Sunday, March 08, 2009

Britblog Roundup 212: It's only being so cheerful that keeps me going

Timothy Garton Ash recently wrote in the Guardian:

For 30 years I have been travelling to unfree places, from East Germany to Burma, and writing about them in the belief that I was coming from one of the freest countries in the world. I wanted people in those places to enjoy more of what we had. In the last few years, I have woken up - late in the day, but better late than never - to the way in which individual liberty, privacy and human rights have been sliced away in Britain, like salami, under New Labour governments that profess to find in liberty the central theme of British history.

"Oh, these powers will almost never be used," they say every time. "Ordinary people have nothing to fear. It affects just 0.1%." But a hundred times 0.1% is 10%. The East Germans are now more free than we are, at least in terms of law and administrative practice in such areas as surveillance and data collection.

Similarly, Lavengro in Spain writes:

I was brought up in a country that was an example to the world. I was told that my country was a model of democracy and decency, a country that opened its doors to refugees from dictatorships. It was a country that was, simply, better than others because it was the country that invented democracy, freedom and civilisation. Everything good was British and everything British was good. And there were British people trying and – sometimes – succeeding in bringing British values to those unfortunate peoples who had not as yet experienced them.

And then, outside the colonies, there were foreigners. The French were bad enough but they did have good food if you liked that sort of thing; the Italians were dreadful but they did have good statues and paintings, and they sang awfully well, you had to give it to them, fair’s fair; and the Spaniards were picturesque, with their bulls and their donkeys and their ridiculously pompous politicians, but they could never be really civilised.

Well, the biter has been bit. I live in Spain. I have said many times over the years that I feel freer here in my person, my actions and my expression than if I were in the UK – and that’s without mentioning the trains.

It makes you wonder hat has happened to Britain in the 34 years since General Franco died.

Pajamas Media won't cheer us up: it is reviewing a book called The Rotten State of Britain.

And if you do mention trains... Baroness Ros Scott complained in the Lords about Network Rail disrupting services by poorly scheduled maintenance work. And later questions in the exchange reviewed that the company's managers are being paid bonuses despite this poor performance.

But then, as Pub Philosopher points out, senior corporate executives come up smelling of roses no matter how badly they perform.

Don't think you can take comfort in the "special relationship" between Britain and the USA: Amused Cynicism shows there is no such thing. And Sarah Palin has demonstrated the truth of this by snubbing the Tory Cornerstone Group (known in some quarters as the Millstone Group), says Theo's Blog.

Mind you, Charles Crawford suggests there is not much of a relationship between the US and Russia either.

Science won't save us, if the weak research taken apart by The Devil's Kitchen is anything to go by. The Daily (Maybe) has more interesting figures on prisoners' faith and the kind of offence thay have committed, but comes to no firm conclusion.

Things are certainly no better in Zimbabwe. This is Zimbabwe has tributes to Susan Tsvangirai and you can follow its Twitter feed too.

Worried about how women are faring in all this? You'll get it in the neck if you are, says Penny Red:
I have been stunned - truly shocked and appalled - at the level of hatred and wilful ignorance I've seen flooding the press and the internet over the past few days. Just look at the response to Amnesty International's campaign to end violence against women.
Cruella-Blog takes issue with Germaine Greer's claim that women aren't as funny as men. I was with her until she cited Jo Brand in support of her case.

Still, Sewing is for Girls has a nice blue tank top you can make.

Oliver Kamm thinks that current economic policies carry massive inflationary risks - the comments are interesting though.

In Islington, reports Suz Blog, all primary school children are to get free school dinners. Hunter and Shooter says the Lib Dems have come out in support of faith schools. And, er, that is all he says.

Archbishop Cranmer won't cheer you up. He is worried that Sharia courts will undermine the Forced Marriages Act.

Tom Harris MP caused a stir this week with his:

Teenage girls shouldn’t be having underage sex. Why? Because it’s wrong.

Teenage girls shouldn’t choose to have babies as an alternative to getting an education and a career. Why? Because it’s wrong.

Parents shouldn’t teach their children that a lifetime on benefits is attractive or even acceptable. Why? Because it’s wrong.

He was answered by two articles on Liberal Conspiracy. Unity questioned Harris's grasp of the facts and Neil Robertson argued that the question is far more complicated morally than he made it appear.

If birth is a difficult subject, then so is death. NHS Blog Doctor asks whether we should worry too much about its cause at the end of a long life:

The public needs to think very carefully about the precise purpose of death certificates in the elderly. If diagnostic forensic precision is required, then there has to be a post mortem. That means chopping up grandpa. And even when he has been chopped up, as any pathologist will tell you, it is still not always possible to be sure as to the cause of death.

The more realistic approach is to accept that often the best statement that can be made is, “Look, he was 87 and had a lot of medical problems and, though unexpected, his death was neither suspicious nor in the least surprising and was probably caused by a heart attack or a stroke and thus there is no need to subject him, and his family, to the distressing rigours of a post mortem.” Trouble is, there is not room to write all that on a death certificate.

And would life be easier if we could do a CTRL + Z now and then? One Man Blogs is not so sure.

If you feel moved to go into politics to do something about all this, think again. Cllr Mike Cox recounts his experience of dealing with the "Standards" bureacracy, that seems determined to treat our elected representatives like naughty schoolchildren.

Despite this, Irfan Ahmed is fighting back. He has set up a Facebook group to demand that MPs should not be allowed to keep their home addresses secret.

And many more people are fighting back too, as you will see if you visit the latest Carnival of Modern Liberty, which was hosted on this blog a couple of days ago.

Next week's Britblog Roundup will be hosted on Mick Fealty's Daily Telegraph blog.

Please send your nominations to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

And maybe you could make them a little more cheerful next week?

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