10 May 2019

WooHoo - technology is going to save us

BBC R4 carried an interesting piece this morning about a research centre being set up at Cambridge University to come up with technological solutions to Climate Change. This is quite predictable because we are such a smug and self-centred species who have been using technology of one sort or another for 200 years and Climate Change is just another challenge that we have to meet. The only problem with this wonderful research centre is that, at root, its objective is to allow humankind to carry on as before. And that is the problem.

Anyone can look at the history of humankind over the last 2000 years and see a pattern of expansion, exploitation and bloody conflict. What such an observer won't see is any significant pattern of restraint or moderation and its fair to suggest that, in general, restraint or moderation aren't part of the human species' fundamental genetic or behavioural makeup.

The major difference between humankind and other species on this planet is that all other species are regulated, generally, by their environment. No other species can modify their environment in the manner that humankind has managed to and, importantly, humankind seems quite oblivious to the impact of its actions. Humankind's intellect get in the way - humankind can figure out the answer to whatever question faces it, other than its own viability or sustainability.

More and more, humankind seems to be the problem, not the solution. Like an infection, humankind has spread across the globe and humankind's activities, like an infection, have caused an increase in temperature. No-one is bothering about the infection, only about controlling the temperature. So, maybe at some future point, like an infection, septicaemia will set in and the host (planet earth) will die. Seems quite inevitable.

19 April 2019

Extinction Rebellion ............ too late?

Climate Change has enough scientific evidence to support it to convince even the most sceptical of people (excepting Mr Trump) of its growing impact on the lives of some people who live on Planet Earth. I say 'some people' because, thus far, I don't think that climate change has materially affected me, at least not in any overtly negative manner. But the fact is that scientists have been considering the potential of human activity to influence global climate since the 1890s, around the same time that Daimler and Benz were getting together. Those scientists were considering the impact of human activity for, at that time, about 100 years and here we are 100+ years later, with some people getting their knickers in a twist about just how bad its going to get.

Well, from where I sit, I think that we've missed the boat some decades ago and, right now, we are looking at a future where the Sahara may well reach the north pole. And there is probably very little that we can do about it other than adapt. Read Jem Bendall on the subject.

The issue with Extinction Rebellion is that whilst they demand that 'the government tell the truth' about climate change, I suspect that the truth is rather uglier than any of them imagine. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has mentioned global population and whether or not it is sustainable at current levels. I have read some research (possibly questionable) which suggests that a 'sustainable global population', at European standards of living, is 2.5Bn. Today we are at 7.5Bn and rising and a young member of ER suggested to me that global population would stabilise at 11Bn. I'd be interested to find out who is peddling that story.

Maybe in parallel with carbon reduction measures, the government might consider removing all the tax advantages accruing to having children, maybe even make it beneficial in taxation terms for people not to have children. Maybe organisations like the Catholic Church might reconsider it position on birth control, particularly in parts of the Third World where the physical environment is already too harsh to support growing communities.

Extinction Rebellion also need to publish their plan for the future rather than leaving it up to government or a 'citizen's panel' to do their thinking for them. They need to face up to the really ugly truths that we face about consumption generally and how, and if, we can build down to a zero carbon economy. Maybe then yoga on Waterloo Bridge might be replaced by something rather more practical.

22 January 2019

Been away awhile .....

October 2017 seems a long long way away now and so much has happened in the intervening time. What got my attention recently has been a couple of programmes about the manipulation of political process, both here and in the USA.

I would thoroughly recommend anyone to have a look at: Brexit - The Uncivil War and Unfair Game Both are extremely good for different reasons: Brexit - The Uncivil War is more of a docu-drama so its hard to judge accuracy whereas Unfair Game is rather more factual. What I found most interesting was the part played in both by American billionaire Robert Mercer.

What is clear is that we have drifted (I certainly have) into rather dangerous waters where, through the mechanism of social media, individuals can be targeted with specific political messages designed to appeal to that individual. Unfair Game suggests that by targeting such individuals in three states in the US, Mercer/Trump was able to capture the presidency.

I find Trump to be a thoroughly dislikable individual but my dislike has rather blinded me to the underlying issue which is that, if you have enough money, you can put your candidate into The White House or 10 Downing Street or the Elysee Palace or any other seat of power for that matter. Now, its fair to say that it has always been thus, you only have to look at Joe Kennedy to see how it was done 'back in the day' but with social media and universal data mining, someone like Robert Mercer will be able to do it using individual voters who become zombie voters.

One claim made in Unfair Game is that the targeting of individual voters was done with specific messages which appeared ONLY on the recipients social media page. Furthermore, it is claimed that these messages evaporated after a set time period had elapsed, leaving no trace, other than on the social media's servers.

Excuse me whilst I unplug the internet....................

4 October 2017

Reality distortion field

Steve Jobs was a charismatic and many people who met him refer to what they describe as his 'reality distortion field'. From what I understand, this term, as it applied to Jobs, referred to his ability to convince people that his vision, no matter how outlandish, was possible. In this way he was able to recruit people to his vision when others would have failed.

I thought again about the 'reality distortion field' when I was watching an interview on CBSN with a 'gun expert' who was commenting on the weaponry that Stephen Paddock had assembled for his Las Vegas rampage. Referring specifically to the 'bump stock' attachment, which enables a semi-automatic weapon to fire at up to 9 rounds per second, this 'expert' described the bump-stock as a 'not very practical attachment' and went on to describe it as a 'shooting range toy'.

This is as good an illustration of the 'reality distortion field' which seems to surround many Americans when it comes to their much vaunted 'right to bear arms'. If the bump-stock attachment is 'not very practical' and a 'shooting range toy' I hate to think what Paddock would have achieved had he been serious.

PS The AR15 in the illustration is fitted with a 50 round compact magazine and you can get a 100 round magazine which, at Paddock's work rate, would last all of 11 seconds.

3 October 2017


Don't get me wrong, by juxtaposing the deranged Trump with the deranged Paddock, I'm not suggesting that they knew each other or had anything in common. But I am thinking about the disinformation that is being reported where the alt right are suggesting that Paddock was part of a Democratic conspiracy to discredit Trump. And that makes me wonder just how gullible Trump's base is if they could be convinced that a grey haired, retired accountant with an arsenal of guns might be a Democrat.

My own prejudice would propose that Paddock would be a Trump man but it may be that he was simply bonkers. Who else would take an arsenal of guns and and strafe a country music concert?

Or maybe he was a Trump man and he decided that Trump was just as full of piss and bile as we all believe him to be and therefore it was time to take the law into his own hands and 'make a difference'.

And maybe this is the problem with Tump - his language is so grandiose that he is always likely to fail in achieving his objectives or the objectives that he embraces on behalf of his base. And my guess is that his base are more likely to have a liking for automatic weapons.

PS Have a look at Neil McCabe's commentary on behalf of the American gun industry and check out Armed American Radio

28 August 2017

Mine is the wettest..............

I wouldn't be surprised if El Trumpo doesn't claim some sort of credit for the scale of the Houston floods. I did expect him to claim responsibility for America being 'the darkest ever' during the eclipse but clearly the medics are getting his meds under control.

Of course, I blame Margaret Thatcher .............

Ever since Thatcher came to power (1979) and started the attack on state funded services, housing was probably very near or at the top of her list of targets. 'Right to Buy', gerrymandering by any other name, has steadily eroded the state owned housing stock and reduced competition in the rental sector along the way. The strictures placed upon Local Authorities with regard to building 'local' or 'affordable' housing has both increased pressure on housing supply, inflating prices, and turning the majority of the housing market over to the private sector which, again, has seen house price inflation at staggering levels (neatly excluded from the inflation calculations) in pursuit of profit.

Now, although Thatcher really started this process, almost nothing has been done by successive governments of any political persuasion, to return housing to the 'utility' sector rather than being seen as an investment, whose value should rise and fall but, in reality, only ever rises. And the net result of this process - Grenfell Tower.

Whilst funding towards state owned housing has been cut and cut again, the cost of both building or renovating housing has continued to rise. State funded housing, such as Grenfell Tower, simply cannot generate or attract sufficient funds (in rents + grants) to ensure that maintenance, including refurbishment, is carried out to anything but the most basic of standards. Local Authorities have bowed to government pressure by divesting themselves of direct control of state owned housing, into organisations like the KCTMO, but again, this does not mean that more money is available.

Thus, cost cutting in Local Authority housing remains the #1 objective and I suspect that this will have played a part in the Grenfell Tower incident where a single staircase building (circa 1970) was wrapped in a combustible material to achieve thermal performance levels sought today.

The names of those who died at Grenfell Tower should be chiselled on Thatcher's headstone.