Thursday, February 21, 2008

Westminster Council Are Idiots

Was parking up in Pall Mall last night before yet another trip to see Avenue Q. Normally we manage to park free or pay at the machine. Not last night. Westminster Council have come up with a new scheme where you pay by phone. Taking aside the fact that not everyone has a mobile phone it was the most idiotic scheme I've ever come across.

Despite the fact that we're all, women in particular, warned about the dangers of using mobile phones in public there I was flashing both my new expense mobile phone and credtit card at a post with no lighting. I felt very exposed and vulnerable.

On top of that the electronic answering system is as frustrating as every other bloody idiotic electronic answering system and as my fourth attempt to enter my card number ended with me seemingly cut off before I could confirm my details.

We gave up and drove to a parking bay with a pay and display machine.

It's time for a rethink on such moronic plans.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

So long, farewell Fidel

I'm sure that Comrade Fidel's announcement in the middle of the night that he's stepping down as Cuban President will leave many idealistic lefties traumatised. Boo-hoo to them.

Castro standing down is the best thing that's happened to Cuba in over half a century. The revolution that promised so much delivered so little. The Baptista regime was corrupt - I don't think that's in any way doubted but the Castro regime was cruel, damaging and dangerous.

I'm in no way an expert on Cuba, I have visited it but only for two weeks. But two weeks can tell you a lot about a place. Our tour guide was very well versed in the regime's successes. Free education, most kids go to university, free healthcare. Blah blah communist manifesto blah.

A little digging however paints a different picture - doctors are leaving the health system in huge numbers for better paid jobs such as taxi drivers, individuals can set up private businesses such as in hairdressing or dressmaking - but if they start to make a success of their small business and turnover even the slightest profit they are closed down and their assests seized. Families live in squalor as they are afraid to decorate their homes for fear of being regarded as rich and being robbed/having their assests seized. Children in education are encouraged to inform on any anti-government activities in which their parents may participate.

A bloody paradise that sounds to me.

Castro's gone, hopefully he won't be followed by his brother who may make the right noises but has been number 2 all along.

Good luck to the people of Cuba.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Film Trailer

OK, I am now officially excited

The Moral Imperative - Where and When?

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the other day that the UK has a moral imperative to intervene to spread democracy.

"My plea is not to let divisions over those conflicts obscure our national interest, never mind our moral impulse, in supporting movements for democracy."

And generally I tend to agree. I would have supported the Iraq war if Blair had said it was intended to remove Hussein from office as Britain could no longer stand by while dictators perpetrate genocide on their own citizens. I would have welcomed it rather than opposing it, and asked if he'd be taking out Mugabe next.

So with Miliband saying that we have a moral duty can I direct him to one country in particular?

The country where an illiterate woman faces beheading for being a witch after hearings she and her representatives were unable to attend.

The country where flower and gift shops were raided this week to remove roses, wrapping paper and teddy bears in an attempt to stop the un-Islamic sin of celebrating (St) Valentine's Day.

The country where two gay men were recently sentenced to 7,000 lashes each for sodomy.

The country where rape victims are sentenced to lashings for adultery, and then further punished for speaking out.

Or does Saudi Arabia, a country with some of the most shocking human rights violations in the world, not count?

Hat-tip to Mr Eugenides for the Valentine story

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One Minute For Darfur

Unlike many other campaigns this really is only a one minute job. Reading the details takes longer.

In August 2003 the International Criminal Court's Chief prosecutor that Ahmad Harun, a Sudanese Government Minister, and Ali Kushayb a leader of the Janjaweed, organised the destruction of Bindisi - a town in Darfur. The ICC prosecutor states that their followers murdered over 100 civilians from the Fur tribe, raped women and girls, destroyed the mosque and food stores, and forced 34,000 people to flee.

Since the warrants for their arrest were issued by the International Criminal Court neither man has been handed over to the ICC or prosecuted by Sudanese courts. Instead, Ali Kushayb has been freed from prison while Harun has remained in his post as State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and was appointed to co-chair a committee charged with investigating human rights complaints, including those committed in Darfur. As Minister he is responsible for those displaced by the violence in Darfur, and is also charged with liaising with the UNAMID peacekeeping force currently being deployed to protect those same people. Thus one of the chief suspects in an investigation into mass murder is now responsible for the fate of the victims.

Due to China's veto the United Nations Security Council did not even issue a Presidential Statement about Sudan's refusal to hand over the suspects - it will soon be almost one year since the arrest warrants were issued.

Please express your deepest concern at Sudan's defiance of international law and call for the United Nations Security Council to:
- visit Khartoum in May 2008 to ask for the Sudanese government to hand over the two suspects
- impose targeted sanctions (asset freezes) on the Sudanese Government ministers protecting these two men.

Please visit Wanted for War Crimes to send an email to all fifteen members of the UN Security Council - this should only take ten seconds.

For more information on Darfur please visit the wonderful Aegis Trust.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who'd have thought it? A tax-cutting government at last.

The removal of tolls from the Forth and Tay road bridges today has ensured one thing that I never thought would happen. The SNP has become the first tax-cutting government in Britain for well over a decade. All around us stealth taxes are biting into how many money individuals get to keep to make their own choices. An 80p (per journey) tax cut may not sound huge - but the principle is. People get to keep their own money. Not everyone we do has to be taxed.

Well done Alex Salmond and John Swinney. Keep it up.