Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ukraine another perspective - [Putin might be right]

This may be quite a controversial perspective on the situation in the Ukraine. There is one thing I read the other day that has made me consider a different perspective.

On the 23rd February, only days after the former Ukrainian president Yanukovych fled the capitol the Ukrainian Parliament voted to repeal a law passed in 2012 that allowed the use of "regional languages" – including Russian, Romainian, Hungarian, and Tatar - see  The International Business Times .

Now that seems a bit odd - why would this be the first thing the new government sought to do. Faced with a country that was falling into disunity, why pass such a divisive law guaranteed to alienate the Russian speaking people in the East and in Crimea. We haven't heard a lot about the repeal of this law in the mainstream media, nor have we heard anything from the ordinary Ukrainian people who were protesting only just over a week ago. The news has been dominated by the events in Crimea.

From the Russian perspective, Crimea had been part of Russia since 1783 and had only been granted to Ukraine in 1954 during a reorganisation of Soviet provinces. When the Soviet Union collapsed the former Soviet Black Sea fleet was divided with the Russian portion of the fleet granted a lease to remain in its port in Sevastopol.   

It seems to me that Putin may have a point. The government in Kiev may have been taken over by people with a right wing tendency. (the Washington Post has an interesting article on the background of some of the groups involved) Indeed the repeal of the Language Law may be considered a nationalist act.

Although undoubtedly a popular move among Russian people at home and in the Ukraine - Putin acting to protect the Black Sea Fleet - Russian assets may be a pragmatic action faced with the risk of the country descending into chaos.

If this had been an issue on the doorstep of the West, we may acted in a similar manner. It is not long ago that the West got involved in the revolution in Libya. What would the US have done if one of their naval bases faced a similar situation? The West has a record of intervening in similar cases and this issue is squarely in the Russian doorstep.

Putin's position globally is fairly secure - he may face rhetoric from the West and some mild sabre rattling. He knows that so far at least he can hang onto Crimea and his fleet and the West is unlikely to do much. The West, Europe especially is also heavily reliant on Russian oil flowing almost entirely through Ukraine.

 I think we should worry less about what the Russians are doing turn our attention to what is actually happening in Kiev. 

So come on Western Media - I would like to understand a little more from the people in the Ukraine and a little more about the new Government and its intentions as it is this that is likely to shape how this will play out and how the Russians may be forced to act in the days to come.

The BBC has an alternative analysis here

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conference Security Lockdown

Security at the conference this Autumn has crossed the line from reasonable to plain daft. On the way in this morning I had a small padlock confiscated. I carry it on my laptop bag so I can lock my bag when on the tube. The conference organisers had instructed security not to allow locks (even small ones like mine) in case I chained myself to anything.

I wouldn't mind, but I have already been screened by the Police and sent in a note from my mom, so you would have thought any delegates finally allowed in would be considered safe.

Following the confiscation a few of us were then held in the security tent due to another security lock down. The police won't say what the issue was, but I suspect it was something to do with the gentleman I was earlier with a shoelace undone.

Its always dangerous trying to kettle Liberals and after a few minutes we had formed a Liberation committee and had already got around to agreeing the agenda for the first meeting to decide the wording of a strongly worded letter, when the doors opened and they let us go about our business.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato with spring onion, cabbage and bacon

Just invented this great dish - very quick, delicious and healthy.

One Sweet Potato (or a normal one)
1 glove garlic thinly sliced
2 spring onions sliced
1 rasher of bacon, with the rind removed sliced into small squares - (or you can use Lardons, sliced meats, pancetta, bresola, anything really)
A few cabbage leaves finely shredded (chiffonade) you should end up with a large handful.
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
A spoonful of wholegrain mustard
A dollop of creme fraiche
A little Parmesan
Ground black pepper

Bake the potato - microwave or the traditional way in the oven. If you are using an oven wait till the potato is about 10 minutes to completion. If microwaving start the next bit straight away.

Meanwhile in a frying pan or wok, heat some olive oil and fry up the sliced garlic till just starting to turn golden, then add the spring onions.

Add the chopped bacon (or whatever you are using) and fry till the fat has started to render out

Add the Cumin seeds and fry till they start to pop. Add the cabbage and fry till the colour turns deeper and it starts to soften.

The baked potato should now be ready. Put it on a plate and open it out, mash the inside a little.

Turn off the heat on the pan or wok. Add the mustard and the creme fraiche and give it a good stir - but not too much, you don't want the creme fraiche to melt and go watery.

Pour into the potato, grate on a little parmesan and a black pepper.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

‘God Particle’ Supercollider Experiment may open doors to other dimensions

‘God Particle’ Supercollider Experiment may open doors to other dimensions Top CERN Boffin admits.

IT news site - The Register reported this afternoon that Scientists believe there is a serious chance that dimension portal events will soon be generated by the Large Hadron Collider.

CERN’s Dr Bertolucci previously briefed the Register on the Theory of Supersymmetry, which suggests that space-time actually has up to ten dimension. Bertolucci explained that the LHC might cause a "door" to "an extra dimension" to open up admitting "Out of this door might come something, or we might send something through it".

The Register did admit in a footnote that until the planned upgrade of the CERN LHC planned after its regular shutdown at Christmas 2012 such inter-dimensional doors were unlikely to be large enough to allow through any ‘Dark Deities’.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Warwick does not want Fraud Lord

You would have thought that Lord Taylor of Warwick, as a barrister could have come up with a better defence than, "it had been a common practice among peers to claim for fake journeys and enter expenses claims with a false address as a main residence."
Lord Taylor in spite of facing a possible prison sentence will get to keep his title. Perhaps to protect the good name of our town we should petition the Lords to change his title to something more appropriate, Lord Taylor of Pentonville perhaps.
This all goes to show how much the system desperately needs an overhaul. We can now sack our MPs which is a huge leap forwards. We are going to have a referendum on our electoral system this year, so lets finish the job and create a properly accountable elected second chamber.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Guest Post from my student son, Luke Beddow on Tuition Fees

I’d like to announce a change in your regularly scheduled programming. I am not Alan Beddow. My name is Luke, and today I’m going to be your guest columnist. I am twenty-one years old. I am a student. I am also Alan’s son, and should point out that the views I express here do not necessarily reflect those of my father.

Earlier this year I voted, for the first time, in a general election. I was riding on an orange-coloured wave of enthusiasm. I hoped, without daring to believe, that this time things might be different. Political hope was a new feeling for me, and I liked it.

Last night, sitting in a Whetherspoon’s pub reading the subtitles on Sky News, I felt its opposite. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of deep, helpless political anger. The news ticker said that all Lib Dem MPs had agreed to vote in favour of higher tuition fees. How could they do this to us? Hadn’t they signed a pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees?

I study at Birmingham City University. The English department there is a small but thriving community. Everybody there knows all of the staff and most of the students in their year group by name. In the past few months though, the tension in the department had been hanging in the air like a Dickensian pea-souper. One senior member of staff reportedly offered to take a ten per cent pay cut, if others did the same, in order to help combat the problems caused by proposed budget points; another has expressed hope that the government would u-turn over the proposals. As I watched the yellow news ticker run along the bottom of the screen, I knew there was almost no hope of that happening now. And I felt there was nothing I could do.

So I sent my dad a text message. When he replied he pointed out that while ‘ideally all uni fees should be paid by the state’ the country simply can’t afford to do that at the moment, and that the increase in tuition fees will come with ‘an increase in support for those from lower incomes and an increase in threshold where you have to pay it back’. This helped to dull my worries, as always, there is more to the story than the media like to admit, but I still feel deeply uneasy.

Interestingly, the view that all tuition fees should be paid by the state is one that my dad shares with David, a mature student on my course, who has generally voted Conservative. When I asked David how he felt about the tuition fees he explained that his reasoning is that if graduates are beneficial to the state, it follows that the state should pay for them. He also believes that the money students get should be means-blind. An opinion I understand. I have a housemate who only qualifies for the lowest level of financial support, but her parents have their own debts to pay, and so she has to survive on what little she can earn.

So, the rise in tuition fees is a situation which nobody wants, at this stage though, it seems unavoidable. While there are things being proposed which might improve the current system I’m still a little angry at the government for not suggesting a better solution, and I’m still worried about what it will mean for higher education as a whole. Tomorrow the liberal democrats face a decision which goes against one of their key principles. I understand that there may not be much they can do about it, but if they vote in favour of the tuition fees, they run the risk of seeming, to a large section of their supporters, to be breaking a promise. To a party who put so much importance on breaking form the political status quo, this could be devastating.