Weekly roundup

A monster is finally put down
While no fan of Clarkson, I was somewhat neutral in the whole fracas I’d rather not seem him go just to placate the Mary Whitehouse brigade. But on the other hand, you can’t have one set of rules for one group of people and another for the rest. Clearly, given the facts Clarkson had to go

…unless of course you think its okay to issue a 20 minute bigoted rants and then physically assault a co-worker because you can’t get a steak….even tho that’s largely his own fault for taking a helicopter to the pub and keeping said helicopter waiting (with the meter as it were running at the license fee payers expense) for hours while he got sloshed.

Hence, I’m increasingly of the view that the BBC boss made the right call. And I’m referring to those idiotic petitions or even death threats against BBC management. These suggest that Clarkson has managed to amass a cult of personality that would put Kim Jung-un to shame. There’s an old show biz saying that when the star becomes bigger than the show, either he has to go or the show must go.

And making outrageous prima-donna demands is apparently quite a common occurrence for Clarkson. Just read the list of things he insists be supplied in his personal wank area “Green Room”. Clearly the guy has an ego that’s bigger than the Graf Zepplin and like the Zepplin it needs deflating.

So on the whole, yes its good that he’s gone. A monster that was beginning to grow bigger than the Beeb itself has been put down. Here’s hoping the other broadcasters aren’t dumb enough to put him on air again, although I suspect that with dollar signs in their eyes they’ll find it all too tempting.

When drugs were legal….last week!
A quirk of legal fate this month led to the defacto legalisation in Ireland of many so-called “legal highs” as well as drugs such as crystal meth and Ketamine. This came about due to a legal challenge which argued (successfully) that as there hadn’t been any proper electoral due process, just a knee jerk ban due to scary tabloid headlines, the ban on these substances wasn’t constitutional. When the court agreed, this in effect legalised said drugs, although within 24 hrs the Irish parliament had rushed through legislation banning them again.

Needless to say the story attracted much press attention worldwide, notably this piece on US television.

Now if we believe the anti-drug puritans they’d have you believe that such an event would open the gates of hell as everyone rushed off to get wasted. Did this happen? Did Ireland engage in a 24 hr drug fuelled bender? Well no, not really.

Now I’m not suggesting these drugs are safe, legal or otherwise. I mean cigarettes are legal, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many good reasons not to smoke, ditto for alcohol. But part of the problem is that the classification systems for drugs tends to be set by tabloid headlines and pressure groups rather than anything based on actual scientific evidence or the harm they actually cause.

Also I would argue that drugs and alcoholism are more symptoms of wider social problems in some parts of society rather than the problem itself. If a sizeable proportion of society feel the need to anaesthetise themselves regularly with large quantities of narcotics (legal or otherwise), this says that there’s something very wrong with society. Banning drugs is merely a attempt to hide the problem, but there ain’t smoke without fire. Tackling these social problems seems to me a better solution than increasingly draconian drug laws, that many users will just ignore anyway!

Tory NHS fantasies
The election campaign proper and already the Tory’s are telling all sorts of porkies (nice one from Cassette boy here). Take the Tory’s promise of seven days a week NHS service. This has been met with much scepticism by those I know working within the NHS. Indeed, all it seems to have done is guarantee that 1.4 million people (i.e. everyone who works in the NHS) won’t be voting Tory.

The problem is that the NHS has been suffering for years from chronic underfunding and is drastically understaffed. While the government will point to year on year increases in budget, its worth remembering that once you factor in inflation, an ageing population and a growing population that this amounts to a budget cut in real terms. Much of the NHS does work seven days a week, often as this is the only way of clearing large backlogs. Bringing in the sort of service Cameron is talking about is simply not possible with present staffing levels and funding, so unless he is planning on drastically increasing the NHS budget his plan is a non-starter from day one.

And we’re not talking small change here, a 30% increase in service hours for those services not already seven days a week is going to require a substantial amount of cash. Keep in mind the Tories are prosperously suggesting that this can be done with a mere £2 billion a year, against a current NHS budget of £96 billion a year….a mere 2% increase, that probably won’t pay for the extra cups of coffee overworked consultants will drink.

And where are those staff going to come from? Its not as if we’ve got hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses sitting on the dole waiting to be hired? One assumes they’d have to come from abroad, which means ditching any of the Tories immigration targets as far as health care workers and students are concerned.

Again I’m not saying, nor are NHS staff suggesting, that services shouldn’t be seven days a week, its just that such a policy is impossible without the Tories ditching several other manifesto commitments.

Furthermore what this story highlights is that the Tory plan for the campaign is basically – make shit up and throw more BS the British people’s way than a farmer sees from a herd of diuretic bovine. He knows that the right wing press, terrified of both labour and UKIP will back him all the way, he’s wriggled out of any head to head debate clashes, so its not as if he’s going to get found out.

Ladettes day
Traditionally “ladies day” at Aintree has been one of those key events in the social calendar of the well heeled. Where ladies dress up in their finery and prance around a race course in their best dress…through the mud in high heels with a parasol, trying not to distract the men from the import business of drinking and betting on horses…..or something!

Well times have changed a bit. It seems the Ladettes and hen parties of the TOWIE generation have taken ladies day and started turning it into a booze fest. Apparently the race organisers are so embarrassed at the antics they’ve been trying to ban cameras and stop the newspapers publishing photos of it. I’d make the pun about the place “going to the dogs” but I don’t want to upset the horses…..they’ve already got a long face :no:

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Security blunders

The awful events in the Alps this week, with a plane being, it would seem, deliberately flown into the ground by its co-pilot is of course very shocking. However, it is also unfortunately one of a number of consequences of the post 9/11 paranoia about aircraft security.

Part of the problem is that many in the anti-terrorism business aren’t engineers or technical people (and hence can be easily conned into buying expensive kit that doesn’t work), they see things in absolutes (like siths!), that a plane with these measures is 100% unsecure and 100% safe with them. Well, no! In the real world we are often confronted with trade off’s between one risk and another. Putting in a heavy reinforced cockpit door might protect against one kind of threat, such as a terrorist trying to take over the plane, but it actually creates further risks, as there are times when the rest of the crew (or passengers) need to be able to access the cockpit.

Obviously a suicidal pilot is one concern, as events this week have shown. But the shocking thing is this wasn’t the first time this happened. In a very similar incident occurred in 2013, one of the aircrew locking his colleague out of the cockpit and crashing the plane. Yet nothing was done, as the Jack Bauer’s of the world decided to ignore this embarrassment.

Pilot suicide is, fortunately, a fairly rare event. But there are certainly occasional cases of it. Another notable case in recent years being Egypt Air flight 990 back in 1999. In another noteworthy incident about a year ago, an Ethiopian Air co-pilot managed to hijack his plane, when the captain was out of the cockpit and flew it all the way to Switzerland to try and claim asylum (the plane landed without a hitch, all passengers safe).

And least we forget there is still the mystery of MH370. Now while I’d still urge against jumping to conclusions before all the facts are in, the evidence is starting to point to the conclusion that someone was actively at the controls of the plane, until it reached the Indian ocean, if not right up until its crashed. Its not inconceivable that this could be because one or other of the flight crew hijacked the plane, perhaps while the other was out of the cabin. So this is a threat that should have been anticipated and lives were unnecessarily put at risk by the security services as a result.

And Furthermore, its not just pilots going postal that’s the problem, there’s other risks to consider, for example if one of the pilots is taken ill or has a seizure at the controls. This does occasionally happen, for example the infamous case of BEA 548 in the 1970’s (crashed on take off likely due one of the pilots having a heart attack).

Indeed my first thought when I heard the initial reports was that this is what had happened to the German wings plane – one or other of the pilots left the cockpit, his colleague had some sort of seizure, slumped over the control column, sending the plane into a dive while his colleague in his haste got the door entry code wrong and accidentally locked himself out.

In another incident a BA pilot was sucked out of the cockpit when a window failed, leaving him stuck in the window frame. Quick intervention by a flight attendant prevented the pilot being completely sucked out of the plane, while the co-pilot preformed an emergency landing. In another incident (in 1981) a Lear jet co-pilot in the US was killed by a Swan which struck the aircraft and penetrated the cabin, with a similar incident involving a vulture occurring in Pakistan back in the 60’s. In both cases their colleague was injured and intervention from the cabin crew was needed to assist (both occurred prior to the introduction of new security rules), thus allowing an emergency landing. So there are many reasons why access to the cockpit is necessary.

Similarly there is the pantomime we’re expected to go through at check in with all those checks and the smut machines…which don’t actually work (wonderful clip from German TV about this here). It would be funny, if I wasn’t reminded of the large amounts of money wasted on these measures and all that expensive hardware.

Again, some will say better safe than sorry, but its never that simple. Inevitably you’re faced with a trade off between the very small risk of terrorism and the unfortunate fact that there is a strong link between delays to flights (and excessive security measures have led to flight delays) and things going wrong, be it baggage being lost or planes crashing. A number of air accidents have in part being caused by crew in a hurry (due to a delays) missing things that were important and an accident resulting.

For example, Air Florida flight 90 (delayed by bad weather, in their haste pilots failed to set de-icing systems to on), Turkish Airlines fight 981 (delayed by industrial action, an already faulty cargo door incorrectly closed by a baggage handler (delays meant nobody else was available) who wasn’t suitable qualified or trained), or the big daddy of them all the 1977 Tenerife disaster (worst ever accident in aviation history, collision between two jumbos on a runway, due to both being diverted from La Palma due to a security threat, accident the fault of KLM pilot being in a hurry and taking off without proper clearance).

So the fact is that tight security, while it guards against one risk, it opens up a number of other risks. Given the fact that there have been few if any hijackings since 9/11...other than those orchestrated by the pilots thanks to these measures, I’d argue there is a need to perhaps review some of these procedures, both on the plane and on the ground.

So for example, I’d move any control of the cabin door away from the aircraft controls and certainly ensure at least two people in the cabin at all times. As well as providing means to guarantee the cabin staff can always access the cockpit. Perhaps putting a third pilot in the cockpit would help, as it was always handy back in the days of the flight engineer to have that third set of eyes up there, especially when one of the crew needed to leave the cockpit. I’d also question whether these airport body scanners represent value for money.

Furthermore, as the father of one victim pointed out, there is a need to cut pilots some slack. Pilots these days are under huge pressure, often working long hours with little pay and facing long commutes and long waits between shifts, with some so hard up they sleep in crew lounges rather than getting a room for the night. This is a particular issue for junior pilots, who are often pretty much tied to their employer and treated almost like bonded labour. This has caused accidents by itself and near misses (as in pilots asleep at the controls…and I mean both of them!).

Given these pressures, its a wonder this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often. So rather than putting some air marshal with a gun in the seat behind the crew (presumably the Tea Party solution, guns are the solution to all problems, right?), I’d pay them better, give them shorter working hours and perhaps a rule that their shift starts the minute they leave the house and get home again (or to a hotel room, paid for by the airline of course), rather than when they sit down in the cockpit.

Yes this might mean you’re Ryanair flight to Malaga gets a little more pricey, but its a price worth paying if you want two sane, alert and happy people up the front of the plane.

ISIS and the Bitter Lake

If you’ve not already seen it, the BBC have a film out on i-Player by the always excellent Adam Curtis, called “Bitter Lake”. In this film Curtis discusses the effects of the West’s Middle Eastern policy, often in pursuit of oil. The film highlights how such policy has frequently become unstuck due to politicians sticking to simplistic explanations, of what are often very complex internal issues within these states. The film in particular focuses on Afghanistan and the various western interventions in this country.

The film is not for the feint hearted and includes many shocking scenes, the sort that the BBC never broadcast and hence why I doubt this film will ever be broadcast on television. For example the aftermath of an assassination “attempt” on Karzai’s convoy (about 25min’s in, which does seem to imply it was just his trigger happy security guards being jumpy rather than anything else). Indeed the film has provoked much controversy, being both praised as brilliant and on the other hand condemned by the very sorts who you’d think it would appeal too.

The film gets its name from the Bitter Lake agreement, where in the twilight weeks of World War II, in one of his last major policy decisions, President Roosevelt met with the Saudi king and they struck a deal through which the US would gain access to Saudi oil and in return the Saudi’s would get a guarantee of security. However, this deal threatened in the long term to undermine everything that Roosevelt had worked towards, and directly led to the events of 9/11.

The religion of Saudi Arabia has, since the 1800’s been not Islam but Wahhabism, an often puritanical, xenophobic and technophobic offshoot of mainstream Sunni Islam. Wahhabism itself grew as a counter to Western Imperialism (notably the Ottoman Empire) and it was both one of the Saudi Kingdom’s key strengths…but also its greatest internal threat. Indeed from time to time the Royal family has literally been forced to turn on the Wahhabists and buried more than a few in holes in the desert.

One solution that the Saudi’s developed was the idea that the best way of dealing with the more troublesome extremists, was to give them a pile of money, which thanks to the oil revenues they now weren’t short off, bundle them off to somewhere like Pakistan to set up a Madrasa and spread the good Wahhabi word. Its a bit like the old Irish policy, in some families, of sending the smart brother to college so he could become an engineer or a doctor, letting the middle ones take up a trade and become plumbers or joiners, while the idiot brother gets bundled off to a seminary. Similarly, in Saudi families, the runt of the litter, the kid who was too dumb to pass high school…and spent his spare time torturing small animals, gets bundled off to some foreign Madrasa where he’s out of sight and out of mind and not making waves for people back home.

And for a time this tactic worked, however the end result has been to create a number of very serious long term problems, notably in that these Wahhabi preachers have now indoctrinated a substantial portion of the Muslim populations in certain countries with teachings that actually contradict traditional Muslim teachings in those countries. There is for example very little tradition in many Muslim countries of women wearing full face veils. Yet many Muslim women in some countries now do so, despite the obvious practical problems it creates, as they are still expected to do the jobs and chore’s they’d long performed without wearing the veil or Burka.

This growth in Wahhabism, was fuelled by Western policies. For example, the man who actually inspired the 9/11 hijackers, was an Egyptian by the name of Sayyid Qutb. This simple school inspector had been radicalised in part thanks to his treatment by the Nasser regime, with whom the US was at the time co-operating on security matters. Nasser represented the opposing force in Islam, of Muslim secularism which sought to exploit the west and copy some of its methods, notably Western technology and industrialisation. However in the process, the Pan-Arabians succeeded in alienating many more conservative Muslims as well as trampling on the traditional systems of tribal loyalties that had held such societies together for Millennia.

For example, in the 1950’s the US helped build a dam in Helmand province of Afghanistan as part of a programme to modernise the country. However the dam forced many off their land. Also for the dam to function, it relied on a system of canals to provide water to farms, which soon became clogged due to lack of maintenance. This causes significant disruption to local tribal life as well as making it difficult for local tribes to farm, as the dam had also raised the salt levels within the water table….until the locals realised that instead they could grow Opium poppies! For decades after, this Opium crop would be a major problem for the West, both due to the drug problems that resulted in the West, but also the funds it would funnel to terrorist groups.

Recently on US TV there was a controversial debate between Bill Maher, Ben Affleck (of all people) and American author Sam Harris. The crux of this debate was a simplistic spinning of the conflicts within the Arab world into a fight between “good” Muslims versus “bad” Muslims, when in fact a more accurate analysis would be Muslims and the rest of the civilised world against Wahhabi extremists. For increasingly, during the 1980’s the Wahhabist’s “exported” from countries like Saudi Arabia were being utilised as a counter to the Pan-Arabism of Nasser, Saddam or the Asad’s, which both the Saudi’s and the US now considered as their enemies and allies of the soviets.

When a pan-Arabian regime took root in Afghanistan, the Americans tried all they could to destabilise it, eventually leading to a Russian invasion. The Saudi’s and the US (under Reagan), then persuaded many Muslim extremists to go off to fight a Jihad against the Russians in the hope that the US could get one back on the sov’s for Vietnam. They even convinced a number of Arab countries to effectively empty their prisons of many violent Jihadi’s, who had been rotting (often on death row) for various attempted rebellion’s, and send them to Afghanistan to fight to soviets….and probably in the very real hope that they’d be killed, thus solving two problems at once. Of those who went to Afghanistan included Al-Qaeda’s number 1 and 2, Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, a follower of the aforementioned Sayyid Qutb. It seemed like a good plan…until a number of those Jihadi’s put their CIA training to good use over the skies of New York….15 of the 19 of them being Saudi’s.

And again, it was the simplistic analysis of the problem in both Moscow and Washington that was the problem. Neither understood the complex system of tribal loyalties and long running cultural rivalries. Reagan had an almost megalomaniac obsession with the conflict, even dedicating the inaugural launch of the space shuttle to the Afghan fighters…or comparing the Mujahideen to the founding fathers of the US.

Similarly the Soviet leadership did not initially understand that the reason for the revolt was due to the land reforms that had been imposed on the country and the tribal feuds this had set off. Much of the reason why local tribes fought the soviets had little to do with politics, or religion for that matter, but in defence of tribal claims. And indeed they often used one side or another against one another. For the surest way of getting you’re rival killed was to go to the Soviets and tell them such and such a person was Mujahideen, or visa versa. And many tribal elders would happily switch sides at the drop of a hat if the winds of change suited.

And when the Americans and British came into Helmand province in the 2000’s the locals played the same game, using the coalition forces to settle long standing tribal scores. In part, this was because that the West failed to understand the consequences of putting the likes of Karzai in charge of the country, who presided over a regime that was institutionally corrupt and widely despised. The end result was that both the soviet occupation of the country and the Western one did not have any appropriated outcome. And similarly in Iraq, the West backed a president who alienated the Sunni’s, who promptly threw in their lot with ISIS, who took over half the country, leaving the Americans playing catch up very quickly.

The result is to make something of a mockery of fifty years of western diplomacy and some will take this as a clear sign as to why the West should stay out of Middle East affairs. However one valid criticism would be to accuse Adam Curtis of making the very same mistake that he accuses Western governments of, he relies too much on simplistic explanations and a fairly narrow interpretation of the facts, and quite a lot of hyperbole.

For example, he goes so far as to claim that much of the global trade on stock markets is ultimately a massive ponzi scheme fuelled by Saudi oil money. This is going perhaps a little far. Certainly, a point I would make (as an expert on energy) is that much of the supposed wealth of the West is somewhat imaginary, as its dependant on the availability of cheap fossil fuels which won’t always be available, hence unless we come up with some alternatives there’s going to be some sort of major economic correction. However it would be incorrect to conclude that the stock markets only exist because of petro-dollars (he is aware that they existed long before oil came along?).

Also, one has to be careful in this narrative of blaming the West for everything. After all, nobody made the Taliban become Taliban. The US certainly scored an own goal by helping to train and equip them, but it wouldn’t be fair to blame the West without pointing the finger at other factors closer to home, the Wahhabists, corrupt and oppressive local regimes, ignorance and greed on the part of locals?

Take this Jihadi John character. Certain apologists for ISIS, such as professional moron Russell Brand, have been trying to argue its all the West fault he decided to go to Syria and take to beheading aid workers and journalists, ignoring the fact that clearly he was radicalised long before the security services got near him. Its not as if MI5 put a plane ticket in his hand and a machete in the other? And are we going to blame MI5 for those 3 girls who were groomed online and when missing last month?

But either way this film does raise awkward questions, such as what to do about ISIS. Nobody can doubt that ISIS are a murderous and dangerous perversion. Tales from within ISIS held territories speak of such horrors as mass executions, crucifixions and a regime, run by sex-mad slave drivers, that literally collects not just outrageous taxes, but even taxes paid in blood (and you thought taxes in the UK were tough!). The city of Raqqa (ISIS capital) has seen its population drop by more than half since they took over. Veils for women indeed simply aren’t enough, as in almost monty python-esque style they’ve introduced double veil’s with gloves.

In short its difficult to argue how anything could be better than leaving the likes of ISIS in charge. And the argument that we should just let the Kurds and Shia’s sort out ISIS ignores the likely consequences of that. For example, the Kurds have taken much land and territory in both Syria and neighbouring provinces of Iraq, as have the Shia’s, who are currently advancing on Tikirit….possibly with the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary guard.

But will these groups give up the land afterwards? The land captured is majority Sunni areas but with large Shia or Kurdish minorities. And it contains in many cases large oil reserves. Suppose they hold onto the land, or indeed start fighting each other over this land? It could mean that the war against ISIS is replaced with a wider internal conflict inside Iraq, or possibly a war between Iraq and Syria with Turkey and Iran backing one side or another.

But of course Western boots on the ground, won’t necessarily work out any better. After all if the plan is to repeat past Western mistakes, it would be merely a case of the West demonstrating one of the proof’s of madness (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result). Its all well and good, throwing rocks at Western policy, but its possible that a lack of intervention could be as bad, if not worse, than further intervention.

Hence why I’d argue a more effective strategy is to break our addiction to oil. No petro-dollars, no Saudi money to Madrasa’s and ISIS. It also means being careful whose side we pick. Another flash point is the West’s unyielding support for Israel, ignoring Israel ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and its production of WMD’s. Obviously, doing as Netanyahu suggests, would be dangerous, without first tackling Israeli nuclear weapons. To argue that Iran can’t have Nukes, but we’ll let Israel have them is clearly hypocritical.

In short there needs to be an end to Western double standards, backing up one heavily armed oppressive regime (such as the Gulf States), then bombing or isolating another one (such as Saddam’s Iraq or Iran) and ignoring totally the crimes of others (such as Israel). Equally thought the West needs to wake up to the fact that we’re in the mess due to attempts to secure oil reserves. So a programme of reducing the Western addiction to oil is certainly essential.

Weekly news roundup

London’s Parliament is falling down
One has to comment on the announcement from the speaker of the house of Commons, John Bercow, that Westminster would need extensive refurbishment. Decades of under investment in the Houses of Parliament, with much patch repairs, has left the building in an dilapidated state. The only solution he claims is either some major work done on the building (perhaps costing as much as £3 billion), possibly necessitating it being closed and parliament moved for sometime. Or perhaps moving Parliament altogether to some sort of new green field site.

There is a certain irony to the vision his comment conjure, of a bunch of out of touch Etonians trying to run the country, while sitting in a crumbling building. Its a bit like the bunker scene, in Downfall where Hitler and his generals move fictitious military units across a map, while every now and then a Russian shell sends a chuck of plaster raining down onto the table.

This inability of parliament to even, quite literally, put its own house in order, highlights the very issues crippling politics. That politicians are too chickshit scared of bad press to make long term decisions for fear that this might make them look bad in the short term.

I would note that the £3 billion option was merely the gourmet expensive option, the speaker mention several less radical ideas. Although these might carry a certain level of risk (the risk being, the problems won’t be fixed and further more expensive work would be needed later). While it would be tempting to move parliament to some other part of the country, such as the North or Midlands, we need to consider past experience with the Scottish or Welsh parliament buildings, both of which saw significant cost overruns.

In Ireland, we’ve faced similar issues with Leinster House. Again, like the UK its an old ageing building. Its gone through various stages of modifications and expansion. And yes, you guessed it, there’s a call for more changes to stop parts of the building falling down. However, anytime the idea of moving parliament to somewhere else in Dublin, or building a new building outside the capital, the cost benefits have always suggested that staying put and paying for the more cost effective option.

Either way, the UK government, whoever wins the next election, is going to have to make some major decisions, even if the result isn’t very popular with others.

Eurovision
The UK’s new entry to the Eurovision song contest, by Electric Velvet (nope, I never heard of them either), has received mixed views. Some seemed to hate it, notably the Guardian, which in a wonderfully nasty column described it as “Nigel Farage’s new ringtone”. The argument goes, that the UK never wins at Eurovision, because the rest of Europe hates us, so why bother.

Well all I can say is that’s bolix. The UK is in joint second place with Sweden, France and (oddly Luxembourg). Ireland, in the lead with seven wins. Britain also has the most second places at 15.

Admittedly the UK’s been through a bit of a dry patch, it being 1997 since the country last won. This is something which I would in part put down to a certain jealousy among European musicians, at the ease at which some tone deaf moron in Britain can get a record contract, just by letting Simon Cowell shout at them on telly. But either way, the old Terry Wogan chestnut that the UK “always looses” isn’t borne out by the statistics.

Indeed I would point out that the objective of Eurovision isn’t to win. Do well and avoid ending up with an embarrassing null pointe at the end of the night yes, but don’t win. As winning means you have to host it the next year, which means for the BBC spending £100 million in license fee money they don’t have on something they don’t want. In some respects those 15 second place finishes should count as the best Eurovision record.

Its a bit like playing golf with some businessmen from Asia who you’re trying to impress. Going out and trying to win, then run around calling everyone loser afterwards will just get you dismissed as an arrogant westerner…who must now, as tradition dictates, buy everyone a round of drinks in the bar afterwards. A better strategy would therefore be to do well, make whoever wins fight pretty hard for it, but lose and lose graciously…then make sure to order a double of that 20 year old Talisker in the bar afterwards! ;D

Take us Irish, with seven wins, including a four in a row. From RTE (Ireland’s state broadcaster) prospective this means we’ve got the worst Eurovision record. Since then, the Irish have been so “committed” to winning we’ve send Dustin the Turkey and Jedward…..twice! We’d probably have someone sing “My lovely horse” every year if we thought we could get away with it. I mean why do you think the Austrian’s submitted that bearded lady last year? Or why Finland sent that rock group dressed as monsters? Obviously in both cases the plan was to send someone who could perform, but they assumed had no chance of actually winning.

In short Eurovision is like a game of beggar thy neighbour, where the goal is to literally beggar you’re European neighbours by making sure they win rather than you! I mean why do you think they are inviting Australia? We need to bring in new suckers punters to keep things going.

So all in all, I’m actually half hoping this band does win, as that would force many critics in the papers to eat humble pie for their earlier criticism. The tabloids would be faced by the conundrum of how can we say everyone in Europe hates us when we’ve got the second best record at eurovision and the BBC would find their plan (if the plan is too make sure they loose) will have backfired…..maybe they could get Clarkson to do it next year.

Gold bugs
Start talking to libertarians and inevitably they’ll start ranting and raving about gold…then silver. They’ll claim that the money in you’re pocket is worth diddly squat and you need to hold you’re wealth in something more tangible instead (what, you mean like a house?).

I’m certainly forced to agree that recent economic policy does lead you to question the long term viability of fiat currencies. But the gold standard was equally fraught with its own problems, hence why it was dropped. Most leading economists, and I’m talking about the sensible ones here, will generally argue that the downsides of the gold standard far outweighs the benefits, particularly when you consider the existing links between the dollar and the price of oil. This was in part what drove the Nixon administration into abandoning the gold standard in the first place.

Anyway, the libertarians have something to cheer about, one country appears ready to reintroduce the gold standard – ISIL! Yes clearly ISIS have listened to all that sound economic advise from Ron Paul and decided to take the logic step….or maybe its because they think bank notes are too modern and given that they have images of people on them, they might count as idolatry.

Either way, now the libertarians know where to move too, they’d like ISIL, lots of nutty religious people running around with guns, they don’t like writing or ancient monuments or any form of science for that matter, everyone drives around in SUV’s, they don’t like Obama there, no socialised health care….actually no healthcare at all in fact. And they like Christians so much, they even hold crucifixions every night ;D

Squeaky boots
You may have heard about the police officer who stopped a 4 year old from riding on the pavement, suggested she should ride on the road (seriously? I saw a four year old riding a bike on a the road I’d probably call the cops before she got herself killed!) and threatened to confiscate the bike leaving the poor kid bawling.

All I can say is, does this cop not have something better to be doing? I mean isn’t there some drug dealer or thieving tax dodging banker he could be arresting instead? My assumption is that this cop probably was having a bad day, dropped his doughnut or something and decided to take it out on a little girl. How very brave, I hope you’re parents are proud.

Then again one cop once complained too me that too many in uniform are all too willing to cruise. Rather than try to chase down dangerous criminals, they instead prefer to harass law abiding citizens instead. Him and his mates (he was a drug cop) would be planning a big bust of “Madman” Mick and his West side gang, they’d ask uniform for backup and they’d suddenly remember they needed to issue some parking tickets on the other side of town. I mean those drug dealer types are dangerous you know, someone should lock them up…oh, wait! Isn’t that our job? :no:

So my view is, find this moron and transfer him to the roughest scummiest ghetto in the whole country (I’m presuming that would be somewhere near Liverpool or Glasgow? :D). Let’s see him go up to a bunch of pipe hitting crack heads and tell them to quit riding on the pavement, see where that gets him.

Last call for Clarkson?
Then there’s Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension. Without issuing judgement before the facts are in (the media seem to be judging him guilty, his fans see him innocent before hearing the evidence), but he is a controversial figure and in these PC times his days working for a state broadcaster, with the government and Mary Whitehouse types to answer too, has always been numbered.

Its worth noting that when the Top Gear team went to set up Fifth Gear on channel 5 he was one of the few not to go, perhaps because exec’s at Five were reluctant to put him on air (a decision they’re probably regretting given all the money the Beeb has made out of Top Gear).

So even if he doesn’t go now, it will happen sooner or later. He’s wealthy enough that he can buy the BBC out and I’m sure he can convince C4, Sky or various internet broadcasters to pick up the show.

More dog whistle politics
Finally we have the latest dog whistling from Farage. He stated in a C4 interview that he would get rid of all discrimination laws, preposterously then claiming his party as being colour blind…well except those members who’ve been caught saying horribly racist things or who are ex-national front!

We can easily refute this one by considering the consequences. Let’s suppose we get rid of all discrimination laws, Farage walks into a pub in Edinburgh or Cardiff and the barman refuses to serve “his kind” pointing to a sign on the wall indicating “no dogs or Englishmen” are welcome. Would he be okay with that? Discrimination doesn’t sound so bad until you’re the victim of it, that’s why we have laws banning it.

Farage later tried to backtrack, claiming his comments were misrepresented (actually the video clearly shows this isn’t the case) that he was merely talking about allowing employers to hire British workers instead of foreign workers.

Well the law does not force employers to hire foreigners, it merely stops an employer refusing to hire someone because they are Black/Asian/Irish/English. If an employer feels that the one British person who applied is the best person for the job (perhaps because he needs someone with local knowledge) he’s entitled to do that. But equally, if he needs someone who appropriate skills and experience and perhaps some foreign language skills (a common requirement in our globalised world), then it would not be unusual for a foreign national to get the job, but keep in mind that many Brits get jobs in other EU countries for this very reason.

As for any suggestion of positive discrimination, do you really want to be an employer and facing a situation where you’ve got some government bureaucrat looking over you’re shoulder every time you advertise for a job, questioning you’re every decision? As I discussed before this is a national socialist policy, not a right wing or free market idea.

Missing the point on immigration

The numbers game
Part of the problem with the immigration debate is it tends to be dominated by myths perpetuated by Tabloids that have little if any foundation in fact.

Take for example the silliness regarding recent immigration figures, which had Farage and the bigot brigade practically foaming at the mouth. He mumbled something about not sticking to any actual targets but getting the figure down to the tens of thousands (which kind of sounds like setting a target?), which would of course be impossible and entirely undesirable.

For example of those entering the UK (to reside) 83,000 of them are British or have British passports. Entrants to the UK last year also included 180,000 students (from the EU or beyond…indeed most come from outside the EEA). And of course its worth remembering that the vast majority of migrants come from outside the EU.

This of course highlights the absurdity of anyone suggesting they could get net migration down to “tens of thousands” per year. They would break that quota within a few weeks, unless the proposed stopping all students entering and banned British people from leaving or entering the country (perhaps they could do what North Korea does, and take a family member hostage to make sure Brit’s come back!)

And it’s worth remembering the country does need migrants to deal with shortages in many key sectors. Ask anyone who owns a business. Indeed its worth highlighting the energy sector, as there is an urgent need for the UK to upgrade its entire energy generation capability, both in terms of fossil fuel plants, renewables and the UK’s nuclear industry. One of the major issues is that many who work in th energy sector (in particular nuclear power) are close to retirement age, meaning we need to recruit workers both to replace them, but also build new power stations and decomission the old ones. As it is there is a big question mark how this could be achieved without bringing in lots of workers from outside the UK.

The reality is it’s all well and good pointing to the unemployment figures, however its not as if an employer in, say the nuclear industry, can wander down to the local jobs centre and put a couple of jobseekers in charge of radioactive material. Unless UKIP/Tories are suggesting we implement some sort of Soviet style policy of “jobs for the boys”, then other measures are needed to tackle unemployment.

One is quickly forced to the conclusion that whoever in the Tory Party or UKIP who came up with this “tens of thousands” figure hadn’t actually bothered to read the UK migration statistics and was simply relying on the ridiculous scare stories he was reading in the tabloids or the ravings of xenophobic bigot organisations such as Migration Watch.

Point not taken
Similarly there is the idea of the UK introducing a points system for migrants, including those coming in from the EU. One of the things the UKIP bigot brigade often claim is that they just want to introduce a points system to control immigration, much as Canada and Australia use similar systems. However this policy starts to look absurd when you actually look at it more closely.

While it is true that Canada, Australia and several other countries do apply a points system for incoming migrants coming from countries such as the UK who are seeking to relocate permanently, they don’t apply the same system for migrant workers coming from nations closer to home.

For example a Kiwi trying to enter Australia for some extended period (e.g. to work temporarily in the country, an extended holiday, meet up with his Sheela, maybe all of the above) can apply for a SCV (Special Category Visa). The Aussie government website seems to imply that, so long as our Kiwi didn’t have any criminal convictions or major or obvious health complications (or at the least, health cover to deal with this), he can pretty much apply for this at the border.

This Visa only grants temporary license to reside, although Australian law does legally treat SCV holders in the same manner as all other permanent residents. However, if our Kiwi wanted to permanently live in Australia, then presumably he would have to go through the normal channels to stay for good (but then again so long as he’s got some sort of “skill” or a job I can’t see the Aussies kicking out a tax payer). It’s important to remember that the majority of EU migrants would fall into this category, as the bulk of them have no intentions of staying permanently in the UK in any event.

Canada too has similar relationships with the US. Canadians can enter the US (or visa versa), bypassing the normal naturalisation processes, for work related purposes, by applying for a temporary visa of some kind (there are various categories depending on circumstances). If an American decides he wishes permanently to make his home in Canada, or perhaps become a Canuck himself, he will have to apply for permission to do this. However so long as he’s got some sort of “skill” or a connection to Canada (i.e. a relative or spouse) this shouldn’t be difficult to achieve (so long as he’s not a convicted felon or something!).

And if you think about it these rules make sense. Canada and the US are one another’s biggest trading partners and it would be economic suicide to interfere in this trade, something that harsh immigration rules (of the sort UKIP propose) would ultimately mean. Similarly can you imagine the reaction if Aussie PM Tony Abbot went on radio and said how he’d be worried if a load of Kiwi’s moved in next door. He’d be laughed off as some sort of idiotic xenophobe….and probably get called a “daft dingo” or something.

So in essence the only difference, between the UK’s current arrangement with the EU and how Australia and/or the US or Canada treats migrants from its neighbours, is that these countries have a more paper work involved and a bit more wriggle room in terms of stopping people liable to cause problems (e.g. criminals, migrants with no hope of actually getting a job). However one has to question whether this is a good thing, when you consider the costs of such controls (UK border staff are stretched as it is, further controls will mean more costs and higher taxes).

And one also has to highlight the hypocrisy of US, Canadian and Australian immigration policy. Whereby politicians have to “get tough” on migration to pander to the bigot brigade, but on the other hand they realise that migration is crucial to keeping the wheels of industry turning. Hence they are all too aware that large numbers of migrants are slipping through the cracks which they quite deliberately do very little about, as they know that will have certain special interests groups wailing if they so much as do anything (such as for example, putting up a border fence). And from time to time when the numbers of undocumented migrants starts to reach numbers that are just embarrassingly high, these governments are forced to bring in some sort of amnesty or change in the law to allow another tranche of them to reside permanently, something Obama was recently forced to do.

I would certainly agree that there is perhaps a need to stop the tiny number of actual “benefits tourists” to the UK (the overwhelming majority of migrant to the UK work and they are far more likely to be employed and paying taxes than UK citizens) as well as tighten up existing EU rules restricting the movements of criminals (although migrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes than British citizens). As recent court rulings suggest, the EU does seem to be agreeable to such measures and I can’t see it being too hard to persuade fellow EU leaders (who’ve perhaps seen the movie the Italian job!) of the need to stop criminals crossing national borders. So clearly, leaving the EU would probably hamper these efforts rather than aiding them.

And of course one has to consider that the economies and demographics of Australia and Canada are very different from the UK. In the UK we have a largely services heavy economy and an ageing population and thus a need to bring in young tax payers, preferably without families, or young families, to help pay the pensions of British retirees. To apply the migration rules of another country (and in a way that completely ignores the fundamental rules of how those countries operate their migration policy) would be bonkers.

In short one is again forced to the conclusion that neither the tabloid journalists, nor UKIP, nor the Tories have actually bothered to even read up on what the immigration policies they advocate are. They are in essence pulling policy ideas out of their rear ends!

Only 8 more weeks of torture

As you may know, there’s an election going to be held on the 7th of May and essentially the campaigning has already started. I would start by noting that this is why I’d argue we should get rid of fixed term parliaments, as such a policy means we get an extended election campaign and the sort of BS we have to normally put up with for one month is drawn out over a tortuous six months.

Instead, 8 weeks before an election needs to be called, give the queen a 6 sided dice have her roll it, if it rolls a one, then the election is held a month after that date. Next week, she does the same again, and if a 1 or a 2 is rolled, the election is in a month’s time, or so on. It would solve so many problems.

Running scared
I’ve been watching the punch and judy politics of the election debate….debate with some amusement, but now its starting to raise a lot of worrying questions about David Cameron’s credibility as a leader.

It would seem that David Cameron is afraid to debate Ed Miliband. Seriously? And if he’s made PM for a further term how does he propose to stare down Putin or Merkel if he’s terrified of a Wallace and Gromit lookalike…or an Enoch Powell tribute act, how does he propose to be the country’s leader?

The tories have been rolling out the usual excuses, we’re a multi-party system now, everyone should participate in a debate. Well the Tories do realise that the key hallmark of a multiparty system is proportional representation, something they have long opposed for fear it would dilute their vote. It is entirely hypocritical of them to whinge about the DUP or the Greens being part of a debate, when they are denying both these parties any chance of getting a sizeable number of seats.

The Tories have also been having a go at the broadcasters, claiming that they are all lefties biased against them (no doubt part of an effort to bully the BBC, who are vulnerable given that the license fee is up for discussion in the next parliment). Ya Sky News, the UK version of Fox owned by Rupert Murdoch, who will host the head to head debate between Cameron and Miliband is well known for its left wing bias! ;D

The reality is that the broadcasters are trying NOT to get involved in the politics. The debates are a result of agreement between broadcasters and the major parties. The format is what all sides have agreed too…except Cameron.

Indeed this inability to compromise and negotiate, is another dangerous hallmark of the Cameron administration, one that’s gotten him into trouble in the past. Good politics is about compromise and negotiation, you’re not going to get what you want, but if you can meet you’re opponents half way, then everyone leaves the tables with something. Well not if you’re Cameron!

So for example the Tories have gotten tied up in knots in Europe at various times , not because the European’s stonewalled him, but because he’s behaved in a rude and arrogant manner and seemed to be more interested in domestic points scoring than doing a deal that would have resolved many of the underlying issues. Then there was his refusal to allow Devo Max on the ballot paper in Scotland, until forced a week before the referendum to endorse a proposal from Gordon Brown for Devo Max. There’s been his failure to negotiate with public sector workers which has led to strikes. Clearly this posh Bullingdon boy is so used to underlings agreeing with everything he says.

Should the TV channels back down? No! There is talk that for the sake of “balance” the broadcasters will offer him airtime (The Cameron Show? Bullingdon Nights? The only way is Eaton? :))) to compensate for his refusal to take part in debates. I would argue no, if Cameron shoots himself in the foot and undermines his own election chances, even if I realise most of those votes will wind up going to Farage, tough! He and the Tories made their bed, let them lie in it. Its crucial they learn their lesson here and realise that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

SNP Danger
The Tory reasons for avoiding a debate is that its clear they are planning to go negative in campaigning. This will probably be one of the most negative campaigns in UK history. They plan to portray Miliband as somehow dangerous (we’re still talking about the same Miliband, he’s not got another brother whose like a convicted murderer or something?) and can’t eat a bacon roll properly.

Recently they’ve been flagging up the “danger” of the SNP getting into government as a coalition partner. A party who they claim are “committed to destroying the union”. Actually the SNP have gone all quiet on the independence thing since September. I would argue that the greatest threat to the union is the Tory/UKIP plans for an EU in/out referendum, which would threaten to trigger a further referendum in Scotland (and possibly in Wales) as well as a border poll in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, I’d point to the out that the reason why the SNP are riding high in the polls, despite the No vote, is that the majority of Scots feel that, if you tune out whenever the Nats go into one of their Braveheart rants, they have actually done a good job of running Scotland. They’ve balanced the books, without engaging in the crushing austerity we’ve seen down south (we still have free prescription, no tuition fees, no significant council tax increases above inflation, good NHS coverage with none of the scandals seen in England). The massive inequality that’s grown under Cameron down south, hasn’t been replicated in Scotland.

On the whole, judging a government by its record, I’d suggest to someone in England, you’d want to pick the SNP over the Tories any day. I even know some Tory supporters in fact, who’ve moved to Scotland recently (or live here already) who plan to vote SNP, in part because they want to undermine labour, but also because they agree that the SNP have run Scotland a lot better than the Tories government has run England.

The one sticking point in a labour/SNP coalition I can see is that of Trident although the SNP seem to be rowing back on this one. Even then an obvious compromise might be to simply relocate the future subs outside of Scotland, although that would greatly increase the costs of building any new deterrent, given the need to build all the extensive support infrastructure somewhere in England. And given the SNP would never vote to renew Trident, nor approve a budget with Trident in it, even if its based out of England, labour would have to rely on Tory support to get Trident approved. (of course, I’m hoping they’ll fail!).

And speaking of nationalist parties from the regions, its worth remembering that the most likely coalition partners for the Tories are the Ulster Unionists, a set of small ultra-conservative parties. If labour should rule out a coalition with the SNP, why doesn’t Cameron rule out a coalition with the DUP or UKIP?

Scottish labours
This of course brings us to the question of the woes of the Scottish labour party. They are loosing ground massively to the SNP. Now I would argue that this is largely a consequence of the labour party failing to learn the lessons of the devolution. They have, as a previous Scottish labour leader put it, treating Scottish labour like a branch office, which has made it impossible for labour to function up north.

For example, quite a number of labour supporters in Scotland either wanted independence or more devolved powers, but the dictate coming down from London was, they had to go and ally themselves with the Tories! :> Hardly a workable strategy, particularly when the last ditch panic led to Devo Max, something they’d been calling for, to be promised anyway. This after some of them had wasted time trying to campaign against it! :no:

Then there’s Trident. Many on the left in Scotland are against this, but Scottish labour is forced to toe the line here due to instructions from down south, even thought its clearly giving the SNP a stick to beat them up with. Similarly, labour is committed to further nuclear reactor building (with generous subsidies) in England, even though the case for them looks a lot less clear cut in Scotland and there’s a lot more opposition.

It is for these reasons that, despite having nothing against Miliband or his party, I’ll not be voting for labour in the next election, but likely either the Greens or possibly the SNP. Until labour tackle this issue, they will continue to haemorrhage votes in Scotland.

Green Blunders
Of course we have to tackle the Natalie Bennett’s interview meltdown. The Green party has been growing strongly, claiming more members now than either the backstabbers lib dems or the BNP-lite UKIP.

However, her fundamental mistake was to actually try to answer the question. No real politician would try to do that. They’d say “I’m glad you asked that question, its good that we ask questions, housing is very important to us, as its where we keep our kids and pets….like this puppy, isn’t it adorable and cute, everyone like puppies, don’t they Nick? Are you saying you don’t like puppies?”…you want me to put down this puppy? did I hear you right? you think we should kill cute little puppies? My party will never approve of such a policy! :))

Indeed ironically enough, one of the questions she tripped up on was related to housing and this last week both labour and the Tories have come out with outlandish promises on housing, yet they have not received anything like the grilling the Greens took. This isn’t so much media bias, just that the media know that if they do challenge the main parties on these issues they won’t get a straight answer, just a long stream of BS that a committee of special advisers dreamt up while on an all night drinking binge.

So perhaps the dilemma for the Greens is do they want to become a party like all the rest or not?

Tales from the Climate wars

A couple of recent stories from the environmental movement might be of interest. This is particularly topical as there is a new documentary film out called “Merchants of Doubt” (based on the book of the same name) which exposes the tactics used by climate change deniers and their links to the fossil fuel industry. Indeed, its pointed out that many of the same tactics used by deniers are similar to those employed by Big Tobacco.

Mega drought risk threat confirmed by NASA
The effects of climate change will not be spread equally across the globe. Some areas might see some benefits, crops yields increasing for example, other regions will suffer some limited effects, but some parts of the globe are going to see very severe effects. Indeed whole areas will see dramatic and quite devastating climate shifts. One of the regions which it has long been suspected could see a major reversal of fortunes, is the Mid-Western states of the United States, where it is feared climate change could lead to droughts and desertification, turning the entire region from the bread and beef basket of America, into a mix of desert and steppe.

These fears are not idle scaremongering, but are based on the knowledge that in the past, when the world was only a few degrees warmer, most of the US Mid-West WAS a desert, so that it would return to that state after a spell of human induced planetary warming is hardly controversial. The region has also suffered from several persistent droughts in recent years. Anyway a new study by NASA scientists has taken data from past drought events and essentially rolled things forward to suggest that so-called “thousand year” drought events might become a little more common. Droughts which last for 30 to 50 years at a time are a possibility by the centuries end, with an 80% chance of a 35 year drought.

Naturally such events would dramatically alter the landscape, rendering a large chunk of America unable to support its current population. Imagine the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s magnified twenty fold. Ironically, of course the Mid-West happens to be the home of the Tea Party types who are sceptical of climate change and want big government off their back. Well be careful what you wish for. After all, how is the rest of America going to react to this? Throw government money at the problem….or suggest to the tea party types that they’ve made their bed, now lie in it!

Climate denier outed
The climate denier camp will frequently flag up the words of one particular climate scientist who takes a dissenting view of climate, while ignoring the other 97% of climate scientists who reach the opposite conclusion. Indeed, deniers are fast running out of material as the number of true “denier” climate scientists is becoming so rare, they should really talk to the UN about getting climate change deniers put on the endangered species list or something (my plan, fence of parts of Texas, capture the likes of Monckton and Co. with some sleeping darts, move them in and try to get them to breed :))).

Take for example John Christy, one of the few vaguely credible climate skeptic’s. However, he doesn’t deny that humans are influencing the climate, his bone of contention is to what degree we’re responsible, an issue referred too as “climate sensitivity”…..of course Fox News or the Daily Mail tend to gloss over such pesky points, but then again, it doesn’t take much to be a “climate expert” on Fox, merely being an accountant will do for them!…like you can be a “British terror expert” just by being a dim witted racist!

But I digress, anyway one of the problems with such trends is that more often than not, these climate change deniers get outed as being in receipt of large amounts of cash from some dubious sources. Of course, the right media is quick to airbrush such individuals out of history at this point.

Well they just managed to catch a whooper. The denier Willie Soon, whose name and credentials have been used to endorse many papers denying climate change, some of which have been used to support Republican friendly legislation, has just been outed. Documents reveal he’s been on the take for sometime and may have received as much as $1.2 million from several oil companies. This is a rather serious blow to the denier movement, as his name happens to endorse numerous papers by other deniers. Wipe out them from the scientific record and their ain’t a lot left.

And this comes on the back of the Berkeley Surface Temperature Study last year. Funded by the fracking barons the Koch brothers, who probably hoped they’d come with with yet more drivel for the denial machine. Instead its authors largely agreed with the conclusions of the IPCC. Talk about an own goal!

The Ice Age Myth cometh
An all too common myth you’ll hear from deniers is that “scientists predicted an Ice age back in the 1970’s”. Even the BBC seems to have been taken in by this one, as they’ve brought it up in a piece on climate change as recently as this very night.

The truth is that while the media did get taken in by a number of rather vocal scientists, the vast bulk of scientists and the weight of the science published, during this period, predicted not cooling but warming due to increasing carbon dioxide levels. The main reason for this misunderstanding was the issue of sulfur emissions, however further information on these, plus a more precise idea as to the triggering and ending of ice ages, quickly cast doubt on these predictions.

From 1965 to 1979 just seven peer reviewed papers predicted cooling, while 42 related to probable global warming. By 1975 the US National Academy of Sciences while, certainly keeping an open mind on things, had taken the view that global warming from carbon emissions seemed the more serious risk.

So if anything this “cooling” myth is proof of how a small but vocal minority of scientists can lead astray journalists looking for a sensationalist story.

Harvard Endowment campaign
There’s a campaign growing in Harvard university, driven by current and past students, for the universities massive $32 billion endowment fund, to exclude fossil fuel companies. As you can imagine this is being resisted by many of Harvard’s wealthier Alumni (the sort who bought their degree by their parents giving a large chuck of cash into that endowment fund!).

However it could set a long term trend that would be very damaging to fossil fuel companies, where like arms dealers, many refuse to lend or invest in them for ethical reasons. Its the sort of thing that could easily have a significant impact at bringing about serious action on climate change.

Abandoning the sinking ship
And perhaps recognising the consequences of stories such as the above, the PR firm Edelman has apparently ended its long running relationship with the American Petroleum Institute. This is probably driven by the fact that there is an increasing rift opening up within the capitalist world between the fossil fuel companies who want to ignore climate change. And other industries who recognise it as a threat to their very existence.

Take the insurance industry, they have been increasingly vocal about the risks posed by climate change. The insurance industry is seeing an alarming increase in claims from large storms and extreme weather events, which in turn is leading to both an increase in premium to offset this. They are also increasingly reluctant to insure people in certain high risk areas, forcing people living there to either go without insurance (wiping out the value of their home) or resort to federally funded schemes. As I’ve pointed out before, one could argue we’re already paying a defacto carbon tax in terms of the money needed to prop up these schemes.

Either way, it does show that the cracks are starting to grow and the climate denier bubble is at risk of bursting, as much for practical financial reasons as anything else.

Changing Weather patterns
We tend to consider climate change as some sort of long range threat that our children have to worry about. However the effects its having on global weather patterns are actually becoming all to obvious. While temperatures have been unusually cold in the North East of the US, by contrast Alaska, northern Canada and central Europe is unusually warm for this time of year. This is of course is no huge surprise, its well known that the Jet Streams play a key role in set weather patterns.

For example, remember those storms last year? Well, that is believed to be related to the movement of the jet stream from its normal path to instead wind up focused on the UK for several weeks in a row. And yes, you guessed it, this is one of the predicted consequences of climate change.

The money pit
I’m generally skeptical of nuclear power for a variety of practical reasons. For example the relatively slow rate at which reactors can realistically be built, which is but a fraction of the current build rate of renewables. So slow in fact, that its questionable whether new reactors can be built quickly enoough to replace the existing fleet as its retired. Then there’s the problem that nuclear is something of a one trick pony, good for baseload power, but not really much use for intermediate or peaking load power, or indeed the 80% of our energy use that isn’t electricity.

But above all else its the costs that have me worried. The capital costs to build new plants are colossal, far exceeding the numbers for any alternative and these construction costs are likely to be exceeded by the bill to clean up the mess afterwards.

And the problem with decommissioning is that the costs keep on being inflated upwards. The bill to clean up Sellafield has now risen to £53 billion, a £5 billion rise in just one year. This is merely one part of a total clean up bill for current decommissioned reactors that works out at an eye watering £70 billion. I recall a few years ago, having to tell off some environmentalist for claiming that the cost of decommissioning in the UK was over $100 billion. I told him that he was exaggerating a tad….well at current exchange rates its about $108 billion, so he was actually underestimating it! 88|

Suffice to say this is not small change. Such a hefty bill is going to represent a significant cost to the exchequer for years to come. Which raises the question as to whether its such a good idea to be doubling down on nuclear, with Hinkley C, a plant that will require a subsidy rate of about 68% per kWh (at present electricity prices) and that’s before we even start to consider decommissioning costs. Would it not seem more sensible to spend that money instead on something like energy efficiency programmes, greater use of CHP, or Tidal Power?