Israel and complaints

I believe the Israeli government is in breach of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights in many ways.  It flaunts international law, fails to respect or protect the rights of Palestinians, occupies land illegally and treats Arabs as second class citizens. It is aggressively taking over more land. It fails to treat the people of Gaza with any respect using any excuse to deny them the basics needed to live and humiliate them whenever they can.

Note this view has nothing to do with people of Jewish faith, it’s about the government of Israel and their abhorrent behaviour.  It’s about time our politicians stood up to the government of Israel, call them out on what they are doing and stop giving them support.

Much ado about nothing

What’s getting my goat today is all those stupid politician’s in Westminster complaining that the UK Parliament is going to be suspended for a month then there will be a Queen’s Speech when they get back. They state this is undemocratic. What they are forgetting in their false ire is that Parliament is normally suspended from mid-September to mid-October for the “conference season”. It starts with the TUC, then Lib Dems, Labour and finally the Tories. What is different this time is the Queen’s Speech which many rightly complain is overdue. They are all getting their knickers in a twist over what is normal – an annual event.

Picture of UK Parliament
UK Parliament Buildings

And of course, its all because they want to scrutinse “the deal”. Something they already done several times and rejected several times and failed to come up with a viable alternative.

A Citizen’s Assembly

The Scottish Government have recently announced (https://www.citizensassembly.scot/) they will arrange to conduct a “citizen’s assembly” to discuss the future of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats party leader has indicated he will not participate in this exercise as they believe it is just a “whitewash” with the results being ignored if it says in it’s not in favour of independence. Of course this is not party policy as it hasn’t been discussed at conference, it’s just a statement from the party leader. For myself I treat this as a very negative, knee-jerk response to suit party circumstances. It’s not a response I’m in favour of. Personally I feel this type of assembly has a place in modern politics and political parties should be seeking more co-operation on issues they have in common and using these assemblies to help iron out our differences.

A citizen’s assembly is formed to deliberate on issues of national importance and propose answers to these issues through rational and reasoned discussion. The membership of that assembly is randomly selected. The conclusion may require a referendum to be conducted before the results are implemented.  But, this may depend on what level of government these assemblies take place at. They don’t need to be at government level but taken down to local authority council.

The people who take part are chosen so they reflect the wider population – in terms of demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).

Governments or administrations should only be involved in setting these up and providing funds and accepting the results. The actual process of the assembly should be organised independently of the administration. Groups that could be involved in arranging this are Involve (https://www.involve.org.uk/), Unlock Democracy (https://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/), Electoral Reform Society Scotland (https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/), What Works Scotland (http://whatworksscotland.ac.uk/).  That would help ensure independence of the entire process. Meetings could be held on-line and, importantly in person at times and venues accessible to many people.

Iceland’s recent review of its constitution is an example of what an assembly could do (https://theconversation.com/icelands-crowd-sourced-constitution-hope-for-disillusioned-voters-everywhere-67803).

The Challenge of Weight Maintenance

For the first 4 months of 2019 I have struggled with my weight.

This started with Xmas and has carried on. I have attempted to  loose some of the weight gain but it has proved difficult. As a result I suspect I may be close to being back into the range of Type 2 Diabetes. I just glad I’ve not been tested and I have time to try harder to prevent this lapse.

Apart from concerns with certain family members the main reason seems to be returning to old eating habits. My level of exercise is fine, it’s what I’m eating that is the root cause. Slipping back to ‘comfort eating’ is the downfall. “You are what you eat”.

What I’m trying to do now is say, “I can only eat what’s in the cupboards’, ‘if I don’t buy it I can’t eat it’.  This means being more careful when doing my food purchases. Walk past the sweeties, the cakes, the ice cream tubs, the single puddings. Don’t buy the mocha with cream (and the ginger snap biscuits) at the rail station. That’s where I believe I’m going wrong.

I’m not going on holiday this summer. Normally on holiday I do lots of steps. My record 1 day total was 29,233 achieved wandering around Colmar. I’ve done over 20,000 steps several times. To give me an incentive,  I’ve signed up to do the Diabetes UK One Million Step Challenge. Between 1st July and end of September I’m going to walk 1 million steps, about 500 miles (walking the Serengeti in Fitbit terms) or 10,000 steps per day. I’m not expecting this to help me loose weight but help to control what weight I am when I start.  To be honest it’s not much of a difference in how far I walk anyway, just a wee stretch. And I’m not fussy about the fund-raising rewards for participating.

Children asking parents a question on climate change

An interesting article on The Conversation web-site and I thought I would highlight just one bit of it.

First the children should work out what the parents CO2 emissions were last year, yes they’ll have to ask their parents lots of questions about this or get them to provide the answer (there are various carbon calculators online – and the average is about seven tonnes of fossil CO₂ per person in Europe). Then multiply that figure by £200 per tonne of CO2, and suggest the parents pop that amount into a trust fund that will enable the children to clean up after them in the 2040s.

If the parents reply, “don’t worry, dear, that’s what we pay taxes for”, the children should ask them who they voted for in the last election and whether spending their taxes on solving climate change featured prominently in that party’s manifesto.

For more on this read here.

Workplace Parking Levy

This is a proposal from the Scottish Green Party that was put forward as part of the Scottish Parliament’s Budget process in February 2019. To make it into law, it requires the current Transport Bill before Parliament to be amended to include it.

The Workplace Parking Levy should be welcomed by anyone who wants to make sure our air in towns and cities is safe to breathe. The costs to the Scottish Health Service and to everyone’s health, of the Government’s continued feet-dragging on air pollution are enormous. The Workplace Parking Levy (WPL), which is an option that Councils can choose to implement, can help raise revenue to plough back into public transport in the local area.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

The powers around the levy should be as broad as possible to suit the local circumstances. This could mean that Councils can create tailored exemptions, for certain types of workers or in areas where public transport isn’t a feasible option yet. Councils should also listen to calls to extend the idea of the levy to out-of-town shopping centres or other non-residential premises.

If Scotland’s parking levy follows the successful example of Nottingham, it will only apply to businesses with more than 10 parking spaces. It has raised over £50 million so far that has been re-invested in a comprehensive tram network, a smart card scheme, and cycle infrastructure. It’s been a boost to the local economy as well, with Nottingham outperforming other cities for job creation. Businesses have said the reduced congestion has made deliveries easier, and the tram network has made the city a better place to live, attracting highly-skilled workers.

Could the Workplace Parking Levy help cut air pollution?

Scotland has a public health crisis due to the air pollution that chokes our towns and cities. The vast majority of this toxic air comes from traffic, with pollution generally peaking with rush hour traffic. The WPL recognises the cost of that air pollution on wider society but cleverly puts the funds raised into providing better, cleaner transport alternatives for people.

Scarcely a week goes by without another shocking piece of research showing the damaging effects of vehicle-emission air pollution on our bodies. At levels seen on Scottish streets, pollution is linked to heart attacks and strokes, dementia, low birth weight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed.

The Levy will enable much-needed investment in public transport that can take hundreds of cars off the roads. This will reduce congestion, improve journey times for buses, and free up space for emergency vehicles and others who need to use the roads.

The UK has the highest incidence of childhood respiratory illness in Europe and record numbers of people died from asthma in England and Wales last year. Experts are pointing to toxic air pollution as a major factor in this mounting problem. Another study in Dundee last year linked spikes in local air pollution levels to increasing hospital admissions.

A Workplace Parking Levy could help make our transport system fairer

Almost one in three people in Scotland don’t have access to a car which for some of us in an option but only where existing transport links are very good. We know that bus users are disproportionately lower paid workers or those seeking employment or those retired from paid work but still want to get around. Funding mechanisms like Workplace Parking Levies that improve the availability and accessibility of public transport will start to address the unfairness of our current transport system.

The other huge win from reducing traffic on our roads will be for our climate. Transport is the largest source of climate pollution in Scotland and has barely changed since 1990. If we want to meet our climate targets, we need to implement ideas like these which improve alternatives to the car.

The costs of driving a car has fallen over the past twenty years, while our understanding of the cost to wider society continues to grow. The WPL is a positive step in the right direction that could give more people the freedom to choose their mode of travel and enjoy their journey to work.

Future?

What to look forward to in next 12 months?

a) Scotland teams win both world cups; b) change in UK govt; c) euro parl elections; d) various party leadership changes; e) Scottish independence; f) various wild celebrations on 30th March; g) we continue to fuck the planet.

Type 2 Diabetes – Annual MOT

I’ve had my two annual appointments early this month – December 2018.

The first with the GP Surgery, the 2nd with the Trial Legacy Project. I’m still in remission though my HbA1c has increased slightly. This was not a surprise as I had put weight back on over the summer – back up to 94.5Kg at one point. I’m now down to 91-92Kg. My cholesterol level has improved since last year and my kidney function slows slight improvement too – the benefit of using My Diabetes My Way, I can see all this info myself.

I now have to decide how I go about loosing some more of the weight gain.

The shortest day

Today is the shortest day of the year. It has been classed as a pre-Christian festival, the Feast of Juul, and was observed mainly in Scandinavia but also in other Germanic cultures. Fires would be lit to symbolise the heat and light of the returning sun and a Yule log was gathered and burnt in the hearth as a tribute the Norse god Thor. Bonfires would be lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider.  It also has connections to Celtic paganism.

UK and the EU

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is due to leave the European Union at 11pm on 29th March 2019. That’s what the law says. So why do those people advocating extending Article 50 or revoking it, not mention that to do so means changing the law!