Saturday, 30 May 2009

Carbon Expo CONference

I like Barcelona. In fact, I love the place. So it’s a shame that it just hosted a hideous rabble of bankers and investors punch drunk on the rich elixir of carbon trading, clamoring to learn how such an egregious, misguided ‘solution’ to climate change can earn them a bit more coin in the future.

These deluded beings were at Carbon Expo, an annual “global meeting point for companies operating on the CO2 market… [an] international platform to inform yourself about the latest CO2 projects and climate development.”

A key component of this CO2 market is something called emissions trading, something which is certain to be addressed at the COP15 conference in Copenhagen in December. One of the overriding feelings emanating from the Expo was the belief the industry should lobby policy makers to try and ensure a deal more conducive to the carbon markets is reached at Copenhagen.

The problem is; carbon trading is not an effective remedy. It ‘works’ by placing a cap on emissions whilst governments hand out permits to pollute, which can also be traded between people who have too many or too few. Over time, the cap is lowered, permits become scarce and their cost increases, forcing their owners to look towards renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.

The easiest way to rebuff this mechanism would be to point out that the price of carbon has actually fallen over the past twelve months.

But the real problem is more systemic. The reductions targets are based on the wholly inadequate Kyoto Protocol; reductions claims are privy to 'creative accounting'; the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is essentially offsetting, is nothing more than a license to print money for polluters; deforestation, which accounts for around one-fifth of emissions, is excluded from CDM; and there's a distinct lack of social justice, with the developing world forced to pick our carbon bill and emissions reduction projects forced on people who won't benefit from them. I could go on .

And if that doesn't scare you, how about the fact that this market is based on essentially the same phoney economics as the handcart-to-hell financial system that has now collapsed like a house of cards? One bigwig said of the carbon market: "I guess in some ways it's akin to subprime... You keep layering on crap until you say, 'We can't do this anymore.'"

This is reflected in the audience this particular conference attracts. As well as big, carbon intensive industry, "financial intermediaries, law firms, brokerage firms, accounting and auditing firms, and carbon market consultants" are cited in literature from the organisers, whose barometer for success would appear to be measured on the size of the previous year's conference rather than any direct effect on reducing the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere.

If anything is revealing of their actual commitment to tackling climate change, it's these words from Indra Nooyi, the chief executive officer of PepsiCo, who said: "The fact that I flew here for 1.5 hours to sit on a panel then I'm flying straight back to the US is an example of our commitment to environmental sustainability."

Ye Gods! The last thing we need is these pseudo-environmentalists pressuring the politicos to bow to their demands and make concessions to emissions traders to tie-in climate change prevention with unsustainable economic growth, all so they can make a bit of dollar.

Some things are simply too important to be left to the market. The carbon market is an artificial concept that commodifies something that can’t be valued, placing blind trust in the magical powers of voodoo economics to reduce emissions rather than taking positive action. Carbon trading is like trying to source the cheapest materials for an Anderson shelter whilst the German bombs rain down on your pretty little suburb. The markets are saying "here's the money" before figuring out what the solution is.

Climate change is happening, it's already affecting people in parts of the planet nobody cares about and no amount of quibbling over a few dollars here and there is going to stem global warming unless action is taken now. The only way to abate climate change is to stop extracting fossil fuels. It's all well and good making a few billion in the carbon market but if you have no planet to spend it on, what's the point?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Saro-Wiwa vs Shell Trial Postponed

The legal action brought against Shell by the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa has been postponed indefinitely.

The case was due to start on the 27th May at a federal court in New York City, but Chief Judge Kimba Wood ordered the trial postponed.

No new trial date has been set, but a hearing has been arranged for 1st June and jury selection will start no earlier than 2nd June.

According to Sahara Reporters, there is some speculation that Shell may be trying for an out of court settlement.

Han Shan of the Huffington Post raises another point about Shell trying to draw on legal technicalities to scupper the lawsuit, with regards to a video one of the plaintiffs' lawyers is connected to.

Shell's objections about the lawyer participating in the trial were rejected by the New York court, but were forced to remove the offending video.

Shell would rather you didn't watch the video. So here it is:

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Saro-Wiwa vs Shell

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell will today be dragged kicking and screaming into a federal court in New York City to face allegations that it is complicit in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta.

Most notably, Shell will be taken to task for its role in the public execution of activist, Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995, who along with eight others, was hanged after being found guilty of incitement to murder following the deaths of four tribal elders. However, questions remain over whether Shell in some way influenced the trial's outcome.

Saro-Wiwa, an outspoken critic of the foreign oil companies' operations in the Niger Delta and non-violent human rights activist for the Ogoni people, protested his innocence throughout the trial whilst then dictator of Nigeria, General Abacha, ignored pleas for clemency from the international community.

In November 1995, he was hanged and his body burned with acid and dumped in an unmarked grave. The Nigerian government was slammed by the international community for its actions and kicked out of the Commonwealth. John Major, British Prime Minister at the time said it was "a fraudulent trial, a bad verdict, an unjust sentence. It has now been followed by judicial murder".

The story didn't end with his death and the final statement of Saro-Wiwa at his trial has come back to haunt Shell:

"I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial... The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and... the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company's dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished."

Despite Shell's squirming protestations, they could now be about to face a heavy dose of medicine that may "change the behavior of the industry pretty quickly". The company are being challenged in an American court by Saro-Wiwa's family who are demanding justice be meted out to Shell for "human rights violations in Nigeria, including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest and detention."

The lawsuit has been filed using the 1789 Alien Tort Statute which "grants non-US citizens the right to file lawsuits for international human rights violations" as well as the Torture Victim Protection Right which "allows individuals to seek damages in the U.S. for torture or extrajudicial killing, regardless of where the violations take place".

According to the New York Times, some accusations include: "that Shell employees were present when two witnesses were offered bribes to testify against Mr. Saro-Wiwa... Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s brother Owens has also stated that Shell’s managing director, Brian Anderson (now retired), told him, “If you call off the campaign, maybe we can do something for your brother.

Of course, Shell deny all accusations, pointing out how they eventually faxed the Nigerian government (at the 11th hour) asking that Saro-Wiwa's life be spared. Mr Saro-Wiwa's son, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, however says: "They weren't the hangmen. But their fingerprints are all over it."

A victim of Shell - Image by usnico

The execution of Saro-Wiwa is just the tip of the iceberg. The lawsuit will also bring to light the brutal repression of the Ogoni people by the Nigerian government during the 1990s. These people, of the Ogoni region in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, have faced nothing but environmental devastation and human rights abuses since the foreign oil companies moved in to profit from the area's vast oil resources. In a country where 70 percent of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day, 85 percent of oil revenues go to only one percent of the population.

The non-violent Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was formed to put a stop to these abuses but experienced more violence in return for its campaigns, which were brought to international attention by Saro-Wiwa's writing and tireless campaigning. Faced by mounting pressure from campaigners, it is alleged that Shell enlisted the help of Nigerian government forces to quell the dissent and "one month after the executions of the Ogoni Nine, Shell signed an agreement to invest $4 billion in a liquefied natural gas project in Nigeria".

A gas flare in Nigeria - Image by Rhys

Although there is no longer any oil pumped in the Ogoni region, environmental destruction of the Niger Delta continues to this day. One of the most horrific abuses is the persistence in flaring gas, a way of dealing with waste by-products from drilling for oil. Gas is costly to separate from the more lucrative crude oil, instead, the gas is simply burned off, pumping huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

After Russia, Nigeria is the second worst culprit for flaring gas, a process which releases about 400 million tonnes of CO2 every year, according to a 2007 report from the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership,

Flaring also has a more immediate effect on the Niger Delta. According to a report from Climate Justice, "the flares contain a cocktail of toxins that affect the health and livelihood of local communities, exposing Niger Delta residents to an increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer".

The gases released into the atmosphere from flaring have also led to acid rain forcing some residents to turn to asbestos roofs for their homes. This acid rain has also combined with oil spills into the Niger (a spill compared to being the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every year, destroying one of the world's largest mangroves) to severely degrade the soils that the Nigerian people live and work on. Despite a ban on gas flaring in Nigeria taking effect in January this year, flaring continues.

The lawsuit also begins in the shadow of a new wave of violence across the Delta. Since the 13th May, Nigeria's Joint Task Force (JTF) have carried out attacks in the region in an effort to weed out militant groups, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, who have waged a bloody campaign to wrest control of the Delta's oil supplies from the foreign corporations.

According to reports received by Amnesty International
, hundreds of civilians including women and children have been killed in the crossfire between the two sides. Victor Burubo, spokesman for the Ijaw National Congress, which represents the region's largest ethnic group, said the violence has “resulted in over a thousand deaths, because we dared to ask for our rights".

Shell's first oil well in Nigeria - Image by Rhys

This is nothing new to this continent. Colonialism never ended; it's still alive and kicking. The colonists simply took on a new look. Rather than the sovereigns of England, France, Portugal and Germany lording it over the natives, we now have the CEOs of Shell, Chevron, De Beers and Areva. Wherever there is a valuable natural resource, there will be Western multinationals raping and pillaging the land and the people, destroying lives and habitats as they please.

Shell are quaking in their boots, as is the rest of the oil industry. A decision that falls in favour of Saro-Wiwa's family could pave the way for future human rights cases to be brought against corporations owned or operating in the US. As I write, Chevron are being hauled over hot coals by a coalition of indigenous people from the Ecuadorian Amazon for their destruction of vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest. With some luck, both companies will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“My father always said that one day Shell would be on trial,” said Mr. Saro-Wiwa Jr. “It’s important for those involved in the conspiracy against my father to be held to account. It’s a communal exorcism, if you like, for Shell to account and bear responsibility for what it did.”

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Peruvian Army move in on Indigenous Protests

On Friday I wrote briefly about the situation of the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon, who have been treated like dirt by oil company, Chevron Texaco.

Now it's emerging that indigenous people in neighbouring Peru are facing repressive measures from the Peruvian government, who haven't taken kindly to protests against a decision to open the country to oil exploration and development by foreign companies.

Read more at Google News.

Friday, 15 May 2009

South African fruit pickers want share of the spoils

Recently I wrote how Tesco's £3 billion profits were in part reaped from the hard working, underpaid clothes workers in Bangladesh.

Now fruit pickers in South Africa who provide the once-grocery-now-life-consuming behemoth with produce have told The Guardian about their low pay and struggle to simply get by:
Sitting against her living room's bare brick wall, under a banner that reads "God will make a plan", Kitty De Kock breaks down in tears as she talks about her children.

"If the boss of Tesco was here, I would ask him to make things better on farms, especially for our children because they are our future," she says, head bowed as she tries to compose herself. "If things carry on this way, I don't think they have a future."


I think Hanekom's point about "The UK supermarkets [being] under pressure from consumers. They have very high standards and that is what the consumer demands" is a telling one. Without consumers spending money in their stores, Tesco would be nothing. So let's stop perpetuating this cycle of misery and living the easy life at the misfortune of others and stop pumping money into the Tesco machine.

Chevron Toxico

Yesterday, I unwittingly ventured into the lion's den of one of my most reviled multinational corporations - Chevron Texaco - when I attended a media seminar at Westferry Circus in London. If I'd known where I was going I would have taken with me some images of the people whose lives they've ruined over the years and doorstepped the feckless, arrogant and morally corrupt spawn of Satan, confronting them with the fruit of their labour - the destruction of vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest and the lives of those who live off the land.

Last year I spent some time in Ecuador where I learned about the dire situation of the indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon. For 28 years Chevron, who drilled for oil in Ecuador, created toxic open oil pits and dumped billions of gallons of waste byproducts into the rainforest, an oil disaster that is commonly referred to as the 'Rainforest Chernobyl'. The results have been devastating to the local ecosystem and to the thousands of people whose lives depend upon the rainforest. Well over a thousand cases of cancer have been attributed to the effects of contamination and there has been a distinct increase in the number of pregnancies ending in miscarriage.

But the indigenous tribespeople of the Ecuadorian Amazon are fighting back and taking Chevron to court with a class action lawsuit in the States, not that the Top Ten Forbes Listed company like it one bit. One lobbyist working on behalf of Chevron famously remarked “The ultimate issue here is Ecuador has mistreated a U.S. company. We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this-companies that have made big investments around the world.”

These words defy belief. How dare anybody question the activities of one of the largest, most profitable companies in the world. How dare they dispure their right to rampage across the face of the Earth willy nilly, doing as they please, upsetting who they want, all in pursuit of a bit of green. Year after year, Chevron continue their valiant effort to shirk responsibility for their despicable actions in the Amazon, pouring money into fighting the ever present legal challenge.

But the people of the land remain unbowed, fighting them every step of the way, determined to bring justice to the once pristine rainforest and have Chevron cough up the much needed reparations money so they can rebuild their lives and restore the Amazon to its former glory.

Read in more depth at the ChevronToxico campaign group website.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Parliament moves in on protesters

Rule number one on the tube is not to make eye contact with anybody. Failure to comply could result in puncture wounds from a paranoid commuter. So on the Northern line today I shifted my gaze elsewhere, glanced over some merchant banker's shoulder and happened to land on an article in the Evening Standard, about proposed legislation to further curtail the right to protest outside Parliament, prompted by the ongoing Tamil protests in Parliament Square.

These proposals, drawn up by that bastion of democracy, Commons Speaker Michael Martin, would give police the power to move people on and make it illegal to camp overnight and is nothing less than another attempt to stifle the right to freedom of speech and to protest.

In August 2005, the government introduced a ban on all protests within a kilometre of the Commons without police permission. Failure to notify the police ahead of a demonstration could land organisers in prison for up to nearly a year. Famously, Maya Anne Evans was arrested and charged before magistrates conditionally discharged her for reading out the names of soldiers killed in Iraq at the Cenotaph.

On the proposed law, protester Robin Anthony told the Standard:
"It is not just about us, but the right to freedom of speech. We are supposed to live in a democratic state. Everyone in the UK should have the human right to come and express themselves here. If the British government prevents that, then they are no better than the Sri Lankan government who are committing a genocide against the Tamil people.”
Now I think that's going a bit far. As much as restricting the right to freedom of speech is abhorrent, it pales in comparison with the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians. However, his initial sentiment is right. The Palace of Westminster is the seat of our so-called democracy, the Mother of All Parliaments, and as such people have an inalienable right to protest there. I'd even go so far as to say that right extends beyond citizens of the UK to any citizen of the world affected by issues involving our government.

Barbara Tucker, a peace activist who has been camping outside Parliament alongside veteran peace campaigner Brian Haws, said:
“I've been arrested 30 times and faced a hundred legal action [sic] in the last three years. This is just another arbitrary attempt to prevent peaceful and lawful protest. How can they (the Government) deny access to a public square which is freely open to tourists? There are no public order offences. No violence. They haven't got a leg to stand on under European law.”
Not that the people in power give a toss.
"Councillor Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster Council, said the Tamil protests had shown that a change in the law could not “happen soon enough.”

Mr Barrow said: “Parliament Square is becoming a no go area for law abiding people who wish to enjoy the pleasures of one of London's great squares.

“The City Council wants to see the square policed for all, not for a vociferous minority of protesters. We'll back legitimate protest, but not when it becomes a permanent, or ongoing residence of a place that everyone - visitors and Londoners - should be able to enjoy.”"
Firstly, I don't see in what way it is becoming a no go area for law abiding people. People can still visit and go through the square. As did thousands of London Marathon runners a few weeks ago.

Secondly, he doesn't back legitimate protest, otherwise he would allow protest to take place regardless of the possibility it may continue unabated. I'm sorry Mr Barrow, but protest isn't a whimsical, throwaway, flash in the pan incident. In many cases it has good reason for continuing beyond an afternoon jolly in the London sunshine, as the current plight of the Tamil people shows.

Thirdly, as much as Parliament Square may be a leafy, attractive square in the centre of London, that doesn't mean it should be solely reserved for 'pleasure' and an enjoyable place for American tourists to snap pictures of Big Ben. It's a working environment, the beating heart and very symbol of British democracy, a system we are so proud of we brag about it to the rest of the world. And an integral part of that system is the right to freedom of speech and to protest. If anything, protests outside Parliament should be embraced and used in PR guff as proof that our democracy is alive and kicking. Maybe the Nikon weilding crowds would love to get protesters in the foreground of an iconic shot of Big Ben?

Protesters don't seem to wash much with Commons Speaker Michael Martin either:
"Commons Speaker Michael Martin has told MPs the continued presence of the protesters was a “highly unsatisfactory situation” and had caused an “absolute shambles” by blocking access to the Parliamentary Estate

In a statement, he told the Commons he supports the right to demonstrate but said the recent occupation of the square by Tamil demonstrators disrupted the work of the House, involved considerable cost and exposed many issues of health and safety."
Poor Mr Martin, doesn't like the proles protesting en masse. And as for the protest disrupting the work of the House, maybe if they stopped turning a blind eye and confronted the issues raised by protesters with the determination to resolve said issues, maybe they'd find this disruption would ease. In case you didn't realise, Mr Martin, the House was elected by the people, and when the people raise sensitive issues, you're obliged to listen rather than sweep them aside in yet more quasi-totalitarian legislation.

Furthermore, the cost of policing or managing a protest should never get in the way of the right to protest, but then I guess the House of Commons does have to pay back those expenses somehow. As for the 'issues of health and safety' I don't yet know what they are, as the Hansards haven't been published.

Finally, Deputy Mayor for policing Kit Malthouse weighs in on the action:
“It's for Parliament to decide what it wants - whether it wants protests and for how long - then the police will enforce the rules appropriately.”
Whilst I respect Mr Malthouse keeping the police out of the decision (though I do wonder what manner their consultancy took) the idea that Parliament has a say in whether it wants protests or is incomprehensible. It's our right to protest and they'll put up with protests whether they like it or not. Trying to ban protest from the centre of our government is a ridiculous notion. At the G20 Summit, protesters were kept out of sight of the world leaders at the Excel Centre, penned in by the river, demonstrating to thin air. It was a flimsy protest I wage many people in power failed to see and a worrying taste of what may be to come if Michael Martin has his way.
  • Photos all my own, taken at the World Against War protest, March 2008.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Wage Concern

Unbeknownst to many of you folk out there, this Friday (May 15th) a small bunch of insidious Tory MPs will continue their quest to banish the National Minimum Wage, one of the few successes of the New Labour government.

The Commons will hear the Second Reading of the Employment Opportunities Bill, which aims to make possible the opportunity for employers to opt out of the Minimum Wage, supposedly to encourage more people to get back to work.

The thinking is that people are willing to work for a lower wage if it means they can simply get out of unemployment and has been proposed by Christopher Chope and sponsored by ten other Tory backbenchers.

The minimum wage was introduced to protect workers from exploitation from unscrupulous employers and was fiercely opposed by Tories at the time who argued it would lead to job losses when in fact it helped countless workers by finally giving them a fair wage.

Now they want to effectively abolish it, using the cloak of the Human Rights Act to argue that it imposes unfair restrictions on people's opportunities to work. (This being the Human Rights Act they want to get rid of...)

In the first reading of the bill, Chope said the first people who would benefit are those immigrants seeking work. No doubt they'll benefit in as much as they'll be used as cheap labour.

He also points out that pay cuts aren't just happening in the private sector and refers to Ireland where members of Parliament and senior civil servants have taken a ten per cent pay cut. Does it not occur to him that these people are on significantly higher pay than those in minimum wage paying jobs?

Chope also states that around one million people are working for less than the minimum wage in the so called 'black economy'. The answer isn't to legitimise this, but to combat it and improve the conditions of those working for less.

Furthermore, the bill would force public sector bodies to advertise their vacancies externally, so as to open up more jobs to the wider labour market and give more people the chance to break into the 'magic circle'.

This explains why nine of the eleven sponsors of this bill employ their partners in their offices. (Only Nigel Evans and Brian Binley don't employ family members)

In the House today, Tory MP, Nicholas Winterton said:

"Shouldn't we seek to minimise the cost to employers of employing people, ie, to provide them with an incentive, particularly at this time, to employ people."

This perhaps shows the real motive behind the bill, which is to improve the financial position of the employers, rather than the employees. The Conservatives have never cared about the worker, don't be fooled into thinking this is a change of heart.

Providing an opt out to the minimum wage is a dangerous thing to do. The Tories say it will empower people who are seeking work, but the only people it will empower are the employers who will have more leverage when negotiating pay.

The minimum wage is an important safeguard that protects the lowest paid workers and anything that gnaws away at this will only incentivise employers to go below what is an acceptable wage in return of work in times of high unemployment.

The bill will be read for a second time on Friday. John Prescott and the Usdaw and Unison unions are campaigning against it. To find out more about the bill and what you can do to fight it, visit the Wage Concern website.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Did G20 Police use Agent Provocateurs?

From The Observer:

An MP who was involved in last month's G20 protests in London is to call for an investigation into whether the police used agents provocateurs to incite the crowds.

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake says he saw what he believed to be two plain-clothes police officers go through a police cordon after presenting their ID cards.

Brake, who along with hundreds of others was corralled behind police lines near Bank tube station in the City of London on the day of the protests, says he was informed by people in the crowd that the men had been seen to throw bottles at the police and had encouraged others to do the same shortly before they passed through the cordon.


You don't need me to tell you how abhorrent an idea this is - that the police may have willingly incited violence (for what purpose?). That kind of thing can get you banned from the country, after all...

I wouldn't be surprised if indeed it does become apparent that the police used agent provocateurs. There were certainly some plain clothes policemen there on the day, as The Guardian's video evidence clearly shows. This presence in itself ought to raise questions - the use of plain clothes policemen at such an event is utterly unacceptable. In the tinder box atmosphere where the police treated innocent and militant indiscriminately, the police should be clearly marked out from protesters, but we're all now too well aware of their propensity for making identification difficult.

Let's also not forget that prior to the protests, the police were hyping up the so-called 'Summer of Rage', propagating the idea that a groundswell of violent, anarchist action was imminent in order to frighten people away from the protests and maybe even to validate their tactics ahead of the event. Therefore, if these accusations prove to be true, how can we ever again trust a word the police say?

+ + + + + + +

A union leader stops provocateurs at a protest in Quebec, Canada.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Nadine Dorries Struck Down by Dementia

Poor old Nadine Dorries seems to have fallen beneath the wheels of senile dementia this week.

First of all, the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire launched a broadside against Twitter in her blog, before making some strange comments about Trident on Question Time.

The attack on Twitter took the usual line of "I don't care that such and such ate a salad for lunch". Yawn.

Now I don't want to dissect her entire post like some blinkered, evangelical Twitter addict - that's not what I'm here for - but there are a few points she raises that reveal how clueless and out of touch our Dorris is:

Twittering has to be a symptom of a dysfunctional society. You know the one I’m talking about; when people don’t talk to, care about, help, consider or even interact with each other anymore.

Many people would argue that a bicameral legislature composed of doddering old fools there mainly through birth right and elected representatives who splash taxpayer money willy nilly on their own delectations is a symptom of a dysfunctional society.

In fact, Twitter is a symptom of a functioning society, whose citizens engage one another.

The idea that Twitter means "people don't talk to, care about, help, consider or even interact with each other anymore" is a baffling, contradictory argument to make.

Twitter is nothing BUT talking and interaction. Unfortunately for Dorries she seems to think it's all about talking TO people, rather than talking WITH people. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.

The Twestival events in February clearly show that people do care about others and do something to help them. That's why Twitterers raised thousands of pounds for a water charity in Africa. Furthermore, I've personally made numerous connections through Twitter with people who care about the same issues as myself. It's now an invaluable tool for me in that regard and countless more users consider it in the same way.

She then goes on to say:

A survey last week found that the average Briton has three good friends. That’s the dysfunctional society I’m talking about. The one where it seems to me people are creating their own online virtual communities and friends.

What's wrong with creating virtual communities and making friends online? It broadens your horizons and introduces you to new, interesting people with shared interests and provides a platform and means to achieve things, anything.

At the beginning of her blog, she states that "I exclude from this observation those who use twitter to enhance their existing online presence". Well surely building online communities is an extension of an existing online presence?

Dorries ends her post by saying that she'll stick to blogging. In this case, her blog is just a vehicle to spout whatever bollocks she's thinking of at that point in time. A brief perusal of her posts reveals a well functioning comment section, but one that is devoid of any Dorries. Great engagement there, Nadine, thumbs up!

As the line between virtual and real life becomes ever more blurred, you'd be a fool to shun such networks as Twitter. It is something an MP should be embracing - the ability to engage with their constituents.

But not as big a fool as say, an MP who states that the Trident nuclear deterrent isn't a weapon of mass destruction, like, um, Dorries said on Question Time on Thursday.

I don't know what to make of this. It didn't sound like some slip of the tongue or muddled words, and she wrote only a few days ago about her worryingly hawkish support for Trident. Is she a proponent of doublethink? Or more likely, is it that nuclear warheads don't count as WMDs when they're in our hands, but if some phantom enemy in a desert in the Middle East has them, then it's cause for concern?

Go back to sleep Dorries.