27th July 2004


I stayed in London's East End (E1) with friends.  Peter & Maureen have a largish family and live near the church of Stepne (mentioned in the nursery rhyme, "Oranges & Lemons".)

London is an old city.  Parts of the Tower of London (which is actually a castle-fortress, I had always pictured a lone tower) were reportedly built in the tenth century.  Other parts are more recent, like the PVC downpipe that is fastened to the outside of the stone walls of the castle, or the middle ages brickwork addittions to the medieval stonework.  The bridge nearby, which had been shown in nursery rhymes titled "London Bridge" is called "Tower Bridge".  London bridge was sold some years past to the USA (for $1 million I was told), and rebuilt in Arizona.  Although my informant took the attitude "stupid yanks" I actually think that the Arizonans probably got the best of the deal.  London Bridge is an Icon, written into every english speaking child's world construct, and to learn that the original is in Arizona was a shock.  The new London Bridge is a box girder construct, no doubt adequate for the purpose, but lacking in esthetic appeal.

London city is the original walled city, and is quite small, about one mile square.  The Tower was where the East wall joined the Thames.  The city of Westminster is to the south-west of London city, and Westminster is where Whitehall (street) is, with the houses of parliament between Whitehall and the Thames.  About half a mile to the east of Parliament is Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth II is the lynchpin of English and Australian government.  Few Australians realize it, but our uniformed police and soldiers swear allegiance to the crown.  The UK does not have a written constitution, parliament exercises it's power by tradition with the permission of the crown.  The only power that parliament exercises in it's own right is that to enact Taxation.  As I understand it, the Queen could make any proclamation (except taxation), whether approved by parliament or not, and it would be law.  The Governor General of Australia has the same powers, written into our constitution.

The Thames is a tidal river, and the change in height from ebb to flow varies up to about 8 meters (25 feet).  This causes quite rapid currents in the river, which contains many varieties of fish.

My Starbux T-Mobile wifi account functioned, (albeit with quite a few problems,) in the UK.  I had to modify my username, and for some reason the connection process did not properly release my IP number; it was necessary to go into DOS Command mode, and "IPCONFIG /RELEASE" before each session, then reboot to permit connection.  I had no such trouble from T-Mobile anywhere in the USA.

The cost of everything in London is high.  Using the MacDonald's index, (i.e. comparing the cost of a MacDonald's salad in USA to one in London) I found that the UK pound stands at approximately twice its purchasing power.  In other words, after exchanging your US dollar for Pounds, everything costs about twice what it would in the USA.  There are variations, petrol costs about three or four times what it would in the USA (80pence per litre, which works out to about $6.20 per US gallon).


The bus from London to Amsterdam cost about twenty pounds.  That was a bargain, the normal fare is around forty pounds.  In Amsterdam everything is, like in London, about twice what it would be in the USA.  I found accommodation for twenty euros (about AU$35) in a youth hostel on Kloveniersburg wal.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  I have not left the inner suburb called Centrum, which is a spiderweb of canals & bridges.  Just about every major street seems to have a canal down it's centre.  The bicycle is the main form of mechanized transport.  The canals are filled with watercraft: houseboats, tourist barges, and small outboard powered dinghys.  The canals provide an alternative transport system, no part of centrum would be more than about 50 meters from a canal.

I only speak English, but that is no problem in Amsterdam.  In talking to over 50 people, I have only met about 2 or three with whom I could not communicate with reasonable fluency.  A young American girl (from NYC) newly arrived in Amsterdam came up and asked me for directions in what sounded to be fluent Dutch.  I responded "I only speak English", much to the discomfort of herself in front of her friends.  I have found that most written dutch can, after a few moments reflection, be translated.  Consider for instance "boekhandel" which means (I think) "bookshop", or "poezie"  for poetry, although it could have been flowers, or "sleuthspecialist" which means (I think) locksmith, although at first I thought it could have meant detective.

There are only two T-Mobile wifi connections in Amsterdam, one is in a hotel at the airport, the other is in a hotel in the west of Centrum.  The staff at the hotel have been kind enough to permit me to sit in various spaces within their hotel to connect with the internet.

Some of the people in this city speak disparagingly of the homelessness in the USA.  There is as much homelessness in Amsterdam.  I was in "Rokin Amrak" (the main street) at 7AM and saw the proprietor of a restaurant move two people that he found sleeping in different parts of his doorstep.  Other sleepers were visible in other locations. One homeless person actually demanded money with menace, called me an A******e when I refused to give him money.  I have seen the homeless all over the USA, mainly in the large cities where I have settled, LA, SF, NY.  Back in Sydney there are homeless. I have never felt as threatened as here in Amsterdam.  I have come to the conclusion that homelessness is not cured by high taxes and welfare.  In Australia we have a welfare system that pays anybody who is unemployed about $220 per week.  That is sufficient to find accommodation and buy food.  Yet still we have beggars, still we have the homeless.

It might assuage a few liberal consciences to throw money at the unemployed and the homeless, but it certainly does not cure the problem.  In fact, it seems to exacerbate it.  The combination of higher taxes and minimum wage laws that are so popular in nanny states mean that fewer people are employed.  The lack of consequences to those who use threats encourages violence.

Amsterdam has a name as practicing the most libertarian attitude of the cities in the world.  I certainly found that to be so.  Like Las Vegas, prostitution is legal.  The girls stand behind full length glass doors in the "red light district", displaying their wares in (so it seems) whatever manner they please.  While I was at the town hall, I found a pamphlet entitled "same sex marriages" which explained the dutch laws on same sex marriage.  There are delightful coffee houses which I have been frequenting.  In one (corner of Kloveniersburg wal & Rusland Raamor) I found the waiter showing a printed menu for about six varieties of hashish and eight varieties of grass.  Both were being sold by the gram, for prices ranging from six to eight euros.  In a tulip vendor's stand, three potting mixes containing marijuana seeds were selling "on special" for six euros.

While walking to my accommodation I was staring at my map, and a tall dutchman (195cm, about 6ft 7in.) asked if I was lost.  (I wasnt, just puzzled.)  We ended up drinking beer in a nearby bar, discussing politics rather loudly.  I said that people should not blame individual americans for all of their (USA) government's actions, and pointed out that I totally objected to Australian prime ministers Whitlam & Frazer's countenancing of the Indonesian invasion of Timor, and that I would like to see them both jailed for life.  He explained that the Dutch was also responsible for the Timor invasion, because Indonesia was an ex colony of theirs.

Then a whole lot of Scotsmen invaded the bar, attracted no doubt by the loud argument in english.  We all started talking, and after a while I left.  Those guys need minders!


Talkback radio is described by "liberals"*  in Australia and the USA as being "biassed" against the Labour (or Democrat) party.  The internet is spawning a large number of "bloggers" of whom Matt Drudge ( is the most famous.  Most bloggers are described as conservative.  On the other hand, most newspapers and television stations (with the exception of those operated by "NEWS Corp and the WSJ) are distinctly liberal.

Talkback radio and internet "bloggers" are direct & personalized feedback media in that they both accept (censored) online comment. TV and newspapers seem to have somewhat more restrictions on feedback.

Small capital media (radio & internet) tend to be conservative, whilst big capital media (TV and the Dailies) tend to liberal.   The exception to that rule are the Murdoch media, which is considered (at least by some vociferous liberal commentators) to have an owner inspired anti-liberal bias.  They do not explain why Rupert Murdoch's media is finding favour with an increasing proportion of viewers, while the big capital media, (which mostly express liberal opinion) have a diminishing share.

I suspect that Murdoch enterprises are increasing their market share precisely because of their editorial policy, which I suspect is more in tune with the political perceptions of a majority of people.

*Not to be consfused with the Australian Liberal Party, which are actually the conservative party in Australian politics, whereas the Labour party is full of "Liberals".