Call for Consumer Reponsibility from The Times

May 27, 2009

Under the title of ‘We should boycott the callous Sri Lanka regime’, Jeremy Page writes an opinion piece in The Times, available here.

His introduction highlights the link between consumer and supplier, calling for conscience-led shopping, rejecting the myth that what we buy has no ripple effect whatsoever

The next time you buy some lingerie, a T-shirt or a pair of rubber gloves, you may want to reflect on this: they were probably made in Sri Lanka. And, like it or not, your purchase plays a role in the debate over how to respond to the Sri Lankan Government’s successful but brutal military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels, which reached its bloody climax this week

It’s good to see the influential sphere of journalism raising awareness of ethical shopping

‘A degree isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’

May 25, 2009

Increasingly, I’ll agree with the title of this post.  I maintain that GCSEs were the toughest exams I went through, getting easier at A-Level and then just plain ridiculous at third level education

Example 1. In my first year, needing just 40% to pass the module (which counts for nothing towards the final degree) I get a potential 10% for attendance and participation in seminars

Example 2. In my second year, a proposed three hour exam was reformatted into a one hour class test.  With a seen question.  And you were allowed to bring an A4 page of notes in with you.

Example 3. In my final year, during my final exam, I look up wondering what the mumbling noise is.  It’s the invigilator.  With his back turned to a room full of students.  On his phone

Martin Bell and the dumbing down of Britain

May 25, 2009

Although in the media quite a bit these days as a case study for the independent MP, Martin Bell is better know as a former BBC war correspondent.

It was upon reflecting on his many years of service that in 1998 he compiled four talks for Radio 4 entitled ‘The Truth is our Currency’, reflecting and adding to his Journalism of Attachment ideology.

In part three he reflects on news and money;

If integrity means nothing to us, and nothing matters but money – or circulation and ratings which are its collateral measurements in print and on television – then int that case news is only what you say it is.  It is whatever sells newspapers or pulls in viewers.  It is the agenda you adopt to defend your prime time slot in the schedule.  If that means foreign news only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or in the end no foreign news at all, then so be it.  Money knows no realities but its own. 

To me this is a nightmare destination.  and because the Americans are perennially the first with the worst, we should know that they have already arrived at it.  In recent years, their principal TV networks, except CNN sometimes, abandoned all claim to report to the people on what happened today in the nation and the world.  Instead their was a new agenda, and its name was O.J. Simpson.  Over two years, more airtime was devoted to the case of this former football player than to all the news from all of the 185 other countries in the world.  The American people are significantly worse informed today than they were twenty years ago.  I have seen the process described as the “dumbing-down of America.”  Shall we, in Britain, be far behind?

Sadly, time devoted to Jade Goody, Susan Boyle, Katie and Peter in recent weeks and months has answered him..

A slimmer Executive?

May 22, 2009

On Monday, a debate was had in Private Members’ Business to restructure the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, essentially to reduce the disproportionate number of representatives that Northern Ireland has.  The UUP motion (following Cameron’s example of reform?) was supported by Alliance and the DUP, an ammendment was propsed by the SDLP and it was rejected by SF. 

The motion:

That this Assembly supports, in principle, the restructuring of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Assembly in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to update the Assembly on the proposals for the creation of an Efficiency Review Panel, as announced on 9 April 2009, and to agree to implement a review and produce a report on the issue of the number of MLAs and government Departments in the next Assembly, within the next six months.

You can read the transcript of the debate here

UUP implodes further

May 18, 2009

No sign of it on Slugger yet, but BBC reports that Mark Brooks, chairman of North Down UUP Association has not only resigned but joined the DUP.  Another blow to Sir Reg, and yet further evidence that the tide is swinging in favour of Lady Hermon.

I can’t see her swinging to the same side as Mr. Brooks, so either she’ll stand as an independent in the next election, or be joining the Alliance Party which has a strong base in North Down (Alliance EU candidate Ian Parsley is Deputy Mayor there)

Jim Nicholson must be fuming, but then again, he’s getting what he asked for…

Vote for Change!

Vote for Change!

Michael Martin: Scapegoat?

May 18, 2009

Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, today gave his speech in the face of adversity, over calls for him to stand down

Michael Martin

Michael Martin

Barraged by MPs, both from within the Government and without, Mr. Martin stumbled through the questioning after an unconvincingly delivered speech.  Yet the bumbling buffoon image that he portrays (no smoke without fire) may have worked in his favour, as he looked increasingly victimised, each MP growing in boldness in calls for him to stand down.

Tory Mp Douglas Carswell outrageously voiced his concerns that the leadership who dragged the house into this mess, would be unable to have the moral authority to drag the house out of it.  Unfortunately Mr. Carswell, MPs have dragged themselves down.

It was Bob Spink (Independent) who was the voice of reason, pointing out that the public don’t want to see the Speaker made a scapegoat, while MPs get off scot-free.  Now, I don’t claim that Mr. Spink speaks for the public, but he speaks for me.  It was unimpressive to see MPs attempt to deflect the whole of the blame onto this man, who although he has made many many mistakes throughout his time, and should stand down on the basis of his unprovoked attacks last week alone, is not responsible for the food claims, the invisible mortgages, the lightbulbs etc etc.

I don’t buy into the public fury on the whole thing, but we must not allow a full house of MPs to sleaze seize the opportunity to deflect blame away from themselves and onto the Speaker.

Is Protesting Fashionable or Functional?

May 16, 2009

I’ve blogged a few times on protesting, mostly with regards to students

Suzy Dean, a 23 year old wrote an interesting column in The Times on Thursday, complaining that “Demonstrators today seem more interested in mouthing platitudes than marshalling the case to advance real causes.  The article (which can be found here), raises some good points and highlights just how ‘fashionable’ it is to protest, and actually how little can come of it.  She succinctly articulates,

“I’m just here to raise awareness,” was another common response from demonstrators. Actually “raising awareness” is now a standard part of demo discourse: from the Put People First coalition to Stop the War marches, protesters gather to make the public “aware” of a cause. No one seems to think beyond awareness, or believe that convincing the public to join your cause counts for much.

If we are unable to articulate what we’re demonstrating for, the act rather than the aim of protesting takes centre stage.

The differentiation raising awareness and raising support has probably become very cloudyd it’s a fairly easy trap to get caught up in.  I mean, apart from being angry at bankers, who actually knows what many of the protestors at the G20 were protesting at?  And that’s undoubtedly been the most famous protest this year

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications with Save the Children wrote a reply in the letters section yesterday.  As it’s reasonably short, I’ll copy it fully underneath.

Sir, The Make Poverty History white band I still wear every day is a little less white than it was and I wish it could be described as “demo chic”.  Rather than a fashion statement, it is a simple statement that the avoidable death of a child every three seconds is unacceptable — and a reminder to me that the small actions of human beings can change this reality.

Suzy Dean is right to say that campaigns need to go beyond raising awareness alone. But when a quarter of a million people marched in Edinburgh at the peak of the Make Poverty History campaign and called on world leaders to act, they did, with a promised $50 billion aid increase. That campaign went beyond awareness to action and there are children alive and in school today as a result.

Many people joined organisations at the peaceful Put People First march to urge the G20 to keep those promises in the face of a global recession. My guess is most of them came not to strike a pose, but to make a point.

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Save the Children

Rape is bad, but being a keypunch operator is worse

May 14, 2009

Yep, that’s what my reaction was too. 

This is a report from Dr. H.E. Baber, a  philosophy professor at the University of San Diego and occasional Guardian columnist.

She (that’s right, she) asserts that whilst rape is bad, it is not as bad as being killed in your prime, being crippled, or enslaved, or spending 40 hours a week in a menial job.  Allegedly, “to be compelled to do such work is to be harmed in the most serious way”, according to Dr. Baber, writing in the section ‘Working is worse than being raped’.


Rape … is bad in part because it deprives the victim of some degree of freedom, being compelled to work is worse in this regard insofar as it chronically deprives the victim of the minimal amount of freedom requisite to the pursuit of other important interests which are conducive to their well-being


…rape per se, merely [mhm…merely] violates the victim’s sexual integrity.  The work that most women do however violates their integrity as intellectual beings [thus clearly much worse…]

It wouldn’t be so bad if this was written by some uneducated buffoon of a man, but rather this is a professor, who is esteemed enough to be given space in the Guardian.  It really knocked me back.

Worth reading for its sheer increduility, the report can be found here

And while you’re at it, you might as well lose all your faith in women’s rights worldwide by reading that one in seven in Pakistan the UK believe women should be hit for wearing revealing clothes in public, or that it’s ok to slap your wife if she’s spending too much money in Saudi Arabia or that in Afghanistan, a Shiite man should have sex with his wife at least once every 4 days, whether she agrees or not.

Save us from the Swines!

May 13, 2009

Thankfully someone has noticed the huge danger Swine Flu (that’s that disease that was newsworthy last week, before MPs decided to steal the limelight) poses to us all.

BBC reports that Fr Gerard Fearon of Dominican Chapel, Newry, will not be shaking hands with his parishoners this Sunday for fear of spreading the horrible disease which has a lethal number of zero cases confirmed in Northern Ireland thus far.  Fr Fearon said,

I just thought we would suspend it for a while in the context that scientists are saying that we should be protecting ourselves against swine flu and how it is important to have clean hands

And bless him for taking this measure to protect us all.  There were suspicions that the new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 could be transferred over Fr Fearon’s ritual of sneezing on his hand and picking his nose with a cocktail sausage before offering the sign of peace on the way out the door.  There is also talk of reverting back to wafers and wine after health concerns regarding bacon fries and Corona. 

After complaints by several parishoners that the new health measures did not go far enough, confession has also been closed over fears that germs could be transferred from one side of the box from the other, with Fr Fearon granting ‘Amnesty’ until the outbreak is declared over by the World Health Organisation.  Speaking from a white van parked outside the bank, Perky O’Reilly, a 72 year old member of Dominican, said it was a wise precaution and that the amnesty should not be lifted in haste.  His brother Pinky, who joined him in a rush soon after, wearing a full facial mask as a precaution against the pandemic, commented simply “Go Go Go, before he gets up again”.

University of Ulster drops 16 places in University Guide

May 12, 2009

The Guardian’s University guide lists UU in 75th place, out of the 117 Universities listed.  Queen’s drops three places to 49th.  Queen’s have particularly underperformed.  With an average entry tariff of 353 points there is no university with a higher tariff below them, while several universities with lower entry requirements are above them, such as Heriot Watt (22nd, with an average entry tarriff of 346)

% satisfied with teaching – % satisfied with feedback – Student/Staff Ratio – Career prospect – Avg. Entry Tariff

Queens – 85 – 58 – 16.0 – 76 – 353

UU – 76 – 60 – 17.9 – 63 – 269