15 June 2017

Of course, I blame Margaret Thatcher .............

Ever since Thatcher came to power (1979) and started the attack on state funded services, housing was probably very near or at the top of her list of targets. 'Right to Buy', gerrymandering by any other name, has steadily eroded the state owned housing stock and reduced competition in the rental sector along the way. The strictures placed upon Local Authorities with regard to building 'local' or 'affordable' housing has both increased pressure on housing supply, inflating prices, and turning the majority of the housing market over to the private sector which, again, has seen house price inflation at staggering levels (neatly excluded from the inflation calculations) in pursuit of profit.

Now, although Thatcher really started this process, almost nothing has been done by successive governments of any political persuasion, to return housing to the 'utility' sector rather than being seen as an investment, whose value should rise and fall but, in reality, only ever rises. And the net result of this process - Grenfell Tower.

Whilst funding towards state owned housing has been cut and cut again, the cost of both building or renovating housing has continued to rise. State funded housing, such as Grenfell Tower, simply cannot generate or attract sufficient funds (in rents + grants) to ensure that maintenance, including refurbishment, is carried out to anything but the most basic of standards. Local Authorities have bowed to government pressure by divesting themselves of direct control of state owned housing, into organisations like the KCTMO, but again, this does not mean that more money is available.

Thus, cost cutting in Local Authority housing remains the #1 objective and I suspect that this will have played a part in the Grenfell Tower incident where a single staircase building (circa 1970) was wrapped in a combustible material to achieve thermal performance levels sought today.

The names of those who died at Grenfell Tower should be chiselled on Thatcher's headstone.

30 May 2017

The taking of Tiger Mountain by strategy............

In Britain, today, austerity has become the norm and a conservative government will only continue this trend should Mrs Mayhem secure another term. The only answer is to vote strategically for any candidate, not a tory, who has a real (not imaginary) chance of winning.

25 April 2017

Decisions, decisions ............

So, Mrs Maybe decided to take us to the polls again and I face a dilemma, just how do I make my vote count?

I'm a committed european and, in an ideal world, would like to see the UK develop stronger ties with the European Community so a vote for Mrs Maybe isn't on my agenda. But, like many people, I live in a political setting where the urban area would vote to stay but it is set in a wider constituency where the vaguely blue, probably the largest single party, will vote to leave.

Were the other parties, the Greens, Labour and LibDems, to work together, I'm sure that they would be able to overcome the vaguely blues but, I doubt that they could so, Mrs Maybe will divide and conquer.

And I am left to consider the appalling prospect of my vote, however considered, being wasted.

31 March 2017

April 0 ..............

In response to the upsurge in 'fake news' where April Fool articles inundate all forms of popular media, HM Stationery Office has announced that, from 2018, the United Kingdom will no longer have an April 1st on calendars printed in the UK. Instead, calendars will carry the new date 'April 0'. This minor change will ensure that there can no longer be any doubt about the truth of articles published on the first day of April.

3 March 2017

Something close to a truth..........

A little while ago I was singing the praises of the battery drill and now I'd like to write about its close cousin, the impact driver. Again, until relatively recently, I had not used one of these things and I didn't fully understand how they differed from their bigger relative, the battery drill. The main difference is that a dedicated impact driver doesn't have an adjustable chuck or an adjustable torque setting. Instead, the impact driver has a collet that accepts hex driver bits which really describes its sole purpose, to drive things in (or out, depending on the circumstance).

As its name implies, the impact driver drives with impact which is delivered by an internal mechanism which pulses the rotational effort in a concussive manner. The result is that the impact driver overcomes any frictional resistance between, say, a screw and the material that it is being driven into. All good except that this capability, although delivering a much higher work rate (not quite as fast as a nail gun but not far away) has its downsides - specifically that pilot holes and countersinking are, in some situations, things of the past.

The images above show how the impact driver can effect finish in that the impact driver can drive a pretty beefy screw straight into ply over battens and then through the ply and out the other side, if you let it. A drill driver, with its adjustable torque setting, can be used as a rather more precise tool but it doesn't have the out and out power of the impact driver.

But, in some situations, you can use the drill/driver as an ersatz impact driver. Recently I had to remove a screw holding the heat resistant glass plate across the front of our wood burner. As anyone who has tried this will know, such screws can be somewhat difficult to remove and this was a case in point. However, using my drill/driver in reverse setting and slowly increasing the torque setting, the drill/driver acted as an impact driver and managed to remove the screw in question.

So, its all about horse for courses and the drill/driver is still the most flexible tool but, for raw power, you can't beat the impact driver.

2 March 2017

The doctrine of 'Mental Reservation'..........

I rarely plunge into the world of religious doctrine (the Christian Brothers cured me of any interest) but an article caught my eye about a lady by the name of Marie Collins. See the Guardian article here.

The article covers Marie Collins' resignation from a Vatican commission into clerical child abuse and, reading it, I was unsurprised by the situation Collins described. However, when I had a look at Marie Collins' website, I found a section which described the church doctrine of 'Mental Reservation' and I found it hugely interesting.

In simple terms, this doctrine allows churchmen (this is the Catholic Church)  to wilfully mislead without 'lying' and it goes like this: You come to my door and ask if X is at home. I know that X is at home but I say to you, "No X is not at home" and in my mind I add the rider, "to you." In this way, it would seem, churchmen can mislead, lie in my book, without lying. Fantastic! Brilliant! As if 'confession' wasn't enough (Bless me father because I have sinned, I have been pulling the choirboys pants down and sucking them off - Say three 'Hail Marys', light ten candles and go in peace my son.) now they have a mechanism which allows them to lie without lying. Why bother with confession at all?

And that made me think about Trump's Attorney General and his denial of having had any contact with the Russians. What happens if the AG subscribes to the doctrine of 'mental reservation'? 

Interrogator - 'Mr AG, did you have any contact with the Russians?'

Mr AG - 'No sir, I did not as far as you are concerned.' (The mental reservation in italics.)

Referring to another blog, Ronald L Conte Jr (a Catholic theologian) states that there are two types of strict mental reservation:
1. The direct and deliberate assertion of a false statement, qualified by the addition of words, in the mind only, that would make the statement true. 

2. The direct and deliberate assertion of a false statement, qualified by the addition of an interpretation, in the mind only, that would make the statement true.

From where I stand, mental reservation looks, in effect, like lying, deception or a deliberate effort to mislead but, in the rarefied world of Catholic theology, its a way of getting out of a tight corner. And now I wonder if other organisations practice the same sort of evasion. Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Conservatives, Free Masons, etc etc etc. 

50 shades of grey seems like an underestimate. 

20 February 2017

Reality in Trumpland (what's he smoking?)

Its very easy to poke fun at Donald Trump. He presents a huge target and his regular and outlandish claims and statements of 'fact' give a new meaning to the term 'fake news'. But poking fun a Trump disguises the very real threat he represents to us all.

After the financial chaos of 2007/8 governments both here and in America brought in regulations to restrict the ability of banks to indulge in 'casino banking'. Banks had to split their operations so that their 'riskier behaviours' were undertaken with their own money rather than yours and mine. At the same time, banks were required to hold larger capital reserves so that, should the worst come to the worst, they could call on their own reserves rather than coming running to the taxpayer. All well and good but now Trump wants to get rid of these restrictions because, in his view, they are bad for business, confirmation if such was needed that Trump likes to play with other people's money, rather than his own.

Now, I have felt for some time that the financial sector needs a real overhaul to promote modest rather than excessive rates of growth. At the same time, banks, and bankers themselves, should be made directly responsible for their actions. This might mean that irresponsible actions might result in bankers loosing their houses rather than savers loosing their savings.

But the financial establishment is a pretty resilient beast and, thus far, has shown itself capable of resisting meaningful regulation. In Trump (as with Thatcher and Reagan before him) the financial institutions have a great supporter and they can probably look forward to a reduction in regulation and a bonanza in bonuses. And this might finally bring about the collapse of free market, unregulated capitalism, which, in turn, might offer the opportunity for the restructuring that the institutions have so successfully resisted for so long.

So Trump might, by accident, represent an opportunity albeit a painful one. (Read about Charles Eisenstein's thoughts on the subject here.)