Wednesday, 26 April 2017

"This present age of idiotic nationalism"

It is one of the innumerable disadvantages of this present age of idiotic nationalism, political and economic, this age of passports and visas and quotas, when every country is as difficult to enter or leave as was the Czar’s Russia or the Sultan’s Turkey before the war, that it is no longer possible for this leavening process to continue. Bradford is really more provincial now than it was twenty years ago. But so, I suspect, is the whole world. It must be when there is less and less tolerance in it, less free speech, less liberalism. Behind all the new movements of this age, nationalistic, fascistic, communistic, has been more than a suspicion of the mental attitude of a gang of small town louts ready to throw a brick at the nearest stranger.
JB Priestley, as quoted on Matt Carr's blog on April 25, 2017 - coincidentally the same day when another blogger received an unwelcome visit from the small town lout, convicted fraudster and Caudillo of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon), flanked by a couple of his knuckle-dragging minions. I wonder where sub-Ukip troglodytes like this got the idea that it was OK to go around trying to intimidate people with the old "We know where you live" schtick?

Any ideas?

Whose priorities?

Council housing in Milton Keynes is to undergo a £1bn makeover - half a century since it was established as a new town.

Priority has been given to seven housing estates across the borough deemed in urgent need of repair - and potentially - demolition....

...Milton Keynes was a pioneering housing development when it was was officially designated a town in January 1967.

But many of its early housing estates are now considered tired, run-down and in need of maintenance and structural repair.

Seven council estates have been given priority - Netherfield, Coffee Hall, Tinkers Bridge, North Bradville, Fullers Slade, the Lakes and Beanhill.

A timetable for the regeneration was announced on Wednesday, with the first letters sent out to people living in Fullers Slade.
BBC News, 26th of April 2017

The Fullers Slade estate was put up in something of a hurry in late 1971:
Milton Keynes, was badly suffering from shortage of skilled labour and contractors due to its huge building programme and distances from existing conurbations. There were attempts to design housing by using simplified and if possible use factory built or repetitive elements of construction where possible.

The first housing scheme near Stony Stratford, Galley Hill, was nearing completion and DOE’s granted permission for the same contractor to continue working on Fullers Slade provided the work continued from first site to the second. This imposed a much reduced design period (almost two months) and resulted in a simpler layout and quick decision making.  Long delivery periods for bricks made it necessary to use diagonal cedar boarding as external cladding and a concrete system using a box system of shutters was used  on a standardised 3.60m module for all dwellings.

Iqbal Aalam
Assuming the current plans are on schedule, any long-term residents of these hastily-constructed estates will been waiting over four and a half decades for their first regeneration. In the same period, Doctor Who has regenerated nine times. I leave you to work out what this says about our society's hierarchy of needs.

Monday, 24 April 2017

It's a small world

Welcome to the small, but perfectly formed, Positive Solutions Pavilion (criticism is prohibited).

See the whole tiny exhibition of surrelistic papercraft concept architecture, from the Botanical Sparkly Desert Oasis Pavilion to Templeton Gators Swim Club Pavilion here.

Brexit - mistake, enemy action, or delusion?

When Nigel Farage tripped down the steps of the Ecuadorian embassy – a visit that he did not expect to be photographed or documented – a beam of light was shone on a previously hidden world: a political alignment between WikiLeaks’ ideology, Ukip’s ideology and Trump’s ideology that is not necessarily just an affinity. It is also, potentially, a channel of communication.

David Golumbia, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US who has studied WikiLeaks, describes it as “the moment when the lines suddenly become visible”. He says: “It was like the picture suddenly came into focus. There is this worldwide, rightwing, nationalistic movement that is counter to the EU, and this is present in the US and Europe and Russia, and we are just starting to understand how they do all seem to be in communication and co-ordination with each other.”
Carole Cadwalladr, writing in the Graun.

If you were an agent for a hostile power actively trying to inflict massive damage on the UK and the EU, then covertly promoting Brexit would certainly have helped you to do just that. The idea that Brexit was a foreign conspiracy has a vague plausibility, but it's not that probable, at least if you calm down a bit and apply Hanlon's razor to the dramatic idea that the Brexit omnishambles is the result of active subversion, rather than just a catastrophically bad decision.

But the idea of subversion by foreign powers still looks more likely than the official government delusion that, if we all just shut up, get behind Brexit and wish hard enough, we'll magically find ourselves in a wonderful land of freedom and opportunity where foreigners will fall over themselves in their rush to capitulate to our every demand.

If you still believe that one, just keep your head still while I measure you up for a stylish tinfoil hat.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Well, that was a surprise...

So how are things going with the idea of UK breaking free to cut all those really great international trade deals, without the dead hand of Brussels holding it back?
Boris Johnson says Britain will be first in line for US trade deal after meeting with Donald Trump's team and Paul Ryan
Telegraph headline, January 9th, 2017.
Donald Trump ready to do trade deal with EU ahead of the UK
Telegraph headline, April 23rd ,2017.

Apparently not so well.

Honestly, if you can't even trust Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, who can you trust?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Failure is success

I still haven't got anything particularly insightful to say about the surprise election annoucement, but others have. I think this, from the comments below this piece is a good summary of why the Conservatives are feeling confident - namely, their astonishing success in branding themselves as competent managers, despite lurching from one huge, obvious self-inflicted crisis (failed austerity) to the next (flailing Brexit):
For years now the right have perfected the art of portraying themselves as pragmatic and competent, while actually proposing very radical policies and implementing them badly. The left has allowed itself to be portrayed as having some nice ideas, but not being realistic or practical. Bernie Sanders I think is one of the few who have managed to sell left policies as common sense and realistic – the SNP have also managed to do that in Scotland.

My point is that Brexit offered Corbyn and the Labour party the opportunity to claim the mantle of being safe and moderate in comparison to the crazy radicalism of the Tories – and to do it without compromising on key policies and ideals. In my opinion, it was a huge gift handed to the left in Britain by the Tories, and the Labour Party was too inept to accept it.
I'm still looking for an analysis that's both realistic and not depressing. Don't hold your breath.

Different bridge

I don't yet have anything instant and/or sensible to say about the snap general election that the PM is trying to call and which I entirely failed to see coming, so here's a nice picture I took a few weeks back:

This was taken on the Millennium, rather than Westminster, Bridge, but I rather like the Wordsworthian vibe of being at the still heart of the city in the early morning, with nobody about, apart from the odd delivery person and early-rising jogger. Some of the ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples have changed since Wordsworth's day (look at the size of the Shard, looming over the tiny silhouettes of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London), but the stillness and clarity of a new morning remain:
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!