30 November 2008

Mumbai - The Threat Of A Hindu/Muslim Rift

Aatish Taseer:

"More than 4,000 Indians have died in terrorist attacks — the country is the second biggest victim of terror after Iraq and virtually every one of its big cities has faced a terrorist attack. Yet the government has no centralised terrorist database, its intelligence is abysmal and there is little evidence that the state knows who it is fighting."

"In dragging its feet, the Indian state does nobody a greater disservice than Indian Muslims. When there are no real suspects, arrests or trials, everyone becomes a suspect. Already an underclass, with low literacy rates, low incomes and poor representation in government jobs, Indian Muslims are increasingly alienated. There is also great pressure on them. Nobody wants to listen to genuine grievances about poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the face of a real threat to the country. Many Hindus want Muslims to come clean on the issue of the jihad and to make clear whose side they’re on."

"India has the largest Muslim minority population in the world (13.4% of the population, or about 150m) but unlike Muslims in western Europe, they are not immigrants. They have been part of India for centuries. This is why all Indians — Muslims and Hindu alike — know that the deepening divide threatens the country’s existence."

28 November 2008

The Impact Of Mumbai

It struck me as odd at the time, but the bombings in Mumbai point out how misplaced the entire Obama European Tour 2008 was during the US election campaign. Why is it Europe that he needed to tour to prove his foreign affairs credentials? He just as easily could have visited Iraq and Afghanistan and kept travelling east, signalling that he would forge a new relationship with India and China as part of his term. Bush had already begun that process with the US-India civilian nuclear agreement.

A chief risk from the attacks is a hard-line Hindu backlash which would threaten the secular balance between Muslim and Hindu not only in Mumbai, but across the country:

"If Pakistan truly wishes to turn back the tide of fundamentalism in its country, and stop exporting violence overseas, then it must have proper support and assistance from India. Yet the concern is that if last nights atrocities in Mumbai turn out to be Islamic backed, violence and retribution could ignite across India. The nation possesses a larger Muslim population than Pakistan, and much of the area around the Crawford Bazaar in the heart of Mumbai remains steadfastly Muslim – Mosques and Minarets abound, as do bushy beards, skull caps and women wearing burkhas. Anti-Muslim feelings here if uncontrolled in the wake of these terrorist attacks would be devastating. Tens of thousands could die."

Vatican Installs 2400 Solar Panels

The Pope goes solar: "The system, devised by the German company SolarWorld, will allow the 108-acre city-state to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225,000 kilograms (225 tonnes) and save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil each year."

Sentamu On Woolas

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, talking about Phil Woolas and his remarks on immigration:

"For any honourable member to suggest that someone who has made out reasonable grounds, and has succeeded in their appeal under the due process of law 'has no right to be in this country' is a worrying development ... May I be forgiven for suggesting that the honourable member in question does not advance his stated desire to have 'a mature debate about immigration' by this carry on?"

Attacks In Mumbai

I find it astonishing that the BBC News (Radio 4) didn't have the Mumbai terror attacks as their lead story at 730am today. Especially when it's still going on.

What's also depressing is that there has been a series of explosions (64 killed a month ago in Assam, 22 small bombs killed 49 in Ahmedabad in July; 63 killed in bombs in Jaipur in May), but it only gains world attention when terrorists single out Americans and British people in Mumbai.

27 November 2008

What I've Been Reading ...

George Monbiot: "Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse?"

Amnesty International UK: "Tasers are potentially lethal weapons which are already linked to numerous deaths in north America and that's why wide deployment without adequate training is a dangerous step too far for British policing."

Chris Goodall's 10 big energy myths: "Rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of solar panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun's light and cost a fraction of what they do today."

IPS News: "Ocean acidification cannot be fixed quickly. It might take a thousand years for the oceans to regain their buffering capacity to prevent continuing acidification. Many species will not be able to adapt and there will be no place to hide."

Obama And Discontent Over His Cabinet

Keeping Bush's Defence Secretary might be a good thing for Obama to do. FlyOnTheWall makes the point that cabinet appointees execute policy. They work for the president. What has happened, for decades, is that the Pentagon's bureaucracy stalls and out-lasts civilian appointees. Instead, Obama is signalling that he will pursue the key reforms that Gates has tried to put in place. These include trying to stall/question the procurement of the F-22, the C-17, the CSAR-X helicopter, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, and the $160 billion Future Combat Systems initiative.


"And defense spending is just the tip of the iceberg. On a wide array of issues including encouraging heterodox thought, promoting capable officers, reigning in inter-service rivalries, prioritizing the needs of soldiers in the field, and placing personnel ahead of technology, Gates has made important strides - a point I've already made at excessive length. Having him pursue the same agenda while working for a President who actually agrees with and supports his efforts is an exciting prospect."
We (anti-military activisits, whether Left or Green) continue to have a contradictory position:

- The military-industrial complex is all-powerful, it cannot be overcome, Blackwater is hiding under every bed, it's iron-clad, we'd doomed to the Pentagon buying £1040 wrenches

- Obama should sweep into office, appoint all progressive people to his cabinet, and throw out Gates, and the military, and military industry, will just fall in line, they'll love Obama, and on his own, he will change the world.

It's neither of these things.

Perhaps Carter and Clinton simply weren't effective (heck, Carter was leading by 30% in the summer of 1976, and he was one-term-and-out) since they came in and appointed people who didn't know what they were doing. Maybe it's more important to set overall policy, manage people (as opposed to Cheney/Scooter/Rummy going rogue), and get things done.

I'd rather Obama concentrate on making the Copenhagen conference a reality, to start getting the US out of Iraq, to begin an economic stimulus in the US, than stumble around for a year with ideologically pure appointees.

26 November 2008

Council Staff And The Incinerator

I wasn't able to go, but two members of CRACIN went to a local residents association meeting last night. Andrew Walster, from the council's waste services department, gave a presentation on the incinerator.

I continue to be worried about the slant that council staff give in presentations to ward forums and other community-level meetings.

For example, they say that Coventry is now up to 30% in its recycling rate. However, our level of composting is most of that, and our "dry" recycling rate is one of the worst in England. They continue to insist that there is no market for non-HDPE plastic. This is despite plastic reprocessing plants opening in Lancashire, in Lincolnshire, and two in Wales. Finally, they talk about the incinerator, but not alternatives to it. They talk about the incinerator, but not things like the £92 gate fee.

People pay their council tax so that council officers can give impartial advice about the pros and the cons, about trade-offs and benefits ... not just what reflects well on the council.

Caroline Lucas On Radio 4

Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, will be on "Any Questions" on BBC Radio 4, at 8pm on Friday night. Her fellow guests will be Geoff Hoon, Vincent Cable, and David Willetts.

25 November 2008

Copenhagen - Coal And Poland

In advance of the climate change conference in Poznan, Greenpeace protesters clashed with Polish miners on Monday. According to the World Coal Institute, Poland (apart from South Africa) is the most coal-dependent country in the world, producing 94 percent of its electricity from coal:

"The Jozwin mine lies near Goplo lake, listed on the EU's Nature 2000 programme aiming to safeguard threatened species in the bloc ... Konin, the firm that operates Jozwin, also plans to open a second opencast mine in nearby Tomislawice but environmentalists say this could destroy Goplo, home to rare wildlife."

"Some Poles share Greenpeace's concerns but others say wealthier western EU states had built up strong infrastructure before embracing the environmental cause. Poland has begun to receive large-scale EU funds to modernise its dilapidated infrastructure, including roads."

Portugal And Electric Cars

Portugal, with the help of Renault and Nissan, want to build 1300 charging stations for electric cars by the end of 2011. Portugal has 10.6 million people. If the same initiative happened in a city the size of Coventry, it works out to 36 stations -- two for each ward. Tax incentives and reduced parking rates will also be offered to drivers of electric vehicles. Why can't we have some of that ambition in Britain?

2 Degrees Vs 3 Degrees

An interesting laying-out of the costs to produce various scenarios:

- If we keep things as they are, we're likely to face a 6 degrees Celsius rise in average global temperature. This would end life as we know it.

- If we invest $4.1 trillion in energy-related infrastructure and equipment, we're likely to improve our energy efficiency, save $7 trillion, and stabilise greenhouse gases at 550 parts per million in the atmosphere (a rise of about 3 degrees Celsius). This would make life very uncomfortable, and could still trigger run-away heating.

- If we invest $9.3 trillion (and have 36% of the global energy mix by 2030 be low-carbon), fuel savings will only be $5.8 trillion, but we could limit the world to a 2 degree rise in temperature.

The "common sense" option (going for 3 degrees, getting a net saving of nearly $3 trillion) shows why we can't evaluate economic options in the same old way.

Pre-Budget Report - The Day After

- Only £3 billion of the £20 billion "reflationary boost" of the pre-budget report is capital spending. If we want a long-term boost, for long-term economic benefit, this isn't the right way to proceed.

- Two Doctors points out that Brown's 2005 conference speech proclaimed Labour as the party of economic stability ... precisely when we had a housing bubble, and all the sub-prime-shenanigans were starting to build up.

- Hamish McRae, in the Independent, says that when Japan was in crisis, "the more the government borrowed, the more frightened people became and the more they felt they had to save." He goes on to express alarm that the government is talking up the crisis as unprecedented. "The danger of talking up perils is that people will believe them. It is the reverse of Franklin D Roosevelt's phrase that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – between them, Messrs Brown and Darling are trying to make us more fearful, not less." It's the need for a crisis that I talked about a few days ago. Once the crisis is over, people will turn to the soft/cuddly leader for "peacetime" - Cameron - rather than the Churchill/crisis figure of Brown. Brown needs to keep us afraid.

- There was no emphasis on grassroots financial arrangements (credit unions, co-operatives) in the Pre-Budget report. We need to get people saving in a sustainable way again. Instead, Labour are turning to the very institutions, High Street banks, that got us into this mess.

24 November 2008

Leadership Of The Scottish Greens

If you want to read about the leadership of the Scottish Greens (their new "co-convenor"), the Times had a profile of Patrick Harvie yesterday. He's the first openly bisexual party leader in British politics.

The Pre-Budget Report

You can read the entire Pre-Budget Report here. He's a tricksy fellow, this Darling. He talks about a green component to his stimulus package, but buried in the detail is an expansion of the motorway network, as well as (4.61) a "review of the regulatory framework for UK airports" so that "airport operators are incentivised to deliver timely, efficient and necessary investment in new airport capacity."

You can see the Green Party's response here:
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Leader of the Green Party said: "The Chancellor’s plan to cut taxes to promote a consumer-spending boom is short- term thinking in the extreme. Even if it works, it will simply ship money abroad, as most consumer goods are imported, rather than supporting jobs here in the UK. More seriously, it also represents a return to the vicious cycles of debt and over-consumption that caused the crisis in the first place ... By putting capital spending into increasing motorway capacity, diluting the incentive to buy more efficient vehicles, and encouraging more aviation, Gordon Brown has shown his environmental incompetence, as well as his economic recklessness."

21 November 2008

Boris Continues To Surprise

A lot of people predicted "dogs and cats, living together, total hysteria" when Boris was elected Mayor of London. He's not doing it Ken's way, and doom may still come, but in the last month, we've had the commissioning of a study for an illegal immigrant amnesty , the idea for 2012 food gardens across London by 2012, a pledge of 40% of new homes to be made available for social housing, and a pledge to eradicate rough sleeping in London by 2012.

Last Garden Waste Collection For 2008

It's next week's waste collection - the week of Mon 24th November. They will be halted until the week of 3rd February.

The city council says that: "a leaflet will be coming through the post letting people know all of the collection details for rubbish and recycling over the holiday."

The council's advice goes on to talk about how you can shred/recycle your real Christmas tree. We buy a real tree, but only every few years -- we just put it out in our back yard for the intervening 11 months.

Woolas On Asylum Appeals

The Labour government, in next month's Queen's speech, plans to block appeals to high court judges from failed asylum seekers facing deportation.

The immigration minister, Phil Woolas, has this idea that asylum seekers only try appeals to prolong their stay. In reality, the Refugee Legal Centre, the largest provider of legal representation to asylum seekers, wins 50% of its cases on appeal.

Earlier in the week, Woolas criticised lawyers and non-governmental organisations who work on behalf of asylum seekers, saying they undermined the law itself, "played the system," were an "industry," and for good measure, also said that most asylum seekers were economic migrants.

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia: "It is utterly astonishing that a senior government minister should dismiss a court decision in this way, blame lawyers and others who give vulnerable people access to justice, and try to say that there is something wrong in appealing against the state's attempts to kick you out of the country. People win appeals because the system has failed them ... Governments attack human rights workers when they have something to hide. The UK authorities have been rightly criticised for dawn raids, removal of children and other abuses of justice in relation to people seeking asylum - even refusing to accept the legitimacy of their own numerous legal defeats. It is this that needs public investigation."

Also: http://stopdeportationofguy.wordpress.com/

20 November 2008

A Tour Of The Blogs

- Two Doctors is frustrated at the SSP (in Edinburgh) and Respect (in Manchester) both opposing congestion charging.

- Caroline Lucas reports that MEPs have voted to support a ban on cluster munitions.

- The One Show's blog on consumer affairs examines the Warm Front grant scheme. One of the comments after the piece reads:

"I work as a Housing Inspector in the Local Authority and have dealt with dozens of clients who have applied for a warm front grant. My experience has been ,almost without exception, that the cost of the work through Warmfront is over inflated. Quotes for the work through local contractors consistently comes in at a THIRD TO HALF less expensive. Most of the people who contact me are pensioners who cannot afford to pay a large amount of money in order to get the work done and consequently end up remaining in cold houses. I am so pleased you have highlighted this issue on the One show, it is a NATIONAL SCANDAL."

Googlebombing E.ON

I've received a blog comment from Calvin Jones (he also has an email newsletter you can subscribe to) about the move to redirect Google searches for E.ON to www.nonewcoal.org.uk/.

The idea is that everytime you mention E.ON, you link to the nonewcoal website. Gradually, if dozens of sites do this, when people Google "E.ON" or "eon", then nonewcoal gets a higher and higher rating. It's now in the top 10 (#6 as of today).

Coal is the most polluting way of generating electricity. Every new Kingsnorth power station (E.ON) will produce the same amount of CO2 as Ghana.

Why should we keep, let alone expand, the world's use of coal? We need to boost renewable energy instead of continuing to use dirty coal.

- You can write to E.ON through Oxfam's website.
- You can write to your MP and ask them their position on coal and E.ON

"Kingsnorth is a terrible idea. One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions" - James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies

Copenhagen - Obama And Poznan Conference

In our year-long series of posts leading up to the Copenhagen climate change summit (end of Nov/start of Dec 2009), Barack Obama (below) sends a video message to a global warming summit in California. He is clear about his government establishing "strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 percent by 2050."

19 November 2008

Obama And The US Military Budget

Katrina vanden Heuvel: "$213 billion could be cut from US military spending, and, even with this cut, the US would retain the largest military in the world and spend over eight times more than any of the next largest militaries."

In a world defined by global poverty, it's the kind of fact that should make the US a pariah state.

Protests Against Coal - E.ON In Rotterdam

Brown Needs A Permanent Crisis

Jonathan Freedland: "Brown needs it to be 1943 for as long as possible. He needs voters to believe the crisis is ongoing, that we are still in the emergency phase. Ideally, he would go into the next election as Dr Brown, still wearing his white coat, still administering medicine to the patient on life support."

18 November 2008

Our Next Ward Leaflet

It focuses on the incineration debate and the Green New Deal's boost for low-carbon employment training.

The advert artwork was passed along to me (through my wife) on Saturday. I scanned that, and did a final edit on Sunday. On Monday, I emailed our usual printer, and I didn't hear back. I called him up, and he hadn't received my email. I tried again. No dice. I tried his personal AOL account. Nada.

So, I've ended up having to send it on CD via the good old-fashioned post. Every day, in every way, technology is making our lives easier and easier!

17 November 2008

Pirates Hijack Oil Tanker Off Somalia

It will be interesting to see how this develops. It's more than one-quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output.

Upcoming Events In Coventry

Tuesday 18th November, a film, "Rebellion: The Litvenenko Affair," Warwick Arts Centre, 7pm, £6.25 (£5.25 concs, £2.50 for Warwick Students, lucky ducks)

Wednesday 19 November - Ward Forum meeting for Westwood, 7pm-9pm, St James Church Hall, Westcotes, Tile Hill

Thursday 20th November - Campaign Meeting, Coventry Friends of the Earth, the Council House, 730pm

Thursday 20th November - Coventry Association for International Friendship, "Bethlehem’s ‘House of Peace’ at Rachel’s Tomb", Ann Farr will be a guest speaker on her visit to a peace project in an area of confrontation in Bethlehem, in the West Bank of Palestine, the Council House, 730pm

Saturday 22nd November - 18th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister

Monday 24 November - Transition Earlsdon will screen a film, "The End of Suburbia -- Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream," on peak oil. It's at 730pm, at St Barbara's Church Hall, Rochester Road, Earlsdon.

Tuesday 25th November - Ward Forum meeting for Binley and Willenhall, 7pm-9pm, Willenhall Education, Employment & Training Centre, Robin Hood Road, Willenhall

Thursday 27th November - Ward Forum meeting for Earlsdon, 7pm-9pm, All Souls and Precious Blood Catholic Church, Kingsland Avenue

Saturday 29th November - Hillfields Readers Group Open Day, Hope Centre, Sparkbrook Street, Hillfields, from 12noon to 4pm, with the Hillfields Young People’s Bollywood Dance Group, readings by Ann Evans and Jon Morley, a craft workshop, a book fair, stalls, and Imagination Cafe storytellers

16 November 2008

The Revolving Door

Sir David Manning is a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair (in the buildup to Iraq) and a former ambassador to the US. Sir David has now become a non-executive director of the British branch of Lockheed Martin (which sells jet fighters and missiles to Britain). He's also on the advisory board of Hakluyt, a firm which "once hired a former German agent to spy on Greenpeace on behalf of oil companies." Sir David only left the post of Ambassador to the US in October 2007. Most civil servants do their job in the name of public service. This job move gives the impression that high-level aides just wait for an eventual reward from the corporate sector.

14 November 2008

Police Trials For Violence At 2001 G8 Summit

The verdicts for police on trial for the violence commited against G8 protesters in 2001: "The evidence was overwhelming. There is no justice here. I feel sorry for Italy."

West Midlands European Elections In 2009

The West Midlands Green Party launched its European election campaign (for 2009) yesterday.

One focus of our campaign will be on using European institutions to help create millions of new green jobs, energy security and a stronger, more resilient economy.

The campaign launch happened at one of the success stories of green job creation in the West Midlands. In Rubery, South Birmingham, Strip Tinning Automotive, after the Rover collapse, diversified into making parts for solar panels.

Our lead candidate for the West Midlands (#1 on the Green Party list) is Felicity Norman.

If you want to hear Felicity speak, one of her next engagements is in Birmingham on the 27th of November. It's a public meeting ("How do we stop climate change?") at Birmingham Uni (Strathcona Building, Lecture Theatre 4) at 730pm.

13 November 2008

Copenhagen - Christian Aid's Countdown

This is the first in a year-long series of posts on the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen -- 30th November to 11th December, 2009.

The conference will negotiate, and agree, a successor treaty to Kyoto.

Here is a video from Christian Aid, laying out the issues at stake for the conference:

More Local Coverage On Incinerator

The Coventry Telegraph has a story today on the new YouTube video from CRACIN, and the Coventry Times has a front-page article on the controversy:

12 November 2008

Norway Tops For Gender Equality

Norway is #1 this year, but Norway, Sweden and Finland are the only countries who have been in the top 3 for 3 years running.

The UK has gone from 9th (2006) to 11th (2007) to 13th (2008).

The US has been 23rd, 31st and 26th over the three years. When you look at women and "political empowerment," the US was only in 56th place. Norway is also rated as the most peaceful nation in the world, unlike the US, which remains the only country to use nuclear weapons in warfare.

Ideas For Barack

The Guardian/Grist:

Bill McKibben, author, climate activist:

"According to the scientists at NASA -- your scientists, now -- the world doesn't work right above 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. Now that you're done with 270 electoral votes, that's the number that's got to focus your thinking."

Vinod Khosla, Silicon Valley investor:

"Don't focus on all things green. Instead look at the few things that can achieve 80 percent carbon reductions per mile driven in our transportation fleet and be low-cost enough to penetrate 80 percent of all transportation including in India and China. For electric power, go beyond current renewable fashion. Look at the technologies that can replace or clean up 80 percent of coal-based electric generation with 80 percent lower carbon kilowatt hours!"

Evon Peter, executive director of Native Movement:

"Barack, as you are aware, our world is in need of deep healing and a transformation of consciousness that will lead to tangible changes in policy and practice, shifting the fundamentally unsustainable and exploitative direction in which we are headed. This is not unlike the years leading up to the end of slavery as ideological forces conflicted and arguments over economics and political structure prevailed. We are entering an era of truth over politics and love over violence as a means to our survival."

Bring On The Wonky Aubergines!

20% of the British harvest is thrown away each year to comply with EU regulations on "perfectly shaped" fruit and vegetables. A vote is expected to abolish these "marketing guidelines" today.

11 November 2008

Pink's A Gardener

Q Magazine: "I have an organic vegetable garden with four raised beds. I grow cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, jalapeƱo peppers, spinach, kale and chillies. I also grow sunflowers, marigolds and herbs like basil and marjoram. I like to get out there in my wellies. It's very punk rock to be out in a yard growing your own food."

10 November 2008

The CRACIN Video On The Incinerator

Credit Crunch IV: The Voyage Home

- The nef has a new £4 pamphlet - 20 first steps to rise from the ashes - "This year has been finance-led capitalism’s 1989. It is now as broken as the old Soviet Union. Now there is a huge opportunity to develop a new model for a real economy that does work for people and the planet." Hat-tip to Greenman.

- China announced a £374bn economic stimulus package yesterday

- Some guy named Obama wants to crack down on tax havens as part of the "new financial architecture"

If we want to start talking about "reembedding the economy", it's time to start talking about Polanyi, not Keynes.

Finally, Mary Kaldor has a long, but interesting, article on the crisis - "Underlying the financial crisis is a deeper structural crisis in the real economy. It has to do with the mismatch between our social and political institutions and the profound changes in society wrought by the so-called 'new economy' ... Any stimulus must provide a sustainable outlet for the extraordinary gains in technological know-how of the last thirty years."

Green Party Meeting - 11th November, 730pm

We will start a series of community meetings in Cheylesmore on Tuesday evening.

It's at 730pm, at the Cheylesmore Community Centre (that's on Poitiers Road, right at Portsea). It's in room one.

We're about to send a 5000-copy newsletter to the printers, so we can have a final proof-read of that, but what we really need to do is plan outreach to attract people to future meetings, with guest speakers/films.

We also have a discussion each week about an aspect of Green Party policy -- this month, it will be migration/immigration, and you can see the party's full policy at: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/mfssmg.html

09 November 2008

Maybe Size Really Does Matter

The Lib Dems are in control of 31 councils, with 62 MPs, 12 MEPs, and 4200 councillors nationwide.

The Greens are in control of zero councils (nearly the largest party in Norwich), with zero MPs, 2 MEPs, and 116 councillors (for England and Wales, plus 8 with Glasgow/Edinburgh councillors).

Now, consider that the Lib Dems only have 60 360 members, and the Greens (England and Wales) have 7440 members.

Either the Lib Dems are ultra-competent and ferociously disciplined, or there is a certain tipping point (Our first MP? 200 councillors? Control of our 1st council?) where you reach a critical mass of active members and you start achieving real electoral gains.

New Zealand's Green Party

In elections in New Zealand, their Green Party (with 6.4% of the vote) increased their seats from 6 to 8. They are now the third-largest party in their parliament!

One of the reasons why we want Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavillion), and hopefully Adrian Ramsay (Norwich South) and Darren Johnson (Lewisham), to be elected to Parliament is that Green MPs get things done.

Some of the New Zealand Green MP's achievements include:

- improving NZ's Emissions Trading Scheme, including creating a Billion dollar fund to make homes warm, dry and cost-effective to heat
- ensuring legislation for youth wages and flexible working hours
- helping to pass New Zealand's first energy efficiency legislation
- helping to pass New Zealand's first waste reduction legislation
- keeping commercial GM crops out of New Zealand's soil
- increasing New Zealand's commitment to overseas aid
- helping to keep New Zealand troops out of Iraq, and,
- increasing funding for public transport, cycling, and walking; vehicle fuel-economy labeling; and an agreement that fuel economy standards will be introduced soon.

08 November 2008

06 November 2008

Coventry City Farm Open Day

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is having an open day at the former site of the City Farm. It will happen on Saturday, the 8th November, from 12pm to 3pm.

It will include a DVD screening, a BBQ, and children/family activities.

WWT wants to turn the former City Farm site into a space that the local community want to use. They have a five-page questionnaire (which I presume will be available for people to fill out on Saturday) about the redevelopment. WWT has a temporary license to redevelop the former City Farm site until March 2009, so they want as much information/consultation as possible to make a decision on the next step for the former City Farm.

For more information, you can contact Izumi Segawa on 02476 302 912.

Fairtrade In The Workplace

Wood Pellet Boilers

Why are we burying fuel in landfill? Of the 7.5m tonnes a year of domestic wood waste (construction and demolition), 80% goes to landfill. Only some 4% becomes sustainable energy from biomass. Production plants for wood pellets are at varying stages of the planning process already.

Here are a number of examples of wood power at work around the country:

- Stroud District Council is encouraging home-owners to invest in wood pellet boilers

- A group called "Wood For Gold" wants the 2012 Olympic stadium's torch to be powered by waste wood. As well, the ash waste created by burning the wood "will be reused to create terra preta soils, an ancient method, favoured by indigenous South Americans, of mixing ash with waste to create extremely fertile soils"

- Worcestershire County Hall is powered by a wood boiler, and Exeter City Council is replacing all of its oil-fuelled boilers with ones that use wood pellets.

For more information, you can check out the "Log Pile" website.

05 November 2008

US Election News Roundup

- Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan ran as an independent against Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, and received 17% of the vote in a race for Congress

- In contrast, in state after state, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney didn't receive 1% of the vote. In New York, McKinney received 12 000 votes out of 7 million cast. McKinney had only 180 donors who gave more than $200 to her campaign. The US has become more, not less, of a two-party state, despite the rise of the Green Party since before the 2000 election.

- Hispanic youth (30 years and younger) went for Obama by a 50% margin, i.e. 75% to 25%. More broadly, the youth vote margin was worth an extra 73 electoral votes for Obama.

- Obama won union voters by 22 percent; he won among those with members of unions in their households by 19 percent

- How Obama "branded" himself better.

- Trevor Phillips thinks an Obama can't happen here.

- Paxo vs Dizzy Rascal

- San Francisco had an interesting set of "Propositions" being voted on (local referendums):

Proposition B -- allocating funds to support affordable housing for seniors, families, those in danger of becoming homeless, disabled persons, those living with HIV or AIDS, and at-risk youth -- voted down by 50.54 percent of voters
Proposition H -- a deadline for San Francisco to be powered by 100% clean energy by 2040 -- rejected by 59 percent of voters
Proposition K -- the decriminalization of prostitution in San Francisco, and for the full enforcement of laws against assault or rape in cases involving sex workers -- defeated by more than 57 percent of voters
Proposition U -- no more further federal funding of armed forces in Iraq, except as used for withdrawal from the country -- passed by nearly 60 percent

- Newsweek has a behind-the-scenes look at the campaigns. A cyber attack from an "unknown entity" hit both presidential campaigns' computers during the summer. Obama's campaign had a piece of software called "Project Houdini" to keep track in real-time which people had already voted on election day.

- Women advisers will be key in an Obama administration.

Finally, Wangari Maathai (the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner from 2004) writes on Obama as an inspiration not just for Africa's young people, but for African leaders too

The 2nd Illinois Lawyer President

The Obama Victory

You can spend some time zooming in and out (down to the county level) at this state-by-state map. Fun for ages 9 to 99.

The results in Virginia and North Carolina were probably the most satisfying.

The Guardian has a good gallery of election day photos.

Hannah has it right here: "Even if Obama wins, we have not 'won.' This isn't a movie and we can't toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft. If we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing welfare of the country as much as we have to the outcome of this election, we'll have a much better shot at coming closer to the overwhelming good the liberals hope Obama will usher in."

Organized Rage:

"The most important is that for the first time in my life the American masses are investing in a US presidential candidate. One only has to see the TV pictures of the lines of people waiting to register to vote to understand that something new is happening. One working class black woman in her 40s said this will be the first presidential election she has bothered to cast a vote in; and she was far from being alone ... Obama will disappoint us, but his election alone will empower millions of Americans and inspire working class black people no end, They will know that someone with the same skin color as themselves sits at the head of the top table; and he will be conscious of these people blowing down the back of his neck demanding justice. It will also expose the lie that it is the US working classes that are racist to the core."

03 November 2008

Clarion Events And The Arms Trade

Another reason to dislike Top Gear.

Coventry Peace Month 2008

You can find a list of the remaining events in this year's Peace Month here.

Things that stand out:

- a Women's Peace Lunch (tomorrow, 12pm to 5pm, FolesHillfields Vision Project, 6 Paul Stacey House, Bath Street in Hillfields)

- the annual Peace Lecture (tomorrow, 7pm, St Mary's Guildhall), given by Prof. Jon Roper -- how contemporary memories of war, and defeat, have been moulded in American political rhetoric, culture and society

- Lunchtime talks of personal stories about peace (this Thursday, at the herbert, 1230pm to 130pm)

- A short film and discussion with forced and economic migrants (Thursday night, 7pm, at the Coventry Peace House)

- A series of events around the Stateless campaign next Saturday. From 11am to 5pm, a "roving band of informers and performers" will explain the position of stateless people, followed by a 10pm Saturday night sleep out in solidarity.

£8 Flights From Ryanair

£8 flights to the US from Ryanair. You have a 16-hour round-trip flight, that emits four times as much carbon as short-hops to Europe, costing less. Oh, and Stansted wants to double its passengers. People are up in arms about Enron-accounting, and derivative products that make the world economy go kablooey, but somehow, we're comfortable with the cost of aviation not reflecting the long-term environmental cost.

In other news:

Maybe we need Young Young Greens branches.

David Miliband had a rough ride from John Humphrys over the conflict in the Congo. Humphrys repeatedly put to him that the problem is the struggle over natural resources and that multinational corporations are complicit.

Do we want our nuclear bomb factories to be flooded?

Heavy drinking contributes to 25% of dementia cases in Britain. The price of alcohol, relative to our income, has halved since the 1960's. So, if we keep binge drinking like we do, we will have a wave of cases of dementia for the NHS to deal with in coming decades.

02 November 2008

Obama In Rolling Stone In Feb 2007

Rolling Stone published a profile of Barack Obama right at the start of his presidential campaign in February 2007. It's very revealing. Obama as a man "trying to pull a less-conventional trick: to turn his own person into a movement." His candidacy as "a kind of human Rorschach test ... People see in him what they want to see." His chief advisor, David Axelrod, saying: "we don't know exactly how Barack will respond. I'll be really frank with you: Barack doesn't know exactly how he'll respond."

I think that one way that Obama responded will, hopefully, change politics in Western democracies for the better.

He trusted the people joining his "movement" with responsibility.

Specifically, he used technology creatively to make them drive the process, neighbour-to-neighbour, house party by house party. Part of his election platform that has not received enough attention is how he'll continue that process of grassroots empowerment after a victory. Obama wants Cabinet officials, government executives and rulemaking agencies to hold meetings that are open to the public and transmitted with a live feed. He wants to use blogs and wikis to communicate policies with Americans and provide new subsidies for rural broadband access. He wants to provide raw governmental data to new mashup software tools to track influence and monitor corruption.

If you knock on 10 million doors, and then open up the machinery of government to people, you hopefully create a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way mirror.

01 November 2008

Domestic Violence In Britain

Domestic violence accounts for one in six of all reported attacks, with more than one in four victims (27%) having been victimised at least three or four times. There are now 104 specialist domestic violence courts around the country, but there has been a wave of closures of much-needed support services and refuge centres. Around one third of local authorities have no domestic violence services. We can't continue to have a nationwide postcode lottery on domestic violence.

In other news:

Mark Mardell has a good post on post-WWII German identity. I'm tired of going into bookshops and the "German History" section is full of books on the Nazi regime, especially when the same shop has a seperate "WWII" section.

Right now, on the refinancing of PFI projects, profits are split 30% for the public sector and 70% for the private sector. The Treasury is now proposing for it to be 50-50, on any net gains over £3 million. The revised refinancing rules will applly to roughly 200 projects, worth £26 billion, which are expected to reach financial close before 2010.

This is what Americans call an "October surprise."

And, I won't miss 4 Poofs & a Piano.

Collecting Signatures For CRACIN

I spent the early afternoon with other members of CRACIN (the coalition against the incinerator), gathering signatures in Ball Hill. Obviously, some people brush past you, ignore you, and claim to be too busy. I didn't even have time to tell people I wasn't a charity mugger! But mostly, people were interested, and we gathered dozens of signatures. Ball Hill is more "Coventry" than what is planned for the Jerde-led redevelopment of the city centre. It's full of independent shops and caffs and charity stores. There's a new Tesco, which is jarring, but Coventry seems mad for Tesco (we have seven in the city, plus seven more within a 20-minute drive in towns in Warwickshire).

I'm off to a Green Party social tonight at Gianluca's house. We aim to have a monthly meeting, a monthly social, and a monthly canal walk (from the Peace House to the Greyhound), from now on. The host is making Italian pizza, and I can't decide whether to bring some pasta (orecchiette) with leeks and green pesto, or to make some pea/lemon risotto.