Heathrow – the scramble for investment hots up

As Nicole Foss of The Automatic Earth  frequently points out, finance will be the first of  three big crises to really start to bite around the world (the other two being peak oil and climate change of course).

Pools of investment capital are steadily getting shallower. As they do, the fights over who gets the lion’s share become fiercer.

Here in the UK, the post-crash game of ‘Capital Fight’ is crystallising around plans for a third runway for Heathrow airport.

BAA, the airport’s operator, and the consortia of infrastructure-building interests are desperate for government to give the go-ahead. And they bandy plenty of bollocks about to try to support their case.

BAA claim that transfer passengers contribute an average of £500 each to the UK economy as they pass briefly through Heathrow’s hallowed arrival and departure gates.

But since many of those passengers transfer to flights to non-UK destinations, those who do go on to domestic flights must be spending a helluva lot per head while they’re here.

Time is running out for the pro-expansion lobby. It won’t be long before it’s clear to everyone that the runway’s economic usefulness will probably be over before it’s even finished.

Mass aviation is dying in by inch as airlines fail and passenger numbers stall in the face of high fuel costs and stagnating incomes.

Not that that matters a jot to the expansionists. BAA needs to show investment to stay in the hub game against the likes of Schipol or Frankfurt over the next critical few years before the game is up. The banks and infrastructure consortia, as always, are only concerned with the money to be made from building the new facilities. Who cares what happens to them afterwards?

If you can’t believe that banks and builders would pour all that capital into a massive white elephant then you should read James Howard Kunstler’s chapters on mall-building in The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere.  Once there was a way for backers to make oodles of dosh while ensuring they weren’t left holding the baby when the malls failed years later.

Now, not so much. The Heathrow expansion lobby is competing for scarce capital against genuinely important investments in UK energy infrastructure, food security and non-road transportation (not including the sexy but not-exactly-vital high speed rail line from London to Birmingham).

Moreover, UK taxpayers now know that they’ll be on the hook, via their ‘ownership’ of the TBTF banks’ liabilities (though mysteriously never the profits), for any Government-sanctioned projects that turn out to be dead ducks in the long term.

Will voters in the West, Midlands and North be happy if their lights start flickering on and off just as politicians, playboys, pop stars and fat cats – soon to constitute much of the constituency of the still-flying – get to enjoy sauntering through the wide open spaces of Heathrow+1 on their way to Jersey or Zurich?

Do politicians care? Tim ‘About Turn’ Yeo MP doesn’t seem to. On the grounds that jets are a bit quieter these days, and that emissions aren’t a problem because EU carbon caps will make fuel even more crushingly unaffordable for airlines,  he’s performed a timely abandonment of his opposition to expansion and challenged his boss to be a man not a mouse and back it too.

To QuadRanting, that looks like the ultimate in short-termism and running scared of the Tory DailyGuff – arch backer of a narrow spectrum of City and construction sector interests.

Why now? Only the expansionist lobby knows. The delicious thing is that the “man or mouse” call coincided with the Essex Lion Fiasco, ensuring that Yeo has had to endure a barrage of animal related gags and catcalls (naturally) from all sides.

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Spaced in. Drugged out

Quadranting is sure that it won’t be long before someone more high-profile than he draws attention to the connection between performance-stretching drugs and heroes/antiheroes named Armstrong.

Fallen hero Lance denies using any when he scaled the peaks of pro cycling. Deceased hero Neil certainly carried them with him to the moon as part of his official astronaut’s kit.

Obviously there’s a difference.  The use of drugs like dexedrine by pilots and astronauts is officially sanctioned as a way of keeping them going in times of stress (the Apollo 13 crew used their ‘dexies’ to mask the effects of cold and exhaustion during their return to earth).

Lance Armstrong also allegedly used drugs or blood doping to cheat his natural limitations. But in his case, the official sanction was against the use of artificial stimulants so this week his star fell just 48 hours before Neil’s ascended to it’s permanent place in America’s panoply of all time superheroes.

Still, this timely tale of two Armstrongs neatly illustrates the labyrinthine nuances of good and bad in life and sport. Amphetamines and sport don’t mix: they helped to kill the British rider Tom Simpson during the 1967 Tour. But officially administered uppers played havoc with pilots’ psyches in WW2 and they’ve been implicated in friendly fire incidents in more recent conflicts.

Let’s not forget that the moon missions were just as much a high stakes international race as is the Tour de France. Winning the space race was everything to Americans – just as road cycling was when they thought Lance was clean.

They didn’t mind if the Apollo astronauts took drugs: they were only obeying orders from Mission Control. But if Lance Armstrong took drugs, (he still denies it) it was his own choice.

Ultimately, the role of uppers in the moon missions was not cheating. It was merely a bad example to the rest of us. In the Tour, doping was (is) purely about gaining unfair advantage. That’s why America will spend the next few weeks venerating the memory of one Armstrong and hoping to forget the other one, notwithstanding the millions he raised for charity on the back of the Tour wins that he seems likely to soon be stripped of.

Duff code broke my redirect

In QuadRant’s ‘serious’ life, he has a business and its web site to look after. The site is on WordPress.com but the domain is hosted by a UK ISP. The home page’s registered URL redirects to WordPress via an HTTP 301 permanent redirect script.

This is the proper way to do it, as explained by this article on somacon.com.

Well, everything was fine for three years until one day I typed my domain into Chrome and got an error notice reading:

Duplicate headers received from the server

The response from the server contained duplicate headers. This problem is generally the result of a misconfigured website or proxy. Only the website or proxy administrator can fix this issue.

Error 350 (net::ERR_RESPONSE_HEADERS_MULTIPLE_LOCATION): Multiple distinct Location headers received. This is disallowed to protect against HTTP response splitting attacks.”

Horrors! And Firefox felt the same way too, although its error message wasn’t so informative. IE9, as you might have guessed, wasn’t bothered about the danger of ‘HTTP response splitting attacks’ and passed me on to the WordPress destination without even a cautionary cough.

It turned out that I had simply omitted to close the script with Response.End when I upgraded it from the simple ASP redirect script that I’d originally cut and pasted from W3Schools. As I’d left the code from my old homepage below the redirect script and not even commented it out, careful browsers ended up with a hatful of headers when they started to take the absence of a Response.End literally.

So let that be a lesson to me. Hope it helps if you are trying to solve the same problem with your site, or need tell someone else that their site is playing up, perhaps they’re looking for a bit of closure too.

Circuses without the bread

THE ALWAYS DEPENDABLE Tory DailyGuff effortlessly demonstrates its neo-Orwellian (or should that be Nero-Orwellian) pedigree on today’s front page.

It goes for the Freestyle Ludicrous Headline gold medal with: “Keep calm and carry on – we are only one medal short of what we should have at this stage.”

Beneath the 72pt banner, a crack squad of highly-trained DT eyewash-peddlers hit the page running with:

The British public was yesterday urged not to panic over the country’s gold medal drought as officials insisted that Team GB was still on target for a bumper Olympic haul.

And there was I, running up and down our road dressed only in a pyjama top, gibbering at the sheer unrelieved tension of it all. Silly me.

Now, someone could write a whole thesis on that intro alone: for example the insinuation that all good citizens ought, by now, to have raised their level of patriotic fervour to hysteria pitch. Or the shadowy ‘officials’, whose iron grip on the Olympic Plan will surely deliver those longed-for gongs bang on cue.

Juvenal would have recognised all this at once: Duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et Circenses. (Approximately): “Two things only do the people earnestly desire, bread and the Games.”

Or just ‘the Games’ these days, since history is repeating itself 19 centuries on. If one peeks behind the wall-to-wall flag-waving by the media (at page 26 of today’s cellulose edition of the DailyGuff to be precise), problems with the bread side of the equation are popping up like the ugly heads of synchronised swimmers at a goblin gala.

Household incomes hit seven-year low” is the headline over an article that points out that families can now only afford to pay 2005 prices for burgers and chips, let alone the astronomic amounts demanded by monopoly sponsors in the hermetically-sealed east London rallying arena.

Above that article is one headlined: “Euro failure would trigger UK bank nationalisations.” It would trigger a hell of a lot more than that for the vulgaris. But it always helps to be reminded about whose priorities matter most.

I did like the suggestion that “to prevent the pound strengthening in a euro crisis” (are they saying there isn’t a euro crisis now?) the Bank of England “would have to launch a £1 trillion round of quantitative easing.”

That would definitely count as a heroic, gold medal-worthy effort for a country whose entire GDP was barely £1.5 trillion before it started shrinking.

Hmm. Let’s see now, what should we spend all that money on when it’s been printed? Bread, d’you think? Or circuses?