People And Nature ✒ The UK government has put electric cars at the centre of its disastrous climate strategy, which doesn’t even aim for half the needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Simon Pirani

The focus on electric cars – which goes together with a gigantic £27 billion road-building programme – is opposed by researchers of climate science, transport policy, engineering and urban planning. Their advice has in practice been ignored.

The Labour leadership is happy with the electric cars narrative, leaving researchers and campaigners outside parliament to point out that electrification, without an immediate, giant shift towards public transport, cycling and walking – and away from individually-owned cars – will never come close to decarbonising transport at any meaningful pace.

The numbers need to go down

In the run-up to the international climate talks in Glasgow in November, it is vital that the government’s cynical PR strategy is unmasked.

Support for electric cars was a highlight of the government’s ten-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, announced in November. Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 – that is, after the most vital decade for action on climate has already passed.

The plan includes a promise of about £2.8 billion to subsidise manufacture of, and infrastructure for, electric cars – just over one-tenth of the cost of the £27 billion national road-building programme. (That, transport researchers say, will add 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) to the atmosphere where a 167 million tonne reduction is needed).

Labour called only for a tweak to the government’s plan – bringing forward the ban on hybrid vehicles from 2035 to 2030. Even Greenpeace said the electric car policy was the “star of the show”, needing only more support for delivery.

The seductive logic, shared across the political spectrum, is that the cost of electric cars will soon fall fast enough that motorists will snap them up.

The fact that electric cars are far from “zero carbon” gets lost. (See Note 1 below.) The fact that, if we don’t want global temperatures to go more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, emissions will have to be cut at more than twice the rate the government intends, gets lost too. (See Note 2.)

The voices of researchers who actually study the role of transport systems in the climate crisis need to be amplified.

Why the ten point plan makes no sense

Although the 2030 phase out of petrol and diesel cars is welcome, “in reality it is a delaying tactic”, argued climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Dan Calverley in response to the ten-point plan. “Climate change requires immediate action, not a promise for action in ten years.”

The plan passes the buck of mitigating climate change to another government, several electoral cycles down the line. More importantly, it obliges our children to remove colossal quantities of (our) carbon directly from the atmosphere, or attempt to live with the consequences of dangerous climate change. […]

Far from being a ‘green revolution’, this is simply business as usual, where the predict-and-provide paradigm of car ownership and road building go hand in hand.

That last point was echoed by Nick Eyre of the Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions, a prominent UK energy policy researcher. The government plan is “very far from a coherent strategy”, he wrote.

It “reads like a shopping list of interesting technologies that might be grafted on to the existing energy system” – but “fails to recognise the more fundamental needs for change and links to other policy areas”.

The plan mentions £9.2 billion for public transport, cycling and walking – but “on closer inspection, none of this is new money”, Eyre pointed out. So that would just put pressure on austerity-damaged local councils … while the £27 billion road building plan stays in place – albeit under legal challenge.

For transport researchers, the electric-car-focused plan was proof of government indifference to their calls for integrated transport policy that reduces the number of car journeys, and the speed and number of cars, and boosts public transport, cycling and walking.

“If we really were committed to reducing climate-damaging carbon emissions […] we would cancel road building and switch all the funding to world-best joined up thinking about transport”, wrote John Whitelegg of the Foundation for Integrated Transport.

But of course the government is not really committed, at all. And Whitelegg pointed to one reason why … car culture, that is such a key element of 21st century capitalism:

The prioritisation of cars goes deeper. We allocate huge amounts of space to cars that could very easily be used for green space, affordable housing, trees and parks. We encourage anti-social, unpleasant pavement parking in residential areas so that children and other pedestrians have to walk in the middle of the road. There is no space for anyone with a pushchair or wheel chair. The car takes up space that belongs to the people and this is ignored by councils and central government.

University-based transport researchers have churned out dozens of articles, over years, explaining ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

A recent one highlighted that in order to meet the climate targets implied in the 2015 Paris agreement, the UK would need, first, to ban hybrid cars (that can run on either petrol or electricity) as well as petrol and diesel ones, and, second, support “lifestyle and social change” that would alter the nature of journeys people need or want to make, and encourage non-car ways of making them:

Only the earlier phase-outs [of fossil-fuel-heavy vehicles] combined with lower demand for mobility and car ownership would make significant contributions to an emissions pathway that is both Paris-compliant [i.e. hits the targets set out at the international climate talks in Paris in 2015] and meets legislated urban air quality limits.

Engineering researchers come to similar conclusions via a different route. They reason that the best way to slash fuel use quickly – not in ten years’ time – is to cut the total weight of cars on the road.

Researchers at Cambridge published analysis showing that “fostering vehicle weight reduction” could save more emissions by 2050 than current policies that focus on electrification – unless there is “an extreme decarbonisation” of the UK’s electricity grid, e.g. more than 50%.

Simple. Obvious. But resisted tooth and nail by motor manufacturers.

Thanks in large part to those companies, the average weight of cars in Europe has risen from 1320 kg in 2005 – when they already knew fine well about global warming – to more than 1400 kg now.

Cars on average carry 1.8 people, who weigh on average about one-twelfth of that … “so almost all petrol is used to move the car, not the people”, says the Absolute Zero report, which proposes how the UK could go to zero carbon with current technologies.

The authors’ scenarios imply that the UK could get to a place where non-fossil electricity generation is three times the current level, and transport without fossil fuels uses 60% of the energy it uses now. And that would mean:

Either vehicles are modified – with regenerative braking, reduced drag and rolling resistance (better tyres), and weight reductions, or we can choose to use them less – through ride-sharing, better freight management or an overall reduction in distance travelled.

Simple. Obvious. And because the motor manufacturers won’t hear of it, the government keeps away from it.

Changing transport systems, so that we can live more happily with fewer vehicle-kilometres, is not just about cars, or even just the roads and parking spaces. It is also about the design and layout of the cities in which we live.

Volkswagen’s new ID.4, an electric SUV. Not good for decarbonising

Current transport and land use planning practice is “fundamentally unsustainable” at a time of climate emergency, warned a report last month by the Royal Town Planning Institute (hardly a bunch of rebellious eco-warriors).

It called for urban planning to be turned upside down to avoid locking-in “car dependent lifestyles”.

The report proposed a four-step pathway. The fourth step is “fuel switching”, i.e. electrification of transport.

But before that, the report urged, (i) “all new development” has to be “planned, designed and delivered to achieve net zero transport emissions”; (ii) demand for transport should be reduced “through local living”, i.e. remaking cities so that necessities (schools, doctors, shops, and so on) are within walking distance; and (iii) government should encourage a shift from private vehicles to walking, cycling and public transport.

Simple. Obvious. But of no interest to the property developers who rule the roost in urban planning.

Researchers vs politicians

Since policy is influenced so profoundly by the relations of wealth and power in society – by the motor manufacturers and property developers, by car culture –researchers who seek to advise government sometimes wonder whether they are hitting their heads against a brick wall.

Jillian Anable, one of the UK’s foremost transport specialists, vented her frustration at the University Transport Studies Group conference in 2019. “We are letting more and more water on board our Titanic, while our implements to bale ourselves out are getting increasingly ineffectual”, she said.

Three decades into the climate crisis, the transport sector is 98% dependent on fossil fuels, she reminded her colleagues.

“We need a profoundly more challenging mitigation agenda than the academic community has countenanced to date”, she argued. “We have to expose the gap between current measures and what needs to happen.” To “produce the knowledge we need to tell the truth”, research needs to go further, to “challenge the dominant frame held by policymakers” of “neoclassical engineering and microeconomic approaches”.

By implication at least, this call to go further was answered by Giulio Mattioli and his colleagues in an article published last year that highlighted five key elements of the “car-dependent transport system”: (i) the automotive industry; (ii) provision of car infrastructure; (iii) the political economy of urban sprawl; (iv) the provision (and, I would say, lack of provision) of public transport; and (v) cultures of car consumption.

This thorough analysis of the social and economic drivers obstructing decarbonisation concludes that:

Alternatives to car-dependent transport systems will have to be civic-minded, strategically coordinated for the public good […] Such alternatives can not benefit from a purported technocratic or apolitical presentation: instead, they should be argued for on the firm grounds of public coordination and delivery of public goods for all, while continually exposing the hidden workings of car-dependent transport systems.

This goes way beyond the framework of advising government that constrains so much work.

It underlines that the rift between research and politics – which has been so dramatically exposed in the last year with respect to the coronavirus – runs deep when it comes to climate change.

Where’s the opposition?

In the UK, this gulf between rational thinking and politics is deepened by the Labour Party’s crisis. There is no functioning political opposition to the dysfunctional government.

Labour’s wimpish response to the government’s ten-point plan was just a symptom. Its own muddled climate policy is tied to discredited notions of pumping up “economic growth”. In fact the “green industrial revolution” slogan was coined by Labour and then stolen from it, and made infinitely more vacuous, by Boris Johnson and his corrupt cronies.

The gap between words and actions runs through Labour’s climate policies as it does the government’s. London mayor Sadiq Khan, arguably Labour’s most powerful elected politician, talks about tackling climate change – but his biggest spending decision has been to go ahead with the £2 billion Silvertown Tunnel project, which would help ensure there is more traffic in the coming decades, when it’s so vital that there is less.

Protest in London against the proposed Silvertown Tunnel

The Labour-controlled Greater London Authority have simply ignored the reality that more roads produce more traffic, and defended the tunnel with the false argument – identical to the government’s – that electrification will make traffic “zero carbon”.

As campaigners in London (me included) have shown, the tunnel project is incompatible with London’s own emissions reductions targets, let alone those implied by the Paris climate conference.

How to turn the tide

So while politicians enthuse about electric cars, and motor manufacturers use them as greenwash, all the carbon emissions reductions from electric car use are being wiped out by the relentless rise in SUV use.

In 2020, a global reduction of oil use of about 2 million tonnes (40,000 barrels a day), achieved by people switching to electric cars, was “completely cancelled out by the growth in SUV sales over the same period”, research published last month by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed.

While more than 3 million electric and hybrid vehicles were sold in 2020, SUV sales fell – but only to about 27 million, bringing the world’s total SUV fleet to more than 280 million, up from less than 50 million in 2010.

And the SUVs made a noticeable contribution to climate change. Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions fell by about 7% in 2020, across all the categories the IEA tracks … except those from SUVs, which edged up by 0.5%.

What’s more, the electric vehicles being sold are getting larger and heavier, on average, earlier IEA research showed.

Clearly, meaningful action to tackle climate change and make city life better means cutting the total number of cars on the road.

It means communities fighting for investment in cheap and free public transport and infrastructure for cycling, walking and genuinely energy-saving transport modes such as electric scooters. It means combating the influence of motor manufacturers and the car culture on which they thrive.

It means social and labour movements making common cause with workers in the motor industry, to seek ways to use their skills, without producing climate-wrecking gas guzzlers – as is starting to happen with aviation workers.

And it means recognising that electric cars – which, over the long term, can combine with fossil-free electricity generation as a means of transport – are not a short- or medium term fix for the climate emergency.

Note 1. Why EVs are not zero-emission

➤ Calling electric vehicles (EVs) “zero emission” is meaningless propaganda. Greenhouse gases are emitted when the car and battery are manufactured, and very often from the power stations that produce the electricity. There are heated controversies about EVs’ lifecycle emissions, measured in grams per kilometre travelled (g/kw), compared to petrol and diesel cars. The bottom line of a recent study by Carbon Brief was that EVs in Europe are usually more than twice as carbon-efficient (i.e. twice as “clean”) as petrol and diesel cars, depending on the make and where the battery is produced. That analysis cast doubt on a headline-grabbing study by the IFO institute in Germany, which warned that EVs would “barely help to cut emissions”. Over time, EVs have the potential to improve carbon efficiency still further, compared to petrol cars, with better batteries and lower-carbon electricity.

➤ Carbon Brief found that, in the EU, a Nissan Leaf used half the carbon emissions of an average petrol car on a lifecycle basis. Half is not “zero”.

➤ Much depends on how the electricity is produced. In Paraguay or Iceland, where it comes from hydropower, the carbon “cost” of an EV is only that of making the car and battery. But in China or India, where most electricity is produced from coal and EV markets are growing rapidly, most EVs will do worse than comparable petrol cars in greenhouse gas terms. (This is one of many studies with numbers.)

➤ Lifecycle assessments do not include emissions from building and maintaining roads and parking spaces, and the knock-on effect of discouraging non- and low-carbon forms of transport. (The numbers are complex. See Transport for Quality of Life’s work on the UK to get an idea.)

➤ EV purchases do not necessarily mean that buyers are giving up petrol cars. Research from Norway, which has gone furthest in electrifying transport, shows that the availability of EVs has increased the proportion of families who own more than one car, and decreased the proportion that use public transport to commute.

➤ Plug-in hybrid cars (PHEVs), often counted as “low emission”, are being given low emission values from tests, but their real-world emissions are on average two-and-a-half times higher, a briefing by Transport & Environment reports. In 2017 in the UK, researchers fumed, a quarter of all plug-in cars registered were “an SUV in the form of a PHEV and one of the most polluting cars on the road”.

➤ Apart from the carbon cost, EVs use metals, in particular lithium, that are mined in the global south under conditions that heap suffering on the people that live there. The huge expansion of EV manufacture envisaged by car companies implies a disastrous assault on those people. Some of the implications were examined by Jamie Morgan, an economist, in this article.

Note 2: Policies lag behind carbon budgets, which lag behind reality

Transport is the UK economic sector that accounts for the most greenhouse gas emissions (in 2019, 113 MtCO2e, 22% of the total). A report commissioned by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), a public body, said in December last year that transport emissions would have to be cut by 70% by the mid 2030s, for the government to meet its own climate targets.

These targets are expressed as “carbon budgets” covering five-year periods. The CCC warns that the government is unlikely to meet them: in the jargon, it is “off track” for the fourth (2023-27) and fifth (2028-32) carbon budgets.

In a letter sent to the government in October 2018, the CCC chair, Lord Deben, specified just how far off track. In 2030, when the CCC wants transport emissions down to around 68 MtCO2e/year, it a projected a 14 MtCO2e/year shortfall due to a “policy gap”, and a further 42 MtCO2e/year “at risk due to lack of firm policies and measures or those with delivery risks”.

In plain language: if the government does not get a grip (and there’s no sign of that, more than two years later), transport emissions could be more or less unchanged by 2030.

All that sounds bad enough. Worse still, climate scientists insist that the “carbon budgets”, on which government and CCC agree, would not even deliver half the necessary emissions cuts.

A key research paper that takes the scientific conclusions of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and applies the principle that rich countries should bear more of the burden (“common but differentiated responsibility”, in the jargon), gives the UK a carbon budget of 3700 MtCO2e for the whole 21st century – compared to the 9000 MtCO2e implied by the government’s targets.

The paper, by Kevin Anderson and others, assumes – unlike the government – that negative emissions technologies will play no substantial part in the next few decades. That means, the authors say, that the UK needs, starting now, to cut emissions by more than 10% per year – as opposed to the 5.1% implied by government targets.

The paper’s assumptions are very modest. That 3700 MtCO2e budget for the UK is based on an assumed global budget, for the 21st century, of 900 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e). A briefing paper by the ecological economist Tim Jackson, with a slightly different angle on the IPCC’s numbers, says the UK’s budget is 2500 MtCO2e, and the global budget 420 GtCO2e. It all depends on how much risk of going how far above 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial times you think makes sense.

In my view, caution is desirable with all these numbers, because discussion of them often implicitly assumes that politicians and diplomats at the climate negotiations have a right and duty to rule on these matters. I don’t think that, but I do think the science in the IPCC reports is a good place to start in working out our view on emissions cuts. But the government obviously does not. 

⏭ Keep up with People And Nature.  Follow People & Nature on twitter … instagram … telegram … or whatsapp. Or email peoplenature[at]yahoo.com, and you will be sent updates. 

Electric Cars Are No Panacea ➖ The Government’s Focus On Them Is A Sham

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) hit out at cancel culture being applied by Oxford University against ken Loach.

We are deeply troubled to learn of a McCarthyite campaign demanding Oxford University cancel a public event with director Ken Loach discussing his distinguished career in film. 

The campaign to silence a world-renowned artist, which has been active behind the scenes and which became public at the last minute, is using the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism to try to prevent a cultural event from taking place. 

If any further evidence were needed to demonstrate how a vaguely worded definition is being deployed to silence critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians — then this is it. 

We have been warned by respected Palestinian academics, Israeli scholars, leading experts on antisemitism, dozens of progressive Jewish groups, and others that this definition is being used as a political weapon. 

We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Signed:

Hany Abu-Assad, filmmaker

Raed Andoni, filmmaker

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian parliamentarian, scholar and civil society leader

Nahed Awwad, filmmaker

Victoria Brittain, journalist, author, playwright

Judith Butler, philosopher and gender theorist

David Calder, actor

Dame Carmen Callil, publisher, editor

Julie Christie, actor

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian, producer

Dror Dayan, filmmaker, senior lecturer

Raymond Deane, composer, author

Esther Ruth Elliott, actor, director

Brian Eno, musician, producer

Peter Gabriel, musician, founder Womad music festival

Tony Graham, theatre director

Ohal Grietzer, composer and mixed-media performer

Barbara Harvey, civil rights and labor lawyer

Trevor Hoyle, novelist and radio dramatist

Ronnie Kasrils, former South African Government Minister

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, South African Parliamentarian

Jean Said Makdissi, writer

Samir Makdissi, Professor Emeritus of Economics, AUB

Kika Markham, actor

Mai Masri, filmmaker

Thurston Moore, musician

David Morrisey, actor

Rebecca O’Brien, producer

Ruth Padel, poet

Maxine Peake, actor

Mark Rylance, actor

Alexei Sayle, comedian

Eyal Sivan, filmmaker

Rosemary Sayigh, journalist and scholar

Ahdaf Soueif, author, founder PalFest

Rima Tarazi, Palestinian pianist, composer and social activist

Harriet Walter, actor

Roger Waters, musician

Samuel West, actor, director

Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace

Artists Stand With Ken Loach And Against McCarthyism

If Brexit, the pandemic, the Northern Ireland Protocol and an Irish Sea border plus a border poll bring about Irish unification, what the heck is the future for Sinn Fein? Staunchly pro-Union commentator,
Dr John Coulter, argues that Irish unity will spell the death knell for Sinn Fein as a relevant political movement.

Remember the Referendum Party which campaigned for the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU? It’s gone!

Remember the United Kingdom Independence Party - UKIP - which led the ‘Leave’ charge which won that referendum? It has all but vanished politically.

Remember the Brexit Party which campaigned to ensure the UK actually got out of the EU and there would be no political back door to sneak back into the EU?

The Brexit Party now has a new identity and presumably is trying to make sure the BoJo-run Tory Party does not find itself at the centre of a ‘Remain’ coup for the UK to rejoin some kind of rehashed original European Economic Community (EEC).

In spite of a new era of Unionist unity against the Protocol not witnessed since the Ulster Says No campaign opposing the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, Unionism as a political ideology is now in the electoral minority in Northern Ireland.

While Sinn Fein seems cock-a-hoop at the prospect of a border poll and the potential for a unity vote, the republican movement has not taken into consideration the future of Sinn Fein if there is a united Ireland.

Put bluntly, why do we still need a republican movement and even a Sinn Fein party if Ireland is politically united?

The same question could also be posed to moderate nationalism in the form of the SDLP? A united Ireland would surely force the SDLP to formally merge with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, with the ‘old style Gerry Fitt’ socialist wing of the SDLP throwing their lot in with the Irish Labour Party.

While that’s the nationalist problem solved, Irish unity still leaves a massive political migraine for the republican movement. What exactly would Sinn Fein campaign for in a united Ireland given that both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will copy Sinn Fein and organise their parties on an all-island basis.

What instructions would the IRA’s ruling Army Council give its political wing on a way forward, or would Sinn Fein lapse back into its main role before the 1980 and 1981 republican hunger strikes - a glorified social club to commemorate the rebels of the 1916 Easter Rising, organising celebrations to mark the anniversaries of dead IRA members, or indulging in historical revisionism on how the IRA drove the British and Unionists out of Ireland.

Sinn Fein would do well to remember the aftermath of its massive election victories in the 1918 Westminster General Election when the party clinched over 70 of the 105 Commons seats when the island was entirely under British rule.

And when the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1920 gave 26 counties dominion status, what did Sinn Fein do? It split and sparked a bloody Irish Civil War between pro and anti-Treaty elements which resulted in more IRA men being executed by the fledgling Free State forces than were killed fighting the Black and Tans during the earlier War of Independence.

Indeed, during the Second World War when millions were being butchered in Hitler’s death camps across Europe, some IRA folk wanted to climb into bed terrorism-wise with the Nazis.

But then that’s typical of the hypocrisy of the republican movement. In the Second World War, while tens of thousands of Irish nationalists signed up to the various Allied forces and were fighting the evils of the Third Reich, the IRA decided to bomb Britain!

Just as in 1916 when tens of thousands of Irish nationalists rallied to the Allied cause against the tyrannical Kaiser Bill of Germany, Irish rebels decided to stage their doomed Easter Rising in Dublin.

Even in the years after the end of World War Two, many Sinn Fein and Republican elected TDs refused to take their seats in Dail Eireann.

It was only the historic vote in 1986 when Sinn Fein delegates supported the end of abstentionism in Leinster House that this outdated policy was finished - but not before hardliners walked out to form the dissident Republican Sinn Fein party.

Sinn Fein now portrays itself as the main party fighting austerity in Southern Ireland, mainly targeting a young vote or first time voters for whom the terrorist atrocities of Bloody Friday, Enniskillen, Kingsmill, La Mon and the thousands of people slaughtered by the IRA are merely names and dates in history books.

Ironically, in spite of the huge mandate which Sinn Fein notched up in the 2019 Dail General Election, no one still wants to share power with Sinn Fein in a Leinster House coalition government.

In the event of Irish unity, all that’s left for Sinn Fein to do is to come clean about its political agenda and admit that it is nothing more than a communist party wrapped in shamrocks.

Sinn Fein boasts its heritage to and celebrates James Connolly - executed by the British in the aftermath of the failed Easter Rising - a devout communist who had founded his own hard-Left Irish Socialist Republican Party in the years prior to the Rising.

Perhaps the electoral fate which awaits Sinn Fein in the ‘new Ireland’ is the same result which saw the SDLP ‘wipe the floor vote wise’ with Sinn Fein in Foyle in the last Westminster General Election.

No doubt Sinn Fein spin doctors will be burning the midnight oil to devise a new role and image for the Provisional IRA’s apologist party in the ‘new Ireland’.

But with the hard-Left People Before Profit movement sweeping up the extreme Left voters in Southern Ireland, will people still buy in to Sinn Fein’s Marxist-Leninist clap-trap?

In 1985, the then DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley launched his local government election campaign with the slogan ‘Smash Sinn Fein’, with photos of Paisley brandishing a sledge hammer.

Perhaps the best way to ‘smash Sinn Fein’ as a significant political party is to create the very agenda it seeks - all-island unity. Maybe, like the comedy show Blackadder, so-called Civic Unionism has a cunning plan to do just that!  

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
 Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online at www.thisissunshine.com

What’s The Point Of Sinn Fein In A United Ireland?



A Morning Thought @ 996

Anthony McIntyre muses on how it must feel being burned.


When I first picked this book up to read, the pandemic had not long started. I thought it would be a quick flick-through but the pandemic had its own way of slowing things down. Locked down syndrome had promised to open the way for a period of sustained reading, allowing me to get through the ever growing pile of must-reads. But as with locked in syndrome, its locked down counterpart had a way of disincentivising. Reading, like much else, suddenly appeared a chore rather than a respite. Despite not having yet fully recovered, I got there.

Burned is detailed, something under every cinder and ember. So much so, that it can feel repetitive and allows the book to run longer than maybe it should have. But the close reader appreciates that the author is not repeating himself but is laying out the number of times many of the characters in Burned repeated their tricks of evasion, frauds, excuses, falsehoods, deceptions, ineptitudes. Sam McBride, arguably the North's foremost investigative journalist, did not set out just to tell a readable story but to set down a record of fiscal mismanagement, sleaze, grift. He achieved his aim in forensic and clinical style. 

It is hard to look at Stormont and think of corridors of power; easier to see in it corridors of perdition, where those who slink furtively around its rooms have given up on living a meaningful and straight shooting life, preferring to reside there solely for the purpose of scamming the communities who housed them on the hill rent-free. 

There was nothing in Burned that would disabuse the reader of that feeling. The spirit of generosity that imbues the linguistic concept of power sharing has been usurped with the parsimonious spectre of power splitting between rogues and rapscallions. What was shared more than anything else was an avarice coupled with an aversion to transparency.

Burned is a tale of systemic dysfunction and systematic malpractice which all started out in 2012 as part of a broader initiative in the UK to cut back on carbon emissions into the atmosphere by dispensing with fossil fuels and in their stead use renewable resources, through what was called the Renewable Heat Incentive. But the North, being the North, there was little appetite within the political class for acquiescing in Thatcher's oft cited view that it was a place as British as Finchley. It was happy to continue much as it had when Thatcher's monetarist civil servants had sneeringly termed it the Socialist Republic of Northern Ireland because of the large nature of its state subvention. 

Superfluous to go into the technical detail: the poultry farms and factories, emails and meetings, texts and paper trails, allegations and denials. Enough to point out that cost controls were considered as something as alien to the wee Province as the Anglo Irish Agreement had been back in the day. It was a consumer's market: the more you used the greater your reward in handsome financial dividends. Money for old rope, so long as the neck of another was destined for the noose fashioned from it. The standing joke became that famers were using oven gloves to open their sheds, the heat generated was so intense. 

It was not that Arlene Foster and her officials were unaware of what was happening on their watch. It was spelt out for them from the outset by a whistleblower and Ofgem, the consumer watchdog. Someone had done the sums, found that 2 X 2 made 500. Unless of course you were a creationist to whom any old nonsense can pass muster, that simply did not add up. Nevertheless, when you are robbing Peter to pay Paul you can always rely on the support of Paul. In this case Paul was not quite ready for a Damascene conversion to probity. He was going to make hay while the sun shone and make sure the sun had plenty of fuel to keep it going. 

Stormont's handling of RHI was always meant to generate more heat than light. It took Sam McBride to bring light to bear, although the bible bashers suddenly found let there be light an offensive piece of gospel, not fit for god fearing Ulster folk of good Presbyterian stock to bathe in. The politicians of the DUP were apoplectic at having being caught in the headlights with their grubby hands in the biscuit tin, pockets brimming with what they had already salted away. Still, they couldn't silence a single journalist with more ethical probity than they collectively possessed. 

RHI was a like a runaway Bombay train brimming with passengers, all of whom thought they could get on board, pay their fare and have it returned in multiples when they disembarked.

Burned - the brilliant but sorry tale of Cash for Ash approved by Trash. 

Sam McBride, 2019, Burned: The Inside Story of the 'Cash-for-Ash' Scandal and Northern Ireland's Secretive New Elite. Merrion Press. ISBN-13 : 978-1785372698.

⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Burned

Michael Nugent with the thirty fifth in a series of pieces on whether gods exist.
 
Image: adapted from Raphael’s Transfiguration

Here are some examples of bad moral guidance given by the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels called Matthew and Luke.

They were written about 80-85 CE, as was the Book of Acts, some of which contradicts what Paul earlier wrote about himself.

The virgin birth and resurrection stories first appear in these Gospels.

They were the second and third Gospels to be written, about ten to twenty years after the Gospel called Mark.

In the Gospel called Matthew

Jesus explicitly endorses the barbaric laws of the Old Testament (5:17-18).

5:17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Jesus says that most people will go to Hell (7:13-14) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (8:11-12).

7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

8:11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus says you should fear God who can destroy both body and soul in Hell (10:28).

10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword, and that he has come to turn family members against each other (10:34-36).

10:34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus says that anyone who loves their parents or children more than they love him is not worthy of him (10:37).

10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Jesus says that God will tell people who are cursed to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (25:41) where they will be punished for eternity (25:46).

25:41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

25:46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

In the Gospel called Luke

Jesus repeats much of the above bad moral guidance.

He also tells his disciples, before the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane, to sell their clothes in order to buy swords (22:36, 38).

22:36 Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

22:38 So they said, Lord, look, here are two swords. And He said to them, It is enough.

All of this puts aside the question of whether Jesus existed, and the question of how the Bible was written and by whom. This article focus only on examples of the bad moral guidance given by the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels called Mathew and Luke. 

Michael Nugent is Chair of Atheist Ireland

Do Gods Exist? ➤ 35 Unjust Jesus in Matthew and Luke

Irish Examiner ✒ Sr Irene Gibson and Sr Anne Marie attended the exorcism on December 8 at a time when inter-county travel was banned.

Paul Hosford

A pair of nuns who have so far raised over €77,000 in crowdfunding after being ordered to leave a site in West Cork broke Covid guidelines to attend an exorcism of the Dáil before Christmas.

Mother Irene Gibson, of a group called the Carmelite Sisters of the Holy Face of Jesus, has been ordered to leave the compound at Corran South near the village of Leap in West Cork by next June.

That followed a 2019 conviction for breaching planning regulations in relation to the premises which she set up as a religious retreat in 2016.

... The event attracted around 70 attendees despite outdoor gatherings at the time being limited to 15.

The Mass was said by Fr Giacomo Ballini, who told the crowd at the gathering that "no human power can take away the right to say Mass".

Fr Ballini is a member of The Society of St Pius Resistance, a splinter group of the controversial SSPX which was founded in 1970 by a former bishop who clashed with the Vatican over reforms.

Continue reading @ Irish Examiner.

Cork-Based Nuns Breach Covid Guidelines To Attend Exorcism Of The Dáil

Right Wing WatchRight-wing pastor Robin Bullock is among the various self-proclaimed “prophets” who guaranteed that Donald Trump would win the 2020 election.

Like many of those otherprophets,” Bullock still refuses to accept that his prophecies were wrong even though President Joe Biden has been in the White House for over a month.

During a service on Tuesday, Bullock railed against Biden, insisting that he is nothing more than a usurper who is attempting to delegitimize the prophets by preventing their prophecies that Trump would serve a second term from coming true.

“We are in a full-on spiritual war,” Bullock said

What we would call an administration is not one at all. There is no administration right this moment in the White House. Now, I’m just telling you straight up there’s not one there. Now you say, ‘Well, what are you talking about Brother Robin? That sounds crazy.’ Well, I’m about to explain myself. … There’s not an administration in the White House or in the Capitol. When the war left the heavens and came to the ground, this so-called administration is actually a regime whose sole purpose is to stop a prophecy from coming to pass. That’s what it is.

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

‘Prophet’ Robin Bullock Insists That Biden ‘Is Not the President’



A Morning Thought @ 995

Mick Hall thinks talk of reforming the state is ultimately futile. 

The Guardian had a letter header recently "Labour needs a new blueprint for the future like Beveridge’s." 

And who could disagree with this? But this alone wouldn't change the UK in the long run. To put it simply, the rich would still get the cream and the less well off the dripping.

To change this the state and it's apparatus of power must be reformed, smashed into smithereens. However well intentioned tinkering around the edges is, it's not enough, because the ruling classes are so well entrenched. And why wouldn't they be given they have been ruling by violence and fooling for centuries?

It's worth noting although the Guardian doesn't mention it, Beveridge wasn't a socialist but a Liberal, who became a member of the unelected second parliamentary chamber. Socialism was anathema to him. He had no interest in reforming the State, removing the inbuilt inequalities and class prejudiced structure's which he himself benefited from. (Incidentally nor has 'Sir' Keir Starmer). 

William Beveridge was educated at Charterhouse, a leading public school followed by Balliol College at the University of Oxford. He was an active part of the system which has failed working class people - as I wrote above - for centuries because they have the real power tightly gripped in their hands. Thus we have witnessed time and again the overwhelming majority of gains made by the working classes have eventually been whittled away by the ruling classes.

In the long term only a political earthquake, a revolution will change the UK for the better. Until then one step forward two steps back for working class people will remain the norm.

⏩ Mick Hall is a veteran Left Wing activist and trade unionist.

Political Earthquake Needed

The Workers' Party is hosting the Margaret O'Leary Memorial Lecture: Socialist Women And The Struggle Against Fascism.

It is part of International Women's Day activities


The online event is on 8-March-2021 @ 1900 and the talk will be delivered by Claire O'Connor.



Socialist Women And The Struggle Against Fascism

Christopher Owens looks at the music scene

“A state of eternal conflict is all I have found/We build a wall that is made of tears/Watch the house fall down/And at the end of my life…All shall be well/All is as it was always meant to be...” - Killing Joke

Horns up.

February has seen some very stellar releases, which is incredibly promising considering we usually don’t get anything of particular note until March or April. Just another sign at how the underground is booming. So it would be nice if Spotify were to share some of that cash they have on musicians as opposed to self-exiled member of the Royal Family who believe themselves to be society’s victims.

New Horizons

Trieste – The Black Squall

Hailing from Texas, this debut EP is the stuff critic’s dreams. Mixing surf riffs, post-rock ambience and gothy blues, ‘The Black Squall’ is a haunting, atmospheric record that promises much and delivers more than expected. Stand out is ‘Shake the Devil’ which sounds like Dick Dale locked in hell with the Bad Seeds as his backing band. The download comes with a cover of PJ Harvey’s ‘Missed.’ Oh, and they’re an instrumental act as well.

The EP can be streamed and purchased here.

Front Line Assembly - Mechanical Soul

Although never scaling the heights of 1994’s ‘Millennium’ again, Bill Leeb and co. still put out quality releases that always manage to tweak the formula ever so slightly. ‘Mechanical Soul’ is no different, although it the dark, brooding and upbeat EBM on display here harks back to 2013’s ‘Echogenetic’ and the appearances from Dino Cazares (Fear Factory) and Jean Luc Demeyer (Front 242) are nice tips of the hat to the band’s history.

The album can be streamed and purchased here.

Sad Man – Music of Dreams and Panic

Andrew Spackman’s mix of dreamy melodies, sinister rhythms, off kilter noise patterns and all-encompassing chaos is a compelling listen. While tracks like ‘The Piano Player Rises’ have a summery feel to them, others like ‘Free Again’ have elements of darkness running through them that makes the listener question whether all is what it’s cracked up to be. If you can find the physical copy, you’ll get an extra disc of alternative versions that are just as deranged.

The album can be streamed and purchased here.

The Melvins – Working with God

Managing to mesmerise and antagonise their audience for nearly forty years is some feat. One that could only be accomplished by Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover. Although not producing a classic album since 2006’s ‘(A) Senile Animal’, they do a fine job here of not only writing some great songs like ‘The Great Good Place’ but also freely admit to their tendency to piss off their audience with their take on The Beach Boys’ ‘I Get Around’ (appropriately retitled as ‘I Fuck Around’).

The album can be streamed and purchased here.

Golden Oldies

Aswad – A New Chapter of Dub

UK reggae at the turn of the eighties was incredibly exciting. Alongside the likes of Steel Pulse and Dennis Bovell’s work with Linton Kwesi Johnson, Aswad were helping push the boundaries. This, their only dub LP, is still a visionary work. Trippy with plenty of bottom end, it would prove to be an influence on the fledging On-U-Sound roster. It’s also one of the few albums each member of Killing Joke knows like the back of their hand.

 

Skinny Puppy – Remission

The debut album from the legendary Canadian electro-industrial trio, this effort from 1984 has its moments but only hints at what is to come. A lot of times, the atmosphere is in place but the songwriting proves to be a little lacklustre, something the band’s following record ‘Rabies’ would rectify. Still, ‘Smothered Hope’ is a stone cold classic.

 

NME – Unholy Death

An influence on the fledging Norwegian black metal scene, this is an American attempt to out Venom Venom on the messy, chaotic thrash metal front. Although the production does temper the power in places, particularly on the guitar, it’s still an exciting and visceral listen that straddles the boundaries between thrash, death and black metal. And yes, the singer did kill his mother not long after this was released. 



HAIM – Something to Tell You

Stepping back from the polished, stylised sound of their debut album, the sisters from the San Fernando Valley go for a warmer, intimate feel this time around. Evenly divided between the more optimistic, upbeat numbers and the more introspective, atmospheric songs, it’s a sonic treat in terms of production and the Haim songwriting skills are on full display. ‘Right Now’ features a loud, droney guitar line not a million miles away from Sunn O))) while ‘Night So Long’ could very well be a shoegaze number.


⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

Predominance 2



A Morning Thought @ 994