Don't Panic
  • Is taking drugs immoral?

    From Colombian cocaine cartels to Afghan opium smuggling, there is a robust link between the illegal sale of narcotics and murder. Little wonder, when the stakes are so high - a 2007 Home Office report estimated the British drugs trade to be worth between £7bn and £8bn, with dealers earning around £100,000 per year.

    So if drugs were legalised, would the following legislation, taxation and treatment centres make drug use morally acceptable? After all, plenty of morally dubious actions are legal, such as adultery, selling cigarettes and commodity trading. Furthermore, would we see a cultural shift akin to the smoking ban in pubs?

    I doubt it. One of the vital characteristics of the smoking ban is that the law is self-enforcing. If someone lights up a cigarette in a pub, it’s not the landlord who needs to step in, as invariably other patrons will do so.

    In this context, I doubt that we’d go from the surreptitious ingestion of drugs in pub toilets to racking up lines of coke over a curry -

    Read More »from Is taking drugs immoral?
  • This week, Cuban President Raúl Castro announced plans to relax Cuba’s restrictions on foreign travel for its citizens, bringing an end to 60 years of immurement.

    It comes six years after Raúl took over from his ill brother, Fidel, the maverick revolutionary who swept to power during the revolution of 1959, which turned the Caribbean island into the region’s only communist state.

    Until now, voyaging outside of Cuba involved a complicated and expensive visa application process. The permits cost upwards of $150, which is a lot of money when national pay averages $20 a month.

    The reasons for such restrictions are clear. The fear has always been that allowing citizens to travel beyond the country’s shores would result in state crippling brain-drain - that is - the widespread emigration of its educated populous in search of new opportunities in the capitalist world.

    Cuba's President Raul Castro

    Restricting your citizens’ travel is a spirit-crushing system of subjugation, which mocks state legitimacy and limits Read More »from What relaxing travel restrictions means for Cuba
  • Now that the dust has settled on a summer of Queen-related jubilation and breathtaking sports prowess, has our idea of Britishness changed?

    After all, new citizens are required to take a test that most Brits would certainly fail. Are multiple choice questions on Shakespeare and empire really an effective way of qualifying Britishness? Globalisation means that national identity is in constant flux. So should this test cover wholly modern, practical concepts?

    I did a straw poll of ten or so Brits I know on what it means to be British, and the following three answers narrowly won out: monarchy, multiculturalism and empire.

    How interesting that two of the three have distinct historical relevance, whereas the other - multiculturalism - appears rooted in modernity. The Olympic medal success may have influenced this choice, where ethnicities from the full spectrum of Britain were represented. You might not draw the same association looking at a Cabinet stuffed with white Etonians.

    Beyond these

    Read More »from What does being British mean to you?
  • There seems to be a trend in the British press of out and out hostility towards Mitt Romney.Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

    According to Oscar winning film producer, Harvey Weinstein, David Cameron has picked up on it, too.

    Speaking on the BBC, Weinstein said: "I witnessed [the] Prime Minister saying to a group of people, myself included, that Mitt Romney had that unique distinction of uniting all of England against him with his various remarks."

    Part of it appears to be Romney’s BoJo-esque (that’s Boris Johnson-like) talent for being filmed saying something inflammatory.

    This latest anti-Iran sentiment follows the release of footage where Romney appeared to dismiss 47 per cent of Americans as government freeloaders.

    In the video, which emerged from a "private" fundraising event, he says: "There are 47 per cent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that the government has a responsibility to care for them."


    Read More »from Why are Britons so hostile towards Mitt Romney?
  • This week, on a popular internet forum, an article found its way into the top 10 of the site’s politics section with the intro: ‘In Australia, half our news stories are about American or UK politics [...] My question is how much, if ever, do other countries hear about us?’Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard gives a speech at the Prime Minister's Economic Forum in Brisbane June 13, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

    It’s a worthwhile question. After all, with a GDP of nearly $1.5trillion, Australia is not just rich; its mineral wealth has continued to drive prosperity, despite the gloom in other parts of the world.

    While it won’t be breaking into the G8 any time soon, the country’s regional clout is unchallenged and there is every reason to suspect their politics will have a greater effect on world affairs.

    Despite this, the answer is ‘not much’. One rarely sees a front page news story featuring Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the UK, and though this year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations were a time of great unity for the Commonwealth, the most memorable Aussie to feature in the celebrations was probably Rolf Harris.

    Some of our

    Read More »from Is is time to care more about Australian politics?
  • In this week’s cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister David Cameron has made some surprising changes. Homeopathy cheerleader, Jeremy Hunt, is moving to Health Secretary, whilst Chris Grayling, a politician shamed during the expenses scandal for claiming thousands of pounds for his Pimlico home, has made a full rehabilitation by taking up the role of Minister for Justice.

    One less surprising change is the moving of veteran ‘big beast’ Kenneth Clarke from Minister for Justice to the role of Minister Without Portfolio (MWP).

    Ken Clarke becomes Minister of Portfolio in the reshuffle

    Clarke himself was not abashed, stating: "At my age, it is time for me to step back from the slog of running a large department, but I am delighted to have been given a more advisory political role."

    At 72, his experience is unparalleled in the cabinet, having served as Health Secretary, Education Minister, Home Secretary and, most notably, Chancellor of the Exchequer under John Major. This experience is probably the most useful when considering what Cameron wants from

    Read More »from What does a Minister without portfolio actually do?
  • When I graduated from university in 2007, I was entering a job market on the cusp of recession. Nearly six years later, I have never worked in a growing economy.
    So with this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Nick Clegg has reached out to younger voters like me, arguing that the burden of taxation should be shifted from income - what people earn - towards wealth - what people have.
    It’s well established that the gap between rich and poor grew under New Labour and has continued under the Coalition. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said a tenth of British society now earns 12 times as much as the poorest, up from eight times as much in the 1980s.
    Despite this, there seems to be an impasse over increasing income tax.
    The net effect of this is that the income tax for the rich - those earning over £150k a year - hovers around the 50% mark, and rarely ventures further.
    The Deputy PM's focus on wealth - presumably assets a person owns, such as houses -

    Read More »from Is it time to make the rich pay
  • ‘More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins’
    George Orwell

    ‘You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before’
    Rahm Emanuel

    Striking miners chant slogans outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg

    Platinum is a strategic industrial metal used in in ships, pipelines and steel piers, and is South Africa's most valuable commodity. The deposits there constitute 70% of the world's known resources, so theoretically South Africans could be calling the shots on how it’s used. Instead, the metal is traded on the London Metals Exchange and auctioned to the highest bidder. Many South Africans are blissfully unaware of this.

    One group, however, who certainly know of this are the miners of Marikana - the group who Read More »from What the Marikana Massacre exposes about union power struggles
  • This week, Sherlock Holmes (otherwise known as Benedict Cumberbatch) complained that ‘all the posh-bashing that goes on' has made him consider leaving Britain to go to the US, adding that he’s been 'castigated as a moaning, rich, public-school b****d'.

    It comes after a record breaking Olympic performance by the Team GB, whom despite delivering 29 gold medals, were subject to a degree of teeth-gnashing over the disproportionate number who were privately educated. Those who went to fee-paying schools made up 37% of Team GB's gold medalists -  a noteworthy figure when considering that independent schooling accounts for just 7% of UK youngsters.

    Indeed, criticism has come from none other than the head of Britain's Olympic team, Lord Moynihan, who called it "one of the worst statistics in British sport".

    Add to this the sustained attack that members of the government have come under for being perceived as part of an ‘Etonian Elite’ and there is an undeniable trend that the economically

    Read More »from Benedict Cumberbatch, gold medals and silver spoons.
  • In his well publicised address to the Liberty University in May, US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared ‘culture matters‘ - going on to clarify his opposition to gay marriage.Foot in mouth, but his chances are not heading south: US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney

    This focus on culture has been highlighted in recent weeks - his statement that the difference between Israeli and Palestinian culture was ‘why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries’ turned heads, and attracted criticism.

    Days before Romney’s Downing Street charm offensive backfired when he publicly questioned London’s preparedness for the Olympic Games. While the British themselves have been the most vocal critics of the G4S - London 2012’s much-vilified private security firm, Romney’s statements were the equivalent of being introduced to a party host and critiquing the way in which he’s organised his bash - only in this case, the party cost £9bn.

    The latest gaffe - referring to the scene of a deadly gun attack at a Sikh place of worship as a 'sheik' temple

    Read More »from Why Romneyshambles won't harm Mitt's presidential bid


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