These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 26, 2009.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
BMI told stewardess to wear Muslim robe
From The Sunday Times
A BRITISH air stewardess was sacked for refusing to fly to Saudi Arabia after she was ordered to wear a traditional Islamic robe and walk behind male colleagues.
Lisa Ashton, a £15,000-a-year stewardess with BMI, was told that in public areas in Saudi Arabia she was required to wear a black robe, known as an abaya. This covers everything but the face, feet and hands. She was told to follow her male colleagues, irrespective of rank.
Ashton refused to fly there, claiming the instructions were discriminatory. She was sacked last April.
“It’s not the law that you have to walk behind men in Saudi Arabia, or that you have to wear an abaya, and I’m not going to be treated as a second-class citizen. It’s outrageous. I’m a proud Englishwoman and I don’t want these restrictions placed on myself.”
Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.
Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.
Ashton joined BMI in March 1996, flying to the Caribbean, the United States and India. Based in Manchester, she was told in the summer of 2005 that BMI was starting a service to Saudi Arabia and she might be required to work on it.
The Foreign Office was then advising visitors of a “threat of terrorism” in the country. Ashton did not want to travel there because of the security risks, and was offended by the rules for staff travelling to the region.
A BMI document circulated to staff who might travel to Saudi Arabia stated: “It is expected that female crew members will walk behind their male counterparts in public areas such as airports no matter what rank.”
Staff were also given abayas and were required to put them on when leaving the aircraft. Ashton, a practising Christian, was advised by union officials that it was considered a part of the uniform and she could face disciplinary action if she did not wear it. Why doesn't it surprise me that her Union failed to stand up for her?
Ashton said she did not want to fly to Saudi Arabia, but wished to continue flying long-haul routes. The firm said she could transfer to short-haul flights but that would have meant a pay cut of about 20%. She declined to switch to short-haul flights.
On June 13, 2007, she was told she was rostered for a flight from London to Saudi Arabia and refused to go. She was dismissed for refusing to fly and for making it clear she would not travel to Saudi Arabia.
Her letter of dismissal said it was “proportionate” to ask female employees to walk behind men out of respect for Saudi culture. BMI has also defended its decision to require female staff to wear abayas. Many air stewards are gay men - were they given any directions as to how to behave under the Saudi regime? The Foreign Office advises women to dress “conservatively” but does not specifically advise wearing an abaya in public places. It also does not refer to any rule or convention that western women should walk behind men.
In a legal case in 2002 Colonel Martha McSally launched a legal action over American military orders that female servicewomen should wear an abaya in public places in Saudi Arabia when American women diplomats and the wives of servicemen were not expected to wear the garment. The Senate subsequently passed legislation that prohibited defence officials from requiring female personnel to wear abayas.
In the employment tribunal decision over Ashton’s case it was ruled there was no evidence that women would regard BMI’s requirements on wearing the abaya, or walking behind men, as “placing them under any disadvantage”. Ashton’s case was dismissed.
The firm said last week the tribunal ruling was “self-explanatory” and would not comment.
Posted on 04/26/2009 4:50 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Ben Franklin Rides In Again
Benjamin Franklin actually was a great man – an incomparable polymath and a man with an insatiable curiosity. Over at Science Daily there is this article about the recent discovery of some of his letters in the British Library by Prof. Alan Houston of the University of California, San Diego. Do read it for it sheds a little light on history:
“...the letters are copies of correspondence that hasn't been seen in more than 250 years. All dating from the spring and summer of 1755, the 47 letters by, to and about Franklin are in the hand of one Thomas Birch, a contemporary of Franklin's who was a prodigious – almost inveterate – compiler and transcriber of historical documents.
They are being published for the first time in the April issue of the William and Mary Quarterly.
The letters concern Franklin's involvement in the first phase of the French and Indian War, specifically General Edward Braddock and what Franklin later called the ‘wagon affair.’ “
"...the sheer existence of these letters, sitting quietly on the shelves of the British Library for nearly 250 years, poses a tantalizing question. Franklin spent 18 years – more than 20 percent of his life – in the United Kingdom. How many other treasures await to be found?"
Many more treasures await discovery by zealous and meticulous scholars, I hope. There is a small personal touch in these letters, also:
“On an entirely different note, a letter from Franklin to Deborah reveals a smidge more marital warmth,” said Houston, "than is often allowed."
For me, it is good to have proof that Ben Franklin loved and was loved in return. It somehow makes that great man more human, more accessible to my imagination. He was one of the shapers of history and now we know just a little more about him thanks to Professor Houston’s ‘protestant work ethic’ and the obsessive nature of Thomas Birch!
Posted on 04/26/2009 6:26 AM by John M. Joyce
Sunday, 26 April 2009
The bleedin' obvious
The bleedin' obvious is the subject of a Telegraph opinion piece by Nigel Lawson, who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Thatcher years, revived our economy by cutting the top rate of income tax to 40%. This, as was obvious at the time except to stupid Socialists (is there any other kind of Socialist?), increased the overall tax take by stimulating hard work and reducing tax avoidance.
When, in March 1988, I abolished all the income tax rates, then ranging up to 60 per cent, above the 40 per cent level (along with announcing a number of other income tax cuts, all in the context of a substantial budget surplus: how far-off those days now seem), it was before New Labour had been invented. So it was perhaps not surprising, if highly regrettable, that the old Labour benches opposite me erupted in such loud-mouthed disorder that the sitting of the House had to be suspended: the only Budget speech by any Chancellor that has ever been interrupted in this way.
But despite its somewhat controversial launch, it was to prove highly successful. Far from costing money to the exchequer, it brought in increased revenue, as many of the ablest came to London from less benign tax regimes overseas; as many perks were abandoned in favour of higher pay; and as complex tax avoidance diminished. Indeed, the tax take from the highest paid (defined as the top 5 per cent of taxpayers) not only increased substantially in absolute terms, but it contributed a very much higher proportion of the total income tax take than ever before. And although it is not possible to measure this, it undoubtedly gave a fillip to the vigour and success of the British economy.
And now it has been raised all the way to 50 per cent. This not only demonstrates that New Labour manifesto pledges are not worth the paper they are written on: it will be economically damaging. So far from contributing to narrowing the yawning deficit in the public finances, it will increase it as the highest paid move to more benign tax jurisdictions overseas, or else engage more actively in tax avoidance, of which the conversion of income into less highly taxed capital gain is only the most obvious of many examples.
Who would have predicted, incidentally, that Gordon Brown's principal contribution to restructuring the tax system – apart from making it horrendously more complex – would be to increase the taxation of earnings and reduce that on capital gains?
Far from being "incidental", this is all of a piece. Many in the Labour Government and their supporters are very well-heeled. They may earn less, or not much more, than the £150,000 a year at which the punitive taxes bite, but they are cushioned by inherited wealth, often in the form of second or third homes, from the full impact of Labour's disastrous economic policies. Increases in capital gains tax would hit them hard, while increased income tax punishes the City trader from a humble background who lives solely on what he earns, and whom the champagne Socialist can sneer at from the comfort of the Hampstead mansion Daddy bought for him.
Nigel Lawson is too kind to Tony Blair for not raising income tax when New Labour came to power. Blair and New Labour, for all their talk of supporting business, are Socialist, and the party's true colours were bound to show sooner or later. Socialism always, always leads to ruin. It has been discredited everywhere it has been tried. America has escaped it so far, but Obama looks set to make the same mistakes as his European counterparts, and shows no ability or willingness to learn from history.
Posted on 04/26/2009 7:48 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 26 April 2009
KSM On The Lecture Tour
The controversy over whether "harsh" interrogation techniques enabled us to thwart a second wave of attacks continues. But since those attacks didn't happen, we will probably never know for certain why they didn't happen. What is certain, is that more attacks will occur in the future since we have blindly allowed Muslim immigration and visa programs to accelerate since 9/11. WaPo:
It is unclear from unclassified reports whether the information gained was critical in foiling actual plots. Mohammed later told outside interviewers that he was "forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop" and that he "wasted a lot of their time [with] several false red-alerts being placed in the U.S.," according to the Red Cross, whose officials interviewed Mohammed and other detainees after they were transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2006.
The CIA's reviews of the value of its program remain classified, and any final assessment will probably await a painstaking, forensic accounting of the program.
A 2005 memo by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel said that Mohammed and Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, an al-Qaeda associate who was also subjected to coercive interrogation, have been "pivotal sources because of their ability and willingness to provide their analysis and speculation about the capabilities, methodologies and mindsets of terrorists."
Counterterrorism officials also said the two men and other captured suspects provided critical information about senior al-Qaeda figures and identified hundreds of al-Qaeda members, associates and financial backers.
The accumulation and triangulation of information also allowed officials to vet the intelligence they were receiving and to push other prisoners toward making full and frank statements.
[Khalid Sheik] Mohammed continued to be a valued source of information long after the coercive interrogation ended. Indeed, he has gone on to lecture CIA agents in a classroom-like setting, on topics from Greek philosophy to the structure of al-Qaeda, and wrote essays in response to questions, according to sources familiar with his time in detention.
Does anybody remember that this man is responsible for the cold blooded murder of 3,000 U.S. citizens? It's been eight years. Why is he still breathing?
Posted on 04/26/2009 8:19 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Yes you can!
In the second part of my article on Islamic reform (coming soon), I observe that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I didn't know until I googled that this apophthegm was one of Swift's. What's more, he was wrong:
Massachusetts industrialist Arthur D. Little liked a challenge. In 1921, after hearing someone quote Jonathan Swift's adage, "You can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear," Little decided to try to do just that. From a meat-packer he obtained a form of glue made from the skin and gristle of sows' ears. Taking an amount roughly equivalent to one sow's ear, he had it filtered and forced through a spinneret into a mixture of formaldehyde and acetone. The glue emerged as 16 fine, colorless streams that hardened and then combined to form a single composite fiber. Little soaked the fiber in dyed glycerin. Then he wove the resulting thread into cloth on a handloom-and fashioned the cloth into the elegant purse shown here, the kind of item carried by ladies of the Middle Ages.
In future posts I will tackle the subject of beggars becoming choosers and old dogs learning new tricks. Change you can believe in.
Posted on 04/26/2009 8:36 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Off the Deep End, Ahmadinejad Thinks He's Waving Not Drowning
Posted on 04/26/2009 11:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Part of Birmingham evacuated after kidnap victim found in car surrounded by canisters
From The Times
Homes and factories have been evacuated and a no-fly zone imposed over a spot on the outskirts of Birmingham today after a man was found in a car with his hands bound and “canisters” surrounding his body, police said.
West Midlands Police said the man was spotted by a passing lorry driver on a road in an industrial area of Birmingham at about 10.20am.
Police, fire crews, an Army bomb disposal team and trained negotiators were at the scene in Saltley.
Later from The Press Association
A man who was found in a car with his hands bound and surrounded by gas canisters had been kidnapped, police said.
West Midlands Police said the Asian man had been put in the car against his will and told that it contained a bomb.
Chief Superintendent Tom Coughlan said the man had been safely removed from the vehicle and was now being treated in hospital for a suspected broken leg.
Posted on 04/26/2009 1:20 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Lady Justice, losing her sense of balance
I'm not even going to try to "sic" this article, but I think the underlying points are clear. From the YemenPost.net:
A man hold Yemeni nationality considered the prime suspect in the 2007 murder of a retired Weston Lakes school teacher is to hand over to Yemen, U.S sources familiar with the case said.
According to New York Department of Corrections records and news accounts Saeed did prison time for a similar crime committed in January 1999 on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Niagara County, New York.
Similarly, the Buffalo News story reported that Saeed and another man forced their way at knifepoint into the home of a 65-year-old tobacco store owner handcuffed him, cut his cheek with a knife and shot him twice with a stun gun while looking for money.
Saeed was arrested a month later in Michigan, returned to New York to face trial, convicted of attempted robbery charges and spent about two and a half years in a state prison before being paroled in June 2002, according to New York Department of Corrections records.
After the Weston Lakes school teacher's murder, detectives followed leads indicating Saeed may have been in or around New Orleans; Baton Rouge, La.; the Bronx in New York; and Dearborn, Mich. None of those leads panned out.
On Wednesday, sources familiar with the case said Saeed is rumored to be in Yemen, However, Yemeni analyst who spoke in anonymity said that the rumor is to be validated as Yemen is known to fight terrorists, and is friendly to the United States.
Right. Well, he's definitely not in Yemen, then.
Two and a half years for torture and robbery at knifepoint, then it's (allegedly) on to murder, and olly-olly-home-free, back to Yemen.
Meanwhile, in California alone, in 2004 there were 672 people in prison for life, for possession of marijuana under the three-strikes law. True, Saeed is only on his second strike.
And meanwhile, the filthy kufir police are busy spending their resources looking for him in 4 cities across the U.S. I can't shake the feeling that something is not quite right with our legal system. The acronym FUBAR keeps popping into my head for some reason.
Posted on 04/26/2009 1:14 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Al-Qaeda group in threat to kill British hostage unless Abu Qatada freed
From The Sunday Times
Al-Qaeda in North Africa has threated to kill a British hostage unless the UK government releases Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim preacher in custody in a British jail.
The terror group said in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site today that it will execute the tourist, who has been held by the group since late January, if Abu Qatada is not freed within 20 days.
Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian, was jailed in Britain in 2002 accused of links with militant groups but was released in 2005. He was re-arrested and is pending deportation to Jordan where he was sentenced to life in prison in absentia.
Four tourists, including two Swiss, a German woman and a British man, were kidnapped by gunmen on January 22 in Niger, their tour operator said. It is understood that they was seized near the border between Niger and Mali while they were returning from a music festival in the Sahara desert.
Posted on 04/26/2009 2:02 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 26 April 2009
As I left a particularly healthy and telescopically philanthropic supermarket -- Whole Foods -- today, I saw just ahead of me, going out to the parking lot, a tall man in sandals, khaki shorts, T-shirt and rimless glasses. He was exceptionally thin, and his thinness was of a kind I have come to recognize: that of the intelligent, hyper-rational maniac, possibly a computer millionaire, who has decided that by taking in only 1200 calories a day, and many vitamins and minerals, and having a blood transfusion every month or so, he has a good chance of living forever, and for all I know, he will. Beato lui. No skin off my teeth. But it was the bumpersticker on his small car -- not the one for Obama '08 but the other one, the one that read "War Is Not The Answer"-- that attracted my attention, and annoyed me no end.
I stood there, thinking now's my chance. I'll just casually mosey on right by his car, on the driver's side, as he sits there fastening his seat-belt and fussily finishes doing all those infuriating little things that other drivers do -- not you, definitely not you, but others -- when you are waiting so patiently for them to vacate a parking space. And then, just as I pass his window, I'll slow down just a bit, and I'll lean toward him very slightly and say, in reference to that bumpersticker, "Surely that depends on the question" and then move on, not staying for an answer, having struck a blow for language and the truth. But I didn't. Today, this very April afternoon, I was uncharacteristically quiet. I don't know what's happened to me. It goes against so much that I believe in. For most of my life I have operated on the principle that I don't want to give even the appearance of propriety. And here I was, holding my tongue, exercising self-control, displaying tact.
Why? What could it be?
Could it be that I was suddenly stricken with a case of "this minute I am well, and am ill, this minute"? Possible inflammation of the gland that controls tact? This is worrisome. Must take some double-strength ibuprofen tonight. Must cause the inflammation to subside. Must hope this passes.
Posted on 04/26/2009 2:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 26 April 2009
From Miles Taylor's entry at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, via (and perhaps edited by) Pickled Politics:
The character John Bull first appeared in 1712 in the work The History of John Bull, authored by John Arbuthnot, Queen Anne’s physician. In this satirical work of fiction Bull was a minor cloth trader, “who found himself embroiled in a law suit with his European neighbours; Nicholas Frog (the Dutch), Lewis Baboon (Louis Bourbon of France), Philip Baboon (the king of Spain), Esquire South (the Austrian archduke), Sister Peg (Scotland), and various others.” The work was meant as an attack on Whig foreign policy and on the financiers who were benefiting from English intervention in Europe (in the War of the Spanish Succession). John Bull wasn’t the first English character to be portrayed as an “archetypal Englishman; blunt, irritable, and prone to take to the bottle, nor the first association of Englishness with bovine characteristics: the bull, the ox, and beef had often symbolized the English nation.” However, he would eventually come to symbolise those traits.
By the 1760s, depictions of John Bull depended on who was drawing him, and for what purpose. Bull was usually shown to be a nationalist, but not one who cared much for war, as that meant higher taxes. As Miles Taylor puts it, his enemies (The Scots, the French) might change, but “his reputation as a down-to-earth, liberty-loving, beer-drinking, and pugnacious admirer of all things English remained intact.” Only a few cartoonists, alarmed at the radicalism of the French revolution (1790s), depicted John Bull as a negative embodiment of democracy; common and coarse. Interestingly, even when drawn in a positive way, John Bull also had severe shortcomings: he was easily tricked by schemers, and lacked any real foresight. Thus he wasn’t so much the ideal Englishman as perhaps the epitome of the ways in which many English saw themselves.
In the immediate post Napoleonic war period (after 1815), some radical cartoonists turned John Bull into their standard bearer, as the tax-loathing, free-born, honest, hard-working man presented a nice contrast to the decadent and over-mighty ruling elite. The ruling elite meanwhile tried to claim him as their own, such as when John Bull tired to help the reactionary George IV obtain a divorce. By the mid-19th century however, John Bull was less of a politically-charged figure. He was now as largely politically neutral, with the Punch cartoons of the 1840s giving us the squire that most of us associate with John Bull today: “a portly, ruddy-cheeked and side-whiskered farmer, with boots and a shabby hat, and an aggressive mastiff at his side.”
For much of the 19th century, negative portrayals of John Bull were left up to foreigners, with John Bull presented as an aggressive English imperialist, taking what he wanted when he could, especially in the non-European world. Arguably this negative, xenophobic image has become incredibly important, as today the sort of people who summon up John Bull are not the low-tax individualists, but the BNP and their ilk (another symbol they have managed to steal).
Yet near the end of the 19th century, John Bull was again becoming politicised in Britain. As more people got the vote in 1884, the idea that a minor squire could epitomise their nature seemed outdated. John Bull’s perceived nationalism then came under attack during the Boer war at the turn of the century. For Canon Scott Holland at the time, the John Bull stereotype was “ludicrously obsolete- fat in an age when the fat man’s day is past and gone. John Bull has no brains. He embodies, in his fatuous good-humour, in his farmer’s suit, in his obvious provincialism, the British horror of ideas.” He was no longer the epitome of everyday Englishness, and now spent a period of time being depicted (in a positive way), as a critic of Liberal policy, clad in a top hat and Union Jack waistcoat.
After the First World War John Bull tended to recede into the background, increasingly used, and seen, as a conservative and imperialistic figure. Since then, he has tended to spend much of his time being used in advertising campaigns, yet remains a more complex figure that many give him credit for.
Posted on 04/26/2009 5:05 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 26 April 2009
A Literary Interlude: The Monument (Alexander Pushkin)
No hands have wrought my monument; no weeds
will hide the nation's footpath to its site.
Tsar Alexander's column it exceeds
in splendid insubmissive height.
Not all of me is dust. Within my song,
safe from the worm, my spirit will survive,
and my sublunar fame will dwell as long
as there is one last bard alive.
Throughout great Rus' my echoes will extend,
and all will name me, all tongues in her use:
the Slavs' proud heir, the Finn, the Kalmuk, friend
of steppes, the yet untamed Tunguz.
And to the people long shall I be dear
because kind feelings did my lyre extoll,
invoking freedom in an age of fear,
and mercy for the broken soul.
Obey thy God, and never mind, O Muse,
the laurels or the stings: make it thy rule
to be unstirred by praise as by abuse,
and do not contradict the fool.
(translated by Vladimir Nabokov)
Posted on 04/26/2009 10:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald