Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Christians uniting over genital obsession

February 20, 2007

Hi Grit

You may or may not have heard that there are moves afoot in Europe for the uniting of the Anglican Church, our Church of England with the Catholic Church, run by the Vatican, an event which first came to light a couple of days ago. Bearing in mind the colossal wealth that these two organisations have, one might have been forgiven for believing that this was an international merger on a scale of some the global corporate mergers that have become so prevalent in recent years. After all the Church of England is one of the largest property owners in the UK, and the Vatican domain is worth a few dollars more. However, it appears that this is not the case.

It appears from current reports, that this merger is due more to the fixation on genital issues than a blend of faith or merging of wealth. Some see this merger as an attempt by the more progressive elements of the Anglican Church to become combined with a more liberal hiearchy. Perhaps I should explain. There is at present a continuing rumbling debate in the Church of England over the issues of women clergy, homsexuality and single sex marriages, some of which I have mentioned before. The old school people in the C of E, do not like this situation at all, wishing to remain in their pre-liberal days.

Apparently, the new school see this merger as an opportunity of tipping the ruling balance in their favour as the Catholic Church has a far more liberal and outgoing approach to these suxual matters. Obviously as the Catholics in Europe outnumber the C of E, theirs would be the deciding voice.

There was I thinking that the clergy wore long robes to present a united front to the world, but it appears I was wrong. It seems that all along, it is a cover up for fixation. Do you think anyone has asked God for his views?

the Brit

UK Human rights and Freedom extinguished

February 18, 2007

Hi Grit

The government in the UK, if re-elected at the next election, will be taking the final steps to abolish human rights, freedom and privacy for the individual UK citizen, all in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

If the labour government have their way, all adults over the age of 16 will, by 2009, be required to place their fingerprints on a central computer. The suggested law may even extend to “iris” prints. These moves are in addition to the requirement to provide photographs for driving licences; requirement to provide details for the census and annual local government property occupancy register (for council tax purposes); and the multitude of close-circuit television cameras that adorn our towns, streets, villages and roads. An extra measure of identity that is also being considered is to place our medical records in the same “identikit” of us.

Not satisfied with us already being the most watched nation in the EU, these latest moves will actually increase the gap between us and other countries, turning us into one of the most monitored nations in the world. Some may argue that these moves are positive, but are they? Let us consider the evidence.

1) COST:

Naturally, there is the cost of the citizen ID rules. The government suggest that this will amount to just over £5.4 billion ($10.8 billion). However, independent sources put the figure at £19.3 billion ($38.6 billion). This represents over £300 ($600) per annum, per citizen. In addition to this, it is compulsory for people to give this information at one of 69 centres through the UK, at their own cost. In some cases this means travelling up to 100 miles, irrespective of age, financial situation or infirmity. A round trip of this nature, taken in work time will cost the worst affected another £100 at least. Of course, this does not take into account the annual running costs of the scheme.

2) PRIVACY

A basic human right is that of privacy. The ability to live our lives without fear or favour, and to keep parts of our lives free from the prying eyes of others. From 2009, if these plans go ahead, this will no longer be possible. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, but that is not the point. Do I really want my health, age, medical condition, financial status and life history potentially exposed to every form of media and individual nationally and internationally? Our data protection act suggests that such information should be secure but, in view of the fact that the government has incorporated rules to allow certain organisations, commercial as well as government and non-government organisations to access the data, this guarantee no longer holds true.

3) DISCRIMINATION

Such a system will also lead to discrimination, both intentional and by devious means. Employers will be tempted to access medical and financial information about potential employees, therefore leading to unfair bias against certain applicants. This is particularly the case in medical issues. For example, take the case of a person who may in the past have had cancer. Although possibly totally cured, when such a person is set against an applicant who has not past health problems, which is the less than totally honest employer going to chose?

Medical, legal and financial practitioners will be able to access medical records, providing a situation where they can discriminate against those they do not want to assist.   

4) MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE:

No computer or other registration system is infalible and the identity system will be no exception. With personal and biometric information on around fifty million people on file, the incidences of misinterpretation, incorrect identification and transpostion of information will rise. As a result this is bound to lead to an increase in the incidence of miscarriages of Justice. Add to this the fact that none of the biometric identity measures are 100% accurate and it can be seen that this will compound the issue. A small example of this might occur with twins for example. Especially in cases of identical twins wrong identification is even more likely.

5) THE CONCEPT OF INNOCENCE

The United Kingdom laws have always been founded upon the rule of “innocent until proven guilty.” It is bad enough that in recent decades tax and other laws have led to a reverse of this process in such areas. Now, with the introduction of of these measures, such a foundation has been totally eroded. The onus on the citizen will now be to prove their innocence in all cases.

Does this mean that in future one has to keep a daily diary of life events to ensure that one cannot get into a situation where lack of evidence to suggest otherwise leads to automatic guilt? I work from home and, during the day, this means that there is no-one to provide an alibi for my whereabouts, especially if I am not on the computer. If I take two hours off for a bath and rest, will I in future have to log this and provide photographic evidence? 

6) IDENTITY THEFT

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of the past decade. It is also one of the least obvious to the victim, unless it has been committed for financial purposes. How can we be sure that our identity will not be stolen or duplicated for other criminal purposes? What is more important is, if such an event does occur, how will we know until a crime, using our identity has been committed?

7) PROTECTION AGAINST CRIME AND TERRORISM

The assumption that identity laws will offer protection against crime and terrorism is flawed in so many ways as to make it laughable. It only works if one starts from the premise that every hardened criminal and committed terrorist is going to abide by these laws. Naturally, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, and underworld criminals are going to assist the law by coming forward voluntarily to offer their biometric identity to the authorities. I think not! Such an assumption is, at best, insane.

There are those who argue that it is easier to catch someone who does not possess an identity card. How does that work? There are 60 million people in the UK and it is certain that there are not enough law enforcement agencies or officers to check each indicvidual. Add to this the fact that there is unencumbered travel in the EU through 25 countries and a determined criminal or terrorist has more than adequate escape routes. These are in addition to the many illegal ways of escaping from the country. Furthermore, why should such persons worry about being apprehended when there is always the route of identity theft to cover their tracks?

Although there may be rules and laws in place to address breaches of the protections in place, these are an “after the event” remedy, by which time the damage is done. Once the security of information has been broken, one cannot recapture the privacy, irrespective of how much money has been recovered in damages.

The hypothesis that these measures are a protection against crime and terrorism, as has been clearly demonstrated, is totally wrong. They will have little to no effect in these areas. 

In conclusion therefore, one has to observe that these new laws will have limited impact upon detering any major crime and terrorism attempts. What they will do is to damage the human rights of the innocent citizen.

the Brit

Disorder in the ranks of Global Warming fanatics?

February 10, 2007

Hi Brit,

It seems that the Church of Global Warming should pick a High Priest to coordinate things.

On one hand we have, Congress eyes legislation to fight climate change (which I mentioned previously,) many countries are trying to implement the Kyoto Treats, and the EU is in the process of adding all sorts of new environmental laws.

On the other hand, we have, Climate Change Verdict: Science Debate Ends, Solution Debate Begins.  While I contest the “Science debate ends” part, having posted about this several times in the recent past, I point out the “Solution debate begins” part, as it relates to what I just mentioned above.  If there is still debate, even among the ranks of the faithful, as to what to do about Global Warming, then a rational person would have to question how our politicians can know what laws to pass to fix it?  If they understand things better than the Climate Scientists on who’s’ knowledge rests the concept and proof of Global Warming, perhaps they should write the IPCC reports on the subject.  Wait, sorry, I forgot, they did.  Still, one would think that some scientific basis would be needed to formulate solutions to a real problem.

On the gripping hand, I found this, UTSA researchers examine effects of global warming on Antarctic.  Now, call me crazy, but I thought this was “settled science,” and we know that the Antarctic ice is melting.  So, a rational person must ask, why are we waisting money examining things we already know all about?  Shouldn’t those funds be going to find a solution to Global Warming, or at least to implementing the solutions the politicians already seem to know about?

I have to say, Global Warming fanatics, y’all really should anoint a High Priest in an effort to get your act together.  How about AlGore?

the Grit

How long can you hold your breath?

February 9, 2007

Hi Brit,

I just read this, Congress eyes legislation to fight climate change, and immediately asked myself “how long can I hold my breath?”  After all, each of us expel the Evil Greenhouse Gas CO2 with each breath, and, now that Nanny Pelosi has the issue firmly clinched in her dentures, I expect that soon we will be faced with a Breath Tax, to encourage us to slow down our individual contributions to Global Warming.  By my quick, and not necessarily totally accurate, calculations, we in the US can offset her jet set life style if we each take 30 fewer breaths per day.  Of course, this increased interest in decreasing our breath rates will have at least one benefit, that being, getting some of the joggers off the road.

Although, considering that:

The White House said Snow was referring to figures from the International Energy Agency that from 2000 to 2004, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion grew by 1.7 percent, while in the European Union such emissions grew by 5 percent.  From: U.S. cuts emissions better than Europe: White House.

It would seem obvious to any rational person, thus excluding most Democrats I admit, that we are on the correct path to achieve the liberal agenda of reducing CO2 emissions without further Government meddling.  With liberals in control, of course, they will ignore the facts, raise taxes and piddle around in our lives until they manage to, not only, increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions, but, also, screw up our economy.  Typical.

the Grit

A little more EU help?

February 7, 2007

Hi Brit,

I just read this, Criminal code raises fear over EU powers, and, from my outside perspective, it sounds pretty bad.  If I understand it correctly, this gives unelected officials the ability to write criminal laws that trump laws in individual member nations of the European Union.  Scary.

the Grit

Global Warming 2007

February 4, 2007

Hi Grit

I believe our first post on the issue of Global Warming was getting on for three months ago. Since then I have participated a few times and read with interest all of the comments from both sides of the divide, along with studying all of the literature that people who have commented have posted have directed us towards. I hasten to add here that I am not a scientist, so there are aspects that I would not understand. However, I consider myself an intelligent person capable of assimilating sufficient data and making a reasoned judgement. Therefore, I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the issues so far made available. A rider to this of course is that, in view of the enormous amount of data on the subject, both for and against, it is impossible for any one individual, scientists included, to be able to assimilate it all and I would be no exception to that rule.

I do not intend this post to become embroiled in detailed scientific argument, as that will produce just a series of scientific counter arguments from both sides. It is my intention to comment on the structure and management of the analysis and the way the global warming issue is being handled.

1.) IPCC REPORT
With the IPCC report being published this month (February 2007) and it being one of a series being produced this year, many are claiming that this puts beyond doubt all of the global warming issues, particularly with regard to this being a “man-made” phenomena. However, whilst I accept that global warming exists, there are several factors that I would take issue with, both in terms of the report itself and the general reaction.

My first point of concern here is the secret nature of parts of the process building up to the report issue. In letters to Governments and Organisations in December and October 2006, although having made these letters public, they have deleted text within them, which appears to be access to the draft report. This raises two issues. Firstly, as the report is intended to benefit all of mankind, why is there a need for withholding any information? Secondly, does one presuppose that, by virtue of some deletions there could be changes of significance that the IPCC would rather the public did not see? In my view, transparency in this above all issues facing mankind is of paramount importance. Anything less is unacceptable.

Terminology
(Un)Certainty – In a document issued in July 2005, the IPCC issued guidance notes regarding the ways the lead authors should address uncertainty. It could be construed that some of these guidance are of a leading nature as it is asking that all issues to be consistent with the approach determined in the document. Another issue related to this document, which I will come to later is Table 4 – Likelihood Scale (on page 4.)

Consensus – My understanding of the term consensus is that it is the agreement of the majority, after having mitigated the objections of the opposing views. I read somewhere that, in this report it was to be a consensus of 300. I believe this needs more clarification. Bearing in mind that the report was produced by over 2,500 scientists, plus 800 contributing authors, plus 450 lead authors, I have difficulty in equating the consensus of 300 with these figures and feel they need further explanation.

Confidence – The levels of confidence are divided into five sectors, as can be seen on page 3 (table 3) of the summary report. On the other hand, the likelihood scale is divided by seven. In my view, this inequality between the two scales is confusing. Surely, it would have been more rational to have equal divisions on the two scales.

2.) The Response
In a number of areas, the immediate response to the report has not been rational. The hype concentrated on the term moved from “likely” to “very likely.” As you say Grit, the latter term relates to 90% probability. However, this also does not accurately reflect the findings of the report.

On the summary for policymakers, page 3, there is a chart of human influence on trends. The chart lists seven areas of influence under three references. The term “very likely” only appears in two instances. In media and other responses, there is no reference to other aspects of this table. Whilst I do not blame the scientists for this, it does appear that the “powers that be” are guilty of misrepresentation in this instance. Again, this raises suspicions in the minds of the public and questions as to the agenda for the report.

Is it thought that the public is not intelligent enough to understand the full information or was the hype deliberately directed by politicians?

3.) Remedies
It is disappointing to learn that a detailed study on remedies will not be available from the IPCC until later in the year. If, as has been reported, we only have ten years to address this problem, I fail to see any conceivable reason why the research on remedies was not designed to produce results in the same timescale as this current report. Six months or more has been lost. The argument that the scale of the problem has only just been defined does not wash as this report follows on from one that was issued six years ago.

Of the remedies that are being put into action, there are some issues as well. Firstly, there is serious concern regarding the consequences on remedies and cooperation between agencies. The case of Basel in Switzerland as I reported earlier is a classic example. Looking to achieve global warming saving measures, people began drilling into the earth’s surface starting a chain tremor reaction that they cannot possibly control, potentially unleashing more harm than good. How many more projects are being mishandled in this way?

In addition, there is the problem that has been raised regarding the potential danger from energy saving light. Has anyone evaluated the potential future harm of following this route, if not, why not?

Only a few weeks I posed the question how do we know that remedies can be controlled. The above are two obvious examples of that not being the case.

Another contentious issue is nuclear energy. Scientists say that this will go a long way to addressing the global warming issue, and I agree that this is one of the most efficient ways of producing energy. However, it is almost impossible to use this option within a volatile world, where there are countries such as Iran and North Korea who could not be guaranteed to utilise this method for peaceful purposes. Similarly, accidents happen as we saw in Russia, and that can be equally damaging.

In the UK, the go ahead has been given to build two huge wind farms off the coast. All of the reporting on this has concentrated on the benefits, which is admirable. Nevertheless, little has been written about the downside of such action. The effect on the bird life needs to be identified, an area where naturalists have raised concerns. But what about the effect on tides and wave patterns?

Finally, in this section, I would like to ask why existing remedies, which require little cost, are not being used. For example, with the airline issue there is a “greener” fuel available, but is currently only being used in military aircraft. The emission levels are significantly lower than normal aircraft fuel and there is, as I understand it, no cost differential. I have heard that the argument against it is safety, which I find incredible. Are we saying that the lives of the military are of less value than other citizens? If not, take the step and change the fuel.

4.) The Carbon Footprint
Much is being made of the need to reduce the global footprint. However, there seems to be a great deal of double standards in this area. The media, the UK BBC organisation being a case in point, are saying that their contribution is by publishing the issues and that, in some way, this seems to exempt them from responding to the carbon footprint limitations. At the same time, the IPCC, governments and other NGO’s are spending millions of dollars transporting thousands of people to conferences and meetings all over the globe. Yet, these organisations are asking us, airlines, and other sectors to reduce our carbon footprint. Surely, one should lead by example. Whatever happened to the ability to achieve video and Internet conferencing?

There is a lot of pressure being placed upon airlines to cut their carbon footprint, yet unless I have missed it, no one has answered the question of why, in the 24 hours post 9/11 when most air travel was grounded, there was an increase in earth warming for that day. Has anyone analysed what effect reducing the carbon footprint, particularly in air travel, will have in this respect? In other words, has the downside of the equation been quantified?

In my view, one of the largest and most expensive carbon footprints is laid by governments nationally and globally. Yet, we see no clear picture of measures that these people are taking steps to address this. In the UK, politicians are asking us to reduce our carbon footprint, and even putting pressure on the Royal family to do so. All well and good, but what do we see the politicians doing? The answer is very little. Do not ask me to do something unless you are prepared to match it and lead by example Mr Government.

5.) Political
I have to admit that I was amazed at the token gestures made by some governments by calling for an hour without lights. This seems to me to have been counter-productive. Did anyone monitor the results of these actions? As I have said, I am no scientist, but from what little I know the resultant surge from it, with all electrical compliances being switched on again more than counteracts the benefits of the gesture in the first place. Has there been a study made of this and is it a responsible response? Surely, such theatricals should have been left until the position was well known by the public and they could have been advised about the cost.

In respect of the above, the political response is similar in many ways to the media reaction. It is uncontrolled, irrational and without serious thought as to how to present the issue in a way that will generate the right response. The political response between nations is also not harmonious, which does little to engender confidence.

6.) The media Circus
Unfortunately, the media circus has continued, even on the latest event. I watched a news programme in the UK, which was designed purely to entertain the public, rather than get the message across. In this programme, they spend the time passing a copy of the report through screens to reporters in different countries, such as Europe, Australia, India and the US. No attempt is made to explain the message properly.

In addition to the previously mentioned carbon footprint of this situation, I noticed also another problem. The report they were passing was a fake. They were wads of blank paper with just the title cover printed. It was obvious from the reporter’s comments that none of them had read any of the documents and it was just a publicity stunt to show how clever the network was.

Can this be the right approach to what is meant to be a serious matter? I seriously doubt it.

7.) The Cost
Another issue that really annoys me is cost, and here I am talking about the financial side. Every aspect of the global warming issue in terms of conservation and remedies always seems to be followed by additional cost to the individual. What happens to the resultant savings from change? Who gets those?

Leaving aside the dangers of energy efficient light bulbs discussed earlier, one of the main reasons their use is limited is the cost. In the UK, they are over 6 times the price of current bulbs. If politicians and scientists are serious about this issue, then use some of the billions of waste to reduce the cost of remedies to a competitive level. It is a short-term commitment. Then demand will grow and the effective change desired will be achieved with far more speed and fluency. Another example is public transport service. Raising prices and cutting services on what is considered a “greener” method of transport does not seem to me to be an approach that will increase its usage.

Every time someone mentions global warming, it seems to result in the public having to put their hands in their pockets. Is it any wonder that this meets with resistance?

8.) Kyoto Agreement
There have been arguments about the effectiveness of the Kyoto agreement, mainly centring on those countries that have not signed up to it. However, there are countries within the agreement that have not met their targets, such as Canada. Before the world goes off trying to find another agreement, we need to know how effective this one has been, and that information has not been publicly forthcoming.

How many countries met the targets set? What effect has it had on carbon emissions? How much worse would it have been were the agreement not in place? Surely, we are entitled to this information in the public arena. If it has not been effective, even with those countries that signed up, then it is the wrong answer or structure and we need to look for another resolution.

The other matter here is the developing countries, which has still not been properly addressed in my view. All this documentation seems to be indicating that the only way they can help is to deprive themselves of the advances in technology that the developed world has. Is this going to be acceptable to them? I cannot see this being the case. Therefore any agreement needs to take their situation into account, without placing an untenable burden on the developed world. 

9.) Nation, NGO Bashing and fairness
Why is it that every time there is an issue of global importance there is an automatic nation, NGO or business witch-hunt? This posturing does nothing to confirm the validity of the situation, in fact the opposite. The French attack on the US is a prime example. It is almost as if it is just a fight amongst politicians to see who can be top dog, rather than a serious issues that requires global accord. Besides, there are other countries that have taken the same stance as the US, so singling out the big boy on the block is not only unfair, it smacks of this will get me the biggest headline. Countries antagonising each other will lead only to one conclusion, namely that nothing constructive will be done.

Other sectors are also being bashed, in my view sometimes unfairly. Business is always a favourite. Whilst I accept that, in some cases their response is not good on some issues, they are generally responsive to consumer demands. In the case of global warming, it is fair to say that in many cases business is being far more positive in their actions than politicians are. For example, the supermarket industry in the UK is taking active reduction measures, whereas politicians are looking at costly offset programmes, which in the end are second best options.

Similarly, I object to some of the rhetoric and language that is used by the various lobbies on global warming, from both sides of the divide. To call someone a denialist or sceptics because they do not accept ones argument is as bad as calling someone an “eco-nut” for proposing the argument in the first place. Serious issues demand serious discussion and conversation and this requires patience. At present, the stance taken by some scientists and many politicians on the issue of global warming is too dictatorial, dismissive and impatient. All it does is make both sides more entrenched in their views, which is counter-productive.

The problem with a divide of this nature is that both sides lose. Both sides spend so much time attacking the other that they do not a) fully understand the argument of the other and b) do not gain from the potential valid points within the others cases, validity that could be of significance to their own studies.

I do not consider myself a denialist or a sceptic on this issue. However, I am also not going to be sat down and told this is the problem and anyone who disagrees is wrong. I need to understand the full facts supporting the issue, including analysis of assumptions; explanations of provable facts and honest acceptance and discussion on those that cannot be proven. I want risk assessment on all aspects of the issue, including remedies and I want acknowledgement of and discussion regarding opposing views.

As I said previously, one of the things that infuriate me about the current IPCC/Political situation is the piecemeal approach. In my years as a business consultant any report that I produced did not only identify and make conclusions about the problem, it was also required to provide recommendations that had been expertly evaluated. If it did not I was failing in my task. Governments and the scientific world have taken six years to prepare this report. I fail to see why, at the same time, and for publication at the same date, the remedial data could not have been produced.

the Brit

European community

January 31, 2007

Hey Grit

At present the EU has a few little problems with regard to militant regimes, of which Iran and North Korea are but two. I shall probably get my head bitten off by someone for this, but here goes.

The EU now consists of 25 countries. The intention in the minds of the Eurocrats, as I have said before, it to create a single European state. A part of that is also the ambition to be considered a superpower of the magnitude that Russia was and the US is. Don’t ask me why this is the intention, I don’t know, but all the evidence points to this.

The difficulties the the EU is the mixture of countries that it comprises of. Almost all of them, at some time in the past, have been bashing each other. Not many centuries ago the UK and fighting with Spain and, less than a century ago we were all bashing it out with Germany. Even more recently, some the countries that were admitted this year were at each others throats internally. Therefore you have quite a volitile mix.

This brings me to my main point. Firstly, the mix described above means that the EU in any area of conflict a) cannot often decide whose side we want to be on and b) cannot be relied upon to stay on the side that we originally vote for in the first place, especially if any decision made is needed to last for more than six months.  Secondly, in its bid for superpower status the EU in its wisdom (or lack thereof) often believe that the way to assert this is to object automatically with anything that the other powers might agree to. Hence the reason it seldom votes to agree with the US, as is the case here.

In my view the EU is now showing one of the drawbacks of globalisation (amongst many) at nations level. Namely, that mixing cultures and political structurs in this way is a receipe for disaster. I am not saying that every EU member state should agree with everything the US does, far from it but, that is the whole point. Each country should be allowed to make up its own mind on the matter.

Of course, the other effect of this process is that it makes the UN even more impotent than it already is (and viagra will not solve the problem), because whilst individual member countries can vote one way in the UN, only to have the powers that be in the EU to say “we don’t like that.”

The case in point, Iran, of course is a classic example of these problems. Yes we have business and energy interests in Iran, but then visa versa is true as well, so it is not as fearful as the EU make it. My view is that if the EU or any other country disagrees with the US over this issue it should be honest and say so, not hide behind excuses, which is what they are doing.

It seems that no one in the EU administration is capable of listening to reason at the moment as they are too focused on building ivory towers or, even worse, a modern day tower of babel.

the Brit

Europe sucks up to Iran?

January 31, 2007

Hi Brit,

I may need a bit of translation here, Europe Resists U.S. Push to Curb Iran Ties.  OK, did y’all miss the part where Iran is run by insane religious fanatics who want to conquer the Middle East, develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles, slaughter the Jews, crush Western civilization, and all that? A little help?

the Grit