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Sitrep

I was planning on hitting another hornets' nest with a baseball bat this week just to keep you amused (candidate topics: why Libertarians are like Leninists; how to solve the housing crisis (and why it won't happen); the end of the American Century), but my ability to cope with delusional narcissists and real estate agents is running critically low right now. I am 70,000 words into the first draft of a 100,000 word novel, which is great, except that I really want to get it finished by January 28th—and I'm about to take three compulsory days off writing (because family stuff).

So instead, I want you all to pitch in and try to come up with the best caption for this really cute cat photo I found on reddit. Such teeth, very hairless, wow!

Maybe some enterprising cipherpunks can base a cryptocurrency on it ...

NSFW cat photo

192 Comments

1:

"If anyone calls me Rudolf, I'll take their nose off"

2:

I don't know why, but I think the best part is the cat balls just sort of hanging out in the picture. Like the cat's pissed off 'How many time do I need to tell you, stop snapping pictures of my balls!"

3:

"No, I'm not neutered. That reminds me, my last vet died in a tragic and bloody accident…"

4:

That's a cat? I thought CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN had started early

5:

You're not supposed to crossbreed cats with dinosaurs, you know.

6:

"Dobby just wasn't the same after the Engorgio misfire incident'
/fetches coat

7:

@2 I'm only 50% certain that's a ball and not some giant insect's eye... Which might explain the anger in the cat's face "Stop snapping me and help me kill the mega fly you idiot!"

8:

My only comment is that people who deliberately breed such genetically defective animals ought to be locked up for animal cruelty.

9:

Having met a number of sphinxes, I disagree strongly.

(Now, Scottish folds are another matter. And "modern" Persians of the flat-face variety. But sphinxes are pretty well adjusted, aside from the lack of most of their hair.)

10:

Dang! That porcelain sure is cold.

11:

Any creature that has had its ability to survive in the wild compromised by us is a victim of Human criminality.

12:

Solving the housing crisis is easy, to the first-order approximation: build another million houses. That's an economic activity that pays for itself and would mop up unemployment overnight.

I could write a long essay on why we aren't doing it. The short version is that most of the people who already have houses don't want it to happen, and those people do a lot more voting than the ones who suffer from the shortage of houses. Wearing my political hat, I can confidently state that the funding, resources, and manpower are available. We even have enough brown-field land to do it on! It's just that building houses in the quantities we need them is massively unpopular and hence is a political no-go zone.

13:

Ahh, the life of Crime! *bites on a sausage*

14:

And to get back on topic: "Damn, caught! Better make myself look big."

15:

We have enough brownfield land for them? That's interesting, is London really that full of empty space?

16:

Well the first thing you build are a lot of billboards around the M25 saying "London is full. Go away." You then build housing where people want it, outside London.

17:

After 40 years Mrs. Smith began to suspect there was something odd about the Ring Muffin had swallowed.

18:

"Yiff me, you furvert? I'll yiff YOU! Then I'll eat you..."

19:

Hypocrisy and/or weakness does not excuse criminal acts

20:

All land within the M25 gets planning permission. The subsequent bank bailouts due to falling house prices and now "toxic" assets do not happen. Every bank that fails gets taken over by the state or left to disintegrate.

21:

Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate.

Ceiling cat? No. The other one. Watching you do lolcats with Libertarians.

22:

WHAT F*@#ING CHEEZBURGER?

23:

Yeah, they're blue. What about it?

24:

Makes you wonder if, like sweaty, hairless humans, sphynxes have better jogging endurance than regular cats, due to their naked skin and (theoretical) ability to sweat more. Certainly the sphynxes I've seen tend to be athletic.

25:

Once you go black, I will scratch your fucking eyes out.

26:

Cats don't sweat. That includes sphynxes.

(Through their skin, I mean; they sweat through their paws, but mostly do heat evaporation through panting, and through grooming.)

27:

There is no Fluffy, there is only Zuul.

28:

"You know too much to live, Van Helsing!"

30:
"Cats don't sweat. That includes sphynxes."

To niggle - because, internet - cats do sweat all over. But you're right that the apocrine sweat glands they have around hair follicles aren't really used for heat loss in cats.

... and actually, now that I think of it, since sphinxes are hairless I've no idea if they'd have the apocrine sweat glands... to the googles...

Yes - apparently they do. And since they don't have the fur the sweat evolved in parallel with it can build up and cause skin problems.

31:

Small animals have bigger problems with containing enough heat then with dissipating it. This is definitely true for mice-sized creatures, cats are bigger but probably not big enough. So having faster heat loss they get not an advantage but a problem. Especially those living in middle and high lattitudes.

32:

Please feel free to hit a hornet's nest when you have time. It's fun to read the OP & the agonized replies as to why you are so wrongy Wrong WRONG! Because! (insert circular reasoning and dodgy 'facts' as appropriate)

33:

Pets of the living dead.

34:

Solving the housing crisis is easy, to the first-order approximation: build another million houses.

Why stop at a million? I thought the current shortage was a quarter of a billion...


Of course, having seen (and lived in) a million-flat project, I suspect you'll end up with at least three fairly inevitable problems:

* If you're building a million flats to the same (slowly evolving) set of plans, you'll have resources to make sure those plans are right, but any remaining infelicities of planning or execution will be national-level concerns. Questions will be Asked in Parliament.

* Any project of this size will have time and money constraints; you'll end up with aspects optimised for speed and/or cost of construction and otherwise at merely "perfectly serviceable" standard. Maybe the bathroom walls will be plastic prefab rather than tiles.

* It'll be repetitive.

I don't think there's any way of avoiding these high-level problems. You can avoid a lot of particular problems, if nothing else by learning from existing million-flat projects, but I think these three are pretty unavoidable. If you want a million flats built, you will have these outcomes.

35:

Neat! I still wonder which would last longer on the treadmill, a sphynx or a Siamese in winter coat of approximately the same size.

Perhaps we could use Zuul as a test subject there?

36:

"There's something on the wing!"

37:

Unfortunately a lot of people do want to build houses in and around London. So what we first have to do is to make other parts of the country more attractive. According to this map the highlands and islands appear relatively underpopulated ;-)

38:

MOM!!! Don't you knock?!

39:

"I smell you, I hear your breath, I feel your air."

Hairless cats seem very reptilian to me, at least until they walk across me, then they seem like reptiles full of slowly combusting, bubbling napalm.

40:

There are a number of things Big Government can do to make places outside London more attractive but they're expensive and have a low return on investment generally. The smart thing to do is to make London less attractive by NOT spending a hundred billion quid on Crossrail and the southern leg of HS2 and a third runway for Heathrow and, Gods forbid, Boris' mindbogglingly expensive new estuary airport.

My own one-stop-shop solution to overcrowding in the south-east would be to construct a new Parliament building in the outskirts of Birmingham, a bit like the Hague or Washington DC which were located well away from established population centres. The existing Houses of Parliament are overcrowded, way too small for the current number of representatives for Britain's expanded population and they need a new purpose-built facility. Positioning it in the Birmingham area puts it closer to the centre of the country's population and the relocation would naturally drag a lot of the money and influence and working population out of the south-east, balancing things a bit better. Not going to happen though.

41:

The image is a fail on account of no glowing eyes.

(A good friend of mine has a sphinx cat. he's warm and fuzzy - literally, they're like a hot water bottle covered in peach fuzz. But they do look scary in pictures. She occasionally posts extra-scary one on Facebook, and with flash photography they look like the devil incarnate)

42:

Para 2 - Can I suggest that someplace a little North of Personchester would be better/

43:

A good point, it would be further away for the majority of the UK population. Better yet, Orkney, and then Scottish independence would have an extra benefit for the rest of us.

44:

Personchester is too far north, I think, I chose Birmingham as the new location for Parliament because the distance needed for MPs to travel to a sitting would be more equitable -- the southern MPs would have to travel farther but the northern and central England MPs would have to travel less. The south of England will remain populous even after the shift and so it would still have a lot of constituencies. Birmingham already has good communications (airport, motorways, rail etc.) to support a new national capital so it's the obvious place to put a new parliamentary building.

My proposal is intended to slow down the unsustainable and unaffordable growth of the London area by reducing its "attractive nuisance" level. It won't stop that growth entirely.

45:

See here for a map of how the population of the UK is distributed. When you see how the London area outweighs Wales and Scotland combined, you begin to see why there is such an imbalance.

It also demonstrates why HS2 is being proposed to link London with the largest adjacent population nexus.

46:

That's logical enough, but surely after North Britain has been formed from Scotland and the north of England the central point would be Oxford or Northampton?

47:

Also, we want to avoid the Korean mistake of putting the capital within artillery range of the border.

48:

But Northampton, being beyond Hatfield, is in the North. The clue is in the name.

More seriously, removing Scotland moves the centre of gravity across Birmingham, and without defining what 'the north of England' actually comprises it's difficult to be more exact. Chopping off everything north of Brum itself might give you Northampton, but at that point we might as well go for the 'build a wall round London' option.

(That low concrete wall along much of the M25 central reservation? That's not ... no? Damn.)

49:

Sure the cat has a scary face, but man... those balls are intense!

50:

It has the ring! My precious.

51:

So almost all of humanity is a victim of human criminality. Good to know.

Also, not a crime. Also, not genetically defective.

52:

I like those hornet's nest topics, I hope you do ask them at some point. (The libertarian/leninist one sounds interesting, and fairly plausible since they ultimately have the same ideological roots back in the 19th century).

As for the housing crisis - which crisis, and where? I'm not too familiar with the problems in the UK, except that from a US perspective your prices seem high.

In the US the problem really varies by location, with San Francisco notoriously being the worst. But in most cases shortages and price problems are due to local laws and regulations -- people seeking to preserve the character or atmosphere of the place. In some cases it is restrictions on building height, or on lot sizes. In New England a lot of towns won't let you go below an acre or half acre, and have a minimum distance that buildings must be from the property line. Or they don't run water and sewer outside of the main town, which means you're limited to well water and septic systems (which limits how many people can live in a house).

53:

might as well go for the 'build a wall round London' option.

(That low concrete wall along much of the M25 central reservation?

Ah, the Simon Morden "Metrozone" solution. Greatly relaxed planning and building regs as well.

54:

For no apparent reason, my connotation was this: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_Salty_Balls

So this would be called "Put them in your mouth and suck'em. I DARE YOU!" (and my sincere apologies if this triggers your automatic moderation filters)

55:

Um, you do realize that Seoul's far older than the border?

The border between the current Koreas was drawn up by two American army officers at the end of WWII (Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel). They were given 30 minutes to determine where the border would be, and chose the rough midpoint of the 38th parallel, because it left Seoul in the American controlled portion. As they later noted, had they known anything about Korea at the time, they would have drawn a different border. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of preparing for Japan's surrender at the end of WWII (Japan owned Korea at the time), and they were a bit rushed.

IIRC, the border bisects three provinces whose borders had been stable for centuries, and ironically runs right across the slopes of a sacred mountain that an ancient king was told to conquer by an oracle in order to unite the peninsula.

56:

you know why its called Manchester ?
supposedly there are 2 hills and they looked like boobs,, those Saxons

57:

More bats to hornet nests, please!

I especially would like to see the responses to "End of American Century" -- partly because it interests me more than the other two topics, and party because it would cause a huge fight among Libertarians -- some of them think End of American Century is both inevitable and long overdue, while others can not even imagine the concept.

58:

Speaking as a resident of Birmingham (once described by Dave Lermit as "Mordor, with underpasses"), we have enough undesirables here already without adding hundreds of politicians to the mix. My vote would be in favour if relocating them to Rockall (if that's considered unsuitable, my second choice would be Gruinard).

59:

Rockall is undesirable because Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland also claim it, and getting rid of Parliament isn't worth the international incident and/or littering charges.

60:

Rockall is too small, though suitably remote. Now Gruinard, what with it having apparently been decontaminated, might be a good idea.

(We wouldn't have wanted anthrax being spread to the politicians' home constituencies.)

And that's the problem - it's actually got to be somewhere accessible, because of the requirement to shuttle between the parliament chambers (and committee rooms) and the actual constituencies. London is. And Birmingham is.

61:

The HS2 scheme as proposed makes London and the south-east even more desirable as a place to live and work, attracting more people, forcing house prices up further, crowding the Tube and roads and buses even more requiring more infrastructure like Tube extensions which will attract more people etc. etc. Spending money in the London area has an undesirable positive-feedback effect on population numbers, basically.

I think HS2 is a great idea, the major change I would make to it would be to prioritise the Manchester-Birmingham link boosting local industry and population and only add the London segment later (also fewer NIMBYs and BANANAs to deal with). Assuming that Scotland doesn't vote for independence later this year then a Manchester-Glasgow HS2 extension would be my next step after Birmingham-Manchester. The existing rail links between London and Birmingham are actually very good for a 1970s population density, something that should be the aim of any new regeneration plans in the south-east. The alternative is to line up cattle trucks in the Paddington freightyard, grab every second commuter in the city centre on a given Wednesday evening and ship them all out to Penzance or points west.

62:

How about that nice Building B30 at Sellafield?

There's a bit of rising damp in the basement but I'm sure once it's been sorted out they could build a debating chamber on top. It's about the same area as the Houses of Parliament. And it would certainly keep debates short and to the point.

63:

Yeah, but you might end up with MPs refusing to actually turn up for votes.

And you also need committee rooms, since that's actually where most of the work is done.

64:

"I'm so sorry, Ron," Hermione said. "I guess Crookshanks ate Scabbers after all."

65:

So you want Parliament to work less competently than it does today? Libertarian, are you?

66:

If you're moving the seat of government anyway, just move it to Milton Keynes - an actual planned "city of the future" with cool bike roads all over the place and plenty of space to expand and grow all around it, also pre-existing rail links.
When that is full, move up to Leicester or Peterborough, start planning new future towns up and up moving every 15-20 years or so and starting construction on the next one as the previous starts working :)

67:

Re the link to the UK cartogram at 45. Here's an equivalent one for the 48 contiguous US states. I knew intellectually that the UK population was much more concentrated in its cities than the US, but the cartograms really bring it home. US population is much more spread out, particularly in the eastern part of the country. The American West has similar concentrations, but most of that is because so much of the region is simply hard to inhabit.

68:

So my owners are nudists ... what are you going to do about it?

69:

Engaging GORGON STARE...

70:

Hm, for the hornets, I just found this article about a classification of religion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninian_Smart#Dimensions_of_religion

Applying them to different phenomena should be fun...

71:

Hence my suggestion of Personchester; it has everthing that Barmyhum has, except that it can't be made "under 1 hour from Larndarn" short of a direct latest model Shinkansen line.

72:

The London-hating is getting close to racism, here (/snark)
Actually, there is almost no "housing crisis".
There are huge numbers of vacant & semi-vacant properties - mostly over shops.
This is a landlord / tenant problem & also one of lots of little pots of moany rquired to renovate those properties.
HS2 - the speakers here have fallen in to the two usual traps/lies promulgated about it.
TRAINS TRAVEL BOTH WAYS, OK? (And so do the passengers on them)
This was the loonie Welsh Nats' argument against the Severn Bridge - that it would suck the life out of S Wales ....
Oh, & (LURVE "Mordor with underpasses") Brummagem is an intermediate point on HS2.
Manchester & Leeds are much more important, as is/are links to Newcaste, Edinburgh, Glasgow.

73:

On the subject of capital cities, that sounds like an outdated model of governance. Why do we need a designated "capital city" in this day and age? We don't even need a permanent physical parliament building; what's stopping us having a more distributed government, and when large numbers of MPs absolutely HAVE to all meet up, the UK is replete with cities containing more than enough hotel and conference room space.

74:

How about a pocket universe? That way you don't have to see or hear the politicians as they blather on; and if they get too bothersome, you just pinch off the access . . . .

75:

You're talking about Scotland, right? :p

76:

The problem is that this is much more open to interference and outright vote fraud by the people running the technical system(not necessarily the government as much as some subdivision thereof). Not to mention what happens when you have connectivity problems...I work in a middling-big Hi-tech company and the internet here tends to cause problems at least once a day, if not more often.What happens when this occurs in the middle of a PM's speech?Or worse, just as they are asking that question from the benches that would have caused the minister to look bad?

77:

"The problem is that this is much more open to interference and outright vote fraud by the people running the technical system(not necessarily the government as much as some subdivision thereof)."

Yes... and no. When an MP checks his own voting record and discovers that his vote aganist the motion somehow appears to have turned into a vote in favour of the motion, I suspect they will say something. Vote-rigging only works if it's a secret ballot.

"What happens when this occurs in the middle of a PM's speech?"

What's the need to listen to the whole thing live? What's the need for the PM to even have a speech? It's slow and inefficient and subject to all the problems of oratory; the written word is superior in every way that I care about in terms of government.

"Or worse, just as they are asking that question from the benches that would have caused the minister to look bad?"

Again, what's the need for this? These are hangovers from an era when it could take a week to cross the UK and there was no efficient way to communicate at a distance. We don't need them. We can do a lot better.

78:

The semantic and syntactic content of a conversation(i.e. words, as written) contain maybe 20% of the information in conversation, by depriving the debate of the pragmatic side-channel(tone of voice, body language) you make the business of lying that much easier. Humans are OK lie detectors, given the chance - for example, when somebody comes under fire in a debate, facing an embarrassing question they did not expect, the little tics give a lot away.

These were just two example of the way you can rather easily shape(or mess) debate given a telepresence mode of government. I did not even start on the possibilities of someone faking a declaration by some government minister, or other possible shenanigans. Personally I'd want to see someone try that with a much smaller mode of governance before I'd consider it a viable option.

79:

What's the need to listen to the whole thing live? What's the need for the PM to even have a speech?

I just had a flash-forward vision to the next Queen's Speech, in which David Cameron announces that from henceforth, the PM's question time will be replaced by the PM's Weekly Post-Prandial PowerPoint Presentation.

Shoot me now.

81:

I was rather thinking that actually, if the PM has something he wishes to communicate to everyone else, he writes it down and sends it out. Teleconference? Such that everyone has to synchronise so they're all available at the same time? If we're going to do that, we might as well not bother fixing it at all.

If you genuinely are afraid that official government documents might be intercepted and altered, that problem already exists. The government already operates like that. There's no advantage to Dave delivering his words through a speech.

82:

I also meant to say, that a debate is a test of someone's ability to speak. It's not a test of the content of their message. The sooner we move away from debates as a means of governance the better.

83:

Considering that backbenchers in any democratically elected Parliament/Congress considerably outnumber the movers-and-shakers, teleprescence would be the worst form of invitation to such politicians for them to bugger off and do nothing at all or, worse yet, go off and do something foolish (expensive) that their electorate would later regret. If politicos are forced to stay in the same room, they can at least be monitored.

Also - haven't you ever watched any news coverage of the G7/G20 summits in any of the past host cities ... it's a huge money drain and often an invitation for civic violence with the 'anti-big gov' roadies facing ill-trained police. Or do you want a specially-trained traveling police force unit accompanying these government meeting events/read shows?

That said --- I would like some attempt at government by telepresence, I just don't know what the rules should be. Any ideas, with pros and cons? (Do you really want government a la reality TV?)

84:

I must have expressed myself very badly here somewhere. I am against telepresence. I see very little benefit to all the MPs sitting in a room listening to a few of them debate each other for hours on end. I believe there are far more efficent ways for them to get their jobs done.

85:

Oops. Darn fumble-fingers pressed submit. Anyway;

"Also - haven't you ever watched any news coverage of the G7/G20 summits in any of the past host cities"

What's that got to do with this? I'm not proposing that we host lots of international political events. I'm proposing that something that already happens every day - some MPs getting together for a meeting. Why would they suddenly turn into dog n' pony shows?

86:

I got the impression that you were suggesting a traveling federal/state (whatever) government road-show and used the G7/G20 as examples of how that typically works out ... not particularly well.

Like many other business people, communications via email/Skype are a large part of my day-to-day work. These methods are convenient for routine updates between a small number of individuals but not so great when working on time-constrained multi-member team projects and you need an overall assessment/decision or when a problem is hard to articulate. In such a situation, face-to-face still works best so that the team/manager can pick up on cues, quickly try scenarios, etc.

With government, largely because most government systems are actually set up to be confrontational, i.e. elected gov vs. official opposition, it would be hard to predict when you'd need to get a read of not just your fellow party members but also of the 'opposition'.

87:

It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the balls again.

Cat caption or government esprit-de-faire... You decide.

88:

Give that cat some female feline companionship or have him fixed, poor thing's so backed up it's no wonder he acts psychotic. Like the time a stray tomcat showed up on the porch with a stroll & roll friendly act, I reached down to scratch his ears and it switched to attack mode. Disgusted, I went back indoors and it started doing the introductory wail section from "The Immigrant Song," I realized so THAT'S where the tune came from. Then the indoor cat tried coughing up a hairball and it sounded like Robert Plant singing "you shook me ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh all night long." Ah, the classics.

89:

Yet international companies composed of many, many, many more people than we have MPs manage without all getting together. How many of our MPs need to speak to every other MP? Working groups of MPs could certainly meet as needed, but herding them all into a large chamber to nod off as a handful of charismatic dickheads at the front score oratory points off each other is a massive waste of everyone's time, and once you remove that, there's really no need for all of them to spend so much time in London.

90:

Manchester and Birmingham are too crowded to be capital cities. Leeds or maybe Harrogate would be a better bet.

91:

Why have a capital city at all?

92:

Actually, the Holy Roman Empire (optional suffix: of the German nation) used the "travelling court" paradigm for quite some time:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiserpfalz

As noted in the article, the idea was to enable personal contact between ruler and vassals, what with difficult long range travel and like. In some ways the exact opposite of what we have with the G7 meetings.

If we use the G7 ritual. there are two outcomes:

a) politicians change their policy
b) politicians stop visiting place, weakening control and ultimately leading to secession of place.

93:

"Caves of Steel." Evolving into Trantor...

94:

Meanwhile we have the periapatetic troughsnout of the EU, migrating to Straßburg one week in 4, to allow more jollies at our expense.
Or something.

95:

Ah, I always knew you were stuck in the past, but not that much.

Greg, Strasbourg is a French speaking city, and it is in France, and it has been in France since the Treaty of Versailles, excluding a period of occupation during the Second World War. Using the specifically German name for it when you're not German, nor addressing Germans, is rather odd for anyone born after the beginning of the 20th Century.

As for the Brussels/Strasbourg migration, yes, it's a huge waste to up sticks and move twice a month, and the sooner it can be ended the better. It might be fine for those MEPs (mostly UKIP and fellow travellers it seems) who don't bother voting or taking part in committee work, but for working politicians and staff it's an upheaval and expense they'd be happier without. As for its effect on a rather charming city, it's probably mixed - I guess the restaurants and hotels are better able to survive with the monthly influx, but housing is horribly expensive (yeah, so we check Estate Agency prices when we visit places).

The apparent proposal to have the Westminster parliament migrate round the country would be worse, since it would involve more people (the EU one is 700 people) and more places.

96:

Actually, I'd vote for applying the variant from the Alsatian dialect: Strossburi

Come to think about it, err, no, I guess no relation to OGH.

97:

That might do. Using a local name for a place is usually OK, if potentially pretentious. But that assumes they've not defined an English name for it as well — the best example of that is the requirement for English speakers to not use the name Eire — or that there isn't a long-established and widely used English name (e.g. Dunkirk).

Having said which, finding a Strasbourgeois who speaks the old dialect may be a bit tricky.

I'm often bemused by the British use of the name Basle for the Rhine city just south of Alsace. The locals call it Basel because they're German speaking and that's the German language name for the city. 'Basle' is sort-of the French name ('Bâle' with the 'â' reverted back to 'as'), and I suppose we Brits took it a long time back from the French, who are after all the people who border both us and it. (The BBC consider it here)

98:

Merchant Princes watch... child's toy made from titanium.

Also 3D-printed. But it's the titanium that's interesting, because there's so little reason for the choice of material... almost as though they made it out of whatever was to hand.

99:

Or that they are researching out manufacturing methodologies and materials, wanted to make something from titanium, and the letter came in.

It makes a change from teapots.

100:

So does the naked cat with the blue balls sit down to a spot of tea from the Utah teapot after he hunts down the tiny blue titanium dragon?

101:

Old romantic that I am, & not knowing any Altdeutsch ...
& also looking for a wind-up that seems to have worked ...
Of course Straßburg would be the modernised form of its' name whan it was part of Lothar's Regnen
Later efereed to as Lotharingia, ( or even Lorraine) of which the last remnants are what are now called the Netherlands & Belgium.
[ Lothar was one of Charlemagnes son's who got the strip of territory in the middle, which, nedless to say was then picked at & fought over - lots of times.

102:

In his house at O'Rlyeh, Great Cathulhu suddenly awoke.

Apologies to all.

103:

Err, actually the Alsatian German dialects still seem to be somewhat present, wiki cites a study saying there are about 500.000 adult speakers, with about 1.800.000 people in Alsace. And they are not Old German, just a regional dialect of German, though I guess most Standard German speakers might need subtitles to understand a movie in it. Though then, similar applies to quite a few other, err, German "dialects", Bavarians are another contender. For a map, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Continental_West_Germanic_languages.png

As already mentioned, the Anglic languages (or dialects) are quite close with Frisian, and maybe Low German.

OK, first of some nomenclatura, sorry if I repeat this ad nauseam. The German used e.g. in German television or when politicians talk or like is called "Standarddeutsch" (Standard German) or "Hochdeutsch" (High German). It's somewhat debatable if and where similar dialects were spoken, and there is some contest where the "best" Standard German in spoken:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_German

Standard German has replaced many local German dialects, to the point of many local "dialects" just being local forms of Standard German.

Just to add some confusion. the term "Hochdeutsch" (High or Upper German) is also used for a grouping of genuine German dialects, actually the Southern ones, including Alemannic and Bavarian. Standard German is somewhat similar to some of those like East Franconian or the Middle German dialects of Thuringia and Saxony, with the Middle German dialects being intermediate between the Southern Upper and Northern Low German dialects, but accusing a Bavarian of speaking "Hochdeutsch" is usually considered a clear case of suicide. Err, whatever.

If we talk about "Old German", well, there is also some periodization of the German language, with "Neuhochdeutsch" (New High German) since 1650, "Frühneuhochdeutsch" (Early NHG) since 1350, "Mittelhochdeutsch" (Middle High German) since 1050 and "Althochdeutsch" (Old High German) between 500 and 1050. Yes, this is all somewhat complicated, and I feel a sudden impulse to beat up some members of the German studies faculty,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_studies

but I digress.

Back to German dialects, as already hinted at, beside the various tries at standardized Germans, we have a German, or better, Western Germanic dialect continuum, encompassing also Dutch, English, Scots and like. The latter are somewhat closer to the Low German dialects, which are of no concern here. And while Alsatian is marked as an Upper German dialect, actually a West Upper German dialect close to the Alemannic spoken in Switzerland (Swiss German is another contender for subtitles, while Swiss Standard German is quite understandable, yes, as already said, it's all somewhat complicated, and I'm starting to wonder where this idea of Teutonic order came from...), the dialect spoken in Strasbourg/Straßburg/Strossburi is said to be more similar to Rhine Franconian, e.g. Palatinian or "Pfaelzisch", the latter one being the common German term. Which is in the West Central German group. BTW, Pfaelzisch is another contender for subtitles, though most "Pfaelzer", like former chancellor Helmut Kohl, speak nearly flawless Standard High German. Well, nearly. Last time I passed through the area, communication was somewhat difficult, and I guess it was not just me being exhausted on my way to and from a hacker meeting.

Actually, quite a few of our American friends might be somewhat familliar with Rhine Franconian dialects, since some religious persecutions and like meant it was the language of some immigrants to Northern America, developing into Pennsylvania German. Maybe ask Karl Schroder next time you run into him. ;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_German_language

On another note, the Palatinate had also some of the earliest attested Jewish settlements in Germany, and though Eastern Yiddish split from the other German languages during the Middle High German period, it retains quite some features of Middle and Upper German dialects. Yiddish also influenced quite a few dialects in the area, but then, Yiddish influences in German are VERY common. Still, maybe one could take Yiddish as an approximation of Palatinian and Alsatian dialects.

Sorry for being somewhat pedantic, and I guess I made quite a few mistakes some German studies guy is going to beat me up for, though I hope to get the first punch, see, above, but I thought it might be of interest to some.

104:

Telecommute everything. Replace that obsolete parliment back-and-forth question session thingie with dueling twitter feeds, or an AMA. Her majesty's annual speech with an annual facebook page update.

105:

That's not going to fly, I'm afraid. The whole point of politics is negotiation and finding compromise positions between diverging sets of requirements, and a surprising amount of human communication is non-verbal -- postural cues, hand gestures, eye contact. We're probably already close to maxing out the utility of textual communication in politics -- by the time we have a truly net literate generation of politicians (about 10-20 years in the UK; maybe a bit longer in the USA, where national-level politicians tend to be older) we'll definitely have done so.

Now, the staged set-piece public debate could (arguably) be augmented by dueling twitter feeds -- looking at the late unlamented Google Wave, that looked like the ideal vehicle for this kind of discourse -- but how do you replace personal contact around the coffee station/in the House of Commons restaurant? Because it's clear that a lot of issues get resolved via informal back-channels, and the public record merely rubber-stamps compromises along those lines, just as is the case in any tech business context.

106:

The history of building new capitals is not good. It mostly results in a small government city, in which nothing much happens and certainly does not change the economic geography of the country.

There are also plenty of examples of half built cities that have costs tens of billions. Why would you want to move the over centralised state of Britain to a new location. It makes sense for their to be more power and tax raising powers at a local level instead. It will certainly be cheaper and more likely to solve local problems.

London will still remain a global mega city with wide ranging trading relationships with or with out central government, except there will be even more jealous provincials convinced that London being wealthy means that they are poorer because they fall for the fallacy that there is only fixed amount of wealth and one place becoming richer means another is going to be poorer.

When has improving transport links meant there will be less trade and less wealth. HS2 means more cities having better links with London, which if they have failed to notice is the only global mega city near them. All this talk of building the northern sections first is stupid as the most congested sections are in the South.

It is in the interest of everyone for London's growth be spread as widely as possible instead of being constrained by poor transport links.

As for Housing, they could just bin most of the post 1947 housing act and let landowners have the right to build what they want on their land. Sure you'd have massive sprawl of suburban housing around London, like what happened in the 1920's and 1930's but that's the only way it's going to 'solve' the housing crises. Not politically popular though.

107:

A major contributing factor to the congestion and overpopulation in south-east England is the superb road, rail and infrastructure (airports, shops, facilities, theatres etc.) there. Building Crossrail is going to mean more people living and working in the area, building HS2 up from London to Birmingham first will have the same effect meaning more pressure for more Tube capacity, extensions to Crossrail, a fifth runway at Heathrow etc.

Building the HS2 link between Birmingham and Manchester first will suck some of that expansion away from London, making the north-west more attractive to live in and work, a better place to locate jobs and offices etc. and delay the eventual spending of more billions on cramming more infrastructure into the limited area inside the M25. A second connector across to Leeds, something that's at the back of the queue in the existing HS2 plans would be a better priority too; as I said there are already good fast rail links between Birmingham and London, a HS2 replacement/upgrade could wait a decade or two with little harm.

108:

nojay
It's late, I'm going to bed, but your propaganda-piece from the NIMBYS really won't do, there are so many holes in it.
The magic word is CAPACITY
And our present rail system, having been, erm "slimmed down" is overloaded, right now - got that?
And inceased speed = extra capacity

109:

You're missing something.

The case for another airport in the SE is very problematic. It's not just the airport itself, it's the air traffic control infrastructure, but an aircraft flying from Northern England can get to North America and much of Europe without getting entangled with SE England.

Trains, on the other hand, all go through the same Channel Tunnel. They cannot avoid London. HS2 is a necessary element of rail connections to Europe.

There's some pretty dodgy choices being made in some places, and the whole plan is set to take far too long. But there is no way to avoid a connection to London.

110:

While I am not impressed by what "Planning" has done locally—Would you seriously plan for housing expansion on land that is downhill from the local sewage works—there is a definite need for planning. I don't think your solution for housing is particularly in-touch with reality. The "market" is driven by profit, which is not quite the same thing as demand. If the market works, why do we have such an unbalanced mix of available housing?

111:

The rail system and the roads are overloaded in the south of England because there are too many people there because it's so attractive to live and work there in large part because of all the infrastructure money that's been spent over the past few decades. Elsewhere road and rail are not overloaded because fewer people live there in part because less money has been spent on infrastructure there over the past few decades.

HS2 is meant to benefit Londoners and people who work in London. Its effect will be to flood London with more people every day using the Tube and the buses, the roads and the other infrastructure. The HS2 extension beyond Birmingham is regarded as an afterthought, the side-line to Leeds something to consider twenty years from now and any sort of link further north just isn't going to happen because it won't benefit Londoners and especially the people who decide such things.

112:

I think there is a strategic option for a rail version of the M25 to allow rail traffic to get to the Channel tunnel without passing through the most congested rail network in the country -- getting a trainload of containers from Brussels to Birmingham shouldn't require to have it routed through Paddington just because it's London. We did it with shipping, Southampton and Felixstowe and the new Thames estuary container port avoids having to bring ships into the port of London to load and unload. Rail should be the same, assuming the Channel tunnel can cope with the traffic. Passenger trains too, why do we need to change trains in Waterloo to go from Manchester to Lyons via rail?

113:

Speaking as someone who's nation decided to build a new capitol, the result is much worse than just a boring company town. You end up with a bureaucracy made up of bureaucrats who are the children of bureaucrats with no exposure to the real world and career politicians who become progressively more divorced from the rest of the country as the years go on.

114:

nojay
Not so. Some parts of the rail system outside London are seriously overcrowded …
Services in to Derby, of all places, from the NW – standing all the way from Kidsgrove … The Manchester suburbs (why do you think they are building tram lines as fast as they can go?), or Glasgow’s suburbs.
Your case does NOT hold water.
However, your freight argument is partly true … there is much head-scratching as to how to do this, without building a completely new freight line. Except that you are wrong again – the new Thames estuary port’s rail lines point … straight into London, oops.
{ Not here, but the technical arguments are complicated – another time, OK? In the meantime start with THIS web-site and look through the articles, especially in the recent archives.
}

115:

Oh BUM
Looks like the link didn't work, in spite of checking it in preview.
Moderators, please?

116:

It's not just the airport itself, it's the air traffic control infrastructure, but an aircraft flying from Northern England can get to North America and much of Europe without getting entangled with SE England.

It's not about SE England, it's about NW Europe.

The big London hubs, LHR and LGW (and let's not forget Stanstead and Luton either -- major regional airports) are some of the busiest in the world. And to make matters worse they're less than 150 miles from AMS (Schiphol) and the airport complex around Paris -- CDG in particular is Europe's second-busiest airport, right after LHR. And a trans-Atlantic flight on approach to CDG flies right over the SE England airspace that includes LHR and LGW, while flights from LHR/LGW to anywhere in Europe end up flying close to AMS and CDG.

Upshot: this is some of the most congested airspace on the planet, and dumping yet more flights into it is not going to help matters.

Upshot:

117:

Greg, the link didn't work because whatever you wrote in helpfully applied "smart" quotes. URLs require dumb double-quotes, or they don't work. (Now fixed.)

118:
I think there is a strategic option for a rail version of the M25 to allow rail traffic to get to the Channel tunnel without passing through the most congested rail network in the country -- getting a trainload of containers from Brussels to Birmingham shouldn't require to have it routed through Paddington just because it's London.

Hmm, well, the map suggests that this is already possible; via Oxford, then through Reading, Guildford, Redhill, Ashford and then straight into the Chunnel. Might need to turn the train around at Redhill. No idea if that's actually a workable route or just an artefact of the map, but it looks like the southern half of that idea is pretty much there...

119:

Nojay, by the time you've built a railway to anywhere like where the M25 is, you're already deep into the most congested rail network in the country. A straight line from Birmingham to the channel goes well inside the M25, and the advantage to routing high speed rail via London is that someone's already built a significant fraction of the line.

One area to me where HS2 seems to mainly be looking out for London is the long-running discussion about the connection to HS1. There's a big difference between a direct Paris to Birmingham connection and having to take two separate trains joined up by London local transport.

120:

why do we need to change trains in Waterloo to go from Manchester to Lyons via rail?

HS1 has started from St Pancras for a few years now which makes things a bit better. At least you can get off a train from the north there or at Kings Cross and on to your Eurostar without having to haul luggage round the Underground.

121:

It's the "in and out of London" requirement that's the killer for rail, both passenger and freight, from the north. I'm not suggesting the rail bypass should be co-located with the M25, more that there should be an M25-like method of not having to pass through Paddington/Euston/Kings X and change trains there to get to the Channel tunnel just because you're a second-class citizen who doesn't live within the M25 itself.

My postulated bypass line would probably connect with HS1 somewhere like Ashford; the line might not be up to HS1 standards but it would be dedicated to fast rail able to run HS1-grade trainsets and not get cluttered up with commuter DMUs, coal trains and the like.

122:

Until the 1980's London was in long term decline as part of government policy 'to decongest the inner city'. Making London poorer, by restricting office and factory development did not make the rest of the country richer.

London suffered for many years from low infrastructure investment. Rail spending was for managed decline and road investment poor in comparison to many Northern cities.

After London was left alone it began to grow again, but infrastructure investment did not pick up for nearly 20 years after this growth occurred.

Compared to other european countries the UK invests half that others do in road and rail systems.

Just because London is finally getting some mega projects now does not mean that caused all the existing growth. Most infrastructure spending follows growth, not the other way around.

It is no ones interest if London and the South East falls into total gridlock.


123:

When did the Jubilee line, the Docklands Light railway and the Northern line extension all start? 1980s wasn't it? The regeneration of the East End, Canary Wharf et al. was all around that period too as I remember. Oh, and London City airport too. I'd class them as infrastructure mega projects but then again I'm not a Londoner so maybe they were just regarded as being in the nature of penny-ante road repairs and such by the locals.

Certainly industrial facilities, warehousing etc. moved out of the London area but that was happening to a lot of cities as investment in shops, housing and offices provided a better return on investment per square metre and moving materials and finished goods through city centres became more and more difficult.

124:

When did the Jubilee line, the Docklands Light railway and the Northern line extension all start?

For the Jubilee line, the name was supposed to be a clue to when it was due to open. Work on what was then the Fleet Line extension started around 1971 but things slipped a couple of years so it opened in 1979 instead of 1977.

125:

For long-distance passengers, why shouldn't Birmingham to Paris trains have a stop in London? I don't see "in and out of London" as being the killer, rather "get to one London station, get off the train, travel to St Pancras on local transport, then wait for the Paris train". All that's needed for through trains to run is a proper HS1/HS2 connection, which also has the massive advantage of only needing to be a mile or so long.

126:

@118
OK
Through Guildford, which has lots of trains already, going across the putative freight-flow?
That is the problem, not building anew chord @ REdhill!
TOLD YOU it was complicated ....

127:

DLR was built DOWN TO A PRICE
It has had to be rebuilt at leat 3 times since!
Your anti-London arguments do not hold water ...
N line xtension is past 3-4 years only, ditto.
JLE was born of desperation, even in an anti-railway environment - & then had to be upgraded, like the DLR.
Have you learnt yet?

128:

What would probably help a lot for more northern destinations on the continent is a new tunnel a bit more to the north, such that one doesn't need to go via London to reach it from northern Britain. Say, something like Harwich - Hoek van Holland, to follow an existing ferry connection.
Currently to go from (say) Amsterdam to London by train one has to make a ridiculous detour to the south, to get to Calais. A second tunnel would also help to de-congest the Dover-Calais tunnel, which sounds like would happen if these grandiose plans actually go through.

129:

The problem with a tunnel further north is simple: length. Harwich to HVH (which is probably as good a bet as any) is around 200km in a straight line. The longest railway tunnel in the world is the Seikan Tunnel in Japan, which is just over 50km long. It'll be surpassed by the Gotthard tunnel under the Swiss Alps (still under 60km) when that opens in a few years' time, although that doesn't have to go under any substantial bodies of water.

So you'd be looking at a tunnel that's more than three times the length of anything that exists or is currently planned.

130:

Someone told me once,in the context of discussions on a new airport for London, that it was as quick to go between Liverpool and Manchester as between terminals at Heathrow. I don't know if that is still the case but its an indicator of how the NW of England could be brought up economically.

The excessive concentration of resources in London is not of course caused by recent infrastructure improvements. It is even possible that on a per capita/GDP basis the current level of spending is appropriate. However that shouldn't be the test. That same concentration is draining the life out of other parts of the UK. Improving links between say Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and across to the North East would allow those areas to improve their economic position and might be a better investment than knocking down all the old houses blighted by lack of demand (aka Housing Market Renewal)

Improving links between Manchester and London only increases the chances that people will commute into London from even further - for HS2 to have its supposed effects both ends of the line need to be of similar standing

131:

Yes, they'd need to reverse at Redhill.

I've heard the tale that those running the SR were disappointed after WW2, because the Germans never managed to hit Redhill Station. If they had, it would have presented the opportunity to rebuild it with a more usable layout.

132:
Through Guildford, which has lots of trains already, going across the putative freight-flow? That is the problem, not building anew chord @ REdhill!

OK, if that's the only problem with my proposed routing, I'm rather pleasantly surprised! That's like 10km for a Guildford bypass to fix that, from Wanborough to Chilworth.

I was expecting rather bigger problems than that...

TOLD YOU it was complicated ....

Sure. But neither is it as bad as Nojay paints, if all that's missing are two short section upgrades, rather than some 150-200km (or more!) rail equivalent of the M25.

133:

Truly disturbing. I can't feature that kitty on my lap enjoying a warm nap. More like something hatched from a Laundry Files summoning. Precursor to an even more disturbing manifestation. Is this a piece of Bob Howard's next phantasmagoria?


134:

#114 - I can confirm this. The single busiest stretch of 2-way track in the UK is between Hyndland West and Finniston Junctions on the Glasgow North electric lines, carrying some 30 trains per hour (yes 1 every 2 minutes) in rush hour, and most of said trains stopping at 2 stations along that stretch.

135:

I would like to join the chorus of people saying that relocating the capital is an extremely bad idea.
Case in point, Canberra, Australia's answer to the question. "How can we make something that isolates politicians from the concerns of the people as much as Versailles did, but has no artistic or economic value whatsoever?"

Of course, since the mid 90's no self respecting politician has actually lived for any length of time in the capital. This has led to the absurd situation of cabinet living, meeting, and making deals in Sydney, flying down to Canberra when there's a vote/question time,and then flying out the nanosecond people stop talking.

136:

Because London is big and high-speed trains can't run through urban areas at high speed (300km/h and up), they have to slow down or they'll blow out windows and knock down grannies from the shockwave. Either they get a hundred metres of free space for track from the outskirts to the central station and back out again or they tunnel (and high-speed tunnel operations are also a pain) or they slow down to less than 100km/h and spend an hour or more wriggling into and out of central London to no benefit to the passengers from the North wanting to get to Paris or Lyons and vice versa. It's not a problem for Londoners of course so many don't see it as a problem at all.

The terminus for the Japanese Tokaido, Joetsu and Tohoku shinkansen lines are all in Tokyo station in the centre of the city and even with blast walls along elevated track they still have to reduce their speed noticeably to prevent structural damage to the buildings close to the track.

137:

DLR was actually built, because it's in London and money is no object if it's being spent in London. Birmingham doesn't have any kind of Underground at all because it's not London and it would cost money to build one and Crossrail was considered more important by Londoners.

Basically Londoners whine they don't have enough caviar and the caviar they have isn't of the highest quality and they can't understand that other non-Londoners don't have any caviar at all because what sort of a world would it be if ordinary folks like themselves didn't have caviar? but they're sure that London should have priority on the caviar supplies when they're being handed out because, London!

138:
I think HS2 is a great idea, the major change I would make to it would be to prioritise the Manchester-Birmingham link boosting local industry and population and only add the London segment later

The only problem here is that the WCML runs out of capacity between London and Birmingham first. Try explaining that you've spent £xx billion building a railway and, well, the WCML is still full because we haven't got around to doing that bit yet because we wanted to spite Londoners [I shorten].

The question that HS2 is the answer to is "the southern WCML is out of capacity in 20 years' time. What do we do?" If your answer doesn't address capacity, the WCML, or the section from London to Birmingham, you haven't answered the question. (If your answer is "surely it must be cheaper to upgrade the existing infrastructure" you need to read up on the last WCML upgrade:-))

139:

@ 137
Utter, total tosh.
Either someone has lied to you, or you just hate London.
Your commenmts on caviar show your true colours, I'm afraid - sorry, but it really just isn't like that.
Where are you from & where are you living now?
If only so that I can make hateful comments full of spite concerning somewhere that I may know nothing about - which is what you appear to be doing.
On second thoughts, I don't think I can be bothered ....

The DLR was built DOWN TO A PRICE- because - remember when? It was RAILWAY investment & we can't have that, can we? As recently as the middle of the last Labour guvmint, Leeds & Liverpool got their tram projects squashed - but Manchester City did the other ... they told the Treasury & guvmint: "You kill off our tram expansion & we're deserting en bloc to the Tories" - which did the trick.
Or we had "rural investments" like th gahstly Cambridge guided Pus-way (oops, BUS-way) giving a slower service than the trains in 1922, but it was roads, not railways, so that was all right, then ...
Oh yes because, London! well .. how about "Because Manchester" [ A city I know & love ] then ...Try THIS for size, oh and this too so there ...
Because DLR was built down to a price, it has had to be rebuilt & upgraded THREE times. [ Two-car-trains, four-car tains & now six, the Poplar/W india Quay junction rebuilt twice from the original, etc ....
And it is needed - it's bloody wedged in the rush-hours & pretty full the rest of the time.

140:

And why is the DLR full pretty much all of the time? Because London has too many people living and working there, enticed by the excellent expensive built-and-paid-for public transport that isn't good enough for Londoners so more money needs to be spent in London which will entice even more people there. It's that "cause and effect" thing which Londoners don't really get for some reason.

The DLR is caviar to someone from, say, Birmingham who has a fish-fingers bus service or Manchester's cod-in-batter trams but whiny Londoners complain that their cans of sturgeon roe are too small even though billions have been spent enlarging the tins at the expense of the rest of the country.

141:

Why is the WMCL going to run out of capacity? Is it because more people are going to end up living and/or working in the London area? If so then perhaps the planners might want to think along the lines of making other parts of the country (such as the populous corridor between Birmingham and Manchester) more attractive to live and work in by prioritising transport infrastructure improvements there and not concentrate funding in the overprivileged south-east.

142:

Current plans I've seen envisage a link between HS2 and HS1 just to the north of the Euston road termini, so it would be entirely possible to have a Birmingham-Paris routing that skipped a London stop entirely. The train would have to drop to 'suburban' speeds through the built up areas of London however, so I would expect that doing a stop at Stratford International would lose you so little time that it would be a no-brainer.

I agree that there is probably a case to be made for a link along a more rural alignment to permit trains to maintain their high speed legs for longer and do 'straight shot' routings from northern/midland cities through to the other side of the channel. Your suggested junction at Ashford would involve a large loop to the east and a second crossing of the Thames estuary somewhere around Southend/Isle of Grain however, which seems excessive (unless Boris gets his island) - I suspect it would be much easier to merge with HS1 somewhere on the north bank of the Thames and use the existing tunnel that crosses the river between West Thurrock and Swanscombe.

Having said all that I judge that it would be extremely difficult to build a political coalition to deliver such a link. The route would need to split from the HS2 alignment somewhere around Aylesbury and then run east through the greenbelt north of London. The current anti-HS2 campaign would be as nothing compared to the stink which that proposal would set off.

Regards
Luke

143:

The UK's secondary cities are too small to do what London does. The UK could probably support a second city in the same category as London, but to do so you'd have to pick one and tell the small cities to drop dead. The age of small towns has definitely passed and subsidizing rural areas is just a waste of money.

144:

That's a fairly bleak condemnation of everything outside London.

We live in the, so called, information age. There is little need for knowledge businesses to be physically located in London. This has been proven by the movement of areas of BBC production from London to Manchester with little change to output.

There is however an issue with the London mindset that believes that proximity is necessary. All it does it generate ever more congestion and inflated property prices.

A solution to the issue would be a vote for London independence. The needs of London and the rest of the country are so different that this would allow different policies to be followed.

145:

I came to London *despite* the public transport not because of it. It was a mess in the 80s and we're only just climbing out of the hole it was in back then nearly three decades later.

You have no argument from me that London is hypertrophied - OGH has gone so far to describe the UK as 'Switzerland yoked to East Germany' elsewhere on this blog - but blaming London's over-dominant position within the UK polity on our transport infrastructure is way too simplistic.

Regards
Luke

146:

It's not just that London is big, it's also very much in the way of any route from Birmingham or Manchester to Folkestone. But we're talking about high speed lines - they don't wriggle, and they don't get stuck behind local commuters or coal trains. As I said earlier, I'd like to see more committment to a high-quality HS1/HS2 link (what, if anything, this will consist of seems change every year) but I'd be amazed if you could bypass London entirely for less than the cost of building the entire Birmingham to Manchester leg.

147:

The mismatch between London (+ the home counties hinterland) and the other regions of the UK is too large to be solved within the context of the UK I think.

There might be a chance of effecting a rebalancing within an 'EU of the regions' framework, where London's voice is countered by several other competing 'first tier' metropoles and space is opened up in the institutional conversation for second tier regions to make their case - but the institutional structures needed to pull that off (with power being redistributed from national govts down to the regions and up to EU-wide institutions) are a non-starter in the near term.

Regards
Luke

148:

Among other things, if you want to get anything industrial from the West Midlands towards Europe, you'll be going that way. Or are we going to evacuate the car industry to somewhere or other as well?

149:

Ok, how about we stop all road and rail traffic from going inside the M25 for a month, and see who dies first, London or "everywhere else"?

150:

The thing is, everywhere else in Britain has much worse public transport than London does, in part because it's good enough it attracted people like yourself -- if it had been much worse would you have considered moving to London in the first place? All the incomers are in front of you in the Tube platform or at the bus stop and you think the crowding is the result of a poor transport infrastructure whereas it's actually the other way around.

151:

The M25 was built in part because London was "in the way" and folks didn't want to drive from Leeds to Brighton via Hyde Park Corner any more. It might be time for the railways to take a leaf out of the road-user's book in this situation.

152:

Any city that's already large will continue to need mass transit improvements - including enlargement - because most large cities house more than just commerce/industry and government. They also typically house history and culture -- stuff that is not moveable. You can move a dinosaur skeleton, but moving the 400+ year old architecture it's currently housed in would be absurd.

153:

Since no one's said the obvious about the picture, I will ...

'chemo cat'

154:

Sure, but the problem there wasn't caused by the Londoners who were driving to Leeds and/or Brighton, it was caused by the local traffic in London. That local traffic won't be on the high speed line - what's happening here is the equivalent of connecting the M1 directly to the M23, and only putting one junction inside the M25.

155:

Nojay
You really do hate London, don't you?
I'd see a shrink if I were you!
EXPLAIN, or next time, I won't be so comparitively polite about it.
FYI Birmingham's train services are improving (slowly) plus at least one re-opening, plus an about-to-be-extended tram route.
Manchesters trams are emphatically not cod'n chips - they are excellent, & better than those in Croydon (which is part of London).
Not only are you spiteful, you are ignorant ....
Also trains going to Lonodn means trains going from London - it's a two-way street.
Your "solution" the the ex-LNWR main line being full would presumably be to run less trains, to discourage people from using them ... errr ... no.

156:

Unfortunately, not so - would that it were.
The guvmin's "security" paranoia means that people taking intrational trains have to be scanned threough on depareture (as if it was a fucking airport, for Ghu's sake!)

157:

Yes
London was hated & crapped on by the madwoman from Grantham & we had 15 years of underinvestment.
One reason for the current splurge (Crossrail, Thamselink, etc) is just making up for lost time ....

158:

@ 149 as well
London would die first, but the rest of the country would go down too - slowly starved to death of money.
London, inside the M25 has over 1/6th of the total population of the British Isles (or GB, at least)
It produces/returns about 1/3 of the Tax revenues - it's a money-machine, feeding the rsst of the country.

There are only two other cities in W Europe even vaguely comprable to London: Paris & Berlin.
Now go & look at THEIR public transport & other infrastructure systems, & come back & repeat your uninformed & bile-ridden nonsense?

@ 151
Proposed many times, but guvmint won't pay for it .....

159:

Well speaking anec-data-ly, the subject I wanted to study at university was only offered by a handful of institutions (three of whom were in London) so the odds were pretty good that I'd end up inside the M25 at some point in my early 20s and once here the chances of my staying were always going to be fairly high.

Of course the reverse held true for my parents, who followed the redbrick university expansion to Nottingham - so clearly there are things that can be done in the other direction.

Regards
Luke

160:

When re-reading your comment there, do you really think it was appropriate?

161:

I was thinking of people from Leeds trying to get to Brighton and vice-versa, you know, not-Londoners -- they do exist, really, human beings outside the M25 if you can believe it. Before the M25 was built there was the North and South Circulars but that was it for keeping traffic out of the city centre where most of the country's A-road trunk routes begin.

162:

Though there had been a malfunction with Mr. Bigglesworth's thawing out process, he quickly learned the advantages of shaved pussies.

163:

A lot of expensive infrastructure went into London during the 70s and 80s when, according to Greg, it was being starved, STARVED! of investment (like the DLR, the Jubilee line, the M25, Heathrow Express etc. etc. etc.) by the born-and-bred Londoner Maggie.

Some of the billions spent never gained much public attention like the London Water Ring Main that cost more than the Channel tunnel and required more tunnelling effort. At that time getting from Carlisle to Glasgow involved driving on a twisty two-lane road through the Borders as the motorway system north of Watford wasn't considered a priority by the London-based planners. The A1 to Edinburgh is still two-lane for a good part of its length through the eastern Border region whereas they're spending more money widening and upgrading the M25 (again!).

164:

Err, Greg, do you really think comparing it to Berlin is a defense of London?[1]

SCNR

[1] For those not in the know, let's just start that songs about all debatable artistic talent moving to Berlin became something of a staple of German indie bands...

165:

the born-and-bred Londoner Maggie

Hmmm, so the border of London had already expanded to include large parts of Lincolnshire between 1925 and 1951.

YLSNED, though much of it is as wrong as a very wrong thing...

166:

I misremembered Grantham as being north-west London for some reason. It's still within the orbit of London of course compared to the Outer Darkness from whence I came (North Lanarkshire).

167:

It's about the same distance from London as Birmingham is. If you're drawing a circle with a radius reaching about a third of the way to Scotland, then you've probably got the majority of the UK's population within it.

(Yes, North Lanarkshire would be outside that, being the domain of True Scotsmen.)

168:

Speaking, well, typing generally, market capitalism enforces concentration of resources and people (although obviously it started long before capitalism) therefore left to itself, urban centres will become more and more dense, crowded and resource intensive. But there are obviously going to be physical limits set by the available technology for moving people and goods around, at which point the expense of more train lines or demolishing and replacing housing stock to make it more efficient becomes prohibitively expensive.
I suspect we are close to that already, short of nanotech for digging tunnels with no fuss and/ or replicators. (Or indeed teleportation which has been well explored by SF authors)

So, what to do? Market worshippers would have us ignore all the downsides of concentration everything into the capital or similar type of city. The rest of us think that is stupid, the problem is that in a country thirled to market capitalism, how do you encourage methods of reducing the concentration, e.g. telecommuting?

Also does the sunk costs fallacy count for cities, especially those which will be endangered by global warming sea level rise unless we decarbonise the economy and put a solar shade up?

169:

Getting over & trying to ignore nojay's bilious & irrational hatred of London .....
Err yes - how many time do I have to repeat that ... the DLR was built to a fixed (Treasury) budget - it was that or more buses on the same overcrowded roads.
And the M25 was a ROAD project, remember, that allowe people to AVOID London?
He (?) also seems not to have noticed that there are main-line err ... electrified railways between Carlisle / Newcastle & Glasgow/Edinburgh.
Oh, I forgot, from earlier.
Newcastle, of course has it's own metro - a slowly expanding & now-upgraded system - also built "on the cheap" to start with ...
Newcastle, of course is the prime counter-example ... it was hit really badly in the 1930's slump, but the Silver Jubilee helped to end it, by providing faster, more comfortable communications with London.
Of course, according to Nojay, that service should have sucked all the life out of Newcastle ...

I note, that we still don't know:
i] Why he loatehes London so much
&
ii] Where he comes from / is living now?

I think we should be told, given his other obvious biases.

170:

Trott ...
I was comparing major capital cities - often said to be more like each other than their own "provincial" towns, be they ever so large. [ Manchester, Hamburg for instance - hell Köln is, what 1.3 million, now if one includes Deutz? ]

171:

Grantham - 105.5 miles from Kings Cross
Birmingham (New Street) 115.25 miles from Euston.

If you draw a 200-mile radius, to make sure you've included Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, then yes, easily, particulalry since that will include Bristol, Cardiff & Swansea

172:

@Greg - Various from #155 on.

1) You'll have to explain what it is that London does that is so unique that it's only even vaguely replicated in 2 places in the whole of Europe (which extends E-W roughly from Limerick to the Urals).

2) Ref Nojay's birthplace and current residence. Typical Larndarner "can't read/doesn't matter because it's not here FAIL"! #166 says he's from North Lanarkshire, and he's said several times that he presently lives in Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh (so has had a good view of their light rail travails).

173:

Trams are an OK idea if the local public transport system is poor and the peculiarities of the tram system are understood at the start of the project -- the Edinburgh implementation of a tram system was a disaster imposed on a city that didn't need it and mostly didn't want it at an eye-watering cost. Trams run at ground level and negotiate with other road traffic, in Edinburgh they are going to be speed-limited for that reason to 20mph in the city centre. In contrast the caviar DLR is an elevated rail system running at much higher speeds and not subject to traffic lights, blockages, pedestrians etc. getting in the way. Same with Tube line extensions, Crossrail and all the other gold-plated super-expensive traffic enhancements privileged Londoners like Greg think are piss-poor and barely adequate sniff sniff.

As for London being a powerhouse of productivity and tax revenues the numbers are mostly based on the Big Casino financial operations of the City, gambling with Other People's Money rather than actually producing anything tangible. When it goes wrong it causes disaster; that's why it's called gambling, as we found out in 2008.

174:

yes, but this is population, not "productivity". there is some relation, cheap workforce for startera, but it's not all.

i guess one of the confounding factors with köln is that it's still part of the rhein-ruhr area, i'm somewhat north of dortmund and köln is still only two hours away. berlin takes a little more.

http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=914

on the cultural front, i've been told the hipsters are moving to hamburg, again...

175:

on the cultural front, i've been told the hipsters are moving to hamburg, again...

well, The Congress has moved as well ..

176:

Para 1 - I used the term "light rail" rather than "tram" deliberately, reflecting the general design of the stock, and the heavier permanent way that it will need even at 20mph. Actually, as originally designed, did it address any problems other than "how can I get from Leith to Prices Street and Turnhouse without changing?"

Para 2 - I was also wondering how much of the "economic activity of London" is actually a false result based on enterprises that have their registered office in London, but do pretty much everythign except boardroom activities elsewhere.

177:

But we keep getting told that the Newcastle area isn't doing that well economically speaking; a mere link to London is not going to improve an area otherwise the horrendously deprived areas in LOndon and near it would be doing better.

178:

As for London being a powerhouse of productivity and tax revenues the numbers are mostly based on the Big Casino financial operations of the City, gambling with Other People's Money rather than actually producing anything tangible. When it goes wrong it causes disaster; that's why it's called gambling, as we found out in 2008.

The UK region with the most manufacturing gross value added (that's the regional level equivalent of GDP) is...the South East. Also, I think you'll find there are banks in Edinburgh.

179:

Apparently so. God knows how they'll manage - Hamburg is expensive by London standards, on a different planet to Berlin.

180:

"Trams are an OK idea if the local public transport system is poor"

I was in Munich at Christmas. The city has an excellent integrated metro/regional rail system (courtesy of the '72 olympics) and also has lots of trams (which are also excellent and appear to coexist happily with foot, bike and car traffic).

London has some trams in Croydon that have done well (although not so well that Boris felt obliged to continue with the additional lines the previous administration was beating the drum for), yet it also (according to Nojay) has gold plated, caviar-equivalent public transport infrastructure.

My home town of Nottingham is putting in a second tram line at the moment (and would like to have done more, quicker if they could have got HM Treasury off their back). They had pretty good public transport for a city their size (smaller than Edinburgh, but not by much) since they were one of the few English cities to preserve an effective municipal bus service during the privatisation mania of the 80s - certainly Bristol was much worse served when I lived there for a brief period in the early 90s.


I have no idea why the Edinburgh tram has been so botched, but the fact that I can name three examples of successful tram services off the top of my head suggests that they can be a good idea even when existing public transport infrastructure is strong.

Regards
Luke

181:

just back to normal sleep pattern after living la vida angela, btw...

on another front, it might be interesting to compare the german population density to income:

http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2009-11/ost-west-bilanz-karten/seite-7

actually, quite a lot of the horror stories in bild and like about young violent immigrants in germany is more abour young violent unemployed men in berlin...

i

182:

afaik problem is there is no suitable room in berlin.

otoh, hannover has apparently been in some talks...

183:

Cite needed.

Also note that I was specifically treating "Greater" Larndarn and the self-proclaimed "Home Counties" as separate entities.

184:

The Edinburgh trams were botched by the usual bad management by the council, and the fact that nobody seemed to notice that we don't have a good idea of what was underground across much of Edinburgh, and didn't factor that into things. Thus when the contractor slowed down and spent more money than they should have because of all the weird stuff they kept finding (e.g. some hundreds of years old skeletons in leith) the council tried to avoid paying them for the extra work involved. THis led to a big bust up and IIRC someone else ended up doing some of the work.

But I've met only one person who wanted trams in Edinburgh, everyone else considers them pointless because we have a good bus network.
If anything the trams thing, well more like light rail which is where half the problems come from but we've discussed that on ehere already, anyway, the point about the Edinburgh ones is that they'll cost 776 million, for one tram line in one city that goes from the airport to the city centre and that's it.
Is that worth it? Almost certainly not, although I suppose accountancy wise they'll work out some way of making the money add up. For that money they could have made all the buses and taxis zero emission which would have had a much greater health effect within the city, drastically reducing pollution (although buses are a lot better than they were when I was a lad).

Remember too that they were supposed to run from Newhaven to the airport for a bit over 500 million.

This is related in a way to the ever increasing expense of new infrastructure in old established towns. The more you want to put in, the more old stuff you find in the way, which increases the cost.

185:

Paws
Thanks (oops, too)
The Edinburgh tram fiasco is a disaster from beginning to end - textbook case AIUI of how not to do it, with politiciams changing their minds, inadequate surveys, incomptent contractors & greedy lawyers ....
OTOH
Man chester ( & to some extent Newcastle) are examples of how it should be done

186:

See my comments on trams above.
Disagree with "did not need or want" though - IF the original designs had been followed competently, it would have been excellent.

You don't realise that, in spite of the big heasdlines, & yes more corruption & incompetence than we should have had ( & in some cases by a lrge margin) nonethelss a lot of money is really made in London - without London, the tax-atke of the guvmint would be substantailly lower, or the taxes would be evn higher, or both.
And I don't think we need that, do we?

Trams in Manchester & Croydon reach 50 mph = 80 kpoh most days, in normal service, uslally on "reserved" sections - the big advantage of light rail generally.
DLR can just reach that speed, but makes up for it by being a serious peopl-mover.

noting @ 178
btw ...
Yes, there is a suprising amount of manufacturing & processing going on in London & the surrounding areas ... which peole don't notice, but it certaily generates products & money.

187:

You can add Sheffield to the list of successful tram systems - and the erstwhile People's Republic of South Yorkshire did have (and still does have) an excellent bus service. The buses and trams coexist quite happily (I can ride both on my £13:50 weekly ticket); there are even a few bus services that explicitly link with the trams to extend the service beyond the end of the tram lines.

The great thing about the trams is that they are completely weatherproof - in the bad snows of a couple of years ago they were the only wheeled transport still operating. I was about the only person not living within walking distance who got to work on a couple of days.

188:

Err, in response to my previous comment, and repairing reply order and like...

just back to normal sleep pattern after living la vida angela, btw...

Make that "living la vida angelica". Yes, I speak no Spanish.

189:

I live in Edinburgh and have studied the tram project extensively for a postgraduate course I am doing. Some of the issues have already been touched on. Edinburgh trams suffered from being started when the PIC mania was at its highest. The rank incompetence of TiE should not be discounted. As part of the course I am doing I did some research into PFI for transport initiatives in the UK and I could not find one that had been considered a success by any reasonable standard.
Further fun was had by the intransigence of businesses on Princes Street. They lobbied hard to prevent closure of the street to lay track in 2007. So, the track was laid when the street was in use. Add in one unexpectedly cold winter and it all had to be dug up and laid again. This time the street had to be closed and for longer than it would have been had it just been closed in 2007. One of my favourite examples of short sightedness that.

190:

PIC - the Population Investigation Committee? TiE - The Indus Entrepreneurs?

(Yes, those are the most appropriate matches for someone using Wikipedia in an attempt to nail down their meanings)

People from outside your particular small niche may not know what you're talking about, so could you be a little less cryptic? And oh, it's also quite possible that there may be people from outside the UK who do not know the meaning of PFI.

191:

TiE is Transport in Edinburgh, no idea what PiC means.
PFI is an abomination with no use except to funnel taxpayers money to private companies at no risk to themselves. It was started by the previous Tory government as a way of borrowing off the books, the first one was the Skye bridge which, had it been done the normal way, would have cost 20 or 30 million. Instead by the time it was bought out by the Scottish government, it had cost taxpayers something like 60 million in money paid directly to the company and the tolls for the bridge itself.
The fact is that PFI's can't work unless you fiddle the numbers to make them work, but from Tories to new labour, no alternatives were permitted and the numbers were fiddled to make PFI the only game in town.

192:

"There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum — it's breathtaking ..."

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