August 2008 Archives

Ageism and sexism come together.

| | Comments (2)
mccainpalin2008.jpgWonkette compares McCain/Palin to J Howard Marshall/Anna Nicole Smith. So inappropriate. Yet so funny. Please accept my apologies in advance.

OK, I should include two alternative takes on the last few weeks' US campaign to make this a serious post. First, Scotland on Sunday has just realised that either candidate could win. Andrew Sullivan makes the case for Obama the strategist in the Sunday Times - recommended.

It's over, Darling.

| | Comments (0)
peakoilchart.jpgCommentary on Darling's Guardian interview has largely (and rightly) focused on his view that the economic times faced are "arguably the worst they've been in 60 years". Faced, note: he's not talking about the current economic situation, he's talking about where it's going. The current difficulties don't look worse than the early 80s or the early 90s yet. But where is it going?

While it's often said that the first responsibility of a Chancellor is to talk the economy up, when everyone knows better it just sounds Panglossian and out of touch. So I think he's right this time, albeit for the wrong reasons. 

It's not primarily about a credit crunch. Like the dot com bust before it, we're seeing the end of a bubble spun up by market players and governments to try and fend off something worse. Its symptoms are grim, sure, but the underlying problem is that we're well into the dying days of the cheap oil economy, more commonly known as globalisation. 

Oil prices have dipped again, but as the FT says, this is just a lull in the storm. Colin Campbell and the good people at ASPO told us a long time ago what would happen, and so far it's all following their predictions. 

As global oil output starts to plateau in 2007, they said, prices will spike. Given the total dependence of our economic model on cheap oil, we'll see a serious economic slowdown. This will lead to a drop in demand for oil, easing prices. Demand destruction, they call it. However, with maximum production matching supply so closely (i.e. in the absence of a swing producer), even small threats to production will cause significant price changes. 

So far, so recognisable. We can expect the easing of prices below $100 again to lead to a small economic rally, and thus an increase in demand. My guess is that's probably not due before the spring, although I'm reluctant to make predictions. 

As demand then picks up, and as oil output starts to drop properly, probably 12-18 months from now (click on the chart above for a bigger version), we'll see another spike, almost certainly higher than the $147 peak seen in July, although that partly depends on the strength of the dollar. Cue even greater demand destruction.

No-one in government in London or Edinburgh, nor amongst their main oppositions, has any idea about how to cope with this. They're just hoping it'll all go away, and dammit, it won't. The timescales above may be out, but sooner or later it's coming. 

Darling tells the story of a member of the public who said to him "I know it's to do with oil prices - but what are you going to do about it?". His response? "People think, well surely you can do something, you are responsible - so of course it reflects on me." 

The man at the pump knows more about the problem than Darling, because he knows Darling can do something about it, a fact that seems to escape the Chancellor. Perhaps this random member of the public should do the job instead. 

Of course Darling could do something about it: he could divert spending away from wasteful projects and wars and into renewables, R&D, public transport, etc. He could set an objective of energy independence. Any politician who doesn't tell you that getting off our fossil fuel addiction is their top priority doesn't deserve your vote.

The alternatives if we don't achieve that are likely to be dire. Coal's already back with a vengeance, and there's no dirtier fuel except old car tyres, so any idea that decreasing oil use will help climate change is a pure pipe-dream. The hard right and neo-Nazis may well start to do better as the economic situation worsens. They certainly think so: see point 4 on the top link here (that's a google link -  I'm not directly linking to the bloody BNP's site!).

A lot of the goods and services we take for granted will become incredibly expensive, and fuel poverty will hit levels last seen when Good King Wenceslas famously looked out. Poverty as a whole will rise. I wouldn't bet against more resource wars, either. 

There's no point worrying about it, though, when you can spend your time working to get more Greens elected instead. 

Back to Darling's interview. His economic warning has understandably overshadowed his line that "This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour party has had in a generation." 

It's a pretty extreme prediction too, though. What, it'll be worse than the last 18 months where you lost every election going? Worse than a million people marching against a Labour-led imperial war? Worse, Darling, than any given part of 1978-1993?  

How has it come to this, for Labour to have no imagination whatsoever about how to use a working Parliamentary majority? Here's a tip: why don't you address the looming energy crisis with something more constructive than nuclear and coal? 

All Labour has left is angst about themselves, fear of being exiled into opposition, and fear of being shown up by the Tories. Their absence of vision is now absolute, and it does indeed sound as though Darling's had enough. Perhaps he, like his namesake from Blackadder Goes Forth, is about to go over the top

Republicans attack the Greens.

| | Comments (1)
sarahpalin.jpgEveryone's very excited about McCain's VP pick, Alaska's Iron Lady (left). Fair play, it's sucked the oxygen of publicity away from Obama's convention as planned. 

It's also a good pitch for the PUMAs, although if they check out her position on abortion they'll be back with Barack. But won't she make McCain look, well, extremely old in a way that only Lonesome George normally looks?

Less well noticed, understandably, was a curious item from the Republicans' platform. On climate change they believe there's a need to "resist no-growth radicalism". You mean the kind of thinking that says a world of finite resources can't be subjected to endless economic growth? You mean Green thinking? 

It's a pleasure to be on the opposite side from these clowns. Looks like we're onto Phase 3 of Gandhi's famous maxim, just one step from victory.

On an unrelated matter, thanks to the Scotsman for publishing one of my earlier entries yesterday, in their actual newspaper (but not online, oddly). I'm hoping to parlay this breakthrough into a regular and thoroughly impartial column. Note to Scotsman editors: you have my number. Call any time.

Update: the wonderful Chez has spotted how much a younger Palin resembles Britney. Pic here.

Storm clouds over McCain.

| | Comments (0)
deadendkatrinaorleans.jpgThe news that a category 3 hurricane called Gustav could hit New Orleans this week is alarming local residents

It's Republican convention week too, which is alarming McCain's team, and they say they'd postpone the balloon-drop if need be. 

Another hurricane hitting Louisiana wouldn't just remind Americans of the utter disgrace of Bush's response to Katrina: it might also close down oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico, and remind them of how fragile and pointless a policy it is to try and drill your way out of peak oil.

Incidentally, I thought all hurricanes were female. Turns out they used to be, but since 1978 they alternate male/female each year, unless they get to Z
What a headline

Tavish on the ropes already.

| | Comments (0)
tavishn.pngPatrick's been urging me to watch Tavish Scott's appearance on Newsnight last night. Having done a substantial u-turn on a referendum in his first 24 hours in office, Tavish then refused to answer Gordon Brewer's question. After berating the media, which is always a good idea. (iPlayer link, until it goes down)

He started his leadership very clearly (by Liberal standards): "I am not intuitively against making sure that people have a choice and opportunity to vote on these things."

Then he rotated completely, saying he was opposed to a vote that could introduce independence "by the back door".

Pressed to reconcile these two contradictory statements, he refused. His policy on the constitutional future of our country? Fuel prices are too high. It's as absurd as saying your policy on fuel prices is independence. And no-one would do that.

Eventually Gordon got an answer: "I don't see how a multi-option referendum could work."

Here's a thought, Tavish. It could work like the leadership race you just won. It would be a preferendum, and if, say, three options are offered - independence, Calman or status quo - then the public rank their preferences. 

If one option gets 50% of first preferences outright, as you did, that's the result. If not, the least preferred option is eliminated, and the second preferences of those who picked it are counted. It's not "independence by the back door", it's the electoral system your party brought in for local elections. It allows a nuanced point of view - presumably you'd back Calman 1, status quo 2. I'd go for independence 1, Calman 2 (assuming Calman ever reports, and the result isn't absurd).

Even those opposed to independence should back a vote. If they're right about public opinion, we can all put this issue to bed for a generation and get on with tackling poverty and climate change. If they're wrong, then there's a popular will for change, and they shouldn't obstruct it. What's so complicated about that?

Kicking off.

| | Comments (3)
worldcup2010.gifA week on Saturday the World Cup circus resumes, and Scotland are playing away in Macedonia, kicking off the European section

The last Euro qualifiers should be seen as the culmination of one element of our national destiny - to lose in the most courageous and unlikely manner, in the narrowest of ways. By this argument, the whole of the last phase of Scottish football, from 1974 onwards, led up to that defeat by Italy. What could be more appropriate than beating France at home and away yet still not qualifying?

So having completed that part of our destiny, I am utterly confident about qualification, and will hear no talk of jinxes. I've never been to an international tournament, but am absolutely desperate to go to South Africa for this one. By train, naturally. 

It should also be noted that the 2010 World Cup falls directly between the last date for the next UK General election and any autumn referendum on independence. How much must Salmond be desperate for qualification and any afterglow from all that 90-minute nationalism?

deadrose.jpgAndrew Berry, a trade unionist from London and Labour member, recently attended a Scottish Labour leadership hustings, and I recommend his review. Here are some unedited highlights.

On Iain Gray and Andy Kerr: "The two men spoke first and frankly it was vacuous nonsense focused on what positions they held and bash the nationalist no mention of policy, Kerr if anything was to the right of Gray who is apparently Browns favoured candidate."

Cathy Jamieson: "talked about working with trade unions and for the party to be involved in making policy, whilst much of this was vague it was considerably more political and to the left of the other two."

She won his support, but it was hardly wholehearted: "I came out of the husting believing that was I in Scotland I would have little choice but to vote for Cathy Jamison despite the history of privatising the prison service and her dreadful appearance on question time were she seemed to support DNA collection of all UK citizens from birth."

He thought Bill Butler was clearly the best candidate for deputy, but: "didn't entirely agree with every thing he said such as his view that PFI should compete on a level playing field with other public sector financing, why it needs to be in the field at all I don't know."

Does anyone know why anyone with views like this, so antithetical to the modern Labour Party, would continue to support the party of PFI, war, privatisation, ID cards, and the rest? It's a mystery to me.

Caltongate disgrace.

| | Comments (0)
caltongatedemo.jpgEdinburgh Council's Development Committee today discussed Caltongate again, and duly ignored both UNESCO and the Scottish Green Party. At least we're in good company. 

The Council stuck to their untenable position, and this abomination is being forced through despite complete local opposition and despite the threat to remove World Heritage status. There's even an EU complaint pending, but this lot are impervious to reason.

The only person speaking sense was Green Councillor Steve Burgess, whose motion to hold the decision until UNESCO have visited failed because not a single other councillor on the Committee was prepared to second it. 

If you want a strange illustration of what the anger looks like, incidentally, check out this Evening News article. Three comments approved, then nine hundred and ninety-seven rejected. It looks like a vast amount of thoroughly legitimate swearing has gone on here, directed no doubt at the complacent councillors from the four larger parties.

Anyway, two days ago Robin Harper, Margo MacDonald and Shirley-Anne Somerville wrote to John Swinney, who is now the last person who can save the heart of historic Edinburgh. I've been critical of Shirley-Anne over this (second letter here), much to Malcolm's annoyance. Fair play, though, she signed up to the letter, and hopefully Swinney will listen to her. But if she couldn't even persuade her local councillor colleagues to back Steve's motion, is there much hope?

Ahoy there.

| | Comments (0)
combo.jpgThe bus brought Scotland's successful Olympic medal winners down past Parliament today, and everyone was there, the Save Meadowbank protesters, the general public who took Save Meadowbank placards in large numbers, the media, and politicians like Tavish Scott, whose Liberal colleagues in Edinburgh are behind the demolition alongside their SNP partners.

Some of the media picked up that this was the big story. Others buried it or ignored it altogether. At least I didn't see Jenny Dawe or Steve Cardownie, the prime suspects in the Case of the Missing Cycle Track, lording it up on the bus. That would probably have led to an egging. Or at least to a lot of angry bicycle-bell-ringing.

In praise of Jack McConnell.

| | Comments (3)
mcconnellmrworry.jpgNot as a First Minister, mind, as an ex-First Minister. Some people leave the top job and fester on the back benches, scheming and briefing against their successors. Others openly declare themselves to be back-seat drivers

But Jack saunters around the Holyrood building with the top two buttons of his shirt undone, clearly loving the fact that it's all someone else's problem now. 

It's not a Hawaiian shirt, but it clearly will be soon, and the medallion is already implicit. Even his walk is laid back, almost gravity-defying.

It's easier, in one sense, when you're gone because the public voted you out. Major famously walked out of Number 10 and down to the Oval. Both were politicians whose policies I didn't much care for, yet both have watched far inferior leaders of their parties come and go, failing in opposition and making them look better. 

Nobody even seems to know who Jack's backing to succeed Wendy, although I understand he's pretty clear on the strengths and weaknesses of all three candidates. Mr Worry's been left far behind, he's got a pension of £38k just from his First Ministership, and he's off to Malawi, which looks pretty damn gorgeous. Jack, I salute your nonchalance.

You can't argue with the man's mandate - 59% for Scott, 21% for Finnie, and 18% for Rumbles. The missing 2% presumably voted for Charlie Kennedy. Or were illegible. Or both.

Liberal members have looked at their party's response to minority government, i.e. resist any cooperation with anyone except Labour, and they like it. Personally I think that could be costly, but only time will tell.

I'm pleased to see someone yanked Jeff's chain, though.

Update: Tavish Scott seems to have had a massive and absurd rush of blood to the head. "Thank you for this, the gold medal in the Lib Dem Olympics. I'm with Chris Hoy. I'm comfortable and confident in being part of a federal political party."

So what would the events be at the real Liberal Olympics? Synchonised boredom? Bulldozer relays? Graph manipulation time trials? Long-distance fence-sitting?

In any case, I doubt Chris Hoy actually said he's "part of a federal political party". If he was a Liberal, he probably left after they led the campaign to demolish his beloved velodrome.

Don't eat tuna.

| | Comments (0)
tuna.pngThere's no excuse. Greenpeace have done a report (1.7Mb pdf) on Britain's tuna-eating habits, and it's truly appalling. 

I never understood the "but it's dolphin-friendly" argument when tuna themselves are so endangered. I may be a smug vegetarian, but surely, my meat-eating friends, there have to be some limits? Would you eat a rhino? A polar bear? A mountain gorilla?

The report's key findings include:

  • The UK is the second biggest tuna market in the world, consuming 700 million tins in 2006.
  • There are twenty-three tuna populations in the world, and nine are fully fished, four are over-exploited, three are critically endangered, three merely endangered, and three are vulnerable to extinction. 
  • 90% of the global population of predatory fish (like tuna and shark) has already been wiped out.
  • The use of long lines in the Pacific is one of the factors behind a 95% loss of leatherback turtles over the last three decades.
  • Between half a million and 1.4 million sharks die on long lines in the Western Pacific alone.
  • For every thousand tonnes of tuna caught in so-called Fish Aggregation Devices, one hundred and eleven thousand other animals were caught, including sharks, rays, marlins and sea turtles.
Even the Japanese, the biggest tuna consumers, are cutting down because of stock collapse, while here it's sold for cat food.

Blog tag.

| | Comments (5)
dianaprivateeyecover.jpgI had a feeling this was coming my way. Iain Dale started a "where were you when?" game of tag, he tagged Tom Harris, he tagged STB, and here we are.

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997

I was working in St Andrews, and my boss rang me up and told me to come over with the papers. We had croissants and coffee and watched rolling news. I felt then as I feel now: it's sad when any parent of young children dies, but no more for Diana than anyone else. The Private Eye cover abides, though (click for larger image).

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990

I was at home and my mother rang up to tell me we needed to organise a street party.

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001

I was self-employed, and my pal Hamish came round. It looked like the gates of hell had opened up, and that we would see escalating response and counter-response. Now, of course, it seems clear that it was Al Qaeda's one truly ambitious "spectacular".

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990

This predates my interest in football, really. Subsequently I have grown to love watching England games, especially versus Portugal, Germany and Argentina.

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963

Pass, for the same reason as STB.

Scottish Unionist (when he gets back)

A grim tale involving asbestos.

| | Comments (0)
rosyth.jpgLast week, at John Macdougall's funeral, Labour high heidyins mingled with his family. 

They included Des Browne, top Minister at the War Office, and therefore ultimately responsible for the decision to deny John Macdougall compensation for his asbestos-related lung cancer. 

He had worked with the stuff at the Navy's dockyard in Rosyth many years ago, and it killed him, eventually. 

Last November, having had that compensation claim rejected by Browne's Ministry, he started legal proceedings against the Government, but died before it could come to court.

Only the Sunday Times appears to have the story so far

In Glasgow East, the Labour candidate and the Labour campaign tried to distance themselves from David Marshall and his unusual approach to expenses. In Glenrothes they'd planned to associate themselves with a man many admired. But the truth is less convenient for them.

Rewarding failure.

| | Comments (0)
harvieIDcards.jpgThe Independent reports today that the firm which lost personal data for 84,000 convicted criminals is also lined up to work on the ID cards. This scheme is destined to fail or be scrapped, so the £33m they've been paid will be wasted no matter what, but if I had my way every company that ever fails on personal security should be blocked from any future Government IT contracts.

Coincidentally, I got a letter today from my local Liberal candidate claiming that voting for them was "the safest way to ... protect our traditional civil liberties". Odd, then, that they abstained on the issue in 2005 when Patrick had a motion down opposing ID cards.

No betting on Ross.

| | Comments (0)
captmainwaring.jpgRumours of shifting Liberal opinion started spreading earlier this month, with Tavish Scott being described as high-handed, furious with Ross Finnie for even standing, and offering no progress on their current situation. Mike Rumbles remains the outsider's outsider, but Finnie looked like a good bet. 

With this in mind, on the 12th of August, I asked William Hill if they would offer odds on the Liberal contest, and I was told that "the odds compiler has informed us that we do want to bet on Scottish Lib Dem leader, but the market is not been compiled yet".

Having seen nothing, I chased it up, and was today told that "We have forwarded your request to our Compilers who have now confirmed that we will not be offering these prices. A business desicion has been made not to offer betting on this market."

Why the change? Insufficient interest? Is it too hard for bookies to make any prediction about what this volatile electorate will do? Either way, my tenner remains unstaked.

It's Joe.

| | Comments (1)
joebiden.jpgHey Obama, you promised me I'd be the first to know your VP. How come I read it's Joe Biden on the BBC and still haven't had an email?

No matter. My good friends at Gristmill have posted a summary of Biden's environmental credentials. They seem decent for a US politician, bearing in mind the certain disappointment such situations always bring. Miles approves, too.

On the plus side, Biden's quoted as saying his number one magic wand request would be a solution to the energy problem, which does suggest a shortage of here-and-now ideas, but at least it's his top problem. He co-sponsored the toughest of the various climate change bills floating around the Senate, opposes extra drilling whether in Alaska or offshore, and backs renewables.

On the flipside, he's still pushing biofuels, although those positions may be old, so I won't rush to judgement there. His ideas on targets remain inadequate, but he's hardly alone on that in US politics. And one of the videos on that summary has him talking about "clean coal", which is always a clear sign that someone's been bought.

Still, compared to McCain... Just so long as the 1988 campaign doesn't turn around and bite him and Obama.

Foxy 1, Liberals 0.

| | Comments (0)
foxy.jpgIn case you're wondering what Liberal MPs get up to in their spare time, I'd like to draw your attention to the following spurious complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency. It was made by Don Foster, their so-called Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

He disputed an advert for Foxy Bingo (Foxy seen left with the ever-classy Jordan) which offered free money to play bingo with on the traditional "hey kids, first sample free" basis. 

Except not kids, because, well, it's bingo.

Have a look at the third paragraph of the assessment, in which the ASA show how players either lose their free tenner or get to take their winnings out. Shouldn't a Shadow Secretary of State have been able to work that out? Do real Secretaries of State do stuff like this? Why am I even wasting my time writing about it?

Update: I recommend the following judgement against "Margaret". Now there's some unsubstantiated claims!
Iain Dale, who's doing his best to corner the political blogs by telling us all how much he loves us, interviewed Salmond today for Total Politics

The story's not yet posted there, but PA reports some pretty unattractive comments by the First Minister about not minding the economics of Thatcherism, just the social side. 

So those two aren't related? The massive social dislocations around de-industrialisation and privatisation weren't anything to do with her flawed economics? 

However, the rest of the interview makes more sense. Specifically, he goes on to say that:

".. of the other parties in the Scottish Parliament, the Greens - who have been very constructive - and the Conservatives have been the ones who have got the most out of the political situation, in my opinion."

It's hard to disagree. We are often the only party opposing the Nats, especially on transport, planning, and the environment. Conversely, where we agree with them, we'll work with them. In between, we look for common ground, and always aim to be fair and honest about their record, the successes and the failures. This is what constructive means. 

Last year's budget remains the most glaring example. We told them what we wanted to see changed. We explained what changes would be sufficient to make it a budget we could abstain on, and what changes would be sufficient to make it a budget we could back. 

Net result? They made enough change to allow abstentions, a whole string of green improvements to the budget which I won't bore you with again, and their budget went through. But in the end, Labour and the Liberals also abstained and got nothing for it. My very first entry here set out how the various parties did.

For a little schadenfreude, by the way, check out the Labour comments in the BBC article about our discussions with the Nats in May last year.

Back to the interview, it's hard to disagree with Salmond's other conclusions about the various parties here:

"The Labour Party have just been heads down, charging and usually missing, bypassing the matador and heading into the crowd somewhere.

"And the Liberals? I have no idea what they're doing. I don't think they do either."

In short, Green votes elect politicians who make change happen. Liberal and Labour votes don't. On this at least, Salmond's spot on.
horsesonelaughs.jpgI'm really not following the Olympics, except for heroic stadium-saving cyclists, the occasional bit of table tennis, and of course the beach volleyball.

However, this caught my eye. Four horses were caught taking capsaicin, and will be banned. Capsaicin is one of my favourite things, being the active ingredient in chilli peppers. If you're not a horse, or at least not a horse at the Olympics, may I recommend the chipotle tabasco

Facing both ways.

| | Comments (0)
makeithappenclegg.jpgNick Clegg recently published a summary of his views, coincidentally called Make It Happen (pdf link). 

Whether it's party policy or just his policy isn't clear - if you search for it, Google thinks it's called "Front Page Nick Only". They seem to have decided to go really personal, because they think that's worked for the Tories. 

Anyway, one of the sections caught the attention of a friend. On page 7, Nick says (emphasis mine):

"Labour have let us down. They make big promises about cutting emissions, but then they back dirty coal-fired power stations and plan another runway at Heathrow. And they build expensive new roads instead of funding proper public transport."

Just like Liberals when they get into power. Tavish Scott and Nicol Stephen, as Transport Ministers, rammed through a series of expensive new roads, including the Aberdeen Western Peripheral, the M74 Northern Extension (against the Inquiry's report), and the M80 project (delivered through PFI). 

But where's the Aberdeen Crossrail? The Glasgow Crossrail? Languishing still, despite four years of Liberal Transport Ministers and eight years of Liberal coalition with Labour. 

The page this hypocrisy appears on is ironically titled "Why is it so hard to go green?" Actual Greens find it pretty straightforward to go green, but it certainly seems impossible for the Liberals.

Thanks to Rayyan Mirza for the delighful montage to the left. 

Boom and bust.

| | Comments (1)
Thumbnail image for libdemlogo.jpgThe other parties claim to love prudence, even though Greens are usually the only ones suggesting actual savings (1, 2, 3, just for starters). 

Their own finances normally tell a different story. Labour and the Tories have long shown substantial and damning incompetence with their own money, even if their bankers bale them out over and over again.

It's no surprise that the Liberals are now in the same position

Their policy platforms are bankrupt, their leadership candidates are a busted flush, their largest donor is on the run from a fraud trial, and, as the auditors have said: 

"These conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the party's ability to continue as a going concern."

Yet another gong.

| | Comments (0)
doggycheekstretch.jpgIain Dale's list of the 20 best green blogs came out today. His lists are the Oscars of the blogging awards world, otherwise I wouldn't mention it. I'm delighted to get the #2 slot, behind the estimable Jim Jay's Daily (Maybe), and I promise not to mention any more awards anytime soon. I mean, does anyone other than the awardees really care?

Triple gold!

| | Comments (0)
savemeadowbank.jpgThis Olympics have broadly passed me by. I don't think they should have been given as a prize to a totalitarian government, and I don't care either way about the Saltire vs Union Jack nonsense that others have taken an interest in. 

Also, the table tennis never seems to be on.

However, yesterday saw Chris Hoy take his third gold, and in turn three Edinburgh councillors, Liberal, SNP & Tory, displayed world class double standards. They put out congratulatory "emergency" motions, attempting to associate themselves with his success.

How can we mark Hoy's sporting achievements properly, one asked? How about listening to him when he campaigned against the demolition of the velodrome at Meadowbank, where he trained? Ah, no, all three councillors were too busy supporting the demolition, which will allow more houses to be built (good timing!) and more money to be diverted into council coffers.

Chris put up a new video appeal to save Meadowbank yesterday, which shows how the Council have neglected these facilities. The Save Meadowbank campaign has a good website, and you can sign the petition here. The Herald gave the story due prominence, but the Scotsman missed it

But what are these councillors thinking? How dare they try to wrap themselves in the flag (whichever one suits them) and gloss over their extraordinary acts of civic vandalism? Hypocrisy is clearly a team event, and the three of them yesterday claimed the gold medal.

Another prize.

| | Comments (1)
Thumbnail image for sgprosette.jpgBlushingly, yet with great ego, I have to acknowledge this #1 ranking from Jim Jay, who compiled the Best Green Blogs of the year. He's also doing a readers' poll on that same page, in case any of you kind souls want to do the right thing.

Ten golden tickets.

| | Comments (0)
I'm on Barack Obama's spam list, just out of curiosity. Like at least hundreds of thousands of others, I'll be the first to know who his VP pick is. 

It's Hillary. No, it's not.

Tonight I got an email signed "Barack" which told me about the ten "ordinary people" who get to meet him backstage before he accepts the nomination. It's like rock'n'roll, politics, you see.

The ten names interested me less than the ten states these individuals come from (links take you to coverage about them). Montana, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alaska and North Dakota. Now take a look at today's map.

It shows twelve swing states, including some you might not expect, like Montana, North Dakota, and Indiana. Virginia's the swingest of them all just now, as liberal Washington DC spreads south. 

In short, Pennsylvania and Alaska are the only two on Barack's little list for hometown coverage that aren't currently showing swing-ness. But Pennsylvania went for Kerry by just 2%, and it's Clinton country, so Barack's just spreading the love. And Alaska has a very close Senate race going on, with a Republican in some very hot water

Now this could, of course, be coincidence. And I'm Willy Wonka (both versions included - take your pick). The lady from Montana, incidentally, makes the same joke.
teddytaylor.jpgWhen New Labour was still new to power, I was down in London with the Ancients, the non-NUS student unions, arguing that the abolition of grants and the imposition of tuition fees would deter poorer students. We were right, of course.

Labour-run NUS Scotland was "bravely" arguing for their poorest members to lose their grants, incidentally. Labour most recently voted to impoverish students in December last year, but fortunately there were enough SNP, Liberal & Green votes to overturn the fees that Labour and the Liberals had brought in.

Anyway, we worked out of Andrew Welsh's office that week, and made good contacts with the Tories, in particular David Willetts and Teddy Taylor, both of whom were very hospitable solely because we were there to try and make Labour's life more difficult. Teddy was particularly impressed with a bit of research we'd done, and waved a copy of it at the Minister during the debate. 

That was the first and last Commons debate I ever went to, and I left thoroughly depressed by it, except for the passing satisfaction of our report being used in anger. I had had low expectations of Labour Ministers, but still thought they'd be an improvement on the Tories. 

However, when I closed my eyes, I heard Labour (I think in the form of Brian Wilson) making Tory arguments about competitiveness in higher education, indistinguishable from their predecessors in government.

Meanwhile, Willetts and other Tories were making the social inclusion case for poor students, arguing for equality of opportunity, just like their predecessors in opposition. 

It made me think of that 70s anarchist graffiti - no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in. And something Teddy said to us over tea has stuck with me.

"We'll do what we can for you now, but don't trust us if we ever get back into office."

Good advice, I always thought. And it came to my mind again this week when I read comments on air travel from their transport spokesperson, Teresa Villiers. She apparently told Today that the economic and environmental case for a third runway had yet to be proved. The BBC quote her saying:

"There's no serious research on the value of transfer passengers. Neither the government nor the studies on this have looked at the cost of the increase in pollution in the area around Heathrow."

They also report her view that "the government had not costed the carbon impact of international inbound flights", and apparently "one of the alternatives the Tories were looking at was high-speed rail".

Tories considering rail instead of air? Not expanding airports? Concerned about pollution? Actually carbon-costing things? I'm with Teddy on this, I'm afraid. I bet you a first class air fare to a day saver bus ticket this kind of greenery gets dropped the day they take office. 

Category mistake.

| | Comments (0)
kittenglasssmall.jpgLabour are in a total mess over post office closures. Jack Straw, for instance, campaigns to save them locally, but Public Whip reports he's strongly against being against closures when actually voting. He's not the only one, and hiding behind that double negative won't help him.

In case you're wondering what the peak of Labour hypocrisy is on this issue, I give you ... the Minister responsible for Post Office closures arguing with himself.

Darling now faces the same decision. Campaign against himself locally? I doubt it. He really sees them as loss-making businesses, owned by the Government but for some reason not ready to be privatised. 

Leave that craziness to the Liberals and just run it down instead, that's Labour's solution.

Post offices are not just a business. They're a vital public service, in the same category as hospitals or schools. They bring some money in, true, just like the NHS charges for prescriptions, but we don't complain that the NHS or the police "make a loss" each year. All Labour's problems in this area come from not understanding this simple point.

After all, where else are you supposed to go when you need to fill in some ridiculously long government form? Or post something that's too large for a letterbox? Or buy a tacky card with a kitten sitting in a cocktail glass? OK, there are alternatives for that last one.

Simon Jenkins did a good piece on this earlier in the year. Apparently the total cost of all the UK's non-profit-making post offices is £150m a year, or £2.47 a head. That's the same annual cost as the Royal family, for instance (despite the spin). 

Alternatively, the £76bn cost of replacing Trident could fund all these post offices for more than 500 years, if you don't want to see the Queen out delivering mail. 

Labour's decision not to fund and support this service is the kind of short-sighted ideological idiocy which will drive them from office. It's a political deathwish. Please don't break too much more before you jump, that's all I ask.

(disclosure: my local post office is scheduled for the chop too - thanks, Labour)

Lost in space.

| | Comments (0)
carinspace.gifGristmill note that the most recent American government figures on driving show a substantial drop: a 4.7% reduction in mileage, motivated by the increase in oil prices (154Kb pdf).

A 4.7% drop amounts to a staggering 12.2 billion miles. In other words, one year's reduction in U.S. driving is equivalent to 489,940 fewer car trips around the world, a standard unit of mega-distance.

Looking at the bigger picture, the total American mileage over the last year is 2,954,326,000,000 miles, roughly. That's a little more than half a light year, the next largest such unit. Now, the nearest star system to our own is, as everyone knows, Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light years away. 

Over George Bush's term of office, therefore, Americans will have collectively driven as far as Alpha Centauri, more than 25 trillion miles, and all at about 24.6 miles per gallon. Other sci-fi dorks may find this as shocking as I do.

Brushing it under the carpet.

| | Comments (0)
kingsnorth.jpgIf there's one thing that Salmond, Brown and Cameron all agree on, it's carbon capture and storage (CCS), which allows the filthiest fossil fuel around to be rebranded "clean coal".

The theory is that you attach a big hose to a coal-fired power station's chimney, and pump the CO2 back into empty oilfields.

The Nats, Labour and the Tories think this is a magic bullet to allow business-as-usual power generation. Our position has always been "well, if you can prove it works and is more cost-effective than renewables, it's a possible transitional technology".

But the evidence is growing that CCS simply won't work. The reason is that the CO2 doesn't just magically get itself underground - it has to be pumped, and that takes more energy, specifically about 30% more coal power. 

Once you factor in the lifetime consequences of extracting, transporting and burning that extra coal, the nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide emissions are up to 40% worse (peer-reviewed actual science) than a standard coal plant. That means more acid rain, more ozone destruction, and more water pollution.

In short, Labour, the Nats, and the Tories are going down a dead end. Shouldn't the fact that Arthur Scargill's also on their side have been a bit of a give-away? It's not as if we don't have other perfectly good and genuinely clean technologies that we could be diverting the money towards instead.

Via the excellent Gristmill.

Sage advice.

| | Comments (4)

A couple of days ago Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting (left) floated a radical idea for the next Holyrood election, assuming the SNP remain way ahead of Labour in the polls. Other SNP tactical voters, he suggests, should consider giving the Greens their regional list vote, formerly known as the second vote. 

We are, he says, "a cracking party", hopefully in the "cracking cheese, Gromit" sense. 

Above all, for him and other tactically-minded nationalists, this is because we Greens support a referendum on Scotland's constitutional future. With Wendy gone, no-one else does, so their Bill is almost certain to fall.

However much the SNP find it rewarding to go to the country in 2011 complaining about "obstructive unionists", the electoral system makes getting 65+ seats an exceptionally tall order for a single party. 

This isn't a coincidence: it was part of the original Dewarite thinking - along with "dish the Nats" and "inevitable coalition government". Those two objectives may have demonstrably failed, but 65+ remains a mountain under the alternative member system, which was designed to give diminishing returns as you get closer to the magic number. Some wonk should do a graph. It'd probably look a bit like this

Although Salmond has an eye-popping ability to make extravagant political predictions come true, as noted here before, even he hasn't claimed they can get an absolute majority next time. In his tartan heart he knows it isn't going to happen, otherwise we'd have definitely heard about it from him.

All things must pass, as I keep reminding SNP friends, but it does remain hard to see how Labour can restore their fortunes in less than three years without an Nat implosion of some as yet unknowable sort. If the SNP go into the next election 19 points ahead on the constituency list, might it make sense for them to encourage their voters to back the Greens, at least in some regions? 

To see the sort of wasted votes they're worried about, just look at Central Scotland, where 112,596 people voted Labour on the list last time, almost as many votes as the second and third parties combined. This heroic turnout returned precisely zero list MSPs. The same applied in 2003 and in 1999. Massive piles of votes straight into the recycling, effectively expressing no preference amongst the other parties.

The same happened in Glasgow, and in West, and in South, at all three elections. In short, Labour list votes haven't elected anyone across half of Scotland since the Parliament was established. Liberal list voters in the Highlands have never elected an MSP, either, incidentally.

If the Nats start cleaning up completely in the constituencies (as per this fantasy constituency map), the same would undoubtedly start happening to them, starting in the North East, then Mid Scotland and Fife, then Highlands and Islands. Salmond's people are surely too smart to let those votes pile up for no purpose, unlike Labour strategists?

Under these circumstances, I can quite see why, leaving aside the referendum, SNP supporters might well think it better to make us their second choice. They see Labour as the obstacle, so they're absolutely out. The Liberals stuck two fingers up at them in May last, so they're absolutely out. The Tories have proved pragmatic partners for Salmond's administration but remain ultra-Unionist, so they're out for many. 

So, Green it is, then. While we disagree with a swathe of SNP policy (over transport, planning, climate change and the economy in particular), we also agree on a fair amount too (tuition fees, nuclear power and nuclear weapons, civil liberties, support for small businesses and votes at 16, to pick a few examples). 

Such an election would also not feature the squeeze which cost us so dearly last year, and which was replicated in Glasgow East. Even without tactical voting, we are clearly best placed to benefit from any desire to make post-2011 "a more interesting and diverse parliament" if we work hard and make a clear case for a green agenda. 

Jeff says "it's thyme", presumably because herbs are green too. Whatever the logic, I'm always pleased to see people making the case for Green votes. It's sage advice.


Kez agrees.

Craig, not so much.

Angry Steve, not at all.

Thumbnail image for wiltedrose.jpgWilliam Hill have reopened betting on the Labour leadership, and they show Iain Gray as a narrow favourite, in line with that part of my prediction.

Gray's picked up much more of the trade union vote than expected, despite Cathy Jamieson's best efforts, and has of course won over Labour MPs with a promise not to lead them. Their votes really count, as STB has calculated.

Iain Gray - 5/4
Andy Kerr - 11/8
Cathy Jamieson - 3/1

I still think Cathy'll be more popular with the membership than people expect, enough to take second place. But no-one's offering odds on that.

An odd slip.

| | Comments (0)
Thumbnail image for cochrane.jpgRegular readers will know I am a fan of Alan Cochrane's writing, however much I disagree with his actual politics. 

Get your regular Cochrane here.

However, his most recent piece has a weird conclusion. Skip through the Prescott-hating (hey, I never liked him much either, but he's gone now and it's not clear why anyone would feel the need to pummel him at this late stage), and then take a look at the last four paragraphs.

Scotland's proud Last Unionist backs a scheme from Prof Antony King to reduce "strains on the Union" around the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula. The bright idea is to cut the number of Scottish MPs further. But didn't we just do this? In 2005 we went from 72 down to 59, and the next Scottish election saw a distinct rise in SNP support. Would going down to 45 be an effective way to "dish the Nats"?

In what sense would giving Scotland even less of a say in UK governance (war, social security, much of the economy) tackle those strains? Scots who care about those issues would be more likely to feel that Westminster isn't listening. English people aggrieved about the excess of Scots MPs aren't likely to be satisfied until they're all gone.

No, this would be a step towards having zero Scottish MPs in Westminster, which can't be Cochrane's plan, unless there really are no Unionists left.

There are only two ways to fix the West Lothian Question. First, devolve similar powers to either an English Parliament or to regional assemblies (which get a further slating in that same article). Second, independence.

Each time Americans go round their protracted electoral cycle, it gets a little more internet. It doesn't seem to happen here in the same way - perhaps we're not quite at critical mass yet, or maybe we're slow learners. 

Anyway, the attack ad and YouTube were made for each other. Next to zero cost to make (some dork with a copy of Final Cut), zero cost to distribute (Google pays), and easy to circulate. Also for free.

Here's two very different ones against McCain. They each take a very different tone, but both make me pretty anxious about the fact that he's even still in this race (and tightening - Electoral Vote has it at 289-249 in Obama's favour today).

First, here's a TPM one about what a senile fool he is. Especially about Czechoslovakia. And timetables. Not to mention dirt, and/or Frankenstein. 

Next, the really scary one, thanks to Scribo Ergo Sum. I have seen about half of the clips from this already, but the whole package together shows a terrifying whole. Seriously, if these two are the choices, wouldn't seeing this make everyone more sensible than Strangelove himself back Obama?

Anyway, it's not just the Americans who're doing this, obviously. Here's one more, presumably a TV ad just ripped for YouTube, but it was done by the Jamaican Labour Party, they posted it officially, and it has a YouTube aesthetic about it. Aaron tells me that "don't draw mi tongue" means "don't provoke me into slagging you off", roughly.

Islamic and Green.

| | Comments (0)
gusdur.jpgSome people think concern about the planet's future is a purely decadent Western activity, as if climate change, resource depletion and pollution won't hit the poorest hardest. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

Greens are the only truly global movement, holding common ground with activists and politicians around the world. The latest addition to this list is former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur (left). 

He is transforming the PKB party into an Islamic and environmentalist party, arguing for human rights and peace, and against logging and environmental destruction. This piece has the story, and sets out how nuclear power was declared haram or forbidden by Javanese clerics. 

Why should politicians around the world care about the environment? That same article says that Islamic policians are recognising "that their rural base relies on environmental resources". Same as everyone else, whether urban or rural, in other words.

Blood on the streets.

| | Comments (5)
blakewoad.jpgblakewoad.jpgThumbnail image for blakewoad.jpgDespite the ascent of Salmond to power as the "new king of Scotland" (and I think we can all agree that he's better than the "last king of Scotland"), the cybernats remain full to bursting with bile and bad puns. I think everyone else has left the Scotsman and Herald discussion boards to them, now they're such polluted spaces.

Scottish Unionist (formerly known as AM2 on those same discussion boards) has done sterling work keeping  track of some of these loons (Gordon Girvan, Jay Kay etc). A few more just caught my eye in a piece about the Council Tax.

Vivas, first of all, subtly suggests there's something wrong with Gordon Brown. I don't think this is one of the SNP's key messages.

Persuasive, as this fellow is, he's not in the same league as Iainbroch, who I think must work in PR. The way they use "Liebour" gets funnier and funnier, and I think if I hear it one more time I'll join the SNP. Not.

The most striking of all, though, was from someone trading as "Vote for Scotlands Future, Vote for the SNP on". Yes, it just ends like that. And is devoid of the apostrophe. But these are minor linguistic misdemeanors compared to the true evils of this comment.

This disgrace to Scotland explicitly says he would like a Scot to be denied healthcare in England, and then to die, so we could have a bloody separation from England, presumably along the lines of the end of Yugoslavia. I thought initially that this person must be an agent provocateur, but he or, I suppose, she has a bit of a history, some mad, some not so.

I've been telling the SNP for a long while now they need to pull their cybernat forces back, because these comments are not exactly helping their cause. Perhaps I shouldn't have: it's better that people know what lurks on the fringes.
comb.jpgNeal Lawson and Robert Philpot still believe Labour is the answer to this country's questions. But what kind of Labour? A Blairite sort, with Choice? Or a more leftwing version, with Windfall Taxes? 

Their debate in today's Guardian is illuminating, but not in the way they may have hoped. Philpot thinks letting poorer parents, jobseekers and even truant schoolchildren manage budgets for their own improvement will work. Actually, the childcare one isn't nonsense to exactly the same degree, but the others show he's drunk so much of the Blairite Kool-Aid that there's no hope for him.

Conversely, Lawson argues for the following policies:

"... we could start building council houses, mandate a living wage, create a national well being index, provide fee school meals for all primary kids, stop taxing people earning under £10,000, place a ban on advertising to children, introduce a fair voting system, drop ID cards, elect local health boards, introduce a graduate solidarity tax instead of fees and phase out our reliance on oil."

In other words, a 95% Green agenda. A living wage is less radical and effective than a citizens' income, sure, but it's a step in the right direction. We wouldn't add a new tax on graduates - they pay more already, see, because they earn more. 

Equally, I'm not sure how you'd prevent children seeing any advertising. Ban all billboards, commercial television, and bus-stop ads? Actually, that sounds quite appealing. Overall, though, PR, no ID cards, end reliance on oil? Sure, about time.

But what an odd debate. One of these two numb-skulls thinks that a Labour party enmired in marketisation and resisting change will win the next election. And the other thinks that a Labour party which has been hollowed out from the inside by Blairism is ready to become more or less the Green Party. 

My advice to them both? Mr Philpot, congratulations, you're on the very left of the Conservative Party. Mr Cameron will be delighted to have you because you'd prove he was "progressive", and you'll find it's better than opposition. Mr Lawson, you've not got the best political antennae, but please do nevertheless join your local Green Party. 

This Labour Party you're squabbling over, it's finished. 

Pincer movement.

| | Comments (0)
bluelobster.jpgPressure against local income tax continues to grow in the Liberal party following the Vince Cable briefing. Jonathan Calder, the party's so-called "blogfather", has a piece in today's Observer criticising local income tax and arguing instead for some kind of property-based tax. His Damascene conversion followed a Tory lady explaining the following to him:

"Do you realise why the rates are unpopular? It's because you can't hire a sharp accountant to get you out of them, the way you can with income tax." 

Quite. Just one element of that evasion, the so-called non-dom loophole, cost us £3.8bn last year. The total amount avoided by those with sharp accountants was a massive £13bn. Just think - a sum so gargantuan that you could build three Forth road bridges with it. Or you could repair the existing bridge 1,300 times over

Would the subset of those serial evaders resident in Scotland evade a local version of income tax less effectively or more effectively? My money's on "more", given the widespread incompetence local authorities have demonstrated around Council Tax.

On the other side of the argument, Andy Kerr has followed Iain Gray's lead and accepted that Council Tax must go, which has been blindingly obvious to the rest of us since about 1993. Kerr's talking vaguely about proposals from the Burt Report, which recommended a tax set at 1% of house values. 

Labour Ministers, including Kerr, rejected the report even before it was published, less than two years ago. It's curious that he should want to go back to it, given that, but I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

Burt also considered Land Value Tax, and concluded that:

"Although land value taxation meets a number of our criteria, we question whether the public would accept the upheaval involved in radical reform of this nature, unless they could clearly understand the nature of the change and the benefits involved." (p120, Burt Report, 686M pdf)

OK, so I promised to set out the nature of the change and the benefits involved. I will do so, I guarantee. But again, not today. In the mean time, isn't it interesting (if you're a tax wonk) to see how support is draining away from both Local Income Tax and Council Tax?

Commerce or conservation?

| | Comments (0)
pandawwf.jpgThe First Minister has admitted that the plan to bring Chinese pandas to Edinburgh Zoo is "primarily a commercial transaction", not conservation. We knew that already, of course. 

Pandas have been misused this way for centuries, as far back as the reign of Wu Zetian in the 7th century AD. Taiwan came under Panda Attack in 2006, and in 2007 the Chinese claimed they were giving up the habit, but actually they just started charging more.

Exactly what the Royal Bank of Scotland get out of it is unclear, but don't bet against some additional access to Chinese markets.

Give away or sell out?

| | Comments (2)
atomictree.jpgThe environment movement is still agitated about George Monbiot's article this week in the Guardian, in which he said:
"I have now reached the point at which I no longer care whether or not the answer is nuclear. Let it happen - as long as.. <caveats>" 

Leaving those caveats to one side briefly, I do recommend watching Tuesday's Newsnight (YouTube). They brought Monbiot in to defend his article, and put him up against Brian Wilson (the one who's been bought and sold, not the good one), and Jonathan Porritt, formerly of this manor

I've long been concerned that Porritt had lost his way, even before he was co-opted by Blair. Conversely, I've always admired Monbiot, ever since he used to be a regular on Newsnight as the voice of the roads protesters. Disclosure: I first met him outside the Cakehole, where he was introduced to me as Moonboot. Last year he did a fundraiser for the Party ahead of the elections too.

But I cheered when Porritt told him he'd sold out (although obviously not in the same literal way that Wilson has). Porritt made comprehensive sense all the way through, and managed to keep himself civil even as he pointed out Monbiot's gargantuan blunder.

If you want to know whether Monbiot has helped or hindered campaigns for clean energy, just look at Wilson's smug face as he awards a "slow learner's prize" to the former lion of the campaigners.

Back to those caveats. He listed four, as follows:
1. ".. its total emissions are taken into account"
2. "we know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried," 
3. "how much this will cost and who will pay;"
4. "and there is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be used by the military."

First, "take total emissions into account" could hardly be more vague, while nuclear's carbon emissions are substantial and rising. Research shows that the the amount of CO2 emitted in the nuclear process is dependent on the grade of the ore. Current power stations emit 84-122 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, but the quality of the remaining uranium ore will drop (Storm & Smith 2008, 672K pdf), and as it does, nuclear's emissions will rise and overtake even gas. (Oxford Research Group paper, p.42, 1.3M pdf) 

It's not hard to see why: the processes behind the scenes are complex and energy-intensive, and so the costs will only rise as oil depletes. If you listen to the nuclear lobby, they never mention it being a finite resource, nor that it uses vast amounts of energy to extract, mill, and ship around the world. Those carbon consequences will rise even more rapidly if the world returns to nuclear, as the higher grades and softer ores deplete faster. Monbiot knows that nuclear can't wash its own face even in climate terms, so why imply it could?

Next, he doesn't insist on a safe and permanent solution to waste being developed. He just wants to know how and where it's going. A letter from Gordon Brown explaining that it's going to be three feet down in your garden in a MDF box would apparently suffice there. I know that seems unfair, but the article is exceptionally sloppy, especially given the importance of the issues. Presumably we should hear the implied word "safety" there, but how can we guarantee centuries of safety, no matter what the containment?

Third, it'll cost an absolute arm and a leg, and we're all paying, as usual, right to the death. Does that reassure you, George?

Finally, you'd trust some kind of written statement that "oh no, we won't use this for nuclear weapons, promise"? It's not like that would stop Brown/Cameron/Clegg pushing ahead with Trident renewal - the Americans would be more than happy to sell us what we need. After all, Britain was their third largest supplier of plutonium between 1967 and 1988. 

And not using our own waste would just push the prices up, surely? Trident replacement is already a tad expensive at £65 billion.

Overall, this is a weaker position on civil nuclear, let it be noted, than David Cameron's one. He said straight-out that "there shouldn't be subsidies", which effectively kills civil nuclear dead. According to the Nation, Darling apparently said the same thing in 2006, but that was then and this is now.

Also, it's not like we don't know what the answer is: 100% renewables and energy efficiency. Where nuclear already emits 84-122 grams of CO2 per kWh, wind is just 11-37g, and biomass just 29-62g (see the ORG report above). Coal, incidentally, emits around 850g, eight times more than nuclear, and thirty-five times more than wind, using the middle of those ranges. If America can go carbon-free, so can we.

Early in the debate, Monbiot says part of his solution would be to set a maximum amount of CO2 that could be emitted per kWh, and suggests "80, or perhaps 50". You do see, George, don't you, that even at the bottom end, nuclear doesn't meet that? Why have you ignored the numbers? 

Haven't you read your own articles? (that's a recommended link, though, as it does show a previous partial shift)?

I'm sure Monbiot thought he would impress onto people the urgency of stopping coal power stations with such a radical call. Perhaps he thought Wilson and Brown and the like would think "Woo, coal's so bad that even Monbiot's prepared to back nuclear - maybe we should think again about Kingsnorth?"

Pure naivety, if so. The toxic rabble in the Commons are just rubbing their hands and dreaming of nuclear directorships, present and future, where they can continue to fleece the public and pretend to fight climate change simultaneously. That's why Porritt said "sellout" directly to his face, the worst insult an environmentalist has for another, although it could be argued it was more of a giveaway than a sellout: I doubt he's actually taken the nuclear shilling.

In the interests of fairness, I'll give 2000-vintage Monbiot the last word. "It's time to shut nuclear power down, and begin the dangerous and expensive task of decommissioning Britain's most disastrous experiment."

vincecincometax.jpgVince Cable is clearly over-lionised, and working for Shell in 1995 was a morally questionable choice if you ask me. 

However, you have to admire his courage to put across potentially unpopular positions, such as: house price falls are "painful, but necessary". 

And the Stalin to Mr Bean thing was an excellent line.

Today he's also mulling over a shift in Liberal policy from Local Income Tax. Nowhere in this piece is the actual policy rationale for such a shift set out, but no matter. If he does decide to swing the party that way, they'll apparently "defer a decision on their own policy until they have seen the implications of the SNP policy, and its feasibility". 

John Swinney'll be pretty annoyed to hear that, because he's expecting the Liberals to sit down and discuss LIT with him shortly, and they're the only semi-supportive voice for LIT in Holyrood. Unless, that is, you subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the Nats want their tax plans to fail in the Chamber so they can campaign against Council Tax again in 2011. Which isn't entirely implausible, although less likely if Labour do decide to be constructive.

However, the Cabinet Secretary should rest easy. Even though Cable is briefing the Guardian on the Scottish situation, he can probably only set federal policy. Which, in the looking-glass world of Liberal internal structures, only applies in England.

Protecting shared secrets.

| | Comments (0)


Uber-crypto-geek Bruce Schneier has today posted some advice to the next US President on how to get online security right. Some of it could usefully be applied here by the Scottish and UK Governments, even though we've got less leverage and smaller economies of scale. But given some of the recent data loss incidents, Ministers shouldn't rule it out. 

Oh, and if you're geeky enough to appreciate the image to the left (click to enlarge), you can buy it on a t-shirt. No, I'm not on commission.

Of punks and populists.

| | Comments (2)

swinney.jpgLast night, in the space of three hours, this blog received comments from two unlikely sources. 

First, the bassist of short-lived punk band Nocturnal Vermin set out more of their history, what they're doing now, and confirmed their affection for John Swinney. 

Then one of the founders of the short-lived right-wing political party Scottish People's Alliance criticised Land Value Tax. 

I do love the internet at times like this, and to mark the occasion I'm going dig out Nocturnal Vermin's classic "John Swinney" for your listening pleasure. I originally posted it in February, and I fear it may become my audio equivalent of Private Eye's infamous pic.

Also, here's a review by Alan Cochrane of the Scottish People's Alliance's launch in 2003. Or at least of their catering.

The future for local taxation.

| | Comments (3)
Labour leadership contender Iain Gray has declared himself to have an open mind on local taxation, and suggested talks with us about land value taxation (LVT). The Green group will of course be happy to have this kind of conversation with him, or with whoever does come out on top. If Cathy wins, we'll also be happy to talk about fixing the railways. The door also remains open to the other parties, of course.

The mere idea of talking to others in Parliament shows progress in Labour's thinking. One of the Holyrood pack told me that Wendy's strategy was simply to sit back, come up with no alternatives, and let the SNP/Liberal local income tax proposals fail. That's irresponsible politics - imagine the cost of another failed local tax - and it's good to see signs that Labour are starting to be a bit more constructive. 

The arguments for LVT will appear here another time, but given today's developments, the party-political cart will be considered before the policy-wonk horse. So, some history for the anoraks..

Ever so gradually, the arguments for a Scottish LVT have been taking root in Holyrood. In 2003 a motion from Robin Harper was passed (stirring speech here) which committed Parliament to "considering and investigating the contribution that land value taxation could make to the cultural, economic, environmental and democratic renaissance of Scotland." Not that such consideration and investigation ever happened, but y'know, still progress.

Voices in Labour back it, and some Tories too. It's also Liberal party policy, although you wouldn't believe that to listen to their MSPs talk only about local income tax. It's a federal policy, see, and federal policies only apply in England, which in a peculiar way recreates the West Lothian question on a smaller scale. Do they even understand what federalism means? Anyway, I digress.

In 2006 the SNP's Rob Gibson put down a motion which regretted "the lack of a land value tax in Scotland". Signatories included now-Ministers Fiona Hyslop, Kenny Macaskill and Adam Ingram, as well as former awkward squad members Alex Neil and Christine Grahame.

Earlier this year Parliament approved Green wording on local government finance which committed Ministers to consideration of "fairness, local accountability, the need to reduce tax avoidance and the wider social, economic and environmental impact of any proposed system of local tax reform on communities across Scotland". 

Try testing other local taxation models against that list, starting with a local income tax which exempts share income. Patrick Harvie is on YouTube explaining the significance of that vote.

With Iain Gray at least tentatively on the bandwagon, the wind is really blowing in the direction of LVT. Here's a prediction: Council Tax will be abolished during the lifetime of this Parliament, and will be at least partially be replaced by a form of land value tax. Churchill would be pleased.


| | Comments (0)
drinkcabinet.gifTaking one's drinks cabinet out around the country is a simple way to look more engaged. Never mind that the meeting involves the same people, your Ministers, or that the locals don't get a look in. They feel engaged, and that's what counts.

This old idea reappeared thanks to Alex Salmond: no surprise there. But for Gordon Brown to copy it the same day? Did they think no-one would notice?

Update: others subsequently came to the same conclusion.

First prize in the dressage.

| | Comments (0)
Thanks to Jim for spotting my success - best environmental/green issues blog, according to the Witanagemot Club awards, where his excellent Daily (Maybe) also featured. Apologies to the Witanagemot Club for not having heard of them until then. At least I knew what the original Witanagemot was, though. 

Others on their list I like include STB, SNP Tactical Voting, J Arthur McNumptyASWAS, and the timewasters' friend, the Daily Mash. Once I work out how to force Movable Type to let me add proper links to this lot I will, I will. And thanks to the readers who nominated me, of course.

Your place in history awaits.

| | Comments (0)
gordonbrownef.jpgThe further they recede into history, the more simplified a Prime Minister's reputation becomes. Those who can claim a substantial achievement or be blamed for a gross failure are eventually known just for that one thing: the top line in their obit. Others fade completely.

Sometimes the summary is obvious. How else would Churchill be remembered except as the victor of WWII? Eden is known only for the failure in Suez, while Callaghan is remembered for a misquote, Heath took us into Europe, and so on. 

Thatcher and Blair are too close to have been simplified yet. Neither will be forgotten quickly, though. 

Barring some extraordinary reversal in Labour's fortunes, Gordon Brown will rank pretty low down in future lists of this sort, just below John Major, in all probability. He'll fade fast, be largely blamed for the poisoned chalice which is the Labour Party he inherited, and be lucky if even one achievement stands from his Premiership.

Instead, he risks becoming a cautionary tale about the desire for power without purpose. After all, has there ever been a Prime Minister who strived so hard for the top job over so long a time, who took the crown, and who then had absolutely no idea whatsoever what he wanted to do with it? 

If Gordon Brown had retired last year instead of becoming PM, he could have held a reputation as the most successful Chancellor in modern times (despite the flaws in the metric such things are judged by). Instead, those ten years will be the set-up for a punchline which is all about a failure of vision. I almost feel sorry for him.
marsphoenix.jpgThe young Greens seem to have converged on Twitter like bees, but I'm resisting it. As one of them put it to me, it's like Facebook boiled down to status updates. 

No thank you. I don't want to read anyone else's minutiae, nor do I believe mine could possibly be of interest to anyone else. 

Not like a blog..

And that's even though you apparently get election results five minutes before everyone else. And even though Mars Phoenix is twittering actually from Mars. (yes, yes, I know, it's just like Father Christmas actually answering letters)

An election Labour can win.

| | Comments (0)
wiltedrose.jpgSo nominations have closed for "leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament. 

Let's start with who's not in. Ken Macintosh didn't get enough names, and I understand he's blaming me for what was taken to be an endorsement. No hard feelings, Ken, I hope. Maybe your turn will come next time. 

On the other hand, it can be no surprise to anyone that Charlie Gordon didn't get enough names; he was the clear scandal continuity candidate, and even Labour isn't that daft.

Although it does feel like intruding upon private grief, here's my take on the runners and riders.

Cathy Jamieson is being promoted by the unions and the left because they think she will return to the somewhat more radical approach she took before she became a Minister in 2001. I think they're wrong, in exactly the same way they were about Gordon Brown. Close second a likely outcome. 

Iain Gray is being promoted by the London machine and plenty of the younger lot around this building. The latter think he'll be a passionate campaigner, and cite his Oxfam experience. The former know better, and think he'll be easier to keep on a leash. Although brown and gray are the least exciting of colours, I think Labour will plump for Iain.

Andy Kerr is the compromise candidate, without an obvious constituency as far as I can see, although he's given himself a slightly radical edge by keeping an open mind on the referendum issue. I predict third place.

One Labour activist told me he was pleased that there will at last be an election Labour can win. But none of these contenders look to have enough in the tank to take on Salmond.

Update: John Curtice and I never normally agree. But when the conclusion is this obvious?

The truth isn't out there.

| | Comments (0)
The European Court of Human Rights is now all that stands between Gary McKinnon and extradition to the US. 

His alleged crime? Looking for UFO information on inadequately protected US military servers. He left notes pointing out security holes, but is now being threatened with life in prison.

This is a massive over-reaction, as has been noted elsewhere. For more updates on the campaign, see

Smog gets in your eyes.

| | Comments (0)
jetsmog.jpgSo it turns out that all that stuff we buy from China does have carbon consequences. And that - shock horror - those aeroplanes do too. If you ignore those two awkward facts you can indeed claim emissions have fallen, as Labour would like to do. 

The reality is (see that first link) that they've underestimated the carbon Britain's responsible for by a staggering 49%. 

Remember this next time you hear John Denham, David Miliband, Gordon Brown, or other Labour drones claiming that the Labour government is "leading the way on climate change". It's exactly the same sort of trick that the Tories used to pull on unemployment, and which Labour are also still doing. 

They're leading the way with fiddling the figures, that's all. And given Labour's determination to be outflanked on climate change even by the Tories, you can see why they've gone down this route. Tragic.

Your Links At Last


Other Politics



Friends and Stuff I Like

If I've forgotten to link to you, let me know. If I don't want to link to your blog I'll pretend I never got your email.

The party's site of which I am rather proud

Along with Jeff (formerly SNP Tactical Voting) and Malc (formerly In The Burgh), I now co-edit Better Nation, a group blog. Stuff will still appear here, but more will be there. Better Nation

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.