Blog Archives

Media 104: The fight-back? Seriously flawed FT article on the next 30 years of fossil fuelled energy

The message from the article’s author, Nick Butler: “Loved or not, the energy companies will still be giving us products we need and they will thrive over the next three decades . . . Wind and solar power are of limited value in meeting industrial energy requirements”.

He stresses the continuing weighting of investment in favour of oil and gas against renewables and focuses on the latest long-term international outlook, which “paints a picture of the world to 2050, on the basis of current policy, reasonable expectations of economic and population growth across the world”.

Sounds good: but this report “comes from the US Energy Information Administration — an independent agency in September”. However, according to its hyperlink and Investopedia, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a government agency formed in 1977.

In addition to this incorrect information, the author attribution – ‘energy commentator for the FT and chair of The Policy Institute at King’s College London’ – fails to add his significant previous employment as Senior Policy Adviser in the Prime Ministers policy unit and BP’s Group Vice President for Strategy and Policy.

He then asserts that the EIA report reflects the view of the main companies in the sector as reported in the BP Energy Outlook, 2019 edition.

Wishful thinking?

Not so: a scroll through the report saw no input from such companies and a word search of the report, using the names of three of the largest oil companies, found ‘no results’.

He concedes that the energy transition is indeed happening (see Bloomberg, above) but asserts that its impact is small and “on this analysis will largely remain focused on the generation of electricity”.

The report, Butler continues, gives a picture of two very different worlds.

“On the one hand, in the developed OECD countries energy demand in volume terms thanks to efficiency gains, minimal population growth and public policy — is static to falling and the supply is getting progressively cleaner. In the rapidly growing Asian economies, population increases and the desire to escape poverty are pushing up both demand and emissions shows an inherently unsustainable future. The trends it describes are a recipe for serious global warming and climate instability.”

As the website of UK Oil & Gas PLC (UKOG) reminds us, there is no alternative (TINA): oil is indispensable: it heats homes, provides fuel for water, air and road transport and is used in plastics, fertilisers, detergents, paints and medicines.

Is Butler unaware of research under way to redesign many of these products to eliminate oil use. The use of electric heating is growing and of electric road and waterway transport, mainly ferries? And though emissions will be reduced by increasing localisation of supplies, there will be some need for clean shipping; for nearly three years the first Chinese 2000-tonne electric cargo ship has been in business. Japan and Norway are also working in this sector, with Japan’s Komatsu Ltd developing its first electric-powered digger.

Many commentators see the need to phase out long-distance air travel, but there will always be the need for some air transport during emergencies and the BBC reports progress towards such a capability: July’s Paris Airshow saw the launch of the world’s first all-electric nine-passenger aircraft for which orders are now being placed

Years ago, Dave Lindorff wrote about ‘ecological cataclysm’: “it is useful to look at the hypocrisy of the energy companies when it comes to an even worse crisis threatening life itself on the planet – rapid climate change due to increasing carbon in the atmosphere”.

His advice is more reliable than Butler’s: Watch What Big Oil Does, Not What It Pays to Have Said.

 

 

 

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Credit card charges: the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

The whole unspun truth is given briefly in the FT: “a ban on charges for paying via credit or debit card comes into force across the EU from Saturday, making it unlawful for retailers to charge customers additional fees for paying on plastic”.

Though the whole truth is too tall an order in matters of diplomacy, the government wold have been well advised to emulate the FT’s delivery.

No longer confined to the mainstream media, adventures with the truth are mercilessly mocked on social media and more radical media:

See Steve Walker’s shot of the official Conservative Twitter site:

The Independent’s gentler account quotes British MEPs who criticised the Government for claiming responsibility for the move, “which comes as part of a broad range of new payment regulations based on an EU–wide directive that was spearheaded by left-wing politicians in the European Parliament”.

We expect a jaded public response to this ‘business as usual’ spin. No longer has financial or political dishonesty the power to surprise.

May the British public one day routinely hear the truth – or would that be electoral suicide?

 

 

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FT: a strange blend of truth and spleen unwittingly affirms Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘superannuated socialist’ stance

The FT’s Philip Stephens, Tony Blair’s biographer, pertinently remarks:Today’s elites should ask themselves just when it became acceptable for politicians to walk straight from public office into the boardroom; for central bank chiefs to sell themselves to US investment banks; and for business leaders to pay themselves whatever they pleased”. He continues:

“Now as after 1945, the boundaries between public and private have to change. At its simplest, establishing trust is about behaviour. . . The lesson Europe’s postwar political leaders drew from the societal collapses of the 1930s was that a sustainable equilibrium between democracy and capitalism had been shattered by market excesses.

“Citizens were unwilling to accept a model for the market that handed all the benefits to elites and imposed the costs on the poor. In the US, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal. Europe waited until the continent had been reduced to rubble in 1945 before building what the British called the welfare state and continental governments called the European social model. Economic prosperity and political stability were the rewards.

“The present generation of politicians should learn from the experience. Defending a status quo that is manifestly unfair in its distribution of wealth and opportunity serves only to put weapons in the hands of populists . . .

“One way to start redrawing the boundaries would be to take on the big corporate monopolies that have eschewed wealth creation for rent-seeking; to oblige digital behemoths such as Google and Apple to pay more than token amounts of tax; to ensure immigration does not drive down wages; and to put in place worthwhile training alongside flexible markets”.

The difference: Corbyn would act for altruistic reasons, but thepresent generation of politicians’ concede only to retain privilege

Stephens (right) ends by saying that what we need is a social market economy – combining the central elements of a free market (private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices) and universal health care, old-age pension and unemployment insurance as part of an extensive social security system

And most of this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour party leader, wholeheartedly supports. Though dismissed by Stephens as a ‘superannuated socialist’, he would uphold and enhance the system presently faced with public disgust at the ‘fat-cat’ political-corporate revolving door with its rewards for failure. This disgust is combined with anger at the austerity regime imposed by those currently in power, which prevents local authorities from continuing basic public services and deprives some of the least fortunate of food and decent housing.

 

 

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Media 80: election result confirms waning influence of corporate media

Readers from other countries (left) who found the Media 79 article of interest are directed – for a fuller account – to a detailed article in Media Lens discovered after this post was written. As George Monbiot writes:

“The billionaire press threw everything it had at Jeremy Corbyn, and failed to knock him over. In doing so, it broke its own power.

Its wild claims succeeded in destroying not Corbyn’s credibility, but its own. But the problem is by no means confined to the corporate media. The failure also belongs to the liberal media, and it is one from which some platforms might struggle to recover . . .

He adds that broadcasters allow themselves to be led by the newspapers, despite their massive bias, citing the 2015 election campaign, during which opinion polls revealed that the NHS came top of the list of voters’ concerns, while the economy came third – but received four times as much coverage on TV news as the NHS, which was commonly seen as Labour’s strongest suit: “This appeared to reflect the weight given to these issues in the papers, most of which sought a Conservative victory”.

Monbiot records that an analysis by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck College found that, despite the rules on impartiality and balance, when Corbyn’s leadership was being challenged last summer, the BBC’s evening news bulletins gave almost twice as much airtime to his critics as they gave to his supporters. They often ascribed militancy and aggression to him and his supporters, but never to his challengers and quoted one report on the BBC News at 6 which finished with the words,

“This is a fight only one side can win. The others are being carted off to irrelevance. The place for political losers”. The accompanying shot showed a dustbin lorry setting off, painted with the word Corbyn”.

Suzanne Moore also looks at the futile attempts of these tabloids to ‘crush Corbyn’ in the Guardian but in a slightly less crude way the Times and the FT also devoted much space to this end (see the Rachman FT article and cartoon, below) – and signally failed to achieve their objective.

Many ‘ordinary’ people have suspected that social media has been becoming far more influential – Suzanne observing that: “the hope of so many on social media and the tirelessness of those out campaigning contrasted with the stunned, sometimes agonised coverage of the old men who govern the airwaves”.

After detailing the evidence of bias in the Guardian George Monbiot concludes that the liberal media have managed to alienate the most dynamic political force this nation has seen for decades:

“Those who have thrown so much energy into the great political revival, many of whom are young, have been almost unrepresented, their concerns and passion unheeded, misunderstood or reviled. When they have raised complaints, journalists have often reacted angrily, writing off movements that have gathered in hope as a rabble of trots and wreckers. This response has been catastrophic in the age of social media. What many people in this movement now perceive is a solid block of affluent middle-aged journalists instructing young people mired in rent and debt to abandon their hopes of a better world”.

Monbiot asks why it has come to this, even in the media not owned by billionaires – apparently not taking into account that retaining the lucrative corporate advertisements is of crucial importance to    newspapers. He points to the selection of its entrants from a small, highly educated pool of people adding “Whatever their professed beliefs, they tend to be inexorably drawn towards their class interests”.

He ends “We need to interrogate every item of the news agenda and the way in which it is framed” and we enlist his support for Media Lens, which is doing exactly that”. 

 

 

 

 

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Media 78: Violence in the Bible – a reply the Financial Times did not want to publish

Is Mr Critchley (Violence is already present in the Koran) aware that software engineer Tom Anderson processed the text of the Bible and the Koran to find which contained the most violence?

Using Odin Text analytics software, he analysed both the New International Version of the Old and New Testaments as well as an English-language version of the Quran from 1957.

This found that killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).” Details here.

See also requests for vengeance (smiting the enemy) in the Psalms still used in Anglican churches.

And huge numbers of innocents have already been slaughtered during this young century at the behest of Anglo-Saxon, nominally Christian, governments. 

 

 

 

 

Media 71: Peter Burgess tells the truth and pulls no punches

jeremy-corbyn-2Much of the media is taking its usual stance referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘handlers’ as though he were a pit bull terrier. The Times has determined that he was making a bid to relaunch his leadership which has been derailed and Jim Pickard in the FT, author of many hostile articles, focusses on pay caps but not pay ratios.

It is good to turn to sane and rightminded commentators such as Peter Burgess (Times comments) and Maisie Carter (recent article). Peter spells out the Corbyn message with absolute clarity and rather more bluntly than JC:

  • It is very clear he wants top execs pay to reflect that of the lowest paid worker for them to earn more and not rely on tax payers to boost their salaries and for the top execs to earn a decent salary but nor one that is obscene (sadly so many Tories want to see the poor get poorer and the rich richer).
  • He also wants to ensure that we continue to bring in workers when needed but ensure they don’t depress wages for British workers.
  • Of course those at the top getting obscene salaries want to disgrace Corbyn because the last thing they want is for their salaries to fall under £500,000 a year.
  • There’s big and there’s obscene especially when they are telling others to tighten their belts, can’t afford to pay you more then handing themselves 7 and 8 figure salaries and bonuses.
  • What shows double standards are all those commenting on here who think salaries of over £100,000 a year are too much if somebody is running the NHS, a local authority or running a Union.
  • I do find it difficult to understand how anybody can find the policies which have allowed so many workers to have their wages and working conditions deteriorate whilst CEO’s are paying themselves up to 700x the salary of their employees as being fair and something they’d support.
  • I would add that labour to their shame played an important part in allowing these obscene differentials since Maggie was in office. Some of them thought £500,000 a year for them and their friends was not enough.
  • Yes Corbyn needs to keep shaming all those, including some labour MP’s who’ve happily supported the policy of “austerity” that have hit the poorest whilst allowing the richest to continue to get richer.
  • I’d support a return to the differentials back in the days of Maggie. Top execs back then were hardly struggling. 20x / 30x acceptable 700x isn’t!

Endnote: Maisie Carter’s appeal

“Unite around Jeremy Corbyn’s ten point programme, which proposes the building of one million homes in five years, a free national education service, a secure, publicly provided NHS, with an end to health privatisation, full employment, an end to zero hours contracts, security at work, action to secure an equal society, a progressive tax system, shrink the gap between highest and lowest paid; aim to put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy.  On the last point, as the wars waged or aided by the West are the cause of mass immigration, we must step up foreign aid and instead of spending £37bn a year on foreign wars as our government does, invest in helping to rebuild these war torn countries”.

Read Maisie’s article in full here.

 

 

 

‘Corbyn accused of sabotaging Remain case’

But is the author a secret admirer? Below his fiery headline (above) Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent of the FT merely reports Corbyn’s eminently sensible remarks.

First, he put on the record that Mr Corbyn (correctly) said there had been too many “prophesies of doom” surrounding the imminent vote:

“Just over a week ago, George Osborne claimed that the British economy would enter a year-long recession if we voted to leave. This is the same George Osborne who predicted his austerity policies would close the deficit by 2015. That is now scheduled for 2021.”

He then pointed out that Mr Osborne, the chancellor, had also wrongly predicted a “march of the makers” only to oversee a stagnation of the manufacturing sector. 

Pickard continues: “Mr Corbyn’s speech in support of the bloc was laced with criticism of its shortfalls and an attack on the proposed US-EU trade deal known as TTIP. ‘None of us are satisfied with the EU as it is,’ he said”.

Correct.

Finally Pickard notes that Mr Corbyn said Labour was supporting Remain but would not offer “unconditional support for everything the European Union does and that, in contrast to the Tories, he would put the case for a “social Europe” with its protections for employees and the environment. Labour would have a “distinct agenda” about air quality, the rights of part-time workers and protections against unscrupulous employers.

What’s not to like?

Read the speech entitled The EU referendum is era-defining moment for workers’ rights given by Jeremy Corbyn at the Institute of Engineering Technology in London on 2nd June

 

 

 

Media 50: FT’s gossip columnist tries to ‘make bricks without straw’

Corbyn ‘decamping’ to ‘gilded enclave’ – over the shop

Yesterday Jim Pickard, aka chief political correspondent, tried to make capital out of the Labour Party’s forced relocation to premises above the Habitat shop in Kensington.

LP new office

The facts

The party has been searching for a new base because Anquila Corporation, which owns the building, decided to redevelop it next year – ordering workers out by Christmas. Labour’s attempts to find appropriate accommodation near Parliament were unsuccessful: a large number of small offices have been converted to residential use in recent years.

Pickard reports that one Labour insider said the move to Kensington High Street – to a cheap “shell” building – was only temporary while the search for a permanent headquarters continued. It could be as little as four months, he said.

The insinuations

Before rehashing allusions to disunity in the ranks of the Labour MPs he endeavoured to convey the impression that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party had lost its head and principles – moving to W8, ‘the most expensive postcode in the country’ and worse: ‘decamping’ to the ‘gilded enclave of Kensington’

This, though.“Mr Corbyn came to power this summer on a wave of old-fashioned leftwing policies, calling for an end to injustice and inequality” – implying at best double standards and at worst a decline into a dereliction of those principles, won over – like many other politicians – by the political gravy train.

gravy train

He ends, not with a bang but a whimper:

The idea of an increasingly leftwing Labour party being housed in one of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods will still raise eyebrows, however, given Mr Corbyn’s commitment to tackling poverty.

What small news item will be seized on and ‘embroidered’ next?

 

Health corporates rampant

The FT reports that private health companies are seeking talks with ministers and health service leaders to secure a bigger role in providing NHS care amid frustration that the Conservatives have failed to drive the growth of the sector.

A BMJ analysis showed that 54% of just under 3,500 contracts, awarded between April 2013 and August 2014, went to NHS providers. A total of 33% were awarded to private sector providers, 10% to voluntary and social enterprise sector providers, and 3% to other types of provider, such as joint ventures or local authorities.

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The NHS Partners Network, which represents private [independent] providers, extolled the performance of private groups, which it said had:

  • better than average NHS waiting times for elective operations,
  • lower than average cancellation rates
  • and patients reporting better results for procedures such as hip and knee replacements and groin hernias.

david mobbsDavid Mobbs [exBUPA, former consultant to Ernst & Young] chief executive of private hospital group Nuffield Health, said the relationship needed to be “revisited & refreshed” to keep the NHS financially sustainable as it faces a £30bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

Companies that would take part in any expansion of the private sector’s role include Ramsay Health Care UK, BMI Healthcare, Care UK, Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health. The NHS Supply Chain’s biggest suppliers of procurement, logistics and ecommerce, include Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Philips Healthcare, GE Healthcare Clinical Systems and Johnson & Johnson Medical.

Yes Minister?

yes ministerDavid Cameron’s recent speech is said to reflect a belief in Whitehall that the NHS will be unable to satisfy growing demand without the additional capacity that the independent sector provides. Many have noted the large number of MPs in the last government with links to private healthcare companies (names and details here).

“We can’t do it without the private sector,” said one government insider. The health department said: “Independent providers play an important role in the NHS and have done for many years, helping patients get prompt care free at the point of use. The decision to use independent providers is made by the NHS itself, based on the best interests of patients.”

An important question

Shouldn’t the focus on increasing privatisation for the benefit of corporates and their shareholders be redirected, instead, to investigating this finding: “The cost of standard clinical procedures can also vary enormously between hospitals. Research commissioned by the FT last year found taxpayers were paying up to five times more for operations in some NHS hospitals compared with others”.

dr david_wrigleyLancashire GP David Wrigley’s verdict: “We are wasting billions annually on administering an unwanted healthcare market where providers fight each other for contracts and NHS managers spend their lives refereeing and sorting this all out. No one (except the private health industry) has asked for this. The money saved from scrapping this market system could fund decent social care for all the elderly and vulnerable people in our society”.

Can we learn from Syriza, despite the jeers of the ‘narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy’?

Eurozone officials recently had to call off a visit by bailout inspectors to Athens, after Greek authorities objected to a trip similar to previous audits by the “troika” — the trio of creditor institutions (IMF, EC, ECB).

left unity syrizaSeventy people in Birmingham, including a delegation from the Spanish Podemos, came to a Left Unity meeting to hear Marina Prentoulis of Syriza speak about the situation that the new anti-austerity government is facing in Greece.

Even though – as LSE economist, Francesco Caselli writes in the FT – collecting taxes is central to any attempt to rebuild the Greek government’s ability to secure revenues meeting the needs of an industrialised economy, EC uncivil servants were said to have “laughed out loud” and described the Greek proposal to combat value added tax evasion as “quite hilarious, if it were not so tragic”. Caselli comments:

prof francesco caselli”Greece is at the mercy of a narrow-minded, unimaginative, and arrogant European bureaucracy ignorant of local culture and history and incapable of recognising truly creative, promising, innovative ideas that might help Greece out of its horrendous predicament”.

“Anyone with the slightest experience of life in countries where value added tax is routinely flouted (a category that clearly does not include the officials in question) knows that no matter how sternly the government promises fines and punishments for the evaders, nothing will change until the deeply ingrained culture of tacit acquiescence by customers is broken”.

Caselli mentions two successful measures which yielded large tax receipts and, “perhaps more importantly, did much to shatter the culture of passive acquiescence”:

  • In the 1990s Italy fined customers who left a shop without a receipt,
  • and Argentina exchanged receipts for lottery tickets.

He adds: “It is a fair bet that eurozone officials would have laughed out loud if confronted with such ideas. Far better to carry on destroying the economy and living standards with the current litany of cuts in employment, social transfers and social services”.