The Oxford Debate

Original Items:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/oxfordshire/7110758.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/oxfordshire/7112480.stm

Spotted the first of these a couple of days ago, but didn’t get around to passing comment, so figured I’d do it now after spotting the follow-up article.

Whilst I have to admit it’s not a topic I want to spend a long time writing on, the short story is that I think the Union is right (or, at least, not wrong) to invite the two people mentioned, judging by what I’ve read about the event.

I can understand perfectly well why so many people would not think it right for such an organisation as the Oxford Union to invite such speakers, but a couple of comments I spotted just didn’t tally in my head.

Stephen Altmann-Richer, co-president of the Oxford University Jewish Society, said that while freedom of speech was important it was “overshadowed in this instance”.

“I don’t think these people should be invited to the Oxford Union, by having them speak, it legitimises their views,” he said.

Sorry, but no, it doesn’t. Giving them the platform to speak specifically about Holocaust denial, for example, or any other number of ‘interesting’ topics the BNP tends to bring up, legitimizes their views. Giving them the paltform as part of a larger event incorporating many different speakers with different viewpoints does not. If anything, it encourages the debate. I simply can’t see how it can be viewed as legitimizing their views by view of the fact that they are able to speak at an event “…to talk about the limits for free speech”.
I can say that because, for me at least, if I hear such people bringing up ideas that I don’t believe in or, put more simply, are wrong, I don’t suddenly change that opinion because of the venue in which they are making such points. Similarly, their presence at such an event does not transform it into a ‘rally’ or any such nonsense. If anything the event has the potential to humiliate them, in as much as it is a free speech event, incorporating some very intelligent speakers and based in what is arguably the hub of academic and intellectual excellence in the UK (sorry, Cambridge… 🙂 ). No matter how much trash the speakers may (or may not) speak, they are doing so in an environment where even if they disagree with their opposition, they will be outclassed and defeated by simple logic. If anything, I’d love to go to the event just to see the responses if either of them were foolish enough to start extolling their views.

It. Simply. Does. Not. Legitimize. Anything.

Like I said earlier, I can accept why this has caused such controversy, but in my mind we just have to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
I’m not a fan of the BNP or their views, nor do I believe the various theories put forward by Holocausts deniers, but – in these circumstances – I do not think it is unreasonable for such speakers to be invited. Controversial, yes, but that’s why it’s a debate.

I think we just have to be very careful in how quick otherwise ‘liberal’ people jump up to shout for bans on people with differing viewpoints. At the end of the day, the BNP still exists as a political party, legitimizing their views many more times than allowing Nick Griffin to speak at an Oxford Union debate. Trying to stop him from being invited to the event, whilst such viewpoints exist and are scarily prevalent just strikes me as being comparable to sticking your fingers in your ears whilst saying “No! No! La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!”.

The worst part of all this furore? The fact that a BNP spokesman can come out and say this:

Simon Darby, BNP spokesman, described the expected protests as “very misguided”.

“It is ironic you have got people shouting ‘fascism’ while campaigning in the face of the process of democracy,” he said.

in response to the situation and I find it hard to disagree with the sentiment, however much I might want to, and however much I might know it to be bullshit seizing-the-moment propaganda.

London 2012: The Joke’s On Us

Original Item:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/olympics_2012/7081346.stm

Now, I have to confess, I’ve never been the most ardent supporter of the whole London 2012 Olympics idea, not because I don’t think England should host the Olympics, but because, unlike those wise political schemers, I believe there are other cities in England besides London.
Apparently, I’m wrong.

There was never any realistic chance that anywhere other than London would receive the option to host the Olympics, because people seem so damn adamant to reinforce the outsider’s opinion that anywhere except London is backwards and inaccessible to the wider world.
It doesn’t matter that Manchester already has the vast majority of the Olympic-standard infrastructure in place. It doesn’t matter that even Birmingham is more central in terms of its location in the country (allowing the home population greater opportunities to get there and see the events easily). No, it doesn’t matter, because London is the be-all-and-end-all. Apparently.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against London as such, but the whole decision-making process seems to lack real logic, by which I mean the kind of logic that would say ‘If we’re going to build everything from scratch anyway, why not build it somewhere central and factor in adequate transport to that central location’, or the kind of logic that would say ‘You know, our Public Services kind of suck, why not spend less on improving facilities that are already at a decent level and let the rest of the money go back into Public Service, rather than the sort of logic that says ‘Nobody knows where anything is except London, so they won’t come’. Right…

Anyway, that’s not the reason I started this little rant.
The article I linked to goes on about the costs of the ‘new stadium’ design that the London 2012 Planners have recently unveiled. Happy days. It also goes on to say that the original stadium projections were for it to cost £280 Million, not an insignificant sum.
However, it also says that the actual current projections are for it to cost £496 Million. Let me repeat that figure slowly and clearly in case you didn’t catch it first time:

FOUR HUNDRED and NINETY-SIX MILLION ENGLISH POUNDS

That’s 496 followed by six 0’s.
Or, for those US browsers: nearly 1 BILLION of your American Dollars.

That’s a lot of cash. And they haven’t even started building yet.

I don’t like to be pessimistic, but usually in the UK, when a government-related projected actually starts to build things, they get considerably more expensive.

According to the article, David Higgins, chief executive of the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) claims that most of this perceived increase is due “inflation and VAT”.

I’m no financial whizz-kid, but my estimations at what I know about such thinks (working on 5% Inflation followed by 17.5% VAT, since work starts next year) would land this at £345 Million, some £150 Million short of the latest projection. Sorry, Mr. Higgins, but that simply doesn’t equate to them being the main culprit of a £215 Million culprit. [I’m more than happy to be corrected on my inflation figures, but I’m pretty sure the VAT is correct…]

Now, the thing that irritates most about all of this, besides the obscene amount of money being spent on something which, as the article goes onto explain, is largely made up of temporary seating, is that it is designed by HOK Sport, which, according to the article:

has been responsible for such projects as Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Stadium, the O2 Arena, the Emirates Stadium and Ascot Racecourse

Now, I’m not doubting that all those stadiums were nicely finished etc etc, but what irritates me is, if they knew they were going to run for the Olympic bid, why the hell didn’t they just make the new Wembley the national stadium, and design it to be capable of doing this job!? Does that no make more sense financially, and sustainably.

As it is now, they are already looking for a tenant club, be it Rugby, Football or whoever, to take over the stadium once they’ve finished and removed the 55 000 temporary seats. Surprisingly, as of yet, they’ve had no takers… Why instead did they not think of creating one super-impressive national stadium, where all the national teams could easily play, and where many Olympic events could easily be hosted. More than that, why did they not think that a stadium that is supposedly going to be the pride of London 2012 and the nation might not be nice to keep in active service long after the summer event? Is the tenant club going to pay the full cost for the stadium and repay the nation? Somehow, I doubt it.

I’m genuinely curious what people think though? Am I overreacting at this? Have I missed some glaring point that makes the whole project worthwhile and sensible? Or are we just, once more, going to look like a laughing stock?

‘Deep Black’ by Andy McNab

I’ll be honest. Moderate at best.

I found it entertaining enough, and it was a pleasant ‘light read’, but I’d have to say that’s all it is.

If you enjoy action / shooty-shooty type books and are about to go on a relaxing holiday then it’s worth a go, but don’t arrive expecting an epic.

I’d still like to get hold of a copy of Bravo Two Zero to see how that is, but I wouldn’t rush out to read another piece of fiction from him.

NOT at Fanfest

The EvE Fanfest begins tomorrow, as I’ve been reminded by a few websites.

I won’t be there, although I would have loved to like the last few years.

Maybe next year.

Jealous, sir? Me, sir? No, sir. Not jealous, sir.

Bastards. Those that are going, enjoy! 😉