Sunday 4 February 2024


 From the Guardian:

The Observer understands that as well as backing away from its £28bn a year commitment on green investment (while sticking to the overall drive to achieve clean energy by 2030), Labour will not seek to legislate on the creation of a new national care service in its first king’s speech.

Instead, it will focus on a fair pay agreement for care workers as well as issues of recruitment and retention, as part of a wider workers’ rights bill. Its plans for a complete overhaul of social care will, however, be presented as a longer-term mission taking at least 10 years and two parliaments.

In addition, despite Keir Starmer’s previous promises to abolish the Lords in a first term, it is expected to commit only to limited changes. This is likely to mean legislating only for the abolition of the remaining 91 hereditary peers.

Starmer appears to be on a mission to underwhelm and disappoint our (already very low) expectations.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Keir Starmer's abstract thinking

The grey man of British politics ... Original picture, ITV News

Anushka Asthana has written a generally favourable profile of Keir Starmer in the Guardian.  It is lightweight stuff, pandering to the typical Guardianista, though reading between the lines one can - perhaps - detect Asthana's frustration at the weak porridge Starmer serves up.

This, in particular, stuck out:

For many, growth is a longer-term solution, so what about other more immediate choices, such as taxing people’s wealth? I turned back to Blair, reading this quote: “It’s not a burning ambition for me to make sure that David Beckham earns less money.” Did he disagree with that?

“No,” Starmer responded without hesitation about Beckham or a similarly rich footballer today. “I don’t disagree with that.”

But if you are prime minister, I went on, would you want to take more money from the super-rich (non-doms aside) and redistribute it to the poorest? Again, a “no”, without hesitation. “That isn’t how I want to grow the economy.”

Starmer argued that while, of course, Labour believes in redistribution: “I don’t think redistribution is the sort of one-word answer for millions of people across the country”.

So what is his multi-word answer for those struggling millions?

Dignity and respect.  

I kid you not.

He spoke of the dignity and respect of skilled work. “So I’m afraid if it’s just redistribution, I think that fundamentally disrespects people.”

 So all Starmer has to offer the working class is ... abstract nouns.

Its barely disguised Thatcherism, with 'dignity' and 'respect' of 'skilled work' hinting at their evil twins - the undignified, unrespectable spectacle of unskilled work or - Heaven forbid - unemployment.   Politically, we're a cat's conscience away from the least dignified and most unrespectable part of society - Daily Mail caricatures of dole bludgers.  I suspect many people struggling to make ends meet will take the 'disrespectful' benefits of redistribution, Keir.

(It is no surprise that Peter Mandelson also appears, like some grisly revenant, shaking his chains and gibbering.)

Mandelson's influence on Starmer is manifest.  Asked about the Hartlepool byelection defeat Labour suffered under his leadership, he responds by invoking the 2019 General Election, rather explaining how his party lost a byelection in 2021:

“When the electorate reject you as badly as they did in 2019, you don’t look at the electorate and say: ‘What are you thinking?’ You look at yourself and change the party.”

While he makes the usual noises about the futility of opposition, he neglects the salient lesson.  The 'moderate' wing of the Labour Party squandered a brilliant opportunity after the 2017 General Election.  They couldn't bear the fact the membership wanted Corbyn as leader.  Applying his own logic for a moment, the electorate rejected the 'moderate' candidates twice.  Decisively.  But the anti-Corbyn faction (the party) didn't change.  They simply set out punish the membership for making the wrong choice.

Thursday 11 January 2024

Remember 1998?

You might recall 1998 was once the hottest year on record.  

This is literally what it was like in 1998.  I was there. 
Now EVERYTHING is on fire, all the time.

It held this distinction for several years.  Climate change deniers would point to it (starting in 1999) and say that, yeah, maybe there had been some warming but it had clearly stopped and now the world was cooling because, otherwise, why weren't the years after 1998 hotter?

They managed to keep this nonsense up until about 2005, which was either just marginally hotter or in a dead heat (pun intentional) with 1998.  then, they started it again with 2005 as the reference point.  Though the game became a bit repetitive and dull as every three or four years after than there was a new record.

Yeah, I used it in yesterday's post as well.  Fucking sue me.

With the (unsurprising) news just in that 2023 is the hottest year on record, it is worth taking a moment to reflect that every single one of the years in the Top 10 hottest years is one of the last ten years.  

I imagine it has been like this for a while, but I haven't been paying too much attention.  But every year from 2014 onwards is in the current Top Ten:

Ponder that for a moment.  The last ten years, every last one of them, have been hotter than every other year on the instrumental record.

2014 is, handily, and Number 10 and 2023, helpfully, at number 1 (with a very hot bullet); in between those two chronologically neat bookends, they are a bit jumbled up.  But the point is, every single one of the last ten years is there.  

Even the relatively chilly 2014 was hotter than every other year in that record.

There are sane conservatives

It's just that their political representatives are ideological fanatics, in thrall to the Fox News / News Max / Breitbart demographic, bought by big business or just willing to say and do anything to advance their careers.

They wouldn't be allowed to write it if it wasn't true.

From the Guardian's coverage of the less-than-thrilling debate between De Santis and Haley:

A question about climate change, and what each candidate is willing to do about it, has – as expected – yielded little useful information. 
DeSantis promised to tear up the “Biden’s green new deal” while Haley said she opposed “extremes” in policy and transitioned the conversation over to the topic of crime. 
Last summer, during the first Republican presidential debate, a pointed question from a young activist elicited slightly more interesting results. Alexander Diaz, a young conservative who is part of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), a youth conservative group that pushes for action on the climate crisis, asked candidates what they would do to improve the party’s standing on climate policy. None of the candidates at that time raised their hands to affirm that climate change was real.

So, there you go.  Even though 2023 was just declared the hottest year on the instrumental record AND all the top ten years are the last ten years, one candidate wants to nix climate action just because a Democrat did it, and the other can't actually talk about it at all.  And neither is actually willing to say they think it is happening.

And the terrifying thing is they are both infinitely better options than the goon who (unless the courts save the Republican Party from its membership's atavistic urges) is back to his favourite trick of implying people he doesn't like aren't proper Americans.

Wednesday 10 January 2024

We're screwed

 ... The only question is, how badly.

2023 was the hottest year on record, 1.48C above the pre-Industrial Revolution average.

The planet was 1.48C hotter in 2023 compared with the period before the mass burning of fossil fuels ignited the climate crisis. The figure is very close to the 1.5C temperature target set by countries in Paris in 2015, although the global temperature would need to be consistently above 1.5C for the target to be considered broken.

Scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS) said it was likely the 1.5C mark will be passed for the first time in the next 12 months.

So, very roughly, 0.1C pre decade for the last 150 years.

The Guardian also reproduces this nice graph:

Obviously, those still banging the denialist drum will claim 'natural variation' - but note the period from the 80s to the 90s.  Then there were several exceptional years (so many you might wonder if the term 'exceptional' is the right one).  Fast forward to 2000-2010 period - every year of that decade was as hot or hotter than the 'exceptional' years of the 80s.  

If the trend holds, it takes a decade for the exception to become the norm.  So when the Guardian points out "the global temperature would need to be consistently above 1.5C for the target to be considered broken" that will be 'achieved' by 2034.

We've got a rapidly diminishing opportunity to limit the disaster engulfing us.  But it is diminishing very, very rapidly.

Monday 8 January 2024

Cook's Beach Fire - Misrepresentation and Propaganda

Just before Christmas, 2023, a swanky bach in Cook's Beach went up in smoke.  It was immediately claimed that some sort of electric vehicle was responsible, with the claim being advanced via social media and repeated in traditional media - albeit in the latter case with caveats that it was hearsay from 'neighbours' and 'eyewitnesses' and had not been established.

Soon after, the local fire service made a public announcement, stating the fire was not started by an EV / PHEV and originated elsewhere in the house, adding the vehicle was not in the garage at the time the fire started and that it was not charging.

In a sane world that might have been the end of it - an official announcement had been made.  We don't live in a sane world, however, so instead it was decreed this was simply a part of the cover up, a deliberate lie put out by FENZ to advance the EV agenda.

Because, yes, there are - supposedly - shadowy organization and powers whose purpose is to make people drive electric cars for ... reasons that remain unclear.

A few days after the fire some footage surfaced, filmed by a witness.  It was immediately seized upon by the anti-EV voices because it seemed on the surface to contradict the official narrative.

Here's a You Tube wannbe influencer's called Simon's take on it, titled New Zealand (Cooks Beach) Fire: Media claims "EV not to blame":

His main points are that multiple eyewitness described it as being caused by an EV.  The media initially reported this but later - mysteriously - changed their story to report the EV was not to blame.  FENZ said the fire started elsewhere in the house, yet the garage is ablaze and the rest of the house is intact.  And(of course) there is some nefarious attempt to "pull the wool" over our eyes by someone.

(SPOILER: in this case, it is the media.)

So, here is what he has to say.  Describing the blaze itself, he says, "The initial media reports indicated that some kind of EV was responsible for the fire" - this is NOT TRUE as we will see.  The media reports he cites don't apportion blame - they simply repeat information they have been given.  They simply quote unidentified sources saying this is what they (the sources) thought happened; Simon neglects to acknowledge the caveats these media sources often included.  He's presenting a false account of the media reports.

He hits us with the extracts from the media reports that he thinks back up the claim that "initial media reports indicated that some kind of EV was responsible for the fire"

First, he gives us a quote from Newshub:

FENZ hasn't confirmed the cause of the fire - but neighbours told Newshub the fire started while an electric car was charging in the garage.

A witness told 1News that the initial fire started in the garage where a hybrid car was parked.

Note there are discrepancies - in one case, it is an 'electric car' and in the second it is 'hybrid'; in the first story it is described as charging, and in the latter it is parked.  The second report says the fire started in the garage, but the first one only says it started 'while an electric car was parking in the garage,' without explicitly saying where it started.

Eyewitness accounts (and note Newshub does not use the term 'eyewitness') are notoriously unreliable, and here we have complete chos after just two sentences.

Of course, our genial host has already prompted us to think it was the EV charging that ignites the garage, and the media reported this so we overlook these discrepancies.

His third source is the NZ Herald, which simply repeats (with due acknowledgement) what 1 News reported; he also provides some TV news footage, neither of which add anything to the mix, though the TV footage voice over describes the "inferno the locals say was caused by an electric car catching fire while charging in the garage."

So, finally we have a claim that the EV caused the fire - but here the "neighbours" and the "witness" have been downgraded to "locals" - by this stage, we could be getting the thoughts of anyone who was in Cook's Beach at the time and who was willing to talk to a journalist, regardless of whether they saw anything at all.  And if I know one thing about people who don't like EVs, it is that they are happy to talk about them and how wicked they are, usually from a stance detached from any sort of direct experience or knowledge.

This is all worth mentioning as it gives the lie to the suggestion the media are not covering negative stories about electric vehicles, a common claim and one which Simon circles back to at the end of his diatribe.  Here we have three different mainstream outlets all reporting information that it would have been easy for them - perhaps even journalistically responsible - for them not to report at this stage.

Our host then continues: "All these media outlets are basically saying the same thing - eyewitnesses who were on the scene when the fire started said it was caused by an EV with the fire spreading to the garage."

This statement is untrue.  And I am not talking about the quibbles about whether they were describing it as a hybrid or an EV.  He has upgraded the "neighbours" and "locals" to "eyewitnesses" who were "on the scene when the fire started"; but only 1 News 1 News used the term 'witness' (and the NZ Herald echoed it in its doppelganger reporting.  

So it is untrue to claim - as he does - that "all these media outlets are basically saying the same thing" - only one of them (and its echo) is claiming to be speaking to anyone who could be said to have seen anything.

The other "neighbours" and "locals" don't say how the fire started; only the unidentified TV news coverage directly says their source claims the fire "was caused by an EV".  1 News referred to a "witness" who told them the fire started "in the garage" rather than stating the car started it; News Hub don't even suggest a location for it.  

And remember, that TV news coverage only identified its source as "locals" - not dignifying them with the title of "witness" and who may not have seen anything at all.  Yet here they are presented as "eyewitnesses who were on the scene when the fire started."  Wild, wild surmising and invention from Simon.

That isn't what our host wants to talk about, really.  After all, if that was how the story was covered, he would probably be quite happy.  But, as he describes it, "But then, two days later, on the 18th of December, the New Zealand Herald put out another article ..." referring to this passage:

Social media posts and a media outlet then reported a witness as saying the fire had been started by an EV (electric vehicle) in the home’s garage. 
But Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) investigator Ed Hopping said that was not the case. 
“The investigation is still ongoing... but I’m comfortable to put it out there in the world that the fire wasn’t a result of the battery in the car failing,” Hopping said. 
He said the fire started within the home, while the car was parked outside the garage and was not plugged in for charging at the time. 
“It’s just important to put out there that hybrid cars... aren’t that vulnerable to fires,” Hopping said. 
“And then in this instance, the car wasn’t plugged in and wasn’t inside the garage or the structure.” 
Based on Fenz experience so far, he said it isn’t common for fires to be started by electric vehicles in New Zealand.

Simon offers his take on this: "So I'm glad we're getting all the key points of 'the message' out in this article ... I emailed the Fire and Emergency New Zealand media with the following questions: multiple eyewitness reports claim that the fire started in an hybrid vehicle that was parked outside the garage  ..."

Again, "multiple eye witnesses" were not mentioned.  A single "witness" was referred to and how much the rest may have known or seen is unclear.  He is simply wrong here.  WRONG.

(AN ASIDE: whatever these people may or may not have seen, they all said the car was INSIDE the garage. "In the garage" is repeated in all the reports - even though they can't decide if it was a hybrid, an EV, or whether it was charging or just parked.  Yet hear is Simon blithely proclaims it was outside, immediately nixing the credibility of those "eye witnesses" (or whatever) he is relying on.  You can't have it both ways, trusting them when they say the fire was started by a charging car (though only one of them, the "local" says that) and then happily ignoring them when they say the car was in the garage.)

Now we get to the nub of Simon's complaining - that Hopping said battery failure was not involved and the fire started else where in the house.  He wants to know how this could have been confirmed "so quickly" (his words).

The obvious implication being this is a BIG LIE and a COVER UP.  The possibility FENZ might have spoken to the people who owned the house and car and got information from them seems to have eluded our host.  Though I am willing to be all the money in the world if Hopping had said "The investigation isn't complete but it was totally caused by the EV combusting" our host would not be complaining about the speed of that conclusion being made public.

The response he received referred Simon to an article in the Waikato Times with three quotes selected (by whom is not clear):

“I can’t comment on the cause, because the investigation is not yet completed, but I can say where it did not start and that was in the garage,” Hopping said.

“The car did not have anything to do with it, and it was parked outside of the garage at the time.”

“It looks like the fire started at the rear of the property. It did not start where the car was.”

Significantly, he tells us to "take mental note of that very carefully because its going to be relevant in a minute."

He then engages in some boilerplate conspiracy waffle: "It's all very tidy isn't it?  Nothing to see here folks, please disperse."  If you say so, Simon.  Though if I was running a cover up, I'd probably have made sure I had an alternate explanation out in the media, rather than just saying what it wasn't.  Just get someone to say they left the iron on in the laundry adjacent to the garage, problem solved.

And, finally, we get the reward for all our patience.  Simon has a video to show us, "sent to me by one of my viewers" which supposedly exposes the coverup.  It is only a few seconds long and shows the garage of the house, the door open and flames pouring out of, with a Mitsubishi Outlander in the process of cooking up nicely.

Simon claims it is "very early on in the fire" and "you can see the only part of the house where smoke is coming from is the section where the car and the garage are.  The rest of the house is not involved at all at this point ... as we get closer we can see that the garage itself is on fire.  The car which is, I understand, a Mitsubishi Plug In Hybrid, is also on fire and the edges of the garage are on fire and the car.  But there's no sign of the rest of the house being involved at this stage.  And I don't see any evidence of the fire having started at the rear of the property which is completely out of sight compared to this view ... the main part of the house is not involved yet ... its not even involved.  Its only that car and the garage that are on fire right now.  So for them to say that it started at the rear just doesn't make sense with the evidence ..."

He also shows us some drone footage of the property blazing away, shortly after the clip.

He is overlooking a couple of pertinent things here, however.

First, of course, the first clip shows the front of the house.  We can see the garage is in flames.  But we can't see the back of the house.  Tellingly, perhaps, the drone footage does show the rear of the house, and there are gouts of flame erupting from the read of the property:

As you can see, the rear of the house is pretty clearly 'involved' as Simon likes to say.

But ... but ... but ... that drone footage is clearly taken from later  on, as there are now firefighters fight fire, down on the left (Simon has helpfully drawn a circle round them).  Obviously, by this time the fire has spread through out the house, starting in the garage and only later 'involving' the rear of the house.

Possibly.  But fires are tricky things - I know because I watched Backdraft obsessively in the 90s and still think it is a top, top film.  It isn't uncommon for fires in oxygen poor environments to die down to virtually nothing (this, of course, is how you put them out, if you can only starve the fire of sufficient oxygen) but flare up again when they find sweet, sweet air to breathe.  So if the fire had started at the rear of the house, if there wasn't plentiful oxygen, it could well have died down to the point where it wasn't obvious to someone in the street.  There aren't ready pathways for smoke to pour out (otherwise, oxygen would be pouring in and the fire would be having a fine old time); the exception to this is the garage, where the door has been fatefully left open, giving the fire oxygen to breath.

(n.b. I am not saying this is what happens; and I repeat my credentials are virtually nil - but I reckon they are as robust as Simon's.  And unlike him, when I am engaging in fantastic speculation I am making it pretty obvious this is what I am doing.  And I amn't wasting the emergency services time with mendacious communications.)

Simon rounds it all off with a typically mealy-mouthed quasi-caveat, saying he would, of course, be delighted to learn it wasn't actually an EV that caused the fire but he just can't, for the life of him, see how this can fit with the facts he's presented.  Someone, he implies, is telling us lies, and "What I really, really hate is having the wool pulled over my eyes by media outlets determined to push a particular message rather than be truthful with the facts."

Wait, what ... media outlets?  Dude, they were simply reporting what they were being told.  First, by the "neighbours" and "witnesses" and "locals" in Cook's Beach; and then by Fire Emergency New Zealand.

In spite of having emailed FENZ and quoted from their response and regurgitated the information stated in public by a spokesperson for FENZ, Simon is trying to blame the media for what he claims is a misrepresentation?  This is outlandishly silly.  How can the media dictate what Hopping and FENZ say?

Just go back to the title of Simon's clip for a moment: New Zealand (Cooks Beach) Fire: Media claims "EV not to blame".  No, Simon, the media didn't.  FENZ said the fire started else where and the car did not cause it.  The media simply REPORTED what FENZ said.  But claiming FENZ is spread false information is a riskier proposition than making vague, absurd claims about unidentified "media".

I know blaming 'mainstream media' is bread and butter for conspiracy trolls like Simon; but it helps if you can actually point to something bad the media have actually done.  Here they have literally just done their job, telling readers and viewers what happened and what people are saying about it, in a fairly even handed way - and I know this because there is plenty of complaining on EV social media sites about how the media mentioned the claims about an EV / hybrid being involved.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Conservative MP, Chris Skidmore resigns

Citing concern over expanding oil and gas exploitation. From The Guardian:

“I can also no longer condone nor continue to support a government that is committed to a course of action that I know is wrong and will cause future harm. To fail to act, rather than merely speak out, is to tolerate a status quo that cannot be sustained. I am therefore resigning my party whip and instead intend to be free from any party-political allegiance.”

Even Tories are starting to get it.

He's also resigning from parliament, triggering a byelection (the EIGHTH in a year); obviously, with a general election expected at some point this year (and absolutely no later than the 28th of January 2025).  Presumably, he looked at the opinion polls and figured he didn't have much chance of avoiding ignominious defeat and decided to resign on principal rather than be obliterated in the coming route.

One assumes he has a fairly lucrative exit strategy, as most MPs who decided to fall upon their swords do; but, never-the-less, he's acting on principal and forgoing a year's pay in in a pleasant sinecure.


 From the Guardian : The  Observer  understands that as well as backing away from its £28bn a year commitment on green investment (while sti...