Recently in Campaigns Category

Put up a parking lot.

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herbkohler.jpgNote to The Donald: if your proposals can't even win over golf-obsessed American plumbing millionaires, just give up now.

The Scotsman asked Herb Kohler if he'd been following the Trump saga: 

"Only to the extent that Donald makes his interest known. I think there have been some setbacks recently and, on the one hand, that might make him more determined to see this through. On the other, he might just say there are other things I can do. He always keeps quite a number of irons in the fire.

"I've seen around the proposed site and part of the problem is that it is so lovely. Everyone gets upset when someone wants to change something so good and put all that concrete around it."

I see you.

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penanlogging.jpgDespite the heroic-white-man myth, I loved Avatar: after all, how did our unobtanium get under their tree? It's the classic tale of colonialism, just with better effects. Be blue, go Green.

In South Lanarkshire today, it's the threat of opencast coal, and the locals are indeed getting help from outside - sadly, today the bad guys also arrived in force

I've never before put a press release up here, but by coincidence today the wonderful Survival International (give generously) put one out with the following comments.

A Penan man from Sarawak (above), in the Malaysian part of Borneo, told Survival International:

"The Penan people cannot live without the rainforest. The forest looks after us, and we look after it. We understand the plants and the animals because we have lived here for many, many years, since the time of our ancestors.

"The Na'vi people in 'Avatar' cry because their forest is destroyed. It's the same with the Penan. Logging companies are chopping down our big trees and polluting our rivers, and the animals we hunt are dying."

Kalahari Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said:

"We the Bushmen are the first inhabitants in southern Africa. We are being denied rights to our land and appeal to the world to help us. 'Avatar' makes me happy as it shows the world about what it is to be a Bushman, and what our land is to us. Land and Bushmen are the same."

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, known as the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest, said: 

"My Yanomami people have always lived in peace with the forest. Our ancestors taught us to understand our land and animals. We have used this knowledge carefully, for our existence depends on it. My Yanomami land was invaded by miners. A fifth of our people died from diseases we had never known."

Survival's director, Stephen Corry, said:

"The fundamental story of Avatar - if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids - is being played out time and time again, on our planet.

"Like the Na'vi of 'Avatar', the world's last-remaining tribal peoples - from the Amazon to Siberia - are also at risk of extinction, as their lands are appropriated by powerful forces for profit-making reasons such as colonization, logging and mining."

Back to South Lanarkshire, Harry Thompson, former chair of the local community council, said:

"Despite massive community opposition to the mine at Mainshill, Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council continue to disregard the interests of those living in proximity to the mines. The particulate matter released in the open cast mining process in this area has caused unusually high rates of cancer and lung disease. Granting permission to a new mine 1000 metres from the local hospital is the final straw."

Update: if you have seen Avatar, or are sure you won't ever do so, and fancy its politics analysed in more detail, the Socialist Unity view is fascinating.

Green soap powder.

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I meant to link to this last month, but hey, things are busy. 360 did some scamps for the IoS, quick advert sketches for the political parties, and they're all up here. Benedict Pringle reviews them here, and the Green ones are below.



What would John Muir do?

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OceanWindTurbines.jpgThe recent much-delayed and much-caveated approval given to the Beauly-Denny grid upgrade was met with many predictable responses. The renewables crowd are delighted, and the Ramblers are appalled. So far so obvious. The environmental movement is generally supportive too, as you'd expect, with one glaring exception.

The John Muir Trust. They didn't welcome the unlocking of Scotland's clean energy potential, or breathe a sigh of public relief for the contribution this scheme would make to tackling climate change. 

No, they condemned the announcement in very clear terms. Previously they have even implied that a judicial review might be in the offing

Don't get me wrong, the failures of administrations north and south of the border have made me very fond of judicial review, but is this a consistent position for the JMT to have adopted? Specifically, is it the position John Muir himself would have taken?

The Sierra Club, founded by Muir and friends, has posted a decent concise biography if you want to find out more about this remarkable man, born in East Lothian but who is rightly recognised as the grandfather of the American environmental movement.

Earlier this week I got into reading some of John Muir's works for the first time. Many of them are freely available here. Amongst them is "The Cruise of the Corwin", a colourful set of tales from a voyage Muir took through the Arctic in 1881. It's pretty rude about some of the local people, especially the Aleuts, but is fascinating and well worth a read.

One of the Corwin's stops was on Wrangel Island, claimed by the Corwin's captain for America but more logically now one of Russia's most northerly possessions. While there, Muir speculated that "perhaps the ice does not leave the shore free more than once in ten years." 

He also commented on the opportunities scientists have to study "the magnificent polar bear among the ice - the master animal of the north", and noted that "no portion of the world is so barren as not to yield a rich and precious harvest of divine truth".

Far to the east of Wrangel, the Corwin subsequently visited Unalaska, part of the Aleutian chain. There, while considering the mountains in the area, Muir observed the following before going on to consider the changes to glaciation since the Ice Age:

"The noblest of them all was Makushin, about nine thousand feet high and laden with glaciers, a grand sight, far surpassing what I had been led to expect. There is a spot on its summit which is said to smoke, probably mostly steam and vapor from the infiltration of water into the heated cavities of the old volcano. The extreme summit of Makushin was wrapped in white clouds, and from beneath these the glaciers were seen descending impressively into the sunshine to within a thousand or fifteen hundred feet of sea-level. This fine mountain, glittering in its showy mail of snow and ice, together with a hundred other peaks dipping into the blue sky, and every one of them telling the work of ice or fire in their forms and sculpture - these, and the sparkling sea, and long inreaching fiords, are a noble picture to add to the thousand others which have enriched our lives this summer in the great Northland."

It's clear to me that this was an environment he cared about, a harsh but important place he would have fought to defend if it had been threatened in his day as it is in ours. If he had lived in a world where the choice was climate change or radical changes to our energy supply, where pylons would bring clean energy to the grid and help preserve all the world's vulnerable places, I'm sure he'd have seen the bigger picture and have been on the same side as the Greens, as WWF, and as Friends of the Earth

I challenged the JMT on Twitter about this as the Beauly-Denny upgrade was being announced, and got a response from their official account. It read:

"@twodoctors Two words, Hetch Hetchy"

Hetch Hetchy, a valley in Yosemite, was threatened during Muir's lifetime with being dammed to provide water for San Francisco. His trenchant views on the issue are here and here, and although his campaign was lost, others have still not given up. If they win, as I hope they do, they estimate it will take fifty years before the valley becomes an "established, relatively mature ecosystem."

There's next to nothing in common between Hetch Hetchy and the Beauly-Denny line as far as I can see. In one case a beautiful natural environment was unnecessarily flooded, erased, wiped off the map. In the other, some pylons will come down and some pylons will go up, but with no permanent ecological damage. 

If the best way to transmit power changes, or our energy network becomes more decentralised, the pylons will come down and the only mark they will leave will be a stub of concrete, soon covered over, plus some photos of what they looked like. It wouldn't take fifty years like Hetch Hetchy - within fifty days you wouldn't know the Beauly-Denny line had ever been there unless you knew exactly what you were looking for.

The logic of the comparison, as I understand it, is therefore as follows:

John Muir was against the Hetch Hetchy development. Beauly-Denny is also a development. Therefore John Muir would have opposed it.

No, he wouldn't have, not unless he came back as a climate change denier. It's false logic. There's a massive and irreversible threat to Scotland's wild spaces, but it's not from renewables, it's from climate change

The John Muir Trust do plenty of other admirable work, including conservation work parties and all the rest, sure. Sadly this work is undermined by their opposition to Beauly-Denny, as it is by their regular opposition to wind turbine applications. These misguided campaigns no doubt bring in the donations, but they also betray a deep disregard for the defining environmental issue of our age, as it affects both Scotland and the planet.

Left behind in Copenhagen.

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climateshame.jpgLate on Friday I read a document linked to from Twitter, supposedly the near-final agreement at Copenhagen. It had flaws, but many of the key demands were still there, and was certainly better than the expectations at the time. 

By Saturday morning it was clear that the good bits had been excised. What was left was a sham and a carveup, not a credible deal worth a signature. The expectations had been right after all.

It's not hard to see why. Almost two hundred governments met in Denmark, but not one was led by a Green*. Most thought they were in the negotiations throughout, but almost all were excluded at the end. The final document was instead delivered by a small cabal - the US, China, India, Brazil & South Africa - with the poorest states cut out, the island states cut out, and Europe itself entirely excluded.

This betrayal was therefore delivered by the most left-wing American president since FDR, a notionally communist regime (although more accurately an authoritarian capitalist one), the more left of the main Indian political blocs, the most left-wing Brazilian government in modern times, and a South African president promoted by the South African Communist Party over his predecessor. 

Gordon Brown wasn't in that room, but no-one could imagine he'd have improved it. After all, he's part of that same market-obsessed post-left soggy consensus, and his Panglossian review claimed that:

Clearly none of the various forms of vague leftism on offer are going to save us. Last week they stood together as they abandoned the environment, they abandoned the planet's future, and they abandoned social justice too. They are not part of any progressive consensus worth supporting: they are just another of the obstacles to progress.

Incidentally, if you want to know what Obama's priority really was during Copenhagen, his Twitter account gives a hint. From the start of the summit to Saturday lunchtime, his staff (one presumes) posted twenty-five comments. Just two were about Copenhagen, and thirteen, a narrow majority, were about healthcare reform. An important issue, sure, but should selling out the public option really come ahead of saving the world?

Update: I just spotted this on Jon Snow's blog, predating the failure of the talks.

"Not one of these world leaders is an elected Green. These are all mainstreamers - Communists, Social democrats, Islamic Revolutionaries, Christian Democrats and the rest, conventional mainstream politicians with no environmental power base.

"And the issue that has brought them together, once the preserve of open toed sandal wearing green protesters and green politicians, is climate change. They have taken a collective decision for mankind to attempt to preserve the ecology of the planet we all live on."

Or so it would have been, if they hadn't taken a collective decision to shaft us. 

* Pop quiz: which country was the world's first to have a Green Prime Minister?

The Three Degrees.

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DesertSkull2.jpgThe head of the IPCC says Copenhagen should consider a maximum temperature increase by 2050 of 1.5°C. 

"Some parts of the world", he said, even at this level, "will suffer great hardship and lose their ability to lead a decent and stable form of existence. If we are going to be concerned about these communities, then maybe 1.5°C is what we should be targeting."

He then went on to say:

"But if we can find means by which those communities can be helped to withstand the impact of climate change with substantial flow of finances, then maybe one can go to 2°C."

How can this be acceptable in any way? Carbon offsetting has always been a joke, but allowing rich countries to pollute more just provided as they pay for flood defences in the developing world is an extremely sick joke indeed. The hardship he talks about is flooding, starvation, desertification, plus the rest of the four horsemen.

The rich countries should be ashamed of themselves if they make an offer of this sort. If they do, I hope Africa and the island states would have the courage not to have their future (and ours) bought off. 

The objective of Copenhagen should be to agree a fair way to reduce emissions, not to compensate some for a failure by the rest to do so. 

By the end of 2008 we'd increased the planet's temperature by 0.7°C. If the world stopped polluting tomorrow, the emissions already out there would take us to 1.4°C, so 1.5°C would clearly be extremely ambitious.

But even 2°C isn't on the rich countries' agenda. Their offers so far would give us an estimated 3°C rise by 2100, leaving one in ten of the world's population flooded out or facing starvation, and a staggering 50% of all the world's species under threat.

How anyone in politics can see this scenario as a price worth paying for airport expansion and road-building I simply do not know. How can anyone with a conscience in politics put this second, fourth, tenth or nowhere at all in their list of priorities?

Scottish politics hardly sets a good example. Our Ministers have come back from a week of telling anyone who'd listen (mostly the oil industry and other Scots, I hear) that they've got a tough emissions target. 

With Parliament now closed until next year, the rumours continue to say that the SNP are getting ready for the next item of business: slipping out a massive expansion of the motorway network during recess. It ought to be a crime.

Who's local?

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The North East's paper of record is undoubtedly the Press and Journal. It sells more copies in Scotland than the Mirror, the Times and the Telegraph put together. They have run pretty balanced coverage of the Trump development of recent times, but this weekend they decided to take sides. The sides available are as follows:

Left, Molly Forbes, 85, local resident, who doesn't want to get evicted from her home. Right, Donald Trump, 63, alleged billionaire from New York, who wants to evict her.

74% of Scots oppose these evictions, and just 13% support them. Yet the P&J has decided now to give only Mr Trump's side of the story. He's more local than some of the campaigners, such as those who are from Aberdeenshire but live in Glasgow. Even the P&J might have to concede Trump's not quite as local than Molly, though. Welcome, again, to Royston Vasey.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the P&J's excellent team of journalists have had this forced upon them from elsewhere: their instincts will hardly be to side with the remote and powerful against the local and vulnerable. 

The paper hasn't yet printed any letters in response, although one would imagine they've been sent in, but it has for now allowed comments on those articles. One notable contribution turns the editorial around as follows (as noted above, I do disagree about the paper's prior record on this story):

"DONALD Trump's plans to build his golf course, hotel and housing complex at Menie Links, near Aberdeen, have been created and manipulated at every turn by the vociferous and very active Trump International Golf Links group. It has operated under a cloak of pseudo-concern for the area and cultivated the impression that it is concerned with the welfare and jobs of ordinary people and a sustainable future for Aberdeenshire. Now we know differently. 

The group is orchestrated and financed by people whose home and work is largely well away from the north-east of Scotland. Its co-ordinator, though quoting his Scottish roots at every turn, now chooses to live in America, while its legal advisers, website designers and several leading executives also hail from far away. It relies on cash injections from its patron, a well-known and often-named millionaire financier, and vocal and thoroughly biased support from its poodles in the local "news" media. 

It now becomes crystal clear why TIGL was so coy about its real plans, and its credibility is comprehensively blown apart. It is only right that those whose quality of life will be directly affected by Donald Trump's plans should have their say on the development, however, constant opposition and innuendo has been orchestrated against them by TIGL, who have little interest in the area other than making money out of it. Indeed, there is more than a hint of suspicion that many of its executives are those who will attach themselves to any money-making cause, regardless of its location and regardless of the wishes of the people it seeks to deprive of their homes. This newspaper has forthrightly failed to give a balanced voice to all those who have wished to become involved in genuine debate about Donald Trump's plans. That courtesy was extended to TIGL in the belief that it was bona fide group of businessmen seeking to benefit Aberdeenshire. Today, it has been found out." 

Donald Trump has met his match.

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Molly Forbes, 85, has today lodged legal papers with Edinburgh Sheriff Court over the planning permissions recently granted to The Donald for his gated golf community. Last month his nauseating son revelled in the fact that their vainglorious media launch wasn't attended by any protesters:

"I don't care that there's none of them here. They are probably playing in their sandbox right now. It's recess at school and they probably weren't able to get their parents to write them a permission slip to leave."

It's ironic, really, given that Junior only gets to do stuff his daddy lets him do. They're also trying to build a huge sandbox for rich tourists, and finally, they will now be challenged in court by someone not exactly of school age.

Molly Forbes

He also described those against his father's plan as "extremists". Molly, he means you. It's extremism now to want to stay in your own home. It's extremism to want the Council to follow its own rules. I guess I'm with the 74% of Scots who count as extremists on this, then.
Where now for the doomed Trumpton-on-Sea project? To evict or not to evict? Will the crumbs from a rich man's table persuade locals to tolerate a mini-clearance? When will local Councillors realise they've lost the public (usual honourable exceptions apply)?

Reading the two quotes below, Kremlinologists might deduce that something changed between the end of last month and the start of this week, or that the two men to the left don't see eye to eye.

16th November. George Sorial, Trump's development director:
"It seems like the Green Party and TUT are the only ones who continue to talk about the use of CPO [Compulsory Purchase Orders] at Menie Estate."

28th October. Donald Trump Jr:
"The CPO process has always been a last resort but it is something that remains on the table."

If Trump is prepared to pledge never to request or to use Compulsory Purchase Orders, that would be news, and welcome news at that. The truth is that he and his mob still need the evictions for their masterplan, they just don't want to talk about it any more. 

It's not hard to see why. Between those two quotes it's become clear how spectacularly unpopular those evictions would be, and Sorial's line is just more spin.

After all, headlines with a question mark at the end are usually best answered in the negative.
theadygil.jpgLike many, I find the jar-rattlers and direct-debit-form-wranglers intensely irksome. It's not just that I'm tight: I've given some serious thought about which charities to support, and I already make regular payments to each.

It occurred to me today to talk about the organisations I support in my own tiny way, and to put up some donation links. 

I feel strongly about all four of them. Typically they're not the big names in the voluntary sector: to pick a topical example, although both Poppy Scotland and the Peace Pledge Union do good work, my view is that my donations will make more of a difference elsewhere. 

In reverse alphabetical order..

Survival International. The leading charity defending the land and rights of indigenous communities. As an anthropology graduate, this was the first organisation I started giving regularly to. Most impressive recent action? Helping the Bushmen to take the Botswanan Government's eviction plans to court, and winning. Donate.

Shelter Scotland. The largest organisation I give to, slightly going against my rule of thumb. For me, homelessness is Scotland's most glaring social problem, and Shelter are practical and effective. If you want to see how pragmatic campaigning works, check out this pageDonate.

Sea Shepherd. A more militant offshoot of Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd specialise in anti-whaling campaigns, and some of my money just went to buy the insanely impressive new boat shown above. Story here. The relationship between them and Greenpeace ain't great, but I think they both do great work. I give to Sea Shepherd both because they're smaller, and because you know exactly what your money goes on - directly saving actual whales. Donate.

Scottish Green Party. You won't be surprised to know that I donate to the party, and as a member of the party's Operations Committee I can assure you a little goes a long way. If you find yourself agreeing with any of my ramblings, please donate here.

Trumpton - Mission Accomplished?

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Trump Junior, like Bush Junior, got his job and his name from his dad. Life's been easy for them both, and victory always feels inevitable with a background like theirs. 
debrakayak.jpgDebra Storr, erstwhile Lib Dem Councillor, enthusiastic kayaker, and staunch defender of local residents against rapacious developers, has put in her form to join the Greens. Her website has gone very green as well, but, like Martin Ford, she'll stay as part of the Democratic Independent Group on Aberdeenshire Council. She says: 

"I urge others disgusted at the failure of political leadership amongst current elected representatives in the north-east to join me in the Scottish Green Party as a first step to giving the north-east a better set of representatives for the future." 

It's great - that will take us to ten Councillors who are also Greens. I've really enjoyed being Martin's colleague, and I'm looking forward to working with Debra too. 

I wonder if the bookies are offering odds on a Green MSP being returned again for the North East in 2011?

The trouble with Donald.

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Yesterday Aberdeenshire Council sunk to a new low, something previously believed to be against the laws of physics, by deciding not to block Trump's threat of compulsory purchase against local residents.

On Wednesday night Council sources had briefed reputable media outlets that Councillor Ford's motion against compulsory purchase was unacceptable, but that another anti- CPO amendment would pass. By yesterday morning they were back in line with the tribble-haired Mr Trump (pictured with friends).

It was a grim day for the families, who had argued so passionately for certainty from their elected representatives. Many red-shirted Councillors made craven comments about never voting for compulsory purchase, then failed to vote against. This did not go down well, and I suspect they won't get beamed back into the Council chambers come 2012.

The response from the Trump Organisation would have made Spock weep, too. This was a "logical" decision. Live long and prosper, it seems, so long as it's not in your own homes.

Note: The Scotsman have foolishly bravely allowed Jeff, Caron, Craig, Kez and me to blog on the Steamie as well, and this piece also appears there. Thanks guys!

Trump trumped.

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TUTNYCb.jpgThings go from bad to worse for The Donald's would-be Scottish Empire. Tripping Up Trump took the battle to him, getting the eager New York public to sign petitions against his plans outside Trump Towers. They've got over 11,000 signatures online now, plus many more on paper. 

More seriously, the P&J today reports that Aberdeenshire Council will reject his Compulsory Purchase Orders. He's bullied people so hard that even his own former supporters have given up on him.

You can see how rattled he is, too. He rang Rob Edwards up to swear at him last week. He also sent out a properly bonkers statement last night (full statement as a Word doc) which describes his vanity project to fly Americans into a gated community as "one of the few projects of national significance in Scotland". Can the SNP really stomach the anti-Scottish sneer in that attitude? 

In it he also claims that Martin Ford's position was "unanimously rejected by the Local Council". Sure, I remember Martin voting against himself. That definitely happened.

He finally says that the campaigners are "the only ones speaking about compulsory purchase". Yet his agent on earth, the equally unpleasant Mr Sorial, told Reuters just a week ago that: "These additional acquisitions are necessary to deliver the quality project that we have spoken about in the past."

Presumably if he doesn't manage to force these people from their homes, which is looking almost inevitable, it's therefore all over. He could of course compromise. Similarly, the Pope might turn out to be a secret Zoroastrian, I suppose.

Greyfriars Trump.

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trumpbobby.jpgThe Menie Liberation Front have pulled off the most delicious anti-Trump stunt today - putting masks of the great man over the faces of statues across Scotland.

Photos of some of their locations are here. The Greyfriars Bobby one is outstanding, but shouldn't that one have an Alex Salmond mask on it? The wee dog is famously meant to have sat on his master's grave for fourteen years. When Trump's plan for Menie fails, as so many of his others have done, the First Minister will surely be found grieving at its graveside. 

The crucial vote on this comes next week. Will Aberdeenshire Councillors back the right of residents to stay in their own homes, or will they back Trump's latest clearances? Watch this space.

Poll tax on wheels.

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bikeprotest.jpgSo, cycling: are we generally in favour? Personally I'm more into walking - I don't feel safe listening to music on a bike, and I like not having to lock up when I get there. 

I'm passionately in favour of folk being helped to do it, though, and the provision of cycle lanes in Scotland is dire. Look elsewhere in Europe and see how dangerous it feels here, and how marginal cycling is to the planning process.

Scottish Ministers agree. Their Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) includes the following warm words from Stewart Stevenson:

"CAPS is about everyone in Scotland who is able to, having the choice to cycle in their everyday life by creating safe, welcoming and inclusive communities."

Lovely. It's like we live in Holland already. I particularly like the fact that SNP Ministers won't be forcing cycling upon those who can't. But let's not sneer. There are plenty of good ideas in this document, in amongst the vague "promote x, promote y" stuff. There's even a long section on Encouragement and Incentives.

But check out question 10 on p48, right at the end.

"Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?"

Tax discs on bikes? Seriously? I know times are hard for Finance Ministers, but this is sub-Thick Of It material. The paper's subtitled "More People Cycling More Often", after all, not "How We Could Force Folk Off Their Bikes".

You might also say it's just one option, but is this something Ministers should even be considering? The front page of today's Scotland on Sunday shows that some consideration has been given to implementation, but the Government's spokesman's backpedalling hard. Incidentally, that's a curious metaphor: as I remember it, backpedalling does nothing at all.

The SoS editorial against it talks about a tax on smugness. I don't think it's cyclists who'd get the worst of that. The fact that they're even considering this is entirely symptomatic of the SNP's complacent attitude to transport, where all that matters is the car. 

They came into government with a list of tolls to remove and of bridges and motorways to build. The civil servants nodded, the building companies rubbed their hands, and the environment came last as usual.

It's enough to make one despair, it really is. And I doubt they'll ever do it. But think how much fun the protests would be. 

Lying about flying.

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futureairship.jpgA group called Future Heathrow recently put out ads claiming that "A third runway won't make Heathrow any noisier or dirtier" and that "... it won't get the green light unless local air quality meets stringent EU standards on concentrations of nitrogen dioxide". 

When this nonsense was challenged by a complainant to the ASA, it turns out Future Heathrow is actually BAA, or at least that BAA replied on their behalf from an address at Heathrow itself. Both claims were duly rejected as likely to mislead, and the advert mustn't appear again.

It's tired and dishonest astroturfing, which is hardly surprising when that their environment page only mentions climate change in passing, and then only in pretty curious terms. I'm surprised they didn't just get the former Marxists behind Modern Movement to put the ads out. Then again, they haven't posted anything since March, so their quixotic crusade for us all to emit as much CO2 as possible in the name of class equality may be over.

I have a vision for a future Heathrow too. One where clean, green and efficient airships take people on somewhat more leisurely foreign holidays. An older blog post has more on the time it would take. Helium is entirely safe, and lighter-than-air craft don't have to waste fuel on lift. Meanwhile, domestic travellers whizz past on high-speed electric trains, and local residents get shot of the noise and pollution. 

The local campaigners against the Runway Three expansion have been rightly lauded, and it remains one of the signature issues Labour's profoundly wrong about. If you want to help, here's the HACAN website.
happykids.jpgHere's a good case study on bad PR. Suppose there's a skanky bit of wasteland where used needles lurk and an unpopular property developer waits. Imagine an active and committed local community tidy it up, have events with happy wee kids with painted faces (left), and put in some raised beds for fruit and veg. Who do you back?

Welcome to the North Kelvin Meadow debate. We've lined up with the community, and Glasgow City Council have taken them to court. In August. Not clever.

The BBC coverage has a neat before-and-after illustration at the top. As one of the journalists said to me yesterday - "we do love a good bullying Council story in August", and so it went - Express, Sun, Mail, Herald etc. I particularly recommend the Sun's coverage there.

We're going to court tomorrow to see how it goes. Either way, though, the Council will lose, and I suspect they know that now.


Twitter vs the Republican right.

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Although I'm on Twitter, I'm not convinced by it as a social tool - it's not even as good as Facebook status discussions, which is saying something. However, I get it for business, and I get it for campaigns. Tonight's a great example.

As Obama tries to do something about the American pay-or-die health care system, his opponents have attacked him for trying to recreate the evil socialist NHS. 

One of them went far too far and put it about that Stephen Hawking would have died if he lived in Britain. See how many problems you can spot in that one claim.

It's sparked a furious round of twittering (tweeting still sounds twee, sorry) with people posting their defence of the NHS with the hashtag #WeLoveTheNHS

You click that link, read a flurry of anecdotes, jokes and arguments for, and it tells you immediately that there have been something like "300 more results since you started searching". It's currently the third most popular topic on Twitter, and the BBC, the Telegraph and others have noticed too.

There's a backlash, obviously, with the wingnuts going hard for the socialism stuff. And in one sense they're right. The NHS is socialism in action. I've paid taxes over the last year and not been to the doctor once. When I was unemployed I went to the doctors when I needed to and didn't worry about the cost. It's from each according to his ability, to each according to her need.

It doesn't work for lattes or laptop design, neither of which are actually needs, but it's a damn fine model for health care. It's also the best thing Old Labour ever achieved, it's worth protecting, and it's time to roll back the PFI/PPP marketisation forced upon it by both New Labour and every sort of Conservative.

Question, though. If twittering about it hadn't got the mainstream media's attention, how much impact would this have had on the American campaign? Right now, given the way journalists love techo-novelty, I think it'll help. US media will surely cover it, and they'll have plenty of short quotable stories about the merits of living somewhere where you don't have to feel for your wallet before the doctors feel for a pulse. 

"Ulster says no to sodomy."

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A friend of mine from university grew up gay in Belfast in the 1970s, and vividly remembered billboards with this slogan on them being put up just as he realised girls weren't for him. 

They were funded by "Dr" Ian Paisley prior to his reincarnation as one half of the Chuckle Brothers, and it's fair to say they didn't inspire a warm glow of tolerance and happiness.

It was also factually inaccurate, for one thing. Plenty of people in Belfast and elsewhere were saying yes to sodomy, even then. Secondly, what it really should have said was "Ian Paisley says no thanks to sodomy", which is of course his absolute right, even if I doubt he'd have had many such offers.

The same problems apply in spades to the current debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. Campaigners against it, mostly arguing from dubious religious grounds, want to prevent others from dying with dignity, and they claim popular support. We're a "vocal minority", apparently. 

In Scotland, however, 82% of people wanted a change in the law in 2004. What Scotland says and what the "pro-life" gang say are totally different. "Pro-pain" or "pro-misery" might be better descriptions, incidentally.

It's strange that some people can't see that this must be a choice for the individuals concerned. Nothing makes this more obvious than when people with terminal illness or with an unbearably low quality of life go up against shiny-faced young apologists for fundamentalism, usually outside the High Court. 

The bottom line for these misguided campaigners: you can say no to dying with dignity for yourself if you want, but hell mend you if you try to force others to endure painful and prolonged deaths. More power to Margo and her Bill.

Pic from Von Pip.

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