Monday, December 31, 2007

All For Want Of A Bigger Cultural Metaphor

Jock's important point about football pitches reminds me of one of my own regular metaphorical frustrations.

Every so often (read: when it's raining) it is necessary for me to make my way through Cardiff's St. David's Centre, currently something of a building site as the imaginatively names St. David's 2 takes shape next door. As ever with such projects, the ugly bits of the construction process are covered with hoardings proclaiming the amazingness of the new facilities, amongst which is the proud claim that the new centre will cover an area of however many football pitches.

Which is fine, Jock's point notwithstanding, except that Cardiff happens to be the capital of a country called Wales (it's possible the owners may have heard of it) where the national sport and cultural icon happens to be Rugby Union. As a man of Gloucester, one of those bits of England where football doesn't really exist, can I please have a culturally appropriate metaphor?

And in case you were thinking the difference is irrelevant, note that while an average football pitch is of variable size with a median around 1.75 acres, a rugby union pitch is specifically 144x70 metres, or 2.67 acres, giving a pretty accurate conversion of 3 football pitches = 2 rugby pitches.

Of course, if that wasn't enough, one might argue that the real standard should be the nanoWales, but even I'll recognise that might constitute pushing it...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Spin From The Back Seat

In our twenty-four hour, multimedia, wi-fi, world, there can be few places where one doesn’t expect to find political propaganda. On the bus to work is, however, one place you might feel reasonably safe.

My bus this morning proved otherwise, however. At some point in its life, it had been done up to signify some anniversary of the company, and in amongst the posters going on about trolley-buses and such like was the almost throwaway comment about the 1980’s;

“Legislative controls were also reduced, thus allowing private bus operators to respond better to their customers.”

I believe the correct response in this situation is along these lines; do you want a piece of me, Mr Bus Company?

Just take my example; my morning bus is regularly up to 15 minutes late reaching my stop (always appreciated at a stop without a shelter), meaning that I arrive in the centre of Cardiff anything up to 30 minutes late. The bus itself will generally be old, loud and equipped with suspension from the 50’s; not the 1950’s, not the 1850’s, but the 50’s. I swear I’m developing vibration white buttock…

More generally, there are few areas of public policy where the contrast is starker. In London, where bus regulation was retained, passenger numbers have soared. Everywhere else, they have crashed and burned. In the few places where deregulation has led to any sort of competition, companies are more interested in sticking it to the enemy than anything so quaint as a safe, reliable service. Deregulation has manifestly failed to produce the bus network we need, either environmentally or economically.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Barbecue Ignition The Napalm Way

Is it just me, or did Ruth Kelly on Newsnight just suggest that the lesson we should take from Datagate I, Datagate II, Datagate III, Datagate IV, Datagate V and Datagate Balboa is that our current databases aren't sophisticated enough and that we should embrace the ID card system to make data transfers easier?

So she wouldn't say, for example, that the root cause of most of these scandals was people asking for data they weren't entitled to being given it by people who were too stupid to notice they weren't entitled to it and too stupid to send it securely? And she wouldn't say that if the end users can't notice that data shouldn't be transferred, the programmers of the ID card database have no chance of ensuring that the system won't transfer it, thus opening all our data up to whomsoever in HMG who wants it?

If Ms Kelly, or indeed anyone in the Government believes that they can spin their complete and utter stupidity into a case for ID cards, well, let's just say that none of the things I would suggest they can do with themselves are family viewing...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dirk Gently's American Lawmaking

The Register brings promising news from New Jersey, where the Democrat-controlled State Assembly voted yesterday to abolish the death penalty, the first state to do so since Gregg v. Georgia reintroduced the penalty in 1976.

For those of us who believe in the interconnectedness of all things, it's worth noting that one of the eight death row inmates spared as a result will be Jesse Timmendequas, the man whose actions eventually led to the establishment of Megan's Law. Terrible though his actions were, the death penalty is never justifiable and we can but hope that New Jersey's decision will help drive a more mature debate on both topics in election year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Infected Salmond

The moral, technical and political arguments over Trump-not-quite-a-gate (and despite the efforts of some bloggers, I’m in agreement with Josh Lyman that there’s no way this qualifies as a gate) have been thoroughly covered by our Scottish colleagues. What strikes me about the whole affair however is how nice it is, particularly from a Welsh perspective, to see that nationalists in power are affected by the same diseases as any other shade of politician would be; Megaprojectitis.

Because you just know that at some stage this thought went through Alex Salmond’s head;

There is this weird price range, between £500 million and £2.5 billion, where politicians will do anything to get something built, no matter how stupid the thing is or how stupid the building is. I’d hazard that it was the price tag more than anything that persuaded Blair to plough on with the Dome; some part of him knew it was insane to do so, but that was shouted down by the incessant cry of SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS!

I suspect it also explains why the original Olympic budget was exactly the size it was; anything above £2.5 billion and the primary thought changes from “Man, that would be great for the economy!” to “Man, that would be unpopular with taxpayers!”

Either way, it will be interesting to see how Plaid deal with the disease, although on the evidence of the Wylfa row, Wales Millennium Centre and Ieuan Air, the omens are not good…