Saturday, 21 January 2012

Two observations on the Costa Concordia

Firstly an observation. As Richard North posted several days ago, stock pictures of the ship in port show a large EU symbol on the bows, aft of the ship's name. Since then I have searched largely in vain for a shot of the waves lapping around the symbol as it slowly sinks beneath the sea. Aerial photos of poor definition show that it's still there, but none of the flush of hi-def close up pics of the wreck show this at all. Can there be a little bit of news manipulation here?

Secondly, many have commented that the ship is lying on the opposite side to the gash in her hull, which is counter-intuitive. I can think of only one explanation, based on the free surface effect. In a vessel with a high centre of gravity, turning to port or starboard, or even the operation of bow thrusters, may induce a 'lean' in the direction of turn. Normally this doesn't signify, but with an engine room deep in water and without longitudinal bulkheads, this may cause the mass of water to shift to the opposite side of the ship beyond the point of recovery of vertical stability. Unlike proper sea going ships like the QMII, which can take an Atlantic storm, modern cruise liners are like steel shoeboxes. If this is the case, I would expect MAIB to comment on the sea conditions in which it is safe for such British flagged vessels to operate. 

Friday, 20 January 2012

Don't worry M'lud it's normal

The story that urine has been found in food and drink served to judges and counsel at Snaresbrook Crown Court has led everyone to leap to the conclusion that vengeful crims have deliberately adulterated their lordships' nosh. The reality may be more innocent, and hidden in the story;
A source told The Sun: 'Hygiene inspectors started an investigation. People are worried there might be someone working in the kitchens with a serious grudge against the legal system. They've suspended the entire catering staff including many old women who have worked there for donkey's years.'
I seem to recall that widespread geriatric incontinence among the aged kitchen staff at my own boarding school lent the food a piquant flavour that cannot have been unfamiliar to many of our learned friends at Snaresbrook. And I daresay it does no-one any great harm.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hockney and Spielberg

Just a few years ago, painting was old hat. The Turner prize never went to a painter. Saatchi didn't pay top dollar for paintings. Painters, even very good ones such as Freud and Patrick Caulfield, were relegated to the second tier. Unless of course the paintings were produced by spin machine or manufactured by impoverished art students in an East End factory, painting just wasn't cutting-edge. I'm not decrying the importance of the YBAs as a phenomenon of their time - Rachel Whiteread, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin will, in time, rise in reputation against Damien and their auction prices will equalise. But like the post-punk age, we've all been hanging about waiting to see what will follow the age of the YBAs and Saatchi, and the answer may well be ... painting. Certainly if Hockney's exhibition at the RA is anything to go by. Worth a trip up to London for, and worth £29.95 for the softback catalogue.


Spielberg's Warhorse is worth waiting for the DVD release if, like me, you prefer to weep in private. The thought of being stuck in a cinema full of the openly lachrymose is really quite an unpleasant prospect. The moral message - good overcomes evil, love conquers all - is one I wholeheartedly support. It's a theme that also runs through every film made by the Disney studios, some of which are dreadfully crass in artistic terms, yet worthy still if they manage to win a single convert from the cinematic world of violent death and human degradation. 


Both Hockney and Spielberg, each in their own way, scores a small victory for Good.  

Monday, 16 January 2012

What would MAIB make of it ...

The red tops are picking up the gossip and rumour around the grounding and sinking of the Italian cruise liner: The captain was seen to spend the previous evening in the bar with a stunning blonde. As an act of braggadocio he promised to set an alternative course to get close enough to the Isola del Giglio to signal to someone on shore, but got too close. He fled the ship with the women and babies, covered in a blanket. All, to date, unjustified and unproven allegations that no doubt will be repeated and fill many column inches.


Thank goodness for our own dear MAIB.  

Welfare must be local

Following on from the post below, I think this issue is the crux of the debate on where the whole right-of-centre is headed. Nick Drew is a wise old bird with much high-level real life experience in politics and local government, and I take his points below. Wherever local governance entities just distribute largesse from on high, there will be unfairness and corruption; the people attracted to such duties will include many seeking to gain from graft, peculation, sleaze and fraud. However, the same doesn't hold where Welfare costs are levied and borne locally. As James Bartholomew wrote in the Speccie;
So what happens if you are, say, a young mother in Switzerland with a little baby but no husband or similar on the scene and nowhere to live? There is no countrywide answer to this question because it is not dealt with on a national basis. It is not even dealt with by one of the 26 cantons. It is dealt with by your local commune. There are 2,900 of these and their population can be anything from 30 to 10,000 or more. 
Officials from this ultra-small local government will come and investigate your individual circumstances. The father will be expected to pay. The mother’s family, if it is in a position to, will be expected to house and pay for her. As a last resort, the young mother will be given assistance by the commune. But the people who pay the local commune taxes will be paying part of the cost. You can imagine that they will not be thrilled at paying for a birth or separation that need never have taken place. Putting yourself in the position of the mother — and perhaps the father — you can imagine that you will be embarrassed as you pass people in the street who are paying for your baby. Instead of feeling you have impersonal legal rights, as in Britain, you are taking money from people you might meet at your local cafĂ©. No wonder unmarried parenting is less common. 
A similar system applies if you need means-tested benefits. Those made redundant receive, for a while, generous unemployment insurance payments from the cantonal governments. But once these payments run out, people depend again on their local commune. You would be cautious of claiming fraudulently because, if you worked in the black economy, your chances of being spotted would be high. And so it is that Switzerland has the second highest rate of male employment in the OECD. Britain’s rate is about 50 per cent worse.
I simply don't believe the Swissies are any more moral, fair, equitable and uncorrupt than Brits, or that the fairness and probity exercised by the Swiss communes are beyond the capacity of local Welfare panels in the UK. 


IDS' great behemoth of a Welfare State is as doomed to failure as its predecessor.