Who Won the Week (24 October 2021)

Prompt image for the Fandango's Who Won The Week prompt

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

The UN body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) compiles “assessment reports”. They do this every six or seven years. The reports are scientific in origin, and feed into the conferences to provide guidance on what countries need to do in order to mitigate warming. Pre-publication, they invite submissions from countries, companies, etc.

Prior to COP26, which happens shortly, they have been compiling another report. Again, it’ll feed into the summit and provide a steer on where the politicians should be taking the planet.

Except that this year, the submissions have been leaked. 32,000 of them. So I just thought I’d highlight some of the lobbying (is it unfair to call it gerrymandering?) that has happened, to go into this report. Again, let’s stress that this is a scientific report.

One of the key recommendations in the draft report was that we should reduce our consumption of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. A no-brainer, you’d think. But, guess who objected to that phrase being included?

Well, Saudi Arabia, for one Yes, the world’s biggest exporter of oil thinks that phrase should be removed.

The report goes deeper. That we should eliminate coal-fired power stations as soon as possible. Again, obvious? But Australia objects. Surprisingly, one of the biggest coal exporters objects.

In fact, a lot of fossil fuel producers – Saudi and Australia, but also China (the world’s largest coal importer) and Japan support Carbon Capture Systems (CCS), mechanisms which are not even known to be feasible, on the scale required. But the argument is that we capture the carbon, therefore there is no need to reduce emissions.

So, when the report continues: “the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels”, China, Norway and Opec all raised objections. Every one oil-fired.

On our diets, the IPCC favours reducing our meat consumption. It thinks if we eliminated meat in favour of plants, our personal CO2 emissions could drop by asmuch as 50%. But guess who objects? Brasil and Argentina, both major producers not only of beef, but of animal feed.

The report talks about finances. That to meet the goals, richer countries might have to help out poorer countries. Obvious, right? But guess who objects? Well, Switzerland, for one. The country which makes money out of everything. And Australia. Both very much first world countries who might be asked to contribute.

Just to complete, the report talks about going nuclear, as a replacement for fossil fuels. I’ve heard our own PM wax lyrically on this subject, too. The report, however, is negative. Memories of Cernobyl and Fukushima, perhaps?

But several eastern European countries argue against this pessimism. India goes even further, saying that it is an “established technology” with largely “good political backing”. Maybe there.


Who Won the Week (17 October 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

I just thought this story was hilarious.

This is a ram raider in Queensland, attacking what looks like a motorcycle showroom. With a digger!

… and then shows him making his getaway, in that same digger, with police in hot pursuit! I mean, an excavator will do what, 30 mph, tops? How far did this guy think he was going to get? It’s like Bob the Builder, on steroids!

Who Won the Week (10 October 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

Do you remember the other week I talked about immigration?

Well I’m afraid my winner of the week is the humble pumpkin. Let me explain:

Not only has our government’s ideology brought us fuel shortages, food shortages and the threatened christmas turkey shortage, but this week we learned about the pumpkin shortage.

Continue reading “Who Won the Week (10 October 2021)”

Who Won the Week (3 October 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

Do you remember Sarah Everard?

She’s the woman who was abducted and murdered in south London, at the start of March. It sparked protests akin to Black Lives Matter, all at a time when the UK was locked down again. I wrote about it at the time.

Well, I wanted to talk indirectly about this case. More directly, it is how it has been reported by the media.

It has been known for some time that this murder was committed by an off-duty policeman. He even pleaded guilty, so it was a fast trial.

That someone can do this to another person, I’m basically already thinking that this guy is as bad as bad can be. It doesn’t really get any worse.

But his trial has come around, and just the way it was reported by the media left me angry that somebody, some editor, has sat down and decided how this case should be reported, so as to make it as sensational as possible. That kind-of calculating element was what angered me.

First we learned how he tricked her to get into his car. He basically faked an arrest. Pulled out his warrant card, read her her rights. Her “offence” was supposed to have been lockdown-related.

All while telling us this, the journalist was saying and then he did this, and then he did this, and so on. And each time, the audience is supposed to say oooh. Just titilating us jucier and jucier details each time.

It turns out that this guy once guarded politicians. I guess that was supposed to shock us, to know that he had at one stage had a position of some responsibility. Oooh!

I don’t know. Maybe this is just me, but I don’t like that somebody is sitting there in a studio, calculating how to drip-feed this information to me, evoking gradually worse feelings toward this guy. It seemed like they were trying to sensationalise the whole, sad affair.

Just to give a sense of closure, the guy pleaded guilty and got a full life term. I mean, how could it have been anything else?

Who Won the Week (26 September 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

My winner this week was an easy pick. Immigration.

The current UK Government stems from our Brexit vote, five years ago. They were all a bunch of malcontents who, at the time, campaigned to get us out of the EU.

I can’t blame them for that. Many people thought the EU fell fatally short, including me.

Removing fifty years of integration in just a few was never going to be easy, two Prime Ministers fell along the way, and the UK entered a period of stagnation. The zealots came along, led by Boris Johnson, and determinedly promised to complete the exit process. Unequivocal. And because people were fed up of the in-fighting, Boris was returned with a heavy mandate in 2019.

One of the perceptions of the Brexit vote was that the UK wanted to take back control of immigration. It could always control immigration from outside the EU, but from within, its hands were tied.

So, lo and behold, these zealots came into government, and started to make good on their promise, by tightening up foreigners’ rights to live and work here.

For those of you who don’t know, Britain is a country which has invested heavily into its road network. Outside of London, there is no public transport worth speaking of, and you can easily watch cars pound past you on the street, mostly with a single occupant. This means that, sooner or later, every item that arrives in UK shops is reliant on the road network to get it there.

So, marry these two things together, and what do we have?

For about the past three months or so, the UK has been hit by shortages. The shortages were blamed primarily on the supply chain – we simply didn’t have enough lorry drivers to take goods to the shops.

This first started to be noticeable in supermarkets, where shelves have gradually become emptier. And, late last week, this extended to petrol. Many stations ran dry within days, as drivers raced to fill their cars.

This culminated this morning in an announcement that temporary visas will be issued to foreign lorry drivers, to try to get the country moving once again.

Also in the news recently has been the state of the poultry industry. That might seem trivial (paltry poultry?), but all our lives, every UK family has been used to having a turkey on the table come christmas, and now, it looks like that will be the next shortage. Why? Because the government also revoked the rights of foreigners to work in the poultry industry. So they’ve announced emergency visas in that sector, too. Whether that will save christmas is anybody’s guess.

I just wanted to highlight these stories because they show two things.

First, that we need immigration. Now, we might need to ultimately control it, but our control needs to be very measured. When we run out of food and gas, it’s probably gone too far. In general, some immigration is necessary, because UK workers are simply not interested in working in some industries.

Second, it shows how difficult these things are to predict. Who, five years ago, calling for immigration controls, could possibly have predicted that they’d have to forego their christmas turkey this year? Or that crops would lie rotting in fields because there was nobody to pick them?

Who Won the Week (19 September 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

COP 26 Logo

This was an interesting one, I thought, because in the UK, there has just been a cabinet reshuffle, so I suspect this story made it to the press – it represents an early headache for those new ministers..

Have you heard of COP? It’s the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It is the one where our great and good leaders fly in, produce lots of CO2 to get there, also lots of hot air once they do get there, promise the earth, and then deliver… fuck all.

This year, the UK happens to be president, and they are hosting a grand knees-up in Glasgow at the start of November – COP 26.

Now, to coincide with this conference, the government here brought forward an Environment Bill, no doubt to browbeat the rest of the world. It’s going through our parliament at the moment.

In the UK, we have two chambers of parliament, same as most of you. The lower chamber is responsible for the nitty-gritty, the day-to-day running of affairs. Our government and prime minister all belong to the lower chamber. That chamber is basically the top dog, despite being the “lower” chamber

Then, we have an upper chamber. There have always been squabbles here about how it is composed (it’s not elected), but basically its job is to scrutinise what the lower chamber does. Seems the one valid reason for having two chambers.

And with specific regard to this Environment Bill, the upper chamber has amended it quite significantly, including:

  • the declaration of a climate change and biodiversity emergency (I guess they figure that the UK might as well join in with everyone else);
  • eliminating sewerage being dumped into rivers;
  • protection of habitats, not just for animals but for woodland;
  • soil quality;
  • air quality. We had a landmark case here last year where, for the first time, air pollution was found to have been one of the causes of death of a nine-year-old girl;
  • greater restrictions on pesticides, taking into account the long-term impact, in particular on insects such as honey bees;
  • and lastly, beefing up the powers of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), the watchdog designed to enforce all these measures. There have been cases here of big water companies discharging into rivers, being told to stop, then carrying on anyway. Because… who’s gonna stop them?

All of which sound pretty reasonable for a bill designed to protect the environment, don’t you think?

Now, the lower chamber is top dog, so if it wishes, it can reject these modifications. But just as the upper chamber made the mods one by one, so too the lower chamber will have to undo them one by one. Which will take up valuable time, before this conference.

So now the government has a choice: to allow the mods to go through, or to put everything else on the backburner to meet this deadline.

The interesting thing here is that these are all, basically, the same political party. It’s like a Dem congress fighting with a Dem senate. You kinda know the government has got something seriously wrong, when you see that happening!

Who Won the Week (12 September 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

It has started.

My winner this week is simply France. I wanted to mention Agnès Buzyn. Never heard of her? Let me explain.

The 58-year-old Buzyn was the Health Minister in France just eighteen months ago. She stepped down in February 2020, to run in the Paris mayoral election.

February 2020 seems rather convenient, in terms of COVID, doesn’t it? But if you remember, there was lots of talk about governments everywhere having the measure of COVID, months before the pandemic, and wilfully looking the other way.

Buzyn herself publicly described COVID as “low risk”, although she also admitted later that she knew a “tsunami” was about to happen.

It’s one of the first cases where a public official is actually facing accountability for their action/inaction. In Buzyn’s case, French prosecutors are investigating her for the very wide charge of “endangering the lives of others”.

Let’s hope many more are forced to account for themselves.


Who Won the Week (5 September 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.

My award this week goes to the people of Ireland, who on 25 May 2018 voted by a majority of 2:1 to amend the Irish constitution, which paved the way for Ireland to allow abortions.

It wasn’t just that the people of Ireland had become more liberal, less influenced by the Roman Catholic church.

But the ban simply didn’t work.

What happened was, an Irish woman wanting an abortion would step onto an airplane, would fly to London, fly home a day later when, miraculously, she wasn’t pregnant any more.

I actually knew someone who did this. There was a stigma about them admitting it, but there was no problem actually getting the abortion. I suspect she could have used somebody at the time, a shoulder to cry on, somebody who might even have changed her mind, but there we go. But the episode highlights how, once people started travelling, the ban was something that simply couldn’t be enforced.

So, given that people could just sidestep Ireland’s rule, the referendum was essentially about whether the Irish state had any right even to have an opinion about someone’s reproductive rights. Sensibly, in my opinion, the people of Ireland recognised that the state’s view was irrelevant.

Now, May 2018. It’s hardly newsworthy, is it? But it becomes relevant again in the context of the “heartbeat bill” being passed into law in Texas this week.

Because the same thing will happen.

Pregnant Texas residents who wish to have an abortion will fly off someplace and will have their abortion. There will be the same old stigma about discussing the issue, but there’ll be no problem actually getting the abortion.

That is, pregnant Texans who can afford it will get their abortions. Because make no mistake, this law attacks poverty – people who can’t afford to travel. It won’t improve morality.

But I doubt even poor Texans need worry, because I predict that charities will spring up – not based in Texas, of course – which will provide financial aid. I’m sure such charities will attract many wealthy liberal donors, because to them there will be fewer causes bigger than a woman having control of her own body.

The only time such a ban will bite (again against the poor) is if it is applied nationwide, simply because it is more prohibitive to travel internationally (no passport was required between IE and the UK, which made that particular journey do-able). Nationwide, in the US, will include liberal places like the coasts. Really?

So, I think the Texas legislature has been dumb, for even thinking it can restrict abortion. It is impotent, it can’t enforce any restrictions. Therefore, it was a waste of time even to create them.

The traditional argument with abortion, you either put the rights of the woman first, in which case you jump one way, or you put the rights of the foetus first, and jump the other.

But do you see, either of those arguments falls into the misogynist’s trap? By framing this as a tussle between a woman and a foetus, it neatly conceals that a man was, at one stage, very much involved.

From ever since, the man has had the ability to walk (run) away from an unwanted pregnancy. A woman hasn’t, not until science arrived and made it possible. So, just on the grounds of gender equality, I’d support a woman’s ability to walk away from an unwanted pregnancy, in exactly the same way as a man is able.

I’ve got no qualms about using medicine to help bring about equality, as much as we can. No qualms in general using medicine to improve humans’ lot against nature. I’ve no qualms about using chemo/radio to treat cancer, using x-rays to diagnose broken bones, insulin to help diabetics, electromagnetism to perform an MRI scan… None of which would be possible without the intervention of science into god’s “natural order”.