Tuesday, March 25, 2008

only in norfolk

Commercial TV stations do not exist to deliver programmes to audiences. They exist to deliver audiences to advertisers.

They research their audiences well so that they can better sell their advertising space. You can tell who's watching a show by what's advertised in the breaks.

Mark Thomas wondered why his appeared to be the only show to unfailingly have Canesten ads. I suspect that, being intelligent political exposé dressed up as comedy, it has sod all viewers and was just the cheapest slot available, but I suppose it's possible that there's a spike in the incidence of thrush among lefties and anarchists with a sense of humour.

By the same token, flyers left under car windscreen wipers tell you a lot about who's living round there. Where I live it's mainly for club nights. Genres of dance music I've never heard of and couldn't tell apart, with DJ names that read like adolescent bus stop graffiti. Andy K, Johnny Space and Lindsey playing the best in obstreperous house and coruscating funky doom beatz.

But, you know, fair enough. It's me not them. It's a high student population area and I'm sure lots of them like it, and even more understand what the hell it means. I like living around the Leeds 6 vibe, it feels vibrant, really running headlong at life.

But imagine living - as a friend who gave me this does - somewhere where you come back to the car park and someone's left these under all the wipers.

'Old Traps Wanted For Cash' flyer

Thursday, March 20, 2008

vote blue, go blue

Oh my fuck, the local elections are looming again.

The Conservatives are running national billboard campaigns with the slogan taken from their theme song, Jimmy Cliff's classic You Can Get It If You Really Want. Bastards.

I doubt too many Tories were listening to Trojan reggae when it came out. Too busy listening to one of their MPs making the Rivers of Blood speech. That's progress for you. Forty years to move from a snarling 'send em all back' to a fraternal 'I suppose they're alright but I wouldn't want one living next door'.

In keeping with local election tradition, the main parties are insulting our intelligence by issuing leaflets that look like a concerned frequently published local news letter.

To add insult to, well, insult, the Chester Tories have come up with a winning slogan. Forwards, not Backwards. Their explanation features a flock of them holding placards. In case it's too subtle for the reader, and to remove the great ambiguity inherent in the phrase, the placards underline 'not'.

Chester Conservatives holding 'Forwards NOT Backwards' placards

It's even more blatant than Labour's meaningless and stupid 'Forward With Britain'.

Our direction is forwards. There are no other alternative routes forwards. Any other direction is backwards. You wouldn't want to go backwards would you? Of course not.

In case belief were not already beggared, the Chester Tories are using that 'Vote Blue Go Green' logo we first saw last year. Over the page they have a piece about how they are introducing policies to encourage more people to visit their city by car.

There is one towering green issue of our time, climate change. The science of it is clear. In order to have a good chance of avoiding runaway climate change, we need a global cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 60% in 30 years. For the overemitting nations like us, that's at least a 90% cut. It is possible with technology that already exists. But not if we play by Tory policy.

They're very big on talking about environmental issues. Indeed, their Blueprint For A Green Economy report may contain some predictable freemarket guff but it also includes extraordinarily radical stuff.

The social cost of material growth is becoming increasingly clear. Even as the global economy continues to consume beyond its ecological means, the long-assumed link between increased financial wealth and increased social wellbeing is showing signs of stress.

Levels of income and consumption have soared over the last three decades in most developed countries. Yet consistently, the people of those same countries report no increase in their sense of contentment or wellbeing. In many cases they report a decline. It seems that in wealthy countries, a continued increase in economic growth, is not increasing wellbeing.

Here in Britain, the signs of this are everywhere. Levels of mental illness, drug abuse and ‘binge drinking’ are rising even as our economy continues to grow. The Samaritans report that five million people are ‘extremely stressed.’ Unicef research suggests that British children are the unhappiest in Europe. Crime levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, surveys show that nearly nine out of ten members of the public think British society is ‘too materialistic’, and that a quarter of 30 to 59 year-olds have voluntarily ‘downshifted’, accepting less income in exchange for more free time.

Yet, according to standard economic and political thinking this ought not to be. Economic growth, measured as an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should bring a correlating growth in our happiness and wellbeing and any attempt to prioritise environmental social health over economic growth is widely supposed to make people less content.

The truth, though, is beginning to seem more complex. Evidence from many quarters suggests that human wellbeing does not rise indefinitely alongside gains in material wealth. In fact, that once we reach a certain level of income and material wealth, gains beyond that level can actually begin to exacerbate social problems, from ‘status anxiety’ to a deteriorating work-life balance. These findings challenge the assumption that environmental and social wellbeing parallel economic progress and raise questions over the very nature of economic growth and its role in society.

Our increasing awareness of the need to phase out fossil fuels rapidly is accompanied by an awareness that economic growth based on them is only part of what improves human lives. The real questions now are beginning to focus on what defines 'progress’, what is ‘quality growth’ and what determines a ‘good life’.

greening of economic growth does not just involve a series of green tweaks to the ‘business as usual’ model. Human activities are ultimately constrained by environmental limits. The problem with relying solely upon ‘green growth’ is that it deals primarily with mitigating the relative impacts of consumption, but fails to respect absolute environmental limits. Putting a price on environmental damage is important but it can only take us so far. Other mechanisms must also be used to protect and enhance the environment. We may, for example, need regulations to set
aside crucial areas or vulnerable habitats.

A fixation on the idea that the market can manage all things if ‘externalities’ are 'internalised’ is wrong, firstly because of the scale and urgency of the challenge which means that we simply do not have time for the market to ‘adjust over time’, and secondly, because we have a far from perfect understanding of the complex interactions between the climate, biosphere, soils and other elements which make up the delicate balance of the Earth. We know too little of the potential implications of the changes in sea p.h., temperature and salinity. We don’t fully comprehend how these interact with climate or how climate impacts on sea life and the fish stocks upon which large sections of the global population rely.

It is areas of debate such as this that it is clearly not possible to put a value and ‘price’ on the natural world. Simply to ignore anything of which we are not certain would be irresponsible so we have to protect where we cannot be utterly certain.

If, however, our appetite for material goods continues on its current trajectory, it is unlikely that resource-use efficiency in and of itself will halt or reverse our impacts on the planet, and in particular its ability to maintain a stable climate. It is also crucial to understand that in some circumstances increasingly efficient or ‘greener’ production processes can lower the costs to business and thus, paradoxically, ultimately lead to higher total rates of production and consumption.

Simply cleaning up existing lifestyles and patterns of economic growth will not take us far enough, not least if we are to achieve equitable global development within the natural limits of the planet. After all, if everyone on Earth equalled the resource consumption of our citizens here in the UK, it would take three planets to support us. If we all aspired to US patterns it would demand five planets.

The issue is not whether but when we recognise that fact. The current economic model, relying on universal cheap energy, is bust. There are sticking plaster solutions but, in the end we have to find an alternative way forward. Sensibly, we should do that before we damage the environment irreversibly. If we are stupid, we’ll fail to act now and then seek the solution in extremis when, even if an answer is still possible, it will be immeasurably more difficult and infinitely more expensive. If society at large can shift its thinking away from ‘what can I buy?’ to ‘what do I want from life?’ or ‘what needs do I have?’ then perhaps we can decouple economic growth from resource input. This is our challenge.

Really talking the talk there aren't they? If I'd asked you who wrote it, how many guesses would you have needed before you got it right?

But forget about them ever trying to walk that talk. They can't even come out against aviation expansion. The Tories are still directed by millionaire bankers, and they are still committed to freemarket capitalism and its need for perpetual economic growth.

Their actual policy - let alone what they'd do once in power - hasn't taken on board any of that nettle-grasping stuff their own report tells them. Their green talk is just that. It is posturing with as much meaning as the Chester party's vacuous slogan.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

adverts are illegal

I've made no secret of my opinion that, in the words of Bill Hicks, advertising is the most evil concept ever.

As we slide into a world where ever greater numbers of genuinely talented people become mere endorsers and salespeople for whoever will write them a cheque, it's gratifying to see some people hold fast, such as film director David Lynch.

But even higher marks to Swedish directors Claes Eriksson and Vilgot Sjöman. They sued a TV company for putting ad breaks during their movies. They argued that this is effectively inserting new material and as such breaches copyright law.

They won their case two years ago, but it went to the Supreme Court. They just decided that yes, advertising does infringe the movie.

Even if a break is placed at a scene change, it disturbs a director’s intended interplay between scenes, said the court.

Furthermore, commercials can result in a film being longer than a director intended, which isn’t insignificant, according to the court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court also affirmed that the commercial interests behind advertising don't outweigh the copyright holder’s right to decide how his work is reproduced.

Sadly, the judgement only affects the films of those two directors being shown on TV4 in Sweden. Still, well the fuck done guys.

Monday, March 17, 2008

it's a made-up drug

Anyone familiar with Brass Eye's drugs episode, an especially the use of Cake, may get a sense of deja vu as life imitates art.

If you're not familiar with Cake, check this:

The mighty officers of Thames Valley Police recently sent out a warning to schools about 'strawberry meth', a strawberry flavoured version of crystal meth being given away outside school gates by dealers.

It was, of course, a load of arse. The cops retracted it and apologised.

Chief Inspector Dennis Evernden said: "One of our officers, who is new to his post, received the e-mail internally in good faith and forwarded it on to the schools in West Oxfordshire to warn them"

I love the last line in the report that tells us 'the force would not be holding an internal inquiry over the incident'.

Shouldn't they be curious about how such blatant Cake twaddle could be taken seriously by someone in a position of power? And hopefully go on review what else they tell people about drugs, with an eye to whether that's a load of made-up bollocks too?

Monday, March 10, 2008

no new coal

Not content with committing us to a new generation of nuclear power stations, the government has decided to ignore all the common knowledge about climate change and build a new generation of coal fired power stations too, starting at Kingsnorth in Kent.

Mr Hutton also told the conference organised by the Adam Smith Institute that coal fired generation was needed as backup for when the wind did not blow.

To have it as backup, you'd need to have the wind turbines as your main source. As opposed to not building those turbines and using the coal day in day out.

The station would be "carbon capture ready," though the technology for pumping the carbon dioxide it would create into disused oil or gas wells under the North Sea has yet to be either developed or installed.

OK, let's assume that carbon capture and storage actually existed (which it doesn't).

Let's assume that corporations will choose to store it in places that don't flush out lucrative bonuses of otherwise unrecoverable oil and gas (which all plans so far put on the table do, even when they mean a tenfold increase in the emissions from the project).

Let's assume that there is some pipeline leading from Kingsnorth to somewhere to store it (which there isn't).

If the government really believes this is the way forward, why isn't there any obligation on Kingsnorth to use capture and storage as soon as its available?

Because the government isn't serious. So we have to be.

The opposition to Kingsnorth will be huge. If we can show huge opposition to this one, the other - count 'em - six coal-fired power stations already under consideration will be harder to approve.

Last week the Camp for Climate Action decided to hold their annual ballyhoo at Kingsnorth from 3rd-11th August. Put the dates in your diary.

The very words 'new build coal' should be enough to make anyone realise that the government and corporations are not going to come up with effective solutions. There needs to be pressure, there needs to be action from elsewhere. That means you.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

sunday drinker wine reviews

Harry Hutton's blog, Chase Me Ladies I'm In The Cavalry, remains one of the funniest things I ever read. Usually - but not always - making a point and - always - with a great comic slap. His recent post on the cost of the Iraq war observed

If Bush had spent that $3,000,000,000,000 on shoes, no American child would ever have to wear the same shoes more than once. Or he could have bought everyone in Iraq an Aston Martin. Those would be the actions of a madman, of course, yet still more sensible than what he actually did do.

In turn, Hutton's taste in other people's work is superb. He posted an embed of a Sunday Drinker wine review without comment, as it needs none. However, there are a further two Sunday Drinker wine reviews of equal comic calibre, so I hereby give you the lot.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

the mind control chaos begins

The Lady In Red.

A Spaceman Came Travelling.

Even Jim Bliss' favourite, When I Think Of You.

Trawl all you like through the murky pit of emetic sludge that is Chris De Burgh's repertoire, can you find anything that'd make you want to get pissed with your mates and mosh about?

So then, how come it's happening in New Zealand?

Chris de Burgh concert was marred by people vomiting and falling down a bank. A man was knocked unconscious in a brawl.

This is clearly beyond lively japes. It is the actions of people whose brains have fulminated and burst because the Lizard King is trying out his alien mind-control techniques.

It's surely no coincidence that this starts in New Zealand, the country whose media reported Oswald's arrest before it happened, clearly the centre of the plan to take over the world. It is quite plainly a sign.

We obviously haven't got long now.

Monday, March 03, 2008

war without killing (slight return)

They're all at it. Last week the relentlessly pro-war Ruth Kelly said she could never 'trigger the death of someone'.

Within a week, Prince Harry was interviewed on Channel 4 News.

'I would never want to put somebody else's life in danger,' he said.

The man who's been calling in air strikes on buildings for the last ten weeks.