All 7 entries tagged Politics
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October 29, 2007
ICA newsletter – Week 5.
Hi all, my calendar tells me it’s another new week again so here’s another ICA newsletter:
• First story of the week is that the US has stepped up sanctions on Iran to target the finances of the Revolutionary guards, and three state owned banks. These sanctions also extend to the guards business interests. Condoleezza Rice claimed Iran is pursuing technologies ‘that can lead to a nuclear weapon’, but reiterated her commitment to a diplomatic solution, offering to meet her Iranian counterpart, ‘anytime, anywhere’. Such a position is a stark contrast from that of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, who is believed to be lobbying for a military intervention. With Iran’s position similarly hardening also, after the resignation of Ali Larijani and his replacement with the more hard-line Saeed Jalili, is there actually any hope of a peaceful solution? Or will America and/or Israel replicate the Syrian operation? (If we believe the satellite analysis).
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7067378.stm – also it appears that it is perfectly ok for Egypt to build nuclear plants for power??
• Second, with the visit of King Abdullah, the first visit to the UK by a Saudi monarch in 20 years, ministers seem keen to stress the ‘shared values’ between the two states. One of the most important of those values seems to be the weapons industry, with the Saudis buying 72 Eurofighters from the UK in a deal worth £20 billion including maintenance and training. Lib Dem Vince Cable has boycotted the King’s visit, citing the Kingdom’s human rights record, and saying that the King should not have been invited. So should the UK press the Saudis harder on their human rights record? Or are the contracts and the jobs they bring just too good to resist?
• A UN expert has condemned the growing of crops to produce biofuels as a ‘crime against humanity’, calling for a five year ban on the practice. Production for biofuels has helped to push food prices higher. The IMF recently voiced concerned that a rise in the reliance on grain as a fuel source could have serious implications for the worlds poor.
Also in the news:
• Lets all hide monkeys under our hats…. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6936533.stm
• Human race to split in two – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6057734.stm, along with artists impression
• Absence of goats made me speed – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5322302.stm
October 21, 2007
Not exactly current affairs, but interesting nonetheless. The graph (from a entry last month from Krugman’s new, and very good, blog) show the proportion of US income that goes to the richest 10% of American’s. As clearly shown, there is increasing inequality in the US.
What is most interesting however from this graph is that, if anything, it’s a cry to arms for political activists (of any allegiance). Being an economist I often here the idea that the markets determines the distribution of income, etc, and there is little that the government can actually do that isn’t superficial.
However the massive decrease in inequality we can see that was achieved in the 1930s appears to be proof that the motivated intervention by the New Deal activists really did manage to achieve a real change in the distribution of income. Furthermore the reactionary conservative movement of the 1980s managed to sweep away the New Deal legislation and hence lead the economy to the previous levels of inequality. In the first case it took 5 years, in the second about 15 years, but either way the conclusion is the same. A strong and concentrated political movement can lead to very real movements in the nature of our society.
October 17, 2007
BBC management are planning to enforce 2,000 compulsory redundancies, this is equivalent to cutting the BBC workforce by 10%. The cuts are necessary because of a distinct fall in planned future government funding. Anger amongst the BBC workers (including Jeremy Paxman, as it seems that many of the cuts will be in the News departments) has led to many to imply that future strike action is very likely.
The classic debate is will these cuts improve efficiency sufficiently enough to justify the fall in quality. Naturally the BBC journalist has cried that the sky is falling and that the quality of BBC programming will fall dramatically. However the management seems to be planning to synthesize the News radio, television, and internet departments, thus this gives them a way to argue that actually the cuts will be on useless management and duplicative journalists; hence quality will not be damaged.
But (putting my conspiracy hat on) what has led to the government cutting expenditure so much? One would imagine that efficiency improvements would be done naturally; it wouldn’t require the government to enforce it. Could it be in order to appease Rupurt Murdoch? Gordon Brown would remember Murdoch’s responsibility in causing Labour to lose the 1992 election, could this be an attempt to buy Murdoch’s support…
October 16, 2007
The Lib Dem leader Menzies Cambell yesterday quit after pressure from his party. Doubtlessly his age (66) and relatively low-key media style (i.e. boring) are big factors, coupled with the fact that many younger Lib Dems are hungry for the job.
Who will be the next leader? I think that it wouldn’t be unlikely to see the party take a swing to the right. Those Lib Dem MPs in Left wing constituencies will find an easier time to defend their seats in the next election as support for the Labour party falls. While those defending their seats in Right wing constituencies will find it harder to defend their seats to in the next election due to the increasing popularity of the Tories. Thus the right-wingers in the Lib Dems are likely to be galvanised and be a more active force then the left-wingers, due to the former having fear for their jobs while the latter not.
The FT says that a leading right-wing candidate for winning the leadership election is Nick Clegg. He is only 40, 26 years younger then Menzies Cambell. Plus he is 13 years younger then Chris Huhne, another leadership possibility. So perhaps he holds a good chance of being the next Lib Dem leader.
October 09, 2007
As anyone waiting for post will surely know, Royal mail and their worker’s unions have still failed come to any agreement. Yesterday they went on 48-hour strike, and next Monday the union’s head threatened continuous strike action. This is just the latest stage in the battle between the Royal Mail’s Unions and their bosses. There was another 48-hour strike last week, and in July was a series of staggered strikes. The industrial action of an army of 130,000 postal workers is predicted to cost the company up to £230 M, one can thus deduce that the cost to the greater economy must be much higher.
The cause seems to revolve around the management’s drive towards modernising reforms (such as making the jobs the workers do more flexible, so they may not know what job they are doing one day to the next). However the workers complain that the proposals will cost 40,000 jobs. There are disagreements over the pay increase also.
What should we do, if anything? Does these events acts as a signal justifying the privatisation of the service? If it was privatised then the management would be much more empowered to get the job done, as they wouldn’t be accountable to the government who are in turn accountable to the Unions. They would still be accountable to the democracy of the marketplace; the only difference is that now the wider consumer interest would take precedence over the narrower union interest.
October 08, 2007
After weeks of allowing public speculation to gather over whether he will call an election or not, Gordon Brown now finally given us an answer: No. He has, if we can believe what they say, annoyed the leaders of the other parties. Cameron has said: ‘He was not being straight… everybody knows he is not having an election because there’s a danger of him losing it’, while Campbell said: ‘[Gordon’s] lost his nerve’. The resent polling data may confirm this, with the Times saying that the Tories has a three point lead over Labour.
The worrying thing is that these speculations seems to be well founded. Brown said that he was seriously contemplating an election. It seems a bit unfair that he can call an election whenever he wants, such as seriously contemplating it when the polls are in his favour but then deciding not to when things go the other way. In the interests of having fair elections should their dates be exogenously determined (e.g. at May once every four years)? Indeed this is what the Lib Dems are arguing for.
September 26, 2007
Hello. A fresh new academic year and a fresh new author for the ICA blog. I’m the treasurer of the ICA [International Current Affairs] discussion society also the one responsible for maintaining the blog. We in the ICA society holds weekly meetings (in S0.13, Wednesdays at 2pm) to discuss for an hour about the passing week’s current affairs, followed by going for a drink at the Graduate. We normally have a newsletter written out with a brief outline of the three top topics of the passing week’s news, which we then email out to all our members a couple of days before the meeting. If you enjoy discussing current affairs, politics, or whatever, please feel free to pop in any time.
Most weeks I will post some topic on this blog that will nearly always be able political current affairs. To start this trend off its about the Burmese monks. As most of the front pages of newspapers have shown, the past few weeks has seen escalating protests in Burma against the dictatorship. On Monday there were 100,000 people protesting. This was sparked off on 15th August when the government doubled fuel prices. This led to protests. The government cracked down, harming three monks. This eventually led to tens of thousands of monks protesting. This induced others to join them. Widely unpopular, could this see the beginning of the end for the dictatorship?
Problem is, however, that this has happened before. In 1988 there was mass protests, government cracked down by killing 3,000 people. Many speculate that history will repeat itself. Gordon Brown has threatened to impose sanctions on the Burmese dictatorship if they do. But the US at least have already been doing this since 2003, and to no effect. Indeed do sanctions even work? They haven’t in North Korea or Iran. Is there anything more active we can do? Or are we so far away that there is nothing practical we can do, we just have to talk about it as we passively watch events unfold?