Friday, 19 July 2019

blue herring?


Of course he is a comic-book character. The problem is he is a dangerous one. Let's recap. He started out as a sloppy journalist, making up news about the EU from his well-paid office. He routinely invented things that were a little bit suspect and enjoyed inserting them into the mainstream media. One could accuse him of being a leading portrayer of fake news, right back at the start of his ascent.

He played everything for laughs back then and was seen as a clown rather than dangerous. Maybe young Nigel was also swayed by the arguments placed by Boris, in the Max Hastings orchestrated press.

The latest examples are typical. Much exaggerated arm-waving, and a downright lie about kipper packaging. EU-Rules. No. UK rules, actually. Where are your support staff, by the way? Boris can blither on, but this is typical of the type of errors he will go on to make as a Prime Minister, prancing whilst preening his own ego.

Has someone told him to follow up his bus act with a (u)kipper incident, once more to fool the search engines? Red bus, Red Herring?

Would that it were so simple.

The man is useless, a liar, erratic, and won't solve anything.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

lie big


The latest Big Lie has almost been accomplished. It's routinely uttered and is something to do with democracy and the will of the people.

"The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."*

Processions of politicians come on to the television and use normalising sound bites about the will of the people, whilst they talk about proroguing Parliament to get Brexit 'across the line'. They're using accessible sporting metaphors to make it sound more like an inconvenient tussle, rather than something that can create vast economic spoilage. Observe the British Pound's trajectory. First, News of Brexit and then subsequent interminable bickering has seen it slide ever south.

Trade and pensions dilution, anyone?


The entirely ego-powered Boris has no plan; he's shown that he learns repeatable sound bites and unerringly trots them out, with much-exaggerated arm-waving. GATT Article XXIV Paragraph 5b? or 5c? blah blah blah- "In London we had special bicycles." No, someone has Stabilo-marked Boris a quick-read version of GATT. (5a covers customs union and 5b covers free-trade, 5c covers making a plan)

And there's the detail: Liam Fox, the U.K. trade secretary and a Brexiteer, rejected the GATT approach. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has repeatedly said Article XXIV only applies if two trading partners have already agreed to a trade deal. The EU has repeatedly said that it won’t engage in mini-deals if the withdrawal agreement isn’t ratified, meaning tariffs would be imposed as well as border checks. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo in May said there must be a bilateral agreement between the EU and U.K. in order to claim an implementation period under GATT Article 24.

I'm forgetting, no one listens to the B-side when the A-side has a blond rock-god on it.
The clubby Tory leadership votes are mostly in with around 75% of the elite voting for the plucky charlatan. The elephant-clown puppet has no plan and will bluster his way through to economic destruction by Halloween.

Meanwhile, the other lot are pitifully squabbling in public, with the detached ego of a playpenning Corbyn wrangled by his inner crew, whilst being abhorred by others high in the party. They are busy with their self-generated distractionary topic preventing locked horns on the main business.

* from die große Lüge

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

the blue light was my baby and the red light was my mind


I watched the whiffle-whaffle debate last night, with its arm waving prime-minister-in-waiting. The 'Boris plan' is working even despite the minimal input from Boris himself. For example, during the TV debate Jeremy Hunt did a good audition for the role of Brexit negotiator, illustrating a grasp of detail that Boris could only bluster.

Boris doesn't need to bother with this stuff though, he's a wind-up Colleger, set to rally the Oppidans to his vote.

Irrelevant posturing, some might say, because the excited Tory sheep have already cast their votes and look to the distraction of a 50 minute debate with adverts simply for confirmation.

Don't confuse us with the facts, as Gove has echoed numerous times.

We can all see that Team Boris is already lining up stooges and throwing the inconvenient under that tainted red bus.

Sadly the self-absorbed leader of the opposition and his soviet quartet continue to play-pen his lack-lustre involvement. The train has left the station.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

darrocham's razor? aka U can't touch this


I just don't understand.

Allegedly, Isabel Oakeshott leaks the confidential Ambassador diptel papers to the press instead of telling the FCO what she had unearthed. There's an outrage and an investigation set up. Trump's character has been impugned, but almost the next thing he does is behave boorishly in line with Darroch's profiling.

Noticably, no-one reading Darroch's assessment disagrees, nor rushes to Trump's aid.

No questions are asked about Oakeshott's role in this, or where she obtained the papers, or why she showed them to Farage before leaking them. Curiously, they are a mix of a two-year-old set, plus some from 8-10 days ago. Someone sneaky has been hoarding and filing systematically. Could it be dark money running a politician, a conniver, or someone slighted?

There's also no questions about Official Secrets Act being raised and no men in raincoats turning up at the Mail on Sunday.

Oakeshott is an activist friend of Leave, Arron Banks and Lord Ashcroft, amply illustrated in this recent Times diagram (although it leaves off a few other folk like Boris Johnson and Steve Bannon) - Oakeshott has anyway denied that the leak comes from anyone on the chart.

The Leave brigade sees merit in Farage influence in the USA. Trump wants someone toadying that he can control. Farage is already eyeing up the expenses.

I expect the FCO will ignore the witterings of the so-called President, and keep Kim Darroch in role until the end of his term , which is December 2019.

That would be inconvenient for latent PM Boris, who wants to replace the US ambassador with someone more politically controllable and without the memory of Borisgaffes. Part II of the stealthy plan might be to force Darroch to resign.

We, and those investigating, must ask who has most to gain from such a strategically timed and anonymous leak? Constructive ambiguity meets plausible deniability.

Meanwhile, the untouchable Brexiteers continue a-singin' and a-dancin' to MC Hammer.

Monday, 8 July 2019

whacky races

So there's going to be an enquiry into the US Ambassador leak? A kick into the long daisy-flecked grass springs to mind.

The Civil Service is getting blamed for the leak, although I can't help wonder about the Foreign Secretaries and their close ensembles, who would also be party to this information?

With the right level of self-interest, I wonder if it is possible that the team operating the sausage machine of one of the leadership players might have leaked this? Like *ahem* leaking the Gove cocaine story?

Let's follow the blotchy dots. It was apparently Isabel Oakeshott who received the well-timed information containing the leak, or kompromat, as some might term it. A frequent panel show guest and selective "journalist", she's got activist links to Leave donor Aaron Banks (under NCA investigation?) and is apparently paid by Belize-based tax-exile and Leave champion Lord Ashcroft, who is currently enjoying the Russian waters around Novorossiysk from the 50m yacht Lady M II, conveniently moored next to a few proper Russian yachts. Murky waters run deep.

Surely Nigel can't be far away from this crowd?

Curiously, Mr Hunt has denied his support for the ambassador's statements. On this occasion, it seems to de-implicate him.

Mr Johnson is a self-confessed user of constructive ambiguity so, conversely, he might just be reviewing the farrago of options for a political appointee to replace Sir Kim Darroch, further diluting truth to power.

Cycling through the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan


I've just been reading the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan(GESP), which sets out the developmental objectives for the city over the next ten years and beyond. Living close to Topsham means that I get great access to both a city and a river-quayed town within about 20 minutes one way and ten minutes the other way.

I estimate these times based upon a bike ride. The car driving time is about the same, given that I'll need to park and then walk into the centre. There's also the number 57 bus, which will drop me conveniently at either location, although with an average waiting time of 7 minutes it is a slightly longer journey time. Cost wise, the car parking is the most expensive - typically about £5 per session. Then the bus fare (£4.20 - Dayrider) and then cycling.

The GESP has also published several other documents, which together build a picture of the evolving infrastructure of the area. They include the cycle infrastructure, which makes for interesting reading. Compared with London (aside from the showpieces, such as around Parliament), it is evident that Devon has just got on with it, building cycle paths and painting cycles onto the roads/pavements to signpost a route.

We are fortunate to have Sustrans National Cycle Route 2 go past the end of our road and, within a few hundred metres in either direction, it turns into a dedicated cycle route, with no traffic. This is clearly an exception to the more general ad-hoc nature around the area.

The route also follows the river, so we don't get the hills going into and out of Exeter, instead a gentle pedal to the Quayside with its convenient hostelries. Cross the busy bridge on the cycle path and then we're on the south/west side with a dedicated track along the river all the way through to Dawlish (yes, there are pubs). By comparison, Sustrans illustrates the busy-ness of the commuter road routes:

And Garmin/Strada shows the simplicity of the flat, off-roads, cycle route.

There's even a choice of routes, all along attractive canalside, eventually meandering to the quay. I think Garmin's elevation mapping gives an indication of the two bridges one crosses on this route into the city.

It is good to see the considerations of 'Propensity to cycle' fitting in to the GESP plans. Draw a 20 minute cycle ring around central Exeter. That's about 5 km (ignoring hills). Then look at cycling options, now and future, with some creative road junction design and build it into the plans.

What about the road junctions? That's another part of the planning. I still dismount and walk over the big crossings. The GESP illustrates that it is possible to examine the big junctions during redevelopment and adapt them for multi-modal transport. It is a far less expensive than the schemes for car user adjustments (take the A14 Black Cat Roundabout at an implausibly high £1.5 Billion as an example).

So I'm going to conclude that this planning is good and sensible, pragmatic and future facing. It'll no doubt have resistance along the way: "How dare they cut off my right turn to the car park - its added minutes to my journey!" and pressure groups to prevent the housing developments and other forms of growth in the area.

But for this rather local matter, I'd rather be facing an optimistic growth cycle, than wobbling into a pessimistic abyss.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Stranger Things at the Starcourt Mall


Stranger Things 3 gives more Saturday morning picture show flashback moments as we watch the residents of Hawkins, Indiana grappling with things in the woods and hideous monster attacks.

You can just sense that aerial scene of a bleak dark forest can only mean one thing. Trouble in them-there woods. In the last series we had to get to grips with the Upside Down // whoa // parallel universe of mind-flaying gloom and just when we all thought it was safe to come back into the sunlight some mad scientists start drilling again.

It's all set in the 1980s so we get a vintage vibe to the titling, the clothes, the music and even the special effects. To be honest, there are more 'look away' moments in the new series and, I suspect, a higher body count.

Despite the menace, we are still all having fun in new-style shopping malls (destroying the core town of Hawkins) and Scooby-Doo style knockabout adventures, although the series production team must have had a challenge keeping so many zany characters looping through the scenes without running into one another or sharing knowledge.

There's so many classic tropes included too - everything from team bonding, girls go shopping, swooning over the lifeguard, crummy product placement, shootout in the burning building. And in the mall, I was secretly looking out for Sam Goody (yes) and Sbarro (didn't spot one). The mall movie playing? Back to the Future I, of course.

That's part of the success of this series, I suppose. It does what you want it to, rolling towards its next spot of mayhem. Headlights in the distance? Engine revving? That'll be trouble. Down the stairs into the sputteringly lit basement? Don't look! Pipe organs at the sun-drenched funfair? Dial up the menace.

Here's the advert for the Starcourt Mall, complete with VHS jitter.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Alpe du Zwift


I've just about caught up with my year-to-date cycling target on Garmin. I somewhat arbitrarily picked some mileage targets a few years ago and have been trying to reach them each year since I started.

It goes something like:
Bronze - 2000 miles; Silver - 3000 miles and Gold - 4000 miles. Last year was a bit of a disaster but prior years I've been attaining my 'Gold' target.

I still need to load the proper targets into Garmin (I didn't think I'd do it this year), but fortunately Strava has been keeping count.

I know the figures are rough and ready, fed from my Garmin head unit on the bike to various other systems. It turns out that in Zwift I'm currently at Level 11 (whatever that means) - but it does give me a chance to qualify for the "Alpe du Zwift" scoot up a mountain.

Yodel-eh-hi-ho.

Friday, 5 July 2019

tanks (for the memory)


I couldn't resist having a quick look at where America keeps its tanks. There's a big fat field of them in the desert north of Lake Tahoe. It's so vast that it looks like an integrated circuit on the satellite imagery. Only when one zooms in does it become apparent that it is thousands of pieces of mothballed military hardware.

Here is the fly-by across the area.

Then we can zoom in on just the field below the triagular section.

It is not that obvious at that scale, so let's magnify it some more.

Now they are starting to look like tanks. Wanna take a look: try this

Thursday, 4 July 2019

sam the eagle weeps


The Red Arrows during a flypast across London, just passing over the crowded Mall and Buckingham Palace. Such scenes and French Bastille Day made a campaigning impression on Mr Trump during his recent visit.

He's loaded up Washington D.C. with street heavy 1980s Abrams tanks specially brought by rail into the capital, spending $2.5million to get that perfect televisual moment. Ah yes, and some wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicles, which are somewhat lighter. Imagine the captions: "Trump tanks in Washington..."

Maybe not.

I suppose he could leave it to Sam the Eagle.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

rule by distraction


I've got to hand it to the Conservative Central Party. They know a few dodges to distract people. This leadership election to take people's minds off Brexit. I know it is still there, but with myriad versions of what could happen it has become very dilutive.

Rule by distraction is a go-to move for non-democratic regimes when faced with a challenge. Create enough chaos and distraction such that all eyes remain on that. Change what it means to be normal on a regular basis to allow drastic steps to take place behind the smoke screen.

Both surviving candidates are on a spend ticket, with more obvious cynical bribery being played by the yellow clown, but more dosh promised by the other chap. Cleverly, the clown has also used the power of search engines to remove memory of his courtroom-worthy red bus lie, replacing it instead with the model bus lie.

James Wharton's campaign must be pleased with Lee Cain, the Bojo Press Agent with the wine box bus idea although Boris did use rather a lot of extended hand waving whilst delivering the lines. Wharton's steering of Bojo is pre-eminent throughout the non-campaign, keeping Boris away from Portcullis House and other sources of contamination with people who could ask real questions.

But we can still observe the freestyling Boris rolling around like a loose cannonball in the press corridor, even if he is spilling much of the wine on his own time of late.

There's the genius of the other players. Rees-Mogg, quietly sits in the background, wringing hands and spouting Latin incantare, whilst ensuring that the ERG get their way. Then coin-operated Lynton Crosby, who has (let's face it) of late only had patchy success as a campaign-runner yet whose use of dead cats seems inexhaustible. Carrie Symonds seemed to get caught up in that last tactic, being brought to the headlines when Boris needed another distraction.

Framing it nicely we get Gavin (Vito) Williamson, the bully boy unofficial whip practising assumptive closes on many of the Tory MPs.

There's more, of course, just look at any ERG or Economists for Free Trade meeting to see who washes up.

And so it continues. A parallel universe of fiction. The Economists for Free Trade have found a tame professor to write all of their reports. It is remarkable to read the latest "No Deal is the best deal for the UK" and to see how self-referential it is. Instead of research based upon external factors, we have a paper that cites its own author six times in its opening summarisation. Hired gun springs to mind.

I'll look instead to HM Government's own paper "EU Exit Long-term economic analysis". I know this is more boring than looking at Boris's latest bust-up or who snorts the most cocaine, but it if those things are ill-considered, then this is well-considered.

They start with the Withdrawal Agreement and the un-agreed Political Declaration. Then a hypothetical FTA - Free Trade Agreement - with zero tariffs. Then move to one with a European Economic Area (EEA), outside of the customs union. And then to a modelling of No Deal.

At each stage, it is fair to say, the situation worsens. HM Government didn't directly include 'As-Is' Modelling- it is implicit as the baseline. I recollect that when I did a simplified form of this modelling back in 2016, the ballpark figure came at around 9% worse off if we left the EU.

This model is far more comprehensive and includes both goods and services.

Here's the grand summary of effects. All Brexits are worse than staying. Keeping migration arrangements is slightly better than removing them. The Withdrawal Agreement, with its suppositional Political Declaration, give a range of -0.6% to -2.5% worsening of GDP. The EEA and FTA models give -1.4% to -6.7% worsening. And the Boris option of No Deal gives -7.7% to -9.3% worsening. In my simplified chart it looks like this:

Now for a bit of blind sheep theory. Instead of following pompous advice from Gove about not believing experts, I decided to take a look at a few other reports to check the landing zone.

Unlike Boris's tame professor, the analysis compares the HM Government report to 25 other external reports. I've shaded the landing zone of the reports, which illustrate that 5%-10% worse off seems to be the consensus from the 2018+ reports. There's one exception. You guessed it, it's the Boris report, which somehow goes against the grain, indicating a 5% to 7% improved position. I've highlighted this position with a small icon on the table above. It's here:

I decided to caption it as an outlier, although "Out, Liar" might be more appropriate.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

paper high line


I've written about changes to the area around Chelsea Bridge Wharf and Battersea, but another area undergoing rapid change is the Greenwich Peninsula, which is the area around the dome.

Once part of my commute to work, crossing the Thames on the TfL Airline cablecars, the rate of change in the area is nowadays considerable. Spot the cranes, but also look at the plans for the area.

I'm intrigued that this area has used paper animations to illustrate the plans. It is quite addictive to browse an area well-known and wonder what is planned. Of course, they'll want to sell those massive apartment blocks, too.

The black-and-white dotted line looping around the area is the London High-Line, a copy of the idea in New York, except it is on its own specially laid route, instead of following an old railway routing. I can't help wonder whether it will really go out into the Thames, or whether they will adapt it to go along the embankment instead?