Archive for August, 2012

This is a wonderful piece on a subject I never knew existed

Mind Hacks

An amazing description of how sociologists who wanted to do field studies in Belfast during the height of The Troubles were put through some seemingly routine but terrifying vetting by the IRA to check they were up to the job.

The piece is from an article by Lorraine Dowler, who starts by recounting a tale from legendary social scientist Frank Burton.

Burton worked extensively amid the violence of Belfast and woke up one morning to find someone was pointing a sub-machine gun in his face and suggesting he was a “Four Square Laundry job” an allusion to being an army spy.

Dowler continues:

Thanks to his dangerous and frightening experiences in West Belfast, Frank Burton’s ethnographic research on Northern Ireland is considered legendary. At first glance the incident Burton describes would seem mad to anyone who has not spent time living and working in the Catholic ghettos of Belfast…

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“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits; the rebels; the troublemakers; the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently; they’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things: They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Apple Inc.

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Comparing the problems of France’s social integration with the Euro Zone as a whole.


The rioting that rocked the French city of Amiens on Aug. 13 and 14 was a grim reminder that little has changed since 2005, when the exclusion and alienation of France’s blighted housing projects exploded in violence that spread across the country. France, the world then discovered, was a seriously divided country. It still is. And despite billions spent on housing renovation and infrastructure improvement in some of France’s worst neighborhoods, the eruption in Amiens this week was another demonstration that the gap between mainstream society and its blighted banlieues remains as large as ever.

But France and its discontents are also a microcosm for the instability in the euro zone. Like France, the 17-country collective is in reality a fractured grouping of have and have-not members whose economic, employment and wealth imbalances are increasingly untenable. And in both the French and euro-zone crises, resolutions requiring a…

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In his recent podcast George Galloway (in relation to the Julian Assange case) put forward the argument that if a woman agrees to sleep with a man and has sex with him “during the night” the man has a right to have sex again when the woman sleeps and he contends that this secondary act is not rape.

While George can argue that the woman has consented to sex and therefore is available again for the man’s gratification without him asking, George is of course dangerously wrong. UK law insists that rape or sexual assault during marriage is wrong and although marrying/co-habiting may imply both sides intend sex; this does not in law signify any one partner consents to sex at any time in any form.

A man can never assume permission to engage in sex; rape may lead to unwanted pregnancy leaving the woman in an intolerable situation and removes her right to ensure protection is in place, and in the situation above assumes the woman considers the original act was something she wanted repeating. She may not want that and may have disliked it and hated the experience.

George and others probably think the UK Law is misplaced but we would be going back to the dark ages if we changed the law to comply with his thoughts and the crass manners of Julian Assange.


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As usual in Politics nothing is straight forward and most is just smoke and mirrors. The Wikileaks and Julian Assange running from extradition to Sweden is a very good example. Each day the tangled web comes to the fore as protagonists dig in. The UK Government have found itself right in the middle of this one. The following published by The New York Times 19th August 2012 written by Anita Isaacs who is a professor of political science at Haverford College and the author of “The Politics of Military Rule and Transition in Ecuador.”

Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks wanted in Sweden for questioning over claims of rape and sexual molestation, has put the country in a political standoff with Britain, where he is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy.

But the confusion in London has, in fact, little if anything to do with Ecuadorean-British relations and everything to do with regional and local politics in the Western Hemisphere. And it has little to do with protecting Mr Assange’s right to a fair trial or freedom of the press — which Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has trampled upon at home.

Instead, it is an attempt by Mr Correa to settle old scores with the United States, display his political prowess in the run-up to Ecuadorean presidential elections next year and make a power play for a leadership role on the Latin American left.

Despite its avowed leftist leanings, the Ecuadorean government maintained relatively cordial relations with the United States during the early years of the Correa administration, which many attributed to Mr Correa, who took office in early 2007, having obtained a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was warmly received while on an official visit in June 2010, during which Mr Correa reportedly described his American experience as the “happiest four years of my life.”

That relationship soured in early April 2011, when the Ecuadorean government expelled the American ambassador, Heather M. Hodges, angered by comments she had made in confidential cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, in which she accused Mr Correa of appointing a corrupt police chief in order to have someone in the post “whom he could easily manipulate.”

The topic of the cable was particularly sensitive given the timing: Mr Correa had just survived the greatest challenge to his presidency — and an attempt on his life — in the form of a police mutiny following the passage of legislation designed to standardize pay for public employees, which would have curtailed pay and benefits for the police force.

The United States retaliated by declaring the Ecuadorean ambassador in Washington persona non grata. In an interview conducted with Mr Assange in June 2012, Mr Correa also expressed his anger at the “imperialist attitude” of Ms Hodges, who refused to either apologize or retract her comments.

While the two countries have new ambassadors in place, the wound remains raw. The opportunity to settle a grudge with the United States by refusing to deliver Julian Assange to authorities in either Sweden or the United States, where he could be charged with leaking classified documents, was simply too good to miss.

In asserting Ecuadorean sovereignty and defying the United States, President Correa is also vying for hemispheric leadership. The declining health of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, who has been battling cancer for over a year now, has created a potential opening in Latin America for someone else to move in as the standard-bearer of leftist, populist and nationalist opposition to the United States.

Indeed, a growing number of countries in Central and South America and beyond, including Colombia and Uruguay appear willing to risk antagonizing the United States by advocating alternative solutions to drug-related violence, including legalizing drugs. Until now Mr Correa has been a marginal voice in these debates, and hovering in Mr Chávez’s shadow in general. Thus his decision to thumb his nose at Washington by granting asylum to Mr Assange enables Ecuador to seize the political limelight.

It helps, too, that this is a low-risk venture for Mr Correa at home, with the possibility of significant political returns. Elected president twice, initially in 2006 and again following the passage of constitutional reforms in 2009, he is already the longest-serving president since Ecuador’s return to democracy in 1997. Given that he has a 57 per cent approval rating and a deeply fragmented political opposition, Mr Correa’s chances for re-election in February 2013 are strong.

Mr Correa’s trademark populist and confrontational style, displayed in his refusal to stand down in the face of a mutiny, serves to shore up his standing in a country with a long tradition of authoritarian politics. Granting Mr Assange asylum provides a politically timely reminder of Mr Correa’s leadership style at home — and his potential for regional leadership beyond Ecuador’s borders.

Whatever you think of Julian Assange and his publishing of sensitive US documents without considering the consequences he has found an ally thanks to the harm these cables caused between the US and Ecuador.




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Think in time the SA Government will look back on this as a massive error

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Well I for one thoroughly enjoyed the London Olympics 2012 and hats off to all the medallists, especially those from Yorkshire who did us all proud. And not to forget that you can win medals sitting down, in fact GB won 35 medals in the sitting position. No idea if that’s a record but it did gladden my heart in some strange way, and as most of us will have watched it sitting down (with drink in hand) it is apt.

A gripe? Oh…only one, I couldn’t listen to BBC 5Live because of “rights issues”; yes the wonder days of internet for everyone have long gone, and we should mourn that.

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