Monday, 27 December 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury a Christian - Shock!

Someone ought to break it to Melanie Phillips, but the elephant she is missing in her hyperbolic traduction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Day sermon and Boxing Day newspaper article, a large pachyderm which you might have thought all too predictably present, is that Rowan Williams is not like Melanie or her socially conservative bedfellows in the US, who are clearly more interested in the jealous G-d of the Pentateuch and Old Testament.

Unlike them, the Archbishop is a Christian!

The Victorian upper classes, under contention by Archbishop Rowan and Ms Phillips were also, like herself and US fundamentalists and self-styled ‘freedom lovers’, not Christian. The nineteenth century British ruling classes doubtless spent far more time studying ancient Roman and Greek literature and thought in the public schools than they spent contemplating the words of the Prince of Peace, for obvious reasons - they too had an Empire to rule and peasants to oppress.

I found this paragraph particularly hilarious:

“Indeed, by demonising the better-off while investing the poor with a halo, he came close to suggesting that wealth — however honestly or arduously earned — is intrinsically evil, while poverty is a holy state.”

Er … Melanie, that might be because it does actually say in the New Testament, Matthew Ch.19 v.24:

"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Or how about 1 Timothy Ch.6 v.10?

 “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”

In fact, looking through what Rowan Williams has said in the sermon, and in his piece in the Daily Mail I cannot find any demonising, so presumably the demons are more to be found in Ms Phillips mind than in the Archbishop’s.

Melanie should try to realise also that underlying Christian thinking on comportment is the key concept of Forgiveness, a notion which is absent from the Old Testament mentality of punishment and vengefulness, which, especially when turned against the poor, is so painfully apparent in the words and deeds of social conservatives in the USA as well as their sad Transatlanticist hangers on and imitators in this country. Compare, for example, Matthew (NT) with Genesis (OT).

Matthew Ch.18 vv.21-22:

"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven ..."

In sharp contrast to this, Clarke's Commentary apparently points out that: "Seventy times seven - There is something very remarkable in these words, especially if collated with Genesis 4-24, where the very same words are used - "If any man kill Lamech, he shall be avenged seventy times seven."

There is also the crucial Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is not big on people judging one another,
saying things like:

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, "You good-for-nothing," shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, "You fool," shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

Who'd have thought it, eh? The Archbishop is a Christian, and Melanie Phillips and her allies are not!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Geo-Engineering: Garbage in - Garbage out

If you already had a hunch that blowing huge volumes of gas down a hole in the ground and expecting it to stay there sounds like a stupid idea, or potentially dangerous perhaps, then you’re not the only one, and geophysicist Mark Zoback has some evidence …

Where Have They Gone?

Redwings and Pyracantha: who ate all the berries?

There’s a lot of argument now about whether, as well as how, what and when to feed wild birds, with the crucial word there being wild, ie not domesticated.

Now that most farmland has been turned over to little more than ‘green deserts’ of monoculture many farmland bird populations have died down to a tiny fraction of what they used to be, although some farmers are now growing some areas of seed crops to revive winter seed-feeders like tree sparrow, reed bunting, corn bunting, yellowhammer, linnet, house sparrow, bullfinch and skylark (PDF).

For anyone with a bit of garden or land, avoiding insecticides so as to allow insects and birds to flourish in the spring and summer, and growing a good diversity of plants to provide fruit and seeds naturally in the winter seems to me the best option for genuine long term benefit to wildlife.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Are You Ready for the Shift?

Short and incisive, these videos from Kit Hill at the Stockholm Resilience Centre pack a fair punch into a minute or two.

Life operates in thresholds, time-lags and tipping points, on a multitude of scales. Breezing along for years, decades, millennia or aeons, before, quite suddenly, the paradigm crumbles and shifts to a wholly new state.

Wise old Charles Darwin understood the workings of evolution all too well, explaining, as Gautama Buddha did, also in his way, that suffering and death are inescapable parts of life, intrinsic to it, whether we humans accept that fact or no.

"... the Struggle for Existence amongst all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from their high geometrical powers of increase, will be treated of. This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form ..."

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Why Does Richard Murphy Delete Harmless Comments?

Call me anally retentive, but I’ve got a blockage when it comes to bloggers censoring comments for no reasonable motive. Top political insider bloggers like Iain Dale do it all the time, and of course it is completely characteristic of most narrow ideologues that they need to create an environment where there are only two ways of seeing the world; the right way, which is their own, and the wrong way, which is the vile Other.

While many political bloggers simply delete comments that frighten them or the horses, ConHome has developed an especially sneaky approach. So, when one of their pet commenters has posted a particularly obnoxious or vituperative comment they put up a notice in its place, stating that the comment has been deleted, thus giving the impression of an open transparent process.

But what a fraud! As anyone not 'in with the in-crowd' will find, an intelligent, well-argued and polite comment that seriously challenges the group-think will simply be deleted covertly, without anyone the wiser.

And so, sad to find that Richard Murphy at TaxResearch blog is no better than ConHome. Or can anyone please tell me where the comment below, which he deleted, breaches his comments policy?

"Richard Murphy wrote: “And there’s much to oppose. If he did it properly he could bring the government down, and that would be a good thing.”

Don’t be too sure of that. Once the LibDems signed in blood the pact with the Tories they are in the fight to the death.

Besides which, where’s the alternative, when Labour have proven to be bankrupt?"

Harmless enough, you'd think. Why expunge it?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Debt Kills

Micro-Finance Becomes Big Business

Debt has been driving farmer suicides in India over many years, but now the southern Dravidian state of Andhra Pradesh - an area already notorious for so-called Naxalite insurgency - is in the spotlight over renewed misery, whose proximate cause this time is that great white hope of development luvvies; microfinance.

Years before Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank received that, now increasingly politicised and jaded accolade of the Nobel Peace Prize, micro-finance, or the lending of small amounts of money to poor, often female recipients, for them to develop small businesses, was heralded as a saviour. It became very fashionable.

As ever though with such panaceas, they have simply provided more plausible and attractive clothing for common human rapacity.

The problem of rural indebtedness was already horrendous. P.Sainath wrote in Counterpunch that the decade to 2007 had seen over 180,000 Indian farmers driven to suicide:

"What do the farm suicides have in common? Those who have taken their lives were deep in debt – peasant households in debt doubled in the first decade of the neoliberal “economic reforms,” from 26 per cent of farm households to 48.6 per cent. We know that from National Sample Survey data. But in the worst states, the percentage of such households is far higher. For instance, 82 per cent of all farm households in Andhra Pradesh were in debt by 2001-02. Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla. (Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers – that is, growers of rice, wheat, maize, pulses.) The brave new world philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop (the mantra of “export-led growth”). For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant much higher cultivation costs, far greater loans, much higher debt, and being locked into the volatility of global commodity prices. That’s a sector dominated by a handful of multinational corporations."

Small Debt Becomes Big Debt

“Is there a bubble being created? Are most microfinance institutions chasing the same customer? Are we pushing the customer — the poor woman — into a debt trap? Would this lead to suicides?" asked Dr MS Sriram in May this year.

The answer to all four questions is yes.

"As a pioneer in organising women’s SHGs, Andhra Pradesh provided an opportunity to MFIs to provide small loans to lakhs of rural women who are otherwise denied credit by banks. As MFIs expanded operations in the state, they targeted individual borrowers too. In recent years, many MFIs turned into for-profit organisations in a race to make a quick buck begun. MFIs are now under fire for charging exorbitant interest rates and using strong-arm tactics to collect interests." says the Indian Express, with an on the ground report of impoverished rural Indian women being first lured into debt and then terrorised.

What Milford Bateman calls "the distressing and entirely predictable situation in Andhra Pradesh", is that "today, AP is now second only to Bangladesh as the most microfinance ‘saturated’ place on earth, with a full 17% of the population in possession of a microloan account. That this represents a massive over-supply seems clear …"
"And there can be no doubt whatsoever what the real driving force behind the current crisis is: it is clearly, and overwhelmingly, a result of the largely ideologically-driven move to commercialise microfinance."

So can anything be rescued from this terrible situation? Some people keep hoping so ...

TitferTip: NEF and TaxResearch.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Big Feet

What do Gibraltar, US Virgin Islands, Qatar, Former Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore, Luxembourg and Brunei have in common?

Small places, but resource intensive. Answer in this neat PDF

Bottom Massage

“… 200 years of abundant energy have allowed us to build an extremely complex civilization based on dozens of interrelated systems without which we can no longer live - at least not in the style to which we have become accustomed … Those who believe that ten years from now we will be able to get along with much reduced government have little appreciation of how modern civilization works or how bad things are going to get as fossil fuel energy fades from our lives …”

Read more at “peak oil crisis: the future of government” by Tom Whipple.

And more on 'bottom bouncing' at Shadowstats, where Walter J. "John" Williams notes that "despite minor changes to the system, government [economic] reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last decade or so." Can this be purely accidental? Surely not. After all, covering the hideous truth in a cheering blanket of confusion always helps, leaving only a few suspicious buggers to write dry headlines like  "November Jobs Increase Was Statistically Indistinguishable from Decline."

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Skating skating skating,
Round in circles.
Over thin ice,
Refusing to see

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fished Out

One product of this weekend's semi-structured wilfing was yet another absorbing eco-blog, Constantine Alexander, who on his latest round-up, features research on the denudation of our oceans caused by industrial fishing, reported by Science Daily:

"Earth has run out of room to expand fisheries, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia researchers that charts the systematic expansion of industrialized fisheries."

“… the reality is that for decades now, numerous fisheries are corporate operations that take a mostly no-fish-left-behind approach to our oceans until there's nowhere left to go …"

"The National Geographic Society, the Waitt Foundation, the SEAlliance along with strategic government, private, academic and conservation partners including the TEDPrize, Google and IUCN, are beginning an action-oriented marine conservation initiative under the banner of "Mission Blue" that will increase global awareness of the urgent ocean crisis and help to reverse the decline in ocean health by inspiring people to care and act; reducing the impact of fishing; and promoting the creation of marine protected areas. For more information, go to"

UK Marine Protected Areas: Interactive Map

Monday, 6 December 2010

Scientists Agree: We Need to Act Now to Halt Biodiversity Loss

It's not exactly a snappy title, but after a 5 year gestation, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IpBES for short, is at last officially up and running.

In true dry-as-dust scientific form also, the new body states its brief thus

"Scientific knowledge on the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being has increased significantly since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MAs) was completed. There is however a need for a stronger international science-policy platform to enable emerging scientific knowledge to be translated into specific policy action at the appropriate levels."

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment "found universal agreement across the studies that fundamental changes are needed in society to avoid high risk of extinctions, declining populations in many species, and large scale shifts in species distributions in the future."

"There is no question that business-as-usual development pathways will lead to catastrophic biodiversity loss. Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species."

It is worth stressing here, that those who ignore these facts are flying in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. The destruction and degradation of biodiversity is the single most important issue of the 21st century, an issue that, if not addressed forthwith, without any more shilly shallying around, will continue eroding our prosperity and our future, ultimately destroying our whole way of life.

So How Much is Nature Worth to Us?

Global biodiversity is worth much, much more to humanity than casual observers might think. Far in excess of the entire business output of any mere human artefacts such as countries, multinationals or banks.

"In one of the first efforts to calculate a global number, a team of researchers from the United States, Argentina, and the Netherlands has put an average price tag of US$33 trillion a year on these fundamental ecosystem services, which are largely taken for granted because they are free. That is nearly twice the value of the global gross national product (GNP) of US$18 trillion ..."

 HT: British Ecological Society Blog 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Cries Unheard

Easter Island, Rapa Nui, seems almost legendary and untouchable to us here, being far distant and with a mysterious history. So it ought to shock us to find that the indigenous people of even this remote UNESCO World Heritage Centre are under attack. In this instance, from the Chilean government.

The Rapa Nui people have been reduced to less than half of the island’s population now. Chileans have taken over their land without compensation and built over parts of it. The Rapa Nui have good reason to fear that the government wants to turn their land and their heritage into a theme park for its own profit. So now that people are standing up and peacefully protesting, the Chilean state has sent in military forces to attack them.

And what is the UN doing? What of human rights and international law?

The media just carry on ignoring these issues as ever. I only heard of this thanks to Intercontinental Cry.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

All-American Jihad

For students of the impending impact of religious insanity on the real world.

Reading recently at the Wild Hunt about the exorcism craze in the Land of the Fee drew my attention to the Talk2Action website where they have a vast compendium of links relating to "spiritual warfare" including the following demented-cum-terrifying details here:

"... as noted in a recent New York Times story ... "spiritual warfare", an aggressive approach to evangelizing developed by the leaders of a worldwide religious movement which promotes a religiously based wealth transfer scheme as a means to implement theocracy."

"God has declared through His prophets that the wealth of the wicked will be released to the Kingdom of God."

"I declare that this wealth will be distributed for the extension of the Kingdom of God by the apostles that God has set in the church." .... human agency would be a part of his wealth transfer scheme. ... specifically from the "godless":

Resistance is useless!!! "I decree that vast amounts of wealth will be released supernaturally, even from godless and pagan sources... The enemy's camp will be plundered... Resistance will be impossible. Jesus will put all things under His feet."

This charismatic group, which over the last decade has rapidly expanded as an international movement within Neocharismatic "renewal" groups within Christianity is estimated to have 295 million members worldwide.

It is a movement organizing on a massive scale for religious, social and ideological takeovers in entire nations, such as in Brazil. such as in Pittsburgh and Topeka (not in report) and over the entire U.S., such as in Georgia. According to the documents, they are even mapping out, block by block, opposition and demonic "strongholds" in cities around the United States. [Hello-o, Buffy]
A helpful commenter transcribed a portion of one of their sermons which they felt was particularly interesting...

"Radical Muslims ... the jihâd oriented Muslims. 5 or 6 percent of the Mulim population, not the majority, but they'll control the other 90 percent because they control the high places. We have 35 percent of the United States that's evangelical. Here's the problem. 35 percent are regenerated in their spirit. They say Jesus is Lord but they're not necessarily converted... because if they were converted, the 35 percent would have as much influence as the 5 or 6 percent that are changing America...[but]... they're not taking territory ... So, meanwhile, your jihâdists are wiser than us because they go right to the top of the high places to make disciples out of their nations. They will make every nation a Muslim nation if they have their way. ... That's the closest thing on Earth to what we're supposed to be doing. ... You see, it's the counterfeit for the way the church ought to operate. We should be penetrating every field until we have 10 percent or so penetration of disciples ... And when you get disciples, you can then create a Christian culture within the culture .... This is how we do it. That's how the Muslims do it."

Couldn't we just transfer them all to a nice asteroid somewhere where they could indulge their "spiritual warfare to their hearts' content. The Clangers meets Alien Intercessors for Christ sort of thing. It'd make great theatre!  

Much, much more here

Friday, 3 December 2010

Incredible Invisible Sustainable Saga

Sustaina- who? Sustainable what? Babble babble babble!

The story of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 is an achingly slow-running, and scarcely believable saga of people struggling against the odds to get some kind of input into alleviating the hideously bloated and bureaucratic systems that are ineluctably crushing the life out of us. Not surprisingly, given the weight of vested interest on the side of the mighty apparatus, very little has actually happened in practice since 2007, when the Sustainable Communities Act was passed into law.

It is as if a tiny mouse were talking to a massive mountain, asking the mountain, very politely, to move.

Now that Nick Hurd, the very same Member of Parliament who shepherded it through the House of Commons as a Private Members Bill, is a Minister - Minister for Civil Society no less - with a government that has been talking the talk of decentralisation, the language of 'Smaller Government' and 'Bigger Society', you might be forgiven for thinking that the powers that be could get around to walking the walk and that something could actually get done to implement it in practical terms, wouldn't you?

Barkingside 21 is one of those precious few who have patiently but determinedly stayed the course, starting with this post in February 07, and regularly updating readers since then on the frenzied official inactivity that has accompanied the Act at every stage.

Here is the latest episode ... 

The Glamour of Industrialism is Deadly

From La Via Campesina, en route to Cancun:


"The second caravan performed its first act in El Salto, Jalisco, a town situated thirty kilometers from Guadalajara, on the bank of the Lerma Santiago River.

This region once had a great natural diversity of corn and vegetables. There were mangoes, plums, guava, quince, white fish, carp, catfish and lots of birds and many other species. Their pride was the Salto de Juanacatlán, a waterfall of twenty-seven meters in height and one hundred and sixty seven meters in width.

By 1900 the government had installed a hydro-electric plant and the first industry in the region. With the plant as a beginning point, industry gained power over the municipality of Salto with industrial jobs and encouraged the illusion that with industry they would gain progress and end poverty.

The population went to factories and lost their view of the river. In a few years, the lack of planning, the urbanization of the jungle and the arrival of highly polluting industries transformed a paradise into a wasteland and converted the river into a receptacle for industrial poisons and excrements.

“When we returned, the river was dead. Today we are still poor, and sick, and now we have no river”, says Enrique Enciso Rivera.

Now the town is fighting for its life and to restore hope, and received the delegations that make up the caravan with a fighting spirit.

But they will never forget that less than two years ago, Miguel Ángel López Rocha, a young boy, accidentally fell in the river, and was in a coma for nineteen days and finally died due to heavy metal poisoning, hydrogen sulfide and arsenic.

In one act on the wide porch of a house, amidst the foul odors coming from the sewers that flow into the river, the members of the caravan (delegates of local, national and provincial organizations from Texas, California, Colorado, Oregon, Florida, Illinois and Chicago, also from Quebec and France) and the fighting locals share solidarity in their fights and make commitments. The road is long and uphill, but we must continue.

Already in Morelia, Michoacán, the professors of basic education of Section XVIII of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and militants of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) agreed to join the social struggles which aims to respect and preserve the environment."

Read more about La Via Campesina and the International Caravan to Cancun here ...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Jesus v the Green Dragon

The prism through which US literalists view environmental concern ...

Community Land Trust, or A Nice Way of Turning Farmland into Housing?

There was me thinking that Community Land Trusts sounded like a lovely, quite radical but at the same time innocent and fluffy alternative sort of idea that could give ordinary folk a stake in society. Oh so naive.

Reading on Philip Booth's blog the sad news about ongoing County Farm sell-offs again being mooted in Gloucestershire, I went to look at the Community Land Trust website and was straightaway drawn to the case studies page and the example of High Bickington in North Devon. Intrigued, I moved on to visit their very well presented website to find out more about what’s been going on.

Turns out that the land they’re looking at is, or was, a County Farm. County Farms are part of our heritage which should be celebrated. They are, or were, a wonderful part of the post-war settlement, a legacy of egalitarianism and ‘fairness for all’ thinking that sprang up so optimistically after the mass slaughter and sacrifice of the Great War, when some villages and rural areas had nearly all their young men stolen away.

The Wiltshire County Council website tells us that:

"Wiltshire’s County Farms Estate was developed following the enactment of the Smallholdings and Allotments Acts of 1907 and 1908. Under these Acts, all Councils were placed under a statutory duty to meet the demand for applications by young persons to enter into farming …"

"After the First World War, the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act 1919 encouraged Councils to expand their estates to accommodate, in particular, the settlement on the land of the returning ex-servicemen who had to be given preference over all other applicants. Applications increased and consequently the estate grew to 4,499 hectares (11,119 acres) by January 1923 and to 6,879 hectares (17,000 acres) with 650 tenants by Lady Day 1926. A greater proportion of these were now equipped 'full time' 15 ha to 20 ha (40-50 acre) holdings as opposed to the pre War 'part time bare land' holdings mentioned above."

County Farms provide, or provided, one of the vital but now vanishingly few remaining ways for youngsters who aren’t either wealthy, or born into a farming family, with a way of actually starting out in farming. They are a much-needed way of bringing new blood and fresh ideas onto the land, as well as broadening opportunities for young people. But sadly, as East Anglia Food Link observes:

"County Farms estates have lost their way over time, consolidating smallholdings into much larger holdings and letting them for the best available price, simply as a way of earning income for the local authority. It is now time to rediscover the original purpose of County Farms, which is to provide land access for small-scale commercial growing. Smallholdings of 3-10 acres, and even dachas of one acre each, should be the norm."

Conveniently dismissed as "redundant" or "surplus to requirements", Little Bickington Farm will be permanently lost to food production, as the High Bickington Community Property Trust (CPT) was initially granted outline planning permission by Torridge DC. Because the CPT want to build over the farmland, and this would be a ‘Major Departure from the Local Development Plan’, the decision was referred to GOSW, and eventually to a Local Public Inquiry in January 2006. The Inspector recommended refusal, and he was backed by the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly in May 2006.

Nevertheless, a new application for full planning permission was submitted in 2008 and given the go-ahead by the District Council in January 2009.

Of around 800 people in the village, some 200 have chosen to become members of the CPT, and the Board of Directors consists of 9 individuals, 7 of whom include:

“Former Chief Executive of not-for-profit Company providing residential and other care services to around 5,000 people. Employed c. 2,000 staff.”

“… previously worked in London in the advertising industry.”

“Retired teacher and HM Inspector of Schools.”

“A background of over 20 years experience, as a manager and international management consultant, in the financial services industry. Since 1990 extensively involved in privatisation, share ownership schemes and enterprise reform in emerging economies, working as a specialist adviser and project manager on World Bank and other international funding agency programmes.”

“a background of 30 years in production and quality in the generic pharmaceutical industry with responsibility for operations at several sites in Europe. Achievements included the lowest cost, highest volume tablet plant in Europe, the introduction of total quality philosophy and of real team working.”

“Took early retirement from the NHS following a successful 20 year career in Public Health. Has recently been working across Northern Devon with the North Devon and Exmoor Regeneration Company.”

“…a career of 42 years with the UK Division of HERTZ. Spent the last 17 years as Fleet Purchasing Manager and during that period was responsible for purchasing over 500,000 vehicles.”

No housing developers or planning consultants?

A prestigious group indeed, villages ain't what they used to be. But are the villagers above in the least representative or typical of modern Britain do you think? Could just any community of 800 people in, say, Teesside, Birmingham or Plymouth rustle up such a pool of managerial talent?

It is telling also that an idea like Community Land Trusts can, in the right hands, be so very useful for turning farmland into housing.