Finally, a union with a clue!

So all the council workers are out on strike today. Their union, Unison, has put excellent information about why they're striking on their web site. Compare and contrast with the fatcat train drivers on £30k when they go on strike, where the only source of information is the right-wing Evening Standard. Then again, maybe they realise their strikes are indefensible?

Ahhh election season

There's one good thing about election season: I get to tell Tories quite how much they disgust me in the comfort of my own doorstep. And they have to be polite! Hours of entertainment. This is more fun than god-botherers, and less likely to be on a Sunday morning.

Top of the heap?

According to this article in yesterday's Guardian, the hierarchy of road users that traffic engineers should be: disabled and visually impaired people first, pedestrians next, then cyclists, public transport, delivery vehicles, cars used for business with more than one occupant and, at the bottom of the heap, single-occupancy motorists.

Evidently the traffic engineers behind the signals from Constitution Hill (incidentally, this country doesn't have a Constitution, but we have a road commemorating one) to Hyde Park Corner. Cyclists and pedestrians get four seconds of green out of a three and a half minute traffic light cycle!

Intelligently designed comic

Doonesbury is one of the comics I read every day. It's not often that it's laugh-out-loud funny, normally it's only wrly funny. Today's strip is an exception, and reminds me why I read this comic.

Sometimes this strip gets a little to Amerikkka focussed, which is fine but not that interesting to the rest of us. However, it's almost always very relevant and very clever.

You can read it here

Unlicensed minicabs

Those of you outside London probably won't know, but London operates two separate taxi services. The familiar Black Cabs are easily spotted and can be hailed in the street. However, due to their high prices, the fact that you can't really phone one (you can, but they never come) and that they're difficult to find late at night, a parallel system of "minicabs" has grown up. These are just ordinary cars and you negotiate the fare with the driver before the journey starts. Inititally they were completely unregulated, with attendant problems, but they're now regulated by Transport for London.

TFL are running a campaign claiming that unlicensed minicab drivers commit ten rapes a month. I'm not going to challenge this statistic, but if true I don't see why this problem can't be tackled by some a very easy strategy.

Illegal minicabs are easily found. Stand outside a pub or club late on a Friday or Saturday evening and you'll be approached by loads of unlicensed cab drivers. If the police were to do this and arrest the illegal drivers for being unlicensed, they can take a swab of their DNA (we won't go into the privacy implications of this, as it's already the way things work). The swabs can then be run against the police DNA database to see if there are any matches for any of these "ten rapes a month" TFL are claiming.

So why aren't they doing this?

Oil junkies

Is it just me or is there something junkie-desperate sounding about BP and Shell's current campaigns to show how "green" they are, doing renewables research. It just sounds so much like:
"I can give up the oil any time, man. Just as soon as I finish these last few million barrels."

Sharon the peacemaker?

Who would have thought that Arial Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Shatila could start to look like a peacemaker. Could it possibly be that the man has realized that humiliating the Palestinians is never going to bring stability? I'm not convinced, but will watch with interest.

Israeli politics is bizarre for someone from the Westminster style of politics. I'm used to stable governments and parties with stable (ossified?) positions. In Israel, with its proportional representation, you instead get rapidly changing alliances and policies. Compromise: the essential fuel of democracy. It's chaotic and weird, but fascinating.

Anti-strike laws: the new slavery

Today is a national day of protest against the Australian government industrial relations "reforms". For those not up-to-date, they're taking away a huge swathe of rights from Australian workers including nationally-agreed industry award rates, the right to appeal against unfair dismissal if you work for an employer with less than 100 employees, and remove penalty rates for Sundays, public holidays and unsociable hours.

Government departments have warned their staff that they could face fines and other penalties if they attend.

Here's the thing I don't get about these anti-strike laws: how can it be illegal to withdraw your labour? Isn't that just slavery under another name?