Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Your enemies enemies, not always your best alliesI would call myself a Marxist, of the libertarian variety, who has long supported the Palestinians' right to self-determination. However, there seems to be nothing positive in today's discourse on the Middle East, and on Israel in particular.
These days, your enemies enemies are certainly not always your best allies. Contemporary criticism of Israel by the left reveals more about the un-critical outlook of the left than it does about any possible solution to the Palestinian question.
Talk of 'Nazis', 'ZioNazis' or 'Zionist SS' only belittles and relatives the real Third Reich that tore Europe apart in the last century. It also serves to divert attention away from what's really happening and fails to see any fundamental changes that are taking place. For example, it's very popular to condemn President G. W. Bush for being 'the most pro-Israeli President ever'. But my assessment is that it is quite surprising how far this right-wing Republican Administration has gone to accommodate Palestinian concerns. Washington, of course finances and arms Israel, but Bush is the first President to commit America to supporting a Palestinian state. Bush has endorsed the Israeli withdrawal plan.
If anything, the Israeli military machine is less trigger happy now than it was in the past. In the past Israel engaged in full scale invasions like Lebanon in 1982, where Palestinian refugees were massacred. Today, Israel is more likely to opt for 'targeted assassinations' of Palestinian leaders.
Even the wall that Israel is building is seen by some on the left as a 'new form of occupation', rather than seeing the Israeli fence as part of fundamental changes that are taking place in the mindset of the ruling elite. For the first time, Israel has put security above any broader territorial ambitions it once had. The wall has put into question the historic distinction between the revisionists of the Likud Party and Labour Zionists. Lukid is basically writing off its territorial claims through the act of making this wall. The wall also offers a powerful physical recognition, of Palestinian territory. This is why even hard-right wing Israelis have serious reservations about the proposed wall.
In the West, the left no longer openly support the Palestinians right to self-determination, mainly because they are too preoccupied with bashing Israel. The Israeli state has long been viewed as an outpost of Western civilisation that is surrounded by violent, hostile Arab Muslims - this was Israels' strength not so long ago, now, that very same quality has become Israels' liability. The Western left seem comfortable only with wars fought under the banner of multilateral humanitarianism, unlike Israels' insistence on defending it's national sovereignty. So, the more Israel fights, the more it's actions are viewed as totally unfashionable
Today, Israels' critics have nothing progressive, liberal or liberating to argue for, in fact, it says more about the uncritical and defeatist attitudes in the West than it does about achieving peace in the Middle East.
Picture: Palestinian protest. BBC News
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The 'paralysing fatalism' of GreenpeaceLast year the UN published it's scientific report into the accident at the nuclear facilities at Chernobyl. The 600 page report concluded that the people of Ukraine and the surrounding region have been affected by over-the-top, exaggerated fears rather than by radiation exposure. Indeed, the report argues that the people in the affected area have suffered a 'paralysing fatalism', due mostly to the 'myths and misperceptions' spun by environmentalists organisations throughout the West.
I'm not quite sure what's worse, 'paralysing fatalism', or death - in human terms, there pretty much the same. Eco-worriers like Blake Lee-Harwood from Greenpeace, told the BBC, that the nuclear industry had a 'vested interest in playing down Chernobyl because it's an embarrassment to them'. But, hold on a minute, Greenpeace also have a 'vested interest' in hyping-up Chernobyl. It stands to reason, if the world's worst nuclear disaster wasn't really all that, then there's no good reason why we can't build a new generation of nuclear power-stations over here.
But, Greenpeace couldn't have that, they hate anything to do with nuclear science, I don't know why they just don't come out and say it - at least it would show some honesty. Rather than the un-scientific opposition towards nuclear science which Greenpeace is basing their case on. Where is Greenpeace's evidence that 93,000 people will die as a result of Chernobyl?
The cry of 'vested interest' by Greenpeace, is, in fact, a sick joke. The idea that the Russian Federation, the government of Belarus and the Ukraine, the World Health Organisation, and various other UN agencies, are somehow in the pockets of the nuclear industry is risible. The truth is, it's Greenpeace who has the 'vested interest' in maintaining the 'paralysing fatalism' that surrounds the issue of Chernobyl and nuclear science.
Picture: Radiation reading from outside Chernobyl - AFP
Friday, May 26, 2006
Biggest threat to Africa is environmentalismEnvironmentalists current obsession with the hypothetical problems relating to climate change, threatens to marginalize and overlook more pressing problems for humanity in the here and now – like the fight against malaria in Africa and the rest of the Third World.
Environmentalists constantly bang on and on about forcing the most powerful leaders of the Western world to do this, that or the other, in order to ‘save us all from global warming’, but meanwhile in the real world, the body count for malaria in Africa alone is a million per year, and rising. (1) What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those deaths lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides.
Malaria, extinct in the Western world for nearly thirty years, is alive and well and killing Africans by the millions. Yet, it seems as though environmentalists couldn't care less about fighting real killers of Africans, like malaria, it doesn't really fit into their ecological agenda. But don't take my word for it, go and ask any wannabe eco-warrior what's more important for Africa 'the fight against malaria' or 'climate change'? The chances are, they wouldn't even bother to answer such a question. It's as if they don't know what the difference is between a real threat to life in the here and now, and a percieved hypothetical threat of the far distant future.
Meanwhile, in the West, we’ve had the pleasure of using the miraculous life-saving pesticide known as DDT, which has all but eradicated malaria from the advanced world. Then came the World Wildlife Fund and the rest of the Green Gang calling for a worldwide ban on the use of DDT. They got their ban, now surprise, surprise, malaria; a once nearly defeated disease is killing more people globally than ever. But who would ever relate environmentalist anti-DDT policy with millions of malaria related deaths and illnesses?
For all their talk about the dire urgency of spending billions, upon billions of pounds reducing carbon emissions in order to ‘stabilise the climate’ by one or two measly degrees, it seems as though the life of Africans, is in fact far, far less important than advancing the politics of their latest green obsession – climate change, like nothing else matters anymore.
(1) WHO: Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day. 2003
Picture: Malaria victim from sub-Saharan Africa. (Cris Bouroncle / AFP-Getty Images)
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Israel: it's about time we boycotted boycottsThe German sociologist August Bebel once coined the phrase the 'socialism of fools', it was aimed at academics and radical activists who tried to put a positive spin on their anti-Semitic politics. Ok, I admit that the likes of Jacqueline Rose is not your traditional, old school anti-Semite, but her tendency to promote undemocratic and other highly dubious ideas like academic boycotts of Israel, all in the name of ‘solidarity’ for the Palestinian people looks, in mine eye, just as foolish.
If you ask me, the Middle East has seen enough Western meddling in its internal affairs. It has been nearly 200 years of Western intervention that has turned that area of the globe into the bloody mess that it is today. And here it is again, Rose, an academic Western do-gooder, demanding boycotts, sanctions and other such interferences for the sake of the Palestinians. These demands will not help the plight of the Palestinian peoples, nor will it bring peace and stability to the region, but it will surely pave the way for more intrusive Western intervention in the area, for the foreseeable future.
To me, in the first place, radical politics should be about the defence of human and democratic rights. Today however, Rose’s form of primitive radicalism seeks to condone Western imperialist interventions, whether it be economic or military sanctions or academic and cultural boycotts,– either way, Rose invites more foreign interference in the region.
Besides, Rose's solution to the problems of Israel and Palestine are non-starters. She has no progressive alternative for the Middle East. All Rose has is an over inflated sense of self-indulgence; she demonstrates perfectly the West'’s current obsession with the culture of victimhood. Surely, if Israel was as terrible as Rose makes out, and if Palestinians are the 'victims of victims’ and the ‘new Jews’, why does she not go to the West Bank and lie in the path of an Israeli tank? Of course, that is not the type of 'mess' that Rose had in mind. If she did that, I would have some respect for her, because there cannot be any reason to endorse the politics of highbrow primitivism, or as Bebel put it 'the socialism of fools'. The people of Palestine deserve much, much better.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Brazilian police: real experts in lethal violenceIt's been six days since rioting broke out in Brazilian cities, some put the death toll at over 150. The BBC also reports that the Brazilian police have been 'heavily criticised' by human rights organisations for killing over '109 suspects' within a week. The Brazilian authorities are trying very hard to play down the high death toll by stating that they had only shot and killed '79 suspects' this week.
A spokesman for the National Movement for Human Rights, Ariel de Castro Alves, told the BBC that anywhere up to 'a third of those killed by the police appeared to have been innocent civilians'. Amnesty International (AI), is also extremely worried about the lethal tactics used by the Brazilian police. AI even highlighted in their 2005 report on Brazil, that 'ineffective, violent, and corrupt policing', as well as police 'death squads', threatened the Brazilian governments proposals for reform.
All this talk of arbitrary, lethal violence from the Brazilian police, in one week, reminds me of the killing of Charles de Menezes back in July 2005. Few will remember the Brazilian police and authorities, coming over to Britain last year, to start a three day grilling session of the Metropolitan Police, about the tragic accidental killing of Menezes. Even then, I wanted to know what right the Brazilian state had to humiliate the MET about ‘shoot to kill’ policies in London? Who are they to talk about the fallibility of the use of shoot to kill? What about the 79 people the Brazilian police said they killed, just in this week alone? Indeed, what about the 'slaying' of 30 men, women and children allegedly gunned down by Brazilian policemen in Rio de Janeiro only last year?
The killing of Menezes was, indeed, an appalling accident - no more, no less. However, there is a huge, huge difference between the MET and the Brazilian police force, as graphically depicted by events in Brazil this week – even historically speaking, trigger-happy policemen have not been terribly hard to find in Brazil.
Picture: Brazilian Police in Rio. BBC News
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
If it's so hard being green, why bother?The other day I watched a TV show by the BBC 2 called 'It's Not Easy Being Green'. The show tracks the progress of the Strawbridge family (above) and their desire (or obsession) to reduce their ecological 'footprint', in a muddy field, somewhere in Cornwall. In this particular show, the Strawbridge family were getting ready for their 'ecological audit'. Dick Strawbridge, who narrates the show, and sports a ridiculous moustache, is optimistic that their 'sustainable' home will pass the 'ecological audit' with flying colours.
To tell you the truth, after seeing what they spent their £100,000 on, in their home, I thought they would do exceedingly well too. To my surprise, the 'ecological auditor' brought the families home to task on a variety of issues. At one point, the auditor only gave the family '5 out of 10' for fixing a basic generator and for installing an 'eco central heating system'. The Strawbridge families back-breaking hard work was only getting them 5 out 10 points, or 6 out of 10 - and, did it seem worth all that trouble - I think not.
Just like the BBC comedy show The Good Life, it's become very fashionable for the middle-classes to be self-sufficient, whether their in the leafy south London suburb of Surbiton, or in a muddy field in Cornwall - they, like most environmentalists are obsessed about consumer consumption. They hate the 'David Beckhams' of this world, who are quite happy spending their way into the future (and good-luck to them), rather than being like the Strawbridge family who are obsessed with making sure that their 'ecological footprint' is as small as humanly possible. If it's so hard to be green, it makes you wonder if it's even worth being green in the first place - I say why bother?
Picture: The Strawbridge Family. BBC Programmes
Jamie Oliver: he's just an overpaid cookAm I the only person who feels absolutely sick to the bottom of my stomach every-time that millionaire chef Jamie Oliver appears on TV or radio talking serious politics? Sainsbury's very own 'chav' poster boy is certainly making a big impression on the British cultural and political scene. Armed to the teeth with nothing more than an battalion of dinner-ladies and raw spinach, Oliver plans on taking the authorities to task not over the Iraq war, but over an issue that is far, far more important... the fat content in school dinners.
Were it not for the local council elections, Oliver's school dinner campaign would probably still be top of the political agenda. Oliver's political crusade is a good example of how strong emotions and feeling are now considered more important than hard evidence, or even a coherent argument. Oliver's so called 'revolution' has all the right ingredients, namely... children, and our political elites have been falling over themselves to get their little slice of the action. Now all of a sudden everybodys so concerned about what our school kids eat for lunch.
All in all, it's a very sad state of political affairs when a trumped-up, overpaid cook can rise to the top of political debate, all because school dinners, well... don't taste very nice. Even his criticism of school meals being detrimental to the education and health of our kids is way off the factual mark. There is no evidence that eating raw spinach will make kids concentrate more on their school work than if they ate a turkey twizzler. But why let cold facts like that get in the way of a rolling bandwagon?
One of the worst aspects of all of this, is that an unashamed publicity-seeking chef, with an over-blown sense of self-importance thinks he is more representative of the people than an elected politician. Oliver and others, also seem to think that getting the government to add a few measly pence on to the cost of a school meal amounts to the biggest food revolution that England has ever seen. Well, if you ask me, this is the kind of revolution that I find near impossible to swallow.
Jamie Oliver website.
Picture: Jamie Oliver after winning two BAFTAs (Gareth Davies/Getty Images)
Monday, May 22, 2006
Kyoto Protocol: trading dollars for pennies is immoralBack in 1997, the Oxford economist Wilfred Berkerman, author of 'Small is Stupid' asked 'why should one impose a much higher burden on present generations in order to reduce carbon concentrations significantly' for a future generation that will be far richer than us in any case? (1)
I thinks it's completely immoral to ask developing (and developed) nations, in particular, India and China, to distribute their wealth, for the next 100 years, to a future generation that will be far, far richer than we are today. Furthermore, not only is the Kyoto Protocol morally bankrupt, the economic analysis of the costs of implementing Kyoto, seem highly dubious as well.
OpenDemocracy's very own eco-worrier, Caspar Henderson, is adimant that the Protocol will only cost some '£10 billion', and not the '$4 trillion' which I quoted previously on openDemocracy. The figure I quoted came from Dr Sallie Baliunas, who is the senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. According to Baliunas, in order to meet the criteria laid down by Kyoto, the US would have 'no choice but to cut energy use'.
Baliunas argues, that by the year 2010, if the Protocol was implemented by American environmentalists standards, the United State's annual consumption of energy would be around 110 quads, 110 quadrillion BTUs of energy. (2) But, back in 1995, the US consumed nearly 90 quads per year. (3) By 2003, that went up to 98.1 quads per year. (4)
So, in order to meet the 2010 bar of 110 quads, America would have to reduce their energy consumption by some hefty 7 percent. The US would have to make do with a lot less energy. So energy cuts, coupled with the implementation of Kyoto, until 2010, will cost somewhere between $2 trillion and $4 trillion. (5)
The statistician Bjorn Lomborg, author of 'The Skepitical Environmentalist' argues that the worldwide cost of Kyoto would be in the region of $350 billion per year, by the start of 2010 - rising to a massive $900 billion per year by 2050. The American Department of Energy Information Administration calculate a much gloomier figure. They estimate that Kyoto will cost the US, alone about $300 billion per year - with a resulting loss of GDP, over ten years would be about 28 percent, triple the loss of GDP experienced by the US during the Great Depression, that was about 10 percent. The sum of money needed to implement Kyoto is truly enormous. All that money, for all that length of time, for what? So we can delay the predicted amount of warming by a measly 6 years? (6)
A lot of people think it's morally right to spend thousands of billions of dollars, over the next 100 years, in order to prevent global warming. But when you balance out the sheer costs to what benefits we would receive, the benefits just don't seem worth it. Kyoto is akin to handing over a dollar in order to receive a penny - and in mine eye, that's immoral.
(1) Professor Wilfred Berkerman. The Millennium Environment Debate.
(2) Dr. Sallie Baliunas - Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.
(3) Figures for BTU consumption from Ecoworld.com.
(4) American Department of Energy Information Administration Statistics.
(5) Dr. Sallie Baliunas.
(6) Global warming nonsense. An economic journal publishes junk. By Paul Georgia. National Review.
Picture: 'The Blue Marble' - From Visible Earth. NASA.
Saddam the tyrant, deserves a fair trial - at leastThere are many people it seems that would prefer Saddam Hussein to be shot, without, any of that messy business called justice thrown in the mix. There is no good reason as to why Saddam cannot have a fair trial, indeed, it's imperative that justice in this case is seen to be done, isn't it?
The right wing think tank, the Ayn Rand Institute are adamant that Saddam, shouldn't even have a trial, let alone a fair one. The institute bemoans the fact, that any trial of Saddam, would presume he is innocent to start with - well, isn't that the case for all trials in the west? If, Saddam is guilty of all the things that the institute says he's guilty of, wouldn't that come out in the trial? What are the Ayn Rand Institute scared of? The truth maybe?
The truth is, we shouldn't have anything to fear from a fair trial of Saddam, unless you've got something to hide that is.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Why won't the left support Pro-Test demo?Once upon a time in the West, the left used to pose themselves as champions of science, reason and progress - but, not anymore it would seem. Now it seems they actually prefer to runaway from such tough issues as animal research, some have flatly refused to be involved with anything that defends animal research, because, they argue that animal experiments is all about lining the pockets of big drug companies.
As Brendan O'Neill rightfully points out in his article for The Newstateman, the left's refusal to openly back the Pro-Test demonstrations in Oxford, is nothing but a first-class 'cop-out'.
Immigration: simple solution, open the door!I'm of the belief that it's not the business of a free and democratic state to enforce strict, draconian curbs on international immigration, but this seems to be the perverse direction the debate on immigration in Britain seems to be taking.
What I find disturbing in this debate is the fact that freedom is ok for money - but when it comes to people, freedom, in fact, means the complete opposite. The Sun newspaper put it bluntly last year with it's 'No Skills. No English. NO ENTRY' front page, (which, in my mind bares an uncanny resemblance to the 'No Blacks. No Dogs. No Irish', signs put on the front of many homes in 50's Britain).
We need more freedom, not less.
When it comes to freedom, the liberal European intelligentsia and political elites are committed to just about every single freedom there is - well, in theory. They are forever talking about 'upholding' the rules for free trade, they constantly want to 'expand' the free movement of capital, they always want to 'open-up' new markets. Indeed, they devise new rules that 'force open' new capital markets - and keep them open, especially during times of crisis.
This really all amounts to the freedom of governments and states, awarding themselves the right to trample over basic human rights - such as the right to free movement across European boarders. No matter how you discuss this issue, the bottom line is whether or not human beings have the right to migrate to Europe or not.
Firstly, I want to get things straight here, Britain might be a small island, and Europe might be a really small corner of the planet - but that does not mean 'we're full up'. On the contrary, there's plenty of space for hundreds and thousands of people - in the UK alone. Contrary to popular belief we are not 'bursting at the seams'. In fact, people coming and going, as they see fit, does not constitute a real problem per se - people just think it's a problem, and it is this which is the problem.
In fact, the whole debate about immigrants and people flows says more about us as a society and our values, than it does about those who want to come here. It's ironic and sick that we live in a world obsessed with human rights and freedom, yet when it comes to the right of people to 'pass freely without let or hindrance', that right stops the very moment you hit these shores
People all over the world want to be free - they strive to free themselves from poverty or oppression. That is why they vote with their feet. Roger Donway in his essay 'The States of Freedom' argues that:
"We believe people want to be free: they strive and work to be free, and search out locations, governments, and situations where freedom reigns. Migration is the purest expression of individuals responding to differences in freedom, including economic freedom. We adopt a migration metric for economic freedom. If people are moving from one state to another, other things equal, we assert that this is a market-based response to differences in freedom. Ordinary people, voting with their feet, define freedom."
Donway writes for the ultra conservative think-tank: The Objectivist Centre, and was concerned with the internal migration within the US. But I think his view of freedom and migration is fair and universal, not just national. Indeed, it's a far more positive outlook than what passes for serious debate on immigration in Britain today.
Picture: Press Association. BBC News.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
McDonalds: there's no such thing as 'junk food'Most of what I read and hear about McDonald's food is no more than junk propaganda. Why do the anti-McDonald's turn-outs hate McDonald's so much? Ok, some people don't think its food taste too great, but isn't that just a matter of... er, taste? Where is the evidence that McDonald's food is bad for you?
Well, I want to let you good readers into a not so well known scientific secret. There is actually, no such thing as 'junk food'. Professor Stanley Feldman of London University argues that 'junk food does not exist'. He says 'of course, some foods taste better or are more nutritious. But the idea that some contain nothing of value or are harmful is nonsense.'
It's not just Feldman who has reservations about the idea of 'junk food', Professor Vincent Marks of Surrey University argues that junk food is a contradiction in terms. The truth is, all foods are actually good for you. Marks argues that the only bad food we know of, is food that has gone... er, bad. He says that 'McDonald's is considered bad, simply because it is wrong for our current fashion.'
These two views must seem completly bizarre to the anti-McDonald's brigade, who bombard us with warnings about the 'dangers' of burgers, fizzy drinks, fast foods, salt, high fat, sugar, or anything else we consume on a daily basis.
Feldman and Marks are not employees of the fast food industries. Nor can I say they are the type of people who eat Big Mac's and fries on a regular basis. They just (like me) object to the rubbish and misinformation, propagated by the anti-McDonald's turn-outs.
I agree with Marks when he argues that the term 'junk food' is just an emotive and derogatory lable that means you don't approve. A lot of people think baked beans on toast is a form of junk food, even though it's ideal for antioxidants, fibre and so on.
The real truth of the matter is McDonald's serves up a decent square meal. Obviously, if you ate super size McDonald's, 3 times a day, for a month your health would slowly deteriorate - but come off it, that's not exactly a startling revelation, is it?
In fact, the anti-junk food lobby are the last socially accepted form of snobbery. Listen to the way they describe fast food - 'junk, unhealthy, fatty' - you can almost hear them passing moral judgement over those who do eat fast food. Anti-McDonald's protesters unconsciously mirror the snobbery of an earlier age. John Carey in his book 'The Intellectual and the Masses', tells of how writers like John Betjeman, George Orwell and TS Eliot bemoaned the coming of 'tinned food' because it represented the industrialised popular culture that they hated.
All I really want, is to hear the truth about the food we eat - not junk propaganda.
Picture: BBC News.
GM food? Oh, yes pleaseThe irrational, suspicious reaction to GM crops seems to know no natural limits. It's actually quite disturbing, because the criticisms directed towards GM crops reflects a hatred of the enlightenment proposition: that human reason will triumph over superstition, fear and ignorance.
I believe that nature is not good enough for humanity. We have developed more choice over how we live our lives - we no longer live at the mercy of nature. It has only been through developing a technological society, which has meant, we in the advanced West no longer suffer from starvation and hunger.
I have read a lot of superstitious nonsense and ignorance in regards to the nature of GM. One such nonsense is that GM is a new type of crop product. But GM is nothing of the sort. GM is not a product - it's a process. The last 300 years have seen humanity taking things from nature, like for example wild grass and bred it into wheat, barley, rye and oats. Charles Darwin called this process artifical selection, where artifical means human action. No more reliance on biological chance.
Irrational anti-GM activists have claimed that GM transgenes are unstable and will escape, only to end up contaminating the environment. Or that GM can cause cancer, or that GM transgenes can enter human cells or our gut bacteria. But there is no evidence that GM transgenes cause cancer, or that they are particularly unstable. The truth is, that GM transgenes are no more dangerous than any other DNA that enters bacterial or human cells. Indeed, tests have shown that GM transgenes don't even tend to survive once they've entered bacterial or human cells.
There is one thing I've aways notice about the critics of GM, is that they fail to produce evidence to substanciate their wild claims. They have a tendency of showing you articles, or other peoples opinions - but never any real hard evidence. I'm not even going to go into the benefits of GM technology - I'll wait to see what types of replys I get from this post. If anyone out there does have any evidence to dis-prove my claim - I would surely like to see it.
Picture: A pro-GM demonstration
Car congestion? Simple, build more roads!Ok... I'll hold my hand up, and admit I love cars and motoring. I passed my test when I was 21, my first car was a secondhand Nissan Stanza, I soon wrote that off on the central reservation in Park Lane. So, I decided to save up some money and buy a new car, a Peugeot 205 Ralle. Loved it - drove it all over the UK, and Europe.
Today, it seems that the attitude towards cars, their owners, roads and motoways, have changed drasticly over the past 20 years. If you ask me, the Mayor of London, Ken Livinstone perfectly encapsulates contemporary attitude towards cars "I hate cars. If I ever get any power again, I'll ban the lot". This seems to be the solution to car congestion on offer by everyone these days, from New Labour to the entire environmentalists movement - the message is simple enough, 'get out of your car', and get a push bike, or jump on the bus instead. Better still... walk. Yeah right... as if.
Driving in London can certainly be a total nightmare, especially at Bank holiday weekends. In fact, Bank holiday weekends are when the road systems in England actually grinds to a halt. But, what I want to know is, why can't the 5th wealthiest nation on Earth, build itself out of congestion? Why can't we build more roads? That's how you gid rid of congestion, the Westway in West London is proof - if I want to go to Hammersmith from From Old Street, I go on the Westway, and Edware, Paddington and Notting Hill completely dissapper.
The debate about car congestion is dominated by petty small-mindedness. Apparently, the people who gave the world the engineering marvel that is the Channel Tunnel, are somehow incapable of building the kind of brand new state-of-the-art fast road infrastructure that we desperately need. The mantra from the government is that, whatever happens, we can't just build our way out of the problem. What? I would consider that an insult to the British building and engineering industry. Given the resources, there isn't anything they can't build.
So, hold on a minute, why can't we build our way out of this problem? Isn't that how humanity has progressed from the caves to modern day civilisation? Along the ancient trading routes, upon the roads the Romans built, on the Victorian railways, and on modern motorway systems. Our political elite seem to be in a different gear than our ancestors - Tony Blair and co seem to be in reverse.
It's not entirely self-evident as to why the British government believes that the British people 'cannot simply build our way out of the problems we face'. In case we forget, the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling reminded everyone at a speech to the Institute of Public Policy last year - that - you guessed it, 'we cannot build our way out of the problem'. Alright, alright, message recieved.
But, hello? Can I ask - why is the politics of petty, small-minded, local green Nimbyism being placed, over and above the fundamental notion of providing universal provisions? The past fifty years have seen motorways improve the quality of our lives, and has given us all more freedom in the process. Indeed, it is no business of the government to persuade people out of their cars, especially when they have no viable, or even visible alternative to it.
The British government are so bereft of vision, leadership, and most importantly, ideas, they have resorted to taxing motorists out of existence - what a novelty.
The truth is, we need new, bold ideas and plans if we really want to get rid of congestion from our cities. Not government mumbo-jumbo about 'car-sharing' schemes, that simply ain't good enough. We need to seek new horizons, not the low horizons on offer by this penny-pinching bunch of political bean-counters.
Picture: From the Guardian Unlimited
Monday, May 15, 2006
Islamophobia? There's no such thingThere’s something growing at a large pace in Britain these days, it’s the gap between the perceptions of what is happening, and what is actually happening - and this gap is in danger of being fully exploited by our political elites, and the leaders of Muslim organisations.
Nearly every day we are being told that Britain is caught in the grip of an ever-increasing anti-Muslim backlash. Many of the news reports on the subject have sourced their material from Muslim organisations. (1) What is really happening here is that people believe what they want to believe, rather than believing in what happens to be true.
The truth is Muslim leaders have exaggerated the threat of Islamophobia and the anti-Muslim backlash for their own political benefits, in order to strengthen their weak power base on the streets from east London to Bradford and Glasgow. Mainstream politicians are also keen to exploit the myth of Islamophobia, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to jump-up on their high moral horse and get the Muslim vote at the same time. The government aims to sooth the pain Muslims felt when New Labour betrayed them in Iraq by pledging to introduce new laws that will effectively ban religious hate speech. (2)
I’m not suggesting that harassment, ignorance or fear of Muslims and Islam do not exist. The problem is that the level of anti-Muslim abuse is being inflated strictly for narrow political ends. Islamophobia is fast becoming the shaping force behind what you can and can’t say about Islam. So the chance of being able to participate in a free, open and frank debate in the future looks extremely slim.
Islamophobia loses all sense of proportion in other ways, the minute you attach that label to someone. Two years ago, the racist Nick Griffin of the BNP was voted ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ at an award ceremony organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, that's fair enough – but so too was the liberal, anti-racist Polly Toynbee. As far as I’m concerned Toynbee is a secularist who has long campaigned for women’s rights, and is a critic of Islam. How can you compare her with a British neo-fascist? The truth is the IHRC is incapable of distinguishing between the two.
I might normally laugh at such awards were it not for the fact that the IHRC is no small concern. It does consultation work for the UN, and it’s verbally backed by Trevor Phillips and the CRE, and that’s not funny.
(1) Anti-Muslim backlash intensifies. IRR news. 2005
(2) Pledge to wipe out Islamophobia. BBC news. 2001
Illustration: BBC News 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3328277.stm
The Kyoto Protocol is dead, let it rest in peacePeople coming out on the streets, celebrating the first anniversary of the enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol were conspicuous by their absence this year. Admittedly, the few that did bother, had nothing to celebrate. A year earlier, the British Prime Minister, on the same week the Protocol came into force, went ahead and allowed British industry to pollute 20 million tonnes more than the limit approved by the European Union executive.
Blair has spent the past few years paying lip service to the protocol, so when it came to putting his money where his mouth is - he backed out a year later. The Protocol, in reality, is in tatters. None of the main players America, Australia, China, Brazil and India want to impose what they called 'binding restrictions' on their emissions of greenhouse gases.
If anything, Blair has come to the realisation that the economics of the Kyoto Protocol - just don't add up. On the left, openDemoracy's Casper Henderson seems to bemoan the fact that critics of the Protocol argue (rightfully) that it will 'hamper economic growth'. 'Hamper' is putting it politely, to say the least. If you replace the word hamper with hammer, you will have a more precise term to discribe the economic effects of the Protocol on developed, and developing economies.
What Henderson refers to as 'hamper', the American National Center For Policy Analysis (NCPA) calls it 'devastating damage'. The NCPA argues that countries that comply with the Protocol stand to lose some 5 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It will increase unemployment by one million in Britain, and 1.8 million in Germany. America stand to lose some 5 million jobs if they complied to the Protocol.
The NCPA added that European nation would fare badly because they would be hit twice by, rising unemployment and a sharp rise in fuel bills, that would raise the price of heating, petrol, diesel and electricity by 10 percent initially - but, by 2010, the price of fuel will rise to some 20 percent. The damage this will do to European economies will no doubt effect us all. Spain, with it's heavy reliance on trucking, is set to be the biggest loser in Europe.
Environmentalists the world over have put the Kyoto Protocol on a morally high, political pedestal. But one by one, EU leaders are slowly waking up to the economic realities of the Protocol - it's only a matter of time before they all give up on this ecological-pantomime.
I want governments to spend more time, and money, encouraging rapid economic development, which would puts our society in a better position to adapt to climate change in the future. Why put the jobs of millions of people on the line? The sheer size of the effort and money needed, just to comply with the Protocol warrants serious interrogation, into what will be the outcome of all this? What will be the net effects of all this societal sacrifice? Even if all nations complied until 2012, the cumilative effects on the emission of greenhouse gases would still be how the NCPA put it - 'negligible'.
Kyoto is said to be the most 'groundbreaking global treaty' ever known. It's also said that the Protocols accords, amount to the 'world's most ambitious and complex environmental treaty' the world has ever seen. If you ask me, European leaders should get together so they could discuss how they should totally ditch Kyoto, and concentrate time, effort and (more importantly) money, on improving the lack of dynamism in their own economies. With China and India, out of the Kyoto 'straight-jacket', and most of the developing countries are exempt from the treaty, this will mean that Europe would have to shoulder a very serious economic burden, from now until 2012 - and that's just the start.
Read: Kyoto and the politics of climate change.
By Caspar Henderson
Reality and Climate Change Policy.
By the National Center For Policy Analysis.
Economic Effects of Kyoto on Europe.
By the National Center For Policy Analysis.
By Philip Scott
Blair angers the green lobby by defying Brussels on emissions.
Picture: View of Earth from the Apollo 13 mission. From the Project Apollo Archive.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Anti-nuclear politics is backward at the best of timesI take it totally for granted that I have a constant supply of energy. So why is it that everybody keeps constantly reminding me that I can’t take it for granted anymore?
How can it be, in a technologically advanced country like Britain, that energy can become a debatable subject? What’s wrong with Western nuclear power? It’s the safest form of energy production that mankind has conceived. Why do environmentalists hate our nuclear age and prefer to go backwards to the age of wind power, or worse? Why should I care where my energy comes from that powers my laptop?
As for future energy needs for the year 2050 and beyond, why not look to solar energy, beamed down by high voltage solar powered satellites, 7 days a week, in any weather? You would also need nuclear fusion to generate that power along superconducting cables. (1) This would render the idea of our societies having an ‘energy crisis’ redundant, but I fear there would be too much environmentalist hostility towards such a bold development, because now we have to constantly think about how we can get to work without damaging the eco-system, or without risking a persons health– or worse, running out of energy altogether, and so on, and on. But why?
Contrary to popular belief we are not running out energy, and when we need energy, we get it. I will admit that a very serious discussion needs to take place about the future of where we get our energy. The way I understand it, energy as a resource seems, generally to be a rather technical problem – but now, it’s a political problem. Some would have us believe it’s some type of war, and that oil addicted ‘vested interests’ lay behind all the political problems associated with energy. (2)
If only it was that simple. The main problems I see when it comes to the future of energy, is not redneck oil barons, but the current irrational opposition to nuclear power. Everybody seems to hates nuclear power, there are few defenders - worst still; the government rolls over and entertains the publics’ fears and prejudices. Environmentalists’ everlasting preoccupation with climate change and greenhouse emissions threatens our society by putting us on a prolonged crisis mentality footing. The out come of all of this is a paralysing effect that cuts off any fruitful avenues that we might wish to go down.
As openDemoracy's Casper Henderson observes, ‘the nuclear industry and its allies in many countries have for some time used the need to reduce emissions as a central plank in their argument for more nuclear power’. (3) But only as an option – not as a rational long term solution. Indeed, Sir David King, the governments chief scientific adviser made this explicit when he said the new generation of existing fission technologies should be an ‘option’. (4)
Politician certainly believe they can talk about the desirability of nuclear power in polite company at dinner parties these days, but it’s only as an option, it’s not presented as a science and technology that could hugely contribute to social progress. The advancement of nuclear technology in the UK has become prematurely restricted.
The problem is not Western nuclear energy and it’s economics, the problem is our overly risk-averse and precautionary times we live in. Anti-nuclear (and anti-radiation) critics are driven by a profound fear of accidents. This fear is irrational and paralyzing, and it leads to over-regulation in the nuclear energy sector, and through that exceptional costs.
The result of this anit-nuclear politics, has meant that nuclear energy has not had the opportunity to gain the full benefits of operating experience or economies of scale and standardization. Even though the Royal Academy of Engineering argued in their report that future nuclear energy still remains the most ‘competitive’ form of electricity production to date. (5) Criticism of nuclear waste for example highlights how the politics of risk-aversion and precaution actually ends up holding society back. Environmentalists current obsession with the imaginary and symbolic risk surrounding nuclear waste has meant that the simple task of dumping nuclear waste, has become a costly issue, and expense - that knows no limit.
The last nuclear power station built in the UK was Sizewell B, and that construction only started in 1987, after years of regulatory wrangling and Britain’s longest public inquiry. It’s not the economics that puts off the private nuclear energy sector, it’s the governments overbearing precautionary regulations that are a powerful disincentives to energy companies.
Ultimately, and thankfully, we will have a nuclear powered future. The nuclear programme will go ahead, whether ecologists like it or not, and so what if they don’t like it. Nuclear power already provides some 20 percent of Britain’s electricity and it needs to provide much more in the future. But if the environmentalist movement continue their fight, and have their way, we can all look forwards to going backwards to the age of wind power - something, we stopped doing over 100 years ago. (6)
(1) NASA: House Science Committee Hearings on Solar Power Satellites. 2000
(2) Energy wars and the future of planet earth – Part 1, 2 & 3. By Casper Henderson. 2003.
(3) Re: The obsession with emissions. A reply by C. Henderson. 2005.
(4) Global warming won't save nuclear power. By Joe Kaplinsky. 2005.
(5) The Cost of Generating Electricity. The Royal Academy of Engineering. 2004.
(6) Welcome to the Age of Wind. The future of energy: By Jennie Bristow. 2002
Picture: The Sellafield Golf Ball, BBC News
Friday, May 12, 2006
Animals don't have rights, stupidAnimals cannot, and should not have any rights whatsoever, and that is a good thing to. The whole concept of ‘animal rights’ is a pathetic fallacy perpetrated by groups and individuals who have an overblown sense of kindness towards animals. In fact, animals that exist in society are the property of humans, which is why they do not deserve to have legal status. Imagine if animals did have legal status – all hunters whether in the Amazonian jungle or the Scottish highland could be charged with murder, a road kill would be a ‘hit and run’, or worst, manslaughter, pet ownership would be viewed as an illegal slave-market.
Humanities rational reasoning has conceived of what we know today as the concept of rights, for itself – not for any other living entity. The notion of rights is a moral concept that humanity needs in order to live our lives the way we see fit. Indeed, it is humanities right to use animals like any other resource around us – we have the right to eat animals for food, we have the right to kill certain animals for clothing, we have the right to experiment on animals, and yes, we have the right to use animals for our entertainment if need be.
Proponents of rights for animals say they want to put a halt to the sadistic treatment of animals by torturers (aka scientists), but the truth is the aim of animal-rights activists is to sacrifice and subjugate humanity to the level of animals. This is the logical conclusion of the idea of animal rights. You cannot attribute rights to dumb animals that are amoral and nonrational – to do that would turn rights from an important tool that preserves humanity to a tool that would liquidate humanity.
It comes as no surprise that some animal rights activists turn to terrorism to pursue their aims of destroying humanity, from digging up dead bodies to the attempted murders of scientists and lab technicians (including their families). Locking up the lunatic fringe of the animal-rights movement is not enough – what is needed is a new war against the very notion of ‘animal rights’. It needs to be confronted by a principled and intellectual war that will condemn ‘animal rights’ for what it is – logically false and morally, deeply repugnant.
Picture: V. I. Lenin in Gorky. Sept 1922. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/photo/1922/036.htm
The BNP: is Britain really turning fascist?New Labour and it's supporters seem to be under the impression that the spectra of fascism is haunting Britain today. The way the employment minister Margaret Hodge spoke about the white working-class in east London, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Capital is currently over-run by thousands of swastika tatooed 'chavs' - who would like nothing better than to cause a major stink by voting for an extreme racist party. Note 'thousands' as opposed to 'millions', because, as far as I know, most people can't even be arsed to vote in Local elections anymore, let alone vote for the BNP. Indeed, Hodge's very own constituency of Barking has some of the lowest turnouts for voting in the UK.
So what was the point about hyping up the political 'threat' from the BNP? Since when has the BNP posed a significant challenge to the three main parties at the polls? More importantly, what kind of political strategy over exaggerates the strength of thier opponents? Well, it's certainly not the sort of stratergy that forged an empire, or fought two global wars, the kind of stratergy that has made this country what it is today, one of the best on earth.
The way Hodges spoke about the white working-class in east London, you'd think ordinary people from that area never had an honorable tradition of anti-racism - ever.
Hello there employment minister, but, where did you get that figure '8 out of 10' tempted to vote BNP from? That's totally ridiculous. It's as if the minister needs reminding that nobody even bothers to vote in Local elections, especially in Barking, and especially for her.
The truth is, due to all this free publicity, headed by Hodge, and backed up statistically by heavyweight institutions like the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, will mean that the BNP's share of the measley vote will go up a notch or two.
And what about those people who do vote for the BNP? Are we supposed to believe that the white working-class who vote BNP in Barking are really just closet Hitlerites? No, I certainly don't think so - those people are former hardcore Labour voters, for years. New Labour can no longer convince it's own traditional constituency to turnout and vote for it anymore.
New Labour have been reduced to frightening people out of their wits as a good reason to vote for them, by blowing the BNP up out of all proportions. The New Labour project is dead, they are politically exhausted, they have no more ideas left, and financially their bankrupt. So pointing at the BNP, makes Hodge appear as one of the good-guys, as opposed to those evil monsters over there.
As for the BNP, as some have rightfully noted, you couldn't buy publicity like this even if they paid for it.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
6 billion reasons for cheeringI was once asked, why do I oppose world population reduction?
I oppose world population reduction for two reasons; 1) the idea is based upon a fundamentally flawed proposition, and 2) inherent in the idea of 'population reduction' is the politics and ideology of anti-humanism. This is the logical conclusion of anti-humanist thought. A brand of thought that percieves the entire human race to be nothing more than algae spreading across the pond that is Earth.
Vivisection? Yes pleaseWhen it comes to scientific progress, and animal research in particular, I think it's entirely moral and humane to slice open the skin of animals, and stick hypodermic neddles in them, or to cut their skulls open to place electrodes on their brains. Or to test out new life-saving drugs on them - indeed, I think this is absolutely necessary and proper in order to find cures for such horrible diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or Huntington's.
I know a lot of people will read this and say 'my word, what a sick and sad person I am', but, the people I find really sick, are those who stand opposed to scientific animal research for the betterment of humanity.
When it comes to debating animal research in Britain, it's been the sicko's from the organisation SPEAK who have made all the running and made the most noise. The super sicko's of the Animal Liberation Front have gone further, and declared all staff and students at Oxford University to be 'legitimate targets'. Now, if that's not the declaration of a sicko organisation - I don't know what is.
Sudan: just say 'NO' to military interventionThe British media, political commentators and armchair liberals have suspended critical thinking on Sudan over the past few years. Pundits of all persusions cheered George Clooney's recent visit to Sudan, demanding that the Sudanese government take action in response to the atrocities in Darfur. Those who once opposed western military adventures in Iraq (twice), now seem to have turned completely brown-nosed when it comes to Sudan.
'Diplomacy and promises are not enough' argue Oxfam. Everyone from the left to the right have demanded stronger intervention in Sudan. From the civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson to the right-wing Daily Telegraph, everyone seem to be proposing that 'there can be no clearer case for humanitarian intervention'.
Even though Britain and the US stands in utter disgrace over Iraq, in Sudan, the Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush can look good when they lay down the law to the Sudanese government. But Blair and Bush's interest in Khartoum is motivated by domestic concerns. The two leaders motives in Sudan are deserving of intense interrogation, just like the dodgy intelligence their government spun to justify the war in Iraq. New Labour, the Bush administration, and what I'd call, liberal imperialists are constantly on the lookout for human disasters in far-off lands in order to show what the West is for, or against. It's as though the West is on a mission to rediscover itself in Sudan. For our political elites, the conflict in Darfur is used soley to endow themselves with a new sense of moral purpose 'over-there'.
Indeed, there is a tragic crisis in Sudan, but western proposals about military intervention will not help to alleviate that crisis. The Sudanese will not benifit whatsoever from any of the West's fact-finding missions to the Darfur region. Also, what can deploying thousands of troops do? Deploying western, or foriegn troops in Darfur is nothing more than a political gesture, it's certainly not a practical measure that the Sudanese will benefit from.
In any case, Sudan has been a hell-hole for the past 50 years, the end of the Cold War has made the country even more unstable. So what on earth makes Blair, Bush and co think that they have a solution to the problems facing Sudan? Darfur has only become a issue for warmongerers like Blair and Bush since 2004. Could it be that they are seeking an easy intervention? An intervention that has no WMD's to worry about? The Gulf War Part 2 has been an unmitigating political nightmare. Britain and America's hunger to intervene in Sudan is surley shaped more by the fallout from Iraq than by recent events on the ground in Darfur.
Besides', why would Western intervention improve things for the Sudanese? From Sierra Leone to Somalia, out-side interference, in the post Cold-War era has made matters worse for those on the receiving end, not better. It was Britain who carved up eastern Africa and imposed an iron-fist colonial rule on it. Sudan was ruled by Britain and Egypt until 1956.
The West's sudden interest has nothing to do with Sudan per se. The motivation for intervention is homegrown. Look how easy it is to re-establish a sense of certainty about what's right and wrong in far-off places, much easier than addressing difficult and complex crisis at home.
During British colonal rule in the nineteeth century, expansion was presented as a moral mission, in order to save the local black population from invading Arabs. Today, the interests of the Sudanese people is no more at the heart of the West's intervention now than it was then.
Picture: Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrol Tal Afar, Iraq. This photo appeared on www.army.mil.
Free speech is always our best weaponThe demand for absolute freedom of speech is another way of saying that we should expect to be treated, as intelligent, rational adults that are more than capable of deciding and thinking for ourselves - the opposite is that we are treated like children that need surrogate parents to shield us from the world of naughty pictures and vulgar words.
Absolute free speech means that social issues can be dealt with through open dabate and the clash of opposing veiw points - there is no need for censors, bans or grossly over-sensitive codes of conduct or practice.
The demand for unfettered free speech is an expression of public faith in the human potential, it's about what we think of people - the danger these days is that free speech is under attack because of the shift in the way we see ourselves and other people.
Today, in New Labour's New Britain, censorship is viewed as something that is worthy, a necessary measure to protect vulnerable people from abuse, harrassment, or against material deemed to be 'offensive'. On just about any issue the call for moral censorship and a strict code of emotional correctness means there can only be one line of debate that can be conducted in public discussion - and woe betide the fool that has the temerity to do something outrageous like thinking for themselves like the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten.
Those who step from the emotionally/morally correct path are no longer viewed as people who have alternative arguments or opinions, they are seen as the Devil itself, and must be crucified in public - and then gagged.
I for one have always remained committed to a no-nonsense support of free speech. I'm prepared to take responsibility for what I say, without the interference of any Victorian ethical watchdog to protect certain sensibilities.
Mr George Clooney, I presume - Africa's new expert
What I'd like to know is, since when, has the millionaire, Oscar winning actor, George Clooney become an expert in the political affairs of the Sovereign state of Sudan? The self-proclaimed expert of contemporary Sudanese politics, Mr Clooney, apparently, has knowledge of what is happening in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Clooney told a audience of the world's media that, events unfolding in Darfur could only be discribed as 'the first genocide of the 21st century'.
I'd like to let readers of this blog into a not so well known fact: there is no evidence of 'genocide' in the Darfur region of Sudan. Of course, Mr Clooney doesn't need evidence to support his unfounded claims. He speaks, the world listens, and that is that - who needs evidence?
There is no evidence of a 'genocide' in Sudan - an indepth UN investigation concluded in Feb of last year that there was 'no evidence' of 'genocide' in Darfur. An investigation led by the European Union in the summer of 2004, drew the same conclusion, that the killings in Darfur 'were not genocidal'.
Clooney, has become what the U.S. Department of State would call a first-class 'prognosticator'. Clooney has done what many in the west do in order to draw attention to their particular cause, he has grossly overemphasised the degree to which violent deaths have contributed to large-scale mortality in Darfur. Or in other words, more people in the Darfur region die of malnutrition and infectious diseases, than they do at the hands of the Sudanese government forces.
Clooney is a major American celebrity who think its ok to be cavalier with the facts, and he seems to think its perfectly fine to present Africans in the most horrific terms possible, even if its inaccurate.
I, for one, welcome an honest debate about what's happening in Africa. What we don't need is overpaid Hollywood actors rehearsing powerful and emotive stories about nonexistent 'genocide', in countries they know very little about.