Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What next?

Last night's political panto around an EU referendum should, at the very least, skewer some common myths and misconceptions. These myths include:
  • Cameron and Hague are Eurosceptics
  • The Tory party is Eurosceptic
  • There's any substantive difference between the main political parties
  • The political classes are in touch with popular sentiment
  • The political class cares what we think
  • The mass media are not part of the problem
  • That petitions (electronic or otherwise) can lead to change
  • The what we see in politics is real, not theatre
  • That UKIP and the rump of 'Tory rebels' hold any sway in the country at large
  • The EU is the topic around which a mass movement against the establishment can coalesce
The real question we need to focus on is this: what do we do about it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Something In The Air?

Richard North over at EUReferendum regularly asks the same question about our leaders: "why should we not rise up and slaughter them." It's a good question, though a tad melodramatic. So I was a bit surprised to read similar sentiments on the normally interesting but sober Cato Institute web site:
The real villains are those in the political class who pandered to the voter by promising more in benefits to be paid for by others — "the evil rich." But if the rich people are taxed too much, they opt out by moving or no longer being rich, and then the tax revenues fail to keep up with the increases in spending until finally, the debt burden slowly sinks the ship. This is precisely what is going on in the United States and most European countries at the moment.

As more and more people lose their jobs, the demand for government payments grows, making the situation worse and worse. The U.S. government is spending roughly 40 percent more than it is taking in. President Obama and others are demanding higher taxes on the "rich" — more correctly known as job creators — to pay for more government benefits. The self-delusion of the political class goes on, and the numbers get worse. Notice that the president, when arguing that his "jobs" bill is going to increase jobs, quotes the same economists who also said his "stimulus" would keep unemployment under 8 percent, rather than referring to those economists who were correct in saying it would fail. The president's assertion that by increasing the taxes on the rich he will be able to "pay" for all his new spending is fantasy, or worse.

The simple fact is that the amount of explicit and implicit debt that the United States and other governments have incurred cannot and will not be paid back in full. The political class will try to cure the debt mess with inflation, price controls, tax increases and confiscation, but it will only make things worse. Greece is only the first canary to die. As more and more jobs and homes are destroyed by the debt crisis, the ranks of the revolutionaries will grow until, finally, the new "peasants" realize that the rich are gone and it is the political class that is responsible for the mess.
Perhaps there's something in the air after all...

A Letter From Dave

Is this the letter that Dave Cameron and co are going to write to us regarding energy prices?

I'm sorry, really I am. We've screwed up. We've let you down and we're all very, very sorry. We've messed up the economy. We've frittered billions of your hard-earned cash on pointless windfarms, useless solar and provided massive subsidies to big landowners - all in the name of tackling climate change. We know you've felt this most acutely when your energy bills coming thudding on your door mat. We could have helped by cutting green taxes and investing in proper power stations and a grown-up energy policy, but we didn't. We appointed Chris Huhne to take charge, and all he did was point the finger at the power companies while making things worse. We all know he's a useless sack of shit, but it's in his genes and there's nothing we can do about it. As has been pointed out before, Chris Huhne is the man who pisses on your shoes and tells you it's raining.

And so, as a government, we're writing to urge you all to do some shopping around for a new government, because we're irredeemably broken. I know the other big government suppliers, like Labour, are no better, but at least you can pretend that there's hope rather than rising up en mass and slitting our throats.


Dave Cameron
 Instead we're likely to get a fatuous pile of shite telling us to swap energy companies, as though there's a chance of finding one not subject to green taxes, dependent on fuel imports and desperate to ingratiate itself with big government...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall St vs Stop The City

Another must read post over at Autonomous Mind looks at the 'occupy Wall Street' and the associated 'we are the 99%' movement. Following on from the mass media reports from the States - while at the same time the protestors insist that they are being ignored - we have seen similar protests across Europe and beyond. Does this represent the beginnings of a global movement that we lead to positive change? AM suggests that the movement has missed the point and that it's not Wall Street to blame, but the state itself. He also suggests that the movement is largely a creation of the Left rather than a spontaneous outpouring of anger. To quote:

Occupying Wall Street will change nothing. Sleeping outside St Paul’s Cathedral will change nothing. The first thing to do is focus a campaign on the politicians – because it is they who have encouraged and embedded this situation – and demand a change in the scandalous government spending priorities and regressive policies which are driving up the cost of food and energy, hitting the poorest hardest.

I have a lot of sympathy with this viewpoint. I write this as someone who was very active in Anarchist politics a long time ago, so I write from a position of some experience (including being arrested at a Stop The City protest in London back in the 1980s). And, to some extent, Occupy Wall Street is Stop The City brought bang up-to-date.

The first thing to note is that, like the original Stop The City, there is no single and over-riding issue that drives the protests. While there is a very obvious 'anti-capitalist' theme, this is a very broad church - environmentalist, third world debt, poverty, climate change, anti-war activists... Any and every grievance is welcome and represented in the movements and actions. For many this is a good thing, as it brings together a variety of grievances and then points the finger at 'neo-liberal' capitalism as the cause of all of them. In point of fact what it does, primarily, is bring together activists from different campaigns together. How much it really involves 'ordinary people' is open to question. It draws towards it those who are already motivated and active.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Regime Uncertainty and Climate Change

A leading article on the BBC News website covers the report by the Environmental Audit Committee, which suggests that the government has developed a "schizophrenic attitude" to climate change, and that this is starting to impact investor confidence in low-carbon industries. It quotes committee chairwoman Joan Walley saying that

Unfortunately, the government's somewhat schizophrenic attitude to climate change seems to be undermining that confidence. The chancellor's comments last week show that five years on from the Stern report, the Treasury still doesn't get climate change - or the risk it poses to global stability and economic prosperity.

And, this being the high church of global warming, the report wheels on additional fire-power to make the point, including Zac Goldsmith and Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK. Molho states that:

Failing to clearly endorse the fourth carbon budget now will not only slow down urgent action on addressing climate change, it will also seriously undermine investment certainty in the UK's low-carbon sector and result in the UK missing out on the opportunity of creating hundreds of thousands of UK jobs in low-carbon manufacturing.

This is standard BBC fare of course, right down to a reference to the thoroughly discredited Stern report. And let's ignore the fact that a lot of these investors are just exploiting government subsidies - they're worried that the gravy train might slow down just a little. Ignore too the mythical green jobs that end up costing real jobs...

Ethanol, troops and books

One of my sidelines is reviewing technical and scientific books, which I've done for a number of years now. This means that I regularly get emailed by authors and publishers asking if I'd be interested in their books. I have no problem with this, though to be honest the supply of books far exceeds my capacity to read and review them. So I was not suprised to receive a request from a small company publishing specialist computer science books - there's a small readership for these types of books, so getting publicity is essential. What caught my eye though was the sig line in the initial email:
U.S. troops have never lost their lives defending our ethanol reserves
The first thing to say is that this is shockingly poor business practice - and believe me, the author of the email was initiating a business transaction. Why assume that the reader - me - gives a toss what your views on politics are? Particularly when the topic is completely technical. I'd have no problem reviewing a book on the subject of biofuels and geopolitics, but that's a million miles from the books being offered for review.

Secondly, the sentiment expressed reeks of that fatal liberal conceit that motive trumps reality. The idea is that having your heart in the right place is what counts.

That's the motive but what about the reality? Aside from the huge subsidies without which biofuels would be dead in the water, what has the move to ethanol achieved? A reduction in CO2 emissions? Nope. Even the Guardian reports that Biofuel farms make CO2 emissions worse.

So, a main plank of the push to biofuels is a bust.

OK, but our emailer wasn't talking about CO2, he specifically mentions the lives of US troops. Strictly speaking he is right. But in terms of human lives overall? The biofuels are a disaster that is growing worse. The push to burn food crops for fuels is causing food prices to rise, causing poverty to rise and has alrady been linked to a number of food riots and conflicts in the developing world. And, it's not just poor brown people affected by all of this. A report from the Congressional Budget Office in 2009 concluded that:
...the rise in food prices attributable to increased production of ethanol will lead to higher federal spending for those [food] programs: specifically, an estimated $600 million to $900 million of the more than $5 billion increase in spending projected for fiscal year 2009 as a result of the rising price of food.
So, the policy is leading to increased poverty even in the US. In all respects the move to ethanol production for fuel is a disaster that will lead to loss of life, increased poverty, increases in government subsidy and more environmental degradation.

It's a complete failure as a policy, though as in all big government policies it will take years for the US, the EU and others to admit they were wrong. So, trying to sell me your books on the back of a policy fail like ethanol is itself a fail. Forget it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fuel Prices Up - CO2 Down

Two bits of news ought to bring a smile to the face of Chris Huhne and to warmists everywhere. The first is a report that the cheapest annual gas and electricity deal for UK households has hit £1,000 for the first time ever. With all of the big six energy companies dropping the cheaper tariffs, it means that prices are continuing their inexorable rise just as we're heading into what is predicted to be a hard winter. Get ready for the mass chorus of 'weather is not climate' from the AGW apologists if it does turn out to be another bitterly cold one. And look out for the figures for the numbers who die of hypothermia or weather-related accidents and then compare to the virtual deaths predicted thanks to a marginal increase in warmth.

So, energy for light and heat is getting more expensive. Energy usage is likely to drop as some people decide that food trumps heat.

The other bit of news to cheer George Monbiot and co is that the AA estimates that petrol consumption has dropped by 15% in the last three years. And it's not just domestic users who are cutting back, businesses are doing the same. Aside from the financial side effects, this reduction will also impact emissions targets.

So, an all-round good news story for the warmists - CO2 reductions down, thus helping us save the world from global warming (oops, sorry, climate change). On the face of it then, the greenies should be celebrating. Chris Huhne should be jumping with joy.

But what's interesting is the reaction of the high church of global warming (also known as the BBC). Have these stories made it to the BBC environment pages? Nope. Both stories are filed under the personal finance section. This is about your pocket, with no mention of CO2. The nearest the BBC gets to this is a rather coy admission that 'One result has been lower emissions of potentially damaging exhaust fumes.' No mention of CO2.

Does this mean that the AGW mantra is dead and buried at the BBC? No, of course not. What we have is a clear example of bias at work.

CO2 reduction stories are only allowed if they are positive. High energy costs - whether it's petrol of domestic fuel - are negative, so they have to be divorced from the CO2 narrative. Nothing can be allowed to sully the story that reducing CO2 emissions is a good thing.

This is not an isolated case. As Maurizio Morabito has noted, we saw the same thing with the recent spell of hot weather. Normally we see that any unusual weather pattern is likely to be attributed to climate change. Especially hot weather, because then it's not just climate change, it's global warming. But in the case of the all to brief hot weather in October, the press were notably silent on the topic - despite the acres of coverage of the heat. Why? Because most people saw the heat as welcome, a change after a dull, grey and cold summer. Again, nothing can be allowed to sully the overwhelming narrative that warming is bad.

The bottom line is that the worse things get for us, the better it is for CO2 reduction, and the less likely it is that the warmists will draw attention to it. And the more we have to do to remind everybody that this is precisely what Huhne, Monbiot and co have been campaigning for.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Politics As Panto

I try as little as possible to listen to the news, and aside from one or two columnists, I avoid the mainstream press. Like an increasing number of people who reject the mainstream media I get the bulk of my news and information via the web - including a range of scientific and political blogs (including spiked online, climate resistance, EUReferendum, Autonomous Mind, cafe Hayek, Watts Up With That, Indymedia and others). However, try as I must I do occasionally slip up and catch a blast of something noxious from the radio or TV. Such was the case yesterday, when the non-headlines were all about Theresa May, Ken Clarke and whether a cat is legally qualified to decide on deportation for criminals, or not.

This is, of course, yet another example of politics as panto - the cat was there, so was the villain, all we needed was Theresa May to don her panto boots and Ken Clarke to slip into his ugly sister outfit. In the real world, it's all bollocks. What the press were doing is selling us soap opera headlines about splits in the government, complete with tales of bitter in-fighting. Politics as entertainment. Noticeably absent from the story was the reality that the whole thing is decided elsewhere - Europe trumps Westminster, as should be clear to anyone with half a brain cell still functioning.

And, as should be clear as day, this government is not about to take us out of the EU or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. It's play acting, the whole thing. The media know this, and yet they play their part in the game. Even the most brain dead of Tories must realise by now that their leaders owe allegiance to the greater state, not the tiny province we inhabit.

While they try desperately to breathe life into the stinking corpse that is the British body politic, the reality is that increasing numbers of people are waking up to the looming disaster. The sinking of the Euro will cause more pain than most care to think about. And when it gets bad, then the calls for the political class to be called to account will be impossible to ignore. The beggared populations of Europe will need to take revenge on those who have caused this mess.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Go Forth and Multiply

Following on from the previous post, here's the list of email addresses for the Freedom of Information officers for each of the London boroughs - except for Enfield, which does not appear to publish a direct address. There are so many questions to ask... Easy examples that come to mind:
  • How many days did senior council officers spend at off-site "team building" sessions. List the dates, number of personnel and the cost.
  • How much foreign travel was undertaken by councilors and council employees. List the dates, the number of personnel, the reason for the trip and the cost
  • How many council employees are full-time trades unions officials. List the number, the job titles and the salaries.

And let's  not forget Richard North's campaign on bailiffs and council tax...

Barking and Dagenham foi@lbbd.gov.uk
Barnet foi@barnet.gov.uk
Bexley foi@bexley.gov.uk
Brent foi@brent.gov.uk
Bromley foi@bromley.gov.uk
Camden for@camden.gov.uk
City of Westminster foi@westminster.gov.uk
Croydon information@croydon.gov.uk
Ealing foirequests@ealing.gov.uk
Enfield Unable to find an email address
Greenwich foi@greenwich.gov.uk
Hackney informationmanagement@hackney.gov.uk
Hammersmith and Fulham h&fintouch@lbhf.gov.uk
Haringey foi@haringey.gov.uk
Harrow harrow@icaseworkmail.com
Havering accessinfo@havering.gov.uk
Hillingdon foi@hillingdon.gov.uk
Hounslow foi@hounslow.gov.uk
Islington foia@islington.gov.uk
Kensington and Chelsea foi@rbkc.gov.uk
Kingston upon Thames foi@rbk.kingston.gov.uk
Lambeth foi@lambeth.gov.uk
Lewisham foi@lewisham.gov.uk
Merton data.protection@merton.gov.uk
Newham information.governance@newham.gov.uk
Redbridge foi@redbridge.gov.uk
Richmond upon Thames foi@richmond.gov.uk
Southwark accessinfo@southwark.gov.uk
Sutton FOI@sutton.gov.uk. 
Tower Hamlets foi@towerhamlets.gov.uk
Waltham Forest information.officer@walthamforest.gov.uk.
Wandsworth foi@wandsworth.gov.uk

A Thorn In The Side

There have been some interesting pieces on the Autonomous Mind and EUReferendum blogs about taking positive actions to assert a degree on control in local politics. The starting point in both cases is a wish to exert direct, democratic control in opposition to the current ruling elites (both at the national and trans-national level). While it's part of established political conversation to bemoan the political apathy that is a persistent feature of the scene in this country, the establishment seeks only to address this through means which are largely symbolic and designed to further entrench it's power.

We see, for example, discussions about the central funding of political parties - as though this is anything but a means of securing the continued existence of political machines structured to protect the current system. And, as we see in Europe, central funding of political parties leads not to a renaissance of political activity in the broader population, but to increased levels of fraud, nepotism and corruption. At the same time there are suggestions that the key is to make political involvement easier - through postal voting, reducing the voting age, electronic voting etc. Again, rather than leading to greater involvement, it creates more scope for electoral fraud and serves again to entrench the current cosy system. The same goes for things like proportional representation or the alternative transferable vote - another fix that ignores the fundamental problem - our political class sits above the rest of us and treats us all as voting fodder.