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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A couple of thoughts to end the day..
Internationally.. Condalessa's turned the heat up a dgree or two.. her comments to the effect that 'too much power is centred in the Kremlin' is a not so thinly veild attack on Vlad.. and Vlad's not about to disappear from the Russian government..
A tone is being set by the Bush White House with Russia that will be something of a concern for the Republican who'll likely inherit.. It's also a situation the Republicans can campaign strongly on.. they haveing the supposed 'long-range plan'..
Extraordinary, for such a senior American diplomat to be so blatently rude to their host..

Two senior American 'officials' have flown to Turkey in the hopes of defusing a situation which is causing adeterioration in the two NATO allies' relationship.
Eric Edelman, an ex-US ambassador to Ankara, and Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried are to hold talks with top Turkish foreign ministry officials..
The US has criticised Turkish threats to stage cross-border raids on Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq.. and, perhaps a more volotile issue in the minds of the Turkish man on the street..ties have also been strained by a US congressional vote branding the killing of Armenians in 1915-17 as genocide..
It's a label no Turk wants affixed to it's history..
This could be a crucial issue.. what with Turkey awaiting admission to the EU.. the constant factor of Turkey being an Islamic State..
It's an ally the West does not want to lose.. other than perhaps the country which epitomises 'the West'.. the US..
Why Congress voted to accept that term is a mystery.. one which perhaps deserves some investigation..

And.. some mention must be made concerning the statement from retired American Lt.General Ricardo Sanchez.. who has labelled US political leaders as "incompetent" and "corrupted"..
He continues with condemning the current strategy in the conflict, which he warned was "a nightmare with no end in sight".
The White House responded.. by pointing to the report by current commander Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who said the situation was 'difficult'.. but marked by gradual improvements.
White House spokesman Trey Bohn said.. "We appreciate his (Gen Sanchez's) service to the country... As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have said, there is more work to be done, but progress is being made in Iraq."
Gen Sanchez was commander of coalition forces in Iraq for a year from mid-2003..
He retired last year in the aftermath of the scandal over detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.. He himself, was cleared of any wrongdoing.
'Delaying defeat' was the eventual outcome of present While House strategy, said Gen. Sanchez..
It's a certainty it's a situation George will hope to control, a best as he can.. and one from which he'll be only to happy to turn his back on..

Now, back at the ranch..
A leading environmentalist..Sir Jonathon Porritt.. said "soaring" speeches about making the UK a world leader in fighting climate change were not backed up by action..
Now, this issue was one of the main planks in the Conservative 'manifesto'.. as delivered in Brighton at their annual conference.
Environmental issues.. alternate fuel development.. viability studies supporting certain projects which have been subject to funding delay by Tony's Labour were trooped out again.. and it was pointed out that while the studies were, in some cases, several years old.. all they had predicted as far as weather changes had taken place..
It would seem that Labour is now willing to address the issue with more diligence..
Ten years of procrastination is pretty good, in political terms..

Not much to announce in the way of real developments in the postal strike issue..
While it's been released that 'Ministers are pleased' at the details which appear to have brought the threat of rolling strikes to an end, and a return to normalcy as we have come to accept it..
But.. we've yet to hear any of those 'details' in any confirmed sense..
It is understood that the "big pillars" of management demands were in place including pension fund reform, a pay rise this year of around 2.5% and the reform of working practices.. but the company had not "got it all its own way".
Quite frankly.. it's been somewhat refreshing this past week or so.. not to see the unending stream of bills and circulars littering the floor in the morning..
But there are many of us who have been waiting for parcel deliveries..

While simplistic to the extreme.. to many in this country the government has only five jobs..
To ensure tax dollars are spent wisely.. to keep our Armed Forces up to date.. to manage our healthcare system properly.. to keep our streets safe and fires put out.. and to ensure the garbage is picked up and the post delivered..
That's it.
And it is source of constant wonder to us all, why no government appears to be capable of delivering.
Some snippets which have been sitting on the desk for a while.. worthy of commen, but eclectic in their application to the larger Puzzle..
Now.. the details of a settlement in principle which has been worked out between Royal Mail and the TUC have yet to be announced.. but it would appear that deliveries should be back to normal, conservatively speaking, by mid next week..
But it begs the question.. why goes the government allow such costly disruptions to our national infrastructure, when a simple solution is directly at hand? What did the government gain from this?
Perhaps indeed, it is the support it felt was needed, to limit the powers of the Unions.. the movement upon which Labour itself was founded.. without it seeming to be a direct attack on workers rights..
Might be interesting to see whether or not Gordon uses his gifted time in office to bring in legislation that would pre-empt much of that which we might have seen if the Tories were in power..

Now Condaleesa's not having the best of times in Russia..
With Putin merely changing hats, so to speak, the US is well aware that while their own political movers and shakers will be changing when George steps down, the Russian's have a plan in motion that will re-establish that country as one of the superpowers..
Condaleesa didn't have much success in selling the new American surveillance systems planned for eastern Europe.. and while the Poles and the Ukrainians are hot for the American business, Vlad has no intention to stop short of reminding them they were once part of the USSR.. and European gas and oil come from Russian suppliers..
Now however.. Condaleesa's announced that she'd like words with leading Russian activists.. those in favour of a closer relationship with the West.. that she had an interest in their view of 'human rights and democracy' in Russia..
An interesting possibility.. that the US might support the growth of a movement in Russia that's diametrically opposed to that Vlad's leading his country towards..
How much would Vlad put up with..?

Now.. an interesting note from a couple of days ago..
Both Alistair Darling and George Osborne, the Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor respectively, made it quite clear during the introduction of the pre-budget report earlier this week, that commitments to Foreign Aid would be met.. That we would not default on our international pledges to help the starving masses..
A report on armed conflict in Africa has shown that the cost to the continent's development over a 15-year period was nearly $300billion.. £146billion..
The research was undertaken by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam..
It says the cost of conflict was equal to the amount of money received in aid during the same period..
This is the first time analysts have calculated the overall effects of armed violence on development... at least according to the UN Agency..
And that's tripe.
There have been dozens of studies and analyses on the actual beneficial effects of our donations.. each of them pointing to corrupt government officials.. political manipulation in the distribution of the aid materials and cash.. profligate waste through lack of distribution infrastructures..
And some of these studies are over 30 years old, with exactly the same problems highlighted.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a significant amount of money out of our national economy, to help those who's lives have, or are in the process of being, destroyed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our making what amounts to an investment in countries which have potential.. in people who both want and need at least the basics for human survival..
But it is absolutely pointless to continue to pour money into the pockets of those already wealthy, at the expense of those who's lives remain hopeless.
Would it not make more sense to demand that along with the cash, comes administrators.. contractors.. materials the likes of plumbing and lumber.. agriculturalists.. who would themselves be responsible for the expenditure of the total amount promised in foreign aid.
And would it not then be the responsibility of the various governments who's people are being dragged into the present, to protect these aid workers from groups the likes of the Janjamacoute.. would it not be a matter for the ANF..?
Would seem to make more sense.. and while it would undoubtably cause a huge uproar from countries in receipt of such aid..
What face we would gain as a society, from China..
Recall the initial statement in this particular comment.. We have paid for the weapons.. not crops..
Surely it's a case of 'fool me once..'

And just as a matter of interest.. Google the name of this blog..
Google powered more than half of all search requests carried out around the world in August..
A global study by analysts comScore revealed that more than 61 billion searches were performed by more than 750 million users in the month.. that users performed more than 37 billion searches via Google, more than all the other major search engines combined..
Yahoo was the second most used engine, followed by Baidu, the Chinese language search engine.
Creatures of habit.. are we?

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's a serious situation for the Burmese junta now..
Until today.. the generals could count on China to deflect any real action against them. But China has joined with the other 14 members ..The security council statement, which also called for "genuine dialogue" with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, marked the first time that Beijing had agreed to UN criticism of the junta.
The statement did not threaten sanctions, but the significance of its unanimous support by all 15 members of the security council would not have been lost on Burma's generals..
Once again.. great face for China here..
And.. just as a reminder of the size of the country.. the scope of their projects which are quickly bringing a previously quiet presence into our economin sphere..
China plans to move at least 4 million people from their homes to ensure the "environmental safety" of the Three Gorges Dam, state media reported.
The shift of a population the size of Ireland, which is due to take place over the next 10 to 15 years, will be one of the biggest environmental resettlements in modern history..
Moving 4 million people..
The Chongqing municipality vice-mayor, Yu Yuanmu, said the move was necessary to protect the ecology of the giant reservoir formed by the dam.. that's according to the Xinhua news agency.

$82.77 a barrel for US sweet crude at the close..
Need one say more?

started the day with one.. can't think of a better way to end the week but another..
Used by Paul Rogers of the University of Bradford, during a discussion on the merits of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to environmentalists..
The professors point was that even the military has think-tanks working on the status of global security, should rising sea levels flood vast areas of the Far East..
"..that the 'securitisation' of the area over the long term, qualifies the award to those who are looking at future effects on disappearing land mass, and the relocation of those who once lived there.."
It's good to laugh, sometimes.
Just a small point to begin this morning.. concerning the deterioration of the English language..
Used during an interview with the BBC by our Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, when referring to the lack of incentives provided hospital staff.. nurses.. cleaners.. healthcare workers.. to maintain a constant level of cleanliness and adequate individual patient care, when their numbers appear to be constantly shrinking..
And this is an educated man..

That issue remains one of two stories at the fore in our media. Not the verbal blunder mind, but the state of our hospitals and clinics..
Back to this in a moment..

The issue facing the man on the street as he reads his paper, is stress. How it's affecting our children..
A Cambridge based think=tank has released it's conclusions, that Primary School students are being overwhelmed.. not only with the exams, the SATs they must sit, but with the state of the world in general..
One can recall when nightmares were the spawn of Saturday afternoon horror movies.. and a vague yet persistent worry our parents seemed concerned about called 'the Cold War' and 'the Cuban Missile Crisis'..
But for those who took part in this study.. some 750 kids under 5 years of age.. their concerns ranged from world economic issues, to violence on the streets, to the breakdown of the family.
Less than a third of the children polled sat down with their entire family for an evening meal.. More than half expressed, in the terms of a child, fears about family finances, and the future Mom and Dad had together.. More than two thirds said there had been 'talks' with their parents about the importance of studying and paying attention in class now.. and these kids are in pre-school..
Even more disturbing is the apparent lack of success parents and teachers are having with these children.. That fewer than half of 4 year olds, entering the formal school process for the first time, can read even simple words.. unable even phonetically to string together 'r-ed' to get red..
This would seem to point to a trend among teachers, wherein their role is less now that of an educator, and more of a social psychologist..
The Tories were pushing this issue hard during their conventioneering.. the re-establishment of family values.. the rearranging of parental priorities so that family issues are taken at least as seriously as those dealing with work..
It's an apt picture though which comes to mind.. that of the Dutch boy trying to stop the leaks in the dike..
And while on the subject of the Dutch and children.. kids in the Netherlands are rted the happiest and most content in Europe by a UNICEF study.
It, of course, has to do with a number of factors.. but it seems the most influential were the Dutch attitude in general concerning issues the likes of sex.. marihuana use.. and drink..
Because parents are more relaxed, the dynamics of the problems are less severe than in countries where they are seen as more of a serious issue..
Yet that is not to say the importance of an education is not impressed on Dutch children.. what is significant, is that they are not pushed beyond their boundaries either by their parents, or their peers..
Interesting. Swedish children are second on the list, by the way..

Now. This issue of British health care is one which will continue for quite some time.. the Opposition will have ten years of figures to recount.. ten years of Labour promises to toss across the floor of the Commons..
And this story which came out yesterday concerning 90 deaths directly attributable to hospital care, or lack of it.. and hospital conditions.. will demand statement and counter-statement..

At least it'll take some of the focus off the fact we won't be getting regular post through the door for a while..

Thursday, October 11, 2007

There are many governments running subsidised health care programs.. the various schemes run by the Canadian provinces spring to mind among the examples of those which provide excellent service.. but there are few given the annual budgets of our NHS..
And very few with the problems we're facing..
The deaths of 90 hospital patients from clostridium difficile are "scandalous", according to Health Secretary Alan Johnson.
Kent police have launched an investigation into whether that county's Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust should be prosecuted for the deaths..
The Healthcare Commission said a "litany" of errors in infection control had caused the "avoidable tragedy".
It said nurses at the trust were too rushed to wash hands and left patients to lie in their own excrement..
This, in a British hospital..
The health secretary has told the trust at the centre of a hospital bug investigation to withhold any severance pay from its former chief executive.
Rose Gibb of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust resigned on Friday after four years in the post..
One question reverberates from last Wednesday's Question Period.. a question asked by David of Gordon.. 'all the billions of Pounds allocated to the improvement of the British health care system over the past decade.. the institution of basic hygiene proceedures.. Where has all the money gone..?'
Gordon was Chancellor during all the years ofpromises of an improved health system..
It's his question to answer..

We back to intermittent postal service across this island, as postal workers start a series of wildcat walkouts..
The issue at the core of the dispute is that of pensions.. Not to imply the prospect of modernisation and the loss of 45 hundred jobs, and current wages aren't legitimate concerns of the Union.. but with an aging workforce, the pensions some of these men and women have been working towards for thirty years just may not be there when the time comes to start collecting..
The government has not invested wisely.. and the man or woman who puts the post through the slot fully understands the position they're in..
But again.. two words for the government.
"Essential services".

Finally.. a note here..
A leading industry survey shows house prices across the UK tumbled last month at the fastest rate for two years, while demand from first-time buyers plummeted sharply, adding to widespread evidence that the housing boom could be over.
Emphasis on 'could be'..
If housing prices fall a too precipitous rate.. those banks and equity funds now holding defaulted mortgages could find themselves even deeper in the hole..
It does not bode well for the British building industry, dispite government promises of a million new homes built by 1012..

And herein the basic flaw in the pre-budget report delivered by Alistair earlier this week.. He assumed our economic growth would continue, albeit at a slower rate than predicted.. and all indications are he's overly optimistic..
While many would smile at the very idea of political debate being entertainment, have never seen the British House of Commons in full swing..
And never is it any more entertaining .. during 'Prime Minister's Questions'..
Now, to explain for those who's various forms of government might not have such a procedure.. what it entails is a half hour, every Wednesday at noon, where the Prime Minister faces off with the leader of the Opposition, in a full-out, insult laden, sarcastic attack on whatever issue might be in the public eye..
Now.. Prime Minister's Questions follows a different format to those of questions to other ministers. MPs do not normally give the prime minister prior notice of the subject which they are going to raise..
This element of surprise allows opposition MPs, in particular, to try to catch the Prime Minister out with an awkward question..
And, the Prime Minister must respond without delay, thinking on his or her feet..
This is where it gets interesting..
Today, was a session which will go down in history, as a classic..
It is common knowledge that David and Gordon actually dislike each other. Each believes the other to be guilty of the lack of ethical values, and moral fibre..
But yesterday.. David attacked Gordon with such vitriol.. with such vehemence.. throwing accusations which ran the gamut from irresponsibility, to demonstrating to the British man on the street that Gordon's government essentially regards the individual as 'fools'..
Gordon's retorts became equally as forcible.. but the Prime Minister did repeat himself a few times, occasionally flustered by the tone of the Conservative attack..
Now.. another feature of Question Time, is that MPs in attendance can comment while a statement or a response is being given.. catcalls.. jeers.. derisive laughter.. all allowed, within the discretion of the Speaker of the House.. who does, mind you, frequently intervene in the scrum, and call for a general quiet..
Gordon has, for the first time, given the Opposition genuine issues to practice their sarcasm skills..
And one must say.. Gordon will certainly be fervently be mouthing that old Gaelic valediction.. which translates to 'may no new thing happen..'.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

British households might be seeing something this morning that's been missing from what was a daily routine.. There might be post through the door for the first time in a week..
But it could be short lived.. a new round of rotating strikes has already been announced.. starting early next week, and continuing until there's some resolution of the differences between the Royal Mail and the TUC..
65 million pieces of mail awaited the workers who returned to their jobs this morning.. with the Union saying it will take some time to get through, but RM managers claim it amounts to not much more than one day's worth of backlog..
Regardless.. the effects of this strike have had downstream effects.. catastrophic effects in some cases.. Some businesses which do the bulk of their business over the internet and which rely on the mails for their deliveries, have simply found even this last strike too much, and have folded. Others, who find themselves close to the edge, are dreading the possibility of no mail over the Christmas season when they conduct a significant percentage of their business..
'Essential Services'..
Our politicians need to consider the option seriously..
We'll discuss this more, as the situation develops, and more figures are released which reflect the ripple effect throughout our economy..

Now.. this past summer has been touted as perhaps the wettest since records began being kept.. Floods throughout the Island have left insurance companies facing a bill which could amount to close to £3billion.. and the government has announced that it's only willing to throw some £600million into a relief fund for those towns, cities, and villages worst affected by the waters..
This has prompted an announcement from insurers this morning, that they'll not be offering 'flood cover' for homes built on flood plains.
Consider. The government has promised the construction of a million plus new homes throughout the country over the next two years.. and factoring in how many of those homes must be built on areas with the possibility of flooding should this summers weather repeat itself.. it means many of these new homes will not be offered coverage protecting them against what might euphamistically be called 'an act of God'..
It's undeniable we need more housing. It's inevidable they will be built.
But whether or not flood preparations on offer from the government will meet what's seen to be the minimum needed to be done to reduce the risk of property damage, is moot..
There will be a Parliamentary debate on the issue today, involving the Environment Agency and the plans they have come up with to contain the overflow should the rains return.. But if events unfold as they normally do, it will be a cost that's eventually and inevidably passed along to those looking for insurance.
Not a positive sign for either the housing industry, or those who're looking to get on to the property ladder.
Oddly enough, this past summer's flooding was forcast by the Environment agency back in 2004..
Again, this is an issue we'll be keeping a close eye on..

Now.. an issue which is of growing concern throughout British society..
A survey by the charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform, suggests that a full 50% of all schoolchildren have been thevictim of crime.. often right on school grounds.
This goes beyond the archtypical school bully taking lunch money from the weaker.. but has escallated to severe beatings.. theft of mobile phones, iPods, electronic notepads..
And what is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this trend, is that these items are not stolen to be sold, or kept for the use of the thief.. but are taken simply for the thrill.. the exercise of power so to speak.. with most of that being stolen destroyed in front of the victim..
There is little enough to distinguish humans from animals, without the disappearance of common values and ethics and manners..
It must be said that most of the blame must be laid at the feet of the parents of those who become delinquent..
It's far too easy to blame society as a whole, for the failure on a personal level of those who sire these 'yobs'..
There is still an argument to be made, for young offenders being removed from a parental environment which does not actively promote respect for others and their property. It might well be time to re-evaluate the penalties imposed upon those involved in anti-social behavior.. Compulsory national service, or a return to the Borstal system, begins to appear attractive..
This trend can likely be traced back to attitudes developed decades ago..
It was a mere 4 years ago, that Vergers at Sheffield Cathedral were sent on self-defence courses amid the rising tide of violence against church workers.
And figures published in March 2003 showed that since 1999 there had been a 33% surge in the number of violent crimes against vicars and other ministers..
During that period, 561 attacks were recorded, including two murders in 2002.
This past week.. Members of the clergy were advised to take off their dog collars when they are on their own, to reduce the risk of being attacked.
National Churchwatch, which provides personal safety advice, says vicars are attacked more often than professions such as GPs and probation officers.
The organisation's Nick Tolson said all clergy should consider the advice, including the Archbishop of Canterbury..
The group also produces security advice for all UK churches and churchworkers.
In the past decade, five vicars have been murdered.
A number that in itself, disappears when taken in context of those who've been victims of a violent death over the same period of time.. But certainly an indication of the loss of respect for those, who have traditionally been seen, as non-violent people, and those who represent a non-violent lifestyle..
In a survey of 90 London clergy carried out last year, nearly half said they had been attacked in the previous 12 months.
One vicar, from Willesden, north-west London, said his vicarage had been machine-gunned.. but still did not believe he had experienced violence.
Taken in the context of the random incidents of berserkers in the US, and the world in general recently.. one can admit that particular Vicar has a point..
Just another piece of the Puzzle..

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It could well have been scripted to be a pre-election economic platform, this pre-budget statement from Alistair this afternoon..
The national economy.. was going to be adversely affected by the American Housing Bubble.. growth has been downsized to around 2% or 2.5% for the coming year..
Oddly enough we heard the same from George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor at the Tory conference..
Net borrowing.. to be kept within 'sustainable levels' guided by 'restraint'..
A bit of a non-statement there..
However.. net borrowing was forecast to fall from £38billion this year to £23billion in 2012.. roughly £3billion a year if we start now. How, was not quite explained though..
And on the environment.. Alistair said aviation duty would be paid on flights, rather than individual passengers..
We heard that proposal just a week or so ago from.. the Conservatives..
Now Alistair touched on a myriad of taxation issues.. allocation issues.. funding issues.. but to make what seemed to be a long statement much shorter.. it boils down to the usual suspects..
A promise of a judiciously administered economy.. of improved funding for better public services.. without the fine details of just how the money is going to be raised..
It must be said that the Shadow Chancellor had a field day..
And it was also clear, that while Gordon is officially Prime Minster.. he had made more than a small contribution to that which was delivered to the Commons this afternoon..

Monday, October 08, 2007

A couple of points to end the day.. outside the scope of Britain's immediate problems..
Ibrahim Gambari.. the UN Envoy who's just returned from Burma.. briefed the UN Security Council today.. having warned the Burmese junta leaders that continued human rights violations would lead to 'serious international reprecussions'..
During his 4 days in country, he met senior generals and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi...
The government claims at least 10 people were killed in the crackdown after last week's protests.. Mr Gambari said he feared the real death toll could be much higher..
One can only reasonably suspect the Envoy's fears were emminently justified..
But the problem here, is the financial relationship the junta has with Beijing and Delhi.. China has opposed what would amount to effective sanctions against Burma in the Security Council, saying that it's an internal matter, and something the UN has no mandate to interfere with..
But.. some signs the junta is not entirely without minds which can grasp continuing world pressure on their economy..
Earlier, reports suggested that General Than Shwe, the head of the ruling junta, had agreed in principle to meet the detained pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi..
However..he insisted that Ms Suu Kyi must give up her calls for international sanctions to be imposed against the regime, according to state media reports..
Mr Gambari said he was "cautiously encouraged" by the news and called for "maximum flexibility" from both sides.
Now, to see if such a meeting will in fact take place..
If indeed it does, and China can make itself seen as a mediator.. What face the Chinese would gain..
And what commitment could be forged between a nation that needs favoured status in oil trading, with a nation holding huge reserves..
Meanwhile, the reality of the supression of the recent protests throughout the country continues..
An undercover correspondent in Rangoon met two fugitive monks, and was told in one neighbourhood that the army had disposed of the bodies of monks killed during the crackdown by burning them in the local crematorium..
The military government is also reported to be holding monks in disused municipal buildings.. even those who applauded the monks during their demonstrations are being hunted down..
The atmosphere in Burma's main city is tense and fearful.. and will remain so until the junta can devise how a change in he basic governmental structure of the country can be effected.. without either disrupting the status quo.. or diminish their own power..
It would not do, to allow what appears to be positive moves by this junta, to lull to any degree the outrage at the fate of the protesting Buddhists..
Where arey are..
How many are left..

Or, that Darfur is still in uproar.. Charges that government troops and Janjaweed Rebels armed by the Sudanese government have attacked the only Darfuri rebel faction which agreed to a ceasefire with Khartoum..
Apparently the machete is still one of the weapons of choice against women and children..
That the UN's commitment of troops and aid still has not been met..
A number of rebel groups and the government have committed themselves to take part in new peace talks in Tripoli expected to begin later this month.. and there are suggestions that the spate of recent attacks is connected to the repositioning of forces ahead of these talks..
But analysts say that not only are the rebels splintered.. conservative estimates say there are at least 12 to 15 factions.. but that there are also splits between tribes, leaders in the field and political figures in exile..
Yet.. by next year the UN and AU are meant to have deployed the world's largest peacekeeping force.. 26 thousand troops.. to Darfur.
The hybrid force will absorb the 7 thousand African Union troops in the region who have struggled to protect civilians, admitting they are outmanned and outgunned..
But is this too, an 'internal problem'.. and has the UN or the international community any right at all to interfere..?
A fair attempt by Gordon when he spoke with the Parliamentary Labour members to minimise the damage incurred over this past weekend..
Even managed an uncharacteristic quip.. telling his sitting members that at least he had forced the Conservatives to reveal their strategies, which he could now tear apart..
Or adopt..
He'll have his time in office to demonstrate his abilities, or reveal his shortcomings..
And David will hone his political tactical leadership skills while leading the Opposition..
Facing us is Alistair the Chancellor's pre-budget report tomorrow.. which will announce that Britain's growth is greater than any other the G7 nations this year.. but which also must contain the forecast that 2008's going to be a bad year.. GDP forecasts suggest growth will slow, as the ripple effects of the US housing collapse filters through to the wider economy.. add to that this years interest hikes will begin to hit both the companies who've financed themselves through their immediate problem by taking loans at exorbitant rates.. and the consumers who've put themselves into record levels of individual debt..
To wit.. Northern Rock is paying 6.75% to the Bank of England for the cash it took to keep afloat.. Mind you, Northern Rock may well weather what appeared to be a catastrophe.. it's stock's rising again..
The Treasury expects the economy to notch up growth of between 2.75% and 3.25% for 2007.
That's in line with City forecasters..
But its 2008 forecast of between 2.5% and 3.0% is looking increasingly optimistic.
Consumer spending is expected to slow considerably.. credit's tightening..
And regardless of what might be said in Alistairs speech tomorrow, taxes will rise..
Another thought.. Lower official growth forecasts may have been one of the factors that persuaded the prime minister not to call a snap election.
They would have put government borrowing targets under more pressure and tied ministers' hands over vote-winning give-aways.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch..
The mail's not being delivered.. the NHS is screaming for more funding.. Local Councils will be demanding more from Westminster than the recent £50 million which is to be earmarked for 'local integration programs'.. a sop to give the impression the Ministers and elected representatives in Parliament are truely making an effort to ease racial integration.. And, the recent forcasts are that some 65 hundred jobs in the City's financial sector are to be cut because of this recent uproar in the markets..
Now this may seem somewhat insignificant in the big picture.. but it is a significant trend. Jobs, in the financial sector, have been on the increase.. 11 thousand over the last year.. It indicated a growth economy..
This reduction in staff, signifies the opposite in the eyes of the man on the street..
Now.. back to the revision in growth estimates for 2008..
Global Insight predicts a growth rate of less than 2%..slower economic growth means reduced tax revenues, and the spending targets set by Gordon when he was still chancellor will be hard to meet..
So.. Alistair has inevitably had to tread very carefully when preparing the Pre-Budget Report and the longer-term Comprehensive Spending Review, which sets out the government's expenditure over the next three years.
Should be interesting speech..

And, the $Am continues to slip.. oil prices continue to increase.. the price of gold is on the rise..
It's an interesting time..
Gordon faced the media early this afternoon, and took something of a masochistic stance when faced with a barrage of questions specifically aimed at his involvement with the rumours concerning an impending election.. and his backing away from a plebiscite when faced with the poll results which followed the Conservative Conference..
It was almost a Tony attitude.. a 'mea culpa'.. but not a 'mea maxima culpa'..
Accepting that perhaps he should have quashed any talk of elections before it was spun into a national frenzy, he initially told the media that he had not 'bottled out' from a national contest, but then accepted that as Prime Minister, he himself was responsible for whatever his advisers had allowed to blossom..
His prime concern now was to get on with implementing the business of government.. to put into action the plans he had laid out in his own manifesto as presented at his own party's conference, and that the idea of a general election was something we could all put out of our heads for the foreseeable future..
The reaction from the media was something bordering on contempt. Gordon has gone from a man who's character had been typified by careful consideration, to a 'politician' who's every statement must now be scrutinised for spin.
He has taken his first hundred days of successes, and tossed them away, and is now back to square one, both in the eyes of the public, and the media which feeds the crowd..
But Gordon does have the time to repair the damage, and this is a factor which cannot be discounted. If he manages to weather the oncoming financial and international crises which are in the offing over the next 18 months, he may find himself back in the race when the time the next election must be called..
However.. he faces the Commons later this afternoon to deal with the Iraq situation.. at least that's the proposed subject for his appearance before Parliament..
And if David allows this agenda to continue as planned.. Gordon still has Prime Ministers Questions to face on Wednesday, when this 'dithering and taking his countrymen as fools' will certainly be brought up..
There are a rocky few days ahead for the Prime Minister.. and his opponents are lining up their arguments to throw at him.. one after another..
An exceedingly unenviable position for Gordon..
Food and drink for David..
But the main concern is how soon.. or even whether the British man on the street, will forget this gaffe..
Much will be expected.. much demanded.. from a man who's gilding has worn transparently thin..
Having gone through arguably the worst weekend of his political life, Gordon will face the media this morning at his monthly press conference.. no doubt with the focus being the failed spin attempt of the possibility of a snap election..
The former Chancellor will also have his economic record dragged back into the limelight during this scrum.. a record he would have had preferred to see put behind him once he took the post of Prime Minister from Tony..
Unfortunately.. there's nothing Gordon can pass responsibility on to Alister Darling, yet..
Should provide us with some interesting soundbites, if nothing else..
And later this afternoon, he'll face Parliament, returning from it's Summer recess..
Now the agenda was meant to have been Gordon's plans for troop withdrawals from Iraq.. but he shot that bolt last week in Basra while paying a snap visit to the British contingent in Iraq..
So reasonably, one would expect David and his Opposition to also deride the PM on his electioneering tactics..
While it has to be said, Gordon's not done a bad job since he took the reins.. it cannot be minimised, this damage he's done himself and his Party with bringing the country, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say allowing the country to be whipped into a frenzy of election speculation..
It would be safe to say, the honeymoon's over..
Ahh.. and the Royal Post began their second of their announced strikes at three this morning, which will preclude home delivery until perhaps Friday..
Once again, the issues here are pensions.. wages.. and modernisation plans the Union says will cost their membership some 40 thousand jobs..
Gordon's going to have to answer for that, as well..
More to come as this day unfolds..

Sunday, October 07, 2007

While indeed, today's newspapers will be tomorrow's scrap paper.. the message will have some lasting effect on Gordon..
"Bottler Brown" many are calling him.
His decision not to hold an early poll has fired the gun for that cruelest of sports - a press field day..
Mr Brown gets a thorough going over in both the broadsheets and the tabloids..and in what is surely a first, both the 'Mail on Sunday' and 'Independent on Sunday' opt for the same headline.. "Brown bottles it."
Papers of all persuasions agree that the PM's "dithering" has damaged his reputation for strong leadership and as a conviction politician.
It's also brought Gordon's record of 'hidden taxation' throughout his tenure as Chancellor under Tony back into the limelight.. something Labour would sooner see put behind them..
In the Sunday Times Mr Brown is "all mouth and no trousers".. helpfully illustrated with a mocked-up picture of the PM in his boxer shorts.. it concludes he is a "victim of his own spin" and adds the country will think less highly of him..
Meanwhile, an article by Tory leader David Cameron goads that the Tories are ready but the PM is not.
One has to say Gordon made the right decision, that now is not the time for an election.. but his fuelling the speculation that his Party was ready and willing to increase their majority, appeared to wilt following the polls published following last weeks Tory Convention..
The voting public in this country will forgive politicians almost any indiscretion.. but is not tolerant of those who shy away from what's seen as a confrontation..
Gordon's record will needs be spotless for the next 18 months or so..
And that's quite an ask.
And what with the issues facing Parliament, David will be smiling at this point.. For what the Conservatives will face in the future, is a government which has some exceedingly unpopular issues to deal with..
Better Gordon dig the hole just a bit deeper, for surely there are neither quick fixes for the problems we will continue to face on the home economic front.. nor for those we're involved with on the international stage.
Either way, this has turned into a win/win situation for the Conservatives..

One issue we have been trying to keep on top of over these past few years.. is climate change. But, it would seem there is far more attention paid to the increasing numbers of hurricanes affecting the US and Caribbean, than the typhoons which yearly sweep through the far east..
While it is undeniable the weather patterns in the West have changed, and the effects have become far more damaging.. we hear little concerning storms the likes of Typhoon Krosa, which has caused a million Chinese to be displaced and a death toll which would be exceedingly difficult to estimate..
It would seem that a fuller picture is being denied us.. with the 'global' effects being sidelined..
Perhaps it serves certain interests to keep our concerns localised, for a broader understanding of how the weather is changing might well damage the credibility of some of those lobbying for fewer global emissions..
Something to think about..

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ahh Gordon..
It was always a doubt, that the Prime Minister.. after waiting ten years to have that title, to hold that power.. would chance diminishing his majority in the Commons, or in fact, turning his Party into the Official Opposition, by calling a snap election..
David has pulled his Tories back into a position of power.. defined himself at this part party convention as a man who has solid planks upon which to build a government..
And going head to head at this moment, would be daft.
Quite right too.
Gordon's been making the moves of late that would have led one to think he was gearing up for a contest.. announcing troop pull-outs from Iraq in Basra before announcing it in the Commons.. as it is that announcement will be made Monday..
There are also plans for a pre-budget report in the near future..
And while speculation had run rife that we'd be heading to the polls on either the 1st or the 8th of November.. we're now told that while Gordon will make an announcement 'soon' concerning a snap election.. it's now odds on he'll be laying the thoughts of a quick campaign to bed..
Gordon has two years to either improve his country.. to introduce legislation which may well have been originaly Tory, but which now can be added to Labour's laurels..
To improve his own standing.. entrench himself on the international stage..
And while the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats may make political hay for a couple of weeks over Gordon's 'dithering'.. It will soon be back to business as usual in the Commons..

What's of more interest at the moment, is a proposed £9 billion train/subway system which would bisect London..
Ken Livingston is the current Mayor of London.. he's Labour..
Boris Johnson's the Tory opponent, and certainly a contender.. It wouyld not be much of a surprise to see Boris campaign against this new train system.. there's much debate about it's necessity.. it's cost.. the fact it would funnel so much government money into London, and what the downstream effects would be for funding for other British cities also crying for Westminster funding..
One would suggest that if the name Boris Johnson is an unfamiliar one to any readers.. that a Google of the man would be interesting to say the least..

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Just one more breaking story that deserves mention this evening..
It's what Gordon.. and David.. have been waiting for.. The results of the latest polls, following the Conservative Convention..
An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper indicates the gap has narrowed to just 1%compared to 7% a month ago...
This follows two other surveys which suggest Labour's lead has dropped to 4% and 3% respectively.
It would be a daring move from Gordon to call a plebecite, as had been predicted, this November..
All in.. so to speak..
Concerns over wages.. only a 2.5% increase on offer..
Concerns over modernisation plans which.. according to the Union.. would cost close to 40 thousand jobs throughout the system..
Now.. after this strike ends next Wednesday..the CWU plans to stage a programme of rolling strikes each Monday until the dispute is settled.
The union's deputy general secretary, Dave Ward, says the strikes were "a proportionate response to an employer that is completely out of control," after five weeks of negotiations..
So.. Royal Mail has decided to start imposing changes on workers' conditions without union agreement from next week.
The Royal Mail spokesman has asked customers to avoid posting mail during the strikes to avoid a backlog.. but if they do, to post it at Post Office branches.. they'll remain open as usual.
But.. it's another legacy from Gordon's stint as Chancellor..
And it's raised the question as to why some professions have not been deemed 'essential services'.. police.. firemen.. doctors and nurses.. ambulance drivers.. postal employees.. all of course entitled to Union representation for negotiation with their various employers.. but denied the right to any work action other than 'work to rule'..
It's a choice when one makes when one takes on the job..
Accepting that what you've chosen to do.. any work issues must go to binding arbitration.. and while this process is underway, it's work as usual..
'Why has the government not adopted this process..?' has been asked a number of times by a number of people, and business concerns.
This will cost tens of millions, with the bulk of that sum to be absorbed by the smaller businesses who exist through mail order..

And it's going to be a hard winter for our farming community..
What with livestock contained within a rather large exclusion zone.. wherein they can't be taken anywhere but their own fields.. the farmers are running out of graze and are dipping into feed that was meant to have kept a diminished stock through the winter..
Stephen Dennis.. who runs the Farm Crisis Network in south-west England.. says calls to its hotline have "quadrupled" in recent weeks..
"Some people are desperate now. They are just getting by's the biggest time of year for moving livestock from one area of farms to another and also for rents and bills to be paid. The ban on exports is creating a massive backlog in the system and causing meat prices to plummet. Meanwhile, winter food stocks are being used up at the very time cereal prices are soaring."
Ahhh.. just what we need.. with the global economy teetering..

And the word from the States.. orders for factory goods saw their biggest drop in seven months in August.. according to US Commerce Department data.
Orders fell by 3.3% compared to a month earlier.. worse than the 2.8% forecast and reversing July's 3.4% rise..
Fewer orders for commercial aircraft had been a major factor behind the fall, down nearly 40% for the month..
But analysts seemed unperturbed by such figures..
"Signs that the world's biggest economy is slowing.. come amid wider fears over a global credit crisis that has impacted markets worldwide.."
"I don't think factory orders are a significant new indication of weakness," said Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer at Advisors Capital Management..
But hedging the bet here.. investors would be closely watching data to be revealed tomorrow..
Job figures set to be released..

One wonders if Gordon regrets selling that whack of our bullion reserve back when gold was at it's lowest level for ten years..
A very brief note to start the day..
More than 150 thousand postal workers are set to drop tools at noon today.. that means this country will see no post through the slot, 'til next Thursday.
That's a week.
From two deliveries a day, to none whatsoever, in 10 years.
It's a pension fund issue here.. the Communications Workers Union says Gordon could have prevented this..

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The end of the Conservative Conference this afternoon.. and David, speaking without autocue or a script, began his speech as a man who was a doubtful challenger to Gordon's bid for another term, but ended it as a man many could easily see as fit and ready to face a snap election.. should one be called.. and a man capable of leading this country..
About Gordon..
"Now last week in Bournemouth - or Bourne-mouth - we saw the old politics on display. It wasn't just that we' heard it all before, I mean literally heard it all before. I think actually quite a lot of people in America had heard it all before as well. There were the GP surgery family friendly opening hours, we've had that one three times before; eco towns, four times before; competitive sport in our schools, six times before - and no indication about how any of these things are going to be done. But it wasn't just that. It was the cynicism of it. He told us things that he knows he can't do. British jobs for British workers, it's illegal under British law. Deporting people for gun and knife crime, you can't do that because of Labour's Human Rights Act. I have to say to the prime minister: if you treat people like fools, you don't deserve to run the country, let alone win an election."
About the EU..
"When we look at our democracy, we're still stuck in the dark ages. When it comes to politics we just have to take what we're given and put up with it. And to me nothing sums this up more than the European constitution. It's not just that it's an issue of trust. We put it in our manifesto that there should be a referendum, Labour put it in their manifesto that there should be a referendum and it is one of the most blatant breaches of trust in modern politics they won't give us that referendum. But it actually goes further than that. In a world where we have all this freedom and control are we really saying to people that when it comes to how you're governed, how your country is run, you can't have a say, it's nothing to do with you? That's wrong and that's why we'll keep pushing for that referendum, campaign for a no vote and veto that constitution."
The speech lasted just over an hour.. punctuated frequently by ovations from the party faithful who crowded the convention centre..
And left Gordon with a decision. Either rely on the polls which indicated Labour in the lead after their convention.. or wait until he's had the job he's coveted for ten years, just a while longer..
It may well be that the Government will call us to the polls.. But, after this Tory Conference, the outcome may not go quite as planned..
Frankly, it would seem to be a dangerous move to make, to call an election before Labour has had a chance to implement some of the policies they outlined..
But people remember, that many of those planks Labour set down, were re-worded Conservative proposals which were voted down..
All in all.. David made his mark with this speech.. In his own words..
"We can get a great NHS if we make doctors answerable to patients and not to politicians. We can get great schools if we break open the state monopoly, allow new schools in and insist on high standards. We can get safer streets if we strengthen our families and get the police onto our streets. We can get it if we really want it. That's what we've got to do. So Mr Brown, what's it going to be? Why don't you go ahead and call that election? Let the people pass judgement on 10 years of broken promises, let people decide who's really making the arguments about the future of our country, let people decide who can make the changes that we need in our country. Call that election. We will fight. Britain will win."

A casual mention in the last post concerning biological attacks..But it's apparently a possibility the authorities are taking seriously..
A pot of burning chilli sparked fears of a biological terror attack in central London on Monday..three roads were closed in Soho and homes evacuated following the alert.
Specialist crews broke down the door to the Thai Cottage restaurant at seven in the evening where they discovered the source.. a 9lb pot of chillies..
The restaurant had been preparing Nam Prik Pao, a red-hot Thai dip which uses extra-hot chillies which are deliberately burnt.
But the smell prompted several members of the public to call the emergency services.
Alpaslan Duven, a Turkish journalist based in the restaurant's building, said: "I was sitting in the office when me and my chief start coughing and I said this was something really dodgy..
Supranee Yodmuang, the restaurant supervisor, was above the restaurant when she received a phone call from her boss..
"It was about 4pm when I saw the police who were closing off the roads but I didn't know why..My boss rang me and said I had to get out of the building because of a chemical attack."
She added: "Because we're Thai, we're used to the smell of chillies."
What has this society been led into..?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Almost a case of Gordon shooting himself in the foot..
He's announced that by 2008, a thousand British troops will be home from Iraq..
But, what he didn't do was make the announcement in Parliament, but chose to do so while making a visit to Basra today.. And to further the blunder, he failed to mention that 230 of that thousand are already back.. that another 270 of them already had their orders cut to come home.. and that the other 500 were already expected to be returning early next year..
David and his Conference were expected to have been focussing at their Blackpool Conference on traditional Tory platform issues.. social reform.. prisons.. Home Ministry issues..
But this proved to be too much of a temptation to miss..
The Prime Minister has been accused of blatent electioneering with his announcement.. and the pundits are beginning to re-evaluate the advantage Labour might have, by calling a snap election..
Gordon's scarcely put a foot wrong since he's taken over from Tony.. But today's 'misinformation' has the public's attention..

Meanwhile.. at the Tory Convention.. Immigration did come up..
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.. He told the party conference "unchecked immigration is not inevitable...not the irresistible result of globalisation. We can control it. We will control it".
Davis promised "tough new border controls" and annual limits on economic migrants: "We want the right people and the right number of people."
He also backed "zero tolerance" on crime and pledged to axe ID cards.. a measure Labour backs, and which would cost tens of millions to put into effect.. The money saved by the scrapping of that plan, would be put towards expanding British prisons.. allowing an end to Labour's policy of 'early release', which to this point, has seemingly increased recidivism..
David also had some scathing remarks about Labour's failure to hold the promised referendum on any EU Treaty.."One of the most flagrant breaches of trust" in British politics the Tory leader declared..
More tomorrow.. with the Convention coming to an end. David's closing statement to his Party should be an interesting one..

The backlash from the collapse of the American housing market continues..
A number of big investment banks have admitted major losses caused by bad investments centred on US sub-prime mortgage markets..
Worst hit was Swiss bank UBS which was forced to write down losses of 4 billion Swiss francs..$3.4Am billion.. £1.67billion..
The group said it now planned to cut 1,500 jobs and make extensive management changes..
Later, US giant Citigroup revealed its sub-prime losses would total $1.3billion, as well as $2.6billion in extra credit costs..
And with gold and oil hitting record prices.. One hopes some took our advice and bought bullion.. a slight dip in the price early today, but that can be put down to profit taking..
It's not over yet..

Now, British media is not allowed in Burma.. but there are a host of reports coming in..
Apparently about four thousand Buddhist monks are going to be transported to prisons in the north of the country.. It might be advisable for some International Regulatory Commission to try and keep a head-count, for it's odds on many will 'disappear'..
On Sunday morning, the Christian churches held special services praying for peace and reconciliation for the country.. At least one Catholic church a priest led a prayer for the victims of the military violence.
The church wants to remain apolitical.
It wouldn't do, one supposes, to have Christians actively involved.. even though it is their country.. their rulers.. their cause..
Ahh well..
In the meantime, sources indicate, the streets of Rangoon are quiet.
But, then what can one expect when their are armed soldiers at every streetcorner..

First foot-and-mouth disease makes a reappearance.. disrupting British livestock trade.. then the appearance of bluetongue..
Not being one to promote conspiracy theories.. It might be considered how.. and why these diseases have suddenly appeared..
Biological terrorism is not limited to such as 'dirty bombs'..
Merely something to be considered..

Monday, October 01, 2007

An Interesting morning..
Petrol prices have passed the Pound per litre mark..this due to a plan set in motion several months ago which increased government taxes by 2p per litre. And there'll be another 2p increase next month.. again part of this plan Gordon implemented while Chancellor..
And, as of this morning, one must be able to prove that one is at least 18 years old to buy a pack of fags.. that's a bump of two years. The shopkeepers, not to mention the kids who live in a culture that is not quite Californian in it's perception of the habit who will now be bothering their parents to keep them in supply, are somewhat bewildered.. a politically correct move, one supposes, but those who've been selling to kids they've known to be smokers for two years now are going to get an amazing amount of stick, and the aforementioned parents are not thanking Gordon for this new bother..
More stress..
Meanwhile, yesterday's speech by David at the beginning of the Tory Conference impressed his membership with an idea that maybe, just maybe, the country would be less impressed by Gordon's recent successes in comparisons with other world leaders, with his ten year record as Chanellor..
David's speech.. focussing on the usual suspects.. touched on the economy.. our international relationships.. ecology..
And on the whole.. he struck the right note..
Today.. some tax changes.. promises for reductions on those who inherit.. the abolition of the 'Stamp Duty' for first time buyers who's property's going for less then £250thousand..
That revenue coming from a tax on those 'non-national residents.. those citizens of other countries who live, and own businesses in Britain, but who have incomes which are diverted abroad.. thus avoiding British taxation entirely. David wants to charge them a flat rate £35thousand a year. Pocket change, for most of the estimnated 135 thousand who choose to keep their foreign passports..
It's a promising start..
And the one recurring theme we'll have hammered upon us for the next couple of days.. is Gordon's affect on all acpects of the last ten years..
And how David can do better.

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