Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More UK Politics

I am enjoying my time here in the UK quite a bit. It is especially nice in relation to my interest in comparative politics. There are obviously some big differences in what the media report and the topics of discussion in the politics.

There are a few things at the top of my list of interesting stories today. First, the BBC had a story about a cyber attack on Estonia. You can read about it here. Our modern technology presents new opportunities for foreign threats as you’ll see in the article.

Second, Salman Rushdie is once again under attack from religious fanatics. He was dubbed Sir Salman Rushdie recently, which has made a few people unhappy.

Finally, to the politics of England. Social engineering is on the agenda for the Tories here. For those of you who don’t know, the Tories are the English equivalent of Republicans, except they don’t seem to have a Dobson wing to their party. London is Washington turned upside down. It’s a place where the left and center-left run the show. Even my Tory friend here referred to Tony Blair as “center of the road.”

The social engineering the Tories are proposing is what we in the states would refer to as a marriage tax credit. They want to give a tax break of about £20 a week (what amounts to $40) to married couples. This, of course, is in the hopes that this will encourage couples to get married and stay married rather than living in sin.

They argue that this would save marriages, give children better homes and “prevent social breakdown.” Sounds nice; at least the conservatives here openly call their policies social engineering instead of pretending to be libertarians. I would say there’s nothing wrong with tax credits for married couples, especially those with children. I would also ask, why it is that children whose parents get divorced don’t deserve to have those extra resources and if there is actually a person alive who would say “this marriage isn’t working out, but I really can’t give up that extra $40 a week.”

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Where is the liberal bias at the BBC?

Pictured here: Abi, me, Joanna plus baby #2 and our English friend Heather; above our heads, Durham Cathedral.

The media coverage of the Live Earth events has been a long exercise in Eric Alterman’s question, “what liberal media?” Before leaving for England, where I currently sit typing, I was driving around listening to I don’t know what generic rock radio station. The station was playing a Lenny Kravitz song, after which the DJ mentioned that Kravitz was going to be playing at Live Earth, “Al Gore’s thing” he added, a bit dismissively. The next day, the same station, same DJ, played the same Lenny Kravitz song (surprise, surprise, corporate radio, the same six songs over and over). This time the DJ again mentioned that Kravitz was playing at Live Earth.

Then came the talking point. “Ya know, a listener e-mailed me and made a good point. How much energy are they going to waste just putting on that concert? Just something to think about I guess.”

And so the same right wing fallacy was repeated over and over. I heard it from some radio DJ. It was on Drudge. Worst of all…I heard it on the Beeb; of all the places in the world to hear a right wing talking point, the supposedly “liberal” BBC. I’ve been in England since Thursday. Every time I’ve seen some coverage of Live Earth since I’ve been here the report has made some mention of the energy that would be used for the concert.

Even the coverage during the concert involved some kind of counter message. The BBC interviewer was talking to a global warming skeptic while the concert was in the background. Now, I’m all for multiple viewpoints being heard, even if I believe that one of those viewpoints is ridiculous. My complaint isn’t that someone I disagree with is having his say. What bothers me is that even after the right wing talking points get inserted we still have to hear claims of liberal bias.

Where is that liberal media I keep hearing about?

The other point is that this claim is a fallacy; a diversion. You don’t need to address the claims being made by Al Gore and environmental scientists. You just need to call rock stars hypocrites.