Grangemouth and the EU/WTO

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Grangemouth and the EU/WTO

By Syzygysue

Also published here  on Politics and Parasites

The dispute at Grangemouth is the old trick of provoking industrial action – then holding the workforce to ransom by threatening their jobs unless they agree to the draconian changes in their employment packages that the bosses wanted all along.  It’s exactly what Margaret Thatcher did to the Miners, and it is what Ratcliffe, a private Hedge Fund owner, has done to his employees.

But it is not just those who were threatened with job loss, Ratcliffe was also holding the UK and Scottish governments to ransom.  70% of Scotland’s fuel is processed at Grangemouth, and represents 8% of Scotland’s manufacturing capacity or 2% of its GDP.

Isn’t about time, the politicians turned the tables and called a halt to these blackmailing tactics by private energy providers?

For example, Ed Miliband’s announcement at LP conference which identified the public anxiety and anger about energy prices, has been met by the energy providers increasing their bills by 10%, in spite of OVO reports that wholesale prices have not increased.

The energy companies’ action is nothing short of a provocative Vs-up to the public and politicians.

Cameron et al have nowhere to go because they are caught between the public anger and their ideological commitment to the corporates.  Meanwhile, Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze prices for 20 months is criticized as not being able to prevent price hikes both before and after (as indeed, the current show of strength on the part of the energy companies is intended to demonstrate).

Too rarely reported, however, is Labour’s intention to regulate the wholesale energy market by pooling electricity prior to its being sold on to the energy companies.

But why on earth go to all that bother?

We’ve already seen the energy providers disregard for the public good; their indifference to increasing the numbers of cold-related deaths this winter, and people forced to choose between eating and heating.

How much further do the energy companies have to go, in clearly demonstrating that the UK needs to be able to control supply and energy prices on behalf of its people, the economy and the environment?

The political-bullying alone, is reason enough to curb the energy companies power by taking them into public ownership asap.

But on top of that, climate change and transforming energy provision away from fossil fuels will never be achieved through the markets.

… the project of sustainable capitalism was misconceived and doomed from the start because maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, here and there, they might coincide for a moment. That’s because under capitalism, CEOs and corporate boards are not responsible to society, they’re responsible to private shareholders. CEOs can embrace environmentalism so long as this increases profits. But saving the world requires that the pursuit of profits be systematically subordinated to ecological concerns…

http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue56/Smith56.pdf

Profits depend on increasing sales and prices not on reducing energy consumption and supporting cheaper renewable energy.  The first duty of a private company is to maximize the return to its shareholders.

However, taking the refinery into public ownership is not so easy given the EU/WTO legislation, negotiated and signed in secret by the EU Commission and Council of Ministers… and the UK government will be even further constrained by the US-EU FTA (Free Trade Agreement) currently being rushed through for 2014.

Once a country is locked into the GATS regime, the right of its government to regulate liberalized service sectors is diminished, paving the way for foreign transnationals to enter the domestic market. Any attempt to reverse the situation would be subject to WTO disciplines and penalties.

The same holds true for Royal Mail and the NHS.  As an unelected Corporate Tribunal, the WTO has the power to overturn UK sovereignty on employment and environmental protection legislation, and many other decisions.

Unravelling the spin: a guide to corporate rights in the EU-US trade deal

But as Michael Meacher writes:

… this disaster reveals the desperate need for a proper industrial strategy to safeguard and steadily enhance the nation’s manufacturing capacity.   This dispute reveals the appalling consequences which flow from unconditional belief in private markets and the need for a strong supportive State role as exists in all successful economies today.

So how can we take back our public services and utilities into democratic ownership?

We are never going to dismantle this free trade regime with negotiation tactics… if we want to defeat the free trade regime or an institution like the WTO we need to build a new balance of forces led by social movements.

Essentially we need to organise/support a united anti-capitalist Battle-for-Seattle-on-Thames  and reject the ever-increasing stranglehold of liberalisation, financialisation and the Washington Consensus.  After all, none of us were even told about this, let alone voted for it.  We certainly are already in the post-democratic era.

The Koch Brothers’ Amazing Climate Change Denial

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Climate Change, Propaganda  and the Koch Brothers.

What can we believe? Our own eyes? The press?  Much has been said and written about the power of the media, and the rich whose tool it is to achieve their ends. Furthermore the very rich corporations are welcome lobbyists, welcomed to political conferences. They fund think-tanks and ensure their ‘truth’ is perceived as fact, even when scientific evidence proves otherwise. Perhaps the most dangerous example is that of the growing denial of climate change resulting from human activity.

This short animation details the effort of billionaires oil barons Charles & David Koch to undermine belief in climate change and prevent legislation that threatens their profits. By pouring money into bogus scientific studies and funding third parties such as Think Tanks and Front Groups (posing as everything from Seniors groups to Women’s groups) the public is led to believe a genuine scientific debate is raging. In truth, as one climate denier candidly admits, those doubting the science are just a small, if brilliantly coordinated, minority.

The piece was made by Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham and incorporates footage from his 55 min. documentary The Billionaires’ Tea Party (2011).

Big thanks to the visual effects team at Hungry Beast  as well to the team at Greenpeace for their great research on the Koch Brothers

Welcome to the 21st Century – The Crisis of Civilization

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Nafeez Ahmed’s 2011 “Crisis of civilization” film  (80 minutes) brings together the emerging economical, political and environmental trends that are likely to shape our common future over the next few decades.  The main thrust of Nafeez Ahmed’s argument is that energy, environment, economic instability, food production, international militarisation, and terrorism cannot be viewed as separate issues.  They are implicitly interlinked and codependent.  An approach which provides the global context, demonstrated by David Malone’s illuminating analysis of the different interests behind the Syria conflict (see links listed below).

Ultimately, the global situation cannot be sustained using the current neoliberal model and we need a radically different approach.

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute said of the film, “a really fantastic overview of the global situation. I don’t think I’ve seen a more comprehensive ‘welcome to the 21st century’.”

The Crisis of Civilization – Full Length Documentary Movie HD

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London. He has taught international relations, contemporary history, empire and globalisation at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and the Politics & History Unit, Brunel University. His previous books include The War on Truth: Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (2005) and Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (2003).  This documentary is based on his book ‘A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It’

Links on Syria:

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-2-a-partial-analysis/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-three-europe-and-the-usa/

Podcast:

http://ccragg123.libsyn.com/it-s-all-gas-gas-gas-not-an-oil-pipedream-david-malone-on-syria

Fracking Crazy

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FRACKING CRAZY
From Suzanne Kelsey
They are going to bring a gigantic drill
Down your quiet sleepy country lane
Cause a lot of upheaval and disruption
That could easily drive you all insane
They are going to do some fracking
Pump toxic chemicals to break up shale
With irreversible damage to the earth
And your beautiful hill and vale
They are going to shake the earth’s foundations
Make great cracks for goodness sake
Scaring you, your family and neighbours
By creating a frightening earth quake
They are going to pump in toxic chemicals
And make gallons of contaminated waste water
That could get into your domestic supply
And possibly harm your son or daughter
They are going to light naked flames of methane
This they most definitely cannot hide
For they will be many metres high
And dotted around the countryside
They are going to ignore renewable energy
That could make good use of wind and solar power
Instead create another greenhouse effect
Climate change happening each and every hour
They are going to cause environmental hazards
Releasing a harmful volatile compound
In the polluted air above you
And acid rain falling upon the ground
They are going to cause distress
Anger. opposition and fear
As they press on with this fracking boom
Large swathes of rural areas will simply disappear
They are going to think only about wealth not health
Because they know the price of everything
Sadly no one sees the hidden costs
They know the value of absolutely nothing.
© Suzi@frackingcrazy.org

Slaughtering badgers in order to “offer the farmers a carrot”?

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On the day, that the Badger cull begins, Think Left re-posts ‘Tory Delusions and Badgers’ – first posted October 2012. 

Yet again, I find myself asking what on earth are the Tories playing at?

Of all the most misguided, counterproductive, self-destructive, repugnant and unnecessary decisions that this government could take, the badger cull has to be the most patently obvious.

However, the decision to allow a cull, with the prospect of destroying 30-50% of the nation’s badgers (130k), is typical of the policy decision-making of this government.

It flies in the face of copious peer-reviewed research; an EU report; Conservation and Wildlife groups; respected academics; overwhelming popular opinion; well-known personalities like David Attenborough, Chris Packham, Brian May; Animal right’s groups; hunt saboteurs; and opposition from the Labour Party and LD supporters.  This decision  successfully unites so many disparate groups in joint hostility to the government, at a point when the Tories are already trailing in the opinion polls.  

Furthermore, the evidence is irresistible. Vaccination of badgers, coupled with the sort of strict and effective controls on farming practice (which were in place 40 years ago) is the only feasible strategy to stopping the spread of Bovine TB (bTB), until an adequate cattle vaccination is developed.

Bovine TB is exactly what it says ‘on the tin’.  It is a cattle disease which unfortunately can also infect badgers, deer and other mammals … but for some reason, many farmers, landowners and the NFU, are irrationally convinced that a cattle disease will be magically controlled by simply shooting all the local badgers.

I could tell you all the badger statistics, such as the fact that 85% are not infected with bTB (and less than 2% are infectious) but these arguments are much better rehearsed in the video clip posted below.  And anyway, countering the bizarre claims of the ‘farming lobby’ about badgers, distracts from the more pertinent fact that:

“It is cattle, not badgers, that are the main transmitters of bovine TB so it is utterly outrageous for badgers to pay the price for farmers’ failure to abide by proper biosecurity measures”

Mark Jones, a vet and executive director of the Humane Society International UK (1)

No-one could deny that there is an imperative to stop the devastation and distress of bTB in a herd of cattle.  It is a truly horrible disease.  It is also financially significant for the UK Agri-Food Sector.  The trade of animals and products (dairy and meat) as a whole is annually worth around £1.06 billion to the economy.  However, it is clear that the rise in bTB is overwhelmingly accounted for by deficiencies in modern farming practice and animal husbandry (See addendum).

But to return to the original point, this decision to allow a badger cull is not just epidemiologically insane, it is also political madness. 

Activists opposing the cull offer various explanations for the decision, which range from the influence wielded at no.10 ‘kitchen suppers’ by party donors, to the need to offer the shooting and hunting lobby, something to kill.  Alarmingly, Professor John Bourne, chair of the ISG, says that a senior politician told him ‘Fine John, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers’.(3)

However, there is another rather concerning thought.  The public outrage and likely direct action against the cull, may distract the media away from something that the government wants to slip through unnoticed. There is little doubt, that it was just this sort of distraction tactic, that lay behind the proposal to sell off the forest which was announced just as the Health and Social Care bill took its first steps through the Commons.

But there is another factor which is well illustrated by the decision to go ahead with the badger cull.  A bigger picture which may underpin much else of Tory thinking and policies.

“Have you considered how those on the political Right are so often the prisoners of their own emotions, particularly their own fears and negativities … or their own greed and desire to rule?”

Phil C

Think Left’s late friend, Phil C, consistently pointed out how the Tories had created policy to implement their emotional knee-jerk reactions, which they then justified retrospectively… hence the frequency of spurious explanations.

This is very reminiscent of a personality characteristic known as ‘intolerance of ambiguity’…. and of the research evidence that associates ‘intolerance of ambiguity’ with authoritarianism and with the politics of the right.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1126252?uid=3738032&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101210105181

The avoidance of uncertainty, as well as the striving for certainty, has been shown to be associated with a key dimension of conservative thought.  That is a resistance to change or of a hanging on to the status quo.  Furthermore, another key dimension of conservatism, endorsement of inequality, is similarly linked to concerns with fear and threat. 

‘Conservatives don’t feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions…. “They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm” (2)

[Assistant Professor Jack Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy] 

Perhaps, the most pointed example of this type of thinking was when President George W. Bush was asked to explain himself.   The Republican president told assembled world leaders, “I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right.”

And ‘I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right’ seems to just about sum up the farmers and tory government ministers’ rationale for this mass slaughter of overwhelmingly healthy badgers.

This is truly conviction politics .. an unshakeable faith despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Others would call it delusional.

A petition on the government’s website opposing the badger cull now has 146,000 signatures and several MPs have told the Guardian they are confident they will win a debate in parliament on the issue.

Stop The Cull

Hat-tip Richard Bowyer

Published on Sep 10, 2012 by 

Find out more at http://www.justdosomething.org.uk/

Addendum:

An official European Commission inspection uncovered a catalogue of failures in how England’s farmers prevent their cattle spreading TB between herds.  Not the least of which are failures associated with the profitable practice of moving cattle around the UK and abroad (which was the prime factor in the Foot and Mouth outbreak which also resulted in another unnecessary mass slaughter of millions of animals because of opposition to vaccination).

The EC report stated: “Local authority surveys provided evidence that some cattle farmers may have been illegally swapping cattle ear tags, ie retaining TB-positive animals in their herds and sending less productive animals to slaughter in their place.” There are 8.5 million cattle in Great Britain on 81,000 holdings, with 2.4m movements a year. In 2011, about 7% of herds were under restriction due to TB and 26,000 cattle were destroyed.” (1)

I was also interested to read that a concurrent infection with Sheep liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) can yield a false bTB negative in cattle, which would mean that cattle-cattle transmission could be unknowingly masked.

But it is not just a question of some farmers failing to follow the biosecurity protocols.  There are also some very fundamental bigger questions about how we treat farm animals. For example, why are we permitting cattle, and other livestock, to be moved so frequently?  Additionally, the industrial scale proposals for high density mega-herds, such as are common in the US, automatically increase the risks not only of bTB transmission but also adds to the risk of novel viruses evolving capable of causing fatal pandemics in the human population.

(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/04/farming-shortcomings-badger-cull-bovine-tb

(2)  http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml

(3)  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/vital-cull-or-heartless-slaughter-the-great-badger-debate-8202970.html 

http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/534_S4.pdf

Never mind a UK referendum on ceding power to Brussels. What about China?

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Everyone’s talking about how we’ve lost sovereignty to the EU and how we should have a referendum before any more powers are handed over to Brussels – but what about this government’s decision to sell off our infrastructure to foreign countries like China?

Chinese state investment and control in UK water, nuclear power, rail, gas, airports and telecommunications – or by private firms with close links to Beijing  – is already growing massively and is set to expand even more in the next couple of years as the government sells off more and more of our infrastructure to foreign investors.

The mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party – the People’s Daily – just two days ago described the country’s forthcoming investment in UK infrastructure as ‘explosive’.

See the English version of its article here:

China’s investment in UK will be ‘explosive’

Maybe you feel relaxed about the fact that a country with a disastrous record on rail safety, human rights, water pollution and communication censorship is being allowed to take control of our water, rail, communications, nuclear power etc.

But if we’re going to have a referendum on how much power the EU has over us, shouldn’t we have one over how much control of our infrastructure we’re handing to foreign countries like China?

Surely these things are much more important than whether prisoners have the right to vote or whatever the latest spat over the EU is?

What do you think?

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Here’s a related article about Chinese investment in UK water:

The government’s allowing our water, gas and electricity to be sold to the Chinese and no-one seems to be noticing

Decarbonising the economy: How we can finance it.

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TEDxUtrechtUniversity – Ann Pettifor – Decarbonising the economy: How we can finance it.

Uploaded on May 13, 2011

Ann Pettifor is a director of PRIME, an economic think-tank, and a Fellow of the New Economics Foundation. She has won wide acclaim for her work in explaining how society can finance the Green New Deal. By helping us understand the ‘magic’ of quantitative easing, she explains that, as a society, we can afford what we can do – within the limits of the ecosystem.

Ann Pettifor demonstrates the direct links between the deregulation of credit by the Heath government in 1971 – the Barber boom – the increase in consumption and impact on the environment.  UNEP estimate that decarbonising the economy will cost $2.3 trillion which is absolutely possible if we transform the role of the banks into being the servants, rather than the masters of the economy.