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Sunday 31 December 2017

2017 Roundup part 2

Worthless distinctions
The honours system has been irredeemably befouled and corrupted by undeserved honours given to politicians and civil servants. The public seem to support the recognition of sportspersons, artists of all kinds, the talented, the selfless, the gifted and armed services personnel - but their proper achievements are being beshitten by risibly unwarranted 'honours' to loathed and unworthy political failures and civil service time-servers. Why the hell should the goon in charge of procurement at the MoD, the idiot that's wasted billions of our tax money on the poorly managed buying of stuff that doesn't work, get anything other than a clock from his chums and a curt 'goodbye'? Why should hysterical little fools such as Andrew Adonis, with no real world experience and no achievement whatseover, enjoy the same status as distinguished scholars and academics of international repute?

Of course we should recognise the few worthy political recipients such as Patrick Cormack (he of "Country, constituency, party. In that order") but perhaps there should be a new honour created - say an order with a membership limited to fifty, with no seat in the Lords, and only ex-elected politicians eligible. But we must cull all the politicians and the civil servants from the British Empire orders, the Bath and Michael and George. Or they will be lost to those who really deserve them.

With each year, twice a year, the public clamour against political honours grows. Let's hope the establishment hears those voices. 

Democracy at risk
With Labour still blocking any reform of our deeply corrupt constituency boundaries, the UK remains shamed by an Electoral Quotient (EQ) below third world standards. We're not even close to the +/-5% of the second world, let alone the +/-3% of advanced democracies such as New Zealand. 

We're not well served by the current Electoral Commissioners, fat and complacent placemen unmoved by indignation at Electoral inequality and mired in a stasis that prohibits action. A clear-out of the Commission in 2018 is well overdue.  

The young are also far less defensive of our democratic absolutes - such as universal suffrage and the secret ballot- than those of older age cohorts, and a Remainian elite still smarting from the Brexit result are pushing all sorts of alternatives to the majority vote to seek to re-establish their political dominance. I was joking in June 2016 when I parodied little Owen Jones as complaining "The wrong people are using democracy" - but this is now a joke becoming true. Many of them actually believe it. 

The Electoral Commission also needs to get its collective head around non-member issue-based campaigners such as this blog and Twitter account, with no discernible spend. Online it's not about parties and financial structures but millions of ordinary people manning their keyboards. The utterly trivial impact of Russian postings during the referendum campaign was due to the utterly massive scale of engagement of the rest of us. I'm not sure that many of the existing Commissioners have ever actually used a computer, let alone know what facebook is.  

Thursday 28 December 2017

Roundup of 2017- part 1

Well, it's been another year of surprises and our understanding of the world is just a bit different at the turn of this year from the turn of last. From my point of view, some of the more significant changes include

Video footage new this year showing entire factories with not a single visible human, just scores of robotic articulated entities cutting, grinding, milling, pressing, welding and finishing. And of course the porn market is driving refinements to produce a robot hand that can grip a, er, cucumber safely. Last year I printed this chart as a warning against the directions from which migrant waves will come; this year I print it to show the blocs most vulnerable to stage 1 manufacturing robotic replacement. They're the same. We face a double whammy. 
Regulation of Social Media
The headlines this year have been about the abuse issues on social media; MPs in particular, who want to use social media to self-publicise, are unaccustomed the level of vitriol that they attract from some folk - some clearly illegal, but much of it just robust abusive invective. They are pushing for more regulation. 

In fact the real issue about social media in 2017 is how vital to democracy unencumbered access to it is. With Facebook and Twitter struggling to control unacceptable content, crude and thus unfair shortcuts, including AI, are being used to censor postings. 

I think 2018 may bring the realisation that access to social media equals access to democracy - and attempts to restrict access for legal uses equal attempts to gag voters. As facebook in particular is looking to the lucrative political advertising stream, the Electoral Commission must speed up from its snail's pace to face this challenge. 

Yvette Cooper will never escape the internet's long memory
House of Peers
A year ago I suggested the HoL would prove in 2017 a Brexit thorn that needed desperate remedies. Well, in the event it didn't. The government's stated intention - to 'let them talk until they wet themselves' - proved effective. The prospect of damp red benches with no effective outcome clearly didn't appeal to their Lordships. I'm going to recycle this for 2018 - it's all or bust this year for the anti-democratic refuseniks. They may destroy their privilege in the process, or see TM flood the Lords with People's Peers (I'm still free, Prime Minister) but will they emerge over the parapit?

No puddles on the leather in 2017 - but in 2018?

Sunday 24 December 2017

For Hope, and our Future

It's now eighteen months since that momentous referendum, and we're still leaving. With every single day it becomes more and more difficult for the saboteurs to derail the process. The global corporates, their Federast and globalist dags, the Euro bien pensants, has-been politicians, are daily nearer to meltdown and daily more furious. This also makes them daily more dangerous; the dags are being goaded into petty acts of spite, with Remoaner HMRC officials prodded by the Treasury now demanding tax from private Leave referendum donors whilst the vastly richer global corporates escape scot free for their Remain gifts. We may have sighted land, but it will still take some skillful pilotage before we're tied up alongside. 

ISIS are also just another terrorist organisation rather than a putative Caliphate. The government of Syria, with Russian help, have succeeded against the global corporates and their puppets, against the stupidity and venality of our own government and Foreign Office. We have reached the morning of the eve of Christmas with no successful Islamist attack on the West, just a failed terrorist act in Australia, a nation now more Eddie Izzard than Crocodile Dundee. There is a perceptible hardening of attitude towards Islamism, and the faint start of some pushback. 

More than anything else, social media has enabled the idiocies of neoliberalism, the insanity of distorted morality, the fake news, lies, distortions and deceits of the malign, to be exposed to the disinfectant of sunlight and to laughter. Social media means a FTSE100 firm and a sharp witted nobody are equal. Nothing is more painful to these evils than laughter. May St Isidore, patron saint of the internet, intercede for succour and protection of universal access to social media.  

At home and abroad we still face human challenges - abroad we have human populations outgrowing food, water, wealth and work, and with the richness of the West visible on their 3G screens forming a tsunami of human migration towards Europe. Do not, I beg you, direct hatred or vituperation towards these people, no matter how devious, dishonest, manipulating or self-interested their behaviour. We must work to keep them in their own nations, to emulate themselves the prizes of Western post-enlightenment Christian nations by adopting our norms and ways, however cruel we must be to keep them from our shores. 

At home we are still failing our own people; ex-armed forces living rough, enduring hardship and privation without complaint. They stood on the line for you and me. We owe them. For our semi-feral urban children, victims of gross sexual abuse and exploitation, victims also of failed official care, of moral relativism, and of our selfishness. We must help them. And heartfelt thanks to all those who keep the law, demand nothing, discharge their social responsibility and ask only for a little pride, a little identity and a little recognition. We owe them, too.  

As each day grows a little brighter I am inspired with hope. Not a surge, but a fleeting butterfly shadow of hope that flickers over the heart and soul. There is a future, a good future, and we can all help shape it. God really is with us if we allow him to be. 

It is easy here, in the snow and the beauty, to the sound of bells and in a little 14th century church with vivid ancient wall paintings, to understand the miracle of the Nativity and the joy that the birth of the Christ child, Son of God, born to save the world, brought to mankind. With all my gratitude and thanks to you all, may you all have a peaceful Christmas.   

Thursday 21 December 2017

Poland's judges are not independent. But neither are the rest of Europe's.

Poland's judicial independence comes in at 99th in the 2018 World Economic Forum tables, below Swaziland, Mali and Zambia. Nigeria is at 82. Poland's judicial system, like all those in Napoleonic law nations, is deeply politicised - the reason that Poland has over 4,000 cyclists in prison is not for any great breach in natural or moral law. 

However, only very few nations in Europe - the UK and the Netherlands amongst them - can criticise. Italy is not far from Nigeria, neither is Spain. Turkey, at 103rd place, receives hundreds of millions of Euros in bribe money from the EU to keep Syrian migrants within Turkish borders, despite draconian restrictions on press freedom, tens of thousands of political prisoners in detention and a growing number of unexplained deaths in custody of military officers. EU officials are not driven by human rights abuses, clearly, in their actions against Poland. The EU's excuse for action, Poland's changes to judicial appointments, are a smokescreen to disguise the use of the Brussels knout to bludgeon a disobedient vassal state into line. 

If this action was really aimed at improving judicial independence, then Latvia, Slovenia, Greece and Italy would be next in line for EU sanctions. they're not. Their courts can be as corrupt as they can be without fear, because they obey Brussels. And that's the reality about the utterly crooked, despotic regime that we're desperately trying to leave. 

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Supporting democracy in Europe

Poland's Independence Day in November - the 99th of the current incarnation of the nation - was dry but cold. Patriotic Poles were out en masse waving a field of red and white national flags in a demonstration of real pride and love of their nation. Poland's elected politicians stood in the front row of the VIP stand, and another Pole, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, was also there, back in the third row with other unelected officials.   

But there was another mass gathering there on that day - radical nationalist Poles carrying not flags but slogans and placards, chanting not the words of the national hymn but words of anger and protest. I don't read or speak Polish so must rely on newspaper reports for what the slogans said. They called for the protection of Polish 'blood', opposed spreading Islamic immigration to Europe, and support of defence of the Homeland.  

Poland's democratically elected PiS government - fairly described as 'hardline conservative' by the Telegraph - consistently enjoys clear popular support and the sort of opinion poll ratings that western European political parties can only dream about, the latest giving them 50% approval against 17% for their closest rivals. They are irrevocably opposed to every single EU policy in respect of opening Europe's borders to 5m non-European migrants to compensate for low European birth rates. 

They are also in the process of dismantling the mechanisms left by the old communist regime to ensure a continuity of control over many of the levers of State. The communists of course have disappeared, but their successors - some of whom in the EP are members of Verhofstadt's ALDE group - still sit on many judicial posts. In Napoleonic European systems with no real judicial independence and where justice is political, from Paris to Berlin, from Warsaw to Rome, this is a real obstacle. 

Verhofstadt is of course furious about his chums losing power. He is seeking to declare Poland a European Pariah. He will fail, but will have made a lot of noise. 

The point about all this is that I've tried as far as possible to write this post in a way to which neither a native Pole or a professional UK journalist could reasonably object, eschewing terms such 'far right' or 'enemies of the EU'. The Poles are as European as anyone; unelected officials in Brussels are neither more European nor endowed with greater moral purity than elected politicians in Poland. Both have a legitimate viewpoint. But the difference is this; Poland's rulers were elected. The EU's rulers are not. As long as this yawning democratic deficit exists in the EU, the support of freedom loving democrats must always be to those actually voted into power. 

Tuesday 19 December 2017


Reading Polly Toynbee's mind at work is almost heartbreaking. Today, she fairly and accurately describes a queue of debtors being dealt with by the civil courts; the list is pretty evenly divided between B2B debt and failed household credit, the major creditors HMRC, local councils and banks. The witness evidence could have formed the basis for an informed and constructive article, but instead Polly just can't resist the trite and bromidic - it's all the fault of gub'ment austerity. 

Many of you will also have caught on TV one of the rival fly-on-the-wall progs about bailiffs and sheriffs; again, a litany of business debt and evictions by private landlords mostly for failure to pay rent. If HMRC, councils and banks are creditors for these cases they stay clear of any mention, or perhaps they don't permit their bailiff actions to be filmed. Where creditors are revealed, they're frequently in no better financial position than their debtors - single-house landlords, other skint small businesses.

And we ain't seen nothing yet. We're still at the top end of the curve. It's said that in 2008 the banks weren't prepared and took the hit - but today they are, and it's their debtors that will feel the real pain this time. The ECB are already preparing for the next crash - measures are even now being enacted to staunch outflows in the event of bank runs and restrict depositor access to protected deposits (€100k). 

As far as I can see the victims of debt are not victims of government cuts - and every time a council wrings its hands and closes a library I am reminded that CIPFA valued local authority reserves at £21bn in 2016 - but of globalisation. Half the country haven't done well economically and are the first casualties. The other half - the public sector, universities, global corporates, legal and accounting megafirms, media, digital economy - have done comparatively nicely, but are by no means free of debt. Their turn will come when austerity really does hit. A metropolitan elite economy based on Amazon Prime, Netflics and Lloyds Gym memberships, a leased car and three designer coffees a day is built on sand.  

That's the bloody problem. We all know it's coming, but when? Until the storm hits, we're all just marking time and standing ready. And until it does come, growth just won't return.

Monday 18 December 2017

So 20 mph zones don't work ...

There's a certain glee in reports today that the accident-reducing 20mph zones in our towns and cities don't work. At least, it seems, not without speed cushions, chicanes, steel posts to reduce lane width and so on. I can't say I'm surprised.

Years ago I pointed out that the Pelican crossings being installed to replace existing Zebra crossings were actually more dangerous. Getting the FOI data from the Transport Department had been like pulling teeth. Yes, 20m of steel cattle pen barrier either side of the crossing on both sides of the road, loud beeping and flashing noises, peremptory commands to stand or walk, a vulgar and intrusive part of the Big State imposed on small communities, actually killed more people than the simple painted  stripes on the road that they replaced. The problem, the DoT hypothesised, was twofold. First, people didn't obey the commands of the State and oh horror decided themselves when to cross the road - the younger ones even leapt over the barriers at times. Secondly (and I suspect the real reason) was that drivers seeing green lights didn't look for hazards in the same way that the glowing orange balls of Hore-Belisha's beacons induced. 

Conservative councillor Daniel Moylan and his colleagues at K&C Council took personal liability for changing Kensington High Street when the council's officers refused to do so. They ripped out every cattle barrier, every obstacle, all the peremptory commands, scores of signs, posts and bollards and made the space one shared between vehicles and pedestrians for which space was negotiated between them - in the same way that a zebra crossing works. The accident rate dropped immediately and stayed low. KH St became an infinitely more pleasant place on which to wander, browse, graze and bar-crawl. It was a genuinely courageous move at a time when the State's agents, the council's professional officers, were advocating that only penning pedestrians behind ten-foot fences could further reduce the accident rates. 

The ideas came from a Dutchie - Hans Monderman. He found that such road sharing not only reduced accidents but allowed traffic to move more efficiently. Yes, if people are allowed to make their own decisions, if the State is put back in its box, things are more efficient. This is proved time after time on the rare occasions that traffic lights fail; motorists allowed to negotiate junctions themselves actually do better than traffic lights, and queues, slow moving traffic and extended travel times are greatly reduced. We used to reckon in our part of London that a TfL traffic light failure meant 10 minutes off the drive home. 

You don't have to be Ayn Rand to work out that generally the least intervention and the lightest touch in respect of traffic management, combined with 'nudge' rather than concrete and steel*, is not only much cheaper but more efficient and far more effective. 

*Except of course from the risk posed by rogue members of the Religion of Peace. At either end of pedestrian roads. 

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Are ALL Guardian readers irredeemably stupid?

It started with a typically whiny Guardian piece yesterday titled "No one cares about us - Brits in Europe". It's part of a big whine from many of the 1m Brits living in Europe for special status - a status that can only come at a cost to the British. It is a typically selfish and self-obsessed whinge, as is normal today. My own view is that those of us who have chosen to make homes in Europe must make shift for ourselves; we made informed decisions. I want no-one in the UK to pay for my choice. 

Anyway, I commented to this effect. What 'protection' do you need, I asked, "To be permitted residence in Austria you have to prove you have an adequate income and are a member of an Austrian health insurance scheme - to demonstrate you are not a burden on Austrian taxpayers. Same before Brexit, same after. What's the problem?"

The problem, it emerged, is that several Guardian readers living in Austria are here unlawfully. If EU or EEA citizens intend to be here for more than 3 months, they must apply for a residency certificate, and do so before the end of month 4 or face steep daily fines.  I have my residency certificate. The Guardian readers do not. One declared that he classed himself as a free spirit and didn't agree with documentation in general, others said they had been here for many years and not been deported, others that said they didn't think the requirement was important. Not one seems to have read the widely available guidance from the Austrian government detailing residence requirements. All seem just to have understood that the EU meant free movement and acted on that - and now that they face problems post Brexit, are whining and moaning that the UK government and all the British people back home should get them out of the shit.

My own view is that the UK should not lift a finger to help them. If they are stupid enough, arrogant enough or misguided enough not even to understand the most basic residence requirements of another country then Austria is probably best rid of them - sorry, UK, you will get some irredeemably stupid and bitter Guardian readers back. I had a drink with my young German mates last night and asked them if they understood the Anmeldebescheinigung. Sure, they said - all of them working or studying in Austria have the 'yellow certificate'. They simply couldn't imagine anyone moving to Austria without checking out the requirements in advance. "They're Guardian readers" I explained "fantasists, dreamers, away with the fairies". They nodded, not quite understanding. 

Tuesday 12 December 2017

2018 Austrian smoking ban to be scrapped

This is a post about freedom, not an encouragement to smoke tobacco. Myself, I am a committed tobaccophile - I'm just taking a very long break from smoking. If I make it to 70, I intend to start smoking again. I like the smell of smoke and am lucky having local friends who smoke - so my house is still furnished with ashtrays. I've also got some cigars which they will have to smoke for me over Christmas, whilst I bliss out on Colheita Port, Samuel Gawith snuff and the heady scent of best Havana leaf smoke. But because of the health disbenefits, I wouldn't encourage anyone to start.

Austrians however are firm believers in the rights of citizens to injure themselves in any way they wish. There isn't a week goes by without the local paper reporting in a matter-of-fact way another farmer crushed under his tractor, lady kicked to death by a horse, driver heading off a steep ravine or carpenter sawing his arm off. In fact, carpenters here wear their lack of fingers as a badge of honour - good carpenters, they reckon, must have lost at least two fingers. And there is no, I repeat no, whiny wailing in the media that 'Something must be done!' or that 'They must stop this happening!' after each death. Very philosophical they are about such things, here.

It reminds me of a train crash in Ghana in which several passengers had been killed. Our local Accra paper reported that the Transport Minister had visited the scene - not to call for an inquiry, or make vacuous promises, but simply to pour a libation of palm wine to appease the spirits of those killed. A policy at least as sound as, and possibly more so than, UK practice.    

One of the things here I particularly enjoy is my clothes reeking of smoke after a session down at the gasthaus. Sometimes, if I sniff deeply enough, I can still get a hit three days later. The current law does require bars over a certain size to offer a non-smoking room, usually a cold, empty room at the back somewhere, for anti-smokers. From next year all bars and restaurants where food is consumed would have been obliged to ban smoking - but Austria's new political coalition is putting an end to that. The FPOe - the Freedom Party -  is insisting the ban is scrapped. So those of us who really don't mind eating and smoking in the same room can carry on being as sociable as before.

It's a small win, but proof that there's still a libertarian tolerance in places. 

Monday 11 December 2017

Population growth is not the only option

We go into 2018 with an EU that is already very different. Committed to becoming the USE within eight years, with an army, foreign office, finance ministry and powerful president, much hinges on the federation's forecasts for future growth. These have been gloomy because Euros have been breeding at below the replacement ratio of 1.2 2.1 children per couple. The EU's solution is to import 5m healthy breeders from Africa, the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. It made the decision much as a steel plant decides a new limestone contract, or a pie-maker signs up a new abattoir. Yes, all those sexually urgent young men in Germany are there not because Mrs Merkel felt sorry for them - it's their priapism that is valued, like little breeding rams, to impregnate German maidens and breed a new generation of factory workers for the global corporates. 

The EU also took the decision in secret, without consultation or any democratic endorsement. You see, we ordinary folk don't know what's best for us, and need benign and sober heads such as Herr Juncker's to decide these things for us. It's jolly bad form to question the EU's wisdom and anyone who does so must be a Hitlerite bigot. 

Now I don't doubt the EU's well-meaning. What I condemn is their stupidity. The utter, crass, doltish stupidity of fools like the EU commissioners is the very reason we have democracy - crowds make better decisions than 'experts'.

That they're still pursuing their insane aims at a time when factories are becoming fully robotic, when AI is replacing vast swathes of human labour, when machine pickers intelligent enough to tell a potato half buried in the earth from a stone are in common use, the whole basis of their fatuous rationale collapses. My carer in old age will be a small robot with powerful hydraulics and sensors delicate enough to wipe a geriatric arse gently. 

You see, I really don't believe the replacement ratio or continuous GDP growth are that important any more - we're moving into a new age. The idiots, fools and charlatans at the EU just haven't realised it yet. We can only hope the cooler heads of the Visegrad group apply some sort of brake to their mad ambition.

Thursday 7 December 2017

German car bosses face jail if they step outside the EU

I'm sure, in the worldwide diesel fraud issue, that carmakers around the globe were complicit in at least a massaging of the test results. But none were as industrially efficient at defrauding the public as German carmakers VW, BMW, Audi et al. With Teutonic efficiency, they defrauded the world on a massive scale.

Now the first German VW executive has been jailed - in the US. He was unlucky enough not to escape back to Germany quickly enough, and the Americans scooped him up. Oliver Schmidt is now doing seven years in a federal penitentiary. The US indicted five other VW executives last January - Heinz-Jakob Neusser, 56, Jens Hadler, 50, Richard Dorenkamp, 68, Bernd Gottweis, 69, and Jürgen Peter, 59. They face summary arrest and detention without bail in the US if they are caught. 

No one has yet been prosecuted in Germany. No EU countries that have been defrauded have issued EU arrest warrants for any of the five VW bosses. The US isn't trying to extradite them from Europe. And this is all because the world knows full well that European justice and its organs the ECHR and the ECJ are corrupt political courts. Courts in China and Russia are rated by the WEF as having greater judicial independence than those in most EU countries. 

However, should those five VW bosses, and others from the other big-name German carmakers, step outside Europe to any country that has an extradition arrangement with the US, they face arrest and detention. After Brexit, if the UK breaks free of the corrupt claws of Euro justice, this includes Britain. And this forms a large part of the reason that the EU is fighting so hard to keep EU citizens in the UK under the protection of the bent ECJ - to allow VW bosses, fugitives from justice and other Euro criminals to visit Britain (and Ireland) without being banged up and extradited to the US. It stinks. EU 'justice' stinks. The collusion between the EU and the global corporates stinks. We will be far better off after Brexit away from that noxious putrescent foulness.  

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Remoaner sabotage reaches a new high

I wonder if we should have an assessed code, somewhat after the manner of terrorist warnings, in respect of attempts by Remoaners to sabotage Brexit? If so, We are forever in the highest categories of SUBSTANTIAL, SEVERE or CRITICAL. Ireland's government is I am sad to say little more than the EU's sock puppet. If left to the British and Irish we could sort the border in a day's talks. And now that loathsome putrefying old zombie Blair has risen from his grave to bother us all again - no doubt fomenting difficulties for the country of his birth.

Juncker and the Federasts are laughing in their muesli. Half the work of undermining the United Kingdom is being done by those with British passports. The Remoaners are now promoting a counter proposal that would see the UK as a 'Protectorate' of the EU much as Bohemia and Moravia was declared a Protectorate of the Reich. It means they govern us, and take whatever economic surplus we have, but we are not represented and have no say in our subservience.

You can be sure that the Federasts never want us again at the same table. They are charging ahead with proposals for their own army - yesterday announcing that they are formulating ways in which EU and NATO forces can exercise together, and take part in joint operations. A UK that could frustrate such jejune ambitions is simply not wanted - they want to live in La-La land away with the fairies without a nagging voice behind them. 

I've given May the benefit of the doubt so far in my mind; we can cope with the money, but my own red lines are complete freedom from the corrupt political court the ECJ and unencumbered repossession of our economic waters. If Theresa May is prepared to compromise on either of those then I join the 'no deal' camp, whatever the ensuing chaos. 

Brendan O'Neill nails it again in Spiked;
They want to Balkanise Britain. Carve it up into Remainer and Brexit enclaves. Divide a nation so that different zones are subject to different constitutions and principles and laws. This is the end point of the EU class’s elitist pseudo-cosmopolitan hatred for the nation: a situation where popular sovereignty comes to be superseded by a dynamic of fragmentation that’s entirely motored by the arrogant desire of the political class to escape the judgement and opinion of the people.

Saturday 2 December 2017

Another grubby episode; why the police need an officer corps

If there's one word I've found that adequately describes many policemen above the rank of sergeant, it's 'chippy'. Perhaps from being laughed at, excluded from the gang, having odd parents or being academically slow at school, perhaps from resentment of authority, perhaps from an early realisation that they are deeply ordinary, I'm convinced that many (though not all) of those that seek promotion in the police do so from having a chip on their shoulder that they feel having the powers of a constable plus rank will avenge.

And sometimes there are no better examples of innate inability than those who rise to higher command rank. Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick always struck me as such, a blundering idiot promoted above his ability but ingrained with a deep sense of entitlement and grievance. Chippy. And not only chippy but possessed of that particularly stupid stubbornness that convinces policemen of someone's guilt or innocence in the face of a mountain of contradictory evidence. He could not even accept his own dismissal for endangering the public by screwing up an anti-terrorist operation out of sheer stupidity. Last week he persuaded another deeply flawed individual, an ex-detective with evidence of questionable probity to put the boot into Damien Green.  

One of the reasons in the age of the internet that we put men into large open plan offices is to stop them looking at porn. Every large workplace has its tales of managers caught in acts of onanism in little cubby-hole offices. Damien Green may have been amongst them. I don't know. But whatever breaches of Commons policy he may have committed, he did not act against the law. Quick and his weird little chum, in making their grubby claims, unsupported by evidence, have breached every professional standard that the police should maintain, and have undermined public trust in their old employer.

This really is just the latest a long series of incidents of malfeasance, error, blunder and sheer stupid malice that have condemned the whole class of those who rise to command rank in the police. David Duckenfield, Norman Bettison and others are still to stand trial for Hillsborough so I cannot comment other than to mention the fact. 

Is it not high time that we stopped deeply unsuitable individuals such as Mr Quick from reaching rank to which they are unsuited in the first place? Is it not time the police had a professional officer corps, as it had in the past, to lend it professional integrity where it is needed most, amongst the leaders and commanders?    

Thursday 30 November 2017

Brexit payments; my head says yes, my heart says no.

I suspect that I am not the only EUphobic who is conflicted by the scale of the Brexit settlement. On the one hand, common sense suggests that the scale of the sum mooted is within reason, probably just half the eventual cost of the white elephant HS2, that it is worth it just to get out of their clutches, and that once we're out we can cull and purge and flush every trace of their odious Federasty from our realm. If we pay it at £10bn a year or less, it gives us the option of discontinuing payment at any time they attempt to extend their imperial grasp across the channel. Making sure we get full credit for every single thing the British past contributions have helped buy - including the contents of Herr Juncker's wine cellar - and transparent reckoning for our future shares in EIB costs (and profits) - will reduce the headline figure substantially.

On the other hand, every sinew is willing Britain to tell them to go whistle, get stuffed and pull the bones out of a wet fart. And that's because during the negotiating process the EU has revealed itself for what it really is - a bullying, vindictive, incapable cabal of crooks, fools and psychopaths using the crudest manipulation, disinformation and distortion to try to bludgeon Britain into submissive compliance. A thousand years of history revolts at being told what to do by 'lesser breeds without the Law', cavils at their impertinence. Never mind that we can take our revenge cold. That we can outgrow them, outperform them, attract international business, maintain London's financial supremacy, offer lower taxes and better returns than any one of their second and third rate economies. 

However, whether heart or head rules, one thing is certain. The EU's actions have fomented nothing but emotions from hatred to distaste amongst the British people for their Federast heart. Their greed, their stupidity, their bigoted zealotry has earned them an enemy when they could so easily have made a friend of us.    

Monday 27 November 2017

Dutch stun trawlers destroying UK fishing grounds - protest today

This story illustrates three problems, all of which should be solved by Brexit. However, Brexit won't fix the very real problem being experienced right now by coastal day-fishermen - that fishing grounds close to Britain's coast are being sterilised, destroyed, by large Dutch boats using forbidden electro stun methods over which we have no control.

The Netherlands has a well developed and large scale fishing industry out of all proportion to the size of her own economic waters. Its success depends on taking fish from the waters of other EU states.

The Dutch also invest heavily in new, big boats - and have no difficulty in getting finance for new boats or converting existing boats to stun technology - at about £300k per boat. Three quarters of the UK fishing fleet are small (typically 8m) inshore boats. Dutch boats take both groundfish and semi-pelagic species - sole, cod, squid, shrimp, rockfish - that abound in the warm shallow waters of the continental shelf. They have traditionally used bottom trawls - chains, beams or steel balls that scrape the seabed, stirring up sediment and channelling the catch into the following net.

However, there are two problems with this. One is that the boat's engine power must be used to drag the beams and shoes, or rock-hopper otter-trawls, over the seabed. The other is that the North Sea and the British coast are heavy with shipwrecks, many torpedoed in two wars, sunken warships or just casualties of the sea. As we hobby sea fishers know, wrecks are a rich haven for big fish because bottom trawlers can't come near them.  

Pulse or stun fishing uses suspended electrodes to stun groundfish into the water column where they are scooped up by trawl nets. Catch volumes are greater, fuel costs are halved and the marine sanctuaries around wrecks are no longer protected. It's like fishing a lake using gelignite. It was outlawed in the EU in 1998. But the EU is deeply corrupt and open to the influence of wealthy actors; in 2009 the EU allowed 5% of beam trawlers to be converted, and the Dutch immediately converted five boats. Since then almost a hundred more Dutch boats have been converted - using a weak and contrived workaround that avoids the ban.

The effects are catastrophic. An inshore fisherman last week posted on FB 
"It is widely believed that thousands of immature fish are dying as a result of this electric shock being passed through them but no evidence has been put forward to support this. The reasons for this are very simple, the majority of immature fish will just get washed through the net never to be seen again. The other reason being the fact that the only research being carried out is by the Dutch themselves and everybody knows that money talks.

"Even if it was proved that this method of fishing was not killing all the immature fish, it is highly likely to be killing all the food that the fish rely on to survive such as prawns, shrimps, small crab, worms. If it was proved that it did not damage these species it would for sure kill the even smaller marine life that they rely on.

"I know from experience that once the seabed has been subjected to the electric shock treatment there is no point in me fishing there. I might as well fish in the desert because I would have more chance of finding life. Even when left alone for several months there is nothing there. To me it is pretty obvious why, nothing is going to hang around in a place where they will starve.

"The Inshore Belgian fishermen are appalled by what the Dutch are doing, Belgian fishermen I have spoken to have never in their lives at sea seen such a drastic reduction in fish numbers as they have once an area has had pulse fishing activity on it. It is the same story in France, the catches there have reduced so much that they plan to blockade all the Channel Ferry ports on the 27th of November to highlight the problems being caused by the Dutch."
One current problem is that Dutch boats can fly the red duster and take UK quotas; the previous requirement on UK flagged vessels being owned by Brit nationals was overturned. Our 1988 Merchant Shipping Act was challenged by the European Court of Justice in the Factortame case and overturned - requiring us to register foreign-owned fishing boats.  A single Dutch owned and crewed vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk, but UK flagged, accounts for almost a quarter of the entire English catch and about 6 per cent of the total UK quota. It lands all catches - some £17m annually - in the Netherlands.

So a plea. If you are delayed in any way today by the French fishing boats blockading the channel ports, spare them your good wishes and your hopes for a prosperous year. They are fighting the same fight as our inshore boats. This time, we're on the same side.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Double standards are just fine

Austria's unashamed adoption of double standards, despite its appearance, really does have a kind of underlying logic. Thus crucifixes and Christian teaching in schools is fine but Islamic symbols and teaching are prohibited. This has its roots in Hitler's confiscation of all church land; they didn't have a Henry VIII here, so in the 20th century the church was still the country's biggest landowner. In return for the land (which now belongs to the Austrian state) Hitler gave the church the right to levy a 1% income tax. It was the one Hitler law that was never repealed; we Catholics still have to pay it or go to jail. Not only does this give the church certain privileges, it also makes it very rich.   

So when earlier this year a law against covering the face in public was introduced, intended to ban the Niqab and Burqa, the first €150 fine handed out by the police was to a bloke in a shark costume advertising a computer chain. Those of you who read my piece on the Krampus parades last week must now be thinking "Hang on, isn't covering their faces like that now illegal?"

Well, yes. Unless of course it's being done as part of a traditional Austrian folk display. In which case it's fine. So when a group of Krampus mounted a peaceful march to show they were actually men and not devils, and to prevent any potential anti-Krampus legislation, they had to carry their masks. The police explained that if they were walking peacefully, rather than leaping about amongst fiery flames screaming obscenities and hitting people with sticks, they were not protected by the exemption to the law. 

Friday 24 November 2017

We're really best off out of the EU's publicity scam

The EU has twenty-seven nations and each has a capital city. If each takes it in turn to be Europe's Capital of Culture, a designation begun in 1986, the earliest - Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris - would now be in their second go. Except of course that Berlin wasn't Germany's capital in 1988 - it was the capital of a country called East Germany, which was not a member of the EU. 

Actually the programme wasn't called 'Capital of Culture' until 1999. Earlier, it was named 'City of Culture' so great cities such as Florence and Glasgow could be included. I think some 58 cities have enjoyed the designation since it was initiated.

But of course such is the fame and universal recognition that the award brings that all of Europe celebrates each year the designated places, and one can ask any person on the street the two cities so designated in 2017. Or rather you can't. I suspect that only wonks know that Aarhus and Paphos are this year's cities. I haven't visited or seen pictures of either, but I know with utter certainty that both will be absolutely smothered in those ghastly blue speckly flags that signal the dominion of the EU.

It's actually quite a clever scam. The cities pay for it all themselves; all it costs the other taxpayers of the EU is a bit of publicity and boozy lunches for a commissioner or two. In return the EU gets its sovereignty proclaimed in every single city in Europe in turn. Utterly irrespective of merit. It's Italy's turn again in 2033 and if the failing, mafia-dominated crime ridden slums of Gela in Sicily, one of Europe's most dangerous, uncultured and unattractive conurbations, are chosen I would not be at all surprised. 

Now they've kicked us out we ought to set up our own scheme - 'Partner City of Light' or some such, in which we pick one Euro city a year to host joint visits, artistic events, royal ballet show, talks arranged by the British Council, pictures from the national gallery sort of thing, sweetened with a bung of say £1m. In return we'd get one city a year smothered in Union flags to which we can introduce the wonders of Gregg's sausage rolls. 

Gela preparing for 2033 - the speckly flags will arrive later

Thursday 23 November 2017

I have to admit to a sense of deju vu in reading these documents. In May 2006 I was at the QEII centre for the launch of Helena Kennedy's Power Enquiry report, the result of a far reaching and comprehensive consultation into what even then was clear as a critical democratic deficit in the UK. Amongst the Enquiry's recommendations was that all public bodies must meet a duty of public involvement in their decision and policy making processes. Progress towards this aim since 2006 has been precisely zero.

The Power Enquiry adopted a somewhat wider, more inclusive and nuanced approach than that advocated here; they recognised that participatory democracy should augment rather than replace our existing systems of representative democracy; they valued highly the people's rights of universal suffrage and the secret ballot as the ultimate safeguard against anti-democracy and they included direct democratic processes amongst the extensions and innovations of democratic practice. Otherwise citizens' juries, participatory budgeting and the like were all there.

Again, it has been many years since I was thrilled and excited at the publication of Simon Jenkins' 'Big Bang Localism' and progress towards many of those goals and recommendations has also been precisely zero. Jenkins recognised that processes such as participatory budgeting simply did not go far enough in devolving power from the centre. Yet it's all that has happened, where it has happened at all. All that has been devolved in the final (unpopular) rationing decision for a cake the size of which has already been determined centrally. And even that is limited to funding for the village scout hut and the like. Meaningful devolution of power means devolution of tax as well as spend decisions.  

We need real progress, but we must also be incredibidly careful and sensitive to countenancing no diminution of existing democratic rights. I am wary of formalising and institutionalising the role of 'experts' to bend and manipulate public opinion. At its worst it is positively Orwellian. Rather than inflicting establishment-approved 'experts' on consultative and participatory groups, far wiser to simply allow such groups at their own discretion to call upon such balance of expert opinion as they deem they need.

Having conducted several scheme and design development charettes over my career I know exactly how these things work, and the potential frustration of citizens who are told by experts that they can have any colour they like so long as it is black. Every single charette I chaired would have realised a better outcome without the architects being present. Every scheme design brief would have been more tightly focused, more prescriptive and more in tune with local expectations had it been developed in advance with those citizens.

You have a difficult task and a hard slog ahead. May I offer you my heartfelt goodwill and encouragement.

Perils of written German

Today I am trying to row-back on a business letter I sent yesterday. 

I intended to type "Sehr geehrte Herren" - Dear Sirs. What I actually sent them was "Sehr geehtrer Herren" - Very Horny Gentlemen.

It's genuinely excuciatingly embarrassing. They have absolutely no sense of humour. 

Oh well. 

Monday 20 November 2017

Localism will help build more houses

There are some facts from which we cannot escape. One is that the UK is short of housing. Not of bedspaces, mind, but dwellings. That this shortage is exacerbated both by migration and by migrants' desires to live in London and the South-East is also not in doubt. Whatever the arguments over the causes, we can agree that our young people should have easier access to their own homes, and that options of both renting and buying should be available. As neither markets nor central government are fulfilling this, we must look to alternatives. 

As I've written many times before, Localism doesn't just mean making the final unpopular rationing decision in dividing a cake whose size has already been determined by central government. Localism means having tax as well as spend powers. Sure, having a tax levied in Manchester that is not charged in Middlesborough leads to what the Daily Mail derides as a 'postcode lottery' in its support for central Statism, but sometimes local solutions can meet local problems. 

You can't go far in Vienna without seeing the familiar red lettering on a building's upper stories that proclaims it as a Council House (gemeindebau). The huge wave of housebuilding in the 1920s has left a legacy of some 600k people, around a third of Vienna's population, still living today in rented city-council housing. And they're not all poor, by any means. Some of those Alfred Loos designed apartment blocks have the same cachet as Dolphin Square. 

Their construction was originally funded by a city-wide Housing Tax and Luxury Tax, and they were allocated on the basis of need, with rents restricted to a proportion of average income. 

With the construction cost of a new house (excluding land, VAT and stamp duty, fees, cost of money etc) at (very roughly) £150k, it will take a lot of cash to build 300,000 new dwellings nationally. But break that figure down between public and private, and then down to locality, and it becomes manageable. Tax and land concessions together with penalty charges for unoccupied homes and delayed development, some suspensions of RTB in some council areas (e.g in all London boroughs), low cost finance through the Public Works Loan Board and a mix of other stick-and-carrot measures that would usefully include limited local taxation can facilitate new housing without additional burdens on the Treasury. 

I've little hope that Hammond, a grey and modest man of no real quality or ability, can display the imagination required, but we'll have to wait until Wednesday to see.  


Sunday 19 November 2017

The love of alcohol

Over my life I've watched as several valued friends and many acquaintances have destroyed their lives with alcohol. All the while I've thanked providence for an immunity to addiction; whilst I'm quite happy with a three-day bender (though stamina flags with age) or a bottle every evening, I find that sometimes I go for days, even weeks without a drink; not intentional abstinence, just casual disuse. Yet I'm always up for a session - it being the prospect of good well lubricated company rather than the booze that attracts. 

The casualties have fallen away. An exceptional raconteur and indefatigable drinker, a man of warmth humour and erudition, lost first his solicitor's partnership then his marriage. Another collapsed in debt. A girlfriend who was a secretive and devious drunk and though I loved her it destroyed us. Dan Farson, Bacon's biographer, immensely talented, was a monster anytime after 11.00am. I think it was Farson who recounted the anecdote about he and Bacon visiting a subterranean afternoon drinking club in Soho; as they descended into the noxious gloom one of their party asked "What's that smell?" "Failure" responded Bacon, quick as a whip. And indeed the Colony Room Club, the French House and those other Soho haunts that have given me so much joy, such gales of laughter, such fine friends and lovers, are also peopled with the flotsam and jetsam of lives sunk by alcohol. 

Many men find a sort of semi-disciplined equilibrium with booze, like a car with engine running continuously at idle. But it never takes much for them to hit the gas and I've delighted in many unexpected and ad-hoc sessions this way; we seem to recognise eachother in much the same way that I suppose homosexuals do, and in no time you get a trio, a four, a sextet of middle aged men with voices rich as dundee cake and gravelly with smoke all equipped with a full wallet and an inexhaustible supply of quips, anecdotes, bonhomie and smile-creased eyes all chuckling and boozing away at half throttle as we create our own club wherever we are.   

Those that remember the days when pubs had to close by law in the afternoon - a pernicious restriction and a needless one - may also recall the few remaining signs in bars that ordered 'No Treating'. I was puzzled for years as to the meaning of that until I found in the PRO, whilst looking for something else, the original 1915 Alcohol Control Orders and correspondence. The same laws that closed pubs in the afternoon also banned the buying of drinks for others, rounds or 'treating', all in an effort to reduce alcohol consumption. One of the cases in the file referred to the prosecution by the police of a man who had bought a drink for his wife.   

It didn't have to be like this, our joy constrained by Great War measures to keep munitions workers sober, as I found as a youngster when I visited a chum newly up at Edinburgh University. He met my London sleeper at Waverley Street and at 8am, not five minutes from the platform, we were in the Halfway House, drinking dark ale and scotch chasers in a throat-stinging fug of smoke. Lazy afternoons, when English pubs were closed, were spent in bars around the Regency new town watching videos and quaffing. I was blown away by Scots liberality - this truly was the city of the Enlightenment, whilst my poor England was like some Calvinist theocracy.    

But no longer. 

Over more than forty years of drinking, years during which alcohol has been a good friend to me (given my immunity to its addictive effects), when alcohol has enabled, coloured, enhanced every major event of note in my life, I cannot think of any circumstance in which minimum pricing would have lowered consumption, either mine or of those about me. It will work no better than did those 1915 measures - when also, incidentally, spirits were reduced in strength by law down to 40% abv. That's still one century-old restriction with which we are lumbered. 

Friday 17 November 2017

Sorry, Europe, but our ways are simply better

The WEF, the World Economic Forum, has recently published its global competitiveness index. The overall rankings are pretty approximate - due to a misuse and misunderstanding of components such as productivity. No-one actually believes the UK is less productive than France. Their productivity measure doesn't include development or use of the world's biggest web platforms or apps, predominantly in English, nor many new IT driven services, just stuff like making widgets. EU nations with high productivity scores are generally late web and IT adopters with workforces poorly adapted to the coming AI challenges. No one will be re-writing software manuals in Czech or Hungarian, probably not even in French or German, so our EU chums had better either up their English classes or adopt AI translators to do the job for them. 

The real meat of the WEF report is in components such as the world ranking of Judicial Independence. Take a look yourself. We are 6th - Rwanda is 23rd, Germany 24th, France 28th, Saudi Arabia 30th, India 53rd, Spain 58th and Italy 65th. Telling us what we already knew - that the EU operate a system of political courts, where there is no real justice, just the judicial arm of the State. If the State is benign and acts in the interests of the people, the argument goes, there is no need for the courts to be independent. We have the Common Law and Equity - they have versions of the Code Napoleon. 

Likewise our constitution. We don't have one. We're not the nth Republic. We settled on our flag in 1703, not five minutes ago when their constitution was also written on a word processor. Fraser Nelson makes the point in the Telegraph - quoting a fatuous comment from the Dutcher Rutte, proving he, too, has no idea how the UK actually works.  

So when, as the Telegraph also reports, David Davis caught the heel of the jackboot in Germany yesterday, it doesn't mean what they think. David told his audience "Shared values are more important than our membership of particular institutions. Values of democracy, of the rule of law, of human rights", perhaps not quite meaning that the sharing was equal, implying perhaps that the EU had more to learn from the UK's shared values than we have from theirs. The German dogs barked. "If you are so committed to our common values, our common interests, our common approach, then why are you leaving the European Union?" demanded the moderator, Herr Krach. 

Because, Herr Krach, we're a mature and stable democracy whose people are committed to freedom of thought, to independent justice, to self-determination and to accountable government. Because when we uphold the idea of one man one vote we don't mean that the one man is Herr Juncker. Because, simply, our ways are better than yours but you don't realise it.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

If Tory Remoaners bring down the government, voters will tear the throat from the party

There must be a temptation amongst MPs closeted in the plush and rarefied atmosphere of Westminster to imagine themselves inviolable from the wrath of voters, immune from the tensions and passions in the nation clearly audible from social media. Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Antionette Sandbach, Dominic Grieve and others may even now be building their future infamy - a future of derision, loathing and contempt - if their jejune and anti-democratic posturing, their preening narcissistic self-regard, their contemptuous dismissal of the popular will, brings down this fragile government and disrupts the Brexit process.

If they do so, the people will turn upon the Conservative party and tear its throat out. Tories will be more rare in the Commons than LibDems. They will have consigned their own party to the dustbin of history, and destroyed for themselves and their families any personal prospect of help or support from their peers. They will be shunned like wet lepers, regarded more lowly than the ordure on our shoes, despised and scorned. 

They are playing not with their own pathetic petty careers, not with their own overweening mediocrity, but with the future of our nation. And that's bloody serious.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Venting popular steam and keeping the State under control

Each country has somewhere in its traditions, unless utterly repressed by a totalitarian state and its secret police, versions of letting off steam, of warning off the ruling classes or unpopular characters, and of reminding the authorities that democracy is a delicate bloom that must not be abused. In England this was traditionally 5th November; darkness, fires, masks and disguises so that participants can't be identified, and burning effigies. Today Lewes is the only one I know that maintains the full threat of years past - and I bet the local council are doing everything they can to close it down. 

Here the equivalent is Perchtennacht, the night of the Perchtenlauf or the run of the devils. The costumes are elaborate and frightening, there is a complete lack of English style health and safety, and the Perchten are violent and dangerous. They carry sticks, clubs and chains. Traditionally, this was when a village got rid of an unwanted member - a nonce, a cheat, a deviant - by hitting them with sticks, chains and whips. Hard. You see, not to be out and lining the route of the run is an admission that you're not part of the community, so it's obligatory to be there.  

In recent years most of the sting has been taken out of the tradition. Slightly anti-social offenders still get their knuckles sharply rapped with a stick, or get a poke in the kidneys as a gentle reminder, but death and serious injury are rare these days. Organisers are obliged to maintain an identity register, so miscreants can be named, and police maintain a presence. In Völkermarkt last night, however, the old ways were back. It was a riot. Two people targeted by the Perchten were seriously injured and it took the police an hour to restore order. Other people were injured as they fled violent assaults. 

Because this is Austria, no-one is calling for Perchtennacht to be banned and many are speculating whether the targets will now quietly move. Here it's still a reminder to the authorities that if they don't act, if they ignore long-building public disquiet, then people will do the job themselves. It's also a reminder to everyone (including me) of the importance of spending lots of time in the pub, greeting and chatting to anyone you meet and building friendships and trust ... you're either a member of the community, or you aren't. 

When, in the years after the German surrender, this part of Austria was occupied by the British army, a local maid and a lad from the Inniskillings fell in love. When his battalion was due to return home, he deserted. The whole community including the Mayor conspired to hide him until the end of the occupation, when they married and he spent the rest of his life here, dying only very recently. I talk to his daughter most mornings as she walks the dog. 

This is still a country in which local communities are not scared of their own power. I wish my England were the same. 

Saturday 11 November 2017

All that glitters is not Green

You may have accidentally encountered recently one the many saccharine encomia gushingly worshipping at the feet of Norman Foster's new Bloomberg building in London. If so, you will have been covered in all the ordure of 'sustainability' and 'most environmentally friendly building in London'. It's mostly utter bull. 

Sure, the building has the very highest BREEAM rating, but BREEAM only measures environmental cost in use. I know both this and its partner civils assessment CEEQUAL well - in fact I'm a qualified CEEQUAL assessor, so know the devil in the detail. Neither scheme counts the construction cost, or rather, where this is acknowledged, it can be negated by petty measures such as reducing site waste or ensuring local waterways are protected during construction. You see, steel and concrete are the grossest environmental offenders in terms of manufacturing CO2 cost. They're also critical to new construction.

Bloomberg himself, a zealous Remoaner, also campaigns for the closure of coal-fired power stations. Now, I can't suggest that there's any numerical equivalent between the carbon cost of his new building and the 37m. tonne / pa CO2 output of the UK's  coal power stations, but his own contribution is not insignificant. His building used 15,500 tonnes of steel - twice the steel in the Eiffel Tower - 65,000 cu.m of concrete, 600 tonnes of bronze and 450 tonnes of aluminium. The carbon cost will be close to 250,000 tonnes of CO2. Yet in the Guardian, Rowan Moore almost achieves orgasm in his praise for the behemoth;
This is not just an office building, or rather two buildings joined by a glass link. It’s a full-spectrum chthonic-to-celestial, cultural-social-technological, natural-synthetic, virtual-real, analogue-digital phenomenon....Metaphors and allusions come easily enough – it is Starship Enterprise and baroque palazzo at once, somewhat Ian Fleming, the interior of the personal volcano of a benign Blofeld. There are those aquariums and, behind a big glass wall, a majestic view of St Paul’s, as if it were itself a great stone fish captured and put in a tank....creates a sort of field of art, in which different elements of a single artist’s work reappear in different parts of the building. It reinforces the field-like properties of the complex as a whole, the sense of a pervasive intelligence, a Kirk-Spock figure controlling the art, architecture, technology, sustainability, catering and wellbeing strategies.
Now this isn't a piece about AGW or the effects of CO2. It's a piece about hypocrisy; the hypocrisy of my industry which does everything it can to discount the environmental cost of its activities, and the hypocrisy of the Bloomberg apologists, who praise the great man's fight against CO2. The CO2 cost of new construction doesn't even necessarily count against the UK's total; usefully, CO2 is accounted at the place of manufacture of the materials and components. So Bloomberg's carbon could well be part of China's or Thailand's total. This allows the West both to splurge on high-carbon new buildings and blame the $10-a-day economies for polluting our environment. 

If this building 'saves' 250 tonnes a year of CO2 from its energy efficiency, it will still take 1,000 years to pay-back the construction cost before there's any net advantage. The building has an economic life of 75 years. 

There's little structurally wrong with the 1970s office blocks that are now being destroyed wholesale in order to give our big name architects new pictures for next decade's portfolios. And as long as global corporates are driven by vanity, our cityscape will get these self-indulgences, like Onan's seed falling fruitlessly to earth. 

Thursday 9 November 2017

The more shrilly the EU begs for money, the longer we should hold out

Herr Barnier has been at it again. This time his shrill demands for money are accompanied by threats to 'shake the tree' to force businesses to relocate from the UK to the EU. This, of course, is a delusion common amongst unelected bureaucrats and petty demagogues who don't understand quite how business makes decisions. It is, however, revealing of Herr Barnier's attitude - and a taste of what we can expect after Brexit.

If the EU is planning how to discriminate against firms headquartered in the UK - even those trading with the EU on WTO terms - it is pretty certain that those measures will be implemented anyway post-Brexit. They will be faced with a nation that has two key weapons in her armoury - corporate tax rates, and state aid. When no longer constrained after Brexit from using these tools, the UK can also apply reciprocal constraints against EU firms, excluding them for example from bidding for government work and so on. A mixture of economic liberalism and targeted protectionism. 

The fact is that the EU are quite desperate for British money. They will beg and whine and try all sorts of blackmail in order to force an undertaking from us. Our tactic must be quite clear; no trade deal, no money. And  if we need to write-in clauses constraining Herr Barnier's tree shaking, that's useful to know.

Wednesday 8 November 2017

'Copper Cage' is not always a prison

One of the joys of ISPs here is that they provide high-speed unlimited volume 3G / 4G net access for around €1 a day. One of the miseries is that, the cities apart, it's all delivered over the mobile network and is susceptible to weather events. So whilst the UK is still debating how to lay cables with enough bandwidth to allow people to download .jpgs in under a minute, they're rolling out 4G here even to the most remote and sparsely inhabited parts. Austria, about a third as densely populated as the UK, has used the mobile network to escape the copper cage to the extent that the domestic landline has become a thing of the past - even the oldies have dumped them in favour of 'handys'.  

However, our first 8" of snow of the year combined with trees that have not yet shed their brilliant autumn foliage has left us with no web for the past two days. The network crawled back into life this morning and my little Huawei cube is now glowing away wirelessly. Just a reminder that the copper cage is not always a prison - it can confer resilience. 

I am of an age that simply finds alternatives when the web is down. A dvd or cd, a pile of Christmas cards and a fountain pen are useful. Not storing anything digital you own on someone else's server is also a plus. However, the pub yesterday evening was a scene of demented and addicted compulsive phone users checking their dead  devices every few seconds, becoming tangibly angry and frustrated into drinking out of nihilism rather than conviviality, so dependent are they on continuous 3G access.

Is this the way of the future? Will they grow out of it? Can they learn from us before they implode? I have a feeling that as the webwar hots up such outages will become more and more frequent, and Russia and China will throw resources at trying to secure cyberdominance. If the phone-addicks don't learn to live with it they have a lot of suffering to endure.

Friday 3 November 2017

Forward to the Past!

There's a wonderful piece in the sad old Grauniad with some lovely maps on how the world would look with a rise in sea levels. For those of a historical turn of mind, their feature map of the Wash may look familiar... yes, it's exactly the same as the Anglian coastline back in Roman and Saxon times. 

To be frank, I can see only upsides. With the Norfolk broads once again decently under water and connected to the sea, all those ugly floating caravans known as broads cruisers would be dashed to matchwood by decent storms. Hull would cease to be. Old Anglian cities - Dunwich, Soham and Ely - would again be prosperous ports. 

Looks good to me.