Bazza Online

For Liberty and Progress

When it comes to Israel and Palestine, we need better than ConDemNation
barrycurtis

Israeli Navy Commandos have stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza, and killed at least nine pro-Palestinian protesters in the process. The condemnation has been immense - the liberal media and blogosphere are livid whilst members of the UN Security Council have condemned Israel, even before their “emergency session” hastily commences. Turkey’s foreign minister called Israel’s actions “murder by a state”, whilst George Galloway did a duet of “The World Turned Upside Down” with Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague outside Downing Street, allegedly.

This blogger is no friend of the Israeli state - it makes no sense to instil by force a state that is inherently hostile to its neighbours in a politically and economically sensitive region. It would be better if Jews were free to live in a secular Palestinian state that respected the rights of both ‘Jews’ and ‘Palestinians‘ as equal human beings.  But under the current meta-regime, Israel has to sporadically show spontaneous acts of aggression against its ‘terrorist’ enemies in order to maintain the upper hand and ease the paranoia of leading sections of its population who are understandably agitated by the occasional Palestinian misdirected mortar marauding into a suburb. The latest incident is merely the latest in the Israeli show and is certainly nothing worse or escalating or new in the general saga of the existence of the state of Israel.

What is new is the response of the West - blanket hostility to Israel. It seems that their Cold War ally, Israel, who for many years fended off Pan-Arabism, can no longer act in a way that even Somali pirates can. In an era when there might be up to 1,000,000 Iraqi and Aghan civilians dead as a result of Western action, it seems to be up to the Western elite to condemn Israel for the nine or more Palestinian protesters shot by the commandos.

What has shifted here is not the objective gravity of anything Israel has done, it is not that which has lost them favour. Instead the Western elite are increasingly looking for victims in the world who they can throw their weight behind in an attempt to gain moral legitimacy and therefore oversee the 'peace talks'. As such, their ally Israel can be condemned (whilst simultaneously serving a part in lucrative arms deals with the US), and the Palestinians can be pitied.  Note this was not a case with the Sri Lanka/Tamil conflict recently that did not take place in a sensitive area and so all that could be gained was arms deals to Sri Lankans - hence muted condemnation of them.

Unfortunately this projection of the West’s existential quest to discover ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the middle East will do no favours to those on the ground, or at sea.

Israel’s paranoia and subsequent periods of aggression should be seen as inherent to the bizarre and conflicting make up of the region. To solve political problems such as this will require far more than hypocritical moral condemnation from the great and the good. And indeed an increasing demonisation of the Israelis could lead to anti-Semitism in policy and culture. All sides’ grievances need to be understood in context before a meaningful peace process can begin. Elementary moral condemnation is two steps back.

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Why we should resist the NHS' plans for a giant database
barrycurtis

Amidst plans for a national identity card scheme where all our details are held on a giant database, and in the context of innocent people's DNA being held by the police for many years, there is some criticism in society of the large, looming state. I think we should add to this cauldron the problem of the new NHS electronic database.

Call me paranoid if you will, but I think we should resist the NHS' attempt to create a giant electronic database of our medical records. Under the plans, known as the "Summary Care Record", ANY "healthcare professional" will be able to access our records, in our best interests, of course. The scheme is going ahead and your records will be transferred unless you "opt out", in which case, you have until July to do so.

But there are at least three reasons why we should resist.

1) As has been proved over the past couple of years, the state is unable to guarantee the safety and security of any electronic databases. There have been many cases of data being lost, or hacked, and potentially with regard to medical records, such information could be easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous healthcare insurers, potential bosses, or a potential neo-Nazi political elite.

2) "Healthcare professionals" may sound trustworthy, but note this category would also include the psychiatric profession. With their risk-averse tendency to section anyone they come into contact with, increased ease of accessing medical records should be resisted. Suppose for example it shows you have a history of drug abuse, or mental illness. Such evidence would make the psychiatrists' case against you easier for them.

3) We often sense that we can trust the state. Big Brother is our friend. That's what they'd like you to think. But subtle alterations in the political climate could easily lead to targetted interventions against smokers - they'd check which people to target in campaigns against smoking in the home when you have kids, or in the car at all, they'd target "binge drinking" advice against you, it would be easier for them to check you're getting your 5-a-day fruit and veg, or that your BMI is within "acceptable parameters". And whilst today it may only be "healthcare professionals" who can check the database, tomorrow they may be easily sharing this information with social workers or the police, other agents of the state.

So resist my friends. Opt out of this insidious measure while you still can.

Or perhaps 'resistance is futile'. As reported in the Guardian, many patients are having difficulty opting out of the scheme. Primary Care Trusts are insisting on face-to-face meetings with those that want to opt out, demanding WHY, and assessing whether your reasons really are 'valid'. Such ethically dubious and coercive measures are undermining what was already a slightly unfree 'choice', and we should be asking questions about what their agenda really is. If they had our best interests at heart and this was entirely about enhancing healthcare, why do they pay such scant attention to the desires of our conscious, rational selves? Or is it more the case that individual rights are seen as irrelevant in the broader context of what some commentators call "health fascism"?

Whatever the case, this should be an election issue.


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The day I was mistaken for a Green BNP boot boy
barrycurtis
It has become clear to me that e-democracy is a total con. Nowadays there is a fairly large industry of online surveys. Meanwhile MP’s claim to be courting public opinion through exercises in e-democracy where you get to register your opinion by clicking on a box. However invariably the questions that are presented are so targeted, and the answers that you can click are so narrow, that a false impression can emerge regarding what you really think.

I took a survey on votematch.org for a laugh to see who I should vote for. The results were frankly bizarre. I got a 69% match with the Green Party, and a 42% match with the BNP. As a progressive left-libertarian I found it odd that my responses should entail such high affinity with groups I regard as reactionary, dangerous, and socially corrosive. But then I realised the whole set up had been rigged from the outset. I was asked, for example, if I agreed with the statement “Manmade climate change is a myth”. I ticked ‘no’ because I think the theory of anthropogenic climate change has some merit (although I disagree with the alarmist picture), but this immediately registered with the machine that I was a closet green. No such thing! Just because one has respect for scientific truisms, it doesn’t follow that one has to be an environmentalist.

There are alternatives to the environmental approach of cutting consumption and ‘modifying behaviour’ as a response to climate change such as human adaptation, or technological solutions to over-warming. Green doom-mongering and their computer models of climate change do not factor in human ingenuity such as today’s story that scientists have begun to replicate photosynthesis in the laboratory - potentially leading to limitless energy that could both power the national grid and cars.  These alternatives require a strong economy and ingenuity, things that, it can be argued (quite rationally), the Green Party will not promote. But the votematch survey saw no ground in between caricatures of say, Sarah Palin or George Monbiot.

Likewise my alleged, frankly libellous support for the BNP was based on whether or not I thought immigration should be an election issue. As one who is for open borders and against multi-culturalist controlled migration, I ticked ‘yes’ as I don’t think society has had much of a debate yet about what is going on. But to the machine, this meant I must want to expel all immigrants and pull up the drawbridge. Yes there are strains on public services at the moment, but these are the fault of a visionless politics that presides over a clapped out capitalism; it is very conservative and reactionary to scapegoat the number of people who live here and, by extension, say that more recent arrivals should go elsewhere. With all the similarly rigged questioning, I emerged apparently 69% Green and 42% BNP, both parties I’d never in reality consider voting for.

I also do online surveys for YouGov. Again I am frequently frustrated by the lack of option for the view I most adhere to. An example is “Who would make the best leader?” - “Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or Don’t Know”. There’s no option for “None of the above - because it’s impossible to get decent political leaders in an ideology-free age”. Thus I have to click “Don’t know”. But the amount of times I say “Don’t know” to questions, the machine must perceive me to be an ignorant douche. Furthermore saying “Don’t know” sends a signal to the elites and their PR spin machine that “MORE PROPAGANDA IS REQUIRED!”, since to them, it can only imply I have not absorbed enough of their ‘education’.

In another example of the coercive nature of e-democracy, Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake recently contacted his constituents (one of which is a friend), to see what they thought about banning sunbeds for minors. Only he didn’t want to know what the residents of Carshalton and Wallington actually thought, he merely wanted them to rubber stamp what he thought. Thus the question posed was along the lines of “Should sunbeds be banned for all under 18s or just all under 16s?” There was no ‘libertarian option’ of “Don’t ban them at all - let the parents have the decision”. For Brake, classical liberalism is not a feature of legitimate thought, only ‘nudging’ the discussion counts. Under these conditions, polling is not about finding out what people think, but getting pre-determined results and then advertising them as the glory of democracy. In fact e-democracy is not an expansion of democracy at all, but its glitzy contraction.

Even if an e-question can appear to permit your view, look at the context in which it is presented. For example, on an American news site, we were asked our opinions of airport body scanners. You could either say “It’s an excellent idea”, “It’s way too invasive”, or “Our enemies will find a way around it”. This would appear to cater for most people’s views. But then the poll appeared under a caption which said that airport body scanners can detect concealed drugs and explosives, implying it would stop terrorism, and who could be against that? But surely if someone is determined to commit harm, they’ll simply blow up a train rather than an aeroplane if that becomes impossible, or set off a car bomb. Although they may make a particular flight safer and rule out that one-in-ten-million chance of another Pants Man bomber, body scanners do not heighten a nation’s real security when everything is taken into account, and therefore the concerns of privacy campaigners do need to be addressed seriously.

The elite are enthusiastic about e-democracy partly because it paints them as au fait with the latest technology. But more important than this, they are desperate to ‘reconnect’ with an electorate who, lets be honest, thinks “they’re all the same greedy pigs”. However this exercise in reconnection cannot work because it is so stage-managed. If democracy is to be rejuvenated, and this election campaign shows that it ought to be, then the elite will need to do more than just get us to tick rigged boxes - they will need to ask what we really think about various issues without attempting to dishonestly pre-arrange the outcome. But since the elite views us all as binge drinking naughty children who are prone to outbursts of racism, homophobia, and Failure-to-Recycle, I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps we need to make them listen.

E-opinions that are collected through surveys do nothing to alter the course of society. Thus the e-citizen is impoverished compared to the democratic citizen who at least gets to act at the ballot box. People who think they are “empowered” through participating in e-democracy have really only been brainwashed.


 


Animal welfare groups want the Grand National banned but they should stop the nagging
barrycurtis

This Saturday sees the climax of the Grand National, the highlight of the horse racing calendar. Many millions will watch the event worldwide on TV, and many millions of pounds will change hands in betting. The sport is hugely popular, yet there are increasing calls from the animal welfare lobby that it should be banned because, they argue, it is cruel to horses. Aside from whipping the horses and making them go through a gruelling challenge, if previous years are anything to go by, then it is likely that at least two horses will die as a result of the competition.

So how should we balance the interests of the horses with the human craving for excitement? Should perhaps the jumps be lowered or abolished altogether, the course shortened, and racers made to go slower? Does the lavish way in which successful race horses are treated offset the tragedy of those that fall?

Or is all this ethical balancing act the wrong way to approach the issue? Instead should we focus purely on what is good for people, and ignore the supposed interests of horses? But if so, could these arguments be used to justify any form of cruelty or sadism towards animals, and therefore the arguments must be morally scanty?

These issues are discussed in my contribution to the topic published here. You can respond either by emailing a letter to the website, or by leaving a comment below by clicking the relevant link (nb. I do not generally censor any comments). Nagging is permitted.

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Oi, PCC, get your hands off our blogs!
barrycurtis

It seems there's a new danger to blogging - the spectre of the Press Complaints Commission. Until very recently this body had no power to uphold complaints against bloggers. But in the first case of its kind, Rod Liddle, former editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, has been censured by the PCC.

His sin was to say that most crime in London is committed by Afro-Caribbeans. Whilst probably untrue (but we can't know for sure now), the censuring move can only imply this whole discussion is now deemed to be "off-limits". The PCC said that whilst Liddle provided some evidence to back up his claim, it wasn't enough to justify it. But this suggests that every claim a blogger makes must be backed up to the extent it is unquestionable. This would have a serious dampening effect on all controversial arguments - people simply won't raise them - and it will have a chilling effect on free speech. The danger now is that editors may take the cowardly option of not publishing articles that raise serious discussion (as Liddle's did) in case the PCC finds that the writer was insufficient in his quoting of empirical evidence.

Blogs should be free from the prying eyes of the state and the PCC which is a kind of semi-state body. The PC PCC only encourages self-censorship when really it should be in the blogosphere that all opinions can be aired, even those which might fall foul of certain regulations if they appeared in the print media. Hands off our internet! Self-censorship makes you blind!


Bloggers of the web unite! You have nothing to lose but your high speed broadband.

 




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Make the 2010 election meaningful with 21 Pledges for Progress
barry2010
barrycurtis

Yesterday I attended the Battle for Politics, a pre-election public summit organised by the Institute of IdeasThe venue was packed full of interesting and awesome people who grilled a wide range of speakers. Dangerous ideas such as Green Party Peter Tatchell’s plan that a fairer Britain would be one where all the bankers are locked up were criticised vehemently (the recession was not caused by excessive risk-taking).

One thing that emerged from this set of kick-ass debates was a kind of pledge-card, a list of demands that voters should make of their prospective parliamentary candidates. If a potential MP supports say 15 of the demands, then they are worthy of consideration for your vote. If they do not, then don’t vote for them. I think this is a good step towards re-enfranchising the electorate. It will make the contest a bit more meaningful than the current cynical battle of personalities and the concomitant view amongst the electorate that we will vote for whoever is vaguely perceived as the ‘lesser evil’.

The pledges are listed below, and I urge all you voters out there to use the list to sort out who is worthy of your support.

21 PLEDGES FOR PROGRESS 2010

Policy ideas that would make candidates worth voting for; positions that voters should argue and campaign for.

Re FREEDOM

1. Repeal hate speech legislation, in the interests of free speech, with no ifs, no buts.

2. Repeal the UK's libel laws, in the interests of free speech, no ifs, no buts.

3. Stop bureaucratic CRB checks and vetting of adults who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults, in the interests of free association between generations and countering the climate of mistrust.

4. Repeal any equality legislation that interferes with the freedom of private organisations like churches and political parties to act on their beliefs, in the interests of free association.

5. Revoke unnecessary and nonsensical health and safety rules and guidelines in the interests of countering today's risk-averse, safety-first climate of fear.

6. Allow pubs and clubs the option of permitting smoking, and get rid of the new 'no drinking zones', in the interests of countering the over-regulation of public spaces.

7. Scrap the 'database state', including the ContactPoint database which holds information about every child in the country and the DNA database which includes details of criminal suspects without convictions, in the interests of civil liberties, the privacy of families and the principle that we are innocent until proven guilty.

8. Limit the police's power to detain people without charge to 24 hours rather than 28 days, in the interests of civil liberties and due process.

9. Declare an amnesty for all illegal immigrants presently in the UK, whether asylum seekers or economic migrants, in the interests of recognising the positive aspirations of those who seek to improve their lives by moving countries.

10. Open the borders, revoking all immigration controls, in the interests of the free movement of citizens.

Re CONSTITUTION

11. Get rid of police Tsars and unelected 'experts' from government decision-making in the interests of parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability.

12. Abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords in the interests of a fully elected legislature and executive.

13. Hold a referendum on the EU constitution and any subsequent treaties, in the interests of a national democratic mandate.

Re ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

14. Direct state expenditure into infrastructural projects such as power grids and telecommunications, increased facilities for road, rail and air travel, in the interests of productive economic growth.

15. Build new nuclear power stations across the country in the interests of ensuring we have more than sufficient energy to power a new round of economic growth.

16. Reduce the onerous regulation of new scientific and technological developments such as GM technology and biomedicine in the interests of increasing R&D and encouraging innovation.

Re PUBLIC SERVICES

17. Stop excessive centralisation and bureaucratic control of public services, enabling professionals to make judgements in the interests of those using the services rather than artificial targets.

18. Scrap the 'impact statement' demands on university research in the interests of valuing knowledge for its own sake and academic freedom from policy outcomes.

19. Support the arts financially, for their own sake, in the interests of liberating them from ever more prescriptive and politicised instrumental demands.

20. Direct state funding of health to biomedical research into cures, the latest drugs and equipment, rather than punitive campaigns to change individual behaviour, in the interests of public health and good cheer.

21. Direct state funding of schools into providing universal access to the highest standard of education in academic subjects, rather than politicised cross curricular themes like sustainability or citizenship, in the interests of passing on real knowledge to our children.

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A Tory victory will mean 5 more years hard labour - we need a new politics
barry2010
barrycurtis
What exactly is the point of the forthcoming election? No-one I speak to is enthusiastic about any of the parties - Labour hovers around 30% in the polls whilst the Tories might register 37%, and even these figures are more attributable to people thinking x or y is the lesser evil rather than a commitment to a policy outline. Even if the Tories win, it might not be enough to secure an overall majority, so we’ll be left with a hung Parliament (if only), leading to more deals by consensus. The problem is there is no contest over ideology, no battle of ideas. The three main parties all agree that the only way to cut the budget deficit is through swingeing cuts to services (it’s just a case of the timing and which services should be cut first). There are no competing ideas about how we might rejuvenate the economy to ensure long-term growth, only a fatalistic sense that things have to get worse. Cameron’s idea that “we are all in this together” or Brown’s “a future fair for all” are techniques to carry the populace along with the ‘necessary’ cuts - presumably so as to avoid potential political battles that have gripped Greece.

Just as the consensual elite are using the election to obtain a mandate for further economic mismanagement, they similarly want tacit approval for what has been described as the “nanny state”, though I think “nunny state” might be more appropriate since the elites behave like a bunch of nuns dishing out codes of conduct based on new holy scriptures. The smoking ban in enclosed public places may well extend to open spaces as it has in some American cities, justified by the idea that children shouldn’t see anyone smoke. There is also a discussion about the problem of electronic cigarettes which, whilst currently legal to use inside pubs and on transport, seem to be a loophole for people to get round the legislation. Never mind that these devices cause no harm to anyone else, the ‘problem’ seems to be that the moral message against individuals letting loose hasn’t been thoroughly inhaled. Cameron wants to go further than our present New Labour administration in converting the NHS from an institution that simply treats the sick to one that constantly preaches about healthy living - never drink more than 2 pints of beer a night, get your 5-a-day fruit and veg, 2-a-day wholewheat products (or whatever), Omega 3 supplements and carrot juice. The latest gem of wisdom to emerge from the present Government regarding exercise is that fat people should dance whenever the radio is on - perhaps to the song “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”. They must fink we’re fick.

Hence Cameron wants to rename the Department of Health as the Department of ’Public’ Health, indicating his desire to strengthen nunnying tendencies. As Tory Andrew Lansley says, “We believe that the positive choices that promote wellbeing will come through more information, better role models and positive social norms. So we will use the latest academic research in social psychology and behavioural economics to harness the potential that people already have to lead healthy, productive and satisfying lives.” In other words, the Tories will rig all the media so that only “positive” role models get an airing and “unhealthy” choices are squeezed out of culture, and they will use the latest research from ‘social psychology’ and ‘behavioural economics’ to ensure the public is obedient. Ever heard of ‘social engineering’, Andrew?

On the environment, the elite can offer nothing other than exhortations to drive 5 miles less per week, turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees, and don’t leave the telly on standby. Even if we did all this, it is doubtful that climate change will stop happening, global warming might merely be postponed for a couple of months. Yet this is all our non-visionary leaders can imagine as a response to climate change.

Once upon a time, elections were a chance to change the direction of society. But for that to happen, we need a new batch of politicians with new ideas, not merely a new set of spin-doctors (about which Cameron can claim at least 27 in the Parliamentary Conservative Party). For new ideas to emerge in society, and thus reflected in any future election debate, there needs to be more questioning of the present. And people need to be armed with the logic necessary to resist things like the crackdown on “alcohol abuse” (that is, banning happy hours) and the vetting legislation which is necessarily socially corrosive - it entails one is suspected of being a paedo until proven innocent.

Unfortunately some policies over the last few years have chipped away at the right to free speech, most recently the banning of the dodgy sect Islam4UK under Terrorism legislation. Whilst it is only blatantly false ideas that get banned and right-wing nutters that get refused visiting visas, the problem is that the whole of public discourse withers when bans are introduced. This is because good ideas don’t get tested and can therefore only be held dogmatically as acts of blind faith. Regarding the banning of Islam4UK, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said, “Now ministers need to look at how they are going to ban other groups in the UK which are part of broader international networks of extremism.” This suggests that a Conservative government will be even more authoritarian than their predecessors, but a rejuvenated Labour, if given another 5-year mandate, will be just as bad. We need a new Opposition, but it is difficult for it to take off in these censorious and mistrustful circumstances. However we could use the election in order to question the point of the election, in terms of meaningful democracy, as a starting point.

So what really is the point of this election? It seems to me the whole process is akin to when Doctor Who regenerates. An unpopular elite that lacks legitimacy (like the Doctor dying) is seeking a mandate in order to gain new legitimacy (regenerating) and thus continue to govern. But whereas Doctor Who has the best interests of humanity at heart, it is difficult to see what constituency the main parties are supposed to represent. Rather than Doctor Who, perhaps it’s a case of Doctor Why.





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Why "Bully" Brown is preferable to Camp Cameron
barrycurtis

David Cameron has demanded a full inquiry into the so-called “Bullygate” affair whereby PM Gordon Brown is supposed to have “abused” Downing Street staff by shouting at them, grabbing their lapels, and shoving them aside. For Cameron this is just another opportunistic excuse to attempt to bash Labour at the polls, but it shows that an incoming Tory administration will have even less regard for democracy than their predecessors.

Part of the structure of our democracy is that there is a civil service which does the elected Government’s bidding. The Bullygate story reveals this relationship is not functioning properly. Prime Ministers who are supposed to be ideologically driven and accountable to the electorate are bound to get irate when civil servants make cock-ups like losing discs containing sensitive data. Because they have a programme to pursue that might be at odds with the inherent conservatism of the civil service, shouting and physical acts that are common in any high-pressure environment are likely to occur. What is weird in this case is that the civil servants have interpreted this as “abuse” and squealed to the National Bullying Helpline. The civil service needs to get a grip and counselling is unlikely to help in this regard. And Tory leader David Cameron and those parts of the media that are cynically exploiting the story to score cheap opportunistic points against the Labour administration need to realise that their contributions are only undermining effective democracy.

Consider the alternative that Bullygate fanatics seem to prefer: all Downing Street meetings must be conducted with the utmost politeness and respect, no heated arguments, no displays of masculine aggression etc. This wouldn’t be a visionary democracy - it would be akin to a meeting of the Church council. Changing the world in the way you see fit - which used to be reason why people entered politics - would be out of the equation since there is no passion for any principle. All that would happen is making sure things tick along - we’d have leaders which inspire people even less than Gordon Brown.

To conclude, Bullygate is the latest stage in the broader process of the death of politics and the emptying out of democracy. In my mind, the problem with Labour is that they haven’t been political enough - merely managing things rather than delivering progressive social changes. But now it is effectively alleged that the only problem with Brown is that he is too wild. Well if this is how the election is to be conducted, democracy is the biggest loser.

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Is the phenomenon of "green economics" a symptom of capitalism in decline?
barrycurtis

The Weekly Worker has published the following letter by yours truly.

Green bubble

Paul B Smith is right to identify the concept of capitalist decline as a breakdown in the functioning of the law of value and the fact that the ‘free market’ becomes a contradiction in terms (Letters, January 14).

The state has assumed the role of a life-support machine for capitalism, pumping into the banks huge sums of money to prevent the thing from completely dying, whilst wages are cut (primarily by cutting hours) and pension funds raided.

The latest phase in the breakdown of the system is surely encapsulated in the weird phenomenon known as ‘green economics’, which Barack Obama and Gordon Brown are eager to promote. Under green economics, production that is held to disturb nature is fined, whilst the decline of manufacturing gets rewarded. Subsequently, there is a ‘carbon market’ that was worth $64 billion in 2007.

Carbon dioxide, as a waste product, has no use, yet it is exchanged as if it had value. The price of carbon can only be determined by bureaucratically invented targets regarding how much carbon needs to be purged from production (in Britain, 60% by 2050). The carbon market, by penalising actual producers, allows for a transfer of funds from the productive economies of the east to stagnant economies like Britain’s. In turn, some of this money gets paid to underdeveloped regions in order that they do not develop (the trees must be left standing).

The green economic bubble that is being created here depends on brainwashing the world with environmentalist ideology. Thus the Copenhagen summit was billed as a success, not because it achieved anything concrete regarding global warming, but because it encouraged everyone to think green. Commodity fetishism has been tweaked to imply we should fetishise green products and sneer at ungreen products. Green products are notoriously more expensive - I recently saw a notebook made from recycled elephant shit retailing for £5, 10 times the price of an ungreen notebook.

For paying the extra money, you are supposed to get a warm green glow inside. People who buy the green products are labelled ‘ethical shoppers’ and they look down on everyone else. Thus green economics provides the elite with a sense that they are special in an age where old-fashioned ideas of racial supremacy are no longer acceptable.

The green bubble, like all bubbles, will pop one day. But there is an urgent need for a critique of green economics, so that we can understand what is going on when that happens.

Barry Curtis


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The crackdown on alcohol abuse is illiberal and not based on sound evidence
barrycurtis


Yesterday Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced plans to ban all-you-can-drink and speed-drinking promotions in pubs. It seems the days of the happy hour which many of us enjoyed in our youth will not exist for the next generation. But are these plans a good idea, and are they supported by an analysis of the evidence about binge drinking?

Should there be a minimum charge of 50p per unit of alcohol?

What would be achieved by this charge?

How much is it safe to drink?

Would minimum pricing reduce the amount we drink?

Would minimum pricing reduce the number of deaths from alcoholism?

Should health be our main consideration or are there other principles such as liberty that should inform the discussion?

These issues are dealt with in an article I've had published here. I argue forcefully that minimum pricing and the whole crackdown on "alcohol abuse" is based on dubious evidence and is seriously misguided. It will not help genuine problem drinkers and it will mess up life for the rest of us. Enjoy responsibly!




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