Corbyn nightmares

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The Daily Mail had an “article” (if that’s the word for a thousand word’s of right wing pornographic vomit) out last week about the nightmare consequences of Corbyn becoming PM. It describes the flight of premiership footballers and non-doms, a collapse of the property market and the country being taken over by UN peacekeepers. Needless to say it was quickly ceased on by the Blairites and panned by critics.

My response is, can we have this in writing? If Corbyn becomes PM are we guaranteed to see Premier league teams field a team who include a couple of actual British players and teams owned by British people rather than some Russian Oligarch?

And property prices come down, in London, wonderful news! 😉 Railway’s renationalised? Well I’d argue that large chunks of the network are effectively nationalised already, so hardly news, this would mean simply making it official. And non-dom’s ain’t paying any taxes anyway, so I don’t see why them leaving will matter to anyone, other than their Filipino housekeeper. Hence why some question if this scary vision of the future, sounds like rather a good thing.

Unfortunately, its unlikely that a Corbyn win in 2020 would have quite the dire effects predicted. Something which both his critics and supporters need to consider. For example, those premier league footballers, where would they go? Are you going to tell me Ramires is going to get into such a huff over having to pay a little bit more in tax, that he’ll go back to Brazil and earn 1,000 peso’s a game rather than £1,000 a minute in the UK? Indeed, there’s been quite a lot of expensive transfers recently out of the premiership…..many of them to France, where President Hollande recently instituted a higher top rate of tax. So far with the exception of Gerard Depardieu
it seems to have resulted in no mass capital flight.

And why should it, where are they going to go? Is Starbucks going to sell billions of lattes a year in the Cayman Islands? And all that would happen is that someone else who is willing to pay the necessary taxes would swoop in and steal their business. Those on the political right who tell such fairy tales don’t seem to understand that they are assuming that the rich will act in a way that guarantee’s they will loose money, which is kind of against their religion!

Indeed the Daily Mail mentions the idea of Trump winning the US presidency. Seriously? Are you guy’s in the Daily Fail smoking crack or something? In any event if Trump won I think billionaire’s fleeing the UK won’t be the problem, more the opposite, with many moving in and making waves. Forced to choose between a slightly dotty socialists and an insane ego-manic nutjob (who just might be the love child of an Orangutan), the vast majority of the world’s wealthy will chose to move to Europe, many to the UK. While they may not like Corbyn’s politics’s he’s at least vaguely sane and will be constrained by the checks and balances of a parliament – While Trump will probably start a war with China (and Mexico!) and destroy the country (both physically and economically) in the process.

Personally I’d argue that a labour party that even contemplated supporting, rather than resisting, welfare reforms of the sort Harriet Harman was keen on, is a labour party that has seriously lost the plot. You can practically hear the timbers creaking as Keir Hardie rolls in his grave.

But of course we’ve been here before with President Obama, François Hollande, Syriza, etc. Those who so enthusiastically support Corbyn as the cure to all ills need to realise that even if he wins, they are probably not going to get quite what they want. Take that super-tax from Hollande, it wasn’t quite as successful as predicted, indeed its been so watered down to be meaningless. Obamacare, while it has many positives, it still falls short. Tens of millions still lack any coverage, as do many migrants, which could have a number of potentially serious consequences if a major pandemic where to strike.

And certainly, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are correct, labour will find it a lot harder to win a majority, or even become the largest party in a coalition with Corbyn as leader. Polling analysis by the Fabian society shows that. So the bad news is that the “nightmare” vision of the Der Strurmer Daily Mail is unlikely.

Irony still not understood

The UK’s energy secretary Amber Rudd is showing signs that she possesses a superpower – a complete immunity to understanding the concepts of irony or hypocrisy.

AMBER RUDD ARRIVES FOR CABINET TODAY. PICTURE JEREMY SELWYN 09/06/2015

She has been complaining that councils are taking too long to make decisions on Fracking, suggesting that they are just delaying the inevitable and should just hurry up and make a decision within 16 weeks, threatening that the government will take the power to decide off councils who are seen to be dithering.

Of course this all but betrays the fact that the government’s plan is to railroad over local opposition to fracking and drive applications through, even when there’s a clear majority of locals against it. This is in stark contrast to their policy on wind energy where they are trying to halt onshore wind on the off chance it might spoil the view from ones hunting estate/golf course.

And councils will point out that the reason why its taking them so long is that they are presented with a room full of evidence that they then have to shift through. And with government austerity they can’t pay for the staff to process such applications any quicker. So if Amber Rudd wants things moved along, how about wandering down to number 11 and asking Osborne to pay for some extra staff for councils?

Also there’s a more worrying message. I would argue that fracking has gotten a bad name for itself because the Bush Adm. promotion of it created a massively under-regulated industry. It became a wild west and inevitably you ended up with some jack-asses who didn’t know what they were doing making a mess. If fracking was better regulated, this won’t be a problem, or so I am told by those in academic circles who are promoting it.

I recall a situation in Ireland where a major chemicals company moved into the area around my home town of Cork. The first thing they did before so much as turning a sod, was conducting an intensive environmental audit of the whole area. This was so that they knew everything in the environment (natural and unnatural) as well as every source of existing pollution. That way if anyone from the Irish environment agency, or some ambulance chasing lawyer, came along and accused them of putting this or that into the local ground water. They would have the evidence to prove, nope not us, that’s likely the fertiliser plant down the road.

You would think the fracking company’s would do the same and that the government would support such a policy. A careful environmental audit prior to any fracking, a few trial operations under intense environmental scrutiny, which would then serve to determine best practice for future operations, as well as establish what the actual environmental impact of fracking is likely to be. Instead Amber Rudd seems to favour the wild west approach that’s got fracking such a bad name state side.

And there is also further hypocrisy. The justification for cutting subsidies for renewables (or Green crap” as Cameron put it) has supposedly been to cut back on bills. This is despite the fact that renewable and energy efficiency subsidies cost about 6% of the average UK bill, about £50-75 per household per year. In the worse case scenario (had we stuck to the energy plans of past governments), this subsidy could have potentially doubled over the next decade. By contrast, the IMF have a report out that estimates that subsidies towards fossil fuels costs the UK about $635 per person (about £400, i.e. at least 4 times more than any subsidy to renewables would ever cost us!).

The reality is that the government does not give a damn about climate change, value for money for householders, nor do they care whether the lights go out. They are merely promoting the energy options that will most benefit certain vested interests in the nuclear and fossil fuels industry….which incidentally also includes one of Rudd’s own advisers I might add. What is more worrying is that much of the Tories anti-renewable agenda is simply ideological. An ideology which is putting the UK out of step with all but a handful of other loony right wing governments, and risking the country’s long term energy future.

Rise of the machines? The energy implications

Just trying out this “reblog” feature…..

daryanenergyblog

Figure 1: Will the machine's rise up to overthrow us? Figure 1: Will the machine’s rise up to overthrow us?

There’s been quite a lot of discussion on the internet recently on the topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence), prompted by several movies out on the topic (the latest Terminator one, Ex-Machina, Chappie, Interstellar, etc.), as well as the British TV series Humans (actually a remake of a Swedish TV series). We’ve also had dire warnings from Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates about how AI could spell the end for humanity (and this from the guy who came up with Windows?). Others worry that AI’s might steal all of our jobs. Anyway, I thought it would be useful to bring a engineering prospective to this topic and try to separate the plausible from the implausible.

Figure 2: The trouble with robots....some strings attached! Figure 2: The trouble with robots….some strings attached!

For starters if you ever look at those walking robot brought out by the likes of…

View original post 2,655 more words

The new normal

The tabloids are fretting as usual over “immigration”, with a significant increase in the numbers arriving from across the Mediterranean. Something that is having a knock on effect at places like Calais. However, as discussed recently by Ellie O’Hagan in the Guardian, the fact is that some of these migrants are fleeing not war, or ISIS but the effects of climate change. A factor that the media seems to be missing.

Boats crammed with Migrants is something we might have to get used too

Boats crammed with Migrants is something we might have to get used too

Now admittedly the number of people we can currently classify as genuine “climate refugees” is probably only a fairly small proportion of those arriving. However, a fact we need to get used to is that this number is going to increase if we don’t do something about climate change urgently….and I mean a lot!

If you think a few hundred thousand refugees is more than we can handle, wait a few years. After sea level’s rise (about 150 million people in Bangladesh alone live only a few metres above sea level) and desertification take there toll we’ll likely be facing tens of millions a year trying to get in.

Now at the moment, the numbers coming in are numbers we can handle. Anyone from UKIP or any other bigot brigade outfits who tells you Britain/Europe/the Third Reich is “full doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The reality is that by international standards, Europe has a relatively low population density, and the US and Australia are even less densely populated. Even a million extra refugees per year is an increase of just 0.2% in the EU’s population. And the fact is that an ageing Europe needs people coming in, or there will be nobody left working to pay the pensions of the very baby booming bigots voting for far right parties. Similarly, in the US, the anti-immigrant case holds very little correlation with reality.

However, once we are facing refugee numbers in the millions, perhaps tens of millions in a bad year, its not going to be funny any more. Such numbers will indeed be far more than we can handle. And the money it would cost to try and keep them out or pay for relief efforts is almost certain to exceed what it would cost to gradually get off fossil fuels. Its a crisis that could easily bankrupt the continent in the long term.

So rather than getting our knickers in a twist over a couple of fence jumpers at Calais, I’d argue the time has come to take some serious long term action. For the best way to stem the flow of migrants is for the west to quit screwing over other people’s countries.

The other side of benefits fraud

The media make a big deal about “benefits cheats, who fake disability to claim benefits. However, what is more worrying to me is the opposite, those hiding illnesses to keep working, as the Glasgow bin lorry incident is demonstrating.

The consequences of Tory cuts means that some are inevitably seeking work even thought they are simply not fit to do so. But given the caps on benefits, they see themselves as having no choice. And its worth remembering that the Tories have also instituted a policy of harassment of disabled people in an effort to get more into work, regardless of whether its in their best interest.

In short there is a reason why we had these rules regarding benefits to those who can’t work. And the consequences of what happens when you take them away played out very dramatically in Glasgow last Christmas.

UK universities face foreign competition?

I’ve long worried that the UK's decision to put up tuition fees would ultimately discourage students from going to UK universities. Either choosing to go to universities in other EU countries (such as Holland) or not going to uni at all. This risks making a university education the preserve of the middle and upper classes. Also by making university's more commercially orientated, with a greater emphasis on revenue raising and less on tuition. Indeed I cannot help but notice a trend between universities (such as for example Strathclyde) being praised for their “entrepreneurial spirit” and then sliding down the university rankings, presumably because the staff are too busy chasing grants to look after students properly.

Well the BBC have a brief piece out about US students going to study in Germany, which has recently abolished fees for university students, even those from outside the EU. This goes to show that you can get just as good an education in Germany for a lower price. While living costs in Germany are quite high, this elimination of tuition fees, plus the less commercially oriented outlook of German institutions makes for good value for money. Language? Many European institutions now do courses in English, notably engineering and technical courses.

However the is also the US aspect of this. For many years foreign students, in particular non-EU students have been a key part of any UK university's finance. And the US students are generally seen as the cream of the crop. Not least because they ain't shy about spending money. However US students are also caught up in the pointless Daily Mail-esque antics the Tories have dumped on all non-EU students. Being required for example to prove they are still in the UK every 30 days, or having to prove they have good English language skills (okay Americans can get something's wrong, like metre or calling a toilet a restroom, but I think they've good enough English to cope with an engineering degree!).

So its just a matter of time before the penny drops for many US students. Why pay tens of thousands a year to go to a UK university and be treated like a terrorist, when you can pay about 150 euro's a year and go to a German uni, which is just as good….oh and they throw in free public transport too! In essence the UK might be killing its golden goose. Its not just about a few uni's loosing out on a bit of tuition money. Its about the fact that these students going somewhere else and thus taking their ideas and the skills they've just accumulated with them. No more US entrepreneur's setting up a internet start-up in London, when they got their degree in Munich. And where the Americans go, the Chinese students will surely follow.

In essence I wonder if the UK HEI sector has been “found out”.

Bottom Trumps

One has too say a quick word about Donald Trump (otherwise known by his stage name Fuckface von Clownstick ;D) and the recent US Republican’s debate.

I remember hearing a joke once that said that the definition of terms “moderate” or “liberal” was anyone with less right wing views than you. So if I was to suggest that the banker jailed last week for LIBOR (only one banker jailed? What about the rest of em?) should instead have been put in a brazen bull (preferably a hollowed version of the one on wall street! :))) and you were to disagree with me, that my friend is because your a bleeding heart liberal.

Which is exactly why Trump is on the ticket. In essence by putting this clown on the stage, he allows all of the other Republican candidates to look vaguely moderate by comparison. Fox news comes out of this looking almost fair and balanced.

Which is why his antics are tolerated, even promoted. The higher up’s in the GOP know he’s unelectable. Anyone dumb enough to slag off, blacks, Asian, latino’s and women has just cost themselves about 75% of the electorate a year before the campaign’s even begun….and its kind of hard to win an election with the remaining 25%. But the GOP also knows that the Tea Party have driven the Republicans so far to the right, its going to be very difficult for them to beat a democrat like Clinton, who will inevitably attract all the moderate voters and thus most of the swing states.

There are also a large number of traditional Republican voters who have been screwed over by the economy and are looking for someone to blame. And much as many of those same types have voted for UKIP in the UK or the FN in France, the GOP knows many of them are attracted towards crazy “let’s burn the house down” suicide jockey’s like Trump or Rand Paul.

So allowing Trump into the process, lets the angry white men birthers vent some steam, but also increases the chances they’ll back the eventual nominee. Who will most likely be Rubio by the looks of things.

Corbyn to lead anti-EU no vote?

Over the last few weeks Nigel Farage has done everything short of endorsing Jeremy Corbyn as labour’s next leader. This may seem strange until you hear of Corbyn’s euroskeptic views. Farage and UKIP are to some degree chafing at the bit. Regardless of what Cameron comes back with from the EU, even if France agrees to call itself something with the word “smelly” or “frog” in it, UKIP will still campaign for a no vote.

But the problem for UKIP is that they know that Farage and his dog whistle politics act is popular with some, but very unpopular with the majority. So UKIP have been trying to come up with someone else to lead any no campaign. The problem for UKIP is that given that the EU is a club run largely by centre right governments its very difficult to come up with convincing right-wing arguments against the EU. Most of their attempts to do so generally don’t add up, as I’ve discussed before.

For example, the idea that Europe “makes lots of laws”. Well the proportion of UK law coming from Brussels is closer to 7% (not 70%) and most of those relate to what constitutes as a round cheese and creating safety standards to make sure household electronics don’t kill people. Quite obviously, someone will still need to pass such laws post-Brexit (unless you think shops should be allowed sell dangerous electrical goods to children?). But as the UK will want to trade with the EU (and the US and other trading blocks) presumably it will need to make sure its trading standards match those in Europe. So all leaving will do is mean that the French can insist on re-branding Cheddar as “de fromage rôti boeuf” and the Brits will have no veto over that.

The only anti-EU arguments that UKIP have come up with that seems to resonate with some section of the public all relate to immigration. But this is more of a national socialist argument than a traditional right-wing one. And furthermore the bulk of what migrants are blamed for doesn’t tally with reality. And also the majority of recent migration to the UK has come from Asia (notably former UK colonies, in particular Pakistan and India), so its not really accurate to blame the EU for such migration.

By contrast, historically the bulk of opposition to EU membership has traditionally come from the far left. Recall that in the last EU referendum the no vote was led by Tony Benn and it was Margaret Thatcher campaigning for a yes vote. The left wing are skepticial of the EU largely because they see it as pressing a neo-liberal agenda. Issues such as TIPP’S and recent events in Greece demonstrate what worries them about the EU.

However that said, I’d argue that anyone in the labour party campaigning for a no vote is arguing that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. As with everything EU you have to take the good with the bad. The EU has done a lot to benefit the UK’s workers….quite apart from the obvious (increased trade meaning they still have jobs!), most notably that very health and safety legislation that has the Daily Mail throwing tantrums.

When I was a lad, and that wasn’t that long ago, it was quite normal within the small(ish) town of Cork where I grew up, for a couple of builders to die every year. It was a given throughout Europe that any major building project would involve a couple of builders dying and that was that. The EU has gone along way to changing that and making work places safer. And vehicle safety has improved significantly thanks to the EU, with road deaths declining at a time vehicle numbers are rising. It is very difficult to envisage any individual European government achieving any of this, given that they would have had to take on several very powerful lobby groups to do so.

And then there’s issues such as climate change, third world poverty, banning of land mines and WMD’s, the international criminal court, etc. Again its doubtful that any progress would have been made on any of these issues without the EU. Any individual government or campaign group would have faced massive opposition to such policies from the US, Russia, China and corporations. The reality is that if you are even vaguely left wing, the priority should be to stay in the EU and seek to reform it. Withdrawing would likely have the opposite effect intended.

But is there still the chance of us seeing Corbyn and Farage on the same platform campaigning for Brexit? Probably not. I’d argue that Farage and UKIP’s position is one build on retoric and outright lies, which if anything serves to create a compelling case for staying in the EU. They fact they are looking for someone else to lead the no campaign kind of proves their irrelevance to what is their core political issue. Its the equivalent of the SNP subcontracting out the yes vote in last year’s referendum to groundskeeper Willie.

And if Corbyn was to campaign against the EU, as leader or otherwise, he would likely be signing his party’s death warrant. There is simply no way the majority of the party (or ironically the unions backing him right now) could go along with that. The party would likely see mass defections to the lib dems, greens, SNP or even conservatives. The party might even split down the middle. Keir Hardie would be rolling in his grave at such a thing.

To desert and abandon

I’m not usually the sort to get worked up over law and order issues. As I see it the powers that be have a nasty habit of exaggerating certain “threats”, such as knife crime, or the war on drugs (which we’re losing, unsurprisingly), terrorism, etc. purely as a means of control. This keeps the populace scared and easy to herd, just look at the queues at an airport for the pointless exercise of “security theater” (does anyone honestly expect a terrorist or drug dealer to walk through security forgetting he’s got an AK-47 in his bag or a kilo of coke in his briefcase? Won’t he be better off attacking the large queue of people rather than waiting till he’s on the plane?).

However that said, there are some ne’er-do-well types who commit crime and need to be locked up. Unfortunately, thanks to the Tory cuts, the police are now so overstretched that they can’t commit to basic law enforcement tasks, such as dealing with burglaries anymore. Instead they are way too busy dealing with other things such as terrorism (when was the last time there was an attack in the UK? Do we need tens of thousands of coppers to deal with something that happens every decade or so? And what exactly are MI-5 & 6 doing? Are they so crap at their job’s the cop’s now have to do it?) or cybercrime (I don’t think your average bobby is the best choice of person to be chasing down hackers….in another country!), sexual offences (like all those MP’s….who they never prosecuted!).

Or to put in another way the police are not in the grip of a massive “real work avoidance” strategy, devoting all of their efforts to the things the tabloids fret over and ignoring the very job they should be doing. This of course comes on the back of previous reports which have pointed to the fact that certain crimes have been more or less decriminalised, notably car crime, pick pockets and shoplifting. This has got to the point where some criminals have literally been dismantling people’s vehicles on the street without so much as a police siren to be heard. And here in Scotland we had that awful story of a couple left to die by the side of the M9 for several days because the police didn’t bother to follow up on a 999 call. Clearly the police force is creaking at the seams. And with further cuts on the way something needs to be done.

This is all very worrying. Some coppers point out that it could lead to a more “confrontational” style of policing, where on the rare occasions they do intervene, they act more like a posse of marshals in the old west, shooting first and asking questions later. And no doubt they’ll be wanting guns pretty soon also.

And its only a matter of time before some enterprising individual starts offering their “skills” and providing a vigilante service for locals, happily cracking the skulls of any petty criminals in the area for a fee. Of course history tells us that such types soon become worse than the criminals they set out to defend against. Just look at the Italian mafia. The Mafia got its start, because in 19th century New York the police were so badly resourced and corrupt, that protection from crime was a privilege for the well to do. Poor, recently arrive emigrants from Italy or Ireland had no such protection….until some criminals realised they could make more money selling protection and shaking down shop keepers than robbing places. So they set up a police department for wiseguy’s.

So Cameron and Osborne better do something about this quickly….or they might wake up some morning soon to find a horse’s head in their bed! :))