Railway stations “poor advertisment” for UK

Someone on high has just realised that Britain’s railway stations are in an appallingly bad state, and that this doesn’t reflect well on the country.

The [Public Accounts] committee’s chairman, Tory MP Edward Leigh, said: “Far too many small and medium-sized stations are threatening places, with poorly-lit, graffiti-covered passages and platforms, vandalised facilities and no staff on hand.

“As it is, a large number of Britain’s railway stations are a poor advertisement for our country.”

The reason our railway stations are in such a grotty condition is because British citizens vandalise them.   So, too bloody right they’re a poor advertisment for our country.  But they’re an accurate one.

The local railway station where I grew up (Bridgwater, in the heart of cider country, in case you were wondering) was in a shocking state a decade ago.  A beautiful, old Victorian station, it suffered from the twin problems of being both difficult to fence off from vandals, and from having an overabundance of large panes of glass incorporated into its design.  You can guess what happened next.
Happily though, the Queen deigned one day to stop ever so briefly at Bridgwater railway station en route to an official visit to Devon, the next county.  Her whole visit was for the grand total of about 20 minutes, I believe.  But the prospect of utter humiliation managed to spur the local council, or railway authorities, or whoever is actually responsible for keeping railway stations looking pretty, into repainting the station, and replacing all the shattered windows.

The station looked lovely when the Queen came.

A year later, it didn’t.

Lots of activity on the US border with Mexico

J Otto Pohl, a blogger who lives by the US-Mexico border, reports a large increase in activity over the last few days.

I live about a dozen miles north of the Mexican border. In the last twenty four hours the Border Patrol has dramatically increased its activities in this area. Today in town I saw three rather than the usual one Border Patrol vehicles and rather than just sitting at the corner they were chasing down vehicles with their sirens. At the ranch the stepped up reconnaissance by the Border Patrol is even more apparent. Frequent sorties by low flying Border Patrol helicopters have been passing overhead on their way to the mountains southwest of us. I do not know exactly what is going on. I am quite sure it is the kind of thing that does not get covered in the media. Rather some historian will piece together the evidence decades from now when the relevant archives are declassified.

I’d imagine it has something to do with this recent armed confrontation in Texas betwen border guards and men apparently from the Mexican army.

Suspected drug runners dressed in Mexican military-style uniforms who were involved in an armed confrontation with Texas lawmen were using a Mexican military-issue Humvee and weapons, the Hudspeth County sheriff said Friday.

“It was military,” said Arvin West, whose officers were involved in the standoff. “Due to the pending congressional hearings I can’t comment further.”

[…] A California newspaper reported this month that Mexican military units had crossed into the United States 216 times since 1996. It cited a Department of Homeland Security document, but department Secretary Michael Chertoff has said many of those incidents were just mistakes.

Curious.  And just a little alarming for US security if armed men, be they Mexican drug runners or Islamic terrorists, can penetrate the border with such ease, and so blatantly.

If a Supreme Court judge claps in the woods…

If you’ve just been appointed as a supposedly impartial Supreme Court judge, and are invited to attend the President’s State of the Union speech, there is one consideration more important than which robe to wear… when can you clap?

At times, Alito followed the lead of the other three justices who sat with him in the front row. When Bush said “We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it,” Thomas looked at Roberts, who looked at Breyer, who gave an approving shrug; all four gentlemen stood and gave unanimous applause.

At other times, Alito showed independence from his senior colleagues. When Bush delivered the stock line “The state of our union is strong,” Alito dissented while the other three robed justices in the front row applauded. When Bush declared that “liberty is the right and hope of all humanity,” Alito was the only member of the judicial quartet to provide his concurring applause.

It seemed from their frequent conferences that the justices had agreed on some ground rules: Any mention of Iraq or hot domestic disputes were off limits; broad appeals to patriotism were deemed applause-worthy. But there were disputes. When Bush said “We will never surrender to evil,” the justices conferred briefly. Breyer shook his head, but Roberts overruled him, and Breyer reluctantly stood with his three colleagues.

I guess the Queen faces a similar dilemma when listening to the Prime Minister.
Hat tip: James Joyner at Outside the Beltway.

Stupid statement alert

I don’t have too much to say on the whole issue of the government’s defeat yesterday over the incitement to religious hatered bill.  Essentially, the government lost because the Labour whips miscalculated how many votes they’d need, didn’t call back some MPs from Scotland, didn’t tell Tony Blair that he should vote and, as a consequence lost by one vote.

So what do the Tories have to say about it?

“We didn’t expect to win,” one senior Tory admitted. “But they took their eye off the ball, that is the arrogance of power.”

This is possibly the most moronic statement I’ve read all day.  Someone makes a mistake – a stupid one to be sure – but a mistake nonetheless. And it’s down to “the arrogance of power”.  Not incompetence, or miscalculation, or lack of sleep, or too many things to do, or anything straightforward like that, but because of the “arrogance of power.” 

Sigh.  If this person is a “senior Tory,” one has to wonder about the Tories’ grasp of reality.  Do we really want to elect someone who doesn’t actually understand that mistakes are usually made because someone did something stupid?

OK, rant over.