Widmerpool Award?

We’ve seen quite a bit of photographic evidence concerning right-wing hack Stephen Pollard’s suitability for this year’s Widmerpool Award which celebrates, among other things, pomposity, self-importance and lack of self-awareness.

Here’s another pic for the dossier. It’s Pollard testifying on something or other before the US Senate a few days ago:

[Full image gallery here (at least for now), link via the great man himself.]

Health Checks for Immigrants

Splendid post from Andrew Bartlett on Mr Howard’s recent and rancid proposals to require migrants to the UK to undergo mandatory health checks.

People interested in the subject should look forward to the publication of James Hampshire’s book, Citizenship and Belonging: Immigration and the Politics of Demographic Governance in Postwar Britain, out from Palgrave Macmillan in May this year, which discusses the debates inside government the last time these issues were chewed over with any seriousness. From what I remember of the argument from when I was chatting to James about what was then his D.Phil thesis, ill-health among nonwhite immigrants often tended to owe to grotty living conditions in this country, rather than to illnesses brought in from outside, and that while Irish immigrants tended to be less healthy than non-white immigrants, the proposals to introduce compulsory health checks always dealt entirely with non-whites.

(In the end, compulsory medical testing was not introduced, and the random testing that was tried resulted in very few exclusions indeed. Since what Mr Howard announces today Mr Blair will probably pick up and run with tomorrow, it’s probably best to hope for a broadly similar outcome this time around.)

Baram vs Phillips

Find a copy of this week’s New Statesman to read my friend Daphna Baram’s sensible observations about Melanie Phillips.

Excerpts below:

At the Royal Geographical Society in London on 27 January, Melanie Phillips fought like a lioness against the motion tabled by Profesor Avi Shlaim of St Antony’s College, Oxford University, stating “Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews”…Phillips wasn’t prepared to leave it there [after her side lost the vote]. She decided to have another go at the opposition – “the three Jewish persecutors of Israel” as she called them – in her personal internet blog, using language that was extreme even by her standards.

“I came away from that debate,” she wrote, “feeling the kind of emotion one feels – in a totally different context – when forced to listen to or even watch the details of paedophile assaults on children. It is a physical numbness, a feeling of the very darkest despair; a feeling that a very great evil has been unleashed which reveals the depths of pathological malice to which human beings can descend – to turn on their own at a time when they are already under murderous attack. It seems like a repudiation not just of their Jewishness but their humanity.” …

Phillips doesn’t accuse her enemies, the dead or the living, of being “self-hating Jews”. She gets straight down to business and charges them with treason. But who are the real “instigators” of “diabolical calumnies” against their fellow Jews? Those who initiate an open debate about the nature of the leading ideological movement among Jews today, or those who accuse dissident Jewish thinkers of evil and “pathological malice”? As an Israeli and a Jew, I know whom I would prefer not to meet in a dark alley.

Not sure whether it’s available online or not. The Statesman has one of those rather annoying websites where it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Anyway, it’s on sale at your local newsagent.

Drinking with Gwydion

A surprise phone call yesterday led to a visit to a bar with Dave Gwydion, visiting Oxford to buy books from Blackwell’s and do something or other in a library. Conversation revolved around the staples — you know, frogging, sex-bloggers and the 2002ers. And it brings the number of bloggers on my blogroll I’ve met in the non-virtual flesh to a surprising twenty-five or so, even though that’s never anything I’ve really made any kind of effort to do…

Running for Afghanistan

President Bush may have budgeted no funds for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, but that doesn’t mean that we have to follow suit. On 17 April, my friend Juliane Fuerst will be taking a break from the academic study of late Stalin-era youth movements in order to run in the London Marathon. Seems to me like a crazy thing to want to do, but apparently it’s in order to raise money for AfghanAid. She’s got a page on the web about it where you can sponsor her here.

Another Hero of the Stoa

Well, a hero of just about everybody who cares to consider the matter.

Bob Marley, 60 today.

I’m told by someone who was told by someone who was there that the first words spoken at the celebrations of Zimbabwean independence after the Union Jack came down were these: “Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers…”

Every man gotta right
To decide his own destiny
And in this judgment
There is no partiality
So arm in arms, with arms
We will fight this little struggle
‘Cause that’s the only way
We can overcome our little troubleBrother you’re right, you’re right
You’re right, you’re right, you’re so right
We gonna fight, we’ll have to fight
We gonna fight, fight for our rights

Natty dread it ina Zimbabwe
Set it up ina Zimbabwe
Mash it up ina Zimbabwe
Africans a liberate Zimbabwe

No more internal power struggle
We come together, to overcome
The little trouble
Soon we will find out
Who is the real revolutionary
‘Cause I don’t want my people
To be contrary

Brothers you’re right, you’re right
You’re right, you’re right, you’re so right
We’ll have to fight, we gonna fight
We’ll have to fight, fighting for our rights…

[lyrics over here, more over here, pic from here]