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  • The austerity delusion | Paul Krugman | Business | The Guardian

    A long read, with economics related stuff in it, but worth working through.

    Short, angry version- austerity is bullshit and held back economic recovery. The Conservatives are either economically illiterate or only imposed it because of pressure from big business and their rich friends. And Labour are a bunch of pathetic cowards because they’ve been bullied into promising to stick with a failed policy.

    Source: The austerity delusion | Paul Krugman | Business | The Guardian


  • The Leaders’ Debate drinking game (suggestions welcome)

    It’s the second of the Leaders’ debates tonight, and I should be listening to it if I don’t get distracted by Episodes from Liberty City.

    These look like they’ll become an election fixture, so it’s time to start thinking about a drinking game. Gather around your television or radio and take a drink every time-

    Nick Clegg mentions Sheffield, where he’s an MP.

    Gordon Brown makes a lame and obviously scripted joke.

    David Cameron starts an anecdote with “Recently I was in <city> where I met a….”

    Anyone mentions Eton.

    The chairman has to shout.

    You still find yourself thinking “So that’s what Nick Clegg looks like.”

    Watching it on Sky HD bonus addition

    Gordon Brown in high definition makes you shudder.

    Not-sober-until-Sunday optional additions-

    Anyone mentions Trident

    Anyone mentions Afghanistan

    Anyone mentions “Our brave troops (boys/men and women etc.)

    Permanent liver damage (but worth it) bonus

    Gordon Brown says “Of course Tony was lying about WMDs and we all knew he was.”


  • Who’s afraid of the big bad Nick Clegg

    I listened to the leaders’ debate on Radio 4 last night, so I didn’t get to judge any of the body language. And I’m easily distracted, so I kept reading stuff at the same time and not paying total attention. With those provisos I, like so many others, am going to declare Nick Clegg the winner. His constant referrals to “Sheffield, where I’m MP” grated a little, but it wasn’t as painful as Brown’s laboured attempts at jokes or Cameron’s smarm.

    So the Lib Dem leader has gone from “Who?” to a refreshing alternative to the tired other two. Therefore his performance is being attacked by MPs from Labour and the Tories. Tom Harris- whose online persona I quite like, even if he has now slipped into bitchy campaign mode- tries to tell us the debate wasn’t that important after all. Meanwhile John Redwood- who’s unlikeable online or off- tries to throw some mud.

    Congratulations to Nick Clegg. He’s got the two main parties worried. Certainly, he’s not going to be Prime Minister, but he could end up holding the balance of power and that’s got Labour and the Conservatives worried.


  • Is that #cashgordon or #crashgordon ?

    A day can be a long time on the internet, and I’m two days late with this…..

    In last month’s Wired there was an article about how the Conservatives learnt not to be afraid of the internet and craft themselves sophisticated online campaigning tools. (I can’t find the article on the Wired site, they do keep some stuff back so those of us who buy the magazine get something out of it.)

    On Monday, however, the Tory web strategy didn’t prove all that clever. The latest creation was “Cash Gordon”, aimed at drawing attention to the money Labour gets from Unite and make a big deal of it. The site invited Twitter users to have their say and add the tag #cashgordon to their tweets, all of which would be displayed on the front page. The feed was unmoderated and quickly filled up with as many, if not more, anti-Tory tweets than the intended anti-Brown ones. Not only that, but it seems you can hijack this sort of feed with tweeted code that will redirect the page. Cue Rickrolling, porn and the Labour website appearing instead of the intended attack site.

    Perhaps more embarrassing is the news that the Conservatives paid £10,000 for the site, and got something which came out of the box broken.


  • Has Iain Dale gone Godwin?

    There’s a fair amount of anger about this post on Iain Dale’s Diary, where he reprints a couple of political images by artist Louis Sidoli. One of the pictures in Dale’s post features Gordon Brown as Hitler with a description, from the artist, which is pure Godwin-

    The first piece is called ‘Reign of Error’ . It is a play on words from the recent book which described Gordon Brown’s leadership at No10 as a ‘Reign Of Terror’. In this piece, he is ‘morphed’ into an image of Hitler! Of course it is provocative, but if you think about it, there are strong similarities: Both started out as chancellors, both bullied their way to the top and seized power without being democratically elected, both tried to rig the electoral process, both prone to flying into uncontrollable rages and both caused huge economic damage to our country etc…

    Dale is only really reporting on the artist’s work, but he does throw in a justification by comparing it to anti-Thatcher works which appeared during her time. Still, I do think the reaction’s a bit over the top. Sidoli’s art, in these pictures at least, is weak and naive. He suggests that he wants to create something as iconic as Shepard Fairey’s Hope image of Obama, but he’s a long, long way away from that.

    I’m not going to jump on the anti-Dale bandwagon on this one, but I do wonder what his reaction would have been to an equaly offensive image of David Cameron.


  • A letter to my MP

    Using the writetothem.com website I’ve sent an email to my local MP, John Leech-

    Dear John Leech,

    When the Government announced earlier this year that they wouild be investing several billion pounds in renewable energy there was a hint that there would be a new round of grants for home owners to buy solar panels and other energy saving/ generating technologies. However, I have not heard any more about these payments since.

    Would it be possible for you to raise the issue with the relevant department or official and find more details of the proposed schemes? This may not seem like the appropriate time to be paying out such grants but I believe they would help stimulate the economy by giving money to an important sector of industry and saving homeowners money.

    Yours sincerely,

    Ian Pattinson

    Hopefully the grants have started up and I just haven’t seen the announcement. If not then I’ll have to think of ways to get the issue raised more forcefully.

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  • Cloud seeding ships to combat global warming

    This could also be posted to How to Save the World for Free, but it’s relevant to the phone comic I’m working on.

    Unmanned ships that sprayed sea water into the atmosphere to boost low lying clouds could produce sufficient cooling effects to counteract global warming due to CO2 rises. They’d cost £1m to £2m and at least 1500 would be needed. If they did work that’s £3billion to mitigate the damage already done and buy us time to find alternative technologies. That’s just over a fortnight of the abomination that is the Iraq occupation, to make such crimes less likely in the future.

    So don’t be surprised when Bush and Brown don’t invest in it.


  • Advice for Gordon- save the world by bribing the voters

    I don’t have any particular interest in Gordon Brown staying on as Prime Minister, he’s possibly worse than Blair because he’s too much of a coward to actually do anything radical. If he were, however, to suddenly develop a spine and display some of the savvy he claims to have there are ways he could get re-elected, boost the economy and start taking big steps towards hitting carbon dioxide reduction targets.

    All he has to do is bribe the electorate.

    A small number of people choose to ignore the evidence on global warming and will shout about any environmental initiatives no matter that they often have benefits beyond the green. Let’s just ignore them. Others are determined to cut their footprint no matter what. These converts deserve rewarding, and will be as a bonus of what I’m suggesting. The largest number of people, across a range of scepticism to understanding, aren’t going green because of the initial expense. Also for many of them when Gordon says “Green” they hear the word “Tax”.

    Give these people the money to go green.

    The recent announcement of a £100billion green initiative by Brown did mention solar power and other grants. What’s needed is for these to be big enough to cover most of the cost of installing panels, insulation or whatever is needed, because at present the payback in reduced bills isn’t enough. Most people would be better off leaving their money in the bank and earning interest. It would also help the uptake if the rates to sell electricity back to the suppliers were better. Let’s say that power companies should write off one unit of power consumed for every unit generated- in summer or on a windy day the house could pay for the electricity it used when it was cloudy or still. After the bill balances then the microgenerator can still sell to the power company at, say, half the price per unit they were being charged.

    As important as increasing the grants and improving buy back is selling them properly. Emphasis should be put on giving money back to the consumer and making them independent of big suppliers. Gordon’s too dull to do this well, so he’d have to hope he could find a minister who could do it for him. The Tories have already figured out that this is a good sell, with proposals for feeding landfill savings back to households that recycle more. Their ideas about modifying the tax on petrol are based on a similar idea but seem half baked at best.

    Of course, per kilowatt generated and ton of CO2 saved an increase in the scope and size of grants for microgeneration will be far more expensive than offshore wind or any other scheme. But no-one ever seems to think about where this money will go. The workers who install photovoltaics, groundsource pipes etc. will all be based in Britain. With a bit of encouragement the companies creating the equipment could all be British as well. They’ll all pay tax on their increased income, and boost the economy with their spending, as will the households now with extra cash from the electricity they’re saving and generating.

    Of course the main reason a scheme like this won’t go ahead is because it will do the one thing all politicians are terrified of- it will allow the electorate to become less dependent on the state and the big businesses that pay for all the lobbying.

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  • Energy independence begins at home

    Gordon Brown has announced a £100billion renewable energy plan. The Daily Mail and its readers have reacted as you’d expect, ignoring the boost to the economy from all the jobs created and the opportunities through grants to go energy independent.

    So, those of you who can, I’d recommend stealing a jump on the whingers and using their tax money to go off grid. When I researched grants for solar panels last month I found that the existing scheme had been phased out, which was annoying. I’m now willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt and hope this was because they were gearing up to a new and improved scheme. It isn’t easy. I’m not as obnoxiously and knee-jerkingly anti Brown/New Labour as the Mail’s readers, but past performance does mark the Government as untrustworthy.

    The schemes for householders will be announced later this Summer. I’ll be looking out for them and will try to do some number crunching on them when they arrive.

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  • Hello, Gordon here

    If Gordon Brown phoned me I’d have a few suggestions for him. And not the calls to resign, which he must hear all the time. For a start he could can his predecessor’s plans for nuclear power and spend the money on expanding grants for energy saving schemes and installing solar equipment (and wind power, but not for people in built up areas where it’s not really effective). Rejig the benefits system so that claimants who get part time jobs are rewarded rather than punished. Give extra bonuses to companies that make biodiesel from recycled cooking oils and punish those that use palm oil.

    And more. I’d probably get cut off when it became obvious that I’m more interested in giving advice than receiving spin, but it would be worth a try.


  • Gordon Brown's climate cowardice

    I’ve been away for a while, sorry about that. (And I flew across the Atlantic whilst I was away, I’ll have to look into offsets.) But I’m back again now, and with something to really rant about.

    Ministers are drawing up plans to abandon plans and promises to drastically increase Britain’s renewable energy production. Faced with some expense and a bit of hard work, new New Labour (or whatever we’re supposed to call them now Gordon’s in charge) want to bottle out and go home. So they’re trying to team up with Poland and others to try and have the targets turned down before the final draft goes through.

    Some of the reasoning behind this move is nonsensical to say the least.

    One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target set by Mr Blair is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme. This scheme was devised by the Treasury under Mr Brown and allows wealthy governments to pay others to reduce emissions. “[Meeting the 20% renewables target] crucially undermines the scheme’s credibility … and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power”, say the papers.

    Investment in reducing emissions is going to harm investments in reducing emissions? That doesn’t make any sense.

    Gordon could find the estimated £4billion a year required to make the change, probably quite easily. For one thing he could stop funding terrorism by bringing all of our troops back from Iraq and coming up with a more coherent plan for Afghanistan. He could create a multi billion pound industry in this country by subsidising start ups in the renewables sector (who’ll than employ lots of people and pay masses of tax). And he could champion smaller, local, schemes that aren’t as doomed as resurrecting nuclear power or hopelessly long term as a Severn barrage. Mini barrages up and down tidal estuaries might be an idea. Or community geothermal schemes. Taxing/ banning incandescent bulbs and putting a rebate on compact fluorescents would help cut the country’s energy needs drastically, as would increasing the standards for new build homes.

    There’s so much that could be done that would pay back so quickly. I fear our political class lacks imagination and spines.

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