Sunday, 29 March 2009


From tomorrow morning I will be away at a Christian conference, so alas no updates this week.

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far, I really do appreciate all your contributions, no matter how angry.

I will leave you with Daniel Hannan’s destruction of Gordon Brown in the European Parliament. Whether or not you agree with him, it is well worth watching.



Saturday, 28 March 2009

Not the first clue...

Tens of thousands are marching through London today, protesting at the G20 on poverty, climate change, and jobs. All that they lack now is a clear idea of how to go about achieving these worthy aims.

One mass-produced sign handed out to people said “Jobs not bombs.” Forgive me if I am misunderstanding this, but in what way is that not utterly ludicrous? For a start, the two are not opposite ends of the same scale. No bombs does not, and has never, equated to more jobs. In fact, ironically, the two often go hand in hand. A while ago I wrote a piece saying that the BAE, with whom the University of York have now cut funding ties, are economically beneficial for those who associate with them, and provide thousands of jobs for families in all areas of employment. This fact remains.

In what way, therefore, will cutting bombs increase jobs, (and vice versa)? The sign is ridiculous and incoherent. It will probably fit right in with the thronged masses who are marching, as I type, through London with the united demand to change the world by doing…erm…

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury

Apologies for the limited uploads recently, it is deep into exam cramming season.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by the Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and cover the resulting question and answer session for The Times' Ruth Gledhill. Here is what she said:

After the lecture he did a Q&A, which Peter Campbell, deputy politics editor of York University's Nouse website, reports for us here. The pictures accompanying this post are all also by Peter, former workie at The Times. A journalist to watch, methinks, especially as he did this for us for no financial reward. You will have your reward in heaven Peter!

By Peter Campbell

The religious communities are “failing profoundly in what is expected of us” in energising a response to climate change in society, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite the huge potential influence that the church has over the issue of global warming, it fails to harness this effectively, he added, while answering questions following his lecture in York Minster on climate change last night.

One proposal he put forward was for “church commissioners to be more proactive in their own lives” suggesting that those in the role of leadership should be the first to “trade in their cars for eco-friendly or eco-neutral versions.”

The Archbishop said that “we are near a tipping point” of climate change, and that the church, and other religious communities, are not doing their part to lead the world against it.

“People from Westminster are constantly telling me that they need me ‘to keep up the pressure’ on them to do something.” Dr Williams added his support to the sentiment that politicians, if relied upon, will do

He also added that he was “deeply perplexed” by the issue of overpopulation. “The immediate common sense response says that everyone has to consider the limitation of their own fertility,” but was quick to add that “that sounds rather like a Western prescription for other people.” Dr Williams made clear that he was not advocating a China-esque governmental policy “which led to the most appalling results and brutality.”

“It is hugely complicated,” he admitted, adding “I find myself confused by it.” The Archbishop addressed that the human race has a moral responsibility for their actions, and that “the cross [of Jesus] saves us from our self-destructive nature, not from being created in the first place.”

Furthermore, humanity seems not to have a sense of fear about what will happen if we don’t act, he said, stressing “the human race doesn’t seem to know what it’s up against.”

Click here for the full blog entry, and for more of Ruth.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Holiday plans

You may have seen reports of the government’s plans to make all holiday goers, businessmen, and day-trippers from the UK record their trip on a database. The regulations will track up to as many as 250 million journeys from the UK, including light aircraft, fishing vessels, and even channel swimmers.

The plan, brought in by the UK Borders Agency, is being phased in, with the plan to cover 95% of people by the end of 2010, and will carry a hefty 5,000 fine for non-compliance. Why?

According to e-borders; "It allows us to secure the UK's Borders by screening people as they travel in and out of the UK. E-borders helps the police catch criminals attempt to escape justice."
The e-borders website gives the reasons for the scheme’s necessity. There are four of them:
1. in order to keep a comprehensive record of everyone who crosses our border;
2. in order to strengthen the security of those who live in and visit our country;
3. in order to make it easier for those who are travelling and trading legitimately; and
4. in order to maintain tight control of our border.

These four are all worded so as to be vague, and therefore un-quantifiable in terms of success. Obviously they are supposed to keep a comprehensive record – the system would have failed in its most basic practical function if it didn’t record who crosses the borders!

The third point is the most ridiculous of the four. In what possible way will handing over details make travelling out of the country easier? “Make it easier” – make what easier? The act of travelling perhaps, or maybe simply being able to sleep peacefully knowing that your personal and travel details are safe in the government’s hands.

Which brings up the most concerning aspect of the entire venture, aside possibly from the civil liberties/big brother scare that will no doubt be had over the measure. The government will hold these travel details in a database for, mercifully, “no more than 10 years.” Given how much legislation regarding personal information has changed in the last decade, how much more will it have the potential to change in the ten years of holding the information! Any details given will be held across at least two potential changes of government and countless more changes in policy direction.

There is nothing to stop the details being collected, and the five years later being informed that, due to extenuating circumstances, they now need to be kept for 15 years, or 25 years. And you need to provide more details next time as well.

This is, of course, all assuming that they don’t go and lose them in the first place.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The UN is over-reaching its mandate

Last November, the UN passed a resolution against the defamation of religion. While it might appear on the surface that this would create tolerance, many fear that it will encroach on free speech. The resolution, led by Pakistan supported by Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, but opposed by the UK, US, and Israel, could become binding on all UN member states if passed later this year.

What this will mean is that the states will have to pass legislation outlawing anything that could be classified as ‘religious defamation’. Many fear that this legislation will principally apply to Islam, who have a higher track record of taking offence at criticism than most. As put by CNN, this will make “any mention of terrorism linked to Islam a criminal offence.”

Christopher Hitchens, well known for his contempt of all religions, called the measure “totalitarianism defined” and “a rape and butchery of our [America’s] First Amendment.” His argument runs that, if they feel insulted by anything, Muslims will go straight to violence. On the other hand, you can’t call them violent, because that will hurt their feelings. While this is obviously a little bit of a one sided-analysis from a close friend of Salman Rushdie, it holds some alarming truths within it.

This appears to be the UN reaching well outside of its mandate on an issue over which it has already made a stance – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which just happens to include freedom of both expression and religion). What it is doing now would run the risk of fundamentally contravening these values, whether or not the countries signed up to the Declaration – I’m looking at you, Saudi Arabia.

What would actually happen if this passed and the UK was bound to create such legislation? The desired outcome – tolerance and peacefulness, would be completely reversed. Intolerance and suspicion would be nurtured under the surface, and it wouldn’t take a very large event to spark off race riots, hate campaigns, and anti-Islamic protests, which would sink to the levels of the radical Islamists of ­­­­today.

The UN should back off, and keep to restoring member border disputes by peaceful means – that’s why it was created.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Bribing your way to peace?

News tonight that Hillary Clinton is attempting to win the favour of moderate Palestinian group Fatah and to sideline Hamas to the tune of almost $1bn is interesting.

Since being appointed Secretary of State by the new US President Barack Obama, Clinton has not yet strayed into the minefield of the Middle-East. The money is in the form of aid to Gaza for the purpose of re-building, and is conditional on the grounds that Hamas have no involvement in the spending of the money. Gaza saw a serious amount of infrastructural damage in the recent conflict, and the money is no doubt needed, but is essentially trying to bribe your will onto the Middle East either possible or wise?

Washington wants the money to bolster Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, which Hamas evicted from the Gaza Strip in 2007. In this sense, it is possible that the money may well enable Fatah to take control of the region’s reconstruction, but only if Hamas let it.

Who is to say that Hamas, who showed massive disregard for the lives of its citizens, continuing to shell Israel when the Israeli tanks were sitting at their gates, will suddenly undergo a change of heart and will have the best interests of its citizens in mind? Hamas will be perfectly happy to sit there in spite and let other, neutral aid organisations clear up the mess.

While the humanitarian groups will tend to focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza more than the reconstruction, with the amount of coverage that the region has had, it is impossible to think that no-one will consider investing in its redevelopment unconditionally. Essentially, if Hamas can function without having to ask for money to rebuild itself in Gaza (we have no idea whether Hezbollah are able to help them out), then the people in Gaza have no chance of seeing the money.

Secondly, is it wise? On the surface, winning the favour of one group of people by helping instil them in power can only be a good thing. But will helping any Palestinians go down well with Israel, especially following the recent election results?

What is potentially more damaging is that this action will send the message to other potential allies of the US in the Middle East that, if they can successfully have a more-evil alternative, then they are likely to get funding to aid them to success. This sets an unhelpful precedent.

Clinton’s first serious move on the international stage is both an unprompted and a reckless one, and runs the risk of being totally ineffectual. Only time will tell whether her boldness pays off.