open societies and the rule of law to autocracies, or Chinese to be drawn to a system of family obligations, political hierarchy, and conformity. ... There is clearly a genetic propensity for following society’s rules and punishing those who violate them.
Indeed, Wade writes, “Without Western production efficiencies, the countries of East Asia might still be locked in stagnant autocracies.” Maybe, but I don’t think Toyota got where it is today by copying the production efficiencies of General Motors.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Race, again

From The Daily Mail:

World's leading geneticists attack 'racist' book based on their research: Work claims racial basis for behaviour and intelligence

Nearly 150 geneticists criticise contents of new book by Nicholas Wade

*  Science writer's work includes claims there is a biological basis for race

*  Leading geneticists claim he has 'misappropriated' research from their field

*  Mr Wade, an old Etonian, emigrated from Britain to America in 1970 

*  Leading geneticists from around the world have joined forces to slam a new book which claims there is a biological basis for racial differences in behaviour.

*  Nearly 150 geneticists have signed a letter condemning the book, written by science writer Nicholas Wade, called A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.

*  The book sparked controversy after claiming recent human evolution has led to racial differences in economic and social behaviour.

Nearly 150 geneticists have signed a letter condemning the book, written by science writer Nicholas Wade (left), called A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.

But some of the scientists on whom he based parts of his work have lashed out claiming the old Etonian - a former New York Times science editor - has ‘misappropriated’ elements of research from their field.

According the the book's description on the Amazon website, 'Wade argues that what we might call middle-class social traits: thrift, docility and nonviolence, have been slowly inculcated genetically within agrarian societies.

'Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews.'

The description continues: 'Wade believes deeply in the fundamental equality of all people but he is determined to investigate what new genetic science shows about how race relates to human history and traits, even if it courts controversy.'

In a letter to the New York Times Book Review, they wrote: 

Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development.

We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not.

We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures.

Prominent geneticists including Evan Eichler of the University of Washington, Seattle and Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona were among those who signed the letter.

According to the Independent, Mr Wade writes in his book that natural selection on the main continents has prompted differences in aspects of the function of the brain. 

A description of Nicholas Wade's new book on says his work includes 'findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations' (file picture)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Festival of Cultures TODAY

Well its time to have some fun on Saturday 16 August Norwich Mind celebrates its 10th anniversary of the Festival of Cultures, a colourful festival of the diverse food, music, crafts, culture, stories and history of the communities that live in our fine city.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Norwich Stop the War in London

From Lottie Carlton's photos of the Gaza Protest in London - 9th August 2014:

Thanks to Lottie Carlton

Monday, 11 August 2014

A Mammoth Adventure!

Walk alongside the West Runton Elephant

Wednesday 13th August 2:30 – 4:30
West Runton Beach, Water Lane

This Wednesday you can join us to celebrate the life of an historic elephant and experience the size of one of the largest and most iconic animals ever to have walked the planet.

Aircraft engineer Jeremy Moore has constructed an astonishing, life sized, 4 metre high model of the West Runton Elephant. Jeremy constructed the body from laminated pine and aero plywood. Tin House Arts have created the head, fashioned from woven white willow.

The result is a beautifully crafted, articulated model that, with the help of several Norfolk firemen, will walk along West Runton beach. The real elephant used to live there 700,000 years ago, when the area was covered by forest.

Joining in the celebration will be fossil and geology experts Richard Belson and Martin Warren, along with Margeret Hems and Tony Stuart, who helped excavate the real elephant's remains (1990-95).

A pay and display car park is available at end of Water Lane. Refreshments are available at Beach Café and there is no admission fee for this event.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Visitors flock to see The Wonder of Birds

Since The Wonder of Birds exhibition opened on 24 May, 39,000 people have visited Norwich Castle, compared with 32,000 in a similar period last year.

This stunning show has attracted national media attention best summed up in this quote from The Spectator, ‘…this is a real event in the museum world, and worth travelling to see.’

If you haven't seen it yet, there's still time, the exhibition is open until 14 September. And for an insight into the conservation of the exhibits and the challenges of hanging such a complex show click here.

This beautiful and compelling painting by Hans Holbein the Younger is one of the stars of the exhibition. Research suggests the subject in A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling is likely to have been Anne Lovell from East Harling in Norfolk.

Hans Holbein the Younger A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling © The National Gallery, London. Bought with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund and Mr J. Paul Getty Jnr (through the American Friends of the National Gallery, London), 1992

Inspired by Birds: Norwich Castle Open Art Show

Visitors have been snapping up original art work at Inspired by Birds, this year's Open Art Show. The works have been created by artists living and working in East Anglia - and all of it is for sale. To date we've sold 56 pieces worth over £10,000.

With prices for individual pieces starting from as little as £28, you might like to treat yourself.

Inspired by Birds runs until 31 August. 

Norwich Castle presents....

Three special events supporting The Wonder of Birds and Inspired by Birds.

Birdsong as Music: An Evening with Richard Mabey - Thurs 28 Aug, 6 to 8pm. Price £15, Musuems Pass £13.50.

Golden Gobblers: The Turkey in Art and Life - Weds 3 Sept, 5.45 to 8pm. Dr Tom Duncan presents this year's National Art Fund lecture. Price £12.

Why are Birds Wonderful? Sat 6 Sept, 10am to 4.30pm. A study day with writer and environmentalist Mark Cocker, who will lead a panel of expert speakers including Katrina van Grouw, Adrian Marsden, Mike Toms, Francesca Vanke and David Waterhouse. Price £30, Museums Pass £27; includes refreshments and lunch.

For details and to book tickets, telephone 01603 495897.

Free family holiday activities at Norwich Castle

Birds for all Seasons Mon 11 - Sat 16 August. Help create giant bird collages using fabulous designs created by mosaic artist Jon Page.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Event Day Friday 15 August. Go wild with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust for a day packed with wildlife talks, activities, things to make and plant, a quiz and animal face painting.

RSPB Event Day Thursday 21 August. The last of our wildlife-themed summer events with birdy face painting, mask making, storytelling and the RSPB's bird experts.

Don't forget, our Bird Brain programme of summer activities takes place every day during the school holiday!

What's On at Norwich Castle and the Norwich Museums

For full details of current exhibitions and events at Norwich Castle, Strangers' Hall and Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell download the What's On booklet.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Beyond the jingoism

Whilst mainstream media overheats on WWI memorabilia there is danger that the other side of the argument is being overlooked.

Not many media hours have been given to those who countered the jingoism of the time; the conscientious objectors, the pacifists, those against any war, and those who were against this war in particular. .

It took a great deal of courage and commitment to stand up against the forces leading to what we now call World War One. Those challenging the movement towards war were not treated kindly.

Time has thrown a new light upon those brave objectors, and arguably those against British mobilisation at the time were right. At the very least they made some good points.  WWI destroyed a generation, an economy and a way of life. Most of us know of family forebears from that time who died, who were horribly damaged, or who were left bereft.

More attention should have been paid to those warning against war in 1914. Those voices should be remembered today.

At least one activist from Norwich was determined to remind others of the forgotten few who spoke out against WWI.

Ellen Nierop wrote: 
(The) WW1 commemoration at the Forum in Norwich had no mention of opposition to the war in any of its exhibitions and displays.

I made a sign with "conscientious objector" on and held it next to the 'Recruiting Office' mock up.

The organisers were initially negative and refused to take on board how disgracefully one sided it was, but after two hours of complaints, debate and discussion one of the gentlemen re-enacting as a recruiting officer showed me a copy of a newspaper dated August 5th 1914 with a full page anti-war message.

The organisers argument that the event was commemorating only the first day, and COs only existed after conscription, and how it wasn't putting across political sides was all forgotten by them.

I showed it to them, asked them to photocopy it, and they did so and put it up on a board with an apology for not putting across both sides as it had not come up in their discussions and asked me to get involved in future events to put across the CO view.

Big thanks to the chap in the photo who goes round schools and educated about the war, dressed as he was today, or as a medic or as a conscientious objector. He had the newspaper copy which I never would have seen otherwise. 
At least the organisers at The Forum did eventually listen to Ellen and displayed proof that there were those voices against War from the very beginning.  Many thanks to the gentleman who found the page.

Ellen adds:
If anyone has other knowledge of anti war WW1 resources please (let me know through comments below) so I can send it on. They will be doing many other events over the next 4 years so its good to get it out there...

Please raise awareness of the anti war perspective at any WW1 events where you live.
Local teachers covering the topic in class and curators of smaller local museums with a WWI display, please do not forget the other side of the jingoism. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Reporting UK Internet Hate Crime and Abuse

From Stand Up to Hate:

There is a common belief amongst UK internet users that anything can be posted or said on-line if the website is hosted abroad.

For instance it is believed that racism, homophobia, threats of violence, incitement to religious hatred etc cannot be acted on by the British Law enforcement agencies or the UK justice system if it is posted on You Tube, Facebook, Twitter etc, because they are American owned companies and therefore come under their “Free Speech Laws”.

Recently a number of convictions in the UK have proven this to be a common myth and a lie.

Material (videos, documents, music etc) posted on any site anywhere in the world by a person in the UK still falls under the “Obscene Publications Act 1959 and 1964” and therefore the person posting it is liable to arrest and prosecution.

Comments or posts deemed to be of a racist, homophobic, slanderous, religious hatred or violent nature are also breaches of UK law no matter where the site is hosted and are a breach of the UK’s “Communications Act 2003”.

Both laws have been used to arrest and convict people posting on foreign hosted and foreign owned website.
This post outlines the laws and gives people the relevant information on how to gather evidence of a breach of these laws, how and where to report them.

Gathering Evidence and Making a Report

The more information you can supply the stronger the case the police and the Crown Prosecution Service will have to prosecute the person. If you follow the steps below they should have all the information they will need.

1) Record all relevant information about the item. This information should include; what website it is posted on, who posted it, the date of upload (if shown) and any comments.

2) Write down how the item makes you feel. This is a handy piece of information to give the police, they will ask.

3) If possible copy the source item. This may mean copying the image, video or music as it may be removed before the police see it and they will want a copy. If it's abusive comments please follow the instructions in point 4.

To copy an image right click on it then select "save image as".

To copy a video or music item, please Google the website name followed by "download". Select a website that will do the download rather than software and follow the instructions.

We do not advocate copyright theft and items should only be copied to aid the police in catching the culprit.

We will suggest some sites at the bottom of this article to help.

4) Take screenshots of the item. Still images in all cases will be of help. Please visit this site that gives full instructions on how to take a screen capture.
5) When you have done all this contact your local police department via the link below. You can do it via email or telephone. Give them the full details about the item and the evidence you have gathered.

That's it

The UK law enforcement agencies have the ability and legal right to find where that person is located, so don’t worry about the logistics of how it’s done.

Don’t listen to lies; the incitement to religious hatred is a crime!

The incitement to religious hatred or religious intolerance falls under UK anti-Racism legislation. And thusly is also a breach of the United Kingdoms laws.

Please check out a few news items that demonstrate how these laws have been used to arrest, prosecute and convict online hate promoters and abusers.

From recent Norwich Pride Rally

Monday, 4 August 2014

Norwich Stop the War to demonstrate in London

As even more people are killed in the current conflict between Israel and Gaza, some in Norwich are organising in serious protest.

First there is a free performance tomorrow night - 

And then there is a coach to take demonstrators from Norwich to London on Saturday -

Norwich Stop the War will be taking a coach to the national demo on Saturday Here are the updated details: 



TICKETS £12 / £10 concession / £15 solidarity
(Our main concern is to fill the coach. Anyone who wants to go and is
worried about the cost should speak to Rita. If you cannot come please
consider a donation)

Tickets can be purchased at Greenhouse, Bethel Street, Norwich or call
Rita on 01986 897082 or 07906093354.

If you have a list of contacts feel free to forward this to them.

Earlier this week Norwich Stop the War protested outside the BBC at Norwich Forum about their biased coverage of the conflict in Gaza (photo courtesy of Lottie Carlton)

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Festival of Cultures 2014

Norwich MIND are holding their 10th Festival of Cultures 

Saturday 16th August, 11 am to 4pm

The Millennium Plain at The Forum
There will be music, dance, and foods from around the world, Time to Change Cinema, Health and Wellbeing info and Complementary Therapies.

Please come along and join in with a great day.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Forum & Millennium Library

From Norwich Millennium-Library:

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Norwich Central Library fire. Over 150,000 books were lost and library customers and staff spent many years using and working in temporary library set ups. 

The library fire was a terrible event for the city, but it's a testament to the good folk of Norwich and Norfolk that we could turn such a tragedy around - here we are in 2014, we're now in the Forum and the Millennium Library has become the busiest public library in the country. Not bad for a small city in a little corner of England!

British fascism weakened

From Searchlight by Sonia Gable:

The resignations of Nick Griffin from the chairmanship of the British National Party and James Dowson from the leaderships of Britain First are welcome and will weaken British fascism.

Griffin, who stepped down from his position on Saturday 19 July, had presided over the big growth and subsequent decline of the BNP since he was elected party leader in 1999. The party started its run of council election wins in 2002 (apart from one short-lived success in 1993) and at its peak had around 60 councillors. Griffin’s biggest victory was his election to the European Parliament in 2009, along with Andrew Brons.

But Griffin was always divisive. His period as chairman was marked by internal strife, which Griffin always survived but which weakened the party. He even managed to fall out with Brons, meaning that the two were unable to maximise the benefit of their election as MEPs – thankfully.

Whether Griffin went of his own accord or was pushed is unclear – probably a bit of both. There were always calls for his removal, but he had his own group of supporters in powerful party positions.

Griffin claims his departure was his own decision. In his resignation statement he says he had intended to hand over the chairmanship some time ago, and it is true that he did express that wish a few years ago. He says he stayed on to help the party through a concerted attempt to destroy it, and that his two aims – to make the party financially stable and to end “a four-year electoral drought” – have been achieved.

He may technically have ended an electoral drought by virtue of the re-election of one BNP councillor this year, but the party now only has two councillors nationally and its vote in this year’s European elections was derisory. Whether any more BNP councillors will be elected is doubtful. Strangely Griffin claims Brian Parker’s election to Pendle council was in June, when in fact it occurred in May: an indication of Griffin’s detachment from British politics?

Griffin remains as BNP president, a new position created for himself. He claims it will enable him to give his successor, Adam Walker, “advice and support” and that he will still speak at party meetings, write for party publications and generally play an active role. Whether Walker will want Griffin constantly looking over his shoulder is unclear.

Possibly more useful to Griffin is having a title behind him in his new role. Griffin has for several months preposterously claimed sole credit for Britain not declaring war on Syria and now intends to build on his “historic intervention” with “a very much harder campaign to expose and resist the latest neo-con campaign to herd the public into confrontation and conflict with Russia”.

Griffin has been friendly towards Russian President Vladimir Putin for some time. In December 2011 he visited Russia to observe the state parliament elections and declared that Russian elections were “much fairer than Britain’s”. And in 2007 Griffin went on a speaking tour in the USA that was arranged by a wealthy American far-right extremist called Preston Wigington, who has extensive links with Russian fascists.

During his period as an MEP Griffin built many links with European fascists with whom he now wants to “build a pan-European campaign for peace and to resist the utter evil of those who seem hell-bent on plunging us into another world war, against the last bastion of our race on the planet”.

In case anyone doesn’t quite get his meaning, Griffin spells out his target: “the neo-con drive to make the world safe for US oil giants, the internal banks, global corporations and Zionist supremacism”. Back to old-fashioned antisemitism then.

As for Walker, who succeeds to the leadership by means of Griffin appointing him deputy leader immediately before his resignation, he is hardly less divisive than Griffin. There is no love lost between Walker and the BNP’s treasurer Clive Jefferson, which bodes ill for the party’s future financial health.

And a party that really wanted to be taken seriously would hardly appoint as leader a man who last year was banned from teaching for life after he after he admitted verbally abusing three pupils and slashing their bicycle tyres with a knife.

To cap it all, Walker’s first public act as BNP leader was to insult Britain’s war dead by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japanese war criminals responsible for the deaths of thousands of Allied troops and civilians during the Second World War.

Griffin’s claim that he made the party financially stable has an element of validity though the party remains heavily dependent on legacies from dead members, hardly a reliable source of income. The BNP would be doing even better financially had not Searchlight helped the sons of a dead BNP supporter prevent their father’s estate worth £389,000 going to the fascist party.

As it is, the party managed to make a profit of £160,000 in 2013 despite increasing staff costs, by spending very little on campaigning and avoiding paying past legal expenses, a policy that resulted in Griffin’s personal bankruptcy at the beginning of 2014. The BNP is still insolvent but to a lesser extent than before and to some extent the insolvency is technical – the result of provisions rather than actual debts, though the party still owes too much to HM Revenue and Customs.

One interesting point is the revelation in the 2013 accounts that the party has set aside £56,467 as a “future wage guarantee fund”. A note to the accounts states that “certain funds have been set aside to meet future guaranteed salaries, these funds will be applied over the next four years”. Whose salaries are being guaranteed is not revealed. It may be members of Griffin’s family: Griffin’s daughter and her husband have positions in the party. Or it could be salaries of key Griffin allies or even Griffin himself who, since losing his seat in the European Parliament and being declared bankrupt, appears to have no means of support.

A full analysis of the BNP accounts will appear in the next issue of Searchlight.

One man who had a huge impact on the BNP financially was James Dowson. Over the three years he was associated with the BNP he raised nearly £2 million for the party, and for a period in effect owned the BNP, a conclusion I reached after analysing the BNP’s finances. The money went to Griffin’s head and he spent far more on profligate legal actions and other ventures, resulting in the BNP’s and his own insolvency. After parting company with Griffin, Dowson went into business with the former BNP councillor Paul Golding and a small bunch of Islamophobes to form Britain First, which has punched its way into the news by invading mosques to distribute so-called British Army Bibles.

No doubt it was Dowson’s fundraising that paid for the Bibles and activists’ travel to the group’s target mosques, and his departure, announced on 27 July, is therefore welcome. Britain First’s importance has been greatly overstated, in some instances by anti-fascists looking for a raison d'être after the demise of the BNP. Nevertheless Britain First certainly had the ability to cause community tension.

Interviewed by the Mirror, Dowson, who professes Christianity, albeit of the rabid anti-Catholic Orangeman variety, said: 
No matter how many times I told him [Paul Golding] I did not want decent Muslims intimidated, he just continued doing it.

I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I tried, you cannot escape from the fact that the group is being overrun with racists and extremists. I think he is fooling himself and lots of people that Britain First is a Christian group. Sadly, it has just become a violent front for people abusing the Bible.
We can only agree with Dowson's conclusion about Britain First’s false Christianity, except for the fact that it was never anything else. Dowson was misguided (at best) in being taken in by Golding and his Islamophobic comrades.

In his resignation statement Dowson announces his “retirement from all political activities forthwith”, claiming that he wanted to concentrate on his family. Dowson has a history of moving from one extremist venture to another so we can only wait and see whether he really has retired. If he really is a Christian, I hope he takes some time to consider the true meaning of Christian love. Be a Christian evangelist and moral crusader by all means but gentle persuasion is better than force. Imposing faith by violence is intolerable whoever does it. And fascism and racism are wholly contrary to Christian principles, whatever some fascists and racists might claim.