Sunday, October 22, 2006

Report From Rainy London

We're in London for a few days, here are some impressions.

The Brit immigration clerk at Heathrow annoyed Mrs G by ordering her to stand exactly in front of the podium - that's a new practice, and means they've probably installed cameras to image all arrivals. They didn't try that on me, but then I'm scary.

At our central London flat we were met by the usual heap of junk mail from realtors pressing their services. Several suggested we move to "new build" units, with secure underground parking, elevators directly to the apartment, and saturation CCTV coverage. That's a reaction to the increasing levels of street crime.

We also received four more threats from the BBC demanding we let its inspectors check our flat to prove we don't have a TV. They've been hammering away for over 2 years. Meanwhile it's fighting to suppress a critical report of its trashy Middle East Coverage (hat tip USS Neverdock):
The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage.

The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.

The BBC culture is nicely described here (hat tip LGF):
Political pundit Andrew Marr said: 'The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.'
Anecdotal evidence suggest this diagnosis applies to most other Brit public institutions - it's as if the country were governed by the New York Times.

People in touch with the Brit Army's battles in Afghanistan tell me it has lousy air cover - about 10 Harriers. That's a perfectly respectable plane, but in an insurgency you need robust air cover available at a few minutes notice, and the gas-guzzling Harrier can't loiter and is fragile. The Brit troops need lots of robust A-10s backed by 24*7 air refueling.

Last night Brit Muslims marked the start of Ramadan with a very noisy fireworks display - I think at the Regent's Park Mosque. It ran until after midnight keeping tens of thousands of local people awake - I bet the city authorities wouldn't give give the Jewish community that privilege.

In spite of which London remains for us the nicest city in the world - urbane, civilized and pleasantly messy. But with all those corrupted public institutions, it won't stay that way much longer.

UPDATE Oct 23: I was wrong about the fireworks - kind commenters report they were the (well integrated) Hindu community celebrating Diwali (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali).