Two thirds of Earth’s resources already used, claims the BBC.

I just heard a BBC reporter say this, without much qualification, and giving the impression that this was a very credible claim.

This claim was apparently based on a report by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment team (who were funded by – who else? the UN), although the BBC simply reported this as “a team of hundreds of scientists”, without even saying who they were (had to go to the BBC website for that), or reporting on the strongly political nature of the report

I haven’t yet found any such claim in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’s report, although it may be in there somewhere. But I’ve no doubt that the reporter was given this figure by someone connected with the report, though whether this was one of the scientists involved (and some distinguished scientists like Robert May are involved), or just a secretary or PR person, I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s grossly irresponsible. Two-thirds? Whatever some green-leaning biologists may think, any economist could tell you that this is rubbish. After all, the great proportion of our consumption of resources has occured in the last 100 years. If we’ve used up most of the two-thirds in that time, that means they’ll all run out in about 30-50 years. In fact, given the increased prosperity of the developing world, and the increasing consumption in the developed world, we should run out well before that, if this claim is correct.

So in about twenty years time, we can expect there to be no steel, no sugar, no water, no rice, no wood, no plastic, no farmable land, no cotton, no oil, no energy, no fruit-bearing trees, no aluminium, no wheat, no copper, no rubber, no nothing’. Now, you don’t have to be Julian Simon to think this is a scare story. (In fact, the very opposite is more likely – in 20-50 years time, these resources will more cheaper and more plentiful than ever.)

Update 30-3: The Guardian also has a Two-thirds of world’s resources ‘used up’ headline.

Tim Worstall, meanwhile, has noticed that the report is calling for solutions that sound decidely, well, free market-ish.

There was a fascinating letter

in yesterday’s Scotsman. It concludes:

Further evidence of Beeb blinkers was the fact that story of its own 176 job cuts was the lead on Reporting Scotland last Monday. On the same day, Babcock at Rosyth announced 320 job losses and this didn’t merit a mention. Is this the kind of quality journalism that Mr Low seeks to maintain?

The demonstration against the Iraq War.

Who was the typical attendee? Here are some pictures of the crowd and their banners. Note the preponderance of “Free Palestine” signs. (And the ones saying, “Victory to the Iraqi Resistance!”) However the BBC quotes an ex-soldier and a lady from CND.

(Via Rottweiler Puppy – read his comments – and House of Dumb)

UPDATE: Following Rottweiler Puppy’s links, I see that the BBC ran not one but two picture-series illustrating the demo. (I don’t remember them doing that for the ten times bigger Countryside Alliance march.) This series of ten pictures consists of: (1) Side view of the crowd, (2) Man with lots of badges, (3) Lady with sign saying “Make Tea not War”, (4) Crowd shot from front, centred on a Trade Union banner, (5) Two ex-soldiers carrying symbolic model coffin – note the caption states as bald fact that 100,000 people have been killed by the war, a highly controversial claim, (6) Peace choir, (7) Coffin guys again, (8) Hippy with quirky sign, (9) “Women say no to war” sign carried, not surprisingly, by women, and finally (10) a shot from the speech platform where Messrs Benn and Galloway graced the multitudes.

This series of eight pictures shows (1) Mum & kid, (2) guy with sign saying “End occupation now”, (3) old lady, (4) the “make tea, not war” lady again, (5) gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, (6) family with dog, (7) a young Asian girl in Western dress, bareheaded, (8) Andrew Murray of the Stop The War Coalition. (And of the British Communist Party; not that you’d get any hint of that from the BBC.)

A splendid collection of lovable British eccentrics, eh? The BBC quotes a mother of two daughters who says their father is out there and who thinks it is nice that her girls can be around “people who care.” The Guardian says that, ‘Protesters sang: “George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam.”‘ Caringly, no doubt, but it is odd what a different tone the Guardian takes talking to the faithful compared to the BBC talking to a general audience.

Notably absent are crowd shots taken from such a distance that you can read a wide selection of banners, though picture (4) does show one “Free Palestine”. Compare them again to the pictures linked to earlier. I am told, though I do not know this from my own knowledge, that the green flags with Arabic writing are Hamas flags.

The BBC, somewhat defensively, mentions that the placards carried by the protesters were pre-printed. I must say at once that I recall from my own days attending CND and Anti-Nazi League marches that the distribution of banners may not accurately represent the distribution of opinion. That said, the banners do represent the people that the marchers are willing to be seen with.

All but one of these eighteen pictures focused on white people. Other reports of the march suggested that among the crowd there was quite a high percentage of non-white people, overwhelmingly Muslims. Many have enthused about the way Muslims have been brought into politics by this very issue. The Muslim Association of Britain, along with CND and the Stop the War Coalition, was one of the three organisations that organised the march. I fully support the right of people of all races, all religions and all opinions to peacefully demonstrate. But it is striking that the BBC, an organisation that usually goes out of its way to illustrate racial and religious diversity, should under-represent minorities and Muslims in traditional dress in its pictoral record of the demonstration.

Do you want to see a full length film or an irrelevant full length advert obscuring the film all the way through?

Viewers of BBC3 were recently treated to a showing of Castaway – complete with “an on-screen message promoting Casanova… for the duration of the film”, which, apart from being annoying, presumably obscured some of the more, shall we say, revealing aspects of the film.

According to BBC Complaints, people were unhappy, and “some viewers found this ‘programme pointer’ distracting”. What a surprise! They continue “We do not usually put such pointers over films but on this occasion wanted to draw people’s attention to Casanova and felt this was a useful service”.

Aw bless! The poor old BBC, doing its best to provide a useful service to those ungrateful viewers! What utter tosh. It’s the same old BBC arrogance that we see time and again, obsessed with promoting itself and its expanding media empire before all else.

The BBC’s constant adverts for itself are a constant source of irritation – taking up more and more of our already paid for viewing time. It’s not unusual for a programme break to feature: 1) closing titles with a split screen and voice over trailing something else; 2) a ‘coming next’ clip (i.e. next after the adverts!); 3) a lengthy trail for the BBC; 4) another lengthy trail for the BBC; 5) a summary of what’s on other BBC channels; 6) a voiceover about what’s coming up after the programme that’s about to start; 7) a BBC ‘ident’ – e.g. on BBC1 we get one of the red themed artsy people prancing around to simpering music idents (what was wrong with the popular hot air balloon idents featuring beautiful landscapes from around our beautiful country? Presumably they weren’t red enough or artsy enough or non-British enough for the comrades that run BBC1). We’re even getting BBC adverts stuffed into the previously non-existent gap between the Six O’Clock News and the local news!

On terrestrial commercial TV in the UK, advertising is limited, on average, to a maximum of seven minutes per hour. I read recently that the BBC currently spends up to five minutes per hour advertising itself. If this is really the case, the BBC’s case for refusing paid for advertising is weak – they could replace some of their own blather with paid-for adverts – and we viewers wouldn’t notice the difference.

Well, actually, we would notice a couple of differences: 1) The Telly Tax (a.k.a. licence fee) would be cheaper; 2) there’d be less repetition of boring BBC adverts*. Additionally, TV advertising would be more plentiful, which might open up UK TV advertising to more smaller, leaner businesses rather than the high-price high-cost operators who currently dominate TV advertising. Before anyone asks, ITV, C4 and Sky are all more than big enough to look after themselves in a changing world!

* Technology will soon deal with boring, repetitious adverts – a PC could filter out crap advertising as soon as it spots it – e.g. by turning down the volume or by automatically switching to another channel and then back again when the programme resumes and so on (just imagine, no more of those slit your wrists “The Big Game. You know it… blah blah blah” adverts that Sky News insist on running month after month!). Adverts that work will then have to be either useful and informative or amusing and entertaining, or, at the very least, not plain irritating.

Would you just listen to what he says

The Beeb journalist is reporting about Iraqi kidnappings. It’s bad news. Naturally he gets over-excited while interviewing people:

‘On the wall behind him the faces of the handful of kidnappers they’ve captured stare out. Black and white images of the men who terrorise their fellow citizens.

“What I want is for the government to apply the law that deals with kidnapping. They should hang criminals to keep the peace.”

Most Iraqis are the same. People here – children and adults, civilians and the police – all tell you that for now security is more important than democracy.’


He said he supported the death penalty as part of following the laws of his land (according to the testimony the BBC have presented us with), not that he was prepared to sacrifice democracy for security. Of course the Beeb think that democracy and the death penalty are incompatible, but that’s just their opinion. Maybe a cross-section of Iraqis would say that they prefer security to democracy, but that didn’t appear to be their answer when they faced insecure elections and the terrorists asked the questions.

BBC Newspeak: Four legs good, two legs bad*, public good, private bad.

This evening BBC News Online’s news ticker flashed up: “Prisoner found hanged in his cell at a privately-run Warwickshire jail”, which linked to Prisoner found hanged in his cell, which reads:

A prisoner has been found hanged in his cell at a Warwickshire jail.

Michael Bailey, 23, was serving a four-year sentence at the privately-run HMP Rye Hill for supplying drugs.

He arrived at the prison in December after being convicted at Birmingham Crown Court.

There will be an investigation by the prison and probation service ombudsman Stephen Shaw, a Prison Service spokeswoman said.

She added: “Every death in custody is a tragedy and we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Bailey.”

On the face of the evidence thus presented, the private ownership of the prison is irrelevant to the story. So why mention it? If the ownership of the prison is germane, then by all means explain why it matters, but until then it should be left out – unless of course the BBC intends to point out the ownership of every prison and other public service when reporting incidents within those services, complete with the implication that the incident is in some way related to the ownership of the service.

In a similar vein of public good, private bad, we’ve recently had a rash of right-on BBC hidden camera Inside Story exposés, including The Secret Policeman, the BNP, a privately run prison, privately run immigration detention centres and transport, privately run airport security, Yes Car Credit, etc. etc.

While almost all of these have been interesting and informative, they also tend to breathlessly emphasise the private ownership of privately run services, as if that is the sole or main cause of any lax management, inefficiency or abuse that is uncovered. Perish the thought that a publicly owned and run service could ever be lax, inefficient or abusive!

I look forward, in the interests of justice and fearless investigative journalism, to future exposés. Here are a few suggestions for the BBC to turn it’s fly-on-the-wall attention to:

  • Local Government – an investigation into inefficiency, fraud, maladministration and corruption in local government – at least two full programmes worth here: 1) Housing benefit administration – how much fraud really goes on? 2) Planning officers and committees – how easy is it for corrupt officers and developers to subvert the planning process against the interests of local residents?


  • The Police service and the Home Office – investigating the effect of government targets and bureaucracy in the fight against crime;


  • The Immigration Service – how effective and efficient is the immigration service? Why does it take so long to process immigration cases? Are the rules always followed? How easily can the system be abused?


  • The NHS and the Dept. of Health – investigating the effect of government targets and bureaucracy in the health service;


  • The Far Left – an inside view of the kaleidoscopic splinter world of Britain’s far left activists, exposing, for example, the involvement of the SWP in the establishment and operation of the Stop the War Coalition. Does the hard left still plan and theorise about how best to foment revolution in the UK, do they engage in entryism and agitation, and so forth;


  • The Fire Service – just what do firemen get up to when they’re on duty but not on call? How much moonlighting (second jobs) goes on, and how does it affect their ability to perform their public duties?


  • HM Customs & Excise – an exposé of the zeal with which Customs & Excise meet their collection targets even where it involves bankrupting otherwise viable businesses (employers) with short-term cash-flow problems, at greater cost to the state than delaying or temporarily foregoing tax collection;


  • Religious worship & teaching – what’s really being said in private in Britain’s churches, mosques, temples and synagogues? Do they all honestly promote community cohesion? Or are there instances of hate-speech and indoctrination?


  • The Passport Office – how easy is it to get a British passport, even if you’re not entitled to one? How much does it cost? How scrupulous are background checks? Do they check the validity of counter-signatures properly? etc.


  • Animal Rights terrorism – an inside view of the harassment and terrorism of legal businesses and their employees by animal rights extremists, and the loopy logic they use to justify their activities.

While we’re at it, we could also have a secret fly-on-the-wall film of the day-to-day goings on at BBC news – both in newsrooms and out and about, including: 1) the selection, prominence and fact checking of stories; and 2) the tricks that journalists and camera operators get up to present participants favourably or unfavourably.

I’m sure Biased BBC readers will be able to suggest many sensible additions to the list of public services and institutions that could do with the astringent glare of national exposure. Investigating public services is a public service in itself – unlike the private sector, where you can walk away and get a better deal elsewhere, most government services are a monopoly – you pay what you’re told to and you get what you’re given. It’s time for more Lights, Camera, Action!

* from Animal Farm, by George Orwell – a concise satire of the Soviet Revolution and Stalinism – very relevant to politics in general. Full text online in various places, including here at Project Gutenberg of Australia.

Watching and waiting, but not holding my breath.

On Wednesday March 16th BBC News Online featured a story Italy ‘hopes’ for Iraq withdrawal, that begins:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed that he “hopes” to begin pulling out Italian troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

Mr Berlusconi told the US president of his plans to begin withdrawing troops this September in a telephone call.

Mr Berlusconi said the decision to remove his troops would depend on Iraq’s security situation.

On Friday March 18th, The Times featured a story Italian troops to stay, after all, that begins:

TO BITING criticism from the Italian Opposition and the press, Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, backtracked yesterday over his announcement that Italian troops would start withdrawing from Iraq in September, claiming that this had only ever been a “hope” rather than a commitment.

On Tuesday night Signor Berlusconi had caused consternation in London and Washington by declaring on state television that Italy would begin a “progressive withdrawal” of its 3,000-strong contingent from Iraq starting in September, provided local security conditions allowed this.

The Times story adds:

Yesterday, however, Italian newspapers carried a “clarification” from Signor Berlusconi’s office stating that after a “long and cordial” conversation with President Bush the Italian leader wished to make it clear that there was “no fixed date” for withdrawal, which could only take place “in consultation with our allies”.

Signor Berlusconi said that the media had misinterpreted his words and built “castles in the air”.

The difference in emphasis between the two reports is interesting. Whilst there are clear differences in the timings of the two reports, they both refer to essentially the same events, yet the BBC version emphasises the confirmation of hopes for withdrawal as soon as possible, whereas The Times notes that this “had only ever been a ‘hope’ rather than a commitment”. Perhaps the BBC is in the process of belatedly writing up Mr. Berlusconi’s clarification, to avoid any misleading impressions becoming established fact, as demonstrated in a BBC report from Saturday March 19th, Iraq rally hears troops out call:

Scottish Socialist Party national convener Colin Fox said the announcement that 3,000 Italian troops are to leave Iraq showed that the “illegal occupation” was unravelling.

Clearly the Italian troops are not leaving Iraq yet, and there is no firm plan or date for them to do so – so the BBC quote above is misleading. At the very least it needs more quotemarks to make it clear that it is the far-left speaking rather than the BBC (for those of us who hope and believe that there is a difference between the two!).

P.S. The satire-mongers among us may enjoy the cartoons described by The Times: ‘La Repubblica retaliated with a front-page cartoon showing the Prime Minister declaring: “I never said what I said, and if I did say it, I misrepresented myself”. The cartoon in Corriere della Sera had Signor Berlusconi dictating a statement reading: “I have agreed with Bush on an immediate withdrawal – that is, the immediate withdrawal of what I said on television”‘.

Mark Thompson, BBC Chief: a Director General with bite!

According to The Grauniad: “Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director general, is gaining a reputation as something of a rottweiler as he slashes into the corporation’s staffing structure. Yesterday this image took on a physical manifestation when allegations emerged that, when he was editor of the Nine O’Clock News, Mr Thompson sank his teeth into the arm of a colleague…”

Sounds like more of a gnasher than a slasher then. We wait with interest to see how the BBC gets its teeth into this story!

Update: News Online’s Entertainment page has a link, BBC bites back over Mark Thompson “horseplay”, to their story about old BiteMark: BBC playing down biting incident.

Searching through the haystack

of this article by Paul Reynolds at BBConline I couldn’t find a needle of criticism or even meaningful analysis of the UN. Maybe you’ll be luckier. All I found was Reynolds regurgitating Mr Annan’s lofty sayings and emphasising how important they were at a time when there is a lot of ‘hostility’ in the US:

‘In the United States, there is still hostility to the UN and Mr Annan’s own position has been weakened by the oil-for food programme, in which his own son has been the subject of inquiry.’

Here’s Reynolds’ laughable version of powerful ‘for and against’ arguments in the US (hint, it’s not the arguments that are powerful, just the pedigree of the arguers, as is usual with Reynolds. Almost as laughable is the title ‘High Level group’ conferred on one advisory panel Annan has drawn on):

‘The former American UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a Democrat, who negotiated an end to the Bosnian war, said: “Without us the UN will fail. And if it fails, we will be among the many losers.”

But another UN ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, in a terse statement, said that “only the officers and functionaries of the UN” could “restore confidence in the United Nations”.’

However, I could find some useful stuff from Claudia Rosett. She knows how to needle:

‘in much the same way that despots faced with popular unrest like to announce giant patriotic dam-building projects involving the pouring of huge amounts of cement, Mr. Annan is presenting his new improved save-the-world reform plan, conveniently timed to serve as a distraction from the oil-for-fraud, sex-for-food, theft, waste, abuse and incompetence stories that for the past two years have bubbling up around the same U.N. he already reformed for us back in 1997.’

But here’s where she’s sure to get Reynolds and co’s sacred goat:

‘The grand failure of the U.N. is that its system, its officials and most visibly its current secretary-general are still stuck in the central-planning mindset that was the hallmark of dictators and failed utopian dreams of the previous century.’