Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Space 1999

Time for another picture. Just saw it in the carpark. It's a Honda Insight. It just made me wonder why it is that almost all cars with a future-planet-saving bent seem to look like they were designed for a 70s Gerry Anderson show? I guess some bumps are due to squeezing in eco-bits, but why the back wheel cover? If it is really a streamlining thing why has no other car I've seen got them?

RE:porting losses

Neither of these two examples are to do with the environment, but both happened today and gave me further cause for concern on standards of reporting. Which always gest me going.

The first was on rape. Unless I misheard, the problem seemed to be that only 1 in 20 reports ended in a conviction. This is of course pretty awful, unless only 1 in 20 were proven beyond all reasonable doubt to have been a rape. In which case I get a tad concerned for all single men (and a few married ones) if a target ends up needing meeting no matter what. I did gather some sloppy police procedure is at the heart of the critique and the % figure, but in the slot I watched very little was allowed for 'proven innocent until guilty'. It just seemed assumed and accepted that this figure was not high enough. What is suggested? Forget whether a crime has been committed and go straight to 75%?

The other was about the Birmingham terrorist alert. Some guys have been arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap a soldier, and was heralded under the banner "Is terrorism taking a more sinister turn?'. What, exactly, could be more sinister than sidling up to a mum and baby in a Tube and trying to blow them up?

Better the devil...?

A political snippet passed to me by Dave of Solarventi:

MP quits to focus on climate campaign

Movements in the Westminster village are always interesting, as much as for where they have been as where they are going. Not to mention why. In this case it seems very helpful that his vacating the seat allows a Minister to pop across the boundary line... if he wins.

I'm not sure, but this may be the same guy I wrote to the PM to ask why he was not arrested for calling upon Jeremy Clarkson to be done away with (which I blogged an age ago), and came off pretty poorly for the exchange with that gentleman.

While one can admire the passion and belief, I have to wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing in terms of having such an extreme individual running about without a clunking fist to keep him in line.

JunkkYard Blues.. and Waves

Time for a picture. And another mea culpa.

I often sigh that certain aspects of the site are not getting more contributions, as opposed to views). Ideas. Forum. Blog. JunkkYard.

Well, having just had a rummage around it for a recent post to another site, I realised that I have not exactly been doing my bit, either.

So here you are. It's a piece of cardboard I found propped up against a recycling skip. It is huge. Now I know It could be recycled. But i reckon it's too good not to reuse. So I have it here. Perfect for any am:dram with a bit of space.

You just need to be within 250 miles of HR9.

Well, he did ask #2

The Telegraph Business Club asked a question based on:

Would you give a senior management job to someone who had no experience of business management and no experience of the subject area? No. I thought not.

So maybe Patrick Barbour of the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) is onto something when he argues that politicians face an impossible task when they are appointed to run complex government departments.

"They generally have little or no knowledge of their subject area and no management experience," he says, "yet they are made chief executives of huge organisations like the NHS that would be beyond the best business brains in the world." As a result, he points out, the British Medical Journal ranks British healthcare as the second worst in the industrialised world.

Barbour suggests that politicians should set policy but have no direct involvement with the management of vital services like health and education. "People with genuine experience should be responsible for day-to-day management," he says.

His argument is given some added credence from an ICM poll commissioned by the TPA that shows nearly 70 percent of the population believes more than a fifth of Government expenditure is wasted. The poll also reveals majority support for taking politicians out of the management of health and education.

Barbour concludes that "we need serious structural reform of Government so politicians are no longer trying to do impossible jobs and talented people from outside politics can be brought in to run things better." Is he right? In a funny way, Gordon Brown set a precedent for such a change when he gave the Bank of England control over interest rates. There is a huge amount of business talent in the UK. Maybe it could be put to use at the highest levels of government.

Or am I being naïve in giving any credence to the views of a single-issue lobby group like the TPA. What do you think? Come to my blog and let me know by clicking here.

I answered:

"Short answer to a much bigger, and complex, piece of research and opinion: yes, why not? There couldn't be much worse mess and waste created. And logic does dictate that those educated, trained and experienced in delivering an end-result of benefit to the real stakeholders (for consumers - and a happy consumer is a successful company - read the public, tax and/or ratepayers), as opposed to ones to meet target, career or agenda-driven criteria, will make for better ROI all round.

I am currently looking a barrel-load of discrepancies between what is being broadcast, done and hyped with environmental, 3rd sector and social entrepreneurship issues, and what is actually being done and/or (mis)-managed."

Bagging a plug

What's your legacy?

Of course the witches' knickers are as much about cultural and legal ignorance, as it is illegal to litter.

But you are right. Recycling seems to be the main mantra du jour, despite being pretty low on the re:totem. Hence I am also a keen advocate of re:use and re:pair (some great little outfits around turning the bikes in canals into ones that can cycle beside them again - link - I would love to know of more to upload and share). And speaking of turning things into something useful try link , link , or, as India has been mentioned: link

Re:duction is at the pinnacle (well, if you ignore 'avoid buying/don't make it', which is an extreme, if logical one). But then it's so hard to figure what's best. In a recent blog elsewhere I was advised by a plastics expert that the foam trays are much better at protection, and are indeed more enviro-friendly than the more prevalent hard-plastic ones, but are not 'seen' as eco-friendly.

Another discussion, which sadly I do not.. yet... have the answer to (it will be posted very soon on the Prof's Poser's section of our site) is to the merits of biodegrading. If oil and energy goes into making the bag, and hence produces greenhouse gasses, which is better? Burying it for eternity, or burying it for a while and kicking out more 'geegees' as it gets consumed? So 'we' look better and safe face, if not the planet.

So thank you for a delicate wander though the dilemmas that we all are confronted with, and with none of the usual 'you should's' that I tend to feel are foisted on a willing majority by a more privileged, or geographically-eco-blessed minority.

Oh, and since you asked (and to gain another small plug to at least five more folk), my legacy is, a free website I created to offer a small extra opportunity to help people help themselves and each other in a truly re:warding way. It's my kismetic korrection for years spent in the ad world persuading folk to desire, buy and dispose of stuff they don't need, or at least less wastefully.

You may even find, or get to suggest, nice ideas on what to do with that mousse cap. You could then write about it. And people will try it. The manufacturer will notice that (a small% of) people are also buying their product because it has a second use and take an ad out to help me survive. All of us gain. And then other manufacturers and retailers see what is happening and start to find or build in second uses to their products and packs, so much less gets wasted.

And that is a practical legacy of something done, which I will be proud to leave my kids.

Speaking of backfiring...

I was in a plane once that backfired. It was a TWA internal flight. Nastiest thing I had ever been in. Taxiing to the runway and then 'bang!'. I'm halfway to the chutes before I realise everyone else hasn't batted an eyelid.

Speaking of planes...

For a brief moment I could see part of Mr. O's case. I still can't accept retroactive anything as fair or just. So Gordon's tax on folk who had saved and paid for their trip is plain wrong to me. Anything from now on, simple supply and demand.

However, in the great scheme of coming out with one thing and being called on it: Ryanair retracts emissions claim.

Nice one, Newsnight.

Whether the original made a gain and the retraction detracted from it is another issue entirely.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You couldn't make it up.

And this would be which paper, exactly?

I wouldn't mind so much, as promos are part and parcel. But a shopping trip.. to New York?

Pop goes the.. well, everything, really

Can pop take on global warming?

Qu: Do you think this plan really could help to slow down global warming?

A: Maybe, if you mean by not very much, and be by the minute extra awareness it may create in the public's awareness, which could filter through to major corporations one day. Otherwise, a snowball’s chance in Greenland which, as pointed out on Saturday by one of said corporation's bosses on the Today programme - (well worth a scary 5 minutes of what's left of our lives), used to be roasty-toasty, so there really is no problem with global warming.

Qu: And does the involvement of stars in campaigns like this encourage you to take part in them, or does it put you off?

A: Depends on the star. And depends on the campaign. Some obviously are ordinary folk, just like the rest of us, and are entitled to be concerned about the situation and want to do something about it. This, sadly, smacks of a green-elite concoction between minders, PR folk and mates in the activist community with whom they had a Fairtrade Chardonnay last night at the Ivy. It's a nice thought, but to take on Shell, Nestle and Pepisco's carb-con trading budgets, or even their marketing might (who sponsors pop stars again?) will take an awful lot of download PRS dues. Check which way the wind is blowing before unzipping guys!

And it all can go the shape of a pear when one lobs up at a gig next year in a private chopper wearing a polar bear coat, as saving the planet was sooo last year.

If our PM can't stay on message for 10 seconds when the future career beckons, I reckon we'll see some others straying too.

And when that happens the deniers will say 'look, see, hypocrites', and the games will carry on. Ordinary folk will duck back in their bunkers and just try and manage.

But it is a nice excuse for some media luvvies to meet some yoof icons. When it gets out of this timeslot on broadcast, and the Guardian in print, for the right reasons, I’ll be less inclined to see it as more than a stunt.


It is inevitable that, having been asked to comment, some see no irony in critiquing those who comment:
I guess you could call some responses cynical, but I’d like to think a few were in fact considered commentary. A question was asked, after all! To be more concerned with the characters of the respondents in such a situation seems a tad censorious, maybe? Perhaps there was an expectation of a series in gushing support?

It is interesting therefore, that if one took this blog’s participants as a cross-section (if not a very accurate one, statistically), the percentages would suggest that such actions, or at least the overt in-your-face PR-driven nature of them (as a personal financial transaction would not the same effect be created by simply doing it and not broadcasting hither and thither?) has not been as inspirational as desired. A bit like buying a Hybrid to attend the awards show (with tame Paparazzi and scribe to record), whilst keeping the Range Rover with the others in the climate-controlled garage for clubbing duties later on that night.

I doubt any would forget the mostly sincere effort and impact of Live Aid. However, though admittedly possibly coloured by recent reporting (the media can feed at both ends of such things) of late, there seem to have been some questions raised (many at the sharp end) as to the actual beneficial value in terms of return on investment of having a bit of a do, making squillions and squirting them elsewhere. Personally I think, at the time, it was a lot better than nothing. But times have moved on. Lessons have been learned. Cannot doubts be raised and questions asked if one feels a pre-traveled road is being trod again? I’ve lost count of the number of celebs who ‘are seeing for themselves’ things in places I can only dream of visiting, and indeed am being told I should not. Is there not a danger of a backlash from such a WIAC-YOAC ‘we’re in and can; you’re out and can’t’ culture, actively supported by the media industry who are always tagging along for the ride and the ratings?

Great that they are throwing some money at the problem, I just hope it is money they can afford and will be money well spent and not wasted (or turned for profit). Listening again to the heads of Nestle, Pepsico and Shell in that Today link above, I’d say they have their work cut out. Such guys have only one agenda, and amounts of money (not their own) to defend it.

Finally, since you ask, while I can’t speak for other respondents, by signing a lot of cheques (against home and pension) AND working very long hours I have created a free website (link in name above) that is designed to help ordinary folk find re:uses for everyday things (a few, amazingly, even found in the style sections of the glossies) - aimed at helping and inspiring Fiesta Family in Brum (whose main experience of carbon trading is the retroactive (the only aspect I have a probelm with) tax on their holiday flight) as much as Prius Person in Notting Hill, Westminster or their estate in Wiltshire.

Ultimately, I believe if this, mostly silent, struggling (mortgages, work not accessible by tube or taxi, kids to get to school en route, two weeks in summer and dying for some sun that only a few can take advantage of year-round on the verandah of their trailer... on location), but ultimately equally concerned majority can see how they too can make a difference, we can move corporations and governments to act.

Enjoy Today. Tomorrow is looking a lot iffier.

I have a last listened to the Today slot I was told about on Saturday morning (8.10am).

It is one of the scariest things I've heard.

John Humphrys in a cosy get-together with some of the world's 'leading' 'businessmen', at what sounds like a dinner table, watched by a clubby audience (there's a mental image - imagine them watched by starving kids through glass) in Davos.

I don't know if there's a download, but here's the link while it's good. Listen!

I will review it again to be sure, but I counted at least three top bods, from Shell, Pepsi and Nestle.

Two sounded Northern European and one American. I think I can hold my Brit head higher ('til they interview one of this country's hotshots and he mouth's off the same).

The questions were mild, but their answers were facile, with no excuse, no mitigation and no explanation other than if they didn't do what they did people wouldn't buy it. If your audience is dead they may not be buying much soon. And whatever priorities others may have (AIDS patients, etc) that were raised by way of putting their obligations to the future lower on the totem, it was just so much green-won't-wash.

One even tried to separate climate change (not a problem in his eyes) with what he thought was a problem: water shortage! Er... where does potable water come from? Or not, as in Australia, currently? Perrier mines?

Another tried to equate horse-traffic to car-traffic. It was like listening to a kid playing with a fun, rude fact. What on earth has horse manure in 1890 got to do with a few more billion people now driving cars and emitting greenhouse gases!!!! Yes, science and commerce made life 'better', and now it looks like it may be making things worse. It needs a correction.

And somehow what happened in Greenland 1,000 years ago naturally makes what is happening now OK? Er, no. We have 6 billion, and growing, people, trying to survive on limited resources, and making it all worse exponentially.

Another claimed his bottling was all returnable glass. Well, until corrected. Now, what is 'most'?

If they think all that they came out with is sustainable, then I fear for their reading of a balance sheet.

And my kids' future.

BBC - Climate change warning for Sydney - With a vid-link to the water (recyl) situation in Queensland

When good... goes bad

Way back in the annals of this blog is a post I made about a Greenpeace anti 4x4 campaign in our local train station, whereby the 'offending' vehicles were 'booted' with a custom piece of cardboard along with a windscreen sticker with something sanctimonious written on it and an exhortation to engage with their green energy tariff. Turned out it was part of npower.

In much the same way as one sees merit in the separation of church and state, and the almost inevitable mess when the gap gets bridged, so I must say I am seeing no winners when charities decide to hook up with commercial interests, at least in certain ways becoming ever more obvious.

Island media storm over RSPB and wind farms

I'm afraid all it does is make me look more closely at their corporate structures, the senior execs' salaries and the pension plan cut they are striving to score, and my hand stays well clear of my wallet.

Mirror, mirror, in the sky, what's that glistening in my eye?

Don't be fooled by Bush's defection: his cures are another form of denial

Sometimes I have had cause to be unswayed by the author's arguments and information. It is almost inevitable human nature to selectively edit what you acquire and pass on to suit your argument.

However, I have to say I am mostly engaged here.

When I heard of the space mirrors and other ideas I almost fell of my chair laughing... before I realised that it all may be serious.

The very notion of throwing ever more man-made spanners into the climatic cocktail beggars belief.

So I thank the author for popping in some valid new facts (I hope) to mull upon.

As to the role of the media, especially the televised variety, and their memories of being caught out on a quick ratings boost created by selective editing... hahahaha ('til the tears flow).

I have a dream...

Sometimes you do feel rotten for pricking a lovely bubble: Take to the fields

His warning is fair. His ideas noble. But I do feel it rather ignores, like so many do, some practical issues.

"I've often thought the purest form of career is to till one's own fields and be totally self-sufficient. It all goes a bit pear-shaped when the kids want power for the X-box and granny gets cholera from the well being sited downstream of the dunny, but there is a buried yearning for how it once was before money and trade.

Now, if we can just get those self-same, curiously-busy-in-even-more-curious (and some might say even trivial, in the great scheme of things) directions governments to just sort out that pesky expanding global population thing at the same time as getting back to basics on sources of food, we'd be much better off.

So I'd really rather we were a bit more cautious about substituting biofourstar for spuds quite yet."

You are what you spend

I was going to comment on the content of this: Last warning: 10 years to save world

But it's really the consequences that matter. Who, now, is listening, much less acting?

And something pretty obvious has (belatedly, I'm sure, compared to a lot) struck me, as I read a Sunday Times columnist having a go at Yummy Mummy CEOs having oodles of kids to validate their womanhood, and some Minister without Portfolio (or much grasp of real life) saying on Breakfast TV that childcare facilities and costs are so good now there's no excuse not to get every Mum back into the workforce, to produce more to improve their earnings potential.

So my epiphany has been... what's the point?

Indy - Parents spend third of wages on nursery, says study

I mean, there are all these folk earning all this dosh, and really all they can do then is spend it on stuff which is not going to help the old Carb-con, clunking footprint.

Most of my chums stayed in London forging successful careers. By which I mean I'm sure they love what they do 'n all, but seem to get up at 6am, wave the kids' nanny goodbye and drive with the power-spouse to the station to work waaaay beyond the Euro-maximum to spend a day in a box earning squillions before coming back in time to kiss the kids goodnight. The kids meanwhile all go to very good, very pricey schools to learn to do the exactly same thing... and how to want... to spend.

What else is there to do?

At work there is only so much you can blow the £esult of all this hard work on. Suit. Hairdo. Lunch. Lap-dancers. Prius. The company can add a few more to the tally: bonding course in Bali with Club to First upgrade, Blackberry, etc.

But in the little time you have at home, really the only thing to do with all this wonga is blow it. Quick trip to Whistler to catch what's left of the snow. A 500" LCD. Another Prius.

My family lives modestly... now. Mainly because we're broke. I'm sure hoping by our efforts that we soon won't be, and a comfy retirement beckons. But if and when it all floods in, what would... could I do with it all? House is sorted. Car looks good until the alternative arrives, or I'm taxed into getting a new one.

I don't think I am one of those green-advocates who feels like telling folk what they should be doing, but reserve the right to hunt around for things they could do, and in as informed a way as possible come to their own conclusions as to the best options.

And in this regard I really think we are being bombarded with some very mixed messages from those who claim to be on top of what's going on, will happen and how to sort it, namely the Government (work harder to make more, and..?) and Media (Fancy a spa break for two in Bali this weekend, simply enter our..).


Strike a light

No time for British clock changes

"...the move could have saved around 100 lives a year through reducing evening traffic accidents, and around £485 million in energy costs", plus, as a consequence, the greenhouse gasses produced.

I have followed this and thought the debate to be less clear on the benefits, so it is good to find clear safety, scientific, economic and environmental bases in support of it.

Hence the obvious question is, why did it fail as, if ever there was a... rare... no brainer, this would seem to be it.

Perhaps it would the social unpopularity of the move in more Northern counties and indeed countries, whose representation in Parliament is at a remarkably high %age?

Monday, January 29, 2007

You can see his lips move

I guess I was in a mood: At the heart of this fiasco is the belief that words equal action

"Walk vs. Talk

I couldn't agree more with the basic premise that government seems to have convinced itself that enough words will eventually achieve the same as no, or misguided, actions. With luck the voting booth will prove them wrong eventually.

I could not believe this morning's 'performance' by Dr. Reid as an example of this notion at its worst.

The Home Secretary seriously tried to get away with the situation he, his party and or government has brought us to with some daft home decorating analogy.

As the interviewer valiantly tried to respond in kind, let me add another. We are being expected to live in a property not fit for purpose, and have been for a decade, with it getting worse, and the current landlord's representative is trying to further paper over the complete failure of his superior and previous colleagues thus far to doing anything useful about it... by blaming the previous administration. Ten years to sort it out and NOW he thinks it's acceptable to talk about a spring clean!

And to the situation we are experiencing on the streets, he simply trots out stats and targets and other waffle.

He's a hard man, all right - hard to take seriously.

And it pretty much applies to every other area of government (and, to be fair, the other parties) as far as I can see, especially my main area of concern, the environment.

Guys, stop playing the media's game by gabbling nonsense to avoid being pinned down, and spend long enough to think and do something sensible. Even if it is 'difficult'. Then you may have something worthwhile to talk about. And retain some small semblance of dignity, along with the electorate's respect."


Slow can cost you

Oh well, at least only four people will read it.

I am afraid i got a bit ticked off with this: I'll take the slow road

I don't have a problem with people being rich. Or having eco-beliefs. Or indulging one with the other. But when it strays into 'I'm going to have a load of fun doing something most of you can't, and make out you could, and should' as the premise for a jolly, I see green (not envy, but a reddy-hued variety I reserve for the 'elite-set':

"I envy you. Have a good trip and more power to your elbow.

A whole year. Bliss.

I am reminded of a recent situation I faced. To support my free , no-consultancy-rates-here reuse website, (which, though the odd naughty adsense may sneak by, tries to avoid booking rather contradictory air travel or 4x4 ads) I still try to keep the finances flowing with my creative collective (ain't it great to get a plug in... a plus if you are paid to write, and even better sponsored big time to do so and supported by a major medium).

So there I was at a potential client's office. Being that they were in the eco-arena, I thought it enough that I'd planted a whole row of pansies along the back parcel shelf to offset, but no, she was not happy that, despite living but a few cities away, I had come to pitch in my R-reg Golf (car of choice for those who drive around the world I believe, and especially nice of a company like Shell to help -,,2-2119306,00.html).

So I suggested a solution. The trip I'd made took about 20 minutes; 40 each way. Should I work for them I would of course travel by public transport which, at best, would bump that figure to at least 4 hrs. So if they’d pay me an extra 2hrs of my time we'd call it fair.

She didn't see that working. And so I am not either. At least for them. So I guess I will be taking the lappy on the camping trip again this year. Unless I can make some big dosh on a climate-saving gig and then blow it on a real holiday. Or... maybe fund an ‘adventure’ to share with my green elite mates.

It's tricky, see. Feeding the family AND doing your bit. For some of us.

So while, like our D2AID2AIS (don’t do as I do..) PM, it may be ‘impractical’ not to fly, there are those whose travel decisions are a matter of more immediate and pressing choices to daily life. And it’s probably best for those of us luckier than such hard-working, lowly-rewarded types to spare them a thought on our travels.

Which I'm sure you'll do. Say hi to my in-laws in Singapore when you're there.'

Irony is I know his company, and have tried to hook up... to littel reply. They make a load of money 'advising folk' and doing their communications in the eco-arena. Obviously enough to take a bit of time off to enjoy the spoils.

Oh, and that Golf trip I mentioned (bad link - my fault - lop off the bracket and point). Guess who does the eco-comms for Shell?

What goes around comes around, I guess. I wonder if he'll pumb into other media-luvvy eco-types while en route?

Doing Good?

In listening to The Investigation, referred to in my last blog, I caught a trailer for another show, from Radio 4's In Business series, on Social Entrepreneurs. Kismet?

There were a few things of use in there, which is always a plus.

But there was some stuff that had me jumping up and down with frustration.

I hope I can get in touch with them to discuss this. I was able to download it, which is proving a great facility. As to the other show I think it is kept on archive.


Golly, managing this blog is almost getting as tricky as the site!

A few days ago I cited a report of a report, namely by a paper, about the Stern report.

And I was tweaked by a reader who mildly hinted that I hadn't read the thing myself. At 600 pages I doubt I ever will in its entirety, because a) no one could pay me enough and b) no one is paying me. But he did point at a few key areas worth a scope, which I hope to get around to.

Of course I may be falling into another trap of going where I am led, and away from where I could be, to try and steer my views, and hence what I in turn pass on.

Anyway, along the way I was also made aware of a Radio 4 show called the Investigation, and have just listened to it.

It seems pretty clear that a lot of what was in the paper was based on this. Again, editing and agendas can always come into play, but one thing I immediately noted was that the Stern Report based some of its hairier assumptions on, in turn, others people's work. And these guys are about as good as we're going to get for objective analysis for now. And they did not seem happy bunnies. In short, a couple, quoted by Stern, felt their work had been mis-represented. And that, I'm afraid, sets up all sorts of red flags for me, and establishes a basis for the kind of tainted view I referred to in my original opinion piece.

There was also a lot of economics theory in there that was way over my head, but I did pick up on a few points to pull things back the other way a tad. Mainly this was in the realms of 'worst case scenarios' being painted, and 'it not be as bad, as quickly.'

Well, I subscribe to the ad man's view that you promise low and deliver high, and that it seems better to start early to avoid a last minute panic.

Hence I will be interested to hear the ICC's report referred to. I just hope it is digestible!

FT - UK climate change costings 'too high'

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hey, it's Sunday. Bring out Cross of Ross

I didn't know Terry Wogan had a column, too.

As an issue he raises is one I am tracking, I decided on a punt:

"I do believe the DVLA only knows the precise location of any car owned, insured and parked in the driveways of those who can be fined without much effort, having possibly simply forgotten and not been given a fair opportunity to do so.

Those requiring a bit of effort or a certain amount of cojones to tackle seem to be mysteriously less attractive to track down.

Meanwhile, rewarding bad behaviour is obviously on the up and up. Following Ms. Goody's invitation to tour India, I have pondered expressing a certain amount of ignorance and insensitivity about my wife's homeland in the hope of scoring a subsidised family trip to visit the in-laws.

A lot of blogs have thrown up a high proportion of 'serves 'em right' retorts to TV companies' shell games. If the criteria are clear then OK. But I have still to hear an adequate official explanation from the authorities (who, I thought, are in charge of licensing these companies and those telecoms operators who act as their collecting agents) as to why practices that would in any other arena be called fraud (from at best omitting certain key facts to the conduct of a show to outright misleading the public) are subject to less stringent rules and policing."

S'funny, 'cos its true

'im again. I no longer feel the need to excuse myself as it is obvious that he has access to my working day.

Verbosity Complex

Another from Bad Science: Science and Fiction

"There is no doubt that basic sensible dietary and lifestyle advice is sound. You should exercise more, eat more fibre, and more fresh fruit and vegetables."

Bang on. But it wouldn't fill too many column inches, and would soon cease to be newsworthy in the repetition. Much better to keep finding something new, make it very complex, and preferably stir up a controversy that will only result eventually in the product being remembered enough to sustain the marketing.

Works for all concerned, especially those with whole new careers being the media interface du jour for lazy other media seeking a quick way to fill some space or time as well.

Shame it only reached the audience of the New Statesman who, I would hazard, have already suspected as much. Bet there's still a few ‘out of sell-by date’ bottles of vits to counter ague and ill-humours lurking in the back of the cabinet, though."

It can just as well apply to the environment as well. Excuse me, I have to fly to Bali for a conference on the contribution of Polar Bear toots to Global Warming.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Titanic Chapter and Verses

OK, I nicked that from our site section, but it was too good not to.

I happened on this The Government is no more. All that’s left to do is laugh, and could not resist this:

'I'd laugh too, but then ponder the rather worrying notion that the ship being steered so resolutely into every iceberg possible by its inept crew, also happens to be the one I am on. But they have all made sure they have comfy places in the lifeboats.

So it's really only funny to those who get paid well to write about them, and hence will get invited to share the fun of next ride the rest of us who survive get taken on.'

I really am getting a tad fed up of the 'I'm all right, Jack' tone that we get from the London-based chattering classes when sharing with the rest of us their wisdom on matters such as their drinking buddies in Westminster's travails.

Which is why, like my last post to the Telegraph, I suspect it will be 'moderated'.

One hung low

I am just listening to last night's Newsnight, and in getting to the piece I'm interested in, happened across a bit on the Prison's crisis.

One telling point made by a newly-resigned official, unchallenged by the BBC interviewer and hence I presume accurate, was that the police get credited as much for a quick ASBO collar as a 3-month fraud investigation. These are called 'low-hanging fruit'.

I am trying to reconcile this following yesterday morning's speech and Q&A that I attended with the Herefordshire Chief Superintendent. A charming, erudite and confidence-inspiring chap, he clearly stated that his officers were measured only by dispensing justice fairly and appropriately, and not by target.

Another example of the problem we the people are having getting clear information upon which to decide on how we vote. Maybe that is their intention, to try and maintain the status quo?


No daft pun headline today. Just a word.

I learned of it via a Newsnight promo posting: "A new word entered the lexicon this week. The BBC was attacked by the Editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, as being part of the "subsidariat" that needs to be cut down to size. He said it's too big, its journalism starts from the premise of left wing ideology, and it's a monolith distorting Britain's media market. Mr Dacre has said no to an interview tonight. But we'll be discussing whether his criticisms of the BBC are justified. "

Needless to say it worked, and I will now be watching on the excellent back-up online download.

Whatever one may think of the Daily Mail, its editor, the BBC and its position as the most dominant force in our country's media firmament, I must say I find it an interesting word, and on balance, a worthy new one.

Because it does rather neatly sum up, and in a subtly pejorative KGB-allusional way a bunch over over-funded, monopolistic and way-too-unaccountable entities who use a lot of our money in ways that are hard to justify.

See, I can usually get it back to the environment.

ADDENDUM - Just watched, and had to comment:

I just watched last night's edition on the PC-feed, and must repeat my commendation for this facility.

However, it did allow me to witness a truly awful QED on the spot I wanted to catch, namely the Subsidiariat story.

I can see how absolute objectivity is nigh on impossible when reporting and/or discussing just about anything, but especially a criticism that is directed so close to home.

But, heavens above, the intro piece was as nasty a piece of sneering, unsubtle 'Yeah... right' (as opposed to 'Yes. Right’ - denuded of contradicting tone as a stenographer's typescript) as I have ever seen.

And hence it blew any chance of me assessing all brought up subsequently in anything but the view that this was indeed going to be addressed by a monolithic, monopolistic, massively-funded, unaccountable, trendy-liberal, never-left-privileged-uni, London-centric, in-crowd, overly-defensive medium. I have to contribute to this!!!!

Oh, and can we try and think beyond popping two extremes (or choosing one feisty and one duffer to suit the agenda in case its live and editing can't do the trick?) into the cockfight ring and feel that has adequately addressed the nuances of any reasonable debate.

Otherwise, loved the show.

ps: to those who read my blog, we’ll soon see how the moderators handle the slight dilemma this contribution may throw up. To be fair, they are a lot better here than the piece's lauded print media in this regard.

The Fast and the Loose. Play On!

It's a biggie: What's black and white and green all over? Another dodgy dossier

I await with some dread the moderator’s approved selection of rabid deniers and righteous believers knocking spots off each other as the rest of us cower below the artillery exchange. It seems like it has been ever thus.
In my pleas that we do something (I accept debate is required while evidence of practical ROIs on worthwhile proposals, across all measures, from money to planetary benefit, is established beyond doubt) whilst all the talk detracts from action, I have often also appealed for the comforting sanity of facts, for normal folk such as myself to try to arrive at some form of objective notions on what may be the best course(s).
So I was/am pleased to see that this has some, and seemingly more than worthy ones, to chew upon. I also do note that, as with any potential agenda, facts can be edited in or omitted to steer the argument to a desired conclusion. But some here seem pretty clear, incontrovertible... and damning. At least to what I care most about, because yet again I see the necessary cause (that I, personally espouse) of a reduction in waste, improvement in efficiency and an overall acceptance that ‘we’ can’t really sustain the way we are living too much longer, has been undermined by less than coherent policy and claim in the name of some other things less noble, more self-interested and short term than sorting out a future for the coming generations.
Of course the media are pretty complicit, from equal ‘tomorrow’s headline’ self interest. Striking assertions are almost all virtually unquestioned. They are good for ratings.
So it is eye-openingly honest, but rather shocking to learn that it is ‘easier for us just to repeat the claims of people such as Stern (or any other pro/con activist or big oil-funded mouthpiece – the riposte du jour to any counter these days), sexing them up as we go along.’ That’ll serve the public right then. I must thank you for the tip about ‘Investigation’ which I will track down immediately.
I don’t know if this piece is attempting a mea culpa, but I’ll take what ever I can get.
Some doubts I must confess I have arrived at myself. I have to say any projection beyond 2100 has to be "particularly unreliable" short of engaging Hitchhikers Guide’s Deep Thought, which ironically I believe turned out to be our planet. But making and feeding off such projections has turned into a very lucrative industry for some. And the best part is... if you turn out be wrong, who cares? You’re already nowhere to be found to offer a refund!
I don’t claim to understand a fraction of the economic debate, but to the point that the rich today need not make sacrifices for the poor tomorrow, they may or may not on average be 12 times better-off than we are now but, like Midas, gold is not much good if there is no green to eat. Surely a more appropriate point is that a few quite eminent people are making pretty firm, dire noises, and it seems a tad overconfident, not to say foolhardy, to simply say ‘carry on smoking’ and wait and see if there is indeed a gas leak as time progresses.
It is a shame I get to the end to find out that, yet again, there is no suggested best approach to climate change. And I must look elsewhere. I will.

But meantime, to try and improve an uncertain future, I will pay a fair bit now, so long as it is managed by those who I can trust to do it fairly, and without organisational agenda, targets or career gain, ahead of doing what’s right, practical and effective.

ADDENDUM: I have just read a coincidentally complementary set of pieces to this, as a totally Kismetic consequence of a posting by the ever-excellent Dr. Ben Goldacre of Bad Science, who has just, and justly, won an award (with the bonus of another relevant piece, for another place and time on the site) for an article on the manipulation of stats.

Friday, January 26, 2007

As high as a Humvee's Eye, Yee-haa!


Fuelling the crisis

'I came to this late today, and am surprised that it has generated so few responses, especially with Davos ongoing, and the leader of one of the bigger consuming/polluting countries getting behind what, at first blush, seems better than nothing: 'Big Corn' doesn't have quite the same scary coastline devastating cachet, really.

Not too sure about Greenpeace, but it's nice to see a considered, informative and on the whole thought-provoking piece on the subject by a director of Friends of the Earth.

In the same way as I have my doubts about whacking a fir in the Australian desert to keep on flying, I am so far not too sure how converting the world's food producing acreages into carbon-dioxide fuel generating plants helps much when there is a finite amount of land and a growing population expanding across it.

Especially when a lot that once did support crop growth seems to have gone a bit dusty or underwater of late.'

Pitch Perfect

See an opportunity... grab it!

With apologies for a double post - their system's fault.

Amapedia -- Amazon to take on Wikipedia

I know I rather missed the point, but having heard of neither I decided to give them a go in case I could integrate them with my site, which lets you search for specifications and ideas to make use of... junk!

OK, so these things are not there to find fmcg products. D'Oh!

For what it's worth I'd have to say the Wikki one's homepage, search function and navigation I found waaaay easier than amanadingwhatsis (sorry, the panel doesn't let you scroll to see originals you're replying to, and I don't want to lose this text hitting the go back key)

ps: If you ever do find anything I can hook up with to help save the planet from rampant consumerism, let me know:)

Davos IV (er.. more plebs strike back)

I have been moved to repost to the article on my previous DAVOS blog

"Thank you, icurahuman2

For what it's worth, I tend to agree with your technique and use it here in the UK for my environmental website. Hence I get a pretty good objective information spread between the Times and Telegraph on the right/biz-friendly side, and the BBC, Indy & Guardian on the left/liberal/activist side. The government propaganda machine sort of falls in-between, erring, obviously, left politically, but often quite right where money is involved. I now have a further insight by qualifying to be on their mailing list.

It is too often depressing to see what’s served up by press officers churned out without comment or analysis, almost verbatim, with agenda served simply by inclusion (or not) and editing (see below).

However you can get into whole other realms on top of these, such as societal impacts, when you stray into tabloid or magazine territory, which I also need to and do.

Plus of course there is rich and varied fare internationally, though sadly our budget precludes as many paid subs (online or hard copy) as I'd like for true balance. Especially niche areas, such as business, media or my own.

I've blogged endlessly on the power of omission, and cited this, with EDIT as an oft ignored servant of AGENDA, in such as my blog, 'lor forgive me, on the Big Brother episode -, now moving into its next sorry phase, here and in India at least.

Hence my being a tad dubious on how well served we may be by an exclusive cabal of 'connected’ journalists with, (and I'm sorry to use this as an off-blog opportunity), a slight dig at the informational, financial and environmental ROI's we derive(d) as readers and planet-inhabitters and, as you point out, a weather ear to the masters they serve."

Death and taxes

I hate to be nasty to an old lady, but when the media elite get to mouth off from their pedestal on things they know nothing about, or choose to interpret to fit some cosy view of a world they are privileged to inhabit, I see red:

Dear Ms. Bakewell,

Further to your piece, It is a rare tax that can inspire generosity, and in particular:

Gifts made more than seven years before your death will go untaxed. Now is the time to give some of it away.

I must respectfully diasagree.

Why then, can you not give it away immediately, or in fact immediately prior to passing, on the same basis you espouse?

It simply seems to allow time for a game to be played between the Treasury and a lot of vastly paid folk in the City and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, that most mere mortals cannot consider affording. Guessing the date of one’s demise to ensure the best use of the funds for one’s retirement to that point, and the betterment of those who have helped make it comfortable thereafter, to assist such leeches, their gold-plated salaries and index-linked pensions can not be what you are promoting, surely? You seem to be advocating more the crushing of the majority to penalise a minority (most of whom are immune), and while that may satisfy your view of the world you inhabit, it does not mine.

I returned from abroad with my young family several years ago to help my mother tend my dying father, and now find myself fitting in her care around trying to generate a living and establish the foundations of a comfortable retirement for my wife and myself - to avoid being a monetary burden, at least, on our future family members. This has required many career and financial sacrifices on our part, some of which have benefited the state already. It has to an extent been my choice, already with the support of my mother’s inherited income, to pursue a dream of a better future for my nearest, dearest and, I’d hazard, others. But by not being the beneficiary of all my Mum may end up leaving me will not make things easy, and will run contrary to a lot of the ‘logic’ you seem to hold so dear, in terms of family cohesion or avoiding future calls upon the state.

Depending on your view, I have either done very well or very badly. I have looked after both my parents' interests pretty well, a fact recognized by my mother who is more than happy for me to take over her finances in my name and look after her as part of the family she helped establish, and of which she is very much part.

However, despite having an Enduring Power of Attorney, as her sole heir (in addition to her grandsons, for whom I am trustee to her bequests) I doubt the Court of Protection would view this move as in her best interests. And, unless I have missed something, neither would I. I love my wife very much, and she me. But I am too old to be a total romantic. Things can change, especially as careers come to a close and kids leave. It is just possible therefore that having handed over her gift my mother would find half of it (and a large % of what I have committed to devote to her care until she passes on), going... elsewhere.

So I am afraid I cannot accept your statement is as you would have it. And, frankly, that a lot else behind your piece as being either fair or just in the circumstances I, and many others, have had to commit to. The current system still benefits those able and willing to avoid the proceeds of their ancestors' slave trade or other ennobled efforts (how much tax do Messrs. Fayed, Green or indeed many highly-placed Government supporters contribute again?). And while I am sure you are an exception, I can think of a view media celebrities of stage, screen and print, with oft-quoted egalitarian views, who I suspect have a speed dial to a good adviser with a nifty way to ensure the Tuscan villa doesn't come into the reckoning. Not all of the beneficiaries of a more equitable solution are the descendants of the rich, be they old money or nouveau (as you polish your Guillotine, be careful who the mob comes for next), and it frankly smacks of idealistic meddling to claim otherwise, at least in the terms you do.

Yours sincerely, an illogical crackpot (by your definition, at least),

I am juggling a lot, including making work, on terms that are of my choosing, but by any measure would destroy her beliefs, logic and defences. Trouble is, those with nothing to lose (gold-plated, index-linked ones) are setting the system and being supported by dewy-eyed, fabulously wealthy media types like her who think they know what's best for 'us'.

The Gloucester Old Spot now departing Terminal 3..

Keeping promises is not easy. With two 10-year-olds on monitoring duty I can attest to that.
Being kept to them is another matter. Hence I repeat, with two 10-year-olds...

So why is it that politicians are not held to the same scrutiny and, believe me, pressure, should they stray from a previously agreed path for no good reason?
I'm sure there is some tracking system, and I know 'media with memory' will trot out a corker to spice up an interview, but how about a simple, online table of what has been said or promised, and what has been ignored or reneged upon subsequently? I dunno, something like (worth the £4.99 reg. fee alone!). Purely factual. What was said, or done. And the follow-up. No end point. Maybe a section to allow for an explanation of a revision.

Now this preamble could be deemed to be unfair to the piece that inspired it, and the person it is about. It is not meant to be. Because, of a lot I've read of late, it makes a lot of sense, seems to put right a lot that's wrong, and I'd support it. I just hope it is going to happen when the time comes. So I will wait.

Because openness, and the ability to discuss and change things are fundamental to a democratic system. Yet in the name of Gord knows what, (pun slightly intended), we are seeing an erosion of such principles at every turn.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

They're so bad I am at last being moved to action

One of the sadder things about politics today, is how we the people see the government as them and not us. These guys we voted in to represent us, and depend on our support for their jobs and salaries. They are us, and depend on us, and we must never let them forget it.

So tomorrow I am going to a local political meeting. Shame it's at 7am, but hey.

I have decided enough is enough.

They are being rewarded these days more for how clever and bright they seem, rather than how right and effective they are.

This downward spiral needs to be rectified.

Indy - Naked greed and other core British values - I am not alone

I was going to add a new post to make this next point, but as it's about living in Britain and being proud to be British I think it will do here just as well. Because some current miserable examples of those who think they can score some cosy index-linked, gold-plated careers leading us into the abyss, are currently using it as a bandwagon.

A highly lucid, black young man at a school (so some of it must be working, despite what the Media will try and stir up) answered the question 'What does it mean to be British' this morning best, if slightly inaccurately (I believe). He said 'You have been born in Britain'.

Actually I think it's a bit more complex than that, involving British Passports and all, but on balance he's bang on. That's all it is, a label that makes border controls convenient. Anything else (Fish 'n chips, tolerance (or lack, though how the words and deeds of some prepped and manipulated Chavs in a TV isolation chamber can be deemed how British society now is, escapes me), bowlers (hats, not overpaid sponsorship efforts who can't do their job right in Oz), innovation, etc) is simply no longer relevant.

I sat down with my boys to figure out what we thought it could be. Here's what we came up with:

'To be proud of where you came from and where you are, and seek to make the best of your place in the human race, recognising, accepting and revelling in a non-aggressive and not in a negatively judgemental manner our many ways of being and doing, with respect for the past, and a simple, unselfish desire to make things better for all in the future.'

I'm sure there are others better than this. But it's not bad... for a start.

When in doubt, throw money at the box

This is about nothing being wasted, of course, because I am going to allude to the environment when I in fact refer to obesity, and one can only assume little of the slab gets left on the slab... well, until the other part of .. & taxes.

This morning, the big thing was our nation's 'kids of greater than desirable girth'. So far, so Billy Bunter (I hoping I'm safe in this from the PC police, as they all seem to have just graduated in the last 10 minutes from the University of Nannyton with a degree in ElfernSafety and a higher in fixingfingswotwasneverbroketilnow, and while there were lots of punters sticking their oars in when not at classes for 2 minutes a week no doubt).

So we had the Blair-babe blue rinse with the scarf and sing-song patronising voice on the couch, and at the other side a young lady of 12 and her Mum. Not at school today then, 'cos what's better than being on the telly to say that it's really hard not to eat all those buns because of the nasty ad men.

Which the blue rinse obviously got inspired by. Because she reckoned that the supermarkets and parents didn't have enough information, and they needed.. an ad campaign.

Now I am a TV addicted couch potato with the best of them, and merely by paying a bit of attention to the bits between Big Bruvva and The Qui... er... gambli... er... rip-off shows, have a pretty good notion that if you feed your face, or that of your child's, with endless burgers and fries, and then don't kick 'em out in the garden every so often, they may end up like the young Princess of Tonga this am. And I'm pretty sure the supermarkets know this too.

So no amount of money frittered, battered or otherwise coated on such an indigestible notion is going to make anyone take a blind bit more notice of such a thing, or make one whit of difference, except denuding apparently pretty low stocks of public service funds.

At least it's good for the planet..ish

The other night I was watching a documentary channel, and was about to switch off when I saw: 'Next - Megastructures: Recycled Tanks'. How could I resist?

So it was a bit of a surprise to find it was about a factory that... recycles tanks. Dirty great big, Storming Norman Mk whatever Abrams battle.. tanks.

Now I'm a big kid. I like guns and stuff, so long as they are not pointed at me and no one gets hurt, except the bad guys (sooooo open to debate, that one). So I was hooked.

And it was a great show. Even if you are a pure re:anything fanatic. Because these things were/are designed to be recycled all the time. In fact they haven't made a new one in years! As an exercise in engineering and indeed forward planning it ticked a lot of ROI boxes.

There is however the small matter of them doing 10 litres to the mile and knocking down a lot of perfectly stuff with that cannon, of course...

A dish best served cold.

The makers of the Big idea are probably thinking this is over. Sorry, I'm just starting.

TV phone-in quizzes

'My personal experience is not with a phone-in quiz, but a phone-in show, but whichever one it is, the answer is an unequivocal 'Yes!' to 'better' (whatever that may mean) 'regulation' (ditto).

I believe with all these things, both contestants (who often commit a large amount of time and often money, for free to contribute the 'content') and those who phone in on premium rate lines (to take part or 'vote') must be able to expect a fair delivery (and explanation of what that entails, or not) of the contest/show's stated structure.

That's nothing to do with 'people taking responsibility' for THEIR actions, but a rip-off industry, which is making millions for those unscrupulous, unethical and greedy enough to take advantage of slack or toothless monitoring and policing.

Can you imagine if the advertising industry - or the lottery, for that matter - was allowed to promise one thing and then deliver another, or nothing at all, with rules changing and/or shrouded in secrecy, plus little or no official audit of fairness or numbers?

Doesn't matter if it's a quiz or a contest, if these guys are allowed access to your 0900 billing there is only ever going to be one winner, and they'll make sure it is them, their ratings or their incomes, whichever comes highest, and regardless of skill or result.

Other than that, I'm sure it's all good, honest entertainment.'

Guardian - Call quiz shows dodge bullet

'A similar discussion is going on via the Newsnight online blog as we write. They seem to think it's a matter of better regulation and people should be responsible for their own actions. By that logic a person getting into a licensed (I presume if it is on air, OFCOM grants one) London taxi is 'repsonsible' for being driven to their destination via Alaska.

I'll cut and paste my contribution here, as I doubt that they'll moderate it in for being slightly 'off brief' by referring to any show that has contestants and/or phone-in partcipants/guests/votes via a 0900 number.

I still think the points I made hold true, and looking at that last sentence wonder how the telecoms companies who are willing partners in this racket can avoid some responsibility for being the collection agents.'

UM to original:

It seems some smug folk reckoned being gullible warrants you being fair game:

Let he (or she... must be PC) who casts the first stone...
As one who catches all other's typos but never his own, I'd say a wee bit of slack could be offered as it a) was not exactly a world-changing cock-up and b) about the first I've seen (and passed over, chuckling to myself) on these pages in a fair long time.
Meanwhile, back on the topic....
As one of those it seems deemed by some to have got what he deserved, I do look forward to their posts when they next engage with well, pretty much anything in life really, where what they have been told is not true, or even is as can be reasonably presumed by virtue of no clarifications being obvious, when in good faith they make a financial transaction. If so I look forward to running ads for beachfront property development in certain parts of Florida soon.
It is called fraud. And it doesn't matter if it's your accountant running off with your life savings or a TV production company taking 50p knowing full well you have a 'BMW gearbox on a beach's' chance of getting it back.
And I remain ensure how the collectors of the money (the telecoms companies) on behalf of the con-artists in question, are also allowed free rein to take their skim, especially when I presume both, to repeat, require a licence from those we pay to defend our interests against such sharp practices.
Unless they are in on the deal, too inept or frightened of lobbyists to do anything about it.