Thursday 31 March 2011

The Power of Words

Words have power. We all know this but often we assume it 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 is the emotional opposite of “homosexual” which carries the stigma of political scandals and sordid toilet encounters.

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. Choosing the right words however is often 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 senario had the great political disadvantage that it was all based around negative concepts, alarms and difficulties.

Recently the political 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 our “carbon commitments” or “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 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 scare scenario into a positive aspiration.

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” used here doesn’t mean agreement, it means “ration”. What they are talking about is 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.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

What to do with the broken light bulb?

Having builders in has left me short of time recently so I missed this excellent bit of news a couple of weeks ago.

It seems various local councils are now refusing to collect expired low energy light bulbs because the mercury content classifies them as hazardous waste and the vapour is dangerous if it escapes!
Just out of interest here  is the man who proposed the discontinuation of real bulbs and how he lives.

Sunday 27 March 2011


This week has all been a bit of a rush, builders working in the garden, (why is it that employing someone, even a good tradesman, seems to be more exhausting than doing the job yourself?), someone to collect from the airport (what possible excuse can there be for Manchester Airport to charge £4 for an hour to park and pick someone up?), then there has been miscellaneous stuff to do in the garden while the weather was good (the tobacco seedlings are doing well Mr Osbourne and I’m sure the lack of additives will be good for my health). 

All in all an excellent opportunity to touch base with reality and avoid the media with their gung ho attitude to Libya where the New World Order is busy helping the good rebels, as against Afghanistan where they are fighting the bad rebels. The cynical might suggest that the differentiation between good and bad is connected with ownership of oil terminals or minerals but I’m sure there must be some high moral consideration that I’m missing.

Then there were the usual infantile hide and seek games of Clegg and Cameron as they pretend to be annoyed at the EU while they sign up to yet more of it, just how stupid do they think we are? This time it's bailing out Portugal. Isn’t it nice to know we are each allowed to give £300 to those nice people in Portugal, makes you feel warm all over with a glow of generosity. I was wondering whether to comment on the census, but I did that as a guest on Subrosa’s blog  a while back and I think we know what we are going to do with it by now, although its treatment may not be quite as dignified as intended.

And yesterday there were all those people protesting because they are scared the rest of us may stop providing them with free lunches and stuff. So Ok I’m happy to provide when someone is otherwise going unfed, or even temporarily when someone is between jobs through forced redundancy, but most of the freeloaders in London yesterday looked to me either better off than me, and thus capable of buying their own lunches, or else had made a lifestyle choice to scrounge off the rest of us.

So to trivia, which is much less gloomy. One of the columns I usually enjoy in the Sunday Times is Jeremy Clarkson’s. Of course he plays the gallery, and goes out of his way to pretend to be a clown and get up the noses of the politically correct, but he often touches serious topics, and hits out at many day to day irritations. One of the things he mentions today is the annoyance of shower/bathroom products that are unrecognisable once one is in the shower (I strongly suggest you avoid imagining any visuals!)

As I am totally blind to small visual details without my reading glasses he has hit on a pet peeve that has bugged me for years. Standing underwater squinting to decide what ‘product’ is in the bottle before anointing one’s head with some anonymous concoction is indeed one of the daily random experiences of getting older, although it can afford considerable pleasure when one gets lucky there are risks too.

It’s quite obvious that package designers think it’s a fun game, especially when they make a range of unguents, soaps and liniments in identical bottles, proudly proclaiming the manufacturer’s name and marketing range name in large print but the actual product in the smallest possible type and the most unlikely location.  I would single out Tree Same Me and Jill Ette as prime players, although Jill Ette cleverly prints the product description in white against a yellow section of the label, which I think is probably cheating.

Even worse are those firms who don’t even say what the stuff in the bottle is! Somehow you are meant to have enough psychic ability to know that McCorporation Valley is an air freshener while McCorporation Elf is clothes washing powder while every instruction and endorsement on the container talks about ‘this product’. I suppose the sorts of people who can reel off the names of Xfactor contestants or boyfriends of ‘c’ list celebrities might know what things have what names, sadly I don’t! 

I think package designers for household products probably deserve a special hell of their own, even though it need be nothing like as bad as the one I would reserve for politicians.

Thursday 24 March 2011

A Budget for Man With a Van

What a depressing budget from Osborne! Another smoke and mirrors job from the ConDems that gives with one hand while emptying your wallet with the other.

The rise in income tax allowance is welcome, the low paid should never have been in the tax net in the first place, so throwing a few poor folks out is helpful, except it’s such a drop in the ocean when all the other taxes are taken into account and only pays them back for the VAT he already added to the cost of living

Not adding another pre-planned duty rise to petrol was a no-brainer, except that he carefully said it had been deferred, so no doubt he will slide it back with interest when he thinks we aren’t looking. But in any case he has recently added 5 pence a litre to the around 80 pence already taken in duty so are we supposed to be grateful that he hasn’t stolen another one? It’s frightening to think that 5 pence a litre is almost 25 pence a gallon and I can remember in old money when petrol, at 4s 11p per gallon, cost less than that.

The killer section, which he glossed over in a matter of seconds, was the plan for a carbon price. He even sounded proud that the UK was now the first country to set a floor price for carbon. Well of course he is first as most other countries have realised that the econut/IPCC alarmism and renewable energy windmill nonsense is a scam and totally ineffective and as a result have pulled back their plans. Osbourne, presumably spurred on by Huhne the Hopeless, seems to prefer to energy tax and energy ration our country back to third world status.  As a tax it’s ideal for government as it creates a whole new tax platform, hidden from obvious view and taxing every business, every activity and every man, woman and child in society. And of course as we are already forced to pay a ‘renewable levy’ in our electricity bills we instantly have a double taxation.

Then, the sting in the tail, with the vicious rise in tobacco duty.  Having raised the tobacco price to virtually the same level as illegal drugs does this overage schoolboy not realise what will happen? It’s essentially prohibition based on price, and the profits from smuggling will almost certainly draw in more people and probably organised criminals. 

But at least a couple of occasions in his speech raised a smile for me when he was forced to admit he couldn’t do what he wanted because his preferred plan was illegal, in particular the EU rules forbade him from adjusting VAT on petrol. The words ‘petard’, ‘own, ‘by’ ‘his’ and ‘hoist’ come to mind.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

A glimmer of sense from Monbiot?

George Monbiot has spent years spouting nonsense about renewable energy and supporting the most nonsensical alarm mongering rubbish spouted by anti-technological man-made global warming proponents.

Maybe it’s the pleasant spring weather but he has just written an almost sensible column in the Guardian.

True to form he still hates technology, and the usual global warming claptrap still bubbles energetically below the surface, but for once he has made some logical deductions about Power generation.

He seems to accept that people have an irrational phobia about nuclear accidents, whereas in fact the safety limits are set so low that leaks lower than ordinary background levels are considered serious. Admits that an old nuclear plant, even when stressed way beyond its design, has caused far less pollution than many ordinary and ‘safe’ generating sites. And even goes so far as saying that some ‘green’ technology, even historic things that we think harmless and to be admired had a devastating effect on the ecosystem, water mills preventing fish breeding for example.

Now if only he and his friends would apply the same thought processes towards the irrational phobia of man-made global warming, the despoliation of the countryside by windmills and realise that Co2 is an eco-friendly plant food.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Secret Injustice

In a country like this we expect justice to be fair, open and principled. Indeed an honest system of law that defends our rights and freedoms is one of the key things which make our society morally superior to the examples of totalitarianism and dictatorship that we see elsewhere in the world and is a key element of our country’s social identity.

 In recent years many of us may have thought that justice was becoming unbalanced, perhaps concentrating too much on the rights of criminals rather than victims or the rights of people not to be offended being placed above the right to free speech. We may have been angered by judgements from the European courts overriding out traditional laws. We may have noticed that fixed penalties were taking the place of real trials, often for misdemeanours like being late with a tax form or forgetting to SORN the car, this despite the Magna Carta expressly forbidding such practice which ignores both Habeas Corpus and the requirement for a jury before forfeiture (fine). More recently we may have wondered about people abusing the libel law or the use of injunctions, often at the behest of rich celebrities or corporations, in order to prohibit publication by the media that could cause personal embarrassment.

Even so most people have faith that ultimately our judges and legal system, even though weighted towards the rich and sometimes an ass, will nevertheless deliver open transparent and fair justice.

Increasingly there are reports that this is no longer the case. Reports and rumour suggest that in particular the so-called ‘family courts’, where proceedings are held in private on the pretext that  children might be harmed by publicity, are using hyper-injunctions to prevent potentially wronged parents from getting help and advice. Christopher Booker in the Telegraph has written about family courts on a number of occasions over the past couple of years and the lack of publicity and hence scrutiny they afford.

In Hansard this week is an even more worrying report (H/T Anna Racoon). Mr John Hemming, MP for Yardley, used parliamentary privilege to air his concerns, and Hansard is public so can be quoted and reported. Interestingly John Hemming also quotes from Magna Carta, confirming the validity of unrepealed sections.

This Hansard record confirms that social services are using a combination of the family courts and hyper-injunctions not just to ensure anonymity and prevent publicity but to prevent affected people from talking to anyone at all, even up to and including independent legal advisors and their Member of Parliament. The Hansard report also suggests that parents, fighting to prevent their children being taken into care, are being blackmailed by such injunctions, which if broken by the parent, would be deemed contempt and the child would be taken away. This despite some affected parents having never been found guilty of any crime.
This is morally indefensible! It means parents caught up in family court proceedings and at risk of having their child taken into care are completely at the mercy of Social Services and court chosen and court appointed experts. No chance to choose their legal advisor, no way to get further advice, and nowhere to go to appeal if they think they are being unjustly treated. It encourages abuse by the authorities to cover up their own failings, to pursue personal vendettas, to act entirely without scrutiny, and is no better than the sham justice of a totalitarian state. 

When it comes to vulnerable people a similar situation applies, and reports suggest such people, judged vulnerable only by the court, not an independent expert, are having their homes and assets seized and sold to pay for the court and legal costs. Some people suggest this may even be a scam to steal from the vulnerable.

This is wrong!

Friday 18 March 2011

Buying a Door

I have always been a DIY sort of person so it arose that today I needed a door. Not a fancy certified insulated door or a sexy hardwood door with coloured glass panels or a door with argon filled double glazing. Just a simple softwood door with frame to go in a garage side wall, the only essential design criteria being it should be cheap, keep the outside out, be as wide as possible and not have a step.

I started with B&Q and Wickes and similar places and discovered that ordinary old fashioned doors seem to have ceased to exist at a reasonable price. Wickes has one at about £80 ready glazed, which is OK but then they want another 60quid for a hardwood frame and the website doesn’t suggest if they are available in store. B&Q don’t seem to stock more than one frame size, the wrong one for my purpose and also hardwood, so no use either.

Next, at the suggestion of the builder, I take myself to a large local trade supplier. They have doors, loads of doors, a warehouse of doors in fact plus a huge glossy brochure and a helpful person on the enquiry desk, but they can’t tell me how much they cost! Apparently their retail prices are astronomic and they can't provide a real price unless they know whose account it is going on. So I give them the builder’s name and they immediately phone him, but he is building my wall and the phone’s in his van. No answer no prices! So I take my money away. I can understand discounts for trade account holders but how can a company afford to make it impossible for an ordinary person to choose a product by having a ludicrously inflated retail price and charge according to a secret price structure?

I try another large national joinery merchant. Onto the website, very glossy and flash, but all it appears to advertise are kitchens. Ok, nice kitchens, but I need a door. Eventually I see a tiny word ‘trade’ on the page, click it and have to pretend to be a tradesman. At last! Doors, windows, hardware, all the joinery stuff that I or any DIY freak might need. Exactly the door I want and in a range of 5 sizes. But no prices! You can only get those if you have an account and ask for a quote. In the event I rang the local depot, luckily found a sensible member of counter staff, and drove to get what I needed, and it cost considerably less than a DIY store - but that was only down to having a sensible counter assistant, no thanks to the company strategy which would have lost the sale.

The thing is that we all know the building trade is in serious recession. Customers need maximum value and I am not interested in employing a skilled builder at an ungodly hourly rate to run round all day getting options, brochures and prices for me to decide ‘second hand’ what I want. I can easily and better do that myself. 

Then the other lot, why hide most of their products from the public and pretend they only sell kitchens?  Is it to create a mystique that home maintenance is impossible except for specific sizes and types of items sold at DIY superstores? Are they ashamed to sell actual real old fashioned useful stuff?  Don't they want customers? It’s a bizarre managerial attitude to potential customers and also shows a complete lack of understanding of how to use the Web.

Next week I want a basic simple cheap window, that will be fun.