Friday, October 10, 2014

Clacton Effect on English and Scottish Politics

The result at clacton (and Labour's near missin Manchester) show pretty clearly that UKIP will be holding the whip in the next parliament.

The big majority shows what I always knew that England is a land whose emotions are at odds with its economic reality. Epitomised by the English football fan, it is a land with a presumed sovereign right to be superior, but in fact a land with an insecurity problem tilting on this superiority/ inferiority complex. What England expects is actually the same as WWII, that somehow the special relationship with the USA will save it from the perceived woes of Europe.

And that is just what it is, the perception of negativity from Europe. Politicians since Ted Heath have not done a job in presenting the huge benefits of being in Europe, and indeed Thatcher's stance on gaining the special rebate on payments shows that you need to be IN the EU to get a better deal OUT of the EU.

UKIP want two things, withdrawal from the EU and then a new agreement, just as the Scottish Nationalists proposed for the relationship in the old union. Just as the SNP found, they are up against heavy pro unionist interests, money and media influence. However there is a twisted mirror image here, where the emotions lie on the other side of this union debate. There is no emotional attachment to the beurocratic looking ring of stars flag as there is for the Union Flag red white and blue. The  established Rome/maastrich/Schengen style union of 1707 and the creation of the Union Flag, gave peace and some level of prosperity to both lands and northern Ireland for two hundred and fifty years before the old industries in Scotland which created so much wealth for the UK, Steel, Coal, Ships  were swept away and new industries never managed to regain the employment levels of the 50s and 60s.  Scottish Waters and Farmland became a cash cow for the London Exchequer, who managed for years to convince Scots that they were really getting spoiled with the Barnett Formula when in fact they were getting de-industrialised at a time when they should have been modernised.

Pro EU Scotland and Catalonia aside, the UKIP divorce proceedings are unlikely to go to any wild plan that Farage has, and he is up against the small "c" conservative establishment, who do not like uncertainty and are neophobic by nature. We are not talking about one politically motivated insurance company talking of leaving Scotland, and one ship yard being under question when it concerns the UK divorce from the EU. Already the Bank of America, no small beer, is making contingency plans to relocate outside the EU.

The EU has much to gain from the exit of the LSE from trade and freedom movements. Frankfurt and the regional stock exchanges will see this as a once in a lifetime chance to lure investors and there with company listings away from London, and to influence politicians to move legal framework towards something that competes with the LSE and City markets. This will begin even before the next UK general election if the UKIP wave rolls forward.

And roll forward towards  crashing on the beach of chaos it will because having lived in England myself, I know it is a nation of many, many  muttering xenophobes. Fertile ground for a tacit racist undertone and a flag waving royal wedding approach to going "indy".

Unlike Scotland YES campaign which started with only 25% of the early polls, UKIP and the referendum OUT campaign will start with perhaps 45%, where YES ended up, plus they will have some of the major traditional media on their side whereas YES was completely overpowered by the traditional media.  Farage is on the same Soap Box as Salmond:

  • We are in a union we feel no longer works for us
  • We are big enough to Go it Alone
  • We Can Renegotiate Our International Trade Agreements
  • There will Be Only Job Gains, Not Losses
  • We Are Under Threat By Continuing in the Union
From last night's Clacton result it is clear that the next election could easily go very wild, with UKIP having twice as many seats as the cardigan clad Lib Dems and those being won from mostly Tories but also Labour and the Lib Dems. The tories do not really want to sit in a Farage whipped coalition as stands, and the City may not let them form a government if the storm starts to blow harder than it did over the referendum north of the border.

You do have to take some mid term bi-elections as protest votes, but this is at a critical time in the momentum towards the next general election. It shows the Tory vote is in dissarray and the other parties can also suffer.

Labour's plans of clear water between them and the tories as the main pro EU party, against a referendum can also back fire on them, but equally the UKIP vote could split many marginal Tory seats and hand them to either Labour or Lib Dems thus leading to a more holy alliance of centre left politics in a parliament.

To secure this, both Labour and the Lib Dems should just sweep in and offer a referendum on the EU, thus clearing the way for the Election to be about policies for those who care, and for those who must wave the Union Jack from their little boat of England, can vote UKIP in 2015. Labour then buy the City pro EU lobby a year to put together a Pro EU anti separatist No Campaign. Allowing UKIP to sit in government and have the worlds biggest soap box to rant from and have in effect a two year long campaign for separation from the EU in the traditional media.

I would guess the media two days ago were split about 40% anti EU, 20% neutral and 40% pro. Today there will be the real rumblings from the major international banks, investors, unions, the EU, pro EU tories that editorial must be positive to the EU and I expect it to be in the end in terms of major titles "broad" and tabloid about 30% completely No, 10% a little no but both sides of the argument and then the rest presenting an EU editorial with a No style scare campaign on jobs, influence and desolation of independence.

An area then where Labour and the Lib Dems should be active in and that is limiting how many asylum seekers the UK takes and using vagrancy laws to restrict the eastern european beggar and petty crime wave. It is sinful that young male asylum seekers get treated better  than wheel chair users and pensioners in the UK. Also they could offer troop policing for the borders in Bankrupt greece and the waters south and east of Gibralter.

The other side of immigration is of course the terrorists who misuse the Islamic religion, but that was a very empire, Great British thing, where the McMillan governments wanted to avoid the UK becoming a higher wage economy, which would force employers in the 1960s to modernise and vastly improve productivity and qaulity in order to compete against the post war tiger industrial economies. So in came the Afro-Caribbeans and the Asians from the empire for better and for worst. The white British worker then used the unions to maintain and better their standard of living, while their productivity and quality output was falling behind Germany, France, USA, Japan and then Korea while China was still struggling to grow enough rice in its paddy fields.

The British working class get one of the worst deals in the EU. The tories claim that their policies have lead to one of  highest employment rate for any of EU countries bar Germany, but the minimum wage and the extensive use of revenues from the City finance industry and the North Sea industry are really behind this, in other words social democratic relatively high public spending.  For the bad deal on working hours, pay rises and job security the lower third of the work force get,  rather than blaming their own productivity and lack of fire-brand unionisation they are easily lead into the stories about the blacks and the paki's taking their jobs away and living of their taxes.

Enoch Powell predicted blood baths in the streets because of immigration, but instead it will be a blood bath in Parliament for David Cameron who other wise would have sailed into perhaps even a majority government in 2015 with no wee silly lib dems squeeking from his breast pocket. The xenophobic hand of card from the silent, and ignorant minority has now been pulled in what you could say is a perfect storm for the poor Tory party. United we stand, divided we fall should be their battle cry over the whole issue.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

What Relevance Milliband's Labour Now

No doubt over the coming weeks the conservatives will be saying again, what relevance Labour politics now?

The conservatives now lay out the expected tax cuts, plus some in the Labour heartland of the low paid, and also a firm but fair freeze on benefits. At the same time of course, the rolling agenda of austerity, privatisation of the health service and strange scando-socialist tweaking of the house market continue with the back drop of continued disontent with low rises in wages for average people as against continual above RPI rises in former public utilities and transport.

The tories have got it right on the one side where labour should have gone as a vote winner in raising the threshold for 40% tax to 50k. Many of the work force earning this are prime labour swing voters or even core supporters , because they are people in their 40s and 50s by in large, and very many doctors and public administrators, who have both benefited enormously from the welfare state and education in particular in their youth, while now seeing the down sides of the Tory march towards britain becoming UK Inc.., a political subsidiary of the USA and international capital.

Where the tories have got it wrong is in giving tax removal in the lower paid section of society. THis is a very Reaganomics policy and is detested by the middle class in the USA, who see that low paid workers do not pay for any federal provision. Also low paid workers are subject to hikes in state taxes, and pay a higher proportion of their income over time to state taxes. This sets a viscious circle of voter demand for less tax and smaller government, while of course just fuelling then "trickle up" in that the poorest third of the work force become slaves to their bosses and to high utility and health costs while even average standards of living are undermined. To break the franchise of paying income tax and getting services in the UK will prove to be a mistake for the Tories as now they create their own little beast, demanding tax cuts at the local authority level while also being more likely to be in receipt of top up benefits and periods of unemployment on benefits, plus of course costing the NHS more from their poorer lifestyles.

Labour should be reversing this, with a direction to even more taxation being central because that is the most cost effective means - income taxes, profit taxes, capital wealth taxes. Indeed on these issues it can be said that the LibDems view of local levvy income tax with a post code tax level is a contender once again to accede the old throne of local rates on domestic and commercial property. Hence deprived areas can recieve boosts to their spending while also reducing the levvy on tax on expecially commercial premises with funding coming centrally. There is a fortune to be saved in not managing rates and community charges at the local level.

On the up side for Labour, the Tories have now showed their hand in the UK becoming effectively the same type of economic model as the USA, but of course we all know that the UK is not a meritocracy with wide access to scholarships for the best students from all backgrounds, nor does the UK have the huge natural resources the USA has per capita. Essentially privatisation of health services will lock some of that area into charges at point of care and blur the boundary between private and public health for both the supply chain with the GP as triage nurse and purchasing manager, while hospital staff increasingly chasing better wages or contracts on which ever side, and probably working concurrently on both sides to maximise their income.

The move to privatise health is of course just going to be the same set of Tory bungled marketism as the utilities and early telecoms privatisation was. The 'market' is mostly false, with many caveats which reduce risk of companies who invest in the utilities such that they can raise capital. That is to say reduced competition, ability to charge higher prices than when public and to keep those prices rising to suit their dividends and ability to raise capital and leverage loans from the stock market share price and allocations.

In health they will of course claim that there are international professionals ready to sweep in and offer a competitive market. Well of course that is nonsense, there will be the same caveats which secure both high prices over time and public subsidy in facilities. There will be in effect hospitals, mostly the newer ones, which will move over first to part private management and then just become private with the state firstly as their paymaster, but later you can expect medicare  and a style of obamacare in the UK too, with checks on these and your credit card when you turn up in trauma by nasty little tory type admin nurses and high earning doctors.

In terms of the real biggy in the UK, the domestic housing market and diconnection for my generation downwards, Labour so far have no answers which are being taken up in the media. The Tories continue to follow the social democratic and outright socialist scandinavian model of making home ownership affordable via state managed mortgage devices. In an ideal world though, Labour should be looking at becoming a popular party by sweeping away restrictions on planning applications for first time buyer homes, and importantly the whole two-up-two-down market. There is a ticking time bomb here in that many of the 1980s cheap built rabit hutch two up two downs are actually reaching the end of their servicable lifecycle and are cheaper to demolish than strip out and repoint, reroof etc. Labour should be looking at freeing up more land where the state continues to own the land and rent it to the developers and then the owners. Also they should be using more housing associations to regenerate run down council house areas and offer a ladder for hard working below average income families to have a stable renting relationship and a route to affordable ownership in their house or within the association.

One area which leads on from this is the very essence of the debate. In the USA the lower fifth of society are completely socially immobile and the lower third are generally crippled for social mobility. Access to education, access to capital, a safe environment for businesses and cultural snobbery are some reasons. There is no solution and there is no solution offered either in the UK either to avoid this becoming the norm in the UK. Capitalism as a system does not care about these people. They may as well move to china and work 60 hour weeks for a pittance for all the system sees of them. THey are irrlevant almost to a modern economy which demands on the one side high skills while on the other reasonable social skills in service industry.

As I said above for Labour in fact this is the last broad generation appeal they can have to turn the middle class away from the model of an American society, in having a middle class which created itself post war on the back of the welfare state and access to college and university education. After that generation wanders into its dotage, there will only be the highly in debt, jealous bickering out for themselves generation, a bit younger than me and so on, who have worked hard all their lives and resent  paying taxes which otherwise could be used to cover their above inflation bills and feed the impossible college fund. In the USA the republican machine managed to swing this large swaith of middle income employee workers over to the mean, I manage my own money best approach to life where smaller government means less taxes for them, and while they are in work and good health they can benefit from small society, small service. So social democracy is avoided in the USA by a massive PR machine which pumps the concept of small government, while feeding off big government spending on defence, policing, space exploration and of course the enormous missues of public employee mediicare contribution which floats the private health system with huge profitability for providers and pharma' companies. The owning classes decided long ago in the USA, probably during WWII that Socialism was far too good for the working classes, and public money should be syphoned off to their own pockets when ever possible.

Sitting writing in Scandinavia it is refreshing to see that democractic belief in society and good public services we trust and rely on is alive and modernising itself, with the best education in the western world being the social democratic model in Finnland, almost a Steinar School approach with the beloved PISA results to show for it, the sensible public planning of the Swedes and Danes and the generous distribution of wealth in oil rich Norway.  Labour in the UK has to redefine its core voter and make them feel responsible for positive change, while also I think it is inevitable that proportional represenation and coalition governance needs to become the norm in the UK if Labour and the centre politics want to avoid a drift to the Cameron mid to far right politics we see rolling out now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Farage Barage Takes Off, But Will He Follow Salmond Down a Sink Hole ?

The #EUref is likely to be held in 2016 after the next general election. Barring that is a Lib-Lab pact, and in fact it is very likely that the Lib Dem vote to collapse due to the electoral system, with the two main parties winning many of their seats if the vote is split by UKIP in England and SNP in Scotland.

In the run up to the #EUref it is then a likely scenario that UKIP and rebel eurosceptic Tory back benchers will be able to achieve two significant political achievements. Firstly reducing immigration by a few different measures, not all anti-EU some being anti Islamic, and secondly forcing a straight IN/OUT vote on the EU.

When compared to #indyref north of the border there are some strange, mirror image political variables and some stark similarities. Nigel Farage risks not only losing the way Alex Salmond did, and he must personally take the blame for the timetable, the pound and the EU, but also the would be fascist leader of England risks political oblivion in a No vote to leaving the EU.

The situation is a skewed mirror image of the Scots Referendum,  because public opinion is actually more favourable in England at least, if not NI and Wales, than it was in outset to the Yes vote North of rivers tweed and Solway.  Also instead of having a long lasting, loyalist union, fighting wars and sharing the hard times with some degree of mutual respect and union of purpose and identity, the No campaign have the opposite. Instead of the case for Scots where Great Britain and the security of the union could be played as a whole pack suit of cards, with the Royals and the Ace of the pound on top, the No campaign who oppose exit to Europe have nothing to cling too, especially not the blue bureaucratic flag with the ring of stars. There is no emotional attachment to Europe from the majority of people in the whole UK.NI, no past to be called up, no warm and fuzzy feeling.

Another virtue for this Farage-through-the-looking-glass versus Scotchlandshire's #indyref is that the Scots had over 95% of the media stacked against them. Both by partisan editorial, the power of vested interests in STV and BBC, and by of course the usual journalistic vigour in going to the attack on weak policies and promises with few facts. Farage has as much as a half of the national newspapers on his side roughly, that is Eurosceptic so far. It has suited their readership and headline sales to portray immigration as a major woe in the UK, especially assylum seekers and Romanian 'vagrants'. The UK media is generally not owned by the same groups as on the continent and has therefore no money men backing the EU. The murdoch empire seem Eurosceptic or happy to sell copy on that basis.

People on the street and those in finance have the same problem in seeing the benefits of Europe as many of those who would like to reform the relationship and indeed the whole EU. The benefits are of course macro economic and on a basis of international trade and freedom of movement of labour. On the second point that includes the principle that eventually you should enjoy the same rights as an employee, or indeed business owner, which ever member state you live and work in. This extends to health and safety, where Britain is both ahead of many other countries and very keen on being obedient and EU directives into law and some times in the echelons of public service, interpreting them wholly overly zealously and making a mockery of the rules, which the papers love. They are only making fools of themselves if you actually know anything anout HSE.

On that point, it is professionals in HSE, making our places of work and public interaction safer, international traders in goods and finance/investments, multinational managers and especially engineers and quality assurance managers who actually are exposed to the daily administrative benefits of the EU. Far from adding beaurocracy, being able to sell goods under one set of labelling and to agreed qaulity standards is hugely advantageous. Being able to trade and invest within the frame work of cross border laws or a legal playing field which is more even than delaing with 16 countries or more, is a huge time and cost saving advantage, and means that the city of london and the LSE can enjoy much higher parasitic profits on the back of investment and trades than if they had to use more complex legal and trading vehicles to deliver investment, conduct trades in shares etc and then take dividends if they had to deal with legal, computing and of course political boundaries and idiosyncracies.

It seems though that many people working in finance in England and the City are unaware of even some of the direct values and benefits of the EU, warts and all, let alone of the indirect financial benefits. Economics for their level is not granular enough to see that share prices are influenced by the ability to sell one product in at least 10 countries, with one labelling. That say engineering services can be standardised across all member states, plus Norway, and respected internationally by adhering to an ISO European Norm. The financiers do not see that companies who generate real margin, multiplying value are those in food, energy,  manufacturing and technical services that benefit from the ISO EN structure and being able to employ staff from all  over the EU who are qualified and can deliver to those quality standards. And despite all the media guffawing at straight cucumbers, and the definition of a sausage, they fail to see the value of common standards in reducing administration costs and allowing companies to expand sales internationally.

And there is the rub,  the reality street for UKIP and the Tory back bench rebels.  When it comes to nearer the time they will be facing a large back lash from the key international value creation companies, from agricultural wholesalers, from retailers, and probably a very big NO voice from the energy sector. This will then rub off as uncertainty on the stock exchange and 'funny money markets'.

Already though, some key bankers have decided the UK/OK outside the EU will be a very not OK place, open to the cold shoulder of a scorned lady, Angela Merkel, with a powerful stock exchange hungry to take continental investment and banking away from London. The Bank of America, somewhat bigger than the Scottish Economy, are already making contingency plans ie lightly veiled threats, to leave to relocate to Dublin in the event of a pull out.

The Scottish #indyref showed one thing from companies and the 'markets' - they do not like uncertainty and politicians with wish lists and unsubstantiated promises or even presumptions, build a lot of nerves.

In this then, the journalistic style of the BBC and some key national newspapers will change to being openly partisan in the same way they faced Salmond and the YES north of the border, by shouting it down with big figures, businesses threatening to leave and so on.

The UK leaving the EU is a far bigger economic affair than the Scots leaving the old, pretty irrelevant union and hoping to remain in the EU. For the man in the street it means Jobs and Prices. Foreign labour often takes up the jobs with skills gaps or so lowly paid that many in the new graduate majority young work force, refuse to take, and wil live with Mum and Dad rather than putting up with the cheap side of town rentals the Poles and other east europeans just get on with.  Romanian beggars and their criminal husbands are another issue which does not need to be addressed with a referendum.

Unlike the #indyref over the waters of the Tweed, the EU will not be offering a pledge to keep the UK in. There has always been animosity in France and other social democracies towards the UK, as it being a platform for the influence of the USA in particular its military ambitions but also economic power (ironic in the days the TTIP comes into force maybe) . The thought of a UK with the ability to then  use a 'pledge' to try and get a very special arrangement is basically not going to fly. The EU will use all the scare tactics and start to swing public opinion in the UK over time, or simply prepare themselves to inviting bankers and investors to hop over the channel, while making it clear to others that there is no certainty on there being any new agreement which will benefit businesses in an Indy UK.

Like Alec Salmond, Farage could reach out for  Norway as an example, and look to EFTA re-entry. However Norway and Iceland would not want a raving right wing fascist partner and the possibility for discussion about fishing rights. Norway like to cooperate with the EU subtly, on their own terms if possible, in the back rooms of early decision making and early sounding out of directives. They do not want the UKIP with inexperienced blundering nationalist with a big N "diplomats" bludgeoning their way into these committees as an EFTA partner.

Scotland on the other hand could and should have done more work on this with Norway as a potential temporary house for pre EU entry. There is already cross N Sea cooperation by companies and institutions, a common interest in sustaining fisheries , the Norwegian ownership of Scottish fish farms and an amicable histroy between the two nations. Norway with an economy of around 300 billion Euros GDP is at least twice the size of the Scottish economy, so in EFTA it would have a smaller, similar partner. Politically too, Norway like the rest of Scandinavia is a social democracy and not the right wing radical direction the UK has taken since 1979, despite a recent conservative coalition win, they are left of UK Labour on many policies and maintaining much of the status quo. The swedes have just rejected 8 years of cajoling down the Thatcher route of tax cuts for the wealthier, privatisation and power to employers, and voted to  hark back to a more even society, while also splitting the right wing vote by the new fascists in the Svenskademokratinene. The Bedroom tax in any scandinavian country would lead to a media and public scandal when the first wheelchair user was made homeless.

Farage as Herr Chancellor as he would want, and a proposed post #EUref Tory Leader, ie  2015/16 contender to Cameron, would stand like Alex Salmond thinking that they would have all the economic playing cards in their hand, when in fact it is a game of poker ready to be called by a higher royal flush. They cannot go into an #EuRef with that arrogance. They can of course come out of an EU ref YES to separation with a good deal of arrogance,  but face the reality of negotiating themselves a place less strong than even softly/softy/catch/a/monkey Norway has today.

Timetable is another thing. There is indeed provision for EXIT of a member, or indeed a member's distant colonies  where the precedent has been set by Greenland exiting and some French islands. There is provision for discussion of enlargement, criteria for accession and new membership of states outside the EU, but of course as a blinding hole, there by no coincidence, not for States who are divisions of previous member states. The Czechs and Slovaks did the deed prior to EU membership, the Catalans are yet to vote, while the Salmond timetable was based on thin air and wishful thinking, the same as any Farage lead approach to the EU for a new external relationship would be.

The fight will start now, post Scotias vote, to try and limit the traction of UKIP coming into the next election, but it will be hard to avoid a straight ballot on In/Out and Cameron has promised a referendum now and it will be in the manifesto. He cannot get away with a three question or a Quebec subtefuge ten line question with UKIP holding anymore than 20 seats in parliament. It will have to be in out, and then the battle lines for international business are drawn, fight this the way the Scots were  fought, big figures, big risk, low Farage credibility on negotiating back in from the new Cold place out twixt N.Sea and Atlantic.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

High Speed Two Should be Turned on Its Head! North End First!

High speed two is going to be the biggest civil engineering project in Southern England since the Channel Tunnel, and in fact both for their day , the biggest in the whole of the UK.

With the Scottish Referendum behind us, now the media is trying to paint many positive pictures about the benefits of Union, which must seem a bit trite for those follk living in the 'North of England' Traditionally or colloquoally considered to start northwards from an imaginery line from Stoke in the west to Sheffield in the East. A massive investment is to be made in infrastructure which benefits the wealthier,  high employment area of England first.

The real benefits will be firstly in jobs in the south east and London in particular where a new route is proposed with a new major terminus rebuilt at Marlebone potentially, or integration to St. Pancras International with a N London route. No matter what the route, it will be expensive and so far indications predict the first sod or pnuematic drill will sound in Greater London such that land there is bought first before the expected up tour in the economy.

So it is difficult to see the real wisdom behind the project when you think that the long-term overheating London economy could do with moving jobs north,  rather than bringing more people into London. In this , the public sector could lead the way by moving more administration jobs out of the capital and the south east, which has in fact been an on /off strategy in UK politics with the DVLA in Swansea,  Student Loans Office in Glasgow, Tax Help Line Office in the NE and so on.

House and Property Prices as a Potential Capitalist Alterior Motive?

I am very against distortions in markets caused by governments,  and this by all means has two means by which it distorts the UK economy as a whole.

Firstly it will influence property prices, even if compulsory purchases keep the direct acquisition price down. Any removal of housing stock and commercial property in London and the suburban home counties will push up prices elsewhere.  More directly there will be a need for many workers and managers, who will be drawn for such a large project from the whole of the UK as for the "Chunnel" and they will need accomodation, be that rental , hotel or bought for the senior management.

Secondly it is not about prices in London, but also about overcoming the percieved future needs for labour in London, mainly in the finance sector, which can at times struggle to attract enough people in some disciplines or has to pay them large salaries. With daily commuting from the nearer end of the West Midlands being much easier and with higher capacity at rush hour, suddenly London gains new suburbs like Coventry, Knowle and Dorridge. Lucky cockneys eh?

So therefore there can also be a major boom in house prices there too.

This is as far as the first part of the 17bn, and rising, will go in the first phase and if there was not a continuing upswing in the economy, it may well only go that far for quite some time.

Benefits of HS2 for the 'Up North'

There will be some benefits for the folk north of birmingham. Average speeds south of Brum' will increase from 70-90 mph for express trains, to 140 mph with peak runnng of 186 mph. This then secures a sub one hour run from say Birmingham International or new station. The trains are likely to be similar to the current class 395 which run on the Kent HS1 route, although the route may also be suitable for current tilting 390s. I imagine that in fact both will run, with different train operating companies buying access to different 'diagrams' in railway speak. Some diagrams by virtue of capacity on the route and intermediate stops, will maybe be 120/140mph peak speed, suitable for through services from the North and Scotland, currently running these Pendolinos. Class 395 type high speed trains could and indeed should be able to run on ordinary track and thus reach all the major cities in the North currently wired up to the West Coast Main Line (WCML)

There in lies several benefits. With a faster corridor to London, more services can be covered with any given number of trains which are economic to run on it. In other words, if a train can be routed down there be that a 395 or an older 390, then if there is a profit to be had it will run, and then that train itself will be able to do more runs per day to-and-from say Manchester.

To a point this is a win-win for passengers and T.O.C.s and railtrack or who ever owns the track bed of  HS2. However it means that there can actually be more competition for through trains from HS2 to Manchester and so on, thus pushing track access charges upwards if they are deregulated or reviewed in light of more demand by the renationalised Railtrack. Also HS2 could lock people into the benefits of the 45 minute reduction and companies will then expose themselves to super inflationary track access charges or a milking strategy will be rolled out against passengers, where the old WCML services have been locked out by new line services. This is acheived quite simply by terminals reaching capacity such as Piccadily or Glasgow Central. Once you own enough diagrams in and out of Manchester for major inter city trains then, you can block out peak time competition by literally sitting on the platform for the time currently allowed to disembark passengers, clean the train and allow for safe alightment.

We have seen the privatised rail industry as a super inflationary sector for passengers on the most attractive, non subsidised routes. Why this should be reversed with such a potential displacement of capacity is doubtful, Trains running at 186 mph top speed use a lot more energy than those running at the current top speeds of 100mph and 125 mph  depending on section of the WCML. The per mile track access charges for HS2 will be far higher than for WCML. It will be expensive and once commuters are locked into jobs in the south, prices will rise above the rate of wage inflation.

So the benefits for HS2 part 1 are dubious when actually examined under an economic historical precedent.

However when HS2 part 2 goes ahead, then that boosts inter city traffic within the whole area, making it much more attractive than the car. For trips to london, it makes it quicker than flying, although it has to be said that if you need to travel city centre to city centre, then currently Manchester and Leeds (ECML route) it is quicker by train, while Glasgow is only an hour slower than by plane when transport to the airport, check in, security, boarind and disembarking are taken into account. But do you need to get from Leeds to Manchester in half an hour if it is going to cost you sixty five quid each way? Are we not best served with more electrification of existing routes, more intra regional expresses and more London through services?

Alternative Strategy for HS2 Or Just Plain Simple More Sensible Alternatives

My suggestion would be to either turn it completely on its head, and start on the Leeds/Manchester portion or to actually not bother with HS2 as we know it today..

The alternative as I propose and have blogged on before , but here in a shopping list:

#Fully integrate advanced train protection and any resignalling needed for 140 mph running on the current WCML.
#Electrify York-Leeds immediately
# Build a diversion freight route first just diesel using the proposed Aylesbury route or the great central route, to divert the slow 50 - 80 mph freight off the WCML
# Electrify the Birmingham -Oxford- London route and make passing lanes for express services and high speed freights to overtake local or slow frieght services.
# Build new main line interconnectors (which would include the "Aylesbury" route for freight partly) between all the raidal routes out of London, in effect a peripheral m25 and an inner Northern Circle. The outer circle could be as far out as Rugby, Bedford, Reading, the inner circle using mainly existing routes and rail routes which have been made into A roads around North London in particular.
# Electrify Crewe-Shrewsbury-Wolverhampton to allow freight diversion/ displacement and extra capacity northwards.
# Make the WCML four lanes where ever possible in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Warwichshire
# Resurvey Leeds-Manchester and Manchester Sheffield for most cost effectiive routes with 125-140mph peak speed as a target, average speed non stop 100 mph.
# In the WCML southern end past Willesden and Wembly and the frieght terminals, build elevated second layer 2 to four lane tracks over the existing tracks for through expresses, with freight and stopping services using the lower deck.
# Rebuild Marlebone station with a twin level design, and connect this with electrified routes to the Oxford route, the WCML and integrate cross london trains from there and also Heathrow Direct Trains, Stanstead Direct trains, Gatwick via Thameslink
# Interconnection for the midland line would be used for through trains to the Channel Tunnel or connections to this at St Pancras.
# Resurvey the WCML in terms of upgrading current track to 125mph and 140mph, and consider building shorter high speed stretches where geography and land prices / compensation would be a good pay off.
# Consider tunnel sections northwards to Carlisle and in the Southern Uplands in the route to Glasgow which could have maximum time savings and provide new capacity by overtaking slower trains on the existing routes 'above them'
# Move away from standard track access tabulation charges to a highest bid per diagram system,  with long term ownership of diagrams and restrictions on re-sale or under utility in the contracts.

To the layman, this last point is explained as followed
Trains run to timetables and in fact those timetables of course between different operators, are shared with there being only so much capacity on the routes. Faster trains are given priority and  overtake slower frieghts of commuter trains in stretches where there are more than two lines, or  at stations which have extra platforms. Some timetabled trains are more attractive than others for passengers to get to work, or to reach the terminus from local transport in order to set out, often just outside the rush hour so they avoid hiking baggage around through masses of commuters pouring out at 0820-0845.  Some timetabled services are fast through trains, while on others they are as well making additional stops as they cannot go any faster because of slower services infront of them at the key bottlenecks on the network or WCML in particular, in towards N. London and eventually Euston.

Some of these timetables when you consider the complete traffic on the route for the day, are actually quite historic, and it can take time, or innovation to change them. The last changes were the move to 125mph pendolinos (deisgned gfor 140mph actually) and some sections where traffic can go in the opposite direction at the same time.

Current track access charges are pro rata, but amount to a given cost for a company over the years. If they instead bought out right the lease on a given timetable for say 10 years, with clauses on potential improvements to speed, then they could pay a large sum then and only a small running cost if any to track, stations and stabling points.  The most attractive timetabled trains would attract the highest bidders. The least attractive would then have low bids, and be subject to subsidy or public rail operation, but could always there after be open for new bidders to take over them. Railtrack or who ever owns the track bed and stations, then recieves a major investment at the front end which it can use on immediate pressing infrastrutural needs on that route, and also pool for long term developments and as a private company, they could invest that money in other investments in order to make a return to pay for the regular maintainance and so on. For the WCML which is electrified, that cost would most likely need to be a running cost because of the uncertainty about prices over time, and the ability for the supply chain to negotiate cheaper or greener supply purchases.

The train operating companies gain by securing their favoured timetabled trains in terms of cost-return, and over the long term in being able to secure that profitable timetable train over a long time, such that they can lease or buy newer trains to keep up with the demands for safety and reliability en route, while also pleasing passengers. They can then secure long term investment in their businesses to pay for the bid sums, and the operation and upgrades to stock or better leasing agreements with stock owners like Angel Trains.

The government gains because the rail industry has bid a market price they think is  realistic, and competed to win it. Those train services which operators  consider with bids lower than cost of running (which gets complicated) the track, stations and signalling are then considered for either subsidy, public TOC or actually to be reconsidered for actual viability and if the timetabled service could be removed  such that other trains such as freight etc could use up the capacity. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Trident "II" Economics and Equity

The Royal Navy's four trident ssbm system submarines are reaching the end of their life cycle, that is to say the reactor systems have a finite life and the rest of the 'boats' will become uneconomic to repair in relation to new build.

For the missiles and possibly other components, these will actually continue to be part of the ongoing upgrade life extension programme that Lockhead Martin and the US navy have embarked on, where current stocks of missiles arre upgraded and standardised to new, lower cost common sourced components.

How do the actual costs of a new system of submarines and the price paid to the US contractors and government compare to the potential utility of the system? Is there any actual societal 'cost-benefit-?

Firstlty there are of course the open costs> new submarines, refurbished missiles. Even here there are several other hidden costs. The nuclear fission materials in both the submarines' reactors and the warheads are established and maintained in the UK, with nuclear power statiions such as Dounreay and Annan in Scotland actually, and the defence facilities in England carrying out the work. To the authors knowledge this is not clearly included in the acquisition cost for the system, neither is it clear what level of cross subsidy the system recieves by virtue of having specialist facilities at these sites available at all times. Furthermore much of the second generation of 1960s and 1970s reactor facilities such as these are reaching the end of their own life cycle, and are highly questionable in terms of cost per MWh in total cost of life cycle.

That brings us to another hidden cost of the SSBM gauranteed mutual destruction system: decommissioing. The Polaris system has had a declared accountable cost of 180 million Sterling for the UK system, however the hidden and perpetual costs of this must surely be far higher. Once again there are hidden costs in maintaining specialist facilities and personnel above the contractual costs, which may not be transparent or collatable in terms of parliaments, budget holders, annual accounts, retainer fees and any facits of secrecy which may muddy the waters.

Trident mark I, UK, will have its submarines decommissioned within 2025 given the current timetable, meaning that their active service life span will be at least a decade longer than Polaris. These 'boats' are far larger of course than Polaris and hence have more nuclear material and more contaminated material. Currently the it is only some of the materials whcih can 'economically' be removed, those in other words which are designed for reprocessing and disposal, like fuel rods, and those in which in fact Sellafield has current facilities to tackle. The hulks of submarines including cooling fluids are then just in limbo, for thousands of years as there is no deep mine storage facility pallatble to the electorate, who incidentally have consistently supported the actual weapons system for three decades.

Other hidden costs will be then for the new system, the ongoing upgrade to the missiles themselves in the USA, the missiles system commissioning launches from the Cape Canaveral area, the ongoing replenishment of the fissile and fussile radioactive materials, the reactor service costs,  maintenacne and upgrade for shore facilities at faslane and couplort, and potentially Devonport  , any alterations to off site nuclear facilities eg Sellafield and Dounreay, and as mentioned the cost of decommissioning and any other life extension of the system. Then there are of course the running costs which are in terms of personnel and materials directly incurred by the Royal Navy, and in fact relatively Trident is supposedly a lighter cost than Polaris was, this being reflected in fewer navy personnel and support workers being based at Faslane and Coulport than during the 'hey days' of Polaris in the late 70s and into the 1980s were there were in excess of 2000 personnel and 1200 civilian workers based at HMS Neptune, Faslane.  Trident has a smaller crew in fact than Polaris had.

It is Ironic that English society in particular is not willing to pay for the fully safe disposal of the remaining polaris hulks nor are they interested in the associated deep-permanent-store facility proposed for Cumbria, yet it is willing to commit to a third SSBM system with eventually this legacy remaining above surface.

What has Trident Achieved for Great Britain?

It was somewhat Ironic that the biggest insurgency to British soveriegn territory happened in the year that the Trident system was agreed between the governments of Reagan and Thatcher. The Argentine Junta knew that the UK had in fact not an independent will and mandate to use its nuclear defence system in a preemptive attack in response to conventional warfare. It took a huge risk in taking the Falklands, betting that the UK would be forced by the USA and EU to negotiate a settlement which they maybe speculated Spain and Italy would sway towards concession of the territories they invaded. Conventional forces, conventional casualtiies ensued as the British managed just to mount a fleet of ships, many of them commandeered to travel and defeat the Argentine occupation force.

In the subsequent two decades, there have been several incursions and invasions of 'allied' soils, in particular Kuwait and Georgia. More recently there have been the Chinese and N.Korean insurgencies over 'disputed' island territories, and of course the current running crisis in Ukraine at time of writing and complete annexation of Crimea.  Where there is a perrceived element of legitmacy it seems the super powers will just ingore the theories and practice of 'detente' and cross borders.

The missioning of UK Trident harks back to a time when the British Empire was still a significant source of economic export and material supply in a UK driven trading system. UK "interests" and protectorates are often still quoted by military sources in the MOD and Whitehall who retain both the view there is some need for an independent defence outside of NATO, and within which they would have the public beleive that a nuclear element has a unique deterrent effect which could be exercised as a preemptive attack against non nuclear nations. This is of course a subtefuge, because the UK is aligned to international treaties which limit the use of nuclear weapons, and render them actually under the leash of NATO and in particular the USA.

The other supporting argument used by the UK is that the system stands actually shoulder to shoulder with the US, unlike the totally independent French nuclear arsenel, and that this is a many quilled bow against the enemy. An enemy which had in fact then become a loose ally against islamic powers, with Putin's forces training with Nato and submarines visting HMS Neptune, a sight completely unthinkable in 1982 when Trident was initiated for the UK.

The Final arguement is the so called 'red tide' doomsday scenario, a constant philosophical, moral and much parodied debate since 'M.A.D' detente was a practical fact by the late 1950s. Here sits a Trident commander with the knowledge that all communications are down, and the sitting order to attack if no contact can be made assuming  that the UK has been hit by a major nuclear catastrophe. Then the commander can give presumably Putin or his successor, a bloody nose over the corpse of his homeland. The nightmare scneario which is the fantasy end game of the old cold war or the new world 'disorder'

The Rejection of Alternative Military Utiltiy and Conventional Multi Tasking

As the primary defence mission of the cold war era evapourated into political history, the new world disorder began. Fuelled by the new axis of evil, Iranian neo conservative state isalmism and the continued ethnic cleansing and settlement in Palestine by the Israelis as the justifying elemenet for the new interpretation of "Jihad" the struggle for religious identity and rights subverted to the totalitarian view and godless violence of the Iranian supported organistations conducting terror attacks.

In this light, the US Trident system of 14 'boats' was seen as a dead sitting capital item, and some utility was sought in fitting two missiles per submarine as a new type of ICBM velocity weapon, as part of a rapid strike capability against targets identified as hostile and threatening. Russia of course complained because they too of course can detect any launch of an ISCBM and may interpret it as an illegal preemptive nuclear attack on an allied land, such as Iran.

Counter Arguement Against the Cheaper, Wider Tasking Cruise Missiile System

The latter section reveals the UK admiralty's counter arguement which supports trident. Trident cannot be confused, and of course it will probably never be used. However the cruise missile system could be confused by an enemy or a land or group associated to the opposing super powers.

This is used in only a closed loop arguement and not in light of the reality. However there are many limitations in terms of 'M.A.D' deterrence.  A cruise system is far more limited in nuclear capacity and range. They are single target deployment with limited megotonne capacity. Your submarines must be deployed in certain spheres and cannot operate from any point in the world. Cruise missiles are also more vulnerable to surface to air defences and other electronic or secret counter measures.

The arguements against a cruise system though were facile until 2013, when the once infamous Tomahawk system was degraded to carrying only conventional war heads ( a stock pile and capacity for actually carrying W80 type nuclear warheads still exists though). Until 2013,  that they could be confused where Trident is not is a tautology, because cruise delivery which has a nuclear warhead capactiy, was widely used during the wars in Iraq. By nature of small launch flash and sub radar approach, they are harder to detect and discriminate from other short range missiles in a theatre of war. The final arguement  which negates the view of confusabilitty causing escalation is that every time a B52 flies it must be presumed that it has nuclear capacity on board. The US still refuse to deny that any strategic bomber does or does not carry nuclear weapons

Putin has to live with cruise missiles, the russians have a capacity to respond to a first nuclear strike with such MAD force that they must actually presume that for instance any 'confused vector' cruise attack against pro russian Ukrainian rebels is conventional. It is conceivable that the entire nuclear capacity of North Korea could be obliterated by conventional cruise sub radar attacks and 'star wars' interception of any missiles launched in that time.

The Royal Navy already has a torpedo tube based medium range Tomahawk Cruise Missile capacity, and a proposed longer range missile submarine would be smaller and far less expensive than Trident II. It would of course also offer a wide range of missioning for anti enemy fleet attack, NATO fleet escorting,  territorial water patrol, anti terrorist surgical strikes and possibly hunter-killer anti submarine action.

Comparing the Cost Benefits of Public Spending

Trident and High Speed 2 are the two largest capital projects the Westminster government is currently committed to and a likely opposition win in the next general election is unlikely to over turn either committment unless public dissatisfaction with the enourmous spending becomes an issue. As is the case with Trident versus disposal of nuclear materials, as long as Trident submarines are based out of sight in the Scottish Sea Lochs, the English public regard the system as a politically desirable entity and not a reality of a huge investment in an uniused system of just four submarines, with only one or two actually able to act upon the 'four minute' warning at any time, and those vulnrable to interception by Russian and Chinese hunter killer submarines which regularily tail Trident from the western approaches to Scotland. Indeed it is alleged that secret missions from both these super powers breached british territorial waters in order to gain the 'fingerprint' sonar trace of each new Trident boat as it was set on commissioning exercise from the Clyde. How far into the North Channel, Irish Sea or indeed lower Clyde estuary these intrusions came is not publically known. Trident is then a show of stregnth and just that, it is theatre and not a practical reality nor an invulnerable system due to there being often only one submarine able to launch an attack, and that submarine must be considered comprimisable due to the size of the Russian fleet of hunter/killers in particular.

A dissipated system using cruise missiles would provide the enemy with a far greater challenge by virtue of uncertainty. This is anotherr counter arguement based on the "trigger" -happiness of the Russians and Chinese

So the actual defence utility is questionable, with the engine of LSE being more effective against Putin's ambitions for post USSR neighbour lands with high ethnic russian sub populations.

The calculations to make are simple, we need only go into them as a philosophical exercise> how many job years compared to civilian or conventional personnel woudl the cost of Trident deliver? How many major Hospitals? How many air ambulances? How many paid university places for students from poor backgrounds? How many new treatments for cancer or antibiotics which private sector are unwilling or financially unable to create?

Really it is the complete diminishment of 'British Interests' in terms of both former commonwealth countries and dependencies or in terms of international industry which negate the utility of any independent nuclear arsenel. Only France maintains the same, and this is partly on the same arguments of non NATO spheres of operation. Other European countries with borders to Russia or Ukraine lack independent deterrents and rely on NATO alliance for both strategic defence and local security back up, as we see currently in the Baltic nations and Poland, with a return to facing to Moscow as the eastern aggressor.

Britains commercial industries are owned by the Chinese and Indians. Her export growth markets are also there. Many former dependencies are now moving ever further away from the UK politically towards becoming republics who see the UK as unimportant.  What British Interests are which would include the need for a doomsday only nuclear capacity is then the question. "Loss of Empire nferiority complex" or historical conservative romanticism are two of the real political reasons for public support for spending on Trident II.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Lloyd Cole Blues

Sometimes some folk must feel that their greatest achievements lay ahead of them, while other times for other artists the heavy sinking feeling lies in the stomach that your greatest work is well behind you.

This is how I feel about Lloyd Cole, after listening to yet another album based on half hearted lyrical endeavour and soft country rock. Borrowed riffs and refrains from the rock anthology, or just cut and pasted from his own previous back catalogue in order to keep a sense and feel that it is him. This disappointment has gone on too long. Maybe his epitaph will have to just be Rattlesnakes.

It started not with his debut as a solo artist, but with his second album as merely himself, "Don't get weird on me babe" which seems to have set the mold for all his subsequent work (bar his adventure into electrica recently) as being soft rocky, poppy stuff trying to maybe be modest and grown up and following a thread he was content with. The country and western influences from its' pre 1970s-cheese fest are tamed by studio drums and mediocre chorus. Why bother Lloyd? Is there hope Wim Wenders will use you as an understated backing track to a new detour back to little mid west USA?

Lloyd still shines though in the blinding light of the early days of "Lloyd Cole and The Commotions" . When I last saw him live many moons ago at the Usher Hall, Edinbra, he returned to much of this body of work in an acoustic (with pick ups ) set - you could say that solo tour was his own "unplugged". His voice was often nervous, failing completely in range at crucial points he used to master, but some songs in the set were performed with a subtle wonder which recaptured the spirit from the 1980s master piece and monolith, "Rattlesnakes".

The band then were forged in the dark alleyways and delapitadated studios of the west end and Argyll  areas of Glasgow, Scotland. They chose a unique underground americana image and theme as a back drop for the music on Rattlesnakes, which fed upon the three preceeding decades of american rock, blues and country music. As  an alternative rock band, this put them slightly at odds with the antipathy amongst youth towards the US in those  Reagan years, , but as fortune would have it the style was enough for them to bypass any wilderness years on an independent label "also ran" list, when they were signed to Polydor for the release of said monolith and masterpiece "Rattlesnakes" in 1984.

Rattlesnakes still is a colossus, head and shoulders above much of 1980s jingle indie, and an album which echoes its uniqueness down the years. The new comers quietly walked on stage with a sideways glance, all smouldering angst and threw alternative rock a sucker punch with their flashing genius. There it stands, Rattlesnakes, stark in much of its use of rythm guitar and steel edged riffs, with often cynical song writing with lyrics which twisted from hopeless romantic endulgence to bitter memories.

Lloyd and band took americana as a theme not from NYC, or SF but from the run down small towns, the tired, the bitter, the angry, the apathetic of the underbelly of the US. The beats. The unseen beaten. That is what his sultry look portayed, a lost son from the mid west wilderness of the soul. He grasped that US feel from a pretence of eternal 1950s vapours and made it cool. His americana was James Deanesque, the anti hero, all passions spent age 21, a rebel with only love as a cause.

Later on this foray into Americana must have inspired Scotland's next venture into Americana, "Texas" into a steel guitar fuelled  success bigger than the Commotions but at the cost of commerciality, lower artistic credibilty and Charlene Spitteri being on everything but roller-skates as she was rolled out cross media by the fame-machine.

It was only many years later that I discovered that Lloyd Cole drew much of his lyrical inspiration from the student life as a philosophy undergrad' at Glasgow Uni' in the early eighties. He transposed his uber middle class experiences there, often the minutiae of  failed love affaires, into a beat-american gestalt which was more than a facade, it was the soul of the band. Later that decade I walked in his very shoes, working-hard-for-my-union-card by doing promo work towards the covetted QM student union Palais Pass. Access all bands, free for some fly postering. Watch out for Miles Cooney. Footnote: Excludes Motorhead's infamous summer ear bleeder.

He wrote more over of the romance of the time, and the romances no doubt of his life while at the 'varsity. In both their debut and surprising follow. In the early eighties there was both modern romance and post punk leathers, which gave a "free love, so fucking what" cycnicism from the proto existential consumenrist generation those times spawned. Love was explosive, only to be left with smoke blown in your face and eyes turned away. If the truth be told "all we ever shared was a taste in clothes" could be a romantic mantra for the leather clad post punk. Free Love became your right of choice for both sides, while also your right to cut it all off as a gesture of your own free will. Lives and motivations separated especially at the end of academic years, which must have been about 1982-83 for Cole himself. Love as a wrapper you wore to the art school concerts, just to throw away when you were bored by the contents being human.

Although "Rattlesnakes" must be taken in reverance, it was not the one-vinyl-press wonder you may infer, or Wiki critic scribblers may have 'documented' for the biased annals of the electric interweb. It was followed up by the softer, jangly and more playful "Easy Pieces" which gave us more from Lloyds loves and travels in particular as a young man in his formative years of first independence. It even endowed his discography with the indie danceable "Lost Weekend" which I must have swayed my shoulders and hips to while flirting with a flower-print mini dress clad indie-chick or two way back when....where did it all go wrong?

The rot did not being at all with Cole's venture into a Solo career. I guess I could speculate or google on why the Commotions fell away, but suffice to say Lloyd had a lot left in him he wanted to get out alone, and he did that in his first album. It was a sultry, life weary Cole who came with a dark, heavy yet eminently listenable ablbum which was as creative in melody and lyrics as the previous body of work while perhaps being harder hitting alternative rock in sound and intention.

After "Lloyd Cole" with the daubed X, another must-own CD of the time, he then as mentioned wavered over to a more C&W, pop rock album "Weird on Me..." which could have stood alone as a venture into a softer sound and style,  and indeed is far from being a terrible concoction by any means. However he has persisted there after with album upon album of B sides, with his voice wavering or not being engineered into anything more than "Lloyd Cole gets old, slowly but surely".

Perhaps the problem lies in his own modesty and the self confessed fragilities which have blighted his life.  Maybe he would like to forget his 'pretenious' 1980s as many a 'proper grown up' looks back upon that twenty-something me of high living and irresponsibility. I would have at a guess that in fact it was because Polydor signed them, and made main stream, prime time slick videos with them, and put them on the circuit that actually like Kurt Cobain, the meteoric projection into fame was too much. Better then to have smouldered away some more years as the original line up, struggeling and doing minor town hall gigs as an indy label band through to a mainstream success in the 90s maybe as a matured product with a marketable, authentic back catalogue.

Lloyd, you can choose to gather some inspirational people around you, be they musicians or be they urban street dwellers, or small country town eccentrics, and set off in a  new direction, or you can carry on with this long moan of a catalogue of errors, of sounds-just-like-me-like-i-should-sound B sides and make some A sides, even if it takes you ten years. Tour minor venues with a band. Play rock and roll, but  remember your indy roots. We will always love and remember you for Rattlesnakes and your first solo album, but please let there be more. Sulking and play acting are back on demand, all part of the show, let it go on.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why HS2 Should Hit The Buffers

As you may have guessed I am anti HS2, but I am very pro railways.

Where are all those tax-payers groups on this white elephant and also talking of hundred billion sequels, on that other white elephant part II ,Trident 2? The two biggest wastes of tax payers money the current generation will see, and each will be rubber stamped in the next parliament in England at least. Right, left, centre this is why you should be involved in politics or bending the ears of your politicians at MP surgeries.

Why is HS2 such a waste of money? In principle it is my contention that it is a Keynsian economic injection to sustain the heavy civil engineering competance built up in the UK, and since it will be built south- north most likely, provide jobs for the wo'kin' classes and be a vote winner around the London and home counties area.

What does it actually intend to deliver? Well it is going to be about delivering more workers to the city of London in particular, grabbing a main artery into a massive resource of new daily commuters. In the north I can fully appreciate that faster Leeds-Manc-Brum, higher speed services would be very beneficial in helping people grasp higher paid jobs and educational opportunities. Economists on the capatilist side and some major real estate owners have decided that you will not be able to afford to buy a house in Greater London, but by George that is where you will jolly well need to work!

The thin claim to the contrary is that northerners with their jute and flax mills will be able to shoot down to London and gather investment for t'internet mill and t' weaponries factory from one of the worlds biggest centres for banking and investment.  The truth is that The City is not there to fund SMEs in t' north, and if England votes itself out the EU, there will be a major decline. Several US major banks are making contingency plans to relocate to other EU countries if the "island monkey" attitude perisists. Venture Capatilists and Modern Milll Owners use Bentleys and stay at Claridges or the Ritz. They don't take t'train. Who uses Eurostar? Not nearly as many private business people as "projected".

One thing the proponents are very keen on saying is that HSR will mean 250km/h minimum or average speeds with peaks of over 300 like the TGV. Note that they dont like talking about that in miles-per-hour because it doesnt sound as fast, and then joe public would be able to make more real life comparisons to expected journey times. So Manchester to London is near enough 200 miles, 321 km,  current pendolinos can do that with stops in under three hours. An HSR could maybe do it in an hour non stop! Wow.

Certainly though Birmingham to London would go down to an hour, thus making that huge connurbation a virtual suburb of London.

That's quick. Super. Hang on a minute, what are you realistically comparing the alternative to? Road? Manchester to Coventry can be a three hour affaire, as can Coventry to any actual destination in North London. Flying? Planes zoom along....what about getting out to airport check in , security, getting off and out and then the train into paddington or liverpool st or Waterloo...then getting to the office.

The) rail route is just then a wish from heaven to completely smash all other forms of transport for city centre to wait for it here comes the clanger, city centre. People will leave their cars and the plane in droves, er, because they want to get to the city centres. Carbon emmissions will toppel, England will be a green and pleasant quiet motorway place again.

The fact is that the cross birmingham morning jam is made by people who realistically either cannot reach their destination by train with any degree of common sense ,be that maybe of course  day's sales itinerary, or they have  have no interest in using the train because they are happy to sit in a two hour virtual car park in staffordshire as long as they have a BMW badge on their bonnet. Furthermore, they do not live in the town centres, and probably not all that near to key stops on the way like Stockport.

HS 2 serves the main purpose of supplying more wage slaves and consumers to London, which many have just rolled over and accepted as being the real future of english economic prosperity. Or rather they dont travel north of Watford Gap.

The costs are enormous. That is the rub. We could build brand new full capacity city hospitals in at least 20 of the UKs main cities and solve the 'crisis' in the NHS. We could pull all the children under the poverty line over it and give them personal tutors and free university education. We could probably make major breakthroughs on a world first basis in cures for two of the major cancers people die from in the west.

Carbon emmissions per passenger mile are not all that great ,especially if as with Eurostar there is constant off peak under occupancy.  Better than the plane, but a lot worse than the current Pendolinos which run on average on their real daytime diagrams at over three quarters full. Pricey too, i mean it will hardly be cheaper than the

Railways do need investment though and in particular the WCML south of Birmingham is slower now on average daytime diagrams than it probably was in 1982 because of under capacity. Mostly this is caused by slower freight services, some of which are diesel hauled and sub 70mph. If you could divert those to a new route with only 100mph running and then build more passing loops between Rugby and the London termini then you would be able to run pendolinos at 125mph and if you improved the current staffordshire-warwick shire Brum avoider route you could chunder along at 140mph through that bit of rural Englandshire to accelerate Manchunians on their way south.

The other issue is that of not actually wanting to go to "The City" but rather to either a company HQ in Hemel Hempstead, Slough or Maidenhead. Or as many budget travellers do now, just use London as a place you have to go through in order to sew Stanstead tenner flights to off peak saver Euston trains.

The Railway, capital letter note, was never developed to be trans home counties. Just as with HS2 , the routes all wanted to rush to the city, and even a map from as late as 1961 still shows this radial pattern in more or less its full Victorian glory. The last built  being the eventually bankrupted Great Central Main Line, which is Ironically a possible south radial route for HS2.  There are very few interconnector routes and until HS1, transrail and latterly HS2 were proposed, there has no post war strategic plan for adapting the victorian network to meet current or forseeable transport plans, apart from Beeching who proposed a biased cut, and actually closed the GCML which ten years later could have been a realistic 125mph strategic capacity route to London and places like Hemel Hempstead.

There is a need for realism here:  France had vast swaithes of low value, flat rural land to push the TGV through. Germany needs to reorientate its railways east-west again. Does England need to essentailly have a fifth radial route out of London again which is mainly isolated and passenger dedicated, enourmously costly to build and which will be very expensive to travel on with private operators?

I propose a freight relief route, using some of the GCNML from Hemel Hempstead and Tring,  140mph in rural stretches for the WCML,  widening or stacked tracks, commuter area passing loops on all routes to London, interconnectors both north and south of Rugby between the four main routes north, and a cross n london connector in the home counties to Cambridge and Stanstead in the East, while Aylesbury and maybe Reading in the west. Also the electrification of the Paddington-Oxf-Brum route in preference to Bristol, thus providing more capacity and an emergency relief route for through trains to & from the north be they frieght or passenger.

Who needs to go from Manchester to London in under 2 hours if it will cost them the future passenger, and you today's tax payer a small fortune for the route?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The English White Russians

One cultural difference I have been able to distill down between England and Scotland, if not also Norway and other left field successful democracies, is the White Russian effect.

"White Russian" was for me a geopolitical term  from  our dull history lessons on the 1917 revolution. The white russians sided with the Tsar, despite being poor peasants, because they aspired to the rewards they may have recieved by being loyal to the old empire. A friend of mine however, used the phrase 20 years ago upon return from a successful career but a broken marriage in Norwich of all places. His wife had fallen in with "white russians" apparently.

What he meant was the wannabees- the social and fiscal climbers. Hoi palloi who wanted to mix with the rich-set such that it may rub off on them and they may get to join-the-club. The worst type of snobs in reality, who turn their cheeks to their own humbler beginnings and white-wash their offspring through private schools.

These are the backbone of David Cameron's support: people who want to work hard and get sucking up and stepping on other people. People who believe they work harder, smarter and more effectively than others and therefore deserve far more. It is a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy, true that has to be said that without ambition you go nowhere.  However, frankly the statistics of wages in the England dont add up: both for full time employees and small businesses the income is meagre compared to Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland and so on, while other countries like Australia and Canada have better standards of living and personal health.

The average working household in the UK takes in a relatively small 40K per year where as the average house is more than six times that. Furthermore, the average working hours in the uk are the highest in europe with many employees on fixed annual pay with no overtime. Less time for family, fitness, healthy food and spending money in the economy. more time for stress and obesity, which will exacerbate the ageing demographic in the uk with a sicker profile from the generation in their thirties and forties now as they age over the next twenty years. The new flexible working law will take time to un do the culture of presenti-ism.

So being average is a great come down to the lower middle class, who have been surpassed in income by those in the higher skilled working classes and the semi skilled unionised sector: even a couple both working as train drivers earn 30% above average household income. Oh but unions are bad, and hard skills are old fashioned? I love the train driver parallel for fun, but  in fact average household incomes for families across the board, not just in full time work,  are less than a single train driver could expect to earn with a little overtime.

Mine is the first post war generation who will see a poorer standard of living, errosion of consumer spending power and less control over their careers. Why? Because we believed the mantas of going to university rather than apprenticeships, of following what we loved rather than what was a good little earner, and of believing unions were an allround bad thing. And because we became white russians.

Being a "white russian" is a pretence to one day being Mr
Above Average, while in reality the Tsars just get more power by you being on their side. In England in particular, they are this failing middle class of social climbers who are so prominent in the culture at work and in communities.  Scotland differs for now at least, in this "demographic" (to missuse that term, why not? Everybody else does) in that we remember our roots more and are more confident in them. Perhaps we Scots are less aspirational, you could say meaner but less greedy.

In fact I come from a very middle class area in Scotchlandshire, and one notable point on social mobility is the downwardness! Many a well to do's offspring, or simply the book-keeper's son, ended up as taxi drivers or swimming pool attendants, even labourers and rough necks. Even with a private education, the meritocracy caught up with them in the tough 1980s and 90s. The spoilt, the dyslexic, the manic ADHDers and the couldnt be bothereds.

Scotland has a share of white russians, but more notably  a well established upper middle class who are the paternal (ofen patronising) middle management king George envisaged in his vision of the "public" school system. They are remearkable in the way they keep to their own small circles, highly visible in Edin-bra' and Perth, but behind the scenes in most other Scottish cities. Lack of numbers and lack of aspiration to join their ranks has one major political result north of the border:  25 years in the wilderness for the Scottish conservative party, who are viewed as tweedy old snobs by many.

Is however, economic progression and the temple-of-growth not actually the net result of a larger aspirant capitalist middle class? Not at all really, it is the great lie of the American dream.  The USA is dependent on natural resources and then government spending on defence, private health insurance and subsidised corn where middle class tax dollars and mortgage payements, rise inevitably upwards.

Countries like Canada, Australia and Norway (all way above the Uk and USA for average well being and living standards) are dependent on natural resources, but have a smaller population to reep the benefits. However here is the lesson: Angola has richer oil and mineral reserves than Norway ,yet is of course a land stricken by poverty.  The top of the pops countries above all have two things in common: large corporates and patient government investment with a liberal degree of resource planning, and unionised workforces. They are in a nutshell, better at reeping and retaining wealth for more of their populations.

None of the top countries in the world to live in as a worker, are without problems, the major one being the remarable ageing population putting pressure for more immigration, a route which often leads to erroded standards of living as management deunionise and reduce pay for the new 'naive' work force. Their forms for conservative governments have by in large tickled with the status quo such that companies still invest while workers still get high pay, while the right wing have often been the ones to finally address the pensions gap, except in Norway where the last labour coalition government took the first fairly crucial reforms.

White Russians are causing havoc in England. It is their political agenda which is being played to by successive governments since Thatcher's first parliament. Their values of small 'we know best' are being extended to education and health, where quite frankly it looks like being a mess. These are the last two areas government can privatise to effect some form of percieved positive social engineering. Everything else is sold or has failed in privatisation, best not talk about rail track, nor the inflationary power industry.

It is a great white (russian) hope that they can run their schools better, that they can reduce the cost of the NHS while pmaking health care effective with their small business know how. They used to be called busy-bodies. The types who sat on the PTA,or the charitable board for the local hospital. Now they know more about teaching a curricula and heart disease management than those poor idiotic experts with their many fruitless years from university and training.

The white russians are mobilising across europe, by their very nature they are more likely to be involved in politics and implementing policy. In Sweden the country has seen a change over from the idealistic and boringly successful socialist towards an aspirational middle class society. The great irony is that this was partly driven by racism, with the welfare state percieved as supporting lay about refugees.

The same immigrant base in Sweden and say the UK and Norway, are also a source for new support to the right wing, as they dont appreciate the franchise of a high tax paying welfare state, and see themselves as rising above the refugee dependency status which is diluting the worth of the social systems across europe. This presents a double-think for the right wing across europe, whose traditional base has been conservative anti immigration. Whereas on the one side these new aspirant immigrants are swing voters for them, and their capitalist pay masters want to avoid rising power of the labour market by having more competition for jobs, on the other side non-western immigration is deeply unpopular with their core voters as was seen in the recent protest votes in the EU elections in France and the UK.

The welfare state often falls into the ideoligical abyss when it comes to two things: affordability (balancing the books now and in future) and the 'dependency' culture. Norway and Canada have been clever in linking benefits to work: if you do not work up credits then you are likely to be on a very subsistance wage relative to the cost of living, and better off in any form of job. The UK, France and Sweden have not been so astute and in particular not with immigrants. Both France and Sweden have third generation dependcy / economically margjinal families by the box load in their formerly socialist workers housing estates, long since abandoned by white workers with their rising pay and mobility. The UK has issues with afro-caribbean crime ghettos, and extreme islamic recruitment in poor asian areas, but more so with northern council estates with a white majority and high unemployment, high long term sick, high teenage single mums....the usual ills socialism gets the blame for and which seem to rob more tax money from those white russian pockets than a failed energy market, a white elephant nuclear submarine based deterrant and flexible labour market which the state picks up the tab for in terms of poor contracts with short notice.

All this is fuel for the white russian band wagon, as a growing section of the  middle class  sees the welfare state as being a tax burden not a safety net or value for money franchise. we have to contend with work a holic managers and owner directors at work who are in their legions, and push for longer hours and more for less.

The antidote ? Well as I say a dose of reality: if you are not in one of the proffessions, or a highly skilled technician/site engineer, then it is very unlikely that your white-russian attitudes will actually get you further up the ladder of material wealth. Far better to be remebered as a good, fair boss. Better to orientate self employment around your personal needs and family than ever higher financial goals. Indeed as a non white russian, our two best defences are attack: going self employed and negotiating better terms than we would have as employees once a white-russian is dependent on your labour, releasing then the added value you have as a supplier if you like, or seeking out new skills  and becoming unionised again to extract better working conditions.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Harking Back to an EEC just for trade and business....which never existed

UKIP and other euro sceptics want to hark back to a wonderful time when the EU was merely an economic trading area for business, free from politics and the notion of federalisation.

Unfortunetly that is a mistruth which uses the same PR names for the institutions which were then used to achieve the reverse impression- namely that the peace seeking federalists who had a vision of locking the nations into a federally enforced economic peace driven by a common market for steel and coal, which would castrate nationalism and the power of member states to build economic walls and thus hoard commodities, build huge military might and inflict economic sanctions on other european competitors or countries.

The whole concept is political  by nature as much as it is about markets and m,poney
By having international agreement which later lead to laws ratified in member states' own judiciaries, the nature of the beast is political. Member states have interests which are pro union, member states then have some interests which could be adversly affected by the laws. Commonality and agreement on the legal structures and details requires poltics.

Also on the Tories much avoided 'social chapter' which they say is a last straw, this was in fact one of the first straws in the European Steel and Coal Economic agreement where coal miners in particular across europe recieved social welfare from centrally directed taxation, a levvy of 1%, which was used for granting home ownership loans or better public housing initially.

One of the aims of the 1951 Treaty of Paris then was to reduce potential for inequality across europe and inequal sharing of wealth or control of markets. This was in fact well on course to be achieved until the 2008 financial crisis and the long term recession which followed. This was precipitated  by capital lending too flippantly to both states and private banks based on fiendish financial return mecahnims which prove to be corrupt, unlawful and putely opportunistic lying throughout the international credit system. The EU and the Eurozone have been landed with the blame by the right wing media and by a public scepticism and collective memory of how good things were before EU and Eurozone. The fact is that capitalism has become too powerful and too anarchic to be left to such laisez faire loose liberalism and we are all paying the price, with most EU countries opting to penalise the poor and public employees as the actual cause of the recession or the easiest target for cuts which are popular amongst the 'moral majority' or working and retired former working people.

A step back from federalism is however to the author's mind a correction in the centering of power between France and Germany, who have lead the austerity war against countries whose crime was to say yes to seemingly favourable loan terms or seemingly endless supplies of credit, based on tax raising ability which paid no attention to the lessons of the cyclical or sinusiodal nature of economies and the global trade economy as an entity.

In stepping back and focusing on free trade, and tackling the spiralling cost of assylum seekers and illegal immigration, the EU will quite likely regain credibility as an organ and gain the trust of being a common platform for agreement rather than the current perception of Brussels being a Metademocracy, while the parliament in Strasbourg being a toothless, paper tiger. 

The Eurozone neither precipitated the financial crisis nor did it actually worsen the effects of the long term recession in the author's opinion. To the contrary, individual currencies may have faired far worse under this period, with hyper inflation possible and stagnation as seen in Argentina, where the US dollar was likely to become the only feasible currency.   The German lead bail out packages hurt, but hypeinflation for the Drachma or Paso would have possibly been far worse, as in fact this finance crisis has been in some measures corrected for inflation, worse than the wall street crash in the 1930s.

In returning to free trade and common market concepts, job creation may rise much faster but may be uneven across Europe and this may mean that monies currently used for bailing out banks vis a vis, paying off their international creditors, the super rich elite and multinational finance houses, that this proportion of EU budget be used in future for reversing the negative effects of austerity in the latin countries in particular, while also raising access to education and living standards across the union. 

Racism has been joined by fear of radical islam and resentment of public spending on assylum seekers, mainly from muslim countries. Romany people begging and their petty crime across the EU is seen as a problem by the public, although very few are affected and many romany folk are law abiding. The EU rightly identifies this group as having an acute need for investment in education while Romania and Bulgaria who have the largest permanent populations of them stand poorly in terms of monetary means and political will to help these people improve their standard of living by economic activity.

This latest EU MEP election has sent a shock wave across the european centre right and socialist parties alike, however it is a wake up call to the general percieved dissatisfaction with immigration and standard of living. The latter is mostly fuelled by the continuing love affair with home ownership and equity growth in private property. Capitalism found that there was more money to be made by restircitng sale of land for property while consumers had an expectation for positive equity and leveraged themselves ever more to get on and up the property ladder. With real estate prices maintained at a high level in the main metropolises and industrial valleys, the situation is excaerbated by high building costs with a shortage of skilled labour and a lack of interest in higher risk, lower reward building which is likely to be needed in the coming years.

So far in the northern european countries, the ageing population has been kept mostly happy, most of the time by national governments of a centre right nature, but the dissatisfaction felt in the more youthful latin countries now will perhaps spread to the north as the baby boomers offspring find themselves at a lower standard of living than their parents, while the young grand and great grand children start to resent being the ones left to pay taxes and health insurance which supports an ageing population of pensioners living longer lives.

Dissatisfaction has been expressed in the Right side of politics in France and the UK due to long standing immigrant scepticism in major parts of the society, and also a degree of nationalism and ' our people first'.   France still practices instituionalsied racism against the employment of individuals with north african immigrant names and backgrounds. In the UK it was the Tory vote and previous non voters who turned to UKIP, not labour voters, while in France it was the white working class who voted Le Pen in with her watered down racism. 

The move to immigration and assylum seeker scepticism is a wake up to the legt wing and the liberal centre right that these issues and in particular, the issues of percieved job stealing, and larger the islamic extremists which have to be tackled. At least the perception of this must be tackeld along with the weaknesses in the southern borders.  We are likely to see less immigration from Russia and her allied nations, but the author and most commentators do not see that the two centres of power in the EU will move away from the principle of free movement of labour. They may move to a restriction on free movement of unskilled labour by use of vagrancy laws as is practiced in France  now. 

One other possible long term result of the euro sceptic upsurge is that the common agricultural policy moves towards a free market, where smaller producers will need to then cooperate to maintain prices, or maintain a niche product with higher margin. A move to a free market economy for farming has many benefits to society in the EU, and will also expose consumers to the true costs of food production and how that must be a larger part of their home economics. Also it has international benefits in being able to restrict import of US and Chinese subsidised products while allowing sub saharen and other developing nations to find a new, viable market for their grain and other products at a market price, rather than having to compete with subsidised rich western farmers.

Norway where the author writes from, pays for access to the EU while not having any real say over any policies and also having to swallow many of the EU directives if she wants to continue trading.  This of course creates conflict with the national agricultural policy, which is of the 1950s "socialism for capatilist farmers" model by in large. Further more because Norway has retained much of its oil wealth through union driven high wages, rising oil prices and effective state pension investments, she is now forced to pay annual sums for EU access which are far in excess of EU inflation.   She cannot veto these or cite her own need for infrastructural renewal or agricultural reform as greater needs than the billions of Euros extra to be paid over the next five years. So Norway is by no means a model for the UK, whose trade is so dependent on the EU.  

By way of summary, change to a system whcih then precipitates improvement in that system and better living standards, often begins with a political shock followed by a quantum leap towards a new Belle Epoch, and this is perhaps the direction europe will take. The EU we know today is a poltical body and its predecessors have always had political objectives in securing peace and prospertiy across post WWII europe. The UK should look to Norway. whose main exports are to the global market for oil and salmon, and realise that the more diversified economy of the UK cannot come to the table like Norway, and deny itself voting rights in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Modern Deadly Sins Part II: Hatred and Dispossession

The media is a tivoli mirror show, where the humdrum happenings and good works of society and its organisations around the world are squeezed out of salience, while stories of in particular acts of hatred are to the fore.

Why there is so much apparent hatred in the world is both exagerrated and fueuelled by the media, and carefully nurturesd in its propagandic outfalls, suprisingly domestic too for we in the west.

Whether the media helps engender even more hatred between nationalities, secyts,  religions, races, the sexes, sexual orientation and social classes is an interesting point but there is a lot of animosity to report in the world, and even in the current Ukrnian crisis much of it centres around sectarian lines or the backwards neo conservative religion versus liberal secular governance.

Why do we as a species indulge in so much animosity towards our own kind, whem in fact we often display acts of amazing altruism towards strangers?

I think the crux of the issue is that differentiatipn between our encounters with individuals face to face, versus the often literal demonisation of the group;the otheras, the foriegners, "the them".

When we behave as groups we avhieve the greatest feats and build the most robust societal amd economic structures while we also commit the most heaniois crimes in the name of the group versus the them. We all know the 20th century's darkest days in the 1910s, 40s, 50s and then all over again in the balkans when we thought europe at least had freed itself from sectarian genocide and learnt from the past.

A tv anthropologist in new guniae encounter this friend or foe reaction and murderous history. For me the reportage was a kind of eureka moment, proving to me at me at least, that xenophobia has its routes deep in our psyche and not just as a result of media and church propog,anda.

In tis show the traveller went to essentially some of the most primitive peoåles of the world qho live a stone age life style, mainly hunter gathering with marginal embrypnuc agriculure around their long houses. Essemntially tribes were derined as extended families. Strangers were feared and taboo, even people who were related but lived further away than usual daily contact could easily be viewed as ghost-demons. These unpeople then were fair game for a spear or arrow. In one incident a man killed another man on the edge of his purported territory whonwas actually marriedmto his female cousin. The man was known vaguely, or from years gone by, but the fear of seeing him in the territory painted him to be a ghostndemon and hes wasnkilled, furthermore in true papua new gunieamstyle, eaten.

The reporters gained access to these families cagily by kind of social networking on the ground, peeling back thwe onion through a chain of contacts until the ultimate primitive familyntype could be visited. At each stage they met animosity and displaya of aggression and passive aggression you could cut steel with. However at each stage, once the ice was broken the family turned out to be hospitable and keen tonshare stories and conversemon life style.  The camera crew had carefully transcended those boundaries , from the them to the new friends.

There is a fairly established ethological or paleo-socio-anthropological view that human beings have a genetically inherited predisposition to xenophobia. This dates back perhaps to pre language or even early primate ancestprs, where humanoids lived in family groups or small clans.

Our ancestors certainly lived then by hunter gathering and perhaps by some seed enrichment proto-agriculture, and had either territorial life styles or were nomadic. Some may have done both or adapted with goodnor bad seasons, ormexhaustion  ofnresources. Yet others may well have lived parasitically from other humanoids or primates by robbing them, stealimg pray or even cannibalism.

For groups holding territories or wanting to avoid or exploit other tribes or sub species, it became incredibly imortant to recognise strangers, the them , as a matter of life and death.

This psychological apparattis then evolved long before homo sapiens locked themselves into agro-economy, living in towns and iexpanding inter-regional trade. In fact by in large civilisation is only 5,000 -7,000 years old. In evolutionary genetic terms this time span is a blink of an eye.

It is my contention as with many others, that we simply have not had time to evolve out of undesirable genetic predispositions such as gluten allergy, reading exacerbated myopia or of course xenophobia. While society's structures and mechanisms have evolved to be more cohesive, the devisive, nationalistic poltic is still very much present because we have not lost our now increasingly useless xenophobia. Our western meritocricy and middle eastern islamic harmonisation of race for example, render irrational hatred obsolete and most of all, global economics and world wide peace agreements should consign genocide and even petty prejudices to history.

However hatred of sectarian, cultural or racist nature still is peristent and often a prominent force in politics and acts of mass lawlessness. Despite racism and all the other prejudice based -isms being largely irrational within multicultural countries or in the context of global trade and travel, it persists due to evolution being slow. Evolution is slow to act in relation to neutral phenotypic features, or dead-wood-genes as some call them.

Take the human appendix or resibual cæcumb: it has a very marginal role and some people still die of appendicitis yet it is still there. Or the human vagina which is allegedly evolving to be easier for sex face to face, we being the only major mammalian species to prefer this during mating, while the vagina's optimal angle is still for a direction of penetration from the lower mamalian approach ie from behind. In an agricultural based or rather fed society, gluten allergy and hayfever are two other physical slightly delatorious phenotypic characteristics which will possible evolve out of the gene pool.

Other academics with varuous hues of "socio" in their title, argue that xenophobia is a politically and culturally driven phenomena, which can therefore be erradicated by the inevitably or rather poorly presumed march towards the greater good of liberal social democratic societies. This is most often not in the  light of having read anything on behavioural genetics or evolutionary theory and science. Just like the irrational religious anti science heritics of today, they want to just deny genetics and claim we are people with free willx, separate from the animal kingdom. They abhore bioscience and blame  it for eugenics and unwanted societal interferences such as GMO and embryo gene biomarker screening.

The thing is it is very difficult to legislate or organise to erradicate xenophobia on an international basis. One major global reason now is of course the conservative interpretation of Islam and the counter current against reform toward secular societies. This is also true of internal and international interest groups having turned the USA into a post democratic oligarchy, where economic, religious and cultural belief systems are epistatic to rational decision making and logical liberalisation aka small government.

The christian, jewish and muslim conservativism today is all based on of course belief and not science, modern law or rationality. Worse the three powerful groupings are an intertwined self fulfilling sectarian trinity of hatred, violence and what many see as retrogression in terms of individual rights and the recognition of minorities,  and even majority voting in favour of secular governance. Worse are the threats posed today by nationalism, which are the seeds for new conflicts in Europe and Eurasia.

Hatred is here to stay and probably on the rise, who has a barometric measure? But due to the re-entrenchment of religious and nationalist conservatives in the face of post war, small government liberalism, sectarianism and nationalism is it seems set to get worse before it gets better. The conservative groupings are able to exploit the negative perceoptions amongst average families about how far the permissive society has gone, particularly focused on gay rights and in islamic countries, womens rights. This is counter attacked by the march of media, but in coming full circle to how I started this rant, the media is consumer generated social media and not the establishment controlled or hysterical headline chasing media of old. New media facilitates sharing of concepts of life styles from those who are wealthier and more liberal to those who find this aspirational and want to reject the old status quo in the middle east and former ussr in particular.