Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In defense of BMW X5, and any other modern car

Ok, let's get a few things straight here, firstly, I do not work for BMW, nor do I own a BMW X5, nor am I being paid by BMW to post this. I'm defending BMW, and in particular its X5 range against the ever increasing luddite, childish, small-minded attacks being made on it from the Alliance Against Urban 4x4's, and Greenpeace.

The prejudice of the bike-riding, muesli eating greens knows no bounds - their attacks on big cars like the BMW X5 has nothing to do with combatting carbon emissions, but, everything to do with attacking the type of people who drive them. I've heard drivers of 'Chelsea tractors' being referred to as 'vulgar', 'greedy', and just plain 'selfish'. Greenpeace, in their lastest advertisment no longer mind their language, and simply calls anyone who drives such cars a 'prick'.

These days it seems very fashionable for Guardian reading, eco-worriers to have-a-go at drivers of BMW X5's, Range Rovers or any other large modern box shaped car for that matter, but why? The green luddite Stephen Tindale of Greenpeace thinks Rover bosses are nothing but 'climate criminals' and climate-wreckers - but, hold on a minute here, are BMW X5's and Range Rovers really causing so much 'climate' destruction? It's true that BMW X5's and Range Rovers do push out more CO2 than any car on the road - a quick spin for example in a Range Rover Turbo Diesel will release some 299g of CO2 per kilometre. However, one cycle of a household dishwasher (something that's not too amiss in many a posh home in Hampstead - the centre of eco-worshipping), produces a whopping 756g of CO2, that's twice more than a Range Rover. So, where are all the campaigns against climate wrecking dishwashers then?

A petrol lawnmower produces over 1,000g of CO2 for every hour of use. London buses produces some 1406g of CO2 per kilometre, but, these are not the target of organic food munching Greenpeace supporters. The real target of environmentalist anti 4x4 campaign is not the actual car itself, but, the driver, as graphically dipicted in Greenpeace's new ad - behind all the talk of ecological carnage and safety is pure middle-class eco-snobbery. Worst still, these backward environmentalist attacks are being made on what are technological cornerstones of our modern civilisation - the 4x4 car.

The current environmentalists 'war on 4x4's', is just as dodgy on facts as New Labour's war on terror. When you scratch underneath the surface of these campaigns against large cars, what you find is dodgy science and blatant, high-brow middle-class attacks on the aspirational working class, the very people who drive X5's and Range Rovers. Anyone from footballers, mums on school runs, to skilled labourers like carpenters and plumbers are the very people these activists are looking down their nose at. According to the organic munching and Guardian reading activists, these people are 'clinically insane', or 'a complete idiot' and 'irresponsible', but for what? For having lots of disposable income and ideas above their station.

If anything, the childish, PC snobbery of Greenpeace's new advert is certainly enough to make me want go out and buy a state-of-the-art BMW X5, or a Range Rover (if I could afford it).

Read on:

The anti-4x4 ad that backfired. By Shirley Dent

Honk if you've had enough. By Brendan O'Neill

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Paul McCartney's recipe for being a food dictator

Over in the US, the millionaire popstar Sir Paul McCartney has been hitting the headlines. Not for taking the US government to task over its war in Iraq, but, for something far, far more important - the banning of goose and duck liver, more commonly known as foie gras.

McCartney's current crusade against foie gras has all the right ingredients, namely, the high moral ground and animals. Like most dictatorial campaigns these days, his stance over foie gras has certainly got a hefty sprinkling of emotions and feelings - which, to McCartney, seems to be much more important than that other little matter of hard cold facts. As far as M'lud McCartney is concerned, there is 'clearly nothing humane' about force feeding geese or ducks, the practice of this ancient art is 'inhumane' - end of story.

However, McCartney's unappetising war on foie gras, is in fact, just regurgitation of ill-founded prejudice against modern food production. Most of the facts that McCartney points out bear little relation to hard evidence. If a British or American politician had launched a war against foie gras, there would have been protests about 'cultural imperialism'. When one of the former Beatles does it, most people just swallow it hook, line and sinker.

So what is the truth about the production of foie gras? To start with, according to Ariane Daguin, an expert in foie gras, says that geese and ducks have a natural tendency of overeating before the winter sets in, so they can survive long periods of migration. The birds are in fact forced fed, but, this only lasts for about two weeks, and it's a gradual process that causes no stress to the animal according to French scientists.

McCartney also accused foie gras producers of 'mechanically inducing disease' in the birds, but, this is not true either. According to the French Interprofessional Committee for Fattened Waterfowl who commissioned a study entitled 'Everything You Need To Know About Foie Gras', states that foie gras 'does not come from an animal whose liver is sick. Rather, the liver must come from a healthy animal that has lived outdoors, and, at the adult stage, has been given a carefully monitored, abundant and progressive diet". So, where is the evidence that suggests ducks and geese are mechanically induced with diseases?

Of course, there is no hard evidence behind any of his accusations, but, M'lud McCartney doesn't need any evidence does he? Usually, for me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but, for McCartney and his silly draconian campaigns, that sort of thing is strictly for the birds.

Read on:

Super Chef vs. Governator: Todd English Fights For Foie Gras Rights. By Juliette Rossant (Superchefblog)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Wind power? More hot air than real power

In a desperate bid to appear 'green', the Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling has come up with an idea to force (notice not persuade) homeowners to put wind turbines on their roofs. Of course, to New Labour politicians, the idea of persuading 27 million people to do 'the right thing' and go 'green' is a daunting task to say the least.

Most political parties these days seem to be giving their support to wind power, however, this support has more to do with changing peoples ideas around energy consumption and changing our behaviour, than actually providing more energy for our use - why else would anyone promote wind power as an alternative to fossil fuel or nuclear power? Indeed, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston thinks we should use less energy (be lean), and use renewable energy (be green). What his energy strategy doesn't mention is how a city like London can avoid damaging power cuts in the future.

The policy of hyping-up wind-generated energy is seriously flawed because it's not based on any critical analysis. Indeed, the European experience has shown that wind power is uncontrollable, variable and unpredictable - that's why it's misleading to describe wind power as a viable alternative energy source. Don't take my word for it, take a look at the world largest wind farm producers, Germany - an indepth report commisioned last year by the German Energy Agency states that wind generated energy is both 'expensive' and 'inefficient'.

Whether it's wind farms or personal turbines, the debate seems to be far removed from how we can properly power our country in the 21st century, but, more about shoving woolly environmental policies down peoples throats.

Read on:

Stop ill wind

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bomb plots? We should just refuse to be terrorised

In the past, our political and cultural elites traditionally confronted terrorism by not allowing it to succeed in preventing us from going about our daily business. Not anymore - this attitude is much less in evidence today, especially with regards to recent responses to bomb threat on cross Atlantic airliners. Indeed, there is tendency towards promoting our vulnerbility.

The idea that an advanced society like Britain, is constantly under terrorist threat encourages a climate of fear, which in turn, just encourages more attacks. Confusion and a culture of fear are the main rewards for the terrorists. Indeed, how can it be, that an alleged plot to bring down a few airliners, cause a nation of 60 million strong Britons to be paralysed? This is one of the most advanced societies on the planet, with a successful economy, but is seemingly trapped in a culture of fear, with an acute aversion to taking any risks.

Matters of sercurity are top of the political agenda, adding to our current state of fear. Its worth noting, in the past our leaders' engaged terrorists by special means. Through small scale counter-terrorist operations and the use of intelligence - mainly against organised national liberation forces like the Provisional IRA. Today, our elites launch full scale wars, against a home-grown new breed of non-political nihilists. A breed for which terror is an end in itself.

One thing I know for sure, we can't afford to become traumatised by such events. This only succeeds in advertising our vulnerabilities. We need to pour emphasis on the idea of our resilience, our tanacity and perserverance. Professor Frank Furedi argues that ' the impact of the threat of terrorism is often psychological and its power is signficantly enhanced by the fears generated by a risk averse culture' (1). In other words, the terrorists most powerful weopon is our very own fears.

How many times have we been warned of how terrorists could strike at numerous stategic targets? To date, none of these things have happened - its as if Britain is just sitting around waiting for it to happen. In the meantime, Islamic wannabe terrorists go about organising hitting soft targets - the softer the target, the better to scare the mighty, powerful West with.
There is one thing we all know, whoever is behind any of these alleged bomb plots, do not pose a military or political threat to British state.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The rise of Islamophobia? Yeah right, whatever.

Rarely, has a month gone by, were I'm not being constantly told, that Britain is somehow caught in the grip of an ever-increasing Islamophobic backlash. This time, it's the UK's highest-ranking Asian police officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who insists that anti-terror laws have 'indirectly discriminated against Muslims' in Britain. Furthermore, the commissioner is adamant that the 'cumulative effect of Islamophobia, both internationally and nationally, linked to social exclusion, has created a generation of angry young people who are vulnerable to exploitation'.

The commissioner paid particular attention to current police powers to stop-and-search, in the authorities desperate bid to fight against international terrorism. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, supported the commissioners statement, but, went much further and added that it's 'been clear for a very long time that there is institutional Islamophobia in the implementation of stop-and-search'. Everybody, it seems, are totally convinced that Muslims in the UK face systematic, institutionalised discrimination and harassment from the authorities, like never before.

However, there are some serious flaws with the notion of 'Islamophobia', firstly, the concept seems to be utterly meaningless - and secondly, the fact's about 'Islamophobia' don’t quite fit what is actually happening on the ground. There’s a profound gap between what is perceived to be true, and what actually happens to be true. The clearest example of this is the issue of apparent police harassment of the Muslim community. If 'institutional Islamophobia' was as endemic in the British police force as we're led to believe - then why has the number of Asians being stopped and search actually fallen in the past 4 years? Wouldn't we at least expect the figures of Asians being stopped, during an upsurge in Islamophobia, to have risen?

According to the lastest police figures, Asians do not disproportionately make up the numbers of people stopped and searched in the UK. Indeed, the lastest figures confirm that you are still '6 times' more likely to be stopped and searched if you're black, rather than Asian. In fact, Asians are only '1.8' times more likely to have been stopped during 2003/4, and only '1.9' times the year before that. But, what I really want to know is, why has nobody questioned the claim that Asians are being disproportionately harassed and searched by the police? The notion of 'Islamophobia' has become so uncritically accepted that very few people have even bothered to see if its claims are even true or not.

If there was such a thing as 'Institutional Islamophobia', it would surely show up in the police stop-and-search figures - but they don't. The truth is, the real victims of draconian police stop-and-search practices are black people. Not that the proponents of 'Institutional Islamophobia' would give a flying monkey about things like that it seems. What really matters to them is over-egging the fact that British Muslims have never had it so bad. However, the more that ‘Islamophobia’ is exaggerated by Muslim leaders, the more the Muslim community believe they are under constant attack. It’s not Islamophobia that’s blighting the lives of Muslims, it’s the perception of Islamophobia that’s doing all the damage, fostering a kind of siege mentality amoungst many in the Muslim community.

Picture: Islamophobia Demonstration. Trafalgar Square. Oct 2005

Friday, August 04, 2006

Climate change in Africa? Fight against malaria instead

Environmentalists 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, for example, the fight against malaria in Africa, and other Third World countries.

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. What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those death lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides.

Malaria, extinct in the Western world, is still killing Africans by the millions. But 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 before. But who would have ever related 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 dollars reducing carbon emissions in order to ‘stabilise the climate’ by one or two measly degrees, it seems that the life of human beings is in fact far, far less important than advancing the politics of their latest green obsession – climate change, like nothing else really matters.

Picture: Unicef file photo