Hancock's half-liberal   (23.7.11)

Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South (UK), signed two Early Day Motions in parliament last week: one opposing the (claimed) right of Christians to opt out of equality legislation; the other supporting the (claimed) right of Christians to opt out of equality legislation.

Now that's democracy!

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Oborne on Cameron   (7.7.11)

Peter Oborne is on form in today's Telegraph:

It is essential this information be placed in the public domain because of the shocking decision made last week by the Coalition government to allow Mr Murdoch to entrench his monopoly power over the British media by purchasing the 61 per cent of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB he does not already own. This decision now stinks, and must be reversed.

Yesterday, David Cameron muttered some vague phrases about the possibility of a public inquiry into phone-hacking – showing that he has not woken up to the fact that the world has changed utterly over the past 48 hours. The horrifying revelations that Mr Murdoch’s journalists hacked into the phone of the missing teenager Milly Dowler and even into those of the families of our war dead have opened up a new level of horror about News International illegality.

The burning question now is whether the US tycoon Rupert Murdoch – whose journalists have shown such open contempt for ordinary decency – is a fit and proper person to own any British publicly quoted company, and whether it is not time that his media organisation itself should be forcibly broken up.

Here's hoping that the BSkyB decision will indeed now be reversed. It is clearly a Bad Thing for so much power to be concentrated in a single media organisation, let alone one as nefarious as Mr Murdoch's. Ironic, though, that it was the Telegraph's own unethical sting on Vince Cable which led to the News International takeover of BSkyB being approved in the first place.

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Ed Miliband, or, how to make the public hate you (even more)   (2.7.11)

Did you miss the world's most absurd interview with a Leader of the Opposition, aired across all the major news networks before this week's public sector strikes? If so, please enjoy it below (you HAVE to watch the whole thing). The interviewer has written of Miliband's "professional discourtesy" in conducting himself this way:

If news reporters and cameras are only there to be used by politicians as recording devices for their scripted soundbites, at best that is a professional discourtesy. At worst, if we are not allowed to explore and examine a politician’s views, then politicians cease to be accountable in the most obvious way. So the fact that the unedited interview has found its way onto YouTube in all its absurdity, to be laughed at along with all the clips of cats falling off sofas, is perfectly proper.

Given the PR controlfreakery behind all this, more's the irony that Miliband simply ends up looking completely stupid. Now, why could that be? Oh, I'm sorry for posting in such a reckless and provocative manner.

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UCU in trouble   (2.7.11)

The University and College Union is at last facing legal action over its repeated attempts to force a boycott of Israeli academics. Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, writes in the Jewish Chronicle:

The UCU, however, is a most unlikely champion of free speech. It has been boycotting visits by Israeli academics for a number years. Much like the Scottish councils which have banned the purchase of Israeli books in municipal libraries, their actions suggest that their true goal is not, and cannot be, to secure freedom of speech, but to silence dissenting opinion.

In fact, this is only the most recent decision by the UCU that has left many Jewish academics and students feeling uneasy. In 2006, it rejected the findings of the groundbreaking All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, putting it at odds with every one of Britain's main political parties. In 2009, the UCU invited a trade unionist, who had called for Jews in his native South Africa to be stripped of their citizenship, to speak at a conference.

When seen in this context, the latest resolution is in fact sending out a chilling message. It says that Jewish academics and students who perceive that they are being harassed or bullied should understand that they will be held to a different standard. It says that they should expect to be fair game for invective, and learn to live with feeling more vulnerable. Little wonder that the UCU has already seen many members of the Jewish faith, other faiths and none, vote with their feet and leave.

No-one's education should come at the cost of intimidation. I am calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as the national champion for equality and good relations, to investigate.

Meanwhile, academic Ronnie Fraser has written to UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt threatening legal action against the UCU under the Equality Act 2010.

That the UCU's actions over the past five years or so are driven by antisemitism (albeit often an unwitting antisemitism) has become absurdly self-evident in recent months. The UCU's latest tactic is to reject the definition of antisemitism used by the European Union and the National Union of Students. The reason they have rejected this definition is that their actions would be unequivocally antisemitic on its terms.

One of the other defences given by apologists for the UCU's actions is that, since the boycott is not antisemitic in intent, it cannot be antisemitic in character. This is such a narrow idea of racism as to exclude almost all of its forms. If I act out of non-racist motives (say, out of a desire to protect my children from harm), but my actions subjunctively victimize a single racial group (say, by keeping my children away from all black people) is my action therefore not racist?

Here's hoping that the legal action against the UCU is successful. For any of my colleagues who have not seen fit to leave the UCU already, perhaps now is high time.

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Gaydar   (1.7.11)


(thx, n)

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