These people actually have no empathy! They must have missed out on parental interaction and affection as toddlers…

Posted in In the News, Political Ramblings with tags , , on 16 January, 2010 by tehwalrus

I am rather disappointed, America. I find that your awesome (which had grown remarkably rapidly with the election of the best President you have chosen in years) has gone as fast as it came.


So, the most progressive and fair minded bill ever to darken congress’ desks was castrated, hung, dried, and had silly faces drawn all over it before you passed it. Obama’s reform of your grossly unfair healthcare system was argued about as by children in a primary school playground, arguing whose dad had lynched the most communists. You looked at all our criticisms of the NHS but failed to note our main conclusion to all of these: spend more money on it. We love the NHS, and if you had passed into law a system that remotely resembled it you might have learned to love yours too. But you won’t because what you have is basically private health insurance which is now legally compulsory. Obama should have vetoed it when it landed on his desk.

Sarah Palin

One of the things I loved about watching your election campaign last year was how much everyone got together to slag off idiotic unthinking morons like Sarah Palin. The Republican Party’s apparent relish for gun-toting, bible-bashing, free market endorsing megaphones was roundly criticised by civilised people everywhere and we were all relieved when you made the right choice at the ballot box (only 52% odd of you, but nonetheless). But now, she seems to have been promoted. She has landed a job as one of Fox News’ searingly nasty commentators, and apparently people are happy about this. The only upside I can see is that Obama’s press team will have to rebut her directly every time someone quotes her. This would be a good thing, but I doubt they would report any meaningful rebuttal anywhere in the Murdoch press, so sadly the people who badly need to hear a cogent and well-formed political argument (aka Fox News viewers) will be denied even this small consolation. Boo, hiss, get off the stage, etc.

And so to Today’s new story that had tea coming out of my nose.

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh (who is another of these Fox News commentators) has said that you shouldn’t give money to the Haiti disaster appeal, on the grounds that you can’t trust the American Government. Pardon?

One of the few redeeming features of religious belief (I am a Humanist by choice, and strictly agnostic on all matters Theological) is that it occasionally makes people do noble things. After it has left them penniless, devoid of the skills of logical reasoning and angry about foreigners who have a different set of unsubstantiated beliefs, they do retain a modicum of compassion – the good samaritain instinct, the “treat others as you would like to be treated” gene.

Not so, hard line Republicans. They are advocates of free market freedoms; the freedom to loot, monopolise and use Monetary advantage to oppress. Of course, that doesn’t make them Liberals, only Market Liberals (in direct opposition to Social Liberals like Lib Dems, I hasten to add.) On the other political axis, the one about civil rights, personal freedoms, and choice, they are once again opposed to Lib Dems everywhere by arguing from a position of Moral Conservatism – “you can’t do that because I believe it is immoral [according to an ancient text badly/maliciously translated and quoted out of context]”.

In addition to Mr Limbaugh, Pat Robertson (the evangelical entrepreneur) has said that the Haitians brought this disaster on themselves, by rebelling against French rule in 1804. Again, Pardon?

How these people can claim to be Christian, quite frankly to be human at all, and at the same time deny that the people who have just suffered an earthquake that flattened their entire capital city deserve our help and aid, is beyond a logical contradiction: it is plain lunacy. It smacks of a broken mind, who perhaps is unable to empathise, which as far as I remember my developmental psychology means that their parents didn’t cuddle them when they were three.

Prove them wrong. Prove that humanity is about more than scoring political points, gaining media coverage and pissing everyone else off. Prove that you can empathise. Join me in giving money to the DEC disaster appeal.


MPs expenses consultation.

Posted in Cool, Political Ramblings with tags on 7 January, 2010 by tehwalrus

MPs are in for a rough ride!

There are some clear cut issues in here (yes, stop paying for mortgages and just pay rent, don’t pay it if the constituency is in London, etc) but there are a couple of other issues.

MP’s Staffers

These guys are currently treated really badly, simply because MP’s offices are immune to employment law (half of them have no contracts, huge hours and tiny wages, massive competition for the jobs so no complaining or you’re out). Make them the employees of the House, however, (money comes from same place, still interviewed and appointed by the MP, only difference is on paper) and suddenly John Bercow HAS to recognise their Union, which he is currently refusing to do without giving a reason, and they suddenly all get treated like proper citizens again. Well, that’s what I put, anyway.

Publishing Receipts

We need to be careful here; they mention in the consultation that there will be no redaction at all in future. This is in contravention of the data protection act from the POV of the staff, so don’t let them get away with it! Also, if the staff are employed by the House, a happy side effect is that Parliament (rather than the MPs themselves), as the Data Holder under the Data Protection Act, are responsible for redacting the addresses, making the whole thing much more transparent.


The whole point of paying MPs at all is to make sure anyone can stand. And by “can” we mean “in a financial position to”. Don’t let them miss of the Care allowance (gives MPs with kids larger accommodation budget so they can rent a proper house where the kids can stay), and demand a Disability allowance too, for those who need special accommodation and transport costs met. Parliament needs to be much more of the people, and we don’t want to discourage Mothers, Wheelchair Users, or ‘anyone not from the landed gentry’ from being eligible by forgetting to include extra payments where the lack thereof could prove a deterrent.

You have until February to fill out this form and influence the constitution. GO!

Well done Mr. Clegg, after a bit of a wobble you stopped the bilge leak.

Posted in 2010 Election Campaign with tags , , on 5 January, 2010 by tehwalrus

We have seen 2 statements from Clegg in the last 24 hours, and the first had me groaning “Bilge, absolute nonsense, oh do shut up” as usual.

He said something along the lines of “Both Labour and the Conservatives are not being straight with people about the difficult decisions required to sort out the public finances”, which as far as I can tell translates as “wah wah wah…why won’t anyone ask meee…”, which is hardly a proper response to all the speculating and land grabbing that the other parties have been engaging in on our turf.

Early this morning we had a much better rebuttal to all that when he popped up again and finally came out and clarified that our core policies are not going to be sold down the river in some death pact with the conservative party, nor will we prop up the wounded Labour government.

“The Liberal Democrats…are not for sale,” he said, and he asserted that we won’t compromise on four key policies like Fairer Taxes, Electoral Reform, the Green Tax Switch, and smaller class sizes. This is finally a proper offensive on our part, having been rather on the back foot. On Radio Four this morning, he used an open question to talk about redistributive tax (and I thought he was on the right of the party…) as a dividing line between us and the Tories. He also said that he is quite happy to leave a minority government to push it’s agenda, although once again the four key policies aren’t going anywhere, and there won’t be any backroom compromise.

We have also missed a trick in holding back on attacking David Cameron’s wobble on his discrimination tax on religious freedom – he said yesterday that he could no longer afford to fund a tax break for marriage, which is ridiculous as it is a veiled subsidy on faith as a laughable throwback to the right wing moral conservatives at the Daily Mail, with a flop to follow the flip as he then reasserted the commitment in much less substantial terms later in the day. Honestly, these guys are sitting ducks.

So where does that leave us?

Posted in Copenhagen December 2009 with tags , on 19 December, 2009 by tehwalrus

The Copenhagen Accord, as named in the attached PDF, is a massive letdown.

What we have here is an IOU from world leaders.

There is some nice language, some good sentiment, and a table of emission cut targets; but no consequences. There is no incentive to act, only a promise to. And to be honest, when it comes to the Chinese, who would turf people out of their homes to make way for a grand olympic stadium, when it comes to Obama, who claims to take Climate Change so seriously but who spent less than 24 hours here in snowy Copenhagen, when it comes to Brown, who claims to care about the future of our planet but just continues to lobby for cheap oil for our cars on the international stage, a promise doesn’t cut it.

Now I probably won’t be able to afford to attend COP-16, it being in Mexico City. I imagine that most of the raging crowds who, according to Simon Hughes now hold so much power, will be in the same position. The international pressure will be massively reduced, the targets will no doubt be tweaked, and the leaders will be able to get away with saving their supposed green credentials without having to make any unpopular decisions on Carbon Taxes and other market mechanisms that have a chance of actually solving the crisis, and we are on track for a nightmare climate future.

So what can we do?

It’s quite simple; make some noise. Write to your MP, your council, and your local political activists and ask them what they are doing to combat climate change. Let’s bring Green issues right up the noses of the Political Class, and make sure they know that we are angry that Copenhagen was a massive waste of everyone’s time.

I will post news of any peaceful environmental protests occurring in the London area as I hear about them. We must let them (the complacent, incapable oafs currently running our country and the world) know that we won’t be ignored, that this issue matters to us, and that they had better get their act together before we all go up in smoke.

Do you want the good news, or the bad?

Posted in Copenhagen December 2009, In the News with tags , , , on 18 December, 2009 by tehwalrus

OK, so earlier there was no news. This is what is so frustrating about being shut out of the Bella Centre – I, like you, must get my news from the Guardian and the BBC, who aren’t always going to tell us the whole story. However, we do have two conflicting stories, which I think shows some interesting political posturing by the different news media.

The BBC are trying to make me less depressed!

Their leader is all about the fact that China has given ground on monitoring; something that always had to happen before a deal could be reached – if you can’t measure it, you haven’t proved anything, as we physicists say! As such, it is very welcome that China will now allow some sort of (possibly international) verification system for monitoring CO2 emissions. They had previously said that it was a matter of principal not to allow such foreign interference in internal matters, so this is a symbolic big step.

It in turn has been in exchange with a US announcement earlier in the week (Wednesday night unofficially, Thursday morning officially) which announced a massive increase in the US contribution to funding low carbon development in developing nations, and according to the US media this was always going to be the big showdown.

The story doesn’t leave much room for doubt that the whole issue is going to be resolved, successfully, tomorrow, when in fact the diplomatic legal texts are far from completion; false hope, perhaps.

Whereas, the Guardian are trying to put pressure on the leaders!

There is a leaked document that the Guardian have got hold of which says that we are 4.2 Gigatonnes short of cuts which leave us with a 2 degree rise, as the agreement currently stands (notwithstanding the legal instrument, which as we know can probably wait until July as long as we have a political commitment to cuts in a sort of untouchable holding bay until then).

Lets put that a bit more clearly; as things stand, we are talking about a 3 Degree rise in global average temperature by 2050. This would, in comparison to a 2 degree rise by 2100 (which is the baseline goal), mean 170 million more people at risk of severe floods, and 550 million more at risk of hunger.

In order to rectify this, Annexe I as a whole would need to go to 30% cuts on a 1990 baseline by 2020. We are a long way from this; the US is currently insisting on a 2005 baseline, and cuts of only 17% on that. Now I don’t care what baseline you use, just pick a common one so we can measure you all against it! It is fine to go with 2005, just make the cuts more like 60% so that you are making the same actual promise. Statistics, Damn lies and statistics!

This has clearly been leaked in order to allow the media to put on yet more pressure on all the assembled heads of state, and the guardian have gone for it with gusto. This is what we like to see!

So Much for the Process…

Unfortunately, we have a morning of nonsense, instead of actual work! There is a load of pomp and ceremony to be had now that there are multiple heads of state hanging around, so we have to put up with this crap until 3pm, at which people will get down to work and actually resume negotiating.

Additionally, the heads of state all had to pop out for a quick speech to the world this afternoon; all a massive grandstanding exercise for the media. I listened to a few of the speeches, but I couldn’t stomach the whole thing, it was too nauseating to watch such a waste of time and resources.

Has it come to this? Hopenhagen, going down in flames.

Posted in Copenhagen December 2009 with tags , , on 17 December, 2009 by tehwalrus

Some choice articles and quotes for you this morning; just to ingrain an appropriate sense of injustice and dispair:

The Guardian focus on Ed Milliband’s pessimistic comments from the 25 minister council, which took 18 hours after Michael Zammit Cutajar’s 5-7AM heroics to get around to even reading the draft he had been preparing with all those delegates who wanted corrections to their brackets.

The BBC are interested in Brown’s Comment that history has moments where leaders succeed in changing something and when they fail; he wants this to be one where it succeeds. Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to find out how hard he is trying on that, because NGO delegates like me have been barred from the centre.

Access blocking is not a conspiracy, by the way, but as with many of the problems here just bad organisation. The Bella Centre only holds 15,000 people, and they allowed 30,000 NGO delegates to be signed up, knowing that they wouldn’t all be allowed in. Also, after 130 heads of state accepted the invitation, with all their entourages, the centre is basically at capacity before any NGOs have been looked at.

We are powerless to do anything now; it is up to the people who won our elections, the people we bash in the press every day, the people who actually run the world, to sort this out now.

If they fail, then (as Maya 2109 said) that’s the end, that’s it, it’s over.

“So Much for the Process…” – Michael Zammit Cutajar

Posted in Copenhagen December 2009 with tags , , , , on 16 December, 2009 by tehwalrus

The COP-15 is structured something like this:

  1. Initial sessions are opened, according to the Bali roadmap which says that there should be two Ad-hoc Working Groups (AWGs) – one for nations already signed up to the KP (Kyoto Protocol) and one for the LCA (Long-term Cooperative Agreement). The Initial meeting is quite brief, setting up chairs and leaders for the various subgroups (the chairs/exec of the AWGs themselves have been set up and working on things for the last 2 years already).
  2. The subgroups then get to work discussing the language of assigned bits of the text, with nations "Parties" (within the COP="Conference Of Parties") able to contribute and modify bits of the text. This is the initial stages of the negotiation, with many civil servants from each country led by a chief negotiator, and eventually a minister (or two, in the UK’s case).
  3. Then, the subgroups report back to the AWGs, who decide on a draft to send up to the COP-MOP (MOP="Meeting Of Parties") which is the forum in which ministers and leaders debate and decide on the final issues.
  4. Last and Biggest, the Leaders and Ministers sit down and compromise on their existing policy – "filling in the brackets" – in order to come to a text that everyone can sign.

The reason for the second stage (of 1.5 weeks) is that much of the text can be determined from existing policy; sets of civil servants can sit down and bash out the structure of the text, even if the Ministers still need to give ground for compromise in certain places later, and the bits that are not "clean", or final, are put in [square brackets].

We have reached the final phase of the conference now, where ministers (and heads of governments) arrive to look over the draft texts from the AWGs. We can learn a lot about how the negotiations are going by watching the final sessions of the AWGs; as the text is chewed over and nations put on record any remaining reservations they have. You can watch these on the UNFCCC website, this is the AWG-KP’s second, and third sessions, and this is the AWG-LCA’s second session. Be warned though, they are very long and in diplomat-speak! (and you will need to install Microsoft’s Silverlight player in order to watch them)

To save you the trouble of wading though them (running time something like 3.5 hours), I will offer my own summary of what went on.

The KP is going somewhere

China, India, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, South Africa all raised concerns about the unfinished nature of the KP as it stands, which is expected since the Leaders will need to hammer out all the tricky bits in the coming days. However, large parts of the text are apparently basically finished now, and no countries under it seems to be raising objections (this may be good or bad, since it makes it sound quite unambitious to me…)

[The LCA is still entirely bracketed]

And in addition to bracketing the entire text, there are specific sub-brackets requested by many individual nations from the USA to Sudan (who are, of course, both under the LCA together amusingly enough, since the USA didn’t sign up to Kyoto). The session was 2 hours long (it only started at 5am this morning) and I really felt sorry for the chair – the title is a quite from him! – but unfortunately without the actual text (which, since I can’t get into the Bella Centre I can’t get hold of, grr) I am at a loss to talk about who is asking for what changes. I might be able to do so by tomorrow, but today’s events will probably render the analysis useless.

Something else that was in the news:

Our friend Connie Hedegaard has resigned! I was shocked when I heard but the Danes in the IFLRY delegation (which is 100 strong, with only 7 britons) that this was already agreed way in advance; she would be president until the heads of state started to arrive (Gordon Brown arrived yesterday evening, for example), when it would be more appropriate for Lars Løkke Rasmussen (the Danish prime minister) to take over.

Either way you can watch the BBC grill her about it if you want…