Kennedy’s Legacy

With the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death in Dallas coming up (let’s not get embroiled in the grassy knoll business, another day’s post), there has been a lot of talk about president Kennedy and his legacy. I mean every time I turn on the TV there seems to be another one of those made for TV “specials” about him, or a re-run of some Kennedy related film. So perhaps it’s worth pausing to consider him and his legacy.

While this may seem somewhat of a dark comment to make, but it’s probable that JFK would not be idolised in the manner we currently see, if it weren’t for the fact that he was assassinated. For the truth is that the real Kennedy was more akin to a 1960’s version of Obama. As a catholic who appeared to be sympathetic to the idea of civil rights, he infuriated the hard right KKK types (or what we’d now call the Tea party). On the other hand, his habit of placing presentation over performance, i.e. making grand promises which he often failed to deliver on, meant he frustrated many in the democratic party also.

Idlewild
A more accurate look at his legacy shows a president who was very different and a good deal more cynical and corrupt. For example, he largely paid lip service to the issue of civil rights but actually did very little (that role would fall to his successor LB Johnson). During the election he talked in grand terms about a “missile gap”, which subsequently turned out not to exist (in truth the US had a large numerical advantage over the Soviets in terms of ICBM’s, this is the reason why they tried to get IRBM’s into Cuba).

He and his brother also deliberately began a policy of only providing funding to certain military projects in states that would matter the next election. One could characterise his entire Apollo program, which build its hardware in the key swing states such as Texas (which wasn’t the Republican heartland it is today), Florida and Louisiana, as just a massive pork barrel effort to buy himself a second term.

Kennedy also proved (like Obama) to be a much more conservative president in office than he’d presented in the election campaign. Like Obama decades later, he had promised to reform the US healthcare system, something which he subsequently failed to do once in office.

And his womanising and philandering would make Bill Clinton look like Eric Pickles (I pick Mr Pork pies and I’m assuming he’s the member of the cabinet least likely to be involved in infidelity). Indeed had any of his affairs, notably with the recently deceased Marilyn Monroe, been made public in the run up to the 1964 election, it’s difficult to see how he would have won, indeed, its likely he’d have been forced to resign in disgrace.

While he did introduce advisers to Vietnam, his actions in other regions and his words (then again, he wasn’t exactly known for being straight with people!) suggested he had something of an isolationist streak and wasn’t keen of sending in combat troops to Vietnam.

This mirrors the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, where the military managed to dupe the young president into agreeing to an invasion of Cuba. The invasion failed, in part because of changes to the plans imposed by the White House (again more for cosmetic reasons, than military). The CIA may well of gone along with this thinking that when everything went pear shaped they could convince Kennedy to send in US fighters and Marines. But Kennedy, taking the view that the military and CIA had clearly screwed up said no and pulled back all support.

In short if there’s anything that JFK changed about the US presidency it was a tendency for future US presidents to increasingly place style over policy and be less and less ideologically committed to anything that they feared might not be very popular with voters. A trend which leads us to the present antics and street theatre otherwise known as US politics.

As Mark Lawson suggests in his book Idlewild can we really envisage the city of New York renaming the city’s main airport after a Berlusconi like character, had JFK not been assassinated?

Or when photos of JFK meeting a young Bill Clinton, one suspects that had JFK dodged those bullets in Dallas, far from helping the Clinton campaign, one can envisage a hasty press statement being issued distancing Clinton from Kennedy and his “legacy” (i.e. for being a womanising, cynical and compulsive liar…and I ain’t talking about Clinton! :)) ).

Cuba missile crisis
I would argue however that we can forgive Kennedy for all his failings (perhaps the problem is more expecting too much from politicians) for he more than made up for things by being the right person in the right place during one of the most dangerous episodes in world history – the Cuban missile crisis.

When US spy planes detected IRBM’s (intermediate Range Nuclear missiles) in Cuba, the US military, in particular SAC commander Curtis LeMay (or “bombs away” LeMay as he was known to many), urged immediate airstrikes against Cuba followed by an invasion. However Kennedy, perhaps remembering the mess he’d gotten into over Cuba a year earlier (as a consequence of listening to the warhawks), said no. The consequences of him conceding to the military’s demands, which its very probable another president (e.g. Johnson or Nixon) would have done, would have been catastrophic. The most likely outcome would have been world war III.

The US military were making the somewhat arrogant assumption that they could take Cuba without facing much resistance from the soviets (or Cubans), that there were no operational nuclear weapons available on Cuba and that the Soviets, fearful of the threat of US retaliation, won’t react to a takeover of Cuba by retaliating somewhere else in the world. However what they didn’t know as that they were wrong on all three counts.

What the US intelligence hadn’t realised was that the Soviets already had received, and made operational, nuclear tipped FROG-5 tactical missiles in Cuba. There were also soviet subs on patrol with nuclear tipped torpedoes, as well as another small force of nuclear armed MRBM carrying subs off the US east coast. While all of these weapons had very limited range, they would have almost certainly destroyed any US invasion force and potentially a number of key US ports and coastal cities.

Worse still, as the soviet leadership hadn’t anticipated getting their hand caught fumbling in the Cuban cookie jar, they hadn’t worked out exact procedures and a chain of command to establish who had the authority and under what circumstances nuclear weapons were to be used, nor what the role of the Cubans would be in such a scenario. A situation not helped by the pressure Castro, infuriated at US spy flights and an (illegal) naval blockade, was putting on local soviet commanders to do something.

Also, the Soviets were already planning what would happen if Cuba was overrun by the Americans, even before the missile crisis began. And their plan was to seize Berlin, something that would have almost certainly provoked a shooting war (initially with conventional weapons, but that could easily escalate) in Europe. So even if by some miracle things hadn’t kicked off if the US invaded Cuba, its very likely a war would have quickly broken out in Europe.

The situation was crystallised by events on the Soviet sub B-59, which came within a hairs whisker of launching its nuclear torpedo at US naval forces that had been harassing it. Indeed it was largely the actions of one man, Vasili Arkhipov, who is often credited with preventing a potential nuclear war.

So as it was, the policy that Kennedy did embark on nearly ended in disaster. However he had to resist pressure from his military several more times, notably over the course of October 27th, so called “black Saturday”. During the course of this day, Khrushchev seemed to change his mind about Cuba, demanding more concessions (notably the withdrawal of missiles from Turkey). This led to questions about who was really running things in the Soviet union.

And the same day, the shooting down of the U-2, shots fired at US low-level recon flights and an intercepted message from Castro to Khrushchev urging him to nuke the Americans if they moved against Cuba (all on the same day!) all crossed a previously agreed rubicon whereby Kennedy had agreed they would commence airstrikes. But again, he resisted the pressure (arguing quite rightly that the US had no way of knowing whether those orders came from Moscow, some trigger happy soviet commander or Castro) from within his own military.

While one must give credit also to Khrushchev, who was under equally severe pressure from his military to escalade things, the Cuba crisis would prove to be Kennedy’s finest hour. It also had a sobering effect on both sides, particularly when the US and Soviet military hardliners realise how close they’d come to an actual nuclear war. In essence the crisis in Cuba served to scare them all straight, allowing Kennedy and Khrushchev to subsequently defuse tensions the following year.

So perhaps the bit of Kennedy’s legacy we should remember is that there still is an airport in New York…and a city of New York and not a smoking irradiated ruin!

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The Flowers Affair

Watchers of politics will be aware of the growing crisis at the Co-op bank regarding its former chairman Paul Flowers. The Tories, smelling blood, have been trying to tarnish the Labour party over this whole affair, which is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

Certainly one cannot excuse Flowers, indeed its difficult to believe somebody this dosy and incompetent ended up in charge of a bank. However if we were to start locking up bankers for reasons of their incompetence or habitual drug use, you’d pretty much have to build a wall around the square mile and call it a HM prison (now there’s an idea! :yes:).

I mean just look at the scandals involving Fred Godwin, Bob Diamond “Gezzer”, LIBOR, drug money laundering allegations against HSBC, JP Morgan’s (no relation to the pirate, one was a blood thirsty lot who raided and pillaged all over, the other was a privateer who lived a few centuries ago!) recent record breaking fine of several billion, or Anglo Irish and their antics (i.e. destroying the Irish economy with a defacto Ponzi scheme). All of these make anything that went on in the Co-op bank seem fairly tame. Yet it is Flowers who gets arrested while his bodies get a golden handshake and a knighthood.

In short there appears to be double standards being applied, and not for the first time. The Co-op gets hauled over the hot coals for stealing an apple, while the major banks get a slap on the wrist for mass fraud. Is it just me or does there appear to be double standards being applied?

Cycling in London

There’s been quite a bit of debate about the dangers of cycling in London, ironically this relates specifically the much promoted “cycling superhighway”.

However there has been a spate of accidents and deaths along these routes, in part due to the ill-conceived design and layout of these cycle routes, and in part due to the large number of dickheads on the roads, who tend to ignore the rules and put cyclists in danger, as these tales of woe from London cyclists highlights, or this range of video’s from helmet cams.

The problems in London are multiple. The heavy congestion in London streets (given the age of many of the cities streets there is little room for widening them), lack of parking, the expense of parking and of course the congestion charge, plus the high costs of public transport has all meant that increasingly the bicycle is seen as the best way to commute to work or get around town (the quickest way to get around London is now on a bicycle, even Top Gear seemed to acknowledge that in a prior episode).

However, as noted, the problem is that many motorists don’t seem to understand how to share the roads with cyclists. Taxi drivers can be a big problem. As a cyclist myself I’ve become attuned to the tone of a cab’s diesel engine as that usually means trouble. Trucks, in particular articulated lorry’s are a major problem, particular at traffic lights and in particular where “elf n’safety” types have put up barriers which cyclists can be crushed against.

As a motorists myself, yes I see some cyclists doing some very silly things, but equally I’d struggle to argue that cyclists are any more dangerous than pedestrians (the number of times I’ve had pedestrians, in particular children try and step out in front of me, even after looking both ways!) or motorists. There’s bad cyclists same as there are other idiot road users. The difference is that cyclists rarely kill anyone other than themselves, unlike a motorist.

To me what needs to happen is a fundamental rethink. In other parts of the world, cyclists are safer for two reasons. Cycle lanes are separated from other road users and pedestrians (often on dedicated cycle paths). Secondly, motorists tend to be more considerate towards cyclists. In part because many are cyclists themselves, but also because the penalties for acting like British motorists do tend to be all the more severe (on the spot fines of hundreds or even thousand’s of euro’s, enough points to potentially loose you’re license). Nevermind what happens to you if you actually hit a cyclist! Insurance claims in Holland for example, tend to be met by the driver’s policy.

The same needs to be done in the UK. I’d instead move cycle lanes onto quieter back streets, which are cul-de-sac’ed or made access only for residents. Poor planning of cycle routes also often forces cyclists to do things such as crossing roundabouts or undergoing right hand turns, two of the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike.

When I used to cycle to work I specifically followed a route that went along quiet streets and avoided busy junctions. I don’t cycle to work these days as I can’t identify a route to my present place of work that avoids such hazards.

I’d also reconsider the idea of letting taxi’s use bus lanes, given the frequent hazard they present to cyclists. If taxi drivers complain, point out to them that they can thank their psycho colleagues for this.

I’d also question the wisdom of letting articulated lorries into the narrow streets of UK cities. There are all sorts of blind spots around trucks, making them a hazard not just to cyclists, but to cars, pedestrians and even the streets themselves (if you’ve ever seen an artic lorry doing a reverse parking manoeuvre in a city street, you’ll know what I’m on about!). I’m quite sure the transport companies would complain, but I’d recall that once upon a time it was quite normal for shops to get their supplies from a distributor warehouse via a van.

And finally there’s an issue of enforcement. The police don’t take appropriate enforcement action against aggressive driving by motorists against cyclists (as this example shows). Frequently they just seem to surge they’re shoulders and do nothing. I’d consider a new offence of “endangering a cyclists” which would automatically carry a heavy fine and plenty of points on a license for such bad driving. With anyone who actually hits a cyclists getting some sort of driving ban automatically. And as taxi drivers are a particular threat, I’d make sure this law stripped them of their right to operate a taxi (thus ensuring they’ll behave or risk losing their job!).

Hurricane Haiyan, the wakeup call we’ve long needed?

Of course one cannot ignore the growing tragedy in Tacloban in the Philippines from Hurricane Haiyan (or should that be “Hypercane” as some are debating here and here), one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall.

Inevitably people have been asking whether the increasing severity of storms such as this are due to climate change. Indeed a delegate for the Philippines has now gone on hunger strike at a climate conference in solidarity with his fellow countrymen.

I would immediately point out that linking any one extreme weather event to climate change is a risky business…although that cuts both ways (deniers are often very quick to pick up on any spell of cold weather as “proof” AGW isn’t happening, but then get upset when people try to link extreme weather events to AGW…!?!).

However there has long been an acceptance that a warmer planet will mean warmer seas and thus more powerful storms. And this is even that controversial a statement, I recall the climate skeptics Richard Lindzen mentioning it in the past. Indeed, there appears to be a link between this hurricane and a strip of unseasonably warm water in the Pacific Ocean, which acted almost as a funnel for the growing storm, allowing it to gain an unprecedented level of energy before making landfall.

However, putting aside any arguments linking Haiyan to AGW, certainly, such storms are going to become more common in a warming world and that should give pause for thought to anyone.

Indeed a recent opinion poll in the US showed that climate change denial is on the wane. Notably in states such as the mid-west of America (which has undergone a prolonged drought…again can’t directly be linked to AGW, but last time the world was few degrees warmer much of this region was a desert) and the Eastern sea board (which took a fair old whack this hurricane season).

The problem with mega storms like Haiyan is that its outside the range of what defences we have against storms and how much they can cope with. While the Philippines has seen storms before (much like Australia has seen bush fires before…just not as intense and there is evidence to link the increased frequency with climate change) such extreme events are more than the local infrastructure can cope with.

In Tacloban the storm sent a 5 metre high wall of water into the town which along with the high winds wiped out the hospital, airport and much else. Many of the emergency services workers who would ordinarily be out fixing things up and organising the relief operation were either killed or made casualties themselves.
Similarly with Hurricane Katrina, yes New Orleans has been hit by hurricanes before, but the scale of the storm broke the sea walls and dumped several cubic km’s worth of water into the city, far more than the pumping systems (that would ordinarily pump out any overflow) could cope with.

Water water everywhere…
And critics often underestimate the impact of climate change and its likely effects. For example I’ve heard deniers belittle the impact of sea level rise, why they say what harm is a few inches of sea level rise going to do.

Well firstly, even the IPCC isn’t sure how much sea levels are going to rise. The much quoted 40 cm by 2100 is towards the latter end of their estimates. A Glacier surge in Greenland or Antarctica could easily add a few metres of sea level rise, potentially over a few decades (the fossil record reveals similar levels of melting in past incidents of rapid warming, such as at the end of the ice ages).

However even the smaller estimates within the range of inches would cause all sorts of problems. It would flood wetland areas and wipe out beaches that otherwise act as a buffer with which to break the power of an approaching storm (damage to the wetlands of the delta by both sea level rise and oil industry dredging were contributory factors in the New Orleans flooding).

Also there is the effect on water supplies to consider. In parts of Florida, as I discussed in a prior post, the “head” of fresh water is down to just 10 inches (well within even the lowest estimates of sea level rise). Thus even a limited level of sea level rise would wipe out this head and eliminate much of the state’s drinking water supplies. Similarly, in the event of a storm, the worse the impact the storm surge has on water supplies. And one of the most pressing supplies to get into Tacloban has been drinking water, as the storm surge flooded wells with foul or salty water.

In short, what these events show is that waiting for climate change to happen is a dangerous game to play. Its equivalent to the fire safety inspector coming around your house, recommending you get a smoke alarm or remove certain items (e.g. gas cylinders, etc.) from the house, think about escape routes, stop people smoking indoors, etc. Only for this denier type to pop up and say oh why house fires start all the time, it’s all hugely complicated stuff, we may as well just do nothing and take our chances. Taking action to do something about climate change now will vastly outweight the costs and the economic impact of doing nothing.

And other consideration is the political aspects. One of the common reasons for many on the political right to deny climate change is their fears about the intrusions of “big government”. However, as events in Tacloban show, dealing with the aftermath of such events is well beyond the ability of any NGO, corporation or individuals to cope with. It requires governments to solve them.

And more climate emergencies on a global scale will likely lead to more government, more internationalisation of authority, not less. If the free market proves unable to deal with the crisis of climate change, the people will demand new governments, that have the powers and authority to do so. And we’ll have the deniers to thank for that!

Fun and Games this summer in Glasgow

And speaking of the commonwealth games, there has been an attempt to butter up Glasgow for the games. They are doing up the subway stations (wiping down the sick and empty cartons from the base of the track), putting up trees, grass and shrubs in key places (confusing the neds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_(Scottish) who don’t know what this green stuff is…by now I’m guessing they’ve tried smoking it and realised it ain’t that kind of “grass” :))).

The term “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” or “dressing mutton up as lamb” springs to mind.

Meanwhile, I managed to get tickets for the games. Unfortunately I failed to get tickets for the events I really want, the new sports Glasgow will be introducing. Such as Glasgow fencing (fencing with broken buckie bottles). While the language of fencing is nominally French, here it will be Glaswegian (“ay you’s about to get chibbed”). Then there’s the 100m dash with a stolen TV. The Pursuit (same but with a cop chasing after you), adventure cycling (involves cycling around Glasgow streets with Neds trying to knock you off you’re bike and taxi / bus drivers looking to run you over). Then there’s that Glasgow tradition, the 5km stagger (staggering home from the pub drunk, while getting a deep fried supper, dodging neds, crack heads and cops as well as the other various “obstacles” on a Glasgow street, along with a few “comfort breaks” in a doorway).

But it will all be good fun. Of course the first sporting event will be for the athletes to get from the airport thro Paisley (one of the rougher parts of Glasgow, as they locals said at the time of that “terrorist” attack a few years ago, a burning car with a burning man being kicked to death is not “news” in Paisley!) to the stadium (via Dalmarnock, another rough area, down the road in Calton the life expectancy is jusst 54, the lowest in the Western world, lower than the Gaza strip or Iraq!)…alive! Also might be worth taking some Scottish language lessons. I mean even the I-Phones have difficulty understanding the Scottish accent. But hopefully, this will be the Scottish weather forecast for the games. :wave:

Glasgow’s Cone Rangers

Jobsworth’s in Glasgow City council have dropped plans to raise the height of the plinth on which the statue of the Duke of Wellington sits. They had proposed to do this in order to make it harder for people to climb up on the statue and place traffic cones on the Duke’s head. They worry it might make the city look bad with the Commonwealth games coming up.

However putting traffic cones on the Duke’s statue has long been a Glasgow tradition. The statue (with its cone) has appeared on the front cover of tourist guides and its considered a tourist attraction in its own right because of the traffic cone on top. Indeed I was at least once asked by somebody “where’s the statue with the traffic cone”.

The council rather preposterously suggested that spending tens of thousands of pounds altering the statue would “save money” claiming that it costs them £100 a time to remove the cones. Seriously? |-| I’ve seen the council guys doing this and they usually come along with a long pole and twat it. If you pay someone £100 for that give me the job and I’ll do it for £25 a go!

Of course there are issues with some other of Glasgow’s statues, notably the one of Donald Dewar being vandalised (nothing to do with opposition to independence, just I suspect wee nets with nothing better to do). The plinth of this statue has had to be raised to cut down on vandalism. Personally I’d do the opposite. Lower the statue and tie it up to 20,000 volts. After the first Ned fries himself 88|, leave him there as a warning to the rest. That’l learn em! My cause a few problems when pigeons start landing on it tho!

More random thoughts

As usual term time, been very busy, too busy to do much blogging but over the week I picked up on a few random stories.

Immigration is good for the economy
A group of London economists have conducted a study that has concluded that immigration provides a net benefit to the economy. Immigrants are substantially less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens and contribute more in taxes while ultimately costing the taxpayer less. In short, the current strop the tories are pulling about “benefits tourism” is a myth and in all likelihood it will cost more in admin costs to the country than it will actually save.

There where one or two specific groups of immigrants who did claim more in benefits than they paid in taxes, but this probably relates to working tax credits for families with children. As I’ve pointed out before working tax credits (to everyone in the UK who works, foreign born or otherwise) represent a substantial portion of the welfare budget, far more money is spent on them than on job seekers allowance (just 3% of the welfare budget is spent on jobseekers allowance (to all claimants, foreign and UK) which represents just 0.7% of the entire UK budget).

And this study is far from the first such report to reach this conclusion. Indeed anybody whose even vaguely glanced at the relevant national statistics would quickly reach a similar conclusion. Then again, right wing nuts aren’t exactly known for their skills at “reading” and doing basic arithmetic. This is how we end up with global warming denial, creationism and anti-vaccine woo.

Ultimately I would argue that what this study shows is that if anything the government needs to change tactic. Tell the UKIP bigot mob to get lost and encourage immigration. Or indeed try and get more of the UK’s unemployed into the labour market. And no, cutting benefits won’t or putting them into welfare chain gangs in Poundland ain’t going to help.

Many on benefits are a mix of genuine hardship cases or people who would like to work, but realise that with a family to keep or the high rents and transport costs demanded in some UK cities, they simply can’t afford to work at the rate of pay offered by many employers. Instead I’d consider increasing the minimum wage as a way to encourage the latter group into employment. And of course, rather ironically, the government were themselves berating some employers for not offering a living wage to employees. Well why not force the issue and raise the minimum wage?

Actually he is smoking crack
And speaking of right wing nuts with a poor grasp of reality. I’m often known to accuse some of the more extreme voices on the right, be they UKIP types or the US Tea party types or the Tony Abbott (Australia’s newly elected climate change denying PM…when do we take back the colony?) or Steven Harper (Farrage’s evil Canadian twin) of being on crack or something.

Well I might need to be more careful about that in future as Rob Ford, Toronto’s notoriously right wing Mayor (notorious for being a blow hard buffoon of epic proportions) has admitted to smoking crack.

Well there’s a surprise! And it does explain a lot of things. Then again if you believe certain rumours G. W. Bush was snorting coke on the Oval office table, so I think this isn’t an uncommon practice among those in power.

The real price of drugs
Which brings us to the issue of where Bush’s or Rob Ford’s Charley comes from. Which is generally from somewhere in South America but via Mexico (possibly by submarine) with a substantial profit for the transaction going to some psychotic drug lord in Mexico. And I’m not just tossing words around, a few weeks ago there was some controversy over Facebook censoring a Mexican drug cartel death video’s.

However lost in that story was the wider story about Mexico’s drug wars. The demand for drugs in the US has led to vast corruption within the Mexican police and political system (hence why nobody in Mexico has been able to, or is willing, identify the victim in these videos). It also means that there is a defacto war going on within the country between rival drug gangs, the military and the few honest cops with many innocent bystanders getting caught up in the conflict. Estimates are that over 90,000 people have been killed in this conflict to date.

This is the very real price to be paid by certain peoples (and generally we’re talking the better off, such as Wall Street traders) cocaine habits. Like blood diamonds, the ethics behind such a habit is morally reprehensible.

And indeed one has to note the obvious parallels between this story and the history of prohibition in America in the 1920’s. Then US religious conservatives (the sort who would now be members of the Tea Party) succeeded in getting alcohol banned. The result was to unleash a massive nationwide crime spree and the root of organised crime to take hold. Even though prohibition was repealed within a decade, it was the 1980’s before the major criminal gangs set up on its profits (notably the Italian Mafia) were finally brought down to their pre-prohibition levels.

The only difference now is that this present era of prohibition has led to history repeating itself on an even vaster scale worldwide. The global narcotics trade is now believed to be a $320 Billion a year industry. Indeed the corruption within Mexico is a common problem across South America. Many of the nation’s here are hampered in their development by their own internal struggles and corruption often fuelled or sustained in one way or another by profits from drug trafficking.

And ultimately what’s driving all of this is demand in the West. Or more to the point the hypocrisy of us on the one hand banning drugs, but then quietly accepting that many of the rich and powerful can and will use them, just not in public. Inevitably, given that present policies are failing, one is forced to question whether it might be worth trying a policy of decriminalisation instead.

Certainly however I would argue that if we’re going to keep drugs like cocaine illegal the only thing that will work is to choke off demand. In other words start arresting the rich and the powerful caught doing drugs and making examples of them (such as Toronto’s Mayor).

Indeed I recall hearing of some US Police forces who came up with the tactic of rather than arresting (predominately black) drug dealers on the streets of working class neighbourhoods, they started sting operations in more affluent areas to catch the drug consumers. Within a few weeks the result was usually significant drop in drug consumption across the city with the gangs really feeling the pinch (they can replace dealers and the drugs but not customers!). Unfortunately political pressure has often halted such as it seems city hall doesn’t like the image of mainly white upper class professionals being perp walked into court.

The ultimate hoarder
German police made a startling discovery recently of a vast collection of art that had originally been confiscated by the nazi’s and had long been assumed lost. Indeed records of the existence of some of the paintings had been lost and forgotten altogether. The result is a treasure trove of a billion euro’s worth of modernist art.

Oddly enough it was in the process of investigating tax fraud that the paintings were found. They were searching a cluttered apartment looking for evidence in this case when they located the paintings under piles of rubbish and other odds and ends. Turns out one of the guy’s relative worked for the nazi’s and had built up this collection during the war.

Ironically it was the fact that the nazi’s considered such modernist art “degenerate” that has created something of a demand for it and hence the high value of this collection…not that its “owner” will be seeing much of that!

Indeed these paintings are just one of a handful of lost or stolen works of art, notably Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt and The concert by Vermeer, both stolen along with 13 other dutch paintings from a museum in Boston in 1990.

The Burka Runaway
Then there was the story of a “terrorist suspect” who went on the run, evading the cops by dressing up in a Burka. I recall seeing the photos in the newspapers and even before I read the article my thought was, what’s that guy doing wearing a burka? I think those UKBA agents should consider a career as a referee!

Inevitably this story has the usual suspects calling for the Burka to be banned…So he’ll just have to dress up as santa claus next time!

The end of Britain?
I came across this add for some right wing rag which talked about “the end of Britain”. It turned out to be the usual libertarian disaster porn. However I also came across this blog by an economist who picked it apart.

Ultimately the UK economy is not exactly in a healthy state, the Tories can dress mutton up with lamb all they like and policies like QE are probably counterproductive in the long term. But comparisons with the Weimar republic or Mugabe’s regime is just childish paranoia.