Monday, 28 January 2013

I don't know weather to laugh or cry

Apparently the Met office, those people who have been absorbing increasing quantities of our money to pretend CO2 is a pollutant that will cook us all and should be reduced by windfarms, are objecting to windfarms.

Does one celebrate the irony and enjoy the feelings of schadenfreude or should one despair at the appallingly poor science and obvious dishonesty of the global warming establishment? I wish I knew.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

And so the EuroFUD starts

So we are off, Cameron hasn’t even made his long awaited speech on the EU and already he is saying the UK would be mad to leave, the Americans are telling us to stay in, and all the other Europhiles are crawling out of their shells to tell us that we need EU trade, that we need a voice in Europe, that our prosperity depends on Europe and that our children will be drowned under rising oceans if we keep burning fossil fuels – oops sorry that’s a different set of propaganda!

They are certainly running scared of the opinions of us plebs and so the EU scare tactics are being sprayed ever more liberally via the media in our direction, even though the earliest possible date of a potential referendum that might or might not ask the relevant question could just possibly maybe happen as soon as 5 years hence - but only assuming Cameron wins the next General Election. It’s going to take a lot of FUD to turn round opinion in 5 years but it can be done. And it will be done if we let them get away with it. Already they are wittering on about how we can’t leave because we need to trade, as though the EU would lock us out for leaving! It’s mindless scaremongering. I note the latest YouGov poll that miraculously shows public support for the EU - it turns out they changed the questions - what a surprise (not).

It looks to me like the game plan is quite simple. Cameron knows that the EU is intending tightening its treaties and merging into a single state with banking union. He knows he can’t easily follow because he promised a ‘triple lock’ on any new treaties and even he can’t wriggle round that on such a large issue. He also knows that he can’t join unless we switch to the Euro and no amount of propaganda will allow him to get away with that either at the moment. So he can’t go along with their future plans.

However what he can do is spin out the process, and 5 years gives plenty of time for the Euro crisis to resolve and for the economy to improve so people are more accepting of the EU and politicians in general. Lots of opinions can be changed by 5 years of relentless scaremongering.

Meanwhile he can make lots of headlines during those years about how he won’t join the banking union and won’t join the single state or closer integration (unless the referendum supports it). Then he will find a few crumbs like the working time directive and banking union that he can opt out of.

Then in 5 years we have a referendum – join the full integrated EU (as it will be by 2018) or be part opted out or leave completely. The referendum will of course never return the leave option because the FUD will block the completely out vote. The likely outcome is the middle option as even after 5 years it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that a majority would stand for the next layer of full integration.

But here’s the smoke and mirror outcome. The middle option will be relative to the fully integrated EU of 2018 and in reality will be almost exactly what we have now. Apart from a few crumbs of self determination in areas that have little day to day effect what we will opt out of is not our current rules of 2013 but the next stage of integration. All the regulations, red tape, rules and interference that we have now will keep coming exactly as they do now and they will end up with a democratic mandate to keep it like that.

I do realise that I have said Cameron, and clearly he won’t win the next election in 2015 (I personally doubt he will last until next year) but that makes no difference whatsoever. When it comes to the EU all the main 3 party leaders past, present and future are playing to the same plan.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Black Carbon

This one was bound to happen.
Just as everyone who can flees from the grip and greed of  large energy companies and installs wood burners a group of scientists decides that ‘black carbon’ – soot particles to you and me – is a major factor in global warming. So far from being 'sustainable' and simply recycling CO2 biomass is now part of the problem.
Being scientists, and therefore not political, and certainly not funded by the windfarm industry, they are not calling for taxes on wood sold as fuel or licensing and restrictions on growers of trees. 

I wonder how long it will take before someone does?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Pillocks and NIMBYs

I see the latest scam to try and increase the availability of housing here at BBC news.

Seems like the plan is to try and bribe NIMBYs by taking a levy from house builders to be used for local improvements.  So the way to get affordable houses is to increase their price with another development levy. That’ll work well to help affordability!

Let’s look art a real example of developers and council greed and planning insanity: Near me is a closed pub site and builders are busy submitting plans for some of the most inappropriate and densely packed housing ever imagined on a rural road. The plan, which of course is being opposed by all so-called  NIMBYs, - including me I should add – includes a section 106 agreement. This is an existing scheme whereby the developer makes a payment to the council in return for development permission, yes, we already have a scheme to make developers pay bribes. There is also a requirement to include ‘affordable housing’ in the plan, so in our local case they have some totally inappropriate and intrusive flats, otherwise they would have to pay another levy.

So what is the result? The intended properties, executive style of course but packed like sardines, will cost approximately £500,000 each and the ‘affordable units’ will cost upwards of £300,000 each.  For comparison a good semi 3 bed, in a village with shops and services, can be bought 2 miles away at around £150,000 or a modernised terraced cottage at well under £100,000. Anyone fancy a pokey high density rural flat with no shops, no local jobs, one bus an hour on a good day at the giveaway price of £300,000. No? I thought not.

The classic argument is to blame the NIMBY’s, but that is often badly misguided. I live in the village and well understand the need for affordable houses, especially for for local youngsters, and I would support them. But these schemes, like our local pub site, are not viable sensible schemes. In particular they are not affordable.
In our local case I know that the site cost the developers £250,000. I believe that abasic 2 bed house can be built for under £150,000, so the site would easily support nine units to sell at under £200,000 each. At that price they would benefit local families and the builder could still make a small but honest profit. In addition smaller scale cottage style (not 3 storey monstrosities) houses could easily be designed to fit in size, shape and design to the other local village buildings and look attractive. Most local residents would fully support such a scheme. But no, the builders are looking at a profit in the region of  a million quid and the council are being seduced by offers of free money. 

The BBC news TV item yesterday showed a meeting and you could see the smiles and grins on councillors faces when the plan was explained with promises of ‘free’ money.  It doesn’t seem to occur to them that this profit and ‘free’ money is being loaded onto the house prices, exacerbating the problem of real affordability and at the same time pissing off the existing locals with ugly and inappropriate schemes designed to maximise the take.

So if I protest the development and pour scorn on the government’s bribery scam to build overpriced and inappropriate things in inappropriate places in order to make money for builders and councils by raising house prices  am I really being a NIMBY? Maybe I am on the right side of the argument? I like to think so.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Why I don’t do music downloads.

As a teenager I collected records, big black vinyl round things in those days. When I met Mrs W42 she was building a quite similar collection of music so when we got together for the long term we merged those collections, then spent the following 40 years collecting more albums, latterly on CD.

Over the years I bought some, she bought some, with our similar musical tastes and much having been bought during joint and family activities and at events they all form part of one music library that we both enjoy. In many ways music is up there with the diary and photo collection, an equally potent reminder of attending concerts, shows, festivals, holidays etc. We don’t know the future but I know that whichever of us falls off the perch first, our music collection will be valuable to the other.

This was brought home to me last year following the death of a very long standing friend, another avid music collector with whom we shared many gigs, holidays and musical tastes. Much of his music collection means little to his children, they weren’t born when it impacted his (and my) life, but some of it means a tremendous amount to me. Thanks to his children I now have a selection of CDs from his collection. Such memories are priceless.

I was therefore drawn to the story some weeks ago that claimed that Bruce Willis was to try and sue iTunes because he had spent thousands of dollars on film and music downloads to create a family library then been told that he couldn’t pass them on to his family in his will. It seems the story was somewhat over-hyped but the principle is correct. Anyone who downloads music doesn’t have any ownership, transfer or resale rights.  Of course with music, and film, you never own the music or film on them, you only ever buy the right to listen or watch at home, but if there is a physical medium, like an album, CD or DVD, to which the rights are tied, you can pass on those rights by giving away or selling the physical album.

One might argue that with some pop culture, like this week’s top 20, that it’s irrelevant, it’s only transitory culture anyhow and it’s always available on Spotify or at Amazon. But as time goes on and more and more material is downloaded without a physical medium we as consumers will realise that we have been neatly mugged by the media companies and publishers. 

Of course with books being downloaded there is a similar situation. You download onto your book reader and when you die the rights go away. There is no legal way to leave a collection of your favourite authors for your kids or surviving spouse to read. So digital downloads are the death knell of household libraries. We might be able to go round a National Trust property and gasp at the library the owner had collected, but downloaders won’t be leaving anything like it behind in the future. Literature too is becoming transitory.

Unfortunately that is only one aspect of the situation. Another aspect of the way downloading and copyright works is rather more subtle but quite pernicious: It isolates people within the family group. It does this by reducing the sharing of music, art and culture within the family and between partners or spouses by enforcing the ownership and all rights onto just one member. It encourages people to be more remote and individual rather than encouraging a sharing of experience which strengthens a relationship. No longer is the family or couple the centre of the household, couples are forced to choose individual responsibility and ownership of what are essentially, and should be, joint belongings.

The scariest aspect has not quite arrived, but it’s on the way. In Orwell’s 1984 Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth was to update and change books, newspaper archives and the like to reflect the latest reality as defined by the ruling elite. In Orwell’s book he had quite a job because things were printed. Once everything becomes digital and virtual his job is frighteningly easy. In the digital age all books, papers, films and even personal photos are on line. All your ‘libraries’ and documents are held on devices that can be accessed remotely or reside somewhere on the ‘cloud’. All the news comes on web pages that can be edited silently at any time, indeed they already are, although as yet only by the authors to correct mistakes.

In the future however I can forsee a time, not far into the future, when all our digital Winston has to do for the Ministry of Truth is a global (literally) edit. At the press of one button every reference to an event or person can be changed on every news page, in every online reference, in every electronic book, and in every document everywhere in the ‘cloud’ and on personal devices. We truly will wake up and find we are now at war with Eastasia, always were, always have been, and nowhere on Earth will there be a written record to gainsay the new truth.

It scares the hell out of me!