29 July 2019

The UK right wing are working to an agenda

Here is the agenda in outline.

1. Take over the Tory Party
2. Leave the EU
3. Win a majority
4. Implement an undiluted neoliberal agenda of deregulation, tax cuts, (social) spending cuts.

The goal being a massive transfer of wealth from the working people of the UK, into the offshore accounts of the wealthy.

Step 1 is accomplished.

Step 2 is essential since, despite essentially being a neoliberal establishment, the EU protects workers and human rights and is thus not neoliberal enough. This step will be accomplished in 31 Oct.

The fact that leaving the EU with no deal is likely to cause a recession only works in their favour. They will be "forced" to reduce spending in response to a shrinking economy and a deficit blowout.

Step 3 is where we might stop them. At present they can't win an outright majority. But they've now got a populist figurehead who is in full electioneering mode, though he has yet to call an election so no one else is campaigning.

If they get to step 4, they'll gut the UK, sell off the organs to the highest bidder, and pocket the profits.

We need to stop focussing on Boris the clown and see the bigger picture. If anything he is the distraction from the real action. The far right of the Tory Party are now in the driver's seat.

We also need to see the current (uncosted) spending plans as classic election bribes for disaffected swing voters. They need to win an election in order to force through the far-right agenda. This is priority no.1 now.

To date the socialists and social-liberals have no answer to the populist politics of the far right.

If that is not bad enough, most of these far right politicians are either climate change deniers, or they just don't give a fuck and won't act to meet targets. They'll make a profit either way - like Goldman Sachs' big windfall during the global financial crisis.

12 June 2019

New Dinky Door

The seventh dinky door has been installed in Cambridge (and I have deciphered the clues to find it). Here is my map showing all the locations to date.



Finding them all in one day would be a quite a good way to see our city.

26 April 2019

Surveillance

A young American woman, MacKenzie Fegan, is about to board her plane for an international flight with JetBlue. Instead of looking at her boarding pass, the attendant asks her to look at a camera for facial recognition.

As she takes her seat, she starts to wonder, how did it know what I looked like? And she wonders, "Did I consent to this?".

She tweets these thoughts. The airline responds. You can opt out it says. Obviously this was not made clear at the time because our girl wasn't offered the choice. The airline continues by saying that it gets the information from Homeland Security.

"Wait", she thinks, "Homeland Security know what I look like? Why does Homeland Security know what I look like."

Homeland Security is, of course, the government department set up in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is tasked with countering terrorism, border security, immigration control, cybersecurity, and disaster planning and management.

So she is wondering how knowing what her face looks like is going to help Homeland Security fight terrorism. Because she is a law abiding, food writer. The only way that Homeland Security would have her image would be if they have an image of everyone.

Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the USA security services arbitrary collection of data on all citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of crimes. That was illegal at the time. Homeland Security, the NSA, and the CIA were implicated

A peripheral question is, how many security organisations does the US need? How much is the USA spending on security these days?

MacKenzie also wonders how come a private company has access to her Homeland Security file. Well, the airline go right ahead and assure her that they don't have direct access to Homeland Security, rather Homeland Security make it available to the Customs and Border Protection database. And the airline checks that.

When she asks for more information, MacKenzie is directed to a press release from JetBlue which brags a lot how efficient this new surveillance technique but does not give any information about the process or the consent issue. There is no information on how to opt out or whether the fact that one opts out is recorded.

This happened last week. We don't know how the story ends.

Given the trade in our metadata that already exists, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that companies will be collecting and trading in our biometric metadata soon too. The internet already knows what you buy online and what you search for online. And your phone company already tracks your movements. Govts already routinely monitor all phone calls, texts, and emails. How long till all this is combined?

This unfinished story raises many questions.

Are we ready for a world in which everything we do and say is tracked and becomes a commodity from which we do not benefit? What happens when there are mistakes?

How much more liberty do we give up, how much surveillance is enough to keep us safe from terrorism? And who keeps us safe from the state, the chief executive of which is presently an unstable authoritarian extremist?

11 April 2019

Deep Adaptation

Bendell, Jem. Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. (IFLAS Occasional Paper 2) July 27th 2018. http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf

I guess this paper should come with a trigger warning. This is the most pessimistic end of the climate change spectrum. Vice Magazine billed it as: "The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It's Sending People to Therapy."


Abstract
The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable nearterm social collapse due to climate change. 
The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes. 
That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse-denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these fields until now. 
The paper offers a new meta-framing of the implications for research, organisational practice, personal development and public policy, called the Deep Adaptation Agenda. Its key aspects of resilience, relinquishment and restorations are explained. This agenda does not seek to build on existing scholarship on “climate adaptation” as it is premised on the view that social collapse is now inevitable. 
The author believes this is one of the first papers in the sustainability management field to conclude that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term and therefore to invite scholars to explore the implications.


08 April 2019

Fascism in Australia



He's right. These days it is un-Australian to tell the truth, have values, or do the right thing; at least as far as the national and state parliaments are concerned.

Four police armed with guns and batons to arrest one girl. And the PM using jingoistic justifications like protesting is "un-Australian".

However, once the state starts using violence against peaceful protesters they have lost the moral argument. Rule by violence and the threat of violence is a symptom of Fascism.

The UK has a similar problem with dishonest and corrupt politicians. The rebellion starts on the 15th of this month.

31 March 2019

Greta And Me.

Greta has become one of the most important human beings in history. It's hard to resist the temptation to romanticise her, to put her on a pedestal. I think we should resist and continue to see her as human. She is somewhat autistic, but in most respects is just like us.

The autism means she is bothered by incongruities between what we know about climate change and what we are doing about it. More bothered than most of us. And she just says what she thinks without some of the social filters that neurotypical people might have.

She might look innocent and small, but I think she knows what she is doing. After all, she was relentless in changing the minds of her parents first. Convincing her mother to give up flying which effectively ended her career as an international opera singer. I think that early success probably made a big difference. She has tasted success and has a model for how to achieve it.

She's smart. At or near the top of her class despite taking Fridays off to protest outside Parliament. It would be ironic for the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee to award her the Peace Prize, while the Swedish Parliament continues to ignore her.

I've been to the local school strikes for action on climate change and found it very moving to hear the chant "Whose future? Our future!" The greenhouse effect was first quantified in 1896. We know, we have known for 123 years. Denial is just dishonest at this point.

Greta speaks truth to power partly because she doesn't have the social awareness that most of us have. She is an outsider already. She doesn't fear being ostracised. She doesn't feel the need to avoid causing embarrassment. She doesn't feel the need to stay in her assigned social role (little girl, who should be passive and silent). And we can be grateful for all this without making it more than it is. She's not perfect - I've heard her quote "facts" that don't stand up to scrutiny (though not often). But she is certainly a figure around which we can come together in support and shared concern for our continued survival.

At this time in history our politicians are mostly not leaders at all. They have sold out to big business. They subsidise the largest multinational companies whose profits always seem to disappear come tax time. At the same time governments refuse to invest in the local economy.

In the UK we are witnessing Parliament having a complete breakdown. We should long since have had an election, but have been stymied by a piece of legislation brought in to help protect the Tories from UKIP. And the central issues are those that are vital to our economy or society. The issues are who is in control of the Tory Party and how they can neutralise the internal threat from the far right. Not the threat to the nation, but the threat to the Tory grasp on power.

Yesterday I lost my shit when I stumbled on a Tory brag sheet. This presented the present situation in the UK in purely Panglossian terms. The best of all possible worlds. Tories literally can't see schools failing, NHS failing, roads full of potholes, police failing, Brexit failing, employment failing, welfare failing, economic policy failing, housing policy failing, 4 million children living in poverty, a rise in in-work poverty, or any number of lesser failings. They can't see any negative news whatever. They don't accept any criticism.

The Tory govt sincerely believes that it cannot do anything wrong, everything's coming up roses, they are the best people for the job, this is the best of all possible worlds. They are literally delusional and a danger to the public. They belong in mental institutions not in political institutions (and you know I don't say this lightly).

The news from the USA is, if anything, even more distressing. Trump is president. I think people are still in denial about this. Trump was elected as president of the USA.



So we certainly need inspirational, truth-telling, leaders. Greta is a kind of catalyst to spark a reaction. We'll know the leaders we can trust because their actions and words will be self-congruent but also congruent with the social and existential situation.

The leaders we need are able to see that things are going wrong. The can see that our country will miss the Paris Accord targets and we are comparatively well-off. The less well-off are going to seriously miss their targets. Warming is going to spiral out of control.

The leaders we need are able to see that filling the oceans with plastic and the air with poison has to stop. Not reduce, but stop. There is no longer a business case for poisoning the biosphere.

The leaders we need will face up to these twin existential crises and step up to do what needs to be done, whatever the cost, because the cost of inaction is inconceivably high for future generations.

The leaders we need will not continue the policy of allowing businesses to dictate policies, especially when those policies are disastrous for the environment or society. We appear to have learned nothing from the global financial crisis and that means history will repeat itself.

However we need more than political and national solutions. Transnational corporations must be brought to heal. Since the Paris Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe banks have invested US$1.9 trillion (trillion!) in fossil fuel companies. As far as I'm concerned this is a crime against not only humanity, but against all living things. They're calling this kind of crime ecocide, though I quite like omnicide - their business plan allows for the death of all living things so that when the human race dies out, some of us are richer than others.

I'm not a communist or a Marxist. I'm not authoritarian when it comes to people. I am some kind of socialist in that I think we should help look after each other and this is a role for government. I think the only way to achieve the goals we have is through investment of surplus capital  combined with regulation of business - regulated capitalism.

Free Market Capitalism, like liberalism, mostly benefits the rich who have become very much richer. It is true that poverty is down since multinationals can export jobs and capital to poor countries where they can pay workers 1% of what a Brit or an American might make. But it's at the expense of wrecking the environment in those countries. It's at the expense of workers in richer countries where in-work and child poverty are now on the rise. Regulated capitalism combined with redistribution of the wealth provides the best chances of raising the standards of living for all. And the best chance of addressed the twin existential threats of climate change and ecosystem collapse.

The rich don't help the poor because they want them to have better lives. They help them because they want to convert them into consumers of products. They want to sell them shit so first they have to have an income and no choice but to buy what they need to live.

People should be free to determine how they live, but given sustainable options as a priority. If you want to reject plastic packaging or buy green energy then that should be easy and cheap; in fact it should be easier and cheaper than not doing so. Buying and using a zero emission car should be much cheaper and easier than using dirty car. Public transport could be zero emission today, but govt refuse to invest in it.

The particular forms that our response to climate changes takes will depend on who is in power and on the contributions of entrepreneurs and scientists. I'm not invested in a particular way of getting out of the shit. When you are in shit, the priority is to get out of the shit and wash the shit off. How that happens is not important. But of course there is no point in getting out of the shit only to end up in some other kind of shit. The solution to being in the shit cannot involve more shit.

So I'm glad that Greta did what she did and gained the notoriety she has. I'm grateful to her for her courage and sacrifice. She might be just the catalyst we need. Being a diminutive girl makes her non-threatening so she can say what must be said and be heard more easily than some others.

We should remember that Greta's growth was stunted because the disconnect between what she was taught about climate change at school (the completely uncontroversial bowdlerised primary school version of climate change) was so at odds with how the adults around her behaved that she had a mental breakdown. The cognitive dissonance created by the routine denial of the existential crisis was too great for her to bear. I know the feeling.

On one hand this highlights the hypocrisy of govts, oil companies, banks and so on, as well as the general mood of denial that pervades the media and society in general. And on the other we need to be compassionate, because fully facing up to the truth is a devastating experience. It can drive you mad. Just as yesterday I had a moment of utter despair when I saw how much in denial the government are with regard to the UK.

I find the cognitive dissonance of the world hard to bear as well. I find it gets me down. I find myself overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I can't listen to politicians talk on the radio because there is a constant incongruity that screams liar! to me. They are liars. On TV it's worse because the sense of wrongness is so much greater. I can't bear it.

Governments and corporations (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference) are prepared to hurt us all to preserve the status quo. They are prepared to heat the atmosphere, to pollute our air and water, to cut down all the rainforests, to fill the ocean with plastic. They are prepared to do all that and will only not do it if we force them not to.

So as far as possible I'm going to get involved in supporting and participating in non-violent civil disobedience. I think our leaders are either insane, immoral, incompetent, or some combination of all three. They've reneged on the obligations of leaders and forfeited their moral authority to tell us what to do. They can still hurt me in many different ways, and I'm quite vulnerable, so I won't be amongst those being deliberately arrested, for example. But I do support these people. I honestly believe that rebellion is the only rational response to the existential situation we find ourselves in.

I'm linking up with local groups, especially Extinction Rebellion or XR. I'm supporting the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement which is incredibly inspiring. And a few other local rebellious events as they arise. XR plan a lot more disruption and I'm hoping to be part of that.

23 March 2019

The Scope and Scale of the Climate Change Denial Problem

How do oil companies afford to spend $200 million on lobbying and PR for climate change denial since the Paris Accord on climate change? [influence maps]

Because it's just 0.01% of the $2 trillion that banks have invested in them since then. Or around half of the profit they make in 1 day. [clean technica]

And all this time, they've known about climate change as is clear from their internal memos. They even funded some of the science that made it clear that it was caused by human activity. And this was back in the 1970s. But their PR has been primarily aimed at confusing the issue and creating doubts about climate science. [Environmental Research Letters]

The big oil companies knew that burning fossil fuels would heat the atmosphere. They had a pretty good idea of the kind of damage this would do. And they set out to confuse the issue in the minds of the public and politicians.

Even worse, as lobbyists they have a seat at the table in making relevant policy in the EU. And there they have actively worked to dial down our response to climate change and our ability to respond to it. Big tobacco were responsible for millions of deaths. Big oil set out to kill us all. They have set out to kill all animal life on the planet. For profit. We have war crimes. Crimes against humanity. But what do we even call a crime on the scale endangering all animal life on the planet? Omnicide?