Friday, February 13, 2009

Pot luck or bad standards with potholes? 

I remember icy winters from many years back now - and I simply dont remember such winters resulting in so many immediate serious pot-holes in the roads come the thaws.

Anyone else noticed this? Is this 'the years past grasses were greener' syndrome, or do we reach for the Jutland comment (*) and ask if there is something wrong with our bl%&dy roads today?

Have we been indulging in inferior standards of road-laying with the imperfections disguided by a series of warmer winters? Or did the regular occurence of icy winters in decades past expose flaws in the roads at once, so they could be caugh at once? In the second explenation, small cracks and imperfections are remaining undicovered or untreated for years, develop in secret, and are getting cruelly exposed at the first ice-expansion assault.

Or some other reason?

Our various local residents will be asking for explenations so we need to nail this one down. Any comments nationwide?

* Admiral Jellicoe commented at Jutland, as British battlecruisers exploded right and left, 'there is something wrong with our bloody ships today'. Come to think of it we could pinch that quote for our banks now, too.

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Can't comment on whether the road-laying standards and materials have declined, but the increasing road use and lorry axle weights are likely to be a factor.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

The permanent threat from the USA on intelligence 

Put simply, the US and UK intelligence organisations are so deeply interwined that the US is able to make an 'offer that cannot be refused' any time it likes.

UK intelligence operatives are routinely seconded to various entities in Langley to work on joint projects in those agencies. The UK electronic listening networks in effect act as subcontractors to the USA in specific intelligence markets.

It is not a matter just of exchanging information between separate sovereign organisations but of intricate joint intra-organisational data flows.

The national sovereigncy of the UK is substantially compromised by these arrangements because the US holds the keys to the main doors. The payoff for the UK is the ability to strut the world stage as a 'significant power' without the need to pay for all the intelligence infrastructure. Just so long as nobody really understands what is actually happening.

In my judgement the UK fell in with the Iraq war nonsense of the Bush administration because Bush was able to threaten withdrawal of these intelligence links if the UK did not comply with his policies. This would have led to the collapse of the Intelligence Illusion in Whitehall and the illusion is too central to the self-image of key parts of the UK secret state.

The current rapidly disintegrating cover-up of the torture networks is not the reason for the 'threat' to end intelligence co-operation - it has simply removed for a moment one of the veils hiding the reality of what exists and what can happen.

Even when the torture business is sorted out the latent threat will still exist as a part of the relationship between the US and the UK. Unless of course the UK decides to disentangle itself from this potentially abusive relationship. Which could be quite an abrasive and conflict-ridden process.

I have reasons through personal contacts some years ago to know about the existance of the intelligence tangle.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The horror stories of sexism past 

Mad Men (the TV series) highlights sexist work practices in fifties and sixties America, and Katharine Whitehorn’s Guardian Review gives some choice examples. But I am a little surprised at her contention that things were a little better in the UK at that time.

After all the BBC once famously ruled that anyone working for the Corporation had to have a male line manager. That was in the aftermath of the 2nd World war, during which women had climbed to senior administrative and programming posts. The BBC intended to ensure normality as men were demobilised and started work for the Corporation. Scores of talented women resigned in disgust. One woman stayed on because she was exceptionally allowed to remain a departmental head – of Lost Property.

This tale was told to me by a woman (an university colleague) who had been a secretary in BOAC (forerunner to BA) effectively chief of staff for the chief executive, taking decisions commensurate with that role, but only on a secretaries grade and therefore earning a secretaries pension – which obliged her to keep working well into her sixties after retirement from the airline.

If the USA was worse, wow.

Puts our current gender and other balance struggles in a certain context…

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