All 6 entries tagged Politics

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March 03, 2006

Did Bush actually get it right on climate change?

It’s always disturbing as a democratic socialist to find oneself agreeing with a right wing Republican, particularly on something like the environment. Perhaps I ought to clarify slightly, Bush’s position as I understand it is that the environment comes behind pretty much everything on his list of important things to do. To him the idea of potentially harming the economy in order to cut carbon emissions is just wrong, he does not see the justification for causing his country short term pain in order to protect the environment, and so chooses the easy way out of promising a bit of money to research. This is clearly ridiculous, it is political short term thinking at its worst and should be thoroughly condemned.

But equally ridiculous is the notion that by endeavour alone we can prevent climate change, that by making economically painful decisions to cut carbon emissions by insignificant amounts we will save the planet. Because even if every country signed the Kyoto protocol and stuck to the targets we would only delay the current projected carbon levels for 2100 to 2106 (stats from some radio 4 program a while back). Even if every country on earth signed a much stricter treaty that allowed us perhaps 250 years rather than 200 years before the planet is a burnt out shell of its former self that would hardly be a victory for the environment (I made up the stats but they seem realistic to me). I think Blair made the right decision sign Kyoto because with a booming economy we are able to make the investments in renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency at the moment, and it is true that any long term environment strategy will probably have to look at these things, but lets not be fooled into thinking that these will save the planet single handedly.

Bush, despite his naivety about pretty much every political issue, has actually hit the nail on the head when saying that research is the answer. But we don’t need a couple of hundred million dollars for research, we need the kind of money that the American defence budget gets to set up a huge team of well resourced scientists with the single task of halting the decay of our environment. Scientists have flown us to space, they have split the atom, they have learnt to clone us and they can genetically modify the food we eat, these projects all pail into insignificance compared with the prospect of a long term solution to climate change, I am sure it can be done but it needs big money and it needs to happen now.


February 01, 2006

DNA Databases

There are a lot of complaints in the press at the moment because DNA samples have been taken from people who haven't been convicted of or accepted a caution for an offence, but the articles that I've read do not question that DNA samples should be taken from convicted criminals.

I find this a rather odd position, I don't know the science of DNA, but presumably there are two risks involved, that DNA evidence will falsely place someone at the scene of a crime, or that the police will view DNA evidence of being at a crimescene as evidence of guilt. I'm not sure how big these two factors are and I so I can't conclude about whether DNA evidence is acceptable, but surely if its not ok to take these risks with an "ordinary member of the public" then its not ok to take them with someone who has previously been convicted but has served their time in prison.


January 16, 2006

Union Crises, What Would You Have Done Better?

Sorry guys this one is a bit of a beast, I always get carried away when I'm drinking stella.

Our sabbs have come in for a huge amount of criticism over the last couple of months. There have been two big issues which I think it’s fair to say have provoked students into an unusually high level of anger and cynicism about our union.

The first and biggest is the issue of the smoking ban, and the story as I see it goes like this. At the start of the referendum period the sabbs find out that there is going to be a referendum on banning smoking in the union. While some of the sabbs are sympathetic to the idea of a smoke free union they are concerned by the potential loss of revenue. Leeds and Bournemouth have both attempted to implement smoking bans and suffered huge losses in revenue, while neither of these are exact models of our situation they surely cannot be completely ignored. Consequently at the general meeting the sabbs push through a lot of amendments to the motion to make everyone aware that services will probably have to be cut should the vote be successful. The sabbs also commission a full feasibility study at this point. A week or so later students vote in a referendum with unusually high turnout and pass the smoking ban. Another week passes and the feasibility study comes back and suggests that if the ban is to be implemented the union will face crippling losses that will bankrupt it and cannot be compensated with cuts in the budget. Here the sabbs are in a pickle, they are trustees of the union and legally are not allowed to let it go bankrupt. Constitutionally they could not have delayed the referendum until after a feasibility study because they can only stop a referendum if they know it to be illegal. But the students have clearly voiced the opinion that the smoking ban should go ahead. So what would any of you have done in the situation faced by the union officers?

The second is the issue of Boar ‘censorship’. The situation as I remember Mike Britland (the returning officer for the referenda) describing it is that there has always been a rule that referenda and elections must be held fairly, and that since the Boar has a unique situation on campus in that apart from RAW and WTV, who do a brilliant job but don’t reach the same kind of audience, the Boar is the only real source of news, and consequently must be fair in its coverage of the elections. While generally the Boar was trusted to be impartial, it was thought sensible that 24 hours before going to print the editor of the Boar would run any articles relating to referenda or elections past the elections committee to check they were impartial. The Boar did that for an article in the first week of the referenda period, and the article was approved, but in the next two weeks the Boar published articles that were deemed by elections committee to be biased, and the elections group were not consulted. Consequently in elections periods the elections group want to see the whole Boar 24 hours before hand. This clearly inconveniences the Boar, but is it sensible to trust the paper when it has broken the rules in two consecutive weeks and was warned after the first time not to do it again.

Now I’ll accept that I’ve heard these two versions of events from the people that are involved with running the union, and would genuinely like to hear different versions if this isn’t the truth, but if this is how events took place what could the people involved have done differently? My one criticism of the union is that on the smoking referenda very little information has come out about how they reached their conclusions that a ban would bankrupt the union, apart from that I can’t fault them.


January 07, 2006

Anti–Americanism = Racism

Well having made a controversial statement and put a mathematical symbol in the title to attract those reading the maths blogs I suppose I ought to clarify just exactly what I mean. A few days ago a friend of mine who had just read To Kill a Mockingbird said to me “it amazes me how many great moral books come from such a morally bankrupt society”. I’m not sure if I responded at the time but it niggled at me. To suggest that the US is significantly more morally bankrupt than Britain is quite a bold assertion anyway, but to express surprise that there are moral people in America is just ridiculous.

But this is just one example of how acceptable anti-americanism has become. Britain doesn’t score at all well on the obesity rankings but we Brits take great pleasure in observing how obesity is even more of a problem in America. I have friends on the hard left who, rather than fighting for workers rights everywhere, gleefully welcome news that the poverty gap in America is widening as ammunition they can use against her.

I observed anti-semitism for the first time when on Jailbreak, a couple of people in the queue for tickets turned to a Jew and said to him “it’s a fuckin’ disgrace what you’re doing the Palestinians” before pushing in front of him.

However annoyed we get at Bush’s policies, if we direct our anger indiscriminately towards the American people we will be no better than those racists in the queue at the airport. I think Bush’s election victory was partly because Americans think the world hates them and feel they need a strong leader, if we continue to make them believe this then we will have to settle with presidents like Bush forever.


November 26, 2005

Shakespeare

It is a travesty that the study of Shakespeare remains compulsory for all GCSE English students. Shakespeare’s plays are probably among the most respected works in the English language, and the number of extremely popular plays that he has produced is impressive, but he does not have a monopoly on good literature. Obviously GCSE English is designed to teach and examine pupils, but further to this is an opportunity to inspire young people about books and enthuse in them a passion for literature.

I went to a private school (that’s an argument for another time) and my teacher, Mr Wilkinson, was an absolute legend who was extremely well liked. He chose Henry V for our play, in my opinion the best choice for a class of 16 year old boys because of its theme and because there are some awesome speeches. However the class of generally quite literate and intelligent people were largely uninspired, partly because of the language barrier and partly because of the big sections where nothing much seemed to happen. I found myself sometimes roused by a good speech, but more often bored by a few poor pages.

Were Shakespeare’s plays an undeniable cut above the rest then I would concede that the language barrier is an obstacle we must force our young people to overcome in order to appreciate the best writing in the English language. As it is there are other works of the same quality and depth but which have a more instant appeal, for example Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge’ covers in some detail the issues of guilt, shame and betrayal while maintaining a light and accessible feel. If we are serious about inspiring in everybody a passion for literature then we should use the GCSE to show people that books can be stimulating and pose tough moral questions without needing three reads before they are understood. While Shakespeare is brilliant, he is not appropriate for every pupil, and so while his works should remain an option on the syllabus they should no longer be compulsory.

On a related theme, did anyone see 'The Taming Of The Shrew' on Monday? I only saw the last twenty minutes but was quite impressed by how the BBC seemed to have shifted the focus. Rather than requiring the woman to submit to the dominance of her man, the BBC required both the man and the woman to submit to a mutually loving relationship.


October 22, 2005

Imagine?

Imagine.

I’d always regarded John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ as a great song; the music is beautiful, if a little simple, and the lyrics are extremely powerful. However listening to it more recently, while it still stirs in me a desire to put the world to rights, I find myself disagreeing with Lennon’s world vision.

‘Imagine there’s no country’ is fine, he is arguing for true internationalism. I too am inspired by the thought that one day there will be no need for famine or drought, where people consider the concerns of all people as they do their compatriots, where there will be no more war.

‘Imagine no possessions’ is a big no no for me however. I consider myself a democratic socialist, and narrowing the poverty gap is a good thing, but to not allow people any possessions at all is going to an extreme. It brings me happiness when I can spend the proceeds of my hours at the Christmas pudding factory on something I want.

While I am no longer religious myself, I think Lennon gets it completely wrong with ‘Imagine no religion’. It is true that terrible things have been done in the name of religion, but this is true of anything that inspires people. Fervent nationalism inspired Nazi Germany. Galois got himself shot duelling with a friend over a woman. If we remove everything about which people feel passionate then we will have no kind of world left. So, to single out religion is a big mistake. Would Lennon put an end to football because of the associated hooliganism.

Lennon was great but he never touched on the brilliance of McCartney’s ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Hey Jude’. Anyway, enough of this rant, I’m going to do some measure theory.


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