Saturday, 10 November 2012

Thank God First Great Western Railways don't run airlines

Imagine you pay for a seat on a airline. In the departure lounge you are astonished to find that the departure gate for is only announced 6 mins before the plane is due to leave, prompting a mass stampede of hundreds of people as they run across the airport to get to the plane,  with old people knocked out of the way by students, and a general air of crazed panic as we are almost running through the open ticket gates. At the plane there are  struggling queues of people trying to get on while airline staff scream at them to get on as the plane will be leaving imminently.

On the plane you find your seat but also find the plane is massively overcrowded, the aisles are full of standing passengers (on this apparently booked solid plane), who don't have a seat. You spend the entire flight in your reserved seat with a total strangers  looming over you. Every ten minutes the pilot comes on the intercom and apologies for the overcrowding. It is abundantly clear that no-one has any idea how many people are actually on the plane...

That is the train experience leaving Paddington for Bristol last Friday evening on First Great Western railways.

Train is traveling at speeds of between 90-100 mph at this point
After inquiries it seems the the train guards are supposed to be taking off standing passengers who do not have a reserved seat (as is is patently unsafe and - against the law) but don't because "no-one likes to get on the next train". There was obviously no check on the number of people going through the ticket barriers as the six minutes given to get on the trains created a stampede of hundreds of people which First Great Western were not willing to control as it would have delayed the train.

Of the options I was able to select on the train with my booking:

  • The 'quiet carriage' concept was absolutely laughable
  • The option to sit near the luggage rack was ridiculous; as all you could see in either direction was people. All of my luggage could have been taken straight off the train off at any of the stops and I wouldn't have been able to see a thing.
  • The toilet was practically inaccessible

Here is the link to National Express.
Your life may well be in a mess, but at least it will make you smile. It is also a much cheaper and a lot less like a glimpse into a shambolic and lawless failed state.

This is the page for the UK train regulator.
The word is they get paid to do a job.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hard Facts For U.S. Republicans

When Obama is sworn in for his second term in January 2013 we will be looking at a twenty year stretch of history (since 1993) when the Republican Party has only won one undisputed U.S.election, and that one undisputed win, in 2004, came within the trauma of 9/11 when the country was embroiled in two wars.

Since 1993 the only successful presidential candidate put forward by the Republican selection process, George W. Bush, was a man considered by historians world wide to be one of the worst, most incompetent leaders of any nation, let alone the presidency.

One of the (thankfully unsuccessful) vice presidential candidates to come out of the Republican selection process was Sarah Palin.

Considering the low expectations, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ran a damn good race, and Republicans should seriously consider if any of the other candidates would have come anywhere near Romney/Ryans level of success.

"We could have won with Rick Santorum/Michelle Bachman/Herman Cain"

Your selection process is an absolute disaster.

Saturday, 3 November 2012


I'm a European and I'm not going to tell US voters how to vote on Tuesday.

I'm certainly not going to stand back and defend the performance of Mr Obama, he chose to continue George Bush's tax cuts (40% of your budget deficit) and when he had the choice to rebuild the US economy the way FDR did in the Great Depression, he chose to spend all his political energy instead on a botched compromise in health reform (kind of like FDR getting voted in and making a total hash of repealing Prohibition - "booze is legal if you are over 50" say).

So I'm  not defending Obama, and I'll steer away from the Republicans behind Romney who seem to want to turn the United States into some Rape themed amusement park.. I wont go into that.

I'm a foreigner and I'd just like to bring one thing to your attention which is plainly obvious to anyone on Planet Earth viewing Mr Romney from outside your borders. If you vote for Romney you are voting for EIGHT YEARS and not the usual four.

One thing we do know about US politics, that has been established without doubt in the last 15 years or so, is that US voters don't like to change Presidents in the middle of a war. I believe the phrase is "Don't change horses in mid-stream".

We know this is a very strong impulse because we know the US voter will vote for an incumbent war time president even if he is fairly obviously a total incompetent (and world wide laughing stock).

If the US is in the middle of a war the tradition is to keep the incumbent president. Even when that President started the war. Two wars in fact, and then cut taxes, a strategy so fiscally daring that no other leader of a major nation at war has tried in 5000 years of recorded history.

Such is the respect for the incumbent war President he will be returned to the Oval office, even though he dodged war service himself, when the challenger is a confirmed war hero.

So how is this relevant to 2012? Well it is not so much the relevance to 2012 as the relevance to 2016, the date of the next election, as it is obvious to any foreign observer that Romney will have the US at war again by the time 2016 comes around. I would guess either Syria or Iran.. but who knows.. you (and the UK, this is why I'm paying attention) may have troops dying in Korea or perhaps even Iraq. These are best case scenarios obviously, the worse case would be Russia or China.

I'm not saying this is conscious policy on Mr Romney's part. I'm observing that he famously has the diplomatic skills of a drunken marine (US or Royal, take your pick) and despite his weirdly low key performance in the foreign policy debate his backroom staff is stuffed with Bush era neo-conservatives.

We know Romney and Ryan will brutally slash government spending back to 1890s levels in every area except one.. a gigantic increase in military spending beyond even what the US military are asking for.

You know what most scares the rest of the world about politics in the US? In every other country the most hard right wing institution is the military (that's why you have military coups). In the US the military vote and opinion (Colin Powell etc) is staying where it is as Romney's party lurches to the right. The US military is not stupid - after the Bush era it can't afford to be.