Ed versus David

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Ed Miliband, ever since he worked like a dog through the almost pointless Copenhagen summit for climate change last year. Franny Armstrong's excellent "Stupid Show" videos on You Tube caught Ed, exhausted but still upright at the end, trying to maintain a politician's gloss on what was a shambolic failure. He really looked like he meant it. Maybe I'm a sucker.

It was Ed, let's not forget, who wrote the Labour manifesto going in to the election, and he put many straightforward green targets in, which frankly were a lot less wishy washy than the Tories/LibDems appeared to be. Good old Ed, eh?

We're told that Dave is a bit of a Blairite, and Ed's a lot more of a Brownite, so then it's time to look at the boys' voting records to see where those differences in their attitude toward key issues really lie. This data is taken from the excellent and indispensable site "They work for you". (Sorry my table making skills are dreadful. I left the borders in because it all got a bit lost in the page otherwise).

Topic David Ed
Equal gay rightsStrongly forStrongly for
Iraq warStrongly forn/a
Iraq war enquiryStrongly againstStrongly against
ID cardsStrongly forStrongly for
Transparent ParliamentMixed resultsMixed results
EU integrationStrongly forStrongly for
Replacing TridentStrongly forStrongly for
Student top-up feesStrongly forStrongly for
Autonomy for schoolsMixed resultsModerately for
Anti-terrorism lawsStrongly forStrongly for
Ministers intervention in inquestsStrongly forStrongly for
Removing hereditary peers from HOLForFor
Wholly elected HOLStrongly forStrongly for
Hunting banForFor
Laws to stop climate changeModerately againstMixture of for & against
Stricter asylum systemStrongly forStrongly for
Foundation hospitalsStrongly for
The smoking banModeratelyVery strongly for

So where is the wiggle room between these famous brothers? They both love the Iraq war and ID cards; they both want fewer foreigners in the country (don't we all! Er, no); they support PFI in foundation hospital building and Ed *really* doesn't like smokers. Either all of that, or they've just slavishly following the party whip. And why would two such independent enterprising, energetic, passion driven future leaders do that?

...because they're more of the same.

The General Election

As with most people who maintain a fervent interest in the way their nation is governed, I've just started coming down from a rollercoaster ride of quite magnificently chaotic proportions which has gripped the country for six days.

I was slightly unprepared for the affection I had, which must have been hidden deep down, for Gordon Brown, listening to his resignation speeches and thank you and goodnights. He supported the Iraq war, despite personal misgivings, because he didn't want to lose his job, and that is an insurmountable wrong. He supported PFI and understood profoundly that the gaping hole in the country's financial infrastructure left by the death of the country as an industrial force had to be filled with banking, and income being generated from the Square Mile. Yet that deep, and important understanding led to a de-regulated environment (to keep them all in the country); a London with housing stock so expensive that non-bankers have difficulty renting, never mind buying and most importantly, a culture where bankers were rewarded for taking greater and greater risks. It is Gordon Brown's undeniable understanding of the forces at work there which helped lead our economy, as much as everyone else's, in to a huge bust.

This Gordon as a banker was hidden from the electorate and from the party members who saw him as a battling middle lefty academic with his heart in the right place and here's the thing. I think that image is right. I think he did have his heart in the right place, apart from the war. Er, and PFI. But if the govt had not supported the banking community, what would have happened? GDP growth slowing down, the banks deserting for New York or Germany... unpalatable a truth it may be but the banking sector is vital to Britain's growth. The post-Crunch proposed legislation has been weak and vague in comparison to the public rhetoric - the reason? THey can't afford for the banks to piss off elsewhere. So it is with bonuses. There are vague noises along the lines of "Well, we'd rather you didn't", a one off tax which the city gritted its teeth over and soon forgot, but that's about it.There discussion as to whether to break investment banks away from high street banks will merely change banking company email accounts.

And what now? Cameron's doorstep speech was surprising in that it was long, sounded relatively earnest and in the first sentence he reminded the voting public how different the country is today than it was 13 years ago - and that's as a result of the Labour govt. If anything, I think the Lib Dems provide a good fit for *Cameron* if not the Tory Party as a whole. But that's to the good. Someone already commented this morning that he may well be using Lib Dem cabinet member appointments as a way of cold-shouldering old-school tories who would otherwise get the jobs.

I worry about the very poor, and those not capable of joining this 'big society' (ie: devolved community responsibility with no budgets, unlike the alternative state run funds or institutions) for the many variable reasons that never come up in statistics. I'm not sure that the schoolfriend of Nora's who has to live in a one room bedsit with her mother and nearly-teenage brother will benefit. The important question being will the be concretely disadvantaged. God knows. But all sorts of rumblings are also happening, as well as a referendum on AV (hmmm. I think it's a cop out but at least it's better, I suppose, then FPTP), the scrapping of ID cards, fixed term parliaments... go on. Be radical on the good stuff.

Whilst I worry about the very poor, I worry more about environmental policy. Whilst the Labour Party was far from perfect, Ed Miliband had become synonymous with strident, strong campaigning from within. You could tell he'd written the party manifesto for the election given that he'd put the party down strong targets, with strong accountability for carbon reduction. the other two (who are now of course in power) were dithery in comparison. Cameron's view seems to be "Let the markets decide" which is exactly what the markets have been saying they *don't* want - needing a strong legislative framework to innovate against. I know from people who have worked with them though that the Civil Service environmental experts are a superb, concerned bunch. I'm hoping that the new Environment Secretary (whoever they - or should I say he, will be - and he won't be a Lib-Dem) will end up going native as Miliband did, because faced with the evidence of what's happening, I don't understand how anyone couldn't.

Anyway - all this change is going to take some getting used to. We'll see where we are in a year - I suspect back bench ructions will end up breaking out if Cameron is seen to be giving Clegg / progressive policies too much leg room. Reading The Labour Party twitterer, there  seems to be a massive registration surge in membership, as presumably disaffected Lib-Dems leave in disgust. Will their MP's all pull together? They've got way more to lose if they don't.

Plotting my carbon usage over a year of transport

I freely admit, the following may be labeled 'geeky'.

I have a Bike statistics Googledoc (feel free to have a look) I've been maintaining since I started my biking back up. I very diligently clock my numbers in. It occurred to me to start embellishing it with a few extras. First I added in for this year, the days when I have to take public transport for whatever reason. Unfortunately that did prove that February is a really horrible month for cycling Not so good on the pocket, mind you. That gives me a calculation of total transport cost on a per journey basis versus the previous purely bike driven one (both are represented in the summary).

After that I added calculation that will show you the % of the Earth's circumference that I've cycled around. Okayyy not exactly the most life-useful stat, but quite sweet.

Now I've added a reference sheet for calculations and used fairly standard per kilometer figures for carbon production of tube, car, train and bus journeys to calculate a per day figure (I used Google maps to get the distances for the bus route, and the tube route), used a generalised figure of 221 for working days per year and found that a complete public transport working year from my house to Paddington would generate 509kg of CO2. that's a great figure as a reference - having so far generated 79kg (christ! 79! Myself, personally! That's dreadful) but very usefully as well, given that the figures don't change ie: they're not a cost in fiscal terms that changes, unlike public transport costs, I can easily apply them to previous years and give myself targets to beat.

Of course, what I really need is the carbon cost printed on any bike gear I buy, because with the best will in the world, the common preconception that biking is a zero carbon option obviously does not taking wear and tear in to account. Or indeed the cost of the bike in the first place. For standard inner tubes etc the carbon cost should be counted in total for one year, but for larger bike parts (wheels, or indeed, Kevlar tires) the carbon usage should be amortised over the expected lifetime of the part.

I'm really, really interested in the long term, almost 'bank account' nature of these kind of calculations. Particularly for the purchase of objects. Everything we do generates global warming emissions but particularly everything we purchase. If we buy seeds that grow, can we offset that carbon given that the seeds absorb carbon from the air in order to become plants? Heh. Yes, but then we eat them, and they generate methane, which is a teensy bit worse. Anyway. What I would *like* to see is this kind of carbon calc'ing becoming way more normalised. Even to the point of rationing. those who use less can sell it off - I've been through this before, but anyway, the point is that second hand goods can be treated as having a zero carbon effect. Although it's all rather bad for our capitalist economies, the focus on "Re-use" to use the old Bob The Builder-esque word ("Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!") to save people money or more to the point, to *make* them money is fab.

Of course, there's the slightly odd question which is: if you save up your carbon allowance and sell it off, what the hell do you do with the money, since you've used up all your carbon allowance. You can't actually buy much! Ah. Well. That obviously needs more thought. Presumably with the added low-carbon variable, the market would be flooded with low to zero carbon products (or you can just buy whatever it is you needed second hand?).

To be truthful, I doubt personal carbon management will happen until it's too late, and then its introduction will be a clonking, lumbering disaster because it'll have been done in a hurry. It would be way too controversial for any politician of any persuasion to attempt to drive through yet. So it's all a bit of idealistic desire. Or - geeky self generated charts, in any case :)

24 degrees tomorrow. In April.

Greenpeace on the house, everybody say Yo

Hmmm. Well it's been a bit of a weekend, really.

First: Kingsnorth new coal powerstation - withdrawn for the moment. Okay, pretty good stuff.

Second: BAA say they're not going to pursue the new Heathrow runway. Bloody hell!

Third: Ayrshire firm has major investor withdraw from new coal fired power station. Ok...

Fourth: Greenpeace are currently up on the roof of parliament waving banners saying Politics has to change. ready for the new Parliamentary term

So it's all good stuff. Here's Greenpeace's 12 point policies for change, which I don't expect will happen now, but will happen purely because they have to - struggling in to being over the next few years, but unfortunately not at a speedy enough rate. you see, you look at that list, and every single one of them says "Government spending". Now I know that, and you know that. Unfortunately for the planet, we live in a democracy where every vote counts, and a large percentage of those votes are predicated on not having vast taxes making your lifestyle a bit more crap than it is right now.

In reality, what we need is a tripartite green governance mini-government a bit like a war cabinet, with a mandate to introduce this stuff Because We Have To. Then the rest of governance could go on as usual, with bitter infighting and sniping and so forth... but no one could blame any one party, and we could still make the changes.

Because we are at war, you see. We are.

Anyway! In other related news, I joined The Green Party, finally, today. I don't agree with some of their long term policies, but looking through their short term ones, it is remarkable how much that rhetoric is bandied around by the powers that be as if it was all their idea. The point is, I vote Green, and I'm, in the end analysis, a political, ideological animal seeking a belief system (it's in my genes) so I'm going to see if it works. I'm not going to stuff envelopes (solely!) though.

Gawd, I've got so much I want to write about atm, but I have gone on a sort of short holiday, which is in fact, fairly indicative of the point that I'm pretty happy right now, and feeling engaged in actions and... er... 'things' instead of staring at the computer thinking "I know I should probably be anxious or active about something, but I just don't feel up to it". That can only be good.

Meanwhile, having blurted, I've got to rush home to see my three lovelies.

More leftovers from last week

Cory's photos including one of me sans surname (I don't have a "brand name", that's my trouble). Luckily the picture is so far off, it doesn't show my *extreme exhaustion* at that point. Meanwhile, you can see the somewhat mad array of people who went to Dan's party. Doc! Cantor! Etc! A whole slew of people who are quite literally not known in any other context.

In other news, everything seems to be outgoing reasonably well in the down-there run of things (mostly due to finding ways I could get hold of fruit at the otherwise fruit-free hotel experience).

Other photos, I forgot to put the ones from Sunday up in here, I'll go back and put the link in later on the day. It isn't Prosidio park it's some other park with lots of "o"s in.

Now I am at Norbert et al's having a very chilled out Saturday night. Which is exactly what is needed. More geeks are here but god knows who they are! A book reading for a book I didn't have a chance to get should be going ahead, but it looks like we might all go for a meal instead (yay! back to the Ethiopian restaurant!).

Oh yes - clash of cultures. We were discussing American paper shopping bags at the conf on Friday. I invoked two images / sounds from films: the Odd Couple soundtrack and straining spaghetti through a tennis racquet - you know that, right? The Apartment, right????? I mean - why did literally no one in my group know what I was talking about! Well. Strange for me, anyway. I think I live with films in my head far too much. It does remind me of that absolutely awful old television series where the guy lived with '50's TV in his head.


So we're sitting waiting for Matt and James to start their talk on BBCness - we're missing a talk on Smart Dust and Robot flies to do some cheerleading. The tech isn't working at the moment so no slides! Horror!

James is quite quiet - ah, they've sorted all that out now. Poor bastards! This is painful!

So JPC's talking about why people could be turned off by politics. A guy in the audience has suggested distributing the slides now and letting people see them on their own computers. Good idea in theory, however the slides are absolutely massive apparently.

Matt, bless him, is holding great swathes of microphone lead in one hand to help him focus and not go off in to a spiral of bleh.

Ahhh.... now it works. Matt should really shut up for a minute because there are 4 people trying to work out the gizmo stuff at the desk at the front.

"it's quite big and it's hard". That is not something to say on the stage given that it sounds like a punchline.

"We make ourselves stupid in order to make the computer software seem smart". Shouldn't the software seem easy, not smart?

Ok. Notes on the next one regarding Groups are in the extended section. "What groups will be"

Games and Social interaction afterwards.

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