We need to talk about UKIP…

There should be nothing more absurd than a former investment banker calling on the working classes to help him “topple the establishment”; but the line between absurdity and normality has become blurred in Britain these days.

Another example of our impending, ever-expanding and all-consuming absurdity is the total media blanket surrounding the Green Party’s steady and considerable success in the recent election. Although our progress wasn’t much of an “earthquake”, I believe it still deserved more than two or three articles written in a slightly sarcy tone on the BBC website.

When you compare this with the strange, morbid fascination BBC executives seem to have developed about UKIP; what with all their “surge”, and “momentum”, I start to feel that there’s something wrong with the way news is reported. Reporting the success of the Greens is to concede validity to their ideas, and to confront the status quo. No wonder the main corporate-owned media outlets are reluctant to talk about it. (Another complication, by the way, to the argument surrounding press freedom.)

UKIP is a party based on deception, idiocy and sheer luck. They put their success down to disillusionment with ‘the establishment’, as if somehow they are separate from that establishment. What exactly do they mean by that label? Apart from their radical and nonsensical approach to the EU, their policies are just Tory, but much more so. They are still in favour of benefit cuts combined with tax cuts for the richest: all the neo-liberal tripe that most voters despise. To top it all off, their policy regarding climate change is simply to ignore it. First class thinking there.

What UKIP voters want is a return to the 40s; without seeming to realise that the modernity which they so fear is a consequence of over reliance on the US, not the EU. Those are the bedrock of UKIP support, who have been there for some time. The others are more likely to be financially insecure, politically dispossessed voters (which is almost all of them) who want to send a message, without properly examining the fine-print of their own letter.

Immigration is a topic with which many sympathise; personally it’s never bothered me until recently, when I attempted to understand the viewpoint of older generations. The Britain they knew is vastly changed, in ways my generation can’t truly comprehend.

On balance, immigration is something which has so-far enriched us, but also something to be considered and controlled. I don’t doubt that Farage overstates fears of a Romanian “flood”, but if we don’t wisen up, we may start to see the sectarian strife which so plagues the French authorities.

I hope rumours of a UKIP- National Front alliance to disrupt the EU parliament is unfounded; I can’t think of anything less constructive to do with our money, as European citizens.

 

 

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The EU, Clegg, Farage: what are they good for?

I wasn’t disappointed with the Farage/Clegg debate; it gave me a chance to seriously mull the EU issue myself.

Let me start by saying this: Nigel Farage is a ridiculous man who lies to the British people everyday. It’s part of his job as leader of UKIP, a party whose base must consist primarily of drunken infants.

He likes to present himself as a beer-drinking country chap, a real Brit who finds himself appalled at the ghastly red tape imposed by Brussels. You see, this anti-establishment, ‘wild-cannon’ image suits him much better than the image of a London stockbroker who went to public school and rubbed shoulders very closely with ‘establishment’ figures. People who describe him a ‘likeable personality’ are being led up the garden path.

Nick Clegg is a man slandered by history; he saw a chance for his small, idealistic party to grasp real power for the first time in almost a century. He took that chance and became a figure of public ridicule, labelled as a Tory poodle by socialists who wish he had done more to restrict the Conservatives. But I’d rather we had slightly neo-liberal policies that a political system governed by dogmatic, tantrum throwing leaders. It’s one of the blessed things that sets us apart from our American cousins.

I didn’t watch all of the first debate, but the second was fairly interesting. Clegg was seen to be shouty and insecure, especially in the first half, but I think he calmed down towards the end. Farage clearly won over immigration and the burden it puts on our infrastructure. With regards to the amount of legislation and bureaucracy in Brussels, the winner was more unclear, although you’d expect Farage to take a lead there.

Farage railed against the competition for jobs between white working class Brits and EU immigrants. He complained that EU immigration is a good deal for the rich and wealthy, claiming that they gained submissive and grateful ‘servants’. A good cord to strike with his core supporters. Clegg couldn’t reply on national television in the way he should have: Farage can easily count himself a member of the rich and powerful, and white working class people are losing to jobs to Bulgarians because they think menial jobs beneath them.

Clegg stressed the need to maintain our ‘economic clout’ in the world; Farage said that we could trade with India, China and other emerging and/or Commonwealth countries instead, and that we needn’t be bound to an outdated, protectionist institution like the EU Customs Union.

Interesting how neither even contested the legitimacy of using ‘free trade’ as a by-word for prosperity and growth. Time was when the British left were horrified of the EU and its potential for enforcing the capitalist agenda over the wishes of trade unions and working people, but we gave up that distaste for the prospect of a left-wing agenda in Brussels. We couldn’t win an election at home, so we subscribed to a distant beaurocracy in the hope it would implement socialist. Michael Foot put it wonderfully:

“We can disagree about whether the EU has been a socialist or capitalist influence, but it is undeniable that it wields that influence without asking the people.”

The British left-wing needs to ‘grow a pair’ generally, but on this particular issue we have particularly let ourselves down. We have left Euro-scepticism to be hijacked by right-wing nutters who want to blame it for every social ill.

I personally believe that Britain can have a future in the EU; but as Clegg said, you need to commit before you can enact change.

  • Political Union must be scaled back to the common-market.
  • That common market must ensure only an absence of border tariffs, and must not include any other obligations or restrictions on worker’s rights.
  • The Euro should be destroyed as an institution.
  • An EU central bank should be formed, to provide unconditional loans to member states in times of severe financial crisis, with very low interest rates.
  • Each member state should pay into that central bank with a lump sum each year, according to that country’s GDP.
  • The central bank should provide loans to Green Energy initiatives throughout the EU.
  • The Tobin Tax should be implemented at a set level throughout the EU; this new tax should help member states pay the annual fee.
  • The European parliament should gain more members, elected from smaller constituencies, to provide a more direct democracy.
  • The European Commission should be made answerable to the European Parliament in all things.

These demands are in line with the two main challenges facing Western civilisation in the 21st century: extremes of wealth and poverty, and climate change.

A Europe-wide Tobin Tax would decrease the likelihood of mass financial migration to the US; banks would find it harder to withdraw from the whole of Europe than from a single country. The Tobin Tax would equip governments with more power to deal with social ills, as well as reducing economic inequality.

An EU central bank would be uniquely placed to provide Green Energy with the initial boost it needs to grow.

I’m sorry if you feel this was a bit long and tedious, but it’s important I say what I feel.

A Culture of Climate Indifference

Reluctance to act conclusively to avert Climate Change is an interesting topic, especially because it is something with the power to seriously hurt us. Scientific research into the question has gone far enough now to make sceptics no longer credible to the vast body of people. And yet still there is very little action by governments or by people, except by those middle class do-gooders of whom even I complain.

Those 28 Greenpeace activists deserve a lot of respect from us all, because they have been detained by the Russians unjustly, in light of actions that were designed to highlight the errors of our society. They are being moved to St Petersburg from Murmansk, and should be there by Saturday. They come from 28 countries, and they represent an increasing body of resistance to the harmful way we live our lives.

The greatest irony of the Climate Change question is this: The cosmopolitan hipsters who most often complain of it are the very people so harmful to the movement. Their ‘modern’ and ‘enlightened’ attitudes of superficial freedom and mindless individualism have led to a culture dependant on consumerism, waste and fossil fuels. To fight Climate Change, and to kerb its terrible consequences, we must act responsibly. We will be required to review and to correct our behaviour in a way that won’t be fun or enjoyable.

Consumer austerity will be a chore, like the comedian David Mitchell says: it won’t be fun or enjoyable in any way. But the rewards of cutting our consumption will be healthy in the long run. I don’t view it as healthy that children should be pampered the moment they leave the womb. I don’t want to live in a society were an advert is even allowed to read: “Tablets for all the family.”

Of course, these youngsters are not even in the same league of blame for our problems as the gas and oil giants that dominate our governments, our environment and our world. I didn’t mention them, as I feel my natural loathing of them would be assumed by any reader who had even skimmed through my blog.

Wind turbines aren’t crazy about you either, James Delingpole

Wind turbines have an uncanny ability to make right-wingers furious, and for that alone, they are worth a shot. One such furious right-winger, is the ever-so furious James Delingpole, whose written so extensively and venomously on the subject that I feel he can’t have had time to write anything important.

I rather enjoyed Delingpole’s latest writing on the subject, despite disagreeing with every word he wrote: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100232437/official-wind-turbines-are-an-iniquitous-assault-on-property-rights/

His main objections to the erection of these wondrous objects is that they obscure the view from what I’m sure is a delightfully quaint holiday home in the Edw Valley. He claims that they lower property values, ruining people’s lives and views. This is irrelevant nonsense.

Global Warming is something which will hugely affect all our lives for many generations to come, it’s the sort of problem which is very capable of making a serious dent in our civilisation. As global temperatures rise, sea levels will rise with them, flooding many of our towns and cities. National climates will be tampered with, causing all sorts of problems in all sorts of places. Water supplies will be diminished, storms and hurricanes will increase in strength and number. According to he National Geographic website: “Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.”

I’m sorry for the slight disturbance to James Delingpole’s holiday, I truly am. But when you balance a slight disruption to rural views against the collapse of civilisation, the destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods all around the globe, it really does pale in comparison. We must sacrifice some pleasures for continued survival. Wind turbines are a totally clean and renewable source of energy. As long as the sun shines, the wind will blow.

Mankind has harnessed the wind for centuries, in the form of sails and windmills and much else besides. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make use of it when avoiding our impending doom.

Defending my hippy views

When I first started on WordPress, I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the number of political writers that the site holds. I assumed it was a website filled with failed travel writers, but kenpruitt666 has proved me wrong.

This guy, who from now on I’ll call ‘ken’, is staunchly capitalist, and favours market forces over common sense. I’ve had to defend my arguments from him many times in the past, but I am by no means bitter.

I think its healthy that I should be challenged from time to time, and if anyone wants to get a debate started then they’re perfectly welcome to. I’m going to handle his latest rebuttal in this posting:

It is not unusual that we hear cries in the media about there not being enough jobs. A standard jobs rant runs something like this; “The government’s plan isn’t creating jobs, it’s destroying jobs! We need a new policy towards creating jobs and stimulating employment!”

This complaint is flawed in that it uses the very general term, “jobs.” What kind of jobs in what sectors? Should they be full-time jobs or part-time jobs? When you say that “We need jobs!” you’re actually creating far more questions than you’re answering.

It’s perfectly reasonable for normal people to demand that the government they elected improve their living conditions by whatever way possible, and if that includes job creation then you free marketeers are just going to have to grin and bear it, because government is responsible for all that happens within it borders, economically or otherwise. (Excluding marriages.) Government has improved economies in the past, and it can do so again. I simply don’t believe that we have to let the market sort out society in its own time, rather than taking action now.

By creating more businesses, we create more jobs. Full-time are preferable to part-time, but any jobs are better than no jobs. When people have jobs they take responsibility as citizens, and they are also more likely to invest in businesses and start up businesses of their own. The whole economy is improved by more people having more money, rather than having mountains of cash in the hands of  minority. Its for that reason that the living wage is such a good idea, as I’ve said in the past.

“The point of my last point was to point out that all of the so-called green jobs, like those jobs such as fracking, have environmental trade-offs. I mentioned the wind-farms upsetting the ecosystem by killing thousands of birds, for instance. So the point is this; the government taking over the energy industry and investing in so-called “green technology” isn’t going to make us safer or healthier, since all of the “green technology” so heavily touted by environmentalists each have their own environmental trade-offs.”

I think we can all agree that in the grand scheme of things, trading our carbon-intensive economy for a green-economy would easily make for a healthier world, regardless of a few lost birds. The difference is that millions of tonnes of CO2 are worse for the environment than the deaths of a couple seagulls.

“Now with regards to it being within the interests of the rich to keep us dependent on fossil fuels, let me ask you this MarxistMax; aren’t there rich people in the “green energy” business who have a massive interest in government funding of “green technology?” You are subsidizing the interests of the “rich” no matter what you do. If you say the government should nationalize the energy industry, then it can only do so in one of two ways; either it must, using public funds, buy the businesses from those businessmen who own said industries, or it must seize them forcefully from those said businessmen. But even if you nationalize the entire energy industry, the government will still have to do business with those parties outside of the energy industry, and the extortionist, backroom deals that will ensue from this will know no bounds and no ends. The interests of the “rich” are once again subsidized.”

This is a good point, and a difficult one to counter. What I meant is that a publicly owned energy industry would be able to keep prices low for home owners, as well as shifting investment to green energy, and that between those two objectives a publicly owned industry would be more beneficial for the public. As opposed to a privately owned industry which works only for profit.

“In his last post, he was saying that it is imperative to get away from fossil fuels on the basis of environmental concerns. Now he’s saying that we need to invest in the green sector on the basis of job creation.

First and foremost, there is what is seen and what is not seen. What is seen is that, yes, government spends money creating jobs. What is not seen is that when the government takes it’s revenue, it by necessity destroys an employment opportunity for someone else, so the actual net balance of jobs created is zero, if not less than zero.”

Both job-creation and environmental protection are valid reasons for ‘getting away from fossil fuels’. They are both as important as the other. It’s a ‘Two birds one stone’ situation.

That taxpayers money will make much more of an impact when rolled into one than if spent on sweeties and magazines by a thousand separate civilians. It is important to get civilians spending, but the government can do more with that money than civilians can.

“If the demand for fossil fuels shifts to alternative energies as a result of the tax, then jobs will disappear in the fossil fuel industry (creating unemployment) as jobs in the new green sector begin to boom. You’re merely transferring jobs from one sector to another sector, and this creates its own set of problems.”

A more accurate description would be of a nation shifting its focus from carbon to green, and thereby exchanging an economy built on destruction and exploitation for an economy based on co-operation and the value of human beings.

There is one final issue to address with the sort of manipulative policies addressed earlier; people are not pawns on a chessboard that you can move at your whim. You’re looking at society as if it were a chessboard and saying, “if only we could get a smarter player to move the pieces. Then we could achieve results X, Y, and Z.” Before you interject and say that this is a strawman, let me remind you of what you wrote.

“let me now ask you this; how many men throughout history have looked at the whole of mankind with grand visions of regimentation and guided production, and how many people died because those same men tried to implement these grand visions? They believed that they could instill all-around regimentation within the life of man, and the result has always been mass poverty, mass murder, and mass political corruption. They manipulated the world around them as though they were God, they instituted their vision because they thought they were the ones who would save civilization from inevitable collapse, and the people at large are the ones who paid the price.”

For a right-winger, this is hugely hypocritical. In the States, I’m well aware that people are genuinely terrified of ‘social engineering’, but let me put this to you:

Does not any politician, or civilian with a point of view, wish to make his mark? Does not any president or prime minister wish to change things to the way he wishes they could be? The whole point of politics is that you change things to the way you think they should be, so long as enough people agree with you.

A VERY large difference between me and Stalin, Hitler or any mass-murdering dictator you care to mention is that I DON’T USE VIOLENCE. I can’t believe this even needs to be said! If people don’t like my opinions then they can simply stop reading. I’m not trying to ‘instill all-around regimentation’.

If I was ever to try something like that, then I’m sure those ‘good guys with guns’ would stop me outright.

Fracking is dangerous, harmful and above all irrelevant

Fracking is an issue hotly contested in the UK. Since its introduction in the US, many environmental concerns have been raised about its use.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It involves great quantities of water being forced at high pressure into shale-rock, causing the rock to fracture, split open and release natural gases which can then be used as fuel.

One of the major concerns is that the underground water supply will become contaminated by carcinogenic chemicals which escape the site of fracturing and leak into underground wells. Industry experts claim that this is due to mal-practice rather than a fundamentally flawed system.

Another issue is the huge quantity of water required for the process. When drinking water is already in such short supply around the globe (and only likely to become scarcer due to climate change) is seems wasteful to be using it in such a bashful way. The water does of course need to be taken great distances, and this will have its environmental impact in the form of transport emissions.

But above all the practical issues, it seems fundamentally wrong to be finding new ways to violate and exploit our natural environment when we know and we have known for such a very long time that renewables must be developed soon. To me, this is a step in completely the wrong direction that only climate change deniers could give any credence to.

It not simply oil & coal vs gas. We need to talk about our consumption levels. If every human being consumed as much as the average US citizen, we would need five earths. We needn’t even look at this as a constraint, rather as an oppurtunity for a different, more equal and less wasteful society.

If we don’t invest heavily in renewable sources of energy production, we will only have ourselves to blame when fossil fuels run out and anarchy reigns. According to some, that will not be so very long:

Proponents of the introduction of Fracking to the UK tend to rely on the argument that it will drive prices down, and that it will give the UK energy security for the forseeable future.

They are frightened of renewables. They think of them as the pet project of hippies, vastly inefficient, costly and against market principles. They think that introducing fracking will drop prices due to market mechanisms, creating a better country for all.

To them I say this: energy production and consumption will always be problems until the government nationalises the industry, and when it does, it should spend its time investing in our future, and not wasting valuable years on fracking.

 

Sources/ Further Reading:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13507126

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14432401

http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/energy-independence/the-end-of-fossil-fuels

http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/energy-independence/climate-change