Saturday, 14 April 2012

Turf Accountants

A debate on R4's 'today' on the alleged increasing dominance of High Streets by bookies (betting shops, or bookmakers and turf accountants in old-speak) presents the issue as one that can be determined by planning or licensing controls. As ever, the issue is both broader and more complex than this. In getting rid of the dingy yellow dens rendolent with the scent of baccy, sweat and old socks and replacing them with bright, clean shops in bold colours the bookie firms have ensured their own survival when others on the High Street have gone to the wall, but this is by no means the only reason for their greater visibility.

Urban shopping parades are dependent for their success and composition on one major factor - passing footfall. If you create a street frontage busy with people, it will attract better shops. This is also linked to parking opportunities; the more attractive and varied the walking-experience, the further people are prepared to park from their destination shop. Providing parking spaces right outside popular destination shops actually can help kill whole frontages of shops and can set off a downward spiral of commercial abandonment and decreasing footfall. 

At the bottom end of the scale in urban areas is the 'just sustainable' grouping of bookie, off-licence, newsagent and fried chicken shop. As street footfall increases so chemists, cafes, ethnic restaurants, dry cleaners and bakers find a toehold. You need a lot of passing people to sustain the chain multiples or larger independents, typically found in 'town' centres. Marginal shops in busy areas can oscillate between charity shops and low-capital investment outlets such as bookies. 

The answer to the success or otherwise of shopping streets lies largely with local councils, and the intelligence with which they facilitate and locate short stay parking, the quality of the walking environment (safety, cleanliness, lighting, comfort, convenience) and the interest at ground level of a lively and attractive range of shopfronts; where people want to walk shops will open. The most attractive frontages will enable short-stay parking to be located up to 200m away from the most popular destination shops. 

More licensing, bansturbation and prodnose control isn't the answer. Intelligent enabling is the way to do it.  

Friday, 13 April 2012

Blair-stench

Simon Jenkins is a must-read this morning for a piece on the Blair-stench around the UK's kidnapping and handing over of a Libyan dissident - an episode of which the permatanned coprolite says he has 'no recollection' - lawyer-speak for he's not saying.

"The war on terror is corrupting all it touches, while parliament meekly passes each twist of the ratchet of repression." Jenkins concludes, not even having to bother to add that Cameron's government is no better than Blair's in this respect.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Public Order crumbles a bit more

Spain is anticipating a further breakdown in public order as the government introduce draconian new laws against freedom of communication and freedom of association; in Greece they're bombing government offices already, and here in the UK one has to compose each blog and twitter post as though hearing it read in a secret government court. Across Europe public order crumbles as people are out of love with their political class; for every criminal who throws a rock are ten civil disobedients, for every civil disobedient ten angry voters. Not since the period just before 1848 has Europe faced such concerted pressure for political and democratic reform.

Czechs and Hungarians rose to throw off Austrian hegemony; in Sicily they rose against the Bourbons, in France they forced the abdication of Louis Philippe. In Denmark, Schleswig, Poland, Wallachia, Belgium, Ukraine and Ireland they rose up, in England the Chartists demanded, and in Switzerland, one of the few outright successes of that year of change, the old order was overthrown and a new constitution enabled. Most risings were suppressed, with more or less brutality, by troops. However, the sought-for freedoms - freedom of the press, and freedom of association - did come in most cases in the following years. 

In 2012 one can distil down the common demand as one for control. Across Europe, people feel they have lost control; lost it to globalisation, to centralised political elites, to an amorphous and dispersed bureaucratic net, to a remote and undemocratic EU, to global finance, to oligopolies of incestuous mega-corporations. When the traditional response of incumbent governments to public disorder is to increase their own control, not to let it go, the potential for real conflict between governments and peoples is building rapidly. 

Another lesson from 1848 is that no-one, certainly no historian, will ever die in a ditch for the reputation of the ancien regimes. The Hapsburg Empire was never beneficent, the paternalism of rotten boroughs never good. All those who now seek to block change, to repress and subjugate, to pry and snoop and wiretap and inform, to take the baton and hose to the youths, will be history's villains.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Conservatory Tax

Capitalists @ Work do a decent job today of trashing the government's lunatic ideas for compulsory energy saving. However, the government have done a decent job themselves of trashing the reasoning behind the idea; the table below is from the Communities department's own report on the energy efficiency of dwellings;

Thus solar PV is one of the least effective energy saving measures but with a strong industrial lobby to ensure we pour tax subsidies into this technology; the subsidy distorts the true payback of almost 50 years. And it will take almost a century to get your money back on double glazing ...

Since the figures clearly don't make sense, it's almost as if Dave and George had some personal financial interest in the Great Green Con.

Baldist Hate Crime

Standing at a site entrance last night enjoying a ciggie in full PPE I watched the ebb of the rush hour in contemplative mood and when the ancient shout 'Oi Baldy!' sprung from a small boy; not one but three annoyed office workers, all lacking somewhat in flowing locks, turned to the shout. All must have wished then for the justice of Elisha (2 Kings 2:24) but pairs of she-bears are no doubt in short supply in central London. 

This was of course nothing short of Baldist Hate Crime. I'm astonished that the Equalities Commission hasn't picked up on this already. Baldness is of course a disability, and should qualify those sufferers for special treatment in employment and civil status. Not only Blue parking badges for the bald, but changes in building regs to pad all soffits lower than 2400mm, free sunscreen on the NHS, 'bald only' facilities and waiting rooms in public buildings, bald swimming days at the leisure centre and of course compulsory bald-awareness training for each of the Met's 33,000 officers. London councils should conclude their job ads with 'Bald men are under-represented in our workforce and will be given preference for interview'.  

And of course, though children have been shouting the equivalent of 'go-up, thou bald-head!' in the street for three thousand years or so, they must immediately be removed into special care as 'Baldist' by the State. I now fully expect Harriet Harman to take up the cudgel on behalf of this disadvantaged group, and bald equality to find its place in the Labour manifesto. You know it makes sense. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tax transparency?

Nigel Farage opposes the notion of all politicians having to make their tax and earnings totally transparent, on the grounds that this would deter established and capable persons who had already achieved some measure of material success in their lives from entering politics to 'give something back'. I take his point. Polly on the other hand advocates that all of us should reveal our tax and earnings, so that we can look up the neighbours' claimed allowances in the internet. If all is open, tax avoidance is discouraged. I take her point. Livingstone's repulsive hypocrisy only came to light when his own income tax avoidance was revealed. And then he's lied about it, which is even worse. 

Let me be honest. I avoid tax. I suspect most of us do; every father who has bought the champagne for his daughter's wedding in Calais is a tax avoider; every juvenile geek who has bought gadgets or CDs from Luxemburg or the Channel Islands (before the closing of that useful loophole) is a tax avoider. The fight for the boozy lunch receipt ('corporate entertaining'), 10,000 miles a year of 'business' mileage, the ergonomic office chair in front of your PC screen and all the rest. But then most of us aren't standing for public office with the power to raise taxes and charge others. 

So why are avoiders demonised whilst evaders are getting no bad press at all? Paying your Polish builder in cash to avoid the VAT, or dishonestly claiming red diesel for a Webasto are surely morally more serious offences? Would Polly be happy to disclose all her builders' accounts, payments to her cleaners and domestic staff? 

I'm really ambivalent on this one.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Credo

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum, not factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine: ET HOMO FACTUS EST. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis; sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in coelum: sedet ad desteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est com gloria judicare vivos et mortuos. cujus regni non erit finis. Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum. Et vitam ventura saeculi.