2010-04-30

Can You Dig It?

I've been overtaken by a wave of nostalgia after listening to the Mock Turtles' Can You Dig It? The picture in my mind is me in my first year at uni, on my skateboard going down the hill on the pavement outside Plas Gwynn. I was probably on my way to the shop. I haven't kept up with the people I knew at Uni. What happened to Kamala, Chris, Steve and Karen?

Once I was skating with Dan. We took it in turns to go down the sloping curve of the drive of the halls of residence. I came off and hit my head and was unconscious for a few seconds. Dan thought I was just messing around, but I really was unconscious. We went back to someone's room. I sat on the floor with my back to the wall, recovering.

Reply From Greenpeace

I wrote recently about leaving Greenpeace. Here's the reply I received from Greenpeace:
I did have a look at your reasons for leaving Greenpeace and found them
rather obtuse.

You say that "One of the best things about them was that they provided
information. Now with the internet I can do all that myself". This is
true to an extent, but a lot of the campaigning work that we do is based
on original research that we have undertaken - for example our research
and exposes on the palm oil trade in Southeast Asia
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/reports/caught-red-handed-nestl%C3%A9
-sinar-mas-and-palm-oil
and cattle ranching in the Amazon
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/forests/slaughtering-amazon-20090529
or our work on decentralised energy
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/reports/powering-london-into-the-21st
-century
- information and campaigning that you wouldn't find on the
internet unless we'd put it there!

Your say "Also, I don't think they like the same political ideas as me".
I followed your link and found the manifesto link that covered items
such as banning guns and legalizing prostitution, both of which are
outside of our environmental remit. The only items on the list that
were vaguely relevant to us were free market energy and free trade? We
do work with privatised energy companies, for example the green energy
scheme Juice that we set up with Npower, though we might argue that it's
harder to enforce energy efficiency measures or investment in renewables
with disparate private contractors focused on short term profit, rather
than a centralized nationalised energy provider. There is loads of
information on the pitfalls and challenges of free trade at
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/trade-and-the-environment

Lastly you say that "I'm concerned that Greenpeace is more like a
proprietary software company but I'd like it to be more like an
OpenSource project" Unfortunately I have no idea what you mean by this.
We very openly share information and campaign skills via our web sites,
local groups and campaign co-operations with numerous other NGOs and
local communities.
That's a good point about research, if Greenpeace don't do the research it won't be there to be read on the net. I'm not sure my reasons for leaving are entirely cogent, but I feel better for it!

2010-04-26

The Real Benefit Of The Lib Dem Tax Policy

I read Stephanie Flanders religiously, and it's rare that I make a criticism of her writing.

However, in her piece on the Liberal Democrats' plan of raising the income tax threshold to £10,000, I felt she missed the point.

I think that the main point of the policy is to remove the benefit trap. At the moment it's financially beneficial for a lot of people to stay on benefits rather than get a job, because any job they could hope to get wouldn't give them an income greater than their benefits. If the income from a job isn't taxed so heavily though, it means that the benefit trap is removed.

So the main point of the Liberal Democrats' raising of the threshold is to reduce unemployment, and thus reduce the benefits bill and increase GDP.

I'd encourage the Liberal Democrats to go further, and stop taxing the poor altogether.

2010-04-20

Transcendent

In this brilliant book by Stephen Baxter, immortality is tackled properly. It won't be long before ageing is cured, and yet so few books, even sci-fi, take longevity seriously. Baxter describes how the undying don't have art in their environment, one is appalled by even the greatest piece of art after long enough. True, even the best song can pall after you've listened to it often enough on Spotify. You don't have to be immortal to feel like that, I find anything that's repeated becomes an infuriating burden.

But this book is about more than the undying. Coalescences are a recurring theme. This is where humans take the same evolutionary route as ants and wasps etc. They have a single breeding queen, and all the others work for the hive, in the knowledge that the hive shares the same genes as them. Perhaps we can see this happening in our society. Eggs are routinely frozen, stored and implanted into other women, so matriarchs can have babies that are genetically theirs without having to bear them. Housing is controlled by the older generation, so they can persuade their daughters to look after their siblings instead of having children themselves.

If all suffering, pain and all wrongs are to be wiped away, then ultimately that means that humanity, life and so the universe itself must not exist. In other words a perfect world is a word where nothing exists. In the end the protagonist, Michael Poole has this question put to him and comes to the same conclusion as me, he opts for life and an imperfect world.

2010-04-18

Leaving Greenpeace

I joined Greenpeace as a teenager in the eighties, but now I'm thinking of leaving them. It's not that I'm outraged at something they've done or not done; I'm not dissatisfied with them at all. In fact I don't know why I'm leaving them at all.

One of the best things about them was that they provided information. Now with the internet I can do all that myself. Also, I don't think they like the same political ideas as me. Another thing is that I'm concerned that Greenpeace is more like a proprietary software company but I'd like it to be more like an OpenSource project.

Update 2010-04-30: Greenpeace has replied.

First Great Western Responds to Bath-Half Train Debacle



I complained about First Great Western, and here's their reply:
Dear Mr Locke

Your letters to the ORR and the DfT have been drawn to my attention. We did run additional special trains for the Bath Half Marathon. Three extra services ran in the morning, one from Swindon, one from Bristol and one from Westbury.

These extra trains were to be boosted by running the 1009 from Bradford on Avon as a four car unit. This did not happen. This was not due to a lack of planning by the Special Events team, but was due to an error made by our Control team. They misread the unit allocation and brought a two-car unit out instead of a four car. This is not acceptable and is being addressed.

I can fully appreciate your annoyance and disappointment. This was not the service we planned and I apologise.

First Great Western have made significant progress in improving our customers’ experience on our trains. Performance is at record levels and we have been able to improve capacity and comfort on the West of England trains. This makes this sort of mistake even more galling.

I am determined that we do better and you have my assurance that this mistake is one that will not happen again.

Yours sincerely


Mark Hopwood
Managing Director
FIRST GREAT WESTERN
I'm pleased that FGW appear to take this seriously. What I'd really like though is a separate railway line from Trowbridge to Bath, and then there'd be proper choice and competition! In the absence of that, we have to rely on the regulator to apply pseudo-competitive pressure. How can they do that if complaints go first to the operator, and may not get seen by the regulator?

2010-04-14

Clegg and Paxman

I've just finished watching the Paxman interview with Nick Clegg. Actually, Clegg did better than I thought he would. I was disappointed that the £10,000 income tax threshold wouldn't apply to everyone; if you're earning over £100,000 then it disappears apparently. I'm not earning anywhere near that, but there shouldn't be exceptions to the rule.

A more serious problem was his policy of forcing banks to lend to businesses when they didn't want to. Banks should make their own decisions about who to lend to. Those that get it wrong should be allowed to fail, they shouldn't be bailed out by the tax payer.

2010-04-12

Scarf

I've been trying to get a scarf like this for ages. I've subsequently been told me that a black weave means you're a supporter of Hamas. Well I'm certainly not that; I think they should stop their rocket attacks on Israel immediately. Of course, Israel should also end its illegal occupation of Palestine.

2010-04-10

First Great Western Train Too Full To Board

I still haven't had a reply from First Great Western about my complaint about the Bath Half -marathon train debacle, so I've written again to the DfT, and I've added a new complaint!
Edmund,

I'm afraid I haven't received a reply from First Great Western about the Bath Half-Marathon train debacle I wrote to you about some time ago.

Also, I've got another complaint about FGW. As I write this I'm on the 10:14 from Trowbridge to Bath Spa, and the train was so full that some people couldn't get on at Trowbridge or Bath. Can you give the franchise to someone else please?

Thanks,

Tony

Disestablish Marriage

The Conservatives want to give a cash reward for being married. I think they're utterly wrong, and that marriage should be disestablished.

The syllogism that the Tories trot out is that married couples are good for society, so if we pay people to get married there will be more married people and therefore a better society. The flaw in this reasoning is that correlation is not causation. Marriage is an effect of a good relationship, not a cause.

Or to put it another way, if the Tories are right and marriage causes a better relationship, then why not force everyone at gunpoint to get married to a random person as soon as they turn 16!

2010-04-05

Carbin's Further Comments

Following our debate, I've received further comments from Trevor Carbin. He writes:
Rather than go over the specifics yet again I'll look at the general argument. Your viewpoint seems to be that government should not intervene and should let markets look after themselves, with regulators regulating where necessary.

Fair enough, though I don't share your enthusiasm for Ofsted. Of course there are dangers as you've pointed out, but the alternative to action is inaction and if you leave a depressed economy to cure itself that can take a long time. Yes the government sometimes gets ripped off by private sector contractors and it's important to watch that closely. We're proposing a policy that stimulates employment, keeps money circulating in the real economy, and achieves environmental objectives.
I'm doubtful whether increased public spending of any sort helps the economy, as it increases the national debt, which increases the ongoing burden of interest payments.

But let's assume you are going to have a spending spree of tax payers' money (or stimulus as some call it). The least bad way to do it is to reduce taxation, reducing national insurance perhaps. This sets more money free to earn greater returns.

The worst way is to spend the money on some government scheme or other. Governments shouldn't be in the business of picking winners or funding enterprises. If that does happen, then the business in question will become addicted to state aid, and forget about providing goods and services to customers, and a downward spiral ensues.

Diary Of A Country Priest

By the end, Diary Of A Country Priest had moved me to tears. It's a film with a great deal of depth, so it's hard to take in in one go. When watching a film I first try and identify the baddies and goodies. Of course, if the film is any good, then as in life, it's not so easy to separate people into goodies and baddies. In fact, coming to write about the film, I don't know what to make of it.
What about the doctor, Dr Delbende, that committed suicide? What are we to make of that? The doctor was an atheist, and a friend of the Priest of Torcy. The Priest of Ambricourt (the priest of the title, hereafter the PoA) went to see the doctor for a diagnosis, and detected that Belbende had a deeply wounded soul. When the Priest of Torcy talked to the PoA about Belbende after he died, the PoA said that hearing it gave him the most pain he had been in in his life. Why? Was it because he felt guilty because he perhaps could have helped? I don't know. If you have any clues, let me know.

Lead In The White House Garden

I don't want to have the same problem as Michelle Obama, so I've written to Structural Soils Ltd to see if they can test my soil for me:
Hi, I intend to grow vegetables in my garden, but I want to make sure
that the soil is safe first. Is this something you can help with?
Incidentally, I'm writing this using the Google Chrome browser.

It's really fast and really simple. I think it's become my favourite browser :/ I like that there's a single text box for URLs and search.

2010-04-03

Murrison's Residents' Survey

The Murrison camp is gearing up for the election. Andrew Murrison is my current MP, and although voting Tory isn't in my DNA, I have to admit he's dealt promptly and effectively with the issues I've raised with him during his time as my representative. In particular I remember writing to him before the vote on whether to go to war in Iraq. He voted against. Here's my original email:
From: Tony Locke
Sent: 16 March 2003 23:27
To: Andrew Murrison
Subject: Impending war in Iraq

Dear Andrew Murrison,

As one of your constituents, I am writing to express my view on the impending war in Iraq.

I think that the overriding concern is that any action must have the full support of the UN. In this case the UN has not unambiguously sanctioned war, and so I would urge you to vote against the UK going to war with Iraq.

Regards,

Tony.
and his reply:
From: MURRISON, Andrew
To: Tony Locke
Subject: RE: Impending war in Iraq
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 10:18:09 -0000

By now you will no know that I voted against the government again but unfortunately overnight events have overtaken us.
I've got one of his leaflets in front of me now, entitled Trowbridge Residents' Survey. This post is my reply to the first item on this survey, the NHS.


I think that any organization should be able to set up a hospital providing it meets the minimum standard of the regulator. The NHS should always be free at the point of use, so funding should follow the patient. The government should not have a monopoly on providing state funded health services. The patient should be given choice, to drive up standards.

The leaflet says a Conservative proposal is A new scheme to help older people insure against the cost of residential care so they do not have to sell their homes. I think that residential care should be funded by the state, from general taxation, just like the NHS.

I've written a list of what I'd like the Conservatives to do.

Meg Taking Sensible Precautions Against UV

Mandelson Criticizes Earnings Of Barclays President

Mandelson has criticized the large amount of money that the president of Barclays earns. But Barclays wasn't bailed out by the government, so I don't think it's the government's role to involve itself in how businesses choose to pay their employees.

What I'm angry about is Mandelson's government spending £140 bn of our money on subsidizing some banks. No business should get a bailout from the government. I'm concerned that certain banks were so politically well connected that they could lobby the government into giving them so much of our money. All three main parties would have done the same thing, so I don't know who to vote for in the forthcoming general election.