Thursday, September 28, 2006

State funding for bankrupt political parties is immoral

It's certainly offical - Britains two main established political parties, New Labour and the Conservatives, are financially bankrupt. It's estimated that Labour's debts are a hefty £27m, and the Tories are in debt to the tune of some £30m (which, they of course strenuosly deny).

Practical and financial support for both political parties have been in steady decline in recent years. Both parties have become increasingly dependent on finance from a hand full of very rich donors. In political terms, these are very dangerous developments. The astute political commentator, Mick Hume argues that such developments;

'highlight the advance of a new oligarchy in British politics - an elite political class, cut off from and largely unaccountable to any popular constituency'.

I haven't got a problem with individuals making political donations to parties, if anything, I have reservations about the idea that there should be limits on how much someone can donate to political parties - and, the fact that this idea coexists with ever more louder demands for public money for political parties makes the notion of limits on donations even more objectionable.

Both parties are in a financial mess of their own making, so why would anyone think that by effectively nationalising them, their problems would be somehow solved? Why would the parties financial dependency on state patronage make their political problems disappear?

If you ask me, political parties need to get out of the air-conditioned offices, and convince the public that they are worth donating money to - if they can't be bothered to do that, then they are certainly bankrupt in more ways than one.

UPDATE: The Times leading article agrees with me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Plane Stupid? Yes, I agree, you are plain stupid

Here we go again - yet another bunch of middle-class, low-fat, semi-skimmed milk latte drinking, self-appointed guardians of planet Earth are having a go at what is, to all intents and purposes, the cornerstone of our civilisation - the aviation industry. A group calling themselves Plane Stupid have declared war against the growth of aviation in Britain. They have accused British airports of being 'climate change criminals' (as if there was such a thing).

However, for all their talk of 'climate change criminals', environmentalists sustaina-babble has got it all wrong, again. Aircraft are not the terrible polluters that the organic food munching green media would have us believe. An indepth study by The Economist last year found that aircraft only produce 3.2 per cent of emissions, from a combined total of 27.4 per cent produced by all forms of transportation. Indeed, the study found that residential homes produce some 7.6 per cent of emissions. To put this in to perspective, electricity production cause some 33.9 per cent of emissions, so aircrafts are way down the polluting list.

The notion that a growing aviation industry is the arch villan of the global warming piece is risible to say the least. Also, the idea that people like me, who love to fly around the world for as little as 20 quid, are somehow aiding and abetting the 'climate change criminals' is also nothing but a sick joke. I've lost count of the number of times this year have I heard eco-worriers wanting to put a halt on some aspect of our civilisation, without one single thought as to how it would impact on peoples lives and livelihoods. Environmentalists and NIMBY's seem to forget that the era of cheap flights has meant that millions of Britons can go to foreign lands and seek out new horizons.

In general, cheap flights are one of the best things about Britain today, we can jet off to places like Spain or Greece for as little as £20 return. In the past, the cost of such flights would normally set you back some £200 - £300, a whole weeks wages for some people. Today, more and more Britons fly abroad for their holidays, to me, that's not stupid, that's a good thing going on.

Read on:

'Cheap flights should be a cause of national rejoicing'. By Brendan O’Neill. 2006.

I love cheap flights. By Brendan O'Neill. 2006.

Heathrow 'meets pollutant target'. BBC NEWS. 2006.

Aircraft emissions: The sky's the limit. From The Economist. 2006.

Picture: A Plane Stupid activist.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Abu Izzadeen: more media-whore, than religious 'warrior'

Home Secretary John Reid certainly looked surprised when he was told by Abu Izzadeen, that the minister had some front coming 'to a Muslim area'. Well, even I was surprised by that, because since when has Leytonstone been a 'Muslim' area? The radical Muslim Abu Izzadeen, sounds as if he spends more time in wannabe 'jihadist' chatrooms than he does on the streets of E.11. For all his talk of speaking on behalf of Muslims worldwide, and even in places where he's never been to - what I'd really like to know is, how could such a babbling fool exercise so much influence over the British media?

Again, this morning on the BBC's flagship radio programme Today, proves that in this current political climate, you no longer need to have a convincing arguement, nor do you need support from a constituency to galvanise attention from the British media - all you need to do is proclaim that you speak on behalf of the oppressed, and constantly remind us that Muslims in Britain have never had so bad. Izzadeen does remind me of others who say they speak on behalf of other people, like for example, environmentalists who are forever banging on and on about doing something on behalf of the 'public', or for 'future generations'. Or, anti-abortionists who stand up for the rights of the unborn fetus. We shouldn't forget the anti-globalisationist, has-been pop star, Bob Geldof, who can hardly stop speaking on behalf of some 900 million Africans.

The truth is, Abu Izzadeen thinks nothing of exaggerating the extent of discrimination against Muslims in Britain. The sooner the British media stop flattering such self-indulgent emotionalism, the better for us to debate what really matters, like 'what do we stand for' - but, don't get me wrong here, in a secular and pluralistic society, Izzadeen should have the right to say what ever he wants (even though he openly admitted on the Today progamme that he hates free speech - wonder where he got that idea from?). It's a very real shame our government won't stand up and support such a fundamental belief, which is the very foundation of our open society - maybe if they did, radical Islamists like Izzadeen would be a mere footnote, rather than a front-page splash.

Update: Take a look at this excellent piece on the subject, by a guest writer over at Bob From Brockley

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jamie Oliver: it's time we stop feeding this crocodile

There is a war taking place in the English county of Yorkshire right now, albeit a rather bloodless one, in which battle lines are being clearly drawn out. On the one side (my side) we have two sensible mums, Julie Critchlow and Sam Walker, their enemy is the self-serving, unelected political reptile, millionaire Jamie Oliver.

Winston Churchill once said, appeasement was 'a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last'. This is precisely what Tony Blair's government has done; it's appeased this overpaid cook and his army of dinner-ladies at every turn. The ease in which the authorities fell over themselves to jump on board Oliver's bogus 'revolution' should have been enough to set alarm bells going. Now it looks as if Oliver's political crusade is going flat, and about to backfire on him, and the authorities.

Ok, I admit that I'm slightly egging it up here, and so too are the Yorkshire mums Critchlow and Walker, but the reaction to the antics of the mothers warrants critical investigation. They are being portrayed and spoken of as if they were some kind of moral lepers, health campaigners have called the pair 'shameful and disgusting', A spokesman from Jamie Oliver has even accused the mothers of trying to 'shorten kids' lives', and you think I'm going over the top? On Oliver's show last night, he openly admitted he wanted more of a 'nanny state' approach to dealing with the 'a***holes and t***ers' (aka parents) who give their kids such horrible things as crisps and fizzy drinks.

The truth is, it's the government, and Jamie Oliver that view parents as 'a***holes and t***ers' who's only crime is to give their kids food that they like, and more importantly, will eat. Britain, under New Labour is certainly getting to be more conservative, more draconian and prejudice is rife. It’s only a matter of time before Jamie orders Blair to send in the ‘packed-lunch police’ to search the school kids for any hidden Mars bars or the like.

Picture: From 'feed me better school dinners'. Jamie Oliver website

Why are environmentalists putting bugs before scientific knowledge?

A fellow blogger once asked me if there was any reason why I'm so against those who want to make the world a healthier, cleaner and nicer place to live? Why do I appear to be so anti-environmentalist? Well, the main reason is because; I believe that the ideology of environmentalism is becoming the number one intellectual counterattack to Enlightenment thinking. It's also fast becoming incompatible with systematic social development and progress.

A major premise of Enlightenment thought, is that central to the project of progress, is humanities increased ability to control nature for its own benefit - but, environmentalists are increasingly perceiving that human dominance over nature and the wholesale obliteration of the Earth as one and the same thing. Every single cornerstone of Western civilisation, and scientific endeavour that we normally take for granted, has come under a never ending stream of attack - everything from air-conditioners to the internal combustion engine, from nano technology to animal experiments are constantly bombarded by 'sceptics'.

Witness the bizarre spectacle of scientific development being halted all for the sake of a rare bug. That all sounds fair enough you might say, but why should a bug stand in the way of developments in extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology? To all intents and purposes, Mauna Kea (pictured above), is one of the most inhospitable terrains on Earth, other than humans, no other creature can survive there... oh, except the Wekiu bug that is. Protecting this bug will have profound implications for the future development of astronomy projects. What I find really disturbing is the fact that there is no evidence that the population of Wekiu bugs have been adversely effected by 30 years of building telescopes on the top of the mountain.

The telescopes on top of Mauna Kea, unlike the Wekiu bugs, have made a great contribution to our knowledge of the cosmos and the universe. The largest telescopes on Earth are situated there because the summit is high in the planets atmosphere, where the air is clear. There is really no other place like it - that is why, every single environmental crusade against such scientific and technological improvements, has very serious long-term consequences for us all.

The obsessions of environmentalists, like the banning of the pesticide DDT, to opposing the development of new telescopes, just shows who’s side their really on when it comes to social development and scientific progress. The banning of DDT has been a human disaster for millions of malaria victims, that has taken some30 years for environmentalists to realise. It’s true Lucy, environmentalists do certainly want a ‘healthier’, ‘cleaner’ and ‘nicer’ world, except it increasingly looks like they want a world with no human beings on it either.

Picture: View of Millimeter Valley. Produced by Williams College.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Save Darfur: from the pro-war 'humanitarian' interventionists.

If there's one thing I've learnt about Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, or Somalia, it is, that Western wars of intervention don't work. I've concluded from these events that Western militarism cannot 'liberate', 'restore hope', or 'save' other people on their behalf - it just doesn't work. That's why I'm opposed to all Western wars of intervention. However, it seems that many people are drawing a rather different conclusion from those wars.

Many have concluded, that the ideas of national self-determination and sovereignty, are not even worth bothering to defend anymore. The principle of intervention is quietly put to one side, in favour of more intervention in order to uphold human rights. Even if the situation in Darfur is as bad as the pro-interventionists says it is, it's still won't be entirely self-evident as to what 10,000 heavily armed troops can do to stop the violence in western Sudan.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to many people that outside military interference might not improve matters for the people of Darfur. Sudan was just a little colonial plaything for the British up until 1956 - the country has been a divided hell-hole ever since. The current internationalising of Sudan's internal tensions, will only suceed in inflaming those tensions and exacerbating the conflict in the Darfur region. For all the talk about getting tough with the Sudanese government, there is little to scant consideration about what happens after the intervention - when the authorities have fallen, leaving behind them a dangerous vacuum.

You only need to take a look at Somalia, where the Americans, in a desperate move to stabilise the country, lent their support to the warlords who had booted them out, back in 1990's. The intervention led to the fall of Mogadishu, at the hands of an Islamic militia. It's a perfect example of how the policy of Western intervention can create an Islamic state in Somalia without too much effort. Doesn't anyone think it's about time we stopped begging incompetent Western leaders like President Bush, who can't even sort out New Orleans. Or worse still, the British Prime Minister Blair, who can't even sort out his own political party, let alone Darfur?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Anti-Drax activists? You must be joking?

When I first heard that environmentalists wanted to close down Britain's newest and most efficent coal-fired power station, I thought this must be some sort of sick joke, right? Of course, I soon found out that it wasn't, and that this motley bunch of eco-worriers were deadly serious. What I'd like to know is, supposing the authorities did happen to lose all their marbles and cave in to the wishes of these protesters to shut down the power station on their behalf? What then? Shut down another power station, and another?

Drax provides Britain with some seven per cent of its electricity generating capacity. So, are we to just make do with seven per cent less power? What is their alternative to closing down every single coal-fired power station? One protester argued that closing Drax 'isn't enough to stop climate change but it's a start'. The truth is, these self-appointed protectors of planet Earth haven't got any real alternatives - their answer is to advocate ecological-austerity measures - because, that's what's hiding behind all the talk of switching over to 'sustainable' sources of enegy production like wind farms, even though they won't produce enough energy to meet with the current levels of consumption. So, we would be forced to make do with a lot less energy in the future.

It's certainly how one writer viewed it, he termed it, the New Austerity. As the author quite rightly mentions, environmentalists are not the only ones promoting 'green' austerity measures. From the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and his phoney 'war on cars', to New Labour's 'eco' ID card, all would like our society to move towards a 'low carbon' economy. If anything, the anti-Drax campaign to close the power station can actually be viewed as a militant endorsement of the government's own 'low carbon' policy.

There is something quite disturbing about politically taking on coal-fired powers stations, because, it is questioning the very building blocks of our society, our energy infrastructure - the eco-activists forget that if we didn't have these power stations, our society would be unable to properly function. When we have power cuts like the ones we had in London in July, our lives pretty much just ground to a halt - but, is that what the anti-Drax activists really want? Do they really want our advanced, modern, technological society to revert back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? To me, that's simply unthinkable - but, it increasingly appears that they are seriously considering just that, up there in Yorkshire, in their camps.

Picture: Anti-Drax protesters. From INDYMEDIA UK

Monday, September 11, 2006

Darfur: 'humanitarian' intervention, is even deadlier than the 'White Man's Burden'.

Two years ago, Pieter Feith, an adviser on the European Union fact-finding mission to Sudan, expressed to the world's press, that '[w]e are not in the situation of genocide there...But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow, killing going on, and village burning on a fairly large scale'. So... Ok, that seems pretty straight forward, no evidence of acts of genocide in Sudan. Then, last year, a UN led mission to Sudan, with, I might add, orders to investigate alledged acts of genocide, resoundly concluded in its 2005 report, that the '[g]overnment of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide'. In case you had trouble understanding that, the report repeats it again in the very next paragraph, that 'no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control'. Ok then... Message recieved.

So, why am I still being constantly told that there is systematic 'genocide' taking place in southern Sudan? How can it be, that the EU mission, and the UN mission cannot find any evidence of 'genocide', yet other individuals and organisations can? What is the motivation behind continually declaring there's genocide happening in Darfur? It's not designed to help the people of the region in any practical way. It looks more like an uncritical and simplistic presentation of the war in Darfur.

The demand for Western military intervention in Sudan's southern region of Darfur, have become extremely loud and popular these days. Everyone from millionaire actors like George Clooney, to most of the anti-war movement seem to agree that we should all rush and beg President Bush to 'Save Darfur'. All in the name of bringing this genocide to a halt, in order to save the people of southern Sudan from, well... themselves - but, they are wrong.

The consequences for the peoples of Darfur will be deadlier than ever before - far from resolving any of the Sudanese peoples problems, Western military interference is only likely to exacerbate the conflict in Darfur. A prolonged Western military engagement in Darfur, that is viewed in simple terms of 'good' verses 'evil'. A view where you have one side that's evil (the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed) who have to be punished, and, the other being hapless victims who need the urgent protection of the mighty West, will be a disaster for the region and its peoples.

Don't take my word for it, take a look at Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq... need I go on?

Also read: Humanitarian Intervention: Evolution of a Dangerous Doctrine - Empire? By Walden Bello. Global Policy Forum. 2006

Picture: US Army Image.

Monday, September 04, 2006

UK to license 'witches brew', sorry, I mean homoeopathic remedies

When it comes to buying medicine in a high street pharmacy, it's always been a comfort to know that the product being purchased, actually does what it says it does. I've taken it completely for granted that pharmaceutical companies adopt a very strict regulatory Ronseal approach to their products, i.e... it 'does exactly what it says on the tin' school of medicine - but, it looks like thoughs days are well and truly over.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which licenses all pharmaceuticals in the UK is about to introduce a new regulatory scheme for witches brew, sorry, I meant to say, homoeopathic products. Well... it might as well be described as witches brew, because, manufacturers of homoeopathic products only need to show the MHRA, that the product is safe, and, has been used to treat particular conditions like minor ailments such as colds, coughs and hay fever. What the homoeopathic industry does not have to do under this scheme is to produce any evidence of efficacy from clinical trials, unlike legitimate pharmaceutical companies who have to prove their products are safe and effective.

What I'd like to know is, why is the national regulatory body giving scientific credibility to homoeopathic medicine by 'licensing them', even though it's blatantly obvious that homoeopathic remedies only have a placebo effect? Michael Baum, a cancer surgeon and former professor, argues that: 'this is like licensing a witches' brew as medicine so long as the bat wings are sterile'. A very simular conclusion is drawn over at Harry's Place where the new scheme is roundly condemed as 'yet another cow-towing to irrational superstition', and I agree.

In its defense, the MHRA argued, that their key motivation for the scheme was not about boosting the homeopathic industry, but, about 'protecting consumers and promoting choice' - now, let me see, buzzwords like 'consumers' and 'choice', where have I heard that old chestnut before? It's as if the more I hear the word 'choice' being mentioned, the less real choice I'll actually get, and in this particular case, some lives will be put at risk in the very near future - so, you have been warned, the next time you want to buy something like anti-malaria tablets, to take with you on your nice foreign holiday, you'd better make sure you make the right 'choice', and avoid any homoeopathic remedies - like it was the plague.