All 6 entries tagged Politics

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March 29, 2007

Bush and the Bloggers

Writing about web page http://uk.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUKN2822743820070328?feedType=RSS

George W. BushReuters reported this morning that George Bush quoted two Iraqi bloggers in a speech he made “to try to bolster his case that his troop buildup in Iraq is making progress”.

But lest anyone starts to think that he is genuinely aware of the lives that so-called ‘average’ Iraqis are leading, let me just emphasise a couple of things that Reuters’ impartiality prevents them from underlining.

They are a pair of Iraqi dentists who write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, and who met Bush in the Oval Office in December 2004

Wha? They met Bush??? In the White House?!?!?!?!

Ey? What kind of non-diplomatic foreigners end up meeting Bush in the White House? I suppose the kind of non-diplomatic foreigners who can prove their love for America, with perhaps the greatest understatement about the state of Iraq, during a war teeming with contenders for that title.

The Bush Administration needs to revise the way it’s been handling and planning for this critical war.


March 28, 2007

Child Poverty D:Ream Still On or Moral Disgrace?

For the first time since 1999, child poverty rates in the UK rose last year by 200,000. Labelled a ‘moral disgrace’ by children’s charity Barnardo’s, Labour might be on the other end of soundbite politics for once.

Since Labour set a target to eradicate child poverty by 2020, the number of children in poverty has gone down by roughly 500,000. Alone, this sounds pretty reasonable. Half a million lives improved for the better seems pretty good going.

But consider the fact that the government missed its own target by more than the same 500,000 and you have a rather more gloomy outlook. Still, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the government. Say what you want about Brownite technocracy, his tax credits are holding huge numbers of families above the poverty line.

Nor can the right criticise policies of handouts. Loathed to use their slogans as I am, Labour’s ‘welfare-to-work’ policies have helped to encourage many parents back into work. In fact, one of the key reasons that the goal was missed is a dramatic rise in in-work poverty.

Another mitigating factor comes from the way poverty is measured in this country. Incomes of below 60% of the national median are classed as impoverished. Incomes at the top end of the scale are growing very rapidly and this pushes up the poverty line, without life at the lower end of society necessarily deteriorating. As Guy Palmer from the New Policy Institute puts it, “the immediate reasons why the child poverty target was missed was because the number of children needing help to escape poverty has gone up too”.

Although no-one can escape the fact that the target was missed, to even set it was hugely ambitious and I would love to see all opposition parties agree to a similar one. The reasons for the failure will become clearer with the annual Institute for Fiscal Studies ‘Poverty and Inequality in Britain’ publication. Assuming last year’s rise was just a one off, the government deserves more credit for the overall improvements it has made. Still, the set back is enormously disappointing.

Clearly much more needs to be done, whether the targets are reachable or not. The Department of Work and Pensions has already announced new measures, including a ‘refocusing’ of £150m of resources and a commitment to the extension of the New Deal programmes. But the government needs to recognise the extent of ‘in-work’ poverty and if it stands by its target, it will have to further extend its beloved system of tax credits.

There is no reason why they cannot do so, but there is a danger if they do not. The decision to change the way the child poverty target is measure has already been taken and we need to be careful that Labour does not revert to spinning the stats. We need progress for hard-working families, not another Treasury trick. That really would be a moral disgrace.


March 21, 2007

It's in all of us and I hate it

Writing about web page https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/measureyourattitudes.html

My housemate isn’t a beacon of enlightened thought. He is, however, a very nice chap at heart and I know he believes that we should treat people equally regardless of their background. But he just took an online test that reveals he has bq. a moderate automatic preference for White British over Asian British.

This is not just any old online testing website. No Love Calculator to be found here. It forms part of Project Implicit, an academic project linked to some of the top institutions in the US. They admit the online test isn't perfect, but reading their FAQs reveals the perhaps obvious fact that although it only takes 5 minutes and is pretty simple, it is rather well thought through.

This test is not the only evidence of such bias either. The French charity SOS Racisme sent CVs identical in all but name to companies across France. Those sent out with typically French names had a much higher rate of positive responses than those without and I’m sure similar tests here would yield the same results. Yet, I don’t think this is indicative of conscious racism.

As Project Implicit is designed to demonstrate, this prejudice is so ingrained that it probably has a hold on the most ardent supporters of equality without them even knowing. Racism is about so much more than ill-thinking yobs shouting abuse at innocents. It’s about the preconceptions that we all have of other people.

Clearly, we can’t just kick these off, no matter how much we might want to. They pervade all parts of our society, from job interviews to Top Gear. What do we do then? Long term – I’m not sure. I hope they just slowly fade away, but at present, the opposite may well be happening. In the meantime, an awareness that the problem exists is a start. So that even if we have these prejudices against our will, we can very much consciously try to do our utmost to prevent it clouding our vision.

Go on, take the tests yourself.


February 23, 2007

Warwick Debates on RaW: Our Students' Union

Writing about web page http://www.radio.warwick.ac.uk/listen

If anyone’s interested, I chaired a debate on RaW this evening in our series Warwick Debates. Tonight we discussed our Students’ Union. Union President Brian Duggan was there, as well as Nic Warrington the Commercial Development and Communications Officer. Debating with them were Kendall Atcliffe, Chris Rossdale and Matthew Wyatt as representatives of ‘average’ Warwick students.

The topics we covered were
  • Whether the Union should take stances on external issues
  • The “failure” of Union democracy UWSU
  • The Union South rebuild
  • The Union’s commercial outlets
  • Should there be a Subway on campus?


January 18, 2007

Less–than–super–ASBOs

This morning the government will reveal its latest law and order crackdown. The target this time is what the Guardian calls ‘top criminals’. The solution is seemingly an extension of existing New Labour policy towards crime, to remove the right to a fair trial as it’s been defined for centuries. So-called ‘super-ASBOs’ will limit the individuals a person can see, where they can go and even whether they can own a mobile phone; all without the need for a case that proves their guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”.

I can’t admit to having been overly offended by ASBOs when they were first introduced. I could see the need to tackle anti-social behaviour in our communities, even if I’d have preferred the main thrust of policy to be one of education and opportunity for all. Limits to liberty didn’t seem to matter so much when it was a question of whether a gaggle of troubled teens could loiter where they chose. Yet with this expanded version and the growth of its non-super equivalent, it’s beginning to hit me how dangerous both these policies are. Never mind the fact that the original ASBOs seem to have failed, we should not tolerate this erosion of our liberty. It’s just too dangerous. Today sees the widening of a policy framework that indisputably points us in the direction of authoritarianism. Unless we have the evidence to charge people in a criminal court, we do not have the right to take their liberty from them in this way. The quotes on Channel 4 News from junior Home Office minister, Vernon Coaker, were genuinely frightening.

You could argue that I was blind not to see all this before and if I’m honest, I think you’d be right if you did.

http://www.asboconcern.org.uk/


January 11, 2007

Ban Private Schools

Writing about web page /crossdale/entry/kelly_sends_son/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

In recent days, everyone from David Cameron to Chris Rossdale have weighed in with their view on Ruth Kelly sending her child to a private school. I’ll save you from mine, but I’d like to recommend a book for anyone interested in the debate: How not to be a hypocrite by Adam Swift. It’s recently been one of the most important references for an extended essay I’ve written for one of my politics modules, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested. It’s written for parents, rather than so-called poltiical scientists.

That essay argues for the outright banning of private education. I’d love to put the whole thing up here for anyone that’s interested, but probably shouldn’t, given it’s taken hours and is worth 15 CATS. Nevertheless, seeing as I can tell you’re dying to hear it, I can give you a quick run down of what I believe is the strongest argument for their banning.

Given that our social circumstances are a matter of pure luck, we cannot deserve anything that follows from them. We should therefore seek to remove their influence. In other words, we should strive towards equality of opportunity. Of course, this is never going to be perfect, it is right that we allow parents to read to their children, because of the importance of the family, even though this gives them an unfair advantage. Let’s assume that private schools do provide a better academic schooling. If we take, for example, two children of equal ability, who would otherwise be level on the ladder for jobs and university places etc and that only one attends a private school. His (assumed) superior education pushes the state school pupil down the queue. The resources of his parents allow him to ‘jump the queue’. It is often said that we have the liberty to do what we want provided it does not impinge on others’ lives. My argument is that in jumping the queue, the affect one has on the lives of others is too great and should therefore be outlawed, just as is physical interference with others.

That’s the essence of my 5000 word essay cut-down to 120. Let’s hear the criticisms!

UPDATE: Seeing as I appear to have a fairly high Google rating for ‘Ban Private Schools’, I thought somebody out there might want to read the whole thing, now the degree is long gone!

Ban Private Schools.doc


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