Daily Archives: 27 April 2007

Crying Wolf about Fascism

I was deeply impressed with an article I read earlier this week in the Guardian magazine section by Naomi Wolf.

I was impressed because while individually I think she had managed to point to a lot of worrying trends in terms of US policy, it actually left me less convinced that the US was on its way to becoming a fascist state than when I started. Remarkably, it is actually less than the sum of its parts.

Her overlying thesis was deeply flawed in that while all these trends are worrying, many of them appear to have already reached their nadir and are beginning to turn around. We’re already seeing US scepticism about the War on Terror, it is hard to conceive how a law tougher than the Patriot Act might be introduced given the current balance of power in Congress and there is absolutely no suggestion of locking US citizens up in Guantanamo – itself something which the courts are making hay over. One doesn’t need to be complacent, as she suggests, to believe that the US isn’t heading towards Fascism – one merely needs something vaguely resembling a balanced view.

Could a disaster tip the US over the edge? Maybe. But then, a disaster could tip any country over the edge. It is inherently unpredictable. Making such outlandish statements is not a call to arms, it is a cry of apathy.

(Probably) final thoughts on Scottish Independence

This will probably be the last thing I write on Scottish Independence this side of polling day as I’m off to Cardiff tomorrow.

Firstly, a group of 60 Scottish scientists have hit out at the SNP. We should remember that the Scottish Enlightenment was very much a product of the Union. A generation of outward looking Scots revolutionised everything from philosophy and economics through to engineering and architecture. It is this rich history that the SNP are so dismissive off.

Secondly, going back to my ponderings about what Scottish Independence would mean for the Welsh and Northern Irish, I wonder what the implications for Gibraltar would be? The Spanish are already challenging the UK’s occupation of Gibraltar – would they use the break up of the UK as an opportunity to press the issue once more? Would Gibraltar revert to the remaining UK (as someone pointed out to me the other day, we could no longer be the “United” Kingdom and instead would have to be called the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or KEWNI), to Scotland, or to both? Would the Spanish have a case for claiming that the Treaty of Utrecht needs to be renegotiated given that one of its main signatories no longer existed?

Indeed, what is the SNP’s policy on all the other colonies as well?

Of course, this only affects a few tens of thousands of individuals scattered around the world. The SNP might consider their plight to be irrelevant. But I do wish they would at least acknowledge such issues instead of presenting independence as an opportunity for Scotland to have a completely fresh start. We have a rich, entangled shared history together which the SNP would like to turn their backs on but which, if they get enough votes next week, they will quickly find they cannot afford to.

Fortunately, it does appear as if the Scots have basically come to realise that, with the gap between the SNP and Labour closing by the day. At the outset of the campaign, support for Scottish independence was running at over 50%; despite outspending their rivals, the SNP have seen support for their flagship policy plummet by over 30%, down to the low 20s now. If any other party had presided over such a disaster, the media would be having a field day.

The best they can now offer the Scottish electorate is that they are ‘not Labour’ – but there are lots of parties that fit the bill. It may well be enough to win a plurality, but something tells it will be a pretty hollow victory for them. We shall see.

Factchecking Durkin

Rob Fenwick points me in the direction of the Great Global Warming Swindle website.

I’ve got my foot out of the door and was barely looking at the website, but two inaccuracies screamed out at me, one mere exaggeration, the other a bonkers, brainless, stupid factual error that only a complete moron would commit.

Claim the first:

A DVD of the film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, will be available in the next few weeks (despite the strenuous efforts of those who support the theory of global warming to prevent its release).

These ‘strenuous efforts’ amounted to writing Durkin a letter and asking him not to release it. What a big baby. Next, the website has a page explaining how the sun is responsible for global warming:

It would be surprising, surely, if the sun did not have a major influence on the earth’s climate (why is summer warmer than winter?).

Read that again – why is summer warmer than winter? The answer has nothing, zero, zip, to do with the temperature of the sun. It has everything to do with the Earth spinning on an axis which is tilted relative to its orbital plane (pre-schoolers struggling with this concept may find the diagrams here useful).

Durkin and WAGtv appear to be under the misapprehension that the Sun gets warmer in the summer and colder in the winter. They appear to be wholly unaware of the fact that when it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is colder in the souther hemisphere. Indeed, one might even be so bold that they are unaware that the Earth is a globe at all, insisting that in fact it is flat (okay, maybe not, but the ‘sun gets warmer’ theory of how seasons work went out in medieval times).

Two screaming inaccuracies in 30 seconds. And people take these clowns seriously?

(I’m convinced that even Durkin might concede he’s wrong on this one, but in the interest of this little boo-boo being whitewashed out of history, I’ve included it here for posterity).