Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Posing the 100 year Question: The Threads Answer

The most obvious way for humanity to be wiped out is by nuclear war. And it's nearly happened several times.

Somehow I can't worry too much about Osama bin Laden when I know that Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon could have caused infinitely more destruction in 10 minutes than bin Laden could dream of doing in a year.

At the end of the Cold War days, back in 1984, I can remember the BBC broadcast of Threads, perhaps the most despairing, the bleakest account of Nuclear War ever seen on the TV or cinema screen. I had a nightmare that night of an awful wind blowing across the landscape. If you haven't seen it, or heard of it, here is a review from the IMdb website:

Absolutely terrifying, utterly disturbing. 9 September 2005
Having just purchased this on DVD I was eager to watch it after waiting years to see it after it was unofficially banned from ever being shown on the BBC again. I was four when it was first shown and my parents switched it off, too frightened to watch it themselves never mind let me see it.

I have to say it is absolutely terrifying and utterly terrifying in the extreme. This could have actually happened! I was impressed by the way the film conveyed what it would be like if thousands of megatons of atomic bomb was dropped on the U.K. Normal life comes to an abrupt stop. One minute people are shopping in their local supermarket, going to the pub and wallpapering their new flat and suddenly they are plunged into Hell. Civilisation is blown back into the stone age.

The most scary part was the way the authorities were shown unable to cope with the scale of the attack (perhaps why the BBC never aired it again). We always think that it could never be that bad because someone would come to our rescue, someone would maintain control. But no, the bombs / missiles keep raining down and down prompting one traumatised emergency committee member to scream, "not another one!" They just did not expect so devastation and are completely helpless. Later soldiers shoot people for food, people wish for death and the emergency committee, those meant to be running things, die in the supposed protective bunker, trapped by rubble.

Ten years later, nothing is back to normal. What young people there are behave like wild animals, raping and fighting and speaking in a bizarre caveman manner.

Since the Cold War ended people have stopped being frightened of nuclear weapons. Everybody in every country should watch this film and realise that if there ever was a nuclear war, still possible with growing tensions between a superpower and its rivals, those left alive would wish they had been caught in the blasts and killed outright.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that if the politicians get things wrong, civilisation could be effectively destroyed in an afternoon.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Posing the 100 Year Question: The Underkill Answer

One of Earth's possible futures is what PZ Myers calls "Wallowing in Poverty and War and Desperation". It's what happens if we run out of resources.

James White's 1979 novel, "Underkill" describes in detail what sort of life we might have in such a grim world. It's long out of print but a few copies are available secondhand from the likes of Amazon.

White's books are normally optimistic, with compassionate, determined individuals solving problems and crossing the stars. But "Underkill" is set in an Earth critically short of energy. Society is authoritarian, violent and stratified, food and resources are low , and terrorists are causing more and more casualties.

White's characters - husband-and-wife doctors Malcolm and Ann, and police inspector Reynolds - are still compassionate and determined, but they are fighting a losing cause.

"Hello Doctor Malcolm" , said the boy smiling "I'm sorry , I was dreaming about rats, and one of them bit my arm. Is Nurse mad at me?"

"Of course not", said Malcolm "But she would like you a lot better if you were to ask her for something to eat and drink, Tommy. I know you don't feel hungry, but that is because your stomach is very small and not used to much food. But you need food to help your broken arm and legs mend. Do you understand that? And it's nice , clean , food, like the Uppers eat".
Tommy later has a nightmare about school:
"You are a stupid, sneaking, snivelling wretched boy said the Senior Educator in his quiet, angry voice. You are nine years old and you still act as if you had just come out of the nursery"

"Nobody likes walking the wheel" he went on "But your wheel is one designed for a child half your age, and little more than a toy. Yet you cry and faint, and don't make enough power to light the room much less help run the machines. All you want to do is the tidying and cleaning jobs where you can work by yourself, because you say your classmates are a bit rough on you. Or you hang about when the older boys are at advanced classes. But remember boy, the knowledge of mathematics and reading and writing is not a gift. It is a privilege, which must be earned by hard work. Perhaps a few of our boys will eventually become technicians or planners or medics. But we are in the business of producing the future power walkers, food processors and artisans, the kind of responsible citizens which enable this city to survive"
So much of this book is horribly believable. Especially a confrontation between another doctor and a group of terrorists:
"You destroy from within by using the structure of society against itself. When fair-minded people bring in liberal laws, you turn them to your own advantage and discredit the people who are trying to keep the laws. The death penalty is bad, barbarous you say, but you yourselves don't hesitate to use it against people who have done you no wrong"
There is more to this story than pure doom. Reynolds suspects there are aliens somewhere on Earth influencing events :
"It worries me , Doctor" said Reynolds. "Gadgets like your scanner turn up in all sorts of places. But one finds that pre-Powerdown technology was never that good".
And indeed there are aliens, whose appearance and methods are just about unique, even in science fiction.

"Underkill" is worth reading simply as a Dreadful Warning, but it is much more than that, and the ending of the book left me stunned and perplexed. It greatly deserves to be reprinted, and would actually make a good TV drama.

Posing the 100 Year Question:

Peter McGrath very usefully mentioned this posting by PZ Myers which asked the question "Will the 'human' race be around in 100 years?

Myers speculates on three possible outcomes:

1. We keep going as we have been. The population is double what it is now or more, and resources are scarcer. We continue to tear at the planet, squabbling over what's left, and we're wallowing in poverty and war and desperation. That can't last, of course: sometime beyond that century mark, or before, we hit scenario 2.

2. There is a major resource crash. The oceans are exhausted, climate change wrecks agriculture, plagues rip through a bloated population, and there is a massive die-off of humanity. Populations drop precipitously, leaving only scattered enclaves. Civilization as we know it ends. Humanity continues, but in a barbarous state.

3. The optimistic scenario: some cultures practice restraint, using technology to control population growth and develop sustainable food and energy resources. They work to bring about scientific and technological advances that improve their chances for survival and progress. Unfortunately, the whole world won't do that: the gap between the haves and have nots widens. On one side, population reductions by choice and with little disruption; on the other, population reductions by starvation and suppression and war.

Here's a tip: spend some time reading through the comments to Myers' post. Some very good thought-provoking stuff here , with links to some other sites. After all , if you are going to have a baby in the next few years, the end of the century could be your baby's old age.

In my next post I want to write about how option 1 might look in practice - the "Underkill" answer.

Still Censorious

Guido Fawkes seems to have spotted my post of a couple of weeks ago...

Now this isn't what I expected...

But some of the questions shouldn't really be restricted to just two possible answers....

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 45% Conservative, 55% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Found via Rambling With Roger

as was this ...

You Are 40% Open Minded

You aren't exactly open minded, but you have been known to occasionally change your mind.
You're tolerant enough to get along with others who are very different...
But you may be quietly judgmental of things or people you think are wrong.
You take your own values pretty seriously, and it would take a lot to change them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


In the past year my biggest local matter to deal with has been a planning application in the ward I represent for a neighbourhood centre. Nothing wrong with that , you might think. There were even conditions on the outline planning consent for 'a range of uses valuable to the local community' and that the traffic numbers would not be 'demonstrably detrimental to the convenience or safety of highways users'

But the application that came in last year was from Asda - for a supermarket, plus some smaller shops, flats and a only a couple of units that could be for community uses.

It was a big local issue. Officers recommended approval, but the two Lib Dem ward members (Ron Oatham and myself) moved refusal and won by a fairly narrow margin. Asda have gone to an appeal on their first application and submitted a second one to the council. This keeps the store at the same size, but gets rid of the flats and replaces them with more units for community use.

Local opinion is split roughly 70-30 against Asda (although in terms of letters to the council it's more like 40- 1). The local chambers of trade, and our local Tory MP , Mark Francois, have been very much against. Local residents were mostly concerned about traffic and the effect of a 23-million-pound-turnover edge-of-town store on our existing shopping centres.

To cut a long story short, we moved refusal on the second application last Thursday and won 26-6. Ron got a round of applause and I got so many pats on the back that I can still feel the dents in my shoulder.

Will Asda continue with their appeal, or will they go for something smaller and more acceptable? We will see.

But if anyone out there has experience of seeing those nice chaps from Asda at a planning inquiry, I'd be glad to hear from you.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Politician Removal Service

If I was an American I wouldn't be a Libertarian.

But I do think their new animation is quite effective...

(found via Hammer of Truth)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Missing Headline

According to the Guardian today:

Labour could be heading for a wipe-out by David Cameron's Tories at the next general election, says the first detailed study of the local election results and their possible impact.

The analysis, compiled by the Electoral Reform Society and released to The Observer yesterday, predicts that Labour stands to lose 149 of its present 355 MPs, bringing its Commons strength down to 206 - 'even worse than in 1983'.

The Tories could add between 100 and 120 MPs to their current 198. This would probably give them more than 300 MPs, comfortably the largest party and 'with new seats created in boundary changes, on the verge of an overall majority'.

Labour DOWN 149
Tories UP 100-120

This therefore predicts that Labour will lose 29-49 seats to some other party than the Tories. But they don't say who.

But here's a clue in the Electoral Reform Society's website:

London seats on new boundaries

2002 locals, 28 seats
2005 General Election, 19 seats
2006 locals, 38 seats

2002 locals, 37 seats
2005 General Election, 46 seats
2006 locals, 26 seats

Liberal Democrats
2002 locals, 7 seats
2005 General Election, 7 seats
2006 locals, 9 seats

Sp perhaps the headline in the Guardian should read "Lib Dems on course for up to 111 seats - Ming will be the key player in the new Parliament."

Of course this is totally speculative, but in the light of some comments in the last few days, I thought it was a point worth making.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Majority Britain.

Up till now I haven't posted about the BNP, mainly because I wasn't sure what to say.

Last year I sat next to two Conservative tellers nattering away to each other. They seemed to have been force fed on a diet of Daily Express headlines and were insular and sour. When one of them said "If asylum seekers are going to stay here , they should be sterilised" I was at a loss for words. What I should have said was "Think again mate, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Second greatest Briton. Son of a political refugee"

I'm not exactly a BNP sympathiser, especially as most of my family come from Eastern Europe. My wife Lena was probably the first Lib Dem council candidate from Novorossiisk. One of Lena's Russian-born friends lives in Dagenham and tells her that since the BNP became active, her neighbours have almost completely stopped talking to her. It's becoming scary.

I was very impressed by David Morton's post earlier this week, which I quote in full here:

I welcome the election of the BNP councillor in Morley South. Thats a shocking thing to say but I mean it. The unpleasent truth is that this has been comming for years and the sooner we lance the boil the better. Last Thursday 11% of voters in Leeds voted for a neo nazi party of thugs, racists and convicts. We are supposed to take lectures on patriotism from a party that thinks the wrong side won the Second World War. But vote they did and what if the BNP had contested all 33 seats not just 22? 13% ? 14%

At what level of popular support does the BNP become legitimate? When will we listen to the grievences of those that vote this way? try and understand the anger? the disillusion of those who feel they have no other choice?

The BNP councillor is a crisis in the best sence of the word (Greek - time of decision)

We could all hold hands and teach the world to sing. Have a multi cultural festival and a tactical voting campaign. perhaps we could prevent a BNP victory for a few more years. But at some point all politicans have to engage with the lethal cocktail of lies and legitimate grievance that fuels this abomination. When 1 in 9 leeds people votes neo nazi then its incumbent upon us all to reexamine the entire system and its failings

There are weapons in the liberal armoury that can help. We need immeadiate action to devolve power to communities, take graffiti and enviromental crime seriously and really, really radical reform of community policing. Most importantly some body some where needs to tackle the housing crisis. I'm no command and control socialist but the most appropriate way of doing this may in many cases building more Council Houses.

I won't be the only one watching Cllr Chris Beverley of Morley South very carefully. If he doesn't attend, doesn't speak, isn't very good or fails to fight for Morley then people will know about it. But I really feel that its in this way that we will fight this off not SHOCK! HORROR! conferences of the liberal middle classes miles away.

So I stand by provocative opening sentence. "Welcoming" a BNP victory is a very odd thing to say but I mean it because it means that the phoney war is over. The City needs a sustained debate about these issues and this election result means it can't be delayed any longer.

We do indeed need to do less 'hand-holding' - David seems to know what practical steps to take instead.

One of the other side, I noticed a comment from a Liberal Review thread on Israel where someone wrote:

In the UK, we have a political party which seeks to guarantee that the majority of people living in this country continue to be white North Europeans. That party is the BNP.

As far as I can see, that comment was against the concept of the majority of people living in this country being white North Europeans. But why? This is a Northern European country where historically people were white. I like the idea of Britain being a cosmopolitan, non-racist society - a sort of multi-coloured centre of the home of the English language. But immigrants to this country should be exactly that - immigrants- and not try to emulate what we were in Canada, Australia etc - colonists.

I'm not saying that any political party should give any guarantee that Britain will stay "White and Northern European". The passage of time will probably make us all coffee-coloured in a couple of centuries and speaking English with a lot of Chinese loan-words. (But it would be nice to think that old cultural traditions will be maintained so that a time-traveller from our era could still go forward 200 years and still enjoy free speech, a beer and a sandwich, watch football and cricket, read JK Rowling , wear jeans and vote in elections.)

But on the mundane ,immediate level: - Just as the 'educated persons media' love shock-horror stories about the BNP winning somewhere, the 'liberal establishment' tend to avoid the idea that being boring plain English, Scottish or Welsh is a perfectly OK thing to be. The ordinary bloke who likes the odd curry but wants to wave the St Georges Flag during the World Cup needs to know that the Lib Dems are there for him, just as we are for anybody else.

This has been a difficult subject to write about - I hope I've conveyed my views accurately and that I'm not offending anybody with this.

In A Censorious Mood

Maybe I've not had enough sleep today, but I'm not feeling charitable.

Guido made money out of John Smith's heart attack
and seems proud of it? Not something that will ever happen to you Guido, you clearly haven't got one. I won't want a link to your site any more...

Mark Oaten blames a mid-life crisis and losing his hair? Not a career-saving statement. Please announce your intention to stand down at the next election and enjoy the rest of your life.

Chris Davies in a hole and still digging Here I'm feeling slightly more charitable. He agreed to resign as European leader, that's enough. Shouldn't resign seat.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Brave Letter from a Labour Candidate

Julian Ware-Lane, who stood for parliament in Rayleigh last year for the Labour Party, has written a very honest letter to the Essex Enquirer newspaper.

In case you can’t read the text, he says:

“Political parties depend on donations , and I have often been asked and regularly respond positively. This time, however , I am having serious doubts. Will my ten pound donation be used for more hairdressing for the prime minister’s wife?”

“I am a proud Labour Party member and was a local candidate and still urge people to vote for us. Locally Labour has much to offer. Nationally I am starting to wonder whether the best option has now become the least worst”

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Essex Triumphant

Coca-Cola Football League One Table:
  1. Southend 82
  2. Colchester 79
  3. Brentford 76
  4. Huddersfield 73
  5. Barnsley 72
  6. Swansea 71
  7. Nottm Forest 69
If my father was still alive (he'd be 104!) he would be very proud.... he was so devoted he wouldn't get married on a Saturday because he didn't want to miss a reserve game.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Jaggy Thistle

Now the elections are over, and I've a bit of time to devote to blogging, can I just say how much I enjoy this Scottish satirical site , for example this piece.

Congrats to Southend Lib Dems

It's not easy to reverse a decline in your number of seats - but Southend Lib Dems have done that last night and are back to being the second largest party. Although the BBC website currently shows one Lib Dem gain, they actually made two - including the seat of the Tory leader Anna Waite.

So well done!

News from Rochford - we make no gains, but hold our seats with increased majorities

Election news:

We're pretty pleased with the election results in Rayleigh.

  • Chris Black and Chris Lumley both held their seats with increased majorities.

  • This was particularly good for Chris Lumley because the Tories tried very hard to defeat him, bringing in Tories from other parts of Rayleigh to canvass against him.

  • Elsewhere in Rayleigh, Pat Putt, Jackie Dillnutt, Keith Budden and Mark Pearson all came second. Jackie got 411 votes, which was the highest of any losing candidate in Rayleigh.

  • We are extremely grateful to them for standing, and of course we'd like to thank all our helpers and indeed everyone who voted for us.

  • In other parts of the district, the Tories made two gains. They won Hawkwell South simply because independent Heather Glynn has joined the Conservative Party. They also won in Rochford, with 24 year-old James Cottis defeating the last remaining Labour councillor, popular Maureen Vince, by 95 votes. However Residents' councillor James Mason defiantly held on to Hawkwell West with a majority of 132.

    Full results are available from the District Council website but here are the results for where the Lib Dems stood:

    Downhall & Rawreth Ward
    Christopher Ian Black Liberal Democrats 900
    Victor Charles Howlett Conservative 328
    Turnout: 37.6%

    Grange Ward
    Christopher John Lumley Liberal Democrats 683
    Roland Frank Adams Conservative 347
    Turnout: 37.4%

    Rayleigh Central Ward
    Patricia Aves Conservative 654
    Patricia Ann Putt Liberal Democrats 283
    Christopher Richard Morgan Labour 135
    Turnout: 32.7%

    Trinity Ward
    James Edward Grey Conservative 618
    Keith John Budden Liberal Democrats 310
    Neil Kirsh Green Party 76
    Turnout: 34.8%

    Wheatley Ward
    Mavis Joan Webster Conservative 768
    Mark Andrew Pearson Liberal Democrats 322
    Turnout: 34.4%

    Whitehouse Ward
    Peter Frederick Arthur Webster Conservative 711
    Jacqueline Dillnutt Liberal Democrats 411
    Turnout: 37.1%

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    From the Brentwood Gazette



    10:30 - 03 May 2006
    A Police investigation is underway following an alleged incident involving rival parties out on the election campaign trail. After four weeks of electioneering, a row over rubbish collection allegedly came to a head in a quiet residential road in Brentwood on Friday night.

    It is alleged that a 22-year-old university student was canvassing alone on behalf of the Lib Dems when he was 'confronted' by members of the Conservative Party.

    The student, who comes from Brentwood, was collecting signatures from residents for a Lib Dem petition to oppose any move by Brentwood Borough Council for a fortnightly collection for household rubbish.

    Council chief executive Bob McLintock and council leader, Tory member Brandon Lewis, have consistently denied any plans to change domestic refuse collections to fortnightly.

    The incident, which has since been reported to Brentwood Police by the Lib Dems, took place at around 7.30pm.

    Det Sgt Tom O'Brien, from Brentwood CID, said: "The allegations have been referred to the Special Branch as they have a remit for dealing with electioneering. One of the allegations is under section four of the Public Order Act."

    The Lib Dems have also made a formal complaint to Mr McLintock in his role as returning officer in the council elections.

    Lib Dem councillor Pauline Myers, one of her party's election agents, said: "The people concerned know only too well the procedure if they have a grievance during an election campaign and that is to contact the election agent for that ward."

    Lib Dem leader Cllr Vicky Cook said: "Our canvasser was simply doing what every other party worker does at election time."

    Conservative leader Cllr Lewis said: "This is just a desperate last-minute attempt by the Lib Dems to try to get some press coverage.

    "With regard to their petition, I have been saying for several weeks that it is a misrepresentation. We have never said we will go to a fortnightly rubbish collection. That is what the Lib Dems did in Chelmsford which the Conservatives repealed."

    My Sixth Defence

    Well, it's nearly over for another spring.

    The key battleground is in the next-door ward to mine, Grange. The Tories are dragging in people from all over the place to try to knock our Chris Lumley off the council. Chris is a classic “residents first, politics second” sort of councillor, and even the Tories admit that he is very popular on the doorstep. But can the Conservatives win by sheer weight of manpower on election day?

    In my own patch, Downhall and Rawreth, the Tories are making a late effort. Some of their helpers clearly don’t know the area - one of them was seen delivering their leaflet in the wrong ward.

    I was struck by one of the points in their leaflet:
    "Voting Liberal would mean a vote 'for the wrong party' , due to them being the minority on the council. This means to you, local residents, little chance of getting anything altered or done".
    So presumably all the Tories should vote for Labour at the next General Election - after all they are in a minority in the Commons.
    Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

    I write this blog in a private capacity , but just in case I mention any elections here is a Legal Statement for the purposes of complying with electoral law: This website is published and promoted by Ron Oatham, 8 Brixham Close , Rayleigh Essex on behalf of Liberal Democrat Candidates all at 8 Brixham Close.