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I can’t remember all the times I’ve tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass — Counting Crows

Archive for the ‘Those wacky Europeans’ Category

That sounds like a threat to me

Islamist group Islam4UK, expressing outrage over their recent ban by the British government:

Bakri said that the ban was ”the gravest mistake,” describing his group was peaceful think-tank whose younger members would be pushed toward violence if it were driven underground.

[ . . . ]

”We (were) never involved with any violence, yet,” he said.

Yet, eh? Sounds awfully close to a threat, there.

Now, normally I would be inclined to agree that banning any group for holding views, however offensive or despicable, is a violation of freedom of speech as long as no other laws are being transgressed. But in this case, we’re not just talking about pissing people off by marching:

Bakri’s group argues that, as Muslims, they’re not bound by British law and has expressed support for bin Laden and al-Qaida. In its previous incarnation as al-Muhajiroun, the group was linked to several terror suspects and was accused of recruiting British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Bakri has acknowledged that some of al-Muhajiroun members have engaged in militant attacks but says the group can’t be held responsible for their actions.

Bakri, who was deported from Britain in 2005, added that, whatever happened, his followers could regroup under a different name.

”Tomorrow we can call ourselves whatever we think is suitable for us,” he said.

He’s right, of course. Banning the groups won’t erase the sentiment. But allowing them to openly collect funds and organise isn’t the answer either. The British government might have reacted to the wrong thing – moral outrage at the group’s planned (and cancelled) protest march through Wootton Bassett – when they implemented the ban. But it’s clear that we’re not just talking about distasteful speech here, but illegal actions. And that’s where the line gets drawn.

And they can always ban whatever the group decides to call itself tomorrow, too.

Those goddamned Irish

Ireland’s anti-blasphemy laws came into effect on January 1st, setting a shining example of hypocrisy that should make the EU proud:

The new law defines blasphemy as:

 “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.”

In other words, a complete trampling of the notion of freedom of speech. In fact, this blog post probably violates that law. Good thing this site isn’t hosted in Ireland.

The best response to this that I’ve seen so far? Atheist Ireland published 25 blasphemous quotes by everyone from Salman Rushdie to Richard Dawkins to Christopher Hitchens to Jesus Christ to the Pope, and even Muhammed. My favourite is this one:

Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.” Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland’s new blasphemy law.

If they’re looking to prosecute people under the new law, I suggest they start in their own backyard.

Auschwitz sign stolen, recovered

The news that the infamous ”Arbeit macht frei” sign that hung over Auschwitz had been stolen last Friday sent shockwaves around the world. Now, Polish police say they have recovered the sign and apprehended the thieves:

KRAKOW, Poland – Polish police said Monday they had recovered the Nazi German “Arbeit macht frei” sign stolen from the former Auschwitz death camp, but said five arrested suspects had no neo-Nazi links.

Andrzej Rokita, commander in the southern Polish city of Krakow, told reporters that “from the information we have none of the five belong to a neo-Nazi group nor hold such ideas”.

The five suspects, aged 20 to 39 and with previous criminal records for theft or violence, faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted, police said.

The thieves themsevels seem to have been hired guns, in it for the money. It remains to be seen whether they were hired by someone with more sinister motives. In any case, the whole episode was extremely bizarre.

But for those asking what kind of scum of the earth would do such a thing, I’d have to say that question should more appropriately be asked of those who perpetrated the crime of Auschwitz in the first place.

Update 01/04: The theft was apparently ordered by a British neo-Nazi, in yet another example of hate being stronger than cash.

UK to eliminate cheques

Cheque’s in the mail? Not after 2018 in the UK, it seems:

Cheques will disappear within eight years after the Payments Council decided today to abolish the 350-year-old payment method by October 2018.

[. . . ]

The decision will save banks hundreds of millions of pounds a year, as each cheque costs banks about £1 to process – that is four times more expensive than electronic payments.

So far, no sign that Canada plans to follow suit. But it wouldn’t surprise me too much. Just to give you an idea of how often I actually write cheques, mine are so old that they still have my previous address… from two moves ago.

Flying with British Airways for the holidays?

Maybe not. If you’ve got an airline ticket with British Airways this Christmas season, you may be SOL, as BA employees are threatening to strike:

“We are absolutely determined to do whatever we can to protect our customers from this appalling, unjustified decision from Unite,” BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement. “We do not want to see a million Christmases ruined.”

The planned strike, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, follows a dispute with cabin crew over job losses and changes in work practices. BA plans to cut 1,700 jobs, freeze pay for current staff and offer lower wages for new employees.

The airline is appealing to the courts for an injunction to stop the strike, on the grounds that there were “voting irregularities” in the balloting. But if you’re one of the millions of people with a BA airline ticket for Christmas break, you’ll probably want to watch this one carefully.

One of these days, labour and management will figure out how to have it out without getting millions of bystanders trapped in the crossfire.

Update 9/17: A court injunction has been awarded to British Airways to block the strike.

London in the snow

This is what happens when it snows in England.


  • The new Montreal transit chief – get this – actually uses public transit! What a concept! He’s even promised to ride the bus out to the west island to see for himself what a disaster the system is out there. Will it lead to improvements? Stay tuned.
  • Meanwhile in Ottawa, citizens who’ve been held hostage by the OC Transpo strike, now in its 51st day, might get a reprieve in the form of back to work legislation. For their sake, here’s hoping.
  • Back in Montreal, the snow removal crews walked off the job in the middle of a blizzard just in time for afternoon rush hour yesterday. They’re upset because of a payment dispute, and, as is typical for union workers, they believe that gives them the right to endanger people’s lives.
  • In more union news, York University students head back in class this week after the government passed legislation forcing striking CUPE members back to work after nearly three months. But, as new blogger Chris reports, this may be only the tip of the iceberg.
  • More strikes in France? So what else is new?

From the priceless headlines file

This one’s a real doozy: EU worried about freedom of religion in Iran.

Every joke I could make here would be just too easy, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

Austria shields wanted Nazi war criminal

He’s ranked number four in a list of the world’s most wanted and notorious Nazi war criminals. But – all together now – that doesn’t mean he’s not a nice person, right?

Milivoj Asner caused a stir just by showing up at a soccer game: The frail 95-year-old is ranked No. 4 on a leading list of most-wanted Nazi war crimes suspects.

Now Austria’s most notorious far-right politician, former Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider, has touched off an even bigger scandal by praising Asner as a “treasured” neighbor who should be allowed to live out his days in peace.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and some private citizens, are fighting a battle to have Asner extradited to Croatia, but so far, the Austrian government has been holding out. Cases like these are more important than ever for their symbolic value, as more people in the world sadly start to subscribe to the lies that are replacing the truth that too few are alive anymore to tell.

Hockey in London?

With soccer on the rise in North America, I guess the NHL feels that it may be time for another sporting cultural exchange attempt with Europe, and has announced that the Ducks and Kings will open next season with two games in London. That’s London England, not London Ontario. (I had to read it twice, too.)

The O2 Arena, Europe’s most state-of-the-art entertainment venue, will stage the historic games on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30.

“Our commitment to grow the game globally has never been stronger,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “The NHL is extremely proud to be represented in London by two great hockey organizations in the Ducks and Kings as well as to be recording NHL history at such a fantastic facility in the O2.”

Something tells me that the Brits won’t suddenly fall for hockey en masse. Though the sport is not all that different from their beloved football, it suffers from a few massive drawbacks in translation; namely, the hiding of players’ hairdos under helmets, the low tolerance for diving, the game’s general absence of irony in favour of straightforward vulgarity, the utter and complete lack of any good hockey songs (Stompin’ Tom Connors doesn’t count), and the fact that – especially with the new format – more than one goal tends to be scored in a game. Not to mention the whole pesky played-on-ice thing.

On the other hand, there are probably enough expat Canadians living in London to fill the arena. Which begs the question of why they’d send two California teams instead of two Canadian ones. Retribution for David Beckham, perhaps?

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