Won’t let us play with your multi-billion dollar satellite system? We’ll build our own!


The UK chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that if the European Union refuse the UK access to the Galileo satellite navigation system, the UK will create its own system – a move that will add billions more to the Brexit bill.

From the Guardian:

EU is insistent that the UK had agreed in 2011 as an EU member state on the rules on blocking non-EU countries from access to secure elements of the project.

A senior EU official said, following some fraught negotiations this week, that it had become clear the UK “would like to transform Galileo from a union programme to a joint EU-UK programme, and that is quite a big ask for the EU”.

“They want to have privileged access to the security elements of PRS (the encrypted navigation system for government-authorised users) and to be able to continue manufacturing the security modules which would mean that after Brexit the UK, as a third country, would have the possibility to turn off the signal for the EU,” the official said.

Put like that, the EU’s position makes perfect sense.  Why would they put a third country in a position where it can switch off the EU’s system?  And the fact that the UK was instrumental in formulating the rules under with third countries – like the UK is about to become – are not allowed access to the system, well that’s kind of ironic really.

But of course that isn’t how the UK government sees things.  They want Britain to have some special status again.  Called “having your cake and eating it too.”  Again.

Hammond told reporters: ““We need access to a satellite system of this kind. A plan has always been to work as a core member of the Galileo project, contributing financially and technically to the project.”

Yes, that was the plan.  And that would still be the plan, if we hadn’t decided to leave the EU.  But we did decide to leave and now we need to renegotiate all of the deals that we enjoy as members of the EU.


The Tories won the election; but our true political ruler is still in charge – the Queen!


I’ve always thought that the UK’s status as a “constitutional monarchy” meant that political decisions were made by our elected government and parliament, and that the Queen’s job was to attract the tourists and to rubber-stamp legislation with her truly ceremonial “Royal Assent”.

But it seems that I, and just about everyone else, have been misled.  The Guardian has reported that the Queen has powers of veto that are stunningly far-reaching.  One small example is the Queen vetoing the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.  In effect, it’s the Queen who decides whether to take military action or not, and there is nothing the government can do about it!

Downing Street did what it could to keep all this secret – we only know about it now because of a court order to release details of an internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.

The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

She was even asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 because it contained a declaration about the validity of a civil partnership that would bind her.

In the pamphlet, the Parliamentary Counsel warns civil servants that if consent is not forthcoming there is a risk “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

“This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,” said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales’ hereditary estate.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

This power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal “nuclear deterrent” that may help explain why ministers appear to pay close attention to the views of senior royals.

The guidance also warns civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation and reveals that even amendments may need to be run past the royals for further consent.

And of course, how is the government supposed to do away with this remnant of absolute monarchy?  If a bill was voted through parliament to do away with the royal power of assent, the Queen would simply veto it – and the veto would probably remain secret, just as it has for so long!

The concept of Royal Assent has always been considered as a quaint anachronism that allows the UK to be both a functioning democracy and a monarchy.  Now we know that’s a lie.  The question is: what the hell are we going to do?

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II.  Don't mess with this bitch!"  Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t mess with this bitch!” Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/

Ain’t no time to wonder why; whoopee! we’re all gonna die!


So the world’s going nuts. Maybe I should write “more nuts”, as I can’t think of any time when the world hasn’t been nuts. But now serious nuttiness is seriously kicking off in Ukraine, which isn’t that far away. Right-wing extremists claim that Russian-backed forces are abducting, torturing and killing Ukrainian politicians. Moscow says that’s bollocks, but they’ve been saying that everything they’ve been accused of is bollocks, including shit we know they did in Crimea. They seem to deny everything automatically, then carry on regardless. Ukraine isn’t in NATO, but there are NATO members in the region. And if one NATO member state is attacked, the rest of NATO jumps to its defence, like if you hit a Hells Angel you end up fighting the entire club. Only these outlaw bikers have tanks and planes and missiles and nuclear bombs. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Maybe I’m right to be paranoid.

I thought the internet would help usher in an age where truth and propaganda would be more easily differentiated, where it might be easier to see what is actually happening. Instead, news sources everywhere just trumpet their propaganda lines louder, and the only way to find out what’s been going on is to either go there and witness events with one’s own eyes, or to wait for the dust to settle when the “truth” will be whatever the winner says it is.

I can’t go to Ukraine just now, but I really would like to know what’s going on. Not that the knowledge would make any difference: if I went and reported what I saw I would be dismissed as a Nazi or Neo-Soviet puppet, and whatever’s going to happen would happen anyway. No one who really matters cares what international opinion is. So sad: the world has become smaller, in that events a continent away will have more rapid and severe influence on my life; yet in this smaller world my opinion doesn’t matter. I can’t do anything, except post my irrelevant shit here.. In the 1930s I could have gone to fight for the International brigades or Franco, or at least deliver morphine to field hospitals and write home truthfully what I saw. If I tried to do anything like that now I’d probably end up in some Gitmo or other, or shot in the back of the head for being an interfering Europhile. Please, someone tell me no crazy NATO/Russian Federation crap is going to happen. That’s another problem with our modern smaller world: gunfire in Ukraine can blow back big time here.

I don’t actually believe anyone’s going to nuke anyone over this; not right now anyway. Bt there is plenty that could happen that would make life pretty crappy. You know how much natural gas we get from Russia? You know how long our emergency reserves would last if Putin and/or Gazprom decided to turn off the supply? I don’t know: I’m too lazy and fucked to bother asking Google. But I do know that we do not want that to happen. And that’s not even thinking about what effects a shooting war in Eastern Europe could have.

I wish I was one of those survivalist nuts with a fully-stocked nuclear bunker to hide in. Honestly, I do not think anyone’s going to nuke anyone any time soon. But it would be nice to have somewhere to sit and hide. You know, just in case… 😦

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Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!


I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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A British Post Box



They don’t make them like this anymore. Usually now you just get a boring red metal canister on a pole on the corner of the road. I like taking photos of the prettier post boxes. In my filing cabinet I’ve got a pic of a real old fancy one outside Worcester Cathedral I did in 1998. In fact, I’ve got a whole bunch of nice pix I made in the late 1990s, all on slides. I’ll actually get round to having them digitized one day, then I’ll post them online so everyone can see them (yeah right, how many times have I said that in the past 13 years)!

I’m afraid I messed with this pic a little before I posted it here. Nothing major: it needed levelling n stuff. But I also used the Brightness-Contrast control to make it a bit more colourful. Please don’t his me in the face.

Possibly interesting fact that you might not know: that E II R script on the front means “Elizabeth II Regina”, or in English: Queen Elizabeth II. So we know it was made after 1952 (which was when Queen Liz was crowned).

More damn useful info: the Royal Mail (the company that gets the mail out of the boxes, sorts out where it’s gotta go then sticks it through your day the next day) separated from Parcelforce (the parcel delivery division) in 1990.

So there ya go: a pretty photo of a post box and some useful education on UK postal services. So now you won’t punish me for gimping up them bricks n stuff??

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Flood defences? Or flood the fences?


Floods are a problem everywhere. And the crazy weather we’ve seen in recent years has led to more people than ever seeing their lives swept away by the encroaching waters. In Britain we have seen floods coming more frequently and more heavily. Local authorities usually try to mitigate by building barriers, dykes and other kinds of physical, blocking flood defences. But that might not be the best solution.

In Norwich, the Deal Ground project is a plan to build 670 homes by the confluence of the Wensum and Yare rivers, on flood-prone land whose edge is only 45cm (18in) above sea level. Many people think the idea is crazy. But this development is looking to cope with flooding in a new way. As planning consultant Philip Atkinson says: “The levels are rising, so everyone has to understand we have to start living with the water.”

The Deal Ground development proposes “homes around marshes, squares that are designed to become ponds, and parks that become small lakes”. Instead of trying to keep the water out, the plan is to let it in, but in a more managed fashion. This is counter-intuitive, and there is vocal opposition. But the idea certainly needs serious investigation. Every year thousands of households are flooded out, causing much trauma and heartbreak. Having Mother Nature take a crap in your home is a devastating affair.

And someone is going to have to make some big decisions on this. Population rises, more housing is needed – but the amount of available land is finite. Flood-prone land is going to be developed one way or another. And putting up “flood barriers” is not a real solution. The waters rise higher every year.

We’ve got to learn how to live with the floods. I know of a group of houses that get flooded by the nearby river every year. But the people living there have learnt to adapt. There are no carpets on the ground floor, and every flood season everything is moved either upstairs or to another location. But that annual upheaval certainly isn’t for everyone. Bolder approaches have to be taken, such as the “amphibious houses” you can see in the Guardian. Not for you? Well okay, not everyone wants to live without carpets and move out all their furniture every year. But these tactics need to be tried, before we run out of other options. We need to learn to be ready for the floods.

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Benefits cuts will kill the poor


Today, the House of Commons voted through government spending cuts that will cut benefits to the poor for at least the next few years. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government won the vote easily. Labour voted against it, and former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy led 6 Lib Dem rebels to oppose the government (which must have upset deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg) – but it easily passed, 324 to 268. And this was after Whitehall published their “impact assessment” that showed the very poorest in Britain will suffer disproportionally from these cuts.

I’m really depressed about this. I know people whose lives will be harmed by the cuts. The government have tried to make the British people believe that benefit claimants are “shirkers” or “skivers” sponging off society. And this propaganda has worked on a lot of people – there have even been reports of hate crimes against disabled people, who have also been declared the “undeserving poor”. In fact, I’m so depressed I can’t face writing about this at length. So I’m going to cut and paste in some of the best readers’ comments about this, from the Guardian. Sorry. I promise to behave tomorrow.

First, here are some statistics posted by “thenewscritter” to try to disprove what the government’s black propaganda has been saying:

From FullFact.org:

– On average people think that 41 per cent of the entire welfare budget goes on benefits to unemployed people, while the true figure is 3 per cent.

– On average people think that 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently, while the government’s own figure is 0.7 per cent.


Next up is “stayingalive”:

i am also sick of reading that “pensioners and the disabled will be protected”. Disabled people will NOT be protected, according to the government’s own figures, and for any media to continue to simply regurgitate the Government’s spin is an offence against journalistic integrity.

People who have somehow managed to get found not fit for work by ATOS, despite the demeaning, woefully inaccurate systems, receive ESA. The main component of ESA will be included in this cut.

People who have been found “fit for work at some point in the future” and placed into the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA will find all of their income is included in this cut.

People who have been found to be “incapable of any work, now or in the future” and placed into the Support Group will find most of their income included in this cut, so that they are likely to receive an increase of 1.4% overall, far below inflation levels.

People who currently receive DLA – a payment to reflect the additional costs of disability and paid whether people are in or out of work provided they are substantially disabled – will be gradually switched over to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) from October. The Government have written the new rules to totally redefine what “disability” actually means.

At present, if you cannot walk 200 m you can receive low rate mobility DLAt; if you cannot walk 50 m you can receive high rate of mobility

DLA. From October if you can walk 50m IN A DAY you will be regarded as having NO MOBILITY restrictions and lose DLA.
The changes to the care component of DLA are complex, but equally very draconian and far more stringent.

And given that the new PIP is being assessed by ATOS “health care professionals”, who are making enormous numbers of patently wrong decisions on ESA, there is little cause for any sense of security for “genuinely disabled people”.

In addition, from April disabled people who have one or two “spare” bedrooms and are in receipt of Housing Benefit will have their HB cut by 15 or 33% of their rent, REGARDLESS of whether there are any suitable adapted smaller properties for them to move into. This extra housing cost is somehow supposed to come from monies paid to cover disability or illness needs.

In addition, from April disabled people are no longer going to automatically receive credits for Council Tax. The Government has reduced the amount available by 20% and passed it to local authorities to each make their own decisions as to who receives help, but ringfencing the Council Tax credits for pensioners. As a result, far less will be available to all other groups (people in low-paid work, families with children, disabled people, unemployed people) who will receive bills for a “tax” they have until 31 March been deemed too poor to pay.

Quite HOW is the government protecting disabled people, from anything? And if i know this, why do not the Guardian, Channel 4 news, the BBC ….?

i despair of the future. How many wheelchair users have to lose their jobs through losing their ability to travel to work from DLA; how many terminally ill people have to lose their homes through rent arrears; how many blind people have to attend food banks before this is taken seriously and properly reported??

A good question, “stayingalive”.

Next up, “maxivory”:

Its pretty clear that many Tory MPs, none of whom have ever known any form of hardship themselves, are relishing the chance to put the boot into “people on benefits” who are they consider to be a homogenous group of workshy skivers with no motivation to better themselves. No matter that 68% of those claimants affected have jobs, the important thing is to ‘set an example’ and score a politcal victory over Labour. Never mind that the government defict reduction is wildy off target and that we still borrow 2.5bn a week, the poor MUST be made to suffer so that the Treasury can rake in another 5bn over two years.

Full time workers havent had 2.5% pay rise, so apparently its unfair to increase benefits by this amount. What facile logic. If you have a full time job earning 26,000 a year (average wage) you are infinitely better off than anyone on benefits, even if you receive no pay rise at all. Also, a 1% rise (£260) woud be materially more than a 2.5% rise in a family’s paltry £200 a week benefit (£104). They are not comparing like with like, and 99.9% of those on benefits would like.. a job.

And finally, an excellent comment from “PaulTreloar”:

I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.

That was then and this is now……

Thanks for that “PaulTreloar”.

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