Monday, December 28, 2009

response to my anonymous commenter


This is my response to this comment, left on my post about who wrecked Copenhagen (apparently it was the Chinese). Its too big for the comments because of all the text I've pasted in so its earnt its own post:

I'm a little confused by your post as there seems to be some punctuation missing. Possibly I have provoked a fit of frenzied typing. I'm not going to argue about whether the Green Party are left or right as I find such terminology to be redundant and unhelpful and I try to avoid them.

The group who wrote the Green New Deal (please note the lack of Lib Dems) are:
  • Larry Elliott (Economics Editor of the Guardian)
  • Colin Hines (Co-Director of Finance for the Future, former head of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit)
  • Tony Juniper (former Director of Friends of the Earth)
  • Jeremy Leggett (founder and Chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid)
  • Caroline Lucas (Green Party Leader & MEP)
  • Richard Murphy (Co-Director of Finance for the Future and Director, Tax Research LLP)
  • Ann Pettifor (former head of the Jubilee 2000 debt relief campaign, Campaign Director of Operation Noah)
  • Charles Secrett (Advisor on Sustainable Development, former Director of Friends of the Earth)
  • Andrew Simms (Policy Director, the new economics foundation)
I advocate a Green New Deal (a real one, not Brown's pathetic greenwash) because the policies proposed in the document offer to help remediate three of the most challenging issues of our time. I am profoundly apolitical when it comes to supporting such action. I will quote the executive summary in full:

"The global economy is facing a ‘triple crunch’. It is a combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices underpinned by an encroaching peak in oil production. These three overlapping events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Depression. To help prevent this from happening we are proposing a Green New Deal.

This entails re-regulating finance and taxation plus a huge transformational programme aimed at substantially reducing the use of fossil fuels and in the process tackling the unemployment and decline in demand caused by the credit crunch. It involves policies and novel funding mechanisms that will reduce emissions contributing to climate change and allow us to cope better with the coming energy shortages caused by peak oil.

The triple crunch of financial meltdown, climate change and ‘peak oil’ has its origins firmly rooted in the current model of globalisation. Financial deregulation has facilitated the creation of almost limitless credit. With this credit boom have come irresponsible and often fraudulent patterns of lending, creating inflated bubbles in assets such as property, and powering environmentally unsustainable consumption.

This approach hit the buffers of insolvency and unrepayable debts on what we think of as ‘debtonation day’, 9 August 2007, when the banks suddenly fully understood the scale of debts on the balance sheets of other banks, and stopped lending to each other.

In the same year, natural disasters struck body blows to entire national economies, and rising prices began to alert the world to the potential scarcity of oil. At both ends of the climatic spectrum, Australia saw a prolonged drought decimate its domestic grain production, and Mexico saw floods wipe out the agricultural production of an entire large state. In the oil markets, growing numbers of whistleblowers pointed to the probability of an early peak in production, and a possible subsequent collapse of production. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said an oil crunch is likely in 2012.

Drawing our inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s courageous programme launched in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, we believe that a positive course of action can pull the world back from economic and environmental meltdown. The Green New Deal that we are proposing consists of two main strands. First, it outlines a structural transformation of the regulation of national and international financial systems, and major changes to taxation systems. And, second, it calls for a sustained programme to invest in and deploy energy conservation and renewable energies, coupled with effective demand management."

As for the transition movement, whilst I applaud the sentiment it is simply laughable to suggest that it can make more than a tiny difference, what with the eminent lack of broad public support for sustainable development, and that will be too little and too late. As George Monbiot observes, the only plausible solution to climate change, peak oil, and the economic meltdown involves the mobilisation of the nation and its resources as if for war. Its a battle for our children's survival.

materialism is sociopathic


A couple of nice passages in this article by a pseudoscientist with the fantastic name of Yair Amichai-Hamburger:
"research by psychologist Tim Kasser of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, has shown that people who place a high value on material goals are unhappier than those who are less materialistic. Materialism is also associated with lower self-esteem, greater narcissism, greater tendency to compare oneself unfavourably with other people, less empathy and more conflict in relationships."

"In today's world, where we are potentially available 24/7 to absorb messages from well-honed advertisements, it is vital that we know how to analyse and evaluate their validity - and to neutralise them where necessary."
These words interest me because they suggest there is reasonably credible evidence (well, as credible as psychology can be) out there to support legislating against rampant consumerism on the basis of social wellbeing and public health. My curisosity go tthe better of me and I googled Yair's name to see what he has published. This paper is particularly interesting as it appears to demonstrate that people afflicted by Learned Helplessness are more susceptible to the malevolent influence of marketing. LH sounds synonoymous with being a subject of the UK education system (pdf).

This paper, with the title "Who blogs? Personality predictors of blogging", is a giggle too. Fluffy, pseudoscientific word.

Oh- if you want access to the papers I can email you copies.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Natasha Chart is stupid



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

who wrecked Copenhagen?


Two different perspectives as to who made the Copenhagen accord even more uselessly wishy-washy and fluffy than any reasonably skeptical observer would have imagined. Lynas' opinion is particularly revealing for the petty offense exhibited by the Chinese delegation.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

raging for christmas


We did it! And raised at least £65,000 for the charity Shelter in direct donations alone. Awesome!

Now, if someone could just come up with an equally appealing motive for regaining democratic control of the country . . .

Saturday, December 19, 2009

humans are not rational . . .


". . . and we should recognise that fact and maybe try to use that fact to work out ways of communicating and convincing people because this is real. This is the most serious threat we have ever faced in all of history."

This video is incredible and there are several more fantastic quotes in there. Eg:

"Imagine you read in the newspaper tomorrow that we find out that all the excess CO2 in the world was being released by Al Qaeda. Think about that. Would we react? Of course we would. We would spend any amount of money to fight that. We would spend a trillion dollars (which we just did)."

"We need to support global family planning. There's too many people on earth right now. This is typically a taboo subject in climate change but its going to be controlled one way or another and I just think we should do it the humane way."
I'm also struck, as I imagine most sentient observers would be, by the irony of having a Chevron add at the beginning. Such observers may also be struck by my positive opinion of a film which contains a sweeping endorsement of geoengineering; a topic I have previously condemned as "fucking stupid". However, Miller's endorsement is nuanced and heavily conditional upon being part of a multi-fronted strategy to simultaneously slash emissions and address social inequality.

more Tory climate change denialism


Making the front page of The Express shouldn't make many people proud but the European Foundation, a Euroskeptic thinktank directed by a fistful of august Tory characters, have made it and also garnered column inches in The Telegraph too. The reason for this undesirable prominence in the mass media? The publication of their report, written by a political analyst, entitled "100 Reasons Why Global Warming Is Natural". Its probably redundant for me to observe that the list is a load of unicorn bollocks, but then both publications have form when it comes to CCD.

Rather wonderfully, a New Scientist journo has confronted this torrent of antiscience by rebutting the first 50 claims. Hat Tip to this guy.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

prosecuting war crimes on British soil


Read what your government did in response to the issue of an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal on British soil. Then read what they should have done. Spot the difference?

Monday, December 14, 2009

punkscience just bought a download of "killing in the name of"


I don't care if Simon "cuntface" Cowell does own shares in Sony BMG. I'm happy to pay to have a song of rebellion and revolution forced upon the attention of the placid, gurning X-faktoid-watching herd.

If you aren't aware of this campaign a Facebook group has now got in excess of 700K people signed up to it pledging to buy copies of the RATM track named in the title of this post in order to topple cuntface's manufactured shite off the number one spot for xmas.

its nice when someone comprehensively affirms all of your preconceptions


Hat-tip to John B, whose skeptical twittering drew this to my attention. I must read the report and think about this. It rings true in my heart but then trusting one's gut feelings is exactly what I spend hours railing against on these pages.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Catholic crocodile tears


The Vatican said 'the Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed.' Well poor baby, but why was he not deeply disturbed and distressed before? Why did he not give a rat's ass while the report was in progress and the Vatican ignored all its questions? To say nothing of while the abuse and the cover-up of the abuse and the perpetuation of the abuse via refusal to do anything about it, were going on? Why is his distress so god damn late? Why is he bothering to do a Bernie Madoff, pretending to be all sorry and repentant after it is no longer possible to conceal and deny and hide?

''He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large.'' The Vatican said the Holy Father shared the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and that he was united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church.

No he doesn't! [jumps up and down in fury until the windows rattle] He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't! It's all soothing oil, it's all sleazy self-exculpation. He does not share the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland because he and his Vatican are what the outrage, betrayal and shame are all about. He doesn't get to make himself another subject; he's the object. He's not one of the victims, he's the top perpetrator. He has an unbelievable gall claiming to feel all this sorrowful emotion when he is the head of an institution that did everything it could to protect itself and did nothing to protect children who were assaulted by its priests. He shouldn't be talking eyewash about his emotions, he should be saying the Vatican behaved like a criminal organization. He should resign. They should all resign. They should fold up their tents and go do something useful.

And knock off the 'Holy Father' crap, too. With a father like that, who needs enemies?

Word to Ophelia.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

climate change denial


Its a blog analysing the title phenomenon. The first couple of posts I read were really well argued, although I take issue with the author's position that scientists need to communicate science better.
With the exception of a few outstanding communicators, they often make no attempt to speak to deeper values or make an emotional connection with the public – indeed they see that as contrary to their professional independence.
This is because scientists are scientists, not necessarily good "communicators" in the sense of dumbing their subject material down to the level of Joe Publik. And dumbing down is exactly what's needed because the public really do lack any appreciation of . . . well . . . any basic science, let alone the fiendishly complicated and interdisciplinary science that informs the IPCC. What is needed are professional science communicators who can do this for us. Scientists are already expected to be scientists, managers, secretaries, accountants, technicians, teachers, lecturers, mentors, tutors, etc. etc. etc. You can't keep adding strings to our bows and expecting us to play a perfect tune on it simultaneously with the other instruments in our repertoire.

It is important to remind anyone reading this that we live in a pseudo-democracy and a system exists to enact meaningful changes in policy to a sustainable model. All it will take is for the public to be convinced of this. As George Marshall, the author of CCD, observes:

The lay public, when presented with confusing data and competing arguments about climate change deploy the heuristic (a fancy word for a mentalof short cut) of believing the people they most trust. Trust in the communicator is therefore a crucial precondition for belief in climate change.

Unfortunately the three main climate change communicators: politicians, journalists and environmental campaigners, are among the least trusted people in society- fighting it out for bottom place in the ranking with lawyers and car salesmen. No one would pay any attention to them at all if they were not drawing on the aquifer of public trust in scientists.

So there. Its important and it needs investment. Real investment, not the glib, esoteric and devious pledges of a typical British budget or anything out of the mouth of Mandelscum.

Addition a few minutes later:

This blog is even better than I first thought:
. . . unless significant changes in how scientific knowledge is shared and distributed are achieved, geo-engineering simply cannot address climate change in an equitable way. To believe that the unprecedented power of geo-engineering will not be wielded by the rich and the powerful at the expense of the weak and the vulnerable is more than simply wide-eyed techno-optimism: It amounts to a comprehensive denial of political reality.

Addition 13-12-09:

I want to link to other rants that kind of tie-in to the subjects of public ignorance of science and the issue of functional democracy being utterly dependent upon voting choices being evidence-based and rational. This is, of course, not currently the case.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

why investment bankers aren't special


More on the topic of socially useless bankers: Jim Bliss has written a fantastic little piece analysing what it is that investment bankers do and why they are paid such fantastic sums. Its great stuff but I want to go further into the nitty gritty of corporate pay packets and try to dissect which careers offer reasonable social return on the wages invested in these executives. What is the tax revenue like and at what point does their wealth reach the point where the substantial investment required to hire some top-flight tax avoidance experts produce a return? With people like the Arch-Plutocrat, Lord Ashcroft, buying elections its clear that there are a many ways to quantify the pros and cons of enabling individuals to accumulate vast wealth.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

weapons grade squeee


Can't resist . . . too . . . cute . . .

Friday, December 04, 2009



"The investment banking sector may have its role, but it is a marginal one. It is not directly responsible for the creation of anything that enhances human welfare in any way. Apart from trading financial assets, an entirely zero (at most) sum game, its role is simply a co-ordinating one. Investment bankers are responsible for setting up corporate finance for firms that want to start new projects or when firms merge or acquire other firms. They get paid well not because any of this is intrinsically very difficult – it's really a matter of having access to the right markets, knowing the right procedures and being known to the right people – but because the sums of money involved in these deals tend to be staggering. And payment in the financial sector tends to follow a "linear fee pattern", by which I mean that fees are usually some fairly consistent percentage of the size of any deal irrespective of the actual effort, skill or risk involved in setting it up."


Addition 04-12-09:

I have been reading through the comments below this article and there are several interesting points deriding Diarmid Weir's observation that investment banking being a zero sum game. I want to examine this further as it echoes Adair Turner’s recent characterisation of the city as “socially useless”. Investment banking involves the provision of capital to corporations in the form of loans, trading securities and managing corporate mergers and acquisitions. I imagine staff at such institutions specialise in one of these areas and immerse themselves in the arcane laws and regulation that govern such substantial transactions. As far as socially beneficial outcomes go, few examples of socially useful produce of the city are offered. One poster, “TraderTrader”, doesn't supply any appropriate examples but does point out that "[m]ost of the city runs very successful business models that contribute enormous sums of revenue for the UK economy and Treasury." This is true and is one of the reasons why the UK has been so profoundly affected by the fuckyounomic debacle so its hardly a supporting argument for our current dependence upon tax revenue from the finance sector.

One response to Weir comes from Zac Smith. Of course, it is quite possible for the government to make and example of RBS and prohibit bonus payments and force them to adopt ethical business practices. However, this would have no effect whatsoever upon all the other financial coporations out there which will simply snigger, employ the disgruntled talent that will flee RBS and undercut them in the market. RBS will collapse, taking all of our tax money with it. And probably the country too. Making scapegoats of the RBS bankers is simply stupid. We should be directing our efforts towards installing a political party that advocates fundamental revision of the economic system to produce a more egalitarian and socially productive system. Weir does allude to this in the title but spends much of his rant targeting the specific iniquities of RBS and Lloyds.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Will someone not save us from insane, warmongering fucktards?


"Sanctions are idiot diplomacy. They are the last gasp of the "something must be done" brigade, before surrendering to the military/industrial complex and going to war. Bred in the ideological bone to intervene in the affairs of other states, these people cannot admit that sometimes nothing can be done, or that anything done might make matters worse. Yet more sanctions are the proclaimed policy of David Miliband."