Are you comfortably numb?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blair and Bush on Iraq and the Un

So, Blair and Bush are gonna face the music today and admit that they made "mistakes" over Iraq. What mistakes does Bush admit he made?

President Bush regretted his early challenge to the insurgents in July 2003: "Bring 'em on."

He described it as "kind of tough talk ... that sent the wrong signal to people."

"I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner (sic), you know. 'Wanted, dead or alive' - that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that."

Given another Washington hawk stated that America had a 'list of countries that owed them a blood debt' they wanted to attack a couple of years ago, I don't really think we misinterpreted George's words or got the wrong signal. As for expressing yourself in a "little more sophisticated" manner, I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon.

Also, Bush stated that 'I want him [Tony Blair] to be here as long as I'm the president'. For all his love of democracy, it appears Mr President wants to make the decision on when Blair should leave, rather than leave it to our (semi)democratically elected representatives.

The UN reform that Blair is proposing could also be quite scary.

Mr Blair will put forward the case for "values based interventionism" in the name of democracy and human rights...

That's basically code for: 'Mr Blair will put forward the defense for his invasion of Iraq in order to justify future similar wars, for financial gain in the name of democracy and human rights'. Which I think is revealed by the next quote:

"The prime minister would present the US-British invasion and occupation of Iraq, another source said, not as an aberration but as "the natural core of a values-based interventionist foreign policy."

More UN reforms proposed include adding Brazil, Germany, India and Japan as permanent members of the security council, although the US only want 1 or 2 added. If they still want unanimity that could be complicated, especially with Germany in the mix, although the fact that they aren't yet a permanent member is a hangover from the World Wars if ever I saw one.

Blair will also propose that the powers of the General Secretary are expanded, which developing countries oppose. The GS would also not rotate around the continents but be chosen from a 'global pool' of candidates. No prizes for guessing who'd have the impetus in choosing them. It could be a very scary situation if a pro-America hawk gets elected General Secretary and can then influence the budgets of hundred UN agencies.

This 'radical reform' could lead to the UN becoming just another puppet of the IMF and World Bank, aside from already being America's bitch. Great solution though... don't get something ratified by the UN, so what do you do? Change the UN!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blogging is not my forté...

In fact, most of you have probably stopped reading this thing by now. Between last time and now I have had three exams, which went okay, apart from International Relations. Last one is on Tuesday (history). I cannot wait to finish.

On Blair
Blair allowed himself to be interviewed by Radio 1 today, a mistake he perhaps won't be making again. If you were looking for hard-hitting journalism cutting to the heart of issues concerning young people today, look somewhere else. Not only was the interviewer a Paxman wannabe, she read out some texts listeners had sent in. One of these contained the words, 'Tony, when are you gonna FCUK off?' Great. Well done, Radio 1, for producing a really sophisticated piece of radio journalism. Not only did they make their listeners look like uncouth disrespectful yobs, they made themselves look like gratuitously offensive sensationalists looking for cheap digs.

On the lecturers
The ongoing dispute between AUT and Nafthe and Ucea is getting nasty with students threatening to sue universities if they can't graduate, or obtain quality assured degrees. I can see that students in this situation are facing a really tough time, and I fully sympathise with them. However, someone is going to suffer in this situation. The students that are presented with the prospect of not graduating may well be the mums and dads in 20 years time whose kids are faced with rubbish lecturers because today's unions didn't stand up for their rights. This is a short-term disruption for a very long-term aim. If we want a top-quality education system, we have to pay for it. And that means giving back lecturers the 40% pay drop in real terms they've taken in the last 20 years.

On Big Brother
I actually find this programme incredibly offensive. The first series was a kind of psychological experiment to see how people reacted to being in such an environment. It has now turned into the kind of voyeuristic and cruel zoo that someone very voyeuristic and cruel would be proud of. The fact that a psychologically ill, possibly suicidal person was used as entertainment on it is merely symptomatic of its overarching unethicalness. I can barely believe this programme is allowed on the air. I don't think the fact that the housemates sign up to everything vindicates the producers' decisions.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Update on the life of Bec

Hi everyone,

This is one of those general catching up with what I've been up to posts, rather than a rant/comment about anything in particular (hi Jen ;)).

This term is flying by, as terms tend to do, and I can't believe my exams start on Monday. It's been a really good term so far. This could be mainly because the sun has come out in force to make up for it snowing in April. It seems so wrong to have to revise when it's such gorgeous weather, but these things must be done.

For the interested family among you, my last essay marks were:

71 for 'To what extent has neo-liberalism had a positive impact on the international sphere?' (Foundations of Politics)
70 for 'Why does Machiavelli argue that a prince should behave in 'ways not always considered good?' (Classical Political Thought)
74 for a book review on 'Breaking the Nations' by Robert Cooper (International Relations)

So obviously I'm pretty chuffed with all those. I have to say though, that I have lost some (more) faith in the education system. The last mark, for the book review, seems a little generous given I wrote the thing in an afternoon and got some of my references from the reading list without even picking the books up. 2 of those essays and my last history one contain exactly the same paragraph, copied and pasted from the first one I wrote. Does that count as plagiarism? Can you plagiarise yourself?

Also, our Foundations lecturer has given everyone all the exam questions for our paper on Monday, so basically everyone is just planning/writing their essays in advance and then memorising them. I think this is pretty stupid as it not only makes a mockery of the examination system, but seems to be saying that we can't handle doing a proper exam. Also, I think it will just make it harder for us to do well next year, when it actually counts. But mainly I'm just annoyed cos I won't be able to blag it so much, as loads of people will have gone and lived in the library to plan all their essays...

We went to see a play last Saturday night, called 'Blasted', at the Rep. It was supposedly about the Bosnian war. Some things about it were quite good; for example, all the stage directions were read out loud, e.g. 'He drinks the gin'. This was effective. It contained simulated male rape, 'normal' rape, baby-eating and eye-gouging. However, its attempts to be way out conceptual were met mostly with failure, in my opinion. Nothing about it was particularly awful, but nothing was particularly great either. And it went on too long.

I'm going to see a uni production of Bugsy Malone tonight, which looks like being really good because it's sold out basically every night. And it's Bugsy Malone! I love it. Bring it on.

I've also been reading loads this term which is good because I was beginning to think that I'd forgotten how to read anything apart from the paper or politics books. I've got right into the old Gothic literature, having worked my way through Dracula and Mr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and I'm now starting on Frankenstein, but that looks pretty hard-going.

You probably read about the editor-ship in the last post. It was really nerve-racking so I'm glad the whole thing's over! I just hope I can actually manage to carry out some of my ideas next year.

Anyway, this is getting way too long (although I could carry on for a while yet), so I'll leave it here.

Bec(s) xx

Editorial Election

I won Editor of Redbrick yesterday evening!

I'm wondering what I've let myself in for but I'm also pretty excited...

That's all for now folks - I have 3 essays to plan today!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Abi's killer gets 4 months

THE case of Jaswinder Singh, the man who killed Birmingham student Abigail Craen in a hit-and-run accident last October, has been handed to the Court of Appeal after he was jailed for eighteen months on April 3rd amidst national furore over the leniency of the sentence.

The case was handed to the Attorney-General on April 10th after the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service deemed the sentence ‘unduly lenient’. The Solicitor-General, North Warwickshire MP Mike O’Brien, asked to be personally briefed on the case and subsequently handed it to the Court of Appeal on May 1st after deciding it was not tough enough.

Currently, although he faces a four-year driving ban, Singh may only have to serve half his sentence and, because he has been on remand for five months already, could be released a mere four months from now. Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins, who delivered the sentence, has refused to respond to mounting criticism from Abigail’s family, the West Midlands Police Federation and prosecution lawyers. In response to what has been deemed an ‘insult’ to her daughter by Abigail’s mother Susan Craen, the Birmingham Mail launched a ‘Justice for Abigail’ campaign in an attempt to get Singh’s sentence extended.

Singh had had a drink-driving ban lifted only six months before he killed Abigail. The 45-year-old father from Ward End in Birmingham was driving an uninsured Mondeo on October 30th last year when he went through the red lights at a pedestrian crossing on the Pershore Road and hit Abigail, leaving her around thirty feet up the road. The 20-year-old medical student was going to the shops opposite Hunter Court, her halls of residence. He then hid the damaged car in a garage and waited eight days before handing himself in to the police.

Judge Pearce-Higgins asserted that although Singh pleaded guilty to offences including dangerous driving, failure to stop after an accident and failure to report an accident, he showed ‘genuine remorse’ and was thus due a softer sentence. The maximum sentence Singh could have received was ten years.

The case reached the national papers after Susan Craen decided to release pictures of her daughter lying dead in hospital in a successful campaign to find the driver. Mrs Craen said she felt the sentence ‘trivialised her life, as if she didn’t matter’, a sentiment shared by hundreds of people who have written to local papers expressing their disgust at what is seen as evidence of the legal system’s weakness.

A panel of judges at the Court of Appeal are now likely to increase Singh’s sentence.