Friday, December 31, 2010

yes to AV


If you only read one article on electoral reform, make it this one. Its bloody good plus it has the bonus feature of highlighting Nick Cohen's profoundly cloacan nature.

This is a first attempt at blogging from my smartphone so will be interesting to see if it looks like shit.


Posting from the smartphone proved to be a debacle, as visitors to this post earlier may have discovered. My apologies. Blogger just doesn't seem to work in Opera mobile. I got the title and half a sentence in but when I tred to add an html link it then refused to accept anything more. Subsequent edits also failed and so the result was gibberish. Still, not much different from business-as-usual here, hey.

Dappy New Year to all the nice people!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Guardian has a complete fucking moron on its payroll


What cuntard is responsible for this fucking travesty?

Seriously? How fucking cuntishly thick and demented do you have to be even consider promoting lunacy like that to the front page of your website.

Oviously, I left a comment in response:

"the sooner we`ll stop strapping them to boards and dissecting them alive for no good reason"

Why has this comment been selected for promotion to the front page of the website? It is moronic. No one except psychopaths strap animals to boards and dissect them alive for no good reason. Personally, whenever I dissect a living organism I have very, very good reasons for doing so because I am a scientist and the research I conduct provides vital information to help us manage our environment sustainably and effectively. Furthermore, I work exclusively with lower animals such as worms and molluscs, which lack the sophisticated neural system to even experience pain and suffering. This is why experiments conducted upon such organisms are not covered by Home Office regulations. If I were to work on higher animals such as fish, rodents or even primates then I still would never find myself strapping them to boards and dissecting them alive because this is illegal and unethical and no one does this any more!

Shame on the Guardian for drawing attention to this stupid comment. What are you going to do for an encore- highlight the words of some lunatic calling for ginger people to be burnt as witches?

Let's see if it gets deleted.

Addition some 3 hours later:

Excellent! Some pig-ignorant fucktard has already posted an inflamatory response. I returned fire:

Allow me to paraphrase your response:
"Yeah, science is dumb cos I dunt unnerstand it."
Still happy enough for it to provide you with the computer or phone you've posted this from, hey. And the food production system that keeps you alive, the medicines that cure your many diseases, the engineering allowing you to stay dry, warm and secure.

In response, I believe worms don't experience pain and suffering because I stand on the shoulders of scientific giants who have accumulated evidence to suggest that they can't. The idea that an animal as simple as a worm or lower molluscs (I specifically exclude cephalopods because of their sophistication) can experience any mental stimuli in a manner similar to mammals is laughable to anyone with even the most basic appreciation of comparative anatomy. I suggest you read this Wikipedia article. There are ample referenes at the end to peer-reviewed papers. Pay particular attention to the Comparative anatomy and evolution section.
I hope your arrogance in insulting and contradicting me is underlain by an advanced understanding of the subject that you will be willing to share with me here. I would be most grateful if you could provide a single piece of evidence which suggests that lower animals can feel pain because, as a scientist, I am anxious to learn and keen to establish the truth in an objective and well-evidenced fashion.

If I sound uptight and condescending, its because I am.

Addition another 10 minutes later:

Okay, after re-reading his comment I realised I hadn't been nearly harsh enough with this guy. So here's the follow-up:

Sorry, I tried to refrain from challenging this idiocy but I'm so profoundly irritated by @Britcominghome's comment that I'm just going to go nuts.
You wrote:
"That a living entity doesn't 'experience pain and suffering' is simply a moronic thing to say."
So, according to you, an amoeba can experience pain and suffering, yes?
How about a cyanobacterium?
How about the moss growing out on the deck?
The tapeworm burrowing its way through you intestines and the bacteria they contain?

You're an idiot. Mainly for that comment, but also for the "blacks" one too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Daly News


Steady State Economics blog with contributions from your boy Herman!


I've recently got a smartphone and I've managed to torrentify dozens of awesome books including a PDF of E.F.Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful, which I am currently enjoying greatly and sporadically tweeting. Checkit. Boh.

punkscience at gmail dot com

Addition 10 minutes later:

I've just read a fantastic post on the blog by Brian Czech. One of the reasons this post appealed to me was that it provided a response to an article by George a few weeks back where he discussed the TEEB report and noted that:

"So, much as I’m revolted by the way in which nature is being squeezed into a column of figures in an accountant’s ledger, I am forced to agree that it may be necessary."
This position slightly disturbed me because, as might be clear from this blog, I have considerable intellectual wood for eco-economics. And yet George, whose ideas give me a similar degree of cranial titillation as Herman, finds the underlying concept of Herman's work "revolting". I will ping a link to this article to George, not just because it lays out the conceptual rationale behind eco-economics so well, but because it explicitly condemns trivialisation of ecosystem services and resources by the bean-counters that so offends him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ben Brown is a nasty little arsehole


Read this tweet from Ben Goldacre and follow the link. Then do something like this:

Monday, December 13, 2010

what's wrong with business?


Quick post to share this with the world. It is awesome. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy


Busy is what I am these days. I'm still hunting for legitimate sceintific employment and I'm doing drudge work in the mean time. So I don't have time to blog, really. I am getting very into Twitter, however so if you want to know what I'm thinking you can find me there. I'm still trying to figure out how to do those neat little Twitter round-ups that real bloggers sometimes produce. Anyway, apologies to both my regular readers for the lack of punkistry.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ye gods, I'm full of shit


Someone called Quin once wrote:

"You know, I'd never truly understood that maxim of Samuel Johnson's that "wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out" until now. It's his way of saying that when you a really pleased with a smart-arsed line you've written, it likely means around 6 billion people think it makes you sound like a right tit."

Well, I've just had that experience re-reading a comment of mine on a post at Lenin's Tomb. I mean, what the jabbering twatboar am I trying to communicate in those three, tortured paragraphs? You know, I'd really like to revisit both the topic and the thought process that drove me to pen that comment and before you ask,: No, neither excessive alcohol consumption nor more unusual narcotics were involved. 

Unfortunately I have a presentation to write for Monday morning which could feasibly secure me a decent research position at a nice little institution so I am devoting as much of my cerebral capacity to that as possible. That might explain how manpig sputum such as that comment was delivered into the internets but I honestly can't blame distraction with "higher things" as I had given up work for the day when I shat it out.

Ho hum, on with the presentation. Maybe I will find the time next week. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

incredible open letter to NYT from eminent geoscientist


This is super-awesome. The author, David Hughes, deserves a fucking medal for this profound Fisking of the NYT's fantasy version of fossil fuel resource dynamics.

Here's a little more background:

Peak oil.
Peak gas.
Peak coal.
Peak fucking everything!

As a bonus for my readers I have 'discovered' a full- text version of the Nature paper in the third link for your delectation. You really should read it, its jolly interesting.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chris Hedges on "junk politics" or pseudo-democracy, as I like to call it

Too many resistance movements continue to buy into the facade of electoral politics, parliaments, constitutions, bills of rights, lobbying and the appearance of a rational economy. The levers of power have become so contaminated that the needs and voices of citizens have become irrelevant. The election of Barack Obama was yet another triumph of propaganda over substance and a skillful manipulation and betrayal of the public by the mass media. We mistook style and ethnicity – an advertising tactic pioneered by the United Colors of Benetton and Calvin Klein – for progressive politics and genuine change. We confused how we were made to feel with knowledge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. Obama, now a global celebrity, is a brand. He had almost no experience besides two years in the senate, lacked any moral core and was sold as all things to all people. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertisers want because of how they can make you feel. 
We live in a culture characterized by what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. It always personalizes issues rather than clarifying them. It eschews real debate for manufactured scandals, celebrity gossip and spectacles. It trumpets eternal optimism, endlessly praises our moral strength and character, and communicates in a feel-your-pain language. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes, “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.”

This is why the first target for any meaningful social, environmental and economic reform has to be the democratic institutions which allow this system of "junk politics" to persist.There are many different policies which are not at all challenging for any Western society to enact in a matter of months to enhance political engagement . These include compulsory voting, direct democracy and representative electoral systems as promoted by the Electoral Reform Society of the UK. There are other, more subtle pieces of legislation which are equallly as important including prohibitions against professional lobbying, state-funding of political parties and the decentralisation of power to allow people to become engaged once again with local, as well as national politics. Finally, and possibly most importantly, in the UK at least, you need elected houses of parliament.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lowkey would like to tell you how it is


This guy is awesome. So much clear thinking and so many lies torn apart. Via Hangbitch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UK democracy


I try to avoid reading or even thinking about UK politics, being no longer a resident of that sordid plutocracy. However, I encountered this article on electoral finance via Twatter and the urge to rant got the better of me:
Dude, there's a hell of a lot more wrong with UK 'democracy' than just the funding environment. And why is it that the best most reformers can dream of achieving in a Western country in the 21st century is the distant promise of proportional representation? Why have developments in democracy not progressed since the early 20th century? What about Direct Democracy? Why does 38% of eligible voters constitute a majority? What about compulsory voting? What about an elected second house, FFS!!!! What about giving the power to vote on every issue back to the people who should hold it?

The idea of elected representatives being the only viable form of government was accurately criticised as "elective dictatorship" by Lord Hailsham 35 years ago. Why has this issue not been considered further since then? The answer is that the UK is a pseudodemocracy where power is concentrated in the hands of professional politicians and their backers. The electorate remain ambivalent to this because much of the mainstream media conducts itself according to the propaganda model made famous by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Either fight now or fuck off.



Via Sunny Hundal at LibCon

Monday, November 08, 2010

more awesome video action


In a kind of sequence of awesome I would like to post another couple of videos which contain revolutionary or controversial analysis of aspects of our society. The first is via the legendary Doctor Goldacre and the other was another from the same series on YuToob.

Addition 20-11-10:

I really should add this paragraph I have just read because it reasserts the point of the second video so well:

The cultural belief that we can make things happen by thinking, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength or by understanding that we are truly exceptional is magical thinking. We can always make more money, meet new quotas, consume more products and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking, preached to us across the political spectrum by Oprah, sports celebrities, Hollywood, self-help gurus and Christian demagogues, is largely responsible for our economic and environmental collapse, since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as “negative.” This belief, which allows men and women to behave and act like little children, discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are never seriously questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. And it has perverted the way we view ourselves, our nation and the natural world. The new paradigm of power, coupled with its bizarre ideology of limitless progress and impossible happiness, has turned whole nations, including the United States, into monsters.

Its from a powerful rant here. Read it and weep. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

redefining apathy by David Meslin


This video, that was posted on the Common Dreams website and linked to by Naomi Klein on Twatter, contains some fantastic criticism of modern society.

fascinating bit of history for you


This blog post is really interesting, not only for the insight into the  mentality of the Founding Fathers but also for the commentary on the nature of fiat currencies and the strengths and weaknesses thereof.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

interview with anti-vivisectionists


In response to this fantastic piece of rantage and my own somewhat mischievous and inflammatory comments on an anti-vivisectionist blog that reposted the entire rant I have received a request for an interview from that blog's senior editor. This is a first for me! I don't know whether to be flattered or slightly apprehensive . . . Ultimately, this is not an opportunity any self-respecting scientist would turn down so I'm posting here to provide my bunny-cuddling friend with a forum to post her questions.

corporatist assault upon the EU


The EU is already heavily influenced by corporate lobbying and this look set to reach new depths of sociopathy with a move by the European Services Forum (Goldman Sachs, IBM, Vodafone and Deutsche Bank) to paste, word-for-word, a chapter from NAFTA into a new trade agreement Between the EU and Canada. As David Cronin relates over at OpenDemocracy:

"That chapter facilitates private firms to sue any of the three governments that signed NAFTA – the US, Canada or Mexico – if obstacles to making profits are encountered. The courts of arbitration provided for by the chapter can issue legally binding verdicts after hearings held in camera. If the ESF has its way, firms would also be able to put the European Union in the dock."
As usual, however dysfunctional the EU is it is actually well ahead of the UK in its progress towards lobbying transparency, however ahead doesn't mean they have won the race as corporations, obeying the mantra that "capital wants to be free", continue to push back against the legislation.

"The strategy being pursued by the captains of industry is all the more troubling, when one considers that they are sneakily trying to attain objectives that have been rejected by separate international fora. In a triumph for the so-called anti-globalisation movement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was shelved in the late 1990s. Discussed at the level of the World Trade Organisation, that treaty was also designed to give corporations the power to counter green or social rules they regarded as pesky.

Recently, however, a letter signed by prominent writers and activists such as Naomi Klein, Susan George and José Bové (now a French MEP) dubbed the draft EU-Canada agreement a “carbon copy” of the MAI. Both contain the same “judicial monstrosity”, the letter noted."

As is usually the case the Green Party are ahead of the UK government in this matter- Caroline having called for the register of lobbyists way back in 2008. In New Zealand, too, the Greens are ahead of the curve, advocating a register of lobbying based on a Canadian model already in force. Although see here for some more regressive and alarming lobbying legislation from NZ.

Punkscience does not support prohibitions against lobbying but rather transparency from lobbying entities to reveal who exactly is funding their campaigns so that one can follow the money. This on its own, isn't enough to ensure a functional, representative democracy, of course. The Fourth Estate must operate independently to impart the information revealed by such legislation to the public and the public must be educated and enfranchised to act rationally on the information received.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jewish terrorist group holds meeting at Ground Zero. US authorities unconcerned.


Well, isn't this an interesting little story.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

this is why I support the Green Party of England and Wales


This is a piece by Caroline Lucas for Compass. In it she covers pretty much every important issue on the table today in terms of sustainability, economic reform and climate change. Awesome!

"This is a challenging time for progressives. We have a coalition not only introducing savage cuts, but seeming to enjoy wielding the axe.

And that enthusiasm - with George Osborne and Danny Alexander competing to give the best impression of Freddie Kruger - gives the lie to the idea that these cuts are necessary because of the current recession.

We can see that they are ideologically driven. Many Tories, and some Liberal Democrats, want a smaller state and will use the financial crisis as the excuse to achieve it - even at the risk of plunging us back into recession.

And even at the risk of making the much greater environmental crisis that we face even worse, by slashing spending on green technology, on incentives for renewable, on the potential to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

I don't often find myself quoting Tim Yeo, but his comments over the weekend about this were spot on, when he pointed out that despite the national debt, spending on defence went up by 125% between 1930 and 1939. In the run up to the 2WW, we were running an even bigger deficit than today, but would never have won the battle of Britain if spending on defence had been sacrificed.

The point he's making, of course, is that we won't win the battle against climate change if we slash spending on it now.

And we need to make the case that not only are these cuts socially divisive, and environmentally disastrous, they are also economically completely illiterate.

The Ed Balls Bloomberg speech is something around which many progressives can unify - the speech where Balls made the case that it's through getting people back to work that we stand the best chance of addressing the deficit, through keeping people paying their taxes, rather than seeing tax revenue drain out of the economy, followed by redundancy payments and benefits payments.

But there's almost no discussion about the kind of work we envisage them doing, no debate about the kind of growth we need to see.

Yesterday, I spoke at a TUC conference which was entitled, without irony, Alliances for Green Growth.

Something about the alliteration seems to trick people into thinking the two ideas are compatible - green growth - it's like trade ministers talking about "free and fair trade", with no apparent recognition that just because free and fair start with the same letter, they're not the same things. Most free trade certainly isn't fair.

And if there is a form of growth which is genuinely green, genuinely sustainable, I'm not sure we know what it looks like yet.

So I think the challenge for progressives when it comes to the environment is to accept that our current economic system is economically and morally unsustainable. In other words, it only works by cheating future generations out of their birthright and by exploiting the vulnerable here and abroad.

So when we talk of a green recovery, we're not talking about a traditional economic recovery boosted by selling some home insulation or building some windmills.

We're not talking about business as usual, with a few green trimmings.

It's not about finding new products to sell, and sticking a green label on them.

We're talking about a recovery based on green principles and insights; one that is rooted in social justice and which balances our needs, against those of the developing world, the natural world, and those of future generations.

There's a lot of talk about fairness at the moment. Not just by the coalition government, who have stretched it to mind-boggling new limits, but now by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and their new report.

Yet there's very little debate about intergenerational fairness.

I'd argue that one of the fundamental challenges for progressive politics in the opening years of the twenty first century is that we haven't not yet come to terms with the full meaning of equality.

We have not properly thought through what it means, or how we can make it a reality.

And the reason for this is the way we have gone about forging a progressive consensus for the last 2 centuries.

Progressive politics have depended on ever rising economic growth and prosperity in order to bring about a redistribution of power.

And as the economy has grown, so elites have been persuaded to give up a little bit of their wealth and power.

They have accepted a little more taxation and redistribution; they have allowed political power to be spread a little more thinly.

That's not surprising. It's easier to ask people to take a smaller percentage of an ever growing cake.

But it has two consequences.

First, it gives the illusion of greater equality, while allowing for greater concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

And so Britain can, after 13 years of a Labour government, be more unequal than before they came to power.

Second, the prosperity itself may be built on rotten foundations. Already, we in Britain consume three times more than the world can sustain on an equitable basis.

The growth that has paid for our welfare state is built on the exploitation of natural resources and on the exploitation of people here and around the world.

And so often with the best intentions, the pursuit of increased national economic growth and wealth as a means to promote equality carries with it the seeds of its own failure.

The heart of the problem is a failure of imagination.

We are all equal.

And equality does not stop at the borders of the UK. Nor does it stop with the present generation.

And those whose world we are destroying, whose precious resources we are burning up, whose species we are making extinct, whose seas we are poisoning, and whose beauty and tranquillity we are sacrificing - those who are yet to be born - we owe them just as much as those around us today.

In business terms, we are treating our capital as income.

We use up our resources and say we are better off.

In the real world, if a business does this, it will go bust. In the parallel world of economics, we are supposed to carry on like this forever.

We haven't considered that by any rational measure, we are becoming not richer, but poorer. That economic growth is becoming uneconomic.

We don't think of the consequences of our actions in years to come.

This is seen most clearly in the approach to climate change.

And here I get to the crux of what I want to say.

The challenge for progressive politicians is to grasp that an incremental approach to tackling climate change is doomed to fail.

That the next 8-10 years are going to be absolutely critical in terms of getting our emissions in the industrialised world to peak, and start to come down, and that if we don't act within that briefest of windows of opportunity, then the chances of avoiding the worst of the climate crisis get very much slimmer.

And that means fundamentally challenging our current growth model.

Yet the number of politicians or civil society organisations focused primarily on the implications of today's growth model remains tiny. Worse, millions of environmental campaigners seem to seriously believe that we can address climate change, slow the loss of threatened species and habitats, manage chronic water and resource shortages and put an end to over fishing and continuing soil erosion, whilst pursuing pretty much the same kind of economic growth that brought these natural systems to the edge of collapse in the first place.

In other words, the trade off appears to be to ignore the inevitable long-term consequences of business-as-usual growth in order to help to protect short term organisational effectiveness. It may make sense from a tactical point of view, but strategically it's unsustainable.

So how do we make this shift from incremental change to systemic reform?

How do we build that public and political momentum for change fast enough?

What chances are there for civil society organisations to coalesce around the challenge to make the case for a very different kind of economic model?

And what role for progressive politicians?

I look forward to the debate."

Friday, October 22, 2010

sheer bloody genius


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

America's PFI plans are just as fucking wrong as the UK's


Here's an excerpt from the awesome Matt Taibbi's new book. He details how America too has embraced the eructations of the Fucking Stupid Idea Box and engaged in its own version of Private Finance Initiatives. As with our own PFI deals, the idea is for authorities to lease or sell every asset they possibly can to unaccountable private entities who can then proceed to manage them in a tyrannically profit-grubbing fashion with complete disregard for the society that depends on the services and functions provided by those assets. Its classic corporate sociopathy backed by foreign investment entities with little or no love for America. A beautiful irony! I can't wait for some Tea Party spokesman to pop up and call Taibbi 'unamerican', 'an enemy of the state' or something else equally fucktarded for daring to detail how their ostensibly security-obsessed, ultra-nationalist and exceptionalist leaders have sold their country's assets to the Arabs for a fraction of their value.

Gods Bless America.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

has George been reading my blog?


In this CiF article he observes that the ConDem Slashathon is analogous to the Shock Doctrine, an observation that I made a couple of months ago. Of course, its an obvious conclusion for any reasonably objective observer to arrive at so well done that man! I just hope that his analysis (which is unquestionably more insightful and eloquent than my own) reaches as broad an audience as need to hear it for the sake of UK society.

On another 'George is awesome'-related note, your boy has popped another piece up on his own website detailing why reasoned appeals to people's self interest fails utterly as a tactic to convince people to embrace progressive politics.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

algal biofuels progress?


DARPA thinks it is only a few years away from commercial algal biofuel production. Exactly how they have managed to circumvent the three obstacles to economical biofuel production; circulation of the culture, the high cost of photobioreactors and extraction of the fuel, isn't mentioned.

I really hope that this level of backing for the technology will ultimately produce a viable algal biofuel economy. Whilst private and state-funded research has produced certain leaps forward the obstacles to this paradigm-shift in hydrocarbon production away from fossil fuels still faces massive obstacles. Only through the kind of funding and resourcing available to the US military will the obstacles ever be surmounted. Ironically the same story may be about to propel micro- and meio-generation into the mainstream too. In a stroke of simply unbelievable irony, the US military recently announced its determination to deploy renewable generation technology to provide power for isolated outposts in Afghanistan.

Oh- and just in case anyone thinks I'm ranting on about something of little genuine relevance to our fantastically luxurious lifestyle, let me just quote from a recent Joint Operating Environment report produced by US Joint Forces Command:

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day . . . While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."
Its ironic that the US military-industrial complex, that has been repsonsible for so many appalling crimes against humanity, might still produce the technological advances that could save our civilisation from collapse.

Hyperbole, moi?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

continuing on the theme of ecological economics . . . .


We have news of further progress in the war against stupidity that is the ecological economics movement. New Scientist tells of a new reporting group - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity- that has calculated cash values for various habitats from coral reefs to savannah. The group's first report, also covered in Le Graun, claims that the benefit-to-cost ratio of preserving natural habitats is in the range of 10:1 to 100:1. Services such as flood protection, pollution removal and the monetary benefits of tourism were taken into account to confirm what all us tree-huggers have been saying for years: that its worth more to society to protect and preserve natural landscapes than it is to sell them off to corporate developers and hedge funds. Grey party scum: take note!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

classical economics is not a science


This contains a great critique of classical economics.

"The classical theorists gradually adopted the math and some of the terminology of science. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to incorporate into economics the basic self-correcting methodology that is science’s defining characteristic. Economic theory required no falsifiable hypotheses and demanded no repeatable controlled experiments. Economists began to think of themselves as scientists, while in fact their discipline remained a branch of moral philosophy—as it largely does to this day."

Fortunately, there are people out there prepared to criticise the absurd assumptions of classical economics and keen to develop their own theories through the application of scientific principles.

Another couple of great quotes from this interview:

"More troubling still is the assumption free-market economics makes about nature: that we don't need it. Because everything is theoretically substitutable for everything else, when we run out of nature, we'll just substitute technology. That, says [Joshua] Farley, is a religious belief, not a scientific one."

"In ecology, if your theory is not supported by real life, you change your theory. In economics, if your theory is not supported by real life, you try to come up with policy measures that change real life to make it a closer fit to your theory."

Friday, September 24, 2010

incredible interview with "the most hated man in Israel"


This comes across as the most honest description of Israel I've read yet. There are so many painful insights into Israeli society.

"The facts are clear. Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent, and condescending Israel of today. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation program for Israel."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

epic blogging FAIL & the reform of Green Party science policy


So, I started a rant against this post on Liberal Conspiracy in which I repeated my oft stated criticisms of the antiscientific policies of the Green Party. There was then an extensive interval in which I had dinner and drank some beer and some more of last year's sloe gin. During this period several posts appeared in response to my initial rant lead by one from Sunny Hundal in which he linked to a LibCon post from back in February that completely contradicted all my rants. Back then Jim Jepps- the author of the post that initially grabbed my attention- posted on his own blog and then at LibCon how the Green Party conference had voted to abandon pretty much all of the fluffy, antiscientific crap that was clogging up the MFSS. This included the broad opposal to vivisection, the endorsement of alternative medicine and the absurd pledge it proposed be required of all scientists and technologists to "respect the earth and life upon it".

That was back in February. I seriously have to apologise to all Green Party members for failing to report this in detail and crow about being a member of what is now unequivocally the most awesome political party in the country. I am a tiny, tiny little prick.

Interestingly the reform occurred in the days immediately following the Sarah Goldsmith debacle. Could it be that the glare of publicity surrounding that episode convinced the attendees at the Green Party conference that reform was the only option to maintain the party's integrity. All I can say is that if it did it seems to have worked. More of the same! (More evidence-based policy, that is. Not more epic blogging fails from yrs trly).

Once again, apologies to Jim Jepps for posting bullshit criticisms on his LibCon post and to all Green Party members. Thanks to Sunny Hundal for putting me right.


awesome figure


The National Grid reported recently that Britain received 10% of its electrcity [sic] from wind over one 24 hour period.

Now we just have to install a government that will exploit the true potential of renewable generation revealed by this figure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

steady-state economics 101


This excellent summary of SSE describes how it inherently generates equality and sustainability. There's also this wonderful soundbite:

Nature draws no distinction between ideologies, and the world doesn’t fit into our political constructs. Something is either sustainable or it isn’t, and neither capitalism nor socialism is ‘the answer’.

Go and read it!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Caroline on the Labour leadership contest


"The leadership campaign thus reflects all that is worst in our politics: blandness, a lack of honesty, and a choice between slight variations on the same product, namely weak social democracy overshadowed by subservience to the market and international commercial interests. It is not a formula to restore faith in politics, help realign the left, or build a foundation for an assault on the coalition, let alone choose a future PM."
Quite, Caroline. Quite.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"the Tories' actual support among the voting age population is likely to be closer to a quarter than a third"


An electoral system that lets such a profoundly inadequate mandate wield control over the entire nation is called a pseudo-democracy. Anyone out there who is still uncertain whether voting should be compulsory or not? Or whether, at the coming referendum, instead of choice between a really undemocratic and unrepresentative system or an almost completely undemocratic and unrepresentative system, we should be given real choices for reform? A referendum where we, the electorate, every single one of us and not just the demagogues that infest Westminster, is called upon to register their position.

When I read things like this post, from which the title quote is taken, and I look and see what the ConDem coalition is doing to the UK, I am so, so glad to be leaving this country. If I had to stay to watch it torn apart, to see the public services and assets sold off, the and the human beings cast aside into the gutter I think it would actually break my heart.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shorter Gareth Porter: "US is a fundamentally aggressive and exceptionalist entity"


Interesting article, this:
"In his latest book, Washington Rules, historian Andrew Bacevich points to this largely un-discussed aspect of recent U.S. wars. The “Washington rules” to which the title refers are the basic principles of U.S. global policy that have been required beliefs for entrance into the U.S. political elite ever since the United States became a superpower. The three rules are U.S. global military presence, global projection of U.S. military power and the use of that power in one conflict after another. 
Bacevich suggests that personal and institutional interests bind the U.S. political elite and national security bureaucrats to that system of global military dominance. The politicians and bureaucrats will continue to insist on those principles, he writes, because they “deliver profit, power and privilege to a long list of beneficiaries: elected and appointed officials, corporate executives and corporate lobbyists, admirals and generals, functionaries staffing the national security apparatus, media personalities and policy intellectuals from universities and research organizations.” 
That description of the problem provides a key to understanding the otherwise puzzling serial denial by the political elite on Iraq and Afghanistan. It won’t do much good for anti-war people to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan unless they are also demanding an end to the underlying system that has now produced quasi-permanent American war."
Well, quite. Although I'm not sure what's so "undiscussed" about it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

the Liberal Democrats could yet save the country from ruin


As the UK electoral system is as transparent as mud I'm not sure what would happen if Nick Clegg did the sane thing and took the Liberal Democrats out of the ConDem coalition. One thing would be sure: Cameron and Osborne' insane, sociopathic Slashathon would have to come to a grinding halt.

Now there seem to me to be several reasons why Clegg isn't going to do this: cowardice, naked ambition, insanity, some bizarre concern to limit damage to the economic system which seems to hold more sway over the nation's fate that the votes of its electorate. I suppose its possible that Cameron and Osborne may be holding his children hostage in a basement in Bolton with several ugly Northern characters on hand ready to do unspeakable things with the obligatory blowtorch and pliers. Regardless of the true reason, they are all utterly morally bankrupt. Well, maybe not the kidnap scenario but then I clearly made that up so lets not dwell on it (although the number of people likely to die as a result of Tory policy over the next five years is undoubtedly much greater than the number of children Clegg has). As Richard Murphy writes:

"We have a financial crisis in the UK. It was not caused by the government; the crisis was caused by a collapse in our national income. That was, in turn, caused by the collapse of the banking sector. That crisis then resulted in the income of the government collapsing."
"Neither of these issues created a government spending crisis, because what we have is a government income crisis."
"Any deficit reduction policy aimed at cutting spending is wholly misdirected."
And so:

"[A] crisis in the nation's income which created a crisis in the government's income is being addressed by cutting spending – which was (by and large) under control. That makes no economic sense at all and does suggest that the spending cuts agenda is purely political."

The people in charge if the ConDem coalition are guilty of conducting that wholly misdirected assault upon government spending. As we all knew they would, the Tories are tearing the country apart again. This time there can be no doubt that their policy is driven exclusively by ideology and has little basis in fact or evidence (pdf).

My point is, therefore, that Clegg is propping up an ideologically driven assault on the government of the United Kingdom by people who are convinced that public services in the country can only be efficiently provided through free enterprise regulated solely by market forces. Its the Shock Doctrine and he either hasn't realised this or he actively supports it:

The problem wasn't just that the [Coalition Provisional Authority] was understaffed, it was also that it was staffed by people who lacked the baseline belief in the public sphere that is required for the complex task of reconstructing a state from the ground up. As the political scientist Michael Wolfe puts it, "Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are unlikely to do it very well." He adds, "As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster."
The Shock Doctrine pp354
Naomi Klein
As Clegg's public humiliation grows at the hands of his Tory masters one really begins to wonder whether he has allocated an appropriate degree of consideration to the consequences of his continuing support for this apocalyptic political movement. Without LD support the Tories' plans would be considered on a case-by-case basis by the various political elements in a crude approximation of democracy (gasp!). There might even be another general election. Regardless, what has arisen from an election that at one stage offered the most hope in a generation for meaningful political reform is something utterly regressive with absolutely no prospect for reform. It is the worst of all outcomes. The irony is that it doesn't need to be. I only hope that sufficient LibDems come to appreciate the potential that lies in their hands to remedy the situation. I don't think that Clegg has the balls but his party is sufficiently inexperienced at handling real power that many party members and even MPs retain some semblance of independence and- more importantly- the backbone to wield the power they hold.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"public opinion" is a fantasy


Interesting article from Lenin's Tomb.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BBC: "George Osborne will continue walking around and breathing"


The government is to refocus public spending on areas that will boost the UK's long-term economic success, the chancellor is to say.
As opposed to focussing on areas that will ensure the UK’s long-term economic prospects contain a bag of Haribo Star Mix for every man and woman over the age of eighteen.

Britain can put its economy back on the road to recovery without sacrificing growth or becoming an unfair society, George Osborne will tell City analysts.
Exactly how this is to be achieved in light of the epic Slashathon the ConDems have intiated, which is broadly considered to be sabotaging any chances of growth and ensuring an even more precipitous drop in any index of fairness you’d care to mention than their predecessors achieved, doesn’t seem worthy of consideration.

The future is not about how much the government spends, but what it does with the money, he will say.
“We would also like to observe that graminoids are frequently green in colouration”.

Speaking at Bloomberg's London offices, he will also criticise Labour's legacy
"Its not our fault the economy’s tanking. Labour spent all the money.”

It comes as new figures are expected to show inflation is rising much faster than most people's pay.

Analysts estimate that it will have dropped only slightly from last month's figures, when the consumer price index was 3.2% and the retail price index stood at 5%. Average earnings over the last year have risen by 1.3%.
“I’ve got a multimillion pound inheritance, whereas you’re all fucked”.

In his speech, Mr Osborne will attack Labour's claim to have ended boom and bust, calling it "the greatest failure of economic policy-making for more than 30 years".
“Isn't it funny how I now pretend that I had no role whatsoever in cheering it along or campaigning to push that policy further and faster than Labour ever did."

He will also claim the previous government had not specified where its planned £44bn cuts to tackle the £155bn deficit would come from.
"Neither have we, but don’t let any attempt at balanced coverage get in the way of your pseudo-journalism”.

His speech is set to hint at what the public service landscape could look like after autumn's comprehensive spending review.
“Its all gonna be mindlessly fucking slashed!”

Mr Osborne will tell his audience: "We are shaping the economy of the future by promoting a pro-growth agenda.
“A growth in mindless slashing!”

"We are shaping the big society of the future by decentralising power and empowering people. We are shaping the public services of the future by reforming the public sector so it delivers value for money.

"And we are shaping Britain's future role in the world through our review of defence and security."
“We’re mindlessly slashing the shit out of it all! We’re building upon Lady Thatcher’s epic legacy of slashing to make the UK a slashing Goliath bestriding the global stage!”

The chancellor will also explain that the government intends to "follow a ruthless approach to waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy in government" which could mean "bringing in external expertise", if necessary.
“Labour bought in consultants to help run the country. We’re bringing in Hollywood directors to script a new slasher flick: I Know What You Did Last Parliament.”

He will add: "We will tackle soaring welfare bills. And we will refocus public spending in those areas that will make a difference to our long-term economic success.
At this point The Rt. Hon. Mr Osborne made no further comment. He instead produced a long, sharp knife from inside his jacket and waved it in front of him, making “SHWING! . . . SHWING!” noises.

"It is not about how much the government spends but about what the government actually does with the money."
Mr Osborne now dropped his trousers to reveal some sort of terry-toweling nappy affair stuffed with £50 notes. He then proceeded to squat and seemed to strain for a second before noisily passing wind . . . or something.

Saturday, August 14, 2010



Here is an email exchange I had yesterday with 'Tory', a proudly conservative colleague who has just finished his PhD.

From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 15:33

To: Everyone
Subject: who is on weekend duty?


I have a special request for whoever is on weekend duty. Could they contact me or can someone tell me who it is?



From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 15:42
To: Punkscience
Subject: RE: who is on weekend duty?


Is it a request to wallpaper your bee houses with copies of the Guardian..?! :-P


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 15:46
To: Tory

NO! With pages from The Spirit Level, actually.


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:02
To: Punkscience

Good lord. Whatever theories will they come up with next?!

Does this book actually dare to suggest that the poor, uneducated skivvies are equal to us towering academic giants? Fools.



From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:09
To: Tory

No. No it doesn't. That would be preposterous! Pffftttt


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:19
To: Punkscience

I'm glad you agree. After all, who on earth would want to consider themselves equal with so many people who "find Pop Challenge In Your Eyes-Enders entertaining..." thereby forsaking their own "personal intellectual development"?!

[~NB: Here 'Tory' is actually throwing my own words from a previous exchange back at me.~]


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:22
To: Tory


I couldnt care less but pathetic liberal tree huggers are encouraging terrorists because the country is full!... True patriots must promote marriage...


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:26
To: Punkscience

F**k the country. The world is full!! The end is nigh , the end is nigh... Just strap yourself in and pray you come out the other side.


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:38
To: Tory

I have been realising over the past few years that soft-touch Britain is taking our country away from us. True patriots must send them packing. Its time to revolt people.


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:40
To: Punkscience

Hey, I think these guys agree with you Chris: [~link to the BNP removed~]


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:44
To: Tory

all right-thinking peopleknow that the pc nazis are stealing my cartax because our culture has been emasculated! the only solution is to go round their houses with a pair of pliers and a can of petrol.


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:47
To: Punkscience

We may actually agree about something... I detest the current drive for everything to be PC and the insidious creep of litigation that has slunk across the Atlantic.

I saw [~name~] and [~name~] last night and he has had to go on several 'Diversity' courses recently. The details beggar belief.


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:53
To: Tory

I read in the Sun that benefits cheats are trying to kill us all because nobody has the guts to stand up to them! Read my lips: have two strikes and you're out. You heard it here first!!


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:54
To: Punkscience

I read the same thing!! Benefit cheats and foreigners.

Now, where's the number for that lawyer...


From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 17:01
To: Tory

It makes me sick! does anyone realise that criminals are inviting in paedohpiles and AIDs. End this madness now build more prison, lock em up and throw away the key. GREAT britain is going to the dogs!!


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 17:02
To: Punkscience

Is that why you're escaping to NZ?!

From: Punkscience
Sent: 13 August 2010 17:47
To: Tory

No!!.. .Im not being rcaist but ethnics are getting freebies because they have been incompetent since day 1. Simple answer: build more prisons lock em up and throw away the key. What would Churchill say?!??


From: Tory
Sent: 13 August 2010 17:02
To: Punkscience

Now I'm not quite sure if you're actually being serious or not...

You might have noticed that all of my replies from 16:22 onwards are copied directly from spEak You're bRanes' glorious Twat-O-Tron. It took 'Tory' six consecutive replies to become suspicious of my responses. Which is rather telling.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

people need to hear this and repeat it to everyone they know


There is a movement afoot to challenge the political insanity of the ConDem coalition. I am happy to be doing my bit in reading this excellent piece of rantage (via the most awesome Signor Vowl) and pushing it upon both of my regular readers too. Even though I'm leaving I am still keen to do what I can to save this country from the likes of Cameron and Osborne.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

coalition of THE AWESOME


These people are a generally good bunch. I endorse their manifesto wholeheartedly for the powerful bucket of AWESOME that it is.

It is only a bucket, however. Not a lake. I'm disappointed that there's no express endorsement of electoral reform or sustainable development. There's not even an express commitment to social justice. Hmmmmmm . . maybe I should downgrade that bucket to a tea cup.

It is time to organise a broad movement of active resistance to the Con-Dem government's budget intentions. They plan the most savage spending cuts since the 1930s, which will wreck the lives of millions by devastating our jobs, pay, pensions, NHS, education, transport, postal and other services.

The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers' profligacy.

The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefit, black and other ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, LGBT people and pensioners.

Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors.

We reject this malicious vandalism and resolve to campaign for a radical alternative, with the level of determination shown by trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.

This government of millionaires says "we're all in it together" and "there is no alternative". But, for the wealthy, corporation tax is being cut, the bank levy is a pittance, and top salaries and bonuses have already been restored to pre-crash levels.

An alternative budget would place the banks under democratic control, and raise revenue by increasing tax for the rich, plugging tax loopholes, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, abolishing the nuclear "deterrent" by cancelling the Trident replacement.

An alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and foster a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, thereby creating a million jobs.

We commit ourselves to:

• Oppose cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services.

• Fight rising unemployment and support organisations of unemployed people.

• Develop and support an alternative programme for economic and social recovery.

• Oppose all proposals to "solve" the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating.

• Liaise closely with similar opposition movements in other countries.

• Organise information, meetings, conferences, marches and demonstrations.

• Support the development of a national co-ordinating coalition of resistance.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

how the hell did this guy get a PhD AND run for parliament?!?!?!


A good article from The Indy. I love the idea of requiring MPs to engage with science ( David Tredinnick, you poisonous little sociopath) but I don't imagine for one second that it will change the way parliament works. It makes me wonder why Julian Huppert would want to be an MP anyway. Surely he doesn't think that a single semi-rational voice will make a difference in parliament?

Friday, July 30, 2010

magnanimity can only proceed from the powerful


This is a great article.

"If I sent my child to, say, The Sir Richard Branson College, I would feel like a feudal serf. Actually, I already do, so let me embrace churlishness by suggesting that British arts, education and public transport be funded by a properly graduated income tax in which those earning more than £100,000 would pay a good deal more than they presently do."
There are some great quotes about social justice in there too. I also found this review of Danny Dorling's book Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists, which is so super-awesome that I am going to buy it right now from Scamazon.

"politicians in Britain and the other most unequal rich countries . . . have accepted and fostered the damaging idea that inequality is "unfortunate" but inevitable, rather than seeing it, first and foremost, as unjust."

"I feel very wimpy saying this, but I'm hardly saying, 'We want a revolution, we want a utopia.' I'm just saying, 'Can we be slightly less stupid, and we'll all be better off for it.'"
- Danny Dorling

There is an extract of the first chapter as well as downloadable figures and data from the book available on the publishers website. Nice.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

algal biofuels DOH!


Interesting piece of research from Cambridge suggests that the energy required to circulate algal cultures through the tubes of bioreactors will consume far more power than the cultures will yield. I'm a big fan of the concept of algal bioreactors and I think its disingenuous for New Scientist to have published this without considering the contribution to filling that power void that renewable technology could supply. Wind turbines are fairly inefficient things for converting wind to electricity but they are much better at converting wind to mechanical power, which could be harnessed to supply the necessary pumping. Obviously wind isn't reliable and so you could have a mix of backup technology such as photovoltaics and particularly biogas produced from the anaerobic fermentation of the organic mulch left over from biodiesel extraction.

The obvious problem is that all this adds greatly to the capital costs of the whole plant. However, as algal bioreactors will need to be situated near a source of CO2 to feed the cultures and preferably a source of grey water as well then locating water treatment works, conventional power stations and bioreactors together on the same site seems a "no-brainer" and this would lead to economies of scale and reduction in system duplication. This sort of integrated treatment/power generation site is clearly the way forward in sustainable technology. Combined with CHP technology and rubbish incineration a well-designed system could offer a complete sustainable technology hub for small to medium sized towns.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the new UK government is full of cunts


The coalition are conducting a brazen, insane Slashathon, using their dubious mandate to conduct an ideology-driven assault on many valuable government resources. So far we have seen the Sustainable Development Commission and the UK Film Council terminated, as well as more than a dozen others, in the name of "efficiency". There is no rationale behind these moves. The SDC was responsible for driving cuts worth tens of millions of pounds and it cost a paltry £3 million per annum to run. George claims they had identified further potential savings worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

A second ideological front has been opened up upon road safety, as detailed by George. Basically, funding for fixed traffic cameras is being pulled, despite their effectiveness at reducing deaths on the roads. The consequences are that the police must either shoulder the burden of catching and prosecuting speeding drivers at inordinate extra cost, or road casualties will rise dramatically. Just in case that argument sounds too absurd to believe lets just present it again:

Instead of funding fixed speed cameras to the tune of ~£10 million p.a. (net) the Tories want people to die on the roads or for the police to spend time chasing speeding motorists for ten times the cost instead of doing work that actually requires their extensive skills and training.

Did I mention the coalition's plans to slash the numbers of police?

In other news the coalition government has cut the funding for renewable generation technology. As Jonathon Porritt writes: "The greenest government ever? Don't make me laugh".

These people are demonstrably insane. As I've been pointing out for some time now.