Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm a PC - and I think I'm going to be sick

A few months back I was confronted with what was indisputably the most sickening advert I have ever seen. It was from Nescaf√© (of Third World baby notoriety) and it simply said ‘It’s all about you’.

Yuck.

But I let it pass – hopefully an aberration of narcissism you have to expect from advertisers from time to time.

But then just the other day I came across two at once: Armani’s ‘You make me feel’ and, the worst yet, an advert for Windows, with the strap-line ‘And it’s all about me’.

Yuck and double yuck. And deeply creepy.

Whoever wrote this nauseating line, please go away, read Naomi Klein’s No Logo, and think about your life. Because you need a new one – this one isn’t working.

Yes, that's the point!

Europe's larger CO2 emitter, the German power company RWE, has issued a statement criticising the EU's plan to make electricity generators pay for their CO2 emission permits in full from 2013:

Companies such as ours that... rely on coal-fired power generation will
find themselves at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis companies like EDF, which
are based mainly on nuclear and have virtually no CO 2 costs...

This, RWE claimed, will spell the 'end of fair competition in the energy sector in Europe'

Maybe I've missed something here. Isn't that the point of this entire exercise - to end competition based on nothing but price? Or rather, to include in the price of electricity some of the all-too real environmental factors that we will all pay for before long, not least the 140 million tons of CO2 RWE pump into the atmosphere every year.

Pointing at EDF, France's nuclear power generator, is quite bogus - the same point could be made about wind farms.

No, this is where environmental policy starts to bite. Will the EU have the political will make it stick - and, given the commitment of most EU countries to coal-, gas- and oil-based power generation, is the policy going to lead to serious economic and political problems as electricity costs start to rise to pay for the permits?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What's the problem with ID cards?

The whole ID card debate surely has to be one of the most misdirected debates in recent political history. On the one hand there are those who insist that they are invaluable weapons against terrorism, and thus conveniently forget the Madrid bombings, - all Spaniards are required to carry ID cards. And on the other there are those who point vaguely (and for most people, unconvincingly) at threats to civil liberties. The latter are then reminded that ID cards are the norm throughout Europe, so what’s the problem?

The answer is not that ID cards are a problem in themselves. But what has happened in this case is that every other piece of supposedly anti-terrorist legislation we have had so far has been abused. People are being bugged by local councils to see if they are fly-tipping. Elderly hecklers are bundled out of the Labour party’s conference under anti-terrorist legislation. Now an Opposition MP is being arrested under similar legislation for leaking Home Office information – which is to say, for a practice at which the current Prime Minister boasted of excelling when he was in Opposition. And so on.

The fact is not that ID cards are a problem. Had we had them for a century, no one would worry. But we are having them now, which means that they are being introduced by a government and police system that we simply don’t trust. We’re more afraid of them than of terrorists.

Well done, New Labour: you have finally created a situation in which the devil you know is worse than than the devil you don't.