Cappuccino in Makushi

March 15, 2017

A lovely warm sunny spring day.

A walk up Steep Hill, then on the way back down, coffee at Makushi.

Different to last week, different barista, different beans.

Makushi change their beans roughly every month.

Interesting conversation with fellow coffee drinkers and the barista.

Makushi roast their own single origin beans and unlike undrinkable coffee from Costa, the beans are not over-roasted and burnt.

Barista recommended I try The Plant Room in Brighton. Not a coffee shop I am familiar with.

Other places to try coffee in Lincoln:

  • Stokes on High Bridge
  • Coffee Aroma
  • The Little Bicle Coffee Shop

One to avoid, Angel Coffee House.

Henry’s tea room, marginal.

Had I had time, I would have popped in The Cheese Society and picked up some cheese.

Plenty of people wandering around, High Street was packed.

Greek crisis is the canary in the mine

March 11, 2017

Last year the Greek economy suffered a further blow, contracting by 1.2% at the end of 2016, according to revised figures released earlier this week. The figures, published by the Greek statistics agency Elstat show it was the worst quarter since the summer of 2015, when the European Central Bank closed the Greek banks.

The medicine imposed by the EU is killing the patient, not that there was ever any intention of helping the patient to recover.

Capitalism is an adaptive system, or was, 50 year long Kondratieff cycles, each new cycle driven by technological innovation. This came to an abrupt end in 2008. We are now post-capitalism.

2008 a banking crisis, morphed into an economic crisis, into a social and political crisis, and now a geo-political crisis.

2009 the German banks were bankrupt, their ‘assets’ worthless dodgy US financial instrument. They were bailed out by the German taxpayer.

2010 the German banks were in trouble again, back with their begging bowls, the Greek state was bankrupt, could not service their debt, technically the German banks were insolvent. The German taxpayer would not stomach a second bail out of the German banks. A clever ploy, biggest ever loan to a bankrupt state, the money flows to Greece straight back out to French and German banks. Classic extend and pretend. And a bonus, control the Greek state, plunder the Greek state, force sell off of state assets at knockdown prices. The result, Greek economy shrank by 25%. To put that in context, Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash economies shrank by 20%.

2015 Syriza won a landslide victory, with a mandate to challenge the EU.

What we saw in Greece, was not ‘conventional Left politics’, this was a radical, progressive moment with popular support. Greeks were saying, enough is enough.

Most intelligent observers recognise, the EU is close to collapse. It is a rigid hierarchical system.  Such systems lack the ability to adapt, they are brittle and cannot survive shocks.

The banking crash of 2008 was one such shock. The election of Syriza was another shock. The example being set by Syriza could not be allowed to spread, the contagion had to be contained.

The mechanism used to destroy  the Greek banks and destroy the Greek government was the ECB.  The role of a Central Bank when banks are in trouble is to help support the banks, ECB did the exact opposite.

But was the closure process legal and within the ECB’s charter and mandate?

ECB President Mario Draghi wasn’t sure; Draghi commissioned an independent legal opinion on this issue.

Fabio De Masi, a German Die Linke MEP, asked for a copy of this legal opinion. He was denied a copy.

When money flowed into Greece, then back out to bail out German and French banks, why were EU citizens not told what was happening?  Instead they were led to believe that hard working Germans were subsidising lazy Greeks.

Greece was bankrupt. The existing debts should have been written off, or at the very least restructured. Instead, more money was loaned to enable the Greeks to continue to service their debts.

ECB is a Central Bank without a government. Countries within the eurozone are countries without a central bank. The eurogroup lacks any legitimacy, legally and a constitutionally it does not exist.

ECB used its powers to interfere directly in the democratic process of a country.

Yanis Varoufakis  and Fabio De Masi MEP have launched a public campaign demanding the immediate release of what they are calling The Greek Papers.

Greece is the canary in the mine, symptomatic of a wider problem within the EU and the eurozone.

As it celebrates the signing of the Rome treaty, EU has proposed changes but it is merely a watered down version of business as usual

EU is not Europe.

We should be planning now for the collapse of the EU to be replaced by a network of cooperating democratic countries.

At local level, as we have seen in Spain, Madrid, Barcelona and A Coruña, ordinary citizens seizing control of their local Town Halls, opening to public participation, then networking with other citizen controlled Town Halls.

We need across Europe a Green New Deal.

At local level, establishment of open coops, support for small businesses, collaborative commons.

We need faircoin and fairpay card as cooperative digital alternatives to the euro, at local level, local currencies.

In Foundation, first book of the Foundation trilogy,  the Galactic Empire is collapsing. A group of citizens establish at opposite ends of the galaxy, two foundations. They do so in the knowledge that the Empire will collapse, but by preserving what is known, they will greatly reduce the period of instability.

That is the situation we now find ourselves in Europe. 2008 could be our 1929, when Europe descended into Fascism and chaos.

We are already seeing the end, the rise in Fascism, the chaos.

We must work now to plan for the future, otherwise our 2008 will be 1929.

Please support Yanis VaroufakisFabio De Masi and DiEM25 in their call for the release of The Greek Papers. Please support their request to release these critical documents by signing the petition calling for the release of #The GreekFiles.

Cappuccino in Coffee Aroma

March 9, 2017

Lovely sunny spring day.

A few minutes stroll by South Common.

Today was the first day I have ever found St Swithin’s open. Only because a group was holding a meeting. When I passed by later, it was not open.

Deressing to see how the inside of the church has been ruined, and that they allow the malignancy of Alpha to enter the church.

Quick chat at The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop.

Followed by an excellent cappuccino at Coffee Aroma.

Coffee Aroma has been ordered to remove its tables and chairs by four in the afternoon. A pedestrianised street through which motorised traffic is allowed after that time.

So concerned are useless jobsworth at Lincolnshire County Council, who lack the common courtesy to put a name to e-mails, with public safety, they have ordered Coffee Aroma to remove their tables and chairs by four in the afternoon, but not so concerned to actually stop motorised vehicles, cars,  vans, huge lorries, to drive through the pedestrianised city centre.

As I was drinking my coffee, sometime between 1215 and 1220, white van man drove through, with Chub Community written down the side of the van, but ok, he had his hazard lights flashing.

The Great Correction

March 7, 2017

The Great Correction, wonderful song and imagery from Eliza Gilkyson.

From her album Beautiful World.

She needs to release on bandcamp, not all the wrong sites that are owned and controlled by Big Business

Special thanks to 

Blockadia are the flash points, where paramilitary forces are used against protesters defending the commons. 

 

Cappuccino in Makushi

March 7, 2017

A pleasant sunny morning to walk up Steep Hill.

High Street follows Ermine Street, an old Roman road, as does The Strait, as does Steep Hill.

Makushi is well located, half way up Steep Hill, but I prefer to drop in on my way back down.

Excellent cappuccino.

Today a different barista, noticeably different coffee.

On my way back down, Cornish yarg from The Cheese Society.

A new coffee shop opening at the bottom of The Strait, it what until recently a deli,and before that a second outlet for The Cheese Society.

Neither did well, lack of footfall. Wrong location for a coffee shop, beginning of the climb, not halfway up.

Advertising for baristas. Hmm, if opening a coffee shop, that should have already been sorted. If know nothing about coffee, forget it, there are sufficient number of outlets serving bad coffee.

Pleasant spring day in Heighington

March 4, 2017

A little after midday, a pleasant sunny spring day in Heighington.

Pleasantly warm in the sun. Crocuses and daffodils were in flower. Snowdrops have been out for at least a month.

Heighington is a village of stone cottages, narrow lanes, lined by stone walls, with tiles on the walls, not far from Lincoln.

If you want excellent pork pies, then visit the local butcher, hidden at the back of the Spar shop. He is famous for the quality of his Lincolnshire sausages.

Butcher and Beast is an old pub with an open fire, or was. It serves food, or did. The menu board outside contained blank sheets of paper. A couple of years ago, the food was overpriced and not very good. It now seem to have improved.

A small stream, Heighington Beck flows through the village, with a disused mill a little way upstream. There was a tea room by the Beck, but sadly this has closed.

Ruddock’s to close after 163 years in business

March 4, 2017

Ruddock’s and Stokes on High Bridge are permanent features of Lincoln High Street.

Ruddock’s, a printer and a shop, the shop a bookshop, stationary, art supplies, upmarket pens, located in the top half of the High Street in Lincoln.

Or was, the printing business is to remain, the shop is to close.

Ruddock’s is to close after 163 years in business. A family business, the plan is to close in April 2017, 113 years in the present location, prior to that a little further up the High Street.

Henry Ruddock blames the lack of parking.

That is not the problem, the High Street is busy, there is footfall on the street, the problem is people are not passing through the door into the store.

I am sorry to see Ruddock’s close, but sadly not surprised, it lost its way years ago.

Lack of car parking in the town centre is simply an excuse. Yes, there is a problem of traffic congestion, solve that by improving public transport.

I see a High Street packed, but I see Ruddock’s empty.

But I would agree most of the developments within the city centre have been to the detriment of the town centre. For example the ugly high rise buildings, destruction of Sincil Street and the market, allowing motorised traffic through a pedestrianised city centre.

Ruddock’s used to be an excellent bookshop. Ruddock’s lost their way when they stopped selling books, though difficult to compete with on-line and Waterstone’s selling cut price best sellers, deals that are not offered to indie bookshops. Walk in now, and it is newspapers, magazines and rubbish.

Though first floor is a specialist art supplier.

Henry’s tea shop upstairs, is nicely done out, has atmosphere, but the coffee when I tried was not good. These days if open a coffee shop, ok it is a tea shop, you have to employ top class baristas and take a pride in the coffee you serve, not leave it to someone who makes the sandwiches. And how many passing by know there is a tea shop upstairs?

The tea shop will remain open or for the time being, but it is difficult to see how this will work if the shop is to close.

The tea shop is also placed at a competitive disadvantage when Starbucks and Caffè Nero dodge tax.

Ruddock’s also sells high quality pens, and I do not mean trendy rubbish Ted Baker as they promoted on twitter.

Montegrappa The Alchemist

Montegrappa The Alchemist

One of the rare shops I have found selling Montegrappa pens though not their top range, for example The Alchemist pen.

Lincoln will now have lost all its indie bookshops, or soon will have.

Readers Rest closed a couple of years ago. A great loss, and still missed.

Harlequin is going, driven out of business by a greedy landlord hiking the rent.

BookStop Cafe remains, local authors and second hand books, located in an undercroft beneath a Norman building with stunning view down Steep Hill.

Business rate hike is going to kill off many more indie businesses.

Development of Sincil Street has done an excellent job of driving out indie businesses. The street is now derelict. It used to be between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon busier than the High Street.

What is left? The same boring chains as seen in every town.

And where we do see indie coffee shops like Coffee Aroma, harassment from the County Council for leaving their tables and chairs outside in a pedestrianised area.

Yet what we see sadly is not only Lincoln, planners who care not for the local town, lack vision, lack understanding of town centre planning, and too often in the pocket of greedy developers.

When I attend a planning meeting and find a planner arguing on behalf of a greedy developer, dismissing any local objections, often quite well founded local objections, blatantly lying on the presentation, then I know something stinks.

And we only have to look at the results.

That is why time and time again, when English visit small towns across Europe, and still find the butcher, baker and indie bookshops, the historic centre free of traffic and unspoilt, they ask, why is my town not like this?

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

In Bassano del Grappa, a small town north of Venice nestling in the foothills of the Alps, we find traffic free streets, little shops, three indie bookshops, one of which is in a former palace where Napoleon once stayed.

Lincoln City Council, shedding crocodile tears, wringing of hands, not us guv.

Of course they are at fault, they are the planning authority hand in hand with Lincolnshire who are the Highways authority.

A classic case study in bad town centre planning.

And then have the gall to blame Lincoln for being a historic town. That is its attraction, there is nothing else of attraction. Or do they think people visit to admire the ugly buildings, to shop in the same shops as found elsewhere?

I fully back Henry Ruddock in his damning critique of the City Council.

Lincoln would make a case study in unimaginative, bad town centre planning.

Where I would disagree, is in the comments on car parking.

In the last decade or more we have seen ugly high rise buildings, each one uglier than the other.

Brayford is an eyesore.

This was an area of old warehouses and mills. This area could have been restored, to create an attractive and vibrant atmosphere, ground floor indie coffee shops and other indie businesses, first floor small businesses, design studios, hi-tech, top floors living accommodation.

Look to Bristol for an example.

A couple of years ago Sincil Street was thriving, between ten in the morning and four in the morning, it was busier than the High Street.

Now it has been blighted by development and sky high rents. And if look at the hoardings, more High Street chains, where once we had indie businesses.

Look to North Laine in Brighton, three streets each longer than Sincil Street, associated side streets, always busy, not a single chain, all indie businesses.

We see harassment of Coffee Aroma for leaving their tables and chairs outside, rather than deal with the real issue of stopping traffic through a pedestrianised area and delivering by handcart and trolley, as the norm in Europe.

Uber drivers unable to communicate in English

March 4, 2017
taxi protest Whitehall

taxi protest Whitehall

Drivers being able to speak English and understand information from passengers and licensing requirements is a vital part of ensuring passengers get the high standard of service they need and deserve. — Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

It beggars belief, Uber went to Court in London to challenge that their drivers had to be competent in English.

“TfL are entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance,” said Judge John Mitting as he rejected Uber’s claim.

It demonstrates once again that Uber is a rogue company, with very low standards.

Well done Sadiq Khan Mayor of London and TfL for establishing that Uber drivers have to have this minimum standard, of being able to communicate in English.

Now please take the next step, if Uber are operating a taxi service, then regulate as  a taxi service.

Uber are engaging in unfair competition with their unregulated drivers. That is why their fares are cheaper than a regulated London taxi, the traditional black cab, not because they have some technological advantage through booking a taxi through an app.

If I were to hail a taxi in London, I would expect at the very least, a local driver who knew London and who could communicate in English.

Uber claim it is discrimination against foreigners.

Who are these foreigners, who are working as serfs for Uber?

How did they get into the country if they cannot communicate in English?

Are they illegal immigrants?

Immigration should be checking on the status of all Uber drivers.

It also begs the question, if they cannot communicate in English, how did they obtain a  driving licence? Do they have a driving licence? Did they use a common scam, someone else took took the driving test on their behalf.

The Police should check on all Uber drivers.

Earlier in the week, boss of Uber was caught on camera abusing one of his drivers.

Earlier this month, Uber were caught refusing to pick up a blind man and his guide dog.

The month before, we learnt of a culture of bullying and sexual harassment of Uber employees.

The latest scandal to hit Uber, they are using hidden software to hide from regulators.

Uber is exploitation, serfs working for an app.

All of which are grounds to delete Uber, divest from Uber.

When will the Uber bubble burst?

Caffè Nero dodge tax

February 26, 2017

Caffè Nero has joined the growing list of tax dodgers, which includes Starbucks.

Coffee shop chain Caffè Nero paid no corporation tax in the UK last year, despite ringing up profits of £25.5m.

Companies House filings show turnover at Caffè Nero grew 6.7 per cent to £257.6m as it opened 31 stores over the year.

Caffè Nero has not paid UK corporation tax since 2007 and came under criticism last year for not paying corporation tax in 2015 on profits of £23.6m.

Starbucks has also faced backlash in the past over alleged tax avoidance, but has since changed the structure of its company and paid an £8.1m UK corporation tax bill in 2015.

It is unfortunate Caffè Nero now own Harris + Hoole – Tolley, Tolley and Tolley having sold the staff down the river. They did the same to Taylor St Barista staff when they closed the coffee shop in Brighton.

In both cases, these excellent coffee shops, especially Taylor St Barista in Brighton and Harris + Hoole in Guildford, could have been made available to their staff and customers to run as open coops, but that would not have satisfied the greed of Tolley, Tolley and Tolley.

The solution is simple, avoid disgusting coffee in Costa, tax dodging Starbucks and Caffè Nero and support local indie coffee shops.

Force ECB to release #TheGreekFiles

February 21, 2017

Those who support the EU, why do they continue to turn a blind eye to Greece?

Greece dared stand up and challenge the EU, for that Greece had to be destroyed.

The main route for destroying Greece was to destroy the Greek banks.

That action may have been illegal.

Deep in a vault in the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) lie #TheGreekFiles, a legal opinion about the ECB’s actions towards Greece in 2015 that could send shockwaves across Europe.

As a European taxpayer, you paid for these documents. But the ECB’s boss, ex-Goldman Sachs head Mario Draghi, says you can’t see them.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Fabio de Masi MEP, together with a broad alliance of politicians and academics (below), have announced they will file a mass freedom of information request to the ECB to uncover #TheGreekFiles once and for all.

If Mario says no, they’ll take the campaign to the next level, and consider all options – including legal action – to make this vital information public.

Please support their request to release these  critical documents  by signing the petition calling for the release of #The GreekFiles. 

This DiEM25 petition is supported by a coalition of politicians and academics, with divergent views on the future of the EU and the Eurozone.

Here is the most recent list; check back for updates:

  • Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party candidate for the French Presidency, 2017
  • Katja Kipping, Co-Chairperson, Die Linke, Germany
  • Gesine Schwan, President, Viadrina European University and twice the SPD’s candidate for the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Yanis Varoufakis, co-founder of DiEM25 and former Greek finance minister

with the support of university professors including:

  • Klaus Dörre, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena
  • James K. Galbraith, University of Texas at Austin
  • Rudolf Hickel, Bremen Universität
  • Gustav A. Horn, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung
  • Aidan Regan, University College Dublin
  • Jeffrey Sachs, University of Columbia
  • Joseph Vogl, Humboldt Universität
  • Arthur Gibson, University of Cambridge

In June 2015, the newly-elected Greek government was locked in tense negotiations with its creditors (the ‘Troika’ – the ECB, EC and IMF), doing what it had been voted in to do: renegotiate the country’s public debt, fiscal policy and reform agenda, and save its people from the hardship of the most crushing austerity programme in modern history.

The Troika knew they needed to make a drastic move to force the Greek government to capitulate. And that’s just what they did: through the ECB, they took action to force Greece’s banks to close, ultimately driving the Greek government – against its democratic mandate – to accept the country’s third ‘bailout’, together with new austerity measures and new reductions in national sovereignty.

But in their haste, their zeal to crush the Greek government’s resistance, the ECB feared their actions might be legally dubious. So they commissioned a private law firm to examine whether those decisions were legal. The legal opinion of this law firm is contained in #TheGreekFiles.

In July 2015, the German MEP Fabio De Masi asked Mario Draghi to release the legal opinion. Mario refused, hiding behind ‘attorney-client privilege’. Clearly #TheGreekFiles contain something he doesn’t want us to see.

One of the foremost experts on European Law, Professor Andreas Fischer-Lescano, examined whether the ECB was right to refuse to release #TheGreekFiles. His detailed conclusion leaves no room for doubt: the ECB has no case for withholding from MEPs and the citizens of Europe the legal opinion the ECB secured (and paid for using your money) regarding its own conduct.

But in addition to the legal imperative: in today’s Eurozone, the power of the ECB to close down a member-state’s banks violates every democratic principle. It also violates the ECB’s own aspiration, and charter obligation, to be independent and above political strategising.

We must all throw light on the lawfulness and propriety of ECB decision-making – beginning with this case – to give European democracy a chance, as well as to make the ECB less vulnerable to power politics.