Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Lib Dem MP David Taylor unearthed a list of horrific injuries police received during the event, which tells a chilling story of ruthless hippy demonstrators and of real courage under fire by our brave boys in blue:
"stung on finger by possible wasp"
"officer injured sitting in car"
"officer succumbed to sun and heat"
"pain in lower back"
The horror, the horror.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
So when I heard that The Day the Earth Stood Still had been remade my thoughts were mixed.
Remakes are often a mixed bag. The Coen brothers' remake of The Ladykillers was okay, but they shouldn't have touched such a classic which couldn't be bettered. Same with I am Legend (The Omega Man). Get Carter I couldn't bare to watch more than thirty minutes. The Italian Job was a mild diversion, but ultimately pointless.
But then there's Scarface, Eldorado and Ocean's Eleven which bettered their predecessors.
Charley and the Chocolate Factory, The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars (both remakes of Kurosawa classics) equalled their forbears.
The Day the Earth Stood Still comes under the best left alone category. It missed the original's anti war message and 1950s optimism out of adversity ethos that has survived the passage of time. Robert Wise's 1951 film is what the term 'classic' was invented for.
This new version won't be joining my dvd collection. Keanu Reeves as Klaatu just does his wooden thing, with none of the measured compassion and cold reason of Michael Rennie's Klaatu. Although it starts well as a re-imagining of the story, the new film tries too hard to be current, with climate change (although not mentioned) being the reason for our destruction. Klaatu comes to our planet to kill us off, to save the planet and all the other species living here from our excesses. Some great special effects as robot Gort starts taking apart the fabric of human civilisation, the manner of which is slightly remiscent of Spielberg's War of the Worlds.
Ultimately though, it's disappointing, the ending morally ambiguous with a preachy paternalism that bordered on dictatorial.
At least it's not as bad as Indiana Jones crystal skull whatever.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The letter is the usual Tory tosh - build more roads, Labour useless, yada yada yada. She earnestly even tries the jobs joker card while blissfully forgetting which party ruthlessly destroyed the region's industries.
It's interesting that in the letter she gives her address as The Kingsway. Although being Shields born, her blog gives her location as Stepney Green in London. A Lloyds broker presumably working in London, why would she mislead readers about her home address, if not to give the impression of being a local? Is she ashamed to use her London address? And why didn't she mention she is a Tory?
Pitifully, despite this looking like a first move to gain local exposure and garner notice from local Tories, she doesn't really say much different from Hepburn and Miliband; there is little ideological difference between the Labour and the Tories. In fact there is nothing of substance. Even the 'give a man a fish' proverb is just space filling, devoid of any context.
Looking at her blog, the Gazette letter was originally posted as a blog entry back in November. It looks like the blog is going to be used as a campaign tool, given that despite blogging since 2006, she only started blogging (ie giving a shit) about North East issues last month. Expect more.
Oddly, the South Shields Conservative website doesn't mention Karen Allen or her letter, and other bloggers haven't picked it up either.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Police officers collaborated over their statements, which didn't match those of bystanders, CCTV footage went missing, de Menezes faced a smear campaign in the press and now a judge has moved the goalposts of justice.
Like Jailhouselawyer, I think there's little doubt that de Menezes killing was unlawful and that Wright's ruling is a blatant display of judicial prejudice.
But this is what it's for. Protecting individual rights from an authoritarian and illiberal state, policed by an increasingly powerful and militarised police force.
Our parliament (that's our MPs folks) couldn't/wouldn't stop this DNA farming, and the House of Lords refused to do anything about it.
The creeping authoritarianism we've seen in the UK since the 1970s shows a growing illiberal tendency among the British political elites. I suppose we're not alone, the USA has its Patriot Act, we have the Terrorism Act.
The DNA and fingerprinting rules adopted by the police are mostly for the investigation of the commission of crimes not yet committed. In effect, this means that the police consider everyone on the database as a potential criminal, which is contrary to the ethos of presumed innocence. The fact that our police are happy using this mandate gives rise to the argument that the police are already too far drunk on their power.
Tonight I'll be opening a bottle of malt to mark this, it's something worth celebrating. I hope those who normally slag off interfering European institutions as pc liberal lefty bureaucratic monsters are humble enough to accept that European intervention can work.
However, it's a tragedy that this should ever have gone to a European court. We should be able to defend our basic rights here in the UK. Even though the UK is signatory to European and UN conventions on human rights, unfortunately we don't have a specific bill of individual rights here in the UK. Given the growth of police powers, and the unwillingness of our MPs to protect our interests, we need an inalienable bill of rights to help protect us from the state.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Although perhaps a cynic might say that given the coverage that the Gazette lavishes on the Alliance, and the proxy smear tactics of the monkey, they don't need a website.
Friday, November 28, 2008
And top of the pops for the North East section? Cleadon and East Boldon Conservative councillor David Potts.
One piece in the Gazette and the wrath of the homophobic monkey blog is all it took Cllr Potts to go to number one. Jammy bastard.
Kudos David. You are now an honorary red. You join other South Tyneside anti facism heroes such as Peter Murray, Merv Butler and Tom Brennan.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
However, despite Private Eye's desperate attempt to discredit, I won't be one of those who regularly write in to the paper to publicly cancel their subscription in offence.
In the real world, I've yet to meet a green racist homophobic conspiracy theorist sun worshipping tree hugger, but I guess whilst some folk with beliefs I don't agree with exist in the Greens they'll be the minority. After all, David Icke started his political career with the Green Party when it was known as the Ecology Party. Not sure that's a great example though...
Talking to Bryan on the phone, he was as usual quietly circumspect about the names on the BNP list:
"Good riddance. I hope the cunts burn in hell."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
However, it's unfortunate and telling that the Observer's retraction didn't have the same exposure and sensationalist headline as the offending article.
It's more disquieting than you might at first suppose. By using the brand label 'eco-terrorist', the government has manufactured a framework for the police to arrest demonstrators using the Stalinist laws they've been provided with. Couple that with the issue of taser guns, and you have more ingredients for a police state with not just the laws, but the PR and the weapons with which to control the populace.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that the revetment works were needed because of the toxic waste buried at Trow Quarry. Indeed toxic waste and leachates are mysteriously absent. Nor does it mention that courageous whistleblower Peter Collins lost his job with the National Trust because he thought the people of South Tyneside should be made aware of Trow Quarry's toxic legacy, whilst NT and the council wanted it kept quiet.
Also missing is the whitewash inquiry held by South Tyneside Council with 'evidence' from people who walked at Trow sometimes.
This isn't news, it's PR.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So Eagle Eye is not as bad as Indie. By a long mile. Neither is it excellent. A standard popcorn action thriller with CCTV society paranoia thrown in. The twist is guessed early on and Shia LaBeouf (also in Indie) does what he does. He plays a kind of harmless genius slacker who is pulled into a plot by a nasty supercomputer to kill the president and his cabinet . The female-voiced supercomputer is miffed that the president and his poodles are randomly bombing innocent villagers in foreign lands against the pissed-off pc's advice.
This computer is no ordinary nutty HAL; it uses the US Declaration of Independence as it's moral compass and concludes that killing innocent folk breeds terrorism and attacks on the US so the government is failing its duty to keep its people safe. Realising that the electoral system is ill-placed to resolve the situation, the supercomputer decides to bin them with extreme blowingupedness.
In the end the computer gets it's plug pulled, the Pres is saved by LaBeouf after a ridiculous chase and everyone was happy. Except me.
I'm not sure if there was supposed to be a message or moral to this story. If there is, it's that governments should be allowed to get away with murder and it's every American citizen's responsibility to defend that right.
It's fast, plenty of action, fun stunts and enough explosions to keep any popcorn muncher happy.
I just wish the too-cute kid got wasted.
The nuclear industry has jumped on climate change as a last ditch attempt to survive in the face of long-term public opposition, cost escalation and the intractable issue of what to do with nuclear waste. The industry has orchestrated a well-executed spin campaign and has succeeded in putting ‘the nuclear option’ back on the table. However, nuclear power is not carbon neutral, would not be on-stream in time to plug the energy gap or avoid dangerous climate change, and has huge environmental impacts - not least from the huge quantities of radioactive waste created, which no country has yet developed an effective way of dealing with.On Carbon Capture & Storage, their conclusions are close to mine: too much wishful thinking and corporate (and union) interests driving a technology which would be too late.
You can download the report here.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Although I don't have a copy of the list (having a copy may be considered to breach the injunction and several criminal laws), I've had a quick look through it online and it looks like a few people will be embarrassed and at least one may lose her job. Hilariously, one of those listed is a lecturer on Human Rights/Data Protection. Locally, my suspicions about the affiliations of a number of letter writers to the Shields Gazette have been confirmed.
Given the number of people on the list who registered themselves as pagans druids and cosmic folk line dancers (okay, I made that one up) it seems that odd belief structures coexist happily in the brains of these folk.
There is an irony in this. The BNP uses hate site Redwatch to publish the names, addresses and photos of its opponents in an effort to intimidate. Now many BNP members are pooping themselves that they've been outed.
Not irony, karma. I'm sure the BNP's new-age, tree-hugging members will appreciate the beauty of the cosmic balance.
Monday, November 17, 2008
A private company will run the site and make a hefty profit. If they make a mistake, irradiate Cumbria or the Irish Sea, or kill someone, then the tax payer foots the bill. If the taxpayer wants to find out what's going on, tough, as the government has ruled that as a private company the consortium is exempt from Freedom if Information requests. This is despite the fact they will be carrying out a function of the state.
To hide this public liability this Malcolm Wicks broke parliamentary procedures.
There is no UK plc, just a minor and pliant subsidiary.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
This symbol of honour and sacrifice also silently represents a shame upon our nation. Few dare speak of it.
Our heroes rely on charity.
According to the RBL,
"38% of ex-Service pensioners report an income below the minimum required for healthy living"That's a national disgrace.
Until our governments recognise the sacrifices made by our service men and women and properly support them and their families, the selling of remembrance poppies will be stained by our country's failure to properly honour our heroes.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Whilst they only covered a couple from Paul Rodgers' back catalogue it was great to hear him sing live. Brilliant.
Monday, November 03, 2008
The US government, and by poodle extension ours, considers Gary a terrorist and evil genius who cleverly outwitted the mighty US Department of Defense and NASA by accessing their computers in the "the greatest military hack in history". He was trying to find out information on UFOs. When he successfully accessed the computers he left messages saying 'your security is crap'. Hardly public enemy number one.
There's no doubt he's been a very naughty boy and justice must be done. But why not here in the UK, where we don't execute or torture people?
Some MPs want a guarantee from the US that McKinnon will be allowed to serve any sentence imposed in Britain in special consideration that he has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Requiring guarantees from a government which executes people with mental problems seems a little optimistic.
But this is our government. They meekly excuse the human rights abuses of the US.
If only McKinnon had been a Chilean dictator responsible for the death and torture of thousands, instead of a UFO saddo, he would have been laughing.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
...the Republicans have had the worst campaign that could ever be possible. The candidate looked like there couldn't possibly be anyone in the country more idiotic, but he scoured the continent, found someone who was and made her his deputy.And this:
One reason why it remains closer than it should be is obvious. Before the election's over, there'll be at least one Republican supporter on Fox News who'll say, "I think that one of the areas in which McCain scores heavily over his opponent is he's proved himself far more adept and capable, over the years, at being white. And for all Senator Obama's flair and charisma this is a skill he clearly lacks."Although on reflection, I think this comes under the "Many a truth spoken in jest" category.
Through luck, stupid voters and theft, the dumb-looking Repub guy won the last two elections. The evil bastards could win it again.
Monday, October 27, 2008
"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
Couldn't happen in this country you say? Then what about BNP bad boy bomber Tony Lecomber? Infamous BNP blogger Green Arrow has acknowledged the "The 14 Words" as an article of faith for the far right.
This is what drives the BNP - white supremacy and hate.
In South Tyneside we have seen a rash of racist graffiti matching as the BNP attempts to expand it's vote. When a taxi firm in Jarrow removed a BNP poster from it's office, illegal BNP posters started littering lamposts in Jarrow.
Extreme philosophy breeds extreme behaviour. Fundamentalist extremism breeds in the BNP's dark heart.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Miliband wept over sovereign rights during the Russian invasion of Georgia. Civil liberties in Zimbabwe. Expressed regret over rendition flights. After his part in perpetuating this injustice, colluding with successive governments, he has precisely ZERO credibility when it comes to human rights.
Bryan's already covered it with his dry humour. My rage is still at DefCon 1. Bryan has a point. If the British government had such plans for the Falklands, Scilly Isles or the Channel Islands there would rightly be an uproar.
Most of those folk are white aren't they? The Ilois people of the Chagos are darker.
This episode does highlight another issue. Miliband doesn't take all the blame. After all, you could argue that he's only Gordon's (and by extension Dubya's) bitch.
The decision to perpetuate this ethnic cleansing was taken by Law Lords: score line 3 - 2. That's at least three unelected, bewigged and pampered fuckwits who think violating human rights is a jolly wheeze, especially when it's on behalf of the Crown.
The Queen. Yes, whilst Queenie is busying herself sniffing fresh paint, walking on red carpets and congratulating former communist countries for clawing back to freedom, the Chagossians get royally butt-fucked on her behalf.
Okay, technically the Queen has no power, it lies in Gordon's hands. But in nearly 40 years she hasn't said a peep about these people. Her subjects. We can conclude that like all those in the power Jenga tower, she couldn't really care less.
What really matters is the law of the goose and the common.
"The law locks up both man and woman,
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose,
Who steals the common from the goose."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It's local and it's also about solutions. It's the guy outside M&S selling the Big Issue trying to earn a living. It's Citizen's Advice giving that vital help and hope. It's even volunteers helping children learn how to read. It's those and a thousand other stories.
During the recent problems in the banking system one sector of the finance industry has remained unscathed. Credit unions.
Credit unions don't rely on borrowing from banks or money markets. They don't buy up debt or loan books from other financial institutions. Risk is controlled very carefully. Members' interests come before profit and there are no shareholders. Credit unions operate simply, using the savings of their members to make loans to other members.
They are mostly run by volunteer members: for the community, by the community.
All credit unions exist in a limited environment called a Common Bond. It could be anything from a simple staff or union savings scheme, to larger service organisations serving a community like the excellent South Tyneside Credit Union.
Often, credit unions are a way for those who have been abandoned by the big banks to save and borrow sustainably. People have been helped out of the poverty traps of pawn shops, cheque cashing shops and doorstep loan sharks. They've avoided being ripped off by high street high interest electrical goods stores. Some even used credit unions a couple of years back to fill the funding gap after the collapse of hamper firm Farepak.
What's more, savings in credit unions are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the same way as deposits held in banks and building societies.
Anyone can have a credit union savings account, and at the minute you'd be daft not to. If you haven't joined one, you can find your local one now. As well as members, credit unions need volunteers, so if you've got some spare time and want to learn some new skills (or teach some of yours) your local credit union would like to hear from you.
South Tyneside Credit Union
119-121 Prince Edward Road,
Tel (0191) 454 7677
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The sea of people in white walking down Princess Street was something to see with your own eyes, and be part of.
But it achieved fuck all.
There was some disappointment from many who thought, like me, that Bob Geldof's Live 8 hijacked the event, focussing media attention on the televised concerts and pretty people looking concerned. His event turned the eyes away from Edinburgh to the wealthy stars who arrived in jets and limos, performing in their designer gear to a crowd consisting largely of the label generation.
This wasn't helped by MPH's own little branding tool, the white band.
The reality is, that after the events, the world's governments got on with business as usual carving up the world for their wealthy benefactors.
Despite the disappointment and lack of global action, it doesn't mean we should give up. As well as global justice, there's poverty on our streets, in our faces. But our government don't care about these people. They don't invite you to posh dinners, contribute to election campaigns. Bejaysus - most of them don't even vote! MPH was one of those things which helped politicise me and realise that the current raft of the three 'grey' political parties really don't give a shit about anyone.
I'm lucky enough not to have experienced extreme poverty. Whilst our family was one of the many thousands to exposed to Thatcher's brutal and ruthless culling of traditional Tyneside industries I was young enough not to realise or not care that we were poor. Looking back, I'm under no illusions - despite some of the hardships we encountered we had food on our table and a roof over our heads. There were many people in South Shields and on our own estate much worse off than us.
The Thatcher era heralded a me, me, me UK which is still with us today, from the rich robber bankers to the feckless hoodies and chavs, to twats in 4x4s parking on pavements. This is as much as a poverty of ethics, expectations and responsibility. No such thing as society.
Now the world is experiencing a brief blip in it's economic fortunes, partly because of greed, partly because of stupidity and partly because of the strict adherence to the religion of free market economics. Many people in the UK will suffer, but the repercussions will fall the hardest on the developing nations as the developed nations reign in aid spending.
It's a disturbing irony that since MPH western governments have kept their hands and their cash in their pockets whilst developing nations struggled, yet quickly found money to throw at the financial system.
Blog Action Day is in a small way, with thousands of people, trying to keep the issue of poverty on the agenda. If we keep having the conversation, we won't be letting anyone forget.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I remember the very first English lesson, which entailed writing a contract in the back of our English books. It outlined his simple requirements - work hard, no defacing the books and homework in on time - that left us in no doubt who was the boss. Fresh out of junior school it was terrifying.
Many of his less well performing students (including me at one time) will remember "Mr Wilson's slipper". Often chalked with a target or text designed to be left on the backside in a faint chalk mirror image, the slipper gained a legendary status at Cleadon. However, pain wasn't the purpose or the effect - the sheer indignity of it all was enough to make you want to avoid a repeat performance.
But his high standards and similarly high expectations of his students' technical abilities was matched by an intuition and skill in encouraging students to nurture their imaginations. He was a great teacher.
I owe what command of grammar I have to him (which is hopefully good) and to a lesser extent his deadly slipper.
In sport, he had equally high expectations on the field and on the hills, his encouragement reinforcing a simple message: success takes hard work, but can still be fun.
And driving around in that deep purple MK3 Ford Cortina must have took some balls.
For what was a hard school, he was a suitably tough teacher when necessary, but when he smiled and laughed you couldn't help but join him.
I only knew him a short while, and it's been several years since I've spoken with him, but the image of those impish eyes and that mischievous grin will stay with me.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Despite this there's great excitement in the US when the televised debates start. Such is the strong partisan element of US politics. But voters get to watch debates between two candidates among whose top corporate contributors are the financial institutions who have screwed the banking system.
It's pure theatre.
US voters don't get to see the third or fourth parties in the debate. This is because the televised debates are stitched up by and between the Republicans and Democrats not to allow any third parties into the game. The debates are structured beforehand and subjects decided upon to leave the viewer with little more than a press conference with rehearsed spin and catchy sound bites.
Such manipulation is as cynical and undemocratic as Putin's fiddling of the Russian presidential elections, where opponents to his heir were refused coverage or given airtime when no-one was watching.
The United States claims to export democracy. In the US presidential elections, democratic choice is a fiction.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
1 You shall not put your blog before your integrity
2 You shall not make an idol of your blog
3 You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin
4 Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog
5 Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes
6 You shall not murder someone else's honour, reputation or feelings
7 You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind
8 You shall not steal another person's content
9 You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger
10 You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking; Be content with your own content
Hat-tip to jailhouselawyer.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
And it's free of charge. If you have a local story, let them know.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Key in the list of charges is that a developer and retailer were chosen before South Tyneside Council put it to public consultation.
And this is the council that praises itself for consultations?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
However, for the last couple of days there's been a distinctly poo smell in my little corner of Shields, which has been tugging at the nostrils without respite. Whiteleas, Cleadon Park, the Nook and Harton have been fairly mingin'. Despite a fairly warm night last night, windows stayed closed. It only just now seems to be dissipating.
Or "Middlesbrough Syndrome" is kicking in.
It happens a couple of times a year when farmland bordering Cleadon and Whiteleas gets mucked with pig shit. I know its got to be done, but begads it honks.
But, it's obvious that the member of staff responsible for the poster faux pas doesn't see anything wrong with the BNP, which is a bit concerning. It seems in some quarters the BNP has been successful in burying its Nazi heritage behind class struggle and snappy suits.
Some people are either easily fooled, or actually agree with the BNP's racist agenda and simplistic solutions.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I've got no problem with political parties getting their posters up in business premises. Several candidates at the last local election were fortunate to have their posters displayed in shops and pubs.
However, the BNP is not a normal political party. Despite its attempts to play respectable, the BNP is a racist party with shamelessly racist members. It's leader, Nick Griffin, has denied the Holocaust and has been convicted for inciting racial hatred. Many of its councillors and members are not strangers to the courts on charges for fraud, violence, drug dealing, and even bomb making and murder.
The BNP's publicity material is rife with exaggeration and lies, and conspires to raise a cult of white victimhood amongst the British working class and forment hostility towards ethnic minorities and immigrants. The content of the message boards of the BNP and its sister Stormfront illustrate the race hate that forms the dark heart of the BNP.
As the votes for the BNP have grown in South Tyneside, so has the racist graffiti on our streets. Extreme viewpoints feeds extreme behaviour.
The BNP is a cancer.
Express Taxis has its freephone number up in shops like Morrisons. Many of the firm's customers won't be aware of what kind of organisation Express is endorsing. I would also hate to think that South Tyneside Council has contracts with Express and its subsidiaries whilst the taxi firm is giving a publicity platform to such a divisive and hate-filled organisation.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
"outraging public decency and causing harassment, alarm and distress to the public"
The distress was caused by a Jesus with a nice big cock strapped on. Presumably Ms Mapfuwa travelled specially from Brentwood in Essex to be outraged at this crappy monument to a priapic prince of heaven. Must have been a fun day out.
Whether you consider it art or not (and I think it's a bit age 12), or a clichéd conceit, in a room full of other brand icons with erections, you can't fail to see the attempt at some wry humour and a clever eye for attracting publicity.
Perhaps Mapfuwa should have picked a better work to go for, rather than something which is pretty shit. At least she's guaranteed it worldwide success wherever it goes.
I find an odd and twisted morality in a religion where it's okay for young children to see images in churches and schools of a man being crucified - a hideously cruel and barbaric method of execution - with a very human visage of a man in pain and despair, but images of the same guy with his old man out in an art gallery are taboo.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
Due to an ankle injury I was unable to enjoy the mountains (Ben Resipole was a neighbour) so I had to enjoy them from afar.
I came back home to South Shields to find straggly tomato plants after a deluge, an overgrown lawn full of frogs and this little beauty, a Common Darter.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
That's right, Carl Zanetti manufactured his own chemical weapon delivery mechanism and intentionally took a knife on his little jaunt. In any court that says premeditation.
He sprayed one of his victims in the face with the ammonia and smashed a glass panel of their front door trying to get in. One could only be glad that Zanetti failed to get in the door and dread what might have happened had he been successful.
And the reaction of South Tyneside's top Tory David Potts?
To give Zanetti a reference.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Tories are going soft on crime. It's also a timely reminder that even in the 21st Century those with the right social connections can still get first class treatment from the beak.
Don't let the bastards get you down eh?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Well, the police in Kent are certainly making a name for themselves. Welcome to Airstrip One in the 21st Century.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I have an alarm in my head which goes off whenever I hear the phrase "carbon neutral". My right eyebrow involuntarily raises in a Spock-like fashion and I look for the catch. The term itself sits uncomfortably with me, along with 'carbon offset'. Anyhow, the concept goes like this: when the fuel is burned it releases only the amount of CO2 the biological fuel source absorbed during growth. So far so green. The cynical devil on my shoulder argues that under the same rules fossil fuels could be classified as carbon neutral as they only emit the amount of CO2 that was sequestered millions of years ago by dead vegetation.
To be truly carbon neutral, the process of growing, gathering, processing and transportation should not result in a net increase in emissions. That means that before the fuel gets to the tank in your car each step in the process must either be powered by renewable energy and/or more carbon neutral energy sources.
In an economic culture where growth rules, successful carbon neutral fuels would ensure that we become a victim of that success. The algae fuel would be subject to usual market forces (assuming we avoid daft minimum biofuel use rules like the EU is trying to push), so as demand raises, so will production. Whilst the algae sucks up CO2, when it burns it will put it back. There is no growth, but there also is no net reduction in emissions. The most that can be hoped for is that the rate of CO2 emissions growth may be reduced.
Whilst such initiatives may sound impressive, they don't meet the key challenge - we need to reduce our carbon emissions. Even if every car in the world could sustainably run on biofuels, we would still need to make drastic cuts in the carbon budget if we want a hope of staving off runaway climate change.
With this post I'm afraid I'm calling shenanigans somewhat on many greens who see a future in algal biofuels and a way of weaning our economy off fossil fuel. Don't get me wrong, I can see a limited opportunity for such a product, but only one which fits into a diverse energy source model, with the focus on net reductions in CO2 rather than mere neutrality.
So I'm not so cynical that I can't see the investment possibilities, and I'd much prefer to see more investment in such initiatives than drilling for more oil, but a lot of people will get rich on what is essentially a status quo technology, a 'less worse' solution.
To see these biofuels as some great rescue from growing emissions could be dangerous wishful thinking.
The road fundamentalists will hate it. The libertarians will fume against a reduction in their right to fuck up the planet.
The sooner some brave PM brings lower road speeds here the better.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
"Every member of the Labour party carries with them a simple guiding mission on the membership card: to put power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few."Labour have privatised and off-balance sheeted beyond even the most ardent Thatcherite's free market wet dreams. Much of our public services are being run now for private profit at a higher cost than if it had been run by the public sector. More is being prepped to go into private hands. Those membership cards must be so buried behind wads of cash that the "guiding mission" has been suffocated.
Anyhow, it's already been covered by Curly, but what has really interested me is the local angle.
First is the Gazette's coverage of the story. A massive front page splash reporting the article written for, hold on, it doesn't say where! Even the Gazette editorial could only just manage to strain itself so far to describe the source of the piece as "a national newspaper". If you're going to lift whole blocks of text from another newspaper then you should at least have the courtesy to give it credit. It's really bad show chaps.
Also in the Gazette, Alliance newbie councillor and former chairman of the South Shields Labour Party and former Labour councillor Geraldine White was quoted as saying:
"He doesn't promise anything unless he can deliver."Whoa! Way to be opposition there Geraldine! But that's not all. On the Gazette website there's a fuller account, getting positively all moist over our own 'I'm David'. She swooned:
"David is a man of honour, and that is a quality which is highly prized in politics. He doesn't promise anything unless he can deliver. I endorsed him when he came to South Shields as MP in 2001, because he was open, honest and frank. On a personal level, he's very funny, he was [sic] a great sense of humour, and he adores his family."It's kind of her to remind us that she endorsed the guy: friend and confidant of Tony Blair, who was parachuted into a safe Labour seat, and so close to former MP and waste of space David Clark's mysteriously timely ennoblement. Yay cronyism! And now she endorses DM for PM. Awww. It makes yer feel all warm don't it?
With enemies like Geraldine, Labour don't need too many friends. I think that's how it goes. Surely it can't be long before she's welcomed back into the Labour fold?
Monday, July 28, 2008
I say 'their waste strategy', because the consultation was manipulated to favour incineration, and the councils' Waste Partnership doesn't want us oiks to know the details of what's really going on behind the scenes. Meetings are held in camera and Freedom of Information requests hit the bureaucratic buffers.
Expect the council and it's mouthpiece Fiona Brown to crow over the funding announcement. Similarly, expect the council and DEFRA to keep their yaps shut about DEFRA’s assessment of the Expression of Interest (the bid document referred to DEFRA) being kept from public view.
The councils don't want it released under the excuse of commercial confidentiality (for the councils that is, not private companies) and DEFRA is only too happy to oblige.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Watt for watt, incinerators produce about three times more CO2 than a gas-fired power station, spew nasty cancer causing dioxins in airborne particulates over the surrounding area and leaves a waste slag at the end of the process that's so toxic that its got to go to specialist landfill sites.
Minor pollution is monitored by local authorities, but major pollution emissions is within the remit of the Environment Agency. Domestic waste incinerators have to operate under the Integrated Pollution and Prevent Control (IPPC) system, which is evaluated and monitored by the Environment Agency. That means the EA certainly thinks that incinerators have a major emissions problem and they should keep an eye on them.
You would have thought a cabinet member would be clued up enough to know about that before talking shite.
If his reported statement is true, Eddie and Labour seriously suck donkey balls on this issue, and clearly shouldn't be let anywhere near anything as dangerous as a decision, never mind an unquestioning and pliant print media. He's a liability.
Let's hope he makes another u-turn.
In August there will be a demonstration at Kingsnorth power station in Kent against the plans to allow a new coal fired station. It will be interesting to see how the government, police and a willing right wing media will spin it.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The Great Global Warming Swindle, like Against Nature, had a huge impact, persuading many people that man-made climate change is not taking place. I attended a presentation by a pollster from Ipsos Mori who showed that there had been a decline last year in the number of people who believed that global warming was a real phenomenon — primarily, she said, as a result of Durkin's film.Sound familiar?
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Climate Bill was taken up by South Shields MP David Miliband during his tenure as Secretary of State for the Environment, and could possibly be the only concrete contribution this government has made towards battling with climate change. Since the Bill started discussions, the government has dragged its feet over key issues, including the 2050 target, annual targets, ministerial accountability and 'carbon budget' reporting.
But in South Africa, David Miliband agreed to a target "in the range of 80% to 95% by 2050". He definitely played a blinder.
I find it hard to say this.
I like it.
But not only did he do this, he also took the opportunity to big himself up about his newsletters.
Talk about political opportunism.
It's an odd move which whilst mildly amusing to many will alienate some, particularly when some of his Alliance colleagues have used the 'letter in the Gazette' method of communication in the past. It's as if he's intentionally trying to bait his opponents into the open, daring them to publicly respond.
If you took his PR bullying seriously, you may interpret a suggestion that he thinks that every electoral candidate should have the cash resources that he so obviously enjoys. The implication is that if you can't afford to print thousands of thank you letters, you don't care.
Such a view is not unexpected, or inconsistent. Khan has already tried to claim the moral high ground from those who would receive reasonable recompense for their responsibilities as a councillor. His 2007 election material employed innuendo and untruth about the financial motivations of his electoral opponents for the Beacon and Bents ward.
Khan is no stranger to Gazette publicity. When the Pier's 'Dolly Plaque' was stolen, Khan offered a cash reward, "no questions asked", for its return. He may not have bought the plaque back, but I'm sure it didn't hurt his electoral chances. Add to this the legal bill for his failed legal challenge to last year's election result and it starts to look like Khan's road to election success was a very expensive business.
Since the Branleys have also publicly forgone councillors' expenses, there's a feeling that the leadership of the Alliance party has a rather paternalistic attitude that implies that only those rich enough to stand as councillor should do so.
The suggestion that democracy is the plaything of the well off is extremely disquieting.
However, I agree with Khan on the need to stay involved in local issues, whether you're standing for election or not. If you're interested in what happens in your town or local area you've got to stay connected. His "they suddenly reappear as if by magic" high horse surely applies to his Alliance colleagues as much as any other council hopeful.
Only last year, two unpaid volunteers from South Tyneside Friends of the Earth were putting the last nails into the coffin of the Fellgate business park plan at the Local Development Framework inquiry. Lined up against them for South Tyneside Council was a barrister and a host of council planning professionals. It was a very empty hall, with only two people turning up to offer encouragement for the FOE Fellgate challengers. George Waddle, Steve Harrison and Geraldine White were nowhere to be seen.
I'm sure that Alliance councillors provide a great service to their wards, and given such a rousing letter from Mr Khan, I really do hope that the Alliance will stop sleeping and missing things like the LDF, and see the bigger picture and start to really get involved.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Some South Tyneside junior schools in the borough have used their initiative and introduced their own ways to tackle this, some having already released their Sats results. Others haven't.
For example, Boldon and Ridgeway junior schools already have passed the Sats results to parents, presumably by going through the returned papers and collating the information for themselves. But Harton junior school is holding off until they receive the electronic results and will be releasing them on Tuesday 15th July, a matter of just three days before the end of term. One day if the Unison strike goes ahead.
For children who are moving from schools like Harton Juniors to senior schools in the next term, this means that some parents will be attending parent's evenings next week without knowing what their child's results are.
Good on Ridgeway and Boldon, but it's unfortunate that this issue couldn't have been grasped at an executive level in the council to ensure a consistent approach. True, the Sats problem isn't the making of the schools or the council, but some schools have found a way round the difficulties.
The more I'm exposed to how South Tyneside administers it's education, the more convinced I become that the structure is riddled with incompetence and ambivalence.
Note: South Shields MP David Miliband's chum Scott 'Duffers' Duffy is at the helm of Harton Juniors governor's board.
"I'll say once again that we are are not a party."Well, it's not the first time the Branley tongue has slipped. During the election, Branley presented an election statement for the Gazette on behalf of the Alliance where she referred to herself as:
"leader of the largest minority party which are the independents on South Tyneside Council"It's a pity the Gazette missed this and failed to call her on it. But of course,
"I'll say once again that we are are not a party."But really, what is the Alliance so scared of? As local bloggers and David Potts have pointed out, the Alliance is to all intents and purposes a political party. The key difference is that in their current non-status, their funding, advertising and spending slips into a grey area of regulatory scrutiny, when real parties (which includes the Progressives) are fully exposed to electoral checks. That should give any voter some cause for concern.
David Potts makes a fair comment - why don't they register as a party? But instead of a clear explanation of why they shy away from registering, the Alliance goes straight on the attack. And not just one, but two Alliance councillors sick em. Hardly being open and honest with the electorate are they?
Perhaps the Alliance should register themselves with the Electoral Commission before someone else does. It shouldn't be too difficult for a former Alliance member to register himself as such under Electoral Commission regulations.
But let's not forget that another independent grouping who enjoyed the Gazette party political broadcast, the 'Real Independents'. They've been left out of this debate. Perhaps they should show a fine example and their moral superiority and register themselves? I hope Cllr Potts does the right thing and calls them to task too.
In the article, I also found Mrs Branley's description of the Alliance party rather interesting:
"like-minded individuals who've come together to organise politically against the Labour group that has dominated local politics for decades"Hold on, if I remember correctly, Mrs Branley and her husband Allan are both former Labour councillors. Also, Geraldine White, the new councillor for Fellgate who cruised in on an anti-Labour ticket, was herself a Labour councillor. She also enjoyed the dizzy height of Chairman of South Shields Labour Party at the same time the council was devising the plans to concrete over the Fellgate green belt.
So they, and their supporters and families, helped Labour dominate local politics. Funny old world, isn't it?
Ironic quote of the day goes to opportunist politician Ahmed Khan for this beauty:
"This is typical of an opportunist politician like David Potts."It's the way he tells 'em!
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
We've seen the impact of this kind of behaviour already destroy the Grand Banks cod fishing.
There is no shortage of solutions: protect spawning grounds from fishing, create reserves, stop beam and reef net trawling and even perhaps paying fisherman not to fish to allow fishing grounds and stocks to recover.
And say goodbye to cheap fish.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Okay, it's cheap class shot. But if you want a real indication of where the Tories are over climate change then here you have it. They're all over the place.
I had some hopes for Boris. Despite being a professional buffoon and a Tory, he ticked some green boxes. A cyclist; against Heathrow expansion. It looked quite promising.
Personally, I was in two minds about the CO2 levy. On the one hand it would help London reduce it's transport CO2 emissions by encouraging some people to move over to lower emissions vehicles, whilst at the same time raising money for the authority to adapt to climate change. Those new flood plans will have to be paid from somewhere.
On the other hand though, the congestion charge was about congestion, not emissions, and it seems unfair to target one sector of society (albeit one which is rich enough to afford to run fuel guzzlers) when any initiative to reduce emissions should be equitable.
But the real issue at stake, in which Boris rolled over, is a matter of real principle and democracy: the concept of who decides how London (and by extension our society) should be run. Porsche said they knew what was right for London, and took the Mayor to court. It should be beholden on any mayor to challenge Porche's arrogant presumption of superiority. But once in Ken's office, Boris couldn't wait to let the German toff-mobile makers win and sign them a cheque for £400k. He didn't even negotiate a suitable compromise.
Boris' unconditional surrender to Porsche's legal blitzkrieg couldn't be much clearer - the rights of a luxury car manufacturer and its customers come before action on climate change and the concept of the primacy of the office of the state to run state affairs.
It should keep the CBI happy for a nanosecond though.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
The government has been banging on about disconnecting from fossil fuels, and here is one of the renewable energies that can form a valuable part of a diverse renewable energy solution.
The details of the EDM are here. Go on, bang off a quick email or letter to your MP.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Papers by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace on Natural Selection where presented publicly for the first time. The low-key event was a precursor to the release of Darwin's The Origin of Species 18 months later, which had been 20 years in the making.
It's probably the single most important theory in biology, but also had the unintended consequence of putting a very big nail in the coffin of religion by erasing the credibility of pretty much any creation story.
I raise a glass to them.
Okay then, two.
Monday, June 30, 2008
It just invites crude and childish mockery from the likes of me. Excellent.
I'm mystified about this "militant secularism" thing. It seems to be one of these buzz phrases used by religious at the moment, along with "militant atheist". There must be some naming convention: Bad Things must be prefixed with the title 'militant'. It's not as if we have legions of suicide atheists or a secular paramilitary wing of the Richard Dawkins Foundation stirring up all kinds of trouble. The phrase is slightly ridiculous, and utterly dishonest. Propaganda.
If there is a whiff of militancy, it's from these very separatist fundamentalist nut jobs, who are miffed at not being as authoritarian as Muslims, even emulating the Muslim propagation structure by planning to set up their own Madrasa style theological schools, thrashing out their own extremist views of Christianity.
Normally, as a non believer, I wouldn't care less about an ideological schism in the Anglican church. Get on with it. But this new cult of intolerance and bigotry with its missionary zeal will try to take its (largely homophobic) message far and wide, and will, like the Catholic Church, try to trespass into secular life and the business of the state, championing Iron Age supernatural myths as a basis for a moral philosophy.
Hopefully it won't get that bad. Perhaps they'll implode under the critical mass of their own hate.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
After trying to crush free speech and losing, religious fundamentalist blowhard Stephen Green has announced that he doesn't have the money to put where his mouth is and is threatening to declare himself bankrupt to avoid paying the £90,000 costs awarded to Mark Thompson and Jonathan Thoday during the frivolous 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' legal action.
Graciously asking for the costs to be dropped, Green said:
"For these rich, powerful men to pursue me into the bankruptcy courts over money I don't have would be vindictive."
Bless his magnanimous humbleness.
Green and Christian Voice have also put their faith in an online petition to try and gain support for their cause. Apart from the hilarity of some of the petition comments, the carbon copy nature of a number of them suggests some petition padding.
So far he's collected 451 online signatures. By my reckoning if these deeply religious folk really back Green, they could chip in £200 each, save their souls and Green from martyrdom.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Whilst the government justifies the gutting of the planning laws on the basis of planning for climate change, the new system will not recognise climate change, the environment or people. It will, however, recognise what's good for the CBI and its chums.
This move has put planning firmly into the hands of a free market economic fundamentalism that subordinates our society to the demands of big business. Gordon Brown has managed to smash our right to speak out against developments, and turn into another one of his pet pfi projects. Privatising democracy.
And who did this?
The very fuckers we voted for.
Want to stop a nuclear power station on your doorstep? An incinerator next to your kids' school? What about your house being demolished for that new motorway?
Now citizen, there's fuck all you can do about it, and you can thank your MP for that.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Here's his breakdown of the Ten Commandments.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Norman had a well deserved reputation for fine craftsmanship and engineering, and had an infectious love of all things cycling. His bikes have been many people's introduction to cycling and his experimentation with different cycle forms appealed to hard core enthusiasts and occasional riders alike. I've been the lucky owner of a couple of his bikes, one of which I bought when I was 18 and I still have but is sadly gathering dust in the hut.
Both Norman and his late wife Marion were both founding members of South Tyneside Friends of the Earth.
Whilst he died relatively young in modern terms, his continued cycling proved that you're never to old to get on your bike. Maybe it's time I dusted off mine.
A true local hero.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."
Friday, June 13, 2008
If MacKenzie stands, it will be for the Sun, and ultimately the Rupert Murdoch party.
As we've seen in the past, the Murdoch empire will swing into action in support of its chosen candidate. Such a cheapening of our electoral system, bankrolled by a foreign media mogul, leaves a bad taste and is incredibly worrying.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Ahmed Khan said:
"Comparing us to the Labour party is a nonsense. We're not a party, and any attempts to make us into one are swiftly quashed."Nonsense eh? We'll ignore the number of old Labour bodies in the Alliance, but the term "swiftly quashed" sounds oddly like a whip.
Jane Branley said:
"Everyone's got to find an excuse to leave a political party, and it seems that Coun Defty has found his."What? Khan just said you're not a party! Someone's out of the loop here.
To add to the confusion, the Gazette has referred to the Alliance as a party several times, even giving their 'party leader' Jane Branley the opportunity to voice her party's position before the last election in an on-line video broadcast. In her on-line pre-election address, she said that she was:
"leader of the largest minority party which are the independents on South Tyneside Council"Uh-oh, there goes the P-word again. But hold on, the Alliance website says in big red letters:
"The Independent Alliance is NOT AN ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL PARTY"So there we have it. They are a political party, and they're not a political party. I hope that's cleared things up.
The Alliance piously made a lot of capital out of the peculiarities of last year's Beacon and Bents voting, so it seems a tad hypocritical that they don't apply the same rigorous electoral expectations to themselves.
As Curly pointed out, to all intents and purposes the Alliance is a party. Why don't they stop hiding behind ambiguous electoral rules and do the right thing and register as one?
Brown's desperate attempt to bolster his leadership, embodied in raising the pre-charge detention limit for terrorism suspects to 42 days, rallied most of the pliant troops who put party politics before the protection of our civil liberties. But not without some last minute horse-trading.
I've never often had an occasion to agree with Diane Abbott, but she rightly accused the government of:
"trading ancient civil liberties in a grubby bazaar"Every concession Brown gave the wavering backbenchers was bought with another scrap of our freedom.
Kudos to Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) and Chris Mullin (Sunderland South), the only Tyne/Wear Labour MPs with the cojones to stand up against Brown. Respect to all who voted against this disgusting charade.
PS - the Unionists where whores under the Tories. They're still on their back - but taking Brown's shilling.
Monday, June 09, 2008
What a complete fruit loop. Perhaps someone should offer counselling to the bigoted dysfunctional shit shower that is the DUP.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
The campaign for improved poultry welfare has been picked up by the likes of Compassion in World Farming and various celebs, as unfortunately we are dependent on retailers and the ethical concerns of consumers to drive a humane farming policy which should really be addressed by Government.
The MPs who voted for their furry fox friends aren't the only hypocrites.
I've shopped at Tesco. It was a poor compromise of sorts - they led the way in organic food in terms of supermarket retailing, but I was unsettled by their sharp approach to planning and crushing local competition, known as 'Tescopoly'. The fact that their type of business is dependent on, and encourages, growth in burning fossil fuels, burns too.
Pushing the trolley around their stores, it's hard to reconcile the comfort of the nice shiny clean surroundings with the ethical dilemmas inherent in the business models of the big food retailers.
I'm aware that there's constant compromise with any purchase choice, but sometimes, enough is enough.
I can't stomach Tesco's behaviour any more: their refusal to recognise the impact of the type of chicken farming they profit from and dirty tricks they're using to keep it that way.
If Tesco took steps to take their chicken supply to a higher standard of animal welfare like the RSPCA Freedom Food standard it would be a start, and the rest of the retail grocery sector would follow.