Friday, August 31, 2007

Give us the money or the rainforest gets it!

A couple of interesting articles in the papers today. First this one:

Oil has been pumped from here for almost four decades and the result, say environmentalists, is 1,700 square miles of industrial contamination, with rivers poisoned, wildlife wiped out and humans falling sick.

But now, mindful of the environmental and political cost, the state has made a startling proposal: if wealthy nations pay Ecuador $350m (£174m) a year - half of the estimated revenue - it will leave the oil in the ground.

Supporters say it is an idea whose time has come, a logical step forward from carbon offsetting in which rich polluters in developed countries compensate for environmental damage caused by their consumer habits.

Since it was first floated in June there have been promising signals, said Alberto Acosta, a former mining minister and close ally of President Rafael Correa. The German and Norwegian governments have expressed interest, as have parliamentarians from Italy, Spain and the European Union. "This could be a historic accommodation," he said. Donors could pay in cash, debt relief or other indirect ways.

Some greens champion the proposal as a way to protect biodiversity and combat global warming while allowing a poor country to develop. "It's not utopian, it's realistic," said Esperanza Martínez, of the Quito-based Acción Ecológica.

But others are sceptical. They predict that rich countries will not stump up the money and that Ecuador's government will ultimately find its oil bounty too tempting to pass up. The government and oil companies are already eyeing another chunk of Amazonian rainforest, the Yasuni national park, a Unesco-designated biosphere reserve. Beneath part of the 982,000-hectare (2.45m-acre) park lie the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini oilfields, with an estimated 1bn barrels of heavy crude. For the cash-strapped government this is a tempting bounty potentially worth up to $700m a year.

Then this piece on fair trade:

ETHICAL consumerism has grown so fast that supermarkets are fighting to have the shiniest halo, increasing eco-friendly lines and labelling the source of products more clearly.

But while the latest must-have accessory is a social conscience, ethical buying is still in its infancy when it comes to fashion. UK consumers spent £5 million on Fairtrade cotton goods last year - a good start, but a tiny faction of the £300m spent on other Fairtrade goods.

High Street clothing is becoming cheaper, placing pressure on suppliers to produce our jeans and T-shirts at a greater cost to the environment and to their often exploited workforce. And for what? Half a million tonnes of unwanted clothing end up in landfill sites across Britain each year.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peer reviewed science

It made me laugh when I saw this banner displayed by the Heathrow climate change protesters.

I am not the greatest critic of the peer review process, but I had just come across a wonderful example of a real peer reviewed paper. (names and citation removed to protect the innocent ) Here are some excerpts from the aforementioned article.

This patient, a 38-year-old virgin spinster who had never had a boy friend and lived with her mother, by 24 weeks of treatment was co-habiting and engaged to be married.

From the same paper:

Another patient receiving drug X had severe domestic problems and complained of mood swings, heaviness in the head and feelings of detachment. Two patients receiving drug Y had gastroenteritis with transient headache, sedation and nausea. Both of these patients had eaten together at a local cafe.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Attitudes to Aborigines

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Murder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador’s controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror

By Craig Murray.

The author Craig Murray is widely acclaimed as one of the few establishment figures who has emerged as a person of principle in modern times. Murray narrates the grim and sometimes horrific story with aplomb and a sense of humour that does not betray the serious topic of human rights addressed in the book. In fact, a sense of humour must have been an important part of the author’s armoury when he was dealing with crimes of barely imaginable horror.

The workings of the foreign office and embassies in other countries are not subjects that immediately excite the imagination. However, the book outlines a fascinating picture both of the political machinations that keep the diplomatic staff in line with government policies and also the routine work that goes on behind the scene, without overdosing on the boring detail. Murray to his credit is very frank about both his feelings and his personal life and this makes for a fascinating thread throughout the story. He admits to human failings and indiscretions in an honest way, which even the most critical reader, cannot help but admire. His concern for human rights and incredulity at the way the ‘system’ colludes with torturers and murderers, is evident throughout, and a sign of genuine compassion that one rarely expects in serving diplomats.

Interwoven with this grim story of repression, are anecdotes of meals, conversations, and observations on the figures of various girls who catch the roving eye of the author. Frankness and honesty can be refreshing qualities in government officials, but they are rarely seen in these quantities. This extends even to discussions on monthly earnings as an ambassador and financial problems.

Despite his background and training, Murray frequently comes across as confrontational and undiplomatic, at times even confronting armed thugs physically. Clearly the revulsion at state-sponsored torture had a profound effect on his behaviour and thinking. Murray backs up his story with valuable documents (mostly available on-line) which the Foreign Office fought tooth and nail to suppress, probably because they are damning evidence of the rotten core of New Labour. The double standards of politicians like Blair and Straw are obvious to most, but this book gives a valuable insiders view. It corroborates all the evidence from other whistleblowers who have described the treachery and spin that characterised the years of the Blair reshime.

His meetings with Karimov the Uzbek President and other Uzbek officials expose the hypocritical and loathsome qualities of US and UK foreign policies. The hidden subtext of conversations is well explained by Murray as he relates the double-speak that is copious in diplomatic conversation. Throughout the book, political, cultural and geographical details emerge on Uzbekistan that educate, alarm, and amuse the reader, in equal measure.

Given his undoubted commitment to economic liberalisation and capitalism, Murray has become a rather surprising hero for the left, which condemns the excesses of capitalism and free enterprise that Murray promotes. However, in the context of Uzbekistan, where the soviet style economy is maintained by nothing less than slavery in the cotton fields and factories, his calls for liberalisation do not seem out of place. The fact that the USA and UK godfathers of the market economy actually claimed that Uzbekistan’s economy was making progress, despite massive evidence to the contrary, is superficially surprising but these topsy-turvy facts don’t seem to be out of place with the prevailing cynical outlook of contemporary government.

The main criticism of the book is that some of the characters appear one-dimensional and their persona does not come across to the reader. One example is Chris Hirst, who is the first character to be introduced, but remains a bit of mystery other than some ‘disciplinary problems’ and the allegations (probably politically motivated) made against him by the Uzbeks. In contrast, the pretty girl characters are predictably better fleshed out (no pun intended) and add a touch of colour to the story, contrasting with grey harsh mood of repression described. None of this detracts from the quality of the writing and at times the story assumes the engaging quality of a relentless page-turner.

The narrative heads towards a somewhat predictable conclusion given the outspoken nature of the ambassador, the stuffy FO officials charged with gagging Murray, the totalitarian system that prevails in Uzbekistan, and the US efforts to keep Karimov sweet. Very predictably the smears start flying against Murray, with accusations of sexual misdemeanours and other untoward activities. Various dastardly but obvious and clumsy attempts follow, to try and stitch up the outspoken ambassador.

I was very interested in the Blackburn election and to learn what motivated Murray to take on Jack Straw for this multi-cultural seat. However, I was rather disappointed because this section is brief and seems to have been added as an afterthought, because it pops up rather unexpectedly whilst failing to go into the juicy details. It would have made for a fascinating chapter by itself, but perhaps he is reserving this for another book. If that is the case, he would have been better off leaving out this couple of pages. What he does write on the subject, highlights his political naivety in thinking he could outflank a wily politician like Straw and his army of ‘community leader’ acolytes.

To his immense credit, Murray comes across as a likable man committed to values of humanity and justice, battling those who only use these terms for decorating their speeches. This ambassador has done society a great service by exposing vile torture and murder, and rejecting them on our behalf.

The good news is that despite the health problems described in the book, he is still around and providing an expert commentary on current political events on his popular blog. I have no hesitation in recommending this book as an essential and entertaining read.

Brave Israeli soldiers beat up kids

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bomb plots

It seems terror scripts are all the rage. The regular portrayal of Muslims in the UK as suicide bombers or terrorists is not sensible given the rampant islamaphobia that the media have already whipped up. If you want to typecast a community, this is a good way to go about it. The BBC have chickened out at the last minute and are substituting the Muslim bombing plot in Casualty with an animal rights bombing plot. Way to go, Auntie Beeb. Why not pick on refugees, gypsies and the homeless too? No doubt, soon they will have an episode featuring a disabled elderly woman bombing a New Labour party conference.

Channel 4 meanwhile, are sticking to their guns. The observer claims the C4 drama will:
"..portray an increasingly radicalised female Muslim from Bradford who, after travelling to a militant training camp in Pakistan, becomes a suicide bomber and causes carnage in Canary Wharf. Another character from the same background joins MI5 because he wants to protect Britain."

Fantastic! Yet another opportunity to bash Pakistan whilst whipping up the fear of young muslim women who choose to wear a Niqab.

I would have added a sub-plot where the character who joins MI5 is betrayed by them and shipped off to a CIA torture facility, before transfer to Guantanamo Bay, but perhaps that would add an unnecessary element of realism.

'What drives young Muslims to make choices like this? It confronts the issues facing them at the moment, but not in a stereotypical way.'

You can picture it can't you? Sitting at the breakfast table munching on cornflakes, young British Muslims wondering...Should I go shopping for a new pair of shoes or put on a suicide belt and blow up Canary Wharf? Very realistic and not stereotypical at all. Channel 4 is quoted as saying:

'It's a very sensitive and multi-faceted view of what it's like to be Muslim in modern Britain. It is not sensationalist.'

I don't think it is sensationalist at all to portray a million people in the UK, as potential killers lurking in our midst. But I suppose it is unfashionable to talk about the army in that way, rather than some brown people. Perhaps it could be 'sensitive and multi-faceted' if they had an alternative plot where bombs and explosions didn't feature, but then the controversy element would be missing and the ratings would suffer.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Daleks on Red Dwarf

Thursday, August 16, 2007

lack of blog activity

Sorry for the decrease in frequency of postings at this difficult time. Rest assured we are doing our best to restore normal service. If you have any complaints or comments, please feel free to record them after the beep.


Monday, August 13, 2007

BAA BAA black sheep

BAA have some bizarre excuses for climate change protesters not to take action against them at Heathrow. The dear old BBC is doing its best to help by vigorously quoting these objections to protestors and suggesting they were being 'irresponsible'. The irresponsibility of building a third runway to the busiest airport in the world at time when man made global climate change is spiralling out of control, is not questioned. The idea that the protesters distract police from catching terrorists and therefore pose a security risk is laughable but it is still presented with a straight face. People waving a few placards and munching vegetables do not inconvenience the 'hard working families' going on holiday but they do annoy the BAA officials who could do without all the bad publicity. The same BAA officials claim that they are also concerned about climate change and worried about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions, yet fail to explain how this concern is addressed by expanding airport capacity. The threatened direct action involves not breaching the perimeter of Heathrow and holding a mass picnic in Sipson, so why are the authorities in such a panic? At this rate, Downing Street will be having another sitting of COBRA soon if the picnic carries on beyond the scheduled time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Not a genocidal tyrant

Murdoch complains about being treated like a 'genocidal tyrant'.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2CV Bot

Monday, August 06, 2007

Who let the nutters out?

The Herald Tribune reveals that one presidential hopeful is calling for nuking Mecca and Medina as a policy to deter terrorist attacks. In the wake of Obama's call for attacking Pakistani territory, it seems like insanity has run riot. Somebody please fetch a lot of straitjackets and lock these sick, twisted evil lunatics up for their own safety.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


A monumental disaster is occurring in the Indian subcontinent which is news but is not big enough news. Just think what the response would be if the same scale of disaster were to affect Europe.

When the UK worried about torrential downpours and widespread flooding in the south of the country, the media carried dramatic footage of the damage. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal there is a huge monsoon disaster unfolding of epic proportions. Hundreds of people are reported killed. The number of people displaced beggars belief; upwards of 20 million are affected according to UNICEF. That is equivalent to one third of the total UK population. Hundreds of thousands have lost everything and the local authorities are powerless to deal with the crisis. Millions are without drinking water and sanitation. Food is scarce or unavailable. Several charities have launched an emergency appeal to deal with the crisis.

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How the media works

I like this:

Hat tip

Friday, August 03, 2007

Who said it?

1. When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.

2. Times have changed; opiates are now the religion of the masses.

3. When you become important enough for them to worry about, you better start worrying about them.

You have two guesses for each quote.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Wall of Silence

It is quite common to see Islamism (the term commonly used to describe 'extremist' muslims who reject western hegemony) described as an ideology that cannot be negotiated with. Apparently you cannot negotiate with people who are sworn to wipe out non-muslims, establish a caliphate and hate our freedoms etc blah, blah, blah. Of course, the poor deluded individuals who spout this racist nonsense have probably never met a muslim, much less spoken to one of the extremist kind. Ironically it is these very nutjobs who cannot be argued with because their rage, extreme insecurity and limited mental capacity make them not worth bothering with. Yet, even in more 'learned' media circles you hear the same basic rhetorical arguments used to justify continual conflict with the Islamic nations and the refusal to talk to Islamist groups. Conflicts Forum has this to say on the subject:

U.S. foreign policy has failed to differentiate between the many strands of Islamic activism that we see across the world today. During deepening crises in the region, the U.S. refuses to talk to the Islamists who can influence events. We don’t talk to Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Muslim Brotherhood. We shun Iran, Syria, and others................Our unwillingness to engage in dialogue with those who don’t share our view of the world has brought us to an impasse. Conflicts Forum is breaking through the wall of silence.

Our reach goes well beyond the Middle East; we work with Islamist groups in North Africa and Pakistan, we consult with Islamic political movements in South and East Asia. Though our focus is on forging an understanding with political Islam, Conflicts Forum engages the entire spectrum of Islamist societies - in cultural and economic realms as well as the political.

Our encounters with political Islam - with both non-violent and armed resistance groups - leads us to conclude that Islamism is above all political. The overwhelming majority of Islamists are striving to create just societies and bring about political reform in a region entrenched with inequity, that has long suffered the overbearing influence of foreign powers.

If the media were interested in peace rather than acting as mouthpieces of the neocons, they would delve a little more thoroughly into the work of organisations like Conflicts Forum. They could explain to the public what the perception of the muslim world is regarding our foreign policy. But of course, I am dreaming. Who on earth could expect the MSM to inform and educate rather than spread lies, propaganda and serve their corporate masters? Also, talking to Islamists to resolve the problems rather gets in the way of establishing bases and shipping billions of dollars of military equipment to our agents in the region. Better to just incinerate those who will not accept our 'way of life' or happen to be inconsiderately living on top of our oil.