Saturday, 24 June 2017

Weekly political round up

Politically this week we do not appear to have gotten any further along the path of stable government with anything being signed between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party with somewhat onerous "Don't take us for granted" messages coming forth on Tuesday. Perhaps they haven't been given quite what they wanted or want to explore other deals?
Almost bizarrely on Wednesday, we had the Queen's Speech delivered in a very much lacking in pomp and splendour way with what was a hastily chopped down program shewn of anything particularly controversial majoring with the legislation required for leaving the EU and the troublesome Social Care and extension of Grammar Schools measures featured in the manifesto dropped.
On the other hand the changes in school funding in England and HS2 phase 2a Birmingham to Crewe rail bill to give legal powers such as compensating where the line goes through land and buildings was.
Fifty-six million pounds to remove eighteen minutes off the journey time does to be honest seem rather excessive even if it does add more mainline capacity and I can't help thinking there are cheaper was of just doing it such as restoring four track working taken out in the past to save repair costs adjacent to existing track.
To some extent the more troubling development was Sunday's midnight attack by a hired van mowing down a group of Muslim worshippers taking a pause from Eid prayers at London's Finsbury Park mosque by a middle aged man from Cardiff, Wales who chanted anti muslim slogans and two others that resulted in one fatality and a good number of injuries.
Worrying because while the attitude of right wing, anti immigration and anti muslim groups such as the English Defence League is often aggressive and sometimes thuggish, the one thing they haven't done nor has any lone group of the like minded is target groups for terrorist actions in the way so-called Islamic extremists call for and 'inspire' independently people to commit such acts.
As a society we simply cannot accept tic for tac acts between these groups not just for the loss of life to those involved but because of that plus the impact on everyday life would be very severe. 
Finally the impact of the Grenfell Tower fire is working its way through with eleven tower blocks cladding failing fire safety tests for flammability and three Premier Inn hotels with a five block estate in Camden, central London being evacuated for emergency cladding removal.
It also transpires what started the fire was a Hotpoint Fridge Freezer that has a highly flammable plastic back which when the polyurethane insulation melts is the equivalent of   four gallons of petrol melting completely after exactly fifty-five seconds, setting kitchens well alight. In the US they have to have metal backs.
Ever felt our well-being is being ignored for cheapness.   

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The winner is...Nobody

In what is shaping up to be an eventful week for other more tragic reasons, I'm getting around to typing out my thoughts on the General Bore of 2017 and  where that leaves us which isn't exactly being helped by the time taken by those directly involved to actually forge agreements to settle it.
There are as I think I mentioned last time 650 divisions known as constituencies and for any one party to gain a majority in the House of Commons you need 326 or more and the problem with the outcome one party has it!
Take Theresa May's Conservative and Unionist Party for instance and you'll see they got just 318 which make them the largest single party and yet they cannot do it by themselves.
Then there is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party which did better in a late surge with 262 votes and the Liberal Democrats with 12 which in both parties is an improvement on the 2015 result.
Scotland's Scottish standing only Scottish National Party won 35 out of 57 Scottish constituencies which was a 21 seat drop on 2015 and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party got 10
Let's quickly do some math here as Labour saying they were ready to form an alternative 'progressive' government and add 262 labour votes to 12 liberal democrats we have 274 seats plus the SNP's 35 we get 309 plus 4 Plaid Cymru votes equals...313.
Thus put plainly the math doesn't stack up for that argument.
To me in truth nobody won this election.
The two main Great Britain wide parties did not carry the trust needed by the electorate even if Ruth Davison run a really successful campaign for the Scottish Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour  team did connect to a lot of young voters who amongst a good number of people are fed up with 'austerity', funding crisis in health, social care, education, declining 'working class' pay relative to expenditure and issues of both housing supply and unaffordable mortgages and rents.
In Scotland it was clear many Scottish voters were more concerned about similar issues such as educational standards that they wanted their representatives to be more engaged with than the second referendum on independence the SNP were pushing since last Junes Brexit result (Indyref2).
Brexit is in a way few of us on the leave side anticipated at the core of this problem with Labour and Conservative remainers voting for remain candidates in constituencies such as Warwick and mainly Labour leave people voting Conservative as in Walsall North and Stoke on Trent South.
It was also an election where rather than in that referendum we voted for parties despite concerns, I know I voted for who I did with concerns over social welfare issues and others voted the way they did even if financial literacy and clear signs of exactly where the money was to be found were lacking.
And that Brexit clock as we were reminded over the weekend last is ticking.
Other consequences included the standing down of Ukip leader Paul Nuttall and Wednesday decision for Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats who cited the constant attention on his own personal religious beliefs by some lesbian and gay activists even though his voting record clearly supported their rights. I have some sympathy for this as some liberals seem to be...ill-liberal both in terms of denying the space for opposing views and even accepting of while disagreeing personally, the need to allow others the space to be themselves and so backing legislation.
At the moment there is an attempt to put together an agreement by the Conservatives and the DUP so a Queen's speech (a summary of the parliamentary program put forward by Her Majesties Government) can be passed and major legislation not least relating to Brexit can be passed without a formal coalition which we had for the 2010-15 Parliament.
This is possible but has its own risks not least in resolving the deadlock at the Northern Irish Assembly a part of the devolution outside of England enacted from 1995 onward in our system of Government between the DUP and   Sinn Féin, the Nationalist, Republican party whose links to terrorism at the highest levels are hotly contested.
Neither side trust each other much and in trying to resolve this, any UK Government as former prime minister Major said on Monday risks  being seen more as a Unionist stitch up than an impartial advisor with thepossibility if it fails of Northern Ireland being run directly from London, something that would have a major impact on cross-community and Irish and UK Government relations.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Simple Minds Glittering Prize revisited

While the political business is being worked through which I'll post about next week, I thought I'd post about an album I recently rebought.

Simple Mind's Glittering Prize 81/92 album is a compilation originally released in 1992 that only covers the commercially successful period from 1981's Love Song to 1991's Real Life album.
I did buy this on tape but the tape became worn plus I needed to make a copy for my portable digital music players.
While other more complete double compilations exist, the strength of this is that it hasn't been made artificially louder than it needs to be which is common problem on newer compilations and as the 1985 45 Don't You (Forget About Me) which was featured in The Breakfast Club movie and originally slated for Billy Idol to sing is on her in really good quality.
This is as well as the track was not issued on 1985's Once Upon a Time album sandwiched between such hits as Promised You a Miracle, Up On the Catwalk, Alive and Kicking and Belfast Child.

Digital copying 
I use dbPoweramp a paid for program from Illustrate as it is very effective, has a wide variety of databases to add song titles etc and is easy to correct any odd mistakes that may creep in before making your digital file.
File formats:
If you have a device that will play lossless files, I'd recommend using Flac as it will give you full cd quality with nothing removed.
If what you are using that doesn't do or isn't intended for super critical listening on high quality headphones, using so-called lossy encoder will make a small file that will sound 'good enough'.
I have gone back and forth between the Mp3 and Aac lossy file formats and feel on balance a Mp3 file made at 320 kbps using the LAME encoder is the best option providing high quality and universal compatibility. 
I find the Aac files I've created myself either in iTunes which isn't a good 'ripper' by the way or using the fdkaac Aac encoder in dbPoweramp tend to squash the soundstage leaving it flatter and less involving compared to the same disc ripped in the LAME mp3 encoder at 320. Louder passages tend to sound bleached for want of a better expression.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The E-lect-shuns

It's seven days to go as I start to work on this and like most post devolution politics it's messy because the parties unique to the devolved parts of the United Kingdom include all the parties that stand in Northern Ireland, Plaid Cymru ("The Party of Wales"), the Scottish National Party (aka S.N.P.) and have no representatives outside that part, country, region whatever the constitutional dogs dinner has left calling the bits of the UK leaving only three and three-quarters of the parties being in proper sense Nationally organized, having national statements of policies (Manifesto's) and Candidates standing nearly all the Parliamentary divisions called Constituencies. 
I say three and three-quarters because the Conservative (Tory) Party don't organize and stand in Northern Ireland although they are for the Union and have links to the two Unionist parties there.
The biggest single issue of the moment is leaving the European Union on which my thoughts can be found in other entries but I'll try to be fair.
The party most pro Europe is the Centre Left (and not what I'd recognize as Liberal) Democrats who came about from a small proportion of ex Labour people and nearly all the former Liberals and the difference between the two sides are still there.
The party was 100% behind remaining in the EU because it believes this has brought peace, economic growth and liberty to Europe and that much of the UK's trade is linked to it.
In its manifesto it has said it doesn't wish the UK to leave the Single Market for goods and services including people and the European Court of Justice.
It goes on step further and says whatever is decided at talks with the EU should go to separate referendum that include a "Remain in the EU" voting option.
The Further to the left Socialist party, The Labour party kind of agree much of that apart from the referendum but keep altering the emphasis because Labour supporters don't generally favour EU membership   and think they can talk the EU even in the last hours into some reforms.
The Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party are for leaving the EU although some local branches and candidates of the former are not and generally favour what could be called a clean break.
This is because they feel the terms of keeping the Single Market which include not being able to set year on year migration targets, consider skills based applications will not be agreed to because the EU sees them as non-negotiable and all that has been able to been agreed are very short-term temporary restrictions for 'new' member states in Eastern Europe or the offer of a use one only every four year temporary limits.
Leaving the EU-"Brexit"- is like marmite: it splits people down the middle and personally is a huge issue with me and Midlands voters. One day I'll write the book "Staffordshire and how we broke the Post war settlement", lol.
Another increasingly important issue is care for the elderly in later life such as the provision of carers in peoples homes and how that especially it is they need to move into a care home where this is provided (we hope!) is to be met as that post war to mid sixties "Baby Boom" is entering the autumn of their lives in large numbers and will run on for at least fifteen or so years at a similar rate.
Presently some find it is necessary to sell off their home (if they own one) to part pay for it whereas those who are not and don't have savings have theirs paid by the state. That amount many care home providers maintain is insufficient to provide the quality of care not just expected but legally required and some scandals around this have emerged.
To pay for more of this, the Conservatives had proposed a increase in the amount you didn't need to pay before claiming back anything over £100,000 from the sale to pay for this on a deferred basis.
One problems with this is a good number of people buy a property expecting to pass it or its value on in death to immediate family (their children) and in a good number of places any property exceeds this value, not merely the better offs.
The resulting who-haa with it being called a "dementia tax" has left this quietly dropped to be re-tuned later.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats favour more state money aka taxes to pay for this but the problem with taxation is the tax yield from substantial increases is often lower and often leads to unintended consequences such as "brain drains" as the brightest and most well paid leave the UK.
My own view is you need to look at tackling tax evasion by multinational companies ("Hi Alexia, Google me Googles tax returns!" and growing the cake through greater productivity and furthering international trade.
Policing and security is an issue and while the Conservatives have talked about putting more on the ground, it also is the case the reductions in funding in their budgets since Twenty-ten had decimated them which in my personal opinion  was very short-sighted as you tend to get more significantly crime in a recession and with last weeks's awful event still in my mind here, it is obvious we are facing severe threats not just from overseas but from home grown terrorists who are not going to reduce their activities all because we're one an 'austerity' drive. 
The other parties are talking about it but as with much in this campaign we have seen little real information on exactly it has been costed and that as we get into the last days of campaigning is the one thing that really annoys me: The lack of forethought in how the policies are going to be funded together with the detail.