“Who is the Olympic legacy in Stratford for?”

The Londonist site asked the question, “Who is the Olympic legacy in Stratford for?” This was my response:

There are many aspects to this question, not all of which are obvious. Could the regeneration of the Park have happened without the games of 2012? Well, yes, it could. But it is hugely unlikely. 560 acres of neglected and grossly polluted land does not get sorted out on the basis of “perhaps”.

2 million tons of soil needed to be cleaned before anything else could be done because the place was pretty close to uninhabitable as a health hazard. Heavy organic chemicals, toxic metals, dumped cars, tyres and CFC-full fridges and freezers needed to be dealt-with. These and the soaked-in effluent of generations of unregulated chemical manufacture up to and including the rendering-down of animal carcasses does not scream “spend money on me” to developers.

It’s exactly the same scenario as the Millennium Dome. Uninformed people whine that it cost nearly a billion pounds to build that when in fact it only cost 50 million pounds. Most of the rest was spent cleaning up the area first.

Having cleaned the Olympic Park, and generally tidied it up by tearing down over 50 electricity pylons and burying the power cables underground, the stage was empty, but ready. In my view there is no way that private money would have done that and spending that much public money without some sort of tangible public benefit would rightly have caused outrage.

So, we held the Olympics as the cornerstone of a carefully-considered and well-constructed regeneration and planned legacy programme. The concept of anticipated repurposing was used everywhere. Temporary venues prepared the way for future communities.

Three schools have already opened on the Park with several more about to, thousands of homes have been built and again, many more on the way. Tens of thousands of jobs are being created or moved into the area with the resultant kick to the local economy. The elite athletes’ medical centre is now a world-class NHS facility serving the wider local community. I know – my doctor is based there.

Six million visitors a year enjoy the parkland where before there was just dangerous stinking wasteland. The whole area has become the lungs of East London. 4,000 more trees planted in the last couple of years, wetlands, meadows, flowering areas all add up to a noticable drop in local pollution levels. Quality of life has dramatically improved, not just for people who live in the new homes but millions of others too.

We have world-class sports venues that are used by the public every day – over a million a year go for a swim in the Aquatics Centre, for example. Community engagement is a key factor. The Park volunteer system has over 600 people who help out with various elements of Park life – looking after parklands in conservation work, monitoring the growing wildlife population, helping at major events by assisting visitors and running the information point and one of the best park mobility services in the country.

Asking if the legacy has produced the expected results is always going to generate a lot of different answers. If you were employed in one of the smelly chemical plants then you’ll probably be annoyed at it closing. If you live outside London you may well ask what “your” money (which is actually London’s money, as we paid for it) has done to benefit you. If you were expecting a nation of lardarses to suddenly start doing weekly 10k runs, you were never going to find the results encouraging.

However: if you’re one of the six million people a year who bother to go there and find out for yourself what it is all about, I pretty much guarantee that you’ll be back.

There has never been an Olympic legacy like London’s. It is by far the most successful planned legacy ever.

The games were a huge success. The aftermath even more so, in my opinion.

Advertisements

Brexit. The Moron’s Last Hurrah

Ah, Brexit. Someone on the leave side decided that people who voted to remain were ignorant. So I asked:

Really? Ignorant, eh?

Okay, oh informed one: there are many facets of UK life that will be directly impacted by the Brexit decision. I have thoughts on each of the following categories, but would value your carefully-considered opinions on how Brexit will impact:

Trade balance, Interest rates, Unemployment, Exchange rates, Farming subsidies, Food prices, Inflation, Immigration, Expatriot British people living in Europe, Scientific research, Higher education, Cross-border technology, Pan-european businesses, Export and import tariffs, Global businesses like banking and financial services.

I expect that since you voted to leave, you must have carefully considered at the very least each of these areas.

So: over to you…

My answers:

Trade balance – Stay in: much as it is now. Leave: both imports and exports drop significantly leading to an increased need for self-sufficiency. This will lead to price increases across the board and inflation rises too.

Interest rates – Stay in: remain very low. Leave: will need to rise to counter the drop in currency values. This will mean more expensive mortgages and credit cards and will trigger a spiral in debt.

Unemployment – Stay in: no change, it is currently statistically insignificant. Leave: short term, a small drop as EU nationals leave. Long term, unemployment will rise as costs rise / profits fall and companies have to make cutbacks.

Exchange rates – Stay: no change beyond normal daily fluctuations. Leave: Pound will continue to fall, dropping below 1 Euro. This will trigger significant interest rate rises (see above).

Farming subsidies – Stay: no change, they will continue at their current high levels. Leave: They will disappear totally, meaning food price rises (see below) and rising numbers of farms going bust.

Food prices – Stay: no change, remaining at current low levels. Leave: dramatic increases caused by loss of farm subsidies and by trade tariffs.

Inflation – Stay: no impact, remains at or around 2-3% for a while dropping back after a couple of years. Leave: dramatic increase caused by wage inflation, food price increases and import tariffs.

Immigration – Stay: no impact. Leave: after an initial outflow of a few EU citizens and inflow of expat Brits, no impact. Either way, it will always be far higher than Leave voters want.

Expatriot British people living in Europe – Stay: no impact, free to live and work wherever they want. Leave: visa requirements and removal of rights to live and work. Many will opt to return to the UK which will more than counter the loss of EU citizens leading to an increase in UK benefit and healthcare costs.

Scientific research – Stay: no impact, current multinational research projects will continue and new ones start. Leave: Scientific research will be decimated as EU funds disappear, companies opt for EU bases instead of UK ones and the UK government continues to refuse to fund research.

Higher education – Stay: no impact as universities continue to benefit from funding that non-UK students bring to the system. Leave: universities left with huge funding shortfalls as foreign students choose not to come here. This will lead to demands to increase the amount the UK students pay. Universities and colleges will close.

Cross-border technology – Stay: no impact. Leave: with the drying up of research and the financial pressures on universities, companies will increasingly choose to limit themselves to the free-flowing EU rather than risk the isolationist UK.

Pan-european businesses like Airbus and Unilever – Stay: no impact, companies will continue to trade and base headquarters where it best suits them. Leave: companies will, of course, with difficulty continue to trade with the UK, but headquarters (and therefore tax revenue) will not be based here. Airbus will move its wing-making business to Germany and shut its UK operation.

Export and import tariffs – Stay: no EU tariffs, no major non-EU ones either. Leave: tariffs on everything from and to everywhere. Loss of competitive advantage for UK-based companies and instantly higher prices for all imports into the UK. An instant spike in inflation.

Global businesses like banking and financial services – Stay: no impact, London will continue to be a global and highly profitable leader in these businesses. Leave: banks have already started opening and staffing operations in Frankfurt and Paris. This will accelerate with a significant loss to the UK in tax revenue and credibility. After a decade or so, the UK financial business will be dealing mostly with domestic issues and will have ceased to be a significant global presence. The tax revenue loss of this will be significant.

Then, someone asked why remainers were so keen to give up self-determination. Again, I answered:

Define self-determination? What does that actually mean? The Brexit morons keep banging on about sovereignty and control in their simplistic, rather recursive way, but none – absolutely none – have given any thought about what it actually means.

We’re given a vote every four or five years (or every eighteen months or so under the current clueless administration) and we go away afterwards, so very proud, patting ourselves on the back for having played our part in this great, ancient and noble democracy we have. Then, after an evening spent watching Paxman whitter on as though he knows what he’s talking about, we start to bitch about how the people we elected never do what we want, seem more interested in personal gain than collective good and we shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives the same as we did a week before.

The truth of the matter is that those who blather on about control and sovereignty are delusional fools. They have no control. They never have had. Proles like them are not given control, they are merely given the illusion of it.

Those of us with a functioning brainstem know this and therefore have to decide upon the better of a number of deeply flawed systems.

The choice is actually really simple. We are a tiny, insignificant island nation with few natural resources except a small collection of people who are good with numbers and a large collection of lazy, over-entitled and benefit-addicted fools.

On the back of that smaller population, we have built a global banking industry and have the world’s best programmers. We got there first in both of these areas and got a head start over others. Since we built these industries up, others came to us and based their businesses here out of convenience. They have their own bright, clever people, but it is less effort to use ours at the moment.

Now what we’re doing is closing those doors. We’re making it less convenient, more expensive and considerably less appealing for others to use our services.

We’re setting fire to our own bedding.

So other people are moving their business away – tens of thousands of banking jobs have already gone, high-tech industries are investing elsewhere and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The sad – bone-deep sad – thing about the Brexit morons claim to want control and leadership and independence and sovereignty, is that we already had it. We already had it and they were all too fucking dumb to notice. The very thing that they claim to want is the very thing they are setting out to destroy.

As part of a free-flowing Europe, we were a big player at the head table. It wasn’t a perfect system by any means, but we were there with the best of them and we made a difference.

Now, we have been shown to be exactly what we are. Insular, arrogant, insecure, insignificant, small, disposable and yes, racist. Was what we had the best? No, far from it. But it was so very much better than what we are heading for.

Obscurity is a pathetic way to end a proud country’s history. To deliberately choose that is shameful.

Democracy is a very poor system. It relies upon an educated and informed electorate to work properly. We have do not have that. Nobody has.

#NotMeToo

There isn’t a gay person on the planet that hasn’t been the target of some sort of abuse in their life. We all know that.

From that perspective, I can’t help but wonder what the current “#MeToo” fad is actually achieving, beyond providing some treasured sense of shared victimhood. Is there anything meaningfully positive that will result from this mass movement, or is it all just temporary background noise that will eventually fade leaving no trace? 

My suspicion, of course, is that is exactly what will happen. Nothing. Like all the trendy outpourings on social media, it doesn’t mean anything. It will achieve nothing. It is, really, just a pointless exercise in posturing, groupthink and fashion-following, waiting to be replaced by next week’s outrage / mourning / tragedy porn… 

I’m sure that the motives are good ones, but these things come along so frequently nowadays that they are like episodes of X Factor, and just as disposable. Primark empathy, one pointless hashtag at a time… 

#JeSuisCharlie #BlackLivesMatter #OrlandoStrong #Remain #StrongerTogether #LasVegasShooting #TrendingNow

It always feels great to be part of a “movement”, doesn’t it? That sense of belonging, of shared objectives and feelings. 

I felt the same when we all crowded into Old Compton Street after Orlando, or into Trafalgar Square after the Ian Baynham murder. We’re all together. Never again.

Of course, it’s never “never again”, is it? Nothing changes and that transient collectivism fades rapidly as other causes attract our attention. My feeling is that this is no different to any other modern day “cause”.

I’ve been wolf-whistled on the street. Is that sexual harassment? 

What about being chatted up by a drunk cougar in a bar when I didn’t want to be? 

How about having my bollocks grabbed by pissed members of a hen party in a gay pub? 

They’ve all happened to me. Everyone, of any and all genders, has had some sort of sexual harassment in their lives. So? Does that make us all victims? Does that make us all in some way worthy of applause and approbation? 

No, of course not. I just want to know what all this attention-seeking is going to achieve, because at the moment I can’t see that it’s achieving anything apart from jumping on the Weinstein bandwagon. “I’m a victim too, don’t forget me”

I refuse to be a victim. I am stronger than that. I have plenty of demons of my own and I will deal with them in my own way. 

What makes me more than a little contemptuous of this whole nouveau-victim movement is that it seems to stratify into a hierarchy of victimhood. “I’m more deserving of attention than you, get behind me.” People seem to be outdoing themselves to be worthy of sympathy (and more frequently these days, compensation) than everyone else. 

Professional victims is a phrase that I use quite frequently and it gets more accurate every day.
The other side of all this Hashtag Handwringing is the opportunity to wallow retrospectively. You see this all the time on anniversaries of events. 

The thing is, it’s almost never about those events, but always about those that are left. Hillsborough, 9/11, The Admiral Duncan, even Remembrance Sunday are more about those attending (in the latter case, usually including me) than anything else. A desire to be collectively associated with something seen as dignified and respectful in order to be seen in that reflection. 

It’s a perfectly normal human need, this desire for association, but it is still a little parasitic.

Bloggers get on my tits.

Bloggers get on my bloody tits, they really do. 

Just because they have a bit of free Internet space that they can’t resist filling with self-serving narcissistic bullshit and selfies that expose vastly more flesh than is appropriate, doesn’t make them a fitness guru, a nutritionist, a model, a shining example to women/fats/gays/[insert convenient “oppressed“ minority here], or a campaigning icon. 

It doesn’t make them an expert in anything, it doesn’t give them credibility or validation and it certainly doesn’t mean that other people need to take them seriously. It just means that they are a motor-gob with a hugely over-inflated sense of their value in the world. 

The X-Factor generation, where the anticipation that easy and totally unjustified fame and fortune is not only possible but expected, have taken over and journalism has been replaced by millions of little vanity videos. 

It used to be bad enough when this sort of thing was limited to addicts of high-caffeine energy drinks, but now every illiterate, incoherent moron seems to feel the need to broadcast to a disinterested world their every bowel movement. 

Stop it. Just stop it. [Copies and pastes text into my blog…]

“Education is bad for America”

Newsweek published an article suggesting that the majority of Americans feel that education is bad for America:

Kind of makes sense, I suppose. 

America is a capitalist, authoritarian society. For such a society to work effectively, a large percentage of the population has to be easily manipulated and controlled. 

Education undermines that. Education makes people question, analyse and examine their surroundings. It makes people doubt the status quo, look for better solutions and gives them the tools to enact change. All of this goes completely against what America requires to work effectively. 

For those élite who run the country, the ideal American is one who is intelligent enough to perform the menial tasks required of them, but not so intelligent as to question why they are not seeing much of a return for their efforts. So the answer comes in a multi-pronged form: low education standards, high reliance upon propaganda from state-sponsored bodies like churches and law enforcement, and a media bias that borders on brainwashing. 

Combine that all with a constant and very useful state of fear – America is by far the most fearful nation on the planet, and that’s a great way to control its population – and a vastly exaggerated sense of patriotism that goes well beyond jingoism (what’s with all the flags? Do they keep forgetting where they are?) pushed by state news services like Fox and there we have it: A usefully stupid population that pretty much guarantees that the status quo will be maintained for those at the top getting rich at the expense of everyone else. 

Convince such a stupid people that they and their country represent the best in the world and the system is almost self-sustaining. To try to do something different is unpatriotic and un-American. 

Convince this nation of drones that their country is actually highly individualistic, and the idea of suggesting systemic change becomes positively treasonous.

The sad thing is that although this corrupt and corrupting system is far worse under Republicans, it is still sustained under Democrats too.

Out here in the rest of the world, we look towards America and wonder what it must be like to only have a choice between far-right and extreme-right options.

And we feel pity.

Trump vs. Freedom Caucus

The one good thing that the ongoing Trump farce has done is crystalise what “conservative commentator” means. 

In the good old days, it used to be a handful of over-shoulderpadded types like Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter and whoever that nutjob hockey mom was from Alaska. All very noisy people, but generally safe to ignore because they were never going to be taken seriously by anyone. 

But now that average American IQs have dropped sufficiently to put the Cretin-in-Chief into the White House, they’ve finally achieved a prominence that, even in the height of their usual weekend of autoerotic asphyxiation sessions, they’d never dreamed-of before. 

Shouty, rude, constantly interrupting, identically dressed, all needing their roots re-doing and desperately under-sexed, they are the new Muppet Show. Elevating background noise to an artform to such an extent that even poor old Bill O’Reilly is struggling to keep up. 

Watching the fight between Trump and Freedom Caucus is the embodiment of the mythical battle of wits between unarmed opponents. 

It would be great fun to watch if it didn’t represent America’s rigor mortis…

EU Referendum: For all the right reasons, I want to vote out. But I just can’t do it.

I really don’t think I can do it. I really want to vote out – and for all the right reasons – but I really don’t think I can.

These days, this country seems to be overflowing with bigots, racists, morons and idiots of all descriptions. Senile old fools wallowing in an imagined nostalgia for an England that never existed, skinhead simpletons who need to be taught how to put a cross next to their UKIP or Britain First candidate and bleating Sun Sheep idiots who think that what “they” have over there is less democratic that what “we” have over here.

This country, with its lying, fraudulent political representatives and unelected & corrupt corporate and media masters, are the drunk uncle at the party who spoils it for everyone else. We do not remotely deserve a space at the adults table in Europe.

These days I am embarrassed to be English.

The European project is far from perfect. It is not even good. But it can be. In time, hopefully, it will be. It is certainly heading in the right direction. It needs help to get there, and the vast experience of a country like ours that has learned the mistakes of over-ambition some time ago would be valuable in that process.

But instead of being a positive and valued contributor, we are disruptive and determined to ruin everyone else’s good work. Instead of seeing Europe for what it is – a chance for this country to be a major part of something great again – we are petty, self-centred and small-minded.

I cannot make my mind up whether or not our lack of ambition is an implicit admission that we know that we are simply not up to the job.

I want Europe to work. I WANT Europe to have closer political and fiscal union. I WANT a United States of Europe. I want all of that and more and I want it to work well and I want it to be able to compete equally with the other economic giants on the world stage.

But with us sabotaging the whole process, it will never achieve that.

So in order for me to get for Europe what I want, we have to leave. I have to write my own country off as a stupid loser and vote out.

But… There’s always a but…

I just can’t do it. At the back of my head there is a nagging voice that keeps reminding me that before too much longer the ageing blue-rinse racists, bigots, mindless Little Englanders and knuckle-dragging UKIP simpletons will grow old and die. Their pathetic world view will become irrelevant and will finally achieve the meaninglessness it deserves.

At that time, our children, and subsequent generations, will have to deal with the fallout of the referendum decision. I cannot in good conscience deny them the only one bright thing in their future: membership of a strong, powerful union of countries.

So although Europe doesn’t deserve us, and despite my firmly held belief that at least for the next decade Europe is better off without us, for the sake of future generations, I will be voting to remain.

I just hope that Europe has the patience to wait while we do some desperately-needed growing up.

Over to you, kids. Please don’t fuck it up like we did.