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A reply to 'Anon'

Now normally I wouldn't give too much time to an Anonymous writer, but the comment I received yesterday was literate and detailed, and raised some interesting points. Firstly, I should address the following:
It also has the usual "British expat" air to it - the country has turned to excrement and that everyone else does everything better than us
To be fair, I considered the country was turning to excrement before I left. ☺

It is interesting to think that before I came to know France, my opinions of the place were more or less the usual English indoctrination of "bloody frogs". Plus spending some time watching German TV (before I got a digital receiver) showed me that Germans are more than "damn Krauts". The lesson I learned is that, more or less, everybody is the same. Sure, there are variations in outlook, but the differences of the neighbouring countries are a lot smaller than people tend to think.

It sounds like you are proud to defend the United Kingdom. This is good, French people are proud of France (usually). Germans are proud of Germany. Americans are so damn proud they take patriotism to a whole different level. I look at the UK and I find it difficult to find something to be proud of. Okay, granted, London outdid everybody with the New Year's fireworks, and I hope this spirit continues to the Olympics.

when if you care to put aside that attitude things are quite different
There are, however, a lot of things wrong with the UK. Things that could be fixed, for nothing is that broken (except maybe Greece, thanks to... um... us!) but where is the decisive leadership? The will of the people to press for something better? Look at state pensions. Look at school leaver minimum wage (actually, don't, I can understand why somebody would consider it not worth getting out of bed for £3.68/hour).

But none of this is to say that anywhere else in the world is instantly better. For all the derision I level at Britain, don't forget also:

  • United States - legal system from hell, the USPO is whatever lies beneath hell, and being paranoid and deathly afraid of imagined foes is a national preoccupation. I already know if I plan to enter into the US, to buy a blank computer and put nothing on it, so I lose nothing of value should an immigration bloke decide to image the harddisc. Invasion of privacy? Screw all of that in the name of "national security".
  • Japan - never mind the Lost Decade, never mind the safety re. Fukushima, the question I want to know is why are recovery efforts taking so long? Why has so little happened? But, then, it's - what, the sixth PM in as many years? That surely takes some beating.
  • Spain/Portugal/Italy/Greece - the weaker of the Eurozone countries. Is it a co-incidence that Germany has had a very good year, in economic terms, while Greece has all but died standing upright? I suspect there is a very definite skew in interest rates and such to benefit the countries doing well, at the cost of some others.
    Meanwhile, in the case of Greece, the bail-out countries are pushing for harsher and harsher reforms. Sure, it reduces their subsequent burden, though at what cost? Is Greece to become dependant on the richer countries for a generation or more? What if they are pushed far enough, jack it in, and bring the Euro concept crashing down - I would wonder if this wasn't really a disaster we brought upon ourselves.
There are many more examples I could point to. But you get the point, the world isn't rosy and the UK is not particularly better or worse compared to many. I, personally, think that the UK is sliding into a whole pile of caca, but as I stated at the top, there's nothing that can't be fixed if the people wake up and regain some damn national pride. And I don't mean the sort of pride that the BNP or Al Murray offer.
I think it's a little unfair to criticise our so-called lack of manufacturing. We do make things, we just don't really make mass market stuff any more
Why not? Perhaps the tax regime is too screwed up and the workers not bright enough. The Scandanavian countries are doing fairly well, and the thing they emphasise over and over and over is that their prime consideration, the one thing before all else, is education. If you don't have a capable workforce, you don't have anything to offer. Why are successive British governments hell-bent on ruining this (education)? What is wrong with a country and its education system where people who have gone far enough to arrive at "a degree" (in whatever) are unemployed? If a person with a piece of paper to wave can't get a job, what hope anybody, really?
China is today's "world's workshop", not France, not the US, not any other first-world country.
One could, uncharitably, suggest this is due to a lesser regard for safety and work conditions, plus a healthy disregard of patents and copyrights. Though, ironically, China is starting to wake up to the value of intellectual property after realising the same thing Japan realised in the '70s - it doesn't take a lot of R&D to beat the west at its own game. This is what made Japan a major player for a while - they took basic ideas and refined them beyond recognition. Now it's China's turn - and certainly they are doing some pretty astonishing things with mobile technology. The capabilities of a mid-range phone are astonishing, and I predict that the wow factor now will be humdrum in a couple of years because something even freakier and jaw-dropping will be available.

Press? You mean like the Guardian, The Independent, The Times (it's mostly good), the BBC (seems to be internationally respected), etc?
The Times sold out, so running in the background is the usual agenda, only it is more highbrow than the tabloids. Though, as you say, the average Times reader doesn't give a damn what Katie Price did today...

I'll raise your two(and a bit) worthy papers with The Daily Mail (was good in the '80s), The Daily Mirror, The Sun, and the Thank-God-Its-Gone-News-Of-The-World.

The papers you mention account for 921,593 copies average for January 2011 (source).
The papers I mention, the feckless scuzz of journalistic disingenuity, account for more than 5,332,487 copies (there's no statistic for NOTW).

Who do you think has more power over voters? A small circulation to intelligent people who can handle multisyllable words, or a massive circulation to people who get soft porn on page three?

Someone must be thinking the UK is doing something right. Alongside Germany we're the only country with investors willing to pay for the privilege of holding our debt. Why isn't France in that position?
Firstly, France has - to date - lost its triple-A from only one of the three ratings agencies, namely the one that called sub-primes to be a good thing and who made a small (as in two trillion!) error in the calculation of US national debt. It is great for scaring a jittery stock market, but I'm not sure I'd pay that much attention to what they say. Their track record doesn't do them many favours.

France isn't suffering a national crisis of a loss of AAA status because it's a crap country with unending unemployment and failing social system, it is more or less due to the degree of exposure France has to Greek debt. If Greece defaults, it will hit France hard. Was taking on this a wise decision? Perhaps not. But what is done is done, I just hope the Merkozy consortium can develop a viable solution instead of a set of half-assed patches. It is, of course, looming towards election time. That might reignite his desire to do something, instead of being remembered as "the guy that broke France and failed Greece".

Our railway is state owned. The most substantial bit is, anyway - the track and infrastructure. Only the trains and the companies who operate them are in private hands. I don't like the way things are, but it's not entirely privately owned.
Hard to say. Railtrack (there's an inspired name!) was a privatised entity. Its successor (Network Rail) is a private company underwritten by the government so it is not entirely clear if it is private or state owned. Both sides present good arguments; but one thing that is clear is that while the state might foot the bills, it is keeping the rail system at arm's length.
At least, unlike France, we fairly tender out our contracts.
Perhaps. Who was Adam Werrity again? What exactly was his role?

After Alstom wins yet another contract for SNCF you have to wonder what's going on.
Not so much. They are good at what they do and they have a good history of working with SNCF.

The flip side is that there are good carriage and locomotive builders in the UK, with many decades of experience. And the contract goes to... Siemens.
This isn't to say that Siemens can't handle the work, but why it is going there when there is British talent ready to do the job? While rampant nationalism isn't a good thing in a global economy, I do believe that if something can be done in-house (as in, by a British firm in the UK, French in France, etc), then there'd need to be a pretty good reason why it isn't done as such.

How successful would Alstom be in France if they weren't French?
It's a multinational country with bits all over the place. Perhaps their market is a little more specialised. Consider Airbus. Their main competitor is Boeing and... well, that's about it.

Scottish independence isn't going to be as rosy as you seem to think.
I don't think it'll be at all rosy. I think it'll be ugly. I just happen to also think that Scotland will rebound better.
However, if you read my posting, you'll see that I feel greater autonomy is the most viable way forward.

Think about it. Brits go on and on about not wanting to "be ruled from Brussels". Don't you think perhaps the Scots don't want to "be ruled from Westminster"? There are sufficient differences in outlook to make Westminster and Holyrood seem like polar opposites at times, and a fair number of things that are applicable to England don't suit Scotland. And no doubt vice versa. Scotland wants to have more of a say in its destiny. Fair enough. But to break away with full independence? I don't think anybody has actually sat down and figured out how much pain and suffering that will lead to. It seems, to me, to be a romantic notion rather than common sense. Thus, I feel a greater degree of Scottish autonomy is the best compromise for today.

Westminster is inevitably going to keep all it can (and it will have the ammunition to make it so)
So essentially you are saying that England will claim what it thinks it deserves by waging a war with Scotland? On the flip-side, remember which side was lumbered with the UK's pile of rusting nukes.

(presumably including those one-and-a-half Scottish banks we had to bail out - so much for Scottish financial propriety).
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group is not the same as the Royal Bank of Scotland. While it grew from that, the latter now but a small part of the group, with a lineage of banks it owns going back to the seventeenth/eighteenth century. It was at one time the world's largest company. Being heavily involved in banking - especially in sub-primes, one could say the 2008 financial crisis would hit hard. It did.
Is this Scotland's fault? Or a massive financial instrument where overpaid people made some spectacularly bad decisions? Hey - maybe they listened to Standard & Poor's advice...

Just as an aside - Sir Fred Goodwin was CEO at the time of the expansion of RBS which led to a loss of £24 billion. The Treasury Select Committee discovered that not only did he not have any training in the technicalities of running a bank, but he had no banking qualifications whatsoever. And he was the guy in charge of the UK's largest bank. How the hell did he land up there? Still, he made a cool twenty mil and we'll all spend a generation sorting out the mess.
I think you'll find you can't justifiably blame the Scots for this disaster. Sure, it carries the name "Scotland", but looking at RBS's recent history I think that would possibly be something of an embarrassment to them right now.

And oil, as we know, is a dying commodity.
Yes, although predications on the demise of oil are akin to predications on the demise of IPv4 addresses. Both are past due date.

What's Scotland going to do to prop itself up when it disappears?
Forget Scotland, what are we going to do when it disappears? In case it had slipped your mind; transportation, agriculture, non-nuke power, and our daily work run are all highly dependent upon fossil fuels, in particular oil.

Honestly, when oil runs out I don't think Scotland will be that bothered as there will be too much insanity and bloodshed to worry about such things. I believe we have lost too many skills to return to a local-agricultural way of life where we barely know the goings on beyond our nearest town. Once upon a time people knew farming. They knew the land. They knew woodwork, forging and ironwork, how to construct buildings out of stone, thatching, horse wrangling, all the sorts of skills that might be necessary to sustain life with no transport and no commute and no electricity and no Tesco. How many think they could have a decent crack at it?
I'd try. I'm pretty sure I'd fail.

I notice that your post has an overall pro-EU theme.
I would like to be pro-EU. I'm not sure that I can agree with the current implementation.

From this side of the channel it looks like our reticence to "integrate" is paying off. Not joining the Euro appears to be nothing but positive for us.
Time will tell. But don't be under any illusions here - a Euro failure will hurt the UK. A lot. That said, I don't see why Greece bailing (if they should, that is) would bring down the entire Euro currency. If one country in seventeen can destroy it, then it was probably meant to be. A solid currency ought to be able to withstand such things.

I am only partially pro-Euro, mind you. For me, it is a useful convenience for travelling to other parts of Europe and not going through the rip-off of currency exchanges. As a unified currency it allows price comparisons between countries. Couple that with the Internet, I can have the flexibility to buy from a number of locations. I am not so certain about the political side of the Euro, in specific how Greece is being handled. It is as if there's a textbook on how to encourage economic growth, and the ECB is telling Greece to do everything opposite. Nor am I convinced that the ECB isn't favouring its prime economy (Germany, France a little less) at the expense of other countries. That's why in a recent post I said that stuff like interest rates ought to be set by a majority vote of a consortium of representatives from each country.

Though, at the end of the day, I see money as simply a token. So long as the "money" has a reliable value, I don't really care if it has a picture of a gate, a chick waving her boobies, the Queen's head, a quill or piano, cherry blossom, or an eagle. To me, a banknote is a piece of paper that I can exchange for stuff.


Well, that sums up my reply. Thank you, whoever you are, Anon, for taking the time to write the lengthy comment.


Is this what "Windows Mobile" means?

DOSbox works under Android.

No, seriously. An x86 system running on an ARM.

See for yourself:

Windows 3.1 on an Android phone


Windows 3.1 on an Android phone

It is, sadly, pretty useless. This is because DOSbox queries the keyboard directly (instead of asking the phone) so it is hardwired to assume QWERTY (mine isn't) and it doesn't understand the modifier required for numbers and symbols. So while Windows 3.1 works, I can only type stuff using letters. No digits, no punctuation other than , and . and ?.

Plus, my phone being HVGA, the display is 640×480 scaled to fit a 320px height. I ought to poke around, see if I can get Windows running in a different display mode, or otherwise tell it my display isn't straight VGA.

Still, it gets looks of disbelief from those old enough to remember Windows 3. And even better expressions when I say that this must be what they mean when they say "Windows Mobile". Sadly, not everybody gets the joke...


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