Distractions

Astonishing to hear complaints about distractions from the important issues.
True – given the poverty both visible and hidden, and the attention it deserves, February was striking for
– its extreme weather (record lows in the USA, record highs in Britain),
– an extreme US President (racist, conman and cheat), 
– ongoing delays to make meaningful votes on Brexit in Parliament, oh and
– anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

We have lost Luciana Berger MP to the Labour party and seven others (who have been described as “no loss” cos they are protesting against anti-Semitism rather than being direct victims of it – go figure). 
How is anti-Semitism still hanging around?  Because too many people who are critical of Israeli gov’t policy can’t avoid describing the issue as pertaining to Jews in general (generous description) or believe in conspiracy theories that means they see others doing harm to Jeremy Corbyn (and making it worse in the meantime) or they are anti-Semitic and have shared tropes in the past (e.g. the Rothschilds) indicating as much (least generous); some even go on David Icke shows to make their point. 

And people point out that Labour is the most progressive UK political party and we have done the most on racial equality (years of legislation and councils making a difference).
And it’s right how in the eighties, people like Ken Livingstone would be celebrated on how far we pushed the boat out.
We raised the standards. And that why people should work to maintain high standards rather than saying it’s an attack on Jeremy Corbyn. Cos how does that even work? That Jeremy needs us to tolerate anti-Semitism. He does not.

So stop saying it’s a distraction.
Stop the what-about-ery.
Stop saying criticism of Israeli government actions is not allowed.
Stop hunting in packs against those who are protesting about anti-Semitism.
Stop being anti-Semitic.

And if you want to avoid distractions, be very tight, accurate and focussed on what you want to protest about.

Previous posts – Unreasonable social behaviour, HMD 2018, Are we the baddies?, Denial, Heather Heyer.

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21st century Urban Farming

Whilst Hydroponics is probably 1,400 years old, the latest versions using LED strip lights and the latest mixes of colour in the lighting so as to allow crops to be grown on racks in caves or in shipping containers, or up the sides of buildings are perhaps 4 years or so old.
Part of the latest new wave of green technology – urban farming, ground-source heat pumping and cross laminated timber construction.
New projects are underway such as in the mines of South Wales or a cave beneath the Galleries of Justice where mushrooms are set to be grown using coffee grounds as the soil.
Are we on the verge of a new kind of urban farming, were lettuces are grown within 25 days at low cost, using workers who tour the small locations in caves or containers? Can this kind of farming be delivered commercially outside of there testing grounds of state controlled experiments in China?
Perhaps time to find out.

The mess that politics is in

Oh, I am “tired of the mess that politics is in, and” am “impatient for change”.  
I am dismayed at the undercounting of the unemployed and the ignorance of the poverty.
I am heartily sick of the inability of what used to be called the politically correct being unable to avoid being anti-Semitic and being unable to condemn those who condone it.  

But as for being stuck in the past, I wonder if some aren’t stuck in 2007? Not a bad place to be you can argue, if you think of 4 million extra jobs, massive extra investment and spend in schools and hospitals and a whole lot of other achievements. A time of big ambition.  

But it was also a time of the cult of the new Leader. A refusal to listen when proposing to cut the 10% tax band. National re-organisations of social services because of one incident.  
It was a tad joyless – colleagues delivering change being hectored rather than celebrated.  
And it was also a model of politics broken by the massive fraud by financial services companies.  

At the moment, I rather like the scale of ambition we now have. Cos the country needs it.  
We need people doing proper jobs, through a burst of public investment and expenditure, which in time will pay for itself cos of the growth it will bring and the reductions of the cost to the public purse that poverty brings. Kinda like post 1997, but faster.  

Yes. Can do without the cult of the Leader. Can do without the personal insults in exchanges that substitute for debate. Can do without loyalty pledges. Can do without casework substituting for analysis.  
Can do without Lexit. Can do without debates on Winston Churchill with 39 days and 10 hours and 41 minutes to go.  
Can do without Lexit. Can do without the cowardice for northern seats that ignore the majority of Labour voters within those seats who voted Remain.  
Can do without Lexit. Can do without Lexit. Can do without Lexit.  

But a 21 century politics needs a real assessment of what’s wrong in the 21st century and big policies to deliver the changes needed to tackle what’s wrong.

I’m Not Running

Of course, what we say over here is “I’m not Standing”.
Watching this broadcast of a live play from London, I was riled at half-time. A would-be Labour star cos he’s good at polishing and presenting policy is incapable of explaining how New Labour was (then) introducing the largest hospital building programme in the country’s history.
But an interview with the playwright David Hare in during the interval, it became clear that he’d created a story to make some key points –
– that Labour should have elected a woman leader by now; and that while that case is made by presenting a less than fully capable man, my initial disappointment with the man being not good enough might simply be the point; (but did David Hare vote for Liz Kendall?);
– that his concern that people were too keen to celebrate single issue politics was not helped by the less than the best man representing party politics in a useless way;
– that health professionals had been undermined by efficiency initiatives (which won enthusiastic applause from some in the audience); but, beyond the fundamental political principle that people who spend public money should account for it, there was the trebling of spend on health under Labour and building new hospitals, some of the new initiatives did work well and millions could be saved by focus on use of operating theatres; we in essence got rid of the waiting list.
The play has only managed 3 star reviews; (one criticism – why does the advocate or women MP continue to be attracted to the careerist Labour MP?). I can understand that the playwright was trying to avoid the issues that come with Corbyn as leader, and Brexit – to which he probably needed to set in 1997 – 2015.
3 of the play’s characters are. very appealing and enjoyable to watch – most particularly, the spin doctor! And one very special passage about learning to debate at university being about individuals holding the moral high ground and how unpleasant debate can be.

I went cos it featured Labour, it was by David Hare and it was an event -sold out at the Broadway. But kinda new I would be disappointed.
(2 stars; e:3 (for the second half), s:2, p:3; Guardian; Standard; no wiki page)

BBC political coverage and bias

David Dimbleby won an award at a National Television Awards event broadcast in front of an audience that had been whooping and hollering for soap stars and game show hosts, and used his speech in part to say he admired politicians cos they had a difficult job and were doing their best, but perhaps should genuinely answer questions with their own personal views. And his opportunity to keep asking questions was the thing that mattered most.
I may have missed it, but I didn’t hear the references to inform, educate and entertain. Not all of Reith‘s values were that great – he kinda admired Hitler and Mussolini and was a Conservative – but he did demonstrate a strong desire for the BBC to be independent of government, most famously during the 1926 general strike when he tried to get the views of trades unions, labour leaders and church people broadcast, and was blocked.
Despite this determination to be independent, he still became a Conservative MP. And a major problem with the BBC’s news and politics coverage is that its leading reporters and presenters are Conservatives, and / or from a very narrow snd privileged background. Cos of his dad, Dimbleby was presenting from the age of 12.
Looking at the current batch, except for Andrew Marr, well known for being Conservatives: Laura Kuenssberg (placing Nick Robinson), Andrew Neil, Evan Davies (replacing Jeremy Paxman) and now Fiona Bruce – a picture of whom wearing a blue rosette (which is downloaded from social media, so some caution – really not sure it is a Conservative rosette) has been circulated following a controversy over her treatment of Diana Abbott on Question Time, for which the BBC have partly apologised (the unfair challenge over opinion polls, not the suggestions of racism).
A Guardian correspondent claims Question Time’s director shifted the show to be more controversial a year or so ago, and makes five suggestions how it can be improved – calm the audience down, fairer chairing, mind the setting plan, scrutinise the directing and embrace the boring – well, maybe so, it misses bigger points.
(BTW, I wonder what the suggestions would be for Daily Politics and A Week in Politics, where a guest (a rock star) sat in bewilderment as Neil and his sofa experts did a silly dance to music.)
The BBC reporting of the employment figures – the highest for decades, whilst unemployment rate being the lowest for 40 years – was bouncy and enthusiastically sold. All at odds with the social security having to be paid out (even on a much more restricted set of criteria), the lump or gig economy meaning people don’t earn enough or in a regular enough manner (and so we get reports from local schools of the increase in problems young children are presenting).
It disappoints me so that with the onset of information technology, our ability to understand what’s really happening has got worse.
BBC political coverage will continue to struggle with its approach and Conservative and class background. And with journalists who look down on politics and politicians.
So what would my Reithian approach be?
Inform, Educate and Entertain – OK, but find a framework by which those tests can be measured, and have some kind of unit that evaluates and publishes the evaluation. Embrace Orwell’s values on condemning barbarity in writing. Give a framework to questions geared testing advocates and their plans for ambition, planning, performance, capability, capacity, culture and legitimacy. Value and celebrate politics – its existence is the signal of living in a free society – so that people do want to watch it. And then require much more of what government at all levels does through services and projects so that there is more of value to report.
And yes, it would be good if politicians changed to this mode too.

Nottingham carbon neutral commitment and debate

Motion moved by Cllr Sally Longford, debated in the council chamber by the Labour Group and adopted by the whole council.

Climate Emergency attend the debate and at least 3 of them recorded it;
(see above).
So instead of just offering speed notes, I’ll have to transcribe what I said at some stage.
– TO BE WRITTEN UP —
Thank goodness for geographers and Al Gore.
Thank goodness for John Prescott too. At one stage, we were leading the world.
the UK will have to cut it’s carbon emissions in half within the coming decade. (That’s what the physicists are telling John McD). 
Think of the good we need (jobs, schools, hospitals), and note how we struggled (labour market, private landlords, overheating the south-east, back to predict and provide for cars).
Even if we’d only done good, would still have had to meet the challenges and opportunities – globalisation, living longer, fundamentalism, resource shortages (peak oil) and climate change.
Whilst the earth has been hotter in the past – not whilst it had the human race and 8-9 billion people.
An example of the chaos climate change can bring – Syria.
We are nowhere near leadership now – Germany decided to drop nuclear.
Our power supply still based on big power plants, although 2 nuclear proposals dropped in recent months.
Instead, in Germany, local power, city controlled and innovating, and more from the home.
Nottingham is on the edges of this with Environenergy (heat from waste trumps burial), once did food recycling, (we designed 3rd generation turbine blades) and has battery projects alongside Portugal and Germany. We valued exterior home heat insulation (e.g. Clifton and Bulwell Hall), although the skilled labour had to come from the EU (Austria?)).
And food
8. Following the model of the European ‘Slow Towns’ and ‘Slow Cities’ movement – radically reducing the (carbon) ‘food miles’ involved in feeding ourselves. Nottingham had an example of this in the City Hospital catering service which threw out cook-chill food suppliers, linked the in-house catering service to a network of 350 local farms (Notts, Derbys, Lincs and Leics), doubling nutritional standards, saving the NHS over £1m AND CUTTING FOOD-MILES BY 90%. It worked brilliantly, until the Tories gave the contract to Carillion (on ideological grounds).
Ground source heat pumping is a key option for where next.
Heating and cooling from feeds at 21 degrees C; and Basford Hall and Grimsby used to be only colleges that trained explicitly in heat pumping. We can draw on the mine water below us.
Time and again, green engineers bring solutions that can dazzle us (although struggling on re-use – e.g. gasification and automated sorting).
Green architects can dazzle us – take the old tax offices. Contrast them with the new CO2 towers. Not even 2020 standard and 340 (check) tonnes of CO2 per year below that standard.
The key to minimising CO2 emissions is building design, oh and agglomeration. Reducing the need too heat, and to ventilate and to travel.

– local authorities will be in the forefront of this … but they will need new powers ie.
1. Denmark’s planning laws that debar buildings using fossil fuel heating from even being considered for planning permission.2. France’s laws that require all new buildings to have solar or nature roofs.3. California’s law that makes solar roofs mandatory4. Germany’s restrictions on access to soft loans (only for refurbishment to passive-haus or energy-plus standards.5. German regulations that limit the ‘right to rent’ to buildings that meet our equivalent of Band B standards – or make heating costs a landlords responsibility, not the tenant’s) 

People say we need a national framework back again, for fear of the less scrupulous taking jobs. Maybe so.
But the environment does need to be shown as part of our thinking much more explicitly and from the start.
We celebrate now the bravery of zone and collar and its 2000 descendant version that we delivered, and the bravery of WPL cos we made the polluter pay for the alleviations.
It took knowledge, and values and resolve.
Let’s learn, let’s care and let’s act.