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Friday 10 February 2017

Are these kids tomorrow's coal miners?

Are these kids tomorrow's coal miners?

Not a referenced post, but picking up on Steve's comments, which are worthy of a whole series of posts, on the replacement of substantial numbers of jobs in the economy by robots. But surely it's not all negative? I'd far rather send expendible robots 3,000' underground to mine coal, for instance, than men. Methane, silicone dust, explosives, flooding, rock falls, risk and injury all avoided - and mines that can work 24 hours a day without needing a town full of people built on top of them.

Well, a bit of googling found a mine robot prototyped in 2013. They must be working somewhere by now. 

Not just coal, but tin, copper, rare earths. Robot miners can exploit small seams deeper and more hostile than men can. Even underwater - what about mining the seabed within the 200 mile economic zone? Just another post-Brexit asset we've got. 

It may also be worth compiling a running list of those professions most at risk from robots. At the top of mine are fighter pilots; it makes no sense building fast jets half the tech of which are pilot UI & life support systems. Drones with just weapons and avionics can have greater endurance, greater speed, tighter G and in direst emergency can be flown into a target, all at a tenth the cost of a conventional fast jet with no risk to the highly trained pilot. RAF fighter pilots of the future can also be fat, middle aged console-kings downing Chinese Migs in their underpants, reserving our lean, fit risk lords for vital gardening, cooking and bar-service roles for which robots can never replicate human skills. 

Thursday 9 February 2017

Sajid Javid just a Marxist central statist, says Guardian

Simon Jenkins has penned a corker of a column for today's Guardian - it should be compulsory reading for every town planner, every council officer and every elected politician in Britain. I, of course, commend it to you. Just to give you a flavour;
"Demand is not need. The famous quarter of a million is crude “family formation”. The implication is Leninist, that the state’s duty is a home for every citizen, irrespective of choice, price or district. I could answer that Britain has 700,000 empty houses, and London last year converted thousands of offices into flats. Is that the end of the shortage? Only a bureaucrat in a bubble could talk such nonsense, yet the BBC trots it out as a “crisis” day after day.

By imposing one size fits all building targets on all communities across Britain, Javid is seeking total mastery of the private housing sector. He is completing a last link in Labour’s 1940s nationalisation agenda, bringing to housing the same welfare centralisation, bureaucracy and insensitivity now afflicting the NHS."
He makes the moot point that a changing, dynamic economy such as Britain's needs a high degree of labour mobility - which means that a large rented sector is better for the nation than a workforce of inflexible, static owner-occupiers. By accident rather than design, this what we've got. 

He also identifies that housing isn't a British problem but a London problem, and the answer is to increase density in London. I've been saying this for years. The photo below is of a 1920s council house estate within Zone 3. I'll bet that most are now RTBs and rented out - and that such owners wouldn't turn down the offer of a free additional rental room for every one they own by co-operating in replacing these tiny, cold houses with four storey apartment blocks lining the road frontages.  

If councils can't stomach that, I've also long advocated building on sites such as Blackheath. There's nothing natural or heath-like about this vast space; it has no more ecological merit than a municipal gang-mowed playing field. The tiny corner of original gorse-clad, undulating heathland left intact on Blackheath is used by local dog-walkers, who come to watch the outdoors homosexuals playing in the bushes. 

Jenkins is also right that money needs to be switched to managed hostels for those simply incapable of sustaining themselves in their own rented flats. Anyone who has watched an episode or two of  those TV docs that follow high court bailiffs and sheriffs will know that evictions for non-payment are generally of two sorts; those just taking the piss, who move on from private landlord to private landlord as serial rippers-off, and those who genuinely just have such chaotic lives that they can't be trusted to live independently. The latter are deserving of care, and need to live in managed units being fed if necessary, and given some pocket money for clothes and cosmetics.

Yes, I know that 300k net migrants a year are a huge pressure on housing, but as Jenkins says, such pressure is demand and not need. They will have to live in garden sheds, garages and 6 to a room in their relatives' homes if they cannot afford commercial rents. Eventually things will find an equilibrium.   

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Gunning for controlled EU borders

Many of Europe's nations take a fairly laid-back approach to firearms, and do so with hardly any of their citizens being shot at all. Many others, including the UK, are constipated about weapons to the extent that even some children's toys are illegal, and lots of people still get shot. In Austria, for example, only military-style Category A firearms are prohibited; with a Weapons Pass one can own Category B arms - pistols of all types and semi-auto rifles. Without a pass, anyone over 18 can buy and own as many shotguns and bolt-magazine rifles as they like - but all such Category C weapons must be registered through a gun-shop. For black-powder weapons, cannon, older revolvers, muzzle loaders, CS gas guns, Verey pistols and the like - category D - no registration at all is needed and they can be bought by mail order. 

As ORF reports this week, when police investigated a weapons-pass holder over an unrelated matter recently, in addition to an arsenal large enough to equip an assault platoon with pistols and semi-auto assault rifles (all legally held) they found fragmentation grenades, light machine guns, fully auto assault rifles and other Cat A kit. They told him he was very naughty, confiscated them and fined him €6,000. 

In the UK I expect the Cat A haul would have earned him 20 years. This enormous disparity in criminal law is just another fundamental reason that the 'convergence' needed to create a united Europe is many, many generations away. 

An Austrian schoolgirl returning home from a school trip to London was stopped at airport security late last year with a CS gas spray in her hand luggage. Cue panic and armed police. She explained that many schoolgirls in Austria carry them quite legally, given the new threats in public places, and that she had brought it into the UK with her. She had no idea she could get 5 years chokey in Britain for it. Thankfully, on this occasion she was allowed to go home without charge. 

As long as Europe's nations value their own standards and want to retain their own customs and laws on these matters, borders are needed - needed for all our good. 

The mostly-legal gun haul - only the grenades earned the owner a fine

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Art is Art, Crap is Crap

It was in 1985 that I sat spellbound in Ronnie Scott's at Nina Simone. A musician, songwriter and performer of the most superlative talent, whose cadence, timing, keyboard touch and vocal skills are simply utterly brilliant. I'll remember that gig all my life. She had me, soul and heart, and that's what real art does.

However, this is where the logic of the illiberal left falls. "Nina Simone is Black. Nina Simone is a great artist. Therefore all black people are great artists" is simply a logical fallacy. I've tried and tried, for example, to see any merit in Maya Angelou's dreary words. Agaist Seamus Heaney, Robert Graves or even Larkin her verse is clumsy, ugly, untalented stuff, dross that should never have escaped from some smudgy gestetnered student rag.

Monday 6 February 2017

Corrupt EU Nomenklatura miffed at Romanian justice win

Political corruption is endemic throughout Europe, and Britain can only boast that our populist checks and balances make it harder here for bent politicians to cheat, steal and defraud than elsewhere. Despite a Parliament-wide expenses fraud scandal in the UK, jut a handful of the most egregious thieves were jailed. The political establishment rapidly realised that the Commons green benches would be empty if all the crooked MPs were acted against. The rest remain on probation, watched by the hawks of a free press that they yearn to muzzle. 

Elsewhere, auditors simply refuse to consider the EU's risible offerings of accounts. So mired by fraud and corruption, so deeply infiltrated by organised criminal networks, so abused by bent and hungry power-seekers are the Federation's finances that no one in Europe regards seriously their fatuous offers of financial records. The EU is corrupt to its core. 

I must admit that my previous confident prediction that Fran├žois Fillon would walk the French Presidential election looks somewhat shaky now. It emerges that he fraudulently bunged his family members hundreds of thousands of crooked stolen Euros on the pretence that they worked for him - much on the same basis that our MPs claim their young nieces are qualified parliamentary assistants worthy of a £30k salary. It's just theft. Just not the sort of theft that earned a young rioter who stole three bottles of water six months banged up in a Victorian cell with a Muslim rapist and a bucket to shit in. 

So when Romania passed a decree legalising theft, fraud and crookedness by politicians and public officials provided the sums stolen came to less than £38k, bent little ears pricked up all over Europe. This may be small beer in the UK, where £38k is just a year's worth of flipping homes by our MPs, but in Romania it will build you a tasteless vulgar palace with gold taps and individual stables for the goats. I'll bet the EU nomenklatura were particularly interested; if they exempted all transactions of less than €0.5m from accounting transparency, they might just be able to find a bent auditor somewhere in Europe to sign off their accounts. All seemed well and establishment politicians and public officials were rubbing their hands.

Then the people of Romania took to the streets. The politicians remembered what happened the last time they did so, and rapidly backed down. The thieves decree was rescinded. All over Europe one could almost hear the gentle hiss as miffed politicians abandoned dreams of new scams and frauds and let the air out of the hubristic pomposity that criminal immunity confers. Little tear-soaked tissues were flushed from the cloaca of the Berlaymont. Empty Sancerre bottles crashed inverted into Westminster ice buckets. We, the people, have won this round - but the price of a Parliament free from corruption is eternal vigilance.