tisdag 31 januari 2012

Is the world really turning Right?

An article in today's Guardian discusses this question, presenting a few statistics from recent elections. To anyone with no committment one way or the other, it was evident that the Left had come to the end of the road by the end of the 1980s. Since then it has thrashed around trying to give itself voter appeal with no sound theoretical or philosophical base to work from.

Events over the past five years show the Right has also come to the end of the road. But it has succeeded in maintaining its support, especially in the English speaking world, by appealing to raw selfish instinct. This underpins the neo-Liberalist agenda. It will slowly lead to the breakdown of society as it is nothing more than dog-eat-dog.

Those who do not wish to see this happening must now take a step back and return to first principles, which is unlikely to lead to socialist solutions (which were only ever palliative) but to something else altogether, the outlines of which cannot yet be clearly discerned but which will not lie anywhere on the conventional left-right spectrum.

Those on the "Left" must redefine what it is that really concerns them. Those on the "Right" who want to avert the dog-eat-dog society need to do the same thing. Coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, people of good will might discover that they could put together a programme for political reform that both could agree on.

måndag 30 januari 2012

A disturbing story - my name is Legion

Today's mass readings were taken from Mark 5

1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Ger’asenes.
2 And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain;
4 for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him;
7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
10 And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country.
11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside;
12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.”
13 So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The demoniac in the story seems to have been suffering from what, in modern parlance, would be diagnosed as multiple personality disorder. Pigs are of course an unclean animal but the idea of 2000 drowned pigs floating in the sea of Galilee is to say the least unpleasant. What is the meaning of this story?

lördag 28 januari 2012

Brighton's Fawlty Towers

My house having been cleared, I spent my last night in Brighton at the Royal Albion Hotel, which proved to be a real Fawlty Towers.

There was no heating and I had to get someone to bring an electric plug-in heater. The room smelled of stale tobacco. The toilet seat would not stay up. The windows had not been cleaned for years. The situation was by a busy road, which would not have been a problem if double glazing had been installed.

Breakfast was a parody of an English breakfast, with egg made from powder. The museli was disgustingly sweet and there was no plain yogurt available, only the sweetened stuff. Yet people were obviously satisfied. That makes one wonder.

I complained to the owners, Britannia, but the reply did not even amount to an apology.

onsdag 18 januari 2012

An out of touch government

Talk of new royal yachts, King James bibles for every school pupil, a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher, point to a government that has utterly lost touch with its people and their aspirations and anxieties.

I am reminded of Solzhenitsyn description of Tsar Nicolas in his book August 1914 - piety combined with foolishness. It is as fatal combination as smartness without piety. Where is this going to lead?

fredag 13 januari 2012

Tesco in trouble

Apparently Tesco is in trouble. This might explain why. I doubt if I am unusual here. My order of preference for food shopping in central Brighton is
  1. Infinity Foods, a local wholefood/organic food workers' co-operative
  2. Co-op, good offers and own products, but poor stock management and seems disorganised, and nasty music at times
  3. Sainsburys, quite good all-round but nothing special.
  4. Marks and Spencer, consistent quality, good offers but shop is too big for shopping for just a few items and long waiting times, pleasant ambience.
  5. Morrisons, good range, friendly helpful staff, atrocious auto-checkouts and nasty disco-music
  6. Tesco, have taken over some historic buildings and ruined them, poor range of goods, things are often not in stock, staff are surly, unpleasant ambience.

onsdag 11 januari 2012

What are the real costs of HS2 and the alternatives?

According to the statement in Parliament the "high speed" cost of the new line will be £1.2bn. This sounds like a case of massaging statistics and implausible.

First, the HST needs an entirely new route to accommodate the higher speeds. A conventional speed railway can be laid on unused route from Calvert to Rugby and from Old Oak Common to Northolt Junction. The railway remains operational all the way from Calvert to Marylebone, forming part of the Chiltern line commuter route to Aylesbury. Going towards London there is a connection to the GW main line south of Calvert, and another to the Oxford to Bletchley.

Second, the rolling stock costs for high speed are about double, and three times as much in the case of the special UK gauge rolling stock that will have to be used for running on both old and new lines.

Third, the energy costs are double, and they can only rise as time goes on.

Fourth, there is all that tunneling.

We could get all the extra capacity you wanted by building the GC back to Rugby, putting in a connection to the WCML, reinstating the Ashendon Junction to Grendon Underwood Junction link, restoring Northolt Junction to Paddington, electrifying Marylebone/Paddington/Oxford to Birmingham and putting all the Heathrow Express trains underground as part of the Crossrail scheme.

That would cost less than half of HS2.

tisdag 10 januari 2012

All fur coat and no knickers

The government is expected to give the go-ahead to HS2 today. It is a shocking demonstration of the inability of Britain's decision makers to join up their thinking.

Having decided to invest £32 billion in public transport, it can not possibly be the best use of resources to devote it to this one project.

"Fur coat and no knickers" is the phrase that comes to mind. It is unlikely that the opposition will succeed in overturning the project at this stage. When there are so many more worthwhile rail improvements urgently needed all over the country, I find it sad that prestige trumps utility yet again.

måndag 9 januari 2012

Decision imminent

A decision on HS2 is expected this week. Comments in the newspapers are almost entirely hostile. Some it comes from NIMBYs. Some comes from people who do not want to see public money spent on anything at all, if possible. But the serious arguments come from those who argue that if this amount of money is going to be spent on the railways, it a mistake to blow it all on this scheme.

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