Saturday, 30 October 2010

Economically valuing 'ecosystem services': a triumph for ecological economics, or merely for capitalism?

These two dramatic developments in recent days [see links below], especially that at Nagoya, seem to offer great hope. But are they really as good news as they appear? As argued in my paper in THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GREEN ECONOMICS a couple of years ago ( ), I am deeply concerned that the sudden move to accepting the financial valuation of ecosystem services (1) embraces a brand of anthropocentrism that in fact aims stand opposed to ecocentrism (because the financial numbers are all based on capitalist economics, which attributes no real value to nature, only to human wants), (2) delegitimises moves to value nature on other grounds (once we have a number attached to nature, won't people who say that it is priceless be told not just that they are merely sentimentalising, but that they are factually mistaken?), (3) is incoherent and so vulnerable to attack (because nature - and ourselves - IS/ARE priceless: it is literally absurd to put a price on a breathable atmosphere, etc.), (4) involves a pernicious set of propagandistic linguistic manoeuvres (are they 'ecosystem services' or are they the ecology of nature, of life itself?).

Let us keep our daylight!

Do read this, if you are interested in understanding how even Scotland would benefit from the clocks not going back tonight:

Stopping slavery and stopping climate chaos: On slaves and 'fire-slaves'

This very thoughtful post  carefully makes the argument that those opposing serious action on dangerous climate-change eerily echo the arguments of those who opposed serious action to stop slavery. It points out for example the striking parallels that exist between the arguments of the capitalists who called for only voluntary action to reduce the negative impact of slavery, and the arguments of the capitalists who call now for only voluntary action to reduce the negative impact of manmade climate change.
    But the parallels can be taken one stage further:
    Global over-heating is happening because of our burning of ever more fossil fuels. This burning gives us access to a vast energy glut, compared to which almost all the preceding existence of human beings has been extraordinarily low energy. But Peak Oil and the soon-to-follow Peak Gas mean that this glut will be temporary. In future, people will not have access to cheap energy in vast amounts; and they will have to deal with the potentially-utterly-dire consequences of our burning up fossil fuels into greenhouse gases like there is literally no tomorrow... In effect, we have grown accustomed to depending on what I call 'fire-slaves', to run our cars, to heat our homes, to do just about everything that our economy-on-speed depends upon. We use (up) non-renewable fire-slaves in huge numbers - thus depriving tomorrow of access to them, and heaping on tomorrow a dire burden of climate instability.
    In other words: like the slavers before us, we today, in our profligate and selfish use of 'fire-slaves', are imposing terrible costs -- unfreedoms, manmade 'natural' disasters, sicknesses unto death -- on other human beings. Unlike the slavers, we can't see most of them, for most of them have yet to be born. But that doesn't lessen our responsibility. It just makes it all the more acute. For at least a few slaves managed to escape, to survive, to win their freedom. At least the slaves triumphed in the end, and the proud American South was even defeated, humbled over the issue (and a damn good thing too). Whereas: if we are not careful we will utterly trap our descendants into a life (or death) where they are energy-poor while having to cope with disasters which Hurricane Katrina and the like are only trailers for. For them, there will be no escape.
    We ought to think long and deep about the parallels between being soft on slavery and being soft on climate-inaction. When this parallel really strikes us as it ought, and when we wake up at last to care for future people like our own children (have a listen to me here for more on this:  ), then we may begin to turn the corner, as we succeeded in doing on slavery two centuries ago -- despite all the dire warnings about how it would mean economic ruin, etc. ...

Friday, 29 October 2010

UN to Impose Geoengineering Moratorium on Risky Climate Techno-Fixes

This is very important good news. Geoengineering puts our ecosystems at dire risk (and distracts from actually fixing the climate - which is why Newt Gingrich loves it).

...Major victory for common sense as hacking of planetary ecosystems is premature until such time as all other options are exhausted; and until there are global protocols, consensus and a sound scientific basis for any geoengineering that may or may not occur.

October 29, 2010
From Earth's Newsdesk and Climate Ark, projects of Ecological Internet (EI) |

NAGOYA, Japan - Ecological Internet welcomes reports that the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments. This is a tremendous victory for the ETC Group's "Hands Off Mother Earth" campaign [1], which has carefully researched and presented the case for such a moratorium on "planet hacking", and with whom Ecological Internet is affiliated. "Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus," stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group. The ETC Group's full press release on the victory, as well as the full text of the agreement, is included below.

In announcing the outcome, the ETC Group publicly thanked Ecological Internet "for help winning a moratorium on Geoengineering" and particularly those that had "written to CBD delegates and spread the word. Many many thanks for your active campaigning. Your letters. really had an impact." This is in reference to Ecological Internet's Earth Action Network's largest online email protest ever, where people from 83 countries sent 1,806,339 protest emails to CBD delegates just before the conference commenced [2]. Each delegate received just over 2,000 letters - just enough to make a critical ecological point, while being minimally disruptive - letting those in positions of power to doing something, that global citizens are opposed to geoengineering. It appears to have made a huge difference in the outcome.

"Ecological Internet is simply thrilled to have been involved with the ETC Group led campaign to place a moratorium on geoengineering. The atmosphere is a global commons, and 'hacking' it to avoid reducing emissions, protecting old forests, and ending coal and tar sands is dangerous and irresponsible. The precautionary principle clearly justifies a ban on large-scale geoengineering experiments and implementation, until all other options are exhausted, and there are global protocols, consensus and a sound scientific basis for any geoengineering that may or may not occur," explains Dr. Glen Barry, EI's President. "This is almost certainly the biggest victory EI's large global network, together with allies, has ever achieved - as without this UN guidance, almost certainly private interests and climate-negligent countries were poised to launch large-scale, risky experiments upon our shared biosphere."

### MORE ###

Geoengineering is the proposed large scale manipulation of Earth's oceans, soils and atmosphere with the intent of combating climate change. Geoengineering advocates have put forward a wide range of proposals to artificially modify these ecosystems to address climate change including: blasting sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun; dumping iron particles in the oceans to grow CO2-absorbing plankton; firing silver iodide into clouds to produce rain; genetically engineering crops to have reflective leaves; spraying seawater into clouds to make clouds whiter; dumping large quantities of plant matter into the ocean, and burning plants from a huge land area to produce charcoal for burying in soils.  Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering [3] is a new publication by ETC Group that provides an overview of the issues involved.

Ecological Internet holds that modifying Earth at a planetary scale is so complex, and ecological and other side effects potentially so severe, that clearly humanity is incapable of safely engineering a biosphere. EI advocates for this and other ecologically sufficient positions necessary to achieve global ecological sustainability. This is the eighth major conservation victory for EI in 2010, though EI's massive global network operates under the radar of most media, NGOs and the public. Sadly, Ecological Internet is chronically under-funded, depending upon network members for funding, and may have to close or significantly cutback operations - after all funds are expended - if the current 11th annual year-end fund-raiser does not pick up [4]. EI urges participation in its current alert to halt the Tar Sands pipeline through B.C., Canada's temperate rainforests [5].

### ENDS ###

[1] Hands Off Mother Earth (H.O.M.E) | Stop Geoengineering

[2] Action Alert: Demand Upcoming Global Biodiversity Meeting Bans Geoengineering

[3] Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering

[4] EI 2010 Year-End Fund-Raiser: Raising the Roof on Global Ecological Sustainability
Please donate now to celebrate this victory!

[5] ALERT! Canada Risks Pacific Coastal and Temperate Rainforest Ecosystems for Tar Sands Pipelines and Further Oil Addiction

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Immediate abandonment of NDR called for by Green Party Leaders, after announcement of funding withdrawal

Following the Government's announcement yesterday that there is as yet no funding for a Northern Distributor Road, Green Party councillors havecalled for the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) to withdraw the Joint Core Strategy (JCS). 
    Councillor Phil Hardy said 'This announcement makes it clear that there is no funding for an NDR before a further review in December 2011.  This removes any case that the JCS plan can be implemented based around the NDR.  This news simply makes the JCS plan unsound and it should now be withdrawn immediately.  This would be good news for many people who oppose the housing allocations and the high carbon transport strategy.  Now is the time for the GNDP to go back to the drawing board and develop a Plan B that is low carbon, public transport led with more realistic housing allocations.
    Green Party councillors are also calling for the NDR to be abandoned as a policy at the County Council.  Councillor Marcus Hemsley said 'The Government clearly don't think the Councils have made a good case for the NDR.  They have dragged their feet for years on funding and have now put off making further decisions. Meanwhile, the County Council has wasted well over £10m in trying to develop the road whilst public services are suffering.  We are demanding, at this time of major cuts to public services, that no further money is spent on the road and the Council formally abandon it as a policy'.
    Concerns are also being raised about the way the plan was developed behind closed doors by the GNDP.   Councillor Claire Stephenson said "The public have been excluded from the GNDP meetings throughout the last 4 years as it developed its plan.  Most elected councillors have also been excluded.  Neither these councillors, nor the public, could see the minutes or agendas of meetings.  The result has been a plan that is hugely unpopular and the public feeling trodden over.  We are calling for the governance of the GNDP to be completely reviewed so that a Plan B can be developed with the full involvement of the public and scrutiny by all elected councillors.'
RR's comment: Finally, we may be seeing the beginning of the end of this white elephant road plan. What a disgrace, that millions upon millions of pounds have been blown by the Council on a plan that was never a good idea, and never likely to come to fruition.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

'Speed Kills in cutting Council budgets'


This serves as a warning to the Tories (and ConDems) that if we cut too quickly we'll end up spending more.  

Rail thoughts : I'm broadly supportive of this campaign, though not particularly of the 'Norwich in 90' component thereof! FAR more important than time-reductions on the timetable is improving the reliability of train services, and working to reduce or eliminate the weekend repair schedule which devastate weekend rail travel in our Region. Surveys show this again and again: people don't mind much about 10 minutes on a timetable; what they mind about is hours of uncertainty or delay in real life.
As for the changes that the government are proposing to make to rail franchises: It is all very well to extend the franchise to 12 or 15 years, but what would be better would be to extend the franchise to permanency - while taking it back 'in house'! I.e. Renationalise the railways. That is the only cure to a balkanized rail system which has resulted in obscenely vast private profits at public expense without any improvement in service level, let alone safety.
It is a crying shame that the dominance of neoliberalism in our political system means that the Green Party remains the only Party committed to the obvious, commonsensical, popular answer: renationalise our railways, for a joined-up, more affordable public transport system.

"Utopias?: Changing the climate" Conference talk

Have a listen to my talk on 'Love or justice?' at a recent Conference in Australia, that I joined by audiolink (very very early in the morning, while still in my pajamas). 
You have to listen closely, but its worth it! ;-)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The depleted uranium MidEast megadeath  An important piece here on the vast crime of depleted uranium use by the UK/US forces in Iraq. I questioned Charles Clarke (then my MP) about this in the run-up to the criminal attack on Iraq in 2003. To my pleasant surprise, he insisted in reply that d.u. would not be used anywhere at all where it could harm civilians, in Iraq, and suggested to me that it was unlikely to be used at all by the British Armed Forces. To my unpleasant surprise since, these claims turned out to be entirely false.
Roddy's article rightly speaks of Britain's involvement in nothing less than nuclear war in the Mid-East. Our government committed what is (according to the Nuremberg tribunal) the supreme international crime, a war of aggression, in 2003, on the basis of the lie that Iraq had WMDs. But Britain and the U.S. did have WMDs, nuclear weapons - and they used them. Depleted uranium - i.e. in effect micro-nuclear-bombs, weapons that spread ultra-long-lasting nuclear death, wherever they are used - may well, as Roddy argues, kill hundreds of thousands or in the end maybe millions of people, in Iraq and the Region, and will contaminate it in a deadly fashion for tens and hundreds of millenia.
This is the sickening truth. And they did it in our names.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Meditation as an aid to mental health

I am giving a little talk (and a ‘practical’) as part of the upcoming UEA Wellbeing Week, under its ‘Mental Health & Philosophy’ rubric. The event will be at the Dean of Students' Office Meeting Room (on campus) running from 10am-11am on Monday 15th November.

The title of the event is:

'Meditation as an aid to mental health: A practical primer and some philosophical reflections'.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My response to the CSR:



We are about to witness the biggest spending review that this country has seen for a generation, with all of us being told to tighten our belts. No stone seems to be left unturned, as the coalition government seeks to balance the books that the bankers' irresponsibility has unbalanced: today the Armed forces and the BBC ( ), tomorrow the rest of us: everyone is braced for the next round of cuts. The greatest long-term threat to the country, and to our planet, is environmental destruction, including of course manmade climate change, but this has been consistently ignored. The government is actually cutting its ecological spending, giving the lie to its one-time (and now utterly laughable) claim of aiming to be the greenest government ever: ( )


Ordinary folk are being made to pay for the crisis which the bankers have brought upon us. This is plain wrong, Meanwhile, the biggest long-term problem this country, and this planet, face is dangerous climate change, and yet this seems to have been forgotten about.


500,000 jobs are going to be cut today including about 50,000 in the East of England. Is that really what our region needs at this moment in time, more people being thrown onto jobless queues? Rather than cutting services, jobs should be created by investing in renewable energy, insulating homes, and bringing redundant housing back into use. This government is cutting services that many rely on, cutting the budget for social housing, and forcing those who are disabled into jobs, while at the same time looking to renew Trident, which will not bring lasting jobs.

Scrapping Trident alone could save 100 billion pounds, and investment in renewable energy could produce jobs to replace those that will be lost due to this wrong-headed comprehensive spending review. The Green party will continues to fight these cuts across the villages, towns and cities of this Region, and will promote instead a fair society for all, including our children and their children. This is a time for green jobs, not for savage cuts.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Become a (Green?!) Councillor, here in the East of England!


A campaign has just been launched to encourage more East of England people to consider becoming a local councillor. Quite right too!

 Check it out: 

Website :

Blog :



  We in the Green Party are contributing by holding an event on Nov. 6 for anyone interested in becoming a Green Councillor here in the East. If you would like to take part, please get in touch with me ‘offblog’.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

A point about language - Don't say 'environment'.

It is important at every opportunity to speak of 'ecology' and
'ecosystems' rather than 'the environment'. The latter is too easily
assimilable to neoclassical economics, to 'us vs them' thinking about
nature, etc. .
The future is ecosystems and their restoration (or bust).
Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT]


We are eating into our 'natural capital' - report

What is crucial in this [below] is the link between economy and
ecosystem. This is where the GP's position is distinctive: Our Party
believes in one planet living! Other Parties presumably think that in a
moment or two we'll be off mining in space etc - pure fantasy...
WWF has launched the 2010 edition of the Living Planet Report

The report is published every 2 years and is considered to be the
leading, science-based analysis about the impact of human activity on
health of our planet. This is a big deal for us and we wanted to share
with you, our supporter, straight away.

It's key finding: humanity's demands exceed our planet's capacity to
sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have.

Why does this happen?

How can we change this and guarantee a healthy future for human kind?

You'll find some answers below:

== Learn ==
- How does the loss of species diversity affect you and me?

- Learn more about how key species populations have faired since 1970.

- Why do temperate species do better than tropical species?

- Who comes of worse? Terrestrial or Freshwater animals?

- Which countries makes the most demands on our planet, and which the

- How is this related to what we earn?

- And how "developed" we are?

== Explore ==

-- Find your country and see how it compares to other countries.

-- See what makes up the biggest components of our footprints.

-- Watch how the index for species populations move and change over

Download the Living Planet Report here
Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT]


Good decision, Neil McGregor

Quite right, for the 100th object in R4's series to be a solar light and charger (with, as I understand it, a mobile phone also that can be charged up from the solar charger?).
Solar is the future. If we are to have a future: solar is absolutely key. So this takes us from history to the future.
Good decision...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Scientists Call for Axe to Fall on Nuclear Weapons Research

 Nice to have some good news, for a change!:
Scientists Call for Axe to Fall on Nuclear Weapons Research

Press Release: Wednesday 13 October 2010.

36 science professors have today written to the Prime Minister calling on
him to protect core scientific research by cutting investment in
developing new nuclear weapons.

The scientists, who include ex-Royal Society head, Sir Michael Atiyah and
Nobel Prize winner, Sir Harold Kroto, highlight how £2bn a year, over 25%
of the government's total scientific research and development budget, is
currently spent by the Ministry of Defence (1).

Their objections focus on government funding of a multi-billion pound
research programme at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston,
aimed at developing new nuclear warheads. This year this science programme
received an additional £1bn of government funding, and this level of
'additional investment' is set to continue until 2013 (2).

These funds have enabled Aldermaston to buy 3 new supercomputers in the
last year, the latest reportedly the most powerful in the UK, at
undisclosed cost to the taxpayer (3). They are also set to fund a
controversial new hydrodynamics facility that will conduct experiments on
materials used to build nuclear warheads – again at undisclosed cost (4).

These developments are going ahead despite serious questions existing
about the future of the UK's nuclear weapons programme and a recent pledge
by Obama that the US will not develop new nuclear warheads (5).

Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global
Responsibility who co-ordinated the letter said, "It's completely
irrational to cut scientific research into medical and environmental
problems whilst pouring billions of pounds of research money into
facilities for designing new nuclear warheads."

He continued, "The Cold War is over. The major security threats we will
face in the coming years have their roots in problems like climate change
and resource shortages. These are the areas where more of our research
should be focussed, and yet the UK currently devotes 20 times more
research funding to military projects than to renewable energy. If cuts
have to come, it's clear to us that Aldermaston is where the axe should



For a copy of letter and full signatory list, visit

To organise interviews contact Stuart Parkinson at SGR on 07941 953640


1) UK Defence Statistics 2010. Table 1.8.

2) In 2009 Quentin Davies announced that investment at Aldermaston would
increase to £1bn a year up to the end of March 2013
(Column 136WS)

3) In May 2010 AWE bought two new supercomputers known as 'Willow' . Then in August 2010 AWE bought 'Blackthorn'
reputedly the UK's largest supercomputer –

4) AWE has also just received planning permission to build a controversial
hydrodynamics facility known as Hydrus – again at undisclosed cost.

5) New Nuclear Posture Review Briefing by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT]

The real crisis

Consumer confidence and people's confidence in their own financial futures has fallen to a new low. Bad news for the govt. And rightly so. But: let's not forget that there are bigger issues at stake. Pessimism about one's FINANCIAL future does not equate to pessimism about one's future full-stop. Speaking for myself, I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic about my own financial future; but I am pessimistic about my future, if we don't change the direction of our society soon. By the time I am old, there will be food shortages and possibly even warlordism, unless we manage as a species to rein in dangerous climate change, fast.
 There are much more serious threats out there than low financial consumer confidence. And it is time we got these things into comparative perspective. We badly need to think longer-term than we are used to doing.
 The cuts, economic downturn etc. will in retrospect seem small beer, compared to the vast ecological crisis that we are as a species brewing up for ourselves - unless we go Green fast.

Defend 'Consumer Focus'!

An important action to support, from my friends over at No Shock:
Do it, and then pass it on.

Greens select local candidate to spearhead crucial by-election campaign

In the last two days, I've helped in Witham (Essex) in the Council byelection there, and in Kentish Town (London) with the byelection campaign there. I'll be going down to help in Bury (Suffolk) in early November. But if you can go before then, Greens, then please do!:



The Greens have selected local resident Pippa Judd to stand as the candidate for the Suffolk County Council by-election caused by the recent resignation of County Councillor, Paul Farmer. The election will be held on Thursday 11 November.


Pippa lives with Ray and their baby daughter, Iona in the heart of Tower Division; on Victoria Street. Pippa is now based at home having previously been a manager of a counselling service for families. She has also worked in the NHS and for the charity, Age Concern.


Commenting on her selection, Pippa said:

" Like all mothers my daughter's future is vitally important to me. Standing as a Green candidate gives me the opportunity to play my part in creating that future for all of us.


It is not just about paying off the financial debt we leave for our children but the social and environmental debt too. For a secure future it's important that everyone has access to good and reliable services such as social care, health and education - and if elected to the County Council I would commit myself to working hard towards this".


This Thursday (14th October) at 11.30am Pippa plans to meet with parents, and their children, to discuss the plans by Suffolk County Council to outsource all of its services to listen to their views. The meeting will take place at Bury St Edmunds Library café area. Current Green Councillor for the Tower division, Mark Ereira-Guyer, will accompany her.


Mark added: "Having won one of the seats last year for the Greens, we will be all working very hard as a team to get Pippa elected. The council urgently needs younger people, especially women, coming forward with new ideas and fresh perspectives – Pippa is leading the way".




·         In the Suffolk County Council elections of June 2009 here in the Tower Division the Conservative and Green topped the poll. Two councillors were elected to represent the 16,000 people living in the area.  Paul Farmer, the Conservative has stood aside for health reasons and this has resulted in the by-election on Thursday 11 November.


·         Last year's result was as follows:


Conservative 2042

Green 1924

Independent 1846

Labour 645

Liberal Democrats 641


·         The Greens key election theme is centred on the plans for outsourcing services by the County Council, as shown by the main story to feature in election communications:


What are they doing to our County

Council ? If it moves, outsource it?


Libraries, old peoples homes, school crossing attendants – and any other Suffolk county council service you can name. These are planned for being outsourced in the next three years.


Suffolk County Council is planning a strategy, which says 'if it moves, outsource it'. The idea is that they become a 'virtual authority' employing only a few hundred people to monitor the contracts that will have been let to a mixture of private and voluntary sector providers. But does the Conservative-controlled Council have a mandate for this monumental and full-scale change? This is your chance to tell them.


This by election is the biggest electoral test in the UK since the General election in May. It provides over 16,000 people in Bury St Edmunds with a unique opportunity to give the Council leadership here in Suffolk their verdict on its outsourcing proposals.


The timetable for implementation is too tight, the risks too great and we need to get it right, whilst dealing effectively with the deficit in public finances.


Greens believe that the proposals to outsource ALL council services to charities, teams of volunteers and the private sector need active public support to work.


• Understanding to replace public incomprehension

• A new level of public "ownership" of our county council

• Public service ethos to balance private interests


This is Suffolk's last chance to rein in a runaway dash towards becoming a completely outsourced 'virtual council'.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Global Banking - GlobaliSation or GlobaliZation

I recommend this meeting; It seems very fitting, that it is on the same day as government cuts are being announced.  Andrew is a confident and easy speaker, so it should be a good meeting.  A chance to have a thorough discussion of a vital topic!:

A talk by Andrew Rising (of Cromer Farm Shop, Cromer) titled -

"Global Banking - GlobaliSation or GlobaliZation? or How Wall Street Killed Main Street" 

At the Community Centre, Garden Street, Cromer 

on Wednesday, 20 October, 2010 at 7.30 p.m.

The title of this talk refers to the way in which the banking system, and governments, are geared to the corporization of the world, rather than a straightforward globalisation of trade. It echoes the older expression "Wall Street Killed Main Street", i.e. the High Street.

Andrew Rising is well known in Cromer for supporting local producers in his Cromer Farm Shop. However his earlier career was in global banking. He saw the crisis coming and is well placed to explain the inevitable impacts of global banking to the rest of us - especially on the very day, 20th October, when cuts to public spending are being announced by the government!

The meeting has been organised by the North Norfolk Green Party, but people of all parties or none are welcome.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Why I am not a liberal:

'Love Me, I'm a Liberal' Phil Ochs

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Three reasons why the child benefits fiasco is a Tory master-stroke

(My new piece in Liberal Conspiracy)

The Tories right now are laughing all the way to the ballot box. Whether they intended it as such or not, this cut in child benefit for the richer is proving a political masterstroke.

That sounds an extraordinary thing to say, given the sustained attacks they are suffering over it, and the apologies that they are being forced to make.

But consider the following three points:

1) As they deal with these attacks from the Mail et al, and are forced over and over again to respond to criticisms from broadcast journalists, what do the top Tory brass say? Over and over, they say: ‘Look; with this deficit we have to make tough choices; and it is only fair that the richest 15% give up this benefit in order that there is more money to go around.”

It enables Tories to identifying themselves with fairness and remove the impression that they are all about helping the rich. If they have to suffer a few days’ media discomfort in order to rebrand themselves in this way, it is a price well worth them paying.

Contrary to Sunny’s argument here, this attack on child benefit for the rich may be the way that the Conservatives finally escape the label ‘the nasty party’.

2) Meanwhile, the frenzy that the Mail et al are lathering themselves into works tacitly to the Tories advantage too: because the Mail are going on and on about protecting ‘Middle England’, while quietly ignoring the fact that someone earning £45k a year (the very least that someone now about to lose child benefit will earn) is earning twice the median income.

Twice the median: that is hardly the middle. So, the media furore is quietly stoking a sense of the country as richer than it really is, and of the rich as just part of the ‘middle class’: perfect for Tory ideas of how to reposition Britain’s sense of who it is, and of who matters.

3) Most crucially, all the attention on those poor parents earning anywhere between £45k and £Infinity is taking attention away from what really matters about this: the negative impact it is going to have on the welfare state because of a universal benefit being taken away from the rich. The poorest welfare states are in fact those which are designed only for the poor.

Thus the Tories get the best of both worlds: they get to look tough but fair, while actually doing something that profoundly undermines fairness and the entire Beveridge / Attlee agenda. Truly a masterstroke.

Lefties/greenies etc need to stop gloating on about how the Tories are shooting themselves in the foot and about those poor stay-at-home Mums, and start talking simply about defending the principle of welfare state universalism.

Otherwise, this cut will be the thin end of a very large wedge, and before we know it we will be looking at taking away NHS provision from the richest, on the grounds that they can afford private healthcare… I hope it is at least obvious to readers why THAT would be bad for us all. But it is nothing more than an extension of the logic of Osborne’s clever move here on child benefit.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Philosophers at the Cinema

All are welcome at these upcoming events...especially the one on 18th Oct! (click to enlarge)

Obama's failure on climate may be a good thing

I just read an interesting piece in the NEW YORKER about Obama’s failure to secure climate-legislation.

But it fails to consider the terrifying possibility that it may be a GOOD thing that the legislation in question, ‘Kerry-Lieberman’, failed, just as it was a good thing, given the deals that were on offer, that Copenhagen failed ( see )

One key to why can be found in the New Yorker article, if one reads carefully. For instance, here:


Obama, in a February, 2009, address to Congress, said, “To truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution.”

In March of 2009, a senior White House official outlined a strategy for a “grand bargain,” in which Democrats would capitulate to Republicans on some long-cherished environmental beliefs in exchange for a cap on carbon emissions. “You need to have something like T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore holding hands,” the White House official told me. In exchange for setting a cap on emissions, Democrats would agree to an increase in the production of natural gas (the only thing that Pickens, the Texas oil-and-gas billionaire, cared about), nuclear power, and offshore oil.

 The deal was that power-production including fossil fuels would be allowed to keep going up, in return for a market-based carbon- trading system with massive loopholes, offsets, etc, and with the commodification of the world's remaining intact forest ecosystems - i.e. the very kind of system that is already (under Kyoto, the ETS, etc) leading us even faster to ecological cataclysm than would otherwise be the case (see the arguments of Larry Lohman, Biofuelwatch, Caroline Lucas and others for why).

 So I shed no tears over Obama's failure to give us climate legislation. Until there is legislation on offer that would be better than nothing, it truly isn't worth caring about.


 p.s. It is worth noting also that the EDF, the Nature Conservancy, WWF etc. have essentially sold out to large corporations, which is why they are pushing for a carbon-trading deal with mega-offsets, etc.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Why _not_ remove child-benefit from the rich?

Here's why:
The problem with taking away child benefit from the rich is that the more you remove universal benefits, the less stake the rich have in the welfare state. Some people already say to me on the doorstep: 'Why should I pay all these taxes? I don't benefit from the tax-take!' This problem will only worsen, if you start in effect means-testing even more benefits (Because that is what removing these benefits from the rich actually amounts to - a 'kinder, gentler' means-testing.).
So: this ConDem move will delegitimise the welfare state.
Actually, when you put it like this, it isn't so hard to figure out why the Tories are happy to do this... Because many of them WANT to delegitimise the welfare state! So this move, that seems so 'reasonable' and sensible - the Radio 4 reporters are all saying things like 'Yes, surely rich people don't NEED winter fuel allowance / child benefit, etc.', is actually a very clever political device for the long-term restructuring of the political consensus in this country in a rightward direction.
There is no way around this: it is an inevitable dilemma of a welfare state constructed around a complicated benefits system. There is no way out of this dilemma: except radical policies to change the status quo in an egalitarian direction. We need a genuinely progressive tax system (i.e. tax the trich more, rather than taking benefits away from them), a citizens' income (slicing through the baroque welfare system and replacing most of it with one benefit that goes to everyone), and a raft of other measures that will take us in the direction that Wilkinson and Pickett are talking about. Unless we attain greater equality, the rich will always be looking for ways to opt out of the benefits system, and to delegitimise it. That is what this latest episode is a symptom of. However 'reasonable' it sounds to reallocate child benefit away from the rich to the poor, it is actually a move that will have the effect of undermining the very long-term acceptability of the welfare state.

1010 ad: What went wrong?

To put it bluntly: The 10.10 vid is just kinda dumb: If it were about the bloody deaths that will come from unchecked climate chaos, that would be OK (There is nothing intrinsically wrong with violent ads). But it isn't! It distracts us from the real issue.

The underlying message of the 10.10 debacle, I think, is: If you want to get folk thinking about how we need a concerted campaign to stop climate change from destroying our lives and killing people, then you shouldn't have designed a 'lite' and voluntaristic campaign in the first place... We will not stop climate chaos without concerted political action and serious awareness of how manmade climate change is killing. 10.10 contributes to neither of these goals.

In other words: I think that the underlying problem is not one ad rather than another. It's that 10.10 is a wrongly-conceived campaign in the first place.

It enters a 'liberal' space where there is no room for genuine caring about the future, in which we have to be prepared to take strong co-ordinated action.

10.10's heart may be in the right place. And great, if it gets some people thinking the right thing and doing the right thing. But we need real panaceas at this point, not mere substitutes for the kind of action that is actually required.

1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: October 2010 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.