overcrowded Britain

What passes for a kitchen in Hackney

What passes for a kitchen in Hackney

A front page article in the Financial Times (FT) on the 21st November reported that a bunch of “leading economists” had written a letter to the British Chancellor, George Osbourne, urging him to rethink his plans to curb immigration. Mr. Osbourne is planning to limit economic migrants entering the UK from outside the EU and the economists believe that this would be “deeply damaging to the competitiveness of our science and research sectors and the wider economy”.

The UK had 13 years of New Labour during which immigration was used to provide cheap skilled workers to business mitigating the need to properly educate the indigenous workforce. This is obviously not a sustainable policy and will merely store up trouble for the future as British people sit on their arses and let Johnny Foreigner do all the work.

The restrictions to be brought in are for non-EU citizens so British business would still have the entire population of the EU from which to draw its workers. That means the economists believe that the educated percentage of a total population of around 500 million people is not sufficient for the British economy!

What utter tosh!

If 500 million are not enough then why should we believe that a world of 7 billion people is? Perhaps, if we looked hard, we could find an even dafter set of economists who believe that UK business needs the educated population of 10 Earth size planets.

The truth is that large corporations are driven by the need for profit and this means limiting costs. Land and labour are major costs and so it is most efficient for corporations to build mega office complexes and have the entire planet as a pool of potential employees. It’s even more profitable if the workforce are educated at someone else’s expense.

I’m sure the economists are all clever gentlemen but my experience is that bean counters only count beans. By this I mean they only count that which can be counted. However, some resources cannot be quantified and the top of my list is housing. House prices in London have more than tripled in 14 years and are still way over priced as discussed in an article in The Economist in 26th November.

Since a basic tenet of capitalism is that increased demand and fixed supply drives up the price of an asset. The deliberate importing of people into the UK may support corporate profits but it will also provide upward pressure on housing.

Corporations push the idea that capitalism creates wealth for the population and this can sometimes be true. At the moment, in China, capitalism is helping raise many people out of poverty. But read a book like The People Of The Abyss by Jack London and you realise that, at the height of the British Empire, which was powered by capitalism, the lives of the people living in the east end of London were worse than Australian aboriginals on the other side of the world living as hunter-gatherers.

The People Of The Abys shows capitalism at its rawest, un-tempered by socialism or the fears of socialism. It shows that the welfare of a population is not directly related to the profits of business.

Over the past decade or so, while businesses earned fat profits, ordinary people had to endure costs which did not appear on the balance sheets of any businessmen or politician. Unaffordable housing is just one example but the ordinary worker must also endure standing like tinned sardines on Bakerloo Line trains from London Bridge on a Saturday evening. We must sit in traffic jams. We must stand in rush hour queues, not to get on the train, not to get on the platform, not to get on to the escalator but to get into the bloody station!

All this boils down to supply of land and it is possible to argue that the UK should release more land for building to ease congestion and prices. This would be fine were the UK the size of the United States. It isn’t. Open up Google Earth and have a fly over the UK. Most of the land is either farm land or already built upon. There are very few patches of wilderness. Scotland is more thinly populated  and we could just shrug and decide that we will give over the entire UK to human needs. The UK could become the first concrete country.

In 1951 Isaac Asimov published the first of his Foundation series of Science Fiction novels which portrayed a world known as Trantor which was completely covered in metal. The whole planet had been taken up by humans for homes or factories or offices. Food and raw materials were shipped in from other worlds.

I don’t want to live in a country without wilderness. I do not want to live on Trantor!

The pro-immigration lobby scoff and say that it will be centuries before we even approach a situation resembling the planet Trantor. True but then can they give us an indication of when we are going to stop building?

A couple of hundred years ago England was covered in forest and someone argued that we should chop down just this little bit more wilderness and give it over to some landowner to farm. They probably said “…but England is covered in forest, it will be centuries before it is all chopped down….”. They were right; it did take centuries.

But HELLO! here we are centuries later and the forests are gone.

On the 24 November 2011 the BBC reported that annual net migration to the UK hit a record high in 2010 at 252,000 though the figure may have now fallen to something more like 245,000. Growth is often expressed as a percentage but a more enlightening indicator of growth is “doubling period”. i.e. The time it takes for a population to double in size? The UK’s current population stands at about 62 million. If the current population carried on at replacement level and if the population only grew by the current immigration rate then the population would double in about 255 years.

That’s about nine generations if we take a generation as 28 years. By 2265 the UK would have a population of 124,500,000 and our descendants (that’s the grandchildren of our grandchildren’s grandchildren) will look back and wonder what the hell we thought we were doing.

One by one the trees are cut down. Little by little our forests were destroyed. Little by little forest becomes farm. Little by little farms become houses and offices. Little by little we accept smaller seats on buses and no leg room on trains. Little by little we trade space for gadgets. Little by little we are squeezed into chickens runs and little by little the UK becomes grossly overpopulated.

I’m sure that it’s true that adding 10% more workers to London and letting them live like factory hens would make London’s corporations more profitable. Londoners may even acquire more tablet computers and smart phones. Yet our lives would be worse! Already the definition of a kitchen in a flat in Hackney is a line of cupboards down the side of the living room. Just how many times can they divide up these beautiful old houses into smaller and smaller boxes?

The mistake that these economists make is to become totally business centric. Their analysis stops at the profits of business and they fail to follow the process through to ensure that it benefits the population as a whole.

It is notable that the venerable economists who wrote the letter to Mr. Osbourne uttered not a squeak about the corporate profits which are being filched away overseas to avoid paying tax as was reported in the same edition of the FT. Surely that too is “deeply damaging to the competitiveness of our science and research sectors and the wider economy”.

Buy Poppies at Fine Art America

Poppies

Stewart Fraser more bothered by hippies than financial incompetents

Stewart Fraser - bothered about hippies

Stewart Fraser - bothered about hippies

On the 15th November I was watching Channel 4 News and saw Stewart Fraser, the Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee of the City Of London Corporation, say that the Occupy protesters at St Paul’s cathedral should be moved. He made the usual excuse of our whinging elite when he said that the protesters had no solution, only criticism.

Of course! They are not professional economists or bankers. They represent the people who have suffered from the policies of people like Mr. Fraser. This is like the captain of the Titanic blaming the passengers for complaining. Mr. Fraser would do well to focus more on the incompetent bankers who got The UK into the current mess rather than trying to suppress the people who are protesting.

Anyway, I wrote the bloke an Email which, so far, he has ignored. I suggets anyone else who is interested in this write him an Email too. You could try this address: COL-EB-TC@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Attention: Stewart Fraser,

I just saw your appearance on Channel 4 news in which you were completely dismissive of the protesters at St. Paul’s cathedral and seemed to be making up reasons for their eviction on the fly.

I have worked in the City before but not at any great seniority. I also realise that there will necessarily be conflict between authorities and the protesters in such a situation.

However, you arrogant dismissiveness is extraordinary. You have a bee on your bonnet about a handful of protesters in the street yet where were you during the credit crunch? Where were you as the banks and politicians ruined the economy? Not a squeak. Not a squeak.

As Evan Davis has pointed out, just prior to the credit crunch, at the end of a boom which had run on for ten years (and was therefore due to bust), a major bank (I forget which) had lent £40 for every £1 it had in deposits. This meant that if the value of its investments were to fall by just 2% the bank would be insolvent. This is incompetence and complacency on a massive scale.

Further, at the same time, while the economy was booming, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was running a deficit. (If you can’t repay debt in the good times then when can you?)

And where was Stewart Fraser? Nowhere to be seen. Yet when a bunch of hippies pitch tents in the street there you are swaggering around on TV.

Further, while I understand that bonuses can be a useful tool most investors are in it for the long term. It is therefore idiotic to pay traders massive bonuses because they made good profits in a single year.
As a man approaching retirement I require long term growth not erratic variations in my investments. As it is my investments have plummeted.

Your arrogant dismissive attitude emphasises that you guys still don’t realise that a lot of people are suffering because of your actions.

Your profile on The City Of London web site states that you enjoy walking, I suggest you walk. Step down from your role as Chairman of the Policy & Resources Committee.

Fantastic Art Photography

Fantastic Art Photography

Corporations filching profits away abroad to avoid tax

Nice work if you can get it

Nice work if you can get it

I picked up a copy of the Financial Times (FT) on Monday 21st November 2011 and on the front page was an article about citizens of the Cayman Islands collecting fund directorships. It seems that the scam out there is for multinational companies to appoint Cayman Islanders as directors in order for the companies to claim to be based in The Cayman Islands and thereby gain tax exempt status in the UK and elsewhere.

The FT reported that “leading firms” “staunchly defend their practices” and claim that “their employees are skilled full time professionals backed by large teams of logistical and support staff”. They’d need to be as “at least four individuals hold more than 100 non-executive directorships each, and 14 have more than 70 – each worth as much as $30,000”. The article didn’t state where these support staff were based. Canary Wharf perhaps?

So it seems that bankers and mega-corporations are lecturing the working people on the sacrifices that must be made while corporations are operating fraudulent practices to “avoid” paying tax.

Another article reported that David Cameron is planning a scheme to boost the housing market by providing £400 million to underwrite mortgages for new homes.
The idea of a scheme to encourage house building is tempting but subsidies will lure people into buying who cannot really afford today’s over inflated prices. It will merely delay the inevitable crash and leave new buyers in negative equity.

After the credit crunch the British tax payer was called upon to bale out the banking industry. Now the taxpayer is to be tapped to try to delay a crash of the housing market. The taxpayer’s money will be used to maintain house prices at unrealistic levels while the house builders grow reliant on a subsidy. As with all such schemes there will be pressure for it to be carried on indefinitely.

An article on page 7 of the FT discussed China’s fears of lasting worldwide recession and stated that China’s premier Wen Jiabao, had prompted speculation that China will loosen it’s monetary policy immanently by saying that China intended to “fine tune it’s tight monetary policy”. The article went on to say that “because almost all of China’s banks are owned by the state and top banking executives are all senior Communist Party officials, Beijing can adjust monetary policy without having to adjust interest rates or make any public policy shift at all”.

Well that’s a neat trick! On the face of it, one might think that state capitalism, as practiced by China, is superior to (supposedly) democratic capitalism as practiced in the West. If only the majority of UK banks were state owned. If only the majority of their top executives were members of the Tory Party……..but wait…..Doh!

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

Occupy Brighton

Occupy Brighton

Occupy Brighton

An Occupy protest has sprung up in Victoria Gardens Brighton oposite the King & Queen pub. A bunch of tents and some friendly people open for a  chat. They had some good slogans. “Chose love over fear” and “All money is a matter of belief”.

I guess the latter has been true since governments came off the gold standard. Since then it is possible that, if the politicians and bankers screw up enough, people will lose all faith in money. They will see it for what it is: mere paper and numbers in computers. The problems is that millions of us, necessarily, have stakes in money in the form of investments, savings and pensions. However, these being hit by the current crisis the danger is that people do lose belief in the system. Like God, money requires faith. Without faith, it is nothing.

Occupy Brighton

Occupy Brighton

Occupy Brighton

Occupy Brighton

hove station

hove station

Brighton United – Closed

Sadly, it seems that Brighton United the Eastern European Delicatessen on St.George’s Place in Brighton, has closed. There was a sign on the door suggesting it had been repossessed by the landlord. Where will I get my Hungarian aprika paste now?

Brighton United - Closed

Brighton United - Closed

Vinyl records fetch a good price

I read an article in the Economist recently which said that investment is difficiult at the moment as everything is risky. Bonds, Stock, property. They could all fail to appreciate over the next decade.

I was in Snoopers Paradide in Brighton this afternoon and I saw that they had a section of vinyl records. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin seem to be holding their value quite nicely.

Vinyl on sale in Snooper's Paradise

Vinyl on sale in Snooper's Paradise

Americans who lose jobs are “losers” according to Pete King

pete king - Automysophobe

pete king - Automysophobe

I have watched the protest outside St. Paul’s with interest and am disappointed with the reaction of the establishment. If the protesters have done nothing else, they have drawn attention to The City of London and it’s questionable regulations which appear to give large corporations excessive power over The Square Mile. (More on this later with luck).

However, thus far, no British politician has revealed themselves to be quite as moronic as Peter King, the U.S. Representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district. On Bloomberg TV Mr. King stated that the Occupy  Wall Street protesters are “living in dirt” and  “involved with drugs” and then went on to say that “there was violence”, “there was rape” and accused the protesters of being “losers”. Of course Mr. King is partly right. Certainly many of the potesters  have lost their jobs, their homes or their pensions.

Mr. King’s words are astonishing. Americans should be shocked that this contemptible man can dismiss fellow Americans who suffer from the policies instigated by politicians, such as himself, as losers. By his words he betrays the people who voted for him.

As usual with the anti-protest lobby he accused the protesters of not having a plan for what should be done. This is a red herring. The protesters are not the people who destroyed the economies of the western world. Mainly, they are not economists or bankers and therefore do not even understand what happened. No, the protesters are the people who suffered the consequences of the actions of  economists and bankers.

Let me state something which should be obvious to anyone who claims to believe in democracy and, incidentally, The American way.

PROTEST IS LEGITIMATE.

To protest you do not have to set up a complete set of alternative policies. The point of protest is a cry for help and Mr. King is ignoring these cries.

In the Bloomberg TV excerpt Mr. King appeared obsessed with cleanliness and repeated the phrase “living in dirt” numerous times. Let me suggest to this simplistic and monumentally arrogant man that, when push comes to shove, people ARE proud to live in dirt. I have absolutely no doubt that when this charlatan speaks of World War 2 or Vietnam he will eulogized the G.I.’s who lived in dirt while on active service.

We, the people who have been ripped off by our leadership, should acclaim the people who “live in dirt” in the Occupy protests because they make physical the utter repugnance and outrage that ordinary people feel for the scum who ruined our economies and then claimed that they had to be well paid or they would leave. The short answer to this is to tell them straight. Just Go. Go. And take Peter King with you.

Contrived argument over kissing and jumpers

How advertising used to be

How advertising used to be

I decided not to buy products by Benetton several year ago because I thought that their advertising campaigns insult our intelligence. This was in 1991 when they plastered posters of a new born baby covered in blood all over London. Firstly, this was not something I wanted to see before breakfast, and secondly this was a wonderful personal moment, crassly exploited to sell jumpers.

Since then hyper-commercialisation has become acceptable and politicians and artists have no shame about selling their kudos and integrity to flog stuff. Tony Blair works for massive banks and Madonna was sponsored by a Vodka company. Fair enough but when they take the money they  also surrender any credibility or right to have their opinions taken seriously. They forgo leadership for the role of a hired hand.

Commercialisation is now built into the DNA of the Anglo-Saxon world and, while it may have made us richer, it has also eroded our self respect and sense of community. I recall hearing a younger friend discussing the renovation work going on at London’s St. Pancras station and he said: “..and that’s before the shops go in…”.

“Before the shops go in”! – It has now become normal that every department in every organisation everywhere in the UK must be a profit centre and sell stuff to the public all the time. Forget punctuality sell ’em another coffee.

I saw some bloke on Dragon’s Den a few months ago trying to flog his invention. He had invented a modification to the little pole and rope barriers used to encourage queuing at cinemas, airports and stations. His idea was that advertising should be hung beneath the ropes – ugh! In a hundred years time every inch of “public” space will have been sold off for advertising. The walls, the floors and the ceilings will all be showing video advertising 24 X 7. Forget freedom of speech it will be freedom of thought that we need to worry about.

I placed a comment in a similar vein to this on The Huffington post and received a reply that enterprise was the way of the Western world and that using catchy, funny and positive ideas to sell products was good.

Leaving aside whether this tripe is catchy, funny and positive I don’t deny the right of organisations and individuals to advertise their products and services. I do object to the ubiquity of advertising especially when the vast majority of it is controlled by a handful of corporations.

Many people consider that we should not object to this sort of thing because that would lead to social engineering. This is perverse. We have social engineering. The marketeers who work for corporations to create these campaigns are social engineers. That is their job.

BBC Radio 4 has a series of programs recently in what it terms its Brain Season. One example of psychological research is something known as anchoring. The idea is that you show a couple of numbers to experimental subjects and then ask them a question such as “what percentage of countries in the UN come from Africa?”. It terms out that their answers will be significantly weighed toward the numbers shown.

Interesting stuff. But who do you think is using this? Are you using it in your every day life? Are your mates at the gym or down the pub using it? No, the people who use this stuff are marketeers working for large multinationals who are trying to lure you into buying more and more useless stuff.  They have even developed an Orwellian term for it: Behavioural Economics. This is what’s behind BP changing it’s corporate colours to green or Shell changing the name of their petrol to “FuelSave Regular Unleaded”. While they talk green they act mean.

popeSo now the marketing execs at the jumper company are at it again. They claim they are promoting peace by displaying pictures of famous people snogging but we all know that their real goal is to pick away at a bunch of people who, rightly or wrongly, will take offence. The company are hypocrites because their goal is not the promotion of peace. Their goal is controversy. They want the Catholic church to take offence.

Whether you like their campaign or you loath it you are being used to promote a bunch of fucking jumpers. In 1962 controversy meant debate about socialism, capitalism and democracy. Fifty years later it means a contrived argument about kissing in adverts for a jumper company. Meanwhile the media colude in this fake debate encorgang the haters on each side to hate each other over some pictures used to sell jumpers. Ka-Ching! I can only infer that the vacuity of the advertising campaign reflects the vacuity of the company and its owners.

In Western democracies in the 21st century the individual has very little power. One of the few powers we still have is to refuse to buy stuff. If you like this companies shenanigans then by all means buy their jumpers. If you don’t then for God sake have some self respect and resolve not to buy their products in future.

Twitter language map – Don’t tell the Germans

Big Think have identified a couple of guys named Mike McCandless and Eric Fischer who, between them, have created maps of the world showing in which locations people are tweeting in which languages. Very interesting though it seems to have set off something of an argument about Catalan on, what I assume, is the initial Flickr post.
The languages broadly follow state boundaries as far as I can see though German tweeting does seem to extend down through the Czech Republic and Slovakia but th least said about that the better.

It could be, of course, that this map will cause horrendous war throughout Europe as each states seeks to include all their nationals within their borders. It’s an interesting idea. As far as I know, the Nation State only really came about in the 20th century. By this I mean the concept that a state should be made up of the land where one specific national people live. Prior to that it was all empires and most people didn’t really get much choice in who ruled them.

I wonder if, armed with maps such as this, states may try to fine tune their borders as the Germans so famously did in 1939. If so then it might be a recipe for continuous warfare as borders would need to change every time a person left their home.

In case any politicians are leaning in this direction I already have a solution. Given the power of information technology, it should be possible to have virtual nation states which exist on the land currently occupied by all citizens of that nation. Each would have a zone around them extending perhaps one metre which would be ruled under the laws of their nation state. It would mean everybody would need to be tracked by GPS but this should be no problem – If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear – I jest of course. I’m sure that Moslems would love such as idea as it would mean that they could enforce Sharia Law though I do see complications when people of different nations interact. Perhaps there could be some kind of default law which governed public spaces or some kind of weighted precedents based on power and status as there is today with fucking bankers and politicians!!!! – ahem…excuse the outburst.

Border according to Twitter

Border according to Twitter

Borders according to the post WW2 settlement

Borders according to the post WW2 settlement

Fast Always On Internet Everywhere & The Death Of Television

and remove the plug from it's socket

and remove the plug from it’s socket

Next year analogue terrestrial TV in the UK is to be shut down. I like to think of this as The Death Of Television and hope that it will occur at midnight, after they have played the National Anthem, the screen has gone dead and the bloke has reminded us to switch off our sets and remove the plug from the socket. We will then have to take up Digital TV if we want to continue to endure the mindless drivel currently delivered by our existing apparatus.

With the Death Of Television, radio “bandwidth” will be freed up and the question arises (to misquote Churchill): To what use will it be put?

The Death Of Radio is not going so smoothly. The BBC goes through phases of telling us that the roll out of Digital Audio Radio (DAB) is almost complete and pretty soon they are going to switch off FM. After the ensuring uproar from various Radio 4 listeners living in peat bogs on Dartmoor the Beeb go a bit quiet for a while but are usually back a few months later claiming it is nearly finished again.

Personally I think DAB may have been an enormous, publicly funded, blunder (EPFB). Yes, we all know that you can shove more rubbish down a DAB transmission than you can down AM or FM but the truth is that no cars have DAB radios and the quality and reliability of FM re-transmitters is appalling.

I am always bemused to hear some, otherwise intelligent, BBC boffin banging on about the superiority of DAB and then suggesting that we use FM re-transmitters to receive it in our cars. They’re TALKING BOLLOCKS. It’s a non starter.

I rant, as is my want, but I have a point. I believe that, “the way forward”, (as our poor corporatised youth have been taught to talk about the future as if we are actually on a well planned journey somewhere rather than merely meandering around aimlessly grasping at straws on a our way to God knows where) is to, not only close down analogue TV, but to close down DAB too. And I wouldn’t stop there. Shut down AM, shut down FM. No more Short Wave Lilliiburlero to the Commonwealth, no more radio controlled toy cars and aeroplanes. Take away the police walky talkies. Let the Ambulance radios fall silent. Abolish VHF at sea. Bluetooth, traffic information, throw the master switch on the lot. Shut it all down.

Has Jones taken leave of his senses you ask? Is Talking Bollocks now advocating complete anarchy? There will be questions in The House.

But wait, there is method in my madness. I suspect that the allocation of radio bandwidth has taken place in a fairly piecemeal way since the origin of radio and we are now in a position where a selection of rival technologies compete for bandwidth.

This sort of thing happens with all technologies. The infrastructure evolves ad hoc during a learning phase and then, once it’s all pretty much understood, it’s time for a redesign taking into account all that has been learned.

Why not discontinue all technologies save one? Why not use a single technology for everything? I am suggesting that some kind of packet radio, such as used by Wifi or GPRS, would be capable of handling TV, Radio, walky-talkies and everything else if it just had enough bandwidth.

If we free up the bandwidth currently used by everything else we can allocate it all to packet radio and have Fast Always On Internet Everywhere. (FAOIE). You want to watch a film? Download via The Internet. You want to watch BBC1? Connect via The Internet. You want to fly your model aeroplane? Set up an Internet connection. Does a hospital need to talk to an Ambulance? Use Skype.

Abolish broadcast and embrace multicast and unicast.

OK, OK, this may not be completely practical. There are probably reasons that Bluetooth uses the frequency it does and I expect that Jodrell Bank will insist on certain dead zones for radio astronomy but you get the idea. Use all the bandwidth for wireless Internet and use the Internet for all communications.

The only limitation would become: is there enough bandwidth for every human and every autonomous device? Good question.

I guess it depends how closely they pack us.