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Monday, December 24, 2012

At the end of the Year

It's almost the end of the year, and it's time to review my predictions for 2012.

So, how did I do? It's worth referring to original post and its postscripts.

1: <famous celeb> will divorce <another famous celeb>

Tongue in cheek, and a dead cert, let's move on from that one. It was just way too easy. Should have named names...

2: As the western world rushes at an ever-accelerating pace towards third-world status, we'll see more problems with crumbling infrastructure, in particular the North American electricity power grid.

My postscripts to my original post confirm this one, along with a very welcome growing awareness of the problem.

3: More 'weird weather' across the globe, bringing large loss of life, crop failures, and high staple food prices. Expect major 2007-scale floods in the United Kingdom.

Bullseye! All of the above. This prediction might as well be on auto-repeat for the rest of the century.

4: A bad year for the UK's Labour Party. The knives will be out for Ed Miliband. It's unlikely that he'll still be Labour leader this time next year.

This was pure wishful thinking on my part, alas. Nonetheless, Ed Miliband's and Labour's performance this year has been dismally weak.

5: The 'Occupy' movement won't go away, but is likely to split into multiple factions of varying degrees of militancy.

More of a miss than a hit, though Occupy's offshoots 'Occupy Sandy' and 'Strike Debt' might be seen by some to fit that description. Was right about them being labelled 'domestic terrorists', though.

6: Strong laws to regulate the banksters will not be enacted.

Nor will they be enacted next year, or the year after.

7: The financial crash will continue unabated, and governments will even more zealously chant their religious mantras of "growth at any cost".

Another dead cert. This prediction game is just too easy.

8: More "Household name" High Street stores will vanish from the urban landscape.

Blacks, Barratts, Peacocks, JJB Sports, and Comet. And more to come next year.

9: People start to wake up to reality. Physical, ecological, psychological and spiritual reality. And that will bring great suffering.

Well, the suffering's definitely here, alas, and there are signs of people getting the bigger picture. But I'm not so sure that there's a wide awakening yet. Let's hope it comes soon.

And my predictions for 2013?

More of the above.

And the UK government continuing its swing to the far right, compleat with more repression and blatant corruption.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Postscript 1, January 9th, 2013

And we're off. The High Street camera retailer, Jessops, went into administration today. More to come.

Postscript 2, January 14th, 2013

Jessops closed their doors on Friday, and tomorrow HMV goes into administration.

Postscript 3, January 16th, 2013

And today it's Blockbuster's turn, with more to come?

Postscript 4, June 26th, 2013

The Telegraph reports that 2,000 jobs [are] at risk as Dwell, Internacionale, Ark and ModelZone head for administration.

Posted by Phil at 1:33 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 9:55 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Refusal to Govern

It's chilling to find one's old predictions coming true.

Back in August 2006, in a post about a particularly bad thinkwanktank report on Climate Change Messaging, I stated:

As we begin our downward spiral our governments will increasingly refuse to govern, instead blaming easily targetted parts of the populace for our woes. And when the energy crunch starts to hurt, they'll move from blame to punishment, lashing out blindly as the rug is pulled from beneath their feet.

And then today I read this report in the Indy, Cameron tells MPs to stop making laws:

Sir George Young, the Leader of the Commons, has told cabinet colleagues the next session must include fewer, better drafted Bills.

The fewer, the better, of course, because that will please their owners, big business and the banksters.

Still no sign of any legislation to deal with the greedy usurers, of course.

H/t to @MagsNews for the link to the Indy report.

Postscript, February 5th, 2012:

A post today on the Gaian Economics blog led me to a Green House Think Tank paper on Sustainability Citizenship (.pdf) from Prof Andrew Dobson, in which he starts his summary by stating:

"Governments have stopped governing; markets have become the origin and legitimating source of policy."


Postscript, September 11th, 2014

By George he's got it!

George Monbiot, in his latest Guardian column, "Stopping climate meltdown needs the courage that saved the ozone layer", says

"Governments gather to discuss an urgent problem and propose everything except the obvious solution – legislation. The last thing our self-hating states will contemplate is what they are empowered to do: govern"

Posted by Phil at 8:22 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:51 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Predictions for 2012

A few predictions for the coming year:

<famous celeb> will divorce <another famous celeb>

Oi, Mr Brand, you could have waited a few days! There'll be more. Dead cert, as always.

As the western world rushes at an ever-accelerating pace towards third-world status, we'll see more problems with crumbling infrastructure, in particular the North American electricity power grid.

California and New Zealand both suffered the consequences of inadequately resilient electric power grids in 2011. Expect this sort of occurrence to become more commonplace over the next few years. Both countries, by the way, have had over 40 years to sort out the already known by the 1970s grid problems; both failed to do so.

More 'weird weather' across the globe, bringing large loss of life, crop failures, and high staple food prices. Expect major 2007-scale floods in the United Kingdom.

And they'll still deny that it's climate change, insisting that it's natural variations in the weather.

A bad year for the UK's Labour Party. The knives will be out for Ed Miliband. It's unlikely that he'll still be Labour leader this time next year.

The polls are already showing ridiculously large public support for the Tories. This is likely to increase, as an increasingly insecure public seeks security in "strong leadership". We learn from history, etc...

The 'Occupy' movement won't go away, but is likely to split into multiple factions of varying degrees of militancy.

In the USA and beleaguered eurozone countries, there'll be physical violence against the elite or symbols of the elite. Things will get a lot nastier, and governments will become even more repressive against ordinary citizens. The term 'domestic terrorism', or something similar, will get a lot of media attention.

Strong laws to regulate the banksters will not be enacted.

Measures pretending to be the same will be, but they'll have been drafted with the aid of the guilty parties with enough loopholes to satisfy the corrupt and greedy.

The financial crash will continue unabated, and governments will even more zealously chant their religious mantras of "growth at any cost".

Pissing against the wind never was a good idea, and attempting to 'grow' in a world in which availability of real physical and ecological resources is contracting rapidly is the worst possible strategy, which can only hasten collapse.

More "Household name" High Street stores will vanish from the urban landscape.

I'd thought this one before the announcements about the difficulties being experienced by Blacks and Barratts. There'll be more to come.

People start to wake up to reality. Physical, ecological, psychological and spiritual reality. And that will bring great suffering.

For many people, acknowledging reality will involve psychological trauma as their dreams and hopes are shown to be cruel delusions. The upside is, as Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, "the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain".

On that cheerful note, Happy New Year.

Postscript, January 1st

The ink's hardly dried on this blog post and the Grauniad comes up with this: "2012 could be 'disastrous' for retail sector, warn analysts".

Postscript 2, January 18th

This week, gift shop chain Past Times and clothing retailer Peacocks have both gone into administration. They haven't vanished from the High Street yet, but hey, it's only January and there's more to come.

Postscript 3, February 22nd

Greenbang reports today that US power blackouts leave record numbers in the dark. Whilst not confirming my prediction (it's way too soon for that), the article makes it clear that there is a problem which needs dealing with.

It was confirmed today that 224 Peacocks stores have ceased trading, including the one here in Worcester (which opened in May, 2009), so though the name survives in other towns and cities, it has definitely vanished from my urban landscape.

Postscript 4, May 16th

Clinton Cards is the latest victim of the recession.

Postscript 5, June 8th

Dmitry Orlov has also noticed the fragility of the North American electric power grid.

Postscript 6, June 30th

Apple Crop Destroyed. 90 Percent loss in Michigan, Ontario due to Bizarre Spring. Deniers: “More Co2 Needed”.

Corn jumps on US Midwest drought, up 12 pct in two days, reports Reuters.

Postscript 7, July 4th and 6th

Jesse's Café Américain pleads: Mr. President, Fix This Power Grid... John Cooper also finds the situation intolerable. Dave Cohen comments on Multilple Failures in the United States. The Associated Press story he cites backs up my claim that we've had plenty of time to fix electricity grid problems.

Postscript 8, July 17th

Electric Forecast Calls for Increasing Blackouts - "From falling investment to falling deer, America’s power grid is falling down. A lack of political will and willingness to rely on Band-Aids may doom efforts to improve the nation’s power infrastructure."

Postscript 9, July 18th

George Mobus, in his excellent "Question Everything" blog, is Watching the Global Economic System self-destruct: "It is ironic, though, that the very thing that everyone is just so sure is the cure to the problem, growth, is actually the cause of our predicament in the first place. Economic growth at a time of approaching limits of critical resources is exactly the opposite of a healthy economy. The economy is entering a phase, a permanent phase, of on-going contraction that no one will be able to halt with any conceivable fiscal or monetary policies. In the end they won't even be able to slow the contraction down after it builds momentum."

Postscript 10, July 20th

Record cereal prices stoke fears of global food crisis: "corn prices hitting a record high of $8.16 (£5.19) a bushel on Thursday, while soya beans hit a high of $17.17"

Postscript 11, July 31st

Second blackout in India in two days leaves 670 million without power, reports Reuters. "Half of India's 1.2 billion people were without power on Tuesday as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth. Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade."

Postscript 12, August 2nd

Aging power grid on overload as U.S. demands more electricity, reports the Washington Post.

Postscript 13, August 5th

Attack on Sikh temple labelled 'domestic terrorism'.

Postscript 14, August 20th

Be sure to read Nicole Foss' article "India Power Outage: The Shape of Things to Come?"

Postscript 15, Sept 6th

Extreme Weather Supersizes Global Food Price Tags

Postscript 16, Sept 24th

JJB Sports is the latest victim of the 'downturn'. Oct 1st: JJB Sports in administration with 2,200 job losses.

Postscript 17, Sept 24th

Flood! There were some in the summer, but today's floods have had a bigger impact. It is the most intense September storm in thirty years, reports the BBC. "Now climate experts warn that every house in the country is at risk of flooding", reports the Indy.

Postscript 18, Oct 10th

Wet weather set to hit UK food prices, reports the Beeb. "The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said wheat yields in England were down by almost 15% on the five-year average, with productivity down to 1980s levels." "Winter barley yields were up 1.6%; spring barley yields were down 7.4% and oilseed rape yields were up 5.9%, so it was a "mixed picture" but the wheat harvest was the most crucial. Mr Johnson said fruit and vegetable crops had also been affected, with potatoes and apples particularly badly affected."

Note the complete absence of any mention of climate change, as I predicted.

Postscript 19, October 18th

"More than 30 chain stores closing a day", reports The Guardian. "The UK's struggling retail chains are closing their shops at a rate of more than 30 a day across the UK as the economic downturn continues, according to research. Figures show that across the UK embattled retailers closed 32 stores a day in July and August as Britain's high street continued to suffer from the consumer spending slump. That figure is up from 20 a day in the first six months of 2012."

Postscript 20, October 31st

And the next chain to likely to become no more than a ghost in our rapidly-fading memories is Comet. Both Retail Week and the Financial Times are reporting that it will go into administration tomorrow.

The BBC has a chart of High Street retailers who've been hit the hardest.

Postscript 21, December 12th

US Power Grid Vulnerable To Just About Everything

Postscript, 22, December 24th

In floods whose impacts are more severe than November's, the main rail link to Devon and Cornwall is washed out. And there's more to come. The Severn here is at its highest level since January 2008.

Retailers 'facing critical financial issues', reports the Beeb. "Nearly 140 retailers are in a "critical condition" despite Christmas being their peak trading time, business recovery firm Begbies Traynor has said. Its UK business solvency survey found 13,700 more firms were in distress, a 35% rise in the quarter to December. It said many could struggle to meet their quarterly rent payment, due on Christmas Day."

Looks like I'm going to be able to go green and recycle my 2012 predictions for 2013!

FBI investigated Occupy Wall Street as 'domestic terrorists': 'the FBI treated the Occupy movement as potential criminals and "domestic terrorists" despite the fact that Occupy demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful and the Bureau admits that protest organizers did "not condone the use of violence."'

And on the subject of 'Occupy', I got it both right and wrong. Two major offshoots of the Occupy movement, Occupy Sandy, and Strike Debt emerged this year ('multiple factions'?), very different from the original.

Posted by Phil at 12:39 PM
Edited on: Monday, December 24, 2012 1:32 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Monday, April 25, 2011

Enhanced check_esxi_hardware.py for Nagios and pnp4nagios

Having spent a bit of time implementing Trond Hasle Amunsen's wonderful check_openmanage plugin for Nagios to monitor the Dell Windows and Linux servers at work, I came to wondering if the same was possible for our VMware ESXi boxes. I was monitoring them with the check_esxi_hardware.py plugin, maintained by Claudio Kuenzler. That, unfortunately, didn't collect performance data and lacked the clever html links to Dell documentation found in check_openmanage.

So, I got to work, emulating some of check_openmanage's features.

The features I collect performance data for are those found on our ESXi boxes, Dell M600, R815, and R905 models.


Power consumption

System board ambient temperature


Power consumption

System board fan speeds

System board ambient temperature

System Internal Expansion Board 1 IO1 Planar Temp

System Internal Expansion Board 1 IO2 Planar Temp

Power supply voltages and currents


Power consumption

System board fan speeds

System board ambient temperature

Power supply voltages and currents

I've also created a check_esxi_hardware.php template for pnp4nagios.

They're here in human-readable form:



Or download check_esxi_hardware.zip

check_esxi_hardware.py (not formatted as html)

check_esxi_hardware.php (not formatted as html)

Update, April 28th:

Now includes:

Indentation of the verbose output

Support for the HP Proliant BL460c, and, drum roll....

Proper parameter handling, which gracefully fails back to the original commandline format:

  usage: check_esxi_hardware.py https://hostname user password system [verbose]
  example: check_esxi_hardware.py https://my-shiny-new-vmware-server root fakepassword dell
or, using new style options:
  usage: check_esxi_hardware.py -H hostname -U username -P password [-V system -v -p -I XX]
  example: check_esxi_hardware.py -H my-shiny-new-vmware-server -U root -P fakepassword -V auto -I uk
or, verbosely:
  usage: check_esxi_hardware.py --host=hostname --user=username --pass=password [--vendor=system --verbose --perfdata --html=XX]

The hardware vendor string defaults to unknown, which is treated the same as ibm. intel has a slight quirk with BIOS identification. dell is similar to the previous cases, but also allows html links to product documentation and warranty information. hp have their own CIM return values to handle, so they are a special case. But the best of all is auto, which determines the vendor (if it can), from the Manufacturer information from CIM.

That's it for now, I consider it stable enough for production.

One improvement would be better handling of CIM numeric sensor names we haven't encountered yet. That should be possible with a bit of thoughtful regular expression wizardry, but I'm going to pass on that for the forseeable future.

Update, April 29th:

Rewritten perfdata code should now do something sensible on any vendor's hardware.

By peeking at the CIM UnitType attribute, I now correctly handle HP's Virtual Fan (or anyone else's) speed as a percentage, and can distinguish between power consumption (Watts) and current (Amps) automatically.

Mopping up of any quirky sensor name formatting can be done in check_esxi_hardware.php

Update, May 3rd:

Minor bug fixes, code reorganisation, and sorted performance data.

Performance data is now sorted by sensor name within sensor categories in the following order: Power, Voltage, Current, Temperature, Fan Speed, and (Virtual) Fan percentage.

A major side effect of these changes is that the sensor data previously created by check_esxi_hardware.py in /usr/local/pnp4nagios/var/perfdata is not compatible with my new code, and will have to be erased.

Update, May 4th:

More fixes:

Minor code changes and documentation improvements

Remove redundant mismatched ' character in performance data output

Output non-integral values for all sensors to fix problem seen with system board voltage sensors on an IBM server (thanks to Attilio Drei for the sample output)

Update, May 5th:

Added --no-power, --no-volts, --no-current, --no-temp, and --no-fan options to suppress performance data output by category

A few minor optimisations

Update, May 6th:

Added -t / --timeout parameter, ensuring it doesn't run on Windows (it works in Cygwin, though)

Made the new file:passwordfile option work for old-style command lines too

Update, May 7th:

On error, include the numeric sensor value in output

Example from this morning, aircon fail in one of our datacentres:


Things got rather hot, and the system fans all went into overdrive:


Power consumption on the few boxes and blade chassis' I looked at increased by 20 to 25 percent above normal.

Update, April 2nd, 2012

I've updated check_esxi_hardware.py to fix Dell warranty links (when you click on the displayed Tag No) to point to the new Dell Support site.

Posted by Phil at 10:51 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:49 PM
Categories: IT, Waffle

Monday, March 14, 2011

On Nukes

I said this on the subject on an internet mailing list back in December 2007:

I confess to being ill at ease over nukes, partly, I suspect, a gut reaction to the over-zealousness of its current proponents.

The late Alvin Weinberg, had this to say back in 1972:

"We nuclear people have made a Faustian bargain with society. On the one hand, we offer -- in the catalytic nuclear burner -- an inexhaustible source of energy. . .
But the price that we demand of society for this magical energy source is both a vigilance and a longevity of our social institutions that we are quite unaccustomed to."
(Science, July 7, 1972)

He continued:

"We make two demands. The first, which I think is easier to manage, is that we exercise in nuclear technology the very best techniques and that we use people of high expertise and purpose. . . .
The second demand is less clear, and I hope it may prove unnecessary.
This is a demand for longevity in human institutions. We have relatively little problem dealing with wastes if we can assume always that there will be intelligent people around to cope with eventualities we have not though of. If the nuclear parks that I mention are permanent features of our civilization, then we presumably have the social apparatus, and possibly the sites, for dealing with our wastes indefinitely. But even our salt mine may require some surveillance if only to prevent men in the future from drilling holes into the burial grounds.
Eugene Wigner has drawn an analogy between this commitment to a permanent social order that may be implied in nuclear energy and our commitment to a stable, year-in and year-out social order when man moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Before agriculture, social institutions hardly required the long-lived stability that we now take so much for granted. And the commitment imposed by agriculture in a sense was forever; the land had to be tilled and irrigated every year in perpetuity; the expertise required to accomplish this task could not be allowed to perish or man would perish; his numbers could not be sustained by hunting and gathering.
In the same sense, though on a much more highly sophisticated plane, the knowledge and care that goes into the proper building and operation of nuclear power plants and their subsystems is something we are committed to forever, so long as we find no other practical source of infinite extent."


"In exchange for this atomic peace [referring to no recent nuclear bomb use] we had to manage and control nuclear weapons. In a sense, we have established a military priesthood which guards against inadvertent use of nuclear weapons, which maintains what a priori seems to be a precarious balance between readiness to go to war and vigilance against human errors that would precipitate war. Moreover, this is not something that will go away, at least not soon. The discovery of the bomb has imposed an additional demand on our social institutions. It has called forth this military priesthood upon which in a way we all depend for our survival.
It seems to me (and in this I repeat some views expressed very well by Atomic Energy Commissioner Wilfred Johnson) that peaceful nuclear energy probably will make demands of the same sort on our society, and possibly of even longer duration."

John Gofman wryly noted at the time that

"If we can predict the social future for generations, including civil strife, international strife, revolutions, psychoses, saboteurs of all stripes and types, hijackers of whatever bizarre or mundane motives, psychopathic personalities of all types, and all criminality, then nuclear power is acceptable, according to Dr. Weinberg's requirements."

There seems to be a complete lack of consideration of these moral and ethical issues by today's nuclear proponents.

When the pro-nuke brigade starts earnestly and seriously discussing Weinberg's "Faustian Bargain" I'll start to take them seriously.

But not until then.

Posted by Phil at 8:23 AM
Edited on: Monday, March 14, 2011 8:38 AM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jobs for the Boys?

I don't know if this is the millionaire cabinet's intention, but here's one plausible result of their actions on student funding.

As the economic crisis continues to bite, there will be fewer jobs to go round. Employers, in an attempt to reduce the number of job applications they process, will raise the entry bar by insisting on university degrees as minimum qualifications for even the most mundane of jobs. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that they do this already.

Soon the only people attending university and graduating will be the children of the rich.

The cynical amongst us will wonder if that's the intention, with the Tories and wannabe-Tories ensuring jobs for the boys (and girls) of the rich whilst the rest of us rot in a hell of their making.

Paranoid fantasy? Or not? Time will tell.

Posted by Phil at 8:44 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's been a while since I've brought you a Christmas message. This one isn't some forboding of massive Northern Hemisphere climate change, but rather a reminder that I spent my first two dozen Christmases in the Southern Hemisphere. Not amidst all this lovely fauna, alas. Be mindful that all the species featured, including the man in the funny hat, are threatened by man-made climate change. And now, without further ado, a Christmas message brought to you by the Londolozi Nature Reserve:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Thanks to @HeartGiraffes and @londolozi for posting the link on Twitter

Posted by Phil at 4:31 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:44 PM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mandy Sets Date for Blocking Immoral Oil-consuming

Slaying two of those proverbial avians with one satirical blog post.

What if the government applied as much zeal to curbing fossil-fuel consumption as it does to curbing filesharing? Would we see news reports like this?

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, warned fossil fuel consumers today that the days of "consequence-free" oil consumption are over as he unveiled the government's plan for cracking down on fossil fuel consumption.

Mandelson, speaking at the government's pompous politician strutting conference, confirmed that the petrol tanks of persistent offenders could be blocked - but only as a last resort from the summer of 2011.

He added that a "legislate and enforce" strategy was the only way to protect the planet. "Three strikes is a reasonable way of describing our approach," he said.

The strategy, which will be officially set out in the government's ecological economy bill in late November, will involve a staged process of warning notifications with fuel suspension as a last resort.

"It must become clear that the days of consequence-free widespread oil consumption are over," Mandelson said. "Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting."

The legislation is expected to come into force in April next year.

The effectiveness of the warning letters to persistent immoral oil-users will be monitored for the first 12 months. If immoral oil consumption has not dropped by 70% by April 2011, then cutting off people's fuel supplies could be introduced three months later, from the summer of that year.

"If we reach the point of suspension for an individual, they will be informed in advance, having previously received two notifications – and will have the opportunity to appeal," Mandelson added. "The British government's view is that consuming the planet's fossil fuels is wrong and that, as an economy based on greed, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens."

Mandelson said that the strategy was a "proportionate measure that will give people ample awareness and opportunity to stop breaking the planet". "The threat for persistent individuals is, and has to be, real, or no effective deterrent to destroying the planet will be in place," he added.

There would be a "proper route of appeal" for those that do have their oil access suspended, Mandelson said. He added that he did not want to see oil companies "unfairly burdened" by the new system.

"Oil Companies and rights-holders will share the costs, on the basis of a flat fee that will allow both sides to budget and plan," he said.

The staged roll-out of the strategy will see OfOil assess the effectiveness of the warning notification system on cutting immoral oil-using, backed by the threat of legal action in about April 2011.

If the 70% reduction is not achieved the use of technical measures to cut off persistent offenders' fuel access will be introduced by about July 2011.

Should this system be introduced repeat offenders will be warned they are infringing and then, in a second letter, told that technical measures could be implemented. Further infringement will lead to the offenders' names being put on a "serious infringers list", with oil purveyors then "obliged to exercise technical measures".

No timetable was given by the government for the speed with which the process can go from a warning letter to fuel suspension.

When infringers are informed that they face having their fuel access suspended, they will have 20 working days to appeal to an independent body, to be established by OfOil. The suspension will not come into force until the appeal has been heard.

If the first appeal is unsuccessful the infringer can lodge a second appeal within 20 working days.

My apologies to Mark Sweney and The Grauniad for the shameless rip-off.

Posted by Phil at 11:35 AM
Edited on: Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:01 AM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wrong Numbers, Episode 3,000,000,000

Once again, the media are all bleating the "wonderful" news about oil. BP, apparently, has discovered a large 3,000,000,000 barrel reservoir of oil 35,000 feet down in the Gulf of Mexico.

As per usual, they seem totally unable to join the dots and connect oil consumption with CO2 emissions, so they've almost all copied BP's gushing (pun intended) press release with no mention of "that which must never be mentioned in connection with oil", and lo, BP's stock market price jumped upwards.

This is getting quite tedious, folks. It is hard to know whether these journalists are complete idiots and gullible fools, pathetic hacks reduced to regurgitating vested-interests' press releases, or intentionally malevolent.

Three billion barrels represents under six weeks' worth of global oil consumption. We'd need to find ten such fields annually just to keep standing still. Needless to say, we don't.

Lou Grinzo puts it all into context in his The Cost of Energy blog.

Jeremy Leggett, who really should know better, wrote an almost-insightful piece in today's Guardian about it. But even he fails to stress that the consumption of this resource is one of the worst things that we could possibly do.

And nobody's asking the obvious questions:

Is consuming the new oil that BP has discovered tantamount to a crime against humanity and the planet?

Is drilling for oil knowing full well (my apologies for another bad pun) that the oil discovered will be burnt spewing CO2 into the atmosphere, morally reprehensible?

My answer to both questions is a resounding yes, what's yours?

Posted by Phil at 9:19 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:43 PM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle

Having a Giraffe

I blame BNO News' @mpoppel for all this. There was I one day in July, quietly minding my own business, when he tweeted this:


Forget the heffalump in the living room, a giraffe in one's back yard is much more appealing!

So I sent my friend Liz a totally perplexing text message reminding her to check her (minuscule) back yard for wayward giraffes when she got home. Needless to say, there were none. Her imaginary piggiflu-infected pet pig which she keeps out there had remained undisturbed, albeit somewhat lonely.

After much banter, I was led to Ola Helland's wonderfully crazy onemilliongiraffes.com. He's aiming to collect one million hand drawn (or hand crafted) giraffes by 2011. Please help him out and get drawing. If I can do it, so can you!

Here's my contribution:

Phil's Giraffe

Postscript, August 25, 2010:

Ola did it! Hooray! Well done, Ola!

Posted by Phil at 8:30 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:43 PM
Categories: Waffle

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking the....

... dosh.

Peter the Profligate Luff, in another desperate attempt to make himself appear squeaky clean, digs his own grave:

his claims over the past four years have included £2,600 for redecorating the office in his Worcester home, £900 for replacing an exterior door, £428 for roof repairs and £243 spent on replacing a window.
He said: “It seems reasonable to me that a maintenance cost is something I would claim for – to claim for enhancements would be wrong.”

Legitimate or not?

It's his home, but what proportion of its upkeep should be allowed against expenses?

Is the office used solely for his parliamentary duties, or is it multi-purpose? Were the roof repairs directly over the office? Was the door to the office? Was the window in the office?

We're not told, and should have been. Bad reporting yet again, Worcester News.

The comments to the article are worth a read. There are, thank god, a few smart people left in Worcester.

Logik's comment sums it all up:

"Here is the test of reasonableness as far as I am concerned. Had you had to fund all this out of your own pocket, would you have bought the same items and would you have spent the same amount of money. If not then the cost to the taxpayer is unjustifiable."


I'm not the only one on Peter the Profligate's tail:

Posted by Phil at 7:14 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, June 03, 2009 11:31 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Local Media, Good and Bad

The MP "allowances" scandal brings out both the best and the worst of the local media.

I tweeted on May 15th about BBC Hereford and Worcester's phone interview with Julie Kirkbride; it has now made Have I Got News for You? (series 37, episode 5), 9:37 in:

BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester's Keith Gooden on the phone to Julie Kirkbride (there's a bit of confusion on my part as to when this interview took place - it was either October 2007 or 2008):

"You're married to an MP, a very unusual situation, but it appears that you and your husband are both claiming your full housing allowance, £44,000. I thought the old adage 'two could live as cheaply as one' would apply here? Obviously it doesn't."
*click* as Ms Kirkbride hangs up.

Classic! Good old-fashioned no-nonsense BBC.

Contrast this with the Worcester News' reporting of Peter "the Profligate" Luff's expenses claims:

"There is no suggestion he broke parliamentary rules"

Shameful sycophantic non-reporting, Worcester News, because in the same article you present clear, indisputable evidence of his rule-breaking:

"Selection of Mr Luff's second home expenses claims over four years, as listed in the Daily Telegraph: Kitchen table and six chairs – £1,583 (£750 paid out by fees office); TV – £750 Microwave – £218.99; China set – £625; China set – £367; Mattress – £675; DVD player – £224.99; Radio – £148; Clock radio – £116.99; Bedside light, alarm clock radio – £246.75; Chest of drawers – £725; Set of sofas, tables and pouffe – £1,774; Vacuum cleaner – £194.37; Vacuum cleaner – £139; Highgrove bedside chest – £144.93; Dining room table, four chairs, bar stool – £596; Carpet – £1,589.93."

The Green Book says this, quite unequivocally:

"Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties."

"The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services – Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious."

Now go and look at the prices for similar items in your local high street catalogue store, keeping those two requirements in mind.

Posted by Phil at 10:33 AM
Edited on: Monday, May 25, 2009 11:51 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Green Book

The UK Parliament's Allowances page makes interesting reading.

The Green Book 2009 - A Guide to Members' Allowances is the "bible" of MP's allowances. The first thing it does is refer people to the Parliamentary Code of Conduct.

Part 1 of the Green Book, "Principles governing Members' allowances", is unequivocal:

Parliamentary allowances are designed to ensure that Members are reimbursed for costs properly incurred in the performance of their duties.


Claims should be above reproach and must reflect actual usage of the resources being claimed.
Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.
Allowances are reimbursed only for the purpose of a Member carrying out his or her parliamentary duties.
Claims cannot relate to party political activity of any sort, nor must any claim provide a benefit to a party political organisation.
It is not permissible for a Member to claim under any parliamentary allowance for anything that the Member is claiming from any other source.
Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.
Members are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.
Individual Members take personal responsibility for all expenses incurred, for making claims and for keeping records, even if the administration of claims is delegated by them to others.
The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services – Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious.
Claims must be supported by documentary evidence, except where the House has agreed that such evidence is not necessary.

The Green Book continues:

The following questions are designed to assist Members in coming to a decision about whether or not costs incurred are appropriate to be met from the allowances:
Is this expense genuinely incurred by me in my role as a Member of Parliament as opposed to my personal capacity?
Is this purchase supporting me in carrying out my parliamentary duties? Defining parliamentary duties is difficult but Members may wish to consider (i) the generally accepted parliamentary functions: the legislative role; the oversight and accountability role; and the representative role, including dealing with constituents’ problems and (ii) obligations they may have, for example as a small employer. Anything which is done for personal benefit or for electioneering or for the direct support of a political party will not be part of a Member’s parliamentary duties.
Does the claim match the purpose of the allowance in question as set out later in the Green Book?
Could the claim in any way damage the reputation of Parliament or its Members?
How comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under Freedom of Information?

Part 2, detailing the allowances, says, of each of them, that they can only "be claimed if the principles set out in Part I have been complied with" (see above).

So, it is abundantly clear that all those MPs who are claiming that they were "following the rules" are nothing less than brazen arrogant liars.

Sack the lot of them.


Posted by Phil at 10:31 PM
Edited on: Friday, May 22, 2009 11:05 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Still the Best Kiwi Band Ever

Sorry Bret and Jermaine, you don't come close!

Split Enz, performing at Melbourne's "Sound Relief" concert, March, 2009.

All proceeds from the Melbourne Sound Relief concert went to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009.

And here's Tim, Neil, and Liam Finn all together, with a classic song from Neil's old band:

Posted by Phil at 11:32 AM
Edited on: Saturday, May 09, 2009 12:24 PM
Categories: Music, Waffle

Friday, February 06, 2009


@benmarsh has done a wonderful Google Maps overlay of the #uksnow snow reports.


Twitter at its best.

Posted by Phil at 4:56 PM
Categories: Comment, Waffle

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Life imitates the net. Someone defaced the pristine snow on my car this morning.


(click on pic to enlarge)

Photo copyright © 2009 Phil Randal

Posted by Phil at 6:04 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 10:40 PM
Categories: Photos, Waffle

Thursday, January 29, 2009


In a moment of bored foolhardiness I got myself a Twitter account.

Mini Twitter roll can be found on the right of my blog front page. It's full of my usual ramblings and links to other blog posts.

Brevity, it is said, is the soul of wit, but doubtless you'll all find my posts singularly unamusing.

Follow me at your peril.

Posted by Phil at 9:11 PM
Edited on: Thursday, January 29, 2009 9:17 PM
Categories: Waffle

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's embarrass your daughter time

My daughter, Rebee, playing her band Retro Tap's first gig in Worcester's Marrs Bar this week. She's the lead singer.

Another view of the second song.

Posted by Phil at 6:09 PM
Edited on: Monday, November 03, 2008 7:51 AM
Categories: Waffle

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wrong Numbers, episode 200,000,000,000

There was I, last night, driving home, my car consuming fossil fuel, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, when Radio 4's PM programme had an item about Russia's (supposedly) vast oil reserves.

I didn't catch the reporter's name, not that it matters, because the errors he committed are endemic in that formerly hallowed organisation's reporting about oil.

Not once in his report did he even mention "that which the BBC must never mention when talking about oil". No surprise, there, then. Maybe I'm getting paranoid but I've only heard one exception to that rule in the last six months, and that was from Andrew Marr a few weeks back.

Anyhow, back to the report about oil in Russia.

The reporter could scarcely conceal his joy at the prospect that Russia may have up to 200 billion barrels of exploitable oil reserves. Hooray!

(The EIA, by the way, states that Russia has around 60 billion barrels of proven reserves.)

Those 200 billion barrels are enough, he told us, to supply the world's oil needs for decades.


Current annual oil consumption is around 30 billion barrels. So Russia's reserves could fuel our oil addiction at current levels for under seven years.

Send this guy back to school for some training in simple arithmetic.


But my question is, because the Beeb isn't the only part of the mass media to prove itself incompetent, why is it so impossible to consider more than one aspect of complex problems like oil and climate change?

And why is there a taboo against mentioning climate change in the same sentence as oil?

Michael Tobis has noticed the EIA's disconnect in this regard. "I'm confused", he writes. "It's hard to know if this is wishful thinking or malice at this point". Malice, pure malice, from the lot of them :-)

Posted by Phil at 9:15 AM
Edited on: Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:36 AM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle

Saturday, July 05, 2008

150 Barrels

I was listening to Jason Bradford interviewing The Oil Drum's Nate Hagens on the Reality Report the other day, and one thing Nate said stuck in my head.

Exploitable oil reserves in the ground amount to about 150 barrels for every man, woman, and child now living and all their future descendants.

So, simple arithmetic tells us that if we all fueled our oil addictions by using a mere 5 gallons a week, it would all be gone in 20 years.

Not to mention the untold damage that would do to our planet's ecosystems and climate.

Which leads to the big question:

How much should we consume now and how much should we leave for future generations?

And the other big question:

Why is the above question so completely taboo and unthinkable that it is never ever aired (except by quirky folk like Nate and myself)?

Addendum, June 2014

A handy graph from Planet 3

Which is from Lars Boelen's World Energy Outlook 2013 – What it doesn’t say

Posted by Phil at 2:44 PM
Edited on: Saturday, June 28, 2014 1:17 PM
Categories: Comment, Environment, Waffle