Monday, May 26, 2008

Boris cancels Venezuelan oil deal

I have to be honest, Boris gives me someone to really dislike for the next 4 or 5 years or whatever the mayor's term is. On the BBC website it says that this old Etonian will not renew the deal with Venezuela that supplies cheap diesel for London buses to fund half price fares for those of the capital's citizens on income support. In return London was supplying expert advisors to Venezuela on such operations as traffic management and recycling.

Now Boris didn't say it was economic reasons so we have to guess it was for political reasons. That is that Chavez was far too left wing for him. Boris says there are better ways of helping both poor Londoners and poor Venezuelans, but quite how you help the latter by withdrawing London's experts and the former by not having a supply of cheap diesel I don't get.

This man and his Etonian cronies are as much a danger to the UK as Bush and the right-wing think-tanks were to the US. Isn't there some legal means of taking any financial loss to London caused by Boris's stupidity from his personal wealth like Maggie was doing to those various city councilors in Liverpool and suchlike.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remove the Burmese Generals

Gordon Brown has now come out rebuking the Burmese generals for killing their own people, this time by ignoring their plight rather than by shooting them. Aid needs to be forced through and if this means air drops without permission, so be it.

The US and the UK were quick enough to go into oil rich Iraq. I don't expect them to do this in Burma but the least they could do is support the opposition groups with money and even arms if asked for. This is the real pariah state in Asia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wilderness or Renewal

Frank Field certainly has it in for Gordon Brown. This is not a man to forgive and forget, in fact there is something old testament about him. I'm not sure politically where he comes from but I suspect his religion is what leads him into not accepting the usual politician's compromises. The government is backtracking and some of the backbenchers knives are out. It's hard to see how Labour will win the next election as the momentum after the local and London Mayoral elections seems unstoppable.

It's not too soon for the party to make plans in case the worse, a Tory landslide, happens. New Labour won power on the back of Tony Blair's charisma. They dropped their ideology in an Americanisation of British politics. They have tried, and succeeded for a long time, in being a better Conservative Party than the Tories themselves, a sort of Maggie with a human face. I'm not sure either Neil Kinnock or John Smith thought that was what they were starting, but I suspect not.

The Tory, and now the Liberal, answer is to find young, good-looking leaders with charisma. Gordon Brown's problem is this is an asset he doesn't have. If Labour is going to continue being New Labour they will need to find a competitor in the charisma stakes to take over from Gordon and then hope the Tories make such a mess of it they lose their support. But... there is another answer.

Get back to having an ideology. Modernise it if necessary, but stop trying to be more conservative than the Conservatives. By its nature the Tories have no ideology, no new ideas. They are there to conserve the status quo, always have been, always will. Fight charisma with ideas. Remind people that some of the worse dictators in memory had fantastic charisma but ended up doing their people no good in the long run.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tourist Pollution

It's funny how sometimes an idea seems so clear that you can't figure out why others haven't already picked up on it.

So yesterday I drove with my youngest daughter to the National Museum. It gave us a chance to try the GPS on the new top of the range Nokia N95 8GB she had given me. We parked on Sanam Luang, the royal fields used in the yearly rice ploughing festival. While walking to the museum we passed 20 plus large coaches all without passengers and with their engines running. They carry the tourists who visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. They keep their engines running so the air-conditioning is on when the tourists return.

If one of those Bangkok Metropolitan Authority cops was to walk up and down the line of coaches getting them to turn off the engines there would be very few losers. Apart for the tourist having to wait a few minutes for the bus to cool down everyone's a winner. While the city cop is checking on the coaches he isn't picking on poor street hawkers. The coach company saves on fuel. Most importantly we don't have the diesel pollution around this historical area.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Last Saturday's Walk

We went back out to the Klong Saen Saeb about 7 kilometers east of Minburi to finish off the last bit of that end of the canal with a footpath. We had got this far last month. It was only 5 kilometers there and back with a good footpath on either side but not a lot of interest except the canal here is well stocked with fish by the looks of it.

Klong Saen Saeb, Minburi
Klong Saen Saeb

After the walk we drove towards Chachoengsao trying to follow the klong but it does get a bit complicated as it splits, rejoins and changes name before it reaches the Ban Pakong River. I think we were getting lost when we found a new temple building under construction at Wat Prong Arkard (this spelling is probably wrong but comes off a ThinkNet map). The size of the building is massive and the construction techniques are similar to building a shopping mall but the design is all traditional Thai temple building. I have no idea of the cost but it's many millions of Baht.

Wat Prong Arkard
Wat Prong Arkard

From there we drove into Chachoengsao and stopped off at the old city fort walls by the river. Had a closer look at the old cannon there and took some pictures of the marks on them. The date below is interesting. This fort dates back to the early 19th. Century and the interesting bit in Wikipedia is of it being used in the mid 19th. Century during the Angyee Rebellion. This is something I know nothing about. I have found a reference to fighting Chinese opium dealers in Chachoengsao and another to a Chinese coolie revolt in Phuket. I will try to find out more.

Chachoengsao Fort Cannon
Chachoengsao Fort Canon

The Clown Wins

I just took down the Stop Boris graphic. Must admit I'm surprised that London voted how it did. I thought Ken could win in spite of Labour's problems. The outer suburbs seem to have put in a strong Boris vote so it might be a council tax vote also.

I suspect this is the end of any progressive London policies on public transport and pollution. Boris really is a throwback to a much earlier time. In a way it is before Thatcher, even back to before the Second World War when Old Etonians knew ruling Britain and much of the world was their job.

So well done Ken. Shame about this one. It might have been better to get expelled from the party again. If you had won I think we could have seen a bit more courage from the left of the party in pushing for changes in government policy.