All entries for October 2004

October 26, 2004

John Peel dead

Writing about web page

According to the Beeb, John Peel has died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru.

Home Truths will never be the same again…

Procrastination is the thief of time

Given that I have any amount of work I should be doing, why am I sitting here in Open Access blogging? Two seminars tomorrow and I have, as yet, done absolutely zilch by way of preparation (apart from borrow some ominously thick books from the Library). Does anybody else have this problem? I should be reading all about interesting things like the Church in 16th-Century England and colonial urbanism; instead, I read about depressing things like the US Presidential elections and the service in Xanana. And then, I sit here, spending time when I could be working, composing blog entries moaning about how I'm getting nothing done. Oh well, time is a-wasting, I suppose…

October 25, 2004

A massive dose of information about global trade

Writing about web page,12458,794377,00.html

As a slightly early regular update to this media diary, here is a link to a Guardian special report on Fair Trade with links to many recent news items on Fair Trade and Trade Justice (which are distinct issues). It includes articles on why the WTO is Satan incarnate, what's wrong with agricultural subsidies in Europe and the US both under WTO rules and in terms of Trade Justice, plans to develop Fair Trade brands, and case studies and analysis of global trade. Happy reading.

Why is there always a queue in Open Access?

Has anyone else noticed that nine times out of ten, when you go into Open Access, you have to queue up for a while to get a computer? I'm sure it wasn't anywhere near as bad last year, so what's going on? Are there suddenly so many more students that Open Access can no longer cope? Did the number of computers decrease when the shiny new flatscreens were put in? It's quite irritating if you have thirty minutes between lectures if you have to spend five or ten waiting for a computer to become available.

October 24, 2004

Will Bin Laden be 'found' this week?

Given that we're now into the week preceding the US Presidential election, can we expect the miraculous apparition of Osama Bin Laden somewhere in the Hindu Kush like some sort of perverted messiah-figure? After all, it would be exceptionally fortuitous for the chimp's re-election prospects…

October 22, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Yep, you read the title right. Apparently, the season of mellow fruitfulness has already given way to the season of pseudo-religious rampant commericalism – at least if the stock in shops is anything to go by. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but Christmas is on December 25th (by the western Christian tradition anyway) and currently, this is over two months, yes TWO MONTHS in the future. And Christmas tat has been in the shops for nearly two months already. You seriously have to ask yourself what kind of person buys their wrapping paper and Christmas cards in September; I know the Royal Mail is bad, but it isn't that bad. And every single shop seems to be in on the act – you go into Costcutters and get bombarded with displays of festive-sized packets of sweets, the Co-op try to flog you gaudy plastic decorations, Smith's is full to the brim of the sort of 'festive' board games you play once and lose half the pieces of, and every bookshop from here to Penzance is piled high with the sort of novelty books which sell millions of copies but which no one ever actually gets around to reading.

I'm generally in favour of Christmas on the grounds that you have to celebate something and it is as convenient a time as any; however, I think that trying to start it in September (or even earlier in some cases) is taking the piss. Basically, anyone who tries to flog Christmas stuff before the start of advent is jumping the gun in my book. I mean, there isn't any real need; it's not like most shops aren't open every day from Easter Sunday until Christmas Eve anyway – what's the rush?

Anyway, all together now: 'O come, all ye faithful…'

October 20, 2004

Review of "Fahrenheit 9/11

4 out of 5 stars

This film has proved contraversial in the months since its release (and even before that). However, as a symbol of one of the most important political and moral debates of our times, it is very hard to ignore.

Micharl Moore, the writer/director of this film has become famous (and in some circles infamous) for his scathing attacks on the small coterie of right-wingers who seem to regard it as their god-given right to rule the US and the world. In this film, he elaborates on the detailed attack he makes on the electoral process in Florida in his book Stupid White Men in which he catalogues a series of moves to disenfranchise thousands of black voters in the Sunshine state. Having thus established the premise that the legitimacy of the Bush administration is of an exceptionally dubious nature, he then goes on to attack the actions of the administration – specifically concerning 9/11, the lax attitude to the risk of terror before it, the historic links between the Bush and Bin Laden families, as well as those between the Bushes and the Ambassador from Saudi Arabia. However, the major theme of this film is the invasion of Iraq and the thousands of people who have died in the war since it started last year.

As a film, this is probably better than Bowling for Columbine, and as a polemic, it is hard to find the equal of Fahrenheit 9/11. However, whether you like this film or not will mostly be down to whether you like the message or not; fans of George Bush or the war will loath this film, detractors will love it. Moore perhaps makes a little more of the links between Bush and the Bin Ladens than the evidence strictly merits, however, this can be forgiven on the grounds that it is something which it is important for the public to know, and it is something they have not been told. However, Moore also shows his own courage and sheer gall by driving an Ice Cream van around near the Capitol reading the US PATRIOT Act through a tannoy, and hanging around outside the Capitol with a military recruiter trying to persuade members of Congress to have their children enlist in the army as a gesture to show that most of the soldiers in Iraq are young, poor, and often black, whilst those who stand to gain are middle-aged, rich, and white. He also, movingly, shows the mother of a US soldier lost in Iraq and her turmoil as she comes to deal with the fact that a war she initially supported has claimed the life of her son for little discernable benefit to anyone worth benefiting.

Overall, this is a film which it is well worth seeing as a compilation of the arguments of one side of the debate; however, unfortuntely it will not change anyone's mind, because the people who see it will by and large be sympathetic to its politics anyway, and people who may benefit from a dose of the reality it offers will not see it. As a film it is good, as a polemic, it is unsurpassed.

The historical need for Fair Trade: The Indian example

Writing about web page

As we are covering colonial development at the moment, I thought that for my entry on the historical antecedents of Fair Trade and the creation of the conditions in which Fair Trade became necessary or desireable, I would look at the example of the British presence in India in the 1600s-1947.

A brief précis of the Encarta article linked above is as follows: the British East India Company and other European nations and corporations were originally attracted to India by the possibility of new markets in which they could buy raw materials and sell manufactured goods. By the time the British East India Company was established as the overall ruler of India in the mid-18th Century, and thereafter until independence, the British bought raw materials such as cotton, shipped them home for processing, and then sold the manufactured goods back in India, thereby ruining native cottage idustries. That is why a plank of Indian nationalism in the early 20th Century was the spinning of one's own cloth and the making of one's own clothes, and also why the symbol at the centre of the flag of the independent India is the spinning wheel.

This relates to Fair Trade in that it amply demonstrates the attitudes of the First world (as it was later named) towards the third; an attitude which is still exemplified not only by exploitative trade practices such as the refusal to pay a fair price for goods, but also by the existence of structures such as the EU's Common Agricultural Policy which acts as a very effective barrier against foreign goods by allowing Europen farmers to sell their produce at a lower price.

Bloody buses

There seems to be a recurring theme here of people moaning about how crap the buses are, and who am I to argue? I'm another person unfortunate enough to be reliant on the TWM #12 bus from Coventry to campus and to be honest, at the moment I'm wondering what the hell they've been doing with my, and everyone else's, money – because they certainly haven't been spending it on running a bus service. Why, when I live in Earlsdon, should leaving the house at 9:10 for a 10am seminar not get me there on time? The bus should take fifteen minutes maximum, yet twice in the past fortnight, I've been late because the bus hasn't come until about 9:50. What do we pay our £67/term for? So that there is the possibility of a bus at some time in the morning? And when I'm waiting for a bus on campus, I can never help but notice that there are plenty of buses to Leamington (take last night, for example, three buses to Leam. in the time it took for one to come which was going to Cov.). And when the buses come, they're crowded and uncomfortable. Someone needs to tell TWM to get their act together.

October 19, 2004

Democracy, wonderful democracy

As you have probably heard elsewhere by now, the General Meeting of the Union tonight was quorate (for the first time since March 2000). No more are the days of quorate general meetings the stuff of half-whispered folklore; finally, a General Meeting attracted enough students to make policy rather than leaving it to the small group of us who are members of Council. Until now, people had generally worked on the assumption that no Referenda or General Meetings would ever be quorate; now, hopefully, people will participate in sufficient numbers that quoracy will be routine in both bodies.

For those who weren't there, the two motions were about Union policy on disciplinary regulations in halls of residence and 'Union independence' (copies of both motions are available on the Union website under 'Democracy') – both passed.

Anyway, well done to everyone involved in getting people to come, and thanks to everyone who turned up.

October 2004

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