Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A new year approaches but you're not safe yet. Use this picture to help promote this blog!
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Beyond telephony - Here comes Radio Tracking

AlterNet: Are You Being Tracked?

This news is hardly new, but today's story goes into some depth about the future of Radio Frequency Identification. It was originally the idea of developing businesses who wanted to track their products and utility companies wanting a way to remotely read their meters. It was also seen as a workable method of bypassing the web to deliver software upgrades for fixed hardware devices. But in an age where every downstream is also an upstream, it is another gift to the big brother mindset.

Tomorrow's fashion accessory could be a shirt with an electronic fabric. Or maybe just a tie. You will simply download the pattern you want to wear that day. There'll be a whole industry born for a new kind of garment design. Eventually the patterns will move and respond to your enviroment. Lastly, they'll be accompanied by a compulsory advertising logo which may indeed become a "must-have" emblem in it's own right. Any originality will simply be re-packaged as conformity and the lowest common denomiator will prevail as everyone tried to keep up with everyone else. The commerce wars of today's sportwear makers are but a hint of what may come. Your new uniform will be your marketing subscription.

Some will love it and for a while the novelty value will make it great fun. The question is not how long it will take the consumers to realise that the same technology is tracking their every move - it is how long it will take for the wearers to accept and forget that their every move is being tracked. It is then that big brother will have made us complete pawns in some mysterious greater game.

As the multi-day binge concludes and we all embrace the wonder of whatever technological gadgets we have acquired, maybe it would be wise to think more closely about their potential for abuse. And just why does that MP3 player, so cheap at the price, insist on trying to connect to the internet when you don't need it to? Maybe the Bush "wire-tap" mentality is already obselete - the future is the craft of "wireless-tap".


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Life's a bitch. Image from Slate.
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Eve of Disruption

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove

It is of course the eve of the western world's big hoohaa and most of the editorial press have retreated for the holidays. Not the New York Times who here reveal more about domestic spying in Amerika. NYT have been getting some flack of late for having anti-Bush sentiments - odd, given that they are part of the Murdock media empire and some of the items in question have been with-held from publication until recently.

Here's a quote -
"One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the NSA said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches."

This gets ever more worrying. First Bush admits spying on domestic/international calls. Then they admit this may have included domestic/domestic calls due to a glitch in the way the empire's computer systems operate. Then we find they've been spying on both Islmic and other foreign organisations to the extend of monitoring their offices for traces of radiation. Lastly, we find they have actively been encouraging the routing of international telecoms traffic through the USA - presumably to spy further. This must be a collosal operation.

It has been pointed out that were any former president have have engaged in even a hint of such activity they would have denied it since the over-riding duty of the White House incumbant is to preserve and enforce the constitution. Since such activities go against the constitution itself, they would have been considered to have betrayed the entire nature of their office. Impeachment would not nearly be enough for commiting such crimes. We all know about Nixon's little jaunt and one suspects that no President will have totally clean hands in this area, but Bush is certainly the first to admit this kind of thing publicly. He not only admits it, but proclaims his divine right to do it and challenges anyone to argue the point. To date, there have been pathetically few takers.

That look set to change, but one still has to worry about the spying infrastructure that must now exist. If those of us living elsewhere are taking advantage of cheap international call services, how likely is it that they are being routed through a US government subsidised hub for surveillance purposes. It is not just we individuals who should be worried, but our governments themselves. The prospect of commerce wedded to a particular government and that government itself wedded to both fundamentalism and trans-national robbery hardly sits comfortably with the notion of freedom - be it for the individual or governments themselves.

This weekend there will be more international phone calls between individuals than at any other time of year. So as you enjoy the holidays, spare a thought for those poor eaves-dropper no doubt working overtime.



Reports are coming of a possible terror alert. Homeland security are said to have detected several imposter flights masquerading as the reindeer-powered craft, Santa Force One. Officials are currently believed to be trying to locate the authentic one before blasting the fakes out of the sky. The public are warned to be careful what comes down their chimney tonight. If in doubt - shoot to ... (killjoy)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Japan's prime minister attends the launch of a new car. It's 100% electric with a rechargable battery, has eight wheels and can still power up to 230 miles per hour. Only snag - it still has a number plate. See below link.
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Consolidation of Big Brother

Transport to Surveillance

This link leads to the Independent's headline article and suggests yet another reason for giving up those cardon-spewing four-wheeled affrontations to planetary respect. Drive one and you become another statistic in that mother of population control - the state database. Exactly why the snoops of Whitehall can't employ such technology to ensure the health and welfare of tax-paying citizens is another question. If the police, welfare, benefits and social service agencies talked to each other and shared information to the same extent as these proposals, maybe the big brother mentality could be vindicated by giving us a society free of child neglect, domestic abuse and the violence of dis-enfrachisement.

At least we can now link two trains of thought. To protect your civil liberties you will have to abandon use of private motor vehicles. Take to foot or bike, even trains and buses - anything that doesn't involve an individual license-plate or purchase of petrolium. We should not be subscribing to a surveillance agenda, we should insist on living as free individuals. Maybe then, those we elect to do so will finally start shaping a social structure that adapts to our needs rather than their own. We are not pawns - we should be demanding the "service" of politicians in the same way we demand that of jurors in the administration of law.

Also, a great new toon today from Mark Fiore - as always.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Amerika Convenes Anti-Castro Panel

CBS News

One might think that the with the current scrutiny of the Amerikan administration's behaviour at home and abroad they might take time to pause for thought before embarking on any new escapades. Not so it seems - as this link points out, Condi has now taken charge of the group planning regime change in Cuba. Missile Crisis it is not and one has to ask what it will take to keep the US from meddling in other countries' affairs.

The irony is that the preaching of so-called "democracy" is back-firing with a venegence. Bolivia is the latest Latin American example of a people more than willing to use the ballot box to democratically elect a government - only to produce a regime that disagrees with Amerika on just about everything. If democracy were to be forced on Cuba, who is to say the result would be any more to US liking than Castro's government. Changing the power structure will not change the culture.

It is also the obvious lesson of Iraq. It will now be January before all the votes of their recent ballot can be counted, but they too embraced the actual democratic process to a greater degree than expected. Whilst rumours of Amerikan "fixing" of the process in some places abound, early results indicate massive support for religious parties which means the new "democracy" will not only be rife with sectarianism, but also united in distrust of Britain and Amerika. If we do manage to get out, it will be no surprise if local divides being Iran back into the equation and all the meddling will have backfired again.

Democracy by decree is an absurd mismangement of foreign policy. It is not even absolute - as the western world's relationship with and dependency on China exemplifies. We don't actually give a damn about democracy when market forces and the economy are favourable to us. Self interest rules as the impotence of the Hong Kong trade negotiations proved. The only thing that might make us wake up is if Latin America and the Middle East used their "democracies" to deny us access to the Oil and Gas reserves we are so keen to swindle out of them. The urgency of change needed to our own lifestyle would then become starkly transparent and the charade of our own elected governments' ability to cope with future reality exposed.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

US Judge Expels 'Intelligent Design'

CBS News

Some rather good news for once. Evolution returns to the Amerikan classroom as a judge rules that "intelligent design" cannot be part of the curriculum. No doubt the religious right will be wetting their underwear.

Parallels are also being drawn between the Bush domestic wiretapping and what Richard Nixon did at Watergate. By all reports and frantic discussion in the blogsphere, this means there are solid grounds for Dubya's impeachment. Forget that campaign to give him a blow job - it seems some good old fashioned skullduggery may to the trick just as well. See here.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Contracts for Coupling

Western Isles poised for showdown over council's gay marriage ban

I've chosen this absurd little story as today's link because it leads in to what may turn out to be a real headache for the UK goverment.

Today saw the first formal endorsement of a long-term gay relationship in the UK. It was in Northern Ireland. Scotland follows tomorrow and England itself on Wednesday. None other than Sir Elton John will make sure we don't forget the latter as he will undoubtably provide the day's headlines. The whole legislative machine that has finally brought all this about has been cranking away slowly for years and today simply marks the endgame of that process. Why therefore, all the hue and cry from regressive types across the land? It is hardly an unannounced revolution.

The media have naturally become obsessed with the topic and, although the technical definition of what's going on is "civil partnerships", radio, TV and newspapers are insisting on refering to them as "gay marriages". This, of course, is just aggravating the controversy by using terminology that has other associations for backward religious types.

I've never had much truck with even the idea of marriage. My bone of contention is not people choosing the two partner (and usually two parent) family unit as a base for their lifestyle, but the formalisation that binds an inter-personal relationship to both the unknown future and a social norm dictated by the state. Whilst clearly a long-needed acknowledgement of same sex couples and the rights they should be allowed to subscribe to, this new recognition has more to do with social integration, fiscal planning and the eventual supression of something that otherwise stood out like a sore thumb in the routines of big brother's robotic society.

I have never seen any problem with gay and lesbian relationships, or any same-sex activities that do not involve rape or sexual slavery. The same applies to conventional male-female relationships. The problem is the contract for coupling itself. Many long-term heterosexual partnerships go awry after the contract is signed - whether a natural consequence of the march of time or the un-natural consequence of one or other party re-interpreting the relationship to conform with their own notion of the contract itself. Thousands of indiviuals end up "trapped" in circumstances they did not forsee and only if they are lucky is it possible to escape through the nightmarish drama of official divorce. There is no reason to assume that formalised gay partnerships will not ultimately fall into the same kinds of trap.

Marriage itself went into steep social decline around the 1960s as people realised it was an un-necessary restriction on personal freedom. It didn't however prevent non-formalised relationships from prospering and indeed, raising children. Issues of love and companionship do not require state or religious intervention to survive. Marriage is a relic of religious doctrine - although it is one ritual that is to a great extent shared by many different religions. As such, it suggests human beings have a tendency toward the lesser pack as opposed to the greater collective one. Proscribing it however is wholly regressive and in the modern world it has become a tool for population control, taxation and common-denominator marketing. To be "normal", you must be the nuclear family!

In a world where the likes of Bush and Blair have corrupted the notion of wholly secular government, it should be no surprise that the newly empowered, if somewhat retarded, faith-based groups are squawking in reactionary harmony. To the civilised mind it is, to quote a certain bard: "Much Ado About Nothing". If marriage is on the increase again these days, it has more to do with celebrity, pre-nuptial agreements and the pursuit of consumer credit than anything else. The hitherto maverick nature of the gay community has helped bring it into the open over recent decades. It would be a shame if having emerged from "the closet" they are seduced by the ritual of living in another tpe of cupboard.

Also in the news, the share price of GW Pharmaceuticals, the makers of the medical cannabis product "Sativex" have risen on the news they have negotiated an export contract with a distribution comany in Spain, on top of the recent one with Canada. This distributor will in turn be supplying it to other countries throughout Europe, with the notable exception of Britain itself!


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Just who's handling who here?

Sinn Fein expels British spy

A link to the Scotsman's take on the latest Northern Ireland fiasco - news that broke too late for this morning's print editions.

The last time Britain's Labour party were elected into office it was under the leadership of the late Harold Wilson. Like Blair, he too retired whilst still in office (one presumes Blair intends keeping his word on this of course!) but sensibly only told the Queen about his departure date. It was only some time after his exit from the political stage that we learned that the British Intelligence services had been involved in a campaign to de-stabilise his government for reasons of their own.

This latest news has a peculiar and slighty familiar stink about it. The peace process in so far as the Northern Ireland assembly is concerned fell apart a while back because of spying allegations against Sinn Fein. Now we find that the spy in question was a UK special branch operative. In other words, Sinn Fein themselves did nothing to justify the dissolution of the fledgling parliament.

Blair's government, whatever its other faults, can hardly be said to have engaged in any activity designed to hinder conciliation in the long-standing troubles. Thanks largely to the impartial attitude of the late Mo Mowlan and possibly the presence of catholicism in Blair's own marriage, it could rather be said to have made unprecedented progress in resolving the issues. For this reason, I can hardly believe they would have had knowledge of any agenda to subvert the process.

So the question is - exactly who was handling this agent and why? The thought of powers in Whitehall and beyond that can bypass the authority of government is bad enough. The possibility that they could be driven by a religious bias is more disturbing still.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Straw of Rendition

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics

Forgetting for a moment the fires and Arnie's re-invention of his role as "terminator", this link to today's Independent tells us the UK foriegn secretary Jack Straw did indeed approve a couple of "rendition" flights by the CIA here in Britain. It seems like a minor confession designed to distract attention from the current issue. The flights in question were approved back when Staw was home secretary, well before 9/11 and the subsequent so-called "war on terrorism". Well before the advent of the Bush imperial initiative - full stop!

As the article points out, this revelation may indeed raise additional questions. If we accept that requests were made and granted in the past, surely the complete absence of any such official requests by the Bush regime in the newer climate is suspicious in itself. It suggests the arrogance of the ape emperor is such that he would not have bothered to ask permission anyway - probably in the full knowledge that the intent would be criminal. Not that I believe for one minute that our government, via British intelligence services, would not have been entirely aware of such activities. Simply off the record - of course!

Sad news is that Bush's popularity ratings have increased again slightly. Probably because he's shut up for a while and hunkered down for the holidays. Whilst her European tour may have shocked Condi Rice into a re-assessment of the Amerikan position, there is no indication whether her reservations have registered in the dubious "brain" of Dubya.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Pryor Concerns

Independent Online Edition > Americas

A quick link to this morning's UK Independent with a short tribute to Richard Pryor who passed away yesterday. See also below.

Congratulations to Britain's deputy prime minister, John Prescott. Following a visit to the oil fire site, he has warned us that the emissions may contain something called "hydrocarbanoms". I'm not quite sure what these are but it is is surely a good sign that our government supremos are keeping themselves informed on the issues.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Comedian Richard Pryor in 1977. He died today after a long illness, aged 65.
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Fallout Continues

channel4.com - News

As darkness falls the pictures from the burning site are awsome. Amidst new explosions in the last hours, we see enourmous flames and one can almost feel the heat. The clouds of filth have now expaned eastwards and cover much of London.

I was curious to hear the public health spokeswoman. In an attempt to convince us that the clouds are not toxic, she told us "they're only an irritant - just hydrocarbons!" That's no comfort for those with asthma or other breathing difficulties - especially when the temperature drops tonight and the air pollution gets worse. But I'm more intruiged by the reference to hydrocarbons.

This may be the worst such incident in peacetime Europe but the source is only one small part of the supply infrastructure. And that in turn is only one small part of the production process via oilfields and refinaries. Watching the sheer volume of visible hydrocarbon spewing out of Hemel Hempstead, it is easier than ever to comprehend the far greater amount of invisible hydrocarbons we methodically emit every day. This highly opaque disaster is small change compared to the slow transparent death we are inflicting on the planet every moment.

If there is any benefit to be had in the legacy of this event, it should be in the memory of the clarity shown to us by this exhibition and its vivid illustration of the harm we do ourselves. Sadly, it is a message lost on the myriad arseholes whose reponse has been to barrage the petrol pumps in the misguided belief that this will somehow have an effect on their precious fuel supply. I rather hope they do choke on it.


See that black spot? It's not an example of British weather - see below.
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BBC NEWS | UK | Massive explosions hit fuel depot

I don't need to tell UK readers the latest news. The fuel explosion at 6am this morning has dominated the agenda for the last eight hours and one might be forgiven there is no other news at all. As far as the BBC is concerned - this isn't. Like the hurricane of a couple of decades back, I managed to sleep through the initial event, but by all reports it was heard in Northern France and Holland.

Watching the images, it is fascinating. There is something rather grand about witnessing this - surreal too in that looking westward we see a beautiful sunny winter's day whilst looking to the east we see a nightmare of pollution. Sitting here in leafy Kensington, there is little evidence of the fallout, but just a few miles eastward the London Docklands are covered in the smog.

Exactly how something of this magnitude could happen will be the subject of many questions. The fires will apparantly be burning for days and if tonight's rains come as predicted, the pollution in the air will be washed down to earth and infect everything. It will not however be enough to extinquish the fires. Just why such a huge amount of volatile material was kept in such close proximity is disturbing to say the least.

If such an event concerning our handling of fossil fuels can happen, it bodes poorly for an energy industry who now have their eyes on the nuclear option. If this is the kind of care afforded to the safety of our infrastructure, can Britain one day be expected to experience another Chenobryl? As I watch all this unfold and the fumes spread, I thank my lucky stars that, this time at least, it is not a radioactive spill. If it were, I would not be here to write this.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

It was 25 years ago today he was assassinated. Spare a thought for the memory of John Lennon..
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What season is it anyway? Dubya has definition probles - see below. Original photo courtesy of Slate.
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And a happy wotsit to you too

Independent Online Edition > Americas

This link points to one of many articles on a new dilemma for Bush. For once, he has mercifully taken a secular approach to the party season and upset his evangelical constituency in the process. Somehow it's not quite as laughable as it should be.

Even if you believe in christian mythology, history has it that the so-called messiah was actually born in October and the celebration of his birth was shifted way back in the dark ages to accomodate and ultimately subvert the traditional festival of Yuletide. The lie has prevailed as an institution in the annual rhythm of western society, these days used as a last-ditch attempt to bolster the consumer economy for the year's end. Were it a solely religious festival, I suspect it would generate little interest in the modern world.

The lie in our calender is all the more absurd given that the calender itself uses the death of the same character as it's starting point. When we refer to the date, it is an arbitary notion derived from centuries-long habit. It is easy to forget that completely different calenders are still used in other parts of the world - especially the middle-east where so much contemporary conflict is focused. As we absent-mindedly follow the routines embedded in our calender, we are subconsciously imposing its dictates on the rest of the planet. It has become an imperial definition of time, a callous imposition of out-dated theology and a cold-blooded marketing tool for the armies of consumerism.

Everyone strives to have faith in themselves. We also look to have faith in others - be they individuals or organisations. Even governments. It is when that faith fails that the vampires of organised religion descend to corrupt self-determination and rally us to the cause of their own agendas. Sucessive political generations of recent times have failed in the faith we put in them to manage our communities, our nations and our planet itself. Hence the re-ascendency of crusading Christianity and militant Islam. Worst of all, our leaders themselves then start to subscribe to the the same regressive tendencies that are infecting the population at large.

For once, Bush may have done the right thing - albeit accidently and for all the wrong reasons. It remains to be seen whether he'll drink himself into a black hole by the time the season is over. Especially as his own "flock" are increasingly losing their own faith in him.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The acclaimed playright and author Harold Pinter, who today delivered an insightful speech on the occaision ofhis Nobel Literature prize. Of particular note were is angry comments about US foreign policy since 1945 and his sharp rebuke of Blair's involvement with the same. Follow the link below - it's no yellow brick road!
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A Pinter Peace Polemic

I've just finished watching Harold Pinter's speech in acceptance of the Nobel Pirze for Literature. He didn't make it to Stockholm but did leave hospital for long enough to record the hour-long monologue which delivered incisive comments on Bush, Blair, post-1945 US policy and the state of mass-illusion in western society. If you missed the broadcast, follow this link to Channel 4 television's Pinter page where an online transcript will be posted shortly.

Britain's traditional right-wingers now have a generational shift with new champion David Cameron. His winning the Conservative leadership race was hardly unexpected but the novelty of a new opponent facing Blair over the dispatch box today was still cause for curiousity. Blair himself seemed more rattled by the lack of confrontation than by the verbal sparring he got from Cameron's predeccesor, Micheal Howard. He won't get my vote but I hope a change of face and attitude might start ruffling the feathers of this government's Blair-faced complacency.

Cameron may well prove a match for the now beleagured Blair, but whether he'd come out as well against Gordon Brown remains to be seem. With all the signs of a severe economic downturn in the wind, Brown's legacy as chancellor may be sorely tested anyway. If New Labour and Modern Conservatism can balance each other out, the stage may be set for Liberal Democrats to increase their strength. Here's hoping.

In one of the oddest twists to the endless debate on cannabis legality, it seems home secretary Charles Clarke reckons that 500 joints worth counts as "personal supply". I decline to comment save to say that it also sounds like a go-ahead for a small herb garden too. Cameron would be wise to keep mum on this one! More on that suject here as always.



Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Singer/Songwriter David Rovics (left) with the author at Saturday's climate change rally outside the US embassy in London. In my case, a state of bissfully frozen - which explains the unfortunate pose. Shame it's the only picture.
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23 year sentence for Ecology Activist

Free Jeff Luers (Schmoo)

Sniffling a bit here. Probably due to spending Saturday outside the US Embassy here in London photography the climate change protest and getting to meet the prolific and inspired David Rovics. As the one and only photo of us both shows, the weather had gotten to me by the end of the gig.

Excellent speeches from Micheal Meacher and George Monbiot amongst others, plus David's fine songs. Best guess is around 8000 turned out to make themselves heard, but a shame that the George Best funeral got most of the media attention that night.

On a related subject, today's link came to me last night. It tells of the harsh penalties that can be expected if you take radical ecological action in Bush's Amerika. Such is the fate of Jeff Luers and there is now a campaign to overturn the sentence. I wish it (and him) luck.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

No it's not another piece of psychedelia! This is a temperature map showing the mess currently afflicting the gulf stream. See below.
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Slow Thaw & The Big Freeze

Independent Science & Technology

30 miles or so off the west coast of Cornwall, here in England, there is a small cluster of islands known as the Scilly Isles. It's elderly and backward population live in a community several steps behind that of the mainland and given that one can walk anywhere on the largest island in less than hald an hour, it is horrifying to see carbon emissions from vehicles that would be barely legal elsewhere. Neither have the few shops serving the locals exactly cottoned on to energy efficiency and ecologically sound products. There is a derth of everything and what there is costs too much. The economy centres on fishing, spring flowers and summer tourism. Plus a few Autumn birdwatchers who don't spend enough for the locals to like them much! The fisherman can't sell to the locals - it gets bought en-masse by the meg-corps and does a tour of the country before arriving back frozen for retail.

Long-hailed for their outstanding beauty, the islands have attracted visitors wanting to benefit from the climate. Why? Well, like some parts of Ireland, this is a part of Britain that traditionally experiences sub-tropical weather conditions. The lagoon-like outcrop provides shelter from the Atlantic forces whilst the warm currents of the Gulf Stream travel right through their epicentre. Or rather they did! As locals increasingly moan about the weather, few of them seemed to even know that the position of the Guld Stream itself has shifted in the last decade or so. The change is a sad loss but somehow fitting for a population who market their environment whilst taking little care of it. Without the long hot summers, one wonders exactly how the community will survive.

Mass awareness of pollution and its effects becaome commonplace in the 1960s, but rather than act to protect the future, western consumerist culture chose largely to block it from their minds. And now it is too late! Today's link leads to one of many covering the now official news about the Gulf Stream - it's not just shifted but is now slowing down and could halt completely. Places like Britain could experience arctic conditions and have their climate changed forever - despite warming and desertification in other parts of the planet. The lack of foresight by sucessive governments means we are now having problems reaching sustainable energy levels based on current demands - just how we would get the resources to maintain today's lifestyles in an even harsher climate beggars belief. Canada's recent "Son of Kyoto" summit was once again scuppered by Amerikan self-interest and here in the UK, Blair thinks in nuclear terms - the most costly and least sustainable option of all. It's not at all clean when considered over the whole production cycle, it still not anything like safe and it is also a limited-lifespan, short-term fix. It is also unworkable economically without financial support, so we will end up paying not only higher power charges but will also be subsidising the operation through general taxation.

If the government were really concerned about long-term sustainability, they would make it compulsory for new homes and offices to incorporate solar collection panels and domestic wind generators. In combination they should provid enough power whatever the weather. There should also be a fixed term plan to covert existing premises. Many properties could also be adapted to recycle waste and produce more fuel in the form of methane. Methane and hydrogen cells can also be used to power motor vehicles. It would be a costly exercise but it would protect the future. Nor need the petrolium and utility industries lose out - they could be the ones charged with manufacturing and installing eco-friendly systems in return for giving up their rape of our increasingly scarce planetary resources. Indeed, there would be whole new areas of the economy emerging, with employment opportunities that could be addressed locally all over the country. As an island itself, Britain could be a planetary showpiece by 2050. We could also be a lot safer by dis-engaging from the imperial plunder of other nations, cultures and their property. If we have to preach - let it be by example.