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Tuesday 2nd November 2010

In my previous post about Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam I quoted Salman Rushdie's surprise that Jon Stewart had given a starring role at his "Rally for Sanity" to a crooner who had previously opined that Rushdie deserved to die for deciding of his own free will to abandon Islam and criticise its texts.

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Sunday 31st October 2010

 

Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity yesterday featured Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens singing "Peace Train". Islam/Stevens previously showed his commitment to peace and sanity by saying that death was the appropriate punishment for Salman Rushdie's "blasphemy".

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Tuesday 26th October 2010

In these hard times, common decency tells us to think of those less fortunate than ourselves. As David Cameron says, in the Big Society we must all take on the responsibilities for others the state can no longer afford. You may be wondering who to give your hard-earned money to. I urge you - nay, beg you - to consider the sufferings of pundits struggling to provide the public with 1000-word opinion pieces.

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Friday 22nd October 2010
  The new settlement for the BBC is an ominous development. Ministers are shifting the all the cost of running the World Service from the Foreign Office onto the corporation. Mark Thompson would have every right to slash its budgets, and indeed is already saying that cuts are on the way. He may even have a duty to slash. Licence payers derive no benefit from, say, the Vietnamese or Cantonese services. They provide honest journalism to oppressed peoples, not to British taxpayers. The BBC is having to fund them because, of course, the government is desperate to save money. But there is an alternative.

The Conservative and Liberals have ring-fenced international aid.

Sam Bowman at the Spectator makes a cogent case that much of that aid props up dictators. The top five recipients of DfID government-to-government aid in 2008/09 were Sudan, Burma, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, he says. "According to Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, over 70 percent of government revenues in sub-Saharan Africa come from overseas aid. These governments have no need to implement pro-growth policies that free markets and improve their countries. On the contrary - the poorer they are, the more money they get from the West - aid money incentivizes bad governance and rewards corruption."

Even if you find his analysis too sweeping - and I for one cannot see what's wrong with Britain supporting vaccination programmes - you can hardly say that DfID promotes human freedom. The World Service does by treating subject populations as if they are free citizens and giving them information their rulers would prefer them not to know. Wouldn't it be better if Dfid funded it in full?
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Sunday 17th October 2010

Howard Jacobson could only have produced his attack on anti-Zionism in The Finkler Question as a book. I don't mean that as a novelist he was highly unlikely to write it as anything else, but that the book trade provides the last, best refuge for original and uncomfortable debates in Britain.

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Monday 11th October 2010

I took part in the Guardian's politics' programme last week and talked with my colleagues about the conferences. (You can hear it here.) One point that struck me after watching the Tories, was how short the party was of barnacled old buggers, with age and experience and an ability learned from years of hard slog to speak over the heads of the Paxmans and Humphreys and to the country. I suppose the Tories have Ken Clarke and Eric Pickles, but there are precious few others who can put down an interviewer and appeal to the voter.

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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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