Archive for the ‘London’ Category

OK, so we took the piss out of the Policy Exchange crowd for seeing reds under the seats on the bendy buses. The group rights agenda. But the interesting thing about the Borisbus is that in a sense, it bears Dean Godson and Andy Gilligan out – design and architecture are, of course, deeply political activities. We shape the things we build, and thereafter they shape us, as Winston Churchill said to RIBA (twice – he believed in making aphorisms earn their corn).

Essentially, the new bus – pics here and here– is a bog standard Wrightbus double decker with some fibreglass styling features, meant to evoke the look of the Routemaster; there’s a funny asymmetric front end, a staircase, and an open platform that isn’t actually open, because it is behind a door which will be locked while the bus is in motion. This stuff is pure ornament – it is utterly without function. Neither is there actually going to be a conductor; the existing revenue protection patrols will occasionally be on board, and that’s it.

Now, the thing about adding a lot of nonfunctional stuff for the sake of style is that it has costs. The Postmodernist architects were fascinated by the way Las Vegas casinos and the like were basically huge industrial sheds, covered with playful flourishes of style, plush carpets, neon signs; but the reason why they could get away with this is that a huge clear-span shed is a pretty efficient solution for housing a business process of some kind, whether it’s a semiconductor fabrication line, a giant distribution warehouse, a brewery, or a giant exercise in legalised fraud controlled by Lucky Luciano. The huge plaster likeness of Nefertiti draped in purple neon canted over the entrance at 27 degrees from the vertical isn’t getting in the way of anything.

But this doesn’t work in a setting of engineering rather than architecture. Changing the internal layout of a bus affects its primary function directly; one of the key limiting factors in the capacity of a bus route is how long it takes to load and unload the bus, which determines how long it waits at each stop and therefore how fast it travels. Making people climb the stairs to get in and out has real performance consequences. As pointed out here, when the rear door is shut, anyone trying to get off the bus will have to push past people getting on to use the middle door.

Also, carrying around a platform and a staircase takes up space that could otherwise be used for…well, that could otherwise be used rather than pissed away on content-free curlicues. As pointed out here, the new bus has fewer seats downstairs than a Routemaster despite being 3 metres longer. I thought we were trying to take up less space on the street and improve the turning circle?

Of course, the reason why giant motorway-side warehouses and casinos can be like they are is that they are usually built in places where land is cheap and there is lots of space…like central London, right?

So what does this tell us about the design politics involved? The first, and obvious, point is that design has consequences. As a result of the whole daft crusade, for years to come, bus users will be putting up with a worse quality of service. Frequencies will be lower, because dwell times will be higher. Alternatively, London will just have to buy more buses to maintain frequency, and fares will go up. Using the buses will be a more exasperating and unpleasant experience than it is now (and that’s saying something). Further, people who for whatever reason find the stairs difficult are going to be punished.

Second, it’s the victory of form over content. It’s not a Routemaster; it certainly hasn’t had the years of kaizen that went into the original design and specifically into the hard engineering of it, the engine and drivetrain and running gear. It doesn’t even look much like one, but the key stylistic tropes are there in order to pretend it does. I’m surprised they didn’t stitch a Lacoste croc on it. And, of course, the costs of this shameless fuckery will endure.

Third, the past must have been better. There is really no reason at all to try to make a modern bus look vaguely Routemasteresque other than kitsch and nostalgia, and it’s no better for being Gill Sans/Keep Calm and Carry On kitsch rather than the Laura Ashley version. You bet there’s going to be a lot of this crap in the next few years. (Fortunately, it also looks like the official aesthetic of David Cameron is going to be achingly unfashionable, like an official aesthetic damn well should be.) But if there is any reason to be nostalgic for Routemasters, it should surely be for the unrivalled engineering record of high reliability; being nostalgic for slower boarding times is like being nostalgic for the good old days of rickets. Come to think of it, Tories do that as well.

In conclusion, this is modern conservatism, implemented in hardware, with your taxes. The obsession with PR, spin, and guff in general? Check. The heel-grinding contempt for the poor? Check. The pride in technical and scientific ignorance? Doublecheck. The low, ugly, spiteful obsession with getting one over on political enemies? (It’s of a piece with behaviour like this.) Check.

Key quotes:
(via Boriswatch): “Never underestimate our masters’ obsession with outward form, as opposed to function and content.” That’s Gilligan, of course.

Via Adam Bienkov, “When there is no extra staff to mind them, the platforms will be closed with what Boris called a “shower curtain type jobby.”

There’s a point where his risible little village idiot act crosses over into a demonstration of overt contempt for the public, and this is it. I propose to refer to him as Shower Jobby from now on, and I would like to see this elsewhere.

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I’m actually quite pleased with our little demo. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic when we assembled in Trafalgar Square, where various speeches were made of which not one word was audible (note to the various orgs involved: I’d happily spring for some batteries for the loud hailer. I mean, my student union would have got that right, to say nothing of the SWP…). And Morrismen kept invading our space.

I originally thought this was some regrettable, Lucky Jim example of sandal-socks liberalism. Actually no; I’m informed by Tom from Boriswatch that this is actually our mayor’s idea of culture, and actual taxpayers’ money is being paid out to them. Perhaps it’s a sort of defensible-space gambit to make it harder to protest there.

Eventually, Billy Bragg – for it is he! – suggested from the platform that we march to Smith Square and picket the Local Government Association building, where the Lib Dem MPs were meeting. This basically turned the demo around, and at least it stopped him singing; off we went down Whitehall, snarling up the traffic, calling on the recently expanded camp around Brian Haw’s pad, hurling abuse at the Sky News media-slum in College Green, flanked by policemen radioing each other to work out where we were heading.

Smith Square is not roomy; this is why those TV pictures of Tories celebrating outside Central Office always looked like more of a party than they probably were. So the crowd looked bigger and the shouting was louder. And, well, we stuck around yelling until Nick Clegg came out to speak. Again, I couldn’t hear a word, and we actually found out what he said via Twitter on Tom’s BlackBerry. Which made sense, as a major aim of the demo was to get onto the TV streams and RSS feeds the MPs would no doubt be obsessively monitoring.

It wasn’t a big demo, but it was targeted – the LGA building was already staked out by a huge media presence, with the steps of the church opposite festooned with camera crews, reporters buzzing around like flies round shit, and a big ambush of photographers and more TV cams on the LGA’s steps.

This was crucial – as we were arriving during the meeting, there would be nothing for them to report on or film other than the outside of a decentish Queen Anne block, which is better architecture than it is telly. All it took was for the camera gang on the steps to swivel through 180 degrees to get a perfect angry-mob shot, while the ones on the church had a reverse angle view of a crowd apparently besieging the building. Cropping in to emphasise the speakers would tend to compress the scene, giving the impression of a more dramatic confrontation.

The results? Well, we got far more news than I expected; and we seem to have traumatised Kay Burley.

The expression on her face at the beginning is priceless. How dare they! This wasn’t on the autocue! There’s more here; later in the day, I was with Boriswatch and his charming son, Alfie, who seems to be training as a Dickensian pickpocket (he relieved his father of a £10 note with positively Sicilian panache), in the Westminster Arms, which offers its customers two TV screens, one locked on Sky News and the other to BBC News-24. With a bit of neck-craning, you could just about watch both simultaneously in a sort of split brain media experiment – what was telling was that there was more Shannon-information in the BBC feed, far less repetition, the BBC didn’t deliberately misquote Nick Clegg in all its on-screen graphics, and the BBC didn’t insist on informing me every three minutes that Mohamed Al-Fayed had sold a rather unfashionable department store.

Seriously – yesterday of all days, Al-Fayed’s sale of Harrods was in the top three stories on Sky News for at least two hours. And, as a hint, Nick Clegg didn’t say the Tories had a “right to govern”, which they repeatedly asserted as a direct quote; he said that the largest party had the right to be consulted about a coalition first, which is far from the same thing.

So how did I spend the election night? As it happens, I decided to go to bed about 1am, noting that I was beginning to get as drunk as most of the people on the BBC obviously were and there was still a while to go before any really substantive data came through. Did anyone else notice this, by the way? I’ve never seen so many important people visibly pissed before. The ruling class drinks in psychic defence, as Mr. Pop would say. And the inhabitants of the best election night thread ever.

And I am amazed that my wave of doom from yesterday has passed. I’m also delighted by the virality. Horrified by our fantastic electoral system – 800,000 more LD votes than last time, and a smaller parliamentary party? Guilty for not going to campaign for Susan Kramer. Informed that actually, “the markets” don’t care about us and there is plenty of other stuff happening in the world. Delighted by BNPFAIL and Charles Clarke and David Heathcote-Amory and Nancy Mogg and Jacqui Smith and Peter Robinson joining us all in obscurity.

I do have a serious point in this post, which is credibility. Tories on the Today programme this morning were talking about offering electoral reform for the Lords and local elections; this is not a meaningful offer, as a proportional Lords wouldn’t be much different from the current one (which has been fixed to be roughly even). For the Tories, it’s cost-free, and therefore meaningless in terms of signalling theory.

More seriously, what credibility does David Cameron have to offer anything?

To make any realistic offer from the Conservatives to the Liberals credible, they have to prove that they’re willing to pass PR for the Commons with Liberal votes against their own backbenchers.

One thing we do know about this parliament is that it’s going to super-empower everyone’s backbenches and the odds-and-sods – this is what happened in the Major years, and he had a (bare) majority. And the last-ditch Tories hate PR – hell, some of them probably aren’t fully reconciled to the Reform Act of 1832. They have nothing to lose but their safe seats; they would have every incentive to hold the government hostage at every opportunity, and they’d be roared on by the extra-parliamentary Tory right.

We simply can’t accept promises from Cameron, because there is no credible assurance he can deliver on them. And it is simply unacceptable for the outcome of an election in which 51% of the public voted for either Labour or the Liberals, and no overall majority emerged, to be that a party with 36% of the vote forms a minority government. Demonstrate tomorrow. 2pm Trafalgar Square. If you’re not in London, why not put the show on right here?

(I just noticed that the BBC results page now puts Lib-Lab ahead of Tories-DUP-Lady Sylvia if they somehow manage to bribe her round. And you’ve got to count in the 4 NI MPs who take the Labour whip.)

According to the boy Band, “London lost it for Cameron”. So meanwhile, here is some music.

Can we, can we, can we have better thinktanks already? I’m not so sure whether the worst bit is the fact they got the number wrong by a factor of four, or that they didn’t know that the National Rivers Authority doesn’t exist and hasn’t for 14 years, or just that it’s so obvious that the whole thing was based on the following reaction: “Whoo! Jetboats!!”

This project of not spending all my time Tory-slapping is going to be tough.

How could I forget this?

The Obscurer‘s coverage of the Undabomber has been marked by one man. Here he is:

Peter Hoekstra, the senior Republican on the House intelligence committee, said it was examining Mutallab’s links with the radical Yemeni imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, who has inspired a number of terrorists.

Awlaki had contacts with Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who is accused of carrying out the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in November in which 13 people were murdered. According to government officials, Awlaki was also the spiritual adviser to two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, while he was an imam at a mosque in northern Virginia. The FBI investigated him in 1999 and 2000, believing him to be a possible procurement agent for Osama bin Laden.

In Toronto, a terror cell watched videos of Awlaki at a makeshift training camp where an attack was planned on the Canadian parliament and prime minister. “He’s a star attraction as a recruiter to young Americans and Canadians,” one former American intelligence official told the US media.

This month, in an interview with Al Jazeera, Awlaki expressed surprise that the US military had failed to uncover Hasan’s plan, to which he gave his backing. “My support to the operation was because the operation brother Nidal carried out was a courageous one, and I endeavoured to explain my position regarding what happened because many Islamic organisations and preachers in the west condemned the operation,” he said.

Awlaki left the US and moved to Yemen in 2002 where he established an English-language website that has thousands of followers around the world. In January 2009, he published an online essay, 44 Ways to Support Jihad, in which he asserts that all Muslims must participate in jihad, whether in person, by funding mujahideen or by fighting the west.

There’s something missing here…can you spot it?

Concerns about his influence in the UK have been expressed by experts on community cohesion. In August, the Observer reported anger that Awlaki was due to speak via a video link at Kensington town hall. The broadcast was dropped after the local council stepped in. He has also been invited to give talks via video link at several London universities. “Mutallab is the latest in a long list of terrorists [Awlaki] has inspired and encouraged,” said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens of the Centre for Social Cohesion.

“The preacher has long been a highly respected figure within a number of British university Islamic societies because, unlike most other radical preachers, Awlaki speaks English as a first language, and being born and raised in America has given him a good understanding of western culture. This makes him very appealing to young western Muslims.”

Meleagrou-Hitchens called for British universities to increase their vigilance. “This incident should act as a wake-up call to university authorities,” he said. “It is crucial that they now accept the central role they must play in resisting extremists and preventing student groups from promoting hate preachers.”

Did you spot it? The Obscurer didn’t actually say that he had any connection with the pants bomber. They didn’t even quote Hoekstra saying so – and Hoekstra is a comedy rightwing buffoon anyway. They didn’t adduce any evidence of his connections with him in any way – just cut straight to Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens. Whose kid are you?

Oh, right. He’s “worked” for Standpoint, the Centre for Social Cohesion, Policy Exchange, and the Henry Jackson Society. I think he gets a free cup of coffee and 200 air miles if he can punch another content-free wanktank funded by the Tories’ neocon wing on his loyalty card.

PolEx’s Web site has an “Alumni” page, but mysteriously it bears no trace of him. Google, however, knows:

He has also worked at the Stanford University based think tank, the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace, and the Washington DC based think tank, Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD).

He holds an MA in International Relations from Brunel University, and a BA in Classics from King’s College London.

Alexander researched for publications providing policy recommendations on creating a robust defence against the threat of terrorism in the UK and abroad.

FDD as well! Free cuppa for you! There is, of course, no suggestion of or link to any work on terrorism he ever did.

Today, he’s in the Obscurer again. Let’s roll the tape.

Recordings of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida sympathiser who is believed to have inspired Abdulmutallab in Yemen, can be bought through British-based websites and bookshops. Three shops in London and Manchester were contacted by this newspaper last week. Staff said they could sell DVDs of the speeches by the cleric, who is banned from the UK.

As recently as last April, students at London’s City University Islamic Society’s annual dinner were invited to hear the words of al-Awlaki being broadcast live into Britain.

So why is he “believed” to have inspired pants boy? Where is the evidence? It’s not even the electioneering torture fan Hoekstra this time.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a research fellow for the think-tank the Centre for Social Cohesion,

For it is he.

said that al-Awlaki has become an increasingly influential figure. “For well over a year now, organisations such as ours have repeatedly warned about the dangerous influence of this man, with most of our warnings falling on deaf ears,” he said.

Call now and buy your anti-terrorist water ioniser – 20 per cent off before the end of this broadcast! And don’t forget to donate now and claim Gift Aid!

“They had no objection to his giving a video sermon to a gathering at Kensington and Chelsea town hall. We are also often told that, although al-Awlaki’s views may be unsavoury, he has never been convicted of any crime. Clearly, this excuse is simply not good enough.”

The excuse that he hasn’t done anything wrong.

Further, Hitchens Minor seems to be missing someone in his laudable crusade on the home front. I refer, of course, to the current and past tenants of Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall, or in other words, the Conservative Party in London. Could this perhaps have something to do with the fact that his boss at Policy Exchange is now the Conservative Mayor of London’s director of policy?

Aaronovitch Watch reflects upon dinner with Denis MacShane. There’s an important point here, and one that was well made as a by-product of Nick Davies’ brilliant reporting on Operation PENTAMETER 2, a giant police sweep looking for prostitutes brought into the UK by force that failed to find even one. It turned out that the entire project was driven by policy-based evidence – a succession of politicos and thinktanks progressively taking what had once been the upper bound in an actual study, treating it as an actual forecast, and then adding a bit.

Not so long ago, I had the opportunity of discussing this with a source in the Met vice squad, and the take-home message is Davies was being conservative – it was actually worse than that.

Anyway, one of the most egregious examples of PBE in the story was the fault of none other than MacShane, who promptly responded by writing to the Guardian and accusing Davies of “taking the side of the managers of the sex industry”. As Davies pointed out in the original story, the whole thing followed the pattern of the campaign for war with Iraq with uncanny accuracy.

There was the exaggeration by stripping out caveats, the practice of using deliberately extreme limiting cases as central forecasts, the search for anyone who would provide the right kind of intelligence when the intelligence services’ intelligence didn’t fit around the policy…and the shameless red-baiting attacks on anyone who disagreed. Sniff, sniff. Are you a good anti-Fascist? Will you condemn, etc, etc?

The lesson, however, is that some people seem to gravitate to this set of tactics or political style (because that’s what it is); if Denis MacShane worked for the Party of Kittens, he’d be secretly briefing the press that Mickey Mouse was part of a decadent Hollywood-liberal elite in league with feline leukaemia, based on his summary of a leaked report from the newly established Council for a Flea-Free Future, and if you called him out on it, he’d get all the members of the Accuracy in Cat-Related Media mailing list to write and accuse you of being objectively pro-dog.

Come to think of it, it’s part of the package of modern thinking; you need a Boris Johnson-esque clown figure, a Tony Blair-esque tebbly tebbly concerned type, and a MacShane-esque underhand thug.

fake sheikhs

Boris Johnson is opposed to more congestion charging, but not quite yet; however, he is also keen on “road pricing”. I can see a couple of explanations for this.

One is that there’s no “there” there – he’s an unstable personality without intellectual substance and with a practised TV clown act, like George W. Bush, and therefore the various interest blocks around him push him this way and that according to the tides of City Hall internal politics. Standard cognitive biases lead him to believe that whatever policy is imposed on him, it’s right and he believes in it. The petrol head faction demand their freedom to drive, or rather, sit in traffic jams, and they get it; the TfL civil servants and the Tory wets push back, and he gives into them as well. The Dunning-Kruger effect allows him to imagine that only he can integrate the two.

The other is that there is some kind of aesthetic/emotional/ideological distinction between the congestion charge – invented by Red Ken to harass free-born Englishmen with camera and database – and road pricing, which would make people pay what the service is worth, etc, etc. Road pricing suggests that roads might be a premium product; paying the price might attract status. Congestion charging is evidently something like a tax, and one that is levied on congestion; it’s one of the great conservative rhetorical achievements that people in cars complain about the presence of other people in cars, aka congestion.

It’s also true that London Tories and their surrounding infrastructure staked a lot of credibility on the inevitable failure of the congestion charge; the Evening Standard spent months in the run-up to its launch threatening and promising chaos, the Tory group in the London Assembly developed a heavily promoted charging spokesperson, and then…where is the earth-shattering kaboom? And, of course, a sizeable chunk of the budget is dependent on it. So it could just be rhetorical pretzel twisting to justify the policy to themselves.

Either way, this is all fairly typical of the irrational politics of the modern thinkers. Political unreason is how prejudices get expressed; so who gets the bill?

Bus passengers, that’s who; not only are they disproportionately poor, eastern, central, and Labour (or rather, Ken Livingstone)-voting, but it’s got to have some influence that they travel in rolling manifestations of “the group rights agenda”. On the other hand, drivers are still being threatened with road pricing – is that, I wonder, code for bringing back the idea of GPS-tracking cars rather than just gating central London? Clearly, this isn’t so much a strategy, as an uncontrolled drift that nevertheless shows a certain trend, demonstrating the underlying prejudices.

Unsurprisingly, we get quite a few “whoops, airport” moments: here’s one. I have to say, appealing to “sheikhs” as the answer to financing anything deserves to be the standard marker of amateur hour. Knowing this lot, they’d manage to land Suleiman al-Fahim bidding without telling his dad.

Relatedly, compare this basically sensible post, quoting Mark Kleiman’s suggestion that the bulk of the great reduction in crime from the early 90s might be explained by the elimination of lead in petrol, and Chris Dillow’s post arguing that Boris Johnson ought to be held responsible for the same biological effects if he stops the expansion of the London low emissions zone. While it’s abstract and generally Drum/Kleiman-esque, everyone nods and smiles; once Dillow spits in his eye, just watch the troll QRF come charging out, moaning and whining.

What is the legacy of the so-called “loony left”? The conventional wisdom is clear; it was all their fault, for panicking the swing voters and preventing a sensible, Newish Labour solution emerging earlier. Well, how did that work out?

And it has always seemed disingenuous for the Labour Party establishment to blame local councillors for a period when the party’s central institutions were regularly totally out of contact with the public mood and spectacularly incompetent; it certainly serves the interests of the top officials and MPs to push responsibility onto an amorphous and vague stereotype essentially based on hostile newspapers’ take on the 1980s. Arguably, believing hostile newspapers’ take on itself has been the fundamental mistake of the Left since about 1987; the entire Decent Left phenomenon, after all, was all about demonising anyone who was right about Iraq in identical terms. Does anyone imagine that the Sun in the Kelvin McFuck era wouldn’t have savaged and libelled any non-Tory power holders?

In a comment at Dunc’s, Paul “Bickerstaffe Record” says:

I want to kick off a bottom up meets top down economic analysis of how Labour /Left leaning local authorities should now be challenging the Thatcherite orthodoxies of cost control/rate capping in a sort of ‘1980s no cuts militant’ meets 2000s grassroots-dictated economic policy. The institutional/legal framework has of course changed out of recognition since 1984, but heh, that’s a challenge rather than an insurmountable problem

He has a point. Consider the position; it’s still conceivable that Labour might luck into a hung parliament next year, cue Liberal and Nationalist (of various types) rejoicing, but any realistic planning has to include a high probability of a fairly rabid Tory government in the near future. Further, the financial position is not great – it’s nowhere near as bad as Gideon Osborne makes out, as a look at the gilt rates shows, but it’s very far from ideal.

So whoever is in charge will be looking for cuts, and it is a reliable principle of Whitehall politics that one of the best ways to get a policy implemented that you want for your own ideological aims is to attach it to a supposed saving. Only the special relationship and the police-media complex can beat this principle as all-purpose justifiers.

The possibility space includes a Labour government in coalition or under a toleration agreement with the Liberals, which is likely to still be strongly influenced by the Blairite stay-behind agents, a Conservative government heavily influenced by products of 80s Tory culture (the mirror image of the London Labour party in the same period), and some sort of grand-coalition slugthing. It is clear that the balance of risks is towards an effort to legitimise a lot of ugly hard-right baggage through an appeal to cuts.

The Tories are planning to make all spending departments justify their budgets at line item level to none other than William “Annington Homes” Hague; it’s certainly a first in British history that the Foreign Secretary will control the public spending settlement, if of course he finds the time to show up.

Therefore, even though there is a need to steer the public finances back towards balance once the recession is clearly looking over, there is a strategic imperative to push back and push back hard against the agendas the cross-party Right will try to smuggle through. After all, the nonsense industry is already cranking up.

Which brings me back to the importance of being loonies, and a bit of politics by walking around. One thing that strikes me about North London is how much stuff in the way of public services here was visibly built in the late 70s and the 1980s; there is a reason why Ken Livingstone hopped right back into the Mayor’s office. Despite all their best efforts, the Thatcherites were never quite able to shake the core welfare state; was it, in part, because down on the front line people were still pushing out its frontiers and changing its quality?

A lot of ideas (service-user activism, notably, environmentalism, a renewed concern for architecture and urbanism, and the whole identity-politics package) that were considered highly loony back then are now entirely orthodox and are likely to stay that way, especially given the main parties’ obsession with putting taxpayer funds into the “third sector”.

I fully expect that anyone who talks a good game about making black schoolboys click their heels in front of teacher – you know the stuff they like – will be able to secure reliable venture capital funding in the million class from a Cameron government, just as they have been able to from Boris Johnson’s City Hall, with remarkably little monitoring. William Hague will be snarky. Let him. Nobody cares what the Foreign Secretary has to say.

This creates both opportunities for action – perhaps someone should prepare a Creative Commons or GPL toolkit for citizen-initiated delivery quangos and thinktanks – and also targets for ruthless mockery, when the Tories’ preferred third sector entities fuck up. We’ve already had some very fine examples of this courtesy of Boris Johnson. Clearly, the only rational response to the times is to go mad.

Keep the shit and the drinking water separate, and you’ve gone most of the way from an average life expectancy of 35 to one of 75. Boris Johnson, famously, decided that replacing London’s water mains was a minor issue that could be thrown out as a sop to the roads lobby.

So here’s the Borisfeed. It monitors Transport for London traffic data, BBC travel alerts, an automated Google News search, and posts to Flickr, filters everything but burst water mains, and excretes them as stinking RSS. This is only the beginning; I’m planning to keep statistics as well, and perhaps pull everything together in a little page of Boris Johnson, with the inevitable IBM ManyEyes charts. (For some reason I nearly wrote MakingEyes.) Perhaps I could even have it push out updates through Twitter or some XMPP thing.

Via Airminded, find your local V2 rocket strike. London, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Tehran have what in common? That’s right, it’s the list of cities that have been subjected to attack from space.

Then, why not go here and look up how big a hole it made? Someone’s photographed and flickr’d a whole set of London County Council damage assessment maps.

My local strike is now a small, never-used park on one side of the street and a pretty grim council estate on the other. But damage in this corner of London was limited compared to further down the Holloway Road. Oddly, there seems to be a correlation between the degree of damage and the London Profiler crime rate; the area south of Torrington Way, which has a sky-high crime rate, was pretty much flattened. (Sadly, the LCC maps aren’t geotagged, so making up a KML overlay would be annoyingly difficult.)

Question – is it that these areas were rebuilt as council housing and filled with the poor, or that the architecture caused the crime? After all, they were hardly peachy suburbia before being destroyed. Strange, though, to think that Wernher von Braun partly decided where tonight’s post-pub kebab stabbing is likely to happen.