What the frack!? (Robin Hood’s Lament)

Fracking is the controversial process of blasting a mixture of water and other chemicals into subterranean rocks in order to open up fissures, thus releasing oil or gas.

When I see definitions of fracking it’s always the “and other chemicals” bit that worries me. I can imagine the fracking PR man saying “we inject water into the ground,” and then adding under his breath “and other chemicals,” as verbal small-print. Actually, the fracking companies don’t disclose the exact mixture they use to frack due to the special recipe being a “trade secret”, but samples have concluded that benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene are amongst the lovely substances that are used.

I’ve always been morally against fracking anywhere, but a few months ago my NIMBY reflex was activated when I heard that the fracking company ‘INEOS’ wanted to test Sherwood Forest for its fracking potential. Sherwood Forest, the home of Robin Hood, is internationally famous and is a 15-minute drive away from where I live. The tests would involve seismic surveys just a few hundred yards from the Major Oak (Robin Hood’s tree). Obviously, when I heard about this I was outraged. I went to a demonstration in January organised by Frack Free Nottinghamshire and Friends of the Earth, as well as other activist groups (see the picture I took at the top of this article and this BBC story ).

The seismic surveys, a pre-cursor to fracking, are damaging in themselves (explosives are often used, vehicles need access, and detectors and cables need to be laid down over a wide area), but they are also a clear indicator that a company wants to frack the area. An INEOS spokesperson said, in response to the Sherwood Forest demonstration, that INEOS were only trying to get permission for test surveys and that there was no need to cause any alarm for the general public…which tells me there would be cause for alarm if the fracking actually went ahead! My advice, if there are plans for fracking in your area, is to be active early, and show your defiance at an early stage. Don’t let them get a foot in the door!

There are obvious environmental concerns about fracking, but the social side is also very worrying. I live in a former coal mining community, so I have experienced the after-effects of Margaret Thatcher’s brutal attack on the miners in the 80s. Sure, fracking would provide jobs in the area, but I know the government would have no qualms about unceremoniously taking them away on a whim and turning the area into a run-down ruin that would take 30 years or more to recover.

Wouldn’t it be better to invest in clean energy? Solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity? We should learn from Portugal who, last year, ran 4-days straight on renewable energy alone (why this wasn’t leading news all over the world is beyond me!) – read about Portugal HERE.

Looking at all the money-spinning schemes of the past, including the use of asbestos, tells me that it’s always the bigwigs that benefit financially, and it’s always the little people who are left with the long-term shit that it produces. INEOS doesn’t care if they poison our water, kill our habitat, destroy our communities as long as they get a short-term financial boost. In the case of Sherwood Forest they would also be attacking a world-renowned socialist icon in Robin Hood. What would he say about all this?

Robin Hood is long dead, so we have to fire his arrows for him. If there are plans for fracking in your area I urge you to get active, get organised, and refuse to let it happen!

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Woody Guthrie vs. Donald Trump’s Daddy

I stumbled across this article, and it seems relevant considering Donald Trump has gone on record as saying: “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy”. The piece tells the story of how Woody Guthrie, a personal hero of mine, was raging against the Trump Empire way back when. Well worth a read!

Woody Guthrie, ‘Old Man Trump’ and a real estate empire’s racist foundations

Weekly Chart Countdown (of how the rich stay rich and poor stay poor)

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the weekly charts. Boy, have we got a show for you today! You’ve heard the rest, now hear the best. This is your top 10 countdown of how the poor stay poor, and how the rich get richer. Mind the gap, folks, or you’ll fall right through!

  1. Privileged in high-power positions

Yes, this one is an oldie but a goldie. Virtually all of society’s most sought after positions are occupied by people born into wealth and privilege. Politicians, masters of industry, actors, singers, bankers – you name it, the privileged have a monopoly on it!

  1. War

War. Huh! What is it good for? Making lots of money! (Iraq). But then there’s total war, too, such as World War 2 when the common folk had to go into battle while the privileged gave them orders. But it was all to protect our way of life! Well, the privileged were doing well before the war, and the poor had it bad, and that’s how it has been afterwards and ever since. So that’s the way of life all the common folk were asked to protect. Sometimes I think it might be time to give those commoners a break….NAH.

  1. Cut Vital Public Services

Nee-naw nee-naw nee-naw. That’s the sound of an ambulance arriving 3-hours too late. The rich can pay for private healthcare, but the poor tend to rely on the NHS. But we can’t make this service too efficient because if the poor aren’t worrying about their health, then they may be trying to steal a slice of dosh from the rich.

  1. Bankers

Bankers (rhymes with wankers) storms in at #7. They take risks and the masses pay the price. The bank charges you a fee if your account balance drops below a certain level (yeah, cos that’s going to help my low bank balance), and they make you pay higher interest rates on loans because you haven’t got a summer house to put up as collateral. Expect this one to rocket up the charts in the coming weeks.

  1. Demonising the Welfare State

This is a zinger. Demonising the Welfare State (B-Side: Fuck Communism) is a new one, and expect it to linger in the charts for at least another 5 years. If the most vulnerable members of society are having a hard time, get everyone to turn against them. This distracts from the bankers (rhymes with wankers) and other Chosen Ones who are slowly killing the working class. That’s right-wing morality for ya!

  1. Withdraw Power

The poor cannot be allowed any sort of power. It is a threat to the rich, and their hedonistic way of life. The number one target? Unions. We can’t have the scum protesting and causing a disturbance because they feel they should be paid a fair wage.

  1. Expensive/Inaccessible High Education

Call us old fashioned, but us English believe that knowledge is only for the richest in society. Otherwise, how would they stay rich? We like the poor to be uneducated so they continue to make bad decisions. Besides, who’s going to clean all those mansions? (no mansion taxes to worry about now, chums).

  1. Fear

Boo! Yes, this is David Cameron’s favourite tool. He wants to scare you into blaming others (immigrants, people on benefits), he wants to scare you about the economy (it’s fragile, but the Tories can fix it; we just need to destroy your lives in the process!), and he wants to make you believe that any positive change would end up destroying the world in the long run.

  1. Don’t tax the rich!!!!!!!!

For God’s sake, don’t tax the rich! They need as much money as possible so they can provide the scum with low-paid, exploitative jobs…so we can tax said scum. The perfect system for keeping the rich rich and the poor poor.

AND COMING IN AT NUMBER 1……SCRAPPING THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT

May God have mercy on us all.

The Tories to make Strike Action “impossible”

The Conservatives are “the party of the working people” according to David Cameron. He said this in the same week that it was announced by his party that strike laws would be significantly changed to prevent working people from taking industrial action. We know that this Tory government has absolutely no regard for human rights (they plan to scrap the Human Rights Act), and this proves it further. Companies will be allowed to treat their workforce horrendously, and workers will be virtually powerless to fight back.

The new law will state that any strike affecting essential public services will require 40% of eligible union workers to back it, and there will have to be a turnout of at least 50% at the strike ballots.

It’s time to do some maths. Let’s say that our imaginary union has 100 members (because this makes the maths bit a lot easier for me). We are all members of this union, and we are being treated unfairly in our workplace. The wealthy people at the top don’t care and won’t listen to us. We decide to strike in order to make a positive change.

Our union holds a strike ballot. We rally around and get a big group of workers to vote. The votes are counted up, and the decision is unanimous. 100% of votes say YES, LET’S STRIKE! We cheer, but the cheers come prematurely. Only 49 people voted in the ballot. And despite every single one of the voters agreeing with strike action, this doesn’t meet the new 50% turnout criteria that will be put in place.

This is very hypocritical of the Tory government because if these new rules were to be applied to the General Election vote, the Tories would not be in power, and therefore wouldn’t be in a position to impose these voting conditions on unions. The mind boggles!

That’s not where the attack ends, though. Read this BBC article for further information on how the Tories plan to put restrictions on picketing, and how they want to lift restrictions on using agency workers to replace striking worker: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32702585

I’ll leave you with the words of the TUC general secretary:

“This is a government not so much on the side of hard working people, but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it,” said Frances O’Grady.

“The government’s proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more.

“After five years of falling living standards, the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.”

Our Flawed Electoral System #2

As a follow-up to my last blog, “Our Flawed Electoral System”, I thought I’d point out the approximate percentage spread of votes for the UK General Election 2015. The following figures come from the BBC website (keeping in mind we’re waiting for 40 more seats to be confirmed at the time of writing).

CON 36.4
LAB 30.7
UKIP 12.4
LD 7.8
SNP 5.1
GRN 3.7

So, despite getting only 5.1% of the votes, the SNP will get 56 seats in parliament. On the other hand, UKIP have 12.4% of the votes and will get 1 or 2 seats. The Green Party have 3.7% of the votes, not too far behind the SNP, and will struggle to get one seat. The % difference between Labour and the Tories isn’t very big, but it looks like the Tories will have a majority government.

This underlines how flawed our voting system is.

For the last month we have been told how important it is to vote. If it’s so important, who don’t they switch to a fairer system? Proportional representation is the way to go. If voting is so important then they should put their money where their mouth is and make the change! Every vote should count. Every vote should be equal.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise UKIP, and I’m glad they’re going to be irrelevant during the next political phase. But that’s not the point. Democracy should reflect what the people of the state want.

On another note, David Cameron will be in power for another 5 years (or until Boris Johnson takes over!), which is depressing, especially considering that this time he may not even be tempered by the Liberal Democrats. Expect grey skies and empty bellies for the foreseeable future while his Dave’s upper class friends sip champagne and hunt foxes.

Anyway, mustn’t grumble too much. Things could be a lot worse. Think about (or, even better, donate to) those poor people suffering in Nepal. I’ll leave you with this Billy Bragg song that sums up my mood perfectly right about now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xC9nSkZ1ZI

Our Flawed Electoral System

Our current voting system is flawed and outdated.

On Thursday, when we go to the polling booths, we may find ourselves in a position where we feel we have to vote for a party we don’t support in order to prevent a party we oppose from getting into power. This isn’t how democracy is supposed to work – we should be able to vote with our hearts, without having to play games.

The “first past the post” suits our two major parties to the ground, and helps them maintain their stranglehold on politics. We should have adopted “proportional representation” long ago in order to give people more choice about how their land is run. However, the switch wasn’t made. Now the British public are forcing the issue. The Labour and Conservative Parties are no long able to gain a majority government, and the people are giving power to smaller parties (in the sense that they are giving them enough seats to be able to form coalitions with one of the two major parties).

But this shouldn’t be something we have to think about. Yes, we can vote tactically, in an attempt to get the result we want, but, at the end of the day, we don’t know what the parties are going to don when it comes to making deals and/or forming coalitions. I know many people who voted Lib Dem last time in an attempt to keep the Tories out of power – that didn’t turn out too well for them, did it? Our current voting system is ridiculous in this sort of situation because we have no way of knowing who we’re voting for! We might as well do an “eenie-meenie-miney-mo” and put our X next to anything.

Many of you will be in constituencies where one party dominates every time there’s a vote. You might decide not to vote at all – after all, what’s the point when Joe Bloggs always wins by a mile? If the voting system changed to proportional representation you would be more motivated to get up and vote, because you would know that it wasn’t a waste of time. Even if you’re party only gets 10% of the votes, and no majority in any one constituency, you can rest assured that they will get their just desserts overall, and gain political power on your behalf.

If we adopt proportional representation we will be able to vote with our hearts.  Let’s get rid of this outdated “first past the post” system!

Dodgy Journalism

We tend to believe what we read. At least, we usually believe it until (or if) we get the other sides of the story. Then we draw our own conclusions.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, did a lot of work on the belief of information. This is a great article, which discusses his work alongside the work of Descartes, and provides the results of a study: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php (since this is an article about us believing what we read, I feel I should provide comprehensive references to what I say so I’m not accused of b*llsh*tting you all).

With this in mind, we should be very careful about what we believe in the media – especially now that we are closing in on the General Election. There is a lot of good, impartial journalism out there, but you need to be vigilant because we live in a time where wealthy, powerful people use media outlets for their own personal gain. They are willing to leave truths out of their work, emphasise the points that suit them, and straight up lie to get what they want.

Look at the recent Daily Mail headline that coined Nicola Sturgeon (SNP Leader) as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” based on nothing more than conjecture, and a very un-scientific projection of the future if the SNP were successful in the elections. Similarly, the Telegraph released a despicable article about a conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and a French Ambassador without going to either of them for a quote (both deny the content of this conversation that the Telegraph reported on, so the report amounts to fiction projected to us as the truth).

As a species, we are very trusting. As humans developed, information was life and death. When we lived in nomadic tribes, we passed information to one another about things such as the availability of food in an area. We are hardwired to follow this sort of guidance. When we were toddlers, our mothers and fathers told us not to go near the fireplace because it was hot, and it would have burnt us. We believed them automatically because it was essential for us to believe them. Our minds are filled with loopholes when it comes to believing what we’re told, and there are people out there who will take advantage of that.

I’m an advocate of free speech. I like it when people give their opinions and speak their minds, no matter how controversial or outlandish (when things are out in the open, you know what you’re up against). But there is a big difference between this and purposefully deceiving people for personal gain. As I write this, the media is producing something designed to benefit a political party (and to hell with the truth!). And let us not forget that it is the lower class masses that are most influenced by the media – because there are more of us, so we watch more TV and buy more newspapers, etc.

Don’t let the media set the terms of our democracy!