Buy No Brand - It's Approved !

Today I'm going to announce a new initiative in the field of feel good marketing. WTF? Well the religions got there first with their magnificent Kosher and Halal brands. Then the RSPCA got in on the act with freedom foods guaranteeing good slaughter. Nowadays you can pay a few quid extra to call your flight 'carbon neutral'. And there's the Fairtrade logo which assures us that some of the raw ingredients have traded at a 'fair price'.  Marketeers will stop at nothing to sell stuff . A cynic might suggest the rise of the ethical consumer is being countered by ethical labels placed on dubious products.

Take the fairtrade KitKat, owned by Nestlé . The words boycott and Nestlé go together like beer and curry. For the last thirty years Nestlé has been one of the most despised food companies there is. I can recall first hearing about the Nestlé Baby Milk Scandal in1984 but this site dates it to 1977. Nestlé will argue there is no proof but it is one of the longest running corporate boycotts and scandals there is. It even has it's own wikipedia page. And then in late '09 the Fairtrade people came along and bestowed their seal of approval on KitKat. My thoughts at the time were "Either the people at Nestlé have become saints or the people at Fairtrade have sold out."

Now Greenpeace have found that Nestlés suppliers have cleared the rain forest which Orang-Utans live in to make palm oil  for your Kit Kats.  Facing eviction from their habitat and extinction doesn't sound like a fair trade to me. Orang-Utans are more important than my elevenses that's for sure so I find myself boycotting (once again) this product, but now it is fairtade. To many consumers the Fairtrade logo means "you don't need  to worry about ethical provenance weve already done that for you". The problem with Fairtade is that it allows corporations to purchase their ethical credentials . Corporations have no conscience. Conscience can only be forced upon them by the consumer . A consumer boycott  may not be very powerful but it is the only tool in the box. I'm sorry Fairtrade but you are a corporation too. It is noteworthy i.m.h.o. that The Guardian's announcement of this marriage described it as a 'major coup for Fairtade' not the other way around.

So anyway this new initiative.  I'm gonna call it the "Hengist McStone Certificate of Adequacy and Provenance" or CrAP and it is available to all corporations industrialists marketeers and the like. Naturally I will require a small kickback to cover my expenses in processing applications. A million dollars should cover it.  Currently there are no products carrying this coveted seal of approval, which is it's selling point really.

¡Hey! Yet another reason to boycott Nestlé !!!

Have sent this to the Head Honcho at baby killers Nestlé

"I am writing to express my deep concern at the role Nestle is playing in the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests, and the impact this is having on people, wildlife and the climate.
The palm oil you buy to make Kit Kats is often the result of forest and peatland destruction, which is speeding up climate change and destroying the home of the endangered orang-utan.
By buying palm oil from the notorious forest destroyer Sinar Mas, you and the palm oil traders you buy from are involved in the destruction of Indonesia's precious rainforests.
Sinar Mas continues to destroy rainforests to grow plantations, despite the negative impact on the people and wildlife that depend on it for their survival, and despite the fact that it is also accelerating climate change.
As the world's largest food and drink company, Nestl� could be using its influence to insist on positive changes in the palm oil industry that would have a real benefit for the rainforests of Indonesia. Your company uses over 320,000 tonnes of palm oil every year, which goes into a range of well-known products including Kit Kat. In the last three years, your use of palm oil has almost doubled according to your own figures.
Unilever and Kraft have already cancelled its contract with Sinar Mas due to its bad practices, whilst Nestl� has failed to take the same action. Please stop turning a blind eye and instead immediately:
- Stop trading with companies within the Sinar Mas group
- Stop buying Sinar Mas palm oil and pulp products from third-party suppliers.
- Engage with the Indonesian government and industry to deliver a moratorium on forest clearance and peatland protection
In short, please give the rainforests and the orang-utans a break. I look forward to receiving your response in due course."

Got it all from this website here. Please do the same. You and I share 97% of our DNA with Orang Utans

Death of a Scientist

29Jul03 - Death of a Scientist

Here's something I wrote some years ago and just found on my old friend Tony Gosling's website. Astonishingly I still like it.

As soon as Thames Valley Police announced they were not looking for anybody else involved in the death of Dr David Kelly all the mainstream media came onside with that view. Since then the death has been reported as a "suicide" or an "apparent suicide". Could it be a murder made to look like suicide? No one asked. There are very few facts from the scene of the crime to offer convincing evidence either way, but I suggest there is an empirical case that Kelly died at the hands of a state sponsored assassin immune from the law (and the enquiring nature of the media) because his her or their actions were sanctioned at the very highest level.

We all know that from time to time the state has to break it's own laws to do it's business, but most of us happily believe that any infringement of the rules is justified and thus stops well short of murder. That concept is too much to swallow in a democracy. And so when the state says Dr Kelly's death was a suicide human instinct forces us to breathe a sigh of relief, our safe little world remains unchallenged even if it is untrue it is worth believing in.

OK, even if you don't buy any conspiracy theory place yourself in the don't know camp and read on.

The police are not an information service. Usually results of all police enquiries are embargoed until they can be presented to a court. Occasionally they release titbits to encourage witnesses to come forward. (In a murder they always hold something back so that knowledge of specific gruesome details of the crime will be shared between themselves and the murderer and to catch out false confessions.) The Kelly death is different. The police have done their investigating they have formed their view and they have announced their view. That is all. There has not yet been a coroner's inquest to actually give an official view yet all the newspapers have taken their cue and gone to press on what at the time of writing (23/07/2003) is nothing more than opinion of unnamed bureaucrats.

Let's consider the story so far. Outside of the arcane world of civil service microbiologists no one had ever heard of Dr. David Kelly until a week or two ago. He was an arms inspector and it turns out a mole whom we now learn released information to the BBC that the British Government's case for going to war against Iraq earlier this year was at best embellished. Dr Kelly only came to public attention on 15th July when he gave evidence before the parliamentary foreign affairs select committee, subsequently he was called before the parliamentary Security and Intelligence Committee. Before that could happen he was found dead on an Oxfordshire hillside.

Any conspiracy theory minded copy is simply drowned out by other issues dominating this macabre affair. "Who let on that Kelly was the mole?" is a game currently being played out between Downing Street and the BBC. Who cares, I say. The fact that various branches of the state are at odds over such minutiae is unremarkable, yet to the broadsheet newspapers this row is the issue, certainly not how Kelly met his death and why.

Suspicious? You should be.

Perhaps it is so much easier to accept the orthodox view over the conspiracy theory because the notion of sharing Dr Kelly's thoughts is too much for most of us to bear. Kelly had some awful things going on his head, he was an expert in biological warfare for crying out loud. Whatever he knew there were others in government circles who didn't want him to share that knowledge. Bumping him off would have been a sure fire way of preventing him speaking and doing any more damage to the MOD's cause. If he died by his own hand then it proves he had a tortured mind, murder on the other hand proves a cover up.

Whatever the truth of the matter it is grim. Kelly's thoughts led to his death and that's a fact. It is human nature to take our views from the wise and the informed but when that extends to political reasoning the subject can consider himself fully brainwashed.

Apropos of nothing ...

I've just read something that is so good simply had to cut and paste it in to my own blog, even without a context to put it in. Here's Charlie Brooker waxing lyrical on the topic of climate change or more exactly climate change scepticism.

"Hey, I'm no scientist. I'm not an engineer either, but if I asked 100 engineers whether it was safe to cross a bridge, and 99 said no, I'd probably try to find another way over the ravine rather than loudly siding with the underdog and arguing about what constitutes a consensus while trundling across in my Hummer." 

The Spanish have a word for it ...

The purpose of language is the expression of ideas. And the expression of ideas can be a very dangerous thing. That's why despotic rulers crack down on freedom of speech. The lexicon of a language therefore delimits thinking, political or otherwise. For instance the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" or WMDs never became current until Bush and Blair desperately needed a casus belli to go to war with Iraq.

Eskimos have twenty-three different words for snow. The reason is pretty obvious; eskimos spend a lot of time hoop-la-ing in the snow, it means a helluva lot to them so that's what they want to talk about. To an eskimo our word snow probably seems awfully generic.

There's an opposite side to the equation too. Some concepts that aren't represented in certain languages. There's an account that a frustrated EU anti-corruption commissioner reckoned there was no word for integrity in Bulgarian, the veracity of this is questionable but the anecdote can still be used to demonstrate something about Bulgarians.  There's the Amazonian Piraha tribe who don't have numbers, but then they only have 300 or so speakers. Of course the need in Piraha society has never evolved to require numbers, they have 'few' 'many' and 'enough' doesn't that sound idyllic?

Now I'm lucky to have the world's most influential language as my mother tongue and I've noticed that it is curiously descriptive-poor in accounting for it's influence. The influence is down to our American cousins and I'm lamenting the fact that the english language has never given them a word all to themselves. Weve all become used to the word American or american but it has more meanings than can properly be said to be useful. It can mean a language or a people or used as an adjective, either for the continent of America or more usually the country of the United States. There is no distinction between all these meanings in english. Our language wrongfully suggests the whole continent were colonized by anglophones too. According to wikipedia George Washington even came out with this bizarre statement in his farewell address "The name of American, [...] belongs to you in your national capacity". Washington was famous for many things and being a freemason was one of them, could this linguistic anachronism be masonic?

Even the phrase United States is not specific enough. There is of course a United States of Mexico. So when ahem americans like to say their country is The United States of America I like to correct them, it is A United States of America. Doesn't quite sound so grand does it?

The spanish speaking world has none of this nonsense and why should they? Most nations of the continent of America have actually adopted an iberian tongue as their official language. So the word 'American' to refer to someone from north of the Rio Grande and south of the 49th parallel is too generic. The spanish have the wonderful word 'estadounidense' for this. It simply means of or from the United States. Why can't we have such a word? I'd like to propose it now : Unitedstatesian, I don't care how it's spelled or pronounced, it may sound odd at first but we'll all get used to it. If someone would like to coin a better word to describe this concept be my guest, but until some word any word to describe the United States is inserted into the lexicon english will be curiously descriptive-poor in this regard.

I'm inspired by George Orwell's excellent essay "Politics and the english language" . Orwell says "But if thought can corrupt language, language can also corrupt thought" . It's a recurring theme of the great man. What I think he was saying was that language can viewed as the chains of a kind of mental slavery, but the key to emancipation is in there somewhere too.