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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The end of another day here in Scotland..
It's getting on to our winter.. such as it is.. and while the weather may well be the staple of conversation starters here.. other issues dominate the talk in the pubs..
Burma.. the idea of a military junta keeping a democratically elected government out of power for decades.. monks, nuns, and protesters again being gunned down in the streets of the Capital..
The economic ties binding China.. Britain.. France with the junta and the selective language being diplomatically applied to those in power, the military, in obvious efforts to appease those of us.. the Americans, British, French.. who share a sense of outrage.. rather than seriously having any effect on the events which will continue to unfold in that Asian country..
The Burmese people are less a consideration to our economic machine, than is the oil and gas the junta has contracted to supply..
Many a sage nose has been tapped, with a wink of an eye, at that thought..

And then there's Gordon, a man who could well be planning a call to the polls for us..
The signs are there.. before the Labour Conference shut down this noon hour, recruiters were already talking with local campaigners.. Gordon himself is mute, but will meet this Sunday with the hierarchy of his Party..
At this point, the consensus along the bar is that Labour would take a majority.. That while many of the policies Labour has been touting of late have been stolen directly from proposals made by the Tories two or three years ago.. policies Labour ridiculed and voted down at the time..
Policies dealing with issues the likes of immigration.. home security.. legal liability of those who intervene to stop a crime they might see being committed..
education.. the value of 'family'..
All former Conservative bills.. all voted down.. but now, popular stances..
And whether or not Labour can follow through on, or even afford, some of the planks we'll see laid over the next couple of weeks, is essentially irrelevent..
It's popularity that seems to be the push at the moment..
And that would point to the possibility of an early call for an election..
It would also take a lot of the focus off the Conservative Convention.. itself set to start next week..
David could find himself fighting for column inches, at a time he should be dominating the national political spotlight..

But the talk gravitated back to Burma..
How the State media is telling those not at the protests that the international media is "lying".. that now it's confirmed 9 protestors, one a Japanese freelance Photographer.. died when government troops opened fire on the crowds.. How david Milliband, our Foreign Secretary who's in New York at the UN has assured us that harsh sanctions will be placed upon the Burmese government..
But there was almost the look of a deer, caught in the headlights of an onrushing Mac truck, in Davids eyes..
He knows full well, that little the West does is going to have any effect on the junta.. That it will take definative threats from India and China for anything other than quiet amusement from the three Generals who control 'their' country..
And that will depend on what value India and China see, in maintaining the goodwill of Wesern investors..
Russia will have something to say on this as well, having contracted with the junta to build a nuclear reactor for them..
A complex issue.. much shaking of heads..
But all in agreement at least on one point.. that in the short run, the Burmese people are screwed..
"A skyfull of lies.."
The Burmese people have been warned by their military government.. that reports from the West, specifically the BBC and SkyNews.. and manufacturing a crisis which simply doesn't exist..
The military fired on the protesters today.. reports are that at least four have been killed, one of them, possibly, a Japanese photographer..
It continues to be interesting, the reaction from France concerning these developments in one of their spheres of economic involvement.. At the moment, France is a major investor.. along with the military junta.. in the construction of a major oil and gas pipeline complex. There's a lot of French money tied up in Burma..
The French oil giant Total is a major investor in Burma through its gas pipeline project in Yadana.. Total itself has been embroiled in a series of court cases over forced labour and other human rights abuses..
Under Jacques Chirac, the French government told a US court that suing the company would "conflict with French national interest".
The Sarkozy government takes a more critical line with Total, but had not, in the past, called for disinvestment.
Then, last night in an interview.. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner suggested that he would eventually like to see Total disinvesting..
A serious statement, when taken in context..

Let's segue for a moment to the Labour Party Conference, which has wound up today..
It would seem, that Gordon has demonstrated that not only has he the flexibility to accept programs suggested by the Opposition, and the nous to keep a finger on the pulse of the nation..
One might go out on a limb here, and suggest that Gordon will call an early election.. perhaps not as early as the 'Young Turks' in the Party might like, but likely by the Spring at the latest..
Possibly earlier..
And he will win.. There may well be a time for David to take the reins, but not yet..
But the point is, that Gordon, along with France's new leader Nicholas.. and Germany's Angela.. may well form the core of an alliance which would wield considerable weight in International Affairs.. While Britain will remain and island, separated from a complete EU.. the decisions made, in concert, by these three leaders will begin to have some international credibility..
Vlad, also in the way out, has set his country on a road which would appear to be an acceptable compromise, bridging traditional Leninist values with Western economic realities.. A solid power base there, and one not antipathetic to consumerism..
China's waking up.. And is perhaps realising the responsibility that accompanies it's role in the worldwide scheme of things..
It may well be, that a consolidation of the Northern Hemisphere/Pacific Rim countries will, of necessity, see the end of 'military dictatorships' as such.. and to return to the original focus, Burma may well be the catalyst that sets off a reaction which will be a prototype for change in other parts of the world..
When we hear that the Burmese military raided several monasteries overnight.. with hundreds arrested.. '..beaten and herded like cattle into army trucks to be taken to parts unknown..' according to witness reports.. it sparks a sense of moral outrage..a global shudder of revulsion that surpasses even those felt when we're presented with pictures of African infants with flies crawling into their eyes..
Perhaps, if the persecution of the Burmese clerics and public forces some change in that country, through international moral suasion.. Those African infants might feel a downstream effect..
One major question remains.
When George leaves office, what will the US become?
Now frankly, with the certain exception of the Middle East, Europe and Asia can deal with both Africa and the Indonesian problems.. An alliance between Britain, a diplomatically strong EU, Russia, China, Japan, and Australia, can settle issues the likes of Burma.. and any other like situations..
But, the world has it's eyes on the States.. trying to determine which of the Parties.. which of their possible candidates, has the credibility to deal with the problems they'll inherit.
It's a concern..
Interesting.. a statement directly from the White House literally moments ago.. 'demanding' the violence against peaceful protesters in Burma cease immediately..
How much more weight the same statement would have had, had it come from Beijing..
Thousands of Buddhist monks, nuns, civilians, took to the streets of Rangoon, with the Army responding with tear-gas and live shots fired, over the heads of the protesters for the most part..
But.. it has escalated to a situation analogous to 1988, or 8/8/88, as it's remembered over there..
It's interesting, the reactions from the various hegemony's.. with Britain, the EU.. the States, all condemning the flagrant human rights ignored by a military government which, by rights, should not even be in power..
While China' deplores' the situation in Burma, it feels it has no right to step in to the realm of interfering with what is an 'internal problem'..
Now India's taking the same route.. and for the same reason..
Burma has vast oil and gas reserves.
It's easier to negotiate, and to keep in line, a corrupt military government, than it is to deal with a democracy..
China, then, is very much the key player.. but Beijing faces conflicting pressures. It has to weigh its energy and strategic interests against access to the Indian Ocean, for example.. with its desire for stability and its concern for its own reputation abroad, especially with the Beijing Olympics fast approaching.
Today's informal Security Council meeting served in part to gauge the Beijing government's current position.
China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, reaffirmed China's predictable position that this crisis was not a threat to international peace and that sanctions would not be helpful.
And that leaves the west in a moral cleft stick.
How deep are our convictions, when not tempered by economic incentive..
Now, the US has entered a new phase of sanctions of the Rangoon government..
But somehow, this always seems to filter down to cause more problems for the man on the street, than ever they do to those either in, or connected to the government..
Same problem facing us in Africa.
One has to shake ones head at times, at the number of people around this world who need to be 'saved'..
We know too much, and learn of it far too quickly..
And.. should it be Burma still..?
The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising. Rangoon also became Yangon..
Britain never recognised the right of the Junta to change the name of the country.. neither did the US..
But, China did.. as did India.. and that's how it's little label reads at the UN..
And the latest reports are, that government forces have conducted night raids on monasteries.. some 100 monks have been taken into detention..
The government has confirmed that in the demonstrations yesterday, at least three men were killed..
There are further reports of raids in the north-east of the country as well..
Seems the government is willing to take this to the level of 8/8/88..

Interesting, the state of British economics these days..
Housing prices are still on the rise.. the Northern Rock collapse hasn't been settled yet, with even speculative funds, who would simply liquefy the tangible assets, don't appear willing to put themselves any further in debt.. at least not yet..
But it's expected the Fed in the US is going to fall again.. and with the devaluation of the $AM against the £ and the Euro.. one might reasonably expect the American economy to implode temporarily.. sanctions against even favoured trading partners will needs be put into effect..
Add to that.. orders for durable goods, which include everything from washing machines to commercial jets, fell by a far larger than expected 4.9%.
So much is being built, to deliberately blow up, that this war, when it decelerates, is going to have drastic impact..
But here on this island.. our GNP is growing.. inflation has actually fallen in what the public sees as important sectors.. foodstuffs.. clothing..
We seem to be handling the over-inflation of real estate reasonably well.. with foreclosures not up appreciably..
In fact, banks and building societies said 'Thanks, but no..' to an auction of cash by the Bank of England.. The BofE was willing to inject £10 billion more into the money market, on short-term loans..
Mind you, they wanted 6.5% on it..
But, with a new Chancellor, and a new PM.. we're bound to have a fair honeymoon period..
There are serious problems to be faced, and they will take money..
It's the Euro/Dollar ratio that's a concern..
One has an inherent distrust of a currency which is undenyably tied to the nation which uses it with the lowest GNP.. the highest inflation rate..
And if selling American dollars appears to be the trend.. it indicates the US itself is absorbling more and more of it's own currency.. preparing to start a movement wherein it's too expensive for Americans to buy imports.. and better to 'Buy American' anyway..
This Euro may well have reached the point where it's priced itself out of the market..
Where's the incentive for American investment, when their $'s worth so little..?
Conversely.. where's the advantage in expanding business.. or enterprise.. in Russia or the Ukraine.. when the Ruble and the Euro can buy so much more, in the US..
And when the situation turns around, as in a few years it will, those same companies will be bought back by a resurgent greenback. For it's inconcievable, considering the foundation of the currency, that the Euro can maintain it's value for much longer.
Equally inconcievable, that the American dollar will abrogate it's position as a watermark..

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Imagine such a scenario in a 'western' country..
One in which religious leaders.. members of religious orders, both monks, nuns, priests, ministers, pastors.. all took to the streets along with tens of thousands of their followers.. to protest a failing economy and a government that is more concerned with maintaining it's power base, than in the welfare of it's country's citizens..
You are among the protestors. You know that 19 years ago, a similar protest ended with the army first infiltrating your protest marches with thugs and members of the military who will themselves start fires, cause a violent disturbance, which justifies those in charge to send in the troops in earnest, and it ended with more than 3 thousand of your fellow protestors being killed, and thousands more interred, tortured, with the leader of the Opposition Party, which had been democratically elected, placed under house arrest which remains in place to this day.
You know this. It's part of your national history.
Yet, you join the protest.
Such is the case in Burma.
Now we in the West have little we can actually do to effect a change in this situation.. Burma's already under heavy UN sanctions..
But your neighbour, China, is trying desperately to join the world community, and is in a position to step in, and impose effective sanctions against a military government which holds power illegaly..
Would you reasonably expect, as a citizen of Burma, for such a vast power such as China, to step in and help the popular cause?
This would not be tolerated in a Western society. Any government imposing such a repressive rule, would become outcast by it's peers.. by it's trading partners..
The UN would be called in, and delegations from diplomatic corps would be flooding in to try and negotiate on behalf of the people..
But while China has told the Burmese government that it 'would regret seeing the same level of violence evidenced 19 years ago..', that's about as far as it's gone..
There has been no pressure put on China by the West, to exercise whatever influence it might have to resolve the Burmese problem.. It would seem the prospect of disturbing such a huge potential economic market is by far the most important Western consideration..
So.. we will sit back, and allow a repeat of the events of 19 years ago in Burma..
And we'll sweep the fact that China could have been an active force in bringing democracy to an Asian country under the carpet, as long as Walmart and McDonalds can keep their franchises open..
We are an exceedingly hypocritical people betimes.. We choose which governments we'll bully into submission for economic or strategic advantage, while allowing others to continue with regemes so supressive, that the goal of 'democracy' is trampled underfoot with impunity..
It would be an extraordinarily advantageous step, in the eyes of the West, for China to step in, and demand, as we have in Iraq, that a democratic government be allowed to take power..
But, China is well aware that it need do nothing. That we in the west are more concerned with their economic potential than we are with the democratic efforts of a tiny Buddhist country in the middle of nowhere..
It makes one ashamed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In just under two hours, Gordon will address his first Labour Party Conference as Prime Minister.. and one difference between Gordon and Tony has become immediately apparent..
Whereas Tony would spend the hours before his keynote speech writing, editing, re-writing his notes.. Gordon appears to have it all prepared. So much so, in fact, that he's spent the morning giving interviews, conferring with his colleagues, relaxing in effect..
Now while the substance, as announced, of this speech will center on the state of the NHS, social issues, "responding to the issues important to the British peoples..", crime and the Courts.. there is still almost a fever-pitch of speculation as to whether he'll announce a snap election..
Gordon himself has downplayed this possibility, but significantly, has not ruled it out, which, if nothing else, has kept the media frantically analysing the possibilities, probabilities, advantages and disadvantages of calling the country to the polls..
An interesting approach from Gordon.. one which demonstrates more political nous than many would have thought the former Chancellor to possess..
More, of course, after Gordon's left the podium..

Iranian President Ahmadenejad is in New York today.. having arrived yesterday with little fanfare, but some demonstrations against his country's stance on nuclear proliferation..
Of course, said Ahmadenejad, Iran is not heading for armed conflict with the United States.
In an interview with US TV network CBS, he said Iran was not on a path of war with the US and that Iran had no need of nuclear weapons..
The aforementioned protests have been held outside Columbia University in New York, where Ahmadinejad is due to speak later this afternoon.
The US is leading moves to impose further sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear development programme.. and many Americans think Ahmadinejad should not have been invited to speak at Columbia.. but tickets to the event were snatched up within an hour of becoming available.
He is due to address the UN General Assembly in New York tomorrow.. his third address to the assembly in as many years..
He had wanted to lay a wreath at Ground Zero during his visit, but the New York authorities refused that request on security grounds.. and perhaps in the interests of simple good taste.
We'll be exceedingly interested to absorb the content of his speech to the UN tomorrow..

Meanwhile, while it's not a surety that either Saudi Arabia or Syria will attend, an invitation has been extended to Damascus to participate in meetings planned between the West and the Arab League, this November..
Condaleesa confirmed the invitation had been sent.. but with the agenda centering on a resolution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, there is a better than good chance those States who have expressed their desire to eradicate the Jewish State entirely, will take a pass..
Condaleezza described the Arab nations as "natural invitees" but said they would have to renounce violence... a condition unlikely to be met..
She was speaking after the four backers of the peace process.. the US, EU, Russia and the UN.. met in New York and gave support to the proposed summit last night.
This same quartet issued a roadmap in 2003 for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But the roadmap has been sidelined and no apparent progress has been made towards achieving the declared aim of the process, a two-state solution.
Tony will, of course, be in attendance as well..
The last major peace summit to try to create a Palestinian state was held by President Clinton at Camp David in July 2000. Its collapse was followed by the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in September of that year..
Condaleesa admitted that some were skeptical about whether Washington's high-level meeting.. had any realistic chance at pushing the Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace.
"The international meeting has the potential to galvanize people on a political front and frankly gives the parties something to shoot for, something to look forward to, and frankly that is all we can hope for," she said. "If this conflict were easy to solve, it would have been solved by now."

For literally years, jaded diplomats and academics have rebuffed Burma's democracy activists with one question.. 'Why don't the people of Burma rise up?'
And for the past month, they have been doing exactly that, against unimaginable odds and with unquestionable courage.
So now a different question arises..
Is the world..its leaders, diplomats, academics and others..going to stand on the sidelines, or offer some help?
Since Friday.. more than 1,000 Buddhist monks and nuns have marched peacefully along the rain-soaked streets of Burma's largest city Rangoon, with thousands of spectators encouraging their protest. At the head of the procession a monk carried an alms bowl turned upside down, symbolically refusing to accept any more support from the military regime.. well recognised as one of the world's most repressive.
In an overwhelmingly Buddhist Southeast Asian nation of 50 million people, this was a withering rebuke. The echoes of the last great uprising, in 1988, must be alarming the country's corrupt ruling generals..the roots in economic discontent and the slow stirrings from students to monks to the general population and from the capital to smaller cities across the nation.
The frightened of its own people that it had already transplanted its capital in the dead of night to a desolate inland spot on the advice of an astrologer no less.. has responded in some ways more desperately than it did in 1988. Though the monks have for the most part not been blocked, virtually every student leader is in prison, many reportedly being tortured.
Cousins, siblings and even children of demonstrators have been swept up as well. Anyone with a camera is suspect, as the regime seeks to block news of the protests from traveling. Yet Burmese with cellphones continue to relay photographs, and unarmed civilians continue to interpose themselves between protesters and regime vigilantes.
Global response to this has been, to say the very least.. lackadaisical.
The U.N. Security Council held a briefing Thursday, but the American representative emerged with no message of particular urgency.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy has yet to announce a date to visit Burma. There's been some desultory talk about the need for more studies of the humanitarian situation inside if the humanitarian disaster and even more, its cause in political misrule, were not already well known.
But..what needs to be done would appear clear.
The current regime could begin by releasing all political prisoners, starting with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.. in the hopes that negotiations toward democracy can begin.
George.. who has spoken eloquently of Burma's struggle for freedom.. needs to engage in strenuous diplomacy, above all with China .. to make clear that this is an American.. in fact.. a worldwide priority.
And China, which has more influence in Burma than any other country..needs to decide whether it wants to host the 2008 Olympics as the enabler of one of the world's most repressive regimes, or as a peacemaker..
To date, the only reaction from the Burmese government has been a warning, that if the protests continue, violence will almost certainly ensue. And that's just the picture China would like to avoid.. that of unarmed Buddhist monks, nuns, and their supporters, being shot down in the streets..

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tony's making his first appearance before the United Nations in his full capacity as Envoy to the Middle East..
Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, is underlining the role UN troops will take in this Palistinian problem, and the war in Iraq..
Now there is seemingly a consensus, among those in the West, that the 'roadmap' and the 'Arab Peace Initiative' has made some forward steps.. one of which is an agreement to meet with the members of the Arab League itself. However, there would appear to be some doubt, that Saudi Arabia, and Syria, will not attend for reasons yet undisclosed..
It might be considered, that Saudi involvement in such talks, would be seen as tantamount to 'betrayal' of the cause which they undoubtably support.. that being the success of the extremists and the establishment of the Caliphate. That extremists forces might abhor any real progress aided by the Saudi's..
If the Israeli/Palistinian conflict should be resolved, it would undermine decades of subversive work.. ruin painstakenly make plans to effect the destruction of the State of Israel.. demonstrate that Islam and Judaism can coexist..
Diplomatic progress is anathema to zealots, if the Saudi's show any real sign of an equitable agreement.. they will, in the words of Osama himself in his last video, be 'infidel'..
This will soon be a turning point within the Arab League itself.. the commitment to the general cause of 'Islam'..
And while Saudi Arabia appears to be a stable country at the moment, what would it take to inflame the people to the point at which they see themselves as 'Western Arabs'.. How long before radical Imams convince enough of the population to embrace the 'cause'..
How many Saudi's in high places, already have committed resources to the terrorist cause, to maintain what must be an exceedingly fragile status quo..?
Osama himself, is a Saudi Prince.. and while the thought of Saudi Arabia wholeheartedly throwing it's financial weight behind this Jihad is terrifying, the possibility of such an eventuality cannot be ignored.
One would think the pressure on the Saudi's to abandon their 'favoured status' with the West would of necessity, be enormous.. but this is the Levant we're dealing with here, and in all truth, while some Arab countries have not fared well in dealings with the West.. others have prospered beyond all possible belief. Historically, the eastern Middle East has been a constant surprise to those Westerners who've come in contact with them..
Their ethics.. sociological divisions.. double-edged diplomacy.. have baffled us, and to a great extent, still do..
One has to wonder if such an understanding will ever truely be reached within the time left, for this societal model we all enjoy, to survive.
The Middle East.. China.. India.. Indonesia..
It had to be expected that, as this world became a smaller and smaller place through technological advances and economic interdependencies, that Societies would clash..
It's a true pity that simple human nature will not allow it to be a peaceable transition.. a melding of that which might be the best, through common agreement..
It doesn't appear this will be remembered as a bumper year for British, or European livestock farmers.. the opposite, in fact..
While Britain has been struck by repeated outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.. northern Europe, especially Belgium, has been killing off it's stocks of sheep and cows infected with 'blue-mouth' disease.. some 2 thousand animals euthanised so far in that country..
And now, this blue-mouth infection has crossed the Channel, and has been detected in Surrey.
This particular disease affects an animals head, causing swelling.. it's throat, causing problems with breathing, and it's joints, causing open lesions, and is transmitted by midges..
And the probem is.. how does one control the midge population..
Now, it's not the massive cull of cattle we experienced some two years ago here, at least, not yet.. Exclusion areas appear to have stopped a general spread of the current foot-and-mouth outbreak..
But what it does mean is, that animals cannot be shipped to market.. that existing stocks are running out of grazing lands.. and their owners are close to dispair..
Beef futures might be worth looking into..

There is still talk floating around Westminster, that Gordon could call a snap election as early as the 25th of next month.. barring that, perhaps sometime in November..
Polls would indicate that Labour has weathered the various crises.. Northern Rock.. foot-and-mouth.. the EU's Berlin Accord.. and apparently holds close to a five point lead over the Tories..
But the question is, will Gordon gamble with a job he's been waiting ten years for, simply to extend his mandate for a mere 18 months or so longer than the one he now has in hand..?
As it stands, Gordon appears intent on tackling the ongoing problems with the NHS.. the outbreaks of MRSA.. cleanliness in general in hospitals around the country..
He has pledged that each and every one of them will undergo a 'sterilisation' process.. a thorough scrubbing of all surfaces.. all air ducts.. everything within the hospitals themselves..
However, there is the nagging voice of the medical community, saying 'bugs' the likes of MRSA can be controlled, but only up to a point, what with the continous traffic of patients and visitors, and while a scrubbing of the facilities should be de rigeur for all hospitals, it should not be seen as a measure which will eradicate the problem of infectious diseases being introduced to the wards, from outside..
This may be the wrong issue for Gordon to pin his election campaign to.. perhaps a definative stance of a European referendum.. or a cap on housing prices.. or care of the elderly, might be better brought to the fore..
Nevertheless, those within the ranks of Labour anxious to take their government to the polls, say they're ready.. They have the funding and infrastructure in place..
And while this may well be the start of Gordon's first General Party Conference as Prime Minister, it will almost certainly be his last, before we're called to decide who will sit in power in the House of Commons..

Well.. Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has told the UN, that he can personally guarrantee the safety of UN personnel, should they decide to return to his country..
The secretary general..Ban Ki-Moon said there would be a new "regional support office" in Baghdad to foster dialogue between involved countries and an office in the southern city of Basra was also being considered..
This could be seen as a major move towards a pull-out of American troops from the country.. leaving only those required by American committment to the maintenance of UN Forces..
An out for the US.. and a development to be closely watched..

Especially with the sabre-rattling heard this weekend from Iran..
Ahmadenejad's parading of a souped up ballistic missile, and five home-made jet fighters at the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War.. and his bald statement to the effect of those who threaten Iran with war, would find themselves in hotter water than they could imagine.. or words to that effect.. are aimed directly as France, and the US.. both having issued warnings to Tehran that should the supply of arms and money into Iraq from Iran not stop, a military solution might be all that's left as a viable option..
It would be something of compounding a disaster to remove the Iranian government from power.. While it on the surface, would be a comparitively simple operation, for the Iranian Armed Forces are no more competent than were their Iraqi counterparts.. It would simply involve the West in yet another 'control situation'.. guerrilla warfare which could keep us occupied.. and economically unballanced.. for decades..
It would seem that we are left with only two viable options..
Nuke them.. or utterly ignore them.
Destroy their society in one fell swoop.. or build an economic wall around the entire region. Stop buying their oil. Break off all diplomatic relations. Sever all economic ties.
For once, let it be our money that draws the line in the sand.. And make that intent clear to all the Levantine oil producers, that their product is no longer needed.
Time we moved on, and took our economies in an entirely different direction..
But, the time is now..

Friday, September 21, 2007

Let's start with the 'Reform Treaty' that now sits on the desks of EU politicians..
This treaty is the effective replacement for the EU Constitution.. rejected by the majority of the member countries two years ago..
Belgium of overwhelmingly behind an agreement which would form an United Europe, with 89% of it's population in favour of a deal which would remove even more of their national prerogatives..the environment..migration.. social matters..
France's Sarkovski has managed to have some objectionable clauses removed.. so "free and undistorted competition" has been erased from a list of EU objectives.
This allows France to control the subsidies it commits to it's agricultural sector.. and impose it's own trade restrictions.. Odds are that while the French rejected the Constitution two years ago, this ammended text might get a pass by their government..
The Irish.. while surprisingly voting down the Nice Treaty.. will follow the economic facts of a more collective agreement..
The Dutch were others who voted down the Constitution two years ago.. and they're leery of abrogating some of their national rights.. justice.. social services.. home affairs..
The majority of the Dutch are still Eurosceptics.. But, the Dutch Cabinet is considering tossing the issue in the ring one more time..
It would be more than likely, they would lose, again..
Now.. in Poland.. it's the government which is against a closer relationship with a consolidated Europe.. The public seems to overwhelmingly Europhile.. It remains to be seen whether this Treaty will be accepted, to appease the people, while allowing the government to better prepare itself to offer the Polish people an economy which can stand on it's own..
Here on this island.. it's always good for a pub discussion.. with some surprising insight spoken over a pint.. It's the "Cast In Stone Promise" we've been given, that any move towards forging closer ties with the EU, be put before us all, in a referendum. That no decision will be made unilaterally, by any government is power.
The debate is, how close is this Treaty to a Constitution in sheep's clothing?
What are the odds, of exchanging the £Sterling, for the Euro?
How will an aging population deal with the inevidable influx of those from countries once thought 'foreign'..?
Equally, how would a Glaswegian shipwright be welcomed at a yard on the Baltic..?
It's going to be an interesting trend to watch develop.. the social changes that will take place, not only here in Britain, but in the new EU member countries..
But regardless, it's not a move Gordon's likely to take.. not a question that he'd want to put to the public.. Not just yet.

Now, here on the home front.. Labour is starting it's annual convention in a couple of days, and there are two camps.. of course.. each betting on a date for Gordon to call a National Election..
Most are in agreement, that Gordon will hold off until likely May pf next year, depending on the polls of course..
But there are a significant few, who would not be surprised if the dour Scot will strike before his honeymoon is over, and issue a call to the polls by the end of October.
A firmly established government, with what could develop into a worthy Opposition, could be just what our economy could do with at the moment.. and with the latest injections of cash into the money market by the Bank of England, and looming investigations into why this crisis wasn't anticipated.. A solid government with a new mandate would be a definate advantage..
It would also put Gordon into a slight position of pre-eminence with dealings with the US.. and the EU..
Listen to the rhetoric of the next week from Labour.. If possible, watch the body language.. the response from the delegates..
By the way, just in passing.. think on Tony Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the possible future in the United Nations..

By the way, our Defence Secretary Des Brown, has agreed with a report compiled by the Royal Legion.. that indicated veterans returning from the Gulf were not being recognised for their time over there.. That, something akin to those who returned to the US from VietNam, the Armed Forces, and the public.. don't have an appreciation of what their service entails..
That even those brought home to their families on their shields, so to speak, are not leaving the legacy they thought their life would be worth to their countries, to support the families they left at home..
Des also mentioned that 500 troops would be home by Christmas..
He also had an interesting comment to make about the other 'allies' in this conflict..
"Our international allies, particularly some of our European allies and Nato, simply have not been stepping up to the plate in an international operation of this nature. It seems that some countries are very good when in the conference room to signing up to resolutions, but not very good when it comes to the fighting."
We'll allow that statement, to stand alone.
As it is, an article in the Washington Post seems to indicate that the American war machine is beginning to wind down.. although senior officials did not use the term 'exit strategy' the outlines of one emerged from the various statements and speeches they made last week. Petraeus plans to begin redefining his mission in December from leading combat operations to partnering with Iraqi security units and eventually to supporting them. At least 21,700 troops, and perhaps more from the buildup, will be pulled out by July..
Here we go..

One more point of interest..
It would appear, that Britain has stockpiled, over these past few years, some 100 tonnes of enriched uranium.. enough to build 17 thousand nuclear bombs. The Royal Sicoety's working group chairman Professor Geoffrey Boulton said: "The stockpile has grown whilst international nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats have increased..Just over 6kg of plutonium was used in the bomb which devastated Nagasaki and the UK has many thousands of times that amount.We must take measures to ensure that this very dangerous material does not fall into the wrong hands."
Now, it's doubtfull the stuff is in a losely locked storage shed somewhere in rural Yorkshire.. But the fact we have it, is somewhat disturbing in the first place..
One can imagine Ahmadenejad drooling at the thought.. no doubt he'd find a use for it.

Ahh. One more point.
Interesting that the President of Mattel Corporation went himself to China, to apologise to manufacturers in that country, who had been blamed for using sub-standard parts in some of the toys..
This caused quite a stir in China. Reports are, that one company Director committed suicide over the shame he thought he had brought on Chinese workmanship in general.
All for nothing, it appears.
But, it has shown that one.. the Americans are determined to keep in the favour of the Chinese government, to manufacture and distribute their wares there.. and two.. the Chinese take their responsibility to turn the epithethic slogan 'Made In China' into something to be taken seriously.
Suicide, no less. Puts the penalty imposed on the officials at Enron, in a somewhat different perspective..

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A drop of half a point..
It's almost as though we're sliding into a Keynseian nightmare.. spend that much, that those who carry your paper can't afford to let you go broke, because your debt represents a substantial percentage of their equity..
Now we appear to have put a plug in the run on Northern Rock over here.. in fact, the building society's stock went up by about £3 briefly at the opening, for some short-term profit taking..
In fact, despite the knock-on effect seen at a couple of other 'savings-and-loans'.. the assurances extended by the Exchequer yesterday has shortened the queues considerably..
But, it must be said, there are those who demonstrate an attitude that will no doubt be taken into account, when the campaigning for the next election begins in earnest..
There are those who will still remove their cash from Northern Rock and those others of it's ilk, for the simple reason they don't trust the government.. don't understand how the government could have allowed such a situation to develop in Britain in the first place..
Why, when the euphamistic 'crunch' hit the American economy like a brick through a window, wasn't the Bank of England preparing for a ripple effect..?
And, it's not been that long since Gordon moved into No.10, that the man on the street still doesn't think of him as 'The Chancellor'.. doesn't realise that what Alister has to face today, is a situation which developed under the nose of Gordon himself..
But back to the US..
The Fed decision was in response to the spreading impact of credit market problems on the rest of the economy..
It said "the tightening of credit conditions has the potential to intensify the housing (market) correction and to restrain economic growth more generally".
Odd. Americans are not generally known for understatement.
But is the answer, to allow re-financing of foreclosed properties to yet more, who, while among the working class, may not have any flexibility when the inevidable effects of the slowing of the war economy really hits home..
Are there enough buyers out there, who could afford to absorb another $50 to $150 per month to their mortgage payments..?
It's certainly going to lead to a devaluation of American real estate .. should be some bargains out there for those who can afford sizeable downpayments..
How deep is George willing to dig into the government's pockets, to make his last year or so affect domestic problems..?
Same might be wondered about Gordon..

Another blow to the British livestock farmers.. Yet another case of foot-and-mouth has been reported, which will delay the movement of all livestock for weeks..
This is an economic disaster of some consiquence on this island..
The downstream effects will be devastating..

One more brief note of interest..
The French and Russian Foreign Ministers are having meetings.. and there has been 'some concern' expressed by Moscow, at the French declaration that if Iran doesn't cease it's uranium enrichment programs, the world should prepare for any eventuality, including war..
Translation: If France came to the UN Security Council with a proposal to begin hostilities with Iran on the nuclear issue.. Russia would certainly invoke it's power of veto.
Now this puts France in much the same position as the US, when the result was pre-emtive action by the Americans against Saddam..
The world.. especially France.. condemned that..
While the clear objective of the new French President Nicholas Sarkovski is to ingratiate himself with the US.. to repair what have been since the days of De Gaulle been at best, frosty relations.. he may have put himself center of the world stage, making statements which must be given a positive response from the White House..
Might be a good time for Nicholas to be planning a State Visit, to Washington.. perhaps discuss what arrangements could be made between the US and the EU, what with increased American military presence in Poland and Slovakia.. and Vlad making it somewhat plain that after all, it's still Russia they're dealing with..
Still a force to be taken into consideration, outside the United States of Eur.. err..the EU..

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's an indicator.. this run on British Building Societies.. on an attutde that goes far deeper than the simple desire to feel the sum and total of one's cash assets in one's hand..
With the Chancellor's statement an hour or so ago.. to the effect the Bank of England and indeed, the Exchequer itself would guarantee all deposits with Northern Rock.. it is simply not a necessity to queue for hours, or to spend literally days trying to logon to the banks website.. or to move one's money from a bank that has such a guarantee, to one which, as yet, does not.
Last February, Northern Rock was trading at £12.. today it closed just above £3..
Might be a good time to start buying in..
But, there may soon be a choice of investment prospects available before this is all done and finished with.. another building society.. Alliance&Leister.. had lost 31% of it's value at the close..
There might be some merit in the thought that British housing is still a sellers market.. There are more looking for homes than can find them and there are significant numbers among them who are still good credit risks..
And that while interbank interest rates are on the increase, and the credit market is squeezed, the equity remains..
It is almost a certainty the Fed will lower rates.. and there's an equally good chance the Bank of England will follow suit..
And evertually those with money, who trusted Northern Rock, will realise their money will be making more, as the banks fight for savers.. could come back..
That guarantee from the Exchequer carries some weight..

For two and a half years.. the Serious Fraud Office had been collecting evidence to present to the government, that would implicate BAE Systems with shady dealings with the Saudi's, concerning the sale of some aircraft..
But, on the orders of the senior officer in charge, following 'advice' from the Home Office that continuing with the probe would compromise 'matters of National Security', the case has been dropped.
There were thoughts at the time, that Tony was more concerned with losing Saudi business, than seeing what, in the big picture, would amount to mere pecadillo's..
It would seem to have paid off..
Saudi Arabia has placed an order for 71 Eurofighters from, one might not be surprised to hear, BAE Systems.. A contract worth £20 billion, what with support and spares and downstreaming..
It does amaze me though, that while it's nice to see the money coming into the country, it's not often it's seen as our own money, merely coming home.
Not to mention we are providing one of the most volotile areas in the world, with 71 of the world's most sophisticated fighter aircraft..
While the Saudi's have an excellent relationship with the West, it would be well remembered they are the elite of the Islamic World..
It might also be well to keep in mind, that the price of sweet crude topped $80Am a barrel for the first time today..
Whatever they pay out for what they can use to consolidate their position.. we pay back for a product we burn.
Now that's sound economics.

So, the day has arrived, as announced by Ahmadenejad..
Iran has reached it's tagets, and now has three thousand working centrifuges.. producing enriched uranium..
And what's more, 'up the UN and it's sanctions..', the program will continue..
Now, mind you, there are some analysts who are of the mind that they're not quite there yet.. That the actual count of completed centrifuges is closer to 1996..
But.. Ahmadenejad's announcement was meant to serve two purposes..
One, to encourage his own people.. He has face to make up still, following the al Shatt Arab incident..
And two, to prompt pre-emptive action from the UN Security Council, and effectively force further sanctions.. which could later prove to have been inhumane and unnecissary..
It also adds fuel to the growing international fear, that Iran might force military action to be taken against it..
Certainly, the Americans are prepared for it.. and the French appear to be champing at the bit at the prospect..
Interesting.. this move towards the Americans by the new French President.. Nicholas is certainly trying to broaden France's involvement beyond that bound by the EU..
The hardening of France's position towards Tehran was first signalled by the new president in a speech to French ambassadors last month..
Then he called for tougher economic sanctions against Tehran and warned that if these failed to halt Iran's nuclear programme, there would be, as he put it.. "a catastrophic choice" between "an Iranian bomb or the bombardment of Iran".
Uncharacteristic, from a French politician.. to say the least..
The US itself is showing signs of impatience with reports from the IAEA, pointing out the similarities in Tehran's approach to inspection teams as was seen in Iraq, under Saddam..
One wonders if George really wants to go out, with a bang..

Meanwhile.. a note on the British economy here..
Not the electronic transfer of paper amounts, which have no real meaning to the man on the street.. but on a grass-roots level.
This latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has brought the livestock trade to a complete halt, during a time of year all farmers depend on getting their stock to market..
The knock-on effect has been mentioned before in this missive, but while the powers that be will sort out the multi-billion banking issues with alacrity.. our agriculture community will not be dealt with so speedily..
It's a grave mistake by the government, this attitude it's taking with the farmers.. Compensation is a labourious process, and slow in coming. And solutions to current stock problems are taking a back seat to Threadneedle Street..
This we will regret, just as will the supermarkets when they raise the price of pork.. lamb.. and beef..
But it's a surety the consumer will regret it more..

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Now, while this may well seem to be one of the daftest moves any country's central bank could possibly take, in light of that which cheap credit has managed to do to our global economy over the past few weeks.. it's expected the US Federal Reserve appears set to drop interest rates by up to half a point in an effort to 'stimulate credit, and facilitate borrowing'..that by making money cheaper to borrow, it is hoped that people would spend and invest more, revitalising the economy..
It remains to be seen, how increasing personal debts will have a positive effect on any economy.. especially one so dangerously poised on collapse as is the US's.. But one must resort to drastic measures when confronted with dire circumstances.
It might, at least, hold off the inevitable. Maybe.
But it certainly makes one wonder about those in charge, who allowed this situation to develop initially..
Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has admitted that during his tenure he "didn't get" how the surge in sub-prime lending might dent the economy, saying he had no notion of how large it had become until he was about to leave office.
Good timing though Allan..
This, coinciding with World investment banks revealing they have lost about $30billionAm ..£15billion.. from bad debts linked to the global 'credit crunch'..
Analysts are predicting the firms - many of which report quarterly results this week - will have to write-off 10% of the $300billion in loans they have agreed.
In some cases profits will be almost wiped out..
And one has to love the coinage of the new term 'credit crunch'.. It's so much more encouraging, less frightening, than 'recession' or, gods forbid, 'depression'..
And, not surprisingly,the government is to blame for the crisis at Northern Rock, according to Conservative leader David Cameron...he accused Gordon Brown of presiding over a huge rise in public and private debt.
Now, as explained in an earlier post, NR holds about a third of Britains mortgages..
The Tories are also calling for the government to say what it knew about the bank's problems before it sought help from the Bank of England.
Chancellor Alistair Darling said the Tories were "fundamentally wrong in their analysis of what has happened".
Meanwhile, worried Northern Rock customers are still withdrawing money from the bank.. to the tune of close to £2 billion in deposits so far..
David added..albeit somewhat unnecessarily..that the lines of savers queuing to withdraw their money from the bank "serve to remind us just how fragile the stability of the economy can be"..
"The credit crunch, previously restricted to the City, has burst onto the high streets," he said.. sadly stating the obvious..
More to follow..

Meanwhile, back in the Middle East..
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has hinted at bigger cuts to troop numbers in Iraq than those so far approved by George...
Mr Gates suggested the current level of more than 160,000 soldiers could be cut to about 100,000 by the end of 2008.. with George saying late last week, that about 30,000 troops might return by next summer..
Mr Gates spoke as a White House report suggested Iraq's government has made little progress in meeting key military and political benchmarks set by the US..
And.. it would appear.. there is little faith in American political circles that they will ever be..
Now this, while a report from France, of all countries, suggests the world should prepare for war over Iran's nuclear programme.
"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in an interview on French TV and radio.
Kouchner said negotiations with Iran should continue "right to the end", but an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose "a real danger for the whole world"..
Iran has consistently denied it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons but intends to carry on enriching uranium..
Kouchner also said a number of large French companies had been asked not to tender for business in Iran.. which is an amazing turnaround for that country, which has always held a soft spot for the Middle East when it came to politics..
"We are not banning French companies from submitting. We have advised them not to. These are private companies..but I think that it has been heard and we are not the only ones to have done this."
He said France wanted the European Union to prepare sanctions against Iran.
"We have decided that while negotiations are continuing to prepare eventual sanctions outside the ambit of UN sanctions. Our good friends, the Germans, suggested that.."
Germans.. French.. 'good friends'..
This world of politics never ceases to surprise..

And as a footnote here.. a reminder of what our society is turning into..
Maryland University just outside Washington DC, a Professor Challapa and his team are inventing the next generation of citizen surveillance..
'Gait DNA'.. for example.. is creating an individual code for the way anyone walks. Their goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait, your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able to identify instantly who you are..
"As you walk through a crowd, we'll be able to track you," said Professor Challapa. "These are all things that don't need the cooperation of the individual.."
Well thank goodness for that..
Then there's a Pentagon agency whose headquarters is a drab suburban building in Virginia. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) had one specific mission - to ensure that when it comes to technology America is always ahead of the game..and its track record is impressive. Back in the 70s, while we were working with typewriters and carbon paper, Darpa was developing the internet. In the 90s, while we pored over maps, Darpa invented satellite navigation that many of us now have in our cars..
"We ask the top people what keeps them awake at night," said its enthusiastic and forthright director Dr Tony Tether, "what problems they see long after they have left their posts."
And what are they?, one might ask..
He paused, hand on chin. "I'd prefer not to say. It's classified."
Of course..
Then what can they say about what they're currently working on..?
"Oh, language.." he answered enthusiastically, clasping his fingers together. "Unless we're going to train every American citizen and soldier in 16 different languages we have to develop a technology that allows them to understand.. whatever country they are in..what's going on around them..I hope in the future we'll be able to have conversations, if say you're speaking in French and I'm speaking in English, and it will be natural."
This, of course, begged the question.."And the computer will do the translation?"
"Yep. All by computer," he said..
And this idea about a total surveillance society.. one asked. Is that science fiction?
"No, that's not science fiction. We're developing an unmanned airplane - a UAV - which may be able to stay up five years with cameras on it, constantly being cued to look here and there. This is done today to a limited amount in Baghdad. But it's the way to go."
Interestingly, we, the public, don't seem to mind. Opinion polls, both in the US and Britain, say that about 75% of us want more, not less, surveillance. Some American cities like New York and Chicago are thinking of taking a lead from Britain where our movements are monitored round the clock by four million CCTV cameras.
So far there is no gadget that can actually see inside our houses, but even that's about to change.
Ian Kitajima has laboratories in Hawaii..and is developing sense-through-the-wall technology..
"Each individual has a characteristic profile," explained Ian, holding a green rectangular box that looked like a TV remote control.
Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on the other side. His company, Oceanit, is due to test it with the Hawaiian National Guard in Iraq next year, and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates.
"First, you can tell whether someone is dead or alive on the battlefield," said Ian.
"But it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harm you, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years from now, the technology will be much smarter. We'll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they're actually thinking."
"Yeah, I know," he said. "It sounds very Star Trekkish, but that's what's ahead."
And the terrifying aspects of such a system, appeared to be totally, perhaps blissfully, a non-issue to those developing it..
Seriously frightening.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's not often one can sit through the course of a day, and watch a major pillar of the British economic community.. a vast provider of mortgages throughout Britain.. drop more than 30% of it's value..
To see queues of Northern Rock depositors waiting for their turn to get into their local branch, and withdraw at least a major portion of their savings..
And then to see the immediate response from the other High Street banks, to up their percentages on savings deposits.. Notably, term deposits..
It has been quite correctly pointed out though, that if the Bank of England didn't itself believe that this horrendous crash of NR is only a temporary measure, it would never have opened it's purse-strings. The central bank appears to be honestly of the opinion, that the British economy, while heavily involved with American investment, can weather an American recession.. The EU, despite Angela's anguish at the continued devaluation of the $Am and the Deutchmark..will survive, if by simply adopting the skilled from the new member countries, and allowing enough transfer subsidy payments to allow what was a strict Communist citizen, with at least enough money to feed themselves slightly better than they could before..
The Middle East, of course, is snickering at the whole issue, quite openly, behind its collective hands.. with the only sliver of democracy, the only pro-Western force in the area, is tiny Israel.. and it has it's own problems..
South America's just beginning to understand what fortunes can be made by governments willing to trade oil, for clout. Not to mention vast sums of money..
Ahhh.. we live in interesting times.
Imagine for a moment.. Picture a map of the Eastern Med.. North Africa..
Algeria.. Libya.. Morocco..Egypt.. Israel.. Saudi Arabia.. Iraq.. Iran..Pakistan.. and curving up around to the north..Turkey.. Kazakhstan.. Armenia..
And then there are, of course, those who follow Islam throughout Indonesia..
These are countries the West has treated with, to be exceedingly kind... benign contempt for generations...
Perhaps, truth be told, not always so kindly.
These are also Muslim States. Some of them are immensely rich.. some, obviously aren't..yet..
Consider. What the Jihad issued against the West originally stated, as one of it's goals, the 'return of the Caliphate'..
Now imagine that map, ten years from now, with all of the 'Calphate' countries painted red.. the way the British Empire used to be represented on world maps.. The Caliphate does not necissarily need to be worldwide immediately.. and the Levantine mind, as mentioned before, plans in terms of generations..
Imagine 'the West'.. We'll paint it blue..
Imagine the EU..
Divide the world into what you see developing before you..
Don't forget Russia.. China.. India.. entities unto themselves yet joined at the hip by economic necessity..
Extrapolate... taking all the factors available.From the rise in gas in the States because of the recent damage caused by Hurricane Felix.. to the lack of bread on the shleves in Chinese markets.. to the 'pasta revolution' in Italy.. to the disasterous British outbreaks in livestock diseases..
To the effect on the Middle East, when we've finally allowed 'the last foot to leave the ground'..
To as many pieces of the Puzzle as you can assimilate..
Drop a comment on your assessment..

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The largest of the British mortgage lenders, Northern Rock, has applied for emergency funding from the Bank of England, to prevent the slip into insolvency. Now this does not mean Northern Rock has a lack of equity.. it holds more than £240 billion in customer deposits and mortgage property.. but the knock-on effect from sub-prime lending in the US has finally hit Britain, and hit British equity funds hard..
This influx of funds by the British central bank is not a decision it has made lightly.. it's been allowed only following consultations with executives from the bank itself, the Bank of England, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling. And further, it's a short-term loan from the government, which would lead investors to believe the crisis is only a short-term blip.
Yet, as we have written several times in this blog, the ridiculous rise in housing prices in Britain, had to end in 'tracker mortgages' raising their interest payments beyond the reach of even those who make a decent salary, and who, in a normal economic scenario, would be safe risks for housing financing.
It would appear now, that while for quite a few years now, putting money into and extending credit in real estate was a sound investment for those starting on the housing ladder, inflation and stability in Western economies been exposed to have been a chimera..
It would appear now, that in fact, the government has been 'cooking the books' as far as unemployment figures, and the numbers representing the percentage of the population as a whole who rely on social services in one form or another.
We have seen the cost of the conflicts in the Middle East minimised.. the costs of pumping foreign aid into countries the likes of Zimbabwe and the knock-on effect of the loss of that cash ignored.. the inflated value of the Euro, and in fact, the Pound Sterling itself, completely disregarded.. all, in what is now an obvious ploy by Tony's New Labour, to supply the public with bread and circuses..
We're now looking at taxation lifting the price of a litre of petrol to over a Pound. We're now looking at what may well be an irreversable trend towards wholesale forclosures of family homes. We're now looking down an exceedingly steep slide towards economic instability, not only in the West, but worldwide..
Oddly enough, the latest polls indicate that if our economy is in trouble, the man who lead us into this situation, Gordon himself, has the majority of public support as the man to lead us out again.

Another facet of the British economy, that being livestock exports, has been dealt yet another blow at a time when it can be least expected to weather. Foot and Mouth disease outbreaks have been detected again in the south of the island, just a day after the EU had lifted it's ban on the exports of British beef, pork, and lamb.
This is the time of year when abatoirs are usually at their busiest, and now, because of this latest outbreak of the disease, the largest slaughterhouse in the country has, literally, one days work left for it's employees.
The farmers auction houses are empty, with a ban on transport of livestock in place countrywide. Breeding stock, which for livestock farmers brings in some 80% of their annual incomes, now has to be kept at home.. fed by those who had expected to have seen them sold by this weekend.
It is an absolute shambles. It has been forecast that possibly as large a number as 30% of those who have, for generations, farmed livestock, will be abandoning their fields and their operations this year.
And this, from what apparently is the result of government neglect of one of it's own viral research facilities placed, oddly enough, in the heart of the countryside which supports beef, sheep, and pig farming.

Just a brief return for a moment, to a comment made above.. that concerning foreign aid into Africa.. and into Zimbabwe in particular. The Mugabe government has banned news agencies the likes of the BBC, and British media in general, from reporting from that country. Yet our government, even since the expulsion of white farmers from their ancentral homes, has continued to pump money into that country's economy in the vain, and one might add, exceeding naive aim, to reduce the suffering of the man on the street in the former British colony. The reports which have been smuggled from Zimbabwe indicated that while there is still a lifestyle of luxury and security to be had in that country, it's available only to those supportive of, and involved in, the Muabe government itself.
The average lifespan of a Zimbabwean man is now set at 37 years.. 34 for women..
There are unimaginable shortages of food, water, the very basics of life for the common man in that country.. most homes are without electricity..
Those farms, which while run by the British Kenyans kept Kenya, even when it gained independance and became Zimbabwe as one of the most successfull of the African economies, now lie fallow.. abandoned.. and as a result, the population is starving.
This is a glaring example of what can happen, when in the glow of altruism and egality, an economy is handed over to those who have no interest in creating an independant success story, but who have been from the beginning, fully intent on lining the pockets of those newly in power.
Utter irresponsibility on our part..

But, back to the British economy.
We have over-extended ourselves in our unqualified support of the US, is a war which the American government itself is preparing to abandon.
George is going to begin what will eventually be a complete withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East.. Britain has already done it's job, and is going the same..
But the unimaginable cost of this conflict, while economic at this moment, will haunt us for generations. We have empowered a terrorist movement.. one financed in fact by our own money, spent on our 'addiction to oil'.. and this, in the eyes of Fundamentalist Islam, will be a resounding victory.
Which, in fact, it is.
With the deterioration of our credit market, caused in large part by our 'disposable society', has started a ripple effect which will not only hit Britain, but the EU.. and which will offer countries the likes of China and Russia to claim eminence..
Five years ago, this publication stressed the need for a reduction of our dependence on oil.. on that which was being bought at extortionate prices from countries which certainly had no design to further 'our' societies success.. We have financed our own downfall here, and with a complete disregard of clamouring alarms from multiple analytical reports..
Our Western Society, as a sociological and economic entity, is self-destructing, and once again, at the risk of appearing unendingly repetitive, we must find a common ground from which we can work to remove our economic support of repressive regemes and government which support them, and turn to developing a secure future for ourselves.
The time for hubris is passed away.
The time wherein we thought we could 'civilise' the rest of the world is gone.
The time to repair our own teetering houses is well upon us, and should we not begin to do so, we will become, as did Rome, an historical example of what should not be done.
Sic transit gloria mundi..

Just one more brief note here.. another sign of this developing British society of ours..
Figures released from the Police Commission indicate, that because of 'fear of accusations of misconduct', Officers spend a mere 20% of their time on the job, actually on the street. The rest of their time, is preparing and completing paperwork.
That means, that only twelve minutes of every hour worked, is on the beat.
Twelve minutes of every hour.
Justice takes on an entirely new dimension, with that taken into account.
One would not normally make Biblical reference, but John Ch.11, v.35 sums it up perfectly..

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ahh.. like father, like son..
George has begun to do what he can to minimize the damage Iraq is causing the Republican Party itself, and is now planning on withdrawing American troops from Iraq, without finishing the job. The withdrawals announced by George slated for next year, can only be seen as a recognition of the US's inability to bring stability to Iraq without maintaining what would essentially be a permanent presence in the country..
The report from General Petraeus hasn't helped bolster confidence in leaving Iraq with a government that can effectively hold it's own against 'terrorist' factions, and the American public is fed up, just as it was back in 1975 in VietNam, and 1993 in Iraq.. The American man on the street would sooner believe that withdrawing from the area, and leaving a situation that will certainly lead to civil war, will lessen the danger they face from radical Islamists..
It would appear once again, to paraphrase the Bishop of Citee during the Albigensian Crusade, to be a case of 'leave them to themselves, God will sort His own out'..
The facts are, that both British and American armed forces are over stretched.. reaching the limit of what can be financially supported..
One possible solution, yet to be expressed, is a division of the country, with the Sunni's taking control of the north of the country, and the Shi'ites control of the south.
After all, splitting countries into factional governments is historically supported.. the establishment of the Islamic State of Pakistan, separate from India itself, back in 1949.. The proposed division of Israel into a State that allowed both an Israeli homeland, with Palestinian involvement..
But, examine those two examples. Pakistan is training Islamic terrorists to fight both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel has failed to reach any sense of equity with it's Islamic Palestinians..
It would be nothing short of naivety to expect an American pullout from Iraq, to be anything less than an opportunity for Iran to 'fill the void', in the words of Ahmadenejad..
But, such has been the record of the US in the past 50 years or so.. to walk into a situation that has been drastically underestimated, and leave before any solution has been resolved..
It must be stressed however, that as previously mentioned, the radical factions of Islam will not allow themselves to be blackmailed by public opinion into abandoning it's anti-Western stance.. What we have managed to accomplish has been nothing more than stirring even more antipathy.. more disrespect, for Western policies and resolve.
This should now be passed into the hands of the United Nations, for it would seem the only stance we can take, at this point, is to show the Middle East that they are part of a worldwide community. And that, would of necessity, demand an united front from those opposing terrorism and a Caliphate.
For therein lies the basic problem. Europe, the West, have never shown determination of attacking terrorism, and those who support it, with determination and full agreement.
Whereas, Islamic countries have shown the West nothing but their determination to bring their ideology to all those who disagree.
We are between a rock, and a very hard place.
And it's time we took our ideology as seriously as those who follow Islam.
We have the economic clout.. We have an institution in the United Nations which could step in, and take this conflict to the next stage.
We seem to lack the basic understanding of what we are facing, or of what it's going to cost in starting something we don't finish..
Seperately, or in small coalitions, we have no chance, and frankly never have. This requires an united statement, that while we will respect the faith of others, but will not allow any other faith to dictate, through it's radical factions, changes to our way of life.
It is a surety that if we leave Iraq without a resolution, we will regret for generations that which we have failed to have the moral strength to maintain.. that being our own values.
Our own society.
Our own way of life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And there were many who said al Q'aeda was a dying operation.. How wrong intelligence can be, or perhaps, with a more sinister overtone, how little we're told..
Osama recently made an unusual appearance in his first video for nearly three years.. his importance is generally thought to have been limited by his need to keep a low profile for fear of being caught.
Instead, recent events in Europe, with arrests in Denmark and Germany, as well as attacks in North Africa, have made that resurgence clear, and particularly highlighted the trail back to al Q'aeda's leadership..
The cell disrupted in Germany last week is a sign that the model of operations the UK has seen in recent years.. so called "home-grown" suspects receiving training and direction from the al Q'aeda leadership in Pakistan, is now spreading to other European countries..
It would appear the training camps are much smaller than the large static pre-9/11 camps in Afghanistan but do offer the chance for recruits to develop crucial expertise in areas the likes of explosives.. the making of bombs and the choosing of particular strategic targets..
One must wonder what is not being said, what information is not being passed along to the public.. the manner in which our various governments are attempting to minimize panic in general, while at the same time minimizing xenophobia.
The recent peace deal between the Pakistani government and tribal groups in Waziristan is seen as a huge mistake by counter-terrorism officials in the West in the belief it served to entrench the position of foreign fighters and al Q'aeda, giving them the chance to regroup, rather than seeing them driven out as was the stated aim.
It has also allowed channels of communication and direction from the al Q'aeda leadership to different groups around the world which were disrupted post-9/11, to be reinstated.
German authorities say that as well as attending training camps in Pakistan, the men arrested last week were receiving direct orders from the region on when to carry out an attack..
CIA director Michael Hayden reiterated last week that the US intelligence community strongly believed that al Q'aeda's central leadership was "planning high-impact plots against the US homeland" Q'aeda has "protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capability" from its safe haven in Pakistan..
Difficult these days, to distinguish between one's friends, and one's enemies..
Most analysts agree that it is the ideological struggle.. the battle of ideas.. that has become crucial in recent years, especially as al Q'aeda's sophistication in putting out its message has grown, and as it continues to try and radicalise and recruit Muslims from around the world.
It must never be forgotten that this threat.. this push towards a worldwide Islamic State.. a return to the Caliphate.. is not going away.
Nor will it..

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.. Gordon's trying his best to maintain his popularity base, by limiting the numbers of EU migrant workers who can come into this country through the introduction of legislation that would require such workers to have skills in spoken English.. He told a meeting of the TUC yesterday, that the government estimates 35,000 of the 95,000 skilled migrants who entered the UK last year would not have been able to show they could speak the language..
Now this is happening while there are growing concerns among the Unions, that we're turning into a country of 'part-time' employees.. The Trades Union Congress is not impressed with the stance Labour is taking as far as keeping wages in line with inflation. Measures the likes of wage-increase splitting.. that is, offering say a 3% wake hike for public sector workers, but staggering the raises into as many as three parts over the course of a year, have workers such as medical staff, firefighters, the police, all reconsidering their positions on work-to-rule, or outright strikes.
We have seen over the past fortnight what can happen when postal workers stage slowdowns..
One can only imagine what would happen should the police, or firefighters, lay down tools and leave the shop floor.
According to TUC research, temporary staff are on different rates of pay to those with permanent jobs in half of all workplaces..
It also says that, in 25% of workplaces, temporary workers are not entitled to contractual sick pay and, in 14%, do not receive any holiday pay.
Attractive to employers.
Anathema to Unions.

And finally.. banking has always been a profitable business, but there has been quite a stir in this country over the past year or so due to the charges banks levee against customers who either surpass their overdraft privilages, or don't have the funds in their accounts for direct debits.
Most banks have been charging £30 or so, for each bounced cheque or returned direct debit, and consumer groups have launched lawsuits on behalf of bank customers, claiming these bank charges are nothing short of usury..
It is interesting to note though, that banks openly admit that between £2 to £3.5 billion a year is generated through charges, which essentially are nothing more than electronic transfer fees..
The Office of Fair Trade is looking into the issue, and it could well mean that our High Street Banks could be liable for payouts to it's customers which could amount to a figure close to £25 billion..
It's in the courts.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A brief note here on Gordon.
To the surprise of many, he's doing quite well, and while the latest polls would seem to rule out an early election call, Labour and Tory appear, at the worst, even in the eyes of the public..
But Gordon's crowning achievement to date, was his meeting with President Bush and the following media conference afterwards.
Gordon answered that which he was asked succinctly, with no indication whatsoever that he would be George's 'poodle'. He was articulate, where George was occasionally at a total loss for words. He brought up a list of topics which he and George had talked about, while George seemed intent on keeping the focus on Iraq.
If there is any criticism of Gordon which could be made, it's his annoying habit of dropping his jaw at the end of a thought, as though he was taking a lungfull before starting off again..
There is a growing awareness here, that Gordon's verson of 'New Labour' is going to be surprisingly like 'old Conservativism'.. He has said himself, that the legacy of the Thatcher years should not be forgotten..
And along with this trend within Labour, we're seeing the Tories leaning more and more to the right, which quite frankly, they should be.
David's suggestion concerning education, wherein students who have not achieved the basics of Primary Education, should be held back a year, hearkens back to the 50's and the 60's.. a time where one's abilities were assessed, and suitable training supplied to those who are simply not meant for a Masters Degree, but more towards qualification as a Master Machinist.
It's an attitude which will undoubtably be labeled as 'elitist', but which might be better described as 'realistic'.
If David and Gordon continue with their construction of a platform along the lines of that which has been said and done of late, we could find ourselves indeed facing a dilemma when next it comes time to go to the polls.
That, of having to choose between two 'good' politicians..

And a final word.
Lucianno Pavarotti is in an Italian hospital, and it may well be that we'll not walk out again. And thus will pass one of the greatest voices in the history of the artform.
One wishes the best, for the best.
What can be done to bring such a gigantic economic force into international play, while causing as few ripples as possible is the question the CEO of every Western business is asking him/herself these days.
It keeps them awake at nights.
Think-tanks are churning out economic impact scenario's in their hundreds, and as yet, none has any viable solution..
It seemed such a good idea, to expand western manufacuring bases into a society which had a general standard of living, that even the smallest wage made a huge impact..
But, as companies the likes of Mattel have so recently discovered, Western Safety Standards are significantly more stringent than those normally enforced, and if it isn't clearly spelt out in contractural agreements, local suppliers will take the downstream business, and supply local manufacturers with material acceptable under local law..
But poisonous by ours..
Fast food chains expanding into the Far East, might do well to ensure what's being cooked, would suit a Western palate..
And, once again it must be mentioned that China enjoys 'developing nation' status, but for how much longer..?
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel had some urgent words with Chinese diplomats at the end of last month, when she spent three days in Beijing, about that country's role in climate change.. and this is one of the perks China will defend most vigorously, being a 'developing nation'.. They are exempt, at the moment, from any controls on fossil fuel emissions..
China is also having some reprecussions at home, with the influx of foreign investment. A new class is emerging, and this is causing inflation to rise in a society which is still largely divided in earning power..
At the Chunxiu Road Vegetable Market in central Beijing, shoppers and stallholders are grumbling about the price of food..
Pork laid out on plastic slabs has increased from about 7 yuan (92 cents, 46 pence) a jin (500 grams) last year to 11 or 12 yuan now.
Food price increases this year have led to a sharp rise in the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation which jumped to 5.6% in July, its highest level in 10 years..and in a country where inflation and social unrest are historically linked, that statistic cannot be ignored by China's leaders.
On several occasions in the past, rising food prices have led to political problems for the government.. and inflation back in 1988 is thought to have contributed to the demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the following year.
So.. how to intigrate what's essentially a feudal system, and one which wants to remain so, into the mainstream of Wesern consumerism..
In fact, we have an amazing opportunity here, to take a country of vast proportions, and bring it into a workable society that did not revolve around physical speed, or oil.
A society which could restrict internal air travel to Zeppelins.. for in this age all we need to 'be there' is an internet connection. A country which could develop alternate-fuel burning engines.. one which could retain the bicycle as the main mode of transport for the masses within cities..
China, despite the polution overwhelming Beijing at the moment, could prove to be the world leader in ecological awareness..
Not necissarily what Russia would like to see, with China taking most of the production of it's oilfields..
But, what a chance for a sociological experiment...
A number of points spanning these past few days..
Perhaps the most astouding news has come this morning.. wherein a DNA sample should be taken from every British citizen, and indeed, from all those who enter this country, even as simple tourists.
Lord Justice Sedley says the current England and Wales database, which holds DNA from crime suspects and scenes, was "indefensible"..adding it would be fairer to include "everybody, guilty or innocent" on it.
Brings to mind the statement from the Bishop of Citee during the Albigensian Crusade, when asked who should die in the City of Beziers, replied "Kill them all, God will know his own.."
Now there are those who will justify this proposed expansion of the DNA Database while pointing to this mornings arrests in Germany.. two Germans and a Turkish man charged under the Terrorism Act in connection with alleged plans to blow up Ramstein Air Force Base, and Frankfurt Airport..
There are those who say, again, that it's an abrogation of an unimportant freedom, to supply those in charge of our security with the DNA.. That if even one bombing is stopped, then we have created a 'safer system'.
Now, while the Government insists it has no plans to institute such a system, it has 'welcomed' Lord Justice Sedley's input, and will consider his arguments.
Consider though, that Britain already has the largest DNA Database in the world.. and this country is walking a slow, but sure path towards an entirely legislated lifestyle..
It seems to be the fashion these days, throughout the world, to give up one's individuality.. to align oneself to a 'cause', with all the fervour our ancestors reserved for their 'faith'..
A somewhat frightening prospect for our children's children's children..

And much the same continues in the Middle East.. Little has changed over the past few days, but for George's pointed remarks aimed at Iran..
It was a week ago George ramped up the war of words between the US and Iran, accusing Tehran of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust and revealing that he had authorised US military commanders in Iraq to "confront Tehran's murderous activities".
In a speech designed to shore up US public opinion behind his unpopular strategy in Iraq, George reserved his strongest words for the regime of Ahmadinejad, which he accused of openly supporting violent forces within Iraq.
Iran, he said, was responsible for training extremist Shia factions...supplying them with weapons, including sophisticated roadside bombs.
Iran, of course, has denied all these accusations.
And of course, while Gordon insists the withdrawal of British troops from Basra itself out to the edge of the city is not a 'retreat'.. there appears to have been some resentment demonstrated by American sources..
But the fact is, that Britain has fulfilled it's mandate in the area.. has managed to put an Iraqi infrastructure in place, and will maintain a 'rapid deployment force' to assist, when needed..
It is perhaps regretable, some of the remarks made by a couple of British Generals, Mike Jackson in particular, who have expressed the opinion the American invasion plans were basically flawed.. not having taken into account the persistent resistance of the Islamic militants..
It could well be to al Q'aeda's advantage to allow the Basra area.. the south of the country, remain peacefull, and to expedite the removal of British troops. It would allow a concentrated effort against those American forces remaining in Baghdad ..Karballah.. the north.. while establishing a geographical division between Shia and Shi'ite..
There have been plausible arguments which would indicate the US is in for the long haul in Iraq.. 30 years has been tossed around..

And while it may well be perhaps the most politically incorrect stance yet taken by Tory Leader David Cameron, we can only applaud his announcement that perhaps those students who are set to leave Primary Schools, and are found wanting in the basics of an education.. lacking in skills in English, Maths, Sciences.. should be made to repeat their year..
And while there has been the expected barrage of outraged response by those more concerned with the 'self esteem' of those left behind, with accompanying comments to the effect that 'failing will hardly be an incentive for students to attend classes..' it is time we gave up on this pipedream that school is a 'right'..
The argument might be made, that education itself is an opportunity which should be offered to all, but David's comments seem to indicate that we're returning to an understanding that not all are created equal.. That some are not meant for University.. that a trade can be exceedingly lucrative, and those with talents which may not include the ability to digest a formal classical education, should be steered towards the development of the talents they do posess..
It is a truism.. that 'people will rise to the height of their incompetence'..
Steven Hawkins would make a terrible plumber..

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