Category Archives: Opinion

Personal views


I thought this was an excellent analysis:

HS2 … the high-speed train route with the same old staggering fares

I am not affected by HS2: I would not be living near it, I don’t commute, and I don’t pay much tax any more. For me it just seems the wrong priority. We need well insulated homes for people. Workmen on normal wages build them. People on the same normal wages should be able to buy them. At the same time the current mess of a dis-integrated rail system should be fixed before moving on – the East Coast train operating company seems a successful model to build on. Really, let’s work first on a properly integrated transport system. Both of these would mean lots of work distributed all over the country. Let’s start training people now; there is years of useful work. Isn’t that the main need – jobs for the many? When all these workers start improving their local economies, other businesses will be tempted to move into those areas creating more local jobs and diversification especially as local commutes to work will become pleasanter. We should be commuting less and using 21st century electronic technology rather than 19th century transport.


Growth, the absurdity of GDP

I have been a fan of Bandana Shiva for a long time.
This is a concise summary by her of the disaster of most current economics:
How economic growth has become anti-life

Growth has become a magic word, something that must be good without asking what is growing. This is like reform, as in –  “to allow the current state of <fill in the blank>  to continue is not an option, we need this reform“, without allowing for various possibilities of change to be considered.


British security

I felt impelled to comment on two items in The Guardian newspaper today.

George Osborne in China – wide-eyed, innocent and deeply ignorant

Will Hutton says he feels ashamed of the deals done with China. My view:

I felt rage rather than shame. The UK was at the forefront of nuclear power originally. As with all innovation, first attempts are not so successful, and R&D should follow leading to better designs. Indeed we gave it away and now have to buy back. What happened to the special relationship, could we not have better sourced the systems from the US? Why go on about being under EU control when the real economy is being sold off as fast as possible at knock-down prices to be controlled by non-British entities that operate in ‘tax efficient’ ways – that is, little to us? You can bet that the Chinese PLA will soon be copying everything that GCHQ collects without us knowing. I am not anti-Chinese, but I would like our part of the democratic world to cooperate better together to preserve our patch. Instead of building British innovation and skills this government seems intent on making Britain the upcoming sweat-shop for China. How can George Osborne say we’re an aspiration nation, when it is selling off any possibility of being so?

The GCHQ scandal is not about the Guardian. It is an insult to parliament

Jonathan Freedland is commenting on MPs ignoring this issue of unaccountable spying. My view:

The MPs realise that GCHQ also has information on them, For example, I guess GCHQ has a lot more on Liam Fox & Adam Werritty than is generally known. I leave to the readers’ imagination what that could imply, and I only mention Liam Fox because he seems to be the one most wanting to distract from the out-of-control data collection. But I repeat my previous comment on past posts: that the GCHQ data & systems are a gift to criminals and other governments with malicious intent. Don’t think we are so much cleverer than anyone else. This total data collection will lead to a disaster not security.

Just when I thought I could put “Healthy” on my own Marmalade jars

How could this ruling come about?

Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for fructose
But the EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose

I read that a can of sugar sweetened soft drink has 39 g of sugar (sucrose). This is 19.5 g glucose, and 19.5 g fructose after ingestion. If a third of the sugar is replaced by fructose we get consumption of 13 g glucose and 26 g fructose. The guide for what fructose we can cope with each day is 15 to 25 g, so we are already over that limit with just one drink.

The suggestion is that this is healthier because whereas glucose raises the blood insulin level, fructose does not. Here is a good summary of the problem:

Sugar Is a Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert

You don’t fix a problem by switching off the warning light. People will be attracted to the “Contains healthy fruit sugar!” on the pack.

My prediction:
Fructose is processed by the liver to fat (triglyceride). There’s a host of bad consequences, but one I will single out. On a blood test the fructose drinkers will be told they have a bad lipid profile and will be put on statins. The statins will block the liver from making cholesterol, which is needed among other things as a component in the lipoproteins that transport fats to where they are needed or stored. Some fat from fructose will stay in the liver and the person will develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. If the fructose is added to alcoholic drinks that will be a double liver problem as alcohol follows the same pathway, but at least you know you drank it. In 10 years there will be a lot of people needing a liver transplant.

As in Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word,”  Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” So, healthy has just been redefined.

Elephant thoughts

I read recently Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff.

The book was published in 2004 and is a collection of articles and talks. I found the analysis of political ‘right’ and ‘left’ valuable, though he is focused on US politics. He thinks it stems from models of the family. There are two extremes. One is the family where the father is the head and others are subservient to him, in which he uses punishment to make good people out of bad people – this is the right. The other is the nurturing family where both parents are of equal status and nurture their children to become nurturing parents themselves – the left. He accepts these are two extremes and that there is a continuum and all of us will use both models at some time. He says that people vote on values even when that is against self interest. The right have been honing a story based on their model for decades. He wants the left to develop a story based on their model to provide an alternative, which is what he calls reframing. I have felt this myself for a long time – we need a new story on which to build a vision of our common future.

I then read this article where I found Lakoff misunderstood. My comment to the article is below.

Royal Mail: the rhetoric of privatisation. How to reframe the political language of austerityand sell-offs

This article misunderstands the point Lakoff makes. Lakoff would say that using a phrase ‘casino economy’ is a mistake because it keeps the argument in the casino/austerity ball game. Reframing means changing the basis on which judgements are made. Change the debate to one about fairness, such as that those building houses (the workers) or those growing food (the farm workers) cannot afford to buy a place to live or good food to eat. Public property is being sold so that we have to rent it back forever; it’s like indentured labour.

Then I looked at the source of the above article and had the same response.

Framing the economy: the austerity story

George Lakoff says that once you have a frame facts that don’t fit are ignored. The current story of the economy is the stern father model who applies austerity medicine. If you try to present an alternative view of the economy that view will fail. We have to create a new valid story on a different frame, and I think fairness is a good frame for the nurturing parents model.

A theme to develop

Reading again about digital data collection whistleblowers:

War on whistlelblowers and journalists

I had to comment:

For me the insanity of the NSA et al data collection is that criminals will infiltrate the agency. I have no doubt that criminal organizations are investing in putting people into top universities, like Stanford, in order for them to get jobs in the digital spying agencies. Once they understand the backdoors built into proprietary encryption software, so that the NSA can decrypt on the fly, all financial services will be open to huge fraud; probably we would not know about it – the criminals would not want their work hampered. But, at some point the world could literally be held to ransom. Of course not just financial services would be in jeopardy. Edward Snowden is the good guy, we will not know about the bad guys till something awful happens.