Monday, 24 March 2008

We are made for more than this

I was interested to read an article - 'We are made for more' - by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in today's Guardian. It reads very much like a plethora of articles written in the past year or so by christians defending their faith. Like the other articles I have read it smacks of desperation and dishonesty. Why dishonest? - because it contains the usual patronising stock canards about atheists. We are militant fundamentalists, we deny the wonder of the universe, we are empty materialists, without god there is no purpose etc... But I'm not like that and no atheist I've ever met - and there are many of us - is like that. Nor is the arch-atheist Richard Dawkins. If you read his bestseller the God Delusion you'll see that for yourself. So what is going on here? - simply the decline of religion and the power that it has over us. That is the cause of the desperation and what really scares the likes of Murphy O'Connor.

In the article he describes how a Catholic nurse cares for HIV/Aids victims. How many of the HIV/Aids sufferers lovingly tended by Sister Margaret McAllen would have contracted HIV/Aids if they had used condoms? He says that - 'Her faith' is apparently 'no obstacle to the most horrendous facts". Unfortunately he is unable to face up to the simple truth that the Catholic church is responsible for many of those 'horrendous facts'. Just as he is unable to face up to the fact that atheists do believe we that have a purpose - a purpose which is to build a better world, free from the self-serving, sanctimonious claptrap which he espouses.

Monday, 10 March 2008

European Minimum Wage

The effects of globalisation have largely benefited businesses at the expense of workers. For example, many businesses have sought to re-locate to regions of cheaper labour to the detriment of thousands of workers in Europe and North America. Its time that the benefits of globalisation were shared between businesses and their employees and as part of the globalisation process it is essential that we move towards not only a global minimum wage, but also global minimum labour standards which are enforceable.

We should also deplore the inadequacy of the UK minimum wage(s) and the fact that many British and European Union workers in the UK are working in unacceptably poor conditions for inadequate wages. Despite assurances from the government, the influx of European Union workers has, in some cases, lead to the loss of UK workers livelihoods due to the undermining of UK wages and conditions.

As a first step towards a global minimum wage, The European Union, which is meant to have an economic level playing field, must implement a European minimum wage. The wage should be increased annually in line with the cost of living and should be based on the Council of Europe Decency Threshold (at 68% of average earnings). Such a European Union minimum wage would apply only where individual member states did not already have a minimum wage set at a higher rate, in which case that higher rate would apply.

Trade Unionists and progressive political parties and pressure groups should campaign for legislation to be brought in by the European Union. Such minimum wage legislation must contain safeguards to ensure that member states who have a minimum wage level higher than the European Union minimum wage maintain differentials, with the aim of leveling the European minimum wage upwards to reach parity in all member states by say 2020.

Help to get the ball rolling by signing the European Minimum Wage petition.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Hypocrites and the Haters

The 'war on drugs' has failed. Billions of pounds have been spent here and abroad to try to stem the flow and consumption of drugs, and it hasn't worked. Just as prohibition in America didn't work. It has also provided a bonanza for violent criminals who cause enormous misery. But why has all this money and time been wasted in a useless war? And why should individuals who use drugs recreationally, be prevented from doing so?

Those who oppose drug use point to the harm caused by illegal drugs such as cannabis. But millions of people have used cannabis for centuries without causing harm to themselves. Not long ago experts in the UK re-classified drugs, both legal and illegal, on the basis of harm and found that alcohol was more harmful than cannabis. Of course this classification was treated with scorn by the anti-drugs lobby, many of whom, like Peter Hitchens, like a glass of wine now and again.

Hitchens, who is a tinpot fascist, came out with the classic anti-drugs rant on the Today programme on Wednesday 27th February. During the 'debate' with Matthew Taylor, an advocate of treatment rather than punishment, Hitchens repeatedly shouted hi
s opponent down. He then accused Taylor of interrupting him when Taylor tried to get a word in edgeways. Of course bigots like Hitchens believe that drug users should be flung into gaol. This apparently is to save them from harming themselves.

But what is the real motivation of people like Peter Hitchens? Do they really want to save drug users from harm? Clearly not, because being imprisoned is, in itself, a form of harm which they are quite happy for drug users to endure. No. The real motivation of the anti-drugs lobby is a bigoted hatred of drug users.

Not only are members of the anti-drugs lobby like Peter Hitchens bigots - they are also hypocrites who continue to enjoy their drug(s) of choice whilst seeking to deny that right to others. The sooner that recreational drugs are legalised and controlled the better. Honest education, and regulation of recreational drugs, is the best way to ensure that the harm that the anti-drugs lobby are supposed to be so concerned about is prevented.