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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bank bosses to start jail terms

The top managers of troubled bank Hypo Alpe Adria, which had to be nationalised by the Austrian government to save it from collapse, have exhausted the appeal process and are now due to start their jail sentences. Ex-CEO Wolfgang Kulterer will serve three and a half years, his assistants G√ľnther Striedinger and Gerhard Kucher four years and tax advisor Hermann Gabriel will serve four and a half years. 

The former high-flying fat-cats could do their time in either the grim Stadlau jail, or the delightful renaissance Karlau in Graz, where the Nazis guillotined hundreds during the war, and the British hanged a few dozen war criminals after it. It seems the Austrians don't have cosy open prisons for the Ernest Saunders class.

And if the Austrians are jailing their delinquent bankers, why the hell aren't we? Fred Goodwin should be in Barlinnie. Why is Cameron protecting the guilty men?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The information generation

I can still be astonished by the internet's capacity for storing and sharing information; I've just found a film clip of my father commanding a parade, sometime between returning to Europe from Palestine and leaving again for Korea. Previously, all I'd seen was a 10" x 8" still photo, now clearly taken from a film frame. There's no sound, but it's still astonishing. And curious that it should be in the public realm and I just another anonymous viewer. But that's the net. 

This new generation cannot imagine how we coped before the net, when searching for information was physical, often involving travel. I remember too clearly my hours spent in the PRO at Kew and in the Newspaper archive at Colindale, fighting for a desk at the BL or amongst the great unread book stacks kept at Imperial as part of the National Science collection, in the IWM's annex driving one of the huge old Steenbeck editing desks or with county archivists in run-down records centres and always, always, with voluminous paper 'finding aids' a single volume of which could weigh a stone. Those days weren't better - just slower, more frustrating and harder. Just so long as they don't throw away the original material, digitisation is fine with me. 

I realise now it's been over a week - more like ten days - since I've had the TV on. I see that BBC bosses face theft and fraud charges after being caught fiddling their payoffs. As the Telegraph reminds us that 10% of criminal prosecutions are for not paying the TV tax, and the Mail reviews the £30 Chrome dongle. Surely it can't be long before even this wet and dim government realises that the licence fee is unsustainable? I'm not hopeful, though - even a wet and dim culture minister can introduce a new 'information levy' on ISP charges.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

GCHQ: Why we need Murdoch

So the Guardian, that great defender of common liberty, that doughty defender of press freedom, that powerful champion of the voiceless, caved in like a little crybaby girl the minute the secret police came knocking at the door. Yes, of course, Mr Secret Policemen, the Editor cried - watch us smash up all our own computers! See! Look, I'll smash my iPhone too, and my wristwatch! 

The paper that loves Leveson, the tax-fiddling rag that wants to keep the lid on Hugh Grant's encounters with crack-whores, home to the certifiably lunatic Lady Toynbee, is no more than a fully compliant member of the big-State establishment. If there was a competition to become the Pravda and Isvestia of Britain's political class the Guardian would win it by miles. A paper so socialist-liberal that its balls have been re-absorbed and regrown as Cameronesque man-tits, a tittle-tattle newsrag with all the temerity of a goose, a chiselling, crooked, distorted little dungheap of second rate writers and fourth rate intellects and not even fit for use as arse-wipe. 

Dear God - and they wonder why we need Murdoch.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Seminal World Literature

There is a device used by Guardian journalists that goes something like: "Poets of international renown, including Robert Browning, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Onku Okwame and Lord Byron ...". Lola Okolosie gives it an outing this morning, as in "...authors such as Anita Desai, Chinua Achebe, and Harper Lee".

The issue is over the inclusion of  "seminal world literature written in English", of which I am greatly in favour. However, this is not an exercise to demonstrate that those from the ex-colonies have mastered the mother-language, but one to demonstrate that literature of fine quality can originate from outside England. From North America has come a canon of literature principally in the form of fiction that has transformed the genre; and then Alan Paton from South Africa, Marcus Clarke and Thomas Keneally from Australia, Canada's Michael Ondaatje and Ireland's Samuel Beckett have all give us works that belong on the shelves of every Englishman aspiring to erudition. And there are many, many others. Including Anita Desai and Harper Lee.

The key to inclusion is in the word 'seminal'. To be seminal a work of literature must be not only original in style, form or content but must be influential in the subsequent development of the genre. Any other criteria indicate only that the term has been applied in the context of its alternative Onanistic meaning. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

HS2 Madness

The more I look at HS2 the more I'm convinced it's an utter mistake. For Keynsians looking at the proverbial helicopter dropping fivers at random it's a failure - the spending will come too late and be too uncontrolled. For Brummies hoping to attract more visitors or customers it will be a failure - the line will work in reverse, drawing even more trade, money and employment to London and the South East. The government's travel-time / cost figures are fatuous and close to the point where even the most mendacious of ministers can't defend them. Saving seven minutes on time spent in the train but spending ten extra minutes navigating the new concourses laid out like retail game-traps isn't a good deal. Then of course there's the noise, mess, destruction and upheaval, and by far the greatest cost - that of lost opportunities.

Forget Edinburgh's incompetent stupidity; light rail has been a success when it's built by the English. The DLR, Croydon's trams ad the new rail lines linking south and east London have been spectacularly successful. It doesn't have to be fast or expensive - using disused track routes and linking with portions of mainline trackspace, these bendy little routes weaving in and out of later development are heaving with happy passengers. 

An Ipswich to Colchester light rail route via Hadleigh, Bentley and Capel would end the misery for thousands; the extension in north Norfolk of lines closed by Beeching and similar elsewhere are all schemes for which there are no shortage of private operators in the wings; all they need is a bit of encouragement, a spot of cash and a little bit of Parliamentary time for enabling legislation. 

But creating small, successful, independent light rail companies is simply not on the agenda of a government obsessed by the big corporates, obsessed by the sexiness of anything measured in tens of billions (and the prospect of some of that funding, er, 'sticking' later on) and obsessed by the stupidities of Stalinist grossism.