Azara Blog: September 2009 archive complete

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Date published: 2009/09/16

Republican craziness partly down to racism (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Former US President Jimmy Carter says much of the vitriol against President Barack Obama's health reforms and spending plans is "based on racism".

Mr Carter told a town-hall meeting there was "an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president".
Some conservatives have accused the president's supporters of playing the race card.

Angry town hall meetings and a recent taxpayers' demonstration in Washington have been vitriolic towards the president, reports the BBC's Americas editor Mark Mardell.

Many have not just protested against the president's policies but have accused him of tyranny, and have promised to "reclaim America".

"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on health care," Mr Carter said at a town hall held prior to the Congress vote at his Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday.

"It's deeper than that."

This is a "dog bites man" story, which the BBC covers particularly poorly (but most of their American coverage has been extremely poor, ever since Charles Wheeler stopped reporting for them). So, it's hardly news that the Republican Party is full of racist people and has racist supporters. Their main rump of support is white people in the South, and many of them still fly Confederate flags and believe the Civil War was a just cause, and would be only too happy to bring back slavery.

But, to quote Carter but in the inverse direction, it's deeper than that. After all, the Republican Party has been heading downhill for decades (ever since Reagan) and is now dominated by imbeciles and crackpots. They were already showing their collective craziness against Bill Clinton, and since fewer and fewer normal, sane, people support the Republican Party now versus in the 1990s, they have just ratcheted up the insanity somewhat further for Obama. But the race angle is definitely also a factor.

The BBC not only singularly fails to point all this out, they fail to point out why in particular there have been "angry" town hall meetings. First of all, many of these meetings were perfectly civil, and even the ones that were not only involved a handful of screaming lunatics. Of course the media likes to focus on the screaming lunatics because it makes for good television. But the BBC fails to point out why these screaming lunatics were behaving so badly. It is because they were suckered into it by the Fox (so-called) News Network (in reality, a crude propaganda arm for the wilder parts of the Republican Party). Fox News has basically been calling for the violent overthrow of the Obama administration and has fed all sorts of ridiculous and crude propaganda to push its case (so they like to claim he's a fascist, communist, terrorist sympathiser). Well, there is an assorted collection of other crazies, like Rush Limbaugh and most of the right wing bloggers. But Fox is the one pushing the anti-Obama craziness at its worst. Unfortunately, there are no Republicans of any note who are willing to stand up to Fox or the other crazies.

Government wants to throw money at ITV for regional news (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

The culture secretary is to make a speech in which he is expected to defend plans to use part of the TV licence fee to fund regional ITV news.

Ben Bradshaw's department has published research suggesting more than half of the public supported the plan.

This contrasts with a survey for the BBC Trust which suggested most licence-payers would prefer lower licence fees.
The government wants to use a small part of the money after 2012 to maintain regional news on ITV1, which can no longer afford to provide it.

Surprise, the government survey did not ask the public whether or not they would prefer a reduction in license fee or a handout to ITV. Indeed, the government survey was worded to be extremely biased towards the conclusion that the government wanted (surprise). And the government survey was not even random, anyone who managed to find it on the internet could fill it in, and so, even ignoring the biased questions, the results are meaningless. (The BBC survey might well have been no better.)

And of course it is a matter of opinion whether or not ITV1 can "afford" to provide regional news. It should remain part of their license conditions that they do provide this service, and they should not be getting handouts from the government (well, beyond the ones they implicitly get from being given the right to broadcast in the first place).

Date published: 2009/09/03

Another report looking at the financial costs of "damaging" nature (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Current climate targets are not enough to save the world's coral reefs - and policymakers urgently need to consider the economic benefits they bring.

Those are two of the conclusions from a UN-backed project aiming to quantify the financial costs of damaging nature.

Studies suggest that reefs are worth more than $100bn (£60bn) annually, but are already being damaged by rising temperatures and more acidic oceans.

The study puts the cost of forest loss each year at $2-5 trillion.

Looking ahead to December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, study leader Pavan Sukhdev said it was vital that policymakers realised that safeguarding the natural world was a cost-effective way of protecting societies against the impacts of rising greenhouse gas levels.

This project was set up with the express purpose of making these grandiose claims. So-called conservationists have been making the same claims for years, but nobody has paid any attention to them so they obviously thought they would do better if they could get some UN-backed project and some rich banker to make the same claims (cf. the British government and Stern). But it's not obvious that their sums are correct or even believable.

And they do not address the fundamental problem, which is that there are more and more people on the planet and the general consensus is that most people are too poor, not too rich, so the general goal is for the per capita consumption to increase, not decrease. These two factors together mean that other species (including coral reefs and forests) are going to suffer as a result. And eventually humans might well suffer too, at which point the human population will also decrease.

Hills Road bridge (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Drivers and bus passengers on a road hit by 18 months of roadworks are fearing more delays after highways bosses decided to cut their lanes.

Cambridgeshire County Council says Sunday will mark the end of surface work on Cambridge's Hills Road bridge, where the road was cut to a single lane in each direction while an underpass for the guided busway was built.

Work on the bridge began in May 2008 and should have lasted 10 months.

But now, overnight on Sunday, the council will introduce a four-month trial of new cycle lanes.

That will mean cars and buses have one lane instead of two on the uphill stretches either side of the bridge, with raised cycle lanes installed to their left. At the brow of the bridge, motor traffic will feed out into two lanes and cyclists will merge with traffic.

It's quite possible that this change will have little impact on traffic flow, since allegedly the problems occur on the downhill side with the traffic lights. But it is remarkable how the county council transport bureaucrats just arbitrarily decided to do this without really bothering to tell anyone or consult with anyone. They really do need sacking. They have stuck two fingers up to the citizens of Cambridge for far too long. And the reason there is a bridge at all is because of the railway. So perhaps the rail passengers should pay for the bridge to be widened, which would obviously be a much more sensible solution than this one-lane-into-two approach.

Yet another climate change campaign (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

A new environmental campaign, backed by a variety of businesses and celebrities, is launching on Tuesday.

Organisers of the campaign, 10:10, aim to get people in the UK to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010.

The campaign was created by Franny Armstrong, director of recent film, the Age of Stupid. Partners include the Guardian newspaper and Comic Relief.

"It's now or never for the climate," they said. "Politicians have so far failed to do what needs to be done."
Celebrities such as cook Delia Smith, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, TV presenter Kevin McCloud and actors Samantha Morton, Colin Firth and Pete Postlethwaite, the star of the Age of Stupid, have signed up.

The minister for energy and climate change, Ed Miliband, has also signed up.

Hey, why not. But needless to say nobody is going to cut their carbon footprint by 10% in one year unless they lose their job or otherwise become significantly poorer. Basically, the more you earn, the more you consume and therefore the more you pollute, whether you pretend to be "green" or not. And of course nobody has a clue what their carbon footprint really is. For example, Ed Miliband is responsible for a department which itself has a huge carbon footprint. Does that count against his tally in any way and is he going to cut their (alleged) emissions by 10%? Is he counting all the trips he does abroad on behalf of the British government? And are Delia Smith, Kevin McCloud and all the other television celebrities counting all the carbon emissions due to their television productions? Obviously it's a recession right now so quite possibly these celebrities will see their income cut by 10% this year, so quite possibly a de facto 10% cut in their emissions will be forced upon them. And the UK GDP is going to fall by 4% or 5% this year, so in effect the emissions (if counted correctly) will have gone down by that. All in all, this campaign is exactly the kind of earnest "guilt trip" campaign you expect from the Guardian, and cheered on by their fellow travellers in the BBC.

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