Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
Unfortunately, I am out of the country at the moment and will not be able to celebrate as I had hoped. I suppose the good thing about being out of the country is avoiding the wall-to-wall appreciation.
Now, which opposition politician is going to be brave enough to say what most British people feel about this woman? George Galloway has Tweeted: “Tramp the dirt down” – presumably a reference to the very fitting Elvis Costello Song from his Spike album. Just watched again. Brings tears to the eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-BZIWSI5UQ
Update from 10 April: I abhor the idea of a ‘state’ funeral with full military honours. The recall of parliament is an affront to the institution and I applaud those MPs that are staying away and find Ed Miliband’s pleading to be ‘respectful’ inappropriate and misguided. One cannot be disrespectful to the dead. If Labour MPs speak, they need to be clear about the legacy. But they may find themselves in a double bind having slavishly followed her doctrines whilst in power.
Picture: Ruddyell, Wikipedia
Readers of this blog know that I fly quite a bit. My beloved lives in Munich and I live on the South Coast of England. That is about 500 miles/800 kms complicated by a stretch of water. Last week I did take the train all the way. It took 14 hours, though it was extremely civilised, particularly the first-class travel between Brussels and Cologne. In the short-term, I will continue to fly. But the effect on climate change makes it very difficult to reconcile. Energy use is unsustainable. So, here are some ideas for cutting energy use in the short-term. Low hanging fruit. Any additional suggestions welcome.
I do think about ‘unnecessary’ flying. Top of my list is sport. Tournaments are international these days and sports players – individuals and teams – fly all over the globe in pursuit of titles. Mostly unsuccessfully. One thinks about the Olympics last year. The amount of unnecessary carbon generated by moving sportspeople and their equipment really cannot be justified. Not to mention all of the building, electrical power, etc. Essentially, there needs to be less international and elite sport, not more. The Olympics should be every 5 or 10 years with intermediary events held regionally. Ditto for football’s world cup. Cricketers should play the Ashes between England and Australia less often (it pains me to say that as a cricket fan). Golf is already split into two ‘tours’ – the American and the European. This should be consolidated and playing in both tours should be frowned upon rather than celebrated. Playing in the Gulf should not be counternanced because of the energy required to maintain golf courses in deserts and the air miles needed to get the top golfers and their entourages there. The same is true of tennis.
And putting horses in aeroplanes so that they can compete in horse races across the planet is neither good for the planet nor fair for the animals concerned.
I appreciate that whole national economies are now based on exporting perishable produce to supermarkets. Particular culprits – asparagus from Peru (even when it is in season in the UK and Europe – note Tesco); sugar snaps, sweetcorn, fresh herbs, etc. Be careful as shoppers, just because it is there, does not mean that it should be bought. We need to be more creative with our cooking to render more locally-produced foods attractive and enjoyable. Some may say that Peru and Kenya, for example, enjoy comparative advantage in terms of climate and land. Be that as it may, but the transportation costs are just too high. At the very least these products can be tinned, jarred, dried, etc.
Here is another one. Turning off soft-drinks vending machines. In fact, all chilling cabinets for soft drinks and chocolate. Chocolate, indeed. We chill chocolate. The vending machine in the building I work in now serves at best 10 people. Nonsense. Soft drinks are unnecessary, chilled in December, particularly so.
Picture: (asparagus) Evan-Amos (wikipedia)
The ongoing cold weather reminds us that something is afoot in global climate change. The list of concerns is growing. The pictures of the sea ice cracking over the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Canada (left) may be extraordinary, but the causes and consequences remain distant for policy makers. Compare global climate change with efforts to save the Euro.
The UK Government now seeks to take climate change off the agenda in schools for under 15 year olds. It is not totally clear why. It may just be because of pressure on the curriculum, but it may be because policy makers do not think that this age group should be taught about climate change. But let us just reflect, in the words of John Ashton (Director of E3G and a fellow of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College) writing in the Guardian newspaper (19 March 2013), “[t]here are two paths now available: one leads towards a world in which by mid-century the basic needs of 9 billion people can be met by co-ordinating a successful response to climate change. The other looks increasingly like descent into competition, fragmentation and conflict, as the interconnected stresses of food, water, and energy insecurity become unmanageable.” The children who will inherit the legacy of previoius generations at least have the right to know what has been done to them.
Picture: taken from http://econnexus.org/; but originating from the European Space Agencies CryoSat-2 satelite and mission to examine the arctic ice caps.
Notwithstanding the intended pun, there is one aspect of this debate I had not thought about. So, last Thursday, we witnessed the publication of a Europe-wide survey highlighting the dangers of processed meat. In fact, we should not eat more than 20g per day, it seems. But Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London, noted on The Today Programme on Radio Four (7 March), that processed food is a direct consequence of the production of fresh meat, or at least the over production of beef, lamb, pork and indeed, chicken. The industry is so ‘efficient’ that it processes the less prime pieces to maximise the value of any animal carcass. The consequence of this, however, is the ubiquity of processed food, and its relative cheapness.
The debate on the Today Programme can be heard here: Lang on Today
For anyone interested in the work of Tim Lang, The Guardian newspaper offers the following: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/mar/25/foodanddrink.features5; his university profile can be found here: http://www.city.ac.uk/arts-social-sciences/academic-staff-profiles/professor-tim-lang
The discovery of horsemeat in ‘value’ burgers in UK supermarkets comes as no surprise. Whether the ‘mafia’ – as alleged by yesterday’s Guardian newspaper – is at the root of it, who knows? And any debate about whether the British have a problem with eating horses is a red-herring. The safety concerns are, of course, a factor. The content of manufactured food is supposed to be traceable. Clearly the inclusion of horse renders the contents far from traceable. Rather amusing really. Though the question is, what type of horse has been included. I do not mean the difference between a pony and a cart horse. I do mean the difference between one full of drugs or disease – or both – that should not be in the food chain and those that are not.
Rather, the issue is about price. Animal protein is expensive to produce. Using traceable meat particularly so, even if it is mechanically re-configured, or whatever they call it. The pressure on food producers is to cut costs in order to produce – for many people – affordable meat products. The pressure often comes from the supermarkets – and it is no surprise that it is the discounters and those offering ‘value’ level products particularly affected here. That said, there is no evidence so far that ‘premium’ products are not also contaminated.
Maybe this is just a critique of global capital. There are so many non-UK subcontractors in this story, one can see how messed up is the food industry. The eventual supply has been traced to Romania (via Cyprus and the Netherlands and France). Why Romania? Arguably, there are still many working horses there. Perhaps more importantly, the cuts in funding for trading standards departments in local authorities has reduced the detection capabilities.
I do not eat meat, but I do often cook from scratch – beans, vegetables and fruits. It takes time to prepare and cook, but I am pretty sure it is cheaper than cooking with meat.
Picture source: Wikipedia (Waugsberg)
So, Rupert Murdoch has apologised for the publication of an offensive cartoon in the Sunday Times. The topic is Israel’s relations with its neighbours and the wall it is building in order to keep them out. “Good fences make good neighbours” as the poet Robert Frost wrote.
The cartoon depicts Benjamin Netanyahu building the wall himself – the mortar is red and what looks like some Palestinians have been built into the wall. I am not going to post the cartoon – readers can see it for themselves here: http://fromthetopcom.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/gerald-scarfe-cements-hate-on-holocaust.html
The Today programme on Radio 4 this morning pitted cartoonist Steve Bell of the Guardian against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle debating – of sorts – the issue. Quite heated in places. Listen here.
The question is, are we talking about Jews – and hence being anti-semitic - or are we talking about Israel and the Israeli government? At the very least, when a country defines itself coterminous with a race, the depiction of a key player in the story – in this case Netanyahu – can be seen as an attack on the race more generally. On Holocaust Memorial Day, particularly so.
Update: 1 February 2013 – Media Lens has now evaluated this case. The assessment is at the following address. http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/alerts-2013/717-cartoon-politics-rupert-murdoch-the-pro-israel-lobby-and-israel-s-crimes.html
“I think it’s a huge worry in circumstances where you put on the agenda the prospect of Britain leaving. Why would we do that? We don’t yet know what we are proposing, or what we can get negotiated. We don’t yet know what the rest of Europe is going to propose. This referendum will happen in four or five years time, if the Conservatives were re-elected. Why not wait and see what we actually get out of this, play our part in shaping the new Europe, but why be in the situation where now you are putting on the table the prospect, four or five years time, of Britain leaving so that we can no longer answer the question, when we are negotiating, is Britain going to stay a member of the European Union or not? We can’t answer that question any more.” (drawn from Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian blog).
Let us unpick that. We – and anyone who trades with us or invests in the country – no longer know if the UK will stay in the European Union. Should the Conservatives win the next election, that will represent at least 5 years or so of uncertainty. It will precipitate the end of the Union between England and Scotland, putting back on track the campaign north of the border to break free, even though an independent Scotland would need to reapply for membership to the EU (until now a disincentive to break free).
Why is David Cameron such a poor strategist? Even though many in his party – and many outside – loathe the EU, the EU remains the largest trading bloc for the UK. That is strategically significant.It is also the case, that a lot of what these people dislike are good things like the working time directive; 48 hours per day is long enough for anyone to work per week. There is a lot that is wrong, but Cameron has now dug in even deeper and diminished the UK’s influence over what is wrong. Not only will the UK not support efforts in Europe to support the Euro (see post: http://weiterzugehen.net/2011/12/10/26-to-1/), but now we are effectively leaving. On that basis, why negotiate with the UK? Moreover, as Blair said in his response, threaten to leave and someone will say “go on then”.
I had to laugh (though it was a painful speech to listen to) when he said that transport metaphors should be dispensed with – cast into some waste bin, only to serve up a platter full of them himself as he ‘progressed’. Astonishing.
Boxing day brings the fox hunters out in their pantomime clothes and claims of victimhood. It is true it took an awful lot of parliamentary time to get this long-overdue piece of legislation in place. There is a solid majority in the parliament and country in favour of it. It is right. Simple. Get used to it. It does not outlaw the fancy dress and dog walking.
The tactics of the landed class to overturn it, however, are evident. Just before Christmas that most traditional and conservative of animal protection bodies, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, came under intense criticism for having committed £300,000 to convict two hunters from the Prime Minister’s local hunt, the Heythrop Hunt. Scadalaously, the loudest voice was the judge at the case. Will the Law Society or whoever regulates these people step in? I doubt it.
Going to law, however, was a no-brainer. An organisation committed to animal protection and the prevention of cruelty (it is in the name) with evidence of intended cruelty against animals legislated against in law, should see those responsible in the dock. And convicted. The State was not bold enough to do it.
Picture source: Michael Gwyther-Jones, Wikipedia
I’ve just watched this documentary in amazement. The corruption story is contemptible. Trump is building a golf resort on the East Coast of Scotland south of Aberdeen. Planning permission was originally rejected by the council – not least because the plan involved the destruction of a unique habitat with SSI (site of special scientific interest) status. The decision was called in by the Scottish Government, led by Alex Salmond, and overturned.
However, there are good people in Trump’s way. Local people whose houses, for Trump, are unwelcome features in the landscape. It is the story of how they have resisted and how the forces of the state have facilitated Trump against the locals. There is an extraordinary scene where the police manhandle the amiable journalist, handcuff him, and bundle him off to the police station in Aberdeen. But that is nothing against the despicable acts being perpetrated against the locals. Their water was cut off and not restored. There is footage of the electricity supply being cut by a digger; and the locals being billed for fences that they did not ask for or need.
Stonewall, the gay rights campaigning group, it seems, risks losing valuable sponsorship from Barclays and Coutts banks. The two banks have threated to withdraw support if Stonewall runs its bigot of the year award again in 2013. Both banks are concerned about being associated with the award after it was given to Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at its annual ceremony last week. A deserved winner. Notwithstanding the bigotry, any award that two ethically-challenged banks struggle with must be hitting the mark.
O’Brien won decisively, reported the Guardian newspaper, ”after describing gay marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion’ of the traditions of marriage and likened it to slavery. The cardinal called it an ‘aberration’ and claimed it might clear the way for polygamous marriages and would cause ‘further degeneration of society into immorality’.
That strikes me as being spoken by a true bigot. Pure folly as well.