Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Politicians – solving yesterday’s problems today

So we will get a plastic bag tax? Wow, big deal!

The sheer quantity of rubbish strewn around our countryside is something that has long annoyed me. Plastic bags being a particular bugbear, some roadways being strewn with them on the verges, some in the hedgerows and often bags flapping around in the trees. Yet in recent years, although the level of litter has not improved, there are fewer plastic bags in evidence. The biggest plastic bag problem has now become dog mess bags, which some dog owners use to collect the poo then for some strange reason use to decorate trees along footpaths.

I tend to avoid using plastic bags in most circumstances but occasionally they are useful, an unplanned purchase or to buy something that could spill like some DIY materials. I then reuse them for a while before finally relegating them to rubbish sacks, especially for ‘dirty’ rubbish in the garage. Yesterday was one occasion, when I went to get a Sunday paper only to have the heavens open with a torrential rainstorm – so I had a plastic bag rather than get home with a block of papier mâché.

Reading the bag was quite instructive. It says that “Over 20% of the material in this biodegradable bag is from a renewable source” It also says it’s recyclable and biodegradable to ISO14855 standard. Well, perhaps that’s not environmentally perfect, but it’s better than most of the packaging around the shop products themselves. If I were to simply throw it away it wouldn’t hang around on my garden hedge for 1000 years.

On getting home I pulled out a few more bags from my garage rubbish stash. Yes, recyclable, yes biodegradable. Next one, yes recyclable and biodegradable. The next one was a French one – Catena, a DIY/houseware shop in Normandy. Recyclable, indeed it is, and biodegradable, with a nice cheerful message explaining how the bag is 100% ‘fragmentable’ by light and heat.

So why do we suddenly now require a plastic bag tax? It’s not as though it will only apply to non-degradable bags and encourage degradable ones – which would make at least some sense. It will of course cause increased use of paper bags – which require more energy to make and are less useful because they are not rainproof. It will increase the sales of manufactured bags for waste bin liners which are thicker, more material and energy intensive and only get used once.

As is all too frequently the case our politicians see a problem late then come up with a solution which we have to pay for and which will make things worse, in this case by failing to promote biodegradability and causing people to adopt more environmentally costly and damaging solutions.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Using the Right Words

Words have power. We all know this but often we assume this refers to words when used as communication to transmit information when it’s actually the information that has power. Or maybe the words convey authority, that too means power.

That’s not the sort of word power I mean, it’s the power of the words themselves that is often important. Poets, songwriters, novelists and journalists use this word power all the time, but we rarely stop and think why it works, often we don’t even notice it at all. One reason for their power is because of the unconscious emotional association we make to different words.

As a simple example think about this sentence; “The bright red car accelerated quickly up the road”. Nothing special about that, it’s a simple description. We think of bright red as a nice attractive colour. There is nothing wrong with accelerating quickly and roads are designed to accelerate on when driving off. The sentence is emotional positive or neutral, maybe the family going off on holiday.

Change a few words. “The lurid red coupe accelerated fast up the carriageway”. Same event and the words mean the same but we get a totally different message. Now it’s a bad colour, the car is a fast one, the driver is violent, probably socially irresponsible, and carriageways are somehow faster than roads, the sentence now describes a bad situation.

The use of emotionally positive words in place of words with negative connotations is a staple method of the political correctness movement. “Intellectually challenged” is far more positive than “stupid” and the classic “Gay”, with connotations of carefree innocent enjoyment, was chosen to be the emotional opposite of “homosexual” which carries the stigma of political scandals and sordid toilet encounters of the 60s.

Such wordplay is far more subtle and more dangerous than ordinary spin. Spin simply exaggerates the good points and downplays the bad ones, at the extreme it is to lie by omission. It’s not hard to spot it. Choosing the right words to skew the emotive content however can be so subtle as to be almost subliminal.

The global warming movement have always been good at extreme spin. Their data lies by omission, their models lie by omission, and their power generation ideas are close to fantasy without any regard to the problems. Most of us have long realised it has to do with tax and control, the environment was simply a useful (probably manufactured) artificial problem. But in any case the whole global warming scenario had the great political disadvantage that it was all based around negative concepts, alarms and difficulties.

Recently the movement has moved beyond talking about AGW or climate change or even mentioning CO2 levels. The latest references leave all that behind and increasingly talk glibly of “carbon commitments” or “hitting our carbon targets”.  

This has the useful political effect of deflecting any criticism of the real environmental reality by removing the entire tax and control system and the practical problems beyond it. But more dangerously it uses an emotionally positive phrase to make it sound good. After all commitments are a good thing, targets are fun to hit. They have converted the language of the situation from a negative scenario into a positive aspiration making a celebratory event of their stupidity.

To get the truth we need to remember that the only reliable forms of energy we currently have for many purposes are carbon based. We also need to understand that “commitment” doesn’t mean agreement, it means “ration”. What they are talking about is our conforming to our energy ration.

That of course would be why they seem so lackadaisical about building new power stations and why they are trying to convince us that smart meters are for our benefit. We are heading for energy rationing, so don’t let phrases like “carbon commitment” fool you.

Reading any political commentary it is littered with emotive content. It’s quite interesting to try finding the emotional positives, words like simplicity, fairness, openness, accountability, democracy, safe, ones that nave nice cozy overtones then try substituting alternative words and phrases that mean the same but have negative connotations.

Friday, 22 April 2011

I Hate Batteries!

So my old car has sat most of the winter because the little remote thing, of which I only have one, had a faulty button. Sometimes it unlocked, sometimes it didn’t. If the cat sat on the car’s roof the alarm went off and sometimes the button silenced it, sometimes it didn’t. As some steaming  pillock of a designer had decided to provide only one button, which sets/unsets both the immobiliser and the alarm it was totally impossible with an erratic malfunctioning button to know what state the car was in! The fact that there is no visible dashboard light to even warn when the (auto setting) immobiliser was set just made it more of a gamble, having got into it without waking the street then sometimes it would start, sometimes it would churn round uselessly. I despair of designers!

As Saab are one of the most expensive main dealers I found a spare remote, then spent hours trying to find someone who could code it. Nope! It might be the same system as a Vauxhall but the Saab software is locked to Saab’s electronic analysis machines. Dear Saab. I don’t want to steal it just want to drive the damn thing without being held to ransom for a trivial bit of programming.

Eventually I found a helpful lock specialist, they couldn’t re-programme it, but could repair the faulty button (thank you Longton Lock Centre) and collecting the rejuvenated remote I dashed off home to test it. Nope. It seems to click at the right times but the car battery is flat and doesn’t want to take a charge. Presumably months of very cold weather and little use have damaged the battery, so the car is back on ‘hold’ until I get a new battery.

No matter, there is plenty of work to be done around the house, so out comes the cordless electric drill and the new door lock to be fitted. I drill half a hole then the drill stops, battery flat! Into charger with it, while I flatten the spare battery on the second half of the hole. Looks like age or winter killed the drill batteries too. About half a hole or three woodscrews seems to be their limit. Of course all cordless drills use different battery packs which are often more expensive than the drill complete. So that can wait.

Never mind. The trees and garden looks beautiful so I’ll take some pictures, or I would if the camera worked, but the batteries are flat. No matter I have more ready charged, but they won’t work for more than 5 minutes either, then the camera dies with a picture half saved and the memory card and existing pictures can only be rescued on the computer. Two or three years use and rechargables lose most of their capacity.

This is the technology that is meant to replace petrol and diesel in our cars and allow us to travel to work and visit friends or go on holiday.

Dream on greenies!

Thank goodness the bottle opener is manually operated!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Referendum nobody cares about

We are now approaching the date for the referendum on AV. The politicians are full of it but even they seem completely unable to find a positive aspect to either outcome. All the prattling is negative and sniping at the opposition. We are told it will let in nasty fringe parties like the BNP or make for ‘weaker’ government (how I wish, so weak they didn’t exist would suit me!)   If this referendum is so good and meant to be so good for our democracy why is all the canvassing so negative?

So what if it does allow an occasional 'nasty' fringe candidate or a totally loony environmentalist into Parliament, they would have to work hard to be loonier and nastier than some of the present or recent incumbents? We may abhor some people’s views, whichever political extreme they come from, but since when does a once-free democracy like ours choose a voting method on the basis of deliberately censoring and excluding fringe parties? That is what is being argued for!

The papers and TV news are similarly full of AV. If there was any way such a voting change could make any real difference or have any real impact it just might matter, but it won’t. Our political classes are now so self-obsessed, so out of touch with real people, and so hard driven by a heady mix of self aggrandisement and love for EU and world integration that it makes not a jot of difference how we vote for them. Whatever the system we will only get a slightly different mix of the same we-know-best-and-will-ignore-you politicians.

There may be minor differences between parties. If one lot end up with more lobby fodder they will throw slightly more of our money at new schools and benefit claimants while the other lot will pretend to be more responsible and shuffle taxes around and prattle on about immigration. But even if they wanted to they can’t do anything significant because the EU won’t let them. It makes no real difference to ordinary people like me, how we vote for the political elite when all three main parties are cut from slightly different shades of the same cloth

The mainstream media have long since colluded with this farce. Pages full of AV voting rubbish. It's no great loss because otherwise they are full of X Factor, the royal wedding, and similar trivia. Or pushing the latest wheeze of the health and control agenda, the familiar tobacco control, booze drinking, food freshness, and all the similar nannying  and nudging that has become part of our daily lives. They don’t bother to even report about the political issues that matter. 

Changing the voting system won’t make a bit of difference, the AV referendum is only being held to keep Clegg happy and more importantly pretend voters have power. It's main purpose being to distract us from the referendum we do all want, the in/out of the EU one. That’s the one they dare not permit to happen.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Are Politicians really so Stupid?

Some difficult family matters have taken my time this week but I have been listening to the news on the way past.

We had Cameron prattling on about immigration and why it should be controlled. A very populist sentiment with many people, but a moment’s thought makes it obvious the damage is long done and he can’t do anything about it. As long as Italy gives temporary residence to North African refugees and the EU continues to expand eastwards we have uncontrolled borders and a continuing influx of people able to claim benefits, housing and help from the UK taxpayer. While the European human rights act is raised above the needs and rights of the native population then he can’t do anything about many non-EU arrivals either. He waffles on similarly about controlling EU budgets, opposing votes for prisoners and all sorts of stuff where similarly he has no real control because that power has long been given away.

So why do politicians say these things and pretend? Are they really too stupid to realise that they are powerless or that we won’t notice the broken promises? Much as I despise many of them I personally don’t think they are. Individuals may be a couple of slices short of a sandwich, but the powers that pull their strings are not, the body politic is not stupid.

Could it be simply populist rhetoric? On the basis of increasing their popularity while they hope and assume nobody will see the reality that belies their words. Do they assume that we will approve their supposed position, think positively of them, and by next week a new issue will have made us forget their vacuous assertions of this week? I expect there is an element of this, just as there are parts of society intellectually feeble enough to be swayed by it, but again it doesn’t explain why they say and do these things.

The more likely explanation is that they are working to an agenda. It all seems idiotic and nonsensical from here and looks as though they have no plans or visions, but that’s because we don’t fully understand what their agenda is. What looks stupid, contradictory and out of touch with reality is usually being done to pursue hidden goals, and indeed often to disguise those goals. Why, for example, at a time when climate science’s alarmism over man-made warming has been severely discredited, and industry needs every helping hand it can get did Osbourne introduce a carbon tax during the budget?

The problem is that we don’t know those goals. Self aggrandisement and personal profit are obvious but there has to be more, and the EU is generally held up as the driving force. All our main politicians are pro EU integration (or have been bought into the cause) so we need to look at EU plans to see how some ‘local’ developments and pronouncements fit, and we can find a very good fit for much government activity.

Cuts to the armed forces mean that any military action has to be a co-operative EU activity where states share resources, and this is exactly what is happening. The discussion about 2 year MOT tests has little to do with freeing motorists, it brings us into line with the EU norms. Our NHS is being reorganised to be more like continental Europe. The carbon tax is the EU’s intended vehicle to enable direct EU taxation, it is mostly hidden from public view and can be collected separately to other taxes. Raising speed limits on motorways, well of course it brings us into line with France and Germany.

And so it goes, everything the political elite do and everything they say has to be seen in the context of their real agenda. Start doing that and all sorts of things begin to make sense.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Happiness Happiness

Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess
I thank the Lord I've been blessed
With more than my share of happiness

 So sang Ken Dodd in a simpler era.

I heard this morning on the BBC early propaganda broadcast that an organization called Action for Happiness has just been launched. Sponsored by a somewhat bizarre mix of The Dalai Lama, Carol Ann Duffy and Alain de Botton.

I will restrain my cynical tendencies with regard to the coincidence of Cameron’s previous vacuous uttering’s about a happiness index being as important as financial ones and I will try to put aside thoughts of fake charities, vested interests and social diversions.

I will also assume that their image of happiness does not consist of us sitting around and gently exercising on the weed free grass outside our zero carbon eco-caves watching the pretty windmills turn lazily in the warm breeze, smiling as we eat our salt reduced, low fat, allergen free, non-alcoholic 5 a day meals.

Maybe their idea of happiness is similar to mine, a society where people have maximum freedom, where their wishes are respected and where people show respect for and a lack of interference with, one another and other life choices. Somehow I doubt it, and their ten keys to happier living do little for my confidence, but until my cynicism is confirmed I’ll wish them well.