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A solution to the nuisance of topping up one's wine glass

Thursday, January 28, 2010
From some forward-thinking Japanese folk:



Although I imagine washing it might be a bit of a pain.

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An 1860 Hansard nugget, featuring duplicitous Gauls and one of the great typos of our time

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
From 27/1/1860

"THE MARQUESS OF NORMANBY inquired of Her Majesty's Government, pursuant to notice, whether they have received any Information as to the Negotiation stated by the Ministerial Journals in Paris to exist between France and Sardinia for the Annexation of the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice to the Dominions of the Emperor of the French?...The statements to which he had alluded had appeared in the two principal and habitual organs of the French Government. It was first published in Le Pays, the most careful and prudent of the Ministerial journals; but what had chiefly attracted the attention of Europe was its circulation in the columns of L'Indépendance Beige (sic), a Brussels paper in the enjoyment of Imperial favour, and possessing, perhaps, the most general circulation of any European journal".

See, I'm not making this up:



 (OK, it is an OCR error rather than a typo, but my point stands)

Anyway, enough of the flippancy and on to the more interesting bit:

This [in L'Indépendance Belge] article said that France was now determined by counsel, by her soldiers, and by sacrifices of every kind to substitute for the hereditary arrangements of Vienna the truthful policy of nationalities; and the writer went on to say that it was evident the day was drawing nigh when the superstructure raised by diplomatists must disappear before the power of logic and the course of events.

 Which takes us back to the First Empire and a France that looked like this:




  So, pretty alarming for France's neighbours, it must be said.

As the Marquess reckoned:

He was not aware that there had been any diplomatic declaration to this effect, but the dangers contingent upon the adoption of such a principle by the powerful Government of a great nation were much greater than any which could arise from the annexation of the Duchy of Savoy. Could it for a moment be imgined that England had no interest in the assertion of such a doctrine? Why, let us look at our own possessions, scattered over the face of the globe, and then see how far we could recognize the principle of nationality. How could England stand this test? How would it apply in the Mediterranean, or the Ionian Islands? How affect Gibraltar? How might it be brought to bear on Aden or the Empire of India, or our dependencies in another hemisphere? Why, if such were to be admitted as a valid ground there would not be a single country in Europe the foundation of whose title would not be shaken".

And there's more:

Such a doctrine would be quite subversive of those treaties and of that order and regularity which forty years' peace had brought about. Russia, indeed, prided herself upon her nationality. Nor, as regarded Poland, did he think they could collect the scattered remnants of a national existence. The restoration of Poland to nationality would almost remind one of Mr. Canning's expression regarding the repeal of the legislative union with Ireland: "Repeal the union—restore the heptarchy." Well, then, as to Prussia and this doctrine of nationality—sec how it worked from Posen to Aix-la-Chapelle. Again, witness its application to Austria. And here he must say that he looked upon the stability of Austria as one of the main elements of European security; and he wished that some one who had the same conviction, and had more opportunity of making his opinion known in the proper quarter, would urge how important it was to grant what was just and reasonable in the demands of Hungary. He hoped and believed that, as regarded her Hungarian dominions, the loyalty of the Hungarian people was not yet shaken.

Not a quote I have encountered before, but quite amusing.

France did indeed get Savoy, plus Nice, or Nizza - as a lot of the inhabitants called it  including a VERY peeved Garibaldi - after a rather dodgy referendum later in 1860.  Fans of nemesis might note that the national principle rather bit France with the outcome of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war..... 

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150 years ago...

This, from an 1860 Hansard:

Several Members came to the Table to be sworn, and Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid, Member for the Borough of Reading, having stated that being a person professing the Jewish Religion, he had a conscientious objection to take the Oath in the form required by the Act 22 Vict. c. 48:—The Clerk reported the circumstance to Mr. Speaker, and Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid was directed to withdraw; and he withdrew accordingly.

Resolved,— "That it appears to this House that Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid, a person professing the Jewish Religion, being otherwise entitled to sit and vote in this House, is prevented from so sitting and voting by his conscientious objection to take the Oath which by an Act passed in the twenty-second year of Her Majesty has been substituted for the Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration in the form therein required."

Resolved,— "That any person professing the Jewish Religion may henceforth, in taking the Oath prescribed in an Act passed in the twenty-second year of Her Majesty to entitle him to sit and vote in this House, omit the words 'and I make this declaration upon the true faith of a Christian.'"
Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid accordingly came to the Table, and was sworn on the Old Testament.

More on Goldsmid here.   Also, a list of historic and current Jewish MPs here, doubtless including ideological heroes / heroines for most respectable shades of opinion.

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Something to think about when the Census drops through your letterbox next year...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
For reasons far too dull to go into, I chanced upon this earlier, and decided it needed a narrower audience:

"A Bill proposing "taking and registering an annual Account of the total Number of People, and of the total Number of Marriages, Births and Deaths; and also of the total Number of Poor receiving Alms from every Parish and extra-parochial Place in Great Britain" was passed by the House of Commons on the 8th May 1753. However, Mr Thornton, MP for York, did not accept that 'that there was any set of men, or indeed, any individual of the human species so presumptuous and so abandoned as to make the proposal we have just heard ... I hold this project to be totally subversive of the last remains of English liberty".

I do not doubt he is spinning in his grave at a lathe-like speed even as I type.

(Spectacular typo fixed...)

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Exciting factlets o' the day

Monday, January 25, 2010
I saw this on Wikipedia the other day:

"During the Cold War, the United States developed a geopolitical interest in Greenland, and in 1946 the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark refused to sell".


Via the miracle of the Measuringworth calculator, that equates to anything from  $874,862,903.23 (GDP deflator) to $6,499,279,927.99 (relative gdp).

By contrast, Alaska went for $7.2m back in 1867, or a price ranging from $95,627,209.94 to  $12,462,059,710.40.  Going further back, the bargain that was the Louisiana Purchase was $15m in 1803, or anything from  $274,488,136.46 to $448,977,772,987.67.

Comparing areas we have 828,000 sq miles for Louisiana, 663,268 sq miles for Alaska and 836,109 sq miles for Greenland, so based on the low-balled current value, Louisiana went for $331.5 per square mile, Alaska for $144.2 per square mile and Greenland would have gone for a rather impressive $1046.35.  Running with the high-end values, Louisiana comes out on top at $542,243.70 per sq mile, followed by Alaska at $18,788.88 and Greenland at the bottom of the heap at $7,773.24.

Should Uncle Sam fancy putting in another bid, the Danish national debt is in the regiuon of $24 billion at the moment.

I would have a look at the Gadsen Purchase too, but life is too short.    


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The triumphant return of the 1959 Hansard trawl...

Monday, January 18, 2010
The questions they ask(ed):

Mr. Hector Hughes  asked the Postmaster-General if he is aware that each of the 10s., 5s. and 2s. 6d. stamps in Great Britain depicts a Royal castle beside the head of Her Majesty the Queen; and if he will authorise the issuing of a guinea stamp depicting the birthplace of Robert Burns beside the head of Her Majesty.

The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Kenneth Thompson) The Answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir," and to the second part "No, Sir."



Given that our MPs had pre-paid envelopes, perhaps Thompson was being a little presumptious.   The rather dull set of stamps in question can be seen here.    Burns has since made it onto postage stamps on numerous occasions.  Enough of ths philately.

Head in hands and gentle rocking time:


 
Sir F. Medlicott  asked the Postmaster-General if, in relation to the new design for telephone kiosks, he will consider the possibility of incorporating in a prominent position in the upper part of each box, on at least two sides, the name of the village, township or district in which the kiosk is situated.

Mr. K. Thompson My right hon. Friend is considering this matter and will write as soon as possible to the hon. Gentleman.

Sir F. Medlicott  Is my hon. Friend aware that many districts, especially villages and suburbs, are very anonymous at night and that a device such as is suggested would be of great help in enabling people, especially motorists, to know where they are and would also secure still further good will to his Department?

Mr. Thompson   These are among the considerations which we will take into account, but I must remind the House that there are some considerable arguments against the course proposed.

Doubtless children yet unborn will be lisping their praise to the successors in title to the Postmaster General for aeons to come.

Meanwhile, an opportunity for some gratuitous pics of aeroplanes:

Mr. Emrys Hughes asked the Secretary of State for Air what is his estimate of the cost of the new supersonic bomber TSR2; and when it is likely to be in operational service.

Mr. G. Brown  asked the Secretary of State for Air approximately when the new strike/reconnaissance aircraft being developed for the Royal Air Force is expected to be ready for service; what will be its approximate cost; how many will be ordered; and how its performance will compare with existing similar types of aircraft such as, for example, the United States Republic F.105.


Mr. Ward  As I explained in a written answer to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on 17th December, it has been decided to develop a new strike/ reconnaissance aircraft as a replacement for the Canberra. The cost will depend upon negotiations between the Ministry of Supply and the contractors. We expect the aircraft to enter service during the mid-1960s. It would not be in the public interest to give the numbers likely to be ordered.

In the reconnaissance role the TSR2 offers advantages over the F.105 and will also be able to operate from short improvised runways which the F.105 cannot use.




It never happenned alas.  Shame, as it was rather dashing:



Competition for the F-105 on the looks front, I reckon:




Double takes dept:


EUROPEAN MONETARY AGREEMENT
Blimey- "Bill to make certain provisions of a financial nature in connection with the operation of the European Monetary Agreement, and for purposes connected therewith, presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. R. A. Butler, Sir David Eccles, Mr. Maudling, and Mr. Erroll; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday next and to be printed". 
Well x3

And here's one for anyone who thinks privatisation of BT was an error (probably not many of my regulars fall into that corner, but just in case):


Mr. Body asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the growth of demand for telephones in Basildon new town, due to the rapidly expanding population; and what steps he proposes to take to satisfy the demand pending the opening of the new automatic telephone exchange.

Mr. Thompson Yes. 270 new telephones were provided in the new town last year, and it is hoped to double that number in the next twelve months. New cables are needed, and these are being provided progressively in conjunction with new road constructions.

Nothing new under the sun:



Mr. Hector Hughes asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the danger and inconvenience caused to motorists and to motor coach and omnibus owners, drivers, passengers and the general public owing to the lack of co-ordination, uniformity of practice and timing by local authorities throughout Scotland and England in the way they in frosty and snowy weather spread or refrain from spreading sand on public roads, especially in the early morning; and if he will take steps to ensure that in these matters co-ordination is attained and greater regard is had to public safety and convenience.
Further evidence of nothing new under the sun, if under rather grimmer circumstances:

"Mr. Barnett Janner  (Leicester, North West) I beg to move, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law in relation to the making and disposing of flick knives and other dangerous weapons." It is now about four years since I first raised this subject here, then by way of Questions. An increasing number of murders and stabbings with flick knives and similar weapons have taken place since then, and I have frequently endeavoured to rouse the Home Office out of its complacency, unfortunately, without success...For example, Mr. Justice Streatfeild, as far back as 14th November, 1957, at the York Assizes, said: "What an invention of the devil is the flick knife, which unhappily so often features in crimes of violence in this country often committed by young people. Personally I don't agree that there is any room for thankfulness or self-congratulation or complacency in that these articles are manufactured abroad."  "The fact is that they are used over here all too frequently."  He went on: "Time was within my memory when the use of cold steel at an argument was regarded with contempt and described as being un-English, but unfortunately, as time has gone on, we can no longer point the finger of scorn and contempt upon certain foreign races of whom we used to think it was very typical. It is now the unhappy fact that very often it is our country men who use them"

 And so back to the rather more amusing:

Unidentified Flying Objects:


Mr. Mason asked the Secretary of State for Air what specific instructions have been sent to the commanders of Royal Air Force stations to collect reports from air crews having allegedly sighted unidentified flying objects; what inquiries have been held following such sightings; and to what extent there is collaboration between his Department and the respective departments in Canada and the United States of America on this problem.

Mr. Ward  R.A.F. units have standing instructions to report unusual flying objects when they cannot readily be explained. Reports which may have a bearing on air defence are investigated. No special collaboration with Canada or the United States is required.

And to wrap up, from a debate in the Lords on giving female peers voting rights:

Lord Pethick-Lawrence -In connection with that, I should like to tell the House this true story of what Mr. Asquith once said to a person in private conversation. He was asked by a friend: "Why do you continue to oppose the introduction of women to the Parliamentary vote? Don't you think it just? Don't you think they are sure to get it?" He replied: "Yes, I agree that it is just, and I feel certain they will get it; but, please God, not in my time". That, I think, is the position of a great many people who are fighting a rearguard action in this matter of the admission into this House of those women who are Peeresses in their own right.

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Interesting poll finding o' the day

From Zogby.  Speaks for itself:

"Opinions run strongly regarding affirmative action, with 64% agreeing it rewards some groups at the expense of others. Twenty-one percent agree affirmative action levels the playing field, and 9% said it does neither.  Fewer than half of African-Americans (47%) said it levels the playing field, 28% said it rewards some groups over others and 22% said it does neither".

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Translation fail o' the day

From EUPravda:



What has actually happened is that the painting, The Tears of Saint Peter, is one of a series that has returned from a sojourn in Mexico.

Since I can't see a parapet without wanting to stick my head above it, I will aver that El Greco is, by a broad margin, my least favourite of the Old Masters.  And now let the hurling of brickbats commence.

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A quick French survey round up

Monday, January 11, 2010
Bad news for Arsenal, good news for Arsenal haters?

83.7% of those responding to a website poll think Wenger would make a good next manager of the French national team. 13.9% think otherwise, and 2.5% thought it worth voting 'don't know'.  One does wonder what more the man would have to do to convince the nay sayers. Courtesy of someone who knows, Arsène is grace and charm personified, apparently.


Elsewhere, scientific research is judged the most prestigious career in France, while quacks and nurses are reckoned the most useful to society.  At the other end of the scale, bank cashiers are reckoned to be the least prestigious, and financial market traders etc and TV presenters the least useful to society.  Doubtless both will find their wage slips a comfort as they digest the findings and cry into their pastis this evening.


The limited political demographic detail has right wingers deeming CEOs of multinationals and cops under-rated relative to the national average while lefties opt for teachers.

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Kim Jong Il's 2009 adventures

Friday, January 08, 2010
Last year I tallied up all the Dear Leader's doings for the year, with the following result:



So, I thought I might as well do the same for 2009:


So, whereas 2008 was a year of military inspections, in 2009 the emphasis was squarely on field guidance.  I suppose one can imagine that the joy of the military in being left alone, comparatively speaking, is matched by the misery of the workers and peasants of the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory, Oguk Co-op farm, Suphung Power Station etc etc.

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A very brief DPRK update

Thursday, January 07, 2010
See, all the old favourites are emerging from the wainscotting now.

"The ABC of the United States reported that the CIA set up and operated two secret prisons in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and in its vicinity in 2004 and 2005 for the purpose of confining and interrogating Al-Qaeda related and other terrorists...

...All forms of torture such as no-sleep torture, sex torture and hairy caterpillar torture are being practiced against prisoners in the U.S. overseas secret prisons, stunning the world people".

Can't say that I am that enthused by the idea of having caterpillars, even bald ones, crawling on me, but I think worse things have been known.

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The 1859 Hansard Trawl - It's back. Featuring reduced taxation bringing benefits, general contentment prevailing and a jaw dropper of a typo.

Well, why not, I thought.

So, some extracts from the 'Address in Answer to Her Majesty's Speech' that comparison and contrast might be made to our current dark and terrible times:

"In the first paragraph of the gracious Speech, Her Majesty congratulates us upon the general contentment which prevails throughout the country. This is an announcement which would be a most gratifying one at any time, but is more especially so at the present moment, if we contrast it with the circumstances under which we assembled at the commencement of the last Session. The House was then called together, in consequence of a sudden panic, which spreading widely throughout the Continent, extended to this country, threatening to give a serious check to all commercial enterprise, and did in fact cause the most widespread alarm and embarrassment".

If only....

But now, Sir, after the interval of little more than a year, we find ourselves in at least as good a position as before those financial difficulties arose; the trade of the country has rapidly recovered, and the distress among the operative classes which appeared to be an inevitable consequence of the pressure, has so far disappeared that labour of all kinds is finding ready employment. The diminution in crime and pauperism, of which we are informed, is also most gratifying, because these are evils which it is impossible for legislation to eradicate, or even effectually to remedy, and I think that we may trace in their gradual decrease the happy effects of those strenuous efforts which are being made for the furtherance of education, of that kindly sympathy which is growing up and increasing between the different classes of the community, however widely they may be separated by social position, and of that generous and discriminating benevolence which cases of distress never fail to elicit: these causes, Sir, among others, are at work to empty our crowded gaols and workhouses, which are now too constantly replenished by the united effects of ignorance and destitution.

As above, with bells on.

Foreign affairs:

The amicable state of our foreign relations has been farther secured by a Treaty of Commerce with Russia, so lately a formidable enemy—but from henceforward, we may trust, a valuable ally...a treaty has been concluded with China, which, besides the advantages it secures in the protection of life and property of foreigners travelling in the country, and the toleration it provides for the Christian religion and its professors, will give an effectual stimulus to trade, and open a wide field of enterprise. In addition to this we have succeeded by another treaty, and by the assistance of the same skilful negotiator, in establishing friendly relations with the empire of Japan...The House will cordially share in the satisfaction which Her Majesty expresses at the abolition by the Emperor of the French of the system of negro emigration from the cast coast of Africa, and the country will fully appreciate the magnanimity and the honourable feeling which have actuated our great Ally in the step which he has taken".

Alistair Darling, take note:

"The promised re-mission of a portion of the income-tax, amounting to more than £7,500,000 on the year, has been realized. The effect of this remitted taxation has been to stimulate the consumption of the country, and thereby to increase the revenue; so that, on the whole, I think we must conclude that, if there was boldness displayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was a happy boldness,—boldness not resulting from rash daring, but founded on accurate calculations,—such a boldness as in war shows the hero, and in politics the statesman".

An early discovery of the Laffer Curve, maybe?

Blair, Brown et al, take note:

It is hardly complimentary to the constitution of this House that it should require to be patched and tinkered every quarter of a century. But, while their measure will be conceived in no peddling spirit neither, on the other hand, will it display a genius for revolution. We may be sure that it will not ignore Royalty, or eliminate an estate of the Realm. It will not speak evil of dignities, or pander to mobs. It will not set up class legislation, and subject all other classes of the community to the domination of the lowest.

Class War?  No thanks... 

Lord John Russell: "In the old days of the Whig Club there was a toast which used frequently to be given and responded to,—"The Cause of Civil and Religious Liberty all over the World."

I'll drink to that. 

"But if that Government is to make an invasion upon another country, with the view of improving the form of government in that country, then we certainly should have a right to ask whether the freedom and independence of that country will be promoted by such a proceeding.. Therefore, Sir, for all these reasons I should deprecate, as an infraction of the peace of Europe, as one of the very worst examples that could be set, and as tending to shake men's confidence in all treaties in which the present stability of Europe is founded, any such war as is now spoken of".

And I'm not saying a mumbling word. 

Try saying this these days:

I am convinced that the people of Central Italy—a people who for five centuries have been glorious in literature, a people who have been an enlightened nation during those five centuries, and who are, therefore, far superior in mental resources than the peasants in the Danubian Principalities—if the foreign forces were withdrawn, if provision were made, as provision could easily be made by the Catholic Powers of Europe (with which arrangement the Protestant Powers have nothing to do) for the furnishing of any contingent forces to secure the personal security of the Pope in Rome—I am convinced that such a people would soon settle such laws for their own government as would produce contentment and prosperity".

Perhaps the greatest 'sic' of all time


"I co not believe the admission of those persons who are fitted to exercise the franchise will tend to injure any of the institutions of the country. I believe the mass of the country in general are of the opinion of our forefathers before us—of the opinion of Burke, Fox, and Pitt—that the institutions of this country have given the people as great a share of liberty and happiness as was ever enjoyed under any institutions which bunion (sic, and how.  Presumably it is meant to be human) wisdom has devised. That, no doubt, was the opinion of Mr. Burke, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Pitt, and they were no fools. I believe such to be the opinion of the country in general, and I wish to see those benefits extended". 

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Nonsense on stilts...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010
 ....with clown boots and a fright wig department:

From The Jerusalem Post:

"Iraq will demand that Israel pay compensation for bombing the unfinished nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, an Iraqi member of parliament told the Iraqi al-Sabah newspaper in an article published on Tuesday.

Muhammad Naji Muhammad claimed that his government was planning to enlist the United Nation's help to pressure Israel into compensating Baghdad, according to a DPA report cited by Channel 10".


Can't say I fancy his chances of enforcing judgment, even supposing he finds some useful idiots  

This is what Osirak looked like these after Operation Opera, apparently:



It would seem the Iranians had a pop at it in 1980, and Uncle Sam finished it off in 1981

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Something to lift the spirits

Monday, January 04, 2010
I know that this has gone to quite a few folk, but I think it deserves the audience here.  It is from BMSD via Harry's Place:

British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) is alarmed and disappointed to learn that the extremist group Al Muhajiroun, in the guise of “Islam4UK,” are planning to hold a procession through the streets of Wootton Bassett.  This choice of venue is deliberate and designed to cause maximum offence and distress – particularly to the friends and families of fallen servicemen.
The vast majority of British Muslims – irrespective of their diverse views on particular armed conflicts – recognise that British soldiers continue to serve admirably in difficult circumstances, to make our country safer for all.
We deplore the politicisation of Wootton Bassett by reactionary political leaders, including Nick Griffin’s attempt to hijack a homecoming service last year to promote the BNP.  We equally oppose this stunt by “Islam4UK,” a group which organised a “Magnificent 19” Conference in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 to praise the suicide murderers.
BMSD will therefore write to “Islam4UK” later this week, urging them to cancel their protest and respect both the neutrality and military tradition of Wootton Bassett. In the event that “Islam4UK” decides to proceed with its demonstration, BMSD plans to arrange a counter-protest along with a broad coalition of our partners.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob, Vice Chair of BMSD, says: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Wootton Bassett and the Armed Forces. The vast majority of British Muslims accept our Armed Forces are doing an admirable job under exceptionally difficult circumstances. It is only because of the sacrifice of these brave soldiers that extremists like ‘Islam4UK’ are able to protest freely. Anjum Choudary and his followers betray everything this country stands for and the very constituency they claim to represent, which is ordinary British Muslims. We plan to hold a counter-protest to demonstrate that ordinary Muslims are deeply opposed to the values of Islam4UK.”
http://www.bmsd.org.uk/articles.asp?id=47
 
Notes to the editors:  
1.     bmsd is made up of a group of Muslim democrats of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, who support a clear separation between religion and the State.  
2.     bmsd’s mission statement:   “To promote civic engagement, social inclusion, responsible citizenship and good governance particularly within constituent Muslim communities of Britain; in order to build an understanding of the shared values between all citizens to enable them to live in an inclusive, pluralist, secular and confident Britain.”   
bmsd claims no mandate or false representative status. Our primary concern is democratic engagement not detailed theological analysis or debate. The level and depth of commitment to the doctrinal core and orthodoxy of the faith varies among Muslims as much as it does in members of other faith groups. bmsd founders wish to create a platform for alternative, diverse Muslim views, essential for a progressive, multi-layered, democratic identity that is not in conflict with itself or fellow citizens.   

Laudable, no?

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