Old man moe’s gotta go!

It looks like the growing protests in Egypt might well lead to the collapse of the Mubarak regime. While certainly it is true that Eqypt has no oil fields and the suez canal isn’t half as important as it used to be (most tankers are too big to use it and avoid it do to the pirates of the Gulf of Aden…Uaaargh!). However, its one of the key players in the region. If Mubarak goes, the writing could be on the wall for Gadaffi and the Saudi’s.

The situation has put the West, the Americans in particular in a bit of a pickle. Backing Mubarak, as they would have almost certainly done in the past is out of the question. While the danger of a military crack down now seems to have passed, if one did happen and Obama supported Mubarak before hand, he may as well ring Mitt Romney (the most likely Republican candidate in 2012) and invite him around so he can measure up the curtains of the oval office.

Furthermore history is repeating itself here. The situation parallels how the ageing shah of Iran gradually lost his grip on power and very quickly thereafter his regime was toppled. Back then, the US made the mistake of supporting the Shah, which all but drove the protestors into the arms of the Islamists who punished the US by turning Iran from the USA key regional ally, into its main regional enemy. Similarly if the West backs Mubarak and he losses power then its likely whoever takes over, Islamist or not will not be too friendly with the West. So the moral, democratic and politically sensible thing would seem to be to back the protestors and pressure Mubarak to take an extended vacation…..in Saudi Arabia!

But backing the protestors, while it seems the morally correct thing to do doesn’t guarantee things will work out well. There are the Islamists to worry about. The primary inspiration for Al-Queda is more Egyptian than Saudi, who merely provides the finance. While often seen as a largely spent force these days, there is a risk that the Muslim Brotherhood could make a come back and use the momentum of the protests to take power. If so, they won’t give a two-penny damn whether or not the US helped pressure Mubarak’s removal. While they’ll probably hold elections it would only be to give them (or more to the point Allah, or at least their interpretation of his words) permanent power. Egypt would likely quickly become a Theocratic state, and they’d probably attack Israel, though the Israeli’s would just kick the shite out of them they do. But either way it could destabilise the region.

On the other hand backing the protestors carries another risk. What if, despite it all, Mubarak hangs on? Unlikely now yes, but he’s survived 30 years and still has the backing of the Army (or so it seems). Also the protestors are leaderless and many such movements have failed to achieve a breakthrough in the past, as lacking viable leadership people have gradually tired of the constant protesting. Its possible (just) that the whole thing will just blow over and he’ll prevail. Of course if he does and the West pressured him to go he’ll then be none to pleased with the Americans and might opt to punish them somehow…such as by signing a trade or arms deal with the Chinese or North Koreans (or Iranians!).

So it’s a tricky situation for world leaders to sort out. Fortunately for Ireland, we’ve the perfect excuse right now, no foreign minister! nor Taoiseach! as an election campaign starts tomorrow. Perfect timing aye :>>!

Hacked Off!

It seems that the News (don’t laugh!:DD) of the World :>> also hacked George Galloway’s phone too, and surprise, surprise our ever gorgeous George (the former Big brother contestant) is suing em.

I bring this up because it serves perhaps as a lesson for Tommy Sheridan (not that he’ll be able to read this or anything else on the internet for the next 3 years mind ;D). As I previously pointed out on this blog the whole point of that NwotW article was to get a rise out of him and the SSP…and how it worked! Had he just said, ya! I went to a swingers club, it’s a free country, how’s it any of your business? At least I didn’t dress up in a Nazi uniform there like the former editors of certain newspapers we could mention! Then he sues the paper for breaching his privacy (and with this phone hacking thing he could have really stuck the knife in). He’d have had his day in Court and probably have won and wouldn’t have had to destroy the SSP doing it.

But let’s not kid ourselves, that won’t have been the socialist way…picking a fight you can’t win, and splitting the party into three being the more preferred Socialist methods…don’t know what Gorgeous George is up to so!

Enigma Variations…..the Fantasia of the British Nimrod Suite

And speaking of Broken Britain, another Tory ghost of the past came back to haunt them with the Nimrod MR4 maritime patrol aircraft. Not only did the government cancel the contract after spending £4.7 billion on them, but they are paying £200 million to have them all scrapped 88|…that’s got to be the most expensive scrap metal in history :no:! It would seem sensible to me to simply mothball them for the time being.

Of course the excuses put out by the government don’t stack up “oh it would cost too much to mothball them”…Ah!…. all you need to a few padlocks and 2 men and a dog, push the aircraft into a hangar, stuff another one full of all the tools and jigs, etc. lock-em up and let the guys and the dog guard ‘em. Hardly going to break the bank now is it? And if you don’t want to even pay for the hangar (or the guards) have a wee chat with the Yanks. Up in the high deserts of Arizona and California they have these open air storage facilities where they have mothballed many thousands of aircraft in the open, taking advantage of the extremely dry desert air to reduce corrosion. They still have aircraft from the Vietnam war in open air storage up there. Either way, I doubt its going to cost more than the £200 million spend breaking them up!

The other excuse related to Nimrod, worries about crew safety are a bit of weasel words statement. As far as I’m aware there have been no major structural issues related to a Nimrod (or its Comet predecessors) since the 1950’s, so long as the aircraft are properly maintained (there was one crash a few years ago due to a maintenance failure). There is an issue with crew escape procedures, but this is an issue with all maritime patrol aircraft, not just the Nimrod. Indeed could someone with experience in this field confirm something for me, do they give you parachutes in these things? I’ve seen photos online of air crew in an Orion with no parachute, nor survival suit, nor an ejector seat. Surely not! Since the 1930’s I was under the impression that all combat aviators were issued with parachutes and some means of escape from they’re aircraft in the event of an emergency. But like I said, this is a problem which all maritime patrol aircraft suffer (well aside from the Russian ones!) so not really a genuine excuse.

The reality is the seeds for the Nimrods destruction were sown back in 1996 when the then John Major government made the decision to build the Nimrods (funny how the Mail and Telegraph have bashed the labour party over this but not once mentioned it was a Tory government who made the decision to build them). Back then, it was a three horse race, the BAE Nimrod, the American P-3 Orion (either new or a “Ryanair option” from Loral to refit ex-USN Orion’s) and the French Atlantique. The Tories were in a bit of a pickle, they were behind in the polls, and they had a few years earlier plumbed for the US made E-3 sentry over the BAE AEW so it wouldn’t look good to pick another American plane over a British built one, let alone pick a French built one (yuck :oops:!). However, simple economics means it would probably have worked out far cheaper to buy an off the shelf aircraft than pay the development costs of redesigning the MR2 (1950’s technology) up to MR4 standard. On the other hand, with many heavy industries being decimated by the Tory’s Lassie-Faire policy it would look sort of bad (and hypocritical) for them to effectively give what amounted to a huge subsidy to one British industry, while not giving any to another. So BAE, probably egged on by they’re Tory supporters made out that they could make the MR4 a superior aircraft to either of its rivals, and that allowed the Major government to give them the contract.

I suspect that at the time there was probably a unspoken understanding by BAE and the MoD that there was no way that the MR4 was going to come in on time or within budget. However, I’m equally sure than neither had any idea then just how late it would be and how much over budget (ironically, they originally called it the Nimrod 2000!). If they both knew what we do now back then, I suspect that things would have panned out differently (probably with BAE proposing to license build or refit one of the other two designs fitting with British equipment), but hindsight is a great thing, if we only had it for real!

It is also now, in fairness, questionable how useful these Nimrod aircraft would actually be. I suspect that if the Russian subs started becoming more aggressive in the North sea (or Chinese subs even showed up!), that it would still be cheaper to just buy a load of Atlantique’s or Orion’s or the new Japanese P-1’s. Although the problem here is the time lag involved (the French, Jap’s or Yanks, can’t just pull 12 ready to go aircraft out of they’re arses). By at least keeping the 5 already flight ready Nimrod’s in storage the RAF would have something to deal with a crisis.

Yes, storing them will cost money, but it would sort of be like buying insurance against a future crisis. The current Tory government doesn’t seem to realise that enemies rarely ring you up in advance and ask if they could schedule a war for next Tuesday (no? not good for you?…. well don’t worry, let’s do it sometime next year when you’re ready!). As Rumsfield once put it “you go to war with the army you’ve got, not the one you’d like to have”. And right now the Brit’s best not pick a fight with the Irish because even the Irish Air Corps outnumber the Brits in the field of maritime patrol aircraft (we’ve got 2, ye’ve got none!). We’ll be invading Rockall pretty soon, just you wait ;D!

NEDS…..the Terror begins

I went to see the film NED’s this week. Jasus! You almost needed subtitles, and I’ve lived in Glasgow for 6 years! And don’t know what they’re going to do in American, given that I’m not sure exactly how you translate “You’s going it chibbed by the way”:## into more polite American English. Gritty, depressing, violent, but still very watchable film. A slight SPOILER alert, there is a dream sequence where Jesus gets chibbed, should that be the sort of thing that will upset you’s. I’m surprised the Church didn’t complain…..then again, I think they’ve long worked out through bitter experience that by putting guys waving crucifixes and placards with “Careful Now” and “Down with this sort of thing” outside cinemas will just increase sales, not reduce them>:XX.

It’s also interesting to explore the theme behind this film, the rise of the Glasgow NED culture (or Chav’s as they or known in the rest of the country, or Norries back in Cork). The Ned’s came about as a result of the large scale redundancies of the major manufacturing industries during the 1970’s to 1990’s. This led to increasing poverty in (former) working class communities, broken homes, increased social problems (alcoholism, drug abuse, watching of Daytime TV), which in itself led to a rise in gang culture among disaffected youths, whose parents were either unwilling (alcoholic), or unable (too busy trying to make ends meet, arguing, or watch Daytime TV….while arguing….or arguing on daytime TV) to keep them in check.

Of course the then Tory government not only failed to prevent this slide, because it went against what was written in their good book (the Gospel’s according to Gecko), but they actively encouraged the collapse of many critical heavy industries as they feared the powerful Unions. Now granted, it is clear that some (Bolshe) unions at the time were using strike action not to settle genuine grievances with they’re employers :crazy:, but as a means of brining about social(ist) change, which is not what unions are meant to be doing (if they want to bring that about, found a party and stand in election, spilt into 5 separate parties who all then vote Tory to stop the others getting in). The Tories would incidentally point to globalisation and how many manufacturing jobs moved to low wage economies in the Far East. Not entirely true, most of the ship building jobs in Glasgow & Newcastle for example went instead to places like France, Finland, Germany, South Korea and Japan, mostly to unionised highly paid workers. It is only very recently (the last decade) that substantial ship building activity has started in places like China and India, thought they are rapidly making up for lost time.

The fact is the Tory governments of the era could have averted the collapse of heavy industry but they took a conscious choice not to do so. I would put it to any Tory supporter that you have to acknowledge that even the most Bolshe Glasgow shipyard workers or Welsh miners of the 70/80’s did do his job (when not on strike) earn a wage, pay his taxes, support his family and contribute to his community….fast forward and some areas of what were once working class suburbs of industrial/mining towns are now basically welfare colonies. Large numbers of the inhabitants therein (i.e not all, lets now start making unfair generalisations) are totally dependant on welfare (paid for by taxes), and these areas have become breeding grounds for Ned’s & Chav’s who have zero respect for society and often a criminal record, which of course means increased costs to the taxpayer in terms of policing & social care. Quality of life has also tumbled, plus life expectancy as well as the health costs brought on by these many social ills.

So when the Tories talk about “Broken Britain” lets not forget who did the breaking. It’s about time they acknowledge that the Sun does not indeed shine out of Maggie Thatcher’s ar$e. Her political legacy on this country is basically what you see wandering down the streets in a Burberry cap with a Buckie bottle, and its going to be a lot harder to fix these social problems than she and her predecessors created, than it originally was to create them.

And the Tory polices cited for fixing the country might sound like a great idea in Middle England garden parties, but they just aren’t going to work in the real world. For example they’ve been talked about welfare chain gangs – making people work for they’re benefits. Now, aside from the fact that most people who are unemployed are in this position not by choice, and are often rather busy looking for another job, the problem with Ned’s is getting weapons off them, I don’t like the idea of the government issuing them with pickaxes and shovels :>…not unless you want to see a few coppers disappear…we’ll have to deploy the SAS to guard them while they work ;D! In any event, have you ever hear the expression “if you don’t want to be asked to do a job a 2nd time, do it badly the 1st time”. I’m quite sure the Ned’s have! And in fairness to the Ned’s, its not so much a case that they’ve abandoned all respect for authority (as right wing newspapers will often state), no its more a case of the authorities abandoning them. Until the government gives the right incentives to these areas, in other words good well paid jobs (like say building offshore renewable energy systems), things are not going to change. Like I said, its harder to fix social problems that it is to create them, maybe if past Tory governments had been a bit more forward thinking they won’t have sat on their hands while Britain was reduced to a 3rd rate industrial power.

In the Year 2100…..

Interesting film I caught online, called “Earth 2100: the Final Century of Civilization?”. While a bit alarmist (they did point out it was intended to represent a worst case scenario) it was an interesting watch, certainly something I’d recommend….with a healthy dose of salt alright!

The basic premise of the show is that, we know that in this century we face quite a few difficult challenges ranging from overpopulation, impending peaks in many natural resources (in particular oil, the IEA has just conceded that conventional oil supplies may have peaked in 2006, see links below), climate change, stretched water resources, environmental pollution, potentially new and deadly virus outbreaks, etc. In this film they portray a sort of perfect storm where all various problems conspire over the course of the next century to bring down much of civilisation, told through the eyes of the world’s oldest person (an American born in the present day).

Click to access WEO2010_ES_English.pdf

Again, while a little alarmist, the message I think its important for people of our age to take out of this film, is that we need to get over this whole “well it’s never happened before in my lifetime and therefore it never will happen, ever” attitude. Very dramatic & catastrophic events only happen on fairly rare occasions, yes…but they do occasionally happen! It’s more likely anyone reading this will be killed by a meteor strike (or a super volcano) than you are likely to win the lottery. There’s also a view present in society these days that human civilisation will just muddle through regardless….simply because we always have! Or that our current civilisation is so very large and advanced compared to civilisations of the past and this somehow makes us immune to collapse. Unless someone can explain to me how the laws of physics have changed in the last few decades, the very same mechanisms which brought down past Empire’s (from the Soviet Union to the Romans, to the Easter Islanders) can still potentially apply to our civilisation. The only difference would be the shear scale of the disaster. For sure, chip away at the supports of any civilisation (its food supply, natural resources, social fabric, environment, energy sources, etc.) and it will tumble just like the many that have come before us.
The Titanic may have been the largest and most advanced ships of her day, but she was made of iron and thus while unlikely to sink due to clever design, she still managed to do so in just over 2 hours. And there were plenty of people who went down with the Titanic, not because the lifeboats were all full (only a handful went away full loaded) but because many were reluctant to swap the apparent safety of the Iron deck under their feet for a small flimsy little rowing boat.

Again, I found it interesting how they got across the point in the film, about how civilisations tend to collapse gradually over time. It’s rare you can trace it back to a single event. The Romans didn’t wake up one morning and say:
“Feck it! I’m freezing my nuts off in this Toga! And those slaves? Since we went Christian its nothing but nag, nag, nag, nag! Right! I’m getting me a big horned helmet and becoming a Goth!”
Nor is the Tabloid version of Roman downfall true – that the Empire fell because the Vandals sacked Rome in 455 (and presumably vandalised everything:DD…if only they’d had ASBO’s!) For one thing Rome had been sacked before (by the Visigoths in 408…I assume they Visi-goth-ed it!..:))..I’ll stop now!), held to ransom on other occasions, and looted by Roman soldiers at various points in Roman history during civil wars (obviously the Romans defined “sacking” a city as when foreigners did the looting). And the last Emperor of the Roman Empire wasn’t finally deposed until the late 470’s. And of course this is only the Western Roman Empire we’re talking about, the Eastern Empire (henceforth known to us as Byzantium) survived right up till 1453. So the collapse of the Roman Empire was probably gradual, over several centuries of slow decline, until eventually “normal” for Romans wasn’t being Roman.

One has to therefore ask the question, well if the decline of the Roman Empire was gradual, why didn’t the Romans do something about it? The answer, as the film above suggests could be the case for our own civilisation, is because the seeds of Rome’s destruction were probably sown many centuries before. For example, the Hirsch report suggests we need 20 year minimum to prepare for peak oil. We currently have….-4 years…and counting (we’ve probably already missed the boat!). Similarly some level of climate change is now inevitable, it’s more a case of keeping it to within safe parameters.

Click to access 051007-Hirsch_World_Oil_Production.pdf


Its simply human nature to adapt a quick fix to a problem than focus on more appropriate long term solutions, even if that quick fixes can prove to be counter productive in the long term (as would be the case, for example, if we start using coal or tar sands to offset declining oil production). At some point during the collapse of the Easter Island civilisation someone cut down the last tree on the Island. What was going through his(or her) mind when they cut down that last tree? Well probably thoughts of a big warm fire and some shelter for the night I suspect. Also it is in human nature for people to put short term luxury over long term gain. Nobody has ever rioted because the government failed to tax them enough, there have been plenty of riots for the opposite reason. Give people a choice between a new set of matching Dinnerware and the long term survival of the human species and most people will take the Dinnerware (giftwrapped!).

Again, while I feel that total collapse of civilisation, as portrayed here, is unlikely (though there’s a world of a difference between unlikely and impossible!). Its not unlikely that some of the challenges we face this century will overwhelm some people’s and their governments and see some parts of the world descent into brief, or extended, periods of anarchy and brigandism. Why? Well for starters, because it’s already happening. Go visit Somalia any time you disagree with me (H&S disclaimer, don’t visit Somalia, it’s a place with no government, no taxes and lots of guns….is anyone from the Tea party reading this? ;D) And as they correctly portray in this film one of the places ripe for such a breakdown of civil society is the Midwestern states of the USA.

Of all the people on Earth, no one is more dependant on fossil fuels than the inhabitants of the Mid-western United States. Laissez-Faire planning polices have meant the cities here being subject to rapid strip development, where public transport is poor (or non existent) and a car a necessity. Many industries in the region are heavily dependant on supplies brought in from far away (mostly by trucks, a number of industries in the region specifically setup in towns off the railroad network because railroad towns tended to be more unionised than more rural towns). The vast cattle farms of the region almost exclusively feed their livestock grain and corn (cos there’s not enough grass!) trucked in from far away (much of it grown with extensive use of fossil fuels). Water resources in the Mid west are already severely stretched. Farms and cities rely on large irrigation projects and an extensive network of dams to maintain water supplies, as well as increasingly, drawing (with fossil fuel powered pumps) from underground aquifers (which like oil wells won’t last forever). Ironically, for a place that is the heartland of the Tea Party and Libertarian movement, the Mid west is heavily dependant on government money, both for the many defence related industries in the region as well as things like farm subsidies, etc.

Obviously you can see how things could quickly go pear shaped. Peak oil produces a spike in oil prices, making living in this region increasingly expensive, uncomfortable (you try going through a summer in Texas heat with out Air-con!) and eventually impossible. Many of the region’s industry collapses as the nation’s highway trucking network folds, as too do many farming communities. A peak in global oil production will seriously stretch the finances of the US government, it could even lead to a melt down of the US economy. Needless to say those cheques from Uncle Sam soon stop rolling in. Finally, it’s a mere accident of geology and climate that most of the Mid-western USA isn’t all one big desert (indeed large parts of this area ARE desert). It would take only a relatively modest level of climate change to dry out the whole region. Dried up reservoirs behind dams = no more drinking water = no more hydro-power (the only non-fossil fuel, non-hydro sources of energy in the whole of the US mid west are a single Nuclear power plant and several large wind farms in Texas). In short another dustbowl, only this time one that will cover as much as a third of the US land mass!

A final twist, as if to rub salt in the wound, there are a few common vectors that often lead to a breakdown of law and order. One is the ready availability of weapons, another is an excess of religious fanaticism. With they’re Gospel’s un Gun’s this puts the Mid west well placed to suffer a fairly swift lunge into anarchy once the oil rug is pulled from underneath them. The Tea party and libertarians may get they’re wish – a few decades from now and big government will get off they’re backs. Trouble is they’ll suddenly realise (too late!) that it’s sort of nice to have a job, police on the street, firemen, teachers, hospitals, public transport and civil infrastructure (you know? things like roads, flush toilets, internet access?). Of course, contrary to what the film portrays I reckon the rest of the US will prevail (a good number of bumps along the way though). So there’ll be plenty of places for the locals to migrate to (but don’t forget you’re birth certificates:>>!).

In short, if there’s one thing to learn from this film, it’s that we need to tackle our planet’s problems sooner rather than later. Waiting, as the Romans did, until the Goths are at the gates is not an option. And the nay sayers need to give it a break. I’m pretty sure there were probably a couple of Goth Horde Deniers hoping around the city back then claiming that it was all part of a natural migration pattern for Goths to come South this time of year and they’d soon go home, and the hordes not that big, and why didn’t we defeat that other horde of Gauls a couple of years back so we’ll muddle through it again.

It’s all about insurance. If we are prepared to spend 2-4% of our GDP on defence (a roughly average global figure) even thought there have been few real wars of necessity since WW2 (I would rate Vietnam, Iraq I & II wars of choice), what’s the problem spending similar amounts to protect against other threats? If you think its okay to spend billions of our money on the off chance that Kim (not-so)Jung(and-very)ill starts waving his Dong(missiles) at us ;D, then you must agree it would be wise to spend, say half that amount, on fixing climate change, or mitigating oil depletion. Yes, it may never happen, the peak oil doomers and the IPCC scientists could be all talking bollix, but if they’re both right and we’re not ready, then we’re fucked! And its much more likely that they are right than it is that we’ll ever face a major global war again. Indeed the most likely triggers for a global war, are peak oil and climate change!

And if there’s anyone on this Earth who should be chaining themselves to the sides of oil tankers its people from Middle America…and, ironically enough, if there’s anyone who should be chanting “burn, baby burn!” it’s the Canadians and Swedes!

I’m not saying “The end of the world is Nigh!” I’m just saying its a risk if we keep burying our head in the sand and acting like we’ve got some sort of get-out-of-armageddon-free-card.

And if you want to see something REALLY alarmist watch this:

Workers of the World…..divide!

It would seem “Gorgeous” George Galloway, the Celebrity Big Brother star (what was he thinking going on that show! now I can call him that, as can the media to his face and still keep a straight face), is returning to Scotland to run in the Scottish parliamentary elections, here in Glasgow no less. Well, it will at the very least make politics that bit more interesting again! If he wins, I say we make him special spokesman to the US congress, then we can be guaranteed they’ll shut up about all that Megrahi stuff.

Unfortunately, for “Gorgeous” George he has a challenger….we’ll okay there’ll be many challengers that’s the whole point of an election! labour candidates, liberal, SNP and (don’t laugh) Tory (soon to merge with the monster raving loony party….which would double they’re votes!). No, I’m referring to the fact that Gail Sheridan, wife of Tommy (Swinger) Sheridan is also running in the same constituency.

Ay…? Two socialist politicians running in the same constituency, won’t ye just dilute the vote and then neither of ye will get in? I mean okay, until recently, you could squeeze a loo roll between the policies of the three major parties and they all run against each other but for any small political group like the socialists its important to be a little smarter, and you know have a meeting and agree a “strategy” such as I’ll run in the constituency, you’ll run in that one, I’ll go on Celebrity Dancing on Ice, you’ll go on Celeb wipeout, etc. But as usual we can trust them to behave like true socialists and press the self destruct button. No doubt one will run under the banner “The Scottish Socialists People’s Front” and the other “The People’s Socialist Front of Scotland”, with some nutter running against both calling himself “The Scottish Socialists – Popular Front”.

A lot of people on the political left of the Green movement, often complain that the Green Party in Scotland are too middle of the road (i.e. they think it’s a good idea to use market economics to solve climate change) with those on the left feeling the party should “wear their red shirts under their green jersey’s”. Well if the Socialists in Scotland are anything to go by, I’d have to disagree, as inevitably it would mean the party splitting into several tiny fragments each of which could hold they’re AGM in a telephone box and the changes of getting people elected and influencing government policy would swiftly drop to nil.

I’m mean how many reading this actually take the socialists and they’re politics seriously? Come on? Anybody? And we’re in a time when the banks and the city have fecked up the economy, wallowing in a trough of our bail out money and now have an attitude “wasn’t our fault! Now stop whining and sign my bonus cheque”. This is a time when socialists should be running high in the polls, and they’re ideas at least being seriously considered, but no, they are instead looked on as little short of a laughing stock by most people. And while one can point the finger at a lot of malicious attacks by certain right wing biased newspapers, I think a certain level of blame needs to be met by the Socialists themselves and this constant back-biting, and in-fighting.

Politics of fear & hate, part II

The Tea Party and Sarah Palin’s response to the criticism in the wake of the Gifford shooting seems to be a case of “wunt me gov’nur” or “you started it by calling Bush a big fat meany!”. They’ve denied any blame for the shooting because the guy who did it wasn’t a member of the Tea party. Yes, all political assassins declare they’re party affiliations before opening fire, just like all super villains give secret agents a ten minute PowerPoint presentation of they’re evil plans, before leaving the room while the secret agent is executed by a hapless minion, whom he easily overpowers and escapes (I think the problem here is too many in America don’t realise that movies are made up….as increasingly is the case for the News they see on US TV). The fact is that the poisonous political atmosphere the Tea Party has created has to be blamed for this incident. Spreading ridiculously outrageous stories such as Obama having some sort of secret plan to turn America communist & fascist (at the same time!) and then start a new holocaust against WASP’s, well obviously you start saying that sort of stuff 24-7 on Fox News and someone who doesn’t speak Crazy or Paranoia (such as this shooter) is going to take it seriously and do something stupid. Passing the buck at this point clearly means they just don’t get it.

The fact is, I’ve heard lots of politicians this side of the Atlantic say nasty things about each other, but not since the era of the Fascist regimes have I heard any politician here call another a traitor or questioned whether or not they were natural born citizens. The Tea party have debased the political system and they have to accept that such actions have consequences, notably in the past when such tactics of spreading fear & hate were used there was an upsurge in political violence.

A little history lesson, the attack journalism techniques (or Swiftboating as we call them these days) used by the Tea Party were originally pioneered by the media baron and politician William Randolph Hearst. His newspapers were well known for concocting ridiculous stories about his political opponents, going on and on about a made up issue for days. These tactics lowered the tone of US politics considerably and they ultimately brought down Hearst’s political career. At one point he suggested that President Mc Kinley was so bad someone should take a shot at him – unfortunately someone did. Again as in Tucson this assassin had no direct link between him and Hearst, but the media and the American people at the time rightly blamed him and his newspapers for creating this poisonous atmosphere which had led to a presidential assassination. Hearst would ultimately fail in his attempts at high office (he hoped to become major of New York and even go for the presidency), a sobering lesson for the Tea party.

The story of the Fascist regimes, where as Hitler put it “if you’re going to tell a lie about you’re opponent say it loudly and repeatedly, and eventually it will be reported as fact”. The inevitable violence and destruction this led to speaks for itself. A more directly applicable example however would be that of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch Neo-Fascist. If anything the language he used was pretty mild compared to what’s been coming out of Sarah Palin’s mouth, but it still got him assassinated by a left wing extremist. And this is the point the Tea Party need to realise, lower the tone of politics to this level and the lesson of history is that it will provoke violence (from both sides). If the Tea Party still don’t understand this point then they are ineligible for high office.

There is also a point about diplomatic decorum here. I won’t let a dog in my house unless I knew he’d been house trained (i.e he showed he knew not to shit on the carpet, or drink out of the toilet). Similarly the use of undiplomatic language by Sarah Palin and others in the Tea party suggests they should not be allowed into the diplomatic chambers of the world as they will inevitably say the sorts of things that one shouldn’t say and get the US and the West into all sorts of trouble. This is particularly important as after Bush, the patience of world leaders (the Russians and Chinese in particular) for abrasive, unilaterally acting US presidents is somewhere between slim and zero. And as Bush used up what political capital the US has left (post cold war) with his pointless war in Iraq (found those WMD’s yet George?), the ability and likelhood for these other country’s to punish America (and the West) for such behaviour is quite high. Obviously the lack of understanding by Sarah Palin as to what the term “blood Libel” means, suggests she and her supporters are clueless as far as international relations are concerned (it also means she’d best not be counting on the Jewish vote because I think she just blew it!)


One possible solution to the attack journalism tactics of certain news media in the US (notably Fox (faux)news) is to do what we do in the scientific community, use peer review.
It works like this, suppose I want to print a story suggesting that Sarah Palin is in fact a soviet spy who swam over from Siberia in the cold war and is now working on a plan to bring victory to the Soviet motherland by acting as some sort of Manchurian candidate. I would submit this story, along with my research notes and references to peer review. Another journalist at another news paper or TV channel would then anonymously review this story and give me feedback…in this case most likely saying “that’s a bigger load of Bullshit that a cow with Dysteryia!”

Even with that review, there’s nothing to stop me publishing it anyway, if the network or newspaper is okay with, thought the reviewers comments would have to be included with the publication (which would reduce the possibility of anyone taking it seriously). Also, if it ever came to a lawsuit, my chances of winning would be greatly reduced if my story failed to make past peer review.

Another point would be to make journalists publish their sources. So rather than the all too often used phrase by Fox/Sky news “some people say, that Obama is a Terrorist” they would have to state “I / the bloke at my local klan meeting, says that Obama is a Terrorist”. Obviously there are situations where journalists want to hide they’re sources identify (whistleblowers, etc.), but even then “a well placed white house source” should suffice.

Similarly any retractions by journalists should get the same air time as the original story. So if you repeat a load of bull for 5 minutes on the hour every hour and it is then shown to be false, you have spend 5 minutes on the hr every hr next day retracting it. Similarly newspapers should be required to give equal page space to explaining how they were completely wrong about a particular story…..or just skip a day’s publication and give everyone a free voucher for the Guardian!

Not-So Green Banking

Another interesting story here from the Guardian, it suggests that the governments Green Investment banking funds might be used to build nuclear power stations. Needless to say this has the Green party types (notably Caroline Lucas) in a right old tissy.

Ignoring the pro or against arguments for nuclear power (we’ll be here all night otherwise), this would be a bad idea for a number of practical reasons. Firstly this Green investment bank is intended to provide seed money for Green Energy projects which would have difficulty raising initial start-up capital commercially, using it to fund “mature” technologies such as nuclear would defeat the whole purpose of the fund and undermine its core goals (as the energy secretary himself implied in the article below).

Another problem is the shear volume of money nuclear projects take up. A new French designed EPR type plant costs between £3 billion to £5 Billion depending on who you ask. Just one or two such projects would soak up most of the Green investment banks money supply, leaving little for renewable energy projects and effectively turning the bank into little more that a taxpayer backed slush fund for the nuclear industry. Furthermore there is the time issues with nuclear, it takes a good decade to go from green field to operational reactor, 50 years running time, then many decades and centuries of decommissioning. If, in the case of renewable energy projects, it turns out in 10 years time that the government is being taken for a ride, i.e. we take all the financial risks and the green energy companies rake in all the profits, the contracts and structure of this fund can be renegotiated, or it can even be gradually wound up. If the Green bank invests in nuclear, such renegotiation simply won’t be an option, as the shear scale of nuclear projects (compared to renewable), the long time periods involved and the risk that cutting off funds could compromise safety, all mean that in such a scenario it would be a case of tough titty! We’ll be locked into a bad financial deal for decades, possibly centuries.

Finally the mantra you here over and over again from Nuclear power lobbyists is “oh! We don’t actually want subsidies!” Well if that were true, why are you trying to wriggle you’re way into a government backed fund? If nuclear power is truly capable of being done commercially it should be a simple case of going to a bank (or other leading financial institutions) and negotiating a loan, just as any other company would do to finance a major energy project. Of course the fact that the nuclear industry has been trying to do this for a least two decades without success, and indeed the very fact they are trying to get access to this green investment fund, suggests to me that the markets have taken one look at the financial mess that is the Olkiluoto 3 plant (the first major nuclear project of the so-called nuclear Renaissance) and they (the banks) have basically concluded that nuclear energy is just too hot to handle.

While yes, nuclear energy might be viable, the financial risks if something goes wrong (plant doesn’t get built on time costing billions in lost generating time & interests payments, accidents and breakdown costs, construction cost overruns, decommissioning costs, etc) are potentially crippling and far outweigh the potential for profits. This is especially true while the fossil fuel industry, and indeed all of us (with our cars, central heating systems, cheap flights, etc.), get a massive free subsidy by being allowed to dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere free of charge.

As a consequence of the above, I would suggest that if we do go down the road of building nuclear reactors the obvious solution is to do it the same way the French do with state owned companies. If new nuclear reactors are build in Britain (something I would personally be against as a waste of money), let’s face it, the government is going to have to shoulder all the risks anyway (as I’ve pointed out above, the markets clearly won’t), put up most of the capital and so the government may as well end up owning the reactors and either profiting from electricity sales, or do what the French do and lower bills to give everyone cheaper electricity.

Of course mention this fairly obviously reality to any of the (mostly) Conservative leaning supporters of nuclear Energy and watch as they’re faces turns white. This is why we see this strange dance of “oh! We don’t want subsidies….what we want instead is….something like a subsidy….just it isn’t called a subsidy”. Look guy’s I hate to burst you’re little Tory bubbles here, but if you feel that we face such an overwhelming crisis with future energy supplies as a consequence of global warming and peak oil, and you feel that we need to pull out all the stops, even nuclear, well the only way we are going to get nuclear energy to work is via state owned companies, as the only places in the world where nuclear reactors are being build are by state backed organisations. Yes, this would essentially mean part nationalisation of a large chunk of the energy industry, and yes, this will involve a partial roll back of a key Thatcher era policy, but it’s the only way Nuclear power is going to work, at least in a way that meets the basic requirements in terms of safety and protects the interests of the taxpayer.

If, on the other hand, you’re a Daily Mail reader type fearful that a roll back of Thatcher- era policy would put us on the road to communism (and being overrun by immigrants…you do know the French will be building and running these plants guys?), well maybe you have to conclude that nuclear power is simply more trouble than it’s worth, in which case, you might want to join these guys:

Of course one solution to all this would be some sort of a carbon tax, that would make both renewable and nuclear projects much more financially viable (thought I suspect nuclear would still some sort of government support to deal with waste, decommissioning, security and the potential costs of a serious nuclear accident) but of course these are Tory’s we’re dealing with, where the dreaded “T” word (that which we do not speak of) is an ancient curse invoked by a coven of evil necromancers.

Unfortunately, all rumours coming out of the energy industry from insiders suggests some sort of a “done deal” behind closed doors to build one or two reactors with the tax payer (that’s you and me) effectively bank rolling it it via some form of stealth subsidy. This again will mean, like the situation with the banks, we the taxpayer will take all the risks and the companies (it will be most likely French companies who will build, own and operate the reactors) will make most of the profits, while our ability in influence matters (such as stopping them fleecing us with excessive electricity costs that we are ourselves subsidising!) will be limited, as on paper these will be “privately” built and owned (ultimately by the French taxpayer!). We’ll also likely be left to pick up the cheque for decommissioning costs and spend fuel storage (currently at £80 Billion and climbing!).

Fat Cat bankers bumper bonuses

A lot of talk also right now about big bonuses being paid to bankers. While the rest of us are getting our eyes gouged out by the recession, the very people who started it all are being rewarded. I don’t see what all the big deal is, we own most of the major banks, so the government just makes clear that if there are any bonuses paid this year they’ll be calling a shareholders meeting the next day, where they (as the largest shareholder) will then move to sack the entire board of directors of the bank…with no golden parachute or pension, just a boot out the door.

As far as the banks who aren’t part of the government bailout (many of whom, like Barclay’s still won’t be in business if it weren’t for government help) make it clear they’ll be persona non-grata at the treasury from now on, not invited to briefings, subject to regular sneak audits of their leading shareholders & account holders accounts, basically anything the government can do to depress the share price of the banks, and deter wealthy customers from doing business with them, thus eliminating next year’s bonus. I’m pretty sure that would sort the matter out, why all this pussy footing around?

My only conclusion is the Tory government wants the bankers to get their bonuses, because let’s face it most of the bankers vote Tory and the conservatives need the money on the off chance they fall out with the Lib dem’s and we have an early election.

You can sign up to become a fat cat banker yourself here:

Not so cool runnings

Here’s a story you may have missed, a teacher has been sacked – for taking his kids sledging in the snow. The design class teacher, brought the sledge along (a high tech Scandinavian one with steering wheel and brakes) to show them an example of classic design, and then allowed a few of them to try it out later outside. His crime was that while he risk assessed it he didn’t do it properly, i.e write it all down, include factors such as what to do if a Tornado strikes, or there’s a terrorist attack, make sure they wore knee-pads, goggles, mask, helmet (and oxygen too in case the Earth suddenly stopped spinning and we lost all the atmosphere).

This is a double tragedy, a fun day out for the kids ruined (no one was injured) and a teacher who was clearly committed to his job has been lost. Getting kids interested, engaged and thinking is a difficult thing to do (but this show them a sledge & go sledging certainly sounds like a good idea to me)so this also sends a clear signal to other teachers not to do anything silly like be creative or use your own initiative or anything like that.

It’s often said that Health & Safety has gone completely mad, but this is taking it to another extreme. Kids come to school to learn stuff, and one of those is about taking risks, because risk is part of life. We’re going to end up with a next generation of kids who’ll instinctively be risk averse, insular, uncreative and expecting to be spoon feed everything (I’m already seeing element of this in lecture’s), not good for society. Remember the main reason why schools were closed recently was because the H & S crowd (maybe they should change their name to Safer Schools…..or “SS” for short!) were afraid kids might slip in the snow…of course the fact that mum had to stay at home and mind them, or they were just left unsupervised at play while she was busy would make everything so much safer.

Clearly we need to give all parents an ultimatum – if you want your kids to attend school you must waive your right to sue the school if you’re little precious Johnny ever gets hurt (which in many case may well be little Johnny’s own fault for not paying attention to teacher). Schools will of course implement as stringent and effective Health and safety policy as it reasonably can, but not without compromising its principal job – teaching. Any parent who is unprepared to waive such rights will be advised to rap they’re wee’in up in Styrofoam, lock him in his room and never let him out – ever!

Furthermore I would suggest a rule forbidding parents from dropping kids of ages 12 and up outside the school, or picking them up afterwards. They must walk from home, or the last mile or so to the school by themselves (to avoid the usual crush of cars at school times and teach the kids some independence) or better yet, make them get public transport or cycle all the way.