Monday 8 December 2014

It's a bus, not a Tardis

To anybody with a scrap of common sense, it is obvious that a bus is a finite space which is smaller on the inside than the outside.   This means there is a limit to how many people you can cram in, and that the dominant operating mode is first-come, first-served, without regard to who most needs the ride or who is doing the most important journey.

Does a wheelchair-bound oncologist trying to get to her clinic to treat her patients have a higher priority than a wheelchair user who unfortunately suffered massive head trauma and is being taken out for a day by his carer?   Should we chuck the one with the head injury off the bus if the oncologist wants to get on later, on the grounds that she is more important, and moreover, female and unaccompanied?

Clearly, we cannot stack them up on top of one another, although we could do things such as sending one of them by cab - which frankly, is much cheaper than building them each a separate bus in order to bolster the German bus-building industry. 

If you are a politician, though, particularly an MEP, the concept of finite space and money seems like a quaint notion.  They assume that just by waving a magic wand, it will make bus floors expand and there will never, ever, be competition for the precisely the same space on a bus.  In the manner of out-of-touch aristocrats, they cheerfully pluffed-up their self-righteousness and decreed that henceforth, wheelchair users and similar must be carried.

They were warned that this would inevitably mean that one day, there would be a stand-off between people using wheeled conveyances,  having a fruitless argument about who was entitled to that particular space.

That day came.  Most people seem to be misled by the irrelevancies; was there other space, is the fact that a baby cannot walk the same as a wheelchair user not being able to walk, should we take in to account the urgency of the journey, does gender matter? What about if the child is disabled and in one of those over-sized buggies?  Those things are all irrelevant. They are just fact-sensitive examples which do not change the underlying problem.

All that matters is that you cannot get two people in to the same space, which means you either stick with 'first come, first served' or you start chucking people off buses and create a Byzantine rule-base for deciding priorities.  The bus drivers would have to be uprated to constables and also have a degree in philosophy, because they are going to be spending most of their time arbitrating cases and kicking people off .  And all the buses will be late because they don't get on with the important thing: driving the bus.

You cannot get two buses in to the same space either, so somebody is going to have to make up their mind to get on the next one, or get a taxi.  Providing there is another one behind, this is is the best which can be managed under the present time-space continuum.

In a rare outbreak of common sense, the Court of Appeal has ruled that if Parliament wants to suspend the laws of physics, it must pass laws to that effect.  Good luck with that.

Monday 17 November 2014

And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear

When Dr Matt Taylor gave the good news about the Rosetta mission, and with every right to be proud of his achievement in space exploration for the European Space Agency,  there was a disastrous failure of PR which nearly wrecked the project. The project that day was not space exploration. That's what they do on all other days.  The job that day was to engage the public to gain support so that  funding remained and might be increased.

Dr Taylor walked into the world media's eye in a graphical shirt made by a friend and Twitter went kaboom.  The component which failed was the head of public affairs. Instead of insisting that the Mission was the star of the show and that a key presenter would be wearing a plain, comfortable, casual shirt with long sleeves, Dr Taylor was allowed to toddle out eupohric in his party wear.

The public face of the European Space Agency (ESA), at the point it was talking to the people who pay the bills, had accidentally fallen in to the hands of a kindly tattoo artist's wife in Chelmsford, and she  had chosen a fabric design based on popular cover art for classic science fiction. 

Amongst friends, at a barbie, maybe at the gala session of a professional conference, or all day at a comic con, that shirt is OK.  But it was wrong in the context of the job to be done that day, which was to represent the ESA to the public. 

Women who deconstructed the theme of the shirt shirt were immediately accused of being too fugly to understand the science and anyway, how come they had judged a man on his clothes? To which the reply was 'Welcome to my world'.

The vituperation ramped up with the usual cries of  'it's all the fault of the feminists' but, as with the rape threats against Jessica Ennis-Hill in a separate context, the purpose was to attack any woman who voiced a criticism, how dare she.  Women complain they are attacked for voicing an opinion, and thousands of people leap up to patronize and threaten them for saying such a thing. Or telling a man what to wear in a professional context, the bitch.

Like yelling 'raaayyycist', a quick shout of 'feminazi' is used to marginalize the criticism to lazily avoid having to face it. The point is not whether some people were offended, but whether they are right about the message which goes out if you turn up to a major PR event wearing a softporn-themed shirt. There is little to argue about in PR terms; that was no way for the ESA to present itself. To be fair to the ESA, they made him change his shirt in later segments, so somebody was trying to get a hold on the bolting story as it galloped off with real science story clinging on to its back like a terrified monkey.

Provided Dr Taylor had not ignored dress instructions (we do not know if he was ever told what to wear) it was cruel of the ESA to require him to make the apology; somebody could have done it for him in a simple statement, but the criticism stands. The point of the day was the Landing, and a shirt has no business undermining that. 

The moral of the story is that if you ever wondered what use a PR is, this is what happens when PR fails.

If you must do retro ironic print shirts, please follow the master:

Friday 7 November 2014

Remembrance 2014

The long process of reviewing the past century continues but Sunday is for  remembrance.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Job of the month - ferry clerk

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

View from your office window

Get paid to be in a beautiful part of the country.  All you have to do is sell tickets in the ferry office down in Poole - but on the forest side of the water.

Office Assistant (37.5 hours per week)
We have a vacancy for an Office Assistant to join the team working mainly in the Ferry Office. Ideally applicants will have office and cash handling experience. Candidates must be confident and able to work unsupervised. The position requires a flexible approach to working hours and also an ability to share "on call" duties with management.
The position is 37.5 hours per week over five days and will include every other weekend. A salary of £22,620.00 will be offered to the successful applicant.
 Please apply with a CV to:

The Bournemouth-Swanage Ferry Co,
Ferry Office, Shell Bay,
Studland, Swanage,
BH19 3BA,
or by email to

Please do not disturb the rare colony of naturists

Further pictures from the Poole Harbour Guide.

Friday 6 June 2014

6 June 1944


This doorway was one of the last which men passed through on their way down to the troop ships in Operation Overlord.  

It would be poetic if it had once been a chapel but it was probably a latrine. 

Being shit scared didn't stop them.

Monday 2 June 2014

Freebie - The supremacy of European Law

David Cameron and other MPs think they can negotiate with European law.  It is a very old delusion caused by not being bothered to buy even an entry-level primer. 

During the 1980s Mrs Thatcher threw millions of pounds down a series of drains called Factortame.  The essence of this festering sequence of cases was that the British government thought it could protect our fishing rights by specifying who could own British-registered ships based on nationality, even though the British government had signed those rights away in a treaty.

You do not need to be a lawyer to understand that if you have signed a reciprocal treaty and then you go to the trade court moaning that 'snot fair, they will just point to your signature on the bottom of the deal.  What are you complaining about?  You want to fish their waters, they want to fish yours.  You can own their boats, they can own yours. If you can't take a joke, you should not have signed up. 

The code word for this is 'pooling our sovereignty in designated areas'.  i.e. All of them.  Whereas I think sovereignty is like virginity. You either are, or you aren't.

European law takes precedence over English law.    Politicians should  check what the European Court of Justice said half a century ago; they need not take this blog's word for it - why not ask a reputable law publisher?

Thompson Reuters is offering a key freebie. You can have a section of the Nutshell Guide to European Law online.   For political purposes you do not even need to read all of it.  Just scroll down to their section 4,  EU and National Law, page 36,37, 38. 

People feeling studious can read to the end, though. It is not long -  only ten pages of core material as the rest is surrounding items such as the cover.   Somebody should print this out for the Prime Minister. 

Monday 7 April 2014

How to marry your own daughter

Now that marriage is a notarial contract of cohabitation recogized across the EU, it is time to look at the other out-moded and frankly offensive restrictions on whom one can register as a partner. It is ludicrous that one can register someone else's son or daughter and thereby pass one's wealth free of inheritance tax to them, but not your own child. If two people love each other, why shouldn't they get married?

This does not mean incest is going to be legalized. Sex between certain categories of blood relative remains a crime  under s.64 and 65 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.   It may be this needs to be revised too but for the moment, let that obtain.   Sex is no longer a required or even assumed ingredient of what it means to have a notarial contract of cohabitation, so that need not detain us.  Neither is it strictly necessary to cohabit.  The declared status still stands, even if you do not spend much time in the same country as each other.

The concern here is with grown children who take on the responsibilities of a partner and yet are shut out from any of the benefits of that status.

It is unfair for example, that an aging gay son who has spent many years looking after his mother should be obliged to pay tax (if the estate exceeds the IHT threshold) just because he has stepped in to the role that his late father might have otherwise performed.   He can register a contract with  the old man next door, he could always have married the old lady next door,  he could become the spouse of the son or daughter next door, but not be his own dear old Mum's recognized partner, although he already is in every relevant sense.  Where is the justice in that?

Or, consider aging siblings who have to make complicated wills, living together but never being able to take advantage of the same tax arrangements as any other more distantly related couples. Why can't you marry your brother if you have ended up as his carer?

At the moment you cannot register as the partner of more than one person at a time, but since the Netherlands leads the way in allowing notarial contracts of cohabitation to apply to to multiple signatories, that could also change.  The old bigamy laws must give way to new modes of inheritance whereby a parent can register as the partner of several children, friends, relatives etc. Why can't you have more than one partner?  You can in commercial law.

Alternatively, abolish inheritance tax as it is incompatible with the primacy of the notarial contract of partnership. 

 The Telegraph is also interested in this,. They look at in the light of the current legal situation  but cannot face the logic of marrying one's own children. 

If two men can get married, it makes no difference which two men it is, or if it is more than two of them.

Saturday 22 February 2014


pulsating with vigor and energy: the vibrant life of a large city.

vigorous; energetic; vital: a vibrant personality.
I am prepared to apply this word 'vibrant' to a few places where one can feel the economic energy bubbling up but not to the following:

- a bus garage outside a station

- a gum-speckled area of block paving between shops which are half-closed because nobody wants to walk half a mile from the car park or pay £3 for the privilege of looking at a pile of plastic baskets. 

- a big supermarket, not even one the size of a dozen football pitches.

If you are trying to catch a train or pick up your dry cleaning or find packet of biscuits, what you want is to move smoothly from where you are to a position where you have what you are seeking.  Being waylaid by a samba band plays no desirable part in that.

Nor do I think that hanging baskets and incongruous mounds of 'planters' make Babylon in to hanging gardens.  Out of all the delusions modern planners are prone to, it is that sticking a basket of begonias in a tub will improve matters. They are the scatter cushions of the urban environment; leave that to the interior designers who understand how to dress a space for effect.

I don't want vibrant. I will settle for clean, adequately signposted, and without ankle-breaking smashed  paving stones. Thank you.

Monday 17 February 2014

How to Introduce Rationing

Politicians and civil servants have never forgotten the thrill of total war and the power it gave them to direct all the goods and services in the entire economy.  They created artificial shortages to magnify the effects of war so that when rationing was introduced the public saw the coupons as smoothing out supply and accepted them.  It was the manipulation of perception.  

But that war is over.  Without a permanent enemy, how is one to impose a parallel currency such as carbon credits, or manufacture the warrant to reach right in to every household and dictate that they must use expensive complex light bulbs which are not very bright,  or to insist that some irrelevant jobsworth must write an energy performance certificate for every house when it is sold?  How is one to dominate civil society and bring it under central European control?

Easy. Make the effects of bad weather worse by deliberately mis-managing the landscape,  then call it Man Made Climate Change.  Then demand even more power to deal with it.

It may be that Environment Agency simply bungled the management of the Somerset Levels. It may be that the land was inadvertently flooded on the instructions of people who do not understand how waterlands work and that if you drown a newt in sewage, it is just as dead as if you had dried its habitat out.

But it may also be that a perfect disaster was set up deliberately, with the intention it would panic the middle-classes, who tend to live in the prettier parts, in to handing over all the power necessary to 'save' them.

Watts Up With That has been looking in to how bad weather was made worse by the Environment Agency. 
"The real issue has to do with the lack of flow capacity in the Kings Sedgemoor Drain, (gravity drain, not pumped) due to silting and vegetation encroachment, as well as similar issues in the River Parrett...."

Sunday 9 February 2014

In which I agree with Peter Hain

At last. 
He [Peter Hain] told The Independent: “Ukip is hoovering up the anti-politics vote. It goes beyond Europe and even beyond immigration. Some of it is plain bigotry. A lot of it is deep, deep antagonism to the political class, of which all the major parties are part. Under New Labour – and it has still not been wiped away - there has been a big disillusionment with us as a party among white working class traditional Labour supporters.”
Labour has not represented the working classes since it voted for the party to continue the European project in 1974. Michael Foot objected on exactly the grounds that it would deny Labour the chance to protect its own core vote. He was out-voted.  No problem; since then, Labour has just changed its core vote to represent net beneficiaries of the welfare state, such as benefits claimants, immigrants, public sector employees, and the middle-class chatterati luvvies who think that there is a magic money tree.   It was shrewd political decision; put together this group can, and did, deliver electoral success.

Of course, it was helped by John Major also alienating the Conservative core vote.  A child of the aspiring working classes, an outsider, he made good and became PM.   He promptly squandered the legacy of Margaret Thatcher who had recruited 'Essex Man'; the folk who do not have local authority jobs and guaranteed pensions, people whose work ebbs and flows with the market demand, the net contributors to the welfare state.  Instead of helping them, Major shuffled that huge group towards benefits dependency and straight in to the arms of Tony Blair, where they have remained. 

This does not mean they like Labour.  Older voters remembers that the Conservatives did feck-all for them after an initial burst, but they also remember that there was a time when they thought they might get ahead, might be able to work their way upwards instead of seeing the likes of Tracey Connelly given child benefit, housing benefit and a refurbished house so that her boyfriend could  torture her children in comfort.

Moving below this like a vast lurking Jaws, ready to leap out and snap the ship of state in half, is the issue of immigration.  This does not signify crude xenophobia. Rather, it is that the minister for immigration found a cleaner whose status was queried from the beginning, then later claimed he left the paperwork in his jeans and his daily lady washed them.  Or something.
Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, Paul Gallico, 1958
In the process, he denied that paying work to one of those 'Mrs Harris' voters, who used to make a living out of supplying domestic services to several modest households. Try paying £15 per hour and giving the contract to somebody with a British birth certificate - their own certificate - and she would be back in business.  But that would mean allowing discrimination in favour of British nationals.

I do not have a problem with this but currently it is against EU law as British and EU nationals must be treated equally. There is a way to fix that.

Sunday 19 January 2014

The Gambler

This vid would never get on TV now because of the references to cigareets and whisky, but it has a good lyric for UKIP councillor, David Silvester, who will be feeling sore at UKIP disciplining him for giving an interview when he was told not to.

He is, of course, perfectly entitled to hold whatever personal views he likes and to express them.  However, UKIP is in the run-up to a key election and its enemies are playing for their political lives.  In this context, what matters is not what he told David Cameron two years ago,  but what it will tell the other parties in eighteen weeks time if their troughers can be chucked off the Euro gravy-train by a significant swing to UKIP.

Best then not to get in to an unwinnable argument instead of sticking to the main thing: we have got to get back control of our own law, borders and negotiated terms of trade. 

The Gambler

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done. 

Songwriters: SCHLITZ, DON, © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC 

Wednesday 15 January 2014