Wednesday, January 31, 2007

green electricity

I've just finished another in what appears to be a chain of articles.

Over a year ago I did a piece called Iceland: Dam Nation about the way the Icelandic government was planning to obliterate the largest pristine wilderness in Europe to build a dam to power an aluminium smelter.

In researching that, I found shocking collusion between Greenpeace and the Icelandic government on the issue, which became another article.

In researching that one, I found all manner of foul deeds done by Greenpeace, which in turn became an article in its own right. One of those misdeeds was Greenpeace's deal with Npower - the largest emitter of CO2 in European power production - to promote their 'green electricity tariff'.

This set me wondering; what other green tariffs are out there? What's the difference between them? Are any of them for real or are they all like Npower's?

It was a tangled thick jungle of a research job, but then that's precisely the sort of thing that should be made into an accessible article.

That's now done and dusted, and i'm rather pleased with it. It exposes the scandalous lies of Npower and Scottish & Southern Energy, how and why the green tariffs of the Big Six energy companies are greenwash scams and the various merits of the three genuinely green suppliers.

It's called How Green Is Green Electricity? and it's published here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

diabolical de burgh

OK, Jim Bliss - proud owner of a Chris De Burgh live album with Lady In Red on it - has been stuffing the ballot box of the poll in the sidebar. I reset the poll once before, but it's done no good.

So I've reset it and now each person only gets one vote, as opposed to Bliss' rabid this-is-the-most-important-thing-I-can-do-with-my-life repeat visits.

And people, let's be clear De Burgh is a fucking alien. He buys alien technology. He's even come out as some kind of mystic healer now. Yes, the hand that held the pen writing High On Emotion can be the hand that magically clears up your medical ailments.

Just like his attempt at distracting us by being nice to donkeys, now he offers miracle cures.

"A guy I met one time - he'd hurt his leg badly in a golfing accident," the 57-year-old, whose hits include Lady in Red, said.

"He was in serious pain, just below the knee, and I felt the area above had been traumatised.

"I started feeling and I'd say within 20 minutes, he was walking again. It took away the pain."

I wonder if he'd lay on his healing hands to cure your prolapsed piles. There's an image.

Not that I'd risk it anyway. Letting him near you would be all a bit too They Live crossed with Invasion of The Bodysnatchers if you ask me. He shuts down your sense of feeling so you can't resist or even perceive the lizardly takeover of all human institutions and minds.

Go vote in the sidebar and show that enough of us see the truth and will resist.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

another place

Gormley statue

Another Place is a peculiarly affecting piece of work.

Antony Gormley, best known for the colossal Angel of The North statue at Gateshead, made a hundred iron statues from a cast of his own body. They have been widely dispersed along Crosby beach in north Liverpool. The distance between them varies, some are close to shore, others up to a kilometre out in the shallow Mersey estuary.

Another Place, Crosby

It sounded imaginative and novel, but I hadn't been expecting the deeper levels at which it would hit me. The figures may be randomly distributed, but they all face out to sea. Humans love looking at big expanses. As I've said elsewhere, it's hardwired into us.

we are all — inexplicably in rationality — impressed by seeing big landscapes or the sea. Think about it — why should a mountain impress you?

...Wind moving through the grass and trees, the ripples across water, clouds across the sky; we are so rooted to these that just the words in that last sentence are soothing in themselves!

Seeing the figures chimes into something that humans have done for as long as there's been humans. The sea has not just an epic scale but a permanence that makes the human figures seem so small physically and chronologically. Yet at the same time, you're taking your place among all those who've ever stood like that.

Gormley's official explanation of Another Place implies that temporary individuals combine to make an enduring human character, and in making people see themselves in that context it challenges consumerism.

The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth's substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.

More than this, it's the most unstuffy piece of art imaginable. Away from any uptight gallery chinstrokery, it's just there, no admission fee, day and night, for all to see and interact with.

People make what they will of it. Some have been given football scarves and hats. It doesn't spoil it, it just underlines the unpretentious humanness of the concept.

Having been at Crosby for a year and a half, they've been a big hit. With Liverpool coming up to its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, you'd have thought Another Place would be prized. You'd be reckoning without Debi Jones.

Crosby was a Tory constituency since neolithic times. When the Labour breakaway Social Democratic Party declared they'd 'broken the mould of British politics' in 1981 they parachuted in one of their stars, Shirley Williams, to win a Crosby by-election. By the time of the general election two years later the mould had seamlessly healed itself like Terminator 2 or the Mayor in season three of Buffy, and Crosby was Tory once more.

Having stayed up all night watching the Tories get trounced in 1997, I danced naked in the streets and then rang my Crosby-resident brother in the morning to gloat about Portillo, Hamilton and whatnot. It didn't even occur to me to check the Crosby result - it would surely always be Tory - but amazingly it had gone Labour. Claire Curtis-Thomas is apparently a fairly good constutency MP, and she has retained the seat since.

Imagine how this sticks in the craw of the local Tories; some Labour woman who doesn't even use her husband's surname taking their birthright. Last general election, Curtis-Thomas' Tory opponent was Debi Jones. Hilariously, Curtis-Thomas' husband was caught defacing Jones' campaign posters and fined £80.

Before all this Jones made a name for herself as a bigot pundit on local radio. She was then elected as a local councillor for a very posh dormitory village called Hightown, whilst simultaneously furthering the progress of humanity by doing some presenting on cable TV shopping channel Yes 655. She recently left that job, realising that she needs to assert her political integrity and credibility. Now she's a presenter on cable TV shopping chanel IBuy.

Her website is titled Debi Jones TV Presenter Celebrity Official Website.

She self-defines as a celebrity. This would mark someone out as a truly awful human being in itself. But consider how much worse it is when done by someone with the absolute minimum of anything that could be called celebrity. And I love that 'official' - just to differentiate between that and all the fansites, right?

So we come to Debi Jones and Another Place. Jones' boss, Sefton Council's Chief Executive Graham Haywood, says

There has been huge public support for the retention of the Gormley Statues which has clearly been reflected in the media coverage and direct contact with the council. “Another Place” has proved to be a very evocative project which has captured the imagination of many people and attracted substantial numbers of visitors.

But not everyone likes the statues. Debi Jones objects. She says they're a danger to people who look at them and to passing shipping. Really. It'd be quite funny if it weren't for the fact that she's on Sefton Council's Planning Committee and has got them to vote to remove the statues.

Classic fucking Tory puritanism. Just like the 1994 Criminal Justice Act outlawing free raves, there's this dread fear and outraged horror that people might be enjoying something. Worse still, enjoying something for free.

Gotta put a stop to that, otherwise where would it end? If people spend their time at Another Place contemplating the unity of humanity in its response to wide natural spaces, getting a deep understanding of our temporary place in the scheme of things and yet our simultaneous part in something endless and true, what use is that? Why aren't they at home squandering their money on shit they don't need off IBuy?

You've got to suspect a part of Jones' sour miserablism is also a grudge, as Claire Curtis-Thomas supports the retention of Another Place.

At the end of last year, Curtis-Thomas sent out an annual report to local Labour Party members. In reference to Debi Jones' anti-Gormley stance, it captioned a picture of Jones 'Gormless' and asked 'Is Debi Jones’s brain in another place?'.

Heavy handed and scarcely funny punning. In-house local political party leaflets are hardly going to be the collected scripts of Round The Horne.

Still, Jones has got up on her hind legs and complained that the offending leaflet didn't have permission to use a picture of her feeding Nestle chocolates to a bloke in a chair. She bemoans its 'unprofessional' approach.

While Curtis-Thomas is a New Labour schmuck, at least her and her poster subvertising husband are getting stuck into attacking the advocate of an ideology far more vicious than theirs.

Debi Jones is a Tory. As they work so hard to mask themselves and connect to a new powerbase, we need to be clear what that means. More than anyone else, she wants to take away things like hospital beds and give the money saved to the rich. She wants to reward those rich people because, well, they're rich. She wants to 'cut political correctness' (great euphemism for exacerbating disrespect towards disadvantaged minorities).

All that awards-ceremony style 'we're all playing the same game, let's be chummy' attitude in politics, I don't know the unit of measurement to tell you how far it can fuck off. Three fucking cheers for an unprofessional approach.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

politics, disrespect, hypocrisy, death, comedians

John Prescott got up on his hind legs for an extensive interview with the BBC, and Mark Steel's responded with a tremendously sarcy disrespectful piece in The Independent. He makes a big meal of Prescott's Bushesque use of language.

he wrong-footed us by insisting: "The core coalition of New Labour was New Labour and Old Labour." That's one for the philosophers, whether something can be a combination of itself and something else. With stuff like that, he could become a Buddhist monk, sitting in a robe, holding the hands of followers and telling them gently: "My friend, the apple is part apple and part lemon. Now use this knowledge wisely."

It's an apt area for Prescott to study, because he manages to be a classic blend of all that's sickly about New Labour, combined with all that was rotten with Old Labour.

I almost heard an audible 'ting' on reading that last comment, so squarely does it hit the nail on the head.

A different article explains

But, Mr Prescott insisted, the secret filming of Saddam's last minutes should be condemned "whatever your views about capital punishment".

"I think the manner was quite deplorable really," Mr Prescott told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "I don't think one can endorse in any way that, whatever your views about capital punishment. Frankly, to get the kind of recorded messages coming out is totally unacceptable and I think whoever is involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves."

Mark Steel points out,

he wouldn't criticise the Iraqi government, just "whoever was responsible". Well who else could it have been taking pictures and shouting at Saddam as he's hanged? Does the execution room share an office with a minicab firm?

Witty, yes; shining a light on some typical politician weaselling; yes. All very good. But it misses the point a bit.

The execution was the act of an elected government. That is - bear with me while I talk in real abstract - the people of the land nominate some of their number to act as their servants to take care of running stuff. It's done according to the law which is - let's stretch the theory and ideals further - the people's ideas of how they should behave and run things.

Now, I know the Iraqi government is not a fair representation of the Iraqi people, indeed no government ever really acts as the servants of its people. As Bill Hicks said, all governments are liars and murderers. I'm under no illusions there.

But Prescott is an elected politician so he is supposed to believe that servant of the people stuff.

The hanging was carried out under Iraqi law. It was, in Prescottworld, the will of the people. Why on earth shouldn't they be allowed to see what they're doing? If I give you my wallet and send you to the shop to get me some groceries then I have a right to see what you've brought back.

An official of Iraq's Justice Ministry said... "The Iraqi government is going to have an investigation into what happened. This operation should be done with the highest standards of discipline and with respect for the condemned man..."

You're killing someone in cold blood. How much more disrespectful can you get?

A few taunts really aren't going to make any difference to the reading on a disrespectometer.

It reminds me of the Pro-Life Alliance (again with Bill Hicks; 'you're pro-life? What does that make me?'). They were a bunch of overfunded anti-abortionists who put up candidates in the 1997 general election. They were never serious about getting anyone elected, but if you stand in enough constituencies you get an automatic right to a Party Political Broadcast on TV.

At the eleventh hour the broadcast, full of footage of abortions, was censored. The Pro-Life Alliance made superb use of it and I'd argue they made an even more impactful film. The deleted scenes were replaced with a statement saying that they'd been removed for legal reasons as they 'would offend public taste and decency', and if it would offend us to see something then we shouldn't be permitting it and paying for it.

I think they're right. Not about banning abortion. If they want to do that they can fuck off and live with the Amish, or at least find happy homes for every unloved unwanted child first. But they were dead right about demolishing the hypocritical discrepancies between what we do and what we're prepared to feel responsible for.

The people of Iraq should be allowed to see the hanging of Saddam Hussain, and anyone else they kill. If we find it distasteful then maybe we should be opposing hangings rather than the filming.

Adolf Eichmann

A poem by Thomas Merton, as told by Lenny Bruce

My name is Adolf Eichmann
The jews came everyday to vat they thought would be fun in the showers
The mothers were quite ingenious,
they vould take the children and hide them in bundles of clothing

They vere quiet soon because ve sealed them in, battened down the hatches, looked through the portholes and they would drop to the floor

They vere quiet.

Then we’d walk in, take off their clean Jewish love rings, remove the teeth and hair for strategic defence.

I made soap out of them.

They hung me in full view of the prison yard.

And people vould say ‘Adolf Eichmann was a beast!’

Nein, I vas a soldier.

‘No no, there are soldiers and soldiers, this was a beast!’

But I did a conscientious day’s work, I vatched through the portholes, saw every jew burned and turned into soap.

Do you people think yourselves better
because you burned your enemies
at long distances with missiles?

Without ever seeing what you’d done to them?

Auf wiedersehen