Category Archives: Braindead

Oil prices, carriers and the Spanish government

The recent increase in oil prices affects all transport. Air, ground and sea transportation, passenger and cargo alike, have seen their costs rising in the last few months.

Analysts have provided several theories on the causes behind the oil price hike. Some put the blame on the credit crisis in the USA, others blame oil producers, others point at the US Federal Reserve, and others remind us of the significant increase in energy demand. I am not going to analyze the reasons here.

This week Spain saw a strike by some truck drivers (apparently about 20% of them), demanding Government intervention to help their activity, after fuel price increases are rendering their business a loss-making operation. Their strike blocked major communication roads around the main cities in Spain, causing long traffic jams, and making it impossible for loads of other people to carry on with their own jobs.

These few truck drivers seem to think they are the only ones affected by oil prices. Many other people actually need gas fuel as well to drive to work, and are equally paying for gas at the same price. Costs are increasing for everyone.

Private businesses, such as the truck drivers’ own job, must not receive help from the Government. When faced with adversity, these striker drivers resort to demanding help from the Government while showing complete disregard to other workers and people through their road-blocking actions, and through their boycotting other truck drivers who chose not to adhere to the protest. The striker’s lazy and cowardly attitude towards their own problems is unacceptable. Clearly the transportation business was profitable when they decided to enter the business. Now that conditions have changed for the worse, they expect external help instead of adapting themselves to the new circumstances.

I know ex-truck drivers who left the business because they could not make a living with it, and moved to another type of job. People in other sectors, including house service, agriculture, engineering, and financial services, to name a few, have the personal drive to move forward through trouble, to adapt and adjust by changing jobs if needed. The few who are unwilling to adjust are usually (also on this occasion) the noisiest, but this is no reason to listen to them.

The natural solution to the carriers’ problems is simply to increase their transportation fees as a result of their increased cost. If their fees are fixed by collective agreements, then they must renegotiate if they wish, but Government intervention is not be to asked for, and public funds must not be used to help this or any other private sector.

If prices of goods must increase as a consequence of higher transportation costs, so be it. It’s only natural. To intervene on pricing, on the other hand, would be wrong. The Government must attack the problem at its root: supply and demand of energy. If they cannot affect demand, then they must act on supply, building new energy-producing plants. Spain’s proud and capricious socialist Government, of course, has no plans for this.

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Spain's dreadful judicial system

On January 2008 a little girl went missing in Huelva, a southern town of Spain. Last month (March), after her body had been found, Spain was shocked with the news that the suspect killer (in custody) had been convicted of sexual harassment to his own daughter years ago, but he never went to prison. Had he been in prison, everyone says, the latest death in Huelva would not have occurred.

An investigation was launched, and then we learned that the judge who did not send the killer to jail had been fined in the past for failing to implement the jail sentence of another criminal.

Although the death of this poor girl is the fault of the killer, the blatant failures and fiasco of the Spanish judicial system have also angered many. It’s the last drop on a slow but continuous flow of inefficient, poor inner-working of our courts, aided by no less defective laws.

Yet, after this latest offense by the judicial system to the Spanish people, no one has stepped forward and resigned, not any of the involved judges, public workers, nor the Minister of Justice. In any civilized country, a case like this would have driven any half-responsible person to resign, at the very least, and the consequences would have been severe for those at fault.

In Spain, however, no one resigns, and it seems the likely guilty judge may get away simply with losing his job. That’s not enough. If he is indeed found to be guilty, jail time should be part of the punishment.

The Spanish judicial system is a joke since the beginning of the democratic period (last 30 years), and none of the governments thus far have done anything to fix it. It is time for drastic measures. Let’s see if the newly elected government (just a month ago) will do something about this serious problem in Spain.

Who you are, what you are

Geraldine Ferraro, campaign adviser to Hillary Clinton, has resigned in the face of accusations of racism from the other democratic candidate, Barak Obama.

Ferraro‘s comment in dispute was that part of the support that Obama has is due to the fact he is black.

This is not racism. This is a fact. It is entirely true that many people do base their vote on issues absolutely unrelated to the political program of the candidate they are voting. If the candidate is too short, too fat or too bald, he/she will be at a disadvantage over a candidate who is taller, slimmer and has hair. The same goes for other factors, such as the sex or race of the candidate.

If someone is voted because they are taller than the competing candidate, that is wrong, but it happens.

Likewise, if someone is voted because of their race, it is also wrong, but it happens as well, in the same way it would be wrong to be in favour of a particular candidate only because she would be a woman rather than a man, or vice versa.

Any consideration about who the candidate is, as opposed to what they say or do, is wrong. To point out that humans do take who you are into account, and to point out that such behaviour is benefiting someone in particular, is not wrong.

I do know people in Spain who wish that Obama be the next president of the United States, because they would like to see a black president in the USA. This train of thought does reveal racism. On the other hand, to say that such thought is present in some or many people’s head is not racism.

Barak Obama was not right to criticize Geraldine Ferraro, who should not have resigned.

Obama‘s accusation of racism on the part of the campaign of his opponent is mere opportunism. Accusing others of racism is a good way to earn votes.

Permissive, clumsy, damaging policy

Year 2002: The Spanish Government, with support from the opposition, introduces new legislation to ban political parties which support, in one form or another, terrorism. The new laws were drafted quite clearly with political party Batasuna in mind. This party, linked to criminal band ETA, had representation in the Basque parliament, receiving public funds which ended up supporting ETA’s terrorist activities.

Year 2004: National elections to the Spanish Government: The PSOE (socialist party), until then the opposition party, became the party in power.

Year 2005: Local Basque elections took place. Batasuna, already declared illegal for supporting terrorist activity, could not run in this election. However, a new party, PCTV (EHAK by its Basque name), ran for office, despite it being heir to the people, ideas, and practices of Batasuna, and in fact being a new name for Batasuna (illegal by then). According to the law in effect since 2002, PCTV could have been declared illegal, as Batasuna was. However, the socialists in Government, who had supported in 2002 (while they were the opposition party) the new legislation on political parties, failed to apply the law on PCTV. PCTV obtained 9 seats in parliament: in other words, this ETA side-wing party obtained again public funds, and power in the Basque parliament.

Year 2007: City elections were scheduled all throughout Spain. In the Basque Country, another new Batasuna heir party ran for office: ANV. Again, like in 2005 with PCTV, many voices called for the law of political parties to be applied in full force to keep terrorist-supporting ANV and PCTV from running in the elections. The ruling socialist Government of Spain again did nothing (like in 2005) to prevent the terrorist supporters from gaining access to public money, to administering public funds in city halls, and to accessing personal information from citizens to be potentially used by ETA through their PCTV and ANV brands.

Year 2008: Spain general elections are scheduled for March 2008. The ruling socialist Government now (early 2008) has initiated actions to declare PCTV and ANV illegal, as was done with Batasuna in 2002. The Government claims that now (a few months before General elections), there is evidence of the relation between ETA and PCTV and ANV, because this evidence was not obvious until now.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Evidence of those links was known since long ago. Yesterday, Feb 9, the Supreme Court in Spain, published a court order stating that it would be disproportionate to do as the Government requested (i.e., to suspend ANV activity before declaring it illegal). The Supreme Court argues that the evidence of ANV links with ETA are known since May 2007 or even earlier. Therefore, why has the Government delayed to act against ANV? Why do it now and not earlier? The obscure reasons that drove the Government to act this way are more than likely part of its strategy to negotiate with ETA. In recent months, Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero has admitted that in December 2006 he said he would stop contacts with ETA after ETA killed two people in Madrid that month. Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero has also admitted now that despite what he said, he continued to meet and negotiate with ETA. Then ETA killed two more people, this time in France. Now it’s useless to listen to anything Rodríguez Zapatero may say. Who knows whether he continues to talk with ETA or not. It’s almost meaningless because the damage is done: Since the socialist party came into power in 2004, ETA has been allowed to return to public institutions through PCTV and ANV, and has grown in strength and support.

The current socialist Government is staging a tough stance on ETA, very convenient in the time of elections to obtain public support (or to avoid losing it). Funny enough, this means the Government acknowledges that most people support policies that ban and defeat ETA, instead of the negotiating and appeasing strategy of PM Rodríguez Zapatero.

Nuclear energy's unsuspected ally

The bandwagon of man-made climate change has all sorts of passengers, and seems to be the ideal pretext for just about anything nowadays.

The UK Government announced this week that the UK will begin building nuclear power plants again.

Nuclear energy has bad press for several reasons, including health concerns for nearby residents, difficult disposal of nuclear waste, and the danger of malfunction in the plant. There’s widespread opposition throughout Europe to building new nuclear power stations. Even UK’s announcement this week has been criticized by some groups.

However, what is unusual in the arguments to defend the construction of new nuclear power plants? The fight against climate change is publicized as the first reason that citizens should take into account to back nuclear energy. (references: UK government and the Foreword in White Paper on nuclear power)

The backing of nuclear energy sources with the argumentation that it helps curb climate change could be due to one of the following:

  1. either the UK government truly believes that man is causing climate change,
  2. or because “man-made climate change” (true or not) is in the minds of the population, it is very easy to exploit this fear to easily sell them any “solution” to climate change.

If option (1) is the case, humans are deceiving themselves in thinking that they have the capacity to influence Earth’s climate, and that they will also have an influence to “restore” climate.

Thankfully, I believe the real situation is (2): Humans are no fools, but rather manipulative beings who know that the illusion of fighting “climate change” is effective marketing to sell otherwise unpopular strategies, like the use of nuclear energy. That’s not to say, however, that it’s OK for Governments to deceive people with lies like man-made climate change.

The UK Government’s decision to promote the construction of new nuclear power stations is the correct one (it’s an affordable, dependable and efficient source of energy). No less important is the strategic relevance to make a country more self-sufficient in energy production, reducing dependency on external sources. I can only wish Spain would promote nuclear energy as well, but without resorting to the false and silly excuse of saving humans from climate change.


(Other related Megaspora entries: Climate Change, Inc., Eco-hype)

Good and bad smoking bans

With the start of 2008, France has joined Italy and Ireland in a complete ban to smoking in restaurants and bars. Thankfully they have not followed the smoking regulation model started in Spain, which gives small bar/restaurant owners the choice of becoming a smoking or a non-smoking space.

Smoking bans are always perceived differently from two different points of view: the health point of view and the ‘comfort’ (or annoyance) point of view.

Taking health into account, and according to the law itself, the goal of smoking bans is to reduce tobacco consumption to reduce health risks, and to reduce exposure of workers to tobacco smoke. (It can be argued whether smoking is really a health risk or not, although I believe it is). The smoking ban in workplaces (introduced in Spain only in January 2006) is aimed at protecting workers from tobacco smoke of their smoker co-workers. This measure was long overdue in Spain and we can finally enjoy smoke-free office workspaces. However, bar and restaurant workers are not as lucky: the Spanish law does not protect them, as it makes each business decide: smoke-free or not. This ambiguous law looks after some workers while ignoring others.

From the point of view of ‘comfort’, a large part of society would be happier with smoke-free environments simply because the absence of smoke means absence of bad smell in the air and in one’s clothes. Obviously, people are free to stay away from tobacco-friendly bars and restaurants, but the Spanish law has not helped to create smoke-free spaces.

Because in Spain going smoke-free is optional for small bars and restaurants, some of them choose to stay smoke-friendly, to ensure they won’t loose smoking customers to the bar next door, which may have chosen to stay smoke-friendly. It is a matter of competition. It is natural that an optional measure like this one drives the vast majority of bars and restaurants to choose the option which does not damage their business. Should the law impose a smoking ban on all bars and restaurants, the regulation would be equal for all businesses, enabling fair competition, since none can allow smoking in their premises. Obviously, if smoking is allowed everywhere, competition would be equally fair, but this would mean failure for the Spanish tobacco law, which intends to curb tobacco consumption in workplaces, not keep it up.

However, what about the people who cannot go without their cigarette when having their coffee? Or can they?

The “cafe culture” in France, claimed to be under attack by the new smoking ban, is not unique to France. It is equally popular in Spain, Italy or Ireland. The two latter have banned smoking, causing no impact on the “cafe culture”. I am certain that France will experience equal adaptation to the smoking ban, and people will continue to have their coffee, but without the smoke.

Congratulations to the French. Spain should follow suit, and implement a proper smoking ban on all restaurants and bars. The current tobacco laws in Spain smell of half-baked compromise to implement the health protection measures in bars, while avoiding aggravating smokers. Experience in Italy, Ireland and also in the U.S. shows that the ban on smoking causes no aggravation, and is even welcome by many smokers.

Climate Change, Inc.

What’s hip and cool on the outside, but a blushing lie on the inside? Man-made climate change. It’s the talk of the world. It’s the politically correct thing to say, and it’s also the politically incorrect thing to deny.

Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon to declare that we are experiencing unusual global warming, and it’s caused by human activity on Earth.

It is worth putting things into perspective. The Earth is a some 4.5 billion year old system, and is far bigger and more complex than any man-made system or artifact. Humans have inhabited this planet for the past 130,000 years only. Human machinery and industrialization began some 200 years ago, at most. Human-produced CO2 emissions (widely regarded as a main cause for climate change) have begun some 100 years ago.

Could small humans (however in large numbers), in a mere 100 years, have impacted a 4 billion year old planet’s climate system? Who do humans think they are? To believe that a big system like Earth can be affected by such proportionally small beings and their crazy inventions, is to dwell in dreams of grandeur on the small beings’ part.

Some (or many) of humans’ activities are detrimental for nature, and there is plenty of room for improvement on how man relates to nature. To go further and claim that human activity affects climate is a different story.

In order to debunk the man-made climate change theory, a few questions are in order:

  1. Is there climate change?

    Within the lifespan of a person, a change in climate can seem substantial and strange, but it may be perfectly normal for the lifespan of Earth.

  2. If indeed there is change, is it caused by human activity?

    I strongly believe it is very hard for humans to have an effect on the Earth’s climate. However, two interesting documentaries attempt to show the opposing views in this debate.

    • The first is former US vice president Al Gore’s documentary “An inconvenient truth”, which tries to demonstrate that there is climate change, that it is having devastating effects on Earth, and that is is caused by humans.

      It succeeds in convincing the viewer that lots of changes are happening around the planet.
      It fails, however, to even show how those events are related to human activity.
      (You may easily find this documentary for rental or sale on video stores)

    • The second is a TV documentary titled “The great global warming swindle”. It explains that CO2 may not be the cause of rises in temperature. It also theorizes that there are plenty of economic interests in making people believe that humans have caused a change in climate.
      (Copies of the TV broadcast are easily found on peer-to-peer networks on the Internet. Official sites are here and here).
  3. Are humans the only possible factor affecting climate?

    It would be quite foolish to think so. Although Earth is populated by a few billion of humans, Earth is part of a much bigger system, with far greater power than humans. The Solar system, and in particular the Sun have a far greater impact on Earth than humans do.

The Sun
Let us just look in the direction of the source of heat for Earth and all its life (humans included): the Sun. The main responsible party in making Earth hot is the Sun. Stars, like the Sun, are born and die. Our Sun is currently alive, but one day it will die, turning off Earth’s source of heat, and causing Earth to freeze, quite likely. If Earth can freeze due to a change in the life of the Sun, couldn’t the Sun also rise the Earth’s temperature?

Humans do not know what the Sun is doing everyday, and we cannot claim that we would know if the Sun was the cause of a climate change. Once again, it would be pretentious and foolish to think we know all about the Sun. Earth is greatly affected by the Solar system it lives in, far outweighing the impact humans may have on Earth.

Or… how about the Moon? It has a role in tides, for instance, but does it affect something else? Other candidates? We do not know. Likewise, we do not know whether the Sun may be affecting Earth’s climate But we can be pretty sure that man has very little to do with changes in climate.

Propaganda
Many governments worldwide are part of the propaganda machine, using climate change as an excuse for all sorts of decisions: politically-motivated subsidies for specific industries, economic and/or political pressure on other governments, controlling masses in their own countries, controlling markets (forcing or limiting the export (or import) to (or from) certain countries), etc…

There are far bigger interests in making everyone believe that climate change is real, and is man-made, than the interests of some industries in denying that man is to blame for climate change.

There are those who argue that thousands of scientists worldwide support the theory of man-made climate change, and therefore it must be true (because scientists have found evidence and they should be listened to). They also like to accuse big corporations (in the energy sector, usually) of funding those other researchers and studies that deny the man-made climate change theory.

The problem is that those thousands of scientists are also paid to do their research, mainly by the Governments who want to promote the climate-change propaganda or their political agendas. Government-funded research is necessarily doomed to produce Government-sought results. Therefore, the credibility of those studies can only be taken with a grain of salt.

There are other theories about climate change which stand a far greater chance of being true, like the Sun-induced climate change, for instance.

The man-made climate change theory is not true. It is mere propaganda. Do not let Al Gore and his friends confuse you.